Thursday, February 11, 2016

The Conundrum of the Scottish Stone Balls

Posted by: Ruth A Casie
Photo Credit - The University of Aberdeen
Over 400 Scottish Carved Stone Balls have been found spread out in Scotland, primarily around Aberdeen. These balls are uniformly three inches in diameter, made from a wide range of materials, sandstone to granite, and sport a variety of patterns and knobs that range from the basic to the more ornate.
Archeologists have dated the balls as far back as the Neolithic era. They were made by Celts and some think the people before them, the Picts.
What were they used for? Ah, there is the conundrum. Because of the deep groves in some of the balls it’s thought that leather strapping was tied around the balls so they could be used as the South American bola. I dangerous weapon in deed but that theory has fallen out of favor, as has others.
The consistent size leads some speculation that the balls may have been used as part of a weighing device. That idea fell apart when further investigation proved that the weights of the stones were not consistent so that mathematically they could not be used in a weight system.
One theory was the balls were used in fishing nets. Others thought possibly as oracles, the way the ball rested when the balls were cast would lead to a interpreting a message. Since the balls fit comfortably in the hand, perhaps they were used to give someone the ‘right to speak.’ The person who held the ball had the ‘microphone.’
Were they weapons? Toys for a deadly game of catch? Tools, used in tanning hides where the balls were used to hold down the hide.
Because of their unique design and the precise placement of the knobs, there is some speculation that Neolithic people may have created the stone balls as an experiment in Greek solid geometry.
Although there are hundreds of stone balls, very little is known about how they were used. Almost all the balls are in good to perfect condition and show little sign of use. Authorities do not think these were utilitarian objects but were more symbolic and had a social significance indicating power or prestige.
Many years ago my brother gave me a small crystal oval, three inches and almost egg shaped. I had no idea what it was other than a pretty sculpture in the shape of an eagle. My husband and I speculated that it was a paper weight but we were wrong. I was surprised when I found out what it was used for.
I used carved stone balls in my new short story, Whispers on the Wind one of five short stories in Timeless Treasures.

If you're interested in the answer look at the comment below. So, what do you think? Could these carved stone balls have been used for similarly?

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Hopeless Romantic: When Fate Lends a Hand

Posted by: Danube Adele

One of the most romantic moments in my life was the one where my best friend and I stood in front of our friends and family and said, "I do," after meeting and marrying in a whirlwind romance after only knowing each other ten months. That was fifteen years and a pair of identical twin boys ago. Being that I was twenty-six and had dated a lot of guys that flat out didn't fit the bill for me, I'd begun to think maybe I was getting it all wrong. I was ecstatic to know I was so wrong.

The build up began before we officially met. We were unknowingly members of the same gym. I jumped on the only treadmill that was open during that time in the afternoon, you know that time, the crazy, after-work-rush-hour-crowd trying to fit in a workout before going home for the day? Anyway, this treadmill happened to be right next to him. However, this was not the moment magic happened. There were no cherubs slinging heart arrows just yet. Very pointedly, I looked up, he looked down, and we both went back to our exercise without a second thought. (We were both pretty hardcore about fitness.)

The next time I saw him was a few weeks later while hanging with friends in Pasadena. We were looking for a Saturday night of dancing and flirting out on the town. Unfortunately, so were a zillion other people, and we had to drive down to the lowest parking level of the parking structure because all other spots were taken. We ended up parked right next to him. But this, sadly, was not the moment magic happened either, except that I recognized him as he got out of his car with his then-girlfriend. You see the problem, here.


A few months went by, and I found myself walking down the corridor of the university I was attending in order to complete my master's degree. Working and going to school was a challenge on so many levels, and I was rushing to class so as not to be late when I saw him walking down the hall. I was a bit floored at this point because this was now the third time I'd seen this guy. He noticed my stare and gave me a quick, if impersonal, smile, and yet, this too was not the moment magic happened.

