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Spotlight – Valcoria: Children of the Crystal Star by Jason King

valcoria

History repeats itself like a song. The verses may vary, but the melody is always the same. The eastern empire of Aukasia has a new leader, a man who means to bring war to all the land. Yet, even in all his bloody ambition, he does not realize that he is but the puppet of a greater evil. Only the Kalyra – The Children of the Crystal Star – can stand against what’s coming. Only they can protect the world of Valcoria from the mad hatred of the fallen god, Aedar. A new verse of the song has begun. The last verse.

About the Author:

jasonking

Jason King wishes he was raised on a desert planet by his aunt and uncle and watched over by a mysterious old recluse, but his life is much duller than that. He supposes that’s why he started making up stories. Born in Salt Lake City Utah, Jason grew up on a steady diet of anime, science fiction, Dungeons and Dragons, JRPG’s, and chocolate cake donuts. He pretended not to be a nerd just long enough to get married and start a family. And although dismayed by the revelation that Jason was a geek, his wife stuck with him and they are now the proud parents of four beautiful children. Jason holds a bachelor’s degree in I.T. Management and is currently the Internet Marketing Manager for a local bookstore chain, but he is determined to one day quit his “9 to 5” and write full-time. Jason has two indie books; “Valcoria Children of the Crystal Star” and “Thomas Destiny,” but “The Lure of Fools” is his first published novel.

Order your copies here: Amazon US, Amazon UK, and check out more about the author here.

Until tomorrow,

Be EPIC!

 
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Posted by on June 5, 2014 in Spotlight

 

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Guest Post: Howard Sargent – Author of The Forgotten War

Hey Guys and Girls, I’m finally back with a guest-post. 🙂

Forgotten War

For ten years the people of eastern Tanaren have known nothing but war, a war to which there seems to be no end in sight. Now, however, things may be about to change. Pitched into the heart of the conflict are four people: Morgan, a veteran warrior charged with an important mission; Cheris, a gifted but wayward sorceress called from her exile on a remote island; Ceriana Hartfield, a noblewoman whose marriage is pre-empted by a chance discovery on a beach; and Cygan, a man from the desolate marshes seeking aid against a merciless foe. Between them, could they hold the key to ending this deadly conflict? But at what cost? This extraordinary epic is a gripping, searing tale of the ugliness of war and the dangers of power.

Over to Howard. 🙂

***

I have a sister. She is only sixteen months younger than me and, unlike most siblings we always got along very well as children. When she used to tease me my comeback line would often be “Well, one day I will write my epic novel, that will shut you up!” Then we grew up, she got married, I got married, she moved out of the country to wherever her husband’s occupation took him; both myself and my wife worked full time until my wife was diagnosed with a progressive, incurable, neurological illness. She eventually had to retire, some years later I had to resign in order to look after her. Shortly afterwards my sister moved back to Britain.

Caring is an odd thing, a day as such has no formal structure, you can be up all night and asleep at odd times during the day. I was bemoaning this fact to my sister on the phone when she said. “Go and write your novel then, that will give you something to work around.” I had no answer to this and so that very same day I found myself staring at notepad (there was no word on the PC at the time) wondering what on earth to write about. I am not a very grounded individual, a daydreamer and a person who immersed himself in either fantasy or period novels from the age of about seven. Some people are social commentators, others exercise their imagination in other areas, so fantasy it was then.

Bear in mind that I had no thought of publication at the time, only to write something my sister would like. So straight away I knew it had to have elves and dragons. Dragons, well we are Welsh, just look at our flag. Added to that the good old monster movie genre happens to be one of my favourites, from King Kong (the original), to all the Ray Harryhausen films (Going to the cinema to see the Golden Voyage of Sinbad when I was about seven was one of my formative youth experiences- and Tom Baker was the villain!), then to films like Dragonslayer in the early eighties and of course the first two Alien films (None of the other Alien films count-OK). So very big dragons with an alien intelligence and no interest in the machinations of humanity it was then. As for the Elves, well Tolkien’s elves were good at everything, I wish I could hire a couple to sort out the garden and decorating, I would be living in the palace of Versailles in no time at all. Many writers have tried to modulate Elves a little, to give them flaws so I am hardly unique in that. I wanted them to be better than humans in some ways, worse in others and as a result of trying to do that the main Elven character in the book was probably the easiest and most fun to write.

As for the setting, well let me just say that one of my favourite pieces of medieval music comes from the twelfth century and is called “Peace in the name of God”. I find it rather ironic that in the era of crusade and constant European civil wars a voice was calling out for peace. Nearly a thousand years on and it seems only technology has changed, so a tale about an interminable seemingly unresolvable conflict seemed to be the ideal backdrop for whatever story I was going to tell.

What story would it be though? I had not the first idea. I eventually resolved this by deciding to describe this world through the eyes of three or four main characters. This would both flesh out the world for me and put the characters at the heart of the tale, have them dominate the setting rather than the other way round, which can often happen in fantasy novels. A floating castle or a city built of bone are great ideas, but if the people interacting with it are bland stereotypes then it becomes a matter of style over substance.

Eventually I settled on a formula, the story became a serial, I would write some 30-40,000 words, email it off then start the next part. Ultimately there would be fourteen parts to the tale, I had no idea how long the story was until it was finished and I joined all the parts up at last. The only other rule I had was that something significant had to happen in each chapter, moving swiftly from character to character helped in this, hopefully it is not too disorientating for the reader.

