Excerpt From “One Blood” by Qwantu Amaru

For Every Action…

Lincoln Baker, born a ward of the state, has gone from orphan, to gang banger, to basketball superstar, to lifer at the Louisiana State Penitentiary in the space of eighteen years. During his prison term, he meets Panama X, a powerful and mysterious father figure who gives Lincoln a reason for living – he must assassinate Randy Lafitte, the sitting Governor of Louisiana.

There is an Equal and Opposite Reaction…

In order to force a pardon, Lincoln orchestrates the kidnapping of Karen Lafitte, Randy’s only daughter. But Randy Lafitte is a man who built his fortune by resurrecting a family curse from slavery to kill his own father. A curse that may or may not have been responsible for his son Kristopher’s death in the gang crossfire that sent Lincoln to prison for life. Randy will stop at nothing to save his daughter, even if it means admitting the curse is real. Even if it means committing greater atrocities.

Too bad for Anyone Stuck in the Middle.

Three days after Karen’s kidnapping, an explosive cocktail of revenge, manipulation, serendipity, fate, truth, and redemption detonates throughout Louisiana. When the dust settles, the ending is as unexpected as it is illuminating. There are secrets sealed in our blood, you see. The best answers, as always, lie within.



New Orleans, LA

During the day, New Orleans’ most famous neighborhood was a tribute to architectural and cultural homogeneity. At night, the French Quarter’s multicultural legacy blurred into an unrecognizable labyrinth; especially in the eyes of the drunk and desperate.

At the moment, Joseph Lafitte was both.

Joseph careened down the dark alley and absentmindedly brushed at the dried blood beneath his nose with his free hand. His tailor-made shirt and pants were drenched with sweat and felt sizes smaller. He was overcome with the sensation that he was running in place, even though he was moving forward at a brisk pace. Until he tripped over a carton some careless individual had placed in his path.

Upon impact with the concrete his cheek flayed open, but he barely felt the sting as his priceless nickel and gold plated antique Colt Navy Revolver clattered away into the darkness, out of reach. Even now, breathing as harshly as he was, he could hear someone behind him. Somehow they managed to stay just out of the range of his sight, but within earshot.

It was the ideal moment for them to pounce, but Joseph would not give in so easily. He pushed himself to his feet, sweeping the ground for his weapon. He located it near a dilapidated doorway. Clutching it once again, he felt his self-control returning.

Then his dead wife called his name.

“Joseph? Joseph, where are you?”

That was all the motivation he needed. He broke into a full gallop but couldn’t outrun what he’d seen back at the hotel, or what he’d just heard.

They are toying with me. Trying to make me doubt my own mind.

This was New Orleans after all. A place with a well-documented history of trickery and alchemic manipulation. He must have drank or eaten something laced with some devilish hallucinogen. For all he knew, his own son—Randy—had given it to him.

Randy still blamed Joseph for the car wreck that took his mother’s life. Joseph had noted the murderous hue in Randy’s eyes after Rita’s funeral, and even though Joseph explained that it was an accident, he knew Randy would never forgive him.

Was this Randy trying to get some sort of revenge?

It didn’t matter. Randy was weak—always had been and always would be. As an only child, he grew up to be softer than cotton—Rita’s doing by babying and spoiling the boy.

Have I underestimated my son?

This thought, along with his first glimpse of light in quite some time, simultaneously assaulted him.

Where am I? And why haven’t they caught up to me yet?

Maybe they want me to go this way.

Joseph glanced down at the revolver that had once been carried by the great Robert E. Lee. He’d show them who had the upper hand; if Randy was behind this, he would soon be joining his mother.

Rather than heading toward the light, Joseph turned left down another dark alleyway. The façade of the building was damp to the touch. Other than his troubled footfalls, there was no sound. Who knew a city nearly bursting at the seams with music could be this eerily silent?

Joseph used the quiet to collect his thoughts.


He’d spent that afternoon as he spent most Saturdays, sipping bourbon and talking shop with other New Orleans power brokers inside the private room in Commander’s Palace. He knew something was wrong as soon as Randy appeared at the doorway, motioning to him.

“We have to leave New Orleans right now, Father,” Randy said in a hushed tone as Joseph entered the hallway.

“What are you talking about, Boy, and why are you whispering?” Joseph replied, a little louder than he needed to.

Randy jerked Joseph’s arm in the direction of the exit, his eyes pleading. “Something bad is going to happen if we don’t leave here right away.”

“No, Son,” Joseph said. “Something bad is going to happen if you don’t remove yourself from my sight this instant!”

And that had been the end of it. Randy left, looking back only once, as if to say, Don’t say I didn’t try to warn you.

Joseph returned to his drinks and colleagues. Afterward, he went downtown for a little afternoon rendezvous with a beautiful Creole whore. She came as a recommendation from his regular mistress, Claudette, who was on her cycle, and the girl certainly fit the bill.

He made it back to the hotel just as the sun set and settled down for a drink or three after taking a steaming hot shower. In the comfort of his armchair, in the privacy of his suite, his thoughts returned to Randy. It was Randy’s eighteenth birthday and the boy had been acting oddly ever since he’d arrived in New Orleans two days earlier. In truth, he’d been acting strangely much longer than that.

Joseph would never forget the revulsion he’d experienced when the maid in their Lake City mansion had shown him the pile of bloody rags at the bottom of Randy’s hamper. That disgust tripled once he found out the source of the blood. One night, Joseph waited until Randy exited the bath. The raw pink and black slashes across Randy’s forearms, thighs, chest, and abdomen were all the evidence he needed. Apparently Randy had taken to cutting himself in the wake of his mother’s death.

Randy was barely a teenager and there was only one thing Joseph could think to do to keep from locking the boy up in a sanitarium. He sent him away to a French boarding school and commissioned some distant relatives to keep an eye on him until he graduated. If he survived that long.


This weekend was supposed to be a celebration of sorts. Randy had returned from France a distinguished young man, and Joseph was ready to bury the hatchet.

But what if Randy doesn’t want it buried? What if he wants my entombment and has been patiently waiting all these years to get his revenge?

Joseph grabbed hold of a lamppost to steady himself. A statue of a man on a horse loomed over him. His feet had brought him to Jackson Square.

Surely, nothing bad can get me here, right?

He’d believed the same to be true of his hotel room and that had definitely proven to be false.


Joseph had been cleaning his prized revolver before sleep overtook him. The sound of the door opening brought him back to consciousness. Even though all the lights were still on, his bleary eyes could barely make out the two figures—a young black male and white female—standing in his doorway.

Joseph sat up in his seat. “Who are you? And what the hell are you doing in my room?” His hand quickly found the revolver on the table next to him.

The man and woman looked at each other and Joseph heard a deep male voice in his head say, “Don’t worry, Joseph. It will be ova’ soon.”

He felt the voice’s vibrations in his teeth and jumped to his feet. The young woman reached out to him and he heard her voice in his mind as well. “Don’t fight us, Joseph. It is so much better if you don’t resist.”

Joseph felt wetness below his nose and when his hand came up blood red, he bolted around the woman, out of his room, and out of the hotel.


Now he stood in the shadow of Andrew Jackson’s immortal statue, exhausted and nearing the end of rationality. A sudden thought occurred to him.

Maybe this is all a nightmare. Maybe I’m still sitting in my chair snoring.

He latched onto the idea. Hadn’t he heard recently that the best way to wake from a nightmare was to kill yourself?

Where did I hear that?

Ah yes, now he remembered. The Creole whore had mentioned her grandmother’s secret to waking from a bad dream.

What an odd coincidence…

Joseph stared down at the revolver as if it were some magic talisman. If this were a dream, it was the most vivid of his life. He could feel the breeze from the Mississippi River, the cold bronze of the statue beneath his hand, his sweaty palm wrapped around the hilt of the gun. And he could hear footsteps nearing.

Rita’s voice rang out across the square. “Joseph, I’m here to bring you home.”

His mind showed him an image of what Rita must look like after six years underground. He hadn’t cried at her funeral, but petrified tears streaked down his face as he gritted his teeth.

