Friday Cover Reveal: Lucas Mackenzie & the London Midnight Ghost Show by Steve Bryant

M9B-Friday-Reveal

Welcome to this week’s M9B Friday Reveal!

This week, we are revealing the first chapter for

Lucas Mackenzie and the London Midnight Ghost Show by Steve Bryant

presented by Month9Books!

Be sure to enter the giveaway found at the end of the post!

Lucas MacKenzie eBook Final

Lucas Mackenzie has got the best job of any 10 year old boy. He travels from city-to-city as part of the London Midnight Ghost Show, scaring unsuspecting show-goers year round. Performing comes naturally to Lucas and the rest of the troupe, who’ve been doing it for as long as Lucas can remember.

But there’s something Lucas doesn’t know.

Like the rest of Lucas’ friends, he’s dead. And for some reason, Lucas can’t remember his former life, his parents or friends. Did he go to school? Have a dog? Brothers and sisters?
If only he could recall his former life, maybe even reach out to his parents, haunt them.

When a ghost hunter determines to shut the show down, Lucas realizes the life he has might soon be over. And without a connection to his family, he will have nothing. There’s little time and Lucas has much to do. Can he win the love of Columbine, the show’s enchanting fifteen-year-old mystic? Can he outwit the forces of life and death that thwart his efforts to find his family?

Keep the lights on! Lucas Mackenzie’s coming to town.

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Title: Lucas Mackenzie and the London Midnight Ghost Show
Publication date: November 18, 2014
Publisher: Month9Books, LLC.
Author: Steve Bryant

Chapter-by-Chapter-header---Excerpt

Lucas Mackenzie and the London Midnight Ghost Show
By Steve Bryant

Chapter One
Ghost Story

It was a chill, gooseflesh evening, thanks to the damp ocean air and to ghostly expectations. Thin black clouds scuttled past the moon like witches on broomsticks.
Far below, on an eerily empty California street, a delta wing Buick Electra neared a little theater. The four high school girls in the car shivered, surprised to find themselves so alone at this late hour. A line of empty cars stretched down the block to the black Pacific, and streetlamps glowed faintly in the mist. This was the San Diego community of Ocean Beach, a few heart palpitations shy of midnight.
“Sweet Mary,” said the Ponytail at the wheel. “The show must have started already. Who would have thought ghosts were so punctual?”
“Shut up!” said the French Braids seated beside her. “Ghost stories give me the heebie-jeebies. I can’t believe we came down here tonight to see dead people.”
The car entered the oasis of light cast by the theater itself. Although The Strand’s daytime fare ran to Elvis Presley and surfing movies, its illuminated marquee on this ghost story evening promised far more than Love Me Tender and Sandra Dee.
ONE NIGHT ONLY!
PROFESSOR MCDUFF AND HIS LONDON MIDNIGHT GHOST SHOW
SPOOKS RUN WILD IN AUDIENCE
PLUS
ALL-STAR CREATURE FEATURE
“Creepy!” said the Toni Home Perm in the back seat. “I think that skeleton in the window just looked at me.”
“Drive on by!” said the Poodle Cut beside her. “Let’s go home. I have a feeling. I think something is wrong with this show.”

