Motivation

MotivationMore student essays.

ETHAN

Motivation is an important quality that will get you far in life. Motivation is the reason a person does something and gives them the energy to continue in the pursuit of a goal. A little motivation can go a long way in life. For example, I have a motivation to clean my room so I can play Battlefront.

BRENDAN

Personal goals for which he is motivated.

1. To not be online, on the phone playing video games as much

2. To be more physically fit

3. To learn about the game of football

4. To reading more

5. Better self control. This is a goal to stay out of trouble and better myself.

DEACON

One goal I have is trying to get my next belt for my taekwondo. Another goal is for me to get stronger. I will get stronger by practicing on my taekwondo. I want to be stronger so I can do more things than when I was younger. A goal I have is to be a scientist when I’m older. I want to be a scientist because it would help me learn more and because I’m very creative. Another goal I want to to accomplish is to be an inventor. I want to be an inventor because I am very creative and because I love to build. The last goal I want to finish is that I want to go to Japan. I want to go to Japan for an opportunity to be an inventor.

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Around The Globe With Anna-Marie Abell

TasmaniaA cool start to December, but I’m in my transporter early to pick up this week’s featured author. When she enters, I see she’s carrying a large sack.

“I’ve brought a variety of wine,” she says.

“Great.”

“Yes, lots of wine.”

Soon, we’re diving into the warm waters off Tasmania and swimming with…what the hec are these things?

platypus2“Playtypus.”

Wine and platypuses. What a combination. Well, that’s fits Abell’s personality. Soon, we’re lounging on the beach enjoying the second…or third? bottle of wine. I think there’s an interview I’m supposed to be conducting.

Holy Crap the World is Ending Banner 851 x 3151. Who are you and what makes you the most fascinating person in your city?

I have quite the interesting life here in San Diego. Besides being a writer, I own a marketing company, am a 41–year-old BodyCombat instructor, I regularly attend MUFON (Mutual UFO Network) meetings and UFO conferences, and spend my spare time studying ancient Sumerian cuneiform tablets hoping to uncover the true origins of the human race. I am also obsessed with insects and small animals around my property and can often be found posting pictures of them.

2. Without revealing a deep dark secret (unless you want to), what one thing would people be surprised to learn about you?

I can’t handle any food that has tentacles. When I go out to eat, no one is allowed to order calamari because I will freak out. If it is an awkward situation where I am at a business dinner and can’t disclose this fact, and someone orders calamari, I break out in a cold sweat and usually have to get up to go to the “restroom” until there is ample time for the appetizer to be eaten.

3. What interested you to become a writer rather than something else such as rock star?

Are you kidding? I would totally give this all up to become a rock star. The problem is, I am tone deaf, so it never worked out in reality. But now that they have auto-tune, I could give it another go. I can still be a rock star at 41, right?

In all seriousness, I need to write. I have all these stories playing in my head and I need to get them out. I have always had this crazy imagination, and that is reflected in my writing.

4. Writers are readers. With which author(s) would you enjoy sharing dinner? Why?

If he were still single, it would be Hugh Howey because, well, Hugh Howey shirtless and on his boat. He would provide dinner and dessert.

If I could bring someone back from the dead, it would be Zecharia Sitchin, the granddaddy of the Ancient Astronaut theory and author of The Twelfth Planet. He had discovered something in his research he was too frightened to share, and I want to find out what that is.

As far as someone alive, it would be J.K. Rowling. I want to talk to her about her process of creating an entire world like she did with the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

5. If I were stranded on a deserted island or suffering from a four hour layover at the airport, why would your book(s) be great company?

If you were on a deserted island, you could paint a face on my book with your blood and name it Wilson.

The airport is different. You might get thrown in TSA jail if you cut your hand and go all Castaway in the terminal and start talking to my book. So in that case, it would provide some pure escapist fun. It is weird, funny, and educational. I would just be careful when you get to the steamy sex scenes. I wouldn’t want anyone staring at you funny because you’re fanning yourself in the fully air-conditioned terminal.

6. Share your process of writing in regards to: plot and character development, story outline, research (do you Google or visit places/people, or make it up on the spot), writing schedule, editing and number of rewrites.

There is over twenty years of research that went into this book. It incorporates all the research I have done into the Ancient Astronaut Theory and the Sumerian culture—specifically their creation of man. All the Anunnaki in my book are based on the “real” Anunnaki found in the ancient texts. With all this knowledge in my head, the story I wanted to tell played out like a movie and I just wrote the story I saw. It helps that the main character is totally based on me. So the story was a “what would I do if I were thrown into this situation” type of deal.

7. “I think I have a good idea for a story, but I don’t know where or how to begin. Your process may not work for me. Any advice?”

Just write. It doesn’t matter what it is, or even if it is the story you want to tell. Get it out. Get anything out. If you are not an alcoholic, have a couple drinks. It really can help loosen your inhibitions and fears of writing and get you started. Every writer lacks confidence when they write. “Is this crap?” crosses all of our minds. You just got to go for it.

8. I saw an amusing T-shirt the other day which read, “Every great idea I have gets me in trouble.” What is your philosophy of life?

Every bottle of wine I drink gives a fairy her wings.”

9. Please tell me you’re not going to stop writing? What’s next for you?

Okay, you said please, so I will tell you I am not going to stop writing. I am finishing up a draft of book three of the trilogy. I hope to have book two out mid next year. Then I want to publish more of my research. I have discovered some mind blowing things in the cuneiform writings, and really want to publish it and open up a discussion on the origins of the human race. I think there is more to our story that could change our entire thinking on life and our place in it.

10. Where can people find more information on you and your projects?

My super fancy website. And if you really want some excitement in your life, you can sign up for my newsletter on there. http://writtenbyanna.com/

_______________________________________________________________________________

coverHoly Crap! The World is Ending!

How a Trip to the Bookstore Led to

Sex with an Alien and the Destruction of Earth

The Anunnaki Chronicles

Book One

Anna-Marie Abell

Genre: Humorous Paranormal Romance

Publisher: Alien Abduction Press

Date of Publication: September 21, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-947119-01-7

ASIN: B071Z7YTW7

Number of pages: 349

Word Count: Just under 114,000

Tagline: End times are here! Now you can eat whatever you want and not care if you gain weight.

Book Description:

The president has announced that Earth is going to collide with a rogue moon, and in the process, our entire planet is going to be smashed to bits. As one would expect, upon hearing this news, humans went ballistic. It was as if every sports team in the world lost their championship game at the same time. No car was left unrolled—but oddly enough, Taco Bell remained open and made unfathomable profits in the last days. Apparently, Doritos Locos® Tacos were a popular last meal.

Autumn (who for the purpose of this retelling asked to be portrayed as drool-inducing hot with kick-ass ninja skills) has just been handed the task of saving all of humanity. With the help of her unbelievably sexy alien boyfriend and her kleptomaniac friend with fire-retardant hair, Autumn takes a spaceship and races to save her fellow humans by using the Ark of the Covenant. Along the way, she discovers how sheltered people are from the truth of extraterrestrials and their power to either protect us or destroy us.

Stupid government.

Grab a bottle of wine, a shipload of snacks, and prepare to take a ride on this humorous chick lit romantic sci-fi paranormal adventure. If you’re into Ancient Aliens, conspiracy theories, UFOs, crave a little sexy time in your reading, are curious if we were genetically engineered (like the Sumerian cuneiform texts claim), and are dying to find out the meaning of life, then this book is for you.

Book Trailer: https://youtu.be/62OF9buIr-c

Amazon BN Kobo iTunes IndieBound Author Website

What Reviewers Have to Say

“An unexpected story that promises to be one of the most creative fictional discoveries of the year…a fun approach to the entire save-the-Earth-from-alien-invasion scenario which successfully turns traditional approaches upside down.”- D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review

“A rollicking seat of your pants fun ride through the universe!”- Joan Silvestro, Booktrader of Hamilton

“An awesome read! Warm, witty–and thought provoking–a beach read that stays with you throughout the year!”- Aionios Books

“This book starts with a lot of humour, but quickly gets a very rich storyline with great characters and seriously… this ending? If you like to be blown away, you should read this!” – Esther, BiteIntoBooks

“Anna-Marie Abell has succeeded in weaving her years of study into in the ancient Sumerian culture and their gods with common conspiracy theories, pop culture and random human quirkiness into an out of this world end times romp that will have you laughing out loud at the most inappropriate times and possibly even shedding a tear or two before it’s all said and done.” – Jennifer, JennlyReads

Excerpt 1

What if…

Ever since I was a kid I’ve been fascinated by the unimaginable. I used to gaze at the night sky and contemplate a series of what ifs. But I’m not talking about the boring typical what ifs such as:

What if I won the lotto?