Finally I would recommend writing to anyone, obviously you invest a lot of yourself in the story and it can be frustrating and difficult at times. More than anything else though it is great fun and very rewarding. Give it a try!

***

If you’re on Goodreads, check out Howard’s page here (plenty of good reviews of ‘The Forgotten War’ to convince you to give the book a read), and you can order the book from the following sites: Amazon US, Amazon UK and Book Depository.

For more info his publisher, check out his publisher’s website here.

Until tomorrow,

Be EPIC!

 
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Posted by on June 4, 2014 in Guest Post, Spotlight

 

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Spotlight: Shadow of the Mountain by D. A. Stone (Luthando Coeur – Zharmae Publishing Press)

Hey everyone, hope you’re all well! 🙂

Here’s a spotlight of a great-looking book from Luthando Coeur, the Fantasy imprint of Zharmae Publishing Press. Take a look!

Shadow

If Tenlon had his way he’d be working with dragons, practicing a bit of magic, and racing horses in his free time. Unfortunately, when the kingdom starts to crumble and the world comes crashing down around him, his dreams of dragons and days of carefree racing quickly come to an end. When war washes over the land, and dragons of legend fall from the sky, Tenlon is reluctantly thrust into an adventure greater than anything he could have imagined. Given a gift that could change everything, he becomes the only hope in a land invaded by a growing darkness that threatens to destroy all that stand in its way. 

Can a dying people rise once more to shine a light into the darkness? Will Tenlon’s most important race, the race to save the kingdom and the people he cares about, be his last?

About the author:

D.A. Stone lives in Philadelphia, keeping good friends close as family. Raised on stories of fantasy, science fiction, and horror from an early age, he continues to expand his horizons into other genres, though his heart will always be in fantasy. He firmly believes that there can be reality in fantasy tales, that there can be truth. Finding it can be one challenge and delivering it on the page can be another, but as in all creative mediums, the pursuit of that truth is essential.

To order copies of the book, click here for Amazon US, an check out the book’s Goodread’s Page here. 🙂

Until next time,

Be EPIC!

P.S. Apparently the photo I received was not of D. A. Stone, so I removed it. 🙂

 
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Posted by on April 1, 2014 in Spotlight

 

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Spotlight: Human by Milan Bakrania

Happy Friday! 🙂

Here’s another spotlight for you – hope it tickles your fancy!

Human Book Cover 309x475

 

Zenith has been ‘dead’ ever since his Uncle Ryan mysteriously disappeared when he was a child.

Present day – Zenith is now 42 years old.  The world is at the mercy of a relentless virus.

His friend, Joy Irani is missing.  No one has seen him.  It’s all too familiar, but Zenith will stop at nothing to find him.  A series of anonymous text messages leads him to a deserted village.  Moments later, he finds himself on a boat heading into the open ocean…

From a bustling metropolis to a place where the stars descend from the sky, it’s going to be a week like no other!

milan-bakrania

Milan Bakrania has been interested in literature and creative writing since childhood, but never identified it as a career until 2008/09, prior to being made redundant. During an excursion in India in 2012-13, he became attached to the stories of the struggling middle-class and, despite a booming economy, the daily hurdles they had to overcome to make ends meet at the expense of aspirations and simple dreams. This became part of the inspiration for Human. Milan’s first novel, The Emissary, was published in 2010.

To order the book, click here for Amazon US, and to connect with Milan check out the following links: his website, his WordPress blog,  Goodreads, his Twitter profile, and his Facebook Page.

Wishing you all a splendidly epic Friday and a kickass weekend! 🙂

Until next time,

Be EPIC!

 
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Posted by on March 27, 2014 in Spotlight

 

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Spotlight: Fishing for Light by Nathaniel Sewell

Hey everyone, hope you’re all well. 🙂

While I get myself organized, writing- and review-wise, here’s another spotlight for you!

FISHING FOR LIGHT by Nathaniel Sewell

Fishing-For-Light-Final-300pxw

 

Blurb:

How do you take your coffee? Ms Prosperina is a genetic monster trying to take over the world by spiking the coffee at her Starry Eyed Coffee Hut chain … and she’ll stop at nothing.

It’s up to her unwitting creator, the geneticist Professor Quan, to stop her. In an attempt to correct his mistake, Professor Quan creates a network of people with the power of true love genetically coded within them. They alone might resist Ms Prosperina’s attempt to change the course of humanity.

Everything hangs in the balance when Eddie, altered at birth by Quan’s genetic mutation powder, fails to follow his pre-ordained destiny. The trauma of his father’s death has left Eddie drifting through a meaningless life and has caused him to stray from Quan’s master plan.

Will Quan succeed in helping Eddie regain the light behind his eyes and will they succeed in foiling Ms Prosperina’s evil plans?

Could the world really end at General Beauregard’s 24-hour fried chicken restaurant?

Nathaniel Sewell

Nathaniel spent much of his professional career in the medical malpractice insurance niche. He has a significant understanding about modern medicine and the potential for human suffering and tragedy. From his work he developed an interest in genetics, and the affect trauma has on the human body. He knows what it feels like to suffer, being a child abuse survivor. He takes great care never to be cruel, and believes in the goodness of man, and nature.

