Dreaming in the Pages

Books ... where dreams are better than reality

Broken Pieces

Jack Canon's American Destiny

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Orangeberry Book of the Day - For the Future Generations (For a Generation) by Anastasia Faith (Excerpt)

For the Future Generations

[Book 1 of the "For a Generation" series]
3.4.2113

Alamogordo, New Mexico

The sun set over Alamogordo, New Mexico and night fell in the desert. Thick black clouds shifted over the horizon, contrasting the orange sky above, and casting shadows on the barren landscape.

In one mound of sand and rock sat an underground house with a tan roof protruding from the top of the hill. The residents had built a door in the side of the roof. This remained locked during daylight hours. Inside this house, the Channing family had just finished their evening meal. The women in the family cleaned the last of the dishes, the father worked in his office, and a ten-year-old boy grew restless. The boy had a head of strawberry curls, a round face, and deep blue eyes.

He scampered down the hall and pounded on his father’s office chamber door. His father, Kelvin Channing, a college professor, would be grading the day’s homework or preparing assignments for the next school day.

“It’s Declan,” he called.

“Yes, Declan?” Kelvin answered through the door. “What do you want?”

“Laken, Chaslyn, and I want to go outside.” Declan said. “Is it safe?”

“It’s 8:00,” Kelvin said. “I don’t see why not. Remember to wear your coat.”

Declan glanced at the clock on his touch screen music device. He and his two sisters had to stay indoors until after dark because his sisters, being conjoined twins, were frowned upon in the eyes of the culture.

In Declan’s day, “handicapped” individuals were those who could not contribute financially. They required government assistance and were considered a burden to society. These handicaps could be something as simple as inseparable conjoined twins, or as severe as major cerebral palsy or quadriplegia. Benevolent medical professionals would simply deny them healthcare, while the majority would euthanize them, with or without a caretaker’s permission. At their doctor’s warning seven years before, Kelvin and Ayla Channing had relocated with their three-year-old triplets—Declan, Laken, and Chaslyn—from Kansas City, Missouri to a desert in New Mexico, hoping it would be safer. Several families who were close friends with the Channings had also come to ease the adjustment. They had scheduled their days so the triplets would be able to spend time with their friends at night.

Removing his coat from a hook near the front door, Declan slipped into it. His sisters came into the living room after they had finished cleaning the kitchen. They too were becoming restless, and the Alamogordo evening beckoned them.

“Did Dad give us permission?” Chaslyn asked.

Declan nodded and assisted Laken and Chaslyn into a special joining coat tailored for them, since they joined at one of their forearms. They piled into an elevator that led to the roof. The elevator opened, and Declan unlocked the door. They stepped out onto the sand and raced down the side of the hill to their “fort”, a crude structure constructed of logs stacked so they overlapped each other. As the evening progressed, the children’s friends arrived and joined in the imagination games.

Over their playing and laughter, Declan could hear a transporter door slam shut and then footsteps approaching. As they grew louder and came closer, Declan became increasingly concerned. All of their friends were with them, and others rarely visited the deserted area.

“Wait here,” he cautioned his sisters. “I’m going to see where that noise is coming from. Guys, keep your guard over them for just a minute.”

Fearing the worst, he left them in the fort and stole away to track the source of the footsteps. He scampered a few feet down the path behind their house. He saw a silhouette several feet in front of him, standing in the glow of a transporter’s headlights. As it came closer, he perceived a middle-aged man holding a flat nylon case.

“Who are you?” Declan demanded. “Don’t come any closer.”

“Declan, I can’t tell you much,” the man replied hurriedly, as if in a rush. “You need to trust me. My name is Mr. Wilcox; I’m a time traveler.”

Mr. Wilcox handed Declan the case. He unzipped it and found an electronic notepad. Opening a side compartment, he pulled out an automatically recharging payment card or ARPC for short. Declan searched his face for an explanation, both of the contents and of the fact this stranger knew his name.

“Keep this book a secret.” Wilcox instructed. “When the time comes, you’ll know who it’s for.”

“What about the ARPC?” He questioned. “Dad opened an account for my sisters and me, but only because he has a job; they’re linked to his. This card’s number isn’t the one on mine.”

“It will be in about thirteen years.” Mr. Wilcox said, “Remember, I’m a time traveler.”

Declan powered up the book so he could read the content, only to find it blank. He flipped it over in his hands and toyed with it, trying to discern why it would not grant him access. He pressed the bottom of the device. It squawked and a negating red light flashed.

“What happened?” He asked the man.

“I set the privacy so only the future recipient can open it. Underneath the electronic device is a fingerprint reader. It’s programmed for only my fingerprints and the person who will receive it.” Mr. Wilcox explained. “There’s an unlocked note at the beginning that I addressed to you.”

With these words, Mr. Wilcox vanished into the night and Declan focused his attention on the unlocked message.

“Declan Channing,” it instructed, “return to the place where you met me at 7 in the morning on May 1st, 2130, when you are twenty-seven. Bring this book with you. On June 30th of 2130, leave the ARPC I gave you—and your FBI badge—at the Indianapolis, Indiana branch of the bank where your account is.”

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Genre - Christian YA Fiction

Rating – PG

More details about the author & the book

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Orangeberry Book of the Day – Killer Abs: A Body (Pump) Horror Comedy by DR O’Brien

Twenty-something accountant Matt Warner enrols at an exclusive weight loss resort with his career on the line should he fail to shed the pounds from his paunchy frame.

Before long the accountant realises that his girth is the least of his problems as there is something deeply wrong with the Phoenix Resort where it’s no gain and all pain.

It’s a serving of full fat fear for the guests who must fight for their lives to survive the week.

Matt Warner is going to lose weight, or die trying.

Killer Abs is an 11,403 word short body (pump) horror comedy, with content for mature audiences.

Previous praise for the Author’s work:

“I think that you will enjoy the way Mr. O’Brien ties everything together and pits some of, if not the most famous characters in literature against each other. The story is fast paced with lots of action and adventure: a very enjoyable read and I wholeheartedly recommend it”
FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND

“Luckily for is it seems that D R O’Brien is tainted with just enough craziness to pull this task off. O’Brien has breathed new life into these well known and well loved characters. Thrilling, horrific, and funny at the same time which is no mean feat… O’Brien is a talented writer.”
GINGERNUTS OF HORROR BLOG

“Shakespeare’s characters duking it out with Lovecraft’s creatures? Sign us up immediately!
DREAD CENTRAL

“All very inventive, clever and ghoulishly entertaining… Bizarre, baroque and amusing…”
CONTAINS MODERATE PERIL

Buy Now @ Amazon

Genre – Horror

Rating – 18+

Connect with DR O’Brien on Facebook & Twitter

Friday, May 24, 2013

Orangeberry Book of the Day – Betty’s Child by Donald Dempsey

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“Heartrending and humorous.” Kirkus Reviews

“Highly recommended.” Dr. Alan Gettis, Ph.D., author of The Happiness Solution

“An unforgettable memoir.” San Francisco Book Review

In the tradition of Frank McCourt and Angela’s Ashes, Don Dempsey uses Betty’s Child to tell the story of life with his cruel and neglectful mother, his mother’s abusive boyfriends, and hypocritical church leaders who want to save twelve-year-old Donny’s soul but ignore threats to his physical well-being. Meanwhile, Donny’s best friend is trying to recruit Donny to do petty theft and deal drugs for a dangerous local thug.

Young Donny is a real-life cross between Huckleberry Finn and Holden Caulfield as he tells his story, with only his street smarts and sense of humor to guide him. Donny does everything he can to take care of himself and his younger brothers, but with each new development, the present becomes more fraught with peril–and the future more uncertain.

Buy Now @ Amazon

Genre – Memoir

Rating – PG13

Connect with Donald Dempsey on Facebook

Orangeberry Free Alert - Artful Dodger (Maggie Kean Mis-Adventures) by Nageeba Davis

Artful Dodger - Nageeba Davis

Amazon Kindle US

Amazon Kindle UK

Genre - Romantic Suspense

Rating - PG13

5 (4 reviews)

Free until 26 May 2013

Take one funny, wise-cracking artist, one gorgeous, sexy detective, throw in a grizzly murder, a little amateur sleuthing, and you have the makings of a wild, romantic, mis-adventure.
Art teacher and sculptor Maggie Kean thought she was having a rotten day, burning her toast, stubbing her toe, and all before eight in the morning. Things just couldn't get any worse. At least, until the dead body clogs up her toilet. To make matters worse, Maggie becomes the prime suspect. Now all she has to do is evade the police, clear her name, trap a killer...and deal with one mouth-watering, hunky detective who drives her crazy while making her hormones do the happy dance.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Orangeberry Free Alert - American Ghoul by Walt Morton

American Ghoul - Walt Morton

Amazon Kindle US

Amazon Kindle UK

Genre - Horror

Rating - PG13

5 (12 reviews)

Free until 24 May 2013

AMERICAN GHOUL tells the story of seventeen-year-old Howard Pickman, a boy with odd problems. He just got dumped into the worst high school in the state of New Jersey, but that's nothing compared to his secret family history of digging up corpses for dinner. This is a novel filled with the creepy funkiness of the 1970s, a bygone age of punk rock, bad disco and muscle cars roaring through hot summer nights. AMERICAN GHOUL explores the good times of teenage friendships and the darkness at the heart of American youth. It's a fun, scary, and zany look at a time when being a teenager was so dangerous you just might have to be a monster in order to survive.

