Category Archives: book spotlight

Blessed: The Prodigal Daughter

About the Author

A.L. Bryant was born and raised in St. Petersburg FL. She became interested in writing at an early age; an interest that depending on the circumstance brought punishment (detention for passing out the latest installment of her novella during class) and praise (being chosen for a youth writers conference at the Poynter Institute.) A.L. Bryant gets her inspiration from both her mother and her Great Grandmother. Her mother recently published an inspirational children’s book under a pseudonym and her great grandmother is South Carolina’s first published African-American female author and playwright.

Until recently writing had simply been a pastime for A.L. Bryant who although she attended several writing courses, graduated with a B.A. in International Business. It was shortly after her second job as a Financial Office Manager at a Goodwill correctional facility that she realized she loved writing more than anything else. It would still be some years before she would convert the short story she wrote in college into a novel.

Besides writing, A.L. Bryant loves traveling the world. God has blessed her with the opportunity to visit a total of seven countries. She has studied abroad in Seoul and has traveled throughout Kenya; two locations she researched for her Blessed series. Her dream is to visit every country in the world.

Her latest book is the supernatural Christian thriller horror novel, Blessed: The Prodigal Daughter.

SOCIAL LINKS:

Twitter Link: https://twitter.com/ALBryantHSW

Facebook Link: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100029069148653

About the Book:

Title: BLESSED: THE PRODIGAL DAUGHTER
Author: A.L. Bryant
Publisher: HSW Publications LLC
Pages: 279
Genre: Supernatural Christian Thriller/Horror

BOOK BLURB:

On New Year’s Eve 2021 the staff at St. Ann’s Hospital witness a medical miracle when a semi-conscious woman walks into the emergency room. The Jane Doe has been stabbed multiple times and as the staff struggle to keep the woman alive in the end all they can do is stand back and watch as their mysterious patient revives herself.

Glory wakes up in St. Ann’s Hospital gravely injured from an attack she cannot remember. However, her memory loss is no ordinary amnesia and she is no ordinary patient. Much to the shock of the hospital staff Glory heals at three times the rate of an average person. Soon the administration hears of her unique case and waste no time convincing the recovering Glory to be a part of an experiment to discover the origins of her power.

Once outside the comforting walls of the hospital it becomes apparent that healing is just a small portion of Glory’s capabilities. Abilities that to Glory’s distress are becoming increasingly unstable. Deciding that the hospital’s experiments are in vain, Glory embarks on her own Journey to discover the source of her power, unaware that she is a major pawn in a war between two secret organizations.

The two syndicates continue to clash in their fight for control and their battles result in several casualties. The crimes of their warfare surface and draw the attention of Dennis Wilson, a NYPD Detective known for solving his cases in the first forty-eight hours. Dennis follows the trail of bodies out of curiosity. But when his curiosity causes the deaths of his loved ones Detective Dennis becomes obsessed with the case.

In his overzealous attempts to find the murderer Dennis becomes the syndicates’ next target. Now the Detective must run for his life and the only person capable of saving him is the very person he suspects.

Blessed: The Prodigal Daughter is a hybrid of government espionage and supernatural Thriller. This novel is intended for audiences 18+ that seek an edgier outlook on Christian fiction. Blessed: The Prodigal Daughter is the first installment of the Blessed trilogy.

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Book Excerpt

With a slight hesitation, Glory examined the entrance. Using the corner of her jacket she tested the knob, not overly surprised when the door opened easily. Behind her, she could still hear the muffled sounds of the girl’s sobs. Glory stepped one foot through the door and paused. She turned sideways and looked back out into the yard. With one foot inside the house and one still on the porch, she stared at the girl, whose eyes were as wide as her own. The side of her body that remained outside of the house felt light; she could feel the breeze whip her clothing. She raised her hand and, as expected, it lifted easily. Glory looked down at her other arm, the one in the corridor of the house. Sweat drizzled down her brow as she struggled to lift it.

Making sure to keep her voice light, Glory nodded in the direction of the gate. “Go home, I’ll get Mitch and he’ll call you afterwards.” She waited until the girl nodded reluctantly and disappeared.

Feeling a strong urge to leave, Glory turned as quickly as she could and closed the door behind her. Instant darkness. She pulled out the cell phone Dr. Stephens had helped her purchase shortly after she left the hospital, and turned its flashlight on. She had not paid the bill in a long time, so she had no service, but Glory still kept it charged. The corridor was short, maybe two or three large steps long. A staircase, which dominated the space in the narrow corridor, stood against the left wall. Glory shined the light up the steps trying to determine where they led, but the light’s range was too short.

Examining the staircase carefully to make sure it could hold her weight, Glory began ascending. The house had its own gravity; every step felt like moving through quicksand. By the time she made it to the top, she was winded. She leaned against the wall, shining her light around the area while she rested. She stood in another corridor, much larger than the first one. A solid wall lined one side; several doors, some of them mere centimeters apart, lined the other. She pushed herself away from the wall and walked to the first door, covered her hand with her jacket, turned the knob, and pushed the door. It gave way only slightly before it refused to open any farther. She tried pulling the door, but it could only be opened inward. She pushed one more time, shining a light through the narrow opening to see if she could locate the blockage—silently hoping it wasn’t the boy—but nothing met the light. Frustrated, she moved on to the next door, only to encounter the same problem.

By the sixth one, Glory started to wonder if any of them were meant to open. With each door, she put more strength and effort into her shoulders and arms, desperately trying to force her way through. By the twelfth, she was exhausted. She took a deep breath and shoved her shoulder against it. The door swung open, Glory stumbled two feet, and fell through the hole behind it. She fell through one story of the house into an open room and into the much bigger hole in that room’s floor. She fell through another story and into another room with another hole. She hit hard rock and slid until she landed on her back. Her head hit the floor and her eyes instantly clouded from the impact.

Glory’s breath and sight came back simultaneously. Slowly, she sat up with a grunt as she brought her right hand to her ribs. Not only had her pack survived the fall, but she had managed to hold on to her phone. Standing up, still favoring her left side, Glory began dusting herself off. Her hands shook and she took a deep breath to dispel the effects of the adrenaline still rushing through her body. Turning on the light so she could look around, Glory shifted her feet. Taking a small step forward, she tripped on something, but managed sustain her balance with a small hop to dislodge whatever had caught her foot.

Glory turned the light downward to look at the ground and saw a piece of cloth clinging to her boot. Ruffles—the cloth was filthy, covered in dust and grime, but the ruffles still maintained their shape. Forgetting herself, Glory reached out and ran her fingertips over the cloth, smoothing the dirt away so she could see the color. Her fingertips grew warm and her eyes widened as she realized what she had done. Too late, she snatched her hand away.

“This is so exciting!” A young woman in a blue ball gown tightened her grip on her friend’s arm, her gloved fingers long and delicate. Looking a little less interested, her friend, a tall, thin brunette, pried the girl’s hands from her arm, but her friend only returned them with slightly less bruising force.

“Yes, well, if my father knew I was here, it would be the end of me.”

“That’s what these are for, silly.” The young woman flipped her blonde hair behind her shoulders and tapped her masquerade mask with her folded fan.

“I shouldn’t have let you talk me into this. I have a bad feeling.”

“You are thinking far too much. Now tell me how beautiful I look and then let’s go get some refreshments.”

The brunette stood back and pretended to consider her friend. “You look positively stunning as always, Annabelle. Your dress is lovely; I could never pull off so many ruffles.”

Annabelle waved the last statement away. “Nonsense, Sarah, I’m sure you would look just as lovely in ruffles. I don’t know why you insist on wearing such drab garments.” She looked her friend up and down, a frown on her face as she examined the dark green dress that covered Sarah, from its unfashionably high neckline down to the slightly pointed toes of her boots.

Sarah grimaced. “My father does not agree with today’s fashions. He thinks exposing shoulders, wrists, and cleavage is unseemly.” Trying to distract her friend from her dress, she made a show of looking around. “This is an extremely odd house, isn’t it? Why would he build a staircase directly at the entrance?”

“For that matter, why build a staircase that only goes to the top floor when there are four flights in between?”

“We’ve been here less than an hour and I’m already confused. So many corridors and staircases.”

“And how many rooms are there, anyway? There are doors everywhere you look.” The girls spoke frantically now, their intertwined arms squeezing together as they became more excited.

Annabelle turned to her friend. “Let’s explore the house more.”

Sarah looked over her shoulder. “I don’t know. We haven’t even greeted the host yet. It would be bad manners.”

Annabelle shrugged. “It was bad manners for him not to show himself so he could be greeted.”

