Tuesday, June 08, 2021

A Prophecy of Wings by Jane McGarry #YAFantasy #FairyTaleRetelling


A Prophecy of Wings
Jane McGarry

Genre: YA Fantasy/Retelling
Publisher: JM Books
Date of Publication:  May 18, 2021
ISBN ebook: 978-1-7365884-0-6 
ISBN print: 978-1-7365884-1-3
ASIN: B093Y21CCZ
Number of pages: 382 
Word Count: 71,000

Cover Artist: Graphics by Mulan Jiang

Tagline: Two Fairies: One Destiny 

Book Description:  

A betrayal, a prophecy, a kingdom in the balance. Sixteen years ago the evil Dahlia overthrew the kingdom of Roshall Grove, the heart of the Fairy World. A prophecy foreseen by Edwina, a powerful enchantress, remains the only hope to topple her iron-fisted rule. Now, Lina, a simple peasant girl, learns her future is linked to this prophecy. Edwina brings Lina to the Fairy World to fulfill her destiny—conquering Queen Dahlia. 

Separated from the enchantress by agents of the dark queen, Lina begins a perilous journey to join the Resistors, who await her return to mount their attack. Thrust into this strange world, Lina must navigate relations with a host of different fairies and animals, never knowing who seeks to help or to thwart her. Finally reunited with the Resistors, Lina must find the strength to lead her people and fulfill the prophecy. Meanwhile, Dahlia prepares for the battle, which will ultimately decide the survival of her reign, while reflecting on the path that brought her and her foe to this moment of reckoning. 

A fairy tale with an ending twist, A Prophecy of Wings is loosely based on Thumbelina by Hans Christian Andersen and examines the ideas of predestined fates and the subsequent, sometimes unforeseen, consequences. 

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Excerpt - Prologue:

The pains came more frequently now. Even with the help of Edwina, it was a struggle to run. In the cramped darkness of the tunnel, she tried to maintain her footing, an impossible task with the burgeoning weight of her belly. Time was of the essence. They must not be caught, but the spasms were nearly unbearable.

“I can't go on,” she gasped, a sharp pang taking her breath away.

“Just a little bit further, Your Highness,” the enchantress coaxed.

Every step down the seemingly endless passageway was sheer torment. Queen Ivy willed herself to continue. She was the last hope for her people, and she must not fail.

Edwina stopped so abruptly; the queen stumbled into her back. The enchantress pulled the weakened monarch through a narrow gap in the wall. They crossed the threshold of a doorway into the depths underneath the forest. A tangle of tree roots filled the cavern, their sinuous forms dwarfing the fairies. A robust scent infused the air with bark, stone, and earth.

Queen Ivy, a Volant used to the skies, reeled at the unfamiliar smells and fell to her knees.

The enchantress, more experienced with Groundling habitats, remained unaffected and surveyed the area. She assisted the queen in a nook hidden between the sides of two large tree roots, which soared overhead out of sight to meet the tree's trunk somewhere way above.

“Wait here,” she instructed, a moot directive to her incapacitated companion.

While Edwina disappeared the way they came, Ivy settled down her awkward frame. How had it come to this? The past few months had turned her world upside down. Having one's sister hunt you like prey was horrifying enough, but targeting her baby for death rocked her to her very core. Instinctively, her hand flew to her stomach, the muscles again tightening with the tremors of labor.

Her friend returned, hair disheveled, wings drooping, and announced, “As far as I can tell, we may have lost them in the maze of tunnels. I have used cloaking measures along the way and put a spell on the door to keep others out. But your sister's powers are strong. If she were to find us…”

“She will find us. It is only a matter of time,” the queen declared. Dahlia learned enough in dark magic to track even a covered trail.

“Well, it is time for this baby, so here must do.”
Queen Ivy sighed, resigned to the situation. When she discovered she was with child all those months ago, she had not envisioned giving birth in a dark hole underground. The enchantress spread a blanket on the earth for the queen to lie down. She checked the progress of the baby and nodded.  

“It is time. You need to push.”

Above all, the baby must survive. Otherwise, the prophecy would remain unfulfilled, and the kingdom would never be restored. The monarch braced herself against one sturdy root; the surface felt surprisingly warm and smooth. Under the calm direction of her lifelong friend, she delivered the child.

Edwina laid the baby girl into her arms. Ivy admired the feathery blond hair and the round little nose. Tears welled in her eyes at the sheer perfection of the infant. The enchantress finished tending to the mother and turned her attention to the newborn. After a quick examination, she ripped a length of fabric off Ivy's skirt to wrap her. “You could not have asked for a healthier daughter. Now, what shall her name be?”

“Her name?” the queen pondered. "I’ve not thought of one. All I have thought of is her safety.”

Before Edwina responded, they heard it—the rattle of armor. Soldier’s footsteps approached, their faint clinking unmistakable. Both women froze in terror.

