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Inside the Book:

The Day of the Dragonking
 
Inside The Book
Title: The Day of the Dragonking
Book 1: The Last American Wizard Series
Author: Edward B. Irving
Publisher: Ronin Robot Press
Publication Date: Paperback – February 2, 2106 / eBook – May 17, 2016
Pages: 316 pages
Genre: Urban Fantasy / Satire
Book Description:
 
A “mystical terrorist group” sacrifices an airplane full of innocents to a dragon and uses the deaths to power an event that wreaks magical havoc on Washington, D.C. All the wizards in the U.S. government’s employ abruptly lose access to magic, and the world’s computers and gadgets become sentient.
Second-string journalist Steven Rowan embodies the tarot’s Fool and is forced to figure out the card’s magic on the fly. Bombshell soldier Ace Morningstar, who used her magic to disguise herself as a man so she could become a SEAL, drafts Steve and his cell phone, which contains the ghost of a Chinese factory worker who now communicates through screen animations and bad autotranslations, to help fix the mess. Gathering allies, including NSA supercomputer Barnaby and Ace’s BMW, Hans, the team fights off newly transformed demons, dog monsters, and ogres while trying to find out who is controlling the Illuminati before the villains embark on the next step of their world-domination strategy.
Book Excerpt:
 

The airplane crash woke Steven Rowan. To be entirely accurate, it wasn’t a crash.
It was the insane screaming of four of the world’s largest jet engines being pushed twenty percent past their factory- recommended maximum thrust only thirty feet over his head.
 In addition, awake wasn’t really the correct term for his state of consciousness at that point.
 Steve was standing stark naked in the center of the room, jerking back and forth in the classic fight-or-flight reflex–his mind frantically spinning between possibilities, developing and rejecting dozens of possible threats every second, and running throughas many options for escape. A small part of his mind was simultaneously working on the less-important questions of who he was, where he was, and what he’d done to himself the night before.
 The pulsating howl of the jet began to diminish, but the screaming only grew louder and more intense. Suddenly, Steve fell to his knees, slamming clenched fists into his temples over and over, and screaming at the top of his lungs.
 Tears flew from his eyes as he crawled forward and began to pound his head against the glass door to the balcony. A small rational part of his mind wondered that he could be driven to such desperation that he would fill his mind with self-inflicted pain in the vain hope that it would expel the shocking sound, the sheer terror, and the infinite grief.
He felt a sharp spark of agony as the glass cracked.
 Suddenly, as blood began to stream down his face, the terrible pain diminished. The confusion and terror, the immense waves of emotions, all of that continued to pour through him, but the anguish had ceased. The massive assault of sound began to break down into hundreds of what he could only think of as voices.
Men and women were screaming, a mother was kissing the top of a tiny head and whispering soothing sounds, a man on a cell phone was frantically dialing and redialing–desperate to leave a message. In contrast, two men were running through a checklist with professional calm, but curses tickled at their throats, fighting to get out.
In the center, he heard a steady sound. A quiet chanting– young voices tinged with success and anticipation.
 The glass door exploded.
****
It was going to be a lousy morning, his head hurt even worse than usual, and his head usually hurt like someone dying from alcoholpoisoning.
 Steve opened his eyes at the sound of someone singing about hiding in Honduras and needing “lawyers, guns, and money.”
 OK, that was Warren Zevon, so it was probably his phone ringing. On Mondays, he set it to Afroman’s Because I Got High just to irritate any senior editorial staff he might run into, but this song pretty well summed up his mood every other day.
 He waited patiently until the late Mr. Zevon finished singing about how “the shit has hit the fan” and then listened for the Asian gong that would indicate a phone message.
 Instead, Max Weinberg’s driving drumbeat pounded out the syncopated SOS that began Bruce Springsteen’s We Take Care of Our Own. Since every journalist knew (but would never report) that this song raised the dead whenever the Boss played within a mile of a graveyard, Steve figured someone was truly serious about talking to him.
 In addition, he was curious because he’d deleted it from his phone over a month ago, exhausted by its contrast between the American ideal of “help your neighbor” and the reality of greed and selfishness that was currently sweeping the nation.
 “Hello?”
There was a series of clicks and several of those odd changes in the quality of silence that indicate a call is being bounced from machine to machine or area code to area code. Of course, these were also the sounds that you heard when a telemarketer’s robot war dialer realized it had a fish on the line and switched in the human voice to make the sale.
 “Is this a freaking robot?” he said, sharply.
 There was a short pause without any clicks. For some reason, Steve thought the caller was thinking.
“Mr. Rowan?” It was a man–the deep and authoritative voice of someone used to giving commands.
“Who the hell wants to know?” Steve hated people with that kind of voice.
Another pause.
“Mr. Stephen Rowan of 14500 Windermere Drive, Apartment D2?” The voice had changed, just slightly. It wasn’t quite as abrasive and superior. Steve thought he could have a conversation with this guy.
“Yes.” Steve’s state of awareness was beginning to recover sufficiently so that it wasn’t taking all of his concentration to talk on the phone. Unfortunately, that allowed him to begin to look around the room. If he hadn’t just received his ten-year chip from Narcotics Anonymous, he would have instantly identified this as a drug dream—and not a pleasant one.
The smashed sliding door. Glass shards covering the carpet. The dozens of framed photographs he’d hung to remind himself of the good times when he’d worked in cool places were gone. They were in a heap of wood, glass, and photo paper on the other side of his bed. Only one remained. A picture of a Lebanese militiaman with an AK-47 wearing a T-shirt decorated with a picture of an AK-47 and the words “Lebanon War.” He reached over and straightened it.
 “Mr. Rowan.” The voice on the phone had changed again. Now it sounded like a person cowering with fear. Hell, this guy was afraid to speak to him. “Umm. Are you busy at the moment?”
 Steve looked around the wreckage of his apartment. His cheek tickled and he touched it with a finger. He stared at the blood on his fingertip. “Busy? No, not really.”
 “Would you be so kind as to consider possibly doing me a favor?”
 Now the voice had gone all the way to obsequious.
 “Not until you tell me who the hell you are and what the hell you want.” Steve licked his finger, tasting the blood as if it might tell him something about what had just happened. “And stop sucking up.”
 “‘Sucking up’?” There was another series of clicks and silences, and the caller continued in its previous, more confident tone. “Mr. Rowan. Let me ask you a question. Could you use a job?”
 Steve reached into his back pocket to check his wallet for his current financial position. Suddenly, he felt a hand stroke his butt. He jumped. When he looked down, he realized it was his own hand because he was still naked. Then, a sudden stab of pain proved that the silvery dust all over him was tiny bits of glass from his broken door and he’d just shoved a shard into his ass. He pulled his hand away sharply and held it out in front of him–carefully examining both sides.
 “Mr. Rowan?”]
 “Oh. Sorry, I was distracted for a second. What…Oh, yeah. I have plenty of money.”
“From your increasingly occasional work as a freelance reporter?”
Steve didn’t say anything. The caller continued. “How’s that working out for you?”
Steve surveyed his ruined stereo and television and stopped as he saw his metal-cased laptop. It was rolled into a cylinder. He wonderedwhat in hell could do that to an expensive computer. Or at least one that had been expensive when he’d bought it.
 “Don’t worry about the laptop. I think you’ll find your telephone will be sufficient.”
Steve’s eyes widened and he slowly pulled the cell phone away from his ear and regarded it carefully–again, front and back. When he turned back to the main screen, a cartoon of a hand making a “thumbs up” sign had replaced his usual home screen picture of the Lebanese militiaman.
Steve just stood there and looked at the hand. He knew it was a cartoon because it only had three fingers and a thumb. Somehow, the artist had made it look happy and confident. That worried Steve.
He heard a faint squawking from the phone. He held the phone with only two fingers and raised it gingerly until it was an inch from his ear.
“Mr. Rowan? Can you hear me?”
 Steve cleared his throat and answered carefully. “Yes.” “Good, we can continue.”
 “Not until you tell me how you knew about my computer, we can’t.”
 “Your computer? Oh, you mean that you were looking at it?” “Yes. How did you know that I was looking at it?”
The voice sounded more confident, almost comradely. “That’s easy. Look straight out your window. See the apartment building with the exterior stairs?”
 “They all have exterior stairs.”
 “Well, the one with stairs and exceptionally ugly pink paint.” “Got it.”
“OK. Look at the left edge of the building and then run your eye straight up.”
 Steve saw the gleaming black cube of a building on the other side of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway. There were dozens of round white satellite dishes on the roof.
 “OK, I see the building across the highway. The NSA or Fort Meade or whatever.”
 “Just keep watching.”
 Slowly, almost ceremonially, all the dishes on the roof turned, swiveled, swung, or tipped so that they were all pointed straight at him. Without thinking, Steve’s left hand moved to cover his crotch.
 He made a noise, but it wasn’t a word. Something between a cough and the beginning of a scream, but definitely not a word. On the top of the black building, all the dishes nodded up and down in what he could only describe as a friendly fashion, and then moved back to their original positions.
  “Mr. Rowan?”
 Steve cleared his throat again. “I guess you just made that happen.”
“Yes.”
 “That was better than anything I ever saw in college, even on mushrooms, but it still doesn’t tell me who you are.”
“No.”
 “But it does answer the question of how you could see me.” “Yes.”\\
“And demonstrates a certain amount of power over things.” “Things and quite a few people as well.”
“I would have to say that that remains to be proven, but I can agree that you’ve gone a long way in that direction.”
“Why don’t we leave the rest of your questions for a later time and let me ask you one?”\
Steve’s eyes wandered from the roof of the building across the highway. “What am I looking for?” he wondered.
Then he remembered.
 “Give me just one more question first.” Steve walked out on the balcony and scanned the horizon as far as he could. “Where is thesmoke?”
“Smoke?”
“Smoke. From the crash of the plane that just flew over me.”
“Mr. Rowan. Can I suggest you step back inside? Good. You were frightening several of your neighbors. No, there is no smoke and, as a matter of fact, no airplane. Since there is no airplane, there wasn’t a crash and, ergo, no smoke. That’s one of the things I’d like to hire you to investigate.”
 Steve thought for a second. “I don’t like it when people say ergo. But we can deal with that later. Right now, I’d like to know why–no wait, let’s begin with how I would investigate the nonexistent crash of an airplane that wasn’t there.”
 “You’re getting a bit redundant.”
“You’ll have to live with it. It’s a side effect of the unease I’m feeling due to the stress of this uncommon and aberrant situation.” Steve’s voice rose to a shout. “Stop fucking around and tell me what the hell is going on!”
 “Well.” The voice on the phone paused as if choosing the next words carefully. “The jetliner did crash. At the same time, it did notcrash.”
 “OK, I’m relieved that you made that clear. Now that I understand, I’m hanging up.”
“Mr. Rowan! Wait! Just one more minute.”
Steve didn’t say anything, but he didn’t punch the END symbol, either. He really wasn’t sure why.
“There has been a Change.”
Steve blinked and looked at the phone. He put it back to his ear. “Did you just capitalize the word change?”
“Hmm? Oh, yes, I suppose I did. This particular change is a pretty big deal and certainly deserves to be capitalized.”
“I’ll be the judge of that. What do you want me to do about this capitalized concept?”
 “Would you work for me? Investigate this Change?”
 Steve’s answer was quick and automatic. “I’m an experienced freelancer. I don’t work for just anyone.”
 “Really? Not even if it was for the Good of the Nation?”
“Stop talking in capitals and, if you mean working for the government, the answer isn’t ‘no.’ The answer is ‘Hell, No.’”
“I believe those last two words were capitalized.” Steve’s head felt like it was about to explode. 
“Possibly.”
“Would it make you feel better if I hired you on a temporary freelance basis?”
Once again, the answer was swift and automatic. “What are you paying?”
 “Well, I think I have unlimited funds…”
 “Then you’re full of crap. I’m hanging up now.”
The phone began to vibrate in his hand and the voice became agitated. “Mr. Rowan. Don’t do that! It has to be you. No one else observed the airplane!”
 Steve’s eyes closed and whatever it was that had woken him up came back with the feeling of a knockout punch. His face twisted up in anguish at the memory of all the people…their terror…their helpless panic. He groaned.
 “Mr. Rowan! Are you all right?”
“Not one of my better mornings.”
 “I am actually glad to hear that.” 
“Why?”
Because I’d hate to think of what it might take to cause a worse morning. What’s your daily rate?”
 “Five hundred dollars. Double over ten hours.” Steve always held out hope even though he hadn’t made over $350 a day for the pastdecade.
 “You’ve got it.”
 Steve opened his eyes. “Plus expenses?” “Expenses and the use of a car and driver.”
“A car?” Steve walked over and looked out to the space in the parking lot where he’d parked his light-blue Prius. He thought it was still there, but it was difficult to tell because an enormous jet engine was smoking sullenly on top of the entire row of parked cars.
 He could make out some twisted pieces of light-blue plastic in his usual parking space.
 “I guess I will need a car.”
 “Good. Then we are in business, right?” “I guess so.”
“Good. I’ve got some things to do right now, but I’d appreciate it if you could begin immediately.”
Steve slowly turned around and looked at his apartment. His clothes looked as though a knife-wielding fashion critic had attacked them. He touched his laptop and it rolled away, revealing fluttering bits of paper that he deduced must be his stack of notebooks. One of his shoes was lying by his right foot. He picked it up and slowly poured broken glass out onto the floor. “I’m going to need to be paid up front, I think.”
 “Not a problem. Just answer the door.” 
There was the synthetic clicking sound that cell phones made to indicate the end of a call.
 “Answer the–”
 There was a firm knock on his door.

