Monday, July 17, 2017

FEATURED BLOG TOUR: CAPTAIN'S SORTIE


Another Book of the
DELAND SEA & LAND ADVENTURE NOVELS

The American colonial frontier is at war and stained in the blood of farmer and soldier alike. French generals have filled the land with armies of white uniformed troops and their north woods Indian allies. No one is safe from the perils of this conflict that seems to have no end. Captain Ben Deland sails north from the warm Caribbean with more than one mission to accomplish. The war is not going well for the British and Americans in the late winter of 1758 and Ben once again must lead his loyal crew ashore and into the dangerous forests and mountains to face the French and Indians.

But the British have undertaken a great task to stop the French from overwhelming the Hudson and splitting the colonies in two. Captain Deland is drawn to their aid and then has to launch a desperate rescue into the dangerous wilderness filled with enemies to find the victims of the war raging all around them.

Sea and shore action and adventure told through the stories of the men and women who face overwhelming obstacles and evil characters. Real history mixed with rich descriptive portrayals of nature and man set in the violence and uncertainty of war on the colonial frontier. 


COMMENT FOR A CHANCE TO WIN!
The author will be giving away a digital copy of Captain's Cross (book one of the Deland Sea & Land Adventure Novels) to a randomly drawn commenter during this blog tour.

AUTHOR CONTACT INFO
Twitter: @mikefullerwrite


ABOUT THE COVER FROM THE AUTHOR
"You nailed it! Just the look I envisioned."
--Mike Fuller



Saturday, July 15, 2017

COVER REVEAL: MORE THAN JUST A DOG

NEW BOOK!
Coming August 15, 2017...

Three generations of independent women, 
driven in different directions by one man’s anger. 
Until his death reconnects them 
with their mystical Irish ancestors and 

wonders beyond this limited human existence.

This is my next book 
written under the pseudonym Genie Gabriel,
for which I also designed the cover.

Monday, July 10, 2017

FEATURED BLOG TOUR: THE STRANGE HORIZON

COMMENT FOR A CHANCE TO WIN...
The author will be awarding an ebook copy 
of one of his titles to a randomly drawn commenter. 

A Collage of Short Stories emerged from my imagination--a few actual experiences--and some possibly conjured from a previous life, if you believe in reincarnation and Edgar Cayce. 

The Strange Horizon ranges from stories less than a hundred words to over four thousand words. There isn't any profanity, gore or sexual innuendo in any of the short stories. The genre varies from mystery, suspense, contemporary, horror, science fiction and fantasy. You may smile, chuckle, express a tear or two, feel a sudden chill or feel a warmth at the end of the story. Emotions are in the mind of the reader and the heart cuddles or rejects those emotions. 


CONTACT THE AUTHOR
Email address: gosky1@outlook.com 

EXCERPT 

Guiding Spirit 

Adam leaned forward and slid his shovel between the sidewalk and six inches of snow. His peripheral vision saw someone walking toward him. He straightened up and gazed at an elderly man wearing a parka. A cold northern wind gently blew at the man's white hair and long white beard. 

Adam threw the shoveled snow next to him and said, "How are you?" 

"Just fine, thank you." 

"I'm Adam Morris." 

"Please to meet you. I'm Ben Stanton." 

"Didn't you and your wife move into the old Kramer house last month." 

"Yes. We did." 

"Is everything all right there? It sat vacant for a few years." 

"It's just fine. We're very comfortable." 

"I heard you're going to play Santa Claus at the family shelter on Christmas Eve," Adam stated. 

"Yes. I'm looking forward to it." 

"You sure do fit the part. Don't need an artificial beard." 

"No. I don't," Ben said, pulling at his beard. 

"I understand you retired a few years ago." 

"That's right." 

"What kind of work did you do?" 

"Public relations for a large global company." 

"Did your wife retire too?" 

"You ask a lot of questions. You must be a newspaper reporter." 

"Yes. I am. How did you know that?" 

"You're standing in front of the Northern Star Newspaper office." 

Adam rolled his eyes, grinned. "Never was good as an undercover reporter." 

Ben placed his hands on his large protruding abdomen and chuckled. 

"You laugh from your belly just--" 

"I know," interrupted Ben. "Just like Santa on TV or in the movies." 

