Dreaming in the Pages

Books ... where dreams are better than reality

Broken Pieces

Jack Canon's American Destiny

Saturday, August 24, 2013

In A Small Town by Marc A. DiGiacomo

CHAPTER ONE

August 3, 2007

Not In Our Town

I can’t get it out of my mind. The lightning that exploded from the end of the barrel. The ripping orange flash off the black steel. The smell of gunpowder. The sound, like an M-80. And the pain—the fucking searing pain. It is permanently scorched into my memory. Everything but his face. The face I didn’t see haunts me every second. All I remember are those ultra-white Reebok sneakers as he ran away. The fucking coward would have shot me in the back, but I turned around and caught the blast in the chest. I didn’t have time to pull my Glock.

The shot knocked me to the ground. I thought I was having a heart attack—I couldn’t catch my breath. Then I understood what happened, and reality hit: I was going to die.

It seemed to take minutes rather than seconds, but I managed to radio into headquarters. The response from the good guys was impressive, to say the least. They saved my life. Cops from my own town and others surrounded the scene. I knew they would come. When a cop gets shot, they all come, and with one thing in mind—to find the bastard who pulled the trigger.

Things grew foggy. I saw blue uniforms scurrying around the scene while white-clad EMTs lifted me onto the gurney and loaded me into the ambulance. I could hear people talking about me—reporters, other cops, curious residents. “Detective Matthew Longo…Only 29 years old, been on the force nearly 10 years…Shot in the fucking chest and shoulder. No wife or children. Parents live in town; Hutchville lifers. Oh yeah, the town is going to go batshit over this.”

Blood oozed from my left shoulder. My friend and paramedic Scotty Franks hovered over me and placed direct pressure on my wound. Even through my fog I could tell he was holding back tears. My shoulder was on fire. I never wore my bulletproof vest unless making entry on a search warrant, or if a hot pursuit was coming my way; then I quickly threw it over my shirt. I was lucky I had it on that night. Maybe someone on the other side was looking out for me.

I fell unconscious even with all the shouting around me. I dreamed of my funeral and who would be there. I saw myself in the blue box surrounded by a sobbing crowd of familiar faces. My parents looked horrible. My poor mother clutched her bible and rosary beads. My dad kept his eyes glued to the floor, angry and broken. My little brother Franny, in full uniform, stood near my casket at full attention, his white gloves damp from tears. Donny was there too, trying to keep it together.

I heard Scotty screaming for me in the distance. The poor guy loved me, but why was he screaming my name, spitting all over my face, at my wake? Maybe I should have had a closed casket.

Suddenly I felt him slapping me. I awoke and found myself back inside the ambulance. Scotty took a deep breath, in and out, and said, “Okay Matt, okay. Don’t do that again.”

The pain was relentless, and I couldn’t help but cry. Scotty put a needle into an IV line in my arm and the pain vanished almost immediately. “Don’t give me morphine Scotty,” I managed to whisper. “It killed my grandparents.” Then I lost consciousness again, falling into a world between life and death.

I heard someone screaming in the night. Was it me? It was too dark to see. Where’s Donny? I really needed him now. Was I dreaming again or was this some delusion of reality? I slapped myself and felt a sharp sting, jolting me awake.

It has been three weeks of hell living inside this apartment. My social life has been placed on indefinite hold. The phone rings constantly but who cares? I don’t answer. The window shades are drawn. I don’t know if it’s day or night, and I don’t give a shit.

Thankfully, the wound has been healing well. But I look at my shoulder and am repulsed by the scar and missing flesh. People say scars are sexy but this one may be the exception. My left arm is still in a sling. At times, the pain is still unbearable. The percocet I’m still taking makes me pass out.

The sink is loaded with paper dishes and plastic cups. Last week’s dinner from my mother sits on the kitchen table still wrapped in tin foil, and the smell is starting to ferment in my kitchen. I can hear my Dad’s deep voice in my head: “Why don’t you pull it together and clean up around here? You’re making your mother nervous.” She’s nervous? I can’t help laughing.

Hey Dad, your oldest son was almost shot dead in the same small, safe community where we played Little League baseball. Mind if I take a week or two to let that one sink in?

Only cops—and maybe some of their wives—realize how dangerous police work can become in a millisecond. Parents of cops usually choose to ignore the reality—it’s too difficult to accept that a life-or-death choice awaits their son or daughter at any moment. A bank robbery turns into a shootout; a wanted felon gets pulled over for a broken tail-light and decides suicide by cop is his only way to avoid a lengthy jail sentence. As a detective, this is my everyday reality.

This isn’t supposed to happen in a small town. We’ve never had a police shooting—never. In fact, the last time we had any kind of criminal shooting was ten years ago, and it was a domestic dispute between a father and his cheating son-in-law. These old-school Italians are no joke. The father said his son-in-law disrespected him, so he “took care of it” like they do in the old country.

It didn’t make any sense. It would have been one thing if I had been shot on a traffic stop. But I was just picking up a fucking pizza. Half pepperoni, half sausage. I was just walking down the street. It wasn’t even dark out as the sun was just setting in the western sky.

My mentor and partner Detective Domenico “Donny” Mello always told me never to “go anywhere alone.” He said, “Don’t even pick up lunch alone. A cop is always a target for someone looking to become infamous. The public hates us most of the time because our interactions are rarely positive. Nobody calls us when they have a new baby but if that baby isn’t breathing, there is no one else to call. Always the bad,” he would say. “Always the bad.” I miss Donny. He’s been away for three weeks at his family’s villa in Italy, on the Amalfi coast. Did he even know I had been shot?

The press remains close by outside my apartment, salivating for an interview, the fucking cretins. I’m the talk of the town—everyone wants to know about the cop shooting. Fuck them. Twice. Even if I wanted to relive the horrifying experience for them, it goes against department protocol.

I swallow down two percocets, lay down on the couch and let the painkillers do their magic. In my head the image haunts me—a dark shadow with the whitest fucking sneakers you ever saw.

****

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Genre – Thriller

Rating – R

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Excerpt: A Widow Redefined by Kim Cano

Chapter 2

The next morning I woke up late. Disoriented, I jumped out of bed and scrambled to check on Tyler before getting ready for work. I found him in the kitchen, eating a bowl of cereal.

“There you are,” I said, relieved. “Thank God you’re up and ready to go.”

“Did you oversleep?”

“Yeah. But I’ll be ready in ten minutes, and then I’ll take you to school.”

I rushed through my morning routine quicker than I ever had. On the drive to school, I remembered promising my son I would take him shopping for colored pencils and paper. Drawing was one of his favorite things.

“We’ll stop after dinner to get you those art supplies,” I told him, smiling.

He smiled back, then I kissed him goodbye before he got out of the car. I felt so happy, seeing him excited about a hobby and enjoying life again. It had taken a long time–too long, I’d thought, but he was almost back to himself.

