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Book Spotlight – Encounters

ENCOUNTERS by Patrick Stull

Title: ENCOUNTERS

Author: Patrick Stull

Publisher: Independent

Pages: 250

Genre: Fine Art Photography Book

 

 

With photography at its base, Stull offers a nuanced explication of
his encounters to allow the viewer an opportunity to form a relationship
with his art. While looking within ourselves, exploring our own
feelings, he hopes that he will inspire greater humaneness in response
to his art.ENCOUNTERS is the second in a series of six large-format books in
which artist, photographer and author, Patrick Stull explores a wide
range of experiences. Using light and the physical body, the written
word and his artistry he creates imagery that examines aspects of the
lives of women.

Compiled over the last 18 years, the images in ENCOUNTERS, Stull
says, are meant to “inspire and challenge the observer while always
empowering the subject.”

Stull brings a powerful sense of the surreal and the spiritual to his
work as he plots a course along the many paths of the human experience.
His imagery runs from the ghostly and ephemeral to the flowing and
fiery.

As much as he concentrates on the human form, Stull never forgets to
focus on the humanity of his subjects. His choice of the coffee-table
style book format draws the viewer into an experience both intimate and
universal.

Stull’s first book in his series, titled EVOLVE, was published in
2006. A third book, titled HIDDEN DIMENSIONS, is completed and awaiting
publication. Future titles in the series include DHARMA, BEING
DIFFERENT, and YOGA, A HEALING MOMENT.

Stull hopes that his readers come away from the book with “a love for
art and a respect for the female who gives us life and challenges us to
be better human beings.

 

https://patrickstull.com/books-2/encounters

 


______________________

 

Encounters
is a collection of imagery created and compiled over the last 15 years to
inspire and challenge the observer while always empowering the subject. The
imagery is coupled with text, odes and perspectives about the human experience
and existence itself. The imagery is mostly an explication, an intimate view of
the lives of women and our relationship to them – on an individual and cultural
level. However, there are images of men included in this work. A portion of the
portfolio presents something more than a photographic image. Here the imagery
is developed into contemplative art pieces of the surreal genre, where the
viewer is transported into the depths of their own psyche challenging them to
see something new.

 

 

 

 

 

American
artist Patrick Stull has spent the last eighteen years mostly creating imagery
about the lives of women. He searches for what lies beneath the surface of his
subjects, empowering each one he encounters. He has recently ventured into the
realm of surrealism, creating powerful imagery that reflects on our humanity
while dealing with the meaning and power of art.
Stull
say’s, “My work has allowed me to venture past the camera into the realm
of a humanist, an artistic life, delving into the intellectual, a more cerebral
life experience, creating what I call ‘connectivism.'”
His
ongoing work is based in large-scale digital photography accompanied by
sculpture/body casts, composition art, painting, poetry/prose and drawings.
His art is then integrated, collectively, into exhibitions to provide the
viewer a once in a lifetime experience. The presentation of the work is
delivered to the viewer in a unique and emotionally powerful way.
Stull,
71, a self-taught artist, works in many artistic disciplines. Educated at San
Diego State University
with degrees in psychology, economics and philosophy during the 1960’s, amidst
the backdrop of the counter-culture revolution and the Viet Nam War, where his
social consciousness and political views were shaped. Stull emerged from a
Catholic Irish/German family, one of five children where work, discipline and
religion took precedence over emotional expressions of the self – a different
kind of loving environment. Being a husband of thirty-plus years and father to
two has taught him the power of kindness, love and commitment.

His latest
book is the fine art photography book, Encounters.

 

Visit his website at www.patrickstull.com.
_____________________

GIVEAWAY!


50 Amazon Gift card
 

Patrick Stull is giving away a $50 Amazon Gift Card!

Terms & Conditions:
  • By entering the giveaway, you are confirming you are at least 18 years old.
  • One winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter to receive one $50 Amazon Gift Card.
  • This giveaway ends midnight August 30.
  • Winner will be contacted via email on September 1.
  • Winner has 48 hours to reply.
Good luck everyone!

