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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.

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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:

wg1.jpg

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.

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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:

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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/

The Hunting Dog by Rita Monette – Part 2

Find Part 1 here! Or find Rita Monette’s Nikki Landry Swamp Legends books here!

Me and Lydia sat in her tree house and talked about her cat and my dog until I heard Papa driving up the gravel road. I ran to meet him as fast as I could. I took a quick gander into the back of his truck, then followed him inside where mama had lunch on the table. I had some more begging to do.

“I’m heading back to old man Lowry’s first thing in the morning,” Papa said before I could even open my mouth.

“Ain’t that the man you got the dog from?” Mama asked as she set a glass of milk in front of me.

“That old coot sold me a bum dog,” he said.

“A bum dog?” I asked. “What does that mean?”

“Took him out this morning and all he did was lay on the ground,” he said. “Woods full of rabbits and coons, and he just laid there.”

“Maybe he didn’t feel like hunting today,” I said.

“Dog’s no good I tell you.” Papa took a big bite of fried chicken, then continued to talk with his mouth full. “He’s going back tomorrow.”

“No!” I jumped and ran outside and to the cage in the back of Papa’s truck.

Snooper sat crouched in the crate.

I opened the door and reached inside.

The brown and black and white dog licked my hand. Then he scooted toward me and stuck his cold nose to my face.

I giggled. “You’re not a bum dog,” I said. “You’re a good dog. And I’m keeping you.” I put my arms around him and carried him up the pier and to the deck.

“Nikki,” Mama shouted as she opened the screen door to meet me. “Where are you going with that dog?”

“I’m keeping him,” I said.

Papa jumped up and stood next to Mama. “No you’re not. I’m getting my money back for that no-count dog.” He stepped outside, took Snooper from me, then carried him back to the truck.

I ran up behind him and stuck out my lower lip. “His name is Snooper and he ain’t no-count.”

Papa glanced at me, and his wrinkled forehead smoothed out a bit. He chuckled, then his frown came back. “Tadpole, you can’t have the dog and that’s final.” He grabbed my hand and led me back to the house and the table.

I flopped down into the chair, but I wasn’t hungry. I looked sideways at Mama. “What if Mama says I can?”

Papa kept eating.

Mama kept eating too.

I glanced from one to the other for a sign of caving in.

“You can’t have a critter in the house,” she said without looking up. “With the baby on the way and all.”

I blinked. “What baby?”

Papa stopped eating. “A baby?”

“Yes, we should have it by Fall.”

“Is it a boy or a girl?” I asked.

Mama laughed. “We don’t know yet.”

“I hope it’s a girl,” I said. “But why can’t we have a dog and a baby too?”

“This place is too small,” Mama said. “If you do keep him he’ll have to stay outside.”

“I can keep him!” I jumped up and ran for the door.

I didn’t say you could keep him!” Papa yelled at my back as the screen door slammed behind me.

“That girl,” I heard Papa say.

“She’s of your making,” Mama said.

I carried Snooper to the door and put my nose against the screen. “Can he stay inside until Papa builds him a bigger pen? That cage is way too small.”

“Good grief, Nikki,” Mama said. “You sure are persistent.”

“I am not,” I said. “I took a bath yesterday.”

Papa laughed out loud. “Hard headed, Nikki. Your mama means you are hard headed.”

“Well can he or not?” I asked.

Mama put her head into her hands. “Just until Papa builds him a pen. And only until then. He has to be out by the time the baby comes.”

I opened the door and set Snooper down on the floor. “You’ll be sleeping in my room, Snoop.” I looked up at Papa and Mama. “For awhile anyway.”

I reached into my plate and grabbed a piece of food and handed it to him. He gobbled it up real fast. He must have been starved.

“And no feeding him from the table,” Papa said. “There’s some dog food out in the truck.”

“And you are responsible for any mess he makes, young lady,” Mama said.

“Yes ma’am!” I sat on the floor and put my arms around my new dog. “You won’t even know he’s around.”

That was four years ago.

My baby brother, Jesse, was born in November, and Snooper still sleeps with me. Unless he’s sleeping on the floor, or the deck, or the grass. He just likes to sleep…when he’s not helping me solve legends that is.

 

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Rita Monette was born and raised in Southwest Louisiana. She loves to write stories set in the beautiful, yet mysterious, bayous and swamps of her home state. She is currently retired and lives with her husband, four lap dogs, and one lap cat, in the mountains of Tennessee. Besides writing and illustrating, She enjoys participating in festivals and craft shows where she does face and body art, along with selling her books.

