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Title: HALF MOON LAKE
Author: Steve Brock
Publisher: Steve Brock
Pages: 187
Genre: Suspense / Conspiracy

BOOK BLURB:

Crease Williams lived a charmed life with a bright future. Only in his junior year at Texas Christian University, his skills as a wide receiver had already captured the attention of NFL scouts.

Then a tragedy cost him his family and his desire to play football. Personally devastated, he left his old life behind and got as far from Ft. Worth, TX, and football as he could get.

Keeping mostly to himself, he became a float-plane pilot in the far north of Minnesota. Flying fisherman and hunters into remote locations was how he spent his time. When a group he had flown to Roudy’s Cabin goes missing, he faces accusations and more turmoil than he could have ever imagined. To make matters worse, his quiet existence is upturned by an element from his past bent on vengeance.

Half Moon Lake is Steve Brock’s first novel. A suspenseful mystery written with likable characters and a lighthearted flavor.

Book Information

Release Date: March 30, 2022

Publisher:  Steve Brock

Soft Cover: ISBN: 978-0578391977; 187 pages; $9.99; Kindle Unlimited FREE

Amazon: https://amzn.to/3knaPfd

Chapter One

What would it be today? Indigo, purple, or maybe some shade of green? It was something he had grown to appreciate, even anticipate during the last few years. Depending on the season and the hour of the day, the color of the water in Half Moon Lake changed. Ripples on the surface glistened and danced in the sunlight as he approached from the east. Billowy cotton-ball clouds floated high against the evening sky. Pine trees, majestic and tall, surrounded the lake. They seemed to stretch to touch the belly of the plane.

He lingered one last moment to admire the vista, but eventually keyed the mic.

“TC8750 to Half Moon Flight Service.”

The familiar voice of Rose Larson broke a few seconds of static. “This is Half Moon. Is that you, Crease Williams? I hope this is an obscene radio call.” No one ever accused Rose of ridged formality.

“I’m afraid it’s all business today, Rose. I’m here to pick up the floatplane to fly a load of supplies up to that group of fishermen at Roudy’s Cabin.”

“Fishermen? Do you mean those four CEO types who were through here last week? I saw the list of supplies they ordered. I don’t know about the fishing, but it appears the beer drinking is going pretty well up there. The runway’s clear, Crease.”

To call what serves to land small airplanes a runway was generous. A strip along the side of the lake a quarter mile long and maybe one hundred feet wide, it was a grass field dozed free of trees and rolled to flatten some humps. Crease coaxed his little Cessna to the north, taking a wide loop to a course parallel with the landing strip.

Just as he was straightening his heading, pointing the nose toward the windsock that stood just past the end of the landing field, his life changed. At once there was deafening silence and a violent lurch downward. The engine had stopped, and he thought he must have dropped at least five hundred feet. A quick glance at the altimeter said no, but his testicles said yes.

A dozen thoughts fought for attention in his mind. He filtered through the “whys” and concentrated on the one thought that mattered: How do I land a plane without power? He knew it could be done. The space shuttle always lands without power, he thought to himself. Sure, that’s right. Of course, an astronaut pilots the shuttle, not a washed-out wide receiver with a few hundred hours of flight time. Still, he believed he could do it, and it wasn’t like he had a lot of options.

Just as he had convinced himself, the plane jerked forward as the engine started running again. It appeared that his heading was fairly correct, and the desire to touch the ground overwhelmed the urge to swing the plane around to line up perfectly. He eased it down and, with a bit of a hop, came into contact with the grass. He taxied forward, slowing, and came to a stop at the end of the landing area. He sat motionless until his mind and his gonads agreed he was on the ground.

Crease climbed the three steps to the single door that opened into the small reception area that was also the Half Moon radio room. As he walked through the door, an office chair swung around and a well-nourished fortysomething lady sporting a bouffant hairstyle stood. With a big toothy grin, Rose said, “There you are, you big linebacker. Come here and give me a hug.”

“Just try and stop me,” he said as he met her in front of the desk. As they embraced he said, “You know I was never a linebacker. In fact, I tried to avoid them as much as possible.”

“Hell, Crease, all football players are linebackers to me. What have you been up to? I haven’t seen you in a coon’s age.”

“I’ve been down in Texas doing some maintenance on the home place. Which reminds me, I think I might have something for you here in my duffel bag.” He didn’t know everything about Rose. She was divorced twice that he knew of, and scuttlebutt was that at least one settlement was enough to set her up for life. He got the feeling the only reason she helped out around the field was because she was lonely. He liked her. The truth was, he was closer to Rose than anyone since the accident. “While I was home, I picked up a little something for you.” He reached into his bag and produced a two-pound box of Pangburn’s Millionaires.

Her smile increased as he handed her the box. “Are you trying to wreck my perfect figure?”

“God, no. It looks to me like you’re down a few pounds. I don’t want you to dry up and blow away.”

“You’re just oozing that old Southern charm, darlin’. How is it no one has claimed you yet?”

“I guess the bad outweighs the good. I’m not much for long-term relationships. How have you been?”

“I’m still walking upright so I can’t complain.” Rose returned to her chair, clutching the box of chocolate turtles.

Since he had moved up north, Rose was as close to a friend as he had. After losing his family and discovering he had no future, he determined he would maintain a certain distance from people. He had become a loner, and it suited him now. Rose was almost an exception.

He rested his hands on the counter. “Is Ol’ Pete around?”

“He’s here someplace. Walk through the showroom to the garage, and you’ll find him.”

With genuine concern, he asked, “Are you okay? Seriously, you look tired.”

“It’s nothing. I’ve not been sleeping well lately.”

“I’m planning to be around for a while, so I’m gonna keep an eye on you.”

“That just makes my day. Would you like for me to page Pete for you?”

“Nah, I’ll head back to the garage as you said. I’ll come across him.”

“You know you’re not exactly his favorite person, right?”

“Yeah, I remember. I’m not sure what I ever did to make him dislike me so much.”

“You know what you did.”

Crease did know. It wasn’t like he destroyed an aircraft. It could have happened to anyone learning to land a floatplane. Anybody with limited experience could bring a plane down a bit too hard. Yes, the hard landing on the water ruptured a float, and yes, the fuselage took on a lot of water, and yes, they had to use a come-along to drag the plane into shore. The bottom line was that the plane got repaired, and he had paid for it, every cent. That should be enough for any reasonable person, but Ol’ Pete wasn’t altogether reasonable. He had an unnatural attachment to his floatplanes. Three years later now, and Pete still hadn’t forgiven him for that little faux pas.

He had apologized, and he had learned his lesson, but that had little impact on Ol’ Pete. Pete had grown up around airplanes. His dad flew them, repaired them, and even created them. He had taught Pete everything there was to know about single-engine aircraft: what made them fly, and what made them crash. If there was anyone in the world who could make a bowling ball fly, it was Pete. By the same token, if anybody could explain why an almost new Cessna TTX, well maintained and treated with care, would suddenly decide to shut down on approach, that, too, would be Pete.

Following Rose’s direction, he began walking through the warehouse, toward the garage. The warehouse was a local wonder. Around here, if you wanted to do some shopping in a national chain big box store, you were in for a big disappointment. The closest Walmart was over one hundred miles away. The closest thing to that was the warehouse of the Half Moon Airfield and Wilderness Outfitters. Not that it compared to a big box store in ambiance. There was no nicely tiled floor or rows of pristine shelves stacked with goods. The “Outfitters,” as it was locally known, was a large open building with a bare concrete floor stacked with pallets. It was filled with anything useful in camping, fishing, hunting, or any other outdoor activity. Beyond the warehouse and to the right stood the door to the garage. He cringed a little as he rounded the corner.

He hated to ask Pete for anything. Every conversation they had since the “incident” always began the same way. Ol’ Pete sat behind an old metal office desk stained and dented by years of use and abuse. His feet were propped up as he leaned back in his rickety old wooden chair. On his head was the only hat he’d ever seen Pete wear. Ragged and stained with years of head sweat, it was adorned with hooks and fishing lures all around. Sure as spring rain, as if reading from a script, Pete said, “Well, well, if it ain’t the local football star. Sink any floatplanes lately?” He always followed that statement with a snicker. That was what Crease hated the most, the snicker.

Over the last couple of years, he had learned to take a beat before continuing the conversation. Deep down, Crease knew Ol’ Pete didn’t really hate him. Pete wasn’t that kind of person. Pete loved his planes like family, and his harassment at the start of every encounter was Ol’ Pete’s way of reminding Crease that the “incident” was not forgotten.

The truth was that Pete liked Crease a lot, despite the “incident.” Crease had become one of the better pilots he knew. He realized Crease had some rough times in his past and he respected him for coming through it and creating a new life for himself. He figured he would stop harassing Crease about the “incident” soon. Just not today.

After a brief, pregnant pause, Crease answered the sarcastic question with a humble response, “No,” he said with a weak smile, “I’ve learned my lesson.”

“Glad to hear it. So what brings you to our little neck of the woods?”

“I flew in to pick up a load of supplies for the campers up at Roudy’s Cabin.”

“Surely you didn’t come to see me about a beer run.”

“I did not. When I was making my approach today, I had problems with the Cessna.”

“What kind of problem?”

“It just stopped running. That’s an issue I haven’t seen before. There was no warning. One second it was running just fine, and the next second it just quit. Have you ever seen anything like that before?”

Ol’ Pete took a drag from the cheap cigar he was smoking, then took it out of his mouth and said, “Can’t say that I have, not without some symptoms first. Even then, engines don’t just stop completely. Did you put gas in it?”

Crease wasn’t sure if that was supposed to be funny or not, so he didn’t answer the question directly. “I checked everything before I took off this morning.”

“Did you land it without power?”

“No, that’s another odd thing. It started up again all on its own a few seconds later.”

“That’s odd all right, and kinda hard to believe.”

That comment did not surprise Crease. He had a hard time believing it himself. “Would you have time to look at it while I’m making my run?”

Ol’ Pete drew another long puff on his cigar, laid it down on the ashtray and finally replied, “Yeah, I’ll give it a once-over.”

“I appreciate that, Pete. Do you want me to bring it up here to the garage?”

“Nah, leave it where it is. I may take it up for a little cruise around the lake.”

“Thanks, Pete, I’ll check in with you when I get back.”

Crease headed back into the warehouse area and told one of the warehouse guys, Little Al, he was called, what he was there for. In about fifteen minutes, he was looking at a small pallet stacked with the supplies he was to deliver to Roudy’s Cabin. Mostly food items, including steaks, lobster, Crown Royal, and imported beer among assorted other items. The people who rented Roudy’s Cabin were not known for living on the cheap.

After he had confirmed everything was there, Al got an electric pallet lift and took the supplies out to the dock. Crease stopped by the office, got the keys to one of the floatplanes, and led his helper to load it. He did his preflight check and climbed into the pilot’s seat.

Taking off in a floatplane gives you a different feeling than taking off from a runway. The spray picked up by the prop and the gentle bobbing up and down in the water make you feel like you are driving a boat. Then, as you gain speed and the floats began to lift out of the water, you become a pilot again. It is a unique feeling that most people, even pilots, never experience. It was something Crease had come to appreciate.

The wings of a floatplane are set farther off the ground than land-based planes like his Cessna TTX. That gives them the ability to climb more steeply and turn sharper, attributes that are necessary when taking off from the surface of a small lake and clearing the surrounding trees. It was only a thirty-minute flight to Roudy’s Cabin. He could make the entire trip at one thousand feet if he wanted to. From that altitude, he could sometimes see herds of deer or elk in the openings in the tree line.

The job paid well, but that wasn’t why he chose it. He chose this life because his old one had died, and this was as far away from being a Texas football player as anything he could think of. That and it gave him a sense of freedom that he’d never had before, and freedom was something he needed very badly right now.

The sun still hung high in the sky as he approached Roudy’s Cabin. He brought the plane down, and gently, ever so gently, touched the floats down on the surface of the lake. He pulled it over and nudged the frame up against the dock.

Floatplanes aren’t particularly loud, as planes go, but out here in the wilderness where the closest automobile is over fifty miles away, it normally gets people’s attention. Usually, someone comes down and helps anchor the plane to the dock. He could do it and had occasionally, but it was unusual.

He walked up to the utility shed positioned not far from the end of the dock. He retrieved the ATV from within, hooked up the small trailer, and drove it down to the plane. He off-loaded all the supplies onto the trailer, climbed aboard the ATV, and headed toward the cabin.

Despite the image conjured by the name, Roudy’s Cabin was neither rowdy nor a cabin. The style of the structure could best be described as “rustic elegance.” Sitting just fifty yards from the water’s edge, the cabin was a well-appointed, 5,500-square-foot structure with five bedrooms, four baths, two fireplaces, and a game room complete with a billiard table and wet bar. The kitchen, with a full complement of professional-grade appliances, was the envy of every chef who saw it. The whole building was surrounded by a twelve-foot covered porch furnished with chaise lounges, rockers, a built-in grilling station, and a whirlpool tub. It was definitely constructed for leisure living.

The forest had been cleared all around the cabin, stumps removed, and a nice stand of grass nurtured to grow. Most people who stayed in the cabin probably never adventured beyond its lawn. The exception was those who wanted to hunt moose or elk. There were several places much better for that, however, so die-hard hunters rarely stayed here. Most people who used the cabin wanted to get out of the city and “get back to nature,” at least as long as nature came with five-star accommodations.

It was for that reason that it was unusual for Crease not to be met at the dock upon arrival. He thought perhaps they were grilling out back of the cabin, and since the back entrance led into the kitchen, where most of the supplies should go, he slowly drove around the cabin to the grilling station.

Finding no one, he shut off the ATV and just listened for a moment. He thought perhaps he would hear music or the TV from inside the house, but there was nothing but the sounds of nature around him. He picked out a couple of bags of frozen items and headed to the double doors. The doors were unlocked, but there was nothing unusual about that.

Out here, the visitors who showed up in the middle of the night would not turn the doorknob. Other than the residents of the cabin, there were probably no other human beings within twenty square miles. There were plenty of other creatures milling around in the dark. Raccoons, possums, skunks, foxes, and rabbits were always looking for any food scraps that might be left out. Those critters, as Rose called them, could be a bit of a nuisance, but not dangerous.

