Short Stories, Fiction
Date Published: January 20, 2017
The Windless Echo is a collection of stories that delve into the minds and feelings of characters as they struggle to resolve, understand, and uncover the realities of their experiences.
Joy and emptiness, rest and effort, meaning and madness – these and other themes weave their way into the tales and the problems these characters seek to unravel.
Contents: 18 Short stories, 178 6”x9” pages, ~62k words.
Preview on Amazon contains the first story, “The Ashen Heart”, and 3/4 of the second, “The Woodchopper’s Son”.
Two of the stories, “The Woodchopper’s Son” and “The Prisoner of the Ashen Lake”, have been put into audio form, read by the author, and can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLw9MjSFObAc2D1Jwi-JOIZ7ZiJtzZ6iUl
About the Author
Oliver Kaufman is an author and the founder of theworldwithin.org, a website dedicated to self-awareness, self-healing, growth, and the exploration of one’s own inner, conscious world. He currently lives in Redmond, Washington, in the US.
Date Published: 29th May 2017
Film student Ella Summers can’t believe her luck when she is selected to work on the set of the most anticipated film release of the year—STARSHINE. For the next four weeks, she’ll be in the studio with heart-throb and leading man Alex Denton, and his co-star—and recent ex—the stunning Amy Strickland.
But her first day on set has her questioning the true character of the enigmatic and sexy Alex. The charming celebrity she’s adored on screen disappears before her very eyes—if indeed he ever really existed.
Off-camera arguments between Alex and Amy become difficult to ignore, and when Ella uncovers layers of deceit and closely guarded secrets between them, she becomes involved in a battle that has far-reaching implications.
With the paparazzi hounding her every move for the most sensational story they can get, Ella becomes deeply embroiled in Alex’s life. Can she break down his seemingly impenetrable walls, or will he remain the arrogant ass she first met?
STARSHINE is set in London, England. Beware though—Alex Denton has a crude mouth, and an equally wicked smile.
The silence was suddenly broken by the thud of distant music and the roar of a car engine. I glared at the car as it sped along the road toward the bus-stop, and inwardly cursed the idiot behind the wheel.
My glare turned into a worried frown when the silver car slowed down and stopped at the bus-stop. The dark tinted passenger window slowly hummed down, and the thud of music turned into a deafening roar.
The driver of the car was revealed—Alex Denton.
He raised his eyebrows, before lowering his gaze and taking in the sight of my dress clinging to my legs. I was glad I had a cardigan on, no matter that it looked like a wet sack now. At least he couldn’t see my bright pink bra, one that would be very visible underneath a practically transparent wet dress.
Alex licked his bottom lip as he stared at my legs, and I realised that the relief I had felt that he couldn’t see my bra due to my cardigan, had been misplaced. The modest woollen covering wasn’t long enough to cover my lower half. My matching pink pants would be very visible and I suspected that they were what Alex Denton was looking at.
“You’re wet!” he shouted above the relentless thudding of the music.
“You noticed!” I yelled back, wondering why he hadn’t turned the music down if he wanted to talk. I toyed with the idea of whether to accept a lift or not if he offered me one. The thought of being trapped with him in a car had always been a dream of mine, but after everything else that had happened today, I didn’t know whether I had the strength to spend even one more second in his scintillating company. But I was tired and I wanted to get home as quickly as possible. The thought of racing through London in his very expensive sports car, or trudging through traffic on a crammed public bus for a good thirty minutes made my mind up. I’d accept the lift if he offered. If he was sarcastic with me, I could just ignore him. Maybe he’d even mellow a little and I’d get to see what he was really like when he wasn’t in the same room as Amy.
He slowly lifted his hand, curling his finger to beckon me toward the car.
I took one step forward, stopping abruptly as he held his hand up in a halt position. Now what was he doing?
“You really are very wet!” he said before reaching forward and flicking a small silver switch on the central console. The music died, leaving the sound of the engine idling.
“No shit, Einstein. It has just poured down,” I said, my voice edged with sarcasm.
His jaw tightened at my response, and his eyes drifted down my body again.
“Hot pink?” he said, although it sounded more like a question.
I knew exactly what he was referring to. My cheeks heated as I pulled at the front of my cardigan, but it was no use. It wouldn’t stretch to cover my lower body. Knowing there was nothing I could do about my see-through dress, I gritted my teeth and offered Alex a stony stare. One that dared him to continue with his next response.
“I like it,” he said. “Not as slutty at red.”
My body tensed. My nostrils flared as more heat flushed my face. Did he just refer to me as being slutty?
He smiled before pulling a sudden poker face. I was so wrapped up in thinking of a response to his somewhat undisguised insult that I didn’t see the bus approach.
“Shit,” I murmured, as it rumbled past Alex’s car. The next bus wasn’t due for another hour.
Alex watched the bus as it disappeared down the road and then turned to face me.
“See you tomorrow, Work Experience Girl.”
He grinned and winked at me as the car window hummed shut. The loud music started again and the engine revved several times before he sped off in the same direction as the bus.
