Book Announcement: Stalking the Demon

Stalking the DemonSTALKING THE DEMON ~ Advance Review EBOOKS by @CiaraBallintyne #HighFantasy #FREEBIE
Available for a limited time
FREE Advance Review ebooks (Review Copies only)

(Book 2 in the Seven Circles of Hell)
by Ciara Ballintyne

Date of Publication – 22 September 2014
Genre: High Fantasy (Adult)

About the Book

Alloran lost his hand to thwart his renegade friend–but the world is still going to hell.

Six months after Ladanyon’s defeat, Gisayne is fading away from a baffling illness. Alloran is desperate for a cure, but he has a secret–the seven circles of hell are unstable. His worst fear is that the terrible mirror spell cast upon Gisayne has wrought some connection between her and the demon dimensions.

As everything Alloran loves races toward destruction, he does the unthinkable and refuses to obey the council of wizards. The only people who can help him are the two research assistants assigned by the council–but he knows he can’t trust them.

All the answers are locked away in the last place anyone wants to go: hell.

Add it to your Goodreads TBR.

eARCs may not be identical to the final published version and therefore may contain some minor editing and typographical errors prior to the final proofread. eARCs are expected to be available 2 weeks prior to the publication date. Interested? Sign up now!

Treasuring the Day

"Remember that wherever your heart is, there you will find your treasure." -Paulo CoelhoI made it through the class with homework assignments from hell. And the month from moving hell. I’m not only still standing, but finding more to treasure about having made all the necessary sacrifices in sleep and creature comforts to end up where we are. Primarily: no more long separations from hubs.

We’re only now starting to settle into something of a rhythm in the new house. Today, I finished unboxing everything labeled kitchen, and now have the satisfaction of having all my herbs and spices accessible. My spoon collection is back in the rack on the wall, where I can be reminded of each stop along the way that created a unique memory. The trivets are available again, so real cooking can commence… sooner than later. Let’s not get too nutty, here: I still have many other rooms to unpack and organize, so the likelihood that I have time and energy for anything elaborate is… slim to low. At least for the immediate future.

This week we also found another vet acupuncturist/chiropractor for Kyra. Nellie uses much bigger moves than Kyra’s Wisconsin vets did, so she was feeling bruised and sore enough to keep us up a few nights this week with her need for additional care and treatment; she’s back to her happy self today. We’ve found that in addition to the Chinese herbal formulas hubs has prescribed for her, the joint formulation available from NuVet is particularly helpful for her continued mobility. Natasha is in that melancholy space that tells us she’s missing her old Puppy Playtime buddies, so we need to find a congenial group for her happiness sooner than later. (If anyone in the northern Virginia area has recommendations to this end, please share them in the comments!)

We took it easier on the walks this week, for Kyra’s sake, but still got 4 in, for a total of 7 miles. We’d taken 4 the previous week as well, but went further, so this week feels like minimum effort to me. Even so, hefting boxes and other things has kept me on my feet for the past two days, so I’m at least getting away from the endless sitting at my desk that had been my previous pattern.

This weekend was the short break between classes, so that helped, too. It also inspired me to add 200 words to Jasper’s Tale. It’s still a long way from finished, but maybe I’ve broken the fiction word logjam that had me stuck for a few months. We’ll see. Mostly I think what drove me was Gayla’s release of Book 3 of her Discord Jones series. Editing it was another contributor to this week’s short hours of sleep, but I’m very proud to have had a hand in her ongoing success with this series.


Otherwise, it’s been the week for hubs to send lifehack tips: Ones from 100 years ago that still hold up (that one about the eggs is especially interesting to me), and 22 others that apply to modern life (that elevator button trick is particularly useful). My final class begins Tuesday, so I’m close enough to finished with the MBA that I’m starting to imagine my life–and all the things I’ll be able to do with it–post graduation. I still have dreams of releasing two more stories this year to keep pace with my 3-a-year history, so I’ll need to really focus for the final ROW80 round to be able to accomplish all that. In the meantime, check out how my compatriots are handling the end of this round. I may not have made much of my mini-goals (turning the majority of assignments in on time is a key requirement for maintaining that straight-A streak!), but I am starting to feel much more human at this end of our transition. It gives me hope for the next round, since the three who hold the keys to my heart’s happiness are close at hand and good reminders to treasure each day and each step in our progress.


