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GIDEON: THE BOER BLOOD by Malcolm Colley

By 1902 the war was over. It has taken three years and 330,000 soldiers to hammer 30,000 Boer men and boys into submission. The British employed a scorched earth policy and removed the women and children on the farms to stop the Boer Commandoes from obtaining supplies. Also with ammunition in short supply the Boers signed the Treaty of Peace of Vereeninging on May 31 1902. The Boers were forced to surrender their arms and sign a declaration of allegiance to the Queen.
Paul Kruger, the Boer leader, left the country but prior to him leaving he attempted to negotiate a deal with Holland and Germany for arms and ammunition in exchange for gold. The arms and ammunition reached the port of Lorenco Marques but the gold, sent by Kruger, went missing. It never reached the port so the ships sailed for home.
Into this chaos of the aftermath of the war with men, woman and children trying to make it back to the farms, Gideon Barron, an Irishman born in South Africa is accused of helping to steal the gold and hunted by his fellow Boers for treason. With the help of what becomes his friends, he attempts to prove his innocence. Travelling across, what was then, the Transvaal Republic they follow the path of the robbers
Meanwhile the true robbers manage to get away with most of the gold, some travelling into the Portuguese Protectorate of Mozambique and some beyond but some gold is left behind due to a misunderstanding.
This is just one of the many stories about the disappearance of the gold. According to many stories the gold never left South Africa. Some say the gold was worth £500,000 in the value of that time. Some say that there was no gold, that the boxes were filled with ammunition destined for the Boer Commandoes fighting on the front.

THE AUTHOR:

The author was born in South Africa in1942 and spent his teens of the 1950’s on a small farm just outside Naboomspruit in the Northern Province of South Africa, during which time he came to love the sounds, smells and sights of the bush. He did his basic training with 1st Special Service Battalion in Bloemfontein and has happy memories of army life in the bush. He also spent twenty-five years training in the martial arts.

During his work in a steel mill and underground in a diamond mine, he yearned to be back in the bush.

THE BOOK:

By 1902 the British war against South Africa, the so called “Boer War” was over. Paul Kruger, attempted to negotiate a deal with Holland and Germany for arms and ammunition in exchange for gold. The arms and ammunition reached the port of Lorenco Marques but the gold, sent by Kruger, went missing.

Into this chaos of the aftermath of the war, with men, woman and children trying to make it back to the farms, Gideon Barron, an Irishman born in South Africa is accused of helping to steal the gold. Wounded, he escapes but is followed and hunted by his fellow Boers for treason.

INSPIRATION FOR THE BOOK:

The disappearance of Kruger’s gold has always intrigued me. There are many stories, myths and legends about the whereabouts of this treasure. In this work of fiction adventure, I have put forward one possibility. I grew up in this area amongst these people whose stories to their grandchildren in the lamplight around the kitchen table, tell of the gold that may have changed the course of the war, told with the bitterness against the English.

WANT YOUR OWN COPY:

You can pick it up [easyazon_link identifier=”B01KLUA09Y” locale=”US” nw=”y” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″]here[/easyazon_link].

Guest Post – Liquid Cool by Austin Dragon PLUS GIVEAWAY

liquid cool

 

Liquid Cool: The Cyberpunk Detective Series

Science fiction is a popular genre and it has dozens of sub-genres. Cyberpunk is one of them—dystopian fiction succinctly described as “low life meets high tech.” Often, it’s a bleak future involving computers, virtual reality, hackers, and computer-human hybrids. Ironically, the genre came and went back in the 80s, launched by authors such as William Gibson and Bruce Sterling, but books in the sub-genre still sell today. From a literary standpoint, most books that claim to be cyberpunk—are not, and my cyberpunk detective series, Liquid Cool, is no different. For the general public, you say “cyberpunk” and they think of the classic Ridley Scott film Blade Runner or The Matrix.

My reason for creating my Liquid Cool series was quite simple: I wanted to write a fun science fiction series that is ongoing—each novel is a new case for our hero detective. Through it, I can explore a different issue or issues without having to create a whole series. It is the mirror opposite of my After Eden science fiction series, which is not devoid of humor, but it is very much not fun—it is after all the events leading up to, and including, World War III.

Liquid Cool is a wild and crazy detective series with hovercars, cyborgs, two-hundred-plus monolith skyscrapers, and people have not only colonized the moon, but Mars. It is my version of cyberpunk. The original cyberpunk of the 1980s envisioned a future (now) where corporations subplanted governments and ran society—well, we know better now. Despite, the propaganda of some, the exact opposite is true—government is bigger and more intrusive than any could have predicted. However, this science fiction series is set centuries in the future. In the Liquid Cool world, I replace the détente of the U.S. versus the Old Soviet Union, with a détente of governments and megacorporations, with we, the people, caught in between—and then we have the crime world. This is the serious setting of the world of Liquid Cool, but again we have the fun —action, laughs, more action, and more craziness.

Here are some early 5-star reviews:

  • “Lots of shooting, lots of crazy maniacs, lots of action and fun!”
  • “I loved this book. It takes place in the future, and what a weird future.”
  • “A funny, intelligent (and sometimes crazy) main character…playing detective.”
  • “Cool and Smooth.”
  • “I had a hard time putting this book down to do things like sleeping and eating.”

Want a free copy of the prequel? You can get it here. Liquid Cool, Blade Gunner, and NeuroDancer are all out now, too, so prepare to be thrilled with mystery, action, and laughs! But, don’t get shot by a laser-pistol-packing cyber-punk on your way to the digital store. Enjoy!

Let’s not forget this awesome GIVEAWAY! Click here to enter – you can win a Kindle Paperwhite, a Kindle Fire, or a 10-book bundle! Be cool – enter the giveaway!

R-Austin Dragon-_15 small

 

Author Bio

Austin Dragon is the author of the epic After Eden Series, the classic Sleepy Hollow Horrors, and the new cyberpunk detective series, Liquid Cool. He is a native New Yorker but has called Los Angeles, California home for more than twenty years. Words to describe him, in no particular order: U.S. Army, English teacher, one-time resident of Paris, political junkie, movie buff, campaign manager and staffer of presidential and gubernatorial campaigns, Fortune 500 corporate recruiter, renaissance man, and dreamer.

 

He is currently working on new books and series in science fiction, fantasy, and classic horror!

 

On Concise Writing – by Michael Nail (Part One)

My writing only seldom appears on this publication. However, those who have paid close attention will have noticed that my most common indictment is for the crime of wasted paper and wasted time. To make a point should only take so long. I allow authors modest space to provide emphasis and even, begrudgingly, personal flourish. Too many non-fiction writers seem to think that they aren’t writers unless they’re writing, and vomit black ink onto their pages, behaving as if they were working under production quotas. In response to the disturbing trend of not making your damned point, I will make a few of my own. Concisely. Authors, please take notes.

 

Your personal, unique voice is in what you say, not how you say it.

The assault of intensifiers, triple-adjectives, color commentary, out-of-place five-dollar words, and gee-whiz-isms has been damaging to your credibility. It is no longer my default reaction to take strong language in a non-fiction text seriously. Instead, I assume that the author is compensating for the weakness of an argument, or an insecurity, and I hope to be proven wrong. Sadly, I’m usually right, and I’m not the only one. If you think that your unique voice as a writer is embodied in your above-described assault, try calling to mind the names of all the friends you’ve won over with your pedantic speech. I’ll wait.

When I am assaulted by a book in this manner, it’s usually when I’m being told how significant something is. This is an easy problem to fix. If you feel like you need to assault your reader, stop, take a deep breath, and see what you can do to better contextualize the point you’re trying to make. The language you use to set the stage for your argument should convey the significance of what is at hand. If you’re telling me that a chemical got into the drinking water, don’t give me a linguistic spectacle about how terrible it is. Instead, make the people who drink that water relatable. Teach me about the health effects of the chemical. Instead of deriding the people responsible, tell me about the critical safety measures and protocols in place, which ones were ignored, and let me come to my own conclusions about the bad actors. Do these things with the fewest words possible.

Reading non-fiction shouldn’t feel like being in stop-and-go traffic. You’ve convinced someone that they should publish your book. You’re a smart person. Those big words. Those adjectives. That’s not you. Your intelligent, deeply-held thoughts and beliefs are enough. Believe me: we readers will accept and appreciate you as you are.

 

Please stop filling your books with examples and anecdotes.