What if I quit my job and moved to Tanzania?

I’m talking about those outlandish ones:

What if I ran across a herd of three-inch pigmy cows capable of producing solid gold milk, but each ounce I extracted took a month off my life? Would I still do it?

What if we could suddenly have intellectual conversations with all animals? Would we continue to eat them?

What if the whole world went blind and deaf all at the same time? Would we survive as a species?

Another favorite childhood pastime of mine was observing ants clambering atop one another to locate food or gather leaves, like inhabitants of a metropolis bustling to work. Ants are innately oblivious to the threat of a gargantuan foot looming over them. I’ve often wondered if humans would behave the same way if the tables were turned.

What if a jumbo foot came down on us and squashed a city block on a regular basis? After a while, would we just shrug it off and alter course to go around it like ants do?

Some people go out of their way to squish any and all bugs that come across their path. Not me. I have a strict “no kill” policy with every type of animal.

Well, that’s not entirely true. I have an exception for animals I buy in a grocery store. I know: this is incredibly hypocritical. But dammit, I love me some cow. Perhaps I should define my “no kill” policy as “not slaying a creature simply because it annoys you—or simply because you can.”

For example, I can’t help but wonder:

What if I were reincarnated as a fly in my next life? Would I appreciate getting stuck on a glue trap?

Put yourself in the fly’s place. You’re ambling along, minding your own business, when out of nowhere the glorious aroma of In-N-Out Burger wafts in your direction. Those freshly cooked fries and juicy burgers fill your senses with food ecstasy. Just when you can’t take it anymore, a sign pops up out of thin air that reads: All You Can Eat! Free In-N-Out Burgers All Day.

Salivating, you charge toward the smell all excited. Then—BAM!—you step onto a glue pad, unable to break free. Not only are you doomed to a lengthy, torturous death of dehydration and starvation, but your last days are filled with the constant aroma of those heavenly cheeseburgers you can never have.

Not the way I’d want to kick the bucket, that’s for sure.

My fixation over these what ifs is why I was so into UFOs, ancient aliens, near-death experiences, ghosts, and really, anything paranormal. Truth be told, I’m not sure if deep down I believed in all these things, or if I just wanted them to be real, so I’d have something to hope for beyond the monotony of human life. I mean, think about it. What would be more entertaining: cleaning a toilet, or cleaning a toilet haunted by a ghost? (Well, a friendly one. It might get messy if your bowl were possessed by a demon.) Phantom commodes win hands down.

I’ll never forget the day this whole obsession got started. When I was six, I asked my mom what life was going to be like when I grew up. She was always one for blunt honesty, and she said, “Well, you’ll go to school for a really long time, marry a guy who will lose all his hair, get a job you’ll probably hate, have kids, get old, poop your pants, and then die.”

I broke down in tears.

My mom ended up regretting having told me all that, because at the age of seven, I convinced myself that those things wouldn’t happen to me, and that it was my destiny to one day rescue the planet. I am talking about a Will Smith in Independence Day style rescue (except I imagined myself with a breadstick in my mouth instead of a cigar). In one childhood fantasy, I used a butter knife and my badass Barbie Mobile to defend the residents of my neighborhood from a rampaging, genetically mutated, alien-giraffe hybrid that had escaped from a secret government lab. (Kids, if you ever want your mom to get fired as the president of the PTA so she doesn’t embarrass you in front of your class, simply splatter your shirt with ketchup and burst into the annual Teacher Appreciation Luncheon with a spork screaming about man-eating giraffes. Trust me, it works like a charm.)

This desire to be the hero had me hooked on stories where people discover they’re part of an amazing new reality—a world where the impossible becomes possible. If I waited long enough, I thought, maybe Hagrid and his flying motorcycle would come crashing into my bathroom as I sat on the toilet and proclaim, “You’re a wizard, Autumn!”

But it’s one thing to dream it, and an entirely different thing to live it. Had I been smart and heeded the advice of the Pussycat Dolls when they warned us to “Be careful what you wish for, ’cause you just might get it,” then maybe things would have played out differently.

I wished it.

I got it.

And now I’m about to die.

Excerpt 2

He tenderly swept my hair behind my ear and whispered, “I want you so bad right now.”

Do you now?”

I bent to kiss him. The instant we connected, electricity sizzled through our bodies. Groaning, he hastily swapped our positions, so he was on top of me, and pressed one leg between my thighs. One of his hands cupped my breast as he kissed my neck; the other hand teased the skin just underneath my shirt.

Boy, you don’t waste any time, do you?” I breathed.

His sexy half-smile lit up his face and he pressed his knee a little higher. The tingles of an orgasm arose between my legs. No way am I going to last more than a minute at this rate. Desperately needing things to progress more quickly, I clawed at my clothes, trying to remove them.

Brushing his lips against my ear, Rigel rumbled, “So impatient.” His hot breath against my skin brought on the inevitable vibrations.

Just a bit,” I panted.

With a throaty chuckle, he trailed his tongue along my cheek until he reached my mouth. He lingered there, brushing his bottom lip against mine. One brush… then another.

What are you waiting for?” I protested.

Just slowing things down for you.”

Well, stop it.” I meant that to be playful, but my need practically had me snarling at him. He was driving me insane.

With another chuckle, he bit my bottom lip, sucking it into his mouth. The building pressure in my core made me moan.

He grinned at me. “If that set you off, you’d better get prepared for what I’m going to do next.”

My heart pounded. Oh, god. “You aren’t playing fair.”

Placing his arms on either side of me, he brought his knee up, parting my legs until his thigh pressed firmly against me.

I moaned again.

Who said this was going to be fair?” he said.

He rocked his leg once. Another moan.

Oh, so we’re playing dirty?” Feeling gutsy from the lust, I used my fingernails to stoke the growing bulge in his pants. I felt it twitch. I can’t believe I just did that!

He let out a long breath and dove in for a kiss. Our lips parted, and he thoroughly claimed my mouth. Any shyness I had melted away once his skilled tongue explored mine. I gave back with the same intensity, my arms wrapping around his neck, fingers lacing in his hair. He tasted like wine and honey. Our breathing became heavy, moving in and out in sync.

The next thing I knew, my shirt was off and flung on top of the lampshade. He carried me to his bed and set me on the down comforter. The duvet was cool against my feverish skin. Towering above me, Rigel stripped off his shirt, revealing his broad chest. His muscles were taut, his skin smooth, abs rippling down to show a faint trail of golden hair leading into his jeans.

See something you like?” he said.

Blushing, I returned my greedy gaze to his face. Too much eye candy for a mere mortal to handle. His hair was messy, partially falling into his face and artistically shaping his features. That damn hair is such a turn-on.

I couldn’t wait. I was as crazed as an impulse shopper on Black Friday, and Rigel was my ten-dollar toaster oven. Pulling myself to my knees using his jean loops for support, I gave his chest soft kisses. He still smelled of lavender, but now it was mixed with a sweeter smell I couldn’t identify. It made me want to lick him all over. Clutching the loops tighter, I began to explore.

As I moved lower and lower with each kiss, his form danced and shone along the edges. I had to rest my forehead against his abs and catch my breath. If I wasn’t careful, I might pass out. When I went to unbutton his jeans, this untamed lust that possessed me had my muscles contracting in anticipation, and I lost all ability to use my hands. I couldn’t get the blasted button open.

Dammit!”

With a playful growl, Rigel thrust me back on the bed and finished undressing me… slowly. Way too slowly. I didn’t know if it was because I was all revved up and ready to go, or if he did it on purpose to drive me nuts, but either way it whipped me into a frenzy. He slid one bra strap down, then the other. Reaching behind me, he stroked my spine, and I arched my back to let him undo the fastener. As he flung the bra across the room, his eyes blazed with anticipation of the feast he was about to devour.

I was so distracted by his firm pectoral muscles that it didn’t even register with me that I was completely naked—until I saw he was twirling my panties around on his pinky finger, one corner of his mouth quirked in a smile.

How did you do that?”

With a smirk he answered, “One of my gifts.”

The bastard knew I was about to burst with anticipation, so he taunted me further by slowly undressing himself. First he undid the button on his jeans, then his fingers moved to open the zipper. Inch by inch he unzipped it.

You are pure evil,” I breathed.

He pulled back one side, then the other. No underwear. I gasped. The jeans slid to the ground.