ENTER TO WIN!

http://www.pumpupyourbook.com

 

 

Spotlight – High Flying

High Flying banner

About the Author

Kaylin McFarren

KAYLIN MCFARREN has received more than 45 national literary awards, in addition to a prestigious Golden Heart Award nomination for FLAHERTY’S CROSSING – a book she and her oldest daughter, New York Times/USA Today best-selling author, Kristina McMorris, co-authored in 2008. Prior to embarking on her writing journey and developing the popular THREADS psychological thriller series, she poured her passion for creativity into her work as the director of a fine art gallery in the Pearl District in Portland, Oregon; she also served as a governor-appointed member of the Oregon Arts Commission. When she’s not traveling or spoiling her pups and three grandsons, she enjoys giving back to her community through participation and support of various charitable and educational organizations in the Pacific Northwest, and is currently the president of the Soulful Giving Foundation – a non-profit focused on cancer research, care and treatment at hospitals throughout Oregon. 

Website: www.kaylinmcfarren.com

Blog: https://kaylinmcfarren.blog

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/4kaylin

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/AuthorKaylinMcFarren

 

About the Book:

Title: HIGH FLYING
Author: Kaylin McFarren
Publisher: Creative Edge Publishing LLC
Pages: 280
Genre: Time Travel Thriller

High Flying

BOOK BLURB:

 ten minutes to survive the past.

Skylar Haines has struggled with personal demons most of her life, going to dark extremes to subdue anxieties rooted in her tragic past. On a perpetual hunt for the next adrenaline hit, she discovers a passion for flying and becomes a hard-edged stunt pilot, verging on obsession. In the sky, following her most daring airshow, she encounters a mysterious storm and almost collides with another aircraft, sending her into a perilous dive. Guided by a mysterious voice, she manages a safe landing but finds herself transported to another time. Eight months before she was born, one week before her father was murdered. 

Though baffled by her circumstances, Skylar soon arrives at a single certainty: Before her lies a remarkable chance to change her family’s destiny drastically for the better — or possibly even worse — depending on the choices she makes, before her window of opportunity closes. 

ORDER YOUR COPY:

Amazon

https://amzn.to/2MhXVAR

 

Book Excerpt:

With renewed excitement, Jake Brennen and Skylar Haines approached two silver Pitts high performance biplanes, designed around Vedeneyev M14P engines. Their trusted mechanic limped wearily toward them, wiping crumbs from his thick handlebar mustache. Ethan Edwards had been named after the main character in The Searchers, an unlikely hero. But according to Ethan, he’d already become one with the endless hours he put into keeping their planes in the air.

Unfortunately, the grimace on his narrow face reflected the concern in his voice. “Jake, I know Skylar is an excellent pilot and has been going to airshows for years, but do you really think it’s a good idea to let her tackle those stunts alone?” The forty-four-year-old grease monkey had become a father figure to Jake after his dad died twenty-some years ago, and he never minced words when it came to voicing his opinions.

“Skylar says she’s ready to do it,” Jake assured him. “We’ve been going over these stunts for several days now.”

“In the air?”

“Yes, of course. We went through the whole routine twice. I’m pretty confident that—”

“You of all people should know that it takes months to perfect maneuvers.”

“I realize that. But Skylar’s got her mind set on doing this, and I believe in her abilities.” Jake glanced at her and smiled. “If I didn’t, we wouldn’t be here.”

Ethan followed Jake to his plane, shaking his head, and Skylar trailed close behind. “Honestly,” Ethan grumbled, “I just hope you’re not making a huge mistake.”

“I agree with you there,” Jake said, settling into his seat.

“Okay, fine…if that’s the way you want it. Come on, Skylar. I’ll help you get strapped in.”

“Thanks, Ethan!” Jake called out.

A short, middle-aged woman with shoulder-length brown hair approached Skylar, waving her hand excitedly. “Miss Haines! Miss Haines! Please wait. I’ve been trying to reach you for two days now. I’m Samantha Jackson. I can’t tell you how exciting it is to meet you in person.”

“Exciting?” Skylar’s lips held a faint smile.

“Why, yes. I read about you in the newspaper this morning and understand you purchased one of my books. Women in Flight? I wrote it four years ago.”

“Really? In the newspaper? Somebody actually wrote a story about me? Was Jake mentioned too?”

The kindly woman smiled. “Jake Brennen was interviewed about the airshow and said you were performing today. I’m sure your family is very proud of you, Miss Haines.”

