Torc of Moonlight: Special Edition (Celtic Goddess Trilogy), Linda Acaster {$2.99}

Book One in the Celtic Goddess Trilogy

When student Nick Blaketon manoeuvres into Alice Linwood’s dry academic life he’s aiming to get into her bed. Readily agreeing to help find the water shrine to a forgotten Celtic fertility goddess, he makes light of Alice’s worry that people close to her die. But as her desire for him rises, he becomes less certain. Sleeping dreams seep into waking nightmares. Warnings screamed from a balcony, shapes in a steamy mirror…. Alice? Himself? A figure he terms The Other? Did the shrine return to nature, or was it obliterated by fire, quenched in blood?

As time extends and reality splits, Nick knows he and Alice are out of their depth. But who will believe him? Not Alice, running from her past, and from Nick. He can’t let her face the danger alone, but is she right? Has she marked Nick to be The Sacrifice?

How many believers does it need to keep an ancient religion alive?
Just one. You, throwing coins into a wishing well.

TORC OF MOONLIGHT : SPECIAL EDITION (113,000 words) is the first in a trilogy of thrillers set in English university cities pressing the North York Moors against the sea. Bonus material includes research articles, author interview, and the opening of Book 2 THE BULL AT THE GATE set in York.

“…in starkly elegant prose, builds a powerful novel of possession and psychological breakdown in ‘Torc of Moonlight’. She writes the male point of view very well indeed…” ~5 stars, Customer Review

“…This book kept me interested right up to the end trying to figure out what was going to happen…” ~4 stars, Customer Review

 

Click here to read more about and purchase Torc of Moonlight for $2.99 from Amazon

In the UK? Click here to purchase Torc of Moonlight for £2.12 from Amazon.co.uk!

The Wreck, Marie Force {$2.99}

Carly Holbrook and Brian Westbury are weeks away from their high school graduation. The young couple plans to marry before they head to college, and their future seems bright with promise. Everything changes one spring night when their six closest friends, including Brian’s younger brother, are killed in a fiery car accident that Carly and Brian witness. The trauma leaves Carly unable to speak, and Brian is forced to make unimaginable decisions about a future that once seemed so certain. With Carly incapable of going forward with their plans, Brian leaves home—and Carly—for good. Fifteen years later, disturbing new clues indicate the accident that wrecked so many lives wasn’t an accident at all, bringing Brian home to face a past—and a love—he’s never forgotten.

“Make sure that when you start this book you have the time to finish it because you won’t be able to put it down.” ~M. Wheeler, Amazon Customer Review

The average customer review is currently 5 stars (14 reviews).

 

Click here to read more about and purchase The Wreck for $2.99 from Amazon

In the UK? Use this link to reach The Wreck on Amazon.co.uk!

The Frugal Find of the Day: Foxy’s Tale (The Reluctant Vampire Series, Book 1), Karen Cantwell & LB Gschwandtner {$0.99}

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Karen Cantwell & LB Gschwandtner’s Frugal Find Under Nine:


Description:

Foxy Anders has a list of problems as long as a shopping spree receipt from Neiman Marcus. She’s a retail spender with no money to spare and a former beauty queen with no man in her life. After a nightmare divorce she’s left with one asset, a building off Washington, D.C.’s classy DuPont Circle. By turning the ground floor into an antique shop, Foxy figures she has an excuse to spend money … that she doesn’t have.

Foxy also has a teenaged daughter, Amanda, who likes to blog secretly about her biggest problem – Foxy. At least, she thinks Foxy is her biggest problem. But that’s all about to change when she hooks up with Nick, a cute guy at school who evidently has a gift for attracting older women. Amanda just doesn’t know HOW much older they really are.

When Foxy rents the garden apartment to stylish, shoe-fettishista Knot, who turns out to have a knack for talking wealthy Washington A-listers into Foxy’s antiques, it looks as if Foxy will make it on her own after all. Except that Knot is also a genius at creating problems … in his love life.

They’re a quirky threesome to be sure, but when mysterious, bumbling, Myron Standlish arrives on the scene with a suitcase full of Yiddish-isms, he brings along his own set of problems, larger and stranger than all of theirs put together. Oy vey. How will Myron’s personal journey affect their lives? Well … that’s Foxy’s Tale.

A comic, chick lit, coming-of-age, vampire tale (sort of) where family triumphs over adversity and mother and daughter learn how to face the world as grownups – together.

 

Accolade:

What readers are saying …

“Full of snappy characters, laughs, and mystery, peppered with lively details of Washington, DC., and brimming with enough shoe shopping to satisfy any fashionista. This new joint effort from Karen Cantwell and L B Gschwandtner is guaranteed to please! Can’t wait for the next installment in this lively new series!”

~Misha Crews, Author of Her Secret Bodyguard

“Foxy’s Tale is irresistible fun – full of lively characters with a knack for trouble, laugh-out-loud dialogue, and story twists that will keep you reading deep into the night.”

~Kim Wright Wiley, Author of Love in Mid Air

 

Reviews:

Foxy’s Tale currently has a customer review rating of 5 stars. Read the reviews here.


An excerpt from Foxy’s Tale:

Myron has put a small kettle on the electric stove to boil water. He opens a cabinet and pulls out a tin of tea and a tea strainer.

“You like lemon in your cuppa? Sugar? Honey? Milk? Vaht?” Myron asks.

Amanda shrugs. “I don’t know really. I never had tea before.”

“Ach,” Myron sniffs, “a child who never had tea. Vaht a country. I think sugar and milk for you then.

As he goes to the refrigerator, Amanda walks to the kitchen entryway. It’s just an open space at the end of the short counter. Myron doesn’t seem to know she’s followed him over and, as he opens the refrigerator door and bends down slightly to take a carton of milk from inside the door, Amanda has a clear view of the inside shelves.

“What are all those?” she asks and comes right up behind him to peer over his back at box upon box of vials of blood each set in its own hole row upon row in the boxes, as if some lab had dropped off blood drawn from dozens and dozens of patients. Amanda points at the vials and then sees, on the bottom shelf, flat bags of blood. The kind she’s seen at blood drives at school. “Wow,” she says. “That’s a whole lot of blood.

