Dreaming in the Pages

Books ... where dreams are better than reality

Broken Pieces

Jack Canon's American Destiny

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Author Interview – Nadine Ducca

Do you intend to make writing a career? I would like to, but if I can’t make it happen it won’t be the end of the world. I already have a stable job that I’m quite happy with, so if writing ends up being nothing more than a side activity, I’ll be all right with that. The only thing I want to do is write. Full time or part time, I don’t mind.

What was the hardest part about writing this book? Being an independent author is all about overcoming challenges. When you think the worst has passed, something new pops up and turns your world into a mess of scattered books, jumbled sentences, and one very confused author—not to mention the families. Oh, the families!

One of the greatest challenges I faced while writing Serving Time was tying up all the scenes and loose ends. I wrote Serving Time in a very self-indulgent and erratic way: one day I was planning Chapter 3, and maybe the next day I was editing Chapter 18, only to jump back to flesh out Chapter 4 a little while later. I wrote what I felt like writing at each moment. The problem with this technique is that it’s easy to end up with Swiss cheese instead of a novel. Luckily for me, I knew perfectly well what had to go in all of the gaps (it was all in my head and notes).

When I had almost finished my novel, I encountered two distinct hurdles. The first one was the “what am I doing with my life?” phase. Where to start? How to publish? And the cover? There’s no way I’m designing that! Who’ll do it? Prices! What about this comma? Editor! I need an editor! And how do I format this? Ebook? Print? Both! KDP Select? Smashwords? Help!

The second hurdle is the one I’m currently in the process of jumping: “why aren’t the mobs of fans knocking on my door?” A great piece of humbling advice I received in one of the many “how-to” books I’ve read is: Nobody’s listening; nobody cares. It might sound cruel, but it’s the truth, straight up.

As an indie author, the number one biggest challenge is to make people care. My friends tell me not to worry. “You managed to write a whole book!” they say. “You can handle the marketing!” Then they pat me on the back and smile, and I shrug and smile back at them. What am I supposed to do?

Who designed the cover? The cover was designed by the incredible, the one and only Keith Draws. A few months before completing Serving Time, I began to search for a cover artist, since I knew for a fact I wouldn’t be able to pull off a good-looking cover myself. I found Keith Draws on Kindle Boards, and he was a pleasure to work with! In no time, he came up with a fabulous idea for my cover that reflected the story so well I was speechless! Once we agreed on the details, he got to work. Every few days, he sent me a new image so I could see his progress and decide if I needed any changes. It was so exciting to see the cover come together! Here’s a link to a very special post on my blog where you can see the step-by-step images of how Keith created the cover for Serving Time (he even used 3D models). There’s also contact information in case you would like to see other art by Keith.

What do you hope people will take away from your writing? How will your words make them feel? My main goal is simply to give readers a few hours of enjoyment. Serving Time is an action-packed adventure, and that is my novel’s main purpose: to tell an adventure story and give readers an escape route out of their day-to-day life. Even so, there are also deeper messages in the pages of the novel: messages of overcoming loss and disappointment, and of striving for a better future.

Tell us a bit about your family. My family’s from Argentina, but my parents moved to California when they were in their early twenties. I was born in southern California, and lived there until age 12, when my mother took me with her to live in Spain. The move represented my first giant dose of culture shock.

Fun / unbelievable family fact: my mother’s family lived on a farm. One night, my mother’s aunt and uncle woke up in the middle of the night and saw flashing beams of light hovering over their land. When they went to investigate the fields the next morning, they discovered charred symbols in the ground: crop circles! They drew the circles in a journal and wrote about the whole experience. Nothing grew on the charred land for about a decade.

Serving Time

Life and death have been industrialized. The Forge, the birthplace of every soul, is a rumbling factory owned by the goddess Time, managed by Lucifer, and powered by the labor of demons and imps. In this dystopian world, a renegade interplanetary pilot running from his past doesn’t stand a chance.

Handling Neptunian meth and dodging security cannons are all in a day’s work for Tristan Cross—not that he’s one to complain. Working for the smuggling company StarCorp is an improvement over what he used to do for a living.

However, when StarCorp gives Tristan a one-way ticket into the brainwashed—and disturbingly suicidal—Loyal League, he decides to run from the company and start a new life in the only safe haven he knows: Earth. With the help of his brother, Tristan embarks on the most hazardous journey of his life, one that will place him at Time’s mercy. Little does he know the demons running the universe are craving a feast, and his own soul is the next item on the menu.

Buy Now @ Amazon

Genre – Science Fiction/Fantasy

Rating – Adult

More details about the author

Connect with Nadine Ducca on Facebook

Website http://nadineonwriting.blogspot.com/

John’s Gospel: The Way It Happened by Lee Harmon


The Preexis T en T Chris T

I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. —Revelation 21:6

Ruth reappeared from the door of the house with a writing board and quill. She produced an empty scroll from under her arm, sat down upon a wooden stool near John, and with a defiant glance toward Matthew, said one word: “Ready.”

“Thank you, Ruth! But first, Matthew, tell me what brings you back to Ephesus?”

“No, you go first, John. Why are you here at the home of Ruth’s mother? I hardly expected to find you here. You’re in no condition to travel.”

“Should I not visit my flock, so long as I live? And also, I’d heard you were arriving.”

“Me? You came to see me?”

