Regeneration X by Ellison Blackburn | Blog Tour and Giveaway

If Charlotte Rhys Fenn could do it all over, knowing what she knows now, she would be different.

Charley leads a comfortable life with her best friend and perfect match, Michael, a man with whom she shares two lovely pet children (canine and feline), and a home in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. She’s fortunate to have a caring and supportive family, and two amazing friends, Inez and Becks. Professionally, she holds a secure position as editor of a respected healthcare magazine. Her life is settled, as is her future.
Acquiring this existence of hers hadn’t been easy. For at least twenty years she felt like a wind-up toy, methodically following preprogrammed rules—step one … step two. She even imagined herself as a minuscule, but essential, cog inside a big machine with the mechanical brain. No matter what she tells herself, it hasn’t helped since another thought flutters through her mind as frequently: Going through the motions is the same as coasting toward nothingness.
It is 2025, the time is right. Technology, in a rapidly advancing world, makes it possible to reimagine the future by recreating the past or, more aptly, by creating another past.
Charley must either embrace her well-earned, sedate lifestyle, or invite a change that could alter her future irreversibly. It’s a difficult decision, one that could destroy all she has endeavored for, turning their life not only upside down, but backwards, forwards, and inside out.


 
 
Ellison Blackburn is a
full-time designer/web developer of fifteen years. Ironically, she often waxes
nostalgic over simpler days. Her passions include writing fiction and poetry,
painting, and collecting vintage thingamabobs.




Raised in
Chicago, she relocated to the Pacific Northwest where she currently lives with
her husband and three beastly, furry children.




She is a
writer of fiction and poetry and the internationally published author of
Regeneration X.
 
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In 2028, we, Charlotte Avery’s sponsors, asked her to publish her experiences as a Generation Xer. Collectively, we hope this perspective provides guidance by way of an empathetic viewpoint and helps others who may be struggling with their lives in a modern age. The time we live in may seem rather impersonal and we want you to know, you are not alone.

And while we all look to others for support, it is ourselves who we rely on the most. In this story, writing is the avenue by which Charlotte organizes her thoughts and addresses an ever-present listener, herself. Below you will find one of many journal entries, which offer valuable insights into Charlotte’s personal turmoil, and it may help you.

December 31, 2024

Dear Journal,

What am I now but a habitually prosaic, rather stiff person who spends too much time in the virtual realms of language without expression? Don’t answer that.

I’m glad the few friends I have politely ignore how ordinary I am.

It wouldn’t be so bad if I had a career, perhaps more creative, which didn’t bleed so heavily into my life or I worked in an office with at least minimal social interaction. I could use the practice. The fact is, my constant daily companion is the machine grinding away in my head and its mirror image, the one behind my monitor (and its babies—the devices).

I truly believe children are innately happy and profoundly creative the moment they are born; at least ten minutes post birth anyway—after the crust is removed from their eyes and a smack on their bottoms awakens them to their new reality. Suddenly they see what they have never seen before. Anything is possible. Every experience is wondrous. Each touch, smell, sound and sight, innocent. In essence, they are the creators of a new world. Even into their adolescent years, these conjurers imagine monsters and fairies alike; believe in mystical creatures and super powers; have faith in everyone and everything; even though none of the ‘beings’ are visible or characteristics, tangible.

It is over the course of more cognitive years when these impressionable minds are taught—rationality and disbelief are synonymous. Sooner or later all of the conditioning we bombard each young person with molds his or her once beautiful, imaginative, and admirable mind (and heart) into a living robot who conforms to the norms of our society.

Believing this, I ask myself, “How did I end up here? Did I ever have control over my life?”

Well … up until 17, I was clueless; busy being young and growing up; nothing wrong with that. Actually, at least I have that, those were the good times. People call it innocence because there is so much newness to experience. In hindsight, I’d rather call it obliviousness since we are unaware of the freedom we’ve been granted for this short period of time. Anyway, all along, of course, I was taught morals and how to be a good person in general; absolutely nothing questionable in fundamental values either. It makes complete sense. We live in a society and it’s so much better when we all get along. In this way, the mechanizations are condonable.

Then, enter the experimental college years, where all the big rules are set and life-changing decisions are made. You can change your mind a few times trying to find your niche. It’s okay, but in the end you must curb your creativity and choose the one path which will define your entire future. I think we’re all supposed to be thankful for the boundaries. So, like a good robot, I followed the program and emerged optimistic, ready to be a contributing member to society. “Yay! I can decorate my place the way I want and bonus! I get to work to buy stuff and pay bills.”

By the time I was 35 it was too late, so I was conditioned to believe, to turn back and do something driven less by necessity than personal passion. It wouldn’t have helped anyway, I still didn’t have ‘one’ goal I wanted personally, I only knew what I needed to carry on. I was already formed.

When my forties rolled around, I was an editor of a well-circulated magazine and had just started working remotely. Conclusively, this is where my personality exited and hermit-dom entered. I have been this uninspired person ever since.

And so you see, I’ve been turning right at every bend since I was 17, the path of least resistance. It’s my own fault for being oblivious, right? I wonder, what would have happened if I’d taken a turn with my own force, skidded and slammed into the future from the opposite side. But I still wonder, how many outcomes are possible for one person when they play the game by destiny’s rules anyway?

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The Cloak by Sarah Jennings | Grand Book Blitz and Giveaway – $25 Amazon Gift Card and more prizes!

A themed tour through Prism Book Tours.

We’re blitzing the Grand Finale for THE CELTIC TOUR for
The Cloak
By Sarah Jennings

Did you miss any of the tour? If so, go back and check it out now:

Launch

What do you hope readers take with them when they read your book?

Of course, I hope they want to hear more stories, but as for a takeaway it’s my desire that readers are able to connect with Kellan and close the book feeling encouraged.

