Monday, January 30, 2023

Sight Beyond the Sun by Melody Johnson #SciFiRomance

 


Sight Beyond the Sun
Love Beyond
Book Two
Melody Johnson

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

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

Book Description:

A prison break. 

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

An undercover mission. 

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

An unlikely alliance. 

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


Excerpt:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Please, just cooperate.

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

“What’s your name?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“No.”

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

“I have no friends.”

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

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

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

“A pleasure to meet you, Raveno Hoviir.”

He was certain it wasn’t.



About the Author: 

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

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

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

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



 

 






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Titanian Warrior by Victoria Saccenti



Titanian Warrior
Titanian Chronicles 
Book Three
Victoria Saccenti

Genre: PNR/Fantasy Romance
Publisher: Essence Publishing
Date of Publication: January 31, 2023
ISBN: 9798987432211   
ASIN: B0BNZFHM28
Number of pages: app 245
Word Count: 82825
Cover Artist: Scott Carpenter

Tagline: One woman holds the key to his destiny—and his people’s salvation.

Book Description: 

Hagen drags himself to the gates of Hell, body and soul shredded by the bloodlust that consumes all the unmated of his kind. Awaiting the painful atonement that will buy him ten more years to find his eternal mate—or face oblivion. But Hades himself kicks him out with the bloodlust still prowling, unsatisfied, in his veins. 

Bargained away by her parents to Master O, a mysterious, cruel wizard, Faiza serves in his household, keeping her small magic a secret, plagued by wild, confusing visions of a strange, suffering man. Then the master brings home a wounded Titanian warrior whose touch sends ice, fire, and desire racing through her body. 

When she learns Master O plans to use Hagen as a weapon to conquer all races, she devises a desperate plan to free him—a plan that opens a portal to a world she’s never known. And a destiny entwined with danger that could destroy them all.

Amazon      iBooks      Nook     Kobo      Smashwords     Books2Read

Excerpt:

Shivalik Hills, Nepal

The towering pair of boulders stood as gatekeepers and markers of the way. A steep path snaked between them until farther down the hill, the road disappeared in thick fog. Leaning on the closest rock, Hagen steadied himself to catch his breath, then pushed on.

Bloodlust crippled his Titanian vision. Still, he stumbled, rolled, and crawled over jagged rocks and gnarled roots with single-minded determination to reach his appointed meeting place, the cavern at the base of the Shivaliks, and the sole entrance to Hades’s domain on the earthly plane. A perverse satisfaction filled him each time he scraped and sliced his exposed skin, as this was only a precursor to the punishment he deserved. If he could shred his flesh to strips in anticipation as he had done with his clothes, so much the better.

Hagen advanced through the haze, seeking the deity’s promised signal. Images of his frenzy during the last skirmish prodded him. He strained past gore-filled images, and the effort paid off. There, deep within the haze, a faint red light marked the spot. Alecto had not forgotten. A hitched breath escaped his lungs as he stood and trod on a more secure step.

As the haze dissipated, the cavern’s hungry mouth gaped before him. Healing and deliverance acquired through pain would soon be his. As he inched closer to the wavering light, he removed the last remaining strips of clothing. The offering had to be bare and unadulterated. Nothing but skin would satisfy the Fury, purify his spirit, and postpone the horror of termination for another ten years—a mere blip in the lifespan of a Titanian. And yet, a decade offered hope and an opportunity to continue his search for true salvation: his eternal mate.

His brother Soren had been at the edge of obliteration when the universe revealed Maya’s symbol in his scrolls. He’d been given a Simurgh, no less, the most powerful of all phoenix mates. Soren’s joy and deliverance had pleased Hagen without reservation or a covetous thought. His brother had earned such a high reward.

But what about him? Was he unworthy of an eternal mate, of love, and companionship? He’d only wished for a small slice of heaven. His cousin Roald had found eternal happiness with Ginny. Staring at an endless existence of service and loneliness was a frightening prospect for a Titanian of any rank.

Hagen could never be the brilliant fighter Soren was, and had, on occasion, not followed every command to the letter. Nevertheless, he’d proven his mettle and unwavering loyalty to the Titanian cause in and out of combat. Many a night, he’d promised to change his unorthodox ways and toe the line, if only the universe would grant him a phoenix mate.

Alas no, he’d been denied time and again. After witnessing from the sidelines the mating ceremony and resulting Titanian bliss, frustration burned a hole in his chest. Before the emotion turned to bitterness, he’d escaped to his old daemon hunting grounds in Asia.

