Beyond the Books

Character Interview: Matthew Blair from Christine Amsden’s urban fantasy, Kaitlin’s Tale

We’re thrilled to have here today Matthew Blair from Christine Amsden’s new urban fantasy, Kaitlin’s Tale.  Matthew Blair is the 28-year-old leader of the White Guard living in Eagle Rock, MO.

It is a pleasure to have him with us today at Beyond the Books!

Thank you so for this interview, Matthew Blair.  Now that the book has been written, do you feel you were fairly portrayed or would you like to set anything straight with your readers?

This book did set the record straight. I was portrayed unfairly in Mind Games, part of the Cassie Scot series which takes place before this book. In Mind Games I was courting Cassie, who seems to think I used more mind magic on her than I did. And yeah, maybe I cast a few spells, but let’s face it: She ended up with Evan Blackwood, and what he did to her was much worse.

Kaitlin says they love each other. I hope she’s right.

Do you feel the author did a good job colorizing your personality?  If not, how would you like to have been portrayed differently?

The author did a good job of showing my thoughts and feelings but … I’m a mind reader; I’m not used to people reading my mind. I’d rather the world not see my doubts and uncertainties. As a leader, I need to be seen as strong, steadfast, and in control.

What do you believe is your strongest trait?

Telepathy. It’s a gift, something I use freely to help others … and to get what I want.

Worst trait?

I’m used to getting what I want. When I don’t, I admit that I haven’t always handled it well.

If you could choose someone in the television or movie industry to play your part if your book was made into a movie, who would that be (and you can’t say yourself!)?

Ryan Gosling.

Do you have a love interest in the book?

Kaitlin Meyer. She’s someone I’ve known casually for a long time but it took a life-and-death situation for me to realize how amazing she is. She’s not a sorceress, which is probably why I didn’t give her a second look before, but she’s brave and loyal.

At what point of the book did you start getting nervous about the way it was going to turn out?

The first paragraph!

It begins with Kaitlin’s e-mail plea that her best friend take her son, raise him as her own, and keep him safe.

After that, things go downhill fast.

If you could trade places with one of the other characters in the book, which character would you really not want to be and why?

Jason. Aside from the obvious fact that he’s a vampire, there’s also the fact that despite being the father of Kaitlin’s child, he’s not (and never has been) good for her. And I want to be.

How do you feel about the ending of the book without giving too much away?

Well, let’s be honest: It’s not entirely good. Bad things happen and I’m still recovering from some of it. But there is hope.

What words of wisdom would you give your author if s/he decided to write another book with you in it?

Next time, less blood. You know what I’m talking about.

Thank you for this interview, Matthew Blair.  Will we be seeing more of you in the future?

Probably, although I’m told that Kaitlin’s Tale was my big chance to tell my story and set the record straight. There might be another Cassie Scot book in the future, though, and if so, you’ll see me (and Kaitlin) again.

Title: Kaitlin’s Tale

Genre: urban fantasy/paranormal romance

Author: Christine Amsden


Publisher: Twilight Times Books


Amazon / OmniLit

About the Book:

Kaitlin Mayer is on the run from the father of her baby – a vampire who wants her to join him in deadly eternity. Terrified for her young son, she seeks sanctuary from the hunters guild. But they have their own plans for her son, and her hopes of safety are soon shattered.

When she runs into Matthew Blair, an old nemesis with an agenda of his own, she dares to hope for a new escape. But Matthew is a telepath, and Kaitlin’s past is full of dark secrets she never intended to reveal.

About the Author:

Christine is the award-winning author of the Cassie Scot series, the story of the only ungifted scion of a family of powerful sorcerers. Her latest novel, Kaitlin’s Tale, follows the trials of Cassie’s best friend as she falls in love with Cassie’s arch-nemesis. Christine’s other titles include The Immortality VirusTouch of Fate, and Madison’s Song.

When she isn’t writing, Christine is often editing or coaching other authors. In recent years, freelance editing has become almost as great a passion as writing itself. Plus, it supports her writing habit. Christine is a wife, a mom, and a foster mom. She lives in Olathe, Kansas, just outside Kansas City.

Connect with the author on the web:


The First Page: Cable Car Mystery by Greg Messel

The First Page is one of Beyond the Book’s newest features. Here we get a glimpse into an author’s work and what better place to begin than the first page? Authors share their first pages and answer a few questions about why they started their books off the way they did. Today we welcome Greg Messel, author of Cable Car Mystery.

About the Book:

Cable Car Mystery

Title: Cable Car Mystery
Author: Greg Messel
Publisher: Sunbreaks Publishing
Pages: 180
Genre: Mystery/Romance

On the hottest day of the year in San Francisco in 1959, Private Detectives Sam and Amelia Slater are contemplating fleeing the city for their Stinson Beach house. However, when Sam decides to take a cable car ride to run some errands on the lazy summer day, he’s suddenly thrust into the spotlight when he rescues a woman who fell onto the busy street. Sam pulls the mysterious red haired woman out of the path of an oncoming cable car in the nick of time. The entire incident is captured by a newspaper photographer who splashes Sam’s heroics all over the front page. Sam is troubled not only by his new status as a city hero, but by the rescued woman’s plea for help. She whispers to Sam that she didn’t fall from the cable car but was pushed. She is frightened and disappears into the crowd before Sam can get more details. A San Francisco newspaper launches a campaign to find the mystery woman and Sam hopes to cross paths with her again.

