Broken Pieces

The House by Sebastiana Randone #Fantasy #Historical #Fiction

ONCE UPON OUR time, there existed an abundant, sagacious old wood, where misshapen time gambolled capriciously within the hidden furrows of memory.
In the distance of this abundant wood roamed a young woman, whose disheveled state painted a dramatic image of distress.  For the torn black silky night gown that hung precariously on her slight frame, told immediately, that this excursion was not deliberate in nature.
As she continued on a pathway, that to a willing visitor would have delighted, her confusion was made evident by erratic movement. With dark probing eyes darting to and fro upon the foreign landscape, she held onto her arms tightly as coarse scrub scratched against her weary body.
A plethora of wispy ferns surrounded the path, the gossamer foliage of which glistened through cylindrical shafts of light. But with shadows in pursuit, the busy wood sang in a cacophony of scurrying birds, warning of night’s entrance. Gazing up, she saw a remote and distant sky, the blue horizon so unfathomable, that it could have been a faraway sea.
Thus resignedly, with legs heavily fatigued, she sallied forth, like a somnambulist along an unchartered route. With only time, illusive as the mist of a fleeting lover, by her side.
From afar, suddenly a figure appeared. The desire for illumination prompted the desperate woman to cry out, but her voice would not travel. Again she tried and again, but to no avail. It was as if she was trapped within a nightmare, where fear itself had intervened and stymied all chance for salvation.
Jumping up and down, frantically waving her arms about, she attempted to attract the young man’s attention, only to fail, for he continued in the opposite direction. While a mass of thorny, impenetrable scrub prevented her from following him. So helpless she remained, observing the surreal character drift along.
Appareled in historical costume from a period long gone, and resembling a character from a Georgian novel, he wore a bright burgundy velvet coat, the colour of which was intensified by a contrasting pearly satin brocaded waistcoat. With a cravat wrapped up to the chin, tight cream britches, and black riding boots, he radiated a physical beauty that defied gender. Tall and svelte, his fair long hair framed eyes that emulated a clear blue sky.
But completely oblivious to her pleas, he continued on, with his concentrated focus, much to the desperate woman’s chagrin, looking forward.
Shaking her head in silent despair, breathlessly she watched on, as the ethereal figure floated further, and further away, until disappearing completely into the arcane forest.

The House is an adult fairy tale rich in mystery and intrigue.
Here is a tale of a woman so absorbed with historical novels that her own reality ceases to offer any hope of romance and beauty.
Until one day this dreamy idealist finds herself in a mysterious forest. How she arrived there is unknown. Soon she encounters a dilapidated house, within whose ancient walls magical rooms that transport to parallel worlds lie in wait.  There she is transmigrated to 18th century England, where our heroine interacts with an odd mix of characters whose dysfunctional lives become immediately apparent.
Her first tribulation involves a nefarious lord, an archetype of the monstrous characters one encounters in fairy tales. The ramification from this confrontation sets the tone for the narrative.
A magic portal finally enables escape from the austere Georgian dwelling. She is then spirited back to the enigmatic house, and a journey to Regency London follows, where a large cast of eccentric identities present themselves.
Late one night, following a long stay in Florence, a young, heart-broken poet arrives. His introduction to the beautiful time traveller offers promise of restoration and love. But there are several more obstacles ahead before her destiny in this curious adventure is made apparent.
In the end an unexpected twist is revealed. But like all good fairy tales, this surprising conclusion is pleasing, even though the means of getting there are dark, and at times sinister.
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Genre - Historical, Fantasy, Romance
Rating - PG-16
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Night's Favour by Richard Parry #Thriller #Fantasy #AmReading

