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Thursday, June 30, 2016

S. K. Gregory guest post: What Makes Supernatural Excellent + giveaway

What Makes Supernatural Excellent

I am a huge fan of the long running TV show Supernatural. About to go into it’s 12th season, the show features two brothers, Sam and Dean Winchester, as they drive across the country battling supernatural creatures. So far they have battled – vampires, demons, angels, skinwalkers, ghouls and even Lucifer himself. So what is it that makes this show great?

1. Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki 

Apart from being two of the hottest actors on TV, Jensen and Jared are fine actors who have a real bond which shows. Having worked together for so long, they have grown close in real life and even go on vacation together with their families.

2. Family
From the outset, Supernatural has always been about family. The two brothers began searching for their missing father and since then have built an extended family. Family means always looking out for each other and in the brother’s case, going to extreme lengths to keep each other alive. It is that bond which helps the audience relate to them and root for them in the fight against evil. “Saving people, hunting things, the family business.”

3. Castiel and Crowley
The show has had many recurring guest stars over the years but the two most memorable are Castiel and Crowley played by Misha Collins and Mark Sheppard. Castiel is an angel who has become like a brother to Sam and Dean. He raised Dean from hell in Season 4 and has fought by their side ever since. Despite being infected by Leviathans and being blown up more than once, he always comes back.

Crowley is the King of Hell, who took over after Lucifer was trapped in the cage. This wise cracking, sarcastic demon works with the brothers on occasion, when he isn’t trying to kill them. The introduction of his mother recently was a real treat.

4. The women of supernatural
While the cast is predominantly male, the women of Supernatural have had quite an impact over the years. Mary Winchester, the boys’ mother, died when they were young and set their father on the hunting path. The demon Ruby had a brief fling with Sam (the actress married him in real life) and of course there is Charlie. A computer nerd, she was pulled into the supernatural world and proved that she was no push over. She fought alongside the boys until her tragic death.

5. Bobby Singer
A surrogate father to the boys, Bobby Singer was a seasoned hunter who did his best to look out for the boys. With a habit of calling the boys idjits, he was a fan favorite and is sorely missed.

If you haven’t seen the show then these are only a few reasons to check it out. Great storylines that will have you hiding behind a pillow one minute, to howling with laughter the next and then crying your eyes out. This show has it all.

“Dad’s been on a hunting trip and he hasn’t been home in a few days.” These words will start you on your journey into the world of Supernatural.

Daemon Persuasion (Daemon Persuasion Series Book 1)
by S. K. Gregory
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Mockingbird Lane Press and SKGregory.
Date of Publication: Jan 2013
ISBN: 978-0985690632
Number of pages: 222 pages
Word Count: 46k
Cover Artist: Jamie Johnson
When Mackenzie Murphy goes looking for her father she finds herself caught in the middle of a demon war between three rival families. Still trying to master her own demon abilities, who can she trust to help her? The mysterious Lucien? Or Taryn, the son of the enemy? With all three families hunting for a talisman that could shift the balance of power, Mackenzie must get to it first and finish what her father started, or die trying.

Daemon Persuasion Excerpt:
Chapter 1
Ten Years Later
Mackenzie prowled the backstreets of downtown Los Angeles searching for her mark.

Johnny Beckman was the name her boss had given her, but he usually went by Ace, because he always seemed to be able to pull one out of his sleeve when the stakes were high. Unfortunately, his luck had taken a turn for the worse lately and he owed her boss over ten grand. Money that Mackenzie was going to collect.

She had spent most of the night talking to people, trying to track him down. Rumor had it that he liked to hang out in a bar called Pot Luck.

The club closed at two, so she loitered outside waiting for Johnny. She stood against a wall trying to look casual, staring at the reflection of the neon green Pot Luck sign in a nearby puddle.

“Hey there sweetness, why don’t we go back to my place?” A bald drunk leered at her as he left the club. He tried to cop a feel, but before he could touch her she grabbed his wrist and twisted it up his back. He cried out, trying to wrench his arm away.

“Keep your hands to yourself,” she said. She let go of his wrist and he hurried away, calling her a few choice names as he went. Nothing she hadn’t heard before. She had fended off more than a few unwanted admirers in her line of work. At five foot ten, she towered over a few them, and that intimidated them.

Although some of them looked past that to the curly black hair, green eyes and a body with curves in all the right places.

A half hour later, Johnny finally staggered out. He was shorter than her by three inches. Dressed in a sports jacket which he wore over a checked shirt, he bumped into one of the bouncers at the door. He was loaded.

“Watch it,” the bouncer growled.

“Drop dead,” Johnny muttered, not loud enough for the bouncer to hear, but she heard it. She kept her distance until he was away from the club. The stench of urine in the alleyway was overpowering. Breathing through her mouth, she crept along behind him. There was little light, so Johnny wouldn’t see her until she was right up on him.

She passed a pile of blankets tucked between two trash cans. Pausing, she checked to make sure they were empty. She didn’t need some homeless person as a witness.

Johnny stopped to light a cigarette and Mackenzie closed the distance between them.

“Hey, Johnny, how’s your luck been?” she said, in a friendly tone.

He turned around, the lit match still in his hand. Weariness lined his pudgy face. Running a hand through his greasy black hair, he eyed her through small, bleary dark eyes. He reminded her of a pig. And not the cute one from the film.

“Who’s asking?” His tone was guarded but his body was relaxed. He didn’t view her as a threat and she found that insulting.

“Mr. Clayton is wondering about his money,” she replied.

That got a reaction. She didn’t relax her stance. Things could turn ugly in a moment’s notice and as they said in her kickboxing class, ‘Never let your guard down.’

“You tell Clayton that if he doesn’t have the decency to send his heavies for the money, then he can wait for it. Seriously, how old are you, sweetheart?” He was right up in her face now and she could smell his stinking breath.

Ever since she’d been a kid, she hated when people invaded her personal space. It made her edgy and more than ready to do whatever she needed to get them to back off.

“Old enough to do this,” she said. She brought her knee up into his groin. He let out a muffled grunt of pain as he doubled over. Grabbing the back of his head, she slammed her knee into his forehead. He cried out again and fell to the ground, clutching his balls and head simultaneously.

“Mr. Clayton wants his money by midnight tomorrow or…” she left the sentence unfinished. Leaning over him, she checked his pockets and found over a grand tucked away. He was still earning his nickname.

“I’ll take this as a down payment.”

Eager to get out of the alleyway and away from the stench, she turned away.

“You fucking cunt,” Johnny yelled. He shoved her hard from behind and she fell to her knees. Something wet soaked through the left leg of her jeans. I really hope that’s rain water. From behind her she heard the distinct click of a blade.

“That was a big mistake,” he said, pointing it at her, “How about I send Clayton a message in the form of your dead body.”

“A little help here,” Mackenzie said. She whispered a few words in Latin.

