M9B Friday Reveal: Chapter One of The Perilous Journey of the Not-So-Innocuous Girl by Leigh Statham and Giveaway #M9BFridayReveals

M9B-Friday-Reveal

Welcome to this week’s M9B Friday Reveal!

This week, we are revealing the first chapter for

 by Leigh Statham

presented by Month9Books!

Be sure to enter the giveaway found at the end of the post!

The Perilous Journey

Lady Marguerite lives a life most 17th century French girls can only dream of: Money, designer dresses, suitors and a secure future. Except, she suspects her heart may be falling for her best friend Claude, a common smithie in the family’s steam forge. When Claude leaves for New France in search of a better life, Marguerite decides to follow him and test her suspicions of love. Only the trip proves to be more harrowing than she anticipated. Love, adventure and restitution await her, if she can survive the voyage.

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Title: THE PERILOUS JOURNEY OF
THE NOT-SO-INNOCUOUS GIRL
Publication date: 2015
Publisher: Month9Books, LLC.
Author: Leigh Statham

Chapter-by-Chapter-header---Excerpt

The Perilous Journey of the Not-So-Innocuous Girl

Leigh Statham

Chapter One

Marguerite held the brass cricket gingerly in her hands. She kept it tucked under the table while she turned it over, her fingers blindly memorizing every feature. She knew it was childish for a sixteen-year-old to have a favorite toy, but she couldn’t help it. The design fascinated her. Occasionally she would trip the mechanism and the cricket literally sprang to life, launching itself against the underside of the table with a loud knock.
“What was that?” Madame Pomphart cried.
Marguerite caught the little metal bug with one hand and tucked it into the folds of her skirts. “Nothing,” she lied.
“I heard a noise.” The sour-faced governess slapped the desk with her pointer and stepped closer. “What are you hiding?”
Marguerite didn’t flinch. “You must be hearing things again. You are getting rather old.”
Madame Pomphart swung her pointer, making sound contact with Marguerite’s shoulder.
“Ah!” Marguerite grabbed her shoulder and jumped to her feet, knocking her chair over. She quite forgot about the little toy cricket which launched right at the governess’s face.
“What? Oh!” Madame Pomphart batted the air and stumbled backward, dropping her stick as the cricket ricocheted off her nose and landed at Marguerite’s feet. “How dare you bring vermin into my classroom? Your father will hear about this. Lord Vadnay will not be pleased!”
Marguerite scooped up her prize and ran for the door, grateful for the chance to escape.
“Get back here or you’ll receive double lashings!”
It was too late. Marguerite ran much faster than her teacher and was already halfway down the wide corridor. Lined with portraits of long-dead relatives and her father’s collection of modern weaponry, each display tempted her with thoughts of challenging the governess to a duel. She could easily scoop up one of the automated cat-o-nine-tails and turn back to the classroom. She rather fancied the idea, actually. But it wasn’t the right time or the right way to handle her heavy-handed caretaker, and honestly, she wasn’t quite brave enough to do more than talk back—not yet.
Her fear began to lift as she lightly descended the grand curving stairway to the ballroom, sprinting over the marble tiles and through the large doors to the gardens. The French summer sun blinded her. Marguerite blinked as she continued to run around the fountain filled with automated koi. A servant perched on the edge of the large pool, brass fish in hand. Its tail clicked furiously back and forth as he tried to oil it. The late-summer roses bloomed bright with color all around her. Butterflies seemed to flit merrily on every blossom, cheering her on. Human and automaton servants worked side by side grooming the large hedges … They jumped out of her way and bowed. None of them seemed surprised to see the young lady of the house running out of doors and they all knew where she was headed.
She tried to slip away to the cool shelter of the small glen beyond the lavender fields every chance she could, but since her father came up with the idea that she needed to be a “real lady,” it had become more difficult to sneak away.
At this point, she could have stopped. Pomphart wouldn’t follow her now, but it felt so good to move quickly after being at a table all morning. Her heart beat like an auto-hammer in her chest by the time she reached the work fields. More automatons and human servants stopped and bowed to the master’s daughter. Marguerite paid them no attention.
Finally reaching the small grove of trees, she flopped merrily on the soft grass and took a deep breath, then giggled to herself. She was safe, for now. The wind picked up and tousled the leaves overhead, sending bits of sunlight swimming wildly around her. The grass outside the glen rustled under the heavy thud of work boots: Claude.
“Hullo!” His voice sounded merry as he peered through the low branches that poked and tickled at the earth, surprised to see her there so early. “How’d you manage to beat me?” His wavy, light brown hair was just shaggy enough to soften his strong jaw and angular nose. His cheek was smeared with gear oil, right up to the corner of his smiling blue eyes. He was too tall for his work trousers and his chest had grown too broad for his cotton shirt. The buttons tugged a bit, but he wasn’t the type to care about his clothes. He pulled his welding goggles off of his head and wiped the sweat on his brow with the arm of his shirt.
“I ran.” She smiled wickedly.
Claude flopped down in the grass beside her. “That’s not very ladylike, and Pomphart doesn’t usually let you out till half past.”
“I had to run after this marvelous toy you made for me attacked her.” She held up the cricket like a prize gem freshly plucked from the earth.
“Marguerite!” he cried. “I asked you to keep it safe, not use it to get yourself tossed out of ladyhood!”
“It was an accident. I swear. The lessons are just so boring. I needed something to do, so I had it under the table. She’s such a brute. You should have seen how she hit me with her blasted pointer.”
“She struck you again?” his face turned dark.
“Yes, but it’s nothing, just a welt on the shoulder.” The last thing she wanted was to be the damsel in distress.
“Still.” Claude’s brow furrowed. “It’s not right. Ladies don’t strike other ladies. Please keep good care of that little bug. It took me a long time to build and I didn’t record the plans. I may need to borrow it back someday.”
“All right.” Disappointed at his lack of enthusiasm for her naughtiness, she carried on. “But you should have seen her face! If only I could have a portrait made of that. I’d hang it over my bed and have a miniature made to keep by my heart.”
A nasally voice attached to a pointy-faced, pale girl in bright pink skirts burst through the cool glen. “Whose miniature are you keeping by your heart? You haven’t even had your ball yet.”
“Hello, Vivienne.” Marguerite sighed without enthusiasm.
“Marguerite has just sealed her doom,” Claude chimed in. “She threw the cricket I made her at Pomphart’s face today, so there may not be a ball.”
“That’s rubbish! I did no such thing. It just got away from me and bounced right off her nose.” Marguerite laughed again while recalling the image, but Claude’s words made her a bit nervous.
“Oh dear,” cried Vivienne. “What are you going to do?”
Of course Vivienne would make a big deal out of it, Marguerite didn’t expect anything less from her childish neighbor.
“I’m not sure. That’s why I came straight here.” She turned pointedly to Claude. “I thought you’d want to celebrate my freedom and take the rest of the day off.”
Claude was quick to reply, “I’m afraid I can’t. Lots to be finished at the forge and I am on stall-mucking duty with the bots.”
“What do you possibly have to finish at the forge that’s so important?”
Claude raised his eyebrows at her. “A certain girl’s father has requested automatic serving dishes made of twenty-four-karat gold for her introduction to society.”
“Oh my!” Vivienne drew a dramatic breath. “How elegant. I so wish I were old enough to come.”
“Don’t worry,” Marguerite patted the girl’s knee, “I’m sure you can borrow them for your own ball.”
“Marguerite … ” Claude hissed at her.
It wasn’t a very kind thing to say, but Marguerite had never been very fond of Vivienne. She mostly endured her company because she was the only girl within a hundred miles that was close to the same age and station as Marguerite. That, and Claude had insisted she be kind to her.
“You’re right, Claude.” Marguerite smiled in repentance. “I’m sure your father will have loads of wonderful things for the guests to marvel at when your time comes, Vivienne. Still, it would be nice to have both of you there. I suppose I will be forced to talk to strangers.”
“I can’t believe you’re not excited!” Vivienne chattered. “New dresses! Handsome suitors!”
“I am excited,” Marguerite cut her off, “to have it over and done with! Dressing up might be fun, but dressing up to catch a man is not my idea of a good time.”
“Don’t be vulgar.” Vivienne blushed. “It’s not like that at all.”
Claude cut in, “I’d love to stay and discuss this matter with you girls, but I do have a few chafing dishes waiting for their motors in the shop.”
Marguerite tensed at the thought of not only being left alone with Vivienne, but also being without Claude’s protection should Pomphart come looking for her. “Do you think I could come help you at the forge today?”
“Not if you want me to get anything done.” Claude smiled merrily.
“Stop it! You know I’m a whiz with gear-work.”
“When you are actually interested in the work, yes, but I’m afraid that auto-spoons and brass tureens would bore you to death.”
Marguerite tried to make her eyes look large and beseeching, but she knew it was no use.
“No. But you can walk me there. I forgot my lunch anyway,” Claude said as he reached to help Marguerite up.
“I didn’t exactly have time to grab a snack as I fled the dungeons,” Marguerite quipped.
“Oh! I know!” Vivienne was bursting. “Let’s have lunch in town today. You’re not going back to your lessons are you? And Claude is busy with work. It will be such fun girl time!”
Marguerite sighed, but Vivienne was right. There was no way for her to return to the estate house without being trapped by Pomphart, and she had nothing to do if Claude insisted on finishing his chores. Still, she was uneasy about the idea of being on her own with Pomphart’s wrath hovering around an unknown corner waiting to pounce. The woman was ruthless when no one of importance was watching. She had a way of getting Marguerite off on her own and exacting whatever form of punishment she felt was suitable for the crime. Marguerite tried to complain to her father, but he wouldn’t listen, he thought Marguerite just didn’t want lessons anymore.
Claude knew all of this and sensed her fears in her quiet gaze.
“Come with me, both of you. I have someone I want you to meet.” Claude smiled.
Marguerite jumped up at his tug, tossed her wavy brown hair, and set her skirts aright, glad someone was helping her make up her mind. “Very well.”
“Hooray! Oh, I know just the place,” Vivienne said. “There is a new little patisserie I saw the other day I’ve been aching to try.” She skipped up the hill ahead of the other two, babbling on about buns and cakes and half sandwiches.
Claude reached for Marguerite’s arm and squeezed a bit. He used this gesture when he was about to chastise her, but she didn’t think she’d been that rude to Vivienne. The girl got on her nerves with every word, but her intentions were good and Marguerite wasn’t cruel by nature, just impatient.
“What?” she hissed.
“I have some news, but I wanted to tell you first.”
“Oh?” Relieved not to be in trouble, but also perplexed, Marguerite wished more now than ever that Vivienne would just skip into oblivion with her bouncy blonde curls and scattered thoughts.
“Yes. You know how we spoke a few weeks ago about my plans?”
“Did you find a position in Paris?” Marguerite could scarcely contain herself. Her friend was so talented, and she knew better than anyone that he was wasted working as a bondservant on her father’s estate. If he could secure an apprenticeship in Paris he could come back to La Rochelle as a master tradesman. Plus she could visit him there. Still, apprenticeships were hard to come by.
“No, I think it’s better than that.”
“What could be better than Paris?” In her mind, crowds of well-dressed ladies paraded down glittering avenues while the latest autocarts passed by in a blur of technology and innovation. Paris was the hub of all things Marguerite admired.
“I’ve signed into His Majesty’s service. As of next week, I’ll be an official member of the Royal Corp of Engineers.”
“You what?” She was stunned. It took her a moment to sort out her emotions. How could he have made this type of decision without consulting her? They had shared everything since they discovered each other as bored children on the estate a decade ago.
“I knew you’d be angry with me for not telling you beforehand, but an opportunity just presented itself and I knew it was right—I had to take it.”
“No, I’m not angry at all. Just shocked. You know how my father feels about the military.”
“But you see, that’s just it. I won’t have to worry about your father anymore, I won’t owe him anything. My first assignment is to New France.”
“Are you two coming or not? I’m starved!” Vivienne had doubled back when she realized she was talking to herself.
Marguerite wasn’t sure she could eat or talk at that moment. She wasn’t sure she could even take another step.

