All posts by Alex McGilvery

New Release October 27th

Calliope and the Sea Serpent

Chapter 1  The Call to Adventure

Calliope followed Sir Shillingsworth through a vast collection of grotesqueries – creatures suspended in huge bottles filled with murky liquid, others stuffed and set in tableaux. Sculptures of horrific death, paintings of deformed people.

Her father took no notice of what surrounded him; tall, with his grey hair cut severely and great coat flapping like a cloak in the wind, he swept past giant skeletons, not even glancing aside. Calliope itched to get lost in the collection, sketching what she saw. That skill was the reason he employed her. Why he’d ordered her to attend this meeting was beyond her. She had specimens to draw and catalog from the expedition he’d returned from a couple of months ago.

Unless he thought some feminine distraction would aid in his negotiations. Calliope brushed at her dress, covered with pockets she’d added and spotted with charcoal and graphite. In that case, he should have brought someone worth looking at.

Pentam, Sir Shillingsworth’s protégé, rolled his eyes and shook his head. He had dressed immaculately in the latest fashion, dark hair perfectly arranged, and took his position as high society scientist very seriously. She caught occasional flashes of humour in those blue eyes. Calliope took a deep breath; she could put up with the boy for the short time she was forced into his presence.

They arrived at the end of the hall, where Sir Shillingsworth looked at Cal as if he had just met her there.

“Really, Calliope, you should take more care with your appearance.”

She made a deliberately sickly attempt to show feminine wiles.

“You should have warned me I was to send lust through Lord Carroway’s veins.”

Pentam’s snort echoed through the hall.

“Fat lot of good that would have done.” He immediately paled and held his hand up defensively. “I don’t mean that in a disparaging way to you, Cal.” But he was looking at Sir Shillingsworth as he spoke.

“You should stick to your convictions.” A pang struck through her heart before she ruthlessly quashed it. “Nevertheless, you aren’t the only one whose words occasionally come out a little sideways of their intent.” He spoke nothing but the truth. From her blackened fingers to indeterminate brown hair stuffed in a bun to keep it out of her eyes, even in the finest of gowns, she’d never make any male catch his breath.

“What I meant is, rumour has it Lord Carroway is not, er… set aflame by feminine beauty.”

“Then it is a good thing you take all too much care with your appearance.” Sir Shillingsworth rapped on the door as Pentam turned a series of lovely shades of red. Cal smiled sympathetically at the boy. Her father had little time for niceties, and none for anything less than the bald truth. “Dressing well isn’t always about seduction.” Sir Shillingsworth eyed Cal again. “Sometimes it is about respect.”

The door creaked open as Pentam fought for composure.

How appropriate. Have they treated the hinges to produce the sound? Cal knew better than to give them more than the slightest glance as they paraded into the room. But her mind listed ways she might have created that wonderful groan.

Links to preorder at any major e-book retailer  can be found here:

Catalog

Wendigo Whispers

Wendigo Whispers is my first thriller. It is set in a fictional town in northern Manitoba. It is available for pre-order now at major ebook stores, and will be for sale on my site on July 29th.

Terror and madness wait to strike …

Eager to start fresh, Leigh accepts a teaching job in the remote northern community of Spruce Bay. The fading mining community is rife with abandoned homes that breed a class of listless alcoholics and violent gangs. Resentment and hopelessness fill the cold air. Nevertheless, Leigh loves the town and the kids in her classes.

Just as she begins believing everything will work out, she has a second psychotic break from reality. And another teacher is murdered … that same night.

Leigh remembers harsh, evil whispers and an ax. Nothing more.

As the body count rises, Leigh and her husband become the last line of defence against an evil force that wants to destroy the town.

The Golem of Wacza

Olive D’Alton has his book The Golem of Wacza, the first in the Empyryon series free June 25 and 26 on Amazon.
I had the time to read some of the beginning of the book and the characters are interesting and already developing. The premise is one I haven’t seen before, so I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the book.

EMPYRYON Blurb

A fast moving epic fantasy novel set in a mythic era. It traces a journey of survival in a time of warfare, intrigue and oppression.

The Emperor, a bloody usurper of the Archaki Kingdom, rules the land with an iron fist. His winged Hussars swoop on the villages every five years and steal the boy-children for his armies. A group of conspirators from the village of Wacza enlist the aid of a mysterious hermit to combat the tyranny. Together they create a golem, a soulless killer, to slaughter and beat back the Hussars. Everything changes.

Colonel Kuntz, leader of the Hussars, falls in love with Natasha Archaki and, with a price on his head, they flee to join the northern alliance that is at war with the Emperor. Together with a small group of other fugitives they face the perils of the journey through the fearsome Wood of the Suicides, the territory of the fierce isolationist Hadre and must outrun the murderous White Wolves who pursue them in their quest for freedom.