AMERICAN GHOUL is recommended for readers from age 13+ on up. If you lived through the 1970s, a few flashbacks are guaranteed, both pleasant and shocking.

Orangeberry Book of the Day - The Hunter’s Son by BE Jewell

Chapter 2

“You know who I am and you know what he is, so you better start talking. I saw him come in here earlier.” The stocky man slams his hand down on the table. He keeps his eyes locked forward and squeezes his hand, making the veins in his forearm pop.

This elicits the desired response, and James has to fight back a smile. The owner of the grungy little shop nearly jumped out of his skin at the sound of the hand slamming on the dirty laminate counter top. It’s the typical type of place a sympathizer might own. Funneling black market goods might pay the bills, but this guy certainly isn’t getting rich off this line of work.

“Look man, I don’t know what you’re talking about. So you better buy something or…” James’s hand shoots out and grabs the shop owner’s neck. A slight squeeze cuts off his voice with a gargle.

“Don’t you lie to me. The smell in here is enough to make me puke. One warlock doesn’t smell up a joint like this,” James says through gritted teeth. “I saw him leave here earlier and have been chasing him since. I lost him when he jumped off the fifth floor of the parking garage over on Beaubien Street and took off toward the river. Tell me where he stays and maybe I’ll let you live.”

He squeezes just a bit tighter and the shop owner’s eyes bulge just slightly from his now-purple face. A noise squeaks from his collapsing throat that sounds enough like agreement to allow James to release his grip. The shop owner rubs the red area where the incredibly strong hand was affixed and clears his throat loudly.

“He’s gonna kill me. Ya know it’s true, hunter,” the shop owner says in his new, gravelly voice.

“Either him or me.” James opens his jacket and taps the gun sticking out of his waist band. Surprisingly, this doesn’t get a rise out of the man behind the counter.

“That supposed to scare me? You know what that warlock can do. He’s not normal. The things he will do to me will hurt far worse than getting shot. Maybe I should just let you shoot me and get it over with.”

James looks at the mousey man and puts his hand on the butt of his gun. The man might be afraid of the warlock but he is clearly more afraid of dying. He can barely stop the words from spewing from his mouth.

“Alright, alright. Ya better get him though, or we’ll both be dead. He hangs out in Milliken Park down on the river. It’s off Atwater Street. Not that I care if you live, but you better be careful, hunter. Like I said, this warlock is different. Got some powers I haven’t seen in a long time.”

“Oh, dontcha worry about me. Believe it or not I know what I’m doing.” James walks to the door. “And if he isn’t there, I’ll be back. No need to worry.”

The air outside the shop is cool, even for September in Michigan. James regrets not dressing warmer. His body shivers, partly from the cold but mostly from frustration. He does not usually have this much trouble and rarely has to run like he has today. The air burns his lungs like he is breathing boiling coffee. The money he was paid isn’t worth all the trouble this warlock has given him and the thing doesn’t look much older than JC. Should have asked for hazard pay, he thinks to himself.

James heads down the street toward the area he believes is the park. His mind is preoccupied with thoughts of JC and his first day at yet another high school. He bumps into an older couple walking with bags of groceries. Cans and boxes scatter all over the sidewalk. He scrambles to help the folks clean up their food and moves on quickly. He can’t let anyone get a good look at him. If things get ugly with the warlock, he can’t have the local news putting his description on TV.

He generally prides himself on staying anonymous. No one will mistake him for a body builder, but James is sure that most people would not want to run into him hiding in an alley unless they have some sort of power. Despite his stocky frame, there is nothing particularly striking about James. Most would say he looks fairly ordinary. Not strikingly handsome but not ugly either. He could be an accountant when he isn’t wearing army cargos and a black hooded sweatshirt. Hopefully the old couple was so startled they forget everything about him.

It’s nearly dark when James reaches the park. The acidic stench of the warlock hangs on the air and almost ruins the beautiful park set inside the city. The park is completely out of place. Trails lead in every direction and trees line numerous lush green clearings. It would be easy to forget about being in the city altogether.

James heads toward a raised walkway at the edge of the river, letting his nose show him the way. This would be the perfect place for a warlock to hide out. Plenty of space to watch potential victims. It would be easy to snatch someone, drag them into the woods and perform a spell without anyone seeing. Wouldn’t matter how elaborate the ritual, the trees would provide ample cover. One day having a nice picnic in the park, the next kidnapped and waking up to a nightmare–a warlock having stolen their identity or, worse, having made them do terrible things all while they were completely unaware.

This sentiment makes James shudder. He shakes his head and moves further up the river walk. The cold has driven most people out of the park. Only a few people stroll down the walkway, fighting the strengthening breeze. About fifty yards ahead, James sees someone that sparks his interest.

Sitting alone on a bench is a young-looking man wearing an oversized coat. James stops and breathes deeply, but the wind at his back makes it hard to tell if the warlock is close. He takes a step forward and the man bolts off the bench. James rips the gun from his waist and levels it at the young man.

He begins to squeeze the trigger but feels a rumble under his feet. Before he knows it, his shoes are no longer touching the ground. The river walk crumbles into the water below. He hits the water with arms and legs still trying to find steady ground. He surfaces as quickly as possible, gasping for air.

Thankfully, the water is still warm from the summer. James looks up and sees a huge hole in the walkway twenty feet above him. He looks around, sees a ladder 100 yards down the river and lets the slight current drag him toward it.

The wind bites at him as he reaches the top rung and pulls himself onto the walkway. He strips off his soaked hooded sweatshirt and scans the area. He sees movement in the distance between some trees and reaches instinctually toward his waist for his gun but comes up empty. He stares into the river knowing his favorite piece is long gone.

He turns and walks away from the tree line, back toward the city. He doesn’t know what to do without his gun. Hunting has evolved in the last 200 years or so to the point that he has become reliant on shooting as an answer to his problems. It’s no longer necessary to burn a witch, and using a pail of water always had its problems, anyway. Fire does a fine job just like it would with any animal, but a bullet does the trick a lot easier. It takes a hunter a long time to realize they do not need to stock up on garlic and wolfsbane to ward off evil spirits. Silver bullets do work a bit better than the junk from the sporting goods store and nothing beats a wooden stake up close, but who really wants to get that close? Plus, there isn’t always time to drive a stake in the ground or spread a salt ring to protect yourself.

The problem is everyone thinks witches and warlocks are busy running around a castle in England fighting bad wizards with wands, but that just isn’t true. If people knew how heartless these creatures are, they wouldn’t let their kids dress up like them on Halloween or stand in line to see movies glorifying them.

James moves quickly away from the park, putting as much distance between himself and the warlock as possible. After ten blocks, he sees an alley and ducks in to rest and get his bearings. This wasn’t supposed to be so difficult. It’s just a young warlock, he thinks to himself as he crouches next to a dumpster.

A few smaller trashcans help hide his position but are too small to hide his broad shoulders. He sits down on the dirty ground and takes in his surroundings. He could not have picked a worse place. This is the kind of alley even a bum wouldn’t sleep in. Whoever is dumping trash here doesn’t care if it ends up in a dumpster or not. At least the smell of rotten fish is a welcome change from the warlock.

Something crashes off to his left and James shakes his head to clear the cobwebs. He glances down the alley but nothing appears out of the ordinary. Just a bunch of kids horsing around out on the street. A boy picks his grimy body up off the ground and starts after his friend. James’s heart beats way too fast and he takes a deep breath. It rolls out of his mouth like smoke and he pats the area where his gun should be again.

“Getting way too old for this. I guess this will have to do,” he whispers as he slowly pulls the six inch blade from his boot.

Suddenly, his nostrils fill with a depressingly familiar smell. Even the rotting fish in the dumpster can’t cover it up. He looks around but sees no one in the alley. His body tenses at the eerie lack of movement out on the street. People should be moving about at this time night, especially in a busy town like this. Maybe they are all down the street a bit. Daylight is gone now and he cannot see much beyond the edge of the buildings. That smell is strong. It seems to come from all around him. He inches slowly around the trashcan and into the alley. He turns toward the main street at the end of the buildings and takes one step forward, quickly glancing over his shoulder.

