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Friday, June 28, 2024

Excerpt: The Accidental Sereph (Carran Hollow Fated Mate, #1) by Maci Aurora + giveaway


The Accidental Sereph (Carran Hollow Fated Mate, #1)
by Maci Aurora
June 25th 2024
Genres: Adult, Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance
When Atlas Black, a bad boy with a reputation in Carran Hollow, walks into The Hole-in-the-Wall bar investigating a demon sighting, it’s mostly business as usual until he comes face-to-face with his calix—his fated-mate. Except Ivy Day, oblivious to the world of seraphs and demons, thinks she’s stranded in Carran Hollow because a stupid bus has broken down. She just needs a ride to get to the next bus in order to get to her sister across the country. While the guy in the bar hitting on her is hotter than any human has the right to be, unless he’ll give her a lift, she doesn’t have any patience for anything else. But little does she know, Atlas is about to take her on the ride of her life—that is, as long as they can get through the demons.
 

EXCERPT:
[Rome] pulls his phone from his pocket and glances at it. “Bus coming into the Hollow.”

Samson and I groan. Buses mean tourists. Obnoxious tourists drag in the demon riff-raff hiding among them, and they aren’t usually the organized kind, but rather the fledgling demons or the deserters attached to the taedae, unsighted humans.

“Not it,” Samson says.

“How’s that injury?” Rome asks me.

“Not an injury,” I repeat. “How many times do I have to say it?”

Rome looks me over, eyes narrowed, as if he can see beyond my skin and bones. “Fine,” he relents. “You go into town. Wait for the bus to roll in, see if any demons have hitched a ride.” He points at me. “But don’t engage, not without backup.”

I’m already walking over to the cabinet, pulling on my harness, sliding a sharpened dagger into a sheath, along with another into my boot. “Me? Engage?” I glance at my bow but leave it, knowing I probably won’t need it. Those off the bus are rarely difficult to dispatch. I glance at Rome with a smile. “Never.”

Samson laughs.

I shrug into my black leather jacket and grab my helmet before I’m out the door, headed for the heart of town. After driving past Lowry’s Gas and Sundries, where the bus stops, and seeing the hulking, metal can is already empty, I ride down Main. I park my bike, cross to the other side, and duck into The Hole in the Wall, a small bar sandwiched between a diner called The Getaway, and a witchy souvenir shop that sells Carran Hollow guidebooks. One of these three establishments is often the first stop for tourists, and thereby their parasitic demons, when they reach town.

My eyes adjust to the dark. There’s an older guy playing guitar near the door. The shiny wooden bar is on the left and runs the length of the room. There are a few people lined up along the counter, atop barstools. Booths—mostly empty—line the right wall, and in between is a stretch of space big enough to walk between the two. I’ve been here before. I have been in every single shop in Carran Hollow, every single home—though the owners haven’t known I was there. The Hollow is my town.

The locals glance at me then look away, giving me a wide berth. They might know me. They might know I’m a Black. If they don’t, they feel it—that sensation skittering across their skin telling them danger is near. That’s all that’s needed.


About the Author:
Website-Instagram Romance author.

Lover of stories.

Maci Aurora has been writing stories since she was a child. When she was eleven, she fell in love with reading Sunfire Historical Romances about girls who made a difference in their lives and still fell in love. In high school, a friend introduced her to Lavyrle Spencer and Judith McNaught, and from there, her writing journey was cemented in telling stories about love. Having already published many novels (all of which are threaded with romance as upper YA and New Adult titles) under the pen name, CL Walters, Maci Aurora wanted to write stories that offered the same attention to story and characters but with additional steam.

Maci writes in HawaiĘ»i where she lives with her husband, their children, and their fur-babies. 
 
GIVEAWAY
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eBook copy of In the Shadow of a Wish

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Thursday, June 27, 2024

Cover Reveal: Vesselless (The Merciless Realms Series Book 1) by Cortney L. Winn

"For fans of Fourth Wing, Serpent and Wings of Night, and From Blood and Ash"

Vesselless (The Merciless Realms Series Book 1)
by Cortney L. Winn
March 23, 2024
Genre: Fantasy romance, new adult
She’s heiress to the throne. The throne her father stole from him.