Oliver D’Alton’s Bio

Years and years and years ago my first novel, a pulp fiction thriller called The Affair of the Dragon was published. Since then nothing. I became caught up in Academia and all my writing was devoted to the publication of scholarly research works. I’ve finally thrown off the academic yoke and have returned to my first love, writing fiction. Empyryon is my new book series that fits roughly into the genre Epic Fantasy with leanings towards adventure, military fantasy and quest. The golem, a monster, has its genesis in ancient folklore from Prague and the winged Hussars historically are Polish warriors. I am interested in both history and mythology and weave these themes together throughout the book.

I caught the travel bug at an early age and travelled extensively. During my travels I followed various cultural themes. For example, I followed the Siva myths in India and was ‘initiated’ into some of the mysteries of the rock-cut temples in Mahabalipuram. In Egypt I sought out the step pyramids of Zoser and the temple of Karnak. In Crete I followed up the remnants of the Minoan civilization and wondered about the legends of Atlantis first mentioned by Plato who had learned from the Sais priests of Egypt. And so on.

I have an abiding passion for racing cars and for sailing yachts.

I must confess I am also a stereo nut.

Author Interview

The Golem of Wacza looks interesting. What made you decide to use a golem as a focal point of the book?

Many years ago I read a book entitled “The Sword of The Golem” and this sparked my interest in the mythology and legends that surrounded the creation of a Golem. I read about the Golem of Prague which seemed to be based either on some truths or simply folk stories about the savior of the Jewish population in Prague, created through faith to protect the Jewish population from religious oppression. Some myths hold that the Golem is still hidden somewhere in that city and can be reawakened by a religious man, pure of heart. A Golem is conceived of as a huge humanoid monster created from mud and its controller breathes life into it. It is reputedly a mindless killer, in thrall to its creator. It hates the person who brought it to life but is forced to submit to all the demands of its creator. In my novel, the central oppressor is an emperor who ruthlessly stamps out all hints of religion and faith. The oppressed villagers under this regime reminded me of the repressed population in Prague. In my story, there is no countervailing force against the Emperor. The villagers turn to a mystic hermit to save them. As in Prague a Golem was the solution. However, in this context the Golem is animated through hate rather than faith.

Tell us more about yourself. What else have you published?

 I grew up in Sydney in a house by the waterfront and trained for many years to become an Olympic swimmer. I recently completed a book entitled ‘Swimming’, yet to be published.

I was an academic for many years. I have a Masters in Economics, a Ph.D. and a Juris Doctorate. I have taught Economics, Politics, Sociology and Law at numerous universities.

Apart from my academic publications which include text books and many articles, I published a pulp fiction novel, The Affair of The Dragon many years ago.  That was a lot of fun!

I also to love to paint and to write poetry. I have produced a series of ‘painted poems’ that will be slowly added to my webpage over time. I taught art in London and have had art exhibitions in London, Sydney and Collioure.

I’ve always had at least one cat. I have been living in Gozo for the last couple of years in order to concentrate on writing and sketching. For those who haven’t heard of Gozo, it’s a tiny Maltese island in the middle of the Mediterranean just below Sicily and above North Africa.

You can find me on my webpage at https://empyryon.wixsite.com/oliverdalton

What inspired you to write The Golem of Wacza?

I was an avid reader of Tolkien, who I met at Cambridge. I found it easy to be swept up in adventure stories and mysteries, as well as film versions of his work. More recently I enjoyed reading ‘A song of Ice and Fire’ by George R.R. Martin as well as watching the HBO series ‘Game of Thrones’. This combination is probably what sparked my interest in writing epic fantasy.

What are your favorite kinds of stories to read and write?

I have eclectic tastes in reading from classics to contemporary fiction. I love a good spy story like those of John Le Carre, as well as the thrillers of John Grisham. I find the adventure stories of C.S Forester engaging, especially the Hornblower series which is one of my favorites. I also like to read more complex existential fiction novels like those of Sartre and Sadeg Hedayat who wrote The Blind Owl, an amazing book.

I am sure my writing is influenced by all of this in subliminal ways.

What is your writing space like?

At present, I have an apartment in Gozo with a magnificent view over farmland and the sea. Lately I’ve been sitting on the terrace and writing under an umbrella, on my laptop. Sometimes I write in front of the TV with the sound off (especially if there is snooker or tennis on – these don’t require much concentration). Sometimes at the dining table.

 What projects are you currently working on?

 Empyryon Book 2 The Black Isles.

 What question would you ask yourself? Answer that question.

 Do I will my world or does my world will me?

I don’t know.

