Out of the Fire and into the Pan: Sequel to the Blood on My Hands

Shannon O’Leary recently announced the release of her latest book Out of the Fire and into the Pan, a sequel to The Blood on My Hands. Genres: True Crime / Memoir
Set in 1960s and ‘70s Australia, The Blood on My Hands tells the dramatic tale of Shannon O’Leary’s childhood years, growing up with an abusive father, who was also a serial killer. No one, not even the authorities, would help O’Leary and her family. The responses of those whom O’Leary and her immediate family reached out to for help are almost as disturbing as the crimes of her violent father. Relatives were afraid to bring disgrace to the family’s good name, nuns condemned the child’s objections as disobedience and noncompliance, and laws at the time prevented the police from interfering unless someone was killed.
The Blood on My Hands is a heartbreaking—yet riveting—narrative of a childhood spent in pain and terror, betrayed by the people who are supposed to provide safety and understanding. The strength and courageous resilience it took for O’Leary to not just survive and escape from her father, but to flourish, thrive, and triumph over the unimaginable trauma she endured as a child is both powerful and moving.
The Blood on My Hands is a powerful, dark memoir… This is a story that is going to remain in my mind for a long time.” – Readers’ Favorite
“The confusion, uncertainty, and sickening foreboding ring true and offer vital insights into the experience of abuse, including the fact that victims had few options, especially in the 1960s.”  – Kirkus Reviews
In her sequel, Out of the Fire and into the Pan, Shannon explains to the reader how she progressed into the adult world while coming to terms with her terrifying past. Out of the Fire and into the Pan takes the reader on a personal journey where Shannon questions herself, her past, her choice of relationships and her place in the world. It is a story of resilience, accomplishment and personal triumph.
“Out of the Fire is relentlessly gut-wrenching and almost too wild to believe…” – Red City Review

Excerpt from Out of the Fire and into the Pan:
After my book The Blood on My Hands was published, it became obvious that people wanted to know more about my story. Those of you who have read my first book will know that what seemed “normal” to me as a child was horrific abuse.
“Why did the book stop at age fifteen?” This question was asked to me by countless people and interviewers. “What happened in your adult life, and how did you cope?”
The questions made me think. “Why did I stop where I did in the first book? Why didn’t I just keep on with the story?” The truth was, it seemed too painful and difficult to write at the time. Besides, I had written most of The Blood on My Hands during my teenage years and twenties. Later, when I finished the book, and my life had taken the irregular twists and turns of adulthood, I had innumerable notes, songs, poems, and diary entries I had kept, but collating them seemed an onerous task. As an adult, I had children of my own, and my adult past seemed too close to write about.
When I wrote about my childhood, I had countless diary entries and memories that I had locked into my “Dad” basket. It was a story about what I had witnessed and what had happened to me, not about what had become of me and how my childhood torment affected me as an adult. I described how I was an onlooker to his brutal killings and how I was subjected to sexual abuse. I told of my mother’s torment and how she saved our lives by fleeing the perpetrator. I also explained how my mother and other people I met along the way helped me to realise that with an education and by asking questions, I could reach a better potential and seek a different perspective in my life.
I had always intended on writing my second book, the continuing story of how my life unfolded, but it seemed too arduous and complicated. To continue my story, I needed to breathe and think, to regroup my thoughts and feelings, read through my writings and notes from the past forty-five years, and weigh up the effect my continuing story would have on my family. But after being asked countless times, “What happened to you as an adult?” I decided that it was important for others who have experienced trauma to read and see how others cope in life. In my childhood, there were no therapists or child protection teams to intervene and save me. Nor were there any laws to enforce that domestic violence was a crime. We were a poor family who lived in an isolated bushland area; we were charity children who went to school under the umbrella of a judgmental Catholic system. My childhood was enshrouded in a “fend for yourself and crawl out of the hole” mentality.
I also lived with the ever-present fear of being taken away from my mother. I had heard a conversation at school when I was five years old. A new girl named Rosie had come to my school, and, for the first time in my life, I had someone to play with. My euphoria lasted only a few days, because Rosie didn’t come back to school. At first, I thought she must be sick, but then I heard my mother in a conversation with another parent.
“Where’s Rosie?” she asked.
“Don’t you know? She’s been taken away.” My heart fell.
“‘Taken away’? Why?”
“Her father was interfering with her, and she has been put into care.”
Afterwards, I asked my mother what “care” meant, and she explained that if a parent can’t look after their child, the government can take them away.
“What did Rosie’s father do?” I asked, with questions and guilty thoughts panicking my mind.
“He touched her where he shouldn’t have” was my mother’s answer.
With guilty heart pounding, I knew what happened to children if they disclosed the truth.
They will come and take me away, and I will never see my mother again, I thought.
I can see my broken self, shelved away and mended so many years ago. It is being pulled tightly from end to end. The scars are stretched so tightly that they are leaking ever so slightly . . . trickling the blood of the silenced child and making me feel deeply saddened. I often wonder if I’ll ever get over the fear of disclosure, the fear of allowing others to see who I really am. The fear of other people laughing at me, ridiculing me, and saying, “Oh, you made it all up!”
It’s a terrible thing, fear. It eats into my heart and makes me feel totally vulnerable. My formative years were sculpted by violence, piteously carved into my psyche and furiously shaped by the madman I called “father.” To grow up, I had to reorder my thinking and attempt to trust others. I had to rearrange my trauma, which was webbed in fear and self-doubt, and compartmentalize it by placing it firmly in the past. Unfortunately, this stone sarcophagus can still be opened in a millisecond by triggers. I can be thrown back into a place where I want to hide under a bed or in a cupboard, somewhere small, where only I can crawl inside. A place where I can safely say, “I don’t want to share this with the world. I just want to be left alone.”
People often ask me, “How did you come through it? How did you raise yourself up out of the trauma? How did you get over seeing such violence?”
The truth is I didn’t get over it. There is a sadness that lurks in the murky corners of my mind, challenging me daily. Each day presents itself as a small battle, but I try to steer my life in a positive direction. I liken my life to learning the violin. It can be all scratchy and excruciatingly unpleasant one day and reasonably tuneful the next. At times, my life has been hard, complicated and soul-destroying, yet it has also brought me moments of great joy and happiness.
My first book, The Blood on My Hands, was exceedingly painful to write. It spoke about the atrocities my father committed and how I bore witness to his acts of terror and mutilation. It was difficult to tell the truth and announce to the world, “My father was a murderer.” It is even more difficult to disclose the abuse I endured as a child. I am fifty-eight years old now. When I look back over the years, I can see how my life was shaped by my twisted formative beginnings. In this book, I attempt to reveal how I tried to take control of my life, while often being hurled back into the past by triggers and subconscious pre-conditioning. My life has been a series of steppingstones where I have walked forwards, trying to make better choices, unravelling the confusion and chaos of the past. As I look back, I can see how my childhood has affected my relationships with others and how my father’s conditioning shaped my view of what is acceptable and defined my concept of normality…
“What made me the way I am today, and how did I get here?”
I look back at my younger years and can see my initial confusion when embarking on relationships. I can also see how my father’s influence crept into different liaisons and warped my perception of what I felt and how I dealt with different situations. My father had a “knock on” effect, and his actions bore testament in my adult life. This book is about personal growth and change, as I tried to fix the lifetime’s worth of damage he bequeathed me. It tells how I was fortunate to have survived and how I created new steppingstones to rebuild myself.

