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Spotlight – The Society

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About the Author

C.G. Abbot

CG Abbot was born and raised in Colorado, graduated from college with a degree in business administration as well as a degree in Sacred Theology. While working in large companies and even Department of Defense, she dreamt of writing. She still resides in Colorado and enjoys creative outlets like scrapbooking, card making, photography, and painting in watercolor and acrylic. She inherited a love for reading from her family and grew up talking about books at the dinner table.

Website Address: www.cgabbot.yolasite.com

About the Book:

Title: THE SOCIETY
Author: C.G. Abbot
Publisher: Blazing Sword Publishing
Pages: 367
Genre: Suspense Thriller

The Society

BOOK BLURB:

When Elizabeth Grant sees her childhood friend, she is thrown into a world of secret societies laced with conspiracies.

Elizabeth has been plagued with visions since the disappearance of Loralie. When she returns to the small town of her childhood, she’s unaware that she’s walking into the middle of what killed her friend.

Unknown to the rest of the world, The Society for a Restored America has been preparing to seize control of the government through manipulation of a national crisis. The Society’s membership has already infiltrated the government and military at the highest levels. The only thing between them and success is Elizabeth Grant.

Elizabeth must accept her special gift and stay alive long enough to uncover the Society’s dark plot to seize control from a nation that blindly supports them.

ORDER YOUR COPY:

https://www.amazon.com/Society-Elizabeth-Suspense-Thriller-Thrillers-ebook/dp/B07KN4MFTH/

Book Excerpt:

She hit the floor, hard. Thud. She just missed hitting her head on the nightstand. Her eyes darted around the room aglow with moonlight, out of breath from the nightmare. Where was she?

It wasn’t until her senses took in the ratty stuffed bear that sat on the white dresser, the white lace curtains that rustled from a whispered breeze heavy with scent of Magnolias, and the chorus of many crickets that she remembered. She was in Mississippi, hundreds of miles away from her Denver apartment. Her grandparent’s house, well… grandma’s ever since gramps had passed a few years ago.

Unease settled into the pit of her stomach, beyond what the vivid dream had produced. Loneliness assailed her and settled in her heart. Her first night back in Cyprus and her nightmares returned. Thought I was over all that.

Elizabeth took several deep breaths to steady her nerves and slow her breathing. Her muscles ached as she stood, legs like rubber and hands shaking. The recurring dream always produced such a physical reaction.

She knew from experience she wouldn’t… couldn’t, fall back asleep after her fight-or-flight response had kicked into overdrive. She made her way downstairs with care at each step.

Elizabeth grabbed the teakettle before its shrill whistle could disturb the tranquility; she was accustomed to living with a roommate and being quiet. Hopefully, some tea would help to calm her nerves… and her nausea. Another physical result of the nightmares. She poured the water over her waiting tea bag in a mug.

She rubbed her sore thigh and then rotated her aching shoulder from falling out of bed as the tea steeped. Her long chestnut hair was still disheveled and her pallor made the sprinkling of freckles across her face and cheeks stand out. Her heart was approaching a normal rate.

She settled into a worn chair in Grandma’s living room, last decorated a few decades ago when brown and gold country fabric patterns with heavy oak touches were all the rage. The scent of lemon furniture polish clung in the air. She breathed deeply the steam from the tea and let her breath out slowly. The subdued light from the one lamp created a cocoon of safety and comfort. Now that the adrenaline rush was fading maybe she could get another hour or two of sleep after all.

The nightmares would pass, she had to face them head-on like you would a bully.

She took in the room, each knick-knack and crocheted doily. She used to spend every summer with her grandma and grandpa. It had been like a second home. Her first summer spent here she was lonely, until she met Loralie, a local girl, in the park. She was only six and Loralie barely five then, and they had been like sisters from that moment. They were both raised by single moms and didn’t know their dads. Elizabeth’s life had changed in that instant in the park.

Until seven years ago when it all changed again, all because she didn’t come to visit over the summer. Her world shifted because of that simple decision. Loralie, the closest thing to a sister she ever had, disappeared the summer she didn’t come to visit, and worse – they had fought terribly only weeks before she vanished.

Digging up old bones.

Her life was moving along fine on a predictable path of school, and eventually college. When they had fought over Loralie’s brother, Jeremiah, she couldn’t have known that would be the last time they would speak, the last memory of her would be words of anger.

She took a sip of tea. Why had she started having the nightmares again? It had been over a year since the last one. But, this was her first visit to Mississippi since the night Loralie had gone missing.

Maybe just returning was enough to start her night terrors again. Shouldn’t it be ancient history and the nightmares long gone? Okay, she still felt guilty for not visiting that summer, as if she could have prevented whatever happened to Loralie.

She held out hope that her dearest friend had left town touring with a band or something and got out of Cyprus. One day her friend would call and share her adventures, and she’d be happy.

Nightmares were one thing and even understandable, but seeing things – visions or hallucinations – was a whole different matter.

The night Loralie went missing was the night she swore she saw a vision of Loralie in her bedroom in Denver, Colorado. An image of a beaten and bloody Loralie, who was physically in Cyprus hundreds of miles away, appeared right there in her bedroom, frantically reaching out to her. Then Elizabeth passed out. When she regained consciousness her mother was holding her in her arms and dabbing her face with a cold washcloth.

