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PHIL!
By: RP Momsen

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A very funny science fiction adventure that will change the way you look at life, the universe and why we’re all here.

Billions of years ago, our universe was born. Not really that terribly exciting for most life forms except of course yourselves… and, well, Phil. The poor bastard who’s had to watch over all you people the last billion or so years.


Well, finally after years of listening to all your griping, bitching and whining, always with some imaginary being getting all the credit, he’s finally had it!


Phil has decided to explain what the world is, why you’re here and how you can evolve finally into a species worth talking about at parties.


In this hilarious actual account, Phil takes two unwitting Physicists on the adventure of their lives, which isn’t saying much for a couple of physicists, and shows them what life, the universe and lovely little corner pubs really is all about. They’re transported to other dimensions to meet their better looking selves, get taken prisoner by an evil but very good looking race, fly through black holes and help the creation of a new planet all while their greatest challenge hangs in the balance, saving earth from the most evil, and best dressed, species the universe has ever seen.


Will they save earth? Has all the years of hard work Phil has done creating you beings be lost? Does any of this really matter?

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Author Info242919_10150272411688060_897035_o-1


R.P. Momsen was lucky enough to meet Phil in a very lovely but rather smelly pub a few years ago. After listening to the most amazing story of his life, and a half dozen pints, Rick agreed to bring Phil’s story to the world and finally get Phil a vacation. Through an arduous process over the next couple years of intense notes, grand philosophical debates, lengthy trips through multiple universes and numerous beers this masterpiece of answers was named Phil and finally released. A great friendship has been created and Rick has agreed to continue to write the real truth about everything, why it’s kind of a good thing to know and what humankind could do to be invited to the really cool parties.

Author Links: Website | Twitter |Facebook | Goodreads

Other FB: https://www.facebook.com/rickhunterBM

 

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don-weeksFor over thirty years, Don Weeks was among the most popular radio personalities in the Capital District region of New York State. He received a Marconi Award for radio excellence in 2005 and was inducted into to the New York State Broadcasters Hall of Fame four years later. He had just completed a rough draft of Scarecrow on the Marsh when he died of Merkle Cell Cancer in March of 2015. Author royalties from this project will be donated to the WGY Christmas Wish Campaign, which benefits a variety of charitable causes. Weeks worked tirelessly over the years to help raise money for the campaign.

jonathan-weeksJonathan Weeks has published several books on the topic of baseball–four non-fiction projects and one novel. His latest work, a mystery-thriller entitled Scarecrow on the Marsh, is a posthumous collaboration with his father–former radio icon Don Weeks, who passed away in 2015. Weeks finished the book in fulfillment of a promise he made to his father before he died.

Visit Don at:

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About the Book:

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Title: Scarecrow on the Marsh: A Cape Cod Thriller
Author: Don Weeks
Publisher: All Things That Matter
Pages: 192
Genre: Mystery/Thriller

When the mutilated body of renowned cosmetic surgeon Randall Landry turns up at a secluded bayside marsh in the town of Sandwich, Police Chief Thom Burrough’s life is turned upside down. While investigating the murder, he and BarnstableCounty coroner Abby Rhodes will uncover a plot more sinister than anything they could have imagined. On the outskirts of Chatham, a group of terrorists has assembled to unleash destruction on Cape Cod.

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Would you call yourself a born writer?

No—I may have been born with the ambition to write but I don’t consider myself a natural writer. The process has always been grueling for me. I’m one of those guys who tampers with everything as I go. I can’t get to chapter 2 before fixing Chapter 1.

What was your inspiration for Scarecrow on the Marsh?

Scarecrow on the Marsh is actually my father’s novel. It was his lifelong dream to be published. He was able to complete a rough draft before he fell seriously ill with Merkel Cell Cancer. As he lay dying, I promised him I would finish the book and try to find a publisher. It was the most difficult project I have ever taken on.

What themes do you like to explore in your writing?

I like stories that feature underdog characters beating overwhelming odds. I think this is a theme that has universal appeal.

How long did it take you to complete the novel?

Scarecrow on the Marsh took about six months to complete. I honestly thought it would be an easier process. But I was wrestling with the grief of losing my father. We were very close. And every session with his manuscript opened up fresh wounds. The changes that needed to be made went beyond grammar and punctuation. I struggled to preserve every element of his story. I think he would have been pleased with the final product.

