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Review of “Sugar Skulls” – M.R. Tapia

“Life is a matter of death. Death is a matter of fact.”

Micah DeAtta learns this as he awakens with Death seated across from him, whetting his sickle. Micah has no choice but to converse with Death in order to figure out his own demise. As their conversations become a battle of wits, Micah is forced to relive prominent deaths of family and friends before learning of his own. Each death happens in real time, each correlating with the nine levels of the Aztec underworld. Before it is said and done, Micah will have been forced to face his fears, his losses, and the fact that although life may be too short, death is forever.

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(Chapter 13)

 

When Mama died, I died. Mama died of cancer. I can’t exactly remember how I died.

Now I’m sitting here with Death as he takes me back to these deaths. This whole experience is infuriating. He talks to me as if he cares while making it clear that he doesn’t.

I murmur, “You’re Death,” saying it more to myself than to him.

“I’m sorry?” he asks with confusion.

I quietly shout, “You’re Death. You—are—Death.”

I look up at him in anger.

He stares at me, blankly. Dead.

“What the fuck do you pity the lives you end for?” I point my finger and tap the air as if it were his chest. “You don’t know, do you? You don’t realize what you do to the family and friends of the person. You don’t know what sorrow feels like. Grief. What pain and heartache feel like.”

There’s no stopping me now. Not even his calm and bone-collected self. Sitting there nice and composed. Asshole.

“You don’t know what it feels like to have someone ripped away from you. You never held your sister in your arms while they cry violently, asking why God took her baby. But it was you. You took her baby. You haven’t watched a teenage family member on a hospital bed being kept alive with beeping machines and wheezing pumps. Being held away from you. Feeling helpless as you watch the Nurse’s assistant gently wipe away dried sweat and drool and blood from their inflamed face.” Sweat and drool and blood also smear my face.

“Micah—”

I cut him off, “You’ve never sat and watched as your mother was lowered beneath the ground. No. You just do the dirty deeds, don’t you? You’ve never had to repeat ‘I’m okay. Hanging in there,’ to everyone asking how you’re doing.”

I grunt, “You’ve never listened to the broken record of ‘they’re in a better place now; they’re resting in peace now; there’s no more suffering where they are now’. You’ve never had to turn your back on those attending a loved one’s funeral to keep from blowing up on them because they’re there to be nosy.”

Death sits there as tears stream from my bloodshot eyes. “Do you know how many funerals I’ve been too? What about you? You may be the reason behind the grieving families at funerals, but how many have you actually been too?”

He stands, tall and erect. “You fool!” The boner’s voice enters my soul with loud impatience. He slams the butt of the scythe’s handle to the ground and I feel my world tremble like a tremor. “Do you know how many I’ve caused? How many funerals are of my doing? The funerals you’ve been to, they’re because of me.”

My eyes are forced shut, the force of his shouting reaching my core like an explosion.

As I hold them shut I sense a breeze brush along the beads of sweat on my forehead and forearms. I’m frightened to open them. I struck a nerve now.

I remember wanting life the day after pleading for my death, but right now I want nothing more than life and Mama’s warm, reassuring embrace. Besides an ominous breeze, I feel and hear nothing. I concentrate on my panicked breathing. My heart rate high, pounding behind my eyes. That’s when I hear the voice.

“We commend unto thy hands of mercy, most merciful Father, the soul of this thy child; and we commit her body to the ground, earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust.—”

My body is still as a gambling addict whose life’s savings are wagered in the hopes of early retirement, awaiting the judge’s results for the boxing match.

What am I awaiting? Sitting here, eyes clinched. Body, clinched. Am I waiting for Death? Confirmation of Death? Something’s out of place.

“—judgement shall come which thou hast committed to thy well-beloved Son, both this child and we may be found acceptable in thy sight. Grant this, O merciful Father, for the sake of Jesus Christ, our only Savior, Mediator, and Advocate. Amen.”

I slowly open my eyes and realize that I am no longer in front of Death. Another memory. Now, I am tight within a crowd of people. People who are dressed mostly in black, or in dark shades. I nudge forward through the darkly dressed crowd.

My feet are inches deep in sod. As I stretch my calves, peering over shoulders, a priest comes into sight. He is closing a bible, placing a holy kiss on the cover, and hugs it tightly against his chest.

A man and woman make their way forward, leaning over in front of him. But they aren’t taking communion or asking for a blessing. They’re giving a kiss to a glossy, pink box. The box is about the size of a large sack of potatoes. I’m about as clear minded as those same potatoes.

This is all familiar. Even the man kissing the box. He is dressed in a charcoal grey suit. I recognize him as my brother.

Cheecho straightens and turns away from the box. It’s not just any box. It’s a casket. A casket holding my stillborn niece.

The box jerks immediately as it descends into the earth. Feet away from her angel-daughter—my angel-niece—my sister jerks in unison.

Behind her, my family, and others, lies a field of tombstones. Precious Moments sculptures decorating a few of them, crucifixes and Jesuses and saints and Virgin Marys adorn the majority of the rest.

A shadow meanders through them. It holds what appears at a glance to be a Johnny Appleseed knapsack.

I know what it really is, though. A sickle.

And I know who he really is.

Death.

He stops behind a tombstone and his head turns in my direction as if mourning alongside my family and I.

Some Taiwanese funerals have professional mourners. People hired to speak, and mourn for the deceased. Women with makeup streaking down their faces with tears.

The clinks of the gears lowering my niece are loud as an interstate highway accident.

My sister, she wails. Her makeup streaks down her face with tears. She attempts to tear her heart out through her black dress, mascara-tears clogging random pinholes in her black veil.

Then I look at the graceful pace of Death.

I panic.

It was hard enough the first time. This time only reiterates the fact that I can’t help her. I know this isn’t real. Just another Death joke. I do an about face, allowing my feet guide me away. But they guide me into the backside of a woman.

“—earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust.—”

The words enslave me. Over the shoulder of a woman before me I again see a priest with his hand sprinkling Holy water over a casket. This black casket is tailored for an adult.

“—Grant this, O merciful Father, for the sake of Jesus Christ, our only Savior, Mediator, and Advocate. Amen.”

I push forward again and see Ronnie’s mother wiping tears away from her cheeks. That’s Ronnie’s casket. This is Ronnie’s funeral.

My attention is returned to Ronnie’s mother and others from their family as they all wail a song of heartache as Ronnie descends into the earth. The melody is in Spanish. The singer is wailing, singing Entierranme Cantando. Sing while you bury me.

As turn away in anguish, and I see AJ texting away on her phone, her hands resting upon her fat belly that my child temporarily calls home.

I glance at the priest and his bible. Death peeks over his shoulder, looking at Ronnie? At me? It’s hard to tell with his empty eye sockets. Patches of skin flail with the misty breeze.

Panic turns to anger. Anger toward AJ’s ignorance. Anger toward Death. Anger due to me being forced to relive these moments, as if the pure memory and loss isn’t enough.

I do a half turn to escape Death’s sadistic joke. Maybe even Death himself. I stop before running into the back of another priest. Or is it the same one? I don’t know. But the casket before him is different.

The picture on the stand is one of Gabe. He’s dressed in a black cap and gown with crimson stitching and a sash and cord to match. It’s Gabe’s funeral.

I panic is turning into a frantic movements like a slow internet connection. I juke to my left and see another framed picture. This one of Artie standing next to his first car. I refrain a shout, turning once again to get out of here. Out of this moment- these moments. My past. My future. My Death. But I am stopped short by the sight before me.

A glossy, deep forest green casket sways upon thick green straps, hovering above a rectangular pit. Pictures of Saints adorn the sides of it. The centerpiece is a beacon of Mexican culture. It is a picture of the Virgen de Guadalupe. A beacon of Mama’s faith. It’s my mother’s casket.

A shadow crosses on the other side of Mama’s casket. My head jerks upward and instead of Death’s black shadow, I see a white owl with golden eyes perched atop a tombstone.

