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Book Spotlight – The Heatstroke Line

 

Hot off the presses! THE HEATSTROKE LINE by Edward L. Rubin is available now! 

 

 

Title:
THE HEATSTROKE LINE
Author: Edward L. Rubin
Publisher: Sunbury Press
Pages: 223
Genre: Scifi/Cli-Fi (Climate Change Science Fiction)
Nothing has been done to prevent climate change, and the United States has spun into decline.   Storm surges have made coastal cities uninhabitable, blistering heat waves afflict the interior and, in the South (below the Heatstroke Line), life is barely possible.  Under the stress of these events and an ensuing civil war, the nation has broken up into three smaller successor states and tens of tiny principalities.  When the flesh-eating bugs that inhabit the South show up in one of the successor states, Daniel Danten is assigned to venture below the Heatstroke Line and investigate the
source of the invasion.  The bizarre and brutal people he encounters, and the disasters that they trigger, reveal the real horror climate change has inflicted on America.
BUYING INFORMATION:

Amazon | Sunbury Press  | Walmart | B&N

Book Excerpt:

They were in some sort of garage, with several other vehicles and various pieces of equipment scattered around. The two men who stood beside them, watching, were the ones who had taken him out of the auto-car, one white, one black, both very big. Three people approached from a doorway to Dan’s right. In front was an attractive woman with blond hair, wearing an elegant leopard print dress and the long, pointed shoes that were the latest fashion. Behind her stood a man and a woman, both much bigger, and dressed in work clothes like the two men who were guarding them.

The woman in the leopard dress looked at her wristlink, then at Dan and Stuart, and smiled at them in self-satisfied manner. She motioned to the woman beside her and then to one of the two guards, and they led Stuart, still complaining about his arm, through the doorway they had come from. Then she turned toward Dan and motioned to the man beside her and the other guard, who grabbed Dan’s arms and started to lead him toward the same doorway.

“Who the hell are you?” he said, trying to turn toward the woman. “Are you aware that we’re part of a diplomatic mission from Mountain America to Jacksonia authorized by President Peter Simonson? I don’t know what you’re trying to do, but if you – – – “

One of the men let go of Dan’s arm, grabbed his cheeks to force his mouth open, and plunged a plastic gag into it. Dan felt himself choke and struggled for breath. The gag had a slightly sour, greasy taste. Then both men grabbed his arms again and led him through the doorway. Dan suddenly felt an overwhelming sense of dread, stronger even than he had felt when the men first pulled him out of the car.

Beyond the doorway was a narrow corridor with dirty green walls covered with beads of water. Clearly, they were underground. The men lead Dan through the first opening along the corridor and into a small, dimly-lit room with three chairs facing a transparent plastic window. Through the window was another room, painted grey and brightly lit. Dan was forced into the chair at the back of the room, his handcuffs were removed and his arms were strapped to the armrests, and then, to his increasing dread, some sort of metal device was placed over his head and tightened so that he was forced to look straight ahead into the room beyond the window. He felt saliva dripping down his chin. The woman in the leopard dress came in, sat down in the chair placed to his left and closer to the window, looked at him up and down, then crossed her legs and turned to the window.

A moment later, Stuart was led into the brightly lit grey room by his two guards. All his clothes except his undershorts had been stripped off. He had always been slender, but now he looked emaciated and pathetic. He was obviously in pain. Dan felt tears coming to his eyes despite his own discomfort. The woman turned to him, smiled, and then turned back to the window. By now, one of Stuart’s handcuffs had been removed and re-attached to a metal loop that was built into the wall. The two guards left and Stuart was alone in the room, one arm fastened to the wall, the other hanging limply at his side.

With a sense of horror, but not, for some reason, of surprise, Dan saw a dark shape fly through the air and attach itself to Stuart’s thigh. It was a biter bug, shiny black and nearly three inches long. Stuart jumped and writhed, turning one way and the other, but Dan didn’t need to see clearly to know what was happening. The bug’s six legs had plunged immediately into Stuart’s skin; now its two sharp mandibles, each half an inch in length, were folded under its body, tearing his flesh. Blood welled up from under the bug, and as it moved down his leg, it left a trail of raw, bleeding flesh behind. Stuart clawed weakly at the bug with his other arm, which was obviously disabled. That didn’t matter because Dan knew that tearing a biter bug off your body was virtually impossible. As soon as you started, its legs dug deeper, and you would wind up tearing out a chunk of your own flesh, which was just as painful, and somehow more awful, than letting the bug continue for the half minute or so until it was satisfied and flew away.

Dan wanted to yell. He heard the words “Why are you doing this” form in his throat, but he couldn’t speak. He tried to lift the chair to get out of the room, to smash the window, to kill the woman sitting calmly next to him, but the chair was bolted to the floor. He couldn’t move — he couldn’t even look away. The first bug was gone, leaving an oozing wound behind, but two more bugs had been released and attached themselves to Stuart’s body, one to his chest and one to his arm. Helpless and in agony, he was trying to pull away from the wall and he was screaming. No sound came through the window and the silence, compounded by Dan’s own inability to speak, made the scene somehow more horrible.

Dan closed his eyes. If there was nothing else that he could do, he could at least deny this woman the satisfaction of making him watch his friend be tortured. Beneath his sorrow, fury and horror, he sensed another feeling, some indefinable nausea that lay deep inside him. After a few minutes, he felt compelled to look again. Stuart had collapsed and was lying against the wall. There were four or five bugs on his body now, and one was on his cheek, moving toward his eye. He was still writhing, but had also begun to shake compulsively. Blood was oozing from bug tracks on his arms, legs and stomach, covering his body and dripping onto the floor. He was going into shock; they were killing him. Dan had never felt so angry or so powerless. It was hard to believe that this was real, that Stuart was really dying, that in a few more minutes he would cease to exist. The bugs flew away, one leaving a pool of blood in his eye socket, and then three more, five more, came flying in. Dan closed his eyes again. They were wet with tears; he felt himself sobbing and gasping for breath through the greasy gag.

Suddenly, there were people around him, three or four. They released his head, unstrapped his arms, stood him up, handcuffed his arms behind him again, turned him around and dragged him out into the corridor. In the process, he caught a glimpse of Stuart’s prostrate, motionless body through the window, covered in blood, with bugs still crawling over it. Once in the corridor, he was dragged a short distance, through an opening, and into an even narrower corridor. One of his captors opened a door and he was pushed into a brightly lit grey room. The steady sense of dread that Dan was feeling congealed into panic. They were going to set the bugs on him the way they did to Stuart. They were going to kill him. He was going to die.

His gag was removed, his handcuffs were opened, and then one arm, still cuffed, was attached to a metal loop in the wall, just the way that they had done to Stuart. Then all the guards left the room and closed the door behind him. He was alone. In front of him was a large plastic window, dark and blank. The woman was sitting behind it, he was certain, and she was going to watch as the biter bugs killed him.

How could this be happening? He felt a roaring in his head, he couldn’t think. There was something he had to figure out, something he had to make sense out of, but he didn’t know what it was. Would he really die, would he really stop existing? What about his children and Garenika? “If I die now, I’ll never see them again” he realized. “No, there will be no ‘I’ not to see them. The world will come to an end. It can’t be, it can’t be.”

He heard the unmistakable, high pitched buzz of a biter bug flying toward him through the air. Instinctively, he knew what to do—he had been trained in Mark Granowski’s department before he went to central Texas for a research project. The bugs flew in straight lines when they were attacking. He waited until it almost reached him, then slapped it with his free hand. It fell to the ground with a sickeningly solid thud, but right side up. Black and huge, it crawled a few inches, its long mandibles opening and closing. Even though he had his shoes on – he realized that they hadn’t taken off his clothes – he knew there was no point trying to crush the bug; its carapace was much too hard. After a few moments, the bug’s wings started vibrating, it rose up in the air, and flew toward him once more. Again, he slapped it and it fell down right side up. The hideous thing crawled a few inches and rose up again. Once again he slapped it and it thudded to the ground, right side up again. Its wings vibrated, it rose up and flew toward him, he slapped it hard and it fell down again, this time on its back. Immediately, he stamped his foot on it and felt the satisfying crunch as its body cracked beneath his shoe.

