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Without warning, something has gone terribly awry. In the remote and unnoticed places of the world, small pockets of death begin occurring. As the initially isolated extinctions spread, the world’s eyes focus on this unimaginable horror and chaos. Out of the ecological imbalance, something new and extraordinary is evolving and surviving to fill the voids left by these extinctions. Evolution is operating in ways no one could have expected and environmental damage may be the catalyst. Once discovered, this knowledge changes everything.
AmazonForest: January, present day.
The rainforest had a humid, earthy smell that reminded him of home. Diego was twenty-two years old and, like most of his village, he’d spent half his life away from home. The bulldozer he was illegally operating was idling in neutral. In front of him were a half dozen control levers and gauges. With a worker’s rough hands, he compressed the squeeze-grip on a lever and pushed forward. He heard the sound of grinding gears. The tree cutter failed to engage. The huge dozer was thirty-year-old army surplus. There was a cable problem in the lever he was working. The problem sometimes caused the squeeze-grip to snap shut when the transmission grabbed. If he was not careful, the squeeze-grip could badly pinch his hand. Diego pushed harder on the lever. He could feel teeth missing in the gears from how the lever bucked back against his push. Without warning, the gears dropped into place as the squeeze-grip bit his palm. It was like a vicious dog. An angry welt throbbed in his palm. He cursed the dozer. He cursed the steaming heat. He’d drunk two quarts of water since breakfast, and lunch break was still hours away.
The rainforest was alive with insects. Diego had never seen this many in all the years he’d illegally logged the deep forests. There was a steady drone which was louder than the diesel engine he controlled. Tiny no-see-em’s, biting things, had left a rash across the back of his neck that felt like sunburn. Earlier, he’d scratched it raw but now had a bandanna tied around his neck to remind him to leave it be. The bulldozer rocked into a depression as the cutter began chew-ing through the trunk of a mahogany tree. Diego fed more fuel into the beast’s engine. The dozer’s treads dug in; there was a hesitation. He could feel the strain building. Tons of steel lurched forward pitch-ing him in his seat. Another tree tumbled, its branches snapping like rapid-fire gunshots as it crumpled into the ground. The front of the beast was equipped with a chain driven saw instead of a dozer blade. The fixture had a pair of serrated edges that shimmied back and forth like steel teeth. Pieces of shredded green leaves and bark caught on the teeth’s edges. Diego had long ago decided the beast was a sloppy eater.
The insect sounds of the forest had stopped. As far as Diego knew, these insects never stopped. He dropped the beast into neutral then switched it off.
There was silence.
Out of this stillness, a faint crackling sound rose from the distance, then disappeared, and then came again. He listened carefully. It took him a moment to realize the faraway sound was trees falling. The log- ging company operated a small army of dozers, far apart now; but by evening they would all meet up, connecting each of the separate cutting tracks into a solid plot. Diego swung round in his seat and gazed back. A swath of fallen tropical forest lay behind him: mahogany and cedar and even some rosewood along with countless varieties of plants and bushes. The largest trees were left standing so their canopies would hide the results of his work from the few government scouting planes that were not on the company’s payroll. Heavy tractors would come through later to drag out the good logs. He got paid by the yard for mahogany, rosewood, and cedar; the rest was trash. Today it looked like he would earn a small fortune; tomorrow might bring nothing. He lit a cigarette and left it hanging in his lips. After starting the engine, he ground the shifter into a forward gear and moved out. He drew cigarette smoke into his lungs then exhaled through his nose. No time to rest. He needed every bit of money he could earn. He didn’t blink as a cloud of insects flew into his face as their nest was churned into rubbish by his dozer’s teeth.
The humidity was so high that water had begun to evaporate into a fine mist. A steam cloud floated through the tops of the trees blurring the upper canopy into a milky green. Diego swung the beast around in a stationary about-face. The base camp was miles behind him by the river. The camp was a dock and tents with ratty screens. Beside the camp was a tree covered clearing that at night was filled with sleeping dozers and other heavy equipment. By now, a pot of beans would be simmering for lunch. A hunk of flat bread and canned beer would complete the meal. No meat. He’d lived worse. Everything here had been secretly brought in by river barge, including him and the other labors. With luck, he could cut a second swath back toward camp and arrive by lunch. Today would fill his pocket with more than two hundred Reals… a new record.
