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The Writing Life with Jonathan Raab, Author of ‘Flight of the Blue Falcon’

jonathanJonathan Raab is the author of Flight of the Blue Falcon, a military novel about the Afghanistan War, based on his time in the United States Army. He is also the author of the upcoming The Hillbilly Moonshine Massacre, a novel about UFOs, conspiracy theories, militarized police, and what it means to come home. He is also the editor in chief of Muzzleland Press, a horror and weird fiction small press. He lives in Golden, Colorado with his wife Jess and their dog Egon.

What’s inside the mind of a military fiction author?

That depends on what type of book it is. This is a novel, and my intention was to write something that was funny, tragic, true, and accessible for people who hadn’t been in the military. I had to be careful not to be too cynical—but I also wanted to tell a true war story, as impossible as that may be.

What is so great about being an author?

Um, you get to spend long hours alone, you’re wracked with self-doubt and anxiety, and then people criticize the work you’ve poured your heart and soul into. But sometimes there’s a small royalty check which helps buy beer, so I got that going for me.

When do you hate it?

When people learn I’m a writer and then tell me they don’t have time to read, or that reading is boring. Great. Thanks for sharing, guys.

What is a regular writing day like for you? Be honest!

Coffee + butt in seat + turning off social media and avoiding distractions. And more coffee.

Do you think authors have big egos? Do you? How do you know?

All authors have to have some sort of ego—otherwise, why would we think anyone cared about what we have to say? I try to avoid the “misunderstood genius” line of thinking. I do think I’m pretty good, but I try to stay humble and hungry, so that my writing improves, and I’m not colossally disappointed when I don’t sell a million books. Although, maybe someday…

flightHow do you handle negative reviews?

If my book’s not for you, it’s not for you. I shrug it off and drive on.

What is the usual response when you tell a new acquaintance that you’re an author?

I don’t bring it up first thing. If the conversation goes in that direction, sure. Otherwise it seems like I’m begging for attention. Most people say “neat” and that’s the end of it.

What do you do on those days you don’t feel like writing? Do you force it or take a break?

When I’m working on a project, I keep a regular writing schedule (five days a week). Right now, I’m pretty exhausted from writing back-to-back novels and constantly editing other people’s work, so I’ve allowed myself a couple of weeks off.

Any writing quirks?

Yes. My first drafts tend to be somewhat stream-of-consciousness. I’m not a perfectionist the first round. It helps me get through that all-important first draft.

Have you worked on your novel intoxicated? What was the result?

I’ve… imbibed a few while writing, sure. One or two drinks loosens you up. Any more than that and the quality suffers. The idea of the tortured artist or writer being an alcoholic because it helps their work is a total myth, and I get angry when people claim otherwise. Imagine how much better your favorite drunk writer could have been if they kept clean during the writing process.

What would you do if people around you didn’t take your writing seriously or see it as a hobby?

Writing is somewhat of a selfish pursuit. It’s about working out your own issues, telling your own stories. If people don’t take me seriously and I never published again, I’d still keep writing. I’d still keep plugging away. Someone will appreciate it, somewhere. I hope.

Some authors seem to have a love-hate relationship to writing. Can you relate?

I hear that. It’s a compulsion. It’s fun, sure, but it can also be excruciating. You write because you have to write, otherwise you can get depressed.

Do you think success as an author must be linked to money?

Clearly not. Although money helps!

Leave us with some words of wisdom.

Don’t let the blue falcons get you down.

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Title: Flight of the Blue Falcon

Genre: Fiction – Adult

Author: Jonathan Raab

Website: http://www.warwriterscampaign.org

Publisher: War Writers’ Campaign, Inc.

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Purchase on Amazon

About the Book:

FLIGHT OF THE BLUE FALCON

By

JONATHAN RAAB

“Jonathan Raab is not only a genuine advocate for veteran causes, he is a preacher of their tales; both fiction and nonfiction. His writing will immerse you into a combat environment that parallels the imagination of those who have never had the pleasure.”

—Derek J. Porter, author of Conquering Mental Fatigues: PTSD & Hypervigilance Disorder

“Jonathan Raab uses his experience to illustrate the raw world of the common soldier. His masterful use of edgy humor and intellectual commentary creates a space for discussing the military culture.”

—Nate Brookshire, co-author, Hidden Wounds: A Soldiers Burden

In FLIGHT OF THE BLUE FALCON (War Writers’ Campaign; July 2015; PRICE), a chewed-up Army National Guard unit heads to a forgotten war in Afghanistan where three men find themselves thrust into the heart of absurdity: the post-modern American war machine. The inexperienced Private Rench, the jaded veteran Staff Sergeant Halderman, and the idealistic Lieutenant Gracie join a platoon of misfit citizen-soldiers and experience a series of alienating and bizarre events.

Private Rench is young, inexperienced, and from a poor, rural, broken home. He’s adrift in life. The early signs of alcoholism and potential substance abuse are beginning to rear their ugly heads. He wants to do right by the Army, but doesn’t quite know who he is yet.

Staff Sergeant Halderman has one previous combat tour under his belt. He got out, realized his life was going nowhere, so re-enlisted to serve with the men he knew, and to lead the inexperienced guys into combat. He is manifesting the early signs of post traumatic stress, but is too focused on the upcoming mission to deal with it. He sees the Army for what it is—a big, screwed up machine that doesn’t always do the right thing—but he doesn’t think all that highly of himself, either.

Second Lieutenant Gracie is fresh, young, excited to be in the Army, and trying to adjust to the new to the military and his life as an officer. Although he faces a steep learning curve, he is adaptable and has a good, upbeat attitude. As he tries to forge his own path, he nonetheless turns to the experienced NCOs in his unit for guidance and support. He must continually make tough decisions that have no “right” or textbook answers. Yet these decisions are catalysts enabling him to grow in maturity, experience, and wisdom.

Preparation for combat is surreal: Rench is force-fed cookies by his drill sergeants. Halderman’s “training” is to pick up garbage in the blistering heat of the California desert for four days straight. Gracie contends with a battalion commander obsessed with latrine graffiti.

Once they reach Afghanistan, things really get weird.

FLIGHT OF THE BLUE FALCON is the story of three men who volunteer to serve their country. It’s about what it means to be a soldier, to fight, to know true camaraderie—and to return home.