How I sell books (Part 2) – A guest post by David McLain

Now that I’ve scared off half the readers talking about what hasn’t worked, let’s talk about what has. (See Part 1 here.)

So far nothing I’ve said has anything to do with you as a writer. I don’t know you, but if you are reading this, you’ve made it as far as finding my publisher’s blog. That’s a good thing- It means that you’ve probably figured out that self-publishing is, well, a crappy idea. Good for you. So, skipping ahead a moment, I can tell you that roughly 20 weekends a year I can be found sitting at either a booth or a table at either an art show, a steampunk convention, or a comic con, with copies of my last two books, in paperback and hardcover. This is the long, slow grind of indie book sales. People who come over to look at my book nearly always pick up the hardcover copy, admire it, and then buy the softcover, if anything. This is actually by design.

When you are working a show, you need to be able to explain your book in a sentence or two. This is called the strap line. It’s preferable if the strap line makes for a pretty good bit of dialogue, and I think it’s usually best if you keep the number buzzwords to a minimum.

Guy dressed as the tenth doctor: What’s this?

Me: That’s my book, The Traveller’s Resort and Museum.

10 Doc Guy: What’s it about?

Me: It’s the story of a Time Traveller who falls in love with three men- one from the present, one from the past, and one from the future. She misjudges them all.

I feel this compares pretty well with the line the guy at the next booth over was giving people: Okay, so strong female protagonist. Epic fantasy. Some steampunk. It’s a hero’s quest. The dwarves have lost the jewel of…. or something. I don’t remember. I don’t know how the book was written, but the pitch was surprisingly devoid of complete sentences.

coverimagettrmAt this point I have an advantage in that my book is surprisingly beautiful. It as a beautiful painting of a woman with red hair drinking tea and holding a pet triceratops on a leash on the cover. It has two dozen black and white pictures in it, and every chapter begins with a font indicating the location the chapter is set in- so if the chapter is set in the Stone Age the first two words look like carved stone. (By the way, people don’t judge books by their covers. But they do judge book covers by the pictures on them, and when they first pick up the book, all they have is the picture and the title.)

Now, if you ever been to one of these shows, you might have seen someone doing this. Most of them are going it alone, and have basically opened the one author book store. This is a good way to distribute your books to the public and attract a little attention for your work. It’s also financial suicide. So, to make this work, you’re going to need to have something else to sell along with your books. I don’t know what that is, you need to figure that out yourself. If you’re at my booth, you’re usually more likely to buy one of my wife’s embroidered bags with steampunk animals on them than my book. This is OK. The bags are the reason my wife doesn’t have another job, and that I can keep doing this. They’ve made the whole thing sustainable. Sustainability, and a good quality book is the reason I am still signing copies of my second book five years after it came out.

So, someone is holding a book of mine, they’ve looked at my beautiful cover, and they’ve heard my pitch. Maybe they’ve read the back of the book. (This is good. The back of my book is pretty funny.)

They now get that idea in their head- I can get this signed by the author. I think a lot of people picture themselves on the antiques roadshow. “I bought this copy of The Time Traveller’s Resort and Museum from David McLain in 2017 at the East Aurora Barn Art Festival, and I got both him and his wife to sign it. She did the cover.”

And then they buy it! Although I must admit, they don’t usually buy it in huge quantities. I don’t care though. My book gets out there, little by little, and I get to go to shows, and sign copies of my book, and do readings, and sometimes, just sometimes, meet a fan. A real genuine honest to goodness fan, who thinks my work is awesome and wants to read more. Not only that, but over time, the money adds up. Sales of my books are already over 7000.00 gross in the last five years. Maybe that doesn’t sound like a lot to you, but would you turn it down if someone handed it to you? I thought not. I wouldn’t either.

When I go to shows, I frequently ask other writers about the best line from their work, their ‘To be or not to be’ if you will. You know what the most common answer is? ‘I don’t know.’ Think about that. ‘I don’t know.’ I would suggest that means something- that we’re all making this up as we go. Writing isn’t easy. Even Shakespeare quit and became a landlord. Keep at it, and good luck.

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David McLain studied writing at the University of Massachusetts. He is the author of the two novels: Dragonbait, and The Life of a Thief. His stories have been published in the anthologies Metastasis, Penny Dread II, and the upcoming Doctor Who Anthology Time Shadows, as well as over two dozen magazines, including Harvard’s Dudley Review. He has been featured on NPR’s Off the Page and the History of England podcast. He lives in New York.

