#Excerpt “Nightmasters Book 2: Change of Engagement” by Loran Holt

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Nightmasters, Book 2

 

Fantasy

Date Published: June 4 (Hardcover Release August 11)

Publisher: Acorn Publishing

Kelgan Defthand and his rather motley crew continue on their quest to defeat an unknown and terrible malevolence. They are expecting the same places, faces, and traces of evil, but an enormous surprise awaits them. A mysterious ship takes them to an even more mysterious destination, and “Others” seem to have intruded.

Who are they? What do they want? Can they be trusted?

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EXCERPT

Neroma di Nerrill! Her name was like an aria—he could have written an opera with music soaring and soaring until . . . .

“Aaaargh!”

A sharp pain in his hand brought him up short. Raising his head in bewilderment he found himself lying, face down, fully clothed, on barren earth while clutching a sharp rock. The little rill which had run so merrily by, was a channel of cracked mud alongside a forlorn stand of lifeless, barren tree trunks with fallen branches.

Finding his feet, he ran in horror back to the campsite. Nothing! There was no sign of a camp—no people, no wagon, just a scraggly bush or two and a rutted dirt road stretching both directions into the no-longer-seen distance.

Like a madman he ran—back and forth, back and forth—until, exhausted, his chest heaving with painful unhs, he gave way to sobbing despair.

No! It’s not real! That’s what they want! I’ve got to laugh—laugh!

Calming his breath, he ventured a short attempt at laughter. No discernable alteration of his surroundings.

Again, and again, he forced out laughs of every type—shrill giggles, amused chortles, booming guffaws—the barren empty landscape was unchanging.

The desperate nature of his predicament was rapidly dawning on him.

Noting that his hand hurt and was bleeding, from where the rock had actually pierced the skin, he almost soundlessly mouthed a small healing spell. The bleeding continued, unabated.

Thoroughly terrified now, he strove for a semblance, at least outwardly, of rationality. Making what he knew was a pathetic try at steeling himself, he poured, or hoped, additional strength into his wards.

That was probably it, he told himself, I got carried away and just forgot . . . .

He repeated the healing spell in a low voice, enunciating the words with careful attention to the way they rolled off his tongue, and with just the right cadence—not too fast, not too slow, a measured beat.

The bleeding continued. It was drying up a bit, but that was only the result of the moistureless air and the passage of time.

For the first time he noticed he was without either sword or even the small dagger he concealed in his boot. One doesn’t wear piercing instruments of that sort to a rendezvous, was his sourly sardonic thought.

He sat on a fallen branch and tried to think like a man without power or armament. A measure of sanity had returned but was of little comfort. He kept his thoughts carefully away from Neroma—that way lay madness. He knew that for a certainty.

There is a road with ruts—that means someone comes by on occasion. So, there must be a town somewhere down the road. I just have to find it, and hope they don’t immediately execute every stranger who comes their way.

He sat a little longer, practicing his meditation exercises, until he felt he could behave like any traveler who had gotten a little lost. Then he rose, brushed off his tunic, and tried to look as though the dishevel­ment came from the result of walking rather than hysteria.

He walked until he was footsore and the sun was low the sky. Just about to give up and try for a hollow in the dirt he could roll up in; coming over a low rise, he at last saw signs of a town.

Well, at least there seems to be inhabitants of this Phosphene deserted place.

Although it didn’t appear to be a prosperous community, there was some hope for a bed—even in a stable—and possibly a crust of bread, if they could spare any. He had some doubts on that score. From the vantage point of the rise, he surveyed the village, which by all rights could not rise even to that description. Most of the scantly scattered cottages—Cow sheds more like—were already dark. The villagers undoubtedly too impoverished to waste candles on relieving the darkness, and the meager wisps of smoke rising from the chimneys spoke of frugality to the point of privation. Nonetheless, he kept on walking for want of a better solution.

Arriving at the outskirts, and suddenly conscious of a blister on his right heel, he caught sight of a Blacksmith establishment which still showed signs of life.

Hobbling in that direction, he was hailed by a burly, bearded man who looked as though he was chosen by a Mummer’s troupe to play a Blacksmith. The man held a glowing rod of iron, which passed very well for a weapon.

Answering the hail, and showing both hands, Kelgan asserted, “I have lost my way, it seems, and have walked for hours in what must be a wrong direction.”

“And where was that you was headed, pray.”

“The house of my cousin, who lives alone outside of a town—I hope this is the one. I have come from Asquita (Kelgan hoped there might have been such a place), do you know it?”

“Heard the name somehow. Don’t know it more than that.”

Kelgan blew out a breath of relief.

“My cousin was never much for people, and lives off the road, so I must have walked right past, or gone the opposite direction from the one needed. Do you have an inn, or anything of that sort? If I could shelter for the night, I could retrace my steps.”

A scornful snort followed his inquiry. “An inn? You are a stranger.”

“I’m not too proud to sleep in a stable. I’m good with mules.”

“Them, we got. I have a shed out back for my mule, if you want to share.” The Blacksmith sniggered.

“More than kind. Anyplace off the road, and under a roof.”

The Smith looked him over with something like a sneer. “Looks like you’ve already been sleepin’ rough.”

Kelgan nodded, hoping he looked sincere, “Yes, it was farther than I was aware, and the towns were farther apart. I’m afraid I’m a bit travel-worn,” he added, with a touch of rue thrown in.

“If you’ve got any money, I’ll warm you some water to splash in. Won’t be a real bath, but it’ll be somethin’.”