Myron snaps up, the carton of milk in his hands. He almost collides with Amanda as he tries to hurriedly shut the refrigerator door. “”Nothing. That is nothing,” he mouths but it comes out dry as if he has a cough in his throat.

“But it’s a lot of blood,” Amanda insists. “What’s it all for?”

“Come, ve have some tea, now, and ve talk about things of interest.” He pours hot water into a tea pitcher and drops the strainer inside. He bustles over to get two mugs and brings out a bowl of sugar.

“But that is interesting. You have no food except milk and sugar and tea and all that blood?”

“An old man like me, what do I need but tea and a little milk now and then? You’ll see. Vehn you are getting old like me. So many disappointments in life.” He shakes his small, bald head. “You are young. Your disappointments are ahead of you. Come, ve drink tea, ve talk about life’s disappointments, eh?” Myron pours the tea and shoves the sugar bowl over to Amanda. They sit on bar stools at the counter facing the kitchen. Amanda glances warily at the refrigerator. She’s not about to let this go. But she’ll think about another way to find out what’s going on later. She sips at the tea. It’s sweet and milky and a little spicy. She likes it.

 

Foxy’s Tale is available for purchase at:

Amazon Kindle for $0.99

UK Amazon Kindle

 

Connect with Karen Cantwell & LB Gschwandtner:

Karen Cantwell’s Website

LB Gschwandtner’s Website

 

Gemini Moon (Moon Series), Elysa Hendricks {Free!}

Prince Ash del Gar is resigned to a loveless, political marriage with the princess of a neighboring country. But on his wedding night he discovers his bride is without a soul. When a holy man tells Ash how to retrieve the princess’s soul, he uses a storm and the power of a crystal medallion to transport to Earth. Lame since childhood, Cathy Lawrence expresses her longings for love only in the imaginary world and the imaginary lover she’s created in her art. Then the naked embodiment of her dream lover appears in her studio and abducts Cathy to his world. Cathy struggles to find her way back to Earth and sanity, while Ash fights his growing love for the woman whom he must convince to save his world by sacrificing her soul.

“A magical journey of romance.” ~Robin Bayne, Amazon Customer Review

The average customer review is currently 4 stars (17 reviews).

 

Click here to read more about and purchase Gemini Moon for free from Amazon

Frugal Freebie Wednesday!

What could help push us through the middle of the week better than Frugal Freebies??

Check out five Frugal Freebies from the Kindle Store!

 

 

#1 ~ Skipped Parts, Tim Sandlin {Free!} (4.5 Stars, 46 Reviews)

#2Getting Away is Deadly: A Mom Zone Mystery, Sara Rosett {Free!} (4 Stars, 4 Reviews)

#3 Blue,  Lou Aronica {Free!} (4.5 Stars, 23 Reviews)

#4The Gospel of Ruth: Loving God Enough to Break the Rules, Carolyn Custis James {Free!} (4.5 Stars, 16 Reviews)

#5 ~ When You Went Away, Michael Baron {Free!} (4.5 Stars, 18 Reviews)

 

Click on the above covers or links to read more about and purchase the five Frugal Freebies from Amazon

 

The Frugal Find of the Day: The Hollow Earth and Other Stories, Steven Savile {$0.99}

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Steven Savile’s Frugal Find Under Nine:

 

Description:

THE HOLLOW EARTH is an authentic, atmospheric throwback to the Victorian London of heavy fogs and Hansom Cabs, gasogenes and private Gentleman’s Clubs; when Britannia ruled and gentleman’s gentlemen were almost as common as gentlemen – the nostalgically revered London of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, Professor Moriarty and Jack The Ripper.

 

Accolade:

From Fear Zone:

“Savile makes sure to give these gentleman protectors of the natural world all they can handle with some choice villains; from the evil human Necromancer, Nathaniel Parker, to the demon, Meringias, that acts as a sort of Captain and advance scout for the huge mass of horrors currently imprisoned within the bowels of the Earth (hence the Chapbook’s title), that Parker seeks to set free upon an unsuspecting and very unprepared humanity, to a truly unforgettable and horrid homunculus. There are no wasted words in this fast-moving story. Savile manages to successfully evoke a wonderful sense of atmosphere and place, while contemporaneously managing to constantly build the conflict and tension, and swiftly move the action forward to a satisfying conclusion. The book, as is the Greyfriar’s Gentleman’s Club, is a successful melange of a Victorian English version of X-Files and Torchwood, with perhaps just a soupcon of Arthur Machen for flavor.”

 

Reviews:

The Hallow Earth and Other Stories currently has a customer review rating of 4 stars. Read the reviews here.


An excerpt from The Hollow Earth and Other Stories:

From the Annals of the Greyfriar’s Gentleman’s Club

As transcribed by Anthony Millington, Esq.

 

The woman might have been beautiful, once. It was impossible to tell because the flickering blue blush of the gaslight cast a pall of sickness across her face. The harsh light picked out the shadows of her pocked skin, flaunting her imperfections. Whatever might have been, she was not beautiful now.

She carried a basket of wilting flowers. The wet stems nestled against the pearly ruffles of her blouse leaving a grimy circle of damp beneath the swell of her left breast.

The man who called himself Nathaniel Seth smiled at her pantomime of propriety as she adjusted the lie of her bustle on her generous hips and teased the set of her porter’s knot. It was all a show, an elaborate charade to mask the fact that she was loitering on the corner of Is Square.

A flower girl.

A prostitute by any other name.

Where other girls made for the warmth of the palatial Alhambra down in Leicester Square or the dancing rooms of the East End where the music of desire fill the snuggaries and lust parted the amorous with their shillings, this one waited out the night on a dimly lit corner, clinging to the dark places she knew well.

She listened hungrily to the sounds of the night, the clatter of horses hooves sparking on distant cobbles, the cries of the street hawkers and below them, the soft feet of the young cadgers running back to their nests to share whatever spoils their light fingers had plucked.

