Tag Archives: Legends

A Tale More True…

26 Jul

The final day of the GSP Legends Promo welcomes back Steven R Southard. His book we are highlighting today is A Tale More True.

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Baron Münchhausen has been known to stretch the truth a bit, then tie it in knots, toss it on the floor, and stomp on it. But to prove him wrong, is it really necessary for Count Federmann to construct a gigantic clockwork spring and launch himself to the Moon? If the Count should do so, and if he should drag his trustworthy servant along, perhaps he’ll learn enough to tell . . . a tale more true.

Excerpt:

No one on Earth could detest Baron Münchhausen more than he did. Count Eusebius Horst Siegwart von Federmann felt certain of that.

As he sat watching Baron Hieronymus Carl Friedrich von Münchhausen, the Count’s loathing of the infernal liar magnified in intensity. The Baron hosted this evening’s dinner party, and all the nobles in the town of Bodenwerder and the entire Electorate attended. Not wanting to miss the evening’s highlight, they’d gathered in the enormous parlor on upholstered walnut Rococo chairs with maple veneer. Münchhausen sat on his chaise longue; hands sweeping with dramatic effect; his beaked nose pointing at each person; his mouth drawn up in a smile that lifted his waxed mustache; his high-pitched nasal voice squeaking like a child’s viola.

Yet he captivated the crowd, just as the Count had seen Münchhausen do at dozens of other elegant parties. His falsehoods couldn’t be more obvious, but the party-goers clapped and laughed in appreciation. He claimed to have felled over seventy birds with a single rifle shot, to have killed a wolf by turning it inside out, and to have survived in the stomach of a large fish for many hours. How could anyone believe such nonsense?

Adding to the Count’s vexation, all the beautiful, young, single women sat transfixed, hanging on the Baron’s every farcical word. Were these maidens so easily swayed? How could the buffoonish Münchhausen—that misshapen man with the door-hinge voice, a man already married—hold every fräulein’s admiring attention? Had this been a world where true justice prevailed, the maidens would be listening to the eligible bachelors, the handsome, smooth-toned ones, such as the Count himself.

Not only younger than the Baron, he ranked higher in the nobility hierarchy, was arguably better looking, and possessed a deeper voice. True, he’d not served in any military capacity, but the Baron’s actual combat experience had little to do with his popularity. People flocked to his parties, gathered around him, and sat in attentive silence for the sole purpose of hearing the man’s outlandish lies. Münchhausen might well be the most accomplished and successful liar in Europe, or even in all of history, the Count thought.

Seething with hatred, Count Federmann kept his facial expression neutral, not joining in the laughter or applause. Neither did he call on Münchhausen to provide proof for his assertions or otherwise humiliate the lying Baron. Still, he knew, something must be done.

                                                               ~~~~
“Dante should have reserved an additional circle of Hell for liars like Münchhausen,” the Count said as his manservant removed his overcoat. His rage had only worsened during the carriage ride from the Baron’s manor house to his own, and now he needed an outlet. “The Baron would have us believe he saw a whale half a mile long, and the beast pulled his ship by its anchor chain at a speed of no less than twelve knots. Utterly preposterous!”

“Not even a very gifted liar, Illustrious Highness, to stretch believability by such outrageous exaggeration.” The manservant spoke with a French accent, surely the worst possible assault to the German tongue, in the Count’s view. The servant, a short man with bright eyes and a sharp taper to his face that emphasized his pointed beard, had come into the Count’s employ only the previous week. Going by the name Fidèle, he had arrived in the Electorate of Brunswick-Lüneburg to escape what he foresaw as a coming time of troubles for his native France.

The Count cared little for what might happen to the Gauls, but had told Fidèle he could not abide the offense of lying. On that matter he made himself quite plain and desired to be clearly understood, since he’d had to dismiss his previous manservant for speaking an untruth.

Count Federmann’s fixation on truthfulness stemmed from his formative experiences. His mother had died in childbirth, and his father had loaned the infant to a childless couple in the village. He’d ordered the couple not to tell the growing boy about his noble blood. The young man grew up believing himself a commoner. Apprenticed to the village clockmaker, he showed significant prowess in the craft. In his eighteenth year a messenger had arrived, taking him off to a vast manor house and informing him his father had died, leaving him as the new Count.