It was on Elizabeth’s insistent pleading that her mother called Mississippi in the middle of the night to ask a groggy Mrs. Carter to put Loralie on the phone. She remembered taking the phone, waiting for Loralie to talk to her so she could get that image out of her mind, only for Mrs. Carter to come back with ragged breaths and exclaim; “She’s not here. I can’t find her!”

It was the instant that she had that vision of Loralie which really changed her life. But she had seen her and was inconsolable for hours, so she was labeled “fragile”, “over-sensitive”, and “over-wrought”. Being at grandma’s was bringing it all back.

Digging up bones.

No physical trace was ever found of Loralie. Then the nightmares had started – and hallucinations of Loralie regularly over the last seven years. The nightmares terrified her, but the hallucinations… visions… whatever you called them – they left her doubting herself.

She made the mistake of researching what could cause hallucinations and was convinced she had a brain tumor or something for the first year. Still, she told nobody about her continued visions. As far as everybody else knew, her mother included, the night Loralie disappeared was the only time she experienced such a visual aberration, rather than the continual problem that plagued her still.

She shook her head to dismiss such serious thoughts. It was disconcerting to be here again. She wasn’t the same person who had last run happily through the house.

She rubbed her eyes and sipped at her tea, clearing her mind. She stiffened when she heard a car pull into the driveway. Every cell in her body listening.

This wasn’t Denver, people in rural little Cyprus were asleep at this hour. Maybe some were doing chores on the surrounding farms, but nobody was out visiting in the wee hours of the morning.

Barely audible footfalls on the veranda floorboards and a soft knocking at the door made her heart race. Just that quickly the feeling of a secure cocoon vanished – replaced by dread. She scanned the shadows and saw Loralie, forever sixteen, like an animated photograph, motioning with a degree of urgency for her to go answer the door. She swallowed, shakily set her tea down, and stood up.

Surely it’s nothing. It’ll be innocent, you’ll see. But, she felt like she was on the very edge of a cliff and everything in her life was about to change… again.

She took a deep breath to calm herself and rolled her shoulders back, crossed the living room to the door and slowly opened it.

On the wide white-painted veranda was an elderly black woman with her hand poised to knock again. She lowered her hand and smiled. It was wide genuine smile that made her eyes sparkle. In the illumination of the porch light, her coifed white hair looked more like a halo. She wore a turquoise cotton dress, was of average height, but stood proudly and with composure. Another time and place one might think she was Egyptian royalty.

“Hello dear, I’m Madame Antoinette of Shreveport, Louisiana. You must be Elizabeth. I’ve been driving all night to talk to you, hon.” Her voice was melodic with a reserved southern drawl. She watched expectantly as Elizabeth blinked a few times.

“Ma’am, you’re here to see me? At 4:30 in the morning? Are you sure you have the right house?” Elizabeth whispered because she instinctively felt the need to be quiet. A dog barked in the distance, then howled – a long mournful baying filled the air.

Madame looked around at the other houses on the street. All were dark and quiet. Returning her attention to Elizabeth she whispered, “I must speak with you about Loralie.” Looking around again she added, “I had to visit when it was least likely to be seen.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

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Spotlight – People Skills 101

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About the Author

Kerry O'Hallaron

Kerry O’Hallaron was born in St. Louis, MO. He attended college at the University of Missouri, and later “emigrated” to Florida. His passion in life is to help others maximize their own potential.

His latest book, “People Skills 101 – tm: How to Have More Friends, Fewer Conflicts, and Better Relationships,” is a compelling and life-changing new spin on one of the oldest “self-development” books in print. In it, he adds new color the art and science of people skills, which wealthy industrialist John D. Rockefeller called the most valuable asset under the sun. O’Hallaron teaches us in a humorous way how to use time-tested principles in our quest for friendships and positive business and personal relationships. The teachings aren’t new – but O’Hallaron’s unique twist on them certainly is. Whether you’re a shy, reserved introvert or a bubbly, outgoing extrovert, “People Skills 101” could be the only book you need to understand the simple tools that will help you both create and manage the perceptions people have of you.

You will be amazed how a few, subtle changes you can learn from this book will craft a new, more influential, more charismatic, more likable, YOU!

O’Hallaron lives in Tampa with his wife, Carol, and can’t seem to get away from spending significant parts of each year in his home town of St. Louis.

Website Address: www.peopleskills.training

Twitter Address: @ps101_book

Facebook Address: https://www.facebook.com/PeopleSkills101/

About the Book:

Title: PEOPLE SKILLS 101: HOW TO HAVE MORE FRIENDS, FEWER CONFLICTS AND BETTER RELATIONSPS
Author: Kerry O’Hallaron
Publisher: Shamrock Publications
Pages: 301
Genre: Nonfiction/Self-Help/Self-Development

People Skills 101

BOOK BLURB:

A life changing modern-day twist on Dale Carnegie’s timeless classic – learn how to have more friends, show more charisma, and better manage every relationship – all in the comfort of your home.

