Sunday, September 29, 2013

Cleanse Fire by Anastasia V Pergakis

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Pars IV

20th day of Solis Moon, 1364

Derac choked. "What?"

"He came to speak with me while I was in the bath." The amber swirls in her eyes glowed bright and betrayed her panic, but her voice was calm.

His eyebrows shot into his hairline. "Did he force himself on you?" He swallowed the bile in his throat.

"No. He stared at me in a way that made me extremely uncomfortable and," she paused and held her lips between her teeth for a moment. "He kissed my neck. He didn't press any further than that, however."

Derac's breath rushed out of his lungs. He leaned back against the sofa and forced his muscles to relax. "What did he say?"

"He told me that he had great power, greater than just being the Mission Commander. He told me I should partner with him."

Derac's eyebrows shot up again. "What did you say to that?"

She spoke in hushed tones, but the words tumbled from her lips. "I told him no. I don't care for power. He said I could have my own power if I did partner with him. Then he told me to think about it. To wait until after the mission. He said that the events of the mission would help me to make up my mind. I have the awful feeling that this mission is going to go terribly wrong, and the Commander is behind it." She paused to her catch her breath. "Centurio, I know it sounds outlandish, but my feelings have never let me down before. We have no proof, but I think at the very least we should exercise caution around the Commander until we do find out the truth."

Derac rested his chin on the tips of his fingers. The elf thought he could barge in on the elfa's bath like he was supposed to be there? He tried to feel shocked at his Commander's possible betrayal and perverted actions, but he failed.

"What should we do?"

"I trust your judgment Kie. And you're right, we don't have proof. But I think I know of a way to get it." He lowered his voice to a whisper. "We tell the Commander our plan is to stay together. During the mission however, we split up. Get one group of faeries out of the cells and have two elite lead them back to the cabin. The other four will get the second group."

"Wait. Wouldn't that make the two vulnerable handling that many faeries on a six hour trip, on foot?"

"Yes. But, even if the faeries are weak, they could offer some help. There are hundreds of them down there according to the report." He winced. "Then again, you may have a point. What if the intel is wrong, yet again?"

"Didn't I see a report about sentry rotations at night?" Her eyes roamed over the table.

"Yes. It's here." He handed her the paper.

Her amber pools scanned the list. "Let's assume this is incorrect. According to this, they cut the guards in half at night. What if they had less? That would mean less to worry about. And, two of us could easily handle a few sentries."

"What do we do if they actually double the guards at night?"

Her lips pressed into a thin line. "Good point."

He pinched the bridge of his nose. "We can't even rely on our intel. Even if it ended that Palto was not involved, we could still be walking into an ambush. How would we know for sure it was his doing or just bad intel?"

She put her hands behind her head and glanced up at the ceiling. "I don't know. I have no skill with strategy."

He snorted. "You read battle strategies for fun."

"Exactly. I'm trying to learn. Doesn't mean I can make up new ones."

"All right. Let's go over all our options again. We can enter through the front or through the secret tunnel. With any of those options, we can stay together, split in half, or split four to two. Is there any other way to get into the mines?"

She shook her head. "I've heard rumors at the very top of the mountain is a shaft that runs all the way down to the lower levels of the mine. But, I don't know for certain and the mountain side is treacherous. We could injure ourselves more just trying to gain entry."

Derac held his head in his hands and tried to predict the outcome of their mission. Kie mirrored his position as her eyes scanned the intel scattered across the table. Her spine jerked and she sat up straight.

"What if we split up into three groups of two? Two to lead the first group out like you said before, two to provide protection, the last two get the second group. Done fast enough, all six of us and all the faeries would leave right after each other, or at least within moments of each other."

"And you say you have no skill with strategy."

She chuckled. "It's still risky though."

"What part of any mission isn't?" He sucked in air and held it a few moments before he exhaled. "Again, I don't like the plan, but it'll work."

They finalized their strategy and detailed every second of their mission. Confidence filled Derac that their idea would work and he ordered Kie to sleep.

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Genre – Fantasy / Military

Rating – PG13

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Saturday, September 28, 2013

Hindsight by Owen Banner

Seven

I laid in bed that night, assuring myself that it would be the easiest money I'd ever made.

There was something about it, though--something cold sliding down into my gut. I had bitten that worm, and the hook was already working its way through me.

I smoothed over that feeling with the thought that I could be giving Haley a shot at the life she deserved--Winnie too. That's all I needed. I'd pay any price for that. Somehow that thought helped me get to sleep.

Around nine thirty-five, I began to drag myself out of unconsciousness like I was coming out of a coma. Slamming my hand down on my alarm, I stumbled through the living room to the red leather briefcase. An hour and a half later, I was in Philly, turning down a little side road called South Juniper Street. I had the brown paper package and a clipboard tucked under my arm.

About twenty-five steps from the corner was a small shop with a green awning and a candle lantern beside the entrance. The print on the window read McAfee’s Clockworks and Antiques. The curved brass handle on the door was cold. It was the kind of cold that hits your chest like a gong, then vibrates through the rest of you. The bell tinkled over my head as I pushed through the door and a small old man walked out from the back room. Wiping his hands with a dirty towel, he hobbled out from behind the counter.

"Can I help you, lad? Don't be afraid, there isn't anything an old goat like me can do ta hurt ya."

"I've got a package for Mr. Lyndon McAfee."

"Well, that would be me, wouldn't it?" He said with a smile. The man's face was tough, despite his age. He wasn't hobbling because he was old, he must have had some injury back in the day. I handed him the clipboard with the delivery sheet that Isaac had given me.

"This is quite unexpected," his voice had the same syrupy thickness of Isaac's. "There you go." He handed me back the board as I placed the package in his other hand.

"You have a nice day," I said and started to go.

"Can I get you anything before you go? Cup o' tea? A sandwich or something other?"

I turned back and forced a smile. "No thanks, sir. I'd really better be getting back to work," I said holding up my clipboard and giving it a shake.

"Very well, you have a good day."

"You too," I said as the bell tinkled overhead again. The door shut behind me. I rounded the corner feeling the sunlight on my face and crossed the street between the cars. When I stepped onto the sidewalk, I was already thinking about that money and just caught myself before I knocked a latte out of the hand of a blonde-haired businesswoman wearing a little too much perfume. Dodging her, I almost ran smack into a young guy with a black windbreaker and a camera. He stepped aside, and I caught his eye as he went past. I had time to notice he had short, dark hair, olive skin--Middle Eastern. A small scar cut down at the edge of his hairline. His eyes locked onto mine. That's when it hit.

Hindsight

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Genre –  Thriller

Rating – R

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Jack Canon’s American Destiny - Greg Sandora

CHAPTER FIVE

We had a team of agricultural scientists that said it’s possible with our land and climate. Big Oil and greedy politicians had blocked the United States from doing it for years.

Our job was to convince the American People.

People are deathly afraid of change. Ideas have a life cycle. Early adopters jump on the bandwagon right away, eager to try the latest thing. Next, you have the show me types; they’re a little afraid to try anything new. They’re worried when they go to the pump there’ll be no gas. Third, there are the late adopters. After most people are convinced, then they’ll buy in. Last, you have the - that’ll never happen types. They’re quick to say it will never work. They wait until an idea is in common practice, then they go around telling everybody they thought of it years ago.

Bud liked to educate prospective big dollar supporters, “The first cars ran on bio fuel; back in 1880, cars were made to run on peanut oil. Hell, Henry Ford made the 1908 Model T to run on Corn Ethanol; he even had his own plant to produce it. This is nothing new, fellas. It’s been around for years! It’s easier than makin’ moonshine!”