The Hunting Dog by Rita Monette – Part 1 of 2

Did you enjoy The Arranged Marriage by Justine Alley Dowsett? If you missed it, you can find that seven part Fantasy/Romance short story here.  This time, we’ve got a short story by Rita Monette and its a prequel to her fabulous middle grade mystery/adventure series the Nikki Landry Swamp Legends! You can find the series here. Without further ado:

“Got me a fine hunting dog,” Papa announced as he burst through the screen door, letting it slam behind him. We lived in a houseboat that sat in a small bayou in Pierre Part, Louisiana, on account of Papa being a fisherman and needing to move around a lot.

“What kind of dog?” Mama said as she stirred the iron pot on the kerosene stove.

“A beagle. He’s a young one, but Mr. Lowry said he’s from a good blood line and already trained.”

It was 1952, and I was only six at the time, but the word dog caught in my ears like a catfish on a hook. Nothing else he said mattered, especially the part about it being a hunting dog.

“Where is he?” I shouted as I ran to meet him.

“Slow down Tadpole.” He kicked off his boots and  picked up his cup of coffee mama had set on the kitchen table.

Papa had called me Tadpole every since I could remember, but Mama called me by my rightful name, which was Nikki…Nikki Landry to be exact.

“He’s in a cage.  You can’t let a good hunter like that run loose. He’s liable to get a hint of a rabbit and take right on off.”

“I want to see him.” I jumped up and down.  “Is it a boy dog or a girl?”

“It’s a he,” Papa said then took a sip of his steaming drink.

I ran out the door and crawled into the rusty bed of Papa’s old pick-up truck, where a small crate sat.

The dog put his nose to the wire cage and whined. I opened the little door, and he scooted to the back of the pen. I dragged him through the opening and squeezed him against me.

“You are the prettiest dog I ever did see,” I told him, while passing my hand over the big bump on his head.

He stuck his nose up to my shirt and sniffed, then he put his nose in the  pocket of my worn overalls and sniffed again.

I giggled. “I don’t have any snacks in there, fella, but you sure are a snoop. I think I’ll name you Snooper. Do you like that name?” I hugged him tight one more time. He didn’t seem to mind it at all.

“Nikki, don’t mess with the dog,” Papa yelled from the doorway.

“I ain’t messing with him Papa, I’m just lovin’ on him.”

“You don’t love on a hunting dog. He has to stay disciplined. He’s been trained to track and hunt.”

“Can he stay in my room?” I asked. “He doesn’t like it in the cage.”

Papa walked over to the truck, took the dog from me,  and put him back into his crate. “I’m going to build him a bigger cage tomorrow, and no, you can’t keep him inside. Your Mama’d be fit to be tied.” He lifted me out of the back and plopped me on the ground.

My face twisted up into a pout, and I folded my arms across my chest.  Then I stomped one bare foot on the hard clay.

Papa turned and walked away, shaking his head.

Hmph. That always worked before to get what I wanted. Papa seemed more interested in having a hunting dog than anything I wanted. I chased behind him toward the dock and followed him inside.

“I’m taking him out first thing in the morning to see what he can do,” Papa said as we sat down to a supper of gumbo and rice and potato salad.

“Can I go?” I asked.

“No, you can’t go hunting,” Mama said. “You’re not old enough.”

“I am too,” I blubbered to myself.  “I even have my own gun.”

Papa had gotten me a BB gun for Christmas last year, but he said I couldn’t use it until I was six.

Now I’m six and he hasn’t taken me hunting yet, I think. It’s all Mama’s fault. She says Papa is trying to make me into a tomboy ’cause he wanted a boy when I was born. But I reckon girls can hunt and fish just as good as boys can.

After supper, I went to my room and took out my drawing book and drew pictures of Snooper and me chasing a rabbit through the woods.

            The next morning, after breakfast, I watched from the deck while Papa drove off with Snooper in the cage bouncing around in the back of his truck. I stood there watching until he was out of sight, then ran back into the house.

“Mama, Can I go play with Lydia? I want to tell her ’bout my new dog.”

Lydia was my best friend in the whole wide world. She lived in a regular house down the road apiece. She was in my first grade class and didn’t even make fun of me for not wearing dresses like the other girls. Her daddy built her a tree house in their yard, and that’s where we shared all our secrets and kept our treasures.

