Congratulations to Aleksandra Nearing, Ruth McLagan, and Annette Oliver--your signed copies of The Private Sector are in the mail! My thanks to all 782 entrants. Sorry you didn't win this time, but there will be more chances in the future. Make sure to check back here, or follow me on Twitter at https://www.twitter.com/LeighMLane, for updates. Until next time!
Happy Friday to all you out there--I hope you've had a great week. Today, I have guest author Jennifer-Crystal Johnson here to talk about her recent release, Fibers. I asked her if she might share the main motivation behind her book, which is the first installment of the Infiltration Trilogy. She'll be giving away a $10 Amazon or B&N gift card, so make sure to enter using the Rafflecopter box below.
ennifer Crystal-Johnson: I have an intense fascination with all things strange and unexplained. Weird is just awesome to me... probably because I am weird, but aren’t we all? I don’t know about you, but this whole “normal” ideal doesn’t really seem to exist. Just varying shades of weird. (What shade of weird are you? I’d like to think I’m some sort of purple or burgundy.)
My life was spent in all sorts of places among all sorts of different people, uprooted every year or three to move somewhere new and start over. That’s the military life, though, isn’t it? Never forming lasting relationships, never having to fully solve problems long-term, especially when it comes to other people... struggling to fit in everywhere I went and loving change like I was addicted (if I found myself in the bathroom with a pair of scissors and was feeling restless, I knew I was in trouble... my hair was getting chopped!). Restlessness.
Writing and making music were always my constants – the friends who wouldn’t betray, lose touch, or mysteriously disappear into the masses. The friends who never judged me and were there at 3:00 AM, a time when I am inevitably awake, especially when I’m obsessively working on something.
Consider this an introduction... Hi! I’m Jen. I love alternate dimensions, quantum theory, aliens, and creatures that were never thought of but I’ve seen in my dreams. Wormholes, spaceships, the capability of the consciousness to never disappear, just be transferred to another level of vibrational frequency... another level of existence. Cryptozoology, mythology, fantastical stories of gods and devils battling for the earth... but why is the earth so important, anyway?
Because we, as humans, deem it so... and we are the creators of these stories. Are some of them true? We may never know... but I love to dance in that field of possibility, somewhere in the fringes of everyone else’s opinions and things that most people don’t dare to seriously think about. It can be scary, after all.
Which brings me to something more important than just an introduction to my overactive imagination.... The human consciousness. Can it be altered? Can it be taken over and controlled? If so, does this have any effect on the human soul, the spirit? And can it be altered through an interdimensional disease? Yes, I just said interdimensional.
This is the reason I adore science fiction. The really tough, existential questions can be asked... possibilities are explored. Of course I write in other genres, too, but I’ve been intrigued with science fiction and paranormal stories (not the kind where a creature or other being falls in love with a human, though... way overdone at this point) for a long time, and watched countless hours of YouTube videos on the topics I am fascinated with as research. Sometimes my research leads me to something new and unexpected, which is even better because then I learn about something new and unexpected ;).
That was how the idea for my trilogy came about. When you’re looking up things like cryptozoology, Bigfoot encounters, and the Dover Demon on YouTube, you’re bound to collide with some other things you may never have heard of... like Morgellons disease (one video calls it “alien fibers”). Shadow people. (Which, as an aside, have you ever noticed the uncanny resemblance of real-life accounts of shadow people wearing fedoras to the observers from Fringe... or the guys in The Adjustment Bureau? What’s with the hats? Funny coincidence... or maybe I wasn’t the only person inspired by the shadow people phenomenon...?) And then there are the conspiracy theories surrounding these phenomena.
As I delved deeper into the world of Morgellons, an idea began to form. Once that idea took hold, my brain started working through plots and events and storylines... brainstorming is an amazing rush for me, so the more excited I got, the bigger the idea got. Brainstorming gets even more awesome when you talk to likeminded people about an idea, and the idea grew even bigger. Now I have a science fiction conspiracy thriller with elements of romance and references to food during some scenes because I happen to love cooking great food ;).
