All posts by bookbumpkin

#BlogTour – To Love A Cat by @TinerBooks #AmReading #Romance

Crash!

Mitch bolted upright. Roscoe leaped off the bed and ran to the closed bedroom door. He stood with his head cocked to the side, listening. Grabbing his service revolver off the nightstand, Mitch swung his legs over the side of the bed and joined Roscoe at the door.

Thud! Boom!

Roscoe placed his paws on the door and began barking hysterically. The hair on the back of his neck stood on end.

Adrenaline coursed through Mitch as he slowly cracked open the door and glanced down the darkened hallway. Roscoe shoved past him and bolted for the kitchen. Moving quickly and cautiously, Mitch followed him.

Weapon up, he stepped into the kitchen and threw the light switch. Shards of glass from a shattered plate littered the floor. An overturned box of cereal rested in the center of the room. Roscoe stood in front of the refrigerator barking loudly.

Knowing that whatever Roscoe had cornered wasn’t human, Mitch lowered his weapon. “All right, easy, big guy,” Mitch said, stepping up to peek behind the refrigerator. Roscoe stopped barking, but continued to growl low in his throat.

A large orange cat with round, golden eyes stared up at him. It twitched its tail, but otherwise didn’t move.

“What are you doing here?” Mitch asked. He glanced around the room, looking for the cat’s entry point. The screen covering the window above the sink was torn.

He turned back to the cat and glared down at him. “You tore my screen,” he stated gruffly. The cat continued to stare up at him, seemingly unconcerned.

Mitch shook his head in consternation. He’d never been much of a cat person. He found their aloof and superior attitudes annoying. He much preferred the loving loyalty of a good dog.

Grabbing Roscoe by the collar, he half dragged him back to the bedroom. “Stay in here and keep quiet,” he commanded gruffly. He wasn’t usually so irritable, but he hadn’t gotten much sleep lately, and he was extremely aggravated at having it interrupted by a cat.

Mitch Holt was a detective in the Spring Valley police department. He’d been working long hours trying to solve a homicide. He was usually pretty easy going, but the investigation wasn’t going well, and it was starting to affect him. A cat breaking into his apartment wasn’t doing anything to improve his mood. He shuffled back down the hallway, not looking forward to trying to wrestle the cat out from behind the refrigerator.

When he reached the kitchen, the cat was sitting on the counter, licking one of its paws. “How’d you get up here, anyway?” he grumbled, moving over to look through the window. He lived in a one-bedroom apartment on the third floor of an older apartment building. Mitch liked to keep his windows cracked during the early autumn. The air always seemed to be freshest at that time of the year.

His building butted up to a city park. A large oak tree grew close to the park’s fence, one branch curving out over the fence to within a few feet of his kitchen window.

“Ah,” he said, turning back to the orange tabby. “You used the tree.”

Picking up the cat, he said, “Sorry, buddy, you can’t stay here.” Mitch glanced down and saw a few drops of fresh blood on the counter. “Damn,” he muttered. “You’re hurt.”

He glanced at the clock on the microwave. It was only 5:30 a.m. It would be a few more hours before Rebecca opened her veterinary clinic. Not only was Rebecca Miller the best veterinarian in town, she was also a good friend and engaged to his best friend, Derrick Peterson.

He held the cat away from his body and looked for the source of the bleeding. A small droplet of blood fell from the cat’s right rear paw. He shifted the tabby into his left arm and lifted the injured paw for a better look. There was a small laceration across the foot’s large pad. Mitch glanced at the floor and saw tiny, bloody footprints leading away from the broken glass to the refrigerator.

He shook his head and sighed heavily. Although he was irritated at being awoken out of the longest sleep he’d had in days, he was a good guy. He wasn’t about to throw the cat out of his apartment, if it was injured. As he stood there debating what to do with it, the cat began to purr.

“What are you so happy about?” he asked, feeling some of his good humor return.

The big tabby pressed his head against Mitch’s chest and purred even louder. He chuckled and scratched the cat under his chin. Using a couple of paper towels and some tape, he wrapped a make-shift bandage around the cat’s paw.

“All right, you can hang out in here until Rebecca opens her clinic. I’m guessing you broke in because you’re hungry. Let me see what I’ve got.”

He set the cat down on the floor away from the broken glass and turned to open a cabinet. He pulled out a can of chicken. Before he had the lid off, the cat jumped onto the counter and stood waiting expectantly.

“There you go,” Mitch said, placing the can on the counter. The cat gave the chicken a few tentative licks, then opened his mouth and pulled out a large chunk. Mitch watched in fascination as he devoured the food. When the cat finished, he sat back on his haunches and licked his lips in satisfaction.

Mitch chuckled. “You’re welcome. I guess I’d better clean up this mess you made.”

A few hours later, he drove up to the Animal Friends Veterinary Clinic. He was impatient to get the cat off his hands. He really needed to get back to work on the case.

“Good morning, Mitch,” June, Rebecca’s receptionist greeted. She was a plump, middle-aged woman with short gray hair.

“Mornin’, June. How’s life treating you?” Mitch asked, giving her a charming grin, his blue eyes sparkling.

June smiled back. “Can’t complain,” she replied. “What can we do for you today?”

“I’ve got a cat with an injured paw out in the car. The darn thing broke into my apartment early this morning.”

The door to the first exam room opened. Rebecca followed a tiny, elderly woman out of the room. A bright smile lit her face when she saw Mitch standing at the receptionist’s counter.

“Remember to bring Josie back for her next set of shots in three weeks,” Rebecca told the woman.

She stepped over to Mitch and gave him a quick hug. She pulled back and grinned up at him. “It’s so good to see you. You’ve been such a stranger, lately. Is everything okay?” Although Mitch wasn’t that tall himself at only 5 feet 10, she had to tilt her head back to look up at him.

Mitch ran his eyes over Rebecca’s upturned face. She’d recovered amazingly well from the injuries she suffered when an intruder had broken into her clinic and brutally attacked her a few months previously. The only remaining sign of the attack was a small scar above her right eye that disappeared into her hairline. Mitch reached out and playfully tweaked her nose. He and Rebecca had been as close as siblings since almost immediately after they’d met each other. Before she’d gotten engaged to his best friend, he’d asked her out. They’d both recognized that they were only meant to be friends. He was thrilled when Derrick had fallen hopelessly in love with her.

“Everything’s fine. I had an intruder of the four-legged variety last night. Damned cat ripped through my window screen and knocked a plate off the kitchen counter. Then he proceeded to cut his paw on the glass. He’s out in the car. Do you have time to take a look at him?”

