Archive for the ‘rafflecopter’ Category

Book Details:
Book Title: Horizon by Tabitha Lord
Category: Adult Fiction, 314 pages
Genre: Science Fiction, Space Opera
Publisher: Wise Ink Creative Publishing
Release date: December 2015
Tour dates: May 22 to July 14, 2017
Content Rating: PG-13 + M (There are a few, moderately explicit sex scenes, genocide, rape, and moderate language.)Book Description:

Caeli Crys isn’t living—she’s surviving. On the run after the genocide of her empathic people, she witnesses a spaceship crash near her hidden camp. When she feels the injured pilot suffering from miles away, she can’t help but risk discovery to save his life.

Commander Derek Markham awakens stranded on an uncharted planet. His co-pilot is dead, his ship is in ruins, and he’s only alive because a beautiful young woman is healing him with her mind.

As Derek recovers, Caeli shares the horror of her past and her fear for the future. When Derek’s command ship, Horizon, sends rescue, Derek convinces Caeli to leave with him. But his world is as treacherous as hers—full of spies, interplanetary terrorist plots, and political intrigue. Soon the Horizon team is racing to defend an outlying planet from a deadly enemy, and Caeli’s unique skills may just give them the edge they need to save it.

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Book Details:

Book Title: Infinity by Tabitha Lord
Category: Adult Fiction, 304 pages
Genre: Science Fiction, Space Opera
Publisher: Wise Ink Creative Publishing
Release date: June 6, 2017
Tour dates: May 22 to July 14, 2017
Content Rating: PG-13 + M (violence, non-explicit sex, language)

Book Description:

In the second installment of the award-winning Horizon series, Dr. Caeli Crys returns to her war-torn world to fight for those she left behind.

Almagest, Caeli’s home, stands on the brink of revolution. Long hidden from the rest of the galaxy, the once-peaceful planet suffers under a regime that grows more violent and oppressive by the day. Marcus, Almagest’s dictator, is building an arsenal of alien weaponry by selling empathic children into slavery. A resistance has risen, but they are outmanned, outgunned, and in hiding.

Joined by Commander Derek Markham and his elite squadron of operatives, Caeli embarks on a dangerous mission to find the Resistance, rescue her captive people, and save her civilization from destruction.

 

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Meet the Author:

Tabitha currently lives in Rhode Island. She is married, has four great kids, two spoiled cats, and lovable lab mix. Her degree is in Classics from College of the Holy Cross and she taught Latin for years at an independent Waldorf school, where she now serves on the Board of Trustees.

Tabitha’s debut novel, Horizon, won the Writer’s Digest Grand Prize for Self-Published Fiction in 2016, and was named finalist in the Next Generation Indie Book Awards and National Indie Excellence Awards. Infinity, the second book in the Horizon series, will be released in June 2017. Her short story “Homecoming” appears in the anthology Sirens, edited by Rhonda Parrish and published by World Weaver Press, and was recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She is also a senior editor for www.BookClubBabble.com.

Visit her blog at www.tabithalordauthor.com where she discusses favorite topics including parenting, teaching, and her writing journey.

Connect with Tabitha: Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Pinterest ~ Instagram


BOOK TOUR SCHEDULE:

May 22 – Working Mommy Journal – review of Horizon / giveaway
May 22 – To Be Read – review of Horizon
May 23 – Working Mommy Journal – review of Infinity / giveaway
May 24 – 411 on Books, Authors and Publishing News – spotlight / guest post/giveaway
May 25 – Bound 4 Escape – review of Horizon / giveaway
May 26 – Cheryl’ Book Nook – review of Horizon / author interview / giveaway
May 29 – Book review nature photos and everything in between – review of Horizon
May 30 – Library of Clean Reads – review of Horizon / giveaway
May 31 – Reviews by Martha’s Bookshelf – review of Horizon / giveaway
May 31 – Lisa Loves Literature – book spotlight / author interview / giveaway
June 1   – A Mama’s Corner of the World – review on Horizon
June 2   – A Mama’s Corner of the World – review on Infinity
June 5   – Haddie’s Haven – review of Horizon / guest post / giveaway
June 6   – The Autistic Gamer – review of Horizon
June 7   – The Autistic Gamer – review of Infinity
June 8   – Library of Clean Reads – review of Horizon / giveaway
June 9   – Cheryl’ Book Nook – review of Infinity / giveaway
June 12 – To Be Read – review of Infinity
June 12 – Deal Sharing Aunt – review of Horizon / giveaway
June 13 – Haddie’s Haven – review of Infinity / giveaway
June 14 – Mystery Suspense Reviews – review of Horizon
June 15 – Bound 4 Escape – review of Infinity / giveaway
June 16 – 100 Pages A Day – review of Horizon / guest post / giveaway
June 19 – Elsie’s Audiobook Digest – book spotlight / author interview / giveaway
June 20 – Reviews by Martha’s Bookshelf – review of Infinity / giveaway
June 21 – Deal Sharing Aunt – review of Infinity / giveaway
June 22 – Books, Dreams, Life – book spotlight / author interview / giveaway
June 26 – Nighttime Reading Center – review of Horizon / giveaway
June 27 – Crossroad Reviews – review of Horizon
June 28 – Baker Kella – review of Horizon / author interview / giveaway
June 29 – Baker Kella – review of Infinity / giveaway
June 30 – Svetlana’s Reads and Views – review of Horizon
July 3   – Book review nature photos and everything in between – review of Infinity
July 4   – Sharing Stories – review of Horizon
July 4   – Books for Books – review of Horizon
July 5   – Lukten av trykksverte – review of Horizon / giveaway
July 6   – JBronder Book Reviews – review of Horizon / guest post
July 7   – JBronder Book Reviews – review of Infinity
July 7   – A Book Geek – review of Horizon
July 10 – Nighttime Reading Center – review of Infinity / giveaway
July 11 – Books for Books – review of Infinity
July 11 – Crossroad Reviews – review of Infinity
July 12 – Lukten av trykksverte – review of Infinity / giveaway
July 13 – A Book Geek – review of Infinity
July 13 – Reviews in the City – book spotlight / author interview / giveaway
July 14 – Sharing Stories – review of Infinity
July 14 – Svetlana’s Reads and Views – review of Infinity

Enter the Giveaway!
Ends July 22

Click HERE for the Rafflecopter giveaway


Authenticity in a Fictional World

 

I’m often asked where and when my personal experiences influence my writing, and how they add authenticity and believability to my work. Since I write science fiction, obviously much of the material comes directly from my overactive imagination! However, there’s a good deal of survival fiction in my novels. Although I haven’t had to run for my life through the uninhabited wilderness, like my protagonist Caeli in the Horizon series, I did draw on my own experiences growing up in a rural area and my later experiences hiking and camping.

As kids, my friends and I would explore acres of forest, gather berries by the bucketful, and spend entire days outside, returning home only when the sun set. The smell of pine needles and dirt still conjure memories of childhood. When Caeli was hiding in the forest for a significant part of my first novel, Horizon, and then had to cautiously trek through that same wilderness to find the resistance movement’s hidden camp in the second book, Infinity, I knew this part of the story needed to be particularly authentic. I wanted readers to squint at the bright sun, feel the biting wind on their faces, smell the muddy river water, and hear boots crunch across the frosty fields.

Like Caeli, I’ve had to find water, make a fire, set up camp, and search for food. Unlike Caeli, I wasn’t fleeing from a ruthless army at the same time! As an adult, I’ve camped on the uninhabited islands off the coast of Maine all the way down to the Blue Ridge Mountains, I’ve summited Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa, and I hike locally every week with a group of friends. Every one of these experiences informed and inspired my writing. There’s a particular scene in Horizon where Caeli is teaching Derek, the pilot she’s rescued, how to carve a spoon from a chunk of wood. I have a drawer full of hand carved spoons from my own adventures, and I actually imagined this scene for the book while I was sitting around a campfire whittling utensils.

Another aspect of the Horizon series that I felt needed to be well researched and accurate were the medical scenes. I chose to keep my characters human, with physical anatomies similar to ours, so when I made Caeli a healer, and had her dealing with emergencies on a regular basis, I drew from my own experiences as an EMT. And here’s a little secret: I’m a medical school dropout. Attending med school with young children proved, for me, an impossible task. I don’t regret my decision at all, but I’m particularly vigilant about describing authentic trauma scenes in my stories. And when I’m not sure about a treatment or procedure, I call my brother-in-law, who did finish medical school and is a practicing physician!

I have great latitude as a science fiction writer. The worlds I imagine aren’t real. But to bring readers along for the ride, and ask them to suspend their belief for the duration of the journey, the places I create must feel authentic. I’ve tried to infuse my writing with color and life drawn from my own real-world experiences to do this. You’ll have to let me know what you think!

 

Thriller / Espionage / Conspiracy / Historical
Date Published: March 24, 2017

“What makes you believe a lie? I’m not asking how you know someone is lying. What makes you believe? Because if you don’t understand how that works, then you won’t know when you’re being manipulated.”

