Excerpt of ‘Nowonderland’ by M.C. Gladd

Billy soon ran out of tunnel, er rather hallway, and entered a room about twice the size of the living room in his and his mom’s small house. Purple tiles still lined the floor and wood paneling the walls. There was a lopsided vaguely trapezoidal shaped door on the far side of the room. Two crooked looking sofas and two armchairs of grey leather or horribly patterned fabric lined the walls, all scaled down for people of a rather small stature. He walked nearer to a sofa that had a dotted fabric on it only to realize that the small dots were in fact, insects. The bugs on one of the cushions scrambled out of the way, giving him room to sit down, but not before spelling out ‘sit here please’ in all caps and then crawling off to the side, still in formation, like a marching band halftime show. He didn’t sit down. As he backed away from the sofa, he could have sworn he heard a thousand tiny sighs of disappointment coming from it.

Between each of the chairs and sofas was an end table of some sort, each supporting some of the ugliest lamps Billy had ever seen. The tables themselves had been crafted with all the loving care of a nearsighted carpenter who didn’t own a tape measure, a square, or a level, and had never held a hammer in his life, and who was working with his feet instead of his hands. In the center of the room was a dining table with four mismatched chairs. On the table was a pitcher full of water and four cups, none of which was perfectly round. There wasn’t a single right angle, level surface, or straight line in the whole room.

The water reminded Billy he was thirsty. As he looked closer to the pitcher, he noticed little fish swimming around inside. Weird looking fish that were subject to the same laws of dimension and proportion that affected the rest of the room. As he looked closely at the fish, one of them took notice of him, swam up to the glass and said, “what?” in a voice both too deep for such a tiny fish and muted like you would imagine someone speaking underwater would sound like. He also sounded a bit irritated.

“Nothing,” he replied, backing away. He pulled his backpack off his shoulders and grabbed his own water bottle. He froze before opening it when the door opened and in walked the strangest creature Billy had ever seen. It didn’t see him though, it was staring at the floor as it walked, mumbling to itself. Its mumbles were interspersed with strange whistling and popping sounds.

“Hello,” Billy said, announcing his presence and startling the creature badly.

“Oh my! Oh my,” it said, waving its arms around and jumping back. “You scared me half to death.”

Billy studied the creature while he, (it sounded male Billy decided), calmed himself down. He was about three and a half feet tall and was just as unsymmetrical as everything else in this strange place. He had ten fingers at least, six on one hand, four on the other. One of his lower teeth was a fang that stuck out over his top lip and was so long that when his mouth was closed the tooth in question rested perfectly, deep within his left nostril. This is what caused the whistling sound every time he exhaled with his mouth closed. The popping sound was that same fang overcoming suction every time it left his nostril when he opened his mouth. He had dark curly hair on the right side of his head and straight red hair on the left. His eyes were different in size and color. Every time they fell on Billy, the creature winced and turned away. The clothes he wore were almost normal all things considered, a bright red, button down short sleeve shirt with what looked like yellow two-headed lizards on it and brown slacks with rough looking, different sized, boots on his feet. Billy was pretty sure the lizards were moving around a little.

Presently it said, “(Pop) I assume you came from the…uh…Outside? (whistle)” It met his eyes again and quickly looked away and grimaced, although that may have just been his normal expression.

“What do you mean by Outside?” Billy said, confused. “I came down the tunnel at the end of that hallway he said turning toward the end of the room he had come from. The arch over the hallway opening had a sign above that read “The Gallery” in crooked uneven lettering.

“(Pop) I know that. I live here. You came through the entrance from the Outside,” the creature said, a tad impatient. Like this should be obvious, which Billy supposed it might be in a place like this. “(Pop) They told me when I bought this house that this might happen, (whistle pop) but that it was very unlikely,” he added, more to himself.

“Well, I’m here,” Billy said. “If you could just tell me where here is, I’ll be happy to return to the…uh Outside and get out your house.”

“(Pop) That would be great actually,” the creature answered. (Whistle pop) “You’re quite ugly and hard to look at to be honest. But you can’t go back that way. As I said, it’s an entrance. To go back you need an exit.” Again, his tone was that of a parent explaining something obvious to a particularly dense child.

“What do mean I’m ugly?” Billy said. “And why can’t I leave through the way I came in? It’s a tunnel, isn’t it?”

