Blog Archives

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

ORDER YOUR COPY:

Amazon

https://www.amazon.com/s?k=misfits+and+supermen&i=stripbooks&ref=nb_sb_noss_1

Barnes & Noble

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/misfits+and+supermen/_/N-8q8?_requestid=1514906

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

Advertisements

Spotlight – Dark Spiral Down

Dark Spiral Down banner

About the Author

Mike Houtz

After a career in medicine, Mike Houtz succumbed to the call to hang up his stethoscope and pursue his other passion as a writer of fast-paced thrillers. A rabid fan of authors such as Clancy, Mark Greaney, Vince Flynn, and Brad Thor, Mike loves series writing with strong characters, fast pacing and international locations, all of which explode into action in his debut novel, a 2017 Zebulon Award winner. When not at the keyboard, he can be found on the firing range, traveling for research across the globe, or trying out the latest dry-fly pattern on a Gold Medal trout stream.

He lives at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado.

His latest book is the thriller/international/action novel, Dark Spiral Down.

Website: www.mikehoutz.com

Twitter: www.twitter.com/michaelhoutz

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/author.mikehoutz/

https://www.facebook.com/mike.houtz.77

About the Book:

Title: DARK SPIRAL DOWN
Author: Michael Houtz
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Pages: 377
Genre: Thriller/International/Action

Dark Spiral Down

BOOK BLURB:

COLE HAUFNER is a reluctant superstar in the professional mixed martial arts world. After his latest fight, his wife and child perish in a car crash. His grief deepens when his brother, BUTCH, a Delta Force operator, is absent from the funeral and reported missing by two furtive strangers who show up unannounced at the burial. Despairing, and acting on a tip, Cole travels to his childhood home in southeast China, looking for his brother.

Butch and his teammate, HAMMER, are the sole American survivors of a gun battle between their unit and North Korean commandos, both sides fighting over possession of a stolen suitcase containing a miniaturized fusion device that could either provide unlimited clean energy or be converted to an undetectable bomb seven times more powerful than a nuclear explosion. Leading the North Koreans is the sociopath, Commander PARK. Pressed into helping the Koreans is a disgraced former CIA operative, BARRETT JENNINGS.

Cole meets with the uncle who raised him, MASTER LI, and is warned to stop his search for Butch. Barrett discovers Cole’s identity (with the help of a genius computer hacker, LILLY), which opens a twenty-year-old wound when Barrett was blamed for the disappearance of Cole’s father, along with the man’s invention. Barrett enlists the 14K organized crime syndicate to help capture Cole. Hammer, separated from Butch during the fight for the device, thwarts the gang’s attempt to kidnap Cole, and the two then set off to find Butch and the device. All parties converge on the city library where Butch, now disguised as a monk, is attempting to communicate with the Pentagon. Barrett and Park capture Butch, while the 14K gang nabs Cole.

Danger mounts as Chinese authorities begin investigating foul play within their borders. Cole fights his way free of the gang and reunites with Hammer. Both men find Barrett’s apartment and discover Lilly (the man’s stepdaughter), who divulges Barrett’s identity and plan. Cole clashes with Hammer, who is willing to sacrifice Butch in order to recover the fusion device. Lilly offers her help in exchange for her and Barrett’s rescue from Park’s grip. Meanwhile, Barrett discovers the true nature of the case the North Koreans are pursuing and, sensing he and Lilly are to be assassinated by Park once he has the device, frees Butch. Butch, trusting Barrett was sent to rescue him, leads the turncoat to the site where he hid the device. Barrett, hoping to make a quick fortune selling it, shoots Butch before escaping with the case.

Cole, along with Hammer and Lilly, arrives at the location of Butch and finds him gravely wounded. Butch fingers Barrett for shooting him and for stealing the case. Cole wants only to save his brother but Butch makes him promise to kill Barrett and recover their dad’s invention. The revelation that the device is his father’s scientific discovery propels Cole forward to fulfill his brother’s mission. Cole is forced to abandon Butch at a hospital. Cole pursues Barrett to a remote dock where the ex-CIA man is planning to escape China by boat. With the Chinese military now actively looking for Cole, Cole confronts Barrett and Park sparking a gunfight. Barrett kills Park. As Barrett turns the gun on Cole, Hammer kills Barrett. Cole, Hammer and Lilly escape via the boat, and the fusion device is safely returned.