About the Author
Growing up, Melody Winter showed a natural ability in art, a head for maths, and a tendency to write far too long English essays. Difficult to place in the world when she graduated, she pursued a career in teaching, but eventually ended up working in finance. Melody is convinced that the methodical time she spends working with numbers fuels her desire to drift into dream worlds and write about the illusory characters in her head.
Melody lives in North Yorkshire, England, with her husband and two teenage sons. When not dealing with football, rugby, and a whole plethora of ‘boy’ activities, she will be found scribbling notes for her stories, or listening to 80’s music on her IPod.
Melody has a tendency to fall head-over-heels in love with her main characters, even when they frustrate her and refuse to act the way she wants them to. She is a romance writer at heart and loves reading and writing about anything mythological or magical, as well as exploring the gritty side of love affairs and the complexities of being in love.
SACHAEL DREAMS was her debut novel, (REUTS Publications, USA) and the first in the New Adult Romantic Fantasy series—the ‘Mine Series’. The second book in the series, SACHAEL DESIRES’, was released in November 2015, and the remaining books in the series, SACHAEL DELUSIONS, and, SACHAEL DESTINY, are due to be released in the near future.
Melody has also self-published two books, INIQUITY, the first book in a Dark New Adult Romantic Fantasy series— ‘The Ascent’ (The second book in the series, ADVERSITY, is due for release later this year.) and STARSHINE, Melody’s first contemporary romance, released 29th May 2017.
Starshine is exclusive to Amazon and part of KU
Date Published: 5-25-16
Publisher: Cupid’s Press
What starts as a search for a decorative Buddha statuette leads one woman on a spiritual journey that will change everything.
Marla lives the good life in Los Angeles—house, pool, her own business helping Cupid find love for LA’s most discriminating singles. Her handsome and ardent hubby Adolfo performs at an exclusive steak house in Beverly Hills. He tends to scoff at Marla’s green juice, vegan diet, yoga, and daily affirmations and can be a teensy bit of a control freak.
A discarded Buddha statuette that Adolfo suddenly can’t live without sends Marla searching through New Age boutiques along with her skeptical friend Julie. They are soon schooled by a charismatic “Goddess,” delving ever deeper into self-realization, conversations with angels, pendulums, candle “Magick,” Reiki, crystal healing, and more. Attend a Hindu Bajan? Sure. Orgasmic Meditation? (Wait, what…?) Maybe not that one.
Growing in her spirituality, yet exceedingly frustrated with some of her persnickety clientele—aging men who see themselves as Dorian Grays, worthy of exquisite young women—Marla’s world is shifting. She achieves certifications as an energy healer and encourages Julie to sample the concoction Julie calls “green gunk” and other healthy practices to help her conquer an addiction to unavailable men. Marla deepens her communication with the Beyond while Adolfo, always so practical, asks, “Have you lost your mind? Are you hearing voices? Angels aren’t real, come on!” Matters grow worse when certain psychics warn of “dangerous low-vibrational entities” and rabidly disagree with each other.
Her alternating universes give Marla spiritual whiplash, yet she discovers the LITE way to balance the human carnival with a transformational spiritual journey.
Glad that I wore a cozy sweater on that cold November evening, I walked with Julie down the long driveway. The temple was set up in a garage, carpeted and adorned with altars, statues, paintings of various saints, and candles, transforming it into a Hindu shrine.
We stopped at a sign posted on the wall outside. Women were informed that if they happened to be on their period, they should please sit outside in the driveway whilst partaking in the bhajan.
Julie and I gave each other a look that conveyed our mutual assessment: this is fucked up.
We seemed to be the first ones to arrive, and a wholesome-looking guy of about forty introduced himself as Ken and invited us to enter the garage/temple.
“Have a seat,” he said, gesturing to the floor. He and his wife would be leading the bhajan, he explained, adding that they had lived in India for many years, becoming enamored with the Hindu faith. Julie and I selected a spot near the giant statue of Shirdi Sai Baba and sat cross-legged on the floor. “We also lead fire pujas once a week. You must come.”
Julie and I were definitely interested in attending a fire puja, a ritualistic form of worship that has been used throughout the temples of India for thousands of years. The word puja comes from two Sanskrit words which together mean an act of purification of the mind, drawing in virtuous qualities while removing bad qualities or karma, essentially attracting positive energies and dissolving negativity.
Ken told us that Shirdi Sai Baba was one of the foremost sadgurus (a true guru) in India and lived in Shirdi, located in the state of Maharashtra, India for sixty years. It is said that though Shirdi Sai Baba is not alive in flesh and blood, he still lives and blesses his devotees wherever they may be. A large black and white framed photograph of the guru, sitting on the ground barefoot intrigued me. His hands, feet, and simple clothing looked filthy, a piece of cloth covered his head and tied in the back. His expression was serious and his eyes penetrating. The photo evoked someone who needed nothing, but had everything. I made a mental note to find out more about this guru.
A few other people finally arrived and took their places on the floor next to us. We chatted with a cute guy who was originally from Bulgaria and was a regular there.
