Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The Story Behind Soulshifter by Barbara Pietron

I'd just discovered NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and decided to give it a try. I was thinking about story ideas while driving and listening to the radio and a song come on by the band, Escape the Fate, I think the song was Issues, but what struck me was the band's name. The idea of someone wanting to escape their fate seemed rather commonplace, so I pushed it further, incorporating some other thoughts I had knocking around in my head. I came up with a teenage boy, brought up as part of a spiritual group, who wanted to secure his future. So he embarks on a quest, but by doing so, he learns things about himself, others, and the world that change him. By the time he doubts his ultimate goals, it's too late. He has no choice but to seal a fate he no longer wants. My working title was Escaping Fate.

I did write the first draft of Escaping Fate (Soulshifter) in thirty days, coming in at 50,008 words, and 'winning' NaNoWriMo. Then I put the manuscript in a virtual drawer while I worked on trying to sell another novel. Fast forward three years. I've signed with Scribe Publishing and my first novel, Thunderstone is in the works. I'm not ready to start something new, so I decide, just for kicks, to go back a read Escaping Fate. I honestly wasn't expecting much, I mean, I banged the book out in thirty days! But the more I read, the more I thought the story had real potential. I decided to flesh it out.

About a year later, during a discussion with my publisher about timing for the Thunderstone sequel, I mentioned that I had a finished, unrelated, manuscript. My publisher said to send it over. She loved it! After a Google search turned up a multitude of novels named Escaping Fate, we determined a more original title was necessary. To include my readers in some of my writing adventures, I decided to have a titling contest. We narrowed the suggestions down to the top six and then put them up for a vote on my website, and thus, Soulshifter was born!







About The Book



Title: Soulshifter
Author: Barbara Pietron
Publisher: Scribe Publishing Company
Publication Date: November 24, 2015
Format: Paperback - 290 pages / eBook / PDF
ISBN: 978-0991602124
Genre: YA Urban Fantasy


Book Description:

Sixteen-year-old Jack Ironwood knew exactly what he wanted. Until he got it. Jack was content to stay unnoticed by pretty and popular track star, Natalie Segetich, until her best friend Emma disappears. Natalie swears something took Emma, and though most people write Natalie off as traumatized and confused, Jack is a soulshifter and he knows the human-stealing Enuuki - hell's messengers - are real. As a soulshifter, Jack can cross into the underworld so he sees Emma's rescue as an opportunity to prove himself a valuable member of his transcendental sect - and a way to secure a future otherwise out of his reach. Although he needs Natalie's help to prepare for the mission, Jack intends to go to the underworld alone. But as a viable plan takes shape, it's clear the best chance of success means Natalie must accompany him. On the eve of the quest, when Jack is promised the hand of a respected elder's daughter - a dream come true - he realizes he's no longer sure what he wants. But it's too late to back out, not with the sect and Natalie counting on him. Pursued by the dark lord's henchman and ghastly mutant creatures, Jack and Natalie struggle to come out ahead in a battle and barter for souls. In the end, Jack will have to decide his own fate, because nothing short of a deal with the devil will get all three of them out of hell alive.


Book Excerpt:

Chapter 1

Revelations from the Dark Realm

Feedback shrieked from the electric guitar amp, annihilating the harmonious blend of drums, bass guitar and electric piano. Jack winced as he fumbled for the volume knob on his guitar, pretending he didn’t see Tommy, the lead singer, shoot him a furious glare. Head down, Jack concentrated on the next few chord progressions, until Tommy launched into his signature vocal screaming. Then Jack stole a glance to his left and caught the eye of his best friend, Wes, who skillfully delivered the pulse of the track on his bass guitar. Wes lifted his eyebrows and Jack answered with a slight shrug and an apologetic frown.
It was one thing if Jack screwed up this opportunity for himself, but Wes had talked the band into giving Jack a chance this summer when they'd lost their lead guitarist to college. Jack didn't want to embarrass Wes, or give Tommy a reason to give his friend a hard time. The singer hadn't wanted Wes in the band either, but when the other members heard Wes play and realized he was a wizard on the bass guitar, Tommy had been out-voted. It had taken two years for Wes to earn the lead singer's grudging respect and Jack hated to mess that up.
They finished the set and Jack ducked out of his guitar strap, leaning the instrument against the cinderblock wall of Fletch's—the drummer's—basement. He ran both hands through his thick curls, for the first time thankful that his mom had insisted he get a haircut before school started. Shoulder-length for most of the summer, his dark brown mane was now tamed to a mass of loose curls that ended at the base of his jaw—not as rock and roll, but certainly cooler.
He turned and nearly collided with Tommy. "What's up with the feedback, Ironwood? We've got a gig in two days!"
"Sorry, man." Jack shook his head. He noticed John, the keyboardist, give him and Tommy a wide berth as he beat a hasty retreat. "Just having an off day. I'm low on sleep."
"Well you better get it together by Monday. A lot of people come out to the park on Labor Day, and we don't need you making the rest of us look like amateurs." He spun on his heel and stomped up the steps before Jack could reply.
Fletch offered Jack a sports drink. "You've been playing good all summer. Just don't choke when you get on stage." He laughed, but his eyes were serious.
"Thanks." Jack took the plastic bottle and cracked the lid open. "I'll be fine. I promise." He took a long drink, letting the slightly salty, citrusy liquid soothe his dry tongue and throat before bending to put his guitar into its case.
An intermittent chink of metal on metal sounded from the base of the stairwell. "Ready?"
Jack glanced up to see Wes tossing a bundle of keys into the air and then catching them. "Yep." He noticed that Wes had decided to leave his guitar at Fletch's. They were going to rehearse again tomorrow, but Jack felt like he ought to go home and get in some extra practice. He followed his friend out to the minivan, which smelled like the burgers and fries they'd eaten on the way to rehearsal, and loaded his gear into the back.
After Jack plopped into the passenger seat and closed the door, Wes spoke up. "Dude." He drew out the solitary word and added a sigh, conveying both disappointment and sympathy.
"I know," Jack said quickly. "I'm not a hundred percent today. Yesterday was my end-of-summer spirit-walk."


Buy The Book:


After years in the corporate world, Barbara Pietron found herself with a second chance to decide what she wanted to be when she grew up. Her lifetime love of books and the written word returned one answer: writer. Drawing from her technical writing experience, she began by writing non-fiction magazine pieces and achieved both regional and national publication before trying her hand at her true passion, fiction. In addition to Soulshifter, Barbara is also the author of Thunderstone, Book One of the Legacy in Legend series and a prequel to ThunderstoneHeart of Ice, is available in e-book format. Book Two of the Legacy in Legend series is slated for fall of 2016. You can visit Barbara's website at www.barbarapietron.com

Connect with Barbara Pietron:


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Monday, October 26, 2015

The Story Behind The Unseen Kingdom by Daniel R. Mathews

The Unseen Kingdom was born from my love of Halloween, the horror classics of the 1970s-1980s and my desire to represent gay teens as positive, courageous, proactive characters in fiction.

