Thursday, March 30, 2017

Poppies in Paris by Jules Radcliffe

Summary:
World War One. The Western Front. Winter. 

Duke Lindsay is going to die. He knows it’s only a matter of time. The war that was supposed to be the adventure of a lifetime has turned into a terrifying nightmare that has crushed his once carefree spirit. With no family to care what becomes of him, and all his friends dead, he has nothing to live for.

Until Corporal Driscoll comes along.

Driscoll forces Duke to obey him, to be a man, to stay alive. As they undergo hardship and fight bitter battles side by side, Duke comes to realise Driscoll cares for him in a way noone ever has before. With Driscoll’s help, Duke finds in himself the man he was always supposed to be.

From the ashes of war, an enduring friendship begins to blossom.


What a lovely little novella of war, survival, and above all friendship.  Driscoll and Duke have a bond that is born of battle but the friendship and connection will not only endure but it allows both to survive and grow.  What a lovely addition to the WW1 section of my historical shelf.

RATING: 


Chapter One
As full-blown poppies, overcharged with rain,
Decline the head, and drooping kiss the plain;
So sinks the youth: his beauteous head, depress’d
Beneath his helmet, drops upon his breast.
Homer, Iliad

Curled around the flickering lamp, Duke inhaled deeply, waiting for the pain to melt away. But this time it did not. The knot behind his ribs still ached, shortening his breath, robbing him of speech. He tried to move, but his body refused to obey him.

Others were in the room with him, dim shapes curled around little lights of their own. A large shadow moved closer to him, and resolved into Jack Newland.

“G’day, Dukie boy,” said Jack, his lips turning up into his brilliant, never forgotten smile.

Duke tried to speak, but nothing came out of his mouth. His heart began to pound.

“Heard you’d had some troubles. Nothing like our troubles, but.”

“I’m s-sorry Jack,” Duke managed to gasp.

“Yeah, we’re all bloody sorry, mate. I can’t go home now, and it’s your fault.”

As Duke watched, bits of flesh began to decay, falling from Jack’s face.

“No, don’t,” Duke whimpered. He tried to lift his hands, to stop his friend’s face from crumbling, or perhaps to cover his eyes so he would not see it. His hands were stuck fast, glued in place.

“You’re a coward, Duke. A bloody coward. I come here because of you, and you left me. You didn’t even have the guts to see it through with me. You can try to hide in here, dreaming your life away, but you know it won’t work. You’ll never forget what you done, Duke. Never.”

By now, Jack was skeletal, hair and tendrils of putrefying flesh hanging from the bony skull. His mouth was all teeth and jawbone, but his voice was still as clear as his accusations were just.

Tears were running down Duke’s face. “I never wanted to leave you, Jack. I wish I was dead.”

“Don’t worry, mate, you will be. Bloody Fritz’ll do for you soon enough, like Johnny Turk done for me. Hope you’re enjoying this piece of hell the Huns’ve made for you, you bloody deserve it.”

Jack reached out and grabbed his arm.

Duke woke with a yell.

“’S’all right, Lindsay, ’s’just a dream,” came a mumble in his ear.

Corporal Driscoll’s hand was gripping his arm, shaking him awake. Duke realised he was trembling, whimpering sounds escaping his lips. He pulled himself together and choked back the noise, although he knew the man curled around him could feel every tremor that ran through his frame. He hoped Driscoll would think it was from the cold. The corporal’s breath was warm on the back of his neck. It was reassuring to have that contact, that evidence of life; to feel it and know he was not the only one left.

As the Australian Imperial Force was not generous enough to issue more than one thin blanket apiece to its lowly ranks, the two men lay spooned together for warmth. In the harsh French winter, with no fires and few comforts, soldiers had quickly discovered that, in addition to sleeping fully clothed, the best way to not freeze to death in the trenches was for two men to lie close and pile their blankets and greatcoats on top.

Unlike the others, Duke never had a choice about who his sleeping mate was going to be—duties permitting, his corporal never let him out of his sight. Although some slept back to back, most men spooned as it was warmer, turnabout so each had his share of being warmed by the other. But Driscoll always curled around Duke, his arm over Duke’s ribs holding him against his own chest. Duke could never get up in the night without waking him.

Feeling suffocated by his nightmare, Duke pulled the blanket from his sweaty face, sucking the frozen night air down into his lungs. The cold made him gasp, and he quickly twitched the blanket back into place. He desperately wanted a cigarette, but even if he could manage to smoke it while mostly tucked under the blankets, it was too cold to even think about crawling out of their makeshift bed to roll one. Besides, Driscoll would be furious with him if Duke disturbed him for something unimportant.

Duke was exhausted, but afraid to close his eyes lest the vision of Jack’s rotting face appeared again. Not that he deserved to sleep. The newspapers had called it the adventure of a lifetime; the army recruiters who came to Murphy’s Flat had said it would make them men. Don’t miss out, join up now! It would be over in a few weeks, in six months, in a year.