“She has found us,” Ivy whispered in dread, her arms tightening around the baby.

“Perhaps not. Perhaps it is King Theros on his way to tell us he defeated Dahlia.”

The footsteps grew louder.

“No,” the queen affirmed. “It is my sister. I feel her presence. You must take the baby to the other world and keep her safe until the time is right. Dahlia cannot follow you there.”

The soldier’s armor rang loudly in their ears. They came to a halt right outside the doorway.

“Come then,” the enchantress conceded, holding out a hand to help her friend rise.

“No. I must stay and try to defeat Dahlia. Take her.” She thrust the infant into Edwina’s arms. “Go now.”

Loud hammering filled the air with the enemy’s attempt to break the door down.

“But My Queen, she will show you no mercy. I will not leave you here to die.”

Queen Ivy leaned forward and placed her hands on her friend’s, which cradled the child. She slipped the crystal-bound amulet inside the swaddling. “Yes, Edwina, you must. I command it. Take her now and keep her safe.”

The enchantress desperately tried to think of another way. Axes and spears crashed upon the door, weakening her spell with every stroke. Sadly, she stepped back and conjured the words to transport her between the worlds, a power only she possessed in the entire kingdom.  

The new mother watched the toss of the seeds, and Edwina’s frantically whispered spell. A cloud of dust encircled her friend and her baby. Too weak to even stand, she blinked through her tears. Just before the two vanished, she said, “Lina. I want her to be named Lina.”

Edwina nodded, the final wish heard, and with a poof, they were gone.

The door finally gave way, a multitude of soldiers pouring in, their armor dark as night. Queen Ivy turned to see her sister step through the broken threshold. Dahlia scrutinized the scene, the queen’s deflated belly and the cloud of dust on the ground. Her eyes narrowed in malice. The baby was beyond her reach—for now. She met Queen Ivy’s eyes and despised the look of triumph in them.

“Kill her,” Dahlia ordered.

The queen whispered one last anguished prayer for her daughter before an arrow pierced her heart.


About the Author: 

Reading was always a big part of Jane’s life. Creating her own stories developed out of this love. To date she has published the Not Every Girl trilogy, a YA Fantasy Adventure. Her latest novel, A Prophecy of Wings, is a retelling of the classic fairy tale, Thumbelina. She lives in New Jersey with my husband, two sons and two extremely spoiled cats. When she is not running around with her family or writing, she can be found curled up with a good book and said cats. 














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Tuesday, June 01, 2021

David-Matthew Barnes Top Ten Favorite Horror Films


...in no particular order because I love them all.

Bride of Frankenstein(1935)

One of the best sequels ever made (and even better than Frankenstein, in my opinion), owed to Elsa Lanchester's brilliant performance in the title role and James Whale's masterful direction.

Black Christmas(1974)

One of the first slasher films, this creepy tale set in a sorority house influenced many similar movies to follow.

The Changeling(1980)

Truly one of the best ghost stories made for the screen, this film is a horror masterpiece.

Curtains (1983)

This Canadian slasher flick features one the scariest ice skating sequences ever.

The Fury(1978)

This was the first horror film I saw as a child and it's impact on me has been lifelong. Amy Irving's final moment of revenge makes this great movie well worth the watch.

Halloween(1978)

My all-time favorite horror film and not because the first time I saw it I was 13 and babysitting on Halloween. John Carpenter's classic has the perfect ingredients for the making of an iconic film, including the terrifying score.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers(1978)

This edge-of-your-seat horror flick about humans being taken over by alien duplicates is a fun classic, with a super scary final scene.

Poltergeist(1982)

This movie feels like a thrill ride - and what an awesome ride it is. From menacing toy clowns to corpses in the swimming pool to malevolent trees intent on devouring child, this suburban ghost story will make you never want to watch television again.

Psycho(1960)

One of the best film adaptations of a novel, this iconic film (including that unforgettable shower scene) is still terrifying audiences, all thanks to one of the best horror villains ever created, Norman Bates.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre(1974)

One of the scariest films ever made, this low-budget indie flick set a new standard for horror films and influenced many great films in later years.

 


Mind Fields 
David-Matthew Barnes

Genre: New Adult, M/M Romance, 
            Suspense Thriller
Publisher: Blue Dasher Press 
Date of Publication: May 18, 2021 
Word Count: 48,500
Cover Artist: Darn Good Covers

Book Description: 

Sometimes love can blow you away. 

When struggling college student Adam Parsh accepts a tutoring position, he is lured into the unknown world of a wealthy family. 

Fighting off the sexual advances of Dario Vassalo, a Greek tycoon and patriarch, Adam finds himself the object of the dangerous desires of one of the most powerful men in the world—his married employer.Torn between his attraction to Dario and his deepening love for his best friend, Victor Maldonado, Adam is forced to choose between right and wrong. 

Surrounded by lust, glamour, and greed, Adam uncovers dark secrets strong enough to destroy many lives, including his own.

