Tuesday, March 31, 2020

National Celebration Days in April

It's time to do some April celebrating! Make sure to add the fun ones to your calendar. Of course, the most important celebration is I Smell Sheep's birthday!

APRIL
I Smell Sheep Birthday
Frog Month 
Global Astronomy Month 
National Poetry Month

April 1
April Fool's Day
Atheist Day
International Fun at Work Day
International Tatting Day
National Walking Day
Sorry Charlie Day 
Paraprofessional Appreciation Day
Reading is Funny Day
Poetry and the Creative Mind Day

April 2
Children's Book Day
National Peanut Butter and Jelly Day
Reconciliation Day
Hans Christian Anderson’s birthday
Photo credit:

April 3
Don't Go to Work Unless it's Fun Day - we know your decision
National Walk to Work Day - first Friday of month
Tweed Day
World Party Day

April 4
Hug a Newsman Day
Walk Around Things Day
School Librarian Day
Tell a Lie Day
World Rat Day
Tangible Karma Day
Maya Angelou’s birthday

April 5
5-11: Bat Appreciation Week
Go for Broke Day
National Dandelion Day
First Contact Day (Star Trek related. April 5, 2063 = date made first contact with the Vulcans.) 
Read A Road Map Day 
Qingming Festival (Chinese Tomb-Sweeping Day) 
Zak Bagans’ Birthday 

April 6
California Poppy Day 
National Tartan Day
New Beer's Eve
Plan Your Epitaph Day
Sorry Charlie Day
Teflon Day

April 7
Caramel Popcorn Day
International Beaver Day
National Beer Day
No Housework Day
World Health Day
April 8
All is Ours Day
Draw a Picture of a Bird Day
Passover begins at sundown - date varies
Zoo Lover's Day
Buddha’s Birthday 
Kane Hodder’s Birthday 


April 9
Name Yourself Day
Winston Churchill Day
Cherish an Antique Day 
Unicorn Day
April 10
Golfer's Day 
Good Friday - date varies
National Siblings Day

April 11
Eight Track Tape Day - do you remember those?
Barbershop Quartet Day
National Submarine Day

April 12
Big Wind Day - this day blows me away!
Easter Sunday - date varies
Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day
National Licorice Day
Russian Cosmonaut Day
Walk on Yor Wild Side Day
Drop Everything and Read (D.E.A.R.) Day
Beverly Cleary’s birthday

April 13
Dyngus Day always the Monday after Easter
International Plant Appreciation Day
National Peach Cobbler Day
Scrabble Day

April 14
Ex-Spouse Day
International Moment of Laughter Day
Look up at the Sky Day
National Dolphin Day
National Pecan Day
Palm Sunday - date varies
Reach as High as You Can Day
Noah Webster published American Dictionary of the 
English Language

April 15
Income Taxes Due (most years, it's on the 15th)
Rubber Eraser Day
That Sucks Day
Titanic Remembrance Day
World Art Day
April 16
Mushroom Day
National Bean Counter Day
National Eggs Benedict Day
National High Five Day third Thursday
National Librarian Day
National Stress Awareness Day
Save the Elephant Day
Celebrate Teen Literature Day

April 17
Bat Appreciation Day
Blah, Blah, Blah Day
International Haiku Poetry Day
National Cheeseball Day 
Pet Owners Independence Day
Herbalist Day
photo credit
April 18
Husband Appreciation Day
International Juggler's Day
World Circus Day
Newspaper Columnists Day

April 19
19-25 – National Library Week 
National Garlic Day
 Nick Groff’s Birthday

April 20
Chinese Language Day
Look-Alike Day
Patriot's Day
Volunteer Recognition Day

April 21
Kindergarten Day
National Library Workers Day

April 22
Administrative Professionals Day
Earth Day (U.S.)
Girl Scout Leader Day
National Jelly Bean Day
National Bookmobile Day

April 23
Lover's Day
National Zucchini Bread Day
Ramadan - begins at sundown
Take a Chance Day
Take Your Daughter to Work
World Laboratory Day
Movie Theatre Day 
Take Action for Libraries Day
William Shakespeare’s birthday
photo credit
World Book and Copyright Day
English Language Day

April 24
24-26 National Dream Hotline 
Arbor Day -last Friday of month
Pig in a Blanket Day
St. Mark’s Eve (aka Spying on Future Ghosts) 

April 25
East Meets West Day
National DNA Day
photo credit
World Penguin Day 
Save The Frogs Day
Independent Bookstore Day

April 26
Hug an Australian Day
National Pretzel Day
Richter Scale Day
Alien Day 
Hans Holzer’s Deathiversary 

April 27
Babe Ruth Day
Morse Code Day
National Prime Rib Day
Tell a Story Day

April 28
International Astronomy Day
Great Poetry Reading Day
Kiss Your Mate Day
National Superhero Day

April 29
Greenery Day
National Shrimp Scampi Day
National Zipper Day
Alfred Hitchcock’s Deathiversary 
Bats Day
photo credit

April 30
Hairstyle Appreciation Day
National Honesty Day
National Mahjong Day
photo credit
Half Way to Halloween 
Hexennacht (Witches’ Night) 
Walpurgis Night (also a sort of Witches’ Night)

Excerpt: Providence by Max Barry + giveaway

Providence
by Max Barry
March 31, 2020
320 pages
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons
The video changed everything. Before that, we could believe that we were safe. Special. Chosen. We thought the universe was a twinkling ocean of opportunity, waiting to be explored. Afterward, we knew better.

