Flaming Crimes BlogFest

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Prompt: What is something ridiculous you would save if there was a fire?

If there was a fire, I’d save the toilet tissue and my toothbrush. I’m a pretty practical person, and I know I would need these items in case I had to spend the night at a friend’s house or in a hotel room. Have you ever stayed at someone’s place and they have like one sheet left on the toilet tissue roll? It’s embarrassing when they don’t have anymore stored in the bathroom. Like what could you do??? Plus, I’d need my toothbrush. With the drama of the fire, no one would probably be thinking of going to the store to pick up items. I wouldn’t want stinky, morning breath the next day.

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Series: Disaster Crimes #4

Page Count: 304

Digital Price: $4.99

Print Price: $16.99

Rating: Spicy (PG13)

BUY LINKS:

Amazon/Barnes and Noble

The Wild Rose Press

BLURB: Beth and Donovan are now happily married, and what Beth wants more than anything is a baby. Her dream of starting a family is put on hold as fires burn dangerously close and Donovan becomes a victim of sabotage.

Donovan escapes what could’ve been a deadly wreck. Their past enemies have been eliminated, so who is cutting brake lines and leaving bloody messages? He vows to find out for the sake of the woman he loves and the life they’re trying to build.

Amidst a criminal mind game, a fire ignites next to their home. They battle the flames and fight to keep their house safe from the blaze pressing in on all sides, but neither of them expects to confront a psychotic adversary in the middle of the inferno.

Their lives may just go up in flames…

Chrys Fey - Cropped

About the author: Chrys Fey is the author of the Disaster Crimes Series, a unique concept blending romance, crimes, and disasters. She’s partnered with the Insecure Writer’s Support Group and runs their Goodreads book club. She’s also an editor for Dancing Lemur Press.

Author Links:

Website/Blog/Goodreads

Facebook/Twitter/Amazon

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Keep smiling,

Yawatta Hosby

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Interview With Jewel E. Leonard, Author of Alight

Please welcome my special guest Jewel E. Leonard. She’s a paranormal romance and Steampunk author. I had the pleasure of sharing my Six Plus One script on her blog, so I thought it’d be fun to return the favor by giving her an interview on the release date of her new book! Please enjoy her insightful interview.

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1.  Do you have advice for other writers trying to get published?

I think patience is a virtue that is especially important in this industry. If you’re aiming to get published traditionally, it could take a very long time and an awful lot of rejections before you get there (but you probably already know that).

On the other hand, if your goal is to be published independently, patience will serve you well to put out the best product you can. Indie books certainly have a reputation for being “thrown onto Amazon.” Patience with the process (a load of editing and proof reading prior to hitting “publish”) should certainly help an indie author’s book from having that “thrown onto Amazon” appearance. If enough indie authors did that, someday maybe that stigma will be nothing more than an ugly memory.

2.  Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

As far as the The Witches’ Rede goes: I really hope they enjoy the ride. The benefit to approaching a series like this one the way I did (here’s again where patience plays a significant role) is that I’ve planned the big things out thoroughly, beginning to end. I encourage readers who finish the series to start over with Alight. There are lots of what seem like throw-away remarks that are anything but–and you won’t know it until you get to the end.

As an aside, to those who enjoyed reading about Rhea and Surfer Boy: I haven’t forgotten about them, either.

3.  What are your thoughts on the fact that both trade and self-published authors have to promote their work?

The expectation publishers now have of authors to self-promote was actually one of many things that made traditional publication unappealing to me. I fairly well hate marketing. I’ve always been a bad salesperson, and not having to promote myself would have been a massive perk to finding an agent/publisher. But since trads are expected to do that, too, I kind of felt like…I’m having to put in the same amount of work as an indie author and split my profits? No, thank you!

4.  What genre do you write for? Your favorite aspect? Your least favorite aspect?

My work is polygenreistic (my word processor informs me this isn’t a word–well, it should be!). When I have to pigeonhole it, I call it either paranormal romance or Steampunk.

I love the combination and juxtaposition of science and magic in my world. As far as in other authors’ books, I think it’s the vampires/magic/werewolves fighting for the right to exist in worlds that often don’t accept them that appeals to me. As someone who feels like an outsider in everything she does, it’s a concept I can really relate to.

My least favorite aspect? I hate that the paranormal romance genre was declared dead. Its fans beg to differ!

5.  What are your current/next projects?

Alas, I’m going to be working on The Witches’ Rede books for many years to come. The 2nd and 3rd novels are currently in varying states of doneness.

It’s a bit risky, I know, that until 2021, my new books will rely on readers having read–and enjoyed–my backlist.

I need to figure out how to write stand-alone novels! LOL!

6.  Do you prefer to work alone or with critique partners/beta-readers?

I actually write with a partner. My husband contributes so much to my books that his name really should be beside mine on my book covers. It is his decision that it’s not. He can deny it all he wants, but these projects to now are practically 50/50.

I have a wonderful alpha reader, whose opinions and feedback are invaluable to me.

I have a very small group of betas which I hope as time goes on, I can expand. I have yet to put out a public call for betas–or for ARC reviewers. This will likely change as well. I am the type of person who gets easily overwhelmed so I need to start small or I’ll succumb to the temptation to quit.

7.  How do you find time to write?

I don’t, really. I steal some time here and there–when my daughter naps, or between the time my work shift ends and my son comes home from school. I forego sleep as much as I can. Often when there’s quiet play (having Bob Ross on TV really helps mellow my son out!), I’m able to settle down and get some writing done with the family nearby.

Now that I have a new workspace in a bigger home, as our new schedules “gel,” I hope I might find more time for solitude to get those words out. They’re pretty seriously backlogged currently, and I have (self-imposed) deadlines to meet.

8.  Did you always want to become an author?

Oh yes, without a doubt. The desire to write and to have my words read by other people has always been inherent in me.

9.  Is there any writing rituals you complete before creating your manuscripts/drafts?

As a pantser, no, not really. I grab my notebook and pen, and just get to work when the muse bites. Planning (and lots of editing and revising) comes later. I admit it’s a bit backward, but it works best for me.

10.  Do you write the beginning/opening first or do you tend to write out of order (with whatever scenes interest you the most)?

My manuscripts are a mess. I generally write the scenes that are most clear in my head, or whatever I’m inspired to write at the time. One of my hubby’s greatest talents is for rearranging scenes into an order that makes sense.

For the sake of streamlining a process that most established writers wouldn’t recommend to their worst enemy, I’m making a valiant effort (going forward) to write chronologically. I got maybe 20,000 words into book 3 of The Witches’ Rede series before I had to jump ahead if I wanted to keep writing. So now I have to go back and start filling in the gaps.