Here’s a brief snippet from the book:

The full meaning of this sank in for Nadja and a cold hand gripped her heart but hate for the Hussars and the Emperor burnt stronger than any fear. She took the stones from the outstretched hand of the hermit in a bold and triumphant way. The other conspirators cowered together as Nadja walked towards the lifeless body of the golem. The hermit pointed out the stones one by one as she knelt by the huge head and pushed them into the still soft brow. She placed them in reverse order so the last would be first. The hermit chanted an incantation as Nadja placed the sigils but as she began to push the final stone into place he was silent. The stone settled in with a sound that made Nadja wince and draw back. She stared at the golem’s face but nothing happened. Confused, she looked to the hermit. He was gone. Startled by the sound of a throaty intake of breath she turned back to the golem. She found herself staring into hollows of hell. The golem had opened its eyes. Rumor had it that anyone who looked into the eyes of a golem as they died went straight to Hades, to burn forever. The fire in the depths of its eyes was not the golden fire of candlelight but the blue, almost invisible flame of a cutting torch, a chilling, destructive, violent flame. The eyes, set deep in the armored face, blazed with menace.

Nadja suddenly realized the enormity of what she had done. She staggered back a few paces. The golem’s giant frame stirred and it slowly rose to its feet in front of the terrified band of conspirators. A strong odor, like rotting flesh, pervaded the glade as the monster shuffled towards Nadja. It stopped in front of her and a low, guttural growl was wrenched from its body as it bent its great craggy head before her. Its ears were holes surrounded by thick ridges, its mouth a gash. Conflicting emotions tore at Nadja as she stared at the huge monster. She controlled this thing. Partly fearful, partly triumphant she felt a surge of power in the realization of the force that was now hers. If the golem was invincible so was she.

“Stand up!” she ordered, and the golem straightened to its full height, towering above her, its huge chest rising and falling to the slow rhythms of the muffled thunder that rumbled in its depths.

 

 

Albert

Albert

Once upon a time there lived a frog named Albert. Albert was quite content as a frog. He had his lily pad, his friends and a wonderful voice. Everybody knows that frogs are great singers, but Albert’s voice was something special. Whenever he sang the whole pond would stop and listen to him sing. Albert sang about the moon shining on the pond at night, about sleeping warm in the mud through the winter and about bathing in the warm light of the sun. It was in fact, Albert`s voice that got him into trouble.

In a castle up on a hill, overlooking Albert’s pond, lived a King and his family. The royal family lived content, with the exception of the youngest daughter whose name was Sue. Where princesses were supposed to be graceful and composed, Sue was somewhat ungainly and terribly shy. Somehow she never acted quite like a princess should. Her brothers and sisters taunted her unmercifully. Even the servants in the castle teased her

One spring evening when the air was especially still she stood on the balcony of her room listening to the sounds of the spring night. Since her room overlooked the pond, she of course heard Albert singing.

     “Even a frog has something special that makes him sing so beautifully.” She sighed and leaned her head against the cool glass. “I wish I knew what that frog is singing about so wonderfully. She shook her head. “What nonsense I am thinking tonight to envy a frog his voice.” She turned to go into her room. Just as she was closing the doors behind her she heard a beautiful bass voice singing of the joy of spring under the first star of the night. Transfixed the princess stood and listened to the velvety voice.

“O dear me, you will catch your death of cold.”

Sue jumped and turned to her nurse.

 “You startled me.” She closed the doors and came into the room. she stretched and gave a tremendous yawn. “I’m so tired.”

 “Such a yawn for a princess.” Her nurse clucked and helped her change for sleep. “It isn’t at all becoming.”

Sue blushed and climbed into her bed. When the light was out and she was alone, Sue lay awake and stared at the ceiling.

 “Why do I need a nurse anyway? I’ve grown far beyond the age I need a nurse.” Still grumbling she drifted off to sleep.

The next morning did not begin well. First, Sue was late for breakfast. her mother glared as Sue hurriedly slid into her seat and sent the juice glasses to slopping over onto the white tablecloth.

 “Oh, I am sorry, I slept late.” Sue mopped at the juice with her napkin..

 “My dear, you are a princess,” the Queen said, “you must be punctual. If you cannot be on time, don’t make excuses, and certainly don’t rush about out of breath.”

 After breakfast the princesses gathered to work on their needle point. Sue stabbed herself, and bled so badly that she ruined three months of painstaking work. Her finger bandaged, she was sent outside to amuse herself until lunch, with the order to stay out of the mud, and her sisters’ demure titters ringing in her ears.

What use is it to be a princess if I can’t be a happy princess?  Gradually the warm sun began to cheer her up. Then she heard the wonderful voice from the night singing. Following the voice until she reached the pond Sue saw a large green frog sitting on a stump. She squealed and jumped back. The frog jumped into the pond. The ball which the princess dropped, rolled into the pond.