My Love for Reading Keeps Growing – Excerpt

Later that evening, with everyone’s attention on the dying king, Kellan managed to sneak out of her room. Her objective was to find Osma and Master Hewitt and get out before anyone reported her missing. The place was just huge, and she didn’t know where to start.

I Am A Reader – The Deer’s Cry

The McKensie family in The Cloak is depicted as being Spirit-filled. It’s a regular part of their lives, as it was for many in the early church and as it still is for many today. While that specific teaching can quickly become a hot button topic, it truly serves no good purpose to condemn anyone on either side of the fence. Instead, we can most likely all agree to this excerpt from “The Deer’s Cry”, also known as “St. Patrick’s Breastplate”:

Mythical Books – Céad Míle Fáilte: A Hundred Thousand Welcomes

Welcome to Errigal! What would a Celtic themed setting be without green hills and a castle? Featured on the cover of The Cloak is Lismore Castle, a beautiful structure in the town of Lismore in County Waterford, Ireland.

Classy Cat Books – Excerpt

Five months flew by in Paris. Kellan didn’t go home for Christmas or to celebrate the new year, choosing instead to immerse herself in the surrounding local festivities. Although she corresponded frequently with Osma and the teacher, writing only of her job and ignoring their attempts at engaging her in conversation about Errigal, she refused to return to the castle and made up all kinds of excuses to back it up.

Mary Terrani – Excerpt

Arriving at the castle, she stepped through the great wooden doors and immediately yanked the cloak off, exposing the blue jeans and black T-shirt she had changed into on the plane, a definite rebellious act to defy Errigal’s traditional dress and thereby match her frame of mind.

My Life Loves and Passion – Review

This was a great book. Kellan is a very amazing main character. . . . Kellan steps up and takes on a responsibility that she doesn’t want. It is a book that young women need to read. Kellan is such a good role model.

Katie’s Clean Book Collection – Excerpt

The fencing instructor was very amused and surprised the king was acting this way toward a lady. What is he thinking trying to enlist a woman into a sword fight? Look at her. She was wearing a blue, fitted bodice gown that reached all the way to the floor. Her dark hair was up in pearled pins, and ringlet curls fell down the nape of her neck. Attending a tea party would be more appropriate.

Zerina Blossom’s Books – Interview & Review

What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?

The most fulfilling part for me is when Kellan comes home for the last time. I feel good knowing she is finally going to have the happiness she deserves.

“Overall, The Cloak is a sweet clean romance with some interesting twists and good character growth.”

Welcome to Book City – Irish Chocolate Mint Brownies

The next morning Osma tried again, bringing a tray filled with an incredible array of pastries and fruits, beings sure to include some of Kellan’s favorite food that she rarely received growing up, chocolate covered anything.

Christy’s Cozy Corners – Excerpt

Turning around, Ian went to reach out for Kellan’s hand, but she wasn’t there. A feeling of panic overcame him.Where is she? And where are those new bodyguards of hers? He turned back to the crowd to see their uplifted faces staring back at him. They had been hanging on every word, and the silence was immense.

Letters from Annie (Douglass) Lima – Visit Errigal with Sarah Jennings

Brief description of the world or location you created for this story:

In The Cloak, characters are essentially living in the past while also living in the present. Walk past Errigal’s borders and the modern world exists in every manner. Stay within, and a society steeped in Medieval traditions and methods still exists. The landscape is characteristic of Ireland with green, rolling hills, villages and marketplaces dotting the countryside, and hot, soothing mineral springs.

Once Upon a YA Book – Meet the Characters

Kellan – Princess and Daughter of the late Princess Seanna McKensie and late Duke Barend. Kellan is the true heiress to the throne of Errigal, if she can be convinced to take her place. Beautiful, wise, and very skilled with a broadsword, she exudes leadership when on listening terms with God. Kellan’s propensity to be headstrong, combined with hidden self-doubt, often lands her in troublesome situations.

Mel’s Shelves – Review

This is a quick read with a good message about prayer and the importance of relying on God. It also shows the difference one person can make when they’re willing to step into the role they were born to fill.

Books and Ashes – Review

If you’re looking for a different kind of fantasy, or want something fantasy-esque but not too heavy then this would be a good read for you!

Addicted Readers – Excerpt

Kellan stood facing the great stone fireplace. Its dancing flames matched the ones in her eyes. After what seemed like forever, her breathing finally began to slow down. The king had been about to say something to her once he heard the duke ride off, but Master Hewitt had stepped forward and held out his hand to stop him. She needed a moment more to settle down.

Paranormal Books – Interview

How did you come up with The Cloak?

Like many Americans, I have a great appreciation for my Irish ancestry and I love Celtic music. I think those things combined with my predisposition for a strong female lead who overcomes difficulties and weaknesses to do great things led to a story that just played out itself.

Mommabears Book Blog – Excerpt

The fallen warrior staggered up, bowed to the princess, and made his leave. She always felt rotten when they walked away, or in some cases, were carried away. At least now she was done for the day. Directing her eyes away from the departing man, Kellan looked ahead to see another suited contender. What is this? She turned and walked over to the teacher.

Pieces of Whimsey – Excerpt

“What are you mumbling about down there, dear sister,” said Slone, “No one here’s going to answer your call for help…not even your honorable king. Where is old lover boy anyway, huh?” Slone just rambled on.

Fictionally – Excerpt

That night’s sleep was hard to come by. Kellan tossed about with fitful dreams and kept waking up, a few times wet with sweat. It wasn’t nightmares from the war, though she had had plenty of those when she first moved in. It was tranquil scenes from Errigal’s landscape, the faces of Osma and Master Hewitt, and the library walls. Feeling like she was going insane, she finally gave up and got up from bed.

The CloakThe Cloak
Sarah Jennings
Inspirational YA Romantic Suspense
Paperback and ebook, 194 pages
November 2014

Kellan McKensie, Princess of Errigal, is set on leaving for another world before being thrust into a plan of God’s choosing that includes learning of her past, embracing her future, and finding her forever love.