Actually, in all honesty The Unseen Kingdom was originally intended to be a straight-forward story placing a group of five friends against a Lovecraftian menace as Halloween approaches. However, the story became something more complicated as the project proceeded.

This became a character driven story. Each boy must battle his personal demons, anxieties and weaknesses to find the strength to save one another and their town. One of the subjects that fascinates me and I believe is vital to young-adult literature is exploring the transition from childhood to young adulthood. In particular, my novels explore the many diverse paths a boy may follow in achieving manhood, and what kind of man that boy might become.

I believe these subjects are especially important for gay teens due to the prevalence of stereotypes and clich├ęs in popular media. LGBT teens, in general, suffer from a profound lack of positive representation in young-adult literature and that more than anything drove my desire to write The Unseen Kingdom.

Each of my characters is a normal boy, struggling with problems any young teen faces in his life, of which their sexuality just happens to be one. One of the boys is dealing with an abusive father, while another deals with the aftermath of past domestic abuse. One boy struggles to cope with the death of his father, while another searches for his identity in a family that will not accept his homosexuality. My main protagonist, Tommy, is a boy coming to grips with his feelings for his best friend and struggles to muster the courage to express those feelings. The plot of novel drives each of the boys to confront these problems, growing and changing as a result. While each boy’s journey occurs within the context of the plot, their individual paths and outcomes vary with their experiences.

As you can imagine, this turned The Unseen Kingdom into a meaty novel. We follow not only each boy’s journey but also the strengthening group dynamic as they struggle to unravel a supernatural conspiracy threatening them and everyone they love.

Of all the various horror sub-genres, Lovecraftian horror is one of my favorites. This allows me to deal with twisted worlds and creatures, science, geometry, faith and a boy’s natural wonder about the universe. In my novel, I posit the theory that an imaginative child might be able to accept and embrace a reality which would drive any normal adult mad. Even in a hellish dimension, love prevails when inhabited by those with open hearts and minds. And for those fans of horror films of the 70s and 80s, quite a few Easter eggs can be found throughout the novel. If you grew up a horror movie fan as I did, hopefully you will be able to identify and appreciate the references.

All of these diverse ideas, interests and messages inspired me to write The Unseen Kingdom. I hope that, whether you’re a young horror fan or an LGBT teen or adult looking for an intense, challenging coming of age story, you will find this novel compelling, entertaining and inspiring.



About The Book



Title: The Unseen Kingdom
Author: Daniel R. Mathews
Publisher: Lost Legacy Press
Publication Date: September 19, 2015
Format: Paperback - 562 pages / eBook / PDF
ISBN: 978-0990710721
Genre: YA / LGBT / Horror / Science Fiction


Buy The Book:




Discuss the book at our PUYB Virtual Book Club on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/17505392-the-unseen-kingdom-by-daniel-r-mathews


Book Description:

A group of friends must band together to defeat an ancient evil in Daniel R. Mathew's terrifying debut, The Unseen Kingdom.

In a small New England town, thirteen-year-old Tommy Wilson's biggest worry is coming out to his close-knit group of friends. All of that changes, however, when the boys discover a dream portal to R'lyeh - home to the Titan god Cthulhu himself.

Inhabited by monstrous creatures and eerie children who have appointed Tommy and his friends their new "apostles," R'lyeh becomes a horrifying yet darkly fascinating world that proves to be increasingly real. 

Meanwhile, the town's population is suddenly overrun with a mysterious epidemic that threatens everyone. As the boys struggle to cope with what is happening, Tommy comes closer than ever to discovering the dark secret that lurks within R'lyeh itself - but will the price prove to be too costly? And, can the boys unlock the link between the secrets of R'lyeh and the devastation of their town's population before it's too late?

A truly unique work of fiction, The Unseen Kingdom is an LGBT coming-of-age novel skillfully infused with edge-of-your-seat horror, resulting in a wildly entertaining novel that will leave you guessing until the very last page.


Book Excerpt: 

CH A P T E R 1

The dust covered yellow school bus rumbled down the cracked asphalt road, shaking the children inside. Tommy’s body was inclined back against his seat, his feet planted at the top of the green vinyl covered seat in front of him. He alternated between glancing at his best friend Brian and peering out the window at the blur of the fading autumn colors along the road. Kevin was sitting rather imperiously at the back of the bus, grimacing down at his cell phone that he removed from his pocket every couple of minutes.

Unable to resist commenting, Carlos leaned across the aisle. “Alright, what’s the deal, Kevin? You got a hot date or something?”

Kevin’s face flushed slightly. “Uh…yeah! Jealous much?”

Despite his retort, his hands were shaking. Sunlight streaming through the windows revealed a rather puffy ring of black and blue flesh underneath his right eye. Tommy spotted the clumsy attempt to hide the bruise with makeup. For an instant, the two boys’ eyes met but Kevin cast his eyes downward, looking ashamed. He looked at his phone again, and Tommy knew why.

A smirk curled across Carlos’ lips as he quipped, “Yeah, right. Your left hand isn’t a date!” A chorus of chuckles emanated from the kids sitting in front of the group of boys.

Kevin turned to face him and punched the boy in the shoulder with a dull thwack. Before he could say anything, Kevin leaned back in his seat and said, “Just FYI, it’s my right hand.” The children in earshot giggled at Kevin’s assertion.

After rubbing his shoulder, Carlos looked back at Kevin. “Seriously, dude, what’s up?” Tommy looked over at him and discreetly touched his own face, to draw Carlos’ attention to Kevin’s bruise. After Carlos had realized what he meant, the group became quiet.

Kevin put his phone away, leaned back against the window facing his friends and forced a smile. “The only problem I have is your ugly face.” Carlos flipped Kevin off, and poked Jacob who was giggling at his expense.

Tommy glanced at Brian and smiled. When he returned the smile, Tommy looked down, his face brightening. Carlos and Jacob nudged one another and pointed at the pair. Carlos was dozing in the sunlight, while Jacob leaned against him listening to music on his headphones, watching Tommy and Brian with bemused interest.

Kevin shook his head and grinned knowingly back at Jacob. Tommy caught the boys’ conspiratorial glances and turned his head to the side. He felt he was the punch line of an inside joke sometimes, but wasn’t quite sure why. His curiosity was interrupted by his cell phone vibrating in his pocket. He dug the phone out and read the text message from his mother.

“Yeah! It’s here!” Tommy exclaimed as he pumped his fist in the air excitedly.

His voice rousted Carlos from his slumber. “What’s here? Another My Little Pony?” he asked.

“Your birthday was last month, dork. No, my Halloween costume,” Tommy responded matter-of-factly.

Kevin spun his hand around in a circle. “Uh, and...”

“It’s a surprise!” Tommy said with a mischievous grin, staring into Brian’s grey eyes.