He cursed his luck, willing her silently to move on, find another perch or slip into a Hansom Cab and disappear into the cloying smog.

He could smell her perfumes, wantonly applied to douse the reek of those other wanton fragrances that clung to her ample flesh. It was cloyingly sweet.

At that moment the world had such small horizons: it spanned from the mouth of the Square to the shadowy steps of the British Museum. He opened his hand, stretching the stiffness out of his fingers. His pocket-watch ticked against his breastbone. He counted the movements, inhaling and exhaling shallowly with every third one, twenty breaths in a full minute of watching the woman.

She showed no sign of leaving.

She was, he thought, looking for someone. An expected rendezvous, perhaps? A pre-arranged tryst? Or business? He listened intently for another set of footsteps, the slow measured confidence of a tallyman come to collect her bawd’s cut of the night’s take.

He cracked his knuckles one at a time and stepped out of the sheltering obscurity of the hanging gardens, pushing back the tears of a weeping willow. The melancholy leaves fell across his face, leaving smears of pollen on his lapel like poisonous kisses. The metal tip of his cane marked each step precisely as he crossed the cobbles toward the waiting woman, the harsh sound hanging in the air.

Halfway across the square he heard the first chime of midnight from St. Giles’ church. It was taken up a moment later by the great bells of St. Pancras and St. Luke’s, and before the first chime had stopped resonating, by The Holy Trinity out by Lincoln’s Fields. The chimes were like a ripple of sound spreading out across the city. He paused for a moment, to listen to them. They were not an unpleasant last thing to hear . . .

He smiled warmly, imagining himself in her eyes: tall, debonair, a dashing city gent both educated and cultured and a long way from his element, walking a lonely road at night, a fool in other words waiting to be parted from his money. The tails of his Churchill topcoat swirled around his ankles like a clutch of yapping terriers. The cut of his suit was expensive, the threads exquisite, imported from the Far East. Seeing her half-turn, half-smile, he inclined his head and tapped the silver wolf’s head of his cane to the brim of his silk plush Waverley and returned her smile.

He decided then that he would be merciful. It was curious how a simple thing like her smile could buy even that small relief from him. On another night, he knew, that same smile could just as easily have been reason enough for him to choke the life out of her with her own sex-stinking garter. But tonight it saved her pain.

She made to offer one of the rather dejected looking blooms from her basket but a wry smile and a slight shake of the head stayed her hand.

The light was indeed deceptive. Up close, stripped of the mask of shadows and the blush of youth betrayed itself.  She could not have been more than eighteen or nineteen but already the curse of old London town had stripped away so much of her life. He could not give back her youth but he could bring an end to the relentless slide into decay her flesh was on. He had heard it said that eight years was the best a flower girl could hope to last on the streets. That was a sorry state of affairs. As the looks began to slide so the coin would dry up. Desperation would see to the rest. It was devil’s deal if ever there were one.

She curtseyed, lowering her eyes at his intent inspection, the blush in her cheeks was a lie painted on in-expertly with a thick cake of make-up.

In the distance came a sad wailing strand of music, whisper-thin on the chill air. It reminded him of the life all around, and the countless eyes that could by chance glance the wrong way as he did for the flower girl.

“It’s a cold night to be out alone, my dear,” he said, sketching a slight bow.

She had bad teeth, he saw, as she smiled. They had been whitened with some kind of paste but the underlying decay was barely hidden.

“Good fortune that I am not alone then, is it not?” Her smile was playful, but the cracked and broken teeth rendered it charmless. He could not imagine lying with the woman. “Can I interest you in a flower for your lady?”

He leaned in close, as though drinking in the juniper, anise, and other more potent scents that prickled his sinuses, and inclined his head meeting her gaze at eye level.

“Alas, I have no lady,” he said.

“A shame, for sure, handsome fellow like yourself.”

Her eyes were empty of anything approaching emotion. This was all theatre, the flower girl a player and he her hapless foil.

“I have pledged my life to a higher purpose, my dear. The seven sins of this great city are of no interest to me,” he reached around, almost affectionately resting a hand on her shoulder and leaned in conspiratorially. The flickering dance of the gaslight and its shadows took his broad smile and leavened it, widened it, stretching it across the entirety of his face until it was both artificial and gruesome. “I cannot stand the stench, the ceaseless grunting and groaning, and worse, come close my dear, for this confession I dare only whisper.”

She leaned in, pressing her ear to his lips.

He wondered for the silence between heartbeats if she could feel his false smile, so close was her skin to his, and then with a tenderness approaching sadness he whispered, “It didn’t have to be like this,” as he tangled his fingers in her hair, working them deep beneath the knot. With a single savage motion he twisted the bones of her neck until they cracked.

She convulsed against him, a scream stillborn on her lips. It was a pitiful sound. It didn’t matter, there was no one to hear.

He forced her neck back further, until it snapped. Her legs kicked out weakly, the heel of her laced boot breaking off on the edge of a cobblestone. And in that long moment he watched her eyes, looking for the instant when, the nerves shorn, spine broken, the light that was the flower girl was snuffed out. She sagged against him, her eyes like glass. There was genuine regret in his voice as he said, “All you had to do was walk away.”

He stepped back, letting her fall. The basket tumbled out of her arms and rolled across the cobbles leaving her flowers strewn across the street.

He walked on toward the museum steps, crushing the petals beneath his heels.

A shadow, like black wings, gathered shape and form within the darkening smog around him. For a moment they hung behind him, remaking him as a dark angel before they ghosted across Charlotte Street, weaving through the black iron gates and into the grounds of the British Museum.