The streetlight above them blinked out, as Mackenzie climbed to her feet.

A cold wind swirled around them. A trashcan tipped over, spilling its contents over the ground. The smell of rotting food filled the air.

“What the hell is going on?” Johnny said, his eyes wild with fear. He backed away from her, his eyes darting back and forth. The knife flicked out of his hand and bounced away.

Mackenzie saw the Shadow move in behind Johnny, flipping him off his feet. He hit the ground, smacking his chin on the concrete.

As the Shadow moved over him, she knew what was coming next.

“Subsitso,” Mackenzie barked. The Shadow halted, poised in anticipation, waiting for further instructions.

She looked at Johnny whimpering on the ground, “Excedo,” she commanded.

The Shadow sank slowly into the ground and disappeared.

“Get the money Johnny,” she said.

Breathing hard, she walked away, angry that Johnny had gotten the jump on her. She hated having to call the Shadow for help when she was perfectly capable of taking care of herself.

It had appeared a few times over the last ten years, especially as she had a knack for getting into trouble. At first, she had been terrified and convinced she was going crazy. When it appeared, it would whisper to her in Latin. Once she figured out it was Latin, she memorized a few simple commands, which it seemed to prefer to English.

Constantly moving as a child meant she never had anyone to confide in about the strange and sometimes scary phenomenon. She had tried telling Suzie in the children’s home about it, but that had been a mistake. Suzie had laughed in her face and shoved her down, calling her a nut job. Unwittingly, Mackenzie had summoned the Shadow and Suzie ended up in the hospital with stitches in her head. This Shadow thing craved violence and Mackenzie knew it would have loved to have killed Johnny, but it followed her orders without question. At least so far. Over the years, it had become a kind of guardian for her, but considering the outcome of its last visit, that night with Ramone, she had sworn she would never call for it again. Calling it was a mistake, but sometimes she did it without thinking.

Still, she had what she came for. As she left the alley, she felt a prickling sensation on the back of her neck as if she was being watched. She stopped, searching the area, but saw nothing. There were shouts in the distance, more drunks no doubt. Crossing the street, she glanced over her shoulder.

There was definitely someone watching her. She looked up and found him, standing on a fire escape on the building opposite. He was tall, wearing a long coat, which flapped around him in the wind, but that was about all she could see. She couldn’t see his face but she knew he was staring right at her. Something about the man sent chills down her spine. She turned and hurried away. She’d had enough surprises for one night.

Blue Moon was the club Mr. Clayton owned. Its usual cliental consisted of the dregs of society or out-of-towners who didn’t know about its reputation. They played mostly dance music, which personally Mackenzie hated, but she had learned to drown it out over the last couple of years. She let herself in the back door hoping to leave the money and go, but a few people were still up, including Clayton.

“Johnny sent you a little present, Mr. Clayton,” Mackenzie said, dropping the money on the table in front of a blonde woman in her late forties. Two bodyguards stood on either side of her.

Her ice blue eyes gave nothing away. She was dressed in a simple blue calf length dress, but Mackenzie was sure the woman could make sack cloth look classy.

“You gave him my message?” Mr. Clayton asked.

“Yes, he’ll pay,” Mackenzie, replied.

“He’d better,” the woman replied. Mr. Clayton was in fact Greta Clayton. She had taken over from her husband after he was shot two years ago. Even though he was dead, his name still meant something among the locals. Since he was rarely seen, Greta kept up the pretense that he was still alive. Mackenzie knew that if the locals knew a woman ran the show, there would be chaos.

Mackenzie worked odd jobs for her, usually bartending and deliveries but more recently ‘collections.’ Greta had seen her take down a couple of drunks a few weeks earlier and decided that she was worth promoting. She didn’t argue when her promotion came, especially since it tripled her salary.

“Any trouble?” Greta asked, counting the money.

“Nothing I couldn’t handle,” she replied.

Greta smiled, transforming her face, “Good girl. Your payment will be ready in the morning.”

Mackenzie never asked, but Greta had a presence about her. Mackenzie often wondered if she had been an actress back in the day. It seemed every young girl who came here wanted to be one. A few lucky ones got their big break. A lot more got swallowed by the city. The appeal of acting was lost on her. It was hard enough making ends meet.

Mackenzie left the way she came in. In the ally, she climbed onto her motorbike. Some people said that in a city this size you needed a car, but she preferred her Ducati. Back tire squealing, she headed home.

As she drove over the crest of a hill, someone stepped into the road. She slowed slightly, wondering what someone would be doing out this late, on such a deserted stretch of road.

Flames erupted in front of her. Mackenzie braked hard, jerking the bike to the left. A wave of heat hit her. The bike went out from under her, straight over the cliff edge. She skidded on her back a few feet and came to a stop inches from the flames. Heat tinged her face like a lover’s kiss.

Unable to catch her breath, she lay motionless. A man stepped through the flames, unaffected by the heat. He loomed over her, face hidden in shadow. Could this be the same guy from the roof? He was about the same size. Her heart jack-hammered in her chest, leaving her breathless. A medallion in the shape of an eagle hung around his neck.

“Consider this a warning,” he hissed, “Stop messing with things you don’t understand.”

Without another word, he turned and disappeared into the flames, leaving her speechless and suddenly very afraid.

Mackenzie struggled into a sitting position, the flames dying around her. Her back burned and she was sure her leather jacket was a write off, as was her motorbike. She wasn’t sure what had just happened, but somehow knew, this wasn’t the end.

The man was gone. He had vanished into the flames as though he’d never existed.

Son of a bitch.

Apparently, Johnny was better connected than she thought. Or someone was. Greta had a lot of enemies and since no one could get near her, it made sense they would go after her employees.

Checking herself over, she was relieved to find that she wasn’t badly hurt, just a few scrapes and bruises. She started the long walk home, already plotting her revenge.

Daemon Madness (Daemon Persuasion Series) Book 2by S. K. Gregory
Genre: Fantasy/Supernatural
Publisher: Mockingbird Lane Press
Date of Publication: Oct 26th 2015
ISBN: 978-1944169220
Number of pages: 206
Word Count: 46,000
Cover Artist: Jamie Johnson
Mackenzie Murphy thought her demon troubles were behind her, but with Taryn as her new roommate and his father still out to kill him, it seems there's no getting away from them.

When Taryn begins to act erratically, Mackenzie discovers that he has to face the consequences for saving her life. Deadly consequences.

So it's up to Mackenzie to save him, while avoiding the attention of a local cop and her homicidal boss.

Maybe demons are the least of her worries.

Daemon Madness Excerpt:
Chapter One
Walking as silently as he could through the St. Patrick’s church, Taryn watched for any movement. He had an iron-bladed knife in one hand and a small glass vial in the other.

He scanned the ceiling of the church. A fluttering noise in the rafters caught his attention. Illuminating the pews, light streamed through the stained-glass window, but the ceiling remained in shadow. He knew it was there though. He could feel it watching him.

