by P.L. BLAIR
~~Presented By Bewitched Blog Tours~~
Take a generous blend of mystery add to it a healthy dose of fantasy set in our world in the near future and you will find the “Shadow Path”.
Author P L Blair….has succeeded in writing a book that will appeal to both the lovers of a damned good crime mystery, and those who are officiandos of the fantasy genre...Yet her voice remains unique, she has successfully introduced two new and very vivid characters in this her first book in the “Portals” series.
Meet Kat Morales, detective, human, gutsy and warmly drawn, there are no insipid characters in this book, Author Blair has given breath and life to each characterization on these pages; through the use of fast paced dialogue and descriptions that make these individuals highly visible, yet her touch is gentle enough to allow the reader’s imagination to add more flesh, this is storytelling at its best.
Meet,Tevis. Tevis is an Elf. A clever, intelligent and powerful being. Yes I did say “ELF”… For the author has changed the world as we know it. She has cleverly crafted a place where the myth and legends of ancient times have become real, the alleged imaginings and tales of the ancients have finally allowed themselves to become visual…they have come through the open portal from the ‘otherside’ at last…
However not all that come through are for the power of good. The author introduces us to Goblins, Djinns, Dwarfs, and Elves, Ogres, Banshee’s, and Wizard’s from the ‘Realm’.
The murder of an Ogre… send Tevis and Kat on a journey. A journey that will see them threatened by powers of darkness, an overwhelmingly powerful force in the shape of a female Elf known as Coira …. Malevolent and determined to destroy. Who is it she seeks? And more importantly…why? I will not spoil the book for you by giving away any more.
Suffice it to say…it’s a fine read. I have no hesitation recommending it to lovers of fast paced and intriguing fiction. I look forward to reading the rest of the “Portals” series.
P.L. Blair was born and grew up in Tyler, Texas; lived 10 years in the Corpus Christi/Rockport area before moving to Sheridan, Wyo., in the mid-1980s. She returned to Rockport in 2008 to be closer to family, but she continues to spend summers in Sheridan. She has worked for more than 30 years as a newspaper reporter.
She wrote Shadow Path, the first novel in her Portals fantasy/detective series, in 2007, and followed it with three more Stormcaller, Deathtalker and Sister Hoods.
Shadow Path has recently been released as an ebook, available on Kindle.
In addition to her human family, Blair shares her life with two basset hounds, a longhaired dachshund and two cats ? all rescued.
The basset hound in the photo is Shilo.
Hello and welcome;When did you first know that writing was what you wanted to do? When I was around 7 or 8 years old, and I wrote a short story that my teacher insisted I read to the rest of the class. To my amazement, my classmates liked it! And I thought, Wow! I can entertain people with this stuff! The marriage of mystery/crime thriller with fantasy is an interesting one. What decided you on that path? I've always loved fantasy and detective novels. Fantasy because of its connection to mythology and folklore – and because it takes you into other realms – and there are elves. I feel a strong kinship to Sam Gamgee, the Hobbit in Tolkien's Lord of the Rings who loved elves. Then, detective novels because of the mystery element, trying to figure out “whodunnit” – and the fact that in detective novels, unlike real life, the bad guy always gets what's coming to him in the end. I also wanted continuing characters – I hate saying goodbye to people, real or fictional, that I've become attached to – but I wanted each book to be complete in itself. Which, of course, is standard format for detective novels. When did you get the idea for the Portals series? I took journalism and writing courses through high school and college because I wanted to write books. Then I got sidetracked by my newspaper work. It's a fascinating business, and I took very seriously the newspaper's role in digging for the truth and keeping people informed. But in 2006, around my 59th birthday, I decided that if I was ever going to make it as an author, I needed to get started. So then it came down to … What kind of books did I want to write? Which, considering the kind of books I most enjoy reading, was a no-brainer. Were you influenced in your chosen genre by any other author/authors? No specific author, but pretty much every author who writes fantasy or detective novels. I read Lord of the Rings or Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe mysteries, and I think … That's what I want to write! Pairing a Human detective with an Elf makes for some great dialogue, how real do your characters become to you? Real enough that I hear their voices in my head, and see their actions. Kat and Tevis are like really good friends – or like the members of the family