Kelgan’s heart sank. Money! He felt at his belt, and was over­joyed to find that his small purse was still attached to his belt.

“Well, I’ve got a little. I think I could pay you for the water and maybe a bit of bread.”

The Smith appraised him again, shrewdly. Kelgan’s gangly frame and lack of armament must have reassured him. “Said you were good with mules?”

“Uh, yes, I am. A goodly bit of experience, actually.” He wondered what unpleasant task the Smith had in mind.

“My old jenny’s been limpin.’ Maybe you could see what’s wrong. She’s not in a mood to let me close.”

Kelgan gulped, “I’ll see what I can do.”

The Smith pointed the way to the shed. “I’d take you back there, but I gotta warm this rod up again.” “It’s fine, my thanks.”

Feeling his way in the rapidly darkening evening, Kelgan nearly ran right into the shed.

Not much room for the jenny and me. He gave a short chuckle, then rubbed his eyes.

Guess I misestimated in the dark. The shed was larger than he had first thought.

Sliding the barn door to one side, he peered into the gloom. The mule, startled at his appearance, brayed nervously and shuffled side­ways.

Not even a stall. Oh well, if she doesn’t object to strange fellows sharing her bed. A little titter escaped him.

He eased in, keeping to the wall. Uttering noises meant to be soothing, he inched a little closer, keeping both hands out in front of him.

“Good evening, Madame, what seems to be the problem?”

The mule, puzzled, backed away, but without signs of hostility.

He inched just a tad closer. “I hear you’ve been having a little trouble with your hoof? Or is it the shin? A touch of rheumatics in the hip?” He kept his voice even and cheerful.

“What if I just give you a little grooming session before I look at your limbs?”

He cast around for a brush. The only thing he could see was a broom that was styled so that it could be pushed.

“Uh, hold on just a moment, Madame. This calls for a little improvisation.”

Looking the push-broom over, he determined that it probably wouldn’t scrape the hide off Her Majesty if he brushed carefully. The handle presented a larger problem. He couldn’t see a way to separate it from the brush outside of brute force, which would scare the already skittish animal half to death.

Maybe if I just hold the Dark-frakking thing over my shoulder I can brush without breaking any of her ribs. He gave another little chuckle at the image in his mind, then frowned. Did the handle seem looser than he had thought? He wiggled it experimentally. Yes! He pulled it free and sidled up to the mule.

Has anyone told you Madame, that you are a splendid example of muleocity? Indeed, I believe you are the most mulish mule of my acquaintance.”

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About the Author

Recently retired from a job as a University Professor, and looking for diversion in sunny Southern California, Loran Holt did what any Southern Californian does – took up writing, of course. Feeling that sword-and-sorcery suited her personality admirably, she set her sights on that genre. Nightmasters is the result and her first published work of fiction, but she is already the published author of two books on silent film costume design under the Author name Lora Ann Sigler.

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#BookBlitz “Duty Bound (Shades of Gray Serial Trilogy, Volume 1)” by Jessica James

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Shades of Gray Serial Trilogy, Volume 1

Historical Fiction

Date Published: 06-08-2021

 

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Award-winning Enemies-to-Lovers Civil War novel.

 Can two adversaries reach beyond the battle lines to unite in the midst war?

Honor and conviction clash with loyalty and love in this sweeping Civil War tale that pits brother against brother. Duty Bound is Volume I in the Shades of Gray Civil War Serial Trilogy.

Colonel Alexander Hunter would rather die than see the Union set foot on his beloved Virginia soil. And while he holds the line against Northern aggression with legendary skill, a treacherous boy on horseback always thwarts his offensives.

His allegiance is tested when the traitor he unmasks is the woman he once swore to his brother he would protect.

Andrea Monroe would do anything to make her country whole again. A Southern-born Union spy, she’s dedicated to undermining the arrogant Confederate officer. When she’s taken captive and badly injured, Andrea is shocked to wake up in the legendary home of her nemesis, rather than prison.

As prisoner and captor spend time together, their mutual loyalty grows into unexpected devotion. But as fresh conflicts arise, they again, cross swords.

There’s a fine line between friends and enemies. Can these two headstrong foes overcome their differences?

 “It is a book I think could have the impact of a ‘Gone With the
Wind.” – J. Noyalas, Assistant Professor of History

 

“The best Civil War fiction book since Cold Mountain.” –
J. Bibb, SCV, Trimble Camp 1836

 

“Andrea and Alex will surely take the place in my heart of Rhett and
Scarlett as the perfect Civil War fictional love story!” – A.
Deyarmin

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About the Author

Jessica James is an award-winning author of historical fiction, suspense/thrillers and heartwarming Southern small town fiction, who has a special place in her heart for old trees, old houses and old books.

She writes inspirational novels with emotional plots, fascinating characters, unforeseen twists, and touches of heart-warming romance.

James’ novels have been used in schools and are available in hundreds of libraries including Harvard and the U.S. Naval Academy.

She shares her passions for travel and history on her blog Past Lane Travels, where you can read about off-the-beaten-path historical sites she visits.