* * *

Inside the little movie house, in the tiny projection booth at the top of the narrow winding stairs, a little boy peered through the small square window. His name was Lucas Mackenzie, and he was ten years old. Lucas felt as though he had been ten forever, and there seemed to be nothing he could do about it.
On stage at that moment, a magician in a smart black tuxedo and a red turban stood still as death, his dexterous hands moving only as his mysteries required. Professor Ambrose McDuff, as pale as storybook vampires in the glow of a single spotlight, showed both the fronts and backs of his hands to be empty, then plucked fans of playing cards from the air. Individual cards fell from his fingertips like rose petals falling upon a grave.
But despite the Professor’s eerie mastery of nineteenth-century card manipulation, this was 1959, and audiences demanded more. Lucas knew that the couples on hand were impatient for the theater to be plunged into total darkness, that the teenage boys on hand were hoping for something more dramatic than snatching jacks and aces from the air. This was supposed to be a ghost show, and the crowd—if the pockets of teenagers scattered about the theater at this late hour could be called a crowd—was tiring of card tricks.
“Come on, Pops,” someone shouted. “Let’s see some ghosts!”
A narrow cylinder of light sliced through the darkness as a young usher aimed his flashlight beam at the outburst. “Quiet! I’m warning you!”
“Aw, who’s gonna make me?”
On stage, a royal flush appeared at the magician’s fingertips.
Beautiful magic is not to be rushed, the Professor always said. There would be time soon enough for so-called ghosts.
Nevertheless, Lucas rolled his dark eyes in response to the outburst below—a shame, he felt, as he loved the Professor’s card tricks—and concluded that it was time to move the show along.
He wore a set of large black metal headphones, and he spoke into the grille of a gray bullet microphone. “Bravo, Professor. Nice work. Yorick is set to go on, and then Alexandra. This crowd should love the Juan Escadero number.”
As Lucas knew, Professor McDuff, could hear him perfectly thanks to earphones concealed beneath his red turban. Lucas had designed the show’s secret radio network—the entire theater was wired with microphones and receivers—and was very proud of it. It had been his first contribution to the show. Before Lucas’s time, electronic communication relied on copper plates in the bottoms of the Professor’s shoes, and on long copper wires hidden under the runway carpet, a holdover from the Second Sight mind-reading acts from the thirties.
No one would suspect the simple arrangement of the Professor’s next exhibit of using hidden electronics or secret mechanisms. He placed a glass shelf across the backs of two chairs, and atop this innocent platform he placed the centerpiece of the demonstration, an oversized human skull in a red sombrero.
The reaction was immediate. As Lucas expected, the agitators in the audience fell silent. At least this skull in the red hat looked as if it belonged in a spook show. Its eye sockets and nose cavity were dark hollows, its teeth a fixed, mocking grin.
The Professor tossed decks of cards into the audience and instructed three boys to stand and take a card. Could this “Juan Escadero,” proclaimed by the Professor to be the “floating, talking head of one of Mexico’s most notorious card cheats,” look into their minds and identify their cards? Could anyone?
The ivory-hued head on the glass platform twisted from one boy to the other.
“Ay, amigos,” it said, in a voice that sounded like Speedy Gonzales. “My Inner Eye sees all. No one keeps secrets from Juan Escadero. Could you be thinking of the king of hearts? And you the two of spades? And the ace of diamonds for the muchacho in the middle? Please be seated if I am correct.”
Instantly the three spectators sat down, and the audience rewarded the disembodied card sharp with applause and whistles.
As always, uncertainty rippled through the theater.
A wise guy in row 4 voiced his solution. “It’s a hidden microphone,” he said. “Someone behind the curtain is speaking into it.”
Another boy said, “It’s the old man. He’s doing it. It’s nothing but card manipulation and ventriloquism.”
A third shouted, “Hey, Pancho. What about the floating?”
The audience gasped as the skull suddenly turned, ever so slightly, in the direction of the challenge. For the first time the thing appeared to be genuinely alive, as though it had heard the comment.
“Ay, mi cabeza,” the skull said. “I feel so light-headed.” At which point the talking skull rose two feet in the air above its glass shelf. The ghastly thing bobbed in space, its red sombrero at a jaunty angle, its mouth open in a gaping grin. Lucas grinned too as the audience again broke into appreciative applause.
“Threads,” said a worried voice in row 10. “It’s gotta be threads.”
Lucas hoped for a similarly warm reception to Professor McDuff’s next magical presentation, the Houdini Metamorphosis Trunk. As the Professor introduced a wooden packing case large enough to conceal a dead body, Lucas cued Alexandra, one of the lovely Gilbert triplets. Though the three Gilbert girls were only twenty-two, they treated Lucas as though they were his mom. Tonight, it was Alexandra’s turn to do the box trick.
“Thanks, kiddo,” she said from a communication console in the wings. “I’m set. I love these California kids. They think I’m the ginchiest.”
The teenagers whooped and whistled as the beautiful Miss Gilbert strutted onto the stage in a black crepe dress. A red bow adorned her long blond hair, and her movie-star figure was breathtaking. She threw kisses to the audience and winked at Lucas in his booth.
The trunk, Lucas observed with pride, was old and creepy, weather-beaten, and just too darn real—like something that might have been found at night on a dock. This was no glitzy magic shop prop. The Professor locked the lovely Alexandra inside, the lock snapping shut with a heavy clunk.
The magic itself was spooky, like a dissolve in a monster movie when a man turns into a werewolf. Lucas loved the movie I Was a Teenage Werewolf and wondered what it would feel like to change. What if your muscles bulged until they ripped your shirt, if the fur of a wolf sprouted from your face, if your teeth became deadly fangs, all in a matter of seconds? Would teenage girls be frightened, or would they admire you?
The Professor made it look so easy. One moment he was standing on the box, hidden behind a large cloth. After a mere flicker, the cloth fell away and revealed a liberated Alexandra standing in his place. She then wiggled off the box, opened the formidable padlock, and produced the Professor from within.
The cast was proud that magical insiders would swear the exchange could not take place so quickly. It must be a new invention. According to reports in the leading conjuring magazines, the great Blackstone himself had seen the show in Cleveland and had left the theater shaken.
“It’s just the old switcheroo,” a boy in row 8 rationalized. “It’s a sliding panel. They all do it.”
But now it was Lucas’s turn to tremble, high in his aerie. His favorite part of the show was coming up. With both hands he adjusted the headphones, and he faced the microphone, paralyzed. Seconds ticked by.
He forced her name out at last. “Uh, Columbine?” His voice squeaked. “Ready? You’re up next.”
“Of course I am, Lucas.” The words danced in Lucas’s headphones. He had said her name. She had said his. It was the highlight of every performance. “I’m a mystic after all, a seer. And, Lucas, I think you should look behind—”
Just then something cleared its throat behind Lucas.
“AAUGH!” the boy yelled, startled to realize he wasn’t alone. Lucas turned to find a behemoth of a man standing behind him. The man might have been a stunt double from a Frankenstein movie, except that he was too tall and, perhaps, too green. His short black hair carpeted a flat head, and he wore a loose fitting brown suit with a brown bow tie. The two of them barely fit in the room.
“Oh, it’s you,” Lucas said. “For a moment you gave me quite a start.”
They both laughed. It was a private joke between the two of them, a riff on a favorite Charles Addams cartoon. Lucas felt the fellow, whose name was Oliver, looked a little too much like the servant in Mr. Addams’ spooky cartoons.
“Greetings, Master Lucas,” said Oliver. “I thought I should drop in to ascertain that you hadn’t swooned from love. I wouldn’t want to find you incapable of performing your duties.”
“You’re soooo funny,” Lucas said. And then he slapped his forehead and turned back to the microphone.
“Uh, sorry, Columbine. Good luck. Just follow the Professor’s lead.”
Lucas looked through his little window with concern. The theater was musty, a consequence of being so close to the ocean. “It’s such a small house tonight,” he said. “I hope she doesn’t take it personally.”
“What’s the count?” Oliver asked.
“I’m thinking only 150 or so,” Lucas said. “And this theater seats 800.”
“My, my,” his large friend said. “A pity. Goodness, we drew 3100 at the El Capitan in San Francisco, back in ’42. And 4000 a year later at the Bijou in Cincinnati. That’s a lot of screams.”
Audience numbers had been dwindling for some time, and night after night Lucas became more disheartened. Could the show actually come to an end some day if people quit coming? If the cast dispersed, where would he go? To be adrift, alone, was unthinkable, like stepping into a black abyss. And more importantly: where would she go?
But at that moment she was about to take the stage, and the teenagers who were on hand welcomed her warmly when the Professor introduced her as “the Teenage Telepath, the Diva of Destiny, the Psychic of the Century—the sensational Columbine.”
She strode onto the stage, this tall, thin, stargazing girl of fifteen years, with midnight black hair. She wore a plain white shift, and her skin was fair and moonbeam pale. The only color on stage was the girl’s lips, afire with red lipstick. Most would judge her to be six feet tall, though she would insist she was no more than five eleven. Her dark eyes turned to the crystal ball resting in the palm of her right hand.
The audience suddenly became very quiet. One boy coughed, apologetically.
“Okay, Eddie, let’s sell this,” Lucas said into his microphone.
The theater suffered from an ancient wiring system and a shaky bank of lights, but they were not a problem for Eddie, the Lighting Guy, hunched in the back of the building. Lucas watched as Eddie bathed Columbine in a blue spot. She looked ethereal. A Columbine performance was like a religious experience.
“This girl is like putty in my hands,” Eddie said into his microphone.
Lucas hated it that Eddie thought he had Columbine wrapped around his little finger. Ever since she had joined the cast, over two years ago now, Eddie had strutted about as though he were her boyfriend. Columbine herself seldom seemed to notice him, but Eddie just passed this off as her distant personality. “That’s just my girl,” he would say. “We have an understanding.” Lately she spent most of her private time listening to Buddy Holly records and consulting her astrological charts.
Oliver and Lucas leaned their heads together as both attempted to see through the little window at the same time.
“What’s that I hear?” said Oliver. “That unearthly tapping? I’d call it a rhythmic tapping, but it keeps skipping beats. Certainly it couldn’t be, oh, your heart?”
“Quiet, you big goofus,” Lucas said, “or I’m cutting your minutes.”
In the audience, hands exploded into the air, vying for the pale seer’s attention. All the teens wanted their fortunes told.
Columbine turned her lovely face from one longing soul to another. Her gazing-glass visions began.
To one girl, she said, “There is a jukebox, at a place near the beach. The moon has just risen, and the lights are dim. Johnny Mathis is singing ‘Chances Are.’ You will dance with one boy, but another will cut in. He’s the one!
To a boy, she said, “You are in a roller skating rink, and there is organ music. It’s a couples skate, and the song is ‘Volare.’ There is a girl who shows up on Saturdays, with a long blond ponytail. This time you won’t be too shy to ask her to skate.”
And then, “Oh, dear,” she said. “In the third row. I am sorry. Your girlfriend will see the scary movie The Blob with another boy. They will sit through it twice.”
A whispered argument broke out in the third row.
“Big deal,” said a boy in row 12. “That ball is probably just one of those Magic 8 Balls.”
“Or she could have looked this stuff up in this morning’s horoscope,” said another. “In the paper.”
“Yeah, but I’d sure like to take her to the prom,” said still another.
Lucas sat with his mouth open as this astral Miss Lonely Hearts spun out her prophecies. The crystal in Columbine’s hand turned slowly, casting streaks of ice blue across her enchanting face. To look at her was to believe her, to not look at her was impossible.
“My public awaits,” said Oliver. He passed a large hand back and forth before Lucas’s goggled eyes, but the boy didn’t blink. “You’re a lost cause, Master Lucas.”
The big fellow left, closing the door behind him.
“I don’t know what to say to her,” Lucas said, his eyes still drinking in this witch-girl vision in blue. “I never know what to say.”
He adjusted the microphone and reverted to his professional voice. What Lucas lacked in adult vocal register he made up for in authority. “Okay, everybody. Let’s wrap it up for Columbine. Flowers, please, Professor. Oliver is up, and then into the blackout. Stations, everyone. It’s ghost story time.”
Professor McDuff returned and made a big to-do of presenting Columbine a bouquet of blood-red roses, then escorted her offstage to continued applause and whistling.
At the edge of the stage, with the girl safely in the wings, the Professor turned again and explained the rules of the blackout to the audience. “One: remain seated. Two: no flash photographs—our ghosts are bashful. And three: if something cold and dead should put its hands around your throat, you can always scream. And now,” the Professor added over the audience’s nervous laughter, “I give you the Curse of Frankenstein!”
Fog oozed across the stage floor, lightning flashed, thunder rumbled. Lucas gave birth to all three effects: a thick white cloud issued from his Vapor-250 Atomizer, simulated lightning exploded from a bank of flashbulbs, and thunder from his Hollywood Sound Effects phonograph record erupted from speakers the size of refrigerators. With a deft replacement of the phonograph needle, he threw in one more extended rumble for good measure.
“Ka-booooooom!”
On this note, Oliver lurched out, doing his best to look like the Frankenstein monster from the movies. His green hue, some last-minute Hollywood stitches, and a pair of sparking neck electrodes constituted special effects that rivaled those of the best Hollywood monsters. The teenagers granted him full attention as the hulking actor grimaced, spread his arms, and began his recitations.
Oliver’s low voice gave life to a selection of spooky rhymes. James Whitcomb Riley’s famous orphan told her witch tales, Edgar Allan Poe’s black bird perched ominously, Shakespeare’s witches issued their dire portents.
But as entertaining as the actor’s recitations were, and despite his looking like someone to avoid in an old castle on a rainy night, his welcome began to wear on his young audience.
“This isn’t the ‘Curse’ of Frankenstein,” an anguished voice said. “It’s the ‘Verse’ of Frankenstein.”
The teens in the front rows began to throw things at the stage. Milk Duds, Chuckles, Tootsie Roll segments, and a hailstorm of popcorn filled the air. The “monster” waved these trifles aside as he continued his soliloquy.
“That should do it,” Lucas said into the mike. “Cue the McClatter boys.”
In military formation, six life-sized skeletons marched onto the stage. Two of them wheeled out an enormous guillotine as the others restrained Oliver.
“Cool,” said a boy near the front of the theater. “Marionettes.”
The skeletons dragged Oliver to the guillotine and forced his head through the opening. The device’s steel blade loomed eight feet above.
“Murder most foul,” Oliver cried.
With a smiling glance at the audience, one of the skeletons pulled a lever, and the heavy metal blade dropped with a sickening thunk.
The audience gasped.
At first, nothing happened, as though the blade had passed through Oliver’s neck without harming him—the old magician’s trick. Then gravity set in, and Oliver’s head slid down the face of the thing, leaving a bloody red stain, and fell to the floor. It rolled toward the audience, wobbling this way or that as an ear or nose went round.
“EEEEEEEK!” the girls in the audience screamed as one.
The oversized green head stopped just at the edge of the little stage. Its eyes were open and looking about wildly.
The headless remainder of Oliver himself lumbered to its feet and began swinging its huge arms, knocking two of the skeletal McClatters aside in the process. On a quest for its head, it began walking toward the audience, with its arms held straight out, like a sleepwalker‘s. Just as it was about to step off the stage into the audience, Lucas directed Eddie to plunge the theater into total darkness. Even the blue illuminated exit sign faded from view.
This time, everyone in the audience screamed. The blackness was terrifying.
Lucas’s fingers played over the keys and toggles on his control panel, creating further screams, moans, and thunderclaps.
The phonograph needle settled into a recording of “Zombie Jamboree” by the Kingston Trio. The McClatter boys, being phosphorescent and therefore visible in the dark, lined up like a Las Vegas chorus line at the edge of the stage and began dancing a frightening mountain jig. “NOOOOOOO!” More panicked teenagers screamed.
“Launch the aerials,” Lucas commanded.
Flying in formation, three glow-in-the-dark female ghosts soared low in the darkness, just above the audience’s heads, their arms trailing alongside their bodies. At first the boys in the theater oohed and aahed over their pretty faces and their scandalously loose shirts and their pale green glow.
“Hey!” a girl shouted angrily. “I thought you came here to kiss me!”
“It’s a slide projector,” said a boy in row 10. “They’re shining it onto the ceiling.”
“Cheesecloth,” said another ghost show pundit. “I’ve read about this. They just treat it with luminous paint and wave it about.”
Lucas loved the idea of gliding over the heads of the audience and wished he could do that. Surely Columbine couldn’t ignore a boy who could fly.
But then the situation turned from romantic to revolting. The youthful faces that fueled the boys’ imaginations began to age at an alarming rate, decades falling away in a flash, until they became the faces of wrinkled hags. Their eyes glowed red. The gentle drift of the ghosts’ initial flight pattern gave way to a whirlwind of rocketing ectoplasm. The ghosts banked and swooped and buzzed their trapped victims. One of the phantoms shot straight up to the roof of the tiny theater, paused, and then dive-bombed back toward the audience. The teens in her flight path leaped from their seats to avoid being struck. Another plunged to the floor and zoomed along beneath the theater seats themselves, in that crusty netherworld of old popcorn and chewing gum. The excited teens leaped up onto their armrests as the spirit light flashed beneath their feet. The third ghost, to the shock of everyone who saw in the dim glow, lifted a boy into the air, planted a slobbery old grandmotherly kiss right on his lips, and dropped him back to earth.
Lucas chose this moment of collective panic, when the entire assembly was on the verge of rushing to the exits—and perfectly timed to coincide with the finale of the skeleton song and dance number—to liberate the crowd from its fears. “Lights, Eddie,” he said into the microphone.
“Got it, Squirt.”
A single bright spotlight, so bright that some had to shield their eyes to look, revealed Professor McDuff standing center stage, smiling. The skeletons, frozen in their final configurations like characters in an anatomy class, drifted backward into the shadows.
The Professor thanked the audience for attending, explained that the goings on had been “our little way of saying boo,” and introduced the feature film, Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, starring Lon Chaney Jr., Glenn Strange, and Bela Lugosi, in their classic roles as The Wolfman, Frankenstein’s monster, and Count Dracula. It was one of Lucas’s favorites, one he often fantasized about watching with Columbine.
“And for any of you asking the question, ‘Do the dead return?’ our answer is, ‘Of course! We’ll see you next year.’ Pleasant nightmares.”
The California high schoolers responded with enthusiastic applause.
It was the same every night, wherever the show played across America. Part of it, Lucas figured, was that the teens enjoyed the show. Part of it was that the clapping masked the fact that many were still shaking from the strange goings on. And part of it, of course, was that the movie would give the lovebirds in the audience time to nuzzle with their sweeties in the dark, well after midnight, with no more fear of being interrupted by spooks that had seemed just a little too real. It was best, Lucas knew, that they not think too much about card skills no one could acquire in a single lifetime, about a floating skull that could steal thoughts, about an impossibly fast Houdini Trunk escape, about a beautiful girl who could see into tomorrow, about a decapitated giant, dancing skeletons, or floating ladies.
Lucas flipped a switch and the film began. The projector lamp gave off a pleasantly familiar burning smell, and the filmstrip ratcheted noisily through the mechanism, casting the movie’s opening black and white images of London at night onto The Strand’s little screen.
Later, there was to be a cast party in the theater manager’s office. Perhaps at the party, among the manager’s framed movie posters of King Kong, Godzilla, and Attack of the 50 Ft. Woman, amid the hubbub of post-show chitchat, Lucas might muster the courage to tell Columbine how wonderful she had been this evening, or to invite her for a stroll along the dark beach, only a block away. In his fantasy they walked barefoot in the sand, the black waves slapping the beach, alone beneath a silver moon and a spray of stars.
Right, he thought. As if that were going to happen. Why would the flattery of a ten-year-old boy make the slightest impression on a girl who was already fifteen? Why would his beach-walk invitation hold the slightest interest to a girl who no doubt liked boys on the beach to be taller, with muscles? And what if he were older, more her age? Would she reject him anyway, prefer Eddie over him, or prefer someone else entirely?
And so, once again, Lucas knew that he wouldn’t even speak to her. Rather, just before retiring, at sunup along with the rest of the cast, he would extract his diary from his little traveling suitcase, and he would draw, for the day’s date next to her name, in his small neat hand, his evaluation of her performance: four perfect stars. Lucas Mackenzie—boy critic.