Well what’s old is new again. Bio Energy had been hard to get across to the voters. Folks didn’t seem to get how it would create jobs. For this election, our message was honed to American Energy Works; we would link it with a new slogan - We Can.

Bio Energy sounds like something you flush.

I know people want a president, not a chemist. Focus group testing showed anything we tried sounds better after the words 'We Can'. I’d say the sexy stuff and leave the science to the talking heads.

America had done so well with corn technology, farmers had tripled the bushel yield per acre a decade ago. If American ingenuity could send a man to the moon, we could do the same for our homegrown fuel.

We’d all heard stories of guys working in their garages, who chanced upon a breakthrough technology, only to have it bought out by some oil company. Or worse - tales the inventor were quieted by the government in some conspiracy. That’s all science fiction.

We were holding a workable plan, the key feature being the planting of Jatropha, a hardy grass-like plant that grew in almost any soil. We would convince farmers to grow it and chemists would turn it into Bio Fuel. I preferred Jatropha to other feedstocks like soybeans because it couldn’t double as food.

I figured, why give people a reason to debate? Our experts laid the country out in a grid showing, by planting, just the available farmland of Kentucky; we could accomplish nearly half our national goal. Imagine what we could grow if we spread it around to all fifty states. The message had resonated so well in my home state, I’d won a third term.

Bud was telling donors, ‘It just makes good old-fashioned common sense!’

H. Bud Singer was in charge of the campaign and, in addition to fundraising, he was chiefly responsible for reshaping the message. I needed Bud because he could do and say things other men couldn’t or wouldn’t. Besides Bud, three other rising stars rounded out our core team, each in charge of a segment of the campaign.

Once we announced, we expected a flood of volunteers in addition to more paid staff. Our offices would be buzzing with enthusiasm and the aspirations of youth seeking a place to make their mark in the world. I had an uncanny knack for turning talented people into true believers.

Bud and I spent hours going over speech notes. Ideas didn’t come cheap; especially the kind that could lift us out of recession and pay our debt to China without going to war. We always ended believing the surest way to National Security and prosperity for America was to produce lots of cheap energy. Top economists calculated, for every one percent of energy produced on our soil, we would lower the import cost of oil by 3% and create a quarter million jobs. Our goal is to produce twenty percent of the energy we use and cause the price of world crude to plummet.

What’s scaring the Saudis is they knew it was possible; even their own scientists were telling them so. At least all the data we are continually sharing with them brought them to this conclusion. We have them so worried, the whole Middle East would be planted if they could grow anything in the desert. America has millions of acres of available farmland, a willing workforce, and people who can’t pay their oil bills nearly freezing to death in the Northeast. If ever there was a time for a message to resonate, this was it.

I met Bud Singer at Brown where I majored in economics. Bud was a Political Science undergrad, eventually getting a degree in law. He loved the strategy of politics and started working on congressional campaigns right out of law school. Later he headed a prestigious lobbying group, leaving it only to help me win the election to the senate. Bud was stocky and bald and stubborn, continuing to chain smoke even after having a couple of heart attacks.

Bud would say to big money donors – ‘We’ll have cheap energy like we had back in the 50’s and 60’s, so cheap the multi nationals fall all over themselves to bring production back to America.’ Privately he had a more ingenious plan. ‘We’ve got to make it economical to manufacture here again. Once we lure the Corporations back and get them hooked, we force them through taxes to keep the money and jobs here. Bud was right: politicians had made a crucial error rewarding American Corporations for sending jobs overseas, searching for cheap labor and short-term profits.’

Bud and I agreed that the richest Americans didn’t care where they made the money; they had quadrupled their wealth over the longest recession in history. Once we change the Energy Dynamic, the big players will all rush in for a piece of the action.

A trillion dollars worth of wealth would pour back into this country. We would appeal to their massive egos and call them patriotic - after all, they live here, anyway.

This time was nothing like our first presidential campaign, when our offices were housed makeshift in an old mattress store. One thing the first loss brought me was better positioning in the senate. In the most striking example of ‘it’s not what you know but who you know,’ greater name recognition had secured me a coveted position with the Armed Services Committee.

Our new headquarters were courtesy of our friends at TenStar, a Major Defense Contractor who wanted to get to know me better. They “rented” us the space, renovated to suit, and agreed to accept delayed payment over ten years.

Bud liked the idea, ‘That’s making the paper walk backwards, Jack!’

In addition to providing office space, TenStar would make the campaign an unsecured loan of five million dollars and provide the use of a corporate jet. Privately, the agreement was more complicated, involving several components. Provided Bud would sit on their Board and appear at Corporate Events, the lease debt would be considered settled. The caveat attached to the five million was after I left office I would speak at their annual meetings. Open-ended access was an assumed, but unspoken, part of the deal.

All in all, we considered that fair for us at this juncture, as we get closer, the arrangements will get better.

Sandy called on the speakerphone, “Brenner’s on the line. Can you take it, Jack?”

“Sure, Honey.”

Joe Brenner, CEO of TenStar, personally arranged for the space. TenStar made major weapons systems including a prototype fighter - code name, Phantom, that could enter Earth’s Orbit and fire weapons from space. Sort of an X-35 meets the space shuttle. The problem was, Brenner and his counterparts were the guys who lobbied Congress to shut down the U.S. Shuttle Program.

I picked up the phone, “How the hell are you, Joe,” mirroring his usual style and tone.

Joe fired back, “I’m well, Jack, just calling to see how you boys are settling in.”

“We’re doing fine.”

“How’s the donor money flowing in?”

“Don’t worry, Joe, you got us cheap.”

He chuckled, “We’ll see, Jack. You’ve still got to do well in New Hampshire and you’re not that well-known in the Northeast.”

“Thanks for the heads up, you son of a bitch! If Bud ever decides to leave politics, I’ll know who to call.”

Joe laughed, “I don’t think I’m ready for that. I’ve got all I can handle right here, but Jack, you let me know if you need anything.”

“Thanks, Joe, we’ll have a drink together in the White House, and seriously, I appreciate your support. We’ll talk soon.”

I could count on that, since the Phantom’s projected price tag was estimated at eleven billion per copy.

“Hey, Jack, I heard you were headed out of the country. Anyone I know?”

Joe was always snooping.

I laughed, “If I told you I’d have to kill you, so you’re better off.”

Joe’s laugh sounded forced. We said goodbye.

Sandy tilted her head in, blonde hair hanging down to the doorknob.

Still smiling, I thought she mistook my grin for a reaction to the plunging sweater blouse she was wearing.

Girlishly, “Senior Staff is ready when you are, Jack.”

I figured I’d just go with it to make up for semi-ignoring her before.

“Hey step in here a second.”

“Why, Jack, you need something,” flirting.

“I didn’t get the chance to tell you before; you look fantastic! Is that a new outfit?”

Sounding like a spoiled twenty, “Yes, do you suddenly like it? I didn’t think you noticed me, running through the building to look at your stupid car.”

“Well, I’m noticing now. You look gorgeous. Wow, Honey!”

“Well, better late than never, I guess…Thanks, Jack.”

Her look and the way she practically bounced out of the room told me she was happier.

I was sitting at my desk when Bud arrived, taking his usual seat on one of the sofas.

My office was shaped like an L. Our gathering area consisted of two black leather couches, a couple of wing back chairs, and my desk, all in a tight-knit square.

Bud asked, “How’s everything going today?”

Looking over my reading glasses, “Good, have you finalized the distribution points for the large donations?”

Bud answered, “Everything is set to go. The pump is primed, all we need is the cash.”

“You’re the wizard, Bud, great work.”