"Remember, the entrance door to the sanctuary is inside you." -RumiSomehow, I’ve made it. I just turned in my final assignment for the penultimate class for my MBA. We unpacked enough stuff that we were able to host our nephew and his girlfriend as they undertook a classically crazy college break road trip. I’ve made a good start at catching up on some of the sleep I’ve missed this month in the mad dash to pack and move, and we’ve hit our stride with our walks.

I can’t tell you how grateful I am to have reached this point.

I’m not even feeling particularly twitchy yet about having lived amidst boxes and dishevelment for … over a month, considering the time in Milwaukee as well as the time since our arrival. Since I now don’t have anything due for school until after Labor Day, all of a sudden I have TIME. I’m imagining that I can finish unpacking, organizing, and arranging by the time I have to return to work after the holiday weekend. I’m not sure that’s realistic, either, since I’ve also committed to completing a freelance editing job, but I think at least the living spaces and my husband’s acupuncture/Oriental medicine treatment space should be suitable for general public viewing sometime next week.

However, the quote in today’s image still speaks to me. While sanctuary is most often considered in terms of its physical ability to shelter us, and I tend to view my home space as my own private retreat, finding peace is only possible to the extent that we are able to accept access to it from within. Once again, hubs found an article about “living happier” that addresses this process directly. We were already pretty good on a lot of these elements, but have made a much more conscious effort at finding daily–even hourly–gratitude since we’ve moved, and it feels like that has contributed to lightening the load this move put on our shoulders.

For the print and design geek in me, hubs also found a plug-in that lets me preview fonts in my browser. It’s the little things that make me smile these days.


Because of the time constraints of the freelance work and allocating all the stuff that currently remains in boxes, I don’t think I’ll manage any fiction words this week again, but I’m definitely that much closer to it having finished with this class. I’ll grant myself a clean slate after Labor Day, but in the meantime invite you to check on the rest of my ROW80 cohorts’ progress.

The Rainbow at the End of the Light

The light at the end of the tunnel is not an illusion. The tunnel is.Even though I skipped last week’s check-in, this week’s will have to be short, too. I’m barely recovered from the madness of … The Worst Move, EVER. We went for about a week averaging 4 hours of sleep per night. And not the kind of 4 hours that a good nap gives you, but the kind where you wake up worried about the things you’re forgetting, and weaving as you walk even though you know there won’t be rest any time soon. This is the third time we’ve pulled a cross-country move, and it seems each time is worse–probably because even though we make every effort to live lightly and purge before packing… we still have More Stuff.

I’m insanely grateful that I have The Best Brother EVER, who flew into town Thursday 10 days ago with his wife (who’s also an angel, BTW!). They made sure we left Milwaukee that evening… a mere 10 hours later than intended.

I only had enough time off from work to be completely away from that for 4 days, so after we collapsed into bed our first night in our new home, and made some half-hearted efforts at re-arranging boxes last Sunday, it was back to the office for me. I still need to catch up on two weeks of problem sets from the past two weeks of class, but I did manage to stay on top of all of this week’s deliverables and turn in my mid-term paper. I even managed to unpack half a dozen boxes each day this week. The house is starting to look… livable. We also started finding our way around our neighborhood, and managed four walks for a total of 5.4 miles.

Not having a deadline for putting things away is quite helpful for feeling like limitations are falling away. And gratitude for losing those difficulties makes the light at the end of the tunnel feel like a technicolor rainbow.

Having a husband who recognizes when he’s melting down or otherwise being irrational in the face of troubles (and turns to me for support) just reinforces why he’s My One. In fact, he shared a link with me today that made me all melty titled 10 Signs You’ve Found The One; we both hit all 10 for each other. And having just squeezed through what felt like literal Hell together reinforces how lucky we are with each other and how happy we are to be on the other side of this edition of the moving experience. So I’m taking a deep breath and looking ahead with hope again. In the meantime, check out how my ROW80 cohorts are doing with their goals; come back next week to see how we’re all doing.


You can believe in misery or miracles, it is entirely up to you. You Choose.This week has been as intense as I worried it might be. I just watched the deadline for one of my class assignments fly on by–albeit with my professor’s acknowledgement and support–but … there just aren’t enough hours in the day to pack up my entire house, work, and do the crazy amount of homework he has required.