Less than two minutes had passed since he emerged from beneath the weeping willow. He looked left and right down the length of Charlotte Street, but there wasn’t a soul in sight. This time his smile was genuine as he loped easily across the six remaining paces to the iron railings and boosted himself up and over them. They weren’t a serious defence – but then the museum was arrogant enough to believe no one would dare rob it. It was that insufferable smugness, along with the curator’s stubborn refusal to move into the next century that he was counting on as he moved quickly to the west wall. He moved along in the gathered shades. There was a small door set midway down the long wall. He didn’t bother with trying to pick his way through the lock, knowing that it was weighted with a complex clockwork counter-balance mechanism and three thick dead-bolts. There was no need. He moved fast, running low, to the imposing portico. There were unprotected windows aplenty along the galleries, including rusted shutters and pitted locks that would take less than a second to work open with a thin blade.  He took one of six smile spikes from his pocket and wedged it into the crevice formed where the huge fluted stone column touched the wall. He forced a second and a third spike into place, creating footholds for himself. Using the stone column to brace himself, he climbed nimbly up to the second story and hauled himself over the balcony rail, face to face with a leering stone gargoyle as he collapsed onto his back. He waited a full three minutes, counting them out with his slowing heart to regulate the rhythm, and then rolled over onto his stomach. He pressed his hands against the stone and arched his back, rising in a single swift movement. Without pausing, he moved off down the western wall, counting off the lead-lined windows until he reached the one he was looking for.

Through the darkened glass he saw the silhouette of the Harpy Tomb from Xanthus and the seated figures from Branchidae, a sepulchral monument pillaged from an Etruscan tomb. Reaching into the deep pockets of his Churchill, he withdrew a thin stiletto knife. The blade was coated with an oily residue. He worked the blade patiently between the leading and the glass, gently teasing the leading loose. Strip by strip he pared it away and then chivvied the tip of the blade beneath the edge of the glass and pried it up. There was a soft popping sound as the glass came free. It slid. He caught it before it could hit the floor, and set it down gently. Reaching inside, he undid the very basic locking mechanism and eased the window open and slipped inside.

The air inside the museum was stale, musty and, to his nostrils, reeked of antiquity.

He moved with the surety of a man who belonged, moving through the room without disturbing a thing despite the fact that there was no artificial light within the Ancient Greek gallery. It was yet another of those antiquated notions of the curator’s, the fool actually believed electric lighting would damage the integrity of the treasures under his care. Still, the reliance upon the sun offered him a wealth of shadows now. Indeed, the only electric lighting within the entire museum was in the Reading Room, allowing the scholars to pour over the wealth of words well into the dark hours without the risk of a clumsy candle or drips of wax marring irreplaceable texts.

The huge door opened with a sigh; in the darkness it sounded like the last breath expelled by a dying man.

He stepped through the crack and eased the door closed behind him. It was thirty-nine steps to the mausoleum room and the colossal chariot-tomb erected to Mausolos by his sister-wife Artemisia, forty-two more to the Elgin room, overflowing with the grandest remains of Greek sculpture, the Parthenon marbles and procession-frieze. He footsteps echoed hollowly up and down the long galleries, the only sounds in the otherwise silent museum. Five rough and ready bruisers were employed as night-watchers, but with the building itself being an enormous square with four huge wings and the central Reading Room being a completely different construction, they were nothing more than a token. They did their rounds together, sharing a dram and lying about the various delights of the bordellos, bawds and hussies they had conquered with liberal coin. They paid scant attention to the task at hand, after all, who would dare rob the Empire’s treasures and risk the wrath of a surly Victoria?

He lurked in the shadows of a standing sarcophagus, waited patiently for them to pass and be on their way. Not one of the five so much as glanced in his direction. When their laughter and ribaldry faded he moved on.

Wall upon wall was dominated by bound manuscripts, rare editions and exquisite typographies. None of these interested him. He walked the length of the corridor, past marble busts, zoological specimens, mammals, birds, rare Arctic dwellers and curious sand worms, past rooms of rare coins and fossilized plants, pygmy elephants and splendid meteorites fallen from the sky. He moved deeper into the museum, looking for the Kruptos Door, which itself was masked from idle discovery. The door opened on to the true secret treasures of the museum, the Arcanum, the stolen artefacts that between them promised the power to transmute, alter, and restore the flesh and spirit. Beyond the door lay the treasures of the One-Mind, as the alchemists called them, the evidence that linked heaven and earth.

He followed the clues laid down in the stones of the floor, alchemical cyphers for spirit, which looked oddly like a cross from the Holy See, and earth, an inverted triangle with the lowest angle marked out. The cyphers were laid in the stone with tin, silver and copper wires and scuffed down by the weary procession of tired feet for the best part of eighty years. They led through the lower galleries, the manuscript salon and the exhibition of fine line drawings, down a twisting stair to the Roman gallery and beyond, to the bronze room with its clutter of hulking deities, heroes, mirrors, candelabra, lamps, and urns hiding the door itself. He moved carefully through the detritus of civilizations past, guided by the cyphers on the floor.

Twin black crows marked either corner of the door, symbols of the black processes, calcination and putrefaction, and a golden knocker was set in its centre. The knocker was expertly wrought, a dog being consumed by the jaws of a wolf. Visitors to the gallery heard tales of Romulus and Remus, the twins of Rome, and the She-Wolf, but it was nothing more than spurious supposition on behalf of the docents. There was more symbolism hidden within this peculiar image, readily apparent to the knowing eye – the purification of gold using antimony.

There was no doubting what lay behind the door, the clues were there for anyone with the vision to see them.

He placed his hand flat against the wood, whispered his name, and pushed. It gave with a gentle snick, opening onto a dank passage that coiled down another fifty feet beneath the lowest galleries into the very foundations of London herself. The floor sloped gently downwards. Every sixth step the short stairs accelerated the descent. The door closed behind him, plunging the passage into darkness. He didn’t so much as break his stride, taking a small sulphurous bezoar from his pocket and sparking it against the rough wall. The compacted stone caught light immediately and burned with a small yellow flame that gave off no heat. The bezoar conjured a chiaroscuro of light and dark; within it he saw all that he needed to see. He walked on, his footsteps amplified by the peculiar acoustics of the tunnel.