 

 

Chapter-by-Chapter-header---About-the-Author

L. Statham

Leigh Statham was raised in the wilds of rural Idaho, but found her heart in New York City. She worked as a waitress, maid, artist, math teacher, nurse, web designer, art director, thirty-foot inflatable pig and mule wrangler before she settled down in the semi-quiet role of wife, mother and writer. She resides in North Carolina with her husband, four children, five chickens and two suspected serial killer cats. If the air is cool and the sun is just coming up over the horizon, you can find her running the streets of her small town, plotting her next novel with the sort of intensity that will one day get her hit by a car.

Connect with the Author: Website |Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

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M9B Friday Reveal: Chapter One of Fingers in the Mist by O’Dell Hutchison and Giveaway #M9BFridayReveals

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Welcome to this week’s M9B Friday Reveal!

This week, we are revealing the first chapter for

Fingers in the Mist by O’Dell Hutchison

presented by Month9Books!

Be sure to enter the giveaway found at the end of the post!

Fingers In The Mist

Sixteen-year-old Caitlyn Foster never believed in the legend of the Redeemers. That was before the trees started to whisper her name. Before a murder of crows attacked the town. Before she and her family came home to find a bloody handprint on their front door, marking one of them as a sacrifice. As Caitlyn’s friends are ripped from their homes, she knows it’s only a matter of time before the Redeemers come for her. Caitlyn has the power to stop the terror, but she’ll have to decide if she’s willing to sacrifice herself to save those she loves.

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Title: FINGERS IN THE MIST
Publisher: Month9Books, LLC.
Author: O’Dell Hutchison

Chapter-by-Chapter-header---Excerpt

FINGERS IN THE MIST
O’Dell Hutchison

 