Nizzara has always been able to perceive spirits better than the average caster. When she enters a deadly tournament to end her betrothal, she's determined to win without succumbing to the addictive spirit magic she channels or taking a life in the duel ring. Finding herself outmatched, Nizzara must face her fear of power and team up with Dagen—an enemy who is half-ghost and all charm—to survive the tournament.

Dagen, the last King of Zarr, was killed by Nizzara’s father ten years ago. Now a half-ghost—able to phase between his human and spirit form—he is stuck in another realm, hunting wretched souls. When his keeper offers him a chance to reclaim his freedom in exchange for Nizzara’s soul, Dagen takes the deal.

There’s only one catch: she must freely give it to him by the tournament’s end or his own soul is forfeit.



Fourth Wing meets The Serpent of Wings & Night in the first instalment of this action packed romantasy as they deal with the bargain hanging over their heads. Family, love, power and deception collide as Nizarra and Dagen make decisions that could change their realm forever.

Amazon

About the Author:

website
Hi I'm Cortney!

I'm a mom to two wild boys, wife to my best friend, and writer of my favorite genres: romance and fantasy.

Most days you'll find me in jeans and a hoodie (even if it's warm outside) with a Diet Coke nearby.

Twilight sparked my journey into books and writing, and I'll read anything except horror. But, not to exclude Stephen King, I read (and loved) his book, On Writing.

My work has been influenced by Rebecca Yarros, Brigid Kemmerer, Brandon Sanderson, Carissa Broadbent, Victoria Aveyard, Sarah J. Maas, and so many others. I write early in the mornings, starting my day at 4:30 and end it with reading, which consists of a lot of textbooks right now as I near the completion of my bachelor's degree in marketing.

My two favorite quotes are:
"You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems." -James Clear

and​

"A ship is safe in harbor, but that's not what ships are built for."

-William G. T. Shedd


Wednesday, June 26, 2024

Our Little Monster (Deviant Desires Series) by Lashell Rain

Our Little Monster (Deviant Desires Series)
by Lashell Rain
May 28, 2024
Genre: A Why Choose Vampire Romance, paranormal romance
đź’€Monster Hunter FMC
🕱Touch Her & Di3
🏆She Saves Them
❓Why Choose MFM
🧛Vampires

She doesn't know whether to kill them or keep them...
In a world where monsters lurk in the shadows, Serina Velika is a hunter, born and raised to keep the balance between humans and everything that goes bump in the night.

But no one is safe in the dark.

When vampires viciously attack her and her father, she is left shattered and bleeding on the forest floor, forced to bear witness to the horrifying scene as they mercilessly take her father’s life. The one person who anchored her is gone and now she has nothing left to lose.

She embarks on a mission for vengeance, keeping her heart guarded and her loved ones at arm’s length. But fate has other plans.

After eight months of little to no answers, Serina crosses paths with three captivating vampires—Bastian, Nox, and Thorne, who propose an intriguing deal. With no other options, she reluctantly allows them into her life and is thrust into a world of deception, unaware that with every shared moment her resolve weakens and her emotions ignite like wildfire.

Will their love conquer all, or will her need for vengeance tear them apart? Dive into this thrilling adventure where passion ignites, bonds are tested, and a new dawn of hope awaits.

Amazon

About the author
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Lashell Rain is a foodie fueled by a shameless amount of caffeine and a passion for storytelling. The Texas native lives at home with her two beautiful kids. Between being a mom by day, and a writer by night, she brought her dreams of becoming an author into a reality–by the seat of her pants.

Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Fantasy: Aultemus by Mike Burke

Welcome to the book tour for Aultemus by Mike Burke. Read on for more details! 
 
Aultemus

by Mike Burke
February 22, 2024
Genre: Fantasy/ Mythical Creatures
Lightning, but not from the sky. From the trees, from maybe even your friend. Magic is woven into everything in this reality; from the birds (they don't like you calling them that) in the sky, to the rocks deep in the earth.

Aultemus, Syora, Railo, and Feuson have to set out in this reality, but this is their reality, and they're quite fond of it. They have their own struggles clawing at their minds but that's why they're together.

