Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Cover Reveal: Warning Call (The Black Pages, #2) by Danny Bell








































Warning Call (The Black Pages, #2)
By Danny Bell
Genre: NA Urban Fantasy

Elana Black. Saving the day even if she has to tear a hole in the universe to do it.

An unbeatable mythological horror has its sights set on Elana, and that’s not the worst of her problems. Gods want to use her, shadowy agents want to eliminate her, and a powerful sorcerer wants to kill her; all as she rushes to stop an event which portends the death of her best friend. It’s all catching up with her, and just in time for Christmas. Elana is going to have to figure out how all of it is connected but she’s in over her head, outnumbered, and running out of time.

And she always thought magic would make her life easier.




Excerpt:

Okay, so cats like her and obey her commands. Oh god, please tell me more weirdness didn’t just walk into my life. “So, how do you know Claire?” I asked hopefully, silently praying for a mundane answer like High School, the gym, or prison.
“I don’t,” She said confidently.
It was only just now that I got a good look at her and a wave of panic swept through me. She was tall, nearly a foot taller than me. I’d picked up on that when she was at the door, but maybe it was the sun in my eyes or the fact that I wasn’t fully awake yet, but I hadn’t pieced together the rest of it. I would have placed her in her early forties, a couple of years older than Claire maybe, but she looked as if she had been assembled in a factory. Something was decidedly not human about her, and it was unsettling that I couldn’t pinpoint what it was. She had thick, straight hair that was the kind of blonde you only seemed to see in eighties movies. Her eyes were a deep sapphire, and aside from an amount of gold that would have bordered on excess on anyone else, I noticed something else. White shoes, a white pleated linen skirt, a white blouse.
Oh...no. “Did Roger send you because I wouldn’t accept his offer?” I asked, not breaking eye contact.
She raised an eyebrow at that as the beginnings of a grin touched the edge of her lips. “No one ever sends me anywhere,” She said bemusedly.
I wasn’t ready for a fight, especially not when some hapless customer could wander in any second now. And something about her felt decidedly not human, what if she was Fae like Bres? A fight with one of the Fae could get ugly in a hurry for everyone around. Mostly for myself.
“Kind of stupid for one Gardener to come alone,” I said shaking the blister shield out of my wrist. I was trying to sound confident, but I was terror-stricken by the unknown elements here, and it was all I could do to bluff. “It didn’t go so well for the last one who came at me alone.”
The woman couldn’t help herself as she let out a small laugh. “You fashion yourself a sorcerer?” She asked, and with a dismissive wave of her hand, my shield was gone. Just gone! “Child, sorcery is but one of my domains, and you are no more a sorcerer than any of those pretenders you are so quick to associate me with. The people of this realm wield magic that is not their own.”
I stiffened as she spoke. “Okay then,” I said slowly. “If you’re not a Gardener, then what are you.”
“Goddess.”
“Well, December is free coffee for deities month, so lucky you,” I said, trying to force a laugh.
“Is it really?” She asked. “Because I would love to try the house blend.”
“It is now,” I said, moving to make her a cup. Whoever she was, she was severely out of my league, and the best thing I could do was to keep her talking.
“Please make yourself a cup as well and join me, we have business to discuss.”
“Cream or sugar?” I asked pouring the cups. She indicated a quick no as I brought them over. “So, shouldn’t I know who I’m doing business with?”
“Indeed. I am Freyja,” She replied, sipping her coffee. “And this is quite the beverage you've made.”
“Thanks, I’ve been practicing,” I said taking a sip of my own.
“You don’t believe me, do you?” Freyja asked, warmly somehow. Not disappointed, or angry or defensive. “Even with everything you’ve seen and done?”
“No offense, but I’ve met a lot of magic users lately, and it’s not like someone wouldn’t just claim to be a god if they wanted to look bigger than they are. You’re definitely stronger than me, but that doesn’t mean I have to believe whatever you say at face value. I met a guy named Bres earlier this year, and I’m pretty sure he wasn’t the Demon King.”
Freyja chuckled at that. “Oh, the things I could tell you about Bres,” She said taking a sip. “Did you know that historians mistranslated, and he’s actually the Lemon King?”
“That doesn’t make any sense,” I snapped back. “Citrus trees aren’t native to- Oh damn it.”