There were dangers in the north woods, but nothing was likely to break through the door. The most obvious concern, if you asked people, would be bears and wolves. Certainly, both species were present in the woods around the cabin, but black bears were shy around humans, and grizzlies didn’t inhabit the area. A pack of wolves could certainly ruin your day, but only if you presented yourself as a weak or wounded target.

What surprised most people was learning that the most dangerous animals in the area were elk and moose. Not that either is aggressive by nature, but many people who have never seen them don’t respect their space. The problem comes when people approach elk expecting Rudolph, but what they find are charging, pointed antlers propelled by a bristled, snorting, seven hundred pounds of pissed-off.

Crease walked through the door into the kitchen. He deposited the frozen items in the large freezer. He went about unloading the rest of the supplies, being intentionally loud, hoping to draw attention to his presence. With the last bag delivered, he stood silently for a moment. The beautiful house felt more like a derelict, abandoned mansion. It was creepy-silent.

He decided to do a walk-through to make sure no one was around. Walking room to room he found the same, a house that could have been a college dormitory, in desperate need of a maid. There was no question guys had been living here, but they weren’t here now. In one of the bedrooms, he found a journal. Someone’s musing about daily happenings. He knew it was personal, and he hated to read it, but maybe if he just peeked a little, he might discover what they’d been doing.

He decided to start with the previous day and only go as far as necessary to find a clue. He didn’t have to read any further. There was an entry that said the group had been doing some hiking through the woods, and yesterday they came across something interesting. All it said was it was they wanted to explore it further, but the daylight was fading so they came back to the cabin. They thought they might go back to continue tomorrow.

Crease gladly closed the book, he felt like he was a peeping tom as it was. They were probably traipsing through the woods at this very moment. The creepy feeling kind of went away as he made his way out of the cabin and back to the ATV. He drove back down to the dock, put the ATV back in the shed, and climbed into the plane. Looking at that journal made him feel better, but he would keep it to himself.

About The Author

SB

I’ve been an author in search of a novel for just about forty years now. Writing was the first thing I ever wanted to do seriously. Over the years I’ve done quite a variety of things. My first real job, the kind where you have a schedule and get paid hourly, was as a cook at the local Sonic Drive-In. I’ve been a machinist, a forklift driver, a production worker, a computer programmer, an IT guy, an installation manager, a software trainer, and an education department manager. Those are just the employment highlights. Through it all, I was a husband and father, and I attended college at night to get my bachelor’s degree in technology management.

Before all that started, I wanted to be a writer. It just didn’t work out that way. Maybe that’s ok, I’ve had a good life and I have a wonderful family that I am proud to have. I don’t regret any of what I’ve done to support my family over the years. The desire to write has persisted, however, and I took a look at my odometer one day and it read 61 years old. None of us know how high our personal odometer will go, but I knew if I was ever going to be a writer, now was the time.

I’m bringing my lifetime of experience to my novel writing. Many of my characters are loosely based upon people I’ve known in real life. Some of my plot elements are also influenced by real-life experiences as well. As of this writing, my first novel, Half Moon Lake, will be published on Amazon in a few weeks. I have begun work on my second book as well. I hope you will take time to register your email address so I may keep you apprised of announcements and special offers. I’d be thrilled to count you as one of my first dedicated readers.

Steve Brock’s latest novel is Half Moon Lake.

You can visit his website at www.BrockNovels.com or connect with him at Twitter.

 







Title: Almost an Army Cadet, Always a Forester
Author: K C Linggi and Laing Imang
Publisher: Partridge Singapore
Genre: Autobiography/Biography General
Format: Ebook
The book is about the trials and tribulations of Laing as a forest surveyor and partly as a community officer dealing with local forest people. In his works, he encountered the Penans and related some anecdotes of Penans and white men. He talked about the dialogue with Kayan, Kenyah and Penan; Long Moh Agreement which excluded the Penans. He was involved with Baram Operation Master Plan and witnessed subsequent blockades by Penans against logging. Penan blockades at Layun, “Blockade Satan” and Sebatu brought fame to environmental activitists like Bruno Manser, Harrison Ngau and Anderson Mutang. He oversaw heli-logging, ISO9001 documentation and sustainable forest management certification. He was able to share his experience and knowledge with interns and under-graduates who chose forestry as a career. His more than two decades of working in the forest has enhanced his appreciation of nature conservation and cordial engagement with Penans.


PURCHASE HERE
K C Linggi is a professional forestry graduate from Universiti Pertanian Malaysia. He was project manager for Bridge & Infrastructure Unit. Laing Imang is a trained forest surveyor in the Survey and Engineering Unit. Both worked in the same timber company for almost two decades and shared many trials and tribulations together.


K C Linggi and Laing Imang are GIVING AWAY A $25 GIFT CARD!

  
Terms & Conditions:
  • By entering the giveaway, you are confirming you are at least 18 years old.
  • One winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter to receive one $25 Gift Certificate to the e-retailer of your choice
  • This giveaway begins May 16 and ends on May 27.
  • Winners will be contacted via email on May 28.
  • Winner has 48 hours to reply.
Good luck everyone! 

ENTER TO WIN!a Rafflecopter giveaway https://widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.js https://widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.js


Title: UNORGANIZED CRIME
Author: Judy Serrano
Publisher: 6K Publishing
Pages: 220
Genre: Romantic Suspense

 As Jazz finds herself falling from a helicopter, Gage St. Claire comes to her rescue. Organized crime is once again the culprit of her parents’ situation, and as usual, she is caught in the crossfire. Gage pulls her out of the water and helps her escape to safety. The love between them is undiscovered as he tries to leave her behind in an attempt to keep her safe and move forward with his black ops pursuit. Jazz becomes an undercover cop with wiping out organized crime forever as her goal. After Jazz exposes one of the largest crime families in the country, quite by accident, she is hired to expose crime syndicate leader Michael Giambetti Jr., otherwise known as Achilles. Achilles earned his nickname because he has no weaknesses. He has no weaknesses, that is until he meets Jazz. Achilles has been untouchable, and if she were to break this case, she could finally prove herself as a serious undercover officer. Her job is not an easy one, and people around her are not who they appear to be. Will Gage come back for Jazz, or will he be lost to her forever? Will she crack the case on her own? Read as this courageous upstart stumbles through another adventure.

Book Information

Release Date: July 7, 2020

Publisher: 6K Publishing

Soft Cover: ISBN: 979-8655914537; 220 pages; $10.99; E-Book, $2.99

Amazon: https://amzn.to/3Bq8uru  


Chapter 1

            The doors flew open, and the room filled quietly with black shirts marked “FBI” looking almost like smoke blackening my vision. Some were wearing black ski-masks to conceal their identity. Those would be the undercover agents. Somehow it made the whole situation a bit more disconcerting. “Hands up!” the voices shouted, as more FBI officers appeared, shoving several bystanders up against the walls. “Everyone down on the floor!” was shouted to those who had not yet surrendered. People were running for cover, jumping out windows, screams of desperation were heard all over the building, as FBI climbed the stairs and handcuffed anyone and everyone who crossed their paths. One of the masked agents approached me and grabbed my hands, handcuffing them behind my back, hard.

            “Ouch!” I shouted as he pulled the cuffs around my wrists. “You know who I am, right?” I asked.

            “Yes, Miss Burns, painfully aware.” He squeezed the cuffs tighter.

            “And I am painfully aware that you are cuffing me. Lay off, will you?”

            “Right now, you’re just a whore, Miss Burns, just like the rest of them.”

I turned around to sneer at him. I was pissed. It took me almost a year to bust this establishment wide open. He had to pretend to arrest me so that my cover wouldn’t be exposed, but he didn’t have to be so rough. He was tall and muscular. As a matter of fact, he was so well-built that I could see the muscles in his arms through his shirt. Because my hands were restrained behind my back, I was unable to wipe the drool from my mouth. Okay, not really, but he was looking pretty good from where I was standing, even if my point of view may have been obstructed by the activity in the room. He pulled off his mask so that I could see who he was. Now, it all made sense. He had dark brown eyes, black hair, and a small mustache just around his nose and mouth.  Even though he towered over me, the temptation to kick him in the shin was overwhelming. So, I succumbed.

            “Ouch!” he shouted, letting go of me and grabbing the shin I just injured.

            “Just trying to keep it real, Special Agent, sir.” He grabbed me by my cuffs and dragged me out the door, backward. I knew he was ticked. He wanted in on this case for months, but I was so close that I didn’t want him messing it up for me. I was about half the way in when they discovered the madam of this fine establishment was connected to organized crime. I was personally responsible for bringing down one of the largest crime families in Las Vegas. It was totally accidental. The only thing they ever let me do was bust whorehouses and puppy mills. This was the first time I’d seen the FBI get involved. It was exciting and intrusive all at the same time.

            He turned me around so that I was facing the squad car, put his hand on the top of my head, and pushed me inside. Needless to say, the ride to the station was a tense one. We said nothing to each other the whole way there. When we finally arrived, he opened my door and dragged me out, pulling me by my elbow into the captain’s office. “Cut it out!” I shouted moving to kick him again, but he managed to avoid me this time. “Un-cuff me, Special Agent … what’s your name?”

            “It’s Alex, and I’m getting to it.”

            “Come on, Alex, don’t be a sore loser,” the captain offered. Alex finally removed my cuffs. I rubbed my wrists and showed the marks left by the cuffs to my captain. “Was that really necessary?” he asked him.

            “She kicked me,” he answered.

Luke laughed. That was my captain’s name. “I’m sure it wasn’t unwarranted.”

“Look,” I said, “I’m sick and tired of these low budget cases. I want something bigger. I want to break something open that makes it worth dressing like this.” I pulled off one of my red, high-heeled shoes and showed it to him.

“Please, Burns, sit,” Luke suggested, motioning to the chair. I put my shoe back on and gave him my best wounded-expression before complying with his request. Just then, Hector walked in with another man. Ah, Hector Montiago. He was quite the firecracker in his day. Even now, he could melt an ice cream cone with just his smile, leaving you glad that your hands were warm and sticky. He had blond hair, blue eyes, was tall and well built, but that’s not the best thing about Hector. Hector was Mexican with a thick Spanish accent with surprisingly light skin. If he didn’t have that accent, you would never know that his family was connected to the Mexican Mafia. That’s right, I said it. He was well connected. Oh, and one more minor detail. He was a highly respected FBI operative. I know, crazy, right?

“Jazz,” he said, smiling. I stood up and hugged him. “Gosh, Jazz, I’m so proud of you. You busted the Russo family business wide open. Good job.” Then he touched my hair, which was an auburn color for this particular job. My natural hair color was blond. I was also wearing brown contacts to cover my blue eyes. I could tell he wasn’t impressed. “We’re going back to blond tomorrow, yes?” He smiled again, and the butterflies in my stomach became less than dormant.

“Yes, Hector, going back to normal tomorrow. And thanks, by the way. I’m kind of proud of myself.”

“You should be. Your parents would be proud.” I sneered, not as subtly as I had hoped.

“What are you doing here?” Alex asked him. Clearly, Hector made him a little uncomfortable. That was only to be expected. Hector had an interesting background story. Not only was he ridiculously yummy, but Hector was unique in his situation. As I mentioned before, Hector was well connected. He belonged to one of the biggest crime families in the United States and Mexico. The Montiagos were untouchable. Hector and his brother, Max, were FBI planted in their brother’s organization to try to take him down many years ago. To make a long story short, his brother, Max, is dead, and the family business is still up and running. That’s right- untouchable. Diego Montiago Jr., otherwise known as simply Junior, runs the organization now. It appears that the only person who can keep him in line is his uncle Hector. Hector does a rather dangerous balancing act on the delicate line between right and wrong and we sort of, “look the other way,” in return for Hector’s very unique skills and insight.

Hector looked over at me and patted Alex on the back. “I understand you’ve already met Alex.”

“Yes, I’ve had the pleasure.” Alex winked at Hector, which I did not appreciate.

“Would you mind excusing us, Burns? We have business to discuss,” Hector said.

“I want in,” I told him. “If you’re here, it must be big. Let me in.”

“Jazz, this is out of your league. I’m not sure you’re … well … that you’re right for this.” No matter how old I got, no matter what successes have headed my way, to Hector I was still a little girl. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get past that image of me that he must have had in his mind.

“I can do it, Hector. What is it?”

He laughed a little, smirking at me. “You’ve probably never even had to pull your gun.”

I pulled it out of the back of my waistband and pointed it at him. “How’s this?”

“Oh, little girl, if I had a dime for every woman who pulled a gun on me. Put it away, and play nice.” He put his hand on the barrel of my gun and pushed it so that it was facing the floor. He and all the other men in the room let out some quiet laughter at my expense. I could feel my face flush, much to my own disgust. He was quite the bad boy in his day. Never slept alone. Never had to. “You wouldn’t be working with me,” he continued. “I’m just here to let go of the information I have acquired personally from my own experience. You’d be working with them.” He motioned to the man he came in with and Alex. “This is Jacob.” Jacob walked closer to me and shook my hand. “He is the Lieutenant in charge of the case. I’m too close to this,” he continued. “I need to plant a woman. I was going to use McCall. She’s been around the block a few times and…”

“Hector, I can do this. Who’s the mark? Give me a chance.”

He sighed. “It’s the Giambetti family. Michael Giambetti Jr., to be specific.”

My heart started pounding. It was crashing against my chest so hard that I was afraid they would hear it if I didn’t get ahold of myself. I could feel my face flush again, as I began to understand why he was afraid to put me inside. Michael Giambetti Jr. was the biggest competition for the Montiago family. He also had a reputation for being quite the playboy. They called him Achilles. Just like Junior Montiago was famous for having no remorse, Michael Giambetti Jr. was famous for having no weaknesses. Trying to find his so-called “heel” has been a fruitless venture. No one has found anything or anyone that has meant enough to him to control his behavior. So consequently, that’s what he was known as by his peers. Achilles.

“Michael Giambetti?”

“The father’s deceased. Michael Giambetti Sr. used to be involved with…” Hector paused and looked like he might be a little embarrassed. “There was a woman. Never mind, it’s not important. Let’s just say we have too much history. That’s why Jacob will be your contact. I will bow out after this conversation.” Hector smiled for a second as though he was thinking about something naughty. “Besides, the whole Achilles, Hector thing just weirds me out.” We all laughed, thinking about the old myth where Achilles actually kills Hector. I guess that could be a prophecy that one would not want to explore. “Alex has been Michael’s right-hand man for two years, and we’re no closer to busting him now then we were back then.”