Seven years after the world watched aliens slaughter a team of research scientists in deep space, Providence Five launches. It is an enormous and deadly warship, built to protect humanity from its greatest ever threat. On board is a crew of just four: Jackson, the combat veteran captain; Gilly, a hardware maintenance engineer; Talia, the morale officer; and Anders, the weapons expert. As they navigate space in search of hives of aliens, now called salamanders, they are tasked with monitoring the ship and reporting the war’s progress to a mesmerized global audience by way of social media. Halfway into their mission, the crew confronts the unthinkable: their communications are cut and the ship becomes decreasingly trustworthy and effective. As the ship fails them, the crew begins to realize the full of extent of their role, and to survive, they must win a fight that is suddenly and terrifyingly real. Though set in the indeterminate future, PROVIDENCE crackles with contemporary relevance with its themes of social media, propaganda, AI, zero-casualty warfare, and public perceptions of war, all served up with Barry’s trademark intelligence and wit.



PRAISE FOR PROVIDENCE:
“I could not put Providence down until I’d finished it in one thrilling sitting. This is science fiction at its best—a ship so believably alive and characters so determined, flawed, and compelling that you’ll forget you’re not also part of the crew.”
—Peng Shepherd, author of The Book of M

“An astonishing novel! Providence is Philip K. Dick and William Gibson fueled by pure adrenaline (with a bit of Spielberg and Ridley Scott thrown in). The brilliant, unstoppable imagination of Max Barry glows on every page of this action-filled yet emotionally resonant, tale. It will keep you riveted from first page till last. I read in one sitting and I guarantee you’ll do the same.”
—Jeffery Deaver, New York Times bestselling author

“Providence is an absolute treat. Pulls the trick of being both irrepressibly old-school sci-fi and creepingly relevant to the data-driven future.”
—Austin Grossman, author of Soon I Will Be Invincible

1
[Gilly]
The Launch
Before he could go before a global audience of two billion, they wanted to fix his eyebrows. He sat before a light-ringed mirror, on a chair that went up and down at the whim of a woman with silver lips, and tried to keep still.
"The left is fine," she said. "The right concerns me."

He'd been in the chair for two hours. There had been a makeup person, a hairdresser, a stylist, and now this second makeup person. His face felt like a plaster model, ready to crack and fall to pieces if he smiled.

"Smile," she said. It did not crack. "Can I get some three-base paste for Gilligan?"

"Gilly," he said reflexively. He didn't like Gilligan.

"I'm so nervous, I could barf," said the person to his left. "That blueberry yogurt is definitely starting to feel like a mistake."

Three others were in chairs alongside him; the speaker was Talia Beanfield, the Life Officer. Gilly glanced at her but she was recording herself on her phone. He was supposed to be recording clips, too. Service wanted to stitch them together into a behind-the-scenes feed of the launch ceremony.

She caught his eye and smiled. For most of the last half hour, Beanfield had been immersed in towels and clips. She looked good now, though. Her hair was artful and honey brown and glimmered as she moved. "Did you try the yogurt, Gilly?"

"No."

"Smart," she said to her phone. "This is why Gilly's Intel and I'm Life."

"I'm sorry," said the makeup woman. "I need to get in there." She stood between them and resumed her attack on Gilly's face.

"Stop giving the makeup people a hard time, Gilly," Beanfield said. "You and your unruly eyebrows."

"Eyebrow," said the woman. "It's only the right."

"A deviant," said Beanfield.

"Len's here," called a woman by the door. "Last looks, please!"

Gilly took the opportunity to check out the others. Jackson, the captain, was reclining with a white bib tucked around her neck, eyes closed, possibly asleep. She hadn't recorded any clips, either, as far as Gilly had noticed. Between her and Beanfield was Anders, the Weapons Officer. He had a shock of dark hair and light stubble and was probably the most handsome man Gilly had ever met. On the occasions Gilly hadn't been able to avoid seeing his own press, he was always struck by how out of place he looked, like a fan who'd won a contest to meet celebrities. Jackson, the war hero; Anders, the tortured dreamboat; Beanfield, the effortlessly charming social butterfly . . . and Gilly, a permanently startled-looking AI guy who couldn't find a good place to put his hands.

The door opened. A man in fatigues entered and clapped his hands. This was Len, their handler from Service: thirtyish and upbeat, carrying a little extra weight. "It's time. How's everybody feeling?"

