Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Book Debut: Undead America: No Angels by Leah Rhyne

And, also today, we have the debut of No Angels by Leah Rhyne!  You can check it out at MuseItUp!



Back Cover


Jenna, Sam and Lola were lucky to survive the horrors of a zombie-filled New Orleans. But they still have a lot to learn.

In a zombie world, you can never let your guard down.  Even when you think you're safe, dangers lurk around every corner. Sometimes the dangers are from the undead, but more often they're from the living.

It's also much easier to inspire a group to fight than it is to lead them through everyday hardship. Jenna once saved lives, but the pressures managing an ever-growing group of survivors soon wears her thin.

And finally, in Undead America, no one remains unscathed. No one is whole, and almost everyone has something to hide.

From the bowels of a rundown farmhouse to the plains of Nebraska, from a leather-clad living monster to the tiniest of child zombies, there are truly No Angels.

Excerpt


He appeared over a haystack hill moments later, lurching and stumbling, lunging towards the sounds he’d heard in the quiet prairie land.  One zombie.  I sighed and tightened my grip on the Slugger in my hands, preparing for battle.

Allie appeared at my shoulder, peeking over my head.  Her jaw hung slack, and she covered her gaping mouth with the back of her hand.  “Oh no. Oh my God, Jenna, I am so sorry. I don’t know what I was thinking.  I wasn’t thinking, actually, I was just...playing.  And now...oh my God now! What are we going to do?”

I turned around.  “It’s fine,” I said, and I really meant it.  “I understand.  It’s just one, I can handle him.”

But then tears filled her eyes, which grew bigger as she stared over my shoulder.

Shit.  “There’s more, aren’t there?” I said, afraid to turn back, afraid to not.  “How many?” 

Allie only shook her head.

Slowly, through the sticky molasses of a bad dream, I spun around to face the zombies.

Dozens of the creatures flowed across the grass, stumbling in packs of twos and threes to the tiny church in which we stood. But they weren’t looking for absolution.

They were looking for breakfast, and they were only minutes away.

Run! It was my first thought, but I stifled it.  Instead, I stepped down to the round and walked to the corner of the church to take a peek at what was coming behind us.  Allie stayed on my heels.

More zombies. 

By my rough count, there were at least a hundred headed our way, and the gaps between them weren’t big enough for us to make an escape.  We were trapped.

“Do you have the walkie-talkie?” Allie whispered.

“No, it’s sitting on the counter. I forgot it.”  In reality, I’d left it behind on purpose.  All my pockets were full.  “I don’t have enough ammo, either.  Not for this.”

We ran up the steps and inside the church, and took a look around.  “Shut the door,” I said.

Allie slammed it, and I winced.  More noise. 

“Come help me. Please.”

Together we dragged a heavy wooden pew across the floor, cutting deep wounds into the shining hardwood floor, and pressed it up against the door. 

“The door opens out, not in,” Allie said, and I nodded.

“It’ll trip them up, create a bottleneck, I hope.  At least it’s something.” 

They wouldn’t only come in through the door, though. I knew that.  The windows were low, so they could walk right through.  “All that stained glass...” I muttered as I ran toward the altar, hoping to find something, anything, that would help.

“What?”

“Never mind.”  There was a podium on the altar, knocked over on its side already.  It looked heavy.  Maybe we could hide behind it and I could shoot them one by one as they came through the door.

But all that stained glass.  It’ll never hold them.  Just because the church had remained pristine for seven months didn’t mean it could survive this onslaught.

I considered fire.  I had matches, and all the wood was surely flammable. It had to be. 

Maybe it’ll cause a distraction and we could slip away.

But probably not without getting burned.  Badly.

Beside me, Allie trembled and quaked.  “What are we going to do, Jenna?” 

I wanted to remind her that she was old enough to be my mom, and had been someone’s mom for a long time, but that seemed cruel.  Instead, I took her hand as I continued my frantic surveying of the church.  Nothing looked helpful.

“I don’t know.”

We backed into a corner.  We could hear them clearly now, their individual zombie-sounds tied together into a steady hum of decay.  The sound of our end, I thought, and then pinched myself for giving up.  There has to be a way out.

The wall behind us was covered with a drape, and I leaned into the musty-smelling velvet.  I pressed myself against it, wanting to wrap up in it and hide like when I was a little girl playing in my mother’s curtains. I turned into it, pulling Allie with me, when suddenly my elbow hit something small, hard and round.  A doorknob.