To sign up for her newsletter and receive a free book, go to http://www.subscribepage.com/jessicajamesnews

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#ReleaseBlitz “The Glass Tree” by Michael J. Manz

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Historical/Suspense ; Suspense/Thriller ; Adult Literary

Date Published: 09-01-2022

Publisher: Endicott Street Press

 

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Paris, 1954. Eli Cole, American attaché, wants only one thing: to avenge his wife’s murder. But the trail has gone cold. After two years, drinking to his beloved Liana’s memory is all he has left — until the secrets she took to the grave come back to shatter them all. A hidden photo, a Gestapo file, an unsent letter: these are some of the clues Eli must piece together if he is to understand Liana’s secret life, and her mysterious mission. But the clock is ticking. Powerful new enemies are out to give Eli a one-way ticket back to the United States — in a pinewood box.

With the help of Liana’s father and sister, an old war buddy come abroad, and a cunning teenage girl, Eli unravels the events that led to his wife’s death. But getting justice won’t be easy. The more Eli reveals of Liana’s secret past, the more his devotion to her is tested by her deceit. Can Eli allow himself to recognize the entirety of the woman he married? Will Liana’s last art piece, a spectacular glass tree, give Eli the assurance he needs to continue believing in the sanctity of love?

The Glass Tree is a fast-paced, unpredictable mystery, and it is also the story of one man’s attempt to untangle the complexities of betrayal, love and forgiveness.

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About the Author

Michael J. Manz lives in Massachusetts’ Pioneer Valley and is a rare bookseller by trade. Except for a few years spent in Chicago, he is a
lifelong New Englander. The only place he’d rather be, at least some of the time, is Paris, where he has been known to wander the streets in search of old bookshops, great cafes and forgotten bars.

He is the past organizer of the Protagonists and Procrastinators writers’ group and has from childhood been scratching away at some kind of story or another.

Michael holds a BA in English from Keene State College. The Glass Tree is his first novel.

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#CoverReveal “The Canadian Beaver Lodge Assassins Association” by Jerry Cripe

Action/Adventure

Date Published: November 30, 2022

Publisher: Acorn Publishing

 

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On a routine delivery, courier Jaxy Thrie must ferry a priceless item—a Fabergé guardian angel once worn by the Empress Maria Feodorovna—to a Russian heiress in British Columbia. Things get out of hand when Jaxy loses the valuable medallion. He finds himself in fast trouble with the Romanov Guild, who accuses him of theft. It falls on Jaxy
to restore the national treasure to the Royal Museum while dodging bullets from a greedy band of robbers, the Mounties, and the Canadian Beaver Lodge Assassins Association.

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About the Author

A lifetime resident of California, Jerry moved to Santa Barbara after graduating from USC to work in the aerospace industry. Today, he designs night-vision cameras for everyday use.

In his free time, Jerry likes to write and use his musical talent to compose original scores for piano and guitar. After his first loves—song and storytelling—Jerry enjoys hiking, spending time in the garden, and baking sourdough bread.

 

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#ReleaseBlitz “The Inspector’s Daughter and the Maid” by Marlene F. Cheng

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Women’s fiction, Historical romance fiction

Date Published: August 30, 2022

 

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The Inspector’s Daughter and The Maid is a moving and delightful blend of
historical and speculative romance fiction.

The foundations of traditional structures reveal themselves to be no longer stone, but sand, and in the hearts of The Inspector’s Daughter and the Maid some natural ease gets broken, and their trust in a promising future loses
its innocence
.

In the severance of winds, beyond their wildest dreams, possibilities are awakened.

Which one will win the heart of the wealthy merchant’s son – the Music
Teacher?

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Excerpt

It’s the city of Delft, the capital of the Dutch Republic, sometime in the mid-17th century. Nowhere in Delft is far from water. It’s a small city of canals, overflowing with humanity that ripples over a few acres and out the city gates into the low-lying farmland and to Oospoort, the city’s opening to the North Sea and to the world. To place it, a brisk morning’s walk will get you north to Hague, the centre of the Netherland’s government and courts. It’s a carriage ride to Amsterdam. The Reformation and a changed Christian practice may have been the instigator. But the foundations of traditional structures, of not only religion, but consequently, also of community and family, revealed themselves to be no longer stone, but sand. If this crumbling and the confusion it caused wasn’t happening, The Inspector’s Daughter and the Maid’s story may never have been told. The society, however, was not infrangible, and these juffrouwen were ripe. The social changes that were birthing, sprung from mindfulness towards humanity. Small incremental steps. No giant leaps. That’s what was best for the greater good. Seeds that consequence stories can be planted by previous generations, and, indeed, such is the case here. The mother of one of the girls was the progenitor. Thus, the story begins with her.

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About the Author

Marlene Cheng is a Maincrest Media and a Book Excellence award-winning author of women’s fiction. Her books are about the relationships that define women’s lives–romance, friendship, and family. Marlene is a keen observer of how people think and feel, and she writes lyrical, uplifting, and
emotionally rich stories.

What is being said: “Today’s best up-and-coming fiction writer.”–Publishers Daily Reviews.

“Marlene writes with great facility. Her writing is intelligent: her prose is poetic.”–Dr. David

Yeung MBBS FRCPC (certified psychiatrist). “A fantastic journey that takes readers to the innermost corners of the human heart.”–Reader’s Favorites.

Marlene was prairie-born, farm-raised, and now lives among the old-growth pine and cedar, overlooking the Pacific Ocean on the West Coast of Canada.