A blinding pain shoots through James’s throat as a thin, but incredibly strong, forearm slides around it. He lets out a terrified yelp for the first time in years as he loses the grip on his knife. It clanks on the concrete like a church bell ringing. James struggles to get out of the warlock’s grasp. He can feel its hot breath on the back of his head and the smell begins to burn his nostrils. If he could breathe, he would puke. James’s head whips back and he can see an old, broken fire escape above him. He did not notice it before. Such an obvious hiding spot, he can’t help but think.

“What do you want with me, hunter?” The warlock hisses in his ear.

Rancid breath fills his nose, and he can feel heat radiating off of the warlock’s body. He does not understand why the warlock would have a conversation at this point. He has been shooting at it all day. He did not hesitate to try to kill, why would this creature give him this type of courtesy? If he could get to his knife he would stab straight through the thing’s heart. Instead of killing him, the warlock is more concerned with James’s job description. Compassion is not their strong suit. No negotiating with a hunter or with a monster. The rules of war are being broken. The forearm begins to release a little pressure in anticipation of his answer and he gasps for air. His lungs are really on fire now.

“It’s nothing personal. Just a job,” he chokes before the blinding pressure returns to his throat.

James sees the witch’s mark on the creature’s forearm move as the muscles strain to block air from his lungs. Curious things, those marks. Often they look like any ordinary tattoo, with criss-crossing in varying patterns depending on the clan. This particular one is in the shape of the letter “Y” with two lines running through the curved stem. It is the only way to be certain that you have a witch or warlock on your hands and not just an extraordinarily smelly person. Every one of these creatures is born with the little symbol. It really would be fitting if this mark is the last thing he ever sees.

“JUST A JOB,” the warlock snarls. “IT’S NOT A JOB, THIS IS MY LIFE! You hunters seem to think you are the only things on the planet with a life. I did nothing to no one. Understand that? You need to learn that things bigger than you are going on all the time. Maybe in the future you won’t be so quick to shoot at someone who isn’t bothering you or your family. Next time the consequences might be far worse than today. Next time I will rip your heart from your chest. Believe me, I better not see you ever again.”

Everything goes black as something thuds against James’s head.

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Genre – YA Supernatural Thriller

Rating – PG13

More details about the author & the book

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Website http://www.jewellbe.com/

Blog http://jewellbe.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Orangeberry Blast Off – Silver-White (The Great North Woods Pack #1) by Shawn Underhill

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“The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep.”
~ Robert Frost

*Evie’s family has been holding out on her … Big time.

On an unexpected visit to her grandparents’ house in New Hampshire’s secluded North Woods, the sixteen-year-old literally runs into the truth of the long-hidden family secrets, and finds herself thrust without warning into the clandestine world of the Great North Pack—a wild and exhilarating world of rugged beauty, heart-pounding adventures, and long nights running under a sea of stars … but as she’s set to discover, a world also fraught with potential dangers lurking in the shadows.

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Genre - YA / Fantasy / Paranormal

Rating – PG to PG13

More details about the author

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Orangeberry Free Alert - Unintended Consequences by Marti Green

Unintended Consequences by Marti Green

Amazon Kindle US

Amazon Kindle UK

Genre - Legal Thriller

Rating - PG

4.4 (180 reviews)

Free until 23 May 2013

How much would a father sacrifice for his child?
Nineteen years ago, Indiana police found the body of a young girl, burned beyond recognition and buried in the woods. They arrested George Calhoun for murdering his daughter, and his wife testified against him at the trial. The jury convicted him. Now his appeals have been exhausted, and his execution is just a few weeks away.
George said he didn’t do it. That the body isn’t his little Angelina. But that’s all he’s ever said – no other defense, no other explanation.
Dani Trumball, an attorney for the Help Innocent Prisoners Project, wants to believe him. After all, there was no forensic evidence that the body in the woods was George’s daughter. But if the girl isn’t Angelina, then who is it? And what happened to the Calhouns’ missing daughter?
For nineteen years, George Calhoun has stayed silent. But that’s about to change, and the story he tells Dani—if it’s true—changes everything.

Orangeberry Free Alert - S'wanee: A Paranoid Thriller - Don Winston

S'wanee: A Paranoid Thriller - Don Winston

Amazon Kindle US

Amazon Kindle UK

Genre - Suspense, Thriller

Rating - PG13

4.4 (37 reviews)

Free until 23 May 2013

A spellbinding campus. A new family of friends. A semester of death.

High school senior Cody's prayers are answered when he's recruited on scholarship to the college of his dreams: a stunning and prestigious school tucked high in the Tennessee hills.

But the dream turns living nightmare when his classmates start to die off mysteriously. Is it Cody's imagination, or are his friends' tragic deaths a sinister legacy handed down through the generations? And is he next on the roll call?

A coming-of-age, paranoid thriller in the vein of Ira Levin, "S'wanee" weaves psychological suspense with dark humor in its brutal descent to a shocking climax.

Keira Michelle Telford – Inside My Cluttered Head

Inside My Cluttered Head

by Keira Michelle Telford

My head is filled with voices, all clamoring for attention. When one (or more) really take hold, that’s when a book starts to develop. For me, it doesn’t begin with an idea, or a plot, or a setting – it begins with a character.

Some characters are fleeting. I get a brief impression of some thoughts and feelings and that’s all, then they fade away. Others, like Ella ‘Silver’ Cross, show up one day and get stronger every time I think about them. The same way that Freddy Krueger feeds on fear, and gets more powerful the more you fear him, my characters gain strength every time they cross my mind.

Occasionally, a character becomes so real to me that I develop genuine affection for them. Most recently, I fell in love with a whore. (Actually, technically, she’s not a whore – she’s the madam of a whorehouse). See, the inside of my head is chock full of people. Some have already been brought to life on paper and just won’t leave me alone (they’re very boisterous), while others are standing in line, waiting for their turn. If I was born in a different age, I’d probably have been institutionalized. (Or medicated … or both).

Everything stems from the characters. Through their conversations with each other, I learn more and more about the worlds they inhabit, until a book finally starts to take shape around them. I don’t pick a setting deliberately – the characters tell me where they belong – and I tend not to plot anything out. The process of writing feels very organic to me, and I think it helps if you can just go with the flow and be flexible.

If you begin a book with very rigid ideas of how you want the plot to develop, you might end up with something that feels forced and unnatural. In my experience, the characters will always steer you in the right direction, which is why it’s important to get to know them inside and out before you start writing. After all, the more you know about your characters, the easier it is to spot moments in your writing where motivation, dialogue, or plot have gone askew.

Try writing biographies for your main characters – that can be a good way to get to know them better, as it forces you to answer questions about details of their lives you might not have thought about before. Where were they born? What’s their favorite food? Favorite color? Song? The more you ask, the more you’ll learn.

Ultimately, I probably know Silver better than I know myself at this point. I know everything about her life, from the day she was born, till the present – and that’s exactly as it should be. She’s become so close to my heart, sometimes I’m not even sure if it’s me who breathes life into her, or the other way around.

 

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Genre – Science Fiction

Rating – 18A

More details about the book

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Orangeberry Book of the Day - Diary of a Beverly Hills Matchmaker by Marla Martenson (Excerpt 1)

Matchmaker, Matchmaker!
Make Me a Match

Achichi decorator came up with the color of one of the walls in my Beverly Hills office by matching paint swatches to the silky dark chocolate Godiva heart-shaped ganaches that sit in a crystal dish alongside Teuscher Irish Cream truffles, and chocolate cordials of cherries soaked in black port and wrapped in gold foil. We do pamper our clients. I mention this so you’ll know that there are many aspects of my job that I absolutely adore. Such niceties distract me from fantasies of . . . dismemberment.

Hi Marla, Scott, here. I’m so glad I joined your dating agency; I can see this is going to be verrrrry interesting. . . . Hey, the gal you lined me up with last evening was gorgeous, but I would really like my matches to be a 10 or, ideally, a 10+. And the gal needs to back up her beauty with an income of her own and her own living quarters. No roommate situations. I don’t waste my time with someone who doesn’t live up to my expectations—you know, long legs, firm small butt, double-D’s, thin arms, blonde hair.

SCL

Ahem.

Dear Scott,

To paraphrase the deathless sentiments of Roseanne Barr, I’ll get my wand. Oh, wait, it’s in the repair shop, utterly depleted. I’m having to make do with our back-up magic lamp, but the genie keeps laughing and muttering about peace in the Middle East being an easier request as he disappears in a puff of smoke. He’s such a joker. But since you have so much to offer, it shouldn’t be too difficult to find the woman of your fantasies since all the 10+s in our database say that a man willing to plough up his bald scalp with those cute little tufts of implanted hair is a real turn-on. And most “gals” don’t mind giving up their stilettos to avoid towering over a man of your stature.