“So, his incompetence is causing you to call in the big dogs,” I added.

I am pretty sure that was steam now coming out of Alex’s ears. “I’m not incompetent. He’s very clever. He owns a few nightclubs and restaurants and only discusses his sleazy little business with his brother and sister. So, we are going to have to plant a woman.”

“You want me to sleep with him?”

“God, no,” Hector answered. “You and your long blond hair and curvy body will certainly catch his attention. You will be blond again, I’m assuming.”

“Yes, yes, would you cut it out.”

He looked at me like I was nothing more than a mild form of entertainment for him as he continued, already set on leaving me out of this. “The plan is to set it up so that the woman and Alex hook up at a bar. You would flash your baby-blues; Alex pretends to take you home and BAM! You’re in.”

“Ewe…”

“The thought doesn’t do much for me either,” Alex added. “McCall is the better choice.”

“I dunno,” Luke interrupted. “Jazz possesses a sort of innocence that McCall doesn’t have. This may intrigue Achilles, and he may decide to try to get close to her. This might work.”

 “No,” Hector added. “I’m with Alex. McCall it is.”

“Hector, I am not a little girl anymore. I am a grown woman. I can do this.”

“Methinks the lady doth protest too much,” Hector says, quoting Shakespeare of all people, obviously still entertained by my persistence.

“I just burned the Russo’s organization to the ground,” I reminded them.

“Quite accidentally,” Luke added.

“Fine,” I said. “Ask McCall.”

I got up and walked away. My pride was injured, and I was sick and tired of all these weak assignments. So, I went home like a good little girl to lick my wounds.

***

When morning came, I was rudely awakened by my doorbell. I was only wearing an undershirt and a pair of short-shorts and clearly, I wasn’t thinking straight at the time, or I would’ve covered up. I grabbed my gun and walked to the front door. I carefully peeked through the peephole. It was Hector, Jacob, and Alex. This couldn’t be good.

            I pulled open the door, and Alex greeted me with a, “Good morning, sunshine.” He pushed his way through the door and sat down presumptuously on my easy chair. A little too comfortably if you asked me. “Thanks for the outfit,” he continued, looking me up and down like I was some kind of poster girl. “I think you just cheered me up considerably.”

            “Shut up, Alex. It’s not like I invited you here.” I noticed the worry in Hector’s face, which sobered me up a bit. “What’s going on? What are you all doing here?”

            “We need to talk,” Hector answered. He and Jacob walked in and made themselves comfortable on my couch. “Jazz, please … sit.”

            Hector motioned for me to sit beside him. He took my hands when I did. “You’re scaring me, Hector. What’s going on?”

            “McCall tried to get inside last night after we saw you.”

            “And…” My voice cracked. I was pretty sure what they were going to say.

            “Her plan was for her to hook up with Achilles directly. She didn’t want to go through Alex. She thought she was better than that.”

            “He killed her, Jazz,” Alex interrupted, “and if you don’t want to do this, we understand completely.”

            I swallowed hard. “Tell me what happened.”

            “First of all,” Hector started, “she didn’t follow directions. She went to him, climbed all over him, and went home with him. He was suspicious from the get-go. Maybe he was tipped off … we’re not sure. This is very risky. We know you’re engaged. Why don’t you take some time to talk to Sean. See what he says. We’ll give it a few days. Let things cool down a little. Then you decide.” I nodded, unable to speak. “The plan is pretty simple. You will go home with Alex. When you get there, just bounce around a little on the bed, make some noises and … you know … make it sound believable.” I think I threw up a little inside my mouth. “You’ll have to tell your fiancée that you can’t see him for a while. You will have to appear to be exclusive with Alex. Do you think he can handle that?”

            “In public, you mean, right?”

            “Someone like Achilles will have you checked out and watched the moment you step foot inside his house. So, no booty calls for a while. Fortunately, since you are an undercover cop, he won’t be able to find any real details about you.” Hector sat there, tapping his foot, staring at me, waiting for an answer.

            “I’ll talk to him,” I answered. “No problem.” I was lying of course. There was no way Sean was going to go for this.

            “Listen,” he continued, “under no circumstances are you to sleep with Giambetti.” I looked at him, quite startled. “My brother, Max, sacrificed his integrity all for the glory of the case.”

            “Hector, I…”

            “He’s very dead now. Understand?”

            “Yes, sir, I understand.”

            “Think it over. Give Luke your answer in the morning.”

            They all left except for Alex, who was still invasively sitting in my easy chair. “Give us a minute, will you please?” Alex said, waiting for them to go. They nodded as they vacated, and he stayed behind. He got up and stood next to me at the door putting his hands on my shoulders. “I won’t think you’re weak if you don’t want to do this. He made McCall right away. He may figure you out too. I’m willing to let this one go. There will be another case.”

            “Where did she meet him?”

            “She didn’t wait for me. She went to one of his nightclubs and hit on him. You would go to a place called Troy’s. It’s the downtown mob hangout. You’d wait for me. I’ll hit on you. You come home with me. I live in the Giambetti estate.”

            “Troy’s? How … uncomfortably fitting.”

“Don’t think the irony isn’t lost on me.”

“I’ll do it, Alex.”

            “Think about it.”

            “I’ll do it. I’ll go see Luke in the morning for my instructions.”

            He looked at me and sighed realizing he was losing this battle. “There will be other cases.”

            “Not for me,” I told him. “I’ll see you tomorrow, Lieutenant.”

            “That’s Special Agent Hawkins, to you, young lady.” I smiled. He put his finger under my chin and looked me in the eyes like the sun losing its desire for fire. “God, I hope I don’t regret this.”

***

            I didn’t talk to Sean. As a matter of fact, I didn’t even wait till the morning. I ran down to the station and staked my claim on this job. I was pretty sure Luke would still be there, blaming himself for all that had happened to McCall. It appeared that he had been up all night. His eyes were bloodshot, and he looked quite shaken. Luke reluctantly handed me a piece of paper with my instructions, and after what felt like several hours of him trying to talk me out of this assignment, I went home to get ready. I was feeling a little shaken myself. Was I crazy to take this on?

 My first instructions were to find a beauty salon and get my hair color changed. Apparently, Alex likes blonds, and it had to look authentic. Somehow that little fact didn’t surprise me even a little.

When morning arrived, I headed out to the hairdresser. She turned me back into myself, so to speak, straightened my hair, and sent me on my way. I put on a short red dress, high heels, and extra makeup. Sticking my double D’s into that tight red dress was no easy feat, I might add, but certainly worth it once the task was done. My eyes were bluer than blue with my black eyeliner making its statement. As darkness began to cloak the city, I called a cab and headed for Troy’s. The cab driver asked me twice if I was sure I wanted to go there. I assured him that I knew what I was doing. The truth was that I really had no idea.

            When I walked inside, all eyes were on me. Not that I could blame them. I was stunning. I walked over to the bar and got the bartender’s immediate attention. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen you in here before,” he stared. “I’m sure I would remember eyes as blue as yours.” As if he was looking at my eyes. I smiled, trying to stay in character. He passed me a quick wink and then checked me out quite obviously. The temptation to remind him where my eyes really were was overwhelming. “What can I get you, pretty lady?”

            “Scotch on the rocks, please.” He raised an eyebrow at me, which made me think I should have ordered something foofier like a white wine or a strawberry daiquiri. He handed it to me, and I sipped it. Alex was supposed to show up with Achilles at 9 and it was 8:55. A man sat down next to me and put his hand on my bottom. To say I was surprised was an understatement.

            “How much, baby?”

            I put my drink down and looked at him. “How much what?”

            “How much for a little piece of this?” He squeezed my bottom. No, I’m not kidding. Then it dawned on me. Oh my gosh … he thinks I’m a hooker. Of course, he does … jeez.

            “I’m not for sale, so if you wouldn’t mind, you can remove your hand now.”

            “Come on, sweetheart, I’ve got lots of cash.” He showed me a roll of bills with his other hand and began to work his hand under my skirt.

            “I told you, I am not a prostitute. Remove your hand.” I reached to move his grip from my very inappropriate area, but he was too strong, and I began to realize that I may have to blow my cover to get him off of me.

            He put his face in my neck and whispered something that a lady would never repeat, so I won’t. At that point, I reached over to where I had sat my drink and threw it in his face. I could see Alex and who must have been Achilles come through the door. They made a beeline for me. The man jumped up and grabbed me, roughly by the arm, unsteadying me as I fell off of the barstool, standing off balance on my heels. “You bitch!”

            “Let her go, Jimmy,” a voice said from behind. I turned and looked. It was Achilles. “She’s with me.”

            The man was visibly stunned and slightly traumatized. “I’m sorry, Mr. Giambetti,” he stuttered. “I thought … I had no idea … I’m really sorry, man … I…”

            “Apologize to the lady, and go home to your wife. You understand me, Jimmy?”

            I rolled my eyes. Of course, he was married. “I’m sorry, Miss, for mistakin’ you for a whore. Real sorry.” He ran off like a cockroach under a flashlight.

“Thank you,” I said to Achilles. Although that was the most ridiculous apology I have ever heard. I tried to steady my hands, but it was tough. I sat back down at the bar in a valiant effort to stop shaking. Alex attempted to come over to me by stepping past Achilles, but Achilles put his hand up to Alex’s chest and pushed him backward. “This one is mine.”

About the Author

Judy Serrano graduated from Texas A&M University-Commerce with a master’s degree in English. She is the owner of Make Cents Editing Services, is an English teacher at a local high school, and an adjunct professor at a local junior college. Judy writes romantic suspense, paranormal romance, and Mafia romance novels. She is the author of The Easter’s Lilly Series, The Linked Series, Ivy Vines Visions, and Unorganized Crime. Although originally from New York, she lives in Texas with her husband and near her four boys. In her spare time, Judy plays guitar and sings at her church, and dotes on her fur babies. 

You can visit her website at https://www.judyserrano.com/ or connect with her on Twitter and Facebook.

Title: ERABON PROPHECY TRILOGY
Author: Randy C. Dockens
Publisher: Carpenter’s Son Publishing
Genre: Christian Science Fiction

An exciting trilogy where an astronaut, nicknamed Nuke and working on an interstellar gate, is accidentally thrown so deep into the universe there is no way for him to get home. He does, however, find life on a nearby planet, one in which the citizens look very different from him.

Although tense at first, he finds these aliens think he is the forerunner to the return of their deity and has been charged with reuniting the clans living on six different planets. What is stranger to him still is that while everything seems so foreign from anything he has ever experienced, there is an element that also feels extremely familiar.

He has to gain the trust from each alien clan and demonstrate through various acts that he is the one they have been waiting for so each culture can fully accept him and follow him. But for the aliens to accept him as the prophet to their deity, Erabon, he has to first accept it and believe it himself.

Book Information

Release Dates: Book One: Myeem: 23-Dec-2020

Book Two: Sharab: 06-Apr-2021

Book Three: Qerach: 01-Oct-2021

Publisher: Carpenter’s Son Publishing 

Link to books on Amazon:

Book One: Myeem: Amazon.com: Myeem: Book One of the Erabon Prophecy Trilogy (Erabon Prophecy Trilogy, 1): 9781952025129: Randy C Dockens: Books

Book Two: Sharab: Sharab: Book Two of the Erabon Prophecy Trilogy (Erabon Prophecy Trilogy, 2): Dockens, Randy C: 9781952025136: Amazon.com: Books

Book Three: Qerach: Qerach: Book Three of the Erabon Prophecy Trilogy (Erabon Prophecy Trilogy, 3): Dockens, Randy C: 9781952025143: Amazon.com: Books

Chapter One

Triton

     “What’s wrong with me?” 

     Nuke waited the fifteen seconds it took for his message to transmit to earth and another fifteen for the answer to return. The wait was a pain, but this was better than no communication at all. Being at the corner of the solar system and circling Neptune, communicating with family on Earth—even if delayed—made life tolerable. 

     Nuke knew what his mom’s answer to his question would be. He smiled as she appeared onscreen. Everyone said he got his good looks from her. His father had more of a dark complexion and rough look to his face. Nuke could see he had his mother’s high cheekbones, olive-tan-colored complexion, and smile, which always displayed a slight mischievous look. He even inherited her slightly wavy hair. 

     In another few moments, he was listening to his mother’s reply: “Yohanan Chaikin, you know there is nothing wrong with you. You’re just unique, just like Yahushua.” 

     Nuke laughed to himself. That was always her answer to this question he had asked both of them many times. What    others saw in him as abnormal, she only saw as special. He stared out the window as he lay on his bunk and contemplated this. The rings of Neptune loomed across the horizon. 

     He focused on his mom. She refused to call him by his nickname, or even his transliterated name, John. If she did, then she would have to admit something was wrong with him. Well . . . at least different from everyone else. He almost didn’t make it into the Academy because of this difference. Thank goodness, the physician in charge at the time persisted to find the cause of his not being able to have an adequate body scan. The doctor found, and used, antiquated medical equipment to pronounce him healthy. 

     Nuke ran his right hand over his left arm. His skin felt normal but apparently wasn’t. Somehow, his skin emitted a low electric voltage that interfered with body scans and other medical equipment that relied on visual readings. Because his skin made the doctor’s equipment go haywire, his buddy, Michael, who entered the Academy with him, dubbed him “nuclear” and shortened that to the nickname Nuke. His friend told everyone in their unit and the name stuck. After a time he put this difference out of his mind . . . until he came here to Triton, one of the moons around Neptune. He then had to go through the same tests and explanations all over again. The medic here took him off duty until Nuke’s “antiquated test results,” as he put it, arrived from Earth. Now Nuke waited, confined to quarters.

     “Yohanan, is it really that important to you to be there?” His mother’s eyes watered. “We miss you.” 

     Nuke shook his head; he wasn’t sure his father missed him. They were always at odds. His father—his whole family, for that matter—was old school, still looking for Mashiach, the Messiah, to come. When he would pressure his father about  this issue, his father’s reply was always the same: It took four thousand years for Mashiach to come the first time. Why would we think he’s late if it takes another four thousand to return? Since the year was 3887, he could never argue that point with his father. 