“Kerry O’Hallaron simply nailed it with People Skills 101,” says Jason Broadman, international book critic. “He took something everyone needs to know, which nobody teaches, and made it interesting, eminently readable, entertaining, and exceptionally useful to just about everyone.”

Do you remember that course you took in school called “Basic People Skills?” You don’t, do you – because nobody, anywhere, teaches such a course. Whether grade school, high school, or beyond, NOBODY thought it was important to teach us how to interact. NOBODY thought it was important enough to teach us interpersonal skills – how to get people to like us, how to get them to see us the way we want to be seen, how to manage our relationships.Apparently they just assumed that we are either born with “people skills” – or we weren’t!

People Skills 101 offers an elegantly simple and completely unique solution. It works, whether you are a shy and reserved introvert, a bubbly and outgoing extrovert, or anywhere in between. Simply choose any three of the twenty-one “GoldenRules” offered in the book, begin to use them faithfully, and watch the results with awe. You will be amazed how a few, subtle changes will quickly craft a new, more influential, more charismatic, more likable, YOU!

ORDER YOUR COPY:

Amazon

Book Excerpt:

1

How to INSTANTLY Become More Likeable

 

Share your smile with the world. It’s a symbol of friendship and peace.”

(Christie Brinkley, American model, actress, and businesswoman, 1954- )

Legend has it that “Connie” (her real name – she’d be pleased to know that I’m sharing her story) came out of the womb with a smile on her face.

I wasn’t on this earth at the time, so I don’t know that for sure. I only knew her for the last two thirds of her many years. So let me share what I do know about her.

She was born in the Midwest United States, of hard-working middle-class parents who were not far removed from European immigrants. She had a happy childhood. In the middle of World War II, as a young adult, she married Don. They were together nearly sixty years – by all accounts a very happy union.

Connie, along with Don, raised six children. That alone was a herculean effort. Somehow, she managed to keep smiling through it all.

In the early 1970’s, as the children were progressing through their education, she entered the work force – during a time when many women could only get jobs as secretaries. Being a secretary, though, was not for Connie. Her exceptional work ethic and winning smile earned her the job of city clerk in her home town. She worked there until retirement, at which point she (showing her captivating smile as always) was featured in the local newspaper for being a one-of-a-kind woman.

She loved retirement, enjoying her relationships with Don, her children and grandchildren, and old friends. She lived the good life until the late 1990’s, when tragedy struck in the form of a massive stroke. Not one to give up easily, Connie survived the stroke well – except that it became difficult to verbalize what she was thinking. She thought clearly but spoke with great difficulty – often barely able to get a message across.

Previously, she had always communicated with a smile and a friendly word. Now she just had the smile, as many of her words did not make sense except to those closest to her.

If that bothered her, you’d never know it. Whenever someone came to visit her, her eyes lit up and her smile warmed the room. The smile projected a clear message: “Hi. I’m really glad to see you. I’m glad you are in my life. I’m glad you are here.” Her speech was challenged, but her communication was just a little different than yours and mine.

When Don died in 2004, she moved to a nice senior living facility, where her smile alone was enough to befriend residents and staff alike. She had constant visitors from her large extended family, friends, and residents, in spite of the speech challenge. Connie made life good.

I got to spend some time with her just a week before her death in 2014. We both seemed to know her time was coming – but she refused to give up that radiant smile even then. We spent time enjoying the beautiful surroundings of the home, looking at the flowers and listening to the birds. I talked; she smiled.

A week later, as she departed this world, she left behind a gift to everyone who knew her – now including you. She entrusted that wonderful, powerful smile to each of us, asking us to both keep it and share it with others, and make the world a little brighter place in the process.

(Rest in peace Connie O’Hallaron, a/k/a Mom, 1920-2014.)

Look around you, and you will see the effect a smile can have on people. A warm smile can strengthen a relationship. A smile from a physician in a hospital emergency room can instantly ease the patient’s fears. A smile in a job interview can put the candidate at ease. A sincere smile in a store may turn a “looker” into a customer.

The examples are endless. But Connie taught us best how powerful a genuine smile is, particularly in her later years. She realized that, because of her very limited speech, her primary way to communicate was through facial expressions. She knew, and she taught those of us who knew and loved her (it was impossible to know her without loving her), that the expression on her face had a powerful effect on the person she was sharing that expression with.

 She knew that if she smiled that warm smile, it would make the person feel good, loved, wanted, happy – often all at the same time. She also knew that if she frowned, or otherwise showed anger or displeasure, she could immediately have a powerful negative impact on that person. She could ruin that person’s day, or their morning, or at a very minimum their mood for a short term, just with a frown.

 She realized, either intuitively or consciously (or both), that what she projected would have a powerful effect on the person she projected it to – and that she greatly influenced whether that effect would be positive or negative. I’m not sure she ever actually wanted that kind of responsibility – but she was well prepared to handle it. She simply chose to have a positive impact on the lives of everyone she touched, every time she touched them!

I’d like to propose a little two-step exercise for you. The first step simply involves “people watching.”

Over the next few days, go about your work, family life, etc. doing things exactly as you’ve done in the past. However, pay close attention to the people you encounter. Watch for people who smile at you. I’m asking you to take a few days, because you may not encounter very many people who smile. But there will be some.

