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Death takes the Highway by David McLain – Part 4

The story continues… (You can find Part 1 here if you missed it.)

It was an Indian Casino. Not a very big one, nor very prosperous, but it was big enough to have a nice buffet restaurant attached to it, where a waitress sat William and Death down at a table in the corner, and invited them to help themselves to fried chicken, and macaroni and cheese. She didn’t seem to know or care that William was dead, or that he was being accompanied by Death itself. In fact, they seem to fit in pretty well with the casino’s clientèle. Most of the gamblers looked like they were in their late sixties and early seventies- some even looked older than William was. They ate mostly in silence. Death didn’t seem like much of a talker.

“How do you feel?” Death asked.

“Better than I have in weeks, maybe months,” William admitted.

“That’s usually the way,” Death said. “Once you get used to it, most people feel better.”

“They feel better dead?” William asked.

“I’m not saying you won’t miss things,” Death said. “There’s a lot you’re leaving behind. Usually though, at some point, most people say to themselves ‘O.K. I’ve had enough.’ That’s when it’s time to move on.

“It doesn’t feel real,” William admitted.

“It won’t,” Death said. “Not at first,” he paid the bill with a credit card. William wondered if it would be an all black Mastercard or have ‘666’ as the card number or something, but it was a perfectly ordinary bank card. So far, Death seemed almost pedestrian.

“Let’s go,” Death said.

They got back in the car, heading west again. It was still colder than blazes, although William had gotten used to the stick shift. It was strange, driving such a tiny car. In another life William might have expressed concern about driving something so small on the highway, but what did it matter now? It wasn’t like being jack-knifed by an eighteen wheeler would kill him. (In fact, he wasn’t sure what it would do. Leave him like some sort of zombie maybe? He didn’t want to ask.) He drove cautiously, in the left lane, till a little after dark, when Death finally told him to pull over.

“Right here? By the side of the road?” William asked.

“No, no. At the next exit. There’s a Super 8 just off the highway. We’ll get a room. I don’t like driving at night in the winter, unless I have to.”

They pulled over and parked in front of the motel. They were somewhere near the Pennsylvania border, but where exactly William wasn’t sure. The hotel was manned by an enormous man in a polyester shirt, who looked simultaneously tired and dull, as if being forced to wear a polo with his company logo on it and having to smile at strangers was a form of brain death. They took a double room on the first floor with a window facing the dumpster of a neglected Chinese food restaurant.

“You want Chinese for dinner?” Death asked.

William thought about it. Then he did something that he thought he would never do again- he made a choice. “I saw a diner down the road a little bit. Let’s go there.”

So they did. William ordered the turkey club, and Death had a steak, extra rare. The waitress, like everyone else, didn’t seem to think there was anything strange about them, although come to think of it, she didn’t give them much of a look either. It was shortly after they ate their food that William started asking questions.

“So I’m dead?” he asked. He looked around as he said it, like he was talking about committing a crime. The diner was almost empty and the waitress didn’t seem like she would care if he lit his pants on fire. Still, it didn’t seem like the kind of thing you wanted to announce to just anyone.

“Yes,” Death said.

“I don’t feel different,” Will admitted, although on reflection, that wasn’t true. He definitely didn’t feel like he did when he was dying. That was awful.

“You won’t, at first,” Death said. “It’s a lot to take in all at once.”

“There were a lot of things I wanted to do before I died,” William said. “Things I wanted to do, and say.”

“I know,” Death said. “There always are.”

“I guess that’s the way things work,” Will said. Truth be told, he usually had a hundred different things that he wanted to on a weekend that didn’t get done, there didn’t seem to be any reason that dying wasn’t going to be any different. “It’s just hard to believe,” he added.

“I’m sure,” Death said.

“I worked hard, all my life,” Will said. “Some years were good. Some were bad. I left my daughter a little bit of money. That was good, right?”

Death said “That was good,” but he didn’t look like he felt anything about it, one way or the other.

“If my life was about work, and progress, and family,” William said. “Then what is this about?”

“Moving on,” Death said.

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Bewitching Hannah by Leigh Goff is here!

Remember Disenchanted? Well, Leigh Goff is back with another witchy tale. This time, it’s full of magic and mayhem and if you’re a fan of urban fantasy, I promise, you won’t be able to put it down! Leigh Goff’s newest masterpiece launches today, so without further ado, you can read all about it! (And, use promo code FEATURE this month in our store to get $3 off the ebook or the paperback!)

Being a witch is the last thing she wants…

bhcoverartbevel-2

Sixteen-year-old Hannah Fitzgerald has always known she is descended from a troubled legacy of magic. Although a stranger to her coven in Annapolis, she is no stranger to grief and denial. However, when an ancient prophecy reveals the rise of a young, powerful Chesapeake witch and the impending death of another, she realizes she can no longer afford to suppress the magic that has taken away so much. She seeks out the frighteningly scarred, yet mysterious W, a Calvert descendant who is destined to change her life, but even he cannot prepare her for the danger that lies ahead. Engaged in a deadly game without knowing who her true rival is, Hannah isn’t certain she will survive, and if she loses she may lose everything, including the ones she loves.

