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First Chapter Reveal: Floor 21 by Jason Luthor

Floor 21

Title: Floor 21
Author: Jason Luthor
Publisher: Scout Press
Pages: 355
Genre: Sci-fi/Dystopian

The last of humanity is trapped at the top of an isolated apartment tower with no memory of how they got there or why. All travel beneath Floor 21 is forbidden, and nobody can ever recall seeing the ground floor. Beneath Floor 21, a sickness known as the Creep infests that halls of the Tower. A biological mass that grows stronger in reaction to people’s fear and anger, the Creep prey’s on people by causing them to hallucinate until they’re in a state of panicking, before finally growing strong enough to lash out and consume them. Only a small team known as Scavengers are allowed to go beneath Floor 21 to pillage the lower levels in search of food and supplies.

Jackie is a brilliant young girl that lives far above the infection and who rarely has to worry about facing any harm. However, her intense curiosity drives her to investigate the bottom floors and the Creep. To deal with her own anxiety and insecurities, she documents her experiences on a personal recorder as she explores the secrets of the Tower. During the course of her investigation, Jackie will find herself at odds with Tower Authority, which safeguards what remains of humanity, as she attempts to determine what created the Creep, how humanity became trapped at the top of the Tower, and whether anyone knows if escape is even possible.

For More Information

  • Floor 21 is available at Amazon.
  • Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads.

First Chapter:

THE GIRL’S STORY

Recording One

My name is Jackie, and it’s not so bad living here. Seriously. At least, I don’t think so anyway, but I guess it’s hard to say. Then again, I’ve never really been anywhere else. I’ve rarely even been below Floor 12. My parents won’t let me. They say things get bad down there, so I have to stay up here, on the higher levels.

Don’t get me wrong; I mean, I wish I didn’t have to. Things get kind of boring, walking the same halls every day. I’m always trying to find something new to do, but it’s kinda hard when you’ve lived your whole life in the same tower. Sometimes I’ll wander up to the rooftop, where we have the gardens. That’s where all of our food comes from, so we all take turns planting and harvesting. I don’t mind the work, actually, unless it means pulling carrots. Those suckers are really hard to yank out of the dirt.

When I think of it, it’s actually kind of annoying having to go to the rooftop, and not just because of the work. It’s really more about what we have to pass by as we head up there. So, the top level of the Tower is Floor 1. None of us are allowed inside, so every time we go up the stairs, we’re forced to stare at that big, golden number—the number “1” that sits on the locked entry door. I really wish I knew what was inside, but you know, nobody’s allowed in. Instead, we just have to pass by every few days when it’s our turn to work the gardens. You might as well string some candy in front of my face and tell me I’m not allowed to eat it.

Of course, you can’t just pick vegetables all day. That gets boring quick. Besides, most of the time I’m in school. Well, school’s probably too strong a word for it. We meet most days of the week in the library on Floor 6. Our teacher, Mrs. Bloom, tries to lead class the best she can. It’s just too bad our books aren’t great. A lot of them are about to fall apart, and most of them were scavenged from the lower floors. I’m not talking about something like Floors 13 or 14. I’m not even talking about Floor 21. I mean the books were taken from way down below . . . like, as far down as Floor 30.

I know, right? I can’t believe it myself. That’s what we have the Scavengers for, though. Without them we’d never get new books or supplies. They’re pretty much the bravest people in the Tower. They say that anyone who makes it onto a scavenging team is the type that could have been a police officer or even a soldier before all this happened. I mean, that makes sense. They wear all that riot gear, and it looks like they know how to fight. Sucks, though, since as tough as they are, every once in a while we lose one of them. That just goes with the territory of being a Scavenger.

Point is, life is only livable because of them since it’s not like we’re rolling in things to do. Sometimes I’ll sit around in the lobby with the other kids and watch movies on the Blu-Ray player, but that doesn’t always work. For instance, if it’s a really cloudy day, then the solar panels on the roof will die out, which always sucks for everyone. If we want light then, we have to burn candles, and we don’t have many of those. Then again, we don’t really have lightbulbs, either. Well, we have a few. Want to take a guess where we get those from? Yeah. Scavengers. We get everything from them.

I kinda always wanted to be one. Who wouldn’t want to be? They get to see stuff from a long time ago, before we had to live on the top of the Tower. Speaking of that, nobody really talks about the Before, and I’m not even sure how much anyone knows about it. I guess it makes sense to think that once upon a time we lived on the lower floors. Maybe even the ground . . . if there is a ground. I’ve never met anyone that’s seen it, not even the Scavengers, and they’ve been farther down the Tower than anyone.

When you stop and think about it, I mean, our lives don’t make sense. We couldn’t have always lived up here, right? It gets me pretty antsy thinking about it because, I mean, this is a tower, so we had to have come up the stairs at some point. Didn’t we?

I don’t know, and thinking about it gets me frustrated. When I’m in this kind of mood, I go to the rooftop and look out. You can actually see other towers rising up in the distance. Some aren’t even that far from ours. I stare at them, and I’m just like . . . is anybody over there? Is anybody looking back at me? Does anybody know or remember we’re trapped in this place?

Or are we all that’s left?

After I’ve gotten myself sufficiently depressed, I’ll stare over the edge of the roof, trying to see how far below I can look. Thing is, it’s impossible to see much. This tower just vanishes into the Darkness. Nobody, and I mean nobody, even knows why. It’s just blackness down there.

