29 August, 2015

Climax by Paul Lederer Series Spotlight!

Please join me in welcoming Paul Lederer, author of the Western series that includes Showdown at Guyamas, The Reluctant Gun Hand and Climax. Scroll down to read more about the first two books in the series!! If you love westerns you will love these books!

In a lonely western town, a marshal stands in the way of a gang of killers.

There is nothing to love about the town of Climax, a godforsaken speck of earth with one saloon, one restaurant, and one lawman. Ever since he got too old to ride the range, Giles Frost has worn a silver star, sleeping in the jail, patrolling Main Street twice a day, and waiting for trouble that has never shown its face—until now.

On his nightly patrol, a gunshot rings out and Frost falls to the dirt, shot in the side. A gang of renegades has decided to make their home in Climax, and they have no interest in retaining the services of the law. But although he may look soft, Giles Frost has a spine of steel. There’s not much to this town, but its sheriff will kill to keep it free.

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Climax by Paul Lederer
In a lonely western town, a marshal stands in the way of a gang of killers.

There is nothing to love about the town of Climax, a godforsaken speck of earth with one saloon, one restaurant, and one lawman. Ever since he got too old to ride the range, Giles Frost has worn a silver star, sleeping in the jail, patrolling Main Street twice a day, and waiting for trouble that has never shown its face—until now.

On his nightly patrol, a gunshot rings out and Frost falls to the dirt, shot in the side. A gang of renegades has decided to make their home in Climax, and they have no interest in retaining the services of the law. But although he may look soft, Giles Frost has a spine of steel. There’s not much to this town, but its sheriff will kill to keep it free.

