Thursday, February 02, 2023

Sight Beyond the Sun by Melody Johnson #SciFiRomance


Sight Beyond the Sun
Love Beyond
Book Two
Melody Johnson

Genre: Sci-fi Romance
Publisher: Incendi Press, LLC
Date of Publication: January 24, 2023
ISBN:978-1-7351499-5-0 
ASIN: B0BG8P1596
Number of pages: 602 
Word Count: 147,970
Cover Artist: Trif Book Designs

Tagline: Separating truth from lies is impossible in the game of spies...especially the lies you tell yourself. 

Book Description:

A prison break. 

Adrenaline junkie and explosives specialist Kinsley “Switch” Morales had a chip on her shoulder long before being caught in what she suspects is some sort of intergalactic human-trafficking ring. Aliens not only exist, their reptilian bodies are stronger, their honed reflexes faster, and their shiny scales nearly impenetrable. But nothing will curb Kinsley’s resolve to commandeer their spaceship and return home to Earth—even if that means crawling behind enemy lines and cozying up to their uncompromising captain. 

An undercover mission. 

When Raveno Hoviir catches Kinsley outside her cell, wreaking havoc in his control room, he sees more than just her strength, resolve, and courage. He sees a golden opportunity to finally root out the traitor under his command and prove his brother’s loyalty before the coming revolution. After so many years undercover, Raveno is finally one mission away from saving his planet from its tyrannical ruler. He’s sacrificed everything to protect his people—his love life, his anonymity, his left leg—but in his efforts to right his father’s wrongs, has he inadvertently become the very monster he plans to overthrow? 

An unlikely alliance. 

As Kinsley and Raveno each attempt to exploit the other, they find more than just leverage for their separate missions. Inexplicably, they find common ground in their mutual devotion to family and service. Kinsley knows all too well the grief and guilt of making the wrong decision in the field, but will Raveno keep his word to send her home if she flips loyalties? Is Raveno’s softening heart compromising his judgment, or is Kinsley’s intelligence accurate? Separating truth from lies is impossible in the game of spies. Seeing beyond their surface differences and trusting in love again may be the only way to save both their people—and each other. 


Excerpt:

Raveno Hoviir didn’t suffer incompetence. He didn’t suffer anything without consequence, a policy his crew was testing time and again lately and without any perceivable sign of becoming more competent. His reputation, carefully cultivated over a long and brutal career, was usually incentive enough to inspire obedience. He couldn’t let that reputation crack, not for anything: not for his morals as he punished decent soldiers for mistakes that didn’t warrant such severity; not for his soul as he led abominable missions to maintain alliances with Bazail, Iroan, and Fray; not for his body as he’d gone to unmatched extremes to prove his loyalty to Cilvril s’Hvri Josairo.
He played the villain in service to his people, a role as necessary as it was revolting.

During Josairo’s early reign as Cilvril s’Hvri, the killing hand of Havar, he’d been the strength and armor their planet had needed to survive what historians now referred to as the War of Wrath’s Will. After bolstering their military forces and gaining the autonomy to wield them as he deemed necessary, Josairo achieved what four previous Cilvrili s’Hvri had died failing to accomplish: He’d secured Havar’s independence from her sister planet, Haven, and ended years of oppression and tyranny.

Or so the historians claimed and the schools taught. Based on Raveno’s first-hand experience, he often wondered if Josairo hadn’t simply murdered historians until he’d found one willing rewrite the war to his liking.

Nevertheless, however he’d managed to wrest unilateral control of their military and judicial systems, Josairo’s unmatched combat skills ensured he kept it, even as he modified their fleet of luxury destination ships into prison transport vessels. Even as he ordered the abduction and trafficking of innocent, sentient people. Even as the peace and prosperity he’d supposedly achieved following their victory against Haven soured into fear-filled obedience. In earning their independence, the havari had traded a foreign tyrant for a domestic one, and every warrior brave enough to challenge Josairo to a frisaes and legally end his rule had thus far lost.

When Raveno ended his rule, it wouldn’t be legal. But he would win.

Until then, the weight of Raveno’s sins were his to bear or be crushed by. Which made confronting the horrific results of his own undercover operation insufferable, knowing his reputation would demand he deliver swift and harsh punishment when faced with his crew’s greatest incompetence to date: a human outside her room and tampering with the equipment in their control room, of all places.

Dellao and Tironan were asleep in their seats, and the woman, cry mercy, the woman was fierce as only a mother could be, all snapping eyes and straining muscles. Some people withered from the poison of oppression, but not her. She seemed fueled by it. She gritted her square teeth with determination. Her soft cheeks flushed a deep crimson from her efforts, and her scent—Raveno sealed shut his nostrils, cutting short that disturbing thought before it could fully form.

