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Six Strings

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SixString

Today we’re celebrating the upcoming release of C. Billie Brunson’s genre-bending novel, Six Strings – Available on February 16th!

SStrings Digital coverSix Strings

Expected Publication Date: February 16, 2021

Genre: New Adult/ Magical Realism

Publisher: Liminal Books

Carl Percival (Percy) VanNess inherits a guitar from his father. He’s intent on learning to play and wants to use it as a roadway to fame and riches. But this guitar is not as benign as it appears. In fact, the music produced when it is played incites anyone within earshot to murder whomever is in sight.

Troubles escalate when Carl lets his buddy Peyton borrow the Gibson. Next, Mat, Peyton’s older brother, gets caught up in the same diabolical intrigues surrounding the instrument.

Only Stacey, Carl’s enduring sweetheart, is aware and seems immune to the Gibson’s evil persuasion. Is this due to some latent magic she holds within, dumb luck, or something else entirely?

Can she, with the help of her loyal Lab, Diva, convince her friends to let go of something they cherish before it tears their friendship apart? Might two Djinn token seekers who are after the guitar to fulfill their own agenda put the brakes on her efforts?

Excerpt

“Carl, this is dope. You got some sick strings right here. I’m serious, bro.” Peyton said, picking up the guitar to admire it up close and test its weight.

“Well, duh. Isn’t that what I’ve been saying?” Carl replied, feeling almost giddy with pride.

“I heard. Didn’t get it, though.” Peyton improvised a few notes. “But I do now.”

“You can’t help but to.” Watching his peer strum a few more chords caused a possessive anxiety to rise within Carl and he ran his hand through his hair. It wasn’t long before he felt impelled to intervene. “Enough, newbie. Hand it over. Let the pro show you how it’s done.”

“Hold on, bro. I’m rippin’ some sweet sounds.”

Carl took a deep breath in an attempt to ease the tension that resulted from seeing his precious Charlene perform so sweetly for another. “You’re not too bad. H-how’d you learn to play?”

“My big brother had a guitar for a while. We used to take turns foolin’ around with it. Then, he lost it over a stupid bet,” Peyton said, pausing for only the few seconds it took to say the words.

“Aw, tough luck, Man.”

“Yeah.”

“Right. Fine. Now hand her over. It’s my turn.”

Peyton played on as if he didn’t hear. With eyes closed, he reveled in the sumptuous notes coming from the guitar. Shoulders dancing, his head bobbed in time with the rhythm.

Indignant over being ignored and at the way Peyton’s fingers seemed to grope his precious girl, Carl raised his voice in a near growl. “I’m warning you, Peyton. Better not try me. For the last time, hand her over.”

“Just hold on, bro. I’m ‘bout to throw it dowwnn!”

Unwilling to bear or listen to what that meant, Carl turned, scanning his room for a more assertive means of getting his demand across. A sturdy desk used for homework and other projects offered a mess of school work paraphernalia, among this lay an opened box of pre-sharpened writing pencils.

Without sparing a thought about his next move, Carl stepped over to the desk and pulled a pencil from the package. Holding the pencil like a crazed butcher, he pivoted while lifting the pointed end high. His eyes zeroed in on Peyton’s jugular.

Peyton kept playing, his eyes closed in blissful ignorance of imminent and fatal assault.

Carl drew the uncommon weapon in his hand back and up high as he could, making no sound or alarming movement.

In the next second, the door swung wide and Stacey burst in, coming close to hitting Carl with the door. Startling from his violent mission he dropped the pencil. He deftly shoved it somewhere out of sight with his foot.

“Okay. Where’s this guitar you–Oh, right here. Wow! Carl, you weren’t kidding. This is sooo nice.’”

Peyton jarred from his plucking revelry. “Yeah, uh, ain’t it though? And it sounds amazin’.” Turning to Carl he begged, “Dude, you gotta let me borrow it for a few days.”

“Nope, I don’t gotta. And I won’t.” Carl said reaching and grasping the neck in one hand. “You can let go of it now.”

Instead of conceding, Peyton tightened his grip on the instrument and replied. “What’s the big deal? I promise I’ll bring it back.”

“You don’t need to promise ’cause I’m not lending it.”

“How ’bout if I pay you? A buck a day.”

“No thanks.”

“Two, then.”

“No way, man. She’s not for hire.”

“Oh, so it’s like that, then.”

“Yep. Take it or leave it.”

“I thought you was my bro. But, I guess yer nothing but anotha punk.”

Instead of responding, Carl simply jerked the Gibson free of Peyton’s grasp.

Peyton protested. “Heeey! What the hell? What’s yer problem, fool? Somebody need to show you what it means to share?”

“Yeah? And I guess you think you’re the guy for it.”

“Maybe I am.”

“Bring it, then.” Carl quickly set the guitar aside and turned back to Peyton. He clinched his hands into two stumps of rage and raised them up to punching level. “We’ll see who can teach who.”

They faced-off and moved in a tight, threatening circle.

Stacey rolled her eyes as she broke between them. “Before the two of you throw any punches, I think you should know I’m not impressed.”

Carl and Peyton both let down their guards at the statement. Each looked at Stacey with questioning expressions.

Stacey explained. “I mean if you want to impress a girl with your beat-down skills, at least let the fight be over the girl. Am I right?”

Carl scoffed. But he did move away from Peyton. He picked up the Gibson, slung the strap over a shoulder so she could hang comfortably at his front and sat down on his bed.

Peyton stood grumbling and staring at his feet a few seconds before plunking down onto the small chair beside the desk.

Stacey parked herself on the bed next to Carl. “There. This is good. Way better than getting all to’e up over a guitar. A pretty awesome one, for sure. But it’s still only wood, strings and a few metal knobs—that’s all.”

Carl rushed to correct her viewpoint. “Carlotte’s not just any ol’ guitar. She’s way better.”

Stacey scoffed. “Charlene?”

“Yes, Charlene,” Carl said. “What’s funny ‘bout that?”

“Yeah, Stacey lots of guys who play guitars name ‘em. Mat named his Maxine,” Peyton said.

“And Mat is?” “Who’s Mat?” Stacey and Carl both asked at the same time.