On his flight back, he realized that his cherished airplane and state-of-the-art electronic gadgets no longer satisfied or entertained him. Even that last bit of gratification had been taken from him. Because seeing happiness unfold for Soren and Roald had displayed in real time what mattered: the completion a mate brought to a Titanian’s soul. The beaming couples had stepped up onto a new plane of existence. After witnessing their ascendance, no fancy equipment could ever fulfill him.

The hole in his chest turned black and cold.

Blood hunger, the deadly lust, awoke.

Visions tortured him. Rage drove him to living nightmares. He searched for minion hideouts and sought conflict at every turn. In the heat of these encounters, bloodlust blinded him to allies and friends who’d trusted him with their lives. Asian black bear and clouded leopard shifters had perished under his hands. While his bewildered, dying friends pleaded for their lives, he’d only seen minions. The red haze controlled him, and he’d indulged the insatiable hunger to spill all blood.

The last clash had been the worst. Standing on a promontory, Hagen viewed an endless battlefield stained with red blood, green ooze, and mutilated remains. And as the mental fog cleared, horror captured his soul and he fell on his knees, begging the universe for help.
The chthonic deity, the implacable Alecto, heard and replied in his mind.

“Await my arrival at the place of atonement.”

Explanations had not been necessary. Hagen’s Titanian spirit, same as every supernatural in the earthly plane, knew the location of the terrible gate. In eras past, he’d avoided going near it. Now, stripped to his natural state, defeated and humbled, he entered the darkness with a bowed head and an anxious demeanor.

To his right, four stonelike posts, spread in a rectangular formation, jutted out of the rock wall. Hagen studied them, unsure of what to do.

“Step in. Face out and clasp the posts. Place your ankles outside each one,” the Fury instructed.

“Receive and accept the pain, Titanian. Do not flinch or resist. Show your contrition. Only then will the universe accept your offering.”





About the Author:

Award-winning, multi-genre author Victoria Saccenti writes romantic women’s fiction, contemporary romance, and paranormal romance. Not one for heart and flower stories, she explores the edgy twists and turns of human interaction, the many facets of love, and all possible happy endings.  After thirty years of traveling the world, she’s settled in Central Florida. She splits her busy schedule between family and her active muse at Essence Publishing. However, if she could convince her husband to sell their home, she would pack up her computer and move to Scotland, a land she adores. On a side note, in one form or another, Scotland appears in most of her stories.












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10 Tips for Becoming a Better Writer with Maria DeVivo



10 Tips for Becoming a Better Writer

***Full disclosure: I am in no way, shape, or form the authority on good writing. I’m just someone who’s been around the block a few times and have learned from the many mistakes I’ve made. If one person benefits from what I’m about to say, then I know I did my job!

Writing is hard. While anyone can have a brilliant idea with a great storyline and a cast of amazing characters, putting idea to paper is not easy. Just because a person wants to write about what’s in their head doesn’t mean they should. And sometimes people with massive amounts of writing talent can’t conjure up that perfect story to save their life. I’ll say it again: WRITING. IS. HARD.

If you read my very first novel, The Coal Elf, you will see there’s a marked difference in my writing from then to now. Which is not to say that book isn’t good, it’s just blatantly obvious that I was “green.” In my 10+ year journey of being an author, I’ve picked up some tips and tricks along the way, and I’ve been told that with every book, my skills sharpen and advance. Here’s what I’ve learned….

1.    Having creative talent is great, but perfecting it takes work. One of the only ways you’re going to become a better writer is by constantly practicing and honing your craft. If you’re serious about it, treat it seriously.

2.   Don’t throw anything away. You wrote trash? Great! At least you wrote SOMETHING! Keep the garbage – all authors have that cringe-worthy piece. Save it for good measure and use it as the litmus test to calculate your own personal growth. Besides, the beauty of writing is all in the editing. You can always go back and recycle bad and make it something good.

3.    Speaking of editing: Don’t edit while you’re writing. You will fall into that trap of the never-ending edits and before you know it, you’re stuck on chapter 1 with no end in sight. Write. Just write. Get the damn thing out into the ether first, then go back and do the dance with the edits.

4.   Lace up your armor, let go, and let others read. Listen, if you’re writing for fun or just for yourself, then you can skip this one. Often writing is a personal thing that many people do not feel comfortable sharing out. And that’s totally fine, but if you have larger plans for your writing, there comes a time in an author’s life when we need to release our babies into the world. Seat belts on, kids. The first one is always the hardest, but the more you do it, the better it gets and the better YOU get when you start getting feedback.