I have to wake from this dream!

The footsteps were getting louder and closer. He didn’t have much time. To offset his fear and still his shaking hand, he thought of how good it would feel to wake up from this nightmare. He put the gun in his mouth, tasting the salty metallic flavor of the barrel as his mouth filled with saliva.

God, this feels real.

But he knew it wasn’t. He attempted to gaze at the statue of Andrew Jackson riding high on his horse. The statue was gone. As was the rest of Jackson Square. It had been supplanted by that damnable live oak tree in front of his Lake City mansion. He should have chopped that thing down long ago.

Joseph let out an audible sigh of relief.

It is a dream after all.

“It’s time, Joseph,” Rita whispered in his ear.

Knowing what had to be done, Joseph squeezed the trigger.


Qwantu Amaru has been writing since the age of 11. An avid reader, he has always aspired to write suspenseful page turners and socially significant literature like those of his writing influences Richard Wright, Harper Lee, Walter Mosley, Tananarive Due and Stephen King. Qwantu draws his inspiration from his modest upbringing in small towns and cities across Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Louisiana, and Florida. In addition to his first novel, ONE BLOOD, Qwantu has published six volumes of poetry: Lightbringer, Lovelost, After the Storm, Midnight’s Shadow, Awakening, and Actual-Eyez. Qwantu is an active member of the outstanding socially active poetry collective Black on Black Rhyme out of Tallahassee, FL. He has performed spoken word in poetry venues from New York to Los Angeles. Qwantu currently resides in Jersey City, NJ.

Link to get autographed hard copy of the book or ebook in any format: http://www.qwantuamaru.com/the-products.html

Link to website: http://www.qwantuamaru.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/onebloodbook

Twitter: @onebloodbook

Click here for an interview with: Qwantu Amaru, Author of “One Blood”

Excerpt From “Murder At The Rocks” by Jill Paterson

When Laurence Harford, a prominent businessman and philanthropist is found murdered in the historic Rocks area of Sydney, Detective Chief Inspector Fitzjohn is asked to solve the crime quickly and discreetly. After barely starting his investigation, uncovering a discarded mistress and disgruntled employees, a second killing occurs.

Meanwhile, Laurence’s nephew, Nicholas Harford, has his certainties in life shaken when he becomes a suspect in his uncle’s death, and receives a mysterious gold locket that starts a chain of events unravelling his family’s dark truths.

Murder At The Rocks is the second book in the Fitzjohn Mystery Series.


Laurence Harford emerged from the building into the cold night air and lit the cigarette hanging from the corner of his mouth. Drawing on it, he discarded the match and exhaled, watching the smoke blend with the shadows in the dimly lit laneway. He started walking toward the stone archway and the street beyond, but froze when a figure stepped out in front of him. As their eyes met, Laurence’s heart pumped, a sense of recognition registering in his brain. Beads of sweat broke out across his brow and his cigarette fell to the wet flagstones, its life snuffed out. Laurence lurched out into the deserted street, the sound of uneven footsteps behind him.

Mapsom opened the door when Laurence arrived home. His demeanour displayed all the attributes of an accomplished butler. ‘Good evening, sir.’

Laurence handed Mapsom his coat and, without a word, crossed the hall to his study, slamming the door behind him. He did not feel the chill of the room as he took the top off the decanter and poured whisky into a glass, nor did he hear the door open behind him when he took a gulp. He only felt the dampness of the laneway in his mind and saw the face that haunted him.

‘You’re late.’ Laurence flew around at the words.

‘For what?’ he bellowed.

‘It’s Monday. Remember? We’re due at the charity dinner at eight.’

Laurence glared at his wife, her tall, slim figure accentuated by the electric blue gown she wore. ‘You’ll have to go alone, Julia. I have a matter to deal with this evening.’

‘You can’t just not go. You’re expected.’

Laurence, his face contorted with rage, banged his glass down, its contents flying across the desk. ‘I don’t give a damn if I’m expected. I’ve got more important things to attend to.’

Julia tensed before a smirk crossed her face. ‘Ah yes, of course. Charlotte Holmes, no doubt.’ Laurence glowered at her. ‘Don’t look so shocked, Laurence. I’m not a complete fool, whatever you might think of me. I know all about you and that poor misguided creature. To tell you the truth, I’m surprised she’s lasted this long. Your women usually realise much sooner what a contemptible bastard you really are.’

‘Get out.’

Julia smiled. ‘With pleasure. Oh, but before I go, your late brother’s solicitor phoned earlier. Andrew Pemlett, I think his name is. He said Nicholas arrives back from South America tomorrow.’ Julia watched the colour drain from Laurence’s face. ‘I thought you’d be pleased to hear that bit of news.’ She opened the door to leave as Laurence’s glass flew across the room and smashed against the wall.


Jill Paterson was born in Yorkshire and grew up in Adelaide, South Australia before spending 11 years in Ontario, Canada. After returning to Australia, she settled in Canberra.

After doing an arts degree at the Australian National University, she worked at the Australian National University’s School of Law before spending the next 10 years with the Business Council of Australia and the University of NSW, ADFA Campus, in the School of Electrical Engineering.

Jill has two published books. The Celtic Dagger and Murder At The Rocks.

My Blog: http://www.theperfectplot.blogspot.com


Excerpt From “Gargoyles” by Alan Nayes

Brilliant pre-med student Amoreena Daniels needs money. Desperately. Her mother is dying of cancer and her medical insurance has run out. When a seemingly perfect women’s clinic offers Amoreena a generous payment for service as a surrogate mother, Amoreena thinks her prayers have been answered. But then—much too early—her baby begins to move.

The strange dreams, another surrogate’s mysterious death and a drug-addicted former medical intern confirm Amoreena’s worst suspicions: there is something terribly wrong with the pregnancy. Amoreena embarks on a dangerous journey to uncover the truth behind the endless battery of genetic tests, sonograms and frightened patients, only to discover that she has unwittingly become a pawn in a high-stakes game of biomedical experimentation.

GARGOYLES is book 1 of the Resurrection trilogy.

Excerpt (Chapter One):

Amoreena Daniels gazed at the woman retching into the plastic emesis basin and struggled to visualize her mom as she once was, her mom prior to the diagnosis, her mom minus the cancer. It was a difficult if not futile exercise.

Wearing a hospital gown that appeared two sizes too large, Geneva Daniels adjusted her brightly flowered scarf with one hand, the cloth a replacement for her once-vibrant tresses. Seated next to her, Amoreena counted another fresh bruise coalescing under her mother’s limpid skin, where an IV line replenished her fluid stores.

Room 441 on the University of California Medical Center oncology ward no longer seemed just a hospital room; rather, a bleak reminder of what physical devastation a disease run amuck could wreak on the human spirit. Even the astringent, aseptic smell failed to eliminate completely the specter of illness and suffering.

“Amoreena Daniels.” It was the ward clerk. She waited outside the door as if what lay inside was contagious.

“Hold on,” Amoreena said curtly, throwing her thick mane of auburn hair out of her face with a toss of her head. “You okay, Mom?” she asked, helping steady the basin.

Geneva coughed twice and nodded. “How ‘bout a cigarette?”

“Not funny.” Amoreena checked the basin. No blood, only thickened saliva. She carried the basin into the bathroom.

Geneva heard the water in the sink. “You’re just like your dad. No sense of humor.” It required two breaths and a coughing spell to expel the words.

Amoreena returned, setting the clean basin on the nightstand. “I’ll develop a sense of humor when you develop an appetite,” she said, studying her mother’s skin. She thought the sallow hue had lessened, or maybe it was just the fluorescent lighting. “And will you stop with the ‘Dad jokes.’ He doesn’t deserve it.”

“Ms. Daniels.” It was the clerk again. “Dr. Gillespie’s waiting.”

“Sure, all right.” Amoreena feigned a smile. It wasn’t the ward clerk’s fault her mother had metastatic cervical cancer. “Mom, I’ll see you before I leave.”

