Congratulations to author Cathy McCrumb! This week marks the release of Recorder, the first book in her Sci-Fi series, Children of the Consortium. Read on for more info and a chance to win a signed hardcover of the book!
Title: Recorder by Cathy McCrumb
Publication Date: 9th November 2021
Genre: Science Fiction/ Speculative Fiction
Children of the Consortium
When a research station goes dark and a rescue mission goes wrong, a young woman with no name, no family, no friends loses everything that defines her…
Donated to the Consortium before birth, the Recorder’s sole purpose is to maintain and verify the records. A neural implant and drone ensure compliance, punishing any display of bias.
Suddenly cut off from the technology controlling her, she tastes freedom and what it means to be human. But if the Consortium discovers her feelings, everyone she knows will be in danger.
With no name, no resources, and only an infinitesimal possibility of escape, the Recorder’s time is running out.
I did not have a name—none of us did—but once when I was young, I had a friend.
Early in my tenth year I slipped away from the other girls of my cohort. Their approved games did not interest me, and since I had fulfilled my physical activity requirements, I took refuge at my favorite place near the artificial brook.
Light sparkled on water rippling over smooth brown stones. Either the brook’s engineers or its gentle flow had sculpted rounded banks in the loam, and lavender and thyme grew between orange lilies. The self-pollinating plants bobbed and dipped in the breeze created by the giant fans in the lofty, domed ceiling. It was a close approximation of a real brook, from what I had read.
Cathy graduated from Biola University with a degree in literature and a love for stories. She and her husband, whom she met while writing letters to soldiers, have five children and currently live within the shadow of the Rocky Mountains. While writing is one of her favorite things, she also enjoys reading, long hikes, long naps, gluten-free brownies, raspberries, and crocheting while watching science fiction movies with friends and family.
To Be Enlightened is a cosmic love story that follows Professor of Philosophy Abe Levy as he grapples with what it means to love both his wife, Sarah, and the ocean of silence within. It is also an intellectual exploration of the most intimate of subjects: our consciousness.
Abe Levy’s long tenure as a philosophy professor has motivated thousands of students to ponder age-old questions in light of New Age ideas. Though Abe is passionate about his teaching, he is obsessed with a powerful childhood dream of heaven. To return to that heaven, he must reach enlightenment in his lifetime. Day after day, Abe settles into deep meditation, reaching the very cusp of his goal but unable to cross the threshold. Desperately, he commits to doing whatever it takes, even if it means abandoning his wife for a more ascetic life-a decision that sets off a cascade of consequences for Abe, Sarah, and those he loves the most.
Vedic wisdom holds that during the forty-eight minutes prior to sunrise, which is called the Brahma Muhurta, a wave of purity and balance sweeps through the world, gently waking it up, along with the birds and other animals. I sip my coffee, enjoying the silence and morning calm. About fifteen minutes before sunrise, the birds start singing praises, enlivening and infusing the atmosphere with optimism for the approaching day. The transition rarely fails to uplift me.
A high-pitched fluttering followed by a distinctive buzzing draws my attention. I look up to see a large, shiny purple hummingbird hovering about a foot above the center of the table, looking at me as if wanting to speak. It flits its beak up, down, and sideways, and—zip! It’s gone. I don’t remember ever seeing a hummingbird so close. I sit for a moment. I know that hummingbird! I’ve seen her many times before in my dream. But she was always a bee.
I do asanas and pranayama and then walk toward our bedroom for my morning meditation. The hummingbird gets me thinking about omens. If there really are omens, does it mean that God communicates with us only at specific, special times? Or is it that at certain times we become still enough to precipitate an omen? Maybe there are always omens and we aren’t aware enough to appreciate them? I bet it’s even more complex than that. I adjust my pillows for meditation. In a half lotus, my eyes close.
Mantra, mantra, maaaantra, mmmannntraaaa, maaa…mantra emerges from shimmering pool, drop of water in reverse. Mantra, mantra, mmmmaa…the place on surface of pool where mantra will emerge begins to move, vibrate…I am observing and hearing the mantra’s emergence from my consciousness. It is separate from the real Me, the observer…The school’s administrative board has asked me to head the search committee for a new chief of campus security. I don’t know anything about security. I’m not going…I observe that thought, and this thought, arise in the same way the Mantra emerges.So interesting…Mantra, mantra, mantraaaaa, maaaantra…surface of pool, no ripples, no thoughts, no feelings coming from body or mind, endless…one side, silent awareness; other side, activity. Mantra, maantraa, mmmmm…mantra barely tickles my expansive surface…Bliss surges through body, mind. Bliss is caused by awareness of subtle disturbance at junction between…Mantra, mantra, mantraaaaa, mmmmmmaaaaaaa…flowing outward, all directions; I am a boundless, luminous mirror between my self and my Self… Mmmaaaa…mmmm…maaaaa…I am the surface of the ocean, impossibly still, deafeningly silent…needing to let go…ready to let go…fearing loss…Mmmmmmmm…decision made, must go forward, will go forward…surrendering all I thought I was for what I am…individuality dissolves: raindrop, ocean…
I am—the vast, unbounded ocean of consciousness. I am—unmoving wholeness. I was never that body or that mind. I have been observing Abe Levy since the moment he was born, and much, much longer than that. I am—at peace. I am—now awake. I was sleeping before. I can see the sun and the planets clearly. They are so dear to have nurtured Mother Earth, allowing her to birth humanity. I notice distantly that my body is glowing. Time is immaterial and has lost its grip on me…
* * *
Back in my body, I look over at my bedside alarm clock. More than an hour has gone by. I lie down to rest and a deep sleep envelops my body and mind, though I am awake, aware, and witnessing.
I get up and put on my robe. Something is very, very different. It’s as if I am still meditating even though my body and I are active in the world. I am in two places at the same time—the unbounded ocean of consciousness and the bounded world of activity and senses. I have never, ever, felt so good and so focused. I walk to the kitchen, but I don’t seem to be moving.
It happened. The thought comes that I should be jumping with joy, but I’m past that. A more pressing, evolving issue appears to be whether my body can contain my joy. I close my eyes and watch as thin, sparkling beams of Bliss increasingly poke their way through the shell that is my old body, shining out from my new one in a myriad of luminous, waving threads of various lengths and hues. The brightest and most numerous ones are congregated around my solar plexus and the top of my head. The weirdest part of all is that I’m not surprised or concerned by this in the least.
I make oatmeal with whole milk, dried cherries, roasted almond slivers, cinnamon, cardamom, and a hint of nutmeg. I notice something is gone. I am not, in general, an anxious or fearful man, but I now realize I had significant anxiety and fear all my life. I know this because, for the first time, I am completely without those constant companions. Along with my anxieties and fears, my worries about leaving Sarah to go to Fairfield have evaporated. I don’t have to go anywhere now. I am where I have always wanted to be. I’m Here. The weight of responsibility that I had shouldered in guiding Sarah around her triggers has lifted. I think that I can now lovingly support her without feeling bogged down or burdened.