The real magic happened a few quarters later when I was ready to complete my master's degree and was down to my last class, one I'd been putting off and dreading. My good friend was looking over the class schedule with me since she'd already taken this class. Instantly, she pointed to a particular section and said, "Take his class. He's got a really great class. I promise, you'll really like it."

So there I was, sitting in my final class in order to complete my degree, and guess who walks in? 







Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Romantic Moments... When do you know it's Love?

Posted by: Sheryl Nantus
 

When I started writing the Hooded Pleasures series it was important to me to find the moment when Twu Luv hit the couples, when the switch was thrown and they discovered their world had turned upside down; their carefully-laid plans tossed aside.

Sometimes it was in the most obvious of places... sometimes in the oddest.



From Strictly Business: Kate and Alex finding out their arrangement just won't do anymore...

He wasn’t sure what she’d say. Part of him knew it was against the rules, and she must have known it was against the rules, but he’d asked like a good little sub, and she’d given him permission, and oh God, she tastes so good and—

The kiss deepened as he leaned in and wrapped his arms around her, pulled her off the chair to straddle his lap as they sat on the floor.

His hands tangled in her hair as he held her tight, devouring every inch of her mouth, stealing her breath away.

She was hot, burning up, her skin scorching his as he pressed against her, reached down and cupped her ass through that silk and lace. A moan escaped her lips, and he hesitated only a second before squeezing again, snaking his fingers through those fishnet stockings that had teased him for so long.

Alex’s head spun.

His fantasy woman had just given herself to him.

And Kate was one hell of a reality to have his hands on.


From Strictly Pleasure: When Oliver discovers there's more to Roni than he first thought...



“According to my father, this design came to my grandmother in a dream.” He led her closer. “She told my grandfather the next day, and he immediately put it into production, wiping everything else off the board. They were big believers in following their dreams.” He turned to look at her. “The experts said it wouldn’t fly, it wouldn’t appeal to people. They were wrong.”

Veronica sucked in her breath at the sight.

“I’ve never seen it lit up. It’s beautiful. I don’t come over at night,” she murmured as they headed toward the three story structure. “To be honest, I don’t come over at all.”

“Don’t like to read?” He looked at the glowing green lights, automatically checking for any burned-out bulbs.

“I don’t have the time,” she confessed as they came up to the large double doors. “I usually have an e-book on my phone and dig through until I need to get another one.”

“That’s too bad,” he murmured. “There’s nothing like curling up in bed with a good book.” He winked at her. “Until you want to turn the fantasy into reality.”
Her cheeks reddened, and he knew he’d sent her as far from the burned-out café as he could.

Let’s keep on going.

“Well”—he held the door open for her—“let’s get you re-acquainted with the ancient medium of paper.”

She hesitated, pausing before crossing the threshold.

For a second he thought she was about to bolt, run back to her café.

“Problem?” Oliver asked, trying to sound nonchalant.

I’m going to make you relax if I have to tie you to a chair.

That thought had him running the palm of his free hand against his side, rubbing out the itch threatening to travel south to his groin.


And from Strictly Yours: When Nate, a cop, decides he wants to protect and serve the love of his life - even if it costs him everything.

Nathan let out a slow sigh and watched Jen sleep in his arms. She curled closer, nuzzling into the side of his neck.

He didn’t need a psychology degree to figure out what was going on here.

Worrying about Tanner, rightly or wrongly, had shredded her to the point that she had fallen asleep on his couch with him, the security and safety he offered enough to push her into doing what she shouldn’t do. Another time and place would have her headed for the door, shouldering the pink backpack with a mischievous grin and wink.

But she was here.

With him.

He shifted his hips, his arousal from the session slowly waning and twisting into a slow burn. Usually he’d have raced to his bathroom within minutes of the door closing behind her but this…this was a totally different type of experience.

It was refreshing. It was—

Wonderful.

Her lips parted, and she exhaled, the light minty breeze drifting over his senses.

When he’d been married, he’d never felt this good.