Watch carefully. Pay attention to the circumstances. Was it someone in the elevator, where most people try desperately to get to their floors without making eye contact? Was it someone in traffic? Was it a clerk at a store? Was it your spouse / significant other, child, or parent?

Now, as they smile at you, try to associate a meaning with the smile. In other words, try to imagine their smile is a form of communication, and guess what they are “saying.” What is the message that the person with the smile is conveying?

It may be, “Hi, how are you? Good to see you.” It may be, “Thanks for coming into our store/restaurant/place of business.” It may simply be a subconscious expression such as, “I’m friendly. Are you?” Or in a relationship, it may mean, “I’m really glad you’re here!” (My own beautiful wife realized the power of her smile over forty years ago when we first met, and she continues to use it daily to reinforce our relationship.)

OK, now it’s time to move on to part 2 of the exercise. In part 2, you do the exact same thing as in part 1, except as frequently as possible, make eye contact and smile at the other person. This may come easily to you, or it may not. But please try it. Do it several times a day for a few days.

And by the way, when you smile, do what Connie did and convey a message with your smile. The message should be appropriate to the person you’re smiling at. If it’s your boss, it should be along the lines of, “Hi, boss. It’s really good to see you.” If it’s a stranger, it should be along the lines of “Hi. How are you?” If it’s your significant other, you can use your own imagination, depending on the circumstances and his/her mood.

Here’s an easy trick: as you are smiling, think the message you are trying to project. If it’s your boss, think, “Hi, boss. It’s really good to see you.” Warning: this really works. So don’t smile at the boss while you are thinking, “Hi boss.You’re an idiot and I could do your job with my eyes closed!” Most people can “feel” when the message is incongruent. In other words, most people can sense an insincere smile!

So smile, think of the message you want to project, and watch closely when you do this. Watch their reactions, and try to imagine how they feel. You should see, as Connie did, that a simple, warm, genuine smile changes the entire trajectory of a person’s day, and maybe even of their whole life.

OK, one more homework assignment. But this one is simple. Think back to the last time you saw a baby smile. I’m told that after about six or eight weeks, many babies develop a “social smile.” In other words, after that age they really mean it – it’s not just “gas” or some involuntary reaction.

So think of the last time you saw a baby smile who was at least six or eight weeks old. If it’s ever happened, even once, I’m sure you remember it. The experience was almost priceless, wasn’t it? It’s hard to describe. It’s the same as any other person smiling, but so incredibly pure.

With a baby, there’s no possibility of a fake “politician” smile. It’s hard to know what the baby’s message is, because the baby doesn’t know a language yet that he/she can express with a smile. You get to assign your own message to the baby’s smile – but it’s almost certainly a positive message.

The baby might be saying, “OOH. You’re that nice person that feeds me. I like you.” Or, “You’re that nice lady that smells good and kisses me all over.” You don’t know exactly what the message is. All you know is, that smile warms your heart. Doesn’t it?

So how is it that so many of us intuitively know the power of a smile at eight weeks of age, and then proceed to forget it as we grow up?!!!

Connie’s smile would have melted your heart if you knew her. In fact, if you let it, just about every sincere smile you encounter will soften your disposition, improve your mood, make you feel better – and make you like the person who is doing the smiling. What if you were to simply turn things around, be on the giving end of a warm, sincere smile, and watch and feel the powerful effect it has on the other person? Try it. You’ll like it.

It takes less than a few seconds to smile. There are 86,400 seconds in every day. Make a commitment to invest just a few of them every day in giving genuine, warm, sincere smiles.

At the end of each section, we’ll propose a GoldenRule (see below). Each GoldenRule in this training will have some positive effect on your life and your relationships with others. They are all important and valuable. However, not one of them will have more of an impact than this one!

*****

GoldenRule #1

Smile like you genuinely mean it! Do it warmly and sincerely. It will move the world towards you in a small but unmistakable and irreversible way.

Spotlight – Obsessions of a Djinni

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About the Author

Claudia Herring

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

 She would live in a library if she could.

 Is afraid of her cat.

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

Website: https://claudiaherring.com/

Twitter: @claudiakherring

Facebook: claudia.herring.writer

About the Book:

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

Obsessions of a Djinni

BOOK BLURB:

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

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

Will he defeat his nemesis or be betrayed?

ORDER YOUR COPY:

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Book Excerpt:

Prologue

I am Djinn. I am abandoned.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Even I never realized how quickly it could change.

Spotlight – The Liebold Protocol

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About the Authors

Michael McMenamin

Michael McMenamin is the co-author with his son Patrick of the award winning 1930s era historical novels featuring Winston Churchill and his fictional Scottish goddaughter, the adventure-seeking Hearst photojournalist Mattie McGary. The first five novels in the series—The DeValera Deception, The Parsifal Pursuit, The Gemini Agenda, The Berghof Betrayal and The Silver Mosaic—received a total of 15 literary awards. He is currently at work with his daughter Kathleen McMenamin on the sixth Winston and Mattie historical adventure, The Liebold Protocol.