When a concept gets to be a little too abstract, an example can be instructive. Sometimes a story is helpful for showing how a problem impacts real people. I love stories and examples, but they are more often abused than otherwise. Here are some rules to follow:

  1. If examples or stories are taking up more than half of your chapter, then just make the chapter about the example or story.
  2. If examples or stories are taking up more than half your book, then just make your book about the stories or examples. I have read some excellent books that did precisely this, with one chapter per example or story. I enjoyed these books because I wasn’t filled with the false hope that there would be a return of substance.
  3. You only get one example or story per topic. If that’s not enough, then either you didn’t do a good job leading up to the example/story, or you need a better example/story.
  4. Do not use a story as an excuse to set your “unique personal voice” free. Your writing should be about the voices of the people in the story now. Stay out of it.
  5. Please don’t end a story in the middle, only to have it start again where it left off 200 pages later. Sometime I’ve seen authors try to recap what already happened, but now I’m reading something I’ve already read… again? So you can make a point you probably should have make 200 pages ago? Spare me.
  6. To the point of conciseness; I will end this post here to let my suggestions sink in. Look for Part Two in the near future.

The Conversations We Never Had by Jeffrey H Konis

Conversations cover

The Conversations We Never Had is a new memoir/historical fiction novel by Jeffrey H. Konis. It tells the tale of a grandson who had taken his grandmother for granted, but didn’t realize it until it was too late.

“My father remembers nothing about his real parents. They were dead by the time he was nine. Olga, his mother’s younger sister, not only survived the Holocaust, but was able to find my father at his hiding place – a farm in Poland – and later brought him to America to raise as her own. In all that time, he never asked her any questions about his parents,” says Jeffrey. “Years later, I moved in with Olga for a period of time, but I allowed history to repeat itself – a classic mistake – and failed to ask her the same questions my father avoided. Olga has been gone for more than twenty years, along with everything she could have told me. I am left with a sense of guilt and profound regret, wishing so badly that I could go back and have a second chance to get to know her better and learn more about my family from the only person in the world who knew them and remembered them.”

The Conversations We Never Had is a chronicle of Jeffrey’s time spent with his Grandma “Ola” and an imagining of the stories she might have shared had he only took the time to ask the questions. It is a heartwarming story that will leave you eager to spend time with your family and learn more about them before it’s too late.

Many thanks to Book Publicity Services for introducing me to this touching story. Many of us have regrets that we didn’t spend time with our family when we had the chance – myself included. Reading this story should encourage you to rectify that situation sooner rather than later.

Conversations Jeffrey H. Konis


Excerpt from Chapter 2 – Grandma Ola and Me

Over the following days, I found myself picking up the old routine of going to classes, hitting the library, getting a slice or two for dinner, going home and hibernating in my room. Grandma would occasionally check on me, I think more than anything to make sure it was indeed me and not some wayward stranger. I felt bad not spending more time with Grandma the way I had that night when we talked about her dad, but I guess I was too tired after my long days or unsure how to restart the conversation. I knew Grandma was lonely, lonelier with me around than she would have been alone. Then there was something of a break in my schedule. It was the weekend after Thanksgiving and, caught up with all my work, I decided to spend some time with Grandma and talk. Late Saturday afternoon, after the caregiver had left, I approached her.

” I know it’s been awhile but I was wondering whether we could talk some more, if you’re up for it, that is.”

“Up for it? I’ve been ‘up for it’ for the last two weeks. What do you think, that I’ll remember these things forever? You think my memory will get better as I get older?”

“I know, I’m sorry. I’ve been busy with school and…”
”Jeffrey, you barely say hello to me. How many grandmothers do you have anyways? Well?”

Interesting question but, of course, she was right. My maternal grandmother died when my mother was a young girl; I never knew her father, Grandpa Eugene, who died when I was two.

But Grandma Ola said something else that made me stop to think for a second: her memory would surely deteriorate, and in the not-too-distant future. Once that went, so did any chance of learning about my paternal grandparents. There was now a sense of urgency to my mission. Indeed, there were increasing signs that her mind was starting to slip.

The phone had rung, a few nights previously, and I gave Grandma first dibs to pick up the phone to see who it was, as this was pre-caller i.d. The phone kept ringing and I looked in on Grandma, who I knew was lying on the couch in her room. The scene upon which I stumbled was humorous, though it should not have been: there was Grandma, holding a pillow to her ear and talking into it, “Hol-low? Hol-low?” I quickly picked up the phone just as my dad was about to hang up. He often called to check on both of us, to make sure that we hadn’t yet killed each other, that we were still alive.

As willing as Grandma was to have me and as eager and grateful I was to live with her, we each had our own trepidations about this new living arrangement, this uncharted territory in which we were to find ourselves. Grandma Ola had taken in her first new roommate in over forty years. Grandma, I suspect, felt responsible for my well-being. For all she knew, I could be entertaining all sorts of guests and be a constant source of noise and irritation that she had been mercifully spared for so long. I, on the other hand, was moving in with an elderly woman whose mind was on the decline, someone for whose well-being I would be responsible. Not that Grandma expected this of me; then again maybe she did.

She had employed caregivers seven days a week from nine to seven, who would look after her needs, meals, laundry, baths, doctors’ visits, grocery shopping – everything. Grandma, who was a proud, independent woman, and did not wish to argue or appear unreasonable with these good- hearted people, particularly Anna, seemed to accept their help with graciousness and gratitude. Anna may well have a different story to share but this is what I had observed. Above all, Grandma was a realist; she was aware of her own limitations.

What did I add to this equation? Not a whole lot. I did provide Grandma with some psychological comfort in the evenings when I was home. Should some life-threatening event occur, a bad fall for example, I was there to help. My services had been called upon once in this regard, though the fall in question was more humorous than harmful.

I woke up to a yell from Grandma in the middle of one night. My first thought was that she was having a nightmare and ran to her room to check on her, only she wasn’t there. Puzzled, I was on my way to the kitchen but noticed the light was on in the bathroom. I knocked and opened the door a crack. “Grandma, are you in there? Are you okay?” I asked.

She cried that she wasn’t and asked for help. I walked in to find my grandmother stuck in the bathtub on her back from which she was unable to extricate herself. She explained that she had been about to sit on what she thought was the toilet, not realizing her error until it was too late. I scooped her up and carried her back to her bed. I made sure she was indeed okay and wished her goodnight.

I suppose I shouldn’t have found any of this humorous, that this was a sad result of aging, a dreaded process, and that I should have been more compassionate and understanding. True, I suppose, but my understanding under the circumstances consisted of making sure Grandma was all right, carrying her to bed and keeping a straight face through it all. But it was funny. The only thing that wasn’t so funny was that I would be exhausted in my classes the next day owing to my lack of sleep.

As her new roommate, I was also expected to provide Grandma with some company, particularly since she had recently lost her husband. My father, I knew, expected at least this much from me; I didn’t know, on the other hand, what she expected. She likely considered my presence a mixed blessing; I might be nice to have around but also something of an intrusion.


Want your own copy? You can pick it up [easyazon_link identifier=”1478767294″ locale=”US” nw=”y” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″]here[/easyazon_link].

About the Author

After practicing law for many years, Jeffrey H. Konis left the profession to embark on a career as a high school social studies teacher. His first book, From Courtroom to Classroom: Making a Case for Good Teaching, offers a unique perspective for teachers who seek to inspire their students to learn for the sake of learning. His latest work, The Conversations We Never Had, was released in May 2016. Jeffrey loves reading, collecting fine art photography, soccer – especially Liverpool F.C. – travel, and his family most of all. He currently resides in Goshen, New York with his wife, Pamela, and sons, Alexander and Marc.

Readers can connect with him on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Rarity From The Hollow by Robert Eggleton

Rarity Cover with rocket

Lacy Dawn’s father relives the Gulf War, her mother’s teeth are rotting out, and her best friend is murdered by the meanest daddy on Earth. Life in The Hollow isn’t great. But Lacy has one advantage — she’s been befriended by a semi-organic, semi-robot who works with her to cure her parents. He wants something in exchange, though. It’s up to her to save the Universe.
To prepare Lacy for her coming task, she is being schooled daily via direct downloads into her brain. She doesn’t mind saving the universe, but her own family and friends come first.
Will Lacy Dawn’s predisposition, education, and magic be enough for her to save the Universe, Earth, and, most importantly, protect her own family?

Rarity from the Hollow is adult literary science fiction filled with tragedy, comedy and satire. It is a children’s story for adults, not for the prudish, faint of heart, or easily offended.

The original, uncut version is available in all formats and can be ordered from anyplace that sells books. The second edition is scheduled for release on September 30, 2016.

Many thanks to the author for providing this guest post! Here is some important information:

Robert Eggleton has served as a children’s advocate in an impoverished state for over forty years. He is best known for his investigative reports about children’s programs, most of which were published by the West Virginia Supreme Court where he worked from 1982 through 1997, and which also included publication of models of serving disadvantaged and homeless children in the community instead of in large institutions, research into foster care drift involving children bouncing from one home to the next — never finding a permanent loving family, and statistical reports on the occurrence and correlates of child abuse and delinquency.