There's someone who plans to get rid of magic in their world, the magic that makes it special, turning a blind eye to the sacrifices they must make to reach their goal. The adventurers want to stop him but is that why they're really doing it? Is it the right thing to do to stop someone doing evil things, or are we all in it because of the sunk-cost? Can we even overcome our true nature with all the magic in the universe?



X: @burkencraft @RRBookTours1
IG: @rrbooktours
#rrbooktours #fantasybooks #fantasyreads
 

Monday, June 24, 2024

Fantasy Author Gail Z. Martin: It’s a Wrap—Writing the Final Book in a Series

It’s a Wrap—Writing the Final Book in a Series
By Gail Z. Martin

As a reader, I love series. When I find characters and a world that I really love, I want to pitch a tent, move in, and stay for a long time. I’ve always loved immersive fictional worlds and characters with sufficient depth that you learn new things about them and see new angles as you get to know them better.

So it made sense that as an author, I wanted to create those detailed worlds and characters so I could share that kind of experience with readers. I knew that, as a reader, finishing a series left me with ‘book drop’, a sense of loss and emptiness, missing and even grieving fictional characters. I hadn’t realized that the same would be true, even more so, as an author.

I’ve wrapped up two fantasy series recently, Darkhurst and Assassins of Landria. On one level, they couldn’t be more different. Darkhurst is dark and gritty. Assassins of Landria is epic fantasy bromance, Butch and Sundance as medieval assassins. I loved writing both series, and the characters will always live in my mind.

The Darkhurst trilogy is the story of the Valmonde brothers, undertakers who become tangled up in much bigger issues when monsters start killing their family and friends. Once they begin fighting the monsters, they realize that the stakes are higher, the lies bigger, and the reality much darker than they ever imagined. While Darkhurst is a bit darker than my other series, there is always hope and the bonds of family and friendship are strong enough to overcome all obstacles. Although I don’t have plans at the moment for anything else in this universe, I never say never!

The Assassins of Landria is different from my other epic fantasy series in that the books are shorter (about 250 pages), fewer point-of-view characters (two instead of four or five) and a little more humorous. I have had so many people come up to my table at conventions and heft one of my doorstopper books in hand and tell me that they used to love to read epic fantasy but no longer have the time.

So I wrote Assassins to be a little shorter and funnier than my regular epics, but with all the feels and worldbuilding of the longer books. It’s buddy-flick epic fantasy. Orphan best friends Ridge and Rett rise through the ranks of the army to become the most feared assassins in the land, tasked with protecting the king. But when a wandering mystic foments treason among the aristocrats, Ridge and Rett go rogue to save the kingdom—and find themselves on the most-wanted list!

Over their six-book series, Ridge and Rett stop the bad guys, protect Landria, and redeem their reputation, with a lot of humor and swashbuckling adventure along the way. There will be four more series-adjacent books set in the same world as prequels that tell the stories of two important pairs of allies. The books will be released under my Morgan Brice pen name.

I love my characters even as I put them through all sorts of anguish on their path to triumph. Now that these series are finished, I have plenty more tales to tell and worlds to build that I hope you’ll enjoy!

Be sure to watch for my new books coming soon in the Deadly Curiosities and Night Vigil worlds, as well as the Joe Mack Chronicles, Wasteland Marshals, and Spells, Salt and Steel series that I co-write with Larry N. Martin!

And please check out the newly updated Chronicles of the Necromancer books (The Summoner, The Blood King, Dark Haven, Dark Lady’s Chosen) now in trade paperback and hard cover (for the first time!) as well as ebook and audiobook. Two different limited-edition seventeenth anniversary editions with new cover art are available only on our Square store.


The Darkhurst Series

Assassins of Landria Series

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Follow me on Facebook in the Shadow Alliance reader group (www.Facebook.com/Groups/MartinShadowAlliance),  X/Twitter, @MorganBriceAuthor on Instagram and @MorganBriceAuthor on TikTok!
Gail Z. Martin writes urban fantasy, epic fantasy, steampunk and more for Solaris Books, Orbit Books, Falstaff Books, SOL Publishing and Darkwind Press. Urban fantasy series include Deadly Curiosities and the Night Vigil (Sons of Darkness). Epic fantasy series include Darkhurst, the Chronicles Of The Necromancer, the Fallen Kings Cycle, the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga, and the Assassins of Landria.