Of course, I don’t write this. This is my first email of the day at Double D Dating Service here in Beverly Hills where I’m the head matchmaker. Double D is not the company’s real name, as you may have guessed, just my own special pet name for it. I dash off a breezy professional response to Scott as if diplomacy were my mother tongue.

Dear Scott,

I’m so glad you enjoyed your evening with a gorgeous woman. A new and interesting experience, huh? Well, we do have an ever-growing list of many stunning women, eager to meet you. I’ll get back to you later in the day with another name.

Marla

Something is nagging at me. Oh, my conscience. It’s not bothering me at all about the direct lie: eager to meet you. I’ve left in a little dig. I change that one snarky line about dating gorgeous women being a new experience to simply “An interesting experience indeed,” and hit send. Next email.

Dear Marla,

I really found Sandy to be attractive, fun, intelligent, and cultured. We had a great time. The only thing is, I am wondering if she has a big butt. She was wearing one of those puffy dresses. She says that she does all kinds of activities like dance classes, working out at the gym, and hiking, but I just can’t be sure how big her butt is. Is there any way you can let me know if it’s big or if the dress she was wearing just gave that illusion?

Joseph

Joe, don’t you know that when we bring a woman into our service, it means that we have carefully inspected her butt from every angle and therefore certify it is also a 10 along with the rest of her? I’m so glad you asked though, because you must never ever consider dating a woman with flesh on her butt. Oversized curves belong above the waist only. Makes perfect sense. How could nature have created such a serious design flaw?

Sigh. I find it so comforting to type out what I truly want to say to some of these clods before writing the response I must write. God forbid Gary should ever see this stuff. I am, after all, good at what I do. Pictures of my successes hang on the chocolate-colored wall above fresh pale pink hydrangeas: two of happy couples at their respective posh wedding receptions and several more couples on honeymoons at places like Bellagio on Lake Como in Italy, or snorkeling with humpback whales off Vava’u, Tonga, in the South Pacific, or skiing in Aspen. I do still believe in love—the soul-mate kind of love. I think deep down, the Scotts and Josephs do too. They just rarely know it.

Dear Joseph,

Sandy’s dress probably created the wrong illusion. Call her for another date; I think you will be pleased to find that in addition to being beautiful, intelligent, and a most remarkable woman, she’s also fit and trim.

Marla

I polish off my vanilla soy latte, ready for the next email, when I hear Gary, my boss, barking at Charlotte, the other matchmaker in the office. She hangs her head as she follows him into his office. He doesn’t usually come in on Thursdays, so this isn’t looking good for Charlotte.

I step outside the artistically etched glass double doors of my office to check with Alana at the front desk. “What’s going on?” I ask in a stage whisper.

Alana, a petite blonde in her twenties with big brown eyes and a gorgeous smile, is just about to say something when Gary strides over. “Back to work!” he tells me. Then to Alana he says, “Find the Harrison file. . . . And never wear those shoes here again. If you want to look like Peter Pan, work somewhere else.”

I can’t help but turn to check out Alana’s shoes. Ohh, they’re darling: green flats with little cut-outs of stars.

“Marla, I hope you have some makeup in your bag,” Gary says. “You’re looking washed out again. Do you go to the gym before work or something? Don’t you two get it that we’re all about glamour and sex appeal here? Our clients don’t want Peter Pan and Miss Grundy lining up their matches.”

“Right,” I say, feeling my face redden to the roots of my already red hair. “I’ll touch up.” Gary can be a nice guy, but he does go on rampages.

Back in my office, I pile all my black matchmaking catalogues on my desk to hide from Gary’s view. I eat a chocolate. Then another. One more. Call it an early lunch. Mmmmm. Better. Deep breaths, a few affirmations. I am young and hot-looking. I am a terrific matchmaker. I am lucky to have this job.

Back to work. Next email.

Dear Marla,

Denise looks like she’s pushing forty. Not to say there’s anything wrong with that. I live in Newport, so I can’t help but date forty-year-olds occasionally, but when it comes to being set up with someone through an exclusive agency such as yours, I don’t want to waste “matches.” And we need to talk about Natasha, the last gal you lined me up with—a bit low-brow, don’t you think? I will send you a few photos of females that I find attractive so hopefully that will help you see the caliber of beauty I’m seeking. I want to date ONLY beautiful women, and I just won’t settle for anything less.

Let me know if anyone in your stable meets my criteria.

Thanks, Dave.

I had matched him with Natasha because of the astonishing bounty of her bosom. But as to Denise—she’s nowhere near the accursed four-oh. But if she were, how could any man in his fifties possibly be expected to tolerate a crone of such advanced years?

His comment reminds me that I haven’t “touched up” yet. I pull out my compact and scrutinize time’s deepening etch in the tiny lines around my eyes. I pat them over with mineral powder, add a dusting of blush to my cheeks, a brighter lipstick, and heavy gloss.

I sit back and ponder the photo of Denise, a gorgeous twenty-eight-year-old woman, and all I can do is shake my head. This beautiful young woman is Dave’s fourth reject. Before I worked in the matchmaking field, I honestly had no idea how shallow, picky, selfish, and entitled some clients could be. After six years of feedback, demands, and expectations, I’m still thrown for a loop now and then. I don’t want to pass judgment on people; I want to keep an open heart, but geez.

It’s times like this when I need an anchor, a sane voice, someone who lives far away from the zany nuttiness of Beverly Hills. I call my friend Shelly in Federal Way, Washington, where we both grew up—it’s a little suburb of Seattle, a land far away from this town’s obsession with age, looks, and perfection.

“Listen to this,” I tell her and then read her Dave’s email— anonymously, of course.

I hear a gasp on the other end of the line.

“My reaction exactly,” I tell her.

“What is he? Some rich stud?”

“Well, rich anyway. I’m supposed to find matches for these guys. They all want perfect 10s—even if they’re dweebs who’d be lucky to rate a 5!”

“What about the women?”

“Yeah, some days the gold-diggers and airheads get to me too.”

“Guess I don’t have to envy you anymore, thinking that you have the perfect life in Los Angeles,” Shelly teases. “At least you’re not still a waitress in Chicago.”

Shelly is referring to my life seven years ago. Memories of my fourteen years spent waiting on tables jolt my sense of perspective, spurring me to work ever harder and continue with the exasperating emails,.

I see Charlotte walk past my door, head held high, but I can tell she’s gotten the ax. She starts cleaning out her office. We weren’t close, so I won’t be going over and chatting. I’ll get the scoop later from Alana. After Charlotte leaves, Gary sticks his nose in my door.

“You look better,” he says. “You’ll have to meet Charlotte’s noon appointment. I’m not replacing her, so you’ll be taking her people.” He closes the door and leaves before I can say anything.

In other words, double the work, same pay. Oh boy!

Dutifully, I meet Andy and take him into the “selling office” with its stunning wall fountain sheeting water over pink-veined slabs of granite and pooling in a pink copper basin beneath two spotlights angled to form a soft heart-shape. The arty painting on the opposite wall captures dancers, hungry with passion, a slash of pink light falling on the woman’s tan face and cleavage. Its subtle eroticism is designed to inspire rich guys to pay top dollar for what they imagine will be the world’s classiest women. I offer the new client something to drink, and we settle in to chat about what he is looking for in a lady and what his lifestyle is like.

Andy has just flown in for the day to buy a sex life, I mean meet someone, and then he’ll jet back to Dallas. He has the most charming Southern accent.

He’s forty-six years old with three kids: aged eight, ten, and twelve. He explains that he would like to meet women under thirty because he’d like the option of having another child.

Uh-huh. Right. He’s eager to go through diapers and babysitters and soccer games for the fourth time. I’ve found that men usually claim to want one more kid as an excuse to date younger women.

I learn that Andy likes riding horses, racing cars, playing golf, working out at the gym, and traveling. He says that although he isn’t a redneck, he’s a redneck at heart—whatever that means. “Do you prefer a fresh-faced girl-next-door look, or more of a Pamela Anderson type of look?” I ask him.

He mentions blonde hair and nice legs, then pulls on his goatee and says, “Well, now I’ll tell you, my ex-wife wears a C-cup, but she has nice nipples.”

I stop taking notes. And so . . . ?

Then I get it. This guy expects me to know what a woman’s nipples are like! I focus on my clipboard and remind myself that he will be paying $40,000 to find the right woman. Maybe more. I manage not to hiss at him.

After the meeting, I walk Andy down to the taxi stand. He turns to me and says, “I want you to be honest. Do you think that I have a chance to meet the right girl? Am I going to be too difficult to match up?”

“Not at all, Andy! You’re a great catch with a wonderful lifestyle.” Lots of gorgeous L.A. women are closet rednecks. “I’ll start looking for matches for you this week. Have a safe trip.” I want to add: and I’ll be investigating nipple potential for you, sir!