Today, he is a recently retired children’s psychotherapist from the mental health center in Charleston, West Virginia, where he specialized in helping victims cope with and overcome physical and sexual abuse, and other mental health concerns. Rarity from the Hollow is his debut novel and its release followed publication of three short Lacy Dawn Adventures in magazines: Wingspan Quarterly, Beyond Centauri, and Atomjack Science Fiction. Author proceeds have been donated to a child abuse prevention program operated by Children’s Home Society of West Virginia. http://www.childhswv.org/ Robert continues to write fiction with new adventures based on a protagonist that is a composite character of children that he met when delivering group therapy services. The overall theme of his stories remains victimization to empowerment.

Purchase links:

http://www.amazon.com/Rarity-Hollow-Robert-Eggleton-ebook/dp/B017REIA44/

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Rarity-From-Hollow-Robert-Eggleton/dp/1907133062

http://www.doghornpublishing.com/wordpress/books/rarity-from-the-hollow 

Author Contacts:

http://www.lacydawnadventures.com

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13603677-rarity-from-the-hollow 

https://www.facebook.com/robert.eggleton2 

 

Author Interview – The Child Victim in Fiction

I’ve worked in the field of children’s advocacy for over forty years. Last year, I retired from my job as a children’s psychotherapist for an intensive mental health, day treatment program. Many of the kids in the program had been abused, some sexually. Part of my job was to facilitate group therapy sessions.

One day in 2006 during a group therapy session, I was sitting around a table used for written therapeutic exercises, and a little girl with stringy, brown hair sat a few feet away. Instead of just disclosing the horrors of her abuse at the hands of the meanest daddy on Earth, she also spoke of her hopes and dreams for the future: finding a loving family that would protect her.

This girl was inspiring. She got me thinking again about my own hopes and dreams of writing fiction, an aspiration that I’d held since I was twelve years old. My protagonist was born that day – an empowered victim who takes on the evils of the universe: Lacy Dawn. I began to write fiction in the evenings and sometimes went to work the next day without enough sleep. My fantasy of becoming the next Charles Dickens had awakened. Every time that I would feel discouraged, when I felt like giving up, I would imagine Lacy Dawn speaking honestly about the barriers that she faced in pursuit of her dream of finding a permanent and loving home.

Charles Dickens may not have been the first novelist to address the evils of child victimization, but his work has certainly had an impact on the consciousness of us all. Every Christmas, Tiny Tim pulls at our heart strings, now by cable and satellite, and stirs the emotions of masses. In another Dickens novel, after finally getting adopted into a loving home as millions of today’s homeless children also dream about, Oliver eventually made it to Broadway well over a century later. Oliver Twist may be the best example of Dickens’ belief that a novel should do much more than merely entertain, but entertain they did, very well.

My wife and I talked it over and decided that author proceeds, if any, should be donated to the prevention of child abuse. Three short Lacy Dawn Adventures were subsequently published in magazines. Rarity from the Hollow is my debut novel. The second edition is scheduled for release on September 30, 2016. At least half of author proceeds have been donated to Children’s Home Society of West Virginia, a nonprofit child welfare agency where I used to work in the early ‘80s. It was established in 1893 and now serves over 13,000 families and children each year. childhswv.org.

During my career, many emotionally charged situations have tugged my heart strings so hard that child welfare became more than my job, more than a cause. It became a calling. Rarity from the Hollow fictionalized some of my true-life experiences and includes elements of poverty, domestic violence, child maltreatment, substance abuse and mental health problems. I wrote what I know best. My characters are more real than not, even though the backdrop of my stories have been science fiction.

I modeled the flow of stories after a mental health treatment episode: harsh and difficult to read scenes in the beginning are similar to how, in treatment, therapeutic relationships must first be established before very difficult disclosures are made; cathartic and more relaxed scenes in middle chapters as detailed disclosures are less painful; and, increasingly satiric and comical toward the end through an understanding that it is “silly” to live in the past, that demons, no matter how scary, can be evicted, and that nothing controls our lives more so than the decisions that we make ourselves.

When writing Rarity from the Hollow, and I know that this sounds weird, but I imagined victims benefiting from having read a science fiction story. Maybe I was trying to rationalize a balance between these two competing interests – writing fiction and my interests in child welfare. I felt a little guilty about retiring from work. The decision to donate author proceeds to child abuse prevention helped resolve some of my guilty feelings.

In hindsight, maybe my idea that victims of childhood maltreatment could benefit from reading Rarity from the Hollow wasn’t so off-base after all. Six book reviewers have privately disclosed to me that they were victims of childhood maltreatment, like me, and that they had benefited from having read the story. One of them publicly disclosed that she was a survivor of rape as part of her review: “…soon I found myself immersed in the bizarre world… weeping for the victim and standing up to the oppressor…solace and healing in the power of love, laughing at the often comical thoughts… marveling at ancient alien encounters… As a rape survivor… found myself relating easily to Lacy Dawn… style of writing which I would describe as beautifully honest. Rarity from the Hollow is different from anything I have ever read, and in today’s world of cookie-cutter cloned books, that’s pretty refreshing… whimsical and endearing world of Appalachian Science Fiction, taking you on a wild ride you won’t soon forget….” http://kyliejude.com/2015/11/book-review-rarity-from-the-hollow/

I wanted Rarity from the Hollow to be a tribute to the concept of victimization to empowerment. Many abused kids have demonstrated resilience that, for me, has been amazing. I wanted parents who read my story to understand that child victims, more than anything in the world, want to love their parents, and that, while the damage done may not be forgotten or forgiven, that children are strong and can not only survive, but can become empowered.

If you or one of your readers has experienced childhood violence and your emotions are easily triggered, please exercise caution before deciding whether or not to read Rarity from the Hollow. While there is only one violent scene, the third, it is intense and there are mature references in the story. Subsequent chapters become increasingly satiric and comical, and may even seem silly if the political metaphors are missed: “…The author has managed to do what I would have thought impossible; taken serious subjects like poverty, ignorance, abuse, and written about them with tongue-in-cheek humor without trivializing them. In fact, the rustic humor and often graphic language employed by Lacy Dawn and her compatriots only serve to highlight their desperate lives, and their essential toughness and resilience…it’s a funny book that most sci-fi fans will thoroughly enjoy.” http://awesomeindies.net/ai-approved-review-of-rarity-from-the-holly-by-robert-eggleton/

The novel won a second Gold Medal and an excerpt from that review is also apt to the prevention of child abuse: “…Full of cranky characters and crazy situations, Rarity from the Hollow sneaks up you and, before you know it, you are either laughing like crazy or crying in despair, but the one thing you won’t be is unmoved….” https://readersfavorite.com/book-review/rarity-from-the-hollow The intent was to sensitize people to the issue of maltreated children the way that Charles Dickens’ Tiny Tim worked his way into the hearts of millions of fans.

However, if your readers are looking for an exposé or a memoir on child victimization, they may not appreciate this story: “…It is funny and irreverent but beneath the hallucinatory story of visits to shopping planets and interstellar shopping games, there is a profound critique of social problems, substance abuse, child sexual abuse and child murder that is quite eye opening… Rarity from the Hollow is very, very good…I’d recommend Rarity From the Hollow to anybody who likes a side helping of the lunatic with their science fiction and fantasy.” http://www.addictedtomedia.net/2016/03/rarity-from-hollow-robert-eggleton.html

No book is for everybody. If Rarity from the Hollow is not your cup of tea, but you want to help victims of child maltreatment, there are lots of ways to help. It is a world-wide problem that exists in your own community, everybody’s community. For example, there are thousands of underfunded emergency children’s shelters all over the United States. You could send an anonymous gift with a note addressed to the shelter director to give it to a needy child. If it’s clothing, any size will do because maltreatment comes in all colors, shapes, and sizes.

 


Excerpt from RARITY IN THE HOLLOW:

Cozy in Cardboard

Inside her first clubhouse, Lacy Dawn glanced over fifth grade spelling words for tomorrow’s quiz at school. She already knew all the words in the textbook and most others in any human language.

Nothing’s more important than an education.

The clubhouse was a cardboard box in the front yard that her grandmother’s new refrigerator had occupied until an hour before. Her father brought it home for her to play in.

The nicest thing he’s ever done.

Faith lay beside her with a hand over the words and split fingers to cheat as they were called off. She lived in the next house up the hollow. Every other Wednesday for the last two months, the supervised child psychologist came to their school, pulled her out of class, and evaluated suspected learning disabilities. Lacy Dawn underlined a word with a fingernail.

All she needs is a little motivation.

Before they had crawled in, Lacy Dawn tapped the upper corner of the box with a flashlight and proclaimed, “The place of all things possible—especially you passing the fifth grade so we’ll be together in the sixth.”

Please concentrate, Faith. Try this one.

“Armadillo.”

“A, R, M … A … D, I, L, D, O,” Faith demonstrated her intellect.

“That’s weak. This is a bonus word so you’ll get extra points. Come on.”

Lacy Dawn nodded and looked for a new word.

I’ll trick her by going out of order—a word she can’t turn into another punch line.

“Don’t talk about it and the image will go away. Let’s get back to studying,” Lacy Dawn said.

My mommy don’t like sex. It’s just her job and she told me so.