* * *

Meanwhile, none of the teenagers settling in for the movie, the munchies, or the smooching opportunity seemed to notice the scratching noise coming from the back row.
Gleefully entering notes into a little journal, and the only one of the audience who had pointedly not joined in the applause, was an adult named Harlan H. Hull. Mr. Hull—Doctor Hull to his colleagues and students—was ecstatic over his findings. He salivated over a possible book advance, a research grant, a guest appearance on television.
Dr. Hull chaired the Paranormal Studies Department at Bradbury College, a distinguished liberal arts institution in upstate Illinois. From the moment he had entered the theater, armed with a battery of electronic sensors that the FBI’s J. Edgar Hoover himself might have envied, Dr. Hull had been monitoring various energy fields.
At first there were only hints. The needle on his Graviton Flux Indicator had registered surprising variations in body mass. If a stage show cutie could lower her body density that far, she could pass right through solid objects. Could the trunk have been normal? The spinning mirror on his Extensible Luminosity Gauge had picked up abnormally low dermal reflectivities. Could the psychic girl have been that pale?
But then came conviction. Dr. Hull’s Remote Thermal Scanner 360 had provided the proof he had been chasing. With a pistol grip, a cross-hair gun sight, and a readout with glowing red numbers, the device resembled a hand-held Flash Gordon ray gun. The RTS 360 could measure body temperatures across a room to an accuracy of one tenth of one degree, and what Dr. Hull had determined was still making him shiver.
If his readings were correct, he knew what he had feared to know.
He now knew the talking skull had housed no hidden microphone, the trunk no secret panel, the guillotine no trick-shop blade. He knew the gyrating skeletons were not string puppets, the soaring phantoms neither magic lantern show nor chemically treated gauze.
For every member of the show—from Professor McDuff to the yakking skull to the pale girl to the big green guy to the dancing skeletons to those floating hussies—had a body temperature of exactly fifty-nine degrees Fahrenheit. The temperature of the grave. The room temperature of Eternity. In a word, everyone in this show was dead. There was no other way to say it.
They had no business gallivanting around on stage before children. They belonged under the dirt, under the sod, under the feet of the living. And he was the one to put them there.
“I’ve got you, my pretties,” Dr. Hull said aloud, twisting one of his long strands of white hair in his fingers. “At last, truth in advertising.”
The London Midnight Ghost Show?
Spooks run wild in the audience?
Do the dead return?
Yes, indeedy!
And he had the proof!

