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As the judge in a complicated case involving an oil-bunkering gang, Sir Carter Braxton finds himself totally under the security provided by a mysterious figure, Sidi el-Hassam, a wealthy Arab who commands a volunteer group that specializes in preventing crude oil theft. The isolation under which he now lives causes him to miss his best friend’s funeral in 1993 for reasons that must remain inexplicable to his friends, the Falconer family, who live in the Forest of Dean, where they grow restoration oak. Finding herself in London, the widow, Valerie Falconer, an American from Texas, slips into one of Carter’s trials as a spectator, after which she discovers the conditions under which her old friend has been living for over three years. However, a third element also mixes into the situation in that both Carter and the Sidi, separately, have volunteered to participate in the refining of the GSP satellite system now being tested by NASA. This tracking system allows Carter to move temporarily to Texas to draw one of his assassins out. Not only is this the story of a man under physical stress and emotional stress; it is also a record of his spiritual journey led by his friend and later wife, Valerie, as well as the spiritual journey of the Sidi, which has been generated by an apparition of Mary in Zeitoun, Egypt.

Lanayre Liggera holds an MA from Tufts University and another from Cambridge-Goddard Graduate School, where she became interested in the history of woman as portrayed by music, which led to the formation of the New Harmony Sisterhood Band, with Lanayre on banjo. The students’ research produced the book All Our Lives, which was used on college campuses until radicals blew up the publisher, Diana Press. Sometime later, she began to pursue a long-held interest in early aviation. Inevitably, this led studying World War I, spending several tours of the Western Front sponsored by our parent organization, the Western Front Association, US branch. Lanayre was named chairman of the New England–New York chapter, a post which she held for fourteen years, which held a yearly conference at a different location in our region. She and her husband were involved as volunteers in prison ministry for eighteen years as well as in nursing homes, soup kitchens, and the VA. They live in Hudson Valley, where they try to keep up with the comings and goings of their global grandchildren. She is the author of The Life of Robert Loraine: The Stage, the Sky, and George Bernard Shaw.

 

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Inside the Series

Title: EMILY STONE THRILLER SERIES
Author: Jennifer Chase
Publisher: JEC Press
Genre: Crime Thriller

Vigilante detective Emily Stone hunts serial killers and child abductors, covertly and under the law enforcement radar. She uses her fine-tuned skills of criminal profiling and forensic perceptiveness to locate predators that cops cannot or will not find. She is trained, she is tough, she is serious, and she gets results.

With Stone’s toughest cases yet, the killer immediately crosses her radar and sends her into the dark territory of a serial killer’s mind—tothe point of no return.

Take your pick of any of the award-winning, stand-alone books and tag along with a serial killer hunter.

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Jennifer Chase is a multi award-winning crime fiction author and consulting criminologist. Jennifer holds a bachelor
degree in police forensics and a master’s degree in criminology & criminal justice. These academic pursuits developed out of her curiosity about the criminal mind as well as from her own experience with a violent sociopath,
providing Jennifer with deep personal investment in every story she tells. In addition, she holds certifications in serial crime and criminal profiling. 
She is an affiliate member of the International Association of Forensic
Criminologists.

WEBSITE & SOCIAL LINKS:

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https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/-OmTskvZNoI?rel=0

Title: DON’T CALL ME CRAZY! I’M JUST IN LOVE WITH GOD
Author: Swiyyah Woodard
Publisher: Swiyyah Productions, Inc.
Pages: 229
Genre: Inspirational / Motivational / Romance / Christian

BOOK BLURB:

Because of God, nothing will stop Anika from marrying the love of her life, not even paranoid schizophrenia.
You don’t want to miss this spiritual journey filled with inspiration and power.
This book is insightful and perceptive. Inspired by a true story. Few people consider the God factor in mental health. Join Anika and journey with her as she receives revelations from God while on her walk to overcome mental illness and naiveness towards religion. Required reading for High schools and colleges.

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Swiyyah Nadirah Woodard was selected as a Bay News 9 Everyday Hero, which was seen by two million viewers, for
publishing a book and teaching the community about her own battle with mental
illness. She was hospitalized six times and misdiagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.
Her first book, Don’t Call Me Crazy! I’m Just in Love, became required and suggested reading in Reading, Writing, Abnormal Psychology, and General Psychology classes at a four year Institution.

She was born in the housing projects of Saint Petersburg, FL. Her father left when she was three so she was raised in a single parent home. At the age of five she was molested by her eight year old brother. She later started school, she had slurred speech and didn’t care to make friends so she was bullied by her peers. At the age of eight, she wanted to kill herself because a girl wanted to fight her. She looked into the medicine cabinet for medication. Thank God, she couldn’t find any.

As a teenager she was physically abused by her step dad. The abuse was so severe, God blocked it from her memory. At the age of 20 the brother that molested her committed suicide, which was devastating to her and the entire family. Swiyyah has always viewed herself as normal. She never received any disciplinary problems in school, made good grades, and received her BA degree in Psychology from the University of South Florida.

When the doctors misdiagnosed her with the most debilitating mental disorder known in mental health, paranoid schizophrenia, she denied it. She questioned their expertise. She refused to take medication. She was then hospitalized six times. Her family took a picture of her at her worst and that’s when she knew she needed help. She has been taking medication now for ten years without a relapse.

She is now a published author and a National Inspirational Speaker. Her first book is entitled, “Don’t Call Me Crazy! I’mjust in Love,” and is inspired by her true story. 

She was raised Muslim and the revelations she received from God and placed in her books, didn’t make any since until she meet her Christian husband 14 years after her first relapse. 

