Friday, January 31, 2014

The Fantastical Tour~ "The Fairytale Keeper" by Andrea Cefalo (excerpt + giveaway)

See the tour stops!

 Anonymous, nameless, Adelaide Schumacher should have been lost to history. Medieval girls do not make legends. If they are lucky to live long enough, they make babies.
Adelaide’s mother, Katrina was the finest storyteller in Cologne, but she left one story untold, that of her daughter, Snow White. A rampant fever claimed Adelaide’s mother just like a thousand others in Cologne where the dead are dumped in a vast pit outside the city walls. In an effort to save Katrina’s soul, Adelaide’s family obtains a secret funeral by bribing the parish priest, Father Soren.
Soren commits an unforgivable atrocity, pushing Adelaide toward vengeance, but the corruption in Cologne reaches far beyond Soren, and the cost of settling scores quickly escalates. Avenging the mother she lost may cost Adelaide everything she has left: her father, her friends, her first love, and maybe even her life.
The Fairytale Keeper casts the famous villains, heroes, and damsels of Grimm’s fairytales into Medieval lives. Seamlessly weaving historical events and Grimm’s fairytales into a tale of corruption and devotion, The Fairytale Keeper, leaves the reader wondering where fact ends, and fiction begins.

Amazon * Barnes & Noble * Smashwords (full version)
Read the first half of the book for free Smashwords

Guest Post~

How did you come up with that idea?  I get that question a lot.   Where did The Fairytale Keeper come from?  The protagonist of The Fairytale Keeper series is Adelaide, a medieval Snow White and the collector of all Grimm’s fairy tales.  So The Fairytale Keeper should have all started with a prophetic dream after watching Snow White and the Huntsman, right? Wrong.  It started with an interesting fact and a wandering mind. 
Did you know that nearly all cultures have their own version of the Cinderella story?  Neither did I until attending a children’s literature lecture in 2007.  I don’t know about you, but my mind tends to wander when I have to sit through two hour lectures.  So I started wondering.  If most cultures have a Cinderella story, was it based on one girl, a real Cinderella?  Was Cinderella a girl who lived hundreds, or even thousands, of years ago? Or is there is just something so compelling about the Cinderella story that most cultures make up their own?
I didn’t want to write another Cinderella story.  My story presumes that all of Grimm’s fairy tales are based on a real person, and that that person is the real Snow White.  During her adventures, she compiled these tales through the people she’d met, the stories she’d been told, and the events she’d experienced.
            The Fairytale Keeper series casts nearly all the famous villains, heroes, and damsels of Grimm’s fairytales into medieval lives. And Cinderella is a major player.  It was a little-known fact about her that inspired the tale.  In doing research, I came across a few more Cinderella facts.  I hope you find them as interesting as I do.

1.  From Russia to India and Vietnam to Scotland, nations from all over the world have their own traditional telling of the Cinderella story.  A few examples of titles are The Story of Tam and Cam (Vietnam), Baba Yaga (Russia), The Saddleslut (Greece),  Pepelyouga (Serbia), Ashey Pelt (Ireland), and Conkiajgharuna (Georgia).
2. Many Native American tribes fused the European Cinderella with their own legends to create unique versions of the tale.  For example, Mi’kmaq Native Americans combined the French Cinderella with their own legends to come up with a version called The Invisible One.  Some other Native American versions include The Turkey Herd and The Rough-Faced Girl.
 3.  The tale was first recorded in 9th century China by Tuan Che’ng-shih, but the tone of the tale suggests it was already a well-known story to its readers.  That makes the story at least 1,140 years old!
4.  The next recording didn’t come until over eight hundred years later when Charles Perrault of France published it in 1697.  This version is the one Americans are most familiar with. That’s probably because it is kinder than most other versions which result in the maiming or killing of the wicked stepsisters in the end.
5.  There are approximately 1,500 versions of the tale when one includes retellings, movies, musicals, operas, and picture books!


About Andrea: Andrea Cefalo is the award-winning author of The Fairytale Keeper series. The Fairytale Keeper series is a Medieval tale of corruption, devotion, and the origins of Grimm’s fairytales. It was a quarter-finalist in Amazon’s 2013 Breakthrough Novel Contest and has been recommended by Riffle, Copperfield Review, and other various independent reviewers. The second novel in the series, The Fairest of All, will debut in 2014. When Andrea isn’t writing, she enjoys blogging and tweeting about the Middle Ages, teaching authors how to effectively use social media, and presenting in schools. She resides in Greenville, South Carolina with her husband and their two border collies.

Praise for "The Fairytale Keeper"
"A…resonant tale set late in the 13th century… with unexpected plot twists. An engaging story of revenge and redemption… An opener to a future series.” -Publisher’s Weekly
“…a unique twist on the Grimm’s Fairy Tales. Part fairy tale retelling, part historical fiction…. The Fairytale Keeper is a story of corruption, devotion, and tough decisions.” -Copperfield Review

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"The Adventures of Bob" author Ryan Shea writes about bullies.

What do you get when a man is invited to a strange purple and green planet by a tiny speed-freak robot, a construction-cone-wearing king, a really bad bowl of soup, and a fat purple servant cat that doesn't listen to anyone? The Adventures of Bob: to Doodledip for Soup! Find out what happens to Bob when he travels to Planet Doodledip for dinner with the King and discovers he is afraid to try the soup.

Read a guest post from Ryan!

Hi. My name is Ryan Shea. I am an elementary school counselor and have been in education for 15 years. I've been a counselor at my current school for 4 years and spend almost all my time in classrooms teaching character education, such as: cooperation skills, self control, respect, manners, self-esteem, and many other lessons aimed to help young students feel positive about themselves and their peer relationships. I am in 5 classes per day for 45 minutes each, so I'm very lucky to have that much positive student contact; the kids love their counselor time. We also sing "I Like Me" songs while I play guitar at the end of most lessons. 

The most important pieces of my curriculum are the bullying and teasing lessons. I use a program called, "Be Cool" by the James Stanfield Publishing Company. Each grade level gets their own lessons for the  year. We cover: handling criticism, teasing, bullying, and anger. I like this program because it has a very simple way to present the material to kids: DON'T BE HOT, DON'T BE COLD, BE COOL!

From my experience, I have noticed that most kids cannot handle other difficult kids and just give up and let the bully have control. With the "Be Cool" lessons and some material I use from "Bullies to Buddies" by Israel C. (Izzy) Kalman, MS, students learn how not to react when dealing with difficult students. 

For example, if a student is getting teased and always reacting HOT, (mad) or COLD (sad, giving up) the teasers see exactly what they wanted. Kids tease to get a reaction, and showing Hot or Cold gives the bully/teaser power. On the other hand, reacting COOL shows the bully/teaser, that you are not bothered by their remarks. Kids who tease want a Hot or Cold reaction; they just want to make you mad or sad. If they stop getting the reactions, most times, they move on to find someone else who will not act Cool. Being Cool towards a teaser says that harmful words do not bother me, so go find someone to bug.

 Easier said than done though. Kids really have to practice being Cool. Once a student shows any sign of Hot or Cold, the teaser will see it as a "win."

I tell my kids all the time to treat teasing like a game (a mental game). If you show Cool, by not giving a reaction of Hot or  Cold, you win. Bullies hate to lose. The more a bully loses because you showed Cool, most of the time he moves on. I do tell my kids though that any physical action cannot be ignored and must be brought to the teacher.  I'm stressing the teasing words, and at my school, it's mostly teasing, so being Cool is a  great response to learn towards difficult kids. 