There was a second door, deep below the city streets, forged of iron and braced with lead, tin and silver. Rather than a key, the lock mechanism was a combination of pattern recognition and forgotten black alchemy, with over sixty symbols to choose from and any number of possible combinations. He knew the combination, just as any true adept would. He didn’t even have to think about it. With four confident depressions he squared the circle: the fiery golden sphere of the sun, the triangle of the fire itself, the smaller circle of gold, and finally the all-encompassing square. And then a fifth depression, the quincunx, encompassing it all, man, his empire of dirt, and sky above. The final piece of the puzzle nestled into place with a delicate snick. The lock mechanism was protected by a quicksilver tilt; the wrong combination would tilt the switch, leaking quicksilver into the mechanism and fusing the lock closed forever.

He grasped the golden handle and turned it.

The pin pressed up against the glass the clockwork mechanism ratcheted into place, but not hard enough to crack it.

He opened the Kruptos Door and stepped into the al kimia, the hidden chamber as the words translated directly from the Arabic root. The wordplay amused him, as it no doubt amused the brothers of the rosy cross when they sealed the room up so many years ago. Even the most cursory inspect proved the place was every bit the treasure trove he had hoped. Skin-bound grimmoires rested on lecterns, open on long forgotten wisdom. A glass cabinet contained the shards of a humble cup, a grail of sorts, though not the one so precious to the Christian stories. A black grail. It was, if the small note beside it was to be believed, the vessel used to collect the sacrificial blood of Iscariot after he had been cut down from his hanging tree. He pressed his face against the glass, his fingertips less than six inches away from the black chalice. He could feel the malice emanating from each fragment of the simple cup.

He smiled and turned his back on it.

Numerous other treasures caught his eye: statuary claimed from Tibet, a jade jaguar with the ghostly essence of the great beast bound to its stone, the stone tip of the spear of destiny that wounded the Nazarene, the corpse of a clockwork man fashioned by Kepler long before he obsessed upon his astronomical clock, an ethereal figurine of unbeing, a Vodoun effigy of Baka and a statuette of Baron Samedi, the sketches of Hausenhofer’s blueprint for the uberman and more marvels inked on roll upon roll of vellum. On a small mahogany table sat a seemingly empty phial. He picked it up, turning it around and around in his hand until the essence began to solidify; a soul trapped in a bottle, bound to the vessel in death. There was so much more in the room, so many clue to the mechanisms of heaven and hell. He ignored them all, fixating on a stone cross braced upon the furthest wall. It was almost half his height, and engraved in a lost tongue.

He knelt before the cross, his fingers feeling out every tongue and grove within the carving. He closed his eyes, committing them to memory. There were seventeen shapes, four engraved on each arm of the cross, four on the head and four at the feet, and one at the apex, a crucified man with a bestial face set in a snarl of seventeen teeth. It was a homunculus, a false human, twelve inches in height and rendered in perfect detail. A serpent was wrapped around the homunculus’ length. The cross itself was a key. The outside markings on each limb corresponded to an element: earth, air, fire and water, but it was the others that were interesting. Images of Shango, father of storms, and Mawu Lisa, the mother spirit of creation, side by side with more obscure Judo-Christian symbolism, and other markings that made no earthly sense whatsoever. Together they formed a complex cypher around the body of the homunculus that when deciphered unlocked a treasure map.

The Brethren already had possession of the map, procured from a nameless tomb in the Afghan wilds. They had protected it for over two centuries, seeking the location of the key without realizing it lay under their noses in the very heart of Holborn.

With the cross in to decode the map, he felt sure they would unearth the whereabouts of the fabled Catamine Stair, and with that knowledge would come the power to unleash the horrors buried deep since the dawn of time.

“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in our philosophy. And isn’t that just the truth of it,” he said to himself reverently as he lifted down the huge stone cross.

In doing so the man who wore the name Nathaniel Seth as effectively as any mask assured that all hell would break loose.


The Hollow Earth and Other Stories is available to purchase at:

Amazon Kindle for $0.99

UK Amazon Kindle

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Falling Star (The Watchers), Philip Chen {$0.99}

The World is at risk; not the ordinary risk seen every night on prime time news, but a horrific one that portends the possibility of total annihilation. Mysterious but silent objects have been found buried deep in the murky depths of the ocean. However, something has suddenly happened. These objects wake up and start sending messages to outer space. Mike, pulled back into a clandestine world that he thought he had left behind to help decipher these messages, is attacked by gangs of ordinary looking Americans and must fight for his very life. Who are these attackers? Why have they targeted Mike and his colleagues in the secret agency? On top of these interwoven threats, Mike learns that a revered friend has died. With the death of this friend, is mankind’s last hope for understanding the signals lost forever in the silt and muck of the ocean bottom?

“Philip Chen has come up with a first novel to be proud of and I, for one, look forward to a possible(?) sequel. Well done Philip!”

“Mr. Chen’s writing style is precise, almost military and chock full of information that makes the reader wonder if this story might not be fiction at all, but something very real and very disturbing. I noticed very few grammatical/spelling errors in the book and would recommend it to anyone looking for a good techno-thriller with sci-fi overtures.”

“The discovery and subsequent search for a mysterious weapon buried deep in American waters, is the chilling subject of this thriller. The author’s knowledge of engineering and his use of specific detail increase the credibility of this intriguing story. A colorful cast of characters are involved in the search and their dramatic interaction is vividly portrayed.”

The average customer review is currently 4.5 stars (31 reviews).

 

Click here to read more about and purchase Falling Star for $0.99 from Amazon

The Vital Principle (Second Sons Inquiry Agency Mystery), Amy Corwin {$0.99}

Eking out her small income by becoming a professional guest, Prudence Barnard doesn’t mind entertaining her hosts with an evening of spirit communications even if it is mostly a sham. All goes well until she discovers her host has hired an inquiry agent, Knighton Gaunt, to expose her as a fraud. Unfortunately, her host is poisoned and suspicion soon falls on her as a stranger already under investigation. Desperate to prove her innocence, she tries to persuade Knighton to let her help, but he refuses. He dislikes liars and believes anyone who claims to speak with THE VITAL PRINCIPLE of the dead cannot be trusted. But after a second murder is committed, Pru and Knighton must join forces to unveil the real murderer before she, or he, can strike again.

