Two pointed ears and a small head covered in short silky fur peeped from underthe sofa’s valance. A black cat emerged, stretched, and leaped onto the arm of the sofawith incredible grace and an inquisitive yowl.“This Tomas.” Mrs. Lee waved an introductory hand. “My machka.”The cat poised itself on the armrest, leaning toward Lisa, gold-green eyesregarding her gravely. His right paw came up.“Oh, he’s beautiful!” Lisa placed her hand under the cat’s paw. It was soft,smooth and as warm as David’s hand had been. It pressed briefly against her fingers,claws grazing gently before it withdrew. With a second, softer yowl, Tomas leaped fromthe arm and settled himself in her lap. He blinked and regarded Lisa solemnly.“You like cats?” Mrs. Lee asked.“I love them,” Lisa assured her. “And this one is so…so…”“Ain’t he, though?” David muttered. Lisa wondered if he ever spoke in anything other than a low growl.“He likes to think he’s really macho,” Isaac laughed. “A real ladies’ man…uh, cat.” He flicked a finger at the cat’s ears. Tomas dodged, cocking his head to look at Isaac. “Right, Tomasso?”“I’d have to agree,” Lisa answered, reaching out and stroking the furry head.Tomas pushed against her hand. “He’s a very handsome dude.”David smiled and the two brothers looked at each other. They seemed to besharing a private joke, which Tomas didn’t appear to appreciate. Growling softly, he bestowed a surprising glare upon the two.Suddenly, they all seemed to be staring at her. Even the cat. Four pairs of eyes riveted on Lisa. Waiting for her to drink her tea.Lisa began to feel uneasy. A startling panic twisted in her stomach as she realized she was alone in a van with three strangers, two of whom were very large and muscular and standing between her and the door. And Mrs. Lee— She might be old but that walking stick of hers could be a very deadly weapon.Was this a mistake? Undoubtedly. People were always saying she was toofriendly for her own good.All together, they smiled. Tomas purred loudly, claws kneading at her thighs.“Well! Since you’re safe and sound now—” Putting down the cup, Lisa set the cat aside and stood up. For a moment, his claws clung to her skirt. Hoping she didn’t sound frightened and certain she failed, she extricated Tomas, grimacing slightly at the single snag his claws made in her new skirt, then shot a pretend glance at her watch as she went on, “Guess I’d better be on my way. I’ve people waiting for me and they’ll beworrying.”Liar. Her housemate wouldn’t be home for another two hours.She aimed herself for the door behind the two young men. Neither moved. The twisting inside grew tighter. Lisa stopped.“Isaac,” Mrs. Lee called softly, and gestured.He took a step forward, raising one arm.Lisa stumbled backward, her own raised, preparing to ward off a blow, thenrealized he was holding out his left arm to his grandmother. Around his wrist was a small gold chain with tiny disks dangling from it.
“Here.” With a twist of her fingers, Mrs. Lee pulled one disk free. She held it out to Lisa. “You take. For helping me.”“I couldn’t—”“You take. Otherwise I owe you.” Taking Lisa’s hand, she placed the object on her palm, closing her fingers around it. “Is wish-charm.”“Wish-charm? What’s that?” It looked like a small gold coin but theinscription… She’d never seen symbols like those before. Are they Romanes?“Good for one special wish. Baksheesh. You keep safe. Use carefully. Don’twaste on pepperoni pizza!” Mrs. Lee shook her finger and laughed.“I won’t.” Lisa laughed, too, her fear disappearing. “I promise.” She studied the charm, feeling a strange gratitude. “It’s beautiful. Thank you, Mrs. Lee.”This time when she turned toward the door, Isaac and David moved aside. In a moment, she was outside, down the makeshift steps and at her car. When Lisa climbed into the Civic, and waved, they raised their hands and waved back.As the car drove away, however, Mrs. Lee said, “A good girl, but too trusting. She needs protector.”“She’s pretty. I like her.” David straightened, adding “For a gaje, I mean.” He and Isaac glanced at each other and then at their Grandmother. “So, Gram, which one of us will it be?”She looked at Tomas.“Oh, Gram, no.” The protest was half-hearted, as if he knew it was no use to argue.The cat was crouching on the sofa. He looked at Mrs. Lee and then at the door through which Lisa had gone, tail twitching angrily. He shook his head as if seconding David’s protest.“You heard me,” Mrs. Lee said. Tomas transferred his gaze back to her. Hedidn’t move. “Go!”“You heard Gram,” Isaac prompted.Tomas stayed there a moment longer, giving a single grrrwl of protest before leaping to the floor. David pushed the door open and Tomas leaped out. Isaac came to stand beside his brother. “Good luck, Bro. I mean it.”The cat looked in the direction the car had vanished. After a moment’s hesitation, he threw a strident yowl back at the two men standing in the door before starting down the street with a graceful, long-legged lope.They waited until his small figure disappeared around the bend in the road before going back inside.“Still don’t see why Tomas gets to have all the fun,” David grumbled.“You call that fun?” Issac elbowed his brother in the ribs. “Would you like to change places with him?”“What do you think?”“I think you’d better shut up.” Isaac pulled the camper door shut and locked it.
