The edge of the Map – No. 8

What are the rules of fiction writing?  This may surprise you:  There aren’t any.  Oh, there are established conventions for what constitutes a good story, plot beats, character traits, and the like, but when it comes to what you’re ‘allowed’ to write about, no rules apply.  Go way out to the left field fence to find your ideas.  You don’t need to recycle popular tropes.  The major movie studios and publishing houses have staked out that territory, and are doing it better than you can.  No, what readers crave, many without even realizing it, is something original, something they haven’t already read a dozen times under different titles.”

I didn’t write this.  I knew who did at some point, but I found it as you see it here in one of those infamous “miscellaneous” files with no source listed.  It caught my eye sometime in the distant past for its stellar wisdom, and if it’s yours, send me the source material, and I’ll be glad to credit you; this is very deserving!  It captures the purpose of this column beautifully.  The infield is a box of 8,100 square feet, and every inch is known intimately to the players who make their living there.  But the outfields . . .  Every outfield in every park, from the majors to those found at every elementary school, is different and unique, and that is where the best stories lie, the ones that no one has ever told before.

Those are the stories I try to bring you here.  Some are by friends, some are by strangers, and I may not hit the mark every time; I may be fooled by the blurb.  That is, to a large extent, what blurbs are for, and some might be more deceptive than others, but all week, every week, I keep my eye on Facebook, blogs, newsletters and whatnot, in an effort to provide a wide assortment of books and stories of a sort not seen every day.  I hope you’re finding this useful, or at least enjoyable.

Loot!

Before I launch the book roundup this week, anybody who reads me regularly knows that last Sunday was my 70th birthday, and I just couldn’t resist posting a picture of all the cool goodies that were sent my way!

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Steampunk stuff continues to arrive, though I’ve backed off from writing it, and that’s fine; the aesthetic is still beautiful!  You’ll see in the picture an incredible industrial-style lamp with clock, and a walking stick.  The head of the stick pulls up and tilts, and becomes a spyglass.  Very sneaky.  The T-shirt is kind of self-explanatory.  Wifey got me a beautiful ID bracelet laser-etched inside and out, and the two DVD collections are the Jeremy Brett version of Sherlock Holmes, still to my mind the best, and season 1 of Crossing Jordan, a crime drama I enjoyed immensely when it was new, but haven’t been able to get because they used a lot of licensed huge-hit rock songs, and they could never get the bands together to share their copyrights.  I don’t know what happened to change that, but I’m sure glad to have it!  In the area of Tools of the Craft, I got a very elegant lap desk with a part that tilts, a part that stays flat, and a drawer for pens and such.  Knowing I might have a horror gig coming up, they very thoughtfully provided a copy of William F. Nolan’s How to Write Horror Fiction, which should serve to fill in any holes in my skill set nicely.  The little tin holds 125 paper-thin book darts for marking pages, and given the way I keep notes, this may be the most useful item I’ve ever gotten.

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

. . . And then the grandkids showed up, bringing their offering that they all went in on, a very nice utility knife that I can certainly put to good use around here.  You’ll note the red handle, and the skull motif.  You have to look for it, but when you see it, it’s chill-inducing.  Their rationale was that this is very close to the skull logo of the Gears of War series of video games which have long been my favorites.  It also goes hand-in-hand with my new horror persona, so hat-trick to them for functionality and appearance.  It was really impressive to see the amount of nuanced thought they put into this, and I’m proud of them on every level.

Gears

Okay, enough of this crowing.  In the words of my granddaughter, a varsity cheerleader at Monte Vista High School, Let’s get this party started!

LastTimeTraveler

Leading off this week’s lineup (see what I did there?) is The Last Time Traveler by Aaron J. Ethridge.  Robert is a time traveler.  In point of fact, he’s the last time traveler.  He managed to snag that impressive title because when he comes from has no future.  This, as you can imagine, makes it much easier to be the last of any number of things.  The current lack of future is due to the mess all his predecessors, the previous time travelers, made of things.  It’s Robert’s job to repair the damage they did in the hopes that this will jump-start time.  Fortunately he’s assembled the most brilliant team in history to do the job.  At his disposal are the best hackers, mechanics, and doctors who ever lived.  He and his elite band have to do their best to un-steal ancient artifacts, un-kidnap people of importance, and un-sell advanced technologies while doing as little damage to the timelines as possible.  The Last Time Traveler is a rather unique sci-fi romantic comedy.  In fact, it’s more like a comedy romance sci-fi if you put things in the correct order of importance.  The humor is in some ways rather outlandish and draws on pop-culture a good bit.  And all the romance is PG-13.  If you’re even the slightest bit curious read a few sample pages.  By the third or forth page you’ll probably know whether this is your cup of tea or not.  The style stands-out, no question.  So, take a couple of minutes and read a few pages.  You might just love it.  99¢ on Kindle.