     “And don’t think your father doesn’t miss you,” his mother said. “He will never say so, but I see him every day. He definitely misses you.” 

     “Mom, I miss you guys too. But I feel this is where I belong. I’m doing important work—work I love.” 

     It wasn’t that he didn’t believe in HaShem, one of the many Hebrew names for God literally meaning The Name, or in his return. But to keep these old customs irritated him to no end. Jerusalem had undergone a lot of changes over the centuries. For the most part, Jerusalem was as modern as any other city. Yet there were sections, like sections where his family lived, where people maintained that their “history” was important to keep. Nuke felt he could no longer be part of that. He had to experience life in this century—not cling to the past. Surely HaShem was God of the future as well as God of the past. Surely. 

     Nuke jumped when he heard a sudden knock on his portal opening. 

     Michael laughed. “Jumpy, are we? Cap needs to see you.” He waved for Nuke to join him. 

     Nuke turned back to his 2-D video feed. “Mom, sorry. I have to go. I’ll talk to you soon.” He disconnected from the feed knowing that, with the time delay, it was useless to wait for a response. 

     He swung his legs over the side of his bunk, slipped his feet into his self-tightening shoes, and followed Michael into the hallway. Michael had been his buddy pretty much his entire life. Both looked similar: about the same height, same semimuscular stature, and dark eyes. The main difference was Michael had dyed his hair a brilliant yellow. Also, Michael was always the more outgoing of the two. Nuke laughed to himself. Michael was the one who usually got them into trouble, and he was the one who figured out how to get them out of it. 

     Nuke looked at his yellow-haired friend. “Where are we heading?” 

     Michael grinned. “Doc feels your nickname suits you.” 

     Nuke stopped in his tracks. “Really? He’s cleared me already?” He squinted. “How do you know this?” 

     Michael shrugged. “Has to be. Cap said he wants us out to assemble the gate, which arrived about oh-five-hundred.” 

     Nuke looked at his chronometer. “That was three hours ago. Why are they waiting for us?” 

     “Beats me.” Michael produced a wide grin. “Must mean Cap knows we’re the best.” 

     Nuke laughed. “Yeah, that must be it.” 

     They walked down the narrow corridor, turned left, and then right to a larger opening which housed the station’s control center. Various people were at stations manning all the functions of the center as well as surrounding space traffic. Captain Bradley was signing something as they approached. He turned. “I just signed off on your medical clearance,” he said to Nuke. 

     The captain motioned with his head for them to follow him to the conference room. 

     As they entered, two officers were already present and seated. Lieutenant Kinsey was a lithe and beautiful woman. Her hair, almost jet black, cascaded onto her shoulders, reflecting the light. She was likely one of the prettiest women Nuke had ever seen. Yet she knew of her natural beauty and used it as a weapon of intimidation. Sergeant Naftum also was seated. He was a little pudgy and ordinary looking yet Nuke always found him a decent fellow. They both stood as Captain Bradley entered and nodded slightly. 

     Bradley motioned for the four of them to sit. He pressed a button on the table and an entire wall came to life with a view of the gate pieces in space above Triton. He nodded to Lieutenant Kinsey. 

     She stood and walked to the wall and pointed. “Each gate is composed of three pieces—” 

     “Each?” Nuke squinted and looked over at Kinsey. “I only see three pieces. Where’s the other gate?” 

     “Each gate,” Kinsey continued, a little louder, seemingly annoyed by the interruption, “is composed of three pieces that must be fused together to form a large triangle. Currently each piece of each gate is bound to each other. Once the pieces are fused, the two gates will be separated to function independently but be linked so one will enter through one and exit the other. These gates will be three times larger than the intra-solar gate near Saturn and the other one here around Neptune.” She looked directly into Nuke’s eyes. “It’s a very dangerous mission.” 

     Nuke glanced at Michael, who swallowed hard. Michael scratched the back of his head. “What’s . . . so hard about such a mission?” Michael asked. 

     Naftum spoke up. “You have to thread the needle.” 

     Nuke looked his way. “We have to what?” 

     Naftum grinned. “Just like you did on Saturn station.” 

     Nuke looked at Captain Bradley warily. Does he know about that?  

     The Captain delivered a slight smile. “The notoriety of your antics precedes you even though some things may not be in your official records.” 

     Naftum gave a slight chuckle. “This time you’re given permission.” 

     Nuke looked at Michael and raised his eyebrows. 

     Michael cleared his throat. “Uh, so . . . what exactly are we given permission to do?” 

     Kinsey pointed to a location on the wall map. “These cables must be threaded through each piece to bind them together. The building crew can then properly mesh these individual pieces together to form and power the interstellar gate.” 

     Nuke squinted. He could barely see where Kinsley was pointing. “What’s the diameter of the cables?” 

     “One meter.” 

     “And of the eyelets?” 

     “Six meters.” 

     Michael coughed. “That’s only about a meter on either side of each wing for clearance.” 

     Kinsey nodded. “Hence the danger.” 

     Nuke ran his hand across his mouth. This was going to be an even more audacious feat than his and Michael’s stunt on Saturn. There they dodged rock fragments in Saturn’s rings. Here there would be much less leeway for error.

    The Captain pressed another button on the conference table. A small door slid open and he pulled out two discs. He handed one to Nuke and the other to Michael. “Study these tonight and report back here at oh-seven-hundred ready to start.” 

     Each man took the disc and nodded. Michael gave Nuke a wide-eyed look but made no other gesture. Still, that spoke volumes. Who else but the two of them would be stupid enough, and reckless enough, to accept such a mission? 

     Nuke grinned to himself. He loved challenges like this.

About the Author

Dr. Randy C. Dockens has a fascination with science and with the Bible, holds Ph.D. degrees in both areas, and is a man not only of faith and science, but also of creativity. He believes that faith and science go hand in hand without being enemies of each other.

After completing his bachelor’s degree in pharmacy from Auburn University he went on to graduate school at Auburn and completed his first doctorate degree in Pharmaceutics. He began his scientific career as a pharmacokinetic reviewer for the Food and Drug Administration and later joined a leading pharmaceutical company as a pharmacokineticist, which is a scientist who analyzes how the human body affects drugs after they have been administered (i.e, absorbed, distributed, metabolized, and excreted).

Through the years, he has worked on potential medicines within several disease areas, including cardiovascular, fibrosis, and immunoscience to seek and develop new and novel medicines in these therapy areas.

He has also had his attention on the academic study of the Bible. He earned a second doctorate in Biblical Prophecy from Louisiana Baptist University after receiving a master’s degree in Jewish Studies from the Internet Bible Institute under the tutelage of Dr. Robert Congdon.

Randy has recently retired from his pharmaceutical career and is spending even more time on his writing efforts. He has written several books that span dystopian, end-time prophecy, science fiction, and uniquely told Bible stories. All of his books, while fun to read, are futuristic, filled with science to give them an authentic feel, have a science fiction feel to them, and allow one to learn some aspect of Biblical truth one may not have thought about before. This is all done in a fast-paced action format that is both entertaining and provides a fun read to his readers.

Randy’s latest books are in the Christian science fiction series, ERABON PROPHECY TRILOGY.

You can visit his website at www.RandyDockens.com or connect with him on Twitter, Facebook andGoodreads.

Title: MOON DEEDS: STAR CHILDREN SAGA BOOK ONE
Author: Palmer Pickering
Publisher: Mythology Press
Genre: Adult Fantasy/Science-Fiction

“The path to power is cloaked in shadows, so if you avoid all the shadows, you’ll never learn anything.”

It’s 2090: the last outpost of freedom is the moon, the best defense against technology is magic, and the only hope for humankind rests in the hands of the Star Children.

Twins Cassidy and Torr must save Earth from a ruthless enemy at a time when the only force more powerful than alien technology is magic. Moon Deeds launches the siblings’ journey across the galaxy, where they must learn their power as the Star Children, claim their shamanic heritage, and battle dark forces that threaten humankind.

The Star Children Saga follows Cassidy and Torr as they slowly awaken to their destiny as the twin Star Children, born every millennium to reconnect with the source of all life. They come to discover the sheer enormity of their task: to find our ancestors on a lost planet across the galaxy and save humanity from a spiraling descent into darkness. The powers they must wield to accomplish this task are truly frightening and put at risk everything they love.

Come along with twenty-year-old twins Cassidy and Torr, who inherited deeds to land parcels on the moon. They want to use their moon deeds to get off Earth and escape a brutal dictatorship. But first they must unlock their shaman powers.

A rollicking yet poignant adventure in the not too distant future, when we have colonized the moon and nearly lost Earth to a dictatorship. Only the shamans remain free, plus the lucky ones who escaped to the moon.

Join the adventure! An addictive space opera, science-fantasy series.

Book Information

Release Date: May 25, 2019

Publisher: Mythology Press

Soft Cover: ISBN: ‎ 978-1732568808; 598 pages; $21.99; E-Book, $.99; Audiobook, FREE.

Book Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xt13Js_M-P4

Amazon: https://amzn.to/3uKWq2o

Barnes & Noble:  https://bit.ly/3rQteFx

Chapter One

Star Song

West San Jose, California, Western Free States, planet Earth

July 8, 2090

Cassidy stood in the backyard, staring up at the sky and listening to the music of the stars. The Shaman’s Shield of gray clouds loomed far overhead, covering the sky in a thick, impenetrable roof, and casting a gloomy pall over everything. Ever since the Shaman’s Shield had appeared three years ago, she had not seen the stars nor heard their music. But today the thin, ethereal strains wove through the neighborhood noise. The music was faint, but it was there.

It had been louder when she was a child, before Grandma Leann had shielded her. Cassidy had thought everyone could hear the music, a constant background noise of such poignant sweetness that sometimes it was painful to listen to. But she had realized over time that others did not hear it. Or perhaps they heard it subconsciously, or in their dreams, because sometimes she heard an echo of it when musicians played their instruments or choirs sang. Cassidy had tried to replicate the sound, studying violin as a child, then piano, but neither instrument captured the elusive tones.

The only one who understood was her twin brother, Torr. They had shared a room as children, and she used to sing to him.

“I recognize that song,” he had said one time in the middle of the night. She had been sitting up in bed humming the tune that was streaming through her head. Torr had awoken from a deep sleep and sat upright, staring at her. “I heard it in my dream.”

“You heard me humming,” she corrected him.

“No,” Torr said stubbornly. “The golden people were singing to me. Their song said you and I have to find them. We have to follow their voices.” Torr closed his eyes and sang the melody more truly than she ever had, picking out parts of the multi-layered harmony she had never captured before. And he added something resembling words that she did not understand, but which made her cry.

In the morning he had remembered the dream, but he could not remember the song. For days afterwards he had tried to get her to sing it back to him, but she could not get the melody quite right, and she did not know the strange language. Then when Grandma Leann laid the blanket of silence over her, the song stopped. As time passed, Cassidy forgot the tune she had always hummed. She could only recall hints of it, like wisps of clouds that slipped away as she tried to grab them.

Now the sky was singing to her again. The melody came to her, carried on the wind as though from a distant mountaintop. She was filled with joy to hear it, though the song was more mournful than she recalled. She still could not understand the words, but she remembered what Torr had told her that night in their attic bedroom, that the two of them had to follow the golden people’s voices and find them. She did not know who they were, or where they were, but they were still out there singing to her. Calling to her. Waiting.

About the Author

Palmer Pickering has been writing fiction since she was eight. She received her BA in American Studies from Wesleyan University, with concentrations in Religion and Race Relations.

She currently works in Silicon Valley in the gaming industry and high tech. In addition, Palmer holds a certificate in Chinese Acupressure, is a certified solar panel installer, and studied Tibetan Buddhism with the 14th Dalai Lama.

She lives and writes in the magical redwood forest of the Santa Cruz Mountains, California.

Her latest book is the scifi fantasy for adults, Moon Deeds: Star Children Saga Book One.

You can visit her website at www.MythologyPress.com or connect with her on TwitterFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest.

Title: FIRST BITE
Author: Avery Daniels
Publisher: Blazing Sword Publishing
Pages: 290
Genre: Paranormal Cozy Mystery

In 24 hours, Misty Summers had the worst date of her life, was bit by a vampire, and her PI boss may close his business as he goes through a divorce. Looking on the positive side, she decides to use her new vampire assets and become the private investigator to keep her income. She doesn’t know what her future holds, but it can’t be any worse! When she starts following up on a missing woman’s case, she finds herself in the middle of murder.

Book Information

Release Date: May 1, 2022

Publisher:  Blazing Sword

Ebook: ASIN; 290 pages; $2.99

Amazon: https://amzn.to/3OmzDl4

Chapter One 

“I never want to see you again!”  I slammed the passenger side door. Roger sped off in his red truck, his dragging muffler sounded like a tray of silverware ground in a garbage disposal.  That ended the date from hell.  He took me to a cheap restaurant, we saw the budget dollar movie, and I had to pay for my own popcorn.  I can understand being on a budget, truly, I get it. But then to get all handsy in a parking lot, right under a parking light!  He had the nerve to get upset when I said no.  I had to slap him.  When he slapped me back, I elbowed him in his jewels.  The complete jerk.   

There was a sickle moon hanging lazily in the sky and a cool autumn breeze rustled the gold and russet leaves.  I walked faster to warm up.  I hadn’t brought a coat since I’d expected to be driven.  A gust whipped my hair across my eyes and I swept it back.  I took a deep breath and wondered at the smell of autumn, the slightly sharp tang in the crisp air.  I wrapped my arms around myself. 

         The bright side was I stood up for myself and put an end to his assault.  Unfortunately, I’m stranded after eleven in a rougher part of town on a Sunday night with nobody around.  I wish I could strangle Roger’s pencil neck.  I can walk off my anger; we don’t have an Uber or such in the small town of Majestic.  I needed to recapture my positive vibes anyway, so a walk would do me good.   

Another positive item to the evening was I didn’t spring for a new or previously owned dress for the evening.  It would have been wasted on the moron, anyway.  I wore my deep purple sleeveless turtleneck and black pants.  It was classic and more than he deserved.  My best friend, Courtney, had assured me this blind date would be different.  Oh, it was different, all right, and not in a good way.   