Among a lost line of beautiful, wise queens and a conquered country still clinging to medieval traditions in today’s world, can Kellan be convinced that now is her time to act? Why should she? To the entire country, she doesn’t even exist. Ever the reluctant leader, Kellan is pressured to use her incredible God-given abilities to bring back the glory of her homeland. To do so, she must fight her own will, overcome fears, and control her temper. It’s a lot to ask of a girl hidden under a cloak her whole life.

Amazon

Sarah Jennings is an American storyteller living in the hills of North Carolina with her husband, four children, and escape artist hound dog. Her stories often revolve around strong willed heroines who find their way with God’s help during their adventures and in the process find their soulmate too. The Cloak is one such story now available in print and ebook format.

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Tour-Wide Giveaway

$25 Amazon Gift Card – Open Internationally
Celtic Prize Pack: Paperback of The Cloak and Celtic Music CDs – US Only
2 Paperbacks of The Cloak – US Only
2 ebooks of The Cloak – Open Internationally
Ends March 22nd

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A Chaos Within (Book 2, A Magic Within Series) by Sara V. Zook | Cover Reveal

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Cover Reveal: A Chaos Within, Book 2 of A Magic Within Series
Author: Sara V. Zook
Release Date: April 10, 2015
Genre: YA Paranormal

 

synopsis

Home. What does that word mean to you? To me it means a feeling of comfort, security, feeling like I belong. Home is where I’m by Lydic’s side. It’s been a whole year. I miss him. I miss the danger that follows him. I miss feeling untouchable because of his magic. My own realm is no longer my home. But how can I live with the guilt of vanishing again? It will kill my parents, especially my mom. She just won’t understand. No one will. I can’t tell them about Nimbus. They already think I’m crazy. I have my own psychologist picking and prodding my brain. It doesn’t matter how much they question me. I’ll never tell them about the magic. I find myself wondering about Lydic, how he’s been and what it would be like to see him again—and then I do.

 

 

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A Chaos Within

 

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BOOK 1 A Magic Within is on SALE for 99 cents!!!

BUY NOW by clicking on the cover!!

 

 

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bio

 

Sara V. Zook is a paranormal/fantasy writer. She is the author of the Strange in Skin Trilogy, Clipped, Evanescent: Book 1 in The Sempiternal Series, Reminiscence: Book 2 in The Sempiternal Series, Six Guns, and A Magic Within. She lives in Pennsylvania with her 3 small children and husband.

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Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SaraVZook
Website: http://authorsaravzook.blogspot.com/
Twiiter: @SaraVZook
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6450481.Sara_V_Zook?from_search=true

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‘The Claus’ by Tony Bertauski | Box Set Tour and Giveaway – $25 Amazon Gift Card and ‘The Claus’ Box Set eBook

A themed tour through Prism Book Tours.

It’s the Grand Finale for

The Claus Box Set Tour
By Tony Bertauski

Now you can purchase all three books in the Claus Series together!

AmazonBarnes & Noble

Have you ever wondered if Claus had a family? Who exactly is Jack Frost? How about a living, breathing snowman? Have you ever thought about how it all would work? Let Tony Bertauski’s imagination and fabulous storytelling take you on a journey through a sci-fi winter wonderland! If you missed any of the stops for the tour, you’re welcome to go back and check them out now…

Launch – The Claus Universe

The story of Santa has been told a billion, billion times on the screen and the television, the written page and the digital, in short form and long, in verse and song. He’s been animated and claymated, horrified and glorified. There’s not a single word left unwritten about the jolly old fat man.

Except, maybe, not that I recall, in science fiction…

Mommabears Book Blog – Excerpt from Claus

And in March of 1820, just as the sun had begun to rise from its long winter disappearance, they set out to do what no human – Inuit or otherwise – had done before.

They would touch the North Pole.

The Arctic was stunning.

SBM Book Obsession – Characters from the Claus Universe

Elven

An ancient race that evolved through the Ice Age, the elven are short and fat with generous layers of blubber to tolerate the cold. Their fat feet are large and wide like snowshoes, the soles scaly to slide across ice. Technologically evolved, long-lived and wise, they carve their homes in the North Pole ice and secretly monitor the growth of the human race while living in harmony with their environment.

Mythical Books – Characters from Claus

Nicholas Santa

Born in the late 1700s, Nicholas Santa set out with his wife, Jessica, and son, Jon, to become the first people to journey to the North Pole. However, they discover something much more than snow. Nicholas finds himself in the middle of an elven conflict. And we discover how he becomes the immortal and mythical figure known as Santa Claus. Why does he wear a red coat? Why is he fat? Why does he laugh like that? It all makes sense.

Wishful Endings – Characters from Jack

Janack (Jack)

An elven, son of Jocah and fraternal twin of Claus. Due to a genetic abnormality, he is the only hairless elven in existence. Jack can freeze people, elven and objects with the touch of a finger. He returns to this modern day story through the science of cloning…

Letters from Annie (Douglass) Lima – Excerpt from Jack

Joe leads her into the maze. They run their hands over the flat-topped boxwoods, shuffle over the oyster shell path. The sunken garden is imbued with warmth, the kind that flows through her, melts in her stomach, opens her heart. She smiles, involuntarily, as she couldn’t frown if she tried.

The short, fat woman sits on a square pedestal inside a round pool, water dripping from her frozen hands. Light emanates from the center without a source.

“Who is she?” Sura asks.

“You’ve never heard the Myth of Jocah?”

Beck Valley Books – Characters from Flury

Flury

The snowman that lives on the property. He is rarely seen until Oliver comes to live with Grandmother. The snowman becomes his protector and slowly reveals the family secrets that have been hidden for over a hundred years.

fuonlyknew – Excerpt from Flury

“You have grown.”

She doesn’t let go while looking him over: his hair, the stray whiskers on his chin, the insufficient winter clothing. She stares at the floor. His socks are loose at the ends of his frozen toes, specks of snow clinging to the fabric. Small puddles begin to bead on the polished floor.

