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Pre-Pub Blast – Darkest Before the Dawn

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About the Author

Mike Martin

Mike Martin was born in Newfoundland on the East Coast of Canada and now lives and works in Ottawa, Ontario. He is a long-time freelance writer and his articles and essays have appeared in newspapers, magazines and online across Canada as well as in the United States and New Zealand. He is the author of Change the Things You Can: Dealing with Difficult People and has written a number of short stories that have published in various publications including Canadian Stories and Downhome magazine.

The Walker on the Cape was his first full fiction book and the premiere of the Sgt. Windflower Mystery Series. Other books in the series include The Body on the T, Beneath the Surface, A Twist of Fortune and A Long Ways from Home, which was shortlisted for the Bony Blithe Light Mystery Award as the best light mystery of the year. A Tangled Web was released in 2017 and the newest book in the series.is Darkest Before the Dawn.

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About the Book:

Title: DARKEST BEFORE THE DAWN
Author: Mike Martin
Publisher: Ottawa Press and Publishing
Pages: TBA
Genre: Mystery

Darkest Before the Dawn

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Darkest Before the Dawn is the latest adventure of Sgt. Winston Windflower, a Mountie who finds himself surrounded by a new family and a new life in tiny Grand Bank, Newfoundland. There are signs of trouble that may disturb his pleasant life, including a series of unsolved break-ins and the lack of supports for young people in the most trying time of their lives. But there are always good friends, good food and the sense that if we all pull together, we can find a way to get through even the darkest days.

Ghosts, mysterious deaths, and a new character enliven the pages as Windflower and Tizzard and the other police officers awaken the secrets that have been lying dormant in this sleepy little town. The deeper they dig the more they find as the criminals they seek dive deeper behind the curtains of anonymity and technology. But more than anything, this is a story of love and loss, of growing up and learning how to grow old gracefully. It is also about family and community and looking after each other. Of not giving up hope just before the dawn.

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VBT – Taking Control: Rick’s Story

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About the Author

Morgan Malone

Morgan Malone is the pen name of a retired lawyer who turned in her judicial robes to write romantic memoir and sexy contemporary romance, which always features silver foxes and the independent women who tame them.

Morgan fell in love with romantic heroes after reading her mother’s first edition of “Gone with the Wind” when she was 12 years old. Rhett Butler became the standard by which she measured all men. Some have met the mark, most have failed to even come close and one or two surpassed even Rhett’s dark and dangerous allure.

Morgan lives near Saratoga Springs, NY with her beloved chocolate Lab. She can be found on occasion drinking margaritas and dancing at local hostelries, but look for her most often in independent book stores and the library, searching for her next great love in tales of romance, history, adventure and lust. When she can’t find the perfect man, she retreats to her upstairs office and creates him, body and soul, for her pleasure and for yours. Remember: love, like wine, gets better with age.

Her recent novel is the contemporary romance, Taking Control: Rick’s Story.

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About the Book

Title: TAKING CONTROL: RICK’S STORY
Author: Morgan Malone
Publisher: Independent
Pages: 170
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Taking Control Rick's Story

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Summer on the Jersey Shore and all Rick Sheridan wants is some solitude at his beach house. Then he spots a lean, leggy blonde coming out of the surf and his plans are shot to hell. And the dangerous looking knife strapped to her arm tells him this is no damsel in distress. As a not-so retired Marine, at 51, Rick’s learned that nothing is for certain, plans can spin out of control and shit happens.

Wounded and weary from one too many wars, Britt Capshaw thought a summer at the Shore, hanging out in her family’s beach cottage, would help her heal. And figure out what to do with the rest of her life. Out of the military, disillusioned and distrustful of any two-legged male, Britt’s one love is Alex, the yellow Labrador retriever she rescued from Afghanistan.

Rick and Britt are immediately attracted to one another, but after years in combat, they are wary of letting down their guard, of giving up control. The summer heats up and fireworks are flying between them even after the Fourth of July. But, ghosts from their pasts haunt them and finally bring them face to face with some dark secrets that may destroy the fragile trust they’ve built.

Can Britt trust Rick with her dangerous past? Will Rick be able to let go of the rigid control he needs to keep Britt and himself safe from more heartbreak? These two brave souls fight against surrendering their hearts and finally finding love. Who will win?

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Book Excerpt

He stood before the French doors to the deck, with a large mug of steaming black brew cradled in his hands, letting its warmth take away some of the chill that had surrounded him for the last several months. I’m freezing. And it’s not the air-conditioning. It’s my damn frozen heart. Rick pushed the doors open, letting the heat of the sun and the smell of the ocean sweep into his house. He stepped outside, breathing deep, relaxing just a little. Yeah. This is what I need. A summer at the Shore, a few projects, and plenty of quiet—then I’ll be back to my old self. Chuckling as he mentally reminded himself of just how “old” his self was, Rick raised the cup to take a long sip of coffee.

He saw the figure emerging from the waves almost directly in front of his cottage at the same moment he heard the loud barking of a nearby dog.

What the hell?

She was a modern-day Botticelli’s Venus, with the waves foaming around her legs. Long, long legs, lean and tan, disappeared into a bright blue bikini bottom, just visible under the blue and white swim T-shirt that covered a long, muscular torso. Her arms were raised, her hands brushed back sodden strands of platinum blond hair. A swim mask dangled from her left elbow, dropping down into her hand as she lowered her arms. When she stepped from the surf, the woman gave an all-over body shake, drops of ocean water flying off her, glistening for an instant like diamonds in the early morning sun. Then she dropped to her knees so suddenly that Rick lurched forward, splashing coffee as he looked down for a place to leave the heavy mug before he rushed to her aid.