I’ve never actually had a good date, not one single good memory of a date.  Tears stung my eyes.  Enough negativity.  I recited my mantra.  I am ready for the perfect man for me.  I am working on myself to be the person who will attract my perfect partner. After yet another disheartening experience, it’s all I can do to not blame it all on myself.  Nope, the right man is coming to me.  Yeah, okay.  I may be trying to convince myself more than attracting Mr. Right into my life.  I’m okay with that at the moment. 

         My low-heeled strappy sandals slapped against the sidewalk, an exclamation point with every step.  There wasn’t any traffic, and I had a couple of miles to go.  Other than my footsteps, it was quiet except for a dog barking in the auto salvage yard behind me. But I felt a presence and knew I wasn’t alone.  I sped up.  I was speed walking now and my heart hammered.  This really wasn’t a good area.  Majestic was a modest-sized town, just big enough to warrant two canines on the police force.  I didn’t want to find out firsthand about the seedy side of town. 

Were those footsteps behind me?  I stopped abruptly. I heard a scuff, then nothing.  My senses screamed run, and even though my sandals weren’t the best for it, at least they were strapped on.  I grabbed hold of my purse strap to keep my purse with me.  I didn’t care how it looked; I took off running for everything I was worth.  My mind continued to yell, faster, faster! 

         One instant, it was a clear sidewalk in front of me, and the next I ran into a man who had just appeared.  My mind reeled at his abrupt materialization.  His eyes were strange; even in the dark, his eyes bore into mine.  I took my purse and aimed for his head. He moved so fast I barely saw a blur.  Next thing I knew, the guy was behind me, had pinned my arms, and was trying to give me a hickey!   

Worst day ever!  There just is no positive way to look at any of this night.  I struggled, scratched, and kicked but was losing my energy quickly.  I remember slumping to the ground. I think he was still attached to my neck.  I wanted to keep fighting, but I couldn’t even stay conscious.  

Avery Daniels was born and raised in Colorado, graduated from college with a degree in business administration and has worked in fortune 500 companies and Department of Defense her entire life. Her most eventful job was apartment management for 352 units. She still resides in Colorado with two brother black cats as her spirited companions. She volunteers for a cat shelter, enjoys scrapbooking and card making, photography, and painting in watercolor and acrylic. She inherited a love for reading from her mother and grandmother and grew up talking about books at the dinner table.

Her latest book is the paranormal cozy mystery, First Bite.

You can visit her website at http://avery-daniels.com/. Connect with her on TwitterFacebookGoodreadsBookBuband Bingebook.

Sign up for her newsletter at www.tinyurl.com/2p952mcv.

Title: RIFTSIDERS: UNLAWFUL POSSESSION
Author: Paul A. Destefano
Publisher: Wild Rose Press
Pages: 292
Genre: Urban Fantasy / Paranormal Romance

BOOK BLURB:

Enrique Marin wants a quiet life after the death of his wife. Just one problem stands in the way–he’s possessed by the misanthropic English demon, Tzazin. A violent night under demonic influence accidentally leads Enrique to love, and it’s anything but quiet. Shy, autistic yoga instructor Elle thought allowing herself to be possessed by the very-not-shy sex demon Key would help her find love. She finds Enrique, but she didn’t count on coping with the anti-demon bigotry of society. Fate–and AA meetings for the possessed–brings them together, but hostile forces, demonic and human, fight to keep them apart. It might cost them everything to keep their love alive.

“DeStefano weaves a masterful tale of mystery using threads of horror, humor, and heat-filled romance. Teeming with snarky demons and one swoon-worthy hero, this is the perfect story for anyone who loves the supernatural.” – Author BB Swann

“He has always worn his love for SF, Fantasy & Horror on his sleeve. This is Dark Fantasy written with an immense knowledge of the genre, and it shows.” –  Patrick Kennedy, host of The Literate Nerds Podcast

“The writing – it is amazing … it feels as if I was reading a Brandon Sanderson novel or a Patrick Rothfuss book.” –  Battlecast Reviews

“Paul has a wonderful way of bringing a world alive so that you feel you can reach out and touch it.” – Jamie Jolly, Shadowborne Games

Book Information

Release Date: April 18, 2022

Publisher: Wild Rose Press

Soft Cover: ISBN: 978-1509241231; 292 pages; $16.99; E-Book, $4.99

Amazon: https://amzn.to/3HZpkPE

CHAPTER ONE

Enrique approached the church feeling more like a lost tourist from the Dominican Republic than someone on national watchlists. Peering up at the untended vines coating the wall, he ran a hand through his short black hair. He glanced back at the street and then followed Ebbs down the stairs to the basement side entrance.

“I don’t even think he’s a real priest,” came the familiar British tones in the back of Enrique’s mind. “He’s not wearing a collar. This is bollocks. He can’t teach you anything about controlling me you don’t already know, and I’m certainly not going to listen to some pudgy little unshaven monk or whatever he is. Don’t go in.”

Enrique stopped halfway down the cracked steps and bent, turning his back to Ebbs to tie a shoe that wasn’t untied. Ebbs waited by the door, gently humming to himself.

“Shut up, Taz,” Enrique said, barely above a whisper. “If you would behave in the first place, we wouldn’t have to be here.”

“Still bollocks,” Taz said.

Enrique stood and wiped his hands on his jeans before descending. At the base of the stairway, he stomped his work boot into the puddle that reflected a third figure only he could see pacing behind them.

Ebbs fished for keys in the pocket of his beaten brown leather jacket. He unlocked a door barely held together by decades of flaking paint. It swung open smoothly and silently. Stepping aside, he extended a hand and indicated Enrique should enter before him.

Enrique didn’t move.

“It’s a safe place,” Ebbs said, scratching the mottled gray of his unshaven neck.

Enrique had heard that before.

“Sometimes, that first step through the doorway is the hardest.”

Enrique looked to the source of the voice, a silhouette up the hallway that nearly reached the ceiling.

“I’m Dante Serrano,” the deep calming voice continued. “I moderate the group. Father Clancy here told me you would be coming. Enrique, right?”

Dante’s head nearly grazed the hanging fluorescents as he approached, extending a massive hand in greeting. Enrique nodded and stepped in, trying not to stare too obviously at Dante’s dark eyes, nearly a foot above his own.

“Tell you what,” Dante said with a bright grin. “I’ll answer your questions first, make you more comfortable. Come on, follow me. The answer to your first question, seven-foot one. Second question, no, I never played pro, got some bum knees. You know everyone sees a black man a head and shoulders over them, and they think, damn, that guy shoot some hoops. What you don’t hear is how much a damn problem it can be being so tall. Sure—never need a step stool, get to help all the shorter folk reach that top shelf in the grocery store. I’m not saying there are no perks. I’m saying there’s sometimes a hidden price. Considering where you are, I’m guessing you know that all too well.”

“You mean considering what I am?” Enrique said, following the giant man through a doorway.

Dante turned, shaking his shaved head. “No, man, no. Who you are. You got a problem? Okay. But that does not define you. A man is a lot of things—a plumber, a mechanic, a husband, a father. But you are never less a person before that. You are always you. Good man. Bad man. That’s not my job to tell you. But you. No matter what your problem. You are a who. Never a what. Just because a taxi picks up a bad passenger, that does not make that taxi’s a bad taxi. You get me?”

“Actually, you’re a pretty awful taxi,” Taz said.

“I get you,” Enrique said, shrugging and looking around. He stepped into the center of the circle of empty chairs in the small room. Beyond a table of coffee and doughnuts, a young woman with long blonde hair over a tight-fitting outfit standing with her head down and her hands clasped by her waist. She pushed dark glasses farther up the bridge of her nose but didn’t speak. Enrique looked to the ceiling.The lights were no brighter where she stood, and certainly not bright enough to warrant sunglasses.

“Well, hello, hello, what do we have here?” Taz said. “Perhaps this group isn’t complete bollocks after all.”

“That’s Elle,” Dante said softly. “Yoga teacher. She’s one of our members. She’s on the autism spectrum and sometimes needs a little time to adjust to new people in the group. She’ll warm up to you.”

“Hi, Elle,” Enrique said with a small wave. “I’m Enrique.”

“The others will be by in just a few minutes,” Dante said, pouring coffee into a cardboard cup. “Just like Elle needs some time, we’d like to get to learn a bit about you. Me and our very own Father Clancy Ebbs to start. Just to, you know, get comfortable.”

“Ex-Father,” Ebbs interjected. “In Coena Domini.”

“Excommunicated,” Dante translated. “But still good enough for us. And still always Father to me.”

“And there are two of you,” Enrique pointed out. “In case I’m more than one can handle.”

Elle tilted her head in curiosity.

“Can never be too careful at first encounter,” Dante said. “Coffee? It’s actually pretty good. Here, give it a try and grab a chair. Any.”

Enrique pulled off his light jacket and hung it on the back of one of the folding chairs. He took the offered coffee and added a sugar cube from the table. If Dante weren’t in the room with him, he would be considered tall. Enrique sniffed the coffee, blew on it, and sat, one hand rubbing the worn knees of his jeans.

“Want one?” Father Ebbs asked, helping himself to a powdered doughnut.

Enrique shook his head.

“You a talker or a listener?” Dante asked, leaving one empty chair between them when he sat.

“Truthfully,” Enrique said, “I usually don’t shut up. But I’m not, I’m not really…”

“Not comfortable talking about your passenger? I get it,” Dante said with a nod.

“I don’t like it either,” Ebbs said.

“You?” Enrique asked, turning to the ex-priest. “I would have thought—”

“Occupational hazard,” Ebbs said.

“Father Ebbs got his passenger right around when the rift opened, Dante said. “He’s an early adopter.”

“No one had yet come to terms with…you know.” Ebbs brushed powdered sugar from his lips. “The whole ‘demons are coming to our world and are real’ thing. It was before anyone knew what was going on. It was an exorcism of one of the first. A little girl. I invited her in. My passenger, not the girl. She took the offer. Violastine. Viola. And, as a result, I got excommunicated from upstairs.”

“And you damned yourself,” Enrique finished.

Dante ran a hand over his bold head. “Father Ebbs’ passenger is—”

“Fucking horrible,” Ebbs said. “Mostly controlled. Mostly. But when she breaks free. Trust me, you don’t want to be around.”

Enrique tensed. “Yours is a separate manifest? Like actually separate from you?”

Ebbs nodded. “I swear, she’s controlled. She’s not out. Like every precaution in the book. Meds, prayer, you name it, I got her on tighter lockdown than mother superior’s knees.”

“My passenger is named Brogado,” Dante said and took a sip of coffee. “Bro is a physical manifest through me. When he pilots, I get strong as all hell, literally. But human bodies just aren’t supposed to do that. So, I blackout, and Bro does his thing. I wake up like a train hit me.”

“Your bum knees,” Enrique said, piecing it together.

“Broken by my own muscles,” Dante said.

“Does he talk to you?”

“We communicate but not quite in words. More like hunches and feelings. When he’s mad, I can tell.”

Enrique turned to Ebbs. “Does yours talk?”

“She would love it if I listened,” Ebbs said. “It’s more like a constant distant howling. I’ve learned to box that out. Elle’s passenger is an entwined riftsider. They both exist in the same space. I’m sure you’ll meet her, too.”

“Tell us a little about yours,” Dante said and took a slow sip of his coffee.

Enrique slumped backward in the seat, looking to the ceiling with a chuckle.

“Yes,” taunted the lilting British accent only Enrique heard. “Do tell about me.”

“Tzazin,” Enrique said, staring into his coffee. “My demon is Tzazin Auropolus. I call him Taz. He, well, he’s kind of like me in that sometimes he just doesn’t know when to shut up. When I look at my reflection, I can see him. Always following me just behind my shoulder. Glass reflection doesn’t always work. Sometimes it does, and he insists it’s due to how natural or man-made the material is. The science of the other side doesn’t always make sense to me.”

“Now tell them how startlingly handsome I am,” Taz whispered.

“He looks like a man with gray sandpaper skin. And his eyes are this weird sickly off-yellow.”

“That’s not even slightly flattering,” Taz complained.

“But he’s got some sort of knowledge tap. It’s like having a running connection to an internet search engine.”

“I’m an archivist, you human nimrod. Show some respect.”

“Oh, he’s telling me right now I should tell you he’s an archivist.”

“And when Taz pilots?” Dante asked.

“When Taz pilots, I blackout. And end up in jail. I was told I can be out on probation if I come here to learn to control him.”

“You make that sound so one-sided,” Taz said with a snicker. “Whose fingerprints were there? Certainly not mine.”

Enrique set his jaw and placed his coffee cup on the floor.

“Yo, ain’t no one told me we got a newbie.”

Enrique turned to see a young girl with dreadlocks step into the room biting into an apple and letting the juice flow down her chin.

“Enrique, the rude teen girl is my niece, Yesania,” Dante said with a slight smile and a gesture. “You bring enough for everyone?”

“You got your doughnuts,” Yesania pointed. “Star pitcher on the softball team has to keep in shape. Not poisoning my body with more of that shit than I have to. Oh, sorry for the language, Father. No offense. Hey, Elle.”

Elle looked up and brushed her long hair aside, smiling with a wave.

“None taken,” Ebbs said, reaching for another doughnut. “Especially since that means more for us who know what good food is.”

Yesania pulled out a chair, and it screeched across the floor. She sat directly in front of Enrique, throwing her hoodie to the ground and pushing dreadlocks from her face. She leaned forward and stared into Enrique’s eyes. “Go ahead. Show me who you got.”

“Yesania,” Dante said, putting his hand on her shoulder to ease her away.

“No, Unc,” she snapped, shrugging him off. “Show and tell. You ain’t here for some small-time imp. Show me.”

“You don’t want that.” Enrique slid his chair back.

“She wants it,” Taz said, clearly with a grin Enrique felt in the back of his mind.

“She doesn’t want that,” Enrique said.

“You show me yours; I’ll show you mine,” Yesania said in a teasing schoolgirl voice. “Lookie.”

Yesania held out her palm and blew across it as if blowing flower petals from her hand. The room filled with the smell of lilacs. A sparkling yellow dust scattered from her empty hand and hung in the air in a vaguely feminine shape that bowed politely.

“Meet Cali,” Yesania announced.

Enrique reached his hand out, curious. The sparkling dust extended what would be a hand and settled on his. It felt mildly electric and warm.

“Caliosandra,” the dust shape whispered in introduction, appearing to grow less dense.

Yesania panted and watched the dust form fall, shimmering specks vanishing before touching the floor.