Oh… my… god. He was getting a five-star rating on Yelp first thing in the morning.

Unable to take my eyes from it, I said, “That can’t be street legal.”

No, but it makes for a hell of a ride.”

Excerpt 3

Even though I’m a huge fan and would never give up my membership, I don’t think Costco is the bargain others tout it to be. Usually you can get cheaper prices at Target, if you compare pound for pound and factor in waste. Unless, of course, you need a silo of soda or one thousand packets of gravy—then Costco can come in handy. I’ve heard a number of people spout on that the gas prices are worth the membership fees alone. I call BS on that. Gas runs about ten cents per gallon cheaper at Costco—if you’re lucky—so on average you’re saving a buck per fill-up. I suppose this would be cool, except for the forty-five minutes you spend in line waiting to get it. You forfeit the stupid dollar you saved idling to get the gas in the first place. Once you add the membership fee into the mix, I could argue that you’re losing money unless you fill your tank every day of the week.

That said, there is one thing about Costco that’s worth the price of membership alone: the free samples. It’s virtually a complimentary tapas bar, providing a multitude of scrumptious morsels.

And as if management subconsciously knew the world was ending, they presented us with quite the smorgasbord that day: Hot Pockets, deli sandwiches, sushi, curry chicken, turkey meatloaf, potato salad, chili, Spanish rice, jelly beans, energy bars, chocolate-covered nuts, and fruit juice. Normally, I make it a rule not to be the butthead that goes for seconds, but under the circumstances, I didn’t care. On my third trip to the Hot Pocket stand, the lady gave me a dirty look, and I almost didn’t snatch another. But the gooey artificial cheese oozing from the slice made it impossible for me to resist snagging an additional helping.

In the refrigerated section, we found a hidden sample station that had jalapeño soft pretzel nuggets with nacho cheese dipping sauce. Score! When we went to grab a box out of the freezer to take home, we discovered a plethora of new products we hadn’t yet stimulated our taste buds with. In particular, there were these delectable double-fried pork and shrimp egg rolls. Yes, double-fried, with a bonus layer of tempura coating.

Those look so flippin’ yummy,” Emma said.

Should we get them?”

I kinda want them now.”

Feeling reckless from the knowledge of our imminent demise, I evaluated our options. An empty sampling station with a toaster oven teased me at the end of the aisle. I nudged Emma and pointed at it. She smiled in agreement. Opening the freezer, I snagged a package of rolls, and we took it over to the station.

Shouldn’t we put on some kind of disguise?” Emma asked.

She had a point. We definitely were not dressed for the part. Thinking on my feet, I rummaged inside the station’s cabinet and pulled a pack of hairnets from the depths. We snapped a couple on.

Perfect!” I said, appraising Emma’s netted noggin.

Not wasting any more time, we tore open the box of rolls and threw them in the toaster oven. Within seconds, a crowd buzzed on all sides of us, like a swarm of flies after a warm pile of poo, waiting to get their mitts on our precious haul.

I leaned in toward Emma and whispered, “I hadn’t planned on sharing.”

Me either. What should we do?”

A ding alerted us that the rolls were ready, and the sound was like a dinner bell for the drooling throng. We withdrew the crispy deliciousness; the smell was intoxicating. The mob gathered closer, a pack of rabid dogs moving in for the kill.

We do apologize, everyone,” I announced. “It appears that these egg rolls might be defective. We need to submit them to quality control.”

The crowd moaned in disappointment.

Emma and I each wrapped a roll in a napkin and made a break for it, tossing our hairnets in a passing cart as we went. Behaving like junior high kids who had gotten away with skipping class, we giggled with pride and sprinted into an empty aisle. Hidden behind the wastelands of the toilet paper section, we chowed down at bionic speed, blowing out the heat and fluttering our hands wildly at our tongues because they had been scorched by the nuclear inferno of minced shrimp and cabbage.

Keeping my eyes peeled for any security on their way to nab us, I said, “Can you imagine having to spend our last few days on Earth in jail for looting egg rolls?”

bolt cutters area 51

AbellAbout the Author:

Anna-Marie Abell grew up in a trailer park. Well, several actually. Her trailer was on wheels so she got to experience the Pacific Northwest’s vast array of mobile home parks as her parents moved her from one to the other. Somewhere along the way, she got totally into UFOs. Probably because she was hoping extraterrestrials would come and abduct her. But they never did. Luckily for her she was smart, because her only hope of escaping trailer life was college and a full scholarship. Moving to sunny California on her almost full ride to Chapman University, she was well on her way to her new life. Two bachelor degrees later (Film and Television Production and Media Performance), and several honors and awards for her accomplishments, she managed to start working in an almost completely unrelated industry from her majors: infomercials.

It was in college that she got bit by the “ancient alien” bug after listening to Zecharia Sitchin on Coast to Coast AM. In her pursuit to uncover the truth, she has spent the last twenty years researching the ancient Sumerian culture—in particular their “gods” called the Anunnaki—and their connection to the creation of the human race. What she found changed her life, her beliefs, and her understanding of the universe and everything beyond. Her humorous science fiction trilogy, The Anunnaki Chronicles, is a culmination of all her research, her borderline obsession for all things paranormal, and approximately 2,300 bottles of wine.

Website: http://writtenbyanna.com/

Newsletter Signup: http://writtenbyanna.com/prepare-for-contact/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/booksbyanna/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/writtenbyanna

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Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16862523.Anna_Marie_Abell

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Anna-Marie-Abell/e/B071P2DSHP

Tour giveaway

1 Special Edition Hardback (US Only)

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Spotlight on Majanka Verstraete

Ghost Slayer Banner 851 x 315Ghost Slayer

Majanka Verstraete

ISBN : 9781947649033

SA Rel date: 24 April 2018

Genre: New Adult Paranormal

Publisher: Fire Quill Publishing

ghost layer coverBook Description:

Twenty-one-year-old Kaelyn has spent half her life hunting ghosts and killing them. But she’s not like the other ghost hunters who have to rely on spells and curses to banish ghosts back to where they came from, hoping that they don’t come back. When Kaelyn kills a ghost, they stay dead.

But in Mortimer Hall, a behemoth of a house, Kaelyn is about to face the most powerful and life-threatening ghost she ever met, and what she doesn’t know is that the ghost has been waiting just for her…

Goodreads

CHAPTER 1

The toddler’s wicked laugh echoed throughout the basement, bounced off the walls, and traumatized my ear drums. I cringed and strengthened my grip on the dagger until my knuckles turned white.

Despite the danger I was in, I had trouble staying focused. Today had been a long day. After spending six hours cooped up in class trying to wrap my mind around criminal psychology, I had spent another two hours in the library crouched over dusty newspapers with pages yellowed from age, trying to find out as much as I could about the specter I’d dubbed the Main Street Basement Ghost. Then I headed to Main Street, to an apartment building straight out of a post-apocalyptic movie, and here I was, face to face with the ghost.

Well, maybe not face to face, since the toddler-ghost was playing a game of hide and seek.

The toddler laughed, and I followed the noise, farther into the darkness. I’d brought a flashlight, but the batteries had died about five minutes into the investigation. Usually, I had moonlight to guide me, but in this windowless basement, stark darkness was the only thing greeting me as I groped my way through stacks of boxes, mannequins, and things better left forgotten.

I caught a glimpse of a white, glowing figure moving in the back of the room. Knocking over several boxes, I rushed to the spot as fast I could.

The darkness worked as a disadvantage for the ghost. He was crouched behind a tower of books — nevertheless, the eerie glow surrounding him gave him away. In the daytime, he would’ve been much harder to spot, but in the darkness, he was a glowing beacon.

I stopped in front of the pile of hard covers and glanced at the glow resonating from behind it. The eerie light barely reached my torso. Getting rid of adolescent ghosts was never easy and a pang of guilt tugged at my heart. But this kid had killed three people already, I reminded myself.

At that moment, the kid launched himself at the books, toppling them over, crushing me. I raised my hands to my head for protection while I was continuously bombarded, trying to keep my balance at the same time.

He towered over me. His dark hair was disheveled, and he wore nineteenth- century clothes stained with blood. His head tilted slightly to the right. Half of it had been cut off, as if whoever had decided to rid the kid of his head, didn’t have the stomach to complete the job. His eyes were dark and hollow, and they stared at me with unmatched venom.

Leave me alone.

His lips didn’t move, but his voice was clear as day. Hatred glistened in his eyes. He snarled and launched himself at me with his fingers clawed, growling like an animal.