Carlos huffed with annoyance. “Dude, if you wear the same costume as me again this year I’m going to kick your ass.”

“You’re still going as the red Master Chief, right?” Tommy asked with sudden concern. Carlos nodded affirmatively. “You’re going as a Templar, right, Brian?”

Brian responded affirmatively, “I got some chain mail, and Mom bought me a historically accurate tabard and helmet to go with it! Now if I could use Dad’s old sword, the outfit would be perfect.”

“Even with the sword, I’m still going to own you,” Carlos said confidently. He looked over at Kevin. “You decide on an outfit yet?”

Kevin shrugged, breaking eye contact with the others. “I don’t know if my father’s going to let me go.”

“He’s gotta! There’s going to be ten thousand dollars in prizes. This is going to be the best Halloween ever!” Tommy said exuberantly.

“And, you know, nobody does Halloween better than us!” Brian proclaimed proudly.

“Alright...alright. I’ll come up with something, I’m sure,” Kevin assured his friends.

“What about you, Jacob?” Kevin asked.

Jacob smiled. “It’s a secret.”

“I’ll take care of this,” Carlos said, poking him mercilessly in the side, causing him to squeal. The bus driver cleared his throat loudly, glaring at the boys through the rear view mirror.

“Quit it!” Jacob protested, his face turning red enough to mask his pale freckles. “I’m going as a vampire,” he surrendered begrudgingly.

“God, another sparkly vampire!” Carlos teased.

“No way, dork! A real vampire!” he retorted. Tommy and Brian laughed and applauded.

Tommy leaned back and peered out the window again. The bus sputtered to a stop, letting a few children out. He sang under his breath, “Eight more days to Halloween, Halloween. Eight more days to Halloween, Silver Shamrock.” Brian’s reflection in the window beamed at him while Carlos and Kevin simultaneously rolled their eyes.

As the bus rounded a bend adjacent to the swamp that surrounded much of the town, Tommy caught a glimpse of a boy wearing filthy blue denim overalls and a wool beret. However, the boy disappeared behind the veil of swirling white smoke left by the bus’s exhaust. There was something inherently disquieting about the boy.

The bus ride grew progressively quieter as the bus approached the end of its daily journey. His eyes widened when he saw the same boy from earlier emerging from behind a row of wild hawthorn bushes. This time he made direct eye contact with the mysterious boy. A wicked smile danced across the child’s otherwise emotionless face, causing Tommy’s body to shudder involuntarily. There was something terrible in the child’s visage, forcing him to look away from those hollow, soulless eyes that invaded his consciousness. Tommy looked up to see the bus driver staring intently at him through the rear view mirror. The rest of the group had fallen into their own little worlds, lulled into virtual slumber by the constant droning of the engine and swaying of the bus. He sank down in his seat, trying to avoid the bus driver’s penetrating stare. He glanced over at Brian, who was playing with his phone.

Tommy felt some relief when the final stop was reached and it was time to offload. Carlos, Jacob and Brian were already halfway down the aisle before the bus reached a stop, leaving Kevin and Tommy as the last passengers to disembark. As Tommy descended the stairs, the bus driver reached out and grabbed his hand. “You’ve seen them, haven’t you?” he asked.

A startled Tommy gave the bus driver a bewildered stare as he struggled to withdraw his hand from the man’s tight grasp. “Seen who? What are you talking about?” he asked, growing fearful of the man’s narrowing eyes.

“The children of the Great Unseen have revealed themselves to you, and now it’s your turn to hear HIS call,” the man whispered in a raspy voice. He tried to back away as the man’s eyes darkened, much like the boy he had seen earlier.

“You’re hurting me!” an increasingly flustered Tommy stammered, trying to pull away from the man’s grip.

Like a passing summer storm, the man’s face brightened, and he released Tommy’s wrist. “Well, what are you waiting for, boy? It’s Friday night. You got the whole weekend ahead of you. Now git!” He smiled warmly at the astounded boy. Tommy stepped off the bus, confronted by Kevin and Brian.

“What the hell happened?” Kevin demanded.

Tommy could do little but shrug his slender shoulders. “I don’t know. He was mad about something; it didn’t make any sense. Whatever it was, he got over it quickly.”

Kevin watched with concern as the bus disappeared down the road, before turning his attention to the dilapidated two-story greyish white house in front of him. “Well, I can’t stall any longer,” he said with a sigh.

“What are you doing guys doing tonight?” Tommy asked.

Kevin shifted his weight. “I think I better stay in and work on homework.”

Brian said, “I promised Mom I’d clean up around the house tonight, but I’ll have the rest of the weekend free after my homework is done.” Tommy looked a little dejected, but at least this afforded him some time to check out his Halloween costume.

“We’ll see you tomorrow morning, right?” Tommy asked Kevin expectantly.

Kevin forced a smile and gave him a playful push. “Yeah, Bro, I’ll see you guys tomorrow. We’ll go into town or something.” Tommy and Brian said their good-byes and the boys parted company for the day.

Tommy’s house was a little larger than Kevin’s, painted a similar weather-beaten white although clearly more care and maintenance has been put into his house than Kevin’s. He bounded through the front door, his eyes scanning the entranceway and hallway for any signs of his package. He poked his head into the kitchen, spying the nondescript brown box sitting on the table between his mother and father.

He made a beeline for the package before his mom intercepted him. “Not even an acknowledgment of us being in the room?” she mockingly admonished him, wiping the curly locks of blonde hair from his face.

“Stop, Mom! Hi, Dad!” he blurted out as he reached for the box.

“So, remind me why you needed to spend six months of your allowance for this?” his father asked while Tommy tore open the package excitedly.

“It’s a surprise for...” Tommy cut himself short. “I mean, I’m just looking forward to Halloween.” The boy delved into the contents of the package, procuring large sheets of fine brown fur wrapped in translucent plastic.

“Is there something you’d like to talk to us about?” his father asked softly, casting a glance at his wife.

“You know, you can talk to us about anything,” Tommy’s mom said soothingly.

Tommy pulled out the lower jaw of the werewolf costume, running his fingers along the jagged teeth as he looked up at his parents with confusion. “What are you talking about?”

“Well, we thought maybe you’d like to talk about someone,” Tommy’s father said.

Tommy thought for a moment, unsure where his parents were going with this line of questioning, though admittedly he felt embarrassed as a sloppy grin crossed his face imagining Brian’s reaction when he sees the costume. Before he could assemble the pieces in his mind, he blurted out Kevin’s name.

“Kevin? What about him?” his mother asked, casting a confused gaze over at her husband on this unexpected subject.

“I think his dad beat him up last night. He was wearing makeup to cover up a black eye, but he didn’t have it yesterday,” Tommy said, looking out the kitchen window toward Kevin’s house. “I’m worried about him,” he added.

“That’s a serious accusation, Tommy. Has Kevin given you any indication of this?” his father asked, looking troubled.