"Like a painted whore," said Anders.

"That's perfect," said Len. "We're good to move, then, yes?"

"Yes," said Jackson, awake after all. She peeled off her bib and was at the door before the rest of them had managed to extract themselves from their makeup thrones. The silver-lipped woman stepped back and, for the first time in a while, looked into Gilly's eyes instead of around them.

"Good luck out there," she said.

The vanÕs windows were heavily tinted. But as they crossed the tarmac, Gilly caught sight of the shuttle gantry: a towering metal lattice that would launch them into the upper atmosphere. From there, they would rendezvous with the ship, which had recently finished its two-year construction in high orbit. They would then perform a monthlong burn, followed by a hard skip to join four other Providence-class battleships that were fighting an alien race farther away than anyone could imagine. Before any of that, though, was the part he was anxious about.

"Here's the rundown," said Len. "Your families will be seated to the right of the stage, all together. Feel free to give them a wave, blow them a kiss, whatever you like. You can do that at any point. But especially at the end, as you're leaving for the shuttle."

"I did my good-byes this morning," Gilly said.
There was a half second while Len tried to figure out whether he was joking. "Well, this is the one people see. So, you know, give them a wave."

"Yep, okay," he said.

"Like you mean it," said Len. "Like you're about to embark on a harrowing four-year mission to save the world and you might not see them again. You know what I mean?"

"Yes," Gilly said.

Len eyed him another moment, then turned to Anders. "Paul, there will be two empty seats beside your uncle."

Those would be for Anders's brothers, who had been lost in an earlier engagement of the war. There was a third brother who'd taken his own life, Gilly knew, as well as a father who had drunk himself to death. The only member of Anders's family to attend the launch was an uncle, who, when they'd been allowed to mingle this morning, had repeatedly squeezed Gilly's shoulder and entreated him to invest in his mattress store.

"The governor will deliver the opening address," said Len. "Six minutes. For this part, you just need to stand still and look attentive. We then have a two-minute spiritual but strictly nondenominational blessing, during which you may look down or skyward. Alternate between the two as your heart tells you. But please do not, repeat, not, make eye contact with families, wave at anyone, or give off the impression of being bored or distracted." He eyed Gilly. "Understood?"

"Got it."

"There are times when your bumbling obliviousness to protocol is seen as endearing," Len said. "I just want to make it clear: This would not be one of those times."

"I've got it," he said.

"I believe in you," Len said, and looked at Gilly a moment longer, which, Gilly felt, undermined the message. "After this, we get into the politicians and corporates." He rattled off a few names, only some of which Gilly recognized. He'd spent the last year being trained by Service but was still technically a civilian: an employee of Surplex, the company that had built the ship. Of the crew of four, he was the only one who didn't have a military background. He was also the youngest, at twenty-six, beating out Beanfield by six months.

"At one point, the admiral will refer to your husband," Len said to Jackson, who was gazing out the window at the gantry. She'd put on dark sunglasses, which made Gilly wonder how much she could see. The van's weak interior light carved lines into her face. Jackson had a decade over any of them, coming up on forty. "He may ask him to stand up, or may just call attention to him. Neither of you need to do anything. I just want you to know there will be this moment of acknowledgment."

"That's fine," said Jackson.

"Then the admiral will face you and say something like 'So are you up to the job?' And you'll say . . ." He pointed at Gilly.

"Well, our job is pretty simple," Gilly said. "When the ship detects salamanders, we attend station. Beanfield goes to Life, Anders to Weapons, Jackson to Command. I attend Intel, back where you can feel the engines. Then we pound everything in a thousand-mile radius into bite-size pieces."

"Rousing," Len said. "If, however, we want to sound a more upbeat note . . ."

Beanfield said, "We're going to spend every day working to repay the faith that nine billion people across two hundred countries have placed in us. If we're not up to it, we're sure going to try."

"Better. Maybe lose the part about two hundred countries."

"I always say that. Shouldn't I be inclusive?"

"As a rule, yes," said Len. "However, some of our international allies are yet to fully discharge their funding commitments for Providence Five, or, just between us, to begin discharging them at all, and the negotiations are ongoing. I'd like to steer clear of that whole area."

"Also there aren't two hundred countries," Gilly said. "I think it's one ninety-six."

Beanfield looked at him.

"I guess you were approximating," Gilly said.

"Also a fair point," said Len. "Let's not accidentally grant statehood to any unrecognized nations. Every flag on that stage has been carefully positioned so we can get an angle of the four of you with the Stars and Stripes behind and the ship visible above."

"Visible?" Gilly said. It was a popular idea that you could see the ships being built from Earth. But they were the tiniest of dots, little pinpricks distinguishable only at night.

"Sure," said Len, "after a few filters and adjustments."

"Oh," he said.

"And that's it," said Len. "Then it's a direct walk to the shuttle gantry and you don't have to worry about any of this bullshit anymore."