Oh, about Floor 12. Yeah, that’s where the Creep really starts. The Creep? It’s this . . . gunk. Super-disgusting stuff that you shouldn’t touch because it makes you feel weird, and the lower down the Tower you go, the more you see it. It starts to cover the walls, and it’s kinda gross. It’s really slick, like saliva, and it looks all muscle-y. Almost alive. Good thing you don’t have to worry about it when you’re higher than Floor 11. Still, I wonder what it is. We all do. I know that when you touch it, you can start hallucinating. I did once. Well, okay, I’m lying. I’ve touched it a few times when I’ve been on the lower levels, which is why my parents made the rule that I couldn’t head down there in the first place. I mean, I don’t pay attention to them, but I get why they don’t want me going that far below into the Tower. The Creep makes you see . . . things. Shadowy things. Sometimes they’re right in front of you, but most of the time, they’re in the corner of your eye. They say that by Floor 21, you don’t even have to touch the Creep to hallucinate, which is a total trip. Must suck to live down there.

Still, I wonder. I wonder about this all the time, actually. I wonder about what’s below Floor 21.

Um, Mom told me I should start recording my thoughts when I’m in these kind of moods, so this one might be short. I mean duh, it’s my first one. At first when she said I should record myself, I was like, okay, no. Because she’s crazy, and I don’t want to seem crazy, too. That’s no exaggeration by the way. I mean, she’s been a total whacko ever since I turned thirteen. Also, I mean, who cares about what I have to say? It’s not like I’m ever going to listen to this.

But . . . here I am. Probably because I really am going as crazy as her, but also because I go nuts thinking about how nobody else cares that we’re trapped here. I get it, we’re alive, so we should be grateful. But do you know how insane it makes me being the one person asking “why” when everyone else is acting like this is just the way things are? God.

Anyway, guess I’ll try to keep this up. I’m supposed to meet with Allison tonight. Don’t know what we’ll do. Try to find a new movie in the Blu-Ray collection, I guess. I think one of the boys said the Scavengers hauled up a game system from the Deep Creep. I haven’t seen one since I was a kid. The last one we had broke when I was, like, ten. That’s what? Seven years. Dang. I’d really like to play a video game again.

 

 

Book Spotlight: Cocktails and Mock-Tales by Julianne McLean & Mark Lynch

 

We’re happy to be hosting Julianne McLean and Mark Lynch’s new humor book, Cocktails and Mock-Tales!
 
About the Book:
Title:
Cocktales & Mock-Tales
Authors: Julianne McLean & Mark Lynch
Publisher: ASJ Publishing
Pages: 90
Genre: Humor

 

Cocktails and Mock- Tales is not just about alcoholic beverages. The book is about sensations that tickle your tastebuds and humour that tickles your fancy. It includes non-alcoholic beverages that the whole family can enjoy and even herbal recipes for the adventurous.
 
Have one extremely tall high ball glass and a giant cocktail shaker at the ready.
 
Ingredients:
Unlimited centilitres of wit and humour
9 cl or 3oz titillating snippets of history and gossip
Add flavours of exotic destinations
A dusting of spice mixed with satire
Several centilitres of high spirits (optional)
 
Shake with vigour. Garnish with an open mind and your own sense of humour
Now you are ready to truly laugh and savour Cocktails and Mock Tales!
 
Amaze your friends and family with your knowledge of the origins of international beverages and excite their tastebuds with these exotic
sensations.

For More Information

  • Cocktails & Mock-Tales is available at Amazon.
  • Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads.

Book Excerpt:

Daiquiri
 
The daiquiri is a family of cocktails of which the primary ingredients are white rum, lime or lemon juice and sugar.
 
The drink was supposedly invented by American mining engineer Jennings Cox who was in partying and experimenting in Cuba at the time
of the Spanish American War. Daiquiri is also the name of a beach and an iron ore mine near Santiago in Cuba.
 
Serves 1
 
6cl white rum
 
3cl lime juice
 
2cl sugar syrup
 
Sugar on the rim of the glass.
 
Pour the ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice cubes.
Shake well and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
 
Strawberry Daiquiri Mock-tail
 
Serves1
 
2 large strawberries
 
1⁄4 cup of white sugar
 
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
 
¾ cup of chilled lemon lime soda
 
4 ice cubes
 
In a blender, mix the strawberries, sugar, lemon juice and lime soda. Add the ice and blend until smooth. Pour into a chilled Tom Collins
glass. Garnish with a slice of lime or lemon.
 

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About the Authors

 

Julianne has created & organized targeted national launches, press coverage, television appearances, publicity events and community service affiliations for a varied range of entities including: “Masai Barefoot Technology” – therapeutic footwear company; award-winning cartoonist Mark Lynch’s book – “How Green is MyPlanet” with forewords from Spike Milligan and David Suzuki; best-selling recipe book, “Barbies for Blokes” with recipes from celebrities such as Peter Brock, Jeff Fenech and Guy Leech and the sequel “More Barbies for Blokes” (These later
publications were co-authored by Julianne); John Gill, eight times World Martial Arts Champion and Hornsby Council’s sports complexes that won the national award for “Best Swim School Promotion”. Julianne has just produced directed and written a DVD for Holland America Cruise lines based on their exercise programs and is publishing her new book “Cocktails and Mock Tales”.
Visit Julianne McLean on Facebook!

Mark Lynch our Australian cartoonist, describes himself as being born “sometime in the middle of the last century.”

 
After doing a variety of Jobs, Mark became a QANTAS Flight attendant and he quips that “the next nineteen years of his life resembled an exotic beer commercial set in a variety of world- wide locations”.
 