To order the book, click here for Amazon US, and to connect with Nathaniel, check out the following links: his website, Goodreads, his Twitter account, and his Facebook Page.

Hope you’ll be picking this book up! 🙂

Until Friday,

Be EPIC!

 
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Posted by on March 26, 2014 in Spotlight

 

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Spotlight: The Necromancer’s Apprentice by Icy Sedgwick

Hey everyone, hope you’ve all been well! 🙂

I’m back with another spotlight for a cool title from a UK author; enjoy! 🙂

***

Apprentice_eBook_small

Though Jyximus Faire lives in a crumbling tenement in the Underground City, he escapes the squalor daily to attend lessons in magic and sorcery at the prestigious Academy in the City Above.

But the pace isn’t fast enough for Jyx. He wants to learn everything—and he wants to learn it now. Then the dread necromancer general Eufame Delsenza sets her sights on Jyx; she needs a new apprentice, and Jyx fits the bill. When she tasks him with helping to prepare royal mummies for an all-important procession, he realises this might be a chance of a lifetime.

Will Jyx’s impatience lead to him taking his education into his own inexperienced hands, and can a necromancer’s apprentice really learn to raise the dead—and control them?

***

Icy Sedgwick was born in the North East of England, and lives and works in Newcastle. She has been writing with a view to doing so professionally for over ten years, and has had several stories included in anthologies, including Short Stack and Bloody Parchment: The Root Cellar & Other Stories.

She spends her non-writing time working on a PhD in Film Studies, considering the use of set design in contemporary horror. Icy had her first book, a pulp Western named The Guns of Retribution, published in 2011, and her horror fantasy, The Necromancer’s Apprentice, was released in March 2014.

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For more info on Icy and her work, head on over to her website here. And to purchase your copies of The Necromancer’s Apprentice, head here for Amazon US, here for Barnes and Noble, and here for Kobo. 🙂

Until next time,

Be EPIC!

 
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Posted by on March 24, 2014 in Spotlight

 

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Spotlight: Obscura Burning by Suzanne van Rooyen (YA / LGBT)

Hey everyone, I’m back with another Spotlight post, this time focusing on a title from a South African author, Suzanne van Rooyen. 🙂

suzanne obscura

The Author

Suzanne is a tattooed story-teller and peanut-butter addict from South Africa. She currently lives in Finland and finds the cold, dark forests nothing if not inspiring. Although she has a Master’s degree in music, Suzanne prefers conjuring strange worlds and creating quirky characters. When not writing you can find her teaching dance and music to middle-schoolers or playing in the snow with her shiba inu.

Suzanne is represented by Jordy Albert of the Booker Albert Agency.
Suzanne is also Publicity Manager for Entranced Publishing.

Here’s the blurb:

Kyle Wolfe’s world is about to crash and burn. Just weeks away from graduation, a fire kills Kyle’s two best friends and leaves him permanently scarred. A fire that Kyle accidentally set the night he cheated on his boyfriend Danny with their female friend, Shira. That same day, a strange new planet, Obscura, appears in the sky. And suddenly Kyle’s friends aren’t all that dead anymore. Each time Kyle goes to sleep, he awakens to two different realities. In one, his boyfriend Danny is still alive, but Shira is dead. In the other, it’s Shira who’s alive…and now they’re friends with benefits.

Shifting between realities is slowly killing him, and he’s not the only one dying. The world is dying with him. He’s pretty sure Obscura has something to do with it, but with his parents’ marriage imploding and realities shifting each time he closes his eyes, Kyle has problems enough without being the one in charge of saving the world…

And here’s the Book Trailer:

And for your reading pleasure, an excerpt from the novel. 🙂

Enjoy!

***

1.

Cornflakes; scraps of yellow cardboard polluting perfectly good milk. I wash them down with orange juice, dribbling a little from the corner of my mouth where my lips no longer form a smooth crease. From his cross fixed to the kitchen wall, an emaciated Jesus glares at me, making the cardboard cereal even more difficult to swallow.

I drag the paper over and skim the headlines: Obscura panic despite government reassurances that the world probably won’t end. Department stores got ransacked in Albuquerque amid fears of price gouging. People are really starting to freak out. There’s a snippet on page two about the situation in Iraq, how a bunch of American soldiers are demanding flights home to see family before Armageddon. A picture of the Eiffel Tower lit up with candles and strewn with flowers; a phallic offering to whichever god tossed Obscura into the sky. There’s a whole segment on what Obscura might be doing to the weather. Meteorologists predict the worst hurricane season in centuries, increased seismic activity resulting in more tsunamis and volcanoes. The world might not end, but that doesn’t mean humans won’t get wiped out anyway.

“What are you doing today, son?” Dad asks around the edges of the sports section. He should be scouring the classifieds for a job, not that there’d be much point if the world ends.

“The usual.” There isn’t a hell of a lot to do in Coyote’s Luck. Last couple of summers, Danny and I passed the days out by the dam near the reservation with Shira, or worked odd jobs around town, sometimes even helping out at the ranches farther away. This year we’d both been set for working at Black Paw, an eatery sporting kitsch Indian decor and a Mexican menu. Then the fire happened.

“Didn’t you have a job lined up?” Dad folds the paper and looks at me. His gaze doesn’t linger too long on my face before he’s studying his checkered napkin. Mom usually mediates conversations like this one, but she worked the night shift and is still passed out upstairs.

