Sunday, September 29, 2013

Signs of Fall

Fall or autumn is my most favorite time of the year, and this year it came right on cue on September 22nd.

Fall in north Florida doesn't come with gorgeous leaf colors or an early smattering of snow, but it heralds cooler days and nights, less humidity and a decrease in the number of bugs. Finally we can go outside and enjoy the exceptional weather without melting or ending up with a new crop of bug bites.

My husband and I love to hike the nearby public lands and we are incredibly fortunate to have two State Wildlife Preserves just a couple of miles away from our home. This morning we did a six mile loop. The only other people we saw was a group of horse riders who had trailered their mounts into the area.

We saw plenty of game spoor, including deer, raccoons, foxes, coyotes, feral wild boars, and bears, but we didn't see a single animal. Other times we've been amazingly lucky to have watched a new born fawn gambol around its mother, totally unaware of our presence, and we've had four encounters with black bears.

The Florida black bear is endangered, and it is so uplifting to see them thriving and living in our back yard. We've seen single bears on three occasions and a mother with two cubs one time. They've never been aggressive toward us, but rather they just ambled away and ignored us.


My only regret about fall is that it gives way to winter, and just as we don't have a spectacular leaf changing autumn in Florida, we don't have anything as enchanting as snowfall in winter. It just gets really cold.

On the plus side, there is something very appealing about sitting in front of a crackling fire with a good book sipping a mug of hot chocolate.


Saturday, September 21, 2013

First Page - The Undying Love by Greg McCabe

For Diane and Jackson, life is just about perfect. They’re healthy, happy, and madly in love with one another. Unknown to them, a virus is sweeping across the globe that instantly kills the infected and turns their corpses into mindless, murdering cannibals. In short: zombies have taken over the planet.

Diane and Jackson find out about the epidemic the hard way when their wedding is crashed by friends and family who have succumbed to the virus. Now, fighting for survival, they're faced with unthinkable decisions.


Follow their story across Southeast Texas as they meet unforgettable characters and face challenges that will put their love, and lives to the ultimate test.

The Undying Love

Greg McCabe

Sirens & Screams


Right now, my life is perfect.
She smiled at the thought and looked at herself in the mirror. She had dreamt of this day since being a child, but never imagined she would actually look this beautiful. Her hair and make-up were professionally done and her arms were toned from months of sculpting curls. The all-white dress popped against her subtle tan.
Diane continued to study herself in the mirror as she took a sip of her mimosa. 



She stayed in the Honeymoon Suite with her mother the night before. They had breakfast sent up by room service when they woke. A Denver omelet for Diane and a big Belgium waffle for mom, but they ended up sharing both plates. After a quick shower, they took the elevator down to the ‘Spa/Pool’ level of the high-end hotel and checked in for their 10:30 am massages.
After an amazing sixty minute massage, the pair headed back up to the honeymoon suite where they waited for the bridesmaids to arrive. The ladies were to meet around noon for their 1:00 pm appointments in the hotel salon for hair styling, manicures, pedicures, and make-up.
Emma and Erin drove together and arrived first. Diane’s maid of honor, Cathy, arrived next, followed by Anna, Julie, and Kristen. Last to arrive was Carrie, Diane’s only hometown friend in the wedding. The rest were friends from college—seven wonderful ladies in all.
After a couple hours of pampering in the salon, the ladies headed back up to the suite to change into their dresses. From the neck up, they were immaculate, with pristine make-up and hair, but from the neck down, they were sloppy, wearing t-shirts, cotton shorts, and flip flops.
The ceremony was to be held in the courtyard of the hotel with the reception in the ballroom on the second floor. Diane always thought she would be married in a church, but the convenience of having the ceremony and the reception at the same venue was too much to deny. Besides, the courtyard of the hotel was lovely. Located in the Uptown...

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Thursday, September 19, 2013

First Page - Gape by Aiden Truss

When Rose woke up in her favourite shop doorway, she was resigned to yet another day of hunger, struggle and abuse. This was life on the streets after all.

What she wasn’t prepared for, was a visit from a demon, an invitation back to his temporally insubstantial sanctuary, and forced to take sides in a battle involving most of the denizens of hell. Oh, and a boat trip down the river Thames.