“Who do you work for?” Thev sa shek, a traitor on board Sa Vivsheth was the last thing he needed.

Her jaw fell slack. “Y-y-you speak English?”

“Obviously.” His English was rusty and not quite as good as his Mandarin, but still good enough for interrogation. “Who sent you?”

“I think we got off on the wrong foot.” She licked her lips, and deep indents on the corners of her mouth dipped into her cheeks. “My name is Kinsley Morales, but my friends call me Switch.”

He stared at her a moment. Had she just introduced herself? Didn’t she realize she was being interrogated? To death, if she didn’t cooperate.

Please, just cooperate.

“My mother named me after my paternal grandmother. An ‘apology’ name, I always said, because she’d named my sister in honor of her mother, which caused quite a stir on my father’s side of the family. But everyone’s ruffled feathers settled after she named me. The only time my presence had settled anyone’s feathers.” She ran out of air and inhaled a deep, trembling breath.

“What’s your name?”

Ah, he might have believed her composure if not for that tremble. She knew her predicament precisely and was attempting to save herself by appealing to his compassion.

The man he’d become to overthrow Josairo couldn’t afford compassion. “Did my brother recruit you with the promise of freedom? What are your orders?”

The woman flinched. A pained whine escaped her clenched teeth.

Svik, was he hurting her? Raveno loosened his hold, just in case. It might come to that, but not now and certainly not by mistake.

Yet, even beaten down, in pain, and defeated, the gleam of calculation sharpened the woman’s gaze.

Strong in mind if not in body, he thought warily, knowing the terrible efforts it took to break the strong of will. His own physical wound had long since healed, but the muscles of his residual limb often pained him as if his left calf still remained, twisted foot and all.

“Must I repeat the question?” he asked. If not Tironan, someone on board had released her.

The furry tuft above her right eye lifted. “How should I know if I know your brother if I don’t even know you?”

Ha! Fine. He spoke his full name and rank for her in traditional Hvrsil, just for the pleasure of matching her obstinacy with his.

“I…I’m not sure I can pronounce that,” she admitted.

“Considering the deficiencies in the form and function of your tongue, I expect not.”

She narrowed her eyes, clearly unsure if she should be insulted. “Do you have a nickname too? Something less, er, taxing on the vocal cords?”

“No.”

“What do your friends call you?” she tried.

“I have no friends.”

“Something I can call you while I beg for mercy, then,” she snapped.

A laugh overtook him at that, as swift, unwanted, and jarring as a seizure. Oh, this woman was a little firework: all sparks and fierce light wedging lethally beneath his scales.

“When you beg for mercy, you may call me by the modern Haveo version of my name,” he relented. “Raveno Hoviir.”

“A pleasure to meet you, Raveno Hoviir.”

He was certain it wasn’t.



About the Author: 

Melody Johnson is the award-winning author of the “out of this world” Love Beyond series and the gritty, paranormal romance Night Blood series published by Kensington Publishing/ Lyrical Press. She graduated magna cum laude from Lycoming College with her B.A. in creative writing and psychology. 

Earning the 2021 Maggie Award of Excellence, Beyond the Next Star (Love Beyond, book 1) is an exciting branch from Melody's paranormal romance roots, keeping the dark grit from her Night Blood Series and taking it to new worlds. Her first published novel, The City Beneath (Night Blood, book 1), was a finalist in the “Cleveland Rocks” and “Fool For Love” contests. 

When she isn’t writing, Melody enjoys swimming, hiking, reading, and exploring her new home in southeast Georgia. 

Stay in touch with Melody on social media or her website: http://authormelodyjohnson.com/ 



 

 






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Thursday, January 26, 2023

The Immanence Series by Linda Robertson Reinhardt

Covenant with the Devil 
The Immanence Series
Book One
Linda Robertson Reinhardt

Genre: Dark Fantasy
Publisher: Igni House Publishing
Date of Publication: Oct 31, 2022
ISBN: 9781685440077 
ASIN: B0BKJXJZMY
Number of pages:   506 pages
Word Count: 118,000
Cover Artist: Linda Robertson Reinhardt

Book Description: 

After a car crash killed her family and left her in a coma, divine intervention provided Jovienne with a set of enhanced skills and directed her into Andrei’s care. He’s instructed her through years of intense demon slayer training.

Before sending her into the grueling final test, Andrei reveals a truth he’s kept hidden: if she passes, she will be transformed into an angel. His deception threatens to undermine her efforts, but after the hard-won battle, Jovienne is remade.