Geneva coughed deeply and spit into a Kleenex before finding some renewed vigor. “Amy…” She called her only daughter “Amy” with a short ‘a’ whenever their discussions centered on the serious. “When you’re through with Dr. Gillespie, I have something to tell you.”

“Tell me now. He can wait.”

“No, later. Dr. Gillespie’s very busy.” She attempted a weak grin. “I’m not going anywhere. Yet.”

Amoreena bent low and pecked Geneva on the cheek. Her skin felt cold and dry on her lips. Not the way she wanted to remember her mother. “See ya.”

The conference room for the oncology ward was situated adjacent to the central nurses’ station. Amoreena was very familiar with it. It was in this very room six months ago that Dr. Gillespie had unleashed the appalling news that her mother’s cancer was a stage IV, metastatic. It had already invaded the liver and lungs. The revelation had given new meaning to the term shitty Monday. But there was still a fighting chance, he’d said. More out of a sense of duty than any realistic expectation of success, Amoreena surmised. Only later that night when she and her mom were alone did the real tears flow.

Dressed in faded denims and a loose scooped-neck T-shirt, Amoreena approached a man in a wheelchair. She moved with a certain aloofness that was both enticing and ingenuous.

The man waved. She returned the gesture. She’d seen him several times before during her prior visits, and each time he appeared thinner and more cachectic. Acute myelocytic leukemia.

“Heya, gorgeous,” he said, as she passed.

Amoreena allowed a smile. “How’s it going?”

“Another day, same old shit.”

Momentarily, she wondered how long he had. She didn’t even know his name. Quickly, she dismissed the thought when she observed the blinds to the conference room drawn shut. Ignoring the stares from the nurses and resident physicians, Amoreena paused at the door and inhaled. Fuck cancer. She knocked.

“Come in.” The voice sounded apologetic.

She entered and shut the door behind her.

Dr. Gillespie sat alone at a long table. Balding and bespectacled, he was an African-American with a well-trimmed gray beard. A medical chart lay open before him. He motioned her to a seat.

Finding the chair directly across from him, she didn’t miss the gyn-oncologist’s pained expression. The same expression he failed to mask six months ago.

In that one instant, Amoreena knew the news, whatever it was, was not going to be pleasant.

“So how’s premed these days?” he asked, breaking the ice.

Amoreena stifled saying ‘same old shit.’ “Fine,” she answered.


“Next fall with UCI, UCLA, and USC.”

“Want to stay in California.”

“UCLA’s my first choice. It all depends.” She left it hanging.

“Hm-hm.” Dr. Gillespie’s eyes scanned the blackboard.

Amoreena followed his gaze. Limned in chalk were clusters of cancer cells—she presumed they represented cancer cells—the big CA on an oncology ward was usually a dead giveaway. Adjacent to the diagram, a list of drug names had been scrawled. A second sketch demonstrated how these specific drugs attacked the foreign cells’ replicating system. Curing cancer was simply that. Stop the unauthorized replication and the patient survived. Amoreena wished it were that easy. Dr. Gillespie lightly tapped the chart on the table. “Your mother’s weight’s down.”

Amoreena felt a tinge of undeserved guilt. “I know, it’s almost like I have to force-feed her at home. This last round of chemo really took a lot out of Mom.”

“You and Geneva are waging a tough battle.” He hesitated, as if unsure how to proceed. “Amoreena…” he started again, but pursed his lips at the knock on the door.

Amoreena turned to find the door open and a woman filling the empty space. She was large, not fat, and exhibited an androgynous figure. She sported a business suit, one of those styles illustrated in catalogues targeted toward female corporate types who seemed to believe that becoming as successful as a man entailed dressing like one. The woman carried a thick satchel.

Without waiting for an invitation, she strode imperiously into the room and took the chair at the head of the table.

Dr. Gillespie made the introduction. “This is Ms. Rosalind Cates. She chairs our hospital’s utilization review committee. Her specialty is medical oncology.”

Amoreena sat in silence, staring at the only medical chart in the room. Her mother’s. With no prior experience, she suddenly knew she despised utilization review committees.

“It’s come to our attention, Amoreena,” the oncologist continued haltingly, “that…” There was another disquieting pause.

At this juncture, the imposing Ms. Cates grabbed the reins. “I’ll take it from here, Doctor,” she said.

The tone of the woman’s voice exhibited a callous knifelike quality very much like a personal-injury attorney Amoreena had seen pitching on late-night television.

Ms. Cates set her satchel on the table but remained standing. She placed both hands on the back of the chair. “Ms. Daniels, I believe your mother’s health care coverage had been provided by the Standard Care Insurance Company.”

Amoreena nodded. “That’s correct. And still is,” she added in rejoinder to Ms. Cates use of the word “had.”

Ms. Cates grunted. “Well, that’s the purpose of this meeting. As of the end of this month, Standard Care will no longer cover Geneva Daniels for health care needs. This includes any catastrophic coverage.”

Amoreena felt her face grow hot. “What do you mean?” She swiveled to face the oncologist. “Dr. Gillespie, what’s she talking about?”

“Ms. Daniels,” Ms. Cates interjected.

Amoreena ignored her. “What’s this lady got to do with Mom’s treatments anyway?”

Before the doctor could reply, Ms. Cates had removed a spiral-bound notebook from her satchel and placed it on the table. “Ms. Daniels, your mother was employed as a secretary for H&M Printing Press for fourteen years. Is that correct?”

Amoreena refused to make eye contact. “And she’d still be employed if her pap smears had remained normal.”

“When did her leave of absence commence?”

“Six months ago. After the diagnosis.”

Ms. Cates gave a satisfactory nod. “That partially explains the confusion.”

“Confusion?” Amoreena blurted out.

“Ms. Daniels, as of five months ago, H&M Printing has been in receivership, they’ve declared bankruptcy, and are no longer paying premiums for their employees’, including any retirees’ health care coverage. As per the law, Standard Care, as well as the human resources department at H&M, notified your mother numerous times that her medical coverage would be her responsibility. Unfortunately, Geneva Daniels failed to respond appropriately, no premiums were paid, and therefore, as of this moment, she is without coverage.”

Amoreena’s mouth felt gummy. No coverage. My God, she has metastatic cancer. She barely heard Ms. Cates continue.

“I took the liberty of presenting Geneva Daniels’s case to a group of other insurance agencies for gap coverage. However in light of your mother’s current situation, they felt it would not be in their best financial interests to intervene. One did agree, though, to issue a policy, however, it would not cover any preexisting conditions. I’ve referred her case to Social Services.”

Amoreena shook her head. “That’s fucking great.”


Amoreena stood. “What is this shit? This is a damn hospital isn’t it, or did I drive into the wrong parking garage?”

Ms. Cates cleared her throat. “There’s no need to be obscene, Ms. Daniels. I understand—”

“You don’t understand crap.”

“I understand this,” Cates retorted. “I’ve reviewed the chart and doctors’ notes regarding your mother’s treatments and at this stage of Geneva Daniels’s illness, her cost/benefit ratio fails to fall within the curve of a successful outcome. Unless you can devise alternative means to finance her treatments, I regret to inform you, your mother will be forced to seek care elsewhere once she is discharged.”


Alan Nayes was born in Houston and grew up on the Texas gulf coast. He lives in Southern California. He is the author of the critically-acclaimed biomedical thrillers, GARGOYLES (Book One in the Resurrection Trilogy) and THE UNNATURAL. His most recent releases are BARBARY POINT, SMILODON, GIRL BLUE and PLAGUE (Book Two in the Resurrection Trilogy)

An avid outdoorsman and fitness enthusiast, he is one of only a few individuals to ever swim across Wisconsin’s chilly Lake Winnebago. When not working on his next project, he enjoys relaxing and fishing at the family vacation home in Wisconsin. Website: http://www.anayes.com


Interview with: Alan Nayes,

Excerpt from “Crime and Drugs on Trip City Street” by Timothy Louis Baker

At only four years old, Kevin Gregory Wilson entered a life of crime on the streets of New York City. Saving his money, he began plans for building a terrorist army when he was only 10. The most powerful man in the world by the time he turns 40, the huge amount of money he amassed through organized crime allows him to finally build his army…the army that will launch an assault upon the U.S. government military bases. Will the government discover Kevin Gregory Wilson,s New Army and stop them? Or will he and his army overpower the entire population of the earth and rule it under the anarchy of crime?