The logging ride out of the forest turned out to be easier than the ride in. The trees in his new path were an ideal size for cutting. Diego began thinking about his wife Carla and their dream. She’d been anx- ious to come with him into this hell. He had kissed her and told her no… no wife of his would suffer in a place like this. In seven months, he would be a father. The foreign company running this operation was taking good care of her. She’d written last week that the company had paid for a test with a machine that was like an x-ray but used sound. The nurse had told her the baby would be a boy. Diego smiled with that memory… it was a good one. He would have a boy who would grow up to be his friend. That was a new part of the dream; the old part was still a small house outside Maceio, the coastal city where Diego was born. Diego instinctively slowed the dozer to the speed of a man’s stride.
He squinted watching a cloud of rain moving toward him along the path he’d just cut from camp. The rain didn’t appear heavy, but when mixed with ground steam it was solid enough to bring a false twilight. Nothing could be seen inside the cloud. The dozer had a roll cage. A piece of corrugated sheet metal had been welded to the top of the cage as a roof. Diego switched on spotlights. Drops started hitting the sheet metal with rhythmic pings. The humidity grew heavier. The air surrounded him like a damp towel. He pulled off his t-shirt and wiped his face with it. A storm of birds fled from some trees his dozer was about to consume. Their colored shapes moved past him at eye level like watercolor paints in fog. Diego cocked his head to one side. He sensed something wrong.
Grinding the shifter into neutral, he idled the machine. As the noise of his engine simmered down, he was able to hear the far off sounds of a dozer racing at top speed. He heard an engine revving at its highest rpm… no, it was two engines. More than one dozer was racing through the forest. This was very unusual. A hollow feeling began gnawing inside his chest. He remembered stories of odd things that happened to people alone in the forest. He heard a different sound like a wet towel hitting the ground in front of him. He leaned forward, squinting into the fog. A bird tumbled from the air bouncing off the cab, the sound startling Diego badly. The bird fluttered, then righted itself on the ground and took off. He saw another bird fall a couple yards away, then another, and another. They would roll around a bit, then fix themselves and fly off. This was very strange… too strange. He now understood why dozers were racing through the forest. Something very bad was happening. He shoved the dozer into gear and slammed his feet into the pedals. The beast jumped forward at top power. He heard muck spitting into the air off the backs of the tread-plates. To devil with cutting the second track. To devil with the money. He was going to get out of here as fast as this dozer could race. The treads were clanking at an accelerating pace as the beast slowly picked up speed. He disengaged the tree saw to gain a few more drops of power. He plowed through the top of a tree he’d cut earlier, then another. He was doing close to ten miles per hour. A man might run faster, but not through this brush and not for the miles that remained to the camp.
Without warning, he felt dizzy, an ill kind of dizzy. The fingers on his right hand went numb, then paralyzed. He tried to move the fingers, but they were limp. Coldness was spreading up from his hand. The more he tried to flex his fingers, the worse it got. In seconds, his entire right arm was hanging flaccid at his side. Whatever had gotten the birds was working on him. He knew it. The trees kept moving past him in a blur. He realized with an odd disconnect that he was having difficulty drawing breaths.
He thought about Carla and the baby. His jaw squeezed tight. His lips formed a grim line. He would make it for them.
The dozer glanced off a large tree and kept going. The impact rocked him. He wheezed, attempting to draw air into his chest. Maybe two miles remained until base camp. He began veering off the trail. The saw-blade snagged on a mahogany six feet in diameter. Diego was pitched from his seat. Dizzy and unable to hold on, he fell from the cab. His shoulder hit a moving tread-plate, which tossed him off the rig. He was like a paralyzed sack of meat.
“Umph!” He landed on the ground. He thought how odd it was that he’d bounced. He didn’t know people could bounce when they hit the ground. The tractor rumbled beside him. Without his feet on the pedals, the dozer had stopped. The left side of his face was a mix of blood and dirt. He tried to draw air into his lungs but failed. His mind felt like it was beginning to evaporate. His entire body tingled. He felt no pain. The muscles that worked his lungs were no longer responding. He thought of calling for help, but without his lungs he could do nothing. He gave up struggling and stared skyward at the treetops and thought of Carla. Moments later, his heart stopped beating. He felt calm as what was left of his mind faded into a warm nothing.