CurtainCall

Curtain Call by Ryan Kane.  Four years on from moving away from the dangers of New York and Damien is still drifting through life, with a list of ‘to-dos’ that seemed to get longer with each passing day.  With a drunken father and overly dramatic mother, who is always threatening to leave, he often prefers to snatch some sleep on his friend’s couch rather than putting up with them.  When an old friend, Christa, unexpectedly shows up, bereft at the loss of her friend and co-star in the Broadway show they starred in, Damien is astonished but happy to see her.  But she is far from the confident young girl he remembered.  Other deaths follow, all of them close to Christa, and Damien becomes suspicious.  Is his old friend in danger?  Why are people close to her dying inexplicably?  Damien is determined to find out what’s going on, no matter what the personal cost will be.  Can he get to the bottom of the mystery surrounding Christa or will he succumb to the Curtain Call?  $2.99 on Kindle.

LegendDragonCowboys

Legends of the Dragon Cowboys brings you two weird western adventures by authors David B. Riley and Laura Givens.  Their heroes ride boldly out of the Far East to find their way in a mythic land of danger, romance, and adventure.  In The Venerable Travels of Ling Fung by David B. Riley, a wandering businessman encounters a Mayan god, crooked enterprises and Yeti, the Abominable Snowman, when all he really wants is to open a gun store.  Ling Fung is not any ordinary Chinese entrepreneur – he’s highly skilled in Kung Fu and he can shoot good, too.  While his heart is set on business, providence seems to have other plans for him.  Laura Givens brings wily acrobat Chin Song Ping to the Wild West in search of adventure and fortune.  He finds little fortune, but plenty of adventure.  Chin Song Ping is a scoundrel, a gambler and a trouble magnet.  His heart of gold lands him in schemes to outwit would-be gods, cannibal ghosts, insane robots, Voodoo despots and the ultimate evil – bureaucrats.  But he is a romantic, and the love of his life is the true treasure he seeks.  The odds are always against him but if he survives he will become the Western legend he always was in his own mind. The Wild West just got a lot wilder!  $3.99 on Kindle.

Spineless

Spineless by Amy Langevin.  The cycle of abuse is a tale as old as time, and always unfinished.  That is, until Slade gets hold of his clients’ abusers.  Operating in secrecy, Slade rips out their depravity, numbing abusers’ minds until he quells their aggression.  For years, his clients send only gratitude.  Then a recent client, thirteen-year-old DG, tells Slade that, while his abuser no longer makes his life a living hell, he, DG, is compulsively cutting and torturing himself — and he can’t stop.  Now Slade must invent a new treatment to break the cycle of abuse — one that does not damage the personality in the process.  Spineless tells a story of double lives, human experiments, psychological evolution, and matchless friendships.  Through his own heart, daring, and inventiveness, Slade discovers how to free DG and other self-abusers from the weight of psychological trauma so they can live freely.  But there are others, abusive and depraved, who want to continue their cruelty, hidden, and so must stop Slade, must kill him.  $2.99 on Kindle.

TerrorInTexas

Terror in Texas by C.A. Hoaks.  A biological attack on US soil spreads anarchy and death.  Adding to the confusion, the dead reanimate and attack the living.  Unlikely heroes amid the chaos are a young mother, a disabled veteran, and a hopeless alcoholic.  Who will escape San Antonio to see friends and loved ones again?  Will the infection sweep over the entire nation?  Liz Jameson and her daughters separate while attempting to leave the city.  While trying to find her daughters, Liz is rescued from certain death by Viet Nam Veterans who then volunteer to aid her in her quest.  Struggling to remain sober, Matt Monroe and fellow soldiers, rescue an unusual group of survivors during their trek across the state.  Steve Benton, a double amputee, faces multiple dangers and not all are undead as he attempts to guide his small band of survivors.  It’s a race for safety and not all will survive.  $1.99 on Kindle.