Skylar almost laughed out loud. Her grandfather had no interest in any aspect of her life, especially after having her arrested for stealing his motorcycle. Moreover, the hostility between them had increased exponentially when he insisted she be sent away to reform school. At the time, he claimed he was doing her a real favor and she did him a better one by leaving town.

“Anyway,” the writer added, “I want to wish you good luck today, not that you’ll need it. Mr. Brennen said you’re one of the most talented pilots he’s ever worked with.”

“What? He actually said that?” The stupid smile, which had left her face while the woman was speaking, reappeared.

“Indeed, he did. You can see for yourself right here.” The woman handed her a torn section from the local newspaper. “You can keep that if you’d like.” The story she was referring to filled most of the page and continued on the backside. Skylar took it, folded it, and slipped it into her backpack, promising herself to read it later.

“I also thought you might also like to know that I’m working on a new book,” the woman added. “It’s all about female stunt pilots and—”

Skylar was only half-listening. “You don’t say?” Her attention had drifted to Jake in the neighboring plane. He had his sunglasses on, covering his stunning green eyes, and was adjusting the headset on top of his shaggy blonde hair.

“When you have some free time,” the woman added, “I’d love to sit down and talk with you. Maybe even include your story in my new book.” She handed Skylar a business card and smiled.

“Yeah, sure. Why not?” Skylar shook the woman’s hand. Then she watched her walk away. She glanced at the ivory business card’s elegant scrolled lettering and made a mental note of the woman’s name before adding it to her backpack.

Unbelievable. Skylar smiled to herself. Jake was certainly full of surprises today. She’d have to remember to thank him for the compliment—one that she was determined to earn today.

“Looks like you have a new fan,” Ethan said, reminding her of his presence. His face was serious as always, but his blue eyes were brighter than usual.

“I can’t imagine why.” Skylar glanced toward the stands, filled to capacity with spectators. The realization of what had taken place made her cheeks flush. “Jake’s the one with all the talent, not me.”

“I don’t think so,” Ethan said. “Far as I’m concerned, you’re both gifted.” As they reached her plane, he laid a hand on her shoulder. “I just hope you know what you’re doing, kiddo.”

“Yeah, so do I.” An unseasonal breeze had picked up, sending a chill down her spine. Her hands trembled and her arms ached, reminding her of her hidden obsession and Jake’s disturbing remark during breakfast.

“I don’t understand why you wear long sleeves all the time…even when it’s unbearably hot. I hope you’re not shooting up drugs or something.” He smiled, and she shook her head. She tried to smile back, but failed miserably. She wasn’t about to tell him that she was emotionally scarred by childhood abuse and had anxiety-driven roadmaps on her arms to prove it.

“You okay, sweetheart?” Ethan brought her back to the present. “Cause if you’re not, there’s no way I’m sending you up.”

“I’m fine…honest.” She could hear the scared little voice in her head disagreeing. Eight maneuvers were not part of the original plan. At least, not until two weeks ago. With very little preparation, a lot could go wrong, and Ethan knew it better than anyone.

“All right,” he said. “I’m holding you to that.” She gave him a quick smile before climbing into her seat. Apparently, he sensed her fear as he continued to reassure her, while strapping her in. “Just follow Jake’s lead and his commands. Keep an eye on your airspeed and altitude. Stay a comfortable distance away from each other. And break off if things get sloppy. Is that clear?”

Skylar whispered quietly. It’s just you and me now, Roxy. Let’s do this right.

“What’s that?”

“Yes. I understand, Ethan.”

“I’ll be listening.”

“Okay. Sounds great.”

He patted her shoulder and winked. “You’ve got this. In fact, I bet you ten bucks no one’s going to be as incredible as you two. Just remember that, Sky, and you’ll forget about all your fears.”

She managed a weak smile. “Okay, you’re on. But you still owe me six dollars from poker.”

“What do you say? Double or nothing?”

“You’re incorrigible.”
Ethan checked her straps and gave her a thumb up salute. She returned the gesture, confirming she was ready to go. Then she heard Jake’s voice on her headset. “So, how’s my girl doing?”

“As well as can be expected,” she said. In all truth, Skylar was a jittery mess—anxious to get this show over and on with her life. She closed her eyes and exhaled all the breath from her lungs for a count of five. Then she repeated the relaxation technique, holding her breath. You can do this, you can do this, she kept telling herself.