Excerpt

Although the schedule at the Ravenswood Metra station said the commute was only 54 minutes, the ride felt much longer. Adam was seated with a window view, heading north on the Union Pacific line towards Great Lakes, to the wealthy shore side suburb of Lake Bluff, a place he’d only read about and heard others mention.

It was early but Adam had made a point of buying a large cup of coffee at 7-Eleven before jumping on the commuter train. The coffee warmed a chill inside of him he hadn’t been able to shake since waking up.

While Stacey was still passed out, Adam had stumbled around the tiny apartment, half asleep and full of lingering concerns. He showered, got dressed, ate a bowl of instant oatmeal, and headed to the train station. He checked his phone more times than usual. No voice mail or text from Victor.

Maybe I should’ve let him stay last night. I could’ve woken up in his arms, next to his warm body. We could’ve made love for hours.

Adam barely took notice of the sights as the train continued on its snow-filled journey to the North Shore. Instead, he sipped his coffee, listened to overly sentimental love songs on his iPod, and tried to imagine what life would be like if he and Victor made a commitment to each other. He knew, more than ever, that’s what he wanted. Being with Victor made sense. Like so many people had said before, they made a great pair.

Questions and fears heightened Adam’s anxiety, racing through his mind at the same speed of the train. Were they too young to be so serious? To be exclusive? What if Victor decided he was bored and restless and wanted to date other people? What if he was tempted and unfaithful? That would leave Adam hurt and damaged beyond repair.

His phone buzzed.

Finally.

False alarm. It was Stacey. I can’t wear my new shoes today because it’s snowing outside. I hate February. But I love you. Where you be?

He texted back. On a train heading north.

She responded within seconds. I hope you’re not running away from home just because the rent is due.

He smiled and texted back. Job interview. Wish me luck. Otherwise it’s noodles and tap water for us until March.

The train was nearly empty now. A young woman wearing a red knitted scarf and matching cap was sitting a few seats away. A business man in a gray suit was reading a newspaper he’d folded in half. He was balancing a leather briefcase on his lap. His black-framed reading glasses looked as if they’d slip off the tip of his nose at any second.

I wonder what their lives are like. Is she in love with someone she can’t have? Is he unhappy in his marriage? Are they terrified of dying alone someday?

Adam glanced down at the pleated slacks, button-up Oxford, black pea coat, and Italian leather shoes he was wearing. He was dressed like a preppy boarding school student. He felt like an impostor. He’d assumed someone else’s identity in Chicago and was now on his way to fool a rich family into believing he was one of them.

They’ll see right through me.

Adam wondered why Dario Vassalo had extended the invitation to him. Given they’d only spent a few minutes together in Becca’s new office and their conversation had been brief, Adam tried to figure out what it was he’d said or done to inspire the wealthy man to consider him for the tutoring position. Was he replacing someone who’d been fired or quit? Were ulterior motives at work? Was the position created just for Adam as a way for Dario to see him again?

Adam shook his head, silently dismissing his absurd theories. Yet, in the back of his mind, he knew there was a thread of truth to them. He’d felt an instant heat for Dario. It was powerful and intense. He was almost certain the attraction was mutual.

Get that ridiculous idea right out of your head. He’s a married man. You have Victor now. And, you love him. You need the job. If you have to flirt a little to get it and keep it, you’re only doing what needs to be done. You can make this situation work for you until graduation.

Even if the train ride is forever and these stupid shoes are already killing your feet.

Adam finished his coffee. He looked out the window at the passing neighborhoods, wondering what was happening inside the houses and apartments within eye line of the tracks. Was someone brewing coffee, cracking open eggs, pouring pancake batter over a buttered grill? Was a child running late for school, worried they were going to miss the bus? Did someone decide to call in sick for the day, add another log to the fire, and curl back into bed with a good book and a cup of peppermint tea? Maybe a car wouldn’t start. An alarm didn’t go off. A husband didn’t come home.  

The train pulled into the quaint, historic Lake Bluff station. Adam said a silent prayer, stood, and exited. Outside, the biting morning air was even colder than it had been in the city. There was a thin mist, floating and mingling with the falling snow flurries like a tentative ghost trying to decide whether or not to make an appearance.

Adam slid both hands into the pocket of his pea coat, cursing himself for not remembering to wear gloves or a scarf. He moved around the crowd of Chicago-bound commuters waiting to board a southbound train and made his way to the front of the train station.

Adam checked his phone and reread the instructions his mother had texted him.

A cab will be waiting for you at the station. Don’t be late.

On the train, Adam worried there’d be too many taxis to figure out which one was for him. He was relieved when there was only one idling at the curb.

There was an older woman standing next to the cab. She was short and squat. She was wearing a purple windbreaker, powder blue polyester slacks, and a pair of blinding white sneakers. The strange ensemble was completed with a white visor she wore low, just above her eyes. Her hair was short and tightly permed. It had an Easter blue tint to it.

