It’s a WIP!: Excerpt from DOWN FINNEGAN’S HOLLOW.

It'sAWipIf you follow my writing posts, you know my struggle with this story. I work on it, and then leave it for months at a time, and then work on it again. I had submitted it to a small press and I think they wanted it, and I did start revisions on their suggestions, but then I had my little accident and it’s taken me a while to get back into this novel. I think I know why too. I’ve decided to change a major element in the plot, which had me killing off characters. I’ve done two complete revisions to this novel, but it seems I’m due for one more to phase in this new plot bunny.

Anyhoo . . . I thought you might like a little taste of what I wrote. It’s a scene between the MC (Marina) her ex-husband (Adam), and their two children (Trina and Jared.) I like it because the dialogue flows and I could see this scene playing out in any household.

~~~~

A flash of reflected light shone through the front window and the sound of an expensive car engine followed. Marina got up and took a quick look outside as a Jaguar pulled into the driveway.

She snorted under her breath. “I can’t believe you bought that.” She walked to the bottom of the stairs, pulling her light sweater tight around her body. Why was a fancy new car the first thing men bought when they had a mid-life crisis? How did Sissy let him buy something that with the wedding in a few months? She peeked through the small bevelled glass window next to the front door. “You better not have used the kid’s college money.” She turned to the stairs. “Kids. Your dad’s here.”

The doorbell rang and Marina shuffled over to a hanging mirror next to the door. She took a quick glance and tucked in a few wayward strands of hair. Adam’s silhouette cut a dark shadow on the frosted glass of the front door. They’d been divorced for just over a year and yet her heart raced each time he came over to pick up the kids. She inhaled slowly as she grabbed the doorknob.

Adam Hart looked good for his age. Almost too good. He took off his sunglasses and opened the screen door. “Hey, Marina. Are the kids ready?”

“As ready as they’ll ever be,” she said, and stepped back.

Adam was foot taller than her with an athletic build. She was pretty sure he was working out at the gym now, and she noticed a touch of grey in his goatee. “When did you start growing that?”

Adam frowned. “Start growing what?”

“Your beard?”

He stroked the side of his chin. “Last month. Sissy says I look better with some facial hair.”

Marina crossed her arms. “I said that too. Ten years ago.”

He shrugged. “Well I didn’t think I did then.”

“And now you do?”

“Yeah.”

Marina rolled her eyes. “But you said they were too much work to keep them looking good.”

He shrugged. “Sissy bought me some beard grooming tools. I couldn’t exactly say no, right?”

She glanced out at the car and at the cute brunette in the passenger seat. She wanted to hate Sissy, but it was hard. The woman was genuinely nice, cared about the kids and about having a good relationship with them. How could she hate someone like that? She was accommodating to Adam too. As far as she knew, Sissy never complained about the kids wanting to be with just him. Even Viola liked her, when she was in her more lucid moments. So why did Marina feel like she had to hate the woman? Jealously? Bitter ex-wife syndrome? Displaced aggression? She un-crossed her arms and leaned against the wall. She needed to follow her own advice. Sissy was a part of her life now too and she’d have to do the adult thing and deal with it.

Her thoughts were interrupted by Trina’s energetic dance down the stairs dressed in yet another miss-matched outfit. Marina shook her head as she looked over her daughter. The rain boots were still in play but the tutu and wings had been replaced with rainbow leggings, one of Jaden’s old rock tee shirts and a belt she was pretty sure came from an old Halloween costume. Marina covered her mouth to hide her grin. She had to admit, the kid knew how to rebel.

There was a look of horror on Adam’s face. “What are you wearing?”

“Do you like it?” Trina turned so he could get a good look at the ensemble. “I think the belt compliments my style.”

Adam frowned. “Your style? You’re seven. You don’t have a style.”

She pranced past him. “Sure I do. And this is it.”

Jaden stomped toward them a few moments later. His hair completely covering his face and wearing enough black clothing to resemble a moving shadow.

Adam smiled. “Hey kid. How’s the new high school?”

“All right, I guess.”

“Make any friends yet?”

“A couple.” A lone eye peered out from between a small part in his hair. “Where are we going for dinner?”

“There’s this really nice restaurant downtown that Sissy wants to try.”

A scowl came to his lips. “Seriously? I thought we were going to a burger place.”

“This is a special night.”

Jaden rolled his eyes. “Why does everyone keep telling me that?” He grabbed his coat and headed out the door. “They better have hamburgers.”

Adam shook his head. “Doesn’t he eat anything else?”

Marina tried to hide her smile. “Nope.”

He glanced down the hall toward the back of the house. “How’s your mother doing?”

She inhaled slowly. “Not good. She eats like a bird when she does eat, and I have home care people coming in twice a day.” She looked past him and out the screen door. “The doctor says it could be any day now.”

Adam put his hand on her back. “I’m sorry. Are you sure you don’t want her in palliative care? I’d pay for it. It’d be a lot easier on you.”

Marina blinked back her tears. “Thanks, but this is what she wanted, and with her memory loss and confusion, it would be too stressful on both of us if she were any place else.”

Adam stayed quiet for a few moments and watched her. “If you need anything, you have my cell number, right?”

Marina nodded.

“I mean it. Day or night. She’s always been good to me. Even after the divorce.”

Marina turned away to him. “She always liked you.”

She gazed into his eyes. The deep blue was still prominent, but there was something missing. That hint of mischief she fell in love with wasn’t as prominent anymore; dimmed with the onset of middle age and maturity. Maybe that’s why he decided to turn their lives upside down. Trying to recapture the spark of youth before it was gone for good.

The horn sounded on his car and briskly turned away and looked out the screen door. “I was wondering if I could keep the kids overnight tonight.”

“Really?”

“Well, this place we’re going to, it’s pretty fancy and we might not get out until late. My place is a few blocks away and it would save me the trouble of driving all the way out here.”

Marina waved her hand. “Sure. I guess.”

“Great.” He opened the screen door without looking back. “I’ll drop them off in the morning.”

Marina nodded as he walked off. She wondered how much of an argument Trina would give him on staying overnight. She wasn’t even sure if Adam’s new place had any of the kids’ stuff. She watched them drive off and shut the door. Reaching for her purse she pulled out her cell phone and checked the battery. She better keep in on all night. Just in case.

 

Writer In Progress: The Eagle and the Fox, by Nya Rawlyns

This month I bring you an excerpt from author Nya Rawlyns. Her extensive library of written books includes a little something for everyone, with sensual scenes that will have you holding your breath for more.

Here is part of the first chapter in the suspense, gay fiction story of two men—separated by age, by experiences and by their very natures—who begin the first tentative steps toward friendship. They will be challenged by events that shock their small community, events that help them find the common ground necessary to protect the ones they care about, including each other.

Excerpt:

The-Eagle-and-The-Fox-ebook-full“Marcus.” The man ducked his head, almost bird-like quick, tucking his chin in tight. It didn’t help. The scars still showed whitish and raw. He was growing a beard. It only made it worse.

Marcus extended the kindness. He kept his eyes on the cash register and muttered, “Josiah,” in response. It was the little dance they did once or twice a month when the burly near-stranger came into the feed store to stock up on ranch necessities.

Josiah looked around. “Slow for Saturday.”

Marcus near bit his tongue. Josiah kept to a few words… mostly howdy, how much, see ya next time. It would have been awkward, but after a bit you got to accepting what the man gave you because he had reasons, a shit ton of them, what with the scarring from the IED and the metal rods holding him upright.

It seemed odd to know the intimacies of a man’s inner workings when the man himself was an enigma, a stranger to the town he was born in, the town where his parents had their farewell service in the cleared out space in Polly’s restaurant amid the savory smells of steak on the grill arguing with stale beer and staler pretzels ground into the wide plank flooring.

Shifting from the cash register to the cluster of sacks just at the edge of the counter, Marcus said, “Hard times,” and proceeded to bag up the pitiful few items. Ten penny nails. Duct tape. Some industrial grade staples. A roll of twelve-gauge electric wire.

The wire was heavy. Josiah reached across the counter and grabbed at the edges of the sack, holding it open. The touch was incidental. Marcus hadn’t meant anything by it. It was just a casual scrape across the man’s knuckles. They both flinched. Marcus would have laughed and said oops or ’scuse me, except he’d clamped his jaw, mimicking the taller man, holding back. A tremor rattled his gut like it always seemed to when Josiah Foxglove was near. What’s with that, anyways?