There was still no end in sight, and Jack, and Frank, and Norman, and all the others Duke had persuaded to come along to this fiasco had been lost. He had left them behind to rot in the stony ground of Lone Pine. A dry sob shook him, and Driscoll pulled him closer.

“I can’t sleep either,” Driscoll said in his ear, his tone prosaic, as if Duke were not silently crying in his arms. “Guess you’re looking forward to rest camp as much as me. Can’t wait to get a beer and some proper food, been thinking about it all bloody day.”

Duke swallowed. “Yeah,” he said hoarsely. “Can’t wait.”

“You know the rules though. No going off on your own.”

“I know, Corp.”

“Good, ’cause you’ll get FP number one again, and you know how much fun you had last time.”

Remembering the three days he had endured of being tied immobile to a post for two or three hours, Duke shrugged. The humiliation and discomfort of field punishment meant nothing to him. He could hardly sink much lower.

Driscoll snorted quietly, the huff of it gusting through Duke’s hair. “Dunno why I bother with you sometimes, Sapper,” he growled in an undertone.

Duke felt this required an answer, and mumbled sullenly, “Dunno either, Corp.”

“I’ll tell you why, then. Noone in my section has ever been disgraced or court-martialled, and it sure as shit isn’t starting with you. It’s a point of honour with me; I look after my own.”

Duke gave a tight little laugh. “Your own? You reckon I belong to you?”

“You eat with me, you sleep with me, you go to the bloody latrine with me. The lieutenant put you under my command, so yeah, you’re mine, Sapper, until he says otherwise. Don’t bloody forget it.”

Sighing, Duke surrendered the argument. If Driscoll was really worried about honour, he would have asked Lieutenant Ryan to move his most troublesome subordinate to another section months ago.

“I’ll try not to let you down, Corp.”

The arm around Duke tightened again, and he relaxed into the embrace.

“Don’t try, Sapper. You make good or I’ll personally make sure you come a gutzer.”

“Yes sir!”

There was silence for a little while.

“And I bother with you, Sapper, ’cause you’re the most talented bloody bomb maker I ever worked with, even if you are a fuckup.”

Even in the dark, with Driscoll behind him, Duke was sure that the other man smiled. He settled against Driscoll’s chest.

“Yes, sir, thank you, sir,” he said, and his own mouth twitched into something that was almost a smile.
“Go back to sleep. Big day tomorrow. You’ll be digging until you drop, and then I’ll find more work for you. You’re going to be so tired if Theda Bara herself dropped into this trench and showed you her tits you won’t get it up.”

Duke could not help giving a little laugh at that. He was so tired right now, thinking about his favourite movie star stark naked would not get him hard. Not that he wanted that, not with Driscoll pressed close to his body. His corporal would feel every movement if Duke dared to touch himself. With Driscoll on his case, that kind of relief was getting to be impossible.

Almost since Duke had been put under Driscoll’s command, he had kept Duke close, rarely letting him out of his sight, keeping Duke too busy to think about anything else. His corporal demanded absolute obedience and drove Duke relentlessly, but the uncompromising requirements and strict rules always calmed him. The rules were something of substance to focus on in this life that made no sense.

Every day, he and his fellow field engineers risked their lives to repair the wire barriers, strengthen the hurdles, fix communications, under shelling, or gunfire, or gas attack. The thunderous noise of shells exploding and the deafening chatter of machine guns would swamp Duke’s senses until sometimes he believed the world was and always would be this.

There were days when the guns were silent. Then there was the strain of jittering nerves, and Duke would be desperate to keep himself busy amidst the constant threat of death. Sometimes Duke would hear the soft pop of a sniper’s rifle and somewhere a man would fall, half his head gone. Their numbers would shrink, and then grow back as men were transferred in to fill the dead soldiers’ boots.

Duke wondered how long it would be before someone was called to fill in his boots. He hoped to God it was him before anything happened to Driscoll. He had no idea how he would endure his fate if his corporal fell first. Dying was one thing, but dying without what sanity he had left was a terrible fate, and only Driscoll could save him from that. His corporal was the stability in Duke’s surreal existence; with Driscoll at his back the world had some kind of order to it.

Finally, too exhausted to keep his eyes open any longer, he closed them, and sleep, uneasy and unhealing, took him down.

Author Bio:
I love to write. I’ve been writing fiction and telling stories–in a good way!–since I was a child.

I tried to write standard romances, but it wasn’t until I discovered MMF and MM erotic romance that I really found my voice. As an aficionado of all thing retro, it made sense to use historical settings. I have no particular favourite era or culture–I often choose my setting and era based on my inspiration for the story.

People often ask me how I think up a story. That’s actually quite a hard question. Sometimes I think of a situation, sometimes it’s a scene, sometimes it’s a character. Whatever it is, I usually plot out some basics, do a bit of research to make sure I’ve picked the right time and place for my story, and start writing!