“Heck, you’re far better than that,” Jake said. “You’re friggin’ amazing…for a woman anyway.” He was grinning, motioning his head towards the empty seat in front of him. “What do you say? Care to tag along?’

She touched her necklace and smiled. “That’s the plan.”

He mouthed the words I love you, and she instantly relaxed.

There were moments like this when she was tempted to repeat the words. When for three seconds, she didn’t believe in the notion that love gave someone the power to destroy you.

She was only six years old the day her mother asked her, “What’s more beautiful than life itself…devours you inside…makes you laugh and cry all day…and makes you do anything, anytime, anyplace?” Of course, the answer to her riddle was love. But after everything her mother had gone through, Skylar was frightened to say it.

So is that why she was doing this now? Why she was willing to risk her life to please the only man she truly cared about?

Jake’s voice came back on the radio, directing her step by step. “Okay, Skylar, let’s do this just like we planned. Remember…pay attention to our distance. Do everything like we practiced. I’ll count us through. You got this! And don’t forget, sweetheart…this is all about timing and having fun too. Is that clear?”

“Yes. Crystal clear.”

“Okay. Ready to go?”

“Ready.”

“Then let’s do this. Nice and easy.”

Jake taxied his biplane off the grass and onto the runway, and Skylar followed close behind. Then the airshow announcer’s voice erupted over the loud speakers in the stadium. “Our next act, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, are the Twin Arrows from the Ace Flying Circus. Let’s give these two a big round of applause.”

A cheer rose in the air, and Jake’s voice came through Skylar’s speaker. “Roger, Mitchell Tower.” His plane rolled forward and Skylar trailed behind him, increasing her air speed as she pulled the stick towards her. She looked at the tower and knew that Ethan was keeping an eye on her from there. For the first time all day, the announcer said nothing. The crowd hushed and even the children watched silently as the two old war planes took off full throttle, one after the other. They swooped upwards and their engines roared.

The wings made it difficult to see, but Skylar witnessed bits and pieces of Jake’s first maneuver—enough to know that they were perfectly executed. He flew out of the spectator’s view allowing her center stage. Now it was her turn. The plane responded instantly to her touch and she became a sculptor carving the air. Spins and turns, drops and climbs. Her individual routine had been flawless. To finish, she climbed high above the runaway. The hangars, taxiways, and crowded tarmac became the size of miniature replicas. When the plane could climb no more, it stalled and fell to one side, dropping into a spiral heading straight for the ground. Instead of recovering and pulling out of the dive, Skylar let the ground rush toward her until she knew the crowd feared for her life. And because she had spent countless years watching airshows, she knew the audience had exploded with cheers when she added power and regained control. She climbed back into the sky feeling electrified, brimming with adrenaline.

Jake met her in his plane directly over the runway, front and center for the cheering crowd. They climbed in unison, turned on their tails, then stalled and dropped in opposite directions. They proceeded to fly the identical acrobatic routine: tailspins, four-point rolls, flat spins, figure eights, snap rolls and hammerheads. Flying together, they were a reflection of each other—perfectly matched in speed, altitude, and control.

The other pilots could do these stunts too, skillfully even. But each time Jake was in the cockpit, he became an artist. Everyone who watched him knew they were seeing something remarkable. But this time, Skylar was right there with him, matching every move. The feeling was pure energy and naked spirit.

They flew out and around to get enough distance and speed to do their final stunt. Descending even lower, it appeared as if they were going to land. Then Jake yelled, “Here we go!” He dropped even lower and did a smooth barrel roll directly under Skylar. They kept the bellies of their planes in perfection position from one end of the runway to the other—blasting by the audience, a plane and its reflection.

Jake called, “Clear out!”

Just as they had rehearsed, Skylar broke off to the right and went into a climb. She couldn’t see him, but she knew that Jake was completing his barrow roll and would soon follow her into the sky.

The exhilaration she felt was beyond description, beyond anything she had experienced before. Skylar could almost hear the cheers erupting from the ground below, as she soared higher and higher. She was heading straight toward a cloud bank that hadn’t been there before—not when they started their routine. It was like a wall that reached higher than she could see.

Skylar heard a crackle on her radio and then Jake’s reassuring voice. “Honey, that was amazing! I knew you could do it.”

His praise was a salve for her soul. “Thanks for believing in me, Jake.”