•••


About the Author:
Shannon O’Leary is a prolific writer and performer. She is the author of several books of poetry and children’s stories, and she has won many awards for song-writing.
Shannon has acted and directed on the stage and on Australian national TV, and she runs her own production company.
She has numerous graduate and post-graduate degrees in education, music, and science. She is a teacher and academic, has five children with her deceased former husband, and lives with her longtime partner in Sydney, Australia.
Her memoir The Blood on My Hands was published in February 2016. It is available for sale on on Amazon.
Readers can connect with Shannon on FacebookTwitterGoodreads.
For further information, to request a review copy, or to set up an interview, please contact Kelsey at Book Publicity Services at Kelsey@BookPublicityServices.com or 805.807.9027.

The Bedwetter by Lee Allen Howard

The Bedwetter: Journal of a Budding Psychopath by Lee Allen Howard is a new horror/psychological thriller. It was released on May 1, 2019 and is available for sale on Amazon.
“Original, audacious and raw. A truly dark treat for fans of the serial killer genre.” – Best Thrillers
“Lee Allen Howard’s The Bedwetter is an inventive psychological horror novel with a voice that’s as stylish as it is dark.” —Dustin LaValley, author of The Deceived
“A brutal, dark, compulsive read… stark, powerful, and satisfying.” —Online Book Club
“Highly disturbing and electric, this book will have its readers only setting it down so they can come up for air during its darkest moments.” The US Review

Synopsis:
Armed with electric hair trimmers and a military fighting knife, Russell accepts his dark commission.
Russell Pisarek is twenty-six years old and still wets the bed. He grew up different from other young men because his vicious mother punished him for wetting by shaving his head. When he confided this to his girlfriend Tina, she betrayed him, advertising his problem to all their high school classmates, who turned on him mercilessly. He took out his frustration by skinning neighborhood cats.
Now Russell fantasizes about finding just the right woman—so he can shave her bald. He struggles to overcome his dark tendencies, but when his sister discovers he’s wetting again, she kicks him out of her house.
During this time of stress, the mythical Piss Fairy appears in his dreams, and Russell is driven to satisfy his twisted desires with his innocent coworker Uma, who also needs a new roommate.
When his plans go awry, the Piss Fairy commissions him for a much darker task that graduates him from shaving to scalping—and worse.

Excerpt:
I turn on my TV and fire up the PS4, then go downstairs and throw some pizza rolls in the toaster oven because Becky didn’t make dinner tonight. She usually does. She’s no gourmet chef, but she’s a decent cook, and I don’t mind eating her food. (^:
I holler up the stairs, “Becky?”
She don’t answer. Maybe she’s pooping, LOLz. Bathroom door ain’t closed, though, when I look up the stairs.
I crack open a beer. When the toaster oven dings, I scoop those bad babies onto a plate, grab a paper towel, and then carry them upstairs to my room. Worst thing about pizza rolls and Hot Pockets is, if you cook them till they’re done, they’re hot as frig­ging lava.
Becky comes out of her room and passes mine on her way to the bathroom. She closes and locks the door. I start Call of Duty, and it’s still loading when she comes back out of the bathroom and knocks on my door. It ain’t closed, so she pushes it open.
She’s got her arms crossed over her tits like she does when she’s uptight about something.
“What’s up?” I say.
“I found your tee-shirt between the washer and dryer, so I washed it and brought it up this morning.”
“Cool, thanks.”
She’s all fidgety and won’t look me in the eye, so something’s up.
Eating pizza rolls on a piss-stinking mattress ain’t the most appetizing experience. But I eat them anyway.
I say, “What’s Aiden doing? Ain’t seen him yet.”
“He’s playing with his cars you got him,” she says. “When I brought your shirt in, I couldn’t help but see your bed was stripped. And why.”
“Yeah. So?”
So? It makes me… concerned.” She tosses her head, not to get her hair out of her face—it’s tied back as usual—but because she’s gearing up to make some point or say something unpopu­lar.
“Hey, I couldn’t help it. I didn’t wake up. I washed my sheets. What are you so concerned about?”
Her lips get tight when I raise my voice. I don’t much care. It’s not like I pissed HER bed.
I toss the controller on the wet spot, then mute the TV. “Well?”
“Look, Russell, you know what it led to last time.”
“Yeah, and I was living at home then. You remember what that was like for me. I ain’t wet since I moved in with you.”
“Not that I know of.” She gets that snooty high and mighty look.
I want to shove the remote up her goddamn nose. “That was years ago, Becky. I’ve changed. I’m better now.”
“How do I know that? All I know is what you did.”
“But I didn’t do it to you, did I? I never done nothin to you.” I hurl the remote into the closet. It hits the back wall, and the bat­teries pop out.
“Calm down, Russell,” she says, pressing the air with her hands like she does when I get worked up. “You’re right, I’m sorry.” She always says that too, but it’s just to talk me down because I make her nervous. But why shouldn’t I be pissed? How come I can never express myself when I’m mad?
“I gotta get my sheets.” I push past her, out the door, and go downstairs. In the kitchen I unlock the basement door and stomp down the rickety steps. The cellar smells musty. Like I said, it’s an old townhouse, with stone walls and a concrete floor all cracked. Damn cold on my sockfeet. My sheets and bed pad and blanket are wadded up on top of the dryer. Becky does that if I forget to empty it when my stuff is done. I scoop them up and then head back upstairs.
Becky’s still standing there, hugging herself. “Here. I’ll help you.”
I turn around and get in her face. “I don’t need your help, Becky. I can do it myself. I been doing it since I was seven years old, remember?”
“All right. I’m sorry. I just… never mind.”
She walks out the door but comes right back in.
“No, I’m not going to let this go,” she says, fists on her hips. “This isn’t just about wetting the bed. It’s about that, that… dis­gusting rug you made. Cat skins. God, Russell, that’s so sick. I had no idea you still had it. Thank goodness Aiden didn’t see it.”
“And what if he did?” I say. “You think I would have told him what it was made out of? Jesus, Becky, gimme some credit.”
“I don’t care. I don’t want that thing in my house. Get rid of it.”
“I live here as well as you do. It’s not like you own the place. I pay rent too.”
She huffs. “Sometimes.”
“Oh, fuck off, why don’t you? I’m workin. I been workin. Just because I don’t got a good job like you don’t mean I ain’t pitchin in.”
“Look. I think it’s time you moved out on your own, Russell.”
I blink at her, shaking my head. “What?”
“You heard me. Aiden’s four years old. He needs his own room. He can’t sleep in my room forever, especially with Mike spending nights here.”
“It ain’t my fault you can’t screw with Aiden in the room.”
“Russell!” she hisses.
What!”
“Keep your voice down,” she says, shoving the door closed. “It’s not about me and Mike. Aiden’s getting too big for his tod­dler bed. You know that. He’s growing like a weed, and even a twin bed won’t fit in that room. Where’s he supposed to sleep?”
I lay a folded hand towel on the wet spot, make the bed on top of it, and then stretch out on it. She stands there, waiting for me to say something. She pisses me off. Ignoring her is the best I can do.
“Don’t go quiet on me, Russell. I’m trying to have a conversa­tion about something important. Do you understand why I think it’s best that you move out?”
I snatch up the controller and press start. The game begins, but I can’t hear it because I muted the TV, and I can’t unmute it because I flung the remote in the closet.
Becky steps closer. “If you got something to say, then say it. Stewing about it won’t do any good. You know what it leads to.”
“Who are you, my fuckin mother?”
She grabs her head with both hands, spins toward the door, then turns back, curling her fingers into claws and showing her teeth.
“You’re a dick, Russell. You either move your pissy mattress to the basement or out of the house, take your pick!” She rushes out, and I can tell she wants to slam my door, but she don’t.
I do. And yell, “I hope your car’s fixed, because I’m driving mine tomorrow. Bitch.”
I put the remote back together, then pick up the controller, but my hands are shaking, and I don’t feel like playing no more. Don’t feel like finishing my pizza rolls. What I really need is a smoke.
I fish in my jacket pocket for my Camels only to find my last cigarette is broke in two.
FUCK! FUCK, FUCK, FUCK!
I crush the pack and throw it on the floor. I dress, grab my coat and gentleman’s hat, then descend the stairs by threes and fly out the door into snow like freaking cottonballs.