Tommy shook his head. “No, but he acts afraid to go home. Every day on the bus you can see him start shaking the closer we get.”

“That’s a worrying sign, Tommy, but we need to know the whole story. Kevin is lucky to have you as a friend. I think the best thing you can do right now is be there for him, and let him know that when he’s ready to talk, you’ll listen,” his father instructed.

“Is there anything else, anything Kevin’s said that would make you feel there’s trouble with his father?” his mother interjected.

Tommy thought for a moment. “Kevin’s mentioned his dad drinks a lot. I think that’s when he gets in trouble.”

His mother rolled her eyes and shook her head. “Isn’t it always?” she whispered to no one in particular. “Your father is right, Tommy. Let know Kevin that you’re there for him. There is a counselor at your school trained for this kind of thing, so Kevin has options if he’s in trouble.”

“Couldn’t you talk to his dad, make him stop?” he asked his father.

Tommy’s father leaned back in his chair and sighed. “It’s not that easy, kiddo. Nobody likes to be told how to raise their child, and I’m afraid if we stick our noses into his business, he might take it out on Kevin. It would be best if the school became involved in this.”

Disappointed, Tommy knew this was a problem that couldn’t easily be solved. He pulled out the remaining mass of soft brown fur and the upper jaw of his werewolf costume. “Some assembly required,” he moaned, pulling out a plastic bag full of plastic claws.

“I hope you’re not expecting me to do all the work,” Tommy’s mother warned.

“Uh, no, of course not, Mom!” he replied, his bright, blue pleading eyes belying his underlying intent.

“Well, if you like I can take the measurements and help you get started this weekend,” his mom offered diplomatically.

His face brightened. “Thanks, Mom, that’d be awesome!”

“Alright, go get started on your homework. Dinner will be ready in about an hour,” she concluded, sending the Tommy and his costume out of the kitchen.

His father shook his head and laughed. “I have a feeling this is going to be an unforgettable Halloween.”

Tommy bounded into his room, and spread all the individual components of the werewolf costume across his bed. The macabre mass of soft fur, jaws and claws melded naturally with the horror movie posters hanging on the far wall, above the shelves filled with rows of horror movie DVDs and a couple dozen similarly themed novels. He plopped himself down in his wooden desk chair and rummaged through his backpack for his homework assignments.





About The Author


An avid reader of science fiction, horror, and fantasy, Daniel R. Mathews is a novelist and nonfiction writer whose books feature LGBT youth braving danger with honor and dignity, including his personal memoir, The Demons of Plainville, and debut horror novel, The Unseen Kingdom.
For the past two decades, Mathews has worked as a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certified ground instructor, meteorologist, and a member of the web development and Internet technical support community. He currently lives in Flagstaff, Arizona.

Connect with Daniel R. Mathews:



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Friday, October 23, 2015

The Story Behind Lethal Game by Julie Rowe

Getting published wasn’t easy or fast. I wrote for over ten years and completed fifteen manuscripts before I found a publisher who got me and my books. My writing voice has gotten grittier and more intense with every book I write. Lethal Game reflects that with one main character who is dying and another struggling with survivor’s guilt and a desire to die. The villain is a man who’s lost everyone he loved and all he’s left with is revenge. Revenge on a scale never seen before. The heroine in Lethal Game has a genius level intellect and a bucket list of three items (this is a problem because she’s very sick).

1. Do something meaningful with her life (no matter how short her life ends up being).
2. Have sex with Connor (the hero).
3. Stop the villain.

Can you guess how many of these she accomplishes in the story?




About The Book



Title: Lethal Game
Book 2: Biological Response Team Series
Author: Julie Rowe
Publisher: Carina Press
Publication Date: October 12, 2015
Pages: 270
ISBN: 978-1459290198
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Format: eBook, PDF


Book Description:

Book 2 of Biological Response Team Series

As the nation's youngest virologist and hematologist, Captain Sophia Perry had always been one step ahead of her peers. But there's one thing she can't beat - cancer. She wants to make a difference in the time she left, so when she's sent to investigate a breakout at a Syrian refugee camp, she goes, saying nothing of her diagnosis. But saving the masses isn't easy when the man tasked to protect her is so irresistible.

Communications Sergeant Conner Button is back on active duty after a deadly explosion, but he doesn't feel whole again until he meets Sophia. Assigned to keep her safe, he's prepared to die for her, but for the first time in months he truly wants to live - if only she wasn't so determined to put them both in danger. 

With a secret to keep and nothing to lose, Sophia is determined to find the source of the breakout at any cost. Violent attacks on the camp convince her that someone wants her to pay dearly. But as Sophia's health deteriorates, Connor must find a way to help her defeat her enemies before her body defeats her.


Book Excerpt:

Security is mostly a superstition ~ Helen Keller

Chapter One

It had taken him three airplanes and over twenty-six hours to travel more than seven thousand miles, and now he was going to have to kill someone.
Ten feet from his room in the Navy hotel at the American Naval base in Bahrain.
All Special Forces Communications Sergeant Connor Button wanted was to find a bed and crash for a few hours.
What he did not need was witnessing some idiot striking out with a hot blonde and not taking it well.
She’d just removed his hand from her waist.
The man put it on her shoulder and tried to bring her closer. “Aw, come on, sweetheart.”
She slid away, her voice clear across the short distance. “No.”
Okay, dude, time to retreat. Only, the guy didn’t. He grabbed her by the back of the neck, hard enough to make her gasp in pain, and leaned down, his mouth aimed for hers.
She slapped the moron, but he didn’t get that hint either, just grabbed her hand and twisted it behind her back.
Con had to make himself stand still for a second. One second, so he could throttle back the instinct to beat the stupid fuck to death.
Fine. His jaw flexed. He wouldn’t kill the asshole, but he could hurt him real bad.
Con dropped his duffel on the floor and stomped toward the woman and the moron whose arm he was about to break.
Into several pieces.
Small ones.
The stomping got the moron’s attention. He glanced up, saw Con coming and his eyes went wide. He let go of the woman so fast she wobbled off balance and fell to the floor. Con stopped to help her while the moron ran like a track star down the hall and around a corner.
Good call, asshole.
Con bent down and offered his hand to the woman. “Are you okay?”
Her head jerked up and she stared at him with eyes that didn’t miss a thing. She scooted away, leaving his hand hanging in the air, then stood. Her shoulders went back and her chin rose.
He almost smiled. She was so not interested in another man getting all up in her business. He’d make sure she was all right, then he’d back off.
“Ma’am, did he hurt you?”
“I’m fine,” she said, retreating a step.
Blue-green eyes stood out in a face framed by white-blond hair hanging in a sheet down to the middle of her back. She was also stacked, though she wasn’t showing it off. She was following military clothing requirements, wearing long pants and a collared shirt one size too big, buttoned up to her neck. An asshole had just tried to sexually assault her, but Con would bet a year’s pay that had he not come along, the moron would have had his hands full with a pissed-off female trying to smash his balls into paste.
He glanced down.
Her mouth was pressed into a thin angry line, but her hands were shaking.
For the first time in months something other than anger or despair slammed into him.
He knew just how she felt. Hyped up on adrenaline and looking for a target.
It surprised him so much he opened his mouth to make some inane comment or other to show her he was no threat, but she raised a hand to stop him.
She spoke a quick, firm “Thank you.” And then she was gone, inside the room closest to her. The click of the lock being engaged echoed down the hall.
He blinked at the empty hallway. He wasn’t sure she was okay, but those shaking hands and that locked door sent a pretty clear signal that she didn’t want another man anywhere near her.
Sometimes other people just made things worse.
He sighed, strode back to his bag, checked his room number again and discovered he was next door to the blonde.
At least he wouldn’t have to go far if Moron came back.