I’m a bit pedantic about researching my settings and the historical minutiae, such as the brand of margarine available in Berlin in 1920–but I’m the first to admit I sometimes get it wrong. I don’t like being wrong, but no one is perfect after all…

My main focus is on writing believable and unique characters. My central characters always live happily ever after. No exceptions.


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Altercation by Mignon Mykel

Title: Altercation
Author: Mignon Mykel
Series: Playmaker Duet #1
Genre: New Adult, Sports Romance
Release Date: March 21, 2017
Summary:
Sometimes it’s the fight that proves your worth.

Porter Prescott spent years fighting to be his own person.
His goal of playing for a hockey club not associated with the Prescott name finally comes true.
But just as he’s leaving for the next chapter in his life, he meets her.

Asher Spence spent a lifetime learning she was worthless and unwanted.
She learned that sometimes the only person you can count on is youself, and even then, you can fail.

What starts out as picture perfect can only come crumbling down.
No one listened to her pleas before,
Why should they listen to them now that she’s found a place to finally call home?

But sometimes, it’s the fight that takes you out of the game.

Note: This is book 1 of 2 in the Porter and Asher story. This does end with a cliffhanger that will be resolved in book 2, Holding.


I moved to stand where she’d be able to see me, not really caring if I was blocking the view for some other person waiting. I widened my stance and with my arms crossed over my chest, I kept my eyes trained as far back as I could see. My gaze shifted over the different travelers coming in; the only person I wanted to see was a brunette with crazy colored eyes.

And then I saw her.

The feeling that overtook me was like a drowning man getting his first breath of air. A starving man getting a fucking full-course meal.

She didn’t see me yet, but she would in time. There were maybe eighty people between us and she was nearing.

Her hair was braided over her shoulder, wisps of hair falling out and framing her face. She was wearing leggings and those damned boots of hers, but I was surprised to see her shirt was the girly type, long with cuts up the sides, nearly to her waist, and lacy sleeves that played peek-a-boo with the colors adorning her arm. She didn’t carry a bag, just her phone in one hand.

I licked my bottom lip before biting it gently, trying to stop the smile from spreading on my face. Didn’t want to look like a complete moron.

Forty feet.

Her gaze was down at the floor, no doubt watching where she was walking. It didn’t surprise me she was careful like that.

Thirty feet.

Look up, Asher…Look up.

Twenty feet.

Her face lifted and, like a magnet, her eyes locked on mine instantly.

And the smile on her face?

God damn.

There was no sense stopping my full-ass smile now, not with the one she just shot my way.

If you would have told me, four months ago, I would be the most celibate man in the history of earth, all for the glimpses of smiles from that girl there with more secrets behind her eyes than I could ever hope to uncover, I probably would have laughed in your face.

Four months ago, I was gearing up for my rookie season in South Carolina.

Four months ago, I was a kid with a big name, going to a team that had nothing to do with said big name.

Four months ago, it was rumored I would be the new hot shot in town. Nico certainly didn’t fail to show me the gossip sites, seemingly run by a bunch of puck bunnies.

But four months ago, I walked into Starbucks for a goodbye coffee with my sister, and met the girl with secrets.

And four months ago, I became addicted without so much as a taste.

Now that I’ve had that taste? Shit, I couldn’t wait for more.



The Playmaker Duet by Mignon Mykel from Bibliophile Productions on Vimeo.



Author Bio:
Mignon Mykel is the author of the Prescott Family series, as well as the short-novella erotic romance series, O'Gallagher Nights. When not sitting at Starbucks writing whatever her characters tell her to, you can find her hiking in the mountains of her new home in Arizona.


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Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Angelbound Audiobook by Christina Bauer

Title: Angelbound
Author: Christina Bauer
Series: Angelbound Origins #1
Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal, Fantasy
Release Date: December 17, 2013
Audiobook Release Date: December 30, 2016


***Monster House Books is celebrating the launch of the
audiobook version of the best seller Angelbound, both on iTunes
& Audible! As a result, every launched book in the series is only
$1.99, aka more than 50% off…And that includes Angelbound
ACCA, which was only released a few months ago***

Summary:
*Now an audio book!*

Eighteen-year-old Myla Lewis is a girl who loves two things: kicking ass and kicking ass. She’s not your everyday quasi-demon, half-demon, and half-human, girl. For the past five years, Myla has lived for the days she gets to fight in Purgatory’s arena. When souls want a trial by combat for their right to enter heaven or hell, they go up against her, and she has not lost a battle yet.

But as she starts her senior year at Purgatory High, the arena fights are not enough to keep her spirits up anymore. When the demons start to act weird, even for demons, and the King of the Demons, Armageddon, shows up at Myla’s school, she knows that things are changing and it is not looking good for the quasi-demons. Myla starts to question everything, and does not like the answers she finds. What happened 17 years ago that turned the quasi-demons into slave labor? Why was her mom always so sad? And why won’t anyone tell her who her father is?