 


About the Author:
Lee Allen Howard’s dark fiction spans the genres of horror, dark fantasy, supernatural crime, and psychological thrillers. His publications include The Sixth Seed, Severed Relations, Desperate Spirits, Night Monsters, Death Perception, The Adamson Family, Perpetual Nightmares, and The Bedwetter.
Howard earned his BA in English from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and an MA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University. He edits fiction and non-fiction, and has served as a book publishing consultant. He blogs about his fiction and fiction writing at http://leeallenhoward.com. Readers can connect with him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Goodreads.
Howard is also the founder and editor at Dark Cloud Press, which has published the horror and dark crime anthologies Thou Shalt Not… and Tales of Blood and Squalor. He resides in western New York state with a lot of books.

Radioactive Evolution: A Dystopian, Post-Apocalyptic Adventure by Richard Hummel

Richard Hummel’s debut novel Radioactive Evolution was released in November 2018. Since its release, Radioactive Evolution has become an Amazon #1 Best Seller in Apocalyptic and Cyberpunk with readers calling it ‘a masterful mix of fantasy, LitRPG, apocalyptic future and advanced tech.”
The story follows a young man in a post-apocalyptic America who bonds with a dragon.
The series is recommended for readers who enjoy general SFF, Dark Fantasy, Dark YA, Cyberpunk, Post-Apocalyptic, Dystopian, Survival Story and anyone that is a gamer and likes RPGs since he has a system in place that allows the main character and his dragon companion to “level” themselves up through abilities and enhancing their bodies and minds.
Hunger Games, Ready Player One, and Game of Thrones collide to bring you a Science-Fiction & Fantasy cross-genre spectacular!

Synopsis:
How far would you go to change humanity’s fate?
Jared Cartwright has spent the last two years delving into the twisted, scarred wastelands of an earth ravaged by nuclear war. The rich and powerful have taken to the oceans and skies on floating utopias, escaping destruction and leaving the rest of humanity to fend off the mutated creatures that roam the earth.
To face his new reality, Jared must become an apex predator if he hopes to survive. He must unlock his true potential to confront those that left mankind to die. With deadly adversaries above and below, Jared must evolve beyond mere human limitations to defeat the powerful rulers of the cities and the rabid beasts lurking in the shadows.
Jared’s quest takes a new turn when he discovers dragons are real. 