"There's always more bullshit," Anders said.

"That's true," Len said, "but this is the worst of it. Any questions?"

The van slowed and turned down a path marked by glowing orange cones. There was a rising white noise, which Gilly hoped was from the shuttle's engines but probably wasn't. Earlier today, during the family meet-and-greet, when tiny frilly nieces and nephews in dark suits were running around the legs of politicians and generals, one of his cousins had asked, Do you know how many people they say will be there? and Gilly had a rough idea, because the send-off crowds had been huge for every Providence launch, but before he could insist that he didn't want to know, the cousin had said, SEVENTY-FIVE THOUSAND. Gilly couldn't stop thinking about that. He might be able to pretend the broadcast audience didn't exist, but he was going to have trouble ignoring that many faces.

"Hey," Beanfield said, kicking his shin. "You'll be fine." She was smiling, and it did make him feel better, not just the smile, but the reminder that Beanfield made crew because she had preternatural people skills, to the point where she occasionally seemed to read his mind. They were all here because they were among the best in their fields. They'd been chosen by a sophisticated and demanding software-guided selection process. His presence wasn't an accident. He was where he was supposed to be.

The van stopped. The doors were pulled open. He stepped out into a light wind and a high sky and hundreds of people scurrying about in black caps and headsets. Between huge trucks were stacked crates and heavy equipment. A short distance away rose the back of the stage, fifty feet high and twice as long in either direction. Even so, he could see the crowd spilling around its edges, an indistinct mass like a single creature. The noise was like the rolling of an ocean.

"Flight crew have arrived at stage rear," said a woman in a black cap.

"How many people?" asked Beanfield.

"Latest estimate is eighty-five thousand," said Len. "We've had to open up the overflow areas."

"Oh, God," Gilly said.

"Don't sweat it. There'll be so many lights in your face, you won't be able to see a thing."

A drone buzzed over Len's shoulder and hung there, watching. Beanfield gave it a thumbs-up. Gilly turned away and peered skyward, trying to approximate the ship's location.

"Can you see it?" Beanfield said.

He shook his head. "Too bright."

"But it's there." She smiled.

The crowd gave a roar. Something must be happening onstage. A moment later, he heard a booming voice, echoing weirdly because all the speakers were facing the other way.

"All right," said Len. "This is where I leave you." He eyed them.

"Don't make it sappy," Anders said.

"I want you to know, you're the best troop of performing monkeys I've ever had," Len said. "In all seriousness, I've been nothing but impressed with the way you've carried yourselves through pre-launch. I know you didn't sign up for the media circus. It makes me very happy that we've reached the point where you can finally start doing your real jobs. I know you'll make every one of us you're leaving behind very proud."

"Don't make me cry," said Beanfield. "This makeup took hours."

"Jackson," said the woman in the cap, pointing where she wanted her to stand. "Then Beanfield. Anders. Gilligan."

"Gilly," he said. The announcer said something at the same time and the crowd roared and he didn't know if she heard him.

Len straightened into a salute. They returned it, even Gilly, who had never quite gotten the hang of it. The woman began to lead them toward the stage steps. When Gilly glanced back, Len was still holding the salute.

"There's one more step than you expect at the top," Len said. "Don't trip."

When it was over and he was strapped into a force-absorbing harness, his knees pointed skyward, blood draining toward the back of his head, he watched a wedge of blue sky turn black through thick polymer glass. The shuttle shook like an old carnival ride and roared like a waterfall but all of that was normal. It was actually comforting. He knew what to expect here.

"Look at Gilly," said Beanfield, her voice crackling through his earpiece. "He's more relaxed than he was onstage."

Anders laughed.

Jackson said, "Clearing the K‡rm‡n line. We're officially in space."

"This is the closest you'll be to home for four years," Gilly said. "And now this is. Now this is."

"This'll be a boring mission if you do that the whole time," said Anders. "How much longer to the ship?"

Gilly knew, but Jackson answered. "Three minutes until we reach synchronous orbit. Ten until we can pull alongside."

"Look," Beanfield said. "Stars."

"There have been stars for a while," Gilly said.

"But so many." She was right: The glass was full of them. It wasn't like home, where you gazed up at a sky scattered with a few bright pinpricks. Here was a city of endless lights. "And they don't twinkle."

"No atmosphere."

"Deceleration burn," Jackson said. "Brace yourselves."

The shuttle clunked and whined. An invisible hand curled around Gilly's body and pulled him forward. The harness creaked.

"Shit," said Anders suddenly.

"What?" said Jackson.

"I think I left my phone back there," he said. They laughed.

They established synchronous orbit ahead of the ship, so it was coming up behind them, drawing closer in a way they couldnÕt see. The shuttle had no artificial gravity; they would have to remain strapped in until they docked. Jackson called out distances until at last something white began to slide across the polymer glass, which Gilly recognized as a section of the ship dedicated to Materials Fabrication. Then came more, section after section, some stenciled with flags, some with designations. He knew the shipÕs design intimately but hadnÕt seen it firsthand since early in its construction, and felt surprise at its size. It was one thing to know it was three miles long and a touch over one million tons, another to see it.

