Author KateMarie Collins- Fin’s Magic

Another thrilling story by the international best-selling author of “Mark of the Successor”!

 

Fin depends on her companions to keep her safe…and out of chains. As one of the Amari, the only race that can harness magic, she longs for a normal life. One where she didn’t have to constantly look over her shoulder, and she could fall in love.

 

Alaric fell hard for Fin from the moment he laid his eyes on her three years ago. He swore an oath to keep her safe, even if it meant his life. But he knew that any relationship he could hope to have with her would be on her terms.

 When a king offers them the chance at a normal life, Fin’s cautious. And rightly so, as there are others who think she’s the one to lead the Amari from a life of slavery.

Buy now! https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/420044

SNEAK PEEK! SNEAK PEEK! SNEAK PEEK!

Chapter One

            Thunk.

            The sound of the arrow piercing the wild boar’s carcass seemed loud in the early morning silence. Fin lowered her bow. “Well, at least I hit it that time”.

            “Your aim’s getting better. It may not convince a trained archer, but most won’t question your role with us. That should make things easier for you.” Alaric kept his voice low.

            She reached over her shoulder and extracted another arrow from her quiver. Nocking it into place, she slowly drew back the string. “Easy hasn’t been part of my vocabulary for a very long time.” She let the string go, wincing as the string bit into her arm. “And fooling most of the people isn’t good enough.” Fin rubbed at her stinging skin as she watched the arrow fly. It landed in the ground at least a yard away from the boar.

            “Come on, let’s go pick them up and try again.” Alaric motioned for her to follow him.

            They kept their voices low as they passed the small tents where their companions slept. No sense in waking them up before dawn, not unless something showed up. The last few days had been tough on all of them. After the way they’d left Lorien, Fin still kept her ears open. She didn’t like the feeling of being chased. But it was better than being chained.

            “Fin, relax. If anyone made out what you are in town, they’d have caught up to us by now.”

            She shook her head, the red braid dancing down her back. “You know I can’t. The only reason I’m still free is because I don’t relax. If I relax, this happens.” She looked at him.

            Fin watched as Alaric’s face turned momentarily to amazement as she flashed the true color of her eyes at him. The normal green was gone, replaced by the metallic gold that marked her as one of the Amari. She sighed.

            “It’s beautiful, you know. They’re beautiful. It’s a shame you have to hide them. Even around us.”  Alaric’s voice was barely above a whisper.

            “Yeah, well, hiding them has kept me out of chains for twenty years. It’s a habit now.” Fin bent down and picked up her arrow. “I read somewhere once there used to be thousands of us. Walking the streets, not hiding. I haven’t met another Amari for over ten years, not one who didn’t belong to someone.” A wistful tone crept into her voice.

            Alaric’s hand on her shoulder made her look up. “You don’t have to hide around me. No one should be treated like that, ever. And I won’t let that happen to you.”

            The look he gave her sent chills down her spine. Of all her companions, he was the one she talked to the most. Put all her trust in. Emile, Trystian, and Gwen were all there to protect her, hide her, and she knew it. But there was something about Alaric that told her his interest went even farther.

            His focus changed to something behind her. She made sure her eyes were hidden again. That was the first bit of magic she learned how to do. It was the only thing that had kept her free for so long.

            “In the camp!” A male voice called out from the surrounding brush. “We’re cold tonight. Can we share your fire?”

            Fin hurriedly gathered the last of her arrows, then darted back to wake the others. Alaric’s voice carried across the small area. “Depends. Are you friend or foe? We don’t take kindly to those who would share our fire and try to rob us blind.”

            Fin rushed into the first tent, shaking Gwen awake. A single finger to her lips was all the warning the dark haired woman needed. Slipping back out, Fin could see three men emerging from the forest not far from Alaric’s tall form. No armor, no uniform, but something wasn’t right about how they walked.

            “Would we ask first if we were foes? Why not just rob you? Why give your pet time to warn the others?” Fin stiffened at the word the man used to describe her. Pet. That’s what a chained Amari was called. She dove into the second tent. Emile caught her within his embrace. “Shh. There’s no guarantee they know.”

            Trystian was up as well, strapping his sword belt on. “Stay close. We’ll keep you safe.” The tall, bearded man reassured her before leading the way out of the tent.

            “What pet? There’s none here. If that’s what you seek, you’re in the wrong place.” Alaric’s voice was even. It was always better to talk their way out of a conflict.

            The first tendrils of light from the approaching dawn gave her enough to see what she feared. All three of the men approaching Alaric had chains dangling from their belts.

            “Ah, that’s fine. Charlie here–” the leader jerked his head back towards one of his companions, “–he likes to pretend he can smell ‘em. Says they smell bad on account of being corrupted by that magic of theirs.” He kicked at the dead boar Fin and Alaric had used for target practice. “Seems to me this is what he was smelling.”

            “Fire’s that way.” Alaric gestured towards the rest of them. Fin tried not to grip her bow too tightly. The others stood near enough to prevent anyone from reaching her, but far enough away to pull out their weapons if it became necessary.

            “Much obliged,” the leader remarked as he motioned the others to follow. Fin watched the strangers approach, Alaric trailing close behind. Something wasn’t right about them. It went beyond the shackles.

            Alaric raised his chin, calling out “We have guests.”

 

            That’s when it happened.

            The lead bounty hunter threw his fist back hard, knocking Alaric to the ground. Fin fumbled with her quiver, sending out the silent healing energy to her friend. Around her, the other three drew their weapons and prepared to meet the charging foes.

            By the time she got an arrow nocked, they were too close. Fin retreated a few feet, watching the fighting closely. Her bow was ready, but she needed to get a clear shot.

            Close combat always unnerved her. The stench of blood turned her stomach. Gwen was holding her own against the one named Charlie, and winning handily. When the first body dropped, Fin relaxed just a little. There weren’t many out there who could beat Trystian or Emile in one-on-one combat, because the two men didn’t believe in mercy. Just an expedient death.

            An arrow buzzed past her ear, the fletching scratching her cheek. Spinning on her heels, she watched it sail past the man charging at her. He leaped to tackle her as she tried to raise her bow. Instinct kicked in, and she did the only thing she could think of to stop him.

            She willed his heart to stop beating.

            An anguished wail tore from her throat. Pain forced her to her knees and caused her to drop her bow. The body of her would-be assailant fell with a heavy thud in front of her. Fin grasped at her left arm, desperate to breathe through the searing agony rippling down her bicep. She’d killed him. Justified or not, she’d taken a life.

            “Fin? Are you okay?” Alaric’s voice broke through the shock. She opened her eyes.

            He knelt in front of her. A single hand gently brushed her hair from her face. Concern for her was clearly visible in his brown eyes.

            “I…I killed him.” She could barely whisper the words.

 

Chapter Two

 

Captain Roberts watched the fight unfold. The fools. That had to be the dumbest set of bounty hunters he’d ever seen. The one remaining hidden was fairly good, but still clumsy. No wonder it’d taken them three days to catch up with the Amari and her friends.

            When she killed the one, he knew it was time to move. He signaled to one of the men behind him. “Get everyone mounted, move around to surround them. But don’t come out until my signal.” He turned to the man to his right. “James, come with me. I might need your help convincing her to come quietly. We’ll go in on foot.” He nodded once, assured that his men would do as he ordered without hesitation. They always did.

            Roberts looked back towards the makeshift campsite. Three of them were moving to pack up gear. The Amari still remained on the ground, the archer comforting her. She favored her left arm.

            “The scar will be deep for that,” James remarked in a low voice. “The physical pain will not cease for days.”

            “What about the rest of it?” Roberts asked.

            James turned to face him. The metallic gaze of his always amazed Roberts. No matter how often he’d seen it. “The mark on her soul will remain. We do not forget any death we cause, no matter how justified.”

            He nodded in understanding. “Keep your eyes hidden for now. When we need them to know what you are, we’ll reveal it.” With that, he stepped out of the edge of the woods and into the dawn-drenched clearing.

            He didn’t announce himself. He just walked. They would see him, or he and James would stop close enough they didn’t have to scream and alert anyone else lurking in the woods.

            The other woman saw them first. She slapped the arm of the two helping her pack up camp. Swords came out quickly. They were well trained. Roberts could appreciate that. All three moved to take positions to defend the Amari. The archer was helping her to stand. He and James were close enough now to see her face clearly. Pain marred the pale skin. She was not well.

            “That’s close enough, soldier.” The bearded man spoke, his accent giving away his identity. That helped Roberts immensely. He had names, but not descriptions, of the Amari’s companions. “We do not need assistance from you. The corpses are those of some ruffians who set on us. We just defended ourselves. Go keep the King’s Peace elsewhere.”

            Roberts spread his hands wide, keeping his sword in its sheath. “Have no worries, Trystian. We saw the fight and know who started it. We’re not here to arrest you, just deliver an invitation.”

            Suspicion crossed the faces of the ones he could see. “I don’t blame you for your caution. There are many out there who would send better men than the ones you dispatched in hopes to find your companion. And chain her. My liege is not one of those. He would help her, offer her sanctuary.” He walked a few more steps, staying just out of sword range. “Not all feel the Amari are dangerous unless leashed. I can show you the proof of that.” He looked at James and nodded.

            The reaction was what he hoped for. The one he thought was Emile glanced back and whispered something to the archer. Roberts still wasn’t certain he had the names right between those two.

            “What is it you want from us? We only wish to be left alone, travel in peace.” The archer spoke, cinching his identity. Alaric, the Islander.

            “We only offer sanctuary while you’re in my King’s lands. We will not prevent you from leaving. He knew you roamed near and would take counsel with you. Give you the chance to rest, recover. Meet more of your kind.”

            “How do you know what I am?” The voice of the woman rose up from behind the group. They parted, giving Roberts the first real look at her. Her shirt was ripped and bloodstained, her red hair escaping from a single braid and framing her tired, pained face. She did not hide her eyes from him.

            James dropped to his knee in front of Roberts. “We know because we would not give up hope, Your Highness. Please, let us help you. Trust is not easy among us, but I would give my life up willingly if we deceive you in this. King Christoph is friend of the Amari, not foe. Let me prove it to you.”

            Roberts was taken aback. James had told him nothing of her being royal. From the looks of her companions, they were as stunned as he was.

            “And if we refuse?”

            Roberts raised his arm, waving his fingers once. The rest of his men, all seventy-five, slowly emerged from the forest. Ringing them with a mounted force. “I’m really sorry, but I’m going to have to insist. His Majesty is most anxious to talk with you.”

* * * *

            He didn’t try to engage them in conversation. They  took only two horses. Alaric rode behind the Amari, while Gwen took the other horse. The other two walked, hands on the reins of their companions’ horses. The expressions on their faces made it obvious that they didn’t trust him, especially after he called out his troops. Roberts sighed. He really didn’t want to do that, but the King had been adamant. Find them, find her, and bring her back to the safety of the castle. Lorien was at the very border of the kingdoms, and tensions were high between the countries. Roberts had pushed his men hard to try and get here before King Lor sent out his own troops to find her. Another league, though, and they’d be far enough into Caerlynn where he could relax. Even Lor wouldn’t cross the border that far.

            “Except that we did, Captain, and he could see that as a violation of the treaty.” James’ voice was low.

            “Treaty or not, we had orders. Though a little more information from you would’ve been nice! What possessed you to not mention she was the last member of the Royal Family?”

            James shrugged, “I wasn’t sure she was, not until I saw her. From the look on her face, she has no idea herself. The story has been told so many times, you wonder how much is true and how much has been added by a bard.”

            “I want to hear this story, sir. I don’t know it.” Fin’s voice sounded from behind them. Roberts turned in his saddle, glancing back at her. Her voice wasn’t as unsteady as before. The pain was still marring her features, but it was less pronounced than it had been when they first mounted up. She wore more of a mask now, of her own creating. He nodded to James, the two moving far enough apart to give her horse space to join them.

            “It doesn’t surprise me, Your Highness, that you–” Raising her right hand, Fin cut him off.

            “Don’t call me that. It’s not my title to claim, nor yours to bestow. I want the story, not the truth as you see it.”