“You okay?” Dante asked.

“Yeah, letting Cali out is tiring sometimes,” Yesania said. “Long day of practice. That’s kind of why I’m here. Can’t get completely rid of her unless I just go to sleep for a long time. She’s not the prize I originally thought.”

“She means die,” Taz said to Enrique.

“I know what she meant,” Enrique said.

“Oh, you got a full-time talker,” Yesania said with a smile. “Come on. I showed you mine. You got some sort of manifest?”

“You don’t want to do that,” Enrique said.

“Too scary? I can handle it.”

“Yesania, stop,” Dante said flatly.

“No, Unc, I don’t think I will. If I gotta be in this room, I want to know who’s in here with me. Show me.”

“If he’s not ready, Yesania,” Ebbs said.

“I am not staying if I don’t know who’s here,” Yesania insisted.

“Reveal me,” Taz said. “It’s only fair if I make myself known.”

Enrique looked to Dante for help.

“Your call,” Dante said. “At your own pace.”

“Taz isn’t a separate manifest like that was. Like Cali,” Enrique said. “It’s more like what Dante said.”

“Brogado,” Dante supplied.

“It’s not pleasant.”

Yesania stared into Enrique’s eyes. “I got this. Show me.”

“She asked for it,” Taz chided.

“You asked.” Enrique reached out and placed two fingers on the back of Yesania’s hand.

“Sweet motherfucker!” Yesania yelled, jumping away. She looked at her steaming hand. “What the hell was that shit?”

“That was Taz,” Enrique said simply.

Elle stepped back with one foot, either a fighting stance or a position to run from. Ebbs doughnut hit the floor where he was standing with a tiny powdered sugar explosion. He ran from the room, covering his face with his hands.

“You bleeding?” Dante asked Yesania, both watching Ebbs’ retreat.

Enrique looked out to the hallway. “What happened to Father Ebbs? Did I do something?”

“Blood is a bad thing around here. It triggers Ebbs’ passenger, Viola.” Dante examined his niece’s hand. “He ran out for everyone’s safety.”

“Sorry,” Enrique said. “I didn’t know. She shouldn’t be bleeding.”

“Yo,” Yesania said, rubbing her hand. “That felt like fire.”

“It’s not heat. It’s abrasion. That was just a buzz. If I held it there, it would take your skin off like a band sander. I try not to let him do that.”

“You sometimes fail,” Taz reminded.

Enrique shifted in his seat and glanced up to a round-faced Asian man in an EMT shirt standing in the doorway.

“We good?” the man called, holding a hand toward Ebbs to keep him in the hallway.

“We good, Corey. Ebbs can come back,” Dante said.

“Corey Oshi,” Dante announced, nodding to Ebbs as he cautiously closed the door behind him. “New guy is Enrique Marin.”

“Don’t shake his hand,” Yesania warned, still rubbing her own.

“It’s not like that,” Enrique said, shaking his head. “That’s only when I let him out to play or something goes wrong. Sorry, but you asked.”

“Oh, you got one that bites, huh?” Corey said, gingerly taking Enrique’s hand. “Mine’s more fun. Check it. You ever play two truths and a lie?”

“Yeah?” Enrique said, not sure where the question was headed.

“Go,” Corey said with a grin, sitting across from him. “Hit me with some facts, guy I never met.”

“Um, okay,” Enrique said. “I was born in the Dominican Republic. That’s one. I carve and install wood for millwork. Wait, that one doesn’t count, I’m still wearing my work shirt; you could just read that. Instead, let’s go with I collect vinyl records. And my mom makes the best mac and cheese in the world.”

“Harry, talk to me,” Corey called. He waited briefly, nodding several times. “Last one’s a lie. Boom!”

Enrique laughed. “Yeah, my mom’s mac was crap. That was pretty cool.”

“Hariememnon—Harry for short—extends his greetings and welcomes you to the group,” Corey said after a pause. “My folks were killed in a construction accident. Crane fell. Left me kind of alone and weak, and Harry moved in.”

“Same, but mine was my wife, Sofia,” Enrique said, silencing the room.

“Operative word: was,” Taz said.

“Condolences.” Ebbs placed a firm hand on Enrique’s shoulder.

“Thanks, Father.” Enrique forced a fake smile. “It was years ago.”

“Doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt,” Ebbs said.

“Yeah,” Enrique said. “I’ve been kind of dating, but yeah.”

Elle suddenly stepped to the circle of chairs, looking Enrique up and down. “This a funeral or possession support group? Had we known we had a new guy, we would have baked a cake. Nah, that’s bullshit, neither of us can cook. Believe us, we tried.”

“Enrique, this is Elle and her passenger Key,” Dante said, over-pronouncing the word Elle.

“This rather nice bod might be Elle, but we share the attic,” she said with a wide smile, sliding easily into a seat. She removed her glasses, revealing large expressive eyes with irises of unnatural metallic green. Her long blonde hair landed on bare shoulders over a black, well-shaped tank top and form-fitting dark blue yoga pants, but Enrique didn’t look away from the captivating eyes.

“I’m Key,” she said, slightly tilting her head, scanning Enrique head to toe. “It’s short for Keostapholese. And you’re the new tall, rugged, and yummy that sits next to me in session.”

“Let Elle speak,” Dante said, somewhere between a suggestion and an order.

She closed her eyes and swallowed before looking to the floor. She spoke next in a much softer tone and continued to stare at the ground.

“I’m Elle. Not short for anything.”

“Dude, she’s hot,” Taz said.

“I’m Enrique.” He extended his hand.

“She won’t shake it,” Yesania said. “She’s autistic.”

“Elle may be on the spectrum,” Dante explained further. “Key, not so much.”

Elle turned, not lifting her head, and looked to Dante through locks of blonde hanging over her eyes, raising one hand with a middle finger held high.

“That would be Key,” Dante said with a sigh. “I’ve been trying to get them to identify separately.”

“No, that was from both of us,” Elle said with a grin. “With love. Confused yet, Enrique? See, Elle is fearless, but not with people. People are terrifying. Key, on the other hand, is not so good at keeping quiet and doesn’t get this whole morals thing you humans get caught up on. Life, death, sex, whatever. Together, we share this body. So, when you talk to us, use a plural noun as you would with a transgender friend. Both here, all the time. Sometimes we’re more one than the other. But it’s us. Like twins. Partner, not passenger. Sorry we didn’t say anything earlier. Elle wanted to try stepping up to you alone but needed help. The whole square jawed five o’clock shadow thing intimidates her. Needed a bit of a nudge. Now here we both are.”

“So,” started Enrique. “If you’re Elle and Key in there at once, why don’t you have everyone call you Elkie?”

She leaned back in her chair and looked to each of the others. “Yeah, guys, if this is all about acceptance and adjustment, how come you don’t call me Elkie?”

Dante’s brow furrowed. Yesania and Corey exchanged shrugs.

“Didn’t think of it?” Ebbs said.

After Dante gently moderated a ninety-minute discussion about media bias against the possessed and what they could do to change people’s perceptions, they set about grabbing more coffee and doughnuts from the table.

“You said, or rather, your shirt says you do commercial millwork,” Corey said, reaching in front of Enrique for a doughnut. “I happen to be a carpenter.”

“Carpenter EMT?” Enrique asked.

“Sue me, I have a few hobbies.”

“Which is the hobby—the EMT, or the carpenter?”

“That depends on whether I have a commission or I’m on a call. Whatever I’m doing is the important stuff. Commit to love what you do, right?”

“Well—” Enrique paused for a moment. “What I love is actual sculpture. Form work. Organic flow. I’ve sold three big pieces and a handful of carved masks. But what pays the bills is millwork in government buildings.”

“My thing is furniture,” Corey said and nodded. “Chests. Tables. I like lathing the legs. You know, that trying to make everything even and right. You take a two-by of oak and you give it that nice shape, make them all good and even. We should do some together. Get some ornamental hand carving added to my stuff. We can make decent bread, you know. Guessing you go oak and maple a lot.”

“Wenge and tiger when I can afford it,” Enrique said wistfully.

Elkie sidled between them to reach the coffee pot with a sideways glance and a smirk.

“What?” Corey asked.

“Oh, nothing,” she said, waving him off. “Just kind of interesting a new guy shows up and you immediately have to compare wood.”

Corey rolled his eyes. “That’s Key for you.”

“Tell me how your wife died,” Elkie said, turning her back to Corey.

“Seriously?” Corey asked. “That’s how you start a conversation? A dick joke and ask him how his wife died?”

Her strange metallic eyes sparkled. “Demon, remember?”

“Don’t worry. It’s fine,” Enrique said. “I actually kind of like the candor.”

“I thought someone said you were supposed to let Elle drive,” Corey said, gesturing to Dante across the room.

“Yeah, whatever,” Elkie said. “You eat all those doughnuts and don’t gain weight. You like that, don’t you?”

“Harry takes care of that,” Corey shrugged. “Housing him burns a lot of calories. Never need to take your yoga classes.”

“And Elle is not comfortable talking to strangers,” Elkie said. “So, she thought letting me forward to talk to the cute guy was a good idea. Riftsiders provide certain advantages. Her call, not mine. She wants us to appear polite.”

“Asking about his dead wife on your first unmoderated interaction isn’t usually considered polite,” Corey said. He then stopped and tilted his head, listening. “But Harry says you actually are trying to be nice. Not the smoothest move, though.”

“See,” Elkie said. “Probably not doing anything to fix it but noted.”

“Car crash,” Enrique said. “It’s okay, seriously. No reason to dance around it. She was coming home late. Worked at a nursing home. Never made it to dinner. Seven years ago.”

“Has it been that long?” Taz mumbled in his mind. “Seems so much more recent.”

“Condolences,” Elkie said flatly. “See, we can be nice.”

“Harry says Elle just told you to say that,” Corey said.

“If you would stop separating us like that, maybe the nice Mr. Enrique would simply notice how charming we are. How long were you guys married?”

“You’re seriously going to grill him like this?” Corey protested.

“It’s okay, I promise,” Enrique said, still watching the strange beetle shell reflections of her eyes. “Four years.”

“And that’s how you took on your passenger, Zach?” she said.

“Zach?” Taz shouted loud enough to make Enrique flinch. “Did this mingebag just call me Zach?”

“Taz,” he corrected, “And you just pissed him off.”

Elkie and Corey each took a quick step back.

“No, it’s safe,” Enrique said quickly. “I’m on Abyzone. Keeps him calm. I do it whenever I go out someplace new.”

“You mean keeps me weak,” Taz corrected.

Dante coughed and the room lights flicked off and on. He stood by the door and coughed again, gesturing to the hallway. “My, oh my, would you look at the time. Next week, guys. They need the room. You know how it goes.”

Corey grabbed another doughnut, heading toward the door mumbling, “For Harry.”

“Who’s up for a walk?” Elkie said. “The park across the street?”

Corey nodded. “Yeah sure.”

“We kinda meant new guy, but okay,” Elkie said.

“You weren’t specific.”

Elkie’s mouth trembled. She turned her metallic eyes to the floor. “We were being nice. Of course, you’re invited, too.” Her voice was decidedly softer.

Corey gave Enrique a knowing glance and nod. “Thanks, Elle.”

“Why not?” Enrique said. “I’ve got nothing else to go to. I can hang with some new friends. Let’s go for a walk. Just the six of us.”

“Harry thinks you’re funny,” Corey said, stepping with them to the hall. “But I think the jury is still out on that one.”

About the Author

Paul A. DeStefano and his wife live on Long Island, NY, with a strange menagerie that includes a dog, a few cats, sugar gliders, a bearded dragon, and several grown children that have not left.

After graduating from Hofstra University with a split degree in English and Acting, he worked in the board gaming and roleplaying industry for decades, including officially licensed projects for Star Trek and Lord of the Rings. He did not win the Origins Award for Best Miniatures Rules in 2004 and has forgotten that bitter defeat. When not playing and working on games, he is sometimes found touring internationally, giving lectures on worldbuilding and character design.

Being a professional full-time blacksmith for several years made him realize how much less painful it was to go back to writing. He’s been lucky enough to hold the Top Humor Writer badge at Medium multiple times and has had his work narrated by James Cosmo (Lord Mormont from Game of Thrones) on multimillion-dollar Kickstarter projects.

It is also worth noting that having never taken any bassoon lessons, he still cannot play one.

His latest book is the urban fantasy/paranormal romance novel, RIFTSIDERS: UNLAWFUL POSSESSION.

Visit his website at www.PaulADeStefano.com or connect with him on TwitterFacebookGoodreads and Instagram.

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Title: TICKET TO RIDE
Author: Winona Kent
Publisher: Blue Devil Books
Pages: 230
Genre: Mystery / Amateur Sleuth

In Lost Time, the third book in Winona’s Jason Davey Mystery series, professional musician / amateur sleuth Jason Davey was rehearsing for Figgis Green’s 50th Anniversary Tour of England. Now they’re on the road in Ms. Kent’s fourth book in the series, Ticket To Ride.

But when a fortune-teller in Sheffield warns them of impending danger, the band is suddenly plagued by a series of seemingly-unrelated mishaps.

After Jason is attacked and nearly killed in Cambridge, and a fire alarm results in a very personal theft from Mandy’s hotel room, it becomes clear they’re being targeted by someone with a serious grudge.

And when Figgis Green plays a gig at a private estate in Tunbridge Wells, that person finally makes their deadly intentions known.

Jason must rely on his instincts, his Instagram “guardian angel,” and a wartime ghost who might possibly share his DNA, in order to survive.

Book Information

Release Date: March 26, 2022

Publisher:  Blue Devil Books

Soft Cover: 978-1777329433; 230 pages; $15.70; E-Book, $3.93

Amazon: https://amzn.to/3i0xRqY  

CHAPTER ONE

My parents were the founding members of Figgis Green.

I’ll forgive you if you don’t remember them. But an amazing number of people do—and still refer to them, fondly, as the Figs.

The Figs were a folky pop group that was huge in the 1960s and ‘70s and less huge—but still touring regularly and putting out albums—in the ‘80s and early ‘90s.

Mandy Green—my mum—was the main singer and my dad, Tony Figgis, shared vocals and played lead guitar.

Their best-known song was “Roving Minstrel,” a catchy thing about a faithless suitor and his careworn lady, tormented hearts, lessons learned and a really fortunate ending. It was their anthem, and they always closed their shows with it.