As he turned, he saw it—a leg suspended between the wall and the ceiling. As he moved toward it, Taryn heard its ragged breathing and as he got closer, it growled softly. “You know how this ends, Bartlus. Let’s stop playing games.”

Taryn threw himself forward as the demon launched itself toward him. Taryn hit the floor and the demon overshot, landing hard on the wood floor and came instantly to its feet. Taryn spun to face it.

Mackenzie Murphy’s face stared back at him. Her full lips twisted into a sneer; her normally green eyes black. Ropey salvia oozed from her mouth onto the floor. She hunkered down, preparing to pounce, looking more like an animal than a person.

“One way or another you are going back in this bottle,” Taryn said.

“You won’t hurt this body,” Bartlus said in its guttural voice.

“Don’t be so sure,” he lied.

Bartlus grinned at him, the expression turning Taryn’s insides to water. He had to remain in control. If the demon realized he had one second’s doubt as to whether he could actually kill the demon that had possessed Mackenzie, it would all be over.

“I can see her thoughts.” It tapped the side of Mackenzie’s head. “Her memories. You killed your own kin to save her. She’s still in here, screaming to get out.”

“You’re not leaving this church.”

As it leapt at him, it knocked him sprawling. Taryn flipped over, pinning Mackenzie’s body underneath him.

“Is this what you want?” It asked, “Do you fantasize about this?” It wriggled suggestively.

Taryn held it down by the throat and chanting the old incantation in Latin put the vial under its nose. It screamed, bringing Mackenzie’s knee up and connecting with his groin. Taryn groaned and loosened his grip as pain ripped through him.

Bartlus took the opportunity to get free. He pushed Taryn over and made a run for it.

Taryn tossed the knife. It struck the altar, and Bartlus skidded to a halt. The knife had missed by inches. Bartlus spun in the opposite direction, and Taryn teleported in behind and flipped the demon onto the floor. This time he made sure to pin all of Mackenzie’s limbs.

As he finished the chant, black, oozing smoke poured out of her mouth and nose into the vial. When it was filled, Taryn sealed it.

Mackenzie choked and sputtered.

“You okay?” Taryn asked, sliding off her and onto the floor.

“What the hell was that?” she moaned.

“Possessor demon. I warned you not to touch anything.”

“Well, the bottle didn’t exactly come with a warning label, ‘May cause possession when opened,’” she snapped.

Taryn sighed. She was such a pain in the ass.

“Is it gone?” Father Jared asked as he crawled from under the pew where he had been hiding. He sweated profusely, his dark hair plastered to his head.

“It’s back in the bottle.” Taryn tossed it to him.

Father Jared fumbled it, his thin face losing even more color, leaving him looking like a ghost, but he got a grip and held on as though his life depended on it—which it did.

Taryn knew Father Jared had only just joined the church and was still learning about demons. He had a long way to go. What was the man thinking? Leaving the bottle unguarded!

“I’ll lock this away,” Father Jared said, holding it at arm’s length. “Father Thomas will be back this evening. You can come and talk to him then. Alone.”

“Good idea,” Taryn muttered.

Mackenzie glared at Taryn as she picked herself off the floor.

“I didn’t let the demon in on purpose,” she said.

“I know. Let’s just forget it, okay?”

He didn’t want to fight; he was in too much pain. They walked down the aisle to the door.

“So what do possessor demons do? Other than body-jack you?” Mackenzie asked.

“Not much. They’re demons who have had their forms taken from them.”

“Can they possess dead bodies?”

“Only the recently dead. They can keep bodily functions going temporarily but not for long. Once the body expires they return to their vessel. In this case, the bottle. They need living hosts.”

Mackenzie shivered and pulled a face, “Let’s go home. I need a bath after that.”

Taryn frowned. She said it so casually. Home. He had only been staying at her apartment for a few weeks, sleeping on the couch. Just because his father had a contract out on him didn’t mean it was permanent. He didn’t intend to stay much longer. It wasn’t like she got anything out of the arrangement anyway, other than picking up a few fighting techniques and learning about demon lore. Once he found a base somewhere he was leaving.

As they made their way down the front steps of the church, Taryn saw him. He froze. Across the street by a bus stop, he had caught a glimpse of Lucien. A car passed, blocking Taryn’s view, and by the time it car moved away, his brother, Lucien had vanished. Taryn scanned the street, but it was as though Lucian never been there.

“What’s wrong?” Mackenzie asked.

He shook his head, “Nothing.” He must have imagined seeing his brother. It had been weeks since Lucien died. If he hadn’t appeared by now, then he wasn’t going to, was he?

Daemon Battle Book 3 will be available to pre-order July 2 
To Be Released in September 2016. 

About the Author:
S. K. Gregory was born in Northern Ireland in 1985. She is the author of several series of books including the Daemon Persuasion series, which was published by Mockingbird Lane Press. Her latest novel is Hell Hath No Fury: Queen of Hell Book 1.

She loves horror movies, reading and archery. When she isn’t writing, she helps authors through her website by supplying reviews and promotion. All of her works are available to purchase through Amazon.

Facebook Event Giveaway:

Join the Inner Daemons Facebook Event July 2nd and 3rd 
Daemon Persuasion will be free to download on Kindle during the event. 
Any person who purchases the second book, Daemon Madness, either on Kindle or paperback and posts a selfie with the book or their kindle during the event will be entered into a draw to win a Kindle Fire 7” WiFi 8GB. 
To enter please attend the event July 2 and 3
Locate the Kindle Fire Giveaway post and comment with your selfie. For anyone who has purchased the paperback and is waiting on it arriving, you may post a screenshot of the sale instead. 
Winner will be announced on July 4th 2016 and the item will be mailed to the winner. (Name and address will need to be supplied by the winner)

Tour giveaway 
$25/£25 Amazon Giftcard 
Signed Paperback of Daemon Persuasion and Madness 
Your name in Daemon Battle + a signed copy of the book when released 

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Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Book Review: Hard to Serve: A Hard Ink Novella by Laura Kaye + Giveaway

by Laura Kaye
June 28, 2016
140 pages
To protect and serve is all Detective Kyler Vance ever wanted to do, so when Internal Affairs investigates him as part of the new police commissioner’s bid to oust corruption, everything is on the line. Which makes meeting a smart, gorgeous submissive at an exclusive play club the perfect distraction…

The director of the city’s hottest art gallery, Mia Breslin’s career is golden. Now if only she could find a man to dominate her nights and set her body—and her heart—on fire. When a scorching scene with a hard-bodied, brooding Dom at Blasphemy promises just that, Mia is lured to serve Kyler again and again.

As their relationship burns hotter, Kyler runs into Mia at work and learns that he’s been dominating the daughter of the hard-ass boss who has it in for him. Now Kyler must choose between life-long duty and forbidden desire before Mia finds another who’s not so hard to serve.

