Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Super Steve by Doug Cudmore

Super Steve
TitleSuper Steve 
Author: Doug Cudmore 
Publisher: Independent Self Publishing 
Publication Date: January 5, 2015 
Pages: 328 
ISBN: 978-0993993527 
Genre: Action / Crime / Thriller 
Format: eBook ( ePub / .mobi - Kindle), Paperback   

Book Description:

It starts like just another in long string of Friday nights: Steve Janson again fools himself into thinking he'll go for a stress-busting, head-clearing run, only to end up at the local Sav-N-Lo picking up a pack of Doritos. But when he ends up bleeding on the floor after a robbery gone wrong, and a mysterious stranger saves his life, he finds himself living every man’s dream. Or is that nightmare? In either case, he’s a superhero. 

The darkly comic Super Steve asks: what if a regular person suddenly found himself stronger, faster, smarter than his fellow mortals? If nothing else (and, increasingly, there is nothing else), Steve is that average man, someone who clings to his sense of stand-up-guyness. He still puts in the overtime, even as the desks around him empty at the soon-to-be-extinct Metroburgh Green Pages. He makes sure his deeply pregnant wife and his baby-to-be live comfortably, even as his mountain of debt grows Himalayan. Sure, being the calm face that keeps everything alright gnaws at his slowly expanding gut some days, but it’s nothing a couple of MetroLagers can’t numb.   

And at first, saving school busses and pulling kittens from trees suits Steve perfectly. But as crime grips the city – an agitated former Occupier freeing the people’s money; a disgruntled ex-geologist with a knife to grind; a military man determined to keep the streets safe, no matter how unsafe they get in the process –the demands grow unbearable. As Steve’s wife grows suspicious of his late-night activities, as his boss threatens his job if the absenteeism doesn’t end, as his finances spin out of control after a gadget-buying spree, he is forced to ask himself: Must he sacrifice Steve Janson to be a hero? Or does he have to sacrifice the city in order to live with himself?  

Book Excerpt:

You would even, on your own time, write a report, “How the Green Pages can cash in on geographic technology,” which had been sitting for three months in Bryce’s office.
You would be a man trapped on a small, sandy career island that was eroding away; your only options would be dive into the ocean and hope there was another, larger island somewhere just past the horizon. Or to stay and hope the waves stopped rising. And you were the type to grab a palm tree and pray.
You’d work away at your desk this Friday, save for a sneak next door for a foot-long Tuna Supreme from Senor Sub, with a Coke and Doritos to aid the gentle expansion of your midsection. And finally, after the last AAAA Auto Service ad was laid down, you’d take the commute in reverse, back to your semi-slice of heaven.
Key in the door.
Yes, if you did that, you’d be deep, deep inside the brain of Steve Janson.
Once you turned that key and opened that door, though, you could try Steve’s heart. Because, like usual, you’d see Sally Janson sitting at your little dinner table. She would be sipping a diet iced tea and battling an iPad Sudoku in her pale green scrubs, but as you crossed the threshold she’d get up to meet you in your home’s tiny entryway. She would have had one hell of a day – hauling the kicking person inside her was enough for any woman in this late-summer heat, but she, god bless her, would have found the time to hit Target, grab another carful of unidentified baby gear for you to assemble, and then, as her feet swelled, would have got groceries and done the dishes. And still, when you arrived, she’d rock herself up, walk over and give that kiss. You’d kiss her back and ask, “How was your day?”, smell the clean of her sandy brown hair and, lately, feel the growing bulge of her six-month belly as she pressed against you. Then you’d gulp down the night’s meal together before it was time for her night shift as a paediatrics nurse at Metroburgh West General. You’d give her another good, solid kiss goodbye, not just lips this time, and she would head out the door.
If you took in those 60 minutes, plus the off-nights together and holidays as they came, you’d get inside the heart of Steve Janson.
Then you’d be back on your own until 6:30 crashed down again.
But if you wanted to get into Steve’s lower intestine, gall bladder and fist-sized chunk of the liver, you’d need to be that bullet.
Steve Janson would have the idea – actually Sally Janson would have the idea, which she would repeat so often that it became Steve’s idea, as well – that he was going to be around for a long, long time, if not for himself then for her and your son or daughter. And so, to battle his days of inactivity broken by short bursts of glucose and cheese, Steve would have to exercise.
That early-August Friday at 9:16 p.m., Steve would slam his home’s ill-fitting front door and perform a quick succession of knee bends and hamstring stretches. He would feel fresh, strong – he liked the idea, if not the practice, of late-night summertime runs – so he would take the three porch stairs in one leap, tune into Songza and take the first, too-fast strides of the evening. “The Sign” would blast through the headphones; Sally had left the playlist set on “Early ‘90s Bubblegum”. He would stop, scroll quickly to something more masculine before his ears were hooked, but by the time he found “Jock Anthems”, Ace of Base would have taken over. He’d head down the block to “Life is demanding/without understanding.”
After the first four dozen power strides, Steve’s body would, per usual, start to despise him, a hatred that only grew for the first 10 minutes of each work-out. One of two things always happened after he warmed up: Either he would be ready to push, and his legs would kick, his heart would settle into its familiar pace and the world would float by; or he would not, at which point a pallid film would form across his forehead, his legs would sputter, and he would use the emergency $5 in his pocket to hunt for snacks.
No matter how brilliant he felt at the start, option two was the almost guaranteed winner on Friday nights, leaving him searching for something salty at the local Sav-N-Lo.
That would be the scenario tonight. He would walk through automatic sliding doors, and the sweat he’d worked up would evaporate as the heat was replaced by perfume-laced mid-sized-box air. Steve would walk down Aisle 4, Oral Care and Shaving Supplies, until he reached the pharmacist’s counter at the back. He’d turn right, passing a thick-bearded man with an ER’s worth of home medical supplies crammed into his shopping cart. He’d arrive at the snack aisle, pause in front of the Doritos, trying to decide between Cool Ranch and Zesty Cheese.
That is all he’d have to do.
And hollow-point you? You’d have to coil silently in a handgun, tucked inside a windbreaker pocket, hung on the frame of a more drunk than angry young man riding shotgun in a Black 2001 Honda Accord pulling into the Sav-N-Lo parking lot. You and your gun would sit cozy as your owner and his two associates hopped from the car, threw black balaclavas over their heads and strutted through those sliding doors. Then you’d be running and, as you approached the check-outs, you’d be thrust toward the ceiling, shining in the fluorescent light as your owner yelled:
“This is a robbery! Everybody be cool, nobody gets hurt.”
Back at the chips, Steve would freeze, and slow-motion-drop the fiery orange package he’d selected. He’d think, “What the hell am I supposed to do in this situation?”
“Empty your fuckin’ registers, gimme your fuckin’ wallets and purses, ahright? Quick-Quick-QUICK!” your owner’s friend Jack would yell, pulling out canvas bags and tossing them on the treadmills of the two storefront checkouts. “Get with the fuckin’ program!” The panicked clutch of customers nearby, and the two dowdy checkout ladies in their pale blue Sav-N-Lo pinnies, would start to comply.
Then some woman, a decade past middle age, with large round bifocals and shining burgundy hair, the one clutching an InStyle, would not get with the fuckin’ program. She would defiantly refuse to release her floral-print handbag. There were pictures of loved ones in there. They weren’t going anywhere.
So Jack – and his temper – would whip out a pistol and get involved.
“I said give me your purse, bitch. Your purse,” he’d yell.
“No, please, no, please. My grandkids … ”
“Give me your fuckin’ ” and his pistol would make solid, fleshy contact with her skull. “I said give me your purse, bitch.” Jack would laugh, stoop over her unconscious body, grab the handbag, toss it in his sack.
As the woman lay on the floor, your owner would aim you down for a second. The plan was, as had been discussed at length during the drive here, that the guns were for show. Taking out old ladies was not part of the plan. But your owner couldn’t argue niceties when the shit was going down.
Burgundy Hair’s friend Henrietta would start to scream, looking at the small pool of blood, but – “Shut the fuck up!” – her screams would turn to panicked whimpers. “Anybody else get any ideas, this is what we got for y’all. Now give us our money!”
The loot bags would fill up, from the tills and the pockets of those standing nearby. And then you and your gun would wave at the onlookers, make sure no one got close as your owner and his other accomplice, the non-angry one who was high as hell and just there for the laughs, backed toward the exit. But that pistolwhipping would have riled Jack up. He would be an aisle into the store now, well within sight of the still-frozen Steve, yelling and demanding more money.
And Jack would have the car keys.
“What the fuck you lookin’ at, old dude?” he would yell at the homeless man. Jack would smash the shopping cart over, sending gauze, syringes, ibuprofen everywhere; a roll of medical tape would scoot past Steve’s running shoes. “I said what. The fuck. You lookin’ at. Old dude.”
The homeless man would stand straighter, taller, and calmly ask, “What are you doing?”
“What did you say, motherfucker?”
“I said what are you doing? Coming in here, terrorizing people? Do you know how violence ends, my good man? Do you? Because it doesn’t end well.” Then the old man would grab a clutch of bills from inside his jacket pocket, toss them at Lou. “There, sir, is your money.”
Jack would stand speechless for a half-second. He’d flinch toward the old man with his gun, stop, move to pick up the scattered tens and twenties at his feet. But just as quickly his anger would trump his greed, and he’d slam the butt of his gun into the side of another head. “Fuck you,” he’d yell, as blood splayed off the temple of the old man, who crumpled to his knees. “Fuck you.” And the robber would raise his pistol for one last smack.
But before he would connect
Steve would bolt. If you asked him later, he wouldn’t be able to tell you why, exactly, against three armed men. But he sprinted to his right, in an impossible attempt to save a life.
And this is where you would shoot into action.