            “Don’t be getting attached to that dog, Nikki,” Mama said as she cleaned up the breakfast dishes. “You can’t make a pet out of a hunting dog.”

I put my hands on my hips. “I am already attached to him.”

Mama smiled and shook her head. “Go play with Lydia.”

Rita Monette was born and raised in Southwest Louisiana. She loves to write stories set in the beautiful, yet mysterious, bayous and swamps of her home state. She is currently retired and lives with her husband, four lap dogs, and one lap cat, in the mountains of Tennessee. Besides writing and illustrating, She enjoys participating in festivals and craft shows where she does face and body art, along with selling her books.

How I sell books (Part 1) – A Guest Post by David McLain

coverimagettrm(Spoiler: It doesn’t involve the internet much)

Hello, for those of you who don’t know me, I’m David McLain. I’m the author of, among other things, the Time Traveller’s Resort and Museum, available from Mirror World. I made enough money last year off of the sale of books to make maybe two payments on the mortgage on my house, not that we necessarily spent the money that way. I’ll let you make of that what you will. Usually, when I go out with other writers, someone scoffs at- frequently in spite of the fact that they’ve never published anything in their entire lives. All the books that I’ve ever written will never compare to all the books in their head just waiting to come out, someday.

As an independent writer who has never landed a book with a major publisher, I can’t tell you how to become a bestselling author. Nobody can. There are a few unpleasant but obvious truths I’m going to have to mention here, and the first one is that if you met JK Rowling, and asked her how to become a famous author, the most honest answer she could give would be ‘I don’t know.’  People like that are just lucky, and luck is considerably more difficult to predict than lightning strikes. Having that kind of luck should not be your goal in life, no matter you are trying to achieve.  What I can tell you how to do is how to make two mortgage payments a year with book money. You can decide for yourself if that’s worth it. What say next may be a little more surprising- it doesn’t involve the internet very much.

I’ve been a writer for a long time now, and I’ve seen people do a lot of strange things in the interest of self-promotion. Once, many years ago, I was part of an online writing group where a young man created an account under a fake name so that he could review his own story. His glowing review of his own work was enough to project him onto the board’s list of the best reviewed stories of the month. (It wasn’t a very big board.) he then logged in under the fake name and congratulated himself for getting such a good review, and then logged out again, logged back in as himself, and congratulated himself for thanking himself. I googled his name shortly thereafter. I found a list he written of ‘The Top Ten People to Watch in 2005.’ It was a list of nine celebrities and himself.

The young man was suffering, I believe, from two of the more popular delusions among writers. The first, and most common, is the mistaken notion that the place your book occupies in the world will be similar to the very, very large space it occupies in your head. The second, and only slightly less common mistake is the idea that internet traffic will somehow reach a critical mass that will end up with the author achieving best seller status. Now, it’s possible you might be doing something, anything that might generate a lot of interest in you as a person, meaning people want to buy a book from you. However, and I take no pleasure pointing this out, to the best of my knowledge no novel has ever gone viral on the internet, ever. The closet anyone has ever come was when three unpublished stories by JD Salinger came out a few years ago. That was JD Salinger, someone who originally got very, very lucky, and even then, calling it viral is kind of a stretch. Over the years, I’ve tried a lot of things to generate sales online- I’ve guest hosted a podcast called the history of England several times, I had my friend Jeff Mach promote my book on the Steampunk World’s Fair Page, which gets thousands of visitors. I have a Facebook group for fans, a Goodreads page, an author page on Amazon, and a blog. My biggest online success was the time I got a like and a follow from the actress Carrie Fisher on Twitter right before she died. This involved no sales but I did get to strut around my regular job all day like I owned the place. In short, I’ve tried probably everything you’re probably thinking of doing to create an online presence, and by and large it hasn’t worked, at least so far. This generally has to do with the internet’s inverse relationship between interest and effort, as demonstrated in the following graph:

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David McLain studied writing at the University of Massachusetts. He is the author of: The Time Traveller’s Resort and Museum, Dragonbait, and The Life of a Thief. His stories have been published in the anthologies Metastasis, Penny Dread II, and the upcoming Doctor Who Anthology Time Shadows, as well as over two dozen magazines, including Harvard’s Dudley Review. He has been featured on NPR’s Off the Page and the History of England podcast. He lives in New York.

To be continued… Subscribe or check back next week for Part 2 of this guest post!!!