Buy Links:Paperback exclusively from the publisher’s website: http://www.classactbooks.com/cat–romance/cat–fantasy/gypsy-charm–21-detailAmazon: https://www.amazon.com/Gypsy-Charm–Icy-Snow-Blackstone–ebook/dp/B01JNV7X92/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1524754110&sr=8-1&keywords=GypsAbout the Author:Icy Snow Blackstone was born in 1802, in northern Georgia where her father, the Reverend John Blackstone, was prominent in local politics. She married a minister, raised seven children, and lived there all her life.Two hundred and five years later, her great-great-great-great-granddaughter began using her name as a pseudonym for her romance novels. The present Icy Snow Blackstone (aka author Toni V. Sweeney) lives far from her Southern roots in Lancaster County,Nebraska, where she continues to write romances.As of 2017, Icy Snow has eleven novels published by Class Act Books. Hercontemporary romance, Tuesday’s Child, was given the Paranormal Romance Guild’s Reviewers Choice award for Best Contemporary Novel of 2014. A SciFi romance,Earthman’s Bride and Vietnam-era romance Jericho Road, have also received awards.She is also the author of Jericho Road, Bargain with Lucifer, Brother Devil, and GypsyCharm, romances all set in the South, as well as the paranormal romance The IrishLady’s Spanish Lover.Learn More about Icy Snow at: http://www.classactbooks.com/our-authors/manufacturers/icy-snow-blackstone
Please welcome my guest, Michael D. Smith
Why I Wrote CommWealth, by Michael D. Smith
CommWealth sprang from a long, richly detailed dream I had in which the central “I” demonstrates his easy adaptation to a property-less society by demanding electronic gadgets, cars, motorcycles, in fact anything he desires, then hoarding it all in a mansion he’s similarly procured. He takes the basic premise of this society, the guilt-ridden, involuntary sharing of everything, to its extreme when he asserts the right to claim a former girlfriend as his property. The dream narrator was oddly both me, yet not me; somehow I had a certain psychological distance from the character who became CommWealth’s arrogant, pathetic anti-hero Allan Larsen.
The dream was so clear that the resulting plot for CommWealth flowed easily, allowing for both farce and for serous reflection on our innate emotional and legal attachment to the tens of thousands of objects we own. I even researched some books on property rights just to feel more familiar with the subject, though I can’t say they had much effect on the plot, which seemed pre-written from the dream.
Another aspect of the novel I wanted to explore, based on my amateur acting experience in college, was its theatrical setting. The main characters in the novel form an acting troupe called Forensic Squad which eventually becomes the focal point of a suicidal revolution against CommWealth, the name of the governmental sharing system. The six major characters act their parts in the novel like an ensemble cast in a movie, where accomplished actors divide the plot between them and no one actor has the lead role. It was satisfying to shift from one character to the next, giving them equal emphasis and letting each’s motivations unfold on stage.
About the Author:
Michael D. Smith was raised in the Northeast and the Chicago area, before moving to Texas to attend Rice University, where he began developing as a writer and visual artist. In addition to exhibiting and selling paintings and drawings, he’s completed fifteen novels.
Smith’s writing in both mainstream and science fiction genres uses humor to investigate psychological themes. On his blog, he explores art and writing processes, and his web site contains further examples of his writing and art. He is currently Technology Librarian for McKinney Public Library in McKinney, Texas.
CommWealth is his first novel published by Class Act Books.
find out more about Michael at:
Website: , www.sortmind.com,
Blog: www. http://blog.sortmind.com/wordpress/
The CommWealth system, has created a society in which there is no legal claim to any kind of private property. Any object from your house to the clothes you’re wearing can be demanded by anyone, to be enjoyed for thirty days before someone else can request it. As actors in the Forensic Squad theatrical troupe attempt to adapt to this chaos, their breaking of the Four Rules sustaining the system, as several members navigate betrayals, double agents, and murder to find themselves leading a suicidal revolution.
Rule One – You are free to enjoy the chosen object for thirty days. During this period no other person may request it.
Rule Two – The requestor is untouchable for thirty days by the person asked. Attempts at retaliation, such as demanding unusually large quantities from the original requestor after the thirty-day period, carry stiff penalties.
Rule Three – Once you ask somebody for something, you can never ask him or her for anything else again.
Rule Four – You can never ask for the same thing back from the person who got it from you, not even after his or her thirty days of enjoyment.
Allan shivered at the reflection of his black overcoat and his striding legs on the wet sidewalk. Up ahead someone with a DreamPiston Electronics bag opened a shiny red Porsche glistening with thousands of water beads.
“Okay,” Allan said, “I’ll take your car here.”
The mustached little twerp looked up. “Ahhh, crap…”
“C’mon, don’t give me any trouble. Gimme the key.”
“Look, it’s raining. And I just got these MP3 players and the new Fappy tablet—”
“Not my problem. Fork the damn key over.”
“Look, my umbrella’s in the car—can I just get my umbrella so my stuff—”
“Forget it. The umbrella’s part of the car as far as I’m concerned. Anything in the car. Besides, I just lost my umbrella a couple blocks back. I’m soaked.”