Excerpt from Chapter 1:
Jared stood at the precipice of almost certain danger, the yawning black chasm simultaneously beckoning and repelling him. The last six months of exploration led him to this moment, and now he hesitated to follow through. For months he’d searched for evidence of others.
In a city this size he expected to find something. Remnants of a battle, bones picked clean by the many carnivorous creatures that roamed the area, or anything worth scavenging. However, the only evidence he’d found was a series of tags painted on the walls around the perimeter of New York City. Only one set of markings, distinct in their pattern, delved further into the streets of the once great city. It was these patterns he found himself following, stupidly assuming he’d find treasure at the end of the veritable rainbow. Except there was no leprechaun or pot of gold, only a staircase descending into utter darkness. A faded sign announced it as “Metro Tr…”
Tram? Train?
Jared shrugged. He didn’t know for certain, but he’d read about old means of transportation before the nuclear wars obliterated most of the planet.
Taut as a bowstring, his eyes and ears strained, Jared looked for any sign of predators. In a city this large, he was at the bottom of the food chain, and his only protection was his father’s Colt Peacemaker, a .45 caliber revolver. In the two years since he’d left his home colony, it’d saved his life on more occasions than he could count. Absentmindedly, he reached down to finger the weapon in its holster, contemplating if he dared risk the underbelly of the city.
Six rounds…
Agonizing over the decision, Jared flicked his gaze to the corner of his vision. A holographic outline of his body floated, where a countdown timer showing a little more than two months remaining. It represented how many nanites he had left before he needed to use an injector and replenish his stores. These microscopic machines were the only thing preventing humans from dying excruciating, radioactive deaths. He hoped the trail leading down would end at the body of whomever left all the tags, and that they had some of the life-giving injectors on them. On the other hand, it was a gamble and he had no way to know for sure without making the trip.
What should I do…
Jared sighed and ran his hand through his hair. It was a two-month journey back home, and he wasn’t sure he’d survive the trip before his body deteriorated from radiation poisoning, or some creature overpowered him when his body began to weaken.
His mind screamed at him to run the other way, but Jared ignored it and walked back to the staircase leading down. He couldn’t discern the bottom even with his ability to see in the dark. Slowly, he crept down the stairs, gun at the ready. It felt like an eternity until he reached the bottom. Time became irrelevant as every minute stretched into what felt like hours. He jumped at every creak and sifting of pebbles. At the bottom, the markings pointed off into the darkness. An absolute darkness that pressed in on him. The shadows writhed at the corners of his vision. The hair on the back of his neck stood on end as cold shivers raced down his spine. The natural sunlight failed to penetrate the inky black and Jared’s eyes transitioned to night vision, a by-product of nanite enhancements. It seemed that when pushed into extreme circumstances, or survival depended on something, the nanites adapted and allowed him to obtain special abilities, like night vision and the ability to survive extreme temperatures.
Just as he started relaxing, Jared heard a soft scrape and a nearly imperceptible pressure as something brushed past his head.
He threw himself to the floor, eyes widening at the creature. A grotesque, mutated lizard clung to the ceiling, its legs coiled to spring at him. Thick, discolored saliva dripped from fangs as long as his arm, dozens of golden spider-like eyes following his movements. With no hesitation, Jared squeezed the trigger. The creature’s head exploded in a shower of black ichor and bits of gray brain matter. It plummeted towards him. He shoved away from it, barely avoiding being crushed by its shiny silver body as it slammed into the concrete floor. The quick evasion did nothing to prevent the shower of blood and gore. Spluttering and spitting, he tried to eliminate the metallic tasting remnants that made it into his mouth.
Jared shook his head, the gunshot ringing in his ears. He needed to move, and fast. The gunshot might’ve been a homing beacon for more of these things. Desperate to put distance between himself and the disgusting creature, Jared sprinted up the tunnel following the other explorer’s path. While he ran, he kept his eyes peeled, careful to watch the ceiling for more of the lizards.
Jared no longer cared about stealth or caution. He needed to find the body, recover the supplies, and get out of the city. He rounded the next corner following the markings and almost fell headlong into a large crater. He caught himself on the edge and wind-milled his arms to regain balance. His tiptoes teetered on the edge of the crater and he felt his balance shift back and forth. Finally, after a several moments of sheer terror, his balance returned, and he managed to step back from the ledge.
He’d almost fallen into a pit that looked like the site of a bomb detonation. A closer examination revealed piles of bones, refuse, and a collection of random equipment.
Tilting his head to the side and moving further from the corner, Jared tried to determine what he’d found.
It looks like— His mouth dropped open in astonishment. It’s a nest.
The blood drained from his face, and he shrank against the wall, cursing himself for making this journey. Paralyzed in fear, it took him several minutes before he was calm enough to peek around the corner. The last marking he’d followed ended a couple pillars back, and he didn’t see a new one. Fear coursed through him as he realized this might be the farthest his guide had made it. As if fate were playing a cruel joke on him, it was then he spotted a pair of black boots at the bottom of the nest. Jared slid to the ground and buried his face in his hands.
The explorer. I’ve come too far to abandon this farce now. With shaky legs, he rose and skirted the massive nest.
Psyching himself up, Jared repeated a mantra in his mind. It’s just a crater, it’s just a crater…
If he dwelled on the nest and what might live in it, he’d succumb to cowardice and flee.
Delicately, he picked his way through the pile of refuse, periodically stopping to extricate large bones that blocked his path. It was eerily quiet, the only sound his ragged breathing as he tried to push past the overpowering scent of rot. With each passing moment, his anxiety grew.
This is taking too long, and I don’t want to be here when this thing returns!
Finally reaching the pair of worn leather boots, he started extracting bone after bone, looking for any other equipment. Several minutes later, he uncovered a tattered backpack hooked over a human ribcage. An audible gulp escaped his throat as he looked into the empty eye sockets of the skull that used to sit atop the skeleton. Holding his breath, Jared bent closer and breathed through his mouth. The smell of death and decay intensified and raised bile to the back of his throat.
Careful not to disturb the rest of the pile, Jared unhooked the straps from a cracked shoulder blade and what was left of the rib cage. He’d successfully extracted the pack and turned to leave when a strange object partially hidden by yellowing skeleton limbs caught his attention. Already in over his head, Jared looked closer, eager to find anything of value. He reached out and felt heat emanating from what looked like a large rock.
Strange, he thought.
As his fingers brushed the strange object, a jolt of electricity shot through his hand.
“Ow!” Jared grunted and snatched his hand away. “What is this thing?”
Curiosity piqued, he reached out again. When his fingers neared the object, the hair on the back of his hand stood on end. Jared snatched his hand back again and decided that he needed to bring whatever this was with him. This was by far the most unique object he’d ever come across. If it generated some kind of electricity, it could be invaluable to him during his travels. As quickly and quietly as possible, Jared slid his pack off his back, stuffed the other explorer’s gear inside, and grabbed a spare shirt to wrap up the strange object. The electrified rock secured, Jared began the painful process of picking his way back across the crater to climb back up to the platform.
His trip up proved much easier, and he breathed a sigh of relief after he’d made it to the platform. No sooner had he reached it than he felt a reverberation through the ground. Thinking it was his nerves and imagination, he ignored it until he distinctly felt the vibration and with it a distant thump.
What the— Panic flooded through him. What could make the earthshake?
No way was he waiting to find out. Jared sprinted back the way he’d come. Just as he passed the decapitated corpse of the lizard, an ear-splitting roar shook his body to the core. A violent thrashing and growling erupted behind him as the unknown creature unleashed mayhem in the tunnel he’d just vacated. A moment later, a wave of intense agony assaulted his mind, causing him to stumble into the wall.
Jared glanced over his shoulder at his bag and contemplated dropping whatever it was he stole, but instead he bolted up the stairs, taking them four at a time as he sprinted up the shaft of daylight in the distance. Before he reached the halfway point, he caught sight of something lunging at him from his periphery. Ducking, another lizard-like creature soared over his head, crashing into the wall. He didn’t pause, but raced up the stairs, the creature fast on his heels. Jared dove through the opening, the sun’s golden rays bathing him in warmth. The split-second of euphoria didn’t last as the lizard launched through the opening, landing right on top of him.
Dangit! Stupid. Idiotic.
He violently reprimanded himself for thinking these creatures confined to the underground tunnel. The lizard pinned his arm before he managed to free his Colt. The overgrown reptile snapped at his face, its shiny metallic head filled with razor-sharp teeth and fangs. Gooey, hot saliva bathed his head and obscured his vision.
Straining his muscles, Jared tried to force the creature off, but failed. It was strong, and if he didn’t find some way to turn the tables, it would rip into his face.
In a desperate move, Jared slammed his feet down and thrust his pelvis upward, throwing the lizard back just enough to extricate his Colt. He angled the revolver into the body of the creature and squeezed the trigger three times before the lizard stopped moving.
Soaked to the bone in gore from both scuffles, Jared recovered quickly, picked up his pack from where it’d fallen, and sprinted for the city’s edge.
The gigantic creature raged beneath the city, judging from the echoing of rock crumbling behind him. He thanked his good fortune no other creatures barred his path, and whatever he’d angered hadn’t surfaced to track him yet.
His panicked flight led to his safe haven, a small room in the remnants of the Statue of Liberty. Breathing heavily, Jared dove into his hideaway beneath the melted hunk of rusting statue. When he’d first come to New York, he’d cleared out the entry and made his own barrier he could bar from the within.
Safe in his bunker, he sat back against the wall in exhaustion. He didn’t know how much time passed, but from the slant of the sun’s orange rays peeking in through the cracks, it neared dusk. He didn’t need the light to see, but trepidations about what the night would bring made him wish for the day to last longer.
“I almost died in there,” Jared muttered to himself. “This backpack better be worth the risk. There’s no freaking way I’m going back into that city.”
Even hours after the harrowing experience, he shook with adrenaline and fear. He could do nothing but sit there in abject terror waiting for his body to give him a moment’s reprieve. Eventually, it gave way to exhaustion and pushed him into a fitful slumber.
When he woke several hours later, he could still hear distant shrieking and buildings collapsing. Thankfully, it didn’t sound like it was any closer.
Rested and ready to see what treasures he’d found, Jared pulled out the explorer’s pack from his own. The mysterious electrical object discarded to one side, he opened the flap on the other pack.
“Whoa,” breathed Jared.

Praise:
A worthy series kickoff with riveting characters and a world that readers will want to explore.” – Kirkus
“Radioactive Evolution features an exciting world, a plot that keeps moving, and a fun twist on the typical GameLit phenomenon. Overall, I thought it was an enjoyable romp in a Post-apocalyptic future. I’m already looking forward to seeing where Hummel goes from here!” – 5 Stars, LitRPG Reviews 

About the Author:
It all started when he read the works of two Russian authors, D. Rus and Vasiliy Mahenenka. After devouring every one of their books, Richard Hummel became obsessed with the LitRPG / Gamelit genre, which basically combines MMORPG with Science Fiction & Fantasy. He started joining a ton of groups, mailing lists, and Discord servers talking to readers, authors, and professionals in the industry. He’d continually bounce ideas around until one day he realized that he had more than enough ideas to create his own world and characters. Then he buckled down, picked up a copy of Scrivener and went to work and Radioactive Evolution was born.
Radioactive Evolution: A Dystopian, Post-Apocalyptic Adventure is the first book in his new Sci-Fi Fantasy series. It was released in November 2018 and since then, has become an Amazon Bestseller.
Radioactive Evolution tells the story of a young man in a post-apocalyptic America who bonds with a dragon.
The series is recommended for readers who enjoy general SFF, Dark Fantasy, Dark YA, Cyberpunk, Post-Apocalyptic, Dystopian, Survival Story and anyone that is a gamer that likes RPGs since he has a system in place that allows the main character and his dragon companion to “level” themselves up through abilities and enhancing their bodies and minds.
By day, Richard Hummel is a cyber security analyst and father of two beautiful girls and a little boy on the way! He is currently hard at work on the second book in his series, which is set to be released Spring 2019. Stay tuned for more in this epic dystopian adventure!
Readers can connect with Richard on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Goodreads. To learn more, go to https://www.hummelbooks.com/

