Sunday, December 9, 2012

Julie Lessman's 'A Light In the Window' Will Light Your Heart!

'A Light In the Window' Will Bring Light to Your Heart.

Julie Lessman has done it again! Having read the Daughters of Boston series, this long awaited prequel will delight and warm the wintery heart. (Not to mention any other season your heart might be in!) For those of us who fell in love with Ms. Lessman's writing with 'A Passion Most Pure' , she holds true to her penchant for creating characters of warmth, heart, and dare I say "guts" that drive the story. Marcy Murphy and her best friend Julie (affectionately known as Jewels) are childhood friends reunited due to the financial crisis of the Railroads during the mid 1890's. Julie's brother Sam and his best friend Patrick are roguish gents whose flirtatious dallying with every girl they run into gives pause to enamored Marcy and Julie. That is until Marcy and Julie volunteer to help with a fundraiser to support St. Mary's Parrish soup kitchen. Thrown together to work on a play entitled "The Light In the Window", Marcy soon finds herself the object of affection of not one, but both of our handsome Irish rogues. But our boys don't exactly fit her idea of a Godly man and having both out to win her sends poor Marcy into a tailspin of emotions. Our gents do figure out a way to make sure their friendship stays intact and who will win the right to pursue our heroine. (Not saying anymore on that one! You'll have to read it to find out!). You'll laugh, you may even cry, but one things for sure, you'll not only fall in love with the characters, but 'see' how God's redemptive love works. I must say, Julie Lessman does have a unique knack for taking her characters from crisscrossed relationships, messed up lives and attitudes not to mention broken hearts, introduce a strong faith and God into the mix, and then masterfully have everything workout. By the time you get to the end of the book, you realize, "Wow! Only God could have done something like that!" And so He does.
This is a good book of Julie's to start with for those of whom this is your first Lessman book. Trust me, you'll be hooked!
Enjoy this wonderful Christmas read!  You can get a copy here:

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Savanna's Gift IS a gift!

A Wonderful Holiday Read!

Debut author Camille Eide has stormed the book world with a witty tale of holiday love and forgiveness. Savanna Holt must return to the resort where years before she fell in love with handsome ski instructor Luke Nelson. Luke Nelson, whom she adored. Who could send her heart to racing but whose own heart she broke. Desperate to escape her past by climbing to the top of her game, Savanna leaves Luke and the Evergreen Ridge Resort to find her fortune and fame in the medical world. Now years later she's returned to the place that still holds her heart and the man whom she discovers holds it just as tightly. But what to do? Luke sees her as nothing but a success seeking diva. Someone who years before left him because his care free lifestyle as a mere ski instructor wasn't good enough, sophisticated enough for her. But sometimes God sees fit to arrange circumstances to fit His purposes. And a raging snow storm does just that. Being stuck together at Evergreen Ridge brings back memories and deep feelings in both Savanna and Luke. Will they listen to their hearts and let forgiveness heal a broken love that seems beyond repair? Or will they harbor the pain of the past? Find out in this heartwarming holiday tale! You'll be glad you did. Oh, and better have a cup of tea and some Christmas cookies handy. Camille paints a wonderfully, festive, Christmas picture! I actually had to go out and get some tea and cookies about half way through the story!

So go get your tea and favorite Christmas cookies, and then grab a copy of Savanna's Gift here:

Friday, October 26, 2012

Fun, Sexy, Read!

If you are looking for a fun, sexy, weekend read, or any day for that matter, then you'll love Taken By The Cowboy.  Julianne MacLean has penned another fun historical romp this time via an unwitting, time traveling spitfire whose entire world turns upside down when she lands herself in the 1880's old west.  And the old west is not the only place our heroine Jessica Delaney lands as she soon finds herself gracing a cell in the town jail.  And all because of a pesky June bug she swatted at, (who wouldn't?  Have you ever seen the size of one of those things?) one dead gunslinger, (who had nothing to do with the June bug as he was already dead) and an incredibly sexy Sheriff. (Who managed to make full use of the June bug in a nickname for said heroine.)  And who knew how much trouble a little, (well, maybe not little) June bug could cause?  Her life constantly in the balance, "June Bug Jess" as she's come to be known, tries desperately to find her way not only out of jail, but back to the 21st century.  But Sheriff Truman Wade has other ideas.  Keeping her alive for one as threats to her life continue to grow.  But protecting June Bug Jess becomes problematic when Sheriff Wade realizes she's not the only thing he needs to protect.  His heart's in as much danger from her as she is from the blood thirsty outlaws trying to kill her.  Saddle up and find out what happens when you too, 'Get Taken by the Cowboy'.  You'll be glad you did.  
You can purchase Taken by the Cowboy at amazon and Barnes and Nobles. http://

