Posted in excerpt, Giveaway, romance, Young Adult on June 28, 2017

 

 

The Ghost of You and Me by Kelly Oram

How do you tell someone who hates you and blames you for the death of his best friend that you miss him?

From the bestselling teen and young adult author of Cinder & Ella comes a new heart-wrenching romance sure to bring all the feels.

The tragic death of Spencer Schott unravels the lives of the two people he loved most—his girlfriend, Bailey, and his best friend, Wes. Secrets and guilt from that fateful night keep both Bailey and Wes from overcoming Spencer’s loss and moving on with their lives.

Now, nearly a year later, both Bailey and Wes are still so broken over what happened that Spencer can’t find peace in the afterlife. In order to put his soul to rest, he’s given one chance to come back and set things right…even if that means setting up his girlfriend with his best friend.

With the emotional resonance of Jellicoe Road and the magical realism of The Lovely Bones, The Ghost of You and Me is a story about overcoming grief, finding redemption for past mistakes, and the healing power of friendship and love. Fans of John Green, Sarah Dessen, and Nicholas Sparks are sure to love this haunting new tale from Kelly Oram.

This is a clean young adult romance stand alone novel that reads like contemporary drama romance and has just a touch of magical realism.

Excerpt

I open the door and slam into a solid chest. Strong hands grip my arms to steady me, and they don’t let go. I know the hands are Wes’s without having to look. “Are you okay?” he asks.

At first, I’m comforted by his presence. His smell is familiar, and the heat of his tall, lean body feels like it could thaw my frozen heart. For a split second, I melt against him. His arms come around me as if holding me is as natural to him as breathing. For a second, everything is right in my pathetic world. For a second, I’m alive again.

“Bailey, what’s wrong?” His usually smooth, deep voice is gruff.

My head jerks up at the sound of my name, and reality catches up with me. I scramble out of his embrace, attempting to swallow back my panic. He’s watching me, waiting for an answer. I haven’t spoken to him since the funeral, and I’m not sure I can do it now. It takes me a minute to find my voice, and when I do, I blurt out, “What are you doing here?”

He sucks in a breath through his nose as he steps back, gripping the strap of a bag slung over his shoulder. Seeing the backpack, my jaw drops. “Are you coming back to school?”

The genuine horror in my voice makes him flinch. There’d been a bit of light in his eyes, but it’s gone now. His face closes off. “No, I’m not coming back to school here.”

He adjusts that strap again, then switches the backpack to his other shoulder while glaring at the ground. I’ve offended him. Or maybe he just still hates me. I wouldn’t blame him. I got his best friend killed, after all. I hate me.

Seeing him reminds me of that night all over again. The events replay in my mind with vivid detail. Everything from finding Wes and stopping him from doing something unthinkable, to the kiss, to the fight, and finally the accident and Wes holding me back while paramedics did their best to try and save Spencer’s life.

One look at his face, and I can tell Wes is thinking about the same events. He closes his eyes and takes a breath. When he looks at me again, his expression has smoothed out. “How are you?” he asks. “You know…today.”

I swallow back a lump of emotion. I’m not surprised that Wes knows today is Spencer’s and my anniversary, but his acknowledgement of it feels like a knife in my heart. Why does he care? He hated that Spencer and I were together, and he used to get so cranky on this day every year.

“What’s today?” someone behind me murmurs. “It’s not the anniversary of Spencer’s death. That’s not for a couple weeks.”

A crowd of students have gathered to watch the drama. I don’t know who spoke, but I wish I could make them all disappear. Could people be any more tactless? Why can’t they just mind their own business?

When my eyes start to burn, I turn to leave. I can’t stand here any longer.

Wes puts a hand on my shoulder to stop me. “Bay, wait.”

I freeze. Aside from that night, Wes hasn’t used my nickname since I got together with Spencer and he started hating me for stealing his best friend.

Wes lets me go and rubs a hand over his head. “Sorry. I just—we should really talk.”

“Don’t.” With a quivering voice and stinging eyes, I whisper, “I can’t do this. Not today.” Maybe not ever.

I can’t take it anymore. I can’t stare into those knowing eyes for another second. My guilt is bad enough without seeing his sadness and anger.

Wes doesn’t say anything as I leave, doesn’t try to stop me. I head straight for my car and don’t care if I get in trouble for leaving. All that matters is getting far, far away from here. I’m not really running from Wes. I’m running from the past. Running from myself. Those are two things I will never escape, but I run anyway.

 

About the Author

Kelly Oram wrote her first novel at age fifteen–a fan fiction about her favorite music group, The Backstreet Boys, for which her family and friends still tease her. She’s obsessed with reading, talks way too much, and likes to eat frosting by the spoonful. She lives outside of Phoenix, Arizona with her husband, four children, and her cat, Mr. Darcy.

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Posted in excerpt, Giveaway, Romantic Suspense on June 27, 2017

Synopsis

New York Times and USA Today bestseller Julie Ann Walker delivers red-hot romantic suspense in Fuel for Fire!

Dagan Zoelner has always had his eye on spunky CIA agent Chelsea Duvall. When a mission throws them together, this could be his only chance to win her heart for good.

Dagan Zoelner has made three huge mistakes

The first two left blood on his hands.

The third left him wondering…what if?

What if he had told the woman of his dreams how he felt before his world fell apart?

Spitfire CIA agent Chelsea Duvall has always had a thing for bossy, brooding Dagan. It’s just as well that he’s never given her a second look, since she carries a combustible secret about his past that threatens to torch their lives…

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Excerpt

Tell us!” Surry demanded again, giving her head a hard shake. Her brain banged around inside her skull, making her see stars. Since she was tied with a length of electrical cord to one of the chairs in front of Morrison’s desk, her hands duct-taped behind her back, there was little she could do to defend herself.

Then again, she still had her smart mouth. “Screw you, buddy,” she snarled. Those three words were all she allowed herself before she clenched her teeth and sealed her lips shut.

The violence that clouded Surry’s face and glinted in his hell-black eyes made her want to curl into a protective ball. He leaned down so that his nose was an inch from hers. His hot breath smelled of coffee and buttered croissants, and the thought of him actually eating struck her as weird. She had assumed he sustained himself by devouring the souls of Morrison’s enemies.

“You will bloody well tell us what we want to know, Miss Duvall.” When he spoke all low and menacing in that thick English accent, she got the unsettling feeling that something dark moved in the shadows just out of sight. “Or I will jab this letter opener into your carotid.” He pulled back to wield the weapon he had taken from Morrison’s desktop. The sterling-silver letter opener glinted in the golden glow cast by the overhead chandelier.

Releasing her face, Surry cocked his head. “So, what shall it be? The truth? Or the knife? The choice is yours.” There was an emptiness in his voice when he asked the questions. Like he didn’t really care what the answers would be. Like he was tired or bored or maybe…resigned?

Oh, that doesn’t bode well.

Of course, the truth was out of the question. She would never rat on the Black Knights. No telling what Morrison, a.k.a Spider, with all his power and connections, could do with that information. So that left…the knife.

But there’s still so much I want to do!

She had never learned to make her mother’s she-crab soup. She had never tried her hand at writing fiction like that of Tolkien or Rowling or Martin. She had never married the love of her life and given him two bouncing, chubby-cheeked babies.

A cold finger of terror dragged up her spine, and for a second she considered spilling her guts and saving her hide. But then, from somewhere deep inside, a well of strength erupted, filling her with determination and the will to do what must be done.

Her mind briefly touched on her mother, and a great sadness weighed down her heart. Grace Duvall would be devastated by the death of her only child. But Chelsea took comfort—cold comfort, but comfort all the same—in knowing that her life insurance policy would be enough to pay her mother’s debts. That was something. Something to hold on to.

“Well?” Surry demanded. “What will it be?”

Chelsea licked her lips. Fear was a living thing inside her, crawling through her chest like a centipede on prickly legs. She squashed it and sealed her own fate. “Do your worst, you sorry, low-life sonofagun!”

Surry’s beard-stubbled chin jerked back as if he couldn’t believe the choice she’d made. Then his eyes narrowed, and grim determination transformed his face.

Closing her eyes, Chelsea waited on the inevitable. That centipede was going crazy inside her, making her chest ache and raising the hair on her head. She braced herself for the deathblow as a million regrets, a million joys, a million memories flittered through her brain.

Funny how many of those regrets and joys and memories feature Dagan.

She held her breath, savoring it, knowing it was her last and—

“Drop. The. Knife.”

With a cry, she blinked open her eyes and craned her head around to see three figures dressed from head to toe in black. Each of them wielded a weapon as if it were an extension of himself.

The Black Knights…

Even had Dagan not spoken the three most beautiful words she’d ever heard in that smooth moonshine voice, she would have known the trio anywhere. There was no mistaking those broad shoulders or those defiant, cocksure stances.

Her eyes homed in on Dagan. He was in the middle and slightly forward of the other two. It wasn’t his height or carriage that gave him away. It was his stillness. Ace and Christian seemed to vibrate with barely leashed power. But Dagan was a statue. Not a muscle quivered. Not a tendon or ligament cracked. Chelsea was reminded of a pair of tectonic plates under intense pressure. She knew what came next. The earth would rip open, and hell would spew forth.

Surry must have felt the doom behind Dagan’s stillness, because his voice sounded wheezy when he demanded, “And who the f* are you?”

“Worry less about who we are,” Dagan snarled, “and more about what we’ll do if you don’t drop the knife.”

Proving he had more balls than brains, Surry spun Chelsea’s chair around and palmed her forehead to wrench her head back. The sharp tip of the letter opener nicked at the skin pulsing over the large vein in her neck. She hadn’t had time to scream, and now she didn’t dare breathe.