The van stuck out of the wall of Elephant Blues as if it had been thrown there, the skid marks of the tyres showing where it had veered before jumping the curb.  One door on the back was missing — they still hadn’t found it — and the other hung loose on a single hinge, its handle missing.  The laminated glass of its single window lay in a spider-webbed sheet on the pavement, a hole torn through the middle.
A hand sat beside it, the pool of blood being diluted in the rain.  It was a left hand, but no wedding ring — strong fingers, definitely a man’s.  It lay palm up, fingers curled like a dead insect.  The fingernails were carefully trimmed and surprisingly clean, as if the guy had managed a manicure just before having it torn off.  At least — it looked torn; not cut, not sawn, but torn.  The bones of the arm stuck out from the stump, the stark white ends free of other tissue.  Big floodlights kicked back the night, the fingers of the hand stretching tall shadows along the sidewalk.  They hadn’t found the rest of the body — not out here.
It might be in the pile inside.
“Think he punched through the glass?  Maybe got out?  Lost his hand that way?”  Elliot chewed on the end of his pen.
“Nah.”  Carlisle shuffled her feet through the puddles on the wet sidewalk, trying to get the bottom of her soles clean.  She was getting rained on, and her pants were starting to stick to her.  Well, more than they already were — Carlisle glanced at her red-stained knee and clamped down on the shudder.  She should have kept her overcoat on, but inside the heat had made her want to retch, the memory of the slaughterhouse reek still with her.  Carlisle tried to loosen her pants, but they were plastered on — God damn. “Knuckles are fine, and that’s safety glass.  No cuts on the wrist, not that I can see.  Almost looks chewed.  We’ve got to find the arm…  Jesus, Vince.  There’s so many people in there.”  Rain was running down the back of her collar.  “And they’re all dead.  How’re we getting on with a witness check?”
“No one saw shit.  I swear the only way we’d have less witnesses is if this was a Foundation for the Blind annual meet.  Connolly and Malloney are in there too.  Somewhere.  They were good guys.  Fuck’s sake.”  Elliot offered his umbrella to Carlisle.  “You’re going to die of hypothermia.  Take the umbrella.”
It was pink, with Hello Kitty motifs in the fabric, a cheap white handle at the bottom.  Carlisle snorted.  “Where’d you get that thing?”
Elliot tilted it, looking at it as if for the first time.  “You know, I really can’t remember.  It might have been the evidence locker.”  He shrugged.  “I’m not buying an umbrella.  Too damn windy around here.  I’ll call their families.”
“Management thinking, buddy.  Keep it, it’s more your colour.  Leave the calls to me.  I knew Connolly, a little.”  Carlisle looked inside the van, taking in the straps tethered to one side.  There was some kind of harness, big enough for a man, but it was hard to tell with it all shredded like that.  “I’d bet you your next night shift that those straps are nylon.”  She reached into a pocket, rescuing a stick of gum.  Chewing, she stepped up into the van, wiping her wet blonde — and just a little grey, right? — hair away from her face.  She used the end of a pen to poke through the remains of the harness.  Definitely torn — the frayed ends of the nylon hanging down from the steel wall, which had been pulled in slightly with whatever force had torn the straps.  A bench seat was opposite the harness.
She took in the bullet holes on the wall with the harness.  She’d noticed them before, but just how many hadn’t sunk in.  Lots of them — a quick eyeball said twenty or thirty rounds had been unloaded in here.  Someone on the bench seat had fired into the opposite wall, probably into whoever was in that harness.  Blood was smeared down the steel wall, with a small puddle on the ground.  Not a lot — not enough for a guy with a bunch of shells in him.  Casings lay on the floor of the van, the bright of the brass distinct against the carpet.  Two machine pistols shared space with them.  No damn bodies though.
They were all inside.
“You need…  Just come here.”  The tone of Elliot’s voice brought her out of the van in a rush, almost turning her ankle in the rain.  She just missed — shit — the severed hand, nearly stumbling head first into the street.  Elliot was looking up — above the van, the blood running down its white paint stark even at night.  Carlisle followed his gaze to above the overhang of the Elephant Blues.  A bronze elephant about the size of a small car sat on top, trunk proudly raised to the sky, one foot lifted.  Elliot was staring at the elephant.