Mark was editorial cartoonist for the leading publication, “The Australian” newspaper. His work has been enjoyed in more publications than you could count, ranging from Australian dailies, even ‘Le News Switzerland”. Mark’s cartoons appear in a variety of forms and diversity
world-wide including video screens in the Berlin and Munich subway system where they are seen by 1.5 million people a day.
 
Mark is the recipient of 48 international and Australian cartoon awards!
 
Mark lives in Sydney with his lovely wife, Jenny, and two sons and to learn more about Mark and see further cartoons, visit www.cartoons-a-plenty.com
 
http://www.pumpupyourbook.com

 

Book Feature: Liefdom: A Tale from Perilisc by Jesse Teller

 

Inside the Book:

Title: Liefdom: A Tale from Perilisc

Author: Jesse Teller

Release Date: June 22, 2016

Publisher: CreateSpace

Genre: Dark Fantasy

Format: Ebook/Paperback

A zealous guardian in a peaceful city, Gentry Mandrake is a fairy unlike any other. Cast out and hated for his differences, his violent nature makes him wonder at the purity of his soul. He hunts for belonging while fighting to protect the human child bound to him. Explore the mythical realm of The Veil, the grating torture of the Sulfur Fields, and the biting tension between power and purpose in this wondrous struggle against a demonic wizard and his denizens. Can Mandrake overcome such terrible foes to defend those he loves?

Meet the Author:

Jesse Teller lives in Missouri. He hasn’t always, but like storytelling, it snuck into his bones. He lives with his wonderful, supportive wife and two inspiring kids. When he is not pounding too hard on his poor keyboard, you can find him bumping into walls and mumbling to himself.

 

Book Feature: The Jungle Within by Charles M.

 

 

 

 
Title:
The Jungle Within
Author: Charles M.
Publisher: Createspace
Pages: 308
Genre: Drama/Suspense
 
When Evan and Katie said “I do”, they expected to navigate
life together side-by-side. But when a car accident and a tawdry affair disrupt
life as they know it, Evan and Katie are forced to venture on alternate paths,
alone. In the darkest depths of an unforgiving coma, Evan fights to survive the
treacherous jungle of his mind. He embarks on a spiritual journey to understand
the meaning of life and the beauty of death…forcing him to face his deepest
fear. Meanwhile, Katie ventures through her own guilt. On a strenuous moral
journey, she juggles the consequences of infidelity and the strain of caring
for her unresponsive husband. But are their paths truly separate? Or are they
simply on parallel journeys that are destined to converge?

For More
Information

  • The Jungle Within is available at Amazon.
  • Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads.
 

Book Excerpt:

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Katie flagged down the waiter for another round of appletinis.
She turned off her phone to eliminate any disruption in the evening’s events.
She surveyed the room diligently, nodding in satisfaction. The bar was classy. Oak
panels stained deep red layered the floor with matching rafters up above. It
was the kind of place that lawyers and corporate business-types frequented. Tonight
it was bustling with the usual crowd. Waiters played the dodging game, weaving
in and out of groups perfectly without ever spilling a drop. As the waiter
brought the drinks to the table, Katie shifted her weight and repositioned her
legs. Whether or not she was aware of it, she moved ever-so-subtlety closer to
Dylan. Katie had never cheated on Evan before, though she had come close a few
times. Flirting and sending the wrong message to guys happened all the time
with her. It made guys take chances that crossed the line with remarks and gestures
most would consider inappropriate for a married woman. Katie desperately craved
attention. The attention of any male in the room. Tonight she had Dylan’s.
 

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About the Author
 
Despite growing up in a small town, I always knew I was destined for bigger things. At age eighteen, I enlisted in the US Navy, a move that allowed me to see the world and explore my passion for life. After 6 years and an honorable discharge, I settled into civilian life, earning my Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering and an MBA in Technology Management.
 
Always eager to challenge myself with new and different roles, I took on the role of “Author,” writing my debut novel among the roles of full-time engineer, local business owner, and family man. But, I have no plans to stop there!
 
I am an avid outdoorsman, enjoy camping, hiking, snowboarding, shooting, and fishing, making the Land of Enchantment an ideal place to call home.
 
I look forward to sharing my novel and experiences with all of you!
 
Charles’ latest book is the drama/suspense, The Jungle Within.
 
For More Information

 

Interview with J.J. Zerr, author of The Junior Officer Bunkroom

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Inside the Book:

The Junior Officer Bunkroom
Title: The Junior Officer Bunkroom
Author: J.J. Zerr
Publisher: iUniverse
Pages: 282
Genre: Military
Format: Ebook

It is 1970, and Jon Zachery is a young United States Navy pilot who wants nothing more than to gain combat experience during the Vietnam War. Unfortunately, his patriotic sacrifice is of no value to the navy or the nation. His squadron has been slated to decommission with most of its pilots destined for dead-end jobs. As the pro-war lieutenant awaits his orders and drowns his sorrows in whiskey, his wife, Teresa, prays and hopes for a better tomorrow.

Navy Lieutenant Amos Kane is a natural stick-and-throttle jockey who is known as Cool Hand Duke in the air and a prankster on the ground. As his dreams of being an attack pilot in ’Nam are taken away, he begins dating Charlotte Wilkins, who convinces him to adopt an antiwar philosophy. When orders cause Zachery and Kane’s paths to converge in a bunkroom aboard an aircraft carrier in the Tonkin Gulf, it quickly becomes evident that the two lieutenants have vastly different viewpoints. As tragedy strikes and antagonism escalates, everyone discovers just how quickly life can change.

