Category Archives: Book Blasts

Release Blitz – Highway to Hell

About the Book

Title: Highway to Hell

Author: Lydia Anne Stevens

Genre: Paranormal Fantasy

Death. Reapers. Atonement.

Catriona Clarke is a mercenary demon leading a gang of reapers and working with Lucifer to atone for her sins. The Hellcats’ mission is to collect the marked souls of the damned and bring them to Hell once they perish. When Catriona returns from collecting a soul, she discovers the rival gang of demons, the Hellhounds, have marked her ex-boyfriend.

Conflicted about going to reap Zeke’s soul, she reluctantly goes to collect. In a whirlwind of chaos, Catriona discovers that the son of Satan, Damien, has mistakenly marked the innocent and pure soul of Zeke’s twin brother, Lowell. Her gut instinct tells her to stand up against Lucifer and the demons of Hell, but in doing so, she will lose everything she’s worked hard for.

Is her ex-boyfriend’s brother worth the trouble?

Readers of Patricia Briggs, Darynda Jones, and Kevin Hearne will devour this Hellishly fantastic series.

 

Author Bio

Lydia Stevens is a full-time author and freelance writer having written over 75 novels for clients – with two series having become Amazon Bestsellers. She is an active member of the Maine Romance Writers Association, The Horror Writers of Maine, The Fantasy Writers of Maine, The Maine Women Authors, The Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance, Sigma Alpha Pi’s, National Society of Leadership and Success, and Sigma Tau Delta’s, International English Honor Society. Lydia graduated from the University of Southern New Hampshire with a Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing and English on May 12th, of 2018 and she graduated with a Master of Arts in Creative Writing and English on May 11th, 2019.

She’s the author of a paranormal/humor trilogy, The Ginger Davenport Escapades and is contracted with a second trilogy, The Fire Series with LM Vintage Publishers. The first book, Phoenix Fire, is slated to be released in 2019. Lydia currently works as an internist in the second semester within a literary agency and plans to pursue future endeavors within this line of work, as well as a PhD in Creative Writing. Her creative writing research proposal is under review at Lancaster University in Lancaster, England.

Lydia lives in Maine where she enjoys living life with an active eight-year-old and a black cat, Sirius Black, who is equally competitive for her attention. In her spare time, Lydia loves knitting, reading, coaching soccer, completing fantasy-themed jigsaw puzzles for inspiration, traveling and having a laugh with her best friends.

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Book Blast – Julian Fox

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. E.J. Miranda will be awarding a 1st prize: $50 Amazon e-gift card, and a 2nd prize: $40 Amazon e-gift card, to two randomly drawn winners via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

It is said that dreams are just that: only dreams. But believe me, this is not always true. Some dreams are as real as the dreamer.

Thanks to their dreams, dreamers can receive the special visit of eternal wisdom that has inspired the creativity of great inventors, scientists, musicians, and even writers throughout the ages.

This creative wisdom is not always the type that appears to the eager conscience. Sometimes, a Defiler, a destroyer of dreams, is the one who tries to appear before the dreamer. These creatures were once humans, but they allowed their pain and desire for revenge to take over and seek the same miserable fate for the one who dreams.

You must not fear — Dream Guardians, also known as Kelsdrant, will always protect the one who dreams, even with their own life. They are people of flesh and bone, just like you and me, or at least they are on Earth.

The following story is dedicated to the fun, extravagant, and enlightening life of Julian Fox, the Dream Guardian.

Be prepared, dear reader. It is time to dream, laugh, reflect, and even maybe cry.

Welcome to the Land of the Wise Dreams.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 8: The Fate of the Carrier

That night, he locked his door to protect himself from Nicholas’s intentions. He knew his brother was very patient and would wait for the opportune moment to execute the perfect prank.

The occasion was presented that night when the unsuspecting victim, Julian, was asleep since he had to get up earlier than usual. Nicholas could finally do something to torture his brother to compensate for the terrible sushi experience. He dressed in black, wanting to be mysterious like in the movies. He glided silently through the house unseen, even by the discreet service staff. He went to the kitchen where Julian had forgotten to remove the duplicate key to his door from the keychain that contained all the copies of the house’s keys.

Taking it, he went quietly to his brother’s room with a small flashlight in his hand. He opened the door quietly, knowing that if he was discovered he would be in trouble. However, his evil desire forced him to move forward. This audacity cheered him on:

“Bah! So what if Mom rips my ears off? At least it is for a good cause.”

His evil plan was to move forward all the clocks in the house by two hours. Thus, the innocent Julian would get up early, sleepy and most importantly, in a bad mood. Julian would need those two hours, just like he had needed the indigestion medicine that his mother had given him to prevent further damage to his body and mind.

One by one, Julian’s watches joined the conspiracy. His own cell phone, all the watches, and the alarm clocks surrendered to Nicholas, the defiler of time.

