Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Darkness Above by J.D. Brown #UrbanFantasy


Darkness Above
A Jordan Korento Novel 
Book One 
J.D. Brown

Genre: Urban Fantasy
Date of Publication: September 12, 2022
ISBN: 9798844461750
ASIN: B0B7FS53VQ
Number of pages: 500
Word Count: 115k
Cover Artist: BZN Studios

Tagline: Her parents are legends but they’re losing the war. Now it’s her turn.

Book Description:

Her parents are legends, but they’re losing the war.

Now, it’s her turn.

Jordan Korento spent her life training for the vampire war, but no one will give her a chance to prove she’s more than just a princess.

When Jordan learns of a twin brother who was sent to live in hostile territory, she takes destiny into her own hands, determined to save the sibling she never met and make her family whole.

Joined by her vampire ex-girlfriend who she still has feelings for—and the mysterious Sergeant who steals her breath with a single glance—Jordan embarks on a rescue mission to Bavaria, where nothing is what it seems. Will she find a kindred spirit in her twin or an enemy lying in wait?

Darkness Above (A Jordan Korento Novel 1) is an adrenaline-fueled urban fantasy full of dark magic and deadly creatures that are as sensual as they are bloodthirsty.

Amazon     AmazonUK     AmazonCA     AmazonAU

Kobo     BN     Apple


Excerpt 1- Chapter Two

Torrance’s tone—half cheerful, half serious—cut through the bliss of a deep sleep as she shook me awake. “Rise and shine, birthday girl.”

My temples throbbed as I squeezed my eyelids tight and groaned into the pillow. “Ten more minutes.”

“Sorry, no can do.” Torrance yanked the covers away, and I curled into the fetal position against the sudden chill. “I already let you sleep in. Up and at ’em, soldier.”

“Ugh.” My eyelids peeled open, and I blinked to bring the room into focus. The angles confused me for a moment.

“Not my fault you insisted on working. I told you to take the night off.” Torrance offered me a paper cup of water and two generic brand pain reliever tablets. She wore her usual black tank top, cargo pants, and steel toe boots. Her dark shoulder length hair was pulled into a sleek ponytail at the nap of her neck. Torrance was unfairly beautiful with pouty lips, angular cheekbones, and a jawline that gave her features a touch of androgyny.

I sat upright and accepted the pills, swallowing them both in one go before gulping the water. The tip of my tongue ran across my chapped lips as I patted a hand against my auburn curls. My hair was doing that gross thing where half of it stuck flat against my cheek, glued to my drool, while the other half puffed into the air like a poodle’s ass.

“Why am I in your bed?” I asked while handing her the empty cup.

Like all the rooms in the Sword of Somnus Brotherhood dormitories, ours was tiny with two twin-sized beds, two narrow dresser drawers, and a single writing desk between them. I’d fought tooth and nail for this room, though, so I wasn’t about to complain. I just didn’t understand how Torrance’s navy-blue sheets had wound themselves around my legs. My bed stood directly across from hers, with its Buffy the Vampire Slayer comforter neatly tucked into the cheap faux wood frame.

Torrance tossed the paper cup into the wastebasket under the desk and then opened a drawer in my dresser. “You mean you don’t remember climbing in and saying we should be friends with benefits before passing out like a corpse?”

She pulled a pair of clean olive-green cargo pants and a matching t-shirt from the drawer and threw them at me. Since my reflexes were still steeped in alcohol, I didn’t catch the standard issued uniform in time and the clothes hit my face before falling to my lap.

“Sorry,” I murmured.

“No you’re not. Now go take a shower, you smell like vomit.”

I touched a hand to my cheek, where my hair was plastered to my face by something that might have been a little too thick to be drool. “I didn’t actually vomit though, did I?”

Torrance crossed her arms and arched her brow. “What do you think I’ve been doing all day? Mopping the floor because it was dusty?”

My gaze went to the mop and bucket in the corner. Neither of us owned cleaning supplies, so she obviously took it from the janitor’s closet at the end of the hall.

Even though vampires didn’t sleep, and Torrance had to occupy herself while I snoozed, she wasn’t my maid. It wasn’t her job to pick up after me. Especially not bodily fluids.