After a disappointing start to the day, things were about to get a bit more interesting…

GAPE

Aiden Truss

Foreword:

Separated by those vast and normally insuperable gulfs of space, time and imagination, two beings sit at the crossroads of their lives - one human, and one something more than human. Both feel the weight of their existence and a solitude born of their introspection and contemplation. Both are equally lost and shackled by their seeming impotence in the face of the storm blowing around them.
Of all the different types of crises we face, it is the internal, personalised ones which hit hardest, cut the deepest and yet teach us the most valuable lessons. In that sense, it makes not one jot of difference that one of our protagonists is a female human and the other a male demon. As we shall find, near omnipotence does not denote omniscience and incapacity need not mean weakness.
Life cuts through complications – it’s just that we seldom step back and allow it to take its course. We always assume that there is a point, that there is something more to it all than a series of contiguous moments, a chain of causes and effects – that there must be a cosmic narrative and a divine plan. Sometimes it’s handy to know what’s around the next bend in the road, but still, we must negotiate that bend and the change of direction that it brings. Whether you’re a milkman or a 7th level demon, you still have to get your head around your day job and the challenges and satisfaction that it may or may not bring. In Paradise Lost, that shrewd observer of the eternal struggle, John Milton, wrote:
The mind is its own place, and in itself,
Can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven.

It was poetic license – Satan never really had to jump to such conclusions, but you get the gist don’t you. It’s where you’re at in your head that defines the world around you. For this reason, our tale is set in recognizable worlds, with familiar terms of reference. The everyday world of humanity is set in the unremarkable London suburb of Bromley. I would have used Croydon for a setting, but this might have placed us nearer to purgatory in terms of imaginative leaps. (Papers recently unearthed during Dan Brown’s search through Vatican records reveal that the medieval Catholic Church considered calling the transitory state between Heaven and Hell ‘Croydon’, but were persuaded differently by its connotations of helplessness and despair; at least in purgatory there’s the hope of something better to come!).
The universe, or cosmos as your author has chosen to describe it (paints a bigger picture than just ‘universe’ don’t you think?), is full of different levels of life and evolution. Creatures living in dimensions unknown to traditional science co-exist in areas of space occupied by more conventional life-forms. Every so often, these planes intersect and cross over. Hence we have unexplained sightings, strange craters in the wilderness, ghosts and silly old women making a fair living at pretending to be psychics. None of which are the least bit extraordinary if you have a tiny inkling of the true nature of the...

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Saturday, September 14, 2013

First Page - North Dark by Lane Kareska

Set in a lonesome and barbarous failed state, North Dark is the story of a lone man traveling by dogsled across a frozen wasteland in pursuit of the fugitive who destroyed his family.


Haunted by predators both physical and spectral, the musher’s journey takes him across a deadened tundra, tortured cities and the remains of civilizations long-lapsed into madness. All the while, his enemy slides in and out of striking distance, always one step ahead, always one act of violence away.

North Dark

Laye Kareska

One

     Treesplitter sees that his sons neither hear nor understand him, so he waves his whipping torch and they all spread out to search the ice caves. His sons are capable, not useless. His gloved hand clenches the stalk of the torch as he enters the ribbed blue socket of a nameless tunnel he played in many times as a child and teenager. The windhowl shuts off as he passes into the low slung shaft. The light of his torch flaps on the icerimed ceiling and walls. Once he is far enough within to no longer feel the sharp scrape of wind on his face, he throws back his foxfur hood, searches the ground for footprints in the frost, and sees none. That does not mean he is in no danger. That does not mean the fugitive is not just ahead of him, hiding in the dark, blade drawn. Treesplitter grips his sharpest knife and advances quietly.

     He has been through this before. Men, desperate men, come through his village several times a year. Some criminals, others victims, but the hard and fast local law is to turn all away. There is no room. No space for unknowns. Once, years ago, on a similar adventure, he had been forced to kill two men in a cave like this. He never did learn from what they were running, but they had carried short, nicked knives and wild looks in their eyes and that was enough.

     The grim weight of resolve settles over him. There is a good chance he will murder soon.

     Murder. Best not to call it that. Protection. Protection of his family, those he loves, those he fathers, the woman he husbands. He touches the ice wall with his fingers. This is the spot where he first made love to Prairie thirty years ago. Neither of them has been with another since.

     He looks down at the icy ground and gives a small laugh for the young and hotheaded boy he once was. It is unthinkable how much time has changed him. Tamed him even.

     He moves down the tunnel until he reaches the first hard bend. He bites his knife and transfers the torch to his left hand. He reaches for the leather sack looped through his belt, sets it on the ground, opens the mouth and lets loose the three gray ridge mice within. The rasping animals, each as long as river trout, circle him. He waves them forward with his torch and they run into the darkness of the tunnel ahead. He stands there listening for long seconds. He scrapes the flat of his knife against his beard. Fugitives. Ruffians. He has better things to do, village work to complete, tasks to administer, supper to eat. The temperature drops a few degrees and he reminds himself that he had better keep his mind on the job at hand. Tougher men than he have been lost to simple scoundrels before.