I took a step back and braced myself for the collision. His full weight hit me right in the chest, and I fell backward. I grabbed the ghost and held him away from me, while he gnarled, bit, spat, and clawed at me.

Go away!

Drops of sweat dripped down my forehead, and blood oozed where he scratched me. I grimaced and pushed the ghost away with all my strength. It flew several meters backward, but instead of dropping to the floor, it hovered mid-air. Its eyes sparked with black flames, and it hissed at me.

Guess I pissed it off for real this time.

I scrambled around on my knees in search of the dagger I dropped to the floor when the ghost knocked me over. The search was proving useless as I couldn’t spot it anywhere.

The ghost’s mouth grew large enough to swallow a small person, forming a black, gaping hole. Its eyes became small slits, like a snake’s. It launched at me again, as fast as a leopard.

Running was out of the question. This thing, zigzagging toward me, its face the material of nightmares, was a lot faster than I was.

My gaze darted left and right, still in search of the dagger when I caught the silver sparkling in the ghost’s glow. It was behind him. Just my luck.

Lunging up, I ran forward toward the ghost, dropped to the floor, and dove below the phantom, straight at the dagger. My sleeve ripped and I bumped my elbow into the wall, but at least I had my dagger back.

The ghost howled like a wounded animal. Turning around, it pulled back its arm and swung at me. I grabbed it mid-swing with my left hand, clenching my teeth as I used all my strength to stop the attack, and with my right hand, I plunged the dagger straight into its belly.

The spirit and I stared at each other for a beat. He screamed, a sound that went through marrow and bone. Then he vanished.

Relieved, I stumbled backward. My knees were wobbly, and I had to hold on to the wall for support. Taking deep breaths, I tried to steady my heartbeat. With the ghost gone, the basement had gone from illuminated-by-eerie-ghost-glow to pitch black darkness.

When I’d recovered a little, I fumbled through the pockets of my jacket until I found my cell phone. The battery was almost dead, but I was hoping it would hold out until I got out of here.

Groping my way through the darkness, I bumped into a million different things, and almost suffered a heart attack when I ran into a life-sized mannequin. It seemed to take forever before I managed to make it out of the basement. I slipped twice on the stairs going up, and by the time I reached the hallway, I felt as if I’d just survived a year in Alcatraz. There were lights in the hallway, although they were on emergency setting; they went on and off every few seconds.

My backpack still lay where I’d left it, right outside the entrance to the basement. I slumped down against the wall, opened up my backpack and grabbed a bottle of water. I drank half of it, and poured the other half over my head in an attempt to cool off. Next, I pulled out my pocket mirror and inspected the damage to my face. Green eyes, thin, black eyebrows, a straight nose, high cheekbones, a small bruise under my left eye, and a cracked lip stared back at me. But at least my teeth seemed fine, and the bruise was small enough to cover up with concealer. My hair was a mess, though.

I loosened my ponytail and ruffled through my long, black hair. With caution, I searched my scalp inch by inch, looking for wounds. I had hit my head pretty hard the first time the ghost launched at me. But apart from a growing bump at the back of my head, the rest seemed fine.

My arms hadn’t been so lucky. They were covered in scratch marks where my sleeve had ripped. Another jacket ruined. My ankle throbbed and my head hurt, but all in all, the damage was minimal. Which was to be expected, considering that the Main Street Basement Ghost was a piece of cake compared to some of the other specters I’d fought.

I stumbled a little when I got back up. After hoisting my backpack over my shoulder, I walked through the hallway and out of the abandoned apartment building.

Another ghost had been sent straight back to the afterlife, and another paycheck awaited my collection tomorrow. My employer would be glad his building was ghost free, and that he could now safely find new tenants for the fourteen apartments above the haunted basement. As for me, I was glad I’d be able to pay the rent for another month, and buy some food for the table. A girl had to eat.

CHAPTER 2

Sunlight peeked through the blinds. I rolled over, pulled the covers up to my chin, and groaned. Then the alarm clock started blaring like a fire alarm. I turned back around, hit it as hard as I could, and slumped back on my pillow.

There was no inch of my body that didn’t hurt, and the pain in my head resembled that of a migraine attack coming on. Maybe I had a concussion after all.

I mumbled a series of curse words below my breath as I got out of bed. Ghost hunting or not, no way was I going to miss class just because I felt like I’d been hit by a train, then was dragged along for twenty miles until they dropped me on a bombshell that exploded right after. When I was done yawning so loud that my neighbors could probably hear it, I staggered out of my bedroom.

“Well, good morning, Sleeping Beauty,” Mom said from behind the stove. She was holding a frying pan, the smell of pancakes filling my nostrils.

“Pancakes? Again?” I smiled, and my stomach growled, emphasizing how hungry I was. To me, all good things in the world started and ended with pancakes.

“Milk? Coffee? Hot choco?” Mom asked while I sat down at the table. The apartment wasn’t spectacular, at all. It had a small kitchenette, a table and two chairs, a stitched-up couch that looked as if someone might’ve puked over it back in the seventies, and a stained carpet that seemed to come straight from a murder scene, complete with blood spills and all.

You’d think ghost slaying would pay well, but if you wanted to live under the radar, and work solo, it was tough finding cases. Besides, the apartment had all I needed. Apart from the living area, it had a decent sized bathroom, and two bedrooms. One of them had been rat-infested when I first moved in, but I’d finally gotten rid of that problem last week when pest control dropped by.

“Coffee.” I scratched my head and yawned again. “What time did I get home?”

“About twelve-thirty.” Mom hovered behind the kitchen counter and dropped a plate with pancakes onto the table. She made her way around to me and kissed me on the forehead, almost blinding me with her ghostly glow. “You look exhausted.”

“Thanks for the compliment.” I snorted, digging into the pancakes. “If you didn’t make such great food, you’d be in trouble for that,” I said, between bites.

“Eat with your mouth closed.” Mom grabbed a cup of coffee and put it down in front of me. “You love being pampered, just admit it.”

I shrugged, but we both knew it was the truth. Even though I was twenty-one now, and I could watch my own back when I went out ghost slaying, I loved when Mom made me breakfast, combed my hair, or did whatever the heck moms do. The only real perk about spending my days chasing after ghosts, was still having my mom around — even though she’d passed away.

“Lots of classes today?” Mom slumped down on the empty chair opposite me. With the morning light peering through the window behind her, I could barely make out her shape.

“Yeah.” I took a sip from my coffee. “Parapsychology, two hours. Then I’ve got a study break for about one hour, and another two hours of developmental psychology, followed by an hour of English literature.”

“Bah.” Mom rolled her eyes. She shoved her chair back, and got up again to get me another load of pancakes. Whenever she was annoyed, she would walk. “I have no idea why you take that class. Isn’t it enough you have to deal with ghosts every day?” She was talking about parapsychology, the class she’d insisted I drop from the moment I started going to college.

I shrugged and studied her while she floated about in the kitchen. She wore a long, wide dress, gypsy style, with beads and chains, and an herb pouch around her hips. Her braided hair reached down to her waist. The dress had once been a myriad of colors, from purple to green to red. Her hair had once been dark brown, and her eyes had once matched that color. Now everything was dulled to gray and surrounded by the glow of the dead.

“Are you still grabbing a drink with your friends tonight?” She peeked over her shoulder, an eyebrow arched.

Of course, Mom hoped I’d say yes. She wanted nothing more than for me to spend some time with my friends rather than with the recently or not-so-recently departed. “Yes.” The word came out about as unenthusiastic as if I’d announced I needed a kidney transplant. “Although I don’t know why you insist on it.”

“You need to get out there. Socialize. No need to barricade yourself inside a cramped apartment with your ghost mother. You’re twenty-one, for God’s sake. It’s time you made some friends.”

I rolled my eyes before I gulped down another pancake. “We both know that making friends hasn’t really been on the agenda.” For the last decade, we’d moved from state to state, without settling down anywhere. We went from one town to the next, swiping the entire maleficent ghost population before moving on. Half of the jobs came without pay, and the ones that did barely offered sufficient funds to keep my head above water. But when I saw a case, I couldn’t say no, no matter if it paid or not, or whether it was dangerous or not.

“Honey …” Mom stopped when a shrill sound pierced the room.

I got up, knocking my chair backward onto the floor. “What the …” Only then did I realize that the unfamiliar sound was the doorbell. I gave Mom a look. We never got company.

She nodded at me and moved to her bedroom.

“Close the door,” I mouthed at her.