I’m also remembering a recent client who broke up with a thirty-two-year-old woman he really liked because he said that she had big areolas. Yes, big areolas! She was perfect in every way: sweet, charming, financially secure, intelligent, cute as a posy with a rockin’ body, but he said that he dreaded when she took off her blouse. After dating him, she felt so insecure that she called a plastic surgeon to see if he’d take a look at her areolas. Yikes!

I guess I should change our questionnaire to include nipple preferences. I could put in something subtle like, “How do you feel about headlights on a Duesenberg?” I’ve seen older guys fall over themselves laughing at this line. I had to look it up. Fabulously snazzy old car with, you know, big headlights, wink, wink.

Something has gone too far though.

I don’t mind telling you that when I first took this job, I considered myself young and hot-looking, but after working with some of these guys and hearing their smug criticism over every aspect of a woman’s body, I’m a bit crestfallen. Getting bombarded with male mating preferences is very disconcerting. Now that I’m fortyish, I look in the mirror, and I see someone who looks pretty darn good looking back at me. So why are so many men obsessing over the extra ounce of flesh, the telltale frown line, and nipple perfection? Gimme a flippin’ break!

I push past the clueless effrontery of these men every day, but once in a while, I catch myself judging my most intimate anatomy by their standards. I get so many of these emails every week, they slither around in my head nagging at me about how I’m officially “undesirable”—according to what most of my male clients think they want and must have. How could these idiots close themselves off to the wonders of love for something so damn insignificant?

I take a deep breath or two. I’m already a little wired with caffeine, but I cannot get through the rest of this day without another soy latte. ’Bucks is just down the street, and I still have a few minutes left of my lunch break.

I need this job, I remind myself while in line for my midday fix. And, I mean, who doesn’t want an ideal mate? A dream lover is the stuff of fantasies. Yet, who among us is ideal? The pain of being dumped or disappointed is what keeps people going to shrinks, buying self-help books, bravely enduring elective surgery—and hiring us.

Bolstered by another caffeine infusion, I slog through the rest of the day, interviewing men who are willing to spend up to $100,000 to get the woman of their fantasies. (The women do not pay. This figures: If you’re a gorgeous woman, it is unlikely you are going to need to pay anyone to find you a date.) I keep current on the feedback. Both the man and woman are to report on how they found their date: strong mate potential? Problems? Did everyone “behave” themselves? I think you know what I mean.

Gary has left for the day, and Alana comes into my office with the scoop. “Charlotte was fired because two clients complained she didn’t pay attention to what they were looking for. You know what that means!”

“Yeah. They’ll now be my problem,” I say.

At six o’clock, I still have an hour to go before quitting time. I grab my cell phone and call my friend Bobbie in Del Mar. I’m not going to whine, I just want to hear her upbeat stuff. Her life is exciting. She usually picks up on the first call. I love that. Hate phone tag.

“Hi, it’s Marla.”

We chat a bit and Bobbie invites me to an upcoming social event—something to do with farm animals?

I’m so tired, I just say, “Sounds wonderful.”

“Are you at home yet?” she asks.

“No. Everyone else in our building gets off at five, but I still have another hour of work.”

“You work till seven? Marla, honestly, you deserve combat pay! Especially with the bizarro demands from some of your clients! Do something fun tonight!”

“I should finish chapter 4 of my new book, but I just don’t have the juice. Maybe I’ll do some window-shopping down on Rodeo. That’s always good for a lift.”

“Is Adolfo working?”

“Of course. My nights are pathetic, I know.”

“Marla, you should just open your own matchmaking service. You’d be fabulous and then you could make your own hours!”

“Thanks. People have suggested I do that, but honestly, I like being able to hand over the big problems to Gary.”

There is a pause. “Sweetie, something’s wrong. I can tell. I’m a little worried about you,” Bobbie says. “I mean, excuse me, your soul is limping.”

I chuckle. She’s doing a little riff off the title of my first book, Excuse Me, Your Soul Mate Is Waiting.

The office line is ringing, and Alana is long gone.

“I gotta go,” I say. “I love you. Talk to you soon.”

I pick up the office phone, schedule an appointment, and get back to the emails, back to the guys who are looking for gorgeous, starving waifs with double D cups—“tits on a stick,” as Bobbie calls them.

Affirmations

I am a terrific Beverly Hills matchmaker happily playing Cupid all day long.

I have many wonderful friends like Shelly and Bobbie whose friendship keeps me from screaming at highly inappropriate times.

Heaven has blessed me with perfectly lovely areolas, thank you very much!

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Genre – Memoir

Rating – PG13

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Website http://marlamartenson.com/

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Orangeberry Free Alert - Flying Soup by Bobby Adair

Flying Soup - Bobby Adair

Amazon Kindle US

Amazon Kindle UK

Genre - Satire, Political

Rating - R

4.9 (37 reviews)

Free until 23 May 2013

Flying Soup is the whacked-out story of how a simple video recording turned into an accidental empire, all courtesy of a flying can of tomato soup. When bicyclist and computer nerd Christian Trist and his fellow techno-geek roomies decide they've had enough of the rudeness that cyclists and others encounter on the road, Christian’s near-miss with a can of soup flung from a car window starts the colorful and creative trio of friends off on a mission of revenge – and profit. As their dot.com venture, Flying Soup, takes off to record popularity, they find themselves embattled by religious zealots, extremist politicians, gun-toting good 'ole boys and more, with surprising and often hilarious results.

Orangeberry Free Alert - Cold Open by Greg Clarkin

Cold Open - Greg Clarkin

Amazon Kindle US

Amazon Kindle UK

Genre - Mystery

Rating - PG13

4.0 (92 reviews)

Free until 22 May 2013

When the nation’s number one cable news anchor, turns up floating in the East River, the cops label it a suicide. But his gorgeous widow is convinced he was killed and carries a secret that proves it.
Now she has Sam North believing it. The story-hungry TV reporter starts nosing around and discovers what Jack Steele found out the hard way...asking questions can get you disturbing answers, maybe even killed.

Orangeberry Book of the Day - Violent Season by Maj. Ray Gleason Ph.D.

Chapter One: “The Bay, Part 1”

The boy sat on a sandy bluff overlooking a broad bay on the Hudson River. To his right, greenish-brown translucent waves broke on a rocky breakwater below the open, stark plain where the New York Central railroad yards hissed and steamed. Across the bay to the north, buildings poked out of rocky, wooded headlands like broken teeth marking the village of Groton-on-Hudson. Over his left shoulder, the north side of a wooded peninsula reached out into the river like an embracing arm curving back into the bay which it created. To the west, the blue-grey hills of the river’s western shore shimmered as the cool river currents mingled with the sweltering airs of a New York August.

The boy sat well back, out of sight, in the shade of one of the many red maples that grew along the bluffs looking down on the river. He nestled on top of a carpet of the dead, brown leaves, remnants of departed summers. The shrill tones of summer cicadas were almost deafening as he inhaled the fragrances of decaying leaves, damp earth and moss. Behind him, a patch of dense forest separated the river from a collection of bungalows on a hill known as Groton Point Park, where the boy spent his summers with his grandmother.

The woods were a place of magic. When the boy entered them, he was transported back to the forests of the Northern Adirondacks in the lands of the mighty Iroquois confederation. His T-shirt became a buckskin blouse, his dungarees fringed leather trousers, his Hi-Top sneakers moccasins. A long stick became a rifled musket, short sticks, a hunting knife and a tomahawk. Chingachgook, the boy’s Mohegan brother, had shown him all the secret paths of the forest, paths invisible to the eyes of white men, in order to reach unseen the “place of watching” overlooking Lake Champlain near the English fort at Crown Point, where the he now rested.

The boy had left the settlement along a well-traveled path through the forest from the bungalows to the village meeting house where the settlers had their Saturday night parties and showed movies every Tuesday. But, instead of continuing along this path, he turned had off it as it dipped into a valley onto an invisible deer path that followed the valley floor to the west. This was the most dangerous part of the journey, Chingachgook had warned him, because the boy’s movements could be seen from the meeting-house path. There were some in the settlement who would reveal these secret paths to the French for gold or furs. Or worse, the Iroquois, who only pretended to be friendly to the settlers, would discover his movements and ambush him in the lower valley.

After a quarter mile, the valley turned to the north and the boy was deep among the trees safe from detection. From there, the valley descended toward the lake. Here, the walls of the valley pressed closely around the path and the trees blocked the sun. At the bottom of the valley, where the path brushed along the edge of the foul-smelling swamp of oil from the railroad yards, it branched in three directions.

Straight ahead, the path led to a sandy beach along the lake. There, a mad, white-bearded hermit lived in a wooden shack. Chingachgook had told the boy to avoid this man. The Manitou spoke to him. This was dangerous. But, should the French and their Algonquin allies come down the lake to attack the settlement, this is the path they would use. The thick trees and the steep hills surrounding the path would give the boy and Chingachgook a place to hold off the French until the women and children of the settlement could reach the stockade and the militia could be mustered to counter attack and push the French back into the lake.