Now in this crime syndicate on Trip City Street of New York, New York, there was an upper silent circle of men who were bosses and who served those who made the money they got a cut from. They were made men. In this silent circle, guy A knew guy B and guy C knew guy B but guy A didn’t know who guy C was nor did guy C didn’t know who guy A was. Guy B knew both who guy A and guy C were and everything coming or going from one to the other up to his boss, who neither guy A nor guy C knew either. The silent circle then kept all protected as long as guy B never talked. In this crime ring the guy B never did.

In 2018 there was a party for all of the upper silent circle on Trip City Street and Budweiser was the “in” drink at this party-down-big-time party-down-place from a long-timeway- ago-back past. Along with whiskey and Coke to mix it with and pot, acid, cocaine, crack, what have you in the doings of the people of the party there on Trip City Street. It was the host’s stuff from and where the one getting and giving the stuff is silent in the inner circle and gets his stuff from out of town or more usually from out of the country there on Trip City Street, New York, New York, USA,

Planet Earth, in the solar system where all of that space is. The guests kept thinking about the effects of the drugs as the leader of the group who lived in the rich neighborhood was speaking, keeping the audience spellbound in their thoughts about the glorious subject of crime and drugs.

The host, Craig, who was the rich upper man of this crime syndicate was saying, “We all jumped off the back of the boat into the water off the dock and swam to the dock on the other side of the harbor and climbed up on it and took off running before any of the Feds could catch up to us. They fired guns, and believe it or not, on top of that entertainment center where that hole is in that hat is where the bullet that almost got me! No shit! They got the boat and the shit but we managed to escape and I almost bought it.” Girls cooed and men stood in awe and said, “Wow!” and another said, “No shit?” and yet others simply stated awe in their breath.

The bravest one there, Jack, the drug runner, the one who worked for the man who owned the house and the one who did all of the dirty work, found it amusing that all of the man’s adventures were not nearly as close to being as dangerous as the life he had led. It was a remarkable life he had led to get this together and piece by piece he knew he had many times the amount of lore and guts, life to death closer than anything Craig had ever or would ever have done. He knew it would take a long time to get it all together, what he had done, but he also knew it could come apart at any second in time.

The house was an expensive huge mansion, Craig’s home away from home of his penthouse apartment, and even for the rich man Craig, it was expensively decorated with the souvenirs from various places he’d been to see about the things pertaining to crime of other nature than setting up a deal, before he did this softer, easier, less dirty work of smuggling drugs into the country. He used to smuggle other things from foreign countries overseas, stolen stuff, foreign guns, diamonds, jewelry, paintings, other art works, and now drugs instead. It brought more money to smuggle the drugs instead of all of the latter, which are less risky. The drugs are more risky but paid well if you dealt in large enough amounts of business and used to have and still had other businesses, stolen cars, chop shops, prostitution, and drug sales in and around Trip City Street.

The carpet in the house was deep plush and there was a linoleum kitchen floor. There was deep brown paneling, dark brown fine furniture, and he even had a pool table at the back of the apartment with a bar in it, and they were all in that room having the party together, and taking the drugs continued for quite some time.

Other people told other lore. Some of it was quite good. One man after another challenged each other with previous experiences, the bravest things they’d ever done, the closest to getting caught without getting caught, the most dangerous things they’d ever done, the closest they’d ever been to getting double crossed by someone else in the drug world, the closest they came to getting busted, and a whole multitude of things to match that and the henchman Jack was aware the whole lot of them hadn’t done as much close calls to death or any other danger as the ones he’d personally done. The total amount was more than what they’d all done combined, all of their experiences they talked about, and he knew they talked about all of them and had a good time with them. The stories were silent of other names because that was the silence in which they lived and died by hopefully. So they snorted lines of cocaine and smoked the dank shit (that’s how fresh it was), which they dried out under light bulbs first, and drank their casual party beer. It was a better party than Craig ever expected. It was just a casual beer and dope party with a group that worked together for a man who worked for somebody else and neither Craig nor the others there, nor the others not there any of them dealt with, never say anything to anybody about anything ever or the vow of silence was broken, and if you ran, you’d be found quicker than you could get away. There would be no reason for you to run because you would be found.

The inner circle was assembled within the New York City part in Trip City Street. The bosses of the boys were gathered together there.

Crime was what was going on. What one man stole another man fenced but it passed from one to another by a boss of a lower or the upper inner silent circle. Drugs were also dealt. Where they came from and where they went was the inner circle of silence. No one ever told, as it would have been pointless to do so, there was nowhere to go, nowhere to hide. The hit man would find you wherever you were, and you would be found where there would be a hit man to find you and you would be on a contract, with your death warrant signed by yourself.


Timothy Louis Baker has published five books. He is a maintenance technician for a machine service shop. Timothy resides in Paulding, Ohio.

Crime and Drugs on Trip City Street by Timothy Louis Baker Available @ http://fantasticfloridafun.com @ http://timbaker.bookblogworld.com @ http://www.authorsden.com/timothylbaker @ http://tinyurl.com/457nas7

Click here for an interview with: Timothy Louis Baker, Author of “Crime and Drugs on Trip City Street”

Excerpt From “In Love with Death” by Y. Correa

Sophia, is a young Puerto Rican-American girl who has just lost her closest ally, her grandmother, “Abuela”. It is just after the funeral, at the cemetery, where Sophia meets the tall, almost angelic man who will play such an unexpected role in her life. A love story. A fantasy. An adventure. In Love with Death tells a tale of “fate” far beyond the normal meaning of that little four-letter word. How else would you explain why Sophia falls so deeply in love with death?


I never really thought that there was much more to life, than what I was already living. The monotonous day to day, non eventful, flow of things that continued each and every day. Get up, get ready, go to work, deal with day to day problems, listen to family fuss and moan and do it again… Every day.

So, my choice of escape and excitement? Horror movies. I mean, honestly, something had to give… I would hope. Don’t get me wrong. I loved my family, friends and work. But, at the end of the day, I still felt empty. Lonely.

It’s amazing what can happen when you least expect anything to happen. How one crack in the thin glass of life, can shatter it entirely. So, we have to choose. Do we mend it or leave the crack there? And, if we leave it there; is it worth letting everything fall apart into a million teeny tiny pieces? Well, honestly, I didn’t know. One thing I was sure of though, I chose to let my heart mend. Would it be for good or for bad? Well, only God knew.


A dull roar. That’s all I could hear. Souls. That’s all I could see. What was this that I was living? If you could call it “living” at all. I didn’t see people, but shadows. I didn’t feel life, but death. I didn’t feel emotions, but emptiness. I didn’t feel… anything. It was all a blur. Clustered together in an array of colors and shapes. The sound, that low roar… it was difficult to make out. My thoughts were focused, not so much on the sound, as they were on the colors. So many people. All different. Some good. Some bad. Some breathing. Some barely breathing. ALL SOULS. It was funny what you could see when you stood in the middle of the Emergency Room. Who survived. Who didn’t. Who cried. Who laughed. Who mourned. Who celebrated. Yet, all of them, everyone; A soul. A soul for the taking.

I remembered… almost…. what it was like when I floated in the middle of this cluster myself. Before my life… or should I say; my death… changed forever. It felt like aeons ago. I didn’t want this. I never asked for it. Why was I not allowed to be like everyone else? “Fate” This was the answer I was given. “Fate” What a bleak and meaningless word to express something no one can truly explain.

I wanted… No! I needed, a change. My vast emptiness had drowned me in a lagoon of unwillingness. In a river of curiosity. In an ocean of questions. Questions, unanswered by the Higher Sources. Questions, that still lingered in the clouds of my emptiness. Why am I? Why do I exist? What’s the purpose? When (if at all) would it change?