Chapter One

Welcome to Highland Falls, Idaho, population: 353.
The sign taunts me, threatening me with its simple tagline: “Raising families in God’s name since 1823.” I hate this place. I shouldn’t be here. No sixteen-year-old should have to live in a town where the number of residents is less than the number of her Facebook friends.
The headlights of my father’s Dodge sweep across the bridge as he navigates through the water flowing across the road. The rain falls in ferocious sheets, hammering the truck, filling the already too-full river with water it can’t hold.
“We’re almost home, Cait.” He reaches over and squeezes my shoulder. This is one of six sentences he’s spoken since we left the bus station two hours ago. He still hasn’t told me why he missed Mom’s funeral.
I sigh in response. I want to beg him to turn around and take me back to the bus station. Visiting every summer was one thing, but I can never call this place home.
Thunder rolls and a bolt of lightning cuts across the sky like the flash of a camera. The trees light up, and in the distance I notice a muddy figure with dark hair standing at the side of the road. My heart stutters and my breath comes in shallow bursts. I’m seeing things. I squeeze my eyes shut, blotting out the image of my ex-boyfriend standing on the front porch, my mother’s blood stuck to his hands like gloves. It’s just my imagination. It’s not Jonah.
When I open my eyes, the figure is still there. He steps onto the road, and I scream when I realize my father hasn’t seen him. Dad slams on the brakes and the Dodge hydroplanes, fishtailing to a stop mere inches from the boy.
My father’s green eyes widen with recognition at the stumbling figure before him. “Oh my God. It’s the Perkins boy.”
“Trevor?” My stomach drops. “What happened to him?”
“Trevor’s fine. It’s Mason. He’s alive.” He opens the door and steps out into the rain before I can ask any more questions.
Why wouldn’t Mason be alive? More important, why is he wandering around in a rainstorm five miles outside of town covered in mud?
Dad approaches Mason with an outstretched hand. I see his lips move, but can’t hear what he says over the thrumming of the rain on the roof of the truck. Oblivious of my father’s presence, Mason stumbles along the road, his gait slow and ragged. His jeans, caked in mud, hang loosely from his bony hips. He’s barefoot and doesn’t wear a shirt. Deep scratches cover his chest and arms. It looks like he just clawed his way out of the ground.
Mason paces in small circles, bloodied hands twitching at his sides. My father walks up behind him and places a hand on his shoulder. Mason turns on him, swinging his fists. One of them connects with my dad’s face, and I gasp when I see all six-foot-two of him stumble. He slips and falls, disappearing beneath the hood of the truck.
I throw open my door and tumble into the cold October air, my boots slipping against the wet pavement. The rain immediately engulfs me. A gust of wind, thick with the scent of cedar and pine, picks up damp pieces of my dark hair, flinging them into my face like small tentacles.
“Are you okay?” I kneel in front of my dad as he runs a calloused hand over his jaw.
“I’m fine,” he says, struggling to his feet. “He just caught me off guard. I slipped.”
“No, no, no, no, no.” Mason slaps at his head like he’s trying to knock something loose. Globs of mud fall to the ground. He throws his head back and screams in pain, tearing at his hair.
“What’s wrong with him?” I take a step back, leaning against the front of the truck.
“I don’t know. He went camping a week ago with some friends up near the falls. They woke up and Mason wasn’t there. We thought he was dead.”
Before I can respond, a loud hacking comes from Mason. He drops to his knees, his hands pressed to his stomach. His entire body convulses. The sounds coming out of him are enough to make me want to hurl.
“We need to get him into town. We’ll take him by Doc’s,” my dad says.
Mason wretches again, and this time a dark stream pours from his mouth. It looks like mud—like he’s throwing up mud. I place a hand over my mouth and turn my back to him. That was seriously nasty.
“I need you to help me get him into the truck.”
I wave a hand in my father’s direction, afraid to open my mouth to speak—afraid of what might come up.
“Cait! I need some help here.”
I turn to see Mason lying on the ground, his entire body wracked with convulsions. His back arches until the top of his head sits on the road. His hands hover above the ground, shaking as if he’d been electrocuted. All at once, his body goes flaccid, collapsing into silence. His blue eyes stare at the sky, unblinking against the huge drops of rain that spatter them. Black gunk seeps from the corner of his mouth and blood streams from his nose.
Dad stoops down and lays a hand on Mason’s chest.
“Is he dead?” I place a hand over my mouth, fighting back the tears. He looks so peaceful. Just like my mother did. I’ll never get that vision out of my head. Her still body lying in the foyer, eyes open, staring at the ceiling. Her dark hair floated on a crimson pool of blood, her full lips slightly parted as if she might speak at any moment and tell me everything would be okay. The bullet hole in her forehead told me otherwise.
“Help me load him into the truck,” Dad says, grabbing Mason under his shoulders. “Grab his legs.”
I do as I’m told, hoping Mason won’t come to and nail me in the face with one of his size twelves. I wince when I see the cuts covering his feet.
We struggle to get Mason into the back seat. Despite his thin frame, he’s surprisingly heavy. Once he’s inside, I remove my thick wool coat and place it over his shivering body. I close the door, careful not to smack his head.
Another bolt of lightning cuts across the sky. A flash of deep red from just inside the thick copse of cedar trees along the road catches my attention. Three more bolts of lightning hit in rapid succession, cracking across the mountaintop. They hit so close to us the ground shudders. I need to get back into the truck, but I can’t move. I can’t take my eyes off the person watching us.
“Caitlyn.”
My name, barely a whisper, hangs in the air, tossed around by the wind.
“Caitlyn.”
I take a step toward the figure in red. Rain falls in sheets around me, piercing my face like bullets. My hands are so cold and numb I can’t feel my fingers. My pendant gives another shudder and I instinctively grab hold of it.
“It will keep you safe,” my mother told me the day she gave it to me. “Wear it always.”
“Cait, get in the truck.” My father’s voice is barely audible over the thumping of thick raindrops. The only thing I’m fully aware of is the whisper of my name syncopated with the rhythm of the rain splashing around me. My entire body hums with energy. It’s a familiar feeling—one that never ends in anything good.
Thunder roars overhead, and I jump when a thick hand comes down on my shoulder.
“What are you doing? We need to get Mason into town,” my dad says, his voice tinged with annoyance. “We can’t stay out here with all this lightning. It’s not safe.”
“There’s someone in the woods.” I turn and point in the direction of the figure, but they’re gone.
He takes a step toward the trees, shielding his eyes from the rain with his hand. “There’s no one out there. Come on. We need to go.”
Once we’re inside, the cold settles in and my body begins to tremble. I reach over and crank up the heat. The warm air hits me in the face, painting goose bumps across my skin. Mason moans from the back as the truck bounces over uneven pavement. We reach the top of the last hill, and the small town of Highland Falls appears below us. The only indication that there’s actually a town swaddled within the dark valley below are the tiny pinpricks of light dotting the landscape, laid out like rows of fireflies.
Dad navigates the Dodge down Main Street toward the town square and past the church before hanging a left in the direction of Doc Robertson’s ranch. He’s the closest thing to an actual doctor in this town. I never did understand how a veterinarian could also act as a people doctor, but no one around here seems to mind.
The headlights cut across the front of the old, white ranch house, announcing our arrival. Dad stops the truck inches from the porch and hops out without a word, leaving me alone with Mason. I turn to look at him over the back of the seat. He’s so still. Too still. I reach out a hand and place it on top of my coat, sighing in relief when I feel his chest rise.
I run a hand over my tangled mess of hair, pulling away a few pine needles that had found refuge there. I could really use a brush right now. I pull down the visor and shriek when I look in the mirror. It’s not the reflection of the totally whacked out girl who startles me. Mason sits behind me, back rigid, eyes wide, staring directly at me.
“Hello, Caitlyn. So good to see you.” The pitch of the voice is definitely Mason’s, but it’s not the slow drawl I’m used to. The words are too clipped, too perfectly pronounced to actually belong to him. “I’m glad you made it.” A sick smile spreads across his face, and an electric pulse covers my skin. It’s not a friendly smile. It’s more like the type of grin the Big Bad Wolf offered Little Red Riding Hood before he tried to eat her.
My head jerks back and slams into the seat. The back of my head stings and I wince as he gives my hair another forceful tug.
“You can’t stop us.” His words are low and threatening, hot against my cheek. His rancid breath clings to the air, and I have to hold my breath to keep from vomiting.
“Mason, let go of my hair.” I try to mask the fear poking at the edge of my voice. This isn’t the Mason I’ve known the last eight years. That Mason was gentle and polite—a hulking boy with a quiet demeanor and a slight stutter.
He grabs my face with a large, bony hand and my skin immediately begins to hum. “We know what you did, Cait. We know what you are.”
I grab his wrist, and the moment I do, he screams in pain, flailing against the seat. I fumble with the door, and tumble out of the truck into the soft, mushy earth. The screen door slams, and my father rushes down the steps in my direction. I struggle to stand, slipping in the mud, certain that at any moment Mason will leap from the truck and try to kill me.
“What happened?” My dad grabs me under my arms to steady me, helping me stand.
I pull away from him and stumble up the porch steps, grasping the railing until I’m under the awning, out of the rain. “Mason attacked me.”
The screen door slams against the side of the house, revealing Doc Robertson. He’s dressed in a white T-shirt pulled tight over a protruding gut and a pair of plaid, flannel pajama bottoms tucked into the top of his old cowboy boots. He throws on a bright yellow rain slicker as he clomps past me toward the truck. A light shuffling comes from behind me, and I instinctively recoil when a small hand touches my shoulder.
“Caitlyn, honey, you must be freezing.” Mrs. Robertson wears an old floral bathrobe, her gray hair in curlers. Everything about her says “cliché farm wife.”
“Come inside where it’s warm.” She places a comforting arm around my shoulders and turns me toward the front door.
“I’m covered in mud. I don’t want to mess up your house.”
“Have you seen who I live with? This is nothing compared to what he drags in most days.” She guides me inside the house, the screen door slamming behind us. “Take off your boots and I’ll go get some towels. Wait here.”
I pull off my boots, curling my nose in disgust when my hand sinks into the mud caking them. A deep gash runs along one of the toes, cutting into the soft brown leather. Five hundred bucks down the drain. Could things possibly get any worse?
The screen door swings open. I step out of the way as Dad and Doc Robertson stumble through the door, Mason’s limp body propped up between them. I can’t help noticing the deep red mark on Mason’s wrist where I grabbed him. It looks like he stuck his hand into a pot of boiling water. I’ve hurt people before, but not like this—not with my touch.
“Here you go, honey,” Mrs. Robertson says as she hands me a couple towels. “Wipe that mud off with these. The bathroom is down there if you want to clean up.” She points down the hall toward the living room. Doc calls for her and she goes to him, leaving me to clean myself up.
I’m surprised to find that most of the mud is on my hands and knees. I bundle up the muddy towel and use the clean one to soak up some of the water from my hair as I walk down the hall, searching for the restroom.
“Call his mama and tell her we found him,” Doc says to Mrs. Robertson. “I’m going to go grab some bandages and other supplies from the clinic out back.”
Doc walks to the back of the house, followed by my father, leaving me alone with Mason. His pale skin practically glows against the bright floral pattern of the sofa they placed him on. Now that there’s light, I can see his wounds more clearly. A deep gash runs across his forehead and two more cuts make an “X” on his chest. I tiptoe past the sofa, afraid he may wake up and attack me again.
“Trevor? Hi, it’s Thelma Robertson. How are you, dear?”
I freeze when I hear her say Trevor’s name. Shit. Please don’t let him get here before we leave. I can’t see him now. I need a couple of days.
“I think you should get your mother and come down to our place. We found your brother. Mason’s alive.”
“Help. H-help u-us. You have t-to h-help us.” Mason’s voice is barely a whisper. He stares at me, eyes wide with fear, a hand outstretched in my direction. “Th-th-they’re c-c-oming.”
When I look at him, I see the old Mason, the gentle boy who used to take me horseback riding and hunting for frogs when I was younger.
“Help! Help me!” His screams are loud and desperate. I want to help him, but I don’t know what he needs. He writhes in pain, his hands clamped to his head. He sits up too quickly, tumbling off the sofa and into the coffee table, knocking a small glass figurine to the ground.
Mrs. Robertson rushes in and crouches next to him, her small frame no match for his flailing arms. “Cait, can you help me?”
I move toward her, afraid to touch him, afraid I may hurt him again. The back door opens and Doc and my father rush into the room. They wrestle with Mason, my dad holding him while Doc sticks a needle into his arm. In a matter of seconds, Mason grows still, his cries for help trailing off into silence.
I back toward the bathroom, my breath coming in short gasps. I don’t realize how bad I’m shaking until I fumble with the lock on the bathroom door. What is going on here? What happened to him? I close my eyes, willing my pulse to slow. I could really use a Klonopin right now. I haven’t felt the need this bad since they threw me in rehab.
I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror and see that I look about as bad as the battered boy in the living room. Mascara rings my eyes, making me look like a green-eyed raccoon. My dark hair, so perfectly done earlier this morning, hangs in thick clumps plastered to my face.
I run my fingers through my hair, doing my best to make it look at least halfway presentable. I wipe the smeared makeup from my eyes and dig all the mud and gunk from beneath my fingernails. This is about as good as it’s going to get for now. I open the door, and step into the hallway.
“Now? It’s too soon. It’s not time.” Mrs. Robertson stops speaking when I walk into the room, a look of worry and confusion on her face. My father and Doc turn and stare in my direction. A look passes between them. Why do I feel as though I’ve interrupted something?
“You ready to go?” my father asks.
I nod, looking over at Mason. A bandage covers the gash on his forehead. Most of the mud has been washed off, and a crocheted blanket covers him. He looks so peaceful. The same as he did before he tried to rip my hair out of my head.
“Thank you for the towels, Mrs. Robertson,” I say, remembering my manners, “and for the use of your restroom.”
I follow my father, stopping to put on my boots, when footsteps come at us from the other side of the door. Mrs. Perkins flies into the house, a mess of disheveled hair and dark-ringed eyes.
“Where is he? Is he alive? Where did you find him?” she asks, her eyes darting about the room.
“He’s asleep.” Dad walks with her into the living room, recounting how we found Mason wandering along the road in the mountains outside town.
I pull on my last boot, suddenly aware of a presence behind me. I know who it is before I turn around. My body begins to shake and my stomach burns. I can’t do this now. I busy myself with my boot, rubbing a thumb over the scratched leather to avoid looking at him.
“Cait?” The sound of his voice sends a jolt through me. I slowly stand and turn to face him, a strained smile pulling at my lips. As soon as I see him, my heart aches and two years of deep regret wash over me. He looks damn good in his boots and worn Wranglers—the standard gear for every man in Highland Falls. His wet, black T-shirt clings to him. I can’t help but smile when I notice he wears the Boise State cap I sent him for his birthday three years ago. It’s ragged and dirty, just like his memories of me.
“Hey, Trevor.” So casual. Too casual? “How are you?”
He removes his cap and nods, but doesn’t speak. His worried eyes meet mine for a moment before focusing on the floor. “Where did you find him?”
I lean against the doorjamb, my arms crossed over my chest. “He was wandering along the road just past the bridge.”
“Is he … ?” He chokes back the rest of the sentence, glancing at me again, but refusing to meet my eyes.
“I think he’s going to be okay. He’s in the living room.” I want to reach out to him. Hug him. Wrap my arms around his neck and kiss him on the cheek. Something.
He pushes a strand of shaggy dark hair out of his gorgeous blue eyes, then busies himself with his cap. He looks so good, even better than he did two years ago when hurricane Caitlyn paid a visit. The summer I caused a rift between two of my best friends. The summer Trevor offered me his heart and I tossed it at his feet. How could I have been so stupid?
He takes a hesitant step in the direction of his mother’s soft sobs coming from the living room, stopping when my father steps in front of him.
“Thank you, Mr. Foster,” Trevor says, shaking Dad’s hand. “Thanks for bringing him home.”
“We were just in the right place at the right time. You call me if you or your mama need anything, okay?”
Trevor nods and smiles. I’ve missed that smile. He puts his hands back in his pockets and walks into the living room without so much as a glance in my direction. My heart drops a little. I didn’t exactly expect a joyous reunion filled with balloons and kisses. In fact, I was ready for him to rip me a new one. I would have much preferred that to his cold indifference.
I step outside to wait on the porch. The rain still comes in heavy sheets, and lightning flashes in rapid succession, illuminating the mountains that surround us. If this keeps up, the entire town will be under water before the night is through.
Caitlyn.
My name swoops through the air in an ominous whisper, and my skin begins to tingle again. An intense pain fills my head and my vision blurs. I drop to my knees and my father’s hands catch me under my armpits before I hit the ground. Just as quickly as it hit, the pain is gone.
“Are you all right?” Dad places a steadying arm around my shoulder.
“Just a little dizzy. I haven’t eaten today.” It’s a lie, but he seems to buy it.
“Let’s get you home.”
I follow him to the truck, my eyes searching the property for the mysterious whisperer, but all I see is rain and darkness.