Michael is the author of the critically acclaimed Becoming Winston Churchill, The Untold Story of Young Winston and His American Mentor [Hardcover, Greenwood 2007; Paperback, Enigma 2009] and the co-author of Milking the Public, Political Scandals of the Dairy Lobby from LBJ to Jimmy Carter [Nelson Hall, 1980]. He is an editorial board member of Finest Hour, the quarterly journal of the International Churchill Society and a contributing editor for the libertarian magazine Reason. His work also has appeared in The Churchills in Ireland, 1660-1965, Corrections and Controversies [Irish Academic Press, 2012] as well as two Reason anthologies, Free Minds & Free Markets, Twenty Five Years of Reason [Pacific Research Institute, 1993] and Choice, the Best of Reason [BenBella Books, 2004]. A full-time writer, he was formerly a first amendment and media defense lawyer and a U.S. Army Counterintelligence Agent. 

Kathleen McMenamin

Kathleen, the other half of the father-daughter writing team, has been editing her father’s writing for longer than she cares to remember. She is the co-author with her sister Kelly of the critically acclaimed Organize Your Way: Simple Strategies for Every Personality [Sterling, 2017]. The two sisters are professional organizers, personality-type experts and the founders of PixiesDidIt, a home and life organization business. Kathleen is an honors graduate of Sarah Lawrence College and has an MFA in Creative Writing from New York University. The novella Appointment in Prague is her second joint writing project with her father. Their first was “Bringing Home the First Amendment”, a review in the August 1984 Reason magazine of Nat Hentoff’s The Day They Came to Arrest the Book.  While a teen-ager, she and her father would often take runs together, creating plots for adventure stories as they ran.

WEBSITE & SOCIAL LINKS:

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About the Book:

The Liebold Protocol

Title: THE LIEBOLD PROTOCOL: a Mattie McGary + Winston Churchill World War 2 Adventure
Author: Michael & Kathleen McMenamin
Publisher: First Edition Design Publishing
Pages: 389
Genre: Historical Thriller

BOOK BLURB:

Winston Churchill’s Scottish goddaughter, Mattie McGary, the adventure-seeking Hearst photojournalist, reluctantly returns to Nazi Germany in the summer of 1934 and once again finds herself in deadly peril in a gangster state where widespread kidnappings and ransoms are sanctioned by the new government.

Mattie turns down an early request by her boss Hearst to go to Germany to report on how Hitler will deal with the SA Brown Shirts of Ernst Rohm who want a true socialist ‘second revolution’ to follow Hitler’s stunning first revolution in 1933. Having been away from Germany for over a year, her reputation as “Hitler’s favorite foreign journalist” is fading and she wants to keep it that way.

Instead, at Churchill’s suggestion, she persuades Hearst to let her investigate one of the best-kept secrets of the Great War—that in 1915, facilitated by a sinister German-American working for Henry Ford, British and Imperial German officials essentially committed treason by agreeing Britain would sell raw rubber to Germany in exchange for it selling precision optical equipment to Britain. Why? To keep the war going and the profits flowing. After Mattie interviews Ford’s German-American go-between, however, agents of Scotland Yard’s Special Branch are sent by Churchill’s political opponents in the British government to rough her up and warn her she will be prosecuted under the Official Secrets Act unless she backs off the story.

Left no choice, Mattie sets out for Germany to investigate the story from the German side and interview the German nobleman who negotiated the optics for rubber deal. There, Mattie lands right in the middle of what Hearst originally wanted her to investigate—Adolf Hitler believes one revolution is enough—and she learns that Hitler has ordered the SS to assassinate all the senior leadership of Ernst Rohm’s SA Brown Shirts as well as other political enemies on Saturday 30 June, an event soon known to History as ‘The Night of the Long Knives’.

Mattie must flee Germany to save her life. Not only does the German-American working for Henry Ford want her story on the optics for rubber treason killed, he wants her dead along with it. Worse, Mattie’s nemesis, the ‘Blond Beast’ of the SS, Reinhard Heydrich, is in charge of Hitler’s purge and he’s secretly put her name on his list…

ORDER YOUR COPY:

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Book Excerpt:

Mattie McGary

21 Club

21 West 52nd Street

New York City

Wednesday, 13 June 1934

MATTIE McGARY tipped the taxi driver and stepped from the Yellow Cab and walked under the portico of the 21 Club, the former 1930’s speakeasy that had become, after the end of prohibition, one of the most popular watering holes in New York. It was known to its regulars, of which Mattie was one, as Jack and Charlie’s or simply 21. She was a few minutes early, but she didn’t want to keep her boss, William Randolph Hearst, waiting. The new Hearst headquarters building was just up the street at West 57th and Eighth Avenue and he also might be early.

Mattie was a tall, attractive and some—including her husband—would say stunning redhead whose figure turned heads in any room she entered. Now, she entered the Bar Room at 21 and stood there, scanning the room until she saw Hearst at his favorite table, #4, in the far left-hand corner of the room. Her hair was cut in a short tousled style that she had somewhat patterned after the American aviatrix Amelia Earhart. She wore a royal blue matching silk jacket and form-fitting skirt flattering a figure that, judging from the number of male heads that turned as she waved at Hearst and walked the length of the dark mahogany-lined room, drew men’s attention wherever she went. As she was the only woman in the Bar Room, she had no doubt most men were checking out her ass. She had wedding and engagement rings on her left hand, but she knew what her assets were.