Car Business 101: #CrazyShitCarDealersDo

Automotive industry expert Max Zanan announced the release his latest book Car Business 101: #CrazyShitCarDealersDo. Car Business 101 is a follow-up to his first book Perfect Dealership – A Car Dealer’s Guide to Surviving the Digital Age, which was released in November 2017.
In Perfect Dealership, Zanan teaches what car dealerships SHOULD do to stay competitive and survive. In Car Business 101, he describes the crazy things car dealerships ACTUALLY DO and if they don’t stop, they might go out of business.
Automotive retail is at crossroads–either it gets better or becomes extinct. Consumers are dissatisfied with the sales process in brick and mortar dealerships and that is the driving force behind the rise of Carvana and other industry disrupters. However, it is not too late to fix the way car dealerships operate and improve their reputation. Car Business 101 highlights irrational and counterproductive behavior that car dealers engage in on a daily basis. If you own or work in a car dealership it will be easy to recognize insanity that goes on in Sales, F&I, BDC, HR, and Parts & Service departments. This book offers a fresh perspective and practical solutions for dealerships to implement.
Car Business 101 is informative and entertaining at the same time. It is a must read for dealer principals, dealership employees, and vendors that service car dealers.
“I truly hope that this book will be a wake-up call for car dealers across the country,” says Max Zanan.
Car Business 101 was released in December 2018 and is available for sale on Amazon in Kindle and Paperback.
About the Author:
Max Zanan is a seasoned automotive industry expert with nearly 20 years of experience in sales, F&I and dealership consulting. After graduating John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Zanan went on to get his Master’s Degree before starting his career in automotive retail as a salesman at a local, New York City Volkswagen dealership. After working his way up the ranks, Zanan then became the General Manager of a New York City Mitsubishi dealership, which subsequently placed #1 in sales for Mitsubishis in the United States. Following his stint at Mitsubishi, Zanan went on to become the Platform President at Elite Auto Group, where he oversaw three dealerships, with 150 total personnel.
Max Zanan has worked in every department of a car dealership. He started as sales person and throughout the years worked as a sales manager, finance manager, general sales manager, service manager, and general manager. He has also provided income development services through F&I products and training as the owner of Total Dealer Compliance—one of the best dealership compliance firms in the country. In addition to F&I and Compliance, he provides dealership consulting services that are focused on process improvement, customer retention, and profitability. As Founder and CEO of IDDS Group, Zanan utilizes all of the skills he has picked up over the years to cohesively mentor dealerships on how to increase revenue and profitability, and eliminate non-compliant practices in all departments. Max Zanan is also the author of Perfect Dealership and Car Business 101. Readers can connect with him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Goodreads.
To learn more, go to http://www.crazyshitcardealersdo.com/

Famous Dishes from Around the World: Healthy, Tasty and Affordable

Famous Dishes from Around the World: Healthy, Tasty and Affordable / Platos Famosos de todo el mundo: saludables, sabrosos y económicos is a new Bilingual Cookbook, in both English and Spanish. It was released in May 2019, published by Moonstone Press LLC.
Ethnic foods and international cuisine can be found at every street corner of our cities and neighborhoods. Whether in restaurants, diners, food trucks or grocery stores, the varied and flavorful dishes brought to the United States by generations of immigrants stand out among the most important contributions to America’s rich multicultural heritage, and have been welcomed enthusiastically by its inhabitants. 
With well-known recipes that are both tasty and healthy, Famous Dishes from Around the World seeks to pay homage to immigrants through their culinary contributions to the United States.
Compiled by lovers of good ethnic food who have lived all around the world, it features 30 well-known dishes that are identified with specific countries worldwide, such as Colombian Sancocho, French Ratatouille, Indian Vegetable Korma, Mexican Fajitas, Moroccan Tagine with Chicken, Greek Moussaka (with Turkey), Polish Lentil Stew, Indonesian Satay with Peanut Sauce, and Spanish Paella.  The book includes background information about each dish, calorie and nutrition breakdowns of each recipe, and sections called “Cooking Tips and Tricks” and “Healthy Hints for the Home Cook”. 
Famous Dishes from Around the World is timely given our country’s current political state of affairs, and that it provides an engaging blend of both good food, ethnicity and health.

Praise for Famous Dishes from Around the World:
“A vibrant culinary take on the American melting pot via an international array of recipes and flavors.” – Kirkus Review
“Famous Dishes from Around the world/ Platos famosos de todo el mundo is recommended over and above other introductory ethnic cookbooks because of its recognizable national dishes, its diversity, its attention to healthy ingredients, and the ease with which the recipes can be cooked in the kitchen.” – Midwest Book Review
“What books like Famous Dishes seek to do is to pepper in a little more humanity to our meal-making. The recipes here are accessible, yet impressive; inexpensive, yet satisfying.” – Red City Review
“Turn your family meals into delightful cultural experiences by preparing dishes from different countries.” – 5 Stars, Readers’ Favorite
“The creators of this vibrant collection have spared no efforts to make their new project a feast for the eyes as well as for the stomach, with brilliant color photographs on every page.” – RECOMMENDED by The US Review of Books
“International dishes: a symbol of national pride and cultural identity.” –The Paris Post-Intelligencer

Excerpt:

At home or abroad, if there is anything that can bring people together in any society, it’s a tasty meal shared with loved ones, friends, colleagues or even adversaries. “Food is our common ground, our universal experience,” the noted chef, JamesBeard, once wrote. As the fundamental staple of life, food – and by extension the cooking of food – is not only essential sustenance for the human body, it’s also emotional nourishment for the soul. In an age of zillions of impersonal gadgets, a shared meal may be one of the last bastions of true interpersonal connectivity and communication in our country and across the world. 

Food, in the form of dishes introduced to the United States by generations of immigrants, is also a bond that draws us together – citizens and non-citizens alike. Through authentic recipes or variations thereof that have evolved over time, the contributions of foreign dishes to the culinary arts in America have been prodigious. Across the nation’s large swath of cultures, these recipes have become synonymous with the very essence of American cuisine. We are attracted not only to the eclectic variety of these foods, we embrace them with total gusto. 

Whether it’s a French restaurant heralding the latest creation of nouvelle cuisine or a traditional coq au vin, food trucks offering Korean barbecue, Lebanese falafel or Colombian arepas, airport food stations featuring a dizzying array of Japanese sushi or Mexican burritos – or just a simple invitation for a tasty dish of Italian pasta cooked by a gracious hostess in the privacy of her own home, international cuisine permeates the American social fabric, and ethnic dishes are everywhere. Present at every street corner of our cities, marketplace or home, they have become quintessential expressions of our multicultural heritage, borne out of the rich tapestry of our collective experience.

One could even say that, of all of the splendid varieties of cultural arts in the United States, the most authentic and popular one may perhaps be its culinary arts and its myriad types of foods and cuisine. Blended together by the chemistry of their ingredients, the taste and smell of these diverse ethnic American dishes – enhanced by their unique spices – triggers all types of emotions, builds an insatiable following, and creates memories of a lifetime. Can you imagine our country without them? 

Beyond emotions and memories, however, the dishes in this book represent something deeper: They are a collection of national and well-known culinary creations that have become intrinsically identified with a particular country because of their history. As such, they are a symbol of national pride and cultural identity with the country of origin, pride that is carried on from generation to generation.While we have taken some liberties with the authenticity of a few of the recipes (so as to include ingredients that are a bit healthier and perhaps less spicy than originally intended), and have replaced wherever possible red meat or pork with turkey, chicken or vegetables (e. g. Brazilian Feijoada or Greek Moussaka), the essence of the dishes does not change, and the spices for which they are known remain authentic. 

We were also budget-conscious in cooking and testing the meals featured in this book, and by sharing condiments across recipes (e. g. oils, vinegars and spices such as the less costly, but very good Badia brand), no dish exceeds $18.00. 

The recipes’ ample ingredients – which can be found in national food chains, such as Walmart, Publix, and Safeway throughout the country or ordered from them online – also go a long way to providing repeated servings for a family meal. 

Famous Dishes / Platos Famosos is a homage to our country’s heritage and the American melting pot. 

May it grow and flourish! 
And Bon Appétit!

