Author Archives: Babs Mountjoy
One of the themes of this blog is adventure, which I think everyone should experience at some point. But sometimes adventures are planned…and sometimes….
As she reached Broadway, a worn blue bicycle pulled up next to her, horn screeching over its rider’s distinctive squeal. “Where is your car, woman?”
Jelani eyed her best friend, Iris Pallaton, whose blonde hair swirled above the bright cloud of a magenta blouse. “Richard had it towed.”
“Tell me about it. I’m late.” Jelani headed off again.
Iris pedaled along the curb beside her. “You should call his supervisor and complain.”
“And what? Humiliate myself because he’s a jerk? Screw him!”
“Maybe you should.” Iris laughed. “Then he’d be too awed to bother you again.”
Jelani glared as they crossed the street. “Funny.”
On the far side, she caught the glint of glass in the middle of the sidewalk. “What idiot would drop a bottle when there’s a trash can right there?” she grumbled. “I’ll get it. First karma points of the day.”
Iris climbed off the bike and put down the kickstand. “What is that?” She bent down near the object. “Oh, sweet Gaia! It’s a glass slipper!”
No kidding. It really appeared to be a shoe made out of glass. A large one.
“Who would have left this here?” Jelani picked it up, looking around for a prankster camera team. Something kept her from tossing the shoe.
“Try it on,” Iris whispered. “It would get Richard Snyder off your mind.”
“Richard is not on my mind. He’s on my crap list.”
“Oooh. Sorry.” Iris ran her finger over the shoe. “You’re chicken anyway.”
“Don’t even go there.”
“Chicken. Bawk-bawk.” Iris giggled.
“Fine! If it means I can get to work.” Reaching down with her right hand, she unzipped her boot and kicked it off. “Ready? You want a picture?”
Iris dug for her cellphone and raised it, ready to take a shot. “Just in case your prince shows up right then.”
“I don’t need a prince,” Jelani complained. “I don’t need a man. I need a new life.”
Setting the shoe on the ground, Jelani slipped her foot in it and gently stepped down, not sure to what expect.
The slipper shattered, slicing into the sole of her foot.
Nauseous, Jelani screamed and could only watch in disbelief as tiny men sprang from the blood trickling under the broken shoe. She lost track of how many. With the biggest maybe two inches high, the men scattered into the shadows around the nearest building and disappeared.
She lifted her foot, shaking off the blood, and examined her sole to see if glass remained buried in her skin.
“Did you see that?” Iris gasped, nearly breathless. She grabbed at the wall, eyes closed for a moment.
Jelani felt faint, too, suddenly washed out. “I don’t know.”
There were no glass fragments in her foot or anywhere. The shoe had vanished. The only trace of the whole incident was dark blood, slowly drying in the sun on the sidewalk. As she watched, the cuts in her foot healed.
Iris knelt down to peer at Jelani’s foot. “There were little people. Naked little people. They ran away. I swear they did.”
“Did you get pictures?”
“I almost forgot!” Iris got up and activated the screen on her cell phone, pressed the arrow. Jelani leaned close to watch the whole thing replay in living color. “Oh. Bless. My. God,” Iris said, in her shock reverting to the male deity.
Jelani nodded. “And the horse He rode in on.”
When Jelani tries on a real glass slipper left lying on the sidewalk, it splits in half and out pour dozens of two-inch high creatures who scurry away into the shadows. As if that’s not bizarre enough, she is soon approached by two men claiming (of all things) to be elves who need her help to rescue their queen.
Buy now at Amazon!
Ordinary Series Book 1 by Starr Z. Davies
Genre: YA Sci-Fi Dystopian
Fans of Powerless, The Testing, Hunger Games and The Maze Runner will crave this world of iniquitous secrets, intrigue, and desire to find a place in society.
Divinic. Somatic. Psionic. Naturalist. Who will you be?
Having a superpower is ordinary. Your Power determines your job, social class, and future success.
But Ugene doesn’t have a Power. The only thing special about him is that he isn’t special at all. Ugene is Powerless.