“Ring up the police, sir,” Surry said. From the corner of her eye, Chelsea saw Morrison/Spider make a move toward the desk.

“Take one step in the direction of that phone, and you’ll be eating a bullet for breakfast.” There was no mistaking Dagan’s words or his tone. He meant what he said.

Morrison must have come to the same realization. The old man stopped in his tracks.

“Good man,” Dagan acknowledged. “Now, there’s one thing you both need to understand. We’re leaving here with Chelsea. That can be over your dead bodies or your live ones.” Even though his words were calm and his body as motionless as a mountain, rage burned inside him. It was there in his eyes, glowing red like the fires of Mordor. “So what will it be? The choice is yours.”

It was the same option Surry had given her, spoken in the same words. How long had the three of them been outside listening?

“You have no bloody idea who you’re f*ing with,” Morrison snarled, his chest heaving with every furious breath. “I have—”

That’s all he managed. In a flash, the statue, a.k.a. Dagan Zoelner, came to life. He moved faster than the human eye could follow, certainly faster than Chelsea could track with her head angled back in Surry’s grip. One second he was staring at her and Surry, and the next he aimed at Morrison and pulled his trigger.

The gunshot was oddly muffled and Morrison stumbled back, hitting his hip on the edge of the desk. Surry bellowed his outrage and released her head. Free from his brutal grip, she turned to Morrison and understood the strangeness of the weapon’s sound.

It wasn’t a bullet that had exploded from the end of Dagan’s gun. It was a dart. She had just enough time to catch a glimpse of the fuzzy yellow end protruding from the center of Morrison’s chest before Dagan fired again. This time the dart whizzed over her head. Surry made an awful gurgling noise. When she pulled her chin back, she saw the projectile sticking from his neck.

He reached for the dart, stumbling into her chair. His hand hit the back of her head, looking for leverage and forcing her chin into her chest as every vertebra in her neck threatened to crack under the pressure. She couldn’t see what happened next. But she heard it. Heard the boots that pounded against the tiles as the Black Knights raced into the room.

Surry released her head when Christian tackled him. From the corner of her eye, she watched Ace catch Morrison right before the old man toppled face-first onto the floor. And Dagan? Well, Dagan knelt in front of her.

She gasped when his big, warm hands cupped her cheeks, gently lifting her head. Her neck ached, but it wasn’t broken. All her fingers and toes still worked when she gave them an experimental wiggle.

“Chels… Christ. Are you okay?” His stormy eyes searched her face.

She nodded her head. That’s all she could manage because a giant lump was centered in her throat. She had put on a brave face throughout the entire ordeal, but now that it looked like she was saved, all her shock and terror rose to the surface, crumbling her mask of courage.

“Thank God.” He wrapped his arms around her, pulling her close.

It was the first time he had hugged her. The first time she had been in his arms. Oh, how she wanted to hold him tight in return. But with her hands still trapped behind her back, the only thing she could do was turn her face into his warm neck and breathe him in.

She had always loved the way he smelled. A mixture of worn leather, dryer sheets, and shampoo. All clean and healthy and…male.

“I was afraid m-maybe I didn’t press the button long enough to send out the Mayday,” she said in a rush, her lips moving against the rough fabric of his ski mask. “And th-then they found the thumb drive. But they were so quick to stop questioning me and…and…” She had to stop. “Thank you. Thank you for coming for me.”

His wide palm cupped the back of her head, holding her close. Was it trembling? “Always, Chels. Never doubt it.”

Oh great. Now the lump in her throat had grown to the size of a Carolina pine.

She wanted the moment to last forever, to stay just like this, safe in his arms. But all too soon, he pulled back. “What were you thinking, telling them to do their worst? You were baiting them, egging them on. You stupid, stubborn, self-sacrificing fool.”

And just like that, happiness and relief morphed into incredulity that slid quick as a whistle into anger. Seriously? He was going to stand there—er, squat there—and call her names?

He may be hotter than the door handles of hell, but when he gets all Me Tarzan, You Jane, I want to dump his limp body in the River Thames and feed him to the fishes. After she’d killed him with mind-blowing sex and multiple orgasms, natch. And she could probably cop to his last two accusations. She was stubborn, and in that instant she had been willing to sacrifice herself. But the first one?

“S-stupid?” she sputtered. And good news! The lump in her throat vanished. “Screw you, Dagan! In case you’ve forgotten, I pulled off this op w-with…”

She stumbled to a stop because he’d ripped off his mask. And there it was. The Beard.

Looking at him dressed all in black, shoulders as broad as the Lowcountry, she couldn’t help but think he resembled a god. One of the mythical beings she read about in her fantasy novels. Formidable. Powerful. Gorgeous.

And here I am, a mere mortal.

The look he pinned on her was one she recognized. She liked to call it his Clint Eastwood gunfighter squint. He tended to whip it out right before he laid into her for something. She braced herself, mentally running through her standard list of comebacks. But he didn’t give her a tongue-lashing. At least not a verbal one. Instead, he took her face in his hands and sealed his lips to hers.

She was so surprised that her mouth formed a startled O. Dagan took advantage, his tongue surging between her teeth. His lips were firm yet amazingly soft, and his beard abraded the tender flesh of her cheeks.

Holy mother! Dagan Zoelner was…kissing her!

Oh. My!

Pre-order Fuel for Fire or Hot Pursuit and receive another Black Knights Inc. novel of your choice! 

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About the Author

Julie Ann Walker is the USA Today and New York Times bestselling Author of the Black Knights Inc. romantic suspense series. She is prone to spouting movie quotes and song lyrics. She’ll never say no to sharing a glass of wine or going for a long walk. She prefers impromptu travel over the scheduled kind, and she takes her coffee with milk. You can find her on her bicycle along the lake shore in Chicago or blasting away at her keyboard, trying to wrangle her capricious imagination into submission.

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Giveaway

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Posted in excerpt, fiction, Military, Spotlight on June 25, 2017

Synopsis

The Discharge is the third novel in Gary Reilly’s trilogy chronicling the life and times of Private Palmer as he returns from the U.S. Army to civilian life after a tour of duty in Vietnam. It is a largely autobiographical series based on his own two years of service, 1969-1971, which included a year in Southeast Asia.

In the first book, The Enlisted Men’s Club, Palmer is stationed as an MP trainee at the Presidio in San Francisco, awaiting deployment orders. Palmer is wracked with doubt and anxiety. A tortured relationship with a young lady off base and cheap beer at the EM club offer escape and temporary relief.

The Detachment is the second in the series. This novel covers Palmer’s twelve months in Vietnam as a Military Policeman. In the beginning, he endures through drink and drugs and prostitutes but comes to a turning point when he faces his challenges fully sober.

Now, in The Discharge, Palmer is back in the United States. But he’s adrift. Palmer tries to reconnect with a changed world. From San Francisco to Hollywood to Denver and, finally, behind the wheel of a taxi, Palmer seeks to find his place.

Excerpt

From Part 2

Chapter 1

On my way back to Denver from LA I stopped off at my brother’s place in San Francisco and stayed a few days. My brother Mike runs an auto upholstery business that he started in 1976, during the summer of the 200th anniversary of America, the Bicentennial. I had visited him that summer too. I was there on the Fourth of July when thousands of ships and boats sailed beneath the red mass of the Golden Gate Bridge, gliding across its shadow and filling the same bay that my father had sailed out of without fanfare towards the South Pacific and the unknown in 1942.

I was asleep when all the celebrations took place. I watched them through a hangover on TV on the five o’clock news when I woke up. My brother was at work. He was organizing the inventory. He intended to specialize in tops. When Mike came home that night, we sat in the living room of his small apartment and drank beer and watched the video-taped repeats of the flotilla which graced the deadly waters of the bay lapping against the island where Alcatraz is poised, lone, businesslike, empty.

There was a thing I had always intended to do in San Francisco, but never did because I’d never had the time. Not having the time was one of my favorite excuses because it imbued my slightest whim with unfathomable significance. Deadlines were unconscionable irritants. Schedules were out the window. Brilliant people on the go don’t live by clocks, their heels are jet-propelled, they leave vapor trails in the sky, you never see where they are, only where they’ve been. I never had the time. Time was smoke between my fingers. It was a bohemian concept and it was fitting that I’d never had the time to look up the haunts of the bohemians during those brief visits to San Francisco on summer break, spring break, or the time I quit college, abandoned my GI Bill income, and came to live with Mike for three months until he sat me down and asked me straight out when I was going to get a job.

“I don’t have the time,” I now imagine myself saying to him.

He wouldn’t have bought that line because Mike is not much different than myself. We grew up together, one year apart, and knew each other well. But I was going to tour the city and visit landmarks made famous by the writings of the beats, the beatniks. I had the time now.

It was a Sunday morning when my plane from LA began circling San Francisco International Airport. The cabin was orange with morning light. Shadows swept at odd angles abruptly as the plane adjusted its flight path prior to landing. Passengers were waking up. They steadied themselves in the aisle, heading for the restroom to get rid of the scotch-and-soda and pops purchased on the flight up. It was cozy. Campers. The stewardesses stashed balloon pillows and blue blankets in overhead racks. Smokers lit up. I was in the smoking section, seated by the emergency-exit door. I was sitting in what would have been the center seat on the right side of the plane, except there was no far right seat. To my right was a metal well, and a lid which hid the emergency chute designed to pop out the door and allow crash survivors to slide to safety. It bothered me to be sitting next to it. I originally had been assigned to a seat at the very back of the plane, but a woman asked if I would switch seats with her husband so they could fly together. It was all right with the rational part of me, I trust planes even if I tell myself I don’t, and also a plane crash is lethal no matter where you sit, don’t kid yourself, don’t talk about the famous last three rows that always make it through a crash. I grew up on those myths. The irrational part of me made a movie out of my situation. Even though I was through with movies, which is what I had told myself when I left LA, I still turned this subtle, innocent series of events into a death knell. The Main Character is asked to switch seats. During the flight, the emergency door breaks off and the Main Character is sucked into oblivion. UPI picks up the story, and the irony of his switched seat is broadcast across America, and for less than fifteen minutes I am famous for being a victim of ironic fate. Friends from high school tell their wives they once knew me. Tsk.

