Monthly Archives: January 2015

The Angels Without Wings Book Blast!

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We’re pleased to host Chris Smith and his The Angels Without Wings Series today!

 

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AWOW Series - Scepter of Faith - Book 1

 

Title: Angels without Wings: Scepter of Faith

Series: The Angels without Wings Series – Book 1

Author: Chris Smith

Genre: YA Christian Fantasy

Publisher: Tate Publishing

Publication Date: March 5, 2013

ISBN: 978-1622956319

For God, we fight; all angels have heard the command. Troy Decker has heard it from his parents countless times. All he wants in life is a chance to prove himself and be granted his scepter – the first gift angels receive from God in their war against Lucifer. Standing in his way is fallen angel Kyle Downey, who used to be best friends with Troy’s parents but is now on a quest to destroy all that is good in the world.

Will Troy ever earn the scepter that God has prepared for him? And what happened between Kyle and Troy’s parents? As the War for Sins rises to heights not seen in generations, Troy must find the strength to hold his faith when demons target his friends and family. In this war, there is only one winner. Will the world fall to demons or be saved by angels?

Book Excerpt:

Chapter 1, Page 1:

Not for the first time in his life, Troy Decker woke from a dream of howling demons. He paused for a moment and reflected on the scene, wishing for what had to be the thousandth time that the dream had been real. He’d prayed for the chance to go on a demon hunt with his dad so many times he’d lost count. He closed his eyes and saw the black claws slashing toward him and heard the fangs snapping at his legs. He could almost feel a sword in his hands, ready to strike the monsters down.

Hunting demons was what he’d been born to do. Most of his prayers to God included a begging request for the chance to stand before the beasts of hell and send them screaming back to the darkness. But as it was, he rubbed sleep from his eyes on the morning of May the 1st knowing he wouldn’t have the opportunity anytime soon. He’d heard so many stories from his parents about the adventures they’d had with his Grandpa John almost twenty years before, but for Troy, only his normal, dreary life lay before him, as usual.

From the look of the sun streaming through the blinds of his bedroom window, it was going to be a glorious day—or should have been, except that it happened to be Troy’s fourteenth birthday. He rolled onto his side and brought his empty hands in front of his face. Only the disappointing emptiness of his skinny fingers and creased palms was present. He closed his hands with one more wish (added to the tally of millions of prayers) that a sword or some other cool weapon was there instead. The lowest of sighs brushed from his lips before he could stop its escape.

“Good morning Troy,” his mom called as she swung open his bedroom door. “Happy Birthday! Fourteen years old… you’ll be driving before you know it.” Her smile welcomed him into the new day better than any ray of sunshine could ever hope to do. “I’m pretty sure you grew an inch last night,” she continued when Troy rolled out of bed to throw on his Nike t-shirt.

Purchase Book:

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Angels-Without-Wings-Chris-Smith-ebook/dp/B00ARI83HC/ref=asap_B00MUDIDJK_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1417623934&sr=1-1

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/angels-without-wings-chris-smith/1114052282?ean=9781625631220

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17275769-scepter-of-faith?ac=1

AWOW Series - The Path To Sacrifice - Book 2

Title: Angels without Wings: The Path to Sacrifice

Series: The Angels without Wings Series – Book 2

Author: Chris Smith

Genre: YA Christian Fantasy

Publisher: Tate Publishing

Publication Date: August 4, 2013

ISBN: 978-1491022399

For Troy Decker, the world of angels has always been a familiar mystery. Robes, halos, and wings have filled his dreams since he was old enough to crawl. But it wasn’t until the last year that he truly felt like he was one of God’s chosen angels.

He’d thought only a miracle would allow him to receive his scepter. And he was one hundred percent correct. When God granted Troy his scepter, he never dreamed it would be for saving ones of his closest friends. But with many things in his angel life, Troy had to sit back and trust in his faith. Not only in God, but in himself and his family and friends.

Unfortunately, peace rarely finds Troy. With his first gift from God in hand, he must concentrate on the second gift; the robes of an angel – granted for an act of sacrifice. Hindering his progress is a former friend of his parents, Kyle Downey. Kyle is the leader of a group of fallen angels and his sinister plans for Troy bring howling demons and monsters stampeding into the War for Sins.

Can Troy follow the path God has set in front of him? How will he know what to sacrifice to receive the precious gift? And why, more than anything else in the world, does Kyle Downey want Troy to fall?

Book Excerpt:

Chapter 1, page 1:

For the first time in his life, Troy Decker was on a demon hunt with his dad. Not that it looked to be particularly exciting or dangerous, but it was better than mowing the yard or picking up his room. All they were doing at the moment was staring at an abandoned warehouse near a neighborhood of small, shabby houses on the southwest side of Oklahoma City.

Troy had been shook awake on the fine spring morning to his dad hovering over his bed with a look of confused determination on his almost always calm face. The normal, perfectly straight part, on the right side, split his brown hair. Barely a sparkle of the yet risen sun filtered through the blinds of Troy’s bedroom.

“Get ready,” his dad had whispered. “You’re coming with me today. Don’t wake up your mom. Bring your dagger. You may need it.”

“It’s Saturday,” Troy had responded as he swiped sleep residue from his eyes and stifled a yawn while he pulled the small sheath, which held a dagger sharp enough to slice paper without trying, from under his pillow. “Where are we going?”

“Have a job to do,” his dad had given as a cryptic response.

So Troy had rolled out of bed, wolfed down an energy bar, offered by his dad, and shot out the door. Not until they were five minutes down the road did he find out where they were headed.

“Nylla?” Troy scrunched his face. “How big of an infestation is it?”

“Big enough to warrant our attention,” his dad had answered never taking his piercing eyes off the road. “We’ve been noticing some activity in the area for the past month. Demon numbers have been increasing all over the place.”