So when the most prominent biomedical research company in the city offers Ugene a solution, he jumps at the possibility to be ordinary. All he has to do is agree to allow them to use him in their research. But the longer he stays at the research facility, the more he realizes something isn’t right.
Friendships are forged. Trust is broken built and broken. And everything Ugene thought he understood and believed is called into question.
Who can Ugene trust in his search for answers? What is he willing to sacrifice for Powers?
About the Author
STARR Z. DAVIES is a Midwesterner at heart, and lives in Wisconsin with her husband and kids. From a young age, Starr has been obsessed with superheroes like Batman and Captain America, which inspired her novel, ORDINARY. If Starr had a superpower, she would be an Empath, because she is an emotional sponge and easily relates to how others feel.
While pursuing a degree in Creative Writing from the University of Wisconsin, Starr gained a reputation as the “Character Assassin” because she has a habit of utterly destroying her characters both emotionally and physically.
In her free time, Starr loves watching Doctor Who or anything with superheroes, reading books (duh!), writing about her favorite fantasy stories (Song of Ice and Fire, Mistborn, The Wheel of Time), and staring out the window as she dreams up more stories. Oh, and sometimes she steps out the door.
Follow the tour HERE for special content and a giveaway!
Welcome to Lyndi’s adventurous friend Helen C. Johannes!!
When I was in high school, I had a friend who’d never ridden an escalator, never traveled more than 50 miles from home. I couldn’t fathom a life so limited in experiences. Even at the tender age of 16, I’d crossed the United States from coast to coast by car, sailed the Atlantic from NYC to Germany and back, lived in a foreign country and five US states, attended 12 schools, and earned my driver’s license in two states. Most would say I’d already lived an adventure.
Well, I was a military brat, and that was normal. Travel and moving every couple of years was so ingrained that I carried on as an adult, eventually visiting most of the continental US states plus Alaska and Hawaii, and dipping my toes/fingers in both sides of the Atlantic and both sides of the Pacific, plus the Caribbean.
After all that traveling, that apparent rootlessness, it’s hardly a surprise my author tagline is Brave men, bold women—hearts in search of home. Or that my characters find themselves on cross-country journeys. Or, ultimately, that what each of them desires is a sense of belonging, be it to a place or a group of people.
My heroine in LORD OF DRUEMARWIN is on the ultimate journey, leaving behind her family, her culture, even her landscape for the sake of the man she loves. Here’s a snippet.
LORD OF DRUEMARWIN – PAGES FROM THE HEART Winner in Fantasy Romance, Crown of Tolem series
Tag line: In a world of lies and betrayal, can they trust each other?
Lady Raell can fight, ride, and argue politics as well as her brothers. Only being mistress of her father’s household keeps her in skirts. In Naed, the new Lord of Druemarwin, she has found devotion, a kindred spirit, and a marriage promise. But when a forgotten and unwanted betrothal comes to light, she has no choice but to run.
Amidst sweeping revolution, Naed must rally his people, fend off assassination attempts, and fight against claims he’s a traitor. Then he discovers everything about his lineage and family is a lie. And his beloved belongs to another.
With lives and a kingdom at stake, Raell and Naed must find a way to protect the innocent and save their love.
“Raell, now is not the time—”
Aye, it wasn’t. They stood in torchlight on an open parapet while assassins stalked them, but this might be her only chance to reach him across that precipice he’d thrown up between them, to secure the future they were meant to share.
“Does my honor mean naught? When weighed with D’nalian honor, is mine lesser because ‘tis a woman’s honor? Or because ‘tis a Tolemak’s honor? Be honest and tell me that.”
The world had gone silent; Raell could hear nothing over the rush of blood in her ears, the terrible heavy beats of her heart while she waited, dizzy with fear, breathless with longing, for the man she loved to respond with a word, a look, even a blink. Even a shift of his gaze she’d take as a sign he’d at least heard, mayhap begun to consider—
“Yes, be honest, Lord Naed,” said a voice she’d heard but once, a voice that raised all the fine hairs on her body and made her innards contract into a cold, tight knot. “Tell us both how much honor means to a bastard who’s betrayed his countrymen and his blood.”