     The high whine of the ridge mice ahead. A long, panicked squeal. One of the cries cuts off and, a moment later, two of the mice race past his feet, darting away. He holds the torch forward, illuminating another few yards of blue cave and the twisted, enraged face of the snowbear lumbering toward him on enormous paws. The creature’s small eyes flash and its fur glows blue in the strange halflight of the tunnel.

     Treesplitter’s eyes widen in alarm and he throws the torch at the beast. The bear ignores the fire bouncing from his chest and charges the man before him. Treesplitter lowers himself, crouches ...

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Thursday, September 12, 2013

First Page - Kin Ship: Moustache on the Moon

We believe in life on other planets. We believe they visit us from time to time. What if life also evolves in the vast empty space between galaxies, among the very stars themselves? What would it look like? What would you do if it showed up in our skies?

Marnie is your average teenager. She goes to school every day, hangs out with her friends, and tries to stay out of trouble. One morning, while suffering through another boring class, her world is turned upside down when two intergalactic strangers come to collect her.


And it’s not just Marnie’s world, but her whole family’s too. It seems that random kids and their moms and dads have also been scooped up and taken to the hidden mountain valley far from their homes. No one knows why they’ve been selected or what’s really going on…

Kin Ship: Moustache on the Moon (Part One

D. K. Snape


During those hours of the dark of the moon, the new moon, something crawled across her face. No warning sounded from any of the space departments, the satellites or the space station.
For Earth, all unaware, faced that dark moon waiting for her visage to reappear as she had done for time immemorial.

Only as the first slice of the moon’s shining surface reappeared did a creature become visible.
All Earth saw that shape.
Every nation readied their most powerful weapons, anticipating an attack. Militia stood on guard for the expected invasion. Within hours military in many countries began recruiting, promising extraordinary travel and training opportunities as their budgets increased dramatically.
Every telescope on and off Earth tracked the worm-shaped beast. Pictures downloaded, headlines questioned. Governments postured, scientists postulated, and military speculated. Theories expounded. No one on Earth knew what this could be.
By the time the moon waxed gibbous, a distinct worm-like shape of something totally alien emerged, clearly visible, settling above the face of our moon. The familiar childhood nursery rhyme figure, the Man on the Moon, now sported a moustache; a thick sand-colored moustache.
Governments diverted billions into space budgets, some governments working together for the first time in history. Spaceship programs tried in vain to divert scheduled flights. But none of the ships available had the range to fly further than the Space Station.
Around the globe a word-war of hypotheses tattered reputations as scientists formulated and published unproven theories in bids to gain prestige and research funds. Science journals spouting a flurry of discussions about the alien worm-beast presence arriving through a recently reported opening wormhole just outside Jupiter made headlines for a few days. But the ivory tower residents, for all their speculation, concluded nothing.
Interrupted TV shows became the norm as every station interviewed their pet scientist, all hoping to be the first to unveil the truth.
Xenophobia reared its ugly head. Some religions revamped their doomsday prophecies, sure the end of the world was now. New religious cults sprang up. Paranoia blossomed within all cultures. Psychiatrists’ and psychologists’ businesses boomed as people’s anxieties bloomed.
The worm lay quiescent against the moon’s familiar face for months. Telescopes trained on it strained to find some movement. Spacecraft, finally diverted, orbited, discovering nothing to further understanding.
It did nothing.

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Friday, September 6, 2013

First Page - Love 'n Lies by Aspen deLainey

Gaining weight is a human problem. At least that’s what Leticia always thought. But when this vivacious vampire wakes from her year-long slumber and discovers that her formerly svelte frame has retained a few extra pounds, it becomes apparent that something has gone amiss.

A girl just can't wander around the Calgary Stampede in clothes that don't fit! So she sets about the task of shopping and working out a low-cal diet of humans she can live on. When her friends notice how depressed she is, one of them suggests she adopt a tomcat named Justin to keep her company. Little does she know that she would fall madly in love with her new kitty. The moment she does, the spell cast over Justin is broken and he takes his true form – a long, tall, dark haired man with an insatiable sex drive. Letty is more tempted than she ever thought possible and can't keep her hands off him anymore than he can keep his off of her.

After taking him back to her childhood home, Evermore, to consult with the head wizard Silvius, she soon discovers the Warlock who cast the spell over Justin isn't letting him go so easily.


Throw in a nasty twin sister who'll do anything to get her hands on what Letty has, including Justin's more than hot body, and you end up with Love... 'n Lies!