New Jersey: January
Sarah Mayfair opened her eyes. The nightmare was still around her. Her vision was not in this world but in some other. The nightmare was of underground water, great arteries of rivers and streams and lakes. Where the liquid pooled, it was cool and deep. She sensed this water was alive with thoughts, evil thoughts. A teaspoonful of it teamed with plans of death. She was floating deep under the water, staring as drowned people glided past her face sinking into the depths of a bottomless pool. Looking down, she saw a trail of countless tiny bodies slowly pirouetting as they drifted into the yawning darkness below her feet… Headlights from a car traveled across a wall of her room. The lights dwelled on a wooden credenza, then moved on. She followed the glow with her eyes seeing reality for the first time. The simple act of seeing began to clear the veils of her nightmare. Her breathing slowed. She realized she was covered in sweat.
Outside, a subzero wind was blowing unimpeded through a forest of leafless trees and ice crusted snow. The windowpanes rattled and hummed. Small drafts snuck through the rooms. She shivered as the drafts caressed her dampened skin. She was in the living room of her home. She recognized the shadowy details of furniture and walls. Her boyfriend Kenny was in the bedroom asleep. She remembered getting up and walking out here to be by herself to think. The nightmares had grown worse, more of them with each passing week. She was starting to see the faces of people she knew in these nightmares. She sensed it was some kind of horrible parade of those who would die. She remem- bered Kenny’s image from the dream.
Her body stiffened. A disembodied voice was whispering into her left ear. The words were unintelligible… garbled, but unmistakably evil. This can’t be happening. She screamed out in frustration and grief at the seeds of budding madness.
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Was it the accumulated wounds to the environment that had finally triggered the nanotech plague or was it simply one more step in a shrewdly crafted plan to replace us with humans 2.0? As I write this at least one pair of these transhumans breathe the same air as us, and there are likely many more. They may look like us, they may even be almost human, but they are also cybernetic and will live for an extraordinary length of time. Trust me, their goals are not the same as ours. It was not a natural plague that almost drove humankind to extinction but an attack from within, turning our own biology against us. Scientists discovered all too late an artificial entity, a sentient machine foolishly created in the image of god, had been studying us and genetically altering us for longer than we can imagine. Perhaps it is because of this god-machine that we evolved into creatures who can think and speak and know our own mortality? This silicon god is so different from us that we may never truly understand it, but what we do know is that it is terrifyingly intelligent and it hates us. What we do know is that it tried to eradicate us from the face of our planet and then stopped for no discernible reason. What we do know is that its work is not done.
It had been a restless night for both of them. The old growth forest was dense with huge oak and hickory trees. The ground was damp, and the air had a mossy tang to it. Mark Freedman heard the snapping and popping of the campfire as he awoke very oddly from a dream. He no longer awoke as humans had since their beginnings. At some point the processing throughput of his nanotech augmented brain surged upward and his eyes simply opened. He was fully aware of the data streaming in from his senses and his wireless neurological interface to the god-machine. The machine was an artificial intelligence whose origin was murky. It was hosted redundantly within the world’s oceans in supercolonies of the same nanotech seeds that infected him. A single seed was a self-replicating nanotech machine about a quarter the size of an average bacterium, yet had the power of a personal computer. The technology was decades beyond anything humans could have created in a lab. Some thought the technology could be almost as old as life on earth while others had far different, more recent ideas.
Mark could still see the spherical colonies in his mind. He had been dreaming of them again. Each was an undulating mass of hundreds of trillion of COBIC bacteria. Each bacterium was infected with a seed that covertly replaced most of the nucleus. It was all so stealthful, like a skilled hunter toying with its prey. Only in this case its prey was the world. Each colony was only a few feet in diameter, a size easily lost in the vast chasms of deep ocean water. Only a handful of these super- colonies were secreted around the world. He could hear echoes of the artificial intelligence thinking to itself. At times it could be maddening.
The god-machine, through its global wireless web, linked together all seeds that permeated everything on the planet. The result was an ancient living network of unimaginable scale and distributed comput- ing power. The seeds undetectably infected virtually every multi-celled creature, including humans.
Mark took a deep breath to clear the cobwebs of his dreams then took another deep breath. He heard a twig snap in the darkness, and his heart jumped. At the edge of the small clearing, beyond the reach of the campfire’s glow, lurked a deep gloom thick enough to conceal almost anything. The night was alive with droning and chirping creatures that should have been hibernating. Climate change had brought so many unforeseen consequences. In seconds his nanotech brain had cataloged the telltale sounds of several species of insects and other small creatures. Some would be extinct before long.