that you love to have visit you. You have been a reporter for 30 years, how has that affected your style of writing? I think I write tighter than if I hadn't had the training. I'm much more conscious of deadlines, and I don't have to psyche myself to write. I probably do my best writing when there's a certain amount of chaos around me – because that's what I got used to in the newsroom – but I can write under just about any circumstances. Also, I don't seem to have the problem with writer's block or absence of the Muse that I've heard some writers complain about. In newspaper work, you go in, sit down at the computer – and you start writing. And newspaper editors absolutely do not believe in Muses. Are your family supportive with the amount of time you need to dedicate to your writing? I'm very lucky; they are. Two of my sisters and I share a house in Rockport, Texas – in Sheridan, Wyo., where I spend my summers, I'm on my own – and they don't always understand what I'm doing or why. But bless them, they're okay with it. And when I've gotten favorable book reviews, my younger sister has taken them to work with her and posted them on her office door. Do you have a set time allotted each day for your fiction work? I do my best work in the mornings. I get up around 5, take the dogs out, feed them, feed the cats, feed me, then I fire up the computer and write. Some days I'll be at it for a couple of hours, but I don't limit myself. On a really good day, I may put in four or five hours. How far ahead do you plot your books? Or do the characters drive your plotlines? I'm a “pantser” - as in flying (or writing) by the seat of … I'll have a vivid image of how the book opens, a vague awareness of what it will be about, and a more or less clear idea of how it will end. Everything else just grows organically. I like to build the plot on what's gone before – not only what Kat and Tevis (my main characters) are doing, but what the antagonist is doing as well. It's a cycle of action-reaction, just as in real life. Tell us a little about the Portals series. The concept is that a world of magic exists parallel to our own – a world separated from ours by gateways, the Portals of the series title. In ancient times, those gateways were open, and the inhabitants of the magical realms visited our world freely and often. That's why we have nearly universal legends of magic and magic wielders, elves, ogres, trolls, dragons … all the creatures of our mythologies and legends. Then, maybe around a thousand years ago, those gateways were closed. We humans forgot that the magical realms existed. Then, in the not-too-distant future, those portals reopen – and our human world is invaded by wizards, elves, trolls – all these creatures who can use magic to commit crimes … Kat, Tevis and their allies find themselves trying to catch criminals who can wield magic not only to commit their crimes but also to avoid capture. Where would you like to see yourself professionally 12 months from now? Writing more books – of course. With Shadow Path and all the successive books doing well in sales. It would be fun to have Shadow Path in contract to become a movie or made-for-TV movie. Or, heck, even a TV series. The publishing world has undergone enormous change in a very short space of time, do you believe Ebooks are the way of the future? I do … unfortunately, because I have 60-plus years experience with “real” books, and I love the feel of holding a book in my hands … On the other hand, bookaholic that I am, I also love being able to load thousands of books in my Kindle or Nook and not worry about how much shelf space they're taking up. My publisher, Studio See, also believes that ebooks are the wave of the future. Shadow Path is the first of my books to go into e-format, but the others will follow in the months ahead. Do you ever envisage a time when paperbacks will only be available in Libraries? I hope not – although again, I'm not sure they'll be available even there. Libraries are changing too. On the downside, I do worry about the storage life of ebooks. We already know that technological advances can obsolete our existing storage devices – CDs and DVDs, for example. CDs and DVDs obsoleted cassettes and videos. I have computer shelves full of programs that are still good but unusable because the technology moved past them. I'd hate to see that happen to ebooks. Do you have any WiP’s at the moment? Tell us a little about that. I'm actually working on Book 6 of my series. Kat, Tevis and their allies travel to Washington DC for a conference – and find themselves embroiled in a war between the Seelie and Unseelie courts. The other books, in order, are Stormcaller, Deathtalker and Sister Hoods – those have been published. Then Book 5, A Plague of Leprechauns, is with my publisher, awaiting release. Thank you for joining me here; I look forward to reading the remainder of the “Portals” series. Thank you very much for hosting me today.
For Your enjoyment...