Excerpted from Providence by Max Barry. Copyright © 2020 by Max Barry. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

About the Author:
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Max Barry is the author of six novels, including Jennifer Government, Company, Machine Man, and Lexicon. He is also the developer of the online nation simulation game NationStates. Prior to his writing career, Barry worked at the tech giant HP. He lives in Melbourne, Australia, with his wife and two daughters. To learn more, visit maxbarry.com or follow @MaxBarry on Twitter.


GIVEAWAY
The publisher is giving away a print copy of Providence (US only)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, March 30, 2020

Excerpt: Lilitu: The Memoirs of a Succubus by Jonathan Fortin

Lilitu: The Memoirs of a Succubus
by Jonathan Fortin
March 27, 2020
343 pages
Publisher: Crystal Lake Publishing
England, 1876. Twenty-year-old Maraina Blackwood has always struggled to adhere to the restrictive standards of Victorian society, denying the courage and desire that burn within her soul. But after a terrifying supernatural encounter, Maraina's instincts compel her to action.

Maraina soon discovers a plot to unleash a new world—one of demonic aristocrats, bloody rituals, and nightmarish monsters. Putting her upbringing aside, Maraina vows to fight the dark forces assuming control of England. But as her world transforms, Maraina finds that she too must transform...and what she becomes will bring out all that she once buried.

Lilitu: The Memoirs of a Succubus is the first chapter in an epic dark fantasy saga, proudly represented by Crystal Lake Publishing—Tales from the Darkest Depths. 



Excerpt from LILITU: THE MEMOIRS OF A SUCCUBUS
That night, I awoke to the sound of leathery wings. At first, I panicked, assuming that my room had been infested with bats. Then I noticed that my bedroom door had disappeared. So had the walls and the windows. There was only the bed, and the floor, and darkness.

I saw movement in the shadows beyond my bed. Something shifted around me, always in the corner of my eye, darting away whenever I turned to look. Slowly, I turned my head. For just a moment, I glimpsed a strong-jawed face, its eyes piercing into me with such intensity that I could not tell if it was out of rage or desire.

I awoke with a jolt. I was back in my room, in my bed—safe. But I did not feel relieved.

When I fell back asleep, the dream did not return.

I didn’t give the dream a great deal of thought the morning after. Unusually vivid though it had been, I had no reason to presume it had been anything other than my imagination. I’d had a strange experience with a creature on the road; it only made sense that I would have nightmares after.

So I went about my day as usual: reading, listening to Gladys gossip, and eating with my family.

But that night, the dream returned...and this time, it went further. After the familiar sound of fluttering wings, a lump formed in the sheets next to me. I felt paralyzed, unable to move, though I was not entirely sure I wanted to. I felt a tickle of pressure against the small of my back, as if something had brushed against it. I reached into the space behind me, searching for whatever might be there, until a hand clasped around mine. I felt the softest kiss against the back of my neck, and shivered in pleasure. At the same time, I was frightened by the delightful sensations. Was it sinful to enjoy this? Was this the same pleasure Amelia had succumbed to?

Blushing in shame, I pulled away—and then awoke as abruptly as before, breathing so hard I thought I was choking.

My dreams didn’t often repeat themselves, and this one was unusually disconcerting. Yet, for reasons I was too ashamed to admit, I found myself hoping the dream would return. I’d always hungered for affection—yearned to be held, kissed, and utterly loved, like the beautiful princesses I’d read about in stories. To briefly taste that pleasure, only to have it torn away, was more torturous than I could have imagined.

I felt like I’d been granted a drop of water after centuries of thirst—just enough to make me want more.

The dream returned on the third night as well. Just as before, the presence floated around me like a spectre, tentatively reaching out to touch me. This time, I let it.

I let those ghostly hands trace the curve of my hip, somehow beneath my nightgown, even though it had not been pulled up. I let them caress their way up to my breasts. I let them run through my hair, pulling it aside to reveal my neck.

The sensation was wonderful, but I still did not know whether I should allow myself to enjoy it. If a man I was not married to touched me this way in reality, it would be sinful. But did I have any reason to fear sin, if it only happened in a dream?

The presence returned the following night. And the night after that. And the night after that. Before long it had been over a week, and not a single night passed where I did not feel its touch. And each night, it explored further, touching more and more of my body.

I could no longer tell myself that it was a mere dream. Part of me knew that I was foolish to let it in, but another part was desperate to return to its arms each night. In truth, I feared these dreams would prove to be the closest thing I would ever have to a man’s affections, and I did not want them to stop. Strange and terrible things were happening in England, and in the waking world I had no one to turn to for support. But when I slept, the nightmares were there to comfort me. Their wrongness made them feel right. Their darkness made them a lantern for my lonely nights.

