Thursday, 31 December 2015


Title: Tresspassers
Author: Saul Dellino
Release Date: 27th May 2015

BLURB from Goodreads
Architect-turned celebrity speaker, Vincent Wright, is determined that nothing and no one is going to stunt his ambition - not disability, not agoraphobia, nor the half-brother he despises, or even the haunting spectre of a misguided adolescence. But fourteen years on, old friend and partner in crime, Langston Bola, returns with a lust for revenge fuelled by a life of hard knocks. With his past staring back at him, Vin suffers a panic attack that sends him fleeing to the sanctuary of his penthouse flat, but as Carnival Weekend approaches, a mysterious, young home help arrives at his door who, unbeknownst to him, has the power to destroy his career for good…



What is your name, where were you born and where do you live now?
My name is Saul Delino. I was born in Chelsea , West London and I currently live in South London .

Did you always want to be a writer? If not what did you want to be?
I always wanted to be an artist and architect. At seventeen, I decided that going to art school wouldn’t make for a stable career and that training to be an architect would be like creating art in three dimensions so that’s what I did. Anyway, by the time I’d qualified, we were in the midst of a full-blown building recession so what the hell did I know!

When did you first consider yourself as a "writer"?
I guess when I first put pen to paper back in ’97 when I got the idea for Trespassers. I’m like that. Once I decide to do something, I own it completely. From then on, it was all about getting it published.

Did it take a long time to get your first book published?
It took eighteen years! Thank the Lord for Amazon. I don’t think it’s self-publishing platform was even available when I started.

Do you work another job as well as your writing work?
I’ve worked several and all of them chosen to fit around my writing. After leaving my job in recruitment, I worked in a pub for a while, then as a model and extra. After that, I trained as a fitness professional and worked in the industry for a couple of years before going on to work for a property development company. I’m currently in telecoms.

What is the name of your latest book, and if you had to summarise it in less than 20 words what would you say?
It’s called Trespassers. A disabled, agoraphobic architect-turned public speaker fights to regain control of his life when an adolescence crime comes back to haunt him.

Who is your publisher? or do you self publish?
Right now, I’m self-published on Amazon Kindle.

Do you have a "lucky charm" or "lucky routine" you follow when waiting for your book to be accepted by a publisher?
I did have a rabbit’s foot, but clearly it didn’t work. The worst piece of shit I’ve ever bought. I want my money back! No, in all honesty I just pray. That’s enough.

How long does it usually take you to write a book, from the original idea to finishing writing it?
Well, this one took eighteen years, but I’ve been through several drafts, discarded over seventy per cent of it at one stage and edited it down to half its original size. Plus there’s the small matter of teaching myself to write while holding down several jobs, dealing with relationship dramas, personal traumas, etc . . .

Which of your books were easier/harder to write than the others?
I also have another book for Kindle called, Writing Fiction FFWD, which is a beginner’s guide to writing a novel. That was much easier to write and much shorter. In fact, it was a complete joy to give something back, helping those who are considering writing a novel, but struggling to get going. Hopefully, this book will make life much easier and demystify the process.

What can we expect from you in the future?  ie More books of the same genre? Books of a different genre?
I do have ideas for another novel in the crime genre, but right now I’m working on vignettes for my website, I also want to write another screenplay and some poetry. I’ve just created an Instagram account so you’ll be able to check out my pictures over breakfast in the near future (I’ll make my apologies now!)

Do you have plans for a new book? Is this book part of a series?
When I do decide to write a new novel, it’ll most likely be written in the first person with completely different characters and storyline.

What genre would you place your books into?
I like to call it urban literary fiction. I may have even invented this genre.

What made you decide to write that genre of book?
Simply because it’s what came naturally and because I wasn’t seeing it reflected on the shelves.

Do you have a favourite out of the books you have written? If so why is it your favourite?
I’d go with Trespassers, since it’s the only novel I’ve done so far. Excellent choice, I might add.

Do you have a favourite character from your books? and why are they your favourite?
Yes, Kyshia. To me, she’s the conscience of the book and central to almost everything, in one way or another. She’s streetwise, but at the same time has a vulnerable side. She also has inner strength, a survival instinct and an unshakeable belief in real love. She has a hold over men too, which they find it threatening.

If you had to choose to be one of your characters in your book/books which would you be? and why?
Definitely Kyshia because she is true to herself and loyal to the people she loves. She’s also self-reliant and loves without fear.