            James nodded. “As you wish. Twenty-two years ago, the Amari still had a home, and a ruler. It wasn’t much of one. It was more a series of caves in the Eastern Mountains. But we did what we could to remain undetected. When we could, we’d try to free any of our kind who had been chained. That was our ultimate downfall.” He paused. “A group went to rescue one such slave. And they did. But she betrayed us all. She told her master how to find us. When the bounty hunters came, she even used her magic against those of us who fought. In the end, everyone who had lived free under the mountain was dead or in chains. Everyone but one small girl.”

            He looked right at Fin. “The youngest daughter of the King, Serafina by name, was scooped up by her nurse and she carried the toddler to the underground river. She placed the girl into a small basket and used her own magic to propel the craft quickly downriver. When the hunters found the woman, she claimed she drowned the child rather than hand her over to a life of servitude. There are some who believe that, one day, the child will return and lead us to freedom.”

            Roberts swore to himself. From the tone of James’ voice, he believed every word of the story. Christoph was a just King, unlike his father. Sheltering the Amari was one thing. Helping with an open rebellion? That wasn’t something Roberts thought he’d be able to stomach.

            “Interesting story, but that doesn’t tell me why you think I’m this lost child. The name’s common. I doubt I’m the only one within the Amari whose ever been saddled with it.” There was an edge to her voice that alarmed Robert. Casually, he listened closely to the exchange between her and James.

            The look on James’ face changed as he looked at her. Was that adoration? Infatuation? Idolatry? Damn! He’d talk with the man later, when they stopped for the night. The last thing he needed was for him to get besotted by a pretty face that might be royalty.

            “A few things. The child had red hair, the only one in the royal family for the last three generations. It’s common enough among humans, yes. But among the Amari the trait is very recessive and hardly comes to pass. Your age is right. She would be twenty-five now, and you are close to the same age.” He hesitated.

            ‘Don’t stop now. You’re spinning quite a tale.” Alaric spoke up. Roberts glanced at the Islander who sat behind Fin on the horse. His face had hardened, his posture more guarded. The arm encircling her waist tightened. James was treading on thin ice with the man. The intelligence he’d been given didn’t mention any romantic leanings, but it hadn’t talked about her being potential royalty either.

            James turned his attention to Alaric. “We Amari can sense things. Things that humans cannot. We know when someone is lying, or if they are destined for greatness. Once she is back with her own kind, she will learn how to do this herself.” The emphasis on those two words was enough for Roberts. This stopped. Now.

            “James!” he snapped. “Ride ahead. The waystation’s not far from here. Give them warning of our approach. Arrange for rooms for our guests and have something hot waiting for us to eat.”

            “One room’s all we’ll need.” Trystian spoke. “We’re used to sleeping in rotation. No need for more than the one. We aren’t going anywhere.”

            Rather than argue, Roberts nodded in agreement. One room would be easier for his men to watch than five anyway. At least, he hoped it would be.

            Once James had ridden out of earshot, Roberts spoke up again. “I apologize for his behavior, my lady. James is a bit reactionary. Above all, he would see his people have their own lands again. He thinks it would be better for the Amari to live apart from the rest of the world. My king does not agree. He feels we should live peacefully side by side.”

            “There aren’t many who would agree with his views.” Fin’s voice, though calm, was still guarded.

            “That’s the truth. His father didn’t, that’s for certain. Two weeks after he died, though, Christoph personally unchained each Amari his father had collected during his lifetime. He gave them the option of going out into the world or staying there under his protection. Any that stayed would be expected to do a job, but not their magic.”

            “Magic is banned, then?”

            “No. It’s more that he doesn’t command them to do it. All the jobs they were given required manual labor. Anything from helping around the keep to blacksmithing to farming. A few were asked to join his small council. James was the only one to volunteer to help scout for more Amari, though. He’s a good man.”

            Alaric’s head bent nearer to the woman’s ear and he whispered something that Roberts couldn’t hear. She found it funny, though, as her face brightened slightly and she giggled.

            Rather than ask, Roberts turned his focus back to the road ahead. A warm meal was going to do him wonders tonight.

Author Bio

Born in the late 60′s, KateMarie has lived most of her life in the Pacific NW. While she’s always been creative, she didn’t turn towards writing until 2008. She found a love for the craft. With the encouragement of her husband and two daughters, she started submitting her work to publishers. When she’s not taking care of her family, KateMarie enjoys attending events for the Society for Creative Anachronism. The SCA has allowed her to combine both a creative nature and love of history. She currently resides with her family and two cats in what she likes to refer to as “Seattle Suburbia”.

 

You can find KateMarie at the following sites:

 Twitter:  @DaughterHauk

FaceBook:  http://www.facebook.com/pages/KateMarie-Collins/217255151699492

Her blog:  http://www.katemariecollins.wordpress.com

Vampires and More- Author April M. Reign-Giveaway!!

Thank you Jessica for giving me an opportunity to be a part of your blog. I’m truly honored.

About April M. Reign

I’m in love with writing. It’s true. I left the company where I worked for over 23 years, so I could pursue my love of writing. It’s a great time for indie authors and these opportunities have given us a chance to share our work with readers around the world. How darn cool is that?

If you’re reading this now, I’m touched and honored. If you’ve read my books, well then, I consider you a good friend.

Aside from writing, I spend a lot of time with family going to the beach, working out and/or hanging by the pool. I have two wonderful sons that are supportive and loving.

Current Project

I am currently working on the 4th book in THE TURNING SERIES called Vampire Curse – The Pendant. 

I’d love to do a GIVEAWAY of books 1 – 3 in a box set to two lucky winners.  It’s simple to enter. Just follow the link: http://fluidsurveys.com/surveys/aprilmreign/blog-survey/! Your email address is confidential and will not be used for anything else but to notify you if you’ve won. Here’s what you’ll get: ALL 3 NOVELS!

  

 

 New Series

I have a new series that will be out by the end of summer called THE GHOST DETECTIVE. I wanted to include the teaser trailer for you to enjoy.

http://youtu.be/_gfrPHa6bo0

 

Again, thank you Jessica for giving me the opportunity to share my work with your readers and fans. If you’d like to learn more about my writing or my business, AMR Publishing, you can visit any of the following links to say hi. I’d love to chat.

You can get my book list here: http://bit.ly/1mdSqOS

www.aprilmreign.com

www.facebook.com/aprilmreign.author

www.twitter.com/aprilmreign

www.instagram.com/aprilmreign

www.pinterest.com/aprilmreign

https://www.youtube.com/user/aprilmreign

Author KC Sprayberry-Evil Eyes

Evil Eyes Blurb:

Lisa is so ready for a break from the grueling first semester of college. Along with five other friends, she returns to Landry, and hopes to have nothing but fun. Within days, one of the group is the victim of a vindictive stalker, and Lisa herself is now in the man’s sights. No matter what she does, she can’t shake this person.

Fred has a little problem, but he figures he can take care of it himself, if he achieves fame with his folk rock band, Olney-Oak Lane Sounds. Then he happens to see this beautiful woman, who turns out to be just like every other woman he’s met. He takes care of her, and is immediately drawn to Lisa. No one will get between Fred and Lisa, absolutely no one.

On Christmas Eve, Lisa has to fight for her life and sanity after Fred kidnaps her. She turns out to be very different from the other women, in a way he never figured.

 

Evil Eyes by K.C. Sprayberry – Stalkers.

She’s hot, has gorgeous two-toned hair framing a face that belongs on an angel. You dated a few times, even seemed to get along, but then you moved on. Problem is you work in the same office, and she’s always humming “Call Me” or holding her hand up by her ear as a hint that you give her a ring sometime.

You’re so over her. Aren’t you the man? The guy who loves ‘em and leaves ‘em? Who does she think she is? So, you ignore this woman. She’ll get the message.

The first text startles you in the middle of an important client meeting “Drinks, sweetie?” You ignore it. To your utter embarrassment, she sends text after text, until you turn your phone off in desperation.

By the time you turn your phone back on, there are over 30 texts and a couple of voice mails. You’re determined to nip this problem in the bud, so you confront the woman. “Get over it. There isn’t anything between us.”

Tears dribble from her eyes. You walk away. You’re not a heel. She deserved the curt reprimand. Why can’t she get the message?

That night, as you’re drifting off to sleep, your phone alerts you to a text. It’s from her. Your eyes roll nearly out of your head. Again is your thought.

The situation escalates until you can’t concentrate. Your job is suffering from her continual contacts. Finally, she sends a text “No one else will have you.” You approach your boss, feeling like a fool. The boss tells you to file a police report and suggests that you change your phone number. The woman is fired for her inappropriate actions.

Is this woman a stalker? Yes. Nothing serious has happened except her inability to walk away from a disinterested male, but she crossed the line by text-bombing his phone. Is losing her job right? Ask yourself if you’d want someone working with you who can’t move on from the end of a relationship?

Stalkers come in many shapes and forms. They can be the guy who looks totally sweet, a pretty girl with everything going for her. Men stalk both women and men, women do the same. Teenagers even experience this horror.

What can you do if you believe someone is stalking you?

  1. Document what you believe are stalking actions. Don’t leave anything out. Describe your feelings.
  2. Don’t think you can handle this on your own. Stalkers are determined to have their target, or no one will have them. Once the stalker makes a threat, whether overt or subtle, contact the police. Ignoring a threat could very well turn out where you are injured or worse.
  3. Most people have phones equipped with cameras and recording devices. Use those to document what’s happening. Save copies of those images and recordings in a secure area, away from your personal computer or phone. Tell a trusted person where the information is, so if the stalker attacks and you can’t speak, what you’ve documented will tell the story.
  4. Never, ever attempt to deal with the stalker alone. We’ve all been taught to stand on our own, to solve our own problems. This isn’t a problem you can solve by yourself. Go places in groups. Don’t give the stalker a chance to get close to you.

 

KC Sprayberry started writing young, first as a diarist, and later through an interest in English and creative writing. Her first experience with publication came when she placed third in The Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge contest while in the Air Force, but her dedication to writing came after she had her youngest child, now in his senior year of high school.

Her family lives in Northwest Georgia where she spends her days creating stories about life in the south, and far beyond. More than a dozen of her short stories have appeared in several magazines. Five anthologies feature other short stories. She has three books that are Amazon best sellers: Softly Say Goodbye, Who Am I?, and Mama’s Advice. Her other novels available are: Take Chances, The Ghost Catcher, Family Curse … Times Two, Secret From The Flames, Where U @, The Wrong One, Pony Dreams, and Grace. Her romantic suspense novel, Starlight, releases May 2, 2014 from Muse It Up Publishing.

 

 Social Media Links:

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/KC-Sprayberry/331150236901202

Twitter: https://twitter.com/kcsowriter

Blog: http://outofcontrolcharacters.blogspot.com/

Website: www.kcsprayberry.com

Lovers in the Woods- Helen Alexander

Sneak Peek! Sneak Peek! Sneak Peek!

They called her Sleeping Beauty back at the lab.

 Nina has been asleep for a long time. Two hundred and fifty years, to be exact. She doesn’t change, and she doesn’t die. She’s always fifteen. All she wants to do is to wake up, but she can’t. Something – or someone – is keeping her in a perpetual dream state.

 Leon is a programmer working for a security systems company in the Metro Palisade. His life is fairly ordinary and uneventful. But one day, things change. He begins to see a strange girl in his dreams. He knows she needs his help, but he doesn’t know who she is – or if she’s even real. Leon is willing to risk a lot to find out, and his curiosity finally gets the best of him. The mystery that surrounds Nina is greater than Leon had imagined, however: soon he’s on the run from the company he worked for, the police, the secret service and the criminal underworld.  

 All Leon wants is to save Nina from her endless sleep, but the price of that rescue could be a terrible one. Somehow, Nina is connected with the fabric of reality itself, and there are many dubious people chasing after the legendary Sleeping Beauty in the hopes of wielding ultimate power. When the world begins to fall apart with the sudden, inexplicable outbreak of war, only Leon holds the key to saving everything from complete annihilation – but, unless he can rescue Nina, it may already be too late.