John shrugged. “I came to see the son of Samuel.”

“Well, you may see my father as well, then.” Matthew pointed to a limestone ossuary near the gate, making no attempt to hide the scowl on his face. “I bring his bones home to where he lived, where he last found happiness. He’ll be buried here in Ephesus.”

“Your father died?” John rolled onto a shoulder to stare across the courtyard at the modest, undecorated box. “I’m sorry. I didn’t know.” “I’m not surprised. You keep yourself quite separated here, John.” John made a face. “These are my people. My sheep.” He waved a hand at the expanse of Asia Minor.

“Yes. Well.” Matthew still scowled, wondering if this were a good time to make his exit. But where would he go? To John, he replied as politely as he could manage, “I know how close you were to my father, but his spirit left months ago.”

“It’s good that he died in Judea. To be buried in Jerusalem is like being buried under the altar, right? Why did you move his bones from there?”

Matthew’s scowl turned into a sneer. “Oh, we didn’t last long in Jerusalem. It remains a sorry excuse for God’s city, still in shambles from the war. You may remember, John—we left Ephesus heading for Jerusalem just shortly after your vision, because my father could no longer support us with his bricklaying business. He broke ties with the trade guild, you know, at the temple of Artemis.”

“Yes, I know,” John said simply.

Matthew’s eyes flashed bitterness before he continued. “They called us heathen here, John! Heathen! Because my father believed in Christ rather than their deified caesars! Christians are hated here in Ephesus.” Because you taught us to deny the gods and customs of this land, Matthew avoided saying aloud. “My father could no longer find work, except among your Christians, who could not support us. So we left.”

“Samuel always wanted to return to Jerusalem.”

“Yes, he did. He spoke of it often to me. ‘God’s city,’ he called it. ‘The Holy City’! ‘The bride of Christ’! A miserable joke. We did not stay there long but returned to Syria and settled in Antioch.”

Ruth spoke now, her voice taking on a milder tone. Matthew’s apparent pain had chased the tease away. “You know, John, they have additional gospels in Syria now. Two more works of God, two more anonymous gifts—tributes to the life of our Christ.”1

“Yes, I am aware,” John nodded, glancing at Matthew. He clearly knew Matthew to be the origin of one of the two, though he gave no indication of approval or disapproval. Steering the conversation back on track, he asked Matthew, “How are the Christians in Antioch?” “They struggle, like here. Christians are no longer welcome in the

synagogues. I went to a service with my father a few days before he died. He wished to experience one last Sabbath, sharing the rituals of our God in the synagogue, so we endured the stares and joined the congregation. The president noted our arrival and asked me to lead us in the Amidah, the common prayer.”

“And you did?”

Buy Now @ Amazon

Genre – Religion / Christianity

Rating – G

More details about the author & the book

Connect with Lee Harmon on Facebook & Twitter

Website http://www.dubiousdisciple.com/

Book Review - Serving Time by Nadine Ducca

Serving Time (Servants of Time, #1)Serving Time by Nadine Ducca
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Reviewer's Note - None of us at the Quality Reads UK Book Club has finished reading or discussing Serving Time by Nadine Ducca. We have been asked to post our reviews early. This review is based on the first 60% of the book and may change at a later date once we finish reading and discussing the book.

Favourite location / setting … When Robert and Time are talking about searching for the "True Self". I know many of the book club members adored Time, I didn't really like her. She seemed to have one too many layers for me and she was so high and mighty. I know this and I know that but I'm not going to tell you. Initially, it was all mysterious, then it just dragged. I did like this discussion because the search for our own "true self" is never easy either and found this chapter particularly amusing.

What did you like most about the book? Hmmm, so only one thing. I would say the writing. Every single one of us at the book club are enjoying this book. The editing is polished and the formatting is easy to read. The story is captivating and each page makes you think about your own life or situations you have already experienced. Whether this was the author's intention, I do not know but it definitely had that effect for a lot of us at the book club.

Favourite quote … "All defective souls are eventually pruned and shipped to the Repository; it's how the universe functions. Why should you worry about the fate of one faulty True Self?" "Because in the case of this True Self, the fault is mine." If you think Time has no regrets, well, think again.

Disclosure - As a Quality Reads Book Club member, I received a free copy of this book from the author via Orangeberry Book Tours in exchange for my honest review.

View all my reviews

Friday, August 2, 2013

The Druid Legacy by Mark Miller

Chapter 1                            Footprints

It was a warm day, and sweat ran down the small of my back as I walked the familiar game trail.  I crinkled my nose and smelled my own armpits.  Admittedly, I have not been as good about bathing since my parents were taken, but I wasn’t sure if the smell was me or the bag of dead rabbits I was carrying.  I was really good at laying traps and usually came home with a full load.  The last time out, I carried home so many I had enough to smoke and store three rabbits for the winter.  It was easy to catch rabbits now, but I would need enough food to make it through the winter when there would be no vegetables from the garden and game would become scarce.  Any animals I would catch then would be leaner with less meat on their bones.  I didn’t think I would have too much of a problem though, since game was always plentiful and I seemed to have a gift for trapping.  I don’t know why, but I seemed to know where the animals would go.  My dad said it was uncanny how I could trap.  He use to hunt deer and an occasional boar, but at 12 years old I knew I couldn’t pull his bow or hold the boar spear.  I wasn’t a large boy, so I focused instead on what I could do: pull carrots and trap small game.  Some days I would go down to the creek and fish, but I really didn’t like the taste of fish.  Since no one made me eat it any more, I didn’t do it often.