 

 

Chapter-by-Chapter-header---About-the-Author

O’Dell Hutchison

O’Dell was born in a small rural town in Idaho. There were no Redeemers living there (that he knows of). After attending college in the Pacific Northwest, he found his way to the Houston area. By day, he is a Business Systems Analyst and at night you can either find him sitting at home, dreaming of random super powers he wishes he had, or directing plays and musicals at various theaters around Houston.

Connect with the Author: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

Chapter-by-Chapter-header---Giveaway

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Ten things I’ve learned about writing @AlexNaderWrites

Whoo hoo! And here it is folks …

 

Burdin of Choice

See giveaway entry at the bottom of this post!

Burdin of Choice

Title: Burdin of Choice (Beasts of Burdin #2)

Author: Alexander Nader

Publisher: J. Taylor Publishing

Release Date: November 10, 2014

Keywords: Urban Fantasy

 

Blurb:

Ty Burdin is back. Back to drinking and back to avoiding demons. He is, of course, the leading expert in his field. In both subjects.  That’s probably why, when a customer offers him way too much money just to locate a missing car and some mysterious cargo, he readily agrees. The dude is human after all—Ty’s prime target client base.  Along with the money comes a slew of disappearances which Ty tries to ignore while tracking down that car, because, of course, those missing people might be demon related, and as he’s said before, that’s agency business. Not his. Period.  Until today.  Ty Burdin is to back drinking as well as everything he vowed never to get involved with again.  Question is, which one will kill him first? The booze, the demons, or the Agency?

 

Beasts of Burdin sale links:

Amazon     Barnes and Noble

 

Hey all, Julie has asked me to stop by and share with you from my endless expanse of authorly knowledge. There’s a ton of it. I’m like an encyclopedia of grammatical flawlessness. Seriously, Strunk and White? They took notes from me. The Chicago Manual of Style? Where do you think their style came from? Literarily speaking, I’ve got better moves than Jagger *and* Steinbeck. So, now that that’s out of the way, let me give you the list of ten things I’ve learned about writing.

  1. Writers are full of crap.
  2. Authors are full of crap.
  3. Wordsmiths are full crap.
  4. Word forgers are full of crap.
  5. Sentence wranglers are full of crap.
  6. Artists are full of crap.
  7. Scribes are full of crap.
  8. Scribblers are full of crap.
  9. Ink slingers are full of crap.
  10. No, really I’m serious.

The internet is flooded with writers giving each other advice and encouragement and ego stroking and I think that that is a good thing. BUT, I also think it can be a bad thing. With so many opinions on the subject, and we authors do love to share our opinion, some are bound to conflict and that can be confusing for a new author. Lots of well-established writing advice columns will admonish the use of adverbs, but you know what? I kind of like adverbs and I’ve read some very entertaining authors who go through them like Kleenex. Please, read all the writing advice you like, but take it all with a grain of salt. Someone famous once said, “There are three rules to writing the perfect novel. The only problem is that no one knows them.” This is solid advice, adhere to it. Then again, what do I know? I fall under items 1-9.

About the author:

Alex lives in the tourist infested hills of east Tennessee with his amazing wife/muse and three superb children. He would tell you more about how awesome they are, but you probably wouldn’t believe him. When he’s not hanging out with them he’s making pizzas and occasionally he jots a few words down. He’s a big fan of good music, good storytelling, and fun, lots of fun.  He once wrote a short story about pirates to his wife via text message that blossomed into a full length novel and never stopped after that.

 

Links for author pages:

Goodreads  Twitter   Website

 

 ♠ Note: This is an adult novel.

 

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M9B Friday Reveal: Chapter One of Life AD 2: M.I.A.: Missing in Atman by Michelle E. Reed and Giveaway #M9BFridayReveals

M9B-Friday-Reveal

Welcome to this week’s M9B Friday Reveal!

This week, we are revealing the first chapter for

Life AD 2: M.I.A.: Missing in Atman by Michelle E. Reed

presented by Month9Books!

Be sure to enter the giveaway found at the end of the post!

MIA

Dez is finally hitting her afterlife stride. She hasn’t missed a meeting or session in forty-two days, and she’s put the adventures and danger of her first days at Atman behind her. Life after death is becoming tolerable, yet nothing is quite what she’d hoped. Confusion over her feelings for Charlie, residual resentment over losing Hannah, and a continuous stream of unwanted assignments leave Dez restless and argumentative.

In a missed encounter with Crosby, her prying gaze lands upon a single entry in the datebook on his unoccupied desk. These few, hastily scribbled words reveal an enormous secret he’s keeping from her. Possessed by a painful sense of betrayal, she once again sneaks off to Atman City, determined to find answers to an unresolved piece of her life.

It begins as all their adventures do, but as light falls into darkness, a stop in an unfamiliar neighborhood sets forth a chaotic series of events. Dez will have to fight for her very existence, and will face painful, irreparable loss in an afterlife teeming with demons wielding ancient powers.

In M.I.A.: Missing in Atman, the second book in the Atman City series, Michelle E. Reed continues the story of Dez Donnelly, pushing her to her limits and surprising readers at every twist and turn of the vast world that is Atman.
Death was only the beginning.

add to goodreads

Title: Life AD 2: M.I.A.: Missing in Atman
Publication date: December 16, 2014
Publisher: Month9Books, LLC.
Author: Michelle E. Reed

Chapter-by-Chapter-header---Excerpt

M.I.A.
(Missing in Atman)
Michelle E. Reed

Chapter One

“Thinking about her again?”
The grass prickles me through my thin cotton shirt as I roll onto my back and take in the sky’s churning array of blues peeking through the treetops. My thoughts drift back over a span of months, coming to rest on a farewell still tugging at my heart.
“Of course I am.”
“What do you suppose she’s doing right now?” Charlie asks. His fingers trace a meandering trail up and down my arm.
“I have no idea, but whatever it is, it’s probably amazing.”
Three months. That’s how long Hannah has been missing from my life.
Well, my afterlife.
She was my first friend, and my first goodbye. Our worlds intersected for just a week, but that’s all it takes. Bonds form fast and strong here, and when you’re stranded in limbo, never quite sure who will be the next to leave, you have a steady reminder that the end of life does not mean the end of loss.
My bracelet taunts me, an unwanted reminder of exactly how long I’ve been here and how far I am from leaving. LEVEL 02-068-098.
I scroll through the menu to the time and groan. “I have to go.”
“Want me to walk you to Admin?” Charlie sits up, chivalry at the ready.
“You’d better try and find Pip before work.” I point to the bag of grapes sitting next to him. “He’s going to want those.”
“He’s just a bird, Dez.”
“But he’s Hannah’s bird. And we promised to take care of him.”
“That was before I knew how high maintenance he is.” He holds up his hand for inspection. “My finger still hurts.”
“You’re the one who was teasing him with that banana. Besides, if you can jump out a ninety-five story window without a scratch, I don’t think a toucan is going to hurt you.”
The day I met Charlie, he set our relationship in motion by plummeting from a library window in an ill-conceived attempt at humor. It was then I learned of his early, dark days at Atman when he tried in every conceivable way to kill himself, from hanging to stepping in front of high-speed trains. Through this terrible process, he learned the physical pain we feel and injuries we sustain in this transitional existence are all in our heads. Charlie is the only underage soul I know of who is immune to pain.
“Still, his beak is really sharp,” he says.
“Poor baby.” I kiss his fingertip. “Well, I’ve got to hurry up and get to my meeting before work. I’m running late as it is.”
“At least you get a short work day.”
“I’d rather scrub dishes than deal with Kay.” I stand. “See you at open rec?”
“Count on it.”