11.  Have you ever hated something you wrote?

Hate is such a strong word.

And yet, it isn’t strong enough to describe how I felt about Possession, the book that follows Alight in my series. I wrote it during NaNoWriMo (and won, for what it’s worth) and when I attempted reading through it, I came dangerously close to throwing out everything related to it–the hand-written pages as well as Shift+Del’ing the computer copy.

My husband promised there was good in it, and that he would find it. He kept his promise–and then some!

It took a lot of editing to make it readable…and the next thing I know (many, many, many months and tears later), Possession is now my favorite of the books I’ve worked on in the series.

12.  Which is the easiest for you–novel, novella, or short story? Why?

Novel. Er, novel series. My worlds grow, my characters get complex–I really don’t know how to do novellas well or stand-alone books…at all.

13.  While you were writing, did you ever feel like you were one of your characters?

I’ve had dreams from my characters’ POV.

Lots of my characters share several of my traits…and one shares many of my life experiences. I guess in writing some of those scenes, I very much did feel like I was in her shoes (again).

In working out new ideas, my husband and I often “role play,” and create some of the more fun exchanges between my two main characters.

14. How did you come up with the title?

Alight has had 4 different titles over the years (excluding the inspired “Untitled” title, and the equally uninspiring “Naming Book 1 the Same as the Series Because This Wasn’t Actually Meant to be a Series” title).

Alight was another of my husband’s brilliant ideas, and I’m so grateful for it. It’s a perfect fit for this book and a great start to the series.

15.  What inspired you to write your latest book? What is the book about?

Well, my latest WIP is the 3rd book in the The Witches’ Rede series, and it follows the adventures of my main characters, Rafaele and Maeve, as they hunt down a prized possession that was feloniously taken from Maeve during the course of the 2nd book.

They encounter numerous road blocks along the way (including a literal one) and wind up in a fight for their lives against a charismatic Native American demigod on a fiendish mission from a higher authority.

16.  Any blogs, websites, social media you’d like to share?

Yes, absolutely!

You can find me on…

Thanks again, Jewel, for being a guest on my blog. It’s awesomesauce that you’re an old school writer like me and still write in notebooks! I thought I was the only one LOL. Good luck with your new release 🙂

Keep smiling,

Yawatta Hosby

Book Spotlight: Not Broken by Meka James #amreadingromance

Happy Thanksgiving! Please welcome my special guest, Meka James, author of Not Broken. It’s the release day for her new novel, and I’m very happy for her. Please check out her book spotlight.

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They say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger…

Calida Jokobi doesn’t see it that way. Surviving an abusive relationship with a sadistic, manipulative man changed her. She has spent the last two years carefully constructing her new persona with two goals in mind: to keep the remaining pieces of her heart safe and her deepest secrets buried. One man puts it all at risk.

Malcolm has been a part of Calida’s life for as long as she can remember. A friend. Her first teenage crush. Now he’s asking for something she swore she’d never give again: her heart.

Calida must decide if she should risk the fragile facade she’s created and give Malcolm the chance he’s asking for.

They say love can heal all wounds…

Malcolm Frankel wants to prove to Calida it’s true. She survived a hell most people couldn’t fathom. He’s been by her side fulfilling whatever role she needs him to play. All except the one he wants most. It took nearly losing her to make Malcolm realize he couldn’t keep denying his feelings.

He knows no one goes through an ordeal like that and comes out unscathed, but the closer they get, the more he learns just how deep Calida’s wounds go.

She’s the only woman he’s ever loved, and Malcolm is ready to put his own heart at risk for a chance at mending hers.

AVAILABLE NOW: 

Author Bio of Meka James:

I’m a southern gal. A born and raised Georgia Peach as it were. Most people find it somewhat amazing that I’m actually from Georgia. Not sure why, a lot of people live in the state they were born. I’m happily married to a man that is probably my polar opposite, but we work. We work well enough to have four kids. One girl, whom I affectionately call The Girl and 3 boys. The Boy a.k.a. Man Child these days (they got their names before the younger two came along), Curly Top, a.k.a. Thing 1, and Munchkin a.k.a. Thing 2. No they are not twins, but close in age.

We are a family of animal lovers. We have three dogs. Pixie, a Weimaraner, Loki, a Weim/Pit mix, and Thor a German Shepherd. All from rescues because that’s how we roll. We also have a pet turtle named Leo, and The Hubs and kids have a snake (I take no ownership of that).

Social Media of Meka James:

Hey, Meka, thanks for being a guest on my blog today. Good luck with sales, and I can’t wait to read your wonderful romance novel. I really loved Fiendish, and I’m sure I’ll love Not Broken too.

Keep smiling,

Yawatta Hosby

Interview With Stephen Kozeniewski and Stevie Kopas, Authors of Slashvivor!

Please welcome my special guests Stephen Kozeniewski and Stevie Kopas, both talented horror authors. They co-wrote their new release Slashvivor!–serial killers meet the popular TV show “Survivor.” I hope you enjoy their insightful interview.

1. Do you have advice for other writers trying to get published?

Stephen:  First, remember that success is what you make of it. (Success could just be holding a book in your hands or success could be selling a million copies and a book deal. It’ll probably be somewhere in between.)

Second, be kind. Be humble. Be helpful. Remember you’re joining a community of authors, not hiding in your hole like a hermit. And we can always sniff out the difference between those who want to be a part of the community and those who are just takers.

Third, make friends with people like Stevie Kopas. In fact, just make friends with her. Friend her on Facebook, follow her on Twitter, whatever. She’s the tops.

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Stevie:  I’d have to agree wholeheartedly with Stephen, be friends with me. Lol, but in all seriousness, remember to be humble, helpful, and most of all thankful. Unless they’ve got a million-dollar making hit on their hands, most authors have full time jobs or if they are full time writers they’ve got multiple projects at a time that they work on. So, when someone takes the time to help you out, give you guidance or advice, remember that they could have used that time in other ways, but they chose to help you out. Authors are great that way though, especially in the horror community. I’ve met a tone of wonderful people.

I’d also say to remember never to be discouraged. It’s easy to get stuck in your own head and bring yourself down about something trivial, but remember, nothing great was ever easy, so just keep pushing yourself. It’s important to also have a fellow author or anybody in the business really, to talk to when things get tough. You don’t have to go it alone, so don’t. And if you ever find yourself being discouraged by others, remove them from the scenario, you want to surround yourself with people who are excited by, as well as supportive of, any success you encounter, be it great or small.

2. Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

Stephen:  Thank you. You are my lifeblood. You are that thing that keeps me going when I’m ready to throw in the towel. There’s precious little that can make me smile the way hearing someone liked my book does.

Stevie:  Thank you to every single one of you. When I first started writing, I did it for myself, but now I have someone else to write for. No matter the size of that audience, you guys are what matter, so thank you for all your feedback, positive and negative. You keep me writing. Don’t ever forget to tell an author what you think of their work, because it really lets us know that we made an impact on a reader.

3. What are your thoughts on the fact that both trade and self-published authors have to promote their own work?

Stephen:  Well, it’s part of the deal now, not just for authors but increasingly for everyone. We’re all becoming little one-person operations, promoting essentially ourselves. Some people are nothing more than internet celebrities. They’re just interesting online. Others are trying to sell a product. That’s what authors are, really, is small business owners, and the product we’re selling is our art. So, like with any business, advertising and getting your product into people’s homes is key.

Stevie:  I would say it’s fair. In any business, you have employees where part of their job is community outreach and “going local” in order to grow the business. Whether it’s self-promotion for a new book or selling your pitch for a new MS, authors need to essentially get back to the basics of a small business model that can be applied to many aspects of a day job or sitting at your desk plugging your book. Hard work gets results! I’d say if you’re an author big or small, or any type of artist for that matter, and you don’t like working hard, then you don’t know what you’re in for.

4. What genre do you write for? Your favorite aspect? Your least favorite aspect?

Stephen:  I’m a proud horror author. I love the community. The people here really are amazing. As far as least favorite aspect, there’s more than a little drama I could do without. Neckbeards and windbags and trolls, oh my!

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Stevie:  I, too, am a proud horror author. My favorite aspect would definitely be that nobody judges anybody else’s ideas or projects. Horror is such a wonderful, expressive genre with a great community. As far as the least favorite aspect goes, you get some people from time to time who are “self-proclaimed experts” on what a woman should be writing and there are tons of trolls, just like Stephen said.

5. What are your current/next projects?

Stephen:  Right now I’m very…gradually…working on author edits for the sequel to my sophomore novel THE GHOUL ARCHIPELAGO. As far as new manuscripts, I’m trying to put together a reverse haunted house story and a piece from the perspective of a secret policeman in a near future totalitarianish America.

Stevie:  I’ve got a re-release coming soon of my fourth book Never Say Die from Permuted Press. As far as works in progress, I’m working on a sequel of sorts to a story from Never Say Die tentatively titled Trevor: King of Zombies. There will also be a second book in that series as well. It’s been super fun to write and I’ve got a team of readers who are loving the early stages so far.

6. How do you find time to write?

Stephen:  Sigh…lately I haven’t been. The ideal situation though is to have an idea that you’re so passionate about that you want to work on it. Then you’ll find yourself sneaking away from the TV and Facebook to slip in some writing time.

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Stevie:  It’s like dealing with a child. I have to tell myself “you’ll get to do this fun thing if you write this many words” or something along those lines. I’m easily distracted and so I have to reason with myself on what I’m focusing on.

7. Did you always want to become an author?

Stephen:  This is going to sound coy, but I really always have been an author. I remember writing when I was very young, and when I wasn’t writing I was drawing concept art. There are novels I’m still working on that I started when I was twelve.

Stevie:  I think in a way, I can piggyback off what Stephen said here in that I’ve really always been writing. I would write plays when I was a kid, short stories, silly “novels.” I was always into writing lyrics and poetry and combining that with music to create beautiful expressions of myself. And it all led me here, so I’d say I always had it in me.

8. Is there any writing rituals you complete before creating your manuscripts/drafts?

Stephen:  I always burn a small effigy of Stevie Kopas.

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Stevie:  I retreat to my yard at midnight and repel Stephen’s darkness with the blood of many chickens.

9. Do you write the beginning/opening first or do you tend to write out of order (with whatever scenes interest you the most)?

Stephen:  Out of order, definitely. My method is to write what are sometimes called “cookie scenes”–you know, the actual gunfight or showdown or whatever that you’re actually excited about–first, then build up whatever connecting tissue I need to. It works pretty well to keep me motivated and it has the added benefit that when I realize all the parts I need to have in play for a particular scene I can go back and layer them into the narrative. Need a hammer in the end? Maybe there was a trip to the hardware store in the beginning, then.

Stevie:  I don’t think I’ve ever written anything in the same order or fashion as a previous work. Sometimes I start at the beginning, other times at the end. I used to write out whole plotlines just so I could challenge myself and see how much I could stray from the original story I intended to write. Like I said earlier, I’m easily distracted, so even in my writing I’ll get an idea at random and then kind of run with it and then bam, I have a completely new plot to incorporate into the main story.

10. While you were writing, did you ever feel like you were one of your characters?

Stephen:  Actually (and I hope this isn’t a huge spoiler) when I was writing the flashback scene where Marisol Martinez–our main villain–meets her first serial killer, I was definitely living in her headspace. So much so that while we were usually able to pick up each other’s threads (even mid-scene) Stevie told me she wasn’t sure where I was going and let me do the whole flashback. What it says about me that I was so in tune with a megalomaniac is probably better left unexplored.

Stevie:  With all of the characters in Slashvivor!, even the good guys, being absolute homicidal maniacs, I don’t know that that’s such a good thing? But, hey, who’s judging? I’d say that Dawn’s resilience in the face of adversity is such a big part of who I am. I also think Dr. Feelbad’s odd way of caring about others or Raze’s playfulness are parts of myself as well. No spoilers, but the shotgun surgery is totally something I’d figure out a way to do in a situation like that to help someone out.

11. How did you come up with the title?

Stephen:  I just tried to come up with something cheesy like you would see on television that would sort of add a level of satire to the gore. I was stuck between two titles: SLASHERPALOOZA and SLASHVIVOR! I forget why I went with the latter, except I think maybe the “palooza” thing had been played out, or else that SLASHVIVOR! just immediately made it clear what the book was about, with “Survivor” being the first and most famous reality TV show.

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Stevie:  I always like to bounce my ideas off others to gauge their responses and see if the entertainment factor is there. I sent Stephen my plot summary and we realized that our ideas were so similar that surely he must have hacked my computer. But anyway, I think the idea had come to me after a combination of experiences. I was in like a three hour haunted house line where 80s music was blasting and the concept of the house was different countries pitting their most dangerous criminals against one another in this Mad Max type world. That was really interesting to me. Shortly after that, I was watching a clip of a foreign game show on YouTube that was just totally absurd and I started wondering if one day we’d ever get to a point as a society where killing people for entertainment would be a thing.