In 1938 the War of the Worlds hoax panicked millions of Americans, then in 1988 another fictional media broadcast convinced nearly half of Portugal that sea monsters had risen from the ocean to destroy their cities. A team of CIA agents was sent to study the aftermath of this 6th Skyfall Event in the hope that they could turn it into a weapon of war. When the team consultant turns up dead, everyone scrambles to be the last man standing: the one who will decide if or when the sky falls.

 

YouTube Video



Excerpt

 “What makes you believe a lie? I’m not asking how you know someone is lying. What makes you believe? Because if you don’t understand how that works, then you won’t know when you’re being manipulated.”

William Stephenson, The Nature of Sky Fall Events

Porto, Portugal. October 30, 1988. 8:13 p.m.

            The lights flickered and went dark, that’s when it started. Luis reached up and adjusted the bulb with his fingers. The hot glass burned his skin. He gritted his teeth as the sensation grew stronger. He doubted the bulb was the problem. The TV, fan and even the street light outside the apartment all died in the same moment. “Is this normal for an earthquake?”

            Car headlights flashed through the windows reflecting off Renata’s long, dark hair. “It’s not an earthquake. They already said that.”

            Luis let go of the bulb. Only a moment ago, the emergency broadcast system had come on the air. It’s strobing red light, and high pitched siren blared through every apartment. It was followed by men in lab coats being interviewed. They warned everyone that something was coming, and before they could finish the power cut out, the one thing they had said was, “it’s not an earthquake.”

            The street outside the window was still lightless, and Luis went to check the fuse box. It wouldn’t do much good. If the entire neighborhood lost power, it clearly wasn’t a fuse, but at least it was something to do.

            Renata took his hand. Her fingers trembled. “It’s not the fuses; it’s not our lights. Let it go.” Behind her, the old cement walls were spidered with cracks. They had been like that when they moved in.

“I don’t know what else to do.” He pressed his lips together and looked out the window. Outside, a family loaded into a car; the trunk overflowed as the father kicked at it until the latch held. They piled in, each with a pack on their lap. The mother sat in the passenger seat. In her hands, she held a pistol. Her husband got in, and the car roared to life. A few people emerged onto the street carrying packs, or bags. They all headed east, away from the coast. That’s where the scientist said it would start, on the coast.

“The phone lines,” Renata’s voice wavered, “They use a different power source than the electrical grid, right?” She wiped at beads of sweat forming on her forehead. “For emergencies, right?” She swallowed hard. “I’ll try and call my mom,” She picked up the receiver and held it to her ear. The lines in her face deepened the longer she held the phone. She frowned and jabbed at the disconnect lever several times. “The phones are dead.” Her skin paled. “The phones,” she licked her dry lips, “are dead.”

Luis was still for a long time. Strange muscles deep in his stomach twisted. Something terrible was happening, and he couldn’t do anything to stop it. He didn’t even know what it was. There was a worry in her soft brown eyes; he wanted to protect her, keep her from feeling this way. He walked over and put his hand on Renata’s cheek then kissed her. “We’re leaving.”

She nodded towards the bags they’d started to prepare midway through the broadcast. “Do you think this will be enough?” She rested her head on his chest.

The electricity surged back, lights blazing to life. The TV flashed it’s red warning again. After a moment, it changed to a camera feed from inside a helicopter. A reporter bobbed in and out of the frame. “We’re flying over the city of Vila de Conde, only a few kilometers from Porto.” He pointed to something off camera. “While it seems a much weaker force is headed this way, it will strike here first. That should give us some idea of what to prepare for.” The wind whipped his hair wildly and drowned his voice out. The camera focused in over the ocean. White edges of curling waves shifted as they crashed against the shore. City lights reflected on the water; then the whole city blinked out. “What the hell?” The camera jerked up over the blackened city. A loud guttural cry screeched through the TV speakers, and the reporter’s voice shouted, “What in God’s nam—” The image on the TV shook and rotated like someone dropped the camera, then the screen cut to static.

Every beat of Luis’ heart pounded in his chest, teeth, and fingers. He waited for the static to end, for someone to come back, to tell them what happened.

Renata grabbed his hand; her pulse was rapid; throbbing in the vein on her neck. When she spoke, the words sounded strange like her mouth was dry after hanging open for too long. “What’s happening?”

Through the window, they saw a car slam into the small market across the street. Glass shards toppled down and shattered on the hood. Two men got out and kicked at the remaining jagged edges. With sacks in their hands, they hustled inside and filled the bags with food and supplies. They tossed them into the backseat and doubled back for more. A box of spaghetti fell out of the passenger side and burst open. Noodles splayed out on the pavement, breaking under the boots of the men as they hurried back and forth.

“I need to get something.” Luis rushed to the bedroom and pulled a pistol from under the bed. He loaded it and placed several ammo boxes in a bag before returning to his pack in the living room.