About the Author: E. J. Miranda is an avid reader, an enthusiastic traveler, and a passionate author. Her great sense of humor and love for nature have granted her a rebellious writing style: Her approach describes the adventures of life but in such a way that each reader can have an individual take on the matter. Her inspiration comes from her curiosity about other countries’ cultures and peculiarities. A few countries in particular that spark her curiosity are Colombia, Italy, Costa Rica, England, Belgium, Mexico, Spain, and the United States. Her favorite places to visit are historical sites and museums, locations that allow her to explore important and even overlooked details. She currently lives with her husband in Colombia but frequently travels to Houston to visit her daughter and son. E.J. Miranda has a degree in tax accounting, but she prefers interacting with people to calculating their taxes. To learn more about her life and work, visit http://www.ejmiranda.com.

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/46288494-julian-fox

Twitter: https://twitter.com/authorejmiranda

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/EJMirandaAuthor

Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/julian-fox-the-dream-guardian-e-j-miranda/1132532225

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Julian-Fox-Dream-Guardian-Miranda/dp/173379820X/ref=sr_1_1

E.J. Miranda will be awarding a 1st prize: $50 Amazon e-giftcard, and a 2nd prize: $40 Amazon e-giftcard, to two randomly drawn winners via rafflecopter during the tour.

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Julian Fox, The Dream Guardian

Book Blast – EXTINCTION OF ALL CHILDREN

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. L.J. Epps will be awarding a $20 Amazon or B/N GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

The futuristic world of Craigluy has been divided into three territories and three economic classes. A large wall separates the territories, so the poor cannot mingle with the rich.

Since President Esther, the ruler over all of Craigluy, believes the poor do not have adequate means to take care of children, they are no longer allowed to procreate. Pregnant mothers are imprisoned until their babies are born, then the infants are taken away.

Emma Whisperer is the last child to survive. She is the last child born in lower-class Territory L before the law was instituted in the year 2080. She is the last eighteen-year-old.

Emma struggles to understand why she was spared while others weren’t. She doesn’t like the laws and believes they should be repealed. Her family doesn’t agree with her; they discourage her rebellious streak. Yet, she helps them to cover up their own family rebellion. She helps them to hide a big secret, a secret that could be both disastrous and deadly for members of their family.

As she meets new people along the way, Emma learns who she can and cannot trust. And, in the end, she makes a gut-wrenching decision that may be disastrous for everyone.

She finds herself in danger for doing what she feels is right.

Read an Excerpt

“I see your side is still bothering you.” He looks me up and down. “That’s why I came by in regular clothes. I knew you wouldn’t feel much like training. You should rest your side for a few days, like the doctor said.”

“How do you know what the doctor said?”

“Samuel told me. He said we should put off training, for a while.”

“Until I recuperate.” I groan again, pushing the pack more into my skin. “I don’t want to lose my newfound skills. Pretty soon, I will be good enough to beat you.”

“Now wait a minute.” He holds up his hands. “Slow it down, a little. You’re doing well, but don’t get ahead of yourself. I think the nickname Whisper has caused you to lose all sense of reality.”

“No, I’m still in my right mind,” I say. I grin like baby Abigail when you tickle her stomach.

“Seriously, though.” His eyes find mine. “Is your side all right?”

“It’s fine, or it will be.” My fingers sting, holding the pack.

“What about your hand?”

“They gave me some ointment to use.”

“Why did you let Samuel take you?” His chest rises and falls like the words were hard to say. “I mean, I asked to take you to the hospital and you refused. Why would you let Samuel take you, instead of me?”

About the Author: L.J. Epps is a lover of all things related to books: fiction and nonfiction novels, as well as biographies and autobiographies. She has also been known to sit and read comic books from cover to cover, several times over.

Over the last few years, L.J. has written several manuscripts; her mission is to publish all of them. She enjoys writing fiction in several genres, including contemporary romance and women’s fiction, as well as young adult dystopian, science fiction and fantasy. She loves to write because it immerses her into another world that is not her own.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ljta6b1c

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Website: http://www.ljeppsauthor.com

Blog: http://www.ljeppsauthor.com/blog.html

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Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B01GM2YTHE

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Book Blast – LACEWOOD

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Jessica James will be awarding a $15 Amazon or B/N GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

Thrust together by chance. Bound together by destiny. A disillusioned socialite and a special operations veteran find a way to save a small town while healing themselves. A haunting read about the journey to restore an abandoned 200-year-old mansion and the secrets it reveals about a long-lost love.

Read an Excerpt

Turning in a circle, Katie studied the room again. Faded wallpaper curled and peeled above the dusty wainscoting, but the walls themselves appeared sturdy. On the far side of the entryway, and dominating the wall, stood a mammoth fireplace with an ornately carved hearth. Her attention was immediately drawn to a painting of a woman in nineteenth century dress that hung prominently over the mantel.

“Who is she?”

The sheriff turned to the dusty, sun-bleached portrait in the heavy carved guilt frame. “One of the previous owners, they say.” He shrugged. “The family history kind of got lost with the house. Everyone around here calls her the Widow of Lacewood.”