 

Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance, Urban Fantasy, Witches

Saphs Book PromotionsFollow the tour to read reviews, exclusive excerpts, guest posts, and book spotlights: https://saphsbookpromotions.blogspot.com/2017/09/virtual-book-tour-schedule-bewitching.html

 

And here’s an excerpt:

Lightning flashed, followed by a rumble of thunder, jolting me alert. A tempest churned over the Chesapeake Bay and was rolling toward town. I stared at the clouds, ready to calculate how much time we had before the rain hit. Another bright flash of white-hot lightning forked across the purplish-black sky. One, two…twenty.

 

Boom.

 

The storm was at least four miles away. I pressed a hand over my chest, feeling the thumping slow.

 

I glanced at Aunt J, who was no longer bopping her head to the bad music. Instead, she blinked over and over, and rubbed her eyes with one hand.

 

“If you’re tired, I can drive.” Who needed a license when I’d already mastered a moped along with the Green Briar golf carts?

 

Her slender fingers searched for me as if I were a ghost she could only hear. She grasped my arm tightly.

 

“Hannah?” Panic drenched her voice.

 

My eyes widened. “What’s wrong?”

 

“I can’t see. I mean, I see something, but it’s not the road. What’s wrong with me?”

 

I peered out the windshield. A distant telephone pole grew bigger as her foot stuck to the accelerator.

 

A frightening swell of adrenaline flooded my veins, sending my heart into a frenzy. “Stop!” I yelled, but she was frozen with fright. I grabbed the steering wheel and threw my leg over to jam on the brake pedal.

 

It was too late. Absolute silence fell over us in the grim second before we plowed into the pole. My lower body slammed into the dashboard while the seatbelt squeezed hard against my ribs. Metal groaned. White bubbles deployed. Glass shattered with a scream. Or maybe the scream was mine. The car groaned to a halt with a hiss and clank.

 

Stillness settled over us. My head was reeling as I checked myself for injuries. Bursts of pain sparked from my chest and leg.

 

“Hannah?” Aunt J’s quivering voice reached out.

 

I pried my eyes open. She had escaped her seatbelt. Her lips and hands were trembling, but I saw no blood or broken skin. Inwardly, I sighed with relief.

 

“Are you okay?” she asked.

 

I sucked in a shallow breath. “Me? Fine,” I managed, not wanting to stress her out, but I struggled to breathe and my left leg was wedged under the intruding dashboard.

 

She reached over, wiping her hands across my cheeks and forehead, dusting away crumbs of glass. She touched her trembling fingers to the seatbelt release and pressed on it, over and over. “Come on, dammit. Let go.”

 

I pushed her hand away, restraining a whimper. “It’s okay. Go get help.”

 

She nodded and with a hard push, shoved her door open. “I’ll be right back.”

 

A heavy silence fell over the car’s interior until a hiss sounded from the engine. Within seconds, the smell of burning oil seeped in through the vents.

 

One toxic breath went deeper than I meant it to. “Ow!” I coughed and writhed beneath the unyielding seatbelt like a five-year-old having a tantrum. Panic swept over me as I struggled for freedom.

 

Stress vibrated deep in my gut. Self-soothe, self-soothe, I reminded myself. The air grew thicker with burning oil and a starburst of pain wracked my body. I was going to die. Unless…

 

No. How could I even think it? There had to be another way because what if I couldn’t send it back? What if it took me to the same terrible place it had taken them?

 

I peered out the windows, searching. There was no one. I turned my focus on the glove box. Maybe Aunt J kept a knife in there or a pair of floral scissors. I pushed the button hard, again and again. Jammed. My heart raced.

 

A burst of smoke puffed into the car’s interior. I coughed and closed my eyes. The pressure on my leg intensified and the sickening fumes filled me with dread. Eff it. I balled my hands into fists.

 

I recalled the spell I’d overheard my dad utter once. I recited it in my head before casting, making sure I had it right. “By the power of fire, I do summon and churn, and call thee forth to blaze and burn.”

 

I stopped breathing, trying to sense any changes. I felt no different. And then it filled my core like a warm sphere of energy. Quickly, the power expanded into a blazing inferno. My back arched, pressing me harder into the seatbelt as my internal fire surged. Every cell jolted awake. My heart pounded out of control as I imagined channeling the smoldering energy. Suddenly, my hands tingled with intense power. I swallowed hard and aimed my fingers at the strap. The fiery threads trickled out in a wiggly pattern until I steadied my hand. The seatbelt burned orange, then cooled to black before separating.

 

Purchase Links:

Mirror World Publishing eBook: https://mirror-world-publishing.myshopify.com/collections/young-adult-fiction/products/bewitching-hannah-ebook

 Mirror World Publishing Paperback: https://mirror-world-publishing.myshopify.com/collections/young-adult-fiction/products/bewitching-hannah-paperback

Amazon:http://amzn.to/2vtH056

 Kobo:https://www.kobo.com/ca/en/ebook/bewitching-hannah

 Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/bewitching-hannah-leigh-goff/1126756568?ean=9781987976311

 

Leigh Goff-150 RETLeigh Goff, Writing Enchanting Ever-Afters ♥

Leigh Goff grew up in Maryland where she resides today. Her writing is inspired by an eclectic childhood, a vivid imagination, and compelling historical events. After taking several writing courses in college and attending professional writing workshops after she graduated from the University of Maryland, she joined the Maryland Writers’ Association and Romance Writers of America.