***

So much for getting some sleep. He’d lain awake, alert for any noise that might indicate a problem in the room next door, but it had been church-quiet. He got up at 0700 base time, then went in search of his new commanding officer, Colonel Maximillian. The man had an interesting reputation, but he trusted what his buddy, Jacob “Sharp” Foster, a former Special Forces soldier, had to say about him. Everyone else said the colonel was one bullet shy of a magazine. Sharp had warned him that the colonel wasn’t exactly regular army, but he gave a shit about his people, and that was number one for Con. If your CO had your six, at least you didn’t have to take your attention off what was coming at you.
The colonel had a fancy lab that didn’t exist on the base, according to official records. Officially, the lab that did exist on paper was rated for level two containment. Good enough to run the sort of tests any big city hospital conducted. In reality, the lab was capable of level four containment testing. The stuff you needed to wear a bio-suit for and breathe your own oxygen supply.
Con had to pass through two internal checkpoints to gain entry to the nondescript building that was his destination. Colonel Maximillian’s office was the first one inside the prefab rectangle that housed the lab and offices. A soldier who didn’t look a day over sixteen sat typing on a computer facing the entrance to the building.
The kid’s gaze darted over Con’s uniform, then he stood and saluted. “Private Eugene Walsh.”
“Sergeant Connor Button, Special Forces.”
“Yes, sir. Colonel Maximillian is expecting you.” Walsh extended his hand in the direction of the first office. “Go right in.”
Con gave him a nod, then walked into the office.
He saluted the salt-and-pepper-haired man, who stood and saluted back. “Sir, Sergeant Button reporting for duty.”
“Welcome, Sergeant.” The colonel came around his desk and offered his hand.
Con shook it once, twice, then released a hand that hadn’t tested him beyond what would be considered polite.
“Take a seat,” the colonel said, gesturing at one of the chairs facing his desk. “I’d like to go over your assignment and answer any questions you might have.”
“Thank you, sir.” Con sat and adopted a neutral body posture, back straight and hands resting lightly on his thighs. It was harder than it should have been.
The last time he’d been in the Middle East he’d been deployed with his unit, attempting to ascertain the military strength of two groups of extremists in Northern Iraq and Syria. Both groups had threatened multiple American and allied targets, as well as calling for sympathetic citizens to carry out terrorist acts inside their own countries.
The last time he’d been in the Middle East, he’d been the only survivor of an IED that took out their vehicle. Fortune had smiled on him that day. He’d been thrown clear.
More and more often, he wished he hadn’t been so lucky.
Colonel Maximillian continued to stare at him and seemed content to not say anything for several moments.
Con waited with the patience of a man who’d waited days for just the right moment to take a shot at his target.
Finally, the colonel asked, “How much do you know about your mission here?”
“Probably not enough.”
Maximillian’s face didn’t change. “Sharp said you were smart. Are you, Sergeant Button?”
“That would depend on your definition of smart.
“Observant, creative, organized, able to see unusual relationships between people and information.”
“Sir, you’re looking for Sherlock Holmes. He’s a fictional character.”
A brief smile crossed the colonel’s face. “How would you describe yourself?”
“Flexible, determined, fuck the box.”
Colonel Maximillian’s forehead lowered over his eyes. “Were you aware General Stone had some reluctance in assigning you to this mission?”
“Not directly, but it doesn’t surprise me.”
“Oh?”
How many conversations like this had he had recently? Five, six? “Sir, I received injuries in an attack that killed all the men in the armored vehicle with me. I’d be surprised if he wasn’t hesitant.” No officer wanted to have a suicidal or homicidal soldier on a mission. Survivor’s guilt could lead to either one. Or both.
“Do you consider yourself fit for duty?”
“Yes, sir.”
“Why?”
Goddamned why-questions. Why judged, weighed and measured what was in a man’s head. What was in his head was not pretty, and not to be shared.
“Sir, I signed on to serve my country. My service isn’t done.”
Maximillian tilted his head to one side. “That is one of the best non-answers I’ve ever heard.”
Fuck it. Con leaned forward and said in a less civilized tone, “I got thrown off the horse. I need to get back on and finish my ride.”
“And if you don’t?”
Con’s throat closed up. “That thought can’t be in my head.”
The colonel’s face lost its sharp inquisitiveness for a moment, replaced by a surprising level of comprehension. A second later it was gone and he was flipping through pages on his desk. “You’ve had some problems with your temper since you returned to duty.”
“I’m working on that.” Anger was easy. Acting on it was even easier.
The officer considered Con for a couple more seconds, then nodded briskly. “My Biological Response Team is tracking a very dangerous man who’s created his own extremely deadly strain of anthrax. We managed to prevent an attack on a base in Afghanistan, but not before nearly one hundred people died of the infection. We think he’s not done. We think he’ll continue to strike at high-quality American or allied targets, and we don’t know where he is or where he will attack next.”
Con straightened. Hunting down a homicidal nutcase wasn’t the sort of duty he’d taken on before, but it sounded dangerous. Good.
Holy fuck he was messed up.
Maximillian continued. “We were successful in preventing the last attack because we had one of our infectious disease specialists embedded with an A-team training members of the Afghan military. General Stone agrees with me—until this man is found, we need more cooperation between my team and army Special Forces. I asked for specific men to work with my people. Men who are not only well trained and smart, but also creative and who can take a step back and support his teammate or take charge of a situation if that’s what’s needed. Jacob Foster says you’re that kind of man. Are you?”
It might be nice to have a specific enemy, with a face and a name, rather than a faceless one who could be anybody. The need to kill, to avenge his dead, was a relentless voice in the back of his head. This mission could get him the opportunity to give himself that, and maybe a measure of peace.
“Sir.” He paused, trying hard not to come on too strong. If he lost this chance, he might not get another. “I’m a team player. That means I’ll play whatever role is needed by the team.”
Colonel Maximillian smiled. “Do you mind working with a woman?”
“No, sir. Sharp mentioned the possibility I’d be paired with a woman.” Man, woman, two-headed alien, he didn’t care as long as they shared a common enemy.
“You’re okay with that? No hesitations?”
The colonel seemed unusually concerned.
What the hell? While he might smack down a fellow Special Forces soldier, he’d never lay a hand on a woman.
“Sir, I’m the youngest of five children with four older sisters. Working with or for a woman is nothing new to me.”
“Good.” Maximillian nodded. “I don’t mean to sound paranoid, but the doctor you’re going to be working with is somewhat high-strung.”
“High-strung?”