***

A receptionist sits at a small desk before the only other door in the room where I sit, impatient. Drab, run-of-the-mill décor adorns the walls, which are painted in a revolting shade of dull. As I survey the clean lines of the minimalist furniture, I can’t help but wonder how gigantic the afterlife’s IKEA must be.
I chuckle, just loud enough to attract the attention of the new receptionist.
She’s a plump woman with graying hair and a shockingly pink pantsuit. She looks up from a small stack of paperwork to give me a polite smile.
“Don’t worry, Desiree, she’ll be with you shortly.”
“Dez. No one calls me Desiree,” I say for what seems like the millionth time. My mood is in rapid decline. This looming therapy session allows no happiness to overlap from my picnic lunch with Charlie.
“What’s that, dear?”
“Nothing.”
I hate pink.
She returns her attention to the stack of paper on her desk. Her smile becomes a small but noticeable frown. My attention turns to the task of identifying the familiar melody piped in from a speaker overhead.
What’s the point in not letting me remember? It’s a love-hate relationship I have with this existence. Mostly hate. My fingernails tick tick tick against the slim metal arms of my chair.
Pink Pantsuit looks up again from her collating. “Can I help you with something?”
“Depends. Can you get me on the next train out of here?” I plaster an angelic smile and hopeful look on my face.
She scowls and returns her attention to her paperwork.
“That’s what I thought.”
The door behind Pink Pantsuit opens, and Kay Robinson’s tall, lithe frame breezes into the waiting area.
“Hi, Dez. Come on back.” Her voice is warm and soothing.
A feeling of serenity washes over me, and I don’t bother fighting it. Her greetings always have this effect on me. It’s what follows that sends my mood plummeting.
She leads me down a narrow corridor to her cramped office, where I plunk down in my usual spot, facing her desk.
“You know, Dez, you’re actually one of the lucky ones.”
My reply comes out as a single, disgusted snort. I grab a stress ball from her desk and toss it in the air. It sails up, arcing slightly, and lands back in my hand.
The corners of Kay’s mouth curl up just a bit, and she does a poor job hiding the amusement dancing in her eyes. This is how our relationship goes. Mutually aloof, but secretly friendly. I can’t say I really get her, but I guess that’s not the point. She’s my Station Guidance and Assistance rep, so she’s here for me.
“Lucky? Yeah, sure. Lucky me,” I say.
“Grumpy again?”
“Is that the clinical term? And what do you mean, ‘again?’”
“I’ll take that as a yes. You’re going to love what’s on the agenda for today.”
“Great.”
“We’ll start with something easy. Tell me about adoption.”
“I thought I was here for your ‘guidance and assistance,’ Kay.”
“Yes, that’s exactly why you’re here. You know that. Now, if you don’t mind, allow me to guide and assist you.”
I shrug. “Adoption in general, foster adoption, multi-racial adoption, or my multi-racial adoption? There are lots of choices.”
“Whatever you feel like. Just go for it.”
“Fine. You’re getting my sophomore year Honors English informative speech.”
“You remember a speech from a class you took two years before you died? You’re good.”
“You want to hear this or not?”
Kay raises her hands in surrender.
“I’ll just nutshell it for you.” I clear my throat and begin reciting. “My mom was always certain it was fate that brought us together as a family. The infertility treatments, miscarriages, tests, and endless months spent as a human pincushion were all for a reason. Adoption wasn’t a distant second choice—that’s just how things shake out. You decide you want a baby, and you try to have one the way most people do. When it doesn’t work out, you find yourself consulting specialists, going to appointment after appointment, trying all sorts of crazy medical procedures in order to—”
Kay holds up a traffic cop hand. “I was hoping you’d share your feelings on adoption.”
“You said, ‘whatever you feel like.’” I toss the stress ball to her.
“Speaking of a deeply personal matter in a detached, sterile way does neither of us any good.” She tosses the ball back to me. “You tend to de-personalize the deeply personal, Miss Donnelly.”
“What’s that supposed to mean? And what’s this ‘Miss Donnelly’ crap?”
“You balk at sharing feelings and experiences in a personal way. You detach in what I believe is an attempt to avoid the risk of being exposed to painful emotions.”
I glance around her small office. “You’d think that for an eternity, they could spring for better digs.”
“You’re also a master of deflection.”
“So are you,” I retort. “You called me lucky.” I throw the stress ball at her, a little harder than necessary. She catches it with ease, her coordination matching her graceful, willowy frame. “Last I checked, I’ve been attacked by a madwoman, stalked and assaulted by a murderer, had some mystery staff member linked to my brain without my consent, and had my roommate unceremoniously snatched from this limbo-verse a week after I got here. How, exactly, am I lucky?”
“Because you’re not as complicated as you think you are.”
“Gee, thanks.”
“What I mean is you’re not going to be at Atman so terribly long. Moving on is really up to you, and you have an uncanny ability to make things far more difficult than they need be.” She raises her eyebrows, daring me to challenge her.
“That’s comforting. Glad to know it’s my fault I’m stuck here, because, you know, it’s not bad enough just being stuck here. It’s not enough to die at seventeen and never really get a chance to live. I need guilt, too.”
“You’ve found yourself a great support system. In your short time with us, you have developed strong bonds with several floormates and a particular member of our staff.”
“Fine, you’ve got me. I’m lucky. Charlie’s awesome. Bobby’s a genius. Crosby’s the best mother hen a girl could ask for. Hannah, however, is gone, and thanks so much for that. Can we move on, please?”
“What has you in such a mood today, Dez?”
“Do I have to have a reason? Isn’t being dead enough?”
Kay lets me sit in silence and stew in my anger. I focus on a granite plaque on her desk. Each time I’ve been here, it has displayed a different quote.
CHAOTIC ACTION IS PREFERABLE TO ORDERLY INACTION
“That’s helpful, as usual. Last time it was some Confucius crap.”
“It was good advice. ‘It does not matter how slowly you go so long as you do not stop.’ Haven’t you found that to be true since you’ve gotten here? Be honest.” She narrows her gaze and leans forward in her chair. It squeaks, marking another entry in the long, long list of things here that make no sense.
A chair in need of a blast of WD-40 in the afterlife?
“You remind me of my mom,” I blurt out.
Kay waits a moment before responding. “You’re changing the subject again, but let’s go with it. I think this could be important.” She tucks a strand of hair behind her ear and leans forward to rest her elbows on her desk.
It’s not just those left behind who grieve; the dead feel the agony of loss as well. We worry about the living and how they’re coping, how they’re getting along without us. We feel the sharp, raw pain. The same suffocating fear crushes us. Those we leave behind suffer a single loss, but the dead? We lose everything and everyone who ever mattered to us.
“Do we really have to get into this right now? I think I need to go partake of some chaotic action.”
“I think you’ve had your fill.” She glances out her small window toward the skyline of Atman City. “Enough to last quite some time, even in the span of eternity.”
An immediate longing pulls at me as I take in the off-limits city I’d snuck into three times during my first week here. The final visit nearly cost me my freedom in a dangerous confrontation with a lunatic. Despite the pointed lesson, I know I’d go back in a second if I could get away with it.
“Never going to let that go, huh?” I ask, drawn from my daydream of adventures never to be.
“Let’s not get off track.” She clicks the top of her pen. “Have you seen your mom in DSR lately?”
In the days following my funeral, my mom’s sorrow and pain left her contemplating suicide, a scene played out for me in Dream-State Reflection. Fearing the worst, I made that fateful third trip to Atman City, hoping to use the communication pods at Nero’s Tavern to contact her.
“It seems like she’s doing a bit better, from what little they show me. She’s been working on her garden. I think it’s therapeutic.”
Kay nods as she takes notes. “Returning to activities she enjoys is a good sign, and I’m glad to hear she’s progressing through her grief.” She looks up from my file. “I want to get back to what you said, though—that I remind you of her. Can you tell me what it is about me that lends itself to that comparison?”
“I … maybe nothing. Maybe I’m just grasping.” I pick at my fingernails and focus on my cuticles to avoid her gaze. “Is it ever going to stop hurting so much?”
“Think of how far you’ve already come, and you’ll find your answer.”
My hands drop into my lap. “Talk about clinical.”
“You’re in a much better place than you were upon arrival, are you not?”
“I suppose.”
“Of course you are. Don’t be afraid of progress, Dez, and don’t be afraid to feel. Own the pain. Allow yourself to experience the loss you’ve suffered. It is the only way to move forward.”
“Could you be more vague?”
Kay smiles. “Well, now you’ve stepped in it. You want specifics? I have a perfect assignment for you.”
Fantastic.

 

 

 

Chapter-by-Chapter-header---About-the-Author

Michelle E. Reed

Michelle was born in a small Midwestern town, to which she has returned to raise her own family. Her imagination and love of literature were fueled by a childhood of late nights, hidden under the covers and reading by flashlight. She is a passionate adoption advocate who lives in Wisconsin with her husband, son, and their yellow lab, Sully.

Connect with the Author: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

Chapter-by-Chapter-header---Giveaway

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Book Blast: The Soul Ajar by Kiana Davenport

 

The Soul Ajar

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Soul Ajar by Kiana Davenport

From bestselling Hawaiian author, Kiana Davenport, comes ‘The Soul Ajar,’ a riveting political thriller and love story. Set primarily in contemporary Russia and the United States, here is a novel that brilliantly knits together four seemingly unconnected lives: Adam, a CIA intelligence operative who suffers from albinism, and searches for the Russian assassin who killed his mother, an act he witnessed as a child; Lily, a young Hawaiian-Chinese journalist who falls in love with him; Bazil, an Indian intelligence operative from Mumbai who befriends Adam; and Zahira, a beautiful Afghani girl mutilated by the Taliban. In this searing and multi-faceted novel, Davenport reveals the paths these characters travel as their lives become intertwined in a haunting and timeless story of the love that binds humans together, and the wars that continue to tear us apart.