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Not Your Normal Sarian

From Time Masters Book Two; The Prophecy

Tylahs Mihn crept up the back side of one of the many elaborate tapestries which adorned the walls in this particular part of the palace.  He stopped and rubbed his antenae together a few times then listened intently, his little kitten like ears a-tuned to the tiniest of sounds.  
 She was late.  Good.   As the little Sarian’s older brothers were also not there. 
  “Always late!  Never on time!   Master will be anrgyssesss!”  Tylahs lamented and shuddered at the thought.
 “Only if Tylahs tells.   Tylahs better keep mouth shutssesss!”
 Tylahs froze.  His brothers had arrived and were quickly making their way up the back side of the tapestry to where he himself clung.  Uh Oh ...
His older brothers were bigger than Tylahs, and though they had been bred differently, they were still considered to be his brothers.  At times however, Tylahs wished it were other wise.  
 “Tylahs, worthless, ugly little Sarian!  Did you do as Master saidssesss?”
 A brother on either side of him, Tylahs was trapped.  They clung to the tapestry and pressed into him.  “Yesssesss!” He squeaked, his eyes bulging at the hated pressure of the two coarsely furred black and grey bodies thrust against him so hard the whole tapestry moved.
 “Goodssesss.  Well done for ugly, stupid Sarian like Tylahssesss!”  Toil, his brother on his left had actually given him a compliment.  
 Tylahs beamed with pleasure and quivered with delight, despite being smashed between the two brutes.  
 Trouble on the other hand, “Stupid Tylahs no goodssesss!  Always doing wrong and make us clean up his messes!  Master have us kill Tylahs one dayssesss!”
  Tylahs froze.
 Trouble turned his face right into Tylahs’s.  “We will kill you one dayssesss,”  he hissed.  “And I will like watching Tylahs die just like humanssesss!”  

 “Silence, all three of you!  Do you want to be found out?”  The tapestry was pulled away from the wall a few inches then roughly slapped back into it.  All three Sarian gave an audible high pitched ‘umph’ as their backs slammed into the wall.   She had arrived.
 She leaned against the wall, her tall form half hidden from them.  The three Sarian repositioned themselves to better converse with their leader.
 Toil made his way up the tapestry to get closer to her ear.  “We have done what Master saidssesss.  Now we go homessess?”
The woman looked this way and that before she spoke, then pulled the tapestry slightly away from the wall.  “No, we’ve still work to do.  I will tell you when it is time for you to return.  Tylahs, you did what I told you? Please say that you did.”
 Tylahs clung to the tapestry even harder at the mention of his name.  And of course, for what he knew would come next.  He all but cringed when he spoke. “Yesssesss.”
   She sighed in relief.  “Well done.  I will be sure to let your master know you have done everything he has asked of you.  I’m sure you will be well rewarded.”
 Tylahs tried to shrink into the tapestry as Toil and Trouble growled low in their throats.  Did she have to mention he’d get a reward? 
 “And you two,” she began, addressing his brothers.  “I’m sure the two of you have once again lived up to your names?”
 Toil and Trouble both bared their little fangs and teeth.  Trouble took the display a step further and spit venom at her.
 “Why you little monster!”  She hissed back and pulled a delicate looking handkerchief out of a pocket sewn into the sleeve of her gown.  She quickly wiped the poisonous spittle away.  “Do that again and I will smash you where you stand!”
 Trouble again bared his teeth and hissed. 
 Tylahs sighed.  Toil and Trouble had been aptly named.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Introducing Tylahs Mihn ...