“It’s very powerful to chant and sing with other beautiful souls,” he said. “I come every week.”
Ken and his wife, Lida took their seats in front of us, and passed out some instruments along with sheet music with lyrics so that we could sing along. I chose a tambourine, and Julie selected maraca made out of a gourd. Ken and Lida started the bhajan, Ken on the guitar and Lida on the harmonium, a reed instrument with a sound similar to the accordion. I was surprised at how small the group was, only half a dozen of us. We all chanted and sang in Hindi.
Om Guru Om Guru
Paragpara guru omkara guru tavasharanam
Sukhakarshubakar hey parameshwara
Brahma paraparta vasharanam
Om Guru Om Guru
After an hour, Julie gave me the look. It clearly said, okay, how much longer is this going to go on for?
I glanced at my watch and whispered, “Should be only another half an hour.”
We struggled on for another forty-five minutes as an Indian couple arrived, baby in tow, plates of food in hand. They placed the food at the feet of Shirdi Sai Baba and joined us in the chanting. Ten minutes later, three more Indian people arrived, bearing plates of food and placing them at the altar. Fifteen minutes later, four more with more food. Julie’s stomach growled. We squirmed. My butt was sore, and I longed to stretch. I was not feeling the uplifting love I’d come for. Seated right smack in front of Ken and Lida, Julie and I had to communicate with our eyes, strained looks, and subtle nods. The place was lovely, as well as the people, but this was definitely not our thing.
I finally mouthed to Julie, “I can’t take it anymore.”
Julie stifled a laugh, and rolled her eyes.
Ken shot Julie a look of disapproval.
I felt like I was fourteen again and back in Miss Judy’s dance class. My BFFs, Joni and Tracy, and I had smoked a joint in the parking lot before tap class and couldn’t stop giggling as we shuffled off to Buffalo. All the while a frustrated Miss Judy shot scowls of disapproval.
The memory triggered a giggle, which also set Julie off. Uncontrollable laughter welled up, and we buried our faces in our hands, attempting to stifle the guffaws and giggles. Ken was glaring at us. Some people just don’t get the Laughing Buddha.
I poked Julie in the side, “Come on, let’s go!”
We jumped up and flew out the garage door like Aladdin on his magic carpet.
Still giggling as we sped away towards Ventura Blvd., Julie turned to me, her face flushed. “Okay, Marla, that was painful.”
One more round of laughter burst forth, completely uncensored this time.
“It was truly not our thing, but I really want to go to the fire puja.”
“Are you kidding? We can never show our faces over there again.”
“I suppose not.”
And yet it had proven an excellent modality—the laughter, actually; the meeting, not so much. I felt spiritually juiced, happy, and terrific. I like to think our angels and guides were enjoying themselves with us as well. That bhajan was the epitome of the confusion of spirituality with serious disciplined self-control—even though we were sitting on the floor shaking gourds and singing what to us were mostly nonsense syllables. There should have been all kinds of laughter and light-heartedness at that session. The Buddha loves to laugh.
About the Author
Born in Tacoma, Washington, “The City of Destiny,” Marla was destined to move to Los Angeles where she shoots her arrow of love on a daily basis as a professional matchmaker, helping countless couples connect with their soul mates.
She is the author of three memoirs, Diary of a Beverly Hills Matchmaker, Hearts on the Line and The Buddha Made Me Do It.
Marla has been interviewed on the Today Show, WGN Chicago Morning News, San Diego Living, Urban Rush, CTV Calgary, Better TV, KUSI San Diego Morning Show, and over 100 radio shows including Coast to Coast AM with George Noory.
Her husband Adolfo has asked her, “Marlita, do you want to go to the moon too?” referring to her many interests—a true Gemini. Yet nothing has fascinated her like her profound adventure far beyond the moon and into the vastness of cosmic spirituality.
Public Relations & Marketing
Date Published: 03/10/2015
Publisher: Library Tales Publishing
Radio Programming and Branding: The Ultimate Podcasting and Radio Branding Guide is designed to offer techniques for broadcasters, radio bloggers, radio entrepreneurs and students who wish to start and run their own radio show or station. This book will help you improve your craft and effectively develop a winning brand that attracts attention, followership, and, ultimately, advertisers.
About the Author
Gary Begin, the founder and president of Sound Advantage Media, a radio programming consulting firm, possesses over thirty years of radio programming experience. Begin’s programming and on-air experiences have included diverse markets such as Tampa and Sarasota, FL, Providence, RI, Saginaw, MI, Hagerstown, MD, Columbus, GA, Portland and Waterville, ME. Begin attended Dean College in Franklin, MA and has continued to enhance his skills with regular attendance at many programming seminars. In addition to Sound Advantage Media, Begin also owns Gary Begin Voice Talent, providing voice talent services for clients all across the United States.
Self-Help / Motivational
Date Published: May 23, 2017
Squash Self-Doubt and Worry
Self-doubt can hold you prisoner and leave you wondering if anyone can set you free. In reality, the only person who can unlock your self-doubt cell is you.