The dreams became all I thought about that month. Father continued to remind us about the upcoming concerto, Mother continued to brood, and Gladys avoided me whenever possible, but I scarcely noticed these things. All that mattered was returning to sleep.

I began leaving dinner early, so that I could go to bed sooner. Each night, as soon as there was a lull in my family’s discussion, I let out a feeble cough and asked if I could be excused.

“Again?” Mother asked one night.

“I’m afraid so,” I said. “I feel terribly ill.”

“But you seemed to be feeling so much better this morning. And the doctor found nothing wrong with you.”

“Perhaps this disease only occurs at night,” I said, keeping my voice soft so I would sound frail.

“I have never heard of such a thing in my life,” said Mother. “Have you, Benjamin?”

Father shook his head. “You’ve been leaving dinner early for weeks now, Maraina. How long do you think this will last?”

“I don’t know, Papa,” I said. “I only know that I require sleep. I apologize for distressing you.”

Trying to look as exhausted as I could, I went to my room, and changed into my nightgown without the help of a servant. Then I crawled into bed and waited impatiently for the fluttering sound.

I never moaned aloud, though sometimes my body yearned to do so. My back would arch, my muscles would tense, and my teeth would clench. I would ache for a release I did not yet understand. It was strange, how the slightest, subtlest touch could yield such a reaction.

The presence hadn’t broken my virtue, and I told myself that this made it acceptable. But each night, it went further, giving me more shameful pleasure than the night before. And I knew that someday, if I let it, it would corrupt me.

The most disturbing thing of all was, I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to stop that from happening.

About the Author:
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Jonathan Fortin is an author and voice actor located in the San Francisco Bay Area.

He the author of Lilitu: The Memoirs of a Succubus, Requiem In Frost, and Nightmarescape. A lifelong lover of spooky Gothic stories, Jonathan was named the "Next Great Horror Writer" in 2017 by HorrorAddicts.net. He attended the Clarion Writing Program in 2012, one year after graduating summa cum laude from San Francisco State University's Creative Writing program.

For his voice-over work, Jonathan has studied at VoiceTrax in Sausalito.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Story Behind the Story: Heir to the Underworld: The New Gods of Olympus, Book 1 by JB Dennis

Like most of my generation, Disney’s animated movies played a large role in our formative years. They gave us brave heroes to admire, catchy songs to sing, witty lines to laugh at, and (at least for me) acted as our electronic babysitters. We were, for good or ill, molded by our love for Disney. In fact, it’s because of a Disney movie that you are reading this post.

Before 2002 my favorite Disney movie was Aladdin, thanks in no small part to the talents of the late Robin Williams. However, I, unfortunately, wasn't lucky enough to have that movie in my possession. So, instead of watching Aladdin on rewind, I had to settle for my second favorite movie at the time, Hercules. It was funny, clever, and dripping with personality. I consider it one of Disney’s best. I mention this because I want you to be left in no doubt that I truly do love this movie. However, DISNEY GOT IT WRONG!

A natural part of growing up is the shattering of certain childhood illusions. Storks don’t deliver babies to expectant parents, rainbows don’t lead to pots of gold, and Santa Claus doesn't deliver presents all around the world. That's Amazon's job. This simple fact of life is no less true when it comes to Disney movies. I can't exactly blame them for a more childish interpretation of Greek mythology. The myths surround Zeus and Hera alone are enough to give children nightmares for months. And yet, I still have a problem, a major sticking point of contention, if you will. My problem is Hades. 

Sure, Hades made a great villain. He was funny, fast-talking, temperamental, and sleazy. The perfect combination of traits to engage the masses of juvenile minds under the, somewhat monopolistic, sway of Disney Animation. Eventually, however, those minds grow up and they find Wikipedia. In true Greek mythology, Hades was not a villain. True, some saw him as such because of his association with the dead but every myth regarding the god of the Underworld showed him to be a gracious host, a loving husband, and a fair ruler (at least, as fair as a Greek god could be). And yet, despite the fact that Hades was one of the better gods, he is often characterized as petty, spiteful, jealous, and (in some case) evil. In fact, I can count on one hand the number of versions of Hades I’ve seen in which he is portrayed in a positive light and still have several fingers left over. Enough is enough. It’s time to put down another finger. 


Of course, my burning desire to give Hades his day is not the only thing I cover in my book. Heir to the Underworld has a diverse cast of 14 main characters across several different nationalities, sexualities, and socio-economic backgrounds. Yes, you read that right, 14. And to answer your next question, “Yes, I know I’m insane.” So, if you are interested in a character-driven story about Greek mythology, I invite you to give me a chance. Also, I got Hades right. And, if you disagree with me on that fact, then, in the vernacular of today's youth, "Fight me!"



Heir to the Underworld: The New Gods of Olympus, Book 1
by JB Dennis
January 14, 2020
242 pages
Fourteen young mortals find themselves the unexpected heirs to the powers of the ancient Greek gods. Benjamin Darke, the new god of the dead, soon discovers that being a god isn’t as easy as one might expect.