In this military thriller, the paths of two navy pilots come together in a JO bunkroom during the Vietnam War where their perspectives clash, instigating life-changing consequences.

ORDER INFORMATION
The Junior Officer Bunkroom is available for order at
amazon

The Interview:

What is your favorite quality about yourself? 

As a writer, it’s my ability to handle criticism. One of the best pieces of writing advice I have received was from Lou in my critique group. This was five years ago. I was working on a short story, which became a chapter in The Junior Officer Bunkroom. The story was set in a bar in an officer’s club in Japan. It was about the newest pilot in the squadron. He’d been the newest pilot for a long time, and finally word came down, a new pilot was ordered in to take the Newbie designation. When the new pilot shows up to meet the rest of the squadron at the club, it turns out he is not a junior pilot fresh from flight training. Rather he is senior and has a lot of combat experience. So the story was supposed to be about that. In our critique group, we bring five double spaced pages and have enough copies, generally ten to twelve members. We read our story, the the critique-rs mark your paper and give you verbal feedback. When it got to be Lou’s turn for the verbal, she said, “I gotta tell you. This is just another stupid men-drinking-in-a-bar story, and I’m not interested.” I had already decided I wanted to write for both men and women readers, so I am very grateful to have gotten that wonderful input. It was something I needed to hear. What I did then was write a piece I intended for no other purpose than to make some of the women in the critique group cry. I succeeded, but Lou’s eyes remained dry.

What is your least favorite quality about yourself? 

I cannot make myself get into marketing and promoting my books.

When did you first know you could be a writer? 

After I published my second book. I did the first one and could not think of myself as other than a Wannabe Writer. But after Sundown Town Duty Station I thought I not only could be but was one in a very modest sense. But enough of one to drop the Wannabe.

Who or what influenced your writing over the years? 

First, Sister Mathews, high school Lit Teacher. She gave me a F at mid term. I complained I should have gotten a C. She told me I should have gotten an A. She was right and gave me life course correction when I needed one. She also had us read “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber.” That is still my all time favorite short story. In college I read all of Hemingway’s and Steinbeck’s works. Lately, I have read Robert Crais’s books. I think he fashions scenes in a masterly way. And of course my critique group. I owe a lot to them.

How did you come up with the title of the book? 

I have been fascinated by how little pockets of society form mini-societies and develop their own rules and define for themselves what is “normal.” The Junior Officer Bunkroom is home to such a mini-society, which, when the door to the bunkroom closes, operates to a morality of its own manufacture. I used the same concept for my first book, The Ensign Locker. A writer I met at a seminar wrote a book titled Lucien and I, by Danny Wynn. Danny’s book, in my mind, deals with the same idea.

What was the hardest part of writing your book? 

The hardest part was quitting writing when I finished. I loved researching it, writing, rewriting it, fixing things when readers told me, “No, no. It wasn’t that way. It was this way.” But then I was finished, and I had to face the Marketing Monster.

Meet the Author:

J. J. Zerr is a United States Navy and Vietnam veteran who holds bachelor and master’s degrees in engineering. He has published poetry, short stories, and other novels. J. J. and his wife reside in the St. Louis, Missouri, area.

Visit the author’s website at www.authorjjzerr.com.


Book Feature: Mark Christopher by Stan Matthews

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Inside the Book:

Mark Christopher
Title: Mark Christopher
Author: Stan Matthews
Publisher: iUniverse
Genre: Coming of Age
Format: Ebook/Paperback

As Mark Christopher grows up in a small railroad town during the Great Depression, he dreams of doing something special with his life. Instead, he must face one tragedy after the other as war looms. First, his parents die and then his brother while serving in the Pacific.

When the war in Europe ends, Mark’s sister sends him to live with their grandmother and her son. To please them, Mark is baptized in a Baptist church. While enrolled in college, he befriends a Wallabot Indian who unsuccessfully tries to save Mark’s soul. Despite their religious differences, their friendship continues as Mark is offered a post-graduate scholarship contingent upon his admission to the ministry. Although Mark applies, he secretly believes he is unsuited. After he accepts a student pastorate position in a nearby church, he falls in love and marries. But when he shuns church leaders’ advice and leads a group of black migrants to integrate the county fair, Mark is thrown in jail where he is forced to reflect on his life, his choices, and whether what has been done can be undone.

Mark Christopher is the tale of one man’s faithful journey through poverty and war and tragedy and opposition as he searches for his destiny and meaning in his life.

Meet the Author:

Stan Matthews is a veteran investigative reporter and retired pastor who has worked for both Canadian and American newspapers and served as a fund raiser for many institutions, including churches, colleges, hospitals, American Cancer Society, Easter Seals and PBS.

Book Feature: Lord of the Mountains by Sabrina Jarema

Lor of the Mountains banner
 

 

Inside the Book:

LordOfTheMountains_finalcover

Title: Lord of the Mountains
Author: Sabrina Jarema
Release Date: March 14, 2017
Publisher: Lyrical Press
Genre: Historical Romance
Format: Ebook

Amid the glittering fjords and majestic mountains of Norway, this stunning series delves into the loves, battles, and dreams of the Viking clans—powerful men and women who believed in the call of the flesh as well as the soul…

It was said that the man who could look into Silvi Ivarsdottir’s eyes would be meant for her. Powerful jarl Magnus Sigrundson knows he is that man, and that Silvi’s dowry can give him the ships, swords, and silver he needs for his trading empire. Yet beautiful Silvi’s dream is not to be a wife, but a Priestess of the gods for the great temple at Uppsala. Who dares interfere with such passion? The answer lies in Silvi herself, in the way her body awakens to Magnus’ touch, in the way she inspires a reverence he didn’t know he possessed—and in the battles she takes on when she journeys to his mountain home of Thorsfjell.