But what was the point, he asked himself a moment later. They could release another bug, five more, fifty more. The pain would become worse and worse and he would die, just like Stuart. No, not just die — the world would end, there would be nothing. The roaring in his head returned, the sense of dread and disbelief. It couldn’t be. He heard himself bellowing “No, No, No, No.” There was a high pitched buzz behind him, and as he spun around, the biter bug slammed into his upper arm. He felt its feet dig in, and then the burning, searing pain as its huge mandibles, now tucked under its carapace, began to tear his flesh. He could only stare at it in horror. Blood rose up under it and turned his light blue shirt sleeve sickly purple. The bug moved slowly down his arm, leaving a track of bloody, torn up flesh, visible inside the inch-wide tear in his shirtsleeve. The pain was unbearable. He couldn’t believe that the twenty five or thirty seconds that they bug was on him seemed so long, and he felt a moment of relief when it finally flew away, dripping blood behind it.

He had to organize his thoughts, there was something that he had to do, but what was it? How could he stop existing? Would he live somehow, because of his research? Would he live in the memories of Josh, Senly, Michael and Garenika? But he wouldn’t be here, there would be no world for him. An image, a memory, suddenly came into his mind. He was walking across the University of Utah campus with Garenika. They had just met, he had said something to her and she laughed, in a soft, silvery tone, and he wondered if they would end up having children together. Now he saw his home in Arches Park City. His father was reading to him, his mother came into the room with the poster of the Milky Way, the one he had wanted and that hung in his room when he was growing up.

After a few minutes, he realized that no more bugs had come. A sudden surge of hope passed through him. He was afraid to even form the thought, afraid that it would somehow preclude the actuality. But the door opened, one of the guards came into the room with a suppressed smile on his face, removed the handcuff from his wrist, removed the other part from the loop on the wall and walked out with it. The lights in the room suddenly dimmed. Dan sank down onto the floor. He took the bottom of his shirt and pressed it against the wound on his arm, as much to relieve the burning pain as to staunch the flow of blood. He became aware that he was sobbing, but whether it was with relief or anguish was impossible for him to say.

Several hours later, the door opened, and before Dan could react, a tray with clothing, a plate of food and an inflatable mattress was pushed into the room. The door closed again. The clothing was an ordinary, open collar white shirt, a pair of dark brown trousers and dark green undershorts. Dan became aware that the front of his own pants was wet and realized he had pissed himself when the bug attacked him. Next to the clothes was a large blue, disinfectant bandage. Slowly and deliberately, Dan stripped off his clothes, wrapped the bandage around his arm, which immediately felt a bit better, and put on the clothes he’d been given. Looking around, he saw an open hole in the opposite corner of the room, walked over and peed down the hole.

He went back to the tray, took a bite of one roll. All at once, he felt nauseated, ran to the hole and vomited. He couldn’t stop; he vomited repeatedly and convulsively, long after there was anything left in his stomach. The roaring in his head returned, he felt intensely chilled and his body began shaking uncontrollably. After what seemed like a long time, the shakes and chills subsided, but they were followed by a slowly intensifying fear. Suppose they turned off the lights and began to fill the room with water. He could feel himself being forced to the top of the room, feel his head pressed against the ceiling when only a few inches of air remained, feel the water filling his nose and mouth as he gasped helplessly for breath. Suppose the walls of the room began to close from both directions, pressing against his body until he was trapped tiny, pitch black space. Suppose they raised the temperature until searing air burned his lungs with every breath as he began to suffocate.

Dan tried to calm himself. He wondered if he should use Jiangtan –why hadn’t he thought of it when he was watching Stuart die — but somehow didn’t think that it would help. Had the bread been poisoned? That wouldn’t make any sense. Clearly, they meant to keep him alive. Were they holding him for ransom or as a hostage for some political purpose? In any case, once the Mountain American government found out about it, they would arrange for his return, he reassured himself. He decided he should try to sleep; he was obviously exhausted. He inflated the mattress, lay down, and closed his eyes. The biter bug wound on his arm was still throbbing and his head ached. He tried to think his college days, of his evenings with friends, of nineteenth century novels, of Garenika, but it all seemed thin and pointless. Finally, his thoughts returned to his early fascination with astronomy, and he pictured himself touring the moons and planets of the solar system and then venturing out among the undiscovered worlds that orbited the distant stars.

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About the Author

Edward Rubin is University Professor of Law and Political Science at Vanderbilt University. He specializes in administrative law, constitutional law and legal theory. He is the author of Soul, Self and Society: The New Morality and the Modern State (Oxford, 2015); Beyond Camelot: Rethinking Politics and Law for the Modern State (Princeton, 2005) and two books with Malcolm Feeley, Federalism: Political Identity and Tragic Compromise (Michigan, 2011) and Judicial Policy Making and the Modern State: How the Courts Reformed America’s Prisons (Cambridge, 1998). In addition, he is the author of two casebooks, The Regulatory State (with Lisa Bressman and Kevin Stack) (2nd ed., 2013); The Payments System (with Robert Cooter) (West, 1990), three edited volumes (one forthcoming) and The Heatstroke Line (Sunbury, 2015) a science fiction novel about the fate of the United States if climate change is not brought under control. Professor Rubin joined Vanderbilt Law School as Dean and the first John Wade–Kent Syverud Professor of Law in July 2005, serving a four-year term that ended in June 2009. Previously, he taught at the University of Pennsylvania Law School from 1998 to 2005, and at the Berkeley School of Law from 1982 to 1998, where he served as an associate dean. Professor Rubin has been chair of the Association of American Law Schools’ sections on Administrative Law and Socioeconomics and of its Committee on the Curriculum. He has served as a consultant to the People’s Republic of China on administrative law and to the Russian Federation on payments law. He received his undergraduate degree from Princeton and his law degree from Yale.
.
He has published four books, three edited volumes, two casebooks, and more than one hundred articles about various aspects of law and political theory. The Heatstroke Line is his first novel.

Website & Social Links:

WEBSITE | TWITTER | FACEBOOK

 

Book Blast – THE TIGRESS AND THE YOGI

 

 

Hot off the presses! THE TIGRESS AND THE YOGI by Shelley Schanfield is
available now! Sign up to win a paperback copy of her book or one of 5 ebooks!

 

Title:
THE TIGRESS AND THE YOGI
Author: Shelley Schanfield
Publisher: Lake House
Books
Pages: 382
Genre: Historical Fantasy
A talking tigress.
A wandering yogi.
A young woman’s harrowing journey through an ancient land where chaos
threatens gods and mortals alike.
A tigress speaks to the outcaste girl Mala, and as she flees in
terror, she encounters an old yogi. She offers him hospitality. As an
untouchable, her very shadow may sully the holy man, but he accepts, repaying
her kindness with stories that awaken her hunger for forbidden spiritual
knowledge. Soon after he leaves, she is orphaned and enslaved, but the warrior
goddess Durga appears in a vision and offers her hope. 
Thus begins her quest for liberation, on which she meets gods and goddesses, high-born
Brahmins and lowly keepers of the cremation grounds, outlaws and kings, and
young Prince Siddhartha Gautama, who is prophesied to become the Buddha. She
finds happiness for a brief time, but when she loses everything, her quest goes
terribly wrong. She becomes an outlaw warrior, worshipping the dark goddess,
Kali. She masters occult powers but descends into madness, misusing the
supernatural gifts the goddess bestows, and when she again encounters the old
yogi, she must decide whether to continue on the path of bloody vengeance or
seek transcendence through the power of yoga.
The Tigress and the Yogi is an historical fantasy that brings to life the
vivid mythical world of ancient
India and transports the reader
to the Buddha’s time in a story filled with love and fear, anger and desire.
This visionary novel
creates a memorable portrait of a powerful woman, her extraordinary daughter,
and the men they challenge and inspire. It examines the yearning for spiritual
transformation and inner peace, and the ways in which the pursuit of wisdom and
compassion can go terribly wrong.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Book Excerpt:

Fragrant trees shaded the
grove, though open patches among the leaves admitted some dappled sunlight.
After the thick, dense forest, this place was like a spacious and cool green
temple. There was a tall, slender stone pillar set in a circle of stones in the
very center. The snake-loving Nagas, the most fearsome of the hidden forest
tribes, must have sacrificed here once. Nagas had not been seen near the
village in years, but everyone still feared them. Sometimes when a village man
disappeared, people whispered that the dark ones had sacrificed him to their
Great Mother, She who was ancient as the earth.
Mala shrugged off a whisper of
unease. It was so peaceful and beautiful, there could be no danger. She crawled
to a tree trunk and curled up against it to rest awhile. The birds and insects
remained silent. Her own breathing was loud in her ears. It felt good just to
rest her hand on her belly as it rose and fell. Soon she was aware of nothing
else.
Her back against the tree and
her head nodding, Mala slipped into a strange new place of lights and sounds. The
tree’s roots cradled her and the earth’s coolness was like a soothing caress.
Light fell from the leaves above like drops of water. Then she gasped.
On a tigress’s back, a many-armed,
beautiful goddess appeared in radiant splendor, waving hands carrying weapons.
One hand the goddess held before her breasts in a strange gesture, thumb and
forefinger touching. The other she held out toward Mala, and from its upward-facing
palm shot a beam of light. Mala prostrated before the vision.
Om, Divine One,” Mala said. Om!”
The bejeweled goddess
dismounted from the tigress and with her two free hands lifted her ruby and
diamond garland from around her neck, smiling as she did so.
I am Durga, Mala. Durga held out the garland. One day this will be yours. As Mala reached for the sparkling
necklace, the red jewels began to drip blood. Mala cried out.
She woke. The vision flitted at
the edges of consciousness like a wild animal hiding in the forest’s shadows.
Dusk was approaching. In the distance, there was something or someone: a horse
whinnied, human voices called and laughed. Or did she imagine it? Was Durga
only a dream?
No. The warrior goddess was
real. Warriors had strength and courage. It was a sign. Mala must be strong and
courageous, too. But what did the jewels dripping blood mean?
That when a warrior fights for
justice, blood is shed.