“You really think they’re going to want me serving kids their tortillas?”

“Why not?” Dad still doesn’t look up.

“You can’t even look at me, Dad. How the hell do you think some kids are going to order food and not end up puking on the table when they see my face?” I smash my bowl in the sink and stomp out of the kitchen, slamming the screen door behind me. Dad calls after me, but I ignore him. Nothing he can say will change my scars.

2.

Scrabbling under my bed, I retrieve an A3 drawing book and bag of colored pens. The first few pages are half-finished comics, a story yet unfinished waiting for my imagination. Then there’s a multicolored map scrawled across several pages, denoting my life: pages filled with boxes, each dated and timed, connected by lines as I try to make sense of what’s happening to me.

With a ruler and green pen, I draw a new box, jotting down the details since waking up at Shira’s.

I glance at my watch just to be sure. Tuesday, 21:47, June 26.

The map is a spaghetti mess of interweaving lines and text boxes. I’m not sure when my life got so complicated. Maybe when I was bandaged in the hospital, delirious in an opiate-induced haze, or maybe in those first few days after Danny’s spinal fusion, days I spent pacing the halls waiting to find out if he’d ever walk again.

My starting point is marked in red. April 6. The night of the fire.

I stash the book under my bed and strip naked. The stink of sex clings to my skin. Girls smell different, ripe and cloying. It’s a smell that gets everywhere. Even my hair reeks of girl-musk.

The tiles are cool against my back as I stand beneath a jet of cold water. Although my burns have healed, the scars are still sensitive. If the water is warmer than tepid it feels like I’m on fire all over again.

Running a hand over my mangled flesh, it’s as if I’m feeling the strange surface of some weird planet. Caressing Obscura perhaps. Her cratered and shale-smeared crust probably looks a lot like my skin. At first it was terrifying, the bubbles and swaths of too smooth flesh, the pink knots and swollen ridges slithering down my belly. Now it’s fascinating, all the warped shapes and odd textures. Surreal really, like it’s not my body that got deep-fried.

Not sure what the big deal is about me not being able to have kids. My left ball only looks a little more wrinkled than before, less hairy and more like a prune. The plumbing works just fine. Sex doesn’t feel the same, but then with a girl, how could it?

***

To order copies of Obscura Burning, check out the following links: Amazon US, Barnes and Noble, OmniLit, The Book Depository. If you’re a member of Goodreads, make sure to add the title at this link.

Check out Suzanne’s website here, and you can also connect with her on Pinterest, Twitter and Facebook

There we go – another interesting title to add to your shelf! 🙂 And thanks to Suzanne for offering the excerpt of her novel. 🙂

Until Friday,

Be EPIC!

 
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Posted by on January 22, 2014 in Excerpt, Spotlight

 

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Spotlight: Muses of Roma by Rob Steiner (Codex Antonius Book 1)

Hey everyone, hope you’ve all had a great Monday so far. 🙂 I’m back with a spotlight on a title that sounds damned interesting!

If I didn’t have so much on my plate at the moment (all the books I’ve already received for review, writing up reviews of the books I’ve finished, and gearing up for the final edits of my own novel before its April release) I’d definitely be reading this novel.

muses

Since I can’t, I asked Rob Steiner if he’d like to do a guest post on the blog, and when Rob agreed I was damned happy. 🙂 To get you interested, too, here’s the blurb:

Marcus Antonius Primus began a golden age for humanity when he liberated Roma from Octavian Caesar and became sole Consul. With wisdom from the gods, future Antonii Consuls conquered the world and spawned an interstellar civilization. Three weeks before the millennial anniversary of the Antonii Ascension, star freighter captain Kaeso Aemelius, a blacklisted security agent from Roman rival world Libertus, is asked by his former commanders to help a high-ranking Roman official defect. Kaeso misses his lone wolf espionage days – and its freedom from responsibility for a crew – so he sees the mission as a way back into the spy business. Kaeso sells it to his crew of outcasts as a quick, lucrative contract…without explaining his plan to abandon them for his old job. But Kaeso soon learns the defector’s terrifying secret, one that proves the last thousand years of history was built on a lie. Can Kaeso protect his crew from Roman and Liberti forces, who would lay waste to entire worlds to stop them from revealing the civilization-shattering truth?

Here’s Rob himself. 🙂

“What if the Roman Empire had interstellar travel?”

First, I want to thank Dave-Brendon for giving me space on his blog to explain the “big idea” behind my latest novel.  Much appreciated!

So you typically don’t see “Roman Empire” and “space opera” in the same sentence, but that was the unlikely combination that inspired MUSES OF ROMA, my new sci-fi/alt-history novel about a Rome that spawned an interstellar civilization.  When Dave-Brendon asked me to write about where I got the idea to combine the two, I realized the idea had not come to me fully formed, but had evolved over many years.

So where did it come from?

Short answer: Harry Turtledove.  And the Muppets.

***

The first alternate history novel I read was GUNS OF THE SOUTH by Harry Turtledove.  It was a great story, but what I remember most was the cover.  It had a photo of General Robert E. Lee from an old history book, all faded and yellowed.

But in his hands was an AK-47.

It was such a subtle, yet jarring cover that I had to buy the book to find out how Robert E. Lee ended up holding a weapon that wouldn’t be invented until 100 years or so after his death.