Your owner would have almost backed out the front door by now, on his way to freedom, hoping his damn accomplice inside would be out in the 60 seconds left before the police likely arrived. But then he would see some guy, 5’10” or so, black hair and running gear that only drew attention to his small mound of belly, bursting toward your associate. And your trigger would be pulled.
And you’d be flying through the air, spinning at a speed imperceptible to the jaw-dropped cashiers. You’d shoot past the magazine covers (People had “Teen Moms of Denver star shares exclusive baby pics”; the Star went with “Darren left me: Teen Mom Post-Partum Heartache”); past the Archie Double Digests; past the salted and unsalted nuts; you’d pass down the aisle, burst into the back of a package of Classic Lays, shatter through dozens of greasy chips, and at almost the same instant explode through the front of the yellow bag.
And then you’d be inside the lower intestine, gall bladder and a baseball-sized chunk of the liver of Steve Janson.
That’s how you’d do it.
And, as you lay there, torn to shrapnel, you’d hear “Oh fuck, oh fuck bro” and the sound of sneakers running, and the rev of the black Accord disappearing into the Metroburgh night.
Steve would grab his bleeding belly and, through the thick haze of shock, would rasp the words to nobody nearby: “Tell Sally I love her.” And he would start to feel the warmth of the death’s arrival.
Then the crazy old man would right his toppled cart, his smooth hands would hoist the fading Steve Janson into its basket, and the two of them, and you, would sprint into the darkness of the Sav-N-Lo Mart parking lot.
As the squeal of tires and the flash of headlights shoved him back into consciousness, Steve bolted upright.
He grabbed for his shredded belly, to stanch the deadly flow of blood, to reach in, search for the bullet, dig it out. But he couldn't free his hands; they were pinned to his body, tightly wound in something. He couldn’t tell.
As his mind battled to make sense of the situation, his eyes struggled into focus. Everything was black, save one piercing white light overhead. Its glow flipped left to right as Steve rocked in a bid to free his arms and stop the life from pouring from his gunshot wound.
In the kind of few seconds that seem like forever, he worked both arms free and shot his hands to the bullet hole just above his navel. His fingers prepared to grope intestine and organ; instead, they hit skin. Soft, nacho-fed, lightly haired skin. His digits looked for that fatal gap that must be somewhere … there … on his torso … up … left … right ... but found nothing unusual except for a thin, inch-long cut just below his bottom left rib.
He was certain he had just been shot. Or fairly sure, though he now lacked evidence. Maybe that was just something that had entered his heat-stroked brain after too many wind sprints … no. He didn’t do those anymore. And he was bound, by something, left in the dark. If that much had happened, he had likely been shot. Probably. He concluded that, if he didn't want to get probably shot or bound again, he'd need to get out of here.
He GASPed another big hit of air – the oxygen blended with sinus-pinching taste of anaesthetic and a rusty hint of blood, making him nauseous even as it cleared his brain. He gasped again – each one tasted better – and looked at that light. Its glow turned from formless orb to floating ball to the familiar form of Metroburgh municipal streetlight. Steve followed its pole to the ground – his stare caught onto a string of decorative porch lights as they disappeared down a street in the background – and to the black ground below.
So there was a streetlight here, he thought. What else? His eyes couldn't make that out yet, and his legs didn't have the strength to explore.
So instead, his eyes teamed with his fingers to determine the identity of the restraint: A simple cotton sheet, soft, warming but industrially rough, like you’d find on a low-rent hospital bed, light yellow with pink and white stripes across the top. It had been swaddled around his torso and upper legs; it still bound his calves tight. It felt fresh, clean, except for the part that had once been around his belly but now drooped to the side. That was crusted with something dark, like a giant scab. Blood? His fingernails scraped; he brought a sample up to his nose. Yes, blood. Dried. A lot. Steve's brain panicked again and his hand shot back to his belly; no, still just soft pink flesh and tiny cut.
And then Steve’s brain provided a fresh reason for concern - why was his hand hitting skin? Why not the sweat-wicking runwear Sally bought him last birthday? He looked quickly down, making his head swim again; once he recovered, he got an eyeful of his full, naked self, upper thigh straight on up. He grabbed the folds of blanket off the bench and covered his shame.
So now his panic had a thick overlay of creepy. Steve’s mind shot back through the last few items in his memory. Running. Snack food. Yelling. Gunshot. No “getting naked” on the list. Dear god, what had he, or somebody, done in the interim, he wondered.
As he wrapped the blanket folds around him, ensuring all important bits were covered, Steve forced himself to concentrate. He was shot. Or not. But most likely. Just not wounded. But wrapped. In something bloody. And he was naked. Where? Horizontal brown boards. A bench a park most likely. He looked to the horizon again and objects finally started to clarify ... the sturdy steel A of a swingset... a couple of baby swings hanging down ... a big red corkscrew slide ... by his bare feet, which he now determined were sitting on sand, a broken pink Fisher-Price play kitchen, stacked high with filthy toy pots and pans, buckets and shovels ... a worn yellow Tonka truck … a couple of Frisbees that had been converted into digging devices.
Steve knew this spot. Bryan W. McCain, Sr. Urban Play Parkette, tucked away two blocks from his semi. He was close to home. Thank god. Still, he was in a playground. At night. Naked. Except, of course, for a blanket covered in dry blood.
“C’mon, give me another pull, asshole.”
“Calm down, man … … … alright, here you go.”
“Ah, that’s the shit. Got this from some hopped-up Moldovan dude downtown, bro.”
Steve jumped to his feet, momentarily dropping his blanket. The mumbled conversation of two hoodied just-past-teens hit his ears; it sounded as though they were right next to him. He swung his stuttering gaze 360 degrees, until he spotted them approaching; they were still a good quarter-block away, though, passing under the last streetlight before the parkette. Their smoke wafted up, hung in the humidity.
Steve made himself an impromptu diaper, bunching the blanket around his groin, and darted for the hedge at the parkette’s south end. He crouched between its evergreen prickles and the seven-foot security fence behind, tied the blanket in place. Then he crouched further, into a ball, and waited.
Lucas Stumph, just off his shift at GasMart, and his cousin Nick DeBergh, not currently working nor interested in the concept, slouched into the parkette and dropped onto the bench Steve had occupied just seconds ago. They enjoyed a nice, long joint and the inane conversation that it brought – cars they’d never drive, lingerie models they'd never screw. After five minutes, Nick, his 259 pounds living on the border between husky and obese, was taking one long last pull when something caught his eye.
The park light glimmered off a big, light yellow form behind the bushes.
Nick nudged Lucas, whose sallow cheeks and sunken eyes gave an outpatient impression, nearly knocking him onto the ground. “Bro,” he said, pointing, “What is that?”
“Behind the bushes, bro.” Nick got up, pulled down the bottom of his Area 51 t-shirt so his belly was covered. “Check it out. Looks like ... a dude in a diaper!”
“Oh fuck, yeah,” Lucas said, laughing a deep, ganja-laced laugh. “Hey Diaper Dude!” he called. “What’s in the bushes?”
Steve could now see he was hardly hidden. He was cornered, though; the two men stood between him and the parkette’s gate, and as they strolled toward him his escape route was slowly, stumblingly cut off.
“Hey, Diaper Dude!” Nick called, delighted at his discovery. “What you doin’ in there, man?”
“Yeah, uh, hey guys,” Steve responded with an understated wave. “How’s it going?”
“Hey.” Lucas was curious. “Are you one of those dudes who dresses up like a baby and have some chick change your diaper?”
“Yeah, you a perv?”
“Hey, it’s nothing like that —”
But Lucas’s face turned angry. “Yeah, what the fuck, bro. Doesn’t your niece play at this park?”
The two not-quite-teens now walked more quickly toward Steve’s failed hideout. "Yeah, fuck, dude, Brytney plays here all the time. Hey, get the fuck out here, pervy Diaper Dude!” Nick demanded.
Steve stood, put his hands out to the side in a plea. “Look guys, I –” But there was no point in trying to reason. Lucas ran the last 10 steps left between himself and Steve, pulling out a small pocket knife as he did and saying, “Let's fuck this dude up.”