Keeping an eye on the group they had been standing with, Annabelle pulled Sarah toward the door, only to stop mid-stride as their path was cut off by a large figure in an expensive dinner jacket and a full porcelain mask.

“Good evening, ladies.”

Annabelle released Sarah’s arm and took a step closer, resting her hand coquettishly on her bosom. “Good evening.” She let the greeting hang in the air. When the man merely nodded, Annabelle tried again.

“I do not recognize you, and since I know everyone in this town except the owner of this fine home, you must be…”

“The owner? That is correct.”

Barely masking her annoyance, Annabelle turned to her companion. “This is…”

The man held up his hand, effectively cutting off the introduction.

“If I wished to know the identity of my guests, then I would not have made this a masquerade ball.”

Flustered by her mistake, Annabelle released a breathy chuckle. “My apologies, I don’t know what I was thinking. We must keep the mystery up.”

The man turned his head to the side as he considered the two ladies. “Do you like mysteries?”

Eager to impress, Annabelle stepped forward. “Yes, I do!”

The man turned to look at Sarah, who hovered in the background, not at all certain she wanted to join in the conversation.

“And what about horrors?”

Taken aback, Annabelle frowned. “I beg your pardon?”

“Do you like to be frightened?”

Not sure where this was leading, Annabelle glanced at her friend. “I suppose being frightened every once in a while can be thrilling.”

The man nodded slowly as if contemplating her answer. “Do you believe in the supernatural?”

Annabelle laughed. “Do you mean ghosts and goblins? I think it’s nonsense.” She waved a delicate hand. “Stories to scare children.”

“And what of demons?”

Annabelle paused, the smile wiped from her face. “The church tells us that they exist, so I believe in them.”

The man leaned back on his heels and shoved his hands into his pockets. “So do I. I have always been curious, and judging by the turnout of this gathering, I’m not the only curious one.”

While he surveyed his guests, Sarah inched forward and grabbed her friend’s arm.

“Come, Annabelle.” Annabelle ignored her, staring at the man as if mesmerized. Sarah pulled sharply on her arm. “You said you wanted to explore the house.” This time Annabelle looked at her and nodded, allowing Sarah to lead her around the man and toward the door.

“Do you ever wonder what it would be like to be possessed?” Both girls turned to look back at the man as he spoke. “All the power of the demons and none of the rigid rules of the angels.”

Sarah trembled. “At the expense of our souls and sanity? No, thank you. You can keep your so-called demonic power.” She pulled Annabelle forward and escorted her through the door. Before she could close it behind them, she looked up to see the man looking directly into her eyes for the first time.

“There is only one way to leave this house, and it isn’t the way by which you entered. I doubt you could find the exit even if you stayed here a hundred years.” He turned and headed toward his other guests. “I wish you the best of luck.”

Sarah closed the door. “What an unpleasant man.”

Annabelle shrugged, walking along the corridor, sliding her hand along the wall. “I think he’s fascinating.”

“I think we should leave, Annabelle.”

Annabelle swung around. “I’m not leaving until I’ve explored this house.” When Sarah didn’t make a move to follow, Annabelle turned her mouth down, opened her eyes wide, and lifted her pupils, creating the perfect pout. “Just this one corridor and then I promise we will leave post haste.”

Sarah studied her friend and then nodded. “Just this one corridor and then we’re leaving.”

Annabelle smiled and skipped toward her friend, linking their arms once more.

Trying to take her mind off the eerie darkness of the corridor, Sarah changed the subject. “I wonder what he meant when he said that judging from the turnout, there were a lot of people curious about demons.”

“Oh!” Annabelle swatted the question away. “He was just referring to his invitations.”

Sarah looked over her shoulder. Had she heard something? “What about his invitations?”

“In his invitation, he appealed to those of us who were interested in a thrilling evening. Something about satisfying curiosity about demons in—and these are his words—the demons’ playground.”

“What?” Sarah stopped walking. She stared in Annabelle’s direction, but could barely see her in the dim lighting.

Misinterpreting, Annabelle shrugged. “I know… Who would name their house that?”

Sarah grabbed Annabelle’s shoulders. “Who cares about the name—why did you come? Why are we here?”

Annabelle tried to pry Sarah’s bruising grip from her shoulders. “Calm yourself, Sarah. It’s like taking a ghost tour, there is no need to be—”

Sarah covered Annabelle’s mouth with her hand. “What is that?” The question was rhetorical; the noise was piercing and distinct.

“W-why is everyone screaming?” Annabelle, who had taken Sarah’s hand from her mouth, stared back toward the ballroom. Sarah grabbed her friend and made a move back toward the sound—but more importantly toward the path she hoped would lead to the exit. The girls had only gotten a few feet when the corridor erupted in chaos.

Terrified men and women spilled from the room, tripping over each other in their panic and trampling the people in their way. They didn’t run back the way they came. Instead, they ran toward the two girls, their bodies pressing forward trying to propel themselves farther away from the ballroom. Everything happened so fast that it took Sarah a couple of seconds to react. In that short period of time, the mass of people was almost upon them. Sarah swung around and pushed the startled Annabelle farther into the corridor.

“Get into one of the rooms!” Annabelle grabbed the closest doorknob. She leaned her weight against it. Sarah came to help.

“It won’t open!” Annabelle cried.

“It’s locked?”

“Not locked—just won’t open!”

“Try the next one. Hurry!” Giving up on that door, Sarah followed Annabelle to the next one. She looked over her shoulder to find the crowd less than ten feet from them. Directly behind her friend, she cried out in relief as Annabelle opened the door. But her world came crashing down as she watched her friend disappear in that same second.

Glory sat up sharply. A full minute passed before she stopped gasping and coughing. She had made some progress in controlling the duration of her illusions. Standing, she dusted herself off and picked up her cellphone. From what she could tell, she was underground in a place that resembled a dungeon carved from the rock that the mansion had been built on. It was large and dark. There was no place for light to shine through, so even during the daytime, the room would still be pitch black.

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Spotlight – The Kinfolk

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About the Author

Josh Hickman

Equally fascinated with horror movies, comedians, and true crime since early childhood, Josh Hickman spent equal time wading in the heady waters of Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine, the Three Stooges comedy shorts, and Helter Skelter while growing up in various parts of Texas. When he became a writer, Hickman incorporated his comedic sensibility and lifelong love of the horror and true crime genres into his satiric writings. His past comic novels also include the fictional comedy bio THROUGH TICK & TINN: THE TRUE STORY OF THE GREATEST UNKNOWN COMEDY TEAM EVER KNOWN and the illustrated surreal, cautionary high-seas treasure-hunt saga AMBERGRIS. Hickman lives and works in Hollywood.

His latest book is the satirical fantasy, The Kinfolk: Cult of Sex and Cheese.

Visit his website at http://www.joshhickmanbooks.com.

WEBSITE & SOCIAL LINKS:

WEBSITE | TWITTER | FACEBOOK


About the Book:

Title: THE KINFOLK: CULT OF SEX AND CHEESE
Author: Josh Hickman
Publisher: Polyester Press
Pages: 299
Genre: Satirical Fantasy

The Kinfolk

BOOK BLURB:

Hollywood Author Josh Hickman will release his latest brand of satirical, humorous books in mid-November. In the author’s new book, THE KINFOLK: CULT OF SEX AND CHEESE he explores the maddening world of cults. Mr. Hickman’s new novel follows his last satirical fantasy book, FIVE SLICES OF FEAR, that has received much critical praise from book reviewers.

Hollywood writer Mr. Hickman releases his new book as the fourth in a fantasy book series he has created and published. In THE KINFOLK: CULT OF SEX AND CHEESE he chronicles the rise and fall of a “seductive, fanatical cult” led by the enigmatic Dillman “Papa Dilly” Bradford.

With THE KINFOLK: CULT OF SEX AND CHEESE once again fact meets fiction in the funny fantasy worlds author Josh Hickman creates. This time his fascination with cults has produced a fresh, yet familiar cast of charlatans, rubes, losers, and lucky fools, finding laughs in the cult impulse, religious fervor, and the common pathos of the average person who will do anything to find solace and belonging. Once more, author Hickman focuses his gaze on tragic comedy that is human existence–with all its fears, pitfalls, trials, and triumphs–and again he speaks hilarious truth to power in his latest entry THE KINFOLK: CULT OF SEX AND CHEESE.

“For as long as I’ve read books I’ve always been a huge fan of comedic novels,” Hickman asserted. “It was time I decided to start expressing my own comedic side of creative writing.”