Fast forward to 2009.  While thinking up ideas for my fourth novel, I glanced at my bookshelf for inspiration, noticed GUNS OF THE SOUTH, and recalled how I’d always wanted to write a book with a similarly jarring cover.

Alternate history it is, I thought.

The who came quickly: I’ve always been an ancient Rome geek, with numerous non-fiction books on Rome sharing shelf space with my favorite novels.  In keeping with my desire for a jarring cover, I thought, How aboutMark Antony holding a musket?

I liked it.  But something was still missing; I wanted to do an alt-history book, but not a conventional one.  So I sat on the idea for a few days.

Later that week, I was brainstorming my Roman alt-history novel when I became distracted bythe TV in the next room.  My young daughter had it up loud as she often does, and I was about to tell her to turn it down when I heard:  “Muppets…in…spaaaaaace!”

I jokingly thought, Maybe I’ll do Romans…in spaaaace!

I stopped.

Huh….

***

I’m certainly not the first author to combine science fiction and alternate history.  Again, Harry Turtledove did it with his four-book Worldwar series, where aliens invaded Earth at the height of World War II.  Even GUNS OF THE SOUTH had sci-fi elements.  But I was hard pressed to find any Roman sci-fi/alt-history, or more specifically Roman space opera/alt-history.  I’m sure it’s out there, but the point is that I at least had an idea that hadn’t been done to death.

I did a lot of brainstorming over the next year on where we are and how we got there.How did the Romans establish interstellar colonies? What was the one event in Roman history that diverged from our timeline and enabled such an outlandish, science-fictional situation to occur? I wanted that “terrifying secret” to be the core of my novel.

Once I had settled on the “terrifying secret,”I began to fill in the nooks and crannies of the alternate universe as my unlikely heroes fought to survive. How did Roman culture evolve because of this secret?What were the implications on Rome’s future if the secret were revealed? I used many resources on ancient Rome to get the subtleties of Roman culture as right as I could.

I had a blast answering those questions in MUSES OF ROMA…though I did not answer all of them, as this is book one of a three-book series. 🙂

You can find the Prologue and Chapter 1on my web site. I do hope you have as much fun reading the novel as I did writing it.

***

There we go, folks. 🙂 The book is available on paperbackKindle, Nook, iBooks and at Smashwords. I hope you’ve all enjoyed the guest-post by Rob and that you’ve already opened the links to purchase the book. 🙂 Massive thanks to Rob for agreeing to this guest-post, and I wish him massive success with this novel and all his work. 🙂

Until Wednesday,

Be EPIC!

 
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Posted by on January 20, 2014 in Spotlight

 

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Spotlight: American Specter by Rasheedah Prioleau

Hi guys and girls, I’m back with another spotlight-post, including an excerpt of the book in question. 🙂 And so, having joined the virtual book tour promoting the novel, here it is!

american specter cover

 

Here’s the blurb:

FBI Agent Audra Wheeler has been haunted for the last thirteen years by a paranormal attack that left her sister, Kendra, in a coma. Mentored by FBI Assistant Director Jonathan Cordero to investigate crimes committed by specters, Audra believes she is on the trail of a ‘serial killer’ specter with a M.O. very similar to her sister’s attacker. The investigation takes her to a small town of Specter, Georgia; a haven for ghosts who exist among the living.

From a review on Goodreads:

American Specter, by Rasheedah Prioleau is full of shocking revelations, specters, mythology, and a conclusion the reader will not see coming. I give this book 5 well deserved stars!

Your interest should be suitably piqued, 😉 And just to get you really hooked, here’s an excerpt from the novel – enjoy!

***

Audra stepped into the four-room mobile home converted into a sheriff’s station
and looked around trying not to let her disappointment show. She let the briefcase in her hand rest on the edge of the sheriff’s desk that was no more than six feet from the front door. There were two other desks in the room marked for a secretary and a deputy, but no one else was there. The walls were decorated with various maps of the town and an ancient filing cabinet took up nearly half of the wall behind the sheriff’s desk.

She pointed to the empty desks questioningly. “Lunch break?”

“Actually we recently lost our deputy to the police academy,” he said. “I haven’t
gotten around to finding a replacement just yet. Things are usually too slow to justify a secretary.”

Audra nodded, taking in the small space and its proximity to the front door. “Is
there a more secure area we can talk and eat?” she asked, lifting her Bishop’s to-go plate.

He smiled and pointed her to the hallway. She followed it to the back meeting
room, a square table with eight seats nearly filling it, and took a seat opposite of the door.

Ethan sat across from her as she opened the briefcase and pulled out four separate files, lining them up in order from the first murder to the last.
She took a small breath as she set the briefcase aside and opened the first victim’s file.

“Amanda Price of Boston, Massachusetts,” she said and looked at the girl’s
postmortem mug shot. Laid out on the medical examiner’s slab her skin was grayish pale and her dark hair was pulled back off of her lean face. The bruising from her own fingernail scratching as well as the strange burn marks around her neck stood out in the photograph like a gruesome necklace.

Ethan took the file and flipped through the first few pages of the report. He put it
down and picked up the next, opening it.

“Jenifer Martin of Newark, New Jersey,” she cited as he took in an almost
identical image of a dark haired girl with graying skin, fingernail scars and burns around her neck.