“Come on,” I said, yanking the curtain aside.  It covered a plain wooden door, and when I turned the knob the door opened.  A ladder stretched way up into the bell tower, higher than even the freshest zombie would be able to reach.

I set my Slugger down on the floor, leaning against the wall, and started to climb as fast as I could, with Allie close below me.  I climbed until my arms burned and my legs started to cramp, and then I climbed some more.  A hundred or so rungs up, I felt the fresh air of a warm breeze on our faces through the open windows.  We’d reached the top.

The glassless windows gaped wide open, and the interior of the tower was filled with a single brass bell that smelled like a hot summer breeze.  I slung my leg over the side of the nearest window so that I straddled the frame, then leaned my head out to look at the sea of zombies beneath us.  They were inside the church, but for the moment we were safe.

Allie climbed into her own window and looked at me around the bell. “So now what?” she said.

“We wait.”

“For what?”

I shrugged.  “Not sure yet.  Help maybe? Or for them to get bored and go somewhere else? We just wait.”

She looked at the M-16 on my back, the pistol on my hip.  “Can’t you shoot them?”

“Nah,” I said, wrinkling my nose.  “That’ll just attract more of them.  And I don’t have enough ammunition for the ones we already have down there.  We have to wait.”  

“Right.”  

We sat silently for a long time, looking out at the sky, the prairie, the farmland, anywhere but directly below where certain death and zombie-dom awaited us.   Then, quietly, I heard Allie singing.  Amazing Grace.

T’was Grace that brought us safe thus far...and Grace will lead us home.

Grace, or Jenna, I wondered silently.   But then I shrugged again and began humming along.

What else was I going to do?

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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Bash Goes On!


I've decided that I need to clear out my premade stock. There's only so much room on the blog, after all, and I want to clear out the old to make way for the new! From not until Nov. 15th, all premade covers are just $30!  Sold or not, any premade left behind by Nov. 16th goes bye-bye, so if you're been waiting for the right moment, this is it!

Check them out over here!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Book Debut: Hemphill Towers by Leona Pence

Today's book debut is the fabulous Hemphill Towers by Leona Pence!  Check it out at MuseItUp!



Back Cover


Riley Saunders has her dream job. As an art director at a leading advertising agency, she works every day with her two best friends, Stella and Birdie. All three have been assigned to ensure that the Grand Opening of the Peterson Art Museum is nothing short of a success.

When a girl’s night out at a hot new Italian restaurant ends with a spilled bottle of wine, it sets in motion a series of events that leaves Stella and Birdie caught up in whirlwind romances, and Riley fearing for her life at the hands of a deranged stalker. But, when the handsome museum curator, Trent Peterson, learns of her situation, he vows to keep her safe.

In a quick-paced tale of fine art, wine forgery, and the Russian Mafia, Riley and her friends soon discover their pursuit of love will require them to expose a crime, thwart a murder, and trust the one thing that has never failed them…their friendship.

Excerpt


Her eyes were drawn to a window table across the room. Riley recognized JB Edwards, but wasn't quite sure about the man seated with him. Oh Lord, I hope Stella doesn’t freak out when she sees JB. She could go weak in the knees, or worse yet, refuse to eat.

She saw Stella and Birdie approaching the table, both looked happy and carefree. Birdie's hair swung long and lovely, and Stella, of course, was about to pop a button from the center of her blouse.

Just as Birdie started to sit down, she glanced across the room.

Stella and Riley stared at Birdie.

"Who is that man with JB Edwards?" Her hands touched her flushed cheeks.

Stella glanced their way, and Riley could tell her mood changed spotting the object of her affection. "He’s a friend of JB’s, Federico Martinique of Martinique Wineries. We’ve done advertising for him. He loves good Italian cuisine and he’s probably trying out the new restaurant with JB for the same reasons we are."

                                                   ***

Across the room a similar conversation was taking place. "JB, do you know who that vision of loveliness is at that table with those two other ladies?"

JB Edwards tried to glance without appearing to be staring, but he recognized all three as his employees. He wasn’t surprised to see them gearing up for a new campaign, but even he was a bit taken aback by them in this setting. Stella Mason rarely ever let her guard down and Birdie Orwell looked so different that he almost didn’t recognize her.

"Well, my friend,” he said. “I can tell you who they are, but I'm not sure which 'vision of loveliness’ you are referring too."

"That magnificent hair! That beautiful face! I must meet her!" exclaimed Federico.

JB called a waiter and whispered to him. The young man walked toward the ladies with his message.