 

For More Information:
The Day of the Dragonking is available at AmazonBarnes & NobleGoodreadsNetGalley
Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads

Meet the Author

Terry - Edward Irving
 
Edward Irving was a respectable television journalist for 40 years in Washington D.C. Any shred of respectability has been destroyed by “The Day of the Dragonking.” He is waiting for the committee to call and demand his 4 Emmys back at any time.
 
He has worked for just about every TV channel: Nightline, Wolf Blitzer, Don Imus, and Fox News Sunday – talk about culture clash! He has written 4 documentaries – mostly on Moral Courage – and the last one was particularly fun since it was about rescuing Jews to the Philippines, a decision made over poker and cigars by Manuel Quezon, Dwight Eisenhower, a private detective named Angel Zervoulakos, and brothers from a family that was the biggest importer of cigars to the USA.
 
Mr. Irving enjoys many things he can’t do anymore: motorcycles, racing cars, hang-gliding, scuba-diving, and long vacations. The good thing is that he can put them into books. He has a very forgiving wife, two kids, two grandkids, and a LOT of old books.

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First Chapter Reveal: The Jungle Within by Charles M.

The Jungle WithinTitle: 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.

First Chapter:

As Evan coasted along Highway 50, the hills rolled alongside him. Fall oak brush set the canvas on a cold, winter afternoon. The old wooden-post fence along the road looked as though a strong breeze might blow it over. The overgrown grass reached the bottom wire of the fence and was a hybrid mix of greens and yellows. Not much else was alive in the patches of open grass among the crowded trees. In an hour there would be dew frozen to the grass, and the cold westerly wind would chill everything to a frozen standstill.

Evan cruised at a steady sixty-five miles per hour as he jammed out to Bob Seger’s “Still the Same.” It was his song in college and no matter how many times he listened to it, he never tired of it. Evan’s thumbs thumped on the steering wheel to the rhythm of the song as his head bobbed back and forth. He sang along in falsetto, which would have warranted many jeers from those unfortunate enough to be within earshot. His clunky car was a bit older than most, but it was his, bought and paid for, and he made good time in it. It cut through the winter air as the sun was starting to set. Long, dark shadows nearly covered the car, but a few streaks of light managed to break through the sky, reflecting the now-red sun.

Forty miles away a doe was bedded down in the deep scrub oak, getting ready to make her rounds in an all-night grazing-fest. She licked her front legs and cleaned her nose with her tongue. She took her time, as though there were no natural predators of which to be concerned. In this neck of the woods, the only thing she had to fear was man. Man and his gun and his automobiles. She rose slowly, stretched her back legs long, and shook her ears rather violently. If only humans could sleep so well and wake so gracefully. As she breathed out and perked up her big ears to locate danger, her hot exhale mixed with the cold air outside, producing a visible sign of her presence. The setting sun was dropping at a brisk pace, causing its rays to lose their power.

Evan had graduated from college and landed an entry-level position at a marketing firm. Within a few years his outgoing personality moved him higher up the food chain. Everything appeared to be great in his life except for one thing…he was unhappy. He didn’t seem to fit into the normal molds that most people did. He dared to be different. He had the feeling, deep inside him, that he was meant for greater things; he was meant to have an impact. Without knowing his purpose, he felt lost. The thing that motivated him the most was his search for that elusive answer. That, and his deepest, darkest fear. Evan blocked out those thoughts and recalled pondering life’s questions about where he belonged and what his destiny was when he met Katie. The woman who would be the love of his life.

Evan could picture that meeting like it was yesterday. He was staring at her from across the coffee shop. Katie had the most beautiful face, with big, round, brown eyes and fair skin. Her dirty-blonde hair had been lightened by the summer sun. She was bubbly, enchanting, and when she smiled at him, he knew. She bravely made the trek between the tables to ask him out. She was bold that day, and he was glad she was. Evan might not have made the moves on his own.

Evan was handsome. He was about six feet tall with marble-like blue eyes and light brown hair. He had a slender, but athletic figure. He looked like the all-American boy. He exuded confidence and always appeared in-command, but on the inside, he was shaking.

Theirs was a typical marriage that began with a nice beach wedding in Florida. Both families got along well enough, and Evan and Katie looked like the happy couple in the picture that comes with the frame. Meadows with white flowers, smiles as wide as the sky, and hands locked together as if welded. Not a blade of grass or hair out of place.

Shortly after graduating and getting married, Katie began her career as a government welfare officer for a program that provided less-fortunate families with housing and food. This may have been the main reason that they didn’t have any kids yet. It nearly broke her heart every time she saw those poor children with runny noses and stains all over their clothes. They looked at her and made her feel guilty for all that she had. She would look them in the eye briefly, and then drop her head, knowing it was a staring contest she could never win. The children’s eyes were hard and unwavering. Those cold little eyes struck something deep within her, and drove Katie to help others because she wanted to help herself. She wanted to fix other people’s problems because she wanted to fix her own.

Like all married couples, they’d changed in many ways those first few years. While Evan had maintained his all-American boy-next-door appearance, he’d begun to notice those early tell-tale signs he wasn’t a college kid anymore. Katie claimed to be ten pounds heavier than she wanted to be, but he could never tell. In a world where every eye judges like they’re God, Katie never seemed to feel like she measured up. Lack of self-confidence was her downfall. Evan never cared about any of her perceived shortcomings. He thought she was beautiful, as did most everyone else. He told her constantly that she was perfect and all that he ever wanted, but it never quite filled her need for attention from others. This was the reason that while Evan drove down the road, happy-go-lucky and high on life, Katie was in the corner of a dimly-lit bar having a drink and flirting with Dylan.

The sun was nearly setting while the deer moved east. Evan was headed due north. A car zoomed past Evan, the first one he’d seen in a while. He’d moved on from reminiscing and was in the middle of a daydream, hoping that one day he and Katie could have children. They were financially stable and the timing was right, but they never seemed to be able to get it done. Still, when he was alone in times like this, he often thought of what it would be like to throw a baseball with his son or take his daughter to ballet class, making it to every game and every recital without fail. Katie worked hard and often long hours, but Evan was the one practicing for the days of family suppers and game night.

While Evan drifted deeper into la-la land, the deer was fifty yards from the road to his left. She quickly lifted her head from grazing; something caught her attention. She sensed danger and her fight-or-flight response kicked in as she trotted off with graceful legs carrying her quickly. She jumped the old wooden fence with ease. A vibrating phone made a distinct rattling sound in Evan’s cupholder. He looked down to see a text from Katie. Dinner with the program directors tonight. Be home around 10. Love you. Just as Evan looked up, the deer was in the middle of the road, not more than twenty-five feet in front of him.

It seemed like everything happened in slow-motion. Evan slammed his head into the back of the headrest, his hands in a white-knuckle death-grip on the steering wheel. The deer stood frozen in the middle of the road. Evan’s immediate response was to turn the steering wheel hard to the right. As the car tires led the car to the right, obeying Evan’s command, the driver’s side mirror ever-so-gently brushed against the hair on the ear of the frozen female deer. The car whizzed by her and off into the ditch. She twitched her right ear as if only a fly had landed on it and gave the same look of disapproval that an old lady gives a kid who flies past her on his bike.

Evan was ejected from the car but managed to escape from it rolling on him. He was propped up against a pile of oak brush. His labored breathing resonated in the cold air around him. Blood from a cut on his eyebrow trickled down his face, running into his mouth. The twisting of metal and flinging of dirt was enough to scare the deer off. A squeak from a wobbly hubcap rubbing against a branch kept on and on as if the friction that should slow it down was miles away. The left headlight shined as bright as ever, illuminating the dust settling in the beam like sediments in a vintage wine. That same beam shone right on Evan, his warm breath clearly visible in the cold, dark night. It all happened so perfectly. It was surely meant to be, as if fate wouldn’t have it any other way.

* *

 

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.

Dylan was a smooth-talking man. His overall appearance reminded her of Evan, but with lighter hair and green eyes. The greenest of green. The initial conversation was mostly about work and where they saw themselves in their careers a few years down the road. Dylan was self-assured in a way Katie could only hope to be, and he had an air of sensuality about him that easily drew female attention. He knew exactly what he was doing, maintaining a casual demeanor. Dylan was no slouch, though. He knew Katie was married and didn’t care one bit. With the alcohol doing its thing, the talk got a bit more flirtatious, and the blood traveled from inside Katie’s body to the surface of her skin, where her cheeks flushed like the bloom of a spring rose.

“I need to visit the ladies’ room,” Katie said, taking the long way around the booth and crossing over Dylan. This was the closest they had ever been. He could smell her shampoo and for some reason, it turned him on more than any fine perfume could. It reminded him of something clean. Something pure. Something wholesome. All of which he fully intended to use to suit his own sinister designs.

“I’ll be waiting,” Dylan responded with a wicked grin. As Katie wiggled around Dylan’s lap and onto her own two feet, she straightened out her little black dress and checked her hair with her hand. Thank God you remembered to dress a little sassy on casual Friday. She was looking good tonight. Dylan knew it, the waiter knew it, and the group of stockbrokers she strutted by knew it. One even gave Dylan a once-over to see what was so special about him. Tonight, Katie could have any man in the world. She had swagger, she had confidence, and most importantly, she knew it. This powerful combination made Katie dangerous, but it was always short-lived because it always originated from the alcohol.

She pushed the double doors into the women’s restroom and made the ninety-degree right turn. She stood in front of the giant mirror, examining the woman looking back at her. Thoughts raced through her head as she decided if tonight would be the night she would cheat on Evan. He wouldn’t be home until late and long business dinners were not unusual for Katie. She could easily get away with it.

You can do this. You’re a beautiful woman with a gorgeous man who wants to show you some fun. There aren’t any kids to consider, and Evan will never know. You deserve this. She reapplied her shiny fruit-flavored lip balm, did a quick check of the left side, then the right side. You look good. Katie snatched her purse off the granite bathroom sink and made like she owned the place, her high heels clicking on the expensive marble tile as she left the restroom.

Dylan slouched slightly in his seat as he wondered what was taking so long. He saw Katie around the corner from the bathrooms and popped up tall, putting his arm on the back of the booth in an effort to appear smooth again. Dylan’s eyes were observing attentively, waiting to see what her next move was going to be. She sat down opposite him in the round booth and grabbed her appletini, swallowed the last of it in one big gulp, and whispered, “Let’s get out of here.” Dylan knew the small talk was over and his time had arrived, but he still had to reassure himself that this was actually going to happen. He couldn’t believe his luck. Dylan loved women. All shapes and sizes too. He had put more work into Katie than most, but only because she was married and seemed to need a little coaxing.

“Can I get you two another round?” the waiter asked.

“No, we’ll just take the check, thanks,” Dylan replied with a weak, underlying accent.

As Katie contemplated what was about to happen, the alcohol was taking over. Ever-so-slowly turning the shy and timid Katie into a glowing, confident, bona-fide woman. Dylan paid the tab and helped Katie put on his leather jacket. They eagerly stood up together in anticipation of the evening’s inevitable events. Dylan left the booth first and reached his hand out to help Katie down the small step. She graciously grabbed it. Contact.

“Shall we?” Dylan asked.

“Yes,” Katie responded quietly. It was such a simple answer for such a complicated situation. Dylan forcefully made his way through the crowd, nearly dragging Katie behind him. As they approached the exit, Dylan wrapped his arm around Katie. It was frosty out. The homeless man outside of the bar was shivering. Sucks to be out here in the cold. They walked past the man and up to the edge of the sidewalk to the well-timed arrival of a cab. Being the smooth man he was, Dylan opened the door and let Katie in first. He loosened his tie while looking around the street, in the same way a lion surveys for scavengers right before he consumes his prey. All clear.

“Downtown Grand, my good sir,” Dylan said as he ducked his head into the cab and closed the door.

* *

 

Evan appeared lifeless, like a doll propped up in a chair. His skull was cracked right above his left eye and on the back of his head. Outside, it was twenty degrees and dropping fast. The blades of grass were frozen stiff, and the small breeze made it feel even colder. His body temperature began to cool down as he went into shock. The tires on his smashed-up vehicle had finally stopped spinning. Evan’s untucked Banana Republic shirt was littered with blood and dirt along with a few randomly-placed rips. In a cruel twist of fate, Evan’s phone laid face-up a few feet away from him, Katie’s text message still on the screen for all to see.