Things heat up when Myla meets Lincoln, the High Prince of the Thrax, a super sexy half-human and half-angel demon hunter. But what does a quasi-demon girl to do when she falls for a demon hunter? It’s a good thing that Myla is not afraid of breaking a few rules. With a love worth fighting for, Myla is going to shake up Purgatory.








***Monster House Books is celebrating the launch of the
audiobook version of the best seller Angelbound, both on iTunes
& Audible! As a result, every launched book in the series is only
$1.99, aka more than 50% off…And that includes Angelbound
ACCA, which was only released a few months ago***


My book, ANGELBOUND, tells the story of a part demon girl who falls in love with a part angel prince. If you aren’t familiar with the book, there’s a quick trailer right here. In any case, I’m now doing an author tour to celebrate the launch of ANGELBOUND as an audiobook on Audible and iTunes, and I’ve been asked to answer some questions by the awesome folks at PADME. Here goes!

What is the biggest influence/interest that brought you to this genre?
Without question, the book that brought me to the fantasy genre was LORD OF THE RINGS by JRR Tolkien. I adored his combination of character, plot and world building.

When writing a book, what is your favorite part of the creative process (outline, plot, character names, editing, etc)?
To answer that question, I need to give a little context on my non-writing life. For years, my day job has been high-tech marketing for software companies. So, I’ve seen first hand what artists can do with the right process and software to support them (and yes, I truly believe that a good software developer is an artist!) As a result, I leverage a three-step development methodology for my work:

  • I use the beat sheet system developed by Blake Snyder. This helps me create an outline for the story. I only write series, so I do beat sheets for at least five books before I start on book one. It’s the only way I can make sure I don’t write myself into a corner. 

  • I create Pinterest boards for all my main characters, places and powers. This is a really critical part of the process for me. Reading fills my head in important ways—and I read a book/day on average—but getting fresh visuals is an awesome way to break out of the mold.

  • Once it’s time to write, I use Scrivener as my writing software. Some people love Microsoft Word, but I like to move chapters around and “cutting and pasting” makes me dizzy. Scrivener is a tool specifically for writing novels, and I love it. 

Of these three stages, my absolute favorite is creating Pinterest boards. I can do this for hours. Often, I go so quickly that Pinterest sometimes kicks me out because it thinks I’m a bot!

When reading a book, what genre do you find most interesting/intriguing?
I love good world building, so I can read about anything from firefighters or football players, so long as the author has done his or her homework and I can get inside another world. More often, I end up focusing on paranormal, fantasy and sci-fi though, since those genres value unique world building as a prerequisite.

That said, I’m also a sucker for a strong voice in a book… And I get positively head over heels if that voice is snarky. I love it EVEN MORE when an author takes a risk and builds an auditory internal world. For example, think about Looney Tunes. Now there’s a series of cartoons written in the 1940’s that still feel fresh and vibrant today, even though they have their own vocabulary and idiom (“Hoboken? Oh, I’m dying again!”) It shouldn’t work, but it does because there’s a unique voice to the entire series that’s consistent and fun.

If you could co-author with any author, past or present, who would you choose?
I’d love to write with Tolkien, but I fear I’d just sit there and stare at him in awe without getting anything done.

Have you always wanted to write or did it come to you "later in life"?
Both. I wanted to be a writer since I was a child, but I kept putting it off. Somewhere around y 40th birthday, I realized that I wasn’t getting any less dead, you know what I mean? If this was going to happen, I needed to make it a priority. My journey had begun.

So, thanks so much for the opportunity to answered these thoughtful questions; I certainly enjoyed the journey of writing responses to them. If you think of more queries, please know that I’m always up for reader interaction, and more information on how to contact me is listed below.

Author Bio:
Christina Bauer knows how to tell stories about kick-ass women. In her best selling Angelbound series, the heroine is a part-demon girl who loves to fight in Purgatory’s Arena and falls in love with a part-angel prince. This young adult best seller has driven more than 500,000 ebook downloads and 9,000 reviews on Goodreads and retailers. It is now available as an audiobook on Audible and iTunes.

Bauer has also told the story of the Women’s March on Washington by leading PR efforts for the Massachusetts Chapter. Her pre-event press release—the only one sent out on a major wire service—resulted in more than 19,000 global impressions and redistribution by over 350 different media entities including the Associated Press.

Christina graduated from Syracuse University’s Newhouse School with BA’s in English along with Television, Radio, and Film Production. She lives in Newton, MA with her husband, son, and semi-insane golden retriever, Ruby.