From Time Masters Book Two; The Prophecy.

The hall was dark, empty.  A rapid succession of clickity, clickity click, click clicks could be heard racing across the expansive floor.  Tylahs Mihn ran as fast as his little eight legs could carry him.  If he did the job quickly and efficiently he knew he would be well rewarded.
 He rounded a corner and several of his single taloned feet hooked themselves into the bottom of a floor to ceiling tapestry.  He’d stopped just in time and let loose a low, staccato whistling sound of relief.  A huge Muiraran guard patrolled this part of the palace and was just crossing from one intersecting set of corridors to patrol another.  That alone let Tylahs know he was getting close.  Once the guard was out of sight, the little Sarian raced on.
 “Find hersssesss, I must find hersssess.  But wheresssesss?”  
 His body, small as it was, could scurry along the wall without being seen well enough.  He should be able to slip in and out and not get caught. Just as he’d done when he’d snuck into the palace.  But he had to make extra sure he got the right room, and that could take time.  Thankfully confidence was on his side tonight and he quickly made his way across the huge expanse of floor at the intersecting corridors. Yes, yes.  He could do this. None of his older brothers and sisters could dispute it.  They had, almost all of them, failed.  Only a few had made it through.  Now it was his turn.  
 Tylahs knew he could do it.  It was what he was made for.  His coloring, his size, all that he was his master had bred into him for this very thing.  And above all, little Tylahs Mihn wanted to please his master.
 Clickity, clickity, click ....  He still thought his master should have wrapped his talons to soften the sound emitted on the marble floors.  But then escape would become difficult. His master said so.  The floors were slick enough as it was without having his talons wrapped in cloth.
Tylahs suddenly stopped.  He turned slowly as his furry little black antennae quivered.  She was near.  He could smell her, all but taste her scent.  He spun to face the door across the hall.  This had to be it!  
 “Yesssesss!  I have found hersssess!”  He nervously looked this way and that, his large round bulbous eyes quivering with the effort, as he made sure no guards were about.  He then quickly raced across the hall to the huge wooden door.  
 “Oh nosssesss!  How to get insssesss?” He sat back on his haunches and looked up at the door that to him, seemed to go on and on.  He shook his head and furiously rubbed his antanea together as he pondered his next move. 

Monday, October 1, 2012

To Market, To Market!

A  Definition  of  Terms

Book Publishing is the process by which a book comes to be in printed or electronic form and then made available to the public for purchase. The second half of the definition—making books available to the public for purchase—consists of two components: making potential buyers aware of your book and ensuring copies are readily accessible for those buyers to purchase.  You determine the best ways to make potential buyers aware of your book while discovering the best avenues of accessibility for them, at whatever scale you decide to promote your book. But first, let’s talk a little about what marketing is and, more importantly, what it is not.

Misconceived Monsters of Marketing

Marketing is not the same as high-pressure selling. A lot of people are terrified, some practically
paralyzed, by the irrational notion that marketing means personally pestering, even badgering, people
into buying something they don’t really want, or need, for that matter. Take some deep breaths and
calm yourself. You don’t have to turn into some self-promoting monster to be successful.
In reality, marketing is a very creative process, like solving a puzzle with intriguing and limitless
possibilities.  Authors are very creative people, well-equipped to find all sorts of fantastic
solutions. All you need is a structure, or framework, for decision making, not to mention some basic
knowledge of the options available out there. But before you begin to look at all the different options
to utilize in the marketing of your book, let’s first look at one very important component to the
whole process.

The Time Factor

When marketing your book, you need to be able to, on the one hand, weigh life’s priorities and home life against the amount of time and financial commitment of selling one’s book. You can easilykeep the balance by selecting the marketing tactics and options that best fit you. This way you canenjoy promoting your book without causing yourself a lot of stress or drain on your energy.Introducing your book to the world is a big step for any author.  When it comes to marketing your book, it often comes down to time. The time and commitment necessary to perform several planned promotional activities. High pay-off promotional activities at that.