I grabbed the knife I’d used to cut the pancakes and walked to the door. Nobody ever showed up at our doorstep. Nobody good, anyway. My hand shook when I grabbed the key and twisted it. The knife felt like lead in my other hand, which I’d curled behind my back.

The door squeaked when I opened it. Hesitantly, I moved into the doorway, and my mouth dropped open at the same time I let go of the knife; it fell to the floor with a clattering sound. “What …” The words got stuck in my throat. My tongue felt like a dozen bees had stung it, making it thick and unable to move.

“Seen a ghost?” The guy standing out in the hall cocked an eyebrow, smirking at me, a smirk he’d obviously mastered through practice. His brown hair, short back and sides, but long in the front, covered his forehead and his left eye. The other one, stark blue like the sky right before a storm, gazed straight at me. He was at least two heads taller than my 5’4″. Muscles protruded from under his black leather jacket. He looked like a supermodel who’d taken a break to ride his Harley Davidson. The shadow of a two-day old beard marked his face, as well as a scar beneath his left eye that ruined his otherwise perfect cheek.

“You …” I spat out the word, almost choking on the nasty taste it left behind in my mouth. “What are you doing here?”

“Not the welcome I was expecting, but all right.” He threw an envelope at me. “Payment for yesterday’s job.”

I caught the envelope and stared at it as if it was the spawn of Satan. “You mean … you’re my employer?”

He licked his lips and conjured up a half smile. “I’d rather pay twice as much to a ghost layer from the other side of the planet than give you a job. Unfortunately, ghost slayers are rare and my client needed help fast.”

Even though it had been half a decade, I’d recognize him anywhere. Not just the scar, the leather jacket, the face that had haunted my dreams — and nightmares — ever since I met him. But his voice, that cocky authoritarian voice he used on just about everyone, sounding like he knew all the secrets to the universe, and you were just a dumb newbie who’d never taken on a real challenge. Always challenging, always tempting. That voice, I’d recognize anywhere.

“What do you want?” I put my hands on my hips, and felt the soft fabric of the yoga pants I’d put on before crashing into bed last night. Suddenly eating a pile of pancakes without showering first seemed like the worst idea ever, and I wished I had a genie who could give me some decent clothes in a heartbeat. Tank tops and yoga pants aren’t really impressive when you’re facing your self- proclaimed worst enemy.

“I came to give you your well-earned money.” He shoved past me into my house, stepping over the knife carelessly, invading my privacy without a care in the world.

I clenched my fists, wishing I was still holding the knife, because then I could do some real damage on him. But at the same time, I was glad I’d dropped it as it removed any temptation I might have to hurt him. Although I wanted to do just that, it wouldn’t be smart and I’d hate myself afterward. Hurting ghosts was one thing, hurting humans, another — no matter how despicable they were.

“So how was the Main Street Basement Ghost?” he asked, while he slumped down on my chair, in my kitchen, and grabbed one of my pancakes.

Somehow I thought that if we ever met again, my anger would’ve lessened. That the fury that threatened to overwhelm me last time, would’ve evaporated over time. No such luck, though. It was back now, fire and flames, pulling at my resolve, setting me on fire, demanding I hurt him the same way he’d hurt me.

I took a deep breath and tried to relax, but my muscles remained tense, prepared to snap at any moment. Without looking away from him, I pushed the door shut. “Easy.”

“Well, I should think so. It was an adolescent ghost.” He shoved the pancake into his mouth. “Delicious.”

“He did kill three people in the last fifty years alone.” I grabbed the empty chair, my mom’s chair, and sat down. “Again, what do you want? I don’t buy your story. You didn’t just employ me so I could get rid of that kid. I know you’re up to something, Alex.”

authorAbout the Author:

Author Majanka Verstraete has written more than twenty unique works of fiction. A native of Belgium, Majanka’s novels explore the true nature of monsters: the good, the bad, and just about every species in between. Her young adult books include the acclaimed Mirrorland (YA Dark Fantasy) and Angel of Death (YA Paranormal) series of novels.

Majanka is currently developing a new YA shifter series with a fresh take on fierce female detectives called THE ADVENTURES OF MARISOL HOLMES which will be published by Monster House Books in October 2018.

Her NA paranormal romance series, Ghost Slayer, has been picked up by Fire Quill Publishing. The first volume will be released in 2017.

When she’s not writing, Majanka is probably playing World of Warcraft or catching up with the dozens of TV series she’s addicted to.

Website: http://majankaverstraete.com/

Blog: http://majankaverstraete.com/blog/

Newsletter: http://majankaverstraete.com/newsletter/

Twitter: @iheartreads

Amazon Profile: http://amazon.com/author/majankaverstraete

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/authormajankaverstraete/

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/majankaverstrae/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/majankaverstraete/

Goodreads:

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4813098.Majanka_Verstraete

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Winter In Ukraine

winter-fairy-tale-carpathians-ukraine-1It’s a warmer Friday and  I’m getting ready to head into work. Before I do, I need to put up the weekly blog. I am about ready to click ‘publish’, when there’s that knock on the door that always presages a pesky author wanting control of my laptop.

“I want to talk about snow and winter,” my guest says.

I give her a smirk. “Snow? Did I hear you mention that awful, horrible word. Snow? Who are you and why did you have to bring up that subject?”

She explains she’s Leonora Meriel and she’s written a book that is set in the Ukraine…where, she says, snow has already fallen.

Well, as long as it’s on the other side of the world, or stays in Minnesota, I don’t care. I usher her into the coveted laptop and she proceeds.


I live in London now. It is November and the skies are alternately blue and grey, the tree colors red and yellow of not-yet fallen leaves, or bare in black and brown.

In Ukraine, a country where I lived for over 10 years, and where I chose to set my first novel, The Woman Behind the Waterfall, it is already snowing. The winter has arrived and is settling itself over the landscape in preparation for the long months ahead.

In Ukraine, the winter comes in November and its last traces are still fading in April. Half of the year is spent under its wings. My very first winter in Ukraine was like a fairytale. Everything was new and extraordinary. The layers of snow on the house. The icicles hanging from every roof, the intimacy of being indoors so much. It was as if I had stepped into a novel from the past. It was powerful and strange and a different world.

By the third or fourth winter, however, the season was beginning to take its toll. Now, I longed for blue skies as the endless grey rolled on and on. The interior worlds became suffocating. The cold endless. The icicles dangerous.

When I came to write my first novel, I knew that it could only be set in Ukraine. It was a country I had come to know intimately and love deeply. I talk here about the power of the winter, and yet the transformation from winter into spring is equally as intoxicating – after the long, long months of harsh grey, the landscape explodes into the most lush vegetation you could imagine. It is a country of extremes – and this is perfect as a setting for a book.

The Woman Behind the Waterfall is set in a village in western Ukraine. The novel describes the verdant countryside of this area and the cultures of the land.

I live in Bukovina, in a village that lies between the black and golden flats of farmland and the wolved forest peaks of the Carpathian Mountains. I am seven years old. The house where Mama and I live is a faded brick red, and our windows are painted in a cracked white and bright turquoise blue. There is a wooden gate with a broken latch that opens onto the dusty village street, and a path through our garden leading to a narrow white-painted bench next to the kitchen door. Our land stretches in layers of high grass and scattered flowers down to the woods below.

My main character is abandoned by her partner when she has a new baby, and spends a terrible winter on her own in a village. The isolation and the visceral force of the winter affects her so deeply that she cannot recover over the next years as her daughter grows up. It is only when Angela is seven years old that she notices her mother’s sadness and helps her to overcome it at last.

The Woman Behind the Waterfall is a novel about a woman’s journey to find happiness, but it is also about the wonderful country of Ukraine – its brutal 6 month winters, its shocking and forceful springs, its culture, language and breath-taking landscapes.

When the London winter starts to ease in for a few mild months, my thoughts always go back to a place where winter is life or death, and can take you on the most extraordinary journey – of imagination, of emotion, and into a place that is about as close as you can get to living in a fairytale.

I hope that this short post will encourage some readers to find out more about Ukraine, and even to visit this wonderful country.

Thank you for reading,

Leonora


The Woman Behind The Waterfall_Cover“The Woman Behind the Waterfall” is literary fiction and magical realism

Heartbreak and transformation in the beauty of a Ukrainian village.

For seven-year old Angela, happiness is exploring the lush countryside around her home in western Ukraine. Her wild imagination takes her into birds and flowers, and into the waters of the river.

All that changes when, one morning, she sees her mother crying. As she tries to find out why, she is drawn on an extraordinary journey into the secrets of her family, and her mother’s fateful choices.