Katie stood spellbound. The woman was clothed completely in black, but the magnificence of the gown gave the impression of sophistication and class. Her chin was slightly elevated as if to project strength, yet there was more than a hint of sorrow and pain in her eyes.

“She looks so sad.” Katie spoke without removing her gaze. “And so young. How could she be a widow?”

The sheriff had already started to walk away, but he turned back and glanced at the painting. “Not sure, but they say she never remarried.”

Katie’s heart suddenly struggled to beat. The anguish in the woman’s eyes kept her riveted. She could see the pain. Feel a heart ripped apart. Something was missing that could never be replaced. Katie had felt such loss before. In a way that’s why she was here.

“You coming?”

Katie heard the sheriff calling from the next room, and turned to follow. With one quick glance back, she noticed particles of dust now swirled and danced in a shaft of light, almost like a living thing. Her breath caught in her throat as the dust seemed to materialize into the form of a woman, her eyes dull with the same tortured despair and disbelief as the one in the portrait.

Katie jerked her head around for a closer look and blinked. The woman was gone.
About the Author:

Jessica James believes in honor, duty, and true love—and that’s what she writes about in her award-winning novels that span the ages from the Revolutionary War to modern day.

She is a two-time winner of the John Esten Cooke Award for Southern Fiction, and has won more than a dozen other literary awards, including a Readers’ Favorite International Book Award and a Gold Medal from the Military Writers Society of America. Her novels have been used in schools and are available in hundreds of libraries including Harvard and the U.S. Naval Academy.

James is a member of the Romance Writers of America, the Historical Novel Society, and the Independent Book Publishers Association.

Website: https://www.jessicajamesbooks.com

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B001IYTXOG

BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/jessica-james

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/southernromance/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/586216.Jessica_James

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/RomanticHistoricalFiction

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Twitter: https://twitter.com/jessicajames

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Lacewood-Novel-Place-Jessica-James-ebook/dp/B07PW8BQJ4

BN: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/lacewood-jessica-james/1129617849

Jessica James will be awarding a $15 Amazon or B/N GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

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Book Trailer

Book Blast – LOVE CALLS YOU HOME

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Donna will award a $25 Amazon/BN gift card to a randomly drawn commenter. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

Stephanie Williams left skid marks on the road out of Willow Springs, Vermont after she finished high school. She didn’t return until her company sent her to evaluate the town for a massive development project. Back then she thought the town was way too small and too cold. Now the cold isn’t as much of an issue since she’s reconnected with her childhood friend, Donald Flanagan. Stephanie doesn’t remember his eyes being quite so green, or his body quite so built. He’s smart and funny as he ever was, and a forest-fire sized attraction burns between them.

Donald never understood his old friend’s driving need to leave Willow Springs. He loves everything about it. When he learns the truth about Stephanie’s project, and how it will turn his hometown into a theme-park version of itself, will it extinguish the flame that has sparked between them?

Read an Excerpt

It was much darker on this side of the building, without the bright, neon lights around the entrance, and even though they could hear the muffled music through the wall, it felt as though they were all alone in the world. Donald stopped and turned to face her, which placed her between him and the building. He cupped her face in his hands, and Stephanie marveled that she’d never noticed how big his hands were before. He leaned down a little and studied her face. His eyes seemed to be searching for a clue as to what she wanted. There were complications aplenty––putting their lifelong friendship at risk, and her work here in town, which Donald still didn’t know the extent of, being two major hurdles, but Stephanie knew what she wanted right now. She knew it from the bottom of her toes to the top of her head, with a certainty she’d never experienced before. Her blood pounded in her veins, and she felt a little breathless with excitement about the step they were about to take.

“Hurry up and kiss me, Flanagan, before I spontaneously combust.”

One side of the mouth she longed to be kissing quirked up in a sexy half-grin. “There’s no turning back if we take this step, Williams. Are you sure?”

About the Author:

Donna Simonetta writes the kind of books she loves to read–contemporary romances filled with heart, heat, and humor, like the books of her favorite romance writers, Susan Mallery and Jill Shalvis.
A Sweeter Spot is the first book in the Rivers Bend trilogy, which is set in a fictional small town, populated by quirky characters. But if you prefer a big city setting and a little fantasy mixed in with your romance, try Angels Fly. A heartwarming story, set in beautiful San Diego, about getting a second-chance with your first love, with a little help from some unlikely guardian angels.

Writing is Donna’s third career. She has worked in the business world, which she decided wasn’t for her. So she went back to school to get her MLS degree, and worked in a school library, before deciding to pursue writing on a full-time basis. Donna lives in Maryland with her husband, who is her real-life romance hero. They enjoy traveling to visit far-flung family and friends, and spending time on the beach with an umbrella drink and a good book.

https://www.amazon.com/Donna-Simonetta/e/B06X415TWW%3Fref=dbs_a_mng_rwt_scns_share

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15422407.Donna_Simonetta

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https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/love-calls-you-home-donna-simonetta/1131596605

Donna will award a $25 Amazon/BN gift card to a randomly drawn commenter.