Another path led east into a hidden, wooded valley. Chingachgook had told the boy that this valley was sacred to the Iroquois and he should avoid it. Here the Iroquois took their captives and offered their blood to their savage gods. Once he and Chingachgook had to raid the valley to rescue Alice and Cora, the daughters of the English Colonel at the fort. While they were in the secret valley, Chingachgook had shown the him the flat stone where the Iroquois beheaded their captives. The stone was stained black and brown with the blood of hundreds of unfortunate victims. After a desperate fight, they were able to bring the girls out before the Iroquois could sacrifice them.

To the west, a path climbed up and over a sandy, wooded bluff to the place of watching, where the boy now sat, his musket across his legs, peering intently across the waters to the north for any sign of war canoes. If the French appeared, the boy would have time to reach the place of ambush where he would rendezvous with his Mohegan brother, Chingachgook. There they would wait, concealed in the forest, until the French moved up the path from the beach into their trap.

As the boy sat under the maples, he remembered that it was Friday, the day his uncle and aunt came up from the city. He looked forward to this day all week. Without thinking, he checked the cuffs of his dungarees for sand. His aunt was a bit fussy at times. She worried too much about dirt in ears, dirt under fingernails, washed hands and face. But, to the boy, she was a glamorous presence—tall, red haired, stylish and smart. She only drank cocktails and smoked only while seated like the pictures of stylish, society ladies in Life magazine. She was Claudette Colbert to his uncle’s Clark Gable, Nora to his Nick. If she were to fall into the hands of the Iroquois (red-haired women were powerful magic) he would gladly risk the hidden valley single-handed to bring her out.

But that would never happen. Even the savage Iroquois feared his uncle. He was a New York City plain-clothes policemen, a detective who hunted the most clever criminals in the city’s most dangerous areas. Even arch-criminals like Flat Top and the Joker feared the boy’s uncle. He was as tall and square-jawed as Dick Tracy, with piercing blue eyes that saw through every trick a criminal could think of. Most of the time, he wore a dark overcoat and a snap-brimmed fedora on the job. But, sometimes he wore his police uniform, a navy blue overcoat with two rows of bright gold buttons, a shiny, square, silver badge, highly-polished black shoes with rubber soles and his night-stick and service revolver strapped to his hip. To the boy, his uncle had the class of Nick Charles, was as relentless as Phillip Marlowe, and was as clever as Boston Blackie. When he walked a beat in the city, the good people welcomed him and the criminals fled.

The boy especially looked forward to those Saturday mornings when his uncle drove him into the village the settlers called Harlin for his haircut. He got to sit in the front seat of his uncle’s big, green DeSoto. His uncle called his car the “Green Hornet.” It had a police radio in the dashboard and a big searchlight next to the driver’s window, which the boy knew his uncle used to search out evil throughout the night on the tough city streets.

They would drive together across the rickety, black trestle over the New York Central yards connecting the settlement to the village. His uncle drove with the windows down, his pipe in his mouth, singing “Red Sails in the Sunset,” stopping only to point out the tower where the railroad stored its coal for the steam engines that ran upstate, and the roundhouse where the steam engines were repaired. Sometimes, a steam engine passed under the trestle as they drove, engulfing the Green Hornet in smoke and noise. That used to frighten the boy, but Chingachgook, his Mohegan brother, had told him never to show fear in front of another warrior. And, he knew that he could show no fear in front of his uncle so he would be thought worthy of joining him some day on the police force to fight evil in the city.

The boy knew he had to be careful around his uncle. Last summer, before he had proven his courage fighting the French and the Iroquois with Chingachgook, he had gone to the Tuesday night movies at the meeting house in the settlement. That night they showed a monster movie about a reptile-man with big claws, who lived in the murk of a swampy lake, and crept out at night to kill people who strayed too close to his lair.

One day, the monster kidnapped the movie’s beautiful heroine. The boy wasn’t sure why, but he had seen enough monster movies to understand that this was what evil monsters sometimes did. Of course, the hero had to rescue her. He had a terrible fight with the monster under water and finally killed him with a spear gun. The heroine, who had spent most of her captivity fainting and screaming, seemed strangely sad when the monster died. The boy didn’t understand this, but he knew that this was the way heroines in monster movies sometimes behaved.

That night, after the movie, he had to walk through the dark woods to his Grandmother’s bungalow. Although he saw the monster get killed in the movie, he wasn’t sure that was the end of it. And, with the woods, the river and the swamps all around, the settlement was the perfect place for a swamp monster to hide. Didn’t his grandmother always warn him and his older cousin, Janey, not to go out at night because, when criminals escaped from the prison down in Ossining, they would hide in these woods?

When he managed to get home without running into any monsters, he quickly assessed the weaknesses of his grandmother’s bungalow against swamp monsters. The boy decided that a swamp monster wouldn’t just try to walk through the door. They were much too cunning for that. He’d somehow get into the house with the water. He examined the kitchen and decided the monster couldn’t get in through there. The faucets and drains were much too narrow. Then the boy remembered the shower that his uncle and father had installed in the bathroom. It drained directly under the house! Worse yet, in order to pee, the boy had to turn his back to the shower whose insides were hidden by a vinyl curtain. So, all the swamp monster had to do was, wait until dark, creep into the house through the shower drain, and wait for the boy. He’d be a sitting duck!

So, he developed a plan to foil the swamp monster. At night, when he had to use the bathroom, he’d first turn on the porch light, then he’d inspect the bathroom from a safe distance. If it seemed clear, he’d approach. But, before entering, he’d snake his hand in through the door and flip on the bathroom light. He’d then check to make sure there were no monsters visible in the bathroom. Only then would he go in. Then, very carefully, he’d pull back the shower curtain a bit to make sure the shower stall contained no lurking monsters. Only then would he turn his back to the shower stall, march up to the toilet and pee.

This ritual served the him well for most of the summer, until one night his uncle, who had been watching this little routine for a couple of weeks, said to him, “So, I guess you’re not going to be a cop when you grow up?”

“Whatta you mean, Unc,” the boy responded, “I still want to be a cop!”

“Well,” his uncle replied, “You can’t be a cop if you’re scared of the dark. Cops have to search dark buildings for dangerous criminals with nothing more than a flashlight and a nightstick. But, you can’t get to the bathroom without turning on every light in the house. Then, you won’t even go in until you’ve checked in the shower. What’re you afraid of in the shower? A monster? Can’t be a cop if you’re afraid of the dark or monsters.”

Now the boy knew his uncle was watching him when he went to the bathroom, watching and testing his courage to be a New York City cop. So now he had to march boldly across the porch in the dark. He had to enter the bathroom before he turned on the light. And, he must never be caught checking out the shower before he went about his business. Which, worked out well for a couple of days until his uncle hid in the shower and, as soon as the boy turned his back, flung open the curtain and snarled exactly like a hungry swamp monster.

Even his aunt would have thought it funny, had the boy not peed all over the bathroom.

But now the boy was a warrior in his own right. With his Mohegan brother, Chingachgook, he had fought the wily French from Canada. He had defeated the fierce Iroquois. He wasn’t even afraid to go into the woods by himself when Chingachgook was off on the hunt. In fact, in a strange way, the boy felt comforted surrounded by the wooded hills. It was his secret place. A magical place. His place.

image

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Genre – Literary / Historical Fiction

Rating – PG13

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Monday, May 20, 2013

Orangeberry Book of the Day - Running Against Traffic by Gaelen VanDenbergh

I. To the Lake

Chapter 1

When Paige told me all about it, it was well over a year since the shit had hit her fan, but those solemn brown eyes don’t lie, and she had forgotten nothing. Still, she asked “You do believe me, don’t you Chloe?”

I assured her I did. “That would happen to you, Paige. It should.”

She nodded. “Thank you,” she said. She tucked her dark hair behind her ears and smiled a smile of one peaking around a corner at something enticing. She looked past me, into space. Around the corner. Into the new room.

On a sweltering Saturday in June, David Davenport announced to his wife Paige that he had purchased a vacation home for them in Wells Lake, a town in northern Pennsylvania that Paige had never heard of. Philadelphia had been hit by an early heat wave, but they had left their air-conditioned condo on Rittenhouse Square to sip sauvignon blanc at a wrought iron table outside CafĂ© Rouge. The table teetered every time Paige set down her glass, and she was so absorbed by it tilting her way, and then David’s way, and then her way again, as if switching loyalties, that she barely heard what he said about taking her to see the house the following weekend. She wiped cold condensation from her water glass onto her napkin and held the icy glass up to her face, pressing it to each cheek. “What are we talking about?” she murmured, not looking up. She set her glass down and fingered around the table for something to tuck under the table leg.