Gears crank and I look at Mama’s casket. Tears cascade from my eyes as my mother is lowered.

This is pure agony, although I know this has happened before. I know this is a part of Death’s torture. I also know that the pain I feel is real. Maybe even more painful because I am forced to relive it. Relive the fresh pain, peeling back the scab far enough that skin also rips away bringing forth more anguish.

This time, I involuntarily change a detail. While kneeling by the platform’s metal bars that support Mama’s body, my muscles contract, readying themselves. The green, thick, wide straps give way to Mama’s physical existence, lowering her to her final destination, I rise to my feet.

My core burns with the intensity of a forest fire. My weight leans forward. My feet part ways with the earth, where Mama’s body shall rest.

Earth to earth.

I chase my freefalling tears down into Mama’s resting site.

Ashes to ashes.

The damp air graces my skin, and I fall, closing my eyes, peacefully.

Dust to dust.

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My Review

Death is inevitable. Some depart this world peacefully in their sleep and some pass on painfully. We’ve all heard stories depicting angels, bright light, but no one really speaks of “Death” himself. In Sugar Skulls, Micah has quite the lengthy conversation with Death. I agree with Micah, Death behaving more like Sigmund Freud than the thing of nightmares was quite unnerving. I can see why Micah mouthed off to him. Death was basically acting like a shrink and not everyone is comfortable with a head doctor, let alone one looking like DEATH. DEATH made Micah relive the best and, more importantly, the worst moments of his existence.

 

In doing so. certain points in Sugar Skulls proved quite informative and/or fascinating. 

1.) Mictlan (underworld of Aztec mythology) and its 9 levels.

(Each level was described and integrated into the storyline very smoothly.)

 

2.) Death’s reaction to taking some lives but not others. 

(Many have pondered the question if DEATH views all his “victims” the same. Does he regret any lives taken? No regrets whatsoever? His response might amaze you. Tapia clearly didn’t want DEATH to be a silent player in this story. DEATH certainly had depth to him.)

 

3.) The ending. 

(The closer the end came, the less surprised I was by the turn of events. However, I must say, the end was pretty damn good.)

 

 

Heart Rating System:

1 (lowest) and 5 (highest) 

Score: ❤❤❤❤

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M.R. Tapia has had his short stories appear in various publications including Schlock Webzine, Deadman’s Tome, Empty Sink Publishing, and Hindered Souls: Dark Tales for Dark Nights. His short story, ‘Stella Reign’ is a 2016 Pushcart Prize nominee.

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Review of “Seashells, Spells and Caramels” – Erin Johnson

Murder at a magical baking contest off the coast of France.

Imogen’s spent her twenties in Seattle, saving every penny and missing every party, to follow her dream of opening her own bakery.

When that dream goes up in flames, she accepts a spot in a mysterious baking contest—one she doesn’t remember entering. She travels to a bustling, medieval village off the coast of France and discovers an enchanting world of magic and mystery, and learns that she, too, possesses powers.

Unable to so much as cast a spell, Imogen struggles to keep up with the other witches and wizards who have come from all over the magical world to the Water Kingdom’s big competition. She juggles relationships with a sweet new friend, a snarky baking fire, and a brooding, handsome baker. As Imogen falls for this bewitching world, she fears she won’t master her magic in time to win the job of Royal Head Baker, and will be forced to return to the shambles of her non magical life.

It only gets worse, when a competitor drops dead in the middle of the big white baking tent, and Imogen’s the prime suspect. Now, she’ll not only have to survive the vampire and psychic judges, but also clear her name by finding the real murderer, before they strike again.

With a killer on the loose, a missing prince, and the Summer Solstice Festival fast approaching, Imogen will have to bake like her life depends on it- because it just might.

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EXCERPT

The string quartet, persuaded into playing the conga, churned out the familiar song as a middle-aged man sat next to them, an upended ice bucket between his knees, playing the “drum.” The line of rehearsal dinner guests snaked between tables. I peeled my eyes away from the conga line as a beautiful guest sauntered toward me.

She smiled, her teeth bright against her dark skin. Her hair, tightly curled and piled atop her head in an enormous bun, bounced as she swayed her hips to the music, her snow-white gown catching the candlelight from the tables.

“Cake or a cupcake?” I asked for the umpteenth time. I smiled and held up one of each.

She tapped a slender finger against her lips as her dark eyes darted from one to the other. The diamond bracelets she wore slid up toward her elbows as she threw her hands in the air. “Oh, ow about zem both, eh?”

I grinned and handed over the plates. I loved French accents. Not that I’d ever been to France, or anywhere really. Before I’d moved from St. Louis, I’d never even been out of state.

“Are you ze baker?”

I nodded.

“I’ve been earing all night about ze desserts.” She stepped closer and lowered her voice. She smelled like jasmine. “I eear they’re just bearsting weeth mageeck.” She winked, then held the cupcake up to her mouth, gingerly taking a bite around the wrapper. She moaned and bent her knees, sinking halfway to the ground. “Incredible. Just incredible. You should enter ze contest, you reeally should. And I don’t do false flattery, believe me.”

I raised a brow. “The contest?”

She looked me up and down. “You reeally don’t know? Ze Water Kingdom’s holding a contest for ze new royal baker. Last one died recently.” She looked around and leaned closer, her voice hushed. “Ze official word is she died of a ‘art attack, but if you ask me, eet was dark mageeck. Somezing underhanded, you know? Murder.” She leaned back and straightened. How much had this woman had to drink? “Zat shouldn’t scare you zough. I reeally zink you should enteer, zhere’s steel time. I probably ’ave a flyer somewhere.” She set the plates down and fished around in her sparkly white clutch.

“Zey’ve been distributing zem all over ze kingdoms. Anyone can apply, anyone at all… well almost, no shifters, ze usual, but ze’ll take emigrants like you.” She poked around some more in the tiny clutch.

Pretty sure if you haven’t found it by now, it’s not going to suddenly appear. The bag looked like it could barely hold a credit card… maybe.

She looked at me and shrugged her slender shoulders. “Can’t find one.” She glanced around and then winked. “Don’t usually break ze rules when traveling on visa, you know.

But I am here as ze date of ze retired ambassador, so if I geet in a beet of trouble, he’ll just geet me out.”

I scanned the conga line. Did she mean Ben’s grandpa?

A small sound, a zap, like snuffing a candle out with wet fingers, made me turn toward her again. In her hand she held a large, brown sheet of paper. “We’ll just keep zat between us, eh?”

Goose bumps prickled up the back of my neck and arms. I looked between the paper and her face. Where had it come from? It was too large to fit in her bag without folding, yet it was completely smooth and crisp. She handed it to me. The oddly thick paper seemed to be coated in wax. I sniffed it and smelled honey.

“Well, I’m off.” She lifted the plates. “Thank you for ze delicious treats. So good to have met you.”

I nodded, not sure how I felt about this strange and beautiful woman. “You too.”

“Think about eet.” She lifted her chin toward the flyer in my hand and danced her way back to the party.

I held the waxy paper up to my face and read, “The Magnificent Contest for the Water Kingdom’s Next Royal Baker.”

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(review request submitted by the author for an honest critique) 

 

I absolutely adore watching cooking competition shows so reading a story where competitors are magical, paranormal beings sounded too good to pass up.  Much like  Master Chef and Top Chef, in Seashells, Spells and Caramels, readers will be treated to theme challenges where contestants will be voted off until a winner is crowned. As with the other popular shows, there are baking mishaps, rivalries and tears.

However, Seashells, Spells and Caramels had a few things you’d NEVER see on any primetime competition show.

1.) You’ll never see a REAL vampire judging the sugary concoctions.

2.) You’ll never witness a flame speaking to you. 

3.) A murder mystery probably won’t pop up when watching Hell’s Kitchen.