Bud had been working for months setting up Super Pac’s that would be controlled by us. The Committees could spend as they wished and collect vast contributions without burdensome regulations. Advertising on television is expensive, even on the local level. Regardless of cost, it’s critical to catch voters in that semiconscious state.

TV helps instill a positive and familiar ‘I know that guy’ kinda feeling. I don’t believe an election could be won without it. To be ingrained, our message has to be playing over and over. I still remember ads I haven’t seen since I was a kid.

The bottom line is - in order for us to make the financial commitments necessary to influence the election we have to set up these channels. I was confident Bud would handle our finances in a way that would still allow us to accept Federal Matching Funds. The people he placed in charge of the Super Pacs would be handsomely rewarded with opportunities, either in the White House, or with corporations that supported us. The system’s crazy; we had no choice but to work the gray areas if we want to win.

Next into the office was Robert “Tip” Thornton, after him, my best buddy, Bill Mitchell, and finally Lisa Pennington. The hit squad, we liked to call it.

This group, along with Sandy, was our inner circle.

We had an understanding of total candor - no subject was off-limits. We liked thinking out loud, knowing everything would stay with us. Secondary staff was on a need to know basis.

Bill was first to speak, holding up his thumb and fore finger an inch apart, “I’m this close to finalizing the trip to see the Saudis.”

We were priming the Crown Prince to be a keystone contributor. We would need a quarter billion to win this thing and we were banking on him to give us a big piece of that.

I said to the group, “If I can get twenty from them, we could get some of the others to pony up. Everybody likes to follow the big dog.”

Bill said, "They’re going to want some heavy assurances that you’ll stall the home still, Jack. Are you prepared to lie to these guys?”

“The truth would be really quaint right now, Bill. Listen, they’ve been selling us high-priced tar for years, sucking the life out of our economy. I don’t care what I have to say at this point! If we’re gonna do this thing and bring America back, we’ve got to hold our noses and do it. If any of you have a problem with this, try focusing on the ordinary Americans who are suffering. We need to tip the scales back in their favor!”

Bud added, “If any of you think there’s any other way to win, speak up now, because it’s now or never. Once we go over there, we’re in it up to our eyeballs!”

Lisa piped back, “I agree with Jack, I’m sick of seeing Americans losing their homes! This is our chance to finally have the power to do something about it.”

“Power isn’t given, it must be seized,” I asserted, “We’ve got to pull the rug out from under these guys, before they catch a whiff of what’s coming.”

Tip was a man of few words and had one quirk: he refused to ever repeat himself. When he spoke, we all piped down for fear of missing even a single word. It was always interesting. An ex-Navy Seal, he was in charge of security for the campaign. I trusted him with my life. Decorated for Valor in Iraq, he was recruited with a sub-agency of the NSA. Tip and company had been dropped into hotspots all over Afghanistan to hunt for snipers. The agency believes ‘it takes one to hunt one’ and chose candidates based on natural ability, recruiting secretly out of the military. His group eliminated targets considered security threats to the United States. Nicknamed King Cobra, Tip commanded an elite squad outfitted with sophisticated survival gear, capable of encampment behind enemy lines for days at a time. Tip saved lives by surgically removing the enemy’s instruments of death. The existence of the team was never made public.

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Genre – Political Thriller

Rating – PG

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Friday, September 27, 2013

How To Find Your Vital Vocation by Brian Cormack Carr

CHAPTER 2
TALENTS

What you love is what you are gifted at, and there are no exceptions.
~ Barbara Sher

This chapter is action-orientated and is all about finding the key that unlocks your Vital Vocation. It’s where we go in search of your gifts and talents in the sure knowledge that these lie at the root of your ideal work. If you already think you know what they are, great; now’s your chance to verify that. If you don’t, the exercises in this chapter will really help you to unearth them.

Discovering What Makes You Tick

The simplest way to get a hint of where your talents lie is to pay attention to anything that you are attracted to and in particular, anything that you really love.

Even if you don’t have an obvious talent in that area, you can be sure that your love for a thing points you towards a talent of some sort. Perhaps it will be something as simple as the fact that you have a heightened appreciation of the subject in question. Yes, that is a real talent. An expert wine-taster doesn’t need to be able to make wine, but he or she needs to fully appreciate good wine in order to do the job well. A history teacher may never make history, but he or she needs to love learning about it in order to teach it effectively. So it is with you. If you love something, you see it in a particular way: a way that’s utterly unique and therefore very valuable to you, and to others.

In order to cast the net as wide as possible, I’m going to ask you to explore several areas which will provide you with clues as to what you should be doing with your life. In the exercises that follow we’ll be searching for this treasure in:

- Your memories

- Your future plans

- Your imagination

- Other people’s perceptions of you

- Your unconscious mind

Each area is explored in a separate exercise and I’ll give examples from my own life so that you can see how it’s done.

It’s worth giving yourself sufficient time to do each exercise without having to rush through it. By going searching for what you love in each of these areas (the last two are optional) you’ll be able to gather enough information to spot any pattern in the things that are capable of satisfying and stimulating you. Once you can see a pattern like that, you can begin to build a life and career around it.

Ready? Enjoy this. We’re about to do no less than discover your purpose in life!

EXERCISE 3: Journeying into the Past

For this exercise, you’re going to cast your mind back to things you’ve loved doing in your past.

Step 1

Wherever you are just now in your life, think back to several earlier periods, for example:

- Childhood

- Your teenage years

- Young adulthood

- Adulthood

- Middle age

Write each of the periods you’ve chosen as a heading on a separate page and make a list of all the things you really loved to do when you were that age. List as many as you can recall and be as specific as possible.

However – and this is important – only write down the things you particularly loved. Choose things that would rate a 7 or above if you were to rate them on a “lovability scale” of 1 to 10 (with 10 being highest).

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Genre –  NonFiction / Careers

Rating – G

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Website http://vitalvocation.com/

The Benjamin Chronicles: Relativity by Matthew DiConti

Relativity

Conal Benjamin never let the love of his life Abigail Bradley know of his romantic feelings for her. Years of living with that regret haunted Conals life and left him with an emptiness in his heart. In one serendipitous moment they are reunited at an alumni science exhibit giving Conal a second chance but in a cruel twist of fate Conal’s triggers an unexpected chain of events sending Abby and himself through a wormhole to 1888 Whitechapel, London, the time and place of one of the most horrifying serial killers in history, Jack the Ripper. With the time machine lost and Conal and Abby separated, the fate of both of their lives hang in the balance. Nothing is what it appears to be and it’s up to Conal to unravel the mysteries that await him, before it’s too late.

“I could not put this cleverly crafted paranormal fiction novel down. I can’t wait to go on the next time travel journey with Benjamin! It would make for a great TV Series/Feature Film. Out of 5 stars I give it 6!”   - Kelly V. Dolan, NBC News Radio

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Genre - Paranormal Fiction

Rating – NC17

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Website http://matthewdiconti.com/

Fiona Ingram – Why Downton Abbey Wins Fans

Why Downton Abbey Wins Fans

by Fiona Ingram

Anyone who has not heard of Downton Abbey must be living in a cave. This is one of the most popular series ever filmed, or maybe it’s THE most popular series ever filmed. Wikipedia has this to say about it: “Reception of the programme was predominantly positive; ratings were extremely high for what is usually considered a “genre” show, and the first series picked up a number of awards and nominations after its initial run. It has subsequently become the most successful British costume drama since the 1981 television serial version of Brideshead Revisited, and in 2011 it entered the Guinness Book of World Records as the “most critically acclaimed English-language television show” for the year, becoming the first British show to be so recognised.”