“Sure, do you need help bringing him in? Is he wild?”

“No, he’s probably the most laid-back cat I’ve ever met. He purrs like a freight train every time I touch him.”

A minute later, Mitch joined Rebecca in the exam room. “The right back paw’s the one he cut,” he said, placing the cat on the stainless steel table. “I put a bandage on it, but he managed to pull it off almost immediately.”

Rebecca chuckled. “Cat’s hate things on their feet. How did he get into your apartment?”

Mitch shrugged. “There’s a big oak tree in the park behind my building. He must have climbed it and jumped onto the windowsill. That’s the only thing I can figure.”

“What did Roscoe think of him?” Rebecca asked.

“When I opened the bedroom door to investigate the noises we heard coming from the kitchen, he bolted out and had the cat cornered behind the fridge by the time I got there. I locked him in the bedroom for the rest of the morning. I think he might’ve tried to eat the cat if he’d caught him.”

Rebecca chuckled. “I doubt it. Usually, all it takes is a good swipe of a claw across the nose for most dogs to learn to leave a cat alone. By the way, how’s your case going? Any closer to finding the Colsons’ killer?”

Mitch shook his head. “No. So far, we’ve got nothing.”

“I’m sorry, Mitch. Something will break soon.”

“Yeah, I have no doubt that we’ll catch him. I only hope it’s before he hurts someone else. That’s the part keeping me up at night. So, how’re the wedding plans coming?”

Rebecca smiled. “Everything’s all set. I can’t believe the wedding’s only two weeks away. Do you have a date, yet?”

Mitch gave her a roguish grin and winked. “You know me, a different woman every week. I’m not sure who the lucky lady will be.”

Rebecca rolled her eyes. “You just wait, Mitch. Someone’s going to come along and knock you off your feet.”

Mitch shook his head. “Not likely, besides, Derrick’s marrying the only woman in town who could have tempted me to give up the single life.”

Rebecca shook her head in exasperation and brought the subject back to the reason for his visit. “The cat’s healthy other than the cut on his paw. He needs to be kept inside until it heals. No climbing trees for a while.”

Mitch recognized the look in Rebecca’s eyes. “No way,” he said, shaking his head. “He can’t come home with me. I’ve already told you that Roscoe tried to eat him. Last week, I had to hire a kid down the hall to walk Roscoe for me every day, due to the crazy hours I’m working. I don’t need another animal. Besides, I don’t like cats.”

Just then, the cat stood and started rubbing his head across Mitch’s arm, purring loudly. Rebecca laughed. “Sorry, bud, it looks like you’ve been chosen. Cats are easier to take care of than dogs, anyway. You don’t need to worry about taking him for a walk. Just get him a litter box, put out some food and water, and he’ll be happy. I predict he and Roscoe will be pals before you know it.”

Mitch sighed. He knew arguing with Rebecca was useless. She was as stubborn as they come, especially when it concerned the well-being of an animal. “Okay,” he relented. “But only until his paw heals. Then he’s out the door. Besides, he probably belongs to someone.”

Rebecca grinned with satisfaction. “I’ll let you know if anyone comes in looking for a cat that matches his description. In the meantime, you can borrow a litter box, bowls, and cat food from me.”

As Mitch was driving home, he threw his head back and laughed as he thought about how effortlessly Rebecca had convinced him to take the cat home. If she maneuvered him that smoothly, then Derrick was definitely in trouble. Somehow, he didn’t think his friend minded. He was crazy about her.

ToLoveACat

From the author of “Dogs Aren’t Men” comes “To Love a Cat”, a contemporary romance novel.

Catherine “Cat” James’ life is simple and orderly, and she likes it that way. She loves her job as an accountant. Working with numbers is safe and routine, no surprises. Her childhood had been very abusive and unstable. She vowed not to live that way as an adult. She also made a promise to herself to become a foster parent. She wished someone had been there for her as a teenager, to let her know she wasn’t alone.

Cat agrees to foster Ethan Summers, a troubled teenage boy whose childhood closely resembles her own. Suddenly, her nice and orderly life is filled with chaos and uncertainty. Things really start to spin out of control when circumstances bring police detective Mitch Holt into the picture. He’s handsome, charming, and definitely not what Cat needs right now, or so she thinks.

Buy Now @ Amazon

Genre – Contemporary Romance

Rating – PG

More details about the author

Connect with Billi Tiner on Facebook & Twitter

Website www.tinerbooks.blogspot.com

#BlogTour – Murder Strikes A Pose by @TracyWeberTypes #Mystery #Yoga

In this excerpt, Kate goes to Pete’s Pets planning to sweet-talk Michael into adopting the murder victim’s dog, Bella.  When she arrives, she’s surprised to find that Michael has hired a new employee, Tiffany. 

The bell on the door announced my arrival as I purposefully strode through the entrance.

“Welcome to Pete’s Pets, can I help you?”

My smile vanished.

Sitting behind the desk was a woman—a child, really. She was no older than twenty. Her thirty-six D chest contrasted nicely with her size six hips, and her too-tight top and hip-hugging jeans left nothing to the imagination. I glanced back at the window. The “Help Wanted” sign was conspicuously missing.

“Um … I’m um … looking for the owner. I mean … I’m looking for … you know … Michael.”

Brilliant, just brilliant. You have such a way with words.

“He’s busy right now, but maybe I can help. I’m Tiffany.”

Seriously? Tiffany? Who in the world named their kid Tiffany? Parents who raised brain-dead sex kittens, that’s who. My esteem for Michael, not all that high to begin with, dropped several notches. My self-confidence rose by twice that amount, and with it, my ability to speak.

“I need to speak with Michael. It’s personal. When will he be back?”

Perhaps I shouldn’t have used the word “personal.” Perhaps I should have continued stammering. Regardless, her attitude toward me changed. Her smile thinned to a smirk, and her eyes shrewdly narrowed. She looked me up and down, mentally sizing up the competition. “I didn’t say he was gone. I said he was busy.”

Game on.

If this licentious Lolita wanted a catfight, I’d show her my claws. I considered spraying her with my newly acquired vial of pepper spray, but decided that would probably be overdoing it. I impaled her with my oh-so-sharp-witted tongue instead. “Well, in that case, do you have any idea when he will get un-busy?”

No reply. I was as inconsequential as a housefly—annoying, but not worth the effort of swatting. She stared at me, clearly asserting her authority. I had two choices: I could either leave, or I could provide more information.

I chose option three.