“C’mon, I just got this car the other day!”
“Don’t hand me that. The sticker on the plate says you got it a month and a half ago. You’re overdue, buddy. Now hand me the key.”
“Got trouble there?” A bright blue City of Linstar police car idled in the rain. “Got a Hoarder there?” a huge officer grinned.
“Uh, no… not at all…” said the twerp. “I just—I just can’t find the key—”
“Yeah, right—you just unlocked the damn car with it,” Allan said, turning to the policeman. “He is giving me a lot of crap about it.”
“C’mon, sir, you know better than that.” The officer’s name tag read BARCLAY.
“Dammit!” the twerp snarled. He separated the Porsche key off his key ring, thrust it at Allan, then spun around and fastened on a man coming down the sidewalk. “Give me that umbrella! Right now!”
“Goddammit…” the man grunted, surrendering his umbrella to the twerp, who grabbed it and hoisted it above his DreamPiston bag.
“We really got the Christmas spirit here, don’t we?” Barclay said.
“Really,” Allan said. “Some people…” He examined the Porsche key in the rain. “Thanks for your help, officer.”
“Oh, I’m sure it wasn’t really necessary. People are basically good, you know. Give ’em time to adjust and all, that’s what I say.”
The twerp leapt into traffic with his new umbrella and his bag, waving his free arm. A little green car skidded to a halt. The twerp ran to the window and pounded on it. “Give me this car! Right now! Damn you!”
“Jesus…” Allan said. “What a bastard!”
Barclay was out of his patrol car in a second, hand on his hand on his holster. “Sir, that’s not the right way to go about it. We need to be respectful. That’s the CommWealth way.”
CommWealth is available at:
Welcome to the Blog for Barbara EdwardsToni V. Sweeney will explain her series.One thing about writing about a dynasty—it covers a lot of territory and a whole lot of people.When I decided to write a family saga, I took the easy way out. Writing about the rule of the kan Ingans of the Emeraunt Galaxy, I decided to tell only the stories about the beginning and end of that particular reign. Part 1, The Narrative of Riven the Heretic (7 novels) recorded their origins. Part 2, The kan Ingan Archives (8 novels), told of their scandal-laden and inglorious end thirty-one hundred years later.Suffice it to say writing a family saga isn’t easy. Whatever is said in the original book has to be maintained in all the others. It can’t be changed unless there’s a very good reason. If a character is taken on an ocean journey by his father and he’s five-years-old at that time, you can’t have another character state dogmatically in another book that he wastwelve when it happened. Don’t think some eagle-eyed little nit-picker of a reader won’t catch it and promptly fire off an e-mail to your website, pointing this out. Same with spellings. A character’s name has to be spelled the same way throughout; if it’s italicized in one book, keep it consistently italicized in all of them. A person’s character may change, his faith, his philosphy may be converted—indeed, that’s the stuff stories aremade of because they involve conflict—but unless you state specifically there’s hair dye involved or colored contacts, make certain his blond hair stays blond and his brown eyes brown. (Of course if it’s fantasy, you can totally change his appearance and have a plausible reason.) I always think of Stephen King’s example when he was writing Christine: A specific make of car drove into an alley, a different make of car came out. I did that once myself. Not with cars, but I had a character who was blond, only tosuddenly become a brunet without explanation (or the use of Clairol for Men.) Thank Goodness for the delete/replace button!Family sagas are a lot of work because you have to keep track not only of the characters’ names and physical appearances, but also of their ages, especially if each novel encompasses a number of years. Sometimes it’s easier to make a tangible chart, a familytree or spreadsheet with all the relationships, ages, etc., so it can be referred to from timeto time. Age plays a very important part in these stories so I had to keep close tabs on how old everyone was and when.About the Author:Toni V. Sweeney has lived 30 years in the South, a score in the Middle West, and adecade on the Pacific Coast and now she’s trying for her second 30 on the Great Plains.Since the publication of her first novel in 1989, Toni divides her time between writing SF/Fantasy under her own name and romances under her pseudonym Icy Snow Blackstone. In March, 2013, she became publicity manager for Class Act Books (US). She is also on the review staff of the New York Journal of Books and the Paranormal Romance Guild. In 2016, she was named a Professional Reader by netgalley.com. She is an Amazon reviewer, is in the 1% of reviewers for Goodreads, and in 2015 and 2016 was voted one of the Top 10 authors of those years by Preditors & Editors ReaderPoll. In 2013, the Paranormal Romance Guild’s Reviewer’s Choice voted The kan Ingan Archives (Part Two of the Arcanian Chronicles) a Special Mention, and the following year, named the individual novels The Man from Cymene, and Space Studs, from the same series two of the Top 8 SF/fantasy novels of 2014.As of 2018, Toni currently has 55 novels in print, including 3 series, and 3 trilogies.Find out more about Toni:Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/tvsweeneyAmazon Author’s Page: https://www.amazon.com/–/e/B002BLQBB8Twitter: @ToniVSweeneyBlurb:Aric kan Ingan had it all.Pampered and spoiled, he was groomed since the age of twelve to be heir to the throne of Arcanis…until his uncle surprised everyone by falling in love with an Earthwoman.Elizabeth Sheffield wanted it all.Headstrong and beautiful, she’d never met a man she couldn’t wrap around her little finger…until she met Aric.The vengeful former heir and the margrave’s bride are instant enemies, trading insults and threats, until the unexpected happens: They fall in love.While Aric and Elizabeth engage in their illicit affair, other forces in the kingdom gather for the more sinister purpose of rebellion and murder……with Aric as the not-so-innocent pawn.EXCERPT:
On the fourth floor, outside the hallway leading to the royal apartments, Kozlu waitedfor him. The old man looked him up and down disapprovingly, staring at his travel-dustyclothes.“You couldn’t take time to change?”“Why should I? I’m only going to see my uncle.” His tone bordered on disrespect forthe man who’d been his tutor as he’d been the margrave’s.“Aric, it’s more than that and you know it.” Kozlu’s reply held the knowledge he was speaking to someone who had no intention of listening. He started up the stairs, notlooking to see if Aric followed.So it’s like that, is it? Already dispensing with respect since I’m no longer the heir.“I suppose you want me to return to my rooms and dress in my most formal uniform,complete with metals and insigne, before I meet the creature?” He saw Kozlu’s facedarken. “Why don’t I go back to the barracks and rout all the Black Shields, and havethem mount a dress parade in the courtyard?”“Lower your voice.” Kozlu nodded toward the guards on the landing below.Realizing how close he was to letting his anger take over, Aric took a deep breath.“You’ve been drinking, haven’t you?” Kozlu frowned.“As much as possible,” he admitted. “It seemed the most appropriate thing to do.”“You’d best calm yourself a little,” the elder suggestion. “You look as if you couldkill.”“If I thought I could get away with it, I might,” he muttered. As Kozlu looked aroundat him sharply, he said hastily, “Don’t worry. I’ll behave myself.”They started climbing again.“You may as well accept what’s happened,” Kozlu went on. “The council has.”“The council isn’t losing anything.” Aric’s answer was sullen. “I was taken from mymother to be my uncle’s heir. For eight years, it’s been drilled into me how Arcanis willsomeday be mine, and now…to lose it to some mongrel Milky?” He shook his head. “Ithought my uncle had more pride in our family. Even someone from one of the otherplanets—Gataeus, Scylla, even Nereis—would be better than a near-barbarian.”“I think it’s you who’ve too much pride, Aric,” the old man answered quietly.“Someday, you’ll find yourself in the dust because of it.”Aric looked rebellious and didn’t answer.They reached the fifth landing, coming around a dark corner into the archway opening onto one of the stone-balustraded terraces.Two people sat on a stone bench set in an arrangement of flower-filled urnssurrounding a javancia tree, its thick branches offering protection from the ocean’s wind and the morning sun. One was obviously his uncle, and the other was…She.“Lord Aric, sire.” Kozlu bowed and backed out of his uncle’s presence, leaving him alone in the entranceway. For the barest moment, Aric was tempted to run after the old man, away from the unpleasantness awaiting him. Briefly, he regretted that third glass of brandy.
Please welcome Rick MCQuiston, author of Eat the World to Barbara Edwards Comments. Tell our readers why you wrote this story.
I wrote “Eat the World” because of my love for Mackinac City and Mackinac Isle. I felt the history, architecture, and overall isolation that an island offers was perfect for a horror story.
The first time I visited the area I became interested with the layout. I still remember taking copious notes (much to the annoyance of my wife) for the book. The city skirts along the lower mainland, wrapping around the natural slope of the peninsula and offering the perfect spot to start the story. It seemed natural to me to move the protagonists over to the island then, using the isolation there (after all, Mackinac Island is surrounded by deep water) to create an ominous feeling.
From there, it wasn’t difficult (relatively speaking) to incorporate elements from each of the characters into the overall theme of working together to survive supernatural horror.
About the Author:
Rick McQuiston is a 49-year-old father of two who loves anything horror-related. He’s had nearly 400 publications so far, and written five novels, ten anthologies, one book of novellas, and edited an anthology of Michigan authors.
Rick is also a guest author each year at Memphis Junior High School.
He’s currently working on his sixth novel.
More about Rick at:
Publisher’s website: www.classactbooks.com
Author’s website: www.many-midnights.com
Blurb for Eat the World:
In picturesque Mackinac a growing army of rats are beginning to seep into the community of tourists. They seemingly appear out of nowhere, and it is up to ordinary people to gather their courage and battle the hordes.
But there is something more frightening beneath the surface, something that was born from the accumulated depths of Earth’s creatures, something that can threaten the entire world.
Excerpt from Eat the World:
The rodent scurried through the narrow channel. It barely managed to squeeze its lengthy bulk into the tight aperture, but by inhaling a deep breath of warm, salty air, it was able to reduce its girth enough to allow it somewhat comfortable passage. A cursory glance to either side after it cleared the opening revealed nothing predatory or dangerous.
The rodent then scrambled into the brush.
In its wake was a vicious, gray-green substance that loosely resembled hydraulic motor oil left in the sun too long. It was thick in consistency, yet still transparent enough to allow the dozens of tiny organisms swirling within it to be seen. It bristled with unnatural life.