Connect with the Author: Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LeighGoffAuthor

Twitter: https://twitter.com/leigh_goff

Amazon US: http://amzn.to/2vjgNpt

Goodreads Author Page: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/9819621.Leigh_Goff

Blog: http://leighgoff.com/blog/

Publisher Website: http://www.mirrorworldpublishing.com

Author Website: http://leighgoff.com/author/leighgoff/

 

Death takes the Highway by David McLain – Part 3

Next week, we’ll be  featuring Leigh Goff’s new book, Bewitching Hannah which launches September 17th! You can find Leigh’s book here and even pre-order it now!

This week, David McLain’s short story continues… Find Part 1 here. Part 2 here. Find David’s novel, The Time Traveller’s Resort and Museum here.

 

They walked slowly through the hospital, reaching the elevator in what felt like thirty minutes. Neither one said anything. The hallway was oddly, almost suspiciously empty, as if everyone in the hospital had gone on a coffee break. They got into the elevator, and walked down a hallway to the lobby. Again, there was nobody. They walked out through the doorways, and out into the cold January air.

“I’m right around the corner,” Death said.

They walked slowly around the side of the building to a visitors parking lot. Parked in the handicapped parking space was a bright red 1964 mg convertible with the engine running. It was in mint condition, like a beautiful little matchbox car.

“What’s that?” William asked.

“I was going to ask you,” Death said.

They got into the car. William could tell that the car was going to be considerably nicer to look at then it would be to ride in. Even with the engine running, it was difficult to see out the front window, and in the cold, the vinyl seats felt like sacks of heavy cement. “Do you know how to drive stick?” Death asked.

Will nodded. He didn’t want to admit it, but he hadn’t driven any car, manual or automatic, in a little over five years now. He stopped driving at his daughter’s suggestion, and had gotten around with her help and with the senior bus. Still, he used to love driving. When he was younger, well, a lot of things were different when he was younger. He put his foot on the clutch, and tried putting the car into reverse. It stalled right away.

“Been awhile?” Death asked.

“They don’t let you go out for a drive when you’re in hospice,” William pointed out.

“Just take it slow,” Death suggested. “It sticks a little going into reverse, but after you get past that, it’s not bad.”

Will restarted the car, this time he backed out of the spot. He shifted it into first gear. Slowly the car rolled forward. They turned left onto the street, and headed west. William Hershel was eight-one years old, and the clock was never going to roll forward.

The beginning of long journeys always seem like short ones. William didn’t know where he was going, or how long it was going to take. He had a feeling though, that this wasn’t a day trip.

“Where are we headed?” he asked. He tried to make it sound casual, as if they were headed out to dinner and he didn’t know which restaurant they were going to. For that matter, it occurred to him that he didn’t know if dead people eat. Maybe they were done with that sort of thing now.

“The sunset,” Death said simply. He seemed to feel that this was enough information.

“West then?” William assumed.

“Take the highway,” Death said.

William found his way onto the highway. It was a route he could’ve driven blindfolded. He’d lived in this town for forty years, and knew every street like the back of his hand. Much like the hospital, the streets were impressively empty. The lights all seemed green too. “Death waits for no one,” William thought, suppressing a smile.

They headed out on an unassuming highway toward the west. Upstate New York was both beautiful and ugly in equal parts, and driving through it now, the beauty seemed hidden, or at any rate overwhelmed, by the dull monotony of gray hills, gray clouds, and gray little towns where people were doing their best to earn a meager living. William found that the little sports car was hard on his back, and after a few hours, he needed to stop and rest.

“There’s a casino a few miles ahead,” Death suggested. “Let’s stop there.”

“I’m not much of a gambler,” Will admitted.

“Where we’re going, you don’t need money,” Death replied. “But they’ll have a restaurant.”

*Join us next week or subscribe for more of this story!!!* 

 

Death takes the Highway by David McLain – Part Two

Find Part One here. Find David McLain’s Bio here. Find David McLain’s novel, The Time Traveller’s Resort and Museum here

Then, keep reading… 

 

There is a funny thing that happens when you die- for just a moment, or perhaps two, you are technically in some sort of state in between, that it is to say, neither living nor dead, but on your way from one to the other. And if you are very, very, lucky, as William Hershel was, you find yourself thinking ‘This is it. This is when I find out what happens when you die.’  Which is exactly what William was thinking when Death walked into the room.

When he was much younger, William had had a friend named Lee, at school, who genuinely seemed to believe that he’d met the Angel of Death over winter break one night at about three o’clock in the morning. He described the angel in vague terms. Death, Lee said, was large, dark, and somehow both bigger and smaller than the space he occupied. He had apparently spoken with the sort of deep heavy voice you associated with James Earl Jones, and had actually been very reassuring, in his way.  William had been fairly young at the time, and hadn’t placed a bet on how much marijuana Lee had consumed prior to meeting death, but he would have been pretty sure that zero would not have been where the safe money was. Perhaps Death comes to each of us differently, he wasn’t sure. In William’s case, Death’s appearance was so oddly specific that his first impulse after dying was to call Lee up and tell him he was full of shit.