Steve was out of options; couldn’t reason, couldn’t run, couldn’t do much damage against a loser with knife. But in the last millisecond before his torso took its second blow of the night, an electric surge shot through Steve’s legs, while another hit his brain. And he jumped, up, back and, with unknown energy exploding from his quads, he cleared the fence behind him with room to spare, just as the knife sliced the space where he had stood a half-second before.
Steve came down in the ankle-deep sod of the unkempt backyard behind the fence and, in disbelief, stared Lucas in the eye, this time with the safety of a seven-foot sheet of metal diamonds between them. “What the fuck?” Lucas said.
And just as fast as he’d cleared the fence, Steve came to his senses, turned, ran. He needed to get home, back to safety, he couldn’t take the streets and risk the neighbours spotting him. But with this bizarre new strength coursing through his legs, apparently allowing him to clear fences in single leaps, he could take the back route. So he sprinted across the first, dark, 24-foot-wide back yard and hurdled with ease over the five-foot privacy fence at the other side. Stuck the landing. Good, he thought, now there were two fences between himself and the stoners. He could take time to gather his thoughts. Until the motion-sensor light snapped on and the Chihuahua in the rear window began a piercing yip.
Steve hurled himself over the next fence, again with ease, but this time crashed down on an above-ground pool; the sound of his body hitting the water was loud enough, but coupled with the clatter of the now-collapsing structure, and the whoosh as gallons of water poured into the yard, it was enough to stir more neighbours. Backyard lights flicked on almost instantly up and down the block; any second now, annoyed homeowners would come out with their dogs or cats or baseball bats.
As Steve cut through the rushing water, he realized he just needed to cross one more yard and he would hit the back alley that dissected his block, leading straight to his backyard. As the demolished-pool owner slid his screen door open, Steve cleared another fence. And again he stuck the landing, onto an upturned rake.
“Hey!” yelled the pool owner as Steve disappeared.
“What?” yelled the owner of the final yard, who was sitting on his candlelit deck, enjoying a glass of chilled Cabernet with his wife’s best friend.
“Ahh!” yelled the wife’s best friend.
And “Damn it,” yelled Steve as two rake prongs shot into his bare right foot. He leapt over the last fence with such force that he topped it with five feet to spare, and, with the alley on the other side being blessedly empty, he turned right, toward home, and broke into sprint, a dead sprint, faster than he'd ever sprinted before. Then it occurred to him that his bleeding right foot would leave a track leading to his own backyard. So he broke into a hop, a dead hop, faster than he'd ever hopped before, to the safety of his own gate.
As he arrived at the back of his house, Steve realized his key was exactly wherever his running clothes now resided. So he picked up a fist-sized rock from Sally's decorative garden and, as quietly as possible, punched it through a glass pane on his door. He reached through the resulting hole, slicing the side of his hand in the process, and turned the knob from the inside. Then he pushed the door open and allowed himself the sweet, agony-filled relief of a collapse on his kitchen’s cold tile floor. He lay there for 10 minutes at least, panting and seething with the sharp pains in his foot and hand, and flinching, convinced he’d be caught, as he heard a smatter of neighbours searching the alleyway.
But they never came knocking. And so, when his will returned, Steve sat up to survey his damaged body, slid over to the cupboards and pulled out tea towels, wrapping them around his wounds. After a minute or two of applying pressure, he staggered to his feet and, leaning on the faux-marble countertop, tried to think of what he could possibly do next. As he looked around the room, trying to settle on a course of action, he noticed the voicemail light flashing on the kitchen phone; he grabbed the cordless receiver, thinking maybe an answer resided there, in the receiver.
The robot voice told him he had four. Unheard. Messages.
#1 was Sally. “Hey, hon. Just heard from downstairs that some guy was shot at the Sav-N-Lo. I know you were being a good boy and running, but give me a call back at the desk, okay?”
#2 was Sally, a touch more panicked. “Hon, just thought I'd hear back from you by now. Guess you’ve gone for a long one. Good for you. Call back, okay?”
#3 was Sally, really scared. “Steve, please call, okay? Someone just said they heard some runner might have got hurt, but they didn’t bring anyone in. Why don’t you take your stupid phone with you? Call me right now, okay?”
#4 was Sally, on the edge of tears, five minutes ago. “Steve, I'm really scared, okay? I was asking around now, no-one knows anything ... call me, okay? C-” Steve deleted the last message before it played out and dialled the maternity ward.
He stood, the rumpled sheet half-clinging to his waistline, and stared at the wreck of himself in the mirror above the kitchen sink. As the rings progressed, so did this thought process – from “Poor Sally” to “Maybe she'll know someone who can help me” to “What am I going to tell her? That I woke up naked in a park and just ran through our neighbours’ yards?”
“Metroburgh West Maternity.” A too-familiar nurse spoke on the other end of the line.
“Could I speak to Sally Janson, please.”
“Yes, hi Martina.”
“Oh, thank god. Sally’s worried sick,” his wife’s best work friend replied with her usual agitation. “She was just heading home to check on you, I'll see if I can catch her.” The line clicked, then filled with Latin-tinged classical guitar.
Steve waited, watching his reflection as the flamenco magic filled his right ear, and discovered the line he had felt on his abdomen just minutes ago was gone.
“Honey! Steve, is that you?”
“Yes, hon-” and he noted, just above the non-cutline, a scrap of paper, safetypinned to the top of the blanket near the top of his left thigh, something he’d missed in the madness of the night.
“Are you okay?”
“Yeah, I’m fine –” on the paper, the hand-scrawled message read “Call me. 701-565-7232.” 701 ... North Dakota.
Sally buzzed in the background. “Oh, I was so worried. Where were you?” she accused with just-relieved terror. “I called and called. The police said that some runner had been shot, and you never answered the phone, and I …”
North Dakota. A disappearing wound. Naked in a park, a children’s park, with him blacked out and maybe eyewitnesses, to something or anything …
“… but they never found anyone, and I thought maybe you’d just crawled off somewhere, and …” sobs.
Steve wasn’t a lying man, at least not with the people that counted. Once the lies started in a relationship, they never stopped, he’d learned from a rather nasty college girlfriend. But there wasn’t another choice right now. He just needed a small one; he’d figure a way back to the truth later on.
“Oh hon, I'm sorry. I am so sorry. I just bailed on the run and crashed upstairs. I must have slept through all your calls. Really, are you okay?”
“Yes,” she said in a smaller voice now. “Don’t ever do that again. Okay? You sleep with a phone on the pillow.”
“I promise.”
“Oh god, I’m so embarrassed,” she said, wiping a mix of tears and eyeliner from her cheek with the back of her hand.
“Don’t be, hon. Do you need me to come over? Get you a decaf?”
“No, no. Really, don't come down here. I just need to get back to work. Be up when I get home, okay?”
“You got it. Love you.”
“Love you, too. And keep that phone on your pillow. Asshole.” Vulgarity meant the fear was gone.
“And pancakes for when you get home.”
They hung up.
“How you doin’, honey?” Martina asked.
“Fine, really,” Sally replied, grabbing a tissue from the nursing station. “I feel so silly.”
“Don’t, Sal. He needs to grow up and treat you right.”
“Oh, he’s just a man,” Sally replied. She let out a sigh and forced herself to her feet, headed out for a night of towelling down birthing mothers and soothing birthing fathers.
And Steve looked back at himself. God, he would need a better story by the end of Sally’s shift. First, he’d have to explain the wounds ... speaking of which, the pain was gone now, all praise endorphins. He unwrapped the tea towel from his hand – not only was the pain gone, the gash was, too. He unwrapped the towel from his foot. No rake holes, either.
His shot, skewered, sliced body was fine. Not just fine. Perfect. He glanced around the kitchen to make sure the wounds had been real, that this wasn’t just a hallucination formed by the leftover vapours of whatever had left him unconscious. But there were still the bloody towels, the bloody sheet, the broken window. Those were real. And, if he was going to keep Sally from asking any more questions, he would have to dispose of them.
But before the sweaty, blood-crusted blanket was trashbagged, he unpinned the note, walked the strange message upstairs, slipped into his pyjamas, and tucked it amidst the nail clippers and spare change and unread novels in his bedside table.
And he pulled it out for one last look. 701. North Dakota. Add that to the top of the night’s pile of what-the-hells.