Downton Abbey has much to teach any author, the most important lesson being, how to grip the attention of your reader. Ask yourself three questions:

  1. Is your story compelling and gripping?
  2. Do your characters play out their lives against a backdrop that adds meaning?
  3. Are your characters believable?

If all your answers are ‘yes’ then you have a winner. I asked myself why Downton Abbey enabled me to so easily suspend my disbelief. Aren’t the characters just typical soap-opera types dressed up in costumes of yester-year? Maybe, but something about the script and the actors’ interpretations renders most criticism invalid. There are examples of stereotypes and clichés in many books. However, not many books can draw a reader in the way viewers have fallen in love with Downton Abbey. I know, I know, the series appeals to our nostalgia for by-gone eras when things were supposedly better and people had more honor/morality/virtues etc. Somehow the tangle of lives and loves, set against the towering backdrop of war-torn Britain has a magical ‘Love Potion Number Nine’ aura. Irresistible!

In my (humble) opinion, the script delves brilliantly into the complications of a society in transition. I think only the Brits truly understand and appreciate the intricacies of the class system in their fair isle. The rest of the world can only stand back and admire at a distance. Maggie Smith, who has all the best lines as the Dowager Countess, encapsulates the mind-set of the era, yet constantly surprises with her practical and sometimes unexpectedly modern outlook.

I think what appeals to me the most (apart from being raging jealous of anyone who lives in Highclere Castle, the setting for the series) is the intensity of the characters—when they love, they love; when they hate, they hate; when they wobble, they truly fall! And even in their fall from grace or their triumph over odds, the characters carry the viewer with them, right to the end. Of course, film triumphs over books because actors can demonstrate in a simple glance, shrug, or expression what it might take the author a few words/lines to create for the reader. But, dear authors, press on, I say. The fact is that the look, sigh, expression, or derogatory snort is part and parcel of the silent inner workings of the characters. I think we forget how much need not be spoken, but simply indicated to ‘speak’ volumes.

The lesson to be gleaned from Downton Abbey is to create real, convincing characters that will imbue your story with a truth and authenticity that cannot be shaken; to have those characters truly believe in what they represent, want, or plan to do. In addition, make sure your background or backdrop action (Okay, I agree, a world war is a big thing to just whip up in a trice but make do with what you have) as integral as possible to the development of the characters’ lives and choices. In Downton Abbey the war in Europe changes British society forever. But that’s life: nothing remains static, life moves on… I cannot wait for more!

Read more about South African children’s author Fiona Ingram and her award-winning middle grade adventure novel The Secret of the Sacred Scarab by visiting http://www.FionaIngram.com or http://www.secretofthesacredscarab.com. The Search for the Stone of Excalibur (Book Two) will be available in late 2013, while Fiona is working on The Temple of the Crystal Timekeeper (Book Three).

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Genre – Juvenile Fiction

Rating – G

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Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Hunters and the Queen: Element Series (Young Adult Fantasy Romance) @VirginiaVayna

The Hunters and the Queen – Virginia Vayna

Amazon Kindle US

Amazon Kindle UK

Genre – Fantasy, Paranormal, Mythology

Rating – PG

3.8 (4 reviews)

The Hunters and the Queen is a work of fiction in the young adult, fantasy and paranormal romance genres. The story blends elements of romance, darkness, history, fantasy, and reincarnation. The second book in the series, The Gypsy Hunter, has a release date during fall 2013. I hope you enjoy the story. Please come back for more of the journey.~
Description:
The main character, Jolán Vajnbirg, is developing into another being. She has a calling from the sky world. A battle is on the horizon.
While working on her studies at the Churchill Military Academy in Kinsburgh, England, Jolán Vajnbirg’s final year at the academy develops into a year of competition, aristocratic love, reincarnation, and a calling from the sky world to help save earth from the death and destruction caused by the Order of the Hunters.
Jolán Vajnbirg is an often reserved, yet occasionally outspoken young woman living in Kinsburgh, England. She has a relatively easy life living in her quiet England town. She has a full-ride swimming scholarship to the Churchill Military Academy. She has a strong mind, she has an athletic body, and she has a loving family and caring friends.
As Jolán embarks upon her final year at the Academy, her life takes an unexpected turn. She has a quaint encounter with Colemund, the Prince of Gallia Belgica, and the two are literally a universal match created centuries ago. As Jolán begins the last year of her studies, she experiences many changes. She is unaware her future love will develop in to a star-crossed romance.
The sky world is steadily preparing Jolán for her future fate. She will need her friends to help her battle the Order of the Hunters. The hunters have upset the universal balance of earth, and the hunters have upset the sky world.
Jolán will learn about her past, she will learn about reincarnation, and she will understand her responsibilities in the realm. Her relationship with Colemund is no ordinary college love.
An Excerpt from The Hunters and the Queen:
The Phoenix
Hadrian immediately placed an angry phone call to Akuji, but this time she answered her phone. Hadrian sharply inquired, ‘Where are you, Akuji? We have a major problem in development.’ Akuji nonchalantly replied, ‘I just transformed a farmer into a hunter, and I’m explaining the rules.’ Hadrian didn’t care about what Akuji was currently doing at the moment; he violently said, ‘Return to Komi. Do not waste time, do not waste resources, but return on the next flight out of England.’ Akuji said, ‘I still have to finish one more assignment. I need to find and follow this girl named Jolán.’ The mere sound of such a name caused Hadrian’s stomach to turn, and his unnerving sensation returned. Hadrian dryly inquired, ‘Who is Jolán?’ As soon as Hadrian spoke Jolán’s name, he felt his insides turn and his stomach ache. Hadrian felt weak. Akuji said, ‘She is some assignment I have to figure out, but I’m not having any success.’ Hadrian gathered as much strength as he could for the moment, and he said to Akuji, ‘Get on the next flight back to Russia. We have heavy issues of concern we need to assess for action.’ At that moment, Akuji heard several voices come through her phone; but she was unsure what happened or where the voices were located. She asked Hadrian, ‘Are you ok?’ All Akuji could hear was the sound of a thousand whispers. Hadrian kept saying, ‘Akuji, are you there? Answer me.’ Hadrian received no response from Akuji. Hadrian finally hung up the phone, but Akuji still heard the voices. She was caught in a trance for several minutes until she received a piercing headache. Akuji quickly left some items behind for the farmer to study, and she walked towards her car. She hustled to the seat of her car. She was en route to the airport; and she was headed back to Komi. Akuji felt something had changed. She felt a sense of urgency.

#AmReading - I, Walter by Mike Hartner

I Walter

Walter Crofter was born into Elizabethan England.
In a country and a time where favor and politics were both deadly, can an honest boy stay true to himself?
Especially given his family background?

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Genre - Historical Fiction/Romance
Rating – G
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Sweet Karoline by Catherine Astolfo

Chapter 1

I met Ethan on the day that I killed Karoline.

Other than a few minor adjustments, I believe that I have handled her murder exceedingly well.

The state of my car, for instance, has become something of a nuisance. Bits of tissue, used napkins, paper cups and pop cans litter the floor at my feet or fly out the window as I drive along. I am invariably subjected to a barrage of honking whenever I reach a red light.

People these days have no patience. They ought to understand that I am busy examining the stray bits in my car. Some of them are works of art. I don't notice the change to green because they are so infinitely interesting.

This study of creative possibilities has become somewhat of an obsession. In the back of my mind I know that all I have to do is clean it up. Yet the thought of actually tackling the onslaught of debris leaves me inert and helpless.

Ethan offered recently to take me to the car wash. He'd help me dump the debris and vacuum the inside, but I have seriously considered the idea that I may be destroying a future Picasso. I have thus far refused his proposition. Not that I have shared my vision of a Picasso with him, of course. I just say that I never have time.