This right.

This contented.

Problem was, he didn’t know what to do.

Wake her up from a much-needed sleep to help her out the door, or let her rest.

The cop side of his mind kicked in, pointing out it’d be unsafe to let her drive in such a dozy state. It would be wrong and dangerous.

The submissive part of his mind agreed and upped the ante, noting it was his job to keep her safe and letting her get some much-needed rest was obviously the right choice.

His entire mind knew he’d regret this, but it was well worth any punishment she’d deliver down the line.

*****

Sometimes it's not necessarily the sex, it's the slow burn that reminds us the most romantic moments can be in a touch, a glance... a shared love of books.

Have a lovely Valentine's Day!

Monday, February 8, 2016

Here Be News

Posted by: Veronica Scott
Other News of Interest:
Congratulations to Here Be Magic member Jody Wallace, who recently received two SFR Galaxy Awards, for her novels Mari Shu and Traitor.

Veronica Scott conducted a roundtable this week for all the  2016 SFR Award winning authors, including Jody, on the USA Today Happily Ever After blog, which resulted in a lively discussion of where the SFR genre might be headed and why.











"The 100" Science Fiction TV:
Veronica Scott is doing weekly recaps of "The 100" on CWTV for USA Today/HEA. Don't miss her latest take, on Episode 3 "All Ye Who Enter": "What circle of Hell is this?"


Sunday, February 7, 2016

How Does Real Life Love Compare to Fictional Love?

Posted by: Linda Mooney
So many people scoff at the idea of romance books, claiming the kind of love portrayed in those stories gives people a false sense of love. They try to tell us the love authors create between the hero and heroine doesn't really exist, which is why love stories are fiction.

I feel sorry for those people because they just don't get it.

I write sci-fi, paranormal, and fantasy romances. I know a winged angel from an alternate world will never appear to literally sweep me off my feet. Or that a man in gold armor will risk his life for mine. But to imagine that sort of love is what gives us belief in love. It's what gives us hope that such a love, in a more mundane world, can exist.

We don't read and write love stories just because we enjoy them. We do it because love is one of the greatest gifts anyone can share with another being, human or otherwise. Love helps us to face the day and all the difficulties it can bring. Love gives us the courage to meet our obligations. Loves makes us happy. And when real life interferes and tries to drag us down, escaping into a love story reassures us that, although the book is pure fiction, the story that's told is based on a true emotion. A positive emotion. An uplifting and often life-saving emotion.

Why do millions of readers read love stories? Because they bring a smile our faces. Because they make us laugh and cry, and heave sighs of satisfaction. And in the end, they make us crave more.


True, not every person will meet their perfect soul mate, but fictional love stories give us the hope there might be that one special someone waiting for us.

And love makes it all worth it.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Raven's Heart novel excerpt!

Posted by: Shawna Reppert


Ok, so for those of you who haven’t read the first two books of the Ravensblood series, we’re in a very alternate version of the Pacific Northwest.  Magic is real and openly acknowledged.  
 

Raven’s Heart is the third full novel in the series—there’s a novella as well that just came out as part of the Here Be Magic anthology.
 


Forgive the spoilers , by the way, for those of you who haven’t read the first two books yet, but I want to set the stage. As we begin this story, Cass and Raven are engaged.  Cass works for Guardian International Investigations.  GII handles the complicated cases that are beyond the scope and abilities of the local Guardians.
 

Several nights ago, while Cass was away on GII business, Raven went out to the opera with his friend Josiah the bookseller, and on the way home encountered an abandoned kitten getting soaked in the rain. It was a case of powerful former dark mage v. scrawny stray kitten in a battle of wills. As you might expect, the kitten won.
 

As this section begins, Cass is just getting home from her trip.
 