 Check out a sneak peek from this new addition to fiction:

She dreamed of a great city. It was a city she had never seen before, a city from the future. Nina would walk its streets, which were full of the strangest people she had ever seen. Some of them were not really people, even. There were things with extra arms, and eyes, and legs, insect-like things and bird-like things, but they all wore clothes and could talk intelligently. A Birdman called her over softly on one street corner and took her by the arm. He had bright red eyes, like those of an albino rat, and in his beak was an unlit cigarette. Nina was scared of him. “Please come with me,” the Birdman said, and they began to walk away down the street, hand in hand.

 

As they passed under a tall arc, which read, “Metro – Entrance,” the Birdman turned to Nina, and said: “Take the train to Stella Maris, Nina. He will be waiting for you. He will help you.” Nina was about to ask who “he” was, but she was already walking down the concrete steps. Just ahead, the multiple horseshoe arcs lit up the subterranean entrance to the Metro. An old-fashioned train whistle sounded. The high-pitched scream of the whistle echoed through the dark halls of the subway, announcing the approaching train as it pulled into the station: a fantastic, antique looking thing. Nina only had enough time to read the destination placard on its side. It spelled, in glowing letters, “Port Stella Maris.” Then she woke up. It was the same old room. Nothing had changed here. Nina looked up and saw the familiar pattern of the ceiling. One of her hands was lying freely now across the pillow. She followed the thin glistening tube with her eyes until they stopped at a small, translucent square bag suspended from a hat rack that stood in the corner. It functioned as a makeshift IV stand.

 

She was no longer dreaming. On the contrary, she felt more fully awake now than she had ever before in her life. The walls had gained solidity and color and suddenly came into focus, as it were. The ceiling began to pull away. It rose higher and higher, until it disappeared entirely from Nina’s view into a shrinking rectangle of black, revealing a crystal blue sky with white clouds drifting across it.

 

Nina shook her head. She wanted to get up, to take out the useless IV, but she couldn’t move. She kept looking at the sky. Several times, a Dutch Delta crossed it; a kind of passenger ship Nina had seen many times flying above the city. The aircraft cast its gigantic cold shadow into the room. When it finally passed, drifting very slowly, importantly, the room was once again full of sunlight.

 

“Hurry now, Nina,” she heard someone say; it was the Birdman. He had descended into the room through the ceiling. He had small, iridescent wings, like those of a hummingbird; they beat at an amazing speed, fanning the air. The Birdman approached her and pulled out the IV. He smelled of nectar. He picked her up in his arms and they flew out through the open ceiling.

 

The Birdman carried Nina to a beautiful bright building shaped somewhat like a horseshoe. It was a very tall building, and its exterior was paneled with black sheets of glass that reflected everything around it. As they approached, Nina could see the blue sky and the white clouds drifting mirrored across its surface. This Round House, as Nina called it, also lacked a roof, and they descended right through and landed on its upper floor, which was also a ceiling.

 

About the author:

 Helen Alexander is a writer and digital artist living in San Francisco, California. After graduating from the Academy of Art University, Helen worked as a video game artist in San Diego and Los Angeles. Currently she is back in San Francisco, at work on several new projects, including a comic book, a children’s book and a dark fantasy/horror novel. You can visit Helen at helenalexander.weebly.com for the latest news on upcoming releases, author interviews and previews of new stories and works-in-progress.

Website:

 http://helenalexander.weebly.com/

Amazon author central page:

 amazon.com/author/helenalexander

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https://www.facebook.com/bosco.page

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 https://twitter.com/fish_zombie

 Goodreads:

http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6067699.Helen_Alexander_Rusinoff?from_search=true

 http://www.goodreads.com/helenrusinoff

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http://helenrusinoff.wordpress.com/

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Hustle Henry and the Cue Ball Kid- Jack Strandburg

Clarence Flannery was luckier than most men his age to discover his life’s ambition, particularly in the unpredictable years just following the Civil War. Born with an unmatched skill to play pool, he left his home in Kansas when he turned twenty-six and traveled throughout the Southwestern United States to make his mark as a legendary pool hustler, with every intention of amassing a fortune in the process.

Clarence needed help for both support and protection, and recruited James Skinner as his partner, along with nine other highly-skilled pool players to assist him in his quest.

Wanting to be included in the same sentence as Attila the Hun and Alexander the Great, Clarence changed his name to Hustle Henry, Skinner became the Cue-Ball Kid, and the eleven men would go down in history as The Hole-in-the-Table-Bunch, known far and wide for hustling wannabe pool sharks out of their life savings.

All goes to plan and life has a rosy and profitable outlook, but Henry and his men want more than what pool halls and saloons offer, so they decide to challenge the more affluent clientele on a riverboat.

Initially, the venture proves profitable, but the millionaire tycoon and owner of the fleet of riverboats, takes exception, and intends to bring down the Bunch and thrust Henry and The Kid into a life of destitution.

Taking along the Kid’s girlfriend, Penelope Henderson, the Kid and Henry flee to South America – where there will be a final showdown.

Hustle Henry and the Cue-Ball Kid is a fiction work of Western humor with an interesting and amusing cast of characters.

Jack Strandburg stopped by the site today with a man’s man-kind of book! A Western with a load of laughs and fun- saddle up partner! Read on for a sneak peek into the book!

What is the most challenging part of writing?

I find the most challenging part of writing is making decisions on how the plot unfolds. There is so much work done in character profiling and their history from the time they were born until the time the story takes place, so many events in their life, so many people they met, the paths taken and the actions and reactions to characters and events are virtually limitless. Deciding on which one will work best is no easy task.

In a more general sense, the greatest challenge is constantly learning how to write better which sometimes causes me to look back on previous projects as falling far short of being the best they can be.

 What is the most enjoyable part of writing?

Easily the most enjoyable part of writing is the revision stage, and that could be anywhere from two to ten major revisions. After I decide the first draft is complete, all issues have been resolved, all characters know their role, revision allows me to see the improvement to the story and many times will provide ideas on how to make the story better.

 Do you outline or free write, or some combination?

I find outline is necessary for how my brain thinks. I have tried other methods which eventually fizzle out and cause me to sometimes start over and cause major delays in writing the first draft. I spend a lot of time on outlining in order to answer all the questions, detail any research required, in the hopes I have a minimum number of false starts or diversions from the plot and characters.

 What are your current projects?

Currently I am working on rewriting my first mystery, originally written in the mid 1990’s. I have learned so much over the years in what makes for a good story and I felt a total rewrite was necessary to maximize the potential of the story.

Do you see writing as a career?

I consider writing a career although after a very rude awakening of “less than expected results” from my first published novel, career might now be defined as simply “being published.”

Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?

No, although seeing other interesting places would be a big plus to writing. Since I don’t have the time or the resources, I try to mold my story and characters so not only travel but research will be minimal.

What were the challenges (research, literary, psychological, and logistical) in bringing it to life?

Hustle Henry and the Cue-Ball Kid is set in the Old West and covers the latter part of the 1800’s into early 1900’s. The research required to make clothing, dialect, conversation, technology, and housing was extensive although a much better story, particularly a rewritten ending far better than the original (in my opinion of course) was a direct benefit.

 Do you ever experience writer’s block?

If we agree writer’s block is defined as having absolutely nothing to write, I never experienced it nor do I even acknowledge its existence. There is always something to write, even if it doesn’t apply to the current project. There is a ton of sources on ideas to spark writing and if all else fails, write your personal journal for the day or even why you can’t think of anything to write. One never knows when you might produce a story.

Do you consider your book character-driven or plot-driven?

My books will likely always be plot-driven but I believe even if you profile the most interesting characters in the world, unless something happens (an event) causing them to react, all you have are very interesting characters standing around doing nothing. A more significant, perhaps even life-changing event will allow the writer to bring the characters to life and make them memorable.

SNEAK PEEK! SNEAK PEEK! SNEAK PEEK!

The people in the lobby at the Grandy Hotel were stuffed tighter than a boa constrictor following an all-you-can-eat meal of mice. Sheriff Winchester and the old woman in the blue bonnet were the last to arrive. Every table, chair, and object not nailed down was thrown out into the street to make room for the pool table scheduled to arrive from the saloon.

The town, with the exception of Nate, his workers, and a few shopkeepers, swarmed like bees from a continent absent of honey to witness the epic pool match between one of its most respected yet feared citizens and one of the best pool players ever to visit Gunshot Junction. One could hardly blame them for their fever pitch enthusiasm. The town’s last memorable event was the resident drunk stumbling into the saloon wearing nothing but a dirty pair of mismatched socks. The musical group notwithstanding, Gunshot Junction’s standards for entertainment were pretty low.

* * * *

The Cue-Ball Kid, known to the town only as J.T., circled the pool table and studied the arrangement of billiard balls, feeling the searing heat of a thousand and one eyes upon him. Someone reported Dead-Eye Joe was in town. As the Kid looked at the faces of the crowd mottled with anticipation, his spine tingled as though an army of ants decided to take up residence on his back. He stopped pacing, picked up a mug from the table and raised it in a mock toast, then threw his head back and guzzled the beer. Handing the mug to a nearby spectator, he again paced from one end of the table to the other, scratching his chin while considering the next shot, his concentration akin to a saber-toothed tiger stalking its prey.

The Kid glanced over at the stack of crisp green bills resting on the table then looked his opponent in the eye and smiled. Twirling his cue stick like a baton, he lowered it slowly to the table, placed it behind the cue-ball, then just as slowly drew it back to make what was likely the final shot of the match. The Kid stared down the thirteen-ball which would give him sixty-one points, exactly what he required to win a match of fifteen-ball. The crowd fell as silent as if attending the funeral service of a loved one.

“Hold it right there,” said the ominous and threatening voice of Teddy Dowd, the Kid’s opponent, stopping the Kid the moment before his stick came forward to strike the cue-ball.

The hush of the crowd rose to a murmur.

The Kid raised his head, then straightened, wondering what prompted the interruption. Could it be because Dowd was about to lose his life savings?

“What’s the problem?” he asked.

“You’re pretty damn good for someone who never played this game before,” Dowd said with a smile not quite warming the cockles of the Kid’s heart. “That is what you said, correct?”

The Kid swallowed hard and nodded.

“Yeah, that’s what I said, first time.” Okay, so I lied, but this is the twentieth century and it’s not like I attend religious services on a regular basis, the Kid thought.

“I’ve been watching you for over an hour,” Dowd said, his eyes narrowing to slits. “You’re one hell of a pool player, maybe the best I’ve ever seen. If this is your first time, how do you explain your success? If you say beginner’s luck, you’ll need to remove a pool cue from your ass before you squat to take your next shit.”

The Kid didn’t respond, primarily because Dowd eliminated his answer. He looked at the spectators, hoping to buy some time while thinking of an appropriate reply to satisfy the man. Their expressions indicated they anxiously awaited an answer to the question. His Adam’s apple bobbing in his throat like an over-inflated rubber ball, he looked back at Dowd, who returned the Kid’s gaze with threatening eyes receding so far back into his skull they looked like they might drop out the back of his head.

The Kid had cause to be scared. Dowd stood six feet three inches and weighed two-hundred twenty pounds. His face was weathered, his beard coarse. Some said he shaved with a Bowie knife. For what the Kid assumed was for intimidation, Dowd removed his shirt before the match started and his biceps were throbbing like an oxygen-deprived heart of a man following three hours of long-distance running. Offending Dowd was the last thing on the Kid’s mind, knowing the man could squash him with no more effort than he would an annoying mosquito.

“Uh, I guess it’s just a lot of wishin’ and hopin’, Teddy,” the Kid said. The lump in his throat threatened to cut off his air supply and the words emerged like those of a newborn baby crying for the first suck of its mother’s teat.

Dowd laughed and addressed the crowd. “You hear that, boys? Just wishin’ and hopin’.”

The crowd laughed along in perfect unison but it sounded forced, and for good reason. Everyone in town insisted they were Dowd’s best friend but it wasn’t a relationship borne from a legitimate heartfelt attraction. It stemmed from rumors Dowd killed more than a dozen men for reasons as trivial as insulting his boot size. There were also allegations he’d recently gunned down an unarmed saloon owner in Coyote Creek. While most men shook in their boots just from his imposing size, the Kid was about to shit into his.

Dowd glared back at the Kid with eyes blazing hellfire. “You know what I think, you puny little

shit? I think you’re a ringer, yeah, that’s right, a hustler.”