 

Seashells, Spells and Caramels had humor, mystery, and a hint of romance. A truly magical, delicious read…..one I’m sure will be a bestseller for the talented Erin Johnson. 

 

Heart Rating System 

1 (lowest) and 5 (highest) 

 Score: ❤❤❤❤1/2

 

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ALSO AVAILABLE

Book 2

A dark carnival and a dire prophecy lead to murder and mayhem.

With the Summer Sea Carnival visiting the enchanted island of Bijou Mer, Imogen jumps at the chance to help run the royal bakery booth. It’ll get her out of the palace and allow her to continue avoiding her feelings for a certain engaged prince.

Imogen’s plans to lay low are shattered when the world-famous necromancer, Madame Zerna, is found dead, sawed in half on the dark magician’s table and Imogen’s friend Rhonda is caught red-handed. With incriminating evidence piling up against Rhonda, Zerna’s rival, Imogen promises to help clear her name by finding the real murderer. 

But between running the booth, encouraging Maple as she struggles to lead as head baker, and taking spell lessons from the friendly strong man, Imogen’s got her hands full. And it’s no easier getting information from the evasive dark magician or Madame Zerna’s secretive assistant. Even Rhonda’s hiding something. 

With the Night of the Dead fast approaching, and Rhonda headed for a maximum security witch prison, Imogen races to unearth the real killer in time to save her friend. But in a mysterious carnival where nothing’s as it seems, will Imogen have the magical powers to keep from being on the chopping block herself?

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Book 3

Murder at a Mermaid Nightclub

The enchanted village of Bijou Mer’s on high alert, with the villainous Horace on the loose. Imogen’s excited to escape the tension with a trip to the underwater Mermaid Kingdom to bake for the young mermaid queen’s engagement to the pirate king.

But when the mermaids turn out to be less French Riviera and more Jersey shore, the bakers are wrapped up in their world of clubbing in sea caves and fighting off seals for the best tanning spots, and are embroiled in a pirate smuggling scandal. It gets worse when a member of the mermaid court is found dead in a fishing net, and one of Imogen and Maple’s baked goods seems to be the murder weapon.

Imogen tries to fish out the real murderer to clear their names, while struggling with her romantic feelings for Hank. At the same time, she’s working with him to learn to control her magic and investigate Horace’s riddle and her own mysterious past.

As the mermaid court’s freewheeling lifestyle rubs off on the bakers, the gang lets loose and passions rise to the surface. But with a giant octopus crawling the ocean floor, the mermaid court filled with simmering secrets and scandals, and the ever present threat of the Badlands Army, Imogen must solve the murder before she ends up fish food herself.

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A native of Tempe, Arizona, Erin spends her time crafting mysterious, magical, romance-filled stories that’ll hopefully make you laugh. In between, she’s traveling, napping with her dogs, eating with her friends and family, and teaching Pilates (to allow her to eat more).
 

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Author Showcase – Joynell Schultz (The Secret Lives of Superhero Wives)

Nobody said being married was easy, but try being married to a superhero. Not only is there laundry, cooking, and a career to balance, but throw in a few supervillains and your day’s booked.

Ariana, Victoria, and Emma’s men spend more time saving the world than doing dishes. These wives want some semblance of a normal married life, but would settle for an uninterrupted meal together. Besides, how can they compete with saving the world?

When a catastrophic earthquake devastates Shadow Town and crime spirals out of control, it appears the city needs all the help they can get to clean it up. Everyone expected the resident superheroes to save the day, but nobody expected the wives’ help too…

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Excerpt courtesy of Joynell Schultz’s website

 

Saturday, April 3rd

 

ARIANA 

‘Psst, Ariana. I’m gonna be late.’ Adam’s hushed voice whispered in Ariana’s mind, jolting her out of the present.

“Hold still,” her mother said.

Ariana stiffened and ignored her mom, focusing on her future husband instead. She wondered how long it’d take to get used to his telepathic superpower. She opened her mind to him and sent a reply, ‘Why?’

‘I’ve been…detained.’ Adam forced an image to flood her mind: his naked body with his manliness poorly covered by his hand. Her cheeks tingled and warmed as she looked at her mother’s smile. She focused on the image in her head instead, noticing the scorch marks on Adam’s skin. Black ash against his thighs and across the ripples of his abdomen. What had happened? She assessed his skin, unharmed as usual.

Her fiancé’s voice continued. ‘I may not make it in time.’

‘Like hell you won’t.’ She shifted her weight on the chair she stood on. Her hand jolted to her rump, swatting her aunt’s hand away. “Ouch!”

“Hey, you need to keep still.” Her aunt gripped her hips to keep her in place.

Ariana sprang off the chair, the bustle of her white gown half pinned, and half flowing behind her. “Um, I gotta go.”

Her mom’s jaw fell open. “You need to go? Now’s not the time for cold feet.”

Ariana found her mom’s purse, pulled out the minivan keys, and gave her mom a kiss on the cheek. “Trust me, if I don’t go now, there won’t be a wedding.”

Her mom’s jaw opened, and she appeared to search for words, but Ariana ignored her, focusing on Adam instead. ‘Where are you?’ She sent to Adam.

‘The alley behind Top Perks Coffee Shop.’

‘Do you know what time it is?’

Adam sent an image of his bare wrist. ‘I was going to look for my missing my watch, but I couldn’t find the time.’He transmitted a chuckle.

‘Of course, you have a joke. You always have jokes. Come on! Our wedding starts in less than an hour.’

‘I know.’ Adam’s words enunciated in her mind. ‘That’s why I’m telling you I’ll be late.’

‘Stay there.’

Ariana flew out the door, her mother hot on her tail. “Where are you going?”

“No time to explain. Meet me at the church,” she panted.

Ariana stopped in the study of her parent’s house and snatched Adam’s Tux, flinging it over her shoulder. She wrapped yards of her gown’s white fabric around her arm and ran to her parent’s minivan.

“Ariana, you can’t do—” Her mother’s voice drowned by the purring V-6 of the sensible gold party machine.

The tires squealed as she flew down the driveway, leaving her mother yelling at her in the front yard. “Sorry, Ma, but there’s no way I’m being stood up on my wedding day.”

More than one neighbors’ necks turned to rubber as they watched the scene of the runaway bride. Ariana waved and blew them a kiss before she further pressed the accelerator and clenched the steering wheel.

The van lurched one way and then the other as she rounded the corners through the back streets of the city, running a few red lights and ignoring the speed limits. Who had time for that crap, anyway?

Leaving a track of rubber on the pavement, she screeched to a halt in front of a rusted dumpster at the end of the alley, perfectly matching the image Adam had sent. She clicked the button to open the side door, yelling into the empty ally, “This better be good.”

With caution, Adam emerged from behind the dumpster with one hand covering his frontside and another covering his backside. The hair was singed off his chest. Hmm…was all his hair below his neck burned off? She looked down at his legs. Yup, that’ll be interesting.

He crawled into the van.

Not waiting for the door to close, Ariana threw the vehicle in reverse and spun the tires out of the alley, heading for the church.

“Here,” she huffed, handing her naked fiancé a small foil-wrapped package.

In the rearview mirror, Adam twirled the package in his hand. “Fingernail polish removing wipes?”

“If I were you, I wouldn’t be complaining right now. Get the soot off and throw your tux on. Honestly, today, I don’t care what you look like. I wouldn’t even care if the hair on the top of your head would have been burned off. You have a wedding to be at in thirty minutes.”

Adam ran a hand through his short, light brown locks, appearing to ensure it was still there. “Don’t you want to know what happened?”

“That’s not important right now. Focus.” Ariana pointed at the tux then to Adam.

Adam laughed. “Well, he got away.”

“I said, get ready.” She hid any amusement from her voice.

“Isn’t it bad luck to see the bride in her wedding dress before the ceremony?”