Please contact Swiyyah to book speaking engagements, life coaching, author and speaker coaching, radio and TV
interviews, or to purchase her books at 727-495-3217, Swiyyah@swiyyah.com.

WEBSITE & SOCIAL LINKS:

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If Truth Be Told

Title: IF TRUTH BE TOLD: A MONK’S MEMOIR
Author: Om Swami
Publisher: Harper Element
Pages: 256
Genre: Memoir

BOOK BLURB:

If Truth be Told is an extraordinary memoir of the making of a spiritual life in today’s demanding and baffling times. The book unravels the true life story of Om Swami and his journey to becoming a monk. In the 1990s, an eighteen-year-old heads to Australia to realize his worldly dreams. With little money or support, he strives to make ends meet. Two years later, he’s earning an annual income of $250,000. By the age of twenty-six, Om Swami’s a multi-millionaire. But, the pull of the ochre robe is such that the boy whose hair Shiva had stroked in a dream and who at times could peer into the future of a complete stranger, gives up not just a multimillion dollar business, but every pleasure ever known to him. He renounces, in search of God.

Overnight, from a CEO Swami becomes an ordained monk in India. Reality hits him hard when he faces starvation and neglect at his guru’s ashram. A resolute Swami leaves for the Himalayas to burn his mind and body in the fire of intense meditation, to manifest God or die trying. A chance meeting with a mystical female tantric reinforces his faith in the existence of the divine. In the snowy and secluded reaches of the Himalayas, in terrifying silence and solitude, cut off from the world, Swami spends thirteen months in extraordinary, intense meditation. There in the woods, beyond the incessant chatter of the conscious mind, diving in the quietude of supernal bliss, the unimaginable happens: looking down at him are the effulgent eyes of the Empress. The Divine Mother.

If Truth Be Told: A Monk’s Memoir, is a true and inspiring story of success, renunciation and self-realization. It will light up your path wherever you are on your life’s journey.

ORDER YOUR COPY:

Amazon

ONE

The First Step

I checked out of my lodge and stepped out onto the crowded street. Spotting a cycle rickshaw, I waved it down. ‘Where to?’ said the rickshaw driver. ‘Ghat.’

‘Which ghat? There are so many here.’

I wasn’t prepared for this. How was I to know there were many ghats in Varanasi?

‘Just take me to any ghat.’

‘I can’t take you to just any ghat, sir. Then you will say this is not where you wanted to go.’

‘Alright, name a ghat.’ ‘Dashashvamedha Ghat.’ ‘Fine, take me there.’

I hadn’t been on a rickshaw since 1995. Back then, fifteen years ago, I was a teenager attracted to, and working towards, materialism. Now, at thirty, I was doing exactly the opposite. The vehicle hadn’t changed but the direction had; the person hadn’t changed but the priorities had.

I presumed I was headed to a quiet riverside but I couldn’t be more wrong. The ghat was crowded beyond description, like an agitated mind crowded with thoughts, like ants gathered on a dead insect.

India was hardly new to me; I had spent the first eighteen years of my life in this country. But, rather naively, I had expected a different India in Varanasi. An old image was locked in my head, an image I hadn’t seen but conjured up while reading medieval texts: Kashi by the Ganges, an ancient town full of scholars, saints, tantriks, yogis and other spiritually inclined people.

I roamed about for a while, not knowing where to go. A long time ago, I had heard about Telang Swami, a realized soul who had lived in Kashi more than a century ago. There was supposed to be a monastery at the site of his samadhi. I visualized a quiet monastery by the Ganges, where noble sadhaks sat under the shade of old banyan trees and focused on their sadhana under the guidance of a venerable guru. I enquired, but no one knew anything about the monastery.

I thought of visiting the only other place I’d heard of in this city— Manikarnika Ghat, a cremation ground by the river where dead bodies were burnt round the clock. I hoped to meet some tantrik, sitting there and performing esoteric rituals by the burning pyres. I marched back to the main road and stopped another cycle rickshaw. It was nearly noon and the heat was biting me. I tried to tell myself that it was only mid-March, but this intellectual balm failed to soothe my body.

‘Will you take me to Manikarnika Ghat?’

‘Yes sir, but I can’t go all the way there. I can drop you at the nearest point.’

‘How much?’

’Rs 20.’

I hopped into the rickshaw, which moved slowly but steadily on the busy road. Several times, the rickshaw driver had to actually get down to manoeuvre it through the crowd. I noticed he was barefoot even though the sun was spewing fire and the road was like a field of burning coal—it just exuded heat.

‘Why aren’t you wearing any slippers?’

‘They got stolen at the temple the day I bought them.’

‘I don’t know this area. Please stop by a footwear shop. I’d like to get slippers for you.’

‘I’ll manage, brother.’

‘What is your name?’

‘Mahesh Kumar.’

‘Don’t worry, Mahesh, I’ll still give you the money for the ride.’

A little later, I spotted a small shoe shop. Mahesh wasn’t keen on stopping, so I practically had to order him to halt. Getting off the rickshaw, I gestured to him to follow me into the shop. He came in after me sheepishly.

‘Hello, sir,’ the shopkeeper said, and asked me to sit down. I beckoned to Mahesh, who was hovering near the entrance, to join me on the sofa. He did so extremely reluctantly.

A young worker at the shop offered me water.

‘Please give it to Mahesh,’ I said, ‘he’s your customer today.’

‘Do you want sandals instead of slippers? That may be better,’ I said to Mahesh.

‘Whatever you think is best.’

The sales assistant went to the back of the shop and returned a few minutes later with a pair of sandals. Beige in colour, with dark-brown straps and shining steel buckles, they looked very comfortable. He handed Mahesh the pair.

‘Please put them on his feet like you would do for any other customer,’ I said.