Purchase Book:

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Angels-without-Wings-Path-Sacrifice-ebook/dp/B00EBX5E1W/ref=asap_B00MUDIDJK_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1417623934&sr=1-3

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/angels-without-wings-chris-smith/1118045542?ean=9781491022399

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20617431-the-path-to-sacrifice

AWOW Series - Love's Sweet Sword - Book 3

Title: Angels without Wings: Love’s Sweet Sword

Series: The Angels without Wings Series – Book 3

Author: Chris Smith

Genre: YA Christian Fantasy

Publisher: Tate Publishing

Publication Date: February 21, 2014

ISBN: 978-1494324575

A ghostly smile haunts Troy Decker’s dreams. A smile of love and sacrifice. A smile that brings heart wrenching waves of guilt. For God, we fight. Troy has long heard the ancient command to God’s angels. His parents have whispered it in his ears with each step. But the last five months have taken a toll on his faith. The War for Sins has raged from one bloody battle to another at the hands of fallen angel, Kyle Downey. Angels have been killed and hordes of demons torn from the depths of hell.

With the help of his friends, Troy struggles to fight the nightmares of the past. Lurking behind a wall of agonizing blame, his dad stresses the importance of the gifts granted to angels by God. Troy has his scepter and robes, but an act of love stands in the way of his sword – the third gift. His eyes often land on his friend, Angela. On her blonde hair and pink angel marks. On the way her smile leaves him breathless with delight. Each heartbeat brings a vision of drawing her slowly into his arms and softly kissing her lips.

Can Troy put the past behind him? What will he need to prove to God in order to be granted his sword? Or will Kyle Downey ravage the world and bring an end to the War for Sins?

Book Excerpt:

Chapter 1, Page 1:

For the first time in his life, Troy Decker was on a demon hunt alone. He’d walked and jogged over four hours to find the street where he was standing. Dark houses lined the neighborhood with only a few overhead lights sparking any hope in the gloom. Troy pressed with the Spirit and approached his target with a determined grin on his narrow face.

It was the eve of his sixteenth birthday, but the normal time of celebration for most teenagers was only another shadowy day to Troy. The last five months had been the worst of his life. Demons filled his dreams whether he was awake or asleep. Howling and cursing, the monsters ate tiny chunks of his soul with each

passing minute. Troy shook his head as the memory of the lion-like beast threatened to creep into his thoughts and send a quiver of pain shooting through his chest.

Quickly, he reached into the pocket of his Nike athletic shorts and withdrew the picture he always had stored somewhere close.

On it was a chubby, white haired baby with a giant toothless grin. Holding the laughing boy was the prettiest woman in the history of the planet.

Dirty blonde hair hung past her shoulders and fell perfectly across her thin back. A pointy chin was nuzzling the baby’s cheek, but everything paled in comparison to the smile.

The love of the Lord thrived in the lifting of her mouth.

Troy swallowed an unbidden sob as he peered at his mom. She’d been dead now for over five months. Killed by the poison of a sinna demon’s barb. And it was his fault. Every time he looked at his dad, that fact screamed into his face with thundering certainty.

Purchase Book:

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Angels-without-Wings-Loves-Sweet-ebook/dp/B00IODT52E/ref=asap_B00MUDIDJK_1_4?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1417623934&sr=1-4

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/loves-sweet-sword-chris-smith/1118731439?ean=9781494324575

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20903209-love-s-sweet-sword

AWOW Series - Hunting Halos - Book 4

Title: Angels without Wings: Hunting Halos

Series: The Angels without Wings Series – Book 4

Author: Chris Smith

Genre: YA Christian Fantasy

Publisher: Tate Publishing

Publication Date: October 2, 2014

ISBN: 978-1500750237

The past lingers on Troy Decker’s every thought. Losses have piled into the shadows at his heels. The War for Sins has taken a devastating toll on his life. And now, Lucifer has his eyes set on Troy’s very soul. With his chief fallen angel, Kyle Downey, spreading violence and discord around the globe, Lucifer has set plans in motion to end the War and bring a reign of terror upon the Earth.

For Troy, that means he must rush to receive his final two gifts from God. Gifts that will make him a fully-fledged angel and give him the power to resist Lucifer and all his demons. The granting of his fourth gift – a halo – looms as he struggles to stay one step ahead of Kyle and his Dark Hearts. A simple act of redemption stands in Troy’s way for this blessed sign of an angel. In a race against time, Troy must find the correct path to follow, not only in the eyes of his loved ones, but also for himself… or risk losing everything he knows and loves.

Book Excerpt:

Chapter 1, Page 1:

For the first time in his life, Troy Decker was hunting a human. Or a man who appeared to be human, at least. He’d been dogging the man’s trail on and off for two weeks. Watching and waiting while reading all the news on the mid-term Senate race in northern California.

Mrs. Chelsie Elliott was the front running Democrat in the Senate race, but her aide and assistant was Troy’s true target. The man was tall and thick. Broad shoulders stretched the expensive three piece suit flashing in the California sunlight. A blood red tie tucked crisply behind the shiny buttons. Neatly cropped hair was parted on the left. Soft grey eyes smiled warmly wherever he happened to look. But a menace resided under the glitzy exterior.

“We can’t do this alone,” Mrs. Elliott chanted into a microphone behind a wooden podium. “Each of us has a responsibility to turn this country in the right direction. And I’m here to make sure we steer this great ship back on the correct path.”

Troy shook his head as a gust of hot wind brushed across his face. He was mixed with a crowd of eager voters, but without trying he picked out several staged crew members of the candidate who had been placed to start the cheers and rousing ovations at the right spots of her speech.

For twenty minutes, Mrs. Elliott blared from one wrong doing of her opponent to the next – never actually discussing any plans to truly help her future constituents’ lives. Troy lingered at the edges of the crowd after she finished and kept his eyes on the man who was constantly scribbling notes to hand to the soon-to-be State Senator.

As Troy walked to the rented car, a half a block down the street of the small town he’d driven to that morning, his scepter glowed to life in a peaceful hum against his chest. The foot and a half long golden rod had been gifted to him by the very hand of God nearly three years ago. The memory made a smile lift instantly.