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Book Blast – Murder by Munchausen

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions.

A police procedural sci fi thriller ripped from future headlines!

After Jake shoots and kills a murder suspect who turns out to be the son of a powerful city councilman, he finds himself demoted to the Artificial Crimes Unit, tracking down androids hacked and programmed to be hit men.

When his case of an “extra-judicial” divorce settlement takes a nasty turn with DNA from a hundred-year-old murder in Boston and a signature that harkens back to the very first serial killer ever in London, Jake finds himself tangled up in the brutal slayings of prostitutes being investigated by his former Robbery/Homicide partner, Maddie–who is now his lover.

But a madman, The Baron, is just getting started with his AI recreations of Jack the Ripper’s brutal crimes. And Maddie and Jake are teamed up again to stop the carnage as the Baron’s army of human replicants imitate history’s most notorious serial killers.

“It might not make sense, but the beloved Media tags it ‘Murder by Munchausen.’ For a price, there are hackers out there who will reprogram a synthoid to do your dirty work. The bad news: no fingerprints or DNA left at the crime scene. The good news—at least for us—is that they’re like missiles: once they hit their target, they’re usually as harmless as empty brass. The trick is to get them before they melt down their core OS data, so you can get the unit into forensics for analysis and, hopefully, an arrest.” [excerpt from Murder by Munchausen]

Artificial Intelligence? Fuhgeddaboudit!

Artificial Evil has a name…Munchausen.

BookCover - Munchausen Trilogy Box Set

Read an Excerpt

From The Invisible Mind (#3)

It sat on a bench outside the dormitory of nursing students, waiting with its kind’s infinite patience. Originally acquired and programmed for landscaping at the Cleveland Clinic, the synthoid was one of a brigade of units which had been hacked and Munchausened, then returned to their menial daily services to mankind to await the Baron’s call.

There was no adrenalin surge behind the extremely life-like facade of humanity when that call came. Data packets, sent scatter-shot through the Atlas Grid, coalesced at the location outside the Cole Eye Institute, where it methodically trimmed and shaped the immaculate shrubbery around the building. To avoid Q’s metadata sniffing algorithms from detecting a download spike in the grid, the information came in digital sprinkles over the course of its human handler’s work shift, slowly building a malevolent intent to be executed that night. In the middle of the afternoon, it left the topiary unfinished to melt into the hospital shift change and disappeared.

Personality modules were a Gen-3 feature upgrade, which is why the earlier models were initially preferred. Swapping out a few IC chips and uploading hacked firmware was a relatively easy way to turn a quick buck with an automated contract killing. But evil innovates, too, and the same features that made synthoids even more human-like in their behavior also helped create robotic assassins which could better camouflage their malicious intents and evade the reach of the Artificial Crimes Unit by melting into and moving undetected through the humanity that surrounded them. For the Baron, it allowed for a greater measure of artistic expression in programming the synthoid’s behavior to not only recreate infamous crimes of the past, but to mimic the behavior of their perpetrators, which intensified the thrill of watching the video feed through the eyes of Jack the Ripper, Ted Bundy or, this particular evening, Richard Speck. Jake wasn’t the only history buff and it amused Jamal that London police had photographed the eyes of Jack the Ripper’s victims, hoping to capture the last thing they ever saw: their killer’s face. If only Scotland Yard could have imagined the future.

The Gen-3 personality modules also supported the ANSI Adaptive Artificial Intelligence Protocol #9 to enhance the artificial human experience of real men and women who interacted with synthoids. The constant writing and rewriting of code in the personality/experience loop formed unique individual synthoid consciousnesses, which manufacturers uploaded to their servers for product improvement teams to study. In Munchausened units, that feed was hijacked and routed to another portal in the Darknet to build a collective id of evil.

At eleven PM, it rose from the bench and entered the dormitory. The bodies of nine women would be found the next day, having been strangled and stabbed to death. Unlike 1966, no eyewitness was left alive, though the phrase “Born to Raise Hell” was written on the wall in blood.

About the Author:

M.T. Bass is a scribbler of fiction who holds fast to the notion that while victors may get to write history, novelists get to write/right reality. He lives, writes, flies and makes music in Mudcat Falls, USA.

Born in Athens, Ohio, M.T. Bass grew up in St. Louis, Missouri. He graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University, majoring in English and Philosophy, then worked in the private sector (where they expect “results”) mainly in the Aerospace & Defense manufacturing market. During those years, Bass continued to write fiction. He is the author of eight novels: My Brother’s Keeper, Crossroads, In the Black, Somethin’ for Nothin’, Murder by Munchausen, The Darknet (Murder by Munchausen Mystery #2), The Invisible Mind (Murder by Munchausen Mystery #3) and Article 15. His writing spans various genres, including Mystery, Adventure, Romance, Black Comedy and TechnoThrillers. A Commercial Pilot and Certified Flight Instructor, airplanes and pilots are featured in many of his stories. Bass currently lives on the shores of Lake Erie near Lorain, Ohio.