I winced and apologized again. “Sorry.”

Torrance pointed to our shared bathroom. “You can make it up to me by not being late.”

I nodded and then trudged into the facilities where I tiptoed over the cold tile and stepped into the single-person shower stall. I stripped and washed quickly but took a moment to examine the bruises over my ribs and thighs. I doubted Torrance would have let me fall on my ass during last morning’s party, so they must’ve been from training. None of them hurt. Much.

I dried and dressed, adding underwear, socks, and combat boots to the uniform. After applying ample leave-in conditioner, I used my fingers to separate the soft curls and then pulled them back into a ponytail, securing the locks with my favorite rainbow sequin scrunchie.

Torrance knocked on the door. “Done yet?”

“Just a sec,” I called out.

“We literally have three minutes to get to the Hall. I mean, I’m fast but ….”

I looked at my reflection in the mirror above the sink and sighed. I hadn’t meant to be hungover tonight. The party was supposed to be a small gathering, but every senior cadet and half the faculty had shown up. These days, people were encouraged to find happiness wherever they could, but that didn’t mean there wouldn’t be consequences. I could only hope that talk of last morning’s festivities didn’t reach Head Huntsman Chayton.

Or worse, my father.

“Jordan Korento, I will leave without you!”

I chuckled at the empty threat. Torrance was my bodyguard. She couldn’t go anywhere without me. But for some reason she always acted as though keeping me punctual was part of her job description.

Looking at my reflection again, I drew a deep breath and released it slowly. To be honest, being late to my shift was the least of my worries.

“This is it,” I murmured to myself. “Tonight, I meet my mother.”

I haven’t seen Mom since I was baby, which meant I had no real memories of her. I should be more excited. Other girls would be. Normal girls. But my family wasn’t normal. My father was a vampire king. My mother was a legend; a vampyre queen who’d done some badass shit in her lifetime. And now she was an elite assassin on her way home after twenty years of training.

No pressure, right?

 


About the Author:

J.D. Brown knows that vampires exist because she dated one, and no he didn't sparkle. A magnet for subcultures and weirdness, J.D. was that socially awkward girl with more fictional friends than real ones. As a child battling a hearing loss and a medical condition called Muckle-Wells Syndrome, J.D. found comfort in books where strong women always saved the day and got the guy. An obsession with Charmed, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer lead J.D. to believe that her mutated genes made her something more, not something less. Thus her stubborn flare to persevere was born.
 
A lover of fine cuisine, coffee, and shoes, J.D. never understood why shoe stores don’t serve Starbucks and soufflĂ©. She resides in Illinois where she writes urban fantasy - aka vampires for adults - and has political debates with her dogs. She loves to hear from fans and is active on Facebook.com/AuthorJDBrown











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Monday, September 26, 2022

Cover Reveal Midnight on the Manatee by D. H. Willison #CoverReveal


Midnight on the Manatee
D. H. Willison

Genre: Fantasy adventure/fantasy romance
Date of Publication: October 28, 2022
ISBN: 9798823112536
Number of pages: 182
Word Count: 33K
Cover Artist: Papaya-style 

Tagline: Life-and-death adventures on a creepy fantasy world blend with wit, whimsy, and a generous dash of romance.

Book Description:

How does the steamship Manatee navigate sea-monster infested waters? What sacrifices do her grand profits demand? The only certainty, is that the Manatee casts a dark shadow everywhere she makes port.

Brianna, a tough, no-nonsense human, yearns to escape stifling big city rules and a troubled past. A quaint seaside town seems perfect to start a new life—until she wakes up aboard the Manatee. As cargo.

Shard, nekojin feline of the forest, dreams of sailing to distant lands—to the horror of his friends. When his intriguing new neighbor, Brianna, disappears and all signs point to the mysterious Manatee, he’s certain this is his moment for high seas adventure. Yet with skills tailored to the forest canopy, his rescue goes disastrously awry.

Their only chance of freedom is to work together, but can their budding relationship overcome ruthless smugglers, corrupt officials, and a slew of ravenous monsters? Or are they destined to take the secret of the Manatee to a watery grave?