“My brother.” Peyton cleared his throat and made a show of not looking at Carl. “Who knows how to share things.”

Stacey cut off Carl’s low growl. “Whatever, Peyton.” She looked at Carl. “But what makes you say this guitar—I refuse to call it any name—‘better’ than any other one?” She held up a hand. “Wait. I know. Your plan is to use it as a babe magnet, huh? I know how you boys think,” she said, narrowing her eyes in a reproving glare.

“It might be a tired ol’ plan but…Sure. Why not?” Carl teased, giving Stacey a mischievous nudge. “Besides, it gave you enough reason came by today, didn’t it?”

Crossing his arms, Peyton said, “Yeah. Well, havin’ a guitar to catch a girl’s attention is one thing. It’s another to really know how to play? That’s what the honeys go for.”

Stacey said, “I hate to be a…uh, ‘honey.’ But, Carl, can you play something for me? Please?”

Foregoing a verbal response, Carl stood and faced her, purposefully presenting his backside to Peyton.

After making a show of loosening his arms, his shoulders and flexing his fingers, Carl launched into the captivating tune he’d mastered that morning in the garage.

Within seconds, the ambience of the room shifted as he progressed through the melody. Though the light coming through the lone window in the wall behind him did not dim, a cold, sinister presence invaded the air.

Stacey hugged her body and rubbed her hands over her arms against the chill as she tried to listen to Carl’s playing. Movement at the edge of sight caused her to look across at Peyton. She watched with a perplexed frown as he pulled out a drawer to retrieve a pair of heavy-duty scissors meant for cutting poster board or thin plastic sheets. Her frown deepened as she surmise the sleepless, nightmarish parody developing before her eyes.

Peyton pushed up from the chair and took a step in Carl’s direction, holding the scissors ready for effective spiking.

At last determining what she saw was legit instead of crazed illusion, Stacey flung her arms out in alarm. She gesticulated a frantic warning and yelled, “Stop! What do you think you’re doing?” But the frigid, melodious aura swallowed her voice.

Carl, intent on performing as he was, misinterpreted her actions as encouragement. He played with more vigor.

Stacey reached the point of leaping from the bed to tackle Peyton when bone-cracking thumps sounded against the window.

Carl stopped playing the song mid-refrain.

Peyton jolted and stepped back as though hit by some invisible stun gun. His attention went to the scissors he held in his hand. For a brief moment, he stood staring down at the now deadly-weapon-turned-crafting-tool and then twisted around to lay it on the desk. He turned back, wiping the palm of his hand on his clothes as though to clean away something vile.

Stacey sat on the edge of the bed huffing and puffing in relief when their gazes locked and she sensed the passing of his moment of murderous insanity.

Oblivious because he’d turned his attention towards searching out the source of the thumping noise, Carl said, “Oh, my dreamcatcher fell.” Then he stepped over to retrieve it from the floor and hang it back on the nail in the wall.

“Uh-huh.” Stacey said. “But…no. It couldn’t have made such a loud sound by landing on the floor.”

“What are you talking about?” Carl asked.

Stacey said, “I think the noise came from the….” Her words trailed off when she noticed the window.

She gasped at the splatter of blood already drying on the sun-drenched pane.

Grab yourself a copy from Amazon on February 16th!

About the Author

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Billie Brunson enjoys writing novels that don’t necessarily fit in any genre “box.” Six Strings, is her second published book, the first of which is Heart of Malice (2015) and she has a number of other manuscripts in the pipelines.

Born in Chicago, IL, C Billie Brunson lived for several years in Indiana and, later, Iowa before moving to Arizona in the 1990s where she has settled in Scottsdale. She’s the mother of two and loves all animals, especially cats.

If you want to connect, you’ll catch her on Twitter more so than any other social media platform.

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Debt Free ASAP

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Congratulations to John Nicholas on the release of his book, Debt-Free ASAP! Fitting that this book should come to the rescue after all our holiday excess! There is also a chance to win a $25 Amazon gift card. Perhaps a treat for getting your finances in order?

ASAP COVERS - FRONT BACK - RED

Debt-Free ASAP! Publication Date: January 8, 2021 (Today) Genre: Non-Fiction/ Finances
“If you’re stressed out, maxed out or even wiped out by too much debt, then you’ve come to the right place.
We will help you gain peace of mind, get rid of your debt and chart a brighter future for you and your finances. The key to your recovery is our simple 3-step ‘ASAP Protocol’ and I guarantee it will change your life as we walk you through it together.”

Add to Goodreads

Excerpt

Your Debt Load, Net Worth, P&L & FICO

Rodney and Crystal knew they had a lot of debt but weren’t sure exactly how much.

So they took turns guessing, as I listened to them talk on their speaker phone.

“I’ve got to have at least forty-five or fifty,” said Crystal, as she tried to calculate her card balances in her head. “But I don’t know how much you’ve got,” she said to her husband.

“Well I definitely don’t have as much as you!” He replied with a chortle, “But I’m guessing thirty-something, maybe forty K.”

Unfortunately, neither one of them was even close.

These two clients would set one of the highest debt-load totals for non-business-related credit card debt for a couple that I’ve come across, with 27 accounts totaling more than $168,000, including multiple accounts with the same banks. And that didn’t include their home mortgage or car loans or any kind of student loans or medical debts.

“Wow.” They said at least three times each as we reviewed their long list of accounts one by one then totaled them all up. It turned out Crystal was carrying more than ninety thousand and Rodney had over $70K worth of debt.

They didn’t know their total debt load and they didn’t realize their monthly minimums totaled more than $4,000 a month.

“Don’t worry,” I consoled them. “You’re not alone. Some people know their numbers to the penny, but most folks underestimate how much debt they have. They never add everything up, or they lose track or they just stop looking.”

Fortunately, these two had solid incomes. But even so they were burning up most of it on minimum monthly payments and were using credit cards and falling further behind every month to keep up with their other living expenses. They were the financial equivalent of a “heart attack waiting to happen.”