Helen C. Johannes writes award-winning fantasy romance inspired by the fairy tales she grew up reading and the amazing historical places she’s visited in England, Ireland, Scotland and Germany. She writes tales of adventure and romance in fully realized worlds sprung from pure imagination and a lifelong interest in history, culture, and literature. Warriors on horseback, women who refuse to sit idly at home, and passion that cannot be denied or outrun—that’s what readers will find in her books.
The Prince of Val-Feyridge, Crown of Tolem #1
Contact email: firstname.lastname@example.org
AN excerpt from my post-plague novel, WINDMILLS, part of The Color Of Fear series (see above tab):
The book’s hero Xi San is debating his fate as the Enforcer, a self-made vigilante protecting his former San Francisco neighborhood.
He could have abandoned the city, like his friend
Eddie Garrick three months before. Head out to the middle of the country, where people were nicer, Eddie said. Farther from the poison’s strike zone. Friendly Midwesterners. A chicken in every pot. Fresh pies on the windowsills.
“C’mon, Sandman. There’s nothing left for us here. Never will be!”
San plopped down in the blue butterfly chair Eddie had always loved and studied the skinny young man he’d known since middle school, his unruly brown hair worn
in wild spikes although not color-tipped at the moment, as they had been over the years. Blue, green, orange—Eddie’d had them all.
He’d also had a bent for the technical. He could enslave any computer to his will, and his personal blog, of clearly liberal bent, had drawn attacks from rabid conservatives of all sorts. The more famous his critics, the more pleased he’d been.
Isn’t too bad working under a Chevy’s hood, either.
San shook his head. “There’s nothing left for anyone, anywhere, Eddie.”
It wasn’t the first time they’d had this conversation, speculating what might remain of life past the San Francisco city limits, past the California borders.
“There’s gotta be someone left, some community somewhere where things are normal.”
Eddie hunched over on his bed, the tangled covers in a ball. “I want my life back! I want to be able to hit the bookstore and read three chapters of a book without buying it. You know, sit there for two hours with a hot latte and frellin’ Muzak playing. I even miss effing Muzak!”
The plaintive wail provoked San’s ironic smile. Eddie had always been partial to grunge rock. Kurt Cobain would have turned over in his nonexistent grave hearing one of his most ardent fans begging for elevator music.
“Come on, I can make my ma’s dream come true, meet a nice Jewish girl, go to temple. Hell, meet any girl.” Eddie squirmed, sheepish. “Not that I ever had much success in that area.”
“You’ve other talents. Just haven’t met the right one, Spaghetti Man.”
“But you don’t know some medical school might not still be open out East. You can be the doctor in the family, so I don’t frellin’ have to.” Brown eyes pled with San. “I’m going tomorrow. Maybe Friday. ” Eddie patted the green duffel bag on the bed beside him. “Figured I can grab a car out on the East Side. I can trip a gas station, get enough to get me started, anyway.”
His dark gaze slid down the navy blue bed sheet to the four .38 caliber revolvers he had laid carefully next to each other, along with four boxes of bullets.
“Got enough ammo to last a while. We can take care of ourselves, San.” His voice tightened. “I don’t want to go alone.”
San resisted the urge to choke up along with his friend. “I have to do things here, Eddie.”
“Bullshit. There’s nothing more for you here, either. Our parents are dead, our friends are dead, this city is dead! Why do you want to effing waste your life walking
around these empty streets till some gangbanger offs you?”
Today I’m sharing an excerpt from WINDMILLS, the first book in my post-apocalyptic trilogy THE COLOR OF FEAR. This piece gives us insight into Valery Paz, and a glimpse into her history.
Before she stepped over the threshold, Valery Paz patted her two front pockets. The left one held the book she was currently reading, a fantasy story about a modern-day barista and a glass slipper, the right a fully loaded pistol she wasn’t afraid to use.
Yep, Uncle Dave, you’d be proud of this little Latina. Self-defense: Never leave home without it.
Wary of the street after hearing about Kwan’s encounter with the gang, she set off at a swift pace, spurred on by the damp chill in the air, her well-worn sneakers making hardly a sound. Twenty blocks along Broadway, then a right turn, then up to the attic of a small house just past Jackson Square, and she’d be home. She could sit by her tiny window and look out over the bay near the Embarcadero.