Death walked in dressed like an old guy heading out to shovel snow.

He was wearing a blue wool coat and a red hunting cap, with a set of brown work boots and a pair of leather gloves that had seen better days. Death looked like he was about William’s age, maybe a year or two younger, and in better shape, obviously. A gray coat of stubble covered his face, and he was wearing a dark blue hooded sweatshirt that had the New York Yankees logo on it. For the first time in several days, William opened his eyes. There was no question that it was Death. How William knew him was fundamental, but also inexplicable. Death looked at him, and walked over to the wardrobe where William’s daughter had put his clothing. “Come on,” he said. “We’ve got to get you dressed.”

With great effort, William sat up. Without thinking about it, he started to pull out all of the tubes out of his body.  Each tube coming out felt like a razor blade, but it was a relief. He’d been wanting to pull the damn things out since they brought him here. Death handed him a pair of jeans, a black sweater, underwear, and two pairs of socks.

“Have you got boots?” Death said. “It’s cold out there, and the car doesn’t have heat.”

William didn’t know what to say. “Boots?” he asked.

“Are they waterproof? You don’t want your feet to get wet,” Death said.

“Under the bed,” William answered.

Death pulled a pair of brown leather boots out from under the bed. He helped William get dressed. Every movement that Will made felt like shattering glass, but slowly, painfully, he managed to put his clothes on. “Do you have a coat?” Death asked. “I’ve got a spare pair of gloves.”

“It’s in the bottom drawer of the cabinet,” Will said. Death went over to the dresser and got it. Will put it on, with great effort.

“When we leave the room,” Death said, “You’re going to want to look back. Don’t. Just let it go.”

“I don’t think I can walk,” William admitted.

“It’ll hurt,” Death acknowledged.  “But we’ll get there.”

They took one step, and then another. Will leaned on Death, giving him as much of his weight as he could. The first step out of bed felt like he had broken his hip, but somehow he managed. As William walked through the doorway, he couldn’t help it, he turned around and looked back at the room.

“Did you look back?” Death said.

“For just a moment,” Will admitted. “I couldn’t help it.”

“What did you see?”

“Myself, and my daughter. She was crying.”

Death nodded. “That’s life,” he mumbled, and made no other reply.

 

Come back for part three next week, or subscribe to this blog to receive notifications!

Death Takes the Highway by David McLain – Part One

You may recall us featuring some short stories. Here’s a quick list to where you can find them:

The Hunting Dog by Rita Monette
The Queen’s Intent by Justine Alley Dowsett
The Arranged Marriage by Justine Alley Dowsett
The Eye of the Storm by Justine Dowsett

And now, we bring you Death takes the Highway by David McLain, author of The Time Traveller’s Resort and Museum

Because I could not stop for Death,
He kindly stopped for me;
The carriage held but just ourselves
And Immortality.

-Emily Dickinson

Although no one knew it, William Hershel was going to die at three fifty-eight on January the thirteenth, at Wilson Hospital in Johnson City, New York, just after his daughter stepped out of the room for a minute to go to the bathroom and freshen up a little. The hospice nurse would tell her that this was very common. In as much as people had a choice, and it wasn’t really clear that they did, they seemed to choose to die when their relatives were out of the room, even if there had been someone with them all day, and they had only been left alone for a few seconds. It wasn’t clear why they did that, but the nurse said she had seen it time and time again.

If anyone had asked William Hershel, at say, three fifty four on that same day, why people choose to die during that one moment when they were alone, he would have been glad to tell them. It was for the same reason that you closed the door when you were going to the bathroom, or taking a shower, or making love. When we are forced to show our biological side, we prefer to be alone. Since the age of fourteen, William Hershel’s daughter had closed the door while brushing her teeth, she could hardly expect William to shuffle off his mortal coil while she watched, for goodness sake. If his wife had been there, that might have been different, but William Hershel had no wife. He’d been married once, but that had been over for almost a decade, and his ex-wife had declined to visit him, which was just as well. That left him dying, at three fifty-fifty eight on January the Thirteenth, exactly two weeks shy of his eighty-first birthday.

To look at him was less like looking at a man, and more like staring at an empty husk. His body was broken, his bones were gnarled, his hair was gone. His teeth were rotten, and his organs were failing quickly. There were tubes coming out of every conceivable part of him, and he smelled terrible. Dignity had been the last thing to go, but when it had gone, it had left completely. All you had to do was take one look at him, and you knew it was time. He had heard his daughter making the sorts of plans that you didn’t want to here being made about yourself. He knew that she had been in touch with a funeral home, that she’d talked to the hospice nurse about what would happen next. He’d heard her say something about how he’d worked hard, so very hard, all his life.  He knew that she had her own life and she wanted to get back to it. He felt bad that he had taken up so much of her time these past few years.