Available on Amazon! About the Author JP WHITE BRICK PHOTO

John Nicholas is the Founder of Debt-Free ASAP, a wealth coaching company offering affordable services and debt-relief support. John is a former pro football player, pastor and co-founder/partner of award winning sports media and real estate companies. He’s a Certified Debt Specialist and is a graduate of Brown University and Fuller Seminary who lives with his wife and dogs in McKinney, TX.

Learn more at www.Debt-FreeASAP.com.

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The Matriarch

Women of the Dust, Book 1

Dystopian Romance

Release Date: October 12, 2020

Publisher: AKM Publishing Pty Ltd

 

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Her citizens are oppressed. His society is diminishing. In a frantic bid for survival, can their fiery union save their peoples?

On a scorched and barren future Earth, Yolanda is her people’s only hope. As Matriarch of an all-female nation, the battle-hardened commander fights an impossible war while desperately seeking a way to stop her subjects from dying of thirst. But when the enemy king is beheaded by his own warrior son, she’s offered a truce that will bring the water they urgently need… in return for leaving her populace defenseless.

With his father dead by his hand, the Hammer is determined to rebuild the shattered community the warmongering king’s brutality almost destroyed. In a bold move to strengthen his dwindling numbers, he offers armistice to a dangerous queen and her bloodthirsty horde of fighting women. All he asks in exchange is for her to accompany him to petition the Council to drop their poisonous sanctions…

As they uncover the truth behind the horrific war, Yolanda is surprised when her begrudging respect for her capable companion blossoms into unexpected desire. And though the Hammer learns there’s more to the impassioned fighter than her brutal reputation suggests, he fears giving himself to her could make him a traitor to his own kind.

When their united strength pits them against oppressive factions, will their growing bond become an unbreakable force?

 

The Matriarch is the thrilling first novel in the Women of the Dust dystopian romance series. If you like enemies-to-lovers, dynamic couples, and empowered feminism, then you’ll adore Annabelle McInnes’s gritty tale.

 

Buy The Matriarch to fight for freedom today!

 

Purchase Links

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About the Author 

From the age of sixteen, Annabelle lived in a homeless youth refuge while she remained committed to her education. She spent two years within a section of society that most overlook. 

Her experiences are the foundations that drive her stories and her characters. They fight for their freedoms, have courage in the face of adversity and always aspire for greatness.

Annabelle is the author of True Refuge, an International Bestseller and a finalist for the Australian Romantic Book of the Year in 2018. She is privileged to live in a small rural town in country New South Wales and writes to a distinctive Australian backdrop with its captivating change of seasons. 

Outside of her love for reading, she spends her time with her husband, son and her fifteen year old poodle named Serendipity. She drinks her whisky neat and can often be found at the local market hunting for blue cheese and artisan bread.

Contact Links

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Soul Stealer

 

 

Urban Fantasy, Supernatural Thriller

Published: May 2020

Publisher: THEORYbee

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  He was looking forward to college…

…but then the worst possible thing happened.

Could Nythan survive the demon inside of him?

College in Florida was supposed to be about the beaches, the girls, and sometimes even a class or two. But the demon inside had one demand. Help it fulfill its quest so the demon might escape. It’s the only way for Nythan to get his life back.

There are just two problems…

Nythan doesn’t want to hurt innocent people…

And there’s a secret order out to stop him.

They’re called the Ordo Solis, an ancient group whose only mission is to hunt down and destroy the Soulstealer. They’ve been chasing it for thousands of years. It’s in Nythan, and they have no choice.

The host must die.

Caught in the middle, Nythan must come up with a plan.

Will he survive?

You’ll love this coming-of-age urban fantasy because it’s an action-packed adventure that will keep you turning the pages.

Purchase Links

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 Praise for Soulstealer:    

“A measured but engaging start to what’s sure tobe an epic supernatural saga” – KirkusReviews

    “Soulstealer is a fast-paced thriller that keptme turning the pages, highly recommended!” – Readers’Favorite, 4 out of 5 stars!

    “A vivid story that mature teens will findcompelling…highly recommended for prior fans of urbanfantasy” – MidwestBook Review

    “Fun and fast-paced, SOULSTEALER is a great mixof urban fantasy, fantastical mythos and real world framing” – IndieReader, 3.8out of 5 stars!

    “…a compelling urban fantasy novelthat teems with moral quandaries” – ForewordReviews

    Finalist for 2020International Book Awards, Fiction: Visionary Category

    “Boulware fleshes out even the most minor ofcharacters, employing dialogue that’s natural and believable” -BlueInkReview

    Nominated for Best Audiobook Narrator forMLC Audiobook Awards,Summer 2020

    Nominated for Production with Outstanding Sound-Voice-Narration forMLC AudiobookAwards, Honorable Mention Award

    “…filled with embellished metaphors, engagingplot, and a smooth style” – BookLife(Publisher’s Weekly)

    “…looking forward to the Soulstealer’s next chapter”- San Francisco Book Review, 4 out of 5 stars!

    “Every element in its right place. A greatcover design” – The BookDesigner

    “I implore you lovely readers to get lost in his work” – Red HeadedBook Lover, 5 out of 5 stars!

 

 

About The Author 

Shane Boulware is an unconventional idealist from Orlando, Florida. Naturally, he commissioned as a Contracting Officer in the United States Air Force in 2012, where he promptly got tased, was hit with pepper spray, participated in a mock riot, jumped out of an airplane, and lived in a combat zone. These experiences tempered his creative instinct and led him to publish two music albums, found an innovation company, break a Guinness World Record, and learn over sixteen dance styles.

Having grown up a huge fan of Dune, Star Wars, Stargate SG-1, Warhammer 40K, Harry Potter, Avatar: The Last Airbender, and The Lord of the Rings, Shane always wanted to create and share a world of his own. His imagination set him on a path to write the supernatural thriller, Soulstealer, and its sequel, Ordo Solis.

When he’s not negotiating contracts or salsa dancing the night away, you can find Shane taking his creative passion out on an unsuspecting keyboard. If you want to know when his next book will be available, visit his website at ShaneBoulware.com, where you can sign up to receive release updates and join a community of savants, swashbucklers, and nerds.