Meanwhile, Amelia is troubled by the sudden disappearance of her elderly neighbor. Two thuggish younger men who now occupy the house next door say he took a sudden trip. One night when she’s alone Amelia grabs a flashlight and finds some disturbing clues in her neighbor’s garage. What really happened to her neighbor? Amelia is determined to find out.

Award winning author Greg Messel spins a new tale of intrigue in Cable Car Mystery, the sixth book in the Sam Slater Mystery series set in at the 1950s in San Francisco.

For More Information

  • Cable Car Mystery is available at Amazon.
  • Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads.

The First Page

October 11, 1786 Land


Welcome Greg. Can you tell us what your book is about?

Private detective Sam Slater is riding a cable car in San Francisco in 1959  when a beautiful red-haired woman suddenly plunges to the pavement. Sam jumps off the cable car and saves the woman from being hit by the oncoming traffic. By chance a reporter and photographer are at the scene and Sam’s heroics are splashed all over the front page. The woman whispers to Sam that she was pushed from the car and that someone was trying to kill her. She then bolts, disappearing into the crowd on a busy downtown street. Sam and the press launch a campaign to find the woman and Sam wonders why she left so suddenly.


The first page is perhaps one of the most important pages in the whole book. It’s what draws the reader into the story. Why did you choose to begin your book this way? 

I wrote the story and then decided to start the book this way, so I reordered the chapters. A woman returns from a date and discovers there is someone in her apartment. The intruder has also removed all the light bulbs which means the woman must face him alone in the dark. I choose this incident in the story as a first page because it makes the reader want to find out why and if the woman will be escape.

In the course of writing your book, how many times would you say that first page changed and for what reasons?

If by changes you mean polishing the writing and adding layers of detail—I reworked it several times. I tried to think of additional ways this situation could be made more suspenseful and scary. Grabbing the reader on the first page or first chapter is really a necessity with modern readers. The old style of writing would spend several chapters setting the stage for the story. An example is in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “Tender Is The Night.” It’s a classic book and a great author. However, “Tender Is The Night” spends most of the first three chapters giving an excruciating amount of details describing the hotel and beach where the story will occur. F. Scott Fitzgerald needs no writing tips from me but I was starting to wonder if anything was going to happen during the early chapters.

Was there ever a time after the book was published that you wished you had changed something on the first page?

No. I was pretty satisfied with how the story begins. I feel like I’ve learned the skill of pulling the reader into the story right away. In some of my earlier books I wish I had done a better job of starting with a suspenseful chapter. Once an effective first chapter grabs the reader then the background of the characters can be filled in. You need to make the readers care first.

What advice can you give to aspiring authors to stress how important the first page is?

A good editor taught me about adding “hooks” to your book. That applies not just to the first page or chapter but to the other chapters. This means ending the chapter with some suspense or uncertainty where the reader will be compelled to read the next chapter to see what happens. In my book “Cable Car Mystery,” the main female protagonist, Amelia, looks out of her upstairs window in the middle of the night and sees some suspicious goings on at her neighbor’s house. I end the chapter with her watching two strange men loading something wrapped in blankets into the trunk of their car. Hopefully, the reader will now want to read on and find out what is going to happen.

About the Author

Greg MesselGreg Messel has spent most of his adult life interested in writing, including a career in the newspaper business. He won a Wyoming Press Association Award as a columnist and has contributed articles to various magazines. Greg lives in Edmonds, Washington on Puget Sound with his wife Jean DeFond.

Greg has written nine novels. His latest is “Cable Car Mystery” which is the sixth in a series of mysteries set in 1959 San Francisco. “Shadows In The Fog,” ”Fog City Strangler,” “San Francisco Secrets,” “Deadly Plunge” are sequels to the first book in the series “Last of the Seals.” His other three novels are “Sunbreaks,” “Expiation” and “The Illusion of Certainty.”

For More Information

First Chapter Reveal: The Wolf of Britannia by Jess Steven Hughes

The Wolf Britannia

Title: The Wolf of Brittania, Part 1
Author: Jess Steven Hughes
Publisher: Sunbury Press
Pages: 321
Genre: Historical Fiction

First Century AD Britain is a fragmented land of warring Celtic tribes, ripe for invasion by the juggernaut of imperial Rome. Knowing this, a young warrior, soon-to-be-legendary, Prince Caratacus, must unite the southern tribes if they are to survive. This is an enemy more cunning and powerful then either he or Britain has ever faced.

Standing by him is his wife, Rhian, a warrior princess who takes no prisoners. She is the first woman he has truly loved. With her support and that of other allies, Caratacus must outsmart a traitorous brother who is determined to take the throne, aided by a conniving Roman diplomat and a tribal king in the pockets of the Romans.

Caratacus must save his country not only from the pending Roman onslaught but from his own peoples treachery.

Or else die trying.