Audra opened her lunch and began to eat. She could not remember the last time
she’d allowed herself to indulge in barbeque with a side of macaroni and cheese and cornbread.

Ethan flipped the remaining files open and looked at the pictures of Linda Parker
of Charlotte, North Carolina and Regina Fowler of Savannah, Georgia.

“All were alone and in bed at the time of their murders, most likely asleep,”
Audra said.

“They all look alike,” Ethan said in a low voice.

“A serial killer with a type,” Audra agreed. “A type that looks a lot like my
sister.”

Ethan sat back as if a light bulb had gone off in his head. “Your sister was
attacked like this, right?”

Audra nodded.

“You think these are connected to your sister?” he asked, as if he had already
suspected as much.

“I do,” she finally said aloud for the first time.

“Okay, tell me again about your sister’s case.” Ethan turned stone cold serious.
His face was set in an intense yet calm pose that said he was listening to her words, reading between the lines, and watching her body language as she recited the details of her sister’s case.

“I ran to my sister’s room after hearing a crash. She was up in the air grabbing for
her throat. When I flipped on the light she fell back onto the bed. No one else was there. I called 9-1-1 and tried my best at CPR. She was almost nine months pregnant at the time.”

“How is she now?” he asked.

“She’s still in a coma,” Audra said. “Nothing has changed in the past thirteen
years.”

“It wasn’t declared to be specter related was it?” Ethan asked.

“No, specters weren’t known about then. It was labeled unexplained phenomena.”

“Where is she now?”

“My mother moved from New York back to Boston when dad died about a year
ago. She had Kendra transferred to a long-term care hospital,” Audra said.

“My condolences,” Ethan said quietly.

“Thank you.”

“Boston. The same city as the first victim,” Ethan observed. “Was your sister ever
in Newark or these other places?”

“For a time we lived in Newark and Boston when we were kids, before my father
was transferred to New York,” Audra said, unconsciously licking the barbeque from her fingers.

“Where are your sister’s husband and your niece now?” Ethan asked.

“They are in Boston with his new wife. I still see Kendra on occasion, especially
her birthday. But it’s painful,” Audra concluded.

“Oh, Rook,” Ethan whispered. It was the nickname he’d given her their first day
together as partners. “As far as you know there is no connection between your sister and this town?”

“The only thing that has any meaning to me here is you,” Audra said and she
could not hide the emotion in her eyes from him. “And once again, I have to say that I do not believe in coincidence.”

“Me neither,” he assured her. “Maybe we should get you checked into the B&B,”
Ethan said, standing and closing the files. He stacked them neatly and handed them her.

Audra took the time to wipe her hands with the single wet-nap supplied by Bishop’s takeout service and put the files back in the briefcase. She was relieved to finally have someone she trusted know what she was facing.

She packed up the remainder of her lunch and they left the station. She followed
Ethan’s truck to the B&B and checked into a room. He followed her to her room and closed the door behind him. He didn’t ask and he didn’t wait for her to ask, just pulled her into a hungry kiss and she felt herself melt against him. He pulled away looking deeply into her eyes. He smiled and she appreciated the kindness and emotion he showed.

It matched how she felt. He backed away from her, taking off his shirt and sitting on the edge of the bed.

His dark skin was pulled tight and rippled over his chest, arms, and abs. His low
key t-shirt had hidden all of the fine-tuning and strength of his upper body. Audra stayed close to the wall. Now that he was there, in the flesh, she felt nervous.

Sitting on her bed with his shirt off, she knew exactly where this was headed.

He smiled and reached a hand out to her. She walked closer to him, kicking her
shoes off, and took his hand. It was as smooth and warm as she remembered.He pulled her to him and seated her on the bed as he was looking into her eyes.

“I missed you Rook,” he said.

He reached a hand up and touched her cheek. She placed a hand over his and
brought it to her mouth, kissing the palm of it. He reached out with his other hand to bring her head down to kiss her lips.

“Ethan,” she whispered, her voice swallowed by the deep and electric kiss that
they shared.

She pulled off her suit jacket and he tugged her silk shirt over her head, dropping
it to the floor. She felt goose bumps travel up her spine as his hands roamed over her back then folded her into an embrace. His skin felt like magic against her. Audra wrapped her arms around him and kissed him deeply as he unfastened her bra and let both hands travel to cup her breasts. She worked to unfasten her gun belt, setting it gently on the floor, then took off her specter shield and tossed it on top of her jacket, unbuttoning her pants and pushing them to the floor.

Ethan smiled as she straddled his lap. She felt his hands trace her body and her
mind let go of everything. It was easy to be with him. Even though it had been such a long time, being in his arms again made it feel like only yesterday. He took his time and went slow, both of them savoring every moment together. She took note of a new scar on his right side, just above his hipbone. Touching it she looked him quizzically in the eye.

He smiled and shrugged, pulling her into another kiss that led to a much-needed release for both of them.

They lay together afterwards for several minutes looking at each other. Audra saw
him drifting off to sleep and let him. Rising from the bed, she was very careful not to wake him as she stepped into the bathroom and turned on the shower. She washed up slowly, recounting every moment of what had just happened, smiling as she blushed with the memories. Stepping from the shower to dry off, the reality of how bad it was that they slept together again began to sink in.