“How am I going to get my ball back without getting covered with mud?” the princess wailed. “0h, why can’t I do anything right?”

***

 Albert looked carefully out from under the water. The girl sat on the grass crying bitterly. He had often seen the princesses playing near his pond and felt sorry for the youngest princess. He liked her best because she was the only one who ever seemed to appreciate his pond. On an impulse he dived down into the water and with a great effort pushed the ball to the surface and rolled it to the princess. Sue looked at him in astonishment.

“Thank you, 0h, thank you.” She grabbed the ball and laughed. “They will never believe this in the castle.” Albert was so pleased with himself that he swelled up with song. Sue’s eyes bulged and she almost dropped her ball again.

“It was you singing last night” She gasped in astonishment. “You must be a prince under enchantment. no frog could sing so beautifully.” The princess looked around. “I will take you home and break your enchantment. Then we can be friends.” She quickly caught Albert and ran home to hide him in her room.

 Albert was devastated. This place was cold and hard, and worst of all it was dry. There not a decent bit of water or mud to be found. He missed the sun and the well known murk of his pond. As the day turned into evening his loneliness became so great that he began to sing. It was a terribly mournful song, and as Sue came into her room and heard it, it caught at her heart.

“It must be terrible to be a prince, and have to live as a frog.” She picked Albert up and hugged him. Albert was so sad that he kept singing his unhappy song. “Frog.” Sue said between her sobs, “You are so unhappy. I wish I could make you a prince.” And she kissed him.

“Who is that man?” the King thundered from the doorway. Sue didn’t answer, for she was staring at Albert in amazement. Albert had turned from a frog into a man.

“Why are you in my daughter’s bedroom?” The King roared at Albert, but Albert didn’t answer either he was looking at himself in amazement.

“Why frog, you are a prince.” Sue squeaked.

“Hardly a prince if he appears like that in a princess’s bedroom.” the King bellowed, since, being a frog, Albert had no clothes.

The King and Queen were up all night discussing what they were going to do. They finally decided that the only way to avoid a scandal was for Albert and Sue to get married, immediately. So they planned the wedding for the next week.

 Albert found the change to palace life very difficult. He wasn’t sure how to eat with knife and fork. Clothes were strange and uncomfortable. But most of all he missed being a frog and singing in his beloved pond all day. The only thing that made it at all bearable was the princess. She taught him how to eat with utensils and helped him choose the most comfortable clothes. She even stood up for him when he chose his entire wardrobe in green. But each evening Albert would slip out of the castle and go down to the pond. There he would sit in the light of the moon and sing. They were sad songs, and Sue listening on her balcony would determine to try even harder to make her prince happy.

One day while Albert and Sue sat in the sunny courtyard escaping from the wedding plans for a brief time Sue’s nurse came out to bustle Sue back into the castle.

“I’m about to be married. I don’t need a nurse.” Sue yelled in rebellion. “Go away, and don’t bother me anymore.” The old woman looked at Sue then slowly and silently left.

“Why did you yell at her so?” Albert asked. “Surely she is only trying to help.”

“She’s been my nurse longer than I can remember. But I don’t need a nurse anymore, and I don’t like being fussed over.”

“If you don’t need a nurse, maybe she needs you.” Sue looked at him quizzically.

“Why should she need me. I’d think that she would be glad to do something else for a change.”

 “What?” Albert asked reasonably. “She has always been Nurse.”

“I don’t know. That’s her problem anyway.” Sue grumped.

“You are her princess. I think that makes it your problem.” Albert pointed out. “You should give her something else to do if you want her to stop bothering you.”

Sue looked at him for a moment.

“I hadn’t thought of that.” She jumped up. “I’m going to go and talk to her.”

“What are you going to ask her to do.” Asked the frog prince.

“To be the nurse for our children!” Sue laughed, and ran off to find Nurse. Albert sighed and wandered down to the pond. He thought wistfully of his old uncomplicated life as a frog.

Yet as the days before the wedding shortened, Albert’s common sense made itself felt. Even the King found himself discussing difficult problems with his guest. The Queen went so far as to admit one night while she and the King worked over the proclamation for the wedding that Albert might make quite a suitable match.

“By the way dear, have you found out exactly who Albert is?” She asked. “We really can’ t have a proclamation reading ‘Today the Princess Susan Aurelia Constance Esther marries Albert.’ We need to know a little more about his background.”

 “Quite right, You should ask Sue in the morning.”

The next morning, the day before the wedding, Sue walked down the stairs to breakfast.

“Good morning.” She smiled, and glided into her place.

“Good morning Sue.” The Queen nodded. “Your father found a minor detail that needs to be cleared up. We need to know Albert’s full name and a little more about him for the proclamation.”