I have acquired a habit of going shopping. I make lists of things in my mind—groceries, toiletries, cosmetics, medicines, vitamins or clothing—that seem absolutely essential to the arrival of tomorrow. But once inside the pharmacy, the clothing store or the shopping center, the bright lights mesmerize me. My eyes blur and I can't for the life of me remember what I have come for.

When I do buy something, I am left vaguely dissatisfied, certain that I could have gotten a better bargain somewhere else had I only looked a little longer. Depressed because I had to use my credit card again and this purchase will become just one more thing to do. Write the check. Buy the stamp. Walk to the post box. Mail the envelope.

The little, unfinished things do sometimes bother me. Dirty laundry is piled up in the closet. The bed is always unmade. In the bathroom, the ceiling is slowly cracking from some unspecified leak that I have failed to report to the superintendent. The drapes in the living room neither open nor close anymore.

At first I tended to watch television all night long, despite the fact that the next day I was a zombie. After I decided to go on an extended sick leave, it didn't matter. I started to sleep all night and all day, never moving unless forced to by some phone call, knock at the door or the call of nature.

I spend hours at the sink. For some reason, the suds and the water are calming. So far I have washed every dish, bowl, and ornament in the apartment two or three times. I reenact advertisements for the latest dishwashing liquid, showing off my lovely long fingers and hands to, well, myself. I speak in a sing-song voice to the imaginary audience, telling them how kind the dishwashing liquid has been to my hands over the years, encouraging them to run right out and buy this product before it disappears from the shelf.

After I've allowed the water to swirl down the drain, I shift to spending hours in front of the little mirror that hangs in my kitchen. People tell me that I am a very beautiful woman. On good days, when I feel haughty and happy, I can gaze into the polished glass and agree with their assessment. On other days, I notice the nose that's a little too upturned. The lips that protrude a bit too much. The dark birthmark above my left eyebrow. The ears that don't lie flat against my head. I have no idea why I am considered flawless, for I have many perceptible flaws, both inside and out.

My father is white and my mother is black with some Native American thrown into her background. My parents have always bragged that I inherited all the great physical features of those races. Their perspective is far less critical than mine. They focus on all the positives. Naturally wavy hair. Large brown eyes with long curling lashes. High, full cheekbones. A small, pert nose. Lips just thick enough to be called luscious.

I am one of those fortunate people who can eat all day and not gain an ounce. Thus I am described as tall and lean as opposed to thin. I have full breasts and a narrow waist. I am a fast runner and good at any sport I attempt. In Hollywood, I am considered full figured.

My skin is a light brown, the color of coffee with cream I guess you would say, that makes me look as though I've just stepped out of a tanning bed. Heads literally turn to stare at me in the street, from across a room, or on the subway. Male and female. To me, it's a constant source of surprise, chagrin and exasperation.

Lots of people, especially women, have jealously told me that I should be grateful for my looks. But I hate being identified as beautiful. Men tend to stare only at my chest when they talk to me. Or they show me off like some trophy and do not bother to ask my opinion on anything. I have been approached in bars and stores alike. Even in this land of plastic enhanced faces, I literally cannot go anywhere without being stared at or even followed. Most people, in fact, are convinced I am a movie star or model. These are not careers I've ever wanted.

I have often been stalked, thus the three sets of locks on our door. Our telephone number is always unlisted and has to be changed once some obsessed man discovers it. When you are lovely on the outside, it's always difficult to entice people to look for the true person underneath. I'm learning through Ethan that it's exactly the same for truly ugly people.

1373252870_2924_Sweet_Karolina_Createspace_Front_Cover

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Genre –  Psychological Suspense

Rating – 18+

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Website http://www.catherineastolfo.com/

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Above and Beyond: A Novel of the Civil War by Jessica James

Chapter 1

Looks like the innocent flower, but be the serpent under it.

—Shakespeare, MacBeth (Act I, Scene V)

June 1862

Major Douglas Benton rode in front of his men, his straight, broad back giving no indication of the hard-fought battles through which he had recently passed. To anyone watching, he appeared the epitome of rugged masculinity and imposing power, yet beneath the stalwart exterior of muscle and strength rode a man with straying thoughts.

With the fighting well over and the enemy long gone, Benton’s wandering mind had turned to more peaceful pursuits. He was daydreaming—mostly about things like shade and a cool draught of water but also of kindly succor at the hands of a beautiful maiden. It was a dream that had little chance of becoming reality, dusty and dirty and disheveled as he was. But it was his to dream nonetheless as he and his horse, with his staff and troop behind him, plodded wearily down an overgrown bridle path.

Two days and nights in the saddle is enough to dull most men’s thoughts of women, but Major Benton found that fatigue did little to diminish his appreciation for the opposite sex. Recently entrusted with his own command, Benton’s orders had kept him engaged in tracking and harassing the enemy for the past few weeks, which had resulted in an unusually long isolation from feminine society. So hot as it was and as parched as he was, Benton still dreamed of warm smiles and womanly charms, deciding he would gladly forego the water and shade if only for a few minutes diversion with a female face and form.

“Sir?”

“Yes, Lieutenant, what is it?” Benton’s voice betrayed his annoyance when the young officer interrupted his daydream. He knew only the name and rank of some of those he now commanded—and not even that for others.

“Sir, I don’t think…”

“There’s a house up ahead, Major,” another one of his men interrupted.

“Yes, finally.” Benton’s weary gaze fell upon a well-tended home sitting amidst a clump of old oaks. Aha, the trees prove evidence of bountiful shade, and the stone well in the yard testifies to the existence of water. Now all that is needed

The lieutenant interrupted again just as Major Benton began turning his horse off the path to the wagon track toward the house. ““Sir…as I was saying…”

“It will have to wait, Lieutenant.” Benton stuck spurs to his horse to ride in advance of his men. He’d already noticed the place itself was a thing of singular beauty, offering the added advantage of remoteness and isolation. He had only another quarter mile to dream about who might inhabit it.

* * *

The yard smelled of roses and appeared carpeted with velvety grass. The sun fairly gleamed from the broad, white bosom of the majestic ivy-covered house, making it appear almost celestial in nature. As he drew close, the slight hint of a breeze caressed Benton’s brow; he felt like he was part of a dream.

As Benton tugged on the reins to slow his anxious horse, his gaze fell upon a womanly form sitting on a garden bench with her head bent intently over a book. He pulled his horse to a halt and took in the scene, then reached down to open the latch of the gate. It was then that she stood and turned her face toward him, and it was then that Benton’s movements were for a moment arrested. Even a dream could not equal the perfection of beauty that stood before him. Astonished, Benton moved his horse forward and removed his hat, bowing low over his saddle. “Pardon the intrusion, miss. My men are tired and thirsty and would be much obliged for a place to rest.”

Benton was close enough now to see two blue eyes regarding him unemotionally from above the high collar of a drab, black mourning dress. Although he thought he had caught a glimmer of welcome at first glance, he could not help notice now the straight, authoritarian bearing of her stance, a trait he tended to find disagreeable in women. His gaze drifted down to the book she held in one hand, and its scuffed and tattered cover. As black as her dress, it reflected hard usage, but he could still read the title in barely recognizable gold letters: Holy Bible.

“Conscience compels me to decline the honor.” She spoke softly yet firmly, never removing her eyes from him as she slowly let the Bible drop to the bench behind her.

“We wish you no ill, miss.” Benton leaned on the pommel with negligent grace, confident of his effect on women. “Surely you are aware there is no refreshment more delicious than that afforded by shade.” He nodded toward the large canopy of trees to his right as he spoke, yet it took no intimate knowledge of his character or familiarity with his dream to know that shade was not necessarily the refreshment he was seeking.