 

 

Chapter-by-Chapter-header---About-the-Author

Steve Bryant

Steve Bryant is a new novelist, but a veteran author of books of card tricks. He founded a 40+ page monthly internet magazine for magicians containing news, reviews, magic tricks, humor, and fiction; and he frequently contributes biographical cover articles to the country’s two leading magic journals (his most recent article was about the séance at Hollywood’s Magic Castle).

 

Connect with the Author: Website | Twitter | Goodreads

Chapter-by-Chapter-header---Giveaway

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Book Blitz: Shifting Currents by Lissa Trevor

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Shifting Currents by Lissa Trevor

Genre: Erotic Paranormal

Number of pages: 191

Cover Artist: April Martinez

Book Description: After the meteorite wiped out civilization and most of the population, it took thirty years to scrabble together rudiments of society again. Sex is the main currency, for those who haven’t mutated special abilities.

Bethany, a Tech, is able to channel electricity through her body and charge up electronics. When she saves a Shifter girl about to be sold at auction, the girl’s brother, Lucas, offers to repay the debt with his body. While Bethany would love to have Lucas at her beck and call, she’d rather have sex with someone who wanted her as a partner instead of an obligation. But unable to resist the sexy Shifter, she agrees to his terms.

When an opportunity presents itself to travel cross the ravaged countryside to loot the remains of California, Bethany believes this is the best chance for her to find her own brother, a rogue Shifter on the run for a crime he didn’t commit. Lucas wants to go, too, to free his Shifter pack.

The caravan members are expected to provide sexual services to the owners in exchange for passage out and back. As the lines between pleasure and payment become blurred, Bethany struggles to remain human while the pull of the energy feels good enough to leave her meat sack body behind. Can Lucas learn to ground her against the shifting currents?

Available at: Loose ID / Amazon / BN / iTunes / Kobo

Excerpt: Bethany Macgregor searched the airwaves until she found a funeral dirge that was used hundreds of years before the meteorite hit. She let the heavy organ music wash over her through her tiny headphones. Keith was getting married today. Leaning against the wooden post, she felt the crisp air like a sympathetic caress on her face and neck. She focused on the livestock being sold in the pen across from her and let the smell of nature take her mind off her loneliness.
“Shouldn’t you be over at the looters’ tents?” Maya, her tribe’s chief, walked up to her and put a hand on her shoulder.
Bethany tried not to flinch, and Maya removed her hand. Bethany sighed, popped out an earbud for politeness’ sake. “I did a quick walk by. There’s nothing that can’t wait until the last day of conclave when the prices drop because the dealer doesn’t want to pack it up for the long schlep back home.” And because the silence was starting to get awkward, Bethany added, “Shouldn’t you be attending some back-slapping meeting in the main cabin?” Or having a “massage” in your cabin with someone who wanted a favor?
Maya snorted. “Backstabbing, you mean. No, we’re on our morning break. And I decided to breathe in the fresh smell of horse manure to clear my lungs.”
Bethany managed a wry smile. Maya was fifty years old and the oldest one in their tribe on the bluff. She had been twenty-one when the meteorite hit the world and knocked everyone back to the Jurassic period. Well, probably better than the Jurassic period. Then, all the dinosaurs had died whereas this time a few tough humans and animals survived. And of course the cockroaches, but Bethany hadn’t seen one of those since she left the part of Florida that was still above water to go up north where the Tech was strongest. Maya had gathered together the Bluff tribe with a shrewd sense of purpose and snapped Bethany up as soon as she entered the territory.
“Keith’s doing a good thing. We need another potter since we lost Angie to the Three Rivers tribe last year,” Maya said.
Bethany nodded. It was important to have the right mixture of artisans, farmers, and tradesmen to survive in today’s world.
“Lem has volunteered to share your bed, if you’re interested.”
Bethany’s stomach curled. Lem had already made that offer, and it was apparent he was only doing what Maya told him to do. Trying to keep the anger out of her voice, Bethany said, “I’m not going to switch tribes over Keith’s marriage. The Bluffs are my home. You can tell Lem he’s off the hook.”
“It’s not like that,” Maya said but cut off when Bethany turned away and put the earbud back in.
The wind picked up a bit, and stray bits of energy lit up the portable media player in her hand. Pain jabbed into her temple, like a screwdriver had been jammed into it. Bethany exhaled through the agony that turned her vision red, and pressed the center button on the device. Maya watched fascinated, as always, when the menu came up, and Bethany scrolled down to Alanis Morrisette’s “You Oughta Know.”
“Just don’t go flaunting that Tech. You don’t have to be willing if another tribe gets it in their mind to snatch you from us.”
Bethany just turned the music up loud to match the pounding in her head that channeling the energy to run the device gave her. Maya went away after one last longing look at the portable media player. Letting the angry song fill her, Bethany rolled her neck to get the kinks out of it and sat down with her eyes closed, helping her body deal with the intensity of pulling in the energy. If she had done it gradually, the pain wouldn’t have been that wretched, but she didn’t want easy or slow. The pain was cleansing, wiping away a little of the self-pity she was feeling. When the song was over, Bethany let the energy go with a sigh and a silent thanks. Getting up, she felt eyes on her, and she looked around. The tribes were socializing, chattering happily about the things they were going to trade.
She lovingly put the portable media player back into her pocket. She had traded a looter her ham radio setup for it. Bethany didn’t like hearing all the voices crying out in the darkness. Although on cold, lonely nights it was a comfort to realize the world was still going on and her tribe wasn’t the last people on Earth. Most of California and Florida had sunk into the oceans. Mount St. Helens and all of the Alaskan volcanoes had erupted, adding to the chaos. In a second after the meteor hit in Russia, worldwide communications dropped. If Europe was even still there, no one on this side of the Atlantic knew. There hadn’t been any contact outside the United States for the past thirty years. There were rumors, but nothing verified. And in the interim, strange and different creatures evolved. Bethany was one of them.
“You look lovely.”
Bethany glanced up at Keith’s voice, but he wasn’t talking to her. She watched her ex-lover, tall and handsome in a rough-and-ready sort of way, lean down and kiss his almost-bride on the cheek. They were strolling around the market, hand in hand, not a care in the world.
Darting into a tent, Bethany clenched her teeth as sharp jealousy drilled into her. It didn’t have the purity of the energy pull. It was aching like a bad tooth. She willed herself not to cry. It should have just been a marriage of convenience. A way to bring the River tribe and the Bluff tribe together. Keith had told her so. In bed. Several times. It didn’t look like it was convenient. In fact, it looked a lot like love. Bethany listened to the vendor’s spiel since he was kind enough not to notice her bright eyes or quivering lips. She was so grateful for the time it gave her to pull it together that she wound up trading a set of charged batteries for one of his canteens filled with a sweet honey mead before leaving his tent.
Blinking the tears away, she pretended they were from looking up at the sun that was muted from the ash still in the atmosphere. A flutter of wings caught her eye. A brown eagle perched on the tree next to her. It looked at her like she was a mouse. Intelligent yellow eyes regarded her intently. It was a magnificent bird, beautiful feathers and a regal look. Big too, she saw as it spread its wings and folded them back to preen. Bethany bowed her head, feeling ridiculous at her awe of the noble bird who continued to survive in such a desolate world. It would have been born amid the chaos, like she had been.
Today wasn’t the first time she had seen it. Or at least one that looked just like it. Up on the bluffs, she’d sensed eyes on her and looked around only to see an eagle observing silently. She had gotten used to it, tried to tempt it closer with bits of meat, but it disdained her attempts at domestication. Still, when she walked in the woods, the bird wasn’t ever far. Not for the first time, Bethany wondered if it was a Shifter. She had given it plenty of time to shift in front of her, often dillydallying in the brush far from camp, hoping the bird would transform.
The truth was she had been lonely even when she and Keith were together. The tribe needed her, wanted the Tech she could provide. But they never fully accepted her because she wasn’t normal. Dinners were a stilted affair, and social events strained, so Bethany learned just to avoid them. Walking alone in the woods, she pretended the animals in the woods were companions, like she had done when she was a little girl. It was a game her brother, Daniel, had taught her, before he went feral and killed all those people.
“I’ve got to stop this, or I’ll be a sniveling wreck,” she told the bird, but the eagle wasn’t looking at her. She followed its inscrutable golden eyes to the next animal up for auction.

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About the Author:

Lissa Trevor has her stilettos firmly entrenched in the romance community. Spank Me Mr. Darcy is her debut novel from Riverdale Avenue Books. She is a frequent reader at Manhattan’s Between The Covers events, where her novellas Wild Oats and Timelash from Coliloquy’s Entwined volumes 1 & 2 have been very popular. Lissa also created an erotic story template for Coliloquy’s ValEntwined promotion that allowed readers to download a personalized ebook starring themselves and their significant other.