She quickly realizes this isn’t the life she was promised, and it isn’t what she wants. But there’s more to Andrei’s secrets and lies, and, worse, the man she trusted has manipulated her into eternal servitude.

Good thing she has a few secrets of her own. They might be the only thing that could set her free.

Listen to the Immanence Soundtrack

Book Trailer: https://youtu.be/qG3suMw5SvQ

Amazon  

Excerpt Book One

While washing up the dinner dishes, Andrei heard Jovienne’s door open down the hall. She called, “Sun’s gonna set soon. You ready?”

He rinsed the last dish and placed it in the rack. “Yeah. Are you?” He moved to lean in the doorway, drying his calloused hands on a dishtowel.

On one knee, Jovienne tightened the lacing on her boot. “Almost.”

He glanced around the empty living room where they sometimes sparred. The walls had been drab green long before they moved in. Stains marred the ceiling, some from age and others from leaks. The floor wasn’t much better. Worn and dark, the boards had little shine left. They all creaked under foot.

He imagined the abhadhim had far better living quarters than this. Though he was stuck here, she wasn’t. She deserved better.

She stood and tossed her head, resettling her long mane of black hair. Rocking from her heels to her toes, she tested the feel of the footwear, then approached the wide wooden cabinet. As usual, she studied the weapons on the shelves. She always started by loading her pockets with throwing stars. Next, she would strap leather dagger sheaths to her wrists.  

He smiled to himself when she did just that. He knew her well.

Her every move seemed part of a dance, a choreographed routine she’d performed for years. He noted every detail as her fingers worked those buckles. Nails trimmed short. A web of pale, thin scars marked the brown skin of her hands, badges earned in the mastery of all those blades.

She was a fierce sparring partner who would seize the tactical advantage. A clever and competent student and a serious young woman whose beauty drew the eye, he admired everything about her. She embodied much more than he ever aspired to be.

He could not have been more proud.

He wanted to tell her the news, but a lump swelled in his throat. Revealing the news would bring his tears. He had to master his emotion first. He’d been tough on her. Couldn’t ruin that now and risk her remembering him as a sniveling fool.

Still, he’d have to say those words soon. Too soon. But not yet.

She gave him the once over in a glance. “You going empty-handed?”

On a normal night, he’d already have his sword on his belt and daggers on his hips. But he didn’t need gear tonight.

His stomach churned. Each minute brought him closer to their parting. He didn’t know what zone she’d get, but it was possible he’d never see her again. Every second felt precious. More so because she didn’t know what awaited her tonight. She didn’t have to carry the weight of their inevitable goodbye. For now, he carried the bittersweet burden for her.

You need her far more than she ever needed you.

Every healthy thing in his life stemmed from her. Not just the training routine or emphasis on nutrition. He gained stability from being her teacher. Pushing her physical abilities to ever-better levels required him to be engaged and sharp. And it kept old weaknesses at bay. With her, he achieved his best self.

Still, the need to atone for mistakes of the past haunted him.

His highest, best hope for her entailed a successful future that justified what had been taken from her. She’d had a family. He hadn’t been so lucky.

She slid daggers into the wrist sheaths and retrieved her short jacket from the peg by the door. As the coat settled on her shoulders, the costume jewels of the collar pin sparkled in the light. Andrei grimaced and the knot in his gut twisted tighter.

He’d given her the decorative lapel dagger on her sixteenth birthday. Just over three years ago. That night should have been a happy memory. Instead, an unforgettable trauma etched into his mind.

That night she’d touched him. The child he raised had declared herself a woman and offered herself to him.

He’d refused her. Morally, ethically, it was his only option. He was the only man in her life. She had a teenage crush. It was understandable. Predictable, even.

But it wasn’t easily dismissed.

Disgusted with himself at how quickly he’d grown hard under her hand, all his self-loathing coiled into his throat as he rejected her. His tone had been harsh and critical, bursting with his need to prevent her from ever tempting him again.

In hindsight, he’d been too forceful. Bullish, even. Her defeated expression and posture told him his words had landed like fists. He fled from her room praying he hadn’t done the one thing he never meant to do: break her will.

Jovienne proved too resilient to break, but the incident cost them. Their closeness evaporated. A rift opened, impossible to bridge. The pin on her lapel became a jeweled reminder of the day they destroyed their sense of family. All that remained was teacher and student.

As it should have been all along.

A new ferocity developed in her training regimen afterward. As if she’d discarded secret feelings that had held her back. Or she’d developed new emotional armor.