He’d hated his father for the deceit, for hiding the truth from him, for maintaining a secret others knew when his own son didn’t. His father had wasted the time of his youth, forcing him to grow up as a mere commoner, rather than learning the skills and manners of the nobles. He found it hard to imagine an evil more vile than abandoning a child and letting the boy believe a lie.

And now, to hear that scoundrel Münchhausen spinning his far-fetched yarns, and getting away with it!

“The Baron is most fortunate,” Fidèle said as he followed the Count to the drawing room, “no one has challenged him to a duel to defend his honor.”

The Count laughed. “He has no honor to defend. He would have to refuse any such challenge.” He thought that was true, but knew another fact. Baron Münchhausen had served in the Russian Army, and was undoubtedly more adept with sword, pistol, or any other weapon than was the Count. Proving the Baron wrong was important, but not worth certain death.

Only the silver radiance of a full moon slanted in through the parlor windows until Fidèle lit some lamps. The Count had come to perform the most relaxing activity he knew, the only balm to ease his angry mind. He took down a mantle-clock, one of sixty clocks in the residence, and began disassembling it.

He sat at a work table in the large drawing room. Tools, gears, and springs lay scattered across the table. Purple velvet fabric hung from the walls, setting off the paintings, the wall clocks, the busts on their pedestals, and the Federmann coat of arms. Bookshelves lined one wall and several books lay open on a stand while newspapers spilled across a reading table. Fidèle stood nearby, refreshing the Count’s brandy as need be, holding a candelabra to ensure proper lighting, and bringing clean rags or the bottle of whale oil when asked.

Clock repair always calmed the Count, restored a semblance of control to his life. He didn’t know why. Perhaps it took him back to the secure times of his youth as a commoner, and his apprenticeship. Gears and ratchets and cams always obeyed his commands without tiring, performed in a harmonious manner, and in all ways behaved unlike people.

“You say, Renowned Master, this Baron is able to attract a crowd of young ladies to listen to his lies, is that so?”

“Yes.” The Count adjusted the position of the escapement.

“That must arouse the jealousy of the other young men at the party, no?”

“Hmm? I suppose this is true. Now hold those candles over my other shoulder. Ah, there.” The Count reached in the clock casing and removed a ratchet. What is Fidèle getting at? Then he realized his wily servant was attempting to find out if his own motive was jealousy. Outrageous even to think it! “Perhaps some of the other young nobles feel that way,” he said. “But for those of us more skilled in all matters of courtship, there is no cause for jealousy.”

More skilled in courtship? Did that hint of a smile on Fidèle’s face suggest his French servant was wondering why, then, there was no Countess Federmann?

“Some of us,” the Count went on, “are more interested in the truth. This is the Age of Reason, after all. Do you know,” he said as he pointed a tiny screwdriver at Fidèle, “what the Baron’s most bald-faced lies were?”

Fidèle shook his head.

The Count inserted the tool into the case and motioned for better light. “He claimed to have gone to the Moon. The Moon! Not only once, but twice! Just think of it. For his first trip, he would have us believe he climbed a very tall beanstalk, the far end of which was fastened to one of the horns of the Moon. He made his second trip by supposed accident when a hurricane lifted his ship from the water and blew it up to the Moon.”

He laughed, and Fidèle joined in. Then he frowned, for a mounting screw within the clockwork mechanism was being stubborn. He tightened his grip on the miniature screwdriver and resumed working. “One cannot climb to the Moon, nor get blown there by a storm. We know from the astronomers how distant the satellite is, some two hundred and fifty thousand miles away. And Sir Isaac Newton tells us we must overcome Earth’s gravity to get there. That requires great speed.”

He grunted, twisting the tool. “What is needed for a Moon trip, in truth, is some means of storing up energy, then releasing it when desired.” The stuck screw came loose, freeing the maintaining hook. The clock’s mainspring jumped from the casing, flew across the room, and rolled under a mahogany desk.

The Count would not be distracted. “If only I could think of such a mechanism.”

“The spring, Eminent Highborn!” Fidèle shouted.

“Yes, yes, I saw it. Go get it and bring it here. You don’t expect me to go crawling about the floor, do you?”