The static on the screen finally ended. A news anchor sat at a desk; sweat dripped down his face. He wiped at his brow. “It’s clear now, from this footage.” A small image on the side of the screen grew larger. It was a distant shot of the city of Vila de Conde. The entire coastal edge was gone. The hotels, resorts, beach houses. All gone. Some bits of rubble smoldered in the darkness. “This has been some sort of attack.” He stopped, and his face became stern. He sprayed saliva as he shouted at someone, “I can’t … God damn it … I can’t say that on TV. No one will believe it!” He shoved the desk over and stood; then turned and walked a few steps towards the back of the set.

A husky male voice came from off screen. “Do you believe it?” There was a pause, but the anchor kept walking. The husky voice spoke again, pleading this time, “Someone has to tell them. They have to know.” He yelled with urgency in his voice, “We saw them!”

The newscaster stopped and looked over his shoulder at the camera. “Tell them to run.” He disappeared off camera, and the screen went to static.

The lights flickered a second time, then went dark. Luis held his hand over his mouth. He stopped breathing for a moment and counted his heartbeats. He waited, but the lights didn’t come back.

With heavy packs strapped to their backs, Luis and Renata staggered into the street towards their car. A traffic jam built up behind the vehicle that had crashed into the market. People dashed inside, stealing food. The narrow European street swelled with a growing mob as they disembarked their cars to investigate the problem.

A man got into the obstructing car and attempted to reverse out. The center of the frame teetered on the curb, and the wheels spun over the slick cobblestones.

A massive man with a thick beard exited his truck. “What’s wrong with you?” He thrust crude gestures with his hands, then stopped and summoned the other stalled drivers to the stranded car. He pantomimed his intention.

Seven men gathered around the small European car and tipped it onto its side, but the vehicle still blocked the road. They shoved and kicked, but the road wouldn’t clear. Thick-beard threw up his hands, gathered his gear from his car and started walking.

Luis’s eyes widened. “I don’t understand it.”

“Do you need to?” Renata gripped his shoulder, the tips of her nails bit into his skin. “They told us to run.”

Abandoning their car, Luis and Renata joined the panicked herd. They ran, shoved and bumped into each other as they maneuvered around the empty cars. The weight of the pack made Luis unstable as people jostled against him. As each person collided into him or reached out to stabilize themselves, his balance wavered. The straps dug deep into his shoulders. The heavy load labored his run. People were constantly pressing past. He made Renata go first so he could keep an eye on her.      

A tall man with wide shoulders shoved Luis into the side of a car. He stumbled and grabbed the mirror to keep from falling. Renata screamed. He turned as she plummeted to the ground a few feet away, disappearing into the mad swarm of human bodies.

Luis surged forward ramming people until he found her. He tried to help her stand, but the mob kept pressing forward, and Luis fell on top of her. A foot crunched down on his hand; then a knee jabbed into his ribs. Droves of people crashed against his body. His hair got caught on something, and it ripped a patch from his skull. A trickle of blood dripped from his scalp onto Renata’s face.

Luis pressed his lips to her ear. “The gun is in my pack. Fire the gun.” He didn’t feel her searching the bag, too many hands, knees, and elbows jabbed and thrust into him, but he heard the gunshot, next to his ear. It thundered, and his whole body tensed. The thundering didn’t end. His ear rang, and it felt like someone was trying to hammer a nail into his brain. He saw Renata’s face, she was shouting, but he couldn’t hear her anymore, couldn’t hear the crowd, the waves of pounding feet on stone, just a high-pitched pierce in his ears.

The crowd stopped pressing down on him. They’d backed away. He got to his feet. Renata still lay on the ground. Luis dragged her into the bed of a truck. She cried and kept trying to say something, but he couldn’t hear it. Her face flexed in pain. He scanned her body and saw the ankle. Human bodies, human feet don’t bend like that. The tibia seemed to be jabbing down through the foot, forming a large bulb at the bottom, and the ankle swelled thicker than her leg.

The crowd swarmed back. Luis slumped down beside her. His eyes lingered on her face, her eyes. She couldn’t walk, not on her own. Whatever was coming would catch them. How will you take care of her? Luis took the gun from her hands. He studied the pistol for a long time, its dark oily finish, the weight of it in his hand, a weapon. If he couldn’t run, then he would fight. He crawled out of the truck bed to the car just behind. He rested the pistol on the hood and stared out into the darkness. Luis saw the white curling waves. Whatever it was, came from the ocean, he knew that. He waited a moment, watching the water, trying to see it. Nothing, just darkness. He pulled the trigger then looked at Renata. Broken. Helpless. His eyes welled up with tears. Fight. Even if you can’t see it. Fight. He fired again, fired until the gun was empty.