Mahesh looked at me nervously. I looked into his eyes and nodded. Immediately, his face broke into a smile and he stuck out his feet so that the assistant could put on the sandals. I looked at Mahesh’s beautiful, dark face, his yellow teeth, slightly deformed and stained, his big eyes full of contentment, and felt very warm inside. His smile simply made my day.

Mahesh pedalled with renewed enthusiasm now, while his dusty, worn feet seemed to come alive in the new sandals. As I watched his feet pushing the pedals up and down, everything else faded for a moment—the shops, the noise, the heat. All I could see were those feet, which seemed to be performing a cosmic dance. Now a pedal went up and now a pedal came down; every movement seemed effortless, in perfect synchronization.

Mahesh dropped me off at the point closest to Manikarnika Ghat.

‘If you go to the temple again, don’t leave your shoes outside,’ I warned as I got off the rickshaw.

‘I won’t,’ he said.

I offered him a fifty-rupee note.

‘How can I take money from you, sir?’

‘Please keep this. It will give me great joy if you do.’

He came around from his rickshaw and reached down to touch my feet. I caught his wrists and pulled him up. ‘There are only three places you should bow your head,’ I said. ‘In front of God, in front of the elderly and in front of your guru.’

I thrust the money into his hands and walked away, thinking that Mahesh was not designed to be a rickshaw driver. He could have been a clerk, a watchman, an officer, an executive. For that matter, no one deserved to live a life that sought to break the body as well as the spirit. This man was living in a democratic country but did that make him a free man? The state did not provide for him and his fellow countrymen did not respect him. He did not have the freedom to own a roof over his head or break away from the harshness and drudgery of his daily routine. I don’t think Mahesh ever took a vacation or enjoyed any luxury in his life except perhaps the luxury of needs; he would never run out of needs. Come to think of it, there was no difference between him and me: we were both fettered by our needs. His were more tangible and essential for survival, while mine were more abstract and self-imposed.

I navigated my way to Manikarnika Ghat. I doubt if anywhere else in India there existed such tight streets as in Varanasi; at least, I’d never seen them. If you had a slightly bigger nose and turned your head, you were likely to hit something. Well, almost. I don’t know how I managed to reach Manikarnika Ghat, but I finally did.

A pyre was burning; another had been mostly reduced to ash, occasionally lit up by smouldering embers. Pieces of broken clay pots lay scattered around. Breaking a pot full of water at the time of cremation is a Hindu custom

signifying that the soul of the deceased has severed all ties with the human world. The pot symbolizes the human body, and its breaking indicates the liberation of the soul that has trapped within.

There were no saints to be found here, no practitioners of the occult sciences, no evolved tantriks or yogis who beckoned to me to join them in a journey to self-realization. Instead, around the pyres, dealers sat selling wood; beside them sat paanwallahs and chaiwallahs. Milling around were countless people, cows, dogs and cats.

The ghat had turned out to be a disappointment, so I began asking about Telang Swami’s monastery again. Of the many souls I asked, one seemed to know. He pointed in a certain direction. I walked down narrow streets with decrepit buildings ready to crumble and shops selling all manner of things. Dodging the maddening traffic, I found myself in winding alleyways, going past houses standing cheek-by-jowl and children playing beside parked two-wheelers, doing my best to avoid stepping into puddles of animal urine and dung.

After forty-five minutes, feeling tired and hopeless, I stopped. I couldn’t see the monastery and I couldn’t find anyone who had ever seen it. I sat down on the kerb and wiped the sweat off my forehead, wondering how to proceed. After a few minutes, I raised my head and there it was, on my right, a sign written in Hindi: ‘Telang Swami Math’. It was a temple.

I went inside. A middle-aged man was sitting on the pujari’s seat. Everything about him was round—head, face, torso, belly, hands, feet. A barber came in behind me, took his kit out of his bag and began shaving the priest. I watched quietly, enjoying the coolness of the temple after the searing heat outside. After a few minutes, the barber picked up his things and left; no money exchanged hands. Perhaps they had some kind of monthly arrangement.

I asked the priest about Telang Swami and his lineage, and about the monastery. He said there was no disciplic succession or ashram. This temple was all there was and there was no arrangement for anyone to stay even if they could pay.

I felt betrayed, although I was not sure by whom.

‘Telang Swami is buried there.’ He pointed to a corner of the temple compound. Walking across to Telang Swami’s tombstone, I prayed, ‘Please guide this lost soul, O Swami, so I may attain what I’ve set out to do.’

On my way out, the priest stopped me to ask exactly what I was looking for. I told him I was in search of a guru and wanted to take sanyasa diksha, initiation into the life of a renunciant. He said there was no need to renounce the world or look for a guru, and that I should get married and lead a normal life.

Normal life? There’s nothing called a normal life. What is normal from one’s viewpoint may be most abnormal from another’s. A yogi thinks that the world is abnormal and people live like animals, mostly focused on feeding and fornicating. The world thinks the yogi is a fool who wastes his life sitting around doing nothing, enjoying none of the many pleasures life has to offer.

Naturally I didn’t say any of this to the priest. I had no interest in pursuing a conversation with someone who could understand neither my desperation nor my intention.

I went towards the ghats again. It was nearly 3 p.m. and the sun was even hotter now. I hadn’t eaten anything all day. In the morning, I hadn’t been able to find any place to eat where the food wasn’t deep-fried. In the afternoon, I was busy with my self-realization business. My water bottle had been empty for hours and the reality of hunger was tugging hard at my stomach.

