Thursday terror: Velvet Rain

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A spooky sample from the novel

By David C. Cassidy

Photo by Neel on Unsplash

Kain cursed himself. He should have bolted when he’d had the chance. How many times had he Turned? Small wonder his head was pounding. And what the hell was that damn static? It was coming in fits now, like a circling pack of wild, growling dogs.

Dizzied, he held dead still against the tip of the knife. The smoky air sickened, but didn’t he crave a cigarette, suddenly. Still, after all these years. He didn’t really want one, of course, but what he wouldn’t do to ease the agony in his head.

He looked to the barkeep in the slim hope of a hand. The man regarded the goings-on with but a cursory glance, clearly more concerned with that looker at the end of the bar, chatting her up the way he was. In fact, save this intimate little gathering near the pool table, most of this questionable clientele seemed entirely disinterested. Not good.

“Come on,” Cal said, pressing the nelson. “Bleed this cheatin’ bastard.”

Here we go, Kain thought. Over the edge. Over a couple of sawbucks.

The fat man seemed to panic, then slit him with a quick flick of the blade. It stung. Blood dribbled down his throat to his chest. The nelson tightened, that throb in his neck crushing like a boatload of bricks coming down on him. If the Turn had given Cal a case of the body aches, he sure wasn’t showing it. The man was a bull.

Kain shook it off. He looked up past the knife, past the looker, to the glowing GUYS AND DOLLS sign that led to the restrooms. There was a jukebox on the way, a big rounded Wurlitzer, “Big Bad John” blaring out of its speakers for what must have been the tenth time tonight. Jimmy Dean had been all over the radio these days, would likely hit the top of the charts, and while the man had undoubtedly penned a great song, by this—the twenty-seventh of October, 1961, the biting wind howling hell’s breath beyond the gloom of this place—Kain had pretty much had his fill. And more than enough of this night.

“Twenty and we’re square, sir,” the trucker said, politely as sin. His voice held a touch of that approachable Missouri, but that honest smile had long since fled. His searching eyes narrowed. “I figure it’s likely more. But we can’t know for sure now, can we. Can we?”

At this the man glanced about to garner agreement. Not a word was spoken, but some of the patrons, the rats, mostly, seemed to concur. The eyes—sickly or not—never lie.

Kain capitulated with a nod. His long chestnut hair, cradling the shoulders of his weathered denim jacket, slipped down in front of his face. He held a menacing bad-boy look, and the looker, long since bored with the barkeep, stirred on her high bar stool. She bit down teasingly on her lower lip, handing him a breathless gaze with those perfect green gems. She had no idea how lucky she was; the redhead’s eyes were creepy little pissholes now.

“You win,” Kain said, feigning exasperation.

“No more tricks,” the fat man snapped. He drew the knife back with a step. Nodded to Cal.

Cal let Kain go, giving him a mild shove. “You’re lucky, drifter.”

Kain gathered himself. He had one chance to get out of this. He just hoped he had the juice.

With a small smile to the looker, he reached for his breast pocket in an innocent gesture of settling up, figuring to give Cal an elbow to the gut before he snatched up his knapsack and bolted for the exit. He was just about to when thunder rumbled and the place went black. Mild chaos turned to utter chaos when the lights didn’t come, and amid the ruckus of shouting, shuffling, and confusion, like a finely tuned magician, the audience astir, he summoned the magic … and popped the rabbit out of the hat.

Velvet Rain

A mysterious drifter, Kain Richards is the last of his kind—and a man on the run. Once a tortured prisoner and pawn in a clandestine government experiment, his freedom hangs in the balance against the relentless pursuit from Brikker, an obsessed and ruthless madman who will stop at nothing to possess him.

Born with the Turn—the godlike power to reverse time—Kain’s ability is constrained inside a “bubble” that alters time within it. The further back he turns, the larger the bubble, the larger the effect—and the greater, stranger, and more dire and unpredictable the consequences, for those within, and beyond, the Turn’s reach.