It was Mitch Green—mum’s brother and the Figs’ bass guitarist—who’d first floated the idea of a 50th Anniversary Tour.

“There’s something wrong with your maths,” said my mother. “We first got together in 1965.”

“The 50th Anniversary Three Years Late Tour,” Mitch said, cleverly.

“The Lost Time Tour,” I said.

And the name stuck.

The only trouble was, my dad, Tony, had died in 1995.

“You can take his place,” said Mitch. “If Mandy doesn’t mind.”

I am actually a musician and I do actually play the guitar. Quite well, in fact. I have a regular gig at a jazz club in Soho—the Blue Devil—with three mates who join me on tenor sax, organ and drums. My professional name is Jason Davey.

Plus, I had the added bonus of being completely familiar with the Figgis Green catalogue—I grew up with it.

“I don’t mind,” said my mother. “As long as no one else does.”

There were no objections.

And so, in September 2018, we started rehearsals for our thirty-four-day, eighteen-stop Lost Time Tour of England.

#

My uncle Mitch was younger than my mother by two years, with a shock of untidy white hair that always made me think of Albert Einstein. He’d taken to wearing spectacles to help him read, and his waistline was somewhat more portly than when he was with the original Figs. But, like everyone in the group, he’d never allowed himself to appear unremarkable. And he’d never really stopped performing. After the Figs broke up, he and my Auntie Jo took over a well-appointed pub in Hampshire, and Mitch played in a band that offered once-a-week live entertainment to its customers—much of it featuring Figgis Green standards. Once a showman, always a showman.

In the twenty years since the Figs had last performed, Rolly Black—my dad’s cousin and the group’s drummer—had moved to the States and built his own studio and filled it with instruments and had made a second career for himself scoring music for films and TV. He’d always had exceptionally long hair—which was now salt-and-pepper grey—and to mark his return, he’d braided it down his back and tied it up with a green velvet ribbon. He’d also arranged for his original silver Ludwig touring kit to be flown over, complete with its customized bass drum featuring the Figs’ leafy logo.

The original Figs had two rhythm guitarists. The first was Rick Redding, who was hired after mum and dad put an ad in NME. Rick was easily the buccaneer of the group, a romantic hero, rough in both reputation and demeanour. He’d been thrown out of the band in 1968 after he’d assaulted my dad.

After Rick left, Ben Quigley came on board. Ben’s life was similar to Gerry Rafferty’s, but without the six haunting minutes of “Baker Street.” He was a sensitive soul who always shied away from the attention Figgis Green brought him. Ben wasn’t interested in joining our Lost Time tour. So Mitch recruited Bob Chaplin, a “friend of the band.”

I found Bob to be rather ordinary and no-nonsense, though he was an excellent player. He favoured white short-sleeved shirts and jeans, and his hair was short and on the curly side. He reminded me a lot of Bruce Springsteen in his “Dancing in the Dark” days.

A week-and-a-half into rehearsals, our fiddle player, Keith Reader, walked out, claiming “philosophical differences.” He’d done it before, in 1989, for the same reason, so I’m not really sure why anyone was surprised.

In any case, the day was saved by Bob, who suggested his girlfriend, Beth Homewood, as a replacement. Beth had done folk, rock, country, classical… Weddings. Commercial functions. Studio sessions. And she was available. I was a bit sceptical, worrying about her formal training—not that it was compulsory, or even recommended. Keith was the only one of the reconstituted Figs who’d had any kind of lessons.

“Royal College of Music,” Bob said.

And Beth was in.

She turned out to be brilliant, learning the two set lists and two encores in less than a day.

Beth was a good twenty years younger than Bob. She’d begun rehearsals with long, light brown, wavy hair, which she’d plaited loosely behind her head. By the time we opened the tour, she’d morphed into Eileen from the Dexy’s Midnight Runners video that Julien Temple directed, with her hair tucked messily into a scrunched-around kerchief. She wouldn’t have looked amiss in the chopped-off blue-jean coveralls they all wore in the film, but onstage she went for a Judy Geeson To Sir With Love look—a crocheted white mini-dress with a flesh-coloured lining and matching flat white shoes.

My mother was seventy-seven and her hair was silver-white. She had essentially the same cut that she did when she was fronting the Figs all those years ago. Except, of course, that her hair was thinner now, and her face was fuller. She was a bit heavier than she’d been back in the day, too, but that was to be expected as well. She’d happily embraced a cushiony comfy grandmotherly look, and it suited her.

 It turned out some of our songs had to be transposed to fit mum’s vocal range, which had diminished a bit over the five decades since she’d started singing them. But other than that, she was still in fine form.

As for me, I hadn’t toured in nearly ten years. The last time I’d gigged around England was 2009, the year my wife, Em, died. I’d been on the road with my own band, desperate to “make it,” playing concerts in pubs and clubs and converted churches and renovated city halls and repurposed Corn Exchanges. And staging late night turns at so many music festivals I’d lost count.

Between then, and now, I’d run away to sea and worked as an entertainer on board a cruise ship. After that, I’d gone travelling and then I’d come home to England and made a brief living as a busker while I tried to find a more permanent gig.

And then I’d landed the residency at the Blue Devil.

I arranged for a leave of absence from the club and found a temporary stand-in to keep my band employed and my post-tour career in safe hands.

My prep was pretty basic. I packed up my guitars and got a haircut. I’d just tiptoed over fifty, and I have to admit, I was very nearly talked into colouring the silver filaments that had begun to infiltrate my very untidy, dark brown hair. I resisted.

So that was the band: mum, me, Mitch, Rolly, Bob and Beth. Our venues were booked. Our faces were on the tea towels.

We rehearsed. We perfected our show.

On Friday, September 7, 2018, we went out on the road.

And two weeks later, on Friday, September 21, as mum and I were on our way in to the Duke of York Theatre in Leeds for our sound check, we were very nearly killed by a gargoyle.

#

The Duke of York, if you don’t know it, was built roundabout 1880 and is Grade II listed. Outside, it’s high Victorian red brick and stone and inside it’s red velvet and Gothic plasterwork and gold leaf, all lovingly restored to bring the old music hall up to modern-day standards.

The renovations were largely focused on the interior, which was probably why nobody’d bothered to double-check the stability of the three stone figureheads perched outside on the lintel over the stage door.

It was 4:30 in the afternoon when the middle one broke free and crashed to the pavement, narrowly missing me—I’d stopped to tie up a shoelace—and my mother, who was hunting in her bag for her security pass. The dislodged head sent out a spray of jagged stone shrapnel as it smashed into pieces at our feet.

Mum and I looked at one another.

“Bloody hell,” she said.

I knew what she was thinking, and she knew what I was thinking.

We made a point, after each show, of going out into the foyer to say hello to people from the audience and signing their programmes and whatever else they might have brought with them. It’s something the Figs always did, back in the day, and my mother wanted to continue doing it for our tour. The venues weren’t huge, and the fans—some of whom had travelled quite a long distance—loved us for it.

Two days earlier, in Sheffield, as the last of the autograph-seekers and well-wishers straggled out, I’d spotted a woman who seemed to be hanging back. She was tall, with long dark brown hair, and she was wearing a loose black top and a spectacular flowing ankle-length brown and black skirt. She had a gold chain hanging around her neck, at the end of which were a couple of gold medallions. It looked like she was waiting for a moment to talk to us alone.

“Hello,” she said, to me, and then to mum, who was on the point of going back to her dressing room. “Please—I wish you to stay for a moment. I would like a quiet word.”

I’m always a little bit leery of fans who want to have a “quiet word.” You never know what they might consider to be earth-shatteringly important—the fact that you played three wrong notes in the middle of one of their favourite songs or, God forbid, you decided to use a different guitar from the one that was on that recording in 1985. Or your input was required to settle a long-standing argument about why there were two versions of one particular tune—the one on the 1968 album and the one on the flip side of the Top Ten single that came out the following year. Because they sounded decidedly different and the general consensus was that the album version was far superior. And they wanted to know what you thought.

I waited. My mother waited.

“My name is Kezia Heron,” the woman said. “I have been following you for many, many years.”

There was something delightfully old-fashioned about her. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. The Figs attracted all kinds of followers, and I suppose because of the sheer nature of most of their songs, those followers were bound to have one foot firmly planted in the distant past. This woman looked and sounded as if she’d embraced that particular concept hook, line and sinker.

 “I have the gift,” she said, confidentially. “I am able to see into the future.”

“Are you,” said my mother, wholly unimpressed.

I knew her opinion of seaside amusements and end-of-pier fortune-tellers. I knew that opinion included, with very few exceptions, anything remotely to do with the word ‘psychic’.

“I am compelled to speak with you,” said Kezia, looking at me. “I bring a warning.”

My mother was exercising supreme patience. She would never say anything horrible to a fan, but she wanted very badly to leave. Our shows ended late and by the time we got back to our hotel, it was usually well past midnight.

I’m more open-minded about the occult and the paranormal than my mother. “What sort of warning?” I asked.

“There will be troubles. I am certain of the word ‘dropping’.”

“Dropping,” said my mother.

“Yes, dropping.”

“As in, falling down?” I asked.

“I hear the word,” said Kezia. “Over and over again. And I feel it as it happens. A dropping.”

“Is this dropping going to kill us?” mum inquired. “Because if it is, perhaps we’d better cancel the rest of the tour and arrange for a refund on the hotel deposits and the transport.”

Kezia smiled. “I understand. Many people are unwilling to accept the words I offer. I am in your presence only to convey the message, which is extended with graciousness and humility and great caring.”

“Thank you,” I said. “We do appreciate the warning.”

“We are all wanderers on this earth,” Kezia replied. “Our hearts are full of wonder, and our souls are deep with dreams. I wish you a peaceful night.”

#

My mother maintained an amused silence as we went backstage to change out of our gigging clothes. We had two dressing rooms at our venues—one for mum and Beth, and the other for Mitch, Bob, Rolly and me.

“You don’t have to say it,” I said.

“And I shan’t,” she confirmed.

“I’ll keep an eye out for possible hazards.”

“I should think you would be doing that anyway,” my mother replied, deadpan, opening her door, “as the only reason I brought you along on this tour was to look after me.”

#

Beth, Bob and Rolly had repaired to our hotel’s bar—which stayed open late—for a nightcap with the crew. Mitch, mum and I went up to our rooms.

I made myself a mug of hot chocolate. A bonus when you’re touring is accommodations that come with electric kettles and packets of expensive tea and an equally-impressive array of coffee pods and packages of sugar and whitener and, if you’re lucky, hot cocoa mix.

I finished off the last of a G&B Dark Chocolate and Ginger I’d bought that morning and had a bedtime ciggie, blowing the smoke down the sink drain in the bathroom. I switched on the telly and read over the comments that my followers had contributed to my latest Instagram post. I “liked” them all, answered a couple of them, and then fell asleep watching Cliff Richard and the Shadows drive across continental Europe in a refurbished double-decker bus.

#

How do you conduct your life when someone’s told you to watch out for something that may or may not have anything to do with a vague premonition of “dropping”? Do you walk around staring at the sky, wondering if a large chunk of blue ice is going to detach itself from a passing jet, plummet to earth and impale itself in your skull? Conversely, do you keep your eyes permanently fixed to the ground in case a sink hole suddenly opens up and you end up tripping into a cavern created by a leaky water pipe dating from the Roman occupation?

If you’re my mother, you discard the entire thing as nonsense and carry on without a second thought.

If you’re me, you remember the guardian angel who saved your life six years earlier and you very definitely believe what you’ve been told.

About the Author

Winona Kent is an award-winning author who was born in London, England and grew up in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada, where she completed her BA in English at the University of Regina. After moving to Vancouver, she graduated from UBC with an MFA in Creative Writing. More recently, she received her diploma in Writing for Screen and TV from Vancouver Film School.

Winona’s writing breakthrough came many years ago when she won First Prize in the Flare Magazine Fiction Contest with her short story about an all-night radio newsman, Tower of Power.

Her spy novel Skywatcher was a finalist in the Seal Books First Novel Competition and was published in 1989. This was followed by a sequel, The Cilla Rose Affair, and her first mystery, Cold Play, set aboard a cruise ship in Alaska.

After three time-travel romances (Persistence of Memory, In Loving Memory and Marianne’s Memory), Winona returned to mysteries with Disturbing the Peace, a novella, in 2017 and the novel Notes on a Missing G-String in 2019, both featuring the character she first introduced in Cold Play, professional jazz musician / amateur sleuth Jason Davey.

The third book in Winona’s Jason Davey Mystery series, Lost Time, was published in 2020.

Ticket to Ride is the fourth book in Winona’s Jason Davey Mysteries.

Winona has been a temporary secretary, a travel agent, a screenwriter and the Managing Editor of a literary magazine. She’s currently the BC/YK/NWT rep for the Crime Writers of Canada and is also an active member of Sisters n Crime – Canada West. She recently retired from her full-time admin job at UBC’s School of Population and Public Health, and is now happily embracing life as a full-time author.

You can visit her website at http://www.winonakent.com and connect with her on Twitter, Facebook and Goodreads.

Title: FLOATING UNDERWATER
Author: Tracy Shawn
Publisher: Turbulent Muse Publishing
Pages: 312
Genre: Women’s Fiction / Magical Realism / Psychological Fiction

Part psychological fiction and part mystical fiction with a dash of magical realism, Floating Underwater follows a woman’s astonishing journey through the extraordinary and, ultimately, to her self-actualization and power.

Fearful that her lifelong premonitions not only predict the future but can also change its very course, Paloma Leary is devastated when her latest vision foretelling a third miscarriage comes true.

Falling into a mystifying world of increasingly bizarre phenomena, including a psychic connection with her mysterious neighbor, out-of-body experiences, and visits from her long-dead mother, Paloma grows desperate for answers. She is also desperate to start a family. But when a life-changing vision reveals a tragic secret from the past, Paloma learns to accept her gifts and embraces a far different future than she ever could have imagined.