I usually confine this feature to books, but an exception is going to creep in now and again.  I refer, of course, to Richard Schulte, who I mentioned recently had announced that he was going to concentrate more on writing, and less on photography.  Richard’s talent is to tell a simple little story that seems like fluff until you read deeper and realize that there’s so much more going on than first meets the eye.  This week marks the beginning, and he does not disappoint.  You can read A Monument to Remember and Climbing Higher at the links.  Free of charge, and very much worth your while.

FracturedHorizons

Fractured Horizons by T.E. Mark.  In this fast-paced, fanciful tale, a young, English science student, who dreams of changing the world, will indeed be awarded his chance.  But first, he must learn a valuable lesson:  The responsibility of science.  Robert Davie is 17, and would like, more than anything, to follow in the footsteps of his idol; Sir Isaac Newton.  On his way home from school one Friday, Robert will meet a girl with the powers to propel him through time and space with the mission of training him for one very important moment in Earth’s history.  Their adventures from that moment will be meaningful, enlightening, often humorous, and will change Robert and the world forever.  99¢ on Kindle.

NightShift(2)

Releasing tomorrow is Night Shift by B.K. Bass.  In New Angeles, crime is part of the daily business of running the city.  But when a routine murder investigation starts turning up more questions than answers, homicide detective Harold Peterson finds himself unraveling a decades-old conspiracy that leads him to the highest echelons of the mob and the city government.  As various threads start to come together, the big picture is revealed to be more than he ever bargained for.  As bullets start to fly from both directions, the only thing Harold knows for sure is that he isn’t being paid enough to deal with this.  $2.85 on Kindle.

NocturnalMeetings

Nocturnal Meetings of the Misplaced by R.J. Garcia.  Mystery surrounds the town of Summertime, Indiana, where fifteen-year-old Tommy Walker and his little sister are sent to live with relatives they’ve never met.  Tommy soon makes friends with Finn Wilds, a rebellious local who lives with his volatile and abusive stepfather, who also happens to be the town’s sheriff.  Finn invites Tommy to late night meetings in the woods, where Tommy gets to know two girls.  He forms a special and unique connection with both girls.  The meetings become a place where the kids, who don’t fit in at school or home, can finally belong.  As the group of friends begin to unravel clues to a cold case murder and kidnapping, they learn the truth is darker and closer than they ever imagined.  Even if they live to tell, will anyone believe them?  $1.99 on Kindle.

And that’s 30 for this week.  Join me Sunday when I’ll be offering up some fuel for your muse along with an unusual tale that we were a part of just a week ago.  Don’t miss it!

A Pirate Looks at 70

Yes, I am a pirate two hundred years too late.  The cannons don’t thunder, there’s nothin’ to plunder, I’m an over forty victim of fate, arriving too late, arriving too late.”

~ JIMMY BUFFETT, A Pirate Looks at 40

Today is my 70th birthday, one of those big milestones that my daughter likes to make huge; I like huge, heck, I’m looking forward to it.  I don’t feel a bit different than I did when I went to bed last night.  Sure, there are aches and pains, but the mind remains sharp, I still get around pretty well, and I still enjoy the surprises and camaraderie of a big family birthday party.  Preparing this post a few days ahead, I thought I might write my “memoirs” here, a story of how I came to be a writer, and how that writing led to my involvement in a little niche called Steampunk.  Maybe it will recall a similar tale in your own background.

The primary defining condition of my childhood was that there were no men in my family, not even bad ones, to serve as role models.  Both parents had abandoned me by the age of three months, and I was raised by a great-grandmother, a woman whose prime had come in the Late Victorian, and whose parents had owned slaves.  Her daughter, my maternal grandmother, lived with us, and was the primary breadwinner throughout my childhood.  The chief lesson I learned from this was that women were capable human beings who didn’t need to be dependent on men to provide every facet of their lives with meaning.  The chief lesson I didn’t learn, having no men around to teach me, was that women were substandard humans, valuable only for sex and housecleaning, to be used and discarded at a whim.  These lessons have accompanied me through life and into my writing, and anyone interested in dynamic female characters who are interested in more than just finding Mr. Right need look no further.