The small grass snake slithered through the brush. Its brown, speckled hide gave it perfect camouflage in the wild. It melted into its surroundings, becoming for all intents and purposes, invisible to both predator and prey. It was its natural defense mechanism as well as aiding it with tracking down prey.
The snake’s belly convulsed with hunger. It hadn’t eaten in days and was in danger of starving. It scanned the woods for any sign of movement, anything at all that it could inflict a bite on and swallow whole.
There was no movement whatsoever. Not even a stray beetle or ant scuttled by. The snake was completely alone in the vast wilderness of the island. It laid perfectly still, both to conserve energy and to avoid detection. It sensed that something was watching it from a darkened crevice nearby. Something bigger than it was and undoubtedly just as hungry.
The snake didn’t move a muscle. It hoped that whatever was hidden in the crevice wouldn’t notice it. The strange substance on the ground bristled beneath its body, but it had more pressing matters to be concerned about. Flicking its tongue, the snake tasted the air. Far below, the cold waters of Lake Huron washed up against I-67. Being the only state highway in the US without motorized vehicles, the pristine ribbon of asphalt circled the entire island.
The movement caught the snake’s attention. It swung its conical head in the direction of the sound: the dark crevice. Whatever was watching it had moved. Several quick tongue darts picked up a scent, causing the snake to recoil back into itself. It could defend itself if need be, but if its adversary was larger it would quickly opt for retreat. Self-preservation was perhaps the only instinct that overrode all others, including hunger and the need to mate. When faced with a threat, survival was paramount.
The snake hissed in a feeble effort to ward off its potential adversary. It reared up then to display its size. It did not know if it was larger, or smaller than the other creature, but it was one of the few weapons it possessed.
The rodent poked its pink snout out of the crevice. It sniffed a few times, and satisfied that suitable prey was within striking distance, settled back on its haunches as it prepared to attack.
With a blinding ferocity beyond any member of its species, the huge, bloated rat launched itself out of the crevice and sucked down the too-slow grass snake in one violent swallow.
The reptile never had a chance.
With its hunger temporarily sated, the rat lumbered away into the brush. It left copious amounts of the strange substance behind, leaving a sickly trail leading into the woods.
The substance squirmed with miniscule life.
Publisher’s website: www.classactbooks.com
Please welcome Linda Nightingale with the anthology, ‘Four By Moonlight’. Tell why you wrote this story.
My very favorite poem, and one of my favorite works of literature, is The Highwayman by Alfred Noyes. It is lyrical enough that it has been recorded many times over. The one I’m thinking of is by
This poem inspired my “Gypsy Ribbons,” which is included in an anthology from Class Act Books, Four by Moonlight. I wanted to see what the idea of the highwayman, combined with other elements, would become in prose.
Once I read the story on a PodCast. I had practiced the entire day before the reading, and only stumbled once. No surprise, I had almost memorized Gypsy Ribbons. I don’t have a copy of that PodCast or I’d include the link so that you could have a laugh as a South Carolinian with an accent tried to read a story starring British characters.
I often wondered if I could expand the story into a book, but it seemed happy as a short story. The piece dates back quite a few years, but it has been polished and edited. I didn’t have to worry about the advent of modern technology. In the late 1800s, no one had a cell phone! “Gypsy Ribbons’” setting is the Yorkshire moors, the time period parallel with the American Revolution.
Four by Moonlight also includes a novella, “The Night Before Doomsday,” the tag line to which is “Azazel resisted temptation…until the wrong woman came along.” The story takes a look at the angel Azazel in a different light—not as the demon he is often portrayed. “Night Before Doomsday” is about the Grigori’s descent to Earth to teach men to survive/thrive after their oust from the Garden of Eden.
One story is very spicy. “The Gate Keeper’s Cottage” bears a warning sign: Enter at your own risk.
The fourth offering is “Star Angel,” a sci-fi romance and is very New Age. The hero and the heroine are soul mates separated by a dimension.
Come with me on a journey to 1789 with “Gypsy Ribbons.” Next whistle stop is the Garden of Eden, and on to a plantation outside New Orleans, and finally a rescue in an Idaho potato patch. In Four by Moonlight, no one is exactly what he/she may seem.
An anthology of love in the moonlight…in the paranormal universe.
Gypsy Ribbons – A moonlight ride on the moors and meeting a notorious highwayman will forever change Lady Virginia Darby’s life.
Star Angel – Lucy was stuck in a rut and in an Idaho potato patch. She’d seen him in the corner of her eye—a fleeting glimpse of beauty—now he stood before her in the flesh.
The Night Before Doomsday – All his brothers had succumbed to lust, but Azazel resisted temptation until the wrong woman came along.
The Gate Keeper’s Cottage – Newlywed Meggie Richelieu’s mysterious, phantom lover may be more than anyone, except the plantation housekeeper, suspects.
Red eyes watched from the grate as she slipped into the cold, empty bed. Simon should have been there to warm her rather than the dying fire. Not pursuing a dangerous dream. Too angry, too miserable to weep, she tossed and turned. The relief of sleep eluded her.