It's fun to think outside the box, (a lot of us get outside the box and stand on it!)  but make sure the box you're standing on is balanced and strong enough to hold you and help you identify which marketing strategies best suit whatever level of marketing you choose for your book. I know you can do it!

Then What Is Marketing ?

In Bruce Batchelor’s book, Marketing DeMystified, marketing is described as the process of
creating, implementing, monitoring, and evolving a strategy for the complete marketing mix,
which is:

1. having a needed product or service
2. available at a convenient place and time
3. for mutually satisfactory price (value)
4. while ensuring that the correct segments of the public
5. are aware (promotional mix)
6. and motivated (positioning)
7. all in a manner that takes advantage of strategic partnerships and contributes to
the overall purpose, (passion).

The promotional mix includes:

1. Personal sales
2. Publicity and public relations
3. Paid advertising (at times)
4. Sales promotions

Mr. Batchelor goes on to say that this ideally will be done with respect and consideration to:

1. Financial profits
2. The planet
3. And people (society)

OK, so that’s a lot to take in. But Mr. Batchelor has hit the nail on the head, as these are
the things to consider when building your book’s marketing strategy. At whatever level of marketing you choose, you will often be, as Mr. Batchelor says, “substituting creativity and personal connections for the brute force, expensive strategies employed by large publishing houses.” And more importantly, you’ll be having fun while you do it!

As fiction authors what we are really selling is ourselves.  For non-fiction authors they have something more specific people want.  Readers can see it displayed, know more about it by picking the book up and leafing through.  Have a better idea if the book is what they really need.
Fiction is different.  Rather like a smorgasbord prepared by many fine chefs.  One may specialize in chocolate, another in fruit-filled confections.  It comes down to a matter of taste.  What sort of story do you hunger for?  How are you going to know what to order if you don't know much about what's on the menu. And let's face it.  Amazon, Barnes and Nobles, iTunes among others, are some pretty big menus!  So you ask what other readers with somewhat similar tastes to your own, thought of the dish ... er ... book.  They may say it's good, where you think it falls flat.  Everyone's tastes are different.  If you specialize in chocolate, then go to the chocolate lovers!  Share your love of chocolate with them!  Exchange a recipe or two!  And so on.  But all of this takes time.

So the big question is:  How much time do you have?

I'll discuss this in next week's marketing post!

Friday, September 28, 2012

What Did You Do Last Night?

Glencoe, Scotland, February 13, 1692

You are all going to die. 
See how the snow swirls and rises in high drifts, the wind hard pressed to conceal your glen and its cottage dwellings? It quickly piles the snow and beats against walls as the storm intensifies outside your tiny havens, to serve well those who will need it within the hour…