Purchase Book:

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Hunting-Halos-Angels-without-Wings-ebook/dp/B00O48YPAK/ref=asap_B00MUDIDJK_1_5?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1417634597&sr=1-5

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/hunting-halos-chris-smith/1120455314?ean=9781500750237

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23255430-hunting-halos

About the Author:

Chris Smith

Chris Smith ignited his love of stories on his sixteenth birthday when his parents gave him a leather bound copy of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Every year since, he has picked up the book and fallen into the world of hobbits, wizards, warriors, and orcs. To him, it’s a birthday present that will continue to be given each and every year for the rest of his life.

He began writing at the age of nineteen as a way to purge his mind of cascading plots and reveal the untold stories of characters who follow him around in his day-to-day life. To date, he has written fifteen novels falling mostly into the young adult, fantasy genre; but he has delved into suspense, crime drama, and post-apocalyptic categories as well.

Currently, Chris is in the middle of writing the Angels without Wings series. The books are young adult fantasy with Christian themes of faith, sacrifice, love, redemption, and forgiveness. Being the father of three young boys is the most important aspect of his life. Worlds of fun and adventure revolve constantly under the roof of their home in Mustang, Oklahoma.

Contact Chris at:

Website: http://www.angelswithoutwingsseries.com/

Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Chris-Smith/e/B00MUDIDJK

Facebook: www.facebook.com/angelswithoutwingsseries

Twitter: https://twitter.com/AwWbookseries

Giveaway!

Pump Up Your Book and Author Chris Smith are teaming up to give away a $25 Amazon Gift Card!

Terms & Conditions:
  • By entering the giveaway, you are confirming you are at least 18 years old.
  • One winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter to receive the prize.
  • This giveaway begins December 3 and ends on January 30, 2015.
  • Winner will be contacted via email on February 1, 2015.
  • Winner has 72 hours to reply.
  • VOID WHERE PROHIBITED.

Good luck everyone!

ENTER TO WIN!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Book Blast Event Schedule

Monday, January 5

Mom Loves 2 Read

Blooming with Books

Tuesday, January 6

As The Page Turns

Wednesday, January 7

Reviews That Reveal!

Thursday, January 8

Cheryl’s Christian Book Connection

Friday, January 9

Deal Sharing Aunt

Monday, January 12

Mythical Books

Tuesday, January 13

The Writer’s Life

Wednesday, January 14

Maureen’s Musings

Thursday, January 15

The Story Behind The Book

Friday, January 16

3 Partners in Shopping: Nana, Mommy & Sissy Too!

Monday, January 19

Reading and Reviews 3000

Tuesday, January 20

Literarily Speaking

Wednesday, January 21

Read My 1st Chapter

Friday, January 23

Beyond The Books

Monday, January 26

The Book Rack

Tuesday, January 27

Lita’s Book Blog

Wednesday, January 28

Brooke Blogs

Thursday, January 29

The Literary Nook

Friday, January 30

Jersey Girl Book Reviews

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One Last Hurrah Book Blast

One Last Hurrah

It is our pleasure to host Mark and Brenda Smith on their ONE LAST HURRAH Book Blast today!

One Last Hurrah

Title: One Last Hurrah … Making Peace and a Difference
Author: Mark & Brenda Smith
Genre: Inspirational / Christian / Self-Help
Publisher: MicroPress Books
Publication Date: September 21, 2014
ISBN: 978-0578150604

One Last Hurrah” allows the reader to experience a story of inspiration, inject their own experiences, unlike other books, so that the reader documents their own life story.

This is, not only, a book about a former professional wrestler overcoming loss, but his journey in finding purpose and peace. The book, “One Last Hurrah” , documents medical miracles, overcoming abuse and experiences with drug addiction. Mark and Brenda , both, come from broken homes and have found their calling in life working with youth/children for over 15 years.

Having come from divorce, Mark and Brenda had to decide if they were going to break the family cycles of abuse. They dedicated themselves to helping abused and abandoned children. They have been foster parents for several years and open their home to students who have no where to go. For them to understand their purpose, they had to go through a lot of trials. Mark has suffered mini strokes and multiple concussions from a career in professional wrestling. He had to make peace with the father that instilled a childhood of fear. Brenda witnessed Mark and his brother burying their father with shovels and the nightmares Mark would endure. Later, Mark and several of his friends would develop equipment and would be taken to Capitol Hill. He found himself working with military leaders from all over the world. When Mark wanted to give up on living, doors opened!

Book Excerpt:

Chapter One: The Lowest Point in My Life

I walked into our apartment and called out her name. There was no answer. I began the search; I found her in our bed, face down. I knelt on the bed and gently turned her over on her back. I called her name again, and this time she began what I couldn’t decipher was laughing or crying. Whatever it was, it scared the living heck out of me.

Had I driven her over the edge? I accept total responsibility for whatever was happening to her. I know that I was no good for anyone. She would not respond to me; so I went to the other room and sat on the couch and cried. What have I done to her? Whatever was going on with her, I know I was the cause of it.

As I sat there and cried, she came walking into the room and calmly said, “We’re finished.” I looked up at her, staring blankly at this woman whom I loved (but apparently not in the way she needed to be loved). I felt like a loser, not something that a professional wrestler ever wanted to feel. I slowly got up and walked to the door. I looked back at her, lowered my head, and walked out the door.

I went for a drive to try to absorb what she had just said. Her words kept ringing in my head. “We are finished.” I can’t say that I don’t understand. I do. Our world was ridden with booze, drugs, verbal and mental abuse. I couldn’t think straight.

Purchase Book at:

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Last-Hurrah-Mark-Brenda-Smith-ebook/dp/B00NT8KCTY/ref=sr_1_2?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1417206086&sr=1-2&keywords=one+last+hurrah

About the Author:

Mark & Brenda Smith

God has rebuilt Mark’s life with his wife, Brenda, of 22 years. Having never thought he was worthy of being a father, Mark and Brenda have been blessed with three wonderful kids. Mark was diagnosed to lose his ability to walk by age 18. He not only beat the odds, but was invited to Spring Training with several Major League clubs and ended up traveling the U.S. working for Ted Turner’s World Championship Wrestling.

Brenda has been a Children’s Minister for almost 15 years and also loves to lead Women’s Bible studies. She has also been a worship leader for Women’s Ministry Events. She enjoys singing Contemporary and Southern Gospel music.