The young woman’s eyes swept across his uniform, then over his shoulder to the approaching horsemen. The suspicion in them turned to intolerance. “I have offered you no invitation, sir,” she said in a cold voice.

Benton laughed as much from amusement as from surprise at her tone and examined her in such a way as to surely make her feel he knew her better than he possibly could. He continued to sit erect and poised, full of manly strength and confidence. “I see you are in mourning, and offer my condolences for your loss. But you are mistaken if you think we mean you harm.” He loosened his reins, making preparations to dismount.

“I have made no mistake.” The woman’s voice turned clearly hostile as she lifted an ancient shotgun from the folds of her skirt. In another instant, the gun was locked expertly between her side and elbow and was pointed straight at his chest. “But if one of your boots dares touch this soil, you may claim the responsibility for making one.”

“But I am Major Douglas Benton—” He stopped short when he saw the look that radiated from her eyes.

“Yes, I gathered that.” Her gaze remained locked on his. “I am no stranger to your character and reputation.”

The words were said in such a tone that it was clear she believed his character and reputation were not features to be proud of. Benton looked at her incredulously. In her expression, he could behold no friendliness or affection, yet the voice was distinctly Southern, gentle and drawling.

“Surely you do not mean to deny water to the soldiers defending you.”

She spoke unemotionally, not deigning to lower the gun. “I can deny water to those who are trespassing on my property.”

Benton looked down at her now with blank astonishment and then back toward his men still some twenty yards away. He saw out of the corner of his eye that she shifted her gaze to the east with a look of grave concern, but by the time he turned back around, her full attention was once again upon him.

“Come, my dear, where is your loyalty to Virginia?” Benton knew his tone revealed his agitation and made an attempt to sound less surly.

“I am loyal to the only authority I recognize,” she snapped, loud enough now for his approaching men to hear.

Benton let his breath escape him in a loud sigh of exasperation as he thought of the many battles he had fought to achieve his renowned reputation as a fighter. Yet not quite knowing what to do or say, he stared at the foe before him. “You intend to deny shade and water to these men?” He purposely asked the question in such a way as to indicate he did not think he had heard her correctly the first time, and wanted to give her another chance.

Her reply was simple. “I intend to defend my property. If you do not wish me to bestow the contents of this gun upon you, I suggest you urge your men to move on.”

In the heat of the moment, Benton completely forgot his dream. “And I urge you, miss, to put down that gun!”

Although he possessed a voice of easy command, Benton knew he was in a situation in which he was losing control. Indeed, if eyes possessed the power to kill, he knew he would be departing the earth for good, because her gaze, like the two barrels of her shotgun, remained locked on his heart.

“You may have the power to make that request, Major Benton—but most assuredly not the authority.”

“Madam, I did not request you. I ordered you!”

Benton looked from the gun to her face and saw no sign of fear or compromise. Then his agitation became obvious. His face kindled with the fire that was wont to burn there when on the battlefield. “I beg your pardon, young lady, for seeing the necessity of giving advice,” he said from between tightly clenched teeth, “but as we are men worthy of respect, I must insist that you drop that weapon.”

The woman remained unflappable. “As you have kindly begged my pardon for giving me this advice, I must beg yours for not taking it. To be frank, sir, you ought to have more prudence about where you request hospitality.”

Benton sat back on his horse as if having suffered a physical blow. Staring at his opponent with a look of intense annoyance, he dropped the focus of his gaze to the muzzle of the gun, which he noticed had begun to lower ever so slightly. Lifting his eyes to hers, he saw they had softened considerably as she followed the approach of a horse and rider behind him.

“Major, this isn’t a place you want to stop.” The soldier urged his mount forward and then drew rein beside Benton. “It’s the home of a traitor.”

The woman’s cheek twitched slightly at the words, like the spontaneous quiver of a horse’s hide when touched by a fly.

“You are acquainted?” Benton scrutinized the same lieutenant who had attempted to stop him earlier from turning down the lane.

“Sir, I have the unfortunate duty to report that this is my sister. Well, that is… was my sister.”

“I am still your sister, Jake,” the woman said softly, all the callousness gone from her voice. “The war cannot change that.”

The lieutenant did not answer her, just turned his head and spit into the dust as if that was a sufficient response. Then he addressed Benton again. “As I tried to tell you earlier, sir, there is a loyal family only another mile down the pike.”

Benton looked from one to the other for a moment and then decided to take his lieutenant’s advice. For a moment, he considered warning the woman about her unpopular stance in the region and the possible danger to her welfare, but one more look into those fearless, ice blue eyes changed his mind on the necessity. “Lead the way, Lieutenant.”

Riding at a swift pace, it did not take long for the band of warriors to put the house called Waverly behind them. As they trotted up a small rise, a scout came galloping out of the tree line and pulled his horse to a sliding stop in front of Benton. “Found this in the old tree, sir.”

Benton opened the communication and scanned the missive quickly. Turning his horse back toward the east, he scanned the landscape a moment and looked over at his next in command. “You see anything suspicious out there, Captain Connelly?”

Connelly squinted against the late-afternoon sun and then pulled a spyglass from his saddle. “Yea, looks like something’s kickin’ up some dust down there.” He handed the spyglass to Benton. “Might even be heading to Waverly from the direction they’re heading.”

Benton stared through the lens briefly then closed it in disgust with a loud snap.

“If that’s from Sid, looks like he’s right again.” Connelly nodded toward the piece of paper Benton still held.

Benton merely grunted in reply as he leaned over his pommel and studied the horizon with a scowl. “Whoever Sid is,” he said at length. “He seems to know every movement the Union army makes in this region—and I don’t even know who he is.”

The two officers sat silently and assessed the situation as the moving cloud of dust slowly transformed into a small band of cavalry wearing blue uniforms.

“Well, I reckon it’s a good thing we didn’t hang around Waverly.” Connelly shifted his weight in the saddle. “Looks like nothin’ but a small scouting party, but they could have caused some headaches.”

Benton took one more look, and then turned his horse back around. “Well they are welcome to Waverly—and its inhospitable occupant as far as I’m concerned.”

“Speaking of which, what do you reckin’ we should do with that one?” Connelly tilted his head back toward the house from which they had come.

Benton sighed heavily, trying to erase the image of those brilliant blue eyes filled with hostility, and attempted instead to imagine them shining with the devotion with which he was accustomed. “Frankly, I’m inclined to cut off the tail and hope it dies when the sun goes down,” Benton muttered as he tried to reconstruct the dream that had been ruined by the only woman he’d ever met immune to his charms.

Above and Beyond

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Genre - Christian Fiction

Rating – G

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Website http://www.jessicajamesbooks.com/

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

White Chalk - Pavarti K. Tyler

Chapter 1

Troy Christiansen came for me.

I knew it the moment he first walked into Northwoods Secondary School. I watched, transfixed, as he glided right through the crowd of popular kids who hung out by the front door—like someone used to being ignored, slicing through the throng like a ghost. He had a black Mohawk pulled tight into a ponytail, and smelled like cigarettes and delinquency. A black T-Shirt and long-sleeved hoodie clung to his hunched shoulders.

Something about him looked so perfectly fragile.

He looked up only once and, by the smirk on his wide full lips, I knew I’d been caught staring. It didn’t really matter. I’d fallen instantly and obsessively in love, but not the kind of teenage drama crap you might expect. No, this was the real soul-wrenching kind of love. I’d never be the same again.

The whole school trilled with gossip. Morgan heard he’d moved here to live with his dad after his mom got arrested. Sebastian said he’d been in Juvie and just got out.