An icy breath whispered through the room. Tory snuggled deeper beneath the goose down covers. Had the weather made up its mind? Was Simon riding in ice and snow? She imagined white flakes in Goliath’s long black mane and on the highwayman’s plush velvet cloak. Poor darling, he would be cold. Tory slowly drifted to sleep unrelated thoughts scrolling in her mind. A soft sound snapped her wide awake. She sat bolt upright, tugging the covers over the breasts. The room was iceberg cold. The ghost.
“Not Simon.” She held her breath, ears stained for the horrifying, otherworldly whisper, a warning of imminent death. The sound came again, closer. A slow footstep creeping over the old oaken floor. Tonight, the ghost of Darby Manor wandered its dim corridors.
“No. No.” Tory squeezed her eyes closed and prayed, forgetting she didn’t believe in ghosts.
The footsteps halted. Tory’s heart stopped. She started to cover her ears, refusing to hear. The ghost breathed that heartbreaking sigh at her door.
Shuddering, she slid back under the layers of down. The warmth had no effect on her shivers. She folded into a fetal position. I’m no longer alone. Fear chilled her anew. Though she couldn’t see clearly in the dim light, she knew her breath puffed white clouds in the frigid air. Dread sank its wicked claws into her racing heart.
Publisher’s website: http://www.classactbooks.com
Find out more about Linda at:
Hello Paul McDermott,
Tell our readers why you wrote “Spear of Destiny.”
My current book. The Spear of Destiny, was inspired by a combination of circumstances which were not ‘typical’ of my “general” creative processes. I lived in Denmark for a number of years and had the privilege of meeting people who had been active members of the Danish Resistance Movement (mødstandsbevægelsen). during WW2. I have attempted to redress the balance a little by raising awareness and offering sincere thanks. I’ve kept close to the recorded facts as we know them, but I’ve altered the names: these patriots have earned the right to have their anonymity preserved.
When the Danish billionaire Carsten Ree had the wreck of U-534 refloated and it was installed as a permanent exhibit in Liverpool’s Maritime Museum, the story almost wrote itself. The basis of the story appeared as my NaNo entry in November 2010, the end result of 30 days of madness and strong coffee!
The Spear of Destiny was a new departure for me. Although it’s based on real events in the closing days of WW2, and I had to make sure I had facts (names, dates etc.) accurate. I’ve kept very close to the recorded facts of the sinking of U-534 but I decided to add the Spear. I did this because of Hitler’s known weakness, superstition. He believes he has found a powerful secret weapon which he can use to turn the War in Germany’s favour. This light drizzle of fantasy in what is essentially an account of historical events is my way of adding an original slant to the yarn
One of the most satisfying things I took from writing The Spear of Destiny was having the opportunity to honour the memory of a number of real people alongside my fictional characters. One such hero is Captain Johnny Walker. Although he only plays a small role in my story, he was almost entirely responsible for the success of the Allies in the Battle of the Atlantic. General consensus is, he literally worked himself to death in the process.
The research was more extensive than I’d needed for my previous fiction work but it was satisfying.
About the Author:
Born in the Year of the Tiger, Paul’s natural curiosity combined with the deep-seated feline need to roam has meant that over the years he’s never been able to call any one place home. His wanderlust has led him from one town to another, and even from one country to another.
“I can’t remember a time when I didn’t write – my father claims to possess a story I wrote when I was six, which filled 4 standard school exercise books! What I do remember from that time was being told off for doing the Liverpool Echo crossword before he got home from work!”
While Paul was living in Denmark, he allowed himself to be persuaded to write for a purpose instead of purely for his own amusement. Perhaps it was the catalyst of breathing the same air as Hans Christian Andersen.
More about Paul at:
In 1945, U-boat Kapitän Herbert Nollau must deliver a weapon which will turn the war in Germany’s favour. His orders are delivered verbally. There will be no written records… and no witnesses.
Alone, far from home, hunted by the Danish Resistance and the might of the Allied Forces, he must obey either his final Orders…or the inner voice of his conscience.
Überlojtnant Herbert Nollau stood with his Zeiss nightglasses glued to his eyes, impervious to the rain whipped across his cheeks by half a gale. This howled almost exactly at ninety degrees to the tide, which had just reached the full but had not yet begun its retreat. His command craft, U-534, sat uneasily at anchor, dipping at bow and stern in the current, yawing appreciably as frequent Force Ten gusts buffeted her broad flanks. Low, heavy rainclouds hunkered closer, seeming to settle on the upper branches of the natural pine forest which spread untamed, unculled, across the low hills of Schleswig-Holstein.
An identical pair of black Opel staff cars bracketed a canvas bodied Mercedes half-track transport wagon, all three vehicles picking their way carefully along an unmarked country road. The headlights were taped down to the size and shape of a feral cat’s vertical slits, acknowledging the strict rules governing all traffic during the hours of darkness. The road to the harbour just outside Lübeck was neither tarmac’ed nor enhanced with any form of lighting. The drivers were obliged to steer cautiously around every twist, using the gears and brakes more frequently than the accelerator.
“Amateurs!” he thought to himself, as the three sets of headlights crawled slowly closer.