Examples of being Cool can be many things: walking away, simply ignoring the annoying student, saying, "Thank you" and walking away or continuing your project. Basically, kids really have to just stay calm and think about how NOT to react, because  showing Hot of Cold will make the teasing worse.  Teasers pick up on those emotions quickly, so understanding non-verbal language is important, which is another area I teach to my students. DON'T BE HOT, DON'T BE COLD, BE COOL! is easy for kids to understand, but still takes practice and the choice of how not to react to a difficult person.


Thanks Ryan!  I appreciate the skills that you are illustrating to handle a bully!  This is a subject that really needs to be addressed and I am happy to have you here letting kids and parents know how to act, not react.

I have the opportunity to work in a Jr High lunch room.  I see the effects in the behavior of kids that have been bullied.  It is heart breaking.  These are skills that I plan on using with my own children.

Cover Reveal ~ "Now That You're Here" by Amy Nichols + giveaway!

Danny and Eevee are meant to be together . . . Just not in this universe.

Eevee Solomon has high school down to a science. Get the grades. Get the recommendations. Get into an Ivy League college, and eventually land a killer job at NASA.

Then Danny Ogden enters the equation.

Danny is a street-smart graffiti artist. He’s always managed to stay out of serious trouble, but this time he’s out of luck. One minute he’s running from the cops, and the next, he jolts awake in an unfamiliar body–his own, but different. Somehow, he’s crossed into a parallel universe. Now his friends are his enemies, his parents are long dead, and coolheaded Eevee is not the brazen girl he once kissed back home. Then again, this Eevee may be his only hope of getting home.

Eevee tells herself she’s only helping him in the name of quantum physics, but there’s something undeniably fascinating about this boy from another dimension . . . a boy who makes her question who she is, and who she might be in another place and time.

About Amy Nichols: Amy has been crafting stories for as long as she can remember. She earned a Master's in literature and worked for years as a web designer, though, before realizing what she really wanted to be was an author. Her first novel, YA sci-fi thriller Now That You're Here, will be published by Knopf Books for Young Readers on December 9, 2014. The follow-up, While You Were Gone, will be published in 2015. She is mentored by award-winning crime novelist James Sallis.

Amy is represented by Quinlan Lee of Adams Literary. She's an active member of SCBWI and SFWA, as well as a member of the Class of 2k14 debut authors. 

Enter the reveal giveaway.  Use the rafflecopter form below.

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It's release day for T.G. Ayer's "Lost Soul"

Happy Release Day!

Lost Soul
(DarkWorld #2)
T.G. Ayer

With her sister missing and her mother and Anjelo stuck in the Wraith World, Kai must find a way to save them all. But the Wraith poison has brought her to her knees and only Logan's fire can help ease her pain.

Uncertain who to rescue first, Kai's decision is made for her when she discovers her sister Greer is stuck in the Greylands and slowly going insane. Desperate to save her, Kai will go to incredible lengths to obtain a portal key to the land of the dead - and maybe, she’ll go one step too far.

From deathtalkers to demons, trackers to ghosts, Kai must fight against betrayal and evade the clutches of danger to set her sister free. Can she save Greer from a horrific death - and will she ever be able to forgive herself if she can’t?

Add to Goodreads

Amazon (US) * Amazon (UK) * Smashwords


My ears lifted, pointed, flared out. My eyes burned, the particular sensation of my panther eyes coming forth. Another growl and my jaw lengthened, hardened, my nose now picking up every odor surrounding me, including the sickly odor of the poison flowing thick and strong beneath my skin.
My hands transitioned smoothly into paws, my fingernails curving into deadly-sharp claws. I stretched out, lengthened my back, and let the panther take control.


The lab was cold and silent as Logan breathed deep, drawing the fire through his body and centering the molten energy within his mind. The mouse shivered in his hand, its sickly green eyes staring up at him, its expression sad and seemingly pleading. The little, large-eyed white-furred creature had been shaved to reveal its bare skin, enabling Logan and the lab-techs to assess how well the fire was progressing in killing the poison.


As the glass hit the ground, water burst from it like a geyser, spraying droplets all over the kitchen. And all over me.
Good job, Odel. Now who's going to clean up this mess?
Lying where I fell, my face rested close to my poison-wreathed arm. I stared at it as it throbbed and pulsed, as if the poison had taken on a life of its own and was just waiting for the next moment to advance farther into my flesh.
Who knew a tiny piece of Wraith-sword could be this deadly?


Meet the Author

I have been a writer from the time I was old enough to recognise that reading was a doorway into my imagination. Poetry was my first foray into the art of the written word. Books were my best friends, my escape, my haven. I am essentially a recluse but this part of my personality is impossible to practise given I have two teenage daughters, who are actually my friends, my tea-makers, my confidantes… I am blessed with a husband who has left me for golf. It’s a fair trade as I have left him for writing. We are both passionate supporters of each other's loves – it works wonderfully…

My heart is currently broken in two. One half resides in South Africa where my old roots still remain, and my heart still longs for the endless beaches and the smell of moist soil after a summer downpour. My love for Ma Afrika will never fade. The other half of me has been transplanted to the Land of the Long White Cloud. The land of the Taniwha, beautiful Maraes, and volcanoes. The land of green, pure beauty that truly inspires. And because I am so torn between these two lands – I shall forever remain cross-eyed.



Release Day ~ "Samadhi" by Melissa Lummis

Samadhi – Book Three in the Love and Light Series is available NOW
Wolf and Loti are learning the hard way that karma will not be denied. In their quest for the truth, they've been forced into a blood bond with a powerful witch who isn't so sure she wants to be tied down. But there's one thing they can agree on: it’s time to eliminate the ancient vampire who set off this deadly chain of events--Modore.
Using any means necessary--torture, murder, and even death magic--Modore lures the triumvirate into the show down of their lives. And the consequences will far exceed even Modore's imagination.
In this final installment of the Love and Light Series, the boundaries of love, lust, and even life itself will be tested and the universe as they know it will never be the same.

Join the Facebook Party. Starts at 8pm EST

About the Author
Melissa Lummis considers herself a truth seeker, a peaceful warrior, a paranormal and fantasy writer, an avid reader, a thru-hiker GAàME ’98, a Penn Stater, a wife, a mother, and a free thinker. She believes the universe conspires to help an adventurer. And if we live our lives as if it is a daring adventure (and it is!), then everything we need will find its way to us.
Her books have been described as new age suspense in a fantasy setting, but they are also straight up, steamy Paranormal Romance. The Love and Light Series is currently available at most ebook retailers and soon to come is the Little Flame Series, a spin off focusing on the character Fiamette from the Love and Light world.
Melissa lives in rural Virginia with her husband, two children, an Alaskan Malamute, and a myriad of forest creatures. The nature of her mind dictates that she write to stay sane. Otherwise, her fertile imagination takes off on tangents of its own accord, creating scenarios and worlds that confuse the space-time continuum.
Namaste, dear friends.
Melissa’s Social Links:
Check out for more about her and her books.
Follow @melissalummis on Twitter.
Tumble with Melissa on tumblr.
And watch her and co-host Buddy Gott on the Sunday Night Fiction Club on YouTube.
Get unique content, early access to publications, and exclusive giveaways by subscribing to her newsletter.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Blog Tour~ "Death's Academy" by Michael Bast

Death's AcademyDeath's Academy by Michael Bast
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Source: Received to Review
Genre: Tween fantasy

Book Description: The Death’s Academy entrance exam for Midnight Smith is quickly approaching. There’s just one problem: Midnight is the worst exam taker the academy has ever seen. If Midnight wants to ever step foot inside the school, he’ll have to join forces with the hated Guardian Angels, and together face the deadliest creatures in the world—the dreaded Unicorns. Becoming a Grim Reaper has never been more hilarious!