Lacking a sense of direction, I didn’t know if I was heading towards the ghats or away from them. When I saw the number of people on the streets reduce significantly, I knew I was heading in the wrong direction. Coincidentally, I saw some lodges there and asked a few if they had any vacancy. I just wanted to lie down in a cool, quiet place. Oddly enough, at each place, they asked me where I was from, how many people needed the room and for how many days. Then they would tell me there was no room available. I was intrigued. Why would they put me through a whole heap of questions if they had no room available?

I walked on and eventually found myself by the river. The Hindu texts talked a great deal about the sacred significance of ‘Ganga Maiya’. Well, her ‘children’ had polluted her beyond imagination. Seeing the filthy state of the river flowing past me, I shook my head in as much disgust as disbelief. I had seen the Ganga till Haridwar, where it was clean, but what had happened here in this holiest of holy cities, the Kashi of my imagination? I decided I would not bathe in the river here. Inwardly though, I paid obeisance to the sacred Ganga. A ma remains a ma, no matter how she’s dressed.

‘Massage?’ I looked up to see a man standing near me.

‘No massage. I need a guide.’

‘Sure, sir. I’ll be your guide.’

‘You do know this area well?’

‘Yes, sir.’

‘What will you charge? I need you with me for the rest of the day. And maybe tomorrow as well.’

‘You can pay whatever you like.’

‘Rs 250 per day?’

‘Okay, sir.’

‘Let’s go.’

‘I’ll take your bag,’ he offered kindly.

It took me a few minutes to realize I was free of the load. That’s the thing with baggage—you get used to carrying it around. You know it’s heavy but the weight has a way of becoming a part of your life. Only when you take it off your back and feel the lightness does the awareness of the load hit you.

Manish took me to a couple of guest houses and I got the same questions there too. Finally, my guide solved the mystery for me by explaining that when the employees at these lodges weren’t busy with work or occupied watching a cricket match on TV, they longed to chat with people as a way of passing their time. They didn’t have any rooms available but a conversation with a stranger was welcome.

Not getting very far in my search for a place to stay, I asked Manish to take me to a bigger hotel, but he said there wasn’t one. I realized that he didn’t really know the area; he had lied to me. Anyway, I was starving now. We managed to spot a vegetarian Jain dhaba that served meals without onion or garlic. I avoided eating onion and garlic, so the menu was fine with me but the food wasn’t; it was tasteless. I was too tired to fuss and my head hurt. I swallowed whatever I was served, though my guide seemed to savour the meal. After we left the dhaba, I bought two chilled bottles of water from a small provision store. Opening the first one, I washed my face and poured the rest on my head. The second I guzzled right away.

It was nearly 6 p.m. by the time we resumed our hunt for accommodation, and we finally got lucky at Pooja Guest House, where they gave me a room. I let Manish go and asked him to come again the next morning.

Even though I had a room now, I couldn’t sleep because of the fatigue and dehydration, which was evident from the colour of my urine. I hadn’t known I was so fragile. There was a time not long ago when I had played badminton daily, spent hours at a stretch on the golf course, pumped iron and run 12 miles regularly, and all this had felt effortless. But today, just one day spent in the ‘real’ world, and I found myself stretched beyond what I could take. My belief that I was fit and strong seemed merely a conceited notion.

I realized that my body was far from ready for the hardships of monkhood. If I couldn’t even tolerate the heat of a day, what chance did I have to endure the rigours of meditation and the harsh life of an ascetic? I had no idea how to prepare my body for intense penance. Yet, I knew that life would teach me. I had only to be open and willing.

I lay there thinking about my worldly journey thus far.

 

Summer on EarthTitle: SUMMER ON EARTH
Author: Peter Thompson
Publisher: Persnickety Press
Pages: 293
Genre: Sci-fi / Middle Grade

BOOK BLURB:

The night that eleven-year-old Grady Johnson looked out his window and wished upon a shooting star, his life changed forever.

Grady, his Ma, and younger sister Luanne are having a hard summer. Dad has died and the family isn’t the same. Though Ma is trying her best, Grady knows they don’t have enough money to get by.

The shooting star he saw was a space craft plunging to Earth, and landing at the back of their farm. Extraterrestrial engineer Ralwil Turth has one goal, to fix his power drive and go back home. But things don’t go as planned. Stuck in human form, he gets to know Grady and his family as he works on their farm. He starts to learn about what it means to be human, and the exotic charms of this planet like the taste of potatoes, and how amazing bugs are.

Ralwil grows to care for Grady and his family. On a trip to town, he realizes that money is what matters to humans, and is the cause of the family’s trouble. That night, he uses his technology to combine a twenty-dollar bill with an oak twig. Over the next week this grows to a towering tree, every leaf a twenty-dollar bill. This, Ralwil is sure, will solve all the family’s problems.

But the family’s wealth raises suspicion in this small town, and this soon leads to more trouble. With the family’s fate, and Ralwil’s life, on the line, Grady has to find the courage to help his family and save his friend.

Summer on Earth blends humor, adventure and poignancy to create an unforgettable story about finding home.

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Chapter One

Ralwil Turth

Intergalactic Year 465009.2053

To anyone watching the Midwestern night sky, it looked like a meteor that arced across the sky in a flash of bright light, then disappeared as it fell to earth. But inside the pod, Ralwil Turth was gripped with fear as he tried to control the path of his ship. He had been on his way home from a routine mining expedition on the outskirts of the Andromeda system, when the lights on his control board flashed in the urgent warning pattern. This signaled a breakdown of his primary power plant. His major energy source was draining fast. Without hesitation he switched to the spare power source.

