Today we feature A.K. Morgen, Constance Phillips and Sara Jay.
First up, FADE (The Ragnarök Prophesies: Book One) by A.K. Morgen
What do you do when you realize nothing in your life is what you’ve believed it to be?
When Arionna Jacobs loses her mother in a tragic accident, her world is turned upside down. She’s forced to leave her old life behind and move in with her father. Dace Matthews, a teaching assistant at her new college, is torn in two, unable to communicate with the feral wolf caged inside him. When they meet, everything they thought they knew about life unravels. Dace has intimate access to Arionna’s mind, and something deep within her fights to rise to the surface. They don't understand what's happening to them or why, and they're running out of time to sort out the strange occurrences around them. Their meeting sets an ancient Norse prophesy of destruction in motion, and what destiny has in store for them is bigger than either could have ever imagined. Unless they learn to trust themselves and one another, they may never resolve the mystery surrounding who they are to one another, and what that means for the world.
The wind howled around me, flinging cold rain this way and that. Frigid drops stung my face and hands. The vinyl awning overhead shook and rattled in time to the thunderclaps echoing from every direction. Energy crackled in the air as lightning splintered trees miles away. The resulting clamor forced Reverend Don to shout just to be heard above the fury of the storm. Even so, I only caught every third or fourth word of the prayer he offered.
I didn't need to hear what he said anyway. There were no prayers to raise the dead. I knew because I'd tried. I'd begged, pleaded, and prayed to every god I could think of over the last four days, and none of my efforts changed a single thing.
My mom still lay in the gleaming wood casket in front of me. And I still couldn't breathe. I'd tried that for the last four days, too, but my breath felt lodged in my throat. It burned when I inhaled. It burned when I exhaled.
Was that normal?
I wasn't sure.
I lifted my eyes from my waterlogged, black shoes as Reverend Don continued shouting. He bowed his gray head over his Bible, his shoulders hunching against the driving rain pummeling us from all sides. The few mourners who'd braved the storm alongside my dad and me to attend the graveside service huddled in groups beneath useless umbrellas, soggy tissues clutched in their shaking fists. Mascara ran in rivulets down more than one face, but whether from the rain or tears, I didn't know.
I couldn't remember if I'd put on mascara before leaving the house, but I did know any smudges beneath my eyes were from rain. I hadn't cried yet, and I didn't know if that was normal either.
I didn't think it mattered one way or another though. My life stopped making sense the moment I'd opened the door to the state trooper on Saturday, and every hour since had flung me further and further from normal. Who cared if I cried now or later?
My mom was dead, and tears wouldn't change that.
Besides, if I let myself cry now, I wouldn't stop. I'd keep on until I ran out of tears, and I couldn't do that. I needed to keep moving forward. One step at a time. Sprinkle dirt over her coffin. Thank her friends for coming. Pack my things. Transfer colleges.
The list seemed endless, but if I stopped long enough to think now, I'd fall apart. Eventually, I'd run out of things to do, I knew that, but I didn't know what to expect when I did. When I had nothing left to plan or store or do . . . is that when I cracked? When I shattered like Humpty Dumpty?
As a murmur of "Amen" went up from Mom's friends and co-workers, I almost hoped I did get to fall apart then. Being strong and brave hurt. Especially when I just wanted to hit my knees and scream until I passed out.
But when do we ever really get what we want, anyway?
About the author:
A.K. Morgen lives in Little Rock, Arkansas with her husband, three dogs, and demonic cat. She has a graduate degree in Criminal Justice and Law, and plans to save the world some day. When she’s not writing, she spends her time teaching her niece and nephews how to cause mischief. You can also find her dancing in the grocery store, building a spork army, and fundraising for nonprofits close to her heart.
Connect with the author: Website | Twitter | Goodreads
Secondly, we have RESURRECTING HARRY by Constance Phillips
From the blurb:
Devastated by Harry Houdini’s unexpected death, his widow, Bess, clings to his promise to deliver a coded message from beyond the grave. She’s determined to provide the bridge for him to cross, just like she assisted him on the stage, even if that means befriending her husband’s sworn enemy. In order to save the only woman he’s every loved from self-destruction, Harry puts his afterlife on the line by entering a wager with purgatory’s keeper, Jaden. He gives Harry a younger face and body, and a new name: Erich Welch. Even with Harry’s soul and memories, Erich feels out-of-place and disconnected from everything once his. Will Erich be able to help Bess over her loss and will any good come from resurrecting Harry?