I managed to make it to the office, clock in and be at my desk just before my boss, Dave, walked past. He had some new clients scheduled today, so it was important we looked organized. It was a busy time of year for tax accountants, and, even though we did well, Dave never stopped drumming up new business. He was a real hustler.

Luckily, Dave never gave me any trouble. He told me once that I accomplished the work of two people. Although I appreciated the compliment, what I really needed was a raise. Things had become pretty tight with only one income.

Fatima walked up to my desk and stood silently for a moment, the way she did when she was about to ask a question. “Did you happen to see Dancing with the Stars last night?”

“No,” I said. “I went to the cemetery.”

The words were out before I could stop them. I had over-shared. Again.

Fatima opened her mouth as if to say something, then closed it. She shifted her weight—all ninety pounds of it—then finally said “It was a pretty good episode,” and continued on to her seat behind me, next to Barb, the third member of our accounting trio.

“Everything okay?” asked Barb. I thought I detected a tiny bit of exasperation in her voice. I knew they both wished I’d stop reminding them how much I miss Justin. They’d never say it, of course, because even though they were pretty much opposites—Fatima, a just out of college, stick thin beauty, and Barb, a woman who embodied the dictionary definition of “matronly”—they both were much too kind to complain. But they were probably right. Two years is a long time to grieve out loud.

I mumbled, “I’m fine,” pressing the words through a forced smile.

“I think this morning needs some music,” Barb said. She patted my shoulder as she walked past me to the ancient radio that was balanced on the tallest filing cabinet. She turned the knob in search of a static-free station, but the reception predictably faded in and out. We could only count on two channels: Oldies and a Spanish station. Today she chose the former. On the way back to her desk, Barb smiled warmly at me. Her sweet round face and closely-cropped hairstyle reminded me of a garden gnome. She was the kind of person it felt comfortable and safe to be around.

As the day went on I cranked out one document after another, working like a machine, but my mind still managed to wander. I decided to take a break and email Justin’s mom in Phoenix. I had stopped trying to reach her by phone when she started replying to my voicemail messages with an email. I got the hint that it was her preferred form of communication… at least with me.

I sent her a message asking if she had been in town, and telling her I had been thinking of her recently. I didn’t mention the flowers. Since Justin died and they retired and moved away, we hadn’t managed to stay close.

Later in the day I read her reply. She hadn’t been in, but would let me know if they planned on coming up to Chicago. No “miss you,” no “how’ve you been?” She was an odd bird that way. Always somewhat distant with me, she was a bundle of sunshine and laughs with her son. A split personality, I thought, but I’d never shared that opinion with my husband. I liked Justin’s dad, though. He was sweet. Unfortunately, he never made calls or went on the computer much. He was more of an “in person” charmer. Once you were out of his sight, it was like you didn’t exist.

As I drove home from work, I thought about the flowers again. Knowing for certain that Justin’s parents hadn’t left them stirred an uncomfortable sensation in my gut.

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Genre – Women’s Fiction

Rating – PG

More details about the author & the book

Connect with Kim Cano on Facebook & Twitter

Website http://www.kimcano.com/

Friday, August 23, 2013

Beautiful Whispers by Alice Ayden

Beautiful Whispers – Alice Ayden

Amazon Kindle US

Amazon Kindle UK

Genre – Romantic Suspense

Rating – PG13

4.5 (4 reviews)

Free until 24 August 2013

Twenty-one year old Jane lives on a gorgeous Virginia Plantation and carefully manages her quirky family. Everyone assumes she'll marry her rich, childhood sweetheart, but things change when Alexander returns. There is an instant attraction between the girl from one of Virginia's oldest families and the son of a maid, but Jane is haunted by horrible images from her past. Will Alexander protect her from a past he doesn't even know about?

A Time of Myths by Chris Blamires

A Time of Myths – Chris Blamires

Amazon Kindle US

Amazon Kindle UK

Genre – Literary Adventure

Rating – R

4.5 (8 reviews)

Free until 24 August 2013

A Sweeping Tale of Mystery and Suspense, steeped in the folklore of the 20th century and played out in 60's Woodstock, 80's Soho & on a remote Greek Island - an ideal vacation read:

  • Woodstock, 1969: the Festival that defined a decade of peace, love and freedom. The paths of five young English students cross - with devastating consequences. Consequences that eventually reach a climax in an isolated Cretan gorge.
  • Seventeen years later: in the 'golden age' of capitalism, dramatic events conspire to reunite the surviving members, necessitating a perilous return to a tiny Greek island, where dangerous self-deceptions are at last forced into the glaring sunlight...

Ostensively, it's an action adventure and murder mystery interwoven with an enduring love story. But dig deeper and darker themes are uncovered, for the novel seeks also to examine who we are and how far we are truly in control of our actions, and even of our lives.

Lionslayer’s Woman by Nhys Glover

CHAPTER ONE

12 September 81 CE, ROME

Decaneus staggered slowly to his feet. The guards who had dumped him on the hot, hard-packed sand of the arena were already making their hasty exit. They’d removed his chains just after dragging him from his dark cell. Now his arms felt oddly light after having worn the manacles for so long. The skin where the iron had rubbed was raw and already putrefying. He knew that unless his wounds were treated soon they’d kill him.

But maybe he wouldn’t live long enough for them to kill him. He became aware of the sounds around him now. People. Crowds of people. He looked up from studying his wrists to see in the stark midday sun thousands of people arranged in tiered rows around him. Few seemed to be looking his way. Most were chatting, oblivious to the predicament of a lone barbarian prisoner-of-war standing in the centre of the bloodstained oval.

He wasn’t stupid, nor was he ignorant. He may come from the Dacian hills in the wilds north of Illyria, but even there they’d heard of the Roman arenas where brutal spectacles were staged to amuse the masses. He knew where he stood.

But it was the size that overwhelmed him in that moment. This amphitheatre was monstrous. It stood three stories high and happily contained tens of thousands. More people than Decaneus had ever seen in his life.

He heard a short trumpet blast. His eyes were drawn to the northern gate above which stood an ostentatiously decorated box, complete with canopy to protect its occupants from the sun. It had to be the Imperial box, he decided, and there were richly dressed people in it who were only now beginning to rise to leave. Were they not staying for the fun?

A few less jaded members of the audience suddenly gasped. Decaneus registered their excitement and followed their gazes. They weren’t looking at him. Instead, they stared, open-mouthed at a lone lion that was loping into the arena to join him. The creature looked as stunned by his situation as Decaneus was.

He had never seen a lion before, but he recognised it from descriptions he’d heard. A huge golden cat with a ragged, brown ruff that made its head seem too heavy to carry. It roared ferociously at the crowd as it paced forward, obviously drawn by the smell of the fresh blood that laced the sand around them so liberally. Would it be as hungry as he was?