I knew better, having spent that entire day wandering the high school between classes, getting more tardies in one afternoon then I’d received so far that year. But I didn’t care. I was determined to figure out a way to talk to him, whatever it took. Something about the way he’d looked at me, the way the world fell away, taking with it the dread sitting in the bottom of my stomach. Like getting shock therapy, or jumping in the lake in winter, suddenly I felt alive—thanks to him.

Two days later at lunch—one of the few events not segregated by grade—I finally saw him.

I’d been held after class in Algebra; too many days of missing homework. Teachers seemed to think we possessed this unlimited amount of time between getting home and going to bed for all this work, and every one of them gave enough homework to fill the whole night. This assumed I bothered to even try. Between cleaning up the house, trying to keep the reality of my life from caving in, worrying about Dad coming home drunk or Ma crying over bills, Earth Science homework just didn’t seem like that big of a fucking deal. At least I didn’t have to worry about homework in History—it paid to be Mr. Harris’ star student.

When I finally got out of there, I trudged down to the cafeteria, ignoring the insults the boys tossed, or their occasional moo call. Fuck them. I retreated to my usual spot in front of the vending machine, looking for something sugary before finding Morgan on the front steps with her friends.

Cheetos or cupcakes or a Rice Krispies Treat… the options for processed fat and sugar proved endless.

“The machine gave me two, you want one?” A low rumble came from around the corner.

I stepped to the side and looked around the clunky machine blocking my view. There, on the ground with earbuds dangling around his neck and one hand offering up a HoHo, sat Troy Christiansen.

“Umm, Yeah.”

I took the treat and shifted my weight to the other foot. I wanted to tell him I’d seen the way he’d looked at me, that this place didn’t suck too bad, that I could be something—maybe something special—if he wanted. Instead, I just crinkled the plastic wrapper between my fingers.

He shrugged, put the earbuds back in, and picked up the book on his lap—something old, with tan pages and a cracked spine.

Dejected, I turned away.

“You can sit here if you want,” he said, without looking up.

A swelling in my chest made it difficult to breathe, and, for a minute, I floundered. I wasn’t even sure if I could find the strength to sit, but when he glanced up and raised one eyebrow, I shivered and stepped closer.

“Um… yeah… sure.” My mouth went dry and my tongue felt stiff as a diving board, but my legs managed to lower me to the floor without falling. Little miracles shouldn’t be taken for granted.

The waist of my jeans cut into my middle and made it tough to figure out just how to sit, but I didn’t want to fidget too much. With one leg bent and the other curled under me, it wasn’t comfortable, but I couldn’t cross the other leg. I left it bent, my knee poking out at an angle.

“Thanks.” I peeked through my hair, afraid to look right at him. When he smiled, a thrum of excitement started in my chest, speeding up my breath.

“What’s your name?”

“Chelle.”

He nodded. “I’m Troy.” His eyes shone in the florescent glare of the cafeteria, and he passed me one of his iPod’s earbuds. When I took it, he leaned his head back and closed his eyes, not bothering to eat the HoHo balanced precariously on his knee.

The earbud was still warm, and shrill, fast music crashed into my brain. It clamored around in my head, abusing the parts of my mind normally reserved for coherent thought, but I didn’t care. Troy Christiansen and I listened to the same thing, shared the same sensations.

I didn’t eat the HoHos he’d given me, despite a tingling at the back of my mouth anticipating the decadent mixture of chocolate and cream. I leaned against the wall, enjoying how every breath he took moved the air around me. The hairs on my arm reached out to him, and I vibrated with the fantasy that he might touch me.

When the warning bell rang, chairs scraped against the linoleum floor as everyone rushed to finish their conversation, stuff in one more bite of processed meat, and dump their trash before heading to class.

Troy and I just sat, him with his eyes closed, me trying desperately to look at him… without looking. His sharp features were symmetrical, and sitting side-by-side, we weren’t too different in height. But my figure was thick, his lanky, and where I curved, he stuck out in angular points. He wore the same tight jeans as the first day I saw him. His lip ring dangled from the center of his bottom lip, pulling it out into a pout that made me shiver and look away.

The class bell rang and even though I couldn’t afford another tardy, the mere idea of moving away proved inconceivable. I’d spent all week searching for him; no way I’d get up first. Every minute we sat—the cafeteria now cold and barren—the knot in my stomach grew. I tried not to fidget, to keep my hands still and not worry about needing to go to my locker before class.

Finally, he opened his eyes and pulled out his earbud. He set the iPod on the ground before standing up and stretching.

From where I sat I could glance at the swatch of skin above his pant line, pale and smooth. I fumbled with the earbud and gathered the cord around the iPod to keep from staring.

“You smoke?” He stuffed the iPod and uneaten HoHo into his bag.

“Yeah.” I scrambled to pull myself up as he slung it over a shoulder.

“You didn’t eat. Aren’t you hungry?” He pointed to the HoHo in my hand.

“Nah, I’ll eat later.” I hoped he couldn’t hear my stomach growl, or the crinkling of the plastic wrapper as my hand shook.

He shrugged and walked away, out of the cafeteria and down the long hall leading to the main door.

“Aren’t you going to class?” My voice reverberated in the empty hall, too loud as I rushed to keep up with his long legs.

“No. Why would I ask you to smoke if I was going to class?” His response made so much sense, I felt stupid for asking.

“Well, you can’t go out front,” I offered, lowering my voice a little, trying to make it sultry or something. I knew something he didn’t, and despite the fact I was essentially skipping class for the first time in my life, I desperately wanted him to keep me around. “We have to go out back, behind the loading docks. None of the teachers bother going there.”

“I don’t give a fuck what the teachers do.” He glanced down at me, his eyes cold before softening into a teasing smile. “But if you do, we can go.”

“Thanks,” I mumbled, embarrassed to have cared, to assume he would care about getting in trouble. He was a junior—he didn’t have to give a fuck.

We turned and walked back past the cafeteria, beyond the foreign language hall and out the side door. He followed me, not speaking as I jumped over a pile of unmelted snow left over from the last storm.

He chuckled—laughing at me or with me? Didn’t really matter, given the smile that brightened his face.

When we rounded the shed to the unofficially designated smoking area, he pulled out a cigarette, lit it and inhaled deeply. His thin face appeared even more drawn as he held in the smoke before exhaling through his nose.

I rubbed my hands on my pant legs. I didn’t have my bag with me, so no cigarettes.

Troy didn’t seem to notice, though. He just gazed out over the parking lot, tapping his foot as he smoked.

I wrapped my arms around my middle, trying to keep warm.

White Chalk

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Genre –  Literary Fiction/Coming of Age

Rating – R (15+)

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Website http://www.fightingmonkeypress.com/

Monday, September 23, 2013

Kain (Elyon’s World #1) by Brie McGill

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Glory

I.

The distant, steady beeping of an electrocardiograph machine roused him from the abyss and into a fuzzy state of consciousness. He knew they ogled the spikes and dips on the screen displaying his brain activity. He knew they used their machines to eavesdrop on his every breath.

During these delicate moments between waking and sleeping, Kain sensed their scrutiny most acutely. He knew they waited for something, they wanted something, but every time he woke, he found it impossible to remember.

“Skirra.” A rough male voice interrupted his thoughts; fingers snapped. “Increase the current.”

“Yes, Sir,” a timorous female voice responded. Fingers clacked across a keyboard. “Output is increased by twenty units.” Skirra tapped her foot against the tiled floor.

A harsh, electronic tone split through his head, cutting into his brain like a knife: in a burst of pain and confusion, his bubble of thought popped and disappeared.

“He’s primed.” The man approached with the clomp of heavy boots. “Inject him.”