13. Any blogs, websites, social media you’d like to share?

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Stephen:  Amazon, Blog, Facebook, Twitter

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Stevie:  Facebook, Twitter, Website, Amazon

Thanks for being a guest. I hope you guys enjoyed the interview. Good luck with sales!

Keep smiling,

Yawatta Hosby

Interview With Tanya R. Taylor, Author of Infestation

In celebration of Women’s Horror Month, please welcome my special guest Tanya R. Taylor, author in mostly the paranormal/supernatural genre. Please enjoy her insightful interview.

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1. Do you have any advice for other writers trying to get published?

I would say make sure to study the craft before publishing because you want to ensure that what you produce for the public is as well written and professionally presented as possible. No book that I’ve ever seen, whether it was Indie published or traditionally published, is error-free, but at least we can strive for ‘near letter perfect’ as a seasoned agent once told me. So, once you’ve written the story you’d love to share and have covered these bases, you’re good to go.

You may find that some people you think would automatically support or encourage you with your creative endeavors actually don’t. They may feel that you’re just wasting your time, but if that happens, don’t be discouraged. Use it as fuel to move forward and accomplish your dream of becoming a published author.

2. Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you! I am so grateful to all my readers — many of whom have also subscribed to my newsletters. Sometimes when I don’t quite feel like writing, I think of all the people who are looking forward to my next release and there’s no way I would let them down. The procrastination disappears and I immerse myself in the new world I have begun creating in my mind.

3. What are your thoughts on the fact that both trade and self-published authors have to promote their own work?

Some people believe that traditionally published authors just sit back and relax while their publishers handle all the marketing. Not true. It’s still that person’s book and although they’re under contract, the publisher expects them to be proactive right along with them when it comes to promoting their own title. Indie authors obviously must market as well in order to see a good number of sales. I know it’s not an easy task for writers who are not good at marketing and would rather just write, but in order for your hard work to pay off financially, you must view it not only as a hobby, but as a business. Every successful business regularly implements promotional strategies. Marketing helps visibility and visibility often leads to further sales.

Choosing not to promote can keep a good book “hidden” for years and even decades to come.

4. What genre do you write for? Your favorite aspect? Your least favorite aspect?

I write mainly paranormal/supernatural, although I write in other genres as well. I love getting into these types of stories and feeling what my characters feel. And I try to present a good theme regardless of how eerie, scary or troubling some events in the story may be. My favorite part is when something really touching comes up and my own emotions are stirred even though the story is purely fictional. There’s nothing about writing these types of books that I don’t like.

5. What are your current/next projects?

I’ve just released a drama titled ’10 Minutes before Sleeping’. There’s nothing paranormal about that, but it’s a powerful story nonetheless. Now, I am working on ‘The Haunting of Merci Hospital’ which will be released on April 30, 2017. Then onto the fourth book of the Cornelius Saga – ‘We See No Evil’. I’m also wrapping up a ghostwriting project and will have to get back to adding more books to the Real Illusions series since some readers have been asking me to not end the series with part 4 which was my intention. After receiving another request recently on my Facebook page to add more books to the series, I know I must include that project in my schedule for this year as well. I aim to please my readers.

6. How do you find time to write?

Sometimes it’s really tough to find time to write with so much going on from day to day. But I treat my writing as a priority by scheduling time into my day whether it be early in the morning, late at night or both, for working on my projects.

7. Did you always want to become an author?

Always. I was writing stories from very young.

8. Is there any writing rituals you complete before creating your manuscripts/drafts?

I take time to envision the plot, then I start an outline. I try to follow that outline as much as possible, but oftentimes, my stories take on a life of their own and I go with the flow. However, the main parts of the plot I always manage to include.

9. Do you write the beginning/opening first or do you tend to write out of order (with whatever scenes interest you the most)?

I always write the beginning first.

10. While you were writing, did you ever feel like you were one of your characters?

Oh, yes. Some of my characters have some of the same characteristics as I do.

11. How did you come up with the title?

It usually just falls into my head. I don’t have to brainstorm.

12. What inspired you to write your latest book? What is the book about?

‘1o Minutes before Sleeping’ was on my mind for about two years. I had learned about a mother who was having a tough time and as I thought of her, I got ideas about a fictional story involving a young woman who’s been pretty much rejected and abandoned by those who should have loved and cared for her. As those ideas came, the entire plot unfolded in my mind.

The story takes the reader on a journey of a lady named Eva — from her infancy to adulthood — and the things she suffered along the way. There was a time when she found happiness for the first time in her life, then tragedy occurred. Eventually, it seems as if things are beginning to improve, then a series of events take place that culminate to something completely unexpected. It changes Eva’s life forever. This story is quite touching and wasn’t so easy to write due to some of the scenes.

13. Any blogs, websites, social media you’d like to share?

Thanks again, Tanya!

Keep smiling,

Yawatta Hosby

Excerpt: Hell Hath No Fury by Tamela Miles

In celebration of Women’s Horror Month, please welcome my special guest Tamela Miles, author of the Hell On Heels series. Today, she’s sharing her excerpt from Hell Hath No Fury, book 3 of the series, and sharing her thoughts of how femme fatales make horror awesome. Please enjoy.

Horror and Femme Fatale

by Tamela Miles

What is a good horror story without a femme fatale? It makes for dry writing for me if I don’t have a murderous villain with evil in her heart, wearing a pair of 5 inch heels. Cascadia, one of my darker villains, is just a baddie to the core and I had a blast creating her scenes as she torments my beloved Elle, the good hearted but tough demon hunter from my Hell On Heels series. Anyone expecting Cascadia to change her wicked ways is in for major disappointment. She’s bad to the bone, as are classic femme fatales, and that’s what makes her so much fun. Enjoy the read!

Excerpt from “Hell Hath No Fury” (#3 in the Hell On Heels series) :

~Dusk had come to Los Angeles, and Cascadia groaned in agitation, her overwhelming need to feed keeping her from fully concentrating on anything else. She was holed up in one of Pyro’s larger homes, high
above Sunset Boulevard in the Hollywood Hills. No one but he and the human evening nanny he had hired knew she was there, guarding the hunter’s child. She considered draining the nanny once she arrived and
leaving the body floating in the massive pool just outside the patio door to show Pyro that she had her limits.