“Excuse me, ladies, but the gentlemen at the window table request the honor of your company for dinner.”

Birdie’s face turned pink, obviously smitten. “I don’t know, girls. What do you think?” Stella absently ran her fingers through her hair.

“Let’s go,” said Riley.

“I…I’m not sure I can.” Birdie’s eyes were downcast, her face still flushed.

Riley stood with determination. “Let’s go, you big chickens. It’s time to live a little.” She started walking and the other two followed.

The young server led them into a more secluded area where they could dine without being disturbed by people passing by.

At a large round table, Stella sat to the right of JB, Riley on his left, leaving Birdie and Federico seated together.

An array of dishes, already being assembled for them, emitted a tantalizing aroma of marinara and calamari. Brochette bread covered with mozzarella cheese and plates of smoked salmon served with capers and cream cheese, all there to tempt their appetite.

“Ladies, this is my friend Federico Martinique. Federico, meet Riley Saunders, Birdie Orrwell, and Stella Mason. I believe you’ve met Stella at the office.”

“Yes, it’s good to see you again, Stella.” He shook hands with all three, but held Birdie’s hand while gazing her into eyes.

“Ahem.” JB politely cleared his throat.

JB ordered the wine and, of course, selected an FMartinique label for both the appetizer and main entree. When the waiter brought the wine and offered the cork to JB, he demurred and said, “My friend here is my guest, please let him test the wine.”

Federico smiled and went through the procedure of smelling the cork, swirling the wine after it was poured, sniffing it and then tasting. After a moment, he said, “Very nice, vine, planted in 1966, first wine pressed in 1971, and this particular bottle, if I am not mistaken is actually, August 15, 1999. Am I not correct?” The waiter looked dumbfounded and unsure how to reply. JB and Federico laughed at his confusion.

JB said to the waiter, “Sorry, my friend, but this is FMartinique, the man who bottled this wine.”

The waiter gave a smile of relief. “It is an honor to have you in our restaurant.” He then poured the wine and said he would return later to take their orders.

Federico grinned, then lifted his glass and said, "To new friends, good food, great wine.”

All lifted their glasses for the toast. Stella and Riley ‘ummmed’ at the taste of the wine.

“This is delicious, Federico.” Birdie took another sip.

“Thank you.” Federico tipped his glass toward her, his eyes lingering on her lips. The attraction between them was palpable to the others at the table.

The appetizers were especially good, the taste enhanced by the sparkling wine. Soon more waiters appeared with platters laden with a wide sampling of the menu choices. The sauces were superb. The cheeses, blended and melted into mouth watering delights, covered the pastas, breads, and dishes they could barely pronounce.

A little later, Stella put down her fork unable to eat another bite. She was listening to JB tell Federico a story about his latest fishing trip. JB raised his arm in a mock casting of a line, and in doing so, hit the wine bottle with his arm causing it to strike Stella's full glass. The contents of both poured all over the front of her clothes.

Stella gasped when the chilled liquid came in contact with her body, soaking through her white blouse and bra. JB jumped up, grabbed a cloth napkin and began dabbing at the rapidly spreading red stain. Then the inevitable happened. First one button then another popped from her blouse and landed in the middle of the table.

JB stood dumbfounded, staring at the lacy exposed bra. Stella snatched the napkin from his hand and covered herself. Her face was much redder than the spilled wine. Riley could no longer contain her laughter and was soon joined by Birdie. Stella looked at them and then at the stricken face of JB Edwards; she began to laugh herself. Tears ran down their cheeks. JB sat back down, relieved there would be no repercussions from his gaffe.


Friday, October 18, 2013

Book Debut: Mantahungal by Enita Meadows

Our second book today is Mantahungal, the second book of the Aswang Wars series, by Enita Meadows!  To put a little fear in your Friday, you can check it out here!



Back Cover


Finding his role in the great Aswang War, Jei Rivera still feels blind to the new world around him. The memories long lost still evade his recollection, while the voice in his head taunts him with the unknown. Hoping to find the origin of his own mysterious birth, Jei travels into dangerous territory once again to learn of how he came to be. But with enemies around every corner—and the most deadly foe of all living within his own mind—Jei may sacrifice his life to uncover the mystery.