Can Angela lead her mother back to happiness before her innocence is destroyed by the shadows of a dark past?

Beautiful, poetic and richly sensory, this is a tale that will haunt and lift its readers.

Goodreads * Amazon * Barnes & Noble

Reviews for The Woman Behind the Waterfall

“Readers looking for a classic tale of love and loss will be rewarded with an intoxicating world” ~~ Kirkus Reviews

“The language is lyrical and poetic and, in places, begs to be read repeatedly for the sheer joy of it… A literary work of art.” ~~ Fiona Adams, The Richmond Magazine

“Rich and poetic in detail, it is an often dreamy, oneiric narrative rooted in an exaltation of nature… A lovely novel.” ~~ IndieReader

Leonora Meriel_PicAbout the Author

Leonora Meriel grew up in London and studied literature at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland and Queen’s University in Canada. She worked at the United Nations in New York, and then for a multinational law firm.

In 2003 she moved from New York to Kyiv, where she founded and managed Ukraine’s largest Internet company. She studied at Kyiv Mohyla Business School and earned an MBA, which included a study trip around China and Taiwan, and climbing to the top of Hoverla, Ukraine’s highest peak and part of the Carpathian Mountains. She also served as President of the International Women’s Club of Kyiv, a major local charity.

During her years in Ukraine, she learned to speak Ukrainian and Russian, witnessed two revolutions and got to know an extraordinary country at a key period of its development.

In 2008, she decided to return to her dream of being a writer, and to dedicate her career to literature. In 2011, she completed The Woman Behind the Waterfall, set in a village in western Ukraine. While her first novel was with a London agent, Leonora completed her second novel The Unity Game, set in New York City and on a distant planet.

Leonora currently lives in Barcelona and London and has two children. She is working on her third novel.

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Personal Victory

Personal VictoryFor the month’s theme, I asked the students to list some of things they considered personal victories.

STELLA

Personal victories:

I made supper all by myself.

I went on my first night time night crawler hunt and found a bunch

I finished my first chapter book and am almost done reading the second

I completed my big art project picture.

I went on a turkey hunt with dad early in the morning.

Hosted my friends for my birthday at the park.

Doing good at new game on my Kindle.

Got up on my own in time for school.

Brushing my own hair.

Washing myself up in the shower.

DEACON

Personal victories:

1. Jump kick – with practice, my jump kick got better.

2. School assignment – I got high scores on many of my 3rd assignments.

3. Reading – I was getting scores of 6 or 7, now I’m getting 8 or 9.

4. Good behavior – I have not gotten grounded for bad behavior recently.

5. Bus – I have started riding the bus home from school and am allowed to walk home independently with my brother.

6. Bike riding – I learned to how to ride my bike.

7. Chores – I have been taking on more chore responsibilities at home when asked.

8. Pushups – I can do more pushups than I could do before.

9. Eye contact – I earned my first strip at taekwondo.

10. Focus – I am constantly working on improving my focus in school, in taekwondo, and at home

BRENDAN

Personal victories:

1. I advanced in karate from an orange belt to a yellow belt.

2. I got into the 15 miles club at school.

3. I got above my grade level in Iowa Assessment tests

4. I got to catch and pet a baby goat.

5. I won a Nerf gun war with 6 other kids.

6. I went to the library by myself and got home when I was supposed to.

7. I babysat my younger sister for a little bit. I liked doing it.

8. I got my first strike in bowling. (No bumper pads used)

9. I tried and ate and liked rice.

10. I leaned to wash and dry clothes.

AMBER

1. being able to break through one of the boards with a knifehand strike.

2. Doing my own workout and doing 32 leg lifts.

3. Pivots on my kicks are getting better.

4. Being tased when there was no need.

5. being able to walk a mile and a half every night.

6. Finishing another term of school

7. Walking 3 miles every night (increase from #5)

8. Learning and practicing the yellow belt form.

9. Went from an orange belt to a yellow belt decided.

10. Went from nun-chucks to scythes and learning another form for the new weapons.

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John, Kris, and Me

First Friday of November and when I answer the knock on the door I’m greeted with, “Would you like to hear a story?”

“Well, if it’s not very long. I do have to go to work soon.”

The gentleman smiles, assumes the coveted chair in front of the laptop and commences. I sit on the couch and enjoy.

_______________________________________________________________

What you are about to read is a true story. It’s from my book, Bedtime Stories for Grown-Ups, a collection of short stories that are a mixture of fiction and non-fiction. My hitching adventures are true. The Danny narratives are also true, but written from a perspective different from mine. The fiction stories are a jumble of genres.

There are a whole lotta stories in the book—700 pages worth. Enough to keep you reading for the foreseeable future.

Here’s one of my hitching adventures. By the way, in the hitching tales, I use my real name, Billy Doyle—Andrew Joyce being my pen name.

John, Kris, and Me

It was 1968; I was eighteen-years-old, and I was hitchhiking from Miami to New York. I had gotten off the beaten track, so to speak. I should have stayed on US 301 (this was before the Interstate Highway System), but instead found myself just south of Memphis, hoping to catch a ride into Nashville by noon and then catch a long haul out of that city.

It was early morning. The traffic was light, and I wasn’t having much luck when, suddenly, a black Mustang screeched to a halt, and the guy driving leaned over and said through the open passenger-side window, “I’m headin’ to Nashville, that do you any good?”

Of course I said, “Yes,” and jumped in.

As he’s accelerating, he’s looking straight ahead, not saying anything, which is kinda strange but not unusual when you’re hitching. So I said nothing and stared out the windshield at the fast approaching skyline of Memphis. Then it hit me. I know this guy; I should have tumbled from the voice.

At that time in my life, I was not into different types of music; I liked rock n’ roll. Since then my taste in music has matured to encompass all types. But even though this guy wasn’t a rocker, I knew him and his music. A couple of his songs had crossed over and were played on the top forty stations.

The driver was intent on what he was doing, but I think he caught me looking at him out of the corner of his eye. I noticed he had a firm grip on the steering wheel, his knuckles were white. After a few minutes, he turned to me, saying, “Howdy, my name’s John.” At the same time, he raised his right hand from the wheel and stuck it out in my direction.

We shook hands, and I said, “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Cash. My name is Billy.”

Once John and I shook hands, he became more talkative. Hell, he became downright verbose. He told me about his hitchhiking adventures and asked me about mine. We were three hours out of Nashville and I don’t think there was another quiet moment for the whole three hours. We talked about life, women, and we even got into a metaphysical discussion. He told me about his army days and the time he was arrested in Texas. Just to keep even, I told him stuff that had happened to me while on the road. We didn’t talk about his music or anything like that. I’d been around enough to know that coming off as a gushing fan would have been a major turn-off for him. And besides, at the time, I was not a fan, gushing or otherwise. But by the time we hit Nashville, I was becoming a fan … of the man if not his music.

As we neared Nashville, he told me he’d just gotten married a few months back and was dying to see his wife. “I’ve been gone two days and it feels like two years,” he informed me. Then he said, “It’s about dinner time; why not stop in and get something to eat and then hit the road. June’s a great cook.”

Dinner is what country folk call lunch.

I accepted his kind offer, and we got off the highway and headed for his home, which was only a few blocks away. When we got to his house and as we were pulling into the driveway, he said, “Looks like June is out somewhere, but don’t worry, we’ll rustle somethin’ up.”

I told him not to bother, that I could cadge a meal down the line. He looked at me, shook his head, and in that deep voice, he asked me if I had any money. Of course, I didn’t and I told him so. He told me that he’d been on the road and hungry, and that if I didn’t get my butt in the house pronto, he’d drag me inside.

So in we went, and we walked right back to the kitchen. John told me to sit at the table as he opened the refrigerator and looked around for a moment before saying, “Ah ha! It’s still here.” And he pulled out a platter with a ham on it. I mean a real ham, bone and all! He also came up with a jar of mustard and a hunk of cheese. As he started to slice the ham, he told me where the bread and plates were kept and asked me to get them.

When the sandwiches were made—two of them—he asked me if I’d like a beer.

Yes, please.”

So there I am, sitting in the kitchen of a man I’d met only a few hours before, and I’ve got two thick ham and cheese sandwiches and a can of beer in front of me. Not a bad score and the day was still young!

I asked him if he was going to eat, and he said beer would do him fine.

We’re sittin’ at the kitchen table, shooting the shit, when the doorbell rings. John gets up, but before he leaves, he takes a long swig of beer. “Be right back,” he says. A few minutes later, he comes back into the kitchen with this guy.