His thoughts were slow and sluggish. He knew he was facing danger and possible death. He knew he needed to think. But in that moment, all he could do was watch the approaching creature with awed bemusement. Those teeth were so huge and sharp. He knew how painful a domesticated cat’s teeth could be. Being bitten by its huge cousin would be infinitely worse. And the creature before him had to weigh more than two men. It would knock him to the ground in one leap and be done with him in an instant.

His gaze was diverted back to the Imperial box. He saw a flash of bright blue, as a woman threw a stola over her shoulder. Then, for some reason, the woman turned to look at him. She wasn’t young – a mature matron from her appearance – but she was still a beautiful woman in the ornate and over-coffered style of the Roman nobility. Her gaze showed curiosity. And then, when her attention was drawn to the lion by its roar, it suddenly showed concern.

It was that concern that drew him from his numbed state. It was as if the goddess Bendis looked out through that woman’s concerned eyes. Suddenly his situation was crystal clear.

The lion was turning away from the crowds above him now focusing on the only available victim for its wrath. Him. In moments, the beast would be on him. Without weapons or even a shield, he had no way to defend himself.

Did he?

He had his hands. Could he do much damage with his closed fists? Unlikely. Could he choke the beast with his fingers around its thick throat? No, the neck’s massive, shaggy mane would make getting even his arms around its neck too difficult.

A memory flashed into his mind. A piece of cloth from a washing line wrapped around his throat and from behind him childish hands pulling it tight enough to suffocate.

That had been his older brother’s work when Decaneus was only seven. His older but shorter brother, Borieus, had thought it was so funny to hold him captive that way, strangling the life out of him. If a sharp yell from an observer hadn’t stopped him, Decaneus would have died that day. It was only a joke, Borieus had said afterwards. It had always just been a joke for Borieus.

But now he remembered how effective that innocent piece of fabric had been. Had his traitorous brother done him a favour teaching him that lesson? While the lion loped closer, Decaneus whipped off his filthy loincloth, the only covering on his body. It was a single length of fabric that might only just be long enough to wrap around the lion’s neck.

Pushing down his desire to run from the danger, he wrung the cloth tight like a piece of rope. He knew cats were in their element chasing after their prey. This cat would be no different. The only advantage he could garner in this moment was surprise. His actions had to be sudden and unexpected. He had to go on the attack!

Somewhere in the back of his mind, he registered the silence that had fallen over the arena. All the talking had stopped. Every eye was on him. They watched as he stalked his prey, stunned by the reversal of roles being acted out before them.

When he was close enough, he threw up his arms and yelled aggressively. The beast startled backward and turned away, looking for a way out. Decaneus took the opportunity. With a burst of speed and agility fuelled purely by terror and the desire for survival, he dashed forward and leapt onto the back of the confused lion. He whipped his arm around its neck with the tightly wound cloth in one hand.

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Genre – Historical Romance

Rating – PG

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Website http://nhysglover.com/

Guys Named Jack by Mark LaFlamme

I thought: Snake.

I bent at the knees. I twisted to my right, bringing my left hand down to intercept his. My palm came down on his wrist, altering the course of the knife from my belly to the ground. As his arm went down, so did the rest of him. His head dropped a full ten inches. I saw the O of shock morph into a tight-lipped grimace of pain and uncertainty.

My right hand had dropped to my side. Now I brought it up, quick and hard, and the taut stretch of flesh between my thumb and forefinger ripped into his neck. It struck the frail protrusion of his Adam’s apple, fracturing it. There a fast, high cry, like a cat when you step on its tail. I pulled my right hand away from his throat and brought the side of my left hand down on the back of his head where the spine meets brain. He offered an oafish grunt and then went down, face-first onto the curb between the sidewalk and the street.

I drew back and thought: Horse. I wheeled to my right where the first of the men was rolled into a tight ball on the sidewalk, his arms drawn in against his midsection, the lower part of his face a smear of dark blood.

I spun to my left where the second of them lay on his back unconscious, the center of his face a clot of blood as thick as stew. The bandana had fallen off his head and was stretched across the pavement like a slug that was trying to crawl away.

I spun back toward Squash-Nose, who was down with his arms spread out at his sides as if in surrender. His bandana had stayed put. Good for him.

The spell broke. My legs straightened and I stood, limbs buzzing with adrenaline. Insanely, I found that I was humming softly, down deep in my throat. Sympathy for the Devil, I believe it was. The part where Mick Jagger really gets grooving and bragging about how he’d laid traps for troubadours who get killed before they reach Bombay.

I shook my head, literally trying to shake the music out of my brain. I turned toward the street where Julie was cowering, backing away with her hands over her mouth. Her hair was wet with the rain that had started to fall. Her eyes were wide and thin streams of eyeliner were rolling down her cheeks like Alice Cooper tears.

I went to her, getting an arm around her waist and walking her down the street, toward the parking garage. She was stiff under my arm, moaning softly as we moved as quickly as we could.

When we reached the cave-like entrance to the garage, she softened. Her body seemed to go limp and she fell into me, reaching out blindly for balance. I caught her in both arms and helped her stand again.

“Oh, my God!” she said. “Oh. My. God.”

And that was all for the time.

We hurried through the garage and climbed to the second level. I held her with one arm, needing the other to operate the key so I could let her into the Ranger. When she was in, I closed the door and ran around the other side to climb in behind the wheel.

Julie was staring out the window into the dark and gloomy lot. The other cars and trucks parked there somehow looked depressed, like animals left out in the cold.

I started the car and fiddled with the heater levers.

“What just happened?” Julie said, still staring out into the gloom. “What the hell just happened back there?”

I didn’t know how to answer that, so I said: “We’re okay. I’m going to drive us back to Myrtle, all right?”

She grunted something and leaned back against the seat. I backed out of the space and drove through the cavernous lot until I was at ground level. I wished I could think of something reassuring to say to her. Something more helpful. It was going to be a long ride home, full of awkwardness and clumsy attempts to explain by yours truly.

But I was wrong about that. When I got to the exit, it was jammed with cop cars. There were three of them that I could see and more were on the way.

Julie and I weren’t going anywhere.

***

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Genre – YA / Thriller

Rating – PG

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Website http://marklaflamme.com/

Author Interview – Arthur J. Gonzalez

Tell us a bit about your family. I have the most amazing family on the planet. I have amazing uncles, aunts, cousins, and step dad. But at the very core of what keeps me going, are my Pops, sisters (LeiLei and Stephy), my mom, and my grandparents (Mima and Pipo). These individuals have not only taught me what true family is, but they act on this very belief every second of every day. I do not know what I would do without them and I am bathing in the riches of the blessings we share together.

My Pops passed away from a sudden heart-attack when he was 48 years old (6 years ago). Yes – it forever changed my life. He is with me every day, and his passing is what inspired me to follow my dreams and never want to cease any attempt at it.