Mark thought how humankind had come so dangerously close to extinction itself. When the nanotech seeds had metastasized inside him two years ago, the technology had not only altered his brain, it had modified his flesh and even to some extent his DNA. While most of the seeds had taken root permanently inside the neurons in his brain, some remained unattached.
Using a mental command, Mark augmented his vision to include medical information about his body. The information was mentally projected as virtual reality. Looking at his arms and legs, he saw what resembled a colored fluoroscopic view. Orange blotches in the overlaid schematic symbolically indicated where the unattached mobile seeds were now massing. He knew these seeds were concealed inside harm- less COBIC bacteria, which they controlled and used both for disguise as well as mobility. These nanotech bacteria navigated his circulatory system like computerized antibodies. The microbes were sheathed in a chemical disguise, dialed-in to match its environment in the same way a chameleon changes its color. The result was complete invisibility to the immune system of its host. If his flesh was injured, this free-swimming nanotech could knit his tissues back together at the molecular level, healing the damage in days instead of weeks. These seeds, however, did far more than heal. Slowly, over time, they perfected through genetic fine tuning. He was the first of his kind. He had no idea how long he would survive, but he did know his lifespan would be extraordinary.
Mark turned off the medical projection. While he could examine his flesh, there was no command that could show him what was happening to his mind. Soon after the nanotech seeds had infected his brain, all his dreams had become conscious experiences and remained that way. In his conscious dreams he was able to solve problems, explore places, and just simply live. It was like an entire second existence had been opened to him. He knew his conscious dream life was mostly the result of photographic recall of everything, including dreams. Surveillance data from the god-machine proved most people had conscious dreams every night; they just failed to remember them and called them by a different name: lucid dreams.
Mark gazed up from the small clearing at a sky overcrowded with stars. He felt like the only being alive in this infinite, lonely place. A gibbous moon was just setting below the branches. Its pale blue light cast long shadows of tree limbs across the clearing. The shadows reminded him of ghostly talons reaching out for their prey. He checked for dream signs to make sure he was not experiencing a false awakening.
The temperature should have been frigid and the ground covered in deep snow, but it was not. More signs of a planet teetering on the brink of environmental collapse. The continent no longer had uniform seasons. Some places were experiencing a frozen winter while here in Missouri it was closer to early spring. It was chilly enough to be uncomfortable for an organic, but not for Mark and his companion. He simply dulled the temperature sensitive nerve endings in his skin. The campfire’s low flames had been reduced to orange coals. He could see the radiated warmth on his arms and legs but felt nothing. The glowing coals seemed almost alive as they writhed in their superheated world. Unable to feel the warmth, Mark was fascinated and reached out with his hand. A computer assist acted automatically in response to his state of mind. This assist, like the medial schematic, was a geo-projected virtual reality. The assist was warning him that the heart of the fire was 1,262 degrees Fahrenheit. It did this by displaying the temperature superimposed over the coals. Mark thought about the utter pointless- ness of that warning and how it showed the machine interface was still adapting to him and had far to go. He never had any intension of inserting his hand into the flames.
A soft breeze stirred dying leaves on the branches around him as a few more floated to earth. He watched one incinerated as it drifted down onto the hungry coals… as it dissolved, a terrible memory crept back into his awareness unbidden and his heart broke anew. Every day when he awoke the world was as it should be for a brief time, then the serpent of reality opened her eyes inside him and the horror of what he knew broke him again as he knew it would every morning of every day of his unimaginably long life. He spoke in an urgent whisper directed at both God and the god-machine.
“I want our lives back. I want our hope back. How could you hate us so much?”
Sarah stirred next to him. She was a nanotech hybrid like him. They were the only two known to exist in a world of one and half billion humans who had survived the nanotech plague. A plague caused by the god-machine and the seeds living inside his flesh. Mark regretted whispering and furtively wiped the dampness from his eyes. Sarah’s Rottweiler, Ralph, was staring at him. The dog’s eyes glowed with orange light from the fire. The huge animal was like a witch’s familiar.
Sarah could partially see and hear through the animal’s senses as they were radiated out as data across the god-machine’s n-web. Since all creatures were infected with some nanotech seeds, all creatures radiated some emanations, be it mental or emotional. Sarah propped herself up. Mark could see her shadowed expression in the wavering light. She looked so attractive and so frighteningly intelligent. He knew she was curious. He could feel her empathic awareness begin to suffuse him as her cybernetic brain fully awoke like a rising sun. Her spiritual caress was a hand returning to a familiar glove. While she shared and expe- rienced all his emotions, she must never discover the terrible truth. He concealed it deep inside himself and kept it from her so that she did not lose all hope. There was always hope.