Billy, I want you to meet a friend of mine. This here is Kris.”

I had my mouth filled with ham sandwich, so I mumbled a hello. He waved and smiled, “Glad to meet ya, Billy.”

John asked Kris, “How about a sandwich and a beer?”

Just a beer, please. It’s my lunch hour, and I’ve got to get back to work. But I have a new song I’d like you to hear and see what you think of it.”

By now, I’d eaten my two sandwiches, and I had nothing to add to the conversation, so I figured I’d just finish my beer and get the hell out of there. But before I could say my thanks and hit the road, John leaves the room and returns a moment later with a guitar.

Prior to my going any further, I’ve got to lay the scene out for you. We’re sitting at a round kitchen table. To my left is John and directly opposite me is this guy, Kris Kristofferson (before he was famous). John and I were hitting our beers and watching Kris tune the guitar. Then he picked at the strings and started to sing. I don’t remember what the song was. I wasn’t really paying attention. In my mind, I was rehearsing my good-bye speech to John.

When Kris was done, we all three sat there looking at one another. I didn’t say anything because it wasn’t my opinion Kris sought. Kris didn’t say anything because he was waiting for John to say something, which he finally did.

It’s not bad. But I don’t know if it’s for me.”

I’ve got to hand it to Kris; he smiled broadly and said, “That’s okay. I just wanted you to hear it and get your thoughts.” Then he lifted his beer and said, “Prosit.” That was my cue to leave. I stood and told John I had to hit the road. He said he’d drive me back to the highway, but I told him not to bother, he had company, and besides, it was only a few blocks away. Kris said if I could wait a few minutes, he’d drop me off at the highway on his way back to work. I declined his offer. I didn’t want to wait around. I had a full stomach and New York City was calling to me. I said my good-byes and walked out the front door, retrieved my case from the Mustang and headed off for further adventures.

Just one last thing: When I got to New York and opened my case, there was Benjamin Franklin staring up at me from on top of my clothes. John must have put the C-note in there when he went to let Kris in.


Bedtime Stories for Grown-Ups is a jumble of genres—seven hundred pages of fiction and nonfiction … some stories included against the author’s better judgment. If he had known that one day they’d be published, he might not have been as honest when describing his past. Here is a tome of true stories about the author’s criminal and misspent youth, historical accounts of the United States when She was young, and tales of imagination encompassing every conceivable variety—all presented as though the author is sitting next to you at a bar and you’re buying the drinks as long as he keeps coming up with captivating stories to hold your interest.

Comprised of 218,000 words, you’ll have plenty to read for the foreseeable future. This is a book to have on your night table, to sample a story each night before extinguishing the lights and drifting off to a restful sleep.

Mr. Joyce sincerely hopes that you will enjoy his stories because, as he has stated, “It took a lot of living to come up with the material for some of them.”


Andrew Joyce left high school at seventeen to hitchhike throughout the US, Canada, and Mexico. He wouldn’t return from his journey until years later when he decided to become a writer. Joyce has written five books. His first novel, Redemption: The Further Adventures of Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer, was awarded the Editors’ Choice Award for Best Western of 2013. A subsequent novel, Yellow Hair, received the Book of the Year award from Just Reviews and Best Historical Fiction of 2016 from Colleen’s Book Reviews.

Joyce now lives aboard a boat in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, with his dog, Danny, where he is busy working on his next book, tentatively entitled, Mahoney: An American Story.

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Okon and Publishing

I’m home early from work and I’m met at the door by an author desperate to get to my computer to type up his guest post.

“Okay, hold on, let me put some things away, check on my sink that was backing up last night and…”

Too late. I don’t even have the light turned on and he’s at my computer taking control.

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Monsterland Banner 851 x 315How I Got a Publishing Deal and What’s Next

It’s a pretty incredible story that I have a hard time believing. I wrote Monsterland and self-published it in 2015. My mom is my publicity manager and she blitzed the bloggers with my book. That fall I was reading a book called Selling a Screenplay by Syd Field. In the book, there was an entertainment attorney named Susan Grode who seemed very knowledgeable about the publishing and film industry. I told myself, when I receive my first contract, I’m going to reach out to her to see if she could help me. About two months later, I received a post on Facebook from an agent in London who asked to represent me. I said sure and asked him to send me a contract. I emailed Susan and introduced myself and mentioned that I had someone who wanted to rep me and I was hoping she could read this contract. She told me before I sign with this London agent, why don’t I meet her friend in Brooklyn, an agent named Nick Mullendore with Vertical Ink Literary Agency. I met Nick for lunch and he signed me that day as his client. That evening, Susan brought me on as her client as well.

Nick began trying to sell my book Monsterland to the big publishers and, as expected, it was rejected. Throughout his attempts of selling, he had a call with a film agent and he was pitching her a romance novel. She said she wasn’t really into romance and was looking for something with monsters. He sent her my book Monsterland, she read it over a weekend, and we had a call that Monday. She told Nick and me if we get the book published, she will get it into a producer’s hands to make into a film. Nick found a publisher called WordFire Press owned by Kevin J. Anderson, who has written all the Star Wars and Dune canon books. WordFire signed me to a two-book deal for Monsterland 1 & 2. After the deal was signed, my film agent did what she promised and got my book into the hands of a billion-dollar grossing producer who is now shopping my book to certain studios.

In two years, I went from a self-published author, to a published author with a literary agent, an entertainment attorney, a film agent, a two-book publishing deal, a publicist, and a producer who is interested in turning my book to a film. It’s been one wild ride, to say the least.

Now, what’s next? Well, one may just sit back and relax, and do nothing. Not I. I’ve already completed Monsterland 2 which comes out May 26, 2018. I’m knee-deep in Monsterland 3. I’ve already started beating out the stories for Monsterland 4 and 5. It seems that the next five years are going to be extremely busy with creating stories centered on monsters. What could be wrong with that?

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book coverMonsterland

Book One

Michael Okon

Genre: Horror, Monsters

Publisher: WordFire Press

Date of Publication: OCTOBER 2017

ISBN: 978-1-61475-594-4

Number of pages: 232 pages

Tagline: In a theme park where real zombies, werewolves and vampires are the main attractions, what could possibly go wrong?

Book Description:

Welcome to Monsterland—the scariest place on Earth.

The last couple years of high school have not been fun for Wyatt Baldwin. His parents divorce, then his dad mysteriously dies. He’s not exactly comfortable with his new stepfather, Carter White, either. An on-going debate with his best friends Howard Drucker and Melvin over which monster is superior has gotten stale. He’d much rather spend his days with beautiful and popular Jade. However, she’s dating the brash high-school quarterback Nolan, and Wyatt thinks he doesn’t stand a chance.

But everything changes when Wyatt and his friends are invited to attend the grand opening of Monsterland, a groundbreaking theme park where guests can rock out with vampires at Vampire Village, be chased by actual werewolves on the Werewolf River Run, and walk among the dead in Zombieville.

With real werewolves, vampires and zombies as the main attractions, what could possibly go wrong?

Book Trailer: https://goo.gl/83g3Mt

Amazon

OkonAbout the Author:

Michael Okon is an award-winning and best-selling author of multiple genres including paranormal, thriller, horror, action/adventure and self-help. He graduated from Long Island University with a degree in English, and then later received his MBA in business and finance. Coming from a family of writers, he has storytelling is his DNA. Michael has been writing from as far back as he can remember, his inspiration being his love for films and their impact on his life. From the time he saw The Goonies, he was hooked on the idea of entertaining people through unforgettable characters.

Michael is a lifelong movie buff, a music playlist aficionado, and a sucker for self-help books. He lives on the North Shore of Long Island with his wife and children.

Website: http://www.michaelokon.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/IAmMichaelOkon

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/iammichaelokon/

Book Trailer Link and Embed Code

https://s3.amazonaws.com/embed.animoto.com/play.html?w=swf/production/vp1&e=1502893655&f=XRvFlIfWbx2m13PvolGJSQ&d=0&m=p&r=360p+480p+720p&volume=100&start_res=720p&i=m&ct=michaelokon.com&cu=http://michaelokon.com&asset_domain=s3-p.animoto.com&animoto_domain=animoto.com&options=autostart

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Love

LoveI asked the students to write things they love to do outside of taekwondo.