Thursday, November 16, 2017

Book Blitz: A Marchioness Below Stairs by Alissa Baxter

A Marchioness Below Stairs
By Alissa Baxter
Genre: Regency Romance

Escaping from Bath and the news that her former love is about to marry another, Isabel, the young widowed Marchioness of Axbridge, accepts an invitation to her cousin’s house party. Yet, instead of finding respite, she stumbles into a domestic crisis of majestic proportions: The kitchen staff has succumbed to the influenza.

If that weren’t bad enough, her former sweetheart arrives with his fiancĂ©e, seeking shelter from the increasingly hazardous snow storm. Trapped inside Chernock Hall with a volatile mix of house guests, including abolitionists and slave owners, Isabel wishes she could hide below stairs for the duration. But, alas, she cannot. While helping in the kitchen, Isabel is cornered by her cousin’s disreputable friend, Marcus Bateman, who challenges and provokes her at every turn.

At last, the storm subsides. However, the avalanche of repercussions cannot be undone. Caught in the grip of the terrible winter of 1813, will Isabel’s greatest threat come from the weather, her abolitionist views, or from falling in love again?
If you love traditional Regency romances, you'll adore A Marchioness Below Stairs.

About the Author

Alissa Baxter wrote her first Regency romance, The Dashing Debutante, during her long university holidays. After travelling the world, she settled down to write her second Regency romance, Lord Fenmore’s Wager, which was inspired by her time living on a country estate in England. Also the author of two contemporary romances, Send and Receive and The Blog Affair, Alissa currently lives in Johannesburg with her husband and two sons.


The author is giving away TWO Regency Romance Ebooks; Lord Fenmore’s Wager & A Marchioness Below Stairs & a $15 Amazon GC!


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Book Spotlight: Listen for the Train by Rosa Sophia

Listen for the Train
By Rosa Sophia
Genre: Urban Fantasy / Lesbian

Esther's parents never approved of her, and her fear of people discovering she's a lesbian has led to a solitary life. Living alone in an RV park in South Florida, sequestered from the world, Esther thinks she'll never have to face the truth. Until the only woman she's ever loved shows up on her doorstep in the middle of rainstorm. 

To make matters worse, Esther's cat, Petunia, mysteriously goes missing. While crossing the railroad tracks to search for her feline companion, Esther steps through a tear in the dimensional fabric. Her carefully constructed world is left behind, and what she discovers is far more than she bargained for...

About the Author

Rosa Sophia is an automotive mechanic, but everyone thinks she is a librarian. She lives in South Florida in a cottage by the sea, and hopes to earn an MFA in Creative Writing one day. Other books include "The House Guest" and the "When I Dream of You" novella trilogy. As a trigeminal neuralgia patient, she also writes about her condition in the hope that it will spread awareness of this rare disorder. Her novels "Meet Me in the Garden" and "Orion Cross My Sky" both feature main characters that suffer with trigeminal neuralgia. Rosa hopes readers will gain a greater understanding of this disability through her stories.

Links:


Brief Excerpt: 

When Esther found the cat, years ago, she brought her home and set her down in the living room and said, "You're safe here, little kitten. You'll always be safe here." She decided to call the cat Petunia. They still lived together in the same old cottage, situated in the middle of an RV park. As she curled up in her armchair, she stared at the aged wood walls and wondered if the crumbling building she'd found in the woods a few days ago had ever looked like this one.

Empty land—a nature preserve with marshes and hardwood hammocks—cradled the RV park. The other day, Esther had taken a wrong turn in the woods and nearly got lost, leaving behind the sound of the road and the laughter of a few hikers who'd passed by. Stepping up a slight incline, then down into the woods and along a narrow path, sandburs getting stuck to her sneakers, she found herself in a clearing where tall grass bowed in the breeze. The sky had been bright blue, the sun shining. It was close to ninety degrees and rivulets of sweat dripped down her back below her tank top. She could smell the pine trees, the marsh around her, heard a bullfrog croak somewhere amongst the lily pads. She wiped her forehead with her shirt and looked ahead, taking in the dilapidated structure.