If she was lucky, and the fog held off, she might catch a glimpse of the Golden Gate.
The bridge still seemed more like another fantasy to her than reality, even though she’d seen it in clear weather, swathed in fog, and in dozens of different states in between.
She hadn’t lived in the city before the Second Holocaust. Then, she’d been the nearest thing to a Valley Girl at Everett Alvarez High School in Salinas, about a hundred miles south of San Francisco, her daily language peppered with southern California slang. She’d been slated to graduate salutatorian of her class, bound for Stanford. The Second Holocaust ended the school year early.
Then it ended a lot of things early.
Her younger brother had died first, but in the twelve months afer the SH, she’d lost her mother and “Uncle” Dave too. Her parents had broken up years before, but her dad had always stopped in when his sales job brought him within shouting distance. It had been maybe a month before the SH when he stopped in before heading to southern California. She hadn’t seen him again.
She’d buried her mother and Dave, then packed a duffel bag with her dearest possessions and those her family had treasured as well. She had to go somewhere,
People came through town, heading to Colorado or New Mexico, and said San Francisco was at least providing some services to residents. Valery had some very
fond memories of the city by the bay, one visit in particular when she’d gone shopping with her mother as a young adolescent. They’d had warm sourdough bread and
shrimp cocktail from a cart on Fisherman’s Wharf and toured Chinatown, just the two of them. Her mother had bought her a new pair of shoes and a tiny cable car ornament
for their Christmas tree. A magical day.
That’s what made up her mind.
Six months now since she’d moved here, and she still sought real direction. When she was younger, she’d wanted to be a fashion model. She was tall enough, and when she only let herself eat lettuce—for a week or so—she could be skinny enough. It wasn’t like modeling scouts came through Salinas, though. And Mama wouldn’t take me to the city to try out. Not till I was eighteen.
She muttered, “Well. Now I’m eighteen, Mama. Look at me. Sneaking around the streets after dark like some matón.”
Kwan said the Enforcer had rescued her from the gang. A tendril of wistful thought wound itself around Valery’s heart. When will I have a white knight riding out to save me, huh?
Even as she wished for that person who might be waiting out there, somewhere, she shoved that idea aside.
That’s why I’m better off. I don’t need saving.
Besides, she didn’t intend to stay in San Francisco all her life.
She reached her house without incident and ran up the steps, scanning the street before she opened the door. Once she was safe inside, she triple-locked it and headed
upstairs to her room, locking the door to the attic as well. She tossed her pea jacket onto her bed, a mattress on the floor she’d dragged up the narrow steps, then lit several
candles. When everything was arranged to her liking, she rummaged through her “pantry,” a cardboard carton of cans and boxes of food she’d collected over the
last few weeks. One can called for her attention, and she took it out, cradling it in her hand. The brilliant orange of the mangoes on the Goya juice can reminded her of the
ambrosial juice awaiting her inside. She could almost taste the sweet tartness on her tongue.
She popped open the top and took a small sip, letting it roll around her mouth like the finest wine. Amazing.
She leaned down to glance out the window before settling in, disappointed that the cool, wet air had brought along a flood of fog that covered the waters of the bay. No bridge-gazing tonight. What else to do?
She plopped down on the worn blue beanbag chair she’d wrestled up the steps the first week she’d arrived. It was just like the one her brother Jimmy’d had, back in the
The loneliness was starting to get to her. She should leave. Comparing the number of survivors in the site of the SH attack, San Diego, and San Francisco, she could extrapolate
the differences between San Francisco and other parts of the country. The farther east you went, the better the chances there would be a healthier population.
Who knew? Maybe they still had fashion runway shows in New York City.
Si, chica, the models, they are very skinny this year…skin and bones…well, maybe bones without the skin…
A chill ran up her back, the black humor a little too close to truth.
Welcome to guest author Laura Strickland, here to talk about her new book, Cross Checking: A Buffalo Steampunk Adventure. Take it away, Laura!