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 Read an Excerpt of Climax by Paul Lederer
Climax was the name of the dog-tired pretense of a village which lay in the afternoon shadows of the San Jacinto Mountains, east of the good timber country, west of the rich grasslands. No one remembered how the town had gotten its name. Speculation only concluded that whoever had named it must have been a very desperate and lonesome sort of man.
The rutted main street of Climax sprouted weeds along its length – greasewood and other hardy plants predominating along the edges of the thoroughfare where the passing ponies could not easily trample them down. The truth was not many ponies passed along the street. A dog lying in the middle of the road was in little danger of being disturbed.
For schooling the kids of Climax played marbles in the dusty alleyways, rolled hoops down Main Street and sat outside the Alhambra Saloon, learning how to cuss from the men inside. The men inside the dark, over-warm saloon profited as much, drinking whatever whiskey and beer they could afford at the moment, playing loud games of poker or losing their money on the spinning numbers on the Alhambra’s warped roulette wheel. Everyone knew the wheel was crooked – not rigged, but certainly it did not spin true, but no matter – when a man feels compelled to lose his money he’ll take any available game to do it.
A few of the old-timers had figured the wheel out, but these never had much money, having lost it all in the days before they figured it. No one complained. Where was Charles Toledo, the Alhambra’s owner, to be expected to get another wheel? Even if one were available, Toledo, of course, would have been disinclined to purchase it. This one had paid him off so well over the years.
Now and then a stranger would ride his horse at a walk past Marshal Giles Frost’s office, shake his head and continue on his way. That was a source of enjoyment for the local dogs and kids who would call at the stranger and pursue the wanderer far out of town, sometimes throwing rocks at his horse to hurry it on its way. Once one of two-day-a-week stagecoaches had passed through town with a woman on board. The saloon had emptied out with all the men clamoring for position, gaping at the remarkable sight. They talked about the grand event for months afterward.
For the most part the excitement in Climax came from watching two dogs fighting in the middle of the street, or the occasional fist fight in the Alhambra, usually instigated by sheer boredom. For the most part the Alhambra did nothing more than sit and bake in the desert sun, slowly if imperceptibly fading from the world’s memory. Four of the twelve buildings along Main Street were faced with peeling white paint. It baked, flecked and peeled away from all the south-facing fa├žades. The kids liked to peel of the larger flakes and sail them on the breeze. The rest of the town was raw, sun-grayed wood. People had learned that it was no use trying to apply paint.
Besides, by the time they were built, Climax’s lone store had run out of house paint years ago.
This was the realm that Giles Frost was paid by the town to protect from lawlessness.
He was allowed free meals at the Genesis Restaurant, stabling for his horse, and forty dollars a month cash money which some members of the city council were still protesting, considering Frost an unnecessary expense.
Frost’s daily ritual consisted of boiling himself a pot of coffee, checking the mail – if one of the twice-a-week stagecoaches had delivered any, looking into the Alhambra, then walking the dusty streets and oily back alleys which he did early and then late again in the day, avoiding the dry heat of midday. It wasn’t a bad life, even if it was fairly pointless as the council had already considered.
Frost was still a young man, shading this side of thirty, but he had grown weary of the life of a drover. He had broken an arm and a leg on cattle drives, been shorted on his pay, worked sun-up to sundown moving stink-beef cattle from place to place under the blazing sun, sleeping on the desert floor where coyotes came into camp and tried to snatch away his boots while he slept. He had been kicked by steers, bitten by half-broken broncos and more than once been shot at by his own trail-mates. Both times the men had claimed they thought that they had seen Indians approaching the camp, but Frost remained unconvinced.
His present occupation lacked any excitement, which did not bother him at all. He had free cooked food every day, a bunk in the back of the jail where he could sleep off of the ground every night, and forty dollars pay a month, more than a cowhand got, for doing nothing but touring Climax twice a day, protecting it from some possible future bloodbath.
Plenty of men were worse off.
Life never really lets a man settle in, however; things can change in a moment. In Climax they started to change the day the first of the strangers arrived in town.
He was not a big man. He had his hat tugged low. His longish sideburns were silver, but tufts of red hair poked out from around the brim of his hat. He sat his weary-looking paint pony as if he were used to long stretches in the saddle. The holstered Colt revolver riding his hip looked as if it were comfortable riding there. The stranger looked up and down the street, appraising Climax expressionlessly. After a minute or two of surveying his surroundings, he walked the little paint pony toward the Alhambra Saloon – hardly a suspicious action for a man who seemed to have ridden long and would like something to drink that would cut the dust in his throat.
Still there was something about the man that caused Giles Frost to frown as he watched him through the greasy front window of his office. Frost watched until the man had tied his horse to the hitch rail and gone into the saloon. Then he returned to his battered desk and stretched out his long legs, resting his boots on the desk top, tilting his hat forward a little to protect his eyes from the afternoon sun that was beginning to slant into the office through the window. Briefly he considered going over to the saloon to take a closer look at the stranger, but pushed the idea aside. ‘You’re just bored, Giles,’ he told himself. Every stranger wasn’t bringing trouble to Climax. He closed his eyes and dozed until sunset when he was due to make his evening rounds.
When Frost did awake there was none of that bit of a lag that many people have while orienting themselves to time, place and purpose. He had lived inside this pattern for so long that his legs were already swinging to the floor as his eyes opened. He could see the color in the sky – burnt orange and deep violet beyond the window pane; he was on schedule.
Going to the door, Frost went out into the still-warm early evening and began his methodical, patterned rounds. Rattling the locked front door of the saddle shop, he walked on. In front of the Alhambra Saloon he was a little surprised to see the paint pony the red-headed stranger had ridden into Climax still standing at the hitch rail, one hind leg cocked up. It was not an overly curious sight – many men had trouble walking out of a saloon once they had entered. Still the horse, which seemed to have been ridden far on this hot day, should have been seen to by now. Frost walked to the dozing paint, ran a hand along its neck and walked to the saloon door himself.