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About The Author
Douglas Cudmore

Doug Cudmore is a veteran journalist who has worked in business, entertainment, and urban affairs and crime. He is also a long-time comic-book lover. You can visit his web site at   

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Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Guest post from Elle Emtage, author of Gray Skies

Title: Gray Skies
Author: Elle Emtage
Publisher: iUniverse
Pages: 170
Genre: Romance
Format: Ebook
 Purchase at AMAZON

 Dunstan’s dashing good looks, thriving business and exotic lifestyle made him one of the world’s most sought after bachelors; but none of this seemed to quell Dunstan’s desire for Destiny. As their courtship evolves their romance is woven from a tapestry of classical beauty and romantic places in the orange light of the Tuscan sun. To Destiny, her life once filled with endless days of meetings and long nights alone is now full of life and love in a whirlwind romance. In the midst of their developing relationship however, tragedy rips them apart and she discovers a thread in time which links their existence to an unbelievable possibility. This possibility threatens their very existence, but Dunstan, fueled by his love, will stop at nothing until he reclaims what he has lost. A fantasy romance novel, Gray Skies demonstrates how true love can even overcome obstacles set by the universe.


Guest Post – Gray Skies

As I’ve gone through life’s celebrations and challenges I’ve come to the undeniable realization – Writing is in my DNA. My adventures are colored in verse and rhyme, my thoughts are painted on a canvas of imagination and experiences born in day and night dreams. I see events in words.
My writing is tempered by my emotions. If I’m not in a good place then I can’t write – which is ironic because writing takes me to that ‘good place’. Very often I have to push myself to a chair to calm the thoughts exploding in my head by putting them in print. Each and every time as soon as my fingers touch the keyboard or finger the leaf of my journal (yes I actually prefer a good old pen and paper) my initial hesitation disappears as if there was never a cause for concern. So what happens when I can’t write? I write!
Writing is therapeutic for me. It soothes. It calms. It provides the passageway into the recesses of imagination where life is exciting, adventurous, predictably unpredictable, passionate, thrilling – I guess all the things that real life (for me anyway) isn’t. Not that I’m unhappy with who I am – I’m just overwhelmingly happy that I have an avenue that allows me to escape into a fantastic reality without the use of any vices – a win-win for me I think.
I’ve been asked on many occasions – “Why have you decided to publish at this stage in your life? And why a romance novel? That seems so unlike you!” And I had to sit back and really ask myself the same question but with a twist – why on earth did I take so long to bring a dream birthed in me from early childhood to fruition? What did I use to validate me turning away from the path that made sense? I came up with a host of reasons:
1.       There are so many writers out there – competing on the global arena will be tough…
2.       Agents aren’t going to sign unknown writers, far less will big publishing houses…(and from the Caribbean?)
3.       How can I make a living, achieve the ‘things in life’ on peanuts?
4.       Can people really get immersed in my style of writing?
5.       Do people even really believe in real romance or true love anymore?
…And the list went on and on….until I came to one important realization – if I didn’t live my dream, or at least try at it, how would I know how successful I could have been? And what is the measure of success? For me – it was turning the pages of my very first novel and realizing that everything that I feared – whether real or not – that the look on someone’s face when they get lost in the characters and their lives made it all worth it.   And dare I say? This is enough….