Praise for Michael Houtz Books

“If you’re in the market for a fast paced, action filled, page-turning thriller, Mike Houtz delivers a must-read novel. I highly recommend this emotional rollercoaster of a book for every die-hard thriller reader…Get it ASAP!”

~Lima Charlie Review

“…this work proves that author Houtz is undoubtedly a rising star in the publishing world.”

~Andrea Brunais, Author

“Mike Houtz takes us on fast-pace adventure in Dark Spiral Down, a thrilling ride along the border between China and North Korea, where Cole Haufner is in pursuit of his Delta Force brother and a device that has the potential to change the world forever or destroy it.”

~Dan Grant, Author

Dark Spiral Down is a phenomenal debut novel by Mike Houtz. This book has everything readers of the genre love: a great plot, memorable characters, and a powerful voice. It’s a must-read!”

~Ammar Habib, Bestselling & Award-Winning Author, Editor-in-Chief of Thriller Magazine

 

ORDER YOUR COPY:

Amazon

https://amzn.to/2UpXJmK

Book Excerpt:

Anger born of helplessness rose in his chest. In contrast to Master Li’s placating tone, Cole straightened to his full height and stared into the man’s face. “Let me guess, more 14K cowards?”

Another man stepped forward and cocked his pistol’s hammer. “I show you coward.”

As at the Crowne Plaza earlier, Cole refused to back off, even in the face of impending conflict. “The coward is the man who needs a gun.”

The other with the shotgun pointing at Cole’s chest stood only some seven or eight feet away. “You will come with us now!”

“Please. Violence is forbidden here,” Master Li spoke again. “The Temple is sacred. We cannot have this type of behavior.”

“Maybe you don’t hear so good,” the leader sneered. “He comes with us whether you approve or not.”

“He is a famous American! If you take him, the government will arrest anyone involved. They will have no choice but to hold immediate trials and executions.” Master Li cupped his hands together and held them against his chest.

“Famous American,” the man chuckled. “If you are so famous, what are you doing here then, huh?”

Cole stared straight into the man’s eyes. He took several steps toward the shotgun-wielding thug. “How about I show you?”

Dark Spiral Down teaser 3

Spotlight – Moments That Made America

Moments That Made America banner 2

About the Author

Geoff Armstrong

Geoff Armstrong began his teaching career in 1965 after receiving a teaching diploma from McGill University’s Macdonald College. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Montreal’s Concordia University in 1967 where his major field of study was history. Armstrong credits writers such as Bruce Catton, and Thomas B. Costain, as well as the encouragement of his father who had little formal education, but a deep love of reading and of history, as the inspiration for his own life-long interest.

Throughout a 25-year teaching career he taught history at several grade levels and learned quickly that to reach the hearts of his students, history had to be made immediately and deeply relevant and accessible: that some event that took place centuries before those students were born had a direct and profound influence on every aspect their lives. He also learned that talking down or writing down to his students was a recipe for defeat. It is this awareness, shaped by a quarter century of teaching and countless questions by thousands of intelligent young people that has informed and shaped his writing.

His latest book is Moments That Made America: From the Ice Age to the Alamo.

You can visit his website at www.MomentsThatMadeAmerica.com.

 

About the Book:

Title: MOMENTS THAT MADE AMERICA: FROM THE ICE AGE TO THE ALAMO
Author: Geoff Armstrong
Publisher: History Publishing Company
Pages: 254
Genre: American History

Moments That Made America lg

BOOK BLURB:

From its geological birth during the breakup of the Pangaea supercontinent millions of years ago, through the nation-shaping key events that led to its political independence from the British superpower, and other crucial, sometimes miraculous events that worked to create the nation, Moments That Made America: From the Ice Age to the Alamo explores those defining moments, both tragic and inspirational that profoundly shaped the nation and its people – crucial turning points that worked inexorably to mold and make America. These pivotal “tipping” events formed America’s geographical, sociological, political and historical landscape. Part 1 culminates with the discovery of gold in California and the role it played in fulfilling America’s dream of Manifest Destiny.