She looks like an over groomed, mean poodle.

She glanced him up and down, cracked a sunflower seed between her front teeth, and spit the shell out on the sidewalk. “You Adam?” she asked. Her voice was nicotine stained and coated with a thick New York accent. At once, she gave off a strong vibe that even though she was short and could’ve been someone’s grandmother, she was tough and shouldn’t be messed with.

Adam was hesitant with his answer. “Yes. That’s me.”

“Name’s Myrtle,” she said.

“Myrtle?” Adam repeated, trying to hide his amusement.

No one is really named Myrtle, are they?

“Myrtle Brubaker,” she said. “You heard of me before?”

Adam couldn’t tell if she was joking. Was she a gangster or a cab driver?

Myrtle Brubaker had been through some hard times. It showed on her face. She looked weathered like someone had left her outside for too long in the snow. Beneath her haggard appearance and red, blotchy cheeks there was just a sliver of the attractive young girl she probably once was. Yet, it was clear Myrtle had never been a debutante. Adam imagined she spent her nights on a bar stool, shooting the breeze, chain-smoking, and killing off a bottle of bourbon. Or two.

“Get in,” she instructed. “You don’t wanna keep the missus waiting. She’s got a busy schedule.”

Adam complied. He slid into the backseat of the cab. It was like sitting in a closed box of sweet-smelling cigars. He rubbed his eyes, coughed a little, and asked, “What does she do?”

Myrtle found his eyes in the rearview mirror. “Who?”

“The missus,” he said, already speaking Myrtle’s language. “Mr. Vassalo’s wife.”

“Name’s Evangelina.”

“That’s pretty,” he said.

“Doesn’t even do her justice, if you ask me. She’s a knock out. You’d think her husband would pay more attention to her, but whadda I know?”

Adam grinned. “You seem to know a lot, Myrtle.”

“I love three things in this world,” she said.

“Is one of them bourbon?” Adam guessed.

            “As a matter of fact it is,” she said. “I love bourbon, a good horse race, and Nancy Sinatra.”


About the Author:

David-Matthew Barnes is an award-winning author, playwright, poet, and screenwriter. He writes in multiple genres, primarily young adult, romance, thriller, and horror. He is the bestselling author of twelve novels, five produced screenplays, three collections of poetry, seven short stories, and more than sixty stage plays. He graduated with honors from Oglethorpe University in Atlanta with a Bachelor of Arts in Communications and English. He earned a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing at Queens University of Charlotte in North Carolina. He attended the Professional Program in Screenwriting at UCLA. David-Matthew divides his time between Denver and Los Angeles. He is represented by Hoop Earrings Entertainment.






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Monday, May 24, 2021

Author Interview - The Somewhere I See You Again by Nancy Thorne #YARomance

1. Are you currently binge-watching anything on Netflix? What keeps you glued to the screen?

Isn’t everybody binging on Netflix these days? These are crazy times. I love suspenseful stories that keep my interest. Of course, I binged on Tiger King, along with bags of potato chips. I enjoy non-fiction stories like biographies and documentaries. Non-fiction stories allow me to decipher the personalities and lives of others, and what made/makes them tick. It feeds my natural curious nature.


2. Do you prefer movies or TV series?

As long as a movie or series is interesting, I enjoy them both. Also, I love going out to the theater to see movies and am waiting impatiently for all of us to be able to return to them.

3. Have you ever peeked at the end of a book?

Great question! Yes, I admit to peeking at times, but really it only happens when I’m not enjoying the book. If I start to get bored with a book, say in the middle of the story, I’ll flip to the ending. If the ending seems juicy, I’ll probably muddle through the middle. But if the ending is predictable, I’ll skip to the last chapter.

4. What are some of your hobbies, interests, or guilty pleasures?

Okay, my guilty pleasure is easy: chocolate! As far as hobbies go, I’m into daily walks my husband and I take with our dogs, a Labrador and a corgi, through an enchanting forest near my home. My interests also include going on road trips anywhere in Canada and the United States, whenever possible. I also love to bake basically anything. My family bought me a stand mixer as a gift and it’s like having a helper in the kitchen.

5. When it comes to reading do you prefer standalones or series?

I prefer standalones, probably because I hate to wait for the next in the series to come out. Perhaps I should be more patient. 

The Somewhere I See You Again
Nancy Thorne

Genre: YA Romance

Tagline: The lives of two teenage girls take a dramatic turn when both their families face financial ruin. Blackmail may be their only solution - and undoing.

Hannah will resort to anything to save her mother’s life. Including blackmail.Even if the target is the former boyfriend of her goody-goody best friend, Stacy.

Except, he just moved to the West Coast, and now it’s up to Hannah to convince Stacy to hitchhike with her cross-country to confront him.

It’s 1971. Change is happening. And Hannah’s understanding of the world is about to be tested by those she encounters along the way, includinga gorgeous draft dodger.