Either way, it would serve her well in the future. Starting tonight.

 

 

Heretic’s Penance 
The Immanence Series
Book Two
Linda Robertson Reinhardt

Genre: Dark Fantasy
Publisher: Igni House Publishing
Date of Publication: November 14, 2022
ISBN:   9781685440084   
Number of pages:   440
Word Count: 99,000
Cover Artist: Linda Robertson Reinhardt

Book Description: 

Jovienne and Andrei face a new battle —each other. Andrei has embraced an ultra-religious mindset and sees her magical power heresy. Jovienne feels so persecuted at home she leaves. She wants to build a new life, yet the Call continues. 

Whenever a demon arrives, she must slay it.

Not all of the demons seem evil, though, and she struggles with the work. Worse, Lucifer still wants her for her strange abilities. She turns to a local occult shop for help understanding her power. Too late, she learns she’s put them in serious danger.

Amazon     

Excerpt Book Two:

Jovienne pointed at him, hand trembling with anger. “Don’t blame me for what you lost. I begged you to leave. You stayed. Like you said, choices have consequences.”

“You don’t care what your evil witchcraft cost me, do you?”

Her mouth opened, but she wasn’t willing to voice her first thoughts. “I wish more than anything you would have left.” You wouldn’t have been in danger, and I wouldn’t have done what I did to save you. Her eyes burned. Unwilling to cry in front of him, she left.

Even without the boots, her heels thudded on the cracked linoleum.

“Jovienne,” Andrei called.

Ms. Davis, the neighbor downstairs, thumped her ceiling at the noise.

Jovienne didn’t care. She stomped down the hall and slammed her door. In her darkened bedroom, she stared out the front bay window.

Moving back in was stupid. I was naïve to think we could avoid this fight.

She fought both the tears and the scream building in her throat by concentrating on the lights beyond the glass and measuring her breaths.

Andrei flung open her door without knocking.

She spun.

His face contorted and he twisted and smacked the switch up. Harsh light filled the room.

He remained silent a beat longer than she expected.

“You’re an angel now. You can’t act like a spiteful child.”

His expression and tone conveyed calm, but the flush in his face and his white-knuckled hand on the doorknob said otherwise. His dominant pose declared his control of the room.

But she saw he didn’t have control of himself.

She activated the quickening to give herself an extra moment to think.

He’d always been a firm teacher. When she first started besting him in sparring matches, he resorted to taunting her to make her lose her temper. She’d seen right through the bully tactics.

He’d done the same thing in the kitchen, but this time they weren’t physically sparring.

She’d fallen for it and let him use her emotional investment against her.

Though he blocked the doorway with his body, he was not a threat. Not physically. But his beliefs were. He didn’t care if she was a slave. Worse, he felt the servitude was an honor.

She released the quickening and sank onto the bed, staring at the floor between them. Her throat remained tight from her unvoiced scream and when she spoke, it hurt. “Moving back in seemed like a great idea.” She looked up. “Last night, I thought we were on common ground.

But today you’re acting as if you expect to pick up right where we left off.”

His brows knit. “Aren’t we?”

“You’re not my teacher anymore, Andrei. And you never were my father.”

His shoulders sagged. He released the doorknob and raked fingers through his hair.

“You’re right.” The words stood for but a second before he straightened and hurried on. “If I hadn’t failed to nurture your spiritual path—”

“Stop.”

“—if I had only—”

“Stop!”

Andrei winced, then clamped his jaw.

She stood. “There are two things you need to get through your head right now. One, I cannot forget what I learned from you or what I learned from my gramma. Not even if I wanted to. And two, you don’t get to instruct me anymore. If you have an opinion about what I should think or do or how I should live my life, you will keep it to yourself.”



Martyr     
The Immanence Series
Book Three
Linda Robertson Reinhardt

Genre: Dark Fantasy
Publisher: Igni House Publishing
Date of Publication: Nov 28, 2022   
ISBN:   9781685440091
Number of pages:  635
Word Count: 148,000 
Cover Artist: Linda Robertson Reinhardt

Series Tagline: A renegade angel once changed human society forever… now a new angel will change it again.   

Book Description: 

Jovienne’s quest to understand her power and claim her freedom leads to a shocking discovery--one that will shake the foundations of modern society and sends her straight to Hell.

Bewitching Excerpt: Martyr

Jovienne found a box of Jade Oolong tea, filled the kettle, and set on the burner.

Samedi sauntered to the doorway and leaned on the far side of the casing. He blew a puff of smoke and watched her. He’d put the cane away again.

“So, Trouble, do you have any fuckin’ idea what you did back there?”