As I walked along the trail, I stared down at my boots and I thought about what my mother would say about my appearance.  My big toe stuck out of the top of my right boot and the sock had given out before the boot.  I grinned to myself as I thought about my mother chastising me for my dirty toenails and my long hair. She would put her hands on her hips or point a finger at me and say, “Wesslayn Grace, just because we live in the woods now, doesn’t mean we live like animals!”  I knew my mother was mad when she called me by my full name.  Everyone else called me Wess.  I hated it, as I knew it meant I was likely to be punished for something I had done, but now I missed it and would give anything to hear her call me by my full name.

I had done a good job keeping the cabin repaired, chopping wood, and keeping up with the garden, but I naturally leaned towards the work my father use to do.  Staring at the hole in my boot, I knew I was going to have to learn how to do something or I was going to have a really miserable winter.  My feet were growing and my pants were a bit short as well.  The idea of me trying to sew my own pants out of dead rabbit fur had me giggling to myself as I came to my last trap.  I stared down at it more than a little confused.  The bait was gone, and the trap had been destroyed. 

As I tried to puzzle out what had happened, I noticed that there were strange footprints all around the area.  I crouched down next to one to study it closer.  The track was about the size of my foot, but there were three toes that each ended in a point.  My stomach sank; I had seen these tracks before.  They were all around our cabin the day my parents disappeared. As I crouched there, I thought back to that day. I had come home from trading with the Millen’s farm.  The Millen’s live about a half day’s walk to the west of our cabin, so when I go to trade there I normally sleep over.  I liked going there because I got to play with my friend Myka.  We had been friends since we moved here and built the cabin almost six years ago.  She is almost as good outdoors as I am, even though she is just a girl.  Working on the farm long hours has made her strong and tougher than most girls.  Whenever I went to visit, her dad would let her take off from her chores so we could go play. If she had too much to do I would jump in and help. Her mom died when she was young, so Myka is an only child like me.  With no brothers around to help with the chores, her dad counted on her to work on the farm, so I wasn’t allowed to stay more than one day.

That particular day I was carrying my pack full of hard cheese, eggs, and flour when I returned home.  At first I didn’t think anything was wrong, it was a pretty spring day and the door was open.  My mom often aired out the cabin as she cleaned or cooked if the weather was mild.  As I slipped my pack off my shoulders, the first thing I noticed was there was no fire in the hearth.  This was a rare thing as there was usually water to boil, food to cook, clothes to clean, or something else requiring a fire.  If a fire wasn’t burning, there were usually coals still present.  On that day the hearth was cold and the coals weren’t banked, so I knew right away the fire had burned out on its own the night before. 

PI looked around the cabin.  The blankets were gone, as well as the food crates and jarred vegetables.  I climbed up to the loft were I slept and my blankets were gone too.  I looked down from the ladder and froze, with a lump in my throat.  I hadn’t noticed before that my father’s great sword was gone from the mantle.  My dad hadn’t touched that sword since we came here.  Whenever I asked him about it I would get a cryptic answer like, “Maybe one day you will need to know how to use that thing.  When you are ready I will teach you, but hopefully that day will never come.” 

I climbed down and walked back out the door and really looked around the clearing in front of our home.  The three-toed footprints were everywhere.  I had never seen these before and I didn’t know what could have made them.  I walked around the back of the cabin towards the garden and there was blood splattered on most of the trees.  As I turned around, I noticed the walls were stained with dark red streaks.  I had gutted and cleaned plenty of animals out here so I knew how much blood could come from one animal, but this was more blood than I had ever seen.  This might be an odd thing to say, but the huge amounts of blood gave me hope. My dad was the toughest guy I knew and I pictured him swinging his sword in massive circles to protect my mother, killing evil goblin things by the dozens.  Despite the blood, there was no sign of them anywhere.  I searched the woods, but I am no tracker.  After searching every day for months, I gave up hope that I would ever find my parents or the creatures that took them from me.

Looking down at that track now I had a dreadful feeling.  Whatever these creatures were, they were still here.  I looked up from the track and knew I had to try to follow them.  I glanced up at the sky to check the time.  It was about two hours until sun down.  I would definitely not be able to track them in the dark.  I dropped my hand to my belt and tested the edge on my small hatchet.  It was a little duller than I would have liked, and I cursed myself for not sharpening it this morning.  My skinning knife was razor sharp, but the blade was short and would barely help as a weapon.  With grim determination, I dropped the dead rabbits and set out down the path to follow the prints.

Buy Now @ Amazon & Smashwords

Genre – Young Adult Fantasy

Rating – PG

More details about the author & the book

Connect with Mark Miller on Facebook

Website http://www.thedruidlegacy.com/

The Newbie Author’s Survival Guide by AK Taylor

The Author Platform

You may or may have not heard this term before. It is essentially your fan base, brand, and network all rolled into one. In our survival scenario, your platform is how you draw people to your location or base: it's like flashing your mirrors, building signal fires, blowing a whistle, shouting, or anything else you would do to call for help.

One problem with this term is that it sounds as though you have a building phase and then you're done. Actually, you’ll be constructing your platform as long as you are a published author. It should always grow in size or refinement. Many pieces to this puzzle will be sorted out, but the goal is to reach the readers who are your customers.