ORDER YOUR COPY:

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Book Excerpt:

To get close to something a million times is the same as being a mile away from it!” Papa Dilly reminded a hastily-gathered group of upper-level Kinfolk in a scornful shout, wagging his finger judgmentally. “What you see to believe in is what you need… If you need a doorstop, I’ll be your doorstop. As you need me as your aquarium, I’ll be your aquarium, for those of you that don’t have an aquarium… If you need me as your Pat Boone, I’ll be your Pat Boone. Need a pimp? Say ‘Hello’ to Silky Bradford, welcome to my stable! I am just a holy mirror. Turn your nose up at me, you’ll see a beggar. Worship me, you’ll see a higher being. Look me straight in the eye, you’ll see yourself. If you need me as your merciless vengeful God, I’ll be your merciless vengeful God!”

The windows rattled in the long, sweaty pauses as the winds outside grew with the rhetoric. I’m not God,” Papa Dilly clarified paradoxically. “God is me!

_____________________

GIVEAWAY!

Josh Hickman is giving away a $25 Amazon Gift Card!

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  • By entering the giveaway, you are confirming you are at least 18 years old.

  • One winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter.

  • This giveaway ends midnight January 31.

  • Winner will be contacted via email on February 1.

  • Winner has 48 hours to reply.

Good luck everyone!

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Spotlight – A Broken Reality

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About the Author

Rob Kaufman

As a child, Rob Kaufman was always fascinated by the stories recited by those around him and the words used to tell them. As he got older, his need to tell his own stories grew, as did his ability to share them in exciting and captivating ways.

However, he wanted to share more than just stories. His primary desire was to create characters with whom people could relate, while at the same time bringing them through a journey from which most would crumble.

His degree in Psychology was the first step toward getting beneath the surface of the people in his life. What followed was a lifelong search for what makes people tick – what forces them to become evil when deep down in their heart of hearts, they are yearning for love. Rob’s characters walk this search with him, deep into the human psyche, creating psychological thrillers from every day events.

Rob’s second book “One Last Lie” continues to receive great praise and is selling well in both electronic and paperback formats. His current book, “A Broken Reality” is much darker than his first, with characters who hold bits and pieces of strangers he’s known, friends he’s had and personal tragedy he’s lived through.

“This book hits home for me,” says Rob. “There were a few pages that made me laugh out loud as I wrote them… and many that made me cry. And the great thing is, I’m finding that many readers of this book are experiencing the same emotions.”

Through social and other media, Rob hopes to get “A Broken Reality” into the hands of millions, so that they, too, can experience the ups, downs, twists, turns and final tragedy that has helped make this book a Five-Star contender.

Website Address: www.AuthorRobKaufman.com

Blog Address: http://authorrobkaufman.com/blog/

Twitter Address: @RobKaufmanCT

Facebook Addresshttps://www.facebook.com/AuthorRobKaufman/

About the Book:

Title: A BROKEN REALITY
Author: Rob Kaufman
Publisher: Independent
Pages: 320
Genre: Thriller/Suspense/Psychological Thriller
A Broken Reality

BOOK BLURB:

On a fateful night in the dead of winter, an unimaginable tragedy changes the lives of two families forever. How will they manage to deal with reality while stopping the sociopath who is pushing them toward the edge of sanity?

Ten-year-old, Danny Madsen, has been missing for four days when Jesse Carlton begins his own search for his godson on a frigid, snowy night. Driving along a deserted rural road, Jesse hits a stretch of black ice at the same time Danny appears from the thicket. Unable to control the car, Jesse slams into the boy and watches helplessly as Danny’s body flies back into the dark brush.

When Jesse regains consciousness, he has no recollection of how he and his car wound up in a ditch. However, there’s a witness: Charles Hastings, the sociopathic kidnapper who chased Danny through the brush and into the path of Jesse’s car.

Hastings takes this chance to set up Jesse so he’ll take the fall for both Danny’s disappearance and death. And so the mind games begin–an onslaught of psychological manipulation that devastates Jesse, his wife, Danny’s parents and the cops’ investigation. Inexplicably, the torment continues even after the primary suspect is killed and the rollercoaster of emotions and confusion seems never-ending until the final and devastating truth is revealed.

If you like gripping, suspenseful page-turners that keep you on the edge of your seat until the very end, this is a must read!

Link to book on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Broken-Reality-Rob-Kaufman-ebook/dp/B07HRYRSBP/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1538875993&sr=8-1&keywords=a+broken+reality+kaufman

Link to book on B&N: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/a-broken-reality-robert-kaufman/1129769311?ean=2940156129126

Book Excerpt:

Danny Madsen had been missing for four days, and hope was fading faster than the weak sunlight giving in to the cold night ahead. Worse, there’d been intermittent periods of snow and sleet throughout the day, creating slick surfaces on unlit county roads and leaving behind asphalt without traction or boundaries.

Like every other evening since the boy’s disappearance, the approaching dusk put a damper on the search effort. Each was another day past the critical “48-hour window,” another night for Jesse Carlton to fight back tears of frustration as he crawled the icy streets of Hingham, Massachusetts in his silver BMW, looking for the ten-year-old boy the Amber Alert described over and over as white with blond hair and blue eyes, weighing fifty-six pounds and standing about four feet six inches. When last seen, they’d always add, he was wearing a bright blue North Face coat, blue corduroy pants, Nike sneakers and a backpack with the name “Danny” stitched into the left shoulder strap.

Danny’s description echoed in Jesse’s head as he made the right off of Main Avenue onto Forest, which passed the hundred or so square acres of conservation land. He didn’t need the Amber Alert to picture Danny. He’d recognize him the instant he saw him since he’d known the boy from the day he was born. Jesse had long been best friends with his parents, Becky and Don, and Danny had become the son Jesse and Melissa tried and tried for but could never have. They’d become so close to the Madsens, in fact, that they’d purchased a home up the block from them, sight unseen, when Becky and Don told them it had come on the market. It was apparent to all of them that the less distance between the families, the more fulfilled their lives would be.

It was this honorary parenting of Becky and Don’s only child that had Jesse driving the streets and highways in and outside of every neighboring town for the past four nights—pursuing leads he’d overheard cops discussing at the Madsen home, following up on hunches he’d get after scouring the Internet for clues from past abductions. Each evening as he began his search, Jesse prayed he’d be the one to bring Danny home safe, sound and emotionally intact.

Jesse knew his nightly searches were pointless, but he could no longer bear pacing the floor at home or sitting in the Madsen’s cop-filled living room waiting for another bullshit tip, another clue that led nowhere but deeper into heartache. Melissa spent her nights comforting Becky while Don worked with the police to pursue every potential lead. Jesse’s need to do something, anything, forced him into his car each night with dissipating hopes and, by the way things had been going recently, unrealistic dreams.

The last person to see Danny was the school bus driver who watched him jump down the vehicle’s steps four days earlier, just three blocks from Don and Becky’s. And that clue was as solid—and as clear—as mud.

Jesse turned off the radio and clicked on the high beams. The pavement was pure white from the newly fallen snow, and there wasn’t another car anywhere to be seen. In front of him was blackness; behind him was blackness; on each side, nothing but blackness. How did he expect to see anything out here, let alone find a scared and freezing kid? He didn’t know, but it didn’t matter. This was the only action he could take that made him feel like he was actually doing something to help.

The yellow light poles every 300 feet or so did nothing but offer a blurry glow that barely reached the road. And now that a smattering of snow had started again, the soft crunch of flakes beneath the tires filled the silence with an eeriness that sent a strange tingle sliding up Jesse’s neck.

On either side of Forest Avenue lay the Terrence Ford Conservation Land, acres and acres of brush, swamp and trees with a few neighborhoods dotting the outskirts. Since the homes were hidden behind the dense thicket and prodigious pines, they were usually invisible to Forest Avenue drivers. Tonight though, even in the deep blackness of this night, he could see their pinpricks of homey yellow light, which, like the rickety poles lining the road, was nothing he could see by.

As he passed the two-mile marker, his phone rang, jolting him from his concentration. The display on the dash showed Melissa’s cell. He took a calming breath and pressed the button on the steering wheel. “Hey, babe.”

“Where are you?” Melissa sounded almost panicked, her voice trembling.

“What’s wrong? What happened? Where are you?”

“I’m at Becky and Don’s. They just got a call from Agent Rivera…hold on.”

He tried to be patient, but after a few more seconds of muffled voices he couldn’t hold back. “Missy!” he yelled and banged his fists on the steering wheel. “For Christ’s sake, what did Rivera say?”