The thing that’s keeping me at least halfway sane is that we’ve been diligent with taking our walks: we took 6 for a total of 13.4 miles. I also kept up with the other assignment due and the full week of work. And I sorted, threw away, packed, ran errands, and worked out the legalese to let our renter move in. We’ve been averaging 6-7 hours of sleep as we try to say our goodbyes as well as take care of all these logistics. It doesn’t help our ability to stay focused or be particularly effective.

We still have about half our household to sort, toss, or pack by Wednesday morning, when we have movers showing up to load our stuff into trucks. I’m having a hard time imagining what would happen should we miss that deadline, and yet the hours are dwindling. I’m choosing to believe in a miracle at this point, since we do have help emerging from the woodwork, and, worst comes to worst, I suppose we don’t have to be quite so careful about boxing things up for transport…

I’m also guessing that hubs shared the link to 10 practices to increase peace of mind and happiness as a reminder that once we get past this madness, we’ll need to spend some time reorienting to that perspective. That’s probably a good idea, but a week of sleep sounds good, too. Unfortunately, I won’t have that luxury, either. Somehow I have to hold on until the Labor Day weekend to get an extra day of sleep. Until then, I’m as likely to be a zombie as a human, but don’t kill me just yet… I have PLANS!


Hold your breath with me until next week, when we should be settled in Virginia. And check out my ROW80 cohorts are doing; be jealous with me of anyone who’s feeling more awake than I.

The Mirror Shows Me Stress

Difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations.My post title sums it up, but to add some clarity: I worked 40 hours this week, and spent 27 hours on homework. I got NO packing done. I snuck in 100 words on Jasper’s Tale night before last because I realized that deadline is sprinting my direction, too. Last night I had to talk myself down from a panic attack, because movers will show up on the 30th, and nine years’ worth of accumulated stuff on top of the stuff we’ve already schlepped across country a few times will need to be ready to be loaded into trucks. Or unceremoniously dumped.

I love being home with hubs and my girls–most particularly because we support each other in this kind of difficulty, but also because we have the good habit of walking almost nightly. This week, we took five walks for 10.9 miles. I suspect that’s a big reason I’m still holding myself together. It also helps that my prof responded to my frantic email about due date timing quickly and with some understanding.

Strangely, hubs found an article this week listing six traits of peaceful people. While I would say our current existence is fraught with the turmoil any move will add to a person’s life, I still recognize our choices in the characteristics outlined there. So I will take another deep breath and remind myself that while this is a difficult road, the home I’ve found us in Virginia should allow us to find calm and beauty again.

In the meantime, I’m massively grateful hubs has the Chinese herbal pharmacopeia and nutritional knowledge to manage our collective cortisol levels and allow for some decent sleep–which helps me remain steady within the stress and manage some productivity. Rinse and repeat. Check back next week to see whether I manage this for the next two weeks. And check my ROW80 cohorts to see whether they’re making progress on their goals.

In Celebration

No matter where you are, find your Happy and walk toward it.It’s my birthday (or was, until an hour or two ago), and that whole goal of not going crazy from last week… in sad danger of not surviving the week. An intense adventure involving metro trains that were not only behind schedule but also stopping every 50 yards, a mad dash through three terminals toting my work backpack (with laptop) and a suitcase that weighed in at 49.5 pounds according to a late check-in that couldn’t guarantee my suitcase would make my flight, as well as being paged before they shut the airplane doors, all combined to ratchet my stress levels sky-high. The turbulence we flew through ensured my nerves were taut for another day thereafter.

The schedule of work, packing, and cleaning doesn’t give much breathing room for recovery, either. As it happened, hubs had continuing ed classes all weekend, so I’m still in the surreal head space of not feeling entirely home. Top that with the asinine story from Esquire–“In Praise of 42″–and there’s something in the back of my head bleating about being past my own expiration date. Happily for me, I got the last laugh with Jezebel’s fisking of said article, but it does remind me that while my goals seem stupid in the midst of the rush toward their completion, there is ultimately a ticking clock somewhere that means what I don’t finish today… may never get done.

So when I saw this week’s image from the always helpful Zen to Zany folks… It reminded me of last week’s injunction against focusing too long on the bigger picture. I know there are a pile of stories floating around my head waiting their turns to be written. I know there are decisions to be made and actions to be taken. Contrary to the way I’ve written those sentences, I won’t be passive about accomplishing what’s necessary. And despite the desperate airport race on Thursday, I’m still only walking toward my Happy. One dogged step at a time.