Website: https://www.mtbass.net

Blog: https://www.owl-works.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/owlworks/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Owlworks

Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/author/mtbass

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5270962.M_T_Bass

Murder by Munchausen Trilogy Purchase Links

https://www.amazon.com/Murder-Munchausen-Trilogy-Future-Mystery-ebook/dp/B07QDGHYZ6

https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/murder-by-munchausen-trilogy-books-1-3/id1458934052?mt=11

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/books/1131145794?ean=2940156040681

https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/murder-by-munchausen-trilogy

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/932579

THE AUTHOR WILL BE GIVING AWAY:  $25 Amazon/BN GC

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Spotlight – Misfits and Supermen

Misfits and Supermen banner

About the Author

Steve Starger

Steve Starger is a journalist, author, and musician. His 2006 book, “Wally’s World: The Brilliant Life and Tragic Death of Wally Wood, the World’s Second-Best Comic-Book Artist,” was short-listed for the Will Eisner Industry Award for Best Comics Related Book of 2006.

His latest book is a memoir titled MISFITS AND SUPERMEN: TWO BROTHERS’ JOURNEY ALONG THE SPECTRUM.

Website: www.misfitsandsupermen.com.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Steve-Starger-2222670174658438/

About the Book:

Title: MISFITS AND SUPERMEN: TWO BROTHERS’ JOURNEY ALONG THE SPECTRUM.
Author: Steve Starger
Publisher: Friesen Press
Pages: 178
Genre: Memoir

Misfits and Supermen

BOOK BLURB:

The bond of brotherhood is hard to break, but a lifetime of dealing with familial expectation, bitterness, and psychological disorders can bend and warp it into something nearly unrecognizable. This story tells the tale of two brothers: Melvyn, the elder, whose amalgamation of disorders leave him completely unable to function within society; and Stephen, the younger, whose own emotional and psychological issues are overshadowed to the point where he becomes little more than a pale and twisted reflection of his brother.

On different ends of the same spectrum, Melvyn is blissfully unaware of their troubling connection (or so his brother can only assume), but for Stephen, it is undeniable. He lives with it every day, sensing his own otherness in every twitch, outburst, and inability of his brother to overcome his inner demons. Left largely on his own to deal with his peculiarities-while carrying the burden of being “the normal one,” of whom much is expected- Stephen begins a complicated and unpredictable journey, one which will take him as far from his brother as he can manage to get, even as it brings them inexorably closer.

A portion of proceeds from this book will go toward the Camp Cuheca Scholarship – Melvyn D. Starger fund at Waterford Country School, Quaker Hill, CT., to help fund a two-week summer residency at the camp. For more information about Waterford Country School, please email development@waterforddcs.org.

A finely crafted, affecting memoir of two brothers.”

— Kirkus Reviews

If you want an honest book about life with mental illness in the family, this is it. Great writing. Brutally honest. Hard to put it down. Great stories about CT, NY and CA from the 1940s to 2000.”

–Amazon Reviewer

Misfits teaser 4

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Book Excerpt

On a clear, cool night early in the spring of 1967, I lay on a stone wall fronting Long Island Sound, waiting for the acid to come on. I was in the back yard of a mansion in Stamford, Connecticut, staring into the star-filled sky, listening to the small waves gurgling against the shoreline. My mind was serene, but I was nervous, as always when I took acid or some other psychedelic substance. The unpredictability of the drug both thrilled me and made me anxious. Where will I go? What will I see? What will happen? Will I survive? If I lose myself on this plane of existence, what will come next?

My expectation and anxiety were more intense than usual this night. I had dropped what I had been told was two-hundred-fifty micrograms of pure Sandoz LSD-25, the Holy Grail of psychedelics. Or something very much like it.

I had no idea who obtained this rare specimen of a heralded consciousness-altering substance or who manufactured it, but it showed up at the house where my band, NGC 4594, had camped to rehearse. The sprawling home was a prime example of a southern Connecticut Gold Coast mansion; it belonged to the family of our flute and mouth-harp player.

The tablet I had swallowed, about the size and color of an adult dose of aspirin, purportedly had the purity and power of LSD-25, the legendary psychedelic accidentally discovered at Sandoz Laboratories, in Basel, Switzerland, by a chemist named Albert Hoffman, in 1938. Dr. Hoffman’s cosmic experience was decades in the past, but this dose was supposed to be light-years beyond any acid I had previously taken.

The pitch that accompanied this acid could have been lifted from a used-car salesman’s book, but if the claim was correct, I was in for a journey to the center of consciousness, where “clear light” waited to bathe me in its cleansing glow. I had taken other “clean” acid trips, uncut with amphetamines to make the trip come on faster, and free of other additives favored by the street “acid men” to stretch their product for maximum profits.

As the acid slowly insinuated itself into my nervous system (one test of purity is the length of time it takes for uncut LSD to start working, about forty-five minutes to an hour), I felt the heightened combination of exhilaration and anxiety that signals the acid beginning to work its magic.