Being fairly new to the series (I have only read the first book recently), I didn’t know what to expect from Hard to Serve. While it does include some previous characters from the Hard Ink series and is listed as part of that series, this novella is more at home as part of the Blasphemy series which centers around a BDSM club owned by 12 masters. 

Basically the story is that Detective Kylar Vance is being investigated as part of the new police commissioner’s plan to end corruption within the department. Naturally Kylar feels threatened and stressed so what does he do? He goes out looking for a submissive and finds her at Blasphemy. Mia Breslin is everything Kylar could want in a Sub and Kylar is everything Mia could want in a Dom so everything is peachy keen until Kylar finds out that Mia is his boss’ daughter. Talk about a rock and a hard place right? Yes, I just went there.

Anyway, Hard to Serve wasn’t a bad novella, but it wasn’t stellar either. I’m trying not to compare it to the full length novel I just read from the same series but it is difficult not to. The plot was alright but I felt like I’d read this story before and I’m not a big BDSM reader. I know plots and themes get used and re-used but there was just something about this particular one that fell a little flat for me. It left me with a “meh” feeling versus the “wow” feeling I got from the first book in the series and from this author in general.

That’s not to say Hard to Serve should be skipped, by all means if it’s BDSM or a Laura Kaye story you’re looking for then pick this one up. I did like Kylar and Mia as individual characters but because this was a novella, I didn’t feel like I got to really know them in such a short amount of time. Perhaps a full length story for these two would have made a better impact because I felt there was more about them that needed to be fleshed out to give the romance more of an impact. Then again, novellas are tricky. The author needs to be able to tell an entire story beginning, middle, and end in such a short number of pages. So while this novella may have fallen a bit short of expectations, I still highly recommend Laura Kaye’s work, especially her full length novels.

3 “It was alright” Sheep

Adria Reyes

Announcing a New Erotic Romance Series from Laura Kaye…

BLASPHEMY – the club first introduced in Hard to Serve
From the ruins of an abandoned church comes Baltimore’s hottest and most exclusive BDSM club. Twelve Masters. Infinite fantasies. Welcome to Blasphemy…
Bound to Submit is coming September 13, 2016
Amazon | Barnes & Noble (Coming Soon) | iBooks | Kobo

About the Author:
Newsletter SignUp
HARD TO SERVE on Goodreads
Laura is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of over twenty-five books in contemporary and paranormal romance and romantic suspense, including the Hard Ink and Raven Riders series. Growing up, Laura’s large extended family believed in the supernatural, and family lore involving angels, ghosts, and evil-eye curses cemented in Laura a life-long fascination with storytelling and all things paranormal. She lives in Maryland with her husband, two daughters, and cute-but-bad dog, and appreciates her view of the Chesapeake Bay every day.

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RJ Sullivan guest post: Character Comparison: Sayuri Arai and the Little Mermaid

“Wish I Could Be Part of Your World”
Character Comparison: Sayuri Arai and the Little Mermaid
So I’m sitting here wondering how to introduce Commander Sayuri Arai, the protagonist of Commanding the Red Lotus, to new readers. I Smell Sheep is a favorite stop for these blog tours and I consider Sharon a friend. So I wanted to do something worthy of the space she’s allotted to me. I decided that comparing her to a famous fictional character was the way to go. But who? Captain Kirk? Luke Skywalker? Sherlock Holmes? Ripley?

Then Mrs RJ brings me my morning coffee in my second favorite Little Mermaid Mug (Yes, I have two. Doesn’t everyone?) and I knew I had my comparison. In fact, the characters are so similar in many respects, you might be inclined to think that the author had some unconscious goal to retell his favorite Disney movie in outer space. To which I say, “never deny an interpretation.”

Poor Little Rich Girl
Ariel is the daughter of King Triton, she lives in the palace, and has the “responsibility” of being part of Daddy’s chorus to break out into song whenever he rides down the street. This is something she considers such a drag that she skips out of practice.

Sayuri is the daughter of Tomatsu Arai, who is the founder of Taio Industries, a highly successful minding company. As our story opens, Sayuri has just graduated college and is catching a ride on the company shuttlecraft to fly from Earth to the Pandora orbital space station where Taio operates its home office. Sayuri is bracing to step into a Vice President role that her father has held for her. She bemoans her “golden handcuffs” and fears her younger brother will always outshine her.

Break out your tissues and weep for our heroines!

Secret hopes and dreams
Ariel longs to see what’s beyond her ocean kingdom and wants to find a way to enter the world above. She feels there must be more than this prudential life—oh, wait, wrong Disney Princess—and wants to know what that is.

Sayuri also feels trapped by her future as a subordinate to her father, and feels equally compelled to break beyond what she knows and learn more of the solar system beyond.

Love at first sight
When Sayuri spies the alluring “Spacer” in the station food court, she feels attracted and compelled to want to get to know him. To Sayuri and others, the Spacers have made space travel into a way of life, and a secret one. The people who commit themselves to ship piloting and upkeep mingle with the rest of society but are also separated from it. The Spacer culture is a mystery to those who stay “grounded” to more traditional society. Sayuri learns that this Spacer, Dravin Sow, is second-in-command of the Red Lotus, a mining ship in her father’s fleet, and about to be de-commissioned. Her curiosity about him and about the ship grows. This is much like Ariel’s attraction to Eric. She understands nothing about him, but her attraction stimulates her curiosity.

Plotting against her father
As Sayuri tries to settle in to her new role as a VP of Taio Industries, she finds quickly that her worst fears appear to be coming true. Then as she learns that the Red Lotus has been placed up for auction, Sayuri must make a choice to do what is expected of her or to act on her own behalf and betray her father.

Ariel similarly enters into an agreement that betrays her father in an attempt to gain her independence (though to be fair, Sayuri never conspires with her father’s enemy to achieve her goals).

A little help from her friends
Sayuri takes ownership and command of the Red Lotus. She immediately finds herself in way over her head, trying to appease a disgruntled crew while keeping a dilapidated ship together with spare parts and good wishes. Then, before she knows it, she faces a pirate attack and later still, a potential mutiny. Sayuri is smart and savvy, but she doesn’t resolve these problems on her own. Fortunately, she makes a few friends along the way, and those friends prove to be vital when the chips are down.

Similarly, Ariel also gets herself into terrible trouble, but fortunately her friends Sabastian, Flounder and Skuttle are there to fetch Daddy and his army while Prince Eric does his part to bring the story to a happy ending—at least, in the Disney version. (Google it, kids)

Commanding the Red Lotus is the story of a strong-willed young woman who gets in over her head and finds herself pitted against incredible odds in a quest to find her independence. It’s a story in which a headstrong girl’s act of insolent rebellion leads to the need to grow up under fire. I’m not saying that if you read my novel that you’ll be inclined to break out into goofy songs with titles like “Above De Stars”, but I’m not saying you won’t, either.