 

Contact Links

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ACutTwice

Congratulations to Wendy L. Anderson on the release of her Viking adventure, A Cut Twice As Deep! If you enjoy Norse mythology, you will love this! Read on for an excerpt and a chance to win a paperback copy of the book! A Cut Twice As Deep Final Front CoverA Cut Twice as Deep Publication Date: October 7th, 2020 Genre: Viking Adventure/ Sisterhood/ Romance The bond between sisters is one forged in blood and fire. Twin sisters, Liana and Deirdre were inseparable like the two halves of a double-bladed axe, making the pain of having to leave each other a cut twice as deep. Their father, Gorsedd Gunnarson, King of the great country of Svartur Rokk, did not care about twin bonds or his daughter’s preferences and severed the pair with a single blow. Both Liana and Deirdre have been sold to the highest bidders for ships, weapons, and alliances. For Gorsedd Gunnarson these are very profitable and advantageous marriage arrangements, but the twin sisters would be torn from each other lives and sent to lands far apart forever! Liana is forced to leave her childhood sweetheart and marry a stranger. Sweet, timid Deirdre would be wed to a Viking warlord. One would leave her home on a ship and the other on a horse. Both would travel great distances to new lands. Given no choice but to embrace the lives planned for them, they find that the future holds more than they could ever have suspected. In a land where blood and ice reign, danger and betrayal war with love and hope, as they fight to find happiness in a ruthless world ruled by the sword and axe. Add to Goodreads

Excerpt

Liana recalled with great detail, the smoky room, and the flickering torches in iron sconces on the walls. Remembered the smell of sweaty men, oiled leather, damp fur, wood smoke, and roasting meat. Heard the rattle of sword and thump of drinking horns and the pounding of eating knives on the worn, beaten tables. Shadows crouched in the dark corners of the hall. She could see clearly in her mind’s recollection, how her father had suddenly stood after eating and drinking for hours and raised his large drinking horn on high. He smoothed his hand over his long greying blonde beard, straightened the black bear fur cloak on his broad shoulders, and roared for silence. As all eyes trained on King Gorsedd, the conversation and laughter quieted.

“This night!” Gorsedd Gunnarson’s deep voice boomed out and the men stilled to listen. “We celebrate!” The men roared in response and then quieted.

“Raise your mead horns and drink to my daughters!” The men raised their horns and cheered loudly sloshing mead on the tables and over their hands.

This was strange behavior coming from their father and Liana and Deirdre exchanged surprised glances as they moved slowly toward the front of the room. Pulled forward by this uncustomary sentiment, their father had their full attention.

“Tonight!” Gorsedd boomed again, waiting for the men to quiet down and regain everyone’s attention. “We celebrate the betrothal of both my daughters! Drink to our good fortune! SKOL!

All eyes turned to stare, and the men drank to Liana and Deirdre.

“Skol!” they all shouted then quieted as Gorsedd began to speak again.

“For my eldest Liana, I have arranged a marriage contract with Tiernan Lachlan of Lochlannach and Kearn Mac An-Bharain of Noreg for Deirdre.”

He gestured toward strangers in the hall and bellowed.

“Welcome men from Lochlannach to Svartur Rokk my great mead hall where the warriors are more skilled at sword and drinking! These men will be taking Liana across Loch Indaal to marry Tiernan Lachlan!”

Loud cheers rang out and the men raised their drinking horns in salute, sloshed mead into their mouths, and banged their daggers on the tables.

Both Liana and Deirdre stared in wide-eyed shock at their father with their mouths falling open. This was the first time they had heard this news, and both girls stood stunned, disbelieving their ears. They turned and looked at each other, terror written on their identical faces. The men at the tables murmured and some continued to cheer, a few fell to grumbling.

Deirdre staggered in disbelief and her frightened gaze stayed fixed on Liana while she slammed down the pitcher of mead she had been holding onto the nearest table. Her furious gaze flew back and forth between their father and Deirdre.

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About the Author

16643855 Wendy L. Anderson is a Colorado native and mother of two boys. A devout reader of the classics, fantasy, sci-fi and historical fiction, she has decided it is time to write down the fantasies from her mind. Writing about everything from fantastical worlds to the stuff of her dreams she takes her stories along interesting paths while portraying worlds she sees in her mind’s eye. Her goal is to deviate from common themes, write in original directions and transport her reader to the worlds of her creation.

Wendy L. Anderson | Facebook | Instagram | Goodreads

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Book One in the Daemon Collecting Series

 Fantasy

Date Published: October 6, 2020
 Publisher: Spark Press
 

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Rachel Wilde comes from a dimension that exists adjacent to ours. The people there have structured their society around daemon collecting: they locate, catch, and repair malfunctioning daemons (creatures out of phase with our world that tempt people to do good or evil). Now Rachel has been given two unusual assignments: 1) find a person who has been trying to break down dimensional barriers, and 2) track down a missing line of gatekeepers, human placeholders for a daemon that was too badly damaged to repair. Authorities of Rachel’s world believe the missing gatekeepers are descended from a girl who went missing from West Africa hundreds of years ago, likely sold into slavery. With no leads to go on, Rachel seeks help from Bach, a raving homeless man who happens to be an oracle. Bach does put her in the path of both of her targets―but he also lands her in a life-threatening situation. Somehow, Rachel has to stop the criminal, reunite a gatekeeper with her stolen past, and, above all, survive.

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 About the Author

ALISON LEVY lives in Greensboro, North Carolina with her husband, son, and variety of pets. When she’s not writing or doing mom things, she crochets, gardens, walks her collies, and works on home improvement projects.

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YA fantasy

Date Published: January 21, 2020

Jack Galloway has had enough of life and is chasing a high he just can’t seem to find. Upon meeting with a drug dealer from his school, he is givensome mysterious, bean-shaped pills that just so happen to be nothing butbeans. However, Relatively Normal beans do not grow miles and miles into thesky overnight, drawing attention from everyone around and destroying thevery idea of reality on Earth.

Now, in order to restore his Relatively Normal world, Jack must embark on a mission with a girl he barely knows from high school, Red Crawford, who just so happens to be the only one he knows who has encountered a tear in the non-magical reality they live in.