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Digging in the Stars by Katherine Blakeney

Title: Digging in the Stars
Author: Katherine Blakeney
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction
Release Date: March 28, 2017
Publisher: Blaze Publishing
Summary:
A lost ancient civilization and the tomb of a legendary king lie buried beneath centuries of ash on the volcanic planet Thror, but that’s not the only reason sixteen-year-old Carter has tricked her Archaeology of Outer Space class into coming here. Her best friend Conrad has just disappeared on a trip to Thror, leaving behind little more than a broken vintage camera. The strange and disturbing photographs she manages to extract make her suspect Conrad’s disappearance is somehow connected to the hidden tomb of the last king of Thror.

Unfortunately, the ludicrously over-friendly ‘Furry Giants’ who have taken over the planet’s barren surface would rather offer her cheap souvenirs than answers, and the local officials insist they have no record of Conrad’s existence. Inspired by fear for Conrad’s life and the chance to make the greatest archaeological discovery of the century, Carter and her friends follow Conrad’s footsteps deep into the mountains of Thror’s forbidden Black Zone and launch an illicit excavation.

Coded messages, stunning ancient ruins, and clues left by Conrad himself begin to surface as the young archaeologists fall victim to an alarming series of accidents staged by the increasingly hostile Furry Giants. Piecing together a history of dictatorship, terrorism and disguise, Carter glimpses the horrors beyond Thror’s flamboyant fa├žade and startling revelations about the friend she thought she knew. The masks of Thror hide devastating secrets, and the golden tomb buried deep in the frozen core may claim the lives of everyone she loves.


"Please remain seated as we begin our descent into Thror. Welcome, and enjoy your stay."

The time for action was at hand, and she still didn't feel ready. The flight felt much shorter than she’d expected.

The girls exchanged bewildered looks across the aisles. Stunned silence. They couldn’t have missed that final announcement. Avoiding Professor P’s gaze, Carter still felt the look of shock the professor shot across the cabin. Once, Carter had seen herself arriving on Thror as a great explorer. Instead, she would be remembered as a half-baked deceiver and kidnapper. The Throrians would have called her a scent-changer.

* * * * *

Carter had been so close to her goal. She saw that crack with her own eyes, a portal into a lost ancient world, chambers filed with carvings, images that had never been recorded or reproduced. The greatest discovery of this or any other century, waiting less than twenty feet away. Waiting for her. And Conrad had been there first. The moment she thought it, she felt guilty. She was allowing herself to get carried away by archaeological fervor, mentally competing with Conrad, when he might have paid a terrible price for his discovery.

* * * * *

Professor P tore herself away from her packing once more and gave Lizzie a long, penetrating stare.
 
"All right. Carter and I are embarking on an unauthorized expedition into the Black Zone to search out traces of an underground chamber, which may or may not lead to the last preserved remnants of Ancient Thror, buried for over a century and possibly last seen by Carter's boyfriend, who has mysteriously vanished and who may or may not have been imprisoned, abducted, slaughtered, disemboweled, and/or otherwise disposed of by the locals. As we risk a similar fate, I feel it is incumbent upon me to protect the rest of you from one of the aforementioned consequences."
   
Another moment of silence.

"Conrad's not my boyfriend," Carter muttered automatically.

* * * * *

"So let me get this straight," Lizzie broke in, her tone dripping with cynicism. "Our little prodigy's ailing, long-lost, apparently gorgeous sweetheart over there has been leading us all by the nose and feeding her hints, all so he could bring her here and use her as a walking key? How romantic!" She gave a harsh laugh that sounded more like a bark. "And here I was, thinking I had unfortunate taste in men."

* * * * *

"Black heart." His voice creaked like a rusty hinge.

His tremulous paw held up something black and moist. Carter and Professor P instinctively recoiled. Was he offering them the heart he’d just torn out of his chest? Curiosity battling disgust, Carter leaned in for a closer look. A slightly fetid odor of blueberries and lingonberry syrup filled her nostrils. So that was what she’d felt.

"I think it's some kind of fruit," she said. "Probably a bit off, judging by the smell."

"A grocer rather than a pirate then." Professor P observed. "Disappointing."

* * * * *

His diaphanous white and smoke blue robes seemed to be woven of water droplets and strings of light. . . .  Large gems in a striking shade of deep blue adorned his chest and forehead. His opalescent silvery cerata almost brushed the floor and formed a misty cloud around his figure. The endless nose of his golden mask—the longest in the room—was inlaid with patterns traced in rare metals from across the galaxies. Towering over all, he carried his imposing frame with elegant ease and dignity. The most splendid ruler in the known galaxies.

* * * * *

"It is all like they speak in tales of old," he said, as radiant as though he’d just been dropped into a pirate's cavern overflowing with jewels and pieces of eight. "All scents of Thror born in this place, personal essences, poisons for military darts, new smells and perfumes invented every day . . ." Judging by his dreamy tone, they might as well stay trapped there forever as far as he was concerned. The young perfumer's heart was thoroughly seduced.