4 stars from Lilly Gayle ~ “Murder, mystery, and a dash of romance combined with witty dialogue and unforgettable characters make The Vital Principle a book that will definitely go on my keeper shelf!”

The average customer review is currently 4.5 stars (4 reviews).

 

Click here to read more about and purchase The Vital Principle for $0.99 from Amazon

Isle Royale, John Hamilton {$2.99}

Shipwrecks, gangsters, and the mother of all storms. Living in a lighthouse can be murder.

The year is 1924. The place: Isle Royale, a remote island on Lake Superior. Clarence MacDougal, keeper of Wolf Point Lighthouse, stands ready to guide sailors through treacherous waters.

One storm-tossed night, French-Canadian bootleggers arrive. The gang’s leader is Sean LeBeck, former lover of Collene MacDougal—the lightkeeper’s wife. LeBeck is determined to rescue Collene from her dreary life and rekindle their old passion, even if it means taking her off the island by force.

The lightkeeper’s son, Ian, escapes during the storm, only to stumble upon a hidden cove, home of the last remaining members of the Coast Guard cutter “Chippewa.” A dark secret forced the crew to banish themselves. Given one last chance at redemption, the ancient mariners set out on stormy Lake Superior in a desperate attempt to save the day.

Isle Royale is approximately 72,000 words.

Unique Historical Adventure, Amazon customer review:
“A rip-roaring historical adventure set in the delightfully unusual setting of Lake Superior’s Isle Royale. Hamilton’s love for the locale comes shining through; Lake Superior at times seems one of the characters in the drama. A carefully-researched Great War flashback is almost a novella within a novel, while providing crucial motivation for the story.”

The average customer review is currently 5 stars (3 reviews).

 

Click here to read more about and purchase Isle Royale for $2.99 from Amazon

The Frugal Find of the Day: Qi: A Young Adult Fantasy, Elizabeth A. Svigar {$0.99}

Elizabeth A. Svigar’s Frugal Find Under Nine:

Description:

Thirteen-year-old uber-archer Samantha is thrilled to qualify for Xenith, the most prestigious – and mysterious – Olympic training facility in the world. Much more than an athletic camp, it’s part fantasyland where living dolls and the Baba Yaga abound. Then there’s Dr. Nine, a master alchemist whose laboratory is very well guarded indeed. But not all that glitters is Olympic gold. When dangerous secrets begin to surface, Samantha must fight her way through Xenith’s sinister underworld to save her friends and family – if she survives herself.

Qi is a fast-paced young adult fantasy that will appeal to fans of strong but conflicted protagonists as well as fans of mythological adventure tales. It draws influence from Slavic mythology, Dante’s Inferno, and contemporary villains and heroes. Recently, it was selected for the second round in Amazon’s breakthrough young adult novel contest, and it continues to receive highly positive reviews from both readers and reviewers. It is currently on sale for 99 cents.

 

Accolades:

“A fast-paced, unique fantasy tour-de-force” ~A Myriad of Books

“A true testament to family and friends” ~Surrounded By Books Reviews

 

Reviews:

Qi: A Young Adult Fantasy currently has a customer review rating of 4.5 stars. Read the reviews here.

 

An excerpt from Qi: A Young Adult Fantasy:

Chapter One – Winners

 

*

 

Sam peered across the meadow at the target seventy meters away. She took a deep breath and held it. Just seventy meters between her, a perfect score, and acceptance into prestigious Xenith Training Camp for field sports.

Honeybees buzzed in the summer clover and the crowd murmured behind her. She licked her lips, fingers straining against the bowstrings. Squinting down the sight, she aimed at the tiny golden circle in the middle of the target.

As always, her gut told her the exact moment to let go, and she released her grip. Over her pounding heart, she heard the arrow’s familiar whistling sound. A silver streak in the bright afternoon sun – then, as if drawn by a magnet, the arrow struck the bullseye with a satisfying thunk.

A girl’s voice rang out above the screams of the crowd. Sam turned to see her older sister, Abby, darting across the field. She was still wearing her white fencing uniform. The first place medal she’d won earlier bounced against her chest, flashing gold in the sun.

Sam ran to meet her. “We’re in.” She threw her arms around her sister.

“Yeah!” Abby jumped up and down, pulling Sam with her. “We get to be with Mum. We’re the best in Salem. We could be the best in the world!” She whipped her long, blonde hair behind her head. “Let’s find Dad.”

Sam and Abby pushed their way through the crowd, acknowledging good wishes on all sides. A judge slipped a medal just like Abby’s around Sam’s neck, and the weight of it felt wonderful – the weight of success. Sam’s teammates hugged her so tightly that even the three bands she’d wrapped around her dark curls weren’t enough to keep them under control. They popped out all around her face in a messy halo.

Sam laughed, fighting her way out of their embrace. “I can’t breathe.” She tried to gather her hair back but soon gave up. Who cared what she’d look like in the photos, anyway. She was going to Xenith, where the best athletes in the world prepared for the Olympics. And Mum would be there.

Finally, Sam spied their father standing alone at the edge of the field. “There he is.”

They scrambled over to him.

“We made it,” Abby crowed, grabbing his arm. “We’re following in your footsteps, Dad.”

“Congratulations, girls.” Their father smiled at them, but only with his lips. Behind his wire rimmed glasses, his gray eyes looked sad. Sam’s heart deflated. She knew why. Mum.

Abby must’ve caught on too, because she linked her arm through his and rested her head on his shoulder. “You’ll come too, right?”

He didn’t say anything for a moment, but then he smiled again and this time it looked genuine. “Of course. I’ll arrange a sabbatical. I wouldn’t miss it for the world.” He brightened. “I’m thirsty. And how do we celebrate after winning?”