Faith turned her open spelling book over and rolled onto her side. Lacy Dawn did the same and snuggled her back against the paper wall. Face to face—a foot of smoothness between—they took a break. The outside was outside.

At their parents’ insistence each wore play clothing—unisex hand-me-downs that didn’t fit as well as school clothing. They’d been careful not to get

muddy before crawling into the box. They’d not played in the creek and both were cleaner than on the usual evening. The clubhouse floor remained an open invitation to anybody who had the opportunity to consider relief from daily stressors.

“How’d you get so smart, Lacy Dawn? Your parents are dumb asses just like mine.”

“You ain’t no dumb ass and you’re going to pass the fifth grade.”

“Big deal—I’m still fat and ugly,” Faith said.

“I’m doing the best I can. I figure by the time I turn eleven I can fix that too. For now, just concentrate on passing and don’t become special education. I need you. You’re my best friend.”

“Ain’t no other girls our age close in the hollow. That’s the only reason you like me. Watch out. There’s a pincher bug crawling in.”

Lacy Dawn sat almost upright because there was not quite enough headroom in the refrigerator box. She scooted the bug out the opening. The clubhouse door faced downhill—the best choice since nothing natural was flat in the hollow. If it had sloped uphill, too much blood in the brain would have been detrimental to studying spelling or any other higher calling like changing Faith’s future. Faith watched the bug attempt re-entry, picked it up, and threw it a yard away into the grass. It didn’t get hurt. Lacy Dawn smiled her approval. The new clubhouse was a sacred place where nothing was supposed to hurt.

“Daddy said I can use the tarp whenever he finishes the overhaul on the car in the driveway. That way, our clubhouse will last a long time,” Lacy Dawn said.

“Chewy, chewy tootsie roll. Everything in the hollow rots, especially the people. You know that.”

“We ain’t rotten,” Lacy Dawn gestured with open palms. “There are a lot of good things here—like all the beautiful flowers. Just focus on your spelling and I’ll fix everything else. This time I want a 100% and a good letter to your mommy.”

“She won’t read it,” Faith said.

“Yes she will. She loves you and it’ll make her feel good. Besides, she has to or the teacher will call Welfare. Your daddy would be investigated—unless you do decide to become special education. That’s how parents get out of it. The kid lets them off the hook by deciding to become a SPED. Then there ain’t nothing Welfare can do about it because the kid is the problem and not the parents.”

6

“I ain’t got no problems,” Faith said.

“Then pass this spelling test.”

“I thought if I messed up long enough, eventually somebody would help me out. I just need a place to live where people don’t argue all the time. That ain’t much.”

“Maybe you are a SPED. There’s always an argument in a family. Pass the test you retard,” Lacy Dawn opened her spelling book.

Faith flipped her book over too, rolled onto her stomach and looked at the spelling words. Lacy Dawn handed her the flashlight because it was getting dark and grinned when Faith’s lips started moving as she memorized. Faith noticed and clamped her lips shut between thumb and index finger.

This is boring. I learned all these words last year.

“Don’t use up the batteries or Daddy will know I took it,” Lacy Dawn said.

“Alright—I’ll pass the quiz, but just ’cause you told me to. This is a gamble and you’d better come through if it backfires. Ain’t nothing wrong with being a SPED. The work is easier and the teacher lets you do puzzles.”

“You’re my best friend,” Lacy Dawn closed the book.

They rolled back on their sides to enjoy the smoothness. The cricket chorus echoed throughout the hollow and the frogs peeped. An ant attempted entry but changed its direction before either rescued it. Unnoticed, Lacy Dawn’s father threw the tarp over the box and slid in the trouble light. It was still on and hot. The bulb burned Lacy Dawn’s calf.

He didn’t mean to hurt me—the second nicest thing he’s ever done.

“Test?” Lacy Dawn announced with the better light, and called off, “Poverty.”

“I love you,” Faith responded.

“Me too, but spell the word.”

“P is for poor. O is for oranges from the Salvation Army Christmas basket. V is for varicose veins that Mommy has from getting pregnant every year. E is for everybody messes up sometimes—sorry. R is for I’m always right about everything except when you tell me I’m wrong—like now. T is for it’s too late for me to pass no matter what we do and Y is for you know it too.”

“Faith, it’s almost dark! Go home before your mommy worries,” Lacy Dawn’s mother yelled from the front porch and stepped back into the house to finish supper. The engine of the VW in the driveway cranked but wouldn’t start. It turned slower as its battery died, too.

Faith slid out of the box with her spelling book in-hand. She farted from the effort. A clean breeze away, she squished a mosquito that had landed on her elbow and watched Lacy Dawn hold her breath as she scooted out of the clubhouse, pinching her nose with fingers of one hand, holding the trouble light with the other, and pushing her spelling book forward with her knees. The moon was almost full. There would be plenty of light to watch Faith walk up the gravel road. Outside the clubhouse, they stood face to face and ready to hug. It lasted a lightning bug statement until adult intrusion.

“Give it back. This thing won’t start,” Lacy Dawn’s father grabbed the trouble light out of her hand and walked away.

“All we ever have is beans for supper. Sorry about the fart.”

“Don’t complain. Complaining is like sitting in a rocking chair. You can get lots of motion but you ain’t going anywhere,” Lacy Dawn said.

“Why didn’t you tell me that last year?” Faith asked. “I’ve wasted a lot of time.”

“I just now figured it out. Sorry.”

“Some savior you are. I put my whole life in your hands. I’ll pass tomorrow’s spelling quiz and everything. But you, my best friend who’s supposed to fix the world just now tell me that complaining won’t work and will probably get me switched.”

“You’re complaining again.”

“Oh yeah,” Faith said.

“Before you go home, I need to tell you something.”

To avoid Lacy Dawn’s father working in the driveway, Faith slid down the bank to the dirt road. Her butt became too muddy to re-enter the clubhouse regardless of need. Lacy Dawn stayed in the yard, pulled the tarp taut over the cardboard, and waited for Faith to respond.

“I don’t need no more encouragement. I’ll pass the spelling quiz tomorrow just for you, but I may miss armadillo for fun. Our teacher deserves it,” Faith said.

“That joke’s too childish. She won’t laugh. Make 100%. That’s what I want.”

“Okay. See you tomorrow.” Faith took a step up the road.

“Wait. I want to tell you something. I’ve got another best friend. That’s how I got so smart. He teaches me stuff.”

“A boy? You’ve got a boyfriend?”

“Not exactly,” Lacy Dawn put a finger over her lips to silence Faith. Her father was hooking up a battery charger. She slid down the bank, too.

He probably couldn’t hear us, but why take the chance.

A minute later, hand in hand, they walked the road toward Faith’s house.

“Did you let him see your panties?” Faith asked.

“No. I ain’t got no good pair. Besides, he don’t like me that way. He’s like a friend who’s a teacher—not a boyfriend. I just wanted you to know that I get extra help learning stuff.”

“Where’s he live?”

Lacy Dawn pointed to the sky with her free hand.

“Jesus is everybody’s friend,” Faith said.

“It ain’t Jesus, you moron,” Lacy Dawn turned around to walk home. “His name’s DotCom and….”

Her mother watched from the middle of the road until both children were safe.


Please let me know your thoughts on this powerful, unique story and Robert Eggleton’s mission. These children need your support.

Cast Adrift by Mannah Pierce – Guest Post PLUS excerpt

CastAdrift_FrontCover

 

 

 

Cast Adrift is the first part of a science fiction saga set in an interstellar world of the far future where Earth is merely a myth. Ean is queen of the Willow, a small ship with a Traditional crew who live in space and trade between the stars. Suddenly Tre, the laid back crew enforcer, is demanding that they dash to one system to pick up cabin boys and then divert to another to recruit an adolescent who is utterly unsuited to spacer life. Who is Jax? What is Rae? Why is the most powerful individual in Known Space interested in Kip? Most importantly, what is Tre up to?

 

Many thanks to Publishing Push and Mannah Pierce for this guest post! Here, the author gives us an in depth view of her novel.

    Love between the stars by Mannah Pierce

In my interstellar world of the far future, spacer crews travel along the shipping routes that link occupied solar systems, earning their living by trading.

Most spacers are male, because there are many planets that offer no future to adolescent males with limited education and no connections to the local elite. This means that the majority of spacer crews are all-male.

Faced with this ‘reality’, what would spacer crews be like? As an author, my mind went to similar, Earth-bound, situations: prisons; gangs; schools; the military; Ancient Greeks; the Spartans. Then my mind settled on the crews of the tall sailing ships that crossed the great oceans, including pirates.

Then I took it a step further. For some crews, their spaceship would be their home. They would be true nomads.

In this way, Traditional spacer crews were born.

A Traditional spacer crew is associated with a specific ship. Each ship, in my novel Cast Adrift it is the Willow, has existed for centuries. The components making up the ship have changed, like the individuals making up her crew have come and gone, but the Willow continues. It is like a family home or a genealogical tree.