And so the birth of Dunstan and Destiny and their fantastic tale of their lives and love. Gray Skies Gray Skies is a wonderful page turner, centered on the characters Dunstan Moab and Destiny Tallum. Dunstan's dashing good looks, thriving business and exotic lifestyle made him one of the worlds most sought after bachelors; but none of this seemed to matter to quell Dunstan's desire for Destiny. Gray Skies is weaved from a tapestry of classical beauty and romantic places in the orange light of the Tuscan sun. To Destiny, her life once filled with endless days of meetings and long nights alone is now full of life and love in a whirlwind romance. 

In the midst of their developing relationship, however, tragedy rips them apart and she discovers a thread in time which links their existence to an unbelievable possibility. This possibility threatens their very existence, but Dunstan fueled by his love, will stop at nothing until he reclaims what he has lost. A fantasy romance novel, Gray Skies demonstrates how true love can even overcome obstacles set by the universe.

Elle Emtage is a business professional and has been published in several media houses. Elle’s passion for writing has transformed throughout the years and she is sharing her love of romance and intrigue through the début of this novel. Elle and her family consider themselves fortunate to live on the beautiful island of Barbados.

Getting It Right Book Blast!

The Literary Nook is happy to be hosting A.M. Arthur and her GETTING IT RIGHT Book Blast today!

About the Book:

Title: Getting It Right (Book one of the Restoration series)
Author: A.M. Arthur
Publisher: Carina Press (Harlequin)
Pages: 249
Genre: Contemporary Romance / M/M
Format: Kindle/Nook

For a dramatic male/male read, look no further than Getting It Right by A.M. Arthur. This contemporary romance is full of heart-wrenching moments guaranteed to draw you in and leave you wanting more. 

Detective Nathan Wolf might just be a junior detective, but he tackles every case with the passion that he lacks in his personal life. A series of failed relationships with women has left him still single at thirty-four--because he's too scared to admit to his longtime crush on his best friend James.

Dr. James Taggert likes to keep his profession as a psychiatrist separate from his party-animal persona. Known around the gay clubs as Tag, he’s the guy who screws them, leaves them, and never looks back. But James’s drinking is getting heavier, and when bad memories from the past resurface, he’s close to becoming the worst version of himself.

After a drunken blackout ends in a hot and heavy make-out session with his very straight best friend, James has no memory of the steamy affair. But Nathan isn't sorry for the kisses that James can't remember. Nathan finally musters the courage to tell James how he really feels, but a life-altering event might force them apart before they can ever be together.

For More Information

Book Excerpt:

He smoked his way through two more cigarettes before Nathan’s beat-up Ram pickup pulled alongside the curb. For a city cop, he was still adorably country. Nathan leaned across the console to shove open the passenger side door, and James gratefully slid inside. The simple, familiar presence of Nathan nearby made James’s nerves unfurl a little bit more. Nathan was the one thing in James’s life that had always made sense. Had always been easy.

Weariness settled into his bones, turning his drunken daze into extreme fatigue. He wanted to pass out and soon.

Nathan shoved a bottle of water at him, then eased the truck back into the street. He cracked both of the front windows, probably because James reeked of smoke. Nathan had never been shy about telling him how gross his habit was. Nathan was also smart enough not to engage in conversation until they were shuffling up the short sidewalk to Nathan’s half of a two-story duplex. Nathan slung an arm around James’s waist, and the heat of the other man’s body so close felt amazing. Real. Not like the fake closeness of dancing with strangers in a crowded bar.

He finally got a good look at his friend as Nathan crossed the narrow living room to the kitchen in the rear. Flannel pajama pants and a spring coat. James had woken him up.

Yeah, I’m a douche bag.

“You hungry?” Nathan shouted from the kitchen.

“No.” In the familiar, somewhat cluttered warmth of Nathan’s home, he had a safe place to wallow in the shame still burning in his gut.

Nathan’s place was the definition of a straight bachelor’s pad—which worked since Nathan was a straight bachelor. Dark leather furniture right out of a magazine’s page, decorated exactly the same because he couldn’t be bothered. A monster, sixty-inch flat screen mounted on the wall over an entertainment console boasted two gaming systems, alongside a Blu-ray player and hundreds of movies. Only a handful of photos hung on the wall, mostly of his rather large extended family that lived in southern Delaware.

James paused to stare at a familiar photo of himself with Nathan, taken right after Nathan had graduated from the police academy. They were both grinning, arms slung around each other’s shoulder. Nathan so handsome in his uniform, James in a gray suit that hadn’t been stylish in a decade. Because that’s how long it had been. Nathan had made detective last year, so he didn’t wear his uniform anymore. James sort of missed it.

Nathan came back into the living room sans coat, a white wifebeater showing off his muscled arms and flat stomach. He was one-eighth Nanticoke Indian on his mother’s side, which gave his skin a lovely golden hue. His short hair was shiny black, and was always soft on the rare occasion James had a reason to touch it. His dark brown eyes often seemed to be smiling at him, even when things were serious, like right now.

He was carrying a bamboo tray loaded down with two shot glasses, a bottle of Kentucky bourbon and a bag of barbecue potato chips. He settled the tray on his magazine-covered coffee table, then poured them each a shot.

James sank onto the couch next to Nathan and accepted the glass. After a silent toast, he threw it back. The harsh, smoky liquid burned its way into his stomach.
Nathan refilled both glasses. “Does your mom know?”

About the Author:

No stranger to the writing world, A.M. Arthur has been creating stories in her head since she was a child and scribbling them down nearly as long. She credits an early fascination with male friendships and "bromance" (and "The Young Riders") with her later discovery of and subsequent affair with m/m romance stories. When not writing, she can be found in her kitchen, pretending she's an amateur chef and trying to not poison herself or others with her cuisine experiments.