“And how old are you?”

“Fifteen.”

My Life Loves and Passion – Review

“These books were awesome. I am not a huge fan of holiday themed books for myself, but these were different. Each book is a very different story about 3 very common winter myths. I loved that these stories were not all candy and rainbows. There was such a good mix of fantasy and holiday spirit.

I started reading and before I knew it hours had passed. It pulls you in and makes you want to keep reading.”

The Book Lovers’ Lounge – Spotlight

Book Babble – Review

“By the end of the book, I couldn’t want to move on to the second one to find out what was going to happen next…

This book really took me on a wild ride. Every time I thought I had something figured out, the plot went in a completely different direction…

There is a great deal of humor in the story, and some really fun dialogue…”

More About the Series

Claus: Legend of the Fat Man

(Claus #1)
by Tony Bertauski
YA Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Holiday
Paperback & ebook, 326 Pages
June 19th 2012

The Christmas story you never heard.

In the early 1800s, Nicholas, Jessica and Jon Santa attempt the first human trek to the North Pole and stumble upon an ancient race of people left over from the Ice Age. They are short, fat and hairy. They slide across the ice on scaly soles and carve their homes in the ice that floats on the Arctic Ocean. The elven are adapted to life in the extreme cold. They are as wise as they are ancient.

Their scientific advancements have yielded great inventions — time-stopping devices and gravitational spheres that build living snowmen and genetically-modified reindeer that leap great distances. They’ve even unlocked the secrets to aging. For 40,000 years, they have lived in peace.

Until now.

An elven known as The Cold One has divided his people. He’s tired of their seclusion and wants to conquer the world. Only one elven stands between The Cold

One and total chaos. He’s white-bearded and red-coated. The Santa family will help him stop The Cold One. They will come to the aid of a legendary elven

known as…Claus.

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Jack: The Tale of Frost
(Claus #2)
by Tony Bertauski
YA Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Holiday
Paperback & ebook, 290 Pages
October 17th 2013

Sura is sixteen years old when she meets Mr. Frost. He’s very short and very fat and he likes his room very, very cold. Some might say inhumanly cold. His first name isn’t Jack, she’s told. And that’s all she needed to know.

Mr. Frost’s love for Christmas is over-the-top and slightly psychotic. And why not? He’s made billions of dollars off the holiday he invented. Or so he claims. Rumor is he’s an elven, but that’s silly. Elven aren’t real. And if they were, they wouldn’t live in South Carolina. They wouldn’t hide in a tower and go to the basement to make…things.

Nonetheless, Sura will work for this odd little recluse. Frost Plantation is where she’ll meet the love of her life. It’s where she’ll finally feel like she belongs somewhere. And it’s where she’ll meet someone fatter, balder and stranger than Mr. Frost. It’s where she’ll meet Jack.

Jack hates Christmas.

AmazonBarnes & Noble

Flury: Journey of a Snowman

(Claus #3)
by Tony Bertauski
YA Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Holiday
Paperback & ebook, 300 Pages
November 15th 2014

Life hasn’t been kind to Oliver Toye.

As if juvenile diabetes isn’t enough, he’s forced to live with his tyrannical grandmother in a snow-bound house. He spends his days doing chores and the nights listening to the forest rumble.

But when he discovers the first leather-bound journal, the family secrets begin to surface. The mystery of his great-grandfather’s voyage to the North Pole is revealed. That’s when the snowman appears.

Magical and mysterious, the snowman will save Oliver more than once. But when the time comes for Oliver to discover the truth, will he have the courage? When Flury needs him, will he have the strength? When believing isn’t enough, will he save the snowman from melting away?

Because sometimes even magic needs a little help.

AmazonBarnes & Noble

About Tony Bertauski

During the day, I’m a horticulturist. While I’ve spent much of my career designing landscapes or diagnosing dying plants, I’ve always been a storyteller. My writing career began with magazine columns, landscape design textbooks, and a gardening column at the Post and Courier (Charleston, SC). However, I’ve always fancied fiction.

My grandpa never graduated high school. He retired from a steel mill in the mid-70s. He was uneducated, but he was a voracious reader. I remember going through his bookshelves of paperback sci-fi novels, smelling musty old paper, pulling Piers Anthony and Isaac Asimov off shelf and promising to bring them back. I was fascinated by robots that could think and act like people. What happened when they died?

I’m a cynical reader. I demand the writer sweep me into his/her story and carry me to the end. I’d rather sail a boat than climb a mountain. That’s the sort of stuff I want to write, not the assigned reading we got in school. I want to create stories that kept you up late.

Having a story unfold inside your head is an experience different than reading. You connect with characters in a deeper, more meaningful way. You feel them, empathize with them, cheer for them and even mourn. The challenge is to get the reader to experience the same thing, even if it’s only a fraction of what the writer feels. Not so easy.

In 2008, I won the South Carolina Fiction Open with Four Letter Words, a short story inspired by my grandfather and Alzheimer’s Disease. My first step as a novelist began when I developed a story to encourage my young son to read. This story became The Socket Greeny Saga. Socket tapped into my lifetime fascination with consciousness and identity, but this character does it from a young adult’s struggle with his place in the world.

After Socket, I thought I was done with fiction. But then the ideas kept coming, and I kept writing. Most of my work investigates the human condition and the meaning of life, but not in ordinary fashion. About half of my work is Young Adult (Socket Greeny, Claus, Foreverland) because it speaks to that age of indecision and the struggle with identity. But I like to venture into adult fiction (Halfskin, Drayton) so I can cuss. Either way, I like to be entertaining.

And I’m a big fan of plot twists.