He blanked the thought as soon as it intruded on his consciousness, forcing himself back into State-approved Wehrmacht thinking, based on purely practical matters directly related to carrying out current instructions, with maximum efficiency, without question. He pulled the collar of his oilskins closer around his throat in a futile attempt to prevent the rain from seeping through, soaking his uniform. Raising his night glasses once more, he cursed the weather, the Wehrmacht and the world in general, feeling more exposed and vulnerable with every minute that passed as he waited for the convoy of lights to crawl closer, carrying the equipment which he had been ordered to collect. It bothered him that he was expected to set sail immediately, and await orders concerning his destination by radio once he had cleared the bay and entered Store Bælt: technically, that section of the North Sea was neutral Danish waters, and if he were to remain on the surface for any length of time in order to receive orders …
As the lights snaked around another pair of curves and began their final descent to the shoreline and the jetty where U534 was waiting, Herbert Nollau realized that he had on board a much more powerful sender/receiver than any other U-boat: in fact, not just one but two radios equipped with the Enigma cryptographic programme had been installed, ostensibly for testing. With a sudden jolt, the deceptively young-looking Überlojtnant realized that this technology was far more sophisticated than that which had previously been regarded as the best in the world: apart from being guaranteed unbreakable as a code, it could also send and receive radio signals without his craft needing to surface.
He shook his head to clear the worst of the pools which had formed in the upturned brim of his sou’wester and made his way down the ladder bolted to the side of the conning tower, aiming to be waiting on the quay before the three vehicles wheezed to a halt. His mechanic’s ear analysed and diagnosed a list of faults he could clearly identify from the laboured chugging of each engine. Furious at this indication of inefficiency, a corner of his mind decided that he would have had the senior officer responsible for each vehicle court-martialled, if the decision had been up to him. In spite of the horrors he had witnessed in three years of naval warfare, he shuddered. His orders, distasteful though they might be, were crystal clear …
Two gaunt, silent shadows slid with simultaneous choreography from the rear seat of each of the Opels: their sleek black trenchcoats almost touched the planks of the jetty, glistening in the starlight as if the officers wearing them had been marching for hours in the rain rather than just stepping out of a warm, dry car. Nollau fired off his most formal salute: the four SS-officers responded with a world-weary, bent-elbow half-salute and pointedly refrained from returning Nollau’s “Heil, Hitler!” One detached himself for a moment and gave a hand-signal to the driver of the canvas-sided truck. The driver immediately hammered his fist twice on the bulkhead behind his seat. Four soldiers appeared over the tailgate of the wagon and began to manoeuvre something long and heavy out of the cargo space.
Turning to face his command meant that Herbert Nollau had to turn his back on the four staff officers. Somehow he managed to do this with an insolence which stated quite clearly that, as far as he was concerned, they were barely worthy of his contempt.
He placed a small, shrill whistle to his lips and blew, one long (but not overloud) blast. Within ten seconds, the deck was populated by about twenty matelots, standing at ease, who somehow contrived to arrive from nowhere and in total silence. Close to the bows, and just for’ard of ’midships , cables were deployed from two small jib cranes. Within seconds, the submariner crew were on the jetty, taking the unidentified cargo from the shoulders of the four soldiers and hoisting it with ease onto the foredeck, thence by some lightningfast legerdemain out of sight below decks. The crew had followed, leaving Überlojtnant Nollau as the only member of the Senior Service still on the jetty. At a silent gesture from one of the anonymous black trenchcoats the four soldiers climbed back over the tailgate, into the truck. After about four attempts, the driver managed to coax the engine into life and began to back and fill, facing back the way he had come.
As he completed the manoeuvre and gunned the engine to set off up the hill, the four SS officers opened their trenchcoats to reveal the muzzles of rapid fire MP40 machine pistols. With one accord they raised their weapons and sent round after deadly round of ammunition into both the cab and the rear of the vehicle, holding the triggers steady. Before the hail of bullets ceased, the fuel tanks of the wagon exploded, sending flames soaring high into the night sky, setting small fires in the tree tops as they lost their intensity and curled back towards the ground.
Suddenly, Herbert Nollau’s orders seemed fractionally less dishonourable.
Having emptied their weapons, the four executioners appeared to have rediscovered some of their habitual swagger and pride. Crashing the butts of the now-empty weapons against the rough wooden planking of the jetty they raised their right arms to the fullest, and screamed: “Heil, Hitler!” as their heels crashed together in perfect unison.
Sick to his stomach at the pleasure his countrymen took from the callous murder of fellow Germans, it was all Herbert Nollau could do to raise his arm, bent-elbowed, in the less formal salute he would never under normal circumstances have accepted from others nor used himself.
About the author:
My Facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/paul.mcdermott.7737
The Spear of Destiny is available at:
Paperback exclusively at the Publisher’s website: http://www.classactbooks.com/component/virtuemart/historical-fiction/the-spear-of-destiny-detail?Itemid=0
Please welcome James Austin McCormick, author of Dragon
Although I write in several genres (all speculative fiction) the one I return to most often is science fiction. This is especially true for my Dragon series (Dragon being the name of a sentient space craft). First off, I should say a little about the first novel. The book centres on Sillow, a neurotic and hyperactive elf and Brok, a surly, taciturn and bad-tempered barbarian. They are very much the odd couple in space and are constantly squabbling. I enjoy writing fast paced scenes and action more than anything else, so I structured the book as seven interlinking chapter stories which follows the hapless duo over twenty years, from wanted smugglers to heroes of a peace keeping alliance.