She glanced dispassionately at the baby, sleeping in the carrier on the plush sofa next to her. She noted the child was still breathing before returning her attention to her cell phone. A dead baby would spoil Pyro’s plan, and she solely would be on the receiving end of his wrath. She tapped the screen, relieved that the call didn’t go to voicemail. He answered immediately. She put a touch of venom in her tone. “I’m hungry and tired of babysitting duty. It cried for an hour straight, and I was tempted to suck the life out of it. Where’s the night nanny?”

“That would be a costly mistake, my sweet. I need the child alive for my plan to fall into place. Once the nanny arrives, you’re free to satiate your hunger. Not a moment before.” He ended the call abruptly, and she
fought the raging urge to break of one his priceless art pieces. She would quietly bide her time in a subservient position, waiting for Pyro to make a mistake.~

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Buy Links:

Hell Hath No Fury (Hell on Heels Series)

Heart of a Hunter (Hell on Heels Series)

Dark Deliverance

Author Bio:

Tamela Miles is a California State University San Bernardino graduate student with a Bachelor of Science degree in Child Development and a former flight attendant. She grew up in Altadena, California in that tumultuous time known as the 1980s. She now resides with her family in the Inland Empire, CA. She’s a horror/paranormal romance writer mainly because it feels so good having her characters do bad things and, later, pondering what makes them so bad and why they can never seem to change their wicked ways.

She enjoys emails from people who like her work. In fact, she loves emails. She can be contacted at tamelamiles@yahoo.com or her Facebook page, Tamela Miles Books. She also welcomes reader reviews and enjoys the feedback from people who love to read as much as she does.

 

The Lure by Amy Cross

Celebrating Women’s Horror Month, please welcome my special guest Amy Cross, author of Last Wrong Turn. That horror book was the first one I tried of her’s, and I’ve been hooked ever since. Having around 15 of Amy Cross’ s ebooks in my kindle, I’m pretty sure my TBR list will continue to grow, especially with her ghost stories. Please enjoy her 5,000 word horror short.

The Lure

By Amy Cross

Copyright 2017

“Don’t be a smart-ass,” I mutter, still holding the fishing lure up for Bobby to see. “It uses a combination of vibration, movement and color. That’s what attracts the fish, and then the hooks do the rest.”

“Seriously?” He wrinkles his nose, as if he disapproves. “Fish are that stupid?”

Figuring that I’ve tried my best to explain, and that he’s not going to take this seriously, I finish dressing the lure before turning and casting it over the side of the boat. I was going to explain the full history of lures, and the importance of the various elements, and then I was going to tell him all about how I make my own lures with my own little twist, but somehow I think he’s not too interested. We’ve been bobbing about out here on Lake Cookarummie for almost an hour now, and it’s taken this long for the actual fishing part to start. I swear, inviting Bobby was a mistake, but I guess Sheila’s glad to have him out of the house for a while. I owe it to her to make an effort. I have to try, and besides, it’s just one weekend.

“So now we wait,” I explain, leaning back and waiting for his inevitable sarcastic comment. For a moment I watch the glistening water, as mid-afternoon sunlight sparkles all around us, and then I turn to see that Bobby’s more interested in something deep in his satchel. “What’ve you got there?”

“Nothing,” he mutters.

I open my mouth to ask again, but I catch myself just in time. Bobby’s the kind of kid who doesn’t really respond to direct questions, and I certainly don’t fancy another round of his nonsense. Honestly, if he wasn’t my sister’s boy, I’d never even give him the time of day. Still, I can’t deny that a flicker of suspicion is rippling through my thoughts as he continues to root around in that satchel, but I guess I should be more trusting.

“So what’ve you been up to lately?” I ask, trying to sound casual, trying not to make it obvious that this is a kind of intervention. “Anything fun or -”

“Won’t you scare the fish away?”

“I’m sorry?”

“Talking all the time. Won’t your voice scare the fish away?”

I can’t help smiling. “The lure’ll take care of that. They won’t be able to resist.”

“Huh. Still, shouldn’t you be focusing on fishing?”

“Well, that’s the beauty of a day on the lake,” I explain. “There’s a lot of waiting around, and a lot of time for nattering. It’s a way for two men to get to know each other a little better.”

“Sounds boring. And gay.”

“You just have to learn to appreciate it. I guess it’s a change of pace for a guy like you, huh? You’re used to the fast lane of city life, huh? Let me guess, you’d rather be spending your weekend cruising from amusement arcade to amusement arcade, wouldn’t you? Maybe stopping off for a milkshake and chat with a few pretty girls? You might be surprised to learn that I was considered pretty cool when I was your age. I was known as Big Ben, on account of how I had big, broad shoulders.”

He chuckles, which I guess is a response of sorts. He still seems totally preoccupied by whatever’s at the bottom of that damn satchel, and after a moment I realize that he’s mumbling under his breath, as if he’s counting something.

I lean a little closer, but he suddenly turns to me, startled. At the same time, he closes the satchel tight.

“Just wondering,” I tell him, leaning back and taking a look at my rod. Frankly, I’d give my eyeteeth for a bite right about now, just so I could have something else to talk about. A catch always brings some excitement, and Bobby’d be sure to get the fishing bug. “I guess I just wanted to bring you out here and show you a little of what I do with my days now I’m retired.”

“Yay,” he deadpans.

“There might be a big old perch down there right now,” I continue, “swimming closer and closer to that lure, getting about ready to go too close. They get mesmerized when they see it in the water, you know. They can’t help themselves. And then it’ll be all over for the poor chap, and there’ll be nothing left for us to do except haul him up into the boat. You won’t think the lure’s so dumb then, will you?”

“I don’t really give a -”

He sighs.

“Sorry, Uncle Ben,” he continues, “but the whole thing just seems stupid to me. If fish are that brain-dead, I don’t know why you’d want to eat them anyway. How can there be any pride in catching something that’s so gullible?”

“The lure just appeals to their senses,” I point out. “It’s designed that way.”

“Yeah, but you’d think, like, nature or evolution or something would’ve made them smarter by now. If they’re so easy to catch, why haven’t they, like, died out already?” He looks back into his satchel for a moment, and then he glances out toward the lake. “Stupid fish,” he mutters finally. “The only fish you catch are the dumb ones, Uncle Ben. All the other fish are just watching them and thinking how stupid they are. Dumb fish.”