Excerpt


“The aswang named Gimo lived in this town of Dingle with the rest of his clan.” Jei knew that the clan she spoke of was only a fraction of the real clan. Only those who had moved back onto Visayan land. Talya continued, “And I suppose that’s where the story begins. Gimo’s daughter was, at the time, a college student at a university in the city. She was also an aswang, and pretty as can be. During one of the school breaks, Gimo’s daughter invited two of her college friends to visit her hometown.” Talya smiled grimly. “That hometown was Dingle, Iloilo. Expecting it to be exotic and exciting, her two friends agreed to accompany her home–to meet her family, and to meet Gimo. Of course the girls didn’t know the young woman belonged to a clan of aswang, and being from the city they’d never heard the legends.”

Gimo’s daughter, Jei thought. The dominant bloodline.

Talya stood up. Jei’s eyes following her intently but darkly as she fiddled with the charms hanging from the high ceiling and the shelves along one wall. She drew a box of matches from one shelf and struck it, a flame bursting to life between her fingers. She paused in her story only for a brief moment, lighting a series of candlesticks mounted on the wall.

“There was a great, warm welcome for Gimo’s daughter and her two friends,” Talya said, her face illuminated by candlelight as she walked along the wall, her fingers tracing the shelves. She didn’t bother to look back at Jei, but continued her story almost mindlessly. “It was an impressive party with food to feed an army. Their guests were treated like royalty, really.

“Well, dusk fell and the party eventually died off. The two college students who had returned home with Gimo’s daughter were shown to their friend’s old bedroom, where the three would spend their nights until moving back into the city to continue college. They all settled in sleeping bags together, three in a row spread out on the floor.

“The first, and closest to the door,” Talya said, pivoting toward Jei. She held up one finger in an almost eccentric manner. “Was the older of the two human girls. The second, with one girl on each side, was the younger of the two human girls. The third, in the sleeping bag closest to the window, was the aswang, the daughter of Tenyente Gimo.”

Jei stared mercilessly into Talya’s knowing eyes, his mind burning at the images of the story she told. That aswang, Gimo’s daughter who Gabriel had said died before Jei’s birth, could be the one he searched for.

“Of course you would know,” Talya continued, laughing to herself in an almost unnerving way. “How two human girls have no place among the aswang but as a source of blood.

“The girl lying in the middle sleeping bag woke some time during the night to hear a soft chatter coming from the bottom floor of the house, while her two friends were sleeping.

“‘The one sleeping closest to the window is the aswang,’ claimed the voice of Tenyente Gimo,” Talya said, voicing Jei’s father with a grim tone in her voice. He wondered if she knew that she might as well have been looking into the eyes of Gimo himself when she spoke to Jei. “She could hear the other voices speaking mutedly below them, and then Gimo’s voice again, which she recognized clearly, ‘You can kill the other two. After all, that’s why she brought them home with her.’

“The girl couldn’t ignore those words as a warning, and very quickly she realized the betrayal her friend, who only now she realized was an aswang, had inflicted on her, and the great danger she was in. She could hear the footsteps coming up the stairs. Slowly, as if stalking prey. She tried to wake her sleeping friend, the girl closest to the door, but the footsteps drew closer, and her friend was fast asleep.

“She thought quickly against those threatening footsteps, so she quickly pulled the sleeping bag of the aswang into the middle of the room, taking her own sleeping bag and placing it by the window. She tucked herself into the space near the window where her aswang friend used to be, and just as the footsteps approached the door to their room, she draped a blanket over their faces just enough to shadow their definitive features.

“The aswang, still believing Gimo’s daughter slept at the window, covered the mouths of the two girls sleeping closest to the door and dragged them downstairs.

“It’s said that, in the frenzy, Gimo himself killed his own daughter, thinking her to be the human girl who by chance had overheard.”

Jei’s eyes narrowed, his teeth grinding together in a mix of confusion and anxiety.

It wasn’t her, Jei thought. If Gimo had still been in the Visayas when all of this had happened, Jei would not have been born because Gimo returned to Manila with Jei and never left again. The aswang who died by Gimo’s hand was not the one Jei had been looking for, nor did she share a mother with him.

Talya drifted slowly back to her seat before Jei, striking another match and lighting one of the candles spread out across the table.

“The clan of aswang quickly realized their terrible mistake, but by that time, the girl who tricked them to save her own life had already snuck out the window. The entire clan is said to have searched throughout the remainder of the night, but none of them found her. The legend goes that after that incident, Tenyente Gimo swore to punish the young woman himself. He began hunting her shortly after, and that’s when he disappeared from the Visayas. No one ever heard another word of or about him—or the young girl he hunted for revenge against—ever again.”

The words slowly sunk in through the pores of Jei’s skin, the entire thing piecing itself together in his mind.