"Didn't mean to offend you." 

"You didn't. It doesn't bother me at all. Matter of fact, I take it as a compliment." 

Two teen-aged boys approached them. "Hey old man, where's your reindeers?' asked one of the boys. The other boy snickered. 

"Get out of here you juvenile delinquents." Adam scowled at them. 

The boys kicked snow on the shoveled sidewalk in defiance and took off running. 

"You little brats." 

"They mean no harm," interjected Ben. "They got good hearts. Their attitudes just need some guidance." 

"Being in public relations, I would think you'd have negative judgments of people." 

"No. I try to see positive attributes in people. It's the way I am. Too old to change now." 

~ * ~ 

About a week before Christmas, the Santa at the mall became sick. Adam heard about it when the manager of the mall came into the newspaper office to place an ad in the paper. He contacted Ben, who accepted the position. 

Ben sat in a large, adorned chair. A woman in her late twenties, holding the hand of a girl around six-years-old, walked up the red-carpeted entranceway and stopped a couple feet away from him. 

"Hi, Santa," said the little girl. 

"Well, Jasmine, how are you today?" 

"How did you know her name?" asked the woman, frowning. 

"Santa knows all the boys and girls of the world. Although, I heard you call her name a few minutes ago when you walked behind me." 

"So, Jasmine. What do you want for Christmas?" 

"A daddy. Mine died when I was a baby." 

"I'm not sure if Santa can promise you that." Ben glanced at the mother. A tear ran down her cheek. 

Jasmine's face saddened, as her shoulders slumped. "That's okay, Santa Claus. I still love you." 

"Bless your heart. What else can Santa bring you Christmas morning?" 

"My own bed." 

"Do you share your bed with someone else?" 

"Oh. No Santa. The shelter owns my bed." 

The mother leaned forward. "We're staying at the family shelter in town. It's just temporary until I earn enough money for a place of our own." 

"I hope things work out for you and your daughter. Have a Merry Christmas. And God bless you." Ben handed Jasmine a candy cane. 

~ * ~ 

On Christmas day, Adam sat at his dining room table surrounded by family members. 

"I heard that Ben and his wife suddenly left town two days ago," Carl remarked, Adam's brother. "No one seems to know where they went." 

Adam frowned. "That's strange. Ben was looking forward to playing Santa Claus at the family shelter." 

Maybe they wanted to spend Christmas with relatives in another town or state." 

"I don't think so." 

"Why's that?" asked Carl. 

"Ben and his wife were 'only children' and didn't have any relatives. At least that's what he told me a while back." 

~ * ~ 

"Jasmine, get over here." 

"Karen. She's okay," said a young man in his late twenties, sitting next to her on a bench in the mall. Across from them, they were dismantling the Santa Claus stage. 

"I still can't believe how we happened to meet after not seeing each other since high school." 

"Me either. The elderly man that was playing Santa here at the mall came into my store a few days before Christmas. He asked me if I would go to the family shelter on Christmas Eve dressed up like Santa. I couldn't believe it when I saw you there." 


ABOUT THE COVER FROM THE AUTHOR
"Excellent! The revision is perfect."
--G.L. Didaleusky 

Monday, June 26, 2017

FEATURED BLOG TOUR: TWO TREES

Memoir/Trauma/Adoption/Therapy
Book contains mention of sexual abuse
Julie is adopted by the Beekmans in the late 1960’s and at first, brought up in the idyllic town of Grand Haven, Michigan. When her father dies, her mother, Marge, decides to sell everything, leave town and provide Julie and her brothers with some “cultural awareness” which includes enrolling Julie in an all black school in the south. Over the years, Marge becomes more abusive and ultimately Julie seeks help. She begins to confide in a young Art Therapist who helps uncover a barrage of secrets. 

While the book covers some dark times and tragedy, there is a strong sense of humor running through it that will keep the reader reading to see just how Julie manages to pull through it all, not only in one piece, but as an adult well able to survive in this world.

The author will give a digital copy of Two Trees 
to one randomly drawn commenter during this blog tour.
Comment to enter!

AUTHOR BIO & LINKS
Julie Beekman is an avid runner, hiker and skier and lives in Boulder, Colorado with her dog, Francesca. 