Of course this doesn’t mean you must go through the process alone. With Kristi Patrice Carter as your guide in her newest book, Reprogram Yourself for UNSTOPPABLE Self-Confidence, you can learn how to squash self-doubt and worry to become a more self-confident version of you.
About the Author
Kristi Patrice Carter’s mission is to help people live their best lives—one self-help book at a time. She is driven by her passion for sharing her knowledge and a hope for inspiring and empowering people around the world to achieve their life goals.
A force to be reckoned with, Kristi Patrice Carter has a BA in English from the University of Illinois at Chicago, a Juris Doctorate from Chicago-Kent College of Law, and over eighteen years of writing and marketing experience. She’s also a wife, mother, author, and serial entrepreneur.
RomanceRockStars.com is hosting this giveaway. Winners must be 18 or older. United States and Canada only to ship the Kindle Fire. Otherwise, we can send the money for the kindle fire by amazon giftcard anywhere in the world. We will not sell or distribute your email address or any other information to any other company. Your information is for our blog only, to notify winners, and send prizes.
Grand Prize is a Fire Tablet with Alexa, 7″ Display, 16 GB + 3 ebooks and a second winner will receive a $10 Amazon Giftcard.
Freeze Frame by Freya Barker
Thriller / Espionage / Conspiracy / Historical
Date Published: March 24, 2017
“What makes you believe a lie? I’m not asking how you know someone is lying. What makes you believe? Because if you don’t understand how that works, then you won’t know when you’re being manipulated.”
In 1938 the War of the Worlds hoax panicked millions of Americans, then in 1988 another fictional media broadcast convinced nearly half of Portugal that sea monsters had risen from the ocean to destroy their cities. A team of CIA agents was sent to study the aftermath of this 6th Skyfall Event in the hope that they could turn it into a weapon of war. When the team consultant turns up dead, everyone scrambles to be the last man standing: the one who will decide if or when the sky falls.
“What makes you believe a lie? I’m not asking how you know someone is lying. What makes you believe? Because if you don’t understand how that works, then you won’t know when you’re being manipulated.”
William Stephenson, The Nature of Sky Fall Events
Porto, Portugal. October 30, 1988. 8:13 p.m.
The lights flickered and went dark, that’s when it started. Luis reached up and adjusted the bulb with his fingers. The hot glass burned his skin. He gritted his teeth as the sensation grew stronger. He doubted the bulb was the problem. The TV, fan and even the street light outside the apartment all died in the same moment. “Is this normal for an earthquake?”
Car headlights flashed through the windows reflecting off Renata’s long, dark hair. “It’s not an earthquake. They already said that.”
Luis let go of the bulb. Only a moment ago, the emergency broadcast system had come on the air. It’s strobing red light, and high pitched siren blared through every apartment. It was followed by men in lab coats being interviewed. They warned everyone that something was coming, and before they could finish the power cut out, the one thing they had said was, “it’s not an earthquake.”
The street outside the window was still lightless, and Luis went to check the fuse box. It wouldn’t do much good. If the entire neighborhood lost power, it clearly wasn’t a fuse, but at least it was something to do.
Renata took his hand. Her fingers trembled. “It’s not the fuses; it’s not our lights. Let it go.” Behind her, the old cement walls were spidered with cracks. They had been like that when they moved in.
“I don’t know what else to do.” He pressed his lips together and looked out the window. Outside, a family loaded into a car; the trunk overflowed as the father kicked at it until the latch held. They piled in, each with a pack on their lap. The mother sat in the passenger seat. In her hands, she held a pistol. Her husband got in, and the car roared to life. A few people emerged onto the street carrying packs, or bags. They all headed east, away from the coast. That’s where the scientist said it would start, on the coast.
“The phone lines,” Renata’s voice wavered, “They use a different power source than the electrical grid, right?” She wiped at beads of sweat forming on her forehead. “For emergencies, right?” She swallowed hard. “I’ll try and call my mom,” She picked up the receiver and held it to her ear. The lines in her face deepened the longer she held the phone. She frowned and jabbed at the disconnect lever several times. “The phones are dead.” Her skin paled. “The phones,” she licked her dry lips, “are dead.”
Luis was still for a long time. Strange muscles deep in his stomach twisted. Something terrible was happening, and he couldn’t do anything to stop it. He didn’t even know what it was. There was a worry in her soft brown eyes; he wanted to protect her, keep her from feeling this way. He walked over and put his hand on Renata’s cheek then kissed her. “We’re leaving.”
She nodded towards the bags they’d started to prepare midway through the broadcast. “Do you think this will be enough?” She rested her head on his chest.
The electricity surged back, lights blazing to life. The TV flashed it’s red warning again. After a moment, it changed to a camera feed from inside a helicopter. A reporter bobbed in and out of the frame. “We’re flying over the city of Vila de Conde, only a few kilometers from Porto.” He pointed to something off camera. “While it seems a much weaker force is headed this way, it will strike here first. That should give us some idea of what to prepare for.” The wind whipped his hair wildly and drowned his voice out. The camera focused in over the ocean. White edges of curling waves shifted as they crashed against the shore. City lights reflected on the water; then the whole city blinked out. “What the hell?” The camera jerked up over the blackened city. A loud guttural cry screeched through the TV speakers, and the reporter’s voice shouted, “What in God’s nam—” The image on the TV shook and rotated like someone dropped the camera, then the screen cut to static.