Are you disciplined? Describe a typical writing day.

I’m rather obsessive about writing. I usually get up around 5 am and go straight to my computer. I often wake up with fresh ideas. They don’t appear to me in dreams or anything. They’re just there when I wake up. If I don’t start writing quickly they fade away. I usually spend two or three hours writing every day. I also work 40 hours a week at another job.

What did you find most challenging in writing this book?

Like I said before, my father and I were close. I considered him my best friend. We shared similar interests in everything and gave each other advice on just about every topic. We lived over three hours apart, but I would visit him regularly. We would talk on the phone for hours at a time. Losing him was devastating. Though he had a very successful career in radio, this novel was a lifelong dream for my father. So that put a lot of pressure on me. I wasn’t sure if I had the emotional fortitude or the writing skills to finish it.

What do you love most about being an author?

I love the escape that writing provides. There’s no better therapy (at least when your writing is going well). I love the feeling of triumph you get when a publisher offers you a contract. And the first time you get a copy of your own book in your hands—it’s a real high.

Did you go with a traditional publisher, a small press or did you self publish? What was the process like and are you happy with your decision?

I knew my father would have wanted his book to be traditionally published. I didn’t have a literary agent so most of the big publishing houses were closed to me. Since his novel was set on Cape Cod, it fell into the genre of a “cozy mystery.” I started to reach out to publishers who specialize in that sort of thing. In the end, I chose a small indie publisher with a print-on-demand format. I really like the arrangement. It decreases publishing costs and increases author revenue. All of my author royalties will be donated to my father’s favorite charity—the WGY Christmas Wish Campaign. It benefits sick and underprivileged children in upstate New York. My father was part of the annual campaign throughout his radio career, which lasted for thirty years.

Where can we find you on the web?

I’m not promoting any of my own work at this time. I created a Facebook Author Page for my Dad with links to purchasing information and book giveaways. There are also pictures from his radio career and private life. Anyone interested can go to Facebook and search for Don Weeks.

23 Minutes

Title: 23 Minutes Past 1 A.M.
Author: Robert J. Dornan
Publisher: Independent
Pages: 550
Genre: Historical Fiction

In the early morning of her sister’s wedding day, Mila Kharmalov stared in stunned silence at the coloured sparks streaming from Reactor Four of the Chernobyl Nuclear Plant. At that very moment, her life and the lives of everyone she knew changed forever.

Years later and on another continent, Adam Byrd was writing biographies for everyday people looking to leave their legacy in book form. When the woman he loved phoned from Kiev offering him the chance to write the story of a lifetime, he jumped at the opportunity not realizing that his voyage would be a bumpy ride through a nations dark underbelly. With the help of his friend’s quirky cousin, Adam is nudged into a fascinating adventure of love, greed, power and psychotic revenge, culminating with a shocking finale.

23 Minutes Past 1 A.M. is a work of fiction based on factual events from Chernobyl and villages throughout Ukraine.

For More Information

  • 23 Minutes Past 1 A.M. is available at Amazon..
  • Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads.

First Chapter

 

Byrd Brain

“Oh, for the love of God… shut up!”

Okay, I didn’t actually say that, but I was thinking it. Trust me, if you were in the same situation, you would be thinking the same.

My name is Byrd. It’s a surname that has inherited a great amount of teasing from a young age but if there’s any consolation, it’s spelled with a “Y” like the Renaissance composer and not an “I” like the Boston Celtics basketball player or your common flying rodent. My friends get a kick out of it and have recently begged me to join Twitter because whenever I send a message, my followers can brag they received a tweet from a Byrd. When trends are catching up to you, you gotta know you’re riding the edge of something or worse – falling off the aforementioned edge.

My tiny name insecurity has led to me ask everyone I meet to call me by my first name, which is Aaron. Yet, like everything else in this world, when you think you’ve got it bad, you can rest assured that someone has it worse. I have suffered the à propos amount of name calling but nothing – and I mean nothing – like my cousin, whom I adore simply because of the courage she has to wake up in the morning. Why you ask? Her first name is Robin.

Some parents don’t deserve their children.