The nickname couldn’t compare with Black Diamond Woman, but it didn’t entirely displease her. “Without dirt under my feet, I had to draw on the electricity somehow. So I pulled it straight from the wires.” 

He shook his head and laughed softly. “The fuck you did.”

Offended, she leaned on the counter.

“Are you not going to ask me what you did do?”

“If you have something helpful to add, by all means, say it so I can decide if I believe you.”

He touched his chest as if wounded. “I’m trying to help you.”

“Really?” She crossed her arms. “Sitting back and judging seems more your style.”

“Like you’re doing now?”

“You’re not denying it.”

“Neither are you.”

She arched a brow.

Samedi gave her a judgmental once over. “My ‘style’ is malleable,” he said, “adjusting to fit the moment, but fuck you just the same for being a rude bitch.”

Jovienne had learned a lot from spirited chats with Andrei and Eitan and Araxiel. She sensed no threat from Samedi, but saw an amused gleam, and perhaps a playful challenge, in his eyes. It reminded her of the first time she met Araxiel.

“Maybe you should start over, because from where I stand, you’re the rude bitch. You’re acting superior, hoping I’ll change my demands. Or forget them. But I won’t.” She nodded toward the other room where Nathan sat. “What happened at the morgue just threw a lot of responsibility on my shoulders.”

“I’m relieved as fuck to hear you understand the gravity of the situation.” Samedi shifted to lean on the closer side of the doorway. “I see why you think you rerouted electricity to power your magic, but it only proves you don’t know shit about electricity.”

“Demon slaying doesn’t usually involve—” She stopped. In the last week, very little lined up with what she’d trained for. Giving him her back, she opened the cupboard and searched for a coffee cup. “Electricity wasn’t in the curriculum.”

“Of course not. An abhadhon isn’t supposed to have what you have.”

“A nephilim bloodline. Yeah. I know.” She chose a Shang-Chi mug and dropped the tea bag in.

You shouldn’t be an abhadhon.”

“I didn’t ask for it.” She pushed the mug closer to the kettle then recrossed her arms. “Again, if you have something helpful to add, say it.”

His gaze flitted from the kettle to the mug and on to the floor as he considered. She waited. Finally, his eyes found hers. “You wouldn’t compare a nine-volt battery to a nuclear power plant because you understand enough to know that would be a fuckin’ stupid thing to say. Yet you called the power electricity. That tells me you’re ignorant.”

She turned away.

Samedi grabbed her arm and jerked her back. “That’s not an insult. It’s truth. The only remedy for ignorance is learning, so put your ego aside and let me teach you something.”

Jovienne pointedly glanced at his hand on her arm. He released her.

“Your mind made the leap straight to Frankenstein,” he said. “I get why,but forget that shit. Electricity and lightning can’t bring long-dead people back to fuckin’ life. You didn’t pull electricity from the transformers down the street. That power is crude, small, and rudimentary. It wouldn’t want to go through you.”

“Why not?”

“You aren’t negative.”

“I could introduce you to someone who’d say you’re wrong.”

“And I may well agree with them, but I’m talking about polarity, not attitude.”

The water boiled. She lifted the kettle and poured into the mug.

Samedi leaned on the doorway casing again. “Every switch has a ground wire—literally a wire that runs into the fuckin’ ground. Positive electrical charge is attracted to negative electrical charge, so any excess of positive follows the wire down and disburses into the ground.”

“Are you saying I reconnected the disbursed energy and brought it up?”

“No. I’m saying you couldn’t have used electricity because it doesn’t exist in the place you drew from.”

“If not electricity what was it?” She raised and lowered the tea bag by the string, glad for something to do with her hands. “Ley energy?”

“Fuck no.” The note of his voice dropped. “This came from a place deeper down.”

She lowered the bag slowly and let the string go. “How deep?”

“Add some sugar. It will do him good.”

“How deep?”

“Take him the tea. Then we continue.”

Jovienne let the tea steep while she searched for the sugar. Finding nothing but a few pink packets of Sweet-n-Low, she waggled them at Samedi.

“It’ll do.”

She finished preparing the tea and took it to Nathan. After passing it to him, she straightened. Samedi halted close behind her. “What?”

“Knowing without understanding has made you hard. And dangerous.” He offered his hand. “Are you ready?”

            “To what?”

“To understand.” The vortex opened behind him.

She’d demanded to talk to the Angel of Death. Looked like he was going to let her.