Midnight on the Manatee blends life-and-death adventures on a creepy fantasy world with wit, whimsy, and a generous dash of romance.

Amazon      BN

Excerpt- Brianna

I’ve always struggled picking out clothes. It doesn’t matter if it’s for travel, work, or a special event, I seem to hit a point where I regret my choices.

Like today.

Late afternoon sun glared in my eyes, the wide brim of my slouch hat unable to shield me. Mostly because it was on the ground a dozen paces distant. It was hot, and this close to the marsh, humid too. My linen blouse was drenched in sweat, though a breeze provided a modicum of relief from the heat—that part, I’d gotten right. The leather traveling vest was well-vented, my padded breeches also a good compromise between comfort and protection. But my boots were clearly wrong. Light beige leather with flexible soles prioritizing comfort over armor seemed a good idea for the long trek between Halamar and Barricayde.

But the bog toad with its jaws locked around my right ankle seemed intent on demonstrating the error of my ways.

It was half the size of a coach, with an underbite and stubby tusks thick as my legs. I kicked it with my free foot as it shambled backwards, dragging me toward the marsh. Vision blurry from sweat streaming into my eyes, I squinted, trying to sight along the barrel of my single shot pistol.

One shot. At this range I can’t miss.

I fired, the pistol belching gray smoke and a dull wumm.

The toad lurched back, blood oozing from an apparently non-critical wound. It blinked a pair of fist-sized ruby eyes, lunged at me again, this time snapping both legs up to my knees in a maw as broad as my arm span.

How did I let a minor predator ambush me? Along a marked path! Big city’s making me soft.

No! I will not die to an oversized frog. I shoved the pistol in its holster, unfolded my collapsible spear with a metallic klink, jabbed it at the creature’s head. A head which seemed to comprise half its mass. The third strike to its thick hide found a sensitive spot: it spat out my legs, sneezed a blob of mucus and blood on me, and shambled back into the marsh.

“Oww. Filthy beast. That hurt.”

I stood, yelped in pain, collapsing to my knees again.

Those critters might not have sharp teeth, but they bite hard.

First things first: I reloaded my pistol. It may have been as effective as poking a troll with a toothpick, but it was my toothpick, and it was gonna be loaded.

I pulled off boots caked with blood and saliva to reveal a souvenir of the encounter: bruises from ankle to mid thigh.

Should have worn armored boots. Blood or mucus colored armored boots would have been ideal. But on the bright side, none of the blood was mine.

“It’s a well-traveled path. You can wear comfortable traveling clothes, no need for armor.

Owww. You’re an idiot, Brianna,” I muttered, managing to stay up on the next attempt.

“Hope they have a decent healer in Barricayde. Not to mention a laundry.”

 

Shard

Murky water burned my eyes as my feet sank into the mud. The caprid in my arms flailed and kicked, I could feel its chest heave in panicked breaths. “Juro, a little help?” I called.

“I am helping. I’m watching out for predators.” Juro crouched atop a low branch of a live oak tree, gaze darting between trees and clumps of reeds. He grinned. “None here. You’re welcome.”

“I meant, could you grab the other two trapped caprids.”

“Theoretically, I could.”

I waded ashore, set the waist-high, hoofed creature next to its flockmates, hoping the presence of the herd would calm it.

“At least keep the flock from panicking while I get the other two.”

Juro bounded from branch to branch, finally settling on the ground beside me. He had auburn fur, stood a tad shorter than me, his tail shorter as well, and lacking the white puffy tip he made fun of when we were growing up.

“If we leave them out here,” he said, “our neighbors might learn a valuable lesson about the merits of proper animal husbandry.”

“The creatures horns are blunted, they cannot defend themselves against predators and would most likely be devoured by bog toads before the humans were able to recover them all.”

“Which would certainly be a valuable lesson, Shard. Hurt what they value most.”

Juro didn’t need to complete the thought. We all knew what that was. “It would indeed hurt their coin purse, but caprids shouldn’t pay the price to do so. The creatures are innocent.”