“You would have loved this, Roxy,” she said quietly. “It was just like we talked about.” All of her dreams were coming true, exactly the way she imagined. With Jake’s help, she had accomplished a remarkable feat, and now her name would be synonymous with female stunt pilots all over the world.

The wall of clouds was getting bigger at a rate Skylar had never seen before. Even intense thunderstorms didn’t grow this rapidly, and there were no storms forecasted in this area.

“Jake? Do you see this?” Skylar couldn’t believe the size of this weather system in front of her. She couldn’t even begin to see the top or either side.

The radio crackled but he didn’t respond.

“Jake? Can you hear me?”

Static erupted in her headset but then cleared. “Baby, listen. There’s something I’ve been meaning to tell you.”

“Jake? Is that you?”

“I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to say this out loud—”

“What are you talking about? Jake? Is something wrong?”

“Skylar…I…you.” Static blocked out most of the words. “Sky…do…hear me? …get what…saying?” The static was increasing. “…honest…love you!”

“Jake! I can barely hear you. Can you hear me?”

He kept talking, obviously unaware that the call was breaking up. “…Skylar…want…know…”

“Jake! I can’t hear you! Jake! Repeat.”

“Get…here…quick.” The static was getting louder. “…proud…believe…long to…say…here…why…you.”

The static ended and silence filled her ears. It was time to get back on the ground. “If you can hear me, there’s a weather system approaching and it’s a biggie! I’m on my way back.” Then she added, “Taking it nice and easy.”

However, nature had a different idea. It was as if the wall of clouds had swallowed her whole, darkening the cockpit in an instant. The plane danced and swayed in the turbulence, constantly buffeted by the increas­ing wind. Skylar’s head hit the canopy and her knees slammed against the sides of the plane. She had entered the eye of the storm and was being thrown around like a toy plane. Lightning flashed across the sky, followed by the crash of thunder. She tightened her grip on the controls and released a ragged breath.

Holy shit. Skylar was in the bowels of a storm with no end in sight. She could only hold on and pray that the plane wouldn’t break into pieces. The turbulence grew wilder, tossing her around like a rock in a can. She regained control of her plane for seconds at a time. When she could, she started a turn in an attempt to break free from the storm—to exit the way she came in. She kept an eye out on the windscreen to stay oriented, but it was hard to keep her head still long enough to see clearly.

The dark ominous sky revealed glimpses of white clouds sliding behind fast-moving black curtains, giving her a sliver of hope. Then, from out of nowhere, a red and white plane descended from above, headed straight at her. We’re gonna crash!

Skylar gasped and veered her biplane to the left. They were bulleting past each other, but there wasn’t enough time to get out of the way. Her right wing clipped the tail of the other aircraft, sending her plane into a nose dive.

“Oh, my God!” she yelled into her radio. “We collided!”

The radio was quiet.

“Jake! Can you hear me? It’s Skylar! I’m going down!” She was spiraling and plunging straight down, holding on for dear life.

Why wasn’t he answering? Where the hell was Jake?

Skylar had the stick close to her chest pulling up for all she was worth. “Ethan, are you there? Ethan, it’s Skylar! Why isn’t anyone responding? I’m going down!”

A man’s voice came through the speaker. “Skylar. Let go.”

Who was that? It was an unfamiliar voice.

“I can’t recover the controls!” she yelled. “I collided with another plane! Help me! Please help me!”

“Skylar, listen. You know how to do this. You just need to let go.”

“I can’t! The controls were damaged. I’m going down!”

The man’s voice remained calm. “You can do this. Your plane is fine.” He might as well have been ordering dinner at a restaurant. “Listen to me. You’re in a stall. Let go of the stick. Let the wings do their job.”

Her knuckles were white.

“Skylar, listen to me,” he repeated. “You know how to do this. Let go!”

She blew out a deep breath. The ground was getting closer by the second and her nerves were jumping. She needed to act before it was too late.

Against everything her brain was screaming, she followed stall protocol. She pushed the stick away from her and shoved in the throttle, increasing her descent into the ground. As soon as she heard the power of her engines, relief poured over her. She pulled back on the stick and felt the gloriousness of her wings taking hold, creating lift and allowing her aircraft to fly.

I’m going make it!

“Nice one, Skylar! You did it!” The stranger cheered.