The landing was flawless, and I felt almost as good about being in San Francisco as I once had felt about being in LA, though San Francisco is a little too magic. I told my brother I did not think I could ever live permanently in San Francisco because I would be overwhelmed by its charm. Better to have a place like that set aside for visiting. A place where you can go once a year, feel melancholy, get drunk, and leave. The visits were always good. I had never had a bad visit to San Francisco, and although my visit to Los Angeles had been a bust, I noted as I stepped out the terminal into the slightly chilled fog-lifted morning air that, still, LA had been even better, it owned me, because it was the movie capital of the world, and no matter how mesmerizing might be San Francisco balanced on those white hills with all its beatnik mythology, the legend of Los Angeles towered over it, obliterated it, a surprising thing which I still do not understand, since LA is a very tacky and run-down place. Everywhere except in my heart.

I called Mike and told him I was in town, and he said come on over and don’t wake him, he had been out late the previous evening. I had a key. I’d had a key since the Bicentennial when the whole world had paused to tip its hat in our direction and acknowledge what a swell country this is, even our enemies, who hate us because we’ve got it all.

Mike was asleep when I arrived. He was laying in a cocoon of sheets on his Murphy bed. His apartment is small, expensive west coast standard, it would go for less than two hundred in Denver but he pays more than five hundred a month, and when he is still there in ten years he will probably be paying a thousand a month. I put my duffel bag beside the couch and stepped into the kitchen to see what food he had. Thirty-three years old, one year older than me, and still living like a teen fresh from home. You go to a laundromat and put all your clothes into a single washer, whites and darks, God forbid you should waste more than a quarter on cleanliness, and if the clothes are still damp from the dryer, you hustle them home damp because they can dry wrinkled on hangers, God forbid you should waste an extra dime on ten more minutes of drying time, which I now read as “dignity” as I grow older. You shake your head with dismay at things that made perfect sense when you were a kid. Those dimes added up to a lot of six-packs of beer. I don’t know what girls value when they leave home for the first time, but boys know exactly how much beer money they have in their pockets every second of the day.

A balled wad of hamburger in plastic which would be good maybe one more day. Two bottles of beer. In the cupboard spaghetti. I am home. My brother and I lived this way for years, ten years ago, so I felt like I had gone back in time, and felt a little lighter in my step, a little freer, irresponsibility has its good points. I left the apartment to go down to one of the Iranian-run grocery stores on the corner to buy food and maybe a jug of wine.

My brother’s apartment is on a hill near the San Francisco State Medical College and the breeze from the ocean three miles west was rolling right up the street bringing a little fog with it. The sky was overcast, though I could have gone a dozen blocks east or north and seen high sun and blue sky. There was a grocery store on every block, Greeks kittycorner, Iranians kattycorner, the doors were open and I could see shelves of bottled wine running to the rear of the store, narrow aisles, wooden floors, it pleased me to think that these same warped boards were being walked upon by beatniks when I was a child in 1955. Old white freezers with rounded corners filled with scattered cartons of ice cream. Worn-out looking young men standing in a silent polite line at the cash register holding bottles of wine the color of coffee or lilac.

I bought some Mama Celeste pizzas, peanut butter, and a half gallon of pink Chablis. I recognized the man behind the cash register who had been here when I visited San Francisco in 1976, a barrel-chested Iranian with salt-and-pepper Brillo hair leaning into his work, reading each item and ringing it up even though he must have had the store memorized and could probably tell you the price of each product since the day he’d fled his homeland and said this is it.

“Are you going to pay for that grape?”

A young man who might have been the owner’s nephew entered the store dragging a man wearing a baggy suit, clutching his sleeve, a white-haired old man with a wine-shot face. “I caught this guy stealing a grape,” the kid said.

There was a display of fruit set up outside on a cart.

“Are you going to pay for that grape?”

I picked up my sack and got out of there thinking what a cheapskate, and then, when I got to the top of the hill where my brother’s apartment was, I thought I should have handed the kid a dime and paid for the grape myself. When I got into the foyer, I thought, stop thinking heroics. You aren’t a hero and never will be. You couldn’t even think of a way to help the guy, so continue to not think, bub.

Mike woke up about an hour after I got back. He pulled his pants on with his hangover groggy frown while I washed off the plate that had pizza on it. I’d saved a slice for him, but he didn’t want it. He made a glass of ice water and sat on the couch and lit a cigarette.

“Did you get a movie contract?” he said.

“No.”

He was the only one in the family whom I had told about the movie deal. I had come close to selling screenplays before but never as close as this, and even before I left Denver, when I had called Mike to let him know about it, I thought I might be jinxing it. But I’m not really superstitious, not like a man who plays the horses or dogs. I just need to think things like this to fix the blame because in the end nobody understands the real reasons Hollywood deals evaporate. They just do. Gone. So you make up a superstition. It happened because I told someone about it. If you’re a Catholic, it happened because you told someone and God punished you for being presumptuous.

“I didn’t find Strother Martin’s grave, either.”

My brother shook his head and exhaled a balloon of smoke. I saw words printed within its borders, “Too bad.” That was the real bad news. He had never believed I was going to sell a screenplay, and in fact I didn’t either. We grew up together. But there was nothing to stop me from finding Strother Martin’s grave, except our family penchant for not succeeding at things that are almost impossible to fail at, which is to say, anything requiring minimum effort.

“Why didn’t you find it?” he said.

“I didn’t have the time.”

About the Author

Gary Reilly was a natural and prolific writer. But he lacked the self-promotion gene. His efforts to publish his work were sporadic and perfunctory, at best. When he died in 2011, he left behind upwards of 25 unpublished novels, the Vietnam trilogy being among the first he had written.

Running Meter Press, founded by two of his close friends, has made a mission of bringing Gary’s work to print. So far, besides this trilogy, RMP has published eight of ten novels in his Asphalt Warrior series. These are the comic tales of a Denver cab driver named Murph, a bohemian philosopher and aficionado of “Gilligan’s Island” whose primary mantra is: “Never get involved in lives of my passengers.” But, of course, he does exactly that.

Three of the titles in The Asphalt Warrior series were finalists for the Colorado Book Award. Two years in a row, Gary’s novels were featured as the best fiction of the year on NPR’s Saturday Morning Edition with Scott Simon. And Gary’s second Vietnam novel, The Detachment, drew high praise from such fine writers as Ron Carlson, Stewart O’Nan, and John Mort. A book reviewer for Vietnam Veterans of America, David Willson, raved about it, too.

There is a fascinating overlap in the serious story of Private Palmer’s return to Denver and the quixotic meanderings of Murph. It is the taxicab. One picks up where the other leaves off. Readers familiar with The Asphalt Warrior series will find a satisfying transition in the final chapters of The Discharge.

And they will better know Gary Reilly the writer and Gary Reilly the man.

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Posted in Christian, excerpt, Giveaway, romance on June 22, 2017


UNDER A SUMMER SKY
Follow Your Heart, Book 3
by
Melody Carlson

Genre: Contemporary Romance / Christian / Inspirational
Publisher: Revell
Date of Publication: June 6, 2017
Number of Pages: 320

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High school art teacher Nicole Anderson is looking forward to a relaxing summer in Savannah, house-sitting and managing an art gallery for a family friend. The house is luxurious in a way that only old money could make it, and the gallery promises interesting days in a gorgeous setting. Yet it isn’t long before her ideal summer turns into more than she bargained for: a snooty gallery employee who’s determined to force her out, a displaced adolescent roosting in the attic, and two of her childhood friends—who also happen to be brothers—vying for her attention.

With the backdrop of a gorgeous historical city, incredible architecture, and even an alleged ghost or two, combined with the opportunity for romance . . . anything can happen!
Bestselling and award-winning author Melody Carlson invites you to spend the summer surrounded by splendor . . . and tantalizing possibilities.

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Praise

“Heartwarming and uplifting.”—Library Journal on Once Upon a Summertime

“Sweet, romantic, and endlessly entertaining.”—Radiant Lit on Once Upon a Summertime

“This winsome romance [is] a perfect summer read.”—Publishers Weekly on All Summer Long

Excerpt: Chapter 1, Part 2
From Under a Summer Sky
By Melody Carlson

continued from the 6/17/17 Chapter Break Book Blog Tours stop

After the students had exited, Nicole smiled at her mother. “Thanks for asking that question, Mom. It was just what we needed.”

Caroline Anderson laughed as she walked to the front of the classroom. “Seemed like you were losing them, honey. I figured a little maternal prodding couldn’t hurt.”

“Well, I’ve never been particularly fond of the Renaissance period.” Nicole shut down the program on her computer and turned off the projector. “I appreciate what it did for the art world and all that, but it’s but it’s just not my cup of tea. You know?”

Her mom gave her a little hug. “I understand completely.”

Nicole closed her laptop. “But why are you here?”

“Because I knew you were stuck.”

“Huh?” Nicole frowned. “How could you possibly . . . ?”

“I meant stuck in general, Nikki.”

“What do you mean? Stuck how?” She studied her mom’s carefully made-up face. For sixty-five, this woman looked pretty good.