You accomplish this by using all tools available to you. We will need a social media presence, a blog that is search engine and social media optimized, and a subscription or permission-based network. Launching and updating each of these things takes time. So the best point to start building these are before you publish your book. Many authors, however, have been so engaged in writing, editing, typesetting, and proofing that don’t know about this until they publish. Truth be told, I was one of them.

Remember that the product is you, not your book. You need to become either the expert (nonfiction) or the dependable good read (fiction). To do this, you need to build a public image, a reputation, and a trust with the public. Only then will they start looking at what you’ve got.

So let's get started by examining the pieces of a platform, what each does, what to do to get the best performance, and what not to do when constructing them. Remember: This is not an overnight project. This is how you start getting people’s attention.

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Genre – NonFiction

Rating – G

More details about the author & the book

Connect with Amanda Taylor on Facebook & Twitter & GoodReads

Review & Author Interview – Pavarti K. Tyler


White ChalkWhite Chalk by Pavarti K. Tyler
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What kind of book is this? I think because a few of us at the book club have read other books by this author, we were all set for a fantasy read. Yes, assumptions. We were wrong. This is not at all fantasy. It's gripping real life about what teenagers go through and what happens when no one helps them.

Which secondary character resonated most with you and why? Troy. To Chelle he was more than a crush, he was hope and when he left, even the reader feels somewhat cheated.

In your own words how did the setting of the story make it more interesting. School life. How much more complicated can it be? Chelle is the outcast and not entirely because of her doing. From this, the story then expands to her school crush, heartbreak, neglect and a tangled web she gets lost in.

Disclosure: I received a review copy of this book from the author.

View all my reviews

Author Interview: 

Can we expect any more books from you in the future? Many many.  I have a Novella Series started which will launch in December 2013.  The first book is titled Sugar and Salt.  I also have companion novellas to Two Moons of Sera in the works and 2 more standalone novels.  I’ll be busy from now until I’m 70!
Have you started another book yet? Actually, I’ve already finished the next book!  It’s in editing right now.  Sugar and Salt is an erotic novella which will be published with Evolved Publishing in December 2013.  It’s the first in a series of books in The Sugar House Novellas.
Where do you see yourself in five years? Sitting at this computer writing with the giant dog under my feet.
What are your current writing projects now? Book one of The Sugar House Novellas is done.  I’m working on Books 2 and 3 while editing Two Moons of Sera for rerelease with Evolved Publishing.
Are you reading any interesting books at the moment? I just finished Parasite by Mira Grant.  It was really amazing.  Definitely some flaws but a thoroughly enjoyable and easy read.
Are there any new authors that have sparked your interest and why? Oh my yes.  Julian Darius wrote Nira/Sussa which is a completely deviant Literary Fiction/Erotica.  Keira Michelle Telford is the author of the Silver Series which I regularly dream about and has a new series coming out this summer.  And Kenya Wright is the only Supernatural Romance author I bother to read anymore.  She’s phenomenal.  Her Habitat Series books are impeccable, fun, sexy and relevant.
What are some of the best tools available today for writers, especially those just starting out? Tools don’t matter.  There are no tricks.  Some things will work for you, others won’t.  And it will be different for everyone.  The real trick?  Shut up and write something.

Blurred Lines by Breena Wilde

Blurred Lines

Hooking has four important rules.

1.  Cash only.
2.  Use protection.
3.  Carry mace.
4.  Don’t fall in love.

Twenty-year-old Cadence is a prostitute and she lives by the rules. They keep her alive, and they keep her heart protected. But when she agrees to take one last job to get out from under her pimp, she discovers some of the rules might be worth breaking.

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Genre - Erotic New Adult

Rating – NC-17

More details about the author

Connect with Breena Wilde on Facebook & Twitter

Website http://www.breenawilde.blogspot.com

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Thursday, August 1, 2013

Lengths For Love by CS Patra

Chapter 2

From that point on, I visited her whenever I could and stayed as long as possible. She spent most of her time in bed now, so I decided not to do anything big. Whatever vampire-related thing she wanted to do, I would do it without fail. Sometimes all we could afford to do was talk all night. It worked for me. By then, my exams were over and I was ready to help her with anything else.

Yet I didn’t know what was happening with her cancer. I wasn’t sure when she was going to start chemotherapy or if she had even started it. She wasn’t telling me very much about the treatments or the illness. At first, I figured she was just embarrassed by it, but she never felt like bringing it up. Worst of all, I had not heard anything from her family. I had no idea if they even knew she was sick. Who was driving her back and forth from the clinic? Who looked after her at night? Why did no one come around while I was there? To make matters worse, her stress was giving me stress. I would look in the mirror and notice the same skinny black-haired, brown-eyed guy that I had always known. The difference was that he was worn out.

I kept my silence about the whole thing until that night, when we had a date. It was our first date since her exams started. Alexis was feeling well enough to go out. I made my way to her dorm room and found her sitting on the bed again, reading the rest of her book. She was in her pajamas and looked surprised to see me.

“Ian, I had no idea you were coming,” she said.

“Well, of course I’m coming today. You said I could. You ready to go?” I asked.

“It’s a date night, isn’t it? I completely forgot.” She closed her book. “Oh, I’m sorry. I swear I’ll get better at remembering things.”