 

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#BookTour “Fire & Ice (A Mauzzy & Me Mystery, Book 2)” by B.T. Polcari

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 A Mauzzy & Me Mystery, Book 2

Cozy Mystery, Young Adult Mystery, Mystery

Date Published: 08-15-2022

Publisher: The Wild Rose Press

 

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After encountering a brief power outage at work, college student Sara Donovan might be allowing her imagination to run wild. The main vault in the Carlton Museum holds the Fire and Ice Exhibit, a collection of rare gems, including the Star of Midnight, a 175-carat diamond. Although all the stones are accounted for, Sara suspects the Star of Midnight was stolen and replaced with a fake.

While conducting her own investigation, what Sara uncovers is beyond even her wildest imagination: a coded message, papers with strange characters, and a mysterious set of numbers carved into an office wall. Despite dismissive historians and other experts, she is certain these clues point to a mysterious centuries-old legend.

Unfortunately, her colorful history of usually being right, but always being wrong, means she must solve the mystery to prove her theory.

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Mrs. Majelski

I navigated my way through the grody garage in search of my car, a daily routine for me. Parking garages always mess with me because everything looks the same. Not to mention the stench and filth. Just a fricking maze of concrete pillars and walls, with signs and arrows pointing every which way. Except the right direction for finding your car and the way out of the dang place.

After several futile minutes of searching, I hit the panic button on my key fob in hopes of my car signaling its presence. Multiple blasts of a car horn reverberated off the walls. On the other side of a stairwell, flashing lights danced on the low ceiling in perfect time with the blaring horn.

Score.

I hurried toward the flashing display of—

A sturdy voice called out from the inner recesses of the stairwell. “Hello, dear.”

I jumped sideways, stopped, and spun toward the opening. I recognized that voice.

A scratching sound followed by a metallic click and more scratching emanated from the dark void. A walker emerged from the black, a head of snowy white hair floating above it.

Peering at the ghostly image in the gloom, I called out, “Mrs. Majelski?”

The walker pushed further into the garage, and the jowly image of a very short, very old lady came into focus. Like a four-foot-eight, eighty-five-year-old lady. It was Mrs. Majelski. What the heck was she doing here? I knew her from Tuscaloosa. We met at the gym at the beginning of freshman year, where her iron-pumping, treadmill-dashing, and elliptical-cranking routines put me to shame. Zoe has always been suspicious of the mysterious octogenarian, and she’s never missed an opportunity to remind me. Never. And now Mrs. Majelski is up here? When Zoe finds out, she’ll go ballistic.

“In the flesh,” she declared.

“What…what are you…doing here?”

Mrs. Majelski flipped a hand toward my car. “Shut that racket off.”

I fumbled with the fob, and after two failed punches on the button, turned off the alarm. “What are you doing here?”

“Visiting my twin sister. The old girl is getting on in years,” she cackled.

“You never mentioned you were a twin.”

“I didn’t?” She flicked a thick, gnarly hand. “Pish posh. Not important. What’s important is you think a robbery occurred at the museum?”

My head jerked back. “How do you know that?”

She wheeled forward two steps. A crooked smile appeared beneath soft white curls and a droopy nose. “Let’s say a little birdie told me.”

“Who called you?”

The old lady’s gaze swept the garage before turning back to me. “Again, not important.” Another step forward. “What’s important is why do you think there was a heist? Nothing was out of place. No alarms went off. So…”

Mrs. M was freaking me out, although it’s not the first time she’s done that to me. “How do you know all this?”

She stared up at me, her slate-gray eyes boring into me. “Just answer the question, dear.”

“I had Mauzzy with me in the vault when the power went out. It set him off and when the lights came back on, he was barking and scratching at the wall of the valuables vault. Pretty sure he heard something going on inside it.”

Mrs. Majelski arched an eyebrow and chuckled. “That’s it? Because your little dog was scratching and barking? Like a dog?”

“He’s never wrong.”

She snickered. “Didn’t realize he’s an expert on museum heists.”

I winced. “He has very good hearing.”

Her dubious smile vanished, replaced by a stern visage. “Anybody else with you in the vault during that outage?”

“Just Tony Carlucci.”

“Who is…”

“He’s the evening security supervisor.”

She hesitated. “That his normal post, inside the vault?”

“No, he’s usually upstairs. He stayed behind after they locked the exhibit away to clear everybody out and close the main vault at five.”

The squealing of tires echoed through the garage.

Mrs. Majelski scanned the area, then made a break for my hatchback.

“What are you doing?”

“Let’s get in your car.”

I hit the fob’s unlock button and headed for the car. By the time I got there, she was sitting in the passenger seat, the walker folded and stored behind her.

“Man, you move fast,” I said.

“That’s why I work out.” She looked at the floorboard, then into the back seat. “Looks like you live in here, dear.”

I grimaced. “Commuting two hours a day does it.”

“Mmmm hmmm.”

“Why did you find me?” I shuddered. “Here, in the garage of all places.”

She checked her side mirror, then fixed on me with an unwavering gaze. “Because I need to tell you a few things. Look, I know I can’t stop you from doing what you’re going to do. Lord knows I learned that about you back in Tuscaloosa. So, you need to know this. If that diamond was stolen, and that’s a mighty big if, dear. But if it was stolen like you say, then there are only a few crews in the world who could get past the security measures and into the vault in the short time available and pull that job off.”

“You gotta believe me. The Star of Midnight on display is not the same one I saw in the vault yesterday.”

Mrs. Majelski put out a hand. “I believe that you believe it. I’m just not convinced. However, two crews jump to mind when I think of sophisticated high-value heists.”

“Like who?”

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About the Author

B.T. Polcari is a graduate of Rutgers College of Rutgers University, an award-winning mystery author, and a proud father of two wonderful children.