The spare would not take him far. He had to find a place to bring his craft down to make the repair, and he didn’t have any time to waste. Ralwil’s body shook as he brought his universal map up on the view-screen. He was on the far side of the charted universe, light-years away from any known civilization. The information about this sector was old, but it showed that the third planet out in the nearest solar system was water-based and had an atmosphere rich in oxygen. It was the kind of place capable of supporting life, though according to the maps, there was no record of intelligent life in this quadrant. With no time to spare, he made the decision and aimed for the planet.

He cut the engine back and slowed down as he approached. His pod shuddered when he hit the atmosphere. The friction was intense, and the heat sensors flashed a warning. His styrpump beat madly against his chest and his brain felt as if it was going to explode. The pod’s shields were designed to withstand tremendous heat, so if the systems worked properly he would be protected. But he had never had to test the systems. He hoped they worked better than the power source. The pod shook and screeched as if the ship was about to rip apart.

Ralwil tried to ignore his fear as he went through the emergency procedures. The vibrations increased and his whole body trembled. It felt as if his skelfones were going to shake right out of his body. He had never been this frightened before. It was hard to think, but he had to maintain control. He flipped on his personal force field. A cushion of cool air surrounded him and suddenly he was still again. He held his breath as he checked his view screen and searched for a safe place to land.

The image of the planet came up. He was above a large land mass. Scattered over the land were pockets of light, some small, others spread out in big clusters. Light meant energy, and concentrations like this didn’t appear naturally. These lights were almost surely cities of some kind.

More bad luck! The planet had intelligent life forms after all!

This complicated his plan. Now he would have to work around the occupants without interfering with them in any way—if he survived.

Ralwil had to somehow coax his crippled machine down to a safe landing. He concentrated on the screen in front of him, steering toward the center of the land mass. It would not do to come down in the middle of one of their cities. The smart thing would be to land on the outskirts, somewhere where he could get his bearings and find the materials he needed without causing any alarm. He steered away from the main concentration of lights to a dark area between two small clusters. Moving fast, he dropped closer to the ground.

As he neared land, he shifted the image on the view screen to show the area in heat-sensitive infrared. At night, the heat map picked up surface features and life forms better than a visual map. The area was flat and appeared to be covered with plant life. A narrow strip cut through, winding around in a series of smooth curves. The temperature there was much cooler than in the surrounding area. It had to be water. Suddenly a new alarm went off and the screen flashed a warning. The power was almost drained. He cursed the makers of spare power supplies as he dipped his pod down closer to the ground. He set the controls for an automatic landing near the water, held his breath, and prepared to touch down.

He expected to glide in for a soft landing, but without warning his power supply gave way completely. The pod dropped like a stone and bounced once before stopping.

He felt a big bump, and then a shudder as his ship came to a rest.

His styrpump pounding, he took in a deep breath and tried to focus. He had survived! Ralwil slowly let his breath out and silently gave thanks.

The pod lights were dim and the only sound was the hum of the ventilation system. The power plant was out so he couldn’t take off in his pod. His systems still worked off the reserve battery, but this would not last long. He would need to conserve his supply.

From now on, the ship’s power could only be used for emergencies.

Ralwil picked up his onmibelt and made sure it was fully operational. His life depended on this thin belt. It held an assortment of tools and instruments. With this belt, and a little luck, he had a chance to survive on this alien planet. No, he thought, make that a lot of luck.

Before opening the pod’s hatch, he took a reading of the outside air. It was a mixture of oxygen, nitrogen and more than a touch of methane. Not exactly what he was used to at home, but still breathable without additional gear. He pushed a button and the pod doors slid open.

Stepping out, he heard a sharp metallic chirping sound, mixed with a deeper bass. His first thought was that he was near some kind of strange machine. He touched a button on his omnibelt and a holographic image appeared in front of him, showing the source of the noise. The chirping came from thousands of little six-legged, winged creatures spread across the field, all rubbing their legs together. The deeper sounds were from two small cold-blooded creatures on opposite sides of the water’s edge. He doubted that either of these species had the brain capacity to be intelligent, but their exotic nature was a marvel.

He touched another button as he shut the pod doors, and the pod disappeared from view. The invisi-shield would drain the batteries more than he would like, but it was a valuable protection from nosy natives. If a creature happened by and saw the ship, it would lead to problems. It was better not to be seen.

Ralwil sniffed the air around him. Its chemical makeup was safe to breathe, but the smell was atrocious. He wondered how these creatures could tolerate this noxious air, but he had no choice. If he didn’t get out and explore, he would never be able to fix his power source and go home.

He walked up a small incline and was immediately in a field of tall leafy vegetation. Each plant was spaced evenly apart. On his native planet, Ralwil was considered unnaturally tall. At nearly three fornos, he towered over all the brothers in his swarm. But these plants were taller. He tried to look through them, but all he saw were more plants. Even the stars above were hidden by the leaves.

The chirping sound of the tiny winged creatures was so loud here it was hard to think. He kept on walking. The vegetation was everywhere. The leaves above him formed a canopy, cutting off the moonlight. He could hardly see in front of him. The leaves scraped against his outer membrane and gave him a creepy ticklish sensation. His styrpump beat faster. He was afraid he would panic if he did not get out in the open soon. No—he had a mission to accomplish. He must not panic. He fumbled at his belt, found his sensomap and took a reading. From its holographic sensor, he saw that there was an opening to the field off to the right. With relief, he turned and headed toward it.

As he got closer, his sensomap showed a hot spot—something large and slow moving, just past the edge of the field. It was obviously a life form, and it was clearly large enough to be intelligent. He could not show himself in his present form without causing all sorts of problems. He switched the setting on his belt to rough duplication mode. The instrument could send a wave of energy over the being, then re-form the wearer’s molecular structure into a rough copy. Back home the tool was good for nothing much except practical jokes, but on expeditions it often came in handy. If he transformed himself into something like this native creature, it might be possible to get in close enough to do a synch-link.