Great-grandma used to read me the funnies as I followed along upside-down.  I was reading far above my age bracket by the age of three, long before I understood the joke, and to this day I don’t laugh when I’m reading comic strips.  I entered elementary school able to read anything they put in front of me.  In third grade, the school established a little library in a utility room with the books divided by grade level.  I always went straight to the sixth-grade shelves to pick out science books.  One afternoon, I found a new librarian on duty who would only let me choose books from the third-grade shelf.  I refused to take any, telling her I had no interest in reading those children’s books.  She reported me for being insolent; two days later, she apologized, so apparently Mrs. Booth set her straight on my reading level.

Throughout elementary school, teachers were trying to get us to write, with various assignments and free time to wax creative, but nobody convinced me that it was enjoyable until fifth grade, when Ms. Warner in the corner (Room 5 at Sunset View Elementary, perched on the ocean-side slope of Point Loma) would give us prompts, time to write about them, then read our stories without revealing who had written them.  Mine were terrible adventure fantasies about the kids in the neighborhood “Our Gang” going on grand adventures, hunting everything from buried treasure to live dinosaurs, but here’s the thing:  The other kids loved them!  I was hooked.

I wasn’t the greatest high school student, though reading and writing continued to be my top subjects, and I left school after 11th grade to join the navy and see the sea.  Saw the east coast, the west coast (which, honestly, I’d seen before), some Pacific Islands, China, Japan, the Philippines, and a narrow strip of pestilent swampland called Vietnam. Thought I was going to make a career of it, but they very quickly beat that idea out of me.  But anyone who is familiar with military life is familiar with the phrase, “Hurry up and wait,” and I very quickly began to carry a spiral notebook to places where I knew I’d be waiting, and writing, writing, writing.  Sci Fi was a big early item, things in space with evil aliens.  Spies were big (it was the heyday of James Bond and The Man from U.N.C.L.E.), and the love of the written word accompanied me back to civilian life.

Horror was a tangent I explored, specifically, a vampire hunter who may have been a vampire himself, and his eccentric sidekick.  I invented the Combat Technician, a professional redshirt on a starship whose duty was keeping the science team safe on unexplored planets.  An anti-hero of mine was Colleen O’Reilly (star of Chameleon, available in its entirety at the tab above), an IRA bomber who had grown a conscience and now offered her skills as a paladin in defense of the downtrodden.  I tried a police procedural (Broken English), and returned to epic fantasy.  I even wrote an epic poem, along the line of The Iliad, but nothing really stuck, and as I found my true-love and we began our family with surprise twins, the whole concept of free time evaporated like summer rain.

The twins were born in November of ’76, and we had found out the day before that there were two babies, so we couldn’t have been more unprepared had we been characters in a sitcom.  Expendable income joined free time on the altar of child rearing.  So it must have been early ’77, ten years before K.W. Jeter coined the term “steampunk,” that Bonnie and I were in the supermarket denuding their shelves of baby supplies, and I saw a paperback novel with a beautiful cover depicting a sleek airship with a forward-mounted cannon cruising a sky filled with coppery clouds.  I knew I would have loved it, but we couldn’t afford the $1.25 for a paperback back then, and it was left behind.

But the seed had been planted. Steampunk was a thing, and although I had no clue what went into it. I was in love with the imagery.  As well as being a writer, I was also a gamer.  Wargamer, specifically, and while most wargames depicted historical battles from the Romans to the Viet Cong, many were also fictional, depicting both fantasy and sci-fi subjects.  An old friend, who alas, was lost to me through his loud and obnoxious support of our recently elected president, turned me on to a number of these that had steampunk themes, and between those and some reading in the field, I formulated my own ideas of what a good steampunk story should include.

My first attempt was the Beyond the Rails series, and if the reviews, from Writing-dot-com to Goodreads to Amazon and points beyond, are any indication, I delivered a pretty good product.  Four years after the publication of those first stories, I placed Brass & Coal, a steampunk ghost story, in an anthology.  My imagination captured by the supernatural element, I completed Possession of Blood, a dieselpunk horror tale, a few months later, and this is the story I am waiting for word on from a publisher of horror.  I talked last week about really wanting to do a different story, but let me make myself clear:  That publisher is definitely interested in the 1920s serious version, and should they offer a contract for the series, I will become very interested in dieselpunk horror!  It’s a wonderful feeling when a writer finds the place where he’s supposed to be, no matter how he gets there, even if it took him 60 years to find it.