It is somewhere for those discarded, future-less adolescent males to settle, to belong and to grow.

A ship, a spacer crew, must have a captain. In a Traditional spacer crew the captain must stand apart so that he has authority. Space is intrinsically dangerous. A good captain has to be objective enough to take the hard, split-moment, life-and-death decisions. Captain Mel of the Willow is in his fifties. He has put aside the passions of his youth and stepped up. He knows that Tre picked out the Willow and its crew because of its quality as well as its traditions.

A spacer crew also needs a queen. In everyday matters the queen’s word is law. The queen is the heart of the crew. Ean, the queen of the Willow, is atypical. He is very young. He does not use his looks and his power as weapons. He is subtle, kind, patient and persistent. Tre needed a queen of unparalleled quality and Ean has the potential to be just that.

Conflict between spacer crews has to be managed. When a spaceship is lost, the whole crew dies. Space battles are to be avoided. Traditional crews settle their disputes through ritualised combat. The enforcer of one crew fights the enforcer of the other; hand-to-hand with standard knives as the only weapon. The consequences of victory and defeat are negotiated before the combat begins. Tre is the Willow’s enforcer. As a cyborg, only another cyborg or a highly trained hybrid fighter can defeat him.

Other than the captain, the queen and the enforcer, there is the senior crew. Senior crew members have their knives; they can hold their own in a fight. They fulfil the other roles in the crew: navigator; pilot; engineer; medico; technician; cook. The Willow usually only has a navigator, a pilot and an engineer. Then there are the junior crew; older apprentices who have their knives but are still learning the skills they will need. Finally there are the cats and the cabin boys. Cats should be over fourteen. Cabin boys are between twelve and fourteen. Junior and senior crew members can buy into a crew. Cats and cabin boys are adopted.

I know that some readers baulk at the idea of cats, which is short for catamite. I refer you to those Earth-bound, all-male examples. What would happen when you put a group of human males, mostly in their teens and their twenties, in a metal box (the space ship) with no exits (only vacuum outside) for long periods of time?

The answer is that they would end up having sex with each other; it would happen even if they thought they were heterosexual before they joined the crew.

Traditional crews have rules to manage sex, like they have rules to manage disputes between crews. Joining a spacer crew is like entering into a group marriage. The default setting is that everyone will share sex with everyone else. The exceptions are the captain, who must keep a professional distance, and the cabin boys, because the age of consent among spacers is fourteen.

So far it sounds fair, but in reality that is not always the case. Some members of the crew form stronger relationships, mostly pairs but some trios, and opt out. They announce their exclusive status with love rings. This threatens the cohesion of the crew. The solution is that cats are not allowed to opt out; that way no member of the crew ends up isolated.

Some Traditional crews do not allow love rings and the exclusivity they represent.

Others, like the Willow, protect their cats by restricting the sexual acts they are allowed to perform.

If the Traditional crew is sound, it works. Lost boys join a crew. Cabin boys are cosseted. Cats are loved. They grow up and enter a profession where their backgrounds no longer matter. If space does not kill them, they end up with enough funds to make choices about their future.

And sometime they fall in love.


 

Excerpt from CAST ADRIFT:

Jax had to trot to keep up with his escort. The big man’s stride was smooth and effortless but deceptively quick. Jax recognised it as one of the many features that dissuaded the honourable from challenging and the dishonourable from attacking.

Other, equally intimidating, characteristics were his height, his muscular bulk and the knife scar that ran down his left cheek.

He wondered what the man’s name was. He would not ask, just as he had not asked the other five men who had escorted him over the last three days. They would not remember him; the forgetting pills would see to that.

 

So this was Carrefour Station. Jax recalled the models of spacestations that his tutor had insisted he study. This type of corridor, ten paces wide with its walls lined with advertisements, was typical of throughways in residential sectors. They passed a media screen. On it was displayed the person Jax used to be; a towheaded, green eyed boy in a velvet jacket. It was a shock. None of the simulations had suggested that his uncle would throw the net this wide this soon.

The reward for useful information had been raised to five thousand credits and the cover story of a kidnapping would be more believable out here than at home.

 

Suddenly the corridor was wider and lined with shops. Jax realised that they were closing on their destination; the margins of the spacer quarter were where residents sold and spacers bought. Reflected in one of the shop windows was a small, cloaked figure trotting beside a large spacer. Peering out from inside the hood were dark eyes and Jax could see wisps of brown hair.

His eyes and his hair; his mother had made temporary changes and then reprogrammed his nanobots to maintain them.

He blinked back tears. He would never again hear her voice or feel her touch.

 

There was no time for such sentiment. As his mother had made him promise; he would escape and survive until he could challenge the usurper and reclaim his inheritance.

This day was critical; he had to go through an open recruitment fair and yet end up with the correct crew.

They slowed. The change in pace refocused Jax on his surroundings. The shops had gone, replaced by stalls. Now almost everyone around them was a spacer, identified by their long hair, short jackets and tall boots. Instead of their path being direct, it swerved this way and that; residents scuttled out of a spacer’s way but spacers avoided each other.

Then their route was blocked by people standing with their backs to them; the rear of a crowd.

His escort’s hand grasped his shoulder and pulled him close. It was a shock to be manhandled; Jax had to stop himself twisting away. No one other than his mother, his father or his trainer had been allowed within touching distance for as long as he could remember.

 

The crowd was not uniform; it was made up of groups with gaps between them. Jax realised the groups were crews and that they must weave their way carefully between them. Touching a spacer without permission was dangerous; it could easily precipitate a challenge.

His escort made Jax walk before him, a large hand on either shoulder.

Then they were out the other side of the crowd and into the Killing Square. Jax’s eyes went immediately to the empty floor around the cross.

It was clean; no blood had been shed since it had been scrubbed at station’s dawn.

 

They joined the queue that contained the younger boys; a few were alone but most had adults with them.

These were those wishing to be cabin boys. Most crews did not recruit cabin boys; they were considered more trouble than they were worth. It made more sense to stick to cats, who were bigger, stronger and old enough to help relieve sexual tensions amongst the crew.

That was how his tutor had put it; relieving sexual tensions. The other men in the household had been much blunter; cats sucked rod and, once they were old enough, spread their rear cheeks for anyone who was interested in poking a hole.

Jax would not think about that.  He was pretending to be twelve, which was too young. He would be a cabin boy and not a cat.

 

Two ahead of him in the queue was a very small boy.

“Age?” asked one of the two recruiters seated at the table.

“Twelve,” the boy squeaked.

“Not a chance,” the other man said. “Be off with you.”

“I’m a hybrid,” the boy replied. “It’s not my fault I’m this size.”

 

Jax was intrigued. He had never seen a hybrid close up; his father disapproved of them. He moved so he had a better view between the adults in front of him. The boy did not seem to have a tail, which was a disappointment.

He did, however, have whiskers. He also had fangs, which he was displaying to the recruiters.

“You been tested?” the first recruiter asked.

“No,” the boy admitted, “but I’ve got the fee.”

 

Jax wondered where the boy had got the gold credit that he put on the table. There was a silence; apparently the recruiters were similarly surprised.

“Fine,” the second recruiter decided. “Name?”

“Ray,” the boy replied.

“How do you spell that?” the recruiter asked.

Jax doubted the boy could spell but he answered, “R, A, E,” and the man tapped the information into the tablet strapped to his forearm.

Then the gold credit was exchanged for a token and the boy was directed to one of the booths at the side of the square.

 

The next boy, like Jax, had his test results. The man with him, maybe his father, passed a tape to the first recruiter, who checked it in a portable viewer before taking the boy’s details, giving him a token and directing him to the pen.

They suggested that the adult accompanying the boy wait in the crowd until the end of the fair, which was worrying. Jax had thought the adults handed the boys over and left. Certainly his escort would not stay.

 

Jax was next. His escort pulled down his hood as they reached the table. The two men looked at him with approval, which was more than they had done when faced with the previous two boys.

“Age?”

“Twelve,” Jax answered. Neither man queried it. It was as his mother had said; a well-nourished boy of eleven could easily pass for twelve.

“Name?”

“Jax.”

“Test?”

He handed over the tape and watched, heart thumping, as they checked it. The last thing he wanted was for them to insist on a retest; the data on the tape had been heavily edited.

 

“Fine.” The second recruiter turned his attention to Jax’s escort. “We accept responsibility for the boy Jax until he becomes a member of a certified Traditional crew.”

Jax realised it was a compliment. It meant that they were certain he would be placed with a crew.

Then his escort was gone and Jax was walking towards the indicated pen clutching his token.

 

When he got there he took off his cloak, folded it carefully and strapped it to the outside of his pack. Once he had slung his pack across his back, he stood up straight and risked looking at the crews, hoping that one of the men would give him a signal he recognised.

 

Jax was accustomed to being the sole focus of attention. This time was different. He wished the crews were paying attention to the other boys.