“Ah, don’t worry about,” I sighed, sitting down with her. “I can wait for you. Is there any place in particular you want to go?”

“Not really,” she admitted. “We should just get pizza and a movie and stay in here. You can always rent ‘Interview With a Vampire’ again.”

“You have the movie, babe. You have every vampire movie ever made.”

She rolled her eyes. “Okay, fine, you choose something.”

“How about that vampire documentary that you taped some time ago?” I suggested. “We don’t have to rent it and we’ll just get them to deliver the pizza here. We’ll have your favorite: mushrooms and red peppers.”

“Delicious. You know what I love, Ian.”

I ordered the pizza while she popped in the movie. For the next hour, it was just the two of us. We sat and ate in silence, not sure how to break the ice between us. Alexis kept looking up at me like she wanted to say something, but no words came out of her mouth. It was as though she was afraid. I decided to give her a little help and see what I could pull from her.

“You know, I wish you didn’t have to go somewhere else for better treatment,” I said. “I don’t see why they can’t do it here.”

“These doctors are good, but they aren’t the best,” she explained. “At this point, I want the best. I want a chance at living. My parents aren’t upset with me going away. I wish they could be here to help me with this, but it’s impossible at this point. Work, money... all that’s getting in the way. It’s going to cost a lot in terms of medical bills and I can’t stand it. I don’t care if I only get one more year or even six months of life. Heck, I’ll take two more months of living. That’s more than enough for me. But so far, no one can predict that much.”

“So you think that if you go away, someone can tell you?” I felt the pit in my stomach getting larger. I did not like where the conversation was headed.

“Ian, remember what you told me back in the day? That you’d go to any length for love?” she began, picking up her plate and dumping it in the trash.

“Um, yeah. What about it?”

That had been a big mistake on my behalf. Not the question to ask. I knew what Alexis knew—there was no way we were going back to the way we were. Even if Alexis had six months left, it would not feel the same. We would not be able to go everywhere we wanted or do everything we had left to do. I could keep hoping and wishing things would change, but I had hoped and wished she would get better, and that didn’t happen.

Buy Now @ Amazon

Genre – Supernatural / Romance / Fiction

Rating – PG13

More details about the author & the book

Connect with CS Patra on Facebook & Twitter

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Orange Karen: Tribute to a Warrior by Multiple Authors

Change Finds You

by Cara Michaels

“The date of record is October thirtieth, two-thousand-twelve. This is Special Agent Everett Benjamin.”

The voice drew my attention from the digital voice recorder resting on the table. The red recording light assured everyone observing that my words would be captured for all time, with “all time” defined as “until the Gemini Group buried the story”. At best, anything I said today would end up in a heavily redacted report buried in some government archive. Hadn’t stopped me from trying to get the word out, though. No, the FBI could take credit there. Getting nabbed at a convenience store just proved I’d never been intended for the undercover life. I’d only lasted two months on the official run.

“For the record, please state your name.” The special agent sitting across from me held an air of comfortable superiority. As homegrown investigative organizations rated, he still believed his FBI sat at the top of the food chain.

How sweet.

“Dr. Savannah Welborn.”

“Thank you, Doctor.” For a tough FBI guy, he had a nice voice. Kind of deep, kind of mellow.

The pen held between his index and middle fingers drummed an uneven, impatient beat. The air conditioning kicked on, a background hum of recycled air smelling faintly of paper and dust. Like the room needed to be colder. What brainless desk jockey thought hypothermia contributed to productivity? The beds of my fingernails had turned blue some fifteen minutes of waiting ago. My body had already forgotten how it felt to be warm. Inside, outside, and everywhere in between. I ground my teeth to hold in a shiver.

“Not a problem, Agent Benjamin,” I said. I even flashed my gritted teeth as I smiled. Just call me Doctor Cooperative.

His gaze slid over my Celldweller concert tee. Beneath the table, worn blue jeans allowed refrigerated air to sneak in at the torn knees. Like I needed his visual disdain to tell me I was way underdressed for a federal interrogation. They didn’t do anything without a tie or stockings.

At least my feet stayed warm in socks and sneakers.

“Sorry,” I said. “I didn’t get apprehended in my Sunday best. I’ll try harder next time.”

His lips pinched, biting down on whatever he wanted to say and emphasizing his stern features. Add a sense of humor and strip away the premature aging of his job, and I put him in his early thirties, maybe. Salt dashed his black pepper hair, the cut military short.

“You understand why you’re here, yes?” he asked.

“I can play stupid if you’d prefer to explain it for the viewers at home.” I gestured to the large mirror dominating the end of the room on my left.

Benjamin clenched his teeth, let out a slow breath.

“You’ve been charged with obstruction of an ongoing investigation, as well as aiding and abetting the vigilante organization known as the Paladins.”

He made a good show of flipping through a manila folder stuffed with evidence. Of my so-called crimes, no doubt. My actions over the last several years tied me to the Paladins and — if one knew where to look — to the Gemini Group who had unintentionally created them. I’d built the Gemini Group, created the experiments, written the procedures. I’d documented its transition into a monster as the sons and daughters of my trial groups grew and revealed the changes in their genetic codes.

