Barb Taub is…as am I. Please take a few minutes to read Barb’s holiday appeal and take her up on a great offer for some fantastic stories. My reviews for Barb’s stories can be found further down the post. Thank you in advance.
As the villain of Don’t Touch, the Krampus is a monster who literally feasts on the fear and terror he inspires in children. The demon who threatens Stefan and Lette is a cornered beast, an anachronism whose ever-diminishing influence only makes him more desperately dangerous.
Christmas in Austria is not for the faint hearted. While a familiar St. Nicholas does make the rounds, in many Germanic traditions he’s accompanied by a terrifying beast called the Krampus whose job is to punish – and even take away – naughty children. With his curling horns, long red tongue, and tail, the Krampus is enough to chill any heart. [Krampus and St. Nicholas visit a Viennese home in 1896 photo credit: public domain]
The other inspiration for this story is the image of Rapunzel. But in Don’t Touch, Lette isn’t the helpless girl awaiting rescue by her prince. Instead, I go back to the origins of the folk story in sources such as Giambattista Basile’s Tale of Tales from 1616, where she is actually the hero who rescues herself and her children, and then saves her lover. Like her earliest predecessors, Lette is a tough, self-reliant young woman who tells her would-be prince, “If I need rescuing, I’ll do it myself.”
Hope flares each morning in the tiny flash of a second before Lette touches that first thing. And destroys it. Her online journal spans a decade, beginning with the day a thirteen-year-old inherits an extreme form of the family “gift.” Every day whatever she touches converts into something new: bunnies, bubbles, bombs, and everything in between. Lette’s search for a cure leads her to Stefan, whose fairy-tale looks hide a monstrous legacy, and to Rag, an arrogant, crabby ex-angel with boundary issues. The three face an army led by St. Nicholas’ legendary dark shadow, the Krampus, who feeds on children’s fear. But it’s their own inner demons they must defeat first.
My final message in Don’t Touch is that we build our own towers. They can provide safety; they can even be gorgeous and appealing, but if they keep us from truly living our lives or cut us off from others, they are still our prisons. I think that’s one of the things I love the most about the holiday season. No matter how often we hear them, those messages of peace and goodwill just keep reminding us of our connections to each other. More sophisticated folk can turn up noses at the consumerism and the crowds, but I believe the reason we all come back for more every year is that basic gift of hope and belief.
It’s that belief that inspires my holiday appeal to you. In most of my stories, an animal companion plays a prominent role—from George, the grumpy cat in Don’t Touch to Bygul, the bitchy feline goddess of Payback is a Witch. My own life has been immeasurably enriched by my dog Peri who came from a shelter in eastern Washington State, and by the friends (feline, canine, and the occasional rodent) rescued by the dedicated members of many shelters.
In thanks, therefore, I will donate all royalties on sales between now and January 1, 2015 from Don’t Touch as well as the newly released set (Payback is a Witch and Just For The Spell Of It) to the following wonderful organizations:
- USA: No Kill Advocacy Center. Headed up by Nathan Winograd, the No Kill Advocacy Center movement is revolutionizing shelters across America.
- United Kingdom: DogsTrust. Active since 1891, this no-kill shelter rehomed almost 15,000 dogs last year.
As a special incentive, both Don’t Touch and the brand new release set, Tales From Null City (containing Payback is a Witch and Just For The Spell Of It), will be listed at the sale price of $0.99 in the USA, and £0.77 in the UK.
Both make wonderful holiday reads, while at the same time supporting the work of the no-kill shelter movement. Please help ensure that animals are not left unsheltered during the very difficult winter months to come. To help, please order a book by selecting one of the following links:
My review for Don’t Touch can be found here and my review for the first book in the series One Way Fare can be found here.
Barb is offering a giveaway and a random tweet will be chosen which mentions any of the following – @barbtaub @CathyRy #NullCity #Don’tTouch #Payback #Spell
Claire Danielsen is a young witch whose goddess is house cat of unusual size. Peter Oshiro is a Warden policing a delicate truce between those who are human and those who… aren’t. It just would have been nice if someone told them the angels were all on the other side.