None of the men gathered around the pen, nor any one of those he could see in the crowd, had offered the prearranged signal.

The queens of three of the crews were well into a ruthless negotiation with one of the recruiters over who should claim him. In a bizarre way they reminded him of his mother, which was crazy because they were male and ugly while his mother was female and beautiful.

 

Perhaps not ugly; different. All three were thin. Their long hair was dyed, their jackets embellished and their faces painted. To Jax’s eyes, their pants were too tight, their heels too high and their chests too exposed.

If no one gave the signal, he would end up going with one of these men.

“It’s up to you,” a voice whispered.

It was the hybrid boy. Jax twisted around and looked at him.

“The recruiter gets a cut, so he wants them to bid each other up, but the rules say you choose. That’s why you have the token.”

Jax had forgotten that. He looked back at the three queens. He didn’t want to go with any of them. He scanned the crowd around him, his gaze darted from man to man, hoping to see the signal.

 

Another voice, this time soft and pleasant. “My name is Ean; I am queen of the Willow.”

Jax looked around and up. It was a young man with kind brown eyes.

“What’s your name?”

Jax knew it was in the information on the tablet but the young man, Ean, was not holding one. “Jax,” he replied.

Ean smiled and Jax felt himself smiling back.

“Excuse me,” one of the queens interrupted in a tone that said, “Get away from him.”

The recruiter was beginning to look anxious. “Please stay away from the boys unless you are serious about making an offer.”

Ean turned to face the queens rather than the recruiter. “I am Ean. I am queen of the Willow. We are interested in the boy Jax.”

“You are too late,” one of the other queens hissed.

“Have you registered an interest?” the recruiter asked, much more politely.

 

Someone walked up behind Ean and handed him a tablet. Jax moved a little so he could see better; it was an older man with a captain’s insignia.

“Yes,” Ean replied. He turned back to Jax. “The Willow is a small, strictly Traditional crew. Our song goes back centuries. Over a thousand spacers have begun their new lives with us. With us you will learn what it means to be a spacer.”

“Six thousand credits,” squawked one of the other queens.

The sheer magnitude of the offer stunned the other queens into silence.

Ean recovered first. “It is not about credit,” he continued, still only speaking to Jax. “I know that you get three-quarters of the fee, I know that four and a half thousand credits seems a lot, but what you could get from being cabin boy and cat on the Willow is beyond price.”

One of the other queens snorted with derision and another laughed outright.

 

Jax had already decided. Something had gone wrong. The man he was meant to be meeting was not here. He either chose a crew or walked away with his test tape and his token. The latter was not an option. A boy of eleven would not last a single night in a spacestation without protection.

If he was going with a crew, he preferred Ean’s.

“Can I meet the rest of your crew first?” he asked Ean.

Ean smiled again. “Of course you can.”

 

One of the other queens groaned, turned and walked away. The other two were slower to accept they had lost but they faded into the background when Ean’s crew came to stand around him.

There were Ean, the captain and five others: four with knives and a cat.

Then another man appeared at Ean’s side and, suddenly, Jax could not look anywhere else.

 

He was a cyborg. Jax had been trained to recognise them. What was a cyborg doing spacing? Converting a man into a functional cyborg cost…Jax discovered that he did not know how much; enough that even his father could afford only a few of them.

Then the cyborg’s fingers were moving and Jax recognised the signal.

 

It all fell into place. This was the man: the one his father had ordered to prepare a crew for him; the one who had held him as a newborn and pledged his life to him.

That his father should allocate one of his precious cyborgs to the task was unexpected. Perhaps his father had cared more about him than he had ever shown. Jax’s eyes prickled with tears but he willed them away. He would not cry. Only the weak cried.

 

Ean was introducing the crew. “…Captain Mel. This is Vic, our engineer, Art our navigator, Ben our pilot and this is Cas.” He did not introduce the cat, which Jax recognised as proper space etiquette. Then he turned to the cyborg. “This is Tre.”

Jax held out his token.

“I see you have worked your usual magic, Ean,” the engineer, Vic, commented. He was the oldest other than the captain. Of course the cyborg could be older; if you were paying for cybernetic enhancements you would not skimp on nanobots and age retard.

The captain looked towards the recruiter. “We will give you an honorarium of two hundred credits.”

The recruiter managed to look grateful for the payment, even though it was scant compensation for missing out on over seven times as much commission.

Ean’s fingers closed on the token and Jax gave it to him.

 

It was over. He was safe. Jax had thought he would feel better than this. Instead, he was convinced he had missed something important.

He found himself looking back, toward the hybrid boy. What was his name? Rae.

The boy gave a grin, which showed his fangs and lifted his whiskers.

He seemed more pleased that Jax had found a crew than he was worried about no one showing the least interest in him.

“Is that your friend?” Ean asked.

One of the crew, Jax thought it was Vic, groaned.

“Yes,” Jax heard himself answer, which was weird because he didn’t have any friends. Neither his father nor his mother approved of friendship.

“Ean,” the captain warned.

“But…” Ean began.

“One is more than enough,” Art complained. “Let’s go.”

“Wait,” the cyborg, Tre, ordered. He was looking at the tablet; presumably at Rae’s details. “You, Rae, come here.”

 

Rae came over. Suddenly Jax was aware that the boy was grubby and probably stank. Worse, he was a hybrid. What had possessed Jax to claim him as a friend?

“Put your hands this far apart,” Tre instructed him.

Rae’s whiskers twitched in what Jax guessed was suspicion but he did what he was told.

“I’m going to drop a coin. I want you to catch it. No moving your hands until you see it drop.”

Jax squirmed. It was impossible; Rae was being set up to fail. His hands were too far apart; no one’s reaction time was that good.

 

The coin dropped but there was no clink of the coin on the metal floor. Rae’s left hand had moved so fast that all Jax had seen was a blur.

“By the Lady,” Ben murmured.

“We’ll take this one too,” the captain said immediately.

The recruiter looked over. He obviously had not seen the outcome of Tre’s test. “The hybrid?”

“Rae,” the captain clarified.

 

Rae’s chin came up. “Maybe I don’t want to go with you.”

Ean frowned slightly. “We are a good choice, Rae. If…”

“As if you have anywhere else to go,” Art interrupted, which Jax thought was rude. Ean was queen; Art should be treating him with more respect.

“I’ve survived on my own this long,” Rae replied. “I’ve a choice. It’s up to me.”

“Yes, it is,” the captain agreed.

Rae paused for a moment and then held out his token and the coin to Tre. “I’ll join because you thought I would pass your test. No one ever thought I could do anything before.”

Tre nodded and took both. He handed the token to Ean and the coin back to Rae. “You won it.”

Rae pocketed the coin and grinned.

Jax got his first close-up look at Rae’s fangs. They were long and impressively pointy.

What had he done?

 

Learn more about the author’s imaginary world of the far future at www.mannahpierce.com . Read more about the crew of the Willow in Cast Adrift,  its sequel Foothold and her upcoming novel, Homeward.

Guest Post by author Hal Levey (Under The Pong Pong Tree)

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“The Japanese invasion of Singapore sets the backdrop for this World War II saga of loyalty, love, and the promise of liberation. Under the Pong Pong Tree by Hal Levey delves into the brutality of foreign occupation from a woman’s perspective, allowing a candid portrayal of a war victim to emerge from the pages of this gritty chronicle. . . .The prose is sensitive, knowledgeable, and empathetic, covering intriguing topics across an extensive time line.” -Clarion Review 5 stars

“This utterly compelling historical novel revolves around several characters whose lives have been irrevocably changed and, for the most part, damaged, by the WWII Japanese invasion of Singapore. . .The plot moves quickly with continuing storylines of many characters, and the writing and editing is flawless. Under the Pong Pong Tree will be enjoyed by a wide readership, particularly those who appreciate a fast-paced, realistic tale of war, survival and, ultimately, redemption.” -Blue Ink Starred Review

Love and the brutality of war are woven together in a beautiful, heart-wrenching tapestry in Under the Pong Pong Tree.

Thanks to Publishing Push and the author for helping me create this guest post! UNDER THE PONG PONG TREE is a wonderful, character-driven novel about love and war. Here, author Hal Levey tells us how everything came to be:

 

Under the Pong Pong Tree was incubated long ago during a year spent as China Medical Board Visiting Professor on the medical faculty of the National University of Singapore. The eponymous pong pong tree of Southeast Asia also is called the suicide tree. It is intended as a metaphor for the cruelty suffered by the Chinese residents of Singapore under the heel of the Japanese during World War II. I kept a journal that became a background resourceI also met many colleagues who suffered under Japanese brutality. Nevertheless, the year in Singapore was an exhilarating experience. I did a certain amount of recreational jungle bashing upcountry in Malaysia, and befriended the RAF contingent at the Seletar Air Base in Singapore. I became close friends with Squadron Leader Darrol Stinton, MBE, and joined him and the RAF Seletar Sub-Aqua Club on an expedition to Pulau Perhentian (Perhentian Island) in the South China Sea. The purpose was to develop sea rescue capabilities for airmen lost at sea. The job previously was done by the Royal Navy, but, for some reason, they terminated such operations and the RAF was obliged to create their own system.