Together with Larry N. Martin, she is the co-author of Iron & Blood, Storm & Fury (both Steampunk/alternate history), the Spells Salt and Steel comedic horror series, the Roaring Twenties monster hunter Joe Mack Shadow Council series, and the Wasteland Marshals near-future post-apocalyptic series. As Morgan Brice, she writes urban fantasy MM paranormal romance, with the Witchbane, Badlands, Treasure Trail, Kings of the Mountain and Fox Hollow series. Gail is also a con-runner for ConTinual, the online, ongoing multi-genre convention that never ends.

Character Confessions: Langston's vent session with his author Morgan Sterling + excerpt

Langston’s Vent Session with Morgan

Langston: Hey, Morgan. We need to talk.
Morgan: Oh no, what did I do now?

Langston: You know exactly what you did. You made me an astrophysics professor—cool, I can handle that. But did you have to make me so awkward around women?
Morgan: (laughs) Well, Langston, you needed some flaws to be relatable. No one likes a perfect character.

Langston: Relatable? Is that why you had me nearly choke on my words every time I tried to talk to Aurora in the beginning?
Morgan: Hey, it's called building tension. Besides, you turned out pretty smooth once you got comfortable. Remember that lecture scene?

Langston: (rolls eyes) Oh, you mean the one where I was so nervous I almost dropped my laser pointer? Real smooth.
Morgan: You did great! Aurora was totally into it.

Langston: Speaking of Aurora, why did you have to make her so perfect? She's talented, gorgeous, and confident. I felt like an awkward teenager all over again!
Morgan: Perfect? Aurora has her own insecurities and issues. She's just good at hiding them, unlike someone who fumbles with his glasses during a serious conversation.

Langston: (sighs) You just had to bring that up, didn't you? Anyway, there are a few backstory details you left out. Like the time I almost set the lab on fire trying to impress a girl in college.
Morgan: Oh really? Do tell!

Langston: Well, I was trying to show off my skills with a Bunsen burner and some fancy chemical reactions. Let's just say it ended with the fire alarm going off and me spending a week cleaning the lab.
Morgan: (laughs) See, these are the kinds of stories that make you relatable. Besides, look at how far you’ve come.

Langston: True, true. But you could have given me a break. Like that time you had me debating whether to call Aurora after ---our first date. I had a full-on meltdown!
Morgan: (smirking) It was endearing. And it showed your vulnerable side.

Langston: Vulnerable, huh? What about when you made me spill coffee on myself right before a big presentation?
Morgan: Okay, that was just funny. Even heroes need to have bad days.

Langston: Yeah, yeah. Speaking of bad days, did you really have to make my mom so meddling? I love her, but the way she pushes me towards Aurora...
Morgan: She just wants you to be happy. Plus, it adds some comic relief.

Langston: Fine, I’ll give you that one. But you owe me a few more wins in the next book. Maybe a scene where I’m not a total klutz?
Morgan: Deal. But you know, Langston, it’s your imperfections that make readers fall in love with you.

Langston: (smiles) I guess so. But next time, could you at least let me keep my dignity intact during romantic moments?
Morgan: I’ll see what I can do. But no promises!

Langston: Figures. Alright, I’ve had my rant. Just remember, a little more finesse next time, please?
Morgan: Noted. Now go win over Aurora again.

Langston: (grinning) With pleasure.

Stellar Harmony (A Nerdy Love Affair Book 1)

by Morgan Sterling
May 31, 2024
Genre: Urban Romance
ISBN: 9798883229052
ASIN: B0CW1BH188
Number of pages: 211
Word Count: 59,926
Cover Artist: Morgan Sterling
An Urban Romance Written In The Stars

In the vibrant streets of Chicago, Langston, an astrophysics professor, and Aurora, a gifted musician, find solace in each other's embrace. But as their love blossoms, they must confront societal pressures and personal demons. Will they find harmony in the chaos of their lives? Dive into this captivating urban romance filled with passion, self-discovery, and the wonders of the cosmos.