BUY NOW AT:





EXCERPT
I don't remember the baby showers family and neighbors threw for Marge after the Beekmans adopted me, or that I refused to eat anything other than lima beans. I was nine months old when Warren and Marge brought me home. I listened to stories about how it all came to be. "We kept having boys and, after three, I just wanted a girl, so bad." These were the moments when I loved listening to Marge, when she was just being my mom. She was endearing and it reminded me she meant to love me. "I just told the caseworker we wanted a girl with blue or green eyes. I mean, no one in our family has light eyes!" she explained dramatically. The speech was always the same; Marge telling me it took four years for the adoption agency to approve them, that I cost three-hundred and fifty dollars.
"When we went to visit with you for the first time, you were wearing a little pink dress. You held out your arms to Warren and said, Da Da." She raised her arms out and made a face that looked helpless. "We knew then, we just had to have you." She seemed to always refer to him as Warren and not my dad.
"Did Randy, Scot and Dan want a sister?" I asked like it was the first time I heard the story.
"Oh, of course." Marge lit a cigarette, took a short drag, and then held it near her coffee mug. I hated when she just held her cigarettes and didn't smoke them or take the time to tap the ashes into the ashtray, because I couldn't focus on her. I could only stare at the long cylinder of ash, wondering when and where it would fall. "We came home after meeting you and told the boys all about you. We were especially concerned when it came to Danny because he was only five and used to being the youngest." Marge took a sip of black coffee without the slag of her smoke even moving slightly, although I could see the slight orange glow move fast toward her fingers. "I don't want to be the youngest, Mama! I want a sister, is what he told me." Marge pushed her cheeks out to imitate her idea of what Dan looked like when he was a kid and she laughed. "He was so damn cute! All you kids..." She smiled, stamped out her cigarette and looked far away like it had been some other lifetime and now she was let down. It felt the same to me because I didn't remember any of it.
My first memory is my third birthday and that Grandma Beekman made me a cake in the shape of a lamb. The white sugared icing was thick and billowy, like wool. The lamb's eyes stared back at me with chocolate glare. It was also the first year of many that Grandma made me a baby purse. She washed out old dish detergent bottles, cut out the bottom half and punched holes along the edges. Then she crocheted the holes so that she could build a purse with drawstrings from the plastic base. She showed me how to pull the drawstrings and yarn over the plastic sides, to reveal a crib with a tiny doll baby inside. The crib had a pillow and knitted blanket, too. She demonstrated over and over. It seemed she rather liked talking about her own creations and it drove Marge over the edge sometimes. Thankfully, Marge allowed Grandma to stay on my birthday and the cake didn't end up on the floor.
Grandma didn't come over too often. My dad would go to her house every week and sometimes take us kids. I especially liked to go, because Grandma gave us sugary treats and we rarely got sweets. Once, I spent the whole day with Grandma and we made church window cookies. We melted butter and chocolate, stirred in mini colored marshmallows, rolled everything out into a log coated with coconut, and refrigerated it in wax paper. Once the cookies were chilled, we sliced the log to find all the colors like on a stained-glass window. Grandma cut a lot of slices for me to take home.
When Marge picked me up and we headed for the car, she threw the bag of cookies into a snowbank. "How many times do I have to tell you and that woman, no sugar. You're fat enough!"
I huddled against the passenger door on the way home.
Wherever I wandered, there was Blackie. Blackie was adopted about a week after I was. She was the runt from a litter of short-haired mutts. She was a sweet little dog that, right from the start, tried jumping into my crib. She ate everything I didn't want and protected me as best she could. At night, she slept under my covers and growled when anyone entered my room.

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Monday, June 19, 2017

FEATURED BLOG TOUR: UNMASKED


COMMENT FOR A CHANCE TO WIN!
The author will give away a copy of Unmasked to a randomly drawn commenter during this tour.

OR BUY NOW!