 


Though it was nearly noon, she found the paper on the porch and Raven at the breakfast table. Her lover had never been one for early mornings. He wore a deep blue velvet smoking jacket that would have looked utterly ridiculous on most men, but seemed perfectly right on Raven, especially here in the breakfast room of the house that his ancestors had built. The color complimented his black hair and dark eyes, and the style revealed a bare chest beneath. There was so much to her lover—keen intelligence, dry humor, complicated and difficult past—that it was easy to forget that he was also a stunningly beautiful man. 
 

She paused for a moment in the doorway, admiring his cheekbones and the strong, raptor-like nose that gave his face character and kept it from the realm of too-pretty. He noticed her scrutiny and looked up, asking with his eyes what she was studying. Even as she smiled and shook her head, she started to consider how best to persuade him back to bed and whether or not she would let him finish his breakfast first.
 

As she crossed the room to kiss him hello, something small and white skittered across the floor, and she jumped back with a start.

“How did a cat get in—oh,” she finished, looking down the hall to the kitchen, from where the kitten had come. Two small stainless-steel bowls lined up neatly next to the evercool box. One contained water, the other dried cat food.
 

“This is sudden,” she ventured, sitting across from him at the table and stealing a slice of his toast. “I never knew you wanted a pet. What’s its name?”
 

“Nuisance,” he said without looking up from buttering the remaining slice of toast.
 

“I brought the paper in,” she said, handing it to him before scooping up the kitten, which was scaling her jeans, and settling it on her lap.
 

As he unfolded the paper, she started to get acquainted with the kitten. It was an odd little thing with mismatched irregular blotches of color on its coat and a strange, angular face. Possibly a Siamese had had something to do with its genetics way back, but it lacked any semblance of Siamese elegance. Funny, she would have imagined him with a sleek purebred, a Burmese or a Bombay, if she imagined him with any kind of cat at all.
 

There was more to the story, there had to be, but she knew from experience that patience would bring it out soonest. Undoubtedly, the tale would be worth the wait.
 

Raven dropped both the paper and his toast. “Oh, gods.” He’d gone white.
 

Cold washed over her. “What is it?”
 

Wordlessly, he handed her the unfolded paper so she could read the full headline. Burned Body found in Bookseller’s Shop in Uptown Shopping District—Dark Magic Suspected.
 

The picture showed Josiah’s Books cordoned off with police tape.


 

TWO

 

Out of the corner of her eye, Cass saw a light flashing red in the living room. Her message crystal, and red meant urgent. She returned the paper to the table and tapped the crystal to activate it. 
 
“Cass here.”
 

“Cass, have you and Raven seen the papers?” 
 

Sherlock, Cass’s boss. Given name Abigail Andrews. Her crisp Anglan accent always became more pronounced when she was stressed. By the sound of it, something big was going down.
 

“Just now. We haven’t made it much past the headline.”
 

“It wasn’t Josiah,” she said. “The local Guardians managed to reach him. He thinks it must be the clerk who closed for him Saturday, but they won’t know for sure until the dental records come back.”
 

Cass breathed a little easier. The news was still horrible, but her job called for a certain objectivity about death. Had the victim been the quiet, little Mundane bookseller who had stood by them through the whole recent debacle with the Archmage, she would have lost that objectivity. As it was, the murder of one of Josiah’s employees in the bookstore where Raven spent so much time hit a little close to home.
 

“Anyway, the locals asked for you specifically. You and Raven. If this was William or one of his people, there’s a chance Raven might recognize the magical signature from the old days.”
 

From the old days, when Raven was William’s right hand.
 

“Raven’s here, too,” Cass said, feeling rather than seeing her lover moving to stand behind her. “Do they have reason to suspect William’s involvement?”
 

“The corpse was standing behind the counter, posed by stasis magic.”
 

William’s calling card. Raven swore softly. 
 

“Who’s on the case from the locals?” Cass asked.
 

Though it made sense to bring Raven in, Guardians were seldom sensible when it came to Raven. Too much history. Nor were they particularly fond of bringing Guardian International Investigations in on what they considered to be their turf. She had not forgotten the time they had called Raven in, only to set him up for an arrest. She swore that would never happen to him again, not if she had anything to do with it.
 