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Tour Giveaway

$25 Amazon gift card and the Claus Box Set ebook
Open internationally
Ends December 21st

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Playing By The Book by S. Chris Shirley | Blog Tour and Giveaway – Copies of ‘Playing By The Book’

PLAYING BY THE BOOK by S. Chris Shirley
Release Date: June 11, 2014
Hardcover, 302 pages
Publisher: Magnus
Genre: YA / LGBT / Contemporary

When seventeen-year old high school newspaper editor Jake Powell, fresh from Alabama, lands in New York City to attend Columbia University’s prestigious summer journalism program, it’s a dream come true. But his father, a fundamentalist Christian preacher, smells trouble. And his father is rarely wrong.

Jake navigates new and unfamiliar ways “up North.” Starting with his feelings for a handsome Jewish classmate named Sam. What Jake could keep hidden back home is now pushed to the surface in the Big Apple.

 


Standing by his side are a gorgeous brunette with a Park Avenue attitude and the designer bags to match, a high school friend who has watched Jake grow up and isn’t sure she’s ready to let him go, and an outrageously flamboyant aunt whose determined to help Jake finds the courage to accept love and avoid the pain that she has experienced. 


Provocative and moving,
Playing by The Book is a feel-good novel about the pain and joy we encounter in the search for our own truth.

 

Amazon | B&N | IndieBound | Goodreads

Chapter One 
KABAM!

I popped up in my seat, not knowing if we’d landed or gotten shot down.
“I’d like to be the first to welcome you to New York,” the pilot announced.

Some welcome. Sounded more like a warning shot.

I quickly stuffed my New York travel guides in my backpack and capped my highlighter, not believing that I was spending half a summer at the most prestigious high school journalism program in the world. The Columbia University Summer in Journalism program is limited to high school newspaper editors and has an acceptance rate that probably rivals their undergraduate program. As far as I could tell, no kid from Alabama—let alone Tarsus, Alabama (population 7,022)—had ever gone. I still couldn’t believe I got in.

Getting accepted was tough, but the biggest hurdle was winning over The Preacher. I mean, my dad. I first called him “Preacher” when I was five since Momma and everyone else did. At the time, I half expected him to send me to bed early or take away my television privileges, but he smiled real big and halfway nodded, so the name stuck. I tried calling Momma “Anna” around the same time, but that didn’t go over so well.

Anyway, the very day I got my Columbia acceptance letter, Momma and I role-played my conversation with The Preacher so I could perfect my sales pitch. The two major hurdles we had to clear were the price of the program and the fact that it began the very week of our church’s Vacation Bible School. The Preacher thought I was going to be the Vacation Bible School Director this year because, well, I sort of said that I would. But that was before I even knew about the Columbia program.

Sitting at my place at the kitchen table, Momma lowered her voice to play me and I played my dad, even scratching my balls for effect since he’s one of the last great ball scratchers. We continued for a solid hour and put together a winning platform.

To be clear, we didn’t do this all the
time—just for big events, like in third grade when I had a shot at a free German Shepherd puppy and when I recently requested an extension on my eleven o’clock curfew for a school dance. I never got the puppy but I was victorious on the curfew, if you count a one-time thirty-minute curfew extension a victory.
But over dinner that evening, The Preacher cut me off before I even got going good. He said, “Jake, you agreed to lead Vacation Bible School this summer, right? You can’t be at church and Columbia at the same time.”
Momma jumped right in. “But it’s a huge opportunity for him,” she said. 

“Columbia’s—”

“There’s no more important work than the Lord’s work,” The Preacher said, then turned to me. “And how much would this cost, anyway?”
I shuffled my feet. “Five thousand dollars.”

The Preacher glanced at me then did a double take. “Son, we don’t have that kind of money.”

I casually leaned in just as Momma had when we rehearsed this exact scenario earlier. “But I have a few thousand saved—”
“You are not touching your college fund,” he said with a dismissive wave. “You’re going to need it next year.”

“But this is for classes at a college,” I said, holding The Preacher’s gaze. “One of the best colleges in the world.”

“I said ‘no’ and that’s final. Plus, there’s another youth service in July and you’re preaching.”
My chest tightened at the thought of preaching again—my last sermon had been an epic failure and quite possibly the most humiliating experience of my life. “The Columbia program ends a few days before that, but, Dad, I really don’t want to—”

“Jake, you’ve got to get back in the saddle and preach again.” The Preacher looked down at his plate and continued eating.

I kept at him over the ensuing days since my offer to attend was only good for a couple of weeks, but each time the conversation got shorter and the I-said-no-and-that’s-final got louder. Despite his resistance, I couldn’t let it go; my love for journalism was just too deep, having begun not long after I learned to read. In elementary school, I wrote and bound a series of adventure stories about Papaw’s old birddog, and penned new verses for my favorite gospel songs. But when my essay on a student field trip to the local “Jerusalem in Miniature” made the church newsletter, I was hooked on journalism and signed up for the Tarsus Junior High Journal the first day of seventh grade.

Plus, this was more than just a chance to study at one of the top journalism schools in the world, it was the chance to not be a Preacher’s Kid—or PK for short—for a few precious weeks and for the first time in my life. As a PK, I was held to what I called the “Jesus Standard” by everyone in town on absolutely everything I did. Anytime I came up short, they went running to The Preacher. I wouldn’t wish it on anybody.
A few weeks later, on the very evening that my Columbia acceptance was to expire, I began to panic and decided to go for broke. With no real plan in mind, I tiptoed down the hallway just before dinner and peeked through the partially opened door of The Preacher’s study, walls lined with bookcases jam-packed with Biblical texts. It was like he never had a life outside the church, which was pretty accurate since Papaw had been a preacher too, as had my Great Papaw on Mamaw’s side. Of course, they were both Pentecostal, meaning they put a lot of emphasis on the supernatural aspects of Christianity like speaking in tongues (the ability to speak in a language you’ve never studied). As a One-Way Bible minister, The Preacher was more focused on theology and less on theatrics. In fact, his knowledge of the Bible was absolutely staggering.