I shower, shave, dress for class, and it all seems to happen automatically, as if I’m uninvolved in the process. I was somewhat intellectually prepared for this, but even after over fifty years of meditation, I’m not prepared experientially. This will take some getting used to.
Walking to my office, the world is delicious. The singing birds are part of me, thrilling me thoroughly from the inside with our perfect twittering. My heart sings with them. My body hums with a hymn as my feet beat the rhythm into the sidewalk.
Alan J. Steinberg, MD is board-certified in Internal Medicine and practices with the Cedars-Sinai Medical Group in Beverly Hills, California. He also serves as one of the attending physicians for the NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers. He grew up in Las Vegas, Nevada, where he learned Transcendental Meditation (TM) in 1975. Earning his undergraduate philosophy degree at Pomona and Pitzer Colleges in Claremont, California, he went on to attend the University of Nevada School of Medicine, receiving an MD degree in 1984. His first book was a non-fiction consumer’s guide, The Insider’s Guide to HMOs (Plume/Penguin), which garnered favorable reviews in the Los Angeles Times and other publications as well as appearances on The Today Show, 20/20 and C-Span. The book helped sway the direction that healthcare was heading in the late 1990s. His debut novel, To Be Enlightened(Adelaide Books, 2021), is a work of visionary fiction, inspired by some of his own experiences as a lifelong practitioner of TM. Dr. Steinberg lives with his wife of over thirty-five years in Los Angeles, California. They are the proud parents of three young adults.
Welcome to the blog tour for the fascinating new release by Albert Cory, Inventing the Future! Read on for more info and a chance to win a $50 Amazon gift card!
“Inventing the Future is Based on the True Story of the Xerox Star, the Computer that Changed Everything”
Title: Inventing The Future by Albert Cory
Publication Date: August 10th, 2021
Genre: Based on a True Story/ Historical Fiction/ Technologies
Imagine a time before everyone stared at a screen, before fonts, icons, mice, and laser printers, before Apple and Microsoft… But behind the scenes, Xerox engineers were dreaming and inventing the modern personal computer.
Who were these people who changed the world, and why did corporate management just want to sell copiers and printers?
Albert Cory* was one of the engineers, charged with making that dream a reality and unknowingly starting a revolution. Inventing the Future is based on the true story of the Xerox Star, the computer that changed everything.
It was finally happening. After almost five years of labor by 250-plus people, the Office of the Future was here. Despite the prayers for them, 64K memory chips had not appeared. Michael had gotten corporate approval to increase the manufacturing cost with an extra 64K words of memory. Star now had 256K words, or 512K bytes of main memory. The performance was still poor, but at least it was tolerable now.
Star had been announced and demoed in New York already, and this week was the National Computer Conference in Chicago, starting Monday, May 4, 1981 and lasting until Thursday. Dan had volunteered to man the Xerox booth for all four days. He flew out to Chicago on the Sunday morning before it started, but with the time change, it was past dinner when he finally arrived at McCormick Place.
Dan read the Sunday Chicago Tribune.
In Business, Compushop was offering an Apple II starter system for $1,595. But then buried deep inside the section, Dan found what he was looking for, a story about the Star. It began:
Xerox terminal has symbols, not codes
Managers and professional workers haven’t been the best customers for automated office equipment like computer terminals.
Maybe it’s because they are more accustomed to pointing and selecting material rather than typing out explicit commands.
Maybe it’s because they can’t type.
The article quoted a Xerox marketing executive, who explained that the Star was aimed at “managers or professionals who produce documents, reports, or charts.” It explained how the mouse worked. The executive went on to explain that the Star system cost $15,595, but “technological advances will allow price reductions in the future.” Star would be demonstrated at the National Computer Conference at McCormick Place this week.
Dan, Janet, Martin, Henry, and the rest of the Xeroids were continuously busy, explaining the Star to curious attendees. Visitors could try a mouse, and lots of them did—almost no one had ever used a mouse before. A technical staffer had brought a box full of spare mice and swapped in a new one every hour since the accumulated dirt and finger oil from all the guests made the rubber balls in the mice sticky.
As each hour approached, people began gathering around the monitors to see the demos. By noon, they were waiting 10 minutes before the hour. Michael stationed himself near the left side monitor, where he kept busy talking to reporters, executives, and random attendees. Michael watched the crowd closely, and he noticed that Steve Jobs, one of the Apple founders, came every hour, surrounded by other guys Michael didn’t know. He knew that Jobs had visited PARC the year before last for a demo of the Alto and Smalltalk, but he hadn’t seen Star before. He had supposedly asked, “Why isn’t Xerox doing anything with this?” Now, he found out they were.
Albert Cory is a pen name for Bob Purvy, a retired software engineer who worked on the Xerox Star. In his career he also worked at Burroughs, 3Com, Oracle, Packeteer, and Google. All characters are fictional and are composites of the scientists, engineers, and executives who lived the story, with the exception of the auto-biographical character, Dan Markunas. The other two main characters, Janet Saunders and Grant Avery, are completely fictional, and are not in any way representative of the real people who had their jobs (note: the author makes clear which events are real and which are composites in the Endnotes).
Welcome to the tour for The Girl in the Triangle by Joyana Peters!Read on for details and a chance to win a signed copy of the book!
Title: The Girl In The Triangle by Joyana Peters
Publication Date: July 12th, 2021
Genre: Historical Fiction
When your dreams finally seem to be coming true, it’s hard to trust them.
It’s been four years since seventeen-year-old Ruth set eyes on her fiance. After surviving near-starvation, revolution and a long trip across the stormy ocean, she can’t help but wonder: Will Abraham still love her? Or has America changed him?
Nowhere’s as full of change as 1909 New York. From moving pictures to daring clothes to the ultra-modern Triangle Shirtwaist Factory where she gets a job, everything exhilarates Ruth. When the New World even seems to rejuvenate her bond with Abraham, she is filled with hope for their prospects and the future of their war-torn families.
But when she makes friends and joins the labor movement—fighting for rights of the mostly female workers against the powerful factory owners—something happens she never expected. She realizes she might be the one America is changing. And she just might be leaving Abraham behind.
The Girl in the Triangle is an immigration story that will appeal to fans of Brooklyn by Colm Toibin and The Queen of the Big Time by Adriana Trigiani. It questions what it means to be an American, and what is the true meaning of strength.
He stood outside the dressing room with his arms crossed. “I was starting to fear I’d need to send in a search party.”
“I’m sorry,” Ruth said. “I met the sister of one of your friends.”