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About the Author

 

Shelley Schanfield’s passion for
Buddhism and yoga arose sixteen years ago, when she and her son earned black
belts in Tae Kwon Do. The links between the martial arts and Buddhist techniques
to calm and focus the mind fascinated her. By profession a librarian, Shelley
plunged into research about the time, place, and spiritual traditions that 2500
years ago produced Prince Siddhartha, who became the Buddha. Yoga, in some
form, has a role in all of these traditions. Its transformational teachings
soon prompted Shelley to hang up her black belt and begin a yoga practice that
she follows to this day.
Because she loves historical
fiction, Shelley looked for a good novel about the Buddha. When she didn’t find
one that satisfied her, she decided to write her own novels based on the
spiritual struggles of women in the Buddha’s time. She published the first book
in the Sadhana Trilogy, The Tigress and the Yogi, in 2016 and will
publish the second, The Mountain Goddess in early 2017.

WEBSITE | TWITTER | FACEBOOK

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Giveaway Details:

Shelley is giving away one
autographed copy of The Tigress and the Yogi PLUS 5 ebooks!

Terms & Conditions:
  • By entering the giveaway, you
    are confirming you are at least 18 years old.
  • Six winners will be chosen
    via Rafflecopter.
  • This giveaway ends midnight January 27.
  • Winner will be contacted via
    email on February 1.
  • Winner has 48 hours to reply.
Good luck everyone!

ENTER TO WIN!

Book Blast – FIRE AND SWORD

sword-and-sorcery-banner

The three volume set of Fantasy/Horror Author Dylan Doose’s SWORD AND SORCERY SERIES is available now! You can find out about all three books below!

 

Title: FIRE AND SWORD
Author: Dylan Doose
Publisher: Independent
Pages: 332
Genre: Fantasy/Horror
Condemned to hang for their crimes, they’ll march instead to perish as heroes, or live as free men.
A broken nation in need of a savior – ravaged by plague, decimated by dark magic, infiltrated by a foreign evil seeking to dominate from within. Three will rise to save the beleaguered land. But will they be enough?
A fantasy adventure for fans of Joe Abercrombie, Mark Lawrence and Scott Lynch!
Three men condemned to die: Aldous Weaver, a heretic monk turned sorcerer, imprisoned for accidentally incinerating the leader of his order. Kendrick the Cold, an infamous crusader turned fugitive, is a villain who knows he can never be a hero. Theron Ward, an aristocrat with a penchant for slaughtering monsters, and a legend in his own mind.
When the kingdom of Brynth is threatened by a far greater evil, the unlikely trio must make a choice — seek to escape this land that cries for their execution, or find the true heroes within themselves. And then, armed with fire and sword, march together against the forces of darkness. But can three such disparate warriors ever prevail?
 **Fire and Sword received an Honorable Mention from Library Journal 2016 and a Shelf Unbound Magazine
Notable 100 for 2015**
Don’t miss the dark fantasy that reviewers are calling ‘gritty, fast-paced and compelling’—get your copy of Fire and Sword today!

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About the Book:
Title: CATACOMBS OF TIME
Author: Dylan Doose
Publisher: Independent
Pages: 59
Genre: Fantasy/Horror
A fantasy adventure for fans of Joe Abercrombie, Mark Lawrence and Scott Lynch!
In a world where the Rata Plaga and ghouls feast on the dead, doctor Gaige De’Brouillard believes science, not magic, conquers all. 
Even death is just an equation to be solved. 
When De’Brouillard is called upon by the Lord Regent to cure a curse and save one of the damned, he must battle for his career, his faith in science, and even his life. In the darkest slums and deepest catacombs, the doctor finds himself staring death in the eye with no scientific solution at hand. Has the doctor finally come across a question that science cannot answer, and will he pay with his life?
Don’t miss the dark fantasy that reviewers are calling ‘visceral,’ ‘fantastic,’ and ‘intriguing’—get your
copy of Catacombs of Time today!

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About the Book:
Title: THE PYRES
Author: Dylan Doose
Publisher: Independent
Pages: 268
Genre: Fantasy/Horror
Once again, three unlikely heroes must band together in a fiery conflict between gods and demons.
A country ravaged by civil war, now threatened with evil unleashed by rivers of blood. Three must rise again to save the beleaguered land and thwart a dark prophecy.
A fantasy adventure for fans of Joe Abercrombie, Mark Lawrence and Scott Lynch!
Theron Ward, Aldous Weaver and Kendrick the Cold must band together and fight again. This time, they are caught in the timeless clash of gods and demons, and led by the dark prophecy of dreams.
A ruthless warlord, the Dog Eater, rises out of the rivers of blood from civil war. As friend and foe reach out from futures past, the three will see a city of white stone turn black with ash … and the only way forward is through the fire. One thing is certain, none of them will ever be the same. And one will be transformed in ways he never dreamed. Dare the three depend on the blood ties of the past to carry them through this terrible night?
Don’t miss the next thrilling installment in the dark fantasy that reviewers are calling ‘gritty, fast-paced and compelling’—get your copy of The Pyres today!

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Book Excerpt from FIRE AND SWORD:

The thing left a trail of thick black blood and green pus.
More a stream than a trail, if Theron Ward, hunter of monsters, wanted to be
precise. It was wounded and wounded horribly, but not dead.
Grimmshire was not the only town ruined by the plague. As
far as Theron knew, the whole country had a piece of it. The rats came with
those terrible black boils. Rats larger than dogs. In the beginning, they came
in swarms. Now they appeared alone or in small roving packs, as if a once
powerful tether that bound the group had been weakened.
Four years ago, they had come and spewed their filth into
the town. Two days was all it had taken until half the town was crawling and
squealing with the rats, puking up pus and bursting black boils. The other half
of the town became the swarm’s feast.
Those who didn’t turn simply couldn’t. The priests said that
only the sinners turned, that the pious were protected from the plague. Theron
doubted that, for he was not a pious man and he knew a thing or two about
sin—sins of the flesh mostly—and he had been exposed to enough plague to wipe
out a city.
Yet he had not turned.
Theron suspected something more sinister than nature, or the
work of gods and devils to be the villainy incarnate that had unleashed such
wickedness upon the land. He suspected something more human, or slightly more
than human. Unpopular opinion, but his opinion nonetheless.
It was midday, but
it was dark in the ruined town. The clouds shrouded the sun, gray and
threatening, but not a drop of rain. The once green pastures were yellow as far
as the eye could see. Once this had been a bustling, happy little town. Now
there were just the colors of pus and piss and ash all around, beneath those
suffocating gray clouds.
There came a rustling sound from the chapel, the one
building in the town not entirely burned to the ground. It had been painted
white when it was built, and painted black with soot and ash when death had
come to its town. The stained glass windows were shattered, shards of the
vibrant panes scattered round in the dirt and the yellow grass.
Theron burst through the door. His skin crawled at the sight
of the wounded thing within the chapel; they always made his skin crawl, though
he had killed over a hundred. He could kill over a thousand and still his skin
would crawl.
Theron was a beast hunter, had been for nearly a decade, but
the rats had always disturbed him the most, more than any creature or demon.
What made the things so terrible was not the giant, rotting buckteeth that
burst from the mouth. It was not the boils or the tufts of matted fur. Not the
long tail or the brutish muscles, not the naked, sagging female breasts or the
male parts dangling, filthy and crusted.
It was the eyes, for the eyes remained entirely human. And
so, Theron was certain that a human being was still left in there, with no
control over what it had become and begging for its torment to end.
This one had been a woman once, perhaps a mother, a lover, a
sister, a daughter. For a dreadful moment he pictured his own sister taking the
form of the wretched thing before him.
About the Author:

Writer. Sculptor. Bad fitness advice. In between writing books, award winning fantasy author Dylan Doose fills his not-so-busy schedule with martial arts, mountain biking, paddle surfing, weight lifting, and of course HBO, PS4 and increasing the size of his beloved personal library. Dylan’s Fire and Sword received an honorable mention from Library Journal in 2016 and was a Shelf Unbound Notable 100 for 2015.