Marcus asked, “Doing fence this weekend?” He wanted to kick himself. Of course the man was doing fence. That’s what you did when you made do on ninety acres of not nearly enough to support you and yours.

Josiah had shrugged. He was also standing there, at the end of the counter, holding onto the sack. Planted. Like his worn boots had somehow glued themselves to the dusty, cracked linoleum. Grown roots.

It was unseemly. And unprecedented. Marcus decided to go for broke. “You know, Josh, it’d be a hella lot cheaper to go with the single strand barbwire.”

He swallowed, remembering in a gush of oh shit that Fox Ranch ran a small herd of cutting stock and hacks for tourists to take for an hour’s spin around Sheep Mountain. The glint in Josiah’s eyes wavered between are you shitting me and yore a dumbass cracker. While his ears heated to boiling, he tried for a quick recovery. “You know, to keep Paulie’s herd out?” Or not.

Shut up, Colton, just shut the hell up already. “…you know, with things being tight as they…” Fuck, fuck, fuck. Bring up another sore spot, idjit.

Josiah blinked, almost in slow motion, his eyes following Marcus’ lips as the gibberish spewed out, unfiltered and uncontrolled. The front door opened and closed, the overhead bell tinkled, feet shuffled, the sound approached and receded.

Marcus choked back a thank God and meant it. Customer, serial killer, bank robber… didn’t much matter. The distraction was well-timed. He said, “Well, if there’s anything else you need,” and turned away, barely aware his hand still shared possession of the sack. At the last minute, he relinquished control and muttered, “I have to pee,” as he bolted for the safety of his office.

The state of his bladder was only partially true. His belly had cramped up enough that bile flooded the back of his throat, coating his innards with red hot acid. It hurt like hell. He fished a handful of antacids out of his shirt pocket and cursed softly as he tried to peel the covers off the nesting boxes. His hands were too big, too rough, and too arthritic from a lifetime working as hired help to handle the delicacies of the task at hand.

Frustrated, Marcus sank into the creaky swivel chair, letting his ass find the sweet spot that damn near two generations of ranchers and shop keepers had worn into the ancient wood. Of all the things that said family, it was a rickety chair that most grounded him across time and space. But time hadn’t been kind. Now it was just him left. There wasn’t family, hadn’t been for longer than he wanted to think on.

“Oh, Tommy. Why aren’t you here?”

Marcus glared at the blank wall of rough cut lumber. He followed the lines of the distressed surface like he always did late at night, his hand wrapped around a tumbler of whiskey, his heart wrapped around the gravestone in the small plot of land where all the Coltons and the Hendersons were laid to rest.

Following habit, he reached into the bottom drawer and withdrew the bottle of liquor, swiveling it in the natural light. It seemed different, the colors reflecting through the cheap glass, paled out and anemic. Not nearly so rich or so tempting as when, in the hunger of pre-dawn, he poured the amber fluid into the tumbler, swished it around and tossed it back to suffer the burn running full throttle into his screaming gut.

Instinct warned against, but what-the-hell won out. He poured two fingers, measuring the amount precisely with an expert splash. Three years. Three fucking long years. It’d taken him most of that to perfect his technique, night after night of pouring his soul and his loneliness down his maw of despair. Week after week of mourning. Months, then years of grieving bleeding into that single moment when today a stray touch reminded Marcus of what he’d lost.

He almost hated Josiah, really, truly hated him. Hated the broke man the damn military had returned, leaving him to struggle in the assback of nowhere Wyoming. Washing their hands of men who’d not just served, but sacrificed in ways that weren’t obvious. It wasn’t just the steel locking a man’s bones into some semblance of working order, nor was it the flesh wound of pride and self-respect that ripped open skin and muscle and made talking harder than hard. Marcus totally got that it made taking the first step, then the next, seem like too much effort.

But getting it was one thing, doing something about it? Well, there was the trick. He was hardly the poster child for saint of the year, caregiver to the wounded holding on to an existence that, on a good day, didn’t care squat if or how a man got by. Fate played a man false, especially a man like Josiah, prideful hard and duty bound. A man who’d give his shirt off his back. A man who’d donated pieces of his body. A man most had forgot.

Lifting the tumbler, Marcus hissed, “Here’s to you, Josiah Foxglove. You earned it.”

Marcus pushed away from the desk and struggled to his feet, feeling all of his forty-seven years. He still had to pee, so he ducked into the adjoining employee bathroom. After splashing water on his face and doing the sniff test—breath into cupped palm to nose—he deemed himself safe to face any customers who might wander in as closing time fast approached.

As Marcus closes up, he’s surprised to find Josiah Foxglove standing in the doorway.

“Josiah? Did you forget something?”

Having the man in his store twice in the same day would normally have sent Marcus’ libido through the roof, along with a healthy dose of guilt that he was dishonoring Tommy’s memory.

It’s an attraction. The man is… interesting. Nothing more.

“I, uh, I was wondering…” Josiah was at the counter, his face carefully blank, but his eyes gave him away. They’d turned from pale ice to glacial muddy blue, the crinkles at the corners etched deep with worry or concern.

Marcus excused himself and murmured, “Hang on a minute, will you?” He strode to the door, yanked it open and called, “Petilune? Honey?” There was no answer.

He walked outside, leaving the door open. Josiah followed him out, asking, “Anything wrong?”

After pacing around the perimeter of the parking area, Marcus concluded the mystery date had already picked the girl up and whisked her off to wherever.

Josiah asked again, “Is something wrong, Marcus?”

Shrugging, he said, “Probably nothing.”

“Don’t sound like nothing.”

“Shit. Well, it’s just that Petilune has a date.”

Josiah scrubbed at the rough whiskers on his chin. He skimmed over the scar tissue and winced. Marcus wondered if it still hurt. Burns were a bitch and probably took forever to heal. After some consideration, Josiah said, “Well, that’s good, isn’t it? I mean, she’s a cute kid and it’s Saturday night.” The corners of his eyes puckered more.

“She wouldn’t tell us who it was.”

“Oh.”

Marcus inhaled, exhaled, then explained, “He picked her up here. Shouldn’t he have picked her up at home?”

Josiah snorted. “With Janice waiting like a vulture at the door? Probably drunk as a skunk. If you was her, would you want your date meeting your mom when she’s already three sheets to the wind?”

Blinking at the run of words coming out of Josiah’s mouth, Marcus simply gawped at the mountain of a man taking up most of the real estate on the steps.

Marcus sighed. “I guess you’re right. I’m sure she’ll be fine. Won’t she?” Since there was no point trying to pull an answer out of thin air, he changed tack and asked, “Is there something I can help you with?” He waved for Josiah to follow him into the store.

At the door the big man paused. “This probably isn’t a good time. I’ll uh… um, never mind. I’ll catch you next time. Have a good night.”

Before Josiah could shut the door, Marcus grabbed the handle and held it open. He winced as the desperation leaked through his pores, making his voice warble and waver as he asked, “Would you like something to drink, maybe? Unless you have to be somewhere…”

“No. I’m good. I mean…” Josiah inched toward the door. “A drink would be good.”

“Okay.” Marcus held the door ajar and stepped aside as Josiah sidled through the opening. After leading the man to his makeshift office, Marcus pointed to the folding wooden chair and wondered if it was sturdy enough to hold the man’s weight. The bottle and tumbler were still on the desk where he’d left them. He reached into the bottom drawer, extracted another glass and poured two fingers into each.

Josiah accepted the whiskey and tilted his chin in salute before tossing it down. Both of them shuddered and grinned. Marcus asked, “Another, Josiah?”

The man extended his glass for a refill. “You can call me Josh. I like that better. Sounds less… biblical.”

Relishing the burn in his throat, Marcus murmured, “That’s good. So, Josh, what did you want to talk about?”

“I need a favor.” He shifted on the chair. It creaked. “Thing is, I don’t got the right…” Josh grimaced, his face a war of emotions Marcus could barely fathom. Finally he said, “It ain’t like we got history or we’re friends or nothing like that. We hardly know each other.”

Marcus listened to his own heartbeat, wondering what was driving a man like Foxglove to come and ask for a favor and to be so obviously torn up about it. So he said, “Friends give favors. That’s what friends do.”

“But, we ain’t friends.”

Marcus held up the half empty bottle. “Then I guess we’re gonna need more of this.”

Where to purchase Nya’s books:

Romancing Words: http://www.romancingwords.com

Love’s Last Refuge: http://loveslastrefuge.com/