LOVE 'N LIES

Aspen deLainey
Chapter 1 

This whole fiasco happened because I’m lonely. Not friend lonely. Believe me, I have lots of friends.
Heart lonely.
I woke up near the end of June; in, of course, Calgary, Alberta. You know, that cowboy city in the great white north; Canada.
Right in time for The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth, the Calgary Stampede. That’s when every citizen and all the tourists in this crazy city dress up in their favorite cowboy ensemble.
Honest!
Men wear plaid western shirts, string ties, and blue jeans. Women wear either blue jeans or blue jean skirts, western plaid shirts or their flooziest bordello-type top—the one they’d wear for Klondike days in Edmonton in a couple of weeks. And everybody wears cowboy hats. Some even wear cowboy boots.
I mingled with all those Stampede cowboys downtown the first evening, wearing my new jeans. My bustier’s only real western claim: the denim strips supporting the lace. This time it really needed the support, as I overflowed magnificently.
It’s a party here! For ten days straight, I kid you not! This city pretty much shuts down corporate headquarters to celebrate. Even the tourists visiting just to see ‘the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth,’ namely the Calgary Stampede Rodeo, dress western and party.
I walked downtown Calgary, listening to the echoes of drunken yahoo’s, laughter and the clip-clop of horses being ridden through the streets. The leftover odor of ubiquitous pancakes, sausages, eggs, bacon and champagne-orange juice, served at every street corner, lingered. Stampede breakfasts are tradition, after all.
I drew stares. But I corralled most of my come hither attitude tonight. No time to dally, no time for sensual imbibing. Tonight I would only disappoint.
For tonight, I started my diet.
I needed an out of the way space to just watch the crowds for a moment. To get a good spin on my lasso. I picked the alley just up ahead. I’d duck into that one, hide until I got a good spin on my lasso. Once I had it going really good, I’d exit, stage centre—like an actress; winning applause with my rope trick. Perfect plan, right?
But back in the shadows of my chosen alley, near the dumpster, a little man relieved...

Thursday, September 5, 2013

First Page - Sometimes in Dreams by G.L. Helm

Daniel Pentland is a broken man; torn between the two women in his life. He is tormented by guilt over his love affair with a beautiful English girl he met while living in Italy, and the loyal devotion of his wife, Amanda.

Two years after the tragic death of his lover Kit, he is continually haunted by her memory. Across the sands of the Mojave Desert, her voice calls out to him, pulling at his heart and his memories.

Each night as Daniel wakes screaming and fighting against the phantom of Kit’s killer, his wife does her best to soothe his pain and help him overcome his grief.

Sometimes in Dreams is a story of redemption through a love that simply refuses to die.



SOMETIMES IN DREAMS

G. L. Helm

Chapter 1 

The haze at the edges of his vision let Daniel Pentland know that this was a dream and he began to fight against it as soon as he knew it was a dream, but it was already too late. Once the dream began to unreel there was no calling it back.
Amanda , Daniel’s wife, heard him begin to dream and came wide awake.  She slept lightly now, like a mother with small babies, though she had never slept so lightly when her sons were infants.  Now she reached out and found that Daniel was sweating like a man in a fever. He groaned and thrashed and mumbled.
Amanda rubbed her hand down his chest and said, “It’s OK. It’s OK. It’s only a dream, Danny.”
The desert wind that never seemed to be still banged the Venetian blinds.
Daniel sat up suddenly, not awake and still struggling with the dream. Amanda threw her arms around him, pinning his arms to his side, and held him until he stopped struggling.
“Danny, are you awake now?” She asked after a moment.
“Yeah,” he answered, his voice tightly controlled. “Did I hurt you?”
“No,” she answered. The trembling that always followed the dreams was upon him now and she knew it was safe to ease her embrace.
Daniel drew a deep breath and let it out, glad he had not punched Amanda in his nightmare fight with Dr. Pest. Other times Amanda had not been so lucky.
The wind banged the Venetian blinds again and Amanda started to get up to pull them up but Daniel said, “No. Go back to sleep. I’ll get them. I’m going out back.”
It was 3:00 AM but Amanda did not try to get him to stay in bed. She knew he was afraid the dream would return if he tried to go back to sleep too soon.
Daniel rolled out of the bed. He was naked and took a moment to pull on some gym shorts that lay on the floor beside the bed, then he went to the window. He pulled the blinds up and let the moonlight spill in. It glowed from his sweat sheened body and Amanda thought how much she loved to feel that body beside her—in her. Their lovemaking had been joyful and passionate and fulfilling. They had only needed one another for so long— until Kit.
Amanda lay down again and pulled the sheet up to her chin. The dreams did not come as often now and some days Daniel seemed almost his old self, but then Dr. Pest would come in the night and Daniel would awake fighting.  Sometimes that would end his sleep for days on end. She hoped this would not be one of those times because when he did not sleep she did not sleep, and that made her days in the Logistics office very long. It was times like these that she hated Daniel and when she let her hate get loose for a moment she felt guilty, knowing Daniel couldn’t help what came into his dreams; knowing that she was at least partly to blame for what had happened.

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