Dallan MacDonald awoke with a start.  He lay wrapped in his plaid, his young brother Alasdair beside him in front of the hearth. He wiped the slight sheen of sweat from his brow as he always did after one of his dreams. The garbled, chilling voice from some unseen source in the dream now fading.  They were becoming more frequent of late.  Odd and strange dreams that made no sense at all.  But this one seemed more like a premonition.  And why shouldn't it?
 He took a deep breath, settled himself and began to muse over his unexpected arrival and his grandfather’s greeting when first they spied each other. The MacIain’s eyes had been warm for the briefest of moments then suddenly consumed by cold warning, the auld Fox’s first words anything but friendly. Of course Dallan had learned to expect nothing else from the chief of the Glencoe MacDonalds. MacIain could be a hard man when he wanted and usually became just that when in Dallan’s company. In fact, Dallan couldn’t remember him being any other way.
 Alasdair moaned softly in his sleep. Dallan turned to his brother and smiled. The boy had not left his side since the big Scot came trudging through the snow two days ago. He gazed thoughtfully at him with a slight pinch of envy. Alasdair’s face was peaceful, content. Soaking up the weak glow of the dying fire as if ‘twas all he was meant to do. The boy held not a care. No. Not a one.
 Unlike the rest of his clansmen.
 Confused at the number of Lowlanders and Campbells residing in the glen when he first arrived, Dallan made his way directly to his elder uncle’s house to find what was amiss. His uncle John had given him the information he wanted to know but it wasn’t what he wanted to hear.  Indeed, the Campbells had come into the glen almost two weeks ago with papers signed by the king himself. Papers which demanded quarters be given in Glencoe for two companies of his majesty’s foot soldiers.
 Dallan didn’t trust the Campbells, nor did his grandfather. Fearing disarmament, MacIain ordered his people to hide their arms in the peat stacks or on the brae beneath the stones. If the soldiers were going to take their weapons, let them take the old rusty ones.
 Alasdair moaned again. Dallan thought of the harsh night and gently pulled the boy into his plaid with him to fend off any chill. The small form immediately snuggled close. Dallan again smiled and let go a lengthy sigh. How he wished he could stay this time. Wee Alasdair had just reached the age of six and would soon be old enough for fostering. Dallan wanted to take him under wing but wasn’t sure how he’d manage it. It would mean taking the boy to France and he doubted the auld Fox would let him. Perhaps their mother could be persuaded, and then she could work on the MacIain.  Dallan knew he needed something in his life besides weapons and constant training. Alasdair would be perfect.
 After twenty years of living Dallan still felt as if he’d done nothing with his life. Something was definitely missing, but he couldn’t figure out what it was. Perhaps he just needed to feel like he belonged. If only the MacIain would accept him, treat him with some respect instead of cold, silent disdain.
 A shout from outside drew the Scot out of his musings and brought his attention to a small window.  The three Campbell soldiers sheltered in his mother’s house were reportedly pulling out in the morning. Could it be they were preparing to depart? Perhaps the reason the three had not returned to the house after meeting with their captain was due to the preparation. But that wouldn’t have taken them all night. What could they be doing all this time?
 His earlier dream flooded his mind and the hairs on the back of Dallan’s neck rose with the thought. He detached himself from Alasdair and went to the window, dirk drawn. He’d had this warning too often to ignore it; something was wrong. Bad enough a sense of dread hovered over the glen yesterday to put everyone on edge. But later the Campbell’s own piper was the one to keep Dallan up most of the night.  He’d heard the piper play, knew it to be more than a pleasant passing of the time. There had been something in the music. A message. Flee.
 Yet his mother, along with many of his other clansmen, had not taken heed and insisted on staying. The soldiers would be gone tomorrow and all would be well…
 Another shout. Dallan hurried back to Alasdair’s sleeping form and quickly pulled away the blankets. “Wake up, lad,” urgency in his deep velvet voice. “Alasdair, wake up!”
 The boy opened his sleepy eyes and gazed at his older brother. “Wha…what’s wrong then?”
 Dallan grabbed up his plaid, wrapped it about himself then reached for his sword and shield near the hearth. He’d brought them out of hiding in mute preparation for what he knew must surely be happening now. “Wake mother and Fergus, tell them to dress quickly.”
  Alasdair popped up to a sitting position, his eyes blinking back sleep. “What’s wrong? What’s happening?”
 “I dinna ken, but I’m going to find out.” Dallan hurried to the door. “Wake them and prepare to leave. Ye may ha’ to head into the hills, lad.”
 “But Dallan, that far? What are the Campbells doing?” A woman’s scream carried on the wind was answer enough.