The Men of Crow Creek: http://the-men-of-crow-creek.weebly.com/

A Whisper of Wings (Free reads): http://a-whisper-of-wings.weebly.com/

Find Nya’s Titles Here:

Amazon Author Central: http://www.amazon.com/Nya-Rawlyns/e/B004Y80YQ4/

All Romance Books: http://www.allromanceebooks.com/storeSearch.html?searchBy=author&qString=Nya+Rawlyns

B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/nya-rawlyns?store=allproducts&keyword=nya+rawlyns

Apple/iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/nya-rawlyns/id431503932?mt=11

Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-ca/Search?Query=nya+rawlyns

Crossing boundaries, taking no prisoners. Write what’s in your soul.

It’s the bass beat, the heartbeat, the lyrics rude and true.

Den1aNya Rawlyns cut her teeth on sports-themed romantic comedies and historical romances. She found her true calling writing about the wilderness areas she has visited but calls home—in that place that counts the most, the heart.

She has lived in the country and on a sailboat on the Chesapeake Bay, earned more than 1000 miles in competitive trail and endurance racing, taught Political Science to unwilling freshmen, and found an avocation in materials science.

When she isn’t tending to her garden or the horses, the cats, or three pervert parakeets, she can be found day dreaming and listening to the voices in her head.

 

Where to find Nya online:

Face Book: https://www.facebook.com/NyaRawlyns

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Nya_Rawlyns

The Eagle and the Fox online:

The-Eagle-and-The-Fox-ebook-fullAmazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00Y1WDUCI

Amazon Multilink: http://authl.it/B00Y1WDUCI

ARe/OmniLit: https://www.omnilit.com/product-theeagleandthefoxasnowyrangemystery-1813905-145.html

B&N: http://bit.ly/1Evwra4

Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-CA/ebook/the-eagle-and-the-fox

Apple/iTunes: http://apple.co/1J53ZCg

Writer In Progress: Sacrificial Lamb Cake; written by Katrina Monroe

This month I bring you an excerpt from Katrina Monroe’s latest novel, Sacrificial Lamb Cake [Okay, I love that title – Darke], from Red Adept Publishing.

When asked why she chose this particular excerpt, Katrina replied…

I chose this bit because I think it showcases two things: this book is meant to be satire, to a degree. Anyone who reads the blurb will know this novel touches on some pretty basic Christian dogma, but it is in no way a soapbox novel. People are people are people, and, as this book (hopefully) shows, have the potential to do good and bad. But this scene is also a pivotal moment in the book, one that gives the reader insight into Jude and Rain without (hopefully) being too spoilery. 

Excerpt:

51nPs5tn0ZL._SL1500_Alert the media. Carve it in the record books. Stain it with blood. Lucy had been telling the truth. Judas didn’t have time to analyze her step out of character. Rain stood on the opposite bank of the pond, chatting away like nothing had changed. Only confirmed.

Son of a bitch.

No, son of God.

Same thing.

Anyone else would be elated. Dumbstruck. Much like the robe-clad twit bent over in the muck to slip sandals on Rain’s feet. Judas, however, felt a gnawing combination of betrayal and panic.

“I get it,” he muttered to the cloudy sky. “You work in mysterious ways and do not bend to the plan of a humble traitor. Lesson learned. You can let me in on what’s going on now.”

He waited. A goose, separated from its flock, landed nearby and picked at an abandoned pastry bag.

“You should take lessons from the Greeks.” Judas pointed a finger at the goose. “You’re shit at omens.”

A stream of white dripped from the goose’s backside.

“Fuck you, too.”

Across the pond, one of the group members wrapped a faded white robe around Rain’s shoulders and helped her to adjust the belt. At first, Judas thought they were only trying to warm her, but then the shortest of the group, a woman, led her by the elbow back to the water.

This can’t be good.

Judas dropped her clothes on the damp grass and sprinted around the perimeter of the pond, reaching the group just as Rain waded knee deep.

“What the hell are you doing?” He forced the words through deep breaths. Two-thousand-year-old lungs were worse than a smoker’s.

The woman guiding Rain shot him a nasty look.

“They’re baptizing me,” Rain said.

The one who’d put the sandals on her feet raised his Styrofoam cup. “It is written that John the Baptist baptized Jesus Christ. It is a sign that Rain should come to us on the very day that we are to baptize our sister in Christ, Maria.”

Maria, a plain, young thing, waved meekly.

Judas turned to the woman holding Rain. “So you’d be John, then?”

“Stacy.”

Judas covered his mouth and nose with his hands and pinched the bridge of his nose with his fingertips. He felt a headache brewing. “I really don’t think this is a good idea,” he said into his hands.

“What?” Rain said.

He removed his hands and clapped them together, once, loudly. “Out of the water, Rain.”

Sandal-boy stepped forward. “Who are you to order about the Messiah?”

“My agent,” Rain said, apologetically. “Long story,” she added when they all looked at her like she’d grown a second head.

The fourth of the group, a gray-haired, hook-nosed woman silently watched from a distance. She didn’t seem to care either way. Her face held no expression, and she stood as still as stone. The woman glanced at Judas, and it turned his stomach.

“Jude, it’s cold. The longer we stand here arguing, the closer my legs are to falling off. I’m doing this. It’s right.”

Stacy and sandal-boy nodded triumphantly.

Short of dragging her out of the water, Judas couldn’t stop her, and he was hesitant to manhandle the Messiah in front of her new followers. They’d probably drown him.

Waist-deep, Rain and Stacy turned to face the shore. Rain shivered, and her lips had already taken on a blue tinge.

Stacy held her in one arm and raised the other toward the sky. “Heavenly Father…”

Sandal-boy and Maria bowed their heads. The hook-nosed woman and Judas stared forward.

“With this water, we humbly cleanse your messenger, our Messiah, of all sins. May she emerge a pure child of God. Amen.”

“Amen,” Sandal-boy and Maria echoed.

Stacy dipped Rain backward into the frigid water and slipped, barely catching herself before she too was dunked. When she pulled Rain out, Judas noticed a bright red trickle from her arm.

Rain shivered violently. Stacy anxiously pulled her back to shore where Sandal-boy and Maria waited with a fresh robe, wearing twin looks of horror.

“Y-y-you cut the Messiah!” sandal-boy accused.

Stacy gasped.

Rain shook her head, teeth chattering. “It’s f-fine. I h-hit a r-rock.”

Judas snatched the robe from Maria and tucked Rain’s thin form into it. He helped her slip out of her soaked jeans and wrapped another robe around her legs like a skirt. “I have a bad feeling about this,” he whispered in her ear.

“What are you talking about?”

Judas looked over his shoulder at the hook-nosed woman. She hadn’t moved since Rain entered the water, and her face was vacant. One of Lucy’s scouts would have gone batshit by now, so she obviously wasn’t one of them, but Judas knew the woman didn’t belong there.

Stacy handed Judas a pair of sweatpants, head bowed to Rain. “Apologies, Messiah.”

“Her name’s Rain.” Judas snatched the sweatpants.

“Thank you.” Rain glared at Judas. Her shivering had slowed enough that she was able to dress herself.

The hook-nosed woman began to shudder.

Judas grabbed Rain’s arm. “We have to go.”

“Let us come with you,” Stacy said.

Judas didn’t give Rain the chance to respond. Still gripping her arm, he ran, practically dragging her behind him. After he’d put a few yards of distance between them and the woman, he chanced a look over his shoulder. The woman’s clothes fell off in shreds. Skin bubbled and melted away. The explosive hum of thousands of wings hit Judas’s ears, and he cried out in pain. Engorged, winged insects flew up out of the woman’s insides and separated into swarms like black clouds. One of the clouds separated like a battalion and headed directly toward Judas and Rain.

Judas quickened his pace with Rain struggling to keep up. The robe flapped like a cape behind her. She looked behind them and screamed.

“What the hell are those things?”

“Locusts,” Judas said.

Safely in the car, Judas threw it into reverse and stomped on the gas pedal. He needed to put as much distance between them and the swarm as possible. He needed time to think.

“What the fuck is a locust?” Rain stared gape-mouthed through the windshield.

“A problem.”

Where to purchase Katrina’s books:

51nPs5tn0ZL._SL1500_http://www.amazon.com/Katrina-Monroe/e/B00P1L245C/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1433459381&sr=8-1

http://redadeptpublishing.com/#!/Sacrificial-Lamb-Cake-by-Katrina-Monroe/p/46536474/category=12029173

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/sacrificial-lamb-cake-katrina-monroe/1121227819?ean=2940151539258

Where to find Katrina online:

Monroe Author PhotoTwitter: @authorkatm
Blog: authorkatrinamonroe.wordpress.com

Writer In Progress: Trembling Souls; written by Jamie White

This month I bring you an excerpt from Jamie White’s novella TREMBLING SOULS, the second in her STAINS series. She chose this excerpt because…

“…this excerpt, more than any other incarnation, this one has had the biggest impact on Fiona’s life now. It has shaped her behavior and fears until this point and might be the reason she once again meets an early grave. It’s also had a huge impact on a couple of other characters in the series.”