A body had been impaled on the trunk, easy to miss in the darkness.  No head.  Carlisle recovered first.  “Different guy.”
“What?”  Elliot was a heartbeat behind, still shaken.
“Body’s still got both hands.  Just no head.  Closest thing to a full corpse I’ve seen all night.”  The ragged ends of tissue, tendons, and the spine stuck out from the torso of the corpse.  Blood was being washed down from the body onto the awning, onto the van, and into the street.  “I hope Forensics did their thing out here.  Our evidence is being rinsed away.”
Elliot shrugged, just a little.  “They got worse problems.  Not one of them is going to see their wife for a week, the amount of reassembly needed in there.”
“Probably won’t see lunch for a week, either.”  No way you could have pastrami on rye after spending time in the Blues this evening.  Nodding to herself, Carlisle walked over to the squad car.  It had mounted the curb, nosing up behind the van, but back ten or fifteen feet.  Both doors were still open, lights on, but no siren.  It wasn’t that the car had done the chase running silent; the siren was missing, the ends of wires sticking out next to where it had been mounted.  The trunk was open, the shotgun missing — the officers had probably left the car in a hurry, but the lack of bullet holes in the car suggested it hadn’t been under fire.  The patrol unit had made the call in for support a half hour ago; it’d been Connolly on the radio, panic in his voice.  A car chase in the centre of the city, with shots fired, real gangster stuff.  No idea on number of people involved, no idea who was shooting, no idea why.  Just shots fired — in pursuit — and then silence.  They’d tracked the car by the GPS in it, finding it here at Elephant Blues.  The engine was still running.
It made no sense.  A half hour was a long time.  Long enough for two good cops to die.  Not long enough for their bodies to be cold.  If they could confirm which bodies — which parts — were theirs.
The first evidence that Connolly and Malloney had made an armed response came at the entrance to the bar.  Two spent casings were on the ground alongside broken glass and wood splinters.  The officers had gone in for a lethal response.  They’d gone into the bar, to be lost in the chaos of whatever had gone down in the Elephant Blues.
Carlisle looked over at Elliot, who was still looking up at the body on the elephant.  “Look, stop fucking around over there.  Have you found the CCTV system?”
“I found where it was.  You know the bar?”
“Sure.  I stepped over twenty smashed bottles of spirits.  My socks smell of Midori.”
“That’s not what your socks smell of.  But — look.  You know it’s crazy in there, right?  Tables, chairs thrown around.  Looks like some kind of Chuck Norris fight remake.”
“Silent Rage.”  Carlisle swallowed as something hysterical tried to bubble through.  She hadn’t seen that movie in years.
“Silent Rage.  That’s the movie with the bar fight.  Dan — I mean Norris — was in the bar…”  Carlisle trailed off.  “Whatever.  What about it?”
“Right.”  Elliot gestured into the bar.  “One of the tables was thrown right through the bar.  Sort of unlucky.  It went through the DVR.”
“You’re shitting me.  Sort of unlucky?  Through it?  A thousand places the table could have gone —”
“Be fair, sister.  The tables did go a thousand places.  One of them was through the DVR.”
“You’re telling me we’ve got the bloodbath of the century in there, like someone’s syphoning the local abattoir through the sprinkler system, and we’ve got no footage?”
Elliot looked at his feet.  “Yeah.”
“Fuck.”  Carlisle remembered her first steps down into the Blues that evening, seeing the tables knocked over, chairs thrown around.  Blood, bits of tissue — there, someone’s blood-drenched scarf — were everywhere inside the bar.  The shelf that held spirits was shattered, the remains of Midori and Galliano and fifty other types of bottled joy mingling with the sea of blood on the ground.  Carlisle’s non-skid shoe covers had slipped anyway, and she’d fallen heavily on one knee in the gore.  The hand she’d thrown out to steady herself had come back sticky with blood, the latex covering red and tacky.  It was the first time she’d thrown up at crime scene in years.
She shook herself out of the memory.  So her expensive suit would need dry-cleaning; that was just part of the job.  “We might need to wait on Forensics then.”
Elliot nodded, pulling his jacket tighter over the belly middle age and too much time behind a desk had given him.  “Hell of a night.”
“Yeah.”  Carlisle absently wiped water off her face.  “Hell of a night.”