Sam laughed. “Three fresh-squeezed lemonades coming on the double.” She hugged him, breathing in the clean scent of his aftershave. His jacket button pressed into her face. She’d been only five when her parents divorced, and she’d probably never know the details. But now that they were going back to Fletching, the town where Xenith was located and where their mother still lived… well, maybe her parents could put the past behind them and their lives back together again. After all, it had been eight years.

“Hurry back, the photographers are here.” Abby finger-combed her hair and adjusted her collar so her medal shone in the sun.

“Will do.” Sam ducked around folding chairs and small clusters of spectators, looking for Mr. Scott’s lemonade stand, which was always somewhere at these tournaments. The smell of popcorn drifted by and made her thirstier. She craned her neck. Where was it?

“Good work, Samantha,” said a deep voice behind her. She spun around. A tall, very thin man was standing there, smiling uncertainly. His closely cropped silver hair contrasted sharply with his unlined face. His hands holding the program trembled.

“Um, okay, thanks.” She was well known in the community. Surely, that must be how he knew her name. “Have we met?” He didn’t look familiar to her at all.

“Not since a long time ago.” The man studied her face, then took a step toward her and held out his hand. “I’m–”

“Sam, over here!” Her father thundered. “The stand’s over here!”

The man’s face twisted into a grimace, and he turned on his heel. He strode away so fast it seemed like he’d simply vanished. Sam blinked and looked around. Everyone was acting exactly as they had before, like nothing unusual had happened. She shook her head. He’d probably just seen her name in the program and wanted to talk to her. It happened all the time with fans.

“We got the lemonade!” Abby yelled. “Get over here, it’s photo time.”

Sam shook off her jitters and pushed her way back through the throngs of people. Her father and Abby were talking to a woman wearing a crisp blue suit and carrying a professional-looking digital camera.

“Ah,” she said when she spied Sam. “How wonderful. The Liffey sisters, winning again – what a headline for the Daily. Our own future Olympians. How about you stand in front of the high school sign?” She pointed.

Sam and Abby strutted over to the sign and put their arms around each other. Sam smiled into the camera, forgetting all about the strange man. She’d never felt so happy in all her life.

 

***

 

Later that night, they sat around the dining room table. Sam picked at the last slice of pizza, wishing she wasn’t too full to eat it. Her medal lay on the table, its blue band intertwined with Abby’s as though in an embrace.

“So, when can we go?” Abby asked for the hundredth time, drumming her fingernails on the table and jiggling her knee up and down. Sam hoped her sister wasn’t going to get snitty with their father – it happened too often lately now that Abby was fourteen and thought she knew everything.

Their father took a long drink of soda and took his time swallowing it. “Soon,” he said vaguely.

Sam didn’t remember moving to Salem, and for the first six or so years of their parents’ divorce, Mum had visited them once a month. Her visits had been woven into the fabric of their lives, unquestioned, like how you get up, eat breakfast and head out to school every day. But then she came once every two months, then once every three. This year, she’d only visited them once, and here it was August. They’d never visited her.

“Would we have to go to school?” asked Abby. Sam could tell her sister was hoping the answer would be no.

Their father smiled. “Of course. You’d go to the local school, Fletching Academy. It’s right on the grounds. Most of the kids who go there are also in Xenith.”

“Oh,” said Abby, and she slouched back in her seat.

“How do we get there?” Sam asked. She had faint but happy memories of Fletching. She’d had two good friends there, identical twins named Eli and Jonah. She wondered if they were still there. Wherever “there” was – she’d never seen it on a map.

Their father tugged at one of his earlobes. “How do you get there… well, it’s complicated.”

“Why don’t we catch a plane like Mum?” Abby furrowed her brow.

Their father shook his head slowly, as though chasing away a thought. “That’s not how it’s done.”

“What does she do, teleport?” Sam fought a chuckle as she pictured her mum vanishing, bit by bit, like a Star Trek character.

“Not exactly,” replied their father, running his hands through his light brown, wavy hair. He took his glasses off and rubbed his thumb over his nose.

Abby dropped her glass on the table with a thud. “Why are you being so weird, Dad? Whenever she came you went and got her at the airport.”

Sam shot her sister a glare. She didn’t want to deal with an argument, not on their glorious day. She wished Abby wasn’t so impatient and that she held her tongue better when she was mad. But that was how her sister had always been.

Their father stared at the wall for a moment. “I suppose you girls are old enough to know some things.” He seemed to be choosing his words carefully, like someone picking through rotten fruit at the grocery store, trying to find something useful. “How much do you remember about Fletching?”

“Not much,” admitted Sam. “I remember those twins and going down to the beach in the summertime. Mum was always practicing archery so it was just us.” Sam had loved those days by the water with the twins. Once, her precious stuffed bunny Sunny had gotten caught in the tide and Eli dove in to rescue her, even though it was dangerous. His mother and father shouted up a storm, despite the fact they were champion swimmers and had taught Eli themselves. Once they stopped yelling, Sam had given Eli a hug. She hoped he was still there.

“Yeah, your mum really wanted that gold medal.” Their father jolted Sam back into the present. “Too bad she never got it. But she tried hard, that’s the important thing.”

“We’ll get it for her,” Abby said, touching her medal. “She’ll be proud of us.” She sat up straight in her chair. “It’s the best training in the world, isn’t it, Dad?”

Their father nodded. “It’s a pretty special place. Heck, it almost got me the world championship.” He took a deep breath. “I’m about to let you in on a secret, so listen carefully. You see, Dr. Benjamin Nine, the president, discovered how to make gold some years back. It’s how they fund Xenith.”

“Wow,” said Sam. She leaned forward. What a weird name. Plus, she’d never heard of such a thing, except in some magic books. “Really?”

Abby seemed skeptical. “Impossible, Dad. No one can do that.”

“It’s fantastical, but it’s true,” said their father. “And it’s pretty amazing. Dr. Nine’s a genius alchemist. He’d been working on it for years, and then he figured it out. But he doesn’t tell anyone the secret, mind you, so don’t go snooping around.”

Abby shook her head. “This makes no sense, Dad.” She played with her napkin, watching him like a hawk. Sam could tell that even though her sister was doubtful, she wanted to believe this fantastic story as much as Sam did.