The colonel shook his head. “That’s the wrong description. She doesn’t trust…people. I’ve been trying to find a suitable partner for her, but I’ve been unsuccessful.”
“Unsuccessful?”
“Most people look at her and see a young woman who looks as if she’d have trouble with breaking a nail. Coddle her in any way and she’ll find a way to make you miserable.”
The bottom of Con’s stomach grew cold. “So why me?”
“Growing up with sisters is part of it.”
This interview was a personality test. Fuck.
“You’ve also been through some challenging combat situations and I think that will give you a level of experience she’ll respect.”
Con had to work to keep a growl out of his voice. “I’m not going to sit around the campfire telling her war stories.” What he’d seen wouldn’t instill confidence in anyone.
“I don’t expect you to. She works best with people who are highly competent, who don’t brag or try to impress.”
First time he’d been complimented on his ability to keep his trap shut.
“Another issue is her age. She’s young, she’s a genius and she has absolutely no idea how to talk to anyone who isn’t a scientist or doctor.”
That didn’t leave a whole lot of people. “Genius, as in graduated from medical school really young?”
“She’s twenty-four and is the youngest physician in the USA to have a double speciality in virology and hematology.”
“Virology, I get. Hematology?”
“The study of blood cells.”
If she was an overachiever, he could work with that. “So, work is her life, and before that, it was school?”
“Exactly.”
“S’okay. My second-oldest sister is married to a physicist. He speaks math, and we get along just fine.”
Maximillian quirked an eyebrow. “You speak math?”
“Nope. I speak barbecue. Everyone has something to say about properly grilling a steak.”
The colonel laughed. “You’ll do. Time to meet her.” He stepped out of his office and led the way down a hall. “Oh, and call me Max. It’s shorter.”
“Thank you, sir.”
Max sighed as he opened a door with a key and preceded Con inside.
The room they entered was part office and part lab, with a couple of desks and two tall microscopes set up on the end of each. Papers and boxes of slides littered both surfaces. Only one of the desks was occupied.
A woman sat looking through the lens of one of the microscopes. Her hair was white-blond and pulled back into a severe bun. She wore an army uniform with a lab coat over top. When she saw Max, she pushed away from the scope, stood and moved to meet them.
The blonde from last night. With her hair pulled back, she could have passed for even younger than twenty-four.
Fucking gorgeous. He took that thought, hog-tied it and shoved it into a dark corner. His personal mission left no room for anything beyond a professional relationship.
She also looked ready to rip someone’s head off.
“Sophia,” Max said. “This is your new partner, Communications Sergeant Connor Button.” He turned to Con. “Connor, this is Captain Sophia Perry.” Her mouth, pressed into a thin line, convinced him to pretend last night hadn’t happened. He nodded at her respectfully. “Good to meet you, ma’am.”
“Ma’am?” she asked, crossing her arms over her chest and displaying a huge bruise on her right hand.
Must’ve hurt.
“This is who you found to babysit me, Max? A fossil?”
Damn, she came out swinging. Maybe he’d let her win this bout. Con managed to keep a straight face and said in a hesitant voice, “I’m only twenty-nine.”
“Would you rather I pair you up with someone who follows all the rules and regulations?” Max asked her, irritation showing in his rigid posture. “This guy—” he pointed a thumb at Con “—hates inside-the-box thinking as much as you do.”
“Oh yeah?” she said, looking Con full in the face. A challenge. Why was she so pissed off? Because she didn’t think she needed a babysitter?
He shrugged, then coughed to hide a chuckle. If he laughed now, she’d think he was laughing at her. “I don’t like boxes. They’re never big enough, and they’re too…square.”
She blinked at him, then narrowed her gaze. “What did you do to draw this duty? It had to have been bad.”
Max opened his mouth, but Con didn’t want to escalate things, so he spoke first, and went with the unvarnished truth. “I got blown up. I spent almost seven months in hospitals and physical therapy. The last three or four months I’ve been instructing and getting back into shape.” He smiled at her. “When I found out what my first mission was going to be, bodyguarding some army doctor, I thought what the fuck? I sure as shit didn’t want easy duty. But having talked with Max here, I’ve changed my mind.” He shifted his gaze to Max’s face. “This isn’t easy duty, is it, sir?”
“No. It’s not a matter of if there will be another biological weapon attack somewhere in this part of the world, it’s when.”
“My role isn’t just to bodyguard Dr. Perry, is it?”
“No.” Max began pacing back and forth between Con and Sophia. “We have intel that points to the Biological Response Team as a specific target. I don’t want you to just protect Sophia, I need you two to be a team. All of us are being paired with Special Forces soldiers, even myself.”
“Assassination?” Con asked. The idea of it made the back of his neck itch.
“Very possible. Sabotage is another danger.”
“Have any attempts been made?”
“Yes. Dr. Samuels and her Green Beret were nearly killed in a trap I believe was set for them. We have an enemy who is intelligent, ruthless and fearless.”
“Can I get everything you have on this guy?” Con asked.
“My assistant will have it ready for you in an hour or two.” Max turned to him. “Have you been assigned quarters?”
“Yeah.”
“I’m going to have you moved to the room next to Sophia’s.”
The woman in question opened her mouth to say something unpleasant—he was sure from the way she’d screwed up her nose—which is why Con spoke first again. “Are you sure that’s necessary?” He looked down, like he was thinking hard. “Do you want to advertise to the whole base that I’m her bodyguard, or would you like to keep it below the radar?”
Max gave him a dirty look. “Whose side are you on?”
“Hers, sir.”
“Fine,” Max said, with bit of an impatient edge to his voice. “I’ll check to see where you’re housed now. If it’s not too far, you can stay where you are.” Max pressed his lips together, glared at them both, then stomped off.
Con looked at Sophia.
She looked back at him, snorted and went back to her microscope. “Nice attempt to come to my rescue. Again. But I don’t need anyone to rescue me.”
She needed to talk to someone about the moron. To prevent fear and anger from getting too deep a hold on her brain.
Despite how fast things had happened, the human mind had a way of warping events so the memory of them seemed to take a thousand times longer than the reality had.
Hell, he was a walking testament for how three seconds of hell could totally screw up the rest of a man’s life.
Or take it.
Listen to him passing judgment on her mental state, when he’d done his level best to keep the shrinks out of his. Right now, he just had to convince her he was on her side. He wanted this assignment. “I know.”
“Really?” Sarcasm turned the word into something sharp and heavy. “You just met me. How would you know that?”
“I saw you in action last night.”
She froze, and for a moment the expression on her face was a mixture of anger, fear and disgust. A second later, it was gone, smoothed away as if it had never been there.
Whoa. What was that?
Without looking at him, she said, “Babysitting me is going to be a complete bore for a soldier’s soldier like you. I’ll tell Max to find someone else.”