Ariana looked up at the ceiling and held up a finger. “One day. All I ask is that you show up ON TIME this one day.” Ariana’s arm was shaking. She returned her hand to the wheel and tightened her grip. Note to self: don’t let Adam out of your sight on days with important events.

Adam was laughing now. “Don’t you ever worry about me?”

Ariana’s her heart raced and her palms were wet from sweat. “You’re invincible. You’ll always be fine. Now put that tux on!”

Pulling the van up to the church steps, she turned to her future husband. His lip curled up, and all her anger melted away. She took a deep breath as he leaned forward and placed a kiss on her forehead, giving one of her blond ringlets a little tug. He whispered, “I love you, but, I think, you’ll be late.” In a flash, Adam was out of the van and disappeared into the church.

Out came Ariana’s mother, her wavy gray hair wild in the wind. Ari stepped out of the van, took a deep breath, and smiled, letting it all sink in. She was going to marry the man of her dreams today. This was truly the beginning of the rest of her life. A fabulous life with an amazing partner at her side.

Her mom took her hand and helped her out. “We have ten minutes to finish getting you ready.”

Her dad stepped beside them. “You look beautiful, Dear.”

Ariana smiled. This was everything she ever wanted. Loving parents and marrying a man, everyone drooled about—even if they only drooled when he was in costume, saving the world.

 

 

 VICTORIA

Victoria swirled her straw in her Diet Coke. She hated Diet Coke, but being in a newer relationship, she needed to keep her figure in better shape than a marshmallow Peep. The duck kind, not the bunny ones. The thought was making her hungry. She enjoyed being “full bodied” and wanted to keep her curves. It was a fine line to not be too skinny, nor too heavy. The Diet Coke was her balance, but it reminded her how much it sucked to be thirty and no longer married.

Today, her mind was on everything except the man in front of her. Work, the book she was reading, and her grocery list.

“Vicky?”

Victoria shook her head and looked up at Mike. “Sorry, I was distracted. I have a lot going on. What did you say?”

“I had asked if you wanted to get away this week. You said you took a few days off of work. We could go to my cousin’s lake cottage. It would be romantic.” He winked at her.

Should she tell him she hated winking? It was creepy and something a sleaze-bag would do. She bit her tongue and focused on his question. “This week? Um… I’ll have Chew-Barka. Can I bring him?”

The smile on Mike’s face dissolved as he rubbed his temple. “I can ask, but can’t your ex take him?”

She sat back in her chair. “Ask him to do me a favor? I’d rather give up chocolate.”

Mike tilted his chin. “You know Thursday’s our anniversary.”

“Anniversary?”

“We’ve been dating for three months.”

Had it been that long already? “You’re counting months? I thought only teenagers did that.”

Mike’s lips tightened. “Are you not into this relationship?”

She swirled her straw, splashing soda over the edge of the glass. “Yeah, it’s fine… I mean good. It’s just—”

Mike looked up. “Speaking of the devil. How is it he always seems to interrupt us?”

She ground her teeth, not needing to spin around to know her ex-husband stood behind her. “Yes, Vance, how is it you always seem to know where I am?”

Her ex made his way to the side of their table. His voice was smooth, deep, and familiar. Victoria tried to forget how much it appealed to her. “Coincidence, I guess. I was on my way to the mayor’s campaign headquarters, but saw you here.”

“Come on. Campaign headquarters is across the city.” Victoria played with her straw.

“You’re a supporter?” Mike asked. “I thought nobody liked the Mayor. How he won, I’ll never know.”

“Obviously, more than half the city likes him, otherwise he wouldn’t have won. Besides, I always root for the underdog.”

Mike leaned forward. “I read that they are trying to have a recall election. Nobody believes he won.”

Victoria turned to Vance and didn’t hide the annoyance in her voice. “So, why are you here?”

Vance’s smile said I’m-hiding-something-I’m-not-going-to-tell-you. “I was simply getting extra steps in.” He turned to Mike. “So, how have ya been?” He gave Mike a small punch on his shoulder.

“Ow—” Mike jerked away, shielding his bicep with his hand. He straightened and recovered his manliness.

Vance didn’t seem phased. “Were you done here?”

Victoria ground her teeth together. “No. We hadn’t ordered yet.”

“Great!” Vance smiled. “I’m starving.” He grabbed a chair from the neighboring table, turned it backwards and straddled it.

“Join us,” Mike said to the already sitting down Vance. “I think Victoria has a question for you, anyway.”

Vance picked up the menu that laid in front of Mike. “Were you done with this?” He tipped down his sunglasses and stared at Mike’s hot coffee for a moment.

He better not use his power.

He tipped his sunglasses back in place and smiled again. A smile that made Victoria sweat. “A question for me? You were thinking about me?”

Victoria shook her head and sputtered out the lies. “I don’t have a question, and I never think about you.”

Mike interjected. “What she means is would you keep Chew-Barka until the weekend?”

“This weekend?”

“Yeah, I’d like to take Victoria away for our anniversary.” Mike picked up his coffee.

“Anniversary? What’s it been? A few months? I thought only kids counted months.” Vance shook his head and focused on the menu. “Nah. That won’t work. I’m busy.”

Victoria set her menu down and glared at her ex. “You’re busy? How is it that you always seem to find enough time to find me and torment me?”

“Well, I have plans now.” Vance turned away from Mike, towards Victoria, and curled the corner of his lip up into a sly smile. Of course he had plans. They involved keeping her and Mike apart. Now throw in a little irritating her and Vance’s week was full. Did he really hate her that much? She had broken his heart.

Victoria chocked down a sip of her Diet Coke. “That’s okay. I think it’s time I found a kennel for Chew-Barka.” She turned to Mike who lifted his coffee mug to his lips.

“No—” Victoria tried to stop him, but it was too late. He had tipped the coffee cup back and taken a sip. The icy cold liquid sprayed out of his mouth, all over the table.

Mike set the cup down. “What the hell! It’s freezing.”

Victoria wiped her face and glared at Vance.

Vance’s sly smile appeared again, then a little chuckle. “I don’t know why you’re looking at me.”

Victoria shook her head at him, trying to tell him, she was on to him. On to the fact he used his freeze vision.

Vance set the menu down and changed the subject. “No kennel for Chew-Barka. That’s like doggie jail. Let me see what I can do. I’ll get back to you.”

Mike frantically wiped the coffee off the table. “That would be great if you took him for the whole week.” He reached over to reciprocate the punch Vance gave him.

“No!” Victoria tried to warn him again, but it was too late. Mike shook out his fist after slugging Vance’s shoulder. Vance hadn’t budged. Like a rock as always.

Mike opened and closed his hand. “Wow, man, you must spend a lot of time at the gym.”

Victoria stood up. “I’ve lost my appetite. You two enjoy each other. Vance, I’ll see you tomorrow when you pick up Chewy.” Victoria left the men alone for their romantic lunch.

 

EMMA   

When Becky opened the door to Emma, the first thing she saw was her bright white smile. “Hey, Sis! I’m so glad you could come over at the last minute. I hope I’m not pulling quality time away from you and your hubby.”

Emma bit her lip, holding back a smile of her own. Quality time? Ha. She purposefully didn’t leave out his costume when she left. Would Estavon be able to find his black leather super suit without her? “It’s really no problem. Besides, I want to hear your news.”

A little curly-haired, pig-tailed girl, wearing a black sweat suit and black mask, pranced across the room like a gazelle, finally stopping in front of Emma. Swooping her niece up in her arms, Emma kissed her chubby cheek. “How’s the little princess today?”

Samantha lisped out. “I’m not a princess. I’m a superhero.”

“Oh, well I’m mistaken. What are your secret powers?”

“I’m just like Capitán Rápido. I can move super-duper fast and can see into the future… a whole day into the future.”

“Instead of only ten seconds? You’ll be unstoppable!”

Samantha slid from Emma’s arms and ran as fast as she could around the living room.

Emma laughed, “She’s so cute!”