WEBSITE | TWITTER | FACEBOOK

Blog Tour – Never Go Alone

 

Hot off the presses! NEVER GO ALONE by Denison Hatch is
available now! Please a comment below and say hi!

 Title: Never Go Alone
Author: Denison Hatch
Publisher: Lookout Press
Pages: 300
Genre: Thriller/Mystery/Police Procedural

A rash of elaborate cat burglaries of luxury buildings in Manhattan
has the police and mayor panicked. When a group of social media obsessed
millennials—a loosely organized crew that call themselves “urban explorers”—are
suspected in the heists, NYPD detective Jake Rivett is assigned the case.Already undercover with one foot on each side of the blue line, Rivett is
ordered to infiltrate the group and discern responsibility. Battling against
both his own personal demons and misgivings regarding his superiors, Rivett
dives deep into the urban exploration scene in pursuit of the truth. But what,
and who, he finds—deep in the sewers, up in the cranes above under-construction
skyscrapers, and everywhere else in New York—will
change not only Jake, but the city itself.

Purchase at Amazon.

Book Excerpt:

Two feet hammered the pavement. With movement as rapid as it
was controlled, the explorer’s muscles tensed for what was to come. The target,
all twenty stories of unabashedly neo-classical splendor, towered across the
street. Infiltrating the building would be easy, but the next step was
difficult. And the rest? Brilliant meets impossible.
The explorer was wearing a small camera on his chest, which captured his
viewpoint with slightly shaky but high-definition clarity. A parking post stood
ahead—cement poured into a strong iron tube. The man sprinted forward and
vaulted onto the post. He maintained his momentum, springing off the top of the
post onto an enormous industrial air-conditioning unit. Now eight feet in the
air, he had only one stride before his next jump. He sailed through the empty
air, arms outstretched, fingers tensing—a twelve-foot-high brick wall ahead.
Just reaching the wall, the explorer’s fingers grasped the edge. His right hand
couldn’t find traction. His fingernails scraped desperately as he started to
fall. But two fingers on his left hand did their job. He hung on, swinging
precariously before centering himself and pulling his body up and over the
wall.
The explorer dropped down on the other side. His body contracted into a tight
ball as he careened toward the construction gravel below. At the last moment,
he rotated and achieved a rolling landing—lessening gravity’s impact. He came
to a stop. Breathing heavily, he took a brief respite from the task at hand.
His chest heaved as he peered around the construction site that he’d just
infiltrated. He knew that a lone security guard sat in a booth on the other
side of the block. But he also knew the guard was engrossed in his cell phone,
only stopping occasionally to gaze onto an adjoining street. As long as the
explorer was quiet, the guard would be none the wiser. The coast was clear. He
reached for a mic attached to the side strap of his backpack.
“All silent. Only one clown in the circus,” the explorer whispered into the
microphone. Still out of breath, he reached for his hydration tube and took a
long sip of water. Then he rotated and watched as three more compatriots
covertly slid over the top of the tall brick wall.
They each hit the ground in the same rolling manner, limiting trauma with
expert precision. The entire crew was clad in dark outdoor technical clothes,
breathable shirts, top-of-the-line Gore-Tex pants and trail runners with all
reflective surfaces blocked out by black Sharpie. Their faces were covered by
bandanas or ski masks. Respirators, climbing gear, knives, and cameras were
both hanging from and strapped to their belts and backpacks.
The crew split in three different directions, acting as lookouts for any errant
guard or construction manager onsite in the middle of the night. It was
unlikely, but their plans called for extreme caution. That’s what had made them
so successful—their secret sauce was not daring; it was preparation. After
confirming that the others were in position, the explorer focused on the
mission at hand.
An enormous tower crane stood against the edge of the construction site. Built
like a towering T, the machine’s base was a concrete shithouse holding up three
hundred feet of crisscrossing steel. The explorer expertly grabbed the side of
the crane. Instead of heading for the control booth at the bottom, he simply
began to ascend up the latticework that made up the sides—hands followed by
legs on an upstream ladder.
Stopping midway to catch his breath, the man couldn’t help but look down.
Vertigo’s tendrils reached out like forbidden fruit. His foot wavered to catch
hold of a one-inch bar of the latticework. But he controlled the panic,
centered himself, and continued climbing.
A few minutes later, the explorer reached the top of the crane. He pulled
himself over the T’s edge and gazed along the hundred-and-fifty-foot-length
atop the long horizontal span. Instead of traversing in the direction of the
construction site from which he’d originated, the explorer headed the opposite
way. Careful with the placement of his feet, he headed towards the side of the
crane that extended halfway across the street below. It was a slow process. The
latticework consisted of both ninety-degree and diagonal pieces of steel, like
a series of bars with a crosshatch pattern strung across it. And between the
pieces of the crane’s structure was nothing—a dark void. One misstep, one
hesitation, one dash of grease and the explorer would plummet over twenty
stories through thin air and become one with the blacktop of the city. It was
not a pleasant thought, making the already difficult process deeply
nerve-wracking.
“You will not bust.” The man talked himself through the fear as he reached the
far end of the crane. He was now extended as far across the street below as the
machinery would take him.
The explorer gazed down the gleaming city from the Upper West Side,
all the way through Midtown and into Chelsea.
It was more than a place now, more than a landscape. By this point at its
evolution, Manhattan represented a
geospatial-and-social coordinate on the razor’s edge of modernity. It was no
longer what the future could be. It was the future itself, right now, happening
in front of one’s eyes and reaching the stage of infinite singularity. As the
years had gone on, the surfaces of the metropolis had become smooth, the lights
perfect, the façades utterly complete. It no longer beckoned for the masses
humbly—it repelled them. The construction site the explorer had ascended from
would soon consist of glass, marble, and sex. That was all, and that was
everything, and if one was rich enough, one could buy it. The new culture
didn’t care for culture itself. It did not bow to subtlety of argument or
freedom of soul. It only knew money—astronomical levels of money. The only
people who could afford to live here would be the progeny of sovereign wealth
fund managers, tech moonshot winners, and industrial titans. Nothing was free,
for anyone—not even the views.
Except for our explorer—right now. It was his, alone. He admired the panorama
of New York. Yes, there was the
mission, but this was deserving of a photograph. He pulled the camera off his
chest harness, activated selfie mode, and turned it towards himself. He lined
up, framing the background of the city behind him. Click. The camera’s flash
erupted. He flipped his hand down, as if to form an upside down V slogan.
Click. Another flash—another selfie—his face shrouded by a hood throughout the
entire process.
Having finished memorializing the scene, the man ducked down towards the crane.
As he secured something to the crane, he gazed away from the construction site
and towards his target.
A sharp contrast to the modern structures popping up like weeds, the limestone
apartment building across the street was built during the turn of the
century—the last century, not this. Its hulking body did not undulate as it
rose. Instead the building consisted of strong vertical bands that ran up to
form elaborate choragic arches and support the pointed top of the roof. Four
large penthouse balconies graced each corner of the building, easily visible to
the explorer who stood above them on the crane. He breathed deeply, then jumped
off the crane into the darkness below.
Suspended by a climbing rope, the man careened from the top of the crane and
over the street, until he was positioned directly above the penthouse balcony
of the old building. The pendulum continued, however, and he swung back.
The second time he was ready. His toes landed lithely on the penthouse’s
balcony. He paced towards the enclosed glass greenhouse. One of the small
windows of the greenhouse was unlatched, exposing a sliver of access.
The explorer carefully maneuvered the window open.
He climbed into the penthouse.
And the city’s lights twinkled as if nothing had happened at all . . .
About the Author
denison-hatch
Denison Hatch is a screenwriter and novelist based in Los Angeles.
Although he lives in the proverbial desert now, he is originally from Delaware—land
of rolling hills and DuPont gunpowder. Denison
has a number of feature and television projects in development, including his
original screenplay, Vanish Man, which is set up at Lionsgate. A graduate of Cornell
University, Denison
lives with his wife and big dog in a little house in Hollywood.
Never Go Alone is the second novel in the Jake Rivett series.