Someone is about to face a deathly experience. But it’s not Hannah’s mother.

The Somewhere I See You Again is an extraordinary story about the life-changing power of love and friendship against insurmountable odds 




Excerpt 3

Expensive jeans and the newest styles of desert boots and sneakers shuffle in front of us. My eyes follow denim up to a zipper then to a pocket stuffed with a hand. A blue T-shirt with a Rolling Stones logo covers what appears to be a flabby abdomen. I gaze up at a face that distorts from my angle. The guy peers down. He’s not attractive, but not ugly either.

“You have the coolest hair,” he says to Stacy.

I’ve never considered Stacy’s hair cool to be honest. Guess I’m just used to it. But looking at it now I can see what he means. Far past her shoulders, it’s parted in the middle and each side gleams copper in the setting sun.

Stacy leans back and lifts her chin. “Um thanks. We live on the other side of the park.”

“You two from Slum Hill?” the short guy blurts.

“It’s Sloan Hill, “ I snarl.

“Don’t mind him, he’s a dickhead,” says a scrawny guy, swiping at a thick head of hair too big for his body.

“You know someone around here?” the not attractive but not ugly asks.

“Nope.” I wonder the same about him. But he gazes at Stacy like he wants her to answer. Like I’m invisible.

“Your school the one being torn down?” he tries again.

Stacy does a hair flip. “Yep. We’ll be going to Carver this year.”

“Oh yeah? That’s our school.”

“What’s is like?” Stacy asks in her polite, doltish way. “Are the teachers strict?”

“Depends on who you get. Some are cool. Some are assholes. It’s sure gonna be crowded this year.”

The group continues down the road in their boy-pack parade.

Except for him.

“I could grab the keys and give you a ride home if you want.” He brushes aside straight bangs. “It’s a long walk to SlumI mean, Sloan Hill.”

“You live near here?” I ask.

He lets out a laugh. “Yeah, real near.”

He points to my dream house, and the robin’s egg blue convertible parked in the carport.

 

About the Author:

Nancy Thorne is an award-winning author of fiction inspired by the romance and courage of youth.

Born and raised in Toronto, Nancy fostered a passion for words and creating stories in grade school but hid it much too well. Bringing to life a lifelong dream, her short stories have recently appeared in anthologies and literary journals.

Her debut novel, VICTORIAN TOWN, a  young adult paranormal romance with mystery and time travel elements, was released in 2018 and won First Place for the 2019 Dante Rossetti Award.

Nancy Thorne’s work has appeared in over seven major publications including The First Line Literary Journal and Chicken Soup for the Soul.

She has received several awards and accolades including the Writer’s Award from the APL. Her works continue to appear in many journals and online publications. She lives just outside of Toronto with her loving family, energetic labrador, and an entertaining corgi.











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Thursday, May 20, 2021

How to Kill a Dragon by J.A. Culican #Fantasy #Dragons #Fae #HeirofDragons #DarkMagic #DragonShifters


How to Kill a Dragon 
Heir of Dragons 
Book One
J.A. Culican

Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Dragon Realm Press
Date of Publication:  4/29/2021
ISBN: 9798728327523
ASIN: B0913DJ46D
Number of pages: 368
Word Count: 72k

Cover Artist: Christian Bentulan

Tagline: The dragons are gathering, which can only mean one thing. Death.

Book Description:

Minx, a royal Fae has been tasked with saving her people. Problem is, the only way to do that is by slaying a dragon and bringing their hide back to Paddling Grounds. The magic that resides inside dragons is strong and without it her people will die.

Except Minx has never slayed a dragon, she hasn’t even ever seen one, but she knows where to find them. With help from her Faelyr, half fae and half tiger companion, Minx sets out to Talon Range.

Kaleb, the dragon heir to the Pyra clan isn’t looking for war. But then again no one has ever asked him what he wants. He has a duty and he will do whatever is needed to keep his people safe. Even if that means taking on the darkness himself.

When Kaleb and Minx come face to face, a battle erupts. Neither are giving up, neither will fail. Until they realize they share a common enemy and only together can they defeat them.

With a pull between them that is strictly forbidden, Minx and Kaleb find they are on their own and time is running out.

A fae, a dragon and a war neither are prepared for. The end of both species is near and only they can save each other.

How to Kill a Dragon is the first book in the Heir of Dragons trilogy by USA Today Bestselling Author J.A. Culican. Full of dark magic, dragon shifters, and forbidden romance. Fans of Jennifer L. Armentrout and Sarah J. Maas will love this new epic fantasy romance with a dose of dragon-riding and magic bonding.