This is a war story. This is their story.

Only the most unbelievable parts are true.

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Read-a-Chapter: Rowena and the Dark Lord, by Melodie Campbell

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Read a Chapter is *NEW* added feature at As the Pages Turn! Here you’ll be able to read the first chapters of books of all genres to see if you like them before you buy them. Today we are featuring the comic, time-travel romance, Rowena and the Dark Lord, by Melodie Campbell. Enjoy!

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000040_00066]

Dark magic…dark passions….

When Rowena is abducted from Arizona and taken back to medieval Land’s End, one thing is clear: she must learn to control her powers of magic. It isn’t easy being a modern girl in an archaic land, and when Rowena accidently conjures up a Roman Legion in mid-battle, Land’s End is on the brink of a war that could jeopardize everything and everyone she loves.

The stakes are raised when the Dark Lord reappears and traps Rowena in a cyclone of lust and passion. Once again, she is torn between the man she loves and the mage who fires her desire.

Purchase the book on Amazon.

Currently #2 Time-travel in Canada!  Top 100 in US!

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ROWENA AND THE DARK LORD

PART 1

Chapter 1

The trouble with walking through walls into alternate worlds is you’re an illegal alien when you get to the other side.

“I have to work at something, Rowena.” Thane was pacing my townhouse kitchen with the intensity of a caged tiger. “I can’t be a kept man.”

I sighed and look down at my hands.

Trouble in paradise. This is what I didn’t consider when I pulled Thane through the wall with me from medieval Land’s End into the 21st century.

We’d only been in America for a few weeks. And they had been glorious so far. To know you are loved by another such that they would give up their world—actually their Kingdom—for you is a powerful aphrodisiac.

Now we had enjoyed the luxury of many days together. Enough time to teach Thane how to drive a car, which he adored to the point of obsession. But not enough time to figure out what he could do with his life in modern USA.

Thane didn’t have a social security card. He didn’t have a birth certificate, or any proof of education. And he couldn’t read English. How the heck was he going to get a job in Phoenix, Arizona?

“You could volunteer,” I said hopefully. “People don’t usually ask for identity cards when you volunteer.”

“At what?” Thane stopped pacing and stared at me. His ocean blue eyes were wild. “I’m a classical Greek and Latin scholar and an expert swordsman. How many volunteer positions do you see for these talents in your modern world?”

I was feeling miserable now. It would take me some time to teach Thane how to write English, and that was only the beginning.

Truly, we had escaped Land’s End without thinking of the consequences. How much easier it had been for me to fit into Thane’s world of the middle ages! Was it just that women adapted better to new environments?

“Please don’t worry so,” I pleaded. “You know I’ll think of something. Give me a little time.”

He had his broad back to me now. His heavily muscled arms crossed his chest. I could see he was gazing out the living room window, to the expanse of desert beyond. A lone Saguaro cactus loomed tall amongst the sprawl of lower teddy-bear cacti and Sonoran shrubs. I could almost feel what he was thinking. The lone Saguaro…

“I must work at something, my love.” Thane’s hypnotic baritone voice was sad now, weary. “I can’t bear to see you go to work to support us both. ‘Tis worse, that I know a babe is coming.”

Now I felt really sick.

The sad thing was, this baby wasn’t his. He knew that, of course. I had been married to his older brother Sargon, who was now dead. Thane assumed he was the natural uncle of my child to be.

I knew otherwise.

We had left Land’s End to escape Cedric. Cunning, irresistible Cedric…my distant cousin was a powerful wizard, just as I had been born a sort-of witch (to my great surprise—I didn’t know it until recently.) Cedric had bound me to him with magic more powerful than I could resist. And yes, God help me, there was to be a child from our union, in six months’ time.

It was Cedric’s child. I knew that now for sure.

But Thane did not.

“Do you miss Land’s End, Thane?” It had been haunting me for several days, that need to ask, even if I didn’t want to hear the answer.

He swung back to me and sighed.

“Yes,” he said. “If truth be told, yes. I miss the familiar. The deep greens of our earth, the orange blaze of sun in the sky. Our two moons shining at night. Your world is more muted. It’s restful, but I don’t want restful.”

With a start, his energy surged. He returned to pacing. “Oh, I can train here. I can stay physically fit. But I am a man of my times, Rowena. I like to wear armor. You have no idea how it makes a man feel. To strap on chainmail and feel the weight of a sword in your hand! I was born to it. And while I value books and book-learning, I also love physical challenges. The rush of adrenaline that courses through your body in one to one combat—by the Gods, how I miss that! The clang of metal on metal…” One fist struck the other hand over and over.

I was dismayed. This was the answer I had dreaded. He must have caught sight of my face. His voice softened slightly.

“But most of all, I miss the supreme contentment of knowing my place in the world. I was King there, Rowena—King! But that’s not the worst of it.” He paused.

I waited for it.

“I am plagued with guilt. I left my people…”

There was a catch in his voice. This was the emotion I had anticipated. Oh, I knew it had to be there, lurking in the dark, but he had hid it well until now.

“I left my brother Rhys to face that villain Cedric without me. Logan, too. I left my troops, my people. ” His voice broke with bitterness. “This is the worst of my sins. That I might do it again, to be with you. That’s the hell of it, my love.”

Sorrow cut through me like the sword he still cherished.

“We could go back,” I whispered.

I don’t know if he heard me. The front door swung open and hit the wall.

“Hey guess what?” Kendra’s sunny voice filled the hall. “They have a medieval festival in town! It’s in the paper—see?”

She bounced up to greet us with Richard on her heel. What a contrast they presented—I had to smile.

Kendra with her black bobbed hair and goth wardrobe was a full foot shorter than Richard. She bounced around him like a cyber-punk Tigger. Richard looked for all the world like Richard the Lion heart—blond, two meters tall, broad-shouldered and built to wear chainmail.

His natural state was to gaze at her with adoration. He didn’t appear as yet to be experiencing the angst that tortured the man I loved. Of course, Richard loved cars and all things that the modern world had to offer. He had taken to it like a lion to the chase.

Kendra waved the paper in front of my face. “They’ve just set up in a field past Apache Junction. Can we go, Row? We have to go!”

I took the paper dutifully and scanned it. These medieval times festivals were a yearly thing in Arizona. I had never been before. Maybe it would distract us?