A few years ago, I had an epiphany of sorts and decided I would go into business for myself, writing biographies for average, everyday people who wished to leave some sort of legacy for their children and family. Pretty good idea eh? Not really but I guess Lady Luck shone upon me as the business took off fairly quickly. Word of mouth spread and I was soon juggling three clients a month. When I launched an Internet site half a year ago, my clientele shot up to eight a month. Do the math at fifteen hundred bucks a crack and minimum costs. Even I can’t believe how fortunate I am considering any other writing adventure I have finished in the last decade has been a dismal failure.

Auto-biographies is not difficult work as long as my recorder functions properly and since I’ve created a template of questions, I’ve found I can complete a minimum one hundred page life story in five days or less if the customer doesn’t call with new information, which of course was often the case. Hey, I was taking a crap this morning, and I remembered a crazy night that involved magic mushrooms and a fat chick named Glory. Experience has taught me that editing for future generations of grandchildren is a gentle topic.

My workload is divided between the very interesting and those who had nothing much to be proud of other than offspring who I figure will eventually turn out just as boring. Today’s client fit the latter profile to perfection.

Rhonda Greenberg was pretty for a middle-aged housewife. Actually, she was drop-dead gorgeous and defining her as a housewife is a misnomer. Her hair was dyed blond to hide the grey that sprinkled her natural brunette but to be fair, the blond suit her. She jogged every day and bragged that she could do two hundred sit up’s in a row. Based on what I was staring at whenever she looked elsewhere, I had few doubts of her exercise routine. In fact, before I learned more about her, I would have considered dating the woman if she wasn’t married. That’s the beauty of attraction, ain’t it? Once we get to know someone better our hormones take a nose dive. Well, not always but if I was a betting man I would lay down my cash each and every time.

Anyway, Rhonda fit the profile of someone I would have dived into if she never said a word but once that mouth opened and she started to drop the f-bomb every second sentence, I kind of went limp. I felt like asking her where she hid the moonshine and straw hats but in the end, fifteen hundred bucks will never be something I’ll say no to, so here I was sitting in the expansive dining room with the posh motif listening to Rhonda talk about her cheerleader days.

Yah… big surprise there.

Not surprising was that this gorgeous woman had found herself a sugar daddy and lived in a home that could only be illustrated as a mini palace. Chandeliers hung from the front hall, in the kitchen and oddly enough outside the first floor bathroom. Clearly, sugar daddy did not pay much attention to Rhonda’s lack of vocabulary or design skills and hell, I don’t blame him.

My buxomly client was about to detail how she lost her virginity to her second cousin while their families were observing a religious fast when mercifully my cell phone rang. Looking at the call display, I saw a very long phone number, which looked more like Bill Gate’s paycheck than any phone number I was accustomed to reading. I was tempted to push the Ignore button but my curiosity got the best of me and I answered hello while lifting a finger, asking Rhonda to hold on.

“Aaron, it’s Lena,” the sexy voice began.

I nodded my head after figuring out the long string of digits was coming from Ukraine. Realizing a need for quiet and privacy, I excused myself from the mammoth dining room and headed to the equally huge front hall. I rolled my eyes when a brooding Rhonda exhaled an exaggerated long sigh.

My friend Lena mentioned last week that she had to fly to Kiev but did so in a rushed text message, which was something that has always bugged the shit out of me. I have told her a countless number of times that it is so much easier to pick up a phone and call but for some unknown reason she is more comfortable with impersonal typing on tiny buttons. Personally, I think she’s conscious of her accent and preferred this mode of communication but I gotta tell ya that this is just silliness because Lena’s voice is both soothing and alluring with only a hint of inflection. I’ve never struggled to understand what she’s saying, so that being said I have to believe she persists on texting just to irk me.

I met Lena at a lackluster conference about three years ago and we immediately hit it off. I can’t recall exactly how we met but we sort of bumped into each other and have remained friends since then. We tried dating but something didn’t click and agreed to stop before our friendship suffered. In hindsight, I wish I knew why things were so awkward at that specific time but no matter how I try to piece together those few months, I can’t find an answer as to why we couldn’t make it work. One thing for sure, I’ve always found Lena rather guarded and not willing to share more than she has to. There were other obstacles of course and many had to do with my experiences with Eastern European women. Don’t get me wrong, Lena is extremely attractive and at times hilarious but in the back of my mind I always waited or expected for the crazy temper to burst through. A temper I have witnessed all too many times from pampered Russian princesses. Aside from that, there was a weird stigma attached to these girls, like they were all con artists working for the mob or some Russian pimp.