Every beat of Luis’ heart pounded in his chest, teeth, and fingers. He waited for the static to end, for someone to come back, to tell them what happened.
Renata grabbed his hand; her pulse was rapid; throbbing in the vein on her neck. When she spoke, the words sounded strange like her mouth was dry after hanging open for too long. “What’s happening?”
Through the window, they saw a car slam into the small market across the street. Glass shards toppled down and shattered on the hood. Two men got out and kicked at the remaining jagged edges. With sacks in their hands, they hustled inside and filled the bags with food and supplies. They tossed them into the backseat and doubled back for more. A box of spaghetti fell out of the passenger side and burst open. Noodles splayed out on the pavement, breaking under the boots of the men as they hurried back and forth.
“I need to get something.” Luis rushed to the bedroom and pulled a pistol from under the bed. He loaded it and placed several ammo boxes in a bag before returning to his pack in the living room.
The static on the screen finally ended. A news anchor sat at a desk; sweat dripped down his face. He wiped at his brow. “It’s clear now, from this footage.” A small image on the side of the screen grew larger. It was a distant shot of the city of Vila de Conde. The entire coastal edge was gone. The hotels, resorts, beach houses. All gone. Some bits of rubble smoldered in the darkness. “This has been some sort of attack.” He stopped, and his face became stern. He sprayed saliva as he shouted at someone, “I can’t … God damn it … I can’t say that on TV. No one will believe it!” He shoved the desk over and stood; then turned and walked a few steps towards the back of the set.
A husky male voice came from off screen. “Do you believe it?” There was a pause, but the anchor kept walking. The husky voice spoke again, pleading this time, “Someone has to tell them. They have to know.” He yelled with urgency in his voice, “We saw them!”
The newscaster stopped and looked over his shoulder at the camera. “Tell them to run.” He disappeared off camera, and the screen went to static.
The lights flickered a second time, then went dark. Luis held his hand over his mouth. He stopped breathing for a moment and counted his heartbeats. He waited, but the lights didn’t come back.
With heavy packs strapped to their backs, Luis and Renata staggered into the street towards their car. A traffic jam built up behind the vehicle that had crashed into the market. People dashed inside, stealing food. The narrow European street swelled with a growing mob as they disembarked their cars to investigate the problem.
A man got into the obstructing car and attempted to reverse out. The center of the frame teetered on the curb, and the wheels spun over the slick cobblestones.
A massive man with a thick beard exited his truck. “What’s wrong with you?” He thrust crude gestures with his hands, then stopped and summoned the other stalled drivers to the stranded car. He pantomimed his intention.
Seven men gathered around the small European car and tipped it onto its side, but the vehicle still blocked the road. They shoved and kicked, but the road wouldn’t clear. Thick-beard threw up his hands, gathered his gear from his car and started walking.
Luis’s eyes widened. “I don’t understand it.”
“Do you need to?” Renata gripped his shoulder, the tips of her nails bit into his skin. “They told us to run.”
Abandoning their car, Luis and Renata joined the panicked herd. They ran, shoved and bumped into each other as they maneuvered around the empty cars. The weight of the pack made Luis unstable as people jostled against him. As each person collided into him or reached out to stabilize themselves, his balance wavered. The straps dug deep into his shoulders. The heavy load labored his run. People were constantly pressing past. He made Renata go first so he could keep an eye on her.
A tall man with wide shoulders shoved Luis into the side of a car. He stumbled and grabbed the mirror to keep from falling. Renata screamed. He turned as she plummeted to the ground a few feet away, disappearing into the mad swarm of human bodies.
Luis surged forward ramming people until he found her. He tried to help her stand, but the mob kept pressing forward, and Luis fell on top of her. A foot crunched down on his hand; then a knee jabbed into his ribs. Droves of people crashed against his body. His hair got caught on something, and it ripped a patch from his skull. A trickle of blood dripped from his scalp onto Renata’s face.
Luis pressed his lips to her ear. “The gun is in my pack. Fire the gun.” He didn’t feel her searching the bag, too many hands, knees, and elbows jabbed and thrust into him, but he heard the gunshot, next to his ear. It thundered, and his whole body tensed. The thundering didn’t end. His ear rang, and it felt like someone was trying to hammer a nail into his brain. He saw Renata’s face, she was shouting, but he couldn’t hear her anymore, couldn’t hear the crowd, the waves of pounding feet on stone, just a high-pitched pierce in his ears.
The crowd stopped pressing down on him. They’d backed away. He got to his feet. Renata still lay on the ground. Luis dragged her into the bed of a truck. She cried and kept trying to say something, but he couldn’t hear it. Her face flexed in pain. He scanned her body and saw the ankle. Human bodies, human feet don’t bend like that. The tibia seemed to be jabbing down through the foot, forming a large bulb at the bottom, and the ankle swelled thicker than her leg.