***

“So then you cut it like this,” I explain as I slice the knife through the fish’s gut, “and clean all this stuff out. You want to get it all, okay? If you don’t, there’ll be a real nasty taste when you finally cook the thing, and that’d be a total waste of a good perch. There’s even -”

Before I can finish, I see out the corner of my eye that Bobby has turned away. Glancing at him, I can’t help sighing as I find that he’s rooting around in his satchel, as if somehow the contents are far more important than any wilderness survival tips he might pick up from me. If I’d been that rude to anyone in my family when I was his age, I’d have received a swift clip around the ear. Then again, I guess kids these days aren’t used to proper discipline. He’d probably wail and whine that I’d assaulted him. Better to keep this verbal.

“Hey!” I call out. “Wanna pay attention? This stuff might save your life some day!”

He lets out an amused grunt.

“I mean it!” I continue. “How long do you think you’d last out here in the wild, miles from civilization, if trouble struck?”

“About as long as it took me to call for help on my cellphone.”

“And if you didn’t have access to a cellular telephone?”

“Then I’d deserve to die, for being an idiot.” He glances at me, and then at the fish. “I guess I’d be in good company, then.”

“And if you didn’t have cellular telephone service?”

He slips his telephone from his pocket and holds it up for me to see. It’s one of those fancy ones with a big screen and no buttons.

“I’ve got service,” he points out with a sanctimonious grin. “This is the twenty-first century, Uncle Ben. I checked online before you dragged me up here. My provider’s website specifically confirmed service out here. And that is called thinking ahead. You should try it next time you’re heading out into the wilderness. It might just save your life.”

“When you’re preparing a fish for roasting on the campfire,” I continue, looking back down at the perch, “there are really three things you’ve got to consider. Now, I’m going to go through each of those three things in turn and…”

Before I can finish, I realize I can hear a rustling sound nearby. Turning to Bobby again, I see that he’s once again rooting through his satchel. This time, I don’t think I can hold my tongue.

“Care to share what’s so fascinating in that thing?” I ask.

“Sure. Like you’d get it.”

“Come on, I’m not some old fart. What’ve you got there?”

He shakes his head, while grinning and muttering something under his breath.

“Maybe you’d better let me see,” I continue, stepping around the campfire and heading over to him. “Hand it over.”

“No way.”

“Bobby -”

“It’s my bag!”

“And your mother put me in charge of you for this little trip,” I point out, “so let me see what’s in the bag.”

“Don’t you trust me?”

I open my mouth to reply, but the words catch in my throat.

“You don’t, do you?” he continues. “You think I’m still into all that stuff that got me into trouble.”

“I didn’t say that.”

“But I can see it in your eyes. You’re like Mom. You think I’m still taking drugs and getting high and all that stuff. You don’t believe that someone can change. You don’t believe that I can change. Thanks a lot, man.”

Sighing, I put my hands on my hips.

“People are just worried about you, Bobby,” I explain. “Your mother and I, neither of us have ever tried marijuana or cocaine or any of those other things. Meth. It’s just not something people do in our family. But we’ve read up about it, on account of the trouble you’ve been in. We know that it’s really, really hard to kick the habit.”

“So that’s why you brought me on this weekend camping trip? You thought a few lungfuls of fresh lake air would clear me out and set me back on the straight and narrow?”

“There’s no need to be defensive.”

“Fine, look in the stupid bag!” He tosses the satchel at me, and I feel it bump against my feet as it lands in the dirt. “If you really don’t trust me,” he continues, with anger in his eyes, “and if you really can’t see past your own prejudices, then look in the bag. Go on, show me that you don’t trust me. That’d feel really good, Uncle Ben. Mom goes through my stuff when I’m out. She thinks I don’t know, but I do. I’m eighteen years old, I’m not an idiot. But if you think I am an idiot, and if you think I’m still using, then go ahead and look in the goddamn bag.”

I stare at him, trying to figure out whether or not he’s bluffing, before finally reaching down and picking up the satchel. I dust some dirt from the front, which is really just a cover while I feel the weight of the damn thing. For a moment, I’m sorely tempted to open the top and take a look inside, but finally I realize that I need to get Bobby on my side. Even though I’m worried I might be making a mistake, I step over to him and set the satchel next to him feet. I need him to see that I’m his friend as well as his uncle.

“You’re not gonna look inside?” he asks, staring up at me as if he’s challenging me to change my mind.

“I’m not gonna look inside.”

“Because you trust me?”

“Because I think you’re a good kid,” I reply, before turning and heading back around the campfire, “and because I’ve got a fish to gut. Now, I’m not gonna force you, but I reckon you’d be mighty wise to come over here and learn how to do the gutting. You might surprise yourself and actually like getting your hands dirty, doing things the old-fashioned way. You wanna feel like a real man, don’t you?”

I look down at the fish and try to remember where I left off, and then I take the knife again.

“Okay,” I continue, “now a little -”

I pause. Out of the corner of my eye, I can see that he’s going through his satchel again. I hope I didn’t make a mistake by not looking in there.

“Now a little trick my old man taught me,” I say finally, deciding that I just have to trust the boy, “and which I’m gonna pass on to you right now, Bobby, concerns the way you cut the head off. Okay, so I know there’s a lot of blood, but the head can actually be useful, provided you remove it in the right manner. Right, so here’s the tricky part. Pay attention now.”

***

“The key to a good fire,” I explain as I toss some more sticks onto the flames, “is kindling. You got that, Bobby? You need to start it up right, and then it’ll keep you warm all night. Just like a woman.”

I glance at him, expecting him to laugh.

He doesn’t.

Touch crowd.

“Another trick,” I continue, “and I don’t know if you noticed this earlier, is to dig a little hole under where you’re gonna set the first sticks. That way, you’ve got air coming from under, which helps the fire get going, especially you’re in sub-optimal conditions.”

I wait.

No reply.

“Bobby?”

Suddenly realizing that he hasn’t replied for a while, I wait again for him to at least acknowledge that I’m speaking. It’s almost midnight, and to be honest I’ve spent the past few hours more or less talking to myself. Bobby wolfed down his share of the fish, which was good to see, but since then he’s mostly been over in the shadows at the edge of the clearing, and it seems like he wants to nap. I guess the day might have tired him out, but I can’t help worrying that maybe he’s keeping something from me. Right now, he’s just silhouetted against the night sky.

I guess I’ve gotta trust him.

I wish that wasn’t so hard.

“You okay over there?” I call out, watching his silhouette. “Enjoying the forest air?”

I wait for a reply, but he just stays quiet.

“It’s good for the mind,” I continue. “Clears your thoughts. Have you noticed that? Sometimes it’s the simple things that do you the most good.”

Again I wait, and again he doesn’t respond.