“Chayele,” Abraham chuckled. “That explains it. That girl could talk the hind legs off a donkey.”
He steered her to the line for the stairs and gestured for her to open her bag to be examined. “They fear people stealing scraps for sewing at home.”
Ruth held her bag open wide as the guard poked through. Eventually he nodded, and they exited through the door to the stairs.
“Chayele seemed really nice. She introduced me to her friends as well. She said you were good friends with her brother?”
“Yankel,” Abraham nodded. “He’s good folk. He took me under his wing when I got here. Makes me get out and have some fun from time to time.”
Ruth pondered that for a moment and considered Chayele’s painted face. “She’s not a—what do you call it? Floopsy, is she?”
Abraham laughed. “No, Chayele’s not a floozy, though she might be the center of any party. She’s just been here awhile and has embraced America.”
“America encourages painted faces?”
Abraham tilted his head and thought before answering. “America encourages fun, at least in your free time. Not like in Russia where you just go to work and come home.”
“How do you spend your free time?”
Abraham turned to face her with a twinkle in his eye. “All kinds of ways. Seeing performers singing in shows, going to the circus, heading out to Luna Park.”
“What’s Luna Park?”
“An amusement park in West Brighton Beach. You can ride a roller coaster and see recreations of villages from all over the world—it’s amazing. I’ll take you one weekend.”
Ruth mulled over this new word, weekend. She had no clue what a roller coaster was, but it sounded exciting. Everything Abraham mentioned was foreign and strange. They’d sung as a family around the piano or even in the street with neighbors on holidays. But shows? Performers? These were novel ideas.
Abraham glanced over at her with a mischievous smile. “Still love running?”
“Race you home!” he shouted and took off ahead.
“You gonif! You still cheat!” she shouted and took off after him.
His laughter floated back to her as she ran. The cityscape flew by as she weaved in and out of people on the sidewalk, some shouting insults in response. They rolled right off Ruth. Her exhaustion evaporated, the caress of cool air on her face sweeping away her lethargy. She dug deep to run faster, her competitive instincts kicking in. She’d never felt so happy and free.
Congratulations to author Julia Brewer Daily on the release of her debut novel, No Names to Be Given!
Read on for more info and a chance to win a $100 Amazon e-gift card!!!!
Title: No Names To Given by Julia Brewer Daily
Publication Date: August 3rd, 2021
Genre: Historical Fiction/ Women’s Fiction
Today’s young women will not understand how our families made us feel shame so intensely; we surrendered our first-born children to strangers. Faith Reynolds, No Names to Be Given
The widely anticipated debut novel by Julia Brewer Daily is a glimpse into the lives of women forced by society to gift their newborns to strangers. Although this novel is a fictional account, it mirrors many of the adoption stories of its era.
When three young unwed women meet at a maternity home hospital in New Orleans in 1965, they are expected to relinquish their babies and return home as if nothing transpired. Twenty-five years later, they are brought back together by blackmail and their secrets threatened with exposure—all the way to the White House.
Told from the three women’s perspectives in alternating chapters, we are mesmerized by the societal pressures on women in the 1960s who found themselves pregnant without marriage.
How that inconceivable act changed them forever is the story of No Names To Be Given, a novel with southern voices, love exploited, heartbreak and blackmail.
Men loved Sandy’s body. She didn’t have the option of leading with her wit or intellect. Her looks arrived first. It was both a blessing and a curse.
Now, Sandy placed her hand on her formerly taut stomach. It felt bloated and mushy. How long would it be before she was back in her sparkly dance costumes and performing for audiences? The provocative bustiers and garter belts would not fit her now. She slid up in her hospital bed and peered through a crack in the curtain. They were all in the same recovery room, separated by thin blue fabric. She heard the other two moaning as they awakened. A nurse worked among the three of them and whispered, as if the others were out of earshot, “What a coincidence ya’ll went into labor on the same day. We were inducing you next week.”
An acidic smell of disinfectant and the rusty odor of blood invaded Sandy’s nostrils. She swallowed and found her throat parched and lips chapped. Her head throbbed with a dull drumbeat, and she tasted a metallic tang. What have I done? Why did I think this was the better choice?
Sandy’s thoughts jumbled, like a bad movie looping in her head. She squeezed her eyes shut as she remembered how her heart once pounded whenever she heard Glen’s voice. The curtains separating the roommates’ beds reminded Sandy of those in her home in Illinois, and her mind projected Glen’s image into the hospital room.
“You see what happens to trashy girls?”
She imagined him sitting at the end of the bed, sneering at her. Sandy’s teeth chattered, and her body quaked in small jerks. Her chest rose and fell so rapidly; she became faint. Sandy imagined dying in the hospital. Women died from childbirth all the time. Would her mother ever find out? Probably not. Sandy covered her tracks pretty well. Glen would think she got what she deserved.
Sandy leaned forward and yanked back the cloth separating them. Becca twisted from side to side. Sandy hated seeing her roommate in such distress. Becca might have been a princess-like creature in her former life, but Sandy admired her rebellious streak. How many other white girls had the guts to fall in love with a Negro? Becca broke the silence. “I cannot believe our babies are in the nursery down the hall, and they won’t let us see them,” she whispered. “Maybe we can sneak down there.”
“Don’t. It may make things worse.” Sandy wanted to avoid all maternal feelings and didn’t want to see a child who might look like her or Carlos.
“I can barely walk to the bathroom.” Faith’s voice trembled. Her pixie haircut, unwashed and dishwater blond, was in spikes and her eyes seemed too large for their sockets.
“Hey, Nurse Carter. If you let me go to the nursery, I won’t bother you anymore.”
“You know that’s not allowed.” The nurse frowned at Becca.
“I promise to stand behind the window. I just want to see my baby. One time. I promise.” The nurse’s response was to leave the room.
Becca whispered to Sandy. “I just want to see the skin color. I want to see if the adoptive parents will know it’s a mixed-race baby.”
Most of all, Sandy knew she longed to hold her child. Becca still declared love for her baby’s father. Sandy was still in love with her child’s father, too, but he would be no help to her from behind prison bars.
“I’ll go on a hunger strike. Do you want me to barricade myself in the nursery?” Becca made her announcements in a loud voice.
“Hush. You’re disturbing the entire home.” Nurse Carter poked her head back in the doorway and spoke harshly.
Perspiration beaded in the hollows of Becca’s cheeks, and Sandy watched as she swiped it away with her palm. Her beauty dulled only slightly with her auburn hair in a messy knot on the top of her head and her freckles dominant on her ivory skin. Becca’s startling blue eyes were now the color of a very stormy sea—gunmetal and glinting.
“Everything’s gonna be alright,” Sandy cooed. She feared Becca would
spring from the bed and run toward the nursery. Sandy watched Faith with her hands clasped as if in prayer.