EXCERPT
If most of the other Masks were like Alenze, then she was never going to fit in. He didn't have a hair out of place. His clothes were grey but of the highest quality, with a beautifully fitted long tunic and breeches and well-made knee-high leather boots.
"During the travelling, you'll be placed in a trance. This is done so you're not alarmed by the experience. I'll be in control, and you'll not be aware of what's happening around you."
He spoke to her as if she were a child. The fact he was at least a head taller than her didn't help matters as he peered down.
"I assure you growing up here has made me resilient." Daria crossed her fingers behind her back at the lie.
"Many people struggle with the experience. I myself was glad I wore brown britches the first time. I agree though. I sense you'll not be alarmed easily," Alenze replied.
For a second Daria saw a smirk on his face. He had a sense of humor, who would have thought. He even almost looked handsome when he smiled.
"Traveler Quatrome, the sun is setting," her father interrupted. "The Chamber is ready." He bowed his head to both of them.
Alenze offered his arm to escort her into the Travelling Chamber. Daria stared at his hand as her heart pounded in fear, but knew she had no choice but to eventually take it. Pell stopped outside the Chamber and smiled at her, then looked to Alenze.
"Take care of her, and warn your fellow Masks to watch out for her temper; she didn't inherit her mother's green eyes and red hair without reason," Pell warned.
"You have my word, Master Gallo," Alenze replied as he shook her father's hand.
Atia and Chelle hugged her with tears streaming down all their faces.
"It won't be long, and I'll be back, especially if they don't want me, which is highly likely," Daria soothed them as she tried to get her tears under control.
Alenze coughed and Daria couldn't delay any more. Again, his arm was offered and this time she accepted. He escorted her into the chamber and as the doors shut behind them, she could hear Rumus howling and her breath caught in her throat.
Alenze let go of her arm and walked into the center of the circular, windowless room. With the doors closed, there was an oppressive feel to the space, with the only illumination coming from the oil lamps placed about the walls. The floor was covered with a beautiful painting. The tales were that the settlement had been built around this place.
Alenze was studying the markings on the floor. Daria's breath was catching in her throat and the room was getting smaller. She couldn't go through with this, they couldn't make her go. Her chest was getting tight as her panic increased. She ran to the door of the chamber and raised her fists, thumping hard again and again. The yells coming from her throat blanked out the pain as her fists started to redden and bleed.
"Let me out."
A hand touched her shoulder, causing her to spin around screaming, her clenched fist aimed at Alenze. Placing his hand over hers, he brought her fist down. He stared intently at her with his dark grey eyes as he spoke.
"When I went to the Domain in Denarius, I believed no one would want someone like me. Those who came with me at that time were filled with a confidence I never had. I didn't feel I'd ever belong, but now I do. Becoming a Mask has given my life meaning beyond what I would ever have thought possible. I've grown to love what I've become. You must trust me, and believe you'll feel that, too." He paused. "Are you ready?"
Daria nodded as he let go of her hands and walked over and stood over the open mouth of the winged serpent painted on the floor. She stood on the outside of the circular floor painting and thought her eyes must be playing tricks on her. The painting was starting to move as the serpent's coils began to entwine one upon another hypnotically.
"We can delay no longer. Stand on the mark of the moon." Holding out his arm, Alenze beckoned her to move forward.
She took the step, her breath coming in gasps. The outer circle had symbols of the sun, moon, stars and the Goddess Ikrar. The Goddess stood with her hands clasped around a crystal.
Alenze removed a small, plain brown mask from a pouch hanging around his neck and put it on his face. It had no hooks or fastenings, but melded to him on contact.
"Enter the circle, Daria."
Daria stepped forward onto the moving picture. Alenze took her hands in a firm grip, and needing something to hold onto, she gripped equally as hard around his wrists. She wondered if he could hear her heart beating. He should, as it felt as if it was going to explode through her chest.
"I don't want to do this. My life is here, Crane is here, I love him and I want to stay." Tears flowed down her face.
"Trust me, Daria, and you'll be safe," Alenze instructed.
"I don't want to trust you. I don't want to go and no one there will want me. They think I'm bringing doom with me because I touched the crystal," Daria sobbed, but Alenze wasn't listening anymore. His eyes were shut and he was chanting strange words over and over. There was a humming noise making her dizzy, and then something touched her foot. She jerked her knee up. Peering down, she let out a scream as the coils of the snake picture on the floor started slithering over her feet and around her ankles - where was the trance Alenze had promised? The Mask was no longer solid on his face; the flat surface was bubbling as though something was trying to erupt. Then the small heads of two snakes broke free from the surface and bit into his temples. If he felt any pain he didn't react.
More snakes oozed from the Mask until the whole of his head was a wriggling mass moving down his back and entwining around his arms. Two vipers separated from the others encircling his arms. The snakes stopped their movements at his wrists and raised their bodies up as though to get a good look at her. They swayed hypnotically. Daria tried to pull free of Alenze's grip, but he was too strong. Then without warning, both snakes struck at her wrists in unison.
"Alenze," his name burst from her mouth as the pain hit her arms and the poison burned into her. His eyes opened, looking first to her face and then at the vipers injecting their venom. She could hear his thoughts.
Forgive me, Daria.
AUTHOR BIO
I live in Adelaide, Australia with my husband, one cat, two dogs and a snake. I have a motorbike that I would like to ride more than I do and I love walking at the beach and listening to the waves. I've always loved reading all forms of fiction from high fantasy and paranormal to contemporary, and decided the stories in my head needed to be written down. It was either that or start on medication. Unlike many, I didn’t know I wanted to be a writer until a few years back. I started off doing a degree in drama but soon realized my love was in writing, though there is a play lurking somewhere on my computer. My day job is as a nurse in the operating room. I believe romance can be fun to read and write but it’s exciting to spice it up with the uncertainty that comes with suspense where the rules can be broken.