Amazon

 

PRAISE FOR DAVENPORT’S EARLIER NOVELS:
“A great story written in beautiful prose. It’s been a long time since I cried while reading a novel. Davenport is a brilliant writer.”
— The Huffington Post

“A powerful story about love and war. Davenport is ingenious in the way she writes.
A novel you are unlikely to ever forget.”
— Book Reporter

“A powerful and moving experience.”
— The Washington Post

“A lush, ambitious novel that offers a fascinating glimpse into the beauty and contradictions of Native Hawaiian culture.”
— Publishers Weekly

“Davenport mines the depths of emotion…Readers who enjoy a Doctor Zhivago-like saga will appreciate the broad scope of this novel.”
— Library Journal

“Deeply moving. She possesses the qualities all great writers have, compassion for their subjects. You can’t read Kiana Davenport without being transformed.”
— Alice Walker
“Incredible. Haunting. A powerful tale of love and loss.”
— Booklist (starred review)

“What separates ‘Song of the Exile’ from popular novels is its intensity of feeling, its sensuous detail on every page, its dedication to a level of writing few bestsellers possess.”
— Norman Mailer

“Great storytelling! An epic feminine saga…Davenport’s prose is sharp and shining as a sword. Yet her sense of poetry and love of nature permeate each line.”
— Isabel Allende

“Torrid, yet intelligent. Compares with the fiction of Toni Morrison.”
— Glamour

“A giant, image-fevered, luxuriant saga of a Hawaiian family…powerful, memorable, intoxicating!”
— Kirkus Reviews

 

Goodreads Book Giveaway

THE SOUL AJAR,  A Love Story by Kiana Davenport

THE SOUL AJAR, A Love Story

by Kiana Davenport

Giveaway ends December 01, 2014.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

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Author Kiana Davenport

KIANA DAVENPORT is descended from a full-blooded Native Hawaiian mother, and a Caucasian father from Talladega, Alabama. Her father, Braxton Bragg Davenport, was a sailor in the U.S. Navy, stationed at Pearl Harbor, when he fell in love with her mother, Emma Kealoha Awaawa Kanoho Houghtailing. On her mother’s side, Kiana traces her ancestry back to the first Polynesian settlers to the Hawaiian Islands who arrived almost two thousand years ago from Tahiti and the Tuamotu’s. On her father’s side, she traces her ancestry to John Davenport, the puritan clergyman who co-founded the American colony of New Haven, Connecticut in 1638.

Kiana is the author of the internationally best-selling novels, SHARK DIALOGUES, SONG OF THE EXILE, HOUSE OF MANY GODS, THE SPY LOVER, and most recently, THE SOUL AJAR, now available in paperback and on Kindle. She is also the author of the collections, HOUSE OF SKIN PRIZE-WINNING STORIES, CANNIBAL NIGHTS, PACIFIC STORIES Volume II, and OPIUM DREAMS, PACIFIC STORIES, VOLUME III. All three collections have been Kindle bestsellers. She has also been a guest blogger on Huffington Post.

A graduate of the University of Hawaii, Kiana has been a Bunting Fellow at Harvard University, a Visiting Writer at Wesleyan University, and a recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts grant. Her short stories have won numerous O. Henry Awards, Pushcart Prizes, and the Best American Short Story Award, 2000. Her novels and short stories have been translated into twenty-one languages. She lives in Hawaii and New York City.

Website * Facebook

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Book Blast Giveaway

$50 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash

Ends 11/27/14

Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Amazon.com Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader and sponsored by the author. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.

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Originally posted on The Dreamweaver's Cottage:

Welcome to Month9Books Birthday Bash! We’re so excited  you’re all stopping by! This is going to be an awesome event with many tour stops  featuring our authors! The full schedule is below and make sure to stick around  for the EPIC Giveaway taking place!

Here’s a quick note from Georgia McBride, owner of  Month9Books!

“Month9Books is turning 2 this year and I could not be  happier. We are living proof that if you have a dream to write, create and  inspire, you should follow that dream and let nothing keep you from realizing  it. Thank you to all the readers, writers, agents, partners and friends who  have made this possible. We write for you.

–Georgia McBride, Publisher and Owner of Month9Books”

While all of the posts are from our authors that have books  out already we also want to look forward to some of the 2015 titles we can’t  wait…

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M9B Friday Reveal: Chapter One of Lucas Mackenzie and the London Midnight Ghost Show by Steve Bryant and Giveaway #M9BFridayReveals

M9B-Friday-Reveal

Welcome to this week’s M9B Friday Reveal!

This week, we are revealing the first chapter for

Lucas Mackenzie and the London Midnight Ghost Show by Steve Bryant

presented by Month9Books!

Be sure to enter the giveaway found at the end of the post!

Lucas MacKenzie eBook Final

Lucas Mackenzie has got the best job of any 10 year old boy. He travels from city-to-city as part of the London Midnight Ghost Show, scaring unsuspecting show-goers year round. Performing comes naturally to Lucas and the rest of the troupe, who’ve been doing it for as long as Lucas can remember.

But there’s something Lucas doesn’t know.

Like the rest of Luca’s friends, he’s dead. And for some reason, Lucas can’t remember his former life, his parents or friends. Did he go to school? Have a dog? Brothers and sisters?
If only he could recall his former life, maybe even reach out to his parents, haunt them.

When a ghost hunter determines to shut the show down, Lucas realizes the life he has might soon be over. And without a connection to his family, he will have nothing. There’s little time and Lucas has much to do. Can he win the love of Columbine, the show’s enchanting fifteen-year-old mystic? Can he outwit the forces of life and death that thwart his efforts to find his family?

Keep the lights on! Lucas Mackenzie’s coming to town.

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Title: Lucas Mackenzie and the London Midnight Ghost Show
Publication date: November 18, 2014
Publisher: Month9Books, LLC.
Author: Steve Bryant

Chapter-by-Chapter-header---Excerpt

Lucas Mackenzie and the London Midnight Ghost Show
By Steve Bryant

Chapter One
Ghost Story

It was a chill, gooseflesh evening, thanks to the damp ocean air and to ghostly expectations. Thin black clouds scuttled past the moon like witches on broomsticks.
Far below, on an eerily empty California street, a delta wing Buick Electra neared a little theater. The four high school girls in the car shivered, surprised to find themselves so alone at this late hour. A line of empty cars stretched down the block to the black Pacific, and streetlamps glowed faintly in the mist. This was the San Diego community of Ocean Beach, a few heart palpitations shy of midnight.
“Sweet Mary,” said the Ponytail at the wheel. “The show must have started already. Who would have thought ghosts were so punctual?”
“Shut up!” said the French Braids seated beside her. “Ghost stories give me the heebie-jeebies. I can’t believe we came down here tonight to see dead people.”
The car entered the oasis of light cast by the theater itself. Although The Strand’s daytime fare ran to Elvis Presley and surfing movies, its illuminated marquee on this ghost story evening promised far more than Love Me Tender and Sandra Dee.
ONE NIGHT ONLY!
PROFESSOR MCDUFF AND HIS LONDON MIDNIGHT GHOST SHOW
SPOOKS RUN WILD IN AUDIENCE
PLUS
ALL-STAR CREATURE FEATURE
“Creepy!” said the Toni Home Perm in the back seat. “I think that skeleton in the window just looked at me.”
“Drive on by!” said the Poodle Cut beside her. “Let’s go home. I have a feeling. I think something is wrong with this show.”