Excerpt:
We reached across the table to clink our glasses together.

"No one understands me either," we said in unison.

I blushed. His scent of fresh soap and spiced cologne intoxicated me as if I could taste it on my tongue.

The server asked if we needed another round, but we both declined. Langston waved him off kindly and said we should get some air.

Outside, the cool night air felt good against my skin. The stars twinkled above us, and Langston pointed out constellations like reading a book. Orion, Cassiopeia, and others. I let out a small gasp when he told me there was one that resembled a man with a star for a crown.

"Wow. That's the first time anyone's ever shown me that," I whispered, goosebumps prickling my arms.

He smiled. "Imagine how people used to look up at stars, see images, paint pictures." He blew out a breath in a cloud in the cold air. His nose was starting to turn red. He looked adorable. But he didn't seem to notice the cold as he looked up. "Fantasies in the sky."

He looked down at me but said nothing as he wrapped his arms around himself to stay warm.

"So, tell me about your fantasies," he murmured into the silence.

"Huh?" I blinked, caught off guard by his directness.

He chuckled. "You know, what do you like to dream about when the stars come out? What turns you on?" His voice was deep and husky, sending shivers down my spine.

"I don't know," my eyes lowered nervously. "I've never really thought about it." My cheeks flushed as I realized how naive that sounded.

"I don't think that's true," he began, taking my hand into both of his. He blew onto them, his hot breath hitting my cold skin. And his lips, so soft, brushed against the palm of my hand.

A moment later Langston pulled me in for a warm kiss. When our lips met, a fire ignited, spreading like wildfire through my veins. Langston's mouth moved against mine with a fervor that matched the intensity of the kiss. His lips were soft and pliant, molding perfectly to mine.

I tasted the remnants of the wine on his lips, an intoxicating blend mingling with the sweetness of his breath. His heat enveloped me, seeping into my skin. Gathering my hair peeking from under my hat, he tangled it in his fingers, willing my head back, my lips parted. His other hand slipped past my bomber jacket, onto my butt, pulling me closer.

A moan escaped me instinctually. It was all he needed to pull me in further, his tongue exploring my mouth.

My pulse pulsed, feeling him press against me.

"God damn it," he said, pulling away, searching my eyes as I searched his back for answers to unasked questions.

"I think- I think I should head home." I took wobbly steps back, cold air rushing between us. I did not come to Chicago for this - the last thing I needed.

I waved briefly and left him confused on the cold Chicago street. And if he felt only a pinch of what I did, I also left him horny as hell.

About the Author:

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Explore the captivating narratives of Morgan Sterling, a seasoned wordsmith whose storytelling prowess transcends boundaries. Spanning various genres, from contemporary to paranormal and urban romance, Morgan's narratives challenge conventional norms, spotlighting the allure of imperfection. Within Morgan's literary universe, characters are intricately layered, diverging from traditional romantic archetypes. Here, protagonists may embody antiheroic traits, and heroines navigate their journeys with authenticity and fortitude, illustrating the boundless nature of true love.

As a minority woman blerd (black nerd) with a penchant for romance and an imaginative flair, Morgan draws from personal encounters to craft authentic and diverse tales. Motivated by a quest for representation in literature, Morgan embarked on a creative odyssey to fill a void, merging romance with the fantastical realms of science fiction and fantasy.

Beyond her literary endeavors, Morgan is a polymath of varied interests. From indulging in cosplay to immersing herself in anime, comic books, and lingerie, she draws inspiration from her eclectic passions, infusing her creative process with vivacious energy. Influenced by literary luminaries like Octavia Butler, Dean Koontz, and Rebecca Roanhorse, Morgan's narratives transport readers to both familiar and fantastical worlds, captivating them until the last page.

Morgan lives in the Southern United States, but fully embraces her 1st generation status as a Caribbean-American. Though her pen allows her to live many lives, she lives real life with her husband, children, and pets.

Embark on a journey through Morgan Sterling's enchanting realm, where love transcends conventions, and imperfections are celebrated with reverence.