“Hey Lena,” I answered, “Good to hear your voice. Wassup? Where are you?”

“I have arrived in Kiev yesterday but had no manner in which to call you,” she answered.

Okay, I’m flattered to say the least but not quite sure why she found it necessary to contact me while on vacation.

“Aaron, my aunt is very ill. The doctors insist she has only three weeks, maybe less to live.”

“Oh,” I said still dumbfounded and wondering what this had to do with me.

I felt a pang of despair for my friend realizing that these situations are never easy. I peeked around the corner into the dining room and saw Rhonda staring at me with blank eyes wondering when I would be done talking so that she could continue talking.

“I’m sorry to hear this but it’s good that you’re there with her.”

Damn, that was lame. I never have any clue what to say in these circumstances.

“This is the aunt I told you about,” Lena replied, fully realizing that I wasn’t following her. “She lived in Pripyat before the nuclear reactor accident.”

Bells whistled in my head and my attention was now focused entirely on the phone call. Lena had once mentioned that if ever I should write a biography on anyone, it should be her aunt.

“Oh yah, I remember now. Pripyat is close to the Chernobyl nuclear plant.”

“Aaron, she has agreed to speak with you but you must leave immediately. Is your passport up-to-date?”

“Say what?” I replied almost too comically. “You want me to fly to Kiev? Are you kidding me?”

“No, I am not kidding you”, she answered back with a hint of anger. “There is a flight leaving Pearson Airport tonight. I checked for seating and there are still some spots available so if you hurry there will be no problem. Call my friend Anna, she is a travel agent and she will book it for you. I will text you her phone number in five minutes.”

I was uncertain how to reply other than, “Another text Lena?” I knew in my gut that this could be the story I had been waiting for since the day I began writing biographies. More than likely, every other piece of work I had written beforehand would pale in comparison.

“This is gonna max out my credit card,” I blurted sheepishly.

My response did not please Lena and I could hear her grumble thousands of miles away. I coughed hoping she would quickly forget my unintentional rudeness.

“This is going to change your life, stop being so indecisive. Text your flight number and I will meet you at the airport. You will stay with my relatives. If anything Aaron, you will do this for me and our friendship.”

She said goodbye without giving me a chance to defend my position and I was left shaking my head in wonderment as was often the case when dealing with Lena.

I hurried back to the dining room, apologized to an extremely displeased Rhonda, packed my laptop and then sped to my apartment. Lena had already text her friend’s phone number and I called the travel agent the second I walked through my front door. The midnight flight was booked fifteen minutes later. The first thing I did following my phone call was surf the Internet for weather in Kiev and then packed accordingly. I was to expect lots of rain and temperatures between ten and fifteen centigrade, which was normal for mid-April. After throwing whatever clean clothes I could find into a suitcase, my final task was the most difficult, and that was of course, calling my mother and letting her know where I would be. She approved of Lena but not of the culture she came from. No matter how many times I explained that Lena was Ukrainian and not Russian, my mom could not let go of her antiquated beliefs. I took most of this with a grain of salt especially since the day she described Russia as the land that nurtured Stalin and John Lennon.

At six a.m. the next day I was flying over the English Channel, eight hours from Kiev.

As anticipated, Lena met me at Kiev International at 9pm Kiev time. Her blond hair was hanging free of her normal head bands and she wore a short blue skirt that accentuated her near perfect body. When she wrapped her arms around my hips the smell of her hair excited me to no end and I was suddenly wide awake. She didn’t normally dress so revealing so I was surprised, albeit very happy.

“Kiev agrees with you,” I complimented.

Judging from her puzzled facial expression, I could tell she was not certain what I meant but had a general idea and it pleased her. After seventeen years in Canada, Lena had still not caught on to many simple expressions.

“I am worried of gaining ten pounds a day. If the prepared food is not sweet, it is filled with mayonnaise. You’ll need new pants by the time we return home.”