Peering in, he noticed the stranger at a corner table. He was seated with Mayor Applewhite, whose bare dome gleamed in the light of the room and Charles Toledo, the saloon’s owner. Now that was curious, Frost considered. Most often the greeting for a stranger to town was a nod – if any welcome was forthcoming – nothing more. Seldom was a wandering man invited to sit and drink with the mayor of Climax and its wealthiest citizen. Frost had only seen such hospitality offered one other time, when a railroad engineer appeared in Climax to discuss the notion of building a spur line to Climax, a project that went nowhere after the railroad man had examined the town and apparently found it sorely lacking.
Frost shrugged, there was nothing else he could do, and sauntered down the street. In the near-darkness, he caught his boot heel on the boardwalk’s edge and nearly stumbled into Clara Finch.
I saw you coming out of the Alhambra,’ Clara gibed. ‘You must have had a good time there.’
You know that I just tripped,’ Frost said with a sour smile. ‘Why do you enjoy picking on me so much?’
Because I don’t like you, Giles Frost, and you know it.’
Frost did know it; what he never knew was why. Why did the small, dark-haired girl, who held a ready smile for everyone else, dislike him so much? Clara was a relief bartender at the Alhambra. Frost thought she was distantly related to Charlie Toledo, but was not sure. She did not dance, sing or wear revealing fancy clothes, but simply slapped down beer or whiskey on the bar – smiling at each and every man who placed an order.
Frost stepped aside a little, but it was unnecessary, Clara had already brushed past him on her way to another night’s work. Walking forward, he moved toward the center of the street where there was no traffic and he was distanced from the sounds and smells of the Alhambra. And from Clara? He shook his head and glanced up at the silver half-moon riding high across the dark desert sky. Why couldn’t the girl like him, at least a little, and why did Frost let her bother him so much? There were plenty of other women in town.
No, there weren’t.
Not for him.
Gloomily he circled the Genesis Restaurant; there were now only two or three men in there, lingering over coffee. But the restaurant would not be ready to close. Its rush of business came after midnight when the hard-drinking crowd at the Alhambra finally decided that they ought to waste the last bit of silver in their pockets to try to save their stomachs for another day.
Frost entered the cross alley behind the restaurant and turned back toward the center of town, walking past the rear door of the feed and grain barn. A small dog, Luke Waylon’s terrier, was barking inside the building, most likely at a rat in the grain bins.
The blank faces of the buildings were all familiar to Frost. The town was too familiar. He should leave, but he had no real idea where to go. Besides, as he grew older he found more comfort in familiarity than in change. In his time he had been beaten, shot at, snake-bit and crippled up trying to tame a bronco which had another idea about matters. Few of these things were likely to happen again – not in Climax.
The rear door to the Climax Stable stood open, probably for air on this warm, still night. Frost started that way, just to make sure that everything was as it should be. He called out before he entered.
Waxy! It’s Giles Frost! Everything all right in here?’
It was until about a minute ago when some fool town marshal woke me up,’ a grumpy Waxy Loomis said, emerging from the thick shadows of the stable’s interior. Waxy’s real name had been long-lost, perhaps by intent. Though the name ‘Loomis’ was painted on the front of the building, it had been left there by the stable’s previous owner who had since run off into the wilderness with a Paiute woman, abandoning the place.
Sorry,’ Frost apologized. ‘It’s my job to check.’
Always been your job; never have anything wrong around here,’ Waxy grumbled. He was a beanpole of a man with a bulbous over-large nose decorating his narrow face. Waxy repositioned a suspender over his shoulder and walked nearer. ‘What’re you going to do about your horse?’ the stableman asked.
Stunned, it took Frost a while to reply. He had not been paying much attention to his big buckskin horse lately, having little need to ride it. He had not exercised it enough, nor even taken the time to curry the animal, leaving those tasks to Waxy. Was the buckskin sick, dead?
What do you mean?’ he said finally. ‘Is it all right?’
Fat and sassy off free hay and grain – that’s what I mean, Frost. When are you going to start paying me for the horse’s care?’
Pay? Look here, Waxy, you know as well as I do that the horse is being maintained by the town of Climax for its appointed law officer.’
That ain’t what Mayor Applewhite told me last week,’ Waxy said. The moonlight through the door showed his beady eyes and the glowering set of his face.
What do you mean? That’s always been the way things are done. The town pays for stabling and care of my pony.’
Did,’ Waxy agreed, ‘but don’t now. That’s what Applewhite told me personally. If you two have a disagreement of some sort, talk to him. Me, I just need to get paid for the animals I tend.’
There’s some sort of mistake,’ Frost said. ‘I’ll talk to Applewhite.’
You do that,’ Waxy said. ‘Meantime, do you mind if I get back to sleep?’
Waxy turned his back and tramped back into the interior of the building, muttering to himself.
Frost continued on his way. The evening had grown noticeably cooler. He tugged his shirt collar up. His nightly rounds would soon require a jacket. The moon had begun its downward arc; the stars were silver-bright against a background of black velvet, like display stones in a jeweler’s display case. The blacksmith’s shop was locked up tight, his shed secured. Mona Blake’s little dress shop door was bolted. All as usual.
A slight breeze was blowing, just enough to ruffle the leaves of the half-dozen cottonwood trees that stood at the west end of town. Frost decided to peek into the Alhambra Saloon once more and then return to his office. He took three strides along the alley before the world exploded, and pain like the impact of a sledge-hammer against flesh shocked his side and reverberated in his skull. He took two more steps, found he could walk no farther and slumped to the cold earth, the acrid smell of gunpowder hovering in the air. Frost tried to claw his pistol from his holster although it could not have done him any possible good, but found that his fingers, his arm, refused to co-operate. He lay on his back in the alley, aware of the streaming of warm blood down his body.
He heard no further sounds. He tried to call for help, but no sound rose from his throat. He was looking skyward now, his chest rising and falling convulsively. He could feel dizziness and darkness trying to drag him down.
He raised an arm, grasping at the stars as if he might be able to use them to pull himself up. Then they blinked out and the night grew darker still and even more silent.