The cells made to save their parents had resulted in unexpected, even terrifying mutations. A woman with Ehler Danlos Syndrome gave birth to a daughter who could dislocate and reshape her bones and body at will. A man with early-onset Alzheimer’s fathered a child with eidetic memory. A treatment for severe hypothermia resulted in a son with extreme cold tolerance, who could manipulate the temperature around him, and even generate ice from the water in the air.

In short, my efforts to cure disease created superhumans.

But Karen Gemini, the reason any of my work had been possible, accused me of using her to play God.

She had it right, maybe. At least in the beginning.

Like a proud parent, I’d been thrilled by these gifted children. But like regular humans, they came in all shades of good, bad, and indifferent. Some made an effort to use their unique abilities to help the world around them. The public had taken to calling them the Paladins, and it suited them. Honorable, fierce, and steadfast in the face of a world turning on them.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Karen Gemini gathered the blackest souls to her bosom, a nightmare brood poised to unleash hell on earth.

The FBI and Agent Benjamin might not yet realize it, but the Paladins stood in the way of gathering darkness. And as the woman whose research had started all of this, I stood to shield the Paladins.

If Benjamin meant to intimidate me, he needed a new strategy.

Go ahead, Agent Benjamin. Take me down. This is so much bigger than you know.

“Dr. Welborn?” Benjamin’s gaze, his eyes an eerie amber-orange, fixed on me.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “Did you want me to deny the allegations? For dramatic effect?”

He turned away, but not before I saw him grimace. Aw, did my attitude hurt his career advancement opportunities? Tough shit.

He needed to toughen up his poker face for this job.

I’d stepped into sharky waters with open eyes. I’d known the risks of siding with the Paladins. Of siding against Gemini.

I smiled.

He rolled his eyes, tension visible along his jaw. “Belligerent charm. Does that work for you often?”

“What do you want from me here, Agent?”

“Names. Aliases. Addresses. We want the Paladin operation.”

I laughed. Not a polite titter, but a snort of disbelief. “Sorry to say, but you’re doomed to disappointment.”


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Genre - Short Story Anthology

Rating – PG13 (some strong language)

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Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Darkest Lie by Angela Day



             "I bet he escaped from the psych ward," Remi mused, fascinated by Thane's story. "He sounds like one of those savants, people who can do one thing better than anyone else on the planet but lack in their connection to reality." 

              They were at his locker in the school hallway during lunch, two days after Thane's mad dash to catch the bus and lightning strike. Remi had been glad to see him and drawn out everything that had happened since he left school on Monday, and he'd just finished telling her about Brennan Tayler. "Here's your backpack, Flash," Remi said, smacking him in the chest with it. Thane gave her a quizzical look, and she colored. "He's a comic book guy. Wears all red, runs so fast he's hard to see."  Thane kept looking at her until she punched his arm. "Cool people like comic books."

              "Sure," Thane said, smiling a little. It felt good to be doing something normal after the last few days. He stretched the fingers of his right hand, thinking about the hospital and Brennan again. 

              Remi noticed. "Let me see it?" Thane held out his previously injured knuckles for her and she stared at them like a jeweler inspecting a diamond. "There's nothing here. No bruising, no swelling, nothing. Are you sure you even hurt it?"

              "Yeah," Thane answered. "It was broken. He fixed it."

              "I wonder why," Remi mused, reaching out and taking his hand in both of hers.  Thane stiffened, unsure, but Remi was too deep in her thoughts to notice. She rubbed his knuckles with her thumb, trying to feel for any inconsistency. Thane felt his face going red and was about to pull away when something inside his hand moved.

              Remi froze-- she'd felt it too. Their eyes met over his hand. "What is that?" she asked him. He shrugged, pulling his hand out of hers to look at it himself. He pushed his finger down in the space between his second and third knuckles, and felt that same something hard roll away. It was so small he never would have noticed it on his own. He pulled his hand up to his eyes, and Remi stood on tiptoe to get a closer look. They both leaned in, trying to see any evidence of what they were feeling under Thane's skin.

              The bell rang, startling them both. Thane and Remi realized their faces were only inches apart, and sprang back. Snickers around them in the hallway let them know their display had not gone unnoticed.

              "New girlfriend, Thane?" Ben called from a few lockers down. 

              "You could do better, new girl," Jeran said, flexing his muscles. "I could show you a lot more than that weak loser." Thane's face colored, but Jeran walked off laughing with his buddies. Jeran was an entitled prick, the star of the second worst football team in the state. He wasn't smart enough to be the quarterback but as a wide receiver, you only had to get the ball somewhere near him and he would catch it. Tall and muscular, girls flocked around him and grownups loved to talk to him. Thane wanted to punch him hard enough to make it impossible for him to smirk for at least a week.

              "Don't worry about those idiots," Remi started, but Thane spun around and left her behind. From the moment Mr. Hoffman introduced them, Thane had failed at his one cardinal rule. When he was with Remi everybody saw him.

              Thane was one of the first into the room. Ms. Rasmussen didn't look up as he entered, engrossed in some magazine. He managed to slide onto his stool in the back row without exciting note or comment from anyone. He took out his notebook and pretended to read it as the rest of the class arrived in twos and threes. 

              Remi's voice, laughing and chatting, stabbed his ear and he couldn't help glancing up. She was walking in with Jeran, smiling at him and shaking her head so that her dark hair bounced. As they came in, Ms. Rasmussen's attention was diverted by Remi's giggle and she smugly observed them. "Know your way around now, sweetie?" she asked Remi in a satisfied voice. Remi gave her a half smile, but did not respond. Jeran flashed Ms. Rasmussen a grin calculated to charm, then turned to Thane and transformed it into a self-satisfied smirk.