April 27, 2016
236 pages
Seventh Star Press; 1 edition
Money Can’t Buy Respect
Sayuri Arai, privileged daughter of a corporate mogul, abandons a promising career to find her own path. She invests in a broken-down asteroid mining ship and steps in as the commander of its crew. Every day presents a new challenge just to keep her ship from falling apart and the bitter crew from killing each other. Can Sayuri unite the feuding factions, or will her rivals turn the entire complement against her?

Commanding the Red Lotus offers a classic sense of wonder for today’s science fiction readers.

Volume one of the Red Lotus Stories, now in softcover for the first time. Commanding the Red Lotus includes the previously released ebook novelettes:
Red Lotus: Innocence Lost 
Plus the brand-new novella Mutiny on the Red Lotus 

About the author:
Best known for his ghost story thrillers, Commanding the Red Lotus is R.J.Sullivan’s fifth book and his first release in the genre he most adores. R.J.’s critically acclaimed, loosely connected ghost story trilogy and his short story collection are all available in paperback and ebook though Seventh Star Press. R.J. resides with his family in Heartland Crossing, Indiana. He drinks regularly from a Little Mermaid coffee mug and is man enough to admit it. 

Tour Schedule and Activities
6/27/2016 Sheila's Guests and Reviews Guest Post
6/28/2016 Deal Sharing Aunt Interview
6/29/2016 Cover2Cover Guest Post
6/29/2016 I Smell Sheep Guest Post
6/30/2016 Jordan Hirsch Review
7/1/2016 Jorie Loves A Story Guest Feature/Interview
7/2/2016 MyLifeMyBooksMyEscape Interview
7/3/2016 Swillblog Review
7/3 Jorie Loves A Story Interview

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Movie Review: Independence Day: Resurgence (2016) - no spoilers

Independence Day: Resurgence (2016)
Director: Roland Emmerich
Screenplay Writers: Nicolas Wright, James A. Woods, Dean Devlin, Roland Emmerich, and James Vanderbilt.
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Release Date: June 24, 2016
We always knew they were coming back. After 'Independence Day' redefined the event movie genre, the next epic chapter delivers global spectacle on an unimaginable scale. Using recovered alien technology, the nations of Earth have collaborated on an immense defense program to protect the planet. But nothing can prepare us for the aliens' advanced and unprecedented force. Only the ingenuity of a few brave men and women can bring our world back from the brink of extinction.

My science fiction fan husband and I went to see Independence Day: Resurgence June 24th. He even took a day of vacation from work so we could see it at 10:30 a.m. and get lunch afterwards. Was it worth his using a day of vacation? I will say it is a popcorn movie, one you go to watch without thinking. Still, there were flaws with this film. Remember the first movie? I watched it again as it was on HBO the night before and it is one of those films I can see over and over; comfort food. Bill Pullman gives a speech that makes you want to run out and join up, fight the aliens. Randy Quaid had been abducted by the aliens and is ready for payback and when he gets that chance—giving up his own life in the bargain—I still cry at that. Jeff Goldblum’s wanting to save the earth from our pollution, Will Smith and his wait until the fat lady sings, even Brent Spiner’s crazy all things alien geekiness, well, they made the first movie a good one. Plus, it a remake of War of the Worlds, where instead of the common cold kills them, it will be a computer virus to their systems.

This sequel (and the end of the movie lets us know there will be a third one) has much better special effects. After all, it has been twenty years since the first movie. But the story, not so much. First film was the second biggest box opener back in 1996. This one, not so much, It opened with just $41 million in America and $102m in 57 overseas markets.

They have taken the alien technology and merged it with our own. Sadly, Independence Day: Resurgence was indeed a perfect storm of “No.” A flurry of bad omens or poor decisions all came together to doom the picture. It could have survived a weakness here and there had it had other strengths, but it could not survive a convergence of negative variables.

No Will Smith. We needed a hero, and his character was one. This sequel needed him more than he needed it. He was a breakout star of Independence Day. Had everything else clicked, losing Smith would have been a survivable wound. Their explanation what happen to Hiller? He had died in a freak accident caused by Liam Hemsworth’s character, Jake Morrison, on test flight. This bothered me. The man who was the lone survivor of his flight group in the first film, dies like this? Maybe a movie star like Dwayne Johnson or Harrison Ford might have saved it (heck, Ford can actually fly a plane or helicopter!), instead the closest is Liam Hemsworth. Not Chris Hemsworth, but his younger brother. Last action film he did was The Hunger Games trilogy. And even in those, not the breakout star.

We do get Jeff Goldblum back, along with Bill Pullman, Brent Spiner, Judd Hirsch, Robert Logia, and Vivica Fox. Fox has a short cameo. The rest get longer scenes, especially Goldblum. This makes the movie more of a reunion then anything. The next generation consisting of Hemsworth as Jake Morrison, Jessie T. Usher as Dylan Hiller, and Maika Monroe as Patricia Whitmore, did not do it for me. Women were given the shaft. None were allowed to be strong, even the next breakout hero. They could have written in Patricia Monroe as a strong character. Instead, big action play climaxes in her being rescued by the men in her life. There was one speech given later in the film that at least stirred me, though not on the level of President Whitmore’s from the first film. The aliens are bigger and so are the ships. But when the ship crashes and covers most of the Atlantic from England to the East Coast, then it comes to the new capitol in Washington D.C. and all it does is knock off the flag.

It had the chance to be something more, to give us something more. But Independence Day: Resurgence fell short of being nothing more than a popcorn movie, where if you don’t want to think, then this is for you. Just don’t expect the next step from the 1996 movie—you’ll be disappointed. Otherwise, wait for the DVD/ Blu Ray, or more so, Redbox or Netflix. And just rent Independence Day and both War if the Worlds from 1953 and 2005.

I give Independence Day: Resurgence 3 ½ sheep.

Pamela K. Kinney

Second Look Book Review: Ink and Bone (The Great Library #1) by Rachel Caine

Ink and Bone (The Great Library #1)
by Rachel Caine
Kindle Edition, 352 pages
July 7th 2015 by NAL
Pages: 360
Ruthless and supremely powerful, the Great Library is now a presence in every major city, governing the flow of knowledge to the masses. Alchemy allows the Library to deliver the content of the greatest works of history instantly—but the personal ownership of books is expressly forbidden.

Jess Brightwell believes in the value of the Library, but the majority of his knowledge comes from illegal books obtained by his family, who are involved in the thriving black market. Jess has been sent to be his family’s spy, but his loyalties are tested in the final months of his training to enter the Library’s service.

When he inadvertently commits heresy by creating a device that could change the world, Jess discovers that those who control the Great Library believe that knowledge is more valuable than any human life—and soon both heretics and books will burn.…
amazon buy link

Hear Ye, Hear Ye, Read All About It!! WOW, loved this book. Set in the year 2025 but reads like it was set in the times of the great philosophers and authors. The power of books (to include knowledge) leads the plot to a scary scenario of hoarding all the original works and personal diaries for the good of mankind. Rrriigghhtt!