“(Pop) Sorry. I didn’t mean to be rude, but your face is rather…. symmetrical.” At this, he shuddered as though the thought repulsed him immensely. “And as I said, it’s an entrance, not a tunnel. One is one-way and the other is not. Is that not how things work in the Outside? Go look for yourself if you don’t believe me. (whistle)”

This is an exclusive excerpt of ‘Nowonderland’ by M.C. Gladd which you can find here. More information about the author can be found via Twitter and Facebook.

Excerpt of ‘The Big Cinch’ by Kathy L. Brown

The Big Cinch, Chapter One: Goodwill


I tapped the Judge’s office door, once, then twice more. At his beck and call day and night, I was. “That must be him now,” Judge Dolan rumbled through the oak panel. “Come on in, Joye.” He was behind his desk, and a swell doll in a smart black dress sat across from him. He gave me a nod and a wink and said, “Mrs. Humphrey, please meet my assistant, Mr. Sean Joye.”

The lady stopped rooting through a beaded bag on her lap and looked up. Pale blue eyes behind a short net veil met mine. They gave me the once-over. A high-society doll and not a bad looker at that. She hadn’t bobbed her hair yet, like half the women in the city. It was all pinned up, mysterious-like, under her wide-brimmed purple hat. Whatever this job was, it couldn’t be all bad.

“Sean, this is Mrs. Taylor Humphrey,” said the Judge. “She brings me an interesting problem.”

“Mr. Joye,” she said, extending a small hand with long, slim fingers. “Please call me Violet.”

I didn’t think she meant it. I shook her sweaty palm, which smelled of Shalimar and jumpy nerves. “Mrs. Humphrey, an unexpected pleasure. This fine morning is now brighter, indeed.”

Her look told me, “Cut the blarney, paddy,” but she said, “The old woman in the lobby predicts snow. The ghost from the elevator shaft told her so.”

I didn’t know which old woman she meant but pretended I did, doubling down on the brogue. It seldom failed me. With American women, anyway. Gents? Not so much. “Pulling your leg was she?”

At that time, I didn’t know any better than old granny tales, that ghosts were merely folks carried off to Faerie, come to pay a bit of a visit to our mortal realm. Not that I’d ever seen any of the fae, including ghosts. At least, not in the courthouse lift. Other places perhaps? I’d just as soon not dwell on that.

Violet returned to the bag and fished out a photograph. The Judge took it, gave it a glance, and handed it back to her. “Why don’t you explain your problem to Mr. Joye?” He folded his hands across his tweed waistcoat, leaned back in the chair, and smiled. I’d never seen him more pleased with himself. “Of course.” She took a deep breath. “This is difficult.” I dumped my coat and fedora on the coat rack and pulled up a chair. “It’s about my sister, Lillian. Lillian Arwald.” She indicated the photograph in her hand and handed it to me.

A pretty young woman—a child, really—in a white, high-collared dress that hung near her ankles, smiled out of the sepia-toned picture while her eyes challenged the world. She looked about sixteen years old. Long blonde hair was pulled back from her face with a fancy comb and hung in loose curls down her back.

“We had a small family squabble, and now Lillian’s run off.” Violet looked down at her lap. She bit her lip, like she was about to cry or something.

I didn’t buy it. Something had spooked her, but it wasn’t the need to discuss her sister’s indiscretions with a circuit court judge. “Do you think she’s in danger?” I leaned in closer. “Sounds like a job for the cops.”

“No, no. Nothing like that. Her debut is this weekend at the Piasa Lodge Ball.”

“Debut?”

“A party. Where young ladies are presented to society.”

I nodded like I understood. I didn’t understand. “And it’s in a piazza? Somewhere on the Hill, I guess.” I tried with difficulty to picture which courtyard in the tidy Italian neighborhood, not far from where I stayed, could hold a fancy society party—in February, to boot.

“No. Piasa. Pie-uh-saw,” Violet said as she crossed her arms. “The American Indian mythological figure? The painting on the river bluffs discovered by the first French explorers?”

The Judge looked embarrassed at my ignorance. “At least a dozen businesses in St. Louis and even more across the river in Alton are named for it,” he said, smiling at her. “And, of course, the premier civic booster organization of the city.”

Well, la-de-da. “So, nothing else for her to hide from?”

“She’s been a bit wild.” Tapped the picture in my hand, Violet said, “That’s from a few years ago. Now her hair’s cut short. Skirts too.”

I liked the twinkle in Lillian’s eyes and something about the smile. The girl had a secret or two, just waiting for the right moment to bust loose.

“She’s just in a phase,” Violet continued. “She’s engaged to be married to a respectable attorney.”