5.    Listen to your alpha-readers and your beta-readers. Alphas are the first ones to read your book raw. Their job is to provide all kinds of feedback – from grammatical issues to developmental suggestions. Betas are the ones who read it after the Alphas had their eyes on it and your 1st round of edits are done. They are like your “test audience” and should give you feedback and maybe some editing suggestions, but probably not. Alphas and Betas are NOT professional editors, but pay attention to what they say because if you eventually want to market your work, their feedback can help you tremendously.  

6.    In addition, have different groups of people read your work – the ones who are going to praise you no matter what you do (a la friends and family), the ones who don’t know a thing about you (writing groups) and will be most critical, people who enjoy your genre, and people who only read your genre. Perspective helps. And nasty comments help thicken your skin and force you to do better!

7.    Find yourself a “Joe DeVivo.”Joe is my alpha-reader. As soon as I’m done with a book, he reads it and does what he calls “first round edits.” Joe is also my husband. He’s the best guy and friend a gal could have. But he’s also a ruthless son-of-a-bitch. He has zero effs to give, and he pushes me hard when it comes to my work. Now, being my husband, one would assume he would go into that “friends and family” category from point #5. But no. Joe DeVivo has no loyalty in that respect, and he obliterated my hopes and dreams when he read the first version of my first manuscript. I cried and cried, and could have easily given up, but he was right! Looking back on that first draft I wrote in 2010, it would have NEVER gotten published. I had plot holes so large, he ex-ed out entire pages that didn’t make sense. Did that mean I was a bad writer? Absolutely not! It meant I needed more practice to perfect my craft. Good writing is a by-product of experience! YOU NEED A JOE DEVIVO – someone who will tell it to you straight and lay out the hard facts. And after you get “DeVivo-ed,” wipe your tears, then go to #3.

8.    Don’t argue with your editor. If you are working with a publishing house, you will be assigned an editor. That person will do line edits and developmental work on your manuscript. It’s a tedious job and they will make many suggestions. Now I know, some of us are super married to our work, but if they’re telling you a word wasn’t used in the common vocabulary of the time you’re writing in, don’t argue about changing it. Their expertise is a treasure trove for writers. The late and great Gerald Mills edited my first novel, and I went with every change and fix he suggested. I pored over his extensive notes and reviewed all the tips and tricks he gave me. It was a master class in writing – his edits were about things I had never learned in all my years of creative writing and English classes. A wealth of knowledge was imparted on me during that first round, and they are lessons I never forgot. ***Side note: 13 books later and I still don’t know how to use a comma properly. My editor, bless her soul, is the best at working with me on that!***

9.   Read. This is one I struggle most with, because I really don’t like to. But it’s imperative to try to read a little of everything. It builds fluency, and can give you a blueprint on structure, language, world-building, etc.

10.Write. I think I said this already, but it bears repeating. A person can be a naturally talented piano player, but they aren’t going anywhere with it unless they put in the time. And if you’re not a “natural,” guess what? That’s not a pre-requisite for being an author! Just write, write, and write some more, and a combination of these tips will set you on your path to being the best you can be.

 

 


Witch of the Silver Locust 
Dawn of the Blood Witch 
Book Three
Maria DeVivo

Genre: Occult Horror 
Publisher: 4 Horsemen Publications
Date of Publication: January 24, 2023
ISBN: 
ASIN: 
Word Count: 59k

Tagline: Trent travels through time to find the Blodheska and open the gates of Hell.

Book Description: 

Follow Trent as he unveils the origin story of the mysterious and powerful world of witches across centuries. He’s been known as the witch Trond, or even as Galen, and finally Trent, the Witch of the Silver Locust. He will seek the Blodheska no matter where or when to nurture the powers they hold.

Traversing each moment, he must face opposing forces that have their own plans for their ideal apocalypse. He will face his enemies no matter if they are human or demon--or even the Church of Satan itself. As he defends his goal, Trent will ally with both new and old friends as he tries to open the gateway to the old ones and bring about the witch utopia of New Eden on earth.

Inspired by true events, this tale follows Trent as he endures an exorcism, the Church of Satan, and the Son of Sam while moving closer to fulfilling his destiny.