To work for the Library was an esteemed and altruistic goal. To supposedly protect every written word so that the public could have access as requested or needed seemed to be a lofty calling. But as most of us know, "hoarding" is not always a good thing and not every law or rule is for everyone's benefit. So Jess finds out.

In this period, even owning a real book is illegal. The library has become a country into itself and if you pass the examinations and are offered a position in the organization you must give up all your loyalties to your own country.

This "hoarding", for lack of a better word, creates criminals of many countries' citizens. There are "runners" who are essentially black market thieves that steal and sell original works of prose. There are "burners" who are dissidents that will destroy literary works just to prove a point to the Library authorities, and there are Ink lickers who are so obsessed with original works and the feel of actual paper and ink they will consume the books or try to hide them for themselves. (OK, little over the top for me but does work in this alternative world!)

This book is quite unique in it's story and setting. You feel like you are living in ancient times but the plot is easily felt as a futuristic science fiction setting. I loved the main theme of a "government" like organization that wants to control all knowledge and the naive new recruits discovering that all is not as they imagined in their new "calling". It includes a little something from most of my favorite books. There is danger, violence, friendship, twists and a smattering of romance included along with the intriguing plot. The paranormal aspect comes in the hierarchy of the Library's Obscurists and their use of alchemy so if you are thinking were's, witches and vamps this is not that kind of read. But it is fabulously penned and well worth the journey. I am sure some might say it is a little incongruous but look past some of the confusion of the setting and open your mind to something that might (someday!) resemble a little of our own society. (You just have to read between the lines!).

DeniseB's review of Ink and Bone
I rarely give 5 stars but ......
I award 5 "freakin fabulous" sheep!

Jeanie G

About the Author:
Rachel Caine is the New York Times bestselling author of more than 45 novels to date, and many short stories, including fantasy, urban fantasy, science fiction, young adult fiction, mystery, thriller, and horror. Her notable series include The Morganville Vampires, Weather Warden, Revivalist, Red Letter Days, and Outcast Season novels. She graduated from Socorro High School in El Paso, Texas, and earned a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas. Her first short story was published in 1990, and her first novel in 1991.

After a long career in business (including working as an office manager, payroll manager, insurance investigator, web designer, graphic designer, and corporate communications executive) she began writing full time in 2009.

She and her husband, artist R. Cat Conrad, live and work in Fort Worth, Texas.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Read THE SCORCH TRIALS for the #DASHNERDASH BINGE READ + signed book giveaway

Live Google Hangouts with James Dashner at the End of Each Month.

**The binge read of The Maze Runner (book 1) is now over. June 30 this Thursday at 8pm EST
 you can talk with Dashner and Marino at Google Hangout!
Link to hangout:

Today we start reading The Scorch Trials for the #DASHNERDASH. The last week of July there will be another Google Hangout with Dashner and Marino! Keep up so you will be ready for The Fever Code on Sept 27, 2016!

Sept 27, 2016
Pre orderThe Fever Code (Maze Runner, Book Five; Prequel) (The Maze Runner Series)

About the Author:
JAMES DASHNER is the author of the #1 New York Times bestselling Maze Runner series—The Maze Runner, The Scorch Trials, The Death Cure, and The Kill Order—as well as the bestselling Mortality Doctrine series, which includes The Eye of Minds, The Rule of Thoughts, and The Game of Lives.

One USA winner will receive a signed copy of
The Scorch Trials

The Scorch Trail reread #DASHNERDASH

Book Review: Silk by L.M. Pruit

by L. M. Pruit
April 19, 2016
Genre: Horror
Publisher: S. P. Press
They called it the murder tree.

In 1995, twenty kids went in to the woods. Only three came back alive.

There are monsters in the woods.

Twenty years later, what happened is still a mystery.

The monsters are back.

Now, the town of Silk faces its greatest threat in over two hundred years. No one is safe.

Not even the monsters.

There’s something about camping and ghost stories. Something about being in the dark forest. Most times, telling spooky tales around the campfire gets you nothing, just nightmares that night. But with Eli Crenshaw and his best friends Shepherd Jackson and Isaiah Graves, and seventeen other classmates of theirs, that November night, they found the legends they told were real. They all listened to the tale of the Litz family who wanted to produce silk, unlike the rest of the community who figured rice would be more profitable. The ‘tree’ is where the family met their demise. Eli and Shep had awoken to find 17 classmates hung from the murder tree, like macabre cocoons. They bolted and spent three days in the woods, lost and frightened then finally to escape when they find the highway that led into town. As for Isaiah, he never saw a thing and walked out of the woods back to town alone, with never a nary nightmare to dog his nights to adulthood. But Eli and Shep were not so fortunate. Eli remembered the ‘monster's that chased them in the woods, but no one believed; the sheriff and his parents had combed the woods and found nothing, not even the camp. The deaths became known as the Mulberry Massacre.

About twenty years later, Eli is the chief of police in Silk, Georgia and new clues have surfaced surrounding the murders. Nothing and no one are as they seem but Eli is determined to solve the murders and end the nightmares that have plagued him and his friend.

The three main characters who survived the massacre are all complex. Shep has been taken to psychiatrists, where at one point she went through electroshock therapy that caused memory loss from that night and even before (though, checking up on the procedure, I found it should not have caused her remembrance of the smell of her mother, as that was long before). Though it does not stop her from going off the deep end with sex and drugs. Eli has taken to heavy drinking, bordering on becoming an alcoholic. He drinks to keep the nightmares at bay. As for Isaiah, he is married to Marcie, who is expecting.

Honestly, even though this begins with the characters as middle school kids, I would classify this as an adult read. Suspenseful horror with twists and turns, complex characters with secrets of their own, but not for the faint at heart, this is the perfect story set in autumn for that summer vacation, unless you are camping in the woods.