“Trouble with the boyfriend?”

“Perhaps.” But from the look on her face, the boyfriend had nothing to do with it.

Kathy L. Brown’s The Big Cinch is a Dashiell-Hammett-style supernatural noir mystery novel featuring wizards and Mississippian mythology, available now from Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk

Book Reviews XIV

A big thank you to fellow author J.D. Cunegan for sharing some recent reviews including one for Consistent Creative Content

J.D. Cunegan

Consistent Creative Content: A Guide to Authoring and Blogging in the Social Media Age by Lee Hall

I honestly believe every indie author needs this book on their shelf.

I’ve made no secret on several different platforms my creative problems of late. The reasons for this struggle are numerous, but at least throughConsistent Creative Content, I now have a road map for getting back on the proverbial horse. At the height of my writing powers, I was publishing two novels a year and averaging a blog post a week — and it’s no coincidence that numbers, meager though they were, were much better than they are now.

Lee Hall’s brief how-to not only offers a road map; it’s also inspiration (for things I can do going forward) and validation (that, in some ways, I was on the right track when I was at my best and most productive)…

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Excerpt of ‘Zero-Day: A cyberpunk action adventure: The Sommerfeld Experiment #1’ by Al Davidson – Discounted Today!

Somewhere in the desert east of San Diego, California.

“Joshua, don’t be a dick. Okay? Humor me,” Marta Guerrera said.

The weapons dealer of choice for terrorists worldwide wore a long-suffering expression. She braced a hand on the warm metal skin of the mobile tech unit, her voice low. An awning shaded her and Joshua from the worst of the searing afternoon sun.

“You have an odd definition of ‘humoring’. You’re asking me to kill four people.” Joshua squinted out over the monochromatic tans and browns of the desert. Far out over the next hill, he could see vultures circling. The sweet-rotting smell of death floated in on a tepid breeze.

“You and I want the same thing. We want Zosar’s money, and he wants a complete demonstration of the Maelstrom’s capabilities.” Marta wasn’t a nervous person, but Joshua noted the tension in her stiff posture, the tight set of her mouth, the pinch at the corner of her eyes. She didn’t like the change in plans either.

“Dead bodies attract the wrong kind of attention.” Joshua had come outside to compose himself before linking his brain to his experimental weapon. He needed a moment, but Marta didn’t seem willing to give it to him.

“They’re scumbag implant counterfeiters.” Marta gave a stiff one-shoulder shrug.

“That’s not the point, you know it.”

“How many hundreds of people are dead because of them? You’re doing the Federal Implant Directive a favor.”

“Doubt they’ll see it that way. We should put this demo on hold. Let me talk to Zosar.”

“Not happening. I know you, and you have no filter. By the time Zosar finishes listening to your bullshit, he’ll want to drop a nuke on this state just to shut you the fuck up.” Guerrera took a breath. “This deal has taken me months to set up, and this is it for me. I’m retiring, so I’m not watching our money storm back to wherever the fuck Zosar hides in between his little wars.” She pursed her lips and watched a lizard sunning itself on the top of a nearby boulder.

Joshua watched Marta walk to the edge of the awning’s shade and cross her arms. Tall for a woman, with a compact frame and dark hair peppered with gray around the temples, she was an ex-marine, and about as endearing as a hungry wolverine.

“Look, we don’t have to like this, we just have to like his money. Do your job, demonstrate the weapon and be a good boy.”

“Good boy? You sound like my fucking mother.”

“There’s a reason I don’t have kids.” She drummed her fingers on her forearm. “It’d be my luck to pop out an asshole like you, and I’d rather not have strangling my kid on my conscience.”

Curbing his irritation, Joshua pressed a palm against the tech van’s security reader and the door slid open. He walked inside, the air conditioning a welcome reprieve from the heat. Guerrera followed, the door closing behind them. Kevin Maitland, Joshua’s best friend and weapon co-designer, sat in front of a half-dozen inactive holoscreen disks and a control panel. He was a slender, dark-skinned man with a halo of black hair and a pleasant, expressive face. His blue t-shirt read, ‘Science is Like Magic, But Real’. Kevin reminded Joshua more of a college student preparing for a math competition than one of the world’s foremost weapon engineers.

Kevin gave Marta and Joshua an absent wave. Kevin had designed and outfitted the mobile tech unit, the size of a delivery skyvan, to support Maelstrom’s operation. The U-shaped console with the holodisks allowed a tech to monitor data. Next to the console was an integrated Virtual mainline rig for the weapon’s operator, its pure nanogel material engineered to block out any outside stimuli. Typical mainline Virtual rigs nanogel material provided virtual sensations, but Joshua’s connection to the Maelstrom depended on nothing distracting him, a complete absence of sensation.