I planted my feet and did my best impersonation of a statue, staring right back at her. Time ticked on, both of us childishly refusing to give ground. I imagined decades passing while we continued our passive-aggressive struggle for dominance. In my mind’s eye, dust and cobwebs covered us both, as our hair turned white and numerous body parts sagged with the inevitable effects of gravity.

Tiffany finally stood up, sighing. “If you wait here, ma’am, I’ll try to find him.”

Ma’am? Who was she calling ma’am?

She walked, or more accurately sashayed, back to the storage room. In a voice more than loud enough for me to hear, she said, “Michael, there’s some older lady out here who insists on talking to you.”

Michael emerged from the storage room, looking confused. His gaze bounced from Tiffany, to me, then back to Tiffany again. He tried, unsuccessfully, to suppress a grin.

“Hey, Kate. How’s that food working out for Bella?”

“Much better, especially now that I’ve figured out the enzyme routine. But that’s not why I’m here. I need to talk to you for a minute.” I looked pointedly at Tiffany. “Alone.”

Michael nodded for her to return to the cash register. She reluctantly left, but flashed me a look on her way. Don’t celebrate, it said. This battle is far from over.

Guestpost 3_photo2 (1)

When George and Bella—a homeless alcoholic and his intimidating German shepherd—disturb the peace outside her studio, yoga instructor Kate Davidson’s Zen-like calm is stretched to the breaking point. Kate tries to get rid of them before Bella scares the yoga pants off her students. Instead, the three form an unlikely friendship.

One night Kate finds George’s body behind her studio. The police dismiss his murder as a drug-related street crime, but she knows George wasn’t a dealer. So Kate starts digging into George’s past while also looking for someone to adopt Bella before she’s sent to the big dog park in the sky. With the murderer nipping at her heels, Kate has to work fast or her next Corpse Pose may be for real.

Praise:

Cozy fans will eagerly await the next installment.” —PUBLISHERS WEEKLY

Murder Strikes a Pose, by Tracy Weber, is a delightful debut novel featuring Kate Davidson, a caring but feist yoga teacher . . . Namaste to Weber and her fresh, new heroine!” PENNY WARNER,AUTHOR OFHOW TO DINE ON KILLER WINE

“[T]his charming debut mystery . . . pieces together a skillful collage of mystery, yoga, and plenty of dog stories against the unique backdrop of Seattle characters and neighborhoods. The delightful start of a promising new series. I couldn’t put it down!” WAVERLY FITZGERALD, AUTHOR OF DIAL C FOR CHIHUAHUA

“Three woofs for Tracy Weber’s first Downward Dog Mystery, Murder STrikes a Pose. Great characters, keep-you-guessing plot, plenty of laughs, and dogswhat more could we want? Ah, yesthe next book!” SHEILA WEBSTER BONEHAM, AUTHOR OF DROP DEAD ON RECALL

Buy Now @ Amazon

Genre – Cozy Mystery

Rating – PG

More details about the author

Connect with Tracy Weber on Facebook & Twitter

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#BlogTour – Leveling by J.R. Tague @JR_Tague #AmReading #YA #GoodReads

“I should tell you,” he hesitated. “We can expect some limitations on the reanimation I’ve performed.”

“You mean, like, I’ll still be Max McKay,” I said. A disappointment to be sure, but I could deal with it.

“In order to bring you back, I had to reattach your soul to your body—your dead body.”

I didn’t like where this was going. Images played across my mind of Dr. Frankenstein flipping a switch and watching the eyes of his monster snap open.

“Your point being?”

“Without the soul, the body ceases to be human. It is just a biological machine. All processes and reactions. More like a car than a person.”

Zombie. Once the word flashed through my mind I couldn’t shake it loose.

I looked down at my hands, flexing the fingers open and closed. “But I’m human, right? I still have a body and a soul.”

He looked uneasy for a moment, searching for a way to explain.

“Correct. Technically.” His voice grew soft, almost tender. “While in your mother’s womb, in an incredibly complex process, your eternal soul joined with this body. That union was perfect. Such an action can never again be performed precisely the same way. Once body and soul are separated and reunited, the two will never function quite the same again.”

My brain felt ready to burst from philosophical overload. I needed the bottom line. “So what exactly does that mean for me?”

“Your reanimation is a temporary fix.”

“Temporary?”

“It is inevitable that your soul and body will separate once more, Max. And when that happens, it will be for good.”

“How long do I have?” I swallowed back the dread threatening to choke me.

“A year or two at most,” he said quietly. “It’s impossible to know.”

His words may have been soft but they hit me hard. “Why even bother reanimating me, then? I’m only sixteen. I’m clueless. No one would even notice if I was gone!”

“I’ve done my job so that you can do yours.” His eyes grew solemn as they fixed on mine. “When next we meet in the in-between realm, I will have to follow protocol. Whether you are ready or not.”

“You should have just followed it from the get-go,” I said. “What difference is a year or two going to make?”

He looked up quickly to meet my eyes.

“Why, it could make all the difference. As a mortal, you should know that better than I.”

“But this is my life,” I said, gesturing around the room. “I go to school and I play games online. Sometimes I have to put up with my family. I don’t know how any of this is going to change in such a short time.”

“Perhaps it’s not the things around you that need to change.”

levelingUp

Max McKay gets a second chance at life when, after a bizarre accident on his sixteenth birthday, he is reanimated as a new breed of thinking, feeling zombie. To secure a spot for his eternal soul, Max must use his video game prowess as well as the guidance of Steve the Death God to make friends and grow up. As if all that weren’t hard enough, Max discovers that he’s not the only zombie in town. As he enlists the help of his new friends, Adam and Penny, to solve the mystery of their un-dead classmate, Max discovers that he must level up his life experience in order to survive the trials and terrors of the upcoming zombie apocalypse. And, even worse, high school.

Buy Now @ Amazon

Genre – YA

Rating – PG

More details about the author

Connect with J R Tague on Facebook & Twitter

Website http://jrtague.wordpress.com/

#BlogTour – Seasons’ End by @WillNorthAuthor #Contemporary #Fiction

Having finished off a half gallon of orange juice and most of a half gallon of Stolichnaya for breakfast, Tyler Strong was now struggling to load the family Ford Explorer. An observer, had there been one, would have puzzled at the methodology, which appeared frantic and, at the same time, utterly random; Tyler was tossing whatever was at hand into the back of the SUV, talking to himself as he did so.

Suitcases: Got mine. Where are Pete’s? Where’s Two’s? Where’s that girl, Justine? She’s old enough to help, dammit. Tennis gear. Got it. Water skis; where the hell are they? Can’t find them. Emptied the fridge. Well, most of it anyway and filled the cooler. Shoved it to the back. Crammed stuff around it for insulation. Need more stuff. And the toys…never know which go and which stay… Shouldn’t have to sort this all out myself.”