But I think it’s probably better if you find it when you’re younger.  So, how are you doing with that?  Do you know that you’re home, or are you still looking for that genre with the right “feel” to match up with your talents and interests?  If you are, take a look at what you like.  Are you a big Lord of the Rings fan?  Do the Marvel movies float your boat?  Maybe your funny bone is tickled by a well-written rom-com.  Or maybe like me, a surprise encounter with a book cover, a painting, a song, or an old photograph will send a jolt through your creative synapses.  If it does, don’t ignore it!  Seize it, pick at it, dig deep, and find out where it’s coming from.  You may discover your true calling in a field that you never realized existed, and you can take it from one it has happened to, there is no feeling in the world quite like it!

In other news . . .

Some American writers who have known each other for years have never met in the daytime or when both were sober.”

~ JAMES THURBER

But we’ve crossed off that box!  Most of you know that I am in the San Diego area, and each year the city graciously celebrates my birthday by hosting the Gaslight Steampunk Expo, one of the premiere SP conventions on the North American continent.  When I heard that David Lee Summers, author of The Astronomer’s Crypt and a number of other fine works and contributor to the DeadSteam anthology, would be attending, I got in touch and arranged a pre-con meetup.

I don’t have the linguistic skills to express what a great guy, what pleasant company David is.  We went across the road to the Fashion Valley mall and found a nice place to eat in the food court, hearty breakfast food without breaking the bank, and we talked of many things, mostly projects future and past.  We learned about each others’ techniques,  how we got to where we are, and where we’re headed from here.  It was a magnificent couple of hours, and went way too fast.  You can get to know David better on his web page.  The takeaway?  If you ever get a chance to meet someone you’ve liked on-line for a long time, don’t let it slip away!

Other Voices . . .

I have talked at length above about the art of finding your niche, but what happens when you find that niche, and the “juice” dries up, as it will do without regard to your skill level?  Know as a writer that it’s going to happen, and it will be on you to get yourself out of it.  Well, Cristian Mihai, blogging on Irevuo, has taken an in-depth look at writer’s block, and offers a list of excellent techniques for breaking it.  I highly recommend that any writer, new or established, take the time to read this; I only wish it had been available in August of 2017, when my own year-long block began.

Are you one of the jillions of people who got swept up in Ready Player One, the Spielberg blockbuster based on the novel by Ernest Cline?  If so, you won’t want to miss the drilldown by the crew at Nerd Lunch.  When they cover a subject, it is well and truly covered!

And speaking of blogs that exist for no other reason than the simple amount of pure fun that can be extracted from them, be sure to stop by and check out my follower, Tim Nomel, as he and his partner Grace Willow tag-team life in the fabulous work, The Rebel Fish.  I’m not going to describe the wit at work here; just go see for yourself!

Steampunk/Victorian author Phoebe Darqueling has a book launch coming up next February, and would like some opinions on her prospective book blurb.  Anyone who’d like to make their voice heard in the work of a talented writer should pay her a visit right away.

The website and blog of sci-fi author T.E. Mark has recently landed on my radar, and now I’m transmitting it to yours.  Anyone with an interest in the science, lack of science, and ramifications and consequences of time travel will have a delightful romp through the history of literature with this post.  Highly recommended!

Finally, be sure to catch Karen J. Carlisle’s interview with Bryce Raffle, curator and driving force behind the newly published DeadSteam, a dreadpunk anthology containing seventeen stories sure to stand your hair on end just in time for Halloween.

And that’s 30 for this week. Go forth with your eyes opened, and ready to discover your own writing promised land; you never know when it’s going to present itself. You need to be ready.

The Edge of the Map – No. 4

Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends . . . At least not anytime soon! As long as 5,000 books are being published every day, I won’t have trouble finding a few that look interesting. I don’t exclusively promote independent authors, new books, or books of a certain price.  I stated here a couple of months ago that I will not pay more than $2.99 for an e-book, because there is no overhead for them, and no demonstrable inflation, and I have refrained from stating the only reason I can see that an unknown, unproven author would charge the price of a hard-cover for a gang of pixels that you can’t hold in your hand, display on a shelf, or share with a friend. I won’t buy them, but I feature them here all the time, because that isn’t a decision that I try to force on you; if you’re comfortable paying $11.99 for an e-book, by all means, do so!