 But soon a dangerous, deceitful enemy threatens to shatter. Now they face another quest: can they find each other again—and dare live and love in each other’s worlds?

 

amazon

goodreads

 

Meet the Author:

I live just north of Ocala, Florida, the Horse Capitol of the World. I have a herd of fat, lazy Arabians (and the occasional Thoroughbred) on 40 beautiful acres. One of the Arabians actually works for a living— Ivory Shaddara ++++//, AKA “Dumpling”. We show at Arabian shows all over the eastern US at the Regional and National level. I also have a bunch of spoiled German Shepherds which I enjoy showing.  We’re joined by a variety of turtles, tortoises and some very obnoxious cockatiels.

To avoid farm work as much as possible, I keep busy with other interests: writing Romance novels, illustrating, playing the harp, keyboard and guitar, creating jewelry, and building Victorian dollhouses. I studied Iaido, the art of Japanese swordsmanship, for many years and  I also love beadwork, needlework, photography, cake decorating and amateur astronomy. There are too many possibilities in this world to do only one or two things in life.

I have been a professional fantasy illustrator and have won many awards for my work. I am the Secretary of the Ocala Arabian Horse Association, and am on the Board of Directors of the White German Shepherd Dog Club of America. I am a member of the Romance Writers of America and the Tampa Area Romance Authors.

But even with all this, at the end of the day I still find the time to just sit on my Victorian porch, surrounded by my dogs, watching the horses graze under the moss-covered oaks. And as I greet my beloved stars, I dream of the songs, stories and visions the coming night will bring…

You can visit her website at http://sabrinajarema.com

goodreads

 
 

 

 

Book Feature: Kaitlin’s Tale by Christine Amsden – Win a $50 Amazon Gift Card!

 
 

 

Inside the Book:

 
 
 
 
Title: Kaitlin’s Tale 
Author: Christine Amsden 
Release Date: May 16, 2016 
Publisher: Twilight Times Books 
Genre: Urban Fantasy/Pararnormal Romance
 

 

 

Kaitlin Mayer is on the run from the father of her baby – a vampire who wants her to join him in deadly eternity. Terrified for her young son, she seeks sanctuary with the Hunters Guild. Yet they have their own plans for her son, and her hopes of safety are soon shattered.

When she runs into Matthew Blair, an old nemesis with an agenda of his own, she dares to hope for a new escape. But Matthew is a telepath, and Kaitlin’s past is full of dark secrets she never intended to reveal.

 

 

Meet the Author:

Christine Amsden has been writing fantasy and science fiction for as long as she can remember. She loves to write and it is her dream that others will be inspired by this love and by her stories. Speculative fiction is fun, magical, and imaginative but great speculative fiction is about real people defining themselves through extraordinary situations. Christine writes primarily about people and relationships, and it is in this way that she strives to make science fiction and fantasy meaningful for everyone.

At the age of 16, Christine was diagnosed with Stargardt’s Disease, which scars the retina and causes a loss of central vision. She is now legally blind, but has not let this slow her down or get in the way of her dreams.

Christine currently lives in the Kansas City area with her husband, Austin, who has been her biggest fan and the key to her success. In addition to being a writer, she’s a freelance editor, mom, and foster mom.

Please visit her at http://www.christineamsden.com

Watch the Trailer

 

Giveaway

Christine is giving away a $50 Amazon Gift Card!

Terms & Conditions:
  • By entering the giveaway, you are confirming you are at least 18 years old.
  • One winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter to receive one $50 Amazon Gift Certificate
  • This giveaway begins May 16 and ends on August 5.
  • Winners will be contacted via email on August 6.
  • Winner has 48 hours to reply.
Good luck everyone!

ENTER TO WIN!

———————

 

 

Book Feature: Palindrome by E.Z. Rinsky – win books!

 
 
 

INSIDE THE BOOK

Title: Palindrome 
Author: E.Z. Rinsky 
Publisher: Witness Impulse 
Pages: 384 
Genre: Mystery/Suspense 
Format: Ecopy/Paperback
 

Private Eye Frank Lamb’s business is simple: He finds things. Be it the world’s hottest pepper seed in a South American dictator’s safe or a pair of Italian art forgers sipping Prosecco in a Miami hotel room, he delivers the goods and collects his check, never with a smile. Work is work, and he doesn’t let it get in the way of the life he’s made for himself and his ten-year-old daughter, Sadie.

But when a staggeringly beautiful woman offers him a small fortune to find a cassette tape, curiosity gets the better of him. It contains, she explains, a recording her sister’s kidnapper made of her last three minutes on Earth. She conveniently fails to mention the unsettling effects the tape is rumored to have on listeners.

Frank takes the case, and enlists the help of reclusive tracker Courtney Lavagnino to pick up a trail that’s been cold for five years. As their search leads them through a horrifying labyrinth of murder and madness, it becomes clear they’re chasing much more than a memento.

 

 photo addtogoodreadssmall_zpsa2a6cf28.png photo B6096376-6C81-4465-8935-CE890C777EB9-1855-000001A1E900B890_zps5affbed6.jpgB&N

 

MEET THE AUTHOR

E.Z. Rinsky has worked as a statistics professor, copywriter and–for one misguided year–a street musician. He currently lives in Tel Aviv. More at ezrinsky.com

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Giveaway

Witness Impulse is giving away 3 print copies of the book!