He needn’t have bothered. From the deck of the cottage to his left, a huge yellow dog was bounding down the wooden stairs two at a time in a mad dash to the woman. She stretched out her arms to the animal just before the happy hound collided into her, rolling her into the sand. The woman’s laugh floated on the ocean breeze. Rick straightened, still grasping his cup of coffee and stepped back into the shadows cast over his deck by the second-floor balcony. From his vantage point, he watched the woman ruffle the dog’s fur, the animal prancing and shaking in spasms of pure pleasure. When had he ever experienced such unfettered joy? Rick couldn’t remember. A long, long time ago…maybe.

Who was she? The owners of the cottage next door were an older couple who spent half the year in Florida and half the year on the Shore. Could she be a granddaughter or niece? Or had the couple decided to rent this year? Rick made a mental note to contact his property manager who handled many of the shore homes and make inquiries. He had not planned on having to deal with a stranger; he just wanted some peace and quiet.

The woman and dog were walking up from the water’s edge. Rick eased toward the open doors of his living room, thinking to disappear into the shadows. He just didn’t feel like an early morning encounter with anyone, certainly not the mermaid with those incredible legs who was ambling slowly in his general direction. He stopped suddenly when something caught the corner of his eye. A glint of sunlight on metal. He reached for his pistol, but his waistband was empty. Damn. What is that woman doing with a diving knife strapped to her right bicep? Who the hell is she?

VBT – Miss Behave

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About the Author

Traci Highland

Traci Highland writes funny books for sassy ladies. She is a graduate of Bryn Mawr College and has a Master’s from Quinnipiac University. She uses this education to write books, bake cakes, garden and make homemade jams. Her children say she’s bossy, her husband says she’s high-maintenance, but the dog thinks she’s perfect.

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About the Book

Title: Miss Behave (The Anderson Family Series Book 1)
Author: Traci Highland
Publisher: Cheshire Lane Press
Pages: 330
Genre: Romantic Comedy

Miss Behave

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She’s great at giving advice, too bad she never takes it…

Piper Anderson wants to be a serious journalist at a serious paper covering serious news. Instead, she’s stuck at the Pendleton Falls Herald, where her massive investigative skills are wasted penning the paper’s advice column, Miss Behave.

Her shot at a meaty story comes when she’s assigned to write up a profile of a local business, Brookes Jewelers. She is determined to write the piece so she can use the article to impress a real paper.

Unfortunately Hunter Brookes, co-owner of Brookes Jewelers and the Pendleton Falls Herald, is rather persistent, in his own hot little way, that the piece should be nothing more than a glorified sales pitch.

But when diamonds disappear, Piper may get the chance to do a real investigation, leading her to confront family secrets and worst of all, turn to her mother for help.

Piper soon realizes that there is more to Mr. Brookes than a tight ass and a ridiculous fascination with name tags. Together they deal with roasted pigs, crazy cat ladies, and gun-toting fashionistas.

In all the chaos, they just might find the one thing that neither one was looking for: true love.

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Book Excerpt

Dear Miss Behave,

Last weekend I was at the pool with the children, and there was a woman naked and walking around the locker room.

I hate to be prissy, but to be naked around young children like that just isn’t right. She comes to the pool regularly and I am not the only one who has happened upon her strolling around the locker room without clothes. Now I know there are showers and that people change in locker rooms, but showers should be taken while wearing bathing suits and there are private changing rooms that are clearly marked.

How can I convey to her the accepted rules of decency before any of our children become hopelessly corrupted?

Sincerely,

-Agape at the AquaPark

Dear Agape,

Do please get over yourself. People shower naked. If you choose not to, then I assume you probably smell and your skin is beset by odd rashes.

I suggest that you buy your kids an ice-cream and treat yourself to a margarita. Life is short, darling. Lighten up.

Sincerely,

Miss Behave

VBT – Mortal Foe

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MORTAL FOE by Marty Roppelt, SupernaturalThriller, 213 pp., $14.99 (paperback) $4.99 (Kindle)

 

Title: MORTAL FOE

Author: Marty Roppelt

Publisher: Dragon Breath Press

Pages: 213

Genre: Supernatural Thriller

A picture is worth a thousand words… But what if that image can only bee
seen through the lens of one camera? What is the snapshot can only be
seen by a select few? What if the photo has its origins in the pit of
Hell? What is that face belongs to an enemy bent on destruction? This is
Buddy Cullen’s fate when he first dreams of his grandfather’s death and
then inherits his grandfather’s antique camera and captures an image
that haunts him and seeks his death. Can Buddy survive the curse that he
sarcastically dubs “Popcorn”—a curse that no one wants to believe
exists and stalks the city of Cleveland, beginning with its baseball
team—a mortal foe?