As I expected, The Preacher was sitting at his big oak desk, peering through his reading glasses at a miniature model of the proposed church complex. He ran his finger along the thick molding just below the roofline.
“Oh, um, is that the latest?” I asked as I stepped into the room.
He jerked his finger away from the model and looked up. “Sure is! Including the balcony, the sanctuary will sit eight hundred.”
“Wow! I bet that’s even bigger than First Methodist!”
He glowed with pride. “It’ll be the largest sanctuary between Montgomery and Mobile.”

“That’s great, Preacher.” I meant it too—my poor dad had spent years trying to get this new sanctuary off the ground and it looked like it was finally going to happen.

I stroked the razor sharp part in my hair, thick and black just like his. That’s about the only feature we share other than our height: at six-foot-two inches, I’m actually an inch taller, but have the Clarke side of the family’s blue eyes, fair skin and cleft that rides up the base of my chin like a baby’s booty—my nickname in grade school was “Bootette” (it wasn’t particularly clever, just annoying). People often complimented my “good looks,” but The Preacher was the showstopper in the family with his dark skin, lumberjack build, and rugged features. Some said he looked like a movie star. He was sort of a fortyish Mel Gibson without all the baggage.
He took off his reading glasses and moved the model aside. “What’s up?”
“Oh, um, Preacher, I want—I need to talk about Columbia.”

The look on his face made it clear he had nothing left to say on the matter. 

“I’m not discussing this again, Jake.”

We just stared at each other. I’d already told him a million times that this Columbia program was just what I needed as the new editor of the Tarsus High School Tattler. It would teach me all the ins and outs of running a newspaper and could even come in handy for the church’s website and monthly newsletter. Plus, being immersed in journalism 24/7 would help me figure out if that was indeed the path I wanted to take in my life. But every time, he always countered with “there’s no more important work than the Lord’s work” or “choosing God’s way and not our own is tough, but separation from God is even worse.” Deep down, I knew that this Columbia program was a thousand times more important than Vacation Bible School, but how could I argue with his godly line of reasoning?
Suddenly, I realized there was another angle—one that might just get through to him.

“Preacher, please hear me out—the day I submitted that Columbia application, I got down on my knees and prayed God would let me get in if He wanted me to go. So it was really, like, a sign when I was accepted. I was putting out the fleece—like Gideon.”

One-Way Bible people often ask God for signs like this. We call it “putting out the fleece” in reference to the Old Testament story of Gideon, who asked God to make a piece of wool on his doorstep dry and the ground around it wet if he should lead Israel to battle against the Midianites. It was just one way we incorporated our faith into our daily lives, and it wasn’t that wacky when you thought about it—wasn’t everyone going through life looking for signs to guide them?

Momma stuck her grayish auburn head through the doorway. She was about the same age Grandmother Clarke had been when her hair began falling out, so Momma didn’t color or even tease her hair like most women her age since there was too much at risk, I guess. “Private party?” she asked.
“Your son thinks God’s sending him to Columbia. I see your sister’s fingerprints all over this. She just wants to get him up to New York City so she can fill his head with her liberal garbage.” The Preacher looked at me like it was time to ‘fess up.

I held my breath, hoping not to give anything away, but my dad practically had a degree in sizing people up. Aunt Phoebe had been the one who told me about the Columbia program, a fact Momma and I agreed The Preacher didn’t need to know. I swallowed hard.
Momma walked in and grabbed the back of one of the two brown leather chairs facing The Preacher’s desk. “She’s actually changed a lot in the last few years,” she said. “Gone back to being a good Episcopalian.”

“What exactly does that mean anymore, Anna? They’re marrying gays now, you know. What’s next—farm animals?”

“Hey,” she said, digging her fingers into the back of the chair. “I was raised Episcopal.”

This was all pretty weird—my parents never got testy with each other, but I was the one area where my father’s spiritual realm and my mother’s domestic realm overlapped. I sensed The Preacher didn’t care for her gourmet dishes like the Swedish meatballs or seven-layer salad, just like I suspected Momma didn’t agree with everything The Preacher said from the pulpit. Each had their sovereign territory, which the other never challenged, or if so, not in front of me.

By now, my dad looked more hurt than angry. This was about more than Vacation Bible School, and we all knew it. To be fair, he had mostly encouraged my journalistic pursuits up until that point, saying that the writing and people skills I developed would come in handy no matter what path I took. Of course, it wasn’t lost on me that writing and people skills are two of the most basic requirements for a preacher.

“I thought you wanted to be a preacher like me and Papaw,” he said. “The church is in your blood, son. I mean, why else would you bother learning Ancient Greek?”

All One-Way Bible ministers study Ancient Greek, the language of the New Testament, at seminary. A few years back, I became obsessed with the language and got The Preacher to tutor me using his old textbooks. Momma was thrilled knowing that it would help me on the SAT since loads of English words have Ancient Greek roots. To be perfectly honest, I studied Ancient Greek so I could personally interpret the more troubling New Testament passages like the ones on sexual immorality, not because I wanted to go into the ministry. But to hear my dad talk, it would be a complete disaster if our family’s long line of preachers ended on his watch. If I’d been born a girl, I’m sure my father would’ve insisted on trying again and again until he had a male heir who could fill the pulpit since women aren’t allowed to be preachers—or deacons for that matter—at One-Way Bible churches.

Sure, I’d thought about becoming a preacher when I was younger—what son doesn’t consider following in his father’s footsteps? But being a preacher meant spending your entire life under a microscope, getting sized up on whether you were living up to the Jesus Standard. It also meant writing a weekly sermon, which was nothing more than an editorial. I love journalism but was recently forced to write my first editorial, just after being elected editor of the Tarsus High School Tattler. When I sat down to write it, my mind just
went blank. In the end, I based my editorial on one of The Preacher’s recent sermons and he helped me put it in my voice. But the fact was that I preferred news. News was truth, and it was time The Preacher heard mine, we’d dodged this issue long enough. 