Marta’s gaze darted to a Deimos machine pistol on a stainless-steel table. The automatic pistol’s digital readout displayed a full magazine. “Where the hell did that come from?”

“I got it from one of your people. I told them to put it on your tab.” Joshua couldn’t suppress a fleeting ghost of a snarky smirk.

“Of course you did,” she muttered under her breath. “Are you expecting trouble?”

“It’s only trouble if you’re unprepared.”

“I need that on a t-shirt,” Kevin said, leaning back in his chair and crossing his arms behind his head.

Joshua could hear Marta’s teeth grind.

“Well, it looks bad to our clients, like we’re expecting problems.”

“This is my ‘I don’t give a fuck’ face,” Joshua replied with no inflection.

“That’s Z’s normal face,” Kevin chuckled.

This is an exclusive excerpt of ‘Zero-Day: A cyberpunk action adventure: The Sommerfeld Experiment #1’ by Al Davidson which is discounted today and available here.

For more information head on over to Al Davidson’s website here and you can also find Al on Twitter and Facebook.

Question of the Hour Presents: Author Howard Hachey

Fellow blogger and author Megan shares an excellent interview with Howard Hachey.

cch217

What a trip. A little Orwellian, a little horrific, but a trip worth taking. Howard Hachey has a unique talent for making you thing while grossing you out. ‘Soupy’ is a word that will never have any other context except how it was used in this collection. Highly recommend to any one that enjoys The Outer Limits, The Twilight Zone or Alfred Hitchcock Presents…Oddities in deed.(In) Valid Circumstances

It’s time for another author interview, I will say that this is one of the most honest, open, refreshing and truthful interviews I have ever had the pleasure of doing. My appreciation to Howard Hachey for his candor.

With out further adieu here is Author Howard Hachey.

What do you write?

So far, I’ve written two horror novels (The Doll Man Duology), a scifi/horror/abstract anthology ((In)Valid Circumstances), and am currently working on a fictional memoir (

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‘The Rusted Hook’ by J.E Clarkson

The buzzer cut into my consciousness for the tenth time that day. I ignored it again as I had the previous nine times. 

“We’ll be back again later. We know you’re in there. You can’t keep us out forever,” a man’s voice yelled up towards the window.

“Oh yes, I can, you bastards,” I thought, and continued to sit on the floor and out of sight. I heard the letterbox clatter and the dull thud of something heavy hitting the hallway floor. I was curious but gave it five minutes before I sneaked downstairs to see what it was. 

I knelt onto the hallway carpet and looked at the thick booklet that had been posted through the letterbox.

“NOTICE OF INTENTION TO ENTER & SEARCH YOUR PREMISES – REMOVAL NOTICE.

Due to your failure to pay an outstanding Magistrates Court Fine a Bailiff, under the instructions of Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service has attended your premises today with the intention of levying distress and removing your goods.

The Magistrates Distress Warrant empowers the Bailiff from Lawson & Associates, by virtue of Schedule 4A of the Domestic Violence, Crime, and Victims Act 2004, to enter your premises by force should you wilfully refuse to pay the outstanding fine and costs.

To prevent the removal of your goods and the expensive additional removal costs you must make immediate payment to the Bailiff. Failure to do so will result in the Bailiff re-attending your premises with Locksmiths and the Police to remove your goods even in your absence.

No further notice will be issued.”

I slammed the booklet down onto the floor and held my head in my hands. What the hell was I going to do now? Ever since I’d settled into the centre of the city, I’d had nothing but trouble.  I’d thought that it was just because it was so bloody expensive to live there. But something about it was weird. I’d got into debt before and yet it had taken a very long time before any of the companies had taken any action. I’d only been here a few months and missed a couple of payments and nothing major as far as I’d seen but almost straight away these thugs had been sniffing around and trying to gain access to the flat. It was happening at all times of day and night too. 