Kain also possesses the Sense, giving him knowledge of the previous timeline and fuzzy, incomplete glimpses of the future. While the vast majority of the population don’t have the Sense, some do—and Brikker is one of them. And yet, while those who have it aren’t even aware of it, experiencing little more than déjà vu when time has turned, Brikker’s Sense far exceeds Kain’s, and is utterly dangerous. Not only can he remember every detail of a previous timeline, his glimpses into the future are far deeper, far more telling, giving him a deadly advantage. As these glimpses can only occur when time has turned, Kain is the key to Brikker’s twisted plans that tread an unalterable path to a terrifying future of death and destruction.

Knowing full well he must keep to the road, yet worn from the chase and his curse of the Turn, Kain settles into a job as a farmhand, only to fall for a beautiful and sensible Iowa farmwoman. Unable to stay but unwilling to leave, his dark secret sets their lives in peril. His health and his powers failing, only an iron will in an epic final battle will give him the chance to stand against the evil menace that threatens to consume him and the woman he loves—and to save the world from a hellish apocalypse.

David C. Cassidy, horror

David C. Cassidy

Award-winning author David C. Cassidy is the twisted mind behind several chilling books of horror and suspense. An author, photographer, and graphic designer—and a half-decent juggler—he spends his writing life creating tales of terror where Bad Things Happen To Good People. Raised by wolves, he grew up with a love of nature, music, science, and history, with thrillers and horror novels feeding the dark side of his seriously disturbed imagination. He talks to his characters, talks often, and most times they listen. But the real fun starts when they tell him to take a hike, and they Open That Door anyway. Idiots.

David lives and plays in Ontario, Canada. From Mozart to Vivaldi, classic jazz to classic rock, he feels naked without his iPod. Suffering from MAD—Multiple Activity Disorder—he divides his time between writing and workouts, photography and Photoshop, reading and rollerblading. An avid amateur astronomer, he loves the night sky, chasing the stars with his telescope. Sometimes he eats.

Get to know more about David at his:

Website   |     Facebook     |     Google+     |     LinkedIn     |     Twitter     |     Instagram

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Cover reveal: The Children of the Seventh Son

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BestSelling Reads author member announces new book

By Scott Bury

BestSelling Reads member Scott Bury has revealed the cover of his upcoming release, The Children of the Seventh Son.

It’s an original image by painter Marc Laisne of Montpelier, France and Ottawa, Canada. The cover design is by another BestSelling Reads member, David C. Cassidy.

“I’m very proud of the cover. Not many independently published books have completely original cover images,” says the author. “Marc Laisne captured perfectly a key scene in the book: where the central character, Javor the Sklavene, faces a choice of three paths to follow.”

The Children of the Seventh Son

The year 600 of the Christian Era is the darkest time of the Dark Age. Young Javor the Sklavene has settled in Constantinople, the last bastion of civilization against dark forces that have shattered the Western Roman Empire.

Wielding two special weapons made from the Bones of the Earth, Javor has become the favourite monster-killer of the secret Gnostic Order. As his young family grows, he is sent to distant, exotic lands to eliminate threats and learn more about why the earth is intent on destroying humanity.

Every mission seems to bring more questions than answers—until he finds the greatest danger comes not from forces from beneath the surface of the world, but from the very civilization he has been defending.

The second book in the Dark Age series, it’s the sequel to The Bones of the Earth. You can enjoy a sample of that book on the author’s website.

The Children of the Seventh Son will publish on Friday, November 13 and is available for pre-order on Amazon now.