The beanstalk, too tall and too wide to climb, leads them down a rabbit hole to the strange and nonsensical Underland, where they must go through insane trials in order to reach the answer to their problems — the Giants, magical creatures who live in Overland and can rid the Relatively Normal world of that pesky beanstalk. However, the beanstalk and its effects on reality might just be the least of their worries when they reach the dark, mysterious Overland.

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Excerpt

Jack sighed. “Listen. It wasn’t a coincidence that yesterday, I decided to try some harder drugs. It wasn’t a coincidence that Shy gave me those beans. It wasn’t a coincidence that you were the one to find me after I passed out. It wasn’t a coincidence that we’ve been experiencing all of this together. I know we don’t even know each other that well, but for some weird reason, I feel like we’re in this together. If we want to fix this, it can’t just be me. It can’t just be you. It has to be both of us. We’re the reason the portal is opening, and we’re the ones that have to close it.”

About the Author

Mikaela Miller has not exactly found her place in the world yet, and she’s still trying to understand herself, so there’s not much to say. She loves writing, memes, her friends, and her fur children. She is currently living the small town life but has high hopes of moving to a big city to live out her dreams one day. She loves the darker side of all fairytales and has recently discovered a love for horror novels. This book idea came to her in a dream, as many of her strange ideas do, and she hopes for a bright future as she delves further into her characters’ lives. One day, she would like to be able to rescue lots of homeless animals and be the crazy old cat lady
down the street.

 

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Minute Zero Blitz

MinuteZero

Happy publication day, and congratulations to author Chris Jayne on the release of Minute Zero (Stronghold #1)!

Read on for an exclusive excerpt and a chance to win a $10 Amazon gift card!

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Minute Zero (Stronghold #1)

Publication Date: September 11th, 2020 (Today 🎉)

Publisher: Inferis Press

When the world ends in a heartbeat, suddenly old secrets don’t matter anymore. But new ones still do, and protecting the ones you love is the only thing that still remains.

Two sisters, one a trendy caterer on the run from a vicious killer, the other a country midwife.

Because of a simple mistake, Lori Dovner must flee from the vicious mafioso Raoul Saldata, and her life goes from routine day to terrifying journey in a single moment. On the road with her two children, her only goal is to get to her sister’s Montana farm alive. But both Lori and Louise have been hiding a devastating secret for years.

Two brothers, one a Navy Seal on leave, the other a good man who wants to do right by his family.

Captain Deacon Hale is taking two weeks to help his brother Roger and his wife Louise on their remote Montana farm. He loved Lori once, but has finally put her behind him. Roger Hale just wants to give his pregnant wife and two young children a good life. He has no idea about the betrayals that have been hidden from him.

Dangerous identity.

Angela Jones is an FBI agent with a terrible debt that she knows she will someday have to pay. And when Raoul Saldata calls in that marker she has no choice but to comply.

Evil incarnate.

Raoul Saldata as a child in Albania, would pretend he was a dhampir, the offspring resulting from the mating between a human female and a vampire. A myth of course, but the evil Saldata practices is anything but. And when he finds Lori Dovner, he intends to do a lot more than just kill her.

“Minute Zero” Stronghold: Book One is an apocalyptic EMP thriller (with a touch of romance) about an ordinary family struggling to stay safe and find each other in the face of insurmountable odds, an abysmal loss of life and the dawn of a new, post-apocalyptic dark age.

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Excerpt

“Roger, I’m in trouble.”

His voice came back, quick and sure. “What’s going on? Where are you?”

“I’m at a rest area about an hour outside of Billings.”

“West or east?”

“West. We’re maybe twenty miles from where we go off the highway and come north to Lewiston. I can’t remember the road number.”

“191,” he supplied. She heard Roger speaking to someone else in the room, his voice distant, as if he was holding the phone away from his mouth. “Top drawer of the desk. Yeah, there. There’s a road atlas in there.” His voice came back into the phone. “I’m think I know where you are, but I’m getting a map. What’s going on?”

“The man who is after me is here. His name is Raoul Saldata and…”

“There? Now? With you?” Roger’s voice, while remaining calm, still carried a note of real urgency.

“No. I saw him just by chance. He didn’t see me. He got into a car and left.”

“You’re sure he didn’t see you?”

“Yes. If he’d seen me, there’s no way he would have driven off.” She quickly shared with her brother-in-law her guess that if it were not for Grace’s illness, they would already be at their destination and because of that, Saldata was no longer looking for them on the road. “Roger,” Lori voice cracked, “he wants to kill me. And he’s not alone. He’s got two people with him, a man and a woman.”

Lori heard what sounded like a door slam and then another voice muffled in the background, the words unintelligible, but it was definitely a male voice, and not her sister.

“How long ago was this?”

“Just a couple of minutes. I saw him, watched him leave, walked back to my car, and then called you.” She did the quick math. “No more than five minutes.”

“So, two hours from here,” Roger stated flatly. Lori got the feeling he was talking to someone else as well as to her. “Is he armed?”

Lori swallowed, her throat dry as dust, thinking about what she’d seem at Saldata’s house. “I’m sure he is. But,” Lori had a sudden thought, “can you bring guns on the plane?”

“He flew?”

“He was in a rental car. I assume he flew. That means he would have had to bring the guns on the plane, right? Can you do that?”

“You have to declare them if you fly commercial. But, if this guy has enough money or influence, he may have come on a private jet. Then he could bring anything he wanted.” Roger paused. “Tell me about who he’s with.”

“I don’t know who they are. I don’t know this man, really, at all. I just did a party for him. But, the first one is some sort of helper. A bodyguard maybe. I saw him at Saldata’s house. The other one is a woman. Young, maybe thirty. Very professional.” Lori envisioned what she’d seen in the restroom and suddenly Lori realized exactly what she looked like. “Like a lawyer or a detective maybe. She saw me in the bathroom.”

“She saw you?” Roger couldn’t hide the shock from his voice.

“Yes,” Lori explained, “but she didn’t recognize me. I cut my hair really short and dyed it black. I look very different. And the kids weren’t with me, thank God.”

There was a long pause as Roger was obviously considering the next steps. “Did you notice the model of the car?”

“No, Roger, I’m sorry, I don’t really know car models. It was a small SUV.” She thought about car models that she knew, ones that she and some of her friends owned. “It wasn’t as big as my Range Rover. Maybe something like a Toyota 4Runner. That size. It was gray. And it definitely had Montana plates.”