“Preacher, I—I want to be a journalist.”

“What? Journalism’s dead, son. The Tarsus paper went out of business years ago and you saw that story a few months back about all those people getting laid off at TIME Magazine. I tell you there’s no future in journalism.”

“News isn’t going away, Preacher,” Momma said. “It’s just all going online, isn’t that right, Jake?”
“Yes, ma’am,” I said and grabbed the back of the other brown leather chair.
Momma and I gazed down at the Preacher in solidarity, but he didn’t miss a beat.

“And did you read about those three teenagers who were kidnapped in Harlem last week?” he asked. “They’ll probably never be seen nor heard from again. You don’t want to become some statistic now, do you?”

“No, sir, but, um, Columbia’s in Morningside Heights, not Harlem.”
The Preacher put on his glasses and turned back to the model. “Τ πεπρωμένον φυγεν δύνατον.” Translation: “It is impossible to escape from what is destined.”

A big part of learning Ancient Greek is memorizing sayings from Plato, Aristotle, and Homer. It’s completely dorky but my dad and I spout them to each other for fun, but that particular quote (from Sophocles’ play Oedipus Rex) at that particular moment was like a punch to the stomach. Since junior high, I’d busted my butt learning
every aspect of journalism, from writing leads to conducting effective interviews. This program could really jump-start my journalistic career and my dad just wanted me to accept what he thought was destined? Was I just supposed to follow orders?

Heat rose in my chest so fast that my face stung and for the first time in ages, I raised my voice at The Preacher. “All my friends have a say in what they’re doing this summer, but, once again, I can do anything I want as long as it’s exactly what you tell me to!”

The Preacher raised a finger at me. “Watch your mouth, young man.”
My jaw was trembling, but I wasn’t scared, I was pissed. “Dad, it’s an important summer. Don’t you remember the summer before your senior year?”

The Preacher looked past me, reflecting on something. “Yes, I went to a Pentecostal Youth Camp. It was…” He sank back in his chair and stared up at the ceiling.

Momma and I glanced at each other then back at The Preacher, who was just looking off into space.

I took a deep breath and calmed myself. “‘It was…’” I prompted.
The Preacher sighed, but I couldn’t tell if he was sad or just tired. “It was probably the reason I went into the ministry,” he said. “At least, that’s when I seriously started considering it.” He clucked his tongue. “Let me think about it.”

“Dad, I have to notify Columbia by midnight tonight! If I don’t go, I’ll be defying God. That really scares me.”

The Preacher looked me dead in the face, but I just stared right back. Implying that he was keeping me from doing the Lord’s will was a big accusation in this house, but I was determined to stand my ground for once.

“And what about the five thousand dollar tuition?” he asked.
I shoved my hands in my pocket. “Well, Aunt Phoebe offered—”

“I’ll pay for it,” Momma said.

I turned to her. “What? How?”

“My Honorarium Fund, of course.”

Dad received honorariums when he preached special weeknight revival services at One-Way Bible churches outside our town. Papaw always gave his honorariums to Mamaw, so The Preacher did the same with Momma. I had no idea how much a kitchen renovation cost, but she had begun looking at appliances and countertops, so she had to be close to having enough saved up. Giving me this money would set her back a few years at least, since The Preacher only got about $100 per revival.

“But Momma, that’s for your new kitchen—”

“I can spend it any way I like,” she said, hands on hips. “Henry, I want him to have this opportunity. I’m not going to stand in his way.”
“But Jake has already committed to leading Vacation Bible School this summer,” The Preacher said. “Everyone is depending on him.”
She scrunched up her face like she was at her wits’ end. “Henry, please!”
Momma rarely confronted The Preacher like that, and I wondered what would happen next.

A stillness fell over the room as my dad stared down at his desk and pinched his nose. Had we gotten through to him? He certainly seemed to be weighing the options. Finally, he looked up at me. “I don’t like this. I don’t like it at all. But if this is truly where you think God is leading you, then who am I to stand in His way? You can go to New York on two—”
I was overwhelmed—Momma had just delayed her kitchen renovation by years so I could spend six weeks in New York. Even in the face of this incredible sacrifice, her eyes sparkled. “Momma, I’ll pay you back one day I promise.”

She pulled me close.

“Hear me out!” The Preacher said. “You can go to New York on two conditions. One. We’ll put out the fleece again to see if God wants you to be a preacher or a journalist.”

Could it really be that simple? Certainly, I wanted to do the Lord’s will above everything else. I had been taught to do that my whole life. The Preacher’s favorite line struck me again: Choosing God’s way and not our own is hard, but separation from God is even worse. “Okay. What sign will we ask for?”

The Preacher thought for a moment. “Columbia must give out awards at the end of this program.”

“Yes, sir. Several.”

“Let’s pray you win one of these awards if you’re meant to be a journalist. Otherwise, God wants you to be a minister.”
“Okay—you’re The Preacher,” I said. I’d just have to work like crazy to be sure I won.

“Two. You’ll pursue the path God reveals to you with all your heart, mind, and spirit.”

“Of course.”

“That would mean quitting the school paper your senior year if God points you toward the ministry.”

I froze. Was he serious? I had only just been elected, and the entire staff was now depending on me. “But I made a commitment to be editor—”
He cocked his head at me. “Just like you made a commitment to lead Vacation Bible School.”

Momma frowned and shook her head.
Was I really willing to risk my high school editorship—and my entire journalism career—for a six-week journalism program? But it wasn’t just any journalism program—it was the journalism program, given by the very school that awards the Pulitzer Prizes (the highest journalism awards in the nation). There was no telling what I might learn and the connections I might make. Plus I could see what it was like to not be a PK for once and spend time with Aunt Phoebe, who had a habit of spoiling me rotten.
“Okay,” I said, not having much of a choice.