He’s a champion of rescue pups (Mauzzy is a rescue), craves watching football and basketball, and, of course, loves reading mysteries.

Among his favorite authors are D.P. Lyle, Robert B. Parker, and Michael Connelly. He is also an unapologetic fantasy football addict.

He lives with his wife in scenic Chattanooga, Tennessee.

 

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#BookBlitz “The Shade Under The Mango Tree” by Evy Journey

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Literary, Contemporary Fiction, Multicultural

 

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Gold Medal, Contemporary Fiction, 2021 Global Book Awards (formerly New
York City Book Awards)

Finalist, 2021 SPR (Self Publishing Review) Book Awards

Finalist, Multicultural Fiction, 2021 International Book Awards

 

After two heartbreaking losses, Luna wants adventure. Something and somewhere very different from the affluent, sheltered home where she grew up. An adventure in which she can make some difference.

Lucien, a worldly, well-traveled young architect, finds a stranger’s journal at a café. He has qualms and pangs of guilt about reading it. But they don’t stop him. His decision to go on reading changes his life.

Meeting later at a bookstore, Luna is fascinated by Lucien’s stories and adventurous spirit. She goes to a rice-growing village in a country steeped in an ancient culture and a deadly history. What she finds there defies anything she could have imagined. Will she leave this world unscathed?

An epistolary tale of courage, resilience, and the bonds that bring diverse people together.

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Excerpt

Prologue

Luna: February, 2016

Ov’s thin upper body is slumped over his crossed legs, his forehead resting on the platform. His brown, wiry arms lie limp, the right one extended forward, hand dangling over the edge of the platform. Dried blood is splattered on his head, and on the collar, right shoulder, and back of his old short-sleeved white shirt.

It seems fitting that he died where he used to spend most of his time when he wasn’t on the rice fields—sitting on a corner of the bamboo platform in the ceiling-high open space under the house. It’s where you get refreshing breezes most afternoons, after a long day of work.

The policeman looks down at Ov’s body as if he’s unsure what to do next. He lays down his camera and the gun in a plastic bag at one end of the platform untainted by splatters of gelled blood.

He steps closer to the body, anchors himself with one knee on top of the platform, and bends over the body. Hooking his arms underneath Ov’s shoulders and upper arms, he pulls the body up, and carefully lays it on its back. He straightens the legs.

He steps off the platform. Stands still for a few seconds to catch his breath. He turns to us and says, “It’s clear what has happened. I have all the pictures I need.”

 He points to his camera, maybe to make sure we understand. We have watched him in silence, three zombies still in shock. Me, standing across the bamboo platform from him. Mae and Jorani sitting, tense and quiet, on the hammock to my left.

Is that it? Done already? I want to ask him: Will he have the body taken away for an autopsy? I suppose that’s what is routinely done everywhere in cases like this. But I don’t know enough Khmer.

As if he sensed my unspoken question, he glances at me. A quick glance that comes with a frown. He seems perplexed and chooses to ignore me.

He addresses the three of us, like a captain addressing his troop. “You can clean up.”

The lingering frown on his brow softens into sympathy. He’s gazing at Jorani, whose mournful eyes remain downcast. He looks away and turns toward Mae. Pressing his hands together, he bows to her. A deeper one than the first he gave her when she and Jorani arrived.

He utters Khmer words too many and too fast for me to understand. From the furrowed brow and the look in his eyes, I assume they are words of sympathy. He bows a third time, and turns to go back to where he placed the gun and camera. He picks them up and walks away.

For a moment or two, I stare at the figure of the policeman walking away. Then I turn to Jorani. Call him back. Don’t we have questions? I can ask and you can translate, if you prefer. But seeing her and Mae sitting as still and silent as rocks, hands on their laps, and eyes glazed as if to block out what’s in front of them, the words get trapped in my brain. Their bodies, rigid just moments before, have gone slack, as if to say: What else can anyone do? What’s done cannot be undone. All that’s left is to clean up, as the policeman said. Get on with our lives.

My gaze wanders again toward the receding figure of the policeman on the dirt road, the plastic bag with the gun dangling in his right hand. Does it really matter how Cambodian police handles Ov’s suicide? I witnessed it. I know the facts. And didn’t I read a while back how Buddhism frowns upon violations on the human body? The family might object against cutting up Ov—the way I’ve seen on TV crime shows—just to declare with certainty what caused his death.

I take in a long breath. I have done all I can and must defer to Cambodian beliefs and customs.

But I can’t let it go yet. Ov chose to end his life in a violent way and I’m curious: Do the agonies of his last moments show on his face? I steal another look.

All I could gather, from where I stand, is life has definitely gone out of every part of him. His eyes are closed and immobile. The tic on his inanimate cheeks hasn’t left a trace. The tic that many times was the only way I could tell he had feelings. Feelings he tried to control or hide. Now, his face is just an expressionless brown mask. Maybe everyone really
has a spirit, a soul that rises out of the body when one dies, leaving a mansize mass of clay.

I stare at Ov’s body, lying in a darkened, dried pool of his own blood, bits of his skull and brain scattered next to his feet where his head had been. At that moment, it hits me that this would be the image of Ov I will always remember. I shudder.

My legs begin to buckle underneath me and I turn around, regretting that last look. With outstretched hands, I take a step toward the hammock. Jorani rises to grab my hands, and she helps me sit down next to Mae.

Could I ever forget? Could Mae and Jorani? Would the image of Ov in a pool of blood linger in their memories like it would in mine?