Brian Donagan was headed out of town and decided that the best route would be Highway 50. He was on his way to pick up his kids from his ex-wife. They swapped custody of them every other week per the agreement in the divorce. He never took this road but, as chance would have it, he decided to this night. Brian spotted a light pointed away from the road a few hundred yards up. It looked like somebody possibly poaching a deer. He slowed down to get a better view, and as soon he got close enough, he froze in realization of what it was. Brian grabbed his phone and immediately called 9-1-1, giving his location to the operator. Brian exited his vehicle only to recognize how cold it was outside. Like a scolded child, he ran back to grab his jacket.

“Anybody there?!” Brian shouted. He saw Evan right away, but hit his knees to check under the car for any other injured people. “Hello?!” Brian shouted. Nothing. He ran over to Evan, who was showcased by the perfectly-placed headlight. Brian noticed the swelling on Evan’s face. Evan looked like a boxer on the wrong end of a tough bout. Despite what he saw, Brian was somewhat calm. Moving rapidly, he took his coat off and gently placed it over Evan. He hesitantly checked for a pulse. “Oh God, please be okay…. Hello, sir? Fuck! Please be okay, man. Please be okay.” Brian felt a pulse. It was shallow, but it was there. He noticed the faint tufts of steam coming out of Evan’s nose, which made him feel stupid for looking for a pulse in the first place. “You’re going to be okay, man. The ambulance is on its way,” Brian whispered. The somewhat-calm from earlier had quickly come and gone.

Brian looked down for clues as to who this man was and Evan’s left hand caught his attention. He noticed Evan was wearing a wedding band on his left ring finger. It was gold with a big dent where it was struck hard by something, most likely in the accident. It was still on Evan’s finger, but noticeably damaged, along with Evan’s arm. Brian could see the bone sticking out of the blue and white striped shirt. He placed his hand on his own head and almost cried. “Oh shit. Please let this man live, Lord. Please.” Brian also noticed the cell phone on the ground with a cracked screen. He picked it up and stuffed the phone into the front right pocket of Evan’s shirt. By this time nearly thirty minutes had passed, and Brian was becoming more and more of a wreck. Trying to waste some time with something productive, he phoned his ex-wife to let her know what had happened and that he would be there as soon as he could. He knelt down next to Evan and wondered who this man was. Where was he going? What caused him to roll his car like this? All of these questions raced through Brian’s thoughts as he realized just how fragile life really was. He had never seen a dead person, and he certainly didn’t want to tonight. He continually looked for the breath escaping Evan’s mouth. Brian was scared and completely helpless. Finally hearing the faint sound of the ambulance in the distance growing louder, Brian’s head dropped in relief. He was in charge and felt responsible for whatever happened here until someone capable of providing treatment arrived. That may have been far from the truth, but he wouldn’t be convinced otherwise.

The ambulance was traveling in excess of eighty-five miles per hour, but every second Brian waited felt like an eternity. The big vehicle finally made it, pulling to a screeching stop, and Brian let out a sigh of relief. His hot breath turned to steam in the air and left his face cold.

 

* *

 

“That’ll be thirty-seven fifty,” the cab driver said. Dylan extended his arm to pay the man with a fifty-dollar bill and told him to keep the change. He was on fire tonight and waiting for change was not on the docket. Katie was wrapped tightly in Dylan’s leather jacket as they walked into the entrance of the Downtown Grand. It was a tall, elegant building that rose above the street with windows taking in all the views that downtown had to offer. It had all the trimmings of an affair waiting to happen. They walked to the entrance and the bellhop swung the big door open with ease.

“Welcome to the Downtown Grand,” he said as he bowed with the grace of a Broadway star. They hardly noticed him as they blew right by, approaching the front desk smiling and playing.

“Stop,” Katie said with a devious smile as Dylan grabbed her ass. He took his hands off Katie and laid them on the desk. The name tag on the young clerk’s lapel read Natasha.

“Good evening. Welcome to the Downtown Grand. How may I help you?”

“Well…Natasha, we are weary travelers in need of shelter tonight,” Dylan said sarcastically.

“I think I can help you with that, how many nights?”

“Just one please,” Dylan said.

The keyboard clicks echoed in the large hotel entrance. As Natasha processed the request, Dylan’s eyes were locked onto his target. He grabbed Katie’s hand and kissed it. He just-so-happened to kiss her wedding ring. He never noticed, but Katie did, making her sick inside. She could have thrown up right there in the lobby but managed to hold it back. Her inner monologue gave her the confidence to shake it off without showing how she truly felt.

“Would you like smoking or non-smoking?” Natasha asked.

“Non-smoking please,” Dylan replied.

The keyboard noise continued on as Katie took in all the details of the spacious hotel lobby. This building. This is where it’s going to happen. Marble pillars in the entryway with a red carpet that led right up to the registration area. Can you think of somewhere better?

“I’ll need a driver’s license and a credit card to secure the room, which will be charged at checkout.”

Without a word, Dylan handed over his driver’s license and Platinum American Express card. As Natasha typed in Dylan’s information and ran the credit card, she stared at the screen, ignoring the public display that was happening between Dylan and Katie.

“There you go,” Natasha looked up and said with a smile. “Room 911. Elevators are right around that corner there. Can I help you with anything else?”

“As a matter of fact, you can,” Katie chimed in. “Send a bottle of your most expensive red to the room and put it on the bill,” Katie said with a smile.

“Sure thing, Mrs. Starks, and enjoy your stay,” Natasha said.

“I’m sure we will,” Dylan said.

Just like that, Katie Glover…AKA Mrs. Starks, was sacrificing five years of marriage for a smooth-talking man with a square jaw and broad shoulders. She knew the consequences, but she had already made up her mind. It would be almost too embarrassing to back out at this point. She eyed him as they left the elevator while walking arm-in-arm to the room. The key card slid in, and as Dylan removed it from the lock, the door made a clicking sound in conjunction with the little green light. Green for go. She blew out a deep breath in fear and anticipation.

Dylan, being the gentleman he was, held the door open as Katie walked in. He followed in behind her. Slowly turning around, he gently pushed the door closed. As the view into the hallway narrowed, the fantastic smile he was wearing widened.

 

* *

 

Evan was still unconscious as Brian stood back in bewilderment. He had watched medical shows on TV, but in real life, the paramedics were speaking gibberish. He took in the moment and caught a few words here and there while they loaded Evan onto the stretcher. “Internal bleeding,” “subdural hematoma,” and “intracranial pressure” were among the fancy words that were being voiced. A paramedic stepped out of the ambulance and began getting the stretcher board ready. The female paramedic holding up an IV bag walked by Brian and glanced over at him. “You did well, sir.”

“Thanks,” Brian mumbled. He wanted to be proud of his efforts, but he knew he did nothing special. It was all happening too fast for him. The paramedics seemed to move effortlessly and didn’t seem to care about Evan. Brian assured himself that they did care, but that they had a job to do. Plus, they do it every day and had probably seen much worse, so it had to be routine.

By this time, a state police officer had shown up. The officer walked up slowly and started talking to the EMTs. The EMT that had thanked Brian earlier was pointing to him. The officer looked over, shook his head, and headed his way. For some reason Brian felt like he might be in trouble.

“I’m Officer Collins of the State Police Department. I need to get a quick statement from you, sir,” the officer said.

“Of course,” Brian replied.

Brian told the officer that he drove by and saw Evan’s car on its back and called 9-1-1. There wasn’t much else to tell. As Brian was talking to the officer, his gaze diverted to watch the team load Evan into the ambulance. The driver of the ambulance helped to get the stretcher in and then closed the door behind them. She jogged briskly around the ambulance, got in, and hit the sirens. They wasted no time in speeding off with their cargo.

Two EMTs and Evan together in the ambulance was definitely a crowd. The female EMT, Julie, was on the phone with the hospital nurse, reporting all of the information they had on Evan and their estimated time of arrival, about twenty minutes.

Evan did not look well. He had dark, black circles around both of his eyes, and his face was swollen to the point of being unrecognizable. His neck was stabilized in a brace, while his body rocked back and forth from the vibrations of the ambulance flying down the two lane road. Although his body moved from the external forces, his mind lay perfectly still.

The siren wailed on as the ambulance made its way into the city. They were headed to St. Mary’s Hospital downtown. Julie hung up the phone while her partner was taking vitals and recording them on a chart. They made a left turn onto Washington Boulevard to enter the ambulance access of the emergency room. As Julie and the other paramedic unloaded Evan, Father Elders ran out through the ER doors and into the cold air to meet the team. While they all rushed into the hospital, Father Elders jogged beside the stretcher and grabbed Evan’s hand and squeezed it. He had been around long enough to know that despite a person being unconscious, they can still feel love. After all, Father Elders wasn’t in the body business…he was in the soul business.

 

* *

 

Katie walked meticulously around the room as if an inspection would ensure this place was good enough to cheat on her husband. She walked up to the window and started to close the big, heavy curtains. Maybe it was a subconscious effort to hide her intentions from the rest of the world. Dylan walked up behind her, put his hand on the small of her back, and began slowly rubbing her through her little black dress. Shivers went up her spine. While the caressing felt good, she couldn’t help but notice how the city below looked like a high-definition version of Pac-Man—the little cars with their lights moving around the maze. In all that was about to happen, Katie found space to wonder who they were and where they were all headed.

“Everything okay?” Dylan asked. Katie hesitated. This fantasy of other men was about to get real. Way beyond masturbating in bubble baths where she indulged her wildest fantasies with various men.

“Perfect,” she whispered, not moving her eyes from the window. “They look like ants down there, following some ordained path.”

Dylan grunted a half snicker. “Maybe they are ants. Have you ever seen how ants will take an injured or dead ant back to the nest and eat him?”

“Gross!” Katie laughed.

“It’s true. We are no different than them. All just animals.” As they enjoyed an awkward laugh, there was a knock on the door.

“Room Service!” the voice shouted.

Dylan reluctantly took his hand off Katie’s back so he could answer the door. It had taken him months to get his hand permission to be there and annoyed him slightly that he had to answer the door. He was greeted by a young man with the bottle of Ten Thousand Roses Merlot, two glasses, and a wine opener. Dylan set them on the counter next to the door and reached into his wallet, handing the young man a crisp five-dollar bill for his services. Dylan closed the door while grabbing all of the party favors at the same time. He wasn’t going to give Katie the chance to change her mind. As she stared outside, deep in thought, Dylan poured two full glasses of wine. He handed one to Katie and resumed his place next to her with the other glass in his hand. Katie looked beautiful holding the deep purple wine in the crystal glass, with the city lights glowing in the background.

“To the night, and whatever she may bring,” said Dylan as he held his glass up.

“To the night,” Katie echoed.

She raised her glass and tapped it delicately into his. A high-pitched clink resonated through the room with both of them taking bigger-than-usual swigs. They stood silently, enjoying the beautiful view of downtown once more, when from the left side of the window, an ambulance came into view. They watched its bright flashing lights weaving in and out of traffic as it made its way to St. Mary’s, finally coming to a stop. Dylan and Katie could see the paramedics racing feverishly around on the ground below.

“Look at the poor sap in that ambulance down there. Probably some old lady who fell down and broke her hip.”

Katie punched him in the arm jokingly. “You are so mean!” The ice was broken.

“Well, whoever it is probably didn’t expect to be headed to St. Mary’s tonight.” Dylan turned Katie’s face toward him and gave her a seductive grin. “But let’s not let it spoil our evening.”

Katie finished her wine quickly so it would do its work and numb her up. She sat the glass on the table, closed the curtain, and turned to Dylan. He grabbed her forcefully, just the way she liked it. Pulling her in for the kill. Their lips met and butterflies exploded throughout Katie’s body. Bliss. Dylan quickly undid the buttons on his dress shirt, starting from the top, then proceeded to remove the spaghetti straps holding up Katie’s little black dress. Once that was done, the dress slid off without effort. Just like that, beautiful Katie was standing there in her black lace bra with matching panties. She unbuttoned Dylan’s jeans and like a slow Texas two-step, he led her over to the bed, his tongue never leaving her mouth. Dylan was aggressive, but that was okay; that was his style, and she wanted it like that.

So many thoughts bounced around in her brain. So many thoughts, but none were of Evan or what he might be doing. For all she knew, he was pulling in a big pot at the poker game and taking a shot of whiskey to celebrate.

That notion couldn’t have been further from the truth.

 

* *

 

Father Elders continued to hold Evan’s hand until they reached the emergency room. Once inside, he stepped aside to let the doctors do their jobs. A nurse began cutting Evan’s clothes off, placing them into a clear, plastic collection bag. Father Elders rummaged through Evan’s pockets and collected his wallet, cell phone and watch, then headed back to the nurse’s station.

“Here’s his insurance card. Please try to find a next of kin and phone number,” the priest directed.

“Right away, Father,” she responded.

Father Elders walked around the nurse’s desk and grabbed a small, plastic bin. He placed the phone along with Evan’s wallet and watch in the bin. He stuck a piece of white tape on and labeled it with a Sharpie, “Evan Glover,” and put it in one of the lockers in the storage shelf behind the nurse’s station. Meanwhile, the nurse typed away on the computer and grabbed a pen and a piece of scrap paper from the cluttered desk. She had found Evan in the insurance system with information on his next of kin. Writing the details down on a piece of paper, she handed it to Father Elders who took it and made the trip back to the emergency room to check on Evan’s status.