The Preacher held out his hands for Momma and me to take. The scar on his wrist where he’d fallen on a broken Dr. Pepper bottle as a kid always reminded me of a large translucent spider. His hand swallowed mine whole. People say I have beautiful hands—piano playing hands—but that sounded so fragile and, well, girl-like. I wished I had hands that could palm a basketball or dribble one for that matter.

We bowed our heads in prayer.

“Our Heavenly Father,” The Preacher began, “we come to you this day seeking your guidance for Jake’s life.”
That all happened weeks ago, and I’d been filled with such anticipation ever since that I thought I would burst. Phoebe had overnighted me several New York City guides and, within days, I had dog-eared more pages in them than not. New York was suddenly all I could talk about—I bet everyone in my life was sick of hearing about it except maybe Momma.

But while sitting on the tarmac, waiting for our gate to open up, I was suddenly struck once again by the fact that I had wagered my entire future to get here, including the editorship of The Tattler. I shook my head, trying to erase the memory of my pact with God, but it wouldn’t go away: everything depended on my bringing home a piece of Lucite embossed with the Columbia Crown. Absolutely everything.

 

 

 

 


PLAYING BY THE BOOK is S. Chris Shirley’s first novel, which will be published by Magnus Books on June 11, 2014. 
Chris is an award-winning writer/director and President of the Board of Lambda Literary Foundation.  He directed Roger Kuhn’s music video, What’s Your Name,” which aired nationally in the US and made the annual MTV-Logo Top 10.  He also wrote/directed “Plus,” an award-winning short film that played at film festivals internationally.
He graduated from Auburn University where he served as photo editor of The Auburn Plainsman. He later received a graduate degree from Columbia University and studied filmmaking at New York University.
He was born and raised in Greenville, Alabama and now resides in Manhattan.
Contact him at chris@schrisshirley.com.

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covergifTitle: Keeper of the Innocents

Series: Keeper Witches, #2

Author: Kristy Centeno

Audience: Young Adult

Genre: Paranormal Romance

Formats: E-book and Paperback

Publisher: Limitless Publishing

Cover by: Robin at Wicked by Design

Pages: 276 pages

ASIN: B00LLIPUC8

Date Published: July 8, 2014

 

blurb

Demi Redding has used her powers to vanquish demons for years, but when one shows up next door she will be forced to set both her experience and instincts aside to battle a war that has nothing to do with magic, and everything to do with matters of the heart.

As a Keeper of the Innocents, Demi’s load as a guardian reduces with only one charge to take on at a time. However, when her new foe proves to be a force she can neither see nor find, she has no choice but to doubt the so-called good intentions of the stranger one door down.

Rhyzel Connor is not your average neighbor by any means. The red specks of color in his green eyes alone sets him apart and his demonic heritage makes him an easy target. Because of who he is he can’t afford a mistake that will result in his demise, but the fact that he knows way too much about Demi quickly raises the suspicion veil over him.

There is a mission he must complete, and secrets he must fight hard to keep, but the biggest hardship he must face will be forfeiting his life in order to save Demi’s.

 

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excerpt
Everything happened so fast I couldn’t even react. Stunned, I just stood there for a moment trying to size up my attacker. Before I even glanced up to look at his face I could tell something was off with him, but because of my nervousness, it was hard to tell for sure. He’d come out of nowhere, and if he intended to kill me, I was easy prey.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” a deeply masculine voice growled at me. Fortunately, that same voice helped break me out of my stupor.

I was prepared to see some form of evil glaring down at me, but what I found when I glanced up was definitely not what I was expecting. The handsome stranger staring at me was hot. Not just your average Joe kind of hot. No. This was like the kind of hot that makes a girl want to sin in ways she’d never done before.

His pale skin, tousled, bronze colored hair, and full lips were striking to look at, but his eyes left me completely speechless.

Perfectly round green eyes stared back at me and though they were gorgeous all on their own, it was the few specks of red in his irises that I found beautiful and so unusual. I was left with my mouth hanging open. I’d never seen eyes that color before and no matter how many times my brain yelled at me to look away, I just couldn’t. I was drawn to him. To his unique eyes. To the mystery that shrouded him.

 

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Title: Keeper of the Lost Soulssoulscovergif

Series: Keeper Witches, #1

Pages: 380 pages

ASIN: B00D9GGNNK

Date Published: 7 June 2013
blurb

Bryn McCaskey is young, naïve, and can talk to ghosts…

Like her mother and grandmother, Bryn comes from a breed of witches called The Keepers of the Lost Souls. Their main purpose is to guard those spirits who are permanently or temporarily grounded in the world of the living. Handling supernatural creatures is something which comes naturally to Bryn, however, dealing with people is a whole different story.

As her 18th birthday approaches it’s time for her to take on her first assignment. Bryn is forced to confront her inability to communicate with others in an effort to save the one soul that can mean the difference between life and death for mankind.

Johnny Shaw is a lost soul with a personal vendetta against witches…

A vendetta he has carried on even after death. As much as he hate’s them he must join forces with a keeper witch, in order to stop a century old threat. When fate brings them together, not only will they be forced to learn how to work as a team, but they will have to depend on each other to stop an evil witch carrying a six hundred year grudge!

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1 x Signed paperback copy of Keeper of the Innocents – USA Only
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about the author 

imageAs a child, she used to lose herself in an imaginary world by the means of a good book. Now that she’s all grown up, Kristy gets to create her own fictional realms and make them come to life in ways that most readers might not expect.

She’s always had a passion for writing but never had the opportunity do so until now. After trying out numerous options, she realized that writing was what she loved the most so when she found herself with some free time on her hands, she decided to pursue her passion. As it turned out, her very active imagination helped her achieve her goals of creating believable plots with some ordinary, and some not so ordinary characters that helped the stories move along in one way or another.

As she keeps moving along in achieving her dreams of becoming a published author, she divides her time in between her five children and her very understanding husband.

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Tour Schedule – One Week Blog Tour for The Keeper Witches Series by Kristy Centeno from Aug 8 to Aug 14, 2014
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