WEBSITE | TWITTER | FACEBOOK | GOODREADS

 

 

VBT ~ KILLER PURSUIT

 

We’re happy to be hosting Jeff Gunhus’ KILLER PURSUIT Virtual Book Tour today! Jeff is giving away a grand prize of a $25 Amazon Gift Card and one autographed paperback plus four runners up will receive an autographed paperback copy of his book!  Enter below and leave a comment at this blog for five extra points!
Title:
KILLER PURSUIT
Author: Jeff Gunhus
Publisher: Seven Guns Press
Pages: 352
Genre: Thriller
When a high-society call girl is
murdered in her
Georgetown home, investigators find two cameras hidden in the walls
of her bedroom. One has its memory erased, presumably by the murderer. The
second is connected to the Internet through an encrypted connection…and
no-one knows who’s on the other end.
Special Agent Allison McNeil is
asked by beleaguered FBI Director Clarence Mason to run an off-the-record
investigation of the murder because of the murder’s similarity to a case she
worked a year earlier. Allison knows the most direct path to apprehending the
killer is to find the videos, but the rumors that the victim’s client list may
have included Mason’s political enemies has her worried about the director’s
motives. As she starts her investigation, she quickly discovers that she’s not
the only one pursuing the videos. In fact, the most aggressive person racing
against her might be the murderer himself.

For More
Information

Killer
Pursuit is available at Amazon.
Discuss
this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads.

 
Book Excerpt:

Allison
McNeil tensed when she spotted the first shadow dart through the mist and take
cover behind a tree. In the early-morning light it took her a while to pick out
all six members of the Hostage Rescue Team approaching the cabin, but within a
minute she could clearly see the tactical team converging on their target.
 The small building stood on a rise, up from the swampy,
flood-prone land around it. Wood-slated walls tilted precariously inward,
twisting the windows into deformed rectangles. Moss and dead leaves covered the
roof. The place smelled and looked like decay, well on its way to inevitable
reclamation by the weeds and vines choking the cabin to a miserable death.
And, if
Allison was right, the place deserved what it got. Hell, if she was right, she
had half a mind to take a match to the place after everything was done.
She hunkered
down behind a fallen tree, her head barely clearing the top to see the building
and the team closing in. A trickle of sweat started at the base of her neck and
went the length of her spine. She adjusted the Kevlar vest, under her light
windbreaker emblazoned with large yellow letters. FBI. It felt ridiculous to
wear the windbreaker when it was in the ’80s before daybreak with the Louisiana humidity
hovering at about a thousand percent, but if it meant that the hotheads with
assault rifles could more easily identify her as a friendly, then she was happy
to have it.
Garret Morrison shifted his weight next to
her, stretching out a leg and rubbing his knee. She gave him a sideways look.
“You all right?” she whispered.
He scowled at her. They both knew she didn’t
give a damn about him. The comment was intended as a dig at the
fifty-three-year-old Garret who prided himself on being in better shape than
the agents beneath him. Even though he ran the Behavioral Analysis Unit, home
of the FBI’s fabled profilers who spent more time in the heads of the criminals
they chased than in the field, he required an aggressive physical program for
his people. Everything about Morrison is a throwback to the old male-dominated
Bureau. A slicked-back head of hair with just the right amount of grey to lend
him gravitas without making him look old, a square jaw out of a mountaineering
magazine, cold steel-blue eyes that seemed to look through people instead of at
them. Unless they were trained on an attractive female, in which case his eyes
gave their full attention to the area below the chin and above the
waistline.
“Worry about yourself,” Garret grumbled. He
turned to Doug Browning, a junior agent who followed Garret around like a
little puppy. “Jesus, Doug. Not so close.”
Allison turned back to the cabin and raised
her binoculars, not bothering to hide the smile on her lips. Garret was a
legend in the Bureau for his work hunting America’s worst
criminals, but Allison’s own legend had grown since her work on the Arnie
Milhouse case a year earlier. While that case had given her credibility, she
knew she was just as likely to be referred to as the woman who’d broken Garret
Morrison’s nose when he’d made one too many unwanted advances while she was a
trainee. And, while she wanted to be known for her work, she didn’t mind that
piece of fame following her around.
“Alpha team in position,” said a voice
through the small speaker in her ear. She noticed Garret put a finger to the
side of his head and nod. He looked over at her.
“You better be right about this,” he
whispered.
Allison shook her head. For all his
brilliance—and, regardless of how she felt personally about him, she recognized
that he was brilliant—Garret’s
transparency could border on the inane. What he was really saying was that if
the lunatic Allison’s research had tracked to this location wasn’t holed up in
this backwoods cabin, if the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team had been activated and
deployed for no reason, then the blame would drop on her like a bag of bricks.
If Sam Kraw was in there, Allison knew it would be Garret standing in front of
the cameras taking credit for the HRT mission and the capture of America’s most
wanted fugitive.
She pushed the thought away. As long as they
caught the bastard and ended his multi-year killing spree in the Southeast, she
didn’t give a damn who got the credit.
Allison moved her binoculars. The tactical
team was in place around the cabin, peering through scopes with infrared
capabilities. If there was someone hiding in the shadows of a window or
doorway, they wouldn’t be hiding for long.
On some signal unseen by Allison, the men
began a steady, crouched advance to the building. She realized she was holding
her breath so she blew out her air slowly between pinched lips.
“Relax, McNeil,” Garret muttered. “You’re
making me nervous.”
The two members of the tactical squad
approaching from the front reached the deck that wrapped around the front of
the building. As they strode across it, the old wood floorboards groaned. The
men froze. The seconds stretched out. Allison became suddenly aware of the hum
of insects in the air around her. The dampness of her own skin. The sound of a
bird calling in the distance. All of her senses were wired tight. An entire
year of her life was wrapped up in the next few seconds. And if she’d got it
wrong, Garret would have the ammo he’d been looking for to get her out of his
unit once and for all. But she wasn’t worried about herself. What really
bothered her was the chance that she had it right, that this was Kraw’s hideout,
but that somehow they’d spooked him and he’d already slipped away. If that had
happened, he’d be hundreds of miles away by tomorrow, scouting for his next
victim as he traveled.
Movement in the cabin. Just a flutter. Like
a bird trapped in a cage. Only her intuition told her it was more than a bird.
It had been an arm. A human arm. Sam Kraw.
Based on the lack of movement from the
tactical team, she realized no one else had seen it.
“I’ve got movement,” she whispered into her
mic. “Window to the right of the front door. An arm.”
“I didn’t see anything,” Garret
whispered.
Allison ignored him. The men around the
cabin responded immediately, reorienting to the front door. Guns pointed at the
window.
One of the men produced a miniram, a high
impact, brute force breaching tool. Coordinating with his partner, he crouched
next to the door while the other man readied a flash-bang grenade.
There was a pause, as if someone had pressed
a button on a TV remote. Everyone was in place. The air seemed to still as if the
world knew something was about to happen. Allison had her binoculars trained on
the window where she’d seen the movement. If Kraw was inside, then the
nightmare was almost over. She’d know in a few seconds whether that was the
case or not.
But in that second, she saw the movement
again.
Only this time, she knew something was
wrong.
It was a man’s arm, she saw it clearly this
time. But it was too stiff. The color was off. And, attached at the shoulder,
she saw a coil of wire.
A mannequin arm on a spring.
Meant to make them think someone was inside.
It was a trap.

 

 

About the Author

 

Jeff Gunhus is the USA TODAY bestselling author of thriller and horror novels
for adults and the middle grade/YA series, The Templar Chronicles. The first
book, Jack Templar Monster Hunter, was written in an effort to get his
reluctant reader eleven-year-old son excited about reading. It worked and a new
series was born. His books for adults have reached the Top 30 on Amazon, have
been recognized as Foreword Reviews Book of the Year Finalists and reached the
USA TODAY bestseller list.
After his experience with his
son, he is passionate about helping parents reach young reluctant readers and
is active in child literacy issues. As a father of five, he leads an active
life in
Maryland with his wife Nicole by trying to constantly keep up
with their kids. In rare moments of quiet, he can be found in the back of the
City Dock Cafe in
Annapolis working on his next novel or on JeffGunhus.com.
His latest book is the thriller,
KillerPursuit.
For More Information

 

Giveaway

Jeff Gunhus is giving away a grand
prize of $25 Amazon Gift Card plus one autographed copy of his book and 4
runner ups will receive an autographed copy his book as well!