How long have you been writing?, and who or what inspired you to write?
I’ve been writing for eighteen years now. My sister was always on at me to write when I was a kid, but all I ever wanted to do was draw. I remember my headmaster giving me the best piece of advice ever, which was: “read, read, read.” Not that I paid attention at the time. Then one day years later, it just kind of happened. I got a flash of inspiration for idea about a teenager whose life changed when he discovered he had a half-brother and the rest is history.

Where do you get your book plot ideas from?What/Who is your inspiration?
My ideas come directly from the characters. They talk to me. I just listen to what they say and try to shape it. I don’t have a specific person who inspires me, but anyone who writes something interesting which resonates gives me juice.

Do you have a certain routine you have for writing? ie You listen to music, sit in a certain chair?
I started off being more of an afternoon person, but I trained myself to work at various times of the day. I like to put music on that reflects the kinds of scenes I’m planning to writing and then I just sit at the laptop and go for it.

Do you have anybody read your books and give you reviews before you officially release them?ie. Your partner, children, friends, reviewers you know?
I’ve had agents read my manuscripts. Some of them have given me useful advice, but quite often they contradict themselves. Writing is so subjective, so I guess that’s bound to happen.

Do you gift books to readers to do reviews?
I’ll happily hand anyone with a blog or review site a PDF of my book for them to read, if they want.

Do you read all the reviews of your book/books?
Yes I do. I like to review the reviewer. But I’m also genuinely intrigued to know what interested them about my work and read their criticisms.

What was the toughest/best review you have ever had?
I haven’t had any poor reviews yet, but the best review was from a woman who said that she started of not liking the book that much, but the plot twists and shocking ending converted her. That was nice to read.

Would you ever ask a reviewer to change their review if it was not all positive about your book/books?
No, I’d never do that. If a review sucks that review is there for all to see just like my book is and readers will judge that review in the same way. I might take issue if someone completely misunderstands my book, but I dunno, is it really worth it?

How do you come up with the Title and Cover Designs for your book/books?Who designed the Cover of your books?
The title was originally, Forgive us our Trespasses, but that sounded like a US made for TV movie. The central concept of the book was about people intruding on the lives of others and going places they shouldn’t have so Trespassers worked for me. As for the cover art, that’s all mine. I sketched out several different ideas for months until I found something that conveyed the message of the book as simply as possible whilst giving a sense of intrigue. Then I created it on DTP software.

Do you choose a title first, or write the book then choose the title?
The original title just jumped out at me all those years ago and over time, I shortened it to suit the book I was moving towards.

How do you come up with characters names and place names in your books?
I have several methods, which I detail in Writing Fiction FFWD, like looking at their personalities and try to find names that fit. I also use the phone book, magazines, etc. And then there’s the ‘Verbal Kint’ method of naming, which I borrowed from the character in The Usual Suspects who plucks names from random things in his immediate vicinity.

Are character names and place names decided after there creation? or do you pick a character/place name and then invent them?
A bit of both. Some characters and places stubbornly refuse to be named so you just have to allow it and give them a close enough working name for the time being and trust that the right one will jump out at you later.

Do you decide on character traits (ie shy, quiet, tomboy girl) before writing the whole book or as you go along?
I tend to have an idea because the characters constantly talk to me, but I’ll add or remove some traits as I go to suit the natural evolution of those characters.

Do you basic plot/plan for your book, before you actually begin writing it out? Or do you let the writing flow and see where it takes the story?
In the beginning, I was winging it a bit because I didn’t know the mechanics of how to write. I’d see the scenes in my head and simply write what I saw. Then I’d try to shape them into something worth keeping. Doing it that way left me with loads of material, a lot of it surplus, but it was a great way to learn to craft my writing.

How do you market/promote your books?
I do guest blogs! I have my own website too,, where I recently ran a competition. I’m also on Facebook and Twitter and I’ve just created my own Instagram account. And then there’s good old word of mouth.

What do you think makes a book a really good/bestseller ?
A really good book, for me, is one where I can see the characters very clearly and the voices are authentic. There also has to be a definite mood to the writing, like the book equivalent of cinematography. I’m immediately thinking of Quarantine, The Alchemist orThe Road now. It doesn’t have to be wordy or clever, but just truthful. As for a bestseller, a book can capture the zeitgeist and take off, but much of the time, a great book with lots of the right exposure, positive reviews, etc, will fly.