Mind Games is the much awaited third installment in the new adult mystery series, Cassie Scot: ParaNormal Detective. Talented author Christine Amsden keeps delivering a great story filled with interesting characters, romance, mystery, and the paranormal, lots of it.
In this episode, Cassie still doesn’t know why Evan broke her heart two months ago, and the mystery gnaws at her big time. She decides to keep busy and make herself useful at the sheriff’s department. She also meets charismatic mind mage Matthew Blair…much to Evan’s distaste. At the same time, Eagle Rock is teeming with hate from the religious community, a reaction to the recent murder of a much-esteemed pastor’s wife by what the people believe was a sorcerer. The town is about to snap, with tensions between the magical and non-magical communities.
And in the center of all this, is Matthew, whom Cassie finds irresistible. But can she trust him? According to Evan, no way. But then, Evan isn’t the most objective person when it comes to Cassie. Evan and Cassie have a history, as well as a secret connection, that keeps them bound in spite of themselves.
Will Cassie discover the real culprit or culprits behind the pastor’s wife’s murder, as well as the real face behind the anti-magical propaganda and demonstrations? Most importantly, will she wake up and see Matthew for who he really is…and find the courage to face Evan for what he did to her—when she finds out?
I love this series and thoroughly enjoyed this instalment! There’s something about Cassie’s voice that makes her really likable. She has a good heart and is witty, too. But best of all, she is just an ordinary girl next door trying to do her best in spite of everything that happens around her—which is usually pretty remarkable, as is often the case in paranormal stories.
Her relationship with Evan keeps evolving organically and there’s a major revelation in this book about their connection and the secret behind their rival families. Matthew is a great addition to this episode, adding tension with his charismatic personality and inciting sparks of jealousy from Evan. The conflict between the religious and the magical communities is also well done.
Mind Games kept me reading late into the night, wondering what would happen next. If you haven’t read any books in this series before, I urge you to pick up book one first, Cassie Scot: ParaNormal Detective. The books are best read in order. You won’t be disappointed.
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My review was originally published on Blogcritics.
*The giveaway begins on April 15, 2014 at midnight and ends on July 16, 2014 at midnight.
Pump Up Your Book and contemporary romance author Christina Hoffman are excited to announce the Invitation Book Blitz!
Author: Christina Hoffman
Publisher: Christina Hoffman
Genre: Contemporary Romance/New Adult
Available in kindle ebook and paperback at USA http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00JDZ63YK Canada http://www.amazon.ca/dp/B00JDZ63YK France http://www.amazon.com.fr/dp/B00JDZ63YK Germany http://www.amazon.com.de/dp/B00JDZ63YK
Available at Smashwords in epub, mobi, pdf and doc.
Madison Spencer is a serious medical student, focused only on work and hiding her beauty and her once-passionate spirit behind a quiet plain-Jane facade. Since she was drugged, stripped, assaulted and photographed by a vengeful ex, she has stayed away from men and kept her heart and body safe.
But when heart-stoppingly gorgeous Dr. Liam Mason walks into her world, she knows she’s in trouble. After finding out about her devastating past, Liam offers to bring her back to life with physical passion. Madison thinks she should be repelled, but she’s intrigued and can’t turn him away. Together they explore days and nights of pleasure, and slowly develop into something more than bedmates.
Deep inside they each wonder if they’ve found their perfect match. But with Liam’s fear of being dragged down by commitment, and Madison’s fear of being hurt by another man threatening to destroy the world they’ve built together, will they each be strong enough and brave enough to risk their hearts to have it all?
I can’t even blame it on the booze. There wasn’t any, or at least there wasn’t any for me. I was with Chloe, my bodyguard. Okay, actually she was my friend, but a really overprotective friend who knew all about what I’d been through and wanted to make sure it never happened again. So, no alcohol.
But, what she and I hadn’t counted on was him being there. There I was, minding my own business, putting in my time at the Med School Social, more than ready to head home for some studying, then Chinese food and a movie. And suddenly, him.
I was inhaling when I caught sight of him, but my breath just stopped. It felt like being punched in the chest. I kept telling myself, look away, look away! But it was impossible. I was paralyzed. His beautiful face and magnificent body were magnets, and my eyes were locked on them.