Terms & Conditions:
  • By entering the giveaway, you are confirming you are at least 18 years old.
  • Three winners will be chosen via Rafflecopter to receive a print copy of Palindrome
  • This giveaway begins June 21 and ends on July 15.
  • Winners will be contacted via email on July 16.
  • Winner has 48 hours to reply.
Good luck everyone!

ENTER TO WIN!

 

 

 

First Chapter Reveal: Scorpio’s Kiss by MC Domovitch

Scorpio's Kiss

Title: SCORPIO’S KISS
Author: Monique Domovitch
Publisher: Lansen Publishing
Pages: 588
Genre: Romance

Scorpio’s Kiss is a spell-binding tale of love, ambition and greed that will keep the reader turning the pages until its surprise ending. Set in New York and Paris amid the glamorous and competitive worlds of art and real estate, Scorpio’s Kiss takes the reader from the late 1940s to the 1960s through the tumultuous lives of its heroes.

 

There is Alex Ivanov, the son of a Russian immigrant and part-time prostitute. He yearns to escape his sordid life and achieve fame and fortune. His dreams of becoming a world-class builder are met with countless obstacles, yet he perseveres in the hope of someday receiving the recognition he craves.

 

Half a world away, Brigitte Dartois is an abused teenager who runs into the arms of a benefactor with an agenda all his own. When she finds out that her boss has an ulterior motive, she flees again, determined to earn her living through her art. This career brings her fame, but also the unwanted attention of her early abuser.

 

Domovitch’s novel is a compelling tale, filled with finely etched characters and a superb understanding of the power of ambition. Scorpio’s Kiss promises to resonate with all who once had a dream.

For More Information

  • Scorpio’s Kiss is available at Amazon.
  • Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads.

 

 

Chapter 1

1948

The days were getting shorter. The boy looked up in surprise at the sky, which had suddenly grown dark. He pulled his worn sweater tight against the October chill, blew warm breath into his cupped hands and hurried on. The newspaper bag strung across his shoulders was almost empty. He no longer had to put it down at every street corner to massage his sore back. He was almost home.

Alexander Ivanov lived at the end of the world. To the twelve-year-old, that was exactly what Brooklyn was; the end of the world. Maybe because the one time he had been to the city, what he called Manhattan, it had taken forever on the subway.

Alex hated living in Brooklyn, and never more so than when his mother talked about her youth in Leningrad with tears running down her face. She would revert to Russian, which he didn’t understand, but the passion in her eyes spoke more volubly of the beauty of her old country than words could convey.

Every day on his way back from school, weighed down by the load of newspapers, he passed the same dusty old stores, their signs barely legible from the peeling paint; the same ratty tenement buildings in which people suffocated in the summer and shivered in the winter; the same old women in their ritual wigs and shapeless dresses, vacant and blank expressions of hopelessness etched on their faces. Hopeless, that was how he sometimes felt; and then he would remember Manhattan and feel better. If there was one thing Alex wished for, it was to live in Manhattan. He yearned for Manhattan the way his mother pined for her old country.

Alex walked along Main Street, where pickles marinated in barrels, salamis swung from hooks, and sausages dried in their cotton bags. He was oblivious to the sights and smells around him. One by one, he took the papers from his bag, and with a quick, experienced motion, he threw them. His aim was almost perfect.

Tomorrow was collection day. He would stop at each house along his route and wait while his clients went to get their money. After making change, he would thank each one of them politely even though most never bothered to leave him a tip. His work would take him more than twice as long as on normal delivery days. Still, he looked forward to it. Collection day was when he could go home, count out his profits and decide how much of the money he could save. This week, if all went well, he might reach the fifty-dollar mark in his bank account. Fifty dollars! It was a fortune.

He reached into his bag, pulled out the last newspaper and aimed it with unerring precision at the Kodesky’s front porch. At that moment the door swung open and old man Kodesky stepped out. The paper flew through the air like a projectile and landed with a thud in the startled man’s well-padded stomach.

“Hey, you no-good little piece of shit!” He waved his fist. “What the fuck do you think you’re doing?” Alex did not hear a word. He was a million miles away, dreaming of the day he would escape the hell of living at the end of the world.

Even now, two years later, he could still remember every detail of his trip to Manhattan. After a long subway ride, he’d emerged in the city surrounded by skyscrapers so tall, he could only see the top by looking up high and leaning back. People on the street rushed about in the lightly falling snow, pushing and jostling each other, their arms full of brightly wrapped packages. It was one week before Christmas and there was a dizzying feeling of joy in the air. Alex had been almost drunk from the excitement. This must be what Leningrad was like.

Deep in his dreams of unlimited delights, he walked home. Three blocks later, Alex climbed the stairs to the dingy one-bedroom apartment where he and his mother lived.

Before he was born, his mother had tried to make the apartment look warm and inviting. She hung pretty paper on the walls and crisp curtains over the windows. The furniture was inexpensive but attractive and functional. Whatever nesting instinct had once inspired Marlena Ivanov’s efforts had long disappeared. For the past twelve years she had done nothing more to improve her home. Indeed, she had not done even the most basic of repairs. Over time, the wallpaper had become worn and faded. The curtains lost their freshness and the once attractive furniture became old and shabby. The sour stench of poverty clung to the apartment like old dirt.

Alex closed the door behind him and dropped his canvas bag on the floor. He sniffed the air and wrinkled his nose. From the kitchen came the smell of boiled cabbage.