For More Information


Chapter 1


Caratacus’s wicker chariot bucked and hurtled across every dip and rise in the track. Two lathering ponies strained at their harness as the young prince urged them ahead. Man-sized wooden targets sprinkled the course. Caratacus struck each through the heart with his casting spears. Now he raced for the finish line in a swirl of chalky dust, blue eyes ablaze with excitement.

Tawny hair whipped about his sunburned face. He sweated profusely in a woolen short-sleeved tunic and tartan breeches, dust muting their colors. A gold collar burned his neck, but to rip it off would bring bad luck. The earthy musk of horse sweat blotted out all other odors.

Behind him clattering wheels and thudding hooves roared in his ears. Four other chariots steadily gained on him. His horses responded to the stinging touch as he slapped the reins. Caratacus leaped from the flimsy cart onto the center drawbar between his team when another chariot nosed into the lead. He struggled for a foothold and looped the dragging reins about his wrists. Barefooted, he deftly edged his way forward on the jouncing bar and catapulted onto the back of his favorite beast. Kneeling on the bay pony, he bellowed encouragement, calling for even greater speed.

Sucking dust and screaming, urging the racers to ever greater strides, throngs of men, women, and children circled the large rutted, oval which served as a race track below the great hill fortress of Camulodunum.

A small boy chasing a dog darted from the crowd and crossed in the front of Caratacus’s path. A woman screamed. He sucked in his breath─Damn! In a flash he kicked the pony’s side, sharply swerving the team, barely missing the child. The chariot bounced, arcing one wheel off the ground and back to the earth with a thud. Violently wrenched from the beast’s back, Caratacus grabbed its yoke collar and yanked himself up on the withers. A throbbing pain shot through his loins from where he caught the horse’s knotty backbone between his legs.

For an instant, Caratacus glanced at the jostling throng. He caught sight of flaxen-haired Rhian, daughter of the king’s champion. The young woman screamed encouragement. His team leaped ahead and stampeded towards the finish.

Caratacus heard a pop and then a rumbling noise. He turned and saw the left trace rein on his other pony had snapped loose from an iron holding lug. It whipped back and forth along the animal’s side. The mare squealed, terrified by the bridle’s lashing. She strained at leather bands around her girth and neck, trying to lurch free of the yoke collar.

Upset by the squealing of the frightened, chestnut mare, the little bay bucked and kicked at the weaving cross-bar. Holding all the reins in his right hand, Caratacus jumped to the mare and gripped the animal’s sides with powerful legs. Other riders gained on him. He grabbed the trace rein and steadied his mounts.

Hanging by his legs, Caratacus reached down his pony’s side and stabbed his free hand towards the flying bridle. It snapped across his face, sending a painful shot through his eyes. For the length of a heartbeat he recoiled, trying to shake off the blinding pain that blurred his vision. Again he attempted to retrieve the other rein. The chariots rounded the last turn of the wheel-plowed course. Fist-sized clods pelted the cheering crowd. Another rider was almost upon him. Caratacus held onto the primary reins as he lunged again and snagged the end of the strap between the fingers of his perspiring left hand. As his sight cleared, he reeled in the rest of the reins. He tightened them around his left hand and held the primary reins of both animals in his right.

Caratacus guided the lathering mare back towards the center of the yoke pole and steadied her galloping to a smooth, flowing rhythm. As if on command, his bay settled down and matched the chestnut mare stride-for-stride. He kicked the side of the chestnut, exhorting the ponies to greater speed. They raced away from the other charioteers.

He crossed the finish line between two hardwood poles topped by bleached human skulls, at least six lengths ahead of his closest competitor. Horns blew. His brother, Tog, led a tremendous cheer. The riotous crowd rushed toward his chariot. A dusty, sweating Caratacus leapt from the car and tossed the reins to an awaiting groom. Grinning at one another, he and Tog clasped each other’s wrists and vigorously shook them.

“Well done, brother, victory is yours!” Tog exclaimed, “Well done! Here, take a drink,” Tog urged. He thrust a large earthen bowl of corma beer into Caratacus’s hands. Gratefully, he gulped it down. Hundreds of tribesmen surrounded them. It was the Harvest of Lughnasa, the first week of August. The chariot races culminated five days of celebration for the Catuvellaunian and Trinovantian Celts, at their capital on Britannia’s southeastern coast, Camulodunum.

When King Cunobelinos appeared, a hush fell over the crowd, which immediately opened a pathway for Caratacus’s thick-chested father. Long, gray hair swept down the king’s powerful back over his purple linen cloak. Cunobelinos wore a scarlet-and gold- threaded tartan tunic with matching breeches and a gold torc around his vein-corded neck. Bracelets of copper and gold circled his biceps and wrists. Sunlight danced off his long sword, made of rare and costly Damascus steel encased in a jeweled scabbard hanging from his waist.