The thing I hear most often when I attend Steampunk Festivals and other events promoting my books is, “What’s Steampunk?” It’s a fair question. Many readers aren’t familiar with the genre, and feel a bit intimidated by it. But as I’ve learned since starting this wild ride, penning my Buffalo Steampunk Adventures series, there’s no easy answer. Steampunk means something different to all those who love it.
For some of us, it’s all about the gadgets. Steampunk aficionados love to tinker. They build teapot racers, life-sized robots and fully-operational automatons. Others love the costuming, and the chance to transform into someone other than their every-day selves, to walk for even a few hours on the wild side. Goggles and helmets, brass-buttoned jackets and sweeping skirts…and stepping through the looking glass.
For me, it’s all about what-might-have-been. What if the glorious age of steam heralded by the Industrial Revolution had never been superseded by electricity and the internal combustion engine? What if the Victorian age hadn’t died but merely morphed into something bigger, grander—and more twisted?
If you’d like to imagine the Steampunk world, think Victorian, with a twist. Just a little bit darker (a la Jack the Ripper), a little bit weirder, and to those of us who appreciate the strange, that much more delightful.
The characters in my Buffalo Steampunk Adventures books are real—far from perfect, they have warts and fears, and disadvantages. The city’s real too—Victorian Buffalo, city (if not time) of my birth. Buffalo makes the perfect setting for Steampunk, industrial, gritty and yes, it has an edge.
Me, I love the edge. I love the twist. If you do too, come walk the brick streets of Steampunk Buffalo with me. You may never want to leave.
BUFFALO STEAMPUNK ADVENTURES Book Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_aauK5ob3zI
Blurb for new release: Cross Checking: A Buffalo Steampunk Adventure
When Maddie MacGillicuddy loses her job, she’s desperate to find another. Though good jobs are available at the stables, only men are hired. A big, strapping girl, she becomes Matty in her brother’s clothing. Complications arise when a city magnate, assembling a tournament hockey team, admires Matty’s skating skills and recruits “him,” with real money and the city’s reputation on the line.
Huritt Gilbert is used to battling his way through life. At the stables, he routinely endures racial slurs, sometimes striking back. He’s never met a woman like Maddie and would do anything for her, including accept the dangerous position of goalie for her team. But when competition heats up, loyalties get twisted. Will Gilbert and Maddie play for glory, or love?
“Gilbert, you should see how good Maddie skates.”
“I’d like to,” Gilbert said in his dusky voice. The dark—which somehow matched that voice—seemed to close around them. It made the encounter feel more intimate than it should.
Maddie shivered. “I’d better get Roddy home. It’s getting colder.”
“Going to snow some more, too,” Gilbert offered, not taking his eyes from Maddie’s. “I can always tell.”
He wagged his dark head. Maddie had a sudden and completely inappropriate impulse to plunge her fingers through that black hair. But he still held her fingers captive.
He told her, “I get an instinct for certain things—sometimes I just know.”
“I see. And are you never wrong?”
He shrugged those wide shoulders. “Seldom enough.”
“Come on, Maddie,” Roddy demanded, completely immune to any undertones. “I’m hungry.”
“Yes, all right.”
She tugged at her fingers again; this time Gilbert let them go. Together, they climbed up over the bank and trudged to the foot of Ferry Street.
“Do you live far?” Gilbert asked. “Can I see you home?”
“Peach Street,” Maddie told him, wishing this somehow enchanting encounter had happened on any other day than the one during which she’d destroyed her life. “I think we’ll be all right.” She hoped so.
Gilbert nodded. “Maybe I’ll see you again on the ice.”
Later she wondered if he, with all his bright instincts, had uttered a prophecy.
Multi award-winning author Laura Strickland delights in time traveling to the past and searching out settings for her books, be they Historical Romance, Steampunk or something in between. Her first Scottish Historical hero, Devil Black, battled his way onto the publishing scene in 2013, and the author never looked back. Nor has she tapped the limits of her imagination. Venturing beyond Historical and Contemporary Romance, she created a new world with her ground-breaking Buffalo Steampunk Adventure series set in her native city, in Western New York. Married and the parent of one grown daughter, Laura has also been privileged to mother a number of very special rescue dogs, and is intensely interested in animal welfare. These days while she’s writing, you can always find her latest rescue, Lacy, nearby. Her love of dogs, and her lifelong interest in Celtic history, magic and music, are all reflected in her writing. Laura’s mantra is Lore, Legend, Love, and she wouldn’t have it any other way.