Excerpt
“It sounds like the Fae are going to have a big fight on their hands,” said Kaleb, arms crossed. “We'll find some way to protect the realm—”
            “I'll say we will,” interrupted Minx. “I'm going to find myself a dragon's hide and get it to the elders before time runs out. That's the mission. Nothing's changed.”
            The dragon shifter sighed, kneading his brow with a few fingers. “We're going to find a way to protect the realm,” he repeated. “Another way.”
            “If we don't reset the shields, then—”
            Kaleb raised a hand to silence her. “You want to protect your home, your people. I understand that. In fact, I respect it.” He donned a genuine smile, motioning at the chair she'd just abandoned. “You know, that's what I was raised to do, too. To defend my kind at any cost. You only get one homeland, one people. Only a coward wouldn't risk everything to defend their own. But what you're asking for...” He shook his head. “There has to be another way. And together, I think we can find it, Minx.”
 ***
Watching the movements of the sword very closely, he'd managed to reach out and grab the Fae's thin arm before she could connect with her weapon, and applying his forceful grip, the dragon shifter put pressure on her forearm till she cried out in pain and the sword fell from her grasp. She fell to her knees, tugging and panting but ultimately unable to pull away from him.
            He heard the smooth nocking of an arrow, the drawing of a bow. “No!”
            Minx had wasted no time. With her opponent disarmed by the dragon shifter, she'd loaded a fresh shot and prepared to deliver a point-blank coup de grace. The arrow had begun to fly, only to meet its terminus in Kaleb's waiting hand. The sharpened tip of the arrow sheared the skin of his palm neatly, but he was able to stop the thing before it reached its intended target, and he cast it away with a wince.
            “What are you doing?” demanded Minx, pulling another arrow from her quiver.
            At this, he reached out and took Minx by the arm, pulling her close with such unexpected force she dropped her bow. A wide-eyed rag doll in his furious gaze, she found herself nearly nose-to-nose with him, his hot breath streaking across her reddening cheek. “No more. You can't kill her, Minx,” he ordered. “The fight is over. Understand?”
            They remained in this way for several beats, the race of her pulse felt clearly against his wounded palm. From this distance—closer than he'd ever been to her before—he couldn't help taking in the faint quiver of her soft lips, the innocence of her wide, watery eyes. Sure, she was a Fae—but he couldn't deny her loveliness. She didn't pull away from him, didn't make an immediate effort to break free, and the quickening of her pulse almost gave him the impression she liked being in his grasp.
            Get ahold of yourself, he thought, letting her go gently when he was sure she would no longer lash out. He shook his head, sporting an almost embarrassed grin. There are more important things to worry about. Are you really going to let yourself get carried away with this girl? She's a Fae, after all! What are you thinking?
            Minx's face had taken on an uncharacteristic flush. She drew away from him, lowering her gaze and slowly picking up her weapon. Running a hand through her dark, tousled locks, she couldn't seem to find her voice and stood silently beside the cage where Mau watched in silence.
He had to force himself to look away from Minx, to distract himself and quiet the thumping of his own heart. A Dragon and a Fae? You're really losing it, aren't you? But then, maybe...
***
Kaleb, having regained his breath, struggled to his feet. “You're not taking her anywhere, you understand me?” He stood upright with a pained grunt, arms hanging at his sides.
            Torrent pointed at the dragon and shot Alla a sharp glance. “I'd love to leave them out of it, but they insist on butting in. I suppose I have no choice.” He thrust out an open palm, fingers arrayed rigidly like claws, and turned toward Kaleb. “You should have stayed down the first time.”
            There was, in the next instant, a flash of blinding light.
            The sound of splitting metal and splintering trees sounded, and Minx felt a powerful burst of wind wash past her. It came so intensely that she fell onto her back, unable to remain seated on the ground, while Kaleb was hurried off his feet entirely and thrust against the nearest tree.
            When the dust had settled and her eyes had adjusted after the brilliant flash, Minx turned to Kaleb and began crawling toward him.
            And then she halted, heart seizing and guts churning.
            Slack-jawed and moaning, Kaleb had been pinned to the massive trunk of the tree—not by any invisible force or psychical trick, but by arrows. Three stone-colored arrows, conjured by Torrent, had penetrated Kaleb's dense armor and impaled him at various points through the chest and stomach. The tips of said arrows had passed straight through him, and were buried in the trunk of the ancient tree, which had rattled and creaked as though a mere sapling.
            It was impossible. Everything she'd witnessed was impossible. No normal arrow could hope to pierce Kaleb's thick plate armor. But Torrent had stuck the dragon shifter with three at once, summoning them from thin air. He remained pinned to the tree, bleeding profusely. His end was very near. No one could sustain that kind of damage and hope to recover.
***

I've not only disgraced my father, but my entire people. I'm not worthy of the title of Dragon Hunter—or Royal Fae, even. I feel like I've betrayed them all...

“What are you talking about?” blurted Minx. “He very nearly killed you, Kaleb! We need to be careful around him.”