Gingerly, I held open the letterbox flap to see if I could recognise my tormentors for the next time they came to visit. I could just about see across to the opposite side of the road and noticed a couple of men standing there. One of them was a tallish, wiry figure. He was wearing square-rimmed glasses that glinted slightly in the sunlight. He leaned nonchalantly against the lamppost next to him and looked straight towards the flat. He didn’t seem like he had much intention of moving. I crawled on my hands and knees towards the small chest of drawers where I kept a few odds and ends and pulled open the top drawer. I immediately found what I was looking for, a small pair of binoculars that my adoptive dad had given me. I put the binocular string around my neck and crawled back towards the letterbox. Just before I reached it, the brass flap flew open. Instinctively, I flattened to the ground and willed that the bailiff wouldn’t notice me there. My breath caught in my throat and I willed myself not to panic. I could see from my position a pair of bespectacled, beady eyes, looking right back into mine.

“So, there you are,” the man hissed through the letterbox, “if you’ll just let us in and pay what you owe, then all of this unpleasantness will just go away.”

I noticed that when he spoke, one of his teeth also gleamed in the light. I found it almost as disconcerting as what he had to say.

“I haven’t got it,” I spat, “and I can’t understand how I can owe so much? It doesn’t make any sense.”

“Well, maybe you aren’t quite as good with money as you think you are,” the man replied.

The letterbox flap clattered shut, I heard footsteps walking away from the door, and then everything went silent for a few moments and I thought that the bailiff had maybe given up for the day and disappeared. Gradually, I pulled myself up onto my haunches and opened the letterbox flap once more. That pair of beady eyes were staring back at me. I sprang backward away from the door as if I’d been burnt and crawled away as quickly as I could.

The flap opened one last time.

“We’ll be back,” the man yelled through the hole, “and next time we won’t take no for an answer.”

—————————————————————————————————————————

“Sorry that I couldn’t come round to yours,” I said, looking at Ellen sadly, “my shout as soon as I can sort all of this out.”

“Don’t you stress about it,” Ellen replied, “it’s the least I can do when you’re having to worry about the demon bailiffs from hell.” She reached over and poured some cheap wine into a plastic cup, “at least the gits don’t hang around at night.”

“They do, but just not tonight, for some reason. I just don’t get it,” I said and shook my head slightly. “There’s something weird about all of this. Firstly there was all of that stuff with the bank…”

“Yeah, but they’re going to sort that out for you though,” Ellen replied.

“Ellen, it’s been three months now and there’s no sign of that money,” I replied between mouthfuls of fried rice.

“You know how long these things take. It’s like waiting for Christmas,” she replied.

I looked at her and nodded but I wasn’t convinced. It wasn’t the first time that I’d ever had any fraudulent activity on my account but it was the first time that it had ever happened multiple times by different fraudsters. At first, I thought that maybe I’d accidentally clicked onto a phishing link in a junk email but that just didn’t ring true. In the background, I heard a distant ping. I set down my plate and grabbed my bag. Taking out my phone, I noticed that it was blinking with a new notification. It was yet another from the bank. There’d been a further unauthorised withdrawal and for fifty quid this time. As  I tried to log in, my fingers hardly worked at all. They didn’t feel part of my hands anymore and it took several attempts before I could successfully gain access to it again.
“Here we go again,” I said and ran my fingers through my hair in frustration.

“Who is it this time?” Ellen asked.

“It’s just a nonsense combination of letters and numbers, 5T3LL4. The cheeky sods have even added a transfer fee because the withdrawal wasn’t in pounds,” I replied. “I’m beginning to feel like someone’s got it in for me.”

Ellen looked me straight in the eye.

“Oh come on now, I know you’ve had a bit of a run of bad luck but now you’re starting to sound paranoid,” she said, taking a large gulp of wine from the cup.

“A run of bad luck?” I laughed bitterly, “can you honestly say you’ve ever known anyone else who’s had this happen to them? This level of fraud, I mean, so often and by so many different people?”

Ellen looked thoughtful for a moment and didn’t answer immediately.

“No, I can’t honestly say that I have,” she replied and looked uncomfortable. “But what you’re suggesting sounds like something out of a book. I mean, that sort of thing doesn’t happen in real life does it? And even if it does, why on earth would they pick you?”

I looked back at Ellen and then down at my bank statement again. 

“I don’t know, Ellen. I really don’t know.”

—————————————————————————————————————————

I hadn’t slept at all and when the sunlight broke through the curtains the next morning, I felt as if I’d been awake for a week. Ellen had already gone and left a hastily scrawled note on the drawers in the hallway,

“Stop stressing. See you later.”

I straightened up and looked at my pasty reflection in the mirror.

“Easy for you to say,” I replied and was about to turn away to leave when I noticed a leaflet on the doormat. I was sure that I hadn’t seen it the day before and was about to throw it away when I noticed that it was a flier for a recruitment agency. I picked it up and looked over it. It was certainly eye-catching as it featured a red background and black lettering.