“Didn’t you want to visit the bookseller this afternoon? New volume of that pirate series you’re always talking about.”

I dove back into the stagnant green-brown murk at the edge of the marsh, swam around the last two stragglers, managing to shoo them toward the herd without having to carry them.

I spat, trying to clear the taste of marsh water from my mouth. Mud, slimy strands of algae, and decaying vegetation plugged my nose, clung to my ears, obscured my normally keen senses. But I wasn’t worried, Juro was a rascal, but he’d have my back at the first hint of danger.

“Yes. It’s supposed to be out today. But after all that effort, we can’t leave the task unfinished.”

Juro shrugged, but helped guide the flock toward the shepherd’s day shed.

We encountered the herder’s daughter a few minutes later, sprinting toward us, a wooden crook in her hands, single shot rifle slung across her back.

“You’ve found them, thank you!” She huffed heavily, her armor and gear sized more for an adult human than an early teen.

“That’s the third time this month,” said Juro.

She mumbled, pointed at the creatures with an index finger as she counted. “All here. My stupid little brother needed help with…” She shook her head. “It’s not important. I’d like to thank you, but I don’t have my coin purse with me. Come with me to the day shed, maybe there’s something there.”

“It’s OK,” I said. “I’m still hoping to make it to the bookseller today.”
Juro snorked. “Looking like that? The humans won’t even let you through the city gate! You’ll be lucky if they don’t mistake you for a swamp monster and hunt you.”

“Good point.” I turned to the girl. “How about a few buckets of fresh water, some rags, and a brush?”

She smiled. “Deal.” She moved to clap me on the shoulder, hesitated, backed off half a step. “Maybe after a bath.”




About the Author:

D.H. Willison is a reader, writer, game enthusiast and developer, engineer, and history buff. He’s lived or worked in over a dozen countries, learning different cultures, viewpoints, and attitudes, which have influenced his writing, contributing to one of his major themes: alternate and creative conflict resolution. The same situations can be viewed by different cultures quite differently. Sometimes it leads to conflict, sometimes to hilarity. Both make for a great story.

He’s also never missed a chance to visit historic sites, from castle dungeons, to catacombs, to the holds of tall ships, to the tunnels of the Maginot Line. It might be considered research, except for the minor fact that his tales are all set on the whimsical and terrifying world of Arvia. Where giant mythic monsters are often more easily overcome with empathy than explosions.

Subscribe to his newsletter for art, stories, and humorous articles (some of which are actually intended to be humorous).

Blog: https://dhwillisoncreates.com/blog/

Newsletter signup: https://dhwillisoncreates.com/about/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/dhwillison

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

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/d.h.willison/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/19933553.D_H_Willison

 





Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Author Interview- Alex McKenna and Death Is Not The Beginning by Vicki-Ann Bush #YAParanormal #LGBTQ



Do you have a specific writing style? 

Chaos. I never really have a plan, what comes to me is what I do that day. 

Do you write in different genres?

I have in the past but the last several years has been YA Paranormal.

If yes which is your favorite genre to write?

YA Paranormal

How did you come up with the title for your latest book?

I’ve often heard, “Death is only the beginning.” But what does that mean? Sure it’s a representation about life everlasting, but what about the things you love in life? Those things are gone forever. No second chances. So death is not the beginning for some things, it’s the ending. 

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

Actually, the message is in the series. Acceptance.

Is the book, characters, or any scenes based on a true life experience, someone you know, or events in your own life?

Yes. The paranormal comes from years of being sensitive to the afterlife and being able to share it in my family. 

Of all the characters you’ve ever written, who is your favorite and why?

 I really enjoy writing Margaret. She’s her own person, and she’s fiercely loyal to those she loves.

What book are you reading now?

I’m currently reading, The Final Girl Support Group, by Grady Hendrix.

What books are in your to read pile?

Phantoms, by Dean Koontz

If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?

Dean Koontz


Alex McKenna and Death Is Not The Beginning
Alex McKenna Series 
Book Four
Vicki-Ann Bush

Genre: YA Paranormal, LGBTQ
Publisher: The Parliament House
Date of Publication: September 20, 2022
ASIN: B09M53WXWN
Cover Artist: Shayne Leighton

Tagline: Death Doesn’t Mean Forgiveness

Book Description: 

In the fourth and final installment for the series, Alex faces his most difficult case yet—the school bully.