There were various model aircraft hanging from the Bar Room’s low, dark ceiling. These included a British Imperial Airways Flying Boat, a Pan American Clipper, Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis, a Ford Tri-Motor, a giant Handley-Page HP-42 bi-plane airliner, and, of personal interest to her, a Pitcairn-Cierva PCA-2 autogiro and the new German Zeppelin, the Graf Bismarck, formerly the British Vickers-built airship the R-100.

The autogiro was a model of the Celtic Princess, her husband Bourke Cockran’s aircraft. A few years ago she and her then-fiancé had flown it cross-country in an unsuccessful attempt to break America Earhart’s record set earlier that year. The zeppelin was the model of an airship commanded by her good friend Kurt von Sturm with whom, to her regret, she had a brief affair several years ago when she and Cockran had been briefly estranged and she thought, erroneously, that he had dropped her and taken up with a new blonde client.

Hearst stood up to greet Mattie when she arrived at his table. They exchanged brief kisses on the cheek and then a waiter arrived to pull out the table so she could sit beside him on the banquette. 21 had a specific protocol that if two people were dining together at a banquette table, then they had to sit next to each other facing out to the room.

Hearst was a tall, shambling man, well over 6 feet with a comma of gray hair boyishly falling over his forehead. He had clear, blue eyes and didn’t look his 71 years of age. For such a large man, however, he had a surprisingly high voice.

Thanks for joining me for lunch, Mattie, I appreciate it.”

Mattie had been surprised Hearst asked her to lunch at 21 when she called him yesterday to schedule an appointment to discuss her next assignment. Usually, on those occasions, they met at his castle-like estate on Long Island Sound when he was on the East coast. “Any time you want to treat me to lunch at Jack and Charlie’s, Chief, all you have to do is ask and I’ll be there with bells on. What’s the occasion?”

Hearst smiled. “I always take my Pulitzer-Prize-winning journalists to celebrate at 21.”

Well, Chief, this is the second year in a row I’ve had some stories nominated for a Pulitzer, but that’s not the same as being a winner.”

In fact, Mattie had four stories from 1933 nominated for a Pulitzer, all of which she believed deserved to be winners. One involved the Transfer Agreement between the Jewish Palestine Authority and the German government in which the Nazis agreed to allow Jews emigrating to Palestine to avoid the currency rules which forbade any German emigrant from taking assets with him. In exchange for allowing emigrating Jews to take with them to Palestine the equivalent of $5,000 US, the Jewish Palestine Authority agreed to buy exports of agricultural equipment from Germany in an equivalent amount. Further, the Jewish Authority agreed to actively oppose the Jewish-led worldwide boycott of German exports that was threatening to cripple the German economy and bring down the new Nazi government.

A companion story concerned the Concordat negotiated between the Vatican and the Nazis whereby the German government agreed to allow the Catholic Church to operate freely in Germany with no interference. In exchange, the Church agreed to forbid its clergy—priests, monks and nuns—from engaging in ‘political activity’ of any kind with the Nazis being the sole arbiter of what constituted ‘political activity’.

The third story consisted of exclusive interviews with the new German Chancellor, Adolf Hitler, and the new U.S. President, Franklin Roosevelt, right before assassination attempts on both where Mattie had been sitting beside them during the attempts. A fourth story concerned the rise of the fascist movement in America, focusing on the Silver Legion of America and Friends of New Germany.

Hearst raised his hand and a waiter came over with a silver bucket of ice on a pedestal, inside of which was a bottle of champagne. He placed two champagne flutes on the table and held the bottle up for Hearst’s inspection. He nodded his approval and the waiter undid the foil, popped the cork and filled Mattie’s flute halfway to the top. She smiled when she noticed the champagne was Pol Roger, the favorite of her godfather Winston Churchill.

Once Hearst’s flute was filled, he stood up, tapped his spoon against the flute until the buzz of noise from the many luncheon conversations in that section of the room had died down. Then he raised his flute and said in a loud voice that carried to the front of the Bar Room. “I propose a toast to the Hearst organization’s newest Pulitzer Prize winner.”

Mattie blushed as applause and not a few wolf whistles greeted Hearst’s toast.

Really, Chief, I won?” Mattie asked as she reached over and hugged Hearst after he sat down. “Which story was it?” she asked, her voice full of excitement.

Actually, it was all four stories and two prizes. You received the prize for ‘Correspondence’ for your stories from Germany on the Transfer Agreement and the Concordat. I think it was your interview with Hermann Göring that did the trick. No other story had that. You got the ‘Reporting’ prize for your stories on the Hitler and FDR assassination attempts after your exclusive interviews with them as well as your story on American fascists. The panelists were impressed by your courage under fire with Hitler and FDR as well as your running the gauntlet of the Silver Shirts and the Friends of New Germany in front of Severance Hall in Cleveland.”