Well, in your case it’s ending up in the perfect spots, I thought to myself. “We’ll have to take long walks after each meal. I’m looking forward to meeting your family.”

Lena smiled at the long walk comment. “And they are excited to meet you; I said some nice things. I should warn you that they may have mistaken my words as you being my boyfriend. My Russian is not as strong as it used to be and not only that, many of my family refuses to speak Russian and will only speak Ukrainian so that makes it even more difficult for me.”

“Don’t worry about it. I liked being your boyfriend when I was actually your boyfriend so you won’t hear me complaining.”

Lena looked me in the eye and half-grinned shyly before turning away. Okay, what I am about to say will sound incredibly vain or perhaps over hopeful but I wouldn’t say it if I didn’t believe it. Truth be told, I believe that Lena is in love with me and has been for at least the last two years. For whatever reason, she prefers to remain friends and as I said earlier, I don’t get it, as it makes no sense. From what I know from our circle of friends, she has never discussed her feelings with anyone even though many suspect that she wishes that she and I were still together. Anyone who ever saw the two of us chatting at parties or over dinner would come to the same conclusion. The comfort level, the laughter and the obvious sexual tension are as evident as the nose on your face.

I didn’t sleep a wink on the flight and never do on an excursion with moving parts. I once stayed awake throughout a two-day train ride to Moncton. My girlfriend at the time said that by the end of the trip I resembled a ninety-year old Robin Williams on Quaaludes. After a quick stop at a washroom – yah, I was feeling the effects of eight coffees – we stepped outside and found a taxi almost instantly. Lena got in the smallish vehicle first and told the driver where we were heading. I found it odd, and to a certain degree annoying, that she kept looking out the back window. I decided to keep this to myself as arguing half an hour after arriving was never a good idea.

“We can’t visit my aunt this evening,” she said, buckling her seatbelt while advising me to do the same. “It is much too late but I have asked permission for tomorrow morning.”

I didn’t understand the permission remark and like the rear window scenario, my Spiderman senses told me it would be better not to inquire.

“How is she doing?”

“Considering her situation, I would like to say as fine as expected.” Lena replied. “She is in good spirits and burst into tears when she realized who I was. It was very touching Aaron, a moment I will never forget.”

This perplexed me a bit, so I had to ask the obvious. “She has no photos of you?”

“Yes she does but face to face is different. She has been living in the Exclusion Zone for the last fifteen years.”

This piece of information confused me even further and Lena caught on swiftly.

“In time Aaron, there is much to learn. For now I will explain the Exclusion Zone as surrounding villages in and around Chernobyl. It was a very lonely life for her and for the few that choose to live there.”

I wanted to ask why she had preferred such and existence but decided to wait. Even if I had asked, Lena could only have answered what she had been told by her relatives. So instead, I asked the most palpable of questions.

“How does she look?”

Lena shrugged. “She looks like someone who has lived with radiation for twenty-five years. Most of her hair is gone…she has yellowish skin and a few open sores on her arms. The nurses have wrapped the wounds with gauze but she scratches nonstop as if she is filing her nails. She looks like a dying woman, a woman who is prepared and welcome to die yet she has summoned the energy to speak with us.” Lena looked out the rear passenger window for a few seconds and then glanced back at me. “What has both intrigued and disappointed me Aaron is that my relatives are not as anxious to visit her as I. It is disturbing to say the very least and when I question my cousin Boris as to why, he refuses to answer. I want to slap him…but he is a grown man and I am sure he has his reasons.”

Strange, I thought. “I did some research last night, which seems like an eternity ago, but I read that the citizens of Pripyat were not very welcome when they were evacuated.”

“Let my Aunt Tania tell her story,” Lena said quietly. “Hearing it first hand is better than an article off the Internet.”

I agreed and held Lena’s hand. Thankfully, she did not push away and instead held my hand tightly.