              "Thanks, Jeran," Remi said, and walked back to sit with Thane. Jeran's face darkened as she walked away.

              "I found your girlfriend lost in the hall," Jeran swaggered down the aisle towards him, voice dripping with false sympathy. "I told her you were unstable." Thane was clenching his teeth, jaw taunt, and Jeran bent down in his face. "It's okay, loser. If your dad doesn't wake up, I'll take care of your hot mom, too."

              Music blossomed in Thane's mind as his fist connected with Jeran's jaw. There was a crunch and a sizzle and the smell of burnt flesh as Jeran fell backwards and the second bell rang. Jeran landed on the floor, as surprised by the sucker punch as Thane was. Jeran sprang back up, blood in his mouth and rage in his eyes and oddly, a bright burn on his jaw. He moved at Thane.

              "That is enough, Jeran!" Ms. Rasmussen snapped. Jeran hesitated, and then lunged for Thane. Ms. Rasmussen grabbed Jeran's shoulder and spun him around, her eyes flashing and her breath quick. "Get out of my class." 

              "What?" Jeran was stunned. "But Cressa--"

              "You will call me Ms. Rasmussen. Go to the nurse's office, then the principal's.  Now." Her voice had gotten softer, colder, and somehow so dark that Thane repressed a chill.

              Jeran crumbled. He fled from the room, the door banging as he ran through it. Ms. Rasmussen came to stand in front of Thane and rested the tips of her fingers on his arm. "Aren't you a hero for defending your mother's honor like that!" She was sweet, but her green eyes glowed with something Thane didn't recognize. Greed? Insanity? She tugged at his arm a little, and he stood up. "Why don't you come up here and take Jeran's seat? He won't be needing it."

              Thane obediently gathered his things and went with her to the front. Remi followed him. Ms. Rasmussen seemed delighted. She even clapped her hands to get the attention of the class, which was completely unnecessary as every eye was already on her.  

              "Change of plans today, everyone! We're going to be doing hands-on experiments instead of a quiz." Her announcement brightened the feeling in the room considerably. "Put away your books and keep out your notepads. You'll need to take good notes. Every team will need a Bunsen burner, a holding tray, one five hundred milliliter beaker, one hundred milliliter beaker, safety glasses for each of you, a thermometer, and a pair of tongs. We're going to talk about thermodynamics!" She seemed gleeful, as manic as Thane had ever seen her.  

              Thane got up and gathered the implements since Remi wouldn't know where they were. He felt awful for ditching her in the hall. Carefully holding as many of the implements as he could in his arms, he set them down gently on the table in front of Remi and spread them out. 

              "I stole his playbook," Remi whispered. Thane attached the Bunsen burner to the short tube that rose out of the center of their rectangular table. "I thought we could do some creative play changing."

              A rush of gratitude warmed Thane. Having a friend had perks. Ms. Rasmussen continued to give instructions.  "...and be sure, girls, to keep your hair away from the flames. I'll be around to make sure that the gas lines are connected. Place the holding tray about six inches above the flame and fill the larger beaker with water from the sink..." Remi grabbed the larger beaker and followed the line of students back to the sink. Soon all the students had their beaker of water in place on the holding tray and were turning the burners on, seeing the waving yellow and orange flame tighten into a straight blue and purple one. "Open the air hole to only about half, we don't want it fully on. We're just heating water."

              The lean, tall woman walked around the classroom checking each burner to ensure that the gas lines were attached correctly and the flames were high and hot enough. She came to Thane and Remi, bending to peer closely at their set up. "I think you need to lower your holding tray slightly," she instructed, and Thane made the adjustment. The corner of Ms. Rasmussen's mouth twitched, and then she moved on.

              Her foot slipped, the thin heel shooting into the air, and she flailed her arms. With one hand she grabbed the side of a table, and the other grabbed Thane's left arm, pulling his wrist directly across the open flame.

              "Argh!" Thane grunted, jerking his hand back. There was a shiny red mark along the underside of his wrist as wide as two fingers. He stared at it as his teacher regained her balance and turned to him.

              "Oh, Thane, I'm so sorry," she gushed. "Someone spilled some water on the floor and I slipped! Let me see it," and she jerked his arm towards her. Her green eyes studied the red welt for a slow heartbeat, and she appeared... pleased. But only for a moment. Her face was full of concern and contrition when she looked back at him. "It's not badly burned. Run cold water over it. As for the rest of you," she whirled to face the class, her beautiful features twisted in fierce and dangerous anger, "be more careful. This could have been a serious accident. If you spill any liquid, clean it up immediately. I could've broken my ankle and poor Thane," she looked down at him and her tone quieted, "poor Thane could have lost his hand. Well," she said, her voice returning to normal, "back to work, everyone."

              As the flames burned and the students adjusted their safety glasses, Ms. Rasmussen pulled a box off the shelf behind her desk. It was dusty, and she smiled and held it for a moment. Then she wiped it off and placed it on her desk. "In this box I have several pieces of Field's Metal. Has anyone ever heard of it?" She paused, but no hands went up. "It is a most impressive alloy. It's a non-toxic mixture of bismuth, tin, and indium. There are many alloys that melt at low temperatures, even though the metals they are mixed from require much higher temperatures to melt in their pure form. These low melting point metals are called fusible alloys."