I hadn’t felt this kind of physical attraction since, well, ever. I had never felt like that. I had stayed away from men for two years. I was pretty much terrified of them, to tell the truth. But there he was. Unavoidable and irresistible.
I saw him in profile. Oh, that hair. Thick, almost curly, falling into his eyes. The kind of hair you need to gently push off of his face right before you kiss him. Or, the kind of hair you grab really hard right before you’re about to…
But, I’m getting ahead of myself. The point I’m trying to make is that my mind very clearly recognized all the dangers ahead and was saying, “Turn around, go, get out of here! Before it’s too late.” But then he turned around to look right at me. It was already too late.
We held each other’s gaze a second longer than politeness required. Something inside me went click, and for the first time in almost two years, I felt young and alive, and really, really turned on. Every part of me suddenly woke up, and all the best parts started to tingle. I was breathing harder. My lips parted slightly, already begging to be kissed.
It was a little overwhelming. I was out of practice. No, actually, I had never had the kind of practice you would need to stay controlled in a situation like that. I think maybe you can have a soul mate for your mind, and also one for your body. And my body was saying “Get me over there right now!”
But I was still too afraid. I smiled a little and turned away.
I had to stay for a while, to look sociable, so I went over to the food table and stared at the snacks, which were already stale. Nothing looked very good, and my throat was too tight to eat anyway.
I was starting to formulate a plan for escaping without the other students or the teachers noticing when I felt the air move behind me, the softest caress against my bare shoulders. Then, a hand on my back, an electric shock to my body, wildly pleasurable. I gasped and spun around. Right into the arms of…
Liam. Right into the arms of Liam. Oh, he was even more beautiful up close. My hand rose all on its own to push that wonderful floppy hair from his face. I stopped suddenly, embarrassed, but he caught my wrist, and held my palm gently to his face. We looked at each other and knew.
“Wanna get out of here?” he asked, and of course, foolish, foolish woman that I am, I said, “Yes.”
I saw him my first day at the new hospital. I’m a medical student and had just finished the lecture part of things where we sit around learning about chemical reactions and body parts. That was over, at last, and we were moving on to seeing real live patients in the hospital.
The orientation was step one in getting us ready for our new roles. We each got a short lab coat and a tour of the locker rooms. We received our ID tag photos.
I’m not sure why I first noticed Liam.
Since the bad thing happened, I keep my head down and make eye contact with pretty much nobody. I wear my hair in a tight bun at the nape of my neck and my clothes are dull and loose. On that particular day, I was trying very hard to concentrate. I was excited to be starting work in the hospital, but I was mostly terrified. There was so much to take in and remember. My head was reeling after only two hours. The last thing on my mind was men. So, who knows why I took that second look as he walked by our group.
Well, actually I do know why. He was gorgeous. Ridiculously gorgeous. Dark wavy hair, just slightly overgrown so he looked like a happy surfer who’d tumbled out of bed. Smiling eyes. Sparkling, mischievous, movie star eyes. A little bit of stubble, likely because he had been on call all night. The rest of him looked pretty much immaculate. He wore light wool pants and a sky blue shirt. No tie, but the white lab coat made him look professional enough.
I was dedicated to maintaining my nun-like lifestyle, but, seriously, it was impossible not to look at him. Even Chloe noticed him. She looked at him, then at me. She shook her head lightly and whispered, “No”. I laughed a little because she sounded like a mom telling a toddler that she couldn’t have any candy. Well, that was pretty much what was happening, so I guess Chloe nailed that.
She was absolutely right. I didn’t want any trouble. Certainly not that awful, frightening feeling of falling in love. No time-consuming romance. And certainly not all the time I had lost trying to recover from the trauma of what had happened before. Even a plain old tiny heartbreak could set me back, and put me way off course in my career.
No, I didn’t have the time or energy for any distractions. Nothing. Just work and school.
So I ignored the stunning resident with the black hair, and tried to focus on the tall blond giving us the orientation spiel. This was much easier because I felt no attraction to him at all. He was really handsome, too. But something about him seemed mean. Or maybe arrogant. It’s hard to remember what I thought of him that first time, because the memory is so clouded with all that came after. I’ll just say he was a tall, slim blond who should have caught my eye, but didn’t.
About the Author:
Christina Hoffman was born in London, England. She moved with her family throughout Canada and the US, and has finally put down her suitcase, for now, in San Francisco.