Have you ever suffered from a "writer's block"? What did you do to get past the "block"?
Oh yeah! There’s a chapter about that in Writing Fiction FFWD too. I got it really bad when I was three years into writing Trespassers before realising that I had no story, at least, not the one I wanted to tell, anyway. So I jettisoned most of the book, which was like a death in the family. I couldn’t write for months after that. So I just took time off, watched a load of movies, read other novels and generally had fun.  All the while, ideas started coming to me again and eventually, I got my mojo back.

What do you do to unwind and relax? Do you have a hobby?
I like to work out. I also do hot yoga, which is great for calming the mind. I love music and film and I’m currently learning to speak French and Spanish.

Have you ever based characters on people you know or based events on things that have happened to you?
I’ve tended to use snippets of things or bits of people’s character or appearance. For example, recently, my oldest friend was reading the book and suddenly twigged that one of the characters seemed suspiciously like our old headmaster.

Are there any hidden messages or morals contained in your books? (Morals as in like Aesops Fables type of "The moral of this story is..")
If the book had a premise, it would be: confronting one’s past leads to re-gaining control of one’s life. Control and the lengths people will go to to maintain control is the central theme of the novel. Other themes include the disempowering effects of the past on the present, loyalty and betrayal and the knock on effects of family dysfunction.

Is there a certain Author that influenced you in writing?
Not directly, but I do like Irvine Welsh, Toni Morrison, Yann Martel among others.

Which format of book do you prefer, ebook, hardback, or paperback?
Nothing beats the good old paperback for me. I love the feel of it, the first time you crack one open. ebooks are great, though and since self-publishing on Kindle, I’ve become a convert. It’s a bit like asking a DJ whether he prefers his iPod or hulking shed loads of vinyl around. It depends on the situation, I guess, but any purist would prefer something more substantial.

What is your favourite book and Why?  Have you read it more than once?
I love Life of Pi, which I’ve read in three languages. Stunning imagery and utterly compelling storytelling. Then there’s The Alchemist, which is simple and beautiful and has that mood thing I talked about earlier. And it also has a great message. I also love Life and Loves of a She-Devil. Filth is great too, but there’s so many I could mention.

Do you think books transfer to movies well? Which is you favourite/worst  book to movie transfer?
The best examples I can think of are The Godfather, Life of Pi and The Body, a short story by Stephen King adapted into Stand By Me. Also Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin. Polanski did a superb job. He really caught the essence of the book. Talking of Ira Levin, there are the two versions of his book, The Stepford Wives, at totally opposite ends of the spectrum. The original was great, but the remake stank the place out as did the She-Devil film. Hollywood really ruined it by trying to make it funny.

What are you currently reading? Are you enjoying it? What format is it?(ebook, hardback or paperback)
I’m all over the place at the moment. I’ve just finished reading Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey, which was very sad, but funny in places. I’m now reading the late Wayne Dyer’s latest book, I Can See Clearly Now, and teach yourself books in French and Spanish.

Do you think ebooks will ever totally replace printed books?
No chance. If you just take literature out of the equation for a minute, there are so many books on art and architecture that have the most stunning pictures that can only really be appreciated on paper. Viewing them through a screen just isn’t the same. People will always love the printed word and want to own something that feels more substantial. It’s the same reason I still buy CDs or vinyl rather than downloading things straight to my iPod. But ebooks are incredibly convenient and have a lot to offer.

Do you think children at schools these days are encouraged enough to read? and/or do Imaginative writing?
Children are not encouraged enough, period. Most parents seem to have given up. Let’s face it, you can’t get children to read if you don’t read yourself. I’ll stake my future mortgage that the kids who grew up reading came from households where reading was prized from an early age.

Did you read a lot at school and write lots of stories or is being a writer something newer in your life?
I initially felt nagged into reading when I was a kid because people were constantly ramming the classics down my throat when I just wanted to look at comics or football annuals. I started writing comics very young and attempted a short story too, so I guess the makings were always there. The key thing is to get kids reading things they like. As with music, when they get older, their tastes will naturally mature and they go from listening to boy bands and Hannah Montana to Hendrix and Prince. Just get them involved and trust them to come good. I started my son off with The Brothers Grimm. Now he’s reading To Kill A Mocking Bird.

Did you have a favourite author as a child?
Yes. Sue Townsend. Adrian Mole was only a couple of years older than me so his ordeals resonated. I also started writing a diary a few years later. Looking back on it that may even have been my inspiration. I’ve kept one every since.

Do you have a treasured book from your childhood? If yes, what is it?
The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 and ¾. Also Lord of the Flies, which again featured children. That was the first grown up book I really fell in love with.

Do you have a favourite genre of book?
No, I just love great writing. Most of the books I read come to me by word of mouth recommendation.