* * *

Inside the little movie house, in the tiny projection booth at the top of the narrow winding stairs, a little boy peered through the small square window. His name was Lucas Mackenzie, and he was ten years old. Lucas felt as though he had been ten forever, and there seemed to be nothing he could do about it.
On stage at that moment, a magician in a smart black tuxedo and a red turban stood still as death, his dexterous hands moving only as his mysteries required. Professor Ambrose McDuff, as pale as storybook vampires in the glow of a single spotlight, showed both the fronts and backs of his hands to be empty, then plucked fans of playing cards from the air. Individual cards fell from his fingertips like rose petals falling upon a grave.
But despite the Professor’s eerie mastery of nineteenth-century card manipulation, this was 1959, and audiences demanded more. Lucas knew that the couples on hand were impatient for the theater to be plunged into total darkness, that the teenage boys on hand were hoping for something more dramatic than snatching jacks and aces from the air. This was supposed to be a ghost show, and the crowd—if the pockets of teenagers scattered about the theater at this late hour could be called a crowd—was tiring of card tricks.
“Come on, Pops,” someone shouted. “Let’s see some ghosts!”
A narrow cylinder of light sliced through the darkness as a young usher aimed his flashlight beam at the outburst. “Quiet! I’m warning you!”
“Aw, who’s gonna make me?”
On stage, a royal flush appeared at the magician’s fingertips.
Beautiful magic is not to be rushed, the Professor always said. There would be time soon enough for so-called ghosts.
Nevertheless, Lucas rolled his dark eyes in response to the outburst below—a shame, he felt, as he loved the Professor’s card tricks—and concluded that it was time to move the show along.
He wore a set of large black metal headphones, and he spoke into the grille of a gray bullet microphone. “Bravo, Professor. Nice work. Yorick is set to go on, and then Alexandra. This crowd should love the Juan Escadero number.”
As Lucas knew, Professor McDuff, could hear him perfectly thanks to earphones concealed beneath his red turban. Lucas had designed the show’s secret radio network—the entire theater was wired with microphones and receivers—and was very proud of it. It had been his first contribution to the show. Before Lucas’s time, electronic communication relied on copper plates in the bottoms of the Professor’s shoes, and on long copper wires hidden under the runway carpet, a holdover from the Second Sight mind-reading acts from the thirties.
No one would suspect the simple arrangement of the Professor’s next exhibit of using hidden electronics or secret mechanisms. He placed a glass shelf across the backs of two chairs, and atop this innocent platform he placed the centerpiece of the demonstration, an oversized human skull in a red sombrero.
The reaction was immediate. As Lucas expected, the agitators in the audience fell silent. At least this skull in the red hat looked as if it belonged in a spook show. Its eye sockets and nose cavity were dark hollows, its teeth a fixed, mocking grin.
The Professor tossed decks of cards into the audience and instructed three boys to stand and take a card. Could this “Juan Escadero,” proclaimed by the Professor to be the “floating, talking head of one of Mexico’s most notorious card cheats,” look into their minds and identify their cards? Could anyone?
The ivory-hued head on the glass platform twisted from one boy to the other.
“Ay, amigos,” it said, in a voice that sounded like Speedy Gonzales. “My Inner Eye sees all. No one keeps secrets from Juan Escadero. Could you be thinking of the king of hearts? And you the two of spades? And the ace of diamonds for the muchacho in the middle? Please be seated if I am correct.”
Instantly the three spectators sat down, and the audience rewarded the disembodied card sharp with applause and whistles.
As always, uncertainty rippled through the theater.
A wise guy in row 4 voiced his solution. “It’s a hidden microphone,” he said. “Someone behind the curtain is speaking into it.”
Another boy said, “It’s the old man. He’s doing it. It’s nothing but card manipulation and ventriloquism.”
A third shouted, “Hey, Pancho. What about the floating?”
The audience gasped as the skull suddenly turned, ever so slightly, in the direction of the challenge. For the first time the thing appeared to be genuinely alive, as though it had heard the comment.
“Ay, mi cabeza,” the skull said. “I feel so light-headed.” At which point the talking skull rose two feet in the air above its glass shelf. The ghastly thing bobbed in space, its red sombrero at a jaunty angle, its mouth open in a gaping grin. Lucas grinned too as the audience again broke into appreciative applause.
“Threads,” said a worried voice in row 10. “It’s gotta be threads.”
Lucas hoped for a similarly warm reception to Professor McDuff’s next magical presentation, the Houdini Metamorphosis Trunk. As the Professor introduced a wooden packing case large enough to conceal a dead body, Lucas cued Alexandra, one of the lovely Gilbert triplets. Though the three Gilbert girls were only twenty-two, they treated Lucas as though they were his mom. Tonight, it was Alexandra’s turn to do the box trick.
“Thanks, kiddo,” she said from a communication console in the wings. “I’m set. I love these California kids. They think I’m the ginchiest.”
The teenagers whooped and whistled as the beautiful Miss Gilbert strutted onto the stage in a black crepe dress. A red bow adorned her long blond hair, and her movie-star figure was breathtaking. She threw kisses to the audience and winked at Lucas in his booth.
The trunk, Lucas observed with pride, was old and creepy, weather-beaten, and just too darn real—like something that might have been found at night on a dock. This was no glitzy magic shop prop. The Professor locked the lovely Alexandra inside, the lock snapping shut with a heavy clunk.
The magic itself was spooky, like a dissolve in a monster movie when a man turns into a werewolf. Lucas loved the movie I Was a Teenage Werewolf and wondered what it would feel like to change. What if your muscles bulged until they ripped your shirt, if the fur of a wolf sprouted from your face, if your teeth became deadly fangs, all in a matter of seconds? Would teenage girls be frightened, or would they admire you?
The Professor made it look so easy. One moment he was standing on the box, hidden behind a large cloth. After a mere flicker, the cloth fell away and revealed a liberated Alexandra standing in his place. She then wiggled off the box, opened the formidable padlock, and produced the Professor from within.
The cast was proud that magical insiders would swear the exchange could not take place so quickly. It must be a new invention. According to reports in the leading conjuring magazines, the great Blackstone himself had seen the show in Cleveland and had left the theater shaken.
“It’s just the old switcheroo,” a boy in row 8 rationalized. “It’s a sliding panel. They all do it.”
But now it was Lucas’s turn to tremble, high in his aerie. His favorite part of the show was coming up. With both hands he adjusted the headphones, and he faced the microphone, paralyzed. Seconds ticked by.
He forced her name out at last. “Uh, Columbine?” His voice squeaked. “Ready? You’re up next.”
“Of course I am, Lucas.” The words danced in Lucas’s headphones. He had said her name. She had said his. It was the highlight of every performance. “I’m a mystic after all, a seer. And, Lucas, I think you should look behind—”
Just then something cleared its throat behind Lucas.
“AAUGH!” the boy yelled, startled to realize he wasn’t alone. Lucas turned to find a behemoth of a man standing behind him. The man might have been a stunt double from a Frankenstein movie, except that he was too tall and, perhaps, too green. His short black hair carpeted a flat head, and he wore a loose fitting brown suit with a brown bow tie. The two of them barely fit in the room.
“Oh, it’s you,” Lucas said. “For a moment you gave me quite a start.”
They both laughed. It was a private joke between the two of them, a riff on a favorite Charles Addams cartoon. Lucas felt the fellow, whose name was Oliver, looked a little too much like the servant in Mr. Addams’ spooky cartoons.
“Greetings, Master Lucas,” said Oliver. “I thought I should drop in to ascertain that you hadn’t swooned from love. I wouldn’t want to find you incapable of performing your duties.”
“You’re soooo funny,” Lucas said. And then he slapped his forehead and turned back to the microphone.
“Uh, sorry, Columbine. Good luck. Just follow the Professor’s lead.”
Lucas looked through his little window with concern. The theater was musty, a consequence of being so close to the ocean. “It’s such a small house tonight,” he said. “I hope she doesn’t take it personally.”
“What’s the count?” Oliver asked.
“I’m thinking only 150 or so,” Lucas said. “And this theater seats 800.”
“My, my,” his large friend said. “A pity. Goodness, we drew 3100 at the El Capitan in San Francisco, back in ’42. And 4000 a year later at the Bijou in Cincinnati. That’s a lot of screams.”
Audience numbers had been dwindling for some time, and night after night Lucas became more disheartened. Could the show actually come to an end some day if people quit coming? If the cast dispersed, where would he go? To be adrift, alone, was unthinkable, like stepping into a black abyss. And more importantly: where would she go?
But at that moment she was about to take the stage, and the teenagers who were on hand welcomed her warmly when the Professor introduced her as “the Teenage Telepath, the Diva of Destiny, the Psychic of the Century—the sensational Columbine.”
She strode onto the stage, this tall, thin, stargazing girl of fifteen years, with midnight black hair. She wore a plain white shift, and her skin was fair and moonbeam pale. The only color on stage was the girl’s lips, afire with red lipstick. Most would judge her to be six feet tall, though she would insist she was no more than five eleven. Her dark eyes turned to the crystal ball resting in the palm of her right hand.
The audience suddenly became very quiet. One boy coughed, apologetically.
“Okay, Eddie, let’s sell this,” Lucas said into his microphone.
The theater suffered from an ancient wiring system and a shaky bank of lights, but they were not a problem for Eddie, the Lighting Guy, hunched in the back of the building. Lucas watched as Eddie bathed Columbine in a blue spot. She looked ethereal. A Columbine performance was like a religious experience.
“This girl is like putty in my hands,” Eddie said into his microphone.
Lucas hated it that Eddie thought he had Columbine wrapped around his little finger. Ever since she had joined the cast, over two years ago now, Eddie had strutted about as though he were her boyfriend. Columbine herself seldom seemed to notice him, but Eddie just passed this off as her distant personality. “That’s just my girl,” he would say. “We have an understanding.” Lately she spent most of her private time listening to Buddy Holly records and consulting her astrological charts.
Oliver and Lucas leaned their heads together as both attempted to see through the little window at the same time.
“What’s that I hear?” said Oliver. “That unearthly tapping? I’d call it a rhythmic tapping, but it keeps skipping beats. Certainly it couldn’t be, oh, your heart?”
“Quiet, you big goofus,” Lucas said, “or I’m cutting your minutes.”
In the audience, hands exploded into the air, vying for the pale seer’s attention. All the teens wanted their fortunes told.
Columbine turned her lovely face from one longing soul to another. Her gazing-glass visions began.
To one girl, she said, “There is a jukebox, at a place near the beach. The moon has just risen, and the lights are dim. Johnny Mathis is singing ‘Chances Are.’ You will dance with one boy, but another will cut in. He’s the one!
To a boy, she said, “You are in a roller skating rink, and there is organ music. It’s a couples skate, and the song is ‘Volare.’ There is a girl who shows up on Saturdays, with a long blond ponytail. This time you won’t be too shy to ask her to skate.”
And then, “Oh, dear,” she said. “In the third row. I am sorry. Your girlfriend will see the scary movie The Blob with another boy. They will sit through it twice.”
A whispered argument broke out in the third row.
“Big deal,” said a boy in row 12. “That ball is probably just one of those Magic 8 Balls.”
“Or she could have looked this stuff up in this morning’s horoscope,” said another. “In the paper.”
“Yeah, but I’d sure like to take her to the prom,” said still another.
Lucas sat with his mouth open as this astral Miss Lonely Hearts spun out her prophecies. The crystal in Columbine’s hand turned slowly, casting streaks of ice blue across her enchanting face. To look at her was to believe her, to not look at her was impossible.
“My public awaits,” said Oliver. He passed a large hand back and forth before Lucas’s goggled eyes, but the boy didn’t blink. “You’re a lost cause, Master Lucas.”
The big fellow left, closing the door behind him.
“I don’t know what to say to her,” Lucas said, his eyes still drinking in this witch-girl vision in blue. “I never know what to say.”
He adjusted the microphone and reverted to his professional voice. What Lucas lacked in adult vocal register he made up for in authority. “Okay, everybody. Let’s wrap it up for Columbine. Flowers, please, Professor. Oliver is up, and then into the blackout. Stations, everyone. It’s ghost story time.”
Professor McDuff returned and made a big to-do of presenting Columbine a bouquet of blood-red roses, then escorted her offstage to continued applause and whistling.
At the edge of the stage, with the girl safely in the wings, the Professor turned again and explained the rules of the blackout to the audience. “One: remain seated. Two: no flash photographs—our ghosts are bashful. And three: if something cold and dead should put its hands around your throat, you can always scream. And now,” the Professor added over the audience’s nervous laughter, “I give you the Curse of Frankenstein!”
Fog oozed across the stage floor, lightning flashed, thunder rumbled. Lucas gave birth to all three effects: a thick white cloud issued from his Vapor-250 Atomizer, simulated lightning exploded from a bank of flashbulbs, and thunder from his Hollywood Sound Effects phonograph record erupted from speakers the size of refrigerators. With a deft replacement of the phonograph needle, he threw in one more extended rumble for good measure.
“Ka-booooooom!”
On this note, Oliver lurched out, doing his best to look like the Frankenstein monster from the movies. His green hue, some last-minute Hollywood stitches, and a pair of sparking neck electrodes constituted special effects that rivaled those of the best Hollywood monsters. The teenagers granted him full attention as the hulking actor grimaced, spread his arms, and began his recitations.
Oliver’s low voice gave life to a selection of spooky rhymes. James Whitcomb Riley’s famous orphan told her witch tales, Edgar Allan Poe’s black bird perched ominously, Shakespeare’s witches issued their dire portents.
But as entertaining as the actor’s recitations were, and despite his looking like someone to avoid in an old castle on a rainy night, his welcome began to wear on his young audience.
“This isn’t the ‘Curse’ of Frankenstein,” an anguished voice said. “It’s the ‘Verse’ of Frankenstein.”
The teens in the front rows began to throw things at the stage. Milk Duds, Chuckles, Tootsie Roll segments, and a hailstorm of popcorn filled the air. The “monster” waved these trifles aside as he continued his soliloquy.
“That should do it,” Lucas said into the mike. “Cue the McClatter boys.”
In military formation, six life-sized skeletons marched onto the stage. Two of them wheeled out an enormous guillotine as the others restrained Oliver.
“Cool,” said a boy near the front of the theater. “Marionettes.”
The skeletons dragged Oliver to the guillotine and forced his head through the opening. The device’s steel blade loomed eight feet above.
“Murder most foul,” Oliver cried.
With a smiling glance at the audience, one of the skeletons pulled a lever, and the heavy metal blade dropped with a sickening thunk.
The audience gasped.
At first, nothing happened, as though the blade had passed through Oliver’s neck without harming him—the old magician’s trick. Then gravity set in, and Oliver’s head slid down the face of the thing, leaving a bloody red stain, and fell to the floor. It rolled toward the audience, wobbling this way or that as an ear or nose went round.
“EEEEEEEK!” the girls in the audience screamed as one.
The oversized green head stopped just at the edge of the little stage. Its eyes were open and looking about wildly.
The headless remainder of Oliver himself lumbered to its feet and began swinging its huge arms, knocking two of the skeletal McClatters aside in the process. On a quest for its head, it began walking toward the audience, with its arms held straight out, like a sleepwalker‘s. Just as it was about to step off the stage into the audience, Lucas directed Eddie to plunge the theater into total darkness. Even the blue illuminated exit sign faded from view.
This time, everyone in the audience screamed. The blackness was terrifying.
Lucas’s fingers played over the keys and toggles on his control panel, creating further screams, moans, and thunderclaps.
The phonograph needle settled into a recording of “Zombie Jamboree” by the Kingston Trio. The McClatter boys, being phosphorescent and therefore visible in the dark, lined up like a Las Vegas chorus line at the edge of the stage and began dancing a frightening mountain jig. “NOOOOOOO!” More panicked teenagers screamed.
“Launch the aerials,” Lucas commanded.
Flying in formation, three glow-in-the-dark female ghosts soared low in the darkness, just above the audience’s heads, their arms trailing alongside their bodies. At first the boys in the theater oohed and aahed over their pretty faces and their scandalously loose shirts and their pale green glow.
“Hey!” a girl shouted angrily. “I thought you came here to kiss me!”
“It’s a slide projector,” said a boy in row 10. “They’re shining it onto the ceiling.”
“Cheesecloth,” said another ghost show pundit. “I’ve read about this. They just treat it with luminous paint and wave it about.”
Lucas loved the idea of gliding over the heads of the audience and wished he could do that. Surely Columbine couldn’t ignore a boy who could fly.
But then the situation turned from romantic to revolting. The youthful faces that fueled the boys’ imaginations began to age at an alarming rate, decades falling away in a flash, until they became the faces of wrinkled hags. Their eyes glowed red. The gentle drift of the ghosts’ initial flight pattern gave way to a whirlwind of rocketing ectoplasm. The ghosts banked and swooped and buzzed their trapped victims. One of the phantoms shot straight up to the roof of the tiny theater, paused, and then dive-bombed back toward the audience. The teens in her flight path leaped from their seats to avoid being struck. Another plunged to the floor and zoomed along beneath the theater seats themselves, in that crusty netherworld of old popcorn and chewing gum. The excited teens leaped up onto their armrests as the spirit light flashed beneath their feet. The third ghost, to the shock of everyone who saw in the dim glow, lifted a boy into the air, planted a slobbery old grandmotherly kiss right on his lips, and dropped him back to earth.
Lucas chose this moment of collective panic, when the entire assembly was on the verge of rushing to the exits—and perfectly timed to coincide with the finale of the skeleton song and dance number—to liberate the crowd from its fears. “Lights, Eddie,” he said into the microphone.
“Got it, Squirt.”
A single bright spotlight, so bright that some had to shield their eyes to look, revealed Professor McDuff standing center stage, smiling. The skeletons, frozen in their final configurations like characters in an anatomy class, drifted backward into the shadows.
The Professor thanked the audience for attending, explained that the goings on had been “our little way of saying boo,” and introduced the feature film, Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, starring Lon Chaney Jr., Glenn Strange, and Bela Lugosi, in their classic roles as The Wolfman, Frankenstein’s monster, and Count Dracula. It was one of Lucas’s favorites, one he often fantasized about watching with Columbine.
“And for any of you asking the question, ‘Do the dead return?’ our answer is, ‘Of course! We’ll see you next year.’ Pleasant nightmares.”
The California high schoolers responded with enthusiastic applause.
It was the same every night, wherever the show played across America. Part of it, Lucas figured, was that the teens enjoyed the show. Part of it was that the clapping masked the fact that many were still shaking from the strange goings on. And part of it, of course, was that the movie would give the lovebirds in the audience time to nuzzle with their sweeties in the dark, well after midnight, with no more fear of being interrupted by spooks that had seemed just a little too real. It was best, Lucas knew, that they not think too much about card skills no one could acquire in a single lifetime, about a floating skull that could steal thoughts, about an impossibly fast Houdini Trunk escape, about a beautiful girl who could see into tomorrow, about a decapitated giant, dancing skeletons, or floating ladies.
Lucas flipped a switch and the film began. The projector lamp gave off a pleasantly familiar burning smell, and the filmstrip ratcheted noisily through the mechanism, casting the movie’s opening black and white images of London at night onto The Strand’s little screen.
Later, there was to be a cast party in the theater manager’s office. Perhaps at the party, among the manager’s framed movie posters of King Kong, Godzilla, and Attack of the 50 Ft. Woman, amid the hubbub of post-show chitchat, Lucas might muster the courage to tell Columbine how wonderful she had been this evening, or to invite her for a stroll along the dark beach, only a block away. In his fantasy they walked barefoot in the sand, the black waves slapping the beach, alone beneath a silver moon and a spray of stars.
Right, he thought. As if that were going to happen. Why would the flattery of a ten-year-old boy make the slightest impression on a girl who was already fifteen? Why would his beach-walk invitation hold the slightest interest to a girl who no doubt liked boys on the beach to be taller, with muscles? And what if he were older, more her age? Would she reject him anyway, prefer Eddie over him, or prefer someone else entirely?
And so, once again, Lucas knew that he wouldn’t even speak to her. Rather, just before retiring, at sunup along with the rest of the cast, he would extract his diary from his little traveling suitcase, and he would draw, for the day’s date next to her name, in his small neat hand, his evaluation of her performance: four perfect stars. Lucas Mackenzie—boy critic.