The ER was filled with chaos. People talking over each other and beeps filled the room. Evan was surrounded by moving bodies who were prepping him for emergency surgery. Father Elders left the room, making his way down the hall and across the lower floor to his tiny corner office. The old wooden door was labeled St. Mary’s Chaplain. It was painted a dark shade of green that might have been there since the first days of the hospital. He opened the door, turned on the light, and sat down at his desk. He let out a sigh, hesitating for a minute. This was by far the worst part of his job. In fact, his whole career consisted of things like this, but it never got easier for him.

Father Tyrell Elders grew up in an inner-city black neighborhood. He and his friend, Eli, were playing hopscotch one hot summer day on the sidewalk. Two local rival gangs had clashed two weeks’ prior, meaning the Black Rangers were out for revenge. That morning they rounded the street corner in their low-riding older model Chevy Malibu, causing kids and adults alike to flee. Everyone knew what was coming. Tyrell grabbed Eli by the hand and started running as gunfire rang out. A few seconds later Tyrell was suddenly yanked back. He turned around to tell Eli to hurry up. That’s when he saw Eli had caught a stray bullet in the neck. Tyrell fell to his knees, staying with Eli as the blood left his body, pouring out onto the sidewalk into a massive puddle that continued to grow for a full minute. Even at eight years old, no one had to tell Tyrell that Eli was dead. The memory of watching his best friend bleed out was one he would never forget. The haunting vision of that day was what ultimately prompted him to join the ministry. He mostly kept to himself after that, save for attending Our Lady of Sorrow Catholic Church every Sunday with his grandmother. He found comfort in the Lord, and it was the only way the eight-year-old Tyrell could make sense of what he had witnessed.

Father Elders slumped back in his chair and dialed Katie’s number, putting the phone to his ear. He immediately heard the voicemail message, “You’ve reached Katie. Please leave me a message and I will return your call as soon as possible. Have a great day.”

“My name is Father Tyrell Elders,” he began. “I’m a priest at St. Mary’s Hospital. I’m afraid Evan Glover was in a car accident and is currently in our care. Please come to the hospital as soon as you can.” He placed the phone back in its cradle wondering how many times he had to make that phone call. Father Elders bowed his head and started praying aloud.

“Dear Heavenly Father, I pray to you tonight for your child, Evan. Father, we cannot expect to know Your will, but please look upon Evan and his family with eyes of mercy. All-powerful and ever-living God, we trust You with our souls. We are prepared to face any trial on Earth that You deem us capable of enduring, taking solace in knowing that everlasting life with You awaits. In Your name we pray, Amen.”

Father Elders stood up and headed back to the nurse’s station to see if any additional information on Evan had emerged. He stared intently at the trauma team that was rolling Evan down the hallway toward the operating room. It was crucial that they relieve some of the pressure caused by swelling on Evan’s brain and address any other life-threatening issues immediately.

“A message has been left for his emergency contact. I’ll keep trying to get a hold of her,” Father Elders calmly told the nurse.

 

* *

 

Katie was letting out dulcet moans, while Dylan grunted and quickened his pace, nearing orgasm. They had been at it for several minutes, shifting positions often until they found the one that gave them both the most pleasure. With Dylan now on top, Katie grabbed Dylan’s hips and pulled them closer in toward her as they both reached climax. The dance was over. Dylan slid off of Katie in intense relaxation, sweat dripping down both of their bodies. A deep exhale from Katie indicated her complete satisfaction. Boxes were checked off both of their lists. Dylan had bagged another hot woman. The fact that she was married was meaningless. And Katie had finally been fully satisfied by another man.

The guilt immediately took hold and swept over her in a frenzy. Katie nearly panicked with the comprehension of what she had just done. She wrestled with the internal chaos as she glanced over at Dylan. Dylan reached over to cuddle with her, but she wasn’t having it. Pushing him aside, she rose from the bed with a purpose.

“This is never happening again,” Katie said. She put a little extra emphasis on the word “never”.

“So you say…. I’m a charming man,” Dylan responded with a smirk.

“So you say,” Katie said playing along half-heartedly. She was ready to leave. This deceit was already taking its toll on her. She looked at the clock on the nightstand that read 11:30.

“Shit. I have to get home, Dylan. Evan is probably worried sick about me,” Katie said.

“I understand. You going to clean up?”

“No, I’ll just shower when I get home.”

“I’m going to stay here and watch some HBO. It’s already paid for, so, why not?” Dylan replied.

Katie held the sheet tight to her chest as she walked into the bathroom with her clothes in hand. Even though she just slept with Dylan, getting dressed in front of him just seemed wrong. She felt as dirty as the streaked and spotted up mirror in the bathroom. A normally flawless reflecting object littered with specks of imperfection. She closed the bathroom door and sat on the toilet to pee. She looked over to her right to see her face in the filthy mirror. Her hair was a mess and her cheeks were flush. What the fuck did you do? She rose up off of the toilet, flushed it, and began putting herself back together.

“What a crazy night, huh?” Katie asked as she left the bathroom.

“Yeah. Sometimes things just happen, you know?” Dylan said.

“Yeah. It was fun, but now it’s over. Good night, Dylan.” Katie put her hands on Dylan’s chest and leaned in one last time for a kiss. Dylan tried to pull her back in for another round, but she quickly dodged his efforts and walked toward the door.

“Goodnight, beautiful. Mwah!” Dylan smiled flirtatiously while making kissing sounds.

Katie shut the hotel room door behind her and began walking down the long, lonely hallway. Purse hanging over her shoulder, keeping a brisk pace to the elevator. She pushed the button and stared up at the lit floor indicator. 2…3…4…. Sighing at its slow progress. 5…6…7…8…. It finally reached her floor with a ding. The doors opened and Katie stepped into the empty elevator, pushing the first floor button. They slid shut, making a quiet hiss in the process. Katie immediately started to cry aloud in the elevator. She let out a few deep sobs, stopping occasionally to wipe her eyes, trying to regain her composure. The elevator came to a stop on the ground floor and the door opened, revealing another young couple waiting to board. They were smiling and laughing until they realized the woman inside the elevator was intensely distraught. Katie rushed past them, exited the hotel, and hailed a cab to the bar where she had left her car. Anger for what she had done took her over with a rage.

“Right here is fine,” she said to the cab driver. He pulled over next to a parking garage and put the car in park. Katie was so focused on what had happened that she forgot about her phone. She reached into her purse to retrieve some money when it finally dawned on her that it had been off this whole time. Evan is probably freaking out about where you are. Turn the phone on! Instead, she could say it was dead and use that as an excuse for not calling back. “Keep the change,” Katie said.

“Have a nice night, lady,” the cab driver replied.

Katie found her car keys, tucked her belongings under her arm, and walked into the parking structure. She made her way to her parking space, pushing the unlock button on the key fob. It gave her a closer look at her key ring that had a big letter “K” encrusted with fake pink diamonds. Evan had bought it for her on a business trip. It was the first time they had been apart since getting married and Evan had wanted her to know that he was always thinking about her. It felt twistedly ironic that it now made her think of him.

Katie opened the car door, tossing her purse into the front seat and turned the key in one continuous motion. The engine turned over despite the cold, and Katie shivered while she waited impatiently for the car to warm up. She rubbed her arms vigorously to help warm up, but it wasn’t working very well. Katie grabbed the steering wheel with both hands, reaching her right fingers toward the shifter when she broke down again. What had she just done? This stupid fantasy had gone too far. Was she going to tell Evan? Would she be able to live with what she did? She sobbed out loud while glancing in the mirror, grabbing a tissue to wipe the black mascara that was running down her cheeks.

Once she regained composure, Katie began the drive home with her poker face in full effect. Would he know by the look on her face? Evan was a smart guy and that gave her cause for worry. Katie made the twenty-five-minute drive to their house, making the time now half past midnight. She would have to explain to Evan how dinner turned into drinks, and that it was beneficial for her career to socialize at any opportunity and blah blah blah. Katie pulled into the driveway, quickly noticing that no lights were on in the house. That’s weird. He didn’t leave any lights on for me. Katie pressed the button on her garage door opener and the headlights illuminated an empty garage. Slightly worried, she pulled into the garage, jumped out of the car, and hurried inside.

Katie fumbled for the kitchen light switch in the dark house. It quickly became apparent that Evan had not been home yet. Suddenly remembering her phone, she frantically dug through her purse until she found it. She paced the kitchen floor while the phone went through its startup routine. Once complete, Katie saw a message from an unknown number. With the message playing in her ear, her face went from a soft, pink glow to pale like a ghost. Was she pale from the contents of the message or the events of the night. Perhaps it was both.

Holding the phone in her right hand, Katie pressed her left hand on her forehead and leaned on the fridge, slowly sliding to the floor. The mascara streaks that were once removed returned with a vengeance. She dropped the phone on the floor and talked to herself out loud. “What the fuck? What the fuck did I do?” Katie sobbed. She reclaimed her phone, grabbed her purse, and hastily made for the hospital that stood not even two blocks away from where she had sex with another man.

Katie drove past the Downtown Grand when a wave of guilt washed over her again, creating the need to suddenly vomit. Slamming on the brakes, she turned the car onto the side of the road and opened the car door, leaning her head out, quickly depositing roughly sixty-two dollars’ worth of fine wine into the gutter. After she wiped her mouth and shut the car door, her gaze shot upward to see a room on the ninth floor of the posh hotel lit up. Was it worth it? Dylan was probably up there bragging to himself about his new conquest. Maybe he was already planning his next one. Either way, she sped off in anguish.

Katie’s car pulled into the closest parking space she could find near the main building of the hospital. She ran as fast as she could in high heels to the emergency room. When Katie arrived at the entrance, there was a slight pause before the sensor opened the door. During that brief moment, Katie saw her reflection in the glass. She looked as atrocious as she did in the mirror of the hotel bathroom. The monster stared right back as the door whooshed open. She straightened her attire and resolved to put the whole thing behind her. She had to, at least for now. Now more than ever, Katie had to focus on Evan, the man she loved. She didn’t love Dylan, she loved Evan. What happened with Dylan was just an act of lust, not love. We are animals, just like Dylan said, right?

“Evan Glover! Is he okay?! What happened?!” Katie was frantic, slamming her purse into the counter as she ran up to it. It wasn’t an unusual scene for the ER, but the ER clerk was thankful that it a relatively quiet Friday night.

“Try to relax, ma’am. Are you his wife?” the ER clerk inquired. Katie nodded. “Let me see where he is.”

The clerk typed away as Katie squeezed her purse tightly into her chest, dreading hearing the worst. “He’s in surgery right now. That’s all the information I have at this time. A doctor will be out to update the family when surgery is complete. We have a nice, comfortable waiting area right around the corner.” Katie didn’t care about how nice the waiting room was and the look permeated outward. The clerk paused and looked into her eyes sympathetically. “I’m very sorry, Mrs. Glover. The doctors at St. Mary’s are the best. I’m sure they will do everything in their power to help your husband.”

Katie barely heard the encouraging words. Considering all of the night’s commotion, she had forgotten to call Evan’s parents. They lived about eight hours away in a small, rural town. Still crying, she wandered over to the couches to call them. The room was painted in sorrow. Magazines strewn about, old rickety chairs with holes in the seats, and a soda machine whose lights were flickering. Katie finally settled into a chair. It was difficult to see her contact list through the tears in her eyes, but Katie finally found the name and hit Send.

“Katie? Is everything alright?” Laura asked groggily.

“Laura. Listen, Evan has been in a car accident. I don’t really know what’s going on. He’s in surgery right now…that’s all I know.”

She could hear Laura shuffling around in the bed trying to wake up Jim. “Jim, wake up! Evan was in a car accident. He’s in the hospital. Get up! Katie, what happened?!” Laura asked.

“I don’t know. I was out at dinner, I got home and there was a call from the hospital saying that Evan was in an accident. I just got here, so I don’t really know anything yet.”

“Oh my God. Oh my God,” Laura sobbed and hyperventilated. Katie could hear the shifting of the phone. Jim had taken it from her to finish the conversation as Laura became more frantic.

“Katie, this is Jim. What is going on?”

“I don’t know! I’m at the hospital now. I Just know that he was in a car accident. He is in surgery right now.”

“Okay. Okay. Everything is going to be all right. Just stay there with him. We are going to pack some stuff and get on the road. We will be there in the morning. We love you.”

“I love you guys. Please hurry! And drive safe!” Katie said as she hung up the phone and went silent. She was at a loss for words with nothing to say to anyone. She buried her head deep into her lap. So many thoughts and emotions were running through her mind. Katie wanted to blame the affair for what happened to Evan but couldn’t quite commit to the connection. She wondered how long poor Evan suffered and how it all happened. Would things have gone differently if Katie hadn’t turned off her phone? What was the last thing she said to him? It was a lie.

Katie stared down at the cold, cheap tile between her knees when she suddenly became aware of the wet spot in her underwear…the remnants of a man she didn’t love. She cried harder. Katie thought of the last time she was with Evan. It was just the night before that they had made love in the shower.