Showdown at Guyamas by Paul Lederer
In the thrilling first installment in this genre-busting series, Spectros journeys to Mexican mining country to confront the conjurer who kidnapped his bride.

A narrow carriage rumbles through the treacherous mountains of Sonora. Inside, surrounded by countless books and pieces of scientific equipment, rides Dr. Spectros—the most brilliant magician of the Old West. For years, he has pursued the fiendish sorcerer Blackschuster, who long ago stole the only woman the doctor ever loved. Spectros has now chased his nemesis to Mexico, where he discovers a town just as rotten as the conjurer who hides there.

Blackschuster has come in search of the silver he requires to keep the bride of Spectros trapped in eternal sleep. With the help of his associates, the gunslinger Ray Featherskill, the knife expert Inkada, and the hulking bruiser Montak, Spectros corners his enemy, but defeating him will take a magic more powerful than any the world has ever seen.

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The Reluctant Gun Hand by Paul Lederer
Fresh out of prison, a gunman who wants to put the past behind him has no choice but to join a gang of outlaws.

There was a time when Jake Worthy wouldn’t have been arrested for killing the gambler in the Tucson saloon. The card cheat drew his gun first—Jake shot only in self-defense. But the West is on its way to being civilized, and the sheriff has no choice but to throw Jake in jail. After six months behind bars, he is released and immediately sets out for home and his sweetheart. His first night on the trail, a bandit shoots Jake’s horse and leaves him to die. Stranded in the desert with a bullet in his leg, he starts walking, dreaming of the woman he may never see again.

Near exhaustion, Jake is picked up by three riders bristling with guns. They give him food, shelter, and a bandage for his leg. Without their help, he will die, so Jake joins their gang, starting down a path that will lead him right back to prison—or the grave.

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Author Bio: Paul Lederer
Paul Lederer spent much of his childhood and young adult life in Texas. He worked for years in Asia and the Middle East for a military intelligence arm. Under his own name, he is best known forTecumseh and the Indian Heritage Series, which focuses on American Indian life. He believes that the finest Westerns reflect ordinary people caught in unusual and dangerous circumstances, trying their best to act with honor.

28 August, 2015

Sourcebooks Casablanca e-book deals

On sale today through mid September, go take a look, I especially liked Nell and Catriona by Jeanette Baker!! Great prices!

Catriona by Jeanette Baker
Deal Date: August 28 – September 13
Genre: Historical Romance
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Deal Date: August 28 – September 13
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One to Go by Mike Pace Review and Giveaway! #onetogomikepace #giveaway

Tom Booker is a new attorney at a powerful Washington law firm. Texting while driving across Memorial Bridge, he loses control and crashes into an oncoming minivan carrying his own daughter and three of her friends. The minivan tips up on two wheels, about to flip over into the Potomac. Time freezes, he s alone on the bridge. A young couple approaches and offers him a re-wind. The crash would be averted, the children saved. All he must do is kill someone every two weeks anyone a soul exchange. A moment later, Tom is back in his spinning car, but averts the deadly crash. He laughs about the hallucination, attributing it to bumping his head on the steering wheel when his car came to an abrupt stop. But his encounter wasn't a hallucination. Two weeks later, the minivan driver is brutally murdered. Tom receives a text: one down, four to go. He has never shot much less owned a gun in his life, and now must turn himself into a serial killer or his daughter and her friends will die." 

No matter what path thriller author Mike Pace has walked, it’s always been with a story to tell.One of Mike’s earliest memories is helping to write the fourth grade Christmas play at his Pittsburgh elementary school.

Praise for One To Go:

“Fast-paced and extremely interesting, readers are introduced to a young attorney in Washington, DC. Breaking the law while texting as he’s driving, he soon finds himself in the center of a nightmare of biblical proportions…A very strange, dark, intense tale that actually spotlights (in an odd way) the risks and horrors that come on a daily basis from someone texting while driving. Even though this is a fictional tale, it really brings the point home. The angels/demons, whichever title these two people claim, are keeping a tally so Tom can’t cheat, and readers won’t be able to look away. This is a completely unique suspense novel; while you hold your breath waiting for the next shoe to drop, the reality sets in.”
 —Suspense Magazine
“Educated, avid readers who like to contemplate momentous issues and encounter the worst horrors imaginable when they are safely distanced by the covers of a book (or the off switch of a tablet) will find plenty of both in the thought-provoking entertainment of Mike Pace’s One to Go.”
 —Washington Independent Review of Books
“well this was quite the ride.
In Mike Pace's deeply thrilling paranormal-ish novel, One to Go Tom Booker finds himself with an impossible choice to make. While texting and driving, he loses control of his vehicle, hitting a minivan that was carrying his daughter, her friends, driven by his sister-in-law. Before the minivan flipped over the bridge though, time stood still. And Tom was given a choice. Either he could let his little girl die, along with her friends, OR he could kill someone every two weeks to make up for the loss of those souls. Thinking he was having some sort of crazy hallucination, Tom chooses his daughter. Not thinking much of it until two weeks later when his sister-in-law (the driver) is found brutally murdered. So if he doesn't kill someone, anyone, in two weeks, his daughter and her friends are in serious danger, and so on. Pace has quite the imagination, and I enjoyed every bit of it.”
—Kick *** Book Reviews 


Born in Pittsburgh, Mike attended the University of Illinois on an art scholarship and graduated with a BFA degree.