Chapter One of P.L. Blair's "Shadow Path"
Ogres looked – and smelled – bad enough in life. Death magnified those uncharming qualities, especially the smell, something like a cross between rotting fish and open sewer. Kat found herself swallowing again and again against the urge of her stomach to empty itself.
If she'd seen this coming, she would've skipped breakfast.
Tevis, kneeling beside the body, seemed unfazed. With his short-cropped blond hair, wearing a pale gray summer-casual suit (white shirt, no tie), he could have passed for one of the young attorneys who worked in the law offices that lined the surrounding streets. Except, of course, for the pointed ears that marked him as an Elf, and the white, department-issued rubber gloves similar to those Kat wore.
"Almost done?" he asked in his strange accent that was slightly Scottish and slightly … something else.
"Almost," Kat said. Sense of duty overcame revulsion, and she raised the digicam and took two more shots, slightly different views, of the corpse. The Ogre lay face-down on the street just at the edge of the alley, its head twisted to one side. The one eye she could see was open. She slowly surveyed the kill site: North Carancahua Street, midway between Antelope and Leopard, just a few blocks from the Nueces County Courthouse Complex. The killer had nerve. Tevis looked up at her, his eyes, blue as high-mountain lakes, dazzling in their intensity. She nodded in response to the question he didn't put into words. The coroner had been here when she and Tevis had arrived. He'd officially pronounced the Ogre dead, said he'd wait for the autopsy before any further rulings, packed up and left.
For now, the body was Kat's jurisdiction — and her partner's. "Roll him over. Let's see what the front looks like."
Tevis made the task look effortless — which amazed Kat, considering the Ogre even in its present condition had to weigh 300 pounds or more, and the Elf's 5-foot-8-inch frame (only two inches taller than Kat) couldn't have weighed more than 150 soaking wet. Kat would have helped him, except he had made it clear on previous occasions that he neither wanted nor needed help.
The dead Ogre flopped onto its back, a small pool of dark, nearly black, stuff — what passed for Ogre blood — marking the place where the creature had been.
"Not much blood," Tevis remarked as Kat shot views of the Ogre's front.
"Most of it's in the dumpster," Kat said. "He must've pretty well bled out by the time he was found." She brushed a limp strand of auburn hair off her forehead. Not even 8 o'clock, and the temperature was already pushing 90, and God only knew what the humidity was. It had to be in the eighties at least. Today was going to be a scorcher, even for July in Corpus Christi, Texas.
Tevis sat back from the corpse. It amazed Kat that he could be so unaware of the heat or humidity. True, the jacket he wore was summer-weight, but still. Kat had left her jacket in the car, stripped down to a sleeveless green tee over her tan slacks, and she still felt wilted.
The Elf directed his gaze toward the crowds being held in check by the yellow police line, nodded at two figures who stood a little apart from both the crowd and the uniformed officers. "Is that the one who discovered the body? The one the lieutenant is speaking with?"
Kat inclined her head. "His name's Ed Lewiston. He's a dumpster diver."
"Not a street person," Tevis said. "He is dressed too well."
"He calls himself a 'pre-cycler.' Says it's his job to save the good stuff people throw away." Kat took another, more thoughtful look at Lewiston in his gray slacks and pale blue shirt, a middle-aged male trying to look ten years younger. Maybe he'd be a bit more careful of going into other people's trash after today.
The Elf returned his attention to the body, probing with long, slender fingers. After a moment, "I have found, I believe, the cause of death." He parted a few strands of the bristly hair that covered the Ogre's chest, sat back again to give Kat a clearer view.
She snapped off two photos of what she saw before she lowered the digicam and let herself think about it. "A stab wound. But — Ogres can't be stabbed! Their stone hides …"
"You are thinking of trolls," Tevis said. "Ogre skin is true flesh, not stone." He probed the wound while he spoke. "Although," his voice dropped to a murmur, barely audible, "it still requires a formidable weapon to penetrate."