The airmen made me Honorary Member No. 1 of the club, but harbored the faint suspicion that I was a CIA plant. Darrol died in 2012 from a hospital-borne infection at a military hospital in London. He was there for surgical replacement of titanium rods that supported his spine, stress-fractured from his years as a test pilot for the RAF. I brought him back to life in my book as Squadron Leader Darrol Stanton. I also borrowed Chinese and Malay names of individuals I had met as characters in my book.  I did this to avoid inventing ethnic names that might inadvertently have had a lewd context.

The novel started to come to life when I spent a summer month in the Caribbean, lecturing to pre-med students at St. Georges University on the island of Granada. This was a pleasant diversion, and St. Georges relied on visiting faculty, mainly from Australia, India, and the USA. Part of my stipend was a room at a first-class hotel perched on a glittering white sandy beach. I delivered lectures in the morning, and spent the afternoons sipping rum punch at a tiki bar next to the hotel. Sitting on a bar stool with time on my hands, I started to scribble an outline in pencil on a yellow legal pad. I started with the setting and then populated it with my characters. Eventually they wrote their own stories and I merely transcribed them. After much picking up and putting down of the manuscript over several years, it ultimately emerged as Under the Pong Pong TreeThe first draft ran to about 185,000 words, but I chopped it down to 78,000 words in the final version.

It is a gripping story that also bears elements of a cautionary tale. In the book, the Japanese are portrayed as brutal and pitiless in their treatment of the Chinese residents of Singapore. They executed thousands and practiced decapitation almost as an art form. Today we view the Japanese as a tidy little people, hard-working, and steeped in their quaint cultural traditions. The other naughty nation, Germany, has emerged from the horrors of Nazism to become an economic powerhouse. One might wonder what the future holds for brutal regimes of the present day?

I am unaware of literary influences that have helped me along the way – although there must be some. I tend to write from the omniscient viewpoint, with little interest in the machine-gun conversational style of the contemporary best-seller. Nor do I have an affinity for the current obsession with zombies or mutated mosquitoes the size of Greyhound busses. I lost interest in fairy tales when I was about eight years old. Although, now that I think about it, I have toyed with the idea of writing a story about a hemophobic vampire. If I have a favorite author, it might be Archy, the poet reincarnated as a large cockroach, who held frequent conversations with Mehitabel, a morally ambiguous cat who claimed to be the reincarnation of Cleopatra. Mehitabel maintained her zest for life, proclaiming “there’s a dance or two in the old dame yet.” Archy typed messages to his boss, Don Marquis, by diving headfirst onto the keys. The messages understandably all were in lower case and lacked apostrophes. That did not disturb the editors of the New York Sun, who were happy to publish Archy’s messages in their daily edition.

As to the future: I might follow up with a prequel to Under the Pong Pong Treebut only if a readership emerges from the underbrush. Otherwise, I shall move in another direction – yet to be determined.

I am currently involved in the puzzling procedure called marketing. I won’t bore you with the details, but, if you write a book, you want it read. Of course, I also might call your attention to Boswell’s quote from Samuel Johnson: “No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money.” Undiscovered authors are advised to refrain from such flippancies until THEY beg you to sign a major contract. Until then, we must be content to write because we are unable to not write.

 

Here are excerpts of excellent reviews of my book, by Clarion and Blue Ink:

“The Japanese invasion of Singapore sets the backdrop for this World War II saga of loyalty, love, and the promise of liberation. Under the Pong Pong Tree by Hal Levey delves into the brutality of foreign occupation from a woman’s perspective, allowing a candid portrayal of a war victim to emerge from the pages of this gritty chronicle. …The prose is sensitive, knowledgeable, and empathetic, covering intriguing topics across an extensive time line.”
—Clarion Review 5 stars

“This utterly compelling historical novel revolves around several characters whose lives have been irrevocably changed and, for the most part, damaged, by the WWII Japanese invasion of Singapore….The plot moves quickly with continuing storylines of many characters, and the writing and editing is flawless. Under the Pong Pong Tree will be enjoyed by a wide readership, particularly those who appreciate a fast-paced, realistic tale of war, survival and, ultimately, redemption.”
—Blue Ink Starred Review

 

 

A North Shore Story by Dean Economos and Alyssa Machinis

a_north_shore_story copy

For the teenagers of Chicago’s North Shore, everyone has something to hide.

In a daring attempt to impress the elusive Sophia, Michael makes the biggest decision of his life, stealing over a hundred thousand dollars from St. Theodore Community Church. That same night, Nichole’s insecurities are finally forgotten with a drug she soon won’t be able to control.
When Michael makes his getaway, he sees his friend Joseph cheat on his girlfriend with the priest’s daughter and knock over a candle that sets the church ablaze.
As the consequences of that night unfold, Joseph is blamed for the fire and the missing money. Can the teenagers of the North Shoreconfess their vices to help their friend? Or will their greed, infidelity and  jealousy change all their lives forever?

Thanks to PR By The Book for putting me in touch with the authors! We did a Q&A session about their debut novel, A NORTH SHORE STORY.

 

Dean Economos

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Give us some background, what did you do before writing this book? I went to college at Loyola University Chicago and received my undergrad in Biology and a minor in Biostatistics. I then went on to receive my M.B.A. from Loyola’s Quinlan School of Business with a concentration in Entrepreneurship.

What were the events that inspired the book? The book was inspired by different experiences growing up. Those key events and experiences were then intertwined with the more current events of our church’s media coverage.

Some parts of your book are things you actually experienced, they must have stuck with you for you to want to write about them years later. Did you always know you wanted to tell these stories? I kind of had a premonition growing up that these events would be shared. My friends and I would always say we should’ve had a show like Laguna Beach, or something of that nature. So, in a way, I did think these stories would be told in one way or another, I just didn’t think I’d be the one to tell them. Like other stories of turmoil, we are drawn to A North Shore Story because we can relate to the characters.

Can you elaborate on what is relatable about the internal struggles of the book’s characters? What makes these characters extremely relatable to readers are the confidence and relationship problems each one of them goes through, whether it be friendship or romantic. Some characters go through other internal struggles such as underage drinking, drug use, and sexual peer pressure. I think that everyone at one time or another has been in one of these circumstances.

What was your favorite part of writing this book? Since this was my first book, I didn’t know what to expect. I thought I was supposed to have a template or well-thought out plan before writing anything. Instead, I jumped into it head-first and developed the story as I wrote. I feel that doing it this way allowed myself to be more creative and not stick to a “script” per say. I was even surprised at what I was able to create.

What inspired you to write this story so many years later? What originally got my gears turning was the media’s coverage of our former priest and his embezzlement of church funds. I then started to think about our time growing up at our church and the events that our friends and I experienced. After pinpointing key events, I began formulating the plotline which now makes up A North Shore Story.

You know some of these characters in your waking life. Who was the most exciting to write? How have they changed because of what happened? The most exciting character to write about was definitely Kate. Kate, and the girl who she’s based off of, has a very exciting personality and a distinct attitude. When our friend read the story, she loved how she was portrayed in the storyline. I think that she, along with the rest of our friends, have changed in that we’ve learned how to tackle the problems that Kate and the rest of the group are dealing with right now.

Tell us more about your personal part in the stories. Are you in the book? How did you change your story for the fiction rendition? I am in the book. With my character, and with all the characters, I left elements of real life in the story and in the personality, but overall the fundamental qualities of each character are unique from their real life counterparts.

What strengths did you and Alyssa bring to the table to help one another write the book? I felt more connected to writing the actual story. I was able to figure out and connect the different subplots of the book, while Alyssa is very familiar with novels and creative writing. With those skills, she helped make the book come alive.

Do you anticipate a sequel? I’ve thrown ideas around in my head, and I’ve talked about it with Alyssa. We’re open to it, but haven’t started writing anything yet.

 


 

Alyssa Machinis

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Tell us about your background, what have you done since the events that occurred that inspired A North Shore Story? Well, I went to college at University of Illinois and graduated with a degree in Advertising and minors in both Business and Communications. Now I work at an advertising-technology company as a Digital Strategist.

What is your side of the story depicted in the book? Did you change the reality for the fiction version? My side of the story is depicted in the book, but it’s pretty separated from reality. The biggest and only consistency between my character and I are our driven personalities.

What was the most difficult part about writing this book? The most difficult part of writing the book was helping it come alive. The content was there, and the story was strong, but fostering the story from a passive standpoint into an active point of view was a challenge.

What do you think the most important lesson from the book is? The most important lesson from the book is to be confident in who you are. Don’t worry about what other people think because the fear of judgment can turn you into a person you don’t want to be.