Mike has written for the stage and screen. The Washington Post called one of his plays “engaging … entertaining and … witty.” He wrote and directed a short film that was accepted into film festivals in Kansas City and Portland.

He’s a member of the International Thriller Writers and the Maryland Writers Association. He’s a strong believer in community responsibility, having served as president of his local school board.

My Thoughts

Tom Booker, on his way to pick up his daughter for a visit, texting while driving, is the cause of an accident that happens, or does it? Time stands still except for him and a happy young couple. Tom thinks that he is having a daytime nightmare, has a conversation with the young couple, and agrees to their ultimatum. Let the accident happen on its course and put a lot of people at risk of death including his own daughter, or to stop this, kill four souls. He agrees, thinking that this is all in his head and goes about his day.

Tom is a drinker, due to his stress at work, as a lawyer doing an internship at a prestigious law firm, or because of his divorce and the demands of his ex-wife. Either way he is having a love affair with the bottle and when he gets a reminder that he needs to kill someone to satisfy his agreement, it is that, or someone close to him will die. 

Tom is not a killer, and he has a hard time accepting this challenge, but fate seems to be working in his favor, for him anyway. As the unthinkable happens in his own family, he finally realizes that this whole proposition is not a dream. Now he is on a race to figure out how to kill the people he is required to to save his daughter. A father will do anything to protect his children, and Tom is no exception.

One to Go is definitely one of those page turner thrillers that you want to see the conclusion, but you don't want the story to end. Good against evil, will good prevail? Read this book to find out. I liked the bit of paranormal that is intertwined into the story. Very readable and enjoyable! I give it five stars for sure!

I received a copy of the book, One To Go, for review and was not monetarily compensated for my review.

Leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of this book!

The Flicker Men by Ted Kosmatka Spotlight!

Brilliantly conceived and multilayered, Divining Light is a high-concept thriller that questions what it really means to be human

In Ted Kosmatka’s wildly original and genre-busting Divining Light, a groundbreaking new discovery changes the world forever.

Out of a job and struggling with depression and alcohol abuse after a breakdown, the brilliant quantum physicist Eric Angus is given a second chance after he’s hired on a probationary basis by an old friend who runs Hansen, a prestigious Boston-area research lab. Unable to find inspiration for a project, Eric stumbles upon the old equipment used for Feynman’s double-slit experiment and decides to re-create the test in order to see the results for himself.

Eric probes deeper into Feynman’s theory, with the help of fellow scientists Satish and Mi Chang. After extensive tests on frogs, dogs, chimps, working their way up every phylum, class, and order in the animal kingdom, Eric, and his team establish a link between conscious observation and an evolutionary trait that is distinctly human: the soul. Mass chaos ensues after they publish the results of their experiment, and Eric is bombarded by reporters angling for exclusive interviews and wanting to debate the varying implications. Questions arise when certain people appear to be “soulless,” and after Satish mysteriously disappears, Eric risks everything to answer them.

TED KOSMATKA set his sights early on being a writer. This mostly involved having all his writing rejected, pursuing a biology degree, dropping out before graduation, and becoming a steel worker like his father and grandfather. Then the mill went bankrupt. After that he worked various lab jobs where friendships were born, and fire departments were called. (And where he learned the fine point of distinction between fire-resistant and fire-proof) Eventually, Ted finished college and worked in a research lab. Then came the final logical step: ditching all that to write video games in Seattle. Ted’s fiction has been nominated for the Nebula and Theodore Sturgeon awards. His novel THE FLICKER MEN was selected by Publishers Weekly as one of the best thrillers of the summer. 


That night in my motel room, I stared at the phone, sipped the vodka. A clear glass bottle. Liquid burn. 

The cap rolled away across the cheap carpet. I imagined calling Marie, dialing the number. My sister, so like me, yet not like me. The good one, the sane one. I imagined her voice on the other end. Hello? Hello? 

There is numbness in my head, strange gravities, and the geologic accretion of things I could have said, not to worry, things are fine; but instead I say nothing, letting the phone slide away, and hours later find myself outside the sliding glass window, coming out of another stupor, soaked to the skin, watching the rain. It comes down steady, a cold drizzle that soaks my clothes. 

Thunder advances from the east, as I stand in the dark, waiting for everything to be good again. In the distance, I see a shape in the motel parking lot. A figure standing in the rain with no reason to be there— gray rain- slicker shine, head cocked toward the motel. 

The shape watches me, face a black pool. Then comes the sudden glare of a passing car, and when I look again, the rain slicker is gone. Or was never there. 
The last of the vodka goes down my throat. I think of my mother then, that last time I saw her, and there is this: the slow dissolution of perspective. I lose connection to my body, an angular shape cast in sodium lights— eyes gray like storm clouds, gray like gunmetal. “It’s not for you,” my mother had said on that autumn day many years earlier. 