“Faith, are you okay?” She always spoke to Faith as if she were a child. They were all about the same age, eighteen, but Faith’s innocence made her seem so much younger.
“I’m miserable,” Faith said.
“Me, too. I feel like a medieval torture device stretched my limbs,” `Sandy said.
Faith chanted prayers for her baby. “Please, Lord. Please let my baby have the very best parents. I know you’ll take care of him—or her.” She hummed the lyrics of “Jesus Loves the Little Children.” “Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight.”
“How are we expected to walk away and pretend nothing happened? They knocked us out before we had our babies and won’t let us see them? We don’t even know if we had a boy or a girl.” Becca blurted out.
Sandy did not turn to Becca. Instead, she watched Faith twist her hands. Faith’s frame disappeared from view under the sheet. Sandy was afraid her tiny limbs, awkward and knobby, would vanish altogether without the bed to contain her. Every time Sandy looked at Faith, she remembered Faith’s description of her assault.
Now, a living reminder of it existed. Faith had said she didn’t want this baby carrying the blame for its conception. Suddenly, Faith began gulping breaths like drinking water with a cupped hand from a bucket. Sandy tried not to look at her reflection in the mirror. Her hair, not dyed since entering the home, showed roots black and wide like the stripe of paint against a hot asphalt roadway, only in reverse—her platinum locks clung to the dark center. Towering above Faith, she saw how sallow her skin was and how lackluster. She needed her eyebrows plucked and her nails painted—no time to worry about all that. Sandy required all her strength for her own recovery and assisting her friends.
She tucked Faith and Becca’s blankets around them, raised their hospital bed rails, and crawled back into her bed.
Julia Brewer Daily is a Texan with a southern accent. She holds a B.S. in English and a M.S. degree in Education from the University of Southern Mississippi.
She has been a Communications adjunct professor at Belhaven University, Jackson, Mississippi, and Public Relations Director of the Mississippi Department of Education and Millsaps College, a liberal arts college in Jackson, Mississippi.
She was the founding director of the Greater Belhaven Market, a producers’ only market in a historic neighborhood in Jackson, and even shadowed Martha Stewart.
As the executive director of the Craftsmen’s Guild of Mississippi (three hundred artisans from nineteen states) which operates the Mississippi Craft Center, she wrote their stories to introduce them to the public.
Daily is an adopted child from a maternity home hospital in New Orleans. She searched and found her birth mother and through a DNA test, her birth father’s family, as well. A lifelong southerner, she now resides on a ranch in Fredericksburg, Texas, with her husband Emmerson and Labrador Retrievers, Memphis Belle and Texas Star.
We’re celebrating the release of the Deep State Down series this week with the release of Hard Way Home and Dark Road Back, by Dana Fraser! Read on to find out more about the books and an excerpt too:
Title: Hard Way Home (Deep Down State #1) by Dana Fraser
Date Published: June 1st, 2021
Genre: Post- Apocalyptic/ Survivor Thriller
Two strangers. Almost no chance of survival. Even less hope. When a massive cyber breach hits every U.S. hydroelectric station just as the Gulf Coast refineries are decimated by a volatile storm, the attack knocks out the nation’s entire power supply, instantly throwing America into a deadly new dark age.
For Army veteran Cash Bishop, getting back to his family before it’s too late becomes a fight to survive in a race against time. His only ally? A brilliant energy scientist who may be the only person still alive with more things to be afraid of than the impending apocalypse.
Dr. Hannah Carter doesn’t know who’s after her or when she became a target. But getting captured is not an option. Seems the stranger she meets on her dangerous cross-country trek is the only person she can trust now to help get her home. And keep her alive.
With chaos escalating and the country on the brink of collapse, Cash and Hannah need to figure out who executed the attacks on the U.S. power grid, and why these people are so willing to kill him to get to her.
Chapter 7: Moonlight Massacre
Navigating a wide berth around the Effingham Memorial Airport without winding up in the crosshairs of a farmer or other local resident was tricky. The land around the airport was mostly open fields, which would leave Cash in plain view of anyone at the airport with a scope or set of binoculars.
Coming to the railroad tracks, he followed them south, hoping the trees that lined the east side and the tracks’ embankment would shield him from the view of any soldiers. At the same time, no one could get an itchy trigger finger because he was trespassing.
The rough gravel combined with the weight of his pack made the walk treacherous. Worry over being spotted by a soldier, cops or some FEMA lackey made it exhausting.
Damn! He couldn’t believe the government was already confiscating items—and in a little nothing place like Effingham.
The thought made his gut tight as he mulled over the proximity of Fort Campbell to the Dover homestead.
Best not go there, his mind cautioned.
His gut didn’t listen.
There were a lot of things about the Dover location that were great. Most importantly, the land had been in his price range with all the needed features. To live independently, they needed an existing structure to house them, a fresh water source, a means of heating their buildings, and enough land to grow food on. The old farmhouse on a little over fifty acres had its own well, a pond already stocked with bass and channel catfish, and a stream that cut the property neatly in half. Mostly covered in timber with only a few existing pastures, the trees he and Marie had cleared for planting had seen them through two winters with more than a lifetime of wood for their modest needs remaining to be harvested.
But there were flaws, too. No matter how much Cash might indulge in reading articles or novels about some kind of global, or at least American collapse, he hadn’t assigned the scenario an imminent probability. His primary concern had been getting Marie and the kids out of larger cities overrun with the kind of criminals that had killed her husband Greg. He would have preferred several hundred miles between the homestead and any large concentration of males, like the prisons in both Nashville and just over the border in Kentucky or the Army base that straddled the line of both states.
It is what it is. Stop thinking. Stay focused on the now.
Cash nodded at the self-imposed order. He’d seen too many guys catch a bullet on patrol because they were thinking about problems back home. Most of them had been lucky and survived. The insurgents who had shot at them had, to a man, looked like Swiss cheese at the end, if there was anything left of them to see.
Easing into a sitting position, Cash pulled out a protein bar and uncapped one of his waters. He was halfway through the bottles he had refilled at the truck stop in Effingham. When they were gone, he still had two water bladders, but each was only a day’s worth of hydration.
He would need to find more water before the end of the next day.
Finished eating, he stood and dusted off the small grains too little to capture and eat. With a cluster of three trees nearby, he walked over and urinated against one of them, the widest of the three sheltering his back while he had his hands full.
Canceling out the noise of his own stream, he listened for other sounds. He had heard gunfire twice in the four hours he’d been walking. Real gunfire, not the memory of such. No aircraft had passed overhead, which was both a relief and worrying. Something small and flying low could have been the government performing reconnaissance, not only on the people causing problems but those trying to stay on their own property and protect their family.
Or people like him, just trying to get home.
But the absence of jets in the sky criss-crossing the country was unnerving.