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Excerpt:

My eyes snap open wide.
A shadow faces me from beyond the
foot of my bed. I shiver, holding my breath. The tall, bulky intruder seems
oblivious. My sleep-hazy mind tells me to lie still. I’ll make myself smaller
that way, so the invader won’t see me.
I’m making myself small…
My brain stirs slowly. A minute
passes, then a few more. My eyes take their time adjusting to the darkness.
Across the room, the sinister hulk takes the shape of my antique cherry-wood
armoire.
My girlfriend, Kelly, lies next to
me, undisturbed. She faces away. Her chest rises and falls with each breath,
her body radiating warmth.
I don’t move. Dread still freezes
me in place. A voice in my head, my own voice, whispers a warning to me. The
warning is so primal it would wear a bearskin if it had a life of its own.
Don’t show the darkness any
fear, any weakness.
A familiar neon green beacon, my
alarm clock, demands my attention. A quarter past midnight. The glow helps me shake off the drowsy
panic. My eyes scan familiar, dark shapes around me—the armoire
, the
dresser, the doors to my closet and to the hallway, the rumpled down comforter
covering my girlfriend.
Despite the need for rest, my eyes
won’t stay closed. This irritates me. The frustration of not being able to
sleep keeps me awake even longer. I can deal with the frustration. But I can’t
shake this sense of dread.
A dream. Just a weird, stupid
dream
.
The clock’s digits change without
remorse, mocking and exasperating me. Twelve
forty-seven, eight, nine… Tomorrow won’t be good. I risk coming off
like a yawning zombie. Twelve fifty-five… I consider pummeling my pillow. My
legs swing out of bed instead. The cold of the hardwood floor against my bare
feet chases away the last of my drowsiness.
I amble into the kitchen. Sitting
in silence in its cradle on the kitchen counter is my cordless phone. My eyes
lock on the handset. An urge brews up to call someone close to me, but who
should I call? My mom, my dad? Neither of them would answer at his hour, for
different reasons, and neither should, of course. Now I expect the phone cradle
to light up and ring, as my roused senses try to decipher the dream that woke
me, that somehow signaled to me something is wrong…
A dream has me waiting at a
ridiculous hour for a phone call from someone in my family.
I grumble to myself. “This is
nuts.”
The opened refrigerator bathes me
in a sudden glare. Unguided hands fumble past paper bags and Styrofoam
containers of restaurant leftovers. I finally find a bottle of beer. My fingers
close around the long neck, I twist off the cap, and take a swig. The light
cord of the ceiling fan dangles near my head. I ignore it. Something about the
darkness is important. Not comforting, but…
But what?
Raising a cigarette to my lips, I
open the window a few inches, then sit at the table. My old Zippo lighter’s top
pops open with a metallic clink, the flint makes a quick, scraping rasp, and
the flame whooshes to life. I cringe. Did the noises rouse my neighbors from
their own troubled sleep?
My gaze wanders past the flame.
Don’t show the darkness any
fear.
Darkness dominated the kitchen only
a moment ago. This flame, this puny, solitary sliver of light defeats the
darkness. My Zippo can’t signal ships at sea. My ‘fridge probably could. Both
lights can expose shadowy shapes, however, and the night cannot overcome either
light. The only thing that can extinguish the light is me.
Don’t show it any weakness.
I light my cigarette and kill the
glow of the Zippo.
“Join you?” A voice,
half-awake, issues from the doorway behind me. I hope I didn’t jump too high.
“Sure. Beer?”
“No. You can fire up a smoke
for me, though. Thanks.”
Kelly glides past. A wisp of
vanilla, musk and flowers, Chantilly, her favorite perfume, follows her. She
sits opposite me and takes the lit cigarette I offer. “Should I turn on
the light?”
“If you like.”
She keeps her seat, apparently
liking the darkness better.
I jerk my chin toward the open
window. “You want me to turn the heat up?”
“I’ve got my robe on.”
I chuckle. My own total nakedness
doesn’t concern me. Kelly, on the other hand, wears her gauzy emerald green
“robe” only, untied. She might as well be naked, too. I understand,
of course. The sheer silk garment’s function was never to keep the wearer warm,
but to light a fire in someone else.
Kelly toys with her cigarette,
rolling it between her thumb and fingers. “Worried about tomorrow?”
“About my department head?
He’s audited my classes before.”
“So, why the stress?”
“Im that transparent?”
Her laugh drips playful sarcasm.
“You light up every hour and a half when you’re awake. You only smoke more
at a bar, when you’re bored, or when you’re stressed. We’re not at a bar. And
when I do things right you’re definitely not bored.” She leans over the
table. Her lips pucker into her best Marilyn Monroe pout. “Didn’t I do
things right tonight?”
“Oh, yeah.”
Several hours ago, Kelly left her
Downtown Cleveland office after work to meet me at an upscale bistro on the
west bank of the Cuyahoga River. A glass each of Chianti Classico turned into a
whole bottle. She asked after glass three if I could spend the night with her.
I toyed with the idea. After a few minutes, though, I finally decided to beg
off.
But Kelly doesn’t often take long
to get what she wants from me. Tonight was no exception. The wine shot straight
to my head. The low lights hid the dainty foot that nudged and rubbed my calf
under the table. The aromas of Italian cooking mingled with Chantilly in an
irresistible wave of sensuality. We passed on dessert. Kelly promised something
much more stimulating at my apartment.
Now she sits back in triumph,
blowing two perfect smoke rings toward the ceiling. “So, this is
stress.”
“Yes and no,” I mumble.
“Nightmare?”
“Yeah.”
“I’m surprised.”
“Why?”
“It’s just a dream. You’re a
bright college professor…”
“Journalism, not psychology.
Who said I put stock in that stuff, anyway? I woke up, that’s all.”
“What did you dream
about?”
“Funny. Now that I’m awake, I
don’t remember much.”
Why did I just lie to her?
The truth is I remember every
detail. The odd nightmare burned itself into my consciousness like a glowing
cattle brand.
In the nightmare, my grandfather,
photographer Jimmy Cullen, pulled a photo print off the wire that runs the
length of his basement darkroom. Grandpop—I’ve always called him that—held the
photo as far from his face as possible. His eyes widened. His ruddy complexion
drained of all color. His lips quivered. He acted as if he’d been handed a live
hand grenade.
“Grandpop?” My tongue
lolled in my mouth with Novocained sluggishness. “What is it?”
 A sudden wind blew. Dried fallen leaves
scraped across the pavement outside. Our heads snapped in unison toward the
sound. The basement’s bare cinderblock walls gave the place a fortress’s
ambiance, but they didn’t blot out the rattle of dead leaves. Grandpop stared