My thoughts: Midnight (Night for short) was born to be a Reaper. He has to pass an exam to get into Death's Academy to fulfill his goal. He struggles with passing the exam because his family cannot afford a mentor to help him, he really doesn't have the discipline to do it on his own.

He is an excellent roller, a key position on his team. He figures that he will use his skills to get into the academy. His quest is not an easy one. There are challenges and obstacles to be faced with his friends.

Night is a very interesting character. He has issues. He has a chip on his shoulder and attitude. He suffers from his father's notoriety. Chuckles ensue when they find out his last name is Smith. To fight back, he is a rule breaker.

I believe that this is a fun book for tweens and older. There is potty humor, which as a mother I know will draw my sons into the book. For my sons, it is appealing and funny. My 14 year old and my 10 year old will really enjoy reading this book.

See the Trailer:

About the Author:  Unlike Mowgli from the Jungle Book, MICHAEL BAST was not raised by a den of wolves… it was a mob of meerkats. This has proven to be both problematic and beneficial later in life. A problem because he has an insatiable desire to tunnel in his backyard, costing him thousands of dollars in sprinkler repair. A benefit because he can scratch behind both ears with either foot.
Michael lives in the deserts of Arizona with his wife and four kids. Each day between Cinco de Mayo and Halloween he curses his decision to live in 110-degree heat. 

webpage  * Twitter

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Book Blast ~ "The Complete Amish Wedding Series" by Becca Fisher

amish wedding The Complete Amish Wedding Series This boxed set features all six books in the Amish Wedding series including:

  Amish Wedding Rebecca Lapp has her life back together after a tough break up. She's found a new man and is finally happy once again. But when her ex comes back into town wanting her back, Rebecca will be forced to make a decision that will change her life forever.

  An Amish Widower's Heart Two years after Henry King loses his wife in a freak accident, he's still trying to cobble his life back together. But he knows that if he doesn't stop lingering on the past, he'll have no future. But can he love again? And just how far is the journey back to happiness?

  The Amish Late Bloomer Almost all of Elizabeth Stoltz's friends are married with kids. Elizabeth meanwhile finds herself back on the dating scene again after a crushing heartbreak. And she quickly finds out that being single at twenty-one year old leaves few options for finding the perfect guy. But Elizabeth is determined to find the love of her life. Will Elizabeth be able to find the love she's been looking her whole life for, is it already too little too late for her?

Beachy Amish Romance After a rough break up, Benjamin Stoltz moves from Lancaster to the Florida Amish community of Pinecraft looking for a fresh start. But Benjamin soon realizes that finding romance in Florida has some unique problems of its own.

This Side Of Heaven Mary Stoltz has a clear idea in her head of what she wants her dream man to be like. But her romantic reality has fallen far short of her dreams. Not to mention she is at the tail end of her rumspringa with seemingly not a single good suitor in sight. But when Mary finally meets a handsome and interesting man, will her love life finally live up to the dreams in her head?

  Amish Homecoming David Lapp has his rumspringa in the city cut short when he finds out that his mother has been in an accident. But when he returns to Lancaster to take care of her, secrets from the past come to light that will change the direction of his life forever.

Read an Excerpt
 "I don't ever want this moment to end," Hannah King said. "Neither do I," Henry King replied. It was a brisk fall day. The kind that made you want to snuggle close to someone you loved. For Hannah and Henry, that was easy. They lived for each other. They were a match made in heaven. And when they were together, it felt like paradise. Hannah and Henry had been married almost two years. And yet the honeymoon phase was far from over. They still had that glow about each other. An undeniable chemistry. The couple had heard that marriage was work. That everything wouldn't go as smoothly as they expected. They didn't find that to be true though. For Hannah and Henry, the married life was amazingly simple--even for an Amish couple. After work, they always tried to watch the sunset together. It was a tradition, carrying over from their first date. And Lord willing, they caught a glimpse of the sun dancing across the sky as much as they could. "Do you think it's always going to be like this?" Hannah asked. "Gott is the only one that knows for sure. But I sure hope so," Henry remarked. "You know, I've been thinking a lot about the future," Hannah said. "Only good things I hope," Henry replied. "Are you kidding? I have you. What could go wrong?" Hannah asked. "That's my line," Henry joked. "I figured you wouldn't mind me borrowing it," Hannah replied. "You can borrow it anytime you want if you're going to use it on me," Henry said. "Why don't we go back to talking about our future?" Hannah joked. "It's funny. My parents always brought me up to stay in the present. To just appreciate what was in front of me," Henry explained. "Well, I certainly like what's in front of me," Hannah interrupted. "Thanks to you though, I've found myself starting to look to the future," Henry admitted. "Look at you, living dangerously," Hannah joked. "I wish I could be more like you. Looking at the world with nothing but hope in my eyes. But I was raised to keep my feet on the ground. To not let my head drift into the clouds. So optimism is all new to me," Henry said. "Don't worry. I'm with you every step of the way," Hannah replied. "I can't think of a better guide," Henry remarked. "But now that I'm changing your mind about the world, how does the future look now?" Hannah asked. "As bright as can be," Henry said. There were certain memories that Henry could never forget. That became burned into his brain. For Henry, that conversation with his wife was one of them. And although the conversation happened over a year ago, it was still as fresh in Henry's mind as ever. It was the last good memory he had of his wife. The next day she died of a freak brain aneurysm. It was all such a shock. Completely out of the blue. There were no warning signs. No symptoms. In the middle of a conversation a blood vessel in her brain just blew and she collapsed to the ground. There was no way to prepare for the a tragedy like that, especially when it was such a freak occurence. Henry turned to Gott for an explanation, but received none. And he'd been trying to cobble his life back together ever since. It was all such a complete tragedy. The best thing in Henry's life was taken from him in an instant, without warning and without reason. Not to mention that Hannah was only twenty-three years old. She had so much to look forward to. So much in her future. There should have been children on the way. Glorious days spent in the park. Vacations at the beach. And holidays with relatives. It would be a simple life. But it would also be a joyful one. It just wasn't meant to be though. Even a year after her death, Henry woke up in disbelief that Hannah was gone. And despite having the whole bed available to him, Henry only slept on his side. He never dared to inch his body to Hannah's side. It was just a force of habit. He knew that it defied logic. That Hannah wouldn't be returning to claim her side of the bed. Still, it was the little routines that gave Henry comfort.

 Author Becca Fisher I'm Becca Fisher and I write sweet Amish romances featuring simple people with complex love lives. I'm devout in my faith, relish time with my family, and seek to bring joy to as many lives as possible. I would love to have you as a reader. God bless.

      BookBlast Giveaway $50 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash Ends 2/28/14 Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader, Not A Writer and sponsored by the author. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW. a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Cover Reveal ~ "Daughters of Lilith: Sacrifice" by Jennifer Quintenz

"Sacrifice" (Daughters of Lilith: Book 3) by Jennifer Quintenz

 For fans of Braedyn Murphy, the wait is almost over. “Sacrifice,” the third book in the Daughters of Lilith series, will be released on January 31, 2014.