Author Web site: www.laurastricklandbooks.com
Author Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000002632317
Author Amazon page: http://www.amazon.com/Laura-Strickland/e/B001KHSACW/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1
Author Goodreads page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/760146.Laura_Strickland
Laura Strickland Author @LauraSt05038951
BookBub page: https://www.bookbub.com/search?search=Laura+Strickland
A passage from DESTINATIONS, second book in my post-apocalyptic series The Color of Fear. Seems apropos, esp. if these greedy Senators who used the news to save their own purses reap what they have sowed….
Later that evening, San arranged blankets on a chaise on the deck, now used to sleeping in the open air.
The Ranger perched on the deck’s peeling wooden rail, and he turned it on, ready to listen to the voice of the woman who’d soothed him to sleep since he’d left San Francisco.
As he settled in, the boy’s voice broke into his thoughts.
“Who’s that? Regular radio? Not ham?” Hang went over to adjust the dials.
“Hey! Don’t touch that!” San moved to protect his territory.
“Chill, homeboy.” Hang grinned as the opening guitar riff from “Dust in the Wind” started to play. “Oh, man. Didn’t know real radio was still around.”
“Yeah, well, it is.”
Somewhat embarrassed by his extreme reaction, San stoically returned to his makeshift bed. The boy dragged a futon onto the deck and curled up on it. They contemplated the starry heavens in silence as the song played to its haunting conclusion.
How true that is, San thought. Money hadn’t saved anyone from the infectious “dust” in the air, not in the Second Holocaust. Bankers and millionaires had died side-by-side with hookers and welfare moms. He’d lived for more than a year, traveled hundreds of miles, without need for dollars or even gov-scrip.
“Dust in the Wind”…a metaphor for this whole society lost to the schemes of those seeking ultimate power.
“Hope?” you say? From all these stories of civilization torn down, people in chaos, life destroyed?
It may seem contrary, when real life is at a frightening point. But one common thread in much of this fiction is the inherent goodness of man. For every toilet-paper hoarding idiot, there is a Stu Redman fromThe Stand. For every self-serving politician, there is a Daryl Dixon from The Walking Dead. Even in Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, which is about the most bleak, horrifying, hopeless story ever, in the end there is a moment of humanity.
I believe we’re starting to see it now, in the communities around the world. People are beginning to reach out to others, while observing the new rules and realities of Covid-19 times. Italians confined to their homes sing to each other to boost morale. Local restaurants in my city make sure kids have lunch while schools are closed, and surely they can least afford it, since restaurant attendance is down. People shop for their at-risk elderly neighbors who should not be out. Granted, we are early in the process, and things may become more desperate as it lingers on. But humans are best at doing human.
My own post-apocalyptic YA series THE COLOR OF FEAR is founded on that issue of hope, and the conviction that those who stick to the path of right will triumph in the end over those who espouse hate and fear.
Tzu Lin Kwan, Xi San, Valery Paz, Eddie Garrick, Marie, Arik and all the others who try their best for their fellow humans are inspirational, and some of the favorite characters I’ve created. Not only do they fight the results of a terrorist plague, but they also oppose the white supremacist cult leader Gabriel and his Angels, who take advantage of the decimated population and the fears of the remaining white men and women to try to overthrow what remains of a poorly-organized government. The first book, WINDMILLS, takes the reader from Hong Kong to San Francisco; the second, DESTINATIONS, tells what happens as the ethnic survivors band together in the face of Gabriel’s threat, and the yet-to-be-released ADVERSARIES will reveal what happens when the inevitable clash of the two occurs. Find out more at the COLOR OF FEAR tab above.
In the meantime, there are many other books that can remind you about the good that may come from tumultuous, post-apocalyptic times:
If you prefer movies, check these out: https://www.cnn.com/2020/01/30/entertainment/contagion-and-pandemics-in-movies/index.html