Is there a book you know you will never read? Or one you tried to read but just couldn't finish?
Yeah, Lord of the Rings or anything Tolkien, but I’m sure you’ve heard this before. No offence, but I’ve seen the movies and I don’t want to see enough candles on my birthday cake to burn the house down by the time I’ve finished reading the books.

Are there any New Authors you are interested in for us to watch out for? and Why should we watch out for them?
Yes. Emma Healey. Beautiful, simple, evocative writing. There’s also this guy called Saul Delino. I hear he’s a bit special and his writing is unlike anything you’ll have read before.

Is there anything in your book/books you would change now if you could and what would it be?
No. I stopped writing when I’d written the story I wanted to tell. I’ve read the book several times and I always find it satisfying so that tells me what I need to know. Plus the characters have finally stopped talking to me now I’m finished and that’s the way I like it!

What do you think about book trailers?
Personally, I think they’re for real book lovers otherwise I get the feeling that the average Jo will be expecting something cinematic and will feel let down when it doesn’t materialise. It’s a bit like a padded jock strap; major potential to over promise and under deliver. Also, if you have actors in a trailer, they may seem at odds with your own impressions of the characters you once you start reading. I don’t know, maybe that’s just me being an old fart.

What piece of advice would you give to a new writer?
Don’t wait for anyone’s approval, just get stuck in and learn on the job. Listen to your inspirations and in the words of Charles Bukowski: “If you’re gonna try, go all the way or otherwise, don’t even start.” I’m sure there are writers who dream of huge advances and that’s all good, but writing Trespassers was a real labour of love for me. You need to really love it.

Do you or would you ever use a pen name?
Saul Delino is my pen name.

If you could invite three favourite writers to dinner, who would you invite and enjoy chatting with?

I’d go for the following: Irvine Welsh for his no-nonsense diatribes, Toni Morrison for her lyricism and Stephen King for his insights on writing and sheer versatility. That’s a party right there!

Wednesday, 30 December 2015


Title: Sugar Scars
Author: Travis Norwood
Genre: Post Apocalyptic
Publisher: Booktrope Editions
Release Date: 2nd August 2015

BLURB from Goodreads
Living after the apocalypse really isn’t that hard for most of the survivors. The virus killed all but 1 in 10,000. The few remaining people are left in a world of virtually unlimited resources. Grocery stores overflowing with food and drink. Thousands of empty houses to pick from. 

But one survivor, a nineteen-year-old girl, requires more than simple food, water and shelter. As a type 1 diabetic her body desperately needs insulin to stay alive. With civilization gone, no one manufactures it anymore. She hoards all the insulin she can find, but every day marches toward the end of her stash of vials. She has a choice. Accept her fate and death, or tackle the almost insurmountable task of extracting and refining the insulin herself. 

Brilliant scientists struggled to make the first insulin. What hope does a high school dropout have?


Tuesday, 29 December 2015


Title: No Rest For The Wicked
Author: Dane Cobain
Publisher: Booktrope
Release Date: 26th May 2015

BLURB from Goodreads
When the Angels attack, there’s NO REST FOR THE WICKED.
Father Montgomery, an elderly priest with a secret past, begins to investigate after his parishioners come under attack, and with the help of Jones, a young businessman with an estranged child, Montgomery begins to track down the origin of the Angels.
The Angels are naked and androgynous. They speak in a dreadful harmony with no clear leader. These aren’t biblical cherubs tasked with the protection of the righteous – these are deadly creatures of light that have the power to completely eradicate.
When Jones himself is attacked, Father Montgomery knows he has to act fast. He speaks to the Angels and organises a final showdown where he’s asked to make the ultimate sacrifice.


Dane Cobain is a writer, poet and musician from a place you've probably never heard of, somewhere in England. When he's not writing books, he's reading and reviewing them on his book blog - - or working at his day job in social media marketing. Find him at or follow @DaneCobain on Twitter.

What is your name, where were you born and where do you live now?
My name’s Dane Cobain, and I’m a British writer from a town called Tamworth in the Midlands, about fifteen miles from Birmingham. After leaving Tamworth to study at university in London, I settled down in the Buckinghamshire town of High Wycombe, a reasonable commute away from the capital.

Did it take a long time to get your first book published?
It depends how you define publication! In the age of the internet, it’s easy enough to self-publish a book, and I used to do that every time I finished a project. However, it was a case of print-on-demand vanity publishing, and I only had enough copies printed to distribute between family and friends.