“You're right,” he conceded, “but he faced me this way, man-to-man. Let's see how he fares man-to-dragon.”
***

Minx had been waiting for this day. The wait had seemed to her an eternity. Journeying across the land with Kaleb and Mau, finding herself in one mess after another, she had begun to wonder whether the fateful clash would ever arrive. Now, as Kaleb lumbered on with her on his back, the wait was over. She squinted into the distance, spying untold hordes bearing down on her precious homeland. There were more marchers flooding in from the horizon than she could hope to slay with a hundred full quivers, and she felt almost dizzy at the immensity of their ranks. It's like a dream, she thought absently, clinging to the dragon shifter's scales. Minx knew what it meant to fight in a battle; this, however, was a war.

  

About the Author:

J.A. Culican is a USA Today Bestselling author of the middle grade fantasy series Keeper of Dragons. Her first novel in the fictional series catapulted a trajectory of titles and awards, including top selling author on the USA Today bestsellers list and Amazon, and a rightfully earned spot as an international best seller. Additional accolades include Best Fantasy Book of 2016, Runner-up in Reality Bites Book Awards, and 1st place for Best Coming of Age Book from the Indie book Awards.

J.A. Culican holds a Master's degree in Special Education from Niagara University, in which she has been teaching special education for over 13 years. She is also the president of the autism awareness non-profit Puzzle Peace United. J.A. Culican resides in Southern New Jersey with her husband and four young children.

For more information about J.A. Culican visit

Website: www.jaculican.com

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Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Samurai Dan Coglan's Writing Routine #Horror


Everyone has their own routines that they use to get into the zone for writing.  Some authors set the mood with a glass of wine and classical music.  Some have a specific outfit that they wear, or even a preferred pair of slippers.

For my part, I go for a motorcycle ride before writing to clear my mind of distractions.  The feel of the wind, the sight of the Iowa countryside, and the sound of the Harley Davidson v-twin engine rumbling is as close to Zen as I can get!  After a half hour or so ride, I am ready to go and let the story flow from me to the paper, or onto the screen, as it may be.

It’s hard to do sometimes, but my objective is not to “force” the words out, but rather let the story and the characters tell their story through me, where I simply “narrate” what they tell me.  Forgetting about myself, and any issues or worries that are a part of “Dan’s life” make it easier to tell the stories, because it isn’t about me.  

Even if the current stories from the Deathstalker Chronicles ARE written in first person!


Invasion of the Undead
Death Stalker Chronicles 
Book One
Samurai Dan Coglan

Genre: Horror
Publisher: L’Oste Vineyard Press
Date of Publication: 5-28-2021
ISBN: 978-1-7353896-7-7
ASIN: B08XNS92W5
Number of pages: 242
Word Count: 60500

Book Description:  

Former Marine Lance Corporal Chase Brooks fought the enemy in Afghanistan and lost his unit. 

Now back in America, he fights to keep from losing his mind, as he is repeatedly attacked by the undead that he believes wiped out his men overseas. 

Convinced that what he saw over there was real, he goes to war to wipe out the undead on American soil.

#samuaraidancoglanbooks #invasionoftheundead #deathstalkerchronicles #lostevineyardpress #horror #zombies #horrorbook #zombiebook


Excerpt

“Get those damn charges set, and let’s get out of here,” I growled into my mic.  Shadows moved around me, and a turbaned face appeared out of the murky darkness.  I shot the onrushing insurgent twice and looked around for more.

“Come on, come on, come on,” I muttered.  “We’re past time for evac.  Move your slow asses!” Lt. Rodriquez was suddenly at my side, scowling.  “We’re doing the best we can, Corporal.  Hold on to your hat.”

“Charges set, Lieutenant,” Stevens called out.  “That makes all four; we can blow this popsicle stand!”

“About damn time,” I snapped.  “There are hostiles everywhere.  What the hell is this place, anyway?”

McGavin scoffed.  “It’s a temple, Brooks.  Remember? We had a briefing and everything.”

“Screw you,” I told him.  “This ain’t like no temple that I’ve ever seen.  And it smells like a fucking crypt.”

“No lie,” my buddy, Lance Corporal Jeremy Stevens, chimed in.  

“Marines,” Rodriquez barked.  “Let’s go.”

I led us back out, the six of us in tight formation.  Stevens was on my left flank; Sgt. Bates was on my right, and the Lieutenant was in the middle with the beady-eyed “guide” that the Colonel had stuck us with.  McGavin brought up the rear.

Dead bodies were everywhere; our ingress had come with a high body count.  I ignored them.

Two tours had made me immune to corpses. I had bigger priorities.

There was a commotion in front of us; heard but not seen.  Voices cried out in excitement.  We froze.

Our position was suddenly hit with massive spotlights.  “We’ve been cut off! Break left!” Rodriquez yelled as gunfire erupted all around us.  We returned fire, hot and heavy.
Being in front has its disadvantages.  I got hit three times, twice in the chest and once in the leg.