“Rafe Ramirez,” Sherlock said.
 

Behind her, Raven let out the breath he’d been holding. 
 

Not too long ago, Ramirez on the case would only have made them worry more. He was, after all, the one who had tried to arrest Raven at the Council building, and for a crime he knew Raven hadn’t committed. But he was one of those rare men who could admit when he’d made a mistake. He and Raven would never be friends, but they’d come to an understanding. 
 

Ramirez was the only one beside the two of them who knew that Raven held the Ravensblood. Knew it because he had, of his own initiative, smuggled the thing out of the evidence room and given it to Raven. She’d been in the hospital at the time, and Raven hadn’t talked about the circumstances beyond the barest of facts.
 

He’d also not mentioned the legal bills on his desk, the ones for Ramirez’s defense against corruption charges stemming from the Archmage affair. She knew them both well enough to know that, whatever had passed between them, it had not been quid pro quo.
 

“We’ll be there,” Raven said. “Give me a minute to dress.”
 

It wouldn’t take him much more than that. While Raven normally tended toward slow, indolent mornings, he could be as quick and efficient as any Guardian when the situation demanded.
 

They teleported to the scene. Raven spent enough time in the bookstore to take himself to its doors as easily as to his own home, and Cass used him as an anchor to follow.
 

Rafe stood outside the shop, collar of his fashionably cut black leather jacket turned up against the wind. 
 

“Ravenscroft,” he greeted as Raven approached.
 

Her lover stiffened for a moment, then smiled with false sweetness.
 “Raphael.” 
 

Rafe Ramirez hated his full first name as much as Raven hated being addressed by his surname. Ramirez’s eyes narrowed a moment, but then he nodded in rueful acknowledgement of the touché. 
 

Cass shook her head. Boys.
 

“You know what we have?’ Rafe asked both of them.
 

“Sherlock briefed us,” Cass said.
 

“Best get to it, then,” the Guardian said. “It’s pretty grim, but I know you’ve both seen a lot.”
 

He raised the yellow police tape for them to duck under and opened the door to the shop.

#

The bell on the shop door jangled merrily, a sound Raven had heard so many times before. The unmistakable smell of burnt flesh hit him like a wall. Perhaps he should have been prepared for the scent, but nothing could have prepared him for his body’s visceral reaction to it. His stomach lurched, and he had to grab a nearby bookshelf for support.
 

Gods, what was wrong with him? It was hardly his first time to face a corpse immolated by magic. Times past, he’d been present for the deaths, heard the screams. Had he shown this sort of weakness before William, he’d have been the next victim.
 

 “It can hit you like that,” Ramirez said from beside him, his sympathy a surprise. “Especially when it’s closer to home.”
 

And that was it, he realized. The juxtaposition of the worst of his old life with a place he associated with the contentment and safety of the new.
 

He nodded acknowledgement of Ramirez’s statement. Cassandra’s hand was on his arm in mute support. 
 

“All right,” he said after a moment. “Let’s get this bastard.”
 

Ramirez led him forward, and he saw it. Horribly burned, flesh a mass of charred black and red. Posed by stasis magic behind the counter as if waiting to serve the next customer. 
 

Raven shut down the thought that he might well have bought books from this very clerk on one of those rare days when Josiah had been away from the store. He focused instead on the reason he had been called in. The MO was very much William’s, but another had used it before to throw the Guardians off the track. He closed his eyes and felt for the magical signature. It was one he was well-familiar with.
 

“Bloody Eric,” he told Cassandra and Ramirez.
 

 William’s cousin, and, with Raven’s defection, probably his right-hand man.
 

There would be only one reason for them to target a small, independent bookseller in the Nob Hill district. 
 

They knew about Josiah’s friendship with him.
 

Damn.

Raven's Heart is available on 
Also,  please join the author for an online book launch party today from 1-9 PM Eastern! 
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