“Oh, you know . . . the things you were telling me last weekend at Michael’s birthday party—about how you felt sort of lost since you and Peter broke up, and you felt stuck in your job.”

“I really said that?” Nicole tried to remember how much she’d divulged at her nephew’s birthday party.

“You sounded like you were looking for a change.”

Nicole sighed. She’d been feeling a little envious of her older sister’s picture-perfect life last weekend. Oh, she knew Katy had her own challenges. But maintaining her career and raising three boys with a man she loved—sometimes it looked pretty good. “I was obviously kind of down that day, Mom. I didn’t mean to dump on you about—”

“No, no, that’s not it. It’s just that I have something exciting to tell you. And since you’re all done with classes today, why don’t you let me take you out for a cup of coffee.” She waved her hand like a fan. “Or maybe something icy. Good grief, it’s like a sauna in here. How can you stand it?”

“Even with all these windows, it gets pretty stuffy in here. Especially this time of year. And this building doesn’t have air-conditioning.” Nicole wondered why she felt so defensive about her “sauna.”

“It has been unseasonably warm for Seattle this week,” her mom offered.

“Anyway, I’d be happy to escape for a while.” Nicole went over to close the door that she’d propped open with a heavy clay pot. “Hopefully it’ll cool down some after the sun goes behind those trees. But I need to come back here when we’re done. I have to fire up the kiln.” She pointed to the pottery lined up on the counter. “I need to get those fired before the end of the week. I’ve been trying to run it at night because of the heat.”

“My poor girl,” Caroline said. “They’ve got you working in an honest-to-goodness sweatshop here.”

Nicole laughed as she went for her bag. “A lot of people would love to have my job,” she called from her office. “One more year until tenure.” Even as she said this, she wasn’t certain she cared. Was tenure about job security or about getting stuck in a job she didn’t really love? What was the point? She locked her office, and now more curious as to what her mother had to tell her, she hurried back out.

“So what’s up, Mom?” she asked.

“Not yet.” Caroline chuckled.

As they walked out to the visitors’ parking lot, Nicole continued to question her mother, determining that her news was nothing related to their family but still not getting to the bottom of it. “Can’t you just give me a clue?” Nicole said as she got into the passenger seat of her mom’s sedan.

“Okay.” Caroline started the engine. “It’s related to Vivian Graham.”

Vivian had been Caroline’s best friend throughout high school and college. She and her husband Robert lived in Savannah, Georgia, and were very wealthy. Caroline and Vivian had tried to remain close over the years, sometimes visiting each other’s homes on opposite sides of the country, occasionally sharing family vacations at places like the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone National Park. But Nicole hadn’t really heard much about Vivian and her family in recent years.

“I haven’t seen Vivian since I was fifteen—when we went to Alex’s college graduation.” Nicole tried not to recall how hurt she’d felt when Vivian’s attractive older son had totally ignored her. Naturally, Alex had seen Nicole as a juvenile. He had no idea that she’d been crushing on him since she was ten years old, during the summer their families had spent a week at Yellowstone and Alex had rescued her from being trampled by a buffalo. She felt childish even thinking of her crush now.

Read part three on the The Page Abound’s Blog Tour stop on 6/25/17.

Melody Carlson is the award-winning author of over two hundred books with sales of more than 6.5 million, including many bestselling Christmas novellas, young adult titles, and the contemporary romances Once Upon a Summertime and All Summer Long. She received a Romantic Times Career Achievement Award in the inspirational market for her many books, including Finding Alice. She and her husband live in central Oregon.

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6/17 Excerpt Chapter Break Book Blog
6/18 REVIEW Momma On The Rocks
6/19 Guest Post CGB Blog Tours
6/20 Author Interview Books and Broomsticks
6/21 REVIEW My Book Fix Blog
6/22 Excerpt StoreyBook Reviews
6/23 Scrapbook Books in the Garden
6/24 REVIEW Margie’s Must Reads
6/25 Excerpt The Page Unbound
6/26 REVIEW Reading by Moonlight

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Posted in excerpt, Fantasy, Spotlight on June 21, 2017

Synopsis

Truth Seeker Kuntza faces challenges above and below the sea’s surface, fighting deadly misinformation   as well as a bizarre and complicated plot to wipe out most of   the Sky Fairy Tribe.  Under his instruction, lightning   machines are constructed to overcome a terrible  snowstorm.   But what of the grave threat from the Water   Fairy Tribe—Kuntza’s tribe—to the surface tribes?

Admiral Constance Kimberlite and Prince Cambrian Bijou and the young Historian Rolf Warner accompany the Seeker beneath the waves to assist him in his efforts to overcome his tribe’s fears of an impending invasion.  Meanwhile Amber Bullierd, daughter and heir of the rebellious Count Bullierd, threatens to block their success through intrigue and a terrifying coup  attempt.  With the fate of Fairydom hanging in the balance, there is no room for error.

Excerpt

As Prince Oliver followed his father from Arnold Mosley’s elegant hotel suite, he saw a flicker of movement out of the corner of one eye.  The long hallway was lined with statues and ornate paintings, and dotted with recessed doorways that lead to other suites.  Curiousity getting the better of him, Oliver signaled for the marine behind him to continue flying forward no matter what.  When they reached the next doorway, Oliver slid into it.  Careful to stay hidden, Oliver turned back towards Mosley’s suite and sank soundlessly into the plush carpet between the beautifully carved planks that framed the doorway.  Dropping first to his knees, then down to lie flat, he stifled a chuckle at the idea of trying to explain himself to the hotel guest if the door beside him should abruptly open.  Carefully, he inched his face towards the edge of the doorframe.  The small party that had escorted him and his father to Mosley’s hotel faded away, the sharp click of a window—locking behind them—the last sound he heard.  One eye finally clear of the doorframe, Oliver held perfectly still.  And waited.  The hallway was so still that he thought he could hear the paint on the walls fading in the bright afternoon sunlight.

The motion he saw might have belonged to anyone—a chambermaid, another guest…  Oliver was beginning to give in to the feeling of foolishness when a slightly built man-fairy peeked out from behind one of the statues at the far end of the hall.  Mosley had dismissed his servants when the king first arrived, which meant the suite should still be empty, Mosley having also gone off to take care of personal business.  Oliver’s right eyebrow lifted fractionally when the man-fairy slipped over to Mosley’s door and glanced furtively around before he produced something from the inner folds of his scribe’s robe, and let himself in through the locked door.

More than curious now, Oliver came silently to his feet.  Decades of playing hide and seek with his younger siblings contributed to his swift, but soundless flight down the length of the hallway, where he arrived just in time to slip between Mosley’s door and its frame.  He quickly dropped to his knees in a shadow before it swung shut behind him.  From there, he was able to watch as the scribe began searching single-mindedly for something on Mosley’s desk.

It was all so absurd that Oliver nearly gave in to the urge to laugh at himself.  He had just assisted his father in interrogating Mosley—and unless Mosley was an even more masterful manipulator than the Wood Fairy Minister of the Interior, he had been telling the truth when he denied any involvement in the delay of the winter storms.  Now he, Oliver Bijou, Crown Prince of the Sky Fairy Tribe, was hiding in the shadows?  Sleuthing was the specialty of his younger brother, Prince Cambrian.  Still, Oliver could not shake the feeling that something was amiss here.  Mosley might have given a scribe a key to his suites, but…scribe!  Another piece of the puzzle fell into place, bringing Oliver to his feet precipitously.  Cambrian had recently brought evidence to them that a scribe was involved in the conspiracy.

Startled by Oliver’s movement, the scribe jerked to one side.  His elbow struck one of the taller stacks, knocking it over in an avalanche of blue, white, and yellow papers that fluttered to the floor.  Some fell quite a distance.  Others struck the hem of the frozen scribe’s robe and landed about his feet.

“Harold Scroggins,” Oliver casually scooped up a small volume of poetry from the entryway table beside him, “I arrest you in the name of the crown.”  As he had expected, Harold flew towards the nearest window.  Oliver’s arm came up and snapped forward, hurling the hard-bound book towards Harold’s back.  “Well, that is a first,” Oliver murmured to himself as he watched the scribe crumple to the floor, temporarily stunned.  “I do not recall ever seeing a book drop a scribe before.”

Tugging the window sashes free, Oliver bound his prisoner securely.  As he was about to begin searching the desk himself, Harold stirred.  Weak blue eyes stared up through his tousled blue bangs, full of unanswered questions for his assailant.

About the Author

I enjoy reading and writing, but not arithmetic.  Which is to say that I love math, but it hates me.  So I don’t usually count the days or hours spent reading, writing, or watching television, I just enjoy them.  I write because that’s the gift I’ve been given.  I read and watch to store up idea seedlings, which sometimes spring, fully-formed, to mind.  Sometimes that’s because I loved what I’ve been consuming and other times because I loathed it.  Experiencing both (as little as possible of the loathe, of course) helps me define myself as a writer and plays a huge (yet subconscious) role in my work.

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Posted in excerpt, Fantasy, Giveaway, Spotlight on June 20, 2017

Synopsis

To what end would an exiled princess go to regain her rightful throne?

Lady Dawn, Hoffnung’s princess, brutally learns what it’s like to have everything unexpectedly stripped from her after Lord Waxxon’s coup kills her half-elf mother, Queen Taube, and he assumes the throne. Before Dawn’s plight, her mother’s bloodcurdling screams are etched into Dawn’s memory, giving her the resolve to somehow build an army, kill Lord Waxxon, and reclaim the throne. However, the odds of such an undertaking are far greater than a princess can overcome alone.