“Thane, what do you think?”

He turned around and shrugged. His face was impassive.

“Oh Thane, don’t be a wienie,” said Kendra. “It’ll be just like being in Land’s End. Of course we have to go. And we need to dress up in our clothes from Land’s End. Oh, we’ll be the most well-dressed people there! Or at least the most accurate. It’s going to be fun!” She did a little dance in the centre of the kitchen.

That’s when I had my first feeling of dread.

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A Conversation with ‘Saving Grace’ Pamela Fagan Hutchins

Pamela Fagan HutchinsPamela Fagan Hutchins writes award-winning mysterious women’s fiction and relationship humor books, and holds nothing back.  She is known for “having it all” which really means she has a little too much of everything, but loves it: writer, mediocre endurance athlete (triathlon, marathons), wife, mom of an ADHD & Asperger’s son, five kids/step-kids, business owner, recovering employment attorney and human resources executive, investigator, consultant, and musician.  Pamela lives with her husband Eric and two high school-aged kids, plus 200 pounds of pets in Houston. Their hearts are still in St. Croix, USVI, along with those of their three oldest offspring.

Her latest book is the mystery/women’s fiction, Saving Grace.

WEBSITE | TWITTER | FACEBOOK | GOOGLE+ |GOODREADS | LINKEDIN | SKIPJACK PUBLISHING

Saving GraceQ: Thank you for this interview, Pamela. Can you tell us what your latest book, Saving Grace, is all about?

Thank you! Saving Grace is the story of Katie Connell, a Texas attorney whose life is one train wreck after another: too many Bloody Marys, a client who’s the Vanilla Ice of the NBA, and a thing for a Heathcliff-like co-worker. She takes refuge from it all on the island of St. Marcos, where she plans to investigate the suspicious deaths of her parents. But she trades one set of problems for another when she is bewitched by the voodoo spirit Annalise in an abandoned rainforest house and, as worlds collide, finds herself reluctantly donning her lawyer clothes again to defend her new friend Ava, who is accused of stabbing her very married Senator-boyfriend.

Q:  Can you tell us a little about your main and supporting characters?

First, there’s Katie. Oh, Katie, Katie, Katie. She’s the main character, a 30-something lawyer who vacuums her rugs backwards and is as much a danger to herself as the bad guys.

Nick is the object of her unreturned affections, an investigator in Dallas with a penchant for surf boards and bass guitars.

Ava is an island seductress who convinces Katie to become her new best friend and a second for her vocal duo.

Rashidi John befriends Katie when he introduces her to the jumbie house Annalise on one of his popular-with-the-ladies rainforest botany tours.

And then there’s Annalise, a giant abandoned house in the rainforest who shows her magical side to a chosen few, and, boy does she ever choose Katie.

Q: Do you ten­d to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?

I steal most of my characters from people whose big imprints on life inspire my creativity. But if fiction is life without the boring parts, my fictional characters are those people without them either. Their fictional bads are badder and their crazies are crazier.

Q: Are you consciously aware of the plot before you begin a novel, or do you discover it as you write?

I am a planner and a plotter, but the novel takes me wherever it ultimately wants to go. Kind of like my kids do, in real life. In Saving Grace, a character named Zane McMillan shows up who wreaked havoc on my carefully constructed outline. I had a heck of a time keeping him from hijacking the whole book. I love it when that happens.

Q: Your book is set in the Virgin Islands.  Can you tell us why you chose this area in particular?

The islands are magical. I lived on St. Croix for six years, and the people and the places just burned into my brain and my heart. I had no choice in the matter: Saving Grace set itself there.

Q: Does the setting play a major part in the development of your story?

The island setting, and the rainforest jumbie house Annalise in particular, are pivotal to the story. In the islands, Katie can embrace the magic in herself and the world around her, whereas she is much too pragmatic for that kind of nonsense back in Texas.

Q: Open the book to page 69.  What is happening?

Katie is throwing caution and common sense to the wind and is about to make an offer to purchase a half-finished abandoned house in the rainforest because she believes she and the jumbie spirit offer each other a chance at mutual salvation.

Q: Can you give us one of your best excerpts?

Sure, here’s one I really like:

We had hiked for nearly two hours when Rashidi gave us a hydration break and announced that we were nearing the turnaround point, which would be a special treat: a modern ruin. As we leaned on smooth kapok trees and sucked on our Lululemon water bottles, Rashidi explained that a bad man, a thief, had built a beautiful mansion in paradise ten years before, named her Annalise, and then left her forsaken and half-complete. No one had ever finished her and the rainforest had moved fast to claim her. Wild horses roamed her halls, colonies of bats filled her eaves, and who knows what lived below her in the depths of her cisterns. We would eat our lunch there, then turn back for the hike down.

When the forest parted to reveal Annalise, we all drew in a breath. She was amazing: tall, austere, and a bit frightening. Our group tensed with anticipation. It was like the first day of the annual Parade of Homes, where people stood in lines for the chance to tour the crème de la crème of Dallas real estate, except way better. We were visiting a mysterious mansion with a romantic history in a tropical rainforest. Ooh là là.

Graceful flamboyant trees, fragrant white-flowered frangipanis, and grand pillars marked the entrance to her gateless drive. On each side of the overgrown road, Rashidi pointed out papaya stalks, soursop, and mahogany trees. The fragrance was pungent, the air drunk with fermenting mangos and ripening guava, all subtly undercut by the aroma of bay leaves. It was a surreal orchard, its orphaned fruit unpicked, the air heavy and still, bees and insects the only thing stirring besides our band of turistas. Overhead, the branches met in the middle of the road and were covered in the trailing pink flowers I’d admired the day before, which Rashidi called pink trumpet vines. The sun shone through the canopy in narrow beams and lit our dim path.

A young woman in historic slave garb was standing on the front steps, peering at us from under the hand that shaded her eyes, her gingham skirt whipping in the breeze. She looked familiar. As we came closer, she turned and walked back inside. I turned to ask Rashidi if we were going to tour the inside of the house, but he was talking to a skeletally thin New Yorker who wanted details on the mileage and elevation gain of our hike for her Garmin.

Q: Have you suffered from writer’s block and what do you do to get back on track?