A gentle nudging began to assert itself at the edges of my consciousness. I gave myself over to the Sandoz simulacrum and let it take me where it would.

Over the course of what seemed like millennia, the acid took me far away, into the vast field of stars above me, and into the water, where I imprinted my image on the surface over and over, until I became an armada of insubstantial clones breaking on the shore. In a quick burst of rational thought, I thought, so, this is what the shouting is all about over Sandoz. Well … let it come down!

Inside the house, NGC was playing to a group of local day trippers who showed up every Friday night to get high and listen to us. We had moved into the mansion from Storrs, Connecticut a couple of months before and had become the latest attraction for the local sensation seekers.

As I lay wrapped in ecstasy in Stamford, my brother, Melvyn Starger, lay on his small bed in his small cell of a room on the opposite side of the state, at Norwich State Hospital. He too had taken drugs, ones very different from what I had consumed by choice. He was not given a choice in the matter; his drugs were prescribed and mandatory. His meds probably were benzodiazepines, psychoactive medications that produced sedative, hypnotic, anti-convulsive, and muscle relaxant effects. In other words, they were used to control patients’ behaviors, which could be explosive and unpredictable.

Someone meeting Melvyn for the first time would wonder why it was necessary to give him medicine designed to pacify him. He seemed so calm and diffident to most people. But he had a temper that could get way out of hand, and it could explode in seconds. He was too thin and under-muscled to do any physical damage to people, but he could be scary. He could yell at the top of his range for a long time.

I can’t presume to know where Melvyn’s mind went when he was on his meds. His inner workings had been a mystery to me and my parents for many years. I did my best to hold off thoughts of him as I peaked on the acid. Had I thought of him in this blissful state, I thought I would freak out (as we used to say). That would have been a shame, because this trip was one of a kind. Nothing should be allowed to ruin it. Not that I hadn’t thought of my brother over the years since we were kids, but there were times when it just wouldn’t have been fair to let reality intrude on my experience.

My efforts to keep my brother at bay have never worked. He was always there, ready and waiting—my constant Virgil on our travels together. He had appeared to me many times over the years, a stoop-shouldered wraith shambling through my thoughts, not so subtly reminding me that our bond would never be broken, least of all by changing locations and doing drugs.

Even in the middle of my cosmic dance on Long Island Sound, I occasionally felt the sorrow generated by my brother’s presence creep in, slowly and inexorably. This time, my altered perceptions absorbed Melvyn and his aura with barely a whimper. I didn’t panic; no ambulances had to be called. I simply rode the whirlwind to its conclusion: the good, the bad, and the ugly.

By then I had learned enough about how to guide myself through a psychedelic experience to understand that walking the Via Dolorosa (“the way of grief”) can be an important part of the experience. After all, the language we used to describe an acid trip or some other mind-altering experience employed such phrases as “ego death,” states of being one must travel through to reach the true center of consciousness, where the pain and suffering brought on by human folly melts into divine nothingness.

Our perceptions of the power of psychedelic drugs came from our readings of Buddhist philosophy and certain practices found in the Tibetan Book of the Dead, which had been appropriated by the Harvard psychedelic guru Timothy Leary for his own usages. In terms of getting high on psychedelics, it probably amounted to nonsense, but if that got us through bad experiences, what was the harm? In fact, the truest thing I had learned about acid, peyote, mescaline, magic mushrooms, and even things like lowly marijuana was how strong these substances were. One could believe anything behind their power to distort the senses and disrupt the orderly flow of one’s mind.

In my brother’s case, he walked the Via Dolorosa his entire life.

In some societies, my brother might have been revered as a holy man, treated with respect and deference. In our world, he was crazy. A looney-tune. A moron. No one in polite society called him those terrible names, of course, at least not in public. I called him those names, in private and in public.

Divorced from the rest of “normal” society by his multiplicity of psychiatric afflictions, my brother grew up inside his own life. It was not a life that anyone would have chosen, but it was his, thrust on him by nature. His world was rigidly self-contained. He was the only permanent resident. He could relate to the “outside” when he chose to, but those were rare moments. My parents and I had to do the work required to enter his world. It was a hard, frustrating task, but there were occasional payoffs, if one worked hard enough. Small flickers of light would dance in his eyes on those rare moments when he was able or willing to enter the world of the others—our world.

This brief description of my perception of Melvyn’s affect and demeanor may remind some of the classic symptoms of autism, or as the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) terms it, “Autistic Disorder.” The DSM’s list of symptoms includes: Marked lack of awareness of the existence or feelings of others; no or abnormal seeking of comfort at times of distress; no or impaired imitation (e.g., does not wave bye-bye, does not copy mother’s domestic activities, mechanical imitation of others’ actions out of context); no or abnormal social play; and gross impairment in ability to make peer friendships.