Valentine’s an ordinary guy with ordinary problems. His boss is an asshole. He’s an alcoholic. And he’s getting that middle age spread just a bit too early. One night — the one night he can’t remember — changes everything. What happened at the popular downtown bar, The Elephant Blues? Why is Biomne, the largest pharmaceutical company in the world, so interested in him — and the virus he carries? How is he getting stronger, faster, and more fit? And what’s the connection between Valentine and the criminally insane Russian, Volk?
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Genre – Action, Thriller, Urban Fantasy
Rating – R16
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@Ted_Tayler on Pottering in the Garden & Relaxing #ShortStory #AmReading

How did you come up with the title of this book?
Each of the short stories is about a different subject but each has a twist towards the end, some even have a double twist to keep the reader guessing until the last page. I decided on ‘A Sting In The Tale’ because I wanted a front cover image that would grab a potential reader’s attention and the scorpion seemed the obvious choice!
Who designed the cover?
I found Melissa G Alvarez at when I was looking for a front cover image for ‘The Final Straw’. She delivers excellent product at competitive prices and I’m not moving anywhere else for a cover image design anytime soon.
How do you work through self doubts and fear?
When I was a musician I learned very early on that no matter how hard you try, no matter how good you are at what you do, there will always be some people that dislike what you’re playing. If you’re lucky then there will be a lot of people that do like you and stay with you on your journey.
I never doubted myself or had a fear of failure because I knew that I had given it everything. I see no reason to think about my writing any differently. I know some people will hate what I write and that it’s entirely probable that I’ll never be wildly successful. Why worry? It’s the best I can do and that’s enough for me; if only a few readers come on this new journey with me then it will be worthwhile.
What motivates you to write?
These days it’s not what but who! Since my wife Lynne retired she keeps reminding me that work needs to be done. Ten minutes after she finished proof reading my second novel she was asking when I was starting the next one! Actually, I am looking forward to the next book, because I’ll find out what happens to the characters who survived the last one! I can’t wait to find out.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
Most of what I write about is all too real; broken homes, gang warfare; sexual assault and exploitation; drugs; murder. Sadly I get my inspiration from watching the news on television and from the newspapers. Life in these troubled times is my inspiration.
Is your family supportive?
My family are 100% behind me. There’s no way I could have got as far as this without their encouragement and belief.
What does success in writing look like to you?
A friend of one of my daughters read ‘The Final Straw’ and wrote to me; she said it was the best book she had ever read. She had left school seventeen years before and had read nothing since. Now that’s what I call a success! If something I write can give someone back the love of reading that they had lost then would a ‘best seller’ selling 15000 books to people who read all the time be any more satisfying?
When you aren’t writing how do you like to relax?
I like to watch sport; I love to read a good crime thriller. I enjoy times with the family whether it’s just Lynne and I pottering about in the garden or with the children and the grandchildren. I like to listen to music; I prefer a live band to recorded material; it takes me too long to decide what to listen to – CD, cassette or vinyl!
What’s your favourite meal?
There are so many things to choose from these days! When we were growing up my mother had rationing and a lack of money to contend with yet we always ate well. We had meat and vegetables cooked without any fancy trimmings; I didn’t taste an Indian or Chinese meal until I was in my twenties. French and Italian cuisine was a mystery until I was in my thirties. Now I’ve sampled food from all over the world. I can’t pick one meal over another I’m afraid.
What is your least favourite quality about yourself?
I don’t suffer fools gladly and I can be a little too quick in letting people know it; I try to bite my tongue but a caustic comment slips out every now and then.
A collection of twelve short stories with an unexpected twist at the end. There are love stories, ghost stories and tales of revenge, all sprinkled with a touch of humour. In fact there’s something for everyone, young or old. There are characters and situations you will readily recognise, but will you identify ‘the sting in the tale’ before you turn the final page?
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Genre - Short Story Collection
Rating – PG
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Rising Tide: Dark Innocence (Maura DeLuca Trilogy) by Claudette Melanson #PNR #AmReading

I’d never been close enough to him before to really see him.

“Hey, aren’t you Maura?”

*Huh?*  How did he know who the heck a nobody junior like me was?  Or did my freak status make me far more noticeable than I realized.  I started to feel sick to my stomach.  I realized I was staring at him dumbfounded, mouth hanging open.

“How do you know my name?”  I asked weakly.

He actually blushed and brought a hand up to nervously brush the soft wisps out of his eyes.  “Oh, I’ve just seen you around.  You really made a mess of me didn’t you?”  He laughed and it was the warmest sound.

I opened my mouth wider, horrified.  “I wasn’t watching where I was going.  I’m really sorry about your shirt!”

He put his hand on my shoulder, “Don’t worry, it’s just a shirt.  No harm, no foul.  I can just get my t-shirt out of my gym locker and put it on.”  He winked at me then.  “I’ll forgive you, but only if you promise not to give it another thought, okay?”

“Okay,” I promised.  His smile and that light in his earthy eyes were leaving me completely shell-shocked.

Much to my surprise, he turned his head to look at Wendy, who was still barking loudly with amusement.  He rolled his eyes and picked up the bit of brownie on my tray and quickly whipped it at her.  The chocolate collided with her straight brunette hair, then fell to the floor in pieces.  “I can’t stand that girl,” he muttered.

It was my turn to laugh.  She looked so startled I really couldn’t help it.  Wendy was now picking out crumbs and glaring at both of us.  “Ronnie Stine, I swear I’ll get you back for this!”

He was obviously unconcerned by this, ignoring her threat and turning his back to her.  He was just a few inches taller than me, but enough I had to glance up a bit to find those glorious eyes of his.  He must have been about six feet to my five foot nine.




Rising Tide will sink it's teeth into you, keeping you awake into the wee hours of the night
Maura's life just can't get any worse...or can it?

Isolated and sheltered by her lonely mother, Maura's never been the best at making friends. Unusually pale with a disease-like aversion to the sun, she seems to drive her classmates away, but why?
Even her own father deserted her, and her mother, before Maura was born. Bizarre physical changes her mother seems hell bent on ignoring, drive Maura to fear for her own life. And her luck just seems to get worse.