In real life, last words are rarely significant in any way whatsoever. In fact, in modern medical terms, just being able to say last words often meant that you were not really ready to die just yet. The closest thing William Hershel had to last words was an unheard gurgle at roughly three fifty-five. It was indicative of a small amount of air leaving his lungs as his organs shut down.     

     ‘I’m still here,’ William thought. ‘I’m still here.’

It is, or at any rate, it should be, a great privilege to be coherent during the last few minutes of your life, and, technically, William Hershel was. He hadn’t opened his eyes for three days, but nonetheless, his thoughts were still there. When his daughter had held his hand and cried earlier that day, he’d felt it and he’d heard it and he knew what was happening. Three fifty-six came and went without as much as a flicker. That left three fifty-seven. What do you do with your penultimate minute on earth? It turned out William Hershel celebrated by feeling his heart stop beating. It was the strangest feeling, a little bit like holding your breath, only much, much worse. His daughter would be on her way back to the room in just another minute or so, but it didn’t matter. He wasn’t going to wait that long.

William Hershel, born in San Clemente, California, died at three fifty-eight, almost exactly, but this was just the beginning.

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Join us next week, or subscribe for the rest of this short serial fiction!!

David McLain is the author of the novel Dragonbait and The Time Traveller’s Resort and Museum. He grew up New York, California,  Transylvania, and France. He studied writing at The University of Massachusetts and at Purchase College, where he also directed a production of William Shakespeare’s The Tempest. He lives in New York with a female painter and a small dog.

Behold: The Wandering God by Joshua Pantalleresco

Exciting news! It started in 2014 with The Watcher, Joshua Pantalleresco’s unique epic poetry matched with Florence Chan’s unbelievable graphic art. The journey then continued with the sequel, Stormdancer. Now, the Watcher Trilogy is coming to a remarkable conclusion with The Wandering God.

The Wandering God will officially launch October 17th, 2017, but you can pre-order it now! And, if you’re a Mirror World member, you don’t have to wait; we’ll ship the book to you as soon as it is printed, or email you immediately in the case of an ebook! To learn more about becoming a member, click here.

If you haven’t read the Watcher, go here (oh, BTW, The Watcher – ebook version – is ON SALE for just $0.99 in honour of this new release!) If you’re not caught up with Stormdancer, that one’s here too. But when you’re ready, the Wandering God will be waiting for you and it’s one heck of an adventure.

Without further ado; here’s the cover created by the incredibly talented Florence Chan:

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Here’s the description:

Greater Worlds than These…

Following the events of Stormdancer, the Watcher receives a vision in a dream of a city in turmoil. The dream haunts him, as does a voice that insistently repeats, ‘Help me,’ night after night. Leaving the safety of the tower of scientists behind, the Watcher and his friends embark on the final leg of their journey to locate the source of the message and come face to face with their most difficult obstacle yet; doubt.

Though they trust the Watcher, Kristen and the others can’t help but fear that the voice in his head is driving him mad and leading them all to their deaths. Even the Watcher is afraid. He knows that listening to this voice risks everything he has obtained up until this point, but he can’t help but continue to follow it, driven forward by curiosity and an instinctive need.

Beyond volcanoes, rock people, and a desert of nothing but crystal, lies the City at the End of the World. And there, the Wandering God awaits…

Whether you’re a fan of poetry or not, I sincerely recommend this series for its simple voice, easy narrative, and wonderful window into an imaginative post-apocalyptic world where dragons and humans clash and gods wander.

So, once again, here’s the link to pre-order! Enjoy! Oh, and here’s the paperback link. The Wandering God will be available through Amazon and other third party retailers within the coming days.

Sneak Peek at Mirror’s Deceit

As you may or may not be aware, Murandy Damodred and I have finished writing the third in the Mirror World series. The series begins with Mirror’s Hope, which you can find here. The story continues in Mirror’s Heart, here. But now, you get to learn everything from the beginning as the third book, Mirror’s Deceit, takes the form of a prequel set in the Mirror World.

Here’s the blurb:

She’s destined to change the world. Her rival has made a desperate flight to the past to stop her…

In a seeming utopia, Mirena, a gifted student of majik, is on the verge of graduating from a secret college that will give her a leg up in her political career, when her achievements are overshadowed by the arrival of a mysterious woman with an unknown agenda. Desperate to keep what she sees as her rightful place in the spotlight, Mirena goes to astounding lengths including taking it upon herself to pose as a double agent to investigate a rebel force plotting to destabilize the government. Unfortunately, her actions cost her the trust of those around her, so when she is proclaimed the Dark Avatar of the Destroyer, she finds she has nowhere to turn.

Mirror’s Deceit is currently being reviewed by beta readers and is set to be released early in 2018, but I thought I would give you a sneak peak by sharing a scene from chapter one. Here goes:

Mirena hit the ground hard. Rocks dug into the side of her face and her hands stung fiercely where she’d scraped them by instinctively trying to break her fall, even though there was no way she could have anticipated it. Her stomach lurched with the impact as she tried to fight off a wave of disorientation and nausea that threatened to overwhelm her.

A horn sounded. Two quick blasts. Despite herself, she counted them. I made it! I’m home.