About the Author
Twitter
JB Dennis has been obsessed with Greek mythology ever since he watched Disney's Hercules.  This started a lifelong study of the various gods, goddesses, monsters, and heroes that make-up, in his opinion, the greatest series of stories ever told.  The New Gods of Olympus series is JB's way of sharing his love for the Greek mythos with a new generation.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

The Badass Female Characters of Big Cranky by James Pyne + giveaway

The Badass Female Characters of Big Cranky
Was it planned that way? Nope. But the women in my life have always had been strong with an edge to them. With characters like Athena, Lilith, Muerte, Calliope, Medusa, Hera, there are no shortage of female characters in Book 1 who bring their game and I wonder how much the women in my life have influenced these characters? It’s a given the Misses in my head (my Muse) has a lot of say in it but I think there’s a little of my mother and sister in some of those female characters, along with every other woman who’s left a positive mark on me.

Though the female angels are smaller, they have bite, and at times, can hang with their male counterparts and even better them. They don’t shy from speaking their mind and can protect their nest and younglings without the help of their husbands.

If I had to pick a favorite female character from Book 1, it would be Muerte. Without her spunk, the leader of the Death Angels, Gabriel, wouldn’t be the angel he becomes. Some might argue that’s a bad thing. But come on, folks, live a little. 😊 There’s Athena, a disgruntled daughter who was abandoned by Zeus as a youngling . . . she has quite the chip on her shoulder. Without giving much away, Calliope and Medusa are game changers. Hera, well we all know she can’t help herself but cause trouble. And Lilith is Lucifer’s other half, together they are a force to reckon with.


Big Cranky: Fall Into Darkness 
by James Pyne
July 15, 2019
331 pages
Genre: Dark Mythological Fantasy, Action
Forget everything you think you know about myths and legends, James Pyne’s Big Cranky connects them all in an epic web of deceitful betrayal, love, and loyalty. A capricious tale of gods, showing human quirks are not only wasted on the mortals. A tale of many deities treading lightly around a superior as the world begins.




About the Author:
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James Pyne hails from Nova Scotia, Canada, and has been a scribe for the Universe much of his life. He's a firm believer in being able to write in every genre, to make his world building and characters hopefuly come out genuine. No matter what he writes it will have some form of darkness, nothing is pure light in any worlds James creates and rumor has it, his surviving characters are plotting his demise. When it comes to his past time, much of it is spent learning the craft, but he does enjoy gardening and playfully tormenting those he loves. When he's not writing, or working his day job, he's traveling. The Andalusia region of Spain the last place that tolerated him.

Favorite authors: John Gardner (Grendel, Sunlight Dialogues). Fyodor Dostoevsky (The Brothers Karamazov). Clive Barker (Imajica, Weaveworld, Books of Blood). Terry Pratchett (Good Omens, Bad Omens). J.R.R. Tolkien (Lord of the Rings). And all the scribes who carried on the tradition of myths throughout the ages.


Follow the tour HERE for special content and a giveaway!
$25 Amazon – 2 winners! 

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Friday, March 27, 2020

Cover Reveal: Spells for the Dead (A Soulwood Novel Book 5) by Faith Hunter

Another incredibly beautiful Soulwood series cover!

Spells for the Dead (A Soulwood Novel Book 5)

by Faith Hunter
July 28, 2020
Publisher: Ace
Nell Ingram faces a dark magic with no known origin in the newest pulse-pounding paranormal procedural in the New York Times bestselling Soulwood series.

Nell is a rookie PsyLED agent, using the powers she can channel from deep within the earth to solve paranormal crimes. Together with her team, she's taken on the direst magic and the most twisted foes. But she'll need to tap into every ounce of power she has for her newest case.

Nell is called to the Tennessee mansion of a country music star and finds a disturbing scene—dead bodies rapidly decaying before everyone's eyes. The witch on her team, T. Laine, has never seen magic that can steal life forces like this. PsyLED needs to find this lethal killer fast. But when a paranormal-hating FBI agent tries to derail the investigation, and the dark magics begin to spiral out of control, they find themselves under attack from all sides.



About the Author:
Gwen Hunter
New York Times and USAToday bestselling fantasy author Faith Hunter was born in Louisiana and raised all over the south. Altogether she has 40+ books in print under the names Gary Hunter, Gwen Hunter, and Faith Hunter. As Faith, she writes two contemporary Urban Fantasy series: the Jane Yellowrock series, featuring a Cherokee skinwalker who hunts rogue vampires, and the Soulwood series, featuring earth magic user Nell Ingram. Her Rogue Mage novels are a dark, post-apocalyptic, fantasy series featuring Thorn St. Croix, a stone mage. The role playing game based on the series, is ROGUE MAGE, RPG.