Author Bio:

Jack Strandburg was born and raised in Cleveland Ohio.  He is a degreed professional with a background in Accounting and Information Technology and recently retired after more than 33 years working for a Fortune 500 company.  He has been writing since his teenage years. 

His first published novel through Solstice Publishing is Hustle Henry and the Cue-Ball Kid, a parody of the movie, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

He is currently rewriting his first mystery novel, A Head in the Game, writing journals for an inspirational non-fiction book, and has completed 70% of the first draft for a second mystery novel titled War Zone.

In addition he is writing short stories and working hard to establish a blog presence.

Jack currently lives with his wife and two grown children in Sugar Land, Texas. He has two grandchildren.

Rachel’s Legacy- Author Lizzie Stevens- free chapter!

Lizzie Stevens has  a lot to be proud of. Her works in publishing are international bestsellers!

Rachel Connors loved her life, and her job as a manager at a ski resort in Aspen Colorado, but after learning she was ill, she decided to take a long needed vacation to her parent’s home. This was when she met Kyle Landers, who in her absence had moved into her parent’s lives, and before he’d even met Rachel, Kyle had decided not to like her. Kyle had been alone in the world when Rachel’s parents had taken him in; and he couldn’t understand why their ungrateful daughter had chosen to distance herself from them. 

Rachel and Kyle grew closer, and she knew she was falling for him. Everything changed when  Rachel was scheduled to meet Kyle, but a call from her doctor summoned her back to Aspen, telling her parents there was a problem at work. When Kyle hears of this, he boards a plane to find her, learning the truth of her condition. Their love blossomed but it was to be short lived when on their flight back to the ranch the plane crashed. Despite an extensive search, Kyle was never found, and Rachel was forced to go on without him.


Four years had passed, and Rachel’s relationship with Marcus, her new boyfriend, was moving to a different level, but at the same time, the thought dead Kyle had come out of his coma; his mind lost in the events four years earlier. After Rachel accepted Marcus’ proposal, Kyle returns, leaving Rachel with a dilemma. For four years Marcus had been by her side, but now Kyle was back, wanting her just as much as he had the day of the crash. She needed to get away to make her decision, so she left for Aspen, only Kyle followed her to try to convince her that they belonged together. 


Who will Rachel Chose? Is Kyle’s love enough to bring her back to him?

 

SNEAK PEEK! SNEAK PEEK! SNEAK PEEK!

   Chapter One

 

 

The snow was coming down hard, quickly blanketing the ground as it fell. Rachel Connors sat on her window sill, watching it fall. The tears rolled down her face, as the thought of going back home haunted her. She hadn’t seen her parents in five years, and wasn’t completely positive she was making the right decision in going back now. She needed to be near family now more than ever. Rachel decided to keep her medical problems to herself. There was no sense in making her parents worry about her. She would tell them nothing.

The sound of the cab’s horn jarred her out of her thoughts. She wiped the tears away and grabbed her bags. She would be staying with her parents until after the holidays. The doctors didn’t need to see her until the new year. How am I supposed to forget everything and enjoy a vacation at a time like this? Rachel sat in the back seat of the cab as it headed to the airport. It would be a long plane ride from Colorado to her parents’ ranch in Tennessee, an hour and a half outside of Nashville. It was always beautiful there. They always teased her growing up about being a singer, but she never had any interest in singing. She always wanted to be a talent agent. She wanted to be the one who found the talent, which was exactly what she did. She was very successful at it, until she received a job offer to manage a friend’s ski resort in Aspen. It was a great escape from the harsh realities of the past, and she grew to love her new life.

Rachel took a long nap on the plane. She had been under a lot of stress lately. It seemed like only minutes after her head hit the pillow that she heard the flight attendant say they were landing. She looked around and saw that they were coming onto the runway. She rubbed her eyes and stretched her arms before standing up.

Kyle Landers waited for her in the terminal, holding up a sign for a woman he had never met. How do I get myself into situations like this? he thought as he started to pace back and forth. He couldn’t tell Sue and Tom that he wouldn’t go pick up their daughter for them even though he knew he wouldn’t like her. He couldn’t understand how she could stay gone as many years as she did knowing her parent’s missed her. Kyle would do anything for Sue and Tom. They took him in four years ago when he didn’t have anywhere else to go. He had no family and them gave him a job on the ranch. He looked back and forth for Rachel. He had seen many pictures of her over the years.  Kyle decided he didn’t want to give some stuck up, too good to come home to her family, uptight woman a ride. He dropped the sign into the trash can and walked out. He would tell Sue and Tom the flight must have been delayed. He felt a little bad lying to them, but he knew that their daughter could use a good lesson on how you treat people.

As she entered the terminal, Rachael looked for her ride. Her parents told her a man named Kyle would be picking her up. Not seeing him, she thought he might be outside, or in the luggage area. As she left, she saw a large cardboard sign lying in the trash can with her name on it. Where was he? Why didn’t he wait? The plane was right on time.

 She collected her luggage and walked out of the building, hopeful of catching a cab. Rachel walked up and down on the sidewalk trying to hail someone, with no luck. All the cabs were busy and she wanted to go home. She grabbed her bag and started to walk. Surely somebody would give her a ride within an hour and a half’s distance, she thought. As she looked around for prospects, she saw a young man getting ready to get into his truck. “Excuse me, sir. My name is Rachel Connors. Can you please give me a ride to my family’s ranch? I’ll pay for the gas and if you can’t take me all the way there, I would be happy with anywhere close.  My ride didn’t show up to pick me up and I can’t seem to get a cab.”

Kyle shot her a look that let her know he wasn’t in the mood to talk. He couldn’t believe his luck. Of all the people wanting a ride it had to be the one person he wanted to leave at the airport. “Let’s go. I have a lot of work to get done back at the ranch.”

Rachel didn’t know what to think. “Okay,” she said, as she glanced down at the ground.

She jumped up into his truck not saying a word. Rachel felt a little uncomfortable being with him. Once she buckled in, she looked over at him. “Excuse me, but you haven’t even told me your name.”

“Kyle. My name’s Kyle,” he said as he continued to drive.

“Have I done something to offend you? I don’t even know you, but you seem to dislike me for some reason.”  She said, as she played with her hands nervously. “Wait a minute. Are you Kyle Landers? The same Kyle Landers that works for my father? Why were you going to leave me here at the airport? I wasn’t late.”

Kyle really didn’t want to get into it with her right then, but it was going to be an hour and half ride back to the ranch. He knew he would have to talk to her at some point in time. “Why don’t we stop to eat? I haven’t had lunch yet.”

Rachel wasn’t sure if he was trying to be nice now or if he was just hungry.  “That sounds good to me,” she said even though she was still angry at him for leaving her there.

They drove for another thirty minutes in silence before turning into the parking lot of a small restaurant. Rachel had eaten at there before and remembered them having good food although she hadn’t been eating much of anything lately. She hoped the trip back home would take her mind off her problems, but not bring up bad memories in the process. They found a table in the back away from everyone.

Kyle sat down and picked up a menu without speaking. When the waitress walked by he waved her over to him. “I’ll take a cheeseburger, fries and a coke please.”

Rachel saw the waitress look over at her. “I’ll take the same. Thanks.” She looked over at Kyle. “How long have you worked for my father?”

“Four years.” He said without adding anything more.

“That’s great. My father really needed help after Bobby. . . . Well, never mind. I’m glad my father has you.” She took a sip of her soda trying to hold back the tears as she thought about her brother.

Kyle looked surprised to hear that Tom had somebody else work for him. He hadn’t ever heard them talk about anyone else. “Who’s Bobby? I’ve never heard the name before.”

Rachel looked surprised by the question. “Oh, well. . . Bobby was my brother. You would have liked him. He died six years ago in a car accident.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.” He felt bad for asking now.

The food came and they ate in silence. When they were finished, they started back to the ranch. Neither of them spoke. Rachel couldn’t help but wonder why Kyle seemed to dislike her so much. How could he make a judgment so fast without even knowing her? She sat there staring out the window thinking about when she was younger.  She remembered how her and Bobby would go on long walks exploring the entire ranch or taking the horses out across the range. He would run the horse like he was in a race that he had to win. She could remember staying back, watching him go. He feared nothing and embraced life to the fullest. Rachel could feel the tears starting again. She hadn’t been home in so long that she had buried the memories deep down. She always thought about Bobby during the holidays, but more so this year. Bobby would have handled the news from the doctors better than she did. Rachel wiped a tear from her eyes.

Kyle glanced over at the saddest person he had ever seen. He was beginning to think maybe he misjudged her. Could she have good reasons for not coming around? Did it have something to do with Bobby? He knew that he didn’t know anything about her, but the same time he knew that he wanted to. “Is everything all right?” he asked.

Rachel wiped her eyes and sat up straighter. “I’m fine. Just memories catching up,” she said with a little smile.

Kyle could tell that she didn’t really want to talk about it and he wasn’t sure that he did either. “It’s not much further,” he said as he wished he could take the words back. Of course she knew it wasn’t much further. She grew up there. He always got flustered when he got nervous. He stared at the road, trying to focus on his driving.

Rachel could see her parents’ house coming into view as she got more excited. She couldn’t wait to see her mom and dad. It had been a long time. They had visited her two years ago in Colorado, but she just couldn’t bear to come back home after Bobby died. She’d stuck around home for about a year after his death and then she had to get out of there. He was not only her brother but also her best friend. She didn’t know how to live without him. She knew that learning how to was one way she could remember him.

The truck stopped and Rachel jumped out as fast as she could. She saw her mother standing on the porch with a smile on her face. Rachel ran to her and threw her arms around her. “I missed you,” she said to her mom.

“I missed you too, baby. I’m glad you’re home, even if it’s only for the holidays,” Sue said, hugging her tighter.

“Where’s Dad?” Rachel asked as she looked around.

Sue pointed into the house. “He threw his back out again. That’s why Kyle had to pick you up.”

“Is he all right now?” she asked. Looking back at Kyle, she said, “Thank you for driving me home.”

Kyle nodded his head. “No problem. I’ll talk to you later, I’m sure.”

Upon entering the house, Rachel found her father lying on the couch with a heating pad behind his back. “Dad, how are you feeling?”

Tom sat up with a smile. “You made it. I’m glad you’re here. How was the trip?”

“It was fine. I don’t think Kyle likes me much, but the trip was fine,” she answered.

Tom gave her a smile. “Kyle just takes a little getting used to. He’s a good man.”

They talked for hours, sitting in the living room around the fireplace. Her mother had made hot chocolate and apple spiced cake. Her mother always made the best cakes in the world. At least that was what Rachel always thought. She loved being home again and hated to think about leaving. She decided to go take a nice long, hot bubble bath before going to bed. She needed it after all the stress she had been under lately. She planned to get up bright and early to go riding on the ranch. It had been too long time since she’d had the chance.

The next day Rachel got up and dressed in jeans and a t-shirt. She walked in to the stables to pick out her horse, and saw Kyle brushing one of them.

“Good morning,” she said.

 “Hi,” he said. “Going riding this morning?”

“Yes. It’s been a while. I can’t wait. Would you like to go with me?” she asked, then blushed. The words came out of her mouth without thinking.

Kyle didn’t know what to say. “Sure. I have time. Let me saddle up a couple of horses.”

Rachel went over to one of the stalls and started brushing a midnight black horse. Its coat was shiny and smooth. “This is my horse, buttercup. I haven’t ridden her in a while. I’ll get her ready for me to ride. If you don’t mind?”

“No. Go ahead. I’ll saddle up Ranger for me.” He walked over to the brown horse in the last stall and started getting the horse ready.

Ten minutes later, they headed off across the land. Rachel loved the feel of the wind hitting her in the face as she galloped across the fields.  Thoughts of her and Bobby racing their horses flooded her mind.

She pulled up at a creek to let her horse have some water and a rest. Once dismounted, she looked back to see if Kyle was still there. He was coming up behind her at a slower pace.

“You ride great,” he told her as he jumped off his horse.

Rachel smiled. “I love to ride. I never get a chance to anymore. The only thing I ride now is a snowmobile.”