  "Sacrifice" (Daughters of Lilith: Book 3) Just when Braedyn Murphy thought she understood the danger descending on Puerto Escondido, a new threat arrives. A cult devoted to Lilith has taken up residence in the little town, and when Cassie gets tangled up its intrigue, Braedyn realizes she might have to chose between protecting her friends and stopping Lilith from reclaiming this earth. With her duties to the Guard wearing on her, Braedyn turns to Lucas for solace. Together they wonder if now is the time to claim their one night together—knowing that one night is all they may ever have. Darker forces have their own plans for Braedyn and the Guard. Braedyn knew this fight could be brutal—but how much can one girl be asked to sacrifice in order to save the world?

 Check out the previous books in the series: 

  Praise for "Thrall" (Daughters of Lilith: Book 1) "Before you even start this review, put down anything you are doing and go read Thrall. It's AMAZING! BREATHTAKING! Engaging and smart, Thrall leaves you speechless!" - Savannah, Books With Bite "The writing style is so smooth, yet gripping. Add some good characters, well-paced story and you have something that I like. No, not like. Love... No surprise that “Thrall” gets full five stars and the highest recommendations I can give." - Linda, The Fantasy Librarian "How do I even begin to put all the crazy, gushy, ramblings in my brain about this book onto paper?!? Where to even begin?....This book is a MUST read!" - Hooked In A Book review on Amazon

  Praise for “Incubus” (Daughters of Lilith: Book 2) "If you like gutsy fantasy of the urban variety this should definitely be on your 'must read' list. Don't let the YA label put you off either, like all the best YA fiction, this can be enjoyed by adults as well. I give it an unreserved 5 stars." - Tahlia, Awesome Indies, "This is one of those books that I have been looking forward to since June of last year... I loved this book and I'm so happy I finally got to read it. I recommend the entire series for the fully developed characters, the impressive mythology, and the fight scenes. I am dreading waiting for the next book." - David, "Great reading. LOVE IT. Jennifer Quintenz is a special writer who can be very riveting... Spent several sleepless nights in a crazy rush to see how it ends. Can't wait for the next books." - Terri, review on Amazon

About the author: Jennifer Quintenz is an award-winning film and television writer, author, and graphic novelist. She has written for Twentieth Television, Intrepid Pictures, and Archaia Studios Press. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and son. * Jenn on Facebook * Jenn on Twitter * Jenn on Goodreads

Book Review ~ " A January Bride" by Deborah Raney

A January Bride (A Year of Weddings, #2)A January Bride by Deborah Raney
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Source: Netgalley
Genre: Christian Romance

Book Description: Who can work in a house that's overrun by contractors and carpenters? Not Madeleine Houser, a successful novelist who gladly accepts the help of her octogenarian friend, Ginny, to arrange for a temporary office in the charming bed and breakfast owned by Ginny's friend, Arthur. Maddie’s never met the innkeeper––but a friendship grows between them as Maddie and Arthur leave messages for each other each day. To Maddie’s alternate delight and chagrin, she seems to be falling for the inn’s owner––a man who's likely many years her senior––and who she’s never even met.

My thoughts: I'm excited to read this series of Novella's. There is a bride book for every month. Last month I read the December edition. The January book is cute, clean, and a quick romance book fix.

Maddie Houser is a well know writer. She has moved to her sister's old home during renovations. It is making it hard for her to write. In desperation, she changes her day location to a beautiful bed and breakfast to get her work done. The owner of the establishment is not what she envisioned.

I enjoyed reading about Maddie and Arthur. Their romance is not an easy one. They are in their 30's and have had past heartaches. One thing that they share is a Christian faith. While the religion is not the main theme, it is one of the anchor's that they have in life.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Younique ~ great mascara and skin care products!

I usually post only about books, but I wanted to share with you a product that I have recently come across.  My friend, Cory, at work, just started selling Younique.  It's a new skin care and make up company.

Their mascara is amazing.  Cory has brought it in and showed us the results.  It's a two step application.  First you apply gel, then you apply fibers to your eyelashes. The results are stunning.

This picture is not one of the pictures you will find on their website.  They are Cory's eyes!  They really look like that when she is done.  It doesn't hurt that she has gorgeous eyes. :)

I'm also very interested in their skin care products.  I wanted to share this info with you, plus I am currently having an on-line Younique party.  Check out the page online.

Read the first chapter of "Amanda's Beau" by Shirley Raye Redmond

The year is 1905. It is autumn in the village of Aztec in New Mexico territory. Amanda Dale is burdened with the responsibility of caring for her widowed sister—an invalid----and Ella’s two children—one a premature infant. But Amanda wants a husband and children of her own and despairs that God does not care about her plight. Schoolteacher Gil Gladney is handsome, intelligent, and God-fearing. He is drawn to Amanda, but feels he cannot propose marriage until he is able to purchase the ranch he has been saving for.

When Gil and his pupils discover the relics of an ancient culture among the ruins outside the village, Gil contacts an old college friend. The possibility of an archaeologist excavation excites the community of cash-strapped farmers, eager to earn extra money working on the site.
Gil is delighted when Nate Phillips comes to Aztec to take up the challenge. When a rabid skunk reels through the excavation site, threatening the lives of Amanda and her nephew Rex, Gil realizes that life is short and the possibility of true happiness can be fleeting. In the end, Amanda learns to trust God to provide the happily-ever-after ending she’s been praying for.

Read the First Chapter

Amanda’s Beau
by Shirley Raye Redmond

      Chapter One

     Village of Aztec,
New Mexico Territory--1905

The baby was nestled snugly inside the large roasting pan. Wrapped in a bit of blue flannel blanket, she reminded Amanda Dale of an oversized tamale. The pan had been set upon the open door of the hot oven so that the premature infant could absorb the life-saving heat. She is so little, Amanda thought with a clutch of fear. She bent over the pan to peer into her niece’s tiny face—a face not much larger than a silver dollar.
“Do you think she’ll die?” 10-year-old Rex asked. Bonita, the large red dog, stood beside him, her long tongue hanging out of her open mouth.
Amanda noted the anxiety in her nephew’s voice. She didn’t answer at first. Born almost two months early, the baby had been quite small and barely strong enough to suckle. Tufts of dark hair now sprang from the top of her little head like scraggly sprouts. Her tiny limbs appeared so fragile that Amanda was reluctant to carry the infant without first placing her on a pillow. Ella hadn’t even bothered to name the child yet. When Rex started calling the baby Minnie, Amanda did too. After all, the tiny girl was no bigger than a minute, Gil Gladney had declared the first time he’d seen her.
With a heavy sigh, Amanda shoved thoughts of the handsome schoolteacher, out of her mind and filled the medicine dropper with warm milk. She couldn’t afford to indulge in romantic daydreams. Not this busy September morning. Perhaps not ever.
            “Aunt Mandy, is she going to die?” Rex repeated.
            “Not if I can help it,” Amanda replied. She gently pressed the tip of the medicine dropper into the baby’s small rosebud mouth. Minnie puckered a bit, trying to suck. Small and feeble, the infant made frail, pitiful sounds like a mewling kitten.
“How is Mama this morning?” Rex asked.
            “As well as can be expected,” Amanda replied, shrugging. Glancing at him, she noted the anxiety etched on his young face. Her heart ached for him. He’d endured a lot of grief for one so young. “Your mother is sick in her heart and in her mind. It takes a lot of time to heal in those places.”
She did wish Ella would make more of an effort though. Sometimes she had to resist the urge to go in there and shake some sense into her younger sister. Of course, she’d never tell Rex that.  Changing the subject, she asked, “Did you feed the chickens?”
“That’s all I ever do--take care of those stupid chickens!” he snapped.
“Watch your tone with me, young man!” Amanda warned.
Rex sighed. “Yes, ma’am. I didn’t mean nothing by it. I fed the chickens and filled the pans with fresh water too.”
Anything, you didn’t mean anything by it,” she said, correcting his grammar.
 He shrugged a shoulder. “ I spend so much time out there, I should move my cot into the chicken house.” With another shrug, he added, “Ozzie Lancaster calls me Chicken Boy.”
            Amanda bit her lip and tried not to laugh. She loved her nephew. With his sandy colored hair and freckles, he looked a lot like Ella. Her sister would never be able to disown the boy. He was her spitting image. “Well, now, eat your breakfast and don’t worry about Ozzie Lancaster. He’s not the brightest spool of thread in the sewing basket, that’s for certain,” she told him. He wasn’t. “Your mama is proud of you and how you’ve pitched in around here since your daddy died. It hasn’t been easy, I know.”
            When Rex raised one pale eyebrow and looked at her doubtfully, Amanda added, “Your mama knows more about what’s going on around here than you realize. I’m proud of you too, Rex. You’ve taken on the responsibilities of a grown man. Now eat.” She shoved the plate of fresh biscuits toward him.
She watched the boy’s face flush with pleasure and felt a little ashamed of herself for not praising him more often. He was a good boy. He really was. But Amanda rarely received
compliments these days, and so she seldom felt inclined to hand them out to others. She was a spinster who’d spent most of her adult life caring for one ailing parent after another. And now she was taking care of her newly widowed sister and two fatherless children—one who might die any day. She was twenty-seven years old, going on twenty-eight. Some days she felt twice that age. She feared the best part of her life was over.  She’d survived one disappointment after another. It was all she could do not to nurse her bitter feelings. She tried to count her blessings each night before going to bed, but it was getting harder to do.
Watching Rex tackle his scrambled eggs, Amanda wished there was fresh milk for him to