How the hell could everything just stop like that?
Shaking the thought away, he zipped up, climbed on all fours up the embankment that had shielded him from view on the east side of the tracks and pulled out his pair of field binoculars.
He wasn’t sure how far he had traveled already, but he kept a rough estimate running by counting the evenly spaced wooden rail ties jutting past the tracks. With the void between the ties and the front-to-back distance of each tie on its own, he figured about two feet traveled tie-to-tie. Every twenty-six hundred or so ties was another mile covered. He had counted over ten times a thousand, but he knew the tracks didn’t run parallel with U.S. 45.
Trying not to think about how much the two lines diverged, he slid down his side of the embankment and resumed walking.
He kept following the tracks as they angled west, even when he knew the road he wanted was shifting east at the same time. With the rifle and pistol, he needed to get at least a few miles south of the grade school in case the federal or local government had secured that area, too. Only then would he cut east and locate U.S. 45.
By dusk, he was comfortably past the school and the airport. Dog tired, he found another cluster of trees, one that formed a dense circle. Taking his pack off, he pushed it inside the circle then wiggled his way between two trunks.
There was just enough space inside the copse for him to stretch out to his full length and have some of the pack behind him.
Taking advantage of the last bit of remaining daylight that penetrated the trees, he opened the pack and worked at quickly re-arranging its contents. Removing the two Mylar blankets weighing less than four ounces combined, he spread them on the ground. He placed the radio next to the rifle and plugged in a set of earbuds, but kept one ear unblocked so he could hear if anyone or anything tried to sneak up on him.
It was all static up and down the AM and FM dials. A few minutes remained if Gallows was still broadcasting.
Fixing the dial to Gallows’ channel, Cash resumed shifting the contents of his pack. Certain things needed to stay at the bottom to keep the weight properly distributed and because they wouldn’t result in imminent death if he couldn’t retrieve them immediately. Those items included a spare set of boots, a small aluminum pan, food he wouldn’t need to consume for a few more days and a guide to North American edible plants that he hoped he wouldn’t have to consult. He also layered in a short pry bar and a flat head screw driver, fishing wire and lures, twenty feet of lightweight nylon rope and one of two rolls of duct tape.
Between the bottom layer and everything that needed to be at the top of the pack or distributed among its exterior pockets, he stuffed two pairs of pants, a half dozen pairs of socks and underwear, and three t-shirts, as well as a slightly heavier flannel jacket than the windbreaker he had on. Next came the first aid kit and the tincture of iodine, which he could use for both disinfecting wounds and decontaminating water. On the same layer, he added the Ziploc bag of Vaseline soaked cotton balls, a tin half full of strike-anywhere matches with a char-cloth filling the gap, and a one-liter tumbler with a built-in water filter. Stuffed inside the tumbler were his toothbrush and toothpaste.
At the very top, he put in his spare ammo, a night vision monocle and one of the two filled water bladders. The second bladder still hung down the center of his back. He placed that one next to the radio then clipped onto the outside of the pack his three knives—a folding multi-tool knife that included a small blade, a KA-BAR Skeleton knife for both combat and gutting and skinning game, and a Kukri blade in case he wanted to make a shelter or needed to get through dense vegetation.
Rolling the pack so that the knives and the entrenchment tool were pressed against the dirt and nothing hard remained between his head and the soft middle layer of clothing, Cash settled into place and pulled the top Mylar blanket over him as Bobby Joe Gallows came on air.
The news wasn’t good. It would be a long time before it was, Cash believed.
The attacks had moved beyond the large cities and turned far stealthier.
In this gripping sequel to the post-apocalypse action thriller HARD WAY HOME, the answers behind an onslaught of not-so-natural disasters only lead to more questions as a global depopulation conspiracy threatens Americans from right in their own back yard.
Retired Army Colonel Thomas Sand returns to the U.S. during its darkest days, only to find the leaders left in government—puppeted by the deep state elite—want him dead. Between the threat assessment algorithm he developed before the apocalypse, and the fact that his wife Becca and stepdaughter Hannah are both brilliant scientists critical to the new world order, his family isn’t short on enemies. And despite all his training to the contrary, his only duty now is to them and their safety. Unbeknownst to him, halfway down the coast, his wife is fighting to drag her fevered and battered body home with no means of communication, and only the help of a nameless stranger…
Meanwhile, Dr. Hannah Carter, still traveling with the Army veteran who saved her life, discovers she may be the linchpin to destroying the dangerous shadow government that now controls what remains of the fast-crumbling U.S. But to do so, she must leave behind everyone she cares about and face off against the hidden puppet master pulling the strings from his bunker. Unbeknownst to her, Cash Bishop, her fearless companion turned ruthless protector, has followed her into the lion’s den,no violence spared. His only light in their new broken world of never ending darkness, finding Hannah is a given. As is taking down the corrupt powers that destroyed his country once and for all…
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Christa Wick (writing as Dana Fraser) has been hybrid publishing since 2012 in various genres. Along with her post-apocalyptic action thrillers as Dana, she’s written over fifty romance and paranormal titles as Christa and C.M. Wick, and also writes high-octane suspense fiction and urban fantasy novels under other pen names.
Hello lovelies! Today I have an exclusive extract from The Transparency of Time by Leonardo Padura as part of the Random Things blog tour but first a little about the book:
Title: The Transparency of Time by Leonardo Padura
Publisher: Bitter Lemon Press
Date Published: 10th June 2021
Genre: Crime Fiction
Mario Conde is facing down his sixtieth birthday. What does he have to show for his decades on the planet? A failing body, a slower mind, and a decrepit country, in which both the ideals and failures of the Cuban Revolution are being swept away in favour of a new and newly cosmopolitan worship of money.
Rescue comes in the form of a new case: an old Marxist turned flamboyant practitioner of Santería appears on the scene to engage Conde to track down a stolen statue of the Virgen de Regla—a black Madonna. This sets Conde on a quest that spans twenty-first century Havana as well as the distant past, as he delves as far back as the Crusades in an attempt to uncover the true provenance of the statue.
Through vignettes from the life of a Catalan peasant named Antoni Barral, who appears throughout history in different guises—as a shepherd during the Spanish Civil War, as vassal to a feudal lord—we trace the Madonna to present-day Cuba. With Barral serving as Conde’s alter ego, unstuck in time, and Conde serving as the author’s, we are treated to a panorama of history, and reminded of the impossibility of ever remaining on its sidelines, no matter how obscure we may think our places in the action.
Equal parts The Name of the Rose and The Maltese Falcon, The Transparency of Time cements Leonardo Padura’s position as the preeminent literary crime writer of our time.