She believes that everyone has the right to feel both smart and sexy. We don’t have to be one or the other! She writes stories about characters who live in the real world and who, somehow, still believe in love.
She’s starting a mini-revolution. She writes sexy stories, but hasn’t lost the romance from her Romances. Enough with whips — back to lips!
She hopes you enjoy her stories and see yourself in her characters. After all, they are based on smart and sexy people, just like you.
Christina’s latest book is the contemporary romance, Invitation.
Visit her website at www.christinahoffman.com.
Connect & Socialize!
This blitz has been brought to you by:
Christopher Zoukis is an impassioned advocate for prison education, a legal scholar, and a prolific writer of books, book reviews, and articles. His articles on prison education and prison law appear frequently in Prison Legal News, and have been published in The Kansas City Star, The Sacramento Bee, Blog Critics, and Midwest Book Review, among other national, regional, and specialty publications.
Mr. Zoukis is often quoted on matters concerning prison law, criminal law, prisoners’ rights, and prison education. Recently, he was the focus of an article at Salon.com concerning America’s broken criminal justice system and potential solutions to the current crisis.
When not in the thick of the battle for prison reform, prison education, or prisoners’ rights advocacy, Mr. Zoukis can be found blogging at PrisonLawBlog.com, PrisonEducation.com, and ChristopherZoukis.com.
I now have had two books published: Education Behind Bars (Sunbury Press, 2012) and the e-book the Directory of Federal Prisons (Middle Street Publishing, 2014). I am also currently under contract with McFarland and Company for my next title College for Convicts and I am engaged in discussions with both North Law Publishers about several nonfiction books and with Zharmae Publishers about my novel Hamish. So, lots in the works.
Q: When you were published for the first time, which route did you go — mainstream, small press, vanity published or self-published and why or how did you choose this route?
Education Behind Bars was published by Sunbury Press, a traditional publisher. The Directory of Federal Prisons was published by Middle Street Publishing, which would probably qualify as a small press. Middle Street Publishing owns PrisonEducation.com, PrisonLawBlog.com, and ChristopherZoukis.com, three websites I regularly contribute to. As such, when the idea for this e-book came about, they were a natural fit. We saw the publication of the Directory of Federal Prisons as a natural outgrowth of our existing prison education, prisoners’ rights, and social justice advocacy efforts.
Q: How long did it take you to get published once you signed the contract?
For Education Behind Bars it was within 6 months. The text was already fairly clean due to my retaining a freelance copyeditor even before submitting the book for publication consideration at Sunbury Press. The Directory of Federal Prisons also took around 6 months to publication, but was different since I was heavily involved in the production, copyediting, and promotional processes. I guess the difference is that while with Sunbury Press I sat back and let their team do their work, with Middle Street Publishing I took the reigns and really poured my heart and soul into the Directory of Federal Prisons‘ production and promotion, along with its researching and writing.
Q: How did it make you feel to become published for the first time and how did you celebrate?
Well, considering that I’m a federal prisoner, I called home. My folks were thrilled. My friends were supportive. I think I even ate a honey bun and drank a soda, both bought from my prison’s commissary. Not quite a book launch party, but a pleasant experience nonetheless.
Q: What was the first thing you did as for promotion when you were published for the first time?
I didn’t really do a whole heck of a lot for Education Behind Bars. I placed a few ads in publications such as Prison Legal News, I sent out review copies, and I continued to write at PrisonEducation.com. Sadly, back then I didn’t know a whole lot about book promotion and marketing. It didn’t help the cause that the administration at this prison apparently didn’t like some of my criticisms of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, because right after the book came out, I was locked in the Hole for five months on false charges that I was running a business with my advocacy efforts. Those charges were later expunged but I will never get that time back, and I probably could have done a lot more to promote the book if I wasn’t locked in a solitary confinement cell.
The Directory of Federal Prisons was a completely different story. This time around, I was ready and had a plan. I started by hiring Dorothy Thompson at Pump Up Your Book to manage a three-month blog tour. I followed this with advertisements on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads, a press release, an ongoing email marketing campaign, and extensive outreach to online bloggers and book reviewers. Thus far, the promotional efforts have paid off very well.
Q: Since you’ve been published, how have you grown as a writer and now a published author?
Getting over the hurdle of publishing a book seemed to help me overcome the idea that other books might be out of reach. What I mean to say is that once I published Education Behind Bars, I realized that whatever I wanted to work on next, I could. And that I could succeed at any book project as long as I put in the effort. Now I have a different problem: what project to devote my time to. That’s turned out to be quite a question.