My arm flexes and the vodka bottle flies end over end into the darkness— the glimmer of it, the shatter of it, glass and asphalt and shards of rain. There is nothing else until there is nothing else. It is a dream I have sometimes. That last time we spoke, when I was fifteen. She bears many names, most of them apocryphal. My mother looks across the table at me. She doesn’t smile, but I know she’s happy. I know she’s in one of her good moods, because I’m visiting.

She’s back home again— the very last time, before everything went so irredeemably wrong. She drinks tea. Cold, always. Two ice cubes. I drink hot cocoa, my hands wrapped around the warm mug. We sip while the ceiling fan paddles slowly at the air above our heads. “I’m in mourning,” she says. “Mourning what?” “The human race.” And the gears in my head shift, as I note the change of direction, one of these talks then. Like a rut, her mind keeps falling into— all tracks leading eventually back into the wilderness. 

“The Y chromosome of our species is degrading,” she says. “Within a few hundred thousand years, it’ll be whittled away to nothing.” Her eyes travel the room, never resting on one thing for more than a few moments. I play along.
 “What about natural selection? Wouldn’t that weed out the bad ones?”  “It won’t be enough,” she says. “It is inevitable.” And maybe it is, I think. Maybe all of it is inevitable. Th is room. This day. My mother sitting across from me with restless eyes and her shirt buttoned wrong. 

Light slants through the windows of the dayroom. Outside the leaves are blowing across the yard, accumulating against the stone wall that Porter put up to keep the neighbor’s corgi out of the rose garden. Porter is her boyfriend though she will never call him that. “My Gillian,” he calls her, and he loves her like that was what he was made for. But I think he reminds her too much of my father, which is both the reason he is around and the reason he can come no closer. “Your sister is getting married,” she says. And it makes sense suddenly, our earlier conversation. 

Because I knew, of course, of my sister’s engagement. I just didn’t know my mother knew. Her active eyes come to rest on me, waiting for a response. My mother’s eyes are called hazel on her drivers’ license— but hazel is the catchall color. Hazel is the color you call eyes that aren’t blue or green or brown. 

Even black eyes are called brown, but you can’t tell someone they have black eyes. I’ve done that, and sometimes people get offended, even though most Homo sapiens have this eye color. It is the normal eye color for our species across most of the world. Jet black. Like chips of obsidian.

But my mother’s eyes are not the normal color. Nor are they the blue or green or hazel in which the DMV transacts its licenses. My mother’s eyes are the exact shade of insanity. I know that because I’ve seen it only once in my life, and it was in her eyes. 

“Th e Earth’s magnetic field fluctuates,” she tells me. “Right now South America is under a hot spot. Those beautiful auroras are just charged particles passing into the visual spectrum. I saw them once on your father’s boat, sailing north of the cape.” 

I smile and nod, and it is always like this. She is too preoccupied with the hidden to ever speak long on the mundane. Her internal way lines run toward obscured truths, the deep mysteries.

 “The magnetic field is weakening, but we’re safe here.” She sips her tea again. She is happy. This is her magic trick. She manages to look happy or sad or angry using only a glance. It is a talent she passed on to me, communicating this way— like a secret language we shared through which words were not necessary. 

Earlier that school year, a teacher told me that I should try smiling, and I thought, Do I really not smile? Not ever? Like my mother, even then. When she finally earned her degree, it was in immunology, after halting runs at chemistry, astronomy, genetics. Her drive as intense as it was quixotic. 

I was nine when she graduated, and, looking back, there had already been signs. Strange beliefs. Things that would later seem obvious. Hers was a fierce and impractical love. And it was both this fierceness and impracticality that built such loyalty in her children, for she was quite obviously damaged beyond all hope of repair— yet there was greatness in her still, a profundity.

Deep water, tidal forces. She stayed up late and told us bedtime tales— that line between truth and fantasy a constantly moving boundary. Stories of science, and things that might have been science, if the world were a different place. 

My sister and I both loved her more than we knew what to do with. When my father didn’t come back, it was me she woke first, barely getting the words out, collapsing in my bedroom. And I remember so little about that night, like it was part of somebody else’s story— but I remember the intake of air, her hitting the light switch, waking me— then it all pours out in words, everything, countless years of it. Lifetimes. A waterfall of words. A slow screaming that would not stop. Has never really stopped. And I remember the room. The color of the walls. 

Almost photographic details combined with odd gaps of memory— things I should know but somehow can’t see. Old cracks in the drywall. I can see them clearly. The feel of the slick wooden banister as I float down the stairs, picture frames brushing my shoulder. I see a thin layer of dust on the chandelier in the foyer, but somehow my sister is missing— erased from these memories though she must have been there. Or perhaps that’s her, standing in the back, in the shadows. 