As to new books, I try to keep this column exclusive to books that are new to me. A book might be five years old, but if it’s the first time I’ve seen it and it piques my interest, I’ll pass it along. If you’re one of my cherished regulars here, you’ve already seen me giving extra “air time” to the projects of my friends, though I will say that that’s mostly over on Sunday’s list of blogs, and I do it when said friends have material that seems very much worth reading.

Probably the most controversial of my decisions is my focus on indies and small press publications. I do not exclusively promote independent authors, but I favor them. I believe they have far more innovative ideas than those writers who dance to the tune of the Big Houses, and perhaps more importantly, they have the complete creative freedom to present them any way they want. The downside is that many of them can’t write, and have no business asking money for their work when they lack the ability to write a coherent grocery list, but that shouldn’t be a deal-breaker. We all buy products almost every day that don’t do what they claim. Do we then say, “I’m never using toothpaste [or whatever] again!” Of course not. We become smarter consumers, and that is easy to do using amazon’s Look Inside, and similar features on other platforms; you don’t need much more than a paragraph to spot a terrible writer.

Allow me to ‘fess up right now and admit that some of my prejudice against the Big Houses can be attributed to sour grapes. I tried to find a publisher through the 90s and early 2000s with no success at all, barely so much as a nibble, but that isn’t completely why I turn away from them now. There are certainly innovative authors published by the Big Houses, but they are few and far between. Said Big Houses are terrified that they might publish something that won’t rake in trainloads of money, so their tendency is to go with things that have already proven themselves in the market. This is why you can find clone after clone of Twilight, Lord of the Rings, Fifty Shades, and an uncountable number of zombie “thrillers,” but you’ll never find anything in their catalogues to compare with a Viola Stewart mystery, An Unsubstantiated Chamber, or The Astronomer’s Crypt. My hope is that, whether you’re author or reader, you’ll find this material helpful on your chosen path. If you have any thoughts on this particular feature of the blog, any suggestions, I’d love to hear them; this particular column is all for you. Join me Sunday, when I’ll be engaging in an in-depth look at the points I’ve hinted at here.

~~~

CastlingKing

Castling the King by Martin Archer. Arrows fly, swords clash, nobles and churchmen are gulled out of their coins, and the French and Venetians are successfully blamed for things they did not do. Castling the King: The Sea Warriors is another exciting book in the action-packed saga of Cornwall’s Company of Archers at the dawn of Britain’s military supremacy and the beginning of its great merchant companies. It is an enjoyable and often witty read that sticks pins into the Church and nobility along the way. $3.95 on Kindle.

RememberLastSummer

Remember Last Summer by David Heilwagen. How would you spend the last summer of your life? Still reeling from a bitter divorce, Kristen Carrington is just starting to move forward with her life when she is diagnosed with an incurable form of heart disease. Her outlook is bleak. Unless she receives a heart transplant very soon, the doctors say she will be dead within the year. But Kristen’s a survivor, and has never been one to sit around and bathe in self-pity. Against her doctor’s advice, and with summer vacation fast approaching, she packs- up her two teenage daughters, Alison and Emily. They drive to an old family beach house on the shores of Lake Michigan, in the tiny tourist hamlet of Sunset Cove. Recently feeling the emotional detachment that all mothers of teenagers experience at one time or another, it’s here where Kristen hopes to reconnect with her girls while building memories that will linger long after she is gone. But even the best laid plans are oftentimes peppered with glitches, and things turn rocky as soon as they arrive in Sunset Cove. Neglected for years, the beach house is in a ramshackle state of disrepair. The paint is peeling, and the shutters are hanging precariously off the windows. To make things worse, there is no cable TV, no internet, and only sporadic cell service. Wondering how they will survive without modern conveniences, Alison and Emily want to turn around and head back home. For a short time, even Kristen wonders if coming here was a mistake. Still, she remains strong to her beliefs, and they settle-in for what promises to be a long three months. And there, over one unforgettable summer, Kristen and her girls embark on an emotional journey that will raise them to the heights of love, forgiveness, and self-discovery, as well as plunging them into the depths of heartache and despair. Working together, they eventually reconnect as a family, and Kristen learns to love again. $2.99 on Kindle.