“Sorry, Jesse. I’m just getting more details.” The muffled voices he’d first heard faded away as though she was moving into another room. “Someone just called the hotline from somewhere out in Hingham. It was an older woman who lives—”

Jesse felt like his heart skipped a beat. “I’m in Hingham! Where in Hingham, Missy? Where?”

“Oh my God, Jesse. Wait, I wrote it down.” His pulse pounded against the side of his neck as he waited for the crumpling of paper to stop and her words to start again. “Okay, the woman lives on Tower Road off Route 228, on the east side of that conservation area.”

He brought up the GPS and frantically searched for 228. “I’m like five minutes from 228—five minutes. I’m literally on the other side of the woods.” His voice was shaky. “I’ll put Tower Road in the GPS.”

 “She says she saw a boy fitting Danny’s description running past her house a couple of hours ago. She didn’t call right away because she wasn’t sure.”

Jesse let out a shout of frustration. His shallow breaths quivered in his throat. “Shit, it’s starting to sleet,” he said. “I’m on Forest right now. It runs parallel to Route 228. I’ll turn around and work my way toward Tower to see if I can meet up with one of the units.”

“Jesse, please be careful. I don’t want you getting stuck in the middle of nowhere.”

“This isn’t nowhere, Missy—it’s Hingham,” he said with a sigh, knowing there was nothing he could say to help quell her anxiety. She was a worrier, plain and simple. It was something he’d become accustomed to and had learned to be patient with, but tonight his nerves were too raw, his patience too thin.

“Jesse, sleet means ice. Ice means slippery. Slippery means…”

Missy,” he snapped. He bit his lip and took another breath. “I’m going to turn around and head back toward 228.” He gazed into the darkness to his right, wishing there was a road that cut through the conservation area. “Once I get there, I’ll give you a call. Until then, sit tight. This could be the break we’ve been hoping for.”

“Oh God, Jesse. I hope so. Please be careful. I’ll wait for your call. I love you.”

“I love you, Babe,” he replied, making sure to sound as composed as possible as he disconnected.

Jesse was once again alone, the soft muffle of the car engine filling the otherwise empty silence. Keeping safety in mind despite his own anxiety to find the boy safe, he made a careful K-turn in the middle of Forest Avenue. The tires slipped a bit on the icy road, so he let up on the pedal allowing the car to straighten itself out. When he faced south, he stepped on the gas again and drove as fast as he could without completely losing traction.

Jesse could see the lights of Hanover Mall through the melting snow on the windshield. The liquid dripping down the glass made it look as though the lights were dancing, shimmying back and forth to the steady beat of the tires crunching the ice beneath him. He glanced at the speedometer: 25 mph. If he could keep up this speed, he’d be back at the intersection of Forest and Main within four minutes.

A faint smile crossed his lips as he remembered finding Danny’s favorite Spider-Man action figure in the back seat earlier that week; Danny must’ve dropped it the day Jesse helped out Don and Becky by picking him up from rehearsal for his school’s play. The toy had been right in the middle of the seat, and he wondered if he could reach it—maybe it would change his luck, somehow attract Danny to him.

Jesse reached back, fumbling around, trying to reach Spidey. Nothing. He leaned further and slid his open palm along the seat. Still nothing. Angling backward as far as he could, he patted the floor mat behind him in hopes that the figure had slid during a turn.

No luck.

A quick glance showed the tiny superhero jammed into the corner of the back seat. Spider-Man was tonight’s lucky charm; the idea felt right, and it would help him find Danny. It was a superstitious and even desperate move, but doing things by the book had so far turned up nothing.

“Gotcha!” he cheered when he snagged the action figure’s foot. He turned back toward the road to see a black figure stumbling out from the brush in front of him. In less than a second, the headlights shown on the figure’s face—it was Danny.

Horror seized Jesse by the throat and he gasped as he slammed on the brakes. The car went into an immediate spin, flying directly at Danny whose eyes went wide in the headlights. Jesse felt a thud against the back panel of the car. He screamed, the view from every window only blurred streaks of light. He tried to focus, to spot Danny somewhere in the whirl of his surroundings. But the boy was gone. He screamed again, his cry now muffled by the airbag exploding against his face. He squeezed his eyes shut, feeling the BMW skid off the side of the road and nose-dive into a shallow ditch filled with snow.

As the car lay on its side, ruined engine still ticking, Jesse could barely hang on to consciousness. Images and sounds swirled through his head: the screech of metal dragging along the pavement, Danny’s face hitting the window, the sickening thump as the car smashed sideways into the little boy’s body.

“It didn’t happen,” Jesse whispered. “This is a dream,” he panted. “Just a dream.” He repeated the words again and again until the weight of his eyelids became unbearable and he closed his eyes, allowing the sound of his sobbing to lead him gently into his own personal darkness.

Spotlight – Love Is Never Past Tense

Originally from the former Soviet Union, Janna Yeshanova escaped in 1989 when persecution became violent during the crumbling of the Soviet state. This required getting permission to emigrate and a long dangerous train trip across central Europe with her elderly mother, her young daughter, and the $126 she was permitted to take out of the country. She did this by overcoming gridlock in Russia, animosity and graft at the border, and neglect in the west. Safely out of Soviet control, Janna and her family spent months as refugees waiting for permission to come to the United States.

Arriving in the United States knowing not a soul, Janna settled in Ohio and began to rebuild her life. She earned a second masters Degree and was invited as a speaker at the Bosnia and Herzegovina International Peace Conference in 1996. While building her business as a Leadership Trainer and consultant, she has become a Professional Certified Coach (PCC) through the International Coach Federation. She offers life coaching services to individuals, conflict resolution to couples and groups, and soft skills training to organizations of all sizes.

Her book, Love Is Never Past Tense, offers a message of hope and inspiration, showing that nothing is impossible if you believe in yourself.

Her Blog     Facebook     Twitter

A couple’s quick romance and hasty marriage is torn apart by family and fate, leaving them to face the collapse of the Soviet Union separately. Years later, old memories are stirred to give their love a second chance.

Serge and Janna’s chance meeting at a Black Sea beach sparks a passionate romance and a quick marriage. Serge’s parents, suspicious of Janna’s motives and heritage, force him to break up with her. As the Soviet Union collapses, revealing ethnic and social pressures, each faces danger separately. Serge drowns in self-doubt, his life spiraling down and in. Janna plots a dangerous exodus to America with her mother and daughter. Years pass, stirring old emotions.Then, changing circumstances give their love a second chance. Janna Yeshanova tells a story, providing a very personal view of political and social change.

Love is Never Past Tense is part romantic drama and part a look at real people responding to life-changing events, but mostly a suspense adventure about living through one of the biggest changes in living memory.

Love Is Never Past Tense is available on Amazon in hardcover, paperback and Kindle eBook formats. The newly released audiobook is available on Audible, Amazon and iTunes. The audible and Kindle versions are enabled with WhisperSync.

The audio is narrated by Daniela Acitelli, a narrator with dozens of audiobooks to her credit. Even those familiar with the story found new meaning in her presentation. It took me two years to find her.

http://www.loveisneverpasttense.com

Audiobook sample https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6nBbMxrEb1g

Book Trailer https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=quPSNk7EnoA

Buy Links:

Audio Book at audible.com https://adbl.co/2FrEWAs

Audio Book at Amazon https://amzn.to/2Bt9s8W

Audio Book at iTunes https://apple.co/2Kvh8KX

Amazon Author Page https://amzn.to/2AhhY9j

Amazon Kindle https://amzn.to/2Ku6h3S

Serge didn’t try to catch up to the shuffling, thin, leather skirt. He hadn’t a clue what he would do if he actually caught up with her. So he continued following her along the high embankment for a fairly long time, until they crossed the whole of Lanzheron Park. But, reaching the beach, the girl quickly descended to the sea. Serge even began to jog a bit to keep her in sight. His head was clear this morning, and soon he would try out his cunning for the first but not the last time this day. The spy set up camp at the upper solarium and watched over her. Maybe she was waiting for some company, or a young man, or a girlfriend (which would undoubtedly seem to be better), but to our spy, all were equally bad possibilities. This guessing game carried on in his head, but it seemed she wasn’t looking for anyone. She ducked into the changing room, and her leather skirt momentarily hung over the edge of the stall. After a minute, she exited, and Serge, pulling his long hair away from his head with both hands in anguish, groaned something unintelligible. Her breasts exited the little room first. The spot from where Serge looked down provided such visibility that his knees began to tremble. Her face was impossible to discern through her long hair and sunglasses, but something told him it would also be in order. She laid before her a light beach towel, and laying down she took a book from her bag and began to read. Burning her “landing site” into his mind, Serge took off like a shot to the nearest cabana rental. Fast as lightning, he exchanged his clothes for a key, crammed two metal rubles in the pocket of his swimming trunks, and became Don Juan. He feared, though, that there were already a bunch of admirers slinking ever closer to the sacred beach towel, and that he would simply be too late. He’d have to crawl to his place in line, and like the others, would have a poor chance of success.