“I have been so busy that I never thought to ask him.” Sue said. ” I will ask him today.”

Out in the courtyard, which had become their favourite place, Sue found Albert. He was staring moodily through the gate down toward his old pond .

“Albert, my mother asked me what your other names are.”

“Other names? I only have one name.”

“But Princes always have lots of names. Like me, I have four.”

“I like Sue best,” Albert said with a smile.

“But you are a Prince, you must have other names.”

“No.” Albert sighed “I have no other names. I am not a Prince.” Susan stared at him, then laughed.

“You must be a Prince. Why would anyone enchant somebody who wasn’t a Prince?”

 “You did, Sue.” Albert said looking at her with an expression she couldn’t quite fathom.

“Oh Albert.” Sue blushed.

“But you did Sue. You turned me into a Prince.”

“And if I turned you into a Prince, what were you before?” She demanded.

“A frog. I’m a frog Sue. I was never a prince until I met you.”

“You are not an enchanted Prince?” Sue’s face turned red. “You let me think you were a Prince all this time, and all the time you were just a frog? What am I going to tell my father? That I’m marrying a frog?” Sue stood now, screeching at him.

Albert flinched with each question.

“You creature. You abominable creature. I hate you.” The princess turned and fled from the courtyard.

Albert sat for along while, then slowly he stood and walked down to the pond, a sad, shrinking figure in green.

•••

The Princess locked herself in her bedroom. She refused to talk to anyone. Other than to tell her father through the door that the wedding was off; that everything had been a terrible mistake. She closed the window then wept on her bed for three days.

Finally, she got up and washed her face. Squaring her shoulders, she unlocked the door and went down to breakfast. Her family greeted her with a wary silence. The Queen gave her an approving nod.

Things returned almost to normal. As the weeks passed, Sue floated quietly through life, her face cold and pale. She rapidly lost weight. One morning she no longer had the strength to get up.

The King and Queen worried about her. They begged their daughter to tell them what was making her so unhappy. But Sue simply stared out the window and said nothing. The old nurse came to the princess’s room to be by her side. She bustled about cleaning and tidying, opening the window to let the fresh summer air in. The day passed and as the evening came Sue heard a voice singing outside her window. It sang of the summer night, and the sorrow of a love lost. It sang of the moon shining on the pond and of a beautiful princess named Sue. It sang of enchantment and a broken heart.

“Albert,” the princess whispered. She stood and staggered to the window. “Albert.” His deep, sad voice soared through the night, telling of the joy and sorrow of his love.

Sue sat on the balcony and listened to the song through the night. In the grey of the early morning she slipped out of the castle. Walking slowly but with iron determination she made her way down to the pond.

“Albert.” She called into the silver mists. “Albert, I’m sorry. I love you.” The effort of walking overcame the weakened princess and she fainted beside the pond. There Albert, once again a frog, found her.

My poor Sue.” Albert said as he kissed her. “I wish I could make you happy.”

The rising sun shone gold on two happy frogs as, hand in hand, they hopped into the pond.

The Sturgeon Tree

Larry Wentzel
https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

The young man walked the path through the woods, jumping at every frog’s call or owl’s hoot. The warm, dank air reeked of the swamp that came to the very edge of the narrow track. The only the intermittent glow of the full moon as it passed in and out of the clouds lit his way. The phosphorescent glow of decay shone without illuminating its surrounding. Occasionally the frogs and the owls would fall silent, and the boy would strain his ears to hear something in the deafening silence. With extreme care he placed each foot on the path, making no noise himself

John would have preferred a clearer night, but this was the first full moon after midsummer, called the Sturgeon Moon. His only chance to become a member of the Sturgeons; the group which ruled the little community that surrounded John. This night’s ritual was his final test.

Once a year, a single person had the chance to visit the tree in the light of the Sturgeon’s moon. The Sturgeon’s tree was unique, and ancient beyond imagination. Its tortured trunk twisted and bent almost to the ground. Deep cracks in the wood reached in farther than the length of John’s arm. He had seen the tree during the brighter light of the day. It was scary enough then. Now, John’s knees were already shaking, and he had only made half the trek to the tree.

A frog jumped into the slime of the swamp, releasing stinking bubbles. John started and almost missed his footing. The bog had no bottom here that anyone had discovered. A fall could mean he would join those who never returned from this quest. He took a brief moment to breathe deeply of the rank air before moving on.

As he penetrated deeper into the woods, the light became worse. While the sky had cleared the trees had thickened, hogging more of the light for themselves. Now vines hung like gargantuan spider webs, and moss dripped fetid liquid on his head. Just as the moon reached its zenith, John arrived at the clearing where the Sturgeon Tree stood. It shivered and contorted in a wind that blew in some other universe. Branches scraped at the mucky soil, and roots lifted and quested like snakes. Cold phosphors gleamed from deep with the tree. It creaked and groaned with an animal agony.