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Nicoli

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A Thursday teaser from the latest crime romance

By Sydney Landon

Warning: explicit language

I shrug nonchalantly.  “Fucking the female version of Rambo has its moments.”  I nod to the weapons on the nearby table before adding, “Isn’t that a bit much even for you?”  And there it is again—the tiniest shifting of her expression.  Shit, most would never notice, but it practically rings alarm bells for me.  What the fuck is she hiding?  Even as I ask myself that question, I dismiss it.  Just because we’re fucking doesn’t mean there’s any major exchanging of the information.  She may live with me and be best friends with Nina, but she’s still a Gavino.  Regardless of her disdain for most of her family, they’re still blood.  And she’s no docile and sweet heir to the proverbial throne.  The exact opposite.  She’s a warrior who will kill to protect those she loves.  She’s dangerous, and she doesn’t pretend to be anything other than what she is.  Hence the stripping of weapons in front of me.  A calculating woman would hide the fact that she rarely goes anywhere without being armed to the teeth.  Possibly because she knows I understand and get off on it.  But likely because she doesn’t give a good fuck what my opinion of her is.  Thinking like a pussy again.  Fuck me. 

“I don’t recall you ever walking out the door without protection.  Why should I be any different?  I’m likely a bigger target than you are, thanks to dear old Dad.”

“Your father is head of the second-biggest mafia family on the East Coast.  We’re not talking PTA president here, Minxy.”   Her mouth twitches slightly at the nickname I’ve taken to calling her.

“Exactly.  So, why are you harassing me about it?  You’d rather some punk looking to make a name for himself take me out?” My cock stirs to life as my eyes drop to linger on the tight leather pants she’s wearing.  So fucking hot.  Those things are a bitch to get off, but her ass looks amazing in them.  It’s even better out of them, but—you get the picture.  I motion toward her spike-heeled black boots before saying, “I don’t think you’d need anything other than those to take care of business.  But yeah, I feel you.  Always better to be prepared for anything.  We damn sure know by now to expect the unexpected.”  Even though months have passed since the utter mindfuck of Angelica Moretti’s betrayal, a glance at Minka’s haunted expressions tells me that we’re both sifting through the pain brought on by my careless choice of words.  We stare at each other for a long moment, as if each waiting for the other to break the silence that has fallen between us.

Nicoli: Pierced, Lucian & Lia, Book 9

What do you do when those closest to you are not who they appear to be? For a man as loyal as Nicoli Moretti it’s the ultimate betrayal. As the top lieutenant and best friend to the head of the Moretti family, he thought he knew everything about the man he considered a brother—but he was so very wrong. Still reeling from that blow, he discovers that not only did the woman he loves know before him, but she also has secrets of her own—ones that could well get her killed.

His thirst for revenge is almost overwhelming—yet so is his love for Minka Gavino. A relationship with someone from another mafia family would be complicated on a good day, but is it even worth fighting for now? Once the trust is gone, can it ever be rebuilt? Or, will he walk away from the only life he’s ever known and the only woman he’s ever loved?

Get it on

Sydney Landon

is the New York Times & USA Today best selling author of:  Weekends Required, Not Planning on You, Fall For Me, Fighting For You, Betting on You, No Denying You, Always Loving You, Pierced and Fractured.  Sydney is currently working on the next book in the Danvers’ Series as well as the Pierced Series.

When she isn’t writing romantic erotica or romance, Sydney enjoys reading, swimming and the beach.

She lives with her family in Greenville, South Carolina.

Get to know more about Sydney:

Her BestSelling Reads author page   |    Website    |    Amazon Author page    |    Barnes & Noble    |    Kobo    |    Google Play    |    iBooks

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The Quisling Factor

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A bestselling Friday focus

By J.L. Oakley

As soon as Tommy was out of sight, Haugland jogged up the tree-lined driveway, slowing down where the pines opened up. From there he saw the fruit trees planted below the ruined farmhouse. Haugland cocked his head to listen to any sound, frustrated that he had to rely on the hearing just in his right ear. Nothing.

He surveyed the scene carefully. It would a while before the sun cleared the hills and fjell to the east, so the light was dim, but he could see clearly. He looked at the house and froze. The ancient door to the dairy in the stone foundation was open. He was certain it was locked when he was up here a couple of days ago.

Who was at the farmhouse? Someone pilfering it? Times were hard, but stealing from a neighbor would be a terrible infraction. He watched for any sign of movement around the door and saw none. Caution, however, told him to wait. Tommy would be getting close to the cabin by now. If Haugland didn’t show up, he’d find his way up here.