——

            Pedro stood on a grassy hill overlooking the city of Porto. His eyes were bloodshot and puffy. Flashlights bobbed in the dark like swiveling dots, spreading away from the coast and into the countryside. He wiped the back of his hand across his forehead. It came away with a mixture of dirt, sweat, and mud. He’d marched his family through the dust cloud of the exodus. He and his wife, Beatriz, had fought with sticks to protect their young children as they ran through the streets. The blood streaks on Pedro’s knuckles were only partly his. He reached for the canteen around his neck and poured out a small handful of water to wash his hands.

            Beatriz slipped her fingers through Pedro’s gray-streaked hair. “Can I have a drink?” In her arms their two-year-old slumbered, dirt crusted snot clung to his nose. One arm hung loosely away from his body.

            Pedro lifted the canteen to his wife. “Anything new on radio?”

            She finished her drink. “Still just static.” She kissed her son on his forehead, and her wet lips came away powdered with dust. “I turned it off an hour ago. We should check again.”

            “Yeah.” Pedro nodded and headed towards the tents and campfire. His two older children were sprawled out next to the flames. On a tree stump sat a battery powered radio, its antenna tilted toward the city. He could make out the larger buildings by moonlight, but nothing electrical brightened the horizon. He flipped the radio on. Static buzzed through the speakers.

            “You have to help it.” Beatriz approached and placed her hand on the antenna. The static cleared, and a voice filled the camp.

            Pedro’s entire body stiffened at the familiar voice. The reporter who had refused to say what he had seen, the news anchor that had walked off the camera. The man who told everyone to run. His voice was heavy with emotion. He admitted he was an actor, and the entire scare had been a hoax. He took a deep breath and repeated the message.

            “Holy mother of God.” Pedro dropped his head into his hands. “It wasn’t real. None of it was real.” His voice trembled. “We left everything.”

            Beatriz stumbled and then lowered herself to the ground. Her eyes welled up. “We’re safe.” She kissed her son repeatedly. “We’re safe.”

            Pedro jerked up. “Safe?” He raised his voice, the tone sharp, “Safe?” He thrust his arm towards the city and pointed. “They lied to us.” He picked up a rock and lunged to his feet, running towards the distant city. He hurled the stone into the open plain below. “Why!”

            After a long moment, Beatriz pulled him close. “The power is still out. That was real. Something happened.”

            Pedro stared down at the city. The flashlight dots had changed direction, but the city remained dark. His body numb, he slumped down, never taking his eyes from the city. The message on the radio continued to repeat. It had been a hoax, a lie. The radio cut to static and a single light sparked in the city. It grew into a massive flame taller than any building. The fire burned brighter throughout the night but never spread. Something had happened, not the lie they told, but something.

——

The Old CIA Building, Langley Virginia. 10:09p.m.

Silas Cooper sat behind his desk reviewing surveillance reports. His black hair slicked with a heavy gel that reflected the light. He ran his hand through it and some collected along the edge of his finger. He rubbed it aggressively into his skin until only a sheen remained. Someone knocked at the door but opened it before Silas could respond.

Costly, in a vested suit, entered holding a stack of Portuguese Escudo bills bound with a rubber band. He swaggered over to Cooper’s desk and tossed the money down. “Guess what?”

“I don’t have time for your bullshit. What do you want?” Silas’ lips curled downward, and his chin tightened.

Costly flashed a crooked, toothy grin. “There’s been a Sky Fall Event in Portugal.”

The room went still and Silas chuckled. “Finally.” He let out a contented sigh. “How big?”

“Half the coast. Multiple cities.”

“Jesus.” Silas’ smile faded. “Where’s Stephenson?”

 “Shit, you’re not going to like it.” Costly hung his head. “As far as we know he’s in London —“

Silas cocked his head to one side, then back to the other. He pointed at his colleague with the file in his hand. “Now, I know you’re full of shit. I ought to break your teeth for this.”

Costly held up his hand apologetically. “No jokes. It happened, and he is that close, but,” he directed Silas to wait with an index finger. “He doesn’t have his plane with him. He’ll have to take the trains, and that should buy you some time.”

“Not enough.” Silas pocketed the money. “Get me Stephenson’s list. Cross out anyone not fluent in Portuguese or Spanish.”

“Already done.” Costly pulled a file from his briefcase. There were two columns of names; all but one were crossed out.

“Jay Nichols,” Silas read. “What’s his experience?”

“Two weeks here in Langley.”

“Are you God damn kidding me? You want to feed a puppy to the lion?”