She walked over and sat down on a big rock and watched her horse drink from the creek. Glancing up at Kyle she said. “It’s okay though. I get paid good money to do what I do.”

“Money isn’t everything though. You need family too.” He still wasn’t sure why she moved away, but he was starting to think she had reasons, and maybe he was wrong to misjudge her the way he did. He could tell that she loved her family. Why did she leave? He wanted to know, but didn’t want to come right out and ask.

Rachel sighed. “I know, and I do miss my family. It was really hard on me after Bobby died. I stuck around for about a year afterwards, but then I had to get out of here. Now I don’t know what has been keeping me away. I wish more than ever that I lived here near my parents.”  She looked away with a tear in her eye. She didn’t want to cry in front of him, and she didn’t want this complete stranger to know anything about her medical problems.

“I’m sorry if I upset you. I didn’t mean to do that.” Kyle felt horrible.

Rachel wiped a tear away. “You didn’t upset me. I always get emotional around the holidays. More so now than before.”

Kyle didn’t know what she meant by that, but he could see a sadness in her eyes. He stood there staring at the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. She was about five foot, five inches tall with long brown hair. She couldn’t be more than a size six. He couldn’t believe that he was looking at her that way. It was only a day ago that he had decided that he didn’t like her. Things were changing for him too. He looked over at her. “I guess you and your brother were close?”

Rachel smiled as the thoughts of Bobby came back to her. “Yes, we were like best friends. We did everything together. It was really hard for me when he died.  We had spent the whole day together that day at a baseball game in Nashville. That night Bobby wanted me to go to the store for him and get him some ice cream, but I was tired and said I didn’t want to. He left to go get it himself, and on his way home he was hit by a drunk driver. I can’t help but blame myself. If I had gone to the store, then maybe he would still be here with us. It’s my fault he’s dead.” Rachel couldn’t stop the tears from falling. They were coming down like rainfall.

Kyle went over to her and took her into his arms. “It’s not your fault, Rachel. You can’t blame yourself. Is that why you have stayed away so long? If it is, then I think you need to come home to your family.”

Rachel wiped the tears away and walked back to her horse. “You don’t understand. I can’t leave Aspen right now. I have to be there. I wish I could, but I can’t.” She walked over and got up on her horse, riding away without looking back.

When she returned to the stables, she removed the saddle and brushed her horse down, thinking about how great it would be if she could move back to the ranch now. But no—she needed to hear from the doctors first. Rachel was snapped out of her thoughts by the sound of Kyle walking in with his horse.

“I’m sorry I upset you. Sometimes I put my whole foot in my mouth,” he said as he walked the horse to the stall.

Rachel laughed. “You’re fine. I just get a little emotional sometimes. It’s not your fault.”

“How about you let me take you out tomorrow night for dinner to make up for it?” Kyle had no idea where that came from. He was usually a little on the shy side with women.

She looked at him with a little surprise in her eyes. “I would love to go out with you tomorrow night, but I can’t. Mom and Dad are going out of town to the cattle sales, and I promised that I would get some baking done for Thanksgiving for her. You’re welcome to come over and let me cook you something if you would like. We can watch a movie while the cakes are baking.”

“Sounds good to me.” Kyle said. “I’ll see you then.

Rachel couldn’t believe she had made a date with him. She barely knew him, but she couldn’t help but think how great looking he was. He was six foot tall with sandy blond hair and a great complexion. She could tell that he worked long, hard hours out in the sun—he was well muscled and tan. She walked in the house and saw her mom over by the stove cooking. She went over to her and gave her a hug. “Something smells good.”

Sue smiled over at her daughter. “It’s beef stew. One of your many favorites.”

Rachel laughed because she loved to eat. She told her mom. “Guess what I’m doing tomorrow night.”

“I have no idea, dear.” Sue answered.

“I’m cooking dinner for Kyle while you’re gone. He asked me out and I told him I had to do the baking for you, but that I would cook him dinner. He said yes.” She seemed to be talking a mile a minute.

Sue hadn’t seen her daughter look that excited about anything in a very long time. “I’m glad honey, but I would be careful not to lead him on. You’re still leaving at the end of December aren’t you?”

“Yes, Mom. We won’t get serious. It’s just one date.” Rachel tried to make herself believe it more than her mother. She went over to the cabinet to get the dishes down to set the table. Then she went to get her father for dinner.

They all sat down at the table together to eat. Rachel made small talk with her dad about the ranch and the horses. “How’s it going around here lately?”

Tom looked over at his daughter. “Well, I could sure use a good manager to run this ranch. Do you know anyone that can run a whole business, like maybe a huge resort, that might be interested in the job?”

Rachel had no idea that her dad wanted her to run the ranch with him. “Dad, I can’t believe you are asking me this. I would love to, but I can’t right now. I have some stuff that I have to take care of back in Aspen. Hopefully I can get that all taken care of in a few months and then I would love to move back here.”

Sue’s face could have lit up the whole room. Happy didn’t come close to the way she felt at that very moment. She would do anything to have her daughter back home. “What do you have to take care of?”

Rachel nearly choked on her iced tea. “What? Oh, I just need to give a notice at work. Help train somebody. That could take a few months. Then pack everything that I own and move it here. It might take me some time to get things in order, but I will work on it as quickly as I can.”

After they all finished eating, Rachel went to take a long hot bubble bath. She filled the tub to the top, and then sank down in the steaming hot water. She felt so relaxed for a few minutes. She laid there in the tub, and before she realized what she was doing, her hand reached up and fell on her breast. She couldn’t help but touch it, but when she did the tears came flooding from her eyes. The doctors had found the lump in a routine exam. They told her that it may be nothing but they would have to run some blood tests and CT scans. If that didn’t give them the results that they wanted then she would have to have a biopsy. Rachel laid there in the bathtub crying until her water went cold on her. She didn’t know how long she had been in there but she knew she didn’t want to get out.

After what seemed like hours, Rachel got out and dried off. She stood there looking at herself in the mirror for a few minutes. How could somebody as healthy as she had always been be sick now? It didn’t make sense, and it didn’t seem fair. Was she being punished for something? That was all that she ever thought to herself. She got dressed and crawled into bed. Maybe thinking about spending time with Kyle would help take her mind off other things.

Rachel woke up to the smell of bacon cooking. She had truly missed being with her family. She usually grabbed something quick and easy for breakfast. It had been a while since she had a nice home cooked meal like the one she smelled downstairs. She threw her robe on and headed down the stairs. When she made it to the bottom, she saw Kyle sitting at the table. She turned around and ran back up the stairs as fast as she could. She couldn’t let him see her like that. She had to make herself beautiful. She ran over to the dresser and started combing her hair and putting some make-up on. She grabbed a red t- shirt and some blue jeans. When she finished getting dressed, she walked into the kitchen to find only her mother there. Her father and Kyle had already left to get started on the ranch work.

“Didn’t I hear voices down here a few minutes ago?” Rachel asked as if she hadn’t seen Kyle sitting there.

“Yes, you did. Your father and Kyle already went out to the back field to gather the cattle for tonight’s sale. They will be gone for most of the day. I’m sorry that you missed them,” her mother told her.

“It’s no big deal. I was just wondering.” Rachel said as she acted like she wasn’t really interested. “I think I’ll go into town today and do some sightseeing. It’s been a while since I’ve been home.”

“That sounds like a great idea, dear.” Sue was glad to see her daughter thinking of it more like home. She had wanted her to move back for many years now.

Rachel spent the whole day in town going from store to store looking around. She went into the music store and spent hours in there. She remembered going there with Bobby many times. It had a new owner now, but everything looked the same. Rachel picked up a couple of CDs to buy. After she left the music store she went into a small general store. The first thing that grabbed her attention was a pink ribbon pin for sale for one dollar to help promote breast cancer awareness. It seemed like she noticed more things like that now then she ever had. Rachel walked past the pin without picking it up. She didn’t need any reminders telling her that she might have cancer. It was scary enough thinking about it on her own and knowing that she was going through it alone. Rachel couldn’t tell her parents they could lose the only child they had left. She spent the rest of the day in town and then headed back home. She wanted to say goodbye to her parents before they left for their three day trip. They had asked her if she wanted to go with them, but she didn’t want to leave the ranch. It had been too long since she had been back there. Rachel didn’t want to think about leaving. She only had six weeks before she had to go back home for her doctor visit. That’s when she would get the results to the CT scan and blood work. She didn’t understand why the doctors couldn’t get the results before the holidays, but they said the lab was overloaded with work and they were way behind. She didn’t like it, but she understood.

She pulled into the driveway and saw the cattle trailer hooked up to the back of her father’s truck. She had made it just in time to say goodbye before they left. Rachel walked in and found her mother in the kitchen making notes. “What are you doing mom?”

“I’m making you a list of pies, cakes, and breads that I would like you to make for me while I’m gone. I’ll be delivering them to the church when I get back. They are making baskets for needy families.” Sue told her as she handed her the list.

“Wow, Mom. You have enough stuff on this list to feed the whole state. I’ll be busy all night and tomorrow too.” Rachel pretended to be angry, but the whole time she loved every minute of it. She hadn’t done any baking in years. She used to love making things with her mom. It was going to be fun being in the kitchen all weekend. She walked over and gave her mom a hug. “I love you. Have a good trip.”

“We will. You have a good weekend too.” Sue hugged her daughter and then turned and went out to the truck.

Rachel went back into the kitchen to try to figure out what she wanted to fix for dinner that night. She wanted it to be perfect for Kyle. She put some chicken breasts in the oven to cook. Then she peeled some potatoes to make mashed potatoes. She sliced one of her mom’s fresh loaves of bread and put some butter on the table. Rachel had everything almost finished when she heard Kyle pull in. She ran upstairs to spritz on her favorite perfume before he walked in. After double-checking her hair in the mirror, she hurried downstairs to the kitchen.

Author Mark Conte- The Ghost

Based on a true story!

A decaying body of an eight-year-old girl is found near a sand dune on the Navarre-Pensacola Beach road. The law enforcement officers soon discover she was actually the second victim and the terror begins in Northwest Florida. Although every precaution is taken by parents and school officials, the killings continue. There is fear in the streets, in the schools, in the playgrounds and in every home. The Sheriff departments of four counties, the FDLE and the FBI seem powerless to stop it.

The Ghost, a mystery thriller about a serial killer in Northwest Florida by Mark Conte has just been released by Solstice Horizon Publishing.  Based on a true story about a serial killer who never left any evidence to identify himself.  It was as if he committed his crimes and than disappeared like a ghost.  The ebook is available on Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble $1.99.  The print editions is $15.99.

SNEAK PEEK! SNEAK PEEK! SNEAK PEEK! Prologue and 1st chapter~

THE GHOST

Mark Conte

 “Such men are monsters, who live not merely beyond the unmapped frontiers of sanity but beyond the frontiers of madness as madness is conceivable to most people.”

John Brophy

The Meaning of Murder-PROLOGUE

Alaska is a state of the United States in the northwest tip of the North American Continent and is bordered by Canada to the Southeast and the frigid waters of the Arctic Ocean in the North and the Pacific Ocean at the West and South borders, separated from Russia by the Bering Strait. The winters are long and bleak with temperatures often falling to twenty degrees below zero; the bitterness of cold that numbs your fingers and stings any part of your flesh that is exposed to the freezing air and residents do not venture into the marshes surrounding Fairbanks, but this was not an ordinary night in Fairbanks. There was a psychotic killer roaming the streets loose who had killed eleven children and did terrible things to their dead bodies and this was a search mission to find another body of a child and a chance to find something that would lead to the capture of this demon. It could be anyone, their friend, their neighbor, their relative, the postman, the police officer in a parked police car. Then there was the guilt. The night was laden with it. Visions of the dead children hung above the hearts and minds of the good people of Fairbanks, Alaska. There was enough blame to go around for everyone. The parents who had assumed the school was a safe place. The teachers who were entrusted to keep the children from harm. The school bus drivers who only glanced away for a moment. The police who were expected to catch the killer after his first kill and the defiling of the body and body parts and finally, the Federal Bureau of Investigation whose motto was “We always get our man.’ Except this time they didn’t get him and with every discovery of a new body, always an eight-year-old girl, the FBI looked more helpless. Sometimes the bodies were carefully hidden behind a small bushy area. Sometimes they were stuck in crevices in the rock formations and sometimes the new snow had fallen to hide them from being discovered so that the killer could go back over and over again, doing unimaginable things to the body for his deviant urges. When a twelfth child, Kitty Wells, went missing from her school at recess, they knew where to look for her.