“Is dat you Alexander? Vere ver you? Is nearly six o’clock and dinner is been ready for hour,” his mother’s heavily accented voice called out from the bathroom. “I getting ready to go out. You vill ave to eat alone.”

Through the thin door came the sound of the toilet flushing. A moment later Marlena appeared wearing a tight pink sweater set and a black satin skirt. Her dark hair was freshly coifed, the marks of the bobby pins still imprinted between each wave. Her mouth was painted crimson in the shape Joan Crawford had made popular a decade earlier. From ten feet away the smell of vodka on her breath was overpowering.

“Will you be coming home by yourself?” asked the boy suspiciously.

“Vat you vant me to do?” She picked up her purse abruptly and threw in her lipstick. “You vant to eat. I not do dis for me. A boy need food to grow big, strong. Someday you understand.” A moment later, she was gone.

Marlena Ivanov was a bitter woman. She made no secret of the fact that raising a boy by herself was a heavy cross to carry, one she deeply resented. Alex sometimes thought his mother hated him almost as much as she did his father. He had never seen his father. He knew, only because his mother repeatedly told him, that Pavel Ivanov had been a gambler and a womanizer. Whatever wages the man had earned, he just as quickly spent on those two vices. The day Alex was born was the day Pavel Ivanov decided that married life was not for him. He disappeared, leaving his seventeen-year-old wife to deal with the struggles of working and raising a son by herself.

After a dinner of cabbage soup, Alex turned off the lights and climbed under his blankets. In the dark, he could clearly see his mother’s empty bed a few feet from his own. He turned his back to it and curled up.

Hours later, the muffled sound of laughter woke him up. The bedroom door swung open and the light turned on.

“Turn dat off. You vake up boy,” his mother ordered in a shrill whisper. The light flicked off. “Das better. I like dark.” She laughed. “Now, come to Marlena.” Clothes rustled. From his cot, in the corner of the room, Alex guessed every gesture, every movement. Old springs creaked. The sounds were loud, magnified by the stillness of the night.

Alex covered his ears. By trying hard, maybe he could keep the noises from reaching him. It was too late. The guilty stirring in his loins had already begun. His mind swirled in a mix of emotions too strong for him to understand. Maybe if he thought of something else. Someday I’ll drive in from the city in a brand new Cadillac. I’ll show them all…

The next morning, Marlena kissed the man goodbye and turned triumphantly to Alex. “See dis?” She pulled out a ten-dollar bill from between her breasts. “Dis can buy food for whole week.”

Alex looked away, embarrassed and ashamed, and returned to the picture he was drawing on the back of his spelling book.

*  *  *

By the time he became a teenager, Alex Ivanov believed his ambitions were just dreams. He still felt a raging desire to be rich. Except for the endless stream of buildings he drew, which everyone agreed were beautiful, he had no special talent. Other than the goal of saving up a lot of money, he had no real plan.

Alex kept delivering newspapers and watched his savings grow. At this rate, I’ll never have enough money to move out of here.

He decided to look for other opportunities. Soon, he found what he was looking for. He sold his paper route to a younger boy for two dollars, the amount of a normal month’s profit, dipped into his bank account for another five dollars and invested in a second-hand bicycle with a large wicker delivery basket. The next day he began to work for Yonah Schimmel’s Knishery.

From then on, every day after school he raced down to Schimmel’s and loaded up his basket with bags of sweet-smelling homemade knishes, jars of savory borscht, and fine yogurts with a crust of cream on top and packaged in drinking glasses. With a speed never before seen from any of Schimmel’s boys he raced through his deliveries. Yonah came up to him one day. “What are you trying to do, boy? Get yourself killed? Slow down,” he told Alex. “No sense in going so fast. Slow but safe, that’s the way to go.”

Alex nodded politely, but just as soon as Yonah turned away, he jumped on his bike and sped off.

Alex was tall and well-built for his age. The years of delivering newspapers had helped develop his once lanky frame into a strong, muscular body. His shirts, which were often a size too small, hugged him in a way that exaggerated the ripples on his chest. His hair was black and his eyes ice blue in a face that could only be described as sensual. The sight of the young and virile teenager, slightly flushed from carrying Schimmel’s parcels, did strange things to his female clients.

Often, when Alex rang a doorbell, the woman who answered appeared even more flushed than the delivery boy. Alex smiled and greeted each client politely by name—“Good afternoon Mrs. Zawisny”—and he would walk away with a fresh knish, and more often than not, with a generous tip. Within one month, he had made enough money to cover the expense of the bicycle, plus what he would have normally saved with his paper route. Alex was beginning to feel like a rich man.

The way women reacted was a constant source of amusement for Alex. Since he’d started shaving the year before, he knew the effect he had on the opposite sex. Still, he had no interest in any of them, except maybe in Miss Mateus, his homeroom teacher.

Rita Mateus was a big-busted brunette in her mid-thirties, with smoldering brown eyes that made Alex blush when she looked at him. Sometimes he caught himself dreaming about what he would like to do to her, given the opportunity. Never in a million years did he believe the opportunity would come, and that when it did, it would prove to be his ticket out of Brooklyn.

For months, and to his great pleasure, every time he asked Miss Mateus a question, she would leave her desk, come up to him, and as she bent over his books she would rest her ample breasts on his forearm. One day, as he prepared to leave class after school, she asked him to stay.