SEPTEMBER 4, 2014
The emphatic first light of dawn in the tropics filtered through the window, projecting dramatically against the wall where the calendar hung, with its perfect grid of twelve squares divided into four rows. The spaces had originally been colored in distinctive tones ranging from spring’s youthful green to winter’s deep gray, a scheme that only a very imaginative designer could associate with something as contrived as the four seasons on a Caribbean island. With the passing months, fly droppings had decorated the board’s motifs with erratic ellipses. Several stains and its ever-fading colors testified to the paper’s constant use and the blinding light that beat down on it every day. A variety of capricious shapes were doodled all over the thing—around the edges, even over some of the numbers, hinting at past reminders that were perhaps later forgotten and never acted upon. Signs of the passage of time and proof of a mind suffering sclerosis.
The year at the top of the calendar had received special attention and was covered with a variety of cryptic signs. Those numbers specifically tasked with representing the ninth day of October were surrounded by further perplexing sigils, which had been scratched in (more in rage than approval) with a pen just a bit lighter than the original black printer’s ink. And alongside several exclamation points, the digits that—as the doodler only now noticed—resonated with magical, numerological power, the power of perfect recurrence: 9- 9-9.
Ever since that slow, grim, slippery year had begun, Mario Conde maintained a tormented relationship with the dates at hand. Throughout his life and despite his historically good memory and general obsessiveness, he’d paid little attention to the effect of time’s speed and its implications for his own life and the lives of those around him. Regrettably and all too often, he forgot ages and birthdays, wedding anniversaries, the dates of trivial or major events—from the celebratory to those that evoked grief or commemorated simpler moments—that were or would be important to other people. But the alarming evidence persisted that, among those 365 days squared off by the grid of that cheap calendar, a day lay waiting to pounce that was as yet inconceivable, but threateningly definite and real. The proximity of the day Mario Conde would turn sixty years old caused in him a persistent shock exacerbated by the approach of those notable numbers: 9-9-9. It even sounded indecent (sixty . . . sixty . . . something that lets out air and explodes, sssixttttty . . . ), and this milestone presented itself as the incontestable confirmation of what his physical (creaky knees, waist, and shoulders; a fatty liver; an ever-lazier penis) and spiritual (dreams, projects, diminished or completely abandoned desires) selves had already been feeling for some time: the obscene arrival of old age . . .
Was he really an Old Man? In order to confirm it, as he stood before the blurry landscape of the calendar that hung from a pair of nails on his bedroom wall, Conde responded to this question with new ones: Wasn’t his grandfather Rufino an Old Man when, at the age of sixty, he took Conde around the city and surrounding areas to cockfighting rings and taught him the ins and outs of noble combat? Didn’t they start calling Hemingway “Old Man” a few years before his suicide at sixty-one? What about Trotsky? Wasn’t he, at sixty, known as the Old Man when Ramón Mercader split his head in two with a Stalinist and proletarian blow from an ice ax? For starters, Conde knew his limits and understood (owing to well-founded or spurious reasons) that he was a far cry from being his pragmatic grandfather, or Hemingway, or Trotsky, or any other famous old codger. As such, he felt that he had reason enough to avoid so much as aspiring to the category of Old Man, capital letters and all, even as he careened toward that painful number, round and decadent . . . No, he was, at best, going to become an old fart. The term was more apt in his case—in the category of possible decrepitude as classified with academic zeal by serious geriatric science and the empirical wisdom of an everyman’s street-smart philosophy.
About The Author:
Leonardo Padura was born in 1955 in Havana and lives in Cuba. He has just released THE MAN WHO LOVED DOGS, his masterpiece about the assassination of Trotsky. Padura has published a number of short-story collections and literary essays but international fame came with the Havana Quartet, all featuring Inspector Mario Conde.
Like many others of his generation, Padura had faced the question of leaving Cuba, particularly in the late 80s and early 90s, when living conditions deteriorated sharply as Russian aid evaporated. He chose to stay. And to write beautiful ironic novels in which Soviet-style socialism is condemned by implication through scenes of Havana life where even the police are savagely policed.
The crime novels feed on the noises and smells of Havana, on the ability of its inhabitants to keep joking, to make love and music, to drink rum, and to survive through petty crime such as running clandestine bars and restaurants.
Welcome to the book tour for The Fire God Tour by Michele Sims. Read on for more details about this genre-blurring romance! There’s also a chance to win a signed copy of the book (see bottom of this post).
Title: The Fire God Tour by Michele Sims
Publication Date: May 29th, 2019
Genre: Romantic Suspense/ Magical Realism
Miles Moore is obsessed with fire. He can’t help it—it’s in his genes. He’s also the famous performer Ari, an international hip-hop sensation. There are some negatives that come with fame—death threats and life on the road among them—but there’s also a lot of good: fast cars, fast women, international travel, and more money than he can handle. When Bella Wahlberg joins his team as the chief of marketing, she seems like the antithesis of what he’s looking for, so much so that Miles dubs her Belsa the Ice Queen. It would be unprofessional for them to get together, but more than that, she’s unavailable—and deathly afraid of fire. But as they prepare for The Fire God Tour, Miles can tell something is changing. Is he ready to commit himself to one woman? Can fire and ice come together?
EACH BOOK IN THIS SAGA IS A STANDALONE STORY!
Bella powered down her computer in time to see her phone buzzing with a message: the limo driver was minutes away. After locking the front door just as the driver pulled up, she waited while he parked and got out of the car to open the door.
“Thank you.” She got in and sighed, feeling torn that she had to work on her day off instead of enjoying a long hike; yet also wanting to be seen as a team player. Resolved that even though she’d agreed to do this favor for Darien, she would accomplish it as quickly as possible and get away to enjoy nature with Corey.
Traffic was light and the car arrived at the estate quicker than she expected. The butler, Mr. Curtis, dressed in a black suit with a starched white shirt, dark tie, and spit-shined black shoes, greeted her at the door. She sensed he disapproved of her casual attire as he looked her over, jutting out his chin, giving her a loud sniff.
“Good morning, Bella. Darien left instructions to take you to Miles’s bedroom to get the papers.”
She hesitated a bit but followed him as he walked up the stairs to the space regarded as off limits.
“This is quite unusual, since Mr. Moore rarely allows employees other than Parker, Darien, or myself in his personal space, but I was assured it would be okay for you to go into his private suite of rooms to search for the contracts in question.”
She was also uncomfortable being in Miles’s private space, but Darien had been frantic when he’d called. He knew NeNe would be angry if all the documents weren’t there for her review even if she was on a conference call with them and not there in person. He assured her Miles wouldn’t be at the house and he would handle any fallout if he discovered she had been in his bedroom without his permission.
“He had a date last night and planned to stay at his penthouse in the city,” Darien had assured her on the phone before she’d agreed to do him the favor.