He flew down the stairs and quickly found the beach towel, but … its owner was nowhere to be found. There was a book, a beach bag, and sunglasses, but their owner had disappeared. Oh, yes! This would be the second time that a smart thought visited Serge’s head today. People come to the sea to swim, after all! This interpretation of her disappearance comforted and delighted Serge. He became bolder and impudently tossed his glasses onto the same towel and cheerfully marched to the water. With his half-blind eyes, he surely could not see her. And where, among dozens of bathers? He dove into a wave, and swam away from the shore. First, he couldn’t stand to watch bathers jumping around like frogs in the shallow water. Secondly, at this moment, his exceptionally quick-witted head told him he couldn’t be the first to return to her beach towel. Then he’d have to take his glasses and fiddle around a bit in front of the beach towel to buy time as he came up with a new plan. Perhaps he’d cover himself with the towel, or maybe … no, he needed to work on his initial scenario.

He even came up with a sophisticated opening: “Excuse me, young lady, but I left my glasses here on your towel. I simply didn’t have anywhere to put them, or myself for that matter.” With this, his stockpile of ideas was depleted …

At last he climbed out of the water and headed along the well-trodden route to her beach towel. The towel was in place, and on this towel lay the magnificent body of its hostess, but Serge’s glasses were lying a little bit farther on the edge of the towel. Serge squatted down and mumbled his introduction. He was counting on her to respond with typical beach chit-chat: “Where are you from? How long ago did you arrive in Odessa?” or other such nonsense.

“Your glasses are fine,” she responded. “I figured someone just confused their beach towel with mine, but have a seat anyway.”

She scooted over, freeing up half the beach towel. He got scared. If he lay down, then he wouldn’t be able to resist the urge to nuzzle up to her. Then he’d certainly look like a pervert, a youth brought up with no manners, or a pest—in a word, he would give the exact opposite impression than he wanted. He mumbled something like a “thank you” and lay down beside her on the sand. She motioned towards him with a little bag of sunflower seeds, “Help yourself.”

” Oh God, what’s this?” resounded in Serge’s mind. “Are you kidding me … sunflower seeds?” And his hand with a subsequent “thank you” reached in the bag.

“Do you like Ilf and Petrov?”2

” Lord, who is she talking about? I’ve only heard of them in passing, but I don’t know the slightest thing about them …” Serge thought to himself.

“My name’s Janna,” she came to his rescue.

“Sergey,” he stammered in reply, “but at the institute everyone actually calls me Serge, or Seriy …”

She chuckled.

“Grey. You’re actually black as tar. Where did you get such a tan?” she asked, spitting out sunflower seed shells. Not even awaiting a response, she exclaimed: “Here is an interesting moment”—and she began to read her book aloud, something about Ptiburdukov and his Varvara, who was leaving her first husband for him but couldn’t make up her mind. Janna read for a while, probably about five pages, and then thrust the book towards Serge and said, “You read from here,” marking the place with her fingernail. Serge began to read, but he didn’t understand a word. He was too busy worrying about his diction, trying not to miss any letters or words. He fought through two pages, but his audience was clearly not impressed.

“Would you like a cigarette?”

“If he has a smoke, then he’ll stop reading.” Serge could almost hear her thinking. He pulled a cigarette from a mashed-up pack of Javas, the best tobacco the Soviet Union could offer at that time. She handed him the matches. He brought the flame close to her face. She took a drag and rolled over on her back. Serge absolutely didn’t know what to do: read, blow sand from her, ask her about something. But she was not waiting for any questions and didn’t ask any questions. It was as if he simply was present. And that was that. The only thing that remained was for Serge to stare dumbfounded into the sand and observe the ants. Having smoked half the cigarette, she jammed the other half into the sand and turned back over on her stomach, brushing her leg up against Serge’s. But she did not hasten to remove it. Silent Serge, who really didn’t look the part of a reasonable person, turned into an animal. His uncontrollable desire sprang to life, pulling his swimming trunks down into the sand with such force that it became painful. Serge secretly burrowed a hole in the sand, easing the pressure. He became obsessed with a craving to climb on top of her. But this was out of the question, which made his desire even stronger …

“It’s hot. Let’s go for a swim,” she said, lifting herself up on her elbows. For the first time he could see her breasts up close, causing his heart to leap through his ribs like a bird in a cage. He muttered he’d catch up to her, and when she left, his desire ever so slowly began to hide itself away, until he was finally able to get up and head towards the sea.

She splashed around in the waves, which towards midday became quite sizable. He flopped about next to her, often brushing up against her body. Then he suggested tossing her in the waves. He cradled her head and shoulders, gathered her hands into his, and finally lifted her up and tossed her into the waves. Janna liked it, and so did he, but for a different reason: every time she hit the waves, her bathing suit slid down slightly, and when her breasts finally became exposed, he was ready to splash to his very death. Suddenly, she ended up cradled in his arms. With one arm, she grasped his neck, and he now understood that everything will happen, he just needed to patiently wait.

Once something starts, eventually, it ends. The delightful swim as well: they returned from the water and again lay down on the beach towel.

“I want to get tanned like you.” (She had already switched to the informal you4 in the water. He liked this, as it made him feel less uneasy around her). She placed her arm next to his for comparison, and her brown skin seemed much paler than his almost blackened arm. Guiltily, he informed her that he just returned yesterday from his apprenticeship in Baku, and so it was not surprising that he was so dark.

“You have beautiful hands,” she pensively remarked. Then, determined, she added, “No, you just wait. I’ll catch up with you in two days. Just wait and see.” These words poured over his body like oil. For Serge, this meant that he would spend at least two more days with her.

“Get some ice cream. Do you need some money?”

“I have it,” answered Serge, but before he could get up and leave, he had to turn and crawl to hide his “desire” …

***

During their first three days together, Serge (as they called our hero at the time) was the quieter of the two, once in a while muttering some insignificant phrases. The first time he saw her, he silently followed her for a long time. She walked along easily, shifting her long, rather well-proportioned legs. Her thin leather skirt swung from side to side, barely hiding her shapely hips. A green blouse tightly covered her beautifully straight back. All the while, Serge followed her like she was a vision, lacking the courage to come closer or to back away. He knew that making her acquaintance was a long shot; she was simply out of his league. How could he possibly know that she, a complete stranger, would inexplicably impact his life and be with him forever, whether she was at his side or not?

Tell us about you

When I wrote Love Is Never Past Tense, I devoted a whole section of the book to my exodus, leaving the Soviet Union with my mother, my daughter, and the $126 they permitted me to take with me. When I say the book is based on a true story, this part is true (if largely understated).

I left the Soviet Union as the country was collapsing and became part of a wave of Soviet Jewish immigrants seeking safety and a new life in Israel, the United States and elsewhere. In the 30 years since, nothing has come close in terms of the effort it took or the impact it had on my life. It led me to America and to US citizenship—a difficult and dangerous path.

In the United States, I have earned a second Master’s Degree, taught at two different colleges and Antioch University, and presented at the Dayton Peace Accords on Bosnia and Herzegovina. I am an Internationally Certified Life Coach and I write when I am not with my clients.

What inspires you to get out of bed each day?

I’m a night owl, generally more inspired to stay out of bed than get out of bed. My morning usually starts in response to a Starbuck’s Venti Pike Place, meditation, contemplation, gym and a four – five-mile walk. I like it!

If you could hang out with one famous person for one day, who would it be and why?

It would be my Mom. She was well known in the society and she was always famous in my eyes.

Why? Because she loved life. She was always overcoming difficulties thrown at her.My Mom was a remarkable woman. She was instilling in me that the dearest possession in life is life. I appreciate her for giving me this vision. I’d be happy to spend with her a precious day and ask her some questions, I did not ask before and share with her what is going on with me and the family.

If you’d like to know more about my Mom, I am offering a link to a blog article I devoted to her a while ago.

https://jannayeshanova.wordpress.com/2017/05/08/happy-second-birthday-mom/

What’s the story behind your latest book?