The crowd swarmed back. Luis slumped down beside her. His eyes lingered on her face, her eyes. She couldn’t walk, not on her own. Whatever was coming would catch them. How will you take care of her? Luis took the gun from her hands. He studied the pistol for a long time, its dark oily finish, the weight of it in his hand, a weapon. If he couldn’t run, then he would fight. He crawled out of the truck bed to the car just behind. He rested the pistol on the hood and stared out into the darkness. Luis saw the white curling waves. Whatever it was, came from the ocean, he knew that. He waited a moment, watching the water, trying to see it. Nothing, just darkness. He pulled the trigger then looked at Renata. Broken. Helpless. His eyes welled up with tears. Fight. Even if you can’t see it. Fight. He fired again, fired until the gun was empty.
Pedro stood on a grassy hill overlooking the city of Porto. His eyes were bloodshot and puffy. Flashlights bobbed in the dark like swiveling dots, spreading away from the coast and into the countryside. He wiped the back of his hand across his forehead. It came away with a mixture of dirt, sweat, and mud. He’d marched his family through the dust cloud of the exodus. He and his wife, Beatriz, had fought with sticks to protect their young children as they ran through the streets. The blood streaks on Pedro’s knuckles were only partly his. He reached for the canteen around his neck and poured out a small handful of water to wash his hands.
Beatriz slipped her fingers through Pedro’s gray-streaked hair. “Can I have a drink?” In her arms their two-year-old slumbered, dirt crusted snot clung to his nose. One arm hung loosely away from his body.
Pedro lifted the canteen to his wife. “Anything new on radio?”
She finished her drink. “Still just static.” She kissed her son on his forehead, and her wet lips came away powdered with dust. “I turned it off an hour ago. We should check again.”
“Yeah.” Pedro nodded and headed towards the tents and campfire. His two older children were sprawled out next to the flames. On a tree stump sat a battery powered radio, its antenna tilted toward the city. He could make out the larger buildings by moonlight, but nothing electrical brightened the horizon. He flipped the radio on. Static buzzed through the speakers.
“You have to help it.” Beatriz approached and placed her hand on the antenna. The static cleared, and a voice filled the camp.
Pedro’s entire body stiffened at the familiar voice. The reporter who had refused to say what he had seen, the news anchor that had walked off the camera. The man who told everyone to run. His voice was heavy with emotion. He admitted he was an actor, and the entire scare had been a hoax. He took a deep breath and repeated the message.
“Holy mother of God.” Pedro dropped his head into his hands. “It wasn’t real. None of it was real.” His voice trembled. “We left everything.”
Beatriz stumbled and then lowered herself to the ground. Her eyes welled up. “We’re safe.” She kissed her son repeatedly. “We’re safe.”
Pedro jerked up. “Safe?” He raised his voice, the tone sharp, “Safe?” He thrust his arm towards the city and pointed. “They lied to us.” He picked up a rock and lunged to his feet, running towards the distant city. He hurled the stone into the open plain below. “Why!”
After a long moment, Beatriz pulled him close. “The power is still out. That was real. Something happened.”
Pedro stared down at the city. The flashlight dots had changed direction, but the city remained dark. His body numb, he slumped down, never taking his eyes from the city. The message on the radio continued to repeat. It had been a hoax, a lie. The radio cut to static and a single light sparked in the city. It grew into a massive flame taller than any building. The fire burned brighter throughout the night but never spread. Something had happened, not the lie they told, but something.
The Old CIA Building, Langley Virginia. 10:09p.m.
Silas Cooper sat behind his desk reviewing surveillance reports. His black hair slicked with a heavy gel that reflected the light. He ran his hand through it and some collected along the edge of his finger. He rubbed it aggressively into his skin until only a sheen remained. Someone knocked at the door but opened it before Silas could respond.
Costly, in a vested suit, entered holding a stack of Portuguese Escudo bills bound with a rubber band. He swaggered over to Cooper’s desk and tossed the money down. “Guess what?”
“I don’t have time for your bullshit. What do you want?” Silas’ lips curled downward, and his chin tightened.
Costly flashed a crooked, toothy grin. “There’s been a Sky Fall Event in Portugal.”
The room went still and Silas chuckled. “Finally.” He let out a contented sigh. “How big?”
“Half the coast. Multiple cities.”
“Jesus.” Silas’ smile faded. “Where’s Stephenson?”
“Shit, you’re not going to like it.” Costly hung his head. “As far as we know he’s in London —“
Silas cocked his head to one side, then back to the other. He pointed at his colleague with the file in his hand. “Now, I know you’re full of shit. I ought to break your teeth for this.”
Costly held up his hand apologetically. “No jokes. It happened, and he is that close, but,” he directed Silas to wait with an index finger. “He doesn’t have his plane with him. He’ll have to take the trains, and that should buy you some time.”
“Not enough.” Silas pocketed the money. “Get me Stephenson’s list. Cross out anyone not fluent in Portuguese or Spanish.”
“Already done.” Costly pulled a file from his briefcase. There were two columns of names; all but one were crossed out.