“Sir... Commander Brigham? Sir... if I may speak...” Skirra’s limp fist thudded against her chest; she offered the customary salute. “The biomedical research team in the Nanotech Department submitted a recent study of the compounds for review, and--”

For a moment, neither spoke. The electrocardiogram beeped steadily.

She cleared her throat. “One of the primates in the experiment went berserk.” Pausing, she swallowed. “Sir, not that I am comparing your investments to a bunch of monkeys, Sir--” She vouched for her intentions with another salute. “I believe this experiment will bring Glory to the Empire, Sir!”

Rattling a rack of glass vials, Skirra poked through a clanging assortment of tubes. She selected one from the rack and popped the cap. Moments later, she tore a disinfectant pad from the wrapper.

Kain knew all of these sounds; they were routine.

“Then do it.” Brigham’s fingers drummed on a nearby table.

Cold fingers dug into the muscles of his arm, dabbing him with a cool swab, moist with an astringent-smelling chemical.

“That whole department is revolting. They have become so obsessed with transcending human limitations that they’ve grown disgusted with the body.” Brigham snorted. “It will forever retard their efforts.”

Skirra drove the needle into Kain’s arm.

“The will to live frustrates them because it is irrational, unquantifiable; there is no way to predict it, or to accurately compensate for it within calculations.” He hovered over Kain. “The body is an impressive machine: consider the possibilities in subduing that will, in bending its power to serve your goals.”

Skirra’s cold hand, bedecked with metal rings, gave Kain’s hand a firm squeeze.

“If we want to test his capabilities, we have to push him to the limits.” Brigham’s voice remained cool, scientific. “If we find his breaking point, we can control him. Once we can control him, we are free to utilize those capabilities to the fullest extent.”

Pressure surged through Kain’s head, overwhelming him. He lurched forward, restrained by thick, leather bonds on a metal chair. His breath caught in his throat, and his eyes fluttered open.

Skirra released her hand. “Sir, his vitals are stable!”

He squinted, blinded by the garish light.

“Let’s begin.” Chase Brigham, a sturdy man old enough to be his father, with waist-length silver hair, loomed over Kain and spit the booming command: “Aadima.”

Mind abruptly blank, Kain opened his eyes. He tilted his head to one side, feeling a metal helmet shift on his head. Posture stiffening without his control, Kain nodded, making a fist, unable to beat his chest in salute. “Commander Brigham, Sir!”

Brigham glanced at the winking display of computer monitors beside him, and then at his watch. “Thirty-seven seconds.” He nodded to Skirra. “Note it.”

Skirra fumbled with an electronic notepad, alternately typing notes and chewing her nails.

Kneeling down on one knee, Brigham signed an intricate series of hand gesticulations to him. “Greetings, Kain.”

Kain could think of nothing to do. Feeling nothing, wanting for nothing, he remained rigid in the chair.

Dvitiiya.” Brigham paired his command with a symphony of motor signals. “Disable.”

“Secondary Dvitiiya functions.” Kain echoed him in an empty voice. “Disabled.”

“Kain.” Brigham climbed to his feet, sauntering behind the chair. “Tritiiya.”

Kain froze. His mind froze.

“Damn you!” Brigham grabbed a flat remote from his pocket, and pointed it at him.

Moaning as violent tremors wracked his body, Kain convulsed and flopped in his chair.

The unforgiving bonds subdued him, held him in place, subjecting him to further torture.

Skirra lifted her hands to her head, watching in horror as graphs spikes and numbers soared on adjacent computers.

“There are no uses for faulty machinery!” Brigham leaned into Kain’s face, hissing his words. “None. You remember that.”

Skirra glanced at the clock and chewed her nails.

“Kain.” Brigham cleared his throat. “Load Tritiiya.”

Shifting his posture, Kain’s breathing slowed, and he sat upright. He stared ahead with empty eyes and spoke in a monotone. “Tertiary Tritiiya functions loaded, Sir.”

“Kain.” Brigham waved his hand and spoke in a thunderous voice. “Load Caturtha.”

“Identification confirmed: granting access to restricted Caturtha systems.” Kain mechanically rotated his head toward the floor and closed his eyes. “Proceed with instructions.”

Skirra plunked an unwieldy pair of goggles over the bridge of his nose, fitting the frames one at a time over his ears with a gentle touch. Compulsively grabbing the tufts of flaxen hair that poked from his helmet, Skirra thumbed his temples affectionately before jerking her hands away. “Sir, goggles are ready, Sir!” She threw her hands into the air and blushed.

A hypnotic lightshow of flashing colors entranced him.

“Kain, do you recognize the image of this man?” Brigham drummed his fingers against the chair.

Amidst the lights, Kain saw flashes of an elderly man, with thinning hair and age spots. “Recognition affirmative, Sir.” Kain knew him: he was a senator.

“Spectacular.” Brigham joined his hands in a deafening clap. “Execute primary Caturtha commands, and target this man.”

“Target confirmed, Sir.” Kain remained hypnotized by the goggles. “Requesting variables of mission duration, Sir.”

Brigham pealed his final command. “Caturtha functions will terminate when his Glorious duties are fulfilled.”

“Parameters understood, Sir.” Kain twitched. “Caturtha, execution complete. Awaiting further instruction.”

Brigham waved dismissively. “Kain, I require no further services from you today.”

Kain’s eyes fell shut, and he slumped forward in the chair, still restrained by the leather bonds.

He felt himself drifting again... floating, fading...

Looming over him, Skirra placed a hand on Kain’s chest. She paused, and then quickly swiped the goggles, retreating behind Brigham.

“Skirra, send for Krodha. We’re finished today.” Brigham turned and strode toward the door.

Kain

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Genre –  Sci-Fi/Steamy Romance

Rating – R (18+)

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Website http://www.sexdrugsandcyberpunk.com/

Diary of a Beverly Hills Matchmaker by Marla Martenson

Quit-witted Marla takes her readers for a hilarious romp through her days as an LA matchmaker where looks are everything and money talks. The Cupid of Beverly Hills has introduced countless couples who lived happily ever-after, but for every success story there are hysterically funny dating disasters with high-maintenance, out of touch clients. Marla writes with charm and self-effacement about the universal struggle to love and be loved.

Martenson’s irresistible quick wit will have you rolling on the floor.
—Megan Castran, international YouTube Queen

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Genre – Memoir

Rating – PG13

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Website http://marlamartenson.com/

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Dream Rider by Ernest Dempsey

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When you wake up, does it seem like your dreams were real? Maybe they were.

Imagine if Stephanie Meyer and Suzanne Collins sat down together to write an up-tempo, action packed sci-fi thriller featuring terrifying nightmares, an evil emperor, a beautiful princess, and gladtiator games on another planet.

That's The Dream Rider, the newest release from Ernest Dempsey, the author who brought you The Secret of the Stones and The Cleric's Vault.

Falling from buildings, being attacked by terrifying strangers, and ghostly hands that strangle in the night are just some of the fears The Dream Rider must overcome.

Finn McClaren is an average college student, mediocre in every possible way, until one day, when strange men try to kill him. Finn wakes up in his dorm room to realize the whole thing was just a dream. Or was it?

The nightmares continue, forcing Finn to face his deepest fears until one night, he stops running and fights back. When he awakens, he is no longer in his dorm room, but on a strange planet on the other side of the galaxy.

After being arrested, Finn is thrust into an underground prison where the inmates are forced to fight to the death in the arena games. While there, he learns he has incredible powers, and of the true reason he has come to the alien world.

The Dream Rider is a fun, fast-paced, science fiction adventure that also asks serious questions about our fears, self-esteem, beliefs, and facing challenges in life.

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Genre -  Science Fiction
Rating – PG13
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