Carter turned away with an aggravated sigh. It was no use. She tried a few more dives herself, but the water teemed with the residue of waning scents and made her eyes ache. The platform at the center was completely solid.

* * * * *

The long black coat draping off his hunched shoulders seemed like a pair of folded wings, and his skeletal fingers darted back and forth like pale talons as he spoke. Suddenly, the dark hair floating about his face looked like ruffled feathers, and his impossibly pale eyes glowed eerily in the light of the projector. At that moment, he was no longer a sick teenage boy; he was a huge, ferocious bird of prey, a creature of the night. He was as powerful and mesmerizing as the magnificent, winged figure of Mephisto on the screen, enveloping a miniature town with his black wings as he exhaled contagion and death.

* * * * *

Splattered among the thorn bushes, dribbled over the moss, pooling in depressions in the rock, the bloodstains seemed to materialize beneath the searching beam of the lamp in Carter's hand. Ignoring the queasy feeling churning in her stomach and trying to block out gruesome images of Conrad's butchered corpse, Carter pressed on. A bleak determination had taken the place of her exhaustion, fear, and doubt.

* * * * *

"Geysers," he said. "Shoot out of ground. Very sudden. Fry you alive." His bulging eyes peered through the unkempt mohawk drooping across his face. Unblinking, like the eyes of a reptile. "Fireballs," he continued, "flying out of nowhere. Swallow tourist. Become dead."

Meeting his gaze, Carter tried not to blink too. What was he talking about? Why was he so desperate to keep them away? Conrad had definitely been there. Disappeared there, possibly. She imagined a fireball spinning down from the sky to devour him, his camera flying over the edge, released by his charred and lifeless fingers. She suppressed a shudder. 

Author Bio:
I am an author and independent filmmaker/stop motion animator with a BFA in Stop Motion Animation from the School of Visual Arts in New York and a PhD in Film Studies from the University of Edinburgh (Scotland, UK). My thesis focuses on silent film adaptations of late nineteenth and early twentieth century Gothic novels, with a special emphasis on psychological and aesthetic representations of the Monster figure. My debut novel, a YA Sci-Fi adventure called Digging in the Stars, is forthcoming with Blaze Publishing on March 28, 2017.

Raised by an Egyptologist mother, I grew up among museums and excavation sites, where I developed an unhealthy fascination with ancient art and mythology. I divide my time between bringing 12”-tall people to life in my studio in Edinburgh, excavating ancient tombs in the Egyptian desert, and researching Gothic literary monsters in silent film. I have worked for more than 10 years as photographer and videographer for the South Asasif Conservation Project, an archaeological expedition in Egypt and I have published numerous articles on film and archaeology.

I write, direct, design, and animate short films and commissioned projects in my studio in Edinburgh, Scotland and have been employed as an animator, screenwriter, modelmaker and art director for studios in Edinburgh, South Korea and Qatar. I have produced commissioned projects for IdeasTap in London, the Arts Trust Scotland and the British Library. My shorts have won competitions and screened at various international festivals including the Edinburgh Fringe. In 2015, my short film The Burglar With the Yellow Hand was nominated for an Arts and Humanities Research Council (UK) Research in Film Award.

You can find out more about all aspects of my work on my website. My new blog is all about Digging in the Stars and my references and inspirations as a writer.


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Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The Wolf Mirror by Caroline Healy

Title: The Wolf Mirror
Author: Caroline Healy
Genre: Historical Romance, Young Adult
Release Date: February 14, 2017

Summary:
Changing places doesn’t always help you see things differently.

Cassie throws the first punch in a brawl at Winchester Abbey Girl’s School. Her subsequent suspension is a glitch in Cassie’s master plan; Finish School/Get Job/Leave Home (and never come back). As punishment her mother banishes her to Ludlow Park, their creepy ancestral home. In the dark of a stormy night Cassie finds herself transported to 1714, the beginning of the Georgian period.

With the help of a lady’s maid and an obnoxious gentleman, Mr Charles Stafford, Cassie must unravel the mysterious illness afflicting Lord Miller. If Lord Miller kicks the bucket the house goes to Reginald Huxley, the brainless cousin from London.

Cassie’s task is to figure out who is poisoning the Lord of Ludlow without exposing herself to the ridicule of her peers, getting herself committed to the asylum or worse, married off to the first man who will have her.

Cassie must learn to hold her tongue, keep her pride in check and reign in her rebellious nature – because the fate of her entire family, for generations, rests on her shoulders.

Meanwhile, Lady Cassandra Miller frantically searches for her smelling salts or her trusted governess Miss. Blythe, whose soothing advice she would dearly love. Instead Cassandra finds some woman and a boy squatting in the Ludlow mansion; her father, her lady’s maid and all the servants have magically disappeared.

Tell-a-vision, the In-her-net, horseless carriages and women wearing pantaloons; Cassandra is afraid that she might have inhaled fowl air causing her to temporarily lose her senses.