Figuring that he might finally have started to appreciate the great outdoors, I grab the plate of marshmallows and carry them over. When I was Bobby’s age and my father used to take me camping, a plate of marshmallows was just about the most exciting thing in the whole world. I know kids these days are used to more technological treats, but I reckon deep down Bobby might just appreciate something to eat. At least he’s not playing on that goddamn cellphone, which I suppose is already a small victory.

“How about you try some of the best marshmallows the world has to offer?” I ask.

No response.

“Just having a contemplative moment, are you?” I continue, forcing a smile. “Okay, then I just -”

Suddenly I see that his satchel is on the ground, tipped partway over and with several small plastic pouches having slithered out. My heart sinks as soon as I see that each of the pouches contains some kind of white powder.

“Bobby?”

Crouching down, I set the plate aside and then I pick up one of the pouches. I don’t want to believe that he brought some kind of drug out here with him, but at the same time I’m no fool. Turning the pouch around, I can already see that the white powder has small crystals that are catching the light of the campfire. I’ve never seen illegal drugs up-close before, but I let out a long, slow sigh as I realize that my worst fears have been confirmed. I should never have trusted him.

“What is this?” I ask, struggling to contain my anger.

When he doesn’t reply, I reach over and nudge his shoulder.

Letting out a faint, mumbled groan, he turns and looks at me with a big grin and huge, dilated pupils.

“What have you taken?” I continue. “Bobby, I swear to God, you -”

“Chill out, man,” he replies, placing a hand on my arm. “You can take some too if you like, Uncle Ben. It’s really good stuff. It’s the best!”

“What is it?” I shout. “Is it cocaine? Is it heroin? Is it -”

Suddenly he starts laughing, and then he slithers closer to me and grabs my shoulders, as if he wants me to hold him up.

“You don’t have a clue, man,” he continues, and now I can feel his ice-cold breath on the side of my face. “Coke and heroin are so old school. I’m not into that stuff. I scored some of this new powder that everyone’s going crazy about. I mean, I didn’t exactly score it, it just turned up, but who cares about that? The effect’s like LSD but times a thousand.”

“Oh God,” I mutter, realizing that I need to get him to a hospital. “Bobby, how much of this did you -”

“Take some!” he hisses, grabbing a packet from the floor and holding it up for me. “You’ll never regret it!”

“I’m going to call an ambulance!”

“You’ve gotta try some first, Uncle Ben! It’ll open your mind!”

“You goddamn idiot!” I mutter, getting up to go and get my phone, only for Bobby to grab my arm and hold me down. “Bobby, this is serious!” I continue, turning back to him. “You were supposed to be getting clean!”

“But this is the good stuff! This is the stuff that lets you experience the world in a whole new way! Everything’s alive, Uncle Ben! There are cracks in everything and the light’s just streaming through! And that’s where the voice is coming from!”

Sighing, I slip free and head back to my seat, where I quickly pull my phone from my pocket. At least Bobby was right when he said that we had mobile telephone coverage out here, so it doesn’t take long for me to call 911 and tell them what’s wrong. Since we’re a little far off the beaten track, I have to describe exactly how the ambulance can find us, but eventually they tell me that one should be here within two hours, and they add that I should keep my phone on in case they need to call me back. They tell me a few more things I should do, in case Bobby’s reaction to the drug gets worse, and then they tell me to just hang tight. It’s probably not that bad, they add. It’s probably going to be fine.

And then the call ends.

I immediately bring up my sister’s number, figuring I should tell her what’s happening, but then I realize I might be worrying her unnecessarily. Besides, she’d probably scream at me for putting her boy in jeopardy, and I can’t say I’d blame her. Better to wait until we’re at the hospital, maybe, so that at least I can ease her concerns when I speak to her.

“I can relax, knowing he’s with you,” I remember her telling me when we set off early this morning. “You’re a safe pair of hands for the boy. You’re steady, Ben.”

Yeah, and look how that’s worked out.

“An ambulance is on its way,” I tell Bobby as I make my way back around the fire. “Might take ’em a while, but you’ve just gotta hold on, okay? Help’s coming.”

“I don’t need help,” he whispers, leaning against a tree now and staring straight ahead into the darkness.

“I think that’s a matter of opinion,” I mutter, kneeling next to him, “and in my opinion, and the opinion of a lot of people around you, you need a great deal of help. Clearly you haven’t kicked your problem at all.”

“This stuff’s different,” he replies, his voice fading slightly as if he’s on the verge of losing consciousness. “This isn’t like coke or anything else. This stuff takes you somewhere. I can see lights, Uncle Ben. I can feel the universe opening up, and getting ready to reveal its true nature to me. Before, I never took enough, so I could never really go there, but tonight I took three packets and I’m so close. I can hear his voice, he’s…”

His voice trails off for a moment.

“It’s me he wants,” he whispers.

“Hey, stay with me!” I say firmly, nudging his arm. “The lady on the phone said you’ve gotta stay awake!”

“He’s calling to me,” he continues. “I don’t know what he wants, but I have to open my mind and go to him. I can hear all the colors around us, Uncle Ben. Even the ones I can’t see. I can smell the sounds and I can see the light that’s breaking through. There’s something calling to me, something immense, something from the other side of existence. It’s so beautiful there, Uncle Ben. I’m seeing something we can’t see unless we get a little help. He’s calling me, calling me, calling over and over again, calling me. I have to go to him. He’s in the place where it’s so beautiful.”

“Oh, Jesus,” I mutter, taking off my cap and wiping my brow. “That ambulance had better get here soon.”

“I’m almost there,” he whispers, leaning his head back against the tree. “Such pretty colors. Some of them are completely new. I can feel myself getting closer, Uncle Ben.”

“Keep your eyes open!”

“There’s a man made of pure light and he’s telling me to keep going. I can’t stop, Uncle Ben! I have to see what he wants! I have to go to him! Attaroth, I’m almost there, I’m -”

Suddenly he lurches forward, and when I grab his arms I find that he’s trembling violently.

“Bobby, just calm down!” I say firmly. “Help’s coming, but you have to stay calm!”

“I’m going to him!” he gasps, as sweat runs down his face. “I can’t help myself! I couldn’t turn back, even if I wanted! I’m almost there! I’m going to become one with the light, and then I’ll know the answer to every question there’s ever been! I’m going to get everything I ever wanted! I’m going to be with him and…”

His voice trails off.

“He smells hungry,” he adds, with a hint of fear in his voice. “Uncle Ben, I think he’s angry about something. He’s not my -”

Suddenly he lets out a gasp, and a kind of white foam starts dribbling from his lips.