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ABOUT THE COVER FROM THE AUTHOR
"I love it. Thank you so much for your hard work."
--Maggie Mundi 

Monday, June 12, 2017

FEATURED BLOG TOUR: MY LAST SUNSET


My Last Sunset is a hardboiled detective story set in a contemporary American high school. Damon Riley is an angry, antisocial teenager with a penchant for solving mysteries. His life is shaken up when Jessica Carpenter, a girl in the grade below his, shoots herself in the halls of the school, leaving behind a note that names him as the culprit for driving her to suicide. Taking the bait, Damon embarks on a quest to find out what really happened to Jessica, leading him through a web of conspiracy, betrayal, and brutality. Along the way he learns more than he ever dreamed possible about the girl he could never have saved.

CONTENT WARNING
Although it is not described in detail, this book deals with sexual abuse.

COMMENT FOR A CHANCE TO WIN!
The author will give a digital copy of My Last Sunset to one randomly drawn commenter during this blog tour.

CAN'T WAIT TO READ THIS BOOK?
Buy at: Rogue Phoenix Press, Amazon, Barnes and Noble.

EXCERPT
Michael might be having the same idea as me, because he says, "Hey, you hear about that freshman who killed herself?"
"She was a sophomore," I say, staring ahead at the blackboard.
"Oh," Michael says. He's a senior, so it makes sense he wouldn't know. "That's right, I knew that." Liar. "You heard she did it here?"
"Yeah, in the bathroom downstairs," I say. This class is on the fourth floor. Jessica killed herself on the second. The music was so loud from the dance that nobody heard the gunshot, and she didn't get found until a janitor came in the next day. She'd been absent from school Thursday and Friday last week, and I heard her mom had reported her missing to the police. Then, for whatever reason, she came back to school to end her life.
What the hell, Jessica.
It's not that I can't believe it. Jessica was a nice girl, I think, and seemed happy a lot of the time, but seeming happy and being happy aren't the same thing; you don't have to be smart to know or even articulate that. Like I said, I didn't know her that well, but I knew her a little; enough to see that, like the rest of us, she had shit going on she didn't talk about. What I didn't see was that she was the kind of person who couldn't deal with it, like we all do.
Or that it was the kind of shit that can't be dealt with.
"Heard she left a note," Michael says, and now I'm aware that he's looking at me even though his face hasn't moved. His eyes moved.
I didn't hear anything about a note. Whatever was going on with her, she definitely wanted to be found, wanted somebody to know.
Or maybe everybody.
Half a dozen more people stream in over the next two or three minutes; this class is pretty small to begin with and there are four absent. The eight o'clock bell rings just as Goldman appears in the doorway. Behind him is Panzer, one of the school's security guards (not his real name, but it should be).
I raise an eyebrow as Goldman enters the classroom and the talking dies down. Then he looks right at me and says, "Damon, could you please go with Mr. Cousins to the dean's office?"
A low "Oooooh..." goes through the small class, and I stand up, wondering what the hell I did. Usually when I'm in trouble, I know exactly why. As I cross the room to where Panzer is standing, arms folded across his chest, I notice the two girls who'd been in the room early shooting me nasty looks, like I personally wronged them. I don't even know their names.
Panzer steps aside to let me exit the room first then closes the door after us. I throw my messenger bag over my shoulder and look at him.
"What's this about," I say, a little worried.
"Just walk."
The halls are deserted, and I stare at the floor as we walk to the main nexus where the stairwells are, passing over the blurry reflections of the fluorescent lights in the freshly-waxed floor. The dean's office is on the second floor, right down the hall from the girl's bathroom. I stare at the door as we pass it.