I had a plan. A plan to subtly replace myself once again into this world of colorful souls. To persuasively introduce myself yet again, to THIS my most intriguing temptation. I believe I am, whom I once was. This, wasn’t me. This, is who I was forced to be. Yet, I fought. I disputed this unwanted persona that had been involuntarily cast upon me. One day! One day, I would be who I once was. One day! This monster would cease to exists.

Bed two. The doctors, the running, the yelling. The focus on bringing her back. It was futile. It was sad to say that she was just a child. A baby. Five years of age. Why did FATE find in necessary to take her? She had yet to even start to live. It was not my choice. I only followed orders. Her soul was lovely, just as a little girl should be. A soft pink. Like a princess. Beautiful.

“Come child.” I extended my hand so that she would take it.

“Where am I going?” she asked. The innocence in her voice was heart breaking. Or would be, if I had a heart.

“I’m taking you to a safe place. Somewhere that you will never feel pain again. You will be happy there, sweet child.”

“Cindy” She said. “My name is Cindy.”

“A beautiful name, for a beautiful girl.” her smile seemed as if it could quite literally light up the room.

“Well Cindy, do you see that very pretty light?”

“Yes.” she said with bright eyes.

“Walk into it. Go on child. Pretty Cindy.”

“But why? Where’s mommy and daddy? Why do I have to go?” there they were. The questions that always came up after I had collected them.

“Don’t worry, Cindy. Your grandmother is there waiting for you. I promise. Before you know it, Mommy and Daddy will be there with you also.” What else was I to say to such a new and delicate creature?

“Okay…” she said, not so convinced that what I was telling her was the truth. She obeyed nonetheless. When she entered, she realized that my words were true and secure.

“Grammy!!” she called out with utter happiness.

I turned. The mother, yelling. The father, failing at his attempt to be strong. The doctor, saddened. The confusion. The horrified faces. All of it, ALL too familiar. ALL too real.


Y. Correa is a YA Paranormal Interracial Fiction Author of a story collection called “The Fate Books Collection”, “In Love with Death” being the first of the series.

WEBPAGES: http://fatebooks.yolasite.com, http://ycorreafb.blogspot.com

Excerpt From “Double Mocha, Heavy On Your Phone Number” by June Kramin

The last thing Ellie plans on is the relationship outlasting the storm. Bix’s persistence at a relationship and attempts to help her at her job with his computer skills proves to be more than Ellie can continue to push away. She finds herself where she never wanted to be after losing her fiancé a year ago. In love again.

When Ellie’s twin sister shows up and puts all their lives at risk, they must now weather a different kind of storm together.


Bix was surprised to see Ellie standing in the kitchen when he walked in her house the following Monday. He was hoping to surprise her when she got home from work. She must have left a little early.

“You’re home?” He walked over admiring her hair then gave her a kiss as he ran his fingers through her hair. “What made you go dark?”

“I just felt like a change. You like it?”

“I do.” He kissed her again and weaved his fingers through her hair and to the back of her head.

She wrapped her arms around his neck and began kissing him hard. Getting more aggressive in her kisses, she began pushing him backwards until he was against the wall.

“What got into you, babe?”

“I just missed you.” She kissed his neck then pulled at his shirt, sending buttons flying. Her hands stroked his chest and went down to his belt buckle.

He closed his eyes and leaned his head against the wall as she kissed down his chest. She slid his jeans down, but left his boxers on. Kissing her way back up his chest, she placed her hand at his crotch. He was already getting aroused. “Nice,” she said, giving him a squeeze. Kissing him harder, she began rubbing her hips against him.

“Let’s get down to business, stud.”

His eyes sprang open and he held her by the shoulders, then looked into her eyes. They were the same shade of blue. The same deep blue outline. He looked from one to the other, then saw it. A green fleck that was never there before.

“You’re not Ellie.”

“Dammit.” Her hand still stroked his chest. “You’re quicker than Tony was.”

He pushed her back and quickly pulled his jeans up. “Ellie never mentioned being a twin.”

“It’s no wonder. I’d want to keep you to myself, too.” Again she leaned into him and tried to place her hand on his crotch. He grabbed her hand before she was successful.

“Stop it.”

“Come on. What are you? A choir boy?”

He moved away from the wall so she would stop cornering him. “I don’t know what your game is but—” The sound of a car door closing stopped him.

“Dammit. The party pooper is home. We’ll have to finish later.” She looked to Bix again and ran her tongue over her lips.

Bix tried pulling his shirt together the best he could, but it was a useless attempt with his buttons scattered across the floor.

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Excerpt From “Epiphany” by Stuart Land

Doctor Sam Enright and his geneticist wife, Dorinda, face turmoil in their small town when a dozen adolescent girls show up pregnant at Sam’s office—and they’re all virgins. When their own daughter falls victim to the same fate, the Enrights rush to Homeland Security for answers. As the questions multiply, they realize they are at the vanguard of a worldwide epidemic, and the mystery deepens. As events escalate, a disparate group of international doctors, scientists, and mothers-to-be are brought together at Dorinda’s genetics lab in Middle America. They race to find the cause and meaning of the mysterious pregnancies, but every discovery reveals a new, worse scenario, leaving humanity’s very existence in question.


Ayira Akilah Mukendi slipped silently through the curtained doorway, away from the sleeping breath of her brothers and sisters. She crept along the edge of her family hut, staying within the full-moon shadow beneath the thatched roof overhang. Her neighbor’s two mixed-breed dogs, scampering playfully in the path that ran by their huts, rolled to their feet and froze, ears pricked, muzzles searching for a scent. The smaller mutt challenged her with a yelp. Ayira stepped from the safety of darkness and stooped to the ground, hushing the dogs with a gentle word. Their tails whirled as they pranced over to her, licked her outstretched hand, then trotted off as she stood and moved back into the shadows. With a sigh, she leaned against the wall to gather her courage and pressed her fingers to the still sun-warm dried mud knowing this was her last touch of home.

Looking out over the twisted branch fence she and her mother had laced together, Ayira strained her eyes to see down the rocky path that wound through the village. Frightful expectation hung in the air and clung to her like sweat. She listened intently above the incessant chirps and chatter of jungle nightlife, for not everyone was asleep. In the distance, the grumbling of the village elders came on the night air, rising and falling like angry cats. Soon, their words would cease and the decisions they made would force their actions.

Before this night, she’d never thought of choices, for her destiny, the same as everyone in her tribe through all generations, was determined by those who preceded her.

But now, in her thirteenth year, choice had come to Ayira unbidden the moment the elders had made their determination. She immediately set upon an act that would change the fate of the life growing within her and that of the mja, foreigner, who’d given her a glimpse of a reality beyond her own imaginings. Even as she grasped the small bundle of clothes and food tighter to her chest, and forced her legs to follow her will down the path, she didn’t consider the consequences to herself.

Her eyes brushed over each hut she passed, thatch or stone, grass or mud, not so much looking for danger as committing the huts to memory. The aroma of boiled and fried food, always in every breath, saturating the vapor-warm air during the day, was gone now from the cool night. When she reached the field where the path broke from the village, the insects that had retreated into the grass and trees to drone their mating calls went quiet. She leapt into a full sprint as if trying to outrun her own shadow stretching out before her, and left behind the only world she’d ever known.

Within a minute, she was at the mja hut, built away from the village. This hut, clinging to the edge of the jungle in seeming desperation to hold its place between nature and man, was a welcoming gesture, the elders had told him. It was to assure him privacy, to thank him for his helpful efforts with his Western knowledge of food production and clean water. But Ayira knew that although his knowledge was welcomed, he was not. A field’s distance from the village was but an invisible barrier to keep his strange odor and any unwanted influence at bay. His hut, built of stone, mud and thatch was similar to others in the village but for the wood plank widows and doors that sealed him in at night. To the elders, those secured entries and the several hundred meters of dirt and brush, had not done the job, so it came to them to put their world back to order.