I’ve been writing since I was fourteen, and so there was a gap of around twelve years between when I started writing and when my first book was released. The gap between when I wrote the book and when it was eventually published was around five years. So, in answer to your question, yes – it did take a long time to get my first book published!

Do you have a "lucky charm" or "lucky routine" you follow when waiting for your book to be accepted by a publisher?
Not really, to be honest – I submit so much work to so many different publishers that I don’t really keep track of it until I get an acceptance notice. Part of this is because I write a lot of poetry and submit it to literary magazines – I try to submit once per day if possible, so there are just too many submissions for me to keep tabs on!

What can we expect from you in the future?  ie More books of the same genre? Books of a different genre?
Good question! Somehow, I’ve ended up being known as a horror author, but that’s not really what I do – I like to write about dark subjects, but not always in the horror genre. The main two projects that I’m working on at the moment are:

Eyes Like Lighthouses When the Boats Come Home: A collection of my poetry. I memorise and perform my poems in a sort of hybrid between 80s rant poets and 00s grime artists, and my work is influenced by Charles Bukowski and other poets of his ilk. A literary fiction novel which charts the highs and lows of, a social networking site for the dead. There are elements of a bunch of different genres here and so there’s something for everyone!

Do you have a favourite character from your books? and why are they your favourite?
It depends how we define one of my books – if we’re talking about books which have been released by a proper publisher then there’s only No Rest for the Wicked to choose from. Luckily, I have a favourite character from No Rest for the Wicked – Father Montgomery, the elderly priest who’s the novella’s protagonist. He’s my favourite because whilst he does have his flaws, he’s able to overcome them – he’s also wise and compassionate, a bit like a non-magical version of Gandalf or Dumbledore.

Where do you get your book plot ideas from?What/Who is your inspiration?
This depends entirely upon the piece in question, but for No Rest for the Wicked, the central concept of the evil, avenging Angels was the result of a nightmare that I had. I woke up, wrote it down, and promptly fell asleep again. A couple of weeks later, I revisited my notes and began to flesh them out, and the rest is history! But to be honest, this is a rare case – it’s usually pretty difficult to pinpoint where an idea came from, and most writers hate it when you ask them what inspires them!

Do you gift books to readers to do reviews?
I do indeed, although I much prefer it when people are able to accept e-copies rather than paperbacks. I do send out some paperbacks, but usually only to selected bloggers – this has less to do with the cost of the printed books, and more to do with the cost of international postage. That hasn’t stopped me from sending copies to America, Canada, India, Portugal and Australia, though…

Do you read all the reviews of your book/books?
Yes, and I think that authors who don’t are either lying or foolish. Ultimately, reader feedback helps you to identify what worked and what didn’t, and to improve your writing ahead of your next release.

What was the toughest/best review you have ever had?
So far, I’ve been pretty lucky – I’ve only had one negative review, and that was posted by someone I know under a fake name, presumably to try to upset me. Fortunately, I was able to report the review to Amazon as a personal attack and it was taken down almost immediately. Generally, I encourage all of my readers to post a review whether they enjoy the book or not, but there’s a difference between a genuine negative review and between a hate message from a troll who hadn’t even bothered to read it.

As for positives, the feedback has been pretty much overwhelmingly positive so far, and so it’s hard to think of one that stands out! I appreciate them all, though.

Do you choose a title first, or write the book then choose the title?
It usually depends, but in the case of No Rest for the Wicked, the book came a couple of years before the title. It was initially just called ‘Angels’, but I had some early interest from a publisher in Wales. They suggested that I should change the title, which seemed like a good idea, and so I started hunting for something new. One of the characters says that there’s no rest for the wicked about a third of the way through the book, and so I pounced on it. The rest is history!

Monday, 28 December 2015


Title: The Medium Path
Author: Elizabeth Davies
Genre: Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance
Release Date: 26th May 2015

BLURB supplied by the Author
Ruby died nearly one hundred years ago. She saw spirits of the dead when she was alive, and now she is dead she has become a guide who helps ghosts pass on. When ghosts start being taken by darkness instead of the light, Ruby is forced to seek help from a handsome and unwilling medium, who awakens emotions she never knew she had.


Elizabeth Davies was born and raised in South Wales more years ago than she cares to remember. She lived in England for nearly two decades but returned to her roots when she felt the mountains of her youth calling to her, and hiking in her beloved Brecon Beacons is now one of the joys in her life. When she is not working as a full time secretary, Elizabeth loves spending time with her family, hates doing necessary chores, and tries to fit in writing whenever she can. She has published several books: the Resurrection trilogy, beginning with "State of Grace", continuing with "Amazing Grace", and ending with "Sanctifying Grace", "The Spirit Guide and most recently - The Medium Path. She is currently working on another paranormal romance set in Wales. She is also seriously addicted to chocolate.