for a long moment. He froze as if expecting the walls to give way to the
leaves, or to worse. The still house seemed to invite the whispery sounds of
death inside and embrace them.
Grandpop spoke. But like a badly
dubbed foreign movie, the words his mouth formed didn’t match the words that
came out. “Alone tonight… Darn it, Maureen… doggone kids’ Halloween
dance…”
Grandpop plopped down on a tall
stool at his work table, exhausted by his outburst. A complaint? The words, the
whining and grousing, were out of character. I had no response for him, which
is also unlike me.
“No Grandma?” Invisible
marbles rolled around inside my mouth.
Grandpop blinked hard, jumping as
though he’d been electrically shocked. He jammed the print into a large manila
envelope that already bulged with something else inside. The package bore a
number written in green ink: nine-eight-five-nine.
Grandpop rose from his stool, a
barstool I recognized from my dad’s Downtown tavern. He strode toward the
walk-in closet at the back of the darkroom. He muttered at the envelope as he
passed me.
“Caught you again, didn’t
I?”
“Caught who?” My voice
changed. I sounded like a Munchkin from Oz.
Grandpop disappeared into the
closet, leaving me in the darkroom alone. I couldn’t bring myself to move. My
curiosity was the kind a child suffers when he’s told never, ever to do a
certain thing. The curious kid in me wanted to see what was going on. The adult
in me feared for life and limb. My fear rooted me to the spot.
A “pop” and loss of light
announced the death of one of the darkroom’s two light bulbs.
“I don’t spook so
easily,” Grandpop hollered.
A car cruised up the driveway. The
engine’s hum filtered through the fortress walls. The side door to the kitchen
creaked open and banged closed.
We were no longer alone.
My heart raced, my joints froze. I
wanted to run. My muscles fought against me. Stark terror turned my feet to
lead. Footsteps headed our way from the basement stairs.
“Jimmy?” my grandmother,
Maureen, called.
My heart slowed but I still
couldn’t move, despite my relief.
Grandpop met Grandma in the doorway
and gave her a peck on the cheek.
“How’s my Lass?”
“Missed you.” She
scrunched her face into a silly expression, a kind of mock pout,
uncharacteristic for her. “Atlanta? The Series?”
“Too much traffic. The Indians
lost. Missed you, too.”
They held each other, their embrace
a subtle dance. The surviving forty-watt bulb above us threw weird shadows into
the corners of the darkroom. The sounds of our breathing, and the scraping,
rustling leaves grew louder in the otherwise silent murk.
Grandma pulled away, cackling.
“Cup of hot chocolate and a ghost story for you?”
I almost laughed out loud at her
bizarre behavior.
“Nah,” Grandpop said.
“I’m going to bed.”
Grandpop answered in a
melodramatic, fearful tone. “Just a couple more things to do. Then we’ll
be together again.”
His stony expression was the
lawyer’s before a murder trial, or the soldier’s on his way to deadly combat.
His demeanor only made his words to Grandma more jarring, more frightful to me.
They kissed. Grandma wheeled and
left the darkroom. We heard the groan of well-worn wooden stairs, first to the
kitchen, then further above to the bedroom of their old colonial-style home.
Grandpop settled again on his stool. He reached across his work table for his
Kodak Medalist 620, the camera he used since his enlistment in the Navy two
generations ago.
Every once in a while, a dream
becomes so surreal that, despite still being asleep, some distant part of the
brain announces “This is a dream!” I remember the exact moment, a
sort of “out-of-body” experience. I became Grandpop. I sat on his
stool and held his camera, but I was still an observer, too, watching myself
play his part. I gripped the antique as if shaking a frail old friend’s hand. This
friend accompanied me—him—through everything from the best of times to the most
harrowing hell.
No more experiences would be shared
and captured on film. A hot, sharp pain ripped up my left arm. A giant fist
squeezed my chest and I gasped in vain for breath. My mind raced away from the
Medalist 620 to my grandmother lying in bed, likely dozing while trying to read
a book. She would wake, sensing Grandpop was still in the house, and yet gone.
She would find him here later. Sadness engulfed me.
I’m sorry, Lass…
I slumped to the work table. As
Grandpop, I wanted my last thoughts on earth to be of Grandma, to take the
memory of my gentle, devoted wife’s face with me on my way to meet God. But my
last glance caught a shadow that was not Grandma’s, moving toward me from beyond
the darkroom doorway.
Then I woke to the strange shadow
at the foot of my bed…
“Yeah, I’ve had that happen
before. It’s so frustrating.”
Kelly’s voice, from behind the
glowing cigarette tip, jars me back to the waking present. I shake the
nightmare out of my head.
“Had what happen?”
“Dreamed something and then
forgotten it only a couple of minutes after waking up. Frustrating.”
“Yeah.”
Kelly takes a drag from the
cigarette and stabs the ash tray with it. She shoves her chair aside, composes
herself, and glides back around the table, tracing her finger up my bare arm.
Her nail scratches a light reddish trail on my skin.
“Know the best way to get rid
of frustration, Buddy Cullen?”
“Tell me.”
“Showing’s better than
telling.”
I crush my own cigarette out and
glance at the phone. Nothing happens, of course. The phone’s not going to ring
tonight. Not for this. I rise and lay foolish superstition aside. A colleague
at Case Western Reserve University, a science professor, once assured me that
to attach meaning to dreams is unscientific, a bogus exercise. Dreams, he
theorized, might be nothing more than a mash of random thoughts and memories.
Kelly breezes ahead of me, tugging
me by my hand. Her urgency mounts. My gaze consumes her. The wispy robe
caresses her perfect form. Her cat-graceful step entrances me. She pirouettes,
sits on the edge of the bed, and leans back, pulling me down toward her.
Ghosts and demons and other
unexplainable things lose their fascination. I lie far less gracefully beside
Kelly. Her lips explore the base of my neck, but I still keep one ear cocked
toward the phone. She nips lightly at my ear lobe, with a deep-throated
chuckle. In a few short moments, she commands my full attention…
The phone rings. I gasp, irritated
by the interruption. I’m dismayed, too. I know what the call is about.
“I have to get that.”
“No, you don’t.” Kelly
tangles her fingers in my hair and pulls my face back down toward hers.
“That’s why God gave us answering machines.”
I’m conflicted, keyed up but
powerless, able to break free but unwilling to try. The machine answers the
call, the phone stops ringing. I feel Kelly’s smile in the darkness as her lips
brush against mine. I lose myself in her, lose every part of myself.
Every part, that is, except the
faraway corner of my mind that wonders if Grandma just woke from the same
nightmare, and found Grandpop dead in his darkroom.