About the Author

Joe Bendoski study psychology in college and was fascinated by all the insights it provided into human behavior, only to realize most the information never reach people, and when it did, rarely was it in a form that allowed for practical application. He started writing non-fiction, but soon came to understand how few people read that genre and began the difficult transition into fiction writing. His non-fiction works include; the Chemistry of Attraction and the Language of Emotion. 
He worked as the head writer for the television show ‘Saved by Grace.’ After being frustrated with comments like “make this scene cheaper,” “What’s my motivation?”, and “Do we need this scene?” he deiced to go in to literature.

Contact Links

Twitter: @JBendoski

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JosephBendoski1988/

Blog: http://joseph-bendoski.com/blog/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16644448.Joseph_Bendoski?from_search=true

Landing Page: http://joseph-bendoski.com/landing-page/

Purchase Link

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/When-Sky-Falls-Joseph-Bendoski-ebook/dp/B06XX6D7QL/ref=mt_kindle?_encoding=UTF8&me=

 

Giveaway

$5 Amazon Gift Card

 

Mystery

Date Published: May 17 (available for presale now)

Publisher: Tirgearr Publishing

Tucson, Arizona – Eighteen-year-old Matt Garrison is harboring two terrible secrets: his involvement in the drowning death of his 12-year-old cousin, and a night of drunken sex with his best friend’s mother, Crystal, whom he finds dead the following morning. Guilt forces Matt to act on impulse and hide his involvement with Crystal. 

Detective Winston Radhauser knows Matt is hiding something. But as the investigation progresses, Radhauser’s attention is focused on Matt’s father. Matt’s world closes in when his dad is arrested for Crystal’s murder and Travis breaks off their friendship. Despite his father’s guilty plea, Matt knows his dad is innocent and only trying to protect his son. Devastated and bent on self-destruction, Matt heads for the lake where his cousin died—the only place he believes can truly free him. Are some secrets better left buried?

Redemption Lake is a novel of love and betrayal. It’s about truth and lies, friendship and redemption, about assuming responsibility, and the risks a father and son will take to protect each other. 


Excerpt

For the next hour and a half, he drifted in and out of sleep. Cradled by the night sounds of the desert outside the open window, each time a memory emerged, his thoughts thickened and folded back into sleep. At one point he heard water running for a bath. A little later, he heard a car outside. Oh God, please don’t let it be Travis. He stumbled to the window and opened the curtains. In the street, two long rectangular taillights moved away, turning south onto Oracle Road.

Matt leaned against the wall, staring at the sunflower sheets on Crystal’s bed. The same bed he and Travis had jumped up and down on when they were eight. The digital clock read 10:38 p.m. His head throbbed. He needed to close his eyes. Crystal would wake him in time to leave before Travis got home. He fell back onto the bed.

When he woke up again, the room was very dark. He wore only his boxers and a white T-shirt his mother had insisted upon—claiming his usual dark one would show through his tuxedo shirt. As if the color of his T-shirt could ruin her perfect wedding. But he’d been ingenious and found another way to ruin things for his mother. He turned toward the empty space beside him. It took a few moments for him to realize where he was. He closed his eyes, shook his aching head to clear it. Crystal was his best friend’s mother. What the hell was he doing in her bed?

He thought he heard the sound of the front door open, then close again. Oh God, please don’t let it be Travis. His eyes adjusted to the darkness. One event at a time, he remembered everything.

Fully awake now, he shot from the bed, rocking for a few seconds before he achieved balance, then hurried to the window. The moon hung over the mountaintop, its light silver and unforgiving. Crystal’s driveway was empty. Whoever he’d heard, it wasn’t Travis. On the other side of the street, an engine started. This time the taillights were round. Definitely not Crystal’s Escort. The car turned north on Oracle Road.

Matt let out the breath he’d been holding and glanced at the digital clock—its red letters told him it was 11:20 p.m. He needed to get dressed and leave. The dance ended in forty minutes and Travis would head home. He grabbed his tuxedo pants and shirt from the chair. His hands shook so hard he could barely work the fly and the button on his trousers. He slipped into his shirt, then sat on the edge of the bed. As if he had the flu, his head throbbed and his stomach felt queasy.

He rushed down the hallway toward the bathroom. And when he did, he saw the puddle of blood on the floor beside the bathtub.

He hurried across the room, jerked open the pale green shower curtain.

Crystal lay naked in a bathtub filled with blood-colored water. Her hair, her beautiful blonde curls, had been chopped off, shorter in some places than others, as if a small child had done it. Some of the curls were floating on top of the water.

For a strange moment, everything remained calm and slow.