Unable to find Lady Dawn after scouring the castle and the kingdom, Lord Waxxon places a bounty on her, sending his ruthless henchmen across Aetheaon to locate and kill her. But Lady Dawn has disguised herself as a lowly squire, chosen by one of her late father’s Dragon Skull Knights, who doesn’t know her true identity. Alongside her knight, they seek other Dragon Skull Knights to gather forces to bring Waxxon’s reign to a quick end. Yet, her identity must remain secret, even to the knight she serves, until they have accumulated the necessary masses to storm Hoffnung.

Dawn is not without hope, as warriors, a wizard, and rulers of all races seek to find her before Waxxon does. Unexpected aid comes in another astonishing way. Although dragons have long been thought extinct, three dragons sisters use this belief to their advantage, veiling themselves as human warrioresses through magic. Traveling through hamlets, townships, and cities, the sisters hire mercenaries and armies with the caches of gold, silver, and gems from their lairs while they diligently search for Lady Dawn. And once they find her, they will rally beside her as she fights to reclaim Hoffnung’s throne.

A Cinderella story? Hardly. Quite the opposite in many respects. No longer pampered as a princess, Dawn discovers she’s more than royalty. She assumes the role of a servant in order to gain the necessary skills to fulfill her vendetta. She’s a fighter, a survivor, and a woman with the heart of a warrioress. Enduring a squire’s training hardens her, the loss of her mother and the kingdom forces her to seek vengeance, and her biggest fear when she takes the throne is that she will become a calloused ruler and lose her compassion for mankind.

Excerpt

Prologue

When Boldair awakened, his stubby muscular arms were shackled above his head to a cold wet wall. He looked around the small dark prison cell. A torch flickered outside the tiny barred window on the thick iron-braced wooden door. Overhead at the highest reach of the ceiling, the bright yellow moon spilled through the grated hole. He guessed it was the dead of night, but it could be closer to dawn for all he knew.

His stomach growled from hunger. He didn’t know how long he had been locked in the cell or how he had even wound up there.

The last thing he recalled was drinking ale at the Bridgebarrow Tavern with other dwarves while swapping tales of adventure and treasures they had found. Strong drink tended to draw out his need to brag and exaggerate about his discoveries.

A half dozen muscled Legelarid knights dressed in chain armor had been seated across the room, but they had paid he and his Dwarven friends no mind. The knights focused their attention more on the dark-haired female warrior wearing her snug gilded breastplate that cut short of her midriff than anything else. Her metal belt, which had a decorative dragonhead across her navel, covered most of her abdominal region. Gold-plated leggings and boots protected her lower extremities. Her winged helm rested on the stool beside her, and her round shield, adorned with sharp dragon’s teeth, was propped against the side of the bar.

The female warrior sat at the bar, staring down at the silver flask before her. Although she sat in a near trancelike state, Boldair assumed her concentration was attuned to take in all of the conversations and interactions around her at the same time. At the angle from where he sat, he was unable to see her face clearly.

With a rigid coldness, she ignored the knight leader’s drunken lewd comments and suggestive offers of gold to hire her to join their company during their journey back to Legelarid. Something Boldair understood to have double meaning, and had the insulting remarks been to a woman less capable of holding her own, he would have stood and challenged the half drunken knight. Instead, he chose to continue spinning his tales while awaiting the woman’s reaction to the knights, which seemed inevitable.

She kept her right hand tightened on the jeweled hilt of her short sword. The black blade was different than any sword Boldair had ever seen before. It wasn’t made of any metal he’d ever crafted, and the blade was cylindrical shaped and sharply curved.

The armored female sat with her head slightly cocked to the left, and she seemed to be listening to what Boldair and the other dwarves at his table discussed, so they lowered their voices. A barmaid brought fresh tankards of Bridgebarrow Stout and placed them on the table. Boldair smiled, downed the strong ale, and wiped the froth from his black beard with the back of his hand before telling his next tale of treasure hunting. His Dwarven brethren had sat eagerly and wide-eyed to hear what else Boldair had collected from the deep dark caverns and added to his stashed riches.

Tugging against the prison chains, Boldair shook himself from the daze and fought hard to remember more.

Boldair winced and groaned; thinking of what had happened after the night settled when he and his brethren had left the tavern to travel north to Damdur. However, more than that, he couldn’t recall anything else. The base of his skull ached and burned. Pain radiated through his head and pulsed behind his eyes. Perhaps someone had welted him from behind with a blunt object and dragged him to this tiny prison. But why?

After his eyes slightly adjusted to the darkness of the cell, he glanced around. Less than four feet away was the shadowed outline of another shackled prisoner.

Boldair attempted to rouse his confined neighbor. “Hey! Been ‘ere long?” Boldair asked.

Other than the whistling dank breeze that smelled of ocean spray, dead fish, and burnt flesh flowing through the barred door window, the room remained silent. In the faint light, his cell companion didn’t move or reply.

“Sleeping, eh?” he asked, still hoping to stir the man awake. Nothing was worse than being imprisoned without someone else to talk to. Total isolation was the purest torture. Hell without the flames.

The man didn’t move, and from his overall silence, he was not breathing either.

“Damn,” Boldair said. “T’would be me luck. Come to Bridgebarrow and get locked inside a prison with a corpse. Bah!”

Wind flowed downward from the grated ceiling opening. The smell of charred flesh drifted from his dead cellmate, causing Boldair to gag. The tight chain restraints prevented him from covering his nose. The stench forced him to hold his breath until the air grew still once more.

“You’ve been here for some time, I suppose,” he said, coughing.

Boldair glanced at the small barred window on the door and wondered if a guard stood outside.

“Wonder why I’m stuck here, do ye?” he asked the dead man, hoping his continued conversation caught the attention of someone in the outer hall. “Aye, I’ll tell ya. No secret be wasted with ye anyways. This ol’ dwarf is the best treasure hunter in all of Aetheaon. Aye, but it be true.

“No, I’m not a thief. Never stolen one single solitary thing. I hunt treasures. I do. Since the demise of the dragons of Aetheaon, the treasures are much easier to take, providing you happen upon one of their long forgotten lairs. No fire-breathing lizards guarding the dark caverns makes it—”

“You boast too much.”

Boldair straightened his back against the cold wet wall. He squinted, trying to see where the cold stern voice had come from. It wasn’t in the direction of the dead prisoner closest to him, and it wasn’t directly outside the door, either. The voice crept from the darkest corner of the rock-walled cell.

“Who be there?” he asked in a hoarse whisper. His eyes widened as he awaited an answer.

“I’m one who wants her treasure back.”

 

About the Author

Leonard D. Hilley II grew up a quiet, shy kid with an inquisitive mind. Learning to read at an early age, he fell in love with books. He read every book he could get his hands on and stacks of dark comics about ghosts, monsters, and creepy things that stalk the night.

Like a lot of boys, he caught beetles, wooly bears, butterflies, and had an ant farm. When he was ten, his interests in science increased even more after seeing a professor’s insect collection. He started an insect collection and learned to rear butterflies and moths to obtain perfect specimens. After learning more about botany and gardening, he set his goal to become an entomologist.

At eleven, he saw Star Wars. His imagination soared and he started writing. Six months later he had written the first draft of a novel. A novel he later discarded, but the characters stuck with him. Years later, these characters came to life in Shawndirea, which Hilley had intended to be a novella for Devils Den. The characters, however, refused to be ignored and took the opportunity to unveil Aetheaon in their first epic fantasy. Lady Squire: Dawn’s Ascension was quick to follow.

Shawndirea was Hilley’s farewell to butterfly collecting, and those who have read the novel understand why. He has taken Ray Bradbury’s advice to heart: “Follow the characters.” He does. He follows, listens, and take notes—often never knowing where they’re going to take him, but he’s never been disappointed in the results.

Hilley earned a B.S. Biology and an MFA in Creative Writing to combine his love of science and writing.

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Posted in Adventure, Children, excerpt, Giveaway on June 19, 2017

THE ELDRIDGE CONSPIRACY

Sir Kaye the Boy Knight, Book 4

by

Don M. Winn

  Genre: Children’s Chapter Book / Adventure / Medieval

Publisher: Progressive Rising Phoenix Press

Date of Publication: June 16, 2017

Number of Pages: 166, B&W illustrations

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Kaye’s father is in danger! The young knight, Kaye, and his friends Reggie and Beau enter Eldridge in search of the only man who can save Kaye’s father. During their journey, they encounter and make a powerful enemy of Baron Thomas—the self-proclaimed heir to the throne of Eldridge—who also has his sights set on ruling the country of Knox. Together, the boys dodge the baron’s henchmen and race against time to stop an assassination that would plunge the two kingdoms into war in this exciting conclusion to the series.

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PRAISE FOR THE ELDRIDGE CONSPIRACY

“This set of books just gets better and better. Yes, it’s a non-stop adventure, packed full of nasty barons and battling knights. But it’s also a story which is strongly-themed and where the bond between the characters is highly prized.” —The Wishing Shelf Awards Book Review

“Books of adventure and challenge that still offer an emotional component are hard to come by for middle-grade readers—and even more so for middle-grade boys—yet Don M. Winn hits the mark dead center with The Eldridge Conspiracy.” —Patricia Reding, 5-Star Readers’ Favorite Book Review

“This is more than just a fictional story; it teaches children about life, about friendship, making decisions, and about not putting too much stock in pride all the time – sometimes pride gets in the way of making the right decision. Great story. I would recommend that the whole series be read in order to get the most out of it and I think all kids will enjoy this tale.” —Ann-Marie Reynolds, 5-Star Readers’ Favorite Book Review

“The Eldridge Conspiracy was a rewarding read due to a wonderful writing style of incorporating dynamic characters, humor, relevancy, and the thought that even without superpowers, children can be heroes.” —Stacey Waltzer, Urban Mommies

 

Excerpt from Chapter Three

The Eldridge Conspiracy

by Don M. Winn

Beau woke me in the gray light before dawn. “It stopped raining,” he said. “Let’s go.”