“Bobby!” I yell, lowering his shaking body down onto the ground, as more foam runs down his chin, mixed this time with a trail of blood. “Bobby, hold on!” I shout. “Bobby, help’s coming! Bobby, you just have to hold on!”

And then he screams so loud, I have to put my hands over my ears.

***

“Ben Truman?”

Suddenly hearing a voice saying my name, I look up and find that a man in a dark suit is standing right in front of me. I immediately glance along the hospital corridor, worried that something happened while I was lost in my thoughts.

“It’s okay,” the man continues, reaching out a hand for me to shake. “My name is Joseph Mayfield, I’m a researcher from a government agency that deals with new and emerging psycho-active substances. Drugs, in other words. Threats in general, really. National security, that sort of thing. I need to talk to you for a few minutes about your nephew Ben.”

“Is there any news?” I ask.

“I’m afraid not. He’s being monitored around the clock. His mother’s with him. Do you mind if I join you?”

I nod, and he takes a seat next to me.

“Ben took a substance that’s known on the street as Polly 66/99,” he explains. “We don’t know where it got that name. We also don’t know exactly where it first originated. Since it was first brought to our attention about three months ago, we’ve determined that it’s synthetic in nature. That means it was created in a lab somewhere. It’s an extremely powerful substance, it causes users to experience some very strong and powerful sensations.”

“Ben said he could see different colors,” I tell him.

“That’s something other victims of Polly 66/99 have said too.”

“How many others have there been?”

“Like Ben? A few. Nine so far, including him.”

“And they recover, right?” I continue. “Please, tell me I got him here in time!”

I wait for a reply, but I can already tell that he’s worried.

“I’ll never be able to forgive myself if he’s hurt,” I add. “I should’ve looked in that satchel. I should never have trusted him!”

“Mr. Truman, the other teenagers who’ve overdosed on Polly 66/99…”

His voice trails off for a moment.

“What’s wrong with them?” I ask. “What happens?”

“Physically, they’re fine,” he continues. “Even with deep scans of their brains, we’ve detected no damage whatsoever.”

“That’s good, right? That means they’ll recover!”

“It should,” he adds, “but in this case, they don’t wake up.”

I feel a shiver pass through my chest. “What exactly do you mean by that?”

“The mechanism is not understood at this point in time,” he continues, “but it’s almost as if… I know this is going to sound crazy, but it’s as if their minds are somehow lured out of their bodies. Just drawn out, and then they vanish, leaving just the bodies behind.”

“What do you mean, lured out?” I ask, trying not to panic. “You mean they’ve got that locked-in syndrome? They can’t communicate?”

“There’s no brain activity at all. Their minds are just… gone.”

“Gone where?”

“That’s something we haven’t been able to determine yet.”

“But it doesn’t make sense,” I continue. “A person’s mind can’t just float right outta their head!”

“No, it can’t,” he replies, “but like I said, we’re struggling to figure this one out at the moment. All we can say for certain is that batches of this Polly 66/99 substance seem to appear fairly randomly in cities across the world. So far it’s shown up in Seattle, and New York, and half a dozen other places in Europe and Asia. We don’t know who makes it or why, or how they get it out into the world. It’s almost as if it just drops down out of the sky and lands in front of people.” He pauses for a moment. “Obviously we’re working on it. We’ll figure this mess out eventually.”

“He can’t die,” I reply. “Please, you have to help Bobby. He can’t die, if he dies I’ll never be able to forgive myself.”

“We’ll do all we can,” he says, before getting to his feet. “I need to go and speak to some specialists over the phone. Whenever a new victim of Polly 66/99 shows up, we roll into action pretty fast.”

“You have to do something!” I reply. “For God’s sake, you can’t let people get sick like this!”

He nods, and then he pauses for a moment, as if there’s something he can’t quite bring himself to tell me.

“You have blood on your hands,” he says finally.

“Huh?”

Looking down at my hands, I realize that he’s right. I have some patches of dried blood struck to the sides of my fingers, and dried to my nails.

“Oh, that’s from the fish I caught earlier,” I explain. “I gutted it and cooked it.”

“You fish to eat? That’s admirable.”

“I throw ’em back if I don’t eat ’em,” I tell him. “I only go fishing for food. Not for sport. Anything I’m not gonna eat, I throw back. It’s not natural any other way.”

“I happen to agree very much with that sentiment,” he replies, before patting my shoulder. “Hold on and stay strong, Mr. Truman. We’re going to do everything we can to help your nephew. Some of the best minds in the country are working on figuring this drug out, and I’m confident we’ll have an answer eventually. It’ll just take time. So far, this thing seems unlike anything else we’ve ever encountered. It’s almost like it dropped down here from another world.”

“He mentioned a man made of light,” I tell him.

“He did?”

“He said he was going toward a man made of light.”

He pauses, before nodding.

“It doesn’t make sense, does it?” I point out.

“No, it doesn’t,” he replies. “But in all the other Polly 66/99 cases, the victims said the same thing. They said they were being drawn toward a man made of light, a man who’d give them everything they wanted. Most of them even mention a name.”

He hesitates, as if he dares not say that name out loud.

“Attaroth,” we both say finally, at the same time.

“What does it mean?” I continue. “It has to be nonsense, doesn’t it?”

“I don’t know, Mr. Truman. But I’ll be sure to keep you posted if I find out. We have good people, brilliant minds, working on this. We’ll solve it eventually.”

“And they’ll all wake up, won’t they? The kids, I mean.”

“We certainly hope so, Mr. Truman. That’s what we’re aiming for.”

Once he’s gone, I sit alone for a few minutes, thinking over all the things I could have done differently, all the ways I might have kept Bobby from taking that stupid drug. Finally I reach into my pocket to take out my phone, only to let out a gasp of pain as I feel something sharp pricking my finger. Carefully, I reach in again and pull out one of the lures from earlier, and I hold it up until it glints a little in the electric light.

“Pretty,” a smiling nurse says, glancing at the lure as she walks past.

I wait until she’s gone, and now my mind is racing and I can’t help thinking about the things Bobby said while he was high on that drug. Especially the things about the voice he could hear, and that name. Attaroth.

A man made of light.

“Let him go,” I whisper finally, with tears in my eyes. “Don’t keep him. Wherever his mind went, let it come back. Whoever you are, you don’t need him or want him. Just let him come back to us! Why do you want him, anyway? What possible reason could you have for taking him?”

And yet, even as I say those words, my gaze shifts from the lure to the blood that’s caked around the edges of my fingernails.