Her head was propped against one of those blow-up pillows attached to the back of the tub with suction cups. The tint of her skin was pale and slightly blue. Crystal’s eyes were open and staring straight ahead—looking at something he couldn’t see. Blood splattered the white tiles that surrounded the tub. It dripped down them like wet paint. One of her hands flopped over the side of the tub. A single thick drop fell from her index finger into the crimson pond congealing on the linoleum floor. It covered her neck and shoulders. Tiny bubbles of frothy blood still oozed from the gash in her neck.

An empty Smirnoff bottle sat in a puddle of blood on the tub’s rim beside a straight-edged razor blade.

The bathroom was so quiet. Nothing but the sound of his own breathing. He clenched and unclenched his hands. His body grew numb. “Oh no. Oh God, no,” he said, the words thickening in the air in front of him. His head filled with strange sounds—the drone of insects humming, violinists tuning their strings. “What have I done?”

The contents of his stomach rose. He crouched in front of the toilet and heaved until nothing more came up. Then he started to rock, back and forth, muttering what he already knew was a useless prayer. Please, just let her be okay. He said it over and over like an unstoppable mantra. If only he could keep saying the words, maybe he could reverse this unthinkable thing.

Maybe she was still alive. He straightened up and stepped over to the bathtub to check Crystal’s neck for a pulse. As he bent closer, he smelled the metallic scent of her blood as it mixed with her perfume and the stale, metabolized smell of alcohol seeping through her skin. He placed two fingers on her neck, searching for her carotid and pressed. His fingers slipped into the gaping hole. It felt wet and warm. He screamed and jerked them out. They were covered in blood.

He swiped his hand on the front of his shirt, then checked the other side of her neck for a pulse. Please, just let her be okay. Nothing. He shook her by the shoulders, then tried again. Still no pulse. At that moment, he stopped his mantra.

Though he knew she was dead, he held her hand—soft and still warm. It belonged to Crystal, who’d taught him to line dance, who liked hot buttered popcorn with cheddar cheese grated on top. Crystal, who was sometimes irresponsible and drank way too much. Crystal, who’d cheered for him at bat in Little League, cheered just as loud as she had for her own son. Crystal, who’d always be sitting in a bathtub of blood. “I’m sorry.” He squeezed her hand, then let go. “And I swear to you, Travis will never know what happened between us.”

Struggling to his feet, he headed for the kitchen phone to call 911. Halfway to the bathroom door, he stopped. Blood smeared the front of his white shirt. And there was still blood on both his hands, drying beneath his fingernails. His body was slick with fear. He smelled it, tasted it, and felt it coming out of his pores like sweat. His mind told him to call the police, to tell the truth. His heart told him to keep his promise to Crystal. It was the last thing she’d ever ask of him.

He dropped his chin and stared at his shirt. Holy shit. If anyone saw him like this, they’d think he’d killed Crystal. The thought stopped him. Had he? Was he capable of doing something so heinous?

The bubble of panic in his throat got bigger. He hurried across the bathroom to wash his hands. There were more clumps of hair in the sink and a hardened blue streak of toothpaste. He used toilet paper to pick up the hair clumps and dropped them into the trashcan. Looking at the uncapped tube beside Crystal’s toothbrush, he felt as if something had been cut out of his chest.

He grabbed the sides of the sink, stared at himself in the mirror. The face staring back resembled no one he’d ever seen before. Was it the face of a murderer? Had he just pushed someone else to her death? He shook his head—breathing in short gasps, like a swimmer gearing up for a plunge. His lungs burned as if he were being swept away by a strong current.

When the memory of his cousin’s death surfaced, as it often did, Matt used his fists to hammer the stranger’s face he saw reflected in the medicine cabinet. The mirror fractured, sending out long cracks in every direction. The face split into interlocking parts like an abstract puzzle. One jagged sliver fell into the sink, breaking in half. It left a black and empty space in what had once been the mirror.

He held onto the sides of the sink again and rocked slowly in front of it, still staring at the blood on his hands and under his fingernails. “You’re all right,” he said, but could barely hear the words, the sounds inside his head were so loud.

In his mind he saw himself letting go of the sink and getting as far away from this nightmare as possible. But it would destroy Travis to come home and find his mother like this. Matt had to intercept him.

He washed his hands, then rinsed the blood from the sides and bowl of the sink, recapped the toothpaste and tucked it into the medicine cabinet. He wrapped the shards of mirror in toilet tissue, careful to avoid getting his fingerprints on the glass, and placed them in the trashcan, jagged sides down. There were no towels in the bathroom, so he wiped his wet hands on his pant legs. Panic rolled in, sucked him under.