Love Is Never Past Tense is based on a true story – my true story. It is part a wholesome romance, part —a narrative of my immigration to America, and it’s hard to pin it down to a single genre. It pushes the boundaries of women’s fiction (some parts are based on actual events), literary fiction and contemporary romance. Some might even classify the novel as a historical romance — actual recent history fills the book. Love Is Never Past Tense is now seeking a new audience in the form of an audio book. I searched for years for the right narrator and finally found her. Daniela Acitelli captured the voice I was hearing in my head as I wrote the book.

And here is a sample: http://bit.ly/2Ah0ESX

Tell us your writing process

I really need my muse, so getting started is difficult. When it shows up, I still reach for a pen and a pad of paper, first. If I’m not inspired, my reader won’t be either!

What tips can you give other authors who are looking to get the word out about their book?

Lately I’ve been auditing “YouTube U” for book marketing around Amazon. If you haven’t started writing yet, check out Chris Fox on writing to market (chrisfoxwrites.com). For the back end, try Dave Chesson at kindlepreeur.com. Both focus on working with Amazon. My efforts at Facebook were killed when they rejected my attempts to boost posts. Apparently, my wholesome romance didn’t meet their G-rated advertising standards. Their loss!

Tell us about your main character

Truthfully, I am my main character. Big pieces are autobiographical. For the record, Janna is courageous, resilient and beautiful. She takes problems head on and doesn’t take “No” for an answer. Just what an indie author needs. 😊

I was looking for a different name for her.  I talked with my friends around the world, asking them to offer ideas.  Everybody advised against me using the name Janna, but no suggestion was accepted.  I thought about Edith, but the name seemed too soft for the character.  Another thing that made me keep the name Janna is that I did not want to give away my exodus experiences. This is how we stuck with Janna.

What are you working on next?

I’m looking to make Love Is Never Past Tense into a movie. A screenplay writer J. Walter Cohen read the book and fell in love with it.  He involved his friend and colleague Lewis Gordon, and they together created a great screenplay!

Do you have any special/extraordinary talents?

I’m very intuitive, perhaps even a bit psychic. For example, I’m guessing you’ll ask me about my favourite authors 😊

Umm… Who are your favourite authors?

In English, my list would start with Hemingway. From there, it’s a long list. If you follow me on Goodreads you can check out my shelves.See http://bit.ly/2R6V5zP

My first Master’s Degree is in Russian Language and Literature. I’ll leave that list of authors to your imagination.

What do you like to do with your free time?

Love to be with my friends and family, love travel, ocean.  I love to sit on the white sand embracing my knees and watching the waves of the ocean and seagulls above my head! I love to be on the boat with a music and a glass of wine… and the whole ocean in front of you.  It feels like freedom!I like to sit in an outside restaurant at a table covered with a white cloth having a cup of coffee and watching pigeons peck on the cobblestone…

I like to have in my hand the yoke of a Cessna aircraft with my trainer on the right warning me not to turn over the aircraft during my classes.  It’s so enjoyable to look down on the trees and buildings that suddenly become small.  Even all problems from the sky seem small!

Oh!  I totally forgot about reading! I listen to audiobooks when I am driving, cooking or walking. This is the reason that I created the audiobook.

Tell us about your plans for upcoming books.

I’m creating a collection of stories of my life lessons, describing my personal unique experiences. So far, I’ve posted a couple of pieces on my blog at jannayeshanova.wordpress.com.

Any final thoughts?

If you’re the sort who likes to hop back and forth, Audble.com and the Kindle ebook are WhisperSync enabled. I hope you enjoy either or both. If you do, please consider posting a review where ever you like and please write to me via Facebook.

Spotlight – The Atlantis Deception

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About the Author

MarkHJackson

Mark is a qualified solicitor who splits his time between protecting the rights of academics, writing thriller fiction and raising five mostly lovely children. He studied Archaeology and Ancient History at the University of Birmingham with a nod towards alternative theory, focusing on the relationship of the Giza complex to the stars; portolan maps; and the origins of civilisation and religion. It was within this flame the plots for his future novels were born.

Mark’s writing career extends back over a decade and his diverse portfolio includes three novels, a number of short stories and even a six-part sitcom. Long listed for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, he is currently a featured author on the popular writing website, Wattpad, with over 6,000 followers from all around the world and well over one million reads of his first novel. Aside from Wattpad, Mark is an active member on a number of other writing websites, spending his spare time offering editorial and structural advice to fellow authors. Up to now Mark has considered writing as a creative outlet for the myriad of characters and ideas roaming about his head. The time has come to tease them out of hiding and breathe a little life into their lungs.

His latest book is the adventure/thriller The Atlantis Deception.

Website Link: https://markhjackson.com/

Twitter Link: https://twitter.com/MarkJackson873

Facebook Link: https://www.facebook.com/AtlantisDeception/

About the Book:

Title: THE ATLANTIS DECEPTION
Author: Mark H. Jackson
Publisher: Unbound Digital
Pages: 288
Genre: Adventure/Thriller

The Atlantis Deception

BOOK BLURB:

A German property developer, Hans Hoffmann, revels in the belief he has discovered the key to unleashing the weapon responsible for sinking Atlantis. Hoffmann requests the help of Cambridge archaeologist, Dr John Hunter to validate his mysterious find. Hunter’s acceptance leads the maverick academic on a journey from the headquarters of a clandestine organisation in England, to a lost city in the heart of the Brazilian Rainforest, and climaxes inside a chamber hidden deep beneath Egyptian Heliopolis. Pioneering theory is spliced by epic battles, daring escapes, and elaborate schemes aimed at unravelling a secret history hidden from humanity for the past twelve thousand years.

Atlantis is a very visual word. A word evoking mystery, forgotten realms, underwater palaces… the list goes on. I find this Plato inspired concept of Atlantis fascinating and read anything and everything I can lay my hands on. The theories are diverse and range from the feasible to the outlandish, but certain concepts keep reoccurring. The Atlantis Deception takes the ideas of accepted and alternative theory, weaving them together to create a believable universe where our past still dictates our future.

The novel follows the trials and tribulations of a fictional Cambridge academic, Dr John Hunter. The focus is not on Atlantis itself, but rather on what happened to its people it the wake of the loss of their homeland. The Atlantis Deception is a classic action adventure tale with heroes, villains, shadowy organisations and self-serving plots, each underpinned by progressive archaeological theory. The novel is written with the aim of both exciting and making readers think in equal measure. Although imagined, many of the conclusions the characters reach are cutting edge and described in such a way so as to blur the line between fact and fiction.

ORDER YOUR COPY:

Google Play: http://bit.ly/AtlantisDeception

Kobo: http://bit.ly/TheAtlantisDeception

Amazon: http://bit.ly/Atlantis-Deception

Book Excerpt:

Prologue

Lindow Moss Bog, December 43 CE

Teetering on the edge of unconsciousness, Caratacus squirmed as a pair of coarse hands pulled and tugged at his robes. Death was inevitable, yet still he managed a flicker of a smile. These men would never find what they sought.

He grimaced as a heavy hobnail sandal connected with his ribcage, the blow hard enough to flip him over and onto his back. He blinked and opened his eyes to find his chubby, chinless assailant peering down at him.

The Roman wrapped his pristine, cream-coloured sagum tighter around his chest to shut out the cold wind. He looked nothing like the brutish military commanders Caratacus typically dealt with. The man’s regal air of arrogance and contempt for the soldiers around him made it clear he was a Roman of importance. It was an arrogance only men of unimaginable wealth and power could ever hope to wield with success, particularly amongst a group of Praetorian guards.

Caratacus sensed the Roman’s gaze rake his naked body; the man’s tight lips and beady eyes radiated a general air of cruelty which sent a chill coursing through the captured priest. His muscles twitched, tense in anticipation of what might follow. He broke eye contact and cleared his mind, attempting to relax. He wasn’t far from death and rule dictated he must embrace the moment.

‘You are a hard man to track down, Druid,’ sneered the stranger.

‘Or would you prefer I call you by your official title – Gatekeeper?’

He paused, giving Caratacus time to digest the significance of this revelation. ‘You seem calm for a man on his way to Pluto’s realm. Do you not recognise me, priest?’

Caratacus puffed his cheeks and spat blood at the man’s feet, regretting it as a wave of pain surged through his earthly body.

The Roman’s eyes narrowed to slits. He stepped clear of the blood and raised a foot, mashing his muddy sandal deep into Caratacus’ wounded shoulder. ‘I am Claudius, Emperor of Rome, and conqueror of your pathetic island race.’ Claudius hesitated before continuing, his eyes narrowing in hope of at least a flicker of recognition. ‘Well? Have you nothing to say? It is not every day you chance upon a living god.’