drink, but he’d have to settle for watered down coffee. At least it was hot. She poured some into

his cup. There was no money for fresh milk now—not since Rex’s father had died after

accidentally falling from Joe Ulibarri’s barn roof. There was just enough to buy the tinned kind

for Minnie. She saw him take a swallow and grimace. On Sundays, they drank the weak coffee

with sugar. But today was not Sunday. It was Saturday. But it was a special day-- sort of.

“Go ahead and add some sugar, if you want,” Amanda encouraged him.

Rex’s freckled face lit up as he quickly reached for the sugar tin. “It’s going to be an

exciting day, isn’t it, Aunt Mandy?” he declared. “Almost as exciting as the rodeo or county


“No more dawdling. Eat,” Amanda replied crisply. She tried not to think of the

adventure ahead. Exciting? She couldn’t say, but it was certainly going to be out of the

ordinary. So why was she looking forward to the outing and yet dreading it too?

“I read this book called The Conquest of Mexico,” Rex went on. “Mr. Gladney loaned it to me. It’s all about the Aztecs and their King Montezuma and Captain Cortez and a beautiful lady named Marina. Mr. Gladney says the Aztecs didn’t build the old ruins, but he says the first settlers thought so and that’s why they named the place after them. Mr. Gladney knows a lot about archeology. His best friend is an archeologist.”
When Amanda raised her eyebrows, Rex explained. “He says archeology is the scientific study of old artifacts and stuff from ancient cultures. That means pottery and skeletons and such.”
“Eat,” she said. “He’ll be here soon and you haven’t finished your breakfast yet.” She

picked up  the baby—roasting pan and all—and swished into the other room to change Minnie’s

diaper. She knew Rex had been looking forward to this particular Saturday for weeks, ever since

Mr. Gladney had announced that he would be willing to take interested boys and girls to explore

the old Indian ruins along the Animas River. A field trip, he called it.

Like most of the other people living in the small New Mexico town, Amanda knew the

ruins existed, but she didn’t think about them much. After all, there was laundry to wash and her

ailing sister to look after and little Minnie to care for and eggs to collect and sell and the small

garden to tend. Why should she concern herself with old deserted dwellings, home now to

nothing but lizards and spiders?

When Rex told her about his teacher’s eager fascination with the old Indian settlement, 

Amanda had imagined all too well how Gil Gladney’s blue eyes must have lit up. Eyes as

blue as the New Mexico sky. Rex adored Mr. Gladney, she knew. Her nephew wanted to be a

teacher too when he grew up. He loved school and reading books. While most other boys his age

would rather go hunting or fishing, Rex loved studying history and geography. He hoped to go to

college one day. He even prayed about it. Amanda didn’t see how it would be possible, but she

wasn’t going to say so and ruin his dreams. Rex was a good boy. So when he asked her to come

along, to be a chaperone for the girl students, she’d said yes.

            Her cheeks flamed now, reflecting upon her foolishness. Then she heard Bonita

bark, and her cheeks grew even hotter. He was here! Her fingers fumbled with Minnie’s small

diaper—squares of white flannel no bigger than a woman’s handkerchief. Amanda heard voices

in the kitchen—Rex’s and a woman’s. She relaxed a little and gently returned the baby to her

roasting pan, tucking the blankets around her small body. Smoothing her own skirt and wavy

dark hair,  Amanda picked up the pan and returned to the kitchen.
“Good morning, Senora Martinez. Thank you for coming,” she said, noting with pleasure

the basket of fresh sopapillas on the kitchen table and a jar of honey.
“I am happy to help,” the older woman replied. Short, plump and middle aged,

Dolores Martinez was the mother of six grown children and more than a dozen grandchildren.

She had proven to be a good neighbor many times in the past several months. “Let me have the

baby,” she insisted, taking the roasting pan. “Pobrecita, poor little thing,” she cooed, looking

down at Minnie. “She is small, but muy bonita, no?”
“Yes, she’s a pretty little thing,” Amanda agreed.

            “Hmmm, the sopapillas are still warm!” Rex exclaimed. He helped himself to one of the pillowy triangles of fried dough and drizzled it with a spoonful of honey.
“Mind your manners and be sure to water the senora’s horse,” Amanda reminded him, peering out the window at the horse tied to the porch railing.
“Thanks, Mrs. Martinez,” Rex mumbled, his mouth full. He darted out the door to do as he’d been told.
 Amanda whisked his plate from the table and placed it on the floor. As usual, Rex had left a bit of egg and some biscuit crumbs for the dog. “Here, girl,” she said, patting Bonita’s dark velvety head. The animal was looking healthier every day, despite the broken tail and the sore patch on her back where someone had scalded her with something hot. Miserable and apparently homeless, the pitiful creature had shown up one day on the farm. Rex had adopted her with fierce affection. Amanda dreaded the day that someone would turn up to claim the dog. She feared Rex wouldn’t be able to handle the loss so soon after the death of his father.
            “How is the mamacita today?” Dolores Martinez asked.
            Amanda feigned a cheerful smile. “Much the same,” she replied. She led the way to the bedroom and quietly pushed open the door. Standing in the doorway, she glanced in at her sister lying in the bed. Ella’s long pale braids looked like skinny lengths of rope draped over each shoulder. Her dark eyes were open, but she didn’t appear to see anything, nor did she look in their direction as they entered the room. While Dolores made a tsk-tsk sound and muttered something in Spanish, Amanda made her way to her sister’s bed and sat down on the edge. She picked up one of Ella’s pale limp hands and held it between her own strong, rosy ones. She felt a surge of conflicting emotion—both pity and impatience.
            “Ella, Senora Martinez has come to sit with you,” she announced. “Remember, I told you I’d be going on a school trip with Rex this morning. The teacher is taking some of the pupils out to explore the old Indian ruins down by the river.”
            Amanda looked for any sign of understanding on her sister’s blank face. There wasn’t one.
“It is a puzzle, this illness of your sister’s,” Dolores said.
Amanda nodded. She didn’t understand it at all. When Doctor Morgan had come to help deliver the premature baby, Ella had neither spoken nor cried out in pain. She moaned a little and whimpered. That’s all. Afterwards, she wouldn’t talk or even eat. She wouldn’t even hold her newborn daughter.          
“Doc Morgan says there’s nothing wrong with her--nothing physical anyhow,” Amanda said. “She’s as healthy as a horse, but she’s lost the will to live. She didn’t have much time to get over her husband’s death, and then the baby came too early. I guess she’s got a broken heart, and the doctor has no cure for that.”