Character Muse-ings: Author Alicia Anthony talks with her muse + giveaway

Hi, everyone! Thanks so much for having me on I Smell Sheep. I am honored to be here celebrating the release of INHERENT LIES, the second installment of the Blood Secrets series. This book begins across the pond, in Ireland, so I’d intended to give you and your readers a little insight into the inspiration behind it, but let’s just say my muse had other ideas. Call it pandemic paranoia or quarantine crazy, but every time I sat down to pen this post, the hero of the Blood Secrets Trilogy, Ridge McCaffrey, kept butting in, so I finally gave in and let him take the lead. Hope you don’t mind this little snapshot into of one of our recent creative differences. 😉

***

Ridge McCaffrey stepped into my office as I typed. His body filled the doorway behind me in what had become a familiar routine. He leaned over my shoulder and the scent of him wrapped around me. Freshly showered with a hint of musk, he tapped a finger on the computer screen.

“Look at this. You’re making me look like an arrogant ass. I would never say that to Liv. If you keep this up the readers are going to hate me.”

“They won’t hate you,” I soothed. “You have to trust me, remember? I know where this is going.”

I watched in the reflection of my computer monitor as Ridge crossed well-toned arms over his white t-shirt, pulling himself up to his full 6’2”.

“You’re asking a lot of me, Anthony. Trust isn’t exactly my forte, remember? Do I need to remind you that the word ‘irredeemable’ has been tossed around in the same sentence as my name?”

I laughed and turned from my computer screen. “You are hardly ‘irredeemable,’ Ridge.” I drug my gaze over the ex-agent who’d selected me to chronicle his life. “Besides, you picked me, remember? Not the other way around. Writers don’t get to pick their muses.”

“Muse.” He chuckled, the dimple in his right cheek making a welcome appearance. “Is that all I am to you?”

He raised his hands in surrender, his cerulean eyes piercing my resolve. His shirt stretched over the muscles in his chest and breath caught in my lungs, a flush of heat surging to my cheeks. He was right. It was no wonder Liv had fallen so hard, so fast. And her instincts were right. There was definitely more to Ridge McCaffrey than met the eye. I cleared my throat and turned back to the computer screen, tamping down the flicker of excitement in my core.

“What would you have me do? Write you a boring little storyline? Let you ride off into the sunset with Liv without so much as a quarrel?”

“Wouldn’t be all bad, would it?” he asked, the baritone of his voice sinking through me, stoking the fire that I’d handed off to Liv, my fingers flying over the keyboard.

“You have to work at it, Ridge.” I sensed him move closer, his hand on the back of my chair as I typed. “You have to deserve it,” I said, breathing him in.

“So what are you going to make me do in this book? Reject her? Abandon her? Throw her to the wolves?”
I shrugged. A smile playing at the corners of my lips as I tipped the screen in his direction. He bent over me, eyes widening as they skimmed the newly penned scene. Ridge exhaled a curse.

“See,” I said. “She’s proven herself, Ridge. It’s your turn to suffer.”
😈

***

Inherent Truth (Blood Secrets Book 1) by Alicia Anthony
January 14, 2020
358 pages
A woman with buried secrets...
An agent with an impossible mission...
An inheritance that will destroy them both...

When Liv Sullivan’s grandmother beckons for help from beyond the grave, the reluctant psychic returns to her small Ohio hometown. Scrambling to make sense of the clues left by the vision, Liv finds herself face to face with undercover agent, Ridge McCaffrey.

Assigned to protect a woman whose gifts unnerve him, for a covert psychic intelligence operation he doesn't understand, Ridge struggles to place duty over desire. But when a gruesome discovery is unearthed at Sullivan Farm, the truth becomes clear...

Some family secrets are best left buried.

Inherent Truth is the first book in the gripping new Blood Secrets psychological thriller series about the cost of truth and the price we pay for love. If you like pulse-pounding page-turners laced with a touch of romance, and shocking twists that will leave you dying for the sequel, Alicia Anthony’s thrilling debut is for you.

Books 1 and 2 of the Blood Secrets series are available at all major online retailers.
Book 3, Inherent Fate, is coming soon.

About the Author:
Alicia Anthony’s first novels were illegible scribbles on the back of her truck-driver father’s logbook trip tickets. Having graduated from scribbles to laptop, she now pens novels of romantic and psychological suspense in the quiet of the wee morning hours. A full-time elementary school Literacy Specialist, Alicia hopes to pass on her passion for books and writing to the students she teaches. Her works of fiction have been nominated for numerous awards, including the Golden Heart®, Claymore, and Daphne DuMaurier Award for Mystery/Suspense. Alicia’s most recent release, Inherent Lies, was a Golden Heart® Finalist and Silver Quill Award winner. Alicia finds her inspiration in exploring the dark, dusty corners of the human experience.


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To celebrate the release of INHERENT LIES by Alicia Anthony, one lucky I Smell Sheep reader will win a $15 Amazon gift card and winner’s choice of INHERENT TRUTH or INHERENT LIES (Ebook).

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