“How did he know you were coming here?”

“I don’t know, but…” Quickly, Lori shared with Roger her fear that Saldata had somehow found her employees, Salvadore and Michelle.

As she waited for Roger to respond, she watched her two children with Simone. Brandon had run over to Simone, and, his face turned up, he said something to her. He smiled, so sweet and trusting. My God, she had to protect them, all of them. The silence on Roger’s side of the call grew. “What should I do? Where should I go? I’m so sorry.” She heard her voice rising to shrill, but she couldn’t stop it.

Roger interrupted curtly. “What’s done is done, Lori. You need to hold it together. And the only thing that matters now is keeping everyone safe.”

“I don’t know what to do. Even if I turn around and I didn’t come to you, he’s still on his way there.”

“I want you to stay there.”

“Here? At the rest stop?”

“Yes, I’m going to send someone to get you. Do you remember my brother Deacon? He’s on leave and visiting us for a few weeks.”

For the second time in ten minutes, Lori felt like she’d been punched in the stomach and for a very long moment, she could not breathe. On a day when things could not possibly have gotten worse, they just did. “I met him at your wedding,” she managed to choke out. That flat statement masked a wealth of information. Did Roger notice how strangled her voice was?

Lori remembered Deacon Hale very well, but now was not the time to dwell on it, though why in the name of all that was holy had her sister not mentioned that Deacon was there visiting them? For a brief hysterical second, she wondered if she’d be better off taking her chances with Saldata. And in the next moment, she knew a hard truth, one she had never allowed herself to acknowledge. The main reason she had avoided being around Lou and Roger for the last five years was that Roger reminded her way, way too much of Deacon. She could barely gasp out her next, strangled question. “So, you’re not coming?”

“No.” Roger’s voice was flat and hard. “If what you say is true, I have three people on their way here who are perfectly capable of putting a bullet into the brains of anyone in my family.”

“You think I should just wait here? At the rest stop? What if he comes back?”

“You’re sure the woman didn’t recognize you?”

“Yeah, I’m sure. She just walked right out of the bathroom. I look really different, Roger.”

“Then, they won’t come back,” Roger responded, his voice full of confidence. “Why would they? And even if they’d turn around for some reason, they’d be on the other side of the interstate.” Lori saw the logic in that. “Just sit tight. Deke’ll be there in two hours, give or take.”

In less than three hours she’d see him. See Deke. Could she do it? There was no way. No. Fucking. Way.

The phone went dead in her hand.

And in one instant the world changed forever.

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About the Author

chris-jayne-author-headshot_orig

Chris Jayne is author of the apocalyptic EMP series “Stronghold.”

Jayne is also the penname of a USA Today bestselling romance and thriller author who is has started asking “what if?” What if the lights go off? What if the food supply chain just… stops? The world could become an unfriendly place in a hurry.

Three years ago, Chris began exploring the “prepper” lifestyle, and hopes that if TEOTWAWKI would actually happen, she would be in a position to protect her family and loved ones.

She now spends her days splitting her time between her romance writing and her apocalyptic and dystopian fiction novels. Because what’s more fun than imagining the end of the world from the comfort of your couch? And if the end of the world has a few sexy Navy Seals in it? All the better!

She loves writing stories exploring how ordinary people cope with extraordinary circumstances, especially situations where the normal comforts, conveniences, and rules are stripped away.

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Firebrand, Book 1

Urban Fantasy

Release Date: September 3, 2020

 

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A werewolf killer. A paranormal murder. How many times can Emma Bellamy cheat death?

I’m one placement away from becoming a fully fledged London detective. It’s bad enough that my last assignment before I qualify is with Supernatural Squad. But that’s nothing compared to what happens next.

Brutally murdered by an unknown assailant, I wake up twelve hours later in the morgue – and I’m very much alive. I don’t know how or  why it happened. I don’t know who killed me. All I know is that they might try again.

Werewolves are disappearing right, left and centre.

A mysterious vampire seems intent on following me everywhere I go.

And I have to solve my own vicious killing. Preferably before death comes for me again.

 

 

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 Excerpt

The first thing I heard was the buzzing. It tickled my eardrums at first then, as I gained consciousness, it became more insistent – and more annoying.

I moved slightly and there was a strange rustle. What the hell was I lying on? It felt like plastic, or rubber sheeting perhaps. There was an acrid tinge to the air that definitely smelled of rotten eggs, and there was an unpleasant taste of ash in my mouth. This didn’t make any sense.

It took more effort than it should have done to open my eyes. It was like they’d been glued together and I virtually had to peel open my eyelids. I blinked, trying to adjust my vision. I was so hot – and what was this crap around me? I plucked at it. I’d been right: it was definitely some sort of white plastic sheeting, but it was singed and burnt like someone had taken a flamethrower to it.

I sat up, shoving it to one side. That was when I realized I was naked.

I jerked with such force that I fell off the table and landed with a heavy thump on the cold, linoleum-covered floor. I groaned and looked around. It wasn’t a table, it was a metal gurney. That was when the memory of the attack came flooding back to me.

I must be in hospital. It was the only thing that made sense. The incessant buzzing was coming from an overhead strip light that cast a stark light around the room. I licked my lips and tried to call out to alert a passing doctor or nurse but I could only croak. If I wanted help, I’d have to go and look for it.

Staggering to my feet, I grabbed the remnants of the plastic and wrapped it around myself. This was a strange hospital room: for one thing, the bed wasn’t a proper bed, it was just a slab. And there was no IV line or comforting ECG beeping next to me, although I could see a metal tray with various implements lying neatly across it. Several scalpels and … I stared. Was that a rib spreader?

I backed up, colliding with another metal trolley and sending various bits and pieces clattering to the floor. Without thinking, I bent down to pick  them up. When I saw the flames flickering around my toes, I let out a brief shriek and frantically slapped at them to put them out.

My heart was hammering against my ribcage. What in bejesus was going on? I straightened up. With shaking fingers, I touched the side of my neck where I’d felt the knife pierce my skin and slice through my artery. There was nothing there. No mark, no bump. It wasn’t even sore. I reached up to the back of my head where I’d been thumped. There was nothing there
either.