Es una vergüenza—it is a shame,” Dolores admitted. “You must be strong enough for


the both of you for a little while longer.”

But how much longer, Amanda wondered? She didn’t really understand her sister’s behavior at all. Ella was alive. She had two children and a home of her own and a sizable chicken farm. Wasn’t that enough? Wasn’t that enough motivation to quit feeling sorry for herself and get up out of bed? Amanda recalled the doctor’s hard words now as she looked down upon the pale face and gently touched one of the long braids. Ella’s eyes were so dull and lifeless.
Just then Bonita padded into the room. The dog hoisted her paws up on the bed and wagged her tail. Amanda grinned.  “See, Ella, even Bonita wishes you were well.” She stroked the dog’s silky, lopsided ears. She knew Rex was probably hovering outside the door and keeping an eye out for Gil Gladney’s buckboard.  Usually, she made the boy come in first thing to say good morning to his mother. But she knew it was hard for him to see her this way. He was always eager to leave the dark, disheartening room that smelled of medicine and despair.
            “Amanda, you go get ready for your outing,” Dolores said, placing a hand on her shoulder. “I will take care of your sister and her bebe. You are not to worry. Enjoy yourself.”
            “Thank you,” Amanda said, rising from the bed. “I appreciate your kindness.”

            The older woman shrugged a plump shoulder. “It is nothing. I want you to have a good


time—a picnic with the so-charming schoolteacher.” She rolled her dark eyes suggestively


and arched her thick eyebrows. “Alto moreno y muy guapo—tall, dark and very handsome!”

Amanda chuckled. “Don’t forget we’ll have Rex and a dozen other school

children to keep us company.”

Dolores laughed too and shooed her out of the room. Feeling more lighthearted than she

had earlier that morning, Amanda hurried to her own room and studied her features in the mirror.

Her cheeks were flushed with anticipation. Her brown eyes glowed. She examined the Spanish

curls she’d flattened against her temples earlier that morning. Recalling that some women

dubbed them beau catchers, she reached for her brush and swept them away with a few impatient

strokes. She wouldn’t want Dolores Martinez or anyone else to think she’d set her cap—and her

heart--on winning Gil Gladney.

She had just finish pinning a brooch to her crisp shirtwaist blouse and smoothing her

gored skirt when she heard Rex call out, “Aunt Mandy, he’s here!”

            Her heart lurched. She chastised herself severely for such foolishness and risked

one last look in the mirror as she donned her best straw hat—one with a wide brim to keep the

sun out of her eyes. Trimmed with blue and green plaid ribbon, the hat looked rather festive, she

thought as she secured the hat pin with fingers that trembled ever so slightly.

She made her way to the kitchen, where Bonita barked a welcome at the newcomer

standing on the front porch. Rex had apparently left the dog inside in his eagerness to run out the

door to greet Gil Gladney. Amanda felt a tug of guilt when she heard Minnie’s feeble cry from

the other room, but Dolores bustled in then and picked up the bowl of hardboiled eggs Amanda

had prepared the night before.
“Go,” the older woman urged, thrusting the bowl toward her. “And do not worry.”

            Amanda nodded, taking the bowl and swiping a small Mason jar filled with salt from the

kitchen table too. As she opened the door, the dog swept past her with an eager swish of her tail.

Gil Gladney stood on the porch talking with Rex. He’d removed his hat, and his black hair

glinted in the sunlight like a raven’s wing. Even in scuffed boots and worn trousers, Gil

Gladney was the most attractive man she’d ever met. Dolores was right—he was tall, dark and

handsome. Very handsome.

She looked past him to the four youngsters already sitting in the back of the buckboard—

little Sammy Cordova, who grinned, revealing missing front teeth; the Schwarzkopf twins,

Gertrude and Greta, with their long twiggy braids, the color of old straw, and Jerry Snow, a boy

flecked with freckles and red hair nearly as dark as Bonita’s coat. Jerry was Rex’s best friend.

She smiled and nodded at him before returning her attention to the good-looking schoolteacher.
“Miss Dale, you’re as pretty as a picture this morning,” Gil greeted her. He smiled then,

revealing fine white teeth. The deep lines around his eyes crinkled—such blue, blue eyes,

Amanda noted. The look of unfeigned admiration she saw there both pleased and flustered her.
“Good morning to you, Mr. Gladney. A fine day for a school outing,” she observed.

“Yes, the weather’s fine,” was all he could reply before Rex began pleading to take the

dog along.
“Please, Mr. Gladney, can Bonita come too? She won’t be any trouble. She’s a good

dog, honest.”

Hearing the hopefulness in her nephew’s voice, Amanda said a silent prayer—and not for the first time--that whoever originally owned the dog would never show up to claim her.
 Gil Gladney didn’t hesitate. “Sure, why not? Have her climb up into the back of the wagon.” Turning to Amanda, he took the bowl of eggs from her and the jar of salt and handed them over to Gertrude place in the back of the wagon. Then he offered Amanda his hand to assist her into the front seat of the buckboard.
“I’ve always liked dogs,” he told her. “They have a peculiar sense of humor all their own. And most of them are more pleasant to be around than lots of people I know,” he said with a chuckle.           
Amanda’s lips twitched. She thought he had a peculiar sense of humor himself. “Rex loves that dog,” she told him after he’d settled Rex and Bonita in the back and joined her on the seat. “She wasn’t much to look at when he first found her, homeless and miserable. She was thin and rickety looking, and as you can see, her tail is broken and sticks out to one side. The sore patch on her back is finally beginning to heal. I think someone might have scalded her with something hot.”
            “Who named her Bonita? That means pretty one in Spanish, doesn’t it?” Gil asked,

reaching for the reins.

            “Rex did,” she replied.