 “Hurry lad! I’ll not see this family’s blood spilled.” He opened the door to a blast of wind, “Go!” And as Alasdair scrambled to his feet, Dallan left the cottage.
 Snow beat relentlessly against him as he stumbled out into the storm while shouts and pistol shots echoed above the wind in the distance. Sounds the wind carried ever closer to his family’s cottage. He picked up another sound among the rest, one much closer, and ducked into a sheltered area between some of the houses. Sword drawn, shield ready, his every muscle screamed for release for a few tense seconds before Dallan recognized the labored breathing of his clansman and grabbed him. “Ian! What happened?” He pulled his grandfather’s servant into the shelter with him as the more menacing noises drew closer.
 “Dallan lad!  The MacIain! Yer Grandmother!” The man pushed out terrified. “The soldiers got into the house. We let them in! I swear we didna ken what they were about!”
 Dallan shook him, his grip tight on the old man. “Campbell has set his dogs on us, then?”
 “Aye! Get yerself and yer house to the hills! Be quick!” He struggled to get away, his clothes tearing with the effort.
Dallan held him fast. “The MacIain?”
“I dinna ken! There were shots! The Lady, she screamed something terrible! We tried to get to them, but there were too many soldiers. We got out as fast we could, and they came after us!” Ian glanced fearfully about, body trembling as more shots fired. Closer. “Believe me lad; there was nothing we could do to help them! Get ye gone to the hills! Now!”
Dallan loosened his grip. Ian wrenched his arm away and ran into the storm as sounds of the soldiers’ slaughter neared, death with them.
 Within moments Dallan burst through the door of his family’s house, the snow and wind with him. His mother gasped at the sudden entrance.  She and her husband of eight years, Fergus MacDonald, stood against a far wall wrapped in whatever they could find to bear the storm outside. Alasdair huddled between them. Dallan gave his step-father a curt nod. “It is as we feared. We must flee. Now.”
 Fergus closed his eyes and lowered his head a brief moment in mute acceptance, then ushered his wife and son to the door. They allowed Dallan out first and, at his signal, followed him into the blinding snow.
 Cold bit through the plaids they wore, the wind nearly tearing the clothes from their backs. Yet the small family ignored the harsh elements that greeted them. As long as it was not Death extending his greetings this day, the light of dawn only an hour or so off, the elements were welcome. Dallan silently vowed to keep death from his family as long as he could, no matter what the cost. They were all he had.
 Screams rent the darkness around the four as they haphazardly fought their way through the storm. They’d managed to get themselves some distance from the house, and Dallan, now grateful for the storm which kept them hidden and would perhaps see them to some semblance of safety, allowed himself a brief sigh of relief. It was then his mother screamed.
 Her voice and the clash of steel were quickly carried away by the wind. Dallan hoped not in the direction of more soldiers as he felled the first of two of Campbell’s men. He recognized him as one of the soldiers who partook of Fergus’s hospitality. Irony has a strange way of working. The second soldier lunged, bayonet in hand, as Dallan tried to wrench his sword from the first. The big Scot leapt to the side, the deep snow thwarting his movement as the bayonet missed its mark yet scored all the same. Pain seared through the back of his left shoulder as the blade cut its way to the bone. Dallan clenched his teeth against a sick wave of dread, only two thoughts in his mind. He had to save his family. To do that he had to fight.
 He didn’t remember falling, but found himself in the snow next to his shield, his sword no longer in his hand. He must have let go of it when he was hit, or perhaps as he fell. Either way, there was no sign of his sword anywhere. Dallan looked up and dark as it was, met the eyes of the man about to kill him, the bayonet already on its descent. Dallan briefly contemplated closing his own eyes when the soldier suddenly fell to the snow next to him.  Dead.
 “Go!” Dallan commanded as he struggled to his feet. He gave a thankful nod to Fergus as the older man pulled his dirk from the soldier’s back. He then sought and retrieved his own weapons and reached for his mother.
 Her face turned frantic as Dallan took her by the arm. “Alasdair!” She screamed and turned a circle in the snow that nearly pulled him off his feet. “Where’s Alasdair?”
 “Quiet woman!” Fergus warned. “The wind will carry yer voice!”
 Dallan scanned the area and cursed. The boy was gone.
 “He must ha’ panicked and run back to the house. I thought he was right behind me.” Fergus told him in a low voice.
 “Take her to the hills, man. Keep her safe.” Dallan grasped his mother’s hands firmly in his own. “I’ll see to him. Go with Fergus now.” He gave Fergus another quick nod then wheeled back in the direction they had come, his tall form quickly swallowed up by the storm.