These things are all very interesting for me to think about and talk about. Wild speculation on some levels, but the possibilities... oh, the possibilities! I wanted to broach some of these topics before plugging my book, that way if you were bored to tears or weirded out within the first few paragraphs, you wouldn’t end up here, toward the end of this guest post ;).
Imagine this. Your skin begins breaking out in ulcerous sores that don’t want to heal no matter what you try. From these sores, you pull tiny strings that seem to be blue, black, red, or white, some of them in clumps or clusters surrounded by a hard, crystal-like shell. You go to the hospital, but they throw you in the psych ward, claiming that what you have is delusional parasitosis. You know you’re not crazy... you just can’t get them to take a closer look. Why?
This is what happens to Anna Reynolds and she has no idea what to think. Would you?
If you’d like to receive excerpts of Fibers, book #1 in the Infiltration Trilogy, directly to your email, I invite you to sign up for my author newsletter. I plan to send out 12 excerpts that you can either read yourself or listen to/watch me read (don’t worry; I don’t have an obnoxious voice or anything, although I am a little bit of a goofball... I think that’s just my “incurable optimist” showing). I won’t spam you, but you’ll also receive my blog posts and news on when my book is available for free on the Kindle, contests, when the sequels come out, and maybe some other projects I’m working on. You definitely shouldn’t subscribe if you don’t like me, although I’m told I’m a very amiable person =).
No matter what you decide, I hope this post makes you think... about your soul, your consciousness, and what worlds you may be visiting in your dreams... if you remember your dreams. Apparently there aren’t that many of us ;).
Thanks so much! I hope you enjoy your week!
About the novel:
Anna Reynolds is caught up in the middle of a secret interdimensional government agreement... and she doesn't even know it.
There's a medical anomaly loosely dubbed Morgellons disease afflicting a number of people. Symptoms include open sores that produce colorful string-like fibers, fatigue, and nightmarish visions of shadowy figures. No one knows where it came from. No one knows what causes it. There is no cure.
When Anna begins having nightmares and waking hallucinations of the shadow people, her uneasiness about her condition grows. Enlisting the help of her doctor and some friends, Anna is determined to find out what's really going on and why Morgellons is such a mystery.
With her health declining and doubts about whom she can trust, is Anna doomed to become a slave to her condition? Or will she and her unlikely group of would-be heroes come through, saving her... and, ultimately, the world?
Standing slowly with her palm pressed to her eye, she spotted a tiny clump on the counter not far from the tweezers. It looked like balled up blue and red string wrapped in eye goo. But when she touched it gingerly with her fingertip, it felt hard, similar to rock or crystals. She turned off the water.
Not wanting to leave this cluster of strange unattended, she picked up the tweezers again and pinched the whole mess between the tips. Cupping her left hand underneath, she took it to a kitchen counter and turned on the overhead light.
Squinting her hazel eyes, she poked at the tiny mass with the tip of the tweezers, suddenly wishing she had another pair.
“What the hell are you...?” she muttered under her breath, trying to keep her breathing shallow so she wouldn’t accidentally exhale it away and lose it. She noted that her eye felt perfectly fine. A little sore, but not bad. She decided to get a toothpick from the silverware drawer and pinched the balled up fibers in the tips of the tweezers again. Just in case.
As she loosened the tweezers and brought the toothpick closer to the tear duct excretion, she watched the blue string she had pulled on stretch itself slowly toward the wood.
“No way,” she muttered, moving the wooden toothpick closer. She moved it left, then right... each time she moved it, the tiny string followed. She saw the red one poking out from the tangled mass, too, and she dropped the tweezers and the toothpick, stepping back and taking a deep breath as she cupped her hand over her mouth.
About the author:
Jennifer-Crystal Johnson is originally from Germany, but was raised an Army brat. She has published one novella under her former last name, The Outside Girl: Perception is Reality (Publish America, 2005 - out of print as of 2013); a poetry book, Napkin Poetry (Broken Publications, 2010); and a collection of poetry, art, and prose called Strangers with Familiar Faces (Broken Publications, 2011). She's also published a collection of short creature horror stories called If You're Human Don't Open the Door (Broken Publications, 2012), a personal development book called The Ten Pillars of a Happy Relationship (Broken Publications, 2014), and a collection of more horror stories (no creatures this time, just people) called Our Capacity for Evil (Broken Publications, 2015).