I’m in a perpetual state of writer’s block, or recovery from it. The first thing I do when I feel it coming on is change locations or go outside. If I can’t nip it in the bud, I talk it out with my husband/muse. If it persists, I force myself to write something else — anything to keep me writing. I am a big believer that creativity happens when you’re putting in the work. I had a huge episode of block while writing the sequel to Saving Grace. It took me two months of other writing before the block broke and I could get back to the islands.

Q: What would you do with an extra hour today if you could do anything you wanted?

I’d love to say I’d run six miles or snuggle in the front of the fire with my husband, but it’s a lie. If I had an extra hour, I’d keep writing, but I’d at least play footsie (very vigorously) with him on the couch while I did it.

Q: Which already published book do you wish that you had written and why?

I wish I had written Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry, because of the characters: unforgettable, flawed, and larger than life. Gus and Woodrow, oh, how I love thee.

Q: What kind of advice would you give other fiction authors regarding getting their books out there?

More than ever, a fiction author must be fearless and relentless. The number of books published a year is growing exponentially, and you can’t just write yours and hope someone else will sell it for you. You need a marketing plan and an entrepreneurial spirit. It doesn’t hurt if you have a lot of support, too.

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Read-a-Chapter: Saving Grace by Pamela Fagan Hutchins

Read a Chapter is *NEW* added feature at As the Pages Turn! Here you’ll be able to read the first chapters of books of all genres to see if you like them before you buy them. Today we are featuring the mystery, women’s fiction, Saving Grace by Pamela Fagan Hutchins. Enjoy!

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Saving Grace

Click on cover to purchase at Amazon!

  • Paperback: 278 pages
  • Publisher: Skipjack Publishing (September 24, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0988234807
  • ISBN-13: 978-0988234802

If you’re at all inclined to be swept away to the islands to fall in love with a rainforest jumbie house and a Texas attorney who is as much a danger to herself as the island bad guys, then dive headfirst with Katie Connell into Saving Grace.

Katie escapes professional humiliation, a broken heart, and her Bloody Mary-habit when she runs to the island of St. Marcos to investigate the suspicious deaths of her parents. But she trades one set of problems for another when she is bewitched by the voodoo spirit Annalise in an abandoned rainforest house and, as worlds collide, finds herself reluctantly donning her lawyer clothes again to defend her new friend Ava, who is accused of stabbing her very married Senator-boyfriend.

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Chapter One

Last year sucked, and this one was already worse.

Last year, when my parents died in an “accident” on their Caribbean vacation, I’d been working too hard to listen to my instincts, which were screaming “bullshit” so loud I almost went deaf in my third ear. I was preparing for the biggest case of my career, so I sort of had an excuse that worked for me as long as I showed up for happy hour, but the truth was, I was obsessed with the private investigator assigned to my case.

Nick. Almost-divorced Nick. My new co-worker Nick who sometimes sent out vibes that he wanted to rip my Ann Taylor blouse off with his teeth, when he wasn’t busy ignoring me.

But things had changed.

I’d just gotten the verdict back in my mega-trial, the Burnside wrongful termination case. My firm rarely took plaintiff cases, so I’d taken a big risk with this one—and won Mr. Burnside three million dollars, of which the firm got a third. That was the total opposite of suck.

After my coup at the Dallas courthouse, my paralegal Emily and I headed straight down I-20 to the hotel where our firm was on retreat in Shreveport, Louisiana. Shreveport is not on the top ten list for most company getaways, but our senior partner fancied himself a poker player, and loved Cajun food, jazz, and riverboat casinos. The retreat was a great excuse for Gino to indulge in a little Texas Hold ’Em between teambuilding and sensitivity sessions and still come off looking like a helluva guy, but it meant a three and a half hour drive each way. This wasn’t a problem for Emily and me. We bridged both the paralegal-to-attorney gap and the co-worker-to-friend gap with ease, largely because neither of us did Dallas-fancy very well. Or at all.

Emily and I hustled inside for check-in at the Eldorado.

“Do you want a map of the ghost tours?” the front desk clerk asked us, her polyglot Texan-Cajun-Southern accent making tours sound like “turs.”

“Why, thank you kindly, but no thanks,” Emily drawled. In the ten years since she’d left, she still hadn’t shaken Amarillo from her voice or given up barrel-racing horses.

I didn’t believe in hocus pocus, either, but I wasn’t a fan of casinos, which reeked of cigarette smoke and desperation. “Do y’all have karaoke or anything else but casinos onsite?”

“Yes, ma’am, we have a rooftop bar with karaoke, pool tables, and that kind of thing.” The girl swiped at her bangs, then swung her head to put them back in the same place they’d been.

“That sounds more like it,” I said to Emily.

“Karaoke,” she said. “Again.” She rolled her eyes. “Only if we can do tradesies halfway. I want to play blackjack.”

After we deposited our bags in our rooms and freshened up, talking to each other on our cell phones the whole time we were apart, we joined our group. All of our co-workers broke into applause as we entered the conference room. News of our victory had preceded us. We curtsied, and I used both arms to do a Vanna White toward Emily. She returned the favor.

“Where’s Nick?” I called out. “Come on up here.”

Nick had left the courtroom when the jury went out to deliberate, so he’d beaten us here. He stood up from a table on the far side of the room, but didn’t join us in front. I gave him a long distance Vanna White anyway.

The applause died down and some of my partners motioned for me to sit with them at a table near the entrance. I joined them and we all got to work writing a mission statement for the firm for the next fifteen minutes. Emily and I had arrived just in time for the first day’s sessions to end.

When we broke, the group stampeded from the hotel to the docked barge that housed the casino. In Louisiana, gambling is only legal “on the water” or on tribal land. On impulse, I walked to the elevator instead of the casino. Just before the doors closed, a hand jammed between them and they bounced apart, and I found myself headed up to the hotel rooms with none other than Nick Kovacs.

“So, Helen, you’re not a gambler either,” he said as the elevator doors closed.

My stomach flipped. Cheesy, yes, but when he was in a good mood, Nick called me Helen—as in Helen of Troy.

I had promised to meet Emily for early blackjack before late karaoke, but he didn’t need to know that. “I have the luck of the Irish,” I said. “Gambling is dangerous for me.”

He responded with dead silence. Each of us looked up, down, sideways, and anywhere but at each other, which was hard, since the elevator was mirrored above a gold handrail and wood paneling. There was a wee bit of tension in the air.