I know I could never tell my parents what happened here this afternoon. But could I tell Lucien? The terrible shock of watching someone, in whose home I found a family, fire a gun to his head? And the almost as horrifying realization—looking back—that I knew what he was going to do, but I hesitated for a few seconds to stop him.

~~~~

About the Author

Evy Journey writes. Stories. Blogs (three sites). Cross-genre novels. She’s also a wannabe artist, and a flâneuse (an ambler).

Evy studied psychology ( Ph.D. University of Illinois) initially to help her understand herself and Dostoevsky. Now, she spins tales about
multicultural characters dealing with the problems and issues of contemporary life. She believes in love and its many faces.

Just as she has crossed genres in writing fiction, she has also crossed cultures, having lived and traveled in various cities in different countries. Find her thoughts on travel, art, and food at Artsy Rambler (https://eveonalimb2.com).

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#ReleaseBlitz “Out of Performance, Into Identity: How Love Found Me” by Angela Yarborough

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Self-Help/Spiritual

Date Published: 8.28.2022

Publisher: Help from 100X Publishing

 

 

This is my story of how I went from fighting for the love, belonging, and acceptance my heart yearned for in finding my place in this world, to laying down my sword and allowing God’s love to find me.

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About the Author

Angela Yarborough has a passion to see women set free from the lies of their pasts and begin living in the love and freedom of Christ. Having
accomplished this in her own life, she regularly speaks to women and gives them hope for a love story of their own.

Combining her business knowledge, creative gifting, and love for the women she is called to serve, Angela has built an online jewelry business that employs women coming from the prison system or sex trade industry. AmadeaDesigns.com equips women with the skills they need to obtain a
long-term job that fits their God-given talents.

Living in a small town in North Louisiana with her husband, Jerry, along with their last 2 kids at home, daily adventures in nature bring a smile to her face. Picnics by the lake, kayaking on the river, and playing with her pet goats and sassy chickens are just a few things you might find Angela doing when she is not designing jewelry, writing books, or ministering to women.

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#Excerpt “On the Beach (The Maison de Danse Quartet Book 3)” by Greg Jolley

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Book Three: The Maison de Danse Quartet

Suspense

Date Published: 08-01-2022

Publisher: Épouvantail Books

 

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Private investigator Joy Nakamura is working the strangest cold case of her career, the 1999 disappearance of the five Sanger children. Working the old files, she tries to make sense of a twisted and clearly delusional interview within the records, the closest thing to a confession or explanation. Fighting her personal demons and ruinous alcoholism, she latches onto a clue and goes on the hunt.

The trail leads Joy to Maison de Danse, a family compound in Ormond Beach. Gaining access, she questions Bo and Jangles Danser, a  handsome man with two distinct
personalities: one well-mannered and kind; the other vicious and deadly. They are soon entangled in lies and deceits as she presses on with the investigation, determined to find out what happened to the five children.

When she next meets Izzy Danser, her world is turned upside-down as the mystery gets dark and menacing. Caught up in the family’s ménage, she’s drawn into their eccentric lives and secrets, desperate to discover what happened to the Sanger children. As she draws
closer to the answer, a long black shadow threatens to consume her.

Risking her life and sanity, Joy will stop at nothing until the killer is made to pay for his crimes.

~~~~

EXCERPT

Chapter One

Volusia County Sheriff’s Office

Case# 1503207

Unsolved Homicide

Evidence Item: 1747-A

 

Suspect Statement Anonymously Received

The world ended on Tuesday, June 3, 1959, at 4:17 a.m. EST. A new form of an electro-magnetic pulse was the cause. By my calculations, it took twenty-seven seconds to round the planet. The effect was instantaneous. The world population that year was 2,979,576,185. You can look it up. In those twenty-seven seconds, that number was cut by ninety-nine percent.

Human life was erased—ended—and no continent was spared. The President in the Oval Office. A housewife at the stove. A child in a rice field in China. No matter what they were doing, all 2.9 billion dropped dead in their tracks. If it could hear, if it had ears, it died. Man and animal tumbled like rows of dominoes.

The pulse sounded blue. I’m not sure why. It was invisible, of course. Immediately following was a screech of electric silver that lasted less than a minute. Then nothing. All channels were silent. I was at the radios, monitoring all three frequencies. The signal room was at the back of the helm.

“You hear that?” I turned to my right.

Seaman James ‘Jimmy’ Cavanagh was a big boy, weighing in at an easy two hundred and forty pounds, head like a white eggplant with a tuft of blond hair never staying down. He had a wide mouth, soft chin, tiny eyes, and a mumble, except when on the radio. Then his voice became crisp and decisive.

He was already dead, headset in his hands, head back, mouth yawned open to expel his ghost. It had been nearly eleven months since I last saw a dead body. This was the first death I hadn’t had a hand in.

After unplugging, I draped the cloth cord over my shoulder and went to the helm fronting the wheelhouse. Captain Collins and NCO Hanson had both crumbled to the deck before the chart table. They lay side by side facing each other, looking like two fallen dance partners. Both were dead as can be.

Not so, sonar specialist, Fabian Andreoli. Fabian—a hoot, right? He was gawking at the dead officers, having spun his chair around from the radars screens. Fabian was movie star handsome—tall, skeletal thin, black hair with a wave always spilling onto his brow. All the blood had drained from his lovely face, replaced with a sickly pallor.

His eyes rose to mine as I entered.