My vest took the brunt of the two to the chest, but the leg shot really sucked.  I went down but staggered back to my feet and kept fighting.

Stevens took over point; Lt. Rodriquez slid over to his spot and put me in the middle with the guide, who looked scared out of his mind.  I didn’t blame him.   

We raced through the gloom, moving downhill but not having a choice in the matter.  McGavin took a round to the lower back and went down.  I shouted, and the unit took up positions around our fallen comrade.  

We created a semi-circle facing back the way we’d come, weapons up and ready.  There wasn’t long to wait.  The horde was on us quickly, the heavy sound of their AK-47s threatening to overwhelm the sharper cracks of our M-4s.  

It was over in less than sixty seconds, and to my amazement, we were still standing.  There were bodies all around us, and the air was thick with the smell of cordite.  Clouds of smoke from the gunfire obscured our lights even further.  
It was like being in hell, I thought, sweeping the area with my carbine.  Something flashed in my light, and I swung back.

There was a figure standing at the edge of the light.  It couldn’t be a friendly, so I shot at it.  I missed, and it ducked behind a pile of bodies.  The Lieutenant motioned, and Stevens and I went out to get whoever it was.  

I’d taken maybe three steps when the figure reappeared, much closer.  I could tell it was a man, head and neck wrapped in a shemagh.  One arm was holding a bundle, and the other was outstretched toward the ceiling.  

His eyes were glowing red.  I blinked.  His eyes really were glowing; it wasn’t goggles or an optical illusion.  Glowing or not, I knew what my job was.  I put that head with glowing eyes in my sights and prepared to pull the trigger.

Our guide, who’d been useless and paranoid the entire mission, started screaming and babbling in complete gibberish.  The only part that I could make out was something about Manziel or manzazu or some such nonsense, but his outburst caught me off guard, and I missed my shot.
Suddenly there was movement all around us.  The bodies of the enemy combatants were stirring.  Impossibly, they were staggering to their feet.  All around us, corpses were rising from the floor, their eyes shining a baleful crimson.

“What the fuck?” Stevens shouted.  “This ain’t happening, man.”  

I put a three-round burst into the chest of the corpse nearest me and blew out his heart.  It didn’t seem to affect him at all; he just kept shuffling toward me, his arms reaching out.  I shot him again, this time doing the Mozambique technique that had been drilled into all Marines.  The two shots to the body didn’t do anything, but the follow-up round to the head dropped it.
I could hear my unit screaming, cursing, and shooting the reanimated dead bodies all around me.

 They were coming at us from every direction.  

We tightened our circle, trying to cover each other as we changed mags and shifted targets.  It didn’t matter; they overwhelmed us. There were just too many of them, and we couldn’t put them down fast enough.

I watched in horror as my best friend, Jeremy Stevens, was pulled down by a mob of freaking zombies and torn apart.  Behind me, Lt. Rodriquez screamed, and then his voice trailed off into a muffled gurgle, and I knew he was gone, too.

My mag ran dry, and I reached for another, determined to keep fighting.  My fingers closed on air.  I was out.  The undead pressed in, their hands clawing for me.  I swung the empty rifle like a club, trying to clear a space.

The undead mob pulled the rifle from my hands, so I drew my Colt 1911 handgun.  It was a fine weapon, and I was good with it, but it only held eight rounds.  Those eight rounds went quickly.

 When the pistol was empty, all sounds of gunfire ceased.

I was the last of the unit standing.  The zombies surrounded me.  To my right, two of the obscene things were eating my Sergeant.  Behind them, more were tearing our guide to pieces.
I spun to my left and saw what was left of Stevens.  Hands fastened onto my vest, and I twisted away.  More grabbed hold of my legs, and I went down.  

The zombies crowded around me.  Behind them, looking on, was the man with the glowing eyes, triumph on his face.  He cackled with glee.

In desperation, I felt around for anything to use as a weapon.  My hands reached above my head and found the remains of the Lieutenant.  His head had been ripped off.  My hands shifted lower and found the detonator on his belt for the explosive packages that we’d set.

I yanked it free and held it up.  The zombies were all over me, and their leader was looking down at me, sneering.

“Fuck you,” I screamed and pushed the button.  There was a distant rumble, a pressure wave, and then the world collapsed on me.



About the Author:

Dan Coglan, A.K.A. “Samurai Dan” is the acknowledged masters of marital… er, martial mayhem.  Dan travels the civilized portions of the U.S., bringing his unique show to curious and horrified audiences alike.

In addition to their high-energy, mostly safe stage shows (where razor-sharp blades and barbs fly),  Dan teaches historical and hysterical panels on the way of the warrior.  Offering a wide range of lectures and interactive workshops, Dan provides joy and laughs wherever he goes. 

Due to a supreme lack of filter, Dan also performs standup comedy in censored and uncensored settings.  A storyteller at heart, Dan is releasing his first book in his Deathstalker Chronicle Series:  Invasion of the Undead.



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