Within half an hour, we arrived at the home of Lena’s cousin, a heavy set man with one brow that seemed to begin and end at each ear. He was much darker than everyone else in the room and appeared to me as someone with a Gypsy heritage. He was introduced as Boris Kharmalov, a merchant who owned a successful cell phone store. It was obvious the man was doing well as his apartment in central Kiev was very large with every imaginable luxury. I was amazed at the size of the dwelling considering contradictory stories that clearly said most residents of this city lived in one bedroom apartments. This home had three bedrooms, a spacious chrome kitchen and a living room the size of six pool tables. Original paintings hung on most walls and a large television graced the wall in front of a leather lounger. I was graciously welcomed by several of Boris’s friends including a couple of stunning women who hung on every word Boris spoke. Before I had an opportunity to shake hands with every guest, I was handed a shot glass of Vodka.

“Drink,” Boris said with a heavy accent. “Welcome to my home, Aaron.”

It didn’t take me long to notice that Boris was near fluent in English although I didn’t ask where or when he learned a second language. Three hours and several shot glasses later, I was allowed to say goodnight and sleep came very quickly. The only thing I cared to remember this morning was that Lena never left my side the previous evening and more amazingly, was lying next to me when I awoke.

About the Author

Bob Dornan

Robert J Dornan is someone who wishes to leave a better world to his children. He realizes that the odds are slim but he will do whatever he can to increase the probability of success. He is always open to discuss new and innovative ideas and hopes someday to see the building of a functional solar city as well as a fair and community-driven compensation system.

 

Robert’s latest book is the historical fiction, 23 Minutes Past 1 A.M.

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Title: A Warrior’s Pledge (Highland Bodyguards Book 3)
Author: Emma Prince
Genre: Historical Romance
Today we feature the cover for A Warrior’s Pledge by Emma Prince. Details on the book and purchase links will be available soon, but we just couldn’t wait to give you a glimpse and get you ready for the hunkiness that is Finn Sutherland!

MEET THE AUTHOR

Emma Prince is the bestselling author of steamy historical romances jam-packed with adventure, conflict, and of course love!

Emma grew up in drizzly Seattle, but traded her rain boots for sunglasses when she and her husband moved to the eastern slopes of the Sierra Nevada. Emma spent several years in academia, both as a graduate student and an instructor of college-level English and Humanities courses. She always savored what she calls her fun books—normally historical romances—on breaks or vacations. But as she began looking for the next chapter in her life, she wondered if perhaps her passion could turn into a career. Ever since then, she’s been reading and writing books that celebrate happily ever afters!

Emma has completed the Sinclair Brothers Trilogy, a series of books set in medieval Scotland, during the harrowing Wars for Independence. In the Viking Lore series, she delved into the rich history of the Viking conquests. Now she is returning to medieval Scotland for a new series on historical Highland bodyguards!

Emma loves to connect with readers and writers—sign up for her newsletter and get all the latest on current and future projects, plus sales and giveaway alerts. Happy reading!

For More Information

Visit Emma’s website.

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Alycat and the Thursday Dessert Day
By: Alysson Foti Bourque

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When Alycat’s daydreaming causes her to miss out on Dessert Day at school, she will need to rely on her imagination to satisfy her sweet tooth! With the help of her best friend Spotty, she discovers trying new things can lead to fun adventures and tasty inventions!

The Alycat series encourages readers to celebrate the joy, innocence, and fearlessness of being a kid, while learning a valuable lesson in the end. Alycat and the Thursday Dessert Day is the first book of the Alycat Series.

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Author Infoalysson


Alysson Foti Bourque is the award-winning author of the Rhyme or Reason Travel series, and the Alycat series. Alysson received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Elementary Education from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, and a law degree from Southern University Law Center in Baton Rouge. 

After practicing law for six years, Alysson traded in writing trial briefs for writing children’s books. When Alysson is not writing stories for her children, she takes pride in working in her garden, caring for her pets, serving her community, and volunteering at her children’s school. She believes there is an Alycat in all of us, encouraging our imaginations to guide us to new opportunities and adventures.

Alysson is a Mom’s Choice Awards Recipient for her book, Alycat and the Thursday Dessert Day!

Author Links: Website | Twitter |Facebook | Goodreads

 

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i-angus

Title: I, Angus
Author: Mike Hartner
Publisher: Eternity 4 Popsicle Publishing
Pages: 260
Genre: Historical Fiction

During a time of civil strife and purging the North has lost more men to Wars then it ever did to Nature.