Becky took her purse from the shelf beside the door. “I’ll be home in about two hours. Do you want to hear the news now, or later?”

“Well… Now, of course.”

A big smile grew across Becky’s face, swallowing all her other features. “I’m pregnant!”

“Really?” Emma heaved her sister into her arms. “That’s fantastic!”

“Hopefully, you’ll have success soon, too.”

Emma shook her head, pushing the thought away. “This isn’t about me right now. I can’t wait for another niece…or maybe a nephew this time.”

Becky looked down at her watch. “I gotta go. Josh is meeting me at the doctor’s office. I have my first ultrasound today, three months along already.” Becky gave Emma another hug before heading out the door.

“Watch this, Auntie Ems!” Samantha crawled up on the couch and jumped off the back with her arms outstretched. “Did you see that? I can fly!”

“Wow, you’re even better than Capitán Rápido. He can’t fly. Not like The Kite.”

“Mommy says I’m going to have a brother or a sister, but I need to be patient.”

“Your mommy’s wise. You’ll need to be very patient.”

Samantha ran around the sofa again, crawled back up and jumped off, one more time. Emma smiled. Oh, how did she want a child of her own.

Was that even possible in her life?

Someday, I hope.

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Joynell Schultz was raised at a zoo (yeah, bring on the jokes) which gave her a love of animals. She spends her days working as a veterinary pharmacist and spends her nights (cough, cough—very early mornings) creating imaginary worlds writing speculative fiction. When she’s not trying to put food on the table (take-out, of course) for her husband and two children (and keeping it away from her sneaky Great Dane), she spends her time reading, writing, enjoying the outdoors, and planning her next vacation.

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Author Showcase / Interview / Review – M.R. Tapia (The Die-Fi Experiment)

Welcome, M.R. Tapia!

 

 

For those who might not be familiar with you, would you be a dear and tell the readers a little about yourself? How did you get your start in the writing business?

Hello! My name is M.R. Tapia. I am a dark fiction writer, as well as the owner/operator of Hindered Souls Press. Ever since I was in elementary school, I have always been a big reader since I was young and tended to enjoy my fiction on the dark/horror edge. Even in school, I had always excelled in English/Language Arts. Math, not so much, FYI I don’t math very well, ;). Once I “grew up” and started working full time, the construction field took over my life. In the late 2000s, I was a victim of the collapsing economy and lost my job. I couldn’t find a job in my trade even at gunpoint (I didn’t try this, but felt like that was a nearing option.) Finally, I applied for grants and entered into college. Like most places, I was given a placement exam. I tested low for math, but fell into the highest English courses they offered. Luckily, my instructor was awesome and throughout the course he really helped expose me to my own love for writing. Within a few months of completing the course, I attempted my hand at fiction and submitted a short story to a local arts/entertainment magazine and was happy to hear they had accepted it for publication. I’ve been in love ever since.

(Kam): Like you, math wasn’t my strong suit but English proved a better fit. You should be proud of how far you’ve come in life and all the trials and obstacles you faced and overcome. Congrats! 

 

 

All writers fear the dreaded “block”. Please tell us how you handle it.

(M.R. Tapia) Ah, dreaded, indeed. For the most part, I attack this fiend known simply as, Writer’s Block, one of two ways: I open a separate page and write ceaselessly about the scene which has me in creative silence, explaining to myself all of the possible routes and outcomes which are possible, usually I can get some creative juices flowing. Another way to combat it is to simply step away and take a break by watching a movie, going for a walk, READING, or anything to take the stress of Block away. I find that lots of my creative ideas/thoughts come when I’m nowhere near my laptop. So, no matter where you go, you should always have a place to jot notes down, even in the shower :). Of course, there are endless ways to combat it, these are some methods which work for myself.

 

 

Contrary to what some people envision about a romance writer’s life, it’s not all glitz and glam. Well not for the majority of us. With that bubble sadly busted, when you’re not writing, how to do you spend your time?

(M.R. Tapia) First comes the ghastly Day Job. Aside from that, I love spending time with my two spawns, one of 12 and the other of 3. I spend as much time allotted reading, whether it be paperback, kindle, or audiobook, one must always read, then read some more. I’ve always been a movie buff, favorite genre is, of course, dark/horror. I also try and stay as active as possible, aside from what I tell everyone, I’m not getting any younger. I’m actually going to be in a volleyball tournament with my girlfriend in August, and yes, she’s an actual human being. Most importantly, I live as spontaneous as possible, getting as much enjoyment out of life as possible, it truly is a short ride.

 

 

I know many writers, such as myself, keep their pastime/career a secret. Do those close to you know you write? If so, what are their thoughts?

(M.R. Tapia) All of my family and close friends have known about my writing since my first short story was published. Since day one, I have received nothing but support from them. I spent a little more time in my acknowledgements section of my recent novella to thank all of the families, (I hope I didn’t miss anyone. If I did, I’m sorry, I’ll catch you in the next project.) In construction, I believed I’d come off as bourgeois’ or something of the sort by saying I’m a writer, so I didn’t really hide it, I just never talked about it, that is, until lately. It leaked out and surprisingly, I have received much support from my coworkers, as well. The majority have told me they’re not readers but would still purchase copies and read my work. I appreciate all of the support I receive and couldn’t thank everyone enough.

 

 

Will you share with us your all time favorite authors? If you’re like me, it’s a long list so give us your top ten.

(M.R. Tapia)  In no particular order: Hunter S. Thompson, Chuck Palahniuk, J.D. Salinger, Kurt Vonnegut, Richard Matheson, Chuck Hogan, Charles Bukowski, everyone in my writer’s group (you know who you are), newly added CV Hunt and Joe Hill, and what’s a list without the honorable mention of Stephen King.

 

 

If you could choose one book to go to the big screen, yours or otherwise, which book would you choose and whom would you love see casted in the parts?

(M.R. Tapia)  I have to be arrogant and say my novella, The Die-Fi Experiment, but, please, let me explain why. I would love to have Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston play the lead couple, give her a reason to inflict some suffering and pain upon him, ha! Seriously, imagine how awkward being on that set would be…

(Kam) You have one wicked sense of humor. 🙂

 

 

Would you care to tell us what you’re working on now? That is if it’s not top-secret information. If so, just whisper it in my ear. I swear it’ll go no further.

(M.R. Tapia)  *whispering* I am preparing my novel, Sugar Skulls, for a November release. Can you guess what day? That’s right, El Dia de los Muertos (The Day of the Dead.)

 

 

 

Where can we find your stories and is there a particular reading order?

(M.R. Tapia)  Hinderedsoulspress.com has a page to preorder/order signed copies of Dark Tales for Dark Nights, as well as my solo projects, as well. My latest short story ‘Bloodstream Revolution’ can be found in the recently publication from Deadman’s Tome: Monsters Exist. You can also find other short stories in Schlock!, Hindered Souls: Dark Tales for Dark Nights, and Empty Sink Publishing to name a few.

 

Hindered Souls is a collection of twenty-five stories from twenty-one of the brightest emerging authors from all around the world. The stories within are surreal, mind bending and soul wrenching.

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Would you please share how your present and future fans can contact you?

(M.R. Tapia)  I can be found within the realms of Twitter: @m_r_tapia, and Instagram: @mrtapia. I can also be contacted at hinderedsoulspress@gmail.com

 

 

Before we conclude this enlightening interview, do you have anything else you’d like to share? The stage is all yours.

(M.R. Tapia)  I’d like to thank everyone for reading through my ramblings! Please don’t forget that my novella, The Die-Fi Experiment, is available in ebook/paperback pre-order at Amazon; signed paperback copies can be purchased at Hinderedsoulspress.com. Look for my novel, Sugar Skulls, in November. And please continue supporting independent authors! There are many great ones out there! More importantly, pass the joy of reading on to the next generation! Thank you again for your time.