~~~~~

Excerpt

Trembling Souls Cover“You promised these cures of yours would work.”

Maria sighed as she took her neighbor’s hand. Tears welled in her eyes as she gazed at the lifeless figure in the bed. After taking a moment to compose herself, she turned her attention to the woman’s husband.

“I warned you from the beginning that sometimes a cure isn’t meant to work. I wish I had been able to do more, but it wasn’t meant to be. I’m so sorry.”

He glared at her, pulling his hand away from hers. “Get out of my home. I do not want to see you around here again.”

She nodded. “If that’s what you wish. I am sorry, I wanted to help her… please believe that.”

Maria turned and shuffled out of the modest home, guilt twisting her stomach into knots. The woman’s husband had come to Maria for help weeks ago after the doctor in town told him there was nothing he could do to help.

So many people had become ill in this town the past few years; it was as if they would never know peace again. Maria had lost several friends in that time, and she’d vowed to do whatever she could to help others here. Most of the time, her herbal cures worked beautifully — she’d seen some incredible miracles. Sadly, she’d also seen her share of failures.

Those haunted her, but she tried to remember they were rare. The looks on the faces of those she cured were worth the occasional pain and anger directed her way from a grieving relative. It was funny… When she warned him the cures didn’t work every time, he’d dismissed it. He’d told her he didn’t care; he just had to try. He’d actually sought her out and begged for her assistance.

Maria closed her eyes and once more tried to compose herself before she continued on her way, her shoes clicking against the cobblestone roads. She didn’t want to chance passing anyone who might question her somber demeanor. She’d heard rumors people were getting accused of being in league with the devil and there was the chance her cures could be seen as witchcraft. She scoffed at the very idea. If there was anyone in this town with the powers these creatures were said to have, she had yet to meet them. It all seemed completely ridiculous to her.