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Monday, April 27, 2015

Bookwright: Book One of the Vanir Trilogy Book Feature - Win a $25 Amazon GC!


BookwrightTitle: Bookwright
Author: George R. Dasher
Publisher: iUniverse
Genre: Science Fiction
Format: Kindle/Paperback/Hardcover

 With his ship crippled and his crew dead, Jarl Hawkins fights for survival in space as his dying spaceship, the Cassiopeia, drifts out of control. But there is nothing he can do, and his own death is certain. Oddly enough, rescue comes in the form of an old wizard named Kvasir, who offers Jarl his chance at a new life on Vanir, a planet unlike anything Jarl has ever encountered. There, the King fights his rivals for control of his kingdom, wild nomads roam the northern Ghost Plains, wizards and witches use magic, and an all-powerful church viciously suppresses independent thought through prison, torture, and fire. Once on Vanir, Jarl befriends the Kettlewand Rangers and is drawn into a war that he doesn’t truly understand. Separated from Kvasir, he patrols with the Rangers, witnesses the murder of a Ghost Raider, and travels to Tyr, the capital city, to locate Kvasir or another wizard. But he instead finds himself on the wrong side of the Church, and his modern weapons are taken from him and he is imprisoned for being a sorcerer. Once inside the prison, however, he finds a friend and protector, a samurai-like warrior. After a pardon from the king himself, Jarl and his new friend returns to Tyr and makes a startling—and dangerous—discovery: a translated Vanir bible. Determined to break the church’s hold on the citizens, Jarl begins to print the bible, infuriating the church leaders. His time on Vanir becomes even more dangerous, and it is only with the King’s protection that he and his printing company can survive. But Kvasir is still missing, and without the help of the old wizard, Jarl is powerless to make his way back into space.

To Purchase Bookwright

George R. Dasher has worked as an EMT, paramedic, and a coal and oil-and-gas geologist. Now an environmental geologist, he oversees the remediation of contaminated groundwater sites in West Virginia. His hobbies include diving, skiing, hiking, mountain biking, camping, and caving. He is the editor of a state-wide caving newsletter and the author of eight books on caving. He lives in West Virginia  

George is  giving away a $25 Gift Card!

Terms & Conditions:
  • By entering the giveaway, you are confirming you are at least 18 years old.
  • One winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter to receive one $25 Gift Certificate to the e-retailer of your choice
  • This giveaway begins April 27 and ends on May 15.
  • Winners will be contacted via email on May 17.
  • Winner has 48 hours to reply.
Good luck everyone!


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Principium: The Stone Prophecy Series by Alexandra Lamarre Book Blast - Win a $25 Amazon GC!

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Principium Title: Principium: The Stone Prophecy Series
Author: Alexandra Lamarre
Publisher: iUniverse
Genre: Fantasy
Format: Kindle

 Ever since her mother’s death twelve years ago, fourteen-year-old Kiarra Johnson wonders if she is a good witch or if she is doomed to a lifetime of evil. Her life is anything but mundane as she lives in a rented room in her father’s home in the village of Kiamika, a magical society hidden from mortals who would persecute them for their gifts. For many years, Kiarra has lived across the lake from Kasy Sheridan, a girl who has led a life vastly different from her own. They both have been accepted to attend the magical Hollow Institute for Gifted Young Women. During this time, their lives become intertwined as they study magical theory and learn rituals that will change their view of magic and give them insight into the mystery of dying familiars. Kiarra wonders if she will be able to uphold her mother’s legacy of helping to save the world. She and her friends are faced with that challenge when they encounter the evil Feuer, a vampire-demon hybrid. What chance do these teens, with just one year of magical training, have against creatures who are more than three hundred years old?

To Purchase Principium

Alexandra Lamarre earned a bachelor’s degree in communications from Carleton University with a double minor in French and history. She began writing this book when she was thirteen years old, using inspiration from both her high school and college experiences. Lamarre lives in Ottawa, Ontario, with her three roommates.  

Alexandra is  giving away a $25 Gift Card!

Terms & Conditions:
  • By entering the giveaway, you are confirming you are at least 18 years old.
  • One winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter to receive one $25 Gift Certificate to the e-retailer of your choice
  • This giveaway begins April 20 and ends on May 1.
  • Winners will be contacted via email on May 3.
  • Winner has 48 hours to reply.
Good luck everyone!


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Prophase: A Present Tale by M. Street Book Feature!

Title: Prophase: A Present Tale
Author: M. Street
Publisher: Mitchel Street
Pages: 334
Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy
Format: Kindle

Become swept away into a world of light just beyond our perception.

Piper Walker, a high school senior, has seen her share of hard times. At a young age, she lost her mother to breast cancer shortly after her brother Charlie was born. Raising her baby brother under the wrathful eye of an abusive and alcoholic father, she relies heavily on her small, but tight core of friends. Lisa, her best friend from kindergarten, and Chris, her longtime boyfriend, help to keep her above water. Along with her friends, Piper’s elderly neighbor, Ester, and her lynx point Siamese cat, Jazz, become the extended family she never had.

Even before her mom died, Piper always felt different. She was opposite of her popular best buddy Lisa, and didn’t enjoy doing what most other teenage girls liked to do. She wasn’t much for fixing up and thought hanging out was boring. Music and nature were her muses. Piper grew up next to a forest with countless paths, one of which led to the high school; the others to myriad of seasonal wonders. Piper spent countless hours in the woods exploring and finding solace in the trees, wild flowers, and every kind of animal. Although somewhat shy and insecure of her voice, Piper was lead vocals and a passionate bass player for a garage band called ‘The Coat Tails’ that consisted of Lisa, Chris, and their close friend Josh. Having never sounded better, they were sure to win the senior talent show.