She struggled to sit up. The air around her filled with the sounds of doors and windows being flung open as every person in the Stoa rushed to see who had arrived in the courtyard of their hidden College for talented Magi. Mirena grinned; her expression half grim determination and half hard-won pride. She forced herself the rest of the way to her feet and pushed the remaining nausea aside as nearly sixty students and half a dozen staff members barrelled down on her.

The cheering started as soon as they saw it was her and that she was on her feet and relatively unharmed. Mirena’s grin grew wider. I passed my exam in record time. Only four years study to make it to this moment, where most people take decades. The Mentor is going to be so impressed!

The gathering crowd parted to let the aging Mentor pass uninhibited. With his presence, the noise died down, slightly. The grey-haired Mentor smiled at the sight of her, leaning heavily on his cane as he alone out of all those gathered made his way down the steeply curving steps to stand just outside the sizeable ring of tall standing stones.

“Well done, Mirena,” he very subtly drew upon his majik to enhance the volume of his voice so all could hear him praise her.

Mirena beamed and starting running the minute the words were out of his mouth. She crossed between two stone pillars and flung herself at the Mentor, careful to throw her slight weight at him on the opposite side from where he held his cane, so he’d be able to keep his footing.

There was a collective gasp from the crowd that subsided as they realized the Mentor was still standing. “Whoa, there!” he called out, catching Mirena in one arm. “I know you’re excited, but you’re not done yet!”

“I know, but I’ll do the next part with no problems! You’d expect nothing less from your number one student…” She winked at him.

The Mentor shook his head. “Remember what I told you; rushing into things will only lead to a job half-finished. You have to look before you leap.” He put a hand under her chin to lift her blue eyes up to his before tilting her chin to the right. “I dare say that you wouldn’t have gotten these,” he noted the cuts the rocks had left on her cheek, “if you’d been more prepared to make the trip through the Sentinal Stones.”

“I would’ve been more cautious, but I was being chased by a large winged monster!” She exclaimed, stepping back from him so she could wave her arms emphatically. “I had to think fast and perform under pressure, so a slightly bad landing should be understandable…”  

“Tall tales, Mirena?” the Mentor asked, but his tone was light and his words kind.

“No, really. It’s true, it got my back with its claws, see?” She turned slightly to show him the claw marks that marred her left shoulder and the blood that she could now feel running down the length of her simple white dress.

Now it was the Mentor’s turn to gasp. He called back over his shoulder for someone to fetch the Healer.

“It’s okay, I’m fine. Just let me finish my test.”

He furrowed his brow momentarily, but when the Healer didn’t immediately manifest in the crowd, the Mentor had no choice but to step to the side and gesture for Mirena to continue. Nodding once and taking on a serious expression, she faced the spot where the Stoa’s headmaster had been standing moments before and applied her concentration to a line cut into the stone in an impossibly straight fashion.

That line was made by generations of Magi passing this test before me, including last person graduate four years ago; Terrence Lee. He only beat me in total time by a few days at most… I guess it’s not too bad to be second best when you’re being compared to the youngest and most talented Panarch in history!

Mirena returned her focus to the task at hand when she realized that everyone was now waiting expectantly. Everyone is watching. I can’t afford to fail. I have to concentrate!

She furrowed her brow, unconsciously mimicking the Mentor’s usual expression. Feeling the wind in her hair and the moisture riding on it from the nearby crashing of waves against the island on which she stood, Mirena took hold of her majik and felt the power of it build within her. She deftly added strength from the earth at her feet and some heat from the sun at her back and then she added what she liked to think of as the ‘secret ingredient’; a tiny piece of her own essence, her soul. Aiming it all at the space before her, directly above the tell-tale crack, she bent reality to her will and forced it to obey her. Two matched silver rings made up of all the elements spun in the air more expertly controlled than even the best circus performer could have managed, and with a sudden snap they locked together in place and between them she saw herself… from behind.

Mirena grinned once again, showing teeth this time. Opening a portal in front of you to travel to a spot within your viewing takes a great deal of concentration and skill. Let’s see what they all think of that!

The watching crowd gasped in a most satisfying way. Mirena went to take a bow while still holding the portal open with her majik just to prove that she could, when she took note of the Healer rushing down the stone stairway. Why is she running? I’m not hurt that bad… Can’t she see that?

But the Healer didn’t stop at her side, she brushed past her. Mirena whirled to follow the woman with her eyes, dropping the portal spell in her distraction. Behind her in the center of the circle of Sentinal Stones lay a woman dressed in a short light blue dress over black leggings. At first glance she looked to be unconscious and badly hurt; much worse than Mirena had been on her own landing.

Mirena’s first thought was that maybe she wasn’t the only one to pass her test today, as unlikely as that concept was, but she quickly realized that she didn’t know this woman. She wasn’t a student or a teacher from the Stoa, she was a stranger. It’s possible she didn’t know what she was doing. Perhaps she activated the Sentinal Stones by accident, which happens from time to time. Though usually not here…

As Mirena pondered the incident she felt the Mentor brush past her, followed by two other members of the faculty.