ORDER YOUR COPY AT AMAZON:

Moments That Made America: From The Ice Age To The Alamo

Moments That Made America teaser 5

Book Excerpt:

Excerpt from Chapter Three: The Road to Revolution

On the 19th of June, with twelve hundred men and officers, the British army began its march. Braddock’s forces moved slowly, building roads as they advanced. By the 8th of July, Braddock had arrived within 12 miles of Fort Duquesne. Typical of British thinking concerning military action in North America, Braddock failed to send out scouts or set up advance guards. In splendid European-style formation, their bright scarlet uniforms glowing in the summer sunshine, Braddock and his men moved against the French Fort. Washington had spent time in the region and knew it well. He understood the style of fighting they would have to face and recognizing the danger, he tried to persuade Braddock to set up proper security, but Braddock, suffering from what turned out to be terminal arrogance, ignored Washington’s experience and advice.

At about noon they crossed the Monongahela River. The road on which they now marched led through a valley and along two concealed ravines covered with trees and deep grass. What Braddock didn’t know, thanks to his haughty refusal to employ scouts, was that the ravines concealed 600 Native American warriors and 250 French soldiers all armed and waiting.

As soon as the British reached the ravines, the woods in front of them erupted with musket fire as the French and their Native American allies unloaded their weapons into the British. Stunned by the unexpected attack, the leading British troops were hurled backward into their advancing rear units, throwing Braddock’s regulars into hopeless confusion. Disorganized and gripped with fear, hammered by volley after volley of musket fire from directly ahead and then from their flanks, the British struggled to fight back as their legendary discipline began to falter.

The first discharge of musket fire had targeted the officers and many had already fallen. Several times the British rallied and at one point succeeded in killing the French commander. That seemed to act as a signal to the Indians. They threw themselves at the British.

Now panic-stricken and disorientated, ignoring the commands of the few remaining officers, the British regulars huddled together in small groups, firing ineffectively into the surrounding trees and bushes. Protected by the ravines and trees, the French and Indians continued to target the officers.

The only troops who retained any hint of common sense were the Virginians. As soon as they realized whom they were fighting, they ignored Braddock and used the colonial fighting tactics they had learned from the Native Americans.

Washington’s conduct during the battle was exemplary. He refused to huddle in terror, as so many of his fellow officers did, vainly hoping to escape the death that flourished all around them. At six-foot-four and on horseback, he was the most conspicuous officer and the most conspicuous target in the entire British expedition. Witnesses describe him as riding from battered group to battered group, rallying his Virginians and attempting to rally the British regulars into following the example of the Virginians. Four musket balls tore through his coat and two horses were shot out from under him. Inexplicably, nothing touched him.

Finally, Braddock was shot through the lung and carried from the field. He later died of his wound.

Washington, though he was relatively far down in the chain of command, displayed the leadership for which, he would someday become famous. He was able to enforce enough discipline to form a rear guard and allow what was left of the British expedition to retreat.

British losses were appalling with more than 900 dead and wounded. According to most records, only one mounted officer survived the engagement that would become known as the “Battle of the Monongahela”, but should have been called the “Monongahela Massacre”. That officer was George Washington.

He should have died that day. Just one more unknown, low ranking colonial officer, one more casualty in a poorly executed British offensive, his name lost in the mists of history. How Washington managed to survive is beyond explanation and it was only the first of such miraculous escapes. Had he lost his life, the America we know would not exist, or if it did somehow come into being, it would certainly be profoundly different. His survival in the face of almost impossible odds also gives substantial evidence to many, that both Washington and the nation that would someday become America, were under the protection and guidance of Divine Providence.