NOELLE

These are the things I love to do other than taekwondo:

Singing

Playing my flute

Playing basketball

Playing volleyball

Lifting weights

Running (short distances)

Taking scenic walks outside

Looking at he stars

Acting

Playing baseball

Reading

Writing

Talking with my friends

Making crafts

Caring for farm animals (cats, goats, rabbits)

Helping others

Playing softball

Doing math

Taking a test

Sleeping

ELIJAH

These are the things I love to do outside of taekwondo:

I love to read

I love to play baseball

I love to play outside

I love to play basketball

I love to play with my dogs

I love to sleep over with my cousins

I love to write stories

I love to play football

I love to play with my brothers

I love to play soccer

I love to mow lawns

I love to run

I love to play Frisbee golf

I love to take things apart to see how they are made

I love to do puzzles

I love to play my trumpet

I love to play video games

I love to sing

I love to play golf

MADISON

The things I love to do are play with my sister, go roller skating, ride my bike, play with my cousins, go swinging, play tag, and play with my friends. The other things I love are doing math, reading, writing, play outside, fractions, science, social studies, making crafts, making things, making gifts, crafts, Pokemon, books, jump rope, coloring, stuffed animals, making books, and doing things with my family.

SALEENA

I love playing my violin and gym time at school. I love going to the pool and love going to the movies and have popcorn to eat. Love going on trips with my family. I really love my pets and caring for them. I love animals and dolphins and whales.

AMBER

I have a love for swimming and a love for karate. I love my pets Scooby and Emma. I love Garfield and my doll Chelsea. I love my mom and dad. I also love to go on vacation. I love God and Jesus and taking my dog to the park and play at the park. I love Chelsea, Barbie Skipper, Staci and Ken and love playing at the ocean and finding seashells.

STELLA

I really love to paint pictures of nature and trees. I love to play and exercise. My two favorite parts of school are PE and art. I really like running in PE. I like playing games like tag, chase, hide and seek. I love to help cook by helping dad chop vegetables with my knife. Helping out around the house can be fun. I also love shooting my bow and going to 3D archery shoots. It is also very fun to shoot my pellet gun at targets. We shot this weekend at a target that looked like a watermelon that oozed pink goo when you shot it. I also love going to amusement parks and riding roller coasters unless they go upside down. I love camping at the river and fishing. I also love to read books about animals and ninjago. I love nature and looking for fossils. I want to be a paleontologist.

BRENDAN

I love:

Collecting Pokemon cards

Playing video games

Playing basketball

Riding my bikes

Going to my aunt’s farm

Playing with Legos

Playing card games

Help cooking

Being in Boy Scouts

Carving with my pocket knife

Playing with babies

AMBER

A list of other things I love to do:

1. Read

2. Gaming online

3. Dancing

4. Yoga/meditation

5. Travel

6. Cross things off my bucket list

7. Collect marbles and rocks

8. Study fingerprints

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Around The Globe with Annemarie Musawale

barbadosThis morning I pick up my featured author and she wants to be on a beach in Barbados.

“Oh yeah,” I say, “Sun, water, sand, beach bunnies-”

“You’re there to interview me,” she says, “not to look at bikini clad women.”

“But-”

“”No, be serious or I’m not going.”

Sigh. What can I do? She’s correct. I’m there for an interview, so we’d better get to it…

…I’m still going to peek, though.

1. Who are you and what makes you the most fascinating person in your city?

I am a self made woman, I have walked my own path in life, made my own way like Frank Sinatra said. I left nine to five – actually more like eight to nine – employment because we only live once and my son was growing up on his own without anyone to guide him. I began to write for a living so I could stay home with him, and found that I was pretty damn good at it. Instead of writing the classic ‘African writer’ type book though, I decided to do my own thing, write about far flung places and sensitive topics. I haven’t been run out of town with torches though, so I guess I’ll keep doing it.

2. Without revealing a deep dark secret (unless you want to), what one thing would people be surprised to learn about you?

I am mortally afraid of chameleons.

3. What interested you to become a writer rather than something else such as supermodel?

Well for one thing, my boobs are way too big to be a supermodel. Also I’m not size two. Finally I much prefer to watch people rather than to be watched.

4. Writers are readers. With which author(s) would you enjoy sharing dinner? Why?

I would really like to put Stephen King on the spot over the ending of the Dark Tower series. Like really sit him down, look him in the eye and ask him, “Honey, what was you doing?” I guess that’s why he told us not to @ him at the end of the book.

I think I could probably listen to Diana Gabaldon talk all day and just being near JK Rowling might cause some of her genius to rub off on me.

1d714057c998bc97f0445319b38f533bxxl5. If I were stranded on a deserted island or suffering from a four hour layover at the airport, why would your book(s) be great company?

Well my books would be great company because you would definitely not notice the passage of time while you’re absorbed in what Phil and Lillian were up to; or Mya and Leo. My newest couple, Ben and Anders would have you too busy rooting for them to notice how hard the airport seats are.

6. Share your process of writing in regards to: plot and character development, story outline, research (do you Google or visit places/people, or make it up on the spot), writing schedule, editing and number of rewrites.

I think it would be stretching it to call what I do a ‘process’. Basically my day job is as a ghostwriter, so when I need a break or writers’ block gets me or I just need to rejuvenate my energy, I turn to whatever story I’m working on and just let it take me away. When I’m lucky enough to have a beta reader like I do now, their enthusiasm for the story also acts as fuel. I love to listen to their feedback. Once that’s done, I might go over the manuscript once to correct issues raised by the beta and maybe up the ante on the writing a bit. Then it’s done.

7. “I think I have a good idea for a story, but I don’t know where or how to begin. Your process may not work for me. Any advice?”

Start writing; one word at a time. Don’t worry about how good or bad it is, just get the story down.

8. I saw an amusing T-shirt the other day which read, “Every great idea I have gets me in trouble.” What is your philosophy of life?

Live it on your terms.

9. Please tell me you’re not going to stop writing? What’s next for you?

Well I have two unfinished manuscripts I need to work on. I just finished In Search of Paradise, a post apocalyptic gay African romance and it’s currently on pre-order wherever e-books are sold. I plan to give all preorder proceeds to the national gay and lesbian human rights commission just because gay rights in Kenya are not where they should be and it’s my way of giving back.

mockup-14-66426041506458152-large10. Where can people find more information on you and your projects?

I have a blog, a bookpage a Facebook author page, look for author annemarie on Instagram or come visit me on tumblr.

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Focus

FocusAnother set of student essays. The month’s particular theme was Focus.

STELLA

1. I focus on reading everyday to make sure I don’t forget what I have learned.

2. Focus on learning to ride my bike.

3. Keeping myself healthy by eating good foods and staying hydrated.

4. Focus on not cutting myself when I make supper.

5. Learning to use a calculator to help me learn to add and subtract.

6. Focus on learning to swim without a floatie.

7. Focus on listening to my parents.

8. Paying attention and doing my best at karate.

9. Painting chalkboard in my new playhouse.

10. Focus when I shoot bow and guns with dad.

DEACON

There are a lot of things I need to focus on. Here are some things that I need to focus on. I have to focus on my movements in taekwondo. I have to make sure I get every movement right. In taekwondo, I have to do essays, I have to make sure I did not misspell any words on them. I must focus oat Sunday school on verses. When I come in I need to say the verse, and when I do, I get a prize. At church, I have to write notes and by notes, I mean I have to write down some things that show up on the screen in my little booklet. I have to focus on games, crafts, and the story they tell us. I love books, so I have to focus on them. I focus on the beginning, the middle and the end. A really good book is Goosebumps – The Werewolf of Fever Swamp. I have to focus at school on reading, writing and typing. I have to read every word right and not forget any words. I love drawing so I have to make sure I get everything perfectly straight I have to do chores and one is folding clothes. I have to make sure I fold them all perfectly straight. At last, I focus on work I do with my step dad. I have to cut all the corn stalks that got in someone’s beans. I get paid for doing it. These are when I need to focus on.

BRENDAN

My focus this month is on ‘exercise.’ I’m getting outside more. I’m riding my bike everyday. I want to be more physically fit. I’m trying to get used to exercising out in the heat. Football practice will be hard to do in the heat. I’m trying to get outside and move more.

JACOB

Focuses on:

1. Quiet time

2. Being alone

3. School work

4. Reading

5. Math

6. Learning new moves

7. Learning how to tie my belt

8. Swimming

9. Games

10 My chores

ETHAN

Focus is the ability to keep your mind on something without being distracted. Focus is a good attribute to have for it helps you get things done faster than without it. An example of focus is when I had a test and I had to focus if I wanted to get it done. I just want to say focus is important.

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