At the same time, I’m pondering a completely unrelated article about a particular woman in technology. Shanley Kane seems to provide a useful example of how best to burn bridges–even though, as with the author of the piece, I’m not unsympathetic to her basic argument: That technology is covered in a much “softer” style (i.e. closer relationships between the writers and the tech, and no real muckrakers) that largely represents only the white male POV. As a woman in tech in my day job, I’ve been in quite a few rooms as the only source of estrogen, and, looping back to that birthday issue… haven’t made as much of a career as I might have hoped. Hence the crazy-making MBA thing as a goal.

About those goals… I will celebrate the fact that I managed two walks totaling more than four miles this week once I got home (I didn’t have time to turn on the meter for that airport adventure), and turned in my first week’s schoolwork on time. No words, as suspected, but at least some time with my girleez and hubs to try to relax into the fast-paced current of the next few weeks. Now that I don’t actually have to travel, I may accomplish more this week, but I’m not holding my breath. Until next week, check out my cohorts’ progress on their goals–and wish me luck with my sanity.

Changing Goals and Grace

"Grace is the voice that calls us to change and then gives us the power to pull it off." -Max LucadoIt’s the start of both round 3 of ROW80 (in which we state our goals) and the latest (penultimate) class for my MBA today. I had had great dreams of finishing a lot of writing during the three-week break after the previous MBA classes came to an end… and am still only halfway to that goal. While I’m not a fan of anything this week’s quotable source stands for, the quote itself is a useful perspective as I face another month of crazy, in preparation for a few more months of insanity. It’s akin to the old Creighton Abrams quote about eating an elephant one bite at a time, but with the understanding that there is an underlying spirit that gives us the vitality to achieve those things we’ve set our minds to doing.

In the midst of a to-do list that includes everything from establishing new insurance, to making sure we have the furniture we need, to turning on all the proper utilities, to finding another holistic vet for Kyra, to boxing up all those worldly goods that are coming with us to Virginia, on top of a full-time job, and another class, it’s a lot easier to focus on the elephant than that quiet voice that keeps telling me things will improve for all of us once we’ve completed the transition. It’s much easier to feel harried and tense about the likelihood that something will fall between the cracks than to feel contentment at the unfolding of the path.

Freya and her babies.Yet this weekend brought a parallel profundity: One of my mom’s dogs successfully birthed her third litter. That would only be a minor miracle until you take into account that she is seven and considered at the outside edge of her fertility. We watched for an anxious day as pre-labor drew on and on and the booming fireworks stressed out all the dogs in the household. We drove with the girl to a local emergency vet and then to another one half an hour away where a surgeon was standing by in case puppies or mother were shown to be in distress. In the end, the surgeon reviewed the evidence and said… don’t use my surgical skills. The secondary message was that based on previous performance and current evidence, this girl could manage this task without the extra intervention. In fact, Freya’s birthing began four hours later as we all slept, quietly, peacefully, and with no need for our agitation. It ended six hours later with five thriving, healthy pups. Having a window into the joy Freya has in her puppies and the meditation on adorability that are the pups themselves pulled me out of most of my worries for at least a little while–and reinforced my appreciation for Puppy Therapy.


It has been another lesson in patience and each thing having its proper time and place. And hubs found another article that underlines the same message–this time in the context of maturing as opposed to aging. The article is a different kind of reminder to let go of expectations, listen to the world around you for those subtle messages, and surrender to the changes that come regardless of our attempts to hold back the tide.

For now my proper time and place includes a lot of responsibilities and stresses. I know I won’t be writing as much as I’d hoped, but I also know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. So my goal for this round: To not let the stress lead to crazy. Secondarily, to finish the move and the class, figure out a regular walking route, and keep up with my other responsibilities. While I know this puts fiction word production at the bottom of my priority list again for the moment, I suspect that at the halfway point of this round I’ll be able to make some upward revisions on my word count goals, and I will treat that as my reward for getting through this eye of the needle. Meantime, check out my cohorts’ goals, and come back next week to see whether being back in Wisconsin helps me feel more productive.