As she neared her own home, she pulled her coat tighter to her body and hurried her pace. She opened the front door, and then kicked it closed as she pulled her coat off. “I’m back.”

“How did it go?”

She looked over to see her husband emerge from the bedroom. The waning daylight was offset by the candles he’d lit, casting shadows on the walls that filled her with a vague sense of dread. She longed for the bright glow of day to chase away her dark mood.

“It didn’t work—she’s gone.”

His eyes softened and he approached Maria, wrapping his arms around her. “I’m sorry. I know you were hoping for a miracle.”

She sniffed, wiping a tear that was forming in one eye. “I guess it wasn’t in His plan this time. I just wish I could have made her husband understand… he was so upset, I’ve never felt such hate come from one person in my life.”

“You can hardly blame him at the moment… Once he has some time to think, I am sure he will understand you did what you could.”

“Yes, I suppose you’re right.” She kissed her husband on the forehead and pulled away. “I should probably go lie down.”

“Of course.” He gave her a kiss in return and smiled. “Get some rest and don’t fret too much — things will look much better after you’ve had some sleep. I’ll join you later.”

She nodded in response before walking into the bedroom. She lay down, trying to put the evening out of her mind and get the sleep that eluded her. Between everything she had to do at home and all the time she’d been spending trying to help that poor woman, she’d been run ragged.

Fiona’s eyes slowly opened. She lay in bed, staring at the ceiling with a growing knot in her stomach. In some ways, she found this dream even more disturbing than the one she’d had back home where she burned at the stake. She could still see the pain in the man’s eyes, filling her with a sense of guilt she couldn’t understand.

This is ridiculous. Why am I dreaming about that again?

 ~~~~~

Where to purchase Trembling Souls:

Trembling Souls CoverAmazon: http://www.amazon.com/Trembling-Souls-Stains-Novella-Book-ebook/dp/B00U1VAWOC/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

Barns and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/trembling-souls-jamie-white/1121299865?ean=2940046601862

Smashwords: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/522943

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Writer In Progress: Gods of Chicago, written by A. J. Sikes

This month I bring you an excerpt from A.J. Sikes Urban Fantasy Noir Gods of Chicago. This is a grisly scene from near the end of the story, and he chose it because…

….it stands out to me as one of the strongest moments in the story. Two of the main characters, who’ve been at odds since the beginning, finally face off and let out everything that’s been bottled up between them. It isn’t pretty, but this is a noir novel, so it isn’t mean to be. And, trigger warning: contains racial slurs, racist violence, and violence directed at a woman. The scene was thoroughly uncomfortable to write. But after reading it over and over, questioning whether it was right to include in the book, I began to see how strong the moment was. Emma Farnsworth is my favorite character from Gods of Chicago, and Tom Wynes my least favorite, so I could put a lot of emotional content into their dialogue through this scene. While this moment is the pinnacle of their rivalry, the dialogue and tone are representative of both characters. The scene also presents a few story world details that should help readers imagine my alternate history 1929 Chicago.

~A.J. Sikes

~~~~~

Excerpt:

coverConcept-V11Two soldiers came into the shed, one with a pistol that he kept trained on Emma. The other went to the prisoners and menaced them with his rifle before ordering them outside. The Conroys went first, hustling out ahead of the wounded negro. When the shed was empty, Wynes came in with the Tommy gun. He tucked it under his arm and undid Emma’s cuffs from around the pipe, then closed them again and led her out to join the others.

Outside, the prisoners had stayed apart. The ironwork hound stood in front of them, its bulky torso a tangle of tubes and pipes racing around the machine’s core. Emma had only seen one this close at her father’s plant, when he’d brought it in to watch the yard at night. She’d feared the thing then and felt no different now. Emma gave a sudden start when a jet of flame licked out of the hound’s snout like a tongue tasting the night.

“He’ll leave you be, Miss Farsnworth,” Wynes said with a sneer. “Unless I tell him different.”

She glanced at Wynes. In one hand he held a small box that he waggled in the air before pocketing it. Behind Wynes, Eddie stood in the open space before the shed, his hands raised to his shoulders and his right arm tucked in tight against his side where he’d been hit before. The soldier with the rifle looked at Wynes. Emma saw him jerk his chin up and down. The soldier swung his rifle around and hit Eddie in the back.

Eddie let out a deep angry groan and dropped to his knees, holding his injured side. Emma screamed when she saw him slump forward, collapsing into the dirt like he’d passed out from the pain. The soldier grinned and lifted a foot to kick Eddie. Emma flew forward past Wynes and knocked the man down, slamming her balled up fists onto his chest and arms. She caught him a good one on his chin and he reacted by bringing his rifle around to crack her in the side. Emma cried out and rolled off the man, curling up around her sore hip.

Wynes came over, followed by the ominous step of the ironwork hound. Emma tried to stay curled up, but a soldier grabbed her by the arm and pulled her to her feet. The other one came over and kept his rifle trained on her. She eyed her captors through a glare, curling her lips back and then bringing them together tight over her teeth. Her bitterness and rage roiled within Emma’s chest until she felt her gaze drop on its own, down to Eddie. His breathing was shallow and slow. Emma felt her guilt burning her cheeks crimson and for a moment she thought about trying to run. She lifted her eyes to look out into the yard. The lakeshore was only a short distance away. The line of airships hung above the water, tethered on stout chains. Back to her left, past the Vigilance and behind the shed, a large tree offered shadows to hide in and protection from the bullets she knew would follow her.

She wouldn’t make it. They’d shoot her, and then they’d shoot Eddie and probably the rest of these poor people around her. The couple here, the other negro. The people in the tents.

As if he sensed her thoughts, Wynes spoke up from behind her. “Miss Farnsworth? I think we’ve had enough run around tonight, don’t you?”

“Go to hell.”

“With such a charming tongue, I don’t know how you escaped attention on the dance floor all these years. Or maybe I do. Maybe it’s because you were sloppy for a smoke.”

Emma turned around and stared hard at Wynes. He’d slung the Tommy gun over his shoulder and was holding a coil of rope now. She let her eyes bore into his with all the rage she’d ever felt at how Chicago City had forced her to live.

“You think you know about me, Wynes? You’ll never understand the real difference between Eddie and the guys I let take me onto the dance floor. The only reason I let them even touch me was because I had to. I played hard to get like any girl should, but I never played too hard. If I did, I knew someone would get their nose out of joint and start saying they smelled smoke. So I let them spin me around the floor because they thought it was their right to hold my hand. Just because I was a Farnsworth. Because I was from their set. Only they didn’t know I’d given up on that set the minute I laid eyes on it.