My stomach felt so empty, it tied itself into knots, but I kept quiet and saddled my horse. I was tired of hearing myself complain, and I’m sure Beau was too.

As we rode, the birds sang themselves into fits of joy over the coming day. The sky grew pink and golden, and the birds fell silent as the tiniest sliver of sun like molten steel peeked over the edge of the world. Then it popped up into the sky all at once, the birds so wild with excitement that you’d never think it happened every day.

Beau whistled a cheery tune and I rode up alongside him. “I’m sorry I was grouchy yesterday,” I said. “I was wet and worried about Kaye.”

“You’re still wet and still worried,” Beau said. “What’s different now?”

“The sun’s up, I guess. I can see where I’m going. And you promised a fire and maybe a bed later at the abbey.”

He nodded. “And soup. At least, I hope they have soup. There’s a cold spot inside me that only hot soup will fix.”

“I was thinking about hot cider last night,” I said with a laugh. “It’s almost fall. Look at the trees.” Tiny patches of orange and yellow edged a few clumps of leaves in the trees along the road.

Soon we came to a crossroads in a village with an old gray church. People moved about, stopping to eyeball the strangers riding through.

“Pardon me,” Beau asked a man nearby. “We’re looking for the abbey. Can you tell us how to get there?”

The man grunted. “Most boys would be helping with the harvest these days, not traveling about to abbeys. We barely got the wheat and barley under cover yesterday before the rain came to spoil it.” He yawned. “And now there’s threshing to do.” He yawned again. “Wislett Abbey is the closest. Keep following this road and you’ll find it.”

“Thank you,” Beau said. “Good day to you, sir.”

As we passed the old church, I heard a familiar neigh. “Wait. That sounds like Kadar,” I said. Sure enough, Parsnip whinnied back, as if greeting an old friend.

We rode behind the ancient building and found Kaye’s fine warhorse Kadar grazing under an apple tree at the edge of the churchyard. He nickered to our horses like they had been parted for months and sniffed at Acorn, which is what I had named Birket’s roly-poly brown horse. Then Kadar went back to munching the apples littering the ground.

Kaye sat under the same tree. He held a parchment in one hand and a half-eaten apple in the other. “What took you so long?” he asked. “I’ve been waiting for you.”

I scowled at Kaye. “Why didn’t you just take us with you in the first place?”

“Because you would have tried to stop me,” he said. “And just so you know, I’m not going back. I’m going to find my father and warn him that he and the king are in danger.”

“We know,” Beau said, sliding off his horse.

I stared at Kaye’s hand. “Are you eating apples from the churchyard?”

He took a bite. “Why not?”

I swept my hand around the yard, which seemed empty except for a few flat stones. “There are people buried here!”

“It’s public land, and anyway, they’re not eating them,” Kaye said. “These are good apples. They shouldn’t go to waste.”

I shook my head at Kaye.

He shook his back at me. “Look, I found something important. This was nailed to the church door.”

Click to read all of chapter three and its illustration!

 

about the author

 

don-winn

Don M. Winn is a multiple award-winning children’s author of ten picture books and three children’s novels. His Sir Kaye the Boy Knight® series of novels for independent readers include The Knighting of Sir Kaye, The Lost Castle Treasure, and Legend of the Forest Beast. Don’s picture books include The Higgledy-Piggledy Pigeon; Superhero; Twitch the Squirrel and the Forbidden Bridge; Shelby the Cat; Space Cop Zack, Protector of the Galaxy; and many others.

Don has been writing for over 20 years. After beginning with poetry, Winn moved on to writing children’s picture books. Almost immediately, his growing young readers begged for chapter books, which led to the creation of the Sir Kaye series. As a dyslexic himself, who well knows the challenge of learning to love to read, Winn’s goal is to write books that are so engaging they will entice even the most reluctant or struggling reader. Winn lives in Round Rock, Texas.

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6/14 Book Trailer Chapter Break Book Blog
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6/17 Review The Page Unbound
6/18 Author Interview My Book Fix Blog
6/19 Excerpt StoreyBook Reviews
6/20 Review Reading By Moonlight
6/21 Scrapbook Page Syd Savvy
6/22 Guest Post Forgotten Winds
6/23 Review Hall Ways Blog
6/24 Character Interview Missus Gonzo
6/25 Educators’ Special The Librarian Talks
6/26 Review CGB Blog Tours
6/27 Scrapbook Page Texas Book Lover
6/28 Review Books and Broomsticks

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Posted in Dystopian, excerpt, fiction, Guest Post, Science Fiction on June 19, 2017

Synopsis

In Christopher David Rosales’ first novel, ‘Silence the Bird, Silence the Keeper’, he creates a completely unique vision that seamlessly blends tropes of magical realism and dystopian fiction in a portrait of power in America that we’ve never seen before. Imagine it as the communal love child of Marquez, Bolaño, and Orwell, a child who inhabits an America that resembles Pinochet’s Chile, and yet feels uncannily (and frighteningly) familiar to present day Los Angeles. A world in which street assassin Tre, a young and much beloved brother and son, finds himself caught in a city where all its citizens, even its most dangerous, are potential targets in the on-going power struggle between an authoritarian military regime and a not-so-community friendly guerrilla force. As Percival Everett says, “This novel treats revolution, love, betrayal and magic with equal adeptness and intelligence. In a world that is at once ours and foreign Rosales makes characters that will be remembered when the novel is done.

Guest Post

Action & Suspense in Literary Fiction

I did not submit a whole chapter. It stops somewhere before we know the main character’s fate. Why?

In all of my stories and books I challenge myself to give my readers everything. You want love? You got it. Horror? Action? Crime? Yep. Even camp and melodrama, and especially sex. Who doesn’t want sex?

But this gets real messy, real fast. Not the sex; the writing.

Because readers approach reading with expectations, and much of the time those expectations are based on popular genres that are strictly defined. The hardboiled detective vs. the armchair detective. The mystery (whodunnit?) vs. the thriller (look at them doing it!) vs. the suspense (what are they going to do and when?!). There’s the chest-heaving romance that’s all passion and pecs and no penetration, and then there’s the quasi-eroticism in which the BDSM stands for Bored and Dying for Something to Masturbate to.

And let’s not forget self-serious: (she wasn’t sure why she did it, or even what exactly one could call what she did, and she never would be sure, would she? But surely she’d have to live through this day knowing she knew nothing. Or did she?).

None of what I’m saying about this balancing act we call writing and reading fiction is new. It remains, however, hard.

Brief interruption: I’m going to use the word literary soon.

When I write “literary,” I don’t use it as an evaluative word. It doesn’t mean better. It means I wasn’t relying on my own or a reader’s preconceived expectations for a popular genre, but rather was relying on character alone. Genre fiction often relies heavily on character–too–but it rarely relies on character–just. For a definition of “literary”-crap, see above: “self-serious”.

So how do we use elements of popular genre fiction, like Action and Suspense, in “literary” fiction. I chose today’s excerpt from my first novel, Silence the Bird, Silence the Keeper, because it is a chapter in the middle of a “literary” project in which I try to provide action and suspense. I want bullets to fly, sure, but I want hearts to pump out of sympathy instead of spectacle. So I do what Ron Carlson tells us all to do in Ron Carlson Writes a Story, a must-have craft book for every writer. I try to stay close to the character. I take inventory of the objects, people, and location, and stay close to them, return to them, round them out. What I don’t do is make the bad guys bad and the good guy good. The “good guy” has just stolen from these “bad guys” in my scene. His motorcycle isn’t great, it’s ragtag and rusty. There are civilians populating the scene by living everyday lives with each other; they’re not propped up to take a bloody shot to the gut to demonstrate the “bad guys” mean business. In fact, the scene doesn’t try to “mean” anything.

But by sticking to details, I hope to remind readers it’s in their nature to observe. As the main character rides his motorcycle in an attempt to escape, his spit hits his helmet’s visor, a stop sign takes a bullet, he hardly notices but can’t help notice the hot sun reflected in the puddle in the road. I don’t know what’s going to happen to him as I collect these details about his environment. And that means I am engaged in action and suspense.

That’s it, after all. Action is a collection of concrete definable terms happening to or being happened to by a character. Suspense is the delicate distance between our prediction of what will happen and our knowledge of what has. By writing in both those states, I hope my reader will read in both those states. By abandoning a preconceived notion of what should happen in a plot, I hope I give my reader something new. It’s unpredictable to them because it’s unpredictable to me.

Excerpt

Tre leaned his bike into the turn and wound his way through the frozen traffic. We always said he leaned into everything that way. He didn’t ever seem to be trying too hard at anything at all.

He flipped up the visor of his helmet and checked his watch. Tapped it once or twice. “Piece of shit.” When he flipped the visor down the sunset shimmered pink across it.

Slowing each time he passed a luxury sedan, he’d crane his neck to see the plates. He stopped behind a long brown car with dark windows, checked the license number scribbled on the back of his hand against the license plate on the sedan. The scribbles across his hand had smeared with sweat, but they were clear enough to see they didn’t match.  He rode on, calling different curses for each different rich man’s car he passed. Passat equaled pussy. Fiat equaled faggot. Benz equaled bends over and takes it in the ass. He laughed, fogging his visor, and relished the blindness. When the fog retreated and revealed the crowded street, he closed his eyes—his right elbow clipped hard against a sideview mirror but he kept them closed. Since his parents had begun to pawn the family keep-sakes he’d felt invincibly dead. Like the elimination of personal property was a slow and steady lowering of the coffin of their hope.