Katie had gotten home early and had dinner waiting for Evan. He had stopped at the grocery store to pick up chives so Katie could complete her recipe. He’d decided to get her roses, for no reason at all. There was nothing special about that day, but both Evan and Katie had been in a good mood. They enjoyed a few glasses of wine together before getting ready for bed when Evan jumped in the shower. He leaned his head back into the stream of water, closing his eyes, when he was unexpectedly surprised by Katie slipping in, wrapping her arms around him. The shower was in full steam mode by that point as the two began to kiss. Katie was and had always been the aggressor, the shower was no different. It wasn’t long before the kissing led to more. She raised her left leg and pulled Evan closer and into herself.

Katie snapped back to reality only to realize where she was. It dawned on her that she’d had sex with two men in two days, but prior to yesterday, she had only had sex with two men in her entire life. She moved over a few spaces to lay down on the uncomfortable hospital couch, crying herself to sleep. That hot shower was millions of miles from where she was now…maybe even farther.

It was four in the morning when a doctor finally walked in to find Katie balled up on the couch, asleep. He gently tapped her on the shoulder. “Mrs. Glover?” the man asked.

“Yes,” she responded sleepily. Katie looked up with big, kitten eyes waiting to hear the fate of her husband.

“Mrs. Glover, I’m Dr. Setter. I’m the chief neurosurgeon here at St Mary’s. Your husband sustained significant injuries in the car accident. In order to relieve the pressure caused by the swelling on his brain, we removed a piece of his skull above the right eye and a piece from the parietal bone,” he gestured toward the back of his head. “Evan also sustained a compound fracture to his right arm, four fractured ribs, a collapsed lung, and damage to his left kidney. He also broke his number-four lumbar. At this point, we don’t have reason to believe he is paralyzed, but it’s too soon to be sure. He will most likely require additional surgeries as the swelling subsides. Right now Evan is recovering in the ICU, but he is in a coma, ma’am. He is going to have to fight to come out of this one. I’m very sorry.” Katie couldn’t decide if this was good news or bad news. He was alive at least.

“Oh my God. Can I see him?” Katie cried as she jumped up from the couch.

“You can, as soon as he is stabilized. It won’t be long, I promise, Mrs. Glover.”

Dr. Setter disappeared from where he had emerged. The silence in the waiting room became just as apparent as when she had first arrived. Katie decided that taking a quick trip home to shower and clean up would be best for everyone, especially her. She wiped her eyes and dug through her purse to find her keys. Katie knew she looked terrible and that fixing herself up to feel fresh might just be enough to handle the stress that was sure to continue. She received a call from Jim as she was heading out the door.

“Hi, Katie. We are a few hours out still, but we are making good time. The roads are pretty clear. Are there any updates on Evan?” Katie relayed all the information she had just received from Dr. Setter.

“Okay. Well, we will be there soon. Take care of our son. We love you,” Jim said. I think I already helped your son out by sleeping with another man.

 

It was a quarter till six in the morning. Freshly showered and dressed in some jeans with a plain sweatshirt, Katie returned to the hospital, speeding most of the way there and back. As she walked through the double doors, that familiar smell of hospitals hit her. Disinfectant and cleanliness. It’s next to godliness, right? She felt the need to throw up again, but managed to refrain this time.

Katie approached the help desk near the hospital’s entrance and greeted the clerk. “Hi, again. What room is Evan Glover in?”

“Good morning. Let me get that info for you, just one second.” Katie nervously picked at her fingernails while the clerk looked up the information. “He’s in room three-zero-eight, sweetie. Right that way to the elevators.”

The hospital seemed to have woken up since being there last. There were people buzzing around, all headed somewhere. Katie’s heels clicked in cadence as she made her way to the elevator. She couldn’t shake the thought of how trips to the elevator could forever alter the course of her fate. There was a man already waiting at the bank of elevators when she got there. All of the lights for the up-arrow were lit. One set of doors opened with a “ding,” and inside was a man in a wheelchair with a young girl standing behind him. With a little effort, the girl got the wheelchair moving, clearing the elevator. Katie was nervous as she stepped on. She had no idea what to expect when she saw him. She was thinking this might be the last time she saw Evan alive. He might already be dead, for all she knew.

“What floor?” the man asked with a pleasant smile.

“Three, please,” Katie replied. They both stared intently at the LCD floor indicators until the doors opened on Katie’s floor. She exited the elevator and walked into the ICU section of the hospital. It was booming with hurried people carrying charts, phones ringing, and pages over the intercom system. Katie was looking for Evan’s room. It wasn’t that easy because some of them seemed to be in some order and others were not. She made the turn past the nurse’s station when a young woman in scrubs asked if she was lost.

“I’m looking for room three-o-eight,” Katie said.

“Mr. Glover?” the lady confirmed.

“Yes. Can I see my husband now?” Katie asked.

“Yes, but you are the only one allowed to be in there. His room is just around the corner on the left.”

“Thank you,” Katie said with a polite smile. She rubbed her eyes and wiped her nose with a tissue as she neared Evan’s room. She was a mess, and she didn’t know how she was supposed to feel. Everything that had happened in the last twenty-four hours had her brain on an emotional rollercoaster. She prepared herself for what she was about to see. Picturing her darling Evan looking like she last saw him, hair slicked back from the water in the shower, the crooked smile on his face that melted into intense ecstasy as they made love. She knew it wouldn’t be like that, but she had no clue what she was about to see. She took a deep breath and exhaled as she turned the doorknob, creeping into the room.

The room was dim and there was a steady beeping from the machine measuring Evan’s pulse. The entire top of his head was wrapped in bandages with his face completely covered in black and blue, indicating that he had danced with the devil. Tubes coming out of his nose, mouth, and side of his chest completed the picture. She wasn’t even sure it was him. Katie couldn’t even cry. She put her hand over her mouth and tried to let the necessary sobs escape, but only silence came.

Staring at Evan, the reality of it all finally hit Katie, and the tears once again streamed down her face. She walked slowly over to Evan’s side, putting her hand on his. What do you say to someone in this condition?

“Evan, Baby. I’m so sorry,” Katie sobbed. She stroked his hand. There was barely any room to feel his skin with the IV and tubes running everywhere. She looked at his hand, immediately noticing the missing ring and the tan line where it used to be. It resonated strong in Katie’s heart. The symbol of their eternal love was broken. “Baby, I’m here for you. You are going to be okay. I promise.” The only words she could think of.

Katie remained at Evan’s side for twenty minutes when someone opened the door. She turned her head to see who it was as a team of doctors entered the room. They were all carrying charts, and none of them had pleasant looks on their face. One of them stepped forward and approached Katie with his arm extended outward.

“Mrs. Glover, I’m Dr. Oakum. Evan will be under my team’s care. We need to evaluate him to determine our path forward. I have to ask you to leave the room momentarily, and I will speak with you afterward.”

“Okay. I’ll go wait outside,” Katie responded as she stood to leave. She walked out of the room and headed over to the breakroom for a cup of coffee. She looked at her watch. It was getting close to seven in the morning. Katie called her boss and let him know the situation. Mike assured her that she had the full support of the office and to take as much time as she needed. Katie knew that the news would soon spread to all of their circles and that she’d be overwhelmed with the attention. She thrived on attention, just not that kind of attention.

Katie sipped her coffee, staring out of the third-floor window of St. Mary’s Hospital. Her mind once again went back to the night before. What was she thinking? This all seemed liked her fault. She thought of what Dylan had said about being ants and how it could have some truth to it. Katie cared about Evan, his parents cared about him, and the doctors, in some fashion, cared about him, but there were billions of people on the Earth that would never know Evan Glover and his contribution to life. He was just another ant on the trail. The nest would move and grow with or without him, just as the outside world would continue on without him. She suddenly felt sorry for him, not because of the state he was in, but because of that fact. The world would move on without him. She leaned her head against the hospital window while the raindrops outside collected and flowed down the pane without resistance. Just like the tears that were streaming down her face.

After what seemed like an eternity, Dr. Oakum and his team finally started trickling out of the room. He stepped out from the pack, approaching Katie with a serious look on his face. This can’t be good.

“Mrs. Glover. Evan is stable right now, but we need to take him upstairs to run some more tests. We are going to check his neural activity and run an MRI to see the full extent of the damage. Again, he is stable right now, but he isn’t breathing on his own. I want to be honest with you, ma’am. This could go either way. He may be in a coma, but I encourage you to talk to him. People believe that it helps, and if he can hear you, he’s going to need all the support you can give him. I’ll come back and update you when we have more information.”

“Thank you, doctor,” Katie replied.

Shortly thereafter, a nurse accompanied by one of the doctors, wheeled Evan and all of his equipment out of the room and down the hall. Again, Katie wondered if that would be the last time she would see him. She watched a pile of sheets wrapped in bandages disappear down the hall and out of sight. Except, that pile of sheets wrapped in bandages happened to be her whole life.

Hours passed while Katie took a few phone calls from friends asking if she needed anything. She was in a fog. She couldn’t be sure at this point if all of this was real or a dream, but she knew one thing. She had made a terrible mistake the night before, and she couldn’t let it go. The guilt will go away. Don’t worry. She tried to convince herself on the inside. It didn’t work.

Jim and Laura sprinted down the hall when they saw Katie. They looked just as terrible as she did. Jim had on an old baseball hat with some worn out jeans. Laura was wearing jeans and a sweater with a vest. Her once-brown but now graying hair went down to the tops of her shoulders. She had flyaways sticking out all over. Jim and Laura were an active, healthy couple, but today, they looked every bit their age. They all embraced in a small group and shed some more tears. Katie explained all she knew to them. Now it was a waiting game.

Evan’s room was filled with machine noise. Pumps moving air, monitors reading heart rates, and blood pressure machines hissing. He lay static in his room while outside, Dr. Oakum was updating the family. The damage to the back of Evan’s head would likely affect his ability to see, but fortunately, the spinal fracture they discovered didn’t appear to have severed any nerves. Evan’s neural activity showed that it was not that of a normal, healthy person. He was not responding to external stimuli and only time would tell what the outcome would be. Jim, Laura, and Katie took in the news with the helpless feeling that usually accompanies this type of thing.

“You can go in now,” Dr. Oakum concluded as Father Elders approached the family.

“Hi. I’m Father Elders. I’m very sorry you have to endure this trying time.” He extended his hand to Laura, Katie, and then Jim. His black suit was cleanly pressed, matching his dark skin.

“I’m Jim, and this is my wife, Laura. We are Evan’s parents,” Jim said.

“I’m Katie, I’m Evan’s wife.”

“I wish I was meeting you all under different circumstances, but may I ask you a question? Is Evan a man of faith?” Father asked.

“Yes, we are all devout Catholic,” Jim replied.

This was true except for Katie. Evan’s parents were displeased that Evan and Katie did not have a Catholic wedding, but never publicly made a fuss about it.

“That’s great. Please talk to Evan. I believe he can hear you, but if not, his soul can hear you and he needs our help. Our God is a good God. Believe in Him, and He shall give Evan everything he needs,” Father said.

“Thank you, Father,” Jim replied.

While all of that was taking place outside in the hall, inside Evan lay perfectly still…except for his eyes.

 

 

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Book Spotlight: MacClinton by Sam Griffith

 


Inside the Book:

 

 
Inside The Book
Title: MacClinton
Author: Sam Griffith
Publisher: Conservative Press Books
Pages: 176 pages
Genre: Political Science / Political Satire
 
Book Description:
 
MacClinton, a modern tale of Bill Clinton’s political career told in the format of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. This amusing drama is fleshed out with notes that detail Clinton’s scandals and cover-ups. After reading it, you’ll want to examine the character and actions of political candidates before voting for or against them.

“When a citizen gives his suffrage [vote] to a man of known immorality, he abuses his trust; he sacrifices not only his own interest, but that of his neighbor; he betrays the interest of his country.” (Noah Webster) Although Webster wrote this statement almost two hundred years ago, it is good advice for us today.

MacClinton illustrates this warning as it recounts Bill and Hillary’s immorality, scandals, and cover-ups in an entertaining and enlightening way. From the opening scene with the three *itches meeting Bill MacClinton to the closing scene of George W. Bush’s presidential election victory, you’ll view Bill’s political career and Hillary’s cover-ups for her political ambition in a new light. The preponderance of evidence against the Clintons as fit leaders of America should motivate you to investigate political candidates more closely before voting for anyone who will betray the interest of our country.


Book Excerpt:

*itch 1: When shall we three meet again
            In thunder, lightning or in rain,
            In the district court,
            Or on David Letterman?
*itch 2: When the hurly-burly’s done,
            When the court battles are lost and
won.
*itch 3: Or likely before the setting of
the sun.
*itch 1: Where the place?
*itch 2: At the motel at the edge of
town.
*itch 3: There to meet with MacClinton.
*itches
1-3:
Again!

 

Thus begins MacClinton,
a modern tale of Bill Clinton’s political career told in the format of
Shakespeare’s Macbeth.
 