And then the gravel scrapes my bare feet, and Mother can’t walk, collapsing on the sidewalk outside our house. I’m standing in the driveway while red lights spin silently. There are police, but none with faces. Just flashlights and badges and underwater words. Your father . . . And she couldn’t finish. Couldn’t get the words out. And nothing after that was ever really the same again. For any of us. But for my mother most of all. 

Now she sips her tea again, and I see the happiness change to worry in her eyes. Those not-quite- hazel eyes that do not bear names well. “Are you okay, Eric?” I only nod and sip. “Are you sure?” she asks. Her father was a quarter Cherokee and looked it. She and I have this in common: we both look like our fathers. “Everything’s fine,” I say. She is tall and long- limbed. Her hair, once brown, is streaked with white.

She is now and always has been beautiful. If we resemble each other, it is in our eyes— not the color, for mine are blue- gray, but in the shape. Our hooded expression. Eyes protective of their secrets. She never drank. Not once, not ever. Not like my father. She’d tell you. She came from a long line of alcoholics— bad alcoholics, she’d say. Get in fights-and-go- to- jail alcoholics. Her own father and grandfather and brothers. Some of her cousins. So she understood it. Like Huntington’s or hemophilia— a taint of the blood winding its way down through the generations. And I wonder if that was a part of it. 

The strange, alchemical familiarity that draws two people together. She and my father. Sometimes it is a thing as simple as the way you laugh. Or it’s a familiar hair color. Or the way you hold a Scotch glass, casually, fingers sprawled around the circumference of the glass’s rim, so the palm hovers above the cool brown liquid. 

That sense you get when you meet someone new— that feeling of . . . We know each other. We’ve always known each other. Maybe that’s what drew her. Or maybe she just thought she could fix him. — And so Mother never drank, not once, thinking it would be enough to save her. She told me many times growing up that I shouldn’t drink either. Alcoholism on both sides of the family, she said, so I shouldn’t even try it. Shouldn’t risk that first swallow. “It’s not for you,” she said. But I did try it. Of course, I did. Not for you. And nothing had ever been more wrong.


Hazard of Shadows an Urban/Dark Fantasy Novel by Mike Phillips Spotlight!

Synopsis: Hazard of Shadows                                                                  

The enchanted creatures of legend still exist, hidden away in the secret places of the world. They take refuge from an age of camera phones and government labs, from people who won’t let them live in peace. One of these last places of safety is known as the World Below.

Ancient powers are at work. The Lords of Faerie seek to revenge the death of Baron Finkbeiner and recover the mysterious Blade of Caro. Hidden in the shadows, they await a chance to strike. The chance arises when an old enemy escapes the splinter-realm in which he is imprisoned. Anxious to settle the debt, the Faerie Lords send him to finish the Lady Elizabeth and her Champion once and for all.

After leading the revolution against the despotic ruler of the World Below, Mitch Hardy has taken the throne. He never wanted to be king. The whole idea of a government by right of combat sits poorly with him. Growing evermore uneasy with his new position, he begins laying the framework for self-rule. The enchanted peoples have known nothing but kings but are adapting quickly to this new idea of governing their affairs. It goes well, but Mitch’s plans are interrupted by the arrival of old enemies. Soon he is fighting for his life against a hellish enemy, the likes of which he never imagined.

Synopsis: The World Below                                                                     

In ancient times, magical creatures inhabited the earth. They lived on mountaintops, in trees, at the bottom of lakes and rivers. But that was long ago before the human race declared war on the creatures they feared and hated. Now the enchanted peoples are all but gone. Those few that remain fear being stretched out on an examination table in some secret, governmental facility. The only place they can hide from the ever increasing number of satellites and smart phones is in the World Below.
Mitch Hardy is going through a hard time in his life. In his early twenties, he was working his way through college when he suffered an accident that left him flat broke and physically deformed. When Mitch decides to make a fresh start in a new town, things start looking up. He finds a place to live, a decent job, good friends. He even meets a nice girl. Unknown to Mitch, his new girlfriend is one of the Elder Race, what some call the Faerie Folk. Mitch doesn’t know that Elizabeth is looking for a father she never knew. The key to finding him is somehow tied up with the mysterious Blade of Caro. Desperate, she steals the Blade from its protector, the despotic ruler of the World Below, the Dragon of Worms, Baron Finkbeiner. When Elizabeth is kidnaped by the Baron, Mitch is pulled into a world or magic and monsters he never imagined.