Being closed into the old steamer trunk didn't faze him, not even when the familiar sound of a padlock clanking in place echoed in his ear. When water began to seep through the seams, most men would panic, but years of experience pushed down the instinct. He knew his faithful assistant and wife, Bess, had slipped into the spotlight to distract the crowd and raise the tension, just like they'd practiced for hours and performed dozens of times.
While the fans anticipated the worst, he took a slow and measured breath and prepared for several minutes without oxygen.
Harry focused on his center from behind veiled lids and used every last bit of strength to extend his legs. The side of the trunk he'd carefully loosened the night before popped off, and the water now rushed in. With cuffed hands, he felt along the lid, guiding himself out. His hooked pinky swiped the key from beneath his tongue, but the metallic taste remained.
Lifting his legs, he made short work of the shackles binding his ankles and then arched his back, reaching toward the surface. In seconds, the cuffs securing his wrists fell away too.
All that was left was to break the surface and claim his reward. The roar of the crowd and Bess's loving arms were the only two things that thrilled him more than defying death. Her and his fans gave him the drive to succeed.
Light faded away, as if rain clouds covered the sun or as if he was sinking further away from his destination.
His world spun like a child's top. A pulse thumped in his ear and molten-hot blood pumped through his veins. Pure adrenaline fueled the glimpses of his past, which flashed by like the slides his brother, Theo, showed after every vacation. But Harry wasn't watching the events unfold; he relived the memories over and again.
The spinning stopped. He now hung upside down, wrapped tighter than a Christmas present. His Chinese Water Torture Chamber, a straight jacket and the stage of the Orpheum Theatre; Harry might as well be safe at home in bed. He'd free himself from the binds as soon as he pushed his shoulder out of joint.
With a pop, this faded to white too.
Always trapped. Never escaping. No reward.
The spinning continued, like a phonograph record.
Shivers raked his body. In the distance, he could hear a doctor offering comfort and explaining to a sobbing Bess that hope was lost.
Harry saw nothing, just shuddered and listened. Icy water enveloped him; his neck rested on the frosty cast-iron tub. No matter how many times he relived it, he still believed his infection would clear and the fever would break. He may have stood in the shadow cast by the angel of death, but he still denied the inevitable. A burst appendix destroy the great Harry Houdini, master escape artist and expert showman? Never. When the lights fell on his final performance, something grander than illness would extinguish his flame.
Swallowing hard, he fought the quiver in his lips and tried to call out for Bess. Her touch to his cheek would provide the needed strength. The only vision that ever played out completely: he whispered her name and watched his own chest rise and fall for the last time.
The cold vanished, his pain dissipated, but the mental torture never ended. Over and over he experienced his greatest challenges, but not the successes. Never completing an escape and returning to Bess's embrace kept him lonely and devastated. What had he done to deserve such torment, and for how long would this agony continue?
Harry always believed in ashes to ashes. When his heart stopped, his mind would too. Anything else seemed impossible, but now he knew different. This was Hell.
But what of the fire and brimstone ol' man Thomas used to preach about on the corner?
As a child, Harry's sainted mother would rush him past Seventh and Main where the elderly man testified to the world. She'd whisper passages from the Torah and remind him his main concern should be this life. Despite his mother's dislike for the reverend, he taught Harry a valuable lesson that would stick with him his whole life: give people a show.
Would it disappoint the preacher to know that, despite what the scriptures said, Hell didn't torture the body with never-ending fires, but focused on the mind? Harry knew this was worse.
His stomach heaved to and fro. Bile bubbled in his gut and pushed its way up, burning his throat, but the relief vomiting would bring never came.
Why won't the spinning stop? Maybe because he allowed it to continue. Change comes from within. That's how he lived his life: for every action, a reaction. Why should death be different?
No more complacency.
He tightened his muscles and stretched his body as taut as possible. "STOP!"
Spinning. Spinning. As if he was embedded on a reel-to-reel film and someone had pushed rewind, but he was through being held at someone else's mercy. Again, he ordered an end to the torture.
The loud clank of rusty gears grinding together sounded, and he felt whatever force kept him tied to this existence snap. His body plummeted and his arms thrashed; pleas turned to screams. Maybe there was something worse than the status quo. Falling faster now, he tensed his muscles and braced for the agonizing pain of hitting the ground.
Soft and comforting instead, like slipping into a feather bed and wrapping up in a patchwork quilt, he felt ground beneath him. And serenity. An end to his anguish? He opened his eyes and wondered if he'd see anything but his past. White padding adorned the walls and the floor, like he'd seen in those mental hospitals he toured while concocting his straightjacket escape.
But Harry wasn't crazy. He was dead.