Contact Lissa on: Blog / Twitter / Goodreads / Facebook

5 Ways To Generate Blog Post Ideas

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Originally posted on 101 Books:

This marks my 954th post on 101 Books.

Four years ago, I would’ve laughed if you told me I would publish that many posts on this blog. How could I possibly write 954 posts about a list of books?

But you’d be surprised at how relatively easy it is to come up with topics once you make a habit out of coming up with topics. I’ve figured out a few ways to build brainstorming into my everyday life, without taking up a chunk of time I don’t have.

That’s really helped me generate new ideas for the blog, so I thought I’d share a few of my tips with you guys. If you have a blog, maybe you might find one or two worth your time.

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  Request to fellow fiction writers: please stay away from the crazy glue.

Originally posted on Pete Morin:

Well, then!

For the past several days, the internet has been buzzing with the astonishing exploits of one Kathleen Hale, a Harvard-educated YA author who wrote openly and in detail (if not completely honestly, I suspect) about tracking down a book reviewer, calling her at home and work, and knocking on her door. As the social media storm grew, we’ve been treated to some of her previous exploits, wherein she doused a girl with bleach and stabbed a feral hog in the heart. Whoosh, there’s one adventurer!

Ms. Hale’s narrative managed to take Ellora’s Cave’s ridiculous lawsuit against Dear Author and Jane Litte off page one. That lawsuit had pushed aside the grotesque display of plagiarism and social media harassment by Tiffinie Ruston (note: twitter trolls still attacking the “bullies” who’ve been mean to Ms. Rushton) against Rachel Anne Nunes.

And now we hear from the other side of the…

View original 627 more words

Review: Ice Massacre by Tiana Warner

Ice MassacreIce Massacre by Tiana Warner

My rating: 4 of 5 stars (Really Liked It)

***Disclaimer: I received a copy in exchange for a review.***

Synopsis: A mermaid’s supernatural beauty serves one purpose: to lure a sailor to his death.

The Massacre is supposed to bring peace to Eriana Kwai. Every year, the island sends its warriors to battle these hostile sea demons. Every year, the warriors fail to return. Desperate for survival, the island must decide on a new strategy. Now, the fate of Eriana Kwai lies in the hands of twenty battle-trained girls and their resistance to a mermaid’s allure.

Eighteen-year-old Meela has already lost her brother to the Massacre, and she has lived with a secret that’s haunted her since childhood. For any hope of survival, she must overcome the demons of her past and become a ruthless mermaid killer.

For the first time, Eriana Kwai’s Massacre warriors are female, and Meela must fight for her people’s freedom on the Pacific Ocean’s deadliest battleground.

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Cover Reveal: Lifer by Beck Nicholas

M9B-Friday-Reveal

Welcome to this week’s M9B Friday Reveal!

This week, we are revealing the first chapter for

Lifer by Beck Nicholas

presented by Month9Books!

Be sure to enter the giveaway found at the end of the post!

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Asher is a Lifer, a slave aboard the spaceship Pelican. A member of the lowest rung of society, she must serve the ship’s Officials and Astronauts as punishment for her grandparents’ crimes back on Earth. The one thing that made life bearable was her illicit relationship with Samuai, a Fishie boy, but he died alongside her brother in a freak training accident.

Still grieving for the loss of her loved ones, Asher is summoned to the upper levels to wait on Lady, the head Official’s wife and Samuai’s mother. It is the perfect opportunity to gather intel for the Lifer’s brewing rebellion. There’s just one problem—the last girl who went to the upper levels never came back.

On the other side of the universe, an alien attack has left Earth in shambles and a group called The Company has taken control. Blank wakes up in a pond completely naked and with no memory, not even his real name. So when a hot girl named Megs invites him to a black-market gaming warehouse where winning means information, he doesn’t think twice about playing. But sometimes the past is better left buried.

As Asher and Blank’s worlds collide, the truth comes out—everyone has been lied to. Bourne Identity meets Under the Never Sky in this intergalactic tale of love and deception from debut novelist Beck Nicholas.

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Title: LIFER
Publication date: December 16, 2014
Publisher: Month9Books, LLC.
Author: Beck Nicholas

Chapter-by-Chapter-header---Excerpt

Chapter One
[Asher]

I mark my body for Samuai.
My right hand is steady as I press the slim needle into my skin. It glints under the soft overhead light of the storage locker, the only place to hide on Starship Pelican. Row upon row of shelving fills the room. Back here I’m hidden from the door.
It’s been seventeen days since Samuai passed. Seventeen days of neutral expressions and stinging eyes, waiting for the chance to be alone and pay my respects to the dead Official boy in true Lifer fashion. With blood.
The body of the needle is wrapped in thread I stole from my spare uniform. The blue thread acts as the ink reservoir. It’s soaked with a dye I made from crushed feed pellets and argobenzene, both swiped from farm level. The pungent fumes sting my eyes and make it even harder to keep the tears at bay. But I will. There will be no disrespect in this marking.
My slipper drops to the floor with the softest of thuds as I shake my foot. I raise it to rest on a cold metal shelf. Samuai always held my hand when we met in secret, but I can’t bear to examine those memories now. The pain of him being gone is still so fresh.
The first break of skin at my ankle hurts a little. Not much, since the needle is nano-designed for single molecule sharpness, and it’s not as though I haven’t done this before. Recently. The tattoo for my brother circles my ankle, completed days ago, a match for the one for my father. My memorial for Samuai had to wait for privacy. The blue spreads out into my skin like liquid on a cloth. The dot is tiny. I add another and another, each time accepting the momentary pain as a tribute to Samuai. Soon I’ve finished the first swirling line.
“Are you mourning my brother or yours?”
My hand jerks at the familiar voice, driving the needle deep into the delicate skin over my Achilles. Davyd’s voice. How did he get in here so quietly? I wince, clamping down on a cry of pain. No tears though. Nothing will make me disrespect Samuai. I remove the needle from my flesh and school my features into a neutral expression before I turn and stand to attention.
“Davyd,” I say by way of greeting. Despite my preparation my throat thickens.
My response to him is stupid because he looks nothing like Samuai. Where Samuai radiated warmth from his spiky dark hair hinting of honey and his deep, golden brown eyes, there is only ice in his brother. Ice-chiseled cheekbones, tousled blond hair, the slight cleft in his chin, and his gray eyes. Eyes that see far too much.
But he’s dressed like Samuai used to dress. The same white t-shirt and black pants. It’s the uniform of Officials, or Fishies, as they’re known below. He’s a little broader in the shoulders than his older brother was—to even think of Samuai in the past tense is agony—and he’s not quite as tall. I only have to look up a little to meet his gaze. I do so without speaking.
I shouldn’t be here, but I’m not going to start apologizing for where I am or his reference to my forbidden relationship with his brother, until I know what he wants.
“Is that supposed to happen?” He points at my foot, where blood drips, forming a tiny puddle on the hard, shiny floor.
His face is expressionless, as usual, but I can hear the conceit in his voice. I can imagine what the son of a Fishie thinks of our Lifer traditions.
Today, I don’t care. Even if his scorn makes my stomach tighten and cheeks flame, I won’t care. Not about anything Davyd has to say.
“It’s none of your business.”
One fine brow arches. Superior, knowing.
He doesn’t have to say the words. The awareness of just how wrong I am zaps between us. Given our relative stations on this journey—he’s destined to be a Fishie in charge of managing the ship’s population, and me to serve my inherited sentence—whatever I do is his business, if he chooses to make it so. He’s in authority even though we’re almost the same age.
In order to gain permission to breed, Lifers allowed the injection of nanobots into their children. These prototype bots in our cells give our masters the power to switch us off using a special Remote Device until our sentence is served. At any time we can be shut down. I’m not sure how exactly, only that each of us has a unique code and the device can turn those particular bots against us. It’s an unseen but constant threat.
I keep my face blank and my posture subservient, but my fingers tighten around the needle in my hand. How I long to slap the smooth skin of his cheek.
For a second, neither of us speaks.
“Your brother or mine?” he asks again. Softly this time. So low, the question is almost intimate in the dim light.
I inhale deeply, welcoming the harsh fumes from my makeshift ink. The burning in my lungs gives me a focus so the ever-present emotional pain can’t cripple me. My brother and my boyfriend were taken on the same day, and I’m unable to properly mourn either thanks to the demands of servitude.
I can’t let it cripple me. Not if I want to find out what really happened to Zed and Samuai.
“Does it matter?” I ask. Rather than refuse him again, I twist the question around. He would never admit to having interest in the goings-on of a mere Lifer.
“No.” His voice is hard. Uncaring. He folds his arms. “But it’s against ship law to deface property.”
It takes a heartbeat, and then I realize I’m the property he’s talking about. My toes curl because my fists can’t. I see from the flick of his eyes to my feet that he’s noticed. Of course he has. There’s nothing Davyd doesn’t notice.
It’s true though. The marks we Lifers make on our bodies are not formally allowed. It is a price we pay for the agreement signed in DNA by our parents and our grandparents. They agreed to a lifetime of servitude, and their sentence is passed down through the generations for the chance at a new life on a new planet. I am the last in the chain, and my sentence will continue for twelve years after landing.
We Lifers belong to those above us, body and soul, but no Fishie or Naut—the astronauts who pilot the ship—has ever tried to stop the ritual. In return we are not blatant. We mark feet, torsos, and thighs. Places hidden by our plain blue clothing.
If the son of the head Fishie reports me, it will go on my record no matter how minor the charge, and possibly add months to my sentence. A sentence I serve for my grandparents’ crimes back on Earth after the Upheaval. Like others, their crime was no more than refusal to hand over their vehicle and property when both were declared a government resource.
I swallow convulsively.
I don’t want that kind of notice. Not when we’re expected to land in my lifetime. Not when I hoped to find answers to the questions that haunt me.
The first lesson a Lifer child learns is control around their superiors. I won’t allow mine to fail me now.
“Did you want something? Sir?”
If there’s a faint pause before the honorific, well, I’m only human.
He lets it pass. “The Lady requires extra help at this time. You have been recommended.”
“Me?”
His lips twist. “I was equally surprised. Attend her now.”
The Lady is the wife of the senior Official on board the Pelican, and both Samuai and Davyd’s mother. She’s a mysterious figure who is never seen in the shared area of the ship. I imagine she’s hurting for her dead child. Sympathy stirs within me. I’ve seen the strain my own mother tries to hide since Zed died, and I don’t think having a higher rank would make the burden any easier to bear.
It’s within Davyd’s scope as both Fishie-in-training and son of the ship’s Lady to be the one to inform me of my new placement, but I can’t help looking for something deeper in his words. There should be a kinship between us, having both lost a brother so recently, but Samuai’s death hasn’t affected Davyd at all.
“Who recommended me?”
He shrugs. “Now.Lifer.”
I nod and move to tidy up, ignoring the persistent pain in my ankle where the needle went too deep. My defiance only stretches so far. Not acting on a direct request would be stupidity. I will finish my memorial for Samuai, but not with his brother waiting. It’s typical that Davyd doesn’t use my name. I can’t remember him or his Fishie friends ever doing so.
It was something that stood out about Samuai from when we were youngsters and met in the training room. It was the only place on the ship us Lifers are close to equal. I was paired to fight with him to first blood, and he shocked me by asking my name. “Asher,” Samuai had repeated, like he tasted something sweet on his tongue, “I like it.”
In my heart there’s an echo of the warmth I felt that day, but the memory hurts. It hurts that I’ll never see him again, that he’ll never live out the dreams we shared in our secret meetings. Dreams of a shared future and changes to a system that makes Lifers less than human.
When I’ve gathered the small inkpot and put on my slippers, I notice a smear of blood on the slipper material from where I slipped earlier. It’s the opportunity I need to let my change in status be known below.
“Umm.” I clear my throat. Please let the stories I’ve heard of the Lady be true.
“What?” asks Davyd from where he waits by the door, presumably to escort me to his mother. The intensity of his gaze makes me quake inside. It’s all I can do not to lift my hand to check my top is correctly buttoned and my hair hasn’t grown beyond the fuzz a Lifer is allowed.
“My foot attire isn’t suitable to serve the Lady.” I point to the faint smudge of brown seeping into my footwear. It is said by those cleaners who are permitted into the Fishie sleeping quarters that the Lady insists her apartment be kept spotless. She’s unlikely to be pleased with me reporting for duty in bloodstained slippers.
Davyd’s jaw tenses. Maybe I’ve pushed him too far with this delay. I hold my breath.
But then his annoyance is gone and his face is the usual smooth mask. “Change. I will be waiting at the lift between the training hall and study rooms.”
He doesn’t need to tell me to hurry.
He opens the door leading out into the hallway and I expect him to stride through and not look back. Again he surprises me. He turns. His face is in shadow. The brighter light behind him shines on his tousled blond hair, which gives him a hint of the angelic.
“Assuming it’s my brother you’re mourning,” his voice is deep and for the first time there’s a slight melting of the ice. “You should know. … He wasn’t worth your pain.”