Caratacus screwed up his eyes as another hobnail boot connected with his nether regions and a thick-fingered fist smashed into his jaw.

‘Show respect, barbarian,’ barked a Praetorian. An excruciating bolt of pain shot through him and he rolled back onto his side. He retched and coughed blood through his shattered jaw, wincing as he realised it was no longer attached to his skull. Between his legs he saw the soldier shrink away, fearful of his emperor’s reaction. ‘Sir, I’m not sure if he can speak.’

‘Praetorian, your orders were to deliver this man unharmed. Is this unharmed, stulte?’ The Praetorian shook his head and edged beyond the range of Claudius’ sword. ‘What good is he if he cannot speak?’

Caratacus groaned as the heavyset emperor straddled his chest, barely registering the pain as Claudius slapped his cheek. He tried to resist, but the effort was futile. He gagged, choking on the blood coagulating in his throat. The light of the day faded to pinpricks. Death was close. Caratacus’ heart stuttered as darkness enveloped him, beating its final beat as he surrendered himself to God.

‘Where have you put it, Gatekeeper?’ said Claudius. ‘Tell me now or by Jupiter I swear I’ll…’

The priest’s head lolled, all life draining from his once-bright eyes. The Praetorians glanced at one another uneasily, each of them aware the Druid lay dead between their Emperor’s thighs. Claudius cursed and shoved the body aside, watching with morbid interest as the battered body sank into a puddle of its own muddied blood. Killing the man was not part of the plan; well, at least not before he’d extracted a confession.

The Emperor thrust out a hand and one of his men pulled him to his feet.

‘Cut his throat and bury him in the bog.’ He clenched his fists. ‘Then find his belongings. Find them, or I’ll order you buried with him.’

Spotlight – Slay Bells

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About the Author

T.C. Wescott

T.C. Wescott was born in Missouri but has lived in Oklahoma most of his life. Like pretty much every author who has ever breathed, he is an avid reader. His favorites are classic mysteries from the Golden Age, as well as just before or just after that period (which is widely considered the period between the two World Wars). His first mystery novel, Running from Scissors, was published in July 2018 and will be the first of at least three books in the Running Store Mystery series.

The Christmas Village Mystery series launched in November of the same year with the debut title Slay Bells. The formula for his books is simple – mixing the classic, traditional detective fiction standards with all the trappings of the modern cozy mystery.

Wescott is also (under another name) the author of two award-winning non-fiction books as well as many essays and articles.

His latest book is the cozy mystery, Slay Bells (A Christmas Village Mystery).

Website Address: www.tcwescott.com

Twitter Address: www.twitter.com/MousetrapBooks

Facebook Address: www.facebook.com/BetterMousetrapBooks

About the Book:

Title: SLAY BELLS (A CHRISTMAS VILLAGE MYSTERY)
Author: T.C. Wescott
Publisher: Better Mousetrap Books
Pages: 273
Genre: Cozy Mystery

Slay Bells

BOOK BLURB:

‘Twas the week before Christmas and all through the village, the night settled in over swirling-smoke chimneys; the air was alive with pine and holly, with sugar and cinnamon and cider, by golly!

Along snowy lanes and through shadows it crept, past windows behind which each villager slept, where sleeping dogs lie and cats rest a’purring-

Tonight, in Christmas Village, a killer is stirring.

Welcome to Christmas Village, a magical hamlet where even in December the roses hold their luster and bees buzz among the bluebells. Nestled betwixt an opulent garden with meandering footpaths and an ancient grove of plum trees, Rose Willoughby’s boarding house is plum-full with lodgers. There are no vacancies, but just wait. Soon there will be one…and another…and another.

When the Inn’s guests begin dying in inexplicable ways, some villagers believe a beast from old village lore is the culprit. The sheriff knows better, but he’s just as helpless to catch the invisible killer as are the town folk with their eyes to the sky in search of a flying creature. But our mysterious murderer hasn’t counted on yet another lodger coming to the cottage: Maribel Claus.

Short as a stump, round as a wheel, sweet as a candy cane, and a sharp as a whip, Maribel loves a good puzzle. But can she unmask the phantom killer in time and save Christmas?

ORDER YOUR COPY:

Amazon

Book Excerpt:

PROLOGUE

Night settles in over smoking chimneys and snow-capped rooftops.

A potpourri of pine, holly, and cinnamon swirls in the breeze over white pastures and along sleepy lanes as festive decorations left hanging on each street lamp and along every thoroughfare dance upon its passing.

Winter birds offer up their sing-song as the rows of cottage windows blink out their goodnights.

But for many in the happy hamlet of Christmas Village, the night will be a short one, made restless with excitement for the morning when they will rise early to prepare for the inaugural day of the annual Christmas Festival.

The festival, running the full week before Christmas Eve, is the last great hurrah of the year, barring the ringing of the new year bells. It is no exaggeration to say that the best hope one has of experiencing something more glorious is to return the following year for the next Festival.

So, it is with smiles on their faces and joy in their hearts that every soul in the village, farmer and squire alike, closes their eyes in anticipation of sunrise.

One among them will not live to see the sun.

Something moves among the birds, along the snowy lanes, skirting the light in favor of shadow.

In Christmas Village, this night, a creature is stirring.

Spotlight – Die Back

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About the Author

Richard Hacker

Richard Hacker is a longtime resident of Austin, Texas who now writes and lives in Seattle.

His writing has been recognized by the Writer’s League of Texas and the Pacific Northwest Writers Association. In addition to his writing, he provides editing services to other writers and is the editor of an online science fiction and fantasy journal, Del Sol Review. His three published humorous crime novels ride the sometimes thin line between fact and fiction in Texas. DIE BACK, his first fantasy thriller novel, has been published by Del Sol Press.

When not writing he’s singing in a vocal jazz ensemble, cooking with a sous vide and a blow torch, or exploring the Pacific Northwest with his wife and his springer spaniel, Jazz.

Website Link: http://www.richardhacker.com

Twitter Link: @Richard_Hacker

Facebook Link: http://www.facebook.com/RWHacker

About the Book:

Title: DIE BACK (Book One of the Alchimeia)
Author: Richard Hacker
Publisher: Del Sol Press
Pages: 332
Genre: Fantasy/Thriller

Die Back

BOOK BLURB:

In 272 AD Egypt, an enemy thwarts an attempt by League Inkers, Thomas Shaw and Nikki Babineaux, to obtain the Alchįmeia, a document holding alchemical secrets. Sensing his impending death, Thomas secures Nikki’s promise to keep his son, Addison, from the League, an organization defending the time continuum. After his father’s death, Addison inherits a mysterious pen, accidentally inking himself into the consciousness of a man who dies on a muddy WWI battlefield in France. Hoping to make sense of his experience, he confides in Nikki, his best friend and unknown to Addison, an Inker. Keeping her promise to Thomas, she discounts Addison’s experience.

Fixated on the pen, Addison inks into a B-17 bombardier in 1943. The pilot, whose consciousness has been taken over by someone calling himself Kairos, gloats over killing Addison’s father and boasts of plans to destroy the League. As Kairos attempts to wrest Addison’s consciousness, Nikki shocks Addison out of the Inking. She confesses her knowledge of the League. When Kairos threatens to steal aviation technology, she she sends Addison and his partner, Jules, to an Army test of the Wright Flyer in 1908. Believing they have succeeded, they return to find the continuum shifted and Nikki knowing nothing about the League.

Inking back to his father’s mission in Alexandria, Addison and Jules hope to get his help in returning the time continuum to its original state. Instead, Addison’s father gives him the Alchįmeia to hide in a crypt at the Great Lighthouse on Phalos. On their return to the present a Kairos agent murders Jules, her consciousness Inked into the past. Addison follows the clues, Inking into Pizarro in 16th century Peru. He finds Jules in the child bride of the Inca emperor. His plan to find the technology and save Jules without destroying the Inca civilization is thwarted by a fleet of Inca airships. Captured, he is taken to Machu Picchu. With Jules help, they find the stolen schematics, but are confronted by Kairos. He stabs Addison, forcing Addison’s consciousness back to the present and traps Jules in the 16th Century. Addison returns to another altered world. Nikki no longer exists, the world is at war with the Inca, and Manhattan lay in ruins.

Addison Inks his father, learning the origins of the League. Thomas urges Addison to uncover their enemy with the help of his colleague, Maya. Putting suspicion on another inker, Cameron, she insists he must be killing Inkers and acquiring Pens. In a final attempt to stop him, they entrap Cameron, only for Addison to discover Maya is Kairos, his enemy. She kills Cameron, also wounding Addison. He chases Maya, who intimates that she holds his mother’s, Rebecca’s, consciousness. Confused he delays, giving her time to scrawl a name with her pen before shooting her dead.