He thought he heard his mother Amanda’s low, cigarette-ruined voice, with its usual rasp of disgust:

“What the hell do you think you’re doing?”

Tyler ducked out of the rear of the SUV to find not Amanda but Old Adam behind him. The old man was standing, legs apart for balance, in the middle of the crushed oyster-shell driveway, cane in one hand and a sheaf of papers in the other.

“Did you even hear me? What the hell do you think you’re doing?” Old Adam repeated.

Given the extremity and baffling discontinuity of his present circumstance, a condition which made the space around him seem to ripple like heat waves off an asphalt road, Tyler had no idea what the old man was talking about, no idea even how he’d got there.

“Hello, Adam,” Tyler said, buying time and trying to steady himself by leaning on the edge of car’s rear hatch.

“Don’t ‘Hello’ me, you bastard; do you have any idea where your wife is?”

“Nope.” The younger man held his hands up in the universal gesture of helplessness and grinned, the picture of ease. “Went for a walk early this morning, I guess, and hasn’t come back yet. Left me to do all the heavy lifting, her and those kids. How about that?” He wasn’t at all certain this was the truth; he was finding truth to be elusive.

Old Adam was about to tell him where Pete was, but something—his old prosecutorial instincts, perhaps—held him back. Tyler was drunk; that must be it. But why would you be drunk on the morning you’re supposed to be driving home? Crazy. He was also acting, or covering maybe; that was obvious, too. What was he disguising?

Adam switched subjects, an age-old technique to throw a defendant off his game: “Guess who just paid me a visit?” It was less a question than an accusation.

For a moment, for just a fraction of a second, for the merest blink in the stately procession of time from present to past and back again, he saw fear in Tyler’s eyes. And just as quickly, Tyler’s eyes went blank again.

“No idea, Adam. Is this a game? Maybe I should get Two. He likes games.”

Adam stared at him. “Two? What the hell are you talking about?!”

Tyler didn’t know. He didn’t know where everyone was, why no one was helping. He looked around and listened for their voices, but the beach was silent except for gulls’ cries and the distant keening of an eagle. He couldn’t hear Amanda anymore either. Suddenly, he found the old man’s questions infuriating, and the noisy dissonance in his head rose painfully.

“Get on with it, Uncle; I’m trying to pack the car.”

“Odd how there’s no one here helping you, isn’t it?”

A part of his brain, the part on autopilot, agreed but he wouldn’t acknowledge it. “Was there something you wanted from me?”

“Oh yes, there is. There is. A legal messenger just mistakenly delivered a package of documents to me. But they were meant for you. Guess who they’re from?

Tyler crossed his arms against his chest but said nothing. It was all a mystery to him, this entire encounter. He tried to be separate from it. It wasn’t hard. He had only the slightest grip on the present.

“Soren Sorensen. Remember him? General Manager of Pacific Pioneer? Your wife’s family’s firm? Of which you’re CEO?”

“Soren…”

“Now why do you suppose old Soren would resort to sending documents to you via a receipt-requested legal messenger service? Never mind; don’t bother fabricating, I’ll tell you. Thanks to your incompetence, Pacific Pioneer is effectively bankrupt and Pete is ruined.”

Tyler slipped into another prism of the present, found a bit of text, and waved a breezy hand. “Whole industry’s in collapse, Adam. Nothing we could do. Fuel prices through the roof, customers dropping like flies, creditors snapping at our heels…”

“Who’s ‘we’?”

“Soren and me. And frankly, that old coot Soren—what is he, in his late fifties now? Older?He’s lost it. Completely. Can’t keep on top of the invoices. We’re forever in arrears. Supposed to be the general manager but can’t be trusted to make timely payments. Have to cover for him all the time.”

“Curious of you to say that, Tyler, because these documents include increasingly desperate letters from Soren to you, pleading that you act to take charge of the company’s financial crisis. If anyone’s ‘lost it,’ it looks like you.”

Tyler thrashed around in his crowded head for a response. “Oh Christ, Adam, the guy’s a Chicken Little. The sky’s always falling with him.”

Adam leaned on his cane and fixed Tyler in his gaze.

“Funny how the sky never fell until Harlan gave you control of Pacific Pioneer…”

“That’s my fault?”

“Well, you tell me. Whose is it, then? Harlan’s? Maybe Pete’s? Because you know what, nephew? I know you’ve made Pete the guarantor of the firm’s loans. I don’t know how you did it, but I’ll find out. Pete’s smarter than that. My guess is you forged her signature, but that’s easily checked and you can be damned sure I’ll have it checked. Now that the company’s failed, you’ve left her holding the bag.”

Tyler thought, Hey, this is like being in court! As if addressing a jury, he said, “Let us all remember that this is not my company; it’s hers.”

“Who’s ‘all?’ This is you and me, and don’t give me that bullshit! The general manager reports to you. The management decisions are yours to make, and what these documents show is that you’ve dodged those decisions for months. What the hell is wrong with you?”

Now Tyler suddenly felt himself in the witness box instead of arguing his client’s case before the judge. He didn’t like it.

He stepped out of the witness box and lunged for the documents, misjudging the distance. Old Adam pulled them away, stepped to one side, and swatted Tyler’s back with his cane. Tyler went down.

“Let me tell you something else,” Old Adam growled at the drunk struggling to his knees before him. “I’m not going to let you ruin my niece. I’m going to use every connection I have, every string I can pull, to exonerate her and make it clear that the burden of this failure rests upon your shoulders. What is more, nephew, I’m writing you out of my will. You got that? You’ve taken down the Petersen fortune; you won’t take down the Strong’s. Out of honor to my brother and love of your father, I’ve been carrying you for years. Pure dead weight. That’s done. Over. Got that?!”

Old Adam turned toward his house.

Tyler decided he’d kill the old man before he got away. He found his feet, promptly tripped on the cedar driveway edging, regained his balance, and plodded after the hobbling old man. He had no plan; he dimly figured the cane would suffice as a weapon.

SeasonsEnd

Every summer for generations, three families intertwined by history, marriage, and career have spent “the season” at their beach cottage compounds on an island in Puget Sound. Today, Martha “Pete” Petersen, married to Tyler Strong, is the lynchpin of the “summer people.” In childhood, she was the tomboy every girl wanted to emulate and is now the mother everyone admires.
Colin Ryan, family friend and the island’s veterinarian, met Pete first in London, years earlier, when she visited his roommate, Tyler. He’s loved her, privately, ever since. Born in Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen, son of a bar owner, he’s always been dazzled by what he sees of the sun-kissed lives of the summer people.