Tweet:
Embark on a cosmic journey of love and discovery in #StellarHarmony Dive into this #UrbanRomance and follow Langston and Aurora as they navigate the complexities of love, passion, and self-discovery. #RomanceReaders #BookRecommendation #Spicyread https://amzn.to/3Usdiqi

 

Sunday, June 23, 2024

Fantasy authors Paul Barrett & Steve Murphy interview + giveaway

Hi there. This is Paul Barrett and Steve Murphy here to interview authors Paul Barrett and Steve Murphy. So let’s get to it.


PAUL: So Steve, how did we meet?
STEVE: When we were in our teens, you bribed me with $10 worth of quarters to go play pinball to give you a ride home on my motorcycle. I was cheap in those days.
PAUL: (under breath) Still are.
STEVE: What’s that?
PAUL: Nothing. Please, continue with this fascinating oral history.

STEVE: well, I gave you the ride to the arcade, we played pinball, and I dropped you off at home. And the rest is history. And that was (redacted) years ago. So Paul, what made you want to be a writer?
PAUL: Sex, drugs, and rock and roll. No, wait, that’s why I wanted to play guitar. But learning guitar was way too difficult, so I decided to write. Turns out writing is hard, too, but it doesn’t put calluses on your fingers. What about you?
STEVE: I had an English teacher who encouraged me. She said, “with your grasp of spelling, the only two things you can possibly be are a mathematician or an author with a really good editor.” Quadratic equations made my nose bleed, so author it was.

PAUL: where did you come you with the idea for Scribe of Destiny?
STEVE: you came up with it.
PAUL: oh, that’s right, I did, didn’t I? Well, I started thinking about the idea of the classic reluctant hero. You know the person who always gets The Call, then hangs up on it with a “no thanks, no adventure for me today.” But then the Call happens again and they wimp out and are all, “okay, fine, I’ll give up everything and slay the dragon.” I thought it might be fun to show a character who sticks to his principles and constantly tells The Call to bugger off but ends up on the Grand Adventure anyway. From there, it just became an odyssey of strange characters, bizarre situations, and lots of puns.
STEVE: This was one you sort of wrote before we decided to partner up on all our writing.
PAUL: It is. So I had the whole story, but then you came along and made it better by suggesting some edits, adding your spin on a few things, and helping fix one potentially problematic piece I let slip through. As always happens when we work together, the story got stronger.

STEVE: So who would you say this book is for? Who should read it?
PAUL: Well, everyone should read it. Otherwise, how are we going to become bestsellers? But if I had to narrow it down, I would say anyone who likes Terry Pratchett, Robert Asprin, or Douglas Adams. Not that I’m comparing us to any of those greats, but the book tries to play in the same sandbox.


Say Hello to Fantasy's Most Reluctant Hero

Scribe of Destiny
by Paul Barrett & Steve Murphy
Genre: Fantasy Comedy
Briar, son of Patch, is perfectly happy working as a low-level scribe for the Church of Ubel, spending his off time painting seascapes, walking on the beach, and being alive.

That last one is put in imminent danger when the Church hierarchy determines the god Ubel has gone insane. A delegation is gathered to journey to the Oracle of Hiephi so they can learn what must be done to cure the psychopathic deity. Briar, very much against his will, must accompany the group, ostensibly to chronicle the journey for inclusion in the official Church archives.

During their adventures, horrific visions of an angry, scowling teenager plague Briar, and he soon learns there is a deeper, darker reason behind his inclusion in this insanely dangerous quest.

Facing the likes of bloodthirsty pirates, a bloodthirstier gnome talent agent, and The Slobbering Hound of Chaos, Briar slowly, and oh so unwillingly, learns his place in the world. He might even manage to become a hero. If he survives.

Amazon-Bookbub-Goodreads


Excerpt
Crow pushed open the door and walked in before me. Protocol dictated that I, as the guest, should have been allowed first entrance—just another petty slight. I was going to have to invent an outstanding payback. Crow had to know it would come. He didn’t serve the Archbishop at all times, and when he was off-duty, he was fair game.

The chamber was large and well decorated, with straight walls covered in soft sheer curtains and tapestries, most depicting saints martyred in gruesome ways while serving Ubel. A four-poster occupied one corner, wrapped in dark blankets. A stout wooden desk sat in the room’s center, clean except for a single sheet of parchment upon which the Archbishop scribbled with a quill. Light streamed in from an open window, aided by large oil lanterns that gave off the salty scent of whale.