“Jay Nichols,” Silas read. “What’s his experience?”
“Two weeks here in Langley.”
“Are you God damn kidding me? You want to feed a puppy to the lion?”
About the Author
Joe Bendoski study psychology in college and was fascinated by all the insights it provided into human behavior, only to realize most the information never reach people, and when it did, rarely was it in a form that allowed for practical application. He started writing non-fiction, but soon came to understand how few people read that genre and began the difficult transition into fiction writing. His non-fiction works include; the Chemistry of Attraction and the Language of Emotion.
He worked as the head writer for the television show ‘Saved by Grace.’ After being frustrated with comments like “make this scene cheaper,” “What’s my motivation?”, and “Do we need this scene?” he deiced to go in to literature.
Date Published: re-released April 2017
Publisher: H&H Publishing
Sandra Baker thought her life was going perfectly until she found out she was pregnant. Her boyfriend doesn’t want the baby and pushes her to have an abortion. After the procedure, Sandra spirals into depression losing her relationship and nearly her job. When she meets Henry, a Christian man, who displays God’s love, she begins to wonder if God can forgive her and more importantly if she can forgive herself.
The delicate paper menu held only a few choices, and my eyes widened at the prices. I should have thought to ask where we were going before I agreed. I didn’t have the money to spend so much on dinner, especially since Peter had moved out and money was much tighter. My heart thudded in my chest as I quickly scanned for the cheapest item on the menu; even the side salad was nearly fifteen dollars. How do people afford this? Well, the salad comes with bread and a bowl of soup, so at least it should be enough to fill me up.
The waiter, clad in a white dress shirt and perfectly pressed black pants, appeared just as I laid the menu down. “Have we had enough time?” he asked politely, glancing at each of us before focusing his attention on Philip, who took the lead in ordering.
“Yes, we’ll have two glasses of your finest red wine and two plates of the steak and lobster, grilled medium well.” He handed his and Raquel’s menus to the waiter.
“Very well,” the waiter nodded and turned his attention to me.
I swallowed. “Um, I’ll have the side salad and the tomato soup.”
The waiter cocked his head. “Will that be all miss?”
My face flushed, and just as I was about to answer, Henry jumped in. “Yes, and the same for me please.” He handed our menus to the waiter.
The waiter nodded. “Yes, sir, and anything further to drink?”
Henry glanced at me; I shook my head. “No, water will be adequate for now, thank you.”
As the waiter turned away, I regarded Henry. Who was this man, and why was he being so nice to me? He caught me staring and shot me a small wink as he picked up a piece of bread.
About the Author
Lorana Hoopes is an inspirational romance and children’s author originally from Texas. She now lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and three children. When not writing, she can be found singing or acting on stage or kickboxing at her gym. You can also find her hosting her show Write the World where she interviews authors and writers. If you are an author and want to be featured, be sure to contact her.
Title: Conflicted Interest (The Conflicted Series Book 1)
Author: Ava Starke
Genre: Contemporary, New Adult, Sensual Romance
Release Date: February 14, 2017
Hosted by: Buoni Amici Press, LLC.
Theo flies to Athens for a wedding with a plan: stay for the vows, raise a toast, and get the hell back to work. He’s staring down the barrel of the biggest gamble of his career, and can’t afford the distractions of a glamorous city or desirable women; neither of which excite him much anyway.
Until he meets Audrey.
Brilliant, ruthless, and set on conquering the finance world, the young exec would rather be catching a London red-eye, than a mangled wedding bouquet. But when tall, mysterious Theo pulls her onto the dance floor, all thoughts of clients and contracts vanish. The man is intoxicating; his warm touch lingers long after his hands have left her body. They’re from different cities and different worlds—it would never work.
And yet she’s haunted by the brush of his lips against her throat, the delicious press of his body…
But Theo is keeping secrets that could break Audrey’s heart and destroy everything she’s worked for. In this careful dance of power and seduction, has Theo finally met his match?
Conflicted Interest is the first steamy instalment of the sensual contemporary romance Conflicted Series, intended for ages 18+.
This was my first time in Athens. I’d never before had a reason to come, and even this visit was limited to a strict twenty-four hour window. I had tickets for the Turkish team’s football match against Spain the following afternoon in my home city of Istanbul. Wedding or no wedding, this was a match I would not be missing. There were few things I cared for in my life: family; work; football; and, of course, women — predictably, in that order.
The church was tucked just beneath the overbearing hilltop of the Acropolis, a minor player within a much larger scene. Feeling the steam rising from beneath my suit, I stepped into the entryway of the tiny Orthodox enclave and peeked my head in the door to add my face to the congregation.
My mind was wandering, and I imagined how the night would end. Given the last minute brevity of my visit, I hadn’t precooked anything on Tinder, my preferred “dating” app. As a member, I could arrange meet-ups in the days leading up to my trips from anywhere in the world; and that suited my frequent-flier lifestyle perfectly. The application was not without its socially engineered “bugs” though. In London, I had to screen for prostitutes; and in Russia, I once matched with the ex-mistress of a local billionaire who insisted that her former boyfriend had bought her a five million dollar flat in the Khamovniki District of Moscow. Apparently, she was ready for an upgrade. Having far more interesting investments to make, I never heard from her again.