 

 

 

 

 

Marty Roppelt was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio. His original
profession was acting on stage, in local commercials and training films
and in film. This means that he has experienced life through a wide
variety of day and night jobs, from barista to waiter and bartender to
security guard, amongst many others. He lives in Illinois with his wife,
Becky, and their eccentric cat, Fritz.

Mortal Foe is his debut novel.

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VBT – Conch Shell Confessions

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About the Author

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Dax Marie was five or so, when the man that she would otherwise call, “father” gave Dax her issues. What’s the medical terminology for that? Oh, Daddy Issues! For nearly the whole of her life she has tried to deny this grave medical condition and up until about seven years ago, she was doing alright. By no means was she swimming through the world with ease, but she did like a’ight (that’s hood talk for alright).

It was not until sometime in high school when she discovered her self-diagnosed condition. Sigmund Freud (you may have heard of him, he’s like a coke-head genius) told Dax (in a text book) that she has Penis Envy. Poor thing, she was absolutely flabbergasted!

“Me, Dax Marie? Associated with male genitalia?” she thought to herself.

So, it was then and there, her junior year of high school that she knew what

she was destined for…MEN.

Dax’s latest book is the memoir, Conch Shell Confessions.

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About the Book

Title: CONCH SHELL CONFESSIONS
Author: Dax Marie
Publisher: Author House
Pages: 202
Genre: Memoir

Conch Shell Confessions

BOOK BLURB:

This is a book about love: hunting it, chasing it, losing it, tripping, and falling into it.

And yes, it’s a book about sex: hunting it, chasing it, losing it, tripping from it, and falling onto…ahem…it.

But more than anything, it’s a book about self-discovery, navigating the learning curve of adulting, and learning the kind of tough lessons that only come when you have to pick yourself off the floor, block a guy’s phone number (for the second time), and clean some curious stains off your dress.

I dove headfirst into love and sex, and for better or worse, they have taught me that sometimes you just need to try the world on for size to really understand what it is you want and learn who you are. So here’s my experience in the world of men.

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Book Excerpt

Epigraph

Because lord knows I need one.

    Ladies, this is a book about men (or maybe they could be more accurately defined as boys…little boys). So, if you have ever found yourself with the wrong guy (or guys as I have mistakenly done), I am so sorry. If you have ever had to deal with heartbreak, frustration, or immaturity due to boy-kind, I would like to apologize for their actions, too, because lord knows they never will. Can I do that? Just apologize for the inferior gender like that? Oh well, I’m going to anyway.

    The dating struggle is real, and I feel your pain. Know that you don’t stand alone in your dating of dipshits and DEFINITELY know that I understand (and that it’s okay) if sometimes you’re the dipshit because of the men you choose for yourself. As some cliché somewhere once said, you live and you learn. So let’s start making our way towards finding ourselves and learning about love. Oh, the happy struggles of vagina-hood.

    Some of you men out there might be worried that you’re going to show up in these pages. Some of you will be right––but not to worry my sweet boys, I have changed your names to ones that I find more befitting of you. So if you don’t like it, I’m sorry, but you shouldn’t have been so deserving of such colorful nicknames.

Guest Post – Dax Marie

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Dax Marie & The Disappearing Tampon

Oh me, oh my, I think I’ve lost something between my thighs.

You should take out your tampon, gurgled my last two unsaturated braincells.