Angus has grown up learning that his life is better off with only him and a family. But is that really in the Grand Plan.

The North needs someone to build community.

But first, Angus needs to be forged… beaten, shaped, bolded and trained.

Watch as Angus hits both lows and highs across the lands of England, Scotland and France, before meeting a challenge of new land.

For More Information

Chapter One

It is a few days before my fifteenth birthday, and I have been scrubbing the castle floors all morning. I stand and the wind blows hard in my face, moving my reddish-orange hair from in front of my hazel eyes as I stretch my 5-foot 7-inch frame and look out the window.

The sky is dark and gloomy, but I can’t smell the rain yet, so I know a long time will pass before it pours down on our shire in North Scotland. In the far distance, I observe something moving toward our castle. It’s not long before I recognize my da’s charger. I can see others giving chase, although they’re quite a ways back. I run to open the gate and lower the drawbridge. I yell for my sister Janet to help me, because cranking it upright in a hurry is no small chore for one person.

The drawbridge has just been lowered when the hooves of Da’s horse, Spirit, come galloping across it. My sis does her part, and we quickly raise the bridge and race to the stallion and its rider. We arrive to hear the sound of arrows hitting the drawbridge and men yelling imprecations.

The heavily lathered stallion stands impatiently. On the horse’s back is its owner, Sir Donald Mackenzie, my da’. He is doubled forward, holding on to the mane, with an arrow in his upper left shoulder and another sticking out from his right calf. He wears a blue bonnet, along with a plaid kilt depicting our family’s lineage. A true archer, Da’s bow dangles on his back, diagonally between his shoulders.

The men on horseback, of which there are four, think better of trying to ford our moat, and they ride off. Lucky for us they don’t know that at that moment we are alone in the castle. Sis and I remove Da’ from the horse, and supporting our father between us we hurry him to his bed, where she begins ministering to his wounds.

I wonder what has caused this terrible event? My father had left several days ago with my much younger sister, Alice, to take her to a neighboring laird who had offered to have her schooled. I had watched my da’ the night before give Alice a family heirloom. It wasn’t much, but it was a locket that his great-grandmother had passed down to my grandmother who had passed it down to my mother, who was no longer with us. I remember Da’s telling us once that the tiny case had been given to our family on the occasion of an aunt’s marriage into the Clan MacDonald. I’d seen the engraving it held: two shields together, with their crests, one on the front, one on the back. And I recall Alice’s telling him, as he fastened it to her neck, that she’d forever wear it proudly.

I’d learned, however, not to believe much of what Alice said of late, as she was always coming up with whatever she thought would gain her purchase. But Alice was the oldest daughter—now eleven while Janet, who is every bit as tall as her and twice as strong, is but nine—so the keepsake rightfully should go to her.

Da’ was onto her though, and I think he’d worked out something with Laird MacLaren to see that she learned manners and honor as much as anything. Aye, but I also thought it might do her good to get set down a peg, as the MacLarens were wealthy landowners and not to be trifled with. It crossed my mind as well that Da’ hoped she might find a man of some stature someday who’d marry her, which would solve all the problems with Alice’s odd ways, as she never seemed happy with what Da’ provided for her. No matter, she would be schooled, and if nothing else she’d see other girls her age and how they acted. She would come back a better person—if she chose to return at all, which I highly doubted.

Da’s ride should have been a day out and a day back, with a day in-between to enjoy the hospitality of the laird. You see, this is the North of Scotland, and all of our families know each other, and no one just comes and goes, even if they are not related.

My da’ is hurt bad, and even with Janet and me by his side, the conditions are grim, as there is only so much we can do. I bring him food when sis has it ready, but I take it away when it isn’t touched four hours later. All he can do is let out an occasional groan

About the Author

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Mike Hartner was born in Miami in 1965. He’s traveled much of the continental United States. He has several years post secondary education, and experience teaching and tutoring young adults. Hartner has owned and run a computer firm for more than twenty-five years. He now lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, with his wife and child. They share the neighborhood and their son with his maternal grandparents.

Mike’s latest book is I, Angus (The Eternity Series Book 4).