Melvyn did display some or all of these manifestations at various times throughout his life, sometimes all of them at once. The diagnosis of autism was not generally heard during the time of Melvyn’s development, and even if it had been, the tagging of Melvyn as autistic, or “on the spectrum,” may not have made a difference in my parents’ comprehension of their son’s many aberrant behaviors. In retrospect, the gap that existed between Melvyn and the rest of the world would surely have remained—in fact, did remain—for his entire life.

But Melvyn did not live in a vacuum, despite all of the obstacles that separated us. Melvyn—the fact of Melvyn—exerted a profound influence on everyone who came into his world. My parents struggled for their entire marriage under the weight of Melvyn’s conditions.

Some families, when faced with crippling mental disabilities in a family member, bond together and face their futures in some kind of harmony. Other families fall apart, unable to face the fact of a terrible intruder in their midst. My family went the latter route.

When Melvyn’s strangeness could no longer be ignored or explained away, my parents’ reactions took very different forms. Over the long term, my father grew more distant and depressed, and he began to blame my mother more and more for Melvyn’s problems. My mother adopted the pose of a martyr, taking verbal abuse from my father that increased with passing years. My mother became “Long-Suffering Elsie” in the eyes of friends and family. The perception wasn’t entirely fair. She could still laugh and socialize and have fun playing the piano, but there was no doubt that something deep and sad had possessed her. One can argue that we all affect each other simply by being in each other’s lives, but living so closely with someone of Melvyn’s uniqueness takes that rather obvious observation to a very different place.

As Melvyn’s wrongness became more and more pronounced, my parents turned their gazes on him and never looked away. My developing antisocial behavior and rock-bottom self-image took a backseat to Melvyn’s much bigger problems. My parents missed the danger signs in my young life early on. Their concentration on Melvyn bored like drilling tools into Melvyn’s being, as if my parents could mine information from him about his strangeness. They watched in mounting horror as he transformed from a seemingly normal child into an alien creature lurching toward entropy. They reacted to the early years of Melvyn’s thwarted development with shock, disbelief, denial, increasing pain, depression, and cruelty.

The fact that it took years for Melvyn’s first symptoms of psychiatric disorder to appear—holding out hope for my parents where none really existed—exacerbated a situation that eventually flowered into a force that destroyed the fabric of my family.

This may sound like melodrama, but I watched it happen. My mother, refusing to believe the evidence of her eyes, would swear at times that Melvyn was reading full sentences when he was 2 years old, which proved to her that what was clearly happening to him was beyond her comprehension. She was indulging in magical thinking to save her own sanity.

Misfits and Supermen 3

Book Blast – Dreams That Never Were

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About the Author

Greg Messel

Greg Messel grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and lives on the Puget Sound in Edmonds, Washington, with his wife, Jean DeFond. Dreams That Never Were is his 11th novel and is a historical fiction account of a young reporter caught up in the events surrounding the assassination of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy in 1968. Greg has also written a series of mystery novels set in San Francisco in the 1950s. He has lived in Oregon, Washington, California, Wyoming and Utah and has always loved writing, including stints as a reporter, columnist and news editor for a daily newspaper. Greg won a Wyoming Press Association Award as a colunist and has contributed articles to various magazines.

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About the Book

Title: DREAMS THAT NEVER WERE
Author: Greg Messel
Publisher: Sunbreaks Publishing
Pages: 296
Genre: Historical Fiction

Dreams That Never Were 2

BOOK BLURB:

On June 5, 1968 Senator Robert F. Kennedy, then a candidate for President, is mortally wounded by assassin Sirhan Sirhan in the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. Among the innocent bystanders who were also shot that night is a young idealistic reporter from San Francisco, Alex Hurley.

The tragic incident changes his life as he’s swept up in the turbulent events of 1968.  Alex is conflicted about the Vietnam War after spending several months there as a reporter. The war costs him his first marriage and threatens to tear his family apart. However, he meets a woman who’s love restores his hope and together they forge a new life set against the backdrop of the war, the civil rights struggle and political upheaval in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Alex Hurley’s story is part political thriller and partly a romance in Dreams That Never Were, the latest historical fiction novel by award winning author Greg Messel.

The title comes from a famous quote of Robert F. Kennedy’s “Some men see things as they are and say, ‘Why?’ I dream of things that never were and say, ‘Why not?’”

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Dreams That Never Were 9

Book Excerpt

I heard unfamiliar voices talking.

He’s starting to open his eyes,” someone said.

That’s a great sign,” commented another.

I detected a pain in my side, just below my rib cage. I tried to open my eyes, but they seemed to be glued shut. The voices resumed—talking about me as if I wasn’t there. Finally, I blinked my eyes, trying to focus, and soon realized  I was in a hospital bed. Standing by me, with concerned looks etched on their faces, was an odd collection of people from my life. 

Through my bleary eyes, I saw my ex-wife Brenda; John Greer, my photographer pal from San Francisco; and Darlene Harvey, the reporter from the Los Angeles Times, I’d been admiring from afar since I had arrived in Southern California. 

Brenda moved forward and tenderly gripped my hand in a way that she had not done for a long time. 