About the Author: 

Moonstone Press LLC, a small company based in Sarasota, Florida, was established in 2001 by photographer/ book producer Stephanie Maze with the goal of publishing high-quality photography-based books in English and Spanish for children and adults. Starting out as a teacher and translator, Stephanie’s professional path led to an award-winning career in photojournalism – first as a staff photographer for the San Francisco Chronicle, then as a freelance photographer for numerous international publications and organizations that included regular assignments for National Geographic Magazine and Books, coverage of three Summer Olympic Games for the International Olympic Committee (AP/ IOPP), and participation in ten Day in the Life book projects around the world. As a professional photographer for newspapers, magazines, and books for more than 30 years, Stephanie envisioned her company’s titles to be highly visual. After producing an award-wining career series for Harcourt Children’s Books titled I Want to Be… she launched her own indie press with a children’s animal series of eight titles in English and Spanish called Moments in the Wild/ Momentos en el reino animal. She attributes this bilingual approach to her love for languages and foreign cultures (she grew up abroad and speaks five languages), her deep respect for cultural diversity, and the fact that Spanish remains one of the most popular foreign languages taught in American schools. More recently, Moonstone Press LLC has focused on titles supporting nutrition, health, and fitness. To learn more, go to MoonstonePress.net 

Readers can follow Moonstone Press on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

For further information, or to request a review copy, please contact Kelsey Butts at Kelsey@BookPublicityServices.com or (805) 807-9027.

Root Cause by Steven Laine

Root Cause by Steven Laine is a suspenseful wine thriller. It was released in February 2019, published by Turner Publishing.

Synopsis:

Can you imagine a world without wine?

Corvina Guerra is a flying winemaker who dreams of one day settling down in her native Italy on her family’s vineyard. On a visit to a vineyard in Italy, Corvina makes a startling discovery: Phylloxera, a menacing plant louse that devastated vineyards in Europe more than a hundred years ago, has infested the vines.

After reporting her findings to her company, Universal Wines, Corvina is charged with investigating the spread of the bug. Nicknamed Philomena by the media, the aphid is soon discovered in vineyards around the world. To aid in her investigation, Corvina recruits a wine expert in London, Bryan Lawless. In pursuit of its origins, Corvina and Bryan embark on a thrilling globetrot on which they uncover that Philomena is being intentionally spread.

The deeper Corvina and Bryan search, the more they become convinced that Universal Wines holds the answer to everything, and the harder they pursue their investigation the more surprises pile up.

In spite of devastating consequences, Corvina and Bryan vow to continue their investigation and do what they can to contain the spread of the infestation – but time is running short and they always seem to be a step behind. Unless they can find a way to stop the Philomena  – vineyards around the world will be ruined for decades; potentially causing the collapse of the wine industry. Can Corvina and Bryan get to the root cause and save the international wine industry from ruin?

Steven Laine has paired his experience in the wine industry with his passion for writing and world travel to create a mysterious international thriller that will have wine lovers on the edge of their seat.


Praise for Root Cause:

“An entertaining, wine-soaked mystery.” – Kirkus

“Root Cause is a pithy, pitch-perfect story about the sort of madness that can ensue when one of humankind’s favorite vices comes under fire. What’s remarkable about this novel is that it illustrates just how far the wine industry stretches, reaching to all corners of the globe in a self-sustaining system—much like a vineyard’s very roots. It’s always great to see an author taking the age-old adage “write what you know” to heart, and never has a saying been more fitting than with Root Cause. Having traveled to over one hundred vineyards and wineries, and after many years of working in the wine industry, it’s safe to say that Laine knows his grapes. Root Cause is the perfect application of Laine’s extensive knowledge of vineyards, and is, to boot, a thoroughly researched story that will both educate and entertain readers.” ★★★★★Red City Review

“This cleverly titled novel is a very compelling mystery through and through with a twist that you’ll never see coming. The plot is one complex enough to keep you on your toes yet easy enough not to oversaturate the reader, creating an exciting and page-turning story… Laine’s own expertise in the field of winemaking is apparent as he carefully interlaces details within the story. He gives the readers a small glimpse into the world of wine, showing the complexity and intricacies that it takes in the field but without indulging in too much explanation. Everything is explained in just the right manner and helps to wrap up the narrative neatly.” – The US Review

“This book will appeal to wine lovers and mystery enthusiasts alike. There is a wealth of information about the growing of grapes and winemaking. However that is not a distraction from the search for the culprit or culprits.”Reviewed by Jo Dervan for Goodreads


Excerpt from Chapter 1:

…Corvina followed Marco between the vines. He stopped halfway down a row and held out some off-colored leaves. “I think some of the vines have been infected with something,” Marco said.

Corvina pulled her silk scarf tight and donned a pair of latex gloves—which she carried with her on all her winery visits—before reaching out to examine the leaves. She noted the cluster of vines around her all had the same dry, copper-colored leaves. Their undersides were covered in pale-yellow pustules. The pustules burst silently in her hand, coating her fingers with a fine, musty dust.

She crouched to inspect the leaves closer to the ground. They looked and felt the same. She dug her fingers into the dirt surrounding the base of one of the vines until a long, bare section of rootstock was exposed. She brushed off as much dirt as she could and studied the rootstock and surrounding dirt with great care to confirm her suspicions.

The insect matter on the leaves made her suspect Marco’s vines had aphids, but seeing their tiny yellow bodies writhing in the soil and crawling along the roots left no room for doubt.

“When did you first notice the infestation?” she asked Marco, wiping the dust and dirt from her gloves.

“You think it’s an infestation? Not an infection?” Marco asked.

“Definitely an infestation,” she replied.

“What do you think it is?”

“It’s not what I think it is—it’s what I know it is.” Corvina stood. “Marco, you have aphids.”

“But I use pesticides, and my vines are grafted. How can I have aphids?” he asked. His voice had risen two full octaves. He looked around the vineyard as if seeking an explanation.

“Not just any aphids, but it looks like some variety of phylloxera.” But how was that possible? The vineyard was in the heart of Italy, and Marco’s vines were grafted, the best means of resisting phylloxera. She had to get back to Barcelona as soon as possible to tell her boss. If she was right, Marco had bigger concerns than a bad winemaker—and wineries all over the country might be in jeopardy.

“Oh no, oh no, oh no.” Marco was shaking his head from side to side. He appeared to be in shock.

“Marco, how old are your oldest and youngest vines?” she asked.

“The oldest are twenty-five years—those are the cabernet sauvignons. The youngest are the pinot grigios. I just planted them last year.” Her father’s friend looked crestfallen. He covered his forehead with one hand, and his eyes went wide. “What’s going to happen to them now?”

“They’re going to die. All of them,” Corvina said. She removed her gloves by turning them inside out, keeping her hands clean in the process. She wished she could just as easily unsee what she had seen among the roots. Phylloxera was a winemaker’s worst nightmare. She stared out over the vineyard and shuddered to think how far the aphid might have already spread…


About the Author:

Steven Laine was raised in Ontario, Canada and has dual Canadian and British citizenship. He has travelled the world working in luxury hotels for international brands including The Ritz, Hilton, Starwood, Marriott, Jumeirah and Pan Pacific. When he was Beverage Manager of a five star hotel in London, he learned all about wine and has since visited over one hundred vineyards and wineries in Napa, Sonoma, Burgundy, Bordeaux, Champagne, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Switzerland, Lebanon, Australia and South Africa. As the only North American ever invited to be a Member of the Champagne Academy, he had the privilege to visit and learn from the major Champagne Houses in France. His circle of friends is made up of winemakers, Masters of Wine, Master Sommeliers, restaurant managers, and wine distributors from all over the globe.

Steven’s debut novel, Root Cause, is available for sale on Amazon and Barnes & Noble, published by Turner Publishing.