On Haugland’s right, the field ran alongside the edge of the pine and birch forest until it ran into a jumble of brambles. A narrow path led down to the cabin. He was torn about going up to the dairy or starting down. He decided to go up.

At the door, Haugland listened carefully again. Drawing his pistol, he slowly pushed the door open. It was dark in the cellar. He had come down here once with Anna—was that nineteen months ago? He was with her when she discovered the secret cave hidden in the back of the pantry. That finding had saved Kjell and Helmer while German soldiers searched the house during the razzia. But now, the chill of the cellar stirred in Haugland claustrophobic memories of the basement in Rinnan’s Cloister. Without a flashlight, he could not make out anything other than long-discarded tins and wooden boxes used for butter and cheesemaking next to him. Satisfied that no one was inside, he came out. Shaking off his unease, he turned toward the brambles. Whoever had come up here must have felt safe leaving his bicycle down on the road. Haugland hoped Tommy would approach the cabin with caution.

He listened for any movement above him, but heard nothing. He left the door open as he found it and started down.

The wind had picked up, bringing with it stinging bits of frozen moisture. By the time he reached the brambles, he felt sure they were in for sleet or hail. He took a deep breath and stepped onto the path.

The brown brambles were thick and woody, their thorns catching Haugland’s sweater as he passed through. Holding his pistol high in the air, he pulled back, then when freed, went forward.

The shortcut to the cabin began to descend down toward the pines around the back of the cabin. He stopped and listened. Somewhere ahead, a bird flitted in the underbrush, making sharp chirping sounds, but he couldn’t tell where exactly it called from. The bird continued on, then suddenly stopped. Haugland stood dead still, searching for the reason. Again nothing. My ear is playing tricks on me. He took a step out of the brambles and onto ground covered with pine cones and needles. He heard the click too late. Something cold and metallic touched the side of his head.

“Stay where you are,” a familiar voice said. “Put your hands up and drop your gun.”

Haugland carefully raised his hands. “You don’t want to do this. I’m not alone.”

He heard the man shift on his feet. The gun shook in the man’s hands. Be careful with that. Haugland surmised the man wasn’t sure how to use a firearm which made him dangerous. Haugland didn’t want to die by the pistol going off accidentally.

The Quisling Factor

Treason. Espionage. Revenge.

In the aftermath of WWII, ex-intelligence agent Tore Haugland tries to adjust to life in his newly freed country with the woman he loves. But he still has to testify against a Norwegian traitor—one of the monsters of the German occupation—whom he helped to capture.

When mysterious notes threaten Haugland and his family, he must choose between protecting them or bringing to justice the man who tortured him and destroyed the village that hid him.

Challenged by injuries and recurring nightmares, he will have to rely on his former training and old Resistance friends to rescue his wife from the traitor who will do anything to keep Haugland from testifying.

Get it on Amazon.

J.L. Oakley

has established a reputation for writing outstanding historical fiction set in the mid-19th century to the Second World War.

In 2013, she received the Bellingham Mayor’s Arts Award and the Chanticleer Grand Prize for Tree Soldier, a novel set in the Forest Service, a Depression-era program in the Pacific Northwest. In 2017, Janet won the Goethe Grand Prize for The Jøssing Affair, the 2018 Will Rogers Silver Medallion and two WILLA Silver Awards.

 Visit her on her:

And follow her on Twitter @JlOakley.

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Maps and fantasy

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Monday musings on fantasy writing

By Scott Bury

A map is a necessary feature of any fantasy novel.

Tolkien’s map from The Hobbit

Ever since Tolkien and Lewis, and maybe before, every fantasy novel has a map at the beginning or the end of the book.

It’s not necessary, but I find a map often helps. I also think a good map would help with any historical fiction as well as some others, to show the reader the relationships between settings in any story, to give an idea of how close or far apart key locations are. 