Terms & Conditions:
  • By entering
    the giveaway, you are confirming you are at least 18 years old.
  • Five
    winners will be chosen via Rafflecopter to receive either the grand prize
    of a $25 Amazon Gift Card plus one autographed copy of his book or one of
    4 autographed copies of his book
  • This
    giveaway ends midnight October
    28.
  • Winner will
    be contacted via email on October 29.
  • Winner has
    48 hours to reply.
Good luck everyone!

ENTER TO WIN!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Book Blast ~ RAVEN’S PEAK

Raven's Peak banner

About the Author

Lincoln Cole is a Columbus-based author who enjoys traveling and has visited many different parts of the world, including Australia and Cambodia, but always returns home to his pugamonster and wife. His love for writing was kindled at an early age through the works of Isaac Asimov and Stephen King and he enjoys telling stories to anyone who will listen.

For More Information

About the Book:

Raven's Peak

Title: Raven’s Peak
Author: Lincoln Cole
Publisher: Kindle Press
Pages: 276
Genre: Horror/Paranormal Thriller/Urban Fantasy

A quiet little mountain town is hiding a big problem. When the townsfolk of Raven’s Peak start acting crazy, Abigail Dressler is called upon to discover the root of the evil affecting people. She uncovers a demonic threat unlike any she’s ever faced and finds herself in a fight just to stay alive.

Abigail rescues Haatim Arison from a terrifying fate and discovers that he has a family legacy in the supernatural that he knows nothing about. Now she’s forced to protect him, which is easy, but also to trust him if she wants to save the townsfolk of Raven’s Peak. Trust, however, is something hard to have for someone who grew up living on the knife’s edge of danger.

Can they discover the cause of the town’s insanity and put a stop to it before it is too late?

Raven’s Peak is available at Amazon.

Book Excerpt:

“Reverend, you have a visitor.”

He couldn’t remember when he fell in love with the pain. When agony first turned to pleasure, and then to joy. Of course, it hadn’t always been like this. He remembered screaming all those years ago when first they put him in this cell; those memories were vague, though, like reflections in a dusty mirror.

“Open D4.”

A buzz as the door slid open, inconsequential. The aching need was what drove him in this moment, and nothing else mattered. It was a primal desire: a longing for the tingly rush of adrenaline each time the lash licked his flesh. The blood dripping down his parched skin fulfilled him like biting into a juicy strawberry on a warm summer’s day. 

“Some woman. Says she needs to speak with you immediately. She says her name is Frieda.”

A pause, the lash hovering in the air like a poised snake. The Reverend remembered that name, found it dancing in the recesses of his mind. He tried to pull himself back from the ritual, back to reality, but it was an uphill slog through knee-deep mud to reclaim those memories.

It was always difficult to focus when he was in the midst of his cleansing. All he managed to cling to was the name. Frieda. It was the name of an angel, he knew. . . or perhaps a devil.

One and the same when all was said and done.

She belonged to a past life, only the whispers of which he could recall. The ritual reclaimed him, embraced him with its fiery need. His memories were nothing compared to the whip in his hand, its nine tails gracing his flesh.

The lash struck down on his left shoulder blade, scattering droplets of blood against the wall behind him. Those droplets would stain the granite for months, he knew, before finally fading away. He clenched his teeth in a feral grin as the whip landed with a sickening, wet slapping sound.

“Jesus,” a new voice whispered from the doorway. “Does he always do that?”

“Every morning.”

“You’ll cuff him?”

“Why? Are you scared?”

The Reverend raised the lash into the air, poised for another strike.

“Just…man, you said he was crazy…but this…”

The lash came down, lapping at his back and the tender muscles hidden there. He let out a groan of mixed agony and pleasure.

These men were meaningless, their voices only echoes amid the rest, an endless drone. He wanted them to leave him alone with his ritual. They weren’t worth his time.

“I think we can spare the handcuffs this time; the last guy who tried spent a month in the hospital.”

“Regulation says we have to.”

“Then you do it.”

The guards fell silent. The cat-o’-nine-tails, his friend, his love, became the only sound in the roughhewn cell, echoing off the granite walls. He took a rasping breath, blew it out, and cracked the lash again. More blood. More agony. More pleasure.

“I don’t think we need to cuff him,” the second guard decided.

“Good idea. Besides, the Reverend isn’t going to cause us any trouble. He only hurts himself. Right, Reverend?”

The air tasted of copper, sickly sweet. He wished he could see his back and the scars, but there were no mirrors in his cell. They removed the only one he had when he broke shards off to slice into his arms and legs. They were afraid he would kill himself.

How ironic was that?

“Right, Reverend?”

Mirrors were dangerous things, he remembered from that past life. They called the other side, the darker side. An imperfect reflection stared back, threatening to steal pieces of the soul away forever.

“Reverend? Can you hear me?”

The guard reached out to tap the Reverend on the shoulder. Just a tap, no danger at all, but his hand never even came close. Honed reflexes reacted before anyone could possibly understand what was happening.

Suddenly the Reverend was standing. He hovered above the guard who was down on his knees. The man let out a sharp cry, his left shoulder twisted up at an uncomfortable angle by the Reverend’s iron grip.

The lash hung in the air, ready to strike at its new prey.

The Reverend looked curiously at the man, seeing him for the first time. He recognized him as one of the first guardsmen he’d ever spoken with when placed in this cell. A nice European chap with a wife and two young children. A little overweight and balding, but well-intentioned.

Most of him didn’t want to hurt this man, but there was a part—a hungry, needful part—that did. That part wanted to hurt this man in ways neither of them could even imagine. One twist would snap his arm. Two would shatter the bone; the sound as it snapped would be . . .

A symphony rivaling Tchaikovsky.

The second guard—the younger one that smelled of fear—stumbled back, struggling to draw his gun.

“No! No, don’t!”

That from the first, on his knees as if praying. The Reverend wondered if he prayed at night with his family before heading to bed. Doubtless, he prayed that he would make it home safely from work and that one of the inmates wouldn’t rip his throat out or gouge out his eyes. Right now, he was waving his free hand at his partner to get his attention, to stop him.

The younger guard finally worked the gun free and pointed it at the Reverend. His hands were shaking as he said, “Let him go!”

“Don’t shoot, Ed!”

Let him go!”

The older guard, pleading this time: “Don’t piss him off!”

The look that crossed his young partner’s face in that moment was precious: primal fear. It was an expression the Reverend had seen many times in his life, and he understood the thoughts going through the man’s mind: he couldn’t imagine how he might die in this cell, but he believed he could. That belief stemmed from something deeper than what his eyes could see. A terror so profound it beggared reality.

An immutable silence hung in the air. Both guards twitched and shifted, one in pain and the other in terror. The Reverend was immovable, a statue in his sanctuary, eyes boring into the man’s soul.

“Don’t shoot,” the guard on his knees murmured. “You’ll miss, and we’ll be dead.”

I have a clear shot. I can’t miss.”

This time, the response was weaker. “We’ll still be dead.”

A hesitation. The guard lowered his gun in confused fear, pointing it at the floor. The Reverend curled his lips and released, freeing the kneeling guard.

The man rubbed his shoulder and climbed shakily to his feet. He backed away from the Reverend and stood beside the other, red-faced and panting.

“I heard you,” the Reverend said. The words were hard to come by; he’d rarely spoken these last five years.

“I’m sorry, Reverend,” the guard replied meekly. “My mistake.”

“Bring me to Frieda,” he whispered.

“You don’t—” the younger guard began. A sharp look from his companion silenced him.

“Right away, sir.”

“Steve, we should cuff…”

Steve ignored him, turning and stepping outside the cell. The Reverend looked longingly at the lash in his hand before dropping it onto his hard bed. His cultivated pain had faded to a dull ache. He would need to begin anew when he returned, restart the cleansing.

There was always more to cleanse.

They traveled through the black-site prison deep below the earth’s surface, past neglected cells and through rough cut stone. A few of the rusty cages held prisoners, but most stood empty and silent. These prisoners were relics of a forgotten time, most of whom couldn’t even remember the misdeed that had brought them here.

The Reverend remembered his misdeeds. Every day he thought of the pain and terror he had inflicted, and every day he prayed it would wash away.

They were deep within the earth, but not enough to benefit from the world’s core heat. It was kept unnaturally cold as well to keep the prisoners docile. That meant there were only a few lights and frigid temperatures. Last winter he thought he might lose a finger to frostbite. He’d cherished the idea, but it wasn’t to be. He had looked forward to cutting it off.

There were only a handful of guards in this section of the prison, maybe one every twenty meters. The actual security system relied on a single exit shaft as the only means of escape. Sure, he could fight his way free, but locking the elevator meant he would never reach the surface.