“S.T. Ella Recruitment. Specialists in city recruiting. Wide range of employment opportunities available. Extremely competitive rates. Enroll @ www.st.ella.bs.com.” I thought that I had already signed up with all of the local employment agencies and so I was surprised to find out that there was another. I wondered if it was recently opened or I’d just missed it as a result of my recent difficulties? Either way, it sounded like it was worth a shot. I was willing to try anything to keep Lawson and associates from breaking down my door and it seemed like I was running out of time.

————————————————————————————————————————— 

The S.T. Ella Recruitment website wasn’t very subtle, it employed the self-same colour scheme as the flier had, a deep red background with black writing. There was only one small difference, the website featured a photo of a black swan in the centre of the page. I wondered what the significance of the picture was, but then batted my curiosity away as it was likely to be some kind of corporate branding and because of the situation I was in, I didn’t have time to question further. I merely registered with the website as quickly as I could, uploaded a CV, and hoped that I would at least have a couple of hours before the bailiffs started to ring the buzzer again. I had only just sat down when I heard my phone ping once again. Expecting it to be yet another fraud notification from the bank, I almost didn’t check it but when I did, I saw that it was an email forwarded by S.T. Ella Recruitment. Puzzled, I looked at the time on the phone display. It was only ten minutes since I’d uploaded my CV. It surely couldn’t have been an offer already? And yet, it was.

It was an offer to work as a cleaner for a city-centre office, Nemo and Co. When I read through the email so much of it was strange. The CV that I had uploaded made no mention of having any cleaning experience. It was far more suited to working in an admin role, but when I saw how much money was being offered, I began to feel persuaded. A small part of me felt slightly wary of what was being offered as it seemed too good to be true, but a larger part of me didn’t give a shit. Hiding from the bailiffs was starting to get very old and I wanted to get things sorted out with them and the bank as quickly as I possibly could. The sort of money that Nemo and Co. were offering meant that even if the security issues with the bank weren’t immediately sorted, I would have enough to open another account and sort out what I owed the bailiffs. And all within a couple of weeks. I sent off a quick email of acceptance to the recruiters and hoped that I hadn’t just agreed to another kind of scam. I placed the phone back into my bag and went into the kitchen to make a coffee hoping that it would enable me to at least function at a basic level for the rest of the morning while I divided my time between tidying up and hiding from the bailiffs for the rest of the day.

When I reappeared in the lounge again, I noticed the phone’s blue light blinking. I picked it up and saw that there were three notifications, one from the recruiters, one from the bank, and one from Nemo and Co. Not wanting to open anything from the bank, I resolved to check that notification last. I began with the message from the recruiters.

“Congratulations, your application to work for Nemo and Co. has been accepted. The company will contact you in due course.” 

Once I had read this, I was fairly certain what the Nemo and Co. message would be about. I was right that it was the job offer, but the terms of employment were bizarre, as was the insistence on secrecy. How many secrets would I be a party to as a cleaner anyway? Yet the weirdness of the offer was far less of a problem than anything else that was happening in my life and so I decided to just forget about it and take the money. 

At that moment, the buzzer to the flat sounded and instinctively shot to the floor. There was silence for a few moments and then I heard the same voice who had shouted through the letterbox the day before.

“You don’t need to come to the door. Your account has been settled. We won’t be visiting you again.”

I wondered if I was hearing things or if it was even a kind of trick to encourage me to open the door, but when I looked out of the window, I could see the bespectacled man crossing over the road and opening the driver’s side door to a waiting people carrier. Before he got in, he turned to look up at the window and I thought I heard him shout,

“Check your bank,”  then he nodded and drove away.

Out of curiosity, I did just that and was astonished to find that not only had every fraudulent payment had been repaid, but they had also been erased from the accounts altogether. It was as if they’d never existed.


This is a prologue of the dystopian Nemo & Co series by J.E. Clarkson. You can find more information about the series here and you can find J.E. Clarkson on Twitter.

‘Fear and Fury’ by Jamie Jackson – Exclusive Excerpt

Called genre-subverting by that one guy on Twitter, FEAR AND FURY is a 4th wall-breaking, fast-paced, action-packed and snark-filled urban fantasy about a villain-leaning humanoid and the superheroes she despises.

I am the monster that lives inside your head.

Hold on, that was melodramatic. Let me start over.