Washington himself recognized that his survival that day was highly improbable. A few days later, in a letter to his brother John, Washington himself wrote about this. “By the all-powerful dispensations of Providence, I have been protected beyond all human probability or expectation; for I had four bullets through my coat, and two horses shot under me, yet escaped unhurt, although death was leveling my companions on every side of me!”

Moments That Made America teaser

 

unnamed

Spotlight – CRAVED by Keli Hammond

Craved-Front

Book Description:
What does it take to stand out from the crowd? How do you build a brand people notice, connect with, and trust? What does it really take to get (and keep) a constant flow of incoming and loyal customers and opportunities?

In CRAVED, Keli Hammond walks you through the ins and outs of building a brand that is not only noticed, but sought-after and profitable. She uncovers the key elements needed to craft cohesive and clever marketing campaigns and demystifies the components needed to gain influence and be memorable.

In this book, Hammond combines decades of award-winning industry knowledge with helpful stories and advice that illustrates what not to do in brand building. She walks you through how to build a loyal tribe that advocates for you and endorses you.

Because marketing rules change quickly, the things that worked five years ago are now outdated and old-fashioned. The guidance you get from CRAVED will help you elevate your profile, attract more people to you, monetize your influence, and set the stage for long-term profit for your personal brand or business.

Whether you’re just starting out or you’ve been at this for a while, this is the resource you need to help make your entrepreneurial dreams a reality. Transform your life by strategically creating a brand people CRAVE.

Author Bio

Keli Hammond head shot

Keli Hammond is a nationally-recognized, award-winning expert on marketing. The author of CRAVED: The Secret Sauce to Building a Highly-Successful, Standout Brand; Keli knows what it takes to make people stop, listen, engage, and invest in brands (both personal and business). With a focus on brand acceleration and positioning, Keli’s expertise helps people pinpoint hurdles to success and pivot their marketing to achieve maximum results and brand loyalty.

Keli owns B Classic, a Washington, DC-based marketing and communications agency that helps entrepreneurs, corporations, non-profits, and government agencies better educate, entice, inspire, and engage their target consumers.

Keli distilled over 15 years of marketing know-how into her debut book, aptly named CRAVED, which offers practical tips and resources that provide clarity on how to turn a passion into profit by becoming a dynamic marketer.

A highly sought after speaker, trainer and writer, Keli regularly speaks to groups of business owners, students and women on personal branding, marketing, and social media. Keli holds a BA in Advertising from Temple University and certification in Change Leadership (Change Management) from Cornell University.

Get the book on Amazon.

Spotlight – The Guild Saga Series

About the Author

John Joseph Doody

I earned a B.A. in Biblical Studies from Coral Ridge University and Seminary, as well as an M.A. in Political Science from George Wythe College. My first publication was a short story, TELEPIO 690, which appeared in Sidetrekked Magazine, Issue #48. My other publications are, my first novel (actually a novella), THE WONK DECELERATOR, my second novel, THE LATE, GREAT BENJAMIN BALE, my third novel, RETURN OF THE CRIMSON WITCH and a fourth mini-book, a prequel to the Guild Series, THE DAUGHTER OF GETH, which is available only in ebook. I am currently working on a science fiction/horror novel, THE DARK. One of these days I might even finish it.

Happily, I have a wife and four children and live in Florida.

Website Link: www.johndoody.com

Twitter Link: @johnjosephdoody

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

 

Inside the Books

The Wonk Decelerator

Title: THE GUILD SAGA: THE WONK DECELERATOR (Book 1)
Author: John Joseph Doody
Publisher: eTreasures Publishing LLC
Pages: 131
Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy

BOOK BLURB:

For Earthers dwelling in Guild space, it is a one-hundred year journey back to Earth. An unimaginable voyage, until now.

When Guild commander and crack pilot, Thad Cochran boards the shuttle destined for the casinos of Timmerus, finding a way back to Earth is not on his radar. He wants the five-percent finder’s fee the Guild is offering for a black box held by the lizard-like Yazz. Thad has a dream: With the loot he will get for stealing the Wonk Decelerator, he can buy a ranch on Beta Prime.