Mark, Brenda and their children make their home in Fayetteville, TN

Visit Mark & Brenda online at www.onelasthurrahweb.com

Contact Mark & Brenda at:

Website: www.onelasthurrahweb.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Mark-Brenda-Smith/580166418759709
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Mark_Brenda2014

Giveaway!

Pump Up Your Book and Authors Mark & Brenda Smith are teaming up to give away a $25 Amazon Gift Card!

Terms & Conditions:
  • By entering the giveaway, you are confirming you are at least 18 years old.
  • One winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter to receive the prize.
  • This giveaway begins November 28 and ends on January 30, 2015.
  • Winner will be contacted via email on February 1, 2015.
  • Winner has 72 hours to reply.
  • VOID WHERE PROHIBITED.

Good luck everyone!

ENTER TO WIN!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Book Blast Event Schedule

Monday, January 5

Maureen’s Musings

Tuesday, January 6

The Writer’s Life

Wednesday, January 7

The Literary Nook

Thursday, January 8

Reviews That Reveal

Friday, January 9

As The Page Turns

Monday, January 12

The Story Behind The Book

Tuesday, January 13

Cheryl’s Christian Book Connection

Wednesday, January 14

Brooke Blogs

Friday, January 16

Read My First Chapter

Monday, January 19

Deal Sharing Aunt

Tuesday, January 20

Author & Readers Book Corner

Wednesday, January 21

Beyond The Books

Friday, January 23

The Book Rack

Monday, January 26

My Life, Loves and Passion

Wednesday, January 28

Literarily Speaking

Friday, January 30

Jersey Girl Book Reviews

Leave a comment

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Book Spotlight: Rise by D.U. Okonkwo

Rise Banner

RISE

Title: Rise

Author: D.U. Okonkwo

Publisher: A Few Words Press

Publication Date: January 6, 2015

Pages: 355

ISBN: 978-0993161711 (Paperback) / 978-0993161704 (eBook)

Genre: Literary Fiction

Format: eBook (.mobi / Kindle), ePub, PDF

The extraordinary story of how a facially-scarred and reclusive sculptress breaks free upon discovering the true source of self-esteem.

Riana “Ria” Ofor is a gifted sculptress whose beautiful creations could draw crowds. But due to the childhood accident that left her facially-scarred, she avoids selling her work publicly, instead scraping a living through online sales. But when a home repossession notice arrives, both her love for sculpting, a well as her home, suddenly come under threat.

Now she is forced to step out of her comfort zone and enter the very public world of gallery showings. When she does land a gallery contract however, she finds herself the target of a rival artist after the very same contract. And with malicious lies, he intends make her regret taking what should have been his. Now, for the first time, Ria must look to find a truth that conquers all lies.

Book Excerpt:

CHAPTER ONE

Ria appreciated the beauty of the headless female sculpture standing before her. A sculpture without its head has its own particular beauty. Strong sculpted legs, intricately crafted torso and powerful shoulders; the beauty of creation.

She squatted in front of the sculpture and ran a slender hand over its flanks. The modeling clay she had chosen had done its job; its durability ensuring the legs of the sculpture came out strong and smooth, the hips gently curved. Six weeks into the making, this piece would be larger than any piece she had previously sculpted, and certainly more challenging.

Here in her art studio which spanned the basement of her small house in London’s Bermondsey, clay statues of ancient kings and queens graced the long wooden shelves resting against the studio’s ivory walls. A small sink sat at the far end against the wall beside her large white storage cupboard, and two years ago she had bought a two-seater sofa and tucked it in the far left corner. Her small stereo, which she only put on when sketching, rested on a table beside it.

Time to begin its head, she decided, and her firm full lips curved into a smile of anticipation. Creating the head was her favorite part. If the legs, shoulders and torso possessed their own particular beauty, then how she created the sculpture’s eyes, slanted its mouth, and molded the chin brought out not just beauty, but the sculpture’s personality.

Ria got to her feet. A slim young woman with close cropped tightly curled black hair; she had a delicate oval face with a beautiful dark chocolate complexion that the faded pink burn scars that ran from the apples of her cheekbones to her collarbone couldn’t mar.

She reached for her apron and tied it around the long-sleeved white t-shirt and soft faded blue jeans she’d pulled on that morning. Sculpting was arduous and messy work, but for her, one of the perks of being a full-time sculptress was that she went to work in her most comfortable clothes.

She moved to where the armature waited atop the worktable. Shaped like an egg, an armature’s rigid metal framework ensured effective structuring of a sculpture’s head.

Collecting an armful of old newspapers from the white storage cupboard in the corner she rolled them into balls then began to fill the armature with them. Once thoroughly packed she secured it in place with a small plastic bag. Next the clay. She took a moment to relish the solid yet light weight in her hand. Then, detail by detail, piece by piece, she began adding more and more clay to the stuffed plastic bag, melding and smoothing it against the bag’s slippery surface. She hummed as she worked; following the measurements she had set out when the idea had first flown into her mind. Her deft and skilful fingers, armed with her trusted sculpting chisel, manipulated the clay.

The sharp slap of the letterbox upstairs stopped her. She stretched her arms high over her head, working out the stiffness in her shoulders caused from bending over the armature. After cleaning her hands she left the studio, heading up the pink carpeted stairs to the ground floor.

She plucked the white envelope lying on the doormat. June sunlight shone through the glass panel in the front door, and the click of women’s heels sounded on the pavement outside as they made their way to work. Once the morning rush was over and it was quiet outside she’d go for her daily morning walk and think over the next steps to completing the sculpture.

Breaking the seal of the envelope, she pulled out the letter.

Dear Ms. Ofor,

Account No: 17032007-55GM Property: 55 Garden Mews

Please be informed that payment due on the above-referenced account

has not been met. We have made several unsuccessful attempts to contact you.

Our records show that your account is in arrears of £11,509.

Please make arrangements to clear the outstanding amount within 28 days or the

case will be escalated to our solicitors, whereupon they may be forced to take legal

action, resulting in the repossession of the property.