He turned the duplicator on as he stepped out of the field. He felt a ticklish sensation as his molecules rearranged in the pattern of the being before him. It was a large quadrapodal creature with a long face and a huge swollen stomach. Its skin was thick, and, though light colored, there were big splotches of dark pigment throughout. It stood behind a barrier of some kind and stared at him with dull brown eyes.

Ralwil attempted a synch-link, but as he synched in with the creature’s brain, all he could think about was how hungry he was, and how tasty the ground-covering vegetation looked. He swatted at a small flying creature with his tail, and stepped back before the synch could progress any farther. He shivered. This creature was surely not intelligent. In fact it appeared to be as dumb as wyr-tack. He reversed the duplicator and returned to his normal appearance. The creature vocalized with a loud mooing sound, then bent down to eat the vegetation on the ground.

Ralwil walked away from the creature and continued his exploration. His fear began to fade. He felt calmer now, and almost excited about the adventure. The temperature was comfortable, the heat and humidity ratio nearly perfect. This was very pleasant. In a way, it reminded him of the equatorial regions on his home planet. The quality of light from the moon above was pleasing, and the stars shone brightly with a set of constellations he had never seen before. Even the noxious smell he had noticed before didn’t seem so bad now. He couldn’t believe he had adjusted to it so quickly. The life forms were exotic here too. Under different circumstances he would consider it interesting to spend some time here.

He came to a large structure made of organic material connected together in overlapping strips. The structure was easily twelve times as wide as his space pod, and twice as tall as it was wide. The two sides of its roof came together in a sharp peak.

Ralwil recognized this as a primitive way of dealing with rain water. With more efficient materials such architecture was not necessary, but it looked functional. Two large openings on the front came together to form an entrance. He walked over and looked up at the lock. It was a finely tooled metallic latch. The design was simple, but the detail required fine motor movement, or at least some kind of digital manipulation. This meant the creatures who built this must have hands. Based on the height of the lock, they walked upright, so most likely they were bipodal life forms, not so different from him, though obviously much larger.

He continued exploring and soon found more evidence of the native creatures. This was another structure, slightly smaller than the first but more ornate, with finer detail in the organic material, and openings covered with a transparent substance where the creatures could look out. This might be their living quarters, Ralwil thought. If so, he must be very careful that no one saw him. He skirted around the edge of the structure and checked his heat sensor. It picked up four heat sources that appeared to be living creatures. Two of them were on higher levels of the structure, one near its peak, another near its midpoint. The last two were down at the structure’s base, around the corner from where he stood. Of the two on the bottom, one was the largest, the other the smallest of the four.

Being so close was dangerous. The smart thing to do would be to back off and find a way to observe these creatures from a distance. Before approaching any unknown creatures, it was important to learn their habits and social functions, find out how they lived so he could determine if they were dangerous or not. Still, he had an overwhelming desire to get in close and see what these creatures looked like. What was the harm in that?

All he had to do was move in for a quick peek.

Ralwil kept close to the side of the structure and moved slowly around the corner, wondering what he would find next.

 

 

 

Title: Sleep Like the Dead
Author: Alex Gray (A DCI Lorimer Novel)
Publisher: Witness Impulse
Publication Date: September 12, 2017
Genres: Mystery/Suspense

Touring: September 4 – September 29

 

There’s a hitman in Glasgow: unpaid and angry, he’s decided to settle his own debts…

Marianne Brogan can’t sleep. She’s plagued by a nightmare: someone in the shadows, whispering threats, stalking her every move. To make matters worse, Marianne can’t get hold of her brother, Billy. Despite knowing some shady characters from Glasgow’s underworld, Billy’s always been there for her – until now.

Meanwhile, DCI Lorimer and his team are faced with a string of seemingly unconnected but professional killings. Without witnesses or much conclusive evidence to build a case, the officers are drawing a blank. Criminal psychologist Solly Brightman is off the case due to budget cuts. But Solly is more closely connected to the murders than he could possibly know . . . And as the hitman plans a bloody ransom to get his fee, the race is on to find out just who hired him – and who’s next on the hit list.

 

Detective Chief Inspector William Lorimer felt the swish of the plastic tape behind him as he entered the crime scene. He glanced at the house, one eyebrow raised in slight surprise. It was such an ordinary two-up, two-down mid-terrace, a modest suburban home, like thousands of others in and around this city in a district not particularly known for a high rate of crime. And certainly not for ones like this. But impressions could be deceptive, that was something he’d learned long ago, and as the Chief Inspector took another look around him his mouth became a hard thin line: scratch the surface of any neighbourhood and the veneer of respectability could expose all manner of human depravity.

The entire garden was cordoned off and a uniformed officer stood guard at the front gate, his eyes shifting only momentarily to the DCI. Lorimer turned to look behind him. Across the street a huddle of people stood, clearly undeterred by the driving rain, their curiosity or compassion binding them in a pool of silent anticipation. Three police vehicles lined the pavement, a clear sign of the gravity of the situation.

The incident had occurred sometime during the night yet the bright glare from a sun struggling to emerge from layers of cloud made a mockery of the situation. This was an ordinary Monday morning where nothing like this should be happening. He could hear the hum of motorway traffic several streets away as people headed to work, oblivious to the little drama that was about to unfold. A bit in tomorrow’s newspaper would command their attention for a few moments, perhaps, then they would dismiss it as someone else’s tragedy and continue about their business, glad that it didn’t impinge upon their own lives.