“Dad wouldn’t lie to us, Abby,” she said.

“I don’t think I can explain this to you in a way you can understand,” their father said softly. He stood up, almost knocking his chair over in the process. He gripped the edge of the table, and Sam noticed his knuckles were white. “All I can do is show you. I can take you there tonight.”

Sam and Abby leaped to their feet.

“Seriously?” Abby squealed, grabbing Sam around the shoulders in a big hug. “Does Mum know?”

Their father shook his head. “No. But she’ll be happy for the surprise. Go upstairs and pack your things. Remember your sports gear. Meet me in my study when you’re ready.”

“Yay!” Abby shouted, pulling away from Sam. She pushed her chair into the table with a bang and her medal slipped away from Sam’s, falling to the floor in a whirl of gold and blue.

 

***

 

Upstairs, Sam threw some jeans, shirts, socks and underwear into her backpack, then ran to the bathroom and grabbed her toiletries. She jammed them all in with her clothes and looked around. If Eli was still in Fletching, she’d love to show him she’d kept Sunny all these years. Spying a small foot sticking out from under her bed, she giggled. She snatched the bunny and shoved her in on top of everything else, then pulled the straining zipper closed. She caught up her quiver and bow and darted into the hallway, where she almost crashed into Abby.

“Isn’t this exciting?” Abby danced around, her hair flying everywhere. “We’re finally going back, and this time to Xenith, too, just like Mum and Dad. I wonder what it looks like now.”

Sam could still smell the pine trees and the summer grass, and see the stone cabin where their parents had lived in the woods. It had been beautiful.

Abby waved her hand in front of Sam’s face. “Yoo-hoo. Anybody home?”

Sam laughed. “Sorry. I was thinking about the last time we were there.”

“I know.” Abby picked up her bag in one hand and her long, silvery foil in the other. “I can’t wait to get back.”

“Well, let’s go.” Sam ran down the stairs. She didn’t know how they were going to get there tonight, but she didn’t much care. One thing she did know: Xenith produced more Olympians than any other training facility in the world. And even that paled to having her whole family in one place for the first time in eight years. All thanks to archery. After checking to be sure Abby wasn’t looking, she kissed her bow.

A sliver of light from the partly open door to their father’s study lay on the wall of the hallway. They headed toward it, Sam’s bow and quiver bouncing as she walked. Her stomach tensed. The Xenith kids would be in a whole new league. They were the best in the world. Would she measure up? Or would she let her father down, embarrass him in front of their mother?

Inside his cavernous study, their father was sitting behind his mahogany desk. The messy stacks of books all around him made him seem oddly dwarfed, even powerless.

When he saw them, he smiled grimly and clicked off the lamp. “Well, this is it.” He pulled a chain from under his shirt. On it was a tiny silver key. He pushed himself up and walked across the room like an old man, wearily and slowly, as though life has pressed him down. Sam gripped Abby’s hand. It was damp, but she didn’t let go.

Their father twisted one of his old fencing trophies and Sam nearly fell backward as the bookcase slid open with a hiss to reveal a second, smaller room. It was like something out of a spy movie, but in her own house. She clutched Abby’s hand as if it could save her from drowning. Nothing was normal about this.

Their father reached inside the room and turned on a light. The room was tiny, more like a walk-in closet, and was nearly completely filled by an ancient, busted up black trunk.

“What is this?” Sam whispered to Abby, shuffling closer to her.

“I have no idea.” Abby’s voice trembled. “I’ve never been in here before.”

“Come here,” their father said in a solemn voice, gesturing toward the trunk. “I don’t want you to be too alarmed by what happens next, so stand behind me. Take a deep breath, and get ready.”

Slowly, he slid the key into the lock on the trunk. He shifted it back and forth a few times, and with a dull snap the lid parted with the bottom. Dust filled the air as he opened it all the way with a screech. Sam coughed as a vile scent like rotting leaves hit her nostrils. Whatever this was, it was disgusting for sure, and she couldn’t see what it had to do with Xenith. Maybe he was about to give her some kind of enchanted bow and arrow. Or a talisman. Something to prove they were good enough. But they’d shown that already, today at the match.

Their father turned, his glasses gray with dust, obscuring his eyes. “Come closer,” he whispered. For the first time in her life, Sam felt afraid of him. But she edged forward, still gripping Abby’s hand. When they reached him, their father stepped aside to let them see inside the trunk.

On a maroon velvet cloth, a skull with deep-cut, glowing red eyes and diamond-like teeth lay next to a golden necklace with a blood colored charm. Something was weird about them – they seemed alive, or like something was alive inside them. She shook her head. What a ridiculous thought. She stole a glance at her sister and saw Abby was transfixed, staring at the skull.

Their father reached into the trunk, and Sam bit back a protest – for a second, she’d imagined the skull would attack him. But nothing happened. He moved the skull and the charm out of the way and pulled up the cloth.

Underneath, a yellowed doll lay wrapped in a cloth of gold. Their father picked it up, unwrapped it, and winced. It had messy, black hair that fell to its waist. It wore monk’s robes, tied at the waist with a rope. Its round, black eyes were set above a nose so crumbled and misshapen it could hardly be called a nose at all. Instead of a mouth, it had a crude, red slash.

I know him. The thought came to her out of nowhere. Ridiculous. She’d never seen it before in her life, and anyway, how could she know a doll? That moldy smell… it was making her feel drugged.

The doll winked at her.

Her skin crawled as she stared at the doll. She ran her hand over her forehead and down her face. This doll was no Sunny, that was for sure.

It opened its gash of a mouth.

Abby screamed. Sam jumped to the side and her father steadied her.

Yellow teeth gleamed. “Hello, Samantha. Hi, Abigail. And Mr. Liffey, of course. My… you’ve kept me waiting for a long, long time.”

 

Qi: A Young Adult Fantasy is available for purchase at:

Amazon Kindle for $0.99

 

Connect with Elizabeth A. Svigar:

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