I’m not the kind of person who should have been given superpowers. I’m hardly what you would call a hero. I’m not even sure I would qualify as an anti-hero. More like Peter Parker before he was Spiderman, when he committed that one selfish, petty act that led to his Uncle Ben dying. You know the scene in the first Spider-Man movie with Tobey McGuire? Where he lets the guy steal the cash from the dick who won’t give him his prize money for winning that cage match? That one. No, I haven’t read the comics. You’re dragging us off topic. Unlike Peter, I didn’t learn my lesson from it, and that’s my attitude all the time. But I guess when your power is literally fear it’s a little hard not to lean toward villainy.


Wait, we’re getting off on the wrong foot. Hi, I’m Megaera, Meg for short. Look, don’t ask me, my parents were HUGE on Greek history and mythology. I don’t know why they picked it. I mean, it could be because the people the tales were about were real. Not gods, Jesus, they think they were the first heroes and villains. All the heroes of legend had powers. Beowulf? Real person. Grendel and his mother? Real people. Hercules? Real person. Gilgamesh? Real person. Want me to go on? Because I can. For a while the heroes and villains disappeared from the world, and then sometime in the 1940s or so, they started coming back…

Fear and Fury is available now and you can find out more information via Jamie Jackson’s Twitter here.

5 Great Author Tools Worth Trying At Least Once by Savannah Cordova

Great writers deserve worthy tools — and if you want to publish a book, you’re going to need a lot more than just pen and paper! Luckily, there’s an author tool out there for every step of the publishing process, from organizing your initial ideas to formatting your final product.

This list avoids the obvious word processors like Google Docs and Microsoft Word, instead focusing on author tools that fit into more specific niches. They’re all either free or offer free trials, so you can test each one and decide which tools work best for you!

1. Plottr

First on my list is a fantastic tool to help you jump-start your story. Plottr, as the name suggests, allows you to plot and organize your work in detail. You can chart character arcs and subplots scene-by-scene, with color-coded lines for easy visual comparison. Additionally, you can create separate notes for character traits, settings, and more. And if you’re not sure where to start, Plottr also offers over a dozen reliable story structure templates to help!

Pricing: Free trial for 30 days, yearly subscriptions ranging $25 to $65 (depending on the number of devices you use).

Lay out characters’ individual arcs with color-coded threads, referring to the upper-hand
chapter headings to keep track of when each plot point occurs. (via Plottr)

2. Evernote

Evernote is another excellent tool to help you stay organized. Gone are the days of messy drafts and random thoughts crowding up your phone’s notes app — with features like to-do lists, PDFs, and voice notes, Evernote will lend structure to your thoughts for optimal organization and productivity. You can even sync your notes across devices so you’ve got your best-selling ideas with you at all times! It’s not just for writers, either; whether you’re jotting down a grocery list or brainstorming for a book, Evernote will ensure you never lose the plot.

Pricing: Free basic plan, $7.99/month for the Personal plan, $9.99 for the Professional plan.

3. Reedsy Book Editor

The Reedsy Book Editor is a free online production tool which formats your book as you write, producing a ready-to-print PDF (or an EPUB if you’re writing an ebook). With built-in goal reminders and the ability to work collaboratively with an editor, the RBE will help you stay on top of your writing schedule and keep all your work in one place. It’s the perfect author tool to try out if you’re looking for a clean, distraction-free interface to solve all your formatting woes.

Pricing: Free with email signup.

Formatyour book with chapter headings, an auto-generated table of contents,
and even front and back matter for when you publish. (via Reedsy Book Editor)

4. Grammarly

Before you find an editor, you’ll want your manuscript to be as polished as possible — otherwise you’ll end up paying for edits you could have done yourself. Grammarly is just the tool you need to nip these errors in the bud. Not only will it check your spelling and grammar, but the Premium version also gives tips on style, tone, and clarity. All this should make your self-edit go much more smoothly — and like Evernote, you can use Grammarly across devices and purposes, for everything from your personal manuscript to work emails.

Pricing: Free basic plan, $12/month for Premium plan.

5. Cold Turkey

Finally, if you’re easily distracted and need a little external discipline to help you focus (don’t we all sometimes?), Cold Turkey is your new best friend. It lets you block different websites and apps when you want to stay focused; this could be just Twitter, or the entire internet. Compared to similar tools, Cold Turkey makes it much harder for you to stop the block once you turn it on, so you’ll be forced to stay on task — which is honestly a godsend on days when you have to write, but feel like you’d rather do anything else.

Pricing: Free basic plan, $39 for lifetime Blocker Pro.