She leveled off and the sky around her lightened, allowing her to see the runway below. She had fallen a long way. “Thank you. I…couldn’t…I have…”

“Just land and be done with it,” he said. “That was quite a ride!”

“Coming around.” She headed for a final approach and used the time to breathe and wipe the tears from her eyes. There was nothing she could do about the shaking. Her whole body was trembling.

“Jake? Ethan? Are you there?”

The radio remained silent.

Skylar touched down with a gentle bounce. She taxied off the runway and pulled around to a stop in front of a black hanger that she didn’t recall seeing before. But then after that harrowing experience, everything in the world seemed new.

She shut off the engines and the airplane shuttered. The propellers slowed and stopped with a jerk. Silence. She started to remove her headset but stopped and said into the mic, “Are you still there? I can’t thank you enough.”

“It was nothing. Glad to help.”

“I don’t know what got into me. I’ve never panicked like that before.”

“No problem. Happens to the best of us.”

“But I’m used to emergencies. I’ve done it a thousand times. I do stalls for a living!” She hesitated, embarrassed to admit such a thing. “Well, thank you. I really can’t thank you enough.” Then she realized she didn’t have the foggiest idea who he was—this guardian angel who saved her. “Can I ask who this is?”

“The name’s Haines,” he said. “It was my plane your clipped up there. But I managed to bring her down safely.”

“That was you! I don’t know how that happened. You just appeared and I only had a second to react. I’m so glad you’re okay. That I’m okay too…thanks to you.”

“Like I said, glad to help.”

“Wait a minute. Did you say Haines?” She must have misheard. Or perhaps it was the near-death experience confusing her further.

“Yep, that’s right. Dylan Haines.” He paused, then he asked, “Have we met before?”

“Um…I…” Skylar looked around and realized that she wasn’t sure where she was. None of this was making sense. She pulled off her headset, thinking she could see better without them. She looked around for Jake. Where was Ethan? The airshow was still going on and groups of people were gathered here and there, filling the open spaces outside.

Leaving her backpack behind, she climbed out of her seat and hopped to the ground. Where was everyone? Where was Jake? She was having trouble believing her eyes. A short distance away sat the brick traffic control tower and administration building. People were milling about, going in and out of the buildings. And she knew these buildings well. She saw them every day. She also knew that they had been remodeled a few years ago. But the building in front of her had clearly not been remodeled. It had the old windows and doors, and the addition that gave them more offices wasn’t there.

What was going on here?

Draped across the black façade was a huge white banner with black letters. She couldn’t believe her eyes.

Welcome to the ’98 Reno National Championship Air Races & Air Show!

What? 1998? Was this some kind of joke? Skylar looked around, half expecting someone to jump out and yell, “Gotcha!”

All the buildings around her looked the same but different. Everything was just a little bit off. She took another look around. The hangers were there, but where was the shed? She used that shed daily for tools and wash pails. The small maintenance building was there, however, the large newer side wasn’t. It was just a parking lot.

Skylar scanned the whole airport and realized it wasn’t making any sense. This wasn’t right. None of it was right!

Antique planes of every make and model were lined up in neat staggered rows. Pilots were checking engines, climbing in and out of cockpits, and studying the reader board for their positions. Red and white checkered canopies had replaced the black vendor tents that had been there this morning. The grandstands were still filled to capacity, yet none of the faces looked familiar. Not even the faces in the “Employee Section.” And there was still no sign of Jake and Ethan. Plus Jake’s biplane wasn’t there and his hanger was nowhere in sight.

Was she losing her mind?

A striking man with wavy brown hair and an athletic build strode up to her, wiping his hands on a rag. “So, you must be Skylar. It’s good to meet you. And all in one piece.” A bright smile stretched across his face.

She returned his smile and realized that she recognized him. Her brain started filing through faces and names, searching for something to remind her who this man was. Then a picture came to mind. She knew a picture of this man. That was it! Skylar had seen his face in her grandfather’s album. Only, that album was filled with photos of her father.

He looked exactly like a picture of her father. But that was impossible. Wasn’t it?

Skylar looked at him a little closer. Same hair. Same sea blue eyes. If her father had a twin, this would be him. But wait…it couldn’t be. He didn’t have a twin and this man looked to be 25-years-old.

The world came to a standstill. It was 1998. Her father would have been twenty-five in 1998. This was crazy, and so was being here, in this place—in the same year and place where her father had died.