She has several poems and short stories published on Every Writer's Resource and has recently published a science fiction novel called Fibers, the first book in the Infiltration Trilogy. Jen owns and operates Broken Publications and publishes an annual anthology to raise awareness about domestic violence called Soul Vomit. When she isn't writing or editing, she enjoys playing games with her three kids, watching crime shows on Netflix, or reading. She lives in WA State with her three children, three cats, and a crazy puppy named Thor.
You can connect with her at her website, Twitter, and Facebook.
Today, I have an excerpt from When the Serpent Bites, a psychological thriller by Nesly Clerge. Nesly is giving away a signed paperback copy of the book, and you can enter for your chance to win using the Rafflecopter box below.
About the novel:
Frederick Starks has it all—a gorgeous wife who was his high school sweetheart, three beautiful children, a mansion and cars others envy, millions in the bank, respected in his community, admired by his employees, loved and respected by loyal friends. He revels in the hard-earned power and control he’s acquired. As the saying goes, “All that glitters is not gold,” which Starks discovers when gut-wrenching betrayal by his wife sends him over the edge and into a maximum security prison. There, Starks is a new “fish,” stripped of nearly everything he’s always relied on. In that place, where inmates and guards have their own rules and codes of conduct, Starks is forced to face the darker side of life, and his own darker side, especially when the betrayals, both inside and outside the prison, don’t stop. He must choose which path to follow when the line between right and wrong becomes blurred: one that leads to getting out of the physical and emotional hellhole he finds himself in or one that keeps him alive.
Starks tugged at the neckline of the undershirt his mother had dropped off for him at the jail. She hadn’t wanted to see him. He knew why: Members of the maternal side of his family were born with a pride chromosome. Lynn Starks loved her son but the extreme public humiliation resulting from his arrest was more than she could stand. He knew she’d forgive him one day, and that her ability to forgive tended to simmer until she was ready.
“All rise. The District Court of Suffolk County, State of Massachusetts, is now in session. Honorable Judge Harold Weaver, presiding.”
The judge took his seat at the bench then shuffled through the case files in front of him, glancing up briefly at the line-up of people waiting to plead. “We’ll begin with arraignments then move onto trials.” In a monotone voice, he continued. “All persons are innocent until proven guilty. You have the option to plead not guilty, guilty, or no contest. No contest means you concede the charge or charges against you, without admitting guilt and without presenting a defense. I advise you against pleading no contest. You have the right to obtain counsel. If you cannot afford counsel, the court will appoint an attorney for you.”
An hour later, it was Starks’s turn in front of the judge. He flinched and his face reddened when the charges against him were read aloud. He also questioned whether his decision to plead not guilty would work in his favor or not. He’d always been able to methodically weigh pros and cons when it came to business matters. This, however, was unfamiliar, unpredictable territory.
He tried to give his full attention to what was going on but his mind wanted him in the past, a reverie that was broken when Parker nudged him to stand.
“My client pleads not guilty to all charges, your honor.”
The judge looked directly at Starks then glanced at Parker with a quizzical expression on his face. He shook his head, checked the calendar and said, “Trial starts this coming Monday, 10:00 a.m.”
“In the matter of bail, your honor—”
“No bail will be set.”
“Your honor, in this instance, bail can be set quite high, which will ensure my client shows up for trial.”
“Denied.” The judge’s gavel came down, putting an end to the matter.
Starks turned to Parker. “I don’t want to stay in jail until the trial. Do something. Get me out, for Christ’s sake.”
Parker began to pack his briefcase. “This judge is a hard-ass. Plus, it’s election time. You’ve seen the corporate scandals on the front pages of all the newspapers. Everyone, especially candidates running for office, are screaming for corporate criminals to be held accountable.”
“I’m not involved in any of that.”