How do you work through self-doubts and fear? This has been my biggest obstacle. I’ve had to really fight through my insecurities and not allow them to stop me in my quest for publishing success. There’re always the “This sounds like crap” or “this isn’t good enough” thoughts, but I’ve learned that a lot of times, the best thing to do is take a step back and then return to it. Often this has allowed me to return with a new, fresh perspective; and a lot of the time I find that what I wrote was actually pretty damn good.

We’ll always be our worst enemy when it comes to criticism.

What scares you the most? Dying prematurely and/or dying without leaving something meaningful behind. Something that I can be remembered by. And before I am able to set my family up for a worry/stress-free life. Everything I do is fueled by the ambition I have to one day call my mom and sisters and tell them, “Quit your job. I’ve made it. And so have you.” After my Pops died, I promised him I’d care for the family. And I can’t/won’t stop until I know I’ve accomplished that.

What makes you happiest? Being with family and friends.

What’s your greatest character strength? I would have to say that I am very thoughtful and genuine. I think this has allowed me to relate to the majority of people I come across. I always treat the other with respect and I make a concerted effort at making others feel appreciated and comfortable.

Photo Traveler

Seventeen-year-old Gavin Hillstone is resigned to being miserable for the rest of his life. Left alone in the world after his parents died in a fire when he was four, he was placed in foster care, which for him meant ending up in an abusive home with an alcoholic adoptive father.

Gavin’s only escape is in taking and creating images. His camera is his refuge from the unending torture and isolation of daily life in his “family.”

Until he learns by accident that he isn’t alone in the world after all. His father’s parents are still alive and living in Washington DC.

When he takes the plunge and travels 3,000 miles to find his grandparents, he learns that they—and he—are part of something much bigger, and more dangerous, than he could ever have imagined. Something that has always put his family at risk and that will now threaten his own life, while forever changing it.

He learns that he is one of the last descendants of a small group of Photo Travelers—people who can travel through time and space through images. But his initial excitement turns to fear, when he soon discovers that he and his grandparents are being pursued by the fierce remnants of a radical European Photo Traveler cult, the Peace Hunters. What Gavin has, they want!

His adventure will take him to past eras, like The Great Depression and the Salem Witch Trials. Gavin will have to discover who he really is and must make choices that spell the difference between life and death for himself, for the relatives he now knows and loves, and for the girl he will come to love.

For Gavin, life will never be the same.

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Genre - Young Adult Science Fiction

Rating – PG

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Website http://www.arthurjgonzalez.com/

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Author Interview – S.D. O’Donell

Do you recall how your interest in writing originated? I grew up with books and music. Going to the book store was considered an exciting family outing. We still do it, even with the onset of electronic books. My husband and I own around 15,000 books (not counting what’s on my Kindle). At one time, late in my high school years, our television broke. We didn’t fix it. Why bother, we had books to read, gardens to tend, music to play. Being around books so much of my life, and having an always-active imagination that needed an outlet, writing seemed like a natural choice of profession.

When and why did you begin writing? I started keeping journals as soon as I knew how to write. They were just “this is what I did today” until, as a teenage, I read The Diary of Anne Frank. I was both touched and inspired by the honesty and passion of the feelings she described. After that, I started sharing all of my innermost thoughts and emotions in my journals. That turned into writing stories and poems. That turned into a formal study of the craft of writing. After college, I moved further and further away from the creative aspect of story telling but kept working with words in other ways. Deadly Memories is my debut work of full-length fiction and a return to my roots.

How long have you been writing? All of my life. In addition to the journals, I wrote a play when I was 11 and directed it for my class (with class members as the actors). I worked on the high school newspaper and literary publication. I created a blog-like piece long before anyone knew about the internet, much less the word blog. Several times a week in study hall, I’d write a humorous take on what was happening at school and hand it off to a friend. It was then passed around and shared from person to person, often ending up in the hands of people I didn’t even know. I wrote and published short stories and poetry in college. And I have worked as a full-time free-lance writer, technical writer, and multi-media script writer over the course of my career.

When did you first know you could be a writer? In junior high English class. We had an assignment to write an autobiography. I started with “I’ve led a boring and uneventful life.” From there, I wrote about my life, such as it was at the age of 13. When I got the paper back, I not only had an A+ but the teacher wrote, “Your life has been anything but boring. This was a great read!!!” I figured if I could turn my life into an interesting read, I must have some talent at storytelling. Put that together with my penchant for journaling and I haven’t stopped writing since.

What inspires you to write and why? I write because I have a story I can’t get out of my head, a point I’d like to make, or built-up emotions that need release. I’m happiest when all three of those come together in one narrative.

What genre are you most comfortable writing? My favorite kind of book to read is mystery/thriller, so that’s the kind of book I’ve written. My challenge is finding a balance between developing characters and keeping the story flowing at a thriller pace. Based on the feedback I’ve received so far, I think I met my goal. But I might decide to give my hand a try at something else latter on in my career, just to experience what it’s like to put a little more time into character-building.

What inspired you to write your first book? My husband and son had gone camping for the week, so I was home alone. I spent a lot of time reading and watching movies. At some point, all of the stories began to filter into my dreams and I woke up once with the picture of a catatonic woman, found in a park. The feelings and ideas of that dream never left me and they eventually became the cornerstone of my first novel, Deadly Memories.

Who or what influenced your writing once you began? My husband, family, friends, and editor because they believed in me and in the story. What stronger influence can you have than support and encouragement?

Who or what influenced your writing over the years? All of the authors, good and bad, that I’ve finished over a lifetime of reading. While I’ve talked a lot about the fact that I read mystery/thrillers, I have read many of genres over time. I had a long period that I devoured science fiction, I have always enjoyed a good western, and I have read all of the books (and they can be many) in a large number of fantasy series. But most of all, I read what strikes me as good writing, regardless of formal genre definition. And everything I read influences me as a writer.

What made you want to be a writer? I have always had an overactive imagination and realized at a young age that I needed a way to let out all of the stories and ideas that crowded my head. In addition to writing, I studied performance arts and did a lot of acting up through college. I also studied music and dance. In the end, writing seemed a better fit with my introspective personality than performance arts.

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Genre – Murder / Thriller

Rating – PG13 (some foul language, a few short love scenes)

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Thursday, August 22, 2013

ARIA: Left Luggage by Geoff Nelder

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The previous day, Tuesday 14 April 2015:

The shuttle, Marimar, in orbit, is approaching the International Space Station docking port.

Peering over Vlad’s shoulder at the porthole, Jena could see the International Space Station rotating. Damn, it shouldn’t have been. Along with the other four crewmembers, she couldn’t speak, holding her breath as she thought through possibilities. She’d worked darned hard to get a seat on this mission, and it looked screwed already. Several long seconds later, she touched the Ukrainian’s arm.

“Vlad, let me see.”