But this summer, currents strong as the tides roil: jealousies grow, tempers flare, passions clash. Then, on the last day of the season, a series of betrayals alters the combined histories of these families forever.

As in previous novels, The Long Walk Home and Water, Stone, Heart, with Seasons’ End, Will North weaves vivid settings and memorable characters into a compelling tale of romance and suspense.

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Genre – Women’s Contemporary Fiction

Rating – PG-13

More details about the author

Connect with Will North on Facebook & Twitter

Website willnorthonline.com

Be Careful What You Wish For (Saga of the New Gods) by Daniel Black

Chapter 4

Michelle Brown

The Cellar, Athens, Ohio

3:49 p.m. June 5th, 2021

Michelle moved through the cases in the dusty shop, sniffling every so often to clear the dust from her nose. She loved this shop, and so did Adam; you never knew what you’d find around the next corner, or in the next case.

On her last visit to “The Cellar”—the pawnshop beneath the county courthouse that had seemingly been there forever, and by the dust very well could have been—she had been with Adam, and therefore had to work very hard to suppress her pleasure when she’d found exactly what she’d been looking for in one of the glass cases hidden in one of the ever-so-multitudinous corners in the back of the shop—how could a seemingly square shop have so many corner’s?—a man’s gold wedding band, striped with platinum in the most amazing pattern she’d ever seen. It would be perfect!

“That old man is staring at my butt again!” Chelsea hissed from behind her. She hated this shop because of all the dust, but the only time she wasn’t trailing after Michelle was when she was curled up in some guy’s bed… and even then she’d given some gross hints that Michelle might be welcome. But Michelle felt almost like she was the two-months-younger girl’s mother; they had developed a fast friendship after their actual mothers had died together in a car accident fourteen years before, and had been virtually inseparable since.

Michelle smiled. “Well, if you didn’t wear your pants so he could actually see it, maybe he wouldn’t.”

Chelsea sniffed eloquently at this, then sneezed because of the dust. She even sneezed prettily: a little, high-pitched “choo” sound.

“Eww,” she said in her high voice as she searched for a tissue in her purse. “I hate this place!” She shuddered theatrically and dabbed at her nose, careful not to smear the makeup that she had probably had to wake up two hours early to apply.

“Well, you coulda waited outside! If the ring’s here, it won’t take long to find, and if it’s not, I’d’ve been right out.”

Chelsea shrugged, and Michelle smiled in amusement at the old man’s reaction. He caught his breath at the sight of what that shrug did to her friend’s more-than-generously displayed anatomy. She liked the old man: he was unsubtle as a kick in the teeth and always friendly to her and Adam when they came in to gawk yet rarely buy. He didn’t seem to care one whit about security though; every case was left unlatched, and the value of some of the items in the small store could be measured in the tens of thousands at least, she was sure. When she’d asked about this he’d responded, “You know? It’s never really come up.”

Finding the case she was seeking, Michelle felt her heartbeat increase with nerves; could someone have bought it already? Could it have been stolen, what with the complete lack of security? But no: as she rounded the case, there it was, displayed in a small, black jewelry box between a dagger with a ruby the size of Chelsea’s thumbnail in the hilt—her own thumbnail being chewed half off—and a hand-calligraphied tome from the Dark Ages.

She swung the door open and reached inside to pick up the small box. She was surprised at the heft of it and nearly dropped it, but recovered quickly.

“Ooh, that’s pretty,” Chelsea enthused, stepping uncomfortably close as she looked at the ring in Michelle’s hand. Michelle was oddly reassured by this; she had a terrible sense of aesthetics, she didn’t really give a damn about what things looked like so long as they worked like they should. But Chelsea had an eye for beauty that was never wrong.

“You really think so?” Michelle asked tentatively as she surreptitiously stepped a more comfortable distance from her best friend. “You think he’ll like it?” Chelsea nodded with a disdainful look; she had convinced her friend to start dating Adam, but she made no bones about disapproving of the direction the relationship had taken. Michelle sometimes laughed about it. Chelsea had gotten her to date Adam with the hope that she’d finally lose her virginity, only to find that Adam was about the only guy in the twenty-first century that was even more ambivalent about sex than Michelle herself was, and that they were planning on waiting until marriage for their first time.

“Are you sure about this?” Chelsea asked. “With the way you two are, you’re never gonna get divorced, and forever is a long time if he sucks in bed… in the bad way, I mean, of course.” She added this last bit in with a wicked little grin.

Michelle flushed at this comment from her friend; her hints and suggestions had gotten less and less subtle as the years had gone by without her virginity being disposed of. Chelsea had gotten rid of hers at almost the first opportunity. “Sex just isn’t that important to us, Chelsea.”

“Wait until you try it to say that,” she quipped back, wicked grin spreading.

Michelle’s cheeks burned at this uncomfortable topic, and she knew how indefatigable her friend could be once she’d taken the bit in her teeth on something. Within days of every date she and Adam—the only boy she had ever dated—had gone out on, Chelsea had wrestled every slightest detail out of her about what had occurred on the date, and then critiqued them. She had instigated almost every move Michelle had ever made in the relationship, and if Adam ever found out how much she knew about them he would be mortified.

Deciding ignoring this topic was the best way to retain whatever last vestiges of dignity remained to her, she turned her back and walked up to the counter, spine stiffening at the low, throaty chuckle that followed her. Even when Chelsea laughed she sounded like she wanted to drag someone into bed.

“Good afternoon, Mr. Mcgilicuddy,” Michelle greeted the old man as she approached the counter.

“Good afternoon, Michelle.” He flashed his gap-toothed grin at her, and then leered lasciviously at her friend, “Chelsea.”

“Eww,” Chelsea turned with a theatrical little shudder and walked away from the counter. Old man Mcgilicuddy visibly enjoyed staring at her bottom as she went to wait peevishly at the door, arms crossed and face furious.

“I hate to see her go… but I love to watch her leave…,” Mr. Mcgilicuddy said in a far-away voice, as though quoting. Michelle burst out with a loud laugh at this outrageous comment from the dirty old man.

“You’re an incorrigible, old dog, you know that?” Michelle asked, incredulous at his comment, though she had heard similar from him on previous occasions.

“I am what I am,” he replied to her with a leer. “But you are here for business, yes? Got my ring there in your pocket?” He always sounded like he was quoting some old book or other, and on rare occasions like now she recognized a quote, but it was no real surprise that he’d read the Lord of the Rings.