But things begin to fall apart for him in the dark caverns of Timmerus, and Thad must reconsider his priorities in life. Has he discovered a cause greater than his dream? Are there actually more important things to life than money and his dream? What about the woman who is waiting for him? What about freedom in the galaxy? And what about his discovery, fashioned by the gnarled hands of a brilliant, old Yazz, that could change everything?

Thad Cochran has a choice to make. He can fulfill his quest, escape with his life and be rich. Or he can fly with the Wonks … one more time.

 

ORDER YOUR COPY BELOW:

https://www.amazon.com/Wonk-Decelerator-Guild-Saga/dp/1937809323/ref=sr_1_fkmrnull_3?keywords=john+joseph+doody&qid=1551501377&s=gateway&sr=8-3-fkmrnull

Book Excerpt:

Thad opened his eyes, aware of a sense that the murky sun was dropping on the horizon. He panicked momentarily until he realized he still had a half hour before the prearranged confab with Maggie.

He headed for the bathroom to change into darker clothes for the journey. The bathroom had Thandimonean stone flooring, golden faucets and a huge commode one nearly needed a ladder to get up on.

Thad rubbed his face and ran his tongue over his teeth. He might as well clean up while he was in here. He stripped, broke out his toothbrush and was busy about his business when he heard a creaking hinge.

He stepped out of the bathroom in his skivvies, toothpaste frothing in his mouth.

“Commander Cochran.”

He heard the voice, glanced at the open door, but saw no one.

“Yeph?!” he gurgled, toothpaste spraying everywhere as his voice took on a falsetto tone.

“I’m up here, silly boy.”

Thad looked up, and his heart tried to jump out of his gullet. The woman, the one he had seen in the space port

and had suspected of being a droid, crawled across the ceiling like a spider chasing after a bug. How she managed to cling, upside down, her head twisted a hundred and eighty degrees and looking directly at him, was a repulsive mystery to him.

Oh, you’re a droid all right! 

He had never seen a Mandroid capable of walking on ceilings. This droid’s techno was impressive and scary.

“You should go back to your people, Commander Cochran,” she said, as she crawled down the wall, her head twisting again, cracking and popping back to its original position.

He knew there was no sense in trying to get away, or in trying to fight with this droid. She was too fast, too strong. He had no weapon to use against her, and worst of all, he was in his underwear.

Thad swallowed his toothpaste.

Once on the floor, she meandered over to him and, with a critical expression, eyed him from head to toe. She was beautiful, but she smelled of a peculiar blend of perfume and something like burnt rubber.

“There’s only death waiting for you here on Gar Mega. Go back, Commander, before it’s too late.”

With that, she walked stiffly from the room, leaving the door open. Thad wasted no time, sprinted to the door, locked it and leaned against the wall, his legs trembling beneath him.

She’s probably got a key that pops out of her finger or something. I know I locked that.

Inside the Book

The Late Great Benjamin Bale

Title: THE GUILD SAGA: THE LATE, GREAT BENJAMIN BALE (Book 2)
Author: John Joseph Doody
Publisher: eTreasures Publishing LLC
Pages: 370
Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy

BOOK BLURB:

The destinies of two men depend on Maggie Thorn. One is dying and the other is dead…or is he?

Captain Maggie Thorn is on a formal Guild mission, supposedly to kidnap the yazz scientist, Gravian Endrenicus, and return him to Thandimone. But she also has a personal score to settle with the lizard-like inhabitants of Timmerus. She intends to make the yazz pay for what they did to Thad Cochran—the one the yazz call the Thieves Guild pilot. The man she loves.

Supreme Fleet Commander, Admiral Geoff Grangore knows of only one man who could get Maggie to Timmerus and back while traitorous eyes are watching. That man is an old drunk who lives deep in the Thandimonean wilderness with his pet Eno, Snot. Benjamin Bale is suicidal and cantankerous, and Maggie can’t stand him—at first.

Bale is a dead man. At least, that’s what everyone was told. But this dead man has a final mission to perform. The greatest star pilot in the galaxy has a chance to redeem himself and make right a great wrong. A wrong which he can never forgive or forget. A wrong that cost him everything.