“In a moment. Ah…”

She gave him the full force of a glare at the back of his head as if telepathy worked. She wouldn’t use feminine wiles in spite of unjust accusations to the contrary. She knew her success was based on skill and cunning, but in this charged atmosphere, nothing worked on Vlad. Tall, slim, and wearing his dark hair longer than the American male astronauts wanted to, he was selected for this mission because of his phlegmatic coolness, which could be annoying when Jena was in a hurry.

“Vlad, can you tell why it’s spinning?”

“I think so, but I need another angle. Ah, found something.”

Jena tried a push at his elbow to gain a better view. All she could see was her own reflection: jet-black hair and a scowling face—she smiled at herself.

Dan’s worry lines pulled his black eyebrows too high. “You know why the station is tumbling?”

“There, Commander,” Vlad said, “in the solar panel supports: a metal box. It must have given the station a nudge when it jammed there. Looks like a silvery suitcase.”

Jena prodded Vlad’s shoulder. “It’s not that I don’t believe you, but I like to see things for myself, move the hell over.”

A hand warmed the  back of her neck, followed by Antonio’s breath. “Let me see too. It doesn’t look as if it belongs there, does it? Una bomba?”

“Come away now, Doc,” Dan said. “Of course it’s not a bomb. Everyone strap in for final manoeuvring.”

IT TOOK TWO HOURS for the five-man crew to match the spin, dock, and transfer to the ISS. Anxious to investigate the aberrant object, Jena rushed to the new control module. It smelt of plastic and fruit juice spilt by the installation crew. She focussed on a view screen, her nose twitching at the blackcurrant aroma. Her annoyance with sloppy work was mollified by the prospect of an intriguing problem to solve.

Surprised at seeing her breath condense, she realized how much cooler the station was compared to the shuttle. She made a mental note to check then cancelled it— health and environment was Antonio’s remit. Their occupation with the enigmatic led to the danger of procedure slippage. She glanced around, noting scuffmarks on the grey plastic and aluminium curved walls. Her frown deepened at the sight of scribbled numbers on a locker. Anyone would think the place was a building site. Then she smiled—that’s exactly what it was.

Dan disrupted her inspection. “Jena, snag that suitcase with the remote-control grabber.”

The metallic case was just big enough for a weekend away. An apparent seam existed where a holiday suitcase would have been squashed shut but no padlock. The aluminium struts on the space station were not magnetic, and yet…

Jena frowned. “Damn, it won’t shift. Someone might have to go EVA.”

Vlad headed for the suit locker. “I’ll go. I’ve nothing much else to do until my observations start.”

“Hang on,” Dan said. “Vlad, you set up the remote radiometer. Let’s see if the case is emitting nasties. If anyone is going out, Abdul has more experience.”

Jena knew Vlad would be disappointed not going for the EVA. “I know I said an EVA might be needed, but I can’t see how Abdul’s going to move it from out there if this robotic arm and its four tons of prodding power can’t.”

Vlad winked at Jena. “He might see what’s holding it down.”

Jena gave up on the remote grab. “Any ideas on what it is before you go for a walk, Abdul?”

Abdul twitched his thin moustache. “Could the case have come adrift from another part of the station? Part of the antenna housing, yes?”

“No.” Vlad looked at Jena for confirmation. “I worked on that last year. It looks nothing like the antenna components. The case out there has a raised mark on its side.”

Jena looked again at the camera image. “I agree there’s a mark. A chevron.”

She looked at Dan for the EVA go-ahead.

“We really ought to await compliance from Houston. Okay, I appreciate they might take so long that whatever it is out there becomes a danger if it shifts. So, Abdul…I don’t have to tell you…”

“Take no chances? Of course.”

Jena put her hand on her hip. “What’s the protocol for handling possible alien artefacts?”

“It’s never happened, so there is none. Or…” Dan’s eyes darted between them.

The after-thought that the case might be alien hit Jena. Dan’s high blink rate told her his mind and emotions must be in turmoil too. But Jena knew the crew must occupy a scientific detachment. What was she, a machine? Even so, she bottled up her growing exuberance.

“Protocols were possibly drawn up fifty years ago, penso di si,” Antonio said. Nothing ever fazed him.

Jena loved his Turin accent but there was something unsettling about him. She said, “We’ll make up a protocol as we go along. No, that wasn’t a joke. I mean we didn’t have any training on handling alien artefacts.” She thumbed up at Abdul as he headed towards the suit lockers.

Dan muttered as he sat at a console. Keyword searches on the procedure for handling alien artefacts came up blank. “I don’t know... Maybe I’m being over-cautious, but we should wait clearance from Houston, even if they have to convene meetings with the President—it could be that important—”

Jena interrupted Dan, noting his thinning hair as if he’d lost more with this worry. “I don’t think we should wait for Caroline Diazem to make up her presidential mind.”

Antonio smiled, his almond complexion a result of Italian breeding and Mediterranean sunshine. “Commander, this is an international mission. President Diazem is delusional. Thinks she rules the planet, si? If we wait for the United Nations to decide on what to do with the case, the end of Time might arrive first.”

“Commander,” Jena said. “Abdul’s suited up and already on his way out.” She paused, noting that Antonio was studying Dan with interest. Dan had been chosen to command two other shuttle and International Space Station missions, not just for his intelligence and resourcefulness, but for his unflappability. She’d observed that serenity didn’t always achieve respect from eager astronauts like Abdul and wondered how Dan would handle such blatant insubordination.

“I suppose I kinda gave him a go-ahead,” Dan said. “But we mustn’t let our excitement over this case get in the way of procedures. We must consider all the options.”

Jena concealed a smile and yet knew Dan had little choice.

After deploying the sensors, Vlad activated the cameras to record Abdul’s EVA. Jena knew that Vlad wanted to be the one out there. She put an arm round his shoulders.

“I love the beautiful silence,” Vlad said. “To the purist, it isn’t infinite, but it is to me.”

“Me too. You Ukrainians don’t possess a monopoly on the awesomeness out there, although you sure have a unique way of expressing it.”

Dan called over to Vlad, “Anything from the remote sensors?”

“Nothing detectable emanating from the case, sir.”

On screen, Abdul swam into view. After he clipped his boots into a strut, he opened the jaws of a light titanium grapple and touched the case. It moved.

Antonio said, “I see it’s been programmed to be helpful in the presence of humans.”

“Or in the presence of Arabs, praise be to Allah,” Abdul said, as he prepared to take the case to a small holding dock on the station.

Jena waved a hand at the screen. “Maybe Abdul’s disrupted some kind of field.”