“Don’t crowd around!” The Mentor called out, his voice still amplified above normal volume by his majik. “Give her some room. It looks like whatever journey she’s taken to get here has taken a lot out of her. Hemora,” he addressed the Healer, “you’re in charge. Just let us know what you need.”

As the teachers made room for the Healer, Mirena got another glimpse at the mysterious stranger who had stolen her thunder. Despite the bruising on her face and scrape-marks similar to Mirena’s own, the woman appeared to be about Mirena’s age and very pretty with porcelain-coloured skin and long hair so dark it was nearly black. No sooner had she noted these details did the woman’s eyes open suddenly. They were deep blue and piercing and despite all the people in the courtyard and within the shadow of the tall standing stones, the stranger’s eyes locked onto Mirena’s own and held them.

1us

Justine Alley Dowsett is the author of eight novels and one of the founders of Mirror World Publishing. Her books, which she often co-writes with her sister, Murandy Damodred, range from young adult science fiction to dark fantasy/romance. She earned a BA in Drama from the University of Windsor, honed her skills as an entrepreneur by tackling video game production, and now she dedicates her time to writing, publishing, and occasionally roleplaying with her friends.

 

Spellhaven by Sandra Unerman is here!

The Unseen Spirits must be entertained, so that the city may prosper…

Spellhaven cover

In the summer of 1914, Jane Fairchild, a young English musician, is kidnapped by magic and sent to Spellhaven, an island city ruled by magicians. Here, peace and prosperity are maintained with the assistance of Unseen Spirits bound to the service of the Lords Magician. The Spirits must be kept in good humour by the performance of all kinds of shows, dance, drama and music. Jane is one of many people kidnapped from the outside world and forced to contribute to these entertainments for a set period of service.

Only Jane is having none of it. She will not perform for her kidnapper, Lucian Palafox, but agrees to undertake an apprenticeship with another magician impresario, provided she is taught magic in return. Jane’s forays into magic lead her deeper within the mysteries of Spellhaven, her rivalry with Lucian escalates and the quarrels between them grow strong enough to shake the city to its foundations.

Genres: Fantasy, Adventure
Release Date:  August 17, 2017
Publisher:  Mirror World PublishingSaphs Book Promotions

Follow the tour to read guest posts, reviews, and exclusive excerpts! https://saphsbookpromotions.blogspot.com/2017/08/book-tour-schedule-spellhaven-by-sandra.html

Read an Excerpt:

Jane Fairchild lowered the flute from her mouth and curtseyed to the audience scattered around the lawn. She could not help smiling at their cheers, even as Toby Scott, the leader of their consort, bent down towards her and muttered, ‘You weren’t supposed to play that. You promised to behave.’

They had played one solo each, as agreed, but Jane had abandoned the Gounod she had rehearsed for some variations of her own on a nameless tune from her childhood. Toby despised that kind of music making and none of the others cared for it much. Jane had meant to be well-behaved this evening, when they wanted to impress Lady Waverley and her guests. The consort, music students in their final year, had been invited to play at this garden party in July chiefly because the Waverleys’ son had been at school with Toby, but their guests were likely to include several potential patrons and aficionados who might help them in their fledgling careers. The year was 1914.

The trouble was, as Jane had looked round in the deep evening light, she had felt a need to stir up the audience. They stood in little clusters under the trees or on the paths in the rose garden and listened politely between sips of champagne, but they were not properly engaged with the music. Most of them were young and busy flirting by whisper or touch, or staid and on the edge of somnolence. At least Jane had caught their attention and made some of them laugh.

She shook her head at Toby while she put her flute away and did not answer him. Now that they had finished their set, people were quick to surround the musicians and compliment them, and she was able to dodge round him without a fuss. She was thirsty, so she headed towards the refreshments promised earlier. She doubted champagne would be provided for the musicians but lemonade would be more welcome in any case.

A stranger stepped in front of her, a young man, dark and thin. ‘That last piece was the real stuff. Couldn’t you strangle your First Violin with his own strings and play some more of it?’ he said.

‘Good evening, Mr.…?’ Jane said.

The stranger inclined his head. ‘Lucian Hunter, at your service.’ There was a glint in his eye, as though at a joke he did not expect other people to understand.

‘Mr. Scott is a very fine musician and a friend of mine.’

‘But deadening. You ought to quarrel with him and strike out on your own.’

Jane drew breath to argue and then decided not to explain herself to this person, whoever he was.

‘I don’t think so,’ she said. ‘Excuse me, I should go and find Lady Waverley.’

‘Wait!’ Hunter’s voice was not loud but compelling. He spoke clear English but with the shadow of an accent Jane could not place. ‘I have something else to ask you. Will you meet me next week and play for me?’

‘I’m afraid not.’

‘I could pay you for some lessons. Surely you take pupils?’

Not arrogant young men, Jane thought. ‘It really isn’t possible,’ she said, and turned away.

She felt a hand on her arm and swung back to glare at Hunter. He dropped his clasp at once but he said, ‘You’ll regret it if you don’t. It’s the music I want, you know.’

‘Not from me. Or from anyone else I know if you lay a finger on me again.’