“I heard there’s a pool table at the hotel bar, though, and I’d be up for that,” I offered, throwing myself headlong into the void and holding my breath on the way down.

Dead silence again. Long, dead silence. The ground was going to hurt when I hit it.

Without making eye contact, Nick said, “OK, I’ll meet you there in a few minutes.”

Did he really say he’d meet me there? Just the two of us? Out together? Oh my God, Katie, what have you done?

The elevator doors dinged, and we headed in opposite directions to our rooms. It was too late to back out now.

I moved in a daze. Hyperventilating. Pits sweating. Heart pounding. My outfit was all wrong, so I ditched the Ann Taylor for some jeans, a structured white blouse, and, yes, I admit it, a multi-colored Jessica Simpson handbag and her coordinating orange platform sandals. White works well against my long, wavy red hair, which I unclipped and finger-combed over my shoulders. Not very attorney-like, but that was the point. Besides, I didn’t even like being an attorney, so why would I want to look like one now?

Normally I am Katie Clean, but I settled on a quick brush of my teeth, a French shower, and lipstick. I considered calling Emily to tell her I was no-showing, but I knew she would understand when I explained later. I race-walked to the elevators and cursed them as they stopped on every other floor before the Rooftop Grotto.

Ding. Finally. I stopped to catch my breath. I counted to ten, took one last gulp for courage, and stepped under the dim lights above the stone-topped bar. I stood near a man whose masculinity I could feel pulsing from several feet away. Heat flamed in my cheeks. My engine raced. Just the man I’d come to see.

Nick was of Hungarian descent, and he had his gypsy ancestors to thank for his all-over darkness—eyes, hair, and skin—and sharp cheekbones. He had a muscular ranginess that I loved, but he wasn’t traditionally handsome. His nose was large-ish and crooked from being broken too many times. He’d once told me that a surfboard to the mouth had given him his snaggled front tooth. But he was gorgeous in an undefined way, and I often saw from the quick glances of other women that I wasn’t the only one in the room who noticed.

Now he noticed me. “Hi, Helen.”

“Hi, Paris,” I replied.

He snorted. “Oh, I am definitely not your Paris. Paris was a wimp.”

“Hmmmmm. Menelaus, then?”

“Um, beer.”

“I’m pretty sure there was no one named Beer in the story of Helen of Troy,” I said, sniffing in a faux-superior way.

Nick spoke to the bartender. “St. Pauli Girl.” He finally gave me the Nick grin, and the tension left over from our elevator ride disappeared. “Want one?”

I needed to gulp more than air for courage. “Amstel Light.”

Nick placed the order. The bartender handed Nick two beers beaded with moisture, then shook water from his hands. Nick handed mine to me and I wrapped a napkin around it, lining up the edges with the military precision I adored. Nick sang under his breath, his head bobbing side to side. Honky-tonk Woman.

“I think I like you better in Shreveport than Dallas,” I said.

“Thanks, I think. And I like seeing you happy. I guess it’s been a tough year for you, losing your parents and all. Here’s to that smile,” he said, holding his beer aloft toward me.

The toast almost stopped my heart. He was spot-on about the tough part, but I did better when I kept the subject of my parents buried with them. I clinked his bottle but couldn’t look at him while I did it. “Thanks, Nick, very much.”

“Want to play pool?” he asked.

“Let’s do it.”

I was giddy, the sophomore girl out with the senior quarterback. We both loved music, so we talked about genres, bands (his old band, Stingray, and “real” bands), my minor in music at Baylor, and LSD, AKA lead-singer disease. Over a bucket of beers, we swapped stories about high school, and he told me he’d once rescued an injured booby.

“An injured booby?” I asked. “Implants or natural? Eight ball in corner pocket.” I sank it.

He gathered the balls out of the pockets and positioned them in the rack while I ground my cue tip in blue chalk and blew off the excess. “You’re so land-locked. A booby is a bird, Katie.”

I rolled his use of my real name back and forth in my brain, enjoying how it felt.

“I was out surfing, and I found a booby that couldn’t fly. I carried it back home and took care of it until I could set it free.”

“Oh, my gosh! How bad did it smell? Did it peck you? I’ll bet your Mom was thrilled!” I talked fast, in endless exclamation points. Embarrassing. I was a Valley Girl on acid, like Oh-My-Gawd. “It was in shock, so it was calm, but every day it got wilder. I was fourteen, and my mom was happy I wasn’t in my room holding some girl’s real booby, so she was fine with it. It smelled really bad after a few days, though.”

I broke. Balls clacked and ricocheted in every direction, and a striped one tumbled into a side pocket. “Stripes,” I called. “So, your mom had caught you before holding a girl’s booby, huh?”

“Um, I didn’t say that . . .” he said, and stuttered to a stop.

I was more smitten than ever.

“Damn, I Wish I Was Your Lover” was playing in the background. I hadn’t heard that song in years. It got me thinking. For months, I had been fighting off the urge to slip my arms around Nick’s neck and bite the back of it, but I was aware that most people would consider that inappropriate at work. Pretty small-minded of them, if you asked me. I eyed the large balcony outside the bar and thought that if I could just maneuver Nick out there, maybe I could make it happen.

My chances seemed good enough until one of our colleagues walked in. Tim was of counsel at the firm. “Of counsel” meant he was too old to be called an associate, but he wasn’t a rainmaker. Plus, he wore his pants pulled up an inch too high in the waist. The firm would never make him a partner. Nick and I locked eyes. Until now, we’d been two shortwave radios on the same channel, the signal crackling between us. But now the dial had turned to static and his eyes clouded over. He stiffened and moved subtly away from me.

He hailed Tim up. “Hey, Tim, over here.”

Tim waved to us and walked across the smoky bar. Everything moved in slow motion as he came closer, step by ponderous step. His feet echoed as they hit the floor, reverberating no . . . no . . . no . . . Or maybe I was saying it aloud. I couldn’t tell, but it made no difference.

“Hey, Tim, this is great. Grab a beer; let’s play some pool.”

Oh, please tell me Nick didn’t just invite Tim to hang out with us. He could have given him a short “hey how ya doing have a nice night I was just leaving” shpiel, or anything else for that matter, but no, he had asked Tim to join us.