When she emerged from the bathroom she looked at the bedside clock. It was a
quarter past five and Ethan slept as if dead to the world. She didn’t want to wake him and didn’t know if she would be able to cover up her raw feelings with the same nonsense of it not having to mean anything, because it did mean something to her. It always had.

She dressed quickly and left a note with the address to the Daylight Candle Shop.

Strapping the specter shield onto her wrist, she thought that he might be pissed when he woke up, but she would cross that bridge when she came to it.

***

There we go! 🙂

American Specter will be published on the 4th of February by Rocket Press Publishing, so keep an eye out for it! And do go check out Rasheedah’s website here. 🙂

Until tomorrow,

Be EPIC!

 
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Posted by on January 16, 2014 in Excerpt, Spotlight

 

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Spotlight: Crystal Lake Publishing

Hey Guys and Girls, hope you’re all well! 🙂

I’m back with another spotlight post, this time bringing a great independent publisher of Dark Fiction and Horror to your attention. 🙂 I’ve also got the publisher himself, Joe Mynhardt, on the blog for an in-depth Q & A, after which I’ll be showing you the titles that Crystal Lake Publishing has released so far. 🙂

Logo

Ladies and gents, here’s the man who makes it all happen – Joe Mynhardt:

Joe

Does the name Crystal Lake Publishing originate from the Friday the 13th movies? Your favourite movie, perhaps?

I wouldn’t say it’s my favourite (I won’t even be able to choose one), but it was one of the earliest horror movies I watched growing up. Fortunately my parents didn’t mind me watching scary movies with them. Little did they know I snuck out of bed certain nights to watch that same movie again, alone – just me and a pillow to hide behind.

I was actually looking for a company name that not only paid homage to horror, but something that sounded professional, and in the long run didn’t tie me to just the horror genre, since you never know what the future holds. I’m quite happy with Crystal Lake Publishing, since it immediately brought the company logo to mind, as well.

Why do you love this genre?

Since a young boy I’ve always been interested in the supernatural. I loved scary movies. I didn’t care if there weren’t really any monsters creeping around in the dark. It was the possibility that excited me. You put two kids in a dark room with an open closet and each one will imagine their own unique monster.

I’d say the biggest turning point was when I watched Alfred Hitchcock’s Final Escape episode. The twist in the tale story has been my favorite ever since. And let’s not forget The Monkey’s Paw.

As writers we quickly learn what grabs the attention of readers. Things like drama, action, conflict, strong characters, dire situations and an antagonist that wants the exact opposite of your hero. And if you look carefully at these aspects, you’ll see they all play a big role in all stories. Horror is in every genre: losing a loved one is a horrible event; standing on a stage in front of people; being laughed at; losing a fight; being dumped, getting married (just kidding).

Plain and simple, horror stories are exciting. You never know what to expect.

Crystal Lake Publishing has also just published Gary McMahon’s short story collection, Where You Live. McMahon has built up a solid reputation as one of the hottest horror authors around at the moment – how did you secure this coveted collection?

I met Gary through a project we were both involved in at Dark Minds Press (Dark Minds anthology), and he was the first person I invited for Crystal Lake Publishing’s inaugural anthology, For the Night is Dark. He was also the first to accept. I’m a 100% certain that some of the other authors joined the project to share the TOC with him.

We stayed in contact after that, and I’m of course a big fan of his work. He’s already working on The Outsiders with a few other authors, including Simon Bestwick, which will be out in 2014. He also recently wrote an introduction to Fear the Reaper (the 2nd anthology) and I think he was quite impressed with the quality of the book. It was then that he contacted me about republishing a sold out, limited edition book he had published a few years back with Grey Friar Press, including a bunch of new stories, of course.

How does the working day look like for Joe Mynhardt?

Okay. I get up at 6:24am, breakfast bell rings at 6:45. Because I live at the school where I work, I walk to school in under a minute – awesome. I get to school at 7 but only start teaching at 7:40. School comes out at 13:40, so I rush to get lunch, then greet my wife and dogs, as well as change clothes, before going to sport at 14:00 (what a rush). I coach soccer and cricket, depending on the season.

After hours of standing, marking, arguing and solving problems, I finally go home at around 15:30. Some days I come out a bit earlier. If it’s cricket season, a match can easily take you to 18:00.

I do my best to put on my publisher’s hat as fast as possible, so I can get some work done before my wife comes back from work at 17:00. Believe it or not, the hostel serves dinner at 5pm, as well.

Then, on two nights a week, I’ll sit in study hall for an hour, helping the kids with their homework. After that I get a bit more work done. I try to finish by 21:00 every evening, but it’s not always possible.

Then we either watch an episode of a series, or I read or listen to an audio book before going to be at 22:30.

All this happens on a good day. On a crap day I’ll have to drive around and do errands. I normally leave errands for Fridays, but things just don’t always go according to plan.

For those who might not know, once a book is accepted, approximately how long does it take for it to be published?

The big publishers can take up to three years, but they take on way too many titles, and have too many people working on one project, anyway.

There are a lot of factors that come into play. For example, some books require a rewrite in certain areas. Since the authors I use in anthologies are highly sought after, I give them 6 months to write their contributions; they have a lot of other deadlines to cope with. After that it takes about 2 months to edit the anthology, then I might need to send it to someone who’s writing an introduction. I also need a month or two to send out ARC’s for pre-launch reviews that I’ll use during the launch.