Hearst reached down into a briefcase beside him and pulled up a galley proof of The New York American dated for tomorrow and handed it to her. There, on the front page and above the fold was a bold headline: ‘Two Pulitzers For Hearst Papers’ Mattie McGary’. Right below it was a two-year-old photo of Mattie standing in front of Cockran’s autogiro that she had just flown across the country, almost breaking Amelia Earhart’s record. Shot from below, it was her favorite. She was wearing a leather flying outfit from head to toe—a shearling–lined sheepskin flying jacket, trousers and boots—a camera in one hand, her leather flight helmet and goggles in the other, her tousled red hair blowing in the wind and a big grin on her face.

That’s only the galley for The American,” Hearst said, “but the same story in the same place will run in all my papers tomorrow.”

Thanks, Chief,” Mattie said as she leaned over and kissed him on the cheek. “I really appreciate it.”

It’s a shame,” Hearst said, “that the Transfer Agreement and the Concordat undercut the anti-Nazi boycott of German exports that otherwise might have crippled the German economy and brought down the new Nazi government.”

True, it didn’t do that,” Mattie allowed, “but don’t overlook the silver lining of the boycott. It accomplished two big things. It’s all there in my interview with Göring. First, Hitler issued a directive to the SA and its brown-shirted Storm Troopers to cease any actions like boycotts against the mostly Jewish-owned department stores and their suppliers. He even authorized a loan to a Jewish Department store that was close to bankruptcy. Sure, Hitler only did it to keep thousands of Aryans off the unemployment rolls if any department stores had to close their doors because of brown-shirt bullying, but he still did it and those stores remained open and prospering.”

Mattie paused and took a sip of champagne. “The second thing Hitler and Göring did in response to the boycott last year was even bigger. They forbade all violence against the Jews that the SA had been committing without authorization of the government. The penalty for doing so was, at a minimum, confinement to a concentration camp or, at the other end, death.”

Really, death?” Hearst asked. “I don’t recall you mentioning that in your article.”

I didn’t go into any detail,” Mattie replied, “and only mentioned it in passing. You remember Bobby Sullivan?”

Sure, I first met him at San Simeon in 1929 right before the reception of the Graf Zeppelin when it arrived in Los Angeles on the round-the-world voyage I sponsored. He was in your wedding party last year in Scotland. Wasn’t he ex-IRA or something?”

More like the Irish Republican Brotherhood led by Michael Collins. He was a member of ‘The Apostles’, Collins’ hit squad in the Anglo-Irish War in 1920 to 1921. Anyway, Bobby’s sister was married to a Jewish physician in Berlin who the SA castrated and killed last year. Göring practically gave Bobby a license to kill in taking revenge on all those responsible. He showed me photographs of Bobby’s six victims, all of them naked below the waist and missing their manly parts. Each man had a sign pinned to his chest that said ‘This is what happens to all who disobey the Fuhrer and kill Jews without his consent.’ We obviously couldn’t use them in your papers, but Göring actually had them published on the front page of Der Angriff.”

Congratulations, Miss McGary,” the waiter said as he returned to their table to take their lunch orders. Mattie thanked him and then ordered a dozen oysters and chicken hash while Hearst went for the Dover Sole and, to her surprise, another bottle of Pol Roger. Her boss rarely drank alcohol and, in fact, prohibited alcohol in the guest rooms at San Simeon, his elaborate Spanish mission-style estate in Central California.

I must say Göring was right,” Mattie continued after the waiter had left, “when he said the SA loved their, uh, genitals more than they hated Jews because violence against Jews over the course of the next year practically disappeared, especially in large cities where most German Jews live. I think the boycott deserves the credit for forcing Hitler’s hand to issue those decrees.”

Okay, Mattie, what’s next? What are you going to give me to enter in next year’s Pulitzers? I’d really like to see you follow up on that SA leader Ernst Rohm and the story our Berlin correspondent filed in March about a speech he gave in early February. He said that the SA was the true army of National Socialism and that the Reichswehr should be limited to being a training organization for the SA. I’d like to know what your friend Göring thinks about that, not to mention the German General Staff.”

Mattie frowned. It had been well over a year since last she had been in Germany. As a consequence, her reputation in Germany as ‘Hitler’s favorite foreign journalist’ was beginning to fade. The last thing she wanted to do was revive that by doing a story on the SA and the German Army, notwithstanding that she had many high-level contacts in Nazi Germany including Göring and the Nazi foreign press chief Ernst ‘Putzi’ Hanfstaengl as well as Hitler himself.

Göring is not my friend, Chief. He is a source and that only because my friend Kurt von Sturm is his principle adviser on airships. Speaking of airships, Bourke and I are flying to Europe this Saturday on the Graf Bismarck. We’re going to spend the summer at our new house in Ireland. Bourke is going to finish his book on political assassinations and I’m going to use it as a base of operations for what I hope you’ll approve as my next story. Patrick and his grandmother Mary Morrissey sail tomorrow for Ireland. He’s going to spend a month in Galway with her getting to know his first and second cousins before he comes up to join us in Donegal.”

That sounds like a wonderful summer. What did you have in mind for your next story, my dear?”

Fascist movements in Europe other than Germany and Italy. A companion piece, if you will, to my story on fascism in America. Democracy is in trouble, Chief. I’ve done the preliminary research and there are fascist movements all over Europe. If the world’s economy stays bad, many of them could come to power just like Hitler and Mussolini.”
Her oysters arrived and Mattie ate one, took a sip of champagne and continued.