Only when both girls can get over their pride, societal prejudices and self-importance will they be able to return to their rightful century. Until then, they are free to wreak maximum damage on their respective centuries.


Cassie rounded the corner to the east wing and stopped in her tracks. The out-of-place, modern door was as she remembered it. Made from pine, it sat in a makeshift door frame that the carpenter had cobbled together. Cassie tutted, there would be no going down the east wing any time soon. So what was Mrs Rivers going on about?

A crack of lightening lit the dark sky outside. Cassie jumped, a spike of adrenaline coursing through her. The storm sounded like it was getting worse. She should get back to her bedroom before the electricity... The pale lamp shade in the middle of the corridor flickered, once, twice, then died, plunging Cassie into complete darkness.

 ‘Crap.’

She stood perfectly still for a minute to let her eyes adjust. The corridor was dark, the shapes and shadows indecipherable. The tips of Cassie’s fingers reached forward as she tried to feel her way slowly to something more solid. She touched the cold pine of the door in front of her, her other hand brushed against the stainless steel handle. She paused for a minute and pushed downwards. The door did not budge. Cassie shook her head and was just about to move away when she thought she heard a noise from the other side, a sound like soft footfall. She tried the handle again, pushing down more forcefully. The door opened, a loud creaking sound filling the hallway.

Cassie hesitated for a split second before stepping through into the east wing, her desire to smoke forgotten.

It was darker here, the boarded windows blocking any light from illuminating the hallway. Cassie used her hands to pat her way slowly along the wall.  She could feel the softness of the old wallpaper as she moved tentatively along the corridor.  There was a patch of less dark a little further along. Cassie moved towards it. One of the shutters had come undone, hanging precariously from its hinge. There was a little light coming from outside but it was enough for her to distinguish an old style lamp, bracketed to the wall. She assumed that there would be many of these lamps along the hallway, just as there were in the main section of the house. She took a few more steps, keeping her fingers in contact with the wall. Suddenly they brushed against something hard, something gilded, timber perhaps, before sliding onto smooth, cool glass.

Another crack of lightning; the corridor lit in brilliant brightness. Cassie stifled a scream. The light illuminated two wolves, carved in relief on either side of her, as if they were stalking prey. They snarled silently before being plunging back into darkness. Cassie whimpered, her brain trying to compute.

As if to prove to herself that she was not scared Cassie took a step forward. ‘It’s just a mirror,’ she said out loud, ‘It’s just the carving on the mirror.’

She took a few deep breaths and reached her hand out again, searching for the cold surface of the glass. Another roll of thunder rippled around the house. Cassie held her breath. A flash erupted and she stared at the mirror, illuminated for the briefest of moments by the lightning.

Her reflection, except she was wearing a ridiculous nightdress of mammoth proportions.

Two seconds passed then darkness enfolded her again as the lightning ceased.

‘Don’t be stupid,’ she told herself as she stretched out her fingers to feel for the smooth glass. She reached over, leaning her body. She must be further away than she thought. She stretched forward.

‘Stupid mirror,’ she hissed. ‘Where are…’ 

Author Bio:
Caroline Healy is a writer and community arts facilitator. She recently completed her M.A. in Creative Writing at the Seamus Heaney Centre, Queen’s University. She alternates her time between procrastination and making art.

In 2012 her award winning short story collection A Stitch in Time was published by Doire Press. Fiction and commentary has been featured in publications across Ireland, the U.K. and more recently in the U.S. Caroline’s work can be found in journals such as Wordlegs,The Bohemyth, Short Story Ireland, Short Stop U.K., Five Stop Story, Prole, Literary Orphans and the Irish Writers’ Centre Lonely Voice

Her debut Y.A. novel, Blood Entwines was published by Bloomsbury Spark in August 2014 and she is in the process of writing the second book in the series, Blood Betrayal, as well as a short story collection, The House of Water.

She has a fondness for dark chocolate, cups of tea and winter woollies.

(More details can be found on her website)


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Monday, March 27, 2017

Monday's Montage Mantlepiece: Secrets of Neverwood


Summary:
Three foster brothers are called home to Neverwood, the stately Pacific Northwest mansion of their youth. They have nothing in common but a promise to Audrey, the woman they all called mother—that upon her death, they would restore the house and preserve it as a home for troubled boys.

But going home is never easy.

Cal struggles to recover from past heartbreak, while Danny fears his mistakes are too big to overcome. Devon believes he may never break down the barriers that separate him from honest emotion.

On the path to brotherhood, they discover the old mansion holds more than dusty furniture and secret passageways. Audrey’s spirit still walks its halls, intent on guiding “her boys” toward true love, and an old mystery stirs up a new danger—one that could cost the men far more than just the house.