“…About a four hour drive from here, Tioga County,” David was saying when she finally gave up her search and looked up at him. He was wearing a yellow polo shirt, which was not his color. The collar was neatly pressed, and his Ray Bans rested on top of his full, sandy brown hair that he liked to gel and tousle. Women found him handsome. Over the course of their ten year relationship, Paige had watched them flock and twitter. He was like a colt, Solid, broad in the chest for his height, always tossing his head and chewing the bit. But now she could barely hear him. He was talking into the stifling breeze and looking through her. “We’ll leave around noon on Friday to miss the weekend traffic.”

Paige squinted through her sunglasses. “There’s traffic headed that way?” she asked, words sticking in the thick air around her. “We’ll see. I have to check my calendar. I’m not sure what’s going on next weekend.” She picked through her purse for her phone, mentally thumbing through potential escape plans. She was certain that she could figure out some excuse for not going. If David needed a weekend getaway to go fishing or bushwhacking, or to attend a tractor pull, or whatever one did in places like that, he could go by himself. Or, god forbid, if he felt the two of them needed a romantic pick-me-up or a literal roll in the hay, she was absolutely not going. Not that he had even vaguely attempted a single romantic gesture in ages. Not that she wanted him to. Not that. No.

He stared at her across the table, expressionless, but she felt a sudden cool ripple of trepidation run through her blood. David was never still. He picked up his water glass and took a swig from it, catching an ice cube and chewing it crudely in his whitened teeth. “We’re going,” he said, practically dropping the glass back down, forefinger and thumb splayed in the air for a moment longer. “You have nothing else to do.” Then he smiled, forced and tight. Paige could do nothing but nod in terse agreement. Damn, she thought. Damn.

The waitress approached their table and inquired if they had looked at the menu but neither of them was hungry. She left them the check for the drinks, which they sat and sipped for a while longer, silent, watching the city stream by.

The journey to Wells Lake was long and tedious. Heavy quiet mixed with carsickness. Paige settled back into the leather seats of David’s Lexus SUV, their weekend bags carelessly packed and tossed in the back. It was only two days, she reminded herself, but why did he have to buy a vacation house there, of all places. Why not a beach house in Brigantine or Margate, even though she loathed the Shore, or simply somewhere that she had seen and agreed to beforehand. She was extremely annoyed with David, and she was not about to put on a cheerful face and make the weekend pleasant for him. He was not inclined to chat either, and so they drove over highways, then through towns steadily dwindling in size and civilization, just your average acrimonious married couple, getting away from it all. The sun shone on her bare legs through the sun roof. She stretched them out and leaned her head against the leather head rest, studying the passing scenery.

The trip stretched on, leading them over highways flanked by stubborn-looking trees and hills, and roads that rolled out through vast farm land of weather-beaten barns and mud-spattered grazing cows. The smell of manure hung in the air. They crossed bridges, and wound through flat towns with tiny churches and diners, towns that seemed to end as quickly as they began. And yet, the great open sky above and the unfamiliar, unwieldy land stretching before and behind them made Paige’s big city home seem like something miniature, encased in a snow globe. It was wild and unsettling.

Welcome to Wells Lake, white lettering on a pine green sign declared, as David pulled into a small gas station on the edge of another miserable little town that appeared at first glance to be all on one road, straight ahead of them. She expected a few blocks up, where she could only glimpse a wall of forest, there was a sign that read “Come again, if you’re sure you want to.”

David filled the tank and Paige walked up to the small shop attached to the service station. She spotted a handful of town brochures on the rack by the register that held newspapers, and a few tabloids. She perused one of the brochures, which was more like a single-sided bookmark. It explained that Wells Lake, named for an original settler, had in the early twentieth century been a trade center for a large surrounding area, and had been the site of several mills, including a saw mill, a flour mill, and a milk-condensing plant. Now, Paige discovered as she read on, the town boasted no such exciting amenities. From what she could see, as she stepped outside and squinted up the main road, it even lacked any sort of quaint village charm. No cobblestones, no flower baskets hanging from old fashioned street lamps, no visible evidence of a bed and breakfast, or antique shops. There appeared to be only two traffic lights on the entire stretch of road, dangling from black wires, one swaying along side a pair of shoes, tied together and hanging from their laces.

Paige looked back down at the bookmark. The remainder of the story of Wells Lake was summed up in one line, offering nearby fishing, free camp grounds and hiking trails in the nearby wooded park land. There was a small sketch under the blurb of a deer and a few trees, and some random black dots that she assumed represented ticks.

Paige jumped as David honked the horn. She stuffed the brochure into her purse and hurried back to the car.

David steered them off of the main strip. The trees and shrubbery lining the narrow road that he sped along – what the hell was his hurry? - appeared to be a jungle of weeds and bramble. Paige nervously dabbed sunscreen onto her fingertips from a tube and patted it onto her cheeks and nose.

David drove around another bend and crunched up a rutted dirt and pebble driveway leading to a dilapidated house with a sagging front porch and peeling lime-green shutters. The siding looked like it might have been white at one time, but was now the color of dingy mop-water.

“Gee, David, couldn’t you have had it renovated before we came out here?” Paige asked. She leaned her head back wearily. “What were you thinking? This place is clearly unsalvageable. Did you even have it inspected?”

David sprang out of the SUV and slammed his door. Paige sighed and stepped carefully out her side, wary of where she set her shoes down. She shaded her eyes with one hand, taking a longer look at the house. God, it was terrible. She would have to convince David to sell it. She certainly was not coming back for any more weekend getaways here. But who would buy this mess? Finally she turned toward him, and nearly tripped over her bag which was on the ground beside her. David was standing by the front of the car, arms folded across his chest.

“What’s the matter with you? Where’s your suitcase?” Paige snapped with fresh annoyance. “We might as well go in. It’s too hot to stand around out here all day.”

“I’m not staying,” he said.

“What? What do you mean?” Paige asked, feeling her heart begin to jump against her rib cage.

“You’re staying. I’m going home. This,” he tossed a set of keys onto her suitcase, “is your home now. There is a bank card in your purse. Your account is with the local branch on Cherry Street. I had the utilities turned on, and I arranged for some supplies to be stocked in. That should get you started. Good luck, and goodbye.”

Paige felt light headed and there was a faint ringing in her ears. She reached for the passenger-side car door handle and grasped it to steady herself. David was already climbing back in on his side. He snapped on his seatbelt and powered down the passenger window. In that instant, she saw a man she barely knew. He seemed to be wearing a mask of himself. “I’ll send you the rest of your clothes and things,” he said. “We’re through. Feel free to see other men.”

“You feel free to see other men, too,” Paige squeaked. But she was drowned out by the revved engine as the Lexus lurched backward, forcing her to yank back her hand. The car bumped down the driveway, jerked into forward and sped around the bend and out of sight.

Driveway dust hung around her in a cloud, suspended in the stagnant summer air as if time had slowed to a near standstill. A couple of bees circled lazily nearby and she could hear the faint buzzing. The sun burned into the top of her head. She blinked up at it like a bewildered bird pushed from its nest. Then she dropped to the hard, dry ground and sat watching the dust shimmering above the road where her husband’s truck had disappeared. The Lexus was gone, but she stared at that empty road for a long time.

Why was this happening? Hadn’t there been happier times? A gray memory or two to make them reconsider the end? She focused on drawing in air and pushing it back out, until she could hear nothing else. The screaming inside her head ceased. Reality buzzed off with the bees, and she suddenly laughed out loud. Of course, this is one of David’s hijinks, she thought, desperately craning her neck and listening for the car, which would surely come roaring back around the bend at any moment. She had learned a long time ago that in a refreshing sort of way, David loved these tricky moves. He possessed a debonair devil-may-care attitude that Paige had both admired and envied, early into their courtship. David loved nothing more than to buck rules and manipulate systems, especially when no one was the wiser. It became clear later that the last thing David wanted to do was change the world or bring down the corrupt. He was just a tricky rich child, and his antics made him feel taller. Paige was an extension of his outward appearance, and they could laugh at the world together in private, but in public he expected her to keep the secret, and dress, speak and act appropriately.

This was a simple role for Paige. She was a seasoned actress in the world. She played her role expertly. For a while.

The stream of thoughts slowed to a trickle and then a drip. It was dusk when Paige began to fade back from her stupor. She was seated cross-legged on the sparse grass of what was now her lawn – oh god, oh god, this is my lawn, it was all rushing at her, images flashing through her mind, scenes and conversations leading up to this point. Teetering table, David staring her down, long, hot drive, gas station, David driving away. Paige clapped her hands over her eyes and sucked in a deep breath. As her mind sank into bleak quiet, she dropped her hands to her knees and focused on them until she was left with only a slow, pulsing ache in her temples.