Bella and Mr. Curtis were at the top of the stairs when she began wondering if changing her plans with Corey was such a good idea. She liked the hardware store entrepreneur and was glad things were working out between them. He seemed okay with her work obligations in general, but she shrugged at the gnawing idea that Corey might not be okay with anything out of the ordinary at AriMusic, especially if it involved close collaborations with its CEO.
Mr. Curtis opened the door to the bedroom, and she took in the view of the massive mahogany bed, with etches of rams carved into the posts. Tastefully decorated, the room had touches of black and bold red accents. There was a very masculine feel to the room.
Looking around, she discovered his desk with papers on top of it. What piqued her curiosity was the old-style lamp filled with oil next to an ornate candle on his desk. She began looking for the papers Darien had asked her to find and didn’t notice the bathroom door opening or the presence of someone else in the room.
“What the—” The loud verbal bomb startled her, causing her to spin around and throw the papers in the air.
Miles abruptly cut off the f-bomb and stood still, a few feet away from her, while she froze as she viewed his nude body. She knew he had a great one, but she’d never imagined she would meet Adonis in this lifetime. His beautiful pecs, six-pack abs, and his.. oh my, made her gasp. His thick muscular legs had her face feeling hot and her heart racing.
“Why are you here, Bella?” He initially made no effort to cover himself.
The papers scattered across the floor, blown by the air currents from the ceiling fan whirling above. “Darien asked for a favor, and he said you wouldn’t be at home. He needed these papers for a meeting later today,” she stammered and tried but couldn’t hide her tremulous voice or the shaking of her hands as she tried to gather the papers.
Breaking her stare, embarrassed by the impropriety of their meeting, she knelt to pick up the papers scattered throughout the room.
Michele Sims is the “author-ego” of Deanna McNeil and creator of the Moore Family Saga. She loves writing hot love stories and women’s fiction with multigenerational characters. She is the recipient of the 2019 RSJ Debut Author Award, the 2018 RSJ Aspiring Author Award, and first runner up in the Introvert Press Poetry Contest for February 2018. She is a member of LRWA, in Charleston, SC, and the NK Tribe called Success.
She lives in South Carolina with her husband who has been her soulmate and greatest cheerleader. She is the proud mother of two adult sons and the auntie to many loved ones. When she’s not writing, she’s trying to remember the importance of exercise, travelling, listening to different genres of music, and observing the wonders of life on this marvelous planet. She is currently working on several collaboration projects.
Hello lovelies! I’m excited to have an excerpt from thriller Comatose by Jane Badrock closing out the blog tour organised by Zoé over at Zooloos book tours! First a little about the book:
Title: Comatose by Jane Badrock
Date Published: 22nd April 2021
Publisher: Question Mark Press
COMATOSE…and her nightmare is just beginning.
Two car crashes, one location, one survivor.
Newly promoted DS Karen Thorpe is determined to prove these are no accidents. But the only witness is in a coma.
Now there’s a rapist on the loose.
Karen’s in the fight of her life… and her boss isn’t on her side.
Macy smiled as she turned her back on Karen. She was still grinning when she got home. This is going to be fun. Karen was right, she had a large and colourful wardrobe which included several short skirts and low tops. She put together the most noticeable outfit she could and fluffed up her hair. To complete the effect, she added loads of bling and some oversized sunglasses. Stepping into high-heeled shoes, she set off to the yard. She parked a hundred yards or so from the back of the industrial estate, where the dealership was.
When she arrived at the entrance, the gates were open. She wandered in and had a good look round. Macy could pick out a Triumph Herald on a cold night in the fog, but she saw nothing remotely resembling one. She checked the picture on her phone and tried to work out exactly where it had been taken. She could make out the edge of the cabin office from the picture and quickly took another photo from the same angle for comparison.
That’s it. No need to hang around now. As she turned to walk back to her car, she heard the sound of an engine revving. What’s that? That’s not a car.
She double-backed, following the direction of the sound and watched as a lorry with a large trailer came out of a side road. She could make out a car-shaped canvas cover in the back. Snapping the lorry as discreetly as she could, she called Karen as she hurried along.
‘I think there’s a car being moved in a lorry,’ she said.
‘Can you follow it?’
‘Not in these heels,’ she puffed.
About The Author:
Jane writes novels, short stories and poems, usually with a good dose of humour in them. She probably owes it all to her late grandmother who, she’s just found out, also wrote short stories and poems. She tends to get an idea and then run with it whether it be a 100 word short story or an 80 thousand word novel. It all depends on the voices in her head at the time…
Today I have an exclusive extract of We Go On Forever by Sarah Govett as part of the blog tour organised by Anne Cater at Random Things Tours. First a little about the book:
Title: We Go On Forever by Sarah Govett
Publisher: Marotte Books
Date Published: 6th May 2021
Genre: YA Dystopian
A timely and heart-wrenching love story set in a dark dystopian world with echoes of Never Let Me Go and adult as well as teen appeal.
Arthur is dying. He must transition within the next four weeks or face permanent memory loss.
Alba is studying, preparing to impress the Mentors in an all-important interview. If she’s picked as the next Apprentice she will be reunited with her best friend and
cross the Wilderness for the first time.
They meet and everything comes together.
And everything falls apart.
‘I love reading Sarah Govett’ Dame Emma Thompson
‘This is a hugely original dystopian novel with a thrilling plot and memorable characters you really root for.
Thought-provoking and at times terrifying, this book had me gripped from the start.’ Sarah J Harris (author of Richard and Judy Book Club pick The Colour of Bee Larkham’s Murder)
‘One of the most intriguing and exciting dystopian thrillers I have read in a long time! This book grabs you from page one and holds on until the last word. A fascinating world filled with beautifully written characters.’ Ben Oliver, author of The Loop
‘Addictive and compelling – I absolutely love this book.‘ Louisa Reid, author of Wrecked and Gloves Off
Praise for Sarah’s previous dystopian trilogy – The Territory: Winner of the Gateshead Teen Book Award 2017 and the Trinity Schools Book Award 2018
‘The 1984 of our time’ Guardian Children’s Books ‘Thrilling and Thoughtful’ The Times
The Territory has been optioned for TV by New Pictures (producers of BBC’s The Missing and Netflix’s The Innocents and Catherine the Great). The pilot is currently being written by Freddy Syborn (Ms Marvel, Disney +).
The sky is a rich Matisse-blue and I tilt up my chin to catch the midday sun. I’ve always found September sun to be the most precious – summer’s imminent departure adding an immeasurable sweetness. It’s a day for picnics. For lounging in short sleeves. Not for doctors’ surgeries. Not for results.
A voice calls my name, and I turn away from the open window, back to the reception. For a second I catch my reflection in the gilded mirror that hangs above the desk and I scrutinise my face as a stranger might. Symmetrical, unlined. I haven’t noticed it age in the last two years. The stranger would most likely guess it to be some years younger than the nineteen it is now.