Chief Bianco put together the largest manhunt force of city police, state police and FBI agents together with volunteers from the local military bases to try to find the body of the missing child. Fairbanks is located in the central Tanana Valley straddling the Chene River and the Tamana River. North of the city is a chain of hills that rises in steps until it reaches the White Mountains and the Yukon River. To the South of the city is the Tanana River below the river is the Tanana Flats, an area of marsh and bog that stretches for more than 100 miles (160 km) until it rises into the Alaska Range. This is where they had discovered the other bodies. Snow had fallen overnight, making the open land look clean and pristine. However, the peaceful countryside was now being invaded by a massive manhunt with hundreds of law enforcement officers from every agency and from surrounding military bases in search of little Kitty Wells who had disappeared from her school at recess time ten days ago. The line was ten miles across with no more than five feet between each of the searchers. They shouted orders to each other in loud voices, disturbing the night creatures of the forest that walked, crawled and flew overhead, startled by so many humans who usually came in twos and threes to shoot them and hang them on their wall. The larger animals; moose, wolves, and bears didn’t venture anywhere near this invasion of their world. The Alaska Fugitive Task Force, an intr-agency collaborative of Alaska State Police Departments who, along with the FBI had been spearheading the search for the killer flanked the line of searchers on both ends looking for signs that Kitty Wells was another victim of this maniac the Fairbanks Police called The Ghost because it was obvious he had never been arrested and he left nothing of himself the police could use to identify him. It was as if he committed his crimes and suddenly disappeared.

Seven hours later, they found her. Flares went up into the air from members of each group, startling the night with bright colored flashes like exploding stars in angry universe. A fitting requiem for Kitty Wells and her parents. They almost missed her. The new snow had covered most of the area, but her hand was oddly sticking out of the snow, along with her foot. Her skull was crushed as were the other victims. There was ten days of semen in her body. Seasoned State Troopers and police detectives were throwing up all over the snow. A forensic team carefully took everything that was not a part of the forest and finally, the body of the child was carried away.

Although the children were always taken during the day, it was the night that held the greatest fear for the parents of little children. Families walked together or at least with another person to protect themselves and their children from this monster. They called each other every hour to make sure they were safe. They comforted each other and no child was allowed to go out her door alone.

And then it was over.

Spring came to Alaska and the days were long. The sun barely sets in Fairbanks at solstice, making one continuous sunset and sunrise – occasionally displaying outstanding colors throughout the short night. No child went missing for two months. No grizzly body was found in the outskirts of the city and no mobilized search parties were formed. Three months passed without incident. Four months, five months. When six months had passed police chief, Andy Bianco, who along with the FBI investigated every person who had moved from Fairbanks to another city to apprehend this killer. Every transient that came through Fairbanks. Every person who visited or had occasional business dealings in the area as far back as three years and could not find a link.

In his new conference, Chief Dollan said, “Either the killer died a natural death and is buried in a cemetery plot like a normal citizen or he has moved to another area. I am happy that this monster is no longer in our city,” Chief Bianco said, “but God help the people of his new city.”

CHAPTER ONE

 Nine years later

March 2009

Seaside, Florida

 

James Bennett was an ordinary man. He didn’t have the chiseled looks from his father’s side of the family. There was nothing about him that stood out. His mother once said he looked like every other plain man in Orlando, Florida where the family had spent the early years of their lives, and that no one would be able to pick him out in a police lineup. Not that James was the kind of man that could commit a crime, sensational or otherwise. He was just plain James, five foot ten inches, one hundred and eighty-seven pounds, light brown hair, coco colored eyes, looking exactly like a man approaching fifty years of age.

However, that is what Christine liked most about him, a quiet man who was uncomfortable in a loud party and happily accepted his proposal of marriage in the summer of June 2001. Not that Christine was any beauty herself as her father often noted. At five-foot one inch, she was the shortest member of her family and always twenty to twenty-five pounds heavier than she wanted to be. Her hair had already started to turn gray in streaks and her eyes were small and unspectacular. In a way, this was the perfect marriage and the wedding was a blessed event for both families. After all, they were both 39 years old when they married and hope for grandchildren seemed to be disappearing for both grandparents. But love and marriage came to James and Christine and it was a storybook wedding. They moved to Seaside, Florida, and bought a home they called their dream house.

Seaside is in the heart of the 30-A highway that runs along the Northwest Florida coast between Destin and Panama City. It is the birthplace of New Urbanism architecture and town planning in Florida.

The Bennett home was a modest one by Seaside standards, the value just barely seven hundred and fifty dollars. The property “Kano” is a Blue and White Charleston style two-story house with a tower. Inside, there were three queen sized bedrooms, a bunkroom, and three full baths, one of which had a jetted tub. The tower was outfitted with an antique day bed, and was Mary Sue’s favorite daytime hide-a-away. Oak hardwood floors shined from the living room to the bedrooms and there were top-of-the-line kitchen appliances, including a new French-door style refrigerator.

Christine was not a healthy woman and, she was told by the family doctor that the chances of her having a baby were slim. However, three months after the wedding, she was with morning sickness and later that week the doctor confirmed that Christine was indeed pregnant.

James was so happy, he began to become nauseated himself in the morning, shunning breakfast and suddenly getting an appetite for pickles and ice cream and other strange concoctions. The doctor called it sympathy pregnancy. They were an odd pair at the dinner table.

When Mary Sue was born, she was everything her parents dreamed of and a wonderful blessing for her grandparents. A beautiful little girl they could hug and kiss and love and spoil her to their hearts content.

Mary Sue was a gifted child. She walked at eleven months old. She learned to read at three years of age and entered preschool at the age of four, and at five years old, she became an A student in her first grade class which continued until her current fourth grade class. She scored between 95 and 99 on her achievement tests, depending on her mood. She loved to learn. She had a good memory and the ability to learn quickly because she retained everything she learned.

She was already playing the piano like a twenty year old.

Mary Sue had dark high cheekbones and a nose that resembled the great Greek statues of Gods; a feature of which she was very proud. She would, on occasion, hold it high in the air to show her displeasure of a school rule or family law. She had the darkest brown hair among the Bennett family, and she inherited her Uncle Adam’s dimple on her tiny chin.

The night before, she had stayed on the computer until ten PM researching her Composition for her history class, George Washington, the Father of our Country. Her mother finally had to tell her to go to bed.

When Mary Sue awoke that morning, she was excited and ready for her day at school. She ran to the bathroom to take a shower.

James opened the door to her bathroom and called to her.

Daddy, I’m in the shower!”

Okay Sweetheart,” James said.. “I just wanted to say goodbye. I’m leaving for work.”

Goodbye Daddy,” she said. “See you tonight.”

James went down the stairs, kissed his wife and walked out to his car. He had complete faith in life and the world around him. He drove to work humming to a tune on the radio.

Mary Sue Bennett came down the rear circular stairs that led directly to the kitchen, dressed and ready for school with her backpack strapped on her back. She walked to the solid oak wood kitchen table and took the Frosted Flakes box and shook the flakes in a bowl. She poured milk from a carton into the bowl and shoveled two tablespoons into her mouth.

Do you have to have that back pack on?” her mother said. “Can’t you take that off while you eat?”

No time,” Mary Sue said. “Big day today.”

Did you finish your paper on George Washington?”

I slammed it,” Mary Sue said. “I may get an A+.” She took her last spoon of Frosted Flakes in her mouth and wiped her mouth and chin with a napkin. She rose from the table and adjusted her backpack.

What’s the safe word?” her mother said.

Mary Sue looked at her mother and shrugged her shoulders.”

“This is important,” her mother said. “What is the safe word a person has to tell you if he says he is supposed to pick you up?”

“It’s not like we have real criminals here in Seaside,” Mary Sue said.

“Rudolpho,” her mother said, “The safe word is Rudolpho.”

“What’s that word?”

“It’s your great grandfather’s name.”

Mary Sue shrugged her shoulders. “Rudolpho, Rudolpho, Rudolpho. I got it,” she said and walked out the door to get the school bus.

Mary Sue looked both ways before she stepped out of the door. Seaside was quiet and beautiful this morning. Even the birds were singing. She walked to the far corner and waited for the school bus. A red van drove by. It had a metal, cartoon termite attached to the roof of the van. The eyes were big and goofy. Mary Sue giggled and the driver smiled at her. She smiled back.

The red van drove to the end of the street, then made a u-turn and drove back to where Mary Sue was standing. He stepped out of the van. He held a tire iron in his wet sweaty right hand. He smiled at Mary Sue, then looked down both ends of the empty street. He gripped the tire iron and swung it hard on Mary Sue’s head, killing her instantly. He caught the body before it hit the ground and quickly threw it on the floorboard of his van. He casually looked ahead of the van, then started the motor and drove away slowly so as not to attract attention.

Author Bio:

    Mark Conte has had fiction, poetry, articles and guest columns in 67 publications, including Yankee magazine, Crazy Horse, Southern Poetry Review, Potomac Review, Poetry International, Piladelphia Daily News and New York Times. He has two books of poetry, Walking on Water, 1986 and The Judsas Scroll, 2004.  He has published three novels, In the Arms of Strangers, 2003, Five Days to Eternity, 2004, Of Flesh and Stone, 2009 and a collection of stories, Delilah and Other Stories. 2001.  He was director of the Florida State University Poet series and appointed Master Poet by the Florida Arts Council. He is a member of the Authors Guild and the Academy of American Poets

Author Todd Embry’s – Revenge from Mars

Up close and personal with Todd Embry- indie author! Leave a comment and get a chance to win a free ebook of Revenge Through Mars-

Synopsis:

In the future, Earth is controlled by one man, Supreme Leader Jeremiah Johnson. Fueled by a desire to control the world, Jeremiah Johnson infiltrated himself into the mega-churches and led a campaign of suppression and subversion that resulted in one Church of Enlightenment, with himself as leader. The political influence of the Church extended into the political arena where Jeremiah Johnson was also elected Supreme Leader of the World. With both the power of the church and the government in his hands, nothing stands between Jeremiah and world domination.

Henry Thomas’ parents were on a mission to uncover evidence that would undermine the doctrine that is the foundation of the Church of Enlightenment. Ten year old Henry watched as his parents were deemed heretics and violently murdered by a death squad of Church fanatics. Captured by fanatics himself, Henry is sent to a Church orphanage to be reprogrammed. After six years of captivity he manages to escape and begin a life on the run. He meets the love of his life, Annie Pearl, who shares his hatred of the oppression that has created a world of extreme wealth and extreme poverty. When Annie is murdered for her outspoken views, Henry’s life is set on a course of revenge and hatred. His mission to destroy Supreme Leader Johnson will take him all the way to the Martian deserts surrounding the new Mars colony. On Mars he hopes to find the proof his parents were seeking, the evidence that will topple an empire and exact revenge for the murder of those he loved.

A Man I Once Met- T.Embry

When I volunteered to post my first guest blog I think I perhaps I leaped before looking, a calamity of the inexperienced and eager you might say. Then I realized the subject of the blog, paranormal. Yikes I am a science fiction writer, I thought.

In a near fit of desperation I resorted to renting a paranormal movie from red box. Such drivel I never hope to see again. Despaired and while wondering still, I risked a second, sadly it was much more of the same. To what depths have Hollywood slunk I asked myself. But who am I to judge, they sell books. One would be wise to pay heed. Who knows, I might even learn something.

So after much gnashing of teeth and wringing of hands I decided to sit back in my favorite chair with my faithful dog Hobo next to me, open a good German beer, put on some rock and roll and tell you a story about a man I once met. One who I am convinced was and is a time traveler. Paranormal, Yeah I know but this will have to do for now. I am still trying to get my head around the paranormal thing.

I remember that day very clearly, in retrospect I wish I had paid much closer attention. It was a typical August afternoon in south Florida, where I live, hot, sticky and between rainstorms. I needed gas so I pulled into one of the large chain stations. As I watched a brand new,  four door Cadillac, one so new I did not recognize the model for certain, pulled up to the pump next to me. So quite as all new Caddy’s must be for I have never had one so I can only dream.