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About The Author



Julie Rowe’s first career as a medical lab technologist in Canada took her to the North West Territories and northern Alberta, where she still resides. She loves to include medical details in her romance novels, but admits she’ll never be able to write about all her medical experiences because, “No one would believe them!”.

In addition to writing contemporary and historical medical romance, and fun romantic suspense for Entangled Publishing and Carina Press, Julie has short stories in Fool’s Gold, the Mammoth Book of ER Romance, Timeless Keepsakes and Timeless Escapes anthologies. Her book SAVING THE RIFLEMAN (book #1 WAR GIRLS) won the novella category of the 2013 Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence. AIDING THE ENEMY (book #3 WAR GIRLS) won the novella category of the 2014 Colorado Romance Writer’s Award of Excellence. Her writing has also appeared in several magazines such as Romantic Times Magazine, Today’s Parent, and Canadian Living.


Connect with Julie:
Author Website:  http://www.julieroweauthor.com/
Facebook: www.facebook.com/JulieRoweAuthor
Twitter: https://twitter.com/JulieRoweAuthor
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Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The Story Behind Between The Cracks She Fell by Lisa de Nikolits

The idea for this book came from three ideas that intersected.

The first idea presented itself via me a young man who had been disowned by his family. I had recently started a new job and I had immediately felt a connection with this guy – let’s call him Ashley – because he, like me, was originally from South Africa and he had come to Canada in 2000, as had I.

When I asked him about his family, he told me that he didn’t see them any more, that they had disowned him, he was excommunicated.

I was incredibly shocked. I come from a very close-knit family and I can’t imagine something like that.

“But why on earth would they do that?” I asked.

“Because I’m gay,” he said to which I replied that wasn’t any reason at all to kick him out.

“They’re Jehovah’s Witnesses,” he said as if that explained everything but I still didn’t understand and he explained their way of thinking, that homosexuality is a sin and he needed to repent, or he would not go to heaven along with his family.

“But surely they speak to you in secret?” I asked, simply unable to grasp the concept of one’s family just abandoning a member like that. “How old are you?” I asked him.
“I’m twenty-two,” he said, “and they don’t speak to me. Not even my twin sister. My Mom meets me for coffee every six months or so, to see if I have repented, or if she can persuade me to.”

“Not even your twin sister,” I echoed. “I just can’t get my head around that. How long ago did this happen?”

“Two years ago. I’ve been fine really. I couldn’t live a lie. The funny thing was, or maybe it’s not so funny, I was actually going to propose to my long-time girlfriend, ask her to marry me but then instead, I ended up telling her I am gay.” He grinned. “Not exactly what she was expecting. But I needed to do it. I didn’t have a choice. Or, I did have a choice, I could live my whole life a lie or I could be myself.”

I just knew that I would find a way to write about his story. He was so lovely, so gentle and so kind, a talented artist and we soon became good friends. I asked him if I could use him as a muse in a story that was forming in my head and he agreed.

The second idea came from urban exploration. I love being an urban explorer and I have set off alarms more than once, I can tell you! I do live by the code; go in if you can find a way, don’t break things, don’t destroy, don’t steal, leave everything as you found it.

I often search websites looking for places that other explorers have posted and I found a mention of an old school a couple of hours outside of Toronto and I persuaded my husband to take a trip.

The first time we went was in the middle of winter and there was definitely enough there to pique our interest in returning in the spring.

In the meantime, I did some research and found that the school had been many things in its time; a prisoner-of-war camp for German officers in the Second World War, an English school for Chinese immigrants and an Islamic school, the last of which had fallen into bankruptcy and the local government was trying to figure out what should be done with it.

When we returned to the school, it was very easy to get into all the buildings (of which there were many). In one room, I found some scraps of paper written by a former student; some ramblings, a poem and some homework and that made me wonder about the kids who had boarded there.

So I had three things which converged into a single book idea… firstly, Ashley being disfellowshipped. Then the school with the Islamic kid’s jottings (Islam, a religion with which I was unfamiliar, a religion which is clearly having a powerful impact on the world and about which I wanted to learn more), and then, the school itself.

The history of the buildings was so remarkable, and so was the destruction that had been wrecked upon them; violent damage that had taken concentration and work and focus and I found myself wondering about the perpetrators of all that ruin.

What kind of kids (or young adults) would have that much anger, and that much time to invest in the almost-systematic destruction of a place?

I knew I had good ideas for an overall story but I still needed a protagonist and I found her fairly easily.

A friend of mine had been talking about her primary reason for marrying her husband and it was because she could trace his genealogy back to the first settlers of Canada – he came from a solid bloodline and she wanted that for her children.
“Imagine,” she said, “not knowing the genetic pool from which you’ve sprung. It’s unthinkable!”

At least, it was unthinkable to her. Her comments immediately made me want to develop a character obsessed with her ancestry because this was something that couldn’t have interested (or worried) me less in my real life.

I think that’s why I write books – I try to explore themes about things that I really am unperturbed by but which seem to cause others a lot of distress, and religion is surely one of them, along with family trees.

But then I stopped myself short — who would be interested in reading a book about religion and fragmented families? But once an idea is had, it cannot be ignored, for it raises many questions which I personally needed answers to. Sometimes I think I also write books to answer the questions in my head about things that are bothering me in the world.

I had decided that my main character, a young immigrant woman from England, would take a summer to live off the grid in the old school and somehow become involved with the young Islamic student and a fellow who echoed my disfellowshipped friend.

Homelessness and religion… surely the kiss of death for a novel? I had other aspects for sure, the young kids who had destroyed the school headed up by Lenny, one of my favourite fictional bad boys ever, and there was also the ex-boyfriend of my protagonist; he was the main reason she ended up homeless and alone. And there would be crime, of course there would, Ashley’s boyfriend was a shady realtor, Imran (the Islamic student) seemed intent on jihad (or was that just an idle threat?) and Lenny’s crime-driven lifestyle would result in a young girl being murdered – all crimes which Joscelyn (the protagonist) solves. All she wants is some time to be left alone, to regroup and think, but she ends up sorting out a whole bunch of crimes and finding resolution to the things that had happened to her.

She also believed that her mother killed her father by hitting him over the head with a cast-iron frying pan and she gets to the bottom of that once and for all.

To answer the question of how I got this published, I have previously published four novels with Inanna Publications (a literary women’s fiction publisher based with York University) and they accepted this book as well.

I am incredibly fortunate that Inanna, and Luciana Ricciutelli in particular, has great faith in my writing and in my voice. For a writer to have that is like a bunch of Christmasses and birthdays all rolled into one, every day of the year. I have another book lined up with them for 2016, The Nearly Girl, which is a very different sort of work, one involving psychotherapy, poetry, mental instability and family love (of a very different nature to the kind in Between The Cracks She Fell).