There'd once been an overhang shading the front porch, but it had collapsed—by the looks of it, some time ago. The empty windows, their glass panes long since gone, offered a clear view through to the other side where part of the wall had crumbled. Who had lived here, she wondered? She knew a little bit about the history of the area, so she thought perhaps some old cracker lived here once, and she pictured him sitting on his front porch and drinking water from a jug or whittling something with a sharp knife, shaded from the hot afternoon sun. She stood there staring at the ruins of the old house for a long time, thinking, until she'd headed back home.

She thought of that house now—thought of it and pictured herself there, sitting on the front porch. Only, in her mind, the house was whole again, the roof in one piece, the windows intact. She imagined she wasn't alone there, envisioned she wasn't alone ever again—but she couldn't picture her companion, didn't know who they were. In her little cottage, the walls were like arms holding her, the cushions of her chair like an old friend. She drifted to sleep, listening to the rain pound the roof.

As the deep whine of the train's whistle cut through the shrieking wind, heavy raindrops pounded the off-white aluminum awnings of the cottage. The lamp in the small living room trembled where it stood on the ancient rag rug, the threadbare armchair bathed in yellow light. A half-empty tea cup on the end table rattled on its saucer as Esther reached out to still it. She let go, watching the tea ripple in the cup as the train roared by her kitchen window.

After nine o'clock at night, the storm raged, while she lifted her long sundress and rushed into the front room, where water, streaming sideways from the dark sky, leaked through disintegrating caulk around the windowpanes. After pressing a towel on the sill, and checking on the one that kept water from leaking in beneath the front door, Esther returned to her tea.

She didn't mind the train, or the storms, and felt good sequestered in her house where she was alone. Here, she could be herself instead of what others wanted her to be. The storm felt refreshing and she hoped the rain would cleanse the earth, even as it washed away her own inner discomfort. Over the years, Esther had isolated from others, and it always seemed the power of the storm gave her more reason to do so—to seek shelter, to stay safe.

The sudden sharp bang at the back door startled her, and she ran into the kitchen and dining area to find the screen door had been thrown open by the wind which seemed to constantly change direction, and the rug on the scratched wood floor was soaked. Reaching into the gale, she drew the screen door shut with a thud, and secured the wooden door behind it, throwing the deadbolt into place. Gasping, she wiped the rain water from her brow and licked the drops from her upper lip.

After drying off, she brushed her shoulder-length brown hair back into a ponytail, and pulled on a pair of pajama pants and a tank top. The entire room flashed a brilliant white when a crack of lightning hit nearby, surely splitting the earth as the storm intensified. In the living room, she sunk back into her armchair, curling into the soft cushions.

As she fell asleep, she wondered where Petunia had gotten to, but assumed she'd slipped under the bed. Thunder, lightning, and pounding rain probably frightened the little cat, but the shadows beneath the box spring would provide comfort and solace. 


Saturday, November 11, 2017

Review: The Case of the Flying Note By Alice Cotton

The Case of the Flying Note
By Alice Cotton
Genre: Children's fantasy adventure

Come dive into The Case of the Flying Note and read Alice Cotton’s imaginative musical tale where Detective Reed has to track down Presto, a newly written note who has flown out of his music. Detective Reed is hot on Presto’s trail as the flying note enters Sound City, the land where all music symbols live. Newly written notes sometimes do this and because they have wings, it is difficult to keep up with them. But Detective Reed, a highly trained half note, knows what to do.

The detective follows Presto into clouds of lost music notes far up in the sky where thunderclouds are booming. These lost notes are floating all around Reed when suddenly Presto plunges straight down towards the ground and into a strange green forest populated by hoards of musical rests.  Of course, Detective Reed is close behind him but never catches up with Presto. Why doesn’t Reed just grab him? Where is Presto going?

Detective Reed watches as Presto dives into the large petals of a singing pink flower and discovers an underground music academy within the flower’s roots. Reed makes his way into one of the school’s classrooms and almost gets hit by the shooting arrows of C sharps and then in another room, he witnesses a rare gathering of violins. Whatever are they doing? Finally, the flying note reveals the reason he flew out of his music. This inspires Detective Reed to use a most unusual, inventive strategy to help Presto solve his musical problem.