 

ORDER YOUR COPY BELOW:

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/193780948X/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i0

Inside the Book

Return of the Crimson Witch

Title: THE GUILD SAGA: RETURN OF THE CRIMSON WITCH (Book 3)
Author: John Joseph Doody
Publisher: eTreasures Publishing LLC
Pages: 407
Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy

BOOK BLURB:

The Bashtier call Wonk space, Eerindark—The Place of the Dead—and Thad Cochran, the only pilot to go there and live, will soon find out why. The sacrifice of Benjamin Bale brings Thad back from the dead. But is he truly free from the death grip of the Wonks?

A body is discovered behind an apartment wall in a small town on the planet Daggon. With the mystery thrust upon him, Admiral Geoff Grangore must pursue a dangerous quest for the truth—is it somehow connected to The Wonk Decelerator?

Dreams and visions are dancing in the heads of the yazz. Something bad is coming to the frontier—a hidden enemy only the Guild traitor, Alexander Hamilton Patho knows.
Patho sends an assassin to Daggon and his conniving gaze is on the M-3 Wonk vessel. It seems civil war is imminent and those who control the power of Wonk travel will rule the known galaxy. Therefore, it must not fall into Patho’s hands.

It is time for war, and time for Maggie Thorn to learn the truth about who she really is. It is also time for The Return of the Crimson Witch.

ORDER YOUR COPY BELOW:

https://www.amazon.com/Return-Crimson-Witch-Book-Guild/dp/1942391242/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

Spotlight – The Consequence of Stars

The Consequence of Stars banner

About the Author

David W. Berner

David W. Berner is a memoirist whose personal stories tell all of our stories. His memoirs reflect on our collective relationships and how those experiences link us to the world we share. From stories of fathers and sons, to road trips, travel memoir, pets, and music, David’s books are mirrors of our common human experience. 

Storytelling has been a part of David’s life since his days as a young boy, delivering The Pittsburgh Press newspaper. He began telling his own stories and the stories of others as a reporter for numerous radio stations, including freelance work at National Public Radio and more recently for CBS in Chicago.

David’s reporting background has given birth to award-winning memoirs and novels based on his own experiences.

He has been the Writer-in-Residence for the Jack Kerouac Project in Orlando, where he was privileged to live and work at the Kerouac House in Orlando for two-and-a-half months. He later was honored with the Writer-in-Residence position at the Ernest Hemingway Birthplace Home in Oak Park, Illinois.

Website: https://www.davidwberner.com/

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/davidwberner

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DavidWBernerWriter/?modal=admin_todo_tour  (David W. Berner—Writer)

About the Book:

Title: CONSEQUENCES OF STARS: A MEMOIR
Author: David W. Berner
Publisher: Adelaide Books New Yotk/Lisbon
Pages: 200
Genre: Memoir/Essays

The Consequence of Stars

BOOK BLURB:

THE CONSEQUENCE OF STARS is a unique and thoughtful memoir on our eternal search for home. Told in a series of essays on love, loss, travel, music, spirituality, and the joys of solitude, memoirist David W. Berner, reaches deep to discover where he belongs and ultimately where all of us belong.

“Berner gives us both travelogue and memoir in living, breathing depth and color.” — D.S. White, Editor-in-Chief, Longshot Island. 

“A writer with an enormous sense of humanity.” — San Francisco Review of Books

“Reflective, engaging…Berner’s authentic storytelling takes you with him on his travels through the chapters of his life where in the end, he reveals connections to finding a place to be, his home under the stars.” — Nancy Chadwick, author of Under the Birch Tree

ORDER YOUR COPY:

Adelaide Books

http://www.adelaidebooks.org/consequence_of_stars.html

Book Excerpt:

From FIRST THOUGHTS –

“This memoir—written in a series of linked essays—was

born from that spirit, to examine the broad notion of home,

how it morphs and eludes, and the search for it—from family

roots to personal discoveries—growing up, moving on, returning

to, and embracing a singular sliver of the universe.