For More Information

The people at the Parliament House, a gay resort complex in Orlando, Florida, highly influenced the writing in Naked Alliances. The complex has seven bars with different themes, a full service restaurant, hotel suites, a pool, and the Footlight Theater. My husband and I attend the comedy shows and performances at the theater. My characters, both the private investigator and his sidekick, an exotic dancer, were developed based on personalities we had met at the complex. The community service by the Parliament House after the Pulse Shooting was highly commendable.

I had been writing deep, philosophical, dark novels and was falling into a funk. My husband, who reads two or three crime novels weekly, and had turned me onto some amusing Florida regional crime fiction authors, challenged me to write something lighter. Naked Alliances is a crime thriller with a humorous edge that falls on the spectrum somewhere between the work of Carl Hiaasen and Elmore Leonard.

My family owns and operates one of the oldest and largest nudist resorts in the country, Cypress Cove, so it was a given that a fictional nudist resort would need to be worked into the settings of the Naked Eye Series, a collection of private investigator stories.  No chance of having someone carry a concealed weapon there! Having lived at the resort for six years, I developed a deep understanding of the lifestyle choice and how it is extremely different from the sex industry, yet harbors clandestine elements of intrigue and fascination.

Social issues are at the forefront of all of my writing. A former sexual assault nurse examiner (S.A.N.E.), I have a special interest in the subject matter of sex-trafficking, and have seen, up close and personal, the horrendous nature of the crime and its effects on the lives of the victims and their families.

Sex-trafficking is a heinous crime that occurs in all areas of the world, but frequently gets swept under the rug. There is somewhat of a misconception that it does not occur in our own communities, rural and urban, but it is a serious problem. I wanted to bring this crime to light in my story and interviewed many victims to obtain a realistic view of the nature of the crime. Yet, it was my desire to soften the harshness of the reality with a humorous approach.

The cold case in this dual plot thriller, actually came about as curiosity on how evidence collected at the scene of a crime can, after many years, point in an entirely different direction from that previously expected. A medical examiner in my area, Dr. Jan Garavaglia (Dr. G.) and forensics specialists I have come to know through social media, contributed to the resolution of the case.

My husband, Greg, a rocket scientist, has been super supportive throughout the process of writing Naked Alliances, as have many blogger and author friends, and my community at large.

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Title: NAKED ALLIANCES

Genre: Mystery

Author: S.K. Nicholls

Website:  www.sknicholls.com

Publisher: Brave Blue Heron Books

Purchase on Amazon

About the Book: In Naked Alliances, novelist S.K. Nicholls takes readers on a witty, wild, wickedly fun romp that exposes a side of Orlando tourists rarely see. The debut release in The Naked Eye Private Investigator Series, Naked Alliances introduces lone wolf P.I. Richard Noggin.

 When a young immigrant woman and an exotic dancer are forced to flee men with guns and have no place to hide, Richard Noggin, P.I., can’t turn his back—even if helping out makes him a target. Richard plans to impress an aspiring politician by taking on a big white-collar case that could take him from the streets to an air-conditioned office. Instead, he’s handed a cold case and quickly finds himself sucked into a shadowy world of sex, secrets and…murder. Marked for a bullet and stretched thin by his investigations, Richard reluctantly teams up with the unlikely, brassy custodian of the young woman on the run. With bodies piling up, Richard and his companion are forced to go undercover in a most unlikely locale: the Leisure Lagoon, a nudist resort.  Going undercover in this instance will mean going uncovered…but lives are at stake—and this Naked Eye will have to juggle to keep his balls in the air and connect the dots before anyone else is murdered. As his pulse-quickening quest for answers leads from the dark corners of Orlando’s Little Saigon to the sunny exposure of the Leisure Lagoon, Richard will be put to the test. Just how much will this Naked Eye have to bear…or bare? The heat is on in this quirky Sunshine State crime thriller.

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About the Author: S.K. Nicholls’ family owns and operates one of the oldest and largest nudist resorts in the nation located in Central Florida, Cypress Cove. Her experience gives her a deep understanding of the lifestyle choice and how it is extremely different from the sex industry, yet harbors clandestine elements of intrigue and fascination. Social issues are at the forefront of her writing. A former sexual assault nurse examiner, she has a special interest in the subject matter of sex-trafficking. A native of Georgia, she lives in Orlando, Florida with her husband, Greg.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sknicholls/

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