* * *

Meanwhile, none of the teenagers settling in for the movie, the munchies, or the smooching opportunity seemed to notice the scratching noise coming from the back row.
Gleefully entering notes into a little journal, and the only one of the audience who had pointedly not joined in the applause, was an adult named Harlan H. Hull. Mr. Hull—Doctor Hull to his colleagues and students—was ecstatic over his findings. He salivated over a possible book advance, a research grant, a guest appearance on television.
Dr. Hull chaired the Paranormal Studies Department at Bradbury College, a distinguished liberal arts institution in upstate Illinois. From the moment he had entered the theater, armed with a battery of electronic sensors that the FBI’s J. Edgar Hoover himself might have envied, Dr. Hull had been monitoring various energy fields.
At first there were only hints. The needle on his Graviton Flux Indicator had registered surprising variations in body mass. If a stage show cutie could lower her body density that far, she could pass right through solid objects. Could the trunk have been normal? The spinning mirror on his Extensible Luminosity Gauge had picked up abnormally low dermal reflectivities. Could the psychic girl have been that pale?
But then came conviction. Dr. Hull’s Remote Thermal Scanner 360 had provided the proof he had been chasing. With a pistol grip, a cross-hair gun sight, and a readout with glowing red numbers, the device resembled a hand-held Flash Gordon ray gun. The RTS 360 could measure body temperatures across a room to an accuracy of one tenth of one degree, and what Dr. Hull had determined was still making him shiver.
If his readings were correct, he knew what he had feared to know.
He now knew the talking skull had housed no hidden microphone, the trunk no secret panel, the guillotine no trick-shop blade. He knew the gyrating skeletons were not string puppets, the soaring phantoms neither magic lantern show nor chemically treated gauze.
For every member of the show—from Professor McDuff to the yakking skull to the pale girl to the big green guy to the dancing skeletons to those floating hussies—had a body temperature of exactly fifty-nine degrees Fahrenheit. The temperature of the grave. The room temperature of Eternity. In a word, everyone in this show was dead. There was no other way to say it.
They had no business gallivanting around on stage before children. They belonged under the dirt, under the sod, under the feet of the living. And he was the one to put them there.
“I’ve got you, my pretties,” Dr. Hull said aloud, twisting one of his long strands of white hair in his fingers. “At last, truth in advertising.”
The London Midnight Ghost Show?
Spooks run wild in the audience?
Do the dead return?
Yes, indeedy!
And he had the proof!

 

 

Chapter-by-Chapter-header---About-the-Author

Steve Bryant is a new novelist, but a veteran author of books of card tricks. He founded a 40+ page monthly internet magazine for magicians containing news, reviews, magic tricks, humor, and fiction; and he frequently contributes biographical cover articles to the country’s two leading magic journals (his most recent article was about the séance at Hollywood’s Magic Castle).

 

Connect with the Author: Website | Twitter | Goodreads

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