What part of this story do you think appeals to young adult readers most? I think what appeals to young adults about A North Shore Story are the pop culture references mixed with struggles that I think a majority of teens have experienced or encountered at some point in their lives.

What clique were you in in high school? Can you tell us an event that happened to you and your friends that almost made it into A North Shore Story but isn’t included? I was definitely in the choir group throughout high school. There weren’t many events that didn’t make it into A North Shore Story, but we almost wrote in a choir sub-plot. However, we switched it to fashion as the story developed.

What were some of your favorite books in high school, when the story takes place? I loved the Harry Potter series and the Myron Bolitar series by Harlan Coben. He writes excellent mystery novels, and J.K. Rowling is a genius.

Who is your favorite author? What were a few books that inspired your writing? I don’t necessarily have a favorite author (I read a lot). However, I do think that J.K. Rowling’s writing style was very influential on my own. It’s also comforting to know that she had humble beginnings just like Dean and I have now.

Do you think you’ll write another book? Like Dean mentioned, we’ve talked about it a little bit. However, as of now we have not made any strides toward writing another book.

A NORTH SHORE STORY sounds pretty thrilling! Want your own copy? You can pick it up [easyazon_link identifier=”B017N3U6UK” locale=”US” nw=”y” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″]here[/easyazon_link].

 

Becoming Unique by James Charles

 

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Becoming Unique is a moving and informative account of one man’s journey towards Autism Spectrum Disorder. Whilst delivering practical and constructive advice for those living with autism, Charles also examines the positive attributes of the disorder, which he calls a diffability. Becoming Unique is also a story of faith, as Charles examined his relationship with God and how he made peace with his diagnosis. A rare and valuable first-person narrative about living with autism, James Charles’ story will stay with the reader forever.

 

James Charles grew up in County Leitrim, Ireland to a family of seven children.  In Ireland James received his education and a good awareness of the Catholic faith.  James moved to England aged 20, but never considered himself an immigrant due to England being the country of his birth.  Despite that, James had difficulty with people understanding his Irish accent and frequently changed jobs within his first year in England.  James began to feel more like his old friends still living in Ireland, when he started college part-time in September 1987 and a few months later he worked as a care worker in a hospital caring for adults with learning disabilities and this was to influence much of his career.

After a few years in care work, James quit concentrating on being a full-time student and where he gained a Higher National Diploma (HND) in Public Administration.  However James returned to Ireland in 1992 due to limited job opportunities in Luton and being unable to get a further grant to complete his degree.  James was a full-time student in 1993 at University College Cork (UCC), where he hoped to gain a Bachelor in Social Science degree with the aim of becoming a Social Worker.  While James succeeded in England working on continuous assessments and no exams, James faced the exam nightmare just like when he was a boy, resulting only remaining a year at UCC.  Yet James remained living in Cork prior to returning to England in 1995.

James returned to care work, but this time in mental health care settings in London.  James would later say “it was not exactly an experience of being thrown in the deep end”, as James had experience of people with mental health problems both when working in learning disabilities but also through people he got to know over the years.  After six months James was finished agency work in mental health and returned to one of his old jobs in July 1995.  James had no intention of further job moves and remained in his post as a care worker in learning disabilities, till he moved to Stafford to become a student nurse in mental in 1998.  It was here James met his future wife, James later said “she was the only stable thing in my life”.  While James often had many struggles in more than twenty five years of working, ten of them years were spent working as a mental health nurse.  In 2008 James and his wife moved to one of the British islands, where they lived and worked for five years and it was while working here, it was discovered that James had Autistic Spectrum Disorder.

This is a book about a man who was bullied, a victim of discrimination and experienced difficulty on many occasions with his communication.  It is also about growing up in Ireland and like many James emigrated to England in the 1980’s, as well as trying to integrate into the socialising environment.  As well as struggling with many changes, struggling with faith played a big part throughout his life, but the book also shows that faith is not through one religion.  The book looks at the challenges and misunderstandings faced by many Autistic people, even those on the so called high functioning Autistic spectrum.  Yet the book also looks at a future for Autism and what Autism can contribute to the world.

Becoming Unique is the voice of someone Autistic rather than the views of a clinical expert.  Having an Autistic voice is important, especially where many Autistic individuals often cannot communicate.  Becoming Unique also shows that Autistic individuals can have common interest like football and music, as this is shown in the Chapter Glasgow Celtic.  The book also shows that more work needs to be done to support Autistic individuals, but also many other individuals struggling with a disability.

Want your own copy? You can pick it up [easyazon_link identifier=”1909477907″ locale=”US” nw=”y” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″]here[/easyazon_link].

Guest Post by Suzanne Burdon, author of ALMOST INVINCIBLE

We will be reading and reviewing Suzanne Burdon‘s book at a later date, but in the meanwhile the author was kind enough to write this guest post for us! It’s quite apropos for the holiday.

 

Halloween – ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggedy beasties and things that go bump in the night. Whatever the early pagan or Christian origins of All Hallows’ Eve, the creatures of the netherworld are now thoroughly celebrated or lampooned, depending on your perspective, on October 31st. These are the creatures of the ‘natural’ world, but on a stormy night in 1816, Mary Shelley conceived a man-made monster that was to capture the imagination of generations and spawn many ‘hideous progeny’.

On All Hallows’ Eve in 1831, the Frankenstein novel that most people read today, was reprinted and published in a one volume popular format instead of the three volumes usual for the time, which gave it an even wider audience. The novel had already had considerable success since it was originally released in 1818 and almost immediately captured the popular imagination. Its fame was boosted by stage adaptations, notably Presumption; or, the Fate of Frankenstein, which played at the Royal Opera House in London in 1823. Mary went to see the production and though she admitted that they had not followed the story closely, she thought it was well done. There were thunderstorms and a collapsing glacier and the monster was so suitably scary that women in the audience fainted.

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It is lucky that Mary was not precious about the representation of her work or she would surely be endlessly rotating in her grave. The themes and imagery from the novel have been recast into cartoons, music, plays, comedies, TV series and almost a hundred movies. The most iconic representation was of course Boris Karloff as the monster in the 1931 Hammer Horror movie adaption, with the monobrow and bolts through his neck. Frankenstein’s screen history started in 1910 in the first silent film from Edison studios and continues with new 2015 movie with James McAvoy and Daniel Radcliffe.

The story has been analysed and intellectualised endlessly, but the common, horror aspect of most incarnations has been the creation of an animated monster by human agency, and the failure to control it thereafter. Victor Frankenstein is a mad scientist who plays God and then refuses to take responsibility for his creation. The vulnerabilities of the characters and the moral and social implications of the original story are mostly marginalized. The abiding horror is contemplating human vanity and frailty.

Mary Shelley was only eighteen when she started her story and it was composed on a wild and stormy night in mid summer in Lord Byron’s villa on the lake at Geneva. That year, 1816, was known as The Year Without a Summer. Mount Tambora in Indonesia had erupted spectacularly – it was the largest volcanic eruption in recorded history – and Europe was blanketed in dust. People thought the end of the world had come. It was a suitable backdrop to the creation of a gothic story as Byron, Mary and her lover, Percy Bysshe Shelley, her stepsister Claire and Byron’s doctor, Polidori, huddled around the fire reading ghost stories. Byron then threw out the challenge for each of the company to try their hand at the creation of something frightening.

Mary had felt enormous pressure to validate her genes and produce a literary work of value, but until Frankenstein she had struggled to find the right outlet for her creativity. So Mary’s response to the challenge was inevitably more than a simple scary story. Her parents were both radical authors; her mother wrote A Vindication of the Rights of Woman and is considered an early feminist and her father, William Godwin, wrote a groundbreaking anti-establishment book called Political Justice. So writing something that had social meaning was not surprising.

The scientific context of Frankenstein is more unexpected but was a result of her relationship with Shelley, the poet. When she eloped with him, Mary hadn’t realised the depth of his passion for chemical experiments, nor the potentially lethal impact of his obsession on working papers, tabletops or cushion covers, as smoke rose and glasses full of foul-coloured liquid shattered. Wires and crucibles of liquids would appear on the parlour table alongside the solar microscope and the extremely thumbed and stained copy of The Elements of Chemical Philosophy by Humphrey Davy. It didn’t add to their acceptability to landladies, but it did add to her inspiration for the science in Frankenstein.

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In the 1931 edition, published on October 31st 1831, Mary added a new preface where she explained the circumstances in which the novel had been conceived. By that time, Shelley was dead and she was largely supporting herself with her writing. Her other novels were ‘by the Author of Frankenstein’. Frankenstein and his monster have passed into popular culture and show no signs of diminishing impact. Indeed with current forays into gene modification and limb replacement, it is still, potentially, very much a modern horror story.

 

 Suzanne Burdon: Author of Almost Invincible, A Biographical Novel of Mary Shelley

invincible

 

Look for our review of ALMOST INVINCIBLE, coming soon! Many thanks to Ms Burdon for sharing her story.   

 

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