Links:

http://www.gypsyshadow.com/StevenSouthard.html#TMTExc

Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/Tale-More-True-Wrought-ebook/dp/B00D5XRH4Q/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1374813111&sr=8-1&keywords=A+Tale+More+True+Steven+R+Southard

 

Knights of the Narrow Gauge….

25 Jul

Next up on the GSP Legends Promo we welcome DB Dakota.

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The author’s first love was the lady in Sir Walter Scott’s opus; a chapbook about her merited an A+ in English. Music manuscripts submitted to a publisher were passed over, but motivated him to compose the class song for graduation.

Twenty years of railroading, military service and broadcasting followed. He dashed off shoestring commercials for budget television clients, scripted industrials, and TV shows about the gold rush and railroading, then got out Land of Legend, a history book.

Readers Digest rejected his true story about the passenger train wreck he almost caused as signal operator by pushing the wrong button. The account is a sidetracked cliffhanger. Liability for lives, he balked at it, at the burden, and quit railroading. His license to operate radio stations turned into television directing. Sitting there in the dark he’d watch a zillion things at once and talk fast—no wrong buttons.

Fleeing video for the corporate client universe, he tagged credits to film documentaries about atomic bomb production and security with a Q-clearance; ski patrol safety; broadcasting; mental health rehab; the Air Force Academy; and shoots for national clients.

Career change: Ad agency copywriter, graphic artist; award winning spots, jingles, sightseeing Denver in a Day history guidebook, tech monographs. Next, an art gallery, a challenging enterprise for a restless creative to unveil the worlds of detectives, miners and pre-historics. His attic is stuffed with unpublished novel and short story manuscripts.

(CREDITS: The Executioner’s Song, mystery/crime novel published 7/2012 by Wings ePress, The Shoot from Hell, mystery/crime novel due out 2/13, The Conjuror’s Agenda, prehistoric suspense novel by Whispers Publishing, due out 9/2012, Knights of the Narrow Gauge, short story, Gypsy Shadow Press, Denver in a Day, Colorado Land of Legend, Sixties history books, TV/film documentaries: No Longer Afraid, Ft. Logan, Watch O’er the Ramparts, Air Force Academy, Inside the Challenge, Atomic Energy Commission classified, No Silence Please, CO broadcasters;, SafeSchuss, National Ski Patrol, business: articles, advertising, jingles, audios.

BIO/BG: Radio DJ-reporter-engineer in CO, WV, VA, NC, SC, station, recording studio, art gallery builder, copywriter, movie scripter, tech writer, music composer, photographer, cinematographer, film producer, television director, graphic artist, USAF Sgt., train controller, electronic & tech schools. Pen name, DB Dakota.)

His book we are highlighting today is Knights of the Narrow Gauge.

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Knights of the Narrow Gauge is an account of each and every narrow gauge railroad that came and went from 1870 on in Colorado and surrounds. Twenty-one railroad lines, total. Meticulous, colorful, it’s about the innovative men who dreamed and built the impossible network. It acquaints us with the stouthearted Irish who operated the baby systems. It’s a one-source narrative, light, layman, non-academic narrative for train enthusiasts, who are plentiful and perennial. Racing across the plains, notching into mountainsides, the iron fingers of narrow gauge railroads flexed and slithered over alpine passes or poked holes through them and squeezed through the canyons of Colorado. Tough steel replaced rusting iron. The tracks of numerous three-foot wide railroads groped their way to new boomtowns in the Rockies. Freight trains and passenger trains, led by little iron ponies with peanut whistles, beckoned the pioneers to live beside them along the rivers and creeks.

Excerpt:

   While goin’ the road to sweet Athy, hurroo, hurroo,
                                While goin’ the road to sweet Athy, hurroo, hurroo,
                                        A stick in me hand and a tear in me eye,
                                                 A doleful damsel I heard cry,
                                                   Johnny, I hardly knew ye
.

Ah, ’twas a while short that we knew ye, in ’n out, ’n up ’n gone, ye were, but we loved ye, Johnny, we loved ye then and we love ye still, ye knight on the horse of burly iron. So sing ye of the waves and waves of Irish stouthearts of yore who birthed the roads and roads of ballast and tie to spike in place the rail that gold rode on. Gold and silver and lumber strong and coal and grain and men with coin and time to kill. Lordy, those were the days. Those were the places where never to be found was ever a man of cowardly pace. Colorado, the new thing out West, was nothing but itchy for something to haul stuff in. And people brave to step aboard the creature some called a train. But it was so little, so narrow and short with no room for heads, and smoked and stank and scared the cows. Hurroo, hurroo, for the times of yore when waves and waves of Micks with luck in their veins raced across the plains, notched into mountainsides where they would hang the iron fingers of their narrow gauge railroads.