The trouble is, with a lot of fantasy novels, the map is childish looking. Totally unsatisfying for anyone who knows the first thing about maps.

It seems that every fantasy writer thinks that Pauline Baynes, the illustrator of the maps in The Hobbit, set the rules of cartography. 

But they’re not as good at drawing maps as Baynes. As a result, their maps are not detailed, nor realistic nor, more importantly, believable.

One good example is the map of the fantasy world in the bestselling Eragon by David Paolini. Obviously inspired by the maps drawn by Tolkien and Baynes, it’s particularly unsatisfying and child-like. It displays a lack of understanding how geography and geology work. 

This is not the only example. All the writers of fantasy seem to think mountains look like individual little cones, sometimes topped with a charming snowy peak. Rivers conveniently go through cities, which always have a hill for a castle with four towers in it. 

Coastlines are remarkably smooth, and borders between kingdoms are regular, rather than the tortuous, twisting and contentious messes you can see in virtually every part of the word, shaped by centuries of warfare and politics. 

Likewise, the societies were always limited and simplistic. There is a good kingdom and an evil kingdom. Their allies are also either good or bad, but less extreme. Tolkien, Lewis, Pratchett, Turtledove and most others follow this trope. George Martin is the one author who comes close to reflecting the complexity of international relations and dynastic politics in his Song of Ice and Fire series. But even that is not as complex, nor as far-reaching as the real ancient world was.

The sophistication of ancient societies

The ancient Greeks and Romans, for example, knew about China (which they variously called “Qin” or “Seres.”) Rome traded with India, and with far-off places like Abyssinia and Axum. Roman writers listed far-flung tribes in Scandinavia and what is now Russia, as well as in Africa. Their geography extended far beyond the maps of most fantasy writers. 

Maps and direction

Dissatisfaction with maps was part of the inspiration behind my first-published novel, The Bones of the Earth. When I began writing it, many years ago, my children were quite young and seemed to like stories about dragons. So we got a few movies and books, but somehow, they all seemed to follow a few well-worn tropes. The dragons were all friendly, or at least amenable to human direction. 

But that’s not what dragons meant to me. A little reading about the mythology involving dragons reveals them to be immensely powerful creatures, as well as very intelligent. While European stories generally depict dragons as antagonistic. Leave them alone on their giant piles of gold and jewels, or they’ll burn down your town and eat you alive, is the moral.

Asian dragons, on the other hand, are often said to have taught humans agriculture and other wisdom. They’re still not friendly, though. Certainly they are not suitable as pets.

Inspiration

All of this inspired me to do something different.

I guess it started with the map. “How can I make a map look more realistic?” I wondered. Eventually, I found the obvious solution: use a real map.

Which then led me to the next decision: set the fantasy story in a real place. And what is more fantastic than the Dark Age?

Current thinking dismisses the concept of the Dark Age of history. There are plenty of records from the time following the fall of the Western Roman Empire. In fact, the idea is highly western-European-centric and ignores the splendid civilizations that persisted through the years 476 to 800 CE: the Sassanid Persian Empire, China, Japan, powerful and sophisticated civilizations in India and Africa and the Americas. 

But it’s still a powerful, romantic idea, a great place for stories.

So that’s what led me to set a fantasy series in the Eastern Roman Empire around the turn of the seventh century CE. 

And it has an awesome map, and I’ll use it in my upcoming sequel, The Children of the Seventh Son.

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A new bestseller with a new teaser: Fancy Man Blues

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A Thursday teaser from new member A.J. Llewellyn

Exciting news, readers! Bestselling author A.J. Llewellyn has joined the ranks of your favorite bestselling writers. Without further ado, let’s go to the sample of her newest book.

Stumpy Lake, Virginia Beach, Virginia, February. Midnight. Five Years ago. 

Athen felt ridiculous, in the dead of night, to be waiting to meet a man who’d claimed he could help him with his case. A man who was blind, no less. Athen shifted his feet a little farther apart on the edge of the damp, rock-strewn lakefront. His boots were wet, but the water hadn’t soaked through to his socked feet. Yet. 