Liam is an ungodly soccer-playing card sharp on a mission from God. Eirie is a beautiful punk fairy princess with her own daytime radio talk show. They’ve worked cases for the Accords Agency before, but with war between realms looming and her baby sister as the bargaining chip, partnering just got personal.
PayBack Is A Witch
Claire Danielson, the last Danielson witch, is facing a big problem. Actually, two problems. Not only has Director Jeffers from the Accords Agency given orders for a Warden to tail Claire, a man from her past who she walked away from six years ago. Now, after spending time together, she doesn’t think she’ll have the strength to resist Peter Oshiro again. But Jeffers doesn’t want to lose another of his top Wardens so Peter is on guard duty whether they like it or not.
Bygul, the goddess who Claire has been trained from birth to protect, and who was one of the giant cats who pulled the Goddess Freya’s chariot, has alerted Claire to the dangerous barghests in the woods outside her home. They have been trying endlessly to gain possession of Bygul’s power but without success. And to make matters worse there is demon who wants to acquire control over Claire’s mind.
Claire’s spells are not yet long-lasting and she’s unable to channel Bygul directly. She will need all her skills to outwit the demon.
Just For The Spell Of It
Eirie and Liam work for the Accords Agency and when they are charged with finding a missing football player, his girlfriend and baby daughter it gets too close to home for Eirie. The girlfriend looks just like her mother. But how can that be when Eirie has believed for years that her mother was killed? And does that make the missing child her sister and the second in line to the throne of Tír na nÓg?
One of the four ancient treasures, gifts of the goddess Danu to her people, the Tuatha Dé Danann, has also gone missing. If the child and the treasure are not returned the threat of an armed force is imminent. Liam and Eirie have a weeks grace before the attack begins.
Two wonderfully entertaining and imaginative additions to the Null City series and, as with all the stories, a fun look at distinct and unusual worlds people by great characters.
In halcyon days BC (before children), Barb Taub wrote a humor column for several Midwest newspapers. With the arrival of Child #4, she veered toward the dark side and an HR career. Following a daring daytime escape to England, she’s lived in a medieval castle and a hobbit house with her prince-of-a-guy and the World’s Most Spoiled AussieDog. Now all her days are Saturdays, and she spends them consulting with her daughter on Marvel heroes, Null City, and translating from British to American.
Excerpt: Payback is a Witch
As Claire boiled water and set out two teacups, she had plenty to say to herself. There was a lot about what a bad idea it was to remember his arms around her, the taste of his kiss, that heart-stomping smile. Hell, a little over ten years ago their families were still trying to kill each other. For the last six of those years, she’d done her best to remember what she owed Nana and Bygul. And she’d done her damnedest to forget the look on his face when she turned and walked away.
Through the screen door, she could see him staring at something near the porch swing, just outside her line of sight. She had a bad feeling she knew what that something was. “Do you still take your tea without sugar?”
“You remembered.” He didn’t turn around, but she felt his smile anyway. “You live here alone?”
“Yes, unless you’ve turned into a twisted psycho stalker. In that case, I have several large homicidal brothers. And the world’s meanest cat.”
“Witches don’t have brothers. But I see what you mean about the cat.”
A purr, definitely amused this time, rubbed against the back of her brain. Damn it, Bygul. You stay out of sight for a thousand years, but you can’t stay off the porch for one afternoon? Sighing, she filled a small dish with tuna and placed it on a low table at the end of the kitchen. Why can’t some goddesses mind their own business? With a twist of lemon for her own tea, she set both cups onto a tray. Sniffing an open package of cookies that had been around a while, she dumped them onto the tray with a shrug. Before she reached the door, he turned and held it open, took the tray from her, and put it onto the little table between the rocking chair and the old porch swing.
“You’re a witch, right? So is she your familiar?” He pointed to the porch swing and the silver-gray feline posed regally across its sofa-length cushion. “I never knew a cat could get that big.”