I gave Silk 4 ½ sheep

Pamela Kinney

November 1995

They called it the murder tree.
The kids did, anyway. To the adults, those people who no longer believed in ghost stories and things that went bump in the night, it was known as the old Litz tree. The last living monument to the family who founded the town before Georgia was even a state, giving their money and lives in the process.
The adults liked to gloss over that particular part of the story when discussing the history of Mulberry.
The kids preferred to linger on it.
Most of them knew the story of the night the Litz family lost their lives before they were even able to read the decades old textbooks grudgingly provided by the Department of Education. By the time they graduated to junior high, all the kids—the cool ones, at least, the ones you wanted at your party or it wasn’t really a party—had camped out next to the murder tree. More than one high school girl had allowed her boyfriend to “comfort” her in the shadow of the ancient mulberry after listening to the story of the Litz family yet again.
You weren’t a part of Mulberry until you had spent your time at the murder tree.
It was the only reason Elias Crenshaw could think of for why he was freezing his balls off on what was shaping up to be the coldest night of the year.
That and the fact Mandy Jones had promised him she’d be there. The way she’d told him, with just the tiniest smile of her bubblegum pink lips and a flutter of lashes, was enough to keep him warm.
But only for another hour. After that, he was going home. The guys could rag him all they wanted on Monday morning. They’d be the one with bug bites and frozen fingers and all the other stupid things that happened when you spent the night in the frickin’ woods. He’d be warm and rested and all studied up for the big biology exam in sixth period.
Man, if he didn’t get at least a C his parents were going to flip. They’d already been on the fence about letting him camp out the Friday before a test. If he failed, they wouldn’t let him out of the house again until the end of the school year. He’d be the only kid not allowed to go the eighth grade prom.
Mandy Jones would never go out with him if he was the loser kid who didn’t go to the prom.
“Your face is going to freeze like that.”
Elias snorted. “No, it won’t.”
“Yeah, it will.” Shephard Jackson widened her already big brown eyes—bug eyes, Mandy called them—and nodded solemnly. “Cross my heart and hope to die.”
“Probably the wrong thing to say when we’re next to the murder tree.” Elias tilted toward her, leaning in with his whole body before hunching his shoulders and shivering. “What are you doing here? I thought you weren’t allowed in the woods after dark.”
“I’m not.” She huffed out a breath, the puff of frosty air doing nothing to dislodge the white blonde hair seemingly glued to her forehead. She’d bleached it the week before on a dare, just like she’d pierced her nose last month and broken in to the library the month before that. “But that’s Kelly’s stupid rule. She keeps trying to act like she’s my mom or something.”
“Well, she married your dad.” Elias winced when she reached over and smacked him on the back of his head. “Jesus, Shep.”
“You’re not supposed to take her side. You’re supposed to take mine.” She sniffled and swiped her hand under her nose. “That’s what best friends do.”
“Fine, whatever.” When Shep sighed, Elias rolled his eyes. “It’s a stupid rule and she’s a bitch and she should stop trying to act like she’s your mom.”
“Thank you.” The pseudo sniffling immediately stopped and she leaned in to him, her slight frame weighing next to nothing. After a moment, she said, “What are you doing here?”
“Rite of passage.” He nodded at the small group clustered around the carefully constructed fire. Albert had insisted they follow all the safety rules for lighting a fire in the woods, reminding everyone of Smokey the Bear’s immortal saying. “Supposed to be more people coming. Real party.”
“Oh, please.” She scoffed, the harsh exhalation shaking her entire body. “You’re here because Mandy Jones said she was going to be here. Her and her little group. They’re so… ugh.” She shook her head before turning to scowl at him. “You couldn’t fall in love with some girl who can actually have a conversation for longer than five minutes without mentioning cheerleading or makeup?”
“First, I’m not in love with her.” Elias returned her scowl, narrowing his eyes to slits. “We barely know each other.” Truth, even though he’d spent countless hours imagining what it would be like to kiss her. “Second, just because she’s not fighting the power or whatever you do when you’re not pissing off your stepmom doesn’t make her stupid. She’s really smart.”
“Eli, she said it was ridiculous to have the term ‘african-american’ because if you were born in America you obviously couldn’t be from Africa.”
“Well.” He paused, racking his brain for an explanation even as he winced. “You know, there are a lot of adults who feel the same way. Like we should all just embrace our current culture and let of our heritage.”
“Right.” Shep snorted and rolled her eyes. “Whatever.” She jerked her chin at the fire. “Let’s go. Story time.”
“Oh, come on.” He groaned, digging in his heels half-heartedly when she tried to drag him toward the group. They both knew it would be impossible for her to move him unless he helped. She was a hundred pounds soaking wet, barely topping five feet while he’d gained twenty pounds since school started. The only reason he wasn’t as fat as a turkey was the corresponding growth spurt, the new six inches putting him dangerously close to six feet. “Not again. We’ve heard this thing a million times.”
“So this will be a million and one. Come on.” She yanked his arm harder, grumbling something under her breath about ogres. “It’s tradition to tell the story at every campout. Besides….” She trailed off, smiling up at him and batting her lashes. “I’m pretty sure Mandy finally arrived.”
“Well, in that case.” He laughed when she gasped, using her moment of feigned shock to scoop her up and toss her over his shoulder in a fireman’s hold. “You know what’s really great about having you as a best friend? You’re easy to pick up when we’re fighting.”
“You’re such a troglodyte.” Shep pounded on his back with her fists, biting back a scream when he took a step forward. “If anybody sees me, I swear—on my mom’s grave—I will make your life miserable for the rest of the year.”
He paused, not at the threat, but the oath. After a minute, he dropped her back to her feet, brushing a speck of something off the shoulder of her jacket. They stared at each other, the awkwardness of the silence nearly tangible. Finally, he said, “Sorry, Shep.”
“Whatever.” Spinning on her heels, she stomped toward the far side of the group, the laces of her combat boots slithering over the dead leaves like a snake. She slid between Albert and Jacob, sneering at something one of them said. Elias watched for another minute before shoving his hands in his pockets and trudging over to join the growing group.
“Hey, Elias.” Mandy half walked, half skipped up to him as he neared the fire, linking her arm with his. “I thought you were going to spend all night talking to that weirdo.”
“She’s not a weirdo.” The defense was as automatic as breathing. “Her mom died, remember? Like, right in front of her. She’s just, you know, grieving.”
“Right.” Mandy sighed, the sort of huge, exaggerated sigh Elias knew meant annoyance at his supposed ignorance. His older sister made the same noise every time he asked her a question. “Whatever. I didn’t come out to these stupid woods to talk about her.” She smiled at him, the fire casting shadows over her normally light and bright face. “I came to hang out with you.”
“Dude, we’re waiting.” Isiah Graves, Elias’s second best friend—but number one guy best friend, as Isiah was quick to point out—raised his voice to an almost shout. Since he’d been the one to propose the campout, he’d insisted he get to tell the story of the murder tree. Elias didn’t bother reminding him it was a hollow honor. “Story and then party. Rules are rules, man.”
“Nobody cares except for you.” Jacob Wesson had the honor of being the oldest person in the group by a month and the first to have a voice which didn’t crack at random moments. “Just get this boring ass shit over with before I die of fucking boredom.”
“Okay, okay.” Isiah hunched his shoulders and shuffled his feet, shooting a glare around the group at large before straightening to his full height. “The year was 1748. The town of Mulberry was struggling, just as it had been since the Litz family arrived from Germany with a dream of producing silk and other luxury goods.”
“He sounds like a really dorky version of Mr. Young.” Mandy’s breathy whisper smelled like cinnamon and Elias closed his eyes for a split second, inhaling deeply. When he opened them again, she was watching him with a knowing look.
“Everybody else in the town wanted to use the land for rice, something they could use and sell. But the Litz’s refused to give up their dream.” Isiah paused, drawing out the attempt at suspense. “Finally, the people of Mulberry decided enough was enough.”
Even though everybody knew how the story went, how it ended, every last one of them inched closer. The next part of the tale was always told in a voice barely above a whisper, as if the long dead participants would hear and interrupt to correct the teller on some minute point. Tonight was no exception.
“The entire town, everybody except the children, marched out to the Litz homestead. Josiah Litz tried to talk them down, make them see reason, but he failed.” Isiah stepped back and pointed up at a thick limb jutting out from the trunk in a crooked line. “They strung him up here but the fall didn’t break his neck. So he watched while the town slaughtered his entire family.”
He paused again, the group holding its collective breath. The leaves, long dead but stubbornly clinging to their branches, shivered as a faint wind blew through the forest. Mandy moved closer to Elias and he put his arm around her, ignoring Shep’s eye roll.
Isiah waited a beat longer. “Or rather—almost his entire family.
“They forgot the oldest son was returning from New York. Franz Litz had been gone so long, it was possible the town had forgotten he even existed.” Isiah rapped his knuckles on the tree trunk, nodding solemnly. “But Josiah hadn’t. And while he slowly suffocated to death under the weight of his own body, he swore his family would have their revenge. And they did.
“While the town burned the house and the trees and buried the bodies of the Litz family, Franz, who’d witnessed everything from the safety of the woods, rode in to Mulberry.” Isiah stepped back in to the circle, his low voice forcing everybody to move closer in order to hear. “And hung every last child.”
The wind gusted through the woods again, stronger this time, the trees rattling their limbs in protest. Somewhere in the distance, some animal let out a single short cry, quickly cut off by the crunching of something larger and more dangerous. Elias glanced around the circle, surprised at the number of pale faces and large eyes, even as he reminded himself it was only a story.
“The townspeople caught him right after he hung his last victim, a baby barely a month old. They hauled him, kicking and screaming, back to the murder tree.” As one, they turned to look at the ancient mulberry. “Even as they put the rope around his neck, he fought. His last words before the noose broke his neck were ‘A cursed ground bears only poisonous fruit’.”
“Or so they say.” Jacob snorted and shook his head. “Whatever, dude. Stupid story about a whole bunch of dead people.” He nudged Shep with his shoulder and laughed. “Fuck’em. Let’s party.”
The circle broke up in to smaller groups, twos and threes and fours, each cluster wandering away from the murder tree. Mandy gripped Elias’s arm tighter and shivered. “That was so scary, right?”
“Right.” He wasn’t sure if she was being sarcastic or not and the smell of her floral perfume was too distracting for him to try and figure it out one way or the other. “So, uh, did you want to go for a walk or something?”
“A walk?” She laughed and shook her head. “Uh, no.” Still laughing, she slipped away from him, reaching up and pushing her shiny lemon-yellow hair behind her shoulders. “I actually need to go talk to Shanna about the routine for the game tomorrow.”
“Right.” Elias nodded dumbly. “Uh, right. Good luck with that. I’ll just… go… talk to Isiah.”
Elias hunched his shoulders, stalking over to the base of the murder tree. Isiah studied his face, rocking on his heels before sucking air through his teeth. “Man, that was an epic crash and burn. Epic.”
“Shut up.” Elias punched him, pulling back at the last second. Isiah was nearly as skinny as Shep but more fragile looking, as if a good solid blow would break him in two. “She had to go do cheerleading stuff.”
“Cheerleading stuff.” Isiah snorted. “She’s such a fucking tease.”
“Dude, stop.” Elias looked up as another gust of wind shook the branches, a handful of leaves falling down around them like confetti. “Did you have to pick the coldest night ever to do this thing?”
“Nah, that was just luck.” The other boy grinned and attempted to wiggle his eyebrows. “Pretty spooky, right?”
“Whatever.” Elias nudged him with his elbow. “You bring any good snacks or what?”