Tim and Nick looked at me for affirmation.

I entertained a fleeting fantasy in which I executed a perfect side kick to Tim’s gut and he started rolling around on the floor with the dry heaves. What good were the thirteen years of karate my father had insisted on if I couldn’t use it at times like these? “Every woman should be able to defend herself, Katie,” Dad would say as he dropped me off at the dojo.

Maybe this wasn’t technically a physical self-defense moment, but Tim’s arrival had dashed my hopes for the whole neck-bite thing, and all that could have come after it. Wasn’t that reason enough?

I cast out the image. “Actually, Tim, why don’t you take over for me? I was in trial all week, and I’m exhausted. We have an early start tomorrow. It’s the last day of our retreat, the grande finale for the Hailey & Hart team.” I handed my pool cue to Tim.

Tim thought this was a fine idea. It was clear women scared him. If I had hoped for an argument from Nick, though, I didn’t get one. He reverted to his outside-of-work “Katie who?” act.

All I got from him was “Goodnight,” with neither a Helen nor a Katie tacked on.

I grabbed another Amstel Light from the bar for the plod back to my room.

Reprinted with permission from Saving Grace by Pamela Fagan Hutchins. © 2012 by Skipjack Publishing

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A Conversation with Nick West, Author of The Long Road Home

A native of Gainesville, Florida, author Nick West attended the University of Florida where he became interested in writing. He is a veteran of the United States Navy, and together with his family, have owned and operated a landscape business in the area for over twenty years. He and his wife Kay andtheir children, Tammy, John and Christy, along with their families all live on the farm where he grew up near Archer. He is the author of The Great Southern Circus and The Long Road Home.

The Great Southern Circus, his first book, is a collection of circus stories told to him by his grandmother as they were told to her by her grandmother, Miranda Madderra, who performed with this horse drawn caravan just prior to the Civil War. His second book, The Long Road Home, follows the main characters from The Great Southern Circus as they traverse the difficult and painful years of the American Civil War.

Visit the author and learn more about his work at http://thelongroadsouth.com.

Thanks for this interview. Tell us a little about what got you into writing?

I believe that all writers are avid readers. As such I have tremendous respect for those who are talented enough to draw their readers into a caring relationship with the characters in their books. I have found that after reading a good book, I often recall the experiences of the characters as I would good friends or family members. That is my goal as a writer. I have attempted to relate these stories in a way that future generations of my own family could relate to them as the real people that they were. My effort is to bring these wonderful people to life in my books so that even readers outside of my own family would feel as connected to them as I do.

What was your inspiration for The Long Road Home?

When The Great Southern Circusbecame available nationally on Amazon, I was contacted by a large number of readers who had become invested in the characters of that book. As that book ended, half the characters rushed to join the Union Army and the other half joined the Southern cause. Readers wanted to know what had become of these folks during the Civil War. This book answers those questions.

So the novel is part biographical, part fictional?

Biographical in the sense that these were real people who actually lived the events about which I have written, and fictional in the sense that I can only imagine most of their actual conversations based upon recollections as handed down through oral history for several generations.

For those readers who haven’t read your first book yet, is there something about the plot or characters they need to know in advance before readingThe Long Road Home or is it a stand alone novel?

I have had readers who read The Long Road Home first, but invariably went back to read the Great Southern Circus to better understand the relationships. I would encourage folks to read the books in the order they were written to become more involved with all of these wonderful people.

How long did it take you to write the book and did you plot in advance?

The Great Southern Circus was a work in progress for years. I remembered the stories as they were told by my Grandmother and was determined to put them down in written form for future generations of my own family. The advent of the internet made it possible to not only verify that the events chronicled in the book actually took place, but also to connect me with other descendants of the same tour to compare notes and flesh out the other characters. This book took about a year to actually write and told the story of a two year circus tour that ended when the Civil War broke out. The Long Road Home picked up the adventures of the same characters as they struggled to survive the terrible years of the war. This book also took about one year to research and write.

I understand you did a lot of research for this novel. What was the process like and what surprised you most about this dark time of American history?

The American Civil War is probably the most researched period of American History. No matter how small a skirmish or political event, someone has researched and written about it. I read countless articles, books and research papers as they related to the experiences of my ancestors during this dark period. I found many surprises (at least to me) along the way. For instance, at the beginning of the War, Lincoln was more concerned with the preservation of the Union than he was about slavery which I was always taught was the major reason for the conflict. I also learned that racial prejudice in the North did not allow black men to even join the Union Army until late in the war. I had forgotten that our Nation was less than one hundred years old at the time and that many of the States believed that the Union was voluntary and that they could simply “opt out” if they believed that the Federal government was causing them more problems than it was helping their individual cause. I also learned to respect even more the character displayed by, and heartaches endured by President Lincoln during this time.

What themes do you explore in your novel?

Romance, friendship, adventure, hardships in a historical context. This is an attempt to put into perspective the individual stories of each of these men and women as they were swept along by events beyond their control. These characters first met each other and became close friends during the hardships of a circus tour that lasted two years before the outbreak of the War. One man was the northern son of the circus owner and performer, one young black man who joined to circus to search for his sister who was still held as a slave somewhere in the South, one young Alabama girl (my 3x Great Grandmother) who was a bare back rider and a young man from Alabama who joined the circus just to be near her. This is primarily their story.

What has been the reaction from your friends and family so far?

Friends and family loved both books and I have been blessed by the fact that total strangers have discovered my books. From the reviews on Amazon and other sites they seemed to have enjoyed them as well.

Are you planning any local book signings or other promotional events you’d like to announce?

I have periodic signing events that I advertise locally and through social networking. I am also happy to personalize and sign books that my office will mail to anyone who phones in a request to 1 (352)495-9858.

What’s on the horizon for you? Is there a third novel in the works?

I am now working on my third novel.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with my readers?

I am always happy to hear from readers who have enjoyed my books. They can find me on Facebook or E-Mail me at CountryGator@AOL.COM

Thanks again for the interview and best of luck with your books!

My interview originally appeared in Blogcritics Magazine

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Interview with ‘Red Hot Sky’ Gordon Gumpertz on writing, new book and global climate

Gordon Gumpertz brings fiction readers another exciting action/adventure experience in his new novel RED HOT SKY. This is the author’s second book, following his highly acclaimed novel TSUNAMI.