Who knew music symbols could be so interesting and fun? Readers learn music concepts as they zoom along with the detective. AND Detective Reed’s adventures continue with Reed’s next story, The Secret at Willow Wail, and again, in the upcoming Adventures on a Blue Moon.  Each story addresses a different musical concept as readers fill their minds with the fanciful characters that live in Sound City.

Review

The Case of the Flying Note is a unique children's story! Detective Reed is a fun and interesting character. His job is to locate Presto, a runaway note, and solve a mystery. This book is special for children who have an interest in music and playing instruments. 

About the Author

In the beginning, in Cleveland, Ohio, ten year old Alice Cotton had her head stuck under the piano lid of her father’s baby grand piano, plucking the strings and listening to all the resonating sounds they made. For hours! Then, later, as a teen, after playing clarinet in a school marching band, she started performing and writing songs with her new guitar.  Unbeknownst to her she was also in the process of meeting her future music partners who would be accompanying her in creating successful music acts around the U.S.

Alice moved to New Orleans, where she collaborated with childhood friend, Cora McCann (Writer & editor, Content Marketing, Cleveland Clinic). They wrote songs and performed them as a duo acoustic guitar act called Sunstorm. They performed in some of the most popular tourist clubs in the New Orlean’s French Quarter.

Then, in Oregon, Alice co-led one of the top performing night club bands  that she shared with another childhood friend, Lisa Coffey, (harpist/instructor). Of course, their music was quite original with the sound of harp strings next to the guitar, bass and drums. Their band, Night Music, worked hard to become one of the top working bands in the American northwest. Alice completed their sound by playing electric guitar as a rhythm and lead player.

Later, she worked with a variety of other ensembles that played on weekends for dances and private clubs. Alice became one of the only female lead guitarists in Oregon.  

Along with performing, Alice also taught math, music and art to young students in various public and private schools, always encouraging her students to pursue their studies in fun, creative ways.

Alice Cotton’s goal now is to tantalize young people (as she was at age 10) into pursuing a life of music and art. Hence she writes books such as The Case of the Flying Note for all kids, young and old but particularly geared toward 8 - 11 year olds. 

Alice Cotton Books - https://www.facebook.com/Alicecottonbooks
Detective Reed -https://www.facebook.com/soundcityproductions/
Twitter: @AliceAlicot 

https://alicecotton.com/




Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Interview with Amy Lyle (The Amy Binegar-Kimmes-Lyle Book of Failures)


What inspired you to write The Amy Binegar-Kimmes-Lyle Book of Failures?

A failure! I was marketing a screenplay (#fakemom, out in theaters as soon as Judd Apatow returns my calls) to an entertainment attorney and he said that I couldn’t work with me until I had a platform. He advised me to start a blog or write a book. I asked what I should write about, as I had just finished the screenplay, and he said “Write what you f****** know,” and hung up.  “I have had a lot of failures,” immediately popped into my mind.

How long did it take you to write your book?

The entire process took about a year. At the six month point I had 50,000 words and hired a content editor to help edit and organize it.  During the editing process I worked on the covers (shot by Andrea Ferenchick) and started reading and watching  everything I could about book promotion. 

How long have you been publishing your work?

I’m a playwright by profession for a non-profit, so the plays do not get published. The book is my first published work besides industry articles from my talent aquisition days. I have recently starting writing for a large digital magazine www.littlepinkbook .com and My Forsyth Magazine, that serves the community I live in. The Book Of Failures was released in May and hovers in the top ten of ebooks for humorous essays alongside my idols, David Sedaris, Tina Fey and Trevor Noah. It’s a surreal feeling.

What does your writing environment look like?

A pantry. To the right is a door to our street and to the left are lots of snacks. I’m within arm's length of all things Little Debbie. I like to write with the doors open, dogs by my feet, and the occasional “Hello!” from a passing neighbor.

Do you have any routines to help you write?
Yes. I start writing everyday around eight am, after taking my two dogs for a walk. Since I work in the pantry,  I grab a snack at noon and continue working until around 4:00, when my four kids get off the school bus. 