Sunday, 27 December 2015


Below is Book One in an epic fantasy series with a unique arctic setting. 
I am told all fans of fantasy will enjoy these five novels.
Title: The Calling
Series: Alaana's Way
Author: Ken Altabef
Publisher: Cats Cradle Press
Release Date: 30th October 2014

BLURB from Goodreads
An insatiable fever demon... 
A restless Wind spirit... 
A treacherous shaman... 
A golden walrus... 
And one courageous young girl. 

In the frozen north, a land of deadly weather and unforgiving spirits, the shaman is all that stands in the way of disaster. When Alaana is called upon to become shaman for the Anatatook people she discovers a kaleidoscopic world where everything is alive, where the tent skins whisper at night and even the soapstone pot has tales to tell. She faces vengeful ghosts and hungry demons as she travels the dangerous path to becoming a shaman. 
And there's just one other problem. Girls aren't allowed to be shamans. 



The sight of her sister’s body lying so pale and motionless on the sleeping platform made Alaana’s heart twist slowly in her chest.  Her father stepped back, his expression frightful, and the world suddenly turned colder than ever before.
Alaana had never seen her father afraid.  Kigiuna was a strong man, a successful hunter and a good provider for the family.  Even during winter’s long unbroken darkness when a sense of helplessness settled over them all, when there was little to do but sleep and tell stories in the dim glow of the soapstone lamp awaiting spring’s dawn, he was never afraid.  Framed by shoulder-length hair, wavy and black, and the sparse, curly beard that hung from his chin, Kigiuna’s face was usually quick with a smile.  But now his voice sounded strangely high-pitched and his eyes were wild in their sockets.
“The snow has already melted,” whispered Amauraq, indicating a little puddle pooling on the ledge where the melt had trickled down from Avalaaqiaq’s forehead.  In contrast to her husband, Mother’s fears were well known to the entire family.  She feared that her children wouldn’t have enough to eat, and she feared that her husband might die out on the hunt, victim to a treacherous stretch of ice floe or the mauling attack of an enraged bull walrus or the inexorable pull of the ever-present, numbing cold.  She was afraid when the storms blew against their tents, and she was afraid when the blubber in the lamps ran low.
“Melted already?” asked Kigiuna.  He placed a hand along Avalaaqiaq’s cheek.  Despite a thick layer of sleeping furs, a violent shiver wracked the child’s body as she slept on the driftwood platform.  “She’s burning from the inside.  Look at her skin.”
Alaana squeezed in for a closer look.  Her father’s words had not been meant for her.  She and her brothers were quickly shoved away.  Alaana had only a fleeting glimpse of the oozing blisters that riddled Ava’s face.
“We need the shaman,” said Amauraq in a tone so heavy with desperation it broke Alaana’s heart.
Kigiuna turned to Alaana’s eldest brother.  “Maguan,” he said, “The house of the angatkok is not far.  Bring him quickly.”
“Alaana, you go with him,” added Amauraq.
Relieved at finally having something to do, Alaana raced out the tent flap, close behind her brother.
“Maguan!” she called out, but her brother neither hesitated nor turned back.  Alaana wanted to ask if Maguan thought Ava was going to die, but was glad the opportunity passed.  To give voice to such a fear would surely bring an ill omen to the family.  The idea was too painful to even think about.  Not Avalaaqiaq.  At eleven, Alaana was only two winters younger than Ava, and being so close in age the two were nearly inseparable.  They were forever running races along the beach and wrestling in the snow, and Ava had promised to teach Alaana to use the slingshot just as soon as Maguan had finished teaching her.
Alaana was not swift enough to keep pace with her eldest brother, who was already a man, but it felt good to push herself.  The exertion left her less time to worry about Ava.  Weaving a path through the Anatatook encampment, she darted between sod houses and tents of stretched caribou skin.  The chill of spring’s evening had hardened the day’s melt into an uneven surface that stabbed against the soles of her mukluks, threatening to turn an ankle at any careless step.
Of the three shamans who served the Anatatook, Civiliaq was closest at hand.  He sat perched atop a large rock at the bend of the river, giving himself a tattoo with a slender ivory needle and a pot of ash.  His clean-shaven face betrayed no pain as he dragged the needle, dipped in the black soot, under the skin of his forearm.  Thin streams of blood trickled from the many punctures he had already made.  Despite the cold Civiliaq always went bare-chested and barefoot.  He enjoyed showing off both his natural ability to generate heat and the impressive tattoos that covered his upper body and arms.
Angatkok!  Angatkok!” shouted Maguan.
Civiliaq acted as if he could not hear them, taking up his clay pipe.  As he put the long stem to his mouth the bowl sparked to life.  The shaman drew a short puff of thick black smoke. 
“Does one hear some little bird calling one’s name?” he said as if to himself.
“Please,” shouted Maguan, “My little sister is sick.  I think she’s going to—” Maguan stopped short, but although he had not said it, his words confirmed Alaana’s dread.  He too thought Ava might die.  “She’s on fire!”
As Civiliaq stood up, the many charms strung about his neck tinkled to life.  He gazed down at his two worried visitors.  “On fire?”
“Father said she’s burning up.  Snow placed on her forehead melts faster than in the pot.  Please come.”
Civiliaq took one last puff of the pipe and wound it around his forehead just below the ornate black-feathered headpiece he wore.  The rigid stem somehow went around his head without breaking.  This was one of Civiliaq’s favorite tricks for impressing the children but Alaana had no time for it now. 
Civiliaq pointed a long, black crow feather at Maguan.  “It’s good you came to me,” he said.  “Was that your idea, boy?”
“My father’s,” replied Maguan.  He held back from adding that the choice was based on the fact that of the three shamans who served the Anatatook, Civiliaq had simply been the closest at hand.
“Ah, Kigiuna,” said Civiliaq, nodding thoughtfully.  “Let’s go then.”  He gathered up his medicine bundle and the things he had been using for the tattoo, moving much too slowly for Alaana’s liking.
“Hurry, please,” Alaana whispered.
With his gangly, long-legged stride the shaman followed them back to their tent, stopping only for a moment at his house to pick up a small round drum.