Michelle shook her head, smile stuck on her face as always when chatting with him. As much as the old man seemed not to care about security, he never missed a detail; every time she’d approached the counter, he’d spotted what she’d picked out regardless of where it was secreted about her person.

“Yup, how much for it?” she inquired, annoyed at the sudden burst of butterflies in her stomach at the question of money. She and Adam were not exactly poor, but she wouldn’t like to see what would happen to them if either of them lost one of the part-time jobs that supported them in this down economy.

Suddenly displaying a mysterious expression, he inquired, “Well that depends; who are you buying it for. And why.”

Michelle blushed and looked up at the old man; she knew his game. He knew why she was buying the ring, but wanted to see if she’d tell him. “I’m buying it for Adam.”

Eyebrows rising in feigned surprise, he continued, “Has the shy lad proposed? It’s a man’s wedding band you know.”

He was going to make her say it. “No, but if I waited for him to propose we would both still be single this time next decade.”

Mr. Mcgilicuddy nodded knowingly and sighed. “I can’t let it go for… less than… fifty dollars.”

This time it was her turn to be surprised, “It is worth one hell of a lot more than that! I can’t take it for that little!”

Pinning her with his eye, he seemed to count every penny in her pocket, every dollar in her bank account. “I know how the economy is, dear; you take it for fifty… consider the rest of it a wedding present.” At this he leered wantonly at Chelsea, who flared like a sunset and turned her back again, which did not lessen his leer in the slightest… though it did shift downward by a degree or two. “If you feel the need to give me somethin’ else, just bring Chelsea by more often. She keeps my old heart ticking.”

Michelle laughed again and felt the sting of tears in her eyes at the old man’s generosity, but knew if she said anything she’d just embarrass them both. Screw it, she thought, let him be embarrassed. She stood on tiptoe and reached behind the counter to grab the old man in a hug, then released him with a laugh when he struggled, announcing, “Leave off, girl!” But he had tears of his own in his eye when she released him. “Need to dust this place.” He coughed wetly, clearing his throat.

Michelle pulled out her wallet from the back of her pants—she never carried purses; she couldn’t stand them—and laid out two twenties and a ten on the counter. For once her wallet actually had some green in it, as she had pulled five hundred out of the bank, and had hoped to be able to put the rest of the cost on some kind of payment plan or something. She felt such relief at the old man’s generosity she couldn’t speak; he was definitely getting an invitation to the wedding. Heck, she’d put Chelsea in a skimpy, bridesmaid outfit for the old dog.

Turning with a wave she scurried quickly from the shop, anxious to see Adam, though she intended to wait a bit before actually proposing. He would be so surprised!

As she passed, the fuming Chelsea fell in behind her without a word.

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(soon available as an audio book)

Genre – Dark Fantasy

Rating – R

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Vadim Babenko – Stories behind my books: Farewell

Stories behind my books: Farewell

by Vadim Babenko

The Yeltsin-Gaidar economic reform, which impoverished the entire Russian nation and created a small group of super-rich oligarchs, began in January 1992. I was working then at the Institute of Molecular Genetics of the Russian Academy of Sciences. Right after New Year’s vacation we were told that financing for the Academy had been cut off. All academic institutes were advised to survive on their own. Thus began the collapse of the fundamental science system of the former USSR – created many decades prior and considered one of the strongest in the world.

Our institute was engaged in new approaches to microbiology problems. Serious scientists, who were regularly published worldwide, worked for us. As soon as it became clear our salaries would no longer be paid, a mass exodus of employees ensued – to the USA, Germany, Switzerland, Japan, France… Within two months the Institute was emptied by two-thirds. The only ones who didn’t leave were those bound to Russia by personal reasons. I too remained.

No, I had neither sick relatives nor thorny domestic problems. I simply didn’t want to leave the Russian language environment. Knowing already that my future was in literature despite my scientific successes, I decided it was time for me to write prose, my first big novel. And I believed to write in Russian I had to be surrounded by it on a day-to-day basis.

However, I needed to live on something – at the Institute they didn’t pay at all. In the Russia of that time it was possible to earn money only by reselling something brought from abroad – discounting plainly criminal jobs. Trade in consumer products was not for me; I chose the most abstract of goods – money. I began to collaborate with a firm that was profiting from currency speculation.

What we were doing wasn’t illegal – in the law of the new Russia there was simply a gaping hole about the issue. I formed a small team of some of my former scientist colleagues – all of them had excellent educations, doctorate degrees, and families with nothing to eat. The first five months everything went OK, but then we caught the eye of professional swindlers. They took notice and – quite easily and gracefully – set us up by slipping us some funny C-notes instead of real money. As a result, I ended up owing my “employers” an amount unattainable for those times: nearly five thousand dollars.

There was nowhere at all for me to get this money. However, my employers treated me well. They didn’t send tough guys after me with baseball bats, but suggested I work off the debt – by collecting weekly payments from the kiosks that they “protected” on Arbat Street. This I could not do and, persuading them to wait one month, I began seeking the path to my salvation.

Strangely enough, a path was found: in the US I located a partner who was interested in the technology I had been developing over the last two years. We decided to open a joint venture and, with a Herculean effort, I convinced him to send me money as an advance on my future share. This sum made up nearly ten percent of our “capital” at that time, which my partner had acquired from his friends. Nevertheless, he took a risk; it turned out to be the best decision of his life.

And now, having repaid my debts and wrapped up my Russian affairs, I stood in line for customs inspection in the departure wing of Moscow Sheremetevo Airport. November 1992 was passing. I was completely disappointed, both in Russia and in my abandoned novel. Actually, it was still too early for me to write something serious. And the country was quickly becoming a violent, disgusting place. All the worst of humanity had bubbled to the surface and run amok. Those who found it unpleasant could only get the hell out of there.

The customs officer, young and impudent, carelessly set to rummaging in my bag. Suddenly he lighted upon something, and his eyes twinkled. In his hands was a pack of diskettes that contained everything: all my computer programs, calculations, presentations, and so on. “This is restricted!” he announced with a sneer. “It’s not allowed to leave the country! We’re confiscating this.”

I knew he was lying to extort a bribe, but I was helpless – his supervisors were far away, and the plane wasn’t going to wait. Besides, the customs administration would most likely take issue with something else to insure I wouldn’t press my rights. I had heard many stories about this practice, and I had no illusions.

The customs official and I stepped to the side. He forced me to empty my pockets, then reached into my wallet and took all my cash, leaving only some loose change for coffee.

On the escalator as I ascended toward my gate I resolved that never again – NEVER! – would I return to this country.