The Amy Binegar-Kimmes-Lyle Book of Failures
By Amy Lyle
Genre: Funny Memoir

THE AMY BINEGAR-KIMMES-LYLE BOOK OF FAILURES is a humor memoir. If you have ever failed at love, finances, been fired, not fit in, self-diagnosed yourself with disorders and conditions and/or said, "I really need to get my s*** together," this is the book for you.

You may appreciate your own dysfunction a little more as you take a journey through Amy’s debacles including: “I Was Not Talking to You,” where Amy mistakes a handsome man waving at her as a potential suitor but in reality, he was only trying to inform her that her belt was dragging on the freeway and “In the Neighborhood,” where members of a cult moving in concurred with a suspicious decline in the cat population. You will relish the chapters entitled “Calls from Sharon,” where Amy’s best friend rants about her kids not getting a fair shot because public schools are ‘so political,’ as her OB/GYN reported her vagina was ‘too clean’ and how the most eligible bachelor from 1982 married a whore. Enjoy “I’m Going to Kill You,” where Amy compares her lack of sleep from her husband’s snoring to CIA agents extracting secrets from a POW. Feel 20-32% better about your own life after reading “Getting Divorced Sucks,” where 911 was called after Amy had an adverse reaction from taking Xanax.

The book has been featured in Scoop OTP, Georgia Followers, The Atlanta Journal Constitution, Points North Atlanta Magazine, Just4Fun Radio and the WXIA-TV morning show, "Atlanta & Company.”

Ten percent of book proceeds are donated to The Place of Forsyth County, a non-profit helping people to become self-sufficient.

About the Author

Amy Lyle is an author, comedienne, actor and screenwriter who works as a playwright for a large nonprofit in Alpharetta, Ga. Obsessed with fellow female comedians, Amy developed a writing style that is self-deprecating, hilarious and slightly neurotic.

Although she describes her book, The Amy Binegar-Kimmes-Lyle Book of Failures, as a “how not to” book, her message of “You are not a failure, you’re just having a little bit of trouble right now” is prompting people to share how the book made them feel (#bookoffailures), including the relief of knowing they are not alone in the world of missteps. Fan posts of people reading the book have been popping up from all over the world, including Lake Como, Italy, Amsterdam and The Great Wall of China.

The funny memoir, dealing with everything from getting fired to trying to blend a family, has been described as relatable and authentic, while sparking conversations about how we all handle failure.
The author has been featured in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Points North magazine and the WXIA-TV morning show, "Atlanta & Company,” in addition to writing a monthly column for My Forsyth magazine.

Amy grew up in Marietta, Ohio, in the heart of Appalachia, a place known for a population that is partial to moonshine and prone to acts of violence. She currently lives in Cumming, Ga., with her second husband, Peter, lots of teenagers and a large dog. Ten percent of book proceeds are donated to The Place of Forsyth County, a non-profit helping people to become self-sufficient.

To learn more, visit www.amylyle.me/.
Twitter: @amylyle
FB Page: https://www.facebook.com/amylyle.me/

On Goodreads: http://bit.ly/2woXefR

Book Blitz: The Star Dragon by Dante Doom

The Star Dragon
By Dante Doom
Genre: LitRPG

When the real world is threatened, it’s up to the players in a virtual one to save it.

Van Vanyushin doesn’t see the point in ever leaving the beautiful digital world of the game he loves—and for good reason. In the industrial wasteland he calls home, it is often the only way people can experience life’s simplest pleasures. But his allegiance to the game is tested when an ambitious CIA agent named Sang Ngo calls upon him to help as she goes undercover in the game to investigate Draco—the corporation responsible for creating the massively popular role-playing game Dragon Kings of the New World.

Sang is a gifted hacker who feels nothing but contempt for those who waste their lives in what she sees as a false reality…but when people start dying in the game, she must find out why. Van, a talented gamer, is her guide to navigate the world, level up their newbie characters fast and get into some of the most dangerous areas of the game. He dreams of becoming a pro gamer sponsored by Draco one day, but his partnership with Sang threatens to expose secrets from his past that could jeopardize those plans.
Now, they will have to put aside their differences to discover whatever—or whoever—is killing players, but the truth they find is darker than either of them imagined….


About the Author

Dante Doom didn’t touch a videogame or fantasy book until his 23rd year on Earth. He started working at an old-school arcade—hired primarily, he was told, because of his “badass ridiculous name”—and from then his education began.