“They’d never understand why I love Eddie, just like you’ll never understand, and it’s not my damn job to teach you anyway. I did what I was told when I had to. I did my best to keep my nose above the stink in this town. I lived the way I wanted to, and loved the man I wanted to. If that means I have to die tonight, I don’t care. Just get on with it.”

Wynes slapped her once, turning her face to the side. He lifted his other hand and Emma’s eyes rounded in terror when she saw the coil of rope with a noose tied at one end. “Oh, I’ll be getting on with it, Miss Farnsworth.”

#

Wynes frog-marched her around the shed, calling for the soldiers to bring the others along. Emma felt numb as she let him lead her to stand in a clearing around the tree. She turned to watch over her shoulder as the others followed. The Conroys stayed to the side. They stuck close together, and moved quick when commanded. Behind them, the soldier with the pistol threatened the injured negro and ordered him to get Eddie on his feet.

Emma’s heart broke watching the two men staggering along, both upright but leaning on each other for support. Eddie held his side and grunted with each step. The man with the ball and chain on his ankle dragged his burden through the dirt and snowmelt. Emma could feel his bare feet chafing and freezing against the ground as he stepped a halting haggard path to his own execution. Wynes cursed under his breath and ordered the soldiers to hurry Eddie and the other man along.

“Get ‘em over here already. We don’t have all night to wait on a couple of dumb niggers.”

Emma spun to holler at the man, but she still felt the sting of his hand on her cheek. The look in Wynes’ eyes told her she’d be better off keeping quiet. So she pressed her lips together and bit her teeth down on the anger she felt. Wynes stepped over to the shed and lifted a post away from the wall and came to stand beside her. Emma brought her hands to her face when she realized it wasn’t a post he held but a wooden cross.

“Hold this for me, will you, Miss Farnsworth?”

“Not on your life,” she said, shaking her head and backing away. She came up against a soldier who shoved her to the side and went to assist Wynes in his grisly preparation. The soldier went to the shed and picked up a coil of wire and some stakes and a mallet.

“See, Miss Farnsworth? There are still men in Chicago City who know what’s what. Guys like these two here. They remember the town that my father and his father made safe for the good people until the Dagos and Rigos and Jews and niggers moved in and turned it into a pit. That’s what this city is now,” he said, leaving the task of erecting the grim totem to the soldier.

Wynes stepped close to Emma, his breath reeking of drink and tobacco smoke and forcing her nose to the side. “This city, the place where men with the name of Wynes have walked a beat for nearly seventy years. Where the streets used to be safe and clean. It’s nothing but a pit with greased walls, and all the good people are stuck fighting each other to get to the top. You want to hear about stink? It’s gotten so bad you have to stick it to your neighbor if you want a chance to breathe good air again.

“I remember when Chicago City was a place a man could be proud of, a place you didn’t mind hearing about in the news. Before Capone. Before the Micks came out of the Eastern Seaboard. Before the Chinamen rolled in on the rails from out west and the niggers came up river from New Orleans. That’s the city I remember, Miss Farnsworth. And if I can’t have it back the way it was, then I’ll give my worst to the people to blame. People like your Eddie Boy here,” he said, grabbing Eddie by the shoulder and hauling him to the tree.

One of the soldiers grabbed the other negro and ordered him to stay still while they unlocked the shackle on his leg. Then they shoved him forward to join Eddie under the tree.
Emma screamed at the soldiers and roared her hatred at Wynes. The cross was in flames and the whole night seemed ablaze with angry firelight. Emma kept screaming, letting her rage tear at her throat. She whipped her head left and right as she shrieked, begging the night for help. She only saw the Conroys, who stayed against the shed, mute and still.

The ironwork hound marched a path in front of Emma, the spurt of flame licking from its snout. Emma shot her eyes back to the scene below the tree. A soldier held Eddie’s arms behind his back and tied his wrists together before doing the same to the other man. He then moved to stand beside the metal dog and covered Emma with Wynes’ chopper.

Emma shuddered as she watched Wynes lift the noose and toss it over a tree branch. He caught the menacing loop in his hands and passed it to the soldier beside him. The man stood in front of Eddie and draped the rope over his head. Emma shook with sobs. She felt so numb inside that she barely flinched when she heard a shot ring out from her right just before the night exploded in fire and pain.

~~~~~~

Book Links:

All merchants are linked from his webpage: http://www.ajsikes.com/aaron-s-writing

AJSikes_AuthorPicWhere to find A.J online:

Twitter: @SikesAaron

Writer In Progress: Worlds Apart, written by Marlene Dotterer

One of the first people I met when I started writing was Marlene Dotterer. Our friendship came about through the Online Writer’s Workshop for Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror. (OWW) Her first novel, a time-travel story called Shipbuilder, was one of the first novels I read when I got my new Kobo. She’s expanded her library since then and I am pleased to bring you an excerpt from her new urban fantasy novel WORLDS APART.

She chose this excerpt because…

“One of my favorite things about Worlds Apart is the relationships between the various characters. For instance, there are three strong women in this story who like and respect each other. Worlds Apart is a romance, but watching the friendship grow between these women is as satisfying as the sex. The scene I’ve chosen for you is near the end, but hopefully won’t give away any spoilers. It’s a good scene to see all three women in action, each doing her job, arguing and compromising as needed. They are: Tina Cassidy, a human doctor, Shandari Urboron, an empathic healer, and Kasia Windblood, an elf, whose job is best described as a police captain.”

~~~~~~

Excerpt

Marlene Dotterer_Worlds Apart thumbnailA guard stood at the entrance, blocking her way. His head brushed the nine-foot ceiling, and the arms he crossed over his chest were thin tree trunks. Tina detected a green cast to his face and hands, but it was his resolve that she noticed. No one was getting past.

“What the hell?” She pivoted to face Shandari. “Is the ogre here to protect me or to guard me?”

“Both.” Shandari managed to sound authoritative and apologetic all at once. “If you go out there, we may not be able to protect you. You’re safest in here.”

“Bullshit.”

“Why….”

Bullshit, Shandari! You’ve got a hundred witches and elves and whatever in a perimeter out there. Kasia’s out there. Hell, Will’s out there, and for all I know, so is Ringstrom. I’m not in any more danger than they are.”

“Yes, you are. You have a connection to Clive that the others don’t. It will draw him to you, and he will not be able to control himself.”

“I don’t care. He’s hurt.” Tina swung back to face the giant, thrusting a finger upward to poke as high as she could. She could just hit his chest, but she jabbed the finger hard. “I can feel it. Clive is hurt. He needs help, and you are going to move aside and let me out of here. If you want to come with me, fine. You can carry the damn car, for all I care. Now, move.”

His expression didn’t change, but he lifted an eyebrow at Shandari. Tina didn’t bother to look back, but Shandari must have given some signal, for the mountain shrugged once, and stepped aside. The double doors looked incongruously small next to him. Tina wondered how he had managed to get inside. Her panic gave her no time to question. She slammed against the doors, shooting through as they flew open with a force they weren’t made to withstand.