If you have since made arrangements to clear the aforementioned amount, please

ignore this letter.

Ria’s stomach dropped somewhere below ground level, and the noose of the repossession notice, the one she had tried to loosen over the last six months, only tightened further around her neck, almost choking her.

She had failed.

The knowledge brought a bitter and sour taste to her mouth, salty tears to her cheeks. She had tried everything to sell her art; special offers, first buyer discounts. Everything except what you really should, she acknowledged silently, and squeezed her eyes shut. The scars have faded, she reminded herself. They’re not as disfiguring as they once were. No one will stare if you go out; no one will point or grimace.

Face damp with tears she’d been unable to keep at bay, she looked around desperately. Her heart pounded. How would she sculpt? Where would she sculpt?

She groped her way back down to the studio, went to the storage cupboard, and then pulled out the lowest drawer. The pile of threatening letters she had received over the last nine months stared up at her like hungry wolves. A shudder raked through her.

She needed to be strong and think, she told herself. Wiping her eyes she moved to the teak filing cabinet beside the storage cupboard and placed the letter atop it, then on a deep breath then opened the bottom drawer. Art magazines and industry journals were stacked neatly inside. Please, she begged silently as she rifled through the drawer. Please still be here.

Her trembling fingers hit a cool glossy cover. Sculpting Magazine – last month’s issue. She held it to her chest for a moment, closed her eyes and attempted to steady her racing heart. Then, opening it, she flipped through page after page until she found what she was looking for: the monthly snapshot of an art agent. This issue profiled Meg Fuller, president of a boutique art agency called The Art Room. As an art agent, Meg Fuller placed artists with art galleries throughout London.

Only in Ria’s most private moments did she allow herself to imagine what it would be like to be a commercially successful artist. Then she thought of people’s stares, comments, the rejection, and she shrank into herself.

Now she looked up at the portrait of her deceased Uncle Jonas that took pride of place on the wall. After she had graduated from Rayners Art Academy six years ago he had helped arrange the financing on the flat. Located in Island Gardens, the Docklands area of East London, she had loved the small compact house on first sight.

“You helped me buy this place,” she whispered to his smiling face, still holding the art magazine. “You encouraged my love of art. You started me on this journey.”

He had introduced her to art at age ten. A successful surgeon, he had children of his own, and had therefore spent a lot of time with her and her older brother Dominic One afternoon, he had taken her and her and her brother Dominic to visit the Canbury art gallery in central London. Stepping into that gallery had been like stepping into a warm, enveloping cloud. Light poured in from the huge wall-to-wall windows, paintings graced the white walls, and eclectic sculptures stood atop tall pedestals. Uncle Jonas spoke with the other gallery visitors about the displays, all of them speaking in awed whispers and hushed tones as they studied the different artwork. Dom had been bored though. Ria smiled at the memory of him impatiently hopping from one foot to the other; desperate to leave and see the car exhibition that Uncle Jonas had promised him they’d visit afterwards.

She had not been bored, but enthralled. Uncle Jonas had asked a member of the gallery staff to answer her questions and for the next half an hour she had learned about the process of bronze sculpting. After that day she had focused more attention on her art class at school and throughout college. Her father had been dismissive of it from the start. His blunt ‘Most artists can’t afford to feed themselves,’ had only added strain to their already fractured relationship.

And now, standing in her studio years later, her father’s words now kept going around her mind. But he was wrong, she decided. And she could prove him wrong. She looked across the room at her sculpture, then at the many other smaller pieces resting on the studio shelves on the walls. “I can fix this.” Her eyes narrowed on the sculpture again. “I have to.” With her free hand she pulled her phone from her handbag beside the worktable and looked down at the art agency’s number again, and then dialed it.

A young woman answered on the second ring. “Good morning, The Art Room; Layla speaking.”

“Hello.” Be confident, Ria ordered herself, and sought to make her usual low calm voice strident. “Can I speak to Meg Fuller please?”

“Who can I say is calling?”

Ria drew a fortifying breath. “Ria Ofor.”

“Just a second.”

A moment later a different female voice spoke. “Ria Ofor?”

This was it. Throat tight with both fear and anxiety, Ria swallowed and then answered. “Yes.”

“This is Meg Fuller. I recognize your name, Ria.” The agent’s warm and enthusiastic voice eased Ria’s nerves a little. “I’ve seen several of your pieces on The Platform website but have never been able to find contact details for you. Are you calling for possible representation?”

“Yes I–” Ria had to blink back the image of the bank letter that threatened to shadow her vision. “Yes.” She cleared her throat and aimed to speak more firmly in an effort to exude confidence. “I’ve been working on a new piece for several weeks. I think it may be of commercial interest.” “I see. You have an up-to-date portfolio?”

“I do yes.”

“Good. Why don’t we set a date for you to come and meet me tomorrow afternoon? We’re in Covent Garden.”

Alarm speared through Ria. “M-meet? You mean…face-to-face?”

“That’s right.”

Ria’s hand grew clammy on the phone. “Can we…can we perhaps negotiate something over the phone…I mean instead of meeting? Maybe…maybe I can email you photos of some of my pieces?” Please say yes.

“I’m afraid not. I always meet any new potential client face-to-face.”

Ria squeezed her eyes shut briefly. How could she reveal her reasons for not wanting to meet face-to-face? She lifted her hand to her face, but caught herself at the last second and clenched her hands into fists.

Over eleven thousand pounds needed to be paid. She had to do what was necessary. She hoped that for once the chips fell in her favor. She drew a deep breath. “I’ll be there, Meg.”

Covent Garden was the heart of London’s tourist district. Its cobbled streets attested to it being one of the oldest places in the city, and its bustling market, lively street performers and boutique designer shops drew both tourists and Londoners alike. It had been years since she had been here, Ria mused as she exited its tube station. A row of rickshaws lined the pavement just outside. Some riders bargained with enchanted tourists over hire rates while others sat back to take a rest between rides. Taking a right outside of the station Ria headed towards the main square. This place still possessed so much energy and vibrancy, she admitted. She wouldn’t admit she had missed both.