His smile was swift and infuriating.

‘I don’t need to, now,’ he said and turned away.

 

Purchase Links:

Mirror World Publishing eBook:  https://mirror-world-publishing.myshopify.com/collections/poetry/products/spellhaven-ebook

Mirror World Publishing Paperback: https://mirror-world-publishing.myshopify.com/collections/poetry/products/spellhaven-paperback

Amazon US:  http://amzn.to/2tpdL2x

Amazon CA: https://www.amazon.ca/Spellhaven-Sandra-Unerman-ebook/dp/B072YRDLD2/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1500909249&sr=8-1&keywords=Spellhaven+by+Sandra+Unerman

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Spellhaven-Sandra-Unerman-ebook/dp/B072YRDLD2/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1500909290&sr=8-1&keywords=Spellhaven+by+Sandra+Unerman

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/ca/en/ebook/spellhaven

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/spellhaven-sandra-unerman/1126613810?ean=9781987976342

sandraunermanAbout the Author:

Sandra Unerman lives in London in the UK. When she retired from a career as a Government lawyer, she undertook an MA in Creative Writing at Middlesex University, specialising in SF and fantasy, and graduated in 2013. Since then, she has had a number of short stories published. In 2016, these included stories in Three Drops from a Cauldron, the Midwinter issue and Aurora Wolf, the September issue, both available online. She writes reviews and articles for the British Science Fiction Association and the British Fantasy Society. She is a member of London Clockhouse writers and other writing groups. Her interests include history, folklore and medieval literature.

 

Connect with Sandra :  

Website: https://sandraunermanwriter.com/

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Sandra-Unerman/e/B0034NS9VM

Goodreads Author Page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6566116.Sandra_Unerman

 Goodreads Book Page: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35546814-spellhaven

sandraunerman

What Did You Eat?

Hello everyone! I’m pleased to be able to announce and share that friends of ours over at Dice and Stuff have created a fun and educational card game that they are currently launching over on Kickstarter!

The game is called, ‘What did you eat?’ and is a fun way to learn about the digestive system, or just to play a card game where the goal is to collect the most poop. Yes, that’s right, I said poop!

The game has the cutest artwork featuring foods that help and hinder digestion, viruses, and poop! But you don’t have to take my word on it. Head on over to their Kickstarter page and watch the video for yourself!

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/785093067/what-did-you-eat?ref=discovery

That’s it for today! I urge you to check out this great game and consider backing it, but otherwise we will see you again on Thursday for the launch of Spellhaven by Sandra Unuerman and next week when we reveal the cover for Joshua Pantalleresco’s The Wandering God!

See you then!

 

Leigh Goff is back! Cover Reveal: Bewitching Hannah

It’s been quiet here this week and for that I apologize, but don’t worry  I haven’t been idle! I’ve been working on all the new releases coming this summer and into fall. As a quick overview for the rest of the year, we’ve got:

Spellhaven by Sandra Unerman – August 17th
Bewitching Hannah by Leigh Goff – September 17th
The Wandering God by Joshua Pantalleresco – October 17th
The Mystery on Lost Lagoon by Rita Monette – November 17th

We’ll be revealing the cover for The Wandering God next week and we’ll also be starting up a new short story by David McLain, author of The Time Traveller’s Resort and Museum, but today, we’re revealing the cover of Leigh Goff’s newest masterpiece, Bewitching Hannah!

So without further ado, here it is:

bhcoverartbevel-2

Being a witch is the last thing she wants…

Sixteen-year-old Hannah Fitzgerald has always known she is descended from a troubled legacy of magic. Although a stranger to her coven in Annapolis, she is no stranger to grief and denial. However, when an ancient prophecy reveals the rise of a young, powerful Chesapeake witch and the impending death of another, she realizes she can no longer afford to suppress the magic that has taken away so much. She seeks out the frighteningly scarred, yet mysterious W, a Calvert descendant who is destined to change her life, but even he cannot prepare her for the danger that lies ahead. Engaged in a deadly game without knowing who her true rival is, Hannah isn’t certain she will survive, and if she loses she may lose everything, including the ones she loves.

Pre-Order Links:

Mirror World Publishing eBook: https://mirror-world-publishing.myshopify.com/collections/young-adult-fiction/products/bewitching-hannah-ebook

Mirror World Publishing Paperback: https://mirror-world-publishing.myshopify.com/collections/young-adult-fiction/products/bewitching-hannah-paperback

Amazon: http://amzn.to/2vtH056

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/ca/en/ebook/bewitching-hannah

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/bewitching-hannah-leigh-goff/1126756568?ean=9781987976311

Leigh Goff-150 RETMeet the Author:

Writing Enchanting Ever-Afters ♥

Leigh Goff grew up in Maryland where she resides today. Her writing is inspired by an eclectic childhood, a vivid imagination, and compelling historical events. After taking several writing courses in college and attending professional writing workshops after she graduated from the University of Maryland, she joined the Maryland Writers’ Association and Romance Writers of America.

Connect with the Author:

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

Twitter:https://twitter.com/leigh_goff

Author Website:  http://leighgoff.com/author/leighgoff/