For two years Kyle tried to make Alex’s life even more complicated than it already is. Choosing to single him out for his psychic abilities and other life events, the angry teen took every chance he could to challenge Alex’s well-being.

Despite the constant insults, when the bully is murdered and comes to him for help, Alex sets aside the past to help a soul in need. Searching for the killer, Alex uncovers a truth that answers the question why he was the victim of Kyle negative attention, and the answers that will set them both free.

Excerpt:

Slipping off his jeans and boxer briefs, he unraveled the straps and stepped into the harness, centering it to his body. Then, pulling the front cradle away from his skin, he placed the packer in the sling and positioned it to the left. He had no idea why he did that, but he did. Pulling his boxers back up, he turned sideways to soak in the full view. Swiveling to face forward, he pulled his t-shirt over his head and tossed it on the toilet lid. Inching closer to his reflection, he examined the scars lining his chest a few inches below his nipples. Tracing the seam with his fingertips, he peered into the mirror. A lot changed over this past year.

Glancing to the side, he cocked his head. Rapid breath competed with the drumming of his pulse pumping through his chest, deafening all other sounds. He turned toward the small window that faced the backyard. He was drawn to it, being pulled as if tethered to a rope wrapped around his waist. Padding towards the glass, he rested his shoulder on the frame and peered out. Abruptly he pulled back…what the hell was Kyle doing in his yard? Quickly, he pulled on his t-shirt and jeans and flung open the door.

“Tesoro, I gotta go downstairs.”

“Why? What’s going on?” Margaret rushed into the hallway.

“Fucking Kyle is in the backyard.”

“What? I’m coming with you.”

The teens swiftly took the stairs focusing on their mission to confront the bully who’d verbally abused Alex for the past three years.

Wilby lay on the throw rug in front of the television when they jumped down to the solid wood floor, skipping the last few steps.

“Hey!”

“Wilby, stay in the house.”

“What? Why?”

“Just listen, okay?”

“No.”

Alex narrowed his eyes, but Wilby followed them anyway. Sliding the glass door open, Alex stepped onto the small porch that crowned the yard. Kyle stood in the center of the property on the pathway that split the yard into two equal sides. Behind him stood an unattached garage. There wasn’t a solid fence, only a row of hedges separating their property from the sidewalk and any unwanted guests, like the guy who stood poised and ready for whatever he was ready for.

“Alex, don’t. He’s not what you think.” A young boy stood at his side.

“Jacob, this isn’t the time for games.” Alex narrowed his eyes.

Margaret tapped his shoulder. “What did he say?”

“Not important.”

“Well, looks like Kyle left in a hurry,” Margaret remarked.

“What? What are you talking—”  Alex glanced down at Jacob. The little boy shook his head up and down. “You’re kidding me?”

“I tried to tell you,” Jacob murmured.

“Alex? You can see me, right?” Kyle asked in a shaky voice.

The boy glared at the intruder. “Kyle’s like me.”

Jacob had died in a car accident with his mother, and somehow, they were separated. Afraid to face the unknown alone, the six-year-old would haunt the halls at his elementary school until the day he followed Wilby home. He’d heard from others in the ghost world that Alex had special gifts and helped the dead. Alex tried several times to convince the little boy he’d be okay to crossover, but fear had rooted deep, and even the coaxing of a living teenager who talks to the dead wasn’t enough for the boy to go. He’d been a permanent resident of 55 Geranium Avenue ever since.

            “Now who are you talking to?” Margaret huffed.

“Kyle.”

“Kyle from school? What the heck? He’s not here—uh oh.”

“Yeaaah. Uh oh.”

“Is he, I mean, is he messed up?”

Alex understood why his girlfriend had asked the question. It wasn’t just because she was curious; it was one of the ways she connected with him. She knew some of the gruesome spirits he’d encountered over the years. They’d had several explicit conversations. Margaret was his everything, and that meant shouldering the burden of seeing things that were hard to look at. Even if it was only through his descriptions.