“We’ve done nothing wrong,” said Kigiuna.
“Someone must have,” returned Civiliaq.  He bent over Ava with an intent look on his face.
Kigiuna flushed at the shaman’s rebuke.  His anger slowly dissolved into a look of sincere reflection as he pondered the awful question as to whether he might have broken one of the taboos after all.
Civiliaq gently stroked Ava’s cheek, then pulled his fingers quickly away as if they’d been burned by the blisters.  He cocked his head and sniffed, drawing attention to an odd smell in the tent, sickly sweet, much like the cloying scent of the red poppy.
The shaman shook out the contents of his medicine pouch, emptying a small clutter of objects onto the packed snow floor beside the sleeping platform.  The soapstone lamp had been turned out by Amauraq, Alaana’s mother, as she thought to help cool Ava.  Civiliaq reached for the lamp.  As he tapped the end of the wick it immediately sparked to life.  He sprinkled some dried herb into the simmering pool of seal oil and a mellow woody scent began to overwhelm the sickly odor in the tent.
Sitting cross-legged before the shelf, Civiliaq began to sing.  He beat a tiny drum in rhythm to his chant, gently at first, then more forcefully as the cryptic words of the song came faster and faster.  His eyes closed, his face set in deep concentration, his breath came quick and strident between the lyrics.  His slender neck and shoulders trembled wildly, setting the many necklaces and amulets to a jangling accompaniment of his healing song.
His eyes popped open and Alaana noted a deep look passing from the shaman to the unconscious girl on the slab.  This was the look, she knew, which shamans used to see into the spirit world.
Suddenly Civiliaq leapt straight up and began dancing around the little room, jumping and thrusting his legs out to the sides, knocking Mother’s cooking things from their places and tumbling the lamp onto its side.  Whooping, he spun around three times and launched himself at Ava.  With the tiny drum held tightly to the child’s forehead, the shaman pressed his lips against the drumhead.  He came up with a mouthful of black ichor.  He spewed the ghastly liquid at Kigiuna’s feet.
He also spat out a small stone, sending it rolling across the floor.  It came to rest close to where Alaana was standing.
“The evil is drawn out,” announced Civiliaq.  “I can’t yet say whether she will live.  We must still discover the cause of this malady.  But that is for later.”
Alaana stared down at the little stone.  Where it was not splotched with the black ooze she saw a distinctive shade of brown lined with reddish streaks.  She remembered playing with that very stone the day before.  She had seen Civiliaq pick it up just as he was entering the tent.
“You took that from outside,” Alaana said, pointing to the stone.
“Don’t be ridiculous, girl,” said Civiliaq with a congenial smile.  “Everyone saw me draw it from your sister’s body.”  He began gathering up the feathers and dried herbs that went into his medicine bag.
“Alaana!” shouted her mother. 
“But I saw him pick it up outside!  I saw him!”
Civiliaq whirled around.  This time his face was anything but congenial.  “Does a little bird question her shaman’s methods?”
“She certainly does not,” said Amauraq.  She grabbed her daughter’s arm, but Alaana twisted away.
Alaana was caught in a terrifying situation.  She knew what she had seen, but everyone wanted her to be quiet.  And yet she didn’t want her sister to die because of the shaman’s faulty healing magic.  This was too important.  For the first time in her life she didn’t care if she angered her parents.
“You lie!” she said.  Then her father was coming toward her, the angriest look in the world on his face.  Alaana cast a final glance at poor Ava, still lying asleep on the ledge, before she darted out of the tent.  She ran through the snow until she could go no farther.  By the time her father had finished apologizing to the shaman, she was long gone.