Skylar kept her clammy hands clenched at her sides and squeezed her eyes tight. This is all a dream…just a dream. Either that or she was dead. She must have crashed and died on impact. That was it! She was…dead. She opened her eyes again, but everything was the same. Still 1998.

She broke out in a cold sweat. A tingling sensation began in her hands and feet and then quickly spread to her entire body.

Her father stepped forward and reached out a hand. “Skylar? Are you all right?”

She simply stared, mystified. “This…this isn’t real. It…it can’t be,” she stammered. “It’s…a dream. Just…a dream.” He was tilting off center before her eyes, blurring into fuzzy grayness, disappearing as the world went black.

High Flying 7

Spotlight – Dreams That Never Were

Dreams That Never Were Blog Tour Banner

About the Author

Greg Messel

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

WEBSITE & SOCIAL LINKS:

WEBSITE | TWITTER | FACEBOOK

 

About the Book:

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

Dreams That Never Were 2

BOOK BLURB:

Some men see things as they are and say, ‘Why? I dream of things that never were and say, ‘Why not?” — Robert F. Kennedy

June 5, 1968:  Senator Robert F. Kennedy, then a candidate for President and victorious in the California primary, was mortally wounded by assassin Sirhan Sirhan as he exited the ballroom at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles.  Innocent bystanders were also wounded, including young and idealistic Alex Hurley, a San Francisco reporter.

Swept up in the turbulent events of 1968, Alex is captivated both by the Presidential race and by Vietnam, where he had recently been a war correspondent.  His time in Vietnam had cost him his marriage and bitterly separated him from his own family.

Recovering from his wounds—physical and emotional—a new and surprising love restores his hope.

Part political thriller, part romance, Alex Hurley’s story in “Dreams That Never Were,” captures the turmoil of the day, set against the backdrop of the Vietnam War and America’s wrenching response to it. This novel is the latest historical fiction from award winning author Greg Messel.

 

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Book Excerpt:

Sirhan Sirhan shot Robert F. Kennedy in the kitchen pantry of the Ambassador Hotel. Kennedy was leaving a victory party after winning the California Primary in June of 1968. Sirhan continued to fire his gun as the crowd tried to subdue him. Five additional people were wounded by the stray bullets. I have one of those wounded be my fictional character, Alex Hurley. This excerpt is when Alex wakes up in the hospital and is unaware of what has occurred. Here’s the excerpt:

I heard unfamiliar voices talking.

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

That’s a great sign,” commented another.

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

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

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

How are you, Alex?” she asked softly. 

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

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

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

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

Surgery?” I asked. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The news? I was shot?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spotlight – Fid’s Crusade

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About the Author

David Reiss

While growing up, David H. Reiss was that weird kid with his nose in a book and his head in the clouds. He was the table-top role-playing game geek, the comic-book nerd, the story-teller and dreamer.

Fortunately, he hasn’t changed much.

David is a software engineer by trade and a long-time sci-fi and fantasy devotee by passion, and he lives in Silicon Valley with his partner of twenty-six years. Until recently, he also shared his life with a disturbingly spoiled cat named Freya.

(Farewell, little huntress. You were loved. You are missed.)

David’s first book, Fid’s Crusade, has just recently been published; this was his first novel-length project, but it certainly won’t be his last—he’s having far too much fun!

Website Link: https://www.davidhreiss.com

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

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

 

About the Book:

Title: FID’S CRUSADE
Author: David H. Reiss
Publisher: Atian Press
Pages: 365
Genre: Scifi/Contemporary Fantasy

Fid's Crusade

BOOK BLURB:

Consumed by grief, rage, and self-loathing, a brilliant inventor rebuilt himself to take on a new identity: the powered-armor-wearing supervillain, Doctor Fid. For twenty violent years, Fid has continued his quest to punish heroes who he considers to be unworthy of their accolades, and the Doctor has left a long trail of blood and misery in his wake. After a personal tragedy, however, Doctor Fid investigates a crime and uncovers a conspiracy so terrible that even he is taken aback.

Haunted by painful memories and profound guilt, the veteran supervillain must risk everything to save the world that he once sought to terrorize. Every battle takes its toll…but the stakes are too high for retreat to be an option.

In the end, it may take a villain to save the entire Earth from those entrusted with the Earth’s protection.