The crying woke him up.
At first it was just part of the dream. A good dream. A dream where Mandy Jones was dancing with him at prom, telling him how awesome he was and how great he looked and how much she loved him. And then he heard crying but when he looked at Mandy she was still smiling and telling him how she couldn’t wait to kiss him.
“Elias, wake up. Wake up, Elias, wake up.”
“G’way.” He rolled over, smashing his face in the lining of his sleeping bag. “Sleeping.”
“Wake up, please, Eli.”
 At the use of his childhood nickname, he rolled back over, opening his eyes until he was able to squint through heavy lids. “Shep?”
“Quiet.” She cupped her hand over his mouth, leaning down and pressing her lips to his ear. When her cheek touched his, he realized the smooth skin was wet. “We have to run before he finds us.”
He tried to speak again, glaring at her in the dark when she dug her nails in to his jaw. After a moment, he realized she was attempting to turn his head. Rather than struggle, he let her, blinking in an effort to get his eyes to adjust to the nearly non-existent light.
At first he thought someone had thrown a sleeping bag over a branch. Stupid kid stuff. But the longer he stared, the less sense that made and the more details he began to see. Like how it—whatever it was—was thinner at the top, like a rope, before becoming pudgy and then narrowing down to a gentle v shape. How it swung back and forth slowly like an overweight pendulum. How it made a wet, gurgling sound which raised the hairs all over his body.
And then the moon broke free of the clouds and Elias realized it wasn’t a sleeping bag. Not even close.
And it wasn’t the only one hanging from the branches of the murder tree.
He started to scramble to his feet—to run or hide or help his friends—only for Shep to yank him back down. Her voice was tight and thin when she said, “They’re dead. They’re all dead. We have to go.”
Nodding dumbly, he let her pull him further away from the tree, deeper in to the woods. She’d begged and pleaded and whined until he’d agreed to sleep next to her, as far away from the fire as possible while still being in the clearing. The tangle of bushes had provided extra coverage against the northern wind, something he’d been thankful for as the fire died down and the cold set in.
“My shoes.” Even though he knew he spoke, he was barely able to hear himself through her hand. “Shep.”
“There’s no time.” As if to prove her point, she stomped her own bare foot on top of his. “Come on.”
In the darkness behind them, someone giggled.
They ran.
Elias glanced over his shoulder, nearly tripping and falling when he saw a fire, this one easily twice as big as the one Albert had so carefully built hours earlier. And standing around it were a half dozen figures, lit by the ghoulish flames.
The faces—long, narrow, big-eyed, slack-jawed, smiling, drooling—were the last things Elias remembered for a very, very long time.

About the Author:
L.M. Pruitt has been reading and writing for as long as she can remember. A native of Florida with a love of New Orleans, she has the uncanny ability to find humor in most things and would probably kill a plastic plant. She knows this because she's killed bamboo. Twice. She is the author of the Winged series, the Plaisir Coupable series, Jude Magdalyn series, the Moon Rising series, and Taken: A Frankie Post Novel.