 


About the Author:

Linda Robertson Reinhardt is an internationally published novelist and her short stories have appeared in several anthologies. In 2022, she released The Immanence Series, a dark fantasy trilogy for which she created the covers and all the interior artwork. A life-long musician, she’s also an award-winning composer, so it’s no surprise she also wrote and produced a 72-minute original orchestral score to accompany the new books. She has even scored a few short, independent films. Her music is available on most streaming channels. She is also a graphic artist and a painter, and her artwork is available through Redbubble. If that’s not enough, she makes jewelry and hand-blends/hand-bottles fragrances that she sells on her Etsy store. A mother of four boys, Linda is married and lives in Ohio.

 







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Tuesday, January 24, 2023

A Grave Roast by A.N. Sage #ParanormalCozyMystery




A Grave Roast
Orchard Hollow 
Book One
A.N. Sage

Genre: Paranormal Cozy Mystery
Publisher: Cauldron Press
Date of Publication: January 23, 2023
ISBN: 978-1-989868-28-7
ASIN: B0BPDXZ7F5
Number of pages: Approximately 340
Word Count: 80,000
Cover Artist: Cauldron Press Designs

Book Description: 

Piper Addison has three problems: a broken espresso machine, malfunctioning magic, and a dead body. Guess which one she doesn’t see coming?

One month from forty, Piper Addison thinks she finally has life figured out. Sure, her bank account could be fuller and the cafe she opened with the last of her savings could use some help, but what’s a few kinks for an Orchard Hollow witch?

Too bad Piper can’t witch to save her life, which is exactly what she might need to do when a dead body is discovered in the alley behind her cafe. To make matters worse, all the evidence points to Piper and the local sheriff is not too keen on the town’s paranormal inhabitants.

When a mysterious envelope lands on Piper’s doorstep, she has a decision to make: go behind the sheriff’s back and try to clear her name, or spend her fortieth birthday in a prison cell.

A Grave Roast is a paranormal cozy mystery complete with an unlucky witch, a ghost familiar, and a feisty raccoon with a talent for getting into sticky situations.




Excerpt:

We started for the front door when my attention caught on something on the floor of the hall. Close to the bedroom lay a small carpet with two silver dishes, one filled with water and the other empty. I bent down and picked up the empty dish, reading the inscription etched into the metal. “Margaret the Third.”

“Who?” Stella asked.

I put the dish down. “Daniel’s dog. Did you see a dog around here?”

The ghost shook her head and looked around.

“Me either. Very odd.”

“Maybe someone else has it? Or the police took it or something?”

My thoughts ran a mile a minute, and I steadied my breathing, continuing the trek to the front. “Maybe.” Before leaving, I went back into the kitchen and opened all the cupboards.

Motioning for Stella to get closer, I nodded toward the big bag of dog food in one cupboard. “Don’t you think if they took the dog, they’d take her food?”

“I don’t know,” Stella said. She opened her mouth with a fake yawn. “Well, this was about as fun as a trip to the dollar store, so good luck with the rest and I’ll see you at home.”

With that, she disappeared, leaving me alone in the apartment once more. I stared at the dog food for another few minutes, trying to figure out why someone would take Daniel’s dog, but not anything to feed her with. If Daniel had a dog sitter, I was sure they’d take care of the animal, considering how important she was to the warlock. And if it was the police who took her… I shook the thought away. Why did the police need a spoiled brat of a dog? If anything, they’d ship her off to a shelter.

I made a mental note to check the animal shelter in the morning to ease my spinning mind and walked to the front. Before I left, I cast a glance at the stack of papers on the console table where Cilia’s threatening email hid in the pile.

“Why was she so angry with you?” I asked the empty room.

The next question I kept to myself, refusing to give it power. Was Cilia angry enough to kill? If it was her that hurt the warlock, it still didn’t explain the envelope I received or the talisman. Unless the talisman was Cilia’s and Daniel stole it?

But why?

It seemed the visit to the warlock’s apartment only sparked more questions, and I still found nothing that could help clear my name in the eyes of the police. “What if—No, don’t even think about it!”

I reached for the door handle.

“Don’t think about what?” Stella asked behind me.

My mind must have been spinning furiously because this time, I didn’t have a mini heart attack when she snuck up on me. “I thought you went home.”

“I did. Turns out it’s quite a bore there as well,” she explained. “So, what is it you shouldn’t think about?”

Lips in a thin line, I looked at the console table again. “Just wondering about the dog,” I told her. “And the hex pouch. And Cilia.”

“Who’s Cilia?”

“One of Nancy’s coven mates. Looks like she was pretty ticked off with Daniel for some promotion he got. I was wondering if she could have been mad enough to do something about it.”