 

 

~~ Closing remarks ~~

First, I would like to thank M.R. Tapia for partaking in this interview and for inviting me to read The Die-Fi Experiment. If you haven’t read it yet, I encourage you to give this horrific, shocking, spine-tingling novella a shot. You’ll be on the edge of the seat the entire 65 pages. Oh and stick around after the shocking ender because you’ll be treated to a sneak peak to an upcoming release. 

 

 

Now, lets check out the frightfully good read….

Print Length: 65 pages

Publisher: Hindered Souls Press (July 21, 2017)

 

“I would like to welcome the world to The Die-Fi Experiment. Please join us in the fun that is the deterioration of the world by means of social media.”

Marie and her husband are spending their honeymoon in Tokyo, Japan. While strolling the downtown streets, they are hoaxed into a chance at winning the latest cell phone: First to get through a maze of doors wins! Only they both awaken amidst a sadistic live-stream gameshow. Marie competes against a man while both of their partners are strapped down to chairs. The winner of the deranged challenges imposes extreme pain for their own partner while the loser receives their own form of demented punishment. As it goes on, more and more people around the World Wide Web tune in. The winner of the entire competition gets the chance to fight one last time for their ultimate chance of survival against their own partner…to the death! Will Marie and her husband get the chance to have their first fight as a married couple, and if they do, who will be the last one standing?

(CONTAINS EXCERPT FROM M.R. TAPIA’S FORTHCOMING NOVEL ‘SUGAR SKULLS’)

 

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(review request submitted by the author for an honest critique)

M.R. Tapia sure did not pull any punches in the making of The Die-Fi Experiment. From #chapterone to #chapterten, he delivered nonstop torture scenes using everyday devices such as shears, surgical spoon, sledgehammer and so on to elicit fear in the hearts of the recipients. This novella exuded real terror. A story not so far-fetched when you consider all the inhumane and shameful videos shared on social media these days.

People will post anything for likes, shares, retweets. The uploads are becoming more vicious, more violent, more out of control and it seems to have no end in sight. However, the couples on the Japanese game show did see the endgame barreling towards them and the path to it wasn’t easy. It wasn’t pain free. It’s not anything I would like to see firsthand, unlike all the live streaming viewers from the story. 

This story is gruesomely plausible and that’s what makes it even more frightening. 

Well done, M.R. Tapia. You’ve shown us the lengths people will go to entertain the world and how they will keep upping the ante to stay one step ahead of their “competitors”. 

 

 

Heart Rating System:

1 (lowest) and 5 (highest)

Score: ❤❤❤❤1/2

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Review of “Gull Harbor” – Kathryn Knight

A #1 Kindle Bestseller
A Top Ten Read of 2014 – My Shelf Reviews
19+ consecutive weeks on the top 100 Amazon Bestseller List
A Reader’s Crown Finalist in Paranormal Romance – RomCon 2014
Best Kindle Books 2014 Semi-Finalist in Romance – The Kindle Book Review
 
 

When Claire Linden’s job sends her to the sleepy town of Gull Harbor, she never expects to encounter her ex-boyfriend. As a medium, the prospect of tackling a haunted house is less daunting than seeing Max Baron again. Throughout their passionate college relationship, he promised to love her forever. Then, without explanation, he abandoned her on graduation day. 

Max never intended to break Claire’s heart–a cruel ultimatum forced him to disappear from her life. While he’s shocked to find her in Gull Harbor, he isn’t surprised by the bitter resentment she feels for him…or the fiery attraction that remains between them. 

 

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~~ EXCERPT~~

 

She shook her head vigorously. “I can’t spend your money to do my job. That makes no sense.”

“It’s not about that, Claire. It’s about keeping you safe.” He closed the distance between them, setting off alarm bells in the back of her mind.

Squaring her shoulders, she took a deep breath. “I realize you’re trying to help me, and I appreciate that. But what gives you the right to worry about my safety?”

“I don’t need the right.” He stood over her, and she took a step backwards, bumping up against his desk. His words shouldn’t have sounded menacing, but for some reason, they did. She nodded weakly.

“I am going to keep you safe, Claire,” he said, his eyes flashing. He reached out and stroked her arm.

A shiver ran through her, and she gripped the edge of the desk for support. “Okay,” she breathed. Every nerve in her body was calling for him. She closed her eyes as his hands moved up to cradle her head.

His mouth seized hers, and her lips responded urgently. She lost herself in the kiss, her fingers weaving themselves around his neck and tangling in his hair. His hands moved to her waist, and she gasped as he hoisted her up on the desk.

 

 

(review request submitted by the author for an honest critique) 

 

I’ve never encountered a ghost, never entered a haunted establishment, so I can’t fully grasp the prospect ghosts are real. However, Kathryn really did have me wondering what if.

Stories of the unexplained are popular because we want to believe death isn’t always the end. After reading Gull Harbor, do I have any desire to venture to the nearest spooky destination and see if there’s any truth behind any of those local whispers about ghosts, apparitions, poltergeist, etc? Sure, a part of me is curious if things of the paranormal nature exist. Then again, another part of me is a chickenshit and wants to live in the world where paranormal beings are just myth.

I have to give props to Claire, the medium/psychic. She handled the situation with Maria (restless soul) better than I would’ve dealt with it. The first time anything flew at my head I would’ve been gone quicker than you can say…..What the bloody hell was that! Frankly, seeing any dead being or hearing their voice would’ve caused me to turn tail and run quick like a bunny. Like I stated above…..mega chickenshit! 

To Kathryn, I might not 100% believe in psychics or paranormal beings but I did enjoy reading about Claire and her desire to help those in need…. living or otherwise. As a reader, I could certainly feel Claire’s determination, frustration, and her unwillingness to give up. I could also feel the passion she had for Max and the love you have for the psychic/medium/paranormal world. Only complaint, I wish there was more time spent on Claire and her dad’s relationship. I feel like you, Kathryn, barely spent any time on their characters and a bit more attention to their backstory, info, would’ve allowed me to care more about their relationship (or lack thereof).

Despite that one gray area, I do feel readers will enjoy this ghostly tale which has suspense, love, and……multiple HEA’s. 

 

Heart Rating System:

1 (lowest) and 5 (highest) 

Score: ❤❤❤❤

 

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Kathryn Knight spends a great deal of time in her fictional world, where mundane chores don’t exist and daily life involves steamy romance, dangerous secrets, and spooky suspense. Kathryn writes contemporary romance spiked with mysterious hauntings as well as YA paranormal romance filled with forbidden love. Her novels are award-winning #1 Kindle bestsellers and RomCon Reader Rated picks. When she’s not reading or writing, Kathryn spends her time catching up on those mundane chores, driving kids around, and teaching fitness classes. She lives on beautiful Cape Cod with her husband, their two sons, and a number of rescued pets.

 

Please visit her at any of these locations……

Kathryn Knight (Amazon Author Page) / Twitter / Facebook / Blog

 

~ Passionate Romance with a Paranormal Twist ~

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Review of “Tony Mandolin Mystery, Book 1: A Slight Case of Death” – Robert Lee Beers

Vampires don’t exist, do they? That is a question Private Detective Tony Mandolin finds himself pondering as the evidence piles up in a case involving a string of dead redheads and the usual dose of weirdness San Francisco has to offer. To complicate things, Mandolin has to deal with the perception that he has become the latest golden boy of the fog city’s crime boss. Then there’s his cross-dressing friend Frankie…Just another day in San Francisco.

Dive into an exhilarating new noir fantasy series where nothing is as it seems.

 

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(review request submitted by the author for an honest critique) 

 

Based on mentions of Magnum, P.I., TJ Hooker and other pop culture name drops, I knew this book wasn’t set in the 1920’s or 1930’s. However, A Slight Case of Death had the feel of a detective classic from the Golden Age of Detective Fiction. You could blatantly sense who inspired Robert Lee Beers in his development of Tony MandolinSome of the word choices, conversations, made this modern day story appear as if we had stepped back in time. The mobsters also spoke like they were from Jersey or New York instead of San Francisco but with old school flare. At least in my opinion that’s how they came across. I don’t know any real mobsters so maybe that’s how they converse. Eh, I digress.