“What just happened?” he asked me. “It swept the screen for less than a second. Then they fell.”

“Some kind of EMP, I think.”

“Are they?”

I kneeled before the two fallen officers, taking each of their wrists for Fabian’s benefit. I already knew the answer.

“Dead. Dead as doorknobs.”

“Dead? But the electronics, the ship is still running. I don’t understand…”

“I’m going to go look for others. Seaman Jimmy died beside me.”

“Why didn’t it kill you and me?”

“I don’t know. Maybe it still will. Help me search?”

“Go ahead. I’ve got the tender boat coming in.” There was both sadness and fear in his eyes.

He swiveled his chair from the view of the two dead bodies to monitor the arrival of the supply boat.

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About the Author

Greg Jolley earned a Master of Arts in Writing from the University of San Francisco and lives in the very small town of Ormond Beach, Florida.

When not writing, he researches historical crime, primarily those of the 1800s.

Or goes surfing.

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#Excerpt “Kairn (Mates of the Alliance Book 1)” by Fionne Foxxe Farraday

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Mates of the Alliance Book 1

Sci-fi / Romance / Erotica

Date Published: May 11, 2022

Publisher: Jan-Carol Publishing, Inc.

 

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 Fighting to save a primitive planet targeted by the Alliance’s enemies, Kairn never expected to find the female who haunted his dreams made flesh and blood.

Daria’s life revolved around her work. She had given up on finding romance…let alone love. Earth was now under attack by an evil alien empire—under siege. Daria is trying to do her job as best she can in an upside-down world. Then the cavalry arrives…in the form of giant, gorgeous alien warriors.

These aliens are working toward restoring Earth to the pristine beauty she used to be. In their charismatic leader, Daria finds the most amazing partner. Laughter and love with her devoted alien, what’s an Earth girl going to do but grab on with both hands and hold on tight to enjoy the ride?

After all…what could possibly go wrong?

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EXCERPT

Prologue

Daria at Age 16

Daria scribbled notes in the margins as the teacher highlighted the finer points of calculus. She nibbled absently on the end of her mechanical pencil. The bell rang, sounding the end of the class.

Taking her time, Daria gathered her textbook. She pushed her glasses back up. Her long hair fell into her face. Daria absently pulled her hair back in a high ponytail. The room was emptying quickly of the college freshmen. AP Calc was proving to be a lonely place for a precocious high school junior.

Slinging her backpack over her shoulder, she joined the students in the crowded corridor. She saw pretty college girls flirting with attentive frat boys. Daria mused to herself ruefully. How can it be possible to feel so alone in a sea of people?

Daria glanced down at her comfortable jeans, sneakers, and favorite AC/DC T-shirt. She twirled the ends of her ponytail as she looked at the straightened hair, subtle make-up, and body-skimming clothes of the sorority girls. One of the girls shifted her feet, cocking her hip with a flirty kick of her high heeled foot. Her fresh French manicure peeked out provocatively—from the very pretty torture instruments she sported on her abused feet.

Daria shuddered. I don’t think I’m missing much there.

As Daria watched, one of the boys leaned forward. He tucked a few errant curls behind the girl’s ears with careful fingers. The girl stopped flirting, blushing prettily. The boy…young man really…took the book bag the girl passed to him. Her cheeks heating to a soft rose, she flashed him a shy smile. Offering her his crooked elbow, the pair walked down the hall with their heads tilted close together…oblivious to the rest of the world.

Charmed by their obvious sweet chemistry, Daria glanced after the pair with a wistful smile. The bell rang again, shaking her out of her reverie. I don’t have time for this. Focus, girl. Finish high school…then…college…then med school. Time to stop feeling sorry for myself.

She walked down the hall, hurrying to her next AP class. I do get a little lonely…OK…a lot. I wish I had someone…I want to be close to someone…one day. I hope there’s someone out there just for me.

 

Daria—present day

 

The soft-pitched drawl fell pleasantly on her ears.

“I think I’m ready to head home, Ma’am.”

Daria pulled her stethoscope out of her ears. She smiled warmly at the distinguished older gentleman sitting ramrod straight in the bedside chair.

“You sound clear today, Mr. Clark. I do believe you’re right. I’ll get started on your discharge order. If you drive like you usually do, you should be home with your missus for supper.”

A quick grin flashed across his weathered features. He stood politely and bowed slightly as Daria headed toward the door. “I surely appreciate all you did for me. Have a care going home on those roads. Pet your hoss of a dog for me.”

Daria heard Mr. Clark dialing his cell phone before she even turned for the door. She heard him chuckle. “Sweetheart, they’re cutting me loose outta this popsicle stand. I’ll be home with you soon, darling girl.”

She smiled whimsically to herself as she closed the door gently behind her.

She nodded to the charge nurse Jenny. “Mr. Clark is headed out the door. You’d better hurry if you want to keep up with him.”

Laughter rang out around the station. “We’d better get on it before he makes a break for it.”

Dalton Clark was one of her favorite people. She always made a point to finish her rounds with him before she left for the day. Barring any emergencies, he was always her last stop if he was in the hospital. Daria smiled to herself. It was always good to end the day on a high note.

Sneakers squeaking, Daria headed down the back stairs and walked to the parking lot. She tucked her wavy brown hair behind her ears. Daria saw Nils Larsen, a good friend and dedicated surgeon. He was talking with Laura, one of the hospital recruiters. He looked up as the stairwell door closed behind Daria. He grinned and gave Daria a chin lift.