 

Chapter-by-Chapter-header---About-the-Author

Beck-Nicholas-head-shot-248x300

I always wanted to write. I’ve worked as a lab assistant, a pizza delivery driver and a high school teacher but I always pursued my first dream of creating stories. Now, I live with my family near Adelaide, halfway between the city and the sea, and am lucky to spend my days (and nights) writing young adult fiction.

Connect with the Author: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Pinterest

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Book Blitz: Kasadya Hellhound Series by Karen Swart

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Kasadya- Hellhound Awakened: Kasadya Series Book One by Karen Swart

Genre: Urban Fantasy/Paranormal
Audience: YA/NA – 14 years and up.  342 pages

Publisher: Karen Swart
Cover by: Melody Simmons
Edited by: MAI-Editing-Services, There for you Editing Services&Blue Butterfly Editing

Book Description:  In a constant battle between good and evil, evil is dominating the battlefield and leading mankind to its destruction. With our Creator’s intervention, a creature destined to conquer and destroy is created. He gives mankind hellhounds to fight back and reclaim freedom.

Join seventeen year old Kasadya Levourne as she fights against evil to protect us. With each step, she faces destruction, and yet she has the talent to give it back tenfold. Stubborn and hard-headed she makes her mark in the Fallen world and starts a battle none can escape. Not even her trainer, the very attractive Chax de Luca, was prepared for her presence.

Will evil prevail? Or will Kas and her Fallen friends succeed in protecting us against it? Hold on to your seats, this is going to be one hell of a ride.

Special Note: The Kasadya Series should be read back to back as Books 1- 3 each end with a cliff hanger.

Find it at: Amazon / Goodreads / Smashwords

Prologue: There was a time when heaven was filled with peace and serenity. God, Jesus Christ, and all the Angels lived in harmony; no evil and no sin existed. Until one fateful day…
With all gathered to hear their Sire speak, God rose and addressed his Angels. Before all, he proclaimed His Son, Jesus Christ, was equal to Him. That Christ’s words should be obeyed as if they were His own. Christ would command the heavens, with the same authority as Him. All the Angels bowed down before Christ and accepted their Sire’s proclamation, all except for one…
An Archangel was furious with this proclamation. He was his Sire’s right hand, the deliverer of justice, the commander of many legions. He had served his Sire for centuries, and never failed him. It should be to him that God bestow power, not a Son whom had never even seen battle.
With his heart filled with hatred and jealousy, he gathered all the angels in secret. He told them that their days of sweet liberty were at an end. That God has now placed Christ as their ruler and that they should now obey his wishes. Many angels were angered at such a false statement, but many also agreed with the Archangel. He had led them for many years; why should they now question his leadership?
The faithful Angels fled to God and told Him what was happening, and together they prepared for war. With the sun rising on a new day, God and his Angels stood ready for battle against the Archangel and his followers. The battle only lasted a day, the Archangel and his followers defeated before the sun set for the night.
Seeing the angels on their knees before Him, He gave them one final chance… “Repent and declare your loyalty, and I will forgive you, my children.” He told his beautiful angels, tears falling with each word. This was His family. This was His love. How could they betray Him? Some of the Angels cried their penance, begging Him to forgive them for their deceit. They claimed that the Archangel deceived them, and they followed him into battle, as they have done for centuries.
God took pity on them, but still believed that their deceit must not go unpunished. He had spoken many times about the importance of punishment, that lessons learned must be earned… “I herewith grant you mercy, but as punishment you will be sentenced to an earthly realm. I will take your beauty as payment for my children lost today. In the place of your beauty, I will give you purpose. In mercy, and because I love you still, I give you life in this realm. Let this be known, that I was merciful this day,” God finished.
He placed them in an earthly realm, and called it Exsilium. In this realm they would carry their deceit, and earn their place with him. He took their beauty and replaced them with elements of his earth. Half would be of animal and element, and would resemble punishment. The other, in a humanoid form, and would resemble mercy. He called them his Fallen.
The Archangel, and those whom did not repent, were not that lucky. God looked into the eyes of His once faithful angels and only saw destruction, hatred, jealousy, and heartache. He knew that His beloved ones had died this day, and that others needed to be protected. But how could you destroy one you loved? He placed the Archangel, and his followers, in another earthly realm, but where Exsilium was above the earth, this one was in the center. With one wave of His hand, their beautiful forms were replaced with forms as ugly as their hatred and deceit. Using His word and blood, He sealed this realm from any other.
As He looked into the many eyes of hatred, He spoke his final word… “This realm will be called Hell, and you will be called demons. You, my once faithful Archangel, you will be called the Devil. Your angel name will be erased from the past, present, and future. You will be forgotten,” He proclaimed and left them to their demise.
Many years have passed since that day. God created mankind and cherished his new children. The male and female were his new hope; in them he would find peace again. But the Devil had grown strong through the years, and somehow managed to enter God’s garden. Here, he found the female God created, using her to strike back. He whispered words of deceit in her ears, and watched as God’s new children stepped into sin. With her first bite, a crack appeared in the seal around Hell, and demons escaped to earth.
From that day onward, the Devil and his demons created chaos amongst God’s new children, leading one after the other into sin. God looked upon this and decided to fight for his loved ones. He went to Exsilium and spoke to the Fallen… “You, my children, have proven your loyalty in the years that have passed, and so I came to offer you another chance at Heaven. If you slay the Devil and his demons to protect mankind, I will give you a place in my Heaven once again. With your last breath on this earth, you will join me and your brethren in Heaven,” He finished. The Fallen agreed and God gave them the power to move in and out of Exsilium to battle the demons. The war between Good and Evil began.
But as mankind spread over the earth, sin became their followers. And with each sin, the demons grew stronger and created more demons to torture mankind. The Fallen were now fighting against millions; they needed assistance to ensure victory. God had watched the battle from Heaven and saw that they were failing because of their numbers. He also saw that the demons grew stronger than the Fallen. He intervened and created a new creature. This creature would have features encompassing the best of both worlds. One half was as strong and loyal as the Fallen, while the other was as hard and enduring as a demon. This was His ultimate weapon. This would be His greatest creation. To ensure that these creatures could not be swayed, He placed Heaven’s soul into them. He called them His hellhounds.
The hellhounds delivered justice swiftly, as strong and just as the Fallen. Yet hard and durable like the demons, they conquered the earthly realm and the demons retreated. Not one hellhound could be swayed. All stayed true to their calling. God, knowing that the Devil and many more demons had retreated, gave His hellhounds life, and offered them a place among the Fallen.
Until this day they still watch over mankind, protecting them from evil. Will we be worth it?