For the next hour, Miss Mateus went over his homework book, studying drawings one after another, while her breasts brushed against his back, his arms and even his cheek. “You’re a talented boy. I love this drawing of—what is it?—the Empire State Building? What do you want to be? An architect?” The fourteen-year-old boy blushed and stammered a response, praying the whole while that she would not notice the erection in his pants. Miss Mateus—or Rita as she asked him to call her—noticed. Then she did the most shocking thing. She put her hand right on top of the swelling in his crotch. She looked at him with limpid eyes and said in a melting voice, “Why, Alexander Ivanov, you’re not a boy anymore. You’re a grown man.”

The next day after school, Rita invited him to her apartment. Alex raced through his deliveries faster than he ever had and arrived at her doorstep in record time. She invited him in and poured him a glass of Chianti. “What sign are you?”

He looked at her, confused. “Sign?”

“What’s your birthday?”

“November fifteenth,” he replied, still perplexed.

“November, hmm? That makes you a Scorpio.” She leaned forward and traced a lazy finger along his upper lip. “Scorpio men are intensely passionate and ambitious. But beware a Scorpio’s sting.” She smiled, and his heart skipped a beat. “But, you won’t sting me, will you?” Before he could think of an answer, she rose and picked up a deck of cards from the table. “Do you play cards?” He shook his head. “Well, you’re going to learn.”

That night, Alex learned two things: strip poker and the grown-up game of sex.

Rita pulled off her bra and stood triumphantly before him—the loser thrilled to be vanquished. “You like my tits, Alex?”

“Oh! Yes!” he answered, not daring to move.

“Touch them.”

“W-what?”

She came closer. “You heard me. Touch them.”

Small beads of moisture broke out on his upper lip. He hazarded a hand out to the soft flesh, and thought he might come there and then.

“Kiss them.”

He took a nipple in his mouth and felt it harden. Rita moaned. It was too much. His erection, which had been dangerously close to bursting, exploded in his shorts.

“Hey, sweets, the idea is to keep a little for me.” Rita motioned him toward her bed. “Lucky you’re young. Let’s see how long it takes to get you going again.” She cupped his balls into her hands and took him in her mouth.

“Oh God, I love you,” he cried out. He had never felt anything so delicious in his life. It was so good it hurt. This time, he didn’t come until Rita begged him to.

After that, the routine never varied. Every day after school, Alex would hurry through his deliveries, spend a few hours with Rita, and then rush on home.

It was months before his mother noticed how late he was getting home in the evenings. When she asked him about it, Alex brushed it off easily. “I go to the library and do my homework.”

Marlena chose to believe him. “I no cook for you ven you late.”

She’s happy she doesn’t have to worry about fixing my supper, Alex told himself and swallowed the lump in his throat. Then he thought of Rita and his heart filled with joy. I love Rita and she loves me. That’s all that really matters.

*  *  *

Every night, as soon as Alex walked in the door, Rita pulled out the cards. It was her favorite foreplay. In the beginning Alex invariably found himself losing and in no time was playing completely naked, but the promised vision of Miss Mateus pulling off her bra was enough enticement to make him yearn to win.  

After sex, Rita liked to talk. Surprisingly, she seemed to enjoy their conversations.

“I don’t know why that surprises you. You’re a bright boy. With a mind like yours, you can do anything you choose.”

I can do anything I choose. It was a staggering thought. Maybe he really could be an architect. It was a dream he’d never dared voice.

The next day, Alex went to the one place in Brooklyn he loved. At Highland Park, he climbed the hill to the old reservoir, where he looked straight out to the skyscrapers of Manhattan. He sat on the cold, damp grass and thought about what Rita had said. He didn’t want a job just for the sake of earning a living. What he wanted was a position with prestige. He wanted people to look up to him with admiration and respect. He wanted Rita to be proud of him.

His eyes wandered back to the skyscrapers across the distance. Skyscrapers like those he dreamed of building. From his position they looked like monuments. Monuments to the builder. His heart swelled. That was what he had always wanted to do—build big important buildings like those skyscrapers.

Rita laughed when he told her. “Be serious. Why don’t you want to be a plumber or an electrician? An architect! That would take years of studying. I know I told you that you’re smart, but not that smart. Besides, sweets, you don’t really expect me to wait for you to grow up, do you?”

The words were like a knife in Alex’s heart, but they only made him more determined. Rita meant everything to him. He would have to show her.

The relationship endured until his senior year, when he was ready for college. One day, when he rushed over after his deliveries, he found Rita in bed with another man. For a few minutes, he hid behind the door and listened in horror as Rita said to this stranger all the special secret things she had said to him. “That’s it baby, don’t stop. You’re the best, baby. The very best.” He heard Rita’s familiar moans rise until she screamed. Tears welled in his eyes.

He closed the door silently behind him and went home. All night he tossed and turned, shocked that he could feel so much pain. Never again, he vowed. No other woman is ever going to hurt me.

The next day after school, Alex went back to Rita’s as usual, and made love to her as though nothing had happened. Afterward he had a talk with her. “Rita, does anybody know about us?”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” she answered sharply as she straightened the seams of her stockings. She sat on the edge of the disheveled bed and watched him covertly.

“I guess you’d be in real trouble if anyone ever found out. Right?”

Rita adjusted the straps of her brassiere and paused in her dressing, long enough to light a Lucky Strike.

“You might lose your job,” he continued.

She took a long drag on her cigarette and exhaled slowly.

“You might even be prosecuted for—what is it—something about a minor?”

She exhaled, blowing the smoke in his direction. “What is it you want Alex?”

He told her.

At his next report card, Alex Ivanov was at the top of his class. He was accepted at NYU with a full scholarship; he had seven hundred of Rita’s dollars in his bank account; and the pain of finding her in bed with another man was just a distant memory.