Plot time….

A routine missing person case turns into the manhunt for a serial killer. To stop the killer (aka a vamp) Tony (PI) finds help in the unlikeliest places. But beggars can’t be choosers when the boogey monster has his sights set on you. Gotta admit, despite the nightmare inducing man to monster transformation, Simon was quite the likable vamp. I can see why vampires can lure their prey so easily. You don’t want to like them, but you also find yourself unable to resist their charm. Plus, like Simon, I always played with my food despite my momma’s warning so…. Play on! 🙂

Besides Simon, I also adored Frankie. Frankie was so flamboyant, funny, and won the award for best character. Frankie brought life to scenes that were becoming stodgy. Frankie was the light this book needed when facing a creature only thought to come out at night. When I envision this Frankie, I picture RuPaul: an American actor, drag queen, model, author, and recording artist. Maybe after you read over his parts, you’ll see a bit of RuPaul in this role too. 

 

 

BTW: Many myths were squashed in chapter 20 about vamps but the real shocker came later when we saw what could harm a vampire. This surprising weapon bumped the score from 3 to 3.5 stars! 

  

Heart Rating System:

1 (lowest) and 5 (highest) 

Score: ❤❤❤1/2

 

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Robert Lee Beers was born on March 11, 1951, on the far northern California coast in the Humboldt Bay area. He is an artist, musician, and a mediator.

In 2008 he was nominated for the JFK Profiles in Courage Award for his work on the Nevada State Assembly.

He is the author of the Hilarious Tony Mandolin Mystery series as well as the epic fantasy, the five-volume Milward Chronicles.

His first novel, The Promised Ones became the number one bestselling fantasy on the Barnes and Noble Fictionwise eBook store for 6 weeks. That book eventually became the novel Birthright, the first in the Milward Chronicles series.

Graphic Audio, the premiere producer of audio books in full cast audio has optioned the first five novels for production. Hole Lotta Shakin’, a Tony Mandolin Short Story is currently in pre-production into a serialized YouTube Audiobook at Tall Tales TV. As for Robert, he is usually found at his desk, laying down the next Tony Mandolin adventure.

 

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Author Showcase / Interview / Review – Richard Paolinelli (Escaping Infinity)

 

  1. Welcome, Richard Paolinelli! For those who might not be familiar with you, would you be a dear and tell the readers a little about yourself? How did you get your start in the writing business?

(RP) I started out as a freelance writer and photographer in West Texas in the mid-1980s, was the lead writer for the first two issues of the Elite Comics series, Seadragon, and then went to work as a sportswriter for newspapers and online websites in New Mexico and in California. In 2010 I retired from newspapers and decided to restart my fiction writing and I’ve been pretty busy since then.

 

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Kam: Did you know I absolutely love comics? I own several hundred and always looking to add more.  😉 

 

 

  1. All writers fear the dreaded “block”. Please tell us how you handle it.

(RP) One of the advantages of having spent so long working for daily publications is having to produce anywhere from 800-3000 words a day, five days a week. You don’t have the option of being blocked. So I really don’t get it now that I’m doing fiction only. On those rare occasions when I just don’t “feel” like writing, I don’t try to force it. Usually a day or two later I’m back at it as usual.

 

  1. Contrary to what some people envision about a writer’s life, it’s not all glitz and glam. Well not for the majority of us. With that bubble sadly busted, when you’re not writing, how to do you spend your time?

(RP) Marketing my books, appearing on radio shows and doing in person appearances. When I’m not doing work-related tasks, I usually read, catch a movie and try to spoil my two grandsons as much as I can.

 

  1. I know many writers, such as myself, keep their pastime/career a secret. Do those close to you know you write? If so, what are their thoughts?

(RP) Everything I’ve written, fiction and newspapers, has been under my real name, so everyone who knows me knows what I do. I haven’t really asked them what they think about it. No one has ever come up and told me to get a real job or anything like that so I’d say they are supportive.

 

  1. Will you share with us your all time favorite authors? If you’re like me, it’s a long list so give us your top ten.

(RP) (In no particular order)

Jack McDevitt

Edgar Allan Poe

HG Wells

Gibson Michaels

Douglas Adams

Harry Harrison

Diane Duane

Tom Clancy

Edgar Rice Burroughs

Dan Brown

 

 

  1. If you could choose one book to go to the big screen, yours or otherwise, which book would you choose and whom would you love see casted in the parts?

(RP) I’d love to see someone take up my latest novel, Escaping Infinity, especially with the quality of CGI today. I think Luke Evans could pull off Peter Childress and Emily Blunt might make a great Liz. The Manager I always envisioned being played by Kelsey Grammer even as I was writing the book.

 

 

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  1. Would you care to tell us what you’re working on now? That is if it’s not top-secret information. If so, just whisper it in my ear. I swear it’ll go no further.

(RP) I actually am juggling three projects. I need to finish up the final two books of the Jack Del Rio series and I am writing a short story I hope will be accepted for a special sci-fi anthology. And I have started on an epic sci-fi/fantasy project that is my “Lord of the Rings” project.

 

 

  1. Where can we find your stories and is there a particular reading order?

(RP) You can find everything I’ve written on Amazon, or go to my website – www.richardpaolinelli.com – and click on the book covers and they will take you directly to their respective page on Amazon. Other that the Del Rio series – Reservations is #1 and Betrayals #2 – there isn’t any particular order you need to read them in.

 

 

  1. Would you please share how your present and future fans can contact you?

(RP) My e-mail is: rp@richardpaolinelli.com

I’m on both Twitter and Gab as: @ScribesShade

And you can leave comments on my blog: https://scribesscribblesblog.wordpress.com

 

 

  1. Before we conclude this enlightening interview, do you have anything else you’d like to share? The stage is all yours.

(RP) Just that I’d like to thank you for interviewing me and for reading my book. I would like to just say to every reader out there: No matter whose book you are reading, one of mine or any other author, the greatest kindness you can do for them is to leave a review of their book, especially on Amazon.

Whether you thought it was the greatest book, the absolute worst or somewhere in between, leaving a review helps them in so many ways. I encourage you to so, even if it is just a few words or a sentence or two. Speaking for my fellow writers, especially ones just getting started, you will have their deepest gratitude.

 

Closing Remarks

Richard Paolinelli is correct on an author’s need for reviews. It helps boost awareness of their writing, helps them improve their craft and encourages them to keep pouring their hearts & souls into their creations. Without reviews and readers sharing their love of a story, writers fade off into the sunset. If you don’t want a writer to vanish, then show them love. Write a review.

With that said, I’d like to present to you a brief look into Escaping Infinity and my thoughts regarding it. 

 

 

Nominated for a 2017 Dragon Award (Best Sci-Fi Novel), Nominated for a 2017 Nebula Award (Non-finalist).

Thousands have checked into the Infinity Hotel over the years. None of them have ever checked out.

Peter Childress and Charlie Womack are successful engineers on their way to Phoenix for an important presentation. But one of Charlie’s infamous “shortcuts” has gotten them good and lost once again. As night falls, the pair stumble across the Infinity Hotel and the promise of a meal, fuel and a good night’s sleep before starting off fresh in the morning is too good to pass up.

But while Charlie immediately takes to the hotel’s amazing amenities, Peter begins to uncover some of the hotel’s dark secrets – a seemingly unlimited number of floors, guests that appear out of time and place and a next morning that never seems to come. Worse still, the entrance to the Infinity has disappeared and no other apparent exit back to the outside world is in sight.

Now, under the watchful eyes of the hotel’s manager and front desk clerk, Peter searches for a way back out and uncovers the horrible truth behind the mystery of the Infinity Hotel.