And pumping out the oxygen meant the situation would be contained.

The Council didn’t want to bring civilians in on the secretive depths of their hellhole prison. The fewer guards they needed to hire, the fewer people knew of their existence, and any guards who were brought in were fed half-truths and lies about their true purpose. How many such men and women, he’d always wondered, knew who he was or why he was here?

Probably none. That was for the best. If they knew, they never would have been able to do their jobs.

As they walked, the Reverend felt the ritual wash away and he became himself once more. Just a man getting on in years: broken, pathetic, and alone as he paid for his mistakes.

Finally, they arrived at the entrance of the prison: an enclosed set of rooms cut into the stone walls backing up to a shaft. A solitary elevator bridged the prison to the world above, guarded by six men, but that wasn’t where they took him.

They guided him to one of the side rooms, opening the door but waiting outside. Inside were a plain brown table and one-way mirror, similar to a police station, but nothing else.

A woman sat at the table facing away from the door. She had brown hair and a white business suit with matching heels. Very pristine; Frieda was always so well-dressed.

“Here we are,” the guard said. The Reverend didn’t acknowledge the man, but he did walk into the chamber. He strode past the table and sat in the chair facing Frieda.

He studied her: she had deep blue eyes and a mole on her left cheek. She looked older, and he couldn’t remember the last time she’d come to visit him.

Probably not since the day she helped lock him in that cell.

“Close the door,” Frieda said to the guards while still facing the Reverend.

“But ma’am, we are supposed to—”

“Close the door,” she reiterated. Her tone was exactly the same, but an undercurrent was there. Hers was a powerful presence, the type normal people obeyed instinctually. She was always in charge, no matter the situation.

“We will be right out here,” Steve replied finally, pulling the heavy metal door closed.

Silence enveloped the room, a humming emptiness.

He stared at her, and she stared at him. Seconds slipped past.

He wondered how she saw him. What must he look like today? His hair and beard must be shaggy and unkempt with strands of gray mixed into the black. He imagined his face, but with eyes that were sunken, skin that was pale and leathery. Doubtless, he looked thinner, almost emaciated.

He was also covered in blood, the smell of which would be overpowering. It disgusted him; he hated how his daily ritual left him, battering his body to maintain control, yet he answered its call without question.

“Do you remember what you told me the first time we met?” the Reverend asked finally, facing Frieda again.

“We need your help,” Frieda said, ignoring his question. “You’ve been here for a long time, and things have been getting worse.”

“You quoted Nietzsche, that first meeting. I thought it was pessimistic and rhetorical,” he continued.

“Crime is getting worse. The world is getting darker and…”

“I thought you were talking about something that might happen to someone else but never to me. I had no idea just how spot on you were: that you were prophesizing my future,” he spoke. “Do you remember your exact words?”

We need your help,” Frieda finished. Then she added softer: “need your help.”

He didn’t respond. Instead, he said: “Do you remember?”

She sighed. “I do.”

“Repeat it for me.”

She frowned. “When we first met, I said to you: ‘Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster.’”

He nodded. “You were right. Now I am a monster.”

You aren’t a monster,” she whispered.

No,” he said. “I am your monster.”

“Reverend…”

Rage exploded through his body, and he felt every muscle tense. “That is not my name!” he roared, slamming his fist on the table. It made a loud crashing sound, shredding the silence, and the wood nearly folded beneath the impact.

Frieda slid her chair back in an instant, falling into a fighting stance. One hand gripped the cross hanging around her neck, and the other slid into her vest pocket. She wore an expression he could barely recognize, something he’d never seen on her face before.

Fear.

She was afraid of him. The realization stung, and more than a little bit.

The Reverend didn’t move from his seat, but he could still feel heat coursing through his veins. He forced his pulse to slow, his emotions to subside. He loved the feeling of rage but was terrified of what would happen if he gave into it; if he embraced it.

He glanced at the hand in her pocket and realized what weapon she had chosen to defend herself. A pang shot through his chest.

“Would it work?” he asked.

She didn’t answer, but a minute trace of shame crossed her face. He stood slowly and walked around the table, reaching a hand toward her. To her credit, she barely flinched as he touched her. He gently pulled her fist out of the pocket and opened it. In her grip was a small vial filled with water.

Will it work?” he asked.

“Arthur…” she breathed.

The name brought a flood of memories, furrowing his brow. A little girl playing in a field, picking blueberries and laughing. A wife with auburn hair who watched him with love and longing as he played with their daughter. He quashed them; he feared the pain the memories would bring.

That was a pain he did not cherish.

“I need to know,” he whispered.

He slid the vial from her hand and popped the top off. She watched in resignation as he held up his right arm and poured a few droplets onto his exposed skin. It tingled where it touched, little more than a tickle, and he felt his skin turn hot.

But it didn’t burn.

He let out the shuddering breath he hadn’t realized he was holding.

“Thank God,” Frieda whispered.

“I’m not sure She deserves it,” Arthur replied.

“We need your help,” Frieda said again. When he looked at her face once more, he saw moisture in her eyes. He couldn’t tell if it was from relief that the blessed water didn’t work, or sadness that it almost had.

“How can I possibly help?” he asked, gesturing at his body helplessly with his arms. “You see what I am. What I’ve become.”

“I know what you were.”

“What I am no longer,” he corrected. “I was ignorant and foolish. I can never be that man again.”

“Three girls are missing,” she said.

“Three girls are always missing,” he said, “and countless more.”

“But not like these,” she said. “These are ours.”

He was quiet for a moment. “Rescues?”

She nodded. “Two showed potential. All three were being fostered by the Greathouse family.”

He remembered Charles Greathouse, an old and idealistic man who just wanted to help. “Of course, you went to Charles,” Arthur said. “He took care of your little witches until they were ready to become soldiers.”

“He volunteered.”

“And now he’s dead,” Arthur said. Frieda didn’t correct him. “Who took the girls?”

“We don’t know. But there’s more. It killed three of ours.”

“Hunters?”

“Yes.”

“Who?”

“Michael and Rachael Felton.”

“And the third?”

“Abigail.”

He cursed. “You know she wasn’t ready. Not for this.”

“You’ve been here for five years,” Frieda said. “She grew up.”

“She’s still a child.”

“She wasn’t anymore.”

“She’s my child.”

Frieda hesitated, frowning. He knew as well as she did what had happened to put him in this prison and what part Abigail had played in it. If Abigail hadn’t stopped him…

“We didn’t expect . . .” Frieda said finally, sliding away from the minefield in the conversation.

“You never do.”

“I’m sorry,” Frieda said. “I know you were close.”

The Reverend—Arthur—had trained Abigail. Raised her from a child after rescuing her from a cult many years earlier. It was after his own child had been murdered, and he had needed a reason to go on with his life. His faith was wavering, and she had become his salvation. They were more than close. They were family.

And now she was dead.

“What took them? Was it the Ninth Circle?”

“I don’t think so,” she said. “Our informants haven’t heard anything.”

“A demon?”

“Probably several.”

“Where did it take them?” he asked.

“We don’t know.”

“What is it going to do with them?”

This time, she didn’t answer. She didn’t need to.

“So you want me to clean up your mess?”

“It killed three of our best,” Frieda said. “I don’t…I don’t know what else to do.”

“What does the Council want you to do?”

“Wait and see.”

“And you disagree?”

“I’m afraid that it’ll be too late by the time the Council decides to act.”

“You have others you could send.”

“Not that can handle something like this,” she said.

“You mean none that you could send without the Council finding out and reprimanding you?”

“You were always the best, Arthur.”

“Now I am in prison.”

“You are here voluntarily,” she said. “I’ve taken care of everything. There is a car waiting topside and a jet idling. So, will you help?”

He was silent for a moment, thinking. “I’m not that man anymore.”

“I trust you.”

“You shouldn’t.”

“I do.”

“What happens if I say ‘no’?”

“I don’t know,” Frieda said, shaking her head. “You are my last hope.”

“What happens,” he began, a lump in his throat, “when I don’t come back? What happens when I become the new threat and you have no one else to send?”

Frieda wouldn’t even look him in the eyes.

“When that day comes,” she said softly, staring at the table, “I’ll have an answer to a question I’ve wondered about for a long time.”

“What question is that?”

She looked up at him. “What is my faith worth?”

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VBT ~ Floor 21

We’re happy to be hosting Jason Luthor’s FLOOR 21 blog tour today!  Please leave a comment to let him know you stopped by!

