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.


BUY NOW AT:

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.

BUY NOW at:

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