A Simple Soul

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Genre – Literary Fiction

Rating – PG13

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Website http://www.vadimbabenko.com/

Onio by Linell Jeppsen

Chapter 1

Melody Carver stood under the flickering sodium light and lit a cigarette with shaking fingers. Other tobacco refugees stood in the shadows, murmuring softly and staring out at the falling snow. It was 12:35 in the morning…forty-five minutes after the death of her mother from lung cancer.

Mel sighed in disgust and ground the butt in the ashtray before heading back inside Deaconess Hospital to make final arrangements for her mom, Angela Carver. She was assured that the body would make its way safely back home to Republic, if she would only sign here… and here.

The lights in the cancer ward hurt her eyes. Mel suddenly felt frightened by the shadowed glimpses of patients on the ward, and the erratic lightning strikes on the monitors that helped keep the stricken patients alive and kicking for another dose of chemo or radiation therapy.

Frightened, she acknowledged, and angry too. Those same modern, medical miracles of technology had failed her mother. Although she was happy…truly grateful…that many of these people would survive their ordeal with the big C, Mel resented the fact that her own mom had not. And why? she raved, walking into the patient room to gather up the meager belongings left behind by Angela’s passing.

Her mother had never smoked (well, except for a little pot when she was younger), didn’t drink alcohol, and ate only the most healthy foods. She had worked out regularly, stating that the body was God’s temple and should be treated as such. Her mom was the picture of health and glowed like a Madonna fresco: that is, until lung cancer robbed her of all vitality, and eventually her life, at the age of forty-five.

Mel grabbed her mom’s backpack and stuffed it full of nighties, underwear, a toothbrush, and a couple of books and magazines. She looked around and found some hand lotion, talcum powder, and a discarded earring. Grabbing the two Get Well cards off the windowsill, Mel paused, swallowing the tears that threatened to swamp her in grief.

Angela Carver was the light of Mel’s life, her best friend and most loyal fan. They had never had much money, and after Mel’s father left, stating that he had neither the time nor patience for a handicapped child, they were mostly left alone. Angela was an only child…both of her parents had perished in an automobile accident.

So it had been a team of two, and for the most part Mel was happy with the arrangement. Looking at the two lonely get well cards though—one of which was brought in by Mel herself, and the other by one of Mel’s case-workers—brought home just how alone in the world they really were.

A soft touch made her jump and gasp aloud.

“It’s for the best, honey,” Mrs. Gilford croaked. “Your mamma is at peace now.” Those few words sent the old woman into a fit of deep, rasping coughs. Mel cringed. She could not hear the coughing noises, but she could see the tears that streamed from Ada’s eyes and how red her face had become. Mel picked up the call button, ready to signal a nurse, but Ada shook her head.

“I shouldn’t try and talk so loud. I just wanted you to know…to understand.”

Mel watched the old woman’s mouth and nodded. “Thank you,” she whispered, hoping that she got the words right.

A high fever in infancy had damaged Melody Carver’s ear canals. She was considered legally deaf, although she could hear things…sort of. It sounded to her as though all the oceans of the world were roaring through her ears all of the time. The spoken voice blared like a car horn and the tiniest whisper boomed back at her like a trumpet. Now she wore hearing aids to drown out the constant cacophony, and was more comfortable with complete silence than trying to decipher the incessant howl of the world around her.

Her mom had taught her to read lips, but even though Mel was great at signing, talking out loud was difficult. No matter how hard she tried, she mangled the words together into a hash of indecipherable syllables, earning her scorn and painful pinches when she was a child and a certain pitiable disregard from her peers as she grew into adulthood. She was introverted to begin with, and eventually her disability drove her into a cocoon of solitude, enlivened only by her beloved mother and the occasional caseworker that specialized in the hearing impaired.

***

Onio

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Genre – Fantasy/Romance

Rating – PG13

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Website http://neljeppsen.weebly.com/

A 3rd Time to Die by George A Bernstein (Excerpt)

She paused at the stall where she’d boarded Lady as a teenager. A dappled gray leaned over the wood-rail gate, tossing its head, nickering. She sighed.

She came to Onwentsia Stables on a whim to watch the first Amateur Open Jumper competition of the Spring, and the banked embers of the old fire burned brightly in her again. Seeing those big muscular athletes bounding over rails and walls had her heart tumbling giddily.

Maybe it’s time to get a horse… even start jumping again. Thirty-one’s not too old, and it’s such great therapy. One thing’s for sure… a four-legged buddy will always be there for me.

Riding created a sense of peace and a bond with the animal that no one but an equestrian would understand. The pressures of rearing a family were minimal now, with Maria living in for the last year, there to care for the children if she were away.

Time to get out and do my own thing. It’ll be daytimes, while Keith’s at work, so it won’t interfere with our being together. Besides, when was the last time he spent any real time with me, doing something fun? Something I love! She couldn’t remember, but it’d been years.

Ashley ventured deeper into the gloomy barn, absorbing the ambiance.

I can even get back into show jumping, if I get a good horse. Wonder what was wrong with that huge chestnut? A redhead, just like me. He seemed so listless, even refusing fences. Hard to believe that big thoroughbred was unwilling to jump. You never know until you…

A horse squealing in apparent pain, somewhere deeper inside the barn, brought her to an abrupt stop. She spun around, looking for a groom, but all stable hands were near the show ring.

“Better take a look. May be an animal in trouble.” She hurried back, checking stalls as she went.

There it was again. She circled into a wing for visiting horses, slowly approaching the end stall. Peering over the gate, she staggered back, a hand clasped over her mouth.

“OhmyGod.” Her eyes flooded. “You poor baby. What’s happened to you?” It looked like the big roan gelding that had jumped so poorly in the Open Class, its flanks lathered and striped with bloody furrows. The horse nickered softly, ears up, sensing compassion in her voice.

“Jesus! You’ve been beaten.” Salty streams spilled down her cheeks, her heart pummeling her chest, a soft moan slipping between her lips. A horse should be your buddy and companion, not an outlet for anger and abuse. She held out her hand to him.

“Who did this to you?” The tall horse edged tentatively forward, ears flicking back and forth. She gently rubbed his satiny snout. He nuzzled her shoulder, nickering softly.

“Sweet boy.” Her arms circled his neck and he brushed his face affectionately against her body. Why would anybody hurt such a lovely animal? Tears continued to gush, as she fished for a tissue to blow her nose and blot her eyes.

Damn, my mascara’s running. I must look a mess.

“I’m gonna find some help, pretty boy. Somebody’s gonna pay for this, I promise you.” She hurried off. He neighed plaintively after her.