The dean's office is small, considering there are three deans that share it along with a secretary and the school's sole counselor. The hub is a yellow-painted room with the secretary's desk, several file cabinets, a large wooden conference table, doors to the private offices of the deans and counselor, and plastic bins hanging on the walls filled with handouts and leaflets about substance abuse, sexual abuse, good ol' fashioned domestic abuse, birth control, STDs, juvie, and there at the end—
Suicide.
The three deans are all sitting at the conference table along with the counselor, Mrs. Mullen, and the school's police liaison, Officer Pasture. A pit drops into my stomach. Whatever I did, it must've been bad.
"Damon, please sit," Dean Goodfellow says. He's a pudgy man with long blonde hair and a face like a bulldog; if you're picturing him comically, stop, because everyone in this school is terrified of him, including yours truly. The other two, Dean Haskins and Dean Washington, are serious men, but none attack their jobs with the rage-filled passion of Dean Goodfellow. He runs this school like it's the streets of Baltimore in The Wire, keeping detailed, ever-growing files on every student with the misfortune to cross his path and trading favors to some of them for information. I'm not gonna lie, I've gotten out of more than one detention this way. Wouldn't you know it, he's in charge of students with surnames P-Z.
But they're all three here, which means this is really serious. I pull up the blue plastic seat across from him, willing myself not to break eye contact, and Panzer disappears outside. The secretary isn't here either. I can feel my heart pounding in my chest. What's going on?
"Damon," Goodfellow says, shifting in his seat and locking his fingers together on the table in front of him. Everybody else at the table is staring at their laps; they know the drill. When Goodfellow is working...
interrogating, more like
...you let him be.

BUY NOW AT:
Rogue Phoenix Press, Amazon, Barnes and Noble.

AUTHOR info
Twitter handle: @ChrisChiakulas

ABOUT THE COVER
FROM THE AUTHOR:
"I love it. Wouldn't change a thing."
--Christian Chiakulas 

Monday, June 5, 2017

FEATURED BLOG TOUR--A PLACE OF LEARNING: A TEACHER'S STORY


Imagine what it would be like if you could see everything that goes on during one teacher’s day. A Place of Learning: A Teacher's Story, a fictionalized account based on my experiences in three city high schools, spans three decades. Those who have read the book tell me the anecdotes are outrageous, poignant, funny, and sad all at the same time. Best of all, the book comes off as wild and quirky. Events similar to those in my story continue to play out every day in urban classrooms across the nation. The players are different, but the events remain the same: violence, teenage pregnancy, drug addiction, and rampant academic failure due to lack of school funding, pervasive poverty, and dysfunctional families.

COMMENT FOR A CHANCE TO WIN
The author will give away a digital copy of A Place of Learning: A Teacher's Story to one lucky commenter during this blog tour!


AUTHOR BIO
Catherine DePino, Ed.D, has published 15 books about bullying, grammar/writing, spirituality, and women’s issues. Her background includes a BS in English and Spanish education, a master’s in English education, and a doctorate in Curriculum Theory and Development and Educational Administration from Temple University. The author worked for many years as a teacher, department head, and disciplinarian in the Philadelphia School District. After this, she worked at Temple as an adjunct assistant professor and student teaching supervisor. Catherine has also written articles for national magazines, including The Christian Science Monitor and The Writer. Her self-help book, Fire Up Your Life in Retirement: 101 Ways for Women to Reinvent Themselves, recently appeared on the market. Cool Things to Do If a Bully's Bugging You, debuted in 2016. Visit her website and contact her at www.catherinedepino.com.