How are you, Alex?” she asked softly. 

I gave a weak shake of my head. “I dunno. What happened?” 

Don’t you remember, mate?” John jumped in. 

Remember what?” I mumbled blankly, as my weak voice tailed off into nothing.

He’s still coming out of the drugs. Give him a minute,” Brenda pleaded. “They’ve been keeping him kind of doped up since the surgery. This is the first time I’ve been able to talk to him.”

Surgery?” I asked. 

Brenda shushed me and gently ran her long, slender fingers through my hair. “Take it easy. Don’t try to talk right now. Take your time. Then we’ll help you understand what happened.”

I groggily attempted to get my bearings. “We were at the hotel. Everyone was celebrating Bobby’s victory. I was following him out of the ballroom, and there was like a riot. I was suddenly on the floor and couldn’t get up. It was strange. All of these people kept stepping on me—on my arm and on my legs.” 

I glanced at my right hand which was heavily bandaged. “I got knocked down. I’m sorry. Everything is a little hazy. I’m having trouble getting my brain to work.”

The three people hovering over me could not have been more different—two beautiful women and John, with his long black hair pulled back in a ponytail and a scruffy beard covering his face. The trio exchanged concerned glances, whispered, and nodded at one another. I started to shift in my bed and was met with a jolts of pain in my side and my leg. 

Brenda attempted to lighten the mood. “I was afraid you’d wake up in your hospital bed, see your ex-wife standing over you, and think you’d died and gone to hell.”

I gave her a weak smile, while the others chuckled to break the tension. 

Brenda was trying to make sure my re-entry was a slow descent, but that strategy was quickly dashed when John started blurting out all the details of the last 14 hours. “Take it easy, Alexander. You’ve had surgery. You were shot, man. They removed the bullet. The doc says you’re going to be fine. Some people from San Francisco are on their way down here, including our boss. Everyone’s been worried about you after they saw the news.”

The news? I was shot?”

Brenda glared at John. “Way to go slow, John. Senator Kennedy was shot. You and some other people were also wounded by the assassin.”

No, no, no!” I yelled. “Bobby was shot? No, not this time! This wasn’t supposed to happen! Assassin? Is Senator Kennedy going to be all right?” 

John moved closer. “Bobby’s just down the hall. He’s still alive, but he’s not doing very well.”

Not doing very well?” I snapped with rapidly accelerating alarm.

John blundered ahead. “This place is like a fortress. It was hard to get in here especially onto this floor. Cops are everywhere.”

Maybe we should go,” Darlene said shooting a glance at John. “We’ll come back later, Alex. We just had to see you. We were so worried.” 

No, no, don’t leave right now,” I pleaded. I repeated what I had been told to try to take in the enormity of the news. “Senator Kennedy was shot. How could… how did it happen?”

Brenda nodded to John and Darlene. “I’ll stay with him. I know you must be very busy.”

Darlene leaned over and kissed me on the cheek. She was dabbing tears from her eyes. “It’s been a long night. We’re all living in a nightmare. I’m so sorry, Alexander. It’s good to see you awake.”

Darlene grabbed John by the elbow and pushed him towards the door. John flashed a peace sign. “Peace, my brother. I’ll see you a little later. Take it easy and get better. I’ve got to call San Francisco. Everyone’s anxious to hear about you.”

After they departed, I tried to shift to get a better look at Brenda. She looked great. Her long black hair cascaded onto her shoulders. It was longer than I had ever seen her wear it. She wore a lime green mini dress with white trim and white boots. 

Where am I, and what time is it?” I quizzed Brenda. “Actually… what day is it?”

It’s Wednesday,” she checked her wrist watch. “It’s about a quarter to two.”

At night? What happened to Tuesday?!”

You had surgery earlier today, and I just got to town. I came straight to the hospital. I flew down as soon as I heard about the assassination attempt. Your name was on the television as one of those wounded with Bobby. I caught the next plane to LA to see you.”

Uh… wow… that’s… I mean, I’m overwhelmed. That’s a lot of money. Is that all right with Tom?”

I was very upset, and Tom immediately offered to fly me down here to see you.”

That’s very nice… of you… and your husband.”

Alex, I don’t think you’ve grasped what’s going on outside this room. It’s a national crisis. I wish you could look out the window at the street below. There are barriers up, and hundreds, if not thousands, of people are lining the street in the front of this hospital. News about the shooting is on TV constantly.”

Where’s Senator Kennedy now?” I groggily asked.

Here. Eric Sevareid and Walter Cronkite have been on CBS saying something has happened to the fabric of our nation. There are signs everywhere that say ‘Pray for Bobby.’ The raw footage of the shooting has been shown over and over again on NBC. You’re right. After the shots were fired, it was like a riot. When I turned on my television, not only did I see Bobby bleeding on the floor in the pantry, but I saw you on the ground with a pool of blood under you. You were wearing a blue blazer, lying on the floor on your side against the wall.”

Dreams That Never Were 7

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