She held up her hand, and ticked them off on her fingers. “There are strong fascist parties in Austria, Belgium, Finland, Hungary, Ireland, the Netherlands, Portugal, Romania and Poland.”

Well,” Hearst began, “I suppose it would be a good follow-up to the American fascist story, but I really was hoping to have an in-depth piece on the growing tension between Rohm’s SA and the German General Staff who I imagine don’t take kindly to becoming just a training cadre for Nazi Storm Troopers. Our new Berlin correspondent, Prescott Talbot, is good, but he’s not as good as his predecessor Isaac Rosenbaum or, for that matter, you.”

Mattie began to reply, but she was interrupted by their entrées being served. After the waiter had left and she had sampled her chicken hash, she looked over at Hearst. “Yes, it’s a shame you had to reassign Zack, but you had no choice after those SA thugs fractured his skull and cut off his ear for a souvenir. London is a far safer place for a Jewish journalist. Look, I really don’t want to get involved in any story about Ernst Rohm.”

Why is that?” Hearst asked.

Because when I was working on the Transfer Agreement, Kurt von Sturm and I were kidnapped at the Reichsbank one night by SA Storm Troopers and brought to Rohm’s hotel suite where, in plain view, he was buggering one of his adjutants, a young, very naked blond Storm Trooper.”

Hearst’s eyes went wide. “Oh, my God!” Hearst exclaimed. “I had no idea.”

Wait. It gets worse. It’s common knowledge that Rohm is homosexual, so I wasn’t surprised, but doing it right in front of us was a tad off-putting. What’s worse is that he threatened to do the same to me if Kurt and I didn’t tell him why we had been at the Reichsbank that evening.”

That’s…I’m at a loss…What a horrible person.” Hearst said.

Yep,” Mattie said and slurped another oyster. “Fortunately, Sturm bluffed our way out of Rohm’s clutches. He said that I was an undercover Gestapo agent who used my position as a journalist with the Hearst papers as a cover for my work for the Reich and that we had been on a top-secret mission inside the Reichsbank at the behest of Reichsminister Göring with the blessing of the Fuhrer.”

Well, given that, I understand your reluctance to go anywhere near that man again, but can’t you do the story without interviewing him?” Hearst said.

Here’s what I can do. “Mattie concluded, “Göring and Rohm are bitter enemies. I’ve known Göring since 1923 when he commandeered my motorcar as a machine gun platform in the Munich putsch. If I have Sturm convey my request to Göring to have him give an exclusive interview to Prescott Talbot on the subject of Ernst Rohm, I’m sure he’ll agree. I’ll have Kurt brief Talbot off the record on what he knows. Göring has wiretaps on all the top SA people, not just Rohm. Transcripts of the calls are made daily. They’re called the ‘Brown Pages’ because of the color of the paper on which they’re typed. Sturm is on the approved list so he may well know a lot about what Rohm and other SA thugs are up to.”

Hearst sighed. “Well, it’s not the same as you doing the interview, but it’s better than what Talbot could do on his own. I’m not enthusiastic about your European fascist story, but let me think about it some more and I’ll get back to you. Why do I have the idea you always get the better of me when we disagree on your next story?”

Mattie grinned. “A faulty memory on your part, Chief. Sooner or later, you always get your way.”

Blessed: The Prodigal Daughter

About the Author

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

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

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

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

SOCIAL LINKS:

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

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

About the Book:

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

BOOK BLURB:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Book Excerpt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Good evening, ladies.”

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

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

“The owner? That is correct.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“And what about horrors?”

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

“Do you like to be frightened?”

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

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

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

“And what of demons?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I think we should leave, Annabelle.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It won’t open!” Annabelle cried.

“It’s locked?”

“Not locked—just won’t open!”

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

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

Spotlight – The Kinfolk

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About the Author

Josh Hickman

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

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

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

WEBSITE & SOCIAL LINKS:

WEBSITE | TWITTER | FACEBOOK


About the Book:

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

The Kinfolk

BOOK BLURB:

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

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

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

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

ORDER YOUR COPY:

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Book Excerpt:

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

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

_____________________

GIVEAWAY!

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

Terms & Conditions:

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

  • One winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter.

  • This giveaway ends midnight January 31.

  • Winner will be contacted via email on February 1.

  • Winner has 48 hours to reply.

Good luck everyone!

ENTER TO WIN!

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New Book Review Campaign

New Book Review Campaign! The Adventures Of Riley & Elfy By E. Matheson #Reviews

Taking review requests for E. Matheson & G.B. Serafica THE ADVENTURES OF RILEY & ELFY. This is a review campaign and not a blog tour. If requesting review copies, we ask that you post your review at Amazon no later than April 5, please. When you are ready to submit your review, come back and click below to take you directly to the book’s Amazon link. Review copies will be sent via PDF through a Dropbox link. Thank you!

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Spotlight – A Broken Reality

A Broken Reality banner

About the Author

Rob Kaufman

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

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

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

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

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

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

Website Address: www.AuthorRobKaufman.com

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

Twitter Address: @RobKaufmanCT

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

About the Book:

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

BOOK BLURB:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Book Excerpt:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No luck.

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

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

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

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

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

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