“No.” Parker shut his briefcase. “But you’re considered one of them.”
“Am I going to have to keep paying for the shit others do?”
About the author:
Nesly Clerge received his bachelor’s degree in physiology and neurobiology at the University of Maryland, and later pursued a doctoral degree in the field of chiropractic medicine. Although his background is primarily science-based, he has finally embraced his lifelong passion for writing. Clerge’s debut novel, When the Serpent Bites, will be available in 2015, with the sequel to follow in 2016. His debut novel explores choices, consequences, and the complexities of human emotions, especially when we are placed in a less-than-desirable setting. When he is not writing, Clerge manages several multidisciplinary clinics. He enjoys reading, chess, traveling, exploring the outdoors, and spending time with his significant other and his sons.
You can find more about Nesly Clerge and his works at his website or by following him on Twitter or Facebook. When the Serpent Bites is available through Amazon.
Your house has caught fire. You and your family are able to escape intact, but you hadn't been able to afford fire insurance (or, perhaps, even just the deductible for the fire truck's arrival), so all you can do now is stand outside and watch the place--everything you own, everything you've built for yourself--burn to the ground. No one is coming to help you salvage what remains.
But you will be turned into an example, a selling point for all those like you who are currently uninsured or too poor to pay the extra when their times of need actually come.
Your neighbor's home was just broken into, the woman you've known for years brutally murdered. The motive is suspiciously unclear. Her police insurance--also your police insurance--carrier's rival company sends a representative to your door, letting you know how unsuccessful your current provider was in keeping this woman safe, making promises that only end up coming across as threats--will you be next? You know at this point that the break-in was staged by none other than the rival insurance company. Business has been slow, and they're looking to scare a few people into switching over to their company.
Outbreaks of deadly, antibiotic-resistance diseases have been reported in all of the less expensive elementary schools--which are ridiculously pricey in their own right. Your son will be attending kindergarten this year, and you can't afford any of the higher-priced schools. Do you take a chance on the only school you can afford, knowing you might be putting your child in mortal danger?
What choice do you have? All of these services have become fully privatized, and there are no programs to help offset the costs. Either you have the money or you don't.
And if you go into criminal debt over any of these costs, you will suffer the consequences: a debtors prison sentence to work off what you owe. You'll probably lose your job while you're away, which means you'll probably also lose your home. It's against the law to be homeless, though--against the law to be a non-contributing member of society. Against the law to be in need. So, of course, back to prison you'll probably go.
There's been a lot of buzz lately about privatization versus socialism. Both have their merits and flaws, but rhetoric has trumped the realities behind both. Privatization means increased corporate power. If you have a decent amount of capital to your name, this absolutely works in your favor. Social democracy means higher taxes but more money put into social services (such as those I described above). If you belong to the middle or lower classes, your survival depends on many of these services remaining in the public sector.
With the upcoming election drawing ever nearer, these are issues we need to have some serious dialogues about. We cannot ignore their importance. So let's bring up these issues to friends, family, and peers. Let's argue the pros and cons. Let's think about what's important to us as a nation and take a stance. Let's do it without resorting to low blows, name calling, or rhetorical memes. Let's discuss these important issues like adults, and if need be, let's talk about what changes need to be made to our system.
Then, let's work together to fight for those changes.
I wrote The Private Sector as my way of contributing to the dialogue. It's the perfect conversation starter. Read it. Share it with your friends and family. Talk about the issues and how they relate to the current state of the nation. It is our responsibility as Americans to be involved in the directions our country takes. Let's be involved together.
Let's think. Let's talk. Let's bring the American dream back within the reach of all its citizens. We can make a difference. You can make a difference.
Enter now for a chance to win one of three signed copies of The Private Sector:
Corporate America has fallen, taking the rest of the world down with it, genetic engineering and bioterrorism having come together to wipe out nearly the entire human race. The few survivors have no choice but to rise from society's ashes, but with resources growing scarce and some unable to let go of the past, the future of the human race skates on the razor's edge of uncertainty.
Problems with the entry box? Click here.
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