Kasadya- Hellhound Twisted: Kasadya Series Book Two by Karen Swart

Genre: Urban Fantasy
Audience: YA/NA – 14 years and up. 251 Pages

Publisher: Karen Swart

Edited by: There for you Editing Services &Blue Butterfly Editing
Cover by: Melody Simmons

Book Description: She fought against all odds and became the warrior she was meant to be … or so she thought. In a world where the rules have changed, can she embrace her destiny and become the hellhound she was meant to be?

Kasadya is back in Exsilium and finds her world a little different. Her half-breed fallen friends join her, and they are ordered to complete their apprentice training in order to obtain the right to be guardians. She must learn that her own fate cannot be denied and that others are set to follow. But most of all, she must learn that to trust is the greatest battle of all.

The tables are turned and Kasadya is put to the test. Will she be able to prevent her own death, or that of a friend? Or will her actions call forth the destruction of Earth and Exsilium?

For a Phoenix to rise, it must first die. —Chax De Luca

Amazon / Goodreads / Smashwords / Barnes & Noble

Kasadya- Hellhound Born: Kasadya Series Book Three by Karen Swart

Genre: Urban Fantasy
Audience: YA/NA – 14 years and up.  235 pages

Publisher: Karen Swart
Cover by: Melody Simmons
Edited by: MAI-Editing-Services&Blue Butterfly Editing

Book Description: In a world filled with evil, the Fallen prepare for the ultimate battle against the demon world!

Kasadya is ordered to unleash her crazed born transformation to complete her divinity. But there is a chance that her born will be uncontrollable, and she will be destroyed. There is just one person that can save her; her charm, her destined mate. Left without a choice, she must surrender, and place her life in his hands.

In a race against time, the Fallen must stand together and fight the evil threatening to invade earth. If her divinity was in reach, victory would be theirs. That is until she starts having visions of the final battle, and her true destiny is revealed. She just found her love and place in the Fallen world; will she be able, and willing, to sacrifice it all?

Amazon / Smashwords / Goodreads / Barnes & Noble

Excerpt:

“Kasadya, don’t do this to me,” Chax spoke, using Corra.
I stopped completely and looked at him. Reaching for my necklace, I held it.
“I am so sorry, Chax. This is the only way; we can’t win any other way. I know; I have seen the end too many times,” I replied.
His face fell even more and he looked around, searching for a way out.
“I want to thank you… for being there for me. For searching for me when I went missing. For enduring all of my crap. I am sorry I messed up so many times. But not this time; this I promise. But most of all, thank you for loving me.” Even my mental voice broke down on the last part.
Chax started to scream and pound at the invisible wall, while others joined him. I looked at Nanini, shocked that she couldn’t get out.
“Take care of Max for me,” I sent to her.
Tears formed and ran down her cheeks, but she nodded.
“Kas, let us help you!” Lotan yelled. My friends, my family were still trying to save me. Tears ran down my own face now.
“I love all of you. Thank you for always being there for me.” Finally my mental voice began to a sob.
I turned away, afraid that the sight of them would stop me.
“Kasadya! Don’t do this to me. I beg you!” Chax yelled at me.
Demons were closing in around me, but my heart was so broken I just let the tears and heartache spill out of me.
“I am so sorry, Chax. Forgive me.” With that, I stormed forward.
I used my g-force punches to clear the masses out of my way. When that stopped working, I started shifting. Demons grabbed at me and some got in a slice or two. But I wasn’t stopping.
I saw Ballen trying to flee from me. He thought I was heading for him. Good. I needed him on the other side when I blew it up. Using my wings for momentum, I sent a massive g-force punch into the horde that remained between me and my target. They flew backwards, clearing the way for me to advance. I swiped at a few too close and took their heads. Blood sprayed all over me. Searching for the hole to make sure I was heading in the right direction, I saw the shoulders and arms of something freaking big, already beginning to breach.
I need to move faster!
I lifted up with my wings. They were tired, but I had no other option. Now I had the flying demons to contend with. We fought and sliced and I sent a few down to earth without a head. At last, I was advancing on the hole. Pain shot through my left wing and I tumbled to the ground, hitting hard. At the last moment I made sure that the front of my body hit the ground and not the back. Demons jumped me all at once. Ballen was yelling at them to stop me. I used everything I had left and flung out with my wings and arms. They went flying and just in front of me was the hole with the devil stuck in it. Ballen was standing at the entrance watching me, his face a mask of shock.
With a deep breath, I reached for the pouch and took hold of the balls. Now armed and ready, I just had a few feet to go. I stormed through the demons, not caring if they sliced me open. I wasn’t stopping for a fight anymore. I held the balls to my chest, sealing them from any other impact. Then, finally, I was at the entrance of the hole. With the last of my strength, I leaped into the air and went flying straight for it.
There were many things that go through your mind that moment before you die. I remembered my first step into Exsilium. Meeting Lada and Nanini. Meeting Chax and hating my first day. I remembered our fun at the beach, the Hellhouse and the grub spot. Seeing Lada and Lotan kissing for the first time.Meeting Max and Ryan, and then all of the rest. My heart no longer troubled by Kali or Seth or all the others who had betrayed me. I remembered finding Chax and the Fallen again. Seeing my parents again. So many memories bombarded me at that last moment. I remembered my day and night with Chax, and how it felt to be loved.
“I love you,” I sent a final message to him.
He was still screaming my name, begging for me to stop.
I remembered why I was doing this. For them I gave my heart, my life. Ballen’s shocked face was in front of me, right in my path. Just when I reached him, I dropped the balls and slammed into him.

Kasadya- Hellhound Defined: Kasadya Series Book Four by Karen Swart

Genre: Urban Fantasy
Audience: YA/NA – 14 years and up.  135 pages

Publisher: Karen Swart
Cover by: Melody Simmons
Edited by: Blue Butterfly Editing

Book Description:  For centuries his only reason for existence was to destroy evil. But when he finally found his mate, that all changed for the deadly Chax De Luca. When the hellhound Kasadya captured his heart, he surrended it to her, thinking he’d finally found what he’d been looking for. Little did he know that his mate would sacrifice herself to save them all.

His fury is legend. His wrath, merciless.His love for his mate, undeniable. He’s going to hell to retrieve his heart, and if that means that he must destroy hell itself, then so be it.

Kasadya awakes to a world in peril, her mate forever changed, and a war filled with evil creatures intending to enter Earth’s realm and destroy all that she holds dear. Can she complete her divinity in time to save her loved ones and mankind? Will she have to choose? Or will all be lost in the final battle?

The final battle is here, and with it, secrets are revealed and worlds are changed forever.