As I looked about the room, a strange sense of unreality walked over me, a collision of what was with what used to be. For the briefest moment, I felt like a piece of taffy tugged on by two ravenous children, each wanting the lion’s share of my mind. This chamber was how the rest of the cathedral should be but wasn’t. Or was the cathedral right and the chamber wrong? It gave me an instant headache.

“Are you okay?” the Archbishop asked in his dull, grating voice. “You look as if you’ve seen a ghost.”

“Ghosts don’t exist,” I said reflexively.

“Don’t they?” the Archbishop said with an amused smile. He looked at Crow, who stood beside the large desk, and his smile faltered. “Why are you still here?”

“I await your Grace’s pleasure.”

“Well, his Grace’s pleasure would have been to have breakfast ready before he left home this morning, but since you were nowhere to be found, his pleasure now is that you depart since nothing here concerns you.”

Crow’s face fell as if the Archbishop slapped him. Which he had, in a way. Only great effort kept me from cheering. Crow glared at me. I offered a smile and a dismissive wave of my hand. We both knew I had won this round.

“As your Grace wishes.” He bowed and left, closing the door harder than strictly necessary.

The Archbishop eyed me for a moment, as a butcher might study a choice cut of meat. I shifted on my feet and stared at the rug-covered floor, unable to meet the man’s gaze. Today was the most direct contact I’d had with him my whole time in the Church since I usually worked with the priests or the archivist.

He cleared his throat, and I looked up to find him folding the parchment. He grabbed a small taper, dripped wax onto the fold, and pressed a ring into the wax. “Have you had any more strange feelings since I saw you last?”

You mean other than the feeling this room exists in someplace outside the rest of the building, I wanted to say. I still could get no sense of what the Archbishop thought of my earlier peculiar behavior and didn’t want to push things. But I couldn’t outright lie either. “Just a headache,” I said.

The Archbishop held up two pieces of parchment, one large and square, the other small and rectangular. “I want you to deliver these to Elder. This one,” he indicated the smaller one, “he is to read.” He waved the larger one. “This he is to deliver to the Holy Unseen.”

He gave me another grin, the kind you offered to people at funerals. “I understand from the priests that you are a good scribe. It will serve you well. Now take these.”

Puzzled at his strange comments, I walked over and took the parchments. As I touched them, I caught the thought nice working with you and felt the kind of sizzling jolt you might get from a torch smashed across your forehead. I looked at the documents as the Archbishop stepped back. These documents were another piece of the life-shift puzzle that had begun to assemble this morning. I couldn’t make out exactly what would happen, but I felt the answer was close.

Had I known how close, I would have burned the parchments, scattered the ashes, and moved to the swamp for the rest of my life.



About the Authors:
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Steve Murphy has spent much of his life in uniform, starting with four years in the Navy, then a stint in the Army National Guard, followed by 23 years as a police officer, 9 of those as a SWAT sniper.

So naturally, he writes science fiction, fantasy, and space opera. This is his third novel, with several more in the works with Paul. In addition to writing, Steve has also worked as a consultant and set decorator for the film industry. Steve is an outdoor enthusiast who enjoys camping, backpacking, whitewater, sailing and motorcycle riding. The father of two boys, now grown men, Steve lives somewhere in North Carolina with his wife and two dogs.

Paul Barrett has had multiple careers, including rock and roll roadie, theater stage manager, mortgage banker, and support specialist for Microsoft Excel.

This eclectic mix allowed him to go into his true love: motion picture production. He has produced two feature films (Cold Storage and Night Feeders) and two documentaries (The Final Gift, In the Footsteps of Elie Wiesel.) When not producing films, he works as a script supervisor or props assistant. Amidst all this, Paul worked on his writing. This is his fifth novel, with more on the way. Paul is an avid board gamer, miniatures painter, movie enthusiast, and all-around nerd.

Paul lives in North Carolina with his graphic designer husband and four furry overlords, aka cats.

Paul and Steve have been friends since 1980, enduring the rough and tumble of life through thick and thin since 1980.


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