Breathing hard, and growing more and more convinced that this was some sort of crazy-arsed nightmare, I looked around for some kind of clue as to where I was and what had happened.

My gaze fell on the clipboard hanging on the side of the gurney. I grabbed it and stared at the words: Jane Doe. DOA. Approximate age: 30. Identifying features: mole on left thigh. Apparent cause of death: exsanguination from knife wound on throat.

The clipboard slid out of my hand and fell to the floor.

 About the Author

After teaching English literature in the UK, Japan and Malaysia, Helen Harper left behind the world of education following the worldwide success of her Blood Destiny series of books. She is a professional member of the Alliance of Independent Authors and writes full time, thanking her lucky stars every day that’s she lucky enough to do so!

Helen has always been a book lover, devouring science fiction and fantasy tales when she was a child growing up in Scotland.

She currently lives in Devon in the UK with far too many cats – not to mention the dragons, fairies, demons, wizards and vampires that seem to keep appearing from nowhere.

You can find out more by visiting Helen’s website here.

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Being Alert

 

BeingAlert

Happy publication day to author Charlie Laidlaw!

Today marks the release of searing satire, Being Alert, and I have a sneak peek for you as well as a chance to win a digital copy of the book!

Being Alert! coverBeing Alert

Publication Date: August 21st, 2020

Genre: Satire

The book, which begins in January 2020, follows in a long tradition of British satire, as the British prime minister, Winston Spragg, first learns about a new virus that seems to be centred in a city in China that nobody has heard of.

The book populates Downing Street and Whitehall with an inept prime minister presiding over a dysfunctional government as it deals with an existential threat that rapidly becomes a national crisis.

It remains true to the timeline of Covid-19 and the government’s response to it, including its failure to lock down sooner, secure adequate supplies of protective equipment or protect the care sector.

Like satires before it, the book uses humour to paint an uncomfortable picture of a government in crisis, and seemingly as concerned about justifying itself as working to suppress the virus.

As the book progresses, with a mounting death toll, I hope the book strikes a changing balance as both a month-by-month narrative about the virus and a comedy to mirror

unfolding events.

As the country emerges into a new normal, the country will inevitably want to know why, per head of population, we have suffered worse than any other European country. Being Alert! provides the perfect outlet, not just to ask very real questions of government but to use humour as a satirical and healing tool.

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Excerpt

Comings and Goings

In late February, according to a Sunday Times report, at a private event, the Prime Minister’s chief advisor outlined the government’s strategy at the time and which was summarised by someone present as ‘herd immunity, protect the economy, and if that means some pensioners die, too bad.’

In early March, the Prime Minister told the nation that, while the virus was likely to become a more significant problem, ‘this country is very, very well prepared. However, the final sentence of his message didn’t appear on his official Twitter page: “I wish to stress that, at the moment, it is very important that people consider that they should, as far as possible, go about business as usual.’

By and large, Derek Goings was both universally loathed and feared. It was assumed that he either had access to supernatural forces or was, in fact, one of the Undead. Even the Archbishop of Westminster would cross himself when the two met, which was rarely – at the archbishop’s request. Partly, he was loathed because of his role as the PM’s chief advisor, with almost permanent access to the Prime Minister’s ear. Partly, it was also because the PM usually did what his advisor told him to do, and that this was somehow undemocratic. Partly, too, it was because he smelled of sulphur. Nobody could therefore understand how he was married, shared a marital bed and had fathered a child. However, the sceptics pointed out, only his marriage was a matter of record. Whether he slept with his wife, and who the father of his child was, were grey areas best not explored.

Derek, his critics often complained, although never to his face or to his few friends, had somehow appeared from nowhere. One minute, nobody had ever heard of him; the next minute, his name, and the smell of the underworld, was everywhere. Derek’s great achievement, agreed on by friends and foes, was to have leaped successfully onto the political stage without ever having done anything useful. Okay, he had once helped a relative run a nightclub in the north of England, and never mind that it had been voted the second-worst in Europe. (The worst subsequently burned down, accidentally or on purpose, handing the crown to Derek’s relative). Okay, he had also tried to start an airline in either Prague or Moscow (nobody was entirely sure which) but that hadn’t got off the ground, either literally or metaphorically.

Having therefore done nothing of note, he then appeared as if in a puff of black and menacing smoke on the Westminster stage, immediately making enemies of virtually everyone. However, having enemies only seemed to increase his powers because, say what you might about him, he did get things done. In a Whitehall dominated by men in grey suits, and all either from Oxbridge or interbred, the proper way to get things done had always been the old-fashioned way. After all, the British way was the traditional way; decisions were made over Pimm’s at Wimbledon; gin and tonics at Twickenham, and whatever was available at Henley. Decisions were rarely made in Whitehall, where they were supposed to be made. Derek, of course, thought otherwise, facing up to the grey suits in either jeans or tracksuit, with a mission to bring the British Civil Service at least into the 20th century. Perhaps, even for him, the 21st century was too big a task, at least for now. This wrecking-ball of a man, with his glittering career in night-time entertainment and air travel, therefore brought him into endless conflict with the mandarins who were supposed to be running the country.

Derek’s meteoric rise through the government’s advisory ranks was extraordinary; so too the growth of his reputation as someone who could end a political career with the merest nod of his head. He was, it was agreed, either Machiavellian or Svengalian – generally the former, because few civil servants or politicians had ever read a 19th century novel, and therefore didn’t quite know who Svengali was.

Kevin Kock was, of course, all too aware of the PM’s advisor, having been in numerous meetings with him and having seen how even the most confident minister could be brought to his or, sometimes, her knees with a cursory glance. It was therefore with alarm bordering on panic that he received the news from his Permanent Secretary that Derek Goings was on his way round for a ‘bit of a chin-wag.’

“But I’m busy,” he’d squeaked to Sir Roger.

“No, you’re not. I manage your diary, Minister.”