Her gaze shifted to the house keys on her suitcase beside her. She would have to go inside. Eerie evening life was stirring around her. A twig snapped in one corner of the yard, as from another corner came the deep croak of what could only be a giant, mutant frog, answered by another in the shadows under the porch. Oh hell, was the house built on a swamp? She hugged her knees. They were gathering. Advancing. The shriek of hundreds of crickets pierced the evening air, and a mosquito the size of a tarantula floated an inch from her face. Heart pounding, Paige swung into action, leaping to her feet and scrambling across the yard and up onto the porch, her suitcase bumping behind her, breaking a few spindles in the porch railing as she pulled it up the steps.

With jangly fingers she reached to jam the key into the lock, and saw with fresh horror that the front door was already slightly ajar. Her fear quickly gave way to adrenaline, and in a fit of maniacal bravado, she raised a kitten-heeled sandal and gave the door a round-house kick with all the strength she had. Maybe whatever was inside would be frightened and jump out a back window. The door banged open with such force that the doorknob embedded in the wall inside and stuck there. Paige hurled her suitcase into the front room, wrenched the door free of the wall, and pushed it shut. There was no lock except for the keyhole, and to her deep dismay the key kept turning in it, round and round, catching on nothing.

Gingerly flicking on an uncovered switch in the wall, Paige looked around in the dim light and spotted a chair against the wall. She dragged it over and propped it under the doorknob. She had seen that done in movies. It always worked. Next she had to find and turn on every other light in the house and, canister of Mace in hand, she would check through every room for squatters, human or otherwise.

Paige looked around the archaic living room, furnished only with a threadbare sofa and armchair in lurid pink floral. The room contained no carpet, no coffee table, no high-definition flat-screened television, just a milk crate in front of the sofa that held a small, old-fashioned box TV, attached to a black cable that ran across the floor and into the wall. In the corner was an iron wood stove. The living room spilled into what she could only guess was a dining room, because it was completely bare. Well, that’s a shame, she thought. So much for dinner parties. The wood floors were dinged and scuffed, dotted with small, splintery holes.

Beyond the dining room was a square, eat-in kitchen, the design of which appeared to be circa 1960s, because everyone involved had clearly been on quite the acid trip. The cabinets were a disturbing sunshine yellow, and every cabinet door was hung on a crooked angle. She opened the refrigerator and found bottled water, a can of ground coffee, a carton of milk and a few other food items that David must have had stocked in. How kind of him, she thought, gnashing her teeth. She grabbed one of the bottles of water and turned to face the ugliest kitchen table she had ever seen. It was oval, with four brown chairs surrounding it. Its prior owner had painted it nearly the same vile yellow as the kitchen cabinets, only brighter, making its ugliness even more startling. Its surface was made uneven by dried globs of paint and dips and dents under the paint. The splintered edges had been painted over rather than sanded. Paige shuddered and looked past it to a kitchen door, which mercifully had a key in the lock that worked when she tried it. She peeked behind a dusty gingham ruffle covering the door’s half-moon window but it had grown too dark to see anything outside.

Her adrenaline supply was drained, and she suddenly felt deflated and weak. If there is anything scary in this house, it can have me, she thought. Leaving her suitcase where she had dropped it by the front door, she crept up the creaky stairs off of the living room and skulked through three small bedrooms and a dollhouse-sized bathroom, leaving lights on everywhere she went for some small comfort. The bedrooms were sparsely furnished, two with single beds and one with a queen sized bed, all made up with linens and blankets. Whoever had prepared the house for human occupants had assumed a family was coming.

Paige decided numbly that she would sleep in the room with the largest bed, and in a final flailing safety gesture, she peeked under the bed, and then yanked open the closet door to see what was living inside. The door promptly broke off of its one rusted hinge and banged to the floor. Paige looked down at it for a moment, then walked around it and fell into the bed.

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Genre – Contemporary Fiction

Rating – PG13

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Sunday, May 19, 2013

Orangeberry Free Alert - Maternal Harbor by Marie F. Martin

Maternal Harbor - Marie F. Martin

Amazon Kindle US

Amazon Kindle UK

Genre - Suspense, Thriller

Rating - PG

4.2 (125 reviews)

Free until 20 May 2013

Teagan O’Riley was pregnant and alone when she met three single mothers at an OB clinic. A few weeks later, two of them are dead and the third is close on Teagan’s heels, intent on a campaign of twisted murder and insanity. Teagan cannot risk entrusting the three infants to the police with her finger prints all over one crime scene and her foot print smeared into blood at another. She flees with the babies to a wilderness cabin belonging to her lost love’s grandmother, but is even this remote location safe?

Orangeberry Book of the Day - The Sin of Forgiveness by Edward F. Mrkvicka, Jr.

The Importance of Context


This book does not ask you to believe something “new,” but rather something old and true. Society as a whole, over the centuries, and especially in the last 50 years, has taken forgiveness to mean something not intended by the Bible. While we are to forgive, we are to do so as God directs, not as Dr. Phil and even some clergy suggest.

This treatise on the subject of forgiveness is not my opinion, but rather the result of a lifetime of Bible study and Bible-based counseling. There is probably no bigger mistake made by God-fearing Christians than not reading and understanding God’s Holy Word in context. I know I have made such error on numerous occasions, notwithstanding the altruistic nature of my biblical inquiries. It is just so easy to do, mainly because God’s Word is so direct and uncompromising. Consequently, when we read a verse in Scripture we immediately race to whatever seemingly obvious conclusion we glean based on the verse’s intent and the subject matter contained therein.

And yet there are many of us who have a misunderstanding about this or that spiritually, which caused me to try and learn why people of good faith could often come to what seemed to be obviously erroneous conclusions about God’s intent. The answer is biblical context. Context means (1) the text surrounding a word or passage: the words, phrases, or passages that come before and/or after a particular word or passage in a speech or text and help explain its full meaning, and (2) surrounding conditions: the circumstances or events that form the environment within which something exists or takes place. The word is taken from the Latin word contextus, meaning connected or to weave together. Put more clearly, context is the equivalent of a tapestry. It’s not until every single piece of cloth is woven together that we can see the picture the artists intended to paint. Without the completeness of their effort, all we would see is a pile of disconnected nothingness that may or may not lead us to the truth. The Bible is much the same. A verse of Gospel may stand by itself, but more than likely it does not. It usually has other text that fleshes out the subject and explain the entire picture. The matter of context is vital whenever we are seeking biblical answers to problems or questions we are faced with. Make no mistake from the above; God does not hide from us. He has gone out of His way to make His Word easily accessible. So what is the problem? Unfortunately, we are often in a hurry, or we’re lazy. And while being in a hurry and/or being lazy puts us at the both far ends of the spectrum, the result is always the same, we only get part of the solution or come to one that has little resemblance to God’s actual intent.

My favorite analogy in this instance is that of a father trying to assemble a birthday present for one of his children. Let’s say it is the child’s first 2-wheeler. As all fathers know, the instructions will almost always invariably start by stating “You’ll need a pair of pliers and a screwdriver.” Would any of us, after reading the instructions no further than step #1, assume we’re done after finding the pliers and screwdriver, and that the bicycle is complete? Of course not. It would be patently obvious that step #1 was just that, step #1, and we’d have to complete the remaining steps before the job was complete. Looking for answers in the Bible is much the same. We cannot just read one verse (step #1) and assume we’re done, because we’re not. It is essential to prove this point in order to show how this concept pertains to forgiveness. To do that, I want to review a prominent biblical topic that hopefully will make clear how we can come to the wrong conclusion by making doctrine out of one verse of Scripture that was meant to be but a portion of the entire picture. We’re going to look at “honoring our father and mother” by reviewing the generally accepted meaning of the Fifth Commandment, and then show how our understanding changes when we review the topic in context. In the process, I hope to give you a new perspective on Bible study, one that will expand your vision and give you a desire to know God’s truth regardless of how long it takes, or how much effort is required. From personal experience, I can share this; once given a contextual perspective, you will read the Bible in a whole new light. You will be excited, because, perhaps for the first time, you will see and understand the truth as never before. When you know the truth, you are, in fact, free. No longer will anyone, including those doing Satan’s bidding, be able to lead you astray.

The Bible says we are to: Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the LORD your God is giving you. (Exodus 20:12) There are many, based on that verse alone, who believe we are to honor our parents no matter what they say or do. Yet, Jesus said,

Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his [own] household.

—Matthew 10:34-36

But how can we honor our parents when our Savior tells us He came to separate us from the very people should they stand against Him? Is this an irresolvable contradiction? Allow me to take this one step further to make the point. Are children of God to honor their earthly parents even if they are committing adultery? Ephesians 5:11 states, And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose [them]. 2 Thessalonians 3:6 says, But we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received from us. In 2 Corinthians 6:14 we are told, Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? Lastly, although there are other references, in 1 Corinthians 5:11 we read, But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or convetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner – not even to eat with such a person.

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Genre – Christian Life

Rating – G

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