Life is about to become even more bewildering when her mother's abrupt...and unexplained...decision to move a country away sets off a chain of events that will change Maura forever. A cruel prank turned deadly, the discovery of love and friendship....and its loss, as well as a web of her own mother's lies, become obstacles in Maura's desperate search for a truth she was never prepared to uncover.

Featured on one of the most popular health blogs on the internet as a giveaway!
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Genre – YA Paranormal Romance
Rating – PG
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#Excerpt from HIGH MAGA by Karin Rita Gastreich @EolynChronicles #AmReading #Fantasy

Lord Mechnes set his hard gaze upon Adiana. “And who are you?”
“My name is Adiana.”
“You are Maga Eolyn’s scullery maid?”
She swallowed, bit her lip. Adiana had learned how to lie during her youth in Selkynsen, after her parents were killed and she fled to the piers. Lies must be presented on a bed of truth, or they lose their seductive power. “No, I am not a servant. I am a musician from Selkynsen. Maga Eolyn brought me to Moehn to teach music to her students.”
“Music?” A smirk broke upon the commander’s face. He seemed genuinely surprised. “What interest do magas have in music?”
She searched for her breath. “Music is also magic, according to the traditions of Moisehén. It’s a form of Primitive Magic, the oldest and most sacred of all. Magas and mages use music in their ceremonies, their spells, sometimes even in their healing.”
“So you are a maga?”
“No, I’m not a maga.” The thought came, terrible and unbidden, that now she would never be. “I simply play music.”
“Then she was trying to protect you by saying you were a scullery maid? How curious.” He draped one end of the bloodied cloth over the woman’s disfigured face. “I can assure you a musician will find a much better place among the Syrnte than a scullery maid.”
“I don’t intend to find a place among the Syrnte.” Her breath stalled under the look he gave her, a strange mixture of amusement and menace. “What I mean is, my home is here, in Moisehén, not with the Syrnte.”
“It’s all one kingdom now. Or perhaps better stated, will be soon.” He nodded to the guards. “Unbind this woman.”
In an instant, the cords that secured her wrists were removed. Adiana cradled her hands against her breast, rubbing the places where the leather straps had left her skin raw.
Mechnes closed the distance between them in two strides.
“You will have to find a place among us, Adiana, or you will perish. That is the way of conquest.” He took her hands in his and studied them carefully, strong fingers tracing the fine delicate length of her own. “What do you play?”
Adiana’s skin crawled at the intimacy of his touch. His aroma was sharp, like coals on the hearth, and laced with the smell of blood. She wanted desperately to look elsewhere, but could not. Mechnes’s massive frame filled her vision; his presence, at once sinister and magnetic, demanded all her attention.
“The cornamuse.” Her voice had dropped to a nervous whisper. “The dulcimer, and the lute, the short wood, as well. Among others.”
He pressed her hands between his. Adiana was visited by the sudden image of him snapping her fingers one by one, as if they were nothing more than dry twigs.
“I see you are telling the truth, in this much at least,” he said. “You have beautiful hands, Adiana. We must be grateful they were not damaged during the attack on Maga Eolyn’s Aekelahr. And we must also hope they will come to no harm here, under my care.”
A heavy silence followed. Adiana understood the unspoken threat that hovered between them. Who else would he ask? The children, the survivors of the siege, the members of Lord Felton’s household, if any of them still lived. What would Adiana’s deception gain for Eolyn in the end—fifteen minutes? Half an hour? It did not matter. Every additional moment could mean the difference between Eolyn’s escape and her death. Adiana had already lost one friend tonight. She would not betray the other.
She lowered her eyes and held her tongue.

Lands Ravaged. Dreams destroyed. Demons set loose upon the earth.
War strikes at the heart of women’s magic in Moisehén. Eolyn’s fledgling community of magas is destroyed; its members killed, captured or scattered.
Devastated yet undaunted, Eolyn seeks to escape the occupied province and deliver to King Akmael a weapon that might secure their victory. But even a High Maga cannot survive this enemy alone. Aided by the enigmatic Mage Corey, Eolyn battles the darkest forces of the Underworld, only to discover she is a mere path to the magic that most ignites their hunger.
What can stop this tide of terror and vengeance? The answer lies in Eolyn’s forgotten love, and in its power to engender seeds of renewed hope.
HIGH MAGA is the companion novel to EOLYN, also available from Hadley Rille Books.
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Genre – Epic Fantasy
Rating – PG-13
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