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Genre – Science Fiction / Medical Mystery

Rating – PG

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Fifth Life of the CatWoman by Kathleen Dexter

Fifth Life of the CatWoman – Kathleen Dexter

Amazon Kindle US

Amazon Kindle UK

Genre – Fantasy

Rating – PG13

4.8 (26 reviews)

Free until 24 August 2013

“It’s easy to find history written by those who win, those who hold power. It’s hard to find history written by the ones who lose,” says the mystery history teacher, Kat O’Malley. Unbeknownst to her students, she’s living the nine lives of a cat, and her history lessons come from four hundred years of underdog experience with witch trials, prejudice, intolerance and poverty. With much coaxing from the school’s headmaster—a man with as many secrets in his past as Kat has in hers—“the CatWoman” ventures out from the mirage oasis she shares with fifty cats to teach lessons that never made it into the history books. Through her considerable gifts as a storyteller, she teaches a new generation to live as if they, too, had to live nine lives and jump back eight times into any messes they create.
But when history repeats itself and the nightmare intolerance of Kat’s past resurfaces, will she retreat forever into the safety of her cat-filled mirage? Or will she embrace her new life, her teaching and the love of the one person who knows her secret?

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Contact by AFN Clarke

Brian's cursing over some admin hiccup in the otherwise perfect running of the company. Hookey, like me, is collapsed in a chair, snoring. My eyes now closing. Tiredness creeping over me. Drifting into half sleep...

Tired and wet! I've been here before! Strange thoughts. Half unconscious flashback images stealing around the murky corridors of my mind. Half back in Belfast, the other here in cold wet Brecon.

“Come on! Get up! Move your ass.” I'm yelling at a mud-and-rain-soaked recruit, trying to haul himself off the ground.

“Get that fucking rifle barrel out of the mud, you stupid shit.” All this above the crack of S.L.R.s and the shouts of my N.C.O.s at the rest of the section. The ground is uneven clods of thick grass, hidden holes and pools of water. Ahead a fifteen-foot-wide stream. There's a gasp as the crow in front of me hits the ice-cold water and wallows around up to his chest, weighted down by thirty pounds of equipment.

“Come on you fairy this isn't a swimming pool! Get across!" It's the second time I've been across the stream, so I'm already soaked through and freezing cold. There's a certain delight in watching somebody else do it. To the right an ashen faced crow lying on the ground, his rifle moving in a lazy arc.

“Smith, you bastard, you're supposed to be covering. Get that rifle firing.” He looks at me and for a brief second thinks of unloading the entire magazine of live rounds into my chest. The N.C.O. behind hits him with a large lump of wood and amid screams of abuse, Smith hauls himself off the ground and wades through the water.

Despite all the abuse the lads are working well, moving carefully but quickly and, apart from the occasional desire to give up, getting on with the job in hand. The “job” is to capture a sniper position up on the hill in front of us, the position being “held” by wooden targets. The back brace on one target is shot through and starts to topple. Before it hits the ground a burst from the machine gun, over on the right flank, smashes it to tiny pieces. Jones, the crow in front of me, zigzags forwards while Smith covers him. Smith is approaching exhaustion and starting to give up. He fires, and the round smacks into the ground inches away from Jones' left boot, whines away over the hill.

“Smith you little shit, what the fuck are you trying to do?” He looks a little shaken. “Bill, sort that cunt out,” I shout to Cpl. Conway. Just one more incident to talk about once the exercise is over.

The rain is coming down harder now, the icy drops lancing into my face, stinging; sodden beret clamped to head, smock twice its weight with water. This is the most dangerous part of the exercise. Tired crows nearing the end, bunching together, firing at the targets now only twenty-five metres ahead.

“Apply safety catches and skirmish through the objective.” I try and counter the noise. The N.C.O.s catch the call and the firing ceases. Euphoria that they have reached the objective takes over and the crows skirmish through, screaming and cursing. I hand over to Cpl. Conway, who carries on with the reorganisation and consolidation of the position, and walk over to a small outcrop of rock at the top of the hill. Looking back across the valley to a small wood about two hundred metres away, three figures emerge and start running with the awkward gait of men laden down with heavy equipment. Every so often one of them trips and stumbles over the rough ground, but they keep on coming. As they get closer I can hear the rasping pants as they struggle for air, their kit clunking and squelching, bruising their hips.

L.Cpl. Hedges brings the gun crew in on my signal and positions them. I feel good.

The sound of singing and splashing carries up through the valley and figures appear at the door of the hut to watch the procession. Standing out in the pouring rain, cold and wet with huge smiles on their faces, shouting obscenities together with derisive gestures. Four months ago, they were just a bunch of out-of-work unfit youths who fancied themselves as paratroopers. Out of the seventy that originally formed the platoon, there are thirty here on the range. And they are all fit, healthy and happy. Sometimes.

Time to stop the daydream and get the last section through. So it's trot down the hill, wade through the stream and nonchalantly stroll up to where the section is waiting. Fully kitted out. Laden down with ammunition and other equipment. Now slightly nervous as the moment of truth has finally arrived.

“O.K. lads. Listen in. Safety procedures...” I run through the briefing, give them the scenario and off we go again. My platoon Sgt. just grins and disappears back inside the hut, muttering something about having to get on with the admin. His words echo strangely in the doorway.

“The Ardoyne was...”

“Ardoyne...” Someone in the background talking. Waking me.

The word is emotive enough in Army circles. That such a small area could cause so much suffering and hardship is barely credible. Before we arrived in the place, no police had been into the area, no taxes had been paid, rates, electricity bills, nothing. How big? It was split into two. The old Ardoyne and the new. The old is about three hundred yards long by the same width, crowded with terraced housing. The new is slightly bigger with a more modern standard of terraced housing. Surrounded by OPs, five in all, with nearly two hundred and fifty men patrolling it by day and night. Still the shootings occurred. Ambushes, bombs thrown. Delightful little spot to spend four or five months of your life.

Awake again. Mouth like the inside of a fisherman's boot. Numb joints, numb mind. Toms standing in the dull glow of the light bulb. Rifles in hand, slings attached to wrists. Blackened badges on battered berets. Listless shuffling, mindless banter. I file the planned route in the Ops Room and then we go out into the clammy cold midnight air. It's stopped raining. Score one against Sod's Law. Cover across the Crumlin Road. Slippery street and few cars. Up by Fort Knox and slip quietly and unobtrusively into the Ardoyne.

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Genre – Autobiography / Biography & Memoir

Rating – 18+

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Unintended Consequences by Marti Green

Unintended Consequences by Marti Green

Amazon Kindle US

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Genre - Legal Thriller

Rating - PG

4.4 (300 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.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Colorado Mandala by Brian Heffron

Michael paused, his flinty eyes darting out at his listeners. Yes, they were ensnared—just the way he liked them. The power of his oratory filled him up. The corners of his mouth curled upwards, and he bared his perfect teeth into a smile he knew his listeners would find intoxicating.

“… He was aaaalways cold,” Michael drawled, letting the word lounge in his mouth a bit, “but the land of gold seemed to hold him like a spell;

Though he’d often say in his homely way that he’d sooner live in hell.

… And that very night, as we lay packed tight in our robes beneath the snow, And the dogs were fed, and the stars o’erhead were dancing heel and toe, He turned to me, and Cap, says he, I’ll cash it in this trip, I guess;

And if I do, I’m asking that you won’t refuse my last request.”