Reader Advisory: Witch of the Silver Locust contains violence, gore, Satanic rituals, and graphic sexual situations

Books2Read     Amazon   

 

Excerpt:

Three moon tides had passed, and Runa remained in our care. A subject? A prisoner? I could not truly tell the difference. Sten had returned to the cave that first night with the supplies Aizel told him to procure—supplies that were just a diversion so that she could make her final judgment on what was to be done with the girl. Aizel told Sten to set up camp in our village and wait for us to call for him. He knew she was well respected and that our people would take care of him if need be, so he left our cave to go into town and patiently waited until his child was delivered from the evil that took hold of her hugr and fylgja—in essence, her soul.

Sten was obedient and did as he was told—partly because he was a doting father who wanted to see his daughter healed, and partly, because at his core, he was a weak man who fell easily under Aizel’s spell. She promised him she would do whatever she could to help Runa, and if that meant Sten had to run into a pack of snarling wolves, he would have complied. But I knew the truth. There was no intention of expelling the draugr from the girl. Aizel was stalling for time as the demon inside Runa slowly festered and consumed her bit by bit.

And as the days passed, I purposefully and consciously locked my mind like a steel cage against Aizel so she couldn’t go digging around. I hadn’t told her what I had heard Runa say—how she had called out the sacred nickname my sister had bestowed upon me, for I knew she would have forbidden me to even go near the girl after that. Nevertheless, I was intrigued. How would she have known that name unless by some divine intervention? I was certainly convinced that this was more than just the average possession we were used to dealing with, and I was determined to find out more. What was this demon, and why had it made itself known to me the night of the full moon, and more specifically during a time of my great despondency?

So, without Aizel’s knowledge of my actions, I stole away into the storage alcove where Runa had been tied up for the last three nights in hopes of getting as much information from the creature as I could. I brought my canteen of water under the assumption that maybe a drink would satisfy it and give it reason to open up. When I reached the room, the air was thick with an unnatural heat and a steamy sheen blanketed the space around us, much like the steam from the hot springs a bit south of us.

I stood in the opening and watched as Runa’s slumped body breathed in and out with those frenzied pants. Her head tilted to one side as if the weight of her long, silky black hair was pulling her down in her slumber. She looked peaceful, even with her chest heaving up and down as frantically as it was. I wondered what type of frenetic dream she must be having. Was she running in a field? Were the wolves chasing her? Was a hoard of marauders ravaging her fragile body?

I dipped my foot gingerly across the imaginary threshold of the room, and suddenly she stopped, shot up, and opened her eyes wide. “All three,” she cooed with a smirk.
I froze for a moment, surprised by her abrupt actions, then continued my way inside.
Runa smiled wide, and the evidence of the draugr’s hold on her was blatantly clear. The soft pink tissue of her gums was coated with a dark black substance giving her mouth the appearance of a gaping void.

A void to swallow me whole and transport me to another dimension…

“You would like that, wouldn’t you?” she blurted.

“You know I’m not afraid of you, right?” I said. “I’ve seen the likes of you before.”

She giggled. “Oh, have you?” she responded. Her voice was low and gravelly, and it echoed in the cave as if there were more than one being speaking simultaneously. I couldn’t tell if it was the acoustics or if she actually represented the power of the many. And the voice, that guttural, grinding tone was so familiar to me, yet I could not place where I’d heard it before.
I approached her in the chair and held my canteen to her face. She eyed me coolly. “No,” she 
said. “It would just prolong the process.”

“Oh? And what process is this you speak of?”

“I know your plans. The girl is gone. There’s no use in saving her now.”

I pursed my lips together and nodded. “True. True.” I agreed. “But that doesn’t mean you still can’t serve a purpose for us.”

The draugr laughed aloud. Its voice pierced the inside of my eardrums so sharply that I winced.

“Untie me, and I’ll show you what purpose I can serve,” she said with a sly hint of seduction.

I looked down upon her and scoffed. Up close I could see the demon had begun to transform her. Runa’s visage had begun to crack. The pale skin of her once soft face had turned gray, and the dark green veins from beneath her skin pressed up close to the surface and pulsated as if they were their own living, breathing entities. Her cheeks had further sunken in, giving the sharp angles of her face an even more inhuman appearance. She grazed her thick black tongue across the surface of her dry lips. “I won’t bite,” she cooed.

I huffed and took a step back. “Do you think that’s what it would take to tempt me? I told you, I’ve done this before. You’re not the first draugr to grace this cavern. Do you even know how old I am?”

“Do you even know how old I am?” she shot back.