Praise:

Fid’s Crusade by David H. Reiss is one of the most refreshing and lively takes on the superhero genre I’ve seen in years. His title character’s crusade is colorful, compelling, and takes wonderfully unexpected turns, and the novel delivers an impressive emotional punch (to go along with the super-powered ones). It stands easily alongside other character-driven superhero novels like Austin Grossman’s Soon I Will Be Invincible, Carrie Vaughn’s After the Golden Age, and Paul Tobin’s Prepare to Die!.” – Hugo award-winning author Tim Pratt

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Book Excerpt:

“I’m fine,” I informed Starnyx as soon as he answered his highly-encrypted phone.

A swarm of medical automatons surrounded the gurney on which I was reclined, a humming and swirling dervish of blades, clamps, sponges and other surgical tools focused upon the stump of my shoulder. A surgical laser was carefully burning away flesh in a pattern that would increase the efficiency of repairs performed by the medical nanites once my right arm was reattached.

The blended smell of disinfectant and cooking meat had been disturbing at first, but I was beginning to get used to the odor.

“Okay…?” Eric yawned. “Where are you?”

“I’m back in Boston,” I winced; a more significant cocktail of painkillers was now coursing through my veins, but some discomfort remained. “I’m sorry, I forgot that you were asleep when I left.”

“Nah, it’s almost morning. I can wake up. What’s up?”

“I ran into some minor trouble on my way home,” I forced a chuckle. “It will probably make the news and I didn’t want you to worry.”

“Hold on, let me get to a computer.” I heard tired, uncoordinated movement over the connection.

“It’s not as bad as it looks.” Using my neural connection to the surgical control computer, I ordered one of the robots to add another dose of topical anesthetic. “Really, I’m fine.”

“So, what happened?” Eric must have reached his desk, because I could hear the clacking as he typed on his keyboard.

“I ran into the Brooklyn Knights.”

“I think I’ve heard of them. New guys, righ—” he paused mid-question and fell silent.

“Eric?”

“So, you’re fine then?” Nyx asked, patiently.

“Absolutely,” I affirmed.

“I only ask, because the first hit I get on recent news of Doctor Fid is shaky cel-phone footage of you with your arm cut off,” he explained. “And I’m pretty sure you had both arms earlier tonight.”

“Tis but a scratch?” I tried.

“Christ, Doc,” he sighed, “I’m not doing Monty Python bits with you. Let me get dressed, I can be up in Boston in a few hours.”

“Thank you,” I smiled gratefully. “But, really, don’t bother. I’ll have my arm re-attached by then.”

There was another long pause.

“How?” Starnyx sounded exasperated.

“Medical nanotechnology. I’ll have function back in eight hours.” Which was a good thing, since my civilian persona had a face-to-face meeting with the Governor of Connecticut this afternoon to discuss opening a new research facility in Middletown. “In twenty-four hours, I’ll be good as new.”

“You’re a scary man,” he chuckled, relieved. “Okay, I get it. You’re fine.”

“I am.”

“Keep out of trouble, Doc, I’m going to get back to bed. Stay in touch, yeah?”

“Of course.” It was an odd feeling, having someone who cared for Doctor Fid’s wellbeing.

He hung up, and I closed my eyes to think.

Book Trailer:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1e_2WVVnZO8&t=2s

 

Spotlight – Misfits and Supermen

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About the Author

Steve Starger

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

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

Website: www.misfitsandsupermen.com.

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

About the Book:

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

Misfits and Supermen

BOOK BLURB:

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

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

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

A finely crafted, affecting memoir of two brothers.”

— Kirkus Reviews

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

–Amazon Reviewer

Misfits teaser 4

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Book Excerpt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Misfits and Supermen 3

Spotlight – Dark Spiral Down

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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/

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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

 

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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

Book Blast – Dreams That Never Were

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About the Author

Greg Messel

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

WEBSITE & SOCIAL LINKS:

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About the Book

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

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BOOK BLURB:

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

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

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

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

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Book Excerpt

I heard unfamiliar voices talking.

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

That’s a great sign,” commented another.

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

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

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

How are you, Alex?” she asked softly. 

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

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

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

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

Surgery?” I asked. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The news? I was shot?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

At night? What happened to Tuesday?!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Spotlight – Moments That Made America

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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

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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.

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

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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

 

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