CAN'T WAIT TO READ THIS BOOK?


EXCERPT
There's a picture on my wall, faded now, of my students marching down the aisle of our city's largest university's auditorium where our local high schools stage their graduations. Parents, grandparents, and children wave lollipop colored balloons in the bleachers. Sophomores and juniors jump up and shout out names of seniors as they enter the massive hall in their blue and gold robes. "Sheree, Willie, Jonette..."
The graduates march slowly down the aisle, right foot first, then the left foot meeting the right, then the left again, like a quaint wedding march. Mendelssohn isn't playing. Instead, it's the Sounds of Blackness singing "Optimistic."
Dr. Leeds strides up to the podium. He doesn't shout out his usual, "Looking good, feeling good, and smelling good." Instead, he tells the graduates how he knows many of them are the first in their families to earn a high school diploma and that the act of their coming to school each day in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds, such as teen parenthood, poverty, violence, and drug addiction, is an act of profound courage on their part.
"So, stand up now and applaud yourselves." He is openly crying and gesturing with open arms to the audience. "Applaud each other."
The crowd waves banners and balloons in a flurry of crayon colors. Restless babies squirm in their mothers' arms and cry out for it to be over. Weary grandparents fan themselves. Dr. Leeds calls the graduates up one by one. He tries to say something personal to each one as he hands them their diplomas.
"Anna, you come back and see me when you finish community college. Maybe we'll have a job for you here."
"Demetrius, if I ever need a lawyer, I'll be sure and look you up." He smiles and whispers. "First, you need to go get a new haircut, and get rid of those ugly plaid shirts."
Demetrius smiles widely. He is proud to be valedictorian.
Next Dr. Leeds moves toward Samuel, who beat up Mr. Parks, the security guard. He speaks in a low voice so the audience can barely hear. "Personally, I don't believe you deserve to graduate, but I'm sending you off anyway. Got no choice. Others need to take your place, but if I see you anywhere near this building, I'll take care of you myself. You hear?"
Dr. Leeds ambles back to his seat, his red velvet-stole draped over his black doctoral robes. Miss Janel, the choir director, approaches the dais. Mothers rub their babies' backs to keep them from crying. Sisters and brothers stop waving their balloons. Relatives stop calling out names of their graduates. Their voices trail off. "Terrelle, Rosita, Malik..."
Miss Janel's lone alto voice resonates through the hall. "When you walk through the storm, hold your head up high. And don't be afraid of the dark..."
Everyone stands. We join hands and sing along with her. Dr. Leeds gives the signal, and the graduates begin to stride slowly down the center aisle.
No pomp and circumstance. No hoots and hollers, merely the hushed bustle of shoes brushing the glossy hardwood floors and voices in synchrony singing "You'll Never Walk Alone."
Purple and gold robes blur into sun and sky as the class of '93 marches out onto the city sidewalk and into the world.

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ABOUT THE COVER
FROM THE AUTHOR:
"Perfect! I love this version."
--Catherine DePino

Monday, May 29, 2017

FEATURED BLOG TOUR: BEFORE THE DAWN

Young Adult Paranormal

COMMENT FOR A CHANCE TO WIN!
The author will be giving away a digital copy of Before the Dawn
to a random commenter during this blog tour. 