“No. He looks like he always does.” Alex turned back to Wilby. “Bro, get in the house now, or I’m telling Ma, and you know what’ll happen. You won’t be playing any of your games for a really long time.”

“Okay, okay. Jeez. Just because I didn’t get the know doesn’t mean I have to be sent away all the time.”

“Hey. No one said you’re not getting it. Just wait.”

“Whatever. I’ll be in my room.”

Alex’s heart ached for his brother. He’d been waiting since he was about five to get the gift that most of his family from his ma’s side possessed. There was always the possibility that Wilby could be like his dad, but he tried not to think about it. Alex had seen spirits since he was old enough to talk, but it was different for everyone. There was still time. Alex let his gaze travel from Wilby to Kyle, the terror that had been the starring role in most of his nightmares since the ninth grade now had an aura of a mouse more than a lion. Slouching shoulders, gaunt cheeks, and eyes wide with fear consumed any remnants of the hulk he was.

Alex took a cautious step toward the billowing ghost. A new spirit hasn’t mastered the skills of holding onto a solid appearance, and in the beginning, it can look like ripples in a pond.

“Kyle, what happened to you?”

“I…I don’t know. I can’t remember. Why can’t I remember?”

“It’s okay. You’re gonna be okay. It happens sometimes. It’ll come back to you.”

Alex glanced over at Margaret. She was biting her cheek. She knew he was lying. It didn’t always become clear what happened to the person, and those were the spirits that went insane. Not fully comprehending their death, how they got there, where they’re going. They refuse the light and wander endlessly in an abyss of the dead, the living, and the creatures that are damned and sinister. Telling Kyle that now would serve no purpose other than a cheap jab at revenge for all the crap he’d done to him. Alex couldn’t do it.

“Kyle, listen to me. We’ll figure it out, but for now, I want you to follow me to my room. Can you do that?”

“Yes.”

“Are you sure you want to do this? The guy’s a beast. A creep.” Margaret huffed.

“I know, but he’s a dead creep, and he needs my help.”


About the Author:

Originally from New York, Vicki-Ann currently reside in Nevada. Writing Young Adult paranormal, she finds inspiration from events that have been in her life for as long as she can remember. Inheriting the sensitivity to the supernatural from her family, they continue to be an endless source of vision.

Released in September 2019 from The Parliament House, Alex McKenna and The Geranium Deaths. The first book in a YA, Paranormal, LGBTQ series, that features a seventeen year old, transgender boy with paranormal abilities.
Book Two, Alex McKenna & The Academy of Souls, debuted October 2020.

Vicki-Ann has several titles that have received Reader's Favorite Five Star seal, as well as the 2017 and 2018 winner of, 50 Great Writers You Should Be Reading. Most recently, Alex McKenna and The Geranium Deaths, received the Gold medal in the Readers Favorite Book Awards for Young Adult, Paranormal.















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Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Seekers: The Winds of Change by Troy Knowlton #YAFantasy


Seekers: The Winds of Change
Seekers Saga 
Book One
Troy Knowlton

Genre: YA Fantasy
Date of Publication: July 12th, 2022
ISBN: 979-8840330708 
ASIN: B09VDBYBK7
Number of pages: 356
Word Count: 86000
Cover Artist: Lara Lampert, 99designs

Book Description: 

After an assassination attempt that could lead to an all-out war, Tyras and Oren, two young Seekers of the Argan Empire, are each given secret missions in an attempt to thwart the coming chaos. Both tasks require the Seekers to venture through the war-torn continent of Tiarna where the young men face mortal danger, horrible monsters, and hostile groups – all challenges Seekers are trained to combat. 

Luckily, the two Seekers also find guidance, friendship, and romance along the way. However, powerful and mysterious forces are conspiring behind the scenes and both Tyras and Oren will have to overcome a host of obstacles, including their own inner demons, in order to maintain a glimmer of hope for success. 

With war imminent and the unknown ahead, will the Seekers triumph, or will they be swallowed by the turbulent, relentless Winds of Change?