A man couldn’t lose with the app. Either one had a fun hook up or collected excellent cocktail party fodder; and given the grueling travel and difficult hours of my job, I didn’t have time for anything more.
Tonight’s wedding reception party would inevitably go on late. This was more or less the Mediterranean after all; but I was in a state of detox from an intense week of business travel to the U.S., London, Munich, Istanbul, and now this crumbling relic of classical antiquity. I was tired, and it was entirely possible I’d end up in my room asleep before the dancing even started.
An elderly woman tugged at my sleeve, telling me she wanted to inch by me. Stepping aside, I saw the church was painted in white with gold and light-blue accents. Dark, ornately-carved wooden doors created a dramatic scene behind the altar; and large bronze chandeliers with red stained glass hung from the ceiling.
I surveyed the crowd. There were clear distinctions between the locals, probably family, and the wedding couple’s more international friends. I assumed the global constituency was mostly David’s American friends from home, with a smattering of the occasional coworker. There weren’t many young women, maybe fifteen at most — a small pool to pick from.
I redirected my attention to the bride and groom at the front as they walked circles around the altar together. I always found this to be a strange yet amusing custom at Orthodox weddings. Delia, David’s new wife, was beaming with honest joy; and he stood beside her in muted delight. Delia was elegant and statuesque in a long, figure-hugging silk gown. She was a well-known model in New York, and David had scored above his bracket when he landed her as his fiancé. I felt a pang at witnessing their mutual happiness.
My last significant relationship had ended abruptly following my move to Istanbul. I had invited my then girlfriend, Susanne, to move to Turkey with me; but she’d insisted her work in Berlin was too important to her. Nevertheless, I’d really wanted to start a family. At the time we’d been trying for a baby, so we continued on for a few months flying to see each other weekly until I came to the stunning realization that she was cheating on me back home with our neighbor.
It was just as well, since now I questioned whether having a family was even realistic given my lifestyle.
I hadn’t procured anything of lasting importance since; but then again, I was always working. In my thirty-five years of wisdom, love seemed fraught with disappointment.
I’d yet to find a relationship that was worth its intensive investment; and while I knew my energy was better spent at the office, I still held out hope that one day I might find someone who would prove me wrong.
I continued my survey of the little room farther to my right and spotted a row in the back filled with more guests.
Rising from the back corner, she slowly stood up from her wooden seat and signaled to an older man to take her chair. He rejected her proposal and stood taller in his dignity. Smiling, she signaled again to the chair before turning in my direction. In her sky-blue dress and shoes in hand, she made her way toward where I was standing. I wanted her to slide by me as she was sliding past others: the skirt of her dress sweeping their knees as she moved out of the narrow row. She was American; I knew it. European women wore their shoes in church, and they remained for the entirety of the ceremony out of polite obligation.
The straps of her dress were thin and taut against her skin, bracing themselves to hold her breasts in place. I pictured the straps snapping upon the slightest touch. As she passed by me, her shoulder brushed the fabric of my suit jacket. She left out the back doorway as the growing crowd increasingly cornered me into a rear pulpit.
There must have been a hundred people captured inside the small gilded room of spiritual fortification that had a capacity for thirty. I could feel the waves of heat swelling and swirling between the congregation. The ceremony was wilting us all like flowers in a febrile summer; so with no end in sight, I sneaked back out the door to follow her.
Ava Starke is an author, entrepreneur, philanthropist and undeniable feminist dedicated to creating romance novels and serials that help readers find their escape and inspire their sexiest selves. A transplanted-native of Los Angeles, she now lives in South Florida.
Date Published: 11/04/2017
Publisher: Leap of Faith Publishing
Sean Johnson’s life as a small-town farmhand has been nothing but predictable, but when he meets Sophia Hillingdon at the local animal sanctuary, she gets him out of an eighteen-year rut, away from the mundane existence on the farm, and a grieving, drunken father.
Sophia is the first person who understands him and makes him believe that he might get out of their small town, who tells him, he has the potential to be whoever he wants to be and do whatever he wants to do.
But as their relationship unfolds, it is the most devastating of news that will change both of them forever.
Her face was nearer than it had ever been. Her skin felt smooth and warm. All I could do was lean further into her, losing myself in the moment. And then there were her piercing blue eyes-even more extraordinary up close. Before I knew it, I’d brought my hands to her chest as our parting lips collided. We kissed for hours, inhabiting each other with such force as our bodies rolled across the cooled grass. She was the change I had been searching for. It was the first time I realized; I could be anywhere in the world, but nowhere without her.
About the Author
Hugo Driscoll is a 25-year-old British author and content writer for an online publication in London.
When he’s not working, you can usually find him writing in the basements of cafes or looking serious in black and white photos.
You can also find Hugo on Twitter, Facebook, and his personal blog, which he updates regularly.
Seven Days with You is his first novel.