Now was the true test. He untied a ribbon from his wrist. It looked black in the moonlight, but John knew that it was scarlet, with darker red from his own blood smeared upon it. This ribbon was his offering to the tree. He watched the writhing limbs until one errant branch came close to his feet. He darted in and looped the ribbon around the wood. It slashed at him and scraped his arm from elbow to wrist, but John scrambled back out of reach. The tree paused for a second, then leaned and grasped with its whole twisted length at the boy. He squeaked and rolled back out of reach, not caring what black water was darkening his clothes. He caught a vine and used it to pull himself to his feet.

He had been told to offer the ribbon, then leave, but John was mesmerized by the awful movement. Creaks and snaps sounded loud as thunder while the tree seemed to tear itself apart. Then it did tear, decaying light poured from its centre as a hand thrust itself through the bark. Sap, black as blood in the moonlight dripped from fingers that grasped at the blooded ribbon. A face followed the hands and John looked at his own face, fanged and evil. He whimpered and the tree-John looked at him and smiled.

John screamed and ran crashing, uncaring back along the path. Yet even in the tumult, he heard the sound of footsteps gaining on him.

Old Superheroes Never Die

“Superman has Clark Kent when he wants to kick back and just not go out to fight the bad guys. I’ve wearing this costume for so long I can’t remember what name my mother called me. It gets tiring sometimes. There are days I could use an extra hand, but who offers to carry groceries for a guy in a superhero costume? Even if the guy qualifies for his old age security.”

The old man sat in the chair in my office and glowered at me. The blue spandex might have been a good choice when he was younger and in better shape, but now it showed off the softness of his old body. Not that he was soft, that gun was real enough, and his eyes held the same steel as the gun.

“What do you want me to do?” I asked and looked at the blank page where I would normally have reams of notes.

“I need a retirement home,” the old man said, “somewhere where the bad guys can’t find me and where everyone else will leave me alone.”

“I need a name, a social security number, an address,” I said, “I understand you wanting a rest, but I can’t place a nameless stranger in a home. You have to give me something.”

He pushed himself to his feet. The sound of joints popping and cracking made me wince. His fingers were swollen, super-arthritis? Was surgery even possible on him?

“Come with me,” he said, “see for yourself. Don’t get too close and don’t get in my way.” I followed him out of my office and watched him walk along the street. Nobody paid the slightest attention to him. A flock of pigeons flew over him and left their mark on his blue costume. His shoulders sagged a little as he kept walking, though I noticed his hand brush against that gun at his side. I don’t know if he walked slowly so I could keep up, but if so he over did it. Several times I had to stop to tie my shoe or look in a window to give him the space he needed.

We turned down a ramp into a parking garage. Shouts echoed through the empty space as men in black ninja costumes jumped out to surround him. None of them saw me as I ducked between two cars and pulled out my cell phone. No signal.

My debate as to whether I should go out on the street to call for help ended when the ninjas leaped to the attack. In the movies, they’d charge one by one and allow him to defeat one before the next moved in.. This wasn’t the movies. They moved as a coordinated team to pummel the old man.

Only he didn’t move like an old man now. One opponent moved a little too fast. The man in spandex grabbed him by the throat and tossed him at those attacking from the rear. The smack of a fist hitting flesh reached my hiding place, but the hero used the arm to pull the ninja off balance and drop him with a quick jab. He spun out of the attempted headlock by another opponent and threw that man on top of the first hard enough to bounce.

One by one then ninjas joined the pile of unconscious thugs until it was taller than the old man. The last one he dispatched with a jump kick I couldn’t imagine trying, though I was sure he had thirty years on me. As I came out of my hiding place the energy left him and he puffed like I did if I walked up a hill too fast. He waved at me and I waited for him to catch his breath.

“Why didn’t you use that?” I pointed at the gun at his side.

“Do you know… how much… ammunition costs?” he said between wheezes. “Nobody pays me for this.”  He walked to the back of the garage and pulled the cover off a classic muscle car. Well, it would have been a classic if it weren’t for the fifty caliber machine guns mounted on each door.

“You may as well get in.” He waved me over to the passenger side and climbed into his seat.

“Where are the seatbelts?”

“Never needed them.” He pushed a button and the engine roared to life. Tires squealed as smoke filled the garage, then he popped the brake and we took off. He weaved through the garage slowing only slightly to bump a reviving ninja back onto the pile with a rear fender. We erupted out of the garage and onto the street, where he had to slam on the brakes to fit into the bumper to bumper traffic.

“We’d be faster walking,” I said.