Steven lives in Singapore and is now working on his next novel.

Readers can connect with Steven on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Goodreads.

To learn more, go to http://www.stevenlaine.com/

‘Thomas Wildus and the Book of Sorrows’ by J.M. Bergen

Published by Elandrian Press, Thomas Wildus and the Book of Sorrows is a new Middle Grade Fantasy by J.M. Bergen released in February 2019.

Synopsis:
Magic is real, Thomas. No matter what happens, always remember that magic is real. 
Seven years have passed, and Thomas hasn’t forgotten. He hasn’t forgotten the blue of his dad’s eyes either, or the tickle of beard on his cheek as they hugged goodbye. Last moments with a parent are memorable, even if you don’t know that’s what you’re having at the time.
Now, with his 13th birthday rapidly approaching, Thomas’s search for magic is about to take a radical and unexpected turn. At an out-of-the-way shop filled with dusty leather books, a strange little man with gold-flecked eyes offers him an ancient text called The Book of Sorrows. The price is high and the rules are strict, but there’s no way Thomas can resist the chance to look inside.
With the mysterious book guiding the way, a strange new world is revealed – a world in which Thomas has a name and destiny far more extraordinary than he ever imagined. But time is short. Even as Thomas uncovers his secret family history, enemies emerge, threatening to end his rise to power and destroy everything he holds dear.
Through a fresh voice, genuine characters, and a unique storyline, Thomas Wildus and The Book of Sorrows is destined to appeal to fans of Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, and readers who enjoy books about magic and adventure.

Praise for Thomas Wildus and the Book of Sorrows: 
“I am always so excited when I come across a book series that I KNOW my middle schoolers will LOVE!  I hit the jackpot when I had the opportunity to review the book, Thomas Wildus and the Book of Sorrows by J.M. Bergen.  It is exactly the type of book my students are always interested in! … I already have a waiting list in my classroom of kids that want to check it out! … If your students love the likes of Harry Potter and Percy Jackson, they are sure to be equally obsessed with The Book of Sorrows Series!”Lit with Lyns
“Thomas Wildus and the Book of Sorrows is a charming, chummy tale that will instantly draw in any reader who has secretly (or not so secretly) wished for a little more wonder in their world. Parallels will of course be drawn to the Harry Potter series—and rightfully so—but this book also shares much in common with Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time.” – 5 Stars, Red City Review
“Middle graders will find Thomas Wildus and the Book of Sorrows a compelling story… and an adventure tale that proves hard to put down.” – Midwest Book Review
“Reading this truly well-written novel was a lot of fun… It had plenty of exciting moments, funny parts, intriguing developments, and characters you just have to love… Harry Potter fans would love Thomas Wildus too. And while the story is aimed at younger readers, adults can also enjoy it.” – 5 Stars, Reviewed by Kim Anisi for Readers’ Favorite
“An exciting story about family, friendship, magic, and good versus evil.”KidsBookshelf
“For fans of Harry Potter and Percy Jackson, I would definitely recommend this book as a must-read…”Alliee Reads
“This is a wonderful fantasy tale well-told by the author. The character development is good, the friendships Thomas has are heart-warming and the magic is unpredictable.”Long and Short Reviews
“Thomas Wildus and the Book of Sorrows is an enchanting foray into a fantasy world where stories can become realities, science and magic intersect, and crystals hold the power to destroy. If you’re looking for an enthralling and thought-provoking read, this is the book for you!”Middle Grade Minded
“This was a wickedly fun and richly imaginative middle-grade urban fantasy with a compelling plot and endearing characters… From the moment Thomas enters the bookstore I was hooked and couldn’t wait to find out the mysterious book’s secrets. This little gem of a story has magic, action, mystery, intrigue and rollicking adventure, and held my interest until the wild ending… there are more adventures yet to come so I can’t wait to delve into the next book.”Roger’s Reads
“This is a very fast-paced fantasy adventure tale that has great friendship representation, lots of magic and a thrilling adventure for young readers.”Noveltea Corner
“I highly recommend this book for 4th and 5th graders! My son Caleb, who is a 4th grader this year, finished the book in just 3 days! He could not put it down. We both enjoyed the deep plot twists and unexpected surprises throughout the story.” – The Butterfly Teacher
“In Thomas Wildus and The Book of Sorrows, J.M. Bergen has created a marvelous fantasy/sci-fi story for children and teens. With all the qualities a great book should have, the story holds your interest and offers a pleasing blend of legend and modern-day problems. Thomas must choose between good and evil… and accept the consequences of his actions. J.M. Bergen provides a wonderful tale that anyone can enjoy.” – 5 Stars, Reviewed by Melinda Hills for Readers’ Favorite
“Thomas Wildus and the Book of Sorrows by J.M Bergen is a stunning fantasy novel… The book was very descriptive and incredibly well written. The plot was intriguing and well thought through … This book will entertain readers of all ages. I would definitely recommend this book.” – 5 Stars, Reviewed by Kristen Van Kampen (Teen Reviewer) for Readers’ Favorite