BLURB
 Seventeen year old Abby can’t shake the darkness that continues to haunt her since her escape from the Hunterz. She can’t let it go. Questions continue to circle. Questions no one will answer. Who are they, really? Why do they hate the wolves so much? The answers could be found in a young boy named, Sam. He may be from the Hunterz, but he smells of wolf. Derek wants to believe her, and tries to help, but Abby still hasn’t learned how to accept help from others. Her relationships with her mother and father continue to deteriorate, but Derek is a puzzle. Some days he’s exactly what she wants and others he is all that she despises. Being a shifter isn’t as simple as she thought it would be. The wolf part is easy. It’s the human side that needs a little work.
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EXCERPT
I huddled in the darkness, barely aware of the passing hours and days. The wolf ate when she was hungry. She found mice and rodents to catch and devour. I was barely aware of the chase or the joy she found in the hunt. The wolf drank from streams and creeks along her journey. She slept when she was tired and traveled the rest of it.
I was aware the forest was starting to look familiar, but I didn't care enough to wonder why or where I was. When the big white sprawling house came before us, I realized the wolf had brought us to the only other place she knew to go: Aunt Lilly's.
I didn't leave the safety within the wolf when we arrived at the house. I was aware when we stepped onto the porch and dropped to the cool white washed boards where the wolf curled up and slept, but I stayed safe, hidden deep. The wolf and the instincts that drove her protected us. I was happy to let her lead. I was happy to be carried wherever she decided to go. I slept as the wolf did throughout the rest of the night.
When the wolf woke, I woke with her. We were still curled on the porch, but we were within a pile of dogs that had come to keep us safe and warm and offer company. The wolf was happy for the companions, as I was not able to be one. I was silent and empty and had nothing to give right then. I had nothing left to offer her.
I saw my Aunt come out on the porch, and I saw the moment she recognized me for what I was. "Abby, honey. What are you doing here?"
I shrank back deeper within the wolf, and as the wolf had nothing to say to her in that form, Aunt Lilly was left at a loss. She crouched down before us and ran her hands over my head and down my back. "You look a little worse for wear. Do you want to come in and eat? Maybe get a shower and some clothes?"
I wasn't coming out of the wolf form. I realized that had been my intention the whole time. I simply hadn't been ready to face it. I was obviously not very good as a human, so I would try being a wolf for a bit. I used a little more energy and turned my head away from her and dropped it back down on my front paws.
"Abby? What's wrong?"
I had no answer for her, so I didn't move or acknowledge her question. I didn't know what to tell her. I was still feeling sorry for myself, and I didn't have a plan of how to fix it other than to ignore it. I was happy as a wolf. Why did I have to be a human anyway?
She stayed crouched down next to me for a long time. She tried to talk to me, but I didn't answer. Finally, she gave up and stepped back. Her dog friends stayed with me, protecting me in their own way. She surveyed the pile of us then said, "Well, I guess I'll check on you in a bit."
I closed my eyes and went back to sleep. I spent the next few days hardly moving a muscle. What was the point? Aside from getting up to empty my bladder or get a drink of water, I stayed on the porch, quiet and still. Aunt Lilly stopped trying to talk to me, but she did continue to sit with me and offer what comfort she could by way of gentle caresses or tidbits of food she could tempt me with, or just simple water. The best part was when she sat in the white rocker and just rocked. Her being there was enough. Sometimes when she sat there, I would get up and sit next to her, just to be close to someone who gave a damn about me. Just me. Not what I could do for her, or what I could do for the clan. She just cared about me.
Why was I so unlovable by everyone else? Why didn't my mother want me anymore? Why did my father only see me for what I offered the clan? Why didn't Derek just want me? Why. Why. Why! What was so wrong with just being me?
It was times like those that even in wolf form I was able to cry. When the hurt of the world grew to immense I could not hold it in anymore. I cried the sounds of the wolf, even if it didn't come with the tears of a human. Aunt Lilly wouldn't press or talk, she was simply there with me as I tried to handle the sadness overwhelming me. She'd caress my head and continue to rock.
I don't know how long things went on like that. Maybe a few days, maybe it was an entire week. I do know when it came to an abrupt end. Morning arrived with a definite chill in the air. I didn't notice the cold all that much, thanks to my warm fur, but also because Aunt Lilly's dogs took shifts with what I thought of as protecting me. There were always a handful of them, either lying next to me or with me, or whatever. I was never cold or alone. They knew I was hurting and they in their animal wisdom stayed with me as comfort. Animals are awesome. People…suck.

AUTHOR BIO
Courtney Rene lives in the State of Ohio with her husband and two children. She is a graduate and member of the Institute of Children’s Literature. Her writings include magazine articles, short fiction stories, several anthologies, as well as her young adult novels, A Howl in the Night and the Shadow Dancer series, published through Rogue Phoenix Press. For a complete listing, visit www.ctnyrene.blogspot com or feel free to contact her at ctnyrene@aol.com.