A horn honked twice and his eyes opened wide on a jeep changing lanes right in front of him. He swerved around it, barely, and a woman inside shouted, “You’re going to kill someone.”

“I hope so.” He shouted spit onto his visor, and flipped her off.

The traffic was heavy in the intersection, and everyone was honking but no one going anywhere. Thankfully, this included his target in the brown sedan. Using the balls of his feet, Tre stepped his bike up alongside the rear window, took the .38 from his waistband, and shot three times through the closed backseat passenger window.

Inside the white starburst of glass a bloody head slumped out of sight.

The driver kicked his door open and peeked his head out. Tre cut a mock salute across his helmet. The driver left the door open when he ran, looking back only once, and casually. He slowed to a jog, and then a walk three cars down.

Tre set the kickstand, left the bike running. He opened up the rear door and ducked inside over the dead man. He felt around for wallets. A lot of these guys kept two, one just for these sorts of occasions and a real one… here, right along the warm inner thigh. Something shiny caught Tre’s eye even through the dark visor. A wristwatch—Rolex—and he traded the man’s watch for his. He took the time to put his broken watch on the man’s wrist, laughing, and to adjust the thick-wristed man’s watch to his own. Then he removed all the cash from the wallets, but not the cards, and put them back too. It was important that the hit not look like a robbery. Whoever had hired him wanted to send some kind of message. But, still, all dude needed now was a coin on each eye—he wouldn’t miss the paper money.

Outside, the horns honked when he mounted the bike. No sirens yet. He heeled back the kickstand and lurched forward, then rolled, easing his way through the maze of metal. A few people inside the cars he passed ducked their heads. Most of them watched, heads tilted out their windows.

Tre lowered the kickstand, dropped the remaining cartridges into his pocket, took off his helmet, and tucked it with the pistol into his backpack. Then he made sure he’d brought the right romance flick. On the cover, a man and woman faced each other across a wide night sky, and a carrier pigeon hovered between them, pinching in its beak a bannered note reading the title.

He zipped up his backpack and went to the door of the girl’s house. There was no one around. And beside that, none of the streetlamps worked so no one could see him anyway. He checked the Rolex, pressed it to his ear and listened. He couldn’t hear the watch’s delicate turnings over the sounds of the naked-bellied children playing like faint shadows in the street, the neighborhood dogs whining from a safe distance for him to feed them, or the music on the radios inside all the windowless houses.

From the porch, he stared at his red motorbike parked alone in what was left of the street mostly dirt now. The occasional tuft of grass or chunk of asphalt. The bike looked strong on roads like this. Rode over them with ease, after the mods: the stolen tires, the halogen bulbs. Sure it was used up. Scratched. Frankensteined out of junkyard parts and spray-painted bright red to hide the bolts and stitches. Sure it had seen better days. Still, around here, Tre was somebody because of that thing.

She opened the door, wearing a peasant style blouse that made a wing of the arm blocking his entrance. Her pink tongue licked her lips, not horny but hungry. “You’re late.”

“So long as your period ain’t.”

“That might be how you talked to hoodrats before but that ain’t how you talk to me.”

“Okay, okay.” He kissed her dark cheek, unzipping the bag as he did so, and then tugged out the VHS tape. He’d got it out of someone’s house just this week. They’d had DVDs but no one he knew had a player, and he hadn’t had room on his bike for something that big. “I brought popcorn, too.”

She smiled, showing white teeth; rare, anymore. Kissed him again.

He licked his lips. She was wearing that peppermint lip-gloss he’d gotten her.

“Where’d you get the money for popcorn?” she asked.

“I got a job.” He knew she wanted to ask him for more details but would stop herself. Girls had to, around here. Love didn’t require good men and good women; just men, and just women. “Are you going to let me in, or what?”

“Where’d you get the money, I said.”

So this one was different.

“Give me a chance to explain?”

About the Author

Christopher David Rosales’ first novel, Silence the Bird, Silence the Keeper (Mixer Publishing, 2015) won the McNamara Creative Arts Grant. Previously he won the Center of the American West’s award for fiction three years in a row. He is a PhD candidate at University of Denver and has taught university level creative writing for 10 years.. Rosales’ second novel, Gods on the Lam releases in June, 2017 from Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing and Word is Bone, his third novel, is forthcoming 2018 from Broken River Books.

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Posted in excerpt, memoir, nonfiction, Spotlight on June 14, 2017

Synopsis

At 46 years old, Mark Moore was in the prime of his life. He was a successful businessman, loving husband, involved father, and dedicated amateur athlete. His life was turned upside down after being hit in quick succession with two strokes that should have taken his life. After spending a month in a coma, Mark awoke to find his life forever changed, wondering if he’d ever be able to walk or speak again.

Mark’s inspiring new memoir, A Stroke of Faith: A Stroke Survivor’s Story of a Second Chance at Living a Life of Significance, follows his incredible journey from successful businessman to unexpected stroke victim and survivor. Now having made an almost-full recovery 10 years later, Mark has dedicated himself to his family, faith, extensive philanthropy within his community, and educating others about stroke awareness, prevention, and recovery.

Though his life will never return to his pre-stroke normality, through this crisis, he has gained a deeper understanding of the centrality of God’s role in his life and in all of our lives. A Stroke of Faith tells the story of moving from acceptance to surrender and from hope to faith and reveals God’s work in Mark’s life as He transformed him from thinking he had everything under control to knowing God has had control all along.

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Excerpt

Introduction

“Beyond My Control!”

WE ALL HAVE gifts of one kind or another, natural abilities that seem to flow out of the very core of who we are. For some, it’s music. They can look at a sheet of crotchet and quaver notations and hear the melody in their head as if a full symphony orchestra were playing right in front of them. Others have a knack for languages. A few lessons, and they sound like a native speaker.

I was always a numbers man. Math may not be as glamorous as melodies and words, but I never saw just a bunch of figures on a page. For me, they turned into a score or a story I could follow. A company spreadsheet could be like an x-ray, revealing all the inner problems of an ailing business. Or it might become a road map, pointing the way to prosperity. I could read columns of debits and credits like a book.

As with any innate ability, that aptitude could only take me so far. Raw sugar cane has to go through a process to release the sweetness. With application and determination, I was able to harness my gift for math in ways that transformed my life. It took me from a tough New York City borough to the leafy suburbs of Washington, DC. From a two-bedroom house into which ten of us were squeezed to a ten-thousand-square foot property with a pool.

During that climb up the ladder of success, I had raised two billion dollars in capital as I rode the financial wave of twenty-first century new technology. Overcoming some prejudice along the way, as one of a minority of successful African American entrepreneurs, I’d established a reputation as a fair but firm businessman.

Proud to be a self-made man who had a different, tailor-made suit to wear for every day of the month—a far cry from the hand-me-down wardrobe of my childhood―I had written more checks than I could remember, the largest single one for two-and-a-half million dollars.

And now I stared helplessly at the blank check that Lisa had placed in front of me. I could read the words: Pay to the Bearer, and all that. I could see the lines and the blank box where I was supposed to write the payee’s name and the amount.

But I didn’t know how to do it. Something was missing between what I knew in my brain and the pen I held in my right hand. It was like one of the bulbs had shorted out midway in a string of Christmas lights, breaking the connection and extinguishing them all. The chain was interrupted. I should have known without even thinking what needed to be done, but somehow I just could not bring to mind the steps necessary for completing the simple actions I had performed so many times previously. I froze, mentally paralyzed.

Here I was, the successful numbers man, and I could not even put two and two together.

I felt crushed, helpless. The head-down determination that had brought so many rewards was somewhere out of reach. No matter how much I gritted my teeth and concentrated, I just could not will myself to do something as basic as write a check.

To make matters worse, I could not even spring up and pace about in frustration. A lifelong athlete, I still pushed myself as hard on the basketball court in my two-hour weekly games as I did in my twelve-hour days at the office. A non-smoking non-drinker, I was in excellent shape for a man in his

mid-forties.

But now I could only sit in my wheelchair as I contemplated the chasm between what my life had been and what it was now—and might be for as long as I was alive.

That I was even breathing was something of a miracle itself. A month or so earlier I had been within minutes of dying, my life saved only by emergency surgery that opened up my skull and left me in a medically induced coma. I had, of course, been grateful to open my eyes again and see my beloved wife, Brenda, and our two children. But facing the rest of my life as a shadow of who I had been weighed heavily now.

Overwhelmed by not being able to manage such a rudimentary action, one I had performed so many times previously, I sighed.

“This is crazy,” I said. “Something so simple I’ve done it a million times, and yet it’s beyond my control!”

Sensing my discouragement, Lisa smiled brightly at me as we sat in her speech therapist’s office at Mount Vernon Hospital in Alexandria, Virginia. Dark curly-haired and petite, dressed in hospital scrubs and sneakers, she managed to sound professional and personable at the same time.

“The brain is really quite remarkable in the way it can recover from a traumatic injury like the one you have suffered, Mark,” she told me. “You are going to get better. Most of the progress in recovery usually occurs in the first year or two. And we are going to do all that we can to help.”

Though the gap between my former life and my present circumstances seemed vast, miles wide, I had been brought to its edge by something quite small: a ruptured blood vessel deep in my brain. Two strokes had pulled the curtain down firmly on the first act of my life. How the rest of my story would unfold was unclear and, for the first time I could remember, seemed beyond my control.

About the Author

Mark Moore is a philanthropist and successful businessman. Along with his wife Brenda, a former nurse, Mark has established the Mark and Brenda Moore and Family Foundation, through which he supports advances in healthcare, education, culture and the arts, and Christian evangelism. Prior to engaging full time in his philanthropic work, Mark was Chief Operating Officer and co-owner of Segovia, Inc., a leading provider of global internet protocol services to the US Defense Department. Mark is also the Mid-Atlantic Ambassador for the American Stroke Association and the author of the memoir A Stroke of Faith, which is now on sale. More about Mark and A Stroke of Faith can be found at and on Facebook and Twitter .

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Posted in Book Release, excerpt, Fantasy, Giveaway, Urban, Young Adult on June 12, 2017

Title: Scythe of Darkness

Author: Dawn Husted

Genre: YA Urban Fantasy

Release Day: June 13, 2017

Synopsis

For Mia Hieskety, surviving high school meant focusing on exams and attending the occasional party. After breaking up with her boyfriend, who she didn’t even like, dating was off the agenda. That is, until Thanatos came along.

Mia finds herself lured by the mysterious new student with two-toned eyes. Determined to find out who Thanatos is, what he is, and why he seems so interested in her, she accompanies him to his home where a sinister world awaits.

Discovering the truth, a supernatural connection that intertwines with her past, Mia’s life is at risk—and she doesn’t know who to trust.

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Excerpt

The compulsion to find him made me slightly crazy.

My knees shook, vibrating my full-size bed; my headboard tapped the wall like Morse code. Restlessness overtook my feet. I wished my parents would leave already.

The same moment I tossed another knife, a knock jolted the door. “Mia, we’re going. Sure you don’t want to come? Fresh air,” my mom urged in her counselor voice, an unfortunate result from all the years as adviser at my little brother’s school.

I flung my third knife, whipping it next to the others. Knife throwing calmed my nerves, and mine were buzzing like phones during study hall. Adding to my angst, the anniversary of my kidnapping loomed around the corner.

I slid off the bed, and breathed in a steady breath before opening the door. She flashed a toothy grin, trying to hide the meaning behind her inquiry. I knew what she wasn’t saying: not accompanying them to the county fair was out of character. “Are you feeling okay? Is this about Trip?”

Trip and I broke up last week, but I wasn’t thinking about him in the slightest.

“Mom, really. I’ve a ton of homework … a chemistry test, never mind the essay.” Only eight months left of my junior year. I’d filled out Berkeley’s mandatory questionnaire last week, but the essay portion remained unfinished.

I avoided her eyes. She was good at telling when I was lying. I needed to move, not look her in the face. I stepped from view and plucked the scarlet handles out of the bullseye, one by one. I didn’t want her to think I was up to something. My unusual talent had left a few painted-over scars in the door.

Mom slipped her face further around the side, and squinted as if trying to read my thoughts. Thick dark-brown strands of hair slid over her bronze shoulder. My hair was cursed with no thickness whatsoever, but had instead acquired my dad’s double cowlick. “All right. Love you, Mia,” she replied, then gave me a kiss on the forehead, probably hoping I would change my mind, and left.

I heaved a sigh of relief.

If I went with my family to the fair and ran into him again, my mom would surely be watching over my shoulder, making the interaction doubly weird. She had this uncanny ability to wiggle herself into my measly social life whenever possible.

A little voice in the back of my head—not an actual voice, but something—like a mental itch I couldn’t scratch—compelled me to find Eye Guy. And what better place than at the fair, the same place I first ran into him two days ago? The day I’d smashed a basket of nachos all over his shirt by accident. Did I know him somehow?

Eye Guy wasn’t from my school; I would’ve seen him in the halls. Who was he? He had two different-colored eyes—heterochromia iridium—which was why I dubbed him, Eye Guy.

I snatched my backpack off the round chair in the corner of my room, stuffed my chem book inside, plus the binoculars and the camera Uncle Shawn had given me.

My eyes slid shut and I listened for the sound of the front door closing.

Wham.

Scurrying over to my window, I watched the three of them walk toward the street. My eight-year-old brother, Bennie, yanked back-and-forth on my parents’ hands toward a waiting car. They were catching a ride with neighbors.

With a lightness in my chest, my pulse raced. It was now or never.

I rushed down the stairs two at a time. The aroma of popcorn wafted past my nose, as I swung off the mahogany banister and darted into the kitchen for a little to-go snack, and then out into the garage to grab my bike.

Old boxes of memories lined the edges of the bay, allowing just enough space for our only vehicle. I inched in between the hood of the old van, squishing a box with my butt, me popping out the other end. The bike was important; I needed a faster mode of transportation so I could hustle home before my parents returned.

I glided down Ponderosa, the uneven pavement vibrating from my seat all the way up to my neck, and turned left onto Birmingham—a roundabout way to bypass my parents. Beneath an old bridge, homeless huddled in the dark corners; a few stragglers glared at the lights and sounds singing in the distance, blocks away.

The top of the water tower dotted the sky, beyond the overgrown trees and shingled roofs. The sun clung to life in the clouds, streams of lavender highlighting the horizon.

I peddled faster.

Ten minutes later, I arrived at the water tower. A white sign with red letters warned KEEP OUT along the fence. I looped my fingers through the chain-links and whipped my head side-to-side. People weren’t allowed on government property. But being that I was only seventeen, obtaining a mark on my record for breaking and entering wasn’t as big of a deal.

The weight of my bike became heavier the higher I lifted; the aluminum frame fumbled from my grasp, slamming the wheels to the ground on the other side.

Now it was my turn.

Plop.

I stood at the bottom, gazing up. A shoulder-width ladder looped from the concrete to a narrow balcony that rounded the center of the bulbous top. The water tower looked like an upside-down ear syringe. The red bold letters painted around the tank had begun to fade, but I could still make out the city name: Gaige, Texas.

I halted mid-step. The feeling of a hundred butterflies fluttering down my chest gathered in the pit of my stomach. I lurched forward, gripping the metal ladder for support. The butterflies metamorphosed into thundering dragonflies, their wings beating against my insides.

I squeezed the ladder, my nails digging into my palms. Why had the sudden pain erupted? I wanted it to stop!

The little voice in the back of my head told me to climb. Logically, it didn’t make sense, but somehow, I knew Eye Guy couldn’t be too far away. The right side of my brain advised me of the odds of spotting some random stranger in the chaotic mass of the fair. But I had to try.

I climbed through the pain, finding it hard to breathe.

At the top, I fell over onto the balcony.

The dragonflies in my stomach fluttered away. What was happening?

Breathing in, I shucked off my backpack and grabbed the binoculars. Immediately, I began searching the enormous, far-off crowd. Drums thundered from the streets filled with thousands, and voices clamored into the distance. Triangular tangelo flags waved. Flashes of blue lights glimmered sporadically above the sea of heads. A band’s music boomed from the stage, and the whine of guitars faded in the background.

I reached for the popcorn, remaining fixated on the hordes of people. I stuffed a handful in my mouth without looking away.

A magnetic-like pull, stronger than before, honed my focus to the outer edge of the fair.

Ten heartbeats later, I spotted him; for the first time luck was on my side.

Near the outside, behind the Pig Race tent and in front of the Mirror of Mazes, Eye Guy walked slowly through a group of girls sporting short shorts and spaghetti strap shirts. I watched him in reverence as he squeezed through. He wore a long-sleeve plaid shirt and black gloves, just like two days ago.

Why would he dress so warmly? It was September.

But, I had to admit, he pulled it off. My eyes locked on his back as he meandered through the mass. I tossed another handful of popcorn in my mouth then dropped the binoculars and snapped a few photos. My hands shook, making it hard for the camera to focus. Calm down Mia.

I grabbed the binoculars again and zeroed in. The range of vision was as if I was standing right next to him.

He halted mid-step to chat with a tall blond in a red leathery outfit, a girl as unique and pretty as him but with a body much curvier than mine. Her heels matched her flashy wardrobe, and the dark eyeliner that mapped the outside of her eyes resembled that of a rabid raccoon. My toes wiggled against my rubbery flip-flops.

It was apparent Eye Guy and she knew one another by the way they stood inches apart—he with his arms crossed. I narrowed my eyes. The girl’s hand remained poised on her hip as she scanned the crowd; her serious expression left an unpleasant taste in my mouth. Then his eyes narrowed in midst of their conversation. He unfolded his arms as a group of scrawny kids my brother’s age bounced into a trashcan, toppling it over, spilling rotten contents out next to his boots.

His attention turned back to the girl. Her lips moved too fast for me to make a measly attempt at trying to read them—especially since I lacked skills in that department. But the manner in which his lips pressed together as his square chin jutted downward, one word stood out: Mia.

Unless he said ‘me’ and not ‘Mia.’

The binoculars thudded against my chest, and I froze. Had I seen that correctly? Did he really say my name?

“Of course not.” Many words could appear to look like my name: many, milli, mile, melon if the -lon was left off. Maybe they were simply discussing dinner plans, or whatever other hundred things that I hadn’t thought about. I bet he didn’t have a clue who I was. How would he?

I raised the binoculars back up slowly.

The second I found him again, his face snapped upward—up into the shadows where I was hiding; I jerked back, my hands lost grip and the binoculars slipped from my grasp, whacking the railing.

Was I seeing things?

I grabbed the binoculars and looked again, but he was gone. The girl too. I swam over every head, every face, but he was gone.

And just like that, the magnetic pull faded.

About the Author

Dawn Husted is the author of Scythe of Darkness, a YA urban fantasy novel. She graduated with a BS from Texas A&M University. When not writing, she’s either camping or dreaming about camping. She’s a member of SCBWI, and lives in southern Texas with her husband and two kids.

Her romanticism of the supernatural is well-crafted in Scythe of Darkness. This gripping YA weaves fate and destiny in a new unsuspecting way.

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