 He carefully picked his way through the blinding snow to avoid as much as possible the nearest sounds of pistol shots and shouting, praying he didn’t pass the boy. Dallan knew he was not only losing time but blood. He had to find Alasdair, and fast.
 After agonized minutes of bracing himself against the blinding snow he reached the house. A dim light shone through the window. A candle; someone was inside. Dallan stilled his labored breathing and melted into the shadows at the rear wall of the house. The door to the kitchen area lay open. Alasdair must have gone though the back. Carefully, he made his way to the door, peeked inside, then silently entered. The hairs on the back of his neck immediately rose and he quickly crouched behind the thin curtain separating the tiny kitchen from the hearth room.
 “Search the house!” A man shouted in a husky voice. “No one lives!” Only three of them, a preview to the bulk of the slaughter Dallan quickly surmised. But where is Alasdair?
 He got his answer quick enough. Alasdair screamed as one of the men pulled him out from behind a chair and threw him to his superior. The captain grabbed the boy by the back of the neck and eyed him with an odd sort of numbness, as if he wasn’t sure of what he was. He then looked the boy over carefully, as one might a chicken or a cow at market, his mouth curling into a crooked smile. “Ever been buggered, lad?” he asked and grabbed at his own groin for emphasis.
 Alasdair cringed and shrank in the man’s grasp.
 “Well then,” he chortled, “there’s always a first.” With a wave of his hand he sent his two men to search the back of the house. They laughed, knowing they were to take their time, and headed for the curtained doorway.
 Dallan’s dirk plunged into the first man, the action tearing the feeble curtain. The second man, too stunned to react in time, heard only the snapping of his own neck as Dallan let him drop to the floor next to his fallen comrade. That left just the leader. A man Dallan knew immediately and just as immediately, hated.
 Robert Campbell of Glenlyon held Alasdair by the hair, a dirk poised at the boy’s throat. Never taking his eyes off the scene before him, Dallan took a pistol from the nearest dead man, trained it on the Campbell, and stepped out from behind the half torn curtain.
 “Surrender and I’ll spare him,” Campbell pushed out, his face pasty, sick-looking, and full of lust.
 Dallan’s jaw twitched with revulsion as he judged where the ball might hit. “Let the boy go first,” he countered his own voice soft and menacing.
 Alasdair let out a yelp of pain as Campbell’s grip tightened. “You fool! My men are next door and come even now! You are dead already!”
 Dallan’s green eyes grew fierce. “Only a fool and a coward would harm an innocent lad while one o’ his clansmen has a pistol pointed at him.” He took aim and prepared to fire, praying the Campbell would either throw Alasdair out of the way or think to keep himself shielded with him. Dallan sighted for the man’s face instead of his heart.
 Campbell’s eyes suddenly widened with fear.
 Good, Dallan thought. He could kill the man, take Alasdair through the back and hope the storm was still enough to conceal them in the pre-dawn light. He put the first traces of pressure on the trigger. Campbell watched in horror and looked as though he was going to scream.
 But it was Alasdair’s scream that pierced the room, bringing Dallan’s attention to his rear. Too late.
 The big Scot’s breath was crushed from his body as blood from his forgotten wound gushed anew, pushed as if everything within him could be squeezed through the jagged cut in his shoulder. The pistol in Dallan’s hand dropped to the floor, useless, as two thick black arms wrapped around him from behind and mercilessly smashed him against a huge body. He fought the giant holding him, but it was no use. The strength in those arms was like nothing he had ever encountered or would ever want to. Suddenly a deep laugh penetrated the air as an odd tingling sensation began to course through his body. The giant seemed to move but Dallan wasn’t sure, his feet no longer touched the floor, or did they? By all the Saints, what was happening?
 Alasdair screamed and watched in horror as Dallan was dragged into the shadows. “Dallan! No! Dallan!” He squirmed against the stunned Campbell leader who, too shocked to cuff the boy into silence, merely stood, his grip tight, the dirk unmoved. Dallan tried to cry out but his lungs had no air. The tingling sensation only increased with his efforts to an odd burning, as though his skin were on fire. And of all things he thought he heard some sort of music. Dallan couldn’t afford to lose consciousness. He again struggled against the arms holding him; he had to get to Alasdair! But it was no use. Helplessly he watched his brother, now cut and bleeding from Robert Campbell’s unmoved dirk; slowly disappear behind a blanket of darkness.
 Dallan MacDonald contemplated if he was dying but honestly didn’t know; all he did know was he had not saved Alasdair and the deep booming laugh behind him was getting louder. These were the only two realizations to accompany him into the blackness that took him from his brother, his home, and his very life.