The Health Secretary could have said that he had a completely separate diary in which he, as Health Secretary, kept his Top Secret meetings; or that he was ill; or could have chosen from any one of the many excuses that he’d used over the years, mostly to cover up his blood and germ phobias. Now, of course, thanks to his Permanent Secretary, his alien life-form phobia because, in his mind, Covid-19 was now sentient and possibly intelligent – like a jellyfish, but with a more deadly sting. He then spent some minutes spraying his office with air freshener and disinfectant, and covering his desk with large piles of files. He even undid the top button of his shirt to demonstrate his dedication to the British people except, of course, Derek Goings.

His arrival was signalled, not by a deferential knock on his office door or a bleep from his internal phone, but by the smell of decay. The Health Secretary closed his eyes for just a moment and took several deep breaths only to find, when he opened his eyes again, that the PM’s advisor was already standing on the other side of his desk.

“Derek, good gracious! How nice to see you!” The Health Secretary automatically stuck out a hand, before realising that Derek Goings still had both hands in the pockets of his jeans. Only the Prime Minister was still shaking everyone’s hand, particularly on hospital visits.

The PM’s advisor sat in the chair opposite and sniffed the air. “Very wise,” he remarked. “As Health Secretary, it’s good to see that you’re setting an example.”

“Am I?”

“You can’t be too careful, Minister, because you never know who might be harbouring infection. Sterilising your office is possibly or probably a good thing.” The advisor’s eyes, hidden behind dark glasses, were black discs. His soft voice carried with it both menace and good hygienic advice.

“Am I to assume that you’re here for a reason?” the Health Secretary asked, hoping to sound business-like and brusque, having rehearsed this opening line as he sprayed the room. “Because I am, as I’m sure you are, rather busy.”

“No, you’re not, Health Secretary. I looked at your diary.”

“Sir Roger had no right….”

“I have every right, Minister.”

Before Kevin could think of a suitably outraged reply, there was a soft knock on the door and Sir Roger himself appeared, carrying a notebook. Without asking, he took the other available seat next to Derek and neatly crossed his legs.

“I am here, Minister, to determine whether this country is prepared.” The PM’s advisor’s voice was barely a whisper. “After all, we are now beginning to see the first Covid-19 fatalities on British soil.”

“I did know that, Derek.”

“We will certainly see more fatalities, Minister, which brings me neatly to the reason why I am here. I merely wish to determine if you have made adequate preparations. Particularly the provision of personal protective equipment.”

This was a question that the Health Secretary, even panic-stricken, had foreseen. “Of course, Derek. We have, for example, a reserve of over one billion items of PPE. One billion, Derek.” The Health Secretary smiled brightly at his nemesis on the other side of the desk, using the advisor’s first name twice in the space of a few seconds, a useful trick that he’d learned on some management course he’d attended. Sir Roger picked imaginary spots of dust from his immaculate trousers and looked out the window.

“Yet, I am led to believe, Minister, that this figure includes things like cleaning products, waste bags, detergents and paper towels,” said the advisor, still in his stage whisper.

“Does it?” replied Kevin. “I mean, yes it does. At least, possibly it does. But a billion is still rather a lot of stuff, I’m sure you would agree.”

“Not necessarily,” said the advisor. “For example, your inventory lists 547 million protective gloves.”

“So?”

“So, a more accurate figure would be 273.5 million pairs of gloves, or am I missing something?”

“Pairs of gloves?”

“Your inventory lists each glove separately.”

The Health Secretary looked wildly at his Permanent Secretary, who merely shrugged. “I did send you the inventory last year, Minister. Which you approved,” he added with a smile.

“Well, you know what they say, Derek.”

“No, I don’t know what they say, Minister.”

“That there are only three kinds of people in the world. Those who can count, and those who can’t.” The Health Secretary gave a small laugh, which wasn’t echoed from across the table.

“I hardly think that this is a time for levity, Minister.” The smell of sulphur had risen several notches, and a green vapour seemed to be filling the room. “I also just hope the media don’t get hold of the story. I dread to think what Panorama would make of it.”

“I’m sure they won’t, Derek.”

“However, if things deteriorate, PPE will get eaten up pretty quickly,” said the advisor, whose eyes had never left Kevin’s face, or maybe they had because, behind dark glasses, he could be looking anywhere.

“We are, of course, setting up new procurement channels to ensure against any and every contingency, aren’t we, Sir Roger?”

His Permanent Secretary shifted uncomfortably in his seat. “Of course, Minister,” and then actually wrote something in his notebook.

“Very well, then I will assume that you have the needs of the health service and its gallant staff fully covered. But what about the care sector?”

“What about the care sector?” asked the Health Secretary.

The advisor was quiet for a moment. “Well, you are the person responsible for it.”

“What!” Kevin almost pushed himself upright.

“You are, as I assume you must realise, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care.”

“What!”

Sir Roger cleared his throat. “I did send you a memo, Minister.”

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About the Author

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I was born in Paisley, central Scotland, which wasn’t my fault. That week, Eddie Calvert with Norrie Paramor and his Orchestra were Top of the Pops, with Oh, Mein Papa, as sung by a young German woman remembering her once-famous clown father. That gives a clue to my age, not my musical taste.

I was brought up in the west of Scotland and graduated from the University of Edinburgh. I still have the scroll, but it’s in Latin, so it could say anything.

I then worked briefly as a street actor, baby photographer, puppeteer and restaurant dogsbody before becoming a journalist. I started in Glasgow and ended up in London, covering news, features and politics. I interviewed motorbike ace Barry Sheene, Noel Edmonds threatened me with legal action and, because of a bureaucratic muddle, I was ordered out of Greece.

I then took a year to travel round the world, visiting 19 countries. Highlights included being threatened by a man with a gun in Dubai, being given an armed bodyguard by the PLO in Beirut (not the same person with a gun), and visiting Robert Louis Stevenson’s grave in Samoa. What I did for the rest of the year I can’t quite remember

Surprisingly, I was approached by a government agency to work in intelligence, which just shows how shoddy government recruitment was back then. However, it turned out to be very boring and I don’t like vodka martini.

Craving excitement and adventure, I ended up as a PR consultant, which is the fate of all journalists who haven’t won a Pulitzer Prize, and I’ve still to listen to Oh, Mein Papa.

I am married with two grown-up children and live in central Scotland. And that’s about it.

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