“She isn’t my cat. She goes with the house and especially the woods.” Claire understood his surprise. You just don’t see a lot of house cats the size of Labradors. “I suppose you might say I’m her staff.” She took a seat next to the cat, who stretched and sat up, wrapping a tail thicker than Claire’s arm around her front paws. “Best we can tell, she’s a Norwegian Forest Cat. They get pretty big, but yeah. She’s big even for that. We call her Bygul.”
“In Norse mythology, Bygul was one of the giant cats who pulled the Goddess Freya’s chariot. Some said they were goddesses in their own right.” Bygul yawned and her eyes closed halfway. “Minor goddesses, of course…” The giant cat’s eyes snapped open, and she jumped off the porch with a noticeable thump.
“Didn’t the Egyptians worship cats too?”
Claire laughed. “Bygul pulled a war chariot and fought alongside Valkyries. Those Egyptian pussies couldn’t fight their way across a coffee shop.” Tail held high, Bygul waited for Claire to open the kitchen door before stalking inside to the tuna offering. As Peter lifted his tea from the tray, he smiled again. She sat back too quickly and her own tea sloshed over the rim. Dear goddess, that smile.
Excerpt: Just For The Spell Of It
“And how does an ex-fairy princess end up an Agency operative and part-time radio host?” Liam might have been amused, but his face was, as always, impassive.
“Pretty much the same way an ex-world champion soccer star becomes a teetotaler card sharp who runs errands for a former priest.” She shrugged and turned back to Dr. Tom. “What aren’t you telling us?”
Dr. Tom hesitated then seemed to reach a decision. “I think your mother did die. But we’ve discovered that when she was trying to get pregnant with you, she visited a specialized clinic in California. A clinic that froze several of her fertilized eggs. Ten months ago the last three viable eggs were supposedly stolen from the clinic. Last week a young woman who served as professional surrogate was found dead. Autopsy suggests that she had recently given birth.”
Eirie looked at him blankly.
“I think the baby is your sister. And the real problem is that not only is the baby missing, but one of the four Treasures has also disappeared.”
“I’m not sure. Now your father’s advisors say if the infant and the Treasure aren’t returned to Tír na nÓg, the king will send an armed force to recover it.”
Liam sat up. “What Treasures?”
“There are four of them, the ancient gifts of the Goddess Danu to her people, the Tuatha Dé Danann.” She counted off on her fingers. “The Lia Fáil, a stone that supposedly names the King of Ireland. The Spear of Lug that guarantees you’ll win all battles, the Sword of Núadu that allows no escape once it’s been drawn, and the Cauldron of the Dagda, which is never empty.” She frowned. “But there’s not much demand these days for naming a King of Ireland, and even enchanted spears and swords aren’t going to be much use against automatic weapons.” The frown gave way to a snort. “And after the fae ‘warriors’ have been sitting on their fairy arses for a thousand years, I imagine our biggest danger is being forced to eat the prehistoric slop the Cauldron serves up.”
Dr. Tom looked at her. Folded his hands. Waited.
She sighed. “Right. Find Matias León and the baby. I’m on it. Liam?”
He nodded and picked up the folder. “I assume this has the info on the dead surrogate and the clinic?”
Dr. Tom nodded. “The Tuatha Dé gave us one week before their force arrives.” He stood and moved to the door. “Good luck.” As the door swung behind him, Eirie thought she saw him shaking his head.
Liam waited until the door closed. “Eirie?”
She stared at her teacup. “A sister.” With her hood again covering her bright hair and her “work-clothes”—strategically ripped gray hoodie, tulle-puffed skirt, bright striped leggings stuffed into chunky blue Doc Martens—she seemed little more than a child herself. Then she lifted exotically tilted lavender eyes to his, and something ancient, not-quite-human looked out. “She’ll need someone to tell her about our family…and make sure she has toys…and how to use her magic…and put on makeup…and hear about her first boyfriend who will, of course, be all wrong for her…and…someone to keep her safe.” Carefully, precisely, she placed both hands on the table in front of her. “Well, she has a sister for that.”
There were things he could have said. The teasing, mischievous Liam who found a way to call into her show each week could have said something to make her smile. The self-assured soccer-star Liam could have made a charming, romantic overture. The Liam who had been her partner for the past year said, “We should start with the clinic. Ready?”