The air shifted; the temperature rose. Sweat replaced the goose bumps that covered his arms. A body? Harry touched the flesh to make sure it was real. The image of a floating soul now shattered by this reality. Hot, humid air burned his lungs as he leaned against the wall and looked up into the ice-blue eyes of a stranger, who loomed a good foot taller than Harry and was wrapped in tight, black leather like the blacksmiths he'd known in his youth or the cowboys he'd first met out west. Long, black hair veiled the stranger's face. He lit a cigarette and threw his head back, inhaling deeply and giving Harry another look at those bizarre eyes. A shiver rode his spine. "My God."
A bubbling laugh erupted from the giant. "Not bloody likely."
Constance Phillips lives in Ohio with her husband, two ready-to-leave-the-nest children, and four canine kids. Her perfect fantasy vacation would involve hunting Dracula across Europe with her daughter, who also digs that kind of stuff. When she’s not writing about fairies, shifters, vamps, and guardian angels, she’s working side-by-side with her husband in their hardwood flooring business.
Connect with the author: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Blog
And last, but definitely not least, there is HARD AS ROCK from Sara Jay
[This book is not suitable for anyone under the legal age]
From the blurb:
Meet Canna, the insatiable faery. She may be green, but she’s no newbie when it comes to The Pleasure Club. Patrons of the Club think she’s a pleasure poltergeist as she takes part in their sexy adventures, and this flirty faery loves to keep her secret! Canna’s got her eyes on the club’s resident gargoyle statue, a seven-foot-tall Goliath among the rest of the club’s kinky decor. Even though he’s not real, Canna’s nightly visits with him certainly feel almost real enough…
She shrank back down to human size and sighed.
The creature wasn’t real, of course. In fact, its purpose was mainly aesthetic. Few people climbed onto the fierce gargoyle guarding the doorway into the rest of the club. Canna certainly didn’t mind; it made him all the more her property.
Seven feet of black volcanic rock loomed over patrons’ heads. His mouth pulled back in a menacing growl, only partly open. Long black hair draped down his back as shiny and lifelike as any centaur’s. His half-extended wings nearly touched the floor. They flanked a trunk bulging with muscle and strength, scarred with streaks that must have been from being moved around over the years. Had he been a real gargoyle, the sculpture would undoubtedly lead his pride as an alpha.
She called him Goliath, like the giant brought down by a rock as solid as he was. As with every statue and machine in the Pleasure Club, he was warm and life-like to the touch. In previous centuries, he would have cracked beneath such use. Current standards for precious stones dictated chemical treatment for lasting durability.
That durability guaranteed her play toy a life nearly as endless as her own. He often cooled during the daytime hours, however, which Canna attributed to lack of power. Some exhibits simply warranted less electricity due to their infrequent use. His volcanic glass could also be to blame.
“My rock-hard giant,” she murmured, running her glittery green fingernails up his enormous bicep. Curling herself into his form playfully, she marveled at how their bodies practically glowed against one another. Her bare, sea foam skin and emerald hair sharply contrasted against his iron-like sheen.
Twirling back out to face him, her grass-green eyes sparkled up at his stone irises. His eyes bore back into hers, their inky depths casting dual black holes for her to fall into. The pupils had been etched quite realistically, with swirls of varying shades of ebony. Not for the first time, she sensed wild life within them.
For a second, he felt really alive, really there to take her and mark her as his Mate, forever. Hand still on his arm, she fluttered up toward his mouth, gaze never leaving his, as if pulled by his magnetic ore. Her lips grazed his open mouth, tongue sliding over his teeth and body quivering.
I love fantasy, science fiction, speculative literature and movies, and just about anything with creatures in it! Creating new characters and worlds for myself and others to enjoy is one of the biggest joys on Earth for me. I have written a novella via text messaging service, dozens of articles for WiseGeek and YouthNoise, and currently freelance as a news blogger. My writing (including everything from nonfictional news stories to poetry and flash fiction) has been published at Baby-Line, Ecorazzi, Blink-Ink, Daily Kos, Scottsdale Health, Valley Scene Magazine, Short, Fast, and Deadly, and dozens of other publications, both in print and online. To read any of these and hundreds of other blog posts I’ve written, you can visit my alter ego, Sara J. Schmidt. This year I won four separate writing contests, including the Changeling Press Spring Fling, which resulted in the publication of my first book! I am also a homeschooling mom (believe it or not!) and live with my young daughter and husband, who was my highschool sweetheart. [Source: Goodreads Author Profile]
Buy this book: Changeling Press
Thanks for stopping by. Come visit again on 7/25 for another round of the BFF. Until then, happy reading.
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