Caratacus’s uncle, King Epaticcos, tribal leaders, and members of the Druid priesthood followed. Behind them ambled Caratacus’s older brother, Adminios. Tall, ebony hair falling down to his shoulders, his pocked-marked face was flushed, dark eyes watery. He had his arm around the waist of a well-known, round-face trollop, dressed in bright-green, plaid long tunic, girdled around the midriff with a gold-fringed sash. Adminios turned and pulled her close, and with his sensuous lips gave her a moist kiss. A few seconds later, she pushed him away and giggled. He laughed. The two staggered to a halt by the edge of the throng, a mixture of nobility, warriors, craftsmen, and peasants, dressed in their best tartan clothing or threadbare homespun.

All of them silently watched the King stop before Caratacus. Tog stepped behind his brother.

“You do us great honor,” Cunobelinos said, addressing his son. “Your victory pleases us.”

“Yes, it does,” Adminios said in a loud, slurring voice behind him. A vacuous grin widened on his thick lips. He stepped towards the king, leaving the woman’s side.

Cunobelinos gave the eldest son a withering look. “It is not your place to speak for the king.”

Adminios, his eyes going wide, looked about. His female companion shot a hand to her mouth. He bowed his large head and stepped back to the woman’s side. A low murmur spread through the crowd.

Caratacus broke the tension. “The honor is mine, Great King.”

The king nodded approval that his son had referred to him correctly.

Behind a sober face and clenched teeth, Caratacus hid his hatred for their forced formality and the humiliating way his father treated Adminios. Then again, his older brother had been drinking and womanizing as usual. Adminios tossed his head, shrugged, and tossed a hand as if he thought the entire scene was trivial. You should have waited until later to celebrate, brother.

Cunobelinos motioned a servant forward to present Caratacus with a large, silver drinking cauldron. The cup was inlaid with intricate carvings of boar heads, wolves, and deer. The prominent relief depicted the braided head of the warrior-goddess Andraste.

Caratacus refrained from smiling as he watched his father’s expressionless, ruddy face and searched the old, lined eyes for signs of approval. As expected he found none. “This is much more than I expected, Great King.”

A voice bellowed from the crowd, “Give him a drink! Let him drink from the cup!” The crowd joined the shouting, “Aye, let him!”

The king nodded. A servant hustled forward holding high a silver cup filled with Samian wine from Greece. Caratacus grasped the two handles and held high the trophy with both hands. “Although I am son of the Great King, I am still his loyal subject,” he called out loudly. “I am victorious today only because he did not race against me. For surely he would be drinking from this cup of glory rather than I.”

The crowd cheered wildly. The king nodded to his son, his mouth a thin line. Tog shook clasped hands above his head in approval. Holding the heavy cup, Caratacus tilted his head backwards and drained it, as custom demanded. Uncut by water, the wine dizzied him, but he finished without reeling or stumbling.

Caratacus handed the cup to the servant and wiped his mouth on his forearm. He noticed his father glaring at him. I know that look. Da expects more out of me. I’m only seventeen summers, what else does he want?


Book Spotlight: The Beams of Our House by Trey Dunham

Inside the Book:

Title: The Beams of Our House: A Novel Based on the Song of Solomon
Book 1: The Banner Series
Author: Trey Dunham
Publisher: Independent Self Publishing
Pages: 394 pages
Genre: Christian Dystopian / Furturistic Fiction
Book Description:
Sol 203119 hates Coupling—the forced dating and mating technique initiated across the United Cities as populations consolidated, gender tensions mounted, human reproduction plummeted, and marriage fell out of style—but he doesn’t know why. But when a fourth classmate at the Academy commits suicide, he follows the prompting of a mysterious voice and goes in search of a way out of the City for him and his classmates at the Academy.
Thousands of miles away, Lill, an orphan Wild, raised by strict and overprotective brothers, discovers she is part of an ancient prophecy that will bring to an end the longstanding battle between the Spirits of the City and Wilderness. Em, a mysterious, spiritual recluse, mentors Lill in her preparation: caring for refugees who have fled the City in search of a better life.
Able to escape the City, Sol slowly adapts to life in the difficult and dangerous Wilderness. He discovers a community of healthy, loving, committed families, but when a special ops team from the City nearly captures him, community leaders decide the time has come to unite and resurrect an ancient rite of the Spirit of the Wilderness: marriage.
Waiting anxiously for his return, a small contingent of Sol’s classmates from the Academy form an underground community in the heart of the City, which they call ‘the Banner.’ Meanwhile, Sol and Lill travel separately to witness the first wedding in centuries; the City counters with a deadly attack. In spite of massive casualties, a small remnant survives. And in a narrow underground cavern, the bruised and battered Sol and Lill meet for the first time.
Book Excerpt:
Washington, DC: The U.S. Department of Health and
Human Resources (DHHR) announced today recommendations made to federal and
state legislatures to suspend all laws and regulations related to the issuing
of marriage licenses, effectively ending a practice which had been in steep
decline over the previous two decades. DHHR Executive Director David Berkeley
said, “The psychological, economic, and legal weight of marriage places a
significant burden upon the health and well-being of individuals and society as
            In light of these
health concerns and declining participation by the general populace, the DHHR
is recommending that federal and state lawmakers suspend all policies related
to marriage. Additionally, we ask that any binding legal restrictions to those
currently married, especially as pertains to divorce and separation, be
            Lawmakers at the
federal and state levels, which enter sessions next month, plan to review the
measure. Several states already have resolutions on the docket in support of
the DHHR recommendation.
(Many years
Sol 203119 looked at himself in the mirror and
grimaced. After a full minute, he dropped his eyes then pulled off his shirt,
bending, contorting, folding and unfolding his arms and elbows like a giant
insect; standing as tall as his thin, slight frame would allow. He stopped,
then let his arms fall and dangle at his side. He closed his eyes and then
looked again, hoping that perhaps things would appear more to his liking. They
did not. He rubbed his chest, the part over his heart, with his right hand. It
felt warm to the touch.
He twisted his lips and puffed out his chest. He
was only partially successful. The left side laid flat, unflinching in spite of
his effort. His ears started to turn red with effort. He held his breath and
hoped that might inflate the muscle. He started to get dizzy and so he let go;
his lips broke their seal and released an enormous,
blubbering gust of wind and
Sol pulled the shirt over his head and then
slouched, paused for a moment, his eyes moved up and down his body. He rubbed
his chest again. The scar was still there, only it seemed to have grown larger,
like a knotty rope of flesh and scar-tissue. He first noticed it the week he
moved into the Academy. It was small then, a string at best. Now thicker,
harder, like a heavy rope, it extended from just under his shoulder down at an
angle and ended near his sternum. He felt it tighten and pull as he moved and
lifted his arm over his head. He grimaced, put his shirt back on and yanked
down on the sleeve. A knock sounded at the door.
“Hey, Sol. You ready?”
“Yeah,” he paused. “Just a minute. I’m getting
“Well, hurry up. They’re coming and from the sounds
of it they’re in a bad mood.”
“And don’t worry. You can’t see it.”
Sol opened the door with a click and stepped into
the common room. Adon stood in front of a full-length mirror, adjusting the
collar of his Academy jacket. He was tall, taller than Sol and bigger. His
chest and arms pushed menacingly against the fabric
“Still self-conscious about that pec, I see.” Adon
grinned. Sol reddened. “Don’t worry about it,” Adon continued, “the women they
put us with don’t care about that kind of stuff. At least that’s what
they tell us.” He smiled as if he
didn’t really believe himself what he had just said. He ran his fingers through
his black, coarse hair and, somewhat satisfied with what he saw, turned to his
“Where’s Pietr?”
“In his room, I think. The door’s closed.”
“We better get him. They’ll be here any second. And
I don’t want to end up in the Tank because of that idiot.”
Outside, they heard the sound of shouting and boots
running. Heavy fists landed against doors at the far end of the hall. They
needed to be quick. Pietr’s door was closed, so Adon knocked, “Hey, it’s time
to go. You ready?” He spoke loudly and with conviction. No answer. Sol reached
down and pulled on the handle. It clicked. Unlocked. They pushed the door and
stepped inside. It was dark.
At first the room appeared empty, except for the
unmade bed along the near wall. A small desk was at the far end of the room
facing a large window that looked out into the City. It was night, but the glow
from the lights in the facing buildings was sufficient to illuminate the room.
The room smelled dank; a stale cheese sandwich lay in the corner, covered in
“You in here?” Sol asked.
The boys crept deeper into the room, the air acrid,
unmoving. It smelled of sweat. “Ow!” Adon yelled and crumpled to the floor. Sol
heard a weight bar roll and crash into the wall. Adon cursed and murmured as
Sol moved deeper into the room.
Adon moaned, but Sol wasn’t listening. Two white
lights appeared in the in the corner, next to the desk. They blinked off, then
on, then off again.
“Pietr, I see you. Turn off the game. You have to
come out,” Sol said. “We’ll get in a lot of trouble if we’re not ready. None of
us want the Tank again.” Pietr’s eyes reappeared for a moment, and looked at
Sol. Then, they clicked off a second time.
“Turn the game off,” Sol said with some force.
Adon stopped moaning just long enough to shout,
“You can’t stay holed up in here all day. You know that. We have to go,
so get dressed or I am going to beat you like the useless piece of trash you
are.” Adon was suddenly angry and could feel the blood rushing up his back
along his spine to the back of his neck, the tiny hairs standing erect. His
hand pulled tight into a fist. Pietr was strong, and easily as big as Adon, but
he was soft. He did not have the malice of his roommate. Adon stood up slowly
and repeated his threat. “Get dressed or I’ll beat you bloody. Be out in two
minutes. I’ll get some Meds ready for you. That’ll help.”
Suddenly, they could hear shouting in the hall.
“Something’s going on,” Sol said to Adon, stepping over him and making his way
to the door. “Hurry, Pietr. Please!” He yelled over his shoulder as he
left the room.
Sol flung open the door to the hallway just as four
black-clad officers ran past. They were carrying weapons: long, black
lightweight batons. Sol watched them run down the hall, but did not see the
group behind them. An extended hand at the end of a locked arm slammed into the
small of his back and sent him hurtling, face first into the doorframe. He fell
back immediately and crack, the back of his head rang with a second
impact. He heard Adon grunt loudly. Sol felt the blood almost immediately begin