Cold Turkey also provides stats on which websites and apps you use the most,
so you know which platforms are most important to block. (via Cold Turkey)

Remember, there’s nothing wrong with needing a little help with your creative process. With these varied new additions to your toolkit, you’ll be one step closer to finishing — and publishing! — your next amazing book.


Savannah Cordova is a writer with Reedsy, a marketplace that connects self-publishing authors with the world’s best resources and professionals. In her spare time, Savannah enjoys reading contemporary fiction and writing short stories.

Featured Image via: by Free-Photos from Pixabay

‘Fee Simple Conditional’ by H. C. Helfand – Review by Erik Meyers  

Introducing fellow author Erik Meyers who reviews Fee Simple Conditional by H.C. Helfand

I don’t remember exactly how I found how about “Fee Simple Conditional”. While that’s not really important, I loved the book so much, I wish I knew where I had discovered it.

At first you think ‘what a funny little phrase’. Then you begin reading and are pulled into a glorious story that grows and grows and grows on you.

Besides learning a lot about deeds, property and the history of such, you follow the ups and downs of Abigail Fischer.

A chance side-job takes her to places and people she never thought she would connect with.

I loved the twists and turns and surprises on every page.

What really stuck out though are the quirky characters. None of them are what you would expect. And that’s what makes the book so sensational.

They aren’t perfect. They have their good times and their bad times, like real life.

I read the book in an afternoon turning page after page faster and faster to find out what happened and the whole time wishing Abigail gets the life she deserves. She sounds like a wonderful person I would actually want to meet.

The ending is a beautiful cherry topping on the cake that will blow you away.

No spoilers here. You will just have to devour this book like I did to find out what happened.

Planned as a series, I can’t wait to read book 2!

I haven’t had a book touch me like this is a long time.

Thank you to Erik Meyers for sharing this awesome review of ‘Fee Simple Conditional’ by H. C. Helfand. You can find Erik over on Twitter here and be sure to check out his books via his website or click on the book covers below.

Guest Post: Monty Jay: Indie Romance Author and her Author Merch by Emma Jordan

Emma Jordan is back to talk about Romance Indie Author Monty Jay.

I first discovered romance author, Monty Jay, earlier in 2021, when I bumped into the release of her latest novel, Courage for Fools, a rock star and US road trip romance that tugged, but didn’t sever, the heartstrings: who doesn’t need a happy-ever-after in their fiction?

From the first couple of pages I was hooked on Courage for Fools. Rhett and Quinn leapt off the page, and their road trip and romance are just gorgeous. He’s the reckless rock star on his way from the east to the west coast; she’s on a road-trip with a purpose. Emotion + banter = happy reader.

As I confessed to Lee’s readers recently, I’m a little bit of a music fan – I loved the book so much I had to see what else Monty had written.

That’s when I discovered her 4-book hockey romance series and promptly lost a weekend underneath my Kindle. I was immersed in the fictional world of the Chicago Fury hockey players, starting with the two main characters from book one, Love and Romance. Valour Sullivan (Vallie Girl) and Bishop Maverick (B) have known each other since childhood. Both characters live for hockey and are destined to follow in her father’s footsteps, becoming the best hockey players in the NHL. It was great seeing the perspective of both Men and Women’s hockey, and following other Fury players in books two, three and four.

THEN Monty announced that author merch is available from her online shop.

Now, as a fellow indie romance author, I always have an eye on unique marketing opportunities. (I recently encouraged readers to download one of my free books so that I could treat myself to a new coffee machine). What better way than for a writer who has created a fictional rock star and a fictional hockey team to enhance the reader experience than by offering hoodies and shirts in a shop that ships worldwide? I was more than happy to help out and treated myself to a Vallie Girl sweatshirt which is so comfortable, whether I’m writing (or editing) at my PC or on the school run! Supportive AND practical.

As Monty told me, ‘I love being an indie author because I have the freedom and control over my own work. It’s hard to build readership, but when you do you know it’s because you did it your way. I can write the stories that inspire me, and brand and market myself the way I want others to view me!’

Why shouldn’t authors who have created worlds for their readers be a bit rock star and offer readers clothing, bags, stationery, home items, to celebrate their characters? I’ve started to notice other authors offer swag bags or reader-themed goodies, or authors who have an Etsy presence. The marketing opportunities for independent authors are phenomenal.

What will you come up with to share your character’s stories with readers?

Monty Jay has a new, supernatural, series on the way, out in September 2021.