 

 

(review request submitted by the author for an honest critique) 

 

After reading the back cover, I knew I was embarking on a freaky, mind-warping ride and was looking forward to the journey Richard was going to take me on. The front cover looked promising as well. It had me thinking this book would be taking place solely in the future. However, once I began reading the prologue, I soon realized space and alien life would encompass the plot. Even though I was only thrown for a loop for about a nanosecond, I soon found myself engrossed in the mystery of the Infinity.

 

Even though I fascinated by the happenings of the hotel, one thing was missing for me which would’ve made me feel more contacted to the storyline. For me, I wanted to know more about the lives of the hotel’s occupants before stepping into the time/space paradox. We got a glimpse of Liz and the football star, but the inquisitive side wanted more history regarding its occupants. I guess if Richard was writing a 700 page novel then my wish would’ve been granted but he wasn’t. He didn’t. To stay on track, he led us through a series of events which would test the sanity of any man or woman. His writing was equally mystifying and eerie as fellow thriller writers Stephen King, Clive Barker, and R.L Stine. That’s saying a lot about his creativity. 

 

All in all, the plot was sound. The follow-through was a tad bumpy but overall a book I am thrilled to have read and happily encourage others to purchase. 

 

Parting remarks…..

1.) Planet Disney cracked me up.

2.) I didn’t know whether to laugh or yell RUN when the door’s guardian became activated. However, I did laugh a wee bit when it went airborne.

 

Good science fiction/fantasy story! 

 

 

Heart Rating System:

1 (lowest) and 5 (highest) 

Score: ❤❤❤❤

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Review of “Ghosts” – Chip Scarinzi

When you’ve lost it all, how far would you go to get it back?

Bennett Covington has a good life. The support of a loving, growing family. A satisfying job. A roof over his head. Not perfect, but close enough.

Nothing lasts forever, of course. After stumbling into the middle of a back-alley murder, Bennett becomes entangled in a web of violence set in motion by members of a shadowy criminal organization.

Subjected to psychological torment, Bennett struggles to understand the depth of their evil intentions – intentions that threaten to take much more than just his life.

Through it all, one question endures: why have they taken such a keen interest in him? When he runs, they catch him. When he hides, they find him.

The only way out is to fight back.

 

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(review request submitted by the author for an honest critique)  

A good mystery novel shouldn’t be easily figured out. It should be orchestrated where each chapter gives you another piece of the puzzle but the whole picture eludes you. Sometimes the piece will fit snugly against a neighboring partner and sometimes you know it has to go there, but no matter how you turn it, it just won’t click into place.

While I was reading Ghosts and presented with the puzzle pieces, I couldn’t get the bigger picture to unveil itself. Was I mad? HELL TO THE NO! I didn’t want a few clicks and boom the show was over. I wanted my brain challenged and Chip definitely made me think. He made me doubt almost everyone, questioning even the good guy’s motives and presented an evil – unsavory – vile character (Poe) who took a licking and kept on ticking… much like Jason Voorhees (Friday the 13th) and  Michael Myers (Halloween). Those two psychopaths wouldn’t stay dead either.

You want a good mystery, then look no further. Ghosts will challenge your mind and keep you hooked until the very end. 

 

Heart Rating System:

1 (lowest) and 5 (highest) 

Score:❤❤❤1/2

 

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Review of “Kayos: The Bad & The Worse” – Tracy A. Ball

kayos-the-bad-and-the-worse-front-cover

Pride & Prejudice do Mission Impossible with Young Guns

LAREINA ELLIOT, guidance counselor for Presque Isle Academy, discovered her idea for making students loyal to the government is being implemented in the Excellence Program to further the war. It has become her life’s work to undermine that effort. When she is arrested for being a Revolutionary sympathizer, her brothers, KAIDEN, FISHER, and SILAS rescue her with help from three of Lareina’s top students; ALEC, ORION, and YUKIYO. On the run but armed with intelligence and more, they seek to learn how she was exposed and by whom.

CHRISTIAN DEVERELL, the agent assigned to Lareina’s case is relentless. She can’t escape him. It doesn’t matter that he and Lareina are on opposite sides of the law, or that their history is dirty. It doesn’t matter that he commissioned her adopted brother, Silas, to assassinate her. The only thing of importance is his love for Lareina and his promise to protect her.

Silas MCKADE, soldier elite, Lareina’s secret weapon. The man who never misses is on the Government’s payroll to do whatever he likes to whomever he chooses. He has a death warrant for Lareina—the woman who means everything to him—and a heart full of hatred for Christian—the man he wants to be. He’s either going to break Lareina’s heart or stop it altogether. 

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(review request submitted by the author for an honest critique) 

Growing up, most of us have played cops and robberies, superheroes, spy games, or something of that nature. For those of us with children, we have seen the good guy – bad guy playtime trend continue on. It’s the thrill of the chase, desire to go on covert missions, being a secret agent, stopping an enemy target and so forth that keeps seats filled for movies such as Mission Impossible, Bourne series, 007 and the list goes on. The cinema even captures the interest and hearts of the younger crowd with movies like Spy Kids, Toy Soldiers, and (yes) Austin Powers series.

No matter what role we see ourselves in — fighter, assassin, brainiac, mad scientist, villain, damsel in distress, double agent, or the dying hero — there’s a place for us all and so viewers keep shelling out money for their love of action and adventure. Rest assured, you’ll get plenty of explosive action in Kayos: The Bad & The Worse. Unlike some movies, you’ll NOT walk away from KAYOS thinking you wish it had more booms, surprises, heartaches, gun battles, or action. Tracy DID NOT falter in the deliverance of the triple A’s — action, adventure and awesomeness.

Oh yeah, she also treated us to a few smoochie moments.  😉 

 

Heart Rating System:

1 (lowest) and 5 (highest) 

Score: ❤❤❤❤1/2

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Tracy’s family is blended from three distinct cultures. Over the years, she has opened her home to foster children, drug addicts, AIDS victims and anyone who needed an assist. She has an equal number of liberal and conservative friends. She knows people who have committed murder and she knows people who know the Pope.

Which is why she writes sweet stories about tough love.

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Review of “Deadly Homecoming at Rosemont” – Connie Chappell

Historian Wrenn Grayson arrives at the Rosemont mansion expecting to receive payment for her services from the mansion’s new owner, Clay Addison. That expectation dies when she and Clay find Trey Rosemont murdered on the foyer floor. Across town, police officers race to Eastwood University. Priceless Egyptian artifacts were stolen from the history department safe. Wrenn’s longtime love, Eastwood professor Gideon Douglas, heads the department. Only recovery of the artifacts will save his career. Life in Havens, Ohio, doesn’t stop for this crime spree. Wrenn works for Mayor K.C. Tallmadge. He wishes Wrenn would stop searching down clues ahead of the police and pacify temperamental playwright Barton Reed. Barton’s play is just days away from opening in the town’s historic Baxter Theater. Amid murder, theft, or curtain calls, Wrenn’s instincts prove sharp. But it’s her stubborn one-woman approach that places her directly in the killer’s path.

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(review request submitted by the author for an honest critique) 

The true sign of a great murder mystery novel is the ability of an author to leave you befuddled who was the killer. Connie gave us many suspects, motives, and yet I was not completely sure I knew who was the proper prime suspect. I also  wondered how she was going to tie the murder and theft together & was impressed how thoroughly she linked the two crimes.

She also left us enough breadcrumbs for sequels: What will the future hold for Gideon and Wrenn? Have we seen the last of Elmore, Lucas and Clay? (Surely not) And what about the mysterious Gina Frawley? Will we ever learn what became of her?

So even though the villain (killer) enlightened us about why Trey had to die and details regarding the thievery at Eastwood University, readers will have have enough unanswered questions to have them coming back for another chapter in the life of Wrenn Grayson. 

Well done, Connie! 

 

Heart Rating System:

1 (lowest) and 5 (highest) 

Score: ❤❤❤❤

 

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