Excerpt:
…Thomas froze, this time blinking furiously. When he could see again, he found himself staring at a shop on the other side of the street. A sign hung above a wooden door with slightly faded red paint. The lettering was too small to read, but there were splotches of purple around the edges. It was the only purple Thomas could see anywhere. He looked both ways and jogged across the street.
The sign came into focus. H&A Booksellers, Purveyors of Fine Books and Rare Manuscripts. The words were painted in chipped gold leaf, with tiny purple flowers nestled in the arcs and whorls of the lettering. Thomas stared at the sign, his eyes following the path of the thin green vine that wound through the gold letters.
Was it possible that a bookstore in this area had escaped his attention? Not a chance. Not one that was listed on the Internet anyway. But the shop was here, every bit as real as the humming man a moment earlier. Thomas felt an uneasy excitement in his chest. Cars zipped past on Main, but this street was practically deserted. He looked at the red door, at the plastic placard dangling from the nail in the center. Open.
He contemplated his next move. The options were simple. Forget what had just happened and turn around in time to catch his bus home or go inside and risk being laughed at for the hundredth time.
He reached out and pressed on the old-fashioned handle, forcing himself not to think about the disappearing man or the prospect of pending humiliation. The door swung open. The wide wooden counter and oversized green cash register looked as ancient as the faded lighting and worn carpet. The place was bigger than he would have expected, though, with shelves running far beyond the point where they logically should have ended.
The size was just the first curious thing about the shop. Everything else was different, too. There were no racks of shiny best-sellers, no big display cases promoting glossy fiction. Instead, cloth and leather-bound volumes were stacked and piled and crammed together in an endless sprawl of dusty texts. Every shelf was chock full of unrecognizable old books. The place was a goldmine. Jackpot!
Thomas looked at the placard at the end of the nearest row. The inscription stamped in tarnished bronze was faded but legible. Alch. Hist. 1127 1490. He reached for the nearest book, a tall, narrow volume wrapped in faded red leather, wondering what the inscription meant.
“Ahem.”
The forced cough originated behind Thomas’s left shoulder. He turned, startled, and found himself eye to eye with a man who had thin graying hair, a sharp nose, and hazel eyes flecked with specks of gold. The man stood with his hands behind his back and wore a yellowed apron with the words In Liber Veritas stenciled on the front.
“May I help you, young man?” The shopkeeper was only a few inches taller than Thomas himself.
“I, uh, I hope so.” Thomas looked around the shop, his eyes wide with wonder. “This place is amazing.”
“Thank you,” said the little man, inclining his head in a slight bow. “Is there something in particular you are hoping to find?”
The wonder receded, replaced by a wrenching anxiety that knotted his gut and made his palms turn clammy. He could hear the scornful responses of the others he’d asked. Are you messing with me, kid? What, are you some kind of idiot? There’s no such thing as magic, dummy. Go on, get out of here.
He pushed the voices out of his head. “I’m looking for books about magic. Magic books, really.”
“Back of the shop and to the left.” The man pointed a finger past Thomas to an even more dimly lit part of the building. “We have a wonderful selection of collectibles in the fantasy genre and more than a few New Age texts as well. I’m sure you’ll find something to your liking.”
Fantasy and New Age? Really? Thomas’s shoulders slumped. He took a half-hearted step toward the back of the shop and paused, the knot in his gut tightening. As much as he hated getting laughed at, the idea of digging through piles of worthless books was as unexciting as the prospect of scrolling through another online ‘magic’ forum. If ever there was a place that might have what he really wanted, this was it. He sucked in a deep breath and turned around.
The man looked at Thomas with one eyebrow raised. “Yes?”
“I, uh, I’m not really looking for those kinds of books,” he managed. “I was hoping for something different. Something more unusual.”
“What do you mean by unusual?” the man asked. “Be specific, please.”
This was it. The part where he got laughed out of the building. Thomas looked at his feet, wondering if he should even bother. He considered turning around, but the words on the man’s yellowing apron caught his eye. In Liber Veritas. Veritas meant truth, right? He looked up, his eyes locking onto those of the little man. “Unusual as in magical. Not fiction or fantasy or New Age. Magic. Real magic.”
“Real magic? What makes you think there’s any such thing?”
Thomas’s body tensed, preparing for a swift retreat from the store. His dad’s last words flashed into his mind, the final fragment before everything changed. “Magic is real, Thomas. No matter what happens, always remember that magic is real.”
He sucked in a deep breath and forced himself to stand still. The air rushed out in a whoosh. “I-I just do.”
“But why?” The man’s expression was curious, focused, his eyes boring into Thomas like a drill. “And even if there were such a thing, what would it have to do with you?”
“Never mind. Just forget about it.” Thomas spun toward the exit, his cheeks flushed and heart racing. Halfway to the door, he paused. The man wasn’t laughing. He was asking questions. That, at least, was different. Thomas turned around. The man’s unwavering eyes reflected the overhead lights, glinting with fragments of gold.
“It’s, uh, it’s something someone told me a long time ago,” said Thomas. “Someone I trusted.”
The man tilted his head, his expression almost curious. “Somebody told you magic is real, and you believed them?”
Blue eyes stared at Thomas out of a distant memory, sincere and earnest. He felt the roughness of his dad’s calloused hand on his cheek, the tickle of soft beard as he pulled Thomas close and kissed his forehead for the last time. “Magic is real, Thomas.” Magic is real.
Thomas drew himself up to full size and met the man’s stare directly. “Yes. I did. I do.”
“And now you want a magic book, but not the make-believe kind?”
Thomas nodded. The shopkeeper’s eyes were ageless, his stare unsettling. Thomas stood tall, refusing to break the connection even though his insides had turned to jelly.
“What is your name, young seeker of magic?” The hint of a smile crinkled the subtle features of the man’s face.
“Thomas,” he answered. “Thomas Wildus.”
The smile lines smoothed, and the man’s face took on a serious expression. “You’re late.”

About the Author:
J.M.’s debut fantasy/magic series originally started as a bedtime story for his oldest son. The story turned into a saga, and one book turned into five. The first book in the series, Thomas Wildus and The Book of Sorrows, is scheduled for release in February 2019. The second, Thomas Wildus and The Wizard of Sumeria, will be published in early 2020.
When J.M. isn’t working on the Thomas Wildus books, you can find him playing with his kids, napping, or dreaming up new adventures. If you ever meet him and can’t think of anything to talk about, you might ask about Herman the Shark, the Kai and Eli stories, or why Riddle-Master by Patricia McKillip is his all-time favorite book. Or maybe, just maybe, you’ll have questions and stories of your own (if you do, he’ll think that’s far more interesting).
To learn more, visit www.jmbergen.com.

“The Girls Are Gone” by Michael Brodkorb and Allison Mann

The Girls Are Gone, by Michael Brodkorb and Allison Mann, tells the true story of two sisters who went missing, the father who kept searching, and the adults who conspired to keep the truth hidden.
On the evening of April 19, 2013, Samantha and Gianna Rucki disappeared. Two of five children born to David Rucki and Sandra Grazzini-Rucki, the teenage sisters vanished in the midst of their parents divorce.
The girls father, David Rucki, worked tirelessly with law enforcement to search day and night for his two missing daughters, following every lead while raising three remaining children at home. Their mother, Sandra Grazzini-Rucki, used her newfound freedom to vacation around the world, abandoning her children. And as the investigation intensified, catching the attention of the media, Sandra also disappeared.
On November 18, 2015 – 944 days after they disappeared – the girls were found living on a ranch in northern Minnesota by law enforcement.
Criminal charges were filed against four people, including the girls’ mother, for their role in the disappearance of the Rucki sisters. “The Girls Are Gone” chronicles key events during the criminal trials of the people who were later convicted or pleaded guilty for their involvement in this heinous crime.  The book examines the other adults who aided in the conspiracy to hide the truth and the Rucki sisters.

Praise for The Girls Are Gone:
“The Girls Are Gone is an excellent true crime book… This is a very involved book with lots of detail, including court transcripts, telling the whole story from start to finish, filling in some of the lesser known details about the case. This book reads like a crime novel but is far more horrifying, given that we know it is the truth. It is riveting and compelling reading… I like true crime stories and this one is way above any other just because of the amount of detail and the way it was written; matter of fact yet drawing you into the web a step at a time. Fantastic book, I wish there were more like it.” – 5 Stars, Reviewed by Anne-Marie Reynolds for Readers’ Favorite
“True crime stories relate facts and events; but superior accounts grab the reader’s heart. The Girls Are Gone achieves this as it portrays the bigger issues of parental responsibility, kidnapping, child endangerment, and legal investigations… As true crime and kidnapping stories go, The Girls Are Gone is head and shoulders above most others, probing a network of crime and the impact of hidden truths that will leave readers thinking long past the conclusion… The Girls Are Gone should be on the reading lists of anyone interested in not just true crime stories of kidnapped children, but accounts of desperation and the bravery of survivors who come forth to tell their stories to change the world.” – Reviewed by Diane Donovan for Midwest Book Review

About the Authors:
Michael Brodkorb and Allison Mann met during the 2016 Grazzini-Rucki criminal trial. Allison worked at a law firm representing David Rucki, the father, who was trying to find his girls. Michael was working for the Star Tribune, covering the story as the case developed.
Michael and Allison have spent the last two years working together investigating and researching to find the answers to many questions that had been left unanswered for years. They have analyzed court documents, reviewed investigative files, and conducted numerous interviews to provide a completed story about how and why two children vanished from their family and friends for 944 days.  Their passion for following the case and connecting the dots to figure out the truth of what really happened led them to write “The Girls Are Gone.”
“The Girls Are Gone” provides new details about the disappearance of Samantha and Gianna Rucki and includes interviews with members of the Rucki family, including exclusive interviews with Samantha and Gianna Rucki. The book also discusses the connection between Michelle MacDonald, who is currently a candidate for the Minnesota Supreme Court. MacDonald was labeled a “person of interest” by the Lakeville Police Department in the disappearance of Samantha and Gianna Rucki, but did not cooperate in the investigation.

“The Girls Are Gone” was released on October 23, 2018, published by Wise Ink Creative Publishing. It is available for sale on Amazon in Kindle and Paperback.
Readers can connect with the authors on Goodreads, Facebook, and Twitter (@AllisonMannMN and @MBrodkorb).
To learn more, go to: http://missinginminnesota.com/