Inked away when Maya died, Kairos finds himself, not in his intended host, Hitler, but in a German infantry soldier POW in the Ardenne during the Battle of the Bulge, WWII. Hoping to repair the shift in the time continuum, Addison brings the League Pens together with the fate of the world and everyone he loves at stake. He awakens to a dissimilar world, but Jules and Nikki exist. And with life there is always hope.

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Book Excerpt:

After hanging up, he recalled Maya, a woman his father had dated a few years ago. I guess they stayed in touch. Flipping through the contents of the file, he found a piece of paper, folded in half with a date and a name written by hand, circled with a felt tip marker. This must be one of the MIA’s.

Died in the Battle of Cantigny on May 28, 1918

Emmett Earl Pike

All he had to do was fill in a form and this had the bonus of a paycheck at the end. I’ll never get another chance to help Dad complete anything. Addison rarely used pens, opting for his laptop and the tablet his father had given him as a Christmas present. However, it seemed a good time to give his inheritance a road test. After finding the form Maya mentioned in the file, he lifted the fountain pen from its resting place once again. Where do I put the ink? He fumbled with it a bit, then found he could unscrew the bottom, revealing a small chamber. Opening one of the bottles, the ink moved as if alive, a green vaporous fog hovering just inside the neck. A small glass eye dropper lay nestled beside it. He placed the dropper’s glass tube into the ink, squeezing and releasing the bladder to draw the green liquid. He squeezed the dropper again, releasing ink into the chamber. Screwing the bottom of the pen back on with his now green ink-stained fingers, he wiped the pen with a soft cloth he found by the ink bottle.

No wonder the ballpoint was a big hit.

As the mantel clock struck noon, he turned back to the page. Placing pen to paper he scratched the nib across the surface, copying the date from the slip of paper he had found in the file. Addison then scribed the name:

Emmett Earl Pike

He scanned the papers on the desk for the second name, when his body violently seized, as if he’d been given deadly neurotoxin. His stomach caught in his throat squelching any scream over a deafening jet-like roar. Ice cold air froze him to numbness, the world a vast kaleidoscope of color and pattern, his mind exploded into billions of particles, until he lurched from the chair face first into the muck.

God, the stink of rotting flesh. Throat dry, goddamn smoke. What is that foul stench? Thunderous detonations like the footfalls of mighty giants slam into the ground, shaking the earth. Rats scurry, but nowhere to hide. A whistle blows in the cool, moist dawn air. I’m…in a trench? Men, their drab uniforms stained with mud and blood, rock anxiously, morning light reflecting off mounted bayonets.

Where in God’s living hell am I?

Sarge shouts, “Over the top!”

I don’t want to move, but I’m not in control. Up and over the mud wall of a trench, the weight of a pack straining my back, the rifle heavy in my hands. A man to my left flies backward as if jerked by a cable, his cry muffled by explosions, his chest ripped open, organs spilling into the muck. I, we, plod forward through mud. A rhythmic takka-takka-takka, tat, tat, tat in the distance and more explosions vibrating through my feet.

Sarge yells again, “Stay together! Look sharp!”

A battlefield? But how? A slap on my shoulder. I look to my right to see a kid my age with blue eyes and a dirty face shadowed beneath a WW I doughboy helmet.

“Emmett, this is it! We’ll show these Huns!”

I hear words tumble from my mouth. “Yeah, Jake. Don’t get your arse shot off.”

A scowl crosses his face like I’ve never seen from my friend before. “Not to worry, Addison. You won’t be here for long.”

Addison? Who…?

Bayonet in hand, Jake slices a deep gash across his palm. He steps in toward me. “Time to say goodbye, Addison.” His bloodied hand races toward my face.

What the hell—

A fiery white blast, like a blow of Thor’s massive hammer, slams me to the ground. My insides hurt, my head throbs. I try to get back up, but, oh god, my legs. Gone. God. Jake? I see his blue-eyed face, the remaining half looks startled, his shoulder and arm and part of his torso ripped off. The mud smells of death. Falling back I see blue sky with large billowing white clouds floating like great ships at sea. So peaceful, so calm, so…

My body’s an empty shell. Matter flows into me—each corpuscle and vein, tendon and bone, organ and muscle. Am I dying? Or coming back to life? Like the wax of a spent candle, I am fallen to a puddle of life.

***

Addison gasped, acidic vomit rising in his throat. Flailing, he fell backward, his chair crashing to the floor. He clawed at the carpet, in a blind panic, slamming into a wall. A caustic taste of death and cordite lingered in his mouth. He reached for bloodied stumps, but found legs, the agonizing pain gone, but still a memory. He pulled himself up, his back to the wall. Clammy and cold, his green ink-stained hands shook, each shallow breath struggling to keep up with his racing heart.

The mantel clock in the hallway chimed. How much time have I lost? Addison looked at his watch, both hands at twelve. The clock continued, the twelfth strike reverberating through the room. Noon? Of the same day? He found his cane, leveraging himself into a standing position by his desk. The fountain pen rested innocently on the paper, a small green smudge at the end of Emmett Earl Pike. He tried to screw the cap back on, but his shaking hands made the task difficult. After several attempts he succeeded, weaving the fine threads of pen and cap together. He laid the pen back into the safety of its box and placed it in the bottom drawer of the desk, which he locked. Still light-headed and trembling, he limped out of the study, closing the door behind him.

In the kitchen, he tossed open the refrigerator door, pulling out a PowerJolt.

What the hell was that? Jesus. You’re losing it, Addison.

He struggled with the can. Losing his grip as he thrust the push tab down, the can spun away, PowerJolt splashing across the island counter. Reaching for the errant object, he hurled it across his kitchen, the can banging and clanging against cabinets and pots.

He didn’t smoke, but the urge for a cigarette, a Camel, consumed him. Hell, I’d take a Navy Cut off a Tommy in a heartbeat. He rifled through the back of a drawer at the end of the counter until he found the cigarettes and matches his father thought had been hidden. Marlboros. No Camels? This would have to do. Fumbling with the box, he slipped one between his lips, lit it, inhaling, only to choke and cough as the smoke burned his throat.

It felt so goddamn real, like I was actually there. The artillery fire, the stench of the place, and Jake. I knew Jake. We trained together, drank together.

He took another tentative drag, coughing up another puff of smoke. In his dreams he walked and ran. But this experience didn’t feel like a dream. He had run across a damn battlefield.

And those two girls we met before we shipped out. I married mine. Esther. Esther Lawrence. We made love my last night of leave. God, I remember her. The soft skin, the curve of her hips.

Addison floated in the memory of Esther, a woman he couldn’t know, a woman old enough to be his great-great grandmother. He tamped out the cigarette on the granite counter, and grabbed a loaf of bread and some peanut butter. Something normal. Something he did every day. Something unlike whatever just happened.

There’s got to be an explanation. If I’m having a hallucination, it’s one realistic multi-dimensional hallucination. I must be stressing out. PTSD, that’s what the shrink said after I killed Beth. Maybe with Dad dying and all, it’s coming back.

He lit another cigarette, this time taking a long drag, the smoke rising, twisting and turning away. A moment of calm flowed through him. He knew the feeling from playing baseball and soccer prior to the accident. Standing on a field, the game turning into a righteous shit storm, all hell breaking loose, his body strong, his mind sharp, his determination hardened like forged steel. In that moment of calm, his father’s words emerged.

“You, my son, are an Inker by calling.”

Spotlight – Every Moment and Not a Second More

Nataliehanson2_Every_Moment_and_Not_a_Second_More

Book Blurb
:

In 2012, scientists used the world’s largest machine to slam matter together and discover ‘The God Particle’. At the same time the universe sends Emily, a dysfunctional middle-aged woman, crashing into three strangers.

She arrives at her parents’ apartment to help out after her mother’s death, but struggles to escape the shadow of her famous father.

Emily meets an airplane machinist turned drag queen in a battle over dripping bathtub. A scientist on the brink of discovery and destruction. And a young man running from his past who believes he has no future.

Science and love collide as Emily uncovers the secret that binds them all together.

Title: Every Moment and Not a Second More
Author: Natalie Hanson
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Women’s Lit, humor

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07FBMTMGV

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/40764873-every-moment-and-not-a-second-more?ac=1&from_search=true

Author’s Website: https://nataliehardy9.wixsite.com/author

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