Michael stopped and drained his whiskey glass. Every pair of eyes in that bar bored into him. The women—breathing hard, visibly—and the men, too, were transfixed. Michael took all this in, and then continued.

“Well, he seemed so low that I couldn’t say no; then he says with a sort of moan:

It’s the cursed cold, and it’s got right hold till I’m chilled clean through to the bone.

Yet ‘taint being dead—it’s my awful dread of the icy grave that pains;

So I want you to swear that, foul or fair, you’ll cremate my last remains.”

A brief scuffle in the far corner of the bar brought Michael’s gaze upward again for a beat. Shadows and light and whiskey tangoed together in his mind for a moment. An old scene seemed to flash there as well. But Michael blinked back the memory, whatever it was; no, not now. He shook it off and continued:

“A pal’s last need is a thing to heed, so I swore I would not fail;

And we started on at the streak of dawn; but God! he looked ghastly pale.

He crouched on the sleigh, and he raved all day of his home in Tennessee;

And before nightfall a corpse was all that was left of Sam McGee.”

Breathing in the bar had seemingly ceased completely. His audience was all one body, one ear, and one eye. All upon Michael Boyd Atman.

“There wasn’t a breath in that land of death, and I hurried, horror-driven, With a corpse half hid that I couldn’t get rid, because of a promise given;

… Now a promise made is a debt unpaid, and the trail has its own stern code.

In the days to come, though my lips were numb, in my heart how I cursed that load.

In the long, long night, by the lone firelight, while the huskies, round in a ring, Howled out their woes to the homeless snows—O God! how I loathed that thing.”

Michael’s voice now softened. Something snuck into it that hadn’t asked permission, and remained. What was it? His audience saw their performer naked before them and this engaged them even more.

“… Till I came to the marge of Lake Lebarge, and a derelict there lay;

It was jammed in the ice, but I saw in a trice it was called the “Alice May.”

And I looked at it, and I thought a bit, and I looked at my frozen chum;

Then “Here,” said I, with a sudden cry, “is my cre-ma-tor-eum.”

Some planks I tore from the cabin floor, and I lit the boiler fire;

Some coal I found that was lying around, and I heaped the fuel higher;

The flames just soared and the furnace roared—such a blaze you seldom see;

Then I burrowed a hole in the glowing coal, and I stuffed in Sam McGee.”

Here Michael stopped again. Had that old memory returned…the one he had tried to push away earlier? Tears welled in his eyes and he felt sheepish, almost frightened, but then—he realized he didn’t care. He let it come and the tears fell.

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Genre – Literary Fiction

Rating – PG

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Slow Burn by Bobby Adair

Slow Burn – Bobby Adair

Amazon Kindle US

Amazon Kindle UK

Genre – Horror

Rating – PG13

4.7 (72 reviews)

Free until 13 December 2013

A new flu strain has been spreading across Africa, Europe, and Asia. Disturbing news footage is flooding the cable news channels. People are worried. People are frightened. But Zed Zane is oblivious.
Zed needs to borrow rent money from his parents. He gets up Sunday morning, drinks enough tequila to stifle his pride and heads to his mom’s house for a lunch of begging, again.
But something is wrong. There’s blood in the foyer. His mother’s corpse is on the living room floor. Zed’s stepdad, Dan is wild with crazy-eyed violence and attacks Zed when he comes into the house. They struggle into the kitchen. Dan’s yellow teeth tear at Zed’s arm but Zed grabs a knife and stabs Dan, thirty-seven times, or so the police later say.
With infection burning in his blood, Zed is arrested for murder but the world is falling apart and he soon finds himself back on the street, fighting for his life among the infected who would kill him and the normal people, who fear him.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Dreams of the Queen by Jacqueline Patricks

Chapter 1

Darkness reigned in the subterranean passages. The darkness and cool, crisp air caressed her like a silken wrap. Her eyes shut as the alien voices chanting in the distance drifted to her. Weaving its usual peaceful atmosphere, the song ensnared and relaxed her. Cass always enjoyed this part of the dream, and despite the delicate balance of comfort and claustrophobia, she gave herself over to the strange voices. They enticed her, tempting her through the passageway, and she danced forward, heedlessly drawing her fingers along the roughhewn walls.

Then something changed. Tendrils of energy infused her body, tangling her limbs and sensitizing her skin like sunburn. She cringed and stumbled, her eyes snapping open.

A striking man knelt at her feet as if proposing, and her pain receded as she admired him. Long, ice-white hair curtained his bowed head, concealing his features and dark, faintly iridescent clothing, covered his slim physique.  Cautiously reaching out, she touched the crown of his head. Hair like silken feathers met her burning fingers, and a faint blue glow emanated. A static shock and a faint scent of ozone struck her. Her knees quivered and she swooned, lightheaded, before locking them straight and regaining her composure.

“My queen, the time is nigh,” he said. His baritone smoothed over her, scattering the ashes hiding the embers of her passion. 

“Tell me your name,” she said. 

“You know my name.” His head tilted up, exposing his face.

She inhaled, pinned by his bright, indigo eyes and his dilating, catlike pupils. With his pale, sharp features, she recognized him as humanoid but not human, though unbearably beautiful. Could a man be beautiful?  

“You’ve always known my name, my Cass, my Queen.”

“Tell me!” She bolted upright into darkness. The caves... She was still dreaming!  No! She clenched a cotton sheet in her fists. It bunched at her rapidly rising and falling chest.

Her bed ... she was home.

Fingers fumbling the switch, Dr. Cassiopeia Baros leaned over and snapped on the light. Faced away from Julian, her fiancĂ©, she rolled over and smiled in relief at the sight of his very normal—human—body in repose. Having gotten used to her weekly troubling dreams, he didn’t stir; but eventually the light woke him, and he shifted awake with a concerned frown marring his softly handsome face.

Blue eyes blinking and squinting as they adjusted without his glasses, he spoke in a gravelly voice, “Hon?” He reached out and caressed her arm. “That dream again?”

“Yeah...” She entwined her fingers with his and lay back down, concentrating on keeping her breathing slow and even.

“Bad?”

“Sort of ... part of it was different this time.”

“Really?” He sat up, eyes widening. “Wanna talk about it?”

Did she? The intensity in his gaze unnerved her, and she compared his eye color to her dream man’s. What did that say about her? Probably nothing good, definitely nothing she wished to delve into presently. No, she really didn’t want to talk about it right now, especially not with Julian.

“Not now, maybe later?” She hoped he wouldn’t push. Additional details would send him into a frenzy of scientific discovery leading to her being questioned the rest of the night. If, however, she set him up to pry, he’d probably back off. For now.

“Oh ... okay.”

Bingo! Then she quickly added, “I’m just tired, and we have a big day at the lab tomorrow.”

“You’re right ... I just thought. Never mind.” Julian yawned. “We can still get a few more hours. Think you can get back to sleep?”