Somewhere in there the cover needs to be made, eBook and paperback formatting, scheduling a successful launch or blog tour and so on.

So I prefer about 9 months per project.

What we can expect from Crystal Lake Publishing in 2014?

Except for a surprise novella (which will then be combined into a collection later the year), there are quite a few books already lined up:

William Meikle’s Samurai and Other Stories.

The Outsiders (a Lovecraftian, shared-world anthology).

A yet to be named non-fiction eBook that’ll guide horror writers in the right direction, written by a host of horror authors.

Tales From the Lake Vol.1.

Children of the Grave (a zombie, shared-world, choose your own adventure collection, where each author writes a different direction).

And if everything goes well and things aren’t too hectic, I’ll be able to finish my second collection by the end of 2014, but it’ll probably only be out early 2015.

The second Tales From the Lake horror writing competition.

But you never know what opportunities will come along. I always leave a bit of room in case something big comes knocking. You see, always be ready when opportunity comes knocking.

Where can we find Crystal Lake Publishing on the internet?

Check out our website: http://www.crystallakepub.com

Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/crystallakepub

Chat with us on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/Crystallakepublishing

Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/107478350897139952572/posts

All our books can also be found on Goodreads.

And of course Amazon. But instead of barraging you with links, it might be better to just visit our books page. If you click on the book covers, you’ll find out more about each book, or you can just click on the Amazon buttons to follow the universal links straight to your country’s Amazon outlet.

I’m also very approachable, so don’t hesitate to contact me at crystallakepub@gmail.com. I’ll add you to the mailing list (which goes out with every new release), and if you’re an author, be sure to send me a bio and links to (or examples of) your work. I might just contact you for a project in the future.

When it comes to the invite-only anthologies you’re known to put together, are there any surprises and/or co-incidental similarities in theme that come about?

Surprisingly not. Each story is just so unique in its approach and symbolism. You see, I like to study writers and their work, then I bring a bunch of them together, a bunch I’ll know will not only fit nicely together, but bring out the best in each other.

Once the stories are submitted I’ll work with the authors to sharpen the story, and if I do ever find any similarities are will not benefit the collection, we’ll work on it together till everything evens out nicely.

Once I invite an author to an anthology, he/she is 95% guaranteed to be in that anthology. There will probably be a first someday, where an author and I will agree that the story isn’t going to work. Not all authors are easy to work with.

Do you prefer all out gore or psychological chills?

Definitely psychological chills. Without the psychological manipulation of a decent writer, the gore bits would mean absolutely nothing. No one would care about the character. With today’s special effects in movies, people have been a bit desensitised. That’s why some writers now feel they have to go overboard with gore scenes. Look back at the older movies, remember how they never actually showed the monster eat the victim. They just zoomed in on his approach and faded to black. Still scared the hell out of me and everyone who watched it. Why, because we cared about those people. The writer made us care. But, don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing better than a perfectly timed bit of gore that makes you go, “Awesome!”

A great approach is to show the carnage the ‘monster’ or whoever has done, without actually showing him or it until the very end. That way you have the chills and the gore. There are great stories with only the psychological horror, but too many of them in a row tends to weaken a collection, in my opinion.

I tend to put a lot of gore into a story where the bad guy finally gets what he deserves. In the title story of my Lost in the Dark collection, I have a bad guy who gets the tendons behind his knees, ankles and arms severed (even his eyelids), then he gets tied to a tree and torn apart by wild animals. The timing was perfect, because by then the reader despises him for all the horrible things he had done, things much worse than what happened to him, and it made me go, “Awesome!”

What considerations to you take when it comes to cover art? Do you leave it up to the author or artist or do you take full control?

Most of the covers come either from a picture I had in my mind, or a part from a story in the collection. Artists Ben Baldwin likes to read a few stories to get the feel of the book. But when it comes to an author’s collection, I connect the author with Ben and they work it out amongst them. Ben knows what I like and I have 100% faith that he’ll create another masterpiece. From the start he’s always been able to bring the picture in my mind to life.

My initial love of books started with book covers. I’m a big fan of covers, whether it’s vinyl covers or DVD covers.

I’m a big fan of emotionally impactful covers. Covers that you can stare at for days. Every time the reader picks up the book, they’ll first stare at the cover before paging on. If you can make someone feel let’s say anger, fear, awe, curiosity or unease when they look at a cover, you’ve already set the mood for a great book.

Some of the covers might remind you of a childhood fear, or perhaps make you realise that you’re scared of something and you never realised it.

***

Here are the books that are already available from Crystal Lake Publishing:

Where You Live - Smaller version

Fear the Reaper FB version

Things Slip Through by Kevin Lucia

for the night is dark final cover

Tricks, Mischief and Mayhem ebook version

sleeper(s)  smaller version

lost in the dark

Click on the covers to order your copies from Amazon. 🙂

And here’s a look at what’ll be coming your way in 2014:

25 January 2014

25 January 2014

May, 2014

May, 2014

 

July, 2014

July, 2014

September, 2014

September, 2014

As you can see, there’s plenty already available from Crystal Lake, and much more coming! 🙂

To get more info about the publisher, click here for their website; you can also connect with Crystal Lake Publishing on Facebook and Twitter. 🙂

Until next time,

Be EPIC!

 
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Posted by on December 16, 2013 in Spotlight

 

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