After a Spring Fling dance, a near-death experience prematurely rebirths Piper to her destiny, for not even she knows who she really is. Her identity has remained buried deep for her protection. She awakens to a dimension where light laden with emotions emits from everything around her. Overnight, Piper and her world are transformed into something radically different. What she thought was real was only the beginning, a thin veneer to actual reality. Universal truths are turned upside down. She wakes to a magical world with an ancient history and kingdoms of races. Life becomes way more beautiful, complex, and breathtaking than she ever imagined.

A menagerie of supernatural and metallic gleaming mythical characters come to assist Piper to take her first steps in her new world and keep her safe. The realm of brilliant auras, feelings, and endless color surround her creating a language she doesn’t understand. She begins a long journey to discovering and mastering her powers and senses that defy fantasy. Riding gravity waves, casting spells, and leaping to exotic locations become her new curriculum.

However, amongst the Eden lies a fatal danger. For centuries, a tyrannical rule has suppressed and strangled the enchanted world she is now part of. A most brilliant Guardian, named Eli, and his council, the Arbitri, have become the only voice. Evolution has stopped. Only Piper has the power to bring about change.

Amongst the unspeakable beauty, unknown danger, and the desire to find out who she really is, Piper stumbles upon an unexplainable, first-time love that becomes the only thing that she can cling to in her stormy and unexpected life. From the first time his voice dances on her ear drums, she is taken by something wonderfully unreal.

Piper now must juggle her two worlds – and disguise her increasing abilities and morphing appearance while attempting to be the slightly nerdy teenager everyone knows. This story captivates the imagination with the beauty of nature and the celebration of love, life, and light – and the power of one girl.

For More Information

  • Prophase is available at Amazon
  • Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads.
    M. Street is an avid storyteller with an innate passion for fiction writing. He was raised in rural Wisconsin near the shores of Lake Michigan across from a small forest that became his second home. As an adult, M. Street has lived on the East Coast in Boston, on the West Coast in San Jose, and now resides South, in the great city of Austin, TX. A love for nature, art, spirituality, and science has been his foundation. He has been fortunate to have been adopted by cats, dogs, birds, frogs, turtles, and Monarch butterflies. His professional background is rooted in Engineering having earned a graduate degree in Computer Engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and is technically published (under a different name). He is currently creating Metaphase and Anaphase/Telophase, the follow on to Interphase/Prophase, part of the Mitosis series. For More Information

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Guest Post from William A. Clifford, author of Amy

Author: William A. Clifford
Publisher: AuthorHouse
Pages: 268
Genre: Fiction
Format: Ebook/Paperback
Purchase at AMAZON
An experiment in creation, with some religious views, that shows the reasons why, we may not want, what we think we want. How plans take on a life of their own, and there is no going back.
 Stories set in modern times are undoubtedly going to come in contact with some sort of authority. In some cases you can limit the official input and continue on your merry way. Some make the authority contingent the main focal point. Amy needed to have a way to show she had an official status. She needed to go through the gauntlet of official inspection, because she had no childhood history. No parents, school records, vaccinations, or any such thing existed for her.
Tom knew there was only one thing that could explain a lack of memory on all aspects of her life. A special type of amnesia that involved the whole gamut of interactions from short to long term memory. Showing them going through the testing and raising no red flags gave her an opportunity to be given an identity and with that she could do anything that anyone else could do.
This was such a requirement that the first book was dedicated to showing this process from the beginning to end. There was one option I nearly included and that was a suspicion from the investigating officer. I decided that there was not enough evidence and the normal screening took care of that suspicion. Other than establishing her identity, I wanted to bring to light the problem that Children's services is having with funding being cut. It is true here in my area and has been alluded to in other districts in other countries. Child welfare needs to be a priority with every stage of government taking this and making a stand.
Amy had a straight forward walk through of the system and required little drain on the resources in the process. She was fostered by the family that found her and that family was prepared to adopt her, so that a minimum of supervision was needed. Only one case worker was needed for her welfare. The school system was a bit more challenging, but with enough input from the different agencies and teachers involved, she was placed in an appropriate level for her aptitude.  It was a toss up as to how this would work out. She could have gone with her reported age, her apparent age, or her aptitude testing.
There are a number of children in our area that are very mature looking for their age. Even kids within our social group show too much physical development for their ages. Because this would affect her placement in school and submit her to differing social groups within the schools, I had Amy appear to be older yet just in the start of puberty for the story to be addressed as it needed to be. The next book in the series has very little to do with the authorities as far as Amy is concerned, so we ended book one with her getting her identity.
Born in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Raised in Ancaster, in the country setting. Attended Ancaster High and Vocational School, where I got my diploma. After that I enrolled in the working world until my retirement. I am married with three grown children and six grandchildren. I build miniatures and like to build landscapes of my own design.

Correcting Misconceptions by Rev. Dr. Hazel Ann Gibbs De Peza Book Blast - Win a $25 Amazon GC!

Title: Correcting Misconceptions
Author: Rev. Dr. Hazel Ann Gibbs De Peza
Publisher: Partridge Publishing
Genre: Education
Format: Kindle

 The book, a research paper, reveals and analyzes misconceptions about the Spiritual Baptist Faith, an indigenous religious expression of Christianity in Trinidad and Tobago. It highlights the academic bias to the Faith, which is maligned and misunderstood because of its humble beginnings amidst ex-plantation slaves of African descent and its history of persecution and prosecution by the colonial authorities of the early 20th century.The research provided answers to some of the troubling questions about the Faith and served as the source for the book My Faith, Spiritual Baptist Christian by the same author.

To Purchase Correcting Misconceptions

Dr. Hazel is  giving away a $25 Gift Card!

Terms & Conditions:
  • By entering the giveaway, you are confirming you are at least 18 years old.
  • One winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter to receive one $25 Gift Certificate to the e-retailer of your choice
  • This giveaway begins April 20 and ends on May 1.
  • Winners will be contacted via email on May 3.
  • Winner has 48 hours to reply.
Good luck everyone!


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