“Tell me about it,” the old man thumped the steering wheel and glared up at the flock of pigeons that left white gooey marks across the windshield. “Flying’s better, but everyone’s so uptight now I’m afraid they’d try to shoot me down. Got some nice pictures the first time they scrambled on me, but now it’s just a nuisance.”

He pulled off the road and sped away through an alley making one turn after another into spaces I was sure we’d never fit. Even with the extra width of the guns we didn’t leave a scratch on the wall.

“Here we are,” he said and whipped the car through an open loading door. The car rocked and creaked as the elevator lifted us up to the top floor.

We stopped and he climbed out of the car. I had to climb across the car to get out.

“Don’t hit any buttons,” he said.

The words rocket launcher peeked out from beneath my hand. I moved it away and made sure to watch what I did until I stood safe outside the car.

The penthouse was sparsely furnished, almost barren. I shivered, it might be a great hero’s lair, but I wouldn’t want to live here.

“Tea, coffee?” the old man said, “I’d offer you biscuits and jam, but jam jars are my one weakness.”

“How can a jam jar be your weakness?”

“Can’t open them,” he said, “never could.” He poured boiling water into a pot and swirled it. Then made tea.

“Was a time I didn’t mind it up here,” he said, “I needed a quiet place to get away from the rush; being a super hero is addictive. Then like any addiction it takes over and you lose yourself. Those guys with their secret identities had it right. You’ve got to step back and let it go once in a while.”

“So why not take off the mask and retire?” I watched him make tea in the window’s reflection.

“I’m not sure who’s under there any more.” He came over and handed me a cup. I sipped at it. I hate tea, but its bitterness seemed appropriate. He stared through the window at the city. From up here it looked quiet and peaceful.

“They’d find you anywhere I placed you,” I said, “Unless you take off the mask and become just another old man.”

He sipped his tea and I waited.  When I finished my tea, I left him there, still looking out the window. I saw him wave once before I closed the door behind me.

Dating the It Guy by Krysten Lindsay Hager

Welcome to Kristen who has released a new book; Dating the It Guy.

 

Blurb: Emme is a sophomore in high school who starts dating, Brendon Agretti, the popular senior who happens to be a senator’s son and well-known for his good looks. Emme feels out of her comfort zone in Brendon’s world and it doesn’t help that his picture perfect ex, Lauren seems determined to get back into his life along with every other girl who wants to be the future Mrs. Agretti. Emme is already conflicted due to the fact her last boyfriend cheated on her and her whole world is off kilter with her family issues. Life suddenly seems easier keeping Brendon away and relying on her crystals and horoscopes to guide her. Emme soon starts to realize she needs to focus less on the stars and more on her senses. Can Emme get over her insecurities and make her relationship work? Life sure is complicated when you’re dating the it guy.

Interview with author Krysten Lindsay Hager

Congratulations on your book, tell us a little more about the book. What inspired you to write it?

I was watching a biography on TV about John F. Kennedy Jr. and started wondering what it’d be like to date someone like him back in high school with all the pressures and scrutiny around him. I created Emme, a normal high school girl who begins dating Brendon Agretti, the son of a well-known senator (and the grandson of another senator), who is popular and seems like he leads a charmed life. Brendon begins opening up to her about the pressures that surround him. Meanwhile, Emme begins to feel out of place in his world.

Tell us more about yourself. What else have you published?

I write for teens and preteens and have a large adult following as well. I write the Landry’s True Colors Series, which is a funny series about an eighth grader named Landry who deals with modeling, self-esteem issues, and  middle school. I also write the Star Series which is set in a beautiful beach town where the main character, Hadley Daniels, lives next door to a former teen TV star who seems to bring drama wherever she goes. Dating the It Guy is my first book with Emme Trybus and I’m working on a sequel.

 What are your favorite kinds of stories to read and write?

I like to read funny books that are uplifting where the characters go on a journey and wind up learning about themselves. Those are the same stories I enjoy writing. I like seeing Emme, Landry, and Hadley deal with their feelings of insecurity and learning to accept themselves as they are instead of trying to be something or someone they’re not.

  What is your writing space like?

I just moved a few months ago and I finally have my own office! I just bought bookcases and there’s something about being able to take your books out of storage and display them. I have a lot of cute little toys and stuffed animals that have been given to me that make me smile. I also keep inspirational quotes on my desk.

What projects are you currently working on?

I’m working on another young adult project as well as the sequel to Dating the It Guy. I’m also working on some women’s fiction.

What question would you ask yourself? Answer that question.

I would ask myself which character I see myself in most.

I guess I would say Landry is somewhat like me back when I was in grade school. Hadley was never based on me, but rather inspired by a girl I only knew from a distance. I do see myself a bit in the character Pilar Ito from the Star Series though. I would say Emme Trybus has my sense of humor.