“My balloon!” a young boy suddenly squealed. A royal blue balloon flew over Ria’s head. “Mum, catch it quick.”

Startled into glancing up, Ria saw the bright blue balloon in question. She jumped up, catching its long, red string in her grasp. She held it out to the little boy.

“Thank the kind young lady, Jimmy,” his mother prompted.

Brushing his ginger fringe aside, Jimmy stared up at Ria, his large brown eyes wide. “What are those things on your face?” he asked instead.

Ria froze.

“Jimmy!” Grasping his free arm, Jimmy’s mother sent Ria a beseeching look of apology as she took the balloon from her. “Come on, Jimmy.”

Ria stood rooted in place, her body completely immobile like one of her own sculptures. Only when someone accidently bump into her did she realize she had been standing there for some time. Jimmy and his mother had long gone.

Heart pounding, she ran the back of her hand down her right cheek, over the rough texture of unforgiving burn scars. Letting her hand drop, she forced her fingers to relax. All thoughts of her impending meeting with Meg wiped clear from her mind, she spun on her heel and headed towards the tube station, thinking only of home.

Meg Fuller ran impatient fingers through shoulder-length black hair. She rose from her desk and walked out into the main reception area of The Art Room, her emerald eyes narrowing.

At the reception desk her summer intern, Layla Banes, glanced up. “Still nothing?”

“Not a dickey bird, and I’ve already left a message.” Annoyed, Meg grimaced. “I’ll try her one more time.” Then she had cut her losses. Ria Ofor looked to be a special talent, Meg had seen that for herself while browsing The Platform website several months ago. But she liked artists who knew the importance of communication.

“I’d better head off or I’ll be late for the dentist.” Layla grimaced. “Wish me luck.”

“Always. See you in a couple of days.” Returning to her office, Meg picked up her phone and dialed Ria’s number for the second time. Six rings came and went before Ria answered.

“Hello?”

“Ria, this is Meg Fuller from The Art Room.”

On the other end of the phone Meg heard Ria’s shocked gasp. “Meg…hi.”

“Where are you?”

A pause before Ria whispered back. “At home.”

Meg waited a beat. Well, don’t rush to apologize for standing me up will you? she thought with annoyance. “We were scheduled to meet today at twelve-thirty.”

A sniffle came through the line. “Meg. Oh. I – I’m so sorry for – I couldn’t make it.”

Meg’s brows drew together. Ria sounded like she had been crying. “Are you okay?”

Another sniffle. “Yes I – yes of course. I’m fine.”

Sure you are, Meg thought with concern, and hesitated before asking, “Do you still want to meet?”

Publication Date: January 6, 2015 – Buy Buttons will be active on that date!

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About the Author:

D.U. Okonkwo

 

Born and raised in London, D. U. Okonkwo writes commercial literary fiction. She graduated from the University of Salford with a BSc in Business with Spanish which included an ERASMUS exchange living in Salamanca, Spain. RISE is her first novel.

To learn more about D. U. Okonkwo, visit her website at: www.duokonkwo.com She is also on Twitter @duosays, and keeps a blog at www.duosblog.com

Connect with D.U.:

Author Website: www.duokonkwo.com

Author Blog: www.duosblog.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/duokonkwo

Twitter: https://twitter.com/duosays

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/4305929-d-u-okonkwo

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Book Blast: College for Convicts by Christopher Zoukis

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We’re happy to be hosting Christopher Zoukis and his COLLEGE FOR CONVICTS Book Blast today!

About the Book:

College for Convicts

Title: College for Convicts: The Case for Higher Education in American Prisons
Author: Christopher Zoukis
Publisher: McFarland and Company
Pages: 300
Genre: Social Sciences/Education

Purchase at AMAZON

Provide education to prisoners and they won’t return to crime. America accounts for 5 percent of the world’s population, yet incarcerates about 25 percent of the world’s prisoners with about 2.3 million men and women in U.S. facilities. Examining a wealth of studies by researchers and correctional professionals, and the experience of educators, this book finds an irrefutable conclusion: the likelihood of an undereducated prisoner returning to crime is high, but recidivism rates drop in direct correlation with the amount of education prisoners receive, and the rate drops dramatically with each additional level of education attained.

Presenting a workable solution to America’s over incarceration and recidivism problems, this book demonstrates that great fiscal benefits arise when modest sums are spent educating prisoners, instead of dedicating exponentially higher resources to confining them. Educating prisoners brings a reduction in crime and social disruption, reduced domestic spending and a rise in quality of life.

Book Excerpt:

Hundreds of articles and studies about prison education, and many papers presented at academic and professional conferences, almost all come to the same conclusions:

  • Prison education reduces crime,
  • Prison education reduces recidivism, and
  • Prison education will make an enormously positive impact on our national economy.

This is an idea that evokes a lot of controversy, because most people are more concerned with educating their own children than educating prisoners. And the idea of providing post-secondary education in prisons is a hard sell because most of the public is unaware of how it can impact our economy and the safety of our communities.

Let’s understand from the start: the concept of educating prisoners is not a “bleeding-heart, humanitarian, feel-good-for-the-imprisoned” kind of cause. On the contrary, it is an issue with huge impact upon the economic stability of our country, the protection of our communities, and a higher quality of life for law-abiding citizens.

Consider this: the US accounts for only 5% of the world’s population, but it holds 25% of the entire world’s prisoners. There is something wrong with this picture. With our prison population now at 2.3 million, we, as a nation, incarcerate far more people per capita than any other country in the world – almost double the next closest nation. Our state and federal prison population has increased almost ten-fold since 1970 and this explosive growth not only creates an untenable financial burden for state and national budgets, but also creates an impossible situation for our judiciary overburdened by high recidivism rates. In some states, like California, prisons are so overcrowded that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the state had to reduce their prisoner population by tens of thousands because the state’s system was “incompatible with the concept of human dignity”.