In addition to writing novels, Gordon has won gold and silver awards in national and regional short story competitions. He is a member of the Authors Guild, the Palm Springs Writers Guild, a UCLA graduate, and an instrument-rated private pilot. He keeps his website current by blogging on natural disasters and natural phenomena.

Gordon and his wife Jenny live not far from the San Andreas fault, where the Pacific Plate thrusts into the North American Plate, building increasingly high levels of faultline stress which, the seismologists say, may soon produce the Big One.

Visit his website at www.tsunaminaturaldisaster.com.

Website | Amazon | Amazon Kindle | Barnes & Noble | Smashwords

About Red Hot Sky

CO2 buildup in earth’s atmosphere reaches a tipping point. Global weather destabilizes, turns chaotic. Ice storms, dust storms, floods, blizzards, hurricanes, tornadoes pummel the earth nonstop. A secret computer model reveals that the frantic weather will peak out, and transform world climate into an alien environment devastating to human survival.

Scientists Ben Mason, Claudine Manet, and Bertrand Short are developers of the computer model. Ben and Claudine are lovers as well as lab partners. While they work frantically to head off the approaching catastrophe, a disgraced Russian general hacks into their model and sees earth’s bleak future as his opportunity for ultimate world power.

Ben, who had left the CIA to develop the computer model at the national lab,  is reactivated by the Agency and sent on a perilous mission to block the rogue general’s plot. Claudine, not realizing that Ben is on a secret mission, misunderstands his absence, putting their relationship on thin ice.

Claudine is placed in charge of a massive NASA project that, if completed on time, could stop the approaching doomsday climate change. But her project is stalled by bureaucracy. Ben is on the run in hostile territory. The climate change calamity steadily approaches.

Q: Thank you so much for this interview, Gordon!  Can you tell us what your latest book, Red Hot Sky, is all about?

Red Hot Sky is a fast-moving novel about what happens when the buildup of CO2, methane, and other greenhouse gasses in earth’s atmosphere reaches a tipping point. In this scenario, global weather destabilizes and turns chaotic. Ice storms, dust storms, floods, blizzards, hurricanes, tornadoes pummel the earth nonstop. A secret computer model reveals that the frantic weather will peak out, and transform world climate into an alien environment devastating to human survival.

Scientists Ben Mason and Claudine Manet, developers of the computer model, are lovers as well as lab partners. While they work frantically to head off the approaching catastrophe, a disgraced Russian general hacks into their model and sees earth’s bleak future as his opportunity for ultimate world power.

Ben, who had left the CIA to develop the computer model at the national lab, is reactivated by the Agency and sent on a perilous mission to block the rogue general’s plot. Claudine, not realizing Ben is on a secret mission, misunderstands his absence, putting their relationship on thin ice.

Claudine is placed in charge of a massive NASA project that, if completed on time, could stop the approaching doomsday climate change. But her project is stalled by bureaucracy. Ben, his cover blown, is on the run in hostile territory. The climate change calamity steadily approaches.

Q:  Can you tell us a little about your main and supporting characters?

The main characters are research scientists Ben Mason and Claudine Manet. They fall in love when they meet at the national lab and plan to get married. Both are having problems balancing their love life with their careers, and both are willing to sacrifice everything to save the planet for future generations. And they do it with humor, grace, and passion. The main supporting characters are Ben’s lab colleague Shorty, a tall country boy from Oklahoma with a big-heart and a sharp mind, who keeps Ben focused by asking the penetrating questions. And Byrone Culver, a DC police detective who joins Ben in his dangerous mission to expose the general’s plot. The antagonist is General Yuri Kulganin, a Russian general who is fired as commander of the Russian Army for supporting a return to authoritarian military control of the government. He plots to return as ruler of Russia and then the world.

Q: Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?

The characters are imaginary, but some of their looks, traits and behaviors are based on real people.

Q: Are you consciously aware of the plot before you begin a novel, or do you discover it as you write?

I always make a general outline of the story before I start. Plot enriching opportunities arise during the writing, and the characters sometimes take the action in a different direction, but the basic storyline still stands.

Q: Your book is set in Washington, DC, Pasadena, Geneva, Moscow, and Tehran.  Can you tell us why you chose those cities in particular?

Red Hot Sky is an international spy thriller. I chose Washington as the symbolic power center of America. And Tehran and Moscow as power centers with ideologies and goals that conflict with ours. The action moves from National Science Laboratories in Falls Church to Caltech in Pasadena, NASA’s Dryden Research Center in Mojave, to Geneva, to Tehran, and finally to Moscow.

Q: Does the setting play a major part in the development of your story?

Yes. Moving from site to site keeps up the fast pace of the action, adds color, and sets up the climax.

Q: Open the book to page 69.  What is happening?

Ben’s car is demolished by a car bomb. He’d gotten out moments before the blast to go to a store. Byrone Culver, the DC police detective, arrives at the scene to interview Ben. He says, “Wait a minute. I remember you. The shot on the Key Bridge….Two in a row is more than coincidence. Someone’s trying to kill you. You sure you don’t know who it is?”

Q: Can you give us one of your best excerpts?

This is one of my favorites.  It sets the stage for Kulganin’s drive for ultimate power.

The New Year’s afternoon light was almost gone. General Yuri Kulganin slow-marched through the roomy Moscow apartment he’d lived in for the past seven years, trailed by his valet, Sergeant Dimitri Petrov. “Someday we will move back here to Moscow,” Kulganin said, “so I will have the agent sublet this apartment furnished and we will travel light.

Sgt. Petrov, thin, wiry, in his late thirties, uniform freshly pressed, nodded. “Yes, sir. I will pack your uniforms and all your personal items for the trip. Do you also wish to take your gun collection?”

“No, you will pack that for storage.”

“Will I accompany you, General?”

“Naturally, and I advise you to pack for cold winters and hot summers.” Kulganin picked up a silver-framed portrait of his wife, who had left him the year before and was living in Paris with their eleven-year-old son. He put it face down on the table. “Discard all pictures of her, but keep those of my son. This will be a new start.”

“Do I have your permission to take off my tunic, General?”

“Yes, of course, you have some long hours of hard work ahead.” He turned to face the sergeant. “You and I have been together a long time.”