Winds of Change

"When the winds of change blow, some people build walls and others build windmills." -Chinese proverbI’m checking in again, even though Round 2 is complete, and Round 3 doesn’t start until next week. I like the structure of a once-a-week post ruminating on progress, since it forces me to review the small things I manage over time that add up to something tangible.

This week I did the final walk-through on our new home, and was given the key… already! I went back today and hung the winter coats I’d had to use earlier this year (when I’d first arrived in Virginia) in the coat closet there. Thus has the move already started. I also took along a measuring tape to find out exactly how big our big new house is. Apparently… there will be lots of wide-open space in the new place. I even met one of our new neighbors and his son–both of whom are looking forward to the Husky kisses that are likely in their future when our girls arrive.

I’m happy for the walls that will shelter us as we face our winds of change, and yet am reminded of the creative flights of fancy that allow windmills to evoke both monsters and dreams, and choose to imagine these changes will spark our creativity in directions unique to us. For me, that’s meant I’ve managed a mere 2,010 words for the week, completely missing the point of the daily goals I had set last week. In spite of my lack of energy, it only took us a day to find a suitable renter for our Wisconsin house, so there’s one less worry to stress us in this evolution.

Kyra is responding well to her treatments, too, encouraging me to think she might enjoy the big, new yard we’ve found for her. She is my living proof that focusing on the moment allows progress despite injury. In fact, my hubs sent an interesting article about habits of people who follow their dreams, and saw our experience in the list–apparently it’s very good I’ve learned to be comfortable being uncomfortable.


At the same time, I found an interview with Robert David Steele over at the Guardian that confirmed how important the things I’m doing at my day job are–as well as giving further meaning to an ongoing, open diary in the form of blog entries. The sub-title of his book (Transparency, Truth, and Trust) has moved it onto my to-read pile even though I’m not a non-fiction fan. I like the ideals outlined in the article, and am hugely entertained by the notion that the entrenched Powers That Be respect him despite his radical call to open-source everything.

Next week, I’ll be back with goals for Round 3. In the meantime, I’m crossing my fingers that the past few days have been sufficiently diverting that I’ll be back to regular new words with the new week. Check back next week to see how I’ve managed.


Focus on how far you've come, not how far you have to go. -Institute for Heart MathMy final check-in for this round (even though it doesn’t end until Thursday)… When I started this round, I was in a funk: It seemed only barely possible that we could manage to move our family by August, and dealing with two classes was daunting all by itself. I had a major work project in the offing, and I knew I would be traveling between Virginia and Wisconsin every few weeks. I couldn’t imagine there would be any time left over for fiction words.

I was mostly right. But this week, I’ve been able to build on the bit of a start I’d made, and book three of Red Slaves has now broken 22,000 words. I’ve plugged in the numbers at WriteTrack (which I highly recommend!) and discovered that if I keep pace until my next class starts July 7… I’ll not only have finished this book, but will also have likely finished the short story due at the end of the month!

It’s enough to make a gal giddy.

I have worrying news from the home front to counterbalance that: Kyra has been injured almost to the point of being unable to walk. We’re hoping a vet chiro will be able to see her on an emergency basis tomorrow, and I’m crossing my fingers that will allow her to regain her mobility enough to enjoy the new yard I’ve signed us up for… I found a house and signed the lease, so our official move-in date is 8/1.

Here, again, is tangible proof of the power of stated intentions and deadlines. It seems that if you put a statement into the world and take daily baby steps in that direction, even when everything has gone pear-shaped, you do make progress. Somehow… I hit the goal of completing my classes (with As, again, no less). I hit the goal of doing the necessary things to move my family by August. I even hit the goal of writing at least a little bit of fiction this round. The exercise was spottier; I don’t do as well unless I have the excuse of my girls to get me out of the house. The major work project went off with only fixable hitches, but also general good will, so I count it as a win as well.

Mostly, I’m grateful there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. In 18 days, I’ll be back in Wisconsin, this time to box up everything and load trucks. I won’t have to tolerate weeks-long separations from my family any more for the next round. So while there will be time lost to packing, unpacking, and settling, there won’t be the perpetual cloud of absence or incipient absence. For that, I will share the silliness my hubs forwarded me earlier this week.

So I’m grateful, once again, for the ROW80 group and its encouragement with goal-setting. I’ll be back next round again. In the meantime, check out how my compatriots are doing at the tail end of this round.