His business lay ahead, behind that white tent erected outside the doorway, keeping the scene free from prying eyes. Lorimer nodded, satisfied to see it in place. At least one journalist might be among that knot of watchers over the road, he thought wryly. Closing the gate behind him he ventured up the path then stopped. Someone had been violently sick out here, the traces of vomit splashed over a clump of foliage not yet washed away by earlier torrential rain. Whatever lay inside had been shocking enough to make one person’s stomach heave.

With a word to the duty officer the DCI let himself into the house, his gloved hands closing the door carefully behind him. The body lay spreadeagled on the hall carpet, the gunshot wound clearly visible in the artificial light. He was clad in thin summer pyjamas, the shirt open revealing his bare chest. Any traces in the immediate area would assist the scene of crime officers in learning a little more about the victim’s end, as would the bullet lodged within his head. For Lorimer, the story was one that seemed sadly familiar; a gangland shooting, maybe drug related. The single shot to the temple indicated a professional hit man at any rate, he thought, hunkering down beside the body.

‘What can you tell me?’ he asked, looking up at Detective Sergeant Ramsay, the crime scene manager, who hadarrived before him.

‘Well, so far as we can make out there was no call from neighbours about hearing a weapon being discharged.’ The officer shrugged as if to say that didn’t mean much at this stage. To many people, having a quiet life was preferable to giving evidence in a criminal trial.

‘The killer’s weapon may have been fitted with a silencer, of course,’ Ramsay continued, ‘or the neighbours on either side could just be heavy sleepers. We haven’t found a cartridge case, by the way,’ he added.

‘So who called it in?’ Lorimer wanted to know. ‘Colleague of the victim, sir. Was coming to give him a lift to work. Didn’t get an answer to the doorbell so he looked through the letterbox, saw the body . . . ’

‘ . . . And dialled 999,’ Lorimer finished for him.

‘Suppose that was the same person who was sick outside?’ Ramsay nodded. ‘Poor guy’s still shivering out there in the patrol car. Had to wrap a blanket around his shoulders. He’s been trying to give us what information he can.’

‘Okay. What do we know so far?’ Lorimer asked, looking at the dead man, wondering what his story had been, how he had been brought to this untimely end. The victim was a man about his own age, perhaps younger, he thought, noting the mid-brown hair devoid of any flecks of grey. For a moment Lorimer wanted to place his fingers upon the man’s head, stroke it gently as if to express the pity that he felt. No matter what his history, nobody deserved to die like this.

‘Kenneth Scott,’ the DS told him. ‘Thirty-seven. Lived alone. Divorced. No children. Parents both dead. We haven’t managed to get a lot else out of the colleague yet,’ he added, jerking his head in the direction of the street.

‘Too shocked to say much when we arrived. After he’d seen his pal.’ Lorimer continued to focus upon the dead man on the floor.

The victim’s eyes were still wide with surprise, the mouth open as if to register a sudden protest, but it was not an expression of terror.

‘It must have happened too quickly for him to have realised what was happening,’ Lorimer murmured almost to himself. ‘Or had he known his assailant?’

‘There was no forced entry, sir, but that might not mean all that much.’ The DCI nodded a brief agreement. Men were less likely to worry about opening their doors to strangers, if indeed this had been a stranger. And a strong-armed assassin would have been in and out of there in seconds, one quick shot and away. Lorimer sat back on his heels, thinking hard. They would have to find out about the man’s background as a priority, as well as notifying his next of kin. The pal outside had given some information. They’d be checking all that out, of course.

‘What about his work background?’ Lorimer asked.

‘They were in IT, the guy out there told us, shared lifts to a call centre on a regular basis.’ Lorimer stood up as the door opened again to admit a small figure dressed, like himself, in the regulation white boiler suit. His face creased into a grin as he recognized the consultant forensic pathologist. Despite her advanced state of pregnancy, Dr Rosie Fergusson was still attending crime scenes on a regular basis.

‘Still managing not to throw up?’ he asked mischievously.

‘Give over, Lorimer,’ the woman replied, elbowing her way past him, ‘I’m way past that stage now, you know,’ she protested, patting her burgeoning belly. ‘Into my third trimester.’

‘Right, what have we here?’ she asked, bending down slowly and opening her kitbag. Her tone, Lorimer noticed, was immediately softer as she regarded the victim. It was something they had in common, that unspoken compassion that made them accord a certain dignity towards a dead person. Lorimer heard

Rosie sigh as her glance fell on the victim’s bare feet; clad only in his nightwear that somehow made him seem all the more vulnerable.

‘Name’s Kenneth Scott. His mate came to collect him for work at seven this morning. Nobody heard anything last night as far as we know,’ he offered, making eye contact with Ramsay to include him in the discussion. This was a team effort and, though he was senior investigating officer, Lorimer was well aware of the value everyone placed on the scene of crime manager who would coordinate everyone’s part in the case.

‘Hm,’ Rosie murmured, her gloved hands already examining the body. ‘He’s been dead for several hours anyway,’ she said, more to herself than for Lorimer’s benefit.

‘Rigor’s just beginning to establish. May have died around two to four this morning.’ Rosie glanced up at the radiator next to the body. ‘I take it that’s been off?’

‘I suppose so,’ Lorimer answered, feeling the cold metal under the layers of surgical gloves. He shrugged. ‘It’s still officially summertime, you know.’

‘Could have fooled me,’ Rosie replied darkly, listening to the rain battering down once again on the canvas roof of the tent outside. ‘That’s two whole weeks since July the fifteenth and it’s never let up.’ Lorimer regarded her quizzically.

‘St Swithin’s day,’ she told him. ‘Tradition has it that whatever weather happens that particular day will last for forty days. Or else it’s more of that global warming the doom merchants have been threatening us with,’ she added under her breath.