Ayira approached cautiously, for she’d never been to the outsider’s hut. The entire village was warned to keep safe distance, especially at night, for bad things can happen in the dark. She didn’t believe any of the children’s tales told about outsiders, but her heart seemed to pound as loud as her fist rapped upon his plank door.

“Bwana David, Bwana David! Nisaidie, tafadhali! Help me, please! They come.”

A voice from sleep called back. “Nini? What? Who’s out there?”

“It is I, Ayira Mukendi. Please, open door. You must come with me now.”

Angled shafts of light moving through cracks, scuffling feet, then the door pulled back. David, squinting and shirtless, peered down with his flashlight beam into Ayira’s frantic eyes. “What’s wrong, Ayira? Are you sick?”

She glanced at his concerned young face, then grabbed his hand and tugged. “We must go now, Bwana David. They come for you.”

He grasped her shoulder with his free hand, steadying her trembling body. “Hold on, Ayira. What are you talking about? Who’s coming for me?”

Tears came with her words. “Wazee, elders, believe you made me with child and come ninyiua, kill you.”

He jerked away from her, breaking their connection. “What?!”

Ayira reached out to him, but he stepped back. “They no believe me. I say not you.”

“Well—Well, you have to tell them who it was then. You did tell them, didn’t you?”

“I could not.” Ayira’s eyes fell to the ground. “I mean, I tell, but they no believe.”

“Well, why not, for Christ’s sake?”

Her eyes suddenly grew wide. “Usu! Quiet!”

Whipping around, Ayira scanned the open field, angling her head. She turned back, hands clasped together. “We must go now! They come.”

“Wait. I’ll get dressed and talk to them.”

“La! No!” She grabbed his hand again, pulling in desperation. “If find me here, kill us both.”

David wrenched away from her to stare back toward the village. Bobbing firelight flickered through the swaying brush, harried voices arrived sharply with the breeze. The sudden sweat surfacing on his skin was a prelude to his actions. He grabbed the small backpack off the end of the bed, and flung himself out the door pulling Ayira along by the wrist. When they reached the Jungle, Ayira moved in front.

“You must follow me. We take path animal, not path people.”

They ran at a quick pace, Ayira scouting ahead, David continuously glancing back, panting with rising fear. Within the cover of the trees the spongy ground absorbed the shock of their heavy strides, but through the intermittent open spaces, sharp grasses sliced at their arms as their heels pounded against the hard, rutted path that twisted their toes. Several minutes in, Ayira veered off the main trail, pushing easily through bushes and branches clouding the way. Though the jungle floor hid beneath spidery branches and broad ferns, she read the way by following the line of sparser vegetation ahead of her. This path was soft but firm, for animal feet didn’t wear away the soil down to the roots and rock.

“Good you take our ways, Bwana David. Other waja, foreigners, cannot walk in bare feet.”

“Ayira, you have to tell me who did this to you.”

She glanced back as they crossed an open patch of brush and grass, moonlight glinting off teary eyes. “It was nobody, Bwana David.”

David’s eyes raked her with bewilderment. In other parts of the continent her protruding stomach might be from malnutrition, but not here. He knew his comment sounded ridiculous as it left his lips.

“Maybe you ate something.”

“No. I am with child.”

“But, Ayira, what you’re saying isn’t possible if you haven’t been with a man.”

“The elders do not care what possible. They know not the way of outsiders, so believe you made possible. They know I not lie with mawanaume kijiji, village man.”

“Well, how do they know that?”

“They have looked me and my kizinda is there, still.”


Stuart Land began writing in 1986 while working as a sculptor in the film and theme park industry in Los Angeles. His first effort was a novel, but after working on many well-known films such as Aliens, Predator, The Abyss, Poltergeist 2, Independence Day and many others, he turned his passion to screenplays. He took a number of high profile screenwriting courses, attended many seminars, and belongs to a long list of screenwriting organizations. As an adjunct to screenwriting, Stuart was mentored in film directing by Jim Pasternak, Dov S-S Simens and others, and mentored in film producing by Fred Caruso, all well-known industry professionals.

He has completed seventeen screenplays, five novels, and written/produced/directed/edited four short student films, and a spec TV series.

Stuart’s screenplays have been optioned and placed second, fifth, finalist, and semi-finalist in noted screenplay contests.

Stuart’s second novel, Back from the Dead: the true sequel to Frankenstein, was originally published in 2005, and was a finalist in the International Writemovies Contest. The rewritten second printing is available now, in eBook (ALL FORMATS) and a print.

His third novel, SHADOW HOUSE, was a quarterfinalist in the Amazon Break Out Novel Awards, and is available now, in eBook (ALL FORMATS) and a print.

ORIGINAL BLOOD, , EPIPHANY, and now, CLAIMING LIVES, are also published in eBook (ALL FORMATS) and a print.

A short story is included in the anthology, Lost in Thailand, published in 2009.

Stuart runs creative writing workshops in beautiful Chiang Mai, Thailand, where he also consults and mentors writers one-on-one to elevate their writing to the next level. He has an editing service for fiction and nonfiction.


Sky-Fire by Robert Holt

An avid reader, and now writer of Science Fiction, Robert Holt has set all his stories in one universe. A reader will recognize worlds, technology, and often characters from other stories.

Sky Fire is a ‘comming of age’ story from his Gate Jumper collection, and can be found in, FARSPACE 2 available at http://www.lulu.com/utilityfogpress


Chapter I Cast out

Tay’Ya toyed with a sweet-fruit. She wasn’t hungry, but it looked so good. She knew her nest mate, Cho’Oy, sat above her in the branches. He’d been tormenting her for days, trying to force her out of their mother’s nest. Pretending not to notice him, she played with the fruit and listened.

When she heard the whisper of leaves, she knew he’d launched himself at her. Rolling into a ball, she dropped from the branch she’d been gripping, almost reaching the ground shrubs before opening her arms and legs to catch air in the thin membrane stretching between them. Spilling air from one side, and throwing her tail to the other, she made a sharp turn. Catching a branch with three long clawed fingers, she swung around, snagged the tree-trunk with her toe claws, and scampered up to the top branches.

Cho’Oy was unable to match the move and flew by. He made the mistake of glancing back and missed the last tree.

She chattered happily as he plunged in the black swamp water. When he came up covered with stinky mud, she laughed and called down, “It will serve you right if the swamp creature eats you.” But when she spotted one moving towards him she screamed a warning.

He ignored her and continued scraping mud off his fur.

When she screamed again, he glared up at her. “You can’t fool me. You want me to run like a frightened nestling… Forget it.”

Unable to help, she could only watch as the creature pulled him under.


“I tried Mother. I really tried, but he wouldn’t listen.”

“What was he doing in the swamp?”

Tay’Ya hung her head. “He wanted me out of the nest. He tried several times to push me out of the trees.” She felt no remorse, nor did her mother. Cho’Oy was simply gone. Had he been successful in his effort, she knew he may have boasted. Males were like that.

Her mother had been adding soft ferns to the nest. As she returned to the task, she stated without emotion, “You must leave soon anyway child. There will be another… haven’t you noticed?”

Tay’Ya had. She even knew when that old male rubbed her mother’s back; he wanted to plant his seed. She knew, but didn’t want to think about it. Another nest mate… another to share her mother’s time… would she resent it? Would she try to push it out like her brother had done to her?

Something her mother said? Leave? “Mother, why must I leave? I can share the nest with the new one. I…”

“Because you’re not a youngling any more. Haven’t you noticed how the males sniff around you? You’re near full-grown. You must make your own nest.”


“But nothing. It’s time. I’ve taught you how to build… I’ve taught you how to care for a nestling.”

Tay’Ya shuddered. She’d watched when an old male planted its seed in another female. It looked disgusting. “I’ll never let a male touch me like that. I’ll push him away…I’ll fly to the farthest trees and hide.”

Her mother chuckled. “No you won’t. You’ll welcome him. You’ll scream at any female that tries to take a male from you. You may even go looking for one. I know I did…One beautiful male. He never seemed to notice me, but I made him notice…You’re his seed.”