 

About the Book:
The last of humanity is trapped at the top of an isolated apartment tower with no memory of how they got there or why. All travel beneath Floor 21 is forbidden, and nobody can ever recall seeing the ground floor. Beneath Floor 21, a sickness known as the Creepinfests that halls of the Tower. A biological mass that grows stronger in reaction to people’s fear and anger, the Creep prey’s on people by causing them to hallucinate until they’re in a state of panicking, before finally growing strong enough to lash out and consume them. Only a small team known as
Scavengers are allowed to go beneath Floor 21 to pillage the lower levels in search of food and supplies.
Jackie is a brilliant young girl that lives far above the infection and who rarely has to worry about facing any harm. However, her intense curiosity drives her to investigate the bottom floors and the Creep. To deal with her own anxiety and insecurities, she documents her experiences on a personal recorder as she explores the secrets of the Tower. During the course of her investigation, Jackie will find herself at odds with Tower Authority, which safeguards what remains of humanity, as she attempts to determine what created the Creep, how humanity became trapped at the top of the Tower, and whether anyone knows if escape is even possible.

For More
Information

  • Floor 21 is available at Amazon.
  • Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads.

 

Book Excerpt

When you stop and think about it, I mean, our lives don’t make sense. We couldn’t have always lived up here, right? It gets me pretty antsy thinking about it because, I mean, this is a tower, so we had to have come up the stairs at some point. Didn’t we? I don’t know, and thinking about it gets me frustrated. When I’m in this kind of mood, I go to the rooftop and look out. You can actually see other towers rising up in the distance. Some aren’t even that far from ours. I stare at them, and I’m just like . . . is anybody over there? Is anybody looking back at me? Does anybody know or remember we’re trapped in this place? Or are we all that’s left? After I’ve gotten myself sufficiently depressed, I’ll stare over the edge of the roof, trying to see how far below I can look. Thing is, it’s impossible to see much. This tower
just vanishes into the Darkness. Nobody, and I mean nobody, even knows why. It’s just blackness down there.
Oh, about Floor 12. Yeah, that’s where the Creep really starts. The Creep? It’s this . . . gunk. Super-disgusting stuff that you shouldn’t touch because it makes you feel weird, and the lower down the Tower you go, the more you see it. It starts to cover the walls, and it’s kinda gross. It’s really slick, like saliva, and it looks all muscle-y. Almost alive. Good thing you don’t have to worry about it when you’re higher than Floor 11. Still, I wonder what it is. We all do. I know that when you touch it, you can start hallucinating. I did once. Well, okay, I’m lying. I’ve touched it a few times when I’ve been on the lower levels, which is why my parents made the rule that I couldn’t head down there in the first place. I mean, I don’t pay attention to them, but I get why they don’t want me going that far below into the Tower. The Creep makes you see . . . things. Shadowy things. Sometimes they’re right in front of you, but most of the time, they’re in the corner of your eye. They say that by Floor 21, you don’t even have to touch the Creep to hallucinate,
which is a total trip. Must suck to live down there.

Why I Wrote Sci-fi Dystopian Novel ‘Floor 21’

It was National Novel Writing Month and I was spending the month chatting with people in the Facebook group. I had no intention to participate. I simply had no interest. However, one day I was watching the Walking Dead. During this particular episode, a girl was being kept on the upper floors of a hospital She was later lowered into the dark, knowing she might have to avoid zombies to leave the building.

So as I thought there, I thought that was terrifying. However, at least she knew what was in the darkness. I wondered, what if nobody knew what was below? What if nobody had ever been in the darkness? If they’d lived their whole lives at the top of the tower? That was the core idea from which FLOOR 21 was born: an entire society of humanity that has existed for all its living memory at the top of a tower. What lies below? They may never know, given the disease known as the Creep that kills them off as they go lower and lower into the tower.

The idea resonated with some video games I knew of. I draw a lot of inspiration from game narrative techniques. One of the most popular narrative delivery techniques in gaming today is the use of recordings left behind by inhabitants. It lets players choose whether to get into the story, or focus on the game. So, my book features a girl who tells her story by recordings. It also lets me switch to other viewpoints if I want, because if these are all recordings, then it makes a cohesive sense. This is a story told by assembled recordings, like a history drawn together. It had something in its DNA drawn from World War Z in that respect. It also relied on narrative forms such as Black Hawk Down and Into Thin Air, where stories were told with exciting first person perspectives, but set in this dark fictional world.

That world itself was inspired first by the scene from the Walking Dead, but also from a game called Lone Survivor. Lone Survivor deals with the single inhabitant of an apartment building dealing with zombie type creatures and infections along the walls. It draws on zombie clichés to make a thematic point, but again what was important to FLOOR 21 was the use of a single building in which to tell the entirety of the story. Finally, a French surrealist game called OFF heavily inspired the ‘weirdness’ of the novel. OFF is almost a modern Alice in Wonderland with a much darker tone, and deals with incredibly bizarre characters. Those all fed the overall tone of the story, which deals with incredibly strange phenomena and an infection nobody really understands.

As for Jackie, the main protagonist? My college years were defined by Ellen Page and Michael Cera, and I draw thematically on a lot of my own youthful experiences in combination with their mannerisms and means of discussion. More than anything, I enjoy the informality of that duo, and that comes through pretty clearly in the way Jackie speaks as well. Despite being in a dark environment, she is overly casual at times. The resulting contrast is interesting, and provides a unique blend of dystopian horror with young adult delivery. You may find the final result unusual, but I think that’s been part of the appeal of the book, and Jackie herself is typically beloved by almost every reader.

Publication occurred due to my participation in the Amazon Scout contest. I won my contract after several thousand readers voted for my book. I’ve been involved in the agenting and publishing process before, and this was the most straightforward publishing process I’d ever been involved with. After being told I’d won, I was contacted by Amazon, given a contract offer, given a copy edit of my book, and six months later was published. It was a whirlwind, but one I’m grateful for.

About the Author

 

Jason Luthor has spent a long life writing for sports outlets, media companies and universities. His earliest writing years came during his coverage of the San Antonio Spurs as an affiliate with the Spurs Report and its media partner, WOAI Radio. He would later enjoy a moderate relationship with Blizzard Entertainment, writing lore and stories for potential use in future games. At the academic level he has spent several years pursuing a PhD in American History at the University of Houston, with a special emphasis on Native American history.His inspirations include some of the obvious; The Lord of the Rings and Chronciles of Narnia are some of the most cited fantasy series in history. However, his favorite reads include the Earthsea Cycle, the Chronicles of Prydain, as well as science fiction hits such as Starship Troopers and Do Androids dream of Electric Sheep?

For More Information

VBT ~ Syndicate’s Pawns by Davila LeBlanc

 

Inside the Book:

 
 
Title: Syndicate’s Pawns
Author: Davila LeBlanc
Release Date: July 5, 2016
Publisher: Harper Voyager Impulse
Genre: Action/Adventure
Format: Ebook

A month has passed since the eclectic crew of the Covenant Patrol vessel Jinxed Thirteenth endured a harrowing mission on the abandoned space station of Moria 3 and rescued its sole surviving crew member. During the mission, Moria 3’s deranged AI all but crippled the Jinxed Thirteenth, and the skeletal crew is now desperately trying to get it repaired.

Waking from several millennia of cryo-sleep, Jessie Madison’s worst fears are confirmed. She is the last surviving member of the Human race. Surrounded by the descendants of mankind in a world she knows nothing about, not even the basic alphabet, Jessie finds herself only able to communicate with the ship’s medic, Marla Varsin, and its translator, Machina Chord.

When the merchant vessel Althena arrives on the scene, its captain, a shrewd trader named Domiant, offers to sell Captain Morwyn the parts he needs. As guards are lowered on the Jinxed Thirteenth and repairs get underway, it becomes evident that a cunning foe has managed to infiltrate the ship. A deadly game of deception begins to play out, with a sinister foe setting its sights set on capturing Jessie. Captain Morwyn Soltaine, the crew of the Jinxed Thirteenth, and Jessie Madison find their mettle tested as they are dragged into a desperate battle for survival.

 

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Meet the Author:

Davila LeBlanc spent his college years studying print journalism but quickly found himself working as a writer and performer in the comedy circuits of Montreal. During this time his goal became to break into the world of professional writing. He would get his first opportunity when he co-created and sold the hit animated television series The League of Super Evil. This was his first foray into the world of production and an important first step on his road to becoming a writer. After working on various television shows, in 2013 Davila decided to take a year off from children’s animation to focus on writing his first novel, Dark Transmissions. He is an avid reader of science fiction and fantasy and wants to add his own voice to the genre that inspired him. Davila currently resides in Ottawa where he is working on several other writing projects.

You can visit his website at http://davilathewhite.com

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