An elderly man with short cut, solid white hair got out from the driver’s side front. He was wearing a long sleeved, light pink shirt and yellow dress pants, so new as to have the creases from the package still. If you have ever bought a long sleeved dress shirt from one of the chain stores you know what I am talking about. OH and that was yes on the long-sleeved dress shirt and dress pants in Florida in August unbelievably uncomfortable in the hot, sticky weather.

Now Florida has all kinds of people from all over, all the time, especially during tourist season. So he was kinda dressed like a Canadian golfer. So as I watch he stares at the gas pumps completely perplexed. Again this is Florida and we have lots of retirees some with lots of money and many more without.

He must have noticed my staring as he approached me, taking out his wallet as he got closer.How do you pay for the fuel,” he asked me. In what I realized later was perfect, unaccented English. In itself that is certainly not an unusual question, if one were in a foreign country. 

As he opened his wallet for me to see it had a stack of one hundred dollar bills at least a quarter of an inch thick. In addition I saw at least 3 major credit cards, all and the wallet perfectly new. “You can use either the cash or the credit cards. If you want to use the cash you will have to pay inside first,” I said with a smile, I am not always able but I help with kindness as often as I can and perhaps not as often as I should. My wife reminds me when I encounter an unpleasant person to kill them with kindness for I have not walked a mile in their shoes. Oh and that good manners are free.

 Sorry back to the story. My answers seemed to both concern and perplex my strange new friend. It was obvious to me that he did not want to go inside so I showed him how I used my debit card.  “Then you enter the zip code,” I said. A light seemed to go off in my friends head and he smiled “Thank you,” he said as he turned to go back to his car. He paused turning back around to face me, “How much can you get?”, he asked me concern once again on his face. “As much as you want”, I answered. I remember thinking how odd a question that was indeed in this day and age. There hasn’t been any gas rationing in south Florida since the season we got hit by 4 hurricanes back in 2004.

 Now I am curious, but I do not yet suspect that my new friend is or may be a time traveler, just a bit confused perhaps. I mean new place, new customs and forms of dress, understandably so. I have traveled to a lot of places in my life and the difference just a couple of states can make is amazing. So I recognized someone out of place as I have been there.

So I decide to watch out for my new friend as there are lots of two legged rats in Florida too. He proceeds to put exactly two gallons of gas in a 4 door, gas guzzling Cadillac. Carefully replacing the nozzle just as he had seen me do it just minutes ago. He then gets back in the Caddy and pulls away. I remember thinking how quiet those new Caddies were I didn’t even hear him start the engine.

A couple of days later I am sitting out on my lanai trying to come up with the answer to a particularly knotty paragraph on book two when I realized  what I had really seen. No way, I told myself I am just imagining it. Then I remembered the two gallons of gas and it snapped into place. The odd dress, the unfamiliarity with the gas pump, questioning how to pay, then how much can you get. Now it all made sense. I had met a time traveler indeed.

Yes I know that conventional scientific theory says time travel can’t exist. To that I say and once the world was known to be flat. Simply because we don’t not know how it works or even if it is possible does not preclude the fact that it may be possible that in our ignorance and we just don’t know how.

So let’s look at the main facts. Aside from an odd taste in fashion mister mysterious seemed quite like you and I if we were visiting a new place. But the gas pumps? I could see not knowing how to operate the pump; sometimes that task nearly eludes me. Soon they will be too smart indeed I think. But what industrialized country in the world does not have gas pumps of some sort? If they have cars they have gas pumps of some sort.

Add to that the question of how to pay, and I ask what industrialized nation in the modern world does not use either cash or credit cards? Certainly any wealthy tourist would be intimately familiar with both of them. But the final question is the one that clinches it for me. How much fuel can you purchase ? Not even proper American idioms, never mind the fact that there has been no gas rationing anywhere that I know of in the last few years anywhere, certainly not in the U.S.

However the proof for me is in the purchase of only two gallons of gas for a four door Cadillac, one known for its gas guzzling ways. I could and have spent hours arguing my case to mostly deaf ears but I haven’t until now been public about what I saw.

I know this fly’s in many scientific faces. I guess a valid question would be was it real or am I seeing things that are not what I think them to be. Or is a logical explanation simply beyond my grasp of reality. I invite your thoughts and comments on the matter

May you have good health and long life!

T.W. Embry

Author Bio

I am a navy brat thanks to my Dads attachment to the US Pacific Fleet. My family is from Kentucky and both sides have lived there since just after the revolutionary war. I am a long time resident of St Lucie county Florida. My wife of 19 years is a Florida native, born in Stuart Fl, a cracker and proud of it. We have 1 daughter Corri who is currently a full time college student. Then there is the family dog Hobo and his two feline friends Oscar the grouch and Biggin kitty. All of who have inspired characters to write about.

 How I got into writing is an unusual chain of events culminating in my first book, Revenge from Mars. I was working for Bellsouth as an information operator and had been for 15 years when the office I was in was closed due to downsizing. As I had just enough seniority to receive severance pay equal to 1 years’ salary I decided to go back to school.

I chose culinary school as I thought I could cook and I thought I liked it. While I did graduate from Le Cordon Bleu with honors, I quickly came to realize that I was not cut out to work in a fast paced kitchen. You see I have two speeds, slow and slower. And when I get stressed, I downshift rather than speeding up.

I was working in the kitchen of a breakfast and lunch country store in downtown Fort Pierce.  This is where I grew up when I met an author who was giving a presentation at the library just down the street. That seemed like a cool thing to do.

Later that evening I remembered some advice given to me by the language professor at Le Cordon Blue. I had finished an in class essay much faster than anyone else in the class. The professor looked at my work and asked how many books I had written. I didn’t think anything of it at the time after all I was training to be a Chef not an author. It was what he said next that I remember the most, ”Maybe you should”. I did not know it at the time but Professor Wolfish was a former big college professor who taught professional writing classes for many years before.

So that night I sat down at my computer and sketched out what was to be the opening scene in my first novel. That was easy I remember thinking. Little did I realize I had embarked on a new career. One that gives me much more satisfaction than any job I have ever had and there has been many. I have just finished my second novel and I have been picked up by Solstice Publishing. All of this, and hopefully more, because of a comment made by a well-meaning professor to whom I shall be forever grateful.

Seeking the Storyteller- new fiction out now!

I know of the Storyteller, it whispers into the man’s ear, I’ve met him. If you promise not to kill me, I’ll take you to him. 

Alix Andre DeBenit and Randall Fagan are Hunters, part of a hidden network of humans who track and kill the monsters lurking in our world so everyone else can pretend they don’t exist. But when a living shadow mentions someone called the Storyteller, Alix hesitantly decides to learn more.
They say the Storyteller lives in a massive library full of books that tell every being’s life story. He can read
these books, rewrite them and change anything he wants, even if it’s already happened. That’s the power Alix wants, the power to bring his murdered family back and he’s determined to make the Storyteller do it.

He just has to decide if working with the very creatures he’s supposed to kill is worth it.

 

Looking for more?? Check out the first chapter at this link:

http://snowtigra.wix.com/jessicawalsh#!hunters-1-preview/c1ier

Thanks for visiting the site today…here are some fun facts about the author:

What’s 2014 look like for you as an author- any new works?

For 2014 I’m working on a new novel based around a group of people who are personifications of different elements.  Oh, and the sequel to Seeking the Storyteller, of course.

Who is your favorite author and what is your favorite book?

My favorite author, at the moment, would have to be Kim Harrison.  I love the world she creates and her characters feel so real.  As for favorite book… I have far too many to choose just one. 

What genre does your writing fit under?

My genre usually fits under Urban Supernatural, but I also love dabbling in the horror genre.  And very occasionally romance…

Any other hobbies or interests?

I love to sew.  My partner/co-author and I both attend quite a few anime conventions in costume and sell our crafts and hang out with a lot of people.  That pretty much takes up all our free time in one way or another.

What is one thing your readers may not know about you?

Seeking the Storyteller started over 12 years ago when my coauthor and I met online and started roleplaying with different characters.  It has evolved and changed since then, but it was always our form of ‘dating’ since we were states apart.

 

Maureen Gregory’s- Beware the 7th Wave

In the novel deceit, obsessive love, betrayal and murder are threaded along side the fabric of normal life.

 

Attracted by Marks lifestyle, country living, horses, a successful business, Emma believes she has found the man of her dreams, until she eventually discovers her lover has a darker side.

 

Was he a cold, calculated killer or a man suffering from mental torment?

 

 Initially Emma’s relationship with Mark seemed idyllic, too good to be true, marred only by Mark’s affection for his long standing friend Alicia. Emma is heartbroken when Alicia runs over and kills her beloved pet dog, this act, combined with the aftermath of Marks affair with Alicia leads Emma to break off her engagement and return home.

 

Her subsequent marriage to Phil is more a marriage of convenience than passion and their relationship quickly crumbles. Shortly after they break up, Emma receives a distraught phone call from Mark informing her of Alicia’s murder.

 

Mark becomes a prime suspect in the investigation. After Emma’s investigative work leads to the arrest of an acquaintance, she inadvertently finds proof pointing to Marks involvement. Faced with Emma’s discovery Mark confesses to a second heinous crime. Desperate and out of control he attempts to end both his own and Emma’s life. Phil’s chance intervention saves Emma’s life.

 

Emma and Phil embark on a new life together. It would seem that betrayals and lies are behind them – or are they? At the end of the novel there is a clear hint that Emma is more than capable of lying.

WOW! A free sneak peek into part of chapter one–Check it out!

Chapter one

The Long Day

Go home, stay away, go back now’

Persistent whisperings inside her head flung conflicting commands across the thin net of reason holding her together.

Their endless chatter ceased abruptly as Emma performed a rapid last minute left turn.

For a heart-stopping moment she thought she had taken the wrong route altogether, until the grey slate roof of the old church came into view. Changing to a lower gear, slowing her speed, she glanced down at the funeral bouquet wilting on the passenger seat. Jostling for space amongst a sea of discarded tissues, pink and lilac petals tumbled to the ground like dying butterflies.

 “Should have bought a wreath, had it sent on” she muttered.

A cloying perfume permeated the car’s stuffy interior, as though the scent had bled from each battered and bruised flower.

Vapors of antistress essence, seeping out from a dangling car freshener failed miserably to live up to its promise.

She saw the gateway looming in front of her, seemingly diminishing in size as she edged the vehicle closer toward it.

Numerous options presented themselves in rapid succession. 

‘Turn around, – carry on, go home – drive on – stop’

Her mind went blank, the way it often did when faced with overload.

In a moment of sheer panic, she considered jumping ship, abandoning the car as though it was a trolley in the screaming aisles of a supermarket.

Against a whirlwind of indecision, she made her choice in a split second, challenging the wisdom behind it even as she executed the movement. Crouching low, she headed for the opening between the gateposts. Holding her breath, she hunched over the wheel, pulling her stomach in, as if shrinking her body would somehow reduce the size of the car. Grimacing at the shrill sound of metal scrapping against concrete, she drove through the gateway toward the church, mumbling a stream of expletives between gritted teeth. Her fingers curled around the steering wheel, forcing it to hold its line. With grim determination, she maneuvered the vehicle onto a concrete walkway running alongside the Church. It lurched to a stop directly below the grotesque pitted face of a stone gargoyle. In response to the crude and abruptly executed halt the rear tyres emitted an eerie screeching sound, reminiscent of an animal in pain. The alien noises produced by her undignified arrival rudely disturbed the tranquility of the church grounds.

With the flick of a key, the engine spluttered and died, amplifying the deathly silence that followed. Her stiff fingers struggled to disengage the seat belt. Tugging roughly against the buckle, she grappled in angry frustration before releasing the mechanism. Liberated from the strap’s constraints the tension slowly loosened its clawing grip, allowing aching shoulder muscles to readjust. Resting her head against the smooth circumference of the steering wheel she inhaled deeply.

An image of two small boys running across a park played silently behind closed eyelids. The red leash trailing like blood on frozen grass remained as vivid as it had been back then, making it easy for her to pinpoint the exact moment the panic attacks had started. 