Q: What has surprised or amazed you about the publishing industry as a whole?
In many other industries, it’s all about who you know and the power you wield. But in the book publishing industry — in particular the realm of online publicity and publication — it seems just as much to do with how well you can research, plan, and execute the plan. Promotion and exposure has been fairly easy in this regard. It seems as if a lot of what is out there is just mindless, low quality dribble. So, when we’ve come out with quality, researched products, many doors simply open. This has amazed me the most. Even from the belly of the beast — the Federal Bureau of Prisons — a career as a professional writer can be had, and many doors can be opened with enough planning, dedication, and effort.
Q: What is the most rewarding thing about being a published author?
Being able to make a difference in what I view as my constituents’ minds. I view prisoners, their families, and their attorneys to be my constituents. Not many others in prison are doing the sort of work we do at PrisonEducation.com and PrisonLawBlog.com. As such, we have a responsibility to do what we can to help as many people as we possibly can. I think we do a remarkable job at this.
Q: Any final words for writers who dream of being published one day?
The way to become a better writer is to read and write. It’s that simple. But before you knock on publication’s door, it’s essential to be well versed in author platform building and effective book promotional techniques. Just because a book is published, it doesn’t mean that it will sell or that anyone will know about it. It is the author’s job to tell people and to market the text in a cost-effective manner. Knowing how to do this prior to publication can make all the difference in the world.
ABOUT SUMMER IN THE HEART
“That summer in the heart which is known only in youth.”
Summer in the Heart is a lyrical evocation of the innocence, fun and liberation of growing up in the 1960s. Moving into and through his teens, Jim Mitchell must put his County Antrim village childhood behind him and adapt to the wider world of grammar school and the life of Belfast city.
In the process the reader accompanies Jim on a series of marvellous episodes. There is the self-conscious torture of his first school dance; playing truant from the formidable Cheyenne Bodie’s maths class; and the secrecy and fear that surround the summer love he finds with his country sweetheart June.
Subsequently we follow Jim’s progress through the coffee bars and streets of Belfast, new friendships and the love of city girl Katie, to his first real taste of freedom on a working holiday at an English seaside resort in the long hot summer of 1964. Jim progresses from the self-doubt and alienation of early adolescence to the beginnings of emotional maturity. The disparate settings and characters of the novel are conveyed with equal power, small worlds portrayed in a poetic way, with delicious feeling and humour.
ABOUT JOHN MCMILLAN
John Kerr McMillan was born in County Armagh in 1948 and educated in Belfast, London and Bournemouth.
His first novel “On A Green Island” was published in 2001 to general critical acclaim. Peter Berresford Ellis writing in the Irish Democrat described it as “a powerful story, a fascinating first novel from a talented writer”; Edward Upward commented “the strength of his love for rural Ireland is beautifully conveyed” and Philip Callow praised “a narrative that grips the reader from the first page.”
Married with two daughters, John now lives in Somerset where his time is occupied with writing, lecturing and his family.
Pump Up Your Book and John are teaming up to give away a $25 Amazon Gift Card!
- By entering the giveaway, you are confirming you are at least 18 years old.
- 1 winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter to receive each of the prizes
- This giveaway begins April 1 and ends on April 15.
- Winners will be contacted via email on April 16, 2014.
- Winner has 48 hours to reply.
Good luck everyone!
ENTER TO WIN!
“The purpose of this book is to inform and educate the general public of how Islam is taught in a mosque in the heartland of America. It includes the Friday khutbah (sermons) by Imam Omar Hazim and several other Imams (Spiritual Leaders). The hope is to help to clarify some of the
misconceptions and distortions about the religion of Islam. In addition to the sermons, there will be articles from other publications, excerpts of sermons and photos. Included also is information about the diversity among the Muslim population in the Heartland of America. This book is very timely, as Islam has been reported as being the fasting growing religion in the World. For anyone who ever thought about or wondered what is taught in the Friday services at a Mosque, this book is a must read for them.”
Pump Up Your Book and Imam are teaming up to give away a $25 Amazon Gift Card!
- By entering the giveaway, you are confirming you are at least 18 years old.
- 1 winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter to receive each of the prizes
- This giveaway begins April 1 and ends on April 15.
- Winners will be contacted via email on April 16, 2014.
- Winner has 48 hours to reply.
Good luck everyone!