Tay’Ya went to the highest branch of her…or was it her mother’s tree? It didn’t matter now. With a scream of rage, she launched herself out. Using her tail to maneuver rather than spilling air, she stretched the glide. The last trees loomed ahead. She could see the black swamp and the clear water on the other side. Could she make it past the mud? Could she swim across to the trees beaconing from the other side?

At the last moment she veered over, spilled air, and made a grab for a short tree. Its thin branches couldn’t hold her weight and bent down, almost dumping her in the mud.

Slowly, reluctantly, she made her way to the top of a nearby tree and stared across the broad river. She’d never seen anyone over there, but it was such a long way off. With her mottled fur, she knew she would be hard to spot; even at half that distance.

Draping her tail over her head, she cried.

The Sky-Fire nearly touched the trees across the river, ready to disappear. Another wouldn’t come out of its hiding place behind the tower for a long time. The night creatures were waking; filling the air with their mournful cries. She’d flown in the dark before, but the branches were hard to see, and the great winged hunter would be patrolling the sky. She had to move now… but where? She could see her mother’s tree, but didn’t want to go there. Without a secure nest, the night fog would make this tree too cold and wet. Possibly one of the short bushy trees near the tower would be better. The fog seldom reached that high.

Spreading her flight skin in preparation to launch, she felt a slight pain. Stretching the skin tighter revealed a small tear. Blood leaked from it, matting the fur. It wouldn’t interfere with flight, but it needed attention.

Glancing towards the old one’s tree, she spotted a small object circling above the tower. As it spiraled down she could see it was the old one. How had she gotten so high? Mentally mapping a route, avoiding her mother’s tree and another inhabited by a grouchy old male, she launched.

It was near full dark by the time she reached her target.

After a soft and nearly silent landing on the lowest branch, she cooed to announce her arrival. She hoped the old one wasn’t sleeping, because it was now proper to wait for an invitation.

A sharp irritated voice lashed down through the branches. “Who comes?”

“Tay’Ya, nestling of Sar’Too, Revered Mother… May I enter? I’ve a tear that needs mending. It’s said, you’re the best.”

Politeness and flattery took the bite out of the old one’s voice. “A tear? Yes. Come up child. Why are you out flying in the dark?”

“My mother has cast me from her nest… I have nowhere to go.”

Tay’Ya entered as the old one added a bit of moss to her lamp. The flame sputtered, then grew brighter when the oil-soaked addition caught. As she looked over the girl, inspecting the tear, her voice was soft and consoling “Cast out…Sad, yes? But that’s the way of our folk. You’ll have to build a nest…The good trees are all taken. So many younglings, building nests to raise more younglings. Our world grows more crowded and smaller. When I was young, it took five light times of flying to reach the end of the trees. Now you can get there in three. Only dead stumps remain upriver.”

As the old one rattled on, Tay’Ya listened politely, watching as she crushed some purple berries and spread them on the tear. The sting went away. Then from her carry-pouch she produced a thin stone punch along with some fibers from a string-fruit, and laid them out.

“Child, now you must learn to mend tears. Some you will need help with, but this one you can reach yourself.” Spreading her own flight skin, the old one displayed many small, and some large rips. All had been neatly closed, leaving only thin scars. “You must be a good flyer; otherwise you’d have more than that small hole. When you’ve seen as many cold times as I, you will have more. Now pick up the punch and make several holes. Thread the fiber through, and pull it tight.”

Tay’Ya timidly forced the stone through. There was no pain. The berry juice had numbed the area. When she finished tying the fiber, the old one inspected her work.

“Not pretty, but you’ll get better. Now run along, I need to sleep.”

“I have nowhere to go.”

“Oh… I forgot… You’ve been cast out. Old age makes one forgetful. I suppose you can stay the night. Tomorrow you can find a nesting place.”

“Thank you Revered Mother…That punch…where can I get one? Were you flying above the tower? How did you get so high? Will you teach me?”

“Child… let me get some sleep. So many questions… Sleep now. We’ll talk tomorrow.”

Tay’Ya tried but sleep came slowly. When she finally drifted off, she dreamt of flying high above the rocky tower.

Chapter II Learning to Fly

The new Sky-Fire was just peeking over the tower when the old one shook Tay’Ya awake. “Child, if you want me to teach you, you’ll have to get your lazy bones out of the nest… I could use some help cleaning this place.”

“Revered Mother, will you show me how to fly way up the tower?”

The old one chuckled at her impatience. “Later, eager one. Clean first, then gather food. We must wait until the Sky-Fire is over the river. The wind is sliding down the tower now. When the Sky-Fire warms it, the wind will climb up again… It’s the wind that pushes you up. And please call me Chi’ne. Revered Mother makes me sound so…. Old.”

Tay’Ya looked at the nearly white fur and knobby fingers, but decided to say nothing that would make Chi’ne angry. Then she checked out her nest… It hadn’t been cleaned in a long time. With a sigh, she started brushing debris towards the entrance.

Tay’Ya had many questions, but each was greeted by a dismissive grunt until the old one seemed satisfied with her work. Then with a ‘follow me’ gesture, she launched towards the river. Tay’Ya was amazed by her flying and tried to match the moves as she followed. She knew then, she had much to learn… Her mother hadn’t taught her nearly enough. There was more to life than rearing nestlings… and starting more.

After gathering sweet-fruits, they flew to the tree of an old male and traded some for mud-crawlers, then went to the community fire to roast them.

Tay’Ya kept watching the Sky-Fire, willing it to move faster, but it just continued its slow crawl across the sky.

Chi’ne noticed where she looked and chuckled, “Patience little one. We have other things to do. If I remember, you wanted a punch?”

“Oh yes. Where did you get yours?”

“Follow me, child.” With that, she scampered up the nearest tree, and launched up-river.

Tay’Ya followed, but after two jumps she could see they were headed for the tree of an old male that all young females avoided.

Chi’ne snagged a branch near his nest, and without a word or greeting, went in.

Tay’Ya picked a lower one, hesitated a moment, then followed. She found the old ones chatting playfully, but when she entered, the old male stopped and grinned at her.

Slapping him lightly on the head, Chi’ne introduced her new student. “This is Tay’Ya. She could use one of the fine punches you make.”

“If she’ll let me rub her back, I’ll consider it.”

“What would a sweet young thing like her want with a wrinkled old one like you? Just give her one. You’ve rubbed my back often enough in all the cold times we’ve known each other.”

“But rubbing hers would be more fun.” Grinning again, he dug through a basket, and produced a very fine punch. “Will this one do?”

Chi’ne snatched it from his fingers. “You never gave me one this good. In all the times…”

“When you were young and pretty, I didn’t know how to work the stone like I do now. Otherwise I would have… You were always my favorite.”

Wrapping the punch in moss, and tying string-fruit fibers around it, Chi’ne placed it carefully in Tay’Ya’s carry-pouch. “Be cautious with this. It could injure your milk nipples… and believe me, that hurts.” With another playful slap to the male she said, “Come youngling. It’s time to fly.”

At the base of the tower, Chi’ne leaned out, spreading her flight skin. The warm wind lifted her, and seemingly without effort, she made small circles near the rock; each one higher than the last.

Tay’Ya tried several times to match the moves. It wasn’t as easy as it looked, but she finally got the feel of the rising air. Soon she was flying almost as good as the old one. Landing on the narrow ledge with Chi’ne was another matter. With no branches to grasp, she raked her claws against the stone. Unable to grip it… she fell. Grabbing air, she circled back for another try.

On her third attempt, she made an ungraceful landing near her teacher.

Chi’ne chuckled, but said nothing. She was busy picking the purple berries that took pain away. They seemed to grow from many cracks in the rock.

At this height the river looked smaller, and Tay’Ya could see another tower beyond the trees. Thinking about her mother casting her out, and the many annoying males sniffing around her trying to rub her back, she wondered what it would be like on the other side.

When they’d filled their carry-pouches, Chi’ne stepped out into the wind, shouting over her shoulder, “Follow my moves.”