The growth rate in federal prisons is even worse than that of the states. While state prison populations dropped in 2009 and 2010, federal prisons are bursting at the seams, and federal prison budgets are increasing by 10% a year to accommodate the ever-growing prison population. Lawmakers are calling for the creation of a second federal “supermax” similar to “the notorious Florence ADX in Colorado – a place where solitary confinement has been raised to a torturous art, and prisoners seldom, if ever, see another human being. Conditions at this ‘Alcatraz of the Rockies’ are so harsh that the European Court of Human Rights initially refused to extradite terrorism suspects to the United States lest they end up in ADX”.

Hundreds of studies and all the research in the field of criminology affirm that prison education is the least expensive and most effective solution to overcrowding and strain on the budget caused by recidivism. Nevertheless, despite overwhelming evidence, policy makers and the general public still do not support funding post-secondary higher education in prisons. Year after year, even the most basic correctional educational programs are further reduced. Computers are not allowed. The result? Increased prisoner unrest and violence, and even more money spent for additional security.

Today, higher education for prisoners is almost non-existent. And, as we shall see, our failure to invest in opportunities for correctional college education weakens the very fabric of our society. With proper implementation, the impact of prison education can be enormous – not just on prisoners, but on our entire society and our nation’s prosperity. Let us hope that greater understanding will result in wise legislative action for our common good.

“In response to the American public’s growing fear of crime and the call for more punitive measures…, many legislators and policymakers have promoted building more prisons, enacting harsher sentencing legislation, and eliminating various programs inside prisons and jails. But more than half these prisoners are in on drug charges and another 10% on immigration violations, so that more than 72% of our incarcerated population are offenders with no history of violence. With re-arrest rates averaging around 67% to 80%, it is clear that incarceration alone is not working”.

In the opinion of Chief Justice William Ray Price of the Supreme Court of Missouri, “We may have been tough on crime, but we have not been smart on crime.” He noted further, “For years we have waged a ‘war on drugs,’ enacted ‘three strikes and you’re out’ sentencing laws, and thrown away the key to be tough on crime. What we did not do was check to see how much it costs, or whether we were winning or losing. In fact, it has cost us billions of dollars and we have just as much crime now as we did when we started.”

Despite all the studies that confirm society and the nation as a whole will reap significant benefits, the idea of providing post-secondary education in prisons is a hard sell. The public appears to have a visceral, but understandable, reaction against the idea of higher education for prisoners. Why, people ask, should Americans pay to provide a college education for prisoners when so many law-abiding, tax-paying citizens struggle to send themselves or their children to school? It doesn’t seem fair. Honest people have to pay to receive an education; why should prisoners get it for free?

And besides, say some of the opponents to correctional education, if we provide a learning environment for prisoners, perhaps prison will seem less terrible and serve as a less effective deterrent to crime. However, the deterrent argument fails, because people do not decide whether or not to commit a crime based on the program opportunities available if they are caught and sent to prison.

Others believe that people who commit a crime have chosen to limit their opportunities and freedoms, including access to valuable privileges like education. Therefore, handing it free to people who break the law feels wrong, feels like a slap in the face of justice.

These are legitimate concerns, but there are strong, legitimate solutions.

Make no mistake. Despite the fact that I am a prisoner myself, I do not dispute the concept of getting tough on crime. I do not advocate creating a cushy environment for prisoners. And I certainly do not propose taking privileges from deserving, hard-working people to pamper prisoners. That is not what educating prisoners is about.

So why, then, should we care about educating prisoners, educating people who didn’t care about the victims they hurt, the communities they impoverished, and the society they endangered?

We care, very simply, because they get out. Almost everyone who is locked up now is going to be set free one day. If we treat prisoners like animals the whole time they’re locked up, that’s what we’ll get when they’re back on the streets: wild, dangerous animals. But if we educate these people, give them some positive reinforcement, and introduce the idea that they’ll have something to offer society when they return to their communities, that’s what we’ll get when they are free: people who have something to offer society.”

About the Author:

Christopher Zoukis

Christopher Zoukis, a 28-year-old writer who is incarcerated at FCC Petersburg (Medium), is an impassioned and active advocate for prison education and prisoners’ rights in this nation’s prison systems, a noted legal commentator and practitioner, and a prolific writer of books, articles, and legal treatise.

Criminal Justice Books

Mr. Zoukis is the author of College for Convicts: The Case for Higher Education in American Prisons (McFarland and Company, 2014), United Blood Nation: The Story of the East Coast Bloods (Headpress, 2015), the Directory of Federal Prisons (Middle Street Publishing, 2014), and Education Behind Bars: A Win-Win Strategy for Maximum Security (Sunbury Press, 2012).

Legal Articles

In addition to his books, Mr. Zoukis is also a contributing writer at Huffington Post, Blog Critics, and Prison Legal News, and is a New York Journal of Books authorized book reviewer. His book reviews, articles, and essays have appeared in the Huffington Post, Kansas City Star, The Sacramento Bee, Blog Critics, Midwest Book Review, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, SF Gate, AND Magazine, AND Society, along with content being syndicated by the Associated Press, Google News, Yahoo News, and the FedCURE News Network.

Writing Awards

In 2011, Mr. Zoukis’ creative work won PEN American Center Prison Writing Awards for his screenplay “Healing Bin Laden” (Drama-Second Place) and his short story “Jesusland” (Fiction-Honorable Mention). And in 2014, Mr. Zoukis’ Directory of Federal Prisons e-book won the prestigious Independent Book Publishers Association’s Silver Benjamin Franklin Digital Book Award.

Websites and Legal Writing Commitments

In addition to his award winning writing, Mr. Zoukis is the founder of PrisonEducation.com, PrisonLawBlog.com, and a former editor of the Education Behind Bars Newsletter. He is a contributing writer at Prison Legal News and the Huffington Post, along with being a former staff writer at the State and Federal Criminal Law Review, The Update: Federal Criminal and Immigration Law, and the Texas Criminal Law Review.

Legal Projects

Currently, Mr. Zoukis is engaged in a number of larger legal and non-legal projects. On the legal side, he is currently suing the Federal Bureau of Prisons over their refusal to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Attention Deficit Disorder(ADD), lack of adequate dental care for federal inmates, and is assisting several inmates seeking treatment for Gender Identity Disorder (GID) that is in line with prevailing community standards of care and the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) Professional Standards. Mr. Zoukis is currently assisting two transgender federal inmates in suits against the Federal Bureau of Prisons (along with counseling and handling administrative remedies for half a dozen others), and is litigating on behalf of both prisoners in the Virginia State Supreme Court in an effort to effectuate name changes.