Ashley was turning into the main part of the stable when the horse trumpeted again. She skidded to a stop, searching again for help, but everybody was still out at the show ring. Another shrill whinny. Was some bastard beating that poor guy again?

“Looks like it’s up to me.” Gritting her teeth, Ashley hurried toward the stall, snatching up a nearby pitchfork. Who knew how crazy this guy might be?

She cautiously approached the stall on suddenly rubbery legs. The chestnut gelding was struggling to get away from a tall, lanky man in riding habit, brandishing a whip. A very big whip. He had looped a lead chain over the animal’s snout for control.

“I got a real weapon now, you bastard! You’ll never embarrass me like that again. I’ll kill ya first.” He hit the horse hard across the withers. The big gelding bucked and pawed, but without any real energy.

“Hey, quit that!” Her shout raspy, she banged the gate with the side of the pitchfork.

“Huh?”

3rdTime3D-2

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Genre – Romantic Suspense

Rating – PG13

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The Dream Rider by Ernest Dempsey

I lived in the same area my whole life, just outside of Chattanooga, Tennessee. The locale was replete with activities like kayaking, hiking, climbing, camping, live music, great restaurants, with only a fraction of the traffic of our neighbors to the south found in Atlanta. The city had risen from the ashes of the industrial age and been transformed through a decade-long renaissance. It had once been described as one of America’s dirtiest cities in the 1980s, a fact that angered some of the local power players.

The city’s leader’s set to work on creating a different kind of town, getting rid of the old factories that polluted the air and water, constructing new buildings and restoring old ones. The Tennessee Aquarium created a new hub for tourism in the city and the area near the river transformed from a seedy place to a regular hang out for tourists and citizens.

I loved the area. The city wasn’t the problem in my life. I was the problem. I’m not one of those people who wallows in self-pity, although I have been that guy at one point. I just know my strengths and weaknesses. And I’m not too stupid to realize I have way more of the latter. I played trumpet in the high school band but was always one of the last chairs. In sports, I was pretty good, even made some outstanding plays in all of them:  basketball, football, baseball, hockey, soccer. But I was nothing special. In fact, a few hours before my nightmare-filled slumber, I’d had an intramural flag football game. With less than thirty seconds left, the quarterback threw me the ball. I was wide open in the end zone. Dream scenario. Except when the ball hit my hands, I bobbled it and watched in horror as it fell to the grass at my feet. We ended up losing the game by four points. I had six catches that game. But they didn’t matter. It was the end that mattered. I always had trouble making the big play when it counted most.

My grades were average, too, always around the range of Cs to Bs. At one point, one of my professors said to me, “Finn, you could be such a good student. If you would only apply yourself.”  I can still hear his odd Portuguese accent now. I always nodded when he and others said things like that to me. It was a line I’d gotten used to hearing over the years. I didn’t have the heart to tell them they were wrong. A perfect example is that I spent several hours studying for his mid-term and ended up getting a 79 on it.

I’m not a defeatist. I just know my limits. And I also know how much effort I am willing to put in. Some might say I’m lazy. I don’t know if that’s it. Maybe it’s a little apathy. I guess I feel like I’m going to end up just getting average results, so why bother putting in a lot of effort?

Girls had never really paid me much attention. There were a few in high school that had been interested, but I didn’t care much for them. I figured I had to have some standards, at least. Since arriving to college, I had met some cool girls, and we hung out pretty often. Again, my semi-defeatist mindset kept me from pursuing them. I figured they wouldn’t be into me. Maybe I was missing the signals. It was safer just to assume they weren’t into me.

My life had been one big Sunday drive through the countryside, completing every task half-heartedly. I didn’t push to do anything special so I never accomplished anything special.

I stepped into the shower as my thoughts returned to the present and the terrifying nightmare I’d just experienced. The, soothing, steamy water washed over my light brown skin and dark hair. It did wonders to ease my mind. I couldn’t remember ever having a nightmare where I was killed. Despite the hot water, chills went through my body at the recollection. It had seemed so real. I’d had bad dreams before filled with snakes, spiders, rabid dogs, and any number of other terrible fears and phobias. This one, however, was different than anything I’d ever experienced.

I hopped out of the shower and threw on some clothes, my usual jeans and t-shirt. Since it was cold out, I put on a jacket then sat back down at the computer. When I looked at the screen, though, I realized something wasn’t right. The background picture and all the other desktop images were gone, replaced by a black void. I pressed the power button, thinking I may have accidentally turned the machine off, but nothing happened. I looked under my desk to make sure I hadn’t kicked a plug or knocked something off the night before. Everything looked normal, though. I wondered what was wrong with the stupid thing.

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Genre –  Science Fiction

Rating – PG13

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Website http://ernestdempsey.net/

#AmReading The Accidental Anarchist @BrynaKranzler

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The Accidental Anarchrist by Bryna Kranzler

Amazon Kindle US

Print Length: 332 pages

Excerpt:
Chapter 1:      In the Beginning
I have no excuse, save for the ignorance of youth and a desire for grand adventure, which may have been one and the same thing. Consequently, the seemingly minor decision I made to end my education before the age of thirteen led me down a path from which each future choice was misdirected by the previous foolish one.
Not that I didn’t have a loving family to guide me, particularly my older brother, Mordechai, who had seen me risk my life repeatedly but was unable to convince me to make at least one sensible decision. There was simply too much fun to be had.
The result was that, in a little over ten years, I went from being a yeshiva[1]student, a baker’s assistant, and labor organizer, to a corporal in the Russian army during the war in Manchuria (in which the men under my command wanted to kill me, simply for being a Jew, as much as the enemy did, simply for being in the way), to a revolutionary. For my efforts, I earned my first two death sentences, which was a little more excitement than I needed.
This limited my curiosity as to whether my end would come from freezing or starvation, from Japanese artillery or Chinese bandits, and whether it would be today or tomorrow. From my experiences with the comically inept Russian army (at least, it would have been comical had our lives not been at stake), I learned that, no matter how terrible it was for anyone to be in the midst of a war, it was a hundred times worse being on the losing side.
Still, I was slow to put into practice the lessons from my youth and, following the war, became a revolutionary who wanted to overthrow the Czar. This got me involved in amateur spy missions that would have gotten a Hollywood screenwriter fired, but got me sentenced to death for the third time.
As a result, I travelled the width of Russia, from Petersburg[2]  to Siberia, where my adventures were to have come to an end. But even if my record wasn’t clean, my conscience was; everything I did was done with the most honorable intentions.
And ultimately provided enough excitement to last a lifetime.
(©Bryna Kranzler 2010)