            Gil’s eyebrows shot up. He grinned slowly. “That boy’s quite an optimist.”
Amanda laughed. It was going to be a lovely day, and now that she was away from the house and her responsibilities there, she planned to enjoy it. September was one of her favorite months of the year. The sun was just warm enough to be pleasant. Wild purple asters and golden chamisa dotted the landscape reminding her of a yellow and lavender quilt she’d had as a child. Rex and the other youngsters chattered happily in the back of the wagon, with Bonita the center of good-natured attention.
            “How’s your sister,” Gil asked then. “And the baby?”
            At first, Amanda didn’t reply. She could feel her cheeks flush with resentment. She didn’t want to talk about Ella and Minnie. Not today. Not with Gil Gladney. Reluctantly, she replied, “As well as can be expected.” Before he could pursue the topic further, she changed the subject. “Any new students in the school this year?”
            “Yes, a few. Most of them boys Rex’s age or older,” Gil replied, giving her a sidelong glance. “There’s a new little girl too. Just barely six. Her name is Brunhilde Bergschneider. Her father just bought the livery in town.”
            “What a big name for a little girl!” Amanda exclaimed.
            “The kids call her Bunny,” he told her, with a grin.
            “You love it, don’t you? Teaching I mean?”
            He nodded. “I do.”
            “Did you always want to be a teacher?” she asked.
            “Yes, it’s an honorable calling. Helping to form the mind and manners of child is about one of the most important jobs there is. Introducing them to literature, history, science and the Bible so that one day they will be good and useful citizens—it’s a big responsibility, don’t you agree?”
“I do,” Amanda replied, moved by his obvious dedication.
“Mr. Noah Webster—he wrote the dictionary-- defines education as that which furnishes a child with principles, knowledge, training and discipline,” he went on. “But most teaching positions don’t pay much, so I’ve moved around a lot. I’d like to settle here though—in Aztec or Farmington. I hope to raise horses one day too, as well as teach, ” Gil replied. “I’m saving up to buy a place of my own—a ranch. One of these days,” he added, with a self-conscience shrug.
            Amanda swallowed hard and nodded. She knew what it was like to have those sort of dreams—the one-of-these-days kind. She knew he lived in two small rooms attached to the back of the schoolhouse. She also knew that the teacher’s salary wasn’t much. Doc Morgan had told her, and he was on the school board. But Gil Gladney did earn twice as much as Miss Weston and Miss Platz, who had been the town’s two previous schoolteachers. Amanda was happy for him, of course, but it didn’t seem right somehow that the female teachers hadn’t earned as much. How long, she wondered, would it take Gil to save up enough money to buy a ranch?

* * * * *
            On the brief journey to the ruins of the old Indian settlement, barely four miles away on