Stella’s face paled, or as pale as it could get for a ghost. “Witches will be witches, darling.” She turned around and started to vanish again, but before she did, she said something absolutely crazy. “If you’re that worried about it, why not ask her yourself?”

As my wild familiar disappeared, her words lingered in the air where she once stood, and for the first time, I didn’t think her insane. I hated to admit it, but Stella had a point. There was one clear way to answer all my questions and find out how I got roped into this gruesome situation.

I had to question Cilia, and I had to do it before the police. If I was right and she had something to do with Daniel’s death, I knew the witch would pin the entire thing on me, if only for the chance to gain favor with Nancy.

This, friends, was exactly why I didn’t have a coven.

You couldn’t trust a witch, not in Orchard Hollow.





About the Author:

A.N. Sage is a bestselling, award-winning author of mystery and fantasy novels. She has spent most of her life waiting to meet a witch, vampire, or at least get haunted by a ghost. In between failed seances and many questionable outfit choices, she has developed a keen eye for the extra-ordinary.

A.N. spends her free time reading and binge-watching television shows in her pajamas. Currently, she resides in Toronto, Canada with her husband who is not a creature of the night and their daughter who just might be.

A.N. Sage is a Scorpio and a massive advocate of leggings for pants.











Monday, January 23, 2023

Hell Holes: A Slave’s Revenge by Donald Firesmith



Hell Holes: A Slave’s Revenge
Hell Holes
Book Four
Donald Firesmith

Genre: SciFi, Dystopian, Alien Invasion 
Publisher: Magical Wand Press
Date of Publication: August 1, 2021
ISBN: 979-8527374209 (Paperback — Amazon KDP)
ASIN: B09416M34X 
Number of pages: 455
Word Count: 105,000
Cover Artist: Ellie Augsburger 

Tagline: An epic story of love, loss, friendship, and survival under the most hellish of conditions
 
Book Description:

A multi-award-winning prequel to the Hell Holes series of alien invasion novels, Hell Holes: A Slave’s Revenge is an epic story of love, loss, friendship, and survival under the most hellish of conditions.

A typical Alaskan teenager, Paul’s greatest joy is hunting and fishing with his father. But when alien demons attack his family’s isolated cabin, they shatter Paul’s comfortable life. After killing his father, the demons enslave Paul, his mother, and his twin sister and teleport them to a desert world in the Demonic Empire. Once on the planet Hell, the captives’ survival is far from certain, and they face a terrible choice. They can either live as useful slaves or be immediately slaughtered as food for the merciless demons.

With his demon masters demanding their slaves’ absolute obedience to their brutal human overseers, Paul soon learns to hide his burning hatred and desire for revenge behind the stoic expression of a servile slave. But as the years slowly pass, Paul adapts to survive, first as a field slave and then as a gladiator. Will he live long enough to take his revenge, or will Paul’s years of slavery rob him of his will to resist and cost him his humanity?


Excerpt:

Prologue

MY NAME IS PAUL CHAPMAN. When I was just fifteen years old, a band of demonic aliens murdered my father and captured my mother, sister, and me. These vicious creatures — the source of humanity’s myths of devils, imps, and hellhounds — took us through a hidden portal to Hell, the nearest planet to Earth in their vast empire. I spent the next twenty-three years there as their slave.

I was rescued during the Armageddon War and became the only captive human to ever escape from Hell. Over the following months, members of the US military and various specialists spent countless hours interviewing and debriefing me to learn everything I knew about Hell and the demons. They provided a therapist to help me recover from my horrendous experiences and adjust to my new life back on Earth. She recommended I document my life as a slave. This book is my story: the autobiography of my life as a slave on Hell.

The Hunt-Chapter 1

MY PARENTS, Robert and Mary Chapman, met while first-year students at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. He studied wildlife biology while she studied anthropology, concentrating her studies on the history and culture of the native Inuit. Although they had grown up in the Lower 48, they fell in love with Alaska and decided to remain after graduating.

Dad had hoped to obtain a job as a wildlife biologist, but such jobs were rare and paid little. Mom hadan even harder time finding suitable work. So, when my maternal grandfather died two years later, my parents decided to use her modest inheritance to buy a dry cabin and live a subsistence lifestyle. They would hunt caribou and moose, trap small game for furs and food, and fish for salmon during spawning season.

Mom and Dad eventually bought a cabin on the north shore of the Kobuk River. Only seven miles upstream of the tiny town of Kobuk, the house was close enough to make buying provisions easy. The town’s simple landing strip also made visiting relatives practical and would enable evacuation in case of a medical emergency.