With her arms forward, she reminded Tay’Ya of a pointed bitter-berry leaf… and she seemed to be going very fast. Again, it wasn’t as easy as it looked. Each time she picked up speed, the air caught in her carry-pouch, throwing her off balance, and spilling some of the berries. Finally settling for the long glide she knew so well, she slowly spiraled down.

Listening to her student’s explanation, Chi’ne offered more advice. “Look here. Notice the holes I’ve punched in my carry-pouch? These beads I’ve tied in my belly fur fit in them holding it closed. See? I’m not that good of a teacher after all. I tend to forget the little things.”

Tay’Ya had noticed the beads, but thought they were only decoration… lots of females decorated their long belly fur. She thought it was silly and had never done it. Closer examination showed her the beads were not just tied, but secured with resin from the needle tree.

Looking again at the tower, Tay’Ya pointed at its highest point. “Can I fly across the river from way up there?”

“Why would you want to do that?”

“I don’t like it here… The males are always sniffing around me wanting to plant their seed. Ti’Ti is mad at me for letting my brother get eaten by the swamp monster… I think she liked him a lot, but it wasn’t my fault.”

“I suppose you could. My sister tried, but I don’t know if she made it.”

Determined to learn, Tay’Ya built a small nest near the tower. She spent many crossings of the Sky-Fires learning to fly. Each time she got near the river, fear took over and she veered off returning to the trees she knew. She wanted it so much though… One day she would make it… She just knew she had to try.

Excerpt From “Tales From the Dew Drop Inne” by Kenneth Weene

“I would love to tell you about my upcoming novel, Tales From the Dew Drop Inne, which is soon to be released by All Things That Matter Press. There is no cover as yet, nor a purchase link; but this series of interconnected stories, some lighthearted and others sad and serious, explore the lives of the folks who make the Dew Drop, a neighborhood bar in Albuquerque, their home and family. Here is one short chapter, which I have been using as a teaser. Thank you.” — Kenneth Weene authorkenweene.com

Chapter 9
In The Army

“I served. I saw combat.” That was as much as Captain would tell us.

Stiff and tall, it was hard to guess his age. “Old enough to know better,” he’d told us, “but I’ve marched more miles than you might figure.”

Had he really seen combat? He didn’t talk about it.

Where had he been stationed? He never said.

What had been his rank? We didn’t know that either. He was Captain because he was always inspecting and taking charge. “Too much foam on those beers,” he’d announce when Sal wasn’t careful to let the brew flow down the side of the glasses. “Rack those balls tighter,” he’d instruct Jonny, who’d look up from the poll table and smile indifferently.

Captain would show up day after day for a time and then he’d disappear. “Where you been?” one of us might ask after a long absence.

“In the Army.” Which made no sense until we understood that he was bouncing in and out of the V.A. Captain was one of those patients who won’t stay on their meds. When he wasn’t locked on the psych ward, he hung out at The Dew Drop.

No need to work, his benefits were enough. He apparently had and needed little. Yet, what he wore was always neat and carefully ironed.

Not needing a job didn’t stop Captain from taking an active interest in the world of work. He’d stop to inspect and instruct wherever he could: pointing out smudges on windows and unpainted spots, stopping delivery men with instructions, “Those boxes should be arranged with the biggest on the bottom, not just jumbled like that.” His pseudo-expertise knew no bounds.

He particularly enjoyed superintending landscapers. “Cut that back a little.” “You left some clippings.” “Some of these weeds need more spray.”

One day, Riley, who was working a recycling truck, ran into him.

Captain was busily organizing a crew from Hanson’s Nursery. They were working a condo community over on Foster, one of those that keep upgrading their grounds. The men, most of whom, probably not even understanding his English, good-naturedly ignored Captain. Their crew boss was doing what low-level managers often do: lying under a tree taking a nap.

The supervisor came by, saw Captain telling the men what to do, and the men working away. “You’re doing a good job,” he said and patted Captain on the back.

Captain saluted, which tickled the supervisor. He would have said more, but he noticed the crew boss sleeping. “What the hell?” he exploded.

Two minutes later the sleeper had been fired and Captain hired. “You stop by the office this afternoon and fill out the forms,” the supervisor instructed.

Captain snapped to attention and again saluted, “Yes, sir.”

“Yes, sir,” the supervisor muttered as he took off for the next job site.

The men stood around staring at Captain. He stared back.

“Hey, Boss, what you want us do?” one of the workers asked.

Captain’s eyes went vacant. He shrugged and wandered off. Couple days later he was back in the Army.


Excerpt From “Forever Young: Blessing or Curse” by Morgan Mandel

A 55 year old’s world collapses when her husband is killed in a hit and run accident. In desperation, she takes an experimental pill to spin her back and hold her at 24 forever, without losing any of her memories. What an amazing invention. It seems too good to be true. There has to be something wrong with it. Maybe there is.

Forever Young: Blessing or Curse was born through my wishful thinking. Now that I’m growing older, like many in the Baby Boomer generation, I wonder what it would be like to be young again, yet keep all my memories.

The heroine in this book gets that opportunity. She spins back to an earlier age. That’s when her life spins out of control.


A limp object lay sprawled in the parking lot where Dorrie was to meet her husband. It looked like, no it couldn’t be…

Pulse pounding, she hit the brakes and flung open the door. A few steps, and she stood staring in disbelief at her husband’s still form. That red streak didn’t belong in Larry’s salt and pepper hair, nor should it mar his olive skinned cheeks, and trickle onto his white cotton shirt.

She groped in her purse for the smartphone. Fingers shaking, she dialed 911. “There’s been an accident at the Life is for Living Institute. I need an ambulance. Hurry, please.”

A helpless feeling engulfed her. If only she knew first aid, but in all her fifty-five years, she’d never bothered to learn. She had to do something, but what? Bending down, knees scraping the asphalt, she touched her husband’s hand. “Larry, it’s all right. I’m here.” She wanted to be brave for him, but couldn’t keep her voice from quavering.

He whispered something she couldn’t catch, something about his iPhone.

“I found it on the nightstand, Larry. It’s right here in my purse.”

“Dorrie, I want you to keep it. Something’s…on it,” he gasped.

She bent closer. “I know honey, all those songs and photos. They mean a lot to me, too. Don’t worry, when we get home tonight, we’ll share them together.”

“No, more…Life is for Living isn’t…Forever Young isn’t…”

He struggled to speak, but his voice faded in and out. He probably shouldn’t talk. Where was that ambulance? Her husband needed help.

Larry flashed a weak smile and looked straight into her eyes. “Love ya,” he whispered.

Stifling a sob, she completed the ritual. “Love ya, back.” In their thirty years of marriage, how often had they said those words to each other?

His lips stilled. His hand slackened. His brown eyes stared unseeingly, as his face froze into a smile.

This can’t be happening. Larry, you can’t leave me. It’s too soon.

Blood rushed to her head. Roaring filled her ears. Larry couldn’t be gone. She’d prove it. Dorrie bent to kiss his lips. They felt warm and soft. He must be alive. Soon the ambulance would come, the paramedics would fix him, and he’d be all right.

She glanced again at Larry’s still form. The truth hit, sucking her breath away. She didn’t need a medical examiner to tell her what she could see with her own eyes. Larry had left and would never return. Her stomach convulsed, her chest heaved with sobs.

It shouldn’t end like this, not in the middle of a parking lot. Larry deserved better. So did she.


Morgan Mandel worked for almost 39 years as an administrative assistant at a Chicago Loop law firm until the economy took away her day job. Her writing office was the Metra commuter train, but now she writes at home.

She is a past president of the Chicago-North Chapter of Romance Writers of America, served as Library Liaison for Midwest Mystery Writers of America, belongs to EPIC, and Sisters in Crime.

website: http://www.morganmandel.com
blog: http://morganmandel.blogspot.com

Forever Young: Blessing or Curse now on kindle at http://tinyurl.com/6tsntn6 and smashwords at http://smashwords.com/books/view/115446