They started him on the classics, a strict diet of Pac-Man, Galaga, Donkey Kong, Asteroids, Dig Dug, Street Fighter, and Rampage.

Freakish proficiency. Beginners luck, they said.

He was given dog-eared copies of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit, Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn, Patrick Rothfuss' The Name of the Wind and Anne McCaffrey’sDragon Riders of Pern.

Devoured in days.

Finally, he was invited up to the arcade owner’s private gaming room: Battletoads, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (NES), and Ghosts 'n Goblins followed.

Defeated, at last—maybe he wasn’t such a wunderkid, after all. But he didn’t give up. And that earned him a seat at the group’s D&D table. Many a happy day has passed since—he even beat TMNT’s Dam level and its health-draining pink seaweed.

Then a year ago, that same group introduced him to the new Fantasy-LitRPG genre—what Dante saw as the final stage in his education. Because, for him, it doesn’t get any better than LitRPG. The combination of an immersive fantasy world, gaming objectives and levelled progression makes for a fascinating storytelling experience.

Inspired, he took two weeks holiday from the arcade, sat down and wrote the Dragon Kings of the New World series. 


https://www.facebook.com/DanteDoomBooks/

http://dantedoom.com



The author is giving away a $5 Amazon Gift Card to one lucky reader!



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Friday, September 22, 2017

Book Spotlight: Luna Rising by Selene Castrovilla (Excerpt + Giveaway)

Luna Rising
By Selene Castrovilla
Genre: Women's Fiction

About the Book


Life begins at thirty-eight for Long Island mom and writer Luna Lampanelli, when she kicks her secretly gay husband to the curb. She's got her freedom, but what she wants is love. Luna knows she doesn't need a man to exist, but try telling that to her heart. Against the advice of Sunny, her snarky best friend, and Jiminy, the cautioning voice in Luna's head who just won't shut up, Luna sets course to find a mate. Luna speed and on-line dates her way into several short-lived, surreal relationships. There's Ari, the humorless Israeli who refuses to assimilate – to America, and to humanity. There's Alex, the young and handsome ex-crackhead who informs Luna he doesn't want to be monogamous—while they're in bed. There's Memphis, the wild-eyed sadomasochist. There's Red, angry and crippled, who becomes the catalyst for Luna to join Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous. But before Luna can proceed to recovery, she meets the elusive but oh so appealing Trip. He's emotionally unavailable and has the Madonna-Whore Complex, but how can Luna (aka "whore") let him go when she enjoys his dry wit so much, and his body even more? Humorously haunting and packed with unspeakable truths, Luna Rising follows a woman's funny and heart-breaking struggle to relate with un-relatable men and an un-relatable world, and to figure out something even more un-relatable: herself.

About the Author 

Selene Castrovilla debuts in women’s fiction with Luna Rising, but she’s no stranger to publishing. An award-winning teen and children's author, Selene believes that through all trends, humanity remains at the core of literature. Her novel Melt, Book One of the Rough Romance Trilogy, received six honors including the IndieReader Discovery Award Grand Prize for Fiction. Revolutionary Friends: General George Washington and the Marquis de Lafayette, her third nonfiction picture book about the American Revolution, was the recipient of four awards including Booklist Top Ten Biography for Youth, International School Librarians’ Honor Book and Eureka! California Reading Association Honor Book. A companion book, Revolutionary Rogues: John AndrĂ© and Benedict Arnold, is hot off the presses. Selene holds an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from The New School and a B.A. in English from New York University. She lives on Long Island with her two sons and too many cats, where she sits on her deck in the summer, fall and spring (and at her picture window in the winter) and writes. She loves the color purple and coffee. Selene plays well with others, but with words even better. She is so grateful to do what she loves. National Book Award winner Jacqueline Woodson calls Selene “a writer worth watching.” Visit www.SeleneCastrovilla.com.

On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SCastrovilla/
On Twitter: @SCastrovilla

On Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Luna-Rising-Selene-Castrovilla/dp/0991626192 On Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/32963894-luna-rising
On B&N: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/luna-rising-selene-castrovilla/1125286165


AUTHOR’S GIVEAWAY: $50 Amazon card plus signed copies of Luna Rising and Melt by Selene Castrovilla!