Set in a new, masterfully created high fantasy world, Seekers: The Winds of Change is perfect for fans of An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir and We Free the Stars by Hafsah Faisal.



Excerpt CHAPTER 1- THE PHANTOM IN BLUE

The night sky was like A dark and shifting ocean, pitch-black and ominous. Strong winds kicked up swaths of desert sand into the horizon. The waves of brown earth raged across the heavens with a low roar. The rough weather spewed thousands of coarse, rocky grains that tore into anything standing in their path. It made the inhabitants of the Koterran mining camp miserable. The small encampment sat at the edge of a large rift in the sands, where precious iron and sandstone had already been torn from the earth. Webs of scaffolding hugged the edge of the chasm and stretched deep into the hole below. The tents of the camp were arranged in two circles. A dozen or so constituted the outer circle, and five made up the inner circle, the largest of which housed the spoils of the dig. A robust campfire sat in the center, which shone defiantly against the darkness of the wild night.

Serana sat on a rock at the edge of the campfire’s light and peered off into the distance. She wondered why her father made the decision to send her to this bizarre corner of the kingdom to guard this tiny, insignificant camp. A whole party of knights accompanied her, which seemed unnecessary. There’d been reports of bandits attacking caravans in the area, causing the High Commander to take action. He’d entrusted his daughter with organizing the camp’s protection. On the surface it made sense, but this was a job for regional guards, not Serana and thirty royal knights. Perhaps there’s some other reason, besides bandits. What if there’s a threat too dangerous to reveal, one he wanted to keep secret? The idea both terrified and excited her.

A powerful gust of wind smashed through the circling encampment like an ocean tide crashing against rocky shores. It ripped through the tents and carried enough force to extinguish the fire, shrouding the camp in near-total darkness. Bedlam ensued as miners and knights ran around in that darkness, fumbling like blind infants, trying to find where they had left their torches.

Serana didn’t join in the hysteria. She listened through the commotion, blocking her ears from the miners’ squabbling and sensing outward. She could feel a presence approaching the camp’s edge. She squinted at the outer circle of tents and saw the shape of a figure moving across them, like a predator circling its prey. Her hand reached for the sword at her hip, but she stopped short.

She realized there was a danger in having her weapon drawn, with so many people running around in the dark. In her moment of hesitation, she lost sight of the figure. She shouted a command to her knights: “Gather your bearings and spread out. We aren’t alone!”

Most of the soldiers had already lit their torches and were quick to follow their leader’s command. They began fanning out toward the camp’s edge, swords in hand. Serana scanned back and forth, observing their progress, watching and waiting for one of them to spot the unknown assailant.

A sharp noise cracked through the air, like a tree branch snapping under heavy duress. Serana looked in the direction of the sound and noticed that one of the torches had gone out. She called out to the knight holding it. No response. She ran toward the shadowed area, hand on her sword hilt. She made it halfway to the perimeter when she noticed movement on the roof to her right. Serana instinctively drew her blade and slashed upward as a figure leapt from atop the tent, vaulting over her. Her weapon missed its mark, only managing to cut a small amount of fabric off the edge of the intruder’s cloak. A dark blue scrap of cloth blew off into the wind. That cloth and its color were enough for Serana to understand what kind of enemy she faced. The blue of the material, coupled with the acrobatics, identified the invader as a Seeker of the Argan Empire.
Serana turned around and bolted back toward the campfire, shouting as she ran, “Knights, hurry back to the center of camp; the trespasser is going to the supply tent!” Her soldiers had the tent encircled mere moments after the order had left her mouth. She knew that she had the Seeker cornered. She paused at the tent’s entrance, signaling for two of her most trusted knights to follow behind her. They shuffled to her side, and the three of them entered the tent, swords drawn and ready.

Upon passing the threshold, she saw the Seeker sitting on a pile of sandstone, holding the artifact in his gloved hand. The emerald orb, roughly the size of an apple, glittered in the faint torchlight. It had a perfect round shape and gave off a pulsing green luminescence.

The Seeker ignored Serana, staring at the artifact with curious eyes. He spoke to the Koterrans in a tired and dismissive tone. “Well, I have what I’ve come here for. Let me leave in peace, and there won’t be any trouble. I’ve no quarrel with any of you.”