Author Bio:                                                                                    
Mike Phillips is the author of Hazard of Shadows, The World Below, Dawn of Ages, and Reign of the Nightmare Prince. His short stories have appeared in ParAbnormal DigestCemetery MoonSinister TalesBeyond Centauri, the World of MythMystic Signals, and many others. Online, his work has appeared in Lorelei SignalEzine, Bewildering StoriesMidnight Times, and Fringe. He is best known for his Crow Witch and Patrick Donegal series. Please visit Mike at mikephillipsfantasy.com.

Mike Phillips grew up on a small farm in West Michigan, living much the way people did at the turn of the century. Whether it was growing fruits and vegetables or raising livestock, Mike learned the value of hard work and responsibility at a young age.

While his friends spent their summers watching reruns of bad sitcoms, Mike’s father gave him a very special gift. He turned off the television. With what was affectionately referred to as “the idiot box” no longer a distraction, Mike was left to discover the fantastic worlds that only exist in books. When not tending sheep, gardening, building furniture, chopping wood, or just goofing off, Mike spent his time reading.

With all that hard work at home, Mike was always eager to go to school. He excelled as a student and went on to pursue a career in the sciences. Working as a Safety Engineer in the Insurance Industry, Mike soon became bored with the corporate grind. Writing engaged him like nothing else. After a few novels and numerous short stories, he thought getting published would be a pretty neat idea. And so, here it goes…

Go to these websites to learn more, lots of great information.
Author Website: 

Author Central has more great information.

Reviews: The World Below                                                                      

Hellnotes        -An enjoyable read with fantastical characters and some great one-liners. Phillips also has an amazing imagination: some of his incidental characters are uniquely unusual in their descriptions, actions, and rituals, making them that much more memorable. …In keeping with the dark fairy tale, there is a damaged hero and a magical queen. But Phillips is able to bring a fresh perspective to the usual tropes of magic and mystery, while keeping a touch of humor. The heroine is relatable and—dare I say it—cool, and the hero is sympathetic in his bewilderment as he is dragged into a world that he never could have conceived of. …Worthy of a read and a good start to an epic dark fantasy tale.

Beauty in Ruins         -The term gets thrown around a lot, but this really was a ‘magical’ book that thoroughly entertained. …a reminder of what fantasy can do. Do yourself a favor and check it out.

The Avid Reader          -For any fantasy/paranormal lovers this is a book you should read! The plot is fresh, and the writing is very colorful with those combinations this book, of course, makes for an enjoyable read! The enjoyability of this book is also increased because it is also very funny and snarky as well! The characters are very strong and well written. The setting is so imaginative and works very well in this story, modern day meets fantasy! It’s such an inspired and fun idea! The plot is also good with lots of twists and turns. You’ll find yourself invested in the story for the whole book, because the book has everything: action, adventure, romance, etc. I would highly recommend this book! It has everything a reader desires: twists, turns, fantasy, a good plot and good characters. Readers will also really like this book because it has sadness and happiness, it can make you laugh but also be very serious as well. It’s just a fun book that is a good read for anytime!

Tome Tender              -An imaginative, snarky, funny but also dark and gory twisting of modern day reality and ancient lore and fantasy. Let me hit the snarky. Elizabeth first …she’s got attitude down to a science and the power to back it up. But it didn’t stop there, the sarcasm and strong personas hit all the characters in this story telling. Although many times I LOL, Phillips still created some very dark and graphically detailed scenes. The evil was definitely evil, the good was maybe a little evil and the rest of the characters got completely caught up in the wake. The World Below is a refreshing and quite entertaining read. I can’t wait to see what will happen to Mitch next.

Must Read Faster       -So let's see what this is about? Hmm? Fantasy world meets modern reality. Dude! I'm totally there! Of course this book was a lot of fun! I loved the mix of the worlds. The nods to fantasy movies and books that I picked up along the way.  I loved that Mitch wasn't your typical heart throbby hero! He's flawed in so many ways that go beyond his physical problems. This is a great book for those that love a strong, quick, and fun read! There's solid characters, solid story, and a lot of fun on these pages! Definitely pick this up if you are a fantasy fan!

My Reading Addiction           -It has been a long time since I have read about goblins, but I am so glad I took a chance on this novel. I really enjoyed the balance in the characters, from the humans to the goblins every character was well done and made sense. Mitch was such a great guy, it really shows that victims of circumstance and unfortunate events can be strong and pull through. I loved seeing his journey. The way that Elizabeth was woven into the fantasy world was great. I think she fit perfectly and the plot flowed effortlessly. The action is very detailed and keeps the reader on edge. Definitely a great fantasy read!

My Cozy Corner Book Reviews           -4 Stars: Mike pens The World Below in an original, well written and magical plot. I found his characters to be well defined, strong and very interesting. With a touch of humor written in, this book kept my interest from start to finish. I look forward to more from this author.

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