“No problem.” 

After turning her light off, Cass snuggled under the covers and cozied her back to him. Julian draped a slim arm around her waist and tucked her in close. A short time later, he lightly snored while she studied the gloom, her mind reverberating with the image of the extraordinary man. 

Who was he? Was he real? What did his appearance and statement mean? He sounded so ... reverent when he spoke her name and called her queen. And how had she understood him, yet none of the other voices?

“You’ve always known my name, my Cass, my Queen.”

She shivered, not entirely sure why, and tried to sleep.

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Genre – Science Fiction / Romance

Rating – R

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Sunday, August 18, 2013

Tangled Secrets by Carol Preston

Chapter One

Wiltshire, England, May, 1829

The stone bench under Bill’s buttocks was hard and cold, but not nearly as icy as the twisting knot in his stomach. His face contorted as tears ran from his eyes, over his bristly cheek and into his beard.

The other prisoners gave him a wide berth. He knew they would find no words of comfort to offer him. As if it wasn’t bad enough to face the prospect of never seeing his family again but then to have the news that not only his wife but his three-month-old baby had passed away. Now Bill’s other three children would be left motherless as well as fatherless. Even the most hardened of criminals would cringe at the thought. And Bill Nipperess certainly didn’t think of himself as a hardened criminal. Poaching one lamb to feed his family seemed a paltry reason to be shipped to the other side of the world for the rest of his life.

Bill wasn’t a man to say much at any time, but now he couldn’t even bring himself to look at the small huddle of prisoners who had gathered on the far side of the cell. He wondered if he’d ever have the heart to speak again. It had been hours since the warden had hissed his gruesome message into the darkness, as if were some piece of irrelevant gossip. In another life such heartlessness would be considered utterly inhumane. But Bill knew the prisoners’ lives had ceased to matter to their jailers. Soon they would all be taken on board one of the ships being readied to sail to New South Wales. In no time at all they would just be forgotten refuse.

‘Can I get you a drink of water?’ One of the prisoners called, his voice cracked with pity.

Bill didn’t answer. He sat as stone-like as the walls and floor around him, his eyes staring into nothingness.

‘P’raps he’ll go stark raving mad,’ another whispered.

‘P’raps it’d be better to be so,’ said a third. ‘Better than knowin’ what we’re to go through … an’ thinkin’ about his younguns all alone.’

‘I heard he has sisters. Let’s hope they take care of the little ones.’

‘Small comfort I should imagine, for he’ll never see them again now.’

****

Bill was thirty years old when he arrived in Sydney Cove on the convict transport, Katherine Stewart Forbes. It was February eighteenth, 1830. Along with some of his fellow prisoners he was assigned to tented convict quarters at Parramatta and put to work on one of the farm plots taken up by members of the military corps. As the months passed, his body hardened and tanned with the physical work but his mind remained tortured. He was sure he would never heal from the devastating loss of his freedom, his home, and his family. He would never forgive himself for leaving his Martha alone, pregnant with their fourth child and ailing from the impoverished existence he had been able to provide in Wiltshire. He had nightmares about Martha’s last days and hours. Her ravaged face was etched into his mind like a raw burn. Her anguished cries woke him often and he would wretch with the agony of the sound in his ears.

However, as the months turned to years, Bill could not deny the glimpses of hope rising within him. He had heard other convicts talk of bringing their families out from England. The pessimism that had reigned in the early days of the colony had gradually been replaced by visions of rich pasturing and successful industries. Even a modest land holding and hard work could produce a life that far surpassed the meager existence available for the common man in England. Well-behaved convicts were regularly given Tickets of Leave before their sentences expired. This enabled them to work as paid employees rather than in servitude. They could become more independent and make choices about their future. If they were seen to honour this privilege they were sometimes granted a Certificate of Freedom, which saw them released from all the obligations of their convict status. They became free men in a new and growing colony where prospering was encouraged and assisted.

In June of 1839, after working hard as an assigned convict for nine years, Bill was granted a Ticket of Leave. He was given a transfer to Fielding’s sheep farm in the Parramatta area where he became known as a diligent worker; a no-nonsense character who could be trusted with responsibility. It was here that he began to dream of a better life. Although at first he had tried hard to push thoughts of his children from his mind, now he began to think about them more and more. Beth was his eldest. A pretty, fair-haired six-year-old she had been when he left. Then there were his boys: Tom and Henry. They’d been just four and two. His sisters had called Tom, ‘Nipper’, from the beginning. He wondered if the nickname had stuck. He teared up whenever he thought of their rascally grins, their hazel eyes and masses of floppy curls. Could he possibly bring them to this foreign place? Could he take them from the only family they would likely remember? Would they want to be with him? Could they ever forgive him?

****

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Genre – Historical Fiction

Rating – G

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Author Interview – Emma Right

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Is your family supportive? Do your friends support you?

Only my immediate family-basically my kids and husband. I have very few friends, and no social life, except if you count kids’ activities a social life.

What else do you do to make money, other than write? It is rare today for writers to be full time…

I homeschool my kids and that takes up a lot of time. Also my husband travels a lot and so I have to be mom and dad to them. It can be very draining at times–emotionally and physically. That’s why I cling to God. It’s too hard to do it on my own. And don’t forget all those pets I have to care for, too.

What other jobs have you had in your life?

I used to work as a copywriter for ad agencies,and I’ve won several advertising awards, like the Clio.

If you could study any subject at university what would you pick?

How to market books on the internet and social media marketing. I’m so bad at that.

If you could live anywhere in the world where would it be?

USA! Always. We are so blessed to be in this country.

How do you write – lap top, pen, paper, in bed, at a desk?

Lap top in the car while waiting for my kids to finish up some ECA, or at a desk by the kitchen, while waiting in between things on the stove cooking, or food in the oven baking. That way if something’s burning I can run to it, pronto.

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Books written in blood. Most are lost, their Keepers with them. A curse that befell a people. A Kingdom with no King. Life couldn’t get more harrowing for the Elfies, a blend of Elves and Fairies. Or for sixteen-year-old Jules Blaze. Or could it?

For Jules, the heir of a Keeper, no less, suspects his family hides a forgotten secret. It was bad enough that his people, the Elfies of Reign, triggered a curse which reduced the entire inhabitants to a mere inch centuries ago. All because of one Keeper who failed his purpose. Even the King’s Ancient Books, did not help ward off that anathema.

Now, Gehzurolle, the evil lord, and his armies of Scorpents, seem bent on destroying Jules and his family. Why? Gehzurolle’s agents hunt for Jules as he journeys into enemy land to find the truth. Truth that could save him and his family, and possibly even reverse the age-long curse. Provided Jules doesn’t get himself killed first.

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Genre - Young Adult Adventure Fantasy  

Rating – G

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Connect with Emma Right on Facebook & Facebook (Keeper of Reign)

Website http://www.emmaright.com/Home.aspx