She felt bone tired, mentally drained, unable to think clearly.

Brooding on the reason for her journey, she glanced anxiously through the window.

*****

Lack of space in the designated car park offered a lame excuse for her unconventional parking. Satisfied that the risk of being wheel clamped was miniscule she decided to leave the vehicle where it was. Angling the rear view mirror toward her face, she shuddered at the unflattering image reflected on its smooth surface.

Appalled at her disheveled appearance she flipped open the catch on her handbag.

Hurried fingers delved into the cavernous interior of the bag. Familiar with its multiple pockets they quickly fished out a comb. The effort of dragging it through layers of bedraggled hair made little difference to her overall appearance. A quick look at her watch confirmed that she was way behind schedule. Unzipping a tightly crammed make up bag, she pulled out a lipstick, deftly swiveling the stick to full capacity. As she pressed the soft tip into her upper lip it broke away. A flash of pink tumbled to the floor. It lay like a fat slug in the middle of the decapitated flower heads.

An omen, a bad omen’

‘Shut up’ she chided herself. Her voice sounded hollow, as though it belonged to someone else. 

Ignoring the temptation to reapply fresh make up she scrambled out of the car. A spray of dirty water made unwelcome contact with her skirt as she stepped heavily into a muddy puddle. Large drops of rainwater fell from the open mouth of the gargoyle, scoring a direct hit on her uncovered head.

Oh my God!” Her face crumpled in dismay as she turned to lock the car. Several long jagged scratches framed a large dent on the near side door. Their testimony to her erratic driving elicited a grudging relief that she was in her own vehicle and not Phil’s. Mumbling a range of ungodly curses she headed in the direction of the graveyard.

The chatter in her head began in earnest.

‘Why come, why here, why now. Go Home’

The words beat their own rhythm.

The rhythm grew louder as blood pounded in her ears.

‘Why come, why here, why now. Go Home’

Shielded from view by a high stone wall she ran down the pathway toward the cemetery. Turning the corner brought her within sight of the funeral party. To save time she took a short cut across the grass, walking as quickly as dignity would allow, keeping her eyes downcast until she reached the large circle of mourners.

In an effort to become as inconspicuous as possible she stood at the back of the gathering. Despite her attempt to remain unobtrusive, she was acutely aware that her late arrival had been noted. To her embarrassment, several of the mourners looked disapprovingly in her direction. Turning away from their reproachful glances, she dropped her gaze to stare at the dove grey boots worn by the person standing directly in front. The sharp tip of the woman’s pointed heels appeared to be sinking into the wet, spongy ground.

Several minutes passed before she was able to summon up sufficient confidence to raise her eyes and scan the group. Diverting her attention from the boots, she strained her neck to look over the wearer’s shoulder, searching for familiar faces. Almost immediately, she found herself looking directly into the eyes of her ex lover.

“Emma” he mouthed her name silently.

His gaze, penetrating and unwavering locked with hers. While part of her brain registered its disapproval, the remainder dissolved into a throbbing obsessive need. An insatiable desire to be with him answered the one question she had been afraid to explore. With absolute certainty and clarity, she realized she was still in love with Mark.

Seconds passed, time melted into fragmented moments. In a heartbeat and to the exclusion of all else he became, as he always had, the centre of her being.

Memories from the past clung to her like a living membrane. Breathing substance into the ashes of half-buried dreams, she could almost feel the touch of his skin against her own. Her hand itched to smooth away his thick dark hair as it flopped endearingly over one eyebrow, like the wing of a raven.

Shrouded by the past, she reveled in its exquisite bitter sweetness.

A movement, deliberate and unhurried brought her awareness sharply back to the present. The woman standing next to Mark slowly lifted her head. Black gloved hands swept back a fine laced veil, exposing pale flawless beauty etched with arrogance and cruelty. Her gaze, as chill and unwelcoming as the grave swept over Emma like a dawn mist, freezing, penetrating and menacing.

A bitterly cold wind swept down from the moorland, Emma shivered.

Taking a small step backwards she turned her face away from the silently threatening gaze directed upon her by her adversary; half believing that Alicia could read her mind, picking out secrets one by one.

Lowering her eyes, she stared unseeing at the grey boots. 

The brief moment of tenderness and intimacy between herself and Mark faded away without a fight. As transient as ripples on a lake, it lacked the substance to survive. Treasured memories collapsed like a house of cards, replaced by uncompromising reality.

Time had not diminished the bitterness, hatred and anger Emma harboured toward Mark’s wife.

Her reaction on seeing Mark forced Emma to examine her motives for attending Brian’s funeral.

Denied the comfort of self-delusion the truth hit her with force. Closing her eyes in shame, she acknowledged the facts as they were. Brian’s death offered a convenient excuse to see Mark again. Despite her marriage, regardless of a new life painstakingly created, she had wasted precious time hoping for a tender reunion. Her lies lay exposed like a gaping wound, raw and painfully obvious.

Straightening her drooping shoulders, she strove to convey an outward air of dignity. A master of deception, adept at concealing the truth, she could handle this, go through the motions and return home.

Through half closed lids, she stared down at the toes of her black suede boots. Flecked with grass and mud they looked shoddy and cheap. Splashes of rainwater had left wet patches down the front of her ankle length black skirt. Studying their damp shapes, she willed herself not to look in Mark’s direction. Complex questions invaded her thoughts, demanding an answer.

Where might the future lie, had past reactions been different?’

The answer eluded her.

Sunlight filtering through trees created patterns of colour and light on her closed lids. 

Reminding herself of the supposed reason for her journey she mouthed a silent ‘sorry’ to Brian. Knowing him as she had, she believed he would understand. A tear trickled down her cheek. She sniffed and wiped it away.

Seeking comfort from within, closing the door on a hostile world, she remembered Brian in happier times.

Brief cameos of her last moments with him teased their way into her mind, like ill-fitting pieces of a jigsaw they refused to slip neatly into place.

Frustratingly, amazingly, she found herself unable to recount the exact occasion of their final meeting.

‘Was it three weeks before Christmas?”

Yes, it must have been.

Can I leave this with you Brian, I don’t want Mark to see it, he’ll only want to open it!”

Was that their last conversation? Or was it a few days later when he invited her into the kitchen to sample a glass of malt?

Just a small tipple Brian, I’m not a lover of whisky

Brian shaking his head in mock horror.

“How can anyone not be a lover of whisky?”

In complete contrast, she remembered every drawn out second of her last moments with Joyce – the feel of Joyce’s arms around her trembling shoulders, failing in their attempt to offer comfort.

Joyce’s round face, pale, saggy, and old looking, as if the horrors of that day had carved their memory into her skin, drawing it down, pulling at her mouth.

 Had Emma known it was to be the last time, she would have held Joyce a little closer, hung on to their friendship.

Following the breakup, it had been Emma’s decision to cut off all contact with Mark’s parents. Initially she had found it too painful to keep in touch. Later, the passage of time brought its own constraints.

Carefully chosen works spoken by the parish vicar rose above the sound of the strengthening wind.  Regardless of his loud and forceful tone, Emma ignored the content of the eulogy. His emotive speech went unheeded as she dipped into happier memories of Brian and Joyce.

****

Emma’s first opinion of Joyce had been less than favorable.

Mark had already forewarned her to expect the unexpected.

“Don’t take any notice of my mother, she’s a touch eccentric! A family trait, at least on mother’s side, present company excluded of course”

Ignoring Emma’s appeal for more information Mark had teasingly refused to impart further detail.

“You’ll find out soon enough don’t worry; she’s harmless, well, most of the time anyway”

Emma had anticipated the meeting with a mixture of intrigue and dread. Initially she had interpreted Joyce’s lack of small talk as rudeness. Those early reservations rapidly faded; despite Joyce’s bizarre, often unconventional behaviour her unflinching honesty won Emma’s respect. Over a short period of time respect turned to affection.

Emma’s over riding memory of Joyce was her kindness, at a time when she needed it most. 

It was almost impossible to think of Joyce without picturing Brian.

In marked contrast to his wife, Brian had been a quietly spoken, sensitive man, polite and courteous, combining a dry sense of humour with a razor sharp wit. Outwardly, Brian appeared shadowed by Joyce’s overly large persona. The image proved deceptive. Closer observation showed that Brian was indeed Joyce’s rock. Although Joyce was the driving force behind the business it was Brian who had calmed many a storm. 

They worked well as a team, steadfastly building up an enviable property portfolio. Beginning with the renovation of their first home the couple went on to create a thriving business.

A senior partner in the family business Mark appeared to share his father’s commitment to the company. During their time together Emma saw Mark’s role expand as his father gradually relinquished authority over to his son. It was generally accepted but rarely mentioned, that Brian would retire before he was sixty. The master plan was that he and Joyce would travel, but if pressed both were sketchy on detail or time scale. Emma agreed with Mark’s assessment that neither of them would care to be away from their home for too long.

As Emma watched the coffin being slowly lowered into the ground she sadly acknowledged that both had died before reaching their retirement.  In truth, she could not imagine one without the other.

The coffin landed in its resting place with a dull thud. Emma lifted her head, looking upwards into pale, sifting clouds. Trying to imagine the world beyond the earth’s atmosphere left her feeling vulnerable, insignificant, and completely alone.

As if in defiance of the prevailing bleak environment, a break in the cloud allowed a shard of bright autumn sunshine to filter down. Pale golden rays touched the bowed heads of the somberly dressed circle of mourners. Shimmering light created the effect of a temporary halo of brightness around the group. A gentle breeze shook the surrounding foliage, softly ruffling the feathers of watchful birds perched high in the safety of nearby trees. Emma guessed that they were waiting patiently for a chance to pick out food and grubs from the newly disturbed earth.

‘Life went on’ she thought, smiling sadly ‘Brian would have appreciated that’

The vicar’s final ‘Amen’ served as a signal for the gathering to disperse. The group broke up into small intimate segments. Moving forward like separate parts of the same body they inched toward the Church, a darkly clothed, creeping mass.

Emma shivered as a surge of unease uncurled like a snake in the pit of her stomach.

Unable to think rationally, mindful of her past weakness in dealing with Alicia, Emma planned to put some distance between them. Her gut feeling was to head for home as soon as possible. Nursing a strong premonition that her day was about to get worse she hoped to slip away unnoticed.

Retracing her earlier steps she made her way across the wet grass to a gravel pathway skirting the gravestones. Despite a growing sense of urgency, her pace slowed to a shuffle as she walked passed tightly spaced graves. Glancing at the headstones her heart rushed with sympathy for the unknown occupants.  Many of the structures were in various stages of neglect or decay, creating a picture of desolate cold loneliness. Staring at the aging monuments and weed encrusted containers she found it hard to believe that the occupants had once been a part of the living.

‘Had they followed their hearts or died in regret for opportunities lost’?

Her eyes scanned the tombstones; faded lettering humanized the graves, linking them to the present.

Bowing her head in silent acknowledgement, she hoped they had achieved at least some of their dreams.

Standing in proud contrast amongst the crumbling head stones of long ago, a scattering of well-tended graves added their own colour and life. Ornamental statues stood proud and erect on raised surrounds. Vases of fresh flowers threw splashes of vibrant colour against the dismal canvas, their cheery brightness incongruent against the bleak backdrop. Taking a moment to ponder on the finality of death Emma turned her attention to the living.

* * * * *

 

Author Profile

Having previously combined writing short stories with a career in psychiatric and community nursing I now write full time. Beware The Seventh Wave is my debut novel. My second novel Killing Mrs Panama should be ready soon.

 When I am not writing I can usually be found riding one of my horses. I live in the Peak District with my husband and a friendly assortment of creatures’ great and small.

 If you have a moment please take a look at the 62 second promo/video. I tried to tie in the video with the title of my book, which ties in with the plot. I hope you like it.

The you tube link is http://youtu.be/mlR-IN0fbLo

 To read a sample chapter of both books, or for any further information my website is

 www.maureengregorybooks.com comments always welcome and all emails answered.

My facebook author page is

https://www.facebook.com/pages/MGwriteonow/532082136861989

 Thank you for your time, and many thanks to Jessica for giving up her time to host me on her blog.