Kat stuffed the digicam into her shirt pocket and went down on one knee on the other side of the body. "What do you See?" She pulled off the gloves she'd been wearing, spent a couple of minutes wriggling her fingers, enjoying the feel of not having anything on her skin before pulling a second pair of rubber lab gloves from a pants pocket. Even dusted inside with baby powder, the gloves too quickly left her hands hot and sticky-wet with sweat in this weather. Finally, she pulled the fresh pair on. Somewhere a siren wailed, and a gull passing overhead called out as if in answer.
"A fragment of the weapon remains in the wound," Tevis said at last, though Kat had a feeling he was thinking out loud, talking to himself rather than her. "The blade was not powerful enough to resist breakage. We will learn more once we get the body to the lab."
"The killer," Kat pressed. "The wound is in front. The Ogre had to have seen his killer."
Tevis inclined his head. "And it was someone known to him. More — It was someone he feared. That much I can See. But I cannot See a face. It is clouded by a Magic more powerful than I can penetrate."
Kat arched an eyebrow. "A Practitioner?"
Another slight nod. "Or else a True Wizard. I feel Magic of the blackest kind. It has left a residue."
"Cold?" Kat asked. Humans lacked the Elven sensitivity to the feel of Magic, but Tevis had explained it to her. Beneficial Magic felt warm. Black Magic felt cold.
"So cold," Tevis affirmed, "that it burns." He turned his attention from the wound to the the denim cutoffs the corpse wore. "Ogres do not usually wear Human garments." He sounded vaguely surprised. Then he shrugged and set to work exploring the pockets of the jeans.
Kat retrieved the digicam and took photos of the objects that emerged. There wasn't much — three brightly colored paper clips, two oversized marbles, an empty plastic bag.
"Ogres are like those little animals that collect odd materials for their nests," Tevis said.
"Packrats," Kat filled in as he visibly struggled for the word.
"Yes. They — Ogres I mean — are big and strong, and they are attracted to shiny objects. But they are not overly bright."
"So," having snapped the last picture, Kat lowered the camera, "was our friend here an innocent victim? Someone in the wrong place at the wrong time?"
Tevis flashed one of his rare smiles in his partner's direction. "Ogres are seldom innocent, even when they appear to be doing nothing. Nor are they chance targets for thieves. They like shiny objects, but cash has no importance to them."
"So," Kat said, "unless our Ogre somehow acquired a pocketful of, say, gold nuggets …"
"Which someone would have to know about, which rules out a chance mugging."
"Sounds like you two are cookin' up theories already." Lieutenant Ed Harley, soft drawl and amiable manner masking a core of purest steel, joined his junior officers. He focused gray eyes on Kat. "What've we got, Morales?"
"Ogre male, age …" She shrugged. Who knew with Ogres? "Stabbed in the chest, just below the rib cage."
"The angle of the wound suggests the killer was Kathryn's height or smaller," Tevis interjected. His hands continued to deftly explore the corpse while he spoke. "No other apparent wounds. But this one would have been sufficient. It penetrated the heart."
"Tevis says part of the weapon is still in the body," Kat resumed. "From the condition of the body, rough guess I'd say he's been dead at least twelve hours. That would put the murder around 7, 8 last night at the latest."
"Early enough that someone might still have been around, maybe have seen somethin'," Harley speculated aloud.
Kat inclined her head. "Maybe Tevis and I should visit a couple of offices later today, see if anybody was working late. As for the body," she shrugged, "we'll know more after an autopsy. Hopefully whatever's left of the weapon will tell us something."
"Kathryn." Tevis's voice interrupted again, his tone telling his partner he'd found something more significant than marbles or paper clips. She turned, looked down at him. In one hand, he held a pouch — not a bag but a small, burgundy-colored pouch of velour — or maybe suede. The other hand stretched toward her, palm-up. In the palm, four small stones nestled, glittering like ice and fire in the light that shafted down from the nearly cloudless Corpus Christi sky.
"The Ogre was carrying them on a belt under his cutoffs," the Elf said.
Harley whistled. "Diamonds?"
"We cannot be certain without a proper analysis." Tevis held out stones and pouch together while Kat photographed them. "But I believe so, yes."
"In that case," Kat slipped the digicam into her pocket once more, "I think we can definitely rule out robbery as a motive."
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Book Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5tJ8jqtW0Dc