“This girl,” Jei said, realizing the next gap in the puzzle that needed to be filled. “This Maria. Where was she from?”

“Where was she from?” Talya repeated in an almost squeaking voice. Her eyes were round with something mixed between surprise and curiosity. “If I remember right…the two girls that Gimo’s daughter brought back…they attended a college together in the south…in Malaybalay, Mindanao.”

Ah, the pieces fall together.

----
 

And watch for the print edition of the first Aswang Wars book, Manduruko, which is set to be released on Hallowen! 


Book Debut: The Esposito Caper by Karen K. Brees



We've got two fabulous book debuts today!  The first is Karen K. Brees' The Esposito Caper!  So, if you're in the mood for some mystery, murder and mayhem, look no further

Back Cover


Crime is easy. Family is what’s tough. And for Gino Esposito, family obligations could be the end of him. His grandfather wants to prove he’s the genius behind another artist’s works. All he needs is for Gino to steal a diary that’s currently in the possession of the Mafia.

Gino will do almost anything to work an angle, but he’s thinking this task could be his last. He needs help, but all he’s got is cousin Carla, exotic dancer with aspirations of opening a ballet studio, and girlfriend Francesca, whose boss has got her framed for embezzlement. It’s a recipe for family problems only faith, luck, and some really good mojo will solve.

Excerpt


Gino took the scrapbook back to the hard chair and began to read. The first entry told of DeMontana’s death at the age of eighty-six in 1987. The June eleventh edition of Il Testamento proclaimed “Art World Mourns the Passing of the Master.” It gave a brief biography along with mentioning several of the artist’s more popular works. Cause of death was attributed to a heart attack.

Subsequent clippings added over the next twenty years chronicled the escalating value of DeMontana’s works which seemed to increase with each new revelation of his sexual liaisons. Adulterous affairs weren’t anything newsworthy in Italy where mistresses were an add-on clause in most marriage contracts of the rich and powerful. What was noteworthy, however, was the emergence in 1988 of one particular woman as a potential power player in the disposition of the artist’s fortune. Donna Napolitano claimed to have a signed and notarized copy of DeMontana’s most recent will, bequeathing her a large share of the estate along with villas in Tuscany and Milano. The looming litigation was heaven-sent for the press, but before a court date could be determined, Napolitano died in a skiing accident in Grenoble after plummeting headlong into a tree. After a few days, the story died with her, and later that year, DeMontana’s widow, Bianca, departed Florence to take up permanent residence in the United States.

The San Francisco Bay Reporter’s Society page led with the story “Bianca DiCicco DeMontana Welcomed by San Francisco Society.” It was a full page spread showing the merry widow attending a gala celebration at the DeYoung. Gino studied the photograph of a tall, willowy, ash blonde in a Dior gown accented with a queen’s ransom in jewels. She held a cigarette in a jewel-encrusted holder and a wreath of smoke swirled around her head like a dirty halo. His interest ratcheted up a notch. He continued turning the pages.

Then six years ago, just as his grandfather had said, the thefts had begun. To date, eight paintings by DeMontana had been stolen from showings and private collections. The first had been taken from a collection on loan to the Brancicci Gallery in New York City. The gallery owner hadn’t been insured, and the insurance company of the painting’s owner was refusing to pay. It was a legal quagmire.

In two other thefts from private homes in Los Angeles and San Francisco, a crowbar had been found outside a jimmied window. The art had been taken while the owners were attending a society function. In the remaining cases, the burglars had gained entry without setting off the alarm system. The police speculated the thieves had keys to the homes and, once inside, were able to disarm the systems. Police were pursuing several leads and were questioning “people of interest,” but no arrests had been made. In one clip, a harried-looking Inspector Liz Paone of the SFPD’s Art Theft Division was shown fielding questions in a roomful of reporters. She didn’t have any answers to give them. “Police Come up Empty in Art Thefts” the headline chided.

Gino flipped through the remaining pages. A shaky hand had scribbled “Mine! Mine!” or “Dominic!” in the margins of all the theft accounts.

“Do you understand now?” Emiliano had awakened from his nap and was watching his grandson read through the scrapbook. “Bianca has the diary and wants to make sure no one ever discovers what DeMontana did. She won’t stop until she’s taken all of my work to protect her fortune. You must stop her, Gino. You must get the diary and keep her from completing what she has begun. If she succeeds, there will be nothing left of my art for the future generations to appreciate. It will be as if I never was. That my life has meant nothing. That is a pill much too bitter to swallow.”

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