Dr Peters’ secretary ushers me through to his office. I decline her offer of refreshments.
The MRI results are displayed on a screen in the centre of the room, awaiting my arrival. Twelve cross-sections through my brain. A four by three grid. There – second from the top in the middle – a white circle lurks in the right hemisphere. A UFO sighting in an otherwise foggy skyline. I shut the door behind me and Dr Peters plasters on the special sort of smile he reserves for patients holding Level One insurance policies. I sit and the smile widens even further in recognition of my status.
As heir to the M.A.D.E. conglomerate, I get to see a lot of teeth.
Dr Peters embarks upon small talk, a tapestry of medical and societal aspects interwoven. How am I feeling? How is my father? Are the headaches worsening? Did I manage much sailing over the summer? Did I try this great new seafood place? He’ll give me the name of the owner – another patient of his; it’s hellish to get a table otherwise. And the balance problems?
‘How long?’ I ask, cutting him short. I need the facts. I’m meeting Tommy for tennis at two and I don’t want to be late for the second time running. I might not be at the top of my game but I can still manage to hit a ball.
‘Four to six weeks,’ Dr Peters replies, his smile taking on a frozen quality. I think of icebergs and the Norwegian Fjords.
I sit and try to absorb the information.
Dr Peters picks up a long, thin stick and starts pointing at the screen, punctuating each comment with a sharp staccato rap. The ingratiating smile is gone and he seems more natural, calmer; happier hiding behind a medical lexicon of obfuscation.
‘The results of the biopsy show the tumour to be malignant. The MRI cross-sections here RAP! and here RAP!, show it to be present in the cerebellum, hence the balance control issues. The size indicates a grade 3 tumour, meaning growth is rapid and recurrence after surgery a distinct probability. I would currently place you at 90 on the Karnofsky Performance Status Scale as you are only experiencing minor symptoms, but this is likely to deteriorate rapidly in the next four to six weeks. In my opinion, you should be looking to transition in the next fortnight to ensure no further damage to brain tissue and to prevent potential permanent memory loss and cognitive impairment.’
Two weeks. Damn. I’m supposed to be meeting Parachute to discuss final details on the 25th. I’d still be adjusting then.
There’s a sound of rapid tapping. An object being repeatedly struck at a frequency that makes my nerves tingle. Where’s it coming from? My eyes scan the floor and alight on my right foot. It’s knocking against the metal leg of the chair. I stare at it, detached. An observer.
‘Mr Easton, is everything all right?’ The smile is gone and Dr Peters is looking at me, brow furrowed in concern. He isn’t used to this sort of behaviour. Tommy says he only really takes on Level One patients now. Dealing with lower insurance levels, not to mention the DMWs (Dead Men Walking, as Tommy calls them), and their tiresome anxieties can really interfere with one’s golf.
I don’t answer him immediately. I’m locked inside my head.
His voice has a slight tremor. I’m such a fool. He’s on alert now. He’ll report back to Father for sure.
‘It’s fine, thanks. I’m fine. I’ll contact the Transition Centre straight away.’
I stand and head towards the door. I’m getting a headache. One of the bad ones. I don’t know why this is affecting me so much. This body has only hosted me for two years, the previous one lasted seven and I felt nothing. Maybe it was a mistake to choose one that was too similar to my Original. Same age: seventeen at time of transition. Same build: broad but not overdeveloped; ‘a swimmer’s body’, the breakdown had said. Same colouring: tanned skin, light brown hair that regains its blonde in summer. Same eyes even – green with flecks of yellow. Too many sames. It’s harder when it fails. I’ll choose something different next time. Get less attached.
I think I’ll cancel Tommy after all. I’m not really in the mood for tennis.
I’m sitting next to Curly, willing the Morning Meeting to end. Eventually the screen recedes and the Supervisor twists up the corners of her mouth in a poor imitation of a smile.
‘Now, some good news,’ she says, trying to sound light and enthusiastic. It doesn’t suit her. ‘Another one of you has been chosen as an Apprentice. Tomorrow they will travel to the Research City to help their Mentor with the crucial work of cleansing the Wilderness. Praise the Creator.’
‘Praise the Creator,’ we all mumble back, but no one’s putting any effort into it. We’re all too busy scanning the room, seven hundred heartbeats stopped in anticipation.
Who is it? Who’s been chosen?
‘Will F3526 please approach the stage.’
It takes a second to register who she’s talking about. The Creator assigns us our numbers. To deviate from them is heresy even though nearly everyone apart from the Supervisor and the Guardians does it.
My heart stops as Curly shoots me a quick look of astonishment and then stands up and starts to edge forward through a sea of applause. Curly. Curly. ‘No, no, NO!’ I inwardly scream. I know I should be happy for her, rejoicing too, but all I can think is, Please don’t take my friend. Not yet. I’m going to miss her too much. I know I’m being selfish and I should ask the Creator for forgiveness, but still; it’s Curly. And she’s been my best friend, my only proper friend, since, well, since forever.
I don’t know why it comes as such a surprise. I always knew she’d be one of the first of our year to be chosen. She’s off-the-scale clever, mastering Further Maths and Physics while the rest of us were still groping around with Newton and his apple. And she’s beautiful. Stunning, even. She has this flawless, dark-brown skin and black curls that just sort of tumble around her face. And when she moves, she kind of glides. All the boys just stare at her. The Guardians too. Ever since she turned fourteen.
The younger ones clap with barely contained excitement. Eligibility for selection starts at sixteen, so to be chosen at seventeen is an incredible honour and it gives them hope that it could be them soon. It’s different with the older ones. The ones in their late twenties. If they aren’t chosen by thirty they’ll be transferred to a different Home. Their applause is mechanical and jealousy palpably radiates off them. If you could see them on a different plane, their eyes would be leaping out at you, shining the brightest green. Me, I just taste bile rising at the back of my throat.
Eventually Curly reaches the foot of the stage and then climbs the steps to stand at the Supervisor’s side.
‘Congratulations F3526, you’ve been selected as the next Apprentice. You are to report to the office tomorrow morning at seven. I hope the rest of you take inspiration from her deportment, intelligence and dedication.’
The Supervisor doesn’t hug Curly, or even smile at her in any way. She just watches her face – no doubt for evidence of the required level of gratitude.
‘Thank you. Praise the Creator,’ Curly replies, her voice measured and lyrical as she gives the obligatory response. But she isn’t OK. I know she isn’t. Even before she trips on the last step as she descends from the stage.
About The Author:
Sarah Govett graduated with a First in Law from Oxford University. After qualifying as a solicitor, she set up her own tutoring agency, which specialises in working with teenagers. She began writing after the birth of her first daughter. Sarah is an in-demand speaker at schools and has the support of a network of school librarians, independent bookshops and numerous Waterstones stores.