“One woman’s mystical journey to move forward while confronting a troubled, mysterious past. Beautifully written; an ethereal, eloquent pleasure.” ~~Marlene Adelstein, author of USA Today bestseller Sophie Last Seen
 

“Mystical and magical realism permeates this women’s novel, and Amy Harmon fans would embrace Shawn’s adept storytelling. The author delivers spot-on dialogue, believable and enchanting characters, and surprising twists. It’s easy to imagine the novel as a talked-about book club selection (in fact, there’s a list of questions at the book’s conclusion). Poignant and beautiful, Floating Underwater leaves readers yearning for a sequel and another look at these captivating characters.” ~~Starred Review by Patricia Moosbrugger for BlueInk Review
 

“The writing is stunning…Paloma’s journey toward friendship, love in her marriage, and the realization that her fears have kept her eyes closed to everything happening around her is a journey worth following. This book will remind you to listen to the wind when it speaks and to look for what’s floating beneath the surface of the water.”~~Reviewed by Jenna Swartz for San Francisco Book Review

“A mystical journey that will take its readers on a whirlwind tour of beautiful imagery and meaningful life adventures, Floating Underwater is the story about a woman named Paloma Leary who learns that she has some very special gifts to share with the world…This book is wonderfully written in a lovely beach setting…Floating Underwater is the perfect book for someone looking for a bit of fantasy thrown into a realistic setting with realistic characters. Written with special attention to little details, this book is relatable, yet very special and is a one-of-a-kind read.” ~~Reviewed by Kristi Elizabeth for Manhattan Book Review

Book Information

Release Date: September 8, 2021

Publisher: Turbulent Muse Publishing

Soft Cover: ISBN: 978-1736664902; 312 pages; $10.99; E-Book, $3.99

Amazon: https://amzn.to/3GrO5TV  

Amazon Kindle: https://amzn.to/3qA2EA3

Chapter One

Paloma smiled at Reed as she clenched the sides of her chair. They sat at their usual spot—a small table outside their favorite deli. Pedestrians slogged by through an unseasonably humid June. A heatwave had intruded on the small town of Sunflower Beach; even the window-box geraniums were wilting in defeat. Paloma doubted they’d survive the summer.

She directed her attention back to her husband. She had to tell him. But she kept her mouth shut as she caught sight of a small bird flitting by and out of view so quickly it could have been her imagination. She swallowed down the murky taste of dread. Maybe it would be better for Reed not to get his hopes up. But he had a right to know—and besides, she wanted him to know.

He cocked his head, grinning. “What is it?”

“I’ve got some good news.” She reached over and held his hand, knowing he had already guessed.

“We’re pregnant,” he said.
She laughed and nodded in confirmation.
“Honey, that’s great.” He squeezed her hand and smiled as if the loss were never an issue. “This time will be different. I just know it.” He got up to hug her. She stood and received his embrace, the glow of his positivity radiating through her body. “I hope so.” She sat back down, wishing she could catch sight of the bird again. She didn’t tell him how two days earlier, as she was mindlessly driving to work, one of her visions had struck. With both hands fixed on the steering wheel, she had managed to pull off the road. She’d tried to will the image away, yet it grew even more vivid. A corpse of a baby sparrow floated down a creek. With its thumb-sized frame and bruised eyelids, it looked like it had plummeted to its death before it even had a chance to breathe. She waded in and scooped it out of the water, but its translucent form had slipped through her cupped hands. She watched, paralyzed, as it tumbled toward the waiting mouth of the ocean—lifeless, distant, gone.
When the vision ended, she had eased her car back onto the street, shutting out the message. But, as before, she could not forget it, even here with Reed. Especially here with Reed. “Of course, it’s going to be okay,” he said. “Wait just a minute.”
He went into the deli and walked up to the counter.

Paloma held her stomach as she watched her husband point to a row of Russian tea cakes. He beamed at droopy-eyed Manny behind the counter, who never changed his just-give- me-your-order expression. With Reed’s tall, robust frame constrained inside his Oxford shirt and his brown, grey- flecked curls brushing his collar, her husband’s bouncing- on-his-toes earnestness made her want to cry. Even though his optimism could be annoying, it also saddened her in its naïve vulnerability.

He returned and handed Paloma a crisp white bag with two conjoined butter stains already seeping through. “Just a little treat to enjoy later,” Reed said, “for my wife—and baby.” He flashed his big-toothed grin as though nothing bad would ever happen again.

Paloma opened the bag and inhaled the sugary aroma.

Reed chuckled as he folded his large body back into his chair and leaned in, eagerness lighting up his face. “When’s the due date?”

For some reason, she couldn’t remember. She knew the date marked something else, something that made her nervous. “The doctor says I’m due…” She stopped and took a sip of ice water, trying to shake off the apprehension.

“If we count the months from your last period, wouldn’t it be around April?” Reed drew closer, the lunch-crowd noise closing in around them.

She nodded, her memory jogged. “The baby is due April twenty-first.” As soon as she said it, she remembered: April 21 was her mother’s birthday. Paloma gagged; the smell of a pastrami sandwich the ponytailed guy at the next table was wolfing down eliciting sudden nausea.

“You okay?”

“Yeah,” she said. “Just feeling queasy.” She picked up a napkin and wiped her forehead. “I guess my hormones are kicking in.”

Reed’s eyebrows shot up. “They are? That’s a good thing. You never felt any morning sickness before.” He beamed at her, his conviction reeling her in.

“You’re right.” Maybe her vision of the dead sparrow was about something else—or maybe it meant nothing at all.

“Sure I am,” Reed said with utter finality.

Manny’s impatient voice burst through an open window as he called out their number and rang the counter’s bell five times in a row—then, impatiently, five more times. Reed stood up and raced back into the deli. But as he brought back his tuna on rye and her turkey sandwich, he gripped the bright orange tray like a little kid who was afraid everything might crash to the ground at the slightest misstep.

Paloma held her sweaty glass to her forehead. “Thank you.” She ignored the foreboding that sank into her gut.

Reed bit into his sandwich and chewed with gusto. Paloma watched him, envious of—but also heartened by—his ability to believe in the future. She reminded herself that happiness was not going to turn into tragedy the second she allowed herself to trust it. Noticing a dab of tuna on Reed’s chin, she smiled as she reached over to wipe it off.

“Don’t worry.” Reed winked. “Our kid can’t ever be as sloppy as I am.”

“I wouldn’t bet on that. Your messy gene runs pretty deep.”

She had missed their silly bantering. They hadn’t been this playful with each other since the last pregnancy, but his jokes and her bursts of laughter had dissipated over time. She wagered, though, that most couples eventually lose sight of what first brought them together.

Reed patted her hand. “It is going to work out this time, Paloma…”

Paloma smiled, then took a bite of her sandwich. Maybe Reed was right; everything would be okay—the future did not have to be defined by the past.

And then, out of the corner of her eye, Paloma saw her. Bone-thin Serena raced across the street and planted herself next to the bumper of a parked car. In her ragged skirt and barely there T-shirt, Serena could be mistaken for one of Sunflower Beach’s many homeless people, who tucked themselves into alleys, behind bushes dotting the hillsides, and around trash-strewn paths by the railroad tracks. Yet the bedraggled Serena lived with her family, who tried their best to care for her in their own, private way. Serena stared at Paloma with her mismatched eyes, one blue and the other an unnatural shade of milky green. Slowly, Serena shook her head as her gaze misted over with what looked to be pity. Even though she had followed Paloma around ever since she’d moved into town when she was in sixth grade and Paloma in fifth, Paloma’s heart raced now, and the nausea returned.

Reed leaned away and averted his face from Serena’s scrutiny. “She’s been showing up, even more, you know.”

“I know,” Paloma whispered. “I think she’s trying to tell me something.” Paloma shoved her plate away. Eating would be impossible now.

“She’s not trying to tell you anything.” Reed sighed. “She’s just more unhinged than usual.”

Paloma dared to look again. Serena pinned her down with those unnerving eyes, and then her mouth suddenly twisted into a grimace. Not knowing what else to do, Paloma waved. Serena turned abruptly. Passersby shook their heads and stared as she skipped barefoot down the street. Paloma watched the last coiled ends of Serena’s long, tangled hair as it floated out of view.

About the Author

Award-Winning Author Tracy Shawn lives and writes on the Central Coast of California. Her debut novel, The Grace of Crows, won several indie book awards. Floating Underwater is her second novel. Tracy Shawn’s short stories have appeared in Literary BrushstrokesPsychology Tomorrow Magazine, and Steel House Review Literary Journal. She’s written numerous articles for print and online publications and is currently working on her third novel.

You can visit her website at https://www.tracyshawn.com/ or connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads.

Title: AWAKEN TO TAROT: BE YOUR OWN GUIDE WITH ASTROLOGY, NUMBERS AND THE TREE OF LIFE
Author: Karen La Puma
Publisher: Soul Source Publishing
Pages: 420 (including pictures)
Genre: Self-Help / Spiritual / Self-Help / Kabbalah / Astrology / Tarot

The Tarot is visual system that reveals both our True Nature and

our obstacles. Introducing a new Tarot deck, made with digital

collage. Through pictures, symbols, meanings, questions, processes, Kabbalah, key words, and affirmations, you can learn to:

      • Find ways to reflect your inner guidance.

      • Explore the magical journey of evolution

      • Blend Astrology, Numerology, and the Tree of Life with the Tarot   

      • Discover the power and implications of the symbols of Tarot

PRAISE

“Awaken To Tarot is full of valuable information and I feel blessed to have it in my possession to refer to as often as I like when I am doing a tarot reading for myself. I am certain I will go to this book over and over again for inspiration and guidance while working with the Tarot.” – Cynthia, A Hippie’s Bookshelf

“This book offers deep wisdom and guidance for anyone seeking to live in alignment with universal principles. It presents a body of wonderful tools for awakening to our divine nature, showing us how to access the help that is always available to us if we know
where to look.–Susan Campbell, Ph.D. Author of Getting Real and From Triggered to Tranquil

Book Information

Release Date: November 2, 2021

Publisher:  SoulSource Publishing

Soft Cover: ISBN:  978-1878203106; 420 pages; $24.95; Kindle Unlimited FREE 

Amazon: https://amzn.to/3poitYX 

Watch the book trailer at YouTube.

Chapter One

Introducing Supportive Supernatural Symbols

One has only to know and trust and the ageless guardian will appear.

Joseph Campbell

Throughout history we have wanted to understand the circumstances of our lives and our relationships with others. We have had a profound desire to know ourselves on the deepest levels, to make sound decisions, and to receive guidance from the Divine. The Tarot is a set of universal principles that provide a visual system which reveals both your True Nature and the obstacles to living from this Unified State of Consciousness. Tradition-ally and cross-culturally these archetypes communicate all the aspects of existence. Through these rich symbolic mirrors you can receive messages about where you are at present, an external issue, a relationship, your career, and an inner psychological state—in fact all aspects of your evolutionary journey.

In the following pages, you will touch on how to tap into inner guidance and awaken internal allies. This book was writ-ten for you to draw assistance from the symbols of your soul’s journey as each card is like a magic talisman.

As you explore the visual symbols of each Tarot card, you are given different components that add to your understanding of its meaning. After the visuals there are: a short meaning; descriptions; key words to summarize them; reflective suggestions to go into your process; questions to ponder; and an affirmation. In the descriptions there are correlations with Astrology, Numerology, the Tree of Life, the Hero’s Journey, and the general process of evolution. I have included the Hebrew letter for each of the Major Arcana, and the I Ching’s association to the Royalty cards.

Toward the end of the book, you will learn to find your life’s path, your yearly path, some inner teachers, and sample readings for you to try. Please take what is useful for you and ignore the rest. For those of you who want to dive in deeper, there are several dense teaching chapters that I include in Part VII, “Integrating the Tarot.” Altogether these systems can as-sist your assimilation of each card, as their cosmic voices can exert a powerful support for you. When you use the cards, you not only have a self-reflective tool, a device to awaken intuition, but also a suggestive magnifier of the qualities you want to in-fuse into your life.

This book is a part of a series called, A Toolkit for Awakening, which is based on the eminent mythologist, Joseph Camp-bell’s great blueprint, “The Hero’s Journey. ” It is from his classic book, A Hero with a Thousand Faces (1948). This formula for spiritual evolution, presented in Chapter 83 and the conclusion, gives the structure and foundation of this series.

The stage of the Hero’s Journey that this book deals with is called “Supernatural Aids.” You are encouraged to seek helpers, animate and inanimate, seen and unseen, ancient and modern. You don’t have to rely solely upon your own innate powers. Magical helpers appear once you are on the spiritual path as you see abundantly in myths and fairy tales. This book suggests that the Tarot is “a supernatural aid,” for these cards are external mirrors from which you can hear your inner guidance.

Having support is one of life’s most valuable assets. I am thankful for all the support I have received. Yet because I have chosen “a road less traveled,” my deepest gratitude has been to those invisible forces—the archetypes (also called universal symbols). Exploring interrelated metaphysical systems, like Tarot, Astrology, and Numerology have given me the keys to the human journey. “Meta” means beyond, for these maps of consciousness go outside the physical to bridge existence with causality. As you play with the archetypes themselves, they be-come intuitive and active spiritual allies.

There is a vast array of metaphysical oracles to help you gain self–knowledge. You can delve into the many different cosmic looking glasses to muse and reflect. You can pick cards, gaze at charts and maps, throw coins, select stones, add some numbers, dream, visualize, meditate, or open a book randomly for a message, and they will become your guideposts and supportive tools that help you to see another way and wake up to the highest aspects of yourself.

My hope is that the Tarot images, the concepts presented in this book, and the series, A Toolkit for Awakening, will be a source of support for you. The empowering myth of the Goddess Warrior on the Hero’s Journey is the underlying basis of this series. Love and allowing are the ways of the Goddess. Being accountable for your time, attention and intention is how you embody the Warrior. These archetypes become your helpers and infuse higher vibrations to facilitate new states of consciousness.

My inner and outer helpers guide me and inspire me along my sacred path of expressing Divine Light.

About the Author

Karen La Puma is the Author of a series of books called A Toolkit for Awakening, which are based on the Goddess Warrior on the Hero’s Journey. She is a motivational, intuitive, and spiritual counselor in private practice in the Bay Area since 1979. She is a teacher, astrologer, hypnotherapist, reiki master, inspirational speaker, and creative storyteller with a potent and timely message to empower your life.

Her latest book is Awaken to Tarot: Be Your Own Guide with Astrology, Numbers and the Tree of Life.

Visit her website at www.soul-source.org or connect with her on Twitter and Facebook.

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