Miles from their nearest neighbors, the cabin was also isolated enough to offer all the seclusion a family could ever want. Nestled between the nearby river and the Brooks Range a few miles to the north, my parents had found the home of their dreams.

My twin sister, Sarah, and I were born a few years later, and we grew up in some of the most beautiful land imaginable. The chores were many, the work was hard, but the rewards of freedom and the wilderness’s majesty made the hardships well worthwhile. I loved the life and couldn’t imagine ever leaving it.

This story begins when Sarah and I were fifteen. It was early August, and the Chinook salmon were running up the river to spawn. After breakfast, Mom and Sarah were going fishing. Dad and I had built a fish wheel, an ingenious tool that automatically catches the salmon. An underwater fence forces some of the fish towards the wheel that the river’s current turns. Baskets attached to the wheel’s rim scoop up the fish and dump them into a box. Mom and Sarah were going to carry the salmon back to the cabin, clean them, and hang them up over a fire in our smokehouse. Their work would ensure we would have plenty of smoked salmon to eat during the long Alaskan winter.

While they were fishing, Dad and I would hunt moose and check our traps for small game. We took our rifles and headed upriver away from town. We left our dog, Sergeant, behind so her barking would warn Mom and Sarah of any bear that might be attracted by the smell of our fish.

We started by checking our traps, but they were empty. Not a single one had been tripped. And we didn’t spot any small game even though we didn’t talk, and we walked carefully to avoid making any unnecessary noise.

When it was nearing lunchtime, we turned around and headed back to our cabin. This time, instead of following the river trail, we hiked up towards the nearby mountains forming the southern edge of the Brooks Range. As before, the area seemed completely devoid of animal life, which was pretty unusual. We’d typically see something, even if it was too far away or on the far side of the river.

About halfway home, we spotted the remains of a bull moose that had been recently killed.

Because the bears were busy with the salmon, we initially thought it had been brought down by wolves. But it wasn’t. Enormous chunks of flesh had been removed in single bites, and the bites’ edges were too clean to have been made by wolves or bears.

It was strange that we couldn’t identify the tracks in the soft ground around the carcass. There were many large and small hoof prints, but they were shorter and rounder than moose and elk tracks.

Stranger still were the giant paw prints from the carnivore that had brought down the moose.

Easily twice the length of wolf prints, they had only three toes, and the separate claw marks were much longer than wolf or even bear claws. Dad, the biologist, was stumped. The prints didn’t seem to belong to any Alaskan wild animal or to any animal for that matter. The only tracks he could think of that were even somewhat similar were those of ostriches, emus, and cassowaries.

But the claw marks were too short for ostrich and emu tracks, and the cassowary only has one claw that long, not three.

“Dad, how about a really big dog?” I asked. “Maybe a Newfoundland had lost a toe.”

Dad shook his head. “Can’t be. See how the toes are arranged symmetrically? And besides, why would a dog have the same toe removed on each paw?”

“What about a dinosaur?” I suggested jokingly.

Dad actually considered it for a second before answering, “You know, it does look a little like a theropod footprint. It might have been a reasonable hypothesis if it weren’t for the little fact they’re all extinct except for the birds. No, this has to be a hoax. Someone’s trying to start a rumor about a strange beast roaming the Alaskan wilderness. Probably wants to draw tourists hoping to catch sight of the mythological creature.”

“But Dad, what about the bite marks?”

“My guess is that they used a curved knife to make them. Still, whoever did it did a good job.

They had me going for a bit. Come on, let’s head home and tell the girls about our mysterious find.”

So, we hiked back to the cabin and had lunch with Mom and Sarah. They told us about the baskets of fish they had caught and cleaned. We told them about the moose kill we’d stumbled on, the strange tracks, and the huge bite marks. Mom agreed with Dad that it wouldprobably turn out to be a hoax, but Sarah wasn’t sure what to think.

After lunch, Dad and I headed out again to see if we’d have any better luck hunting. We didn’t.

The animals, both big and small, were still missing, and we were once more forced to come back empty-handed. I did, however, carry my camera with me and took some pictures of our find. For a laugh, I figured I would upload them onto Facebook the next time I was back in town where I could get internet service.

 

About the Author:

Donald Firesmith is a multi-award-winning author of speculative fiction including science fiction (alien invasion), fantasy (magical wands), horror, and modern urban paranormal novels and anthologies of short stories.

Prior to retiring to devote himself full-time to his novels, Donald Firesmith earned an international reputation as a distinguished engineer, authoring seven system/software engineering books based on his 40+ years spent developing large, complex software-intensive systems.

He lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with his wife Becky, his daughter Sera, and varying numbers of dogs and cats.