Ri Ri almost hits the nail on the head, “White girl wasted on that brown liquor.” Only Don Julio and I are besties and he would never do me dirty, despite the glorious fountain of puke I’ve been. Ehh, but I barely remember those countless times so they hardly count. I mean, I guess RiRi’s “white girl wasted on that brown liquor” pegs me with the rye whiskey and rum but even then, I just blackout; get cut on random glass in the backseat of the Uber; shove my gushing bloody finger in the bouncer’s face; somehow am still able to talk my way into the dive bar; spill my drink on the dance floor only to slip on my own spilled drink seconds later; get ditched by everyone in my party (probably because my dance moves were so sick); realize I’m about to be too drunk and decide to call Uber but then start to cry when I realize that I don’t remember how to operate Uber; and then when I finally find my babysitter—I mean boyfriend, we leave and I find kitties (not pussies) to pet. But even then, I consider myself to be sexually responsible on the brown liquor. Yes, you can be sexually irresponsible when you’re in a monogamous relationship…protection, anyone?

Vodka on the other hand is a CLEAR liquor and that bitch makes me a sex-crazed psychopath. Confused? Yeah so was I. Here, let me backtrack…

I’m at the stage in my life where everyone I know is getting married, having babies, buying houses, embracing their inner weekend warrior, and paying for their own health insurance…you know, they’re adults and I’m not there yet but I pretend to be. I mean, my boyfriend is, but I’m still playing fake-it-till-I-make-it as a writer. Even my friends that aren’t doing all of these expected adult things, they do other adult things like, invite you and your significant other over for a dinner party with all of their other mature adult friends. That’s A LOT of adulting…

Here’s what I’ve only recently discovered about being a couple who adults together: There may actually only be ONE adult in the couple. How do you know if you’re the mature adult in the couple? Well, you’re definitely not the mature adult in the couple when you frequently, by which I mean never know your limit. Hi, that’s me! You’re also not the mature adult when you keep pounding pulpy grapefruit infused vodka shots because you can’t taste the alcohol. Despite the fact that vodka always makes you gag. Oh, wow, also me!

Grapefruit, I can dig it. Vodka, not my jam. But grapefruit infused vodka…maybe I misjudged vodka? Fast-forward through a glass of rosé, shrimp tacos, three or four vodka grapefruit concoctions speckled throughout the evening, a forgotten car ride home, all the way to my bedroom seven hours later, What the fuck? Where’re my clothes?

I slid my hands down my body to my underwear—Oh my god, my tampon! I jumped out of bed, frantically running to the bathroom…no tampon. Fuck me.

“Hey…hey,” I whisper to my slumbering boyfriend.

No response.

“HEY!” I gently (violently) nudge him.

“What?” He moans as he rolls over to face me.

“What do you mean what? What happened? Where’s my tampon?”

“What tampon? You nearly attacked me to have sex.”

My stomach sank to my big butt. We had sex?

He continued, “You ran into the room when we got home and then you came running out to the living room with nothing but your underwear and your pink blanket draped around you.”

“No I didn’t.” I retorted as if I could actually remember what the fuck had happened.

“Yeah, you did and then you grabbed me off of the couch, took me to the room, and pushed me down on the bed.”

Wow, aren’t you a lucky man—but seriously, where the fuck is your tampon, you idiot!

“Baby, you were super aggressive last night. You jumped my bones and then passed the fuck out.”

“Okay, but where’s my tampon?”

“What?! You were on your period?”

“I was…I think my uterus ate my tampon…Or you shoved it way up in me.”

“That’s not on me, how was I supposed to know?”

“I’m going to get toxic shock syndrome,” said the hypochondriac me.

“What the hell is that?”

I rolled my eyes and rolled back to sleep. I’d go fishing in the morning.

Two hours later, it was showtime, time for me to go searching for something that I wasn’t too sure I had lost. Nothing. A couple more hours and I’m imagining cramps. Oh shit, here comes the TSS. I check again. Nothing. Some more hours pass. I feel feverish. Check again and again nothing but slippery uterus. Debated calling out of work to take myself to the ER but the ridiculous medical bill coupled with the cognizance of my overactive and imaginative hypochondriac imagination told me to spare my mula and myself.

For three whole days I fished for that allusive vagina plug. Morning, afternoon and night, every search and rescue mission leaving me empty-handed. So eventually, I gave up. If this non-existent tampon wanted to be embedded in my uterus, then who was I to deny it? It was my fault in the first place…or maybe vodka’s fault?

Two weeks later, it’s still missing and I am still without Toxic Shock Syndrome. Moral of the story? Vodka makes me a sex-crazed psychopath who “loses” tampons inside of her. Although, I’m still not too sure if there was ever a tampon in there to begin with. I guess I’ll have to get back to you on that one.

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VBT – Stairway to Paradise

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About the Author

 Nadia Natali

Nadia Natali, author of the memoir, Stairway to Paradise: Growing Up Gershwin, published by Rare Bird, Los Angeles, 2015, and The Blue Heron Ranch Cookbook: Recipes and Stories from a Zen Retreat Center published by North Atlantic Books, Berkeley CA, 2008, is currently working on a second cookbook titled Zafu Kitchen Cookbook. 

Natali, a clinical psychotherapist and dance therapist, specializes in trauma release through somatic work. She earned a master’s degree from Hunter College in New York City in Dance/Movement Therapy and completed another masters degree in clinical psychology with an emphasis in somatic psychology at the Santa Barbara Graduate Institute. Nadia is a registered practitioner of Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy (RCST) and is also a certified Somatic Experiencing Practitioner (SEP) who trained with Peter Levine.