Crouched among the ice and rocks at the river’s elbow, Alaana fought back the tears.  Except for Ipalook, who was seated atop an upright umiak at the bend of the river keeping watch for the salmon run, there was no one else in sight. 
The rocks in the stream glistened with a stunning mosaic of spring color.  Patches of moss speckled the gray surfaces with delicate circles of orange, green and black.  The water sparkled in the sunlight, a joyous dance of spring, as it sent frothy bubbles in eddies and whirls about the stones.  A pair of old-squaw ducks called softly from the opposite bank.  The running water answered with a soothing whisper, a muffled conversation which dangled just beyond her realm of perception, telling of age-old mysteries trickling down from the north.  To Alaana, the river was both fascinating and profoundly beautiful.
She thought also that her sister Avalaaqiaq was beautiful.  Her face was perfectly round when she smiled, her teeth perfectly crooked when she grinned, and her laugh an irresistible tickle that ran up and down the spine of anyone who heard it.  And now she lay dying. 
Alaana leaned forward so that her tears would plop down into the eddy pool between the toes of her mukluks.  She didn’t want Ava to cross into the distant land, to leave and never come back.  But there was nothing she could do about it, and attacking the shaman hadn’t helped.  Alaana knew her father must be furious with her; she cast a nervous glance over her shoulder.  She wasn’t afraid of her father’s anger; she was more upset that she had caused Kigiuna pain and embarrassment.  She had never meant to do that.
“We all make mistakes,” said an unnaturally deep rumble of a voice.
Alaana turned to see Old Manatook standing behind her.  The fact that she had observed no one approaching when she’d looked over her shoulder just a moment ago did not seem strange.  That was the way with Old Manatook.
From his imposing height, Old Manatook’s gaze washed sternly down on Alaana like cold water running down from an iceberg.  The old shaman had an impressive beard as perfectly white and curly as his luxurious hair, a broad sloping nose, and dark sympathetic eyes.  He wore a hoary old parka whose caribou hide had faded almost completely white and a luxurious set of trousers made from polar bear fur.
“But then again,” said Old Manatook.  “No one likes a disrespectful child.”
“I don’t care,” spat Alaana.
“Sun and Moon, this one’s going to be trouble,” the shaman said, turning his head.  He had a strange habit of talking to his left shoulder.
“I saw him pick up that stone,” said Alaana.  “I only told what I saw.”
“You shouldn’t question things you don’t understand.”
“Then how am I to learn anything?”
“Trouble,” said Old Manatook to his left shoulder.  He turned back to the girl.  “In matters of faith,” he said, “skepticism will get you nowhere.  There’s good reason a shaman uses such a stone.”
“To fool people?”
Old Manatook cast a self-righteous glance at his left shoulder.  His mouth gaped open then closed again as if he had decided not to speak at it this time.  He returned his stern gaze to Alaana.  “Certainly not.”
“Then why?”
“It’s not something I can explain.”
“You could if you wanted to,” said Alaana.
Old Manatook huffed.  “It’s not something for girls to know.”

As a Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America member, my short fiction has frequently appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. I also had stories in Interzone, Buzzymag, Abyss & Apex, Unsettling Wonder and Ominous Realities. 
ALAANA'S WAY, my 5-part series of epic fantasy novels is published by Cat's Cradle Press. Described as "cutting-edge fantasy from the top of the world" the arctic setting and unique characters will bring something new to even the most jaded fantasy enthusiast. 

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