              Several of the students were scribbling furiously, as Ms. Rasmussen was not writing on the board. Instead, her hands were resting on either side of the open box as she was intently watching the beaker and the flame in front of Remi and Thane. Remi was one of the desperate note takers-- Thane couldn't take his eyes away from the chemistry teacher, like a bird staring at a snake. His heart pounded against his chest and his palms felt sweaty. Something was wrong. 

              She reached her hand into the box and drew out what looked to be a silver straw. "Each of you will be given one of these Field's Metal wires. Place your thermometers into the water and the metal wire into your smaller empty beaker. Using the tongs, hold the smaller beaker partially submerged in the boiling water. Record at what temperature, both Fahrenheit and Celsius, the metal begins to melt. I will pass out molds to each team for you to pour your liquid metal into, and you will time how long it takes the metal to re-harden."

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Genre – New Adult Urban Fantasy

Rating – PG

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Website http://awriterbyday.com/

Author Interview – Carla Woody

How much of the book is realistic? Have you included a lot of your life experiences, even friends, in the plot? I’ll first say that it is a work of fiction. But elements of the challenges that the characters undergo may seem familiar to a number of readers just because it speaks to the human condition. I did draw from a number of actual incidents in my own life, especially ceremonial experiences and time in Maya sacred sites and villages. I changed a few cultural things to fit in with the story, but otherwise the descriptions of ritual, beliefs and lifeways are factual. What I didn’t know myself, I researched through a stack of anthropological books I have on the specific Maya people I wrote about.

Will you write others in this same genre? Right now I’ve got two different ideas vying for my attention, both well developed. I’m not yet sure which one will win out to focus on first. It would be great to be able to split myself in two! Aside from that, one of the minor characters in Portals to the Vision Serpent is asking for a separate novel to tell his full story. I’m letting it percolate.

Who designed the cover? The artwork we used is one of my mixed media pieces, a ceiba tree—sacred to the Maya people—and a rainforest area that appears in the book. Becky Fulker of Kubera Design did the cover and interior design. I’d used her services before. She turns out professional results and is a delight to work with. Her website is: http://kuberabookdesign.com.

Who is your book publisher? I self-publish through my own small press: Kenosis Press.

What articles have you published recently? My article The Last Spirit Keeper was published in Sacred Fire Magazine in November 2012, Issue 16, about the last Lacandón Maya elder in the rainforest of Chiapas, Mexico still maintaining his traditions against great pressure. My article Acts of Creation was just accepted by Stone Voices, a spiritually-oriented, literary arts journal, no date on publication yet.

What social issues interest you the most? I’m interested in a number of social issues. But Native traditions that are threatened are my primary focus. Since the mid 1990s I’ve spent a lot of time in Peru, Mexico and Guatemala working with the indigenous spiritual leaders and healers there. In the last six years I’ve been fortunate to make friends with a number of Hopi people as well. From my standpoint, the sacred threads—through ceremonies and lifeways—that traditional indigenous people weave are what holds the world together in a deeper sense. The pressure for them to leave those practices behind is overwhelming. If they do, I believe we all lose.

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Preston Johns Cadell is tormented. He attempts to outrun discontent and the void in his heart. His mother is hardly around. His father’s origins and disappearance are shrouded by family secrets. His sole remembrance of his father is flying through the stars nestled in his arms.

Any comfort Preston derives is from an unseen advisor who teaches him of the invisible world. Now he is coming of age. Memories arrive from long ago when a brown-skinned woman cared for him. But she, too, vanished. Finding the buried remains of his father’s altar, Preston must answer the draw to his destiny, to discover his lineage–even though he has no idea how or where it will lead him.

Portals to the Vision Serpent is a Hero’s Journey into the realms of shamanism and the Maya world. Interwoven are the struggles of indigenous peoples to preserve their way of life and tragedies that often come from misunderstandings. Through a family saga of dark wounds and mystery, spiritual healing unfolds.

The author donates 10% of profits from book sales to Kenosis Spirit Keepers, a 501(c)3 nonprofit she founded whose mission is to help preserve Native traditions in danger of decimation.

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Genre –  Fiction / Coming of Age / Historical

Rating – PG

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Website http://www.kenosis.net/

Review: Portals to the Vision Serpent by Carla Woody

Portals to the Vision SerpentPortals to the Vision Serpent by Carla Woody
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Was it a good book? Many of the book club members enjoyed this book for the way it was written and for the research that was poured into it. For me, I loved the fact that the author took a simple everyday story about a man discovering his past and filled it with historical and cultural elements that so many of us know so little about.

Would you recommend it? Absolutely. For anyone who likes historical fiction, this book is a must read. I must also stress that this book is centred on the personal journey of one man who grows and changes from the information he receives so you can expect a lot of drama which makes the book even more interesting.

What did you like about it? The first thing that made me fall in love with Preston's story was the writing. It's soft and gentle amidst sharing painful truths about the past. The other thing I liked about the book was the setting. Each scene was located against a backdrop that had you learning something new while providing readers with a sense of mystery about what else Preston was going to learn about his father.

Disclosure - As a Quality Reads Book Club member, I received a free copy of this book from the author via Orangeberry Book Tours in exchange for my honest review.

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