the banks of the Animas River, Gil quickly noticed when Amanda fell into a distracted silence. He asked her if the chickens were thriving, and her only reply was a brief nod. He wondered if her sister and the premature infant were not doing as well as she’d let on. Perhaps she was really more worried about the state of their health than she cared to admit. He silently chastised himself for bringing her along as a chaperone for the female pupils. He’d assumed—more fool he!—that Amanda Dale had offered to come along. He realized now that Rex had probably volunteered her services. She’d felt obligated to come, no doubt. But she had looked willing, even eager, when she’d stepped out onto the porch, wearing that fetching straw hat and holding the bowl of hardboiled eggs.
His heart had jolted at the sight of her. He wasn’t quite sure if that reaction was caused by nervous tension or delight. He couldn’t afford to think about it for too long. He studied Amanda from the corner of his eye. She sat straight and rigid on the hard seat beside him.  Her dark eyes, with those impossibly thick lashes, were fixed on something in the distance. Her cheeks were a deep pink color—from the heat of the day or embarrassment, he couldn’t say. Maybe that was it. He’d embarrassed her talking so frankly about his passion for teaching and his plans to breed horses one day. Perhaps he’d been too bold, too open. Gil clenched his jaw and berated himself for being more than one kind of fool.
The awkward silence between them was fortunately interrupted by a flood of questions from Jerry Snow in the back of the buckboard. “Do you think we’ll find gold or silver, Mr. Gladney? What about Spanish treasure? Or maybe some dead bodies wrapped up like mummies?”
            The Schwarzkopf sisters made a disgusted, “Eeeewwwwweeeee!” sound.
            As Gil turned slightly to answer his student’s excited inquiry, he noticed Amanda looking at him with an amused expression on her face. Her brown eyes danced with laughter. He knew she was enjoying his predicament. He grinned at her. She smiled back.
            “Jerry, I’ve told you before that this settlement is not an ancient Aztec city. I doubt there will be any gold or silver, and I’m certain there won’t be any mummies,” he called back over his shoulder. The boys in his class had gone crazy over mummies ever since he’d shared with them a newspaper article about archeologist Wallis Budge and the excavations he’d been doing in Egypt on behalf of the British Museum.
            “But what about S…Spanish treasure?” Sammy Cordova asked, his missing front teeth causing him to lisp.
            “No Spanish treasure either,” Gil replied.
            “But my father, he tell me that Jesuit priests had gold mines all over New Mexico,” the boy insisted.
            “Yeah, and they didn’t tell the Spanish king about the mines because they wanted to keep the gold and silver for themselves,” Jerry added.
            “Perhaps the treasure is all gone now,” Greta spoke up.
            “Not if the Black Robes didn’t return for it,” Rex said.
            “I’ve told you already that this isn’t an Aztec city nor the remains of a Jesuit mission,” Gil repeated firmly. “I realize that you have all grown up with the legends of Cibola—the Seven Cities of Gold—and the long lost mines found by the conquistadors, but these ruins are far more ancient than all of those stories.”
            At that moment, the ruins themselves came into view. Located on the western lip of the river, the old settlement, with its the sandstone masonry walls—some several stories high—was an intriguing sight against the pale, bleached sand hills, sparsely covered with sage and saltbush.
Although he wouldn’t have admitted it to his students, Gil thought ruins were romantic—like the old stories of knights and dragons he’d so enjoyed as a boy.
“It’s an old ghost town,” Amanda observed. “Sad and forlorn.”
“Haven’t you been here before?” Gil asked her.
She shook her head. He noted how the blue bead on the head of her hat pin glinted in the sun.
“Folks from town come out here all the time for picnics and to explore the ruins, just like we’re doing today,” he said.
            “Mr. Gladney, do you think it’s haunted?” Gertrude asked.
            “No “ he replied promptly.
            “Miss Dale, do you think it is?” the girl pressed.
            Gil looked at Amanda. Her lips were slightly pursed. She was trying not to laugh. He watched as she turned around to look at the children in the back of the wagon. She answered calmly, “No, of course not.”
            He thanked her with a wink, which caused her to blush prettily and look away toward the lazy, trickling river. Four his other students—all boys—had already arrived and tethered their horses. They waved. Gil waved back.
            “I hope there aren’t any bats or rats,” Greta spoke up as Gil maneuvered the wagon toward the nearest shade tree.
            “Or snakes,” her sister added.
            “I’ll bet there are lots of rattlesnakes,” Jerry piped up. Gil couldn’t help noting the enthusiasm in his voice. “One might bite you on the ankle, Greta, and then your tongue will swell up so big that it won’t fit in your mouth, and your face will turn purple and black and you’ll die!”
            The sisters squealed with terror, while the boys laughed raucously.
“That’s enough, boys,” Gil warned. As he reined in the horse and climbed down from the buckboard, he was thankful--more than ever--that Amanda had agreed to come along to watch over the girls.
The youngsters scrambled out of the back of the wagon and raced toward the rubble to greet their classmates, Bonita dogging Rex’s heels. Gil helped Amanda alight and asked matter-of-factly, “Are you ready for an adventure?”
“Ready as I’ll ever be, I reckon,” she replied. Her dazzling smile nearly took his breath away. Gil glanced over at his students and forced himself to think about archeology. He was here today to instruct his pupils in the scientific study of artifacts and other material evidence of ancient culture, not to allow himself to be smitten—any further--by Amanda Dale.
“Ozzie, Jerry, Rex—help me with the equipment,” he ordered. As the boys hastened forward to lend a hand, Gil retrieved spades, a hatchet and a few other assorted tools for the small group of young explorers to use. After giving them a brief history lesson and digging instructions, Gil turned them lose to poke about in the dirt and debris near the jagged masonry walls.
No doubt a professional archeologist would be horrified by his disregard for the old Indian site. But many of the structures had already been damaged from years of rain and snow pooling on the roofs, slowly rotting the wooden slats and beams, which had crashed, carrying chunks of the wall masonry with them. Peering down into the collapsed chambers choked with centuries of rubble, Gil figured his students couldn’t do any serious damage with their spades and trowels.
He noticed that Rex had moved away from the other students, selecting a section near a collapsed wall to explore on his own. The boy was down on his knees, scraping at the hardened earth with the tip of the spade. Bonita sat in the shade, watching the boy’s every move.
“Want some help?” Gil asked.
“Sure!” Rex replied, moving over to make room for him.
Gil liked Rex Stewart. He was a bright pupil, always eager to learn. It was a shame that his father had died, leaving the boy to shoulder the responsibility of a sick mother and ailing baby sister. Sometimes Gil didn’t know who he felt sorry for most—Rex or his pretty aunt.
The two worked together in companionable silence. Occasionally, Gil glanced over at Amanda. She efficiently supervised Greta and Gertrude, who seemed more interested in picking wild flowers in the rubble than exploring the ruins. When he and Rex had dug nearly four feet down, they uncovered a row of pine log roof beams that seemed to make up a ceiling of some sort. Using the hatchet to chop through the brittle mass, Gil made an opening large enough to peer through.
“Look, Rex! There’s a chamber below.” He sat back on his heels and looked around.
“We’re on the roof, I think.”
            “We’ve found something!” Rex hollered out. The other boys, abandoning their own efforts, dashed over to join them. Amanda came too, gently herding the blonde sisters in front of her like pinafored sheep.
            “Is it a dungeon?” the Hurtado boy asked hopefully.
            “Any bats or rattlers down there?” Jerry asked. He grinned wickedly at the Schwarzkopf sisters.
            Gil fell to his hands and knees. “I can’t see anything,” he told them. “It’s too dark.
I’m going down. Give me that rope and a candle,” he ordered. Making a few more chops and slashes to enlarge the hole, Gil secured one end of the robe to a nearby scrub oak and shoved a candle into his jacket pocket. He then lowered himself down into the black cavity.
 “I’m coming with you, Mr. Gladney,” Rex declared.
“All right, but bring a candle down with you,” Gil called up to him. He heard the boy order the whimpering dog to “stay” and watched as Rex inched his way over the side of the hole into the chamber before inching his way over the side and down into the hole.
“It smells down here,” Rex said, wrinkling his nose.
“It is pretty musty,” Gil agreed, striking a match on the bottom of boot. He lit his candle and then Rex’s.
“Can we come down too, Mr. Gladney?” one of the other boys called down.
“Me too?” Jerry hollered.
Wiping his hands on the seat of his britches, Gil looked through the hole at the ring of boyish faces peering down at him. “Okay, you can all come if you want to, but one at a time down the rope.”  The descent was only about eight or nine feet. Each boy took their time down the rope and then lit their candle from Rex’s already flickering one. When the last boy had made his descent, Gil looked up and saw Amanda and the two girls peering down at them.
“Greta, Gertrude, you can come next, if you want,” Gil said.
“Do we have to, Mr. Gladney?” Greta whined.
“I’ll stay up here with them,” Amanda offered.
“Are you sure?” he asked, wondering if she was really longing to come down into the chamber too.
“Aunt Mandy, there’s no treasure or gold or anything down here,” Rex called up to her. The boy’s voice was heavy with disappointment.
            “And no old bones either,” Jerry lamented.
Gil ignored their disappointment and began prying stones from the wall to allow them access to what he hoped was an adjacent chamber. Rex and Jerry lent a helping hand. Soon the other boys were pulling at stones too, until there was a clear entrance into the next chamber. One by one, following his lead, the boys stepped inside. Their candles flickered wildly. Then they blinked out. Young Michael squeaked with distress. The heavy darkness hung around them like thick curtains.
            “There’s not enough oxygen in this interior chamber to keep our candles lit, that’s all,” Gil explained matter-of-factly. “There’s nothing to worry about.” Taking one or two slow steps backwards, he returned to the first chamber, took another match from the box in his pocket and relit his candle. The boys pushed forward, eager to relight their own. Once all the candles were burning again, Gil led his young explorers back into the second chamber. This time, there was enough air coming in through the breach in the wall to keep the flames burning.
            “Looks like a pile of rubbish to me,” Jerry remarked as he held his candle high and peered into one gloomy corner.
            As Gil glanced upwards toward the ceiling, Rex and Jerry took tentative steps in the direction of the farthest corner. Behind them, Michael shrieked with fright and Jerry, gasping, dropped his candle.
            “J...j...jumping Jehosophat!” Rex stammered. “Look at that!”
Gil stared at the seated skeleton in the corner. “Boys, just look!” he exclaimed, thrilled with the discovery.
“Is everybody okay?” he heard Amanda calling down to them.
“We’re fine!” he called back. “The boys have found some remains.”
Gil ventured forward to study the skeleton. His heart pounded with excitement. This was more than he had hoped for. The body’s flesh had disappeared long ago, but the bones and dried
ligaments held the skeleton in its seated position. The empty eye sockets seemed particularly gruesome. Out of the corner of his eye, he noted Michael crossing himself and then ducking out of the chamber.
            “I’m getting out,” the boy declared, making for the rope.
            “Anyone who wants to leave, can leave,” Gil told them. He didn’t care if all the youngsters scampered back up the rope. Amanda would keep an eye on them, he knew. Rex, however, remained close to his side. He could hear the boy’s heavy breathing. He knew Rex was as thrilled as he was.
            “Mr. Gladney, over here. Look!” His voice was hoarse with excitement.
            Gil turned, holding his candle high. “Another skeleton!” he exclaimed. This one was lying on the floor with its knees drawn up to its chest and tied with some sort of fiber matting. Several fine pottery vessels and an amulet made of turquoise and abalone shell had been placed next to the corpse.
            “I’ll bet he was a warrior...or a chief, maybe,” Rex conjectured.
Looking up, Gil noticed Jerry standing at the chamber’s rough entrance.  The red-haired boy was gaping with disbelief. So, all of the students hadn’t abandoned him and Rex after all.
“What do you think, Jerry?” he asked. “Do you think Rex is right, that these might be the remains of a great chief?”
When Jerry only shrugged and shook his head, Gil glanced down at the second skeleton and declared, “I’ve got to write Phillips.” Turning to Rex, he explained, “He’s my friend, the archaeologist, the one I told you about. He’ll want to see this for himself.”
            From somewhere above the half-buried chamber, Gil could hear Rex’s dog barking and the faint laughter of the other students.
            “Your friend, Mr. Phillips, will he come here to dig for relics?” Rex asked.
“Oh, yes, I’m sure he’ll come,” Gil replied, rising to his feet and brushing the dirt off his trousers. Still clutching his candle in one hand, he clapped the other upon the boy’s shoulder. “Phillips may even bring in an excavation crew. What do you think about that?”
            “That’s good, right?” Rex asked uncertainly.
            Gil laughed. “Yes, it’s good.”  Even if Nate Phillips did bring a crew to excavate the ruins, he’d still hire local men to do some of the heavier digging and hauling of debris. Gil could work on the site after school was dismissed for the day and make some extra money to put toward that ranch he’d told Amanda Dale about. He laughed again, for no particular reason. Picking up one of the pots and the amulet, Gil handed them to Jerry and Rex. “We’ll take these with us,” he told them.
            “Are we going to take HIM too?” Rex asked, pointing to the skeleton.
            Gil shook his head. “No, just what you’ve got there and this,” he added, indicating a basket he’d discovered in the corner. “We’ll put them on display in the classroom, along with the other artifacts that have been discovered today. Now, c’mon, boys! I’m hungry. Let’s eat.”