What should he do? Call the police? His father? 911? If he did, there’d be a recording of his voice and he’d have a lot of explaining to do. The police often suspected 911 callers. They might take his DNA. What if they found semen inside of Crystal? What if they matched it to Matt’s DNA? If that happened, they’d know. It would be in the newspapers. It would hurt Travis. He couldn’t let that happen.

He hurried back into Crystal’s bedroom. Hands shaking, he sat on the edge of her bed and put on his socks and shoes. Then, as if he were someone else, running through an obstacle course, he went into the kitchen and gathered the empty beer bottles. He took them out into the garage and carefully placed them in their cardboard carriers. Next he wiped the kitchen table, closed the open drawers, loaded the dishwasher, emptied the ashtrays, then made Crystal’s bed with fresh sheets. He tossed the sunflower sheets into the washing machine and started the cycle, careful to wipe his prints from the lid and dial. With the same cloth, he wiped down the edge of the plastic shower curtain, then pulled it closed—the way he’d found it. For the most part, his fingerprints were easily explained. He’d spent almost as much time in Travis’ house as his own.

Matt stood in front of the coffee table. He heard the candles guttering, smelled the wax melting. He blew them out, then picked up the clothes Crystal had discarded in the hallway beside the bathroom door. Folding them neatly, he then placed them on the chair beside her window. He grabbed her red cowboy boots from the living room and set them beneath the chair. It was the least he could do for Travis.

The clock on the stove read 11:45 p.m. The Narrow Way didn’t allow opposite sex teenagers to spend unsupervised time together. Jennifer’s parents would pick her up from the dance. That meant Travis would be leaving for home soon.

If Matt hurried, he could intercept him, convince him to spend the night with Matt and his dad. He raced into Travis’ bedroom, jerked open the drawer where he kept his T-shirts. Surely he had a plain black or a dark blue one somewhere. Matt lifted the stacks of folded shirts until he found one, then ripped off the tuxedo and stained T-shirt, slipped Travis’ shirt over his head, then grabbed his jacket from the kitchen chair and hurried outside.

On the back deck, insects clustered around the light fixture, high-pitched, insistent and frantic. The sound reminded him of Crystal’s voice when she’d pleaded with him not to tell Travis. Why hadn’t he agreed?

In the carport, Matt unlocked the trunk of his Mustang, a restored nineteen sixty-seven Grande that had been his mom’s first car, and dropped both the jacket and the bloodstained shirt inside. Silence ballooned into the night air around him, a strange silence with a ticking heartbeat. Then he remembered the cufflinks. Crystal had tucked them into his shirt pocket. He checked. They weren’t there. He plunged his hands into his pants pockets and then the tuxedo jacket. No cufflinks. He didn’t have time to go back inside. He had to stop Travis from coming home.

When he climbed into the front seat, he looked out through the windshield, but the dome light inside the car and the darkness outside had changed the glass into a mirror. He turned away. His face was the last thing he wanted to see.


Susan Clayton-Goldner was born in New Castle, Delaware and grew up with four brothers along the banks of the Delaware River. She is a graduate of the University of Arizona’s Creative Writing Program and has been writing most of her life. Her novels have been finalists for The Hemingway Award, the Heeken Foundation Fellowship, the Writers Foundation and the Publishing On-line Contest. Susan won the National Writers’ Association Novel Award twice for her novels and her poetry was nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

Her work has appeared in numerous literary journals and anthologies including Animals as Teachers and Healers, published by Ballantine Books, Our Mothers/Ourselves, by the Greenwood Publishing Group, The Hawaii Pacific Review-Best of a Decade, and New Millennium Writings. A collection of her poems, A Question of Mortality was released in 2014 by Wellstone Press. Her novel, A Bend In The Willow, was published in January 2017. Redemption Lake, the first in a 3-book detective serieswill be released May 17, 2017. Prior to writing full time, Susan worked as the Director of Corporate Relations for University Medical Center in Tucson, Arizona. 

Susan shares a life in Grants Pass, Oregon with her husband, Andreas, her fictional characters, and more books than one person could count. In her spare time, Susan likes to make quilts and stained glass windows. She says it is a little bit like writing, telling stories with fabric and glass.

 

Contact Information

Website: http://susanclaytongoldner.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/susan.clayton-goldner

Twitter: https://twitter.com/SusanCGoldner

Blog: http:///susanclaytongoldner.com/my-blog—writing-the-life.html

Goodreads: :  https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/33150434-a-bend-in-the-willow

 

Purchase Links

Amazon: Buy it on Amazon

Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/redemption-lake-susan-clayton-goldner/1126040153?ean=2940154076378

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/redemption-lake-2

 

Giveaway

An e-book of my first novel, A Bend In The Willow