CrookedTrail

Magdalena Gottschalk: The Crooked Trail by M. Gail Grant. Lily Brooke, where small town charm and a hidden secret converge one fateful late autumn night. The demons of the past are determined to never be locked away again. MALB, the Mystical Alliance of Lily Brooke, consists of six childhood friends that are bound together in loyalty, friendship, and courage. Together, they all face the unleashed enchantments that are haunting the children after their discovery of the forbidden sacrificial cave, crooked trail, and mysterious treehouse. Magdalena has always known she is different from the others, but the cause has always escaped her, until now. Coming to grips with her soul purpose, she must gather courage she never knew she possessed to save her friends and family from the evil forces hiding amongst them. Magdalena Gottschalk: The Crooked Trail, is a middle-grades to young adult epic fantasy fiction novel that explores faith, unity, differences, belief in a higher power, magic, and teamwork. It will leave you sitting on the edge of your seat, begging to turn the page, while written for audiences of all ages. With a touch of southern charm and tradition, this novel takes you on a journey not for the faint of heart. Witches, wizards, demons, black magic, and soul searching all have their place in the quaint little town of Lily Brooke. Free on Kindle [reg $2.99].

FortunesSon

Fortune’s Son by Jennifer Scoullar. Heads you win. Tails you die … Can one man’s revenge become his redemption? Young Luke Tyler has everything going for him: brains, looks and a larrikin charm that turns heads. The future appears bright, until he defends his sister from the powerful Sir Henry Abbott. His reward is fifteen years hard labor on a prison farm in Tasmania’s remote highlands. Luke escapes, finding sanctuary with a local philanthropist, Daniel Campbell, and starting a forbidden love affair with Daniel’s daughter, Belle. But when Luke is betrayed, he must flee or be hanged. With all seeming lost, Luke sails to South Africa to start afresh. Yet he remains haunted by the past, and by Belle, the woman he can’t forget. When he returns to seek revenge and reclaim his life, his actions will have shattering consequences – for the innocent as well as the guilty. Set against a backdrop of wild Tasmania, Australian Gold and African diamonds, Fortune’s Son is an epic story of betrayal, undying love and one man’s struggle to triumph over adversity and find his way home. 99¢ on Kindle.

RiseFromEmbers

Rise From the Embers by Stacey Marie Brown. The King has fallen! While Stavros moves to take over Lars’s throne, the war for the entire kingdom begins. However, this is no ordinary war against Seelie or Unseelie. The real enemy is the most powerful object in the world. The Stone of Fail. Lars isn’t the only one the stone wants. Zoey Daniels is next on its list. And the stone will do whatever it takes to finally get the girl. With a battle on all sides and lives of those they love threatened fae, humans, Druids, pixies, and a certain sprite-monkey will have to come together to save the true King, along with the world, from destruction. Out of ashes, true heroes Rise from the Embers. Don’t miss the FINAL installment of the Dark/Light/Collector Series, where your favorite characters unite to try and protect those they love, and the earth from the ultimate opponent. Ember, Zoey, Kennedy, and Fionna lead the fight, but be prepared … Not everyone will make it out alive. $3.99 on Kindle.

NoHigherGround

No Higher Ground by Roman Godzich. Sam Czerny’s career as a xenobiologist was relegated to studying strange life forms deep in the oceans. Then a Chinese mining facility discovers an unusual artifact on the far side of the moon. A device which could change the way humanity sees itself and its place in the galaxy. Sam finds himself on the project of his dreams only to get caught up in a sudden war between the US and China. A war that prevents the two governments from noticing an even more dangerous arrival. $3.99 on Kindle.

CageLife

Cage Life by Miles Watson. It’s the punch you don’t see coming that drops you. Any fighter can tell you that. And Mickey Watts isn’t just any fighter; he’s one of the best in mixed martial arts, a top contender who seems to have it all: looks, brains and a rich girlfriend who’s crazy about him. The fact his family is mobbed-up to its Irish-Italian eyebrows has never been a problem … until Mick throws one punch too many and finds that some debts can only be paid in blood. 99¢ on Kindle.

AngelFallen