Writing and advocating for prison education and prisoners’ rights isn’t all that Mr. Zoukis has been doing behind bars. He has taught a popular course to over 100 fellow prisoners entitled “Writing and Publishing”, and regularly advises fellow inmates and prison consulting groups about matters surrounding Federal Bureau of Prisons’ policy and the federal regulations governing it.

Mr. Zoukis has become successful in the administrative and regulatory prison litigation realm and is now a sought after consultant on a number of matters (both in-prison and out-of-prison). Following his release from custody in 2018, he plans to go into the prison consulting and litigation field.

Non-Legal Projects

On the non-legal side, Mr. Zoukis’ literary team — which is headed by Rachel Sentes of Gal Friday Publicity, Greg Aunapu of the Salkind Literary Agency, and Dr. Randall Radic of Middle Street Publishing — are currently pitching several of Mr. Zoukis’ novels and nonfiction works to publishers in the United States and Canada. Two such titles are Mr. Zoukis’ Facing Federal Incarceration book, and his debut science-fiction novel Hamish.

Legal Credentials and Associations

Mr. Zoukis holds numerous legal credentials as to paralegal studies and certification. These include the following credentials from the Blackstone Career Institute:

  • Diploma in Paralegal Studies (with distinction)
  • Advanced Certificate in Criminal Law and Procedure
  • Advanced Certificate in Civil Litigation
  • Advanced Certificate in Business & Corporate Law

He is also a graduate of the Long Ridge Writers Group and graduated from Global University’s Certified Minister Certificate Program. Mr. Zoukis is currently enrolled at Adams State University, where he is nearing the completion of an additional Paralegal Certificate, and his Bachelors of Arts in Sociology (with an emphasis in criminology) degree.

Mr. Zoukis maintains strong ties with the prison, prison education, legal, and writing communities through his memberships with related organizations, several of which include:

  • American Bar Association, including:
  • ABA Criminal Justice Section
  • ABA Section on Litigation
  • American Civil Liberties Union
  • American Correctional Association
  • Correctional Education Association
  • National Association of Independent Writers and Editors
  • National Alliance of Sentencing Advocates and Mitigation Specialists
  • National Lawyers Guild
  • National Legal Aid & Defender Association, including:
  • NLA Appellate Defender Section
  • National Writers Association
  • National Writers Union
  • PEN American Center
  • Pennsylvania Prison Society
  • Society of Professional Journalists

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Release Day Blitz ITGIRL4LIFE by Tamara Branch

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We welcome Tamara Branch as she celebrates the release day of her YA/Self-Esteem book, ITGIRL4LIFE!

ITGIRL4LIFE 8

Title: ITGIRL4LIFE
Author: Tamara Branch
Publisher: Heart Project Publishing
Pages: 98
Genre: YA/Self-Esteem
Format: Paperback/Kindle

BUY LINKS:

ITGIRL4LIFE is available at Amazon.

Pick up your copy at Barnes & Noble.

Book Summary:

Writer, artist and speaker, Tamara Branch serves up 40 bite-sized chapters on how to build unshakable self-confidence, honor your life, and shine bright in the world, in ITGIRL4LIFE: How to bring out your special something and so much more. Packed with sage advice, life-changing insights and affirmations to help you soar, ITGIRL4LIFE offers ideas, tools and principles that you can reference and build upon, supporting you in becoming your best. Get ready to fall in love with your own wisdom, beauty and strength.

Excerpt:

YOU have IT. IT is the GREATNESS you were born with. IT is that unique special something that is all yours. Nothing and nobody can take IT away from you. IT is not something that you have one day and lose the next. IT is not fleeting. IT is not temporary. IT does not depend on the judgment or approval of others. IT is here to stay. Your job is to tap into IT. Your ITGIRL4LIFE adventure starts NOW. It’s about loving yourself, being authentic, taking charge and making a difference. You will need a great attitude, an open mind, the desire to grow and expand, the courage to create the life you want and the willingness to be your best self.

Are you ready? Your special something and so much more is right this way.

About the Author:

“I believe in the power, beauty, strength and amazing potential of girls. I believe girls deserve to feel extraordinary. I believe that when girls shine their light, they are unstoppable!” – ITGIRL4LIFE by Tamara Branch

Tamara Branch is from New York, born and raised in the Bronx. She is thrilled to share her first book release, ITGIRL4LIFE, kicking off the ITGIRL4LIFE self-esteem movement to empower girls to stand up, stand out and shine bright in the world.

Tamara has worked as a professional model and actor for almost two decades. She strutted down the runway for designers Calvin Klein, Donna Karen and Christian Dior, acted in a few independent films, co-hosted PBS New York’s education series, “What’s up in Technology” and appeared T.V. commercials and print ads for Levi’s, Old Navy, Hershey’s, Colgate, Kellogg’s Special K, Revlon, Hanes, Nike and many others. A Penn State alumnus and lifelong student of personal development, Tamara is deeply passionate about uplifting the human spirit.

After graduating from Institute for Integrative Nutrition, studying under Deepak Chopra, Dr. Andrew Weil and some of the top health and wellness experts in the world, she was inspired to raise the bar on her own ‘self care’ and support others in living more vibrantly. She is an abstract artist and teaches a dynamic dance class, where she gets to fuse her varied background, having trained in everything from jazz, ballet and modern to Afro-Caribbean and Salsa.

Tamara was recently asked to become a Female Visionary Author guest blogger for The Brave Heart Women Global Community. She’s a SAG/AFTRA member since 1998, a member of Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and is represented by Abrams Artists Agency.

Tamara currently lives in Los Angeles, California, with her husband of seven years and offers ITGIRL4LIFE workshops to assist girls on their self empowerment journey.

Her latest book is the YA/self-esteem book, ITGIRL4LIFE.

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