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An Excerpt

I’m gonna try dating again,” Luna told Joe, her boxing coach. They were doing pad work— jabbing, hooking, ducking, slipping and talking about love.
“Don’t do it. You ain’t ready,” he said. “Uppercuts!”
“Gee, thanks.” She drove her fists up into the pads until the bell rang.
“Rest. Hey, you want me to lie, or what?”
“Possibly.”
“What makes you all gung-ho to do this? You need to get laid?”
“No . . . well, I guess maybe yes . . . But that’s not it. I just feel good. I’ve been living alone for nine months. I’ve been okay.”
Not exactly true . . . she’d nearly fallen apart every time something in the house broke down. But she wanted to concentrate on the positive. She’d survived. That was positive.
“What’s your game plan?”
“I thought I’d try CraigsList.”
            “CraigsList? Are you shitting me? That’s where you buy a table, not get a date.”
            “Yesterday, I heard a guy on Howard Stern say he met someone on CraigsList. It was love at first sight.”
            “That’s ridiculous. That ain’t love.” The bell rang again. He held up his right pad. “Double hook. Twist on your heel!”
            Luna complied, or at least she thought she did.
            “TWIST!” he hollered. “Holy shit, for months I been telling you to twist. What does it take?”
            She tried again. She responded to being yelled at. “Better,” he said. “Twenty. Go!”
            Luna twisted and thudded, twisted and thudded. In the background Cher crooned “If I Could Turn Back Time.”
Joe said, “It took me six or seven years to fall in love with my wife.”
            Luna almost fell over mid-twist. “Really?”
            “Yeah. In the beginning I would’ve told you it could never happen. But people can grow on you.”
Twist, thud, twist, thud.
Over and over, catching Joe’s steady blue eyes in-between each move.
Then he said, “Love is a consequence.”
             Twist, thud¸ twist, thud. “That’s an unusual concept,” she said.
            “It’s true,” he said. Then he said, “Jab, jab, double left uppercut.”
            She struck the pads silently for a few moments. Consequence seemed almost a dirty word, although she didn’t know why. Maybe it was too grown up.
            Luna liked the immediate.
            She asked, “What about the Zen saying, ‘leap and the net will appear?’”
            Joe said, “You’re mixing metaphors. Jab, jab, right, right uppercut.”
            Thud, thud. “Am I?” Thud, Thud.
            He laughed. “What the hell do I know about metaphors? Sounded good, though.”
            The bell rang. Joe yanked off Luna’s gloves, tossed them to the corner under the mirror, ripped the Velcro seal on her wraps and unraveled her. The wraps landed in a heap at her feet. “Let’s go,” he said.
            He put a thirty-pound weight on what Luna called “the butt machine” and motioned her on. She stepped onto the platform, bent under the shoulder lift, spread her feet so they were centered, pulled the safety bar out and pushed up, lifting the weight on her shoulders.
            Lift, squat. Lift, squat. The first couple were never bad. She said, “Don’t you at least believe in unconditional love?”
            “The only unconditional love we have is for our kids.”
            Up, down. Up, down.
            By the fourth she was feeling the strain in her thighs and her rear. She felt it in her chest too, which stopped her from responding.
            Up, down. Up, down.
            Up, down. Up, down.
            Her legs were trembling. “Jesus, Joe…” she managed.
            He said, “Jesus wasn’t really sacrificing anything to die for our sins. He knew he was going to heaven. I don’t have that kind of faith.”
            Up, down. Up, down.
            Up, down. Up, down.
            Was he even keeping count here?  “I have to stop,” she told him.
            “Two more.”
            Up. “Uhhhh!” Down. “Uhhhh!”
            Up. “Uhhhh!” Down. “Uhhhh!”
            “And rest,” Joe said.
            Luna slid the locking bar forward and moved out from under the shoulder rest. She wobbled down.
            That’s why she paid him – she’d never push herself this far.
            She leaned against the machine for support. In between recuperating huffs she said, “So you’re saying even Jesus didn’t offer unconditional love?”
            “I’m saying he had nothing to lose. It was a no-brainer for him.”