I’d just like to add that I started Between The Cracks She Fell close to seven years ago. I wrote the first forty thousand words and then I got distracted by A Glittering Chaos, a book that truly came of out nowhere, demanding to be written and so Chaos jumped the queue. Then another book I had been working on for eight years, The Witchdoctor’s Bones, was preparing for publication and it was only once the Chaos and Bones were taken care of, that Cracks could get the attention it deserved.

But a bit of time away from it served me well. I hadn’t stopped thinking about it, or the twists and turns the plot could take, or the idiosyncrasies that each character could have and how to weave all those aspects together.

And now, it’s a real book! I cannot express the joy of holding the book, a solid beautiful thing, where all the ideas merged and were worked hard and then worked even further.

At the end of the day, the book is a good crime novel, a literary psychological thriller with a solid and likeable protagonist and fascinating side characters, including an extremely loveable big Newfoundland dog called Sam and I really hope readers will enjoy it.

Thank you for having me as a guest on this blog and I very much hope the readers have enjoyed the post. I am always around to answer questions or chat!

Best,


Lisa



About The Book



Title: Between The Cracks She Fell
Author: Lisa de Nikolits
Publisher: Inanna Publications
Publication Date: September 15, 2015
Format: Paperback / PDF
Pages: 350
ISBN: 978-1771332255
Genre: Suspense Thriller


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Book Description:

The award-winning author of the Hungry Mirror, West of Wawa, Glittering Chaos and The Witchdoctor's Bones delivers an original and riveting new novel about societal betrayal, familial loss and religious jihad. A suspenseful and lyrical read, Between The Cracks She Fell is a powerful - first person narrative about the explosive consequences of betrayal, survival in troubled times and the pervasiveness of religious domination.

When Joss finds herself having to make mortgage payments without help from her depressed, stoner boyfriend who has just moved out, and the company she works for folds leaving her suddenly unemployed, she is forced to sell her house, on which she takes a financial loss. She decides to camp out in a vacant complex of school buildings to give herself time to decide what to do next. It turns out the building is used by a gang of teenagers for wild, drug-fueled parties and Jess soon finds herself both repelled by their charismatic evil leader, as well as sexually attracted to him. She knows he is dangerous even before she finds his girlfriend's dead and violently abused body in the school library. During this time, she meets and befriends two other people in difficulty: Emma, a narcissistic thief living with her dog in a stolen car and Ashley, a young homosexual who is heartbroken by the fact that he has been expelled from the Jehovah's Witness church because he is gay. When her former boyfriend reappears as a born again Christian, Joss is immersed in a journal she found that contains the thoughts of a Muslim teenager who becomes increasingly radicalized. Her struggle to understand her former boyfriend and this young man's spiritual quests prepare her to make some hard decisions about her future. Between The Cracks She Fell is about a woman who falls off the grid and the explosive consequences of betrayal, survival in troubled times, and the pervasiveness of religious domination.


Book Excerpt:

Exodus

I reached my destination with no great sense of joy but at least I wasn't crying.

A purple, red and black pentagram marked the path ahead of me and the sea of grass rolled this way and that and my throat closed and my eyes stung but I swallowed the tears.

I tried to pretend I was Gibreel Farishta, a hero bigger than me; that tuneless soloist tumbling out og thin air; what an entrance, yaar.

First you have to die. Ho ji! Ho ji! How to ever smile again, if first you won't cry?

But there would be no more crying for me. My former life was dead. I needed to escape for a while, hide out and then, once I got my energy back. I would figure out what came next.

Right now all I could say was that I was alive, and that is the point I guess, much like Gibreel, standing, with pigs falling out of his face and no God to help him.

I held my arms aloft and waded through the knotty field, as if paddling through an upward flowing river, pushing forward against the current.

The summer offered shoulder-high fragrant grasses laced with thistles and weeds and despite the misfortunes of past events, I was not blind to the beauty of the tiny lilac flowers or the red roses that grew wild and free.

I could see the buildings in the distances. It had been a while since I had seen them but they sprawled low at the other end of the playing fields, just as I remembered.

I had packed for the task at hand; knife, bottled water, flashlight, pillow. Kind of funny really, how natural this solution felt, like it was some kind of okay. It wasn't the first time I'd purposefully left the grid; my first solo adventure had taken place when I was eleven. Tired of school, friends, mother, swimming lessons, and tuck shop lunches, I hid out in a farmer's shed, armed with books and apples and bars of chocolate. i stayed for two nights and two days, sleeping in a hairy horse blanket that I shook free of cobwebs and drew close around me, breathing in that rich scent of dry sage, dust, leather, sweat and all the other good things that horses smell of. I returned home when I ran out of food and reading material. Mum was furious but I wasn't sorry; I'd done what I needed to do and it was the same this time, although there was less choice in a sense, as I had in fact lost my house to the bank and my job to the recession and my boyfriend to a nervous breakdown.

I could think of no other way to heal, to regroup and to find the solo me that I could rely on. I had made a mistake, relying on Shayne but I would get over that. I would get over everything.


Book Trailer: http://bit.ly/1h9oqnN



About The Author



Originally from South Africa, Lisa de Nikolits has been a Canadian citizen since 2003. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and Philosophy and has lived in the U.S.A., Australia and Britain. 

Her first novel, The Hungry Mirror, won the 2011 IPPY Awards Gold Medal for Women's Issues Fiction and was ling-listed for a Relit Award. Her second novel, West of Wawa, won the 2012 IPPY Silver Medal Winner for Popular Fiction and was one of Chatelaine's four Editor's Picks. West of Wawa is available in bookstores and online.

Her third novel, A Glittering Chaos, launched in Spring 2013 to reader and review acclaim, and is about murder, madness, illicit love and poetry.

Her fourth novel, The Witchdoctor's Bones was launched Spring 2014 to reader and literary acclaim. The Witchdoctor's Bones is a thriller about the darkest secrets of African evil; the novel seamlessly weaves witchcraft and ancient folklore into a plot of loss, passion and intrigue and a holiday becomes a test of moral character.

Her fifth novel, Between The Cracks She Fell, was published in Fall 2015 and has been called "a whirligig-ride into the dark recesses of "what-next?" It is a compelling and multi-layered penetrating and twisty tale of insurrection."

"A lyrical and deeply moving examination of emotional pain and faith on a collision course with organized religion. Lisa de Nikolits highly believable and human characters are outsiders struggling to find meaning, and perhaps hope, in contemporary urban society. With a deft and confident clarity of style, she explores the complex interplay of faith, crime and social isolation. Highly recommended." - M.H. Callway, award-winning author of Windigo Fire (Seraphim Editions). 


Connect with Lisa:

The Mesdames of Mayhem: http://mesdamesofmayhem.com/about/



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