DanceMedicine Workshops is Natali’s creation where participants move through their trauma with dialogue and dance. She also offers the Ojai community, DanceMedicine Journeys. In addition to her private practice, Nadia and her husband offer Zen Retreats at their center.

Born into a famous family that was riddled with dysfunction, Nadia Natali made the choice to turn her life inside out and step away from fame and fortune. Against her parents’ consent she married an artist and moved to the remote wilderness in California. It was there that she found grounding as she and her husband raised and homeschooled their three children and opened a retreat center. As she gathered her own momentum, she enrolled in a doctorate program finally becoming a clinical psychotherapist specializing in psychosomatic work. She and her husband live in Ojai California.

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About the Book

 Stairway to Paradise

Title: STAIRWAY TO PARADISE: GROWING UP GERSHWIN
Author: Nadia Natali
Publisher: RareBird Books
Pages: 304
Genre: Memoir

BOOK BLURB:

Growing up as Frankie Gershwin’s daughter, the sister of George and Ira Gershwin, was quite a challenge. I didn’t have the perspective to realize that so much unhappiness in a family was out of the ordinary. But I knew something was off. My mother was often depressed and my father was tyrannical and scary, one never knew when he would blow up. I learned early on that I had to be the cheery one, the one to fix the problems. Both sides of my family were famous; the Gershwin side and my father who invented color film. But even though there was more than enough recognition, money and parties I understood that wasn’t what made people happy.

As a young adult adrift and depressed I broke from that unsatisfactory life by marrying Enrico Natali, a photographer, deeply immersed in his own questions about life. We moved into the wilderness away from what we considered as the dysfunction of society. That’s when we discovered that life had other kinds of challenges: flood, fire, rattlesnakes, mountain lions and bears. We lived in a teepee for more than four years while building a house. Curiously my mother never commented on my life choice. She must have realized on some level that her own life was less than satisfactory.

Enrico had developed a serious meditation practice that had become a kind of ground for him. As for me I danced. Understanding the somatic, the inner body experience, became my way to shift the inner story.

We raised and homeschooled our three children. I taught them to read, Enrico taught them math. The kids ran free, happy, always engaged, making things, and discovering. We were so sure we were doing the right thing. However, we didn’t have a clue how they would make the transition to the so-called ‘real world’. The children thrived until they became teenagers. They then wanted out. Everything fell apart for them and for Enrico and me. Our lives were turned upside down, our paradise lost. There was tragedy: our son lost his life while attempting to cross our river during a fierce storm. Later I was further challenged by advanced breast cancer.

It was during these times that I delved deeply into the somatic recesses of myself. I began to find my own voice, a long learning process. I emerged with a profound trust in my own authority. It became clear that everyone has to find his or her way through layers of inauthenticity, where a deep knowing can develop. And I came to see that is the best anyone can offer to the world.

Enrico and I still live in the wilds of the Lost Padres National Forest, a paradise with many steps going up and down, a life I would not change.

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Book Excerpt

We’d caravanned in separate vehicles, hauling all that we could carry in and on top of our cars, in addition to a foldout trailer hitched to Enrico’s Toyota jeep. At the end of a long, winding two-lane road that followed Matilija Creek, a brown metal gate barred our way. Beyond the gate lay the Los Padres National Forest, wilderness, and a mile farther up a dirt road through the canyon, our property. We had to wait for a key to open the lock, a key that a forest ranger was going to hand over—the key to our new life. I gazed toward the jagged and intimidating mountains that leaned over the canyon. Inhaling the sweet smell of the dry chaparral, I couldn’t help but compare it to the lush, green landscape of my childhood home in Connecticut. This is going to be a very different life, I thought. My privileged upbringing seemed the polar opposite of this place, and maybe that was what attracted me to it. Observing the struggles of my family and seeing that money and fame had failed to bring happiness, I’d learned I needed to find my own path. I had not fully formulated my goal, but it was something unique and original, and I had to find it on my own.

Behind the Scenes of Stairway to Paradise: Growing Up Gershwin

This memoir is about my bumpy journey toward truth and authenticity with the hope that those of you who read it can glean some value.

You may believe fame and wealth bring happiness. That was not my experience.

My mother, sister of George and Ira Gershwin, and my father who invented color film were the primary models in my childhood. Growing up with such talent as I did, you learn early on that it distorts values.

I unwittingly set my brilliant father up as an authority figure, even though he was terrifying and unpredictable. And because the family dynamic was unhealthy I didn’t know whom to trust or even that trust was possible, especially in myself. Later as a young woman I turned away from my background and looked to teachers and professionals for the truth. It took some time for me to realize that their expertise could only take me so far.

After one false start and then another I found a caring partner, Enrico, whom I initially turned to, believing he could impart a way for me to find my own direction and answers, as he seemed to have found for himself. What was so radical to learn was how and where to look. What I learned was going to sensations in the body rather than the thinking mind was where the key to change and transformation lay.

We married and moved out to the wilderness where we faced floods, fire, rattle snakes, mountain lions and bears. In the years it took to build a house we lived in a teepee. We tried to create our own paradise where we raised and homeschooled three children.

Our life turned upside down when the kids became teenagers. Paradise crashed and my relationship with Enrico deteriorated. The grown children struggled to find a place in the outside world. We faced tragedy and I, cancer. This was when my hard earned ability to experience the somatic (inner experience as sensation) helped regulate me and provide me with a chance to find authenticity and authority, as well as a more mature relationship with Enrico. I was able to use this inner working as a way to help others, which I call DanceMedicine, a healing through movement.