Nils leaned closer to Laura with a smile. Her manicured fingers played with the gold necklace laying in the hollow of her throat. Laura wound a lock of black hair around her finger. They laughed softly; Daria heard him murmur. “Meet you there in an hour.”

Nils put a guiding hand in the small of her back as he walked Laura to her car and helped her in. Nils stared after Laura for a few moments as she drove off.

Daria smiled at Nils as he got into his SUV. She could see the sparks of attraction between them. Daria made a shooing motion. “She’s sweet. I like her. What are you waiting for?”

Nils laughed as he started his engine. As he reversed, he stuck his head out of his window. “Hey Morrissey. Good job today. Thanks for your help.”

He paused, a faraway look in his eyes. His voice was soft. “I like her too.”

Daria took her time on the winding roads home. She had the moonroof open with the cool sea-kissed air blowing through her hair. The stunning views along the mountain curves and the sound of the crashing surf blew the last of the cobwebs from her mind.

* * *

Daria took the nearly invisible turn-off into the winding gravel road leading up to her home. The familiar rumble of her engine brought inquisitive squirrels out to investigate; chittering with excited curiosity, they ran along the crisscrossing branches forming a living archway along the trail.

Excited barks greeted her. The sound of dancing feet on the hardwood floor made her smile and relax even more. Opening the front door, Daria let Molly out for a good run.

With a grin, Daria followed—watching her dog run wind sprints across the meadow as the sun set. She wriggled her toes in the tall grass. With a happy sigh, she headed into her cozy home. She luxuriated in a lovely long as-hot-as-she-could-stand-it bath in the deep old-fashioned copper tub. Fragrant steam filled the bathroom with the relaxing scents of lavender and chocolate. She ate a simple dinner and fed the last of her Reuben sandwich to a hopeful Molly. Who knew dogs would love sauerkraut?

Daria sunk into the comfortably worn sofa, rubbing a lazy foot along Molly’s side. The big shepherd mix wagged her tail lazily in expressive thanks. Leaning back into the soft cushions, Daria cuddled under the over-sized throw. She stared absently into the peaceful room, the soft crackle and pop of the fire lulling her into a light doze.

Daria thought about Nils and Laura. She had a good feeling about them. A sharp pang of loneliness crept over her, foreign and contrary to her usual easygoing happy nature. Her gaze drifted to the large empty spot at the other end of the sofa. Daria let out a wistful sigh. What would it be like to have someone special to share this with?

A soft woof broke the strange spell and drew her eyes to an alert Molly. Once she was sure she was the sole focus of her human’s attention, Molly promptly lolled expectantly onto her back. Daria laughed, sinking down onto the smooth old oak floors to give Molly a world-class belly rub.

Daria was rewarded by a riotous symphony of happy high-pitched yips and whines. She watched with fond amusement as her huge shepherd reverted to puppyhood and crawled into her lap. She teased affectionately. “You spoiled little thing!”

And scratched some more.

 

Some hours later

 

Daria startled awake out of a fitful sleep. Disoriented, she sat up on her makeshift bed…her pulse pounding loudly in her ears. Nails clicked on the wooden floor as Molly growled in her throat, hackles rising as she planted herself squarely in front of the door.

The dying embers in the fireplace cast eerie flickering shadows as her eyes adjusted to the dark room. Daria listened intently, straining her ears. Nothing except Molly’s continued deep growl broke the silence.

She stroked a gentle hand along Molly’s silky ears. “Easy girl. What’s got you all stirred up?”

The large dog shook herself and stared fixedly at the door, hackles standing up along her spine.

Daria didn’t hear anything, but she trusted her dog…implicitly. A shiver ran through her. That was it…they were in her beyond-rustic cabin in the mountains. Secluded and peaceful. But now the usual voices of the night were eerily silent: No owls. No yipping coyotes in the distance. No crickets…It had been a great place to recharge but now it was TOO quiet.

With exaggerated care, Daria swung the heavy door open to avoid its habitual squeak, Molly posting protectively at her side. Easing through the doorway, Daria stared at the red glow highlighting the early dawn sky. Dull menacing booming sounded…repeated…and echoed.

A brilliant light exploded along the horizon…before subsiding into an angry red glare. As far as she could see, the skies were on fire…in the distance, cities were burning.

Roaring sounded over her head as multiple jet engines roared overhead…Daria thought wildly. Please God, let those be our jets!

The powerful unseen craft flew low and fast toward the cities.

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 About the Author

Fionne Foxxe Farraday the award-winning author of the 2022 INTERNATIONAL IMPACT BOOK AWARD for “Best Romance” novel. She also is a medical
professional working in the area of pulmonary and critical care medicine.

After years of working with patients, Farraday faced medical issues in March 2020 that put her on enforced medical leave without call responsibilities.

An avid reader, she soon exhausted her list of books and found herself bored with TV, leading her to begin outlining the story that would become KAIRN: Mates of the Alliance. Returning to ICU work during the dark days of the first Covid-19 wave, Fionne continued writing as a way to cope with the intense demands and the losses of countless patients. The writing took on a life of its own as Farraday fashioned the fictional happy endings which were in short supply in the ICU full of Covid-19 patients.

With her own background in medicine and family members who served in WWII and Vietnam, Farraday’s books are a salute to all of the medical and military personnel whose sacrifices allow us to do what we do. A mother, grandmother, and animal lover, Fionne Foxxe Farraday lives in Cookeville, TN.

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