Outside, the night was clear and cold. Stars glittered over the town. Shadows of nearby buildings leaned toward her from the west, drawing Tina’s gaze to meet the glare of the full moon. She jammed her feet into the ground to stop her forward rush, shocked into paralysis by its unspoken message. Then the panic returned, and her attention came back to the empty parking lot. “Shit!” She turned in a circle, arms outstretched, until she came face-to-face with Shandari, watching from the porch. Somehow, the giant had emerged from the building. He stood behind Shandari, regarding Tina with deep disapproval.

She ignored him.

“I need a car,” she said. Shandari lifted her hands, as if to prove she did not have one. Tina slapped her hips, remembering too late that her cell phone was gone. Lips pressed tight, she took a step, firming her resolve to barrel past the giant again, to go back inside and use the phone. She’d call Sharon.

Before her next step, bouncing lights appeared around the corner of the clinic, accompanied by the crunch of running feet.

“Nobody move!” A man’s shout came from behind the leading flashlight, which stopped about twenty feet from Tina. In the light’s shadow, she saw a gun pointed at her. Behind the lead figure, the second light was performing a series of leaps as the person holding it scanned the area behind Tina, then around and behind all of them.

“It’s me,” Tina said, her voice small in the darkness. “Is that you, Eddie?”

“Yeah.” He lowered his gun, but didn’t holster it. “What the hell are you doing out here?”

“I’m trying to get to Clive. He’s hurt. He needs me.”

“That’s not going to happen, Dr. Cassidy.” The other man stepped next to Eddie. He seemed familiar, but she couldn’t place him. “You should not be out here at all. You need to…”

“I need to find a car and get out there,” Tina said. “Why can’t everyone understand that?”

He stepped closer to her, his glance taking in the scrubs and flimsy tennis shoes she wore, reminding her she wasn’t prepared to hike around the mountains.

“I do understand. I’m Riff Freeder. I was with Clive when he found you. I understand a great deal, Tina. Including the danger you would face out there.”

“The other werewolf is dead.” To her own ears, Tina sounded like she was begging him.

“The danger now is from Clive.”

“Clive will not hurt me.”

The giant guffawed, making the ground tremble under Tina’s feet. Even so, she heard Shandari’s sigh from the porch.

“Will you force Clive to live with the consequences if he did?” Riff asked.

“Listen, I don’t know how to explain this to you people. But I’ve got to be there.” She pointed with both hands at her chest and stomach, turning to catch the gazes of each Kaarmaneshian. “There’s something inside me that’s forcing me to go. Every minute you detain me makes it worse.” She focused on Shandari, whose face showed a trace of doubt. “It hurts, Shandari. If I don’t go, I think I’ll explode. And Clive will die.”

Shandari stared at her, then turned to Riff. Tina held her breath, wondering if they could communicate telepathically. Perhaps they could, because Riff nodded and held out a hand to Tina.

“We have a vehicle in back. I’ll take you. But you’ll still have to convince Kasia.”

Everyone around her moved, streaking off in various directions. Tina could not track them all, so she concentrated on her hand in Riff’s as he pulled her around the clinic at a fast trot. The beam of his flashlight passed over Eddie’s black Dodge Ram. She scrambled into the back seat, while Riff stood guard. A few minutes later, Shandari and Eddie rounded the building. Shandari climbed in and tossed a bundle of clothing into Tina’s lap.

“Your jacket,” she said. “And hiking boots. Your nurse brought them over from your house this afternoon.”

Bless Sharon and her uncanny insight.

No one talked during Eddie’s wild drive to Kasia’s reconnaissance camp. Tina struggled into the boots, fighting both the seat belt and her lack of balance with the curvy mountain road. Eddie’s speed matched her own urgent yearnings, so she didn’t ask him to slow down.

Just as they screeched to a stop behind Ringstom’s police car on the side of the road, Shandari reached a hand to grip Tina’s fingers. “Center the panic you feel,” she said. “Control it, Tina. You’ll need it to convince Kasia.”

The truth of this statement became evident as soon as Tina stepped out of the truck. Two tall and very strong figures blinked into existence on both sides of her, grabbed her arms and lifted her off her feet, putting her right back in. The door shut on her nose and they turned their backs to her, blocking her way out. When she turned to the other door, she saw figures surrounding the truck, as still and immovable as rocks.

Behind the steering wheel, Eddie sputtered. “What the hell?”

Shandari did not repress a snort of laughter.

Tina slapped the window. “Goddammit, Kasia!” She didn’t quite shout, certain that Kasia would hear her even if she whispered. She concentrated on the panic in her middle and envisioned sending it out with her words, to smack the elf upside her head. “I know this is dangerous, but I also know I have to go out there. Don’t waste any more time, please. Clive is still alive. But he won’t be much longer if we don’t help him now.”

The panic reached a high pitch and Tina winced. Placing her hands on the window, she directed the panic into a push, trying to break through the glass and the backs of her guards. A sharp pain pierced her head, but she kept pushing.

In a swift move, the guards stepped away. One of them reached back to open the door. Tina fell into strong arms that forced her upright to meet Kasia’s furious glare. “Stop doing that before you hurt yourself,” she snapped.

“I wouldn’t have to do anything if people would stop fighting me about it. I’m not a child, Kasia. I decide for myself what risks I will take.”

“Do you see those people?” Kasia asked, indicating everyone who was surrounding the area, far more than just the few who stood by Eddie’s truck. “Every one of them is standing there for the express purpose of protecting you. Every one of them is willing to die or risk the werewolf’s curse, if it will keep that werewolf away from you. They understand the risk they’re taking. You do not.”

“You’re right,” Tina said, anger still coloring her words. “I don’t understand everything. I don’t get how this magic works. I just know what it’s telling me to do. I don’t have any way of turning it off, Kasia. I’m going out there.”

A touch of doubt moved across Kasia’s face. Her glance went past Tina to stare at a point behind her. “What do you See, Shandari?”

Shandari’s voice was soft, but everyone could hear her. “I can tell you that Tina and Clive have worked a spell between them. I can’t see it all, but she’s telling the truth about its compulsion. I think…” and here, she paused, as if not trusting her own words, “…I think there is protection in the spell.”

Kasia’s chin came up, and Shandari spoke with more urgency, faster and louder. “No. I cannot guarantee that. If Clive should bite her, there is no help for it. I do not think he will attack her. The spell will hold him back.”

Kasia’s gaze came back to Tina, her chin moving with suppressed tension. “All right. I’ll take you myself. Just you and I, so bring whatever equipment you’ll need with you.”

Tina breathed again, her mind in sudden turmoil. What would she find up there?

Will pushed through the guards, holding a backpack out. “Take this. I’ve had it ready for several hours. Antibiotics, soap, water, morphine, saline solution and IV, bandages, scissors, tape… it will work for either wolf or man.”

The first-aid list cleared Tina’s mind, allowing her knowledge and skill to return in full force. She grabbed the bag, shoving it onto a shoulder. “Thank you.”