‘But this fellow’s not been warmed up any, has he?’ Lorimer said. ‘Nothing to change the time of death?’ The pathologist shook her blonde curls under the white hood. ‘No. Normal temperature in here. Wasn’t cold last night either so we can probably assume it happened in the death hours.’ Lorimer nodded silently. Two until four a.m. were regarded as the optimum times for deaths to occur, not only those inflicted by other hands. He had read somewhere that the human spirit seemed to be at its most vulnerable then. And villains seeking to do away with another mortal tended to choose that time as well.

They’d find out more after Rosie and her team had performed the actual post-mortem and forensic toxicology tests had been carried out. Until then it was part of his own job to find out what he could about the late Kenneth Scott.

Alex Gray was born and educated in Glasgow. After studying English and Philosophy at the University of Strathclyde, she worked as a visiting officer for the DHSS, a time she looks upon as postgraduate education since it proved a rich source of character studies. She then trained as a secondary school teacher of English.
Alex began writing professionally in 1993 and had immediate success with short stories, articles and commissions for BBC radio programmes. She has been awarded the Scottish Association of Writers’ Constable and Pitlochry trophies for her crime writing.
A regular on the Scottish bestseller lists, her previous novels include Five Ways to Kill a Man, Glasgow Kiss, Pitch Black, The Riverman, Never Somewhere Else, The Swedish Girl and Keep the Midnight Out. She is the co-founder of the international Scottish crime writing festival, Bloody Scotland, which had its inaugural year in 2012.
Connect with her at her website: http://www.alex-gray.com or on social media

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Title: A SHAPE ON THE AIR
Author: Julia H. Ibbotson
Publisher: Endeavour Press
Pages: 267
Genre: Medieval Timeslip Romance

BOOK BLURB:

Unlocking a love that lasts for lifetimes … and beyond …

Dr Viv Dulac, a lecturer in medieval studies, is devastated when her partner walks out (and with her best friend too) and it seems that she is about to lose everything. Drunk and desperate, her world quite literally turns upside down when she finds herself in the body of the fifth century Lady Vivianne. Lady V has her own traumas; she is struggling with the shifting values of the Dark Ages and her forced betrothal to the brutish Sir Pelleas, who is implicated in the death of her parents. Haunted by both Lady Vivianne and by Viv’s own parents’ death and legacy, can Viv  unlock the mystery that surrounds and connects their two lives, 1500 years apart, and bring peace to them both? Can the strange key she finds hold the truth? A haunting story of lives intertwining across the ages, of the triumph of the human spirit and of dreams lost and found.

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Book Excerpt:

Prologue

1500 years before

Lady Nymue, her mother, is rising from the mere like a spirit: tall, slow like a dream, over-gown falling in slim folds from her waist. Vivianne sees her in a haze of mist, like magic, an illusion. She feels it, that enchantment, and it is enfolding her, but making her shiver, too. Her life-giver, robes dry despite the water, is coming towards her as she stands anxiously on the bank, waiting impatiently, calling out urgently, hopping from one foot to the other, tangling her feet in her earth-sweeping kirtle, longing to rejoin her playmates who are chasing around the village pretending to be Roman soldiers. Her mother, reaching out a hand to her, is shaking her head, but laughing. Be more patient, my little Lady Vivianne, she says, I have not completed my rituals, but let me wrap you in my cloak, for I must return to the mere. But she is only a little girl and something is making her feel cold, frightened. No, she calls, sticking out her lower lip, I want to play! I want to be Honorius this time! They promised! Eleanor will play my wife – or maybe my lady servant.

Her mother is ruffling her soft curls. Well, then, she smiles, I will return later to finish. She is lifted onto her mother’s horse, in front, held close. Dry, warm, comforting. Riding back to the village. Her care-giver is taking her back to play with her friends again. Her mother turns to the special hall which her father, Sir Tristram, called “sacred” and where she is only allowed to go sometimes.

And then, fire, flames, the acrid smell of smoke. Looking across to the great hall, terror strangling her heart, stealing her breath. Running towards the wooden building, through the ash and cinders and the roaring, screaming now, choking. Someone holding her back, pulling her.

Darkness.

Waking up in her little bed. A big red-faced man in the shadows, haloed with a fair unruly beard and thick wild hair, telling her that her parents were dead, burned in the fire. Her mother and her father, both of them. An accident with tallows. She knows those tallows; they are always on the altar in the sacred hall. They are only spoken of in whispers. But this man is speaking in a strange way, loud, too loud, and it seems to her, sneering, as she peers at him through the darkness.

About the Author

Award-winning author Julia Ibbotson is obsessed with the medieval world and concepts of time travel. She read English at Keele University, England (after a turbulent but exciting gap year in Ghana) specialising in medieval studies, and has a PhD in linguistics. She wrote her first novel at 10 years of age, but became a teacher, lecturer and researcher, and a single mum.  Julia has published four books, including a children’s book S.C.A.R.S (a fantasy medieval time slip), a memoir, and the first two novels of her Drumbeats trilogy (which begins in Ghana).  Apart from insatiable reading, she loves travelling the world, singing in choirs, swimming, yoga, and walking in the English countryside.

Her recent release is A Shape on the Air.

WEBSITE & SOCIAL LINKS:

WEBSITE | TWITTER | FACEBOOK

 

Julia Ibbotson is giving away a PDF copy of ‘Drumbeats’!

Terms & Conditions:

  • By entering the giveaway, you are confirming you are at least 18 years old.
  • One winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter
  • This giveaway ends midnight September 29.
  • Winner will be contacted via email on September 30.
  • Winner has 48 hours to reply.

Good luck everyone!

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