to trickle down his face. He wiped his nose with the back of his hand. It was
red. He could feel a lump start to grow on the back of his head.
Adon bent over holding his chin. “Oh, man,” he
moaned. He rubbed his face then stood up, “What’s going on out there?” Another
four officers ran past the open door, followed closely by two medics dressed in
white. Sol looked at Adon, his fingers pinching his bloody nose and slowly
shook his head. An officer, face shield covering her eyes, stopped and stepped
halfway into the room. “Keep your doors closed,” she barked “All rooms on
lockdown until further notice!” She slammed the door and was gone.
“That’s the fourth one here this week. Who knows
what’s going on everywhere else,” said Adon. “I heard that most Academies
average one a day.”
Sol didn’t answer. He stood looking out the window
into the night. The lights in the yard below seemed distant, the weight of the
moonless sky holding them down. He took a deep breath and looked out towards
the City. Buildings and lights rose from the earth as far as he could see. He
looked at his hands, small and pale. He tried to remember a time he had not
been at the Academy. He had lived out in the City once, when he was a child,
but that was before his father had left and his mother died. I’ve never
known anything else
, he thought. They brought me here when they needed
me and they will send me where they please when they’re done. What choice do I
He stepped away from the window and turned to look at his roommate.
Adon sat still on the couch, rubbing his chin.
With more than fifty thousand boys, the Academy was
among the largest in the United Cities. Built in concentric circles, it
consisted of twenty-four identical towers housing two thousand one hundred
residents each: seven hundred rooms on thirty-five floors; twenty rooms per floors.
Three boys per room. Sol stood looking out of Room 3415, House 22.
“See if you can pick up any chatter.” Adon
stretched himself out on the couch, gingerly; his chin that had taken on a
slightly purple hue.
“They never talk about this kind of stuff publicly.”
“Yeah, but maybe someone can get through on a
high-wire.” He paused, thinking aloud, “I wonder who it was.”
Sol walked to the desk and opened the drawer. He
pulled out a small earpiece and awkwardly jammed it into his ear. A small red
light turned on, went yellow, then green. He closed his eyes and listened, then
looked up to see Adon watching him from the couch.
“You know they don’t like you taking that out.” He
gestured with his eyes to Sol’s ear.
“I know. Sometimes I need the quiet.”
“Still hearing it?”
Sol closed his eyes again and tried to concentrate.
Sounds began to fill his ear, distant and garbled, as if he were underwater,
the muffled tones drifted in and out, softer, then louder. He tried to focus,
concentrating on an especially high frequency. Brain waves from an adolescent,
from other boys, resonated at a higher frequency than adults, much like their
speech, and at times, when the situation dictated, high frequencies, what they
called “high-wires” could be accessed out of reach of anyone who might be
listening. Sol closed his eyes tighter, trying to understand what was being
said. It wouldn’t be long before the System detected the network anomaly and
disrupted the pattern.
“It was Salo,” he said finally.
“Salo?” Adon and Sol turned to see Pietr standing
in the doorway to his room. He was undressed, out of uniform, wearing shorts
and a white tank top, a large white blanket wrapped around his shoulders. It
hung three feet from the floor off his huge frame. It was covered, like his shirt,
with grey grease stains. He had on one sock, a huge toe poking out, the nail
Pietr shuffled into the room and fell into a chair
opposite Adon. Sol sat down and pushed the earpiece deeper into his ear. He
closed his eyes again. Pietr and Adon watched, waiting.
“He hanged himself,” he said finally. “Hadn’t been
out of his room in days. They’d put him in the Tank to try to shake him out of it,
but it didn’t work.” He pulled the piece from his ear and tossed it roughly on
the table. “Obviously.”
There was a noise in the hall, and then the sound
of doors opening. They heard a loud voice, someone yelling. Sol ran to the door
and cracked it open. He felt Adon behind him; his breath smelled like mint.
Halfway down the hall, he saw a group of officers, their backs to him, huddled,
working vigorously close to the ground.
Suddenly, they stood up lifting a gurney that
clicked firmly into place. They turned and pushed the bed towards Sol and the
elevators that would take them to the roof and a waiting transport. As they
moved, they tapped open doors with the ends of their batons, yelling at the
curious to get back inside. “Coupling will be delayed by thirty minutes only,”
an officer yelled, “and anyone not ready will get the Tank.”
Sol watched, staring as the gurney and officers
approached. The thump of heavy boots and harsh click of batons against doors
sent chills through his spine: he looked at the black bag as it passed, zipped
down the middle, resting silently on the cart. Who will it be tomorrow?
he wondered. Suddenly, he felt a sharp crack across his hands, the sting of a
baton on his knuckles.
“Thirty minutes,” she snarled.
He closed the door and fell back as it clicked
shut. He leaned against it, facing into the room. (There is another way.)
Sol closed his eyes again, listening.
(All you have known is the City, but there is
another way.)
He opened his eyes.
“Why do you think he did it?” Pietr asked quietly
pulling his blanket up around his shoulders.
Adon and Sol didn’t answer; both looked instead at
the floor.
“You know why.” Adon sat back down on the couch.
“The same reason we imagine doing it. We’re
afraid,” Sol said. “We hide in our rooms, but they root us out, drug us up, set
us up, push us out. And if that isn’t enough, if that doesn’t work, if it all
gets to be too much, then you just crack and you find another way out. Salo
found the only way out I know of.”
Adon looked at Sol. He knew he was right. Pietr’s
eyes fell to the floor, then he pulled the blanket up again around his huge
shoulders. He looked like a child, even though he was larger than any man Sol
had ever seen. The blanket struggled to hide him, but beneath it Pietr huddled,
afraid, shaking. He pulled the cloth over his head and then he started to sob,
quietly, his shoulders rolling.
“I wish it could be different,” Adon said. “The
Academy is trying to help us, to bring us back, all of us, the thousands of us
that live here and in the other Cities. But sometimes guys like Salo fall
through the cracks. They don’t make it.”
“Shai and Topher should have done something. They
should have told someone so they could have helped him. He needed help, but
they didn’t do anything. No one did anything.” Deep, violent sobs rolled out
from under the blanket. Pietr pulled himself tight into a ball, trying to make
himself small.
“Yeah, maybe someone could have done something,”
Adon said. “But the reality is there are fifty thousand guys just like him in
this place. And tomorrow someone else will move in right down the hall. And in
a week, everything will be back to normal. The whole City can’t just stop for
one person. You’d better get used to that. He’s gone, but there are a thousand
more just like him. And we’re still here. We have to keep on or we’ll end up
just like him.”
Sol walked behind Pietr and placed a hand on his
back: “Take this,” he said holding a glass filled with creamy white liquid in
front of his friend. “It’ll make you feel better.” He felt Pietr’s labored,
uneven breath.
“No, you’re wrong,” Pietr yelled, suddenly standing
up. He knocked the glass from Sol’s hand and it shattered as it hit the floor,
white cream exploding everywhere. “There was only one Salo,” Pietr said
angrily. He looked up, red eyes glaring at Adon, face streaked with dirt and
tears. He walked quickly to his room and slammed the door behind him.
Adon shook his head, “Some guys just don’t get it.”
Sol bent down and picked up a piece of broken glass. “Leave that for the
maids,” Adon said. “We’d better get ready. They’ll be here soon.” He turned and
walked into his room.
For More Information:
The Beams of Our House is available at AmazonBarnes & NobleGoodreads
Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads

Meet the Author

A writer, teacher, and church planter, Trey Dunham has been blogging on spiritual, family and personal topics since 2009.
He lives in Morgantown, WV.
For More Information:

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On the Spotlight: Memories of a Mad Man, by Don Spector


Mad Men. Don Spector didn’t just watch them on television. He was one of them. Starting in a Madison Avenue ad agency in the ‘60’s, he actually lived the life captured in the TV show. In “Memories of a Mad Man” he shares with us an unforgettable era filled with humor, brilliance, wonderful heroes and big, bad villains. The funny and fascinating stories he tells uncover the reality of the ad world behind the show. • What was it like dealing with celebrities of the era? • How did the advent of computers spoil one of the greatest boondoggles that Mad Men—and Mad Women—enjoyed? • The Three Martini Lunch. True or false? • What’s the real truth about truth in advertising?

Starting as a junior copywriter in a Madison Avenue ad agency in the ‘60s, Don Spector qualifies as a genuine Mad Man. Creating advertising for the agency’s high-profile accounts like Smirnoff Vodka and Tareyton cigarettes, he began his ascent up the creative ladder in several New York agencies. His commercials and print ads for advertisers like Xerox, the Yellow Pages and Jaguar ultimately led to an offer of a key position in Los Angeles-based BBDO/West where he was soon named Creative Director. After moving to a similar position at Foote Cone Belding/Los Angeles, he eventually started his own agency where he served until his retirement. The advertising he created for dozens of companies like ARCO, Absolut Vodka, Bristol-Myers and S.C. Johnson won numerous awards. But, more importantly, it generated millions of dollars in sales for them. 


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You Must Only To Love Them Book Blast!

Literarily Speaking and Pump Up Your Book are pleased to bring you Ann Marie Mershon’s YOU MUST ONLY TO LOVE THEM: LESSONS LEARNED IN TURKEY Book Blast! Please leave her a message below to let her know you stopped by!

Inside the Book

Title: You Must Only To Love Them: Lessons Learned in Turkey
Author: Ann Marie Mershon
Publisher: Maple Hill Publications
Pages: 282
Genre: Memoir/Travel

Living overseas is the best way to understand the world and its varied cultures. Recently divorced, Ann Marie decided to pursue her life dream of living overseas and accepted a position as a prep school English teacher in Istanbul. Ann Marie battled loneliness as she tried to make the most of her ex-pat existence, and her forays into the Muslim culture and the stunning landscape of Turkey brought them both close to her heart. This memoir is part travelogue, part adventure, and part romance. Now is your chance to vicariously experience life overseas, glimpse Islam from the inside, and perhaps explore Turkey on your own.

For More Information

  • You Must Only To Love Them: Lessons Learned in Turkey is available at Amazon.
Book Excerpt:

At Harem my stomach lurched as I scanned the scene: hundreds of busses –green, blue, long, short. How would I ever find the one to Koç? I approached a man in a chauffer’s cap. “Do you speak English?”