Serana’s fury boiled out of her. “You’re in no position to be making orders, Seeker! How dare you invade our camp in the middle of the night, like some blue phantom coming to haunt us. That artifact belongs to the Kingdom of Koterra, and I’m not letting you steal it from us. If you want this to end peacefully, you’ll hand it over right now!”

The Seeker turned and looked at the Koterran, his blue eyes perfectly visible even in the night’s darkness. He looks young for a Seeker, she thought. He couldn’t have been much older than her, and she was a couple years shy of her second decade. His pale skin reflected the orange tint of the torch fire, and his messy brown hair poked out from under the blue hood of his cloak. His deep blue eyes shimmered in the flickering firelight, giving off a slight luminescence of their own. The Argan foreigner had a calculated look on his face, as if his mind focused on something far, far away.

A few tense moments passed wherein both parties seemed
to be sizing each other up. The Seeker’s voice broke the silence.

“You know as well as I do that I can’t do that. Under imperial law, all artifacts of the Lost Kingdom must be impounded and sent to the Archive at Arga for safekeeping. I’m doing you a favor, really. Get out of my way and let me do my job!”

“Watch your tone, Argan! You’re far away from your empire, and there are plenty of dungeons in Koterra that I’d be happy to toss you in.” Serana clenched her teeth together, adrenaline mixing with her rage as she squeezed the hilt of her blade.

The Seeker lowered his gaze and shook his head. “Well, I can’t say that I didn’t give you a choice. I would suggest that you duck and cover.”

Serana only had a few seconds to ponder his cryptic words before the explosion knocked everyone off their feet. Debilitating ringing echoed through her ears. It was the last thing she heard before going unconscious. The blast disoriented everyone except the Seeker, who had braced himself for it, knowing that it would arrive at the perfect time. A flurry of sand, broken tents, and rubble showered the poor Koterrans, subduing them. The Seeker found it easy to escape in the chaos, and he made his way through the camp with little resistance. He’d almost reached its edge when the second explosion went off. He hadn’t counted on this, and the surprise rattled him, sending him flying into the dark envelope of the tumultuous night.


About the Author:

Troy Knowlton has always had a burning desire to tell stories. He started at a young age by drawing maps of made-up continents and fantasy kingdoms. The empty kingdoms beckoned to be given life, and his work eventually blossomed, leading him to create full narratives and characters for his worlds. He currently lives in California where he works as an X-Ray technologist and teacher when he isn't writing. He's also a great lover of history, currently working to earn his bachelor's degree in History and Political Science.








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Arch by Michael N. Riley

Arch

Michael N. Riley

Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Writers Republic
Date of Publication:  June 24, 2022
ISBN: 9798885364409
Number of pages:  190

Tagline: Some men are just to mean to die!

Book Description: 
 
The book is set around 1900, when New Mexico was still a territory. 

Doc Strafford has bought a small mercantile in Portales, New Mexico Territory, to start a new life. Over the years, Doc has become more involved in the growth of Portales. He eventually sells his interest in a saloon to two seedy characters, Jewels Davis and his albino son, Jefferson. 

When Doc invites his old friend from the Civil War to visit Portales and the surrounding territory, it draws suspicions from the Davises to the point that they torture Doc's hired hand, Gustavo, just to find out what Doc is up to.

Amazon     BN     Writer’s Republic


About the Author:

Michael N. Riley was born in Grants, New Mexico, in 1960, the second generation born in New Mexico from either of his parents’ families. Like most, they homesteaded from other states. His father’s side was from Texas and his mother’s family was from Alabama. When he was three, they moved from Grants to Clovis, New Mexico. He went to school and graduated high school and eventually moved to Portales, New Mexico, to attend Eastern New Mexico University. He ended up getting married and working for an electric cooperative reading electric meters. During that time, he had several old timers tell him stories about coming to New Mexico when it was a territory. Most of them were old ranch hands and farmers. Their eyes would light up when they told stories about the real Wild West and some of the shenanigans they would get into. This is how he came up with this story. 




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