Like many, I have investigated near and far, from my boyhood

home’s big side porch to destinations around the world and

down the street, stumbling and tripping, hoping to uncover

pieces of myself in some way through work, leisure, and love,

taking fragments of my experiences with me to build something—

a home, a place under the stars. And it is the consequence

of all those stars that is the eternal search. There is no

straight path. There is no map.”

Spotlight – Obsessions of a Djinni

Obsessions of a Djinni banner

About the Author

Claudia Herring

Claudia Herring writes romantic fantasy novels. Her Djinn Chronicles series are set in a world of mysterious powers and tumultuous intrigues fraught with subterfuge. They begin in Regency England where sensible mortals interact in disbelief with djinnis, magicians, sorceresses, and soothsayers.

 She would live in a library if she could.

 Is afraid of her cat.

 If you like Diana Gabaldon or Carol Berg, you’ll love Obsessions of a Djinni.

Website: https://claudiaherring.com/

Twitter: @claudiakherring

Facebook: claudia.herring.writer

About the Book:

Title: OBSESSIONS OF A DJINNI
Author: Claudia Herring
Publisher: Caravanserai Publishing
Pages: 374
Genre: Romantic Fantasy

Obsessions of a Djinni

BOOK BLURB:

A djinni seduces his master’s young bride, forcing her to make a fateful choice.

A world of mysterious powers and tumultuous intrigues comes to life in Regency England as a djinni, burdened with a dark secret, is thrown into a love triangle fraught with subterfuge.

Will he defeat his nemesis or be betrayed?

ORDER YOUR COPY:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Book Excerpt:

Prologue

I am Djinn. I am abandoned.

Another day of countless days. Waiting. A torture, but not the worst I have endured.

The light of this place sets me on edge. I know not its origin. Where the brightness falls illumines my carpets, colors rivaling my jewels, the finest weave of silk from Persian masters, treasures on which to tread. But I would gladly tread a floor of dirt strewn with rushes if I could be free.

I stretch my arms above my head. My kurta shimmers around my body, the gossamer silk the hard work of thousands of industrious and sacred lepidopteran larvae and their keepers. I see the gleam of silver and gold, the glimmer of gems on my ivory tabletop reflecting the rubies’ blood red, the emeralds’ echoing green and the ancient amber of the topaz as if it were a soft, tranquil pond.

I will be called. I know not when. My impending summons looms over me like the sword Dionysius hung above Damocles. I pray my next master will be kind, for I have had enough of cruelty. And if I could have wishes, if I could follow my heart, I would search for my Thalia.

Meanwhile, I am here, in Bramley House, for many years now. I sense I am in the East wing, upstairs, in one of the older bedchambers. Of over a hundred rooms in this centuries-old manor, this is one rarely used. In here are cast-offs of years gone by.

Among the clutter and jumble sits a marble bust of some long-forgotten statesman, transported to these misty isles to adorn the august Roman villa of one of England’s early conquerors. A magnificent, life-sized bronze stands by the window—an Indian god with four arms, dancing, dancing, dancing, a Natraj, Shiva, who keeps this world, where I am forced to exist, in motion. A few steps away, above the mahogany escritoire, hangs a drawing, elaborately framed in burnished gold leaf, the flowing black ink magically coalescing into my lady, my Lavinia, my Thalia, fixing you in her grave gaze, her somber eyes conveying the tragedy I made of her life.

And on the mantel the etched brass urn, securely lidded, where I am prisoner—for how long I do not know.

I remember being in this great house, living in its rooms, a real person in a real place. Happy. Reunited with my beloved, my heart, my Thalia. I remember sunlight streaming at an angle through the wavy old glass, warming my black velvet jacket, dust motes floating in the rays like stars within a galaxy. My hair pulled back in a queue secured with a black velvet ribbon, the style of the time. I took it all in, my treasures, my manor, my love, my life.

Even I never realized how quickly it could change.

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.

ORDER YOUR COPY:

Amazon

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.

%d bloggers like this: