Wednesday, 9 August 2017
Title: Jak Barley Private Inquisitor, and the Case of the Annoying Assassins
Author: Dan Ehl
Excerpt Heat Level: 1
Book Heat Level: 1
Buy at: Amazon, Barnes and Noble
One again Private Inquisitor Jak Barley cannot escape dreaded adventures – this time murderous bank robbers, nasty goblins, furious dragon chases, demonic foes and becoming the quarry of the Assassin’s Guild.
Jak Barley, Private Inquisitor, is tired of adventures and is ready to take on only hum-drum cases offering no drama–those of missing husbands, unfaithful spouses, or fat merchants paying well for outing thieving employees–anything not involving traveling, swords, or the darker magics.
Yet once again his otherworldy friend, Lorenzo Spasm, drags him into cases involving corrupt CIA (Clandestine Information Authority) agents, murderous bank robbers, nasty goblins, furious dragon chases, demonic foes, and going uncover at an elders’ RW (recreational wagon) park set atop a butte overlooking a harsh desert floor. To top it off, Jak finds himself the quarry of the Assassin’s Guild after an anonymous adversary takes out a whack contract on him.
Helping him get through this will be his intended, the beautiful witchling in training, Morgana.
“What-t-t-t?” I managed to croak in answer to the incessant hammering on my sleeping room door. I keep it bolted along with several magical wards after a number of tedious attempts upon my life by diabolical assassins, blood-thirsty necromancers, and numerous bat-turd crazy priests and neophytes of ancient and deranged deities. Other than that, my life is fairly normal.
I am back to yawn-inducing cases dealing with unfaithful spouses, stolen silverware, and runaway teensters—and I intend to keep it that way. You will not be kidnapped by piss dragons for investigating a horse theft, hounded by nasty wizards over a missing spouse case, nor forced to traipse through monster-laden wastelands to answer a simple paternity question. I now choose my private inquisitor cases wisely in my hometown of Duburoake, and again, that means no adventures. I hate adventures.
“Come on Jak, open up.”
What kind of hedge-born miscreant would be trying to wake a person this early in the morn?
“Jak, it’s almost afternoon. Open up, you dipsomaniac.”
“Ugh-h-h,” was all my dry throat could sound. I tried opening my eyelids, but it appeared some twisted jester glued them together. I was forced to pry them apart with palsied fingers.
What had that demented lunatic been shouting last night as he kept refilling my ale mug? “There be no tomorrow.” Yes, in principle there be no tomorrow. The clock strikes midnight and it be today, with tomorrow pushed another twenty-four hours away. We all chase a tomorrow that never comes. Unfortunately, today has again arrived and it be not pleasant.
My idle thoughts were just about to lure me back into a feverish slumber when the caller again began shouting. “Jak Barley, get out of bed, you lazy ne’er-do-well sot.”
Like some pitiable prisoner coerced to climb the steps to the gallows pole, I forced myself to sit up and then fight the sudden centrifugal force that threatened to send me rolling across the room to be plastered against the wall like some youngster in a harvest carnival ride. The spinning slowly receded to where I could safely pull on my trousers, though it set off an angry outburst behind my eyeballs.
“Jak, get up, you wretched lay about.”
I lurched to the door and waved my hand across the latch, letting the ring cancel the charms placed upon it. The magical band and its wards were a gift from my betrothed, Morgana, a novice witch at the Kuu Academy of Mystical Arts and Witchcraft. Beginning at the top, I slid the five bolts over and then hesitated at the latch. I knew the grotesque vision I would see on the other side. I sighed in resignation and opened the door, there to view the huge, mocking, obnoxious, leering, and gleeful smile of my supposed friend, Lorenzo Spasm.
“Holy crap, Batman, what wizard cursed you with that aging spell?” he exclaimed.
I was used to his outlandish phrases and words because that is what they literally are—outlandish. Spasm claims to be an inhabitant of a parallel firmament, one similar to our world in many ways, but devoid of any magic. Partial proof of that claim is Spasm’s immunity to spells. Any enchantment will rebound off my friend and back onto the mage or witch who cast the curse.
“What in Hades do you want? Cannot you see I am ailing?” I managed to moan. I could not even lift my head to look in him eye-to-eye without setting off another round of thunderbolts.
Lorenzo is about six-foot, two inches, to my five-nine. I took in his droopy mustache and slightly greying hair that went to his shoulders—and the outlandish mixture of clothing reflecting his exotic wanderings. It is difficult to estimate his age, though I would guess in the late forties. He was taciturn when it came to personal details and background.
“Downed by the brown bottle flu is my guess,” Lorenzo observed with little sympathy. “You reek of a brewery.”
My answer was a glowering stare that failed to wipe away his enthusiastic demeanor. “What do you want?” I finally asked.
“I have a job for you. It seems . . .”
I slammed the door in his face and staggered back to bed. Anything Lorenzo found so enjoyable could only mean peril and hardship. I made the mistake of not locking the door and Spasm pushed it open. He crossed the room to open a window and then took a chair at the foot of the bed.
Dan Ehl has been a journalist and editor at both weeklies and daily newspapers in Iowa. The winner of numerous journalism and photo awards, including first in humor from the National Society of Newspaper Columnists, he enjoys breaking out of dryer newspaper writing to pen fantasy novels. He served in Germany as an Army photographer during the Vietnam War. “With a lot of Vietnamese people digging pits with sharpened stakes at the bottom for people just like me, I knew I wasn’t really wanted. I didn’t want to be rude and show up anyway. Being from Iowa, we always try to be polite. And Germany during the early 1970s was interesting enough with the barracks always reeking of beer, vomit and hashish every weekend.” His favorite hobbies are hitchhiking and hopping freights.
Keywords: fantasy, private inquisitor, goblins, witches, demons, adventure
Friday, 23 June 2017
What does a missing hospital patient in San Francisco have to do with a scientific discovery on the opposite coast that could put a serious dent in pharmaceutical industry profits? It’s a mystery that crime novelist Lisa Towles draws to a riveting conclusion in her fourth full-length novel.
Kerry Stine is a nursing assistant at a San Francisco hospital who is blamed for the disappearance of a patient from the intensive care unit, while Adrian Calhoun is a scientist on the East Coast who finds himself in danger from Big Pharma operatives after developing a cancer-curing cigarette.
Choke (Rebel E Publishers) features two seemingly unrelated plot lines, relentlessly paced through multiple layers and fascinating twists before leading its unwitting heroine down a perilous path toward truth and redemption.
“A cleverly-written, smart thriller that kept me guessing, and at times holding my breath.”
- Christine Husom, author of the Winnebago County and Snow Globe Shop series of mysteries
“This unusual thriller completely intrigued me from the first page.”
- Marilyn Meredith, best-selling author of two mystery fiction series
“Towles takes the reader on a heart-pounding journey. The unlikely intersection of their stories delivers unparalleled suspense. It’s a smart, well-written thriller that will deliver on the big screen someday as well as it does on the page.”
- Leo Bottary, author of The Power of Peers
“A cigarette that cures lung cancer? Who could be against such a concept? If you can’t figure that out, just heed the basic advice of any crime investigation—follow the money, which is what Lisa Towles has done in her magnificent story. I read this with the pleasurable company of a pack of Marlboros … smokin’ good read!”
- Les Edgerton, award-winning author of The Death of Tarpons, The Rapist, The Bitch, The Genuine, Imitation, Plastic Kidnapping and others
“Choke’s complex characters fascinated me. Its layered dilemmas – threating both individual lives and the lives of cancer victims across the world – grabbed me by the throat. Lisa Towles’ new thriller is a must-read. It kept me in suspense the whole way through – and inspired me in the process.”
- Judith Schiess Avila, NYT best-selling author of Code Talker: The First and Only Memoir by One of the Original Navajo Code Talkers of WWII
“Lively descriptions, characters, and dialogue make this a highly readable page-turner.”
- Albert Noyer, author of The Secundus Papyrus and other novels
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY AND CONTACT
Lisa Towles specializes in writing crime mysteries when not working full time in the tech industry and completing an MBA. The author of numerous short stories (under her previous name of Lisa Polisar), Towles also has contributed feature articles, columns, art reviews and book reviews for a variety of newspapers and periodicals.
An active member of Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, Sisters in Crime, and Crimespace, Towles is a New England native who earned two journalism awards from the National Press Women’s Association and the 2016 National Engaged Leader Award from the National Society of Leadership and Success.
Towles graduated from the University of Hartford’s Hartt School of Music with a Bachelor’s degree in music, majoring in flute with a minor in psychology.
In her five decades on earth, Grace Mattson had learned to pay attention to instinct. And right now hers was telling her not to touch the envelope sitting beside Neville’s note. Instead, she gazed upon it, using her powers of perception and everything Sherlock Holmes had taught her about the observation of details. The most significant of which, however, was the churning feeling in her stomach.
“You’re right to be cautious.” The female voice startled her. “I would be too.”
Grace noticed the umbrella even before seeing the woman’s face. It was a smooth, sculpted face with mistrust woven into its elegant features. “I can’t decide whether to invite you for tea or sick my Doberman on you.”
The woman blinked, revealing dark blue eyes. “I would prefer tea with an English woman than death by an invisible dog.”
Grace allowed a momentary smirk. “I don’t suppose I look like a dog-person.”
Something about her, this woman with impeccable taste in clothes, fashionable without a hint of overstatement, and her steely voice, caused Grace’s heart to thud inside her chest. The blue eyes stared evenly, and Grace’s palms felt clammy. What was this about, and why had this woman watched her and Adrian at Atticus?
“Come in then,” Grace said finally, “we’ll have tea in the garden.” And I hope I live through the experience.
The woman followed her inside, and Grace unlocked the back door. “I’ll boil some water. Please, make yourself comfortable.” She pointed to the back yard, to a vine-covered trellis, under which sat two Adirondack chairs adorned with flowered pillows. She hated those pillows. A gift from Neville, she’d wondered if they were Neville’s way of making her more soft or feminine, somehow.
“We’re interested in your research,” the woman said after Grace came out to meet her.
“What I mean is …very interested,” the woman went on, ignoring the question. Her voice was flat, monotone, controlled, without a hint of inflection or emotion. Was she an android? A highly functioning artificial life form such as she’d seen on the SyFy channel so many times? The woman’s face looked as though it hadn’t ever cracked a smile. The skin was beyond smooth and the eyes looked hard, almost menacing. Just as the woman used her voice simply to deliver instructions, rather than the sharing of communication.
Grace fondled the sealed black envelope. “And this is to offer me a million dollars for it?”
“It’s an offer … of exchange, yes.”
“Me and … my employers.”
“And who are you, exactly?”
The woman slowly crossed her legs. “You can call me … Beth.”
“Well, I could call you a lot of things. But that doesn’t answer my question.”
“I’ll say it again – my employers are very interested in your research.”
“What research are you talking about exactly? I’m a retired ethnobotanist, I teach gardening classes and breed rare species of plants. It’s not very exciting, I assure you.”
“Orchids. Isn’t that right?”
“Not only orchids. But yes. You want to know how I do it? Come to my greenhouse, I’ll show you.”
“We’ve been to your greenhouse.”
Grace’s palms felt slick with sweat. She took a slow sip of tea, reminding herself to breathe.
“In fact, we’ve been going there for the past six months. It’s not there.”
“Excuse me? You’ve been … what’s not there?”
For what felt like a long time, neither of them spoke. Not one single bird chirped, no traffic sounds, pedestrians, car alarms, or sirens.
“We’re prepared to pay for what we want.”
“That’s very kind of you,” Grace joked.
“We’re not in the business of kindness, I’m afraid.”
The woman sighed, uncrossed her legs. Then crossed them the other way. She looked uneasy, as if she were about to launch a different tactic. “The decisions we make affect the economy, on global levels.”
“Really? You don’t look like a banker.”
The woman smiled and looked toward the house.
“Water’s boiling. Pardon me, I’ll be right back.”
Grace returned with a bamboo tray containing a pot of tea, two cups, a pitcher, and tiny bowls for milk and lemon.
“Royal Doulton,” Beth commented with what seemed like admiration. But Grace knew already that she was not what she seemed.
“It was my mother’s,” Grace said and swirled the brew around in the teapot and then poured.
Beth held the cup and stared intently into the liquid, glanced at Grace, and returned her gaze to the cup.
“I’m still not clear on what research you want.”
“You know what we want.” The woman sipped the tea.
“Careful, could be poison,” Grace said and stared.
She watched the woman take two more sips and then soundlessly leave down the side walkway toward Kensington. She continued watching her all the way out toward Chapel Street, and then slowly opened the envelope. On one heavy sheet of stationary paper appeared a single typed sentence.
The research in exchange for your partner’s life.
Adrian, my God, she thought. What have you done?
Wednesday, 21 June 2017
Author: Maggie Mundy
ISBN EBOOK: 978-1-62420-323-7
ISBN POD: 978-1547054831
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Excerpt Heat Level: 1
Book Heat Level: 4
Corrupted magic is hard to fight when you’re the only one who believes something is wrong. Daria faces a battle to save her world.
Six hundred years of peace are destroyed when Daria’s settlement is attacked. It is the start of problems for the land of Majura. Daria saves people with magic and must join the magic wielding Mask wearers who rule the land. Her dreams have warned if she became one it would be the end of Majura. Are the Mask wearers keeping secrets or is she the only one who can see the power in the land is changing. A Mask wearer called Alenze believes her and offers to go on a quest with her to fix the Essence where the magic comes from, but he is keeping secrets from her that could be the death of them all.
If most of the other Masks were like Alenze, then she was never going to fit in. He didn't have a hair out of place. His clothes were grey but of the highest quality, with a beautifully fitted long tunic and breeches and well-made knee-high leather boots.
"During the travelling, you'll be placed in a trance. This is done so you're not alarmed by the experience. I'll be in control, and you'll not be aware of what's happening around you."
He spoke to her as if she were a child. The fact he was at least a head taller than her didn't help matters as he peered down.
"I assure you growing up here has made me resilient." Daria crossed her fingers behind her back at the lie.
"Many people struggle with the experience. I myself was glad I wore brown britches the first time. I agree though. I sense you'll not be alarmed easily," Alenze replied.
For a second Daria saw a smirk on his face. He had a sense of humor, who would have thought. He even almost looked handsome when he smiled.
"Traveler Quatrome, the sun is setting," her father interrupted. "The Chamber is ready." He bowed his head to both of them.
Alenze offered his arm to escort her into the Travelling Chamber. Daria stared at his hand as her heart pounded in fear, but knew she had no choice but to eventually take it. Pell stopped outside the Chamber and smiled at her, then looked to Alenze.
"Take care of her, and warn your fellow Masks to watch out for her temper; she didn't inherit her mother's green eyes and red hair without reason," Pell warned.
"You have my word, Master Gallo," Alenze replied as he shook her father's hand.
Atia and Chelle hugged her with tears streaming down all their faces.
"It won't be long, and I'll be back, especially if they don't want me, which is highly likely," Daria soothed them as she tried to get her tears under control.
Alenze coughed and Daria couldn't delay any more. Again, his arm was offered and this time she accepted. He escorted her into the chamber and as the doors shut behind them, she could hear Rumus howling and her breath caught in her throat.
Alenze let go of her arm and walked into the center of the circular, windowless room. With the doors closed, there was an oppressive feel to the space, with the only illumination coming from the oil lamps placed about the walls. The floor was covered with a beautiful painting. The tales were that the settlement had been built around this place.
Alenze was studying the markings on the floor. Daria's breath was catching in her throat and the room was getting smaller. She couldn't go through with this, they couldn't make her go. Her chest was getting tight as her panic increased. She ran to the door of the chamber and raised her fists, thumping hard again and again. The yells coming from her throat blanked out the pain as her fists started to redden and bleed.
"Let me out."
A hand touched her shoulder, causing her to spin around screaming, her clenched fist aimed at Alenze. Placing his hand over hers, he brought her fist down. He stared intently at her with his dark grey eyes as he spoke.
"When I went to the Domain in Denarius, I believed no one would want someone like me. Those who came with me at that time were filled with a confidence I never had. I didn't feel I'd ever belong, but now I do. Becoming a Mask has given my life meaning beyond what I would ever have thought possible. I've grown to love what I've become. You must trust me, and believe you'll feel that, too." He paused. "Are you ready?"
Daria nodded as he let go of her hands and walked over and stood over the open mouth of the winged serpent painted on the floor. She stood on the outside of the circular floor painting and thought her eyes must be playing tricks on her. The painting was starting to move as the serpent's coils began to entwine one upon another hypnotically.
"We can delay no longer. Stand on the mark of the moon." Holding out his arm, Alenze beckoned her to move forward.
She took the step, her breath coming in gasps. The outer circle had symbols of the sun, moon, stars and the Goddess Ikrar. The Goddess stood with her hands clasped around a crystal.
Alenze removed a small, plain brown mask from a pouch hanging around his neck and put it on his face. It had no hooks or fastenings, but melded to him on contact.
"Enter the circle, Daria."
Daria stepped forward onto the moving picture. Alenze took her hands in a firm grip, and needing something to hold onto, she gripped equally as hard around his wrists. She wondered if he could hear her heart beating. He should, as it felt as if it was going to explode through her chest.
"I don't want to do this. My life is here, Crane is here, I love him and I want to stay." Tears flowed down her face.
"Trust me, Daria, and you'll be safe," Alenze instructed.
"I don't want to trust you. I don't want to go and no one there will want me. They think I'm bringing doom with me because I touched the crystal," Daria sobbed, but Alenze wasn't listening anymore. His eyes were shut and he was chanting strange words over and over. There was a humming noise making her dizzy, and then something touched her foot. She jerked her knee up. Peering down, she let out a scream as the coils of the snake picture on the floor started slithering over her feet and around her ankles - where was the trance Alenze had promised? The Mask was no longer solid on his face; the flat surface was bubbling as though something was trying to erupt. Then the small heads of two snakes broke free from the surface and bit into his temples. If he felt any pain he didn't react.
More snakes oozed from the Mask until the whole of his head was a wriggling mass moving down his back and entwining around his arms. Two vipers separated from the others encircling his arms. The snakes stopped their movements at his wrists and raised their bodies up as though to get a good look at her. They swayed hypnotically. Daria tried to pull free of Alenze's grip, but he was too strong. Then without warning, both snakes struck at her wrists in unison.
"Alenze," his name burst from her mouth as the pain hit her arms and the poison burned into her. His eyes opened, looking first to her face and then at the vipers injecting their venom. She could hear his thoughts.
Forgive me, Daria.
AUTHOR BIO & LINKS:
I live in Adelaide, Australia with my husband, one cat, two dogs and a snake. I have a motorbike that I would like to ride more than I do and I love walking at the beach and listening to the waves. I've always loved reading all forms of fiction from high fantasy and paranormal to contemporary and decided the stories in my head needed to be written down. It was either that or start on medication. Unlike many, I didn’t know I wanted to be a writer until a few years back. I started off doing a degree in drama but soon realized my love was in writing, though there is a play lurking somewhere on my computer. My day job is as a nurse in the operating room. I believe romance can be fun to read and write but it’s exciting to spice it up with the uncertainty that comes with suspense where the rules can be broken.
Website URL: www.maggiemundy.com
Blog URL: http://maggiemundy.blogspot.com.au
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/MaggieMundyAuthor
Twitter handle: https://twitter.com/MundyMaggie
Monday, 19 June 2017
Mike and Liz thought they'd gotten control of the specters haunting the Barrett Inn. But things get very complicated when they're the ghosts from your past life. The Category Five Hurricane bearing down on Cape Cod appears to be headed directly for them--or has it been spawned from inside them? Knowing it’s their last chance to end the hauntings, Mike and Liz must decide whether to run or to defy evacuation orders. Will they survive the storm?
That’s the premise behind this new book by Carole Ann Moleti, the final part of the ‘Unfinished Business’ series. Having read ‘The Widow’s Walk’ and ‘Breakwater Beach’, I was delighted to be asked to preview ‘Storm Watch’ because it meant I got an early chance to find out what happened to the people who left a mark on me in the previous instalments.
The story is about how the characters and the ghosts inside them try to cope when a massive storm approaches and then hits their homes in Cape Cod. The novel has an excellent sense of location - I’ve never been to Cape Cod but came to feel I knew it well. I was so drawn in I started looking up maps and photographs, to find Moleti described everything so well the settings are just as I imagined them.
We’re not only dealing with the storm and ghosts, but multiple sub plots that are skillfully woven into the story and add interest rather than complexity. These plots drew me in because I wanted to know what would happen with each strand, until I was immersed in the whole book. I finished the novel well before I expected to because I kept wanting to read ‘just one more chapter’.
However, as so often with Moleti’s work, the real standout is the characters who are consistent and well drawn across the series’ three books. The author has a clear picture of what makes people tick and a knack for characterisation that many authors – including me – will envy. As with the series’ other books, the people in the story are largely ordinary, everyday folk on the surface, but each has depths and uniqueness that the writing brings out. It’s this depth that really had me rooting for everyone. I particularly liked the hermit, Harley, who is a new addition. His presence changes the dynamics a little from previous books which keeps the series fresh and the reader on his toes – and he’s great fun in his own right.
‘Storm Watch’ will be available on 19 July. Details are at: http://www.caroleannmoleti.com/the-unfinished-business-series/
The pre-order link for ‘Storm Watch’ is here.
Carole Ann Moleti lives and works as a nurse-midwife in New York City, thus explaining her fascination with all things paranormal, urban fantasy, and space opera. Her nonfiction focuses on health care, politics, and women's issues. But her first love is writing science fiction and fantasy because walking through walls is less painful than running into them.
The first book in Carole's Unfinished Business series, ‘The Widow's Walk’, was published in 2015.
The prequel, ‘Breakwater Beach’, appeared in 2016.
Urban fantasies set in the world of Carole's novels have been featured in Haunted: Ten Tales of Ghosts, Seers: Ten Tales of Clairvoyance, Beltane: Ten Tales of Witchcraft, and Bites: Ten Tales of Vampires.
Carole also writes non fiction that ranges from sweet and sentimental in This Path and Thanksgiving to Christmas to edgy and irreverent in the Not Your Mother's Books: On Being a Mother and On Being a Parent.
Carole is at:
Thursday, 15 June 2017
So, contracts have been signed – nice and quickly in these days of e-signatures – so I can announce that ‘The Fairy Wife’s’ publisher will be Rebel ePublishers.
Wednesday, 31 May 2017
I’d like to welcome author Courtney Rene and her book, ‘Before the Dawn’, published by Rogue Phoenix Press. During this book tour, Courtney will give away a digital copy of ‘Before the Dawn’ to a luck commenter.
A Howl in the Night Book 3
Author: Courtney Rene
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal
Excerpt Heat Level: 1
Book Heat Level: 2
Website URL: Www.Courtneyrene.com
Blog URL: www.ctnyrene.blogspot.com
Twitter handle: @ctnyrene
Darkness continues to haunt Abby since her escape from the Hunterz. Questions continue to circle. Who are they, really? Why do they hate the wolves so much?
Seventeen year old Abby can’t shake the darkness that continues to haunt her since her escape from the Hunterz. She can’t let it go. Questions continue to circle. Questions no one will answer. Who are they, really? Why do they hate the wolves so much? The answers could be found in a young boy named, Sam. He may be from the Hunterz, but he smells of wolf. Derek wants to believe her, and tries to help, but Abby still hasn’t learned how to accept help from others. Her relationships with her mother and father continue to deteriorate, but Derek is a puzzle. Some days he’s exactly what she wants and others he is all that she despises. Being a shifter isn’t as simple as she thought it would be. The wolf part is easy. It’s the human side that needs a little work.
I huddled in the darkness, barely aware of the passing hours and days. The wolf ate when she was hungry. She found mice and rodents to catch and devour. I was barely aware of the chase or the joy she found in the hunt. The wolf drank from streams and creeks along her journey. She slept when she was tired and traveled the rest of it.
I was aware the forest was starting to look familiar, but I didn't care enough to wonder why or where I was. When the big white sprawling house came before us, I realized the wolf had brought us to the only other place she knew to go: Aunt Lilly's.
I didn't leave the safety within the wolf when we arrived at the house. I was aware when we stepped onto the porch and dropped to the cool white washed boards where the wolf curled up and slept, but I stayed safe, hidden deep. The wolf and the instincts that drove her protected us. I was happy to let her lead. I was happy to be carried wherever she decided to go. I slept as the wolf did throughout the rest of the night.
When the wolf woke, I woke with her. We were still curled on the porch, but we were within a pile of dogs that had come to keep us safe and warm and offer company. The wolf was happy for the companions, as I was not able to be one. I was silent and empty and had nothing to give right then. I had nothing left to offer her.
I saw my Aunt come out on the porch, and I saw the moment she recognized me for what I was. "Abby, honey. What are you doing here?"
I shrank back deeper within the wolf, and as the wolf had nothing to say to her in that form, Aunt Lilly was left at a loss. She crouched down before us and ran her hands over my head and down my back. "You look a little worse for wear. Do you want to come in and eat? Maybe get a shower and some clothes?"
I wasn't coming out of the wolf form. I realized that had been my intention the whole time. I simply hadn't been ready to face it. I was obviously not very good as a human, so I would try being a wolf for a bit. I used a little more energy and turned my head away from her and dropped it back down on my front paws.
"Abby? What's wrong?"
I had no answer for her, so I didn't move or acknowledge her question. I didn't know what to tell her. I was still feeling sorry for myself, and I didn't have a plan of how to fix it other than to ignore it. I was happy as a wolf. Why did I have to be a human anyway?
She stayed crouched down next to me for a long time. She tried to talk to me, but I didn't answer. Finally, she gave up and stepped back. Her dog friends stayed with me, protecting me in their own way. She surveyed the pile of us then said, "Well, I guess I'll check on you in a bit."
I closed my eyes and went back to sleep. I spent the next few days hardly moving a muscle. What was the point? Aside from getting up to empty my bladder or get a drink of water, I stayed on the porch, quiet and still. Aunt Lilly stopped trying to talk to me, but she did continue to sit with me and offer what comfort she could by way of gentle caresses or tidbits of food she could tempt me with, or just simple water. The best part was when she sat in the white rocker and just rocked. Her being there was enough. Sometimes when she sat there, I would get up and sit next to her, just to be close to someone who gave a damn about me. Just me. Not what I could do for her, or what I could do for the clan. She just cared about me.
Why was I so unlovable by everyone else? Why didn't my mother want me anymore? Why did my father only see me for what I offered the clan? Why didn't Derek just want me? Why. Why. Why! What was so wrong with just being me?
It was times like those that even in wolf form I was able to cry. When the hurt of the world grew to immense I could not hold it in anymore. I cried the sounds of the wolf, even if it didn't come with the tears of a human. Aunt Lilly wouldn't press or talk, she was simply there with me as I tried to handle the sadness overwhelming me. She'd caress my head and continue to rock.
I don't know how long things went on like that. Maybe a few days, maybe it was an entire week. I do know when it came to an abrupt end. Morning arrived with a definite chill in the air. I didn't notice the cold all that much, thanks to my warm fur, but also because Aunt Lilly's dogs took shifts with what I thought of as protecting me. There were always a handful of them, either lying next to me or with me, or whatever. I was never cold or alone. They knew I was hurting and they in their animal wisdom stayed with me as comfort. Animals are awesome. People…suck.
Courtney Rene lives in the State of Ohio with her husband and two children. She is a graduate and member of the Institute of Children’s Literature. Her writings include magazine articles, short fiction stories, several anthologies, as well as her young adult novels, A Howl in the Night and the Shadow Dancer series, published through Rogue Phoenix Press. For a complete listing, visit www.ctnyrene.blogspot com or feel free to contact her at email@example.com.
Wednesday, 17 May 2017
I’d like to welcome author Jeffery J Smith to talk about his book, ‘Perfect Timing’, published by Rogue Phoenix Press. During this book tour, Jeffery will award a digital copy of Perfect Timing to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.
Title: Perfect Timing
Author: Jeffery J. Smith
Excerpt Heat Level: 1
Book Heat Level: 1
Accidentally sucked from the present, caterer Crik must prove he started the trend that led to the future’s utopia—or be returned to waiting bullets.
Accidentally transported to the future, caterer Crik escapes house-arrest with Tepper, his possible distant descendant. While pursued by volunteer vigilante Voltak, goofball Crik explores Geotopia—where buildings grow, people incorporate animal powers, smart phones know it all, and vehicles defy gravity—seeking clues. If he can discover, understand, and articulate the future’s public policy that works right for everybody, he can prove he was their founder, the lone agent of change who put society on its path toward universal prosperity and harmony with nature. If he fails to convince the Futurite Authorities, they wouldn’t return their unexpected visitor to the exact second he left—something their law requires—to the moment when a hail of gunfire was bearing down on the luckless caterer and college dropout...would they?
The image of a bellhop perches first on one leg then the other by the edge of a roof of a downtown skyscraper. Gazing downward, with both hands he raises a golf club over his head. The scene occurs on a large monitor.
Far below, the people look like a school of minnows flitting across the downtown central plaza. Others resemble tufts of beach grass clumped around street performers break dancing or juggling. The bellhop arches his back.
In a darkened laboratory, two wide-eyed technicians wearing white coats watch the monitor. In grainy color, the young man bends and stretches. Mouths agape, the viewers take notes and wipe their brows.
"This is your candidate?" the taller researcher says. "This golfer? Crik Duvall?"
The shorter one nods. "He's a bellhop, too."
~ * ~
At the wall atop the city's tallest hotel, Crik in the hotel's uniform lowers his club. The height does not frighten him, rather, the view always intrigues him. People sure look little, Crik thinks. Must be how landlords see us.
Crik takes a few practice swings. He steps back from the edge and tees up. He drives a Whiffle golf ball into the air without a hitch. The headwind blows the hollow ball back to him. He catches it. Yes! He replaces the plastic ball on the tee — yo-yo golf.
Lifting his bellhop cap, Crik runs his fingers through bleached streaks. Yo-yo golf will challenge enthusiasts of all nations, even become an Olympic event. I could pay down my tuition. Even help Randy with his debt. How dumb, messing with dudes from the vodka importers convention. What'd he know about ostrich racing anyway?
Crik's knuckles are tattooed with esoteric symbols. A stud twinkles in one ear but no weighty choker worries his swing. He's up to twenty-three straight successful drives-then-catches, closing in on his personal best.
The word "Fore!" rings out from a phone in his pocket, but he ignores it.
Steadying himself, Crik cocks his club for another swing and drives the white ball into the onrushing breeze.
Crik blinks. The plastic dot sails past him, into the void. Zippers.
"Whenever you don't answer your phone, I know where to find you."
Crik looks over his shoulder, resting the club on his other one.
Randy lets the door close behind him. "My man, break be over." Also a bellhop, Randy has his cap is on backwards. As he crosses the roof, his body lags behind his head, his neck nearly level.
Like offering his empty melon to a guillotine, poor sucker. Crik takes out a twenty-dollar bill. "Another big date before next payday, bro?"
"Man, you are like family." Randy takes the note.
~ * ~
"'Crik'. That short for cricket?" People always ask.
No, Crik was named Crik because Brook was already taken; his older brother got named that.
"Oh, I get it," the hotel manager said when interviewing Crik, "Creek."
Crik nodded. His hair waved, didn't curl, despite him being the black sheep of the family. "Yeah, Crik."
Crik is too busy to finish college. How many decades would it take to pay off the student loan — a necklace of stone — anyway? Especially with good friends unable to budget themselves. Better to have a fun job. Make money and enjoy life.
~ * ~
In the gloomy laboratory, tall Dr. Alvin Ultra and his short assistant Yuri Ivanov, both middle-aged, emit gasps and wag their heads, jotting down notes.
The monitor, thin as a sheet, hangs from a ceiling in a high corner. It's cabled to a device shaped like an oversized dog biscuit with a sharp point like a syringe, big as a sled, some parts shiny, some opaque. Colored wires twist and run to other odd-shaped devices that whir and jerk.
Crik hides his club on the ledge beyond the perimeter wall.
Dr. Ultra glances at Yuri. "Neither of these two has indicated any interest in social evolution, never mind founding an entirely new way of viewing the world."
Under his beret and bushy eyebrows, Yuri shrugs. "Destinon said to check out this moment."
~ * ~
The two bellhops enter the hotel's darkened conference hall. It's packed like a tent revival on the eve of the Second Coming. Of course. Who hates money?
Strains of Wagner's majestic movements accompany the big-screen video of unabashed luxury: Acres of vineyards remind Crik of the south of France where he'd backpacked one summer. A sleek car barely looking street-legal swerves through hills.
"Tesla Roadster," Crik whispers to Randy. "0 to 60 in 3.7."
On the screen, a limousine grand enough for comfortably hosting small celebrations sits in the driveway of a mansion with the long lines of Frank Lloyd Wright draped over a seaside cliff. Inside, fashion models adorned with jewelry befriend vain hosts sipping champagne. Famous paintings hang on the walls.
Crik leans over to his pal. "I've a print of that Van Gogh."
"With his autograph?" Randy whispers.
Crik frowns. "Ethics teaches us virtue is its own reward."
Randy frowns. "Economics teaches that reward is its own virtue."
My reward would be to never get another bill, late notice, or harassing phone call.
A sharp-dressed salesman in a flawless Armani suit strides onstage. His shiny hair neatly styled, Julian Seizure keeps his posture erect and full-chested, as would a cocksure general before his troops. His blistering smile stretches his narrow-featured face.
Seizure fires his words forcefully and pounds the air with a fist, keeping time with his avarice. "Andrew Carnegie, a billionaire back when a dime bought you a complete breakfast, noted, and I quote: 'It takes hard work to amass a fortune in industry, but any fool can get rich in real estate.'"
Perking up, Randy whispers to Crik, "Did he say any fool?" His eyebrows bounce up and down.
The big screen shows slender beauties gliding in Olympic-size pools and robust businessmen driving golf balls a mile down the links. The pitchman exhales. "The old boy nailed it. Nothing else comes close to how much people pay over the course of their lives for a place to live. Directly or indirectly, a big part of everyone's spending goes to a lease or mortgage."
The sea of heads nod in assent. The speaker opens his hands in empathy. "Since all of us have been foolish at least once …"
Amid the sea of heads, only Randy bobs agreeably — until he sees nobody else owning up and slinks lower into his seat.
"Why are we not all very well off?" The instant-riches guru taps his skull. "Foresight." Seizure stares down his audience. "It's not speculation when you see what's coming."
Crik snorts. Too good to be true. "Why can't telling the unvarnished truth work to sell?"
"I believe!" Randy says.
"Time to go, bro." Crik tugs his friend's sleeve. "I've a better idea. You think Seizure plays golf?"
Jeffery J. Smith’s credits are in nonfiction, being published in both the popular and academic press on “geonomics” (ecological economics). Before switching to fiction, he edited the news site, the Progress Report and contributed regularly to TruthOut. His newsletter, The Geonomist, won a California Greenlight Award. He taught both English and composition and was a graduate scholar in linguistics. An inventor of games and engines, he lives on the West Coast and winters in Latin America, listening to tall tales.