We are still living in the wilderness and offer workshops and retreats to anyone who is interested.

VBT – THE NATURE OF ENTANGLED HEARTS

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About the Author

Emma Hartley is an author and artist living in picturesque Maine. She has been writing and making art since childhood and has been insatiably curious and industrious her whole life. Emma was a double major in English and Fine Arts and she received her Masters in Art and Design Education. She is a specialist in ceramics and includes much of this expertise in her novel The Nature of Entangled Hearts. Her other interests include playing drums, making art and exploring every square inch of the Maine coastline. The Nature of Entangled Hearts is her first novel.

EmmaHartley

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About the Book:

Title: THE NATURE OF ENTANGLED HEARTS
Author: Emma Hartley
Publisher: Satin Romance
Pages: 277
Genre: Contemporary Romance/Paranormal Romance/Thriller/Chick Lit/Women’s Fiction
BOOK BLURB:

The Nature of Entangled Hearts is a fast-paced, edgy, romantic thriller, with a subtly supernatural twist.  Enter the story of Elwyn and James, two strangers entangled by their past-life experiences, who are mired in an unquantifiable present.  Throughout the novel they work to understand the bonds that hold them together, just as an unforeseen danger threatens to tear them apart.

Elwyn “Derrin” Derringer is a ceramic artist and a professor at the local college of art in Portland, Maine.  She has always felt insecure and disconnected, unsure of how or why she fits into the world, seeking through her art to fill in the missing pieces of herself.  When Elwyn’s eyes lock on those of a stranger across the market, everything she has taken for granted as reality is thrown into question.  Understanding blooms in fits and starts, interrupted by her fears of attachment and eventually by the unwanted attentions of an obsessed and disturbed art student.

Throughout the novel, Elwyn discovers reservoirs of strength and independence as she faces these challenges, endearing the reader with her feisty nature and her fierce desires to create authentically, to love intensely and to transcend the destructive links to her past.  “The Nature of Entangled Hearts” takes us on a thrilling ride through past and present, through love and dread, through loss and reclamation, leaving us thankful that we don’t understand all the mysteries of the universe just yet, and reminding us never to take our lives – or our loves – for granted.

The Nature of Entangled Hearts

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Book Excerpt:

“Ah, my Beloved, fill the Cup that clears

TO-DAY of past Regrets and future Fears –

To-morrow ? – Why, To-morrow I may be

Myself with Yesterday’s Sev’n Thousand Years.”

The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam

Translated by Edward FitzGerald

Prologue

Insecurity nestled in my breast like a needy child. I grew restless as it sucked something essential from me, thriving on my offering just as I, in turn, withdrew. I didn’t wish anymore, it seemed so pointless. I didn’t wait for some great epiphany. I existed, and that was enough, I told myself, for in contrast with the suffering of the rest of the world, it seemed only right to be thankful for the quietude of Maine.

I created relative to this insecurity, allowing it to flow into my work like water moistening clay. Without water, clay is dust. I thought that without my flaws—insecurity the reigning tyrant of lesser beasts—that my work would crumble under the weight of its own mediocrity. So, I let it govern my forms, my choices, my superficial acceptance of appreciative art collectors. Insecurity was the excuse that allowed me to embrace inferiority. With hope all but lost of finding any true meaning besides beauty in the world about me, I crept catatonic through my life, eyes barely open, heart nearly closed.

I’d spent most of my adult life in the great state of Maine. Portland drew me in after grad school and never let me go. There was always some new allure: The skeletal remains of an ancient pier ascending bleached from the ravages of low tide, exposed like the ribcage of a long extinct behemoth; verdigris copper edging along a crumbling slate roof, tattered like the lace on an old prom dress; the punishing crash of waves against the ferry’s bough, speeding undaunted through winter waters, as I enjoyed my own private cruise. This place had almost everything I needed to thrive. Almost.

Might not love play a part, I wondered in weak moments, in this deceptive spring landscape? Like a lupine seed blown from afar, rooting along the roadside, might it flourish? Then, how could this fragile shoot grow strong enough, fast enough, to outpace the onslaught of winter, or can love thaw the very air around it, creating a protective shield against the elements? Would time then corrupt it? Erode it like tiny drops of water on stone, wearing away elasticity and alacrity, making barren what would have borne fruit?

I had felt winter’s claws dig in, pinning me down like prey, waiting to crush my spirit. I had felt the rebirth of sunshine and growth, spilling into crevices nearly abandoned, a resurgence of breath to revive the long dead. The lost, the lonely, the artistically bereft, we have found ourselves drawn to Maine for an age, it’s the mercurial edge between civilization and wilderness. We flock here yearning to flourish, as a tree may cling to a forbidding cliff, rooting desperate between chinks in granite, gaining purchase against elemental odds: we grow despite ourselves, our rugged forms belying the improbable tenacity of our hidden will to thrive, of our frozen desire for love.
“Listen again. One evening at the Close

Of Ramazan, ere the better Moon arose,

In that old Potter’s Shop I stood alone

With the clay Population round in Rows.

And, strange to tell, among that Earthen Lot

Some could articulate, while others not:

And suddenly one more impatient cried-

Who is the Potter, pray, and who the Pot?

Then said another with a long-drawn Sigh,

“My Clay with long oblivion is gone dry:

But, fill me with the old familiar juice,

Methinks I might recover by-and-by!”

The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam

Translated by Edward FitzGerald

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