For More Information:

MacClinton is available at AmazonBarnes & NobleGoodreads

Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads



Meet the Author

 

 

Sam Griffith is a retired Justice on the Texas Twelfth Court of Appeals, a position to which he was elected three times, twice unopposed. As a high school senior, he worked after school each day full time in a manufacturing factory, then worked his way through college and graduate school, and through law school. Before being elected an appellate justice in 2000, he was a trial court judge and trial lawyer. He earned two legal specialization certifications from the Texas State Bar Association’s Board of Legal Specialization, an achievement of less than three percent of Texas lawyers.

Outside of the court room, Judge Griffith taught U.S. Constitutional Law at universities in Iraq and China, preached through northern Iraq and South Sudan, funded twelve water wells in South Sudan, and built homes for earthquake survivors in Nepal.  In addition, he co-founded a vegetable-growing ministry that was featured in a New York Times article and which, in five years provided more than one hundred tons of vegetables for local food banks.
 
For More Information: Author Website Goodreads  


Tour Schedule

 

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Author Interview: Stephen Martino, author of THE HIDDEN REALITY

Stephen MartinoStephen Martino is neurologist practicing in New Jersey. Though not separating conjoined twins like Dr. Ben Carson, he is part of an active medical practice and is currently participating in concussion research and inventing new medical products. When he is not working, he can be found with his five children doing homework or cheering them on at a soccer field, basketball court, or dance recital. Martino is a member of the Knights of Columbus, a Cub Scout den leader and is an active public speaker, helping to provide stroke education to the local community, EMS squads and healthcare professionals.

His latest book is the science fiction/political thriller, The Hidden Reality.

For More Information

About the Book:

In the year 2084, the brilliant inventor, Alex Pella, finds himself at a precarious crossroad between the pursuit of justice and preservation of his own sanity. While attempting to undermine an international New World Order government created by the financial juggernaut known as The New Reality, he must also face the hidden truths about his own genetic heritage that are slowly destroying him. After receiving an ambiguous message sent from a former New Reality executive who died 2 years prior, Alex learns The Hidden Realitythat the only possible means to confront this New World Order is to defeat a long-forgotten enemy almost 2500 years old.

 THE HIDDEN REALITY is the second stand-alone novel in a trilogy starring Alex Pella, created by New Jersey-based neurologist and entrepreneur Stephen Martino. With his fusion of history, politics, and science fiction, Martino joins such masters of the thriller genre as Dan Brown, James Rollins, and Michael Crichton.

Martino’s villain is a corporation run by a cadre of ruthless international bankers known as The New Reality. Directed by the most corrupt and morally unscrupulous of the bunch, Myra Keres, the company has economically seized control of the world’s governments and the population’s personal freedoms in the process. In order to save humanity from this despot ruler and the unwonted atrocities to which she plans to perpetuate on the world, Alex Pella must infiltrate the company and face an enemy that has unknowingly haunted both him and history for almost 2500 years.

Martino says he wrote THE HIDDEN REALITY more than just to entertain the reader. He wanted to create a modern day Orwellian ANIMAL FARM to allegorically forewarn his readers of a possible dystopia future that awaits all of mankind if humanity continues to proceed down its path of self-destruction.

 In THE HIDDEN REALITY, Martino has included such hot-button contemporary topics as genetic cloning, unprecedented economic debt, the rise of big government, and the threat of a New World Order run by the economic elite, while bringing the reader back almost 2500 years into the past when the ancient city state nation known as Greece fought the mighty Persian Empire for world domination.

All of these elements, Martino maintains, separate his book from the pack. He calls THE HIDDEN REALITY “issue-oriented fiction. There are real concerns facing society today that threaten both the sovereignty and prosperity of our future generations. Though fictional, my novel addresses some of these issues and predicts the potential consequences we face as a nation and the world if they are not properly addressed today.”

The Hidden Reality is available at Amazon.

What made you decide to become a published author?

Doesn’t everyone have that great American novel in them? At least that’s what I thought before actually siting down and writing my first novel. After reading a few uninteresting books and watching more than my share of less than inspirational movies, I assumed the task would not be that arduous. Plus, with my long laundry list of literature and writing courses I took throughout college, which basically included only English 101, my naiveté drew me to the obvious conclusion that I could write a novel.

The only things I really had going for me was that I was an avid reader of fiction and could day dream like the best of them. Also, with a strong science, medical, and historical base of knowledge, I did have minor skill sets which could possibly prove beneficial.

There was one major stumbling block that became painfully obvious after I completed my first novel. I learned that it was not me who would decide if I could become a published author; the publishing world would make that decision for me. Rejection became so common place that I felt as if I were still in high school feebly asking out girls on dates. Despite the mound of denials, I was eventually able to strengthen my novel and more importantly my pitch enough to land my first publishing contract. Plus, on a lighter note, I actually had someone say yes to a date.

Would you consider your latest book, The Hidden Reality, to be a one of a kind?  How so?

It’s easy for me to say that The Hidden Reality is a fast paced, one of a kind thriller that will keep you thinking and absorbed until the last page. However, most thriller writers would hopefully compliment their novel with the same accolades. What makes my book stand out is that it speaks to today’s society. As the world becomes more chaotic and unraveled by the day, the dystopian society which I describe in The Hidden Reality is slowly becoming more a non-fictional reality than a fictional story.

In the end, my goal was to turn The Hidden Reality into a modern day allegoric Animal Farm to forewarn my readers of the possible future consequences we may face as a result of our current follies of today. As political tensions rise around the globe, the world plunges into economic debt, Europe delves deeper into chaos, and new scientific and medical achievements astound us by the day, The Hidden Reality attempts to make sense out this pandemonium and open the readers’ eyes to trouble which surrounds us today.

Where is your writing sanctuary?

With 5 kids at home, any quiet place can be considered a sanctuary. It could be in the basement, family room or even the kitchen. Wherever it’s quiet and I have my morning hot chocolate, that’s my sanctuary for the moment.

What do you believe a writer should not do as far as getting his or her book published?

The simple answer is not to quit. Becoming a published author is a humbling experience. I could wallpaper my entire house with all the rejection letters from agents and publishers I received. However, what I learned from some of these rejections were important lessons. Many responses had suggestions or even minor critiques. Some were helpful while a small few were simply absurd. Based upon these responses, I began to grow as an author and both fine tune my pitch and my writing style as a result.

What inspires you?

What doesn’t inspire me? Every time I watch the History or Discovery channel, I come up with a crazy new idea for a novel. Plus, with the current state of our country and the insane American political race unfolding, there is enough fodder to easily create a 100 more novels. However, inspiration alone does not pay the bills, so I continue my day job and write in my spare time.

What is one thing you learned about your book after it was published?

Despite the long and arduous path to become published, I learned that getting a book on the market is unfortunately the easiest part of the entire publishing experience. The real difficulty lies with the publicity. That’s when the fun actually begins. It doesn’t matter how great your book is; what really matters is getting it into the hands of your audience. I’ve read fantastic novels by unknown, independent authors that are clearly a much better read than the best names out there. However, their publicity was far inferior to those big name writers, and few, if any people, ever heard of their work. Plus, readers tend to flock towards familiar names or those books that actually make it onto the ever shrinking bookshelves in stores. In the end, persistence wins. You just have to work at it on a daily basis.

You’re concocting a recipe for a best selling book.  What’s the first ingredient?

Write what needs to be said. Is there a story that needs to be told? Is there a bigger political or ethical message that needs to be known? Find your message and run with it. There’s always someone out there who will share your passion and enjoy your work. Though my books are fiction, there are multiple messages in each of them.

Did any real life experiences find their way into your book?

Yes. That’s what makes my novel extra amusing to me and my friends. Certain scenes and ever characters are based upon actual events or are caricatures of friends. However, the one addition to my novel which scored me big points at home is a main character named Marissa. I describe her as a beautiful young woman with glowing green eyes, flowing brown hair, an athletic build, and very intelligent. It just so happens that those characteristics ironically are similar to my wife. No sleeping in the dog house anymore!

What’s next for you?

I am currently working on my third and last installment of The New Reality trilogy titled The Final Reality. The Hidden Reality is my second stand-alone novel in the series. The last novel will continue to delve into high-concept ideas and explore a long forgotten world that has been hidden under our eyes for thousands of years.

In addition, I will continue to write medical articles for the local paper and for local hospital publications.

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Book Spotlight: Am I Going To Be Okay? by Debra Whittam

About the Book:

Am I Going to Be Okay

Title: Am I Going To Be Okay? Weathering the Storms of Mental Illness, Addiction and Grief
Author: Debra Whittam
Publisher: Turning Point International
Pages: 253
Genre: Memoir/Women’s Psychology/Applied Psychology

Am I Going To Be Okay? is an American story with a universal message. Ms. Whittam traces her history in the form of stories about her all too human, and sometimes unhinged family; she throws a rope to the little girl living there, and in adulthood, is able to pull her out to safety, bit by bit.

Her history is peopled with folks from a different time, a time before therapy was acceptable, 12 steps unimaginable and harsh words, backhands and even harsher silences can be spun to appear almost normal. She writes of a mother who would not or could not initiate love nor give it without condition, and a father, damn near heroic at times, abusive at others, a survivor with his head down and his sleeves rolled up.

Ms. Whittam approaches her past with the clear-eyed tough but sensitive objectivity necessary to untangle the shame from the source. She speaks of the people that affected her life so deeply with an understanding of their time and place in American culture; a family not far removed from immigrant roots when men carried their own water, emoted misplaced anger, and with fresh socks and food found on the trail, were confident, unflinching and at that same time tragical- ly failing to the little ones they ignored.

Like many of us, details notwithstanding, Whittam responded by numbing, running and gunning. Alcohol gave her hope, soothed a crushed soul for a time and wrecked her on a train, until finally she had the courage to accept it wasn’t working for her anymore. It was time to stop drinking and take inventory and accountability. It was time to accept, forgive and move forward. She healed where she was broken.

It is in the telling of this story that Whittam teaches us the difference between just surviving and surviving well, the importance of shared introspection and a careful eye on the wake we leave behind in our actions. Her story is a guide to surviving abuse and addiction. It is also about witnessing and dealing with the shrinking faculties of aging parents in the unavoidable circle of life. Finally, she offers a realistic sense of hope, forgiveness and a life we can shake hands with.

For More Information

  • Am I Going To Be Okay? Weathering the Storms of Mental Illness, Addiction and Grief is available at Amazon.
  • Pick up your copy at Barnes & Noble.
  • Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads.

Book Excerpt:

In my therapist’s office, during my first year of recovery from alcoholism, I saw one of her graduate school psychology books on her bookshelf. It was sitting alongside many of her self-help books which I had borrowed during the past year. I read several hoping to find a cure from my irrepressible anxiety that I had previously drunk away. I imagined the wordy text was far from my ability to comprehend as I was at that time only able to retain small bits of information. I asked my therapist if I could borrow that college text titled “Human Growth and Development.” I read it from cover to cover within a short amount of time and surprisingly, was able to digest and retain it. I had to quit doubting my ability. Being hard on myself was no longer the answer. I wanted more.

That following summer I enrolled in a graduate course of the same name. I wanted to see if I could retain enough material to pass a higher level learning class. I loved it and I got an A.

No longer living in a world governed by my need to numb myself through copious amounts of alcohol, I started doing what I wanted to do with my life. Encountering the self-doubt I had always carried within me became the guidepost by which I continued to prove my “what ifs” unnecessary in order to keep myself safe.

My intention in writing this book is to reach out to all who struggle with being frozen in fear of “what if.” This book may trigger emotions that have been shoved down so far they might not have a clear story to them yet. It might trigger memories of resentments, regrets or painful unhealed episodes of your life. These moments may have happened long, long ago or may have been more recent. We go back into the past to find answers. The idea is not to stay there long, but to find healing through understanding the ‘why’ of it. Then begin our process of learning to self-sooth and love ourselves. Nothing is going to happen that you can’t handle. Nothing.

Isolated within my world of fear, I wouldn’t attempt anything outside of that small world. I had no foundation to stand on as a spring-board toward finding out who I really was, so I joined a 12-Step group. The beauty of being in a community of recovery, from whatever we might be working on, brings connection. at is what I needed so badly.

I hope, within these pages, you are able to find a spark that ignites your longing for more. I urge you to find your own path of being okay by whatever non-mood altering way that makes sense to you; even, or especially, if it is unfamiliar to you. In writing this book, I intended to show how we can all go through our fears and do “it” anyway, whatever “it” is.

Letting go of fear suggests we “just breathe” and be ourselves. Thee “how” of being okay is within these pages and within yourself. Stop listening to the repeated echoes of old messages in your head, messages like “You’ve done it again,” “You aren’t good enough,” “You should just give up.” These messages cause you to doubt yourself. Instead, listen to the other voice inside which says, “You can do this,” “There is a way.” Don’t ignore it. Don’t push it away. Don’t argue with it. That voice is there, even if you can’t hear it and I am here to help you find it. I look forward to hearing you say, “I AM going to be okay.”

About the Author

Debra Whittam

Debra Whittam is a licensed, practicing mental health therapist in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, who specializes in addiction, anxiety and depression, grief and loss. Whittam is passionate about her work in all areas of her specialties, especially addiction. Working in a detox unit for over three years before beginning her own private practice, Whittam realized, while counseling patients in the life and death arena of the detox unit, how much the loss of a beloved through death or a relationship impacted those struggling with addiction.