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Smashwords

I am a complete book addict, and really proud of it. My entire world is made of books. From reading to writing to blogging to helping other authors. A day without my world of books would be impossible. I am a mother of three, two boys and a little princess. Happily married for 8 years with my high school sweetheart. I live in South Africa, just on the rims of the Kalahari Desert in a small town with one shop and friendly faces.

Connect with Karen at her: Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter / Blog / Amazon

Tour Wide Giveaway: Enter to win one of 5 E-Copies of The Kasadya Hellhound Series – Complete Edition or 1 $10 Amazon Gift Card

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Book Blitz: Confessions of a Teenage Rape Survivor

 
Welcome to the promo event for Holly Dae’s realistic YA fiction, hosted by IFB Tours. Check out the excerpt and giveaway below:
 
22754329Release date: October 16th 2014
Purchase:Amazon | B&N | IBooks | Kobo
 
Synopsis via Goodreads:
Before she was raped, almost sixteen-year-old Allison Sommer knew exactly what she wanted and was in total control of her life. Get through high school, go to college to appease her dad, somehow stay fit, lithe, and athletic through all the stress and become a professional cheerleader. Normal teenage stuff. Simple. At least it was simple before she was raped. 
 
Now Allison’s whole life is out of her control. She can’t trust in her own choices, can’t rationalize anything anymore, so she just goes through the motions, hoping that eventually she’ll go back to normal, can stop pretending. That doesn’t happen, especially when she’s forced to reveal what happened to her family and closest friends.
 
On the MTV commercials and reality shows that emphasize that she has nothing to be ashamed of and guide viewers to some website like don’t-be-a-victim.comand a support hotline, no one warns her that the aftermath is more difficult than the rape itself, that her family’s efforts to be supportive make her feel more alone and confused. 
 
And being raped has more devastating consequences than Allison ever imagined, forcing her to make one of the most difficult decisions she’s ever had to make. It should be a no-brainer, everyone says, but being raped makes Allison question everything and everyone she thought she could trust.
 
Either way, Allison won’t let anyone force her to do anything again, not like her rapists did, even if it makes her already difficult enough circumstance more difficult. Uncensored and unflinchingly honest, these are the confessions of a teenage rape survivor.
 
EXCERPT
 
 
“Are those your brother’s sleeping pills?” Gene asked.

Allison nodded. No use denying that.

Gene looked at her again, then at the pills, and then at Allison again. His eyes widened.
“Were you going to take all of those?” Gene asked in an incredulous tone. He didn’t wait for an answer, already having assumed the worst. “How many have you taken already?”
Allison opened her mouth to reply, forgetting that one of the pills was sitting under her tongue. Gene saw it as she started to try to explain.
“Oh shit! Spit that out!”
Gene reached across the counter to squeeze her cheeks and force the pill out her mouth causing Allison to have two instantaneous reactions. First, she spit out the pill. Second, she punched Gene straight in the jaw, which caused Gene to let go of her and grab his face.
“What the—”
Allison gasped as she shook her hand out. She shouldn’t have done that. She didn’t mean to do that. Gene wasn’t a rapist. Well, she hoped he wasn’t. The guy who asked her for directions to distract her didn’t look like a rapist either. Either way when Gene grabbed her so suddenly, she couldn’t help it.
“I’m sorry,” she said quickly.
“Are you insane? What is wrong with you?”
“I didn’t mean to punch you. It was an accident. I swear.”
Gene rolled his eyes, stilling rubbing his jaw. “Not the punch. I probably deserved that for scaring the hell out of you, grabbing you like that. I’m talking about those sleeping pills. That many of those things at once can kill you.”
Allison blinked. He thought…
“I wasn’t trying to commit suicide!”
“Could have fooled me,” Gene said sliding the pills off the counter and into his hand. He threw them down the garbage disposer.
“But I wasn’t,” Allison said, heart racing in panic. If Gene thought she was trying to kill herself, he’d tell her brother, and her brother would tell their dad, and she’d never be left alone, and she’d have to tell the truth. Then they’d make a big deal out of it and want her to report it to the police, and the police would want a description and account of what happened, and then she’d never be able to forget. “I just wasn’t thinking.”
“The hell you weren’t,” Gene snapped as he snatched the bottle with the remaining pills off the counter and put them in his pocket.
“I was just so tired and the bottle said one pill was mild and good for four hours of sleep, so I decided to take enough to knock me out for a day,” Allison tried to explain.
“Six pills would have knocked you out all right,” Gene said as he began to dial a number into his phone.
“What are you doing?” she asked apprehensively.
“Calling your brother,” Gene said and then cursed. “Damn it. I have his phone in my pocket. Do I have your dad’s number in my phone?”
Allison lunged for the phone. In all likelihood, he probably didn’t have her dad’s number, but she didn’t want to chance it.
“You can’t call tell them,” Allison said grabbing onto the phone.
Gene tried to pull it out her grasp as he said, “Sure. Not telling your brother and father that you’re suicidal is a great idea.”
“I’m not suicidal.”
“Says the girl who was about to take six sleeping pills,” Gene said getting the phone out of Allison’s grip and holding it out of her reach.
Allison all but tackled him into the counter.
“I told you!” Allison screamed, exploding in anger. “I’m tired! I just wanted to go to sleep without the nightmares! You can’t… You can’t tell them,” Allison finished, all her anger dissolving as a sob escaped her throat. She hadn’t even noticed she started crying.
She stopped trying to get the phone then, falling onto the floor as her body shook with sobs of fear at what Gene would do and anger at herself. When did she get so weak?


 
About the Author
Holly Dae is a recent college grad with a B.A. in English who, instead of putting on a suit to work at a desk 9-5 for five figures and a lifetime of misery and crushed dreams, decided to write YA novels about the taboos concerning contemporary issues like rape, abortion, drugs, teen pregnancy, and sometimes sex with the hopes that someone will pat her on the back and say she touched their life.

 

Book Blitz: Excerpts from Burden of Souls by Andy Monk

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the Burden of Souls coverTHE BURDEN OF SOULS BY ANDY MONK

Synopsis: 
Small Town, Dark Heart…

A long way from anywhere, on a road going nowhere, lays a small, unremarkable town. It seems a peaceable, prosperous little place, on the surface at least. Away from prying eyes however, in the shadows and the forgotten corners, there is a web being weaved through the lives of its inhabitants by the town’s urbane and mysterious Mayor. A man prepared to make a deal for your heart’s desire and, maybe, for your very soul…

Welcome to Hawker’s Drift, a town where nothing is quite as it seems…

Buy at Amazon.  Find it on Goodreads.

 

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Book Blitz: Tears of the Rose by Jeffe Kennedy (Twelve Kingdoms Book 2)

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The Tears of the Rose: The Twelve Kingdoms Book Two by Jeffe Kennedy

Paperback: 336 pages

Publisher: Kensington

Release Date: November 25, 2014

Book Description: Three sisters. Motherless daughters of the high king. The eldest is the warrior-woman heir, the middle child is shy and full of witchy intuition and the youngest, Princess Amelia, she is as beautiful as the sun and just as generous.

Ami met her Prince Charming and went away to his castle on the stormy sea-cliffs—and that should have been her happily ever after. Instead, her husband lies dead and a war rages. Her middle sister has been taken into a demon land, turned into a stranger. The priests and her father are revealing secrets and telling lies. And a power is rising in Ami, too, a power she hardly recognizes, to wield her beauty as a weapon, and her charm as a tool to deceive…

Amelia has never had to be anything but good and sweet and kind and lovely. But the chess game for the Twelve Kingdoms has swept her up in it, and she must make a gambit of her own. Can the prettiest princess become a pawn—or a queen?

Preorder at Amazon: ebook or paperback

Jeffe Kennedy is an award-winning author with a writing career that spans decades. Her works include non-fiction, poetry, short fiction, and novels. She has been a Ucross Foundation Fellow, received the Wyoming Arts Council Fellowship for Poetry, and was awarded a Frank Nelson Doubleday Memorial Award. Her essays have appeared in many publications, including Redbook.

Her most recent works include a number of fiction series: the fantasy romance novels of A Covenant of Thorns; the contemporary BDSM novellas of the Facets of Passion, and an erotic contemporary serial novel, Master of the Opera, which released beginning January 2, 2014. A fourth series, the fantasy trilogy The Twelve Kingdoms, hit the shelves starting in May 2014 and a fifth, the highly anticipated erotic romance trilogy, Falling Under, will release starting in July.

She lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, with two Maine coon cats, plentiful free-range lizards and a very handsome Doctor of Oriental Medicine.

Jeffe can be found online at her website, every Sunday at the popular Word Whores blog on Facebook, and pretty much constantly on Twitter.  She is represented by Foreword Literary.

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