I knelt next to her and decided to seize the opportunity. Demons are all-knowing, or at least they think they are. And they like to talk, mainly about themselves and their powers. And it’s often their narcissism that contributes to their downfall. I remembered that from Blodwyn’s teachings. Long ago, she had guided me through my first expulsion of a draugr. I had watched her perform the ritual flawlessly on many occasions, and when it came time for me to go out on my own, it was less than a stellar effort. “Don’t worry,” Blodwyn had said, “your strengths lie elsewhere. We each have our own gifts and talents. Don’t let this one failure discourage you. And I wouldn’t even call it a failure…”

“The boy would have died anyway,” the draugr said, finishing my memory.

I pulled back a bit. “Oh. So, you’re in here?” I said, pointing to my temple.

“Sometimes, yes. Sometimes, no. It comes and goes like flashes of light, like a gust of icy wind, like the paper-thin cry of the locust swelling to a crescendo then leveling off.”

My face twisted in confusion for a second. “How did you know that name?”

She closed her eyes and bowed her head forward. “I know not of what you speak,” she said with an agitated tone.

I placed my hand on her knee, and she quickly opened her eyes again. “Yes, you do. You said a name the first night you were here. You called out to me.”

She laughed again. A low and menacing rumble from her chest. “Pink Silver,” she grimaced, and her chest heaved up giving way to a wretched cough. She turned her head to the opposite side of where I knelt, spit out a gob of inky black substance, cleared her throat, and looked back at me.

“Tell me your name,” I commanded.

The draugr ‘tsked’ her thick black tongue against the back of her teeth.

“You told Aizel! Why won’t you tell me? You know my name, Trond. And you know my secret name, Ruz. It’s only fair if we’re going to continue this relationship, don’t you think?”

The draugr’s voice lowered, “I told that witch nothing!” it spat. “She stole that from me.

The girl was fighting hard, and there was a moment of weakness. I’m better now.” It smiled again, and for a split second. There were maggots weaving in and out of its teeth. I blinked rapidly, hoping it would go away. The draugr laughed.




About the Author:

Maria is the Author of the Amazon bestselling and award winning series The Coal Elf Chronicles, the YA psychological horror series The Altered Experience, and the NA Urban Fantasy series The Aestrangel Trinity. 

When not writing about dark fantasy and horror, she teaches Language Arts and Journalism to middle school students in Florida. A lover of all things dark and demented, she takes pleasure in warping the comfort factor in her readers’ minds. Just when you think you’ve reached a safe space in her stories, she snaps you back into her twisted reality.














Friday, January 27, 2023

10 Things You Didn’t Know About Author Donald Firesmith




1. I am a world traveler, having lived in three countries and visited over 30 others. I spent a year studying math at Ludwig Maximillian University in Munich as part of a year abroad study of German.

2. In 1974 during the Cold War, I traveled to the Soviet Union, where I visited Moscow and Leningrad. On the way, I stopped by West Berlin and passed through the Berlin Wall at Checkpoint Charlie.

3. The summer before I started my junior year abroad, I spent 90 days on a bicycle riding 5,000 kilometers across Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.

4. I was a student member of the American Nuclear Society. I operated a Triga Mark III pool reactor. One time, I actuallystood INSIDE a nuclear reactor core, specifically the core of the Zero Power Plutonium Reactor (ZPPR).

5. I stood at the snow line of Mount St. Helens three days before it blew.

6. In India, I once had a dancing blindfolded man with a sword slice a watermelon on my naked stomach in two.

7. I have long been interested in archeology. While in Rome, I visited the Roman Coliseum, the Roman Forum, Pompei, and Herculaneum. While on Crete, I visited Atlantis (specifically the ruins of the Minoan palace ofKnossos). I have also toured the skeleton-filled Catacombs under Paris.

8. I am widely recognized as an international authority on system and software engineering. The Association of Computing Machinery has named a distinguished engineer. Ihave spoken at dozens of international systems/software conferences, published over 200 papers and articles, and written 8 engineering books. According to Google Scholar, my work has been cited over 4,200 times.

9. In my work for the US Department of Defense, I once held a Top Secret / Secret Compartmented Information (TS/SCI) security clearance.

10. Based on AI, neurobiology, and philosophy, my most recent nonfiction book is The Simulation Theory of Consciousness, or Your Autonomous Car is Sentient. It specifically argues that we don’t have to wait decades before software-reliant systems become conscious; many are already here.



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

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

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

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

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

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


Excerpt:

Prologue

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

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

The Hunt-Chapter 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What about a dinosaur?” I suggested jokingly.

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

“But Dad, what about the bite marks?”

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

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

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

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

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

 

About the Author:

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

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

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