An Angel Fallen by Andy Graham. You’re eighteen. Bored. Dad’s away a lot. Says it’s business, but you’ve seen the lipstick stains. Mum’s home. Too much. Keeping the world gin market afloat on her own. There’s Ariel, the family maid. She’s cool. The one piece of this messed up world that makes sense. And then there’s Raph. Raph’s the leader of your gang of two. He gets off on doing those things to the animals you both catch: the slicing, crushing, and maiming. Buried a few alive, too. His relationship with that hammer of his is sick. You run with Raph because, well, nothing else to do out here, right? Except if your folks found out what you’ve been up to, there’d be hell. Then you find it. Whatever it is. It can’t be what you think it is. Those things don’t exist. But it’s staring at you. Asking for help. Is it dying? Can these things die? You need to do something for it. Raph wants to do something to it. Time to choose. Do you run with the human devil you know, or take a chance on this thing that fell from the heavens? An Angel Fallen is a supernatural horror novella of divine retribution from British author Andy Graham. On a day when the world is struggling to stay sane, and is being ravaged by biblical plagues, what price will two teenagers pay for their past? $2.99 on Kindle. Another fine recommendation from C.W. Hawes.

GoldEnvelopes

Gold Envelopes & Murder by Harper Harris. A dead Best Man. A high profile crime. And a murder charge against the wedding planner. Things never seem to go right in Buckingham Downs, a quaint coastal resort town in California, where when the rich get married, it’s a billion-dollar business. Things certainly aren’t going right for Valerie Masters, her clingy Yorkie, Buttons, and her wedding planning business. It’s a new wedding and a new batch of clients: a meek bride, a reluctant groom, a controlling mother of the bride, a young step-father, and a whole bunch of secrets. But before anyone can walk down the aisle, Val is accused of murder. Murder of a man she only met once and barely talked to. The police are throwing crazy theories at Val, trying to get her to confess. Her only hope is her best friend Sebastian’s rich uncle, Wellington Brown, a famous hot shot L.A. lawyer. With so many accusations against her, Val has to find the real murderer before she ends up in jail. But her options are limited, and the detective whom she hoped would always be at her side seems ready to betray her as well. With possible corruption in the air and the media convinced she’s guilty, Val feels like the verdict is decided before she can even get into the court room. With the bride and groom on her side, can Val investigate a murder and pull off a high-profile wedding at the same time? Will the bride make it down the aisle before Val lands in jail for good? Or will Val’s wedding planning days be as brief as her chance at freedom? Gold Envelopes & Murder is a full length cozy mystery novel. It is Book 2 in the Val Masters Wedding Planner series, which can be read in any order and are best enjoyed together. $3.99 on Kindle.

Knowing

The Knowing by Cherie Mitchell. Several generations of women with an extraordinary gift. A tumultuous period in America’s history that honored the brave and the foolhardy. And an intricate tale of everlasting love that spans the fragile bridge between life and death. Independence, Missouri, 1853: Mary and Norton Beecroft share a love like no other. They have endured their share of heartache and tragedy but a new life now awaits them in the promised land of California. Along with their young daughter Lucy and their twin sons, Mary and Norton plan to leave Independence, Missouri with a wagon train bound for a state so wondrous it has been referred to as the golden future of the rapidly growing country of America. However, the Beecroft family are a little different from most. With a history on his wife’s side stretching back many generations to the gypsies of Europe and an undoubted (but little understood) gift shared by the women in the family since time immemorial, Norton has his work cut out trying to understand his womenfolk. Join the folks of the wagon train as this little community makes it slow way across the great plains to a new future. Share their joys and triumphs, heartbreaks and hopes, and lose yourself in a more simple and adventurous world than the one we know today. The Knowing – the first full-size novel in the series, preceded by Mary Ellen (a novelette) and followed by Cutter’s Mill. A series to captivate you, engage you, and have you questioning all that you thought you knew. $5.99 on Kindle.

And that’s 30 for this week’s offerings. That should be enough to get you through the weekend, and remember to be back here Sunday morning, when I’ll be discussing my reason for creating this particular feature. Don’t miss it if you can, and always read well, and write better!