In this memoir, Whittam skillfully infuses her memories, stories and professional insights to remind us that the most important relationship we will ever have is with ourselves. She splits her time between Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York and Paris, France. Am I Going To Be Okay? Weathering the Storms of Mental Illness, Addiction and Grief is her first book.

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A Leafy Green World & Al-thar: Interview with Thriller Author Sean Dow

Sean DowSean Dow is a pulmonary and critical care physician in Great Falls, Montana. He started writing thriller novels in 2011, and has three titles, one of which, Debridement, is in its second printing and is being made into a feature film.

Sean was born in Iowa City, but was raised on a small farm in Kansas before leaving for medical school, and the adventures beyond. His career was largely in Klamath Falls, Oregon, a town that still feels like home. He did a brief stent in Las Vegas before moving to the paradise of Montana. When not working or writing, Sean can be found in the kitchen perfecting his New York cheesecake, or on the mountain streams with Bailey, his beloved (and perfectly behaved) Mastiff and his favorite 2 weight fly rod-a parting gift from a dear friend and patient.

His latest books are A Leafy Green World and Al-thar.

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About the Book:

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Title: A Leafy Green World
Author: Sean Dow
Publisher: Two Harbors Press
Pages: 449
Genre: Thriller

A Leafy Green World is a fast paced, action packed thriller set in the Pacific Northwest. Dr. Brent Holcomb has moved to Portland in hopes of resurrecting his life and his career. There, he meets Robyn-the girl from his dreams. All is going smoothly until he realizes Robyn and her friends are not what they seem. Now, wrapped up in the murder of an innocent man, and with nowhere to turn, Brent forms a bold plan-a plan that will put him on a dangerous course, aligning himself with domestic terrorists and ultimately, a deeply hidden cell of Islamic terrorists.

 

 

Al-TharTitle: Al-thar
Author: Sean Dow
Publisher: Two Harbors Press
Pages: 466
Genre: Thriller

In Al-thar, (Arabic:revenge) Brent is living a tranquil life on the peaceful Philippine island of Masbate. But the FBI’s witness protection plan is not enough when you have destroyed the plans of the world’s most feared terrorist group-an assassin is on the way, and his plans are far worse than a simple bullet in the head.

With the violent destruction of his new island home, Dr. Holcomb is once again thrust into danger, this time on an international level. There are only two outcomes in this new high-stakes match, Brent’s painful and public death and the destruction of America’s, or the death of Saadullah Abul Ka-beir, and his council.

Brent brings together his cast of memorable friends from A Leafy Green World as he devises the greatest deception ever imagined. The action goes at a break-neck pace from the Philippines to Washington, D.C., and from a remote valley in Pakistan to the jungles of Sierra Leone in this novel that has been described as almost too real, and too timely.

What made you decide to become a published author?

Writing has been a goal as far back as I can remember, even to the point of writing poems while in grade school.

Would you consider your latest book, al-thar, to be a one of a kind?  How so?

Definitely. Al-thar looks into serious issues we face, and the development of some of the plot lines into actual reality has given it enough credibility that one reviewer felt the story was too realistic, and too frightening. It was never intended to be more than a wild, and creative adventure, but it has come to reflect a reality we must all face, the fact that there is a world out there that wants to destroy us.

Where is your writing sanctuary?

I live in a stately old home in Montana. When there weather permits, I write on the second story deck, looking out over town.

What do you believe a writer should not do as far as getting his or her book published?

Rush to get it out before it has been carefully edited, by a professional, or to get it to the publisher without one final read, a mistake I once made that led to considerable embarrassment, and the need to destroy an entire printing. It take a little longer, but do it right!

What inspires you?

The thought of readers getting lost in my stories, of forgetting their issues for a while and simply enjoying themselves.

What is one thing you learned about your book after it was published?

How it has become a part of me, almost like a child, though obviously on a different level.

Why do you love to write thrillers?

I love adventure, and problem solving. A good thriller pulls these together and makes me feel as if I was actually in the story, as the main character.

You’re concocting a recipe for a best selling book.  What’s the first ingredient? It must be unique, not just another iteration of something a dozen others have put out before you.

What’s one fun fact about your book people should know?

I fell in love with Robyn, the girlfriend in a leafy green world-hope I meet her, someday.

Did any real life experiences find their way into your book?

Yes, unfortunately. Dr. Holcomb’s discovery of his wife’s life outside their marriage came from my own reality. The pain of that helped make the scene of his discovering her infidelity more real-it was like going through it again as I wrote that chapter.

Aside from writing, what’s your passion?

I love to cook, but outdoors activities are my favorite, whether fly fishing, rock hunting or prowling the mountains for edible mushrooms, I am happiest when I am out from under the fluorescents, breathing the fresh air of Montana.

What’s next for you?

I have three plots in mind, and am trying to see which develops legs. In the meantime, I am raising a delightful mastiff puppy, Bailey. She thinks she belongs on top of the kitchen table whenever she wants-we are currently in discussions on the matter.

 

 

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Dark Money: Interview with Legal Thriller Author Larry D. Thompson

Larry D. ThompsonLarry D. Thompson was first a trial lawyer. He tried more than 300 cases throughout Texas, winning in excess of 95% of them. When his youngest son graduated from college, he decided to write his first novel. Since his mother was an English teacher and his brother, Thomas Thompson, had been a best-selling author, it seemed the natural thing to do.

Larry writes about what he knows best…lawyers, courtrooms and trials. The legal thriller is his genre. DARK MONEY is his fifth story and the second in the Jack Bryant series.

Larry and his wife, Vicki, call Houston home and spend their summers on a mountain top in Vail, Colorado. He has two daughters, two sons and four grandchildren.

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About the Book:

DARK MONEY is a thriller, a mystery and an expose’ of the corruption of money in politics.

Jackson Bryant, the millionaire plaintiff lawyer who turned to pro bono work in Dead Peasants, is caught up in the collision of money Dark Moneyand politics when he receives a call from his old army buddy, Walt Frazier. Walt needs his assistance in evaluating security for Texas Governor Rob Lardner at a Halloween costume fundraiser thrown by one of the nation’s richest Republican billionaires at his mansion in Fort Worth.

Miriam Van Zandt is the best marksman among The Alamo Defenders, an anti-government militia group in West Texas. She attends the fund raiser dressed as a cat burglar—wounds the governor and murders the host’s brother, another Republican billionaire. She is shot in the leg but manages to escape.

Jack is appointed special prosecutor and must call on the Texas DPS SWAT team to track Van Zandt and attack the Alamo Defenders’ compound in a lonely part of West Texas. Van Zandt’s father, founder of the Defenders, is killed in the attack and Miriam is left in a coma. The authorities declare victory and close the case—but Jack knows better. The person behind the Halloween massacre has yet to be caught. When Walt and the protective detail are sued by the fund raiser host and the widow of the dead man, Jack follows the dark money of political contributions from the Cayman Islands to Washington to Eastern Europe, New York and New Orleans to track the real killer and absolve his friend and the Protective Detail of responsibility for the massacre.

For More Information

  • Dark Money is available at Amazon.
  • Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads.

Dark Money teaser

What made you decide to become a published author?

It must have been somewhere in my gene pool. I always knew I would be a writer, but practicing as a trial lawyer and raising three children filled up my days for many years. Finally, when my youngest son graduated from SMU, I decided I could find some time to write.

Would you consider your latest book, Dark Money, to be a one of a kind?  How so?

First, I believe nearly all novels are one of a kind. Certainly, no one had written a thriller and mystery about the corruption of money in politics. The story is captivating, but I also want the reader to put down the book after reading the last page and realize that after the Citizens United Opinion from our Supreme Court, political offices are available to the highest bidder. And, sadly, we may not even know who that bidder is.

Where is your writing sanctuary?

I have an office at home where I do most of my writing, but my favorite place is in Vail, Colorado where we spend the summers. We have a house up on a mountaintop with some of the best views in the world. I can sit at the dining room table and witness the grandeur and magnitude of the mountains. The only problem is sometimes I get so distracted with the view that I find I have been watching that magnificent panorama for a half an hour with no word written.

What do you believe a writer should not do as far as getting his or her book published?

For a new author, I think it is a waste of time to seek out an agent or a publisher. The publishers will not consider a book unless it is submitted by an agent and most agents reject new submissions. While I hate to cave in to Amazon, that’s where the readers and the money reside.

What inspires you?

I look for ideas around me, in newspapers, in the media, in a chance conversation, and when I find one I like, I let it simmer in the back of my mind to see if it can become a novel. If it can, I’ll write it.

Why do you love to write thrillers?

I love taking the reader on a roller coaster ride to follow my protagonist as he or she chases the clues to solve a mystery.

You’re concocting a recipe for a best selling book.  What’s the first ingredient?

Always it’s the protagonist. The reader must feel a kinship with him or her. Without that, it may be difficult to hold the reader’s interest to the end of the story.

What’s one fun fact about your book people should know?

I grew up in Fort Worth where Dark Money is set and find it to be a fascinating place.

Did any real life experiences find their way into your book?

They always do. I spent forty years as a trial lawyer. I call on those experiences to tell my tales.

Aside from writing, what’s your passion?

One word: Family

What’s next for you?

I’m going to deviate from what I usually write. My brother was a best selling writer who died way too young in the eighties. His most famous book was Blood and Money, a true story about murders in the rich section of Houston. He was sued for libel three times. I defended him and Doubleday and won all three cases. His story is finally going to be made into a streaming video next year. I’m going to write my part of that story called Blood and Money, The Libel Trials.

 

 

 

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First Chapter Reveal: Wild Within by Christine Hartmann

Wild Within banner

Wild WithinTitle: WILD WITHIN
Author: Christine Hartmann
Publisher: Limitless Publishing
Pages:
Genre: Romantic Suspense

A year after a family tragedy, Grace Mori embarks on the journey of a lifetime…

Two thousand, six hundred miles of blistering heat, wilderness, and soul searching—that’s what Grace signed up for when she decided to hike the Pacific Crest Trail. It’s not a voyage for beginners, but with no husband and her family still recovering from her bother’s death, Grace is more alone than ever.

This trail meant something to her brother, and she’ll hike it in his memory, but she can’t do it alone. So with her brother’s gear and a small group, Grace takes the most important first steps of her life.

Grace finds something more than peace and magic on the trail…

When her first day of hiking ends in heat stroke, Grace is rescued by a handsome, red-haired hiker who calls himself Lone Star. Grace has an immediate connection with him, and their brief encounter leaves her fearing her soul mate has slipped through her fingers. Although he vows to keep in touch, Grace doubts she’ll ever see him again.

When fears become reality, the only people Grace can rely on may be killers…

Grace is surprised to find notes left at supply posts along the trail. Lone Star’s eloquent letters keep Grace going, clinging to the hope she’ll find him—and happiness—at the end of her journey. But as the trail becomes more perilous, menace grows within the group. And when Lone Star’s letters mysteriously stop coming, Grace fears the worst.

As tensions flare and a killer emerges, Grace must battle to survive…and reunite with the man she’s sure is her future.

For More Information

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

First Chapter:

Early morning sun scorched the grimy car hood and forced its way through the window to burn Grace’s bare arms. She fidgeted as she watched the arid plane of sagebrush and light brown dust roll past. The landscape differed completely from the grassy hills, eucalyptus trees, and fog around her native San Francisco. Occasional yucca plants shouldered their way between low scraggly bushes with more branches than leaves. Small boulders peppered the area, looking like enormous grey cottage cheese curds among rolling, sere hills.

This countryside puts the wild in wilderness.

The car bounced past dry pastures and scruffy woods.

Maybe I should have spent more time reading those trail guides?

A glimpse of the Mexican border made her sit up straight.

Who cares? I’m here.

Grace bounced in her seat with excitement.

This is it.

Grace and her friend Celine were the only people at the five square wooden posts that marked the southern terminus of the 2,665-mile Pacific Crest Trail, a route leading from Mexico to Canada. A few yards away, wind forced its way through the steel border fence like the sound of screeching tires. Celine snapped a few pictures as Grace removed the spiral hiker register from its protective metal box. On the first empty page she wrote: Kenji, you’re with me.

She signed with more bravado than she actually felt.

Grace spurted back to the car. “I want to get going.” But her backpack, resting in the backseat, was in less of a hurry. She coaxed it onto her shoulders with much grunting and straining and stood, slightly bent, for one final snapshot.

“I’ve never lifted anything this heavy. What was I thinking? It’s not a trip to Macy’s where I can throw all the heavy stuff into the trunk.”

“You were thinking you might need some supplies.” Celine surveyed her. “Because you’re going to be in the middle of nowhere. For months.”

“Thanks for the reminder.” Grace straightened with effort. “I’ve been waiting almost a year for this. They say your pack gets lighter as you get used to it. So where’s the trail?”

Celine shrugged. Grace searched the monotonous sand and brush.

“I’ve got the map on my cell.”

But the phone wouldn’t turn on. Grace depressed the controls repeatedly. The screen remained as black as its case.