Dragon is a self-contained narrative with a clearly defined ending (one of the favourite endings of all my books) yet I could never get these two characters out of my head. The idea of a sequel never appealed to me, and also wouldn’t have worked. Instead I decided to fill in some of the gaps between the chapter stories. There is a one-year gap for example between the first and second chapters, during which time the two decide to try their hand at smuggling. The second book I wrote covers this period and is titled, Dragon: Smuggler Tales, following the ill-fated duo on a series of bungled missions.
After Smuggler tales I still felt there were more stories left in the universe I’d created, although as far as the dysfunctional partnership went, that had run its course. Between chapters six and seven there is a ten-year gap during which time Brok returns to his home world to marry and take up a role in government whilst Sillow becomes a solo agent of the peace keeping alliance. This was fertile ground. The next two Dragon books, Dragon: The Tower of Tamerlane and Dragon: The Prisoner of Valathia cover Sillow’s first two missions. When I wrote Prisoner, I’d decided it would be the last story, so as well as the usual action and comedy scrapes I always put into these stories, I also took the time to explore Sillow’s character more deeply and bring some pathos to the tale.
I think I’ve done almost everything I can with this series although one more idea has bubbled up from my unconscious. This would involve an ensemble piece, focusing on Sillow, Brok and a handful of other characters (mostly bad guys) from the various books teaming up in a sort of Magnificent 7 type way, although this particular team would be more like the Farcical 7. Sillow would be the nervy pilot who has recently fallen off the wagon. Just an idea at the moment but I’m sure it will get written one day.
About the Author:
James Austin McCormick is a college lecturer from Manchester, England and his free time enjoy writing speculative fiction, mostly science fiction, horror and a little sword and sorcery fantasy. He is also a particular fan of classic Gothic and Victorian horror tales and is currently in the process of writing updated versions of these with a science fiction spin.
Find out more about James at:
Blurb for Dragon:
As worlds conspire against each other, Gax, an insane warlord, stockpiles an arsenal of ancient technology in his attempt to rule known space. Less
Two ill matched and reluctant heroes stand in his way; Sillow, a neurotic and cowardly Sylvan and Brok, a surly and ill tempered Herkulun warrior. After a chance meeting in a seedy, mobster owned casino the two find their fates interlinked as they are propelled into a series of hair raising adventures that takes them from wanted smugglers to agents of a peace keeping alliance.
Asmara was a small desert moon orbiting its gas giant parent at a distance just great enough to put it outside the planet’s radioactive reach. It was a cold, dusty little place, barely capable of supporting microbic life. Yet it did have one thing in its favor, its location.Asmara was in the gray zone, an area of space almost central to the six worlds. None dared lay claim to it and consequently it was free of all outside authority. That was why the crime syndicates built their Pleasure Dome there, and in the two decades after the Dark Age Wars it flourished.
It was here, at one of the casino tables, the last three players of a merciless card game studied their hands. Two of them, a human and a reptilian Tuolon, were far from happy, glaring angrily at the third player as he whistled out a tuneless melody. If Sillow had been human, he would have been judged to be no more than fourteen. He wasn’t; he was a Sylvan, and his childlike face and adolescent build were quite normal for his twenty-five years.
As he looked over his cards from beneath a shock of dark green hair, only his large eyes were visible. It was just as well, for his lips moved frantically as he mentally played through the possible scenarios.
Finally he gave a little nod and placed his cards face down. He took his cigar from the ashtray and began puffing heavily on it. The human, a skinny man with pockmarked features, ran a hand over two day’s stubble,
“Make your damn move,” he growled. “If you’ve got the goods, show them.”
Sillow shrugged. “Hey, give me a break Garrick,” he replied in his soft, musical voice. “You can’t rush something like this.”
He looked at his cards again, studying them as he blew smoke rings in the air. His little feet tapped all the while on the hard marble floor.
His fellow players regarded him with extreme irritation, and the human cameto the decision the Sylvan was playing mind games with them. The truth though was far different. Sillow was scared and was trying to decide how best to safely extricate himself and the credits he needed from his present circumstances.
Although he couldn’t say why, he was certain now the Tuolon was a professional assassin here to kill him. His would be killer even blewhis ship up to stop him escaping.
Since then the little Sylvan had been busy at the tables making the money he needed to get a freighter off the Dome. There was a royal summons to answer and he’d delayed too long already. The message was just one word, Suleiman.
“Okay, ready,” he finally announced. “You want to see this hand it’ll cost you…” he paused for effect, “six more credits.”
The human thought hard for a moment, shook his head then threw the chips into the pot in the middle of the table.
Paperback from the publisher’s website: http://www.classactbooks.com/component/virtuemart/science-fiction/dragon-396-detail?Itemid=0