He let his flashlight blaze a trail around him. The lake was considered perfect for watercraft, especially kayaks and ca- noes, but not for swimming. Athen had already been warned it was filled with deadly snakes. 

Something terrible had happened here to someone beauti- ful, and he wouldn’t rest until he solved the mystery of Allie Madden’s disappearance. He focused his gaze on a ripple of movement in the water. He didn’t want to get bitten and die before he could find her. 

Her disappearance and apparently brutal murder ached in his gut like an ulcer. 

He took some deep breaths and it only hurt his throat more. How cold is it? Last time I checked it was thirty-two degrees. Much colder now. Athen switched off the flashlight, tucked it into the pocket of his pea coat, and rubbed his gloved hands together. It didn’t help him get any warmer. 

I should have worn something else. This old coat won’t cut it. A fleeting sense of passion scissored through him for his lover, who’d lent it to him. Another worry invaded his thoughts. 

What if the tracker doesn’t show? Was it this cold the night Allie Madden was dragged out here?

He slid his left foot across the sand to his right. Then he drew it back, bringing the right foot toward the left. He shuf- fled this way repeatedly until the heat from his feet traveled up his calves and moved up toward the rest of his body. 

He let out a breath, condensation evaporating from his frigid lips. 

Keep moving, man

He continued sliding his feet back and forth, a trick he’d learned from his days working for the US Marshals. An ac- tress he’d protected from a stalker had taught him this routine from her long days standing on movie sets.

Where is she now? She’d been stalked by an ex-lover and he’d guarded her for two months in Savannah, Georgia. It had been hot and sticky and… Yeah. That’s the ticket. Pretend it’s hot right now. Her won- derful smile came to mind, and her wicked sense of humor. She was the closest thing he’d come to falling for a woman. 

And the nearest thing he knew of perfection.

Athen kept his gaze swiveling across the deserted beach. Where is this guy? Was this a hoax? The skin prickled at the back of his neck. The gift of fear. No. Not a hoax. He detected movement. The old man was close. 

Or somebody was. 

Fancy Man Blues

Can Blackeye solve his craziest case yet?

Athen ‘Blackeye’ Mavromatis, roving lieutenant with the Bev- erly Hills Police Department, is trying to enjoy a rare day off. It doesn’t look like it’s going to happen when the mayor hands him a twisty missing person’s case. A Saudi Princess has vanished. Because of royal protocols, Athen must conduct his investigation under the wire. He doesn’t mind doing that, but it soon becomes apparent that the princess, who’s also a wannabe actress, might have been murdered. Her apartment appears to be one big giant crime scene.

But just who is Natasha Al-Khan, AKA Natasha King, and who wants her dead? Though Beverly Hills has the reputation of being crime-free, this is the second murder case he’s tackled in the short time Athen’s been with the department. Not only does he have to solve this one fast, but he and his lover, Grady, are dealing with Athen’s delinquent niece who’s just come out to them. Oh, and somebody very near and dear to them may turn out to be a deranged psychopath…

A.J. Llewellyn

A.J. Llewellyn is the author of over 300 M/M romance novels. She was born in Australia, and lives in Los Angeles. An early obsession with Robinson Crusoe led to a lifelong love affair with islands, particularly Hawaii and Easter Island.

Being marooned once on Wedding Cake Island in Australia cured her of a passion for fishing, but led to a plotline for a novel. A.J.’s friends live in fear because even the smallest details of their lives usually wind up in her stories. A.J. has a desire to paint, draw, juggle, work for the FBI, walk a tightrope with an elephant, be a chess champion, a steeplejack, master chef, and a world-class surfer. She can’t do any of these things so she writes about them instead.

A.J. I started life as a journalist and boxing columnist, and still enjoys interrogating, er, interviewing people to find out what makes them tick.

How to find/friend her:

And don’t forget to sign up for her newsletter by emailing ajllewellynnewsletter@gmail.com – each month she gives away a free ebook!

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