“Hayir, ama giteceğim,” he answered, then disappeared. Did he want me to wait? I gave it an optimistic try. Soon he returned with a bushy-browed man in a plaid shirt. “How can I help you, Lady?”

Ah, hope! “I need to find the bus to the Koç School.”

“The Koç University?” he asked.

“No, the high school. Near Pendik.”

“There is no bus to Pendik here,” he said. “You must take ferry to Eminönü, then take Kadiköy ferry and train.”

My heart sank. The man at Eminönü must have thought I meant Koç University. I didn’t even know there was one! It would take all day to get home if I had to backtrack. And I wouldn’t have enough lira! Frantic tears filled my eyes.

“Maybe I can help. One minute, please.” Once more I waited, heart pounding. My hair was sizzling, my blouse glued to my back. I’d never felt so alone. Libby cowered beside me in the midst of bus-station chaos as I prayed this man would find me a way home. He returned smiling. “I found bus driver who knows Koç Lisesi. He will help you. Come.”

He led me through a sea of busses to a blue mini-bus similar to those I’d used with Jana. I settled behind the driver with my purple backpack on the floor and Libby’s case in my lap. It was tight, but I felt safe. The driver nodded at me knowingly. “Do you speak English?” I asked. He shook his head.

“Koç Lisesi,” he said.

“Yvet,” I answered. Yes.

It took fifteen minutes for the bus to fill, and we were finally off. We drove and we drove and we drove. Body odor permeated the bus as it filled and emptied numerous times, mostly with men. A few smiled at me, while most avoided my gaze. I wasn’t alone, just caught in the isolation of the wrong language. We drove forever. “Don’t worry, Libby,” I whispered. “We’ll get home.” I hoped so, anyway.

An hour later the driver pulled over under a bridge and signaled me to get out. He wasn’t going to abandon me there, was he? He said something to the other passengers, then motioned me to follow him up a stairway to the overpass.

He crossed the bridge, jay-walked through traffic, and led me to a crowded bus stop. When he paused to light a cigarette, I said, “Teşekkur ederim” (Thank you) and handed him five of my remaining lira. He pushed my hand away, indicating that I should wait. I shook my head and pointed to his bus. He looked back at his stranded passengers and nodded, then strode over to some men standing nearby. I heard “Koç Lisesi” and “Tepeören” (a town near the school). He returned and indicated that I should follow these men; he would go back to his bus. I tried again to tip him, but he shook his head resolutely.

A grizzled man with a crocheted scull cap strode over and asked me something in Turkish. “Anlamadım,” I said. I don’t understand. He repeated himself, more loudly this time. “Anlamadım!” I repeated. He tried a third time, even louder. “Anlamadım!!!” I boomed. Was he deaf? He nodded, nonplussed, then stood silently beside me, my aged protector.

Meet the Author



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Ann Marie Mershon is a retired English teacher living with her husband near the Boundary Waters of NE Minnesota. She writes every day but also finds time to enjoy the outdoors, whether it’s hiking, biking, skiing, kayaking, or just sipping a cup of coffee as the sun rises.

She always enjoyed writing but didn’t start writing in earnest until about twenty years ago. She began with an enthusiastic effort at a YA novel, only to realize it was little better than recylable material. She took a series of writing courses and workshops before she began writing a weekly newspaper column then graduated to freelancing, writing articles for newspapers and magazines.

Her first published book was a middle-grade historical novel, Britta’s Journey ~ An Emigration Saga. It was based on a local family’s emigration from Finland to Minnesota. After teaching a few years in Istanbul, she met a woman who guided small tours of the city and talked her into collaborating on a guidebook of her tours, Istanbul’s Bazaar Quarter, Backstreet Walking Tours. This book is in its third printing, soon to be released as an e-book and as a phone app.

For More Information


Book Spotlight: Journey to the Cross by Shane Cloonan

Inside the Book:

Title: Journey to the Cross
Author: Shane Cloonan
Publisher: State Street Publishing
Publication Date: September 11, 2015
Pages: 35
Genre: Children’s Christian Fiction
Book Description: 
This is the story of the Jesus donkey, a fictional tale that takes readers on a journey from our Lord’s birth to his ultimate crucifixion. Though written and illustrated for young readers, this book is perfect for people of all ages who want a fresh, youthful perspective on the life of Jesus. The book’s message is imbued in the strength and simplicity of hearts that are linked to other hearts by Jesus. Journey to the Cross follows the light of hope that first appeared on that special night in Bethlehem.
For More Information:
Journey to the Cross is available at AmazonBarnes & Noble

Meet the Author

Shane Cloonan is a resident of Elgin, Illinois and a high school freshman. This book, his first, started out as a grade school writing project. Shane is an avid outdoorsman. He also is an accomplished woodcarver. Shane took third place in his age group and category two years ago at the Ward World Championships Wildfowl Carving Competition in Maryland, then followed that up with a first-place finish in the International Woodcarvers Congress competition in Iowa.
You can visit Shane’s website at
For More Information:

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