Come on. My paper maps are buried in my pack.

She took a mental inventory of what lay above them: a one-person tent, a sleeping bag and mat, a wide-brimmed sun hat, extra socks, the head of a toothbrush, all-weather matches, a travel-size deodorant stick, her mother’s homemade rice cakes, and Kenji’s apartment key fastened with a twist tie to the zipper of a first aid kit. The idea of spreading everything out at the base of the monument made her ill.

She pushed more buttons.

Don’t die now.

The screen flickered. She fiddled more and the contrast increased.

“Typical me.” Her hands shook a little as she pinched the trail map to zoom in on her location. “I turned down the brightness last night to save energy. For a second there, I thought I was going to faint. That would’ve made a good Facebook post. Grace Mori’s one second thru-hike of the PCT.”

Celine grinned and poked Grace’s arm. “It’s good to get all the mistakes out of the way at the beginning. Now try to make it through the rest of the day without any more.”

Grace stepped into the sparse brush.

“I already miss you as much as I miss your brother,” Celine called after her. But the wind whipped away her words.

On the trail, Grace’s pent up excitement gave wings to her hiking shoes. They floated across baked earth that meandered through scrub and around boulders. She raced securely down descents and sailed up ascents.

This is so easy.

She covered the next two miles in under an hour. Her initial destination was Lake Morena County Park, eighteen miles away. But her thoughts were of the Canadian border.

Twenty miles a day, for the next four months, before the northern mountains become impassable with snow. In this heat, that idea feels like a mirage.

She looked at her watch.

Nine thirty. Ten more hours of daylight. So I’ll get to Lake Morena with time to spare.

At first, the white circle rising in a cloudless blue seemed a happy part of the scenery. But bit by bit, the sun blazed an ever fiercer hole in the sky. Her short black hair melted into her head and burned her fingers when she touched it.

I should never have given up lightening my hair. Apparently blondes do have more fun, even in the desert.

Her legs pistoned in long strides that searched for cover. But nothing afforded shade.

A tree. A bush. A houseplant, for goodness sake. I’ll take anything.

The trail eventually crossed a highway and meandered through a grove of cottonwood trees. There, Grace slung off her pack, dropped beside it, and dug through her gear.

She squashed a cream-colored hat onto her sweaty brow. Her parched lips drained a water bottle. A rough trunk supported her back.

My shoulders ache. My feet hurt. And this pack weighs a ton. Why did I throw in everything I thought might come in handy? Pre-moistened body wipes? Am I really going to need those out here?

The previous night, she and Celine had discussed her strategy. “I read somewhere a person hiking in direct sun needs at least a gallon of water for every ten miles.” Grace laid out her water containers on the hotel bed. “But one gallon weighs eight pounds. I’ve got a two-gallon collapsible water container and two one-liter bottles. Do you think I should fill them all? That’s close to twenty extra pounds.”

“I think you should follow the rules.”

“That’s a lot of extra weight.” Grace hefted a container from the hotel sink. “Maybe I’ll fill two bottles and leave my larger container partially empty. I’ll drink a lot before I start. And Hauser Creek is on the trail. I can get more water there.”

Celine pursed her lips contemplatively and tossed an empty bottle to Grace. “What if there’s no water in the creek?”

“Then they wouldn’t call it a creek.” Grace chucked the bottle back at her. “It’ll be fine. Like I said, I’ll hydrate like crazy before we set out.”

In the morning, after a brief rest under cottonwoods, Grace continued her hike. She chased lazy clouds in search of shade. They vaporized before she reached them.

Why did I wear pants?

She longed for the hiking skirt in her pack. Then the trail narrowed, and waist-high chaparral brush clung and tore as she battled through. Rough, aggressive limbs and thick, unforgiving leaves pulled at her hiking poles. Grace held them above her head, unable to see her feet. After five minutes of struggle, she reached the other side. Her face dripped with sweat. She looked down.

I love you, pants.

Grace drained her second water bottle as she climbed. At the top of the hill, she paused. Perspiration dripped into her eyes and mouth, but she was too hot to care. In the distance, the border wall and Mexican mountains were still clearly visible. She thought of fishing out her phone for a picture.

Too much effort.

The path leveled out. Her pace slowed. The heat irritated her.

I should have had my hat on from the beginning. Why didn’t I start hiking earlier in the day? Where the heck is Hauser Creek? I need more water.

She wiped a hot tear from her cheek.

What a mess. But there’s no point in crying. Come on Grace.

Grace was the kind of person who prided herself on being someone people could count on. When her mother’s first attempt at baked Alaska set the kitchen window curtains aflame, teenage Grace doused the inferno in chocolate syrup, then helped her mother take down the gooey mess.

“People in Alaska originally lived in igloos. They probably didn’t have window curtains.” She wiped the counter with a Lysol-soaked dishrag. “Some desserts don’t translate well across climate zones.”

As an adult, Grace volunteered her services as a psychologist for the Friday overnight shift at the Berkeley women’s crisis hotline. There, she comforted agonized rape victims, beaten girlfriends, and conflicted housewives with a sympathetic ear, sensible advice, and a list of referrals she’d personally vetted.

“You’re ready to move out? Don’t forget to take his Rolex. He owes you big time.”

And when tragedy struck her family a year ago, it was Grace who negotiated with the funeral home and the florist. Phoned relatives in San Diego, New Brunswick, and Tokyo. Late at night, in bed alone, she lay exhausted but sleepless.

“How am I going to get through this by myself?”

That blistering day on the trail, she began to lose faith. The merciless, prodding sun became her enemy. It evaporated her enthusiasm, diminished her stamina, and gnawed at her judgment. Her feet dragged along the sandy path without any of their initial eagerness. She refilled her water bottles from the large container in her pack and ignored the voice that told her she would soon run out of fluids.

After another mile, the trail merged with a Jeep road. In the distance, Grace saw a disappearing cloud of dust.

That was a car. I could have asked them for a ride. Maybe they had air conditioning. Some extra water. Maybe they were on their way back to San Diego and would have taken me to a hotel. I could have started the trail again in a few days, when it’s cooler.

She checked the phone’s GPS. Four miles to Hauser Creek.

I’ll make it if I ration my water.

By the time the trail dove into Hauser Canyon’s shaded grove of oaks and sycamores, Grace hated the sun more than she’d ever hated anything. She squinted at the wooded valley. But the only hint that a creek had ever flowed across the parched land was a strip of slightly darker sand meandering through a pile of rocks. Grace’s knees wobbled.

Even in the shade, sweat poured down her face.

It’s past noon. I should eat.

She felt nauseous. Her head pulsed like molten lava in a live volcano crater.

I need to rest.

Her shoulders shrugged out of the pack straps and she sank to the ground. Before thinking better of it, she drank the rest of her water. A small Japanese folding fan, the parting gift from her sister, offered some relief. The hot desert air drew out the fan’s sandalwood scent. The breeze evaporated her perspiration.

She kicked off her shoes and socks, then changed into her skirt. But after thirty minutes of inertia, sweat still dripped from her chin. Sitting made her dizzy, so she lay down. The violent sun tortured her through the leaves, shafts branding her face and body like flames.

I need more water. Have to keep going. A road’s not far ahead. If I lie down in the middle, somebody will find me.

But the idea of crawling out of the partial shade into the glaring sun was too much.

Bees droned near her head.

What’s that? Airplane? Maybe they can see me down here. Call in a rescue.

Her mind drifted up, into the sparse tree branches. It hung there briefly. Then ascended into the smoldering, cloudless sky.

Later, another idea broke through her confusion.

I’m going to die. On my first day on the trail. Kind of a waste. All this equipment. All that money. Geez, I could have spent it on those cell phone-operated blinds for the living room instead. There was that coupon in the Saturday clipper magazine…

Her tongue ran along dry lips.

Hmm. I’m licking a lizard. I wonder if he’ll lick back.

Then Grace thought of nothing.

Giveaway!

Christine is giving away 2 $25 Amazon Gift Cards & 20 Wild Within Coffee Mugs!

Terms & Conditions:
• By entering the giveaway, you are confirming you are at least 18 years old.
• Two winners will be chosen via Rafflecopter to receive one $25 Amazon Gift Card & twenty winners will be chosen to receive one Wild Within Coffee Mug
• This giveaway starts April 4 and ends June 30
• Winner will be contacted via email on July 1.
• Winner has 48 hours to reply.
Good luck everyone!

ENTER TO WIN!

 

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Book Spotlight: Journey to the Cross by Shane Cloonan

Inside the Book:

 
 
Title: Journey to the Cross
Author: Shane Cloonan
Publisher: State Street Publishing
Publication Date: September 11, 2015
Pages: 35
Genre: Children’s Christian Fiction
 
Book Description: 
 
This is the story of the Jesus donkey, a fictional tale that takes readers on a journey from our Lord’s birth to his ultimate crucifixion. Though written and illustrated for young readers, this book is perfect for people of all ages who want a fresh, youthful perspective on the life of Jesus. The book’s message is imbued in the strength and simplicity of hearts that are linked to other hearts by Jesus. Journey to the Cross follows the light of hope that first appeared on that special night in Bethlehem.
 
For More Information:
Journey to the Cross is available at AmazonBarnes & Noble

Meet the Author

Shane Cloonan is a resident of Elgin, Illinois and a high school freshman. This book, his first, started out as a grade school writing project. Shane is an avid outdoorsman. He also is an accomplished woodcarver. Shane took third place in his age group and category two years ago at the Ward World Championships Wildfowl Carving Competition in Maryland, then followed that up with a first-place finish in the International Woodcarvers Congress competition in Iowa.
 
You can visit Shane’s website at www.shanecloonan.com
 
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Book Blast! Jules: The 2nd Adventure by Kaelia Stevens

We’re happy to be hosting Kaelia Stevens and her JULES: THE 2ND ADVENTURE BOOK BLAST at The Dark Phantom!

About the Book:
Title:
Jules
Author: Kaelia Stevens
Publisher: Independent
Pages: 94
Genre: Magical Realism

War. It doesn’t start with armies or bombs. It doesn’t start with declarations or protests. It doesn’t start with speeches. It starts with one thing. Intent. Jules understands this concept. She intends to kill a cult leader. She intends to undo magic from the past. She intends to get her family home.

She intends to start a war.

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Book Excerpt:

When I entered the blue-lighted nightclub, Sting was at the piano again. He was thundering out jazz compositions with the energy of a hyper pygmy goat.

There was a twin-headed Doppobocca at the microphone, scatting like a pro. These squatty, yellow aliens landed somewhere in Italy, and apparently enjoyed the culture so much they decided to stop by Earth on a regular basis. Doppobocca was not their species name, just what the fairies from Italy decided to call them. It was an Earthling nickname, as far as they were concerned, and the Doppobocca didn’t seem to mind in the least.

The alien’s two heads were currently scatting something I had never heard before and probably would never hear outside of Sting’s nightclub. The heads scatted back and forth, while the single, thick body moved and danced to the beat.

I made my way to the bar, ordered some Pixie wine, and watched the crowd. I was watching to see if my Hyena contact would show up. She liked to frequent My Fair Lady as much as I did, if not more because she had more time. Tonight should have been one of her nights, if I remembered correctly.

“Quite a turnout tonight, isn’t it?” someone said behind me, loudly.

I glanced over my shoulder and took in intense brown eyes broken up by a jovial smile on a narrow face. Some of his blond hair was matted in the front, bobbing with every habitual flick of his head in an attempt to get it out of his eyes.

I shrugged slowly with a single shoulder. Gave him a teasing smile as I turned back to the crowd. “Aren’t you in the wrong place, Keeper?”

His expression fell as he looked down at his outfit; it was a simple, brown vest held open over a grey shirt with sloppy-looking carpenter jeans. I pointed at the back of his hand, which bore a tattoo in the shape of the Keepers’ insignia: lady justice. Scales in one hand, sword in the other, blindfolded.

It was a human insignia that the Keepers adopted for themselves, in an attempt to maintain the idea that justice is blind. In their case, justice was not only blind, but mute, deaf, and dumb as well.

He lifted his hand to stare at it and frowned, as if he had forgotten it was there. After a moment, he shrugged it off and smiled. “I’m not on the clock,” he responded jovially. “I can be anywhere I want. And talk to whoever I want.”

“Got it,” I said. “So get back to your lonely drink.”

He held up a long glass filled with tree sap, alcohol, a tap of blood and a hint of cherry. It was called a Maiden’s Bluff. I hated the taste of it, but it was a popular favorite.

“It’s never lonely when you’re drinking next to a be-a-utiful woman,” he said, toasting me before taking a long drink.

As he threw his head back, his hair shifted just enough for me to see an angle to his ears. He wasn’t human.

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About the Author

Writing from a young age, K. Stevens published her first book in June of 2015 in honor of her father, Rod Bayron. A lifetime nerd, animal care-giver, current student of the arts and aspiring ceramist, Stevens has an artistic nature that is akin to a bloodmoon: It shows up once in a while, it’s strange and mysterious, and it has a tendency to freak people
out.

Her latest book is the magical realism novel, Jules.
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