Stories Included:
One Door Closes by GB Lindsey
The Growing Season by Diana Copland
The Lost Year by Libby Drew


One Door Closes by GB Lindsey
Years ago, Calvin Ware found a refuge in Neverwood, a home for wayward boys. Now, following the death of his foster mother Audrey, he’s returned to fulfill her request to restore the decrepit Victorian mansion to its former purpose.

Under the threat of repossession, Cal clashes with his foster brothers over restoration plans while fending off the unscrupulous developer who is breathing down his neck. Audrey’s well-meaning presence in his dreams does more harm than good as he struggles to cope with it all. What’s more, the contractor he hires to get the building up to code turns out to be Will Cabot, his high school flame.

As they begin working together, Cal finds he still has feelings for his first love. But his mistakes of years ago threaten their future, just as they ruined their past, and Cal knows he can’t withstand the heartbreak a second time.

The Growing Season by Diana Copland
The four years since Danny Redmond left Neverwood have been heartbreaking, and past mistakes continue to haunt him, even after he returns home.Together with two foster brothers he barely knows, they plan to turn the house into a welcoming place for runaways once again—the dying wish of their foster mother, Audrey.

Danny has nothing to contribute to the restoration of the decrepit mansion, save for a gift for growing things. His efforts to bring Audrey’s beloved gardens back to their former glory are complicated by handsome landscaper Sam Ignatius…and the feelings developing between them, despite their fiery differences of opinion. But one voice gives him hope, the only one he’s always trusted—Audrey’s.

Danny comes to care deeply for Sam, but things look bleak when Sam’s city councilman father threatens to have Neverwood torn down. Danny isn't surprised. Why would he expect the future to be different from his past? All his relationships end in disaster...

The Lost Year by Libby Drew
Devon McCade is no stranger to adversity. As a photojournalist, he’s seen all manner of human struggle. And as a kid, it’s what brought him to Neverwood, to his foster mother Audrey. It’s what he’s facing now, as he and his foster brothers work to restore the once-stately mansion amidst surprising signs from Audrey herself.

But when another anguished soul arrives at Neverwood, Devon can’t hide behind his camera. Nicholas Hardy is certain he saw his runaway son, Robbie, in a photo Devon took of homeless children. Devon knows all too well that a young teenager on the streets doesn’t have many options—and Robbie has been missing for a full year.

Searching for Robbie with Nicholas stirs memories and passions Devon had thought long lost, yet knowing that Nicholas will leave as soon as Robbie is found keeps him from opening himself up to something permanent. Devon must learn to fight for what he wants to keep—his love, and his home.

Author Bios:
GB Lindsey
G. B. Lindsey was born and raised in California, where she earned her undergraduate degree in Literature and Creative Writing from UC Santa Cruz. Her first love has always been writing: as a child, she cultivated such diverse goals as becoming "a cowgirl... and a writer" or "a paleontologist... and a writer." 

Aside from her salacious and ongoing affair with the horror genre, she loves to write sci-fi, romance, historical fiction, and short stories. Other hobbies include playing the piano, reading voraciously, the occasional period drama movie night, and devouring scary film after scary film. She recently moved back home from Newcastle upon Tyne, where she earned her Master of Arts in Creative Writing, and now lives in Sacramento.

Diana Copland
Diana Copland began writing in the seventh grade, when she shamelessly combined elements of Jane Eyre and Dark Shadows to produce an overwrought gothic tale that earned her an A- in creative writing, thanks entirely to the generosity of her teacher. She wrote for pure enjoyment for the next three decades before discovering LiveJournal and a wonderful group of supportive fanfiction writers, who after gifting her with a "Best New Author" Award encouraged her to try her hand at original gay fiction.

Born and raised in southern California, Diana moved to the Pacific Northwest after losing a beloved spouse to AIDS in 1995. She lives in eastern Washington near her two wonderful adult children and her surprisingly supportive parents.

Libby Drew
Libby glimpsed her true calling when her first story, an A.A. Milne /Shakespeare crossover, won the grand prize in her elementary school's fiction contest. Her parents explained that writers were quirky, poor, and often talked to themselves in supermarket checkout lines. They implored her to be practical, a request she took to heart for twenty years, earning two degrees, a white-collar job, and an ulcer, before realizing that practical was absolutely no fun. 

Today she lives with her husband and four children in an old, impractical house and writes stories about redemption, the supernatural, and love at first sight, all of which do exist. She happens to know from experience.

Libby’s STATE OF MIND received rave reviews for being fast, clever, and relentless and was nominated for a Bookie Award for Best M/M Novel of 2011. 40 SOULS TO KEEP, Libby’s third novel, has been described as intense and heart-poundingly good and was praised by Publishers Weekly for maintaining a high level of suspense. 

An avid supporter of gay rights, Libby donates her time to the Trevor Project and organizations that work to support marriage equality.


GB Lindsey
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EMAIL: lindseywords@gmail.com

Diana Copland
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EMAIL: diana_copland@livejournal.com

Libby Drew
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