“Yes, sir. Eighteen years.”

“Then you have a right to know. You will soon find out in any case. I am no longer commander of the Russian army.”

Petrov’s spare frame stiffened. “Sir?”

“It’s quite simple. The defense minister has relieved me of my command. We are being transferred to Iran. I will take over the military mission there. Instead of commanding five million soldiers, I will oversee a handful of clerks.” He picked up his wife’s picture and hurled it across the room, smashing the frame and glass against a brick fireplace. “Stupid fools!”

“I am very sorry, sir.” Tears formed in Petrov’s eyes. He’d been with Kulganin since he was a major.  The eighteen years had been good ones.

Kulganin moved to a window. The sky had blackened, signaling another arctic storm on its way. “There is no need to feel bad, Dimitri. The storm will move through. The sun will shine again. Things will be better.”

Q: Thank you so much for this interview, Gordon.  We wish you much success!

 

 

 

 

 

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Interview with ‘Forbidden the Stars’ Valmore Daniels

We have a special guest today!  Valmore Daniels is here with us to talk about his new science fiction novel, Forbidden the Stars .  Enjoy!

Valmore Daniels 2In true nomadic spirit, Valmore Daniels has lived on the coasts of the Atlantic, Pacific, and Arctic Oceans, and dozens of points in between.

An insatiable thirst for new experiences has led him to work in several fields, including legal research, elderly care, oil & gas administration, web design, government service, human resources, and retail business management.

His enthusiasm for travel is only surpassed by his passion for telling tall tales.

Valmore’s latest book is Forbidden the Stars, a sci-fi novel set at the end of the 21st century.

Visit his website at www.ValmoreDaniels.com.

Q: Thank you for this interview, Valmore. Can you tell us what your latest book, Forbidden The Stars, is all about?

Forbidden The Stars takes place at the end of the century and concerns the decade leading up to the point where humankind enters the Interstellar Age. There are three main plotlines that intertwine. A catastrophic accident in the asteroid belt leads to the development of an element which can fuel faster-than-light travel. The first manned mission to Pluto discovers signs of alien life. And from the depths of a criminal empire on Luna, an expatriate watches all of this and makes his move to seize control of interstellar travel.

Q:  Can you tell us a little about your main and supporting characters?

Captain Justine Turner, NASA’s youngest female astronaut, journeys to Pluto, where she and her crew discover signs of an alien civilization.

Alex Manez, who accompanies his parents on a survey mission in the asteroid belt, is hurtled through space at near light speeds when a new element is discovered and reacts with the asteroid.

On Luna Station, a criminal mastermind, Chow Yin, intercepts communications between Pluto and Earth, and quickly makes plans to seize control of the new technology.

On Earth, Michael Sanderson has to juggle the politics of the discovery between two powerful nations, deal with the interplanetary war brewing, and at the same time spearhead the search for Alex Manez and the mysterious element that began the chain of events.

Q: Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?

Every character I create borrows from some part of me, my life and experiences, or from someone I’ve known. It’s an interesting exercise to imagine average, everyday people in your life suddenly thrust into extreme circumstances, and extrapolate how they would handle that situation.

Q: Are you consciously aware of the plot before you begin a novel, or do you discover it as you write?

My personal approach to writing a book has changed drastically with every new project. When I wrote my first novel, I flew by the seat of my pants, letting my imagination take me in whatever direction the story led me. While I had a lot of fun using this approach (and the novel will always be dear to me) the end product was less focused than it could have been. So I did some research, joined a writer’s group, and eventually adopted the outline method. While some detract from this method, citing that once you’ve completed the outline, your creativity suffers in the first draft, for me the opposite is the reality. Once I’m free from the bounds of figuring out what happens next, I can focus all my attention on characterization, character traits and quirks, conflicts, dialogue and world building.

Q: Does the setting play a major part in the development of your story?

Absolutely. Most (not all) science fiction on the market today deals primarily with either near-future events, alternate realities, or far-future space opera. Forbidden The Stars is set seventy years from now in our own future as humankind is on the brink between the space age and the interstellar age.

Q: Open the book to page 69.  What is happening?

Michael Sanderson, CEO of Quantum Resources, is reconstructing the fatal accident in the asteroid belt which took the lives of two surveyors. They are trying to figure out why the asteroid completely disappeared, and speculating on the whereabout of the remains of the surveyors’ son, Alex Manez, who was also on the asteroid.

Q: Can you give us one of your best excerpts?

Dark, cold, silent, inhospitable.

Wonderful.

Captain Justine Turner stood on the edge of the solar system. As captain of the Orcus 1, the historic honor fell to her.

It was another in a series of firsts for her; youngest female astronaut in NASA history; youngest person to get a captaincy of a space vessel; first human to set foot on the icy surface of Pluto.

She tried to think of something notable to say for the benefit of those on Earth who tracked their progress. Overcome with the tide of emotion, Justine could not think properly. The stale recycled air in her suit did not help clear her mind.

“Pluto,” she finally declared into her microphone. Swiveling her head to face the sun, a tiny glowing pinprick in the low horizon, she imagined she was speaking for the benefit of posterity.

“It’s been a two-hundred year journey to get here, since the dark planet’s existence was first theorized. Now, that dream is a reality. This occasion is a milestone in human history. From here, all that’s left is to conquer the stars.”

As she came over a rise, she shut her mouth tight with a clack that echoed insider her helmet. Below her, the science team and Helen gathered like acolytes around a divine statue.

Her eyes beheld a sight beyond anything she had ever imagined possible.

In a place where no human had ever before set foot, against the cold darkness of Pluto’s skyline, there was a monument the size of an aircraft hangar. The bulk of the structure resembled the nucleus of a complex atom.

Orbiting that nucleus, a number of spherical objects formed what looked like an electron cloud, hovering in the space around the monument without any visible tethers or supports.

An alien chill walked icy fingers up Justine’s spine.

Humankind was not alone in the universe…

Q: Thank you so much for this interview, Valmore.  We wish you much success!

Thank you for having me.

You can visit Valmore Daniels at the following: Website / Facebook / Twitter

Forbidden The Stars is available at the following retailers:

Paperback: Amazon US / Amazon UK / Amazon CA / Barnes & Noble

eBook: Amazon US / Amazon UK / Barnes & Noble / Kobo

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