Bio: Besides mining her teen years and humiliating moments for her novels, Krysten is also a book addict who has never met a bookstore she didn’t like. Krysten writes about friendship, self-esteem, fitting in, frenemies, crushes, fame, first loves, and values. She is the author of True Colors, Best Friends…Forever?, Next Door to a Star,  Landry in Like, Competing with the Star (The Star Series: Book 2), and Dating the It Guy. Her debut novel, True Colors, won the Readers Favorite award for best preteen book. Krysten’s work has been featured in USA Today, The Flint Journal, the Grand Haven Tribune, the Beavercreek Current, the Bellbrook Times and on Living Dayton.

Follow Krysten on her website: http://www.krystenlindsay.com/

Amazon author page: http://amzn.to/2fiuY2L

Generation Gap is out

My YA dystopian book Generation Gap is now out.

When age rules the country, it’s hard being young.

Trey runs away from the youth reserve sure he’s no more than spare parts for a father he barely remembers. The Council of Elders has its own questions about him. When Trey finds the Underground and joins the fight to give rights back to the Youngers, he starts a chain of events beyond anyone’s control.

 

 

Available from my bookstore on this site

[ebook_store ebook_id=”1221″]

or from all major ebook retailers.

As always hard copies can be purchased from Lulu.com

Flies

John vacuumed the flies from the windowsills. Janet called them cluster flies. John didn’t care what they were. Their incessant buzzing was driving him crazy and they ruined the view. If they were going to sell the house, he didn’t want myriad black flies blocking the view. They bought the house because of the view. It was in the fall. He and Janet fell in love with the flaming colours of the trees in the ravine.

That was back when they were the perfect loving couple. They met in night school. John was taking accounting, Janet studied dance. The magnitude of their differences just added to their love. They would talk for hours, and when they ran out of words, just sit and stare into each other’s eyes.

“The eyes are the windows of the soul.” She would say as she rapped on his head. “Anyone home?”

“Accounting is my job.” He would say. “But you are my life.”

They got married and bought the house. Janet made it a home while he worked to pay for it; to make it theirs.

John sucked the last of the flies from the window and dragged the still buzzing vacuum to the next one. No matter how many times he did this. They came back the next day. From this window, he could catch a glimpse of the river. In the winter it was even better. The stark black trunks of the willows were like the tangle truths of their life. They stood between John and the river, and made the view more interesting.

Their life in the house became complicated, but John relished the challenge. He would come home from work and find Janet dancing naked through the rooms. She would laugh and pull him into the dance. They would shed his clothes throughout the house until he was as naked as the willows by the river. Then they would fall laughing in whatever room they were in and make love.

“I love your eyes.” He would say. “They remind me why I am alive.”

“The eyes are the windows of the soul.” Janet would say.

John moved to yet another window the vacuum roaring its death sentence for the flies tapping against the glass. They tried to flee, but John caught them all. There was no escape. Spring came, and the flies came too. They appeared in the windows as if by spontaneous generation. The leaves burst bright green down by the river. The water became a secret guarded by the fecundity of the trees.

Janet became pregnant. It was a difficult pregnancy and Janet became fractious. John tried to come home early. The constant irritation of the flies made her cranky. John tried all kinds of remedies; anything except poison. He finally settled on this daily trek past each of the windows that faced the river. The flies not only filled the windows of the house, but seemed to fill up the window of their souls. Their love was being strangled.

“Anyone home?” He would say, but Janet’s eyes were filled with anxieties like flies that he could not vacuum away. Her soul was hidden.

The last window was the hardest. The flies rattled into the vacuum. It had been Janet’s favourite. Summer had seared the greenery. Life in the ravine was dry and dusty. Even the water had retreated from the heat. The flowers and Janet wilted.

She lost the baby the day after there were no more flies. John came home to find her keening in the upstairs room. They went to the hospital, but there was nothing to be done. John tried, but he couldn’t see in through Janet’s eyes. They were closed to him, and he was lost.

“Look at me.” He would plead. “We need to talk.”

“Go away.” She would whisper. “There is nothing to say.”

Fall was brown and dull. Winter was gray and wet. John left the curtains closed. He started coming home later. She never danced. They never laughed. Then the flies came back and Janet found that she hated the house.

“We can sell the house.” He had said. “Start over somewhere else.”

“It doesn’t matter..” She had said. “It is over.”

John switched off the vacuum, and looked out the window at the tangled weeds, and he began to weep. The harder he tried to stop the louder it came. All his grief, all his pain, all his love came out in a siren wail. Janet came and knelt beside him. They held each other and wept, and the tears washed the flies from their eyes.

“Our eyes are the windows to our soul.” John said looking into her eyes.

“I am glad you are home.” She said kissing his salty lips.