“Here, put this on,” Kasia said, tossing a piece of white fabric to Tina. “It’s protective clothing.” She demonstrated by shaking hers out and stepping into it. It somehow formed itself around her.

“Like a hazmat suit,” Will murmured, as he helped Tina into hers. The fabric shaped into legs, torso, and arms, then hood and facemask. Tina felt a moment of panic, but the stuff on her face vanished as soon as it had formed. She knew it was still there, but it didn’t interfere with breathing or speaking.

The panic had not left her belly. She hiked the backpack to her shoulder and stepped toward the outer circle. “Let’s go.”

Kasia took her arm. “We’ll go the fast way.” She tapped her strap and threw something into the air in front of her. A portal appeared and Tina at last felt a bit of relief. She’d be there soon.

Kasia tapped her forehead and that part of her suit lit up with a directional light. She shouldered a rifle-type weapon and jerked her chin at Tina. “Stay right behind me.”

She stepped through, and Tina followed.

~~~~~~

Marlene Dotterer_Worlds Apart thumbnailBook Links:

Amazon (Print and Kindle): amazon.com/author/marlenedotterer

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/mdotterer

Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/search?query=Marlene%20Dotterer&fcsearchfield=Author&fclanguages=all

Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s?store=allproducts&keyword=marlene+dotterer

MDottererWhere to find Marlene online:

Website and blog: https://marlenedotterer.wordpress.com/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/mdott

Amazon: amazon.com/author/marlenedotterer

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/mdotterer

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/marlenedotterer

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Writer In Progress: Red Desert – Point of No Return, written by Rita Carla Francesca Monticelli

This month I am pleased to bring you an excerpt from Italian author Rita Carla Francesca Monticelli. Her novel, RED DESERT – POINT OF NO RETURN, is the first book of her series and has recently been translated into English. She is also a best-selling author in Italy.

She chose this scene because, as she states…

This scene better summarises what you can find in this story. There’s the marvel of the discovery but also the lethal danger of Mars, which can kill you any time, if you aren’t careful enough. And there’s also the mystery. Anna left Station Alpha at dawn and entered the Martian desert all alone. What happened? Where is she going? What secret is she hiding?

Finally there’s someone coming from her past, who may be the key to understand why she decided to go to live on Mars and never come back.”

~~~~~~

Excerpt:

coverRD1-smallAs I get closer to the canyon, the details of its configuration become increasingly clear. Its naked beauty, devoid of the grace given by life, fascinates me, leaving me open-mouthed.

Proceeding at maximum speed, my rover jerks as it hits a boulder. The terrain has become more rugged. I must slow down.

I move forward with caution, bringing the vehicle close to the cliff. But I avoid reaching its edge. I don’t know about the quality of the rock at that point and I have no idea if it will bear the weight. I stop, while keeping the engine on, to contemplate the wonder of the natural show that lies before my eyes. Even if it’s thought that water flowed on Mars in the past, which was demonstrated by the presence of dried up river beds scattered across its surface, this canyon system seems to have had a different origin. The fractures, created by seismic phenomena, have been modelled over millions of years by carbon dioxide escaping from underground at high speed, thus eroding them, just like the perpetual motion of water would do.

I pull out my camera and start taking some pictures. But since I’m fixed in this position, I soon run out of all possible framings. I’m tempted to put the suit on, get out and take a stroll. Then I realise that, since my departure, I haven’t checked my air time yet.

I switch off the engine. I don’t want to waste energy, other than the necessary one for life support and instrumentation. I free myself from the seatbelt and go to the back of the rover. The suit indicator is at 80% which means I don’t have ten hours, but only eight. It could be worse. If I get out for five minutes to take some pictures, it won’t make much difference.

Without wasting any more time I prepare, depressurise the vehicle, and step out to take a little stroll.

The view from my helmet isn’t actually much better than the one from the windshield. A weak wind lifts some dust with each step I take. I’ve already touched that thin sand more than once inside Station Alpha, but now I wonder how it would feel to lay on it under the sun. I check the temperature with the augmented reality with which the helmet is fitted. It projects a set of useful information before my eyes, as if they are part of the surrounding environment. It reads a little more than five degrees Celsius. It’s cold, but not so cold.

If only the atmosphere wasn’t so rarefied.

I give up my reveries. They are stealing precious seconds that I should use in a more rational way. Holding my camera, I walk toward the edge of the canyon, capturing many different images.

I hope the photographs are coming out well. It’s difficult to say from the small display on the back of the device. I’ve never been a great photographer. I can waste even the easiest snapshot. But the light is perfect now that the sun is high. The various layers of rock seem to shine by themselves. It’s almost incredible that so much beauty could be accidental.

I’m still bewitched by such a view when my foot slips on the terrain. Before I can counteract the loss of balance, I find myself supine; my back hits the breathing device and my head is thrown backwards, bending my neck. My helmet bumps into a stone and the rebounding effect runs all over my body, dazing me. The light becomes more and more intense, forcing me to close my eyes, and I have the impression of hearing remote music, rocking me softly.

My eyes snap open; I’m breathing heavily. I’m still lying on the ground. The sun is directly over me. I lift my right arm with caution, to check my suit indicators. Everything seems alright. There’s no pressure drop, but I have been reckless. I could have damaged it, and died in excruciating pain.

I think about Michelle for a moment. She tried to leave the station without her suit. Her body swelled up in the airlock, until her more superficial tissues exploded and spread themselves over the doorway. Her corpse blocked it. We had to use the exit on the other side of the station to move away what had remained of her, which had frozen in the meantime. We tried to clean, but her thickened blood had seeped in everywhere.

I still cannot believe she decided to kill herself that way. The thought that someone may have pushed her in there and activated the door to kill her hasn’t allowed me to have a decent sleep for many a long night. The fact I’m here now is in most part due to that doubt.

I try to breathe deeply and calm down. I must have lost consciousness, but only for a couple of minutes. I sit up with caution. My camera is tied to my suit with a lanyard. It seems undamaged. I pick myself up from the ground and head back to the rover.

No more strolling, for a while.

Once inside, I get rid of my equipment and I lie back in my seat. I start downloading the photographs, which are immediately displayed on the dashboard screen, and I activate the satellite connection. As I start the upload, a notification appears.

“Incoming message,” the cold voice of the computer recites.

At first I think Hassan is trying to contact me again, by using the satellite transmission, but then I read on the windshield augmented reality that it comes from Houston and was recorded five hours earlier. It’s mission control, attempting to persuade me to go back. I’m really curious to hear what they have thought up.

I turn on the video playback and the virtual screen is filled with a person’s face.

“Anna … hi. To tell the truth I’m not convinced that asking me to talk to you has been a clever idea. But I’m here now so I must try.”

In disbelief, I put a hand on my face. “Jan,” I whisper, while watching the image of the only man I have ever loved in all my life.

~~~~~~

Book Links:

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/product/dp/B00L979374

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