They flexed and slithered, those rails of iron, over alpine passes and through holes below peaks of historical height, and plunged and squeezed through the canyons narrow, no room for rails and angry waters, too, so floods at night would wash them away. Something had to give, and did. Tough steel replaced rusting iron, not because of weather, but economics.

The tracks of numerous three-foot wide railroads groped their way to new boomtowns in the Rockies. Freight trains and passenger trains, led by little iron ponies with peanut whistles, beckoned the pioneers to live beside them along the rivers and creeks. They displaced wagon trains and pack animals that, for the while, served well, but nothing to write home about. Those slo-mo forerunners couldn’t keep up, could not be depended upon to haul the ever increasing yield of resources. They roller-coasted a state’s riches to the smelters and helped add a new star to Old Glory. Little is left of a picturesque past with the excitement, danger, legend and romance chronicled by these far-reaching fingers of steel.

No more than an echo away from one point in the Rockies, civilization could behold itself before and beyond all written history. A panoramic worldly pageant converges in Colorado. The resultant mysteries of our predecessors, man’s attempts to be sociable, the wonders of mechanization; these manifestations are all encompassed within the San Juan Basin. Know where that is? Heard of Purgatory Ski and Telluride Ski and Ouray Hot Springs and that one and only leftover train that you can ride all day, just about, and get cinders in your eyes? More later on Durango’s Train to Yesterday. Know about Camp Bird mine and the Anasazi Ruins? That region of absolute splendor. Well, the unveiling, passing parade, then, would mark time as the retrospective calendar comes to the year 1870.

Gold discovered!

Newspapers, months old by the time they arrived from Denver, told of an infant railroad being planned for the West, to crowd out the wagons hauling away newly-found wealth. Little did they know it would be a dozen years before the iron horse would come snorting into the San Juans.

Up to that time, the early settlers figured they had the best they could hope for . . . stages, coaches on wheels, those movie-set stages, for mail and passengers, and creeping, high-priced ore carts to drag the minerals out; nuggets headed for resurrection in white-hot fusion at the smelters.

To lay crossties and rails on long, roundabout routes in the remote, rugged areas would be expensive construction. To operate trains over these tracks would be even more expensive. To get fuel for locomotives, new coalfields would have to be tapped. Ties would have to be hand-hewn at tie-camp villages in the forests. Roadbeds would have to be gouged out in cliffs, some of them a thousand feet high. Canyons had to be spanned by trestles, those neck-craning structures made out of toothpicks, straddling gorges. Everything to support a railroad would have to be put in place and tunnels had to be cut through granite peaks.

Links:

http://www.gypsyshadow.com/DBDakota.html#KnightsExc

Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/Knights-Narrow-Gauge-ebook/dp/B00BR4A0D0/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1374725521&sr=8-1&keywords=Knights+of+the+Narrow+Gauge

A Steampunk Carol…

23 Jul

Next up on the GSP Legends Promo is Steven R Southard.

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 Growing up in the Midwest, Steven R. Southard always found the distant oceans exotic and tantalizing. He served aboard submarines and now works as a civilian naval engineer. In his stories, he takes readers on journeys of discovery in many seas and various vessels. Steve has written in the historical, science fiction, fantasy, horror, and steampunk genres. 

His book we are highlighting today is A Steampunk Carol.

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That stuffy Victorian inventor, Stanton Wardgrave, is back again, eight years after inventing holograms and meeting the American Josephine Boulton. Married now, with a son and daughter, he’s dealing with rather too much balderdash and poppycock this Christmas Eve. Conversing with his dead father? Expecting three visitors? It all seems so very Dickensian. But he knows he’s not at all like that Ebenezer Scrooge fellow…is he? What, this story asks, would Christmas be without a bit of steampunk in it?

Excerpt:

Stave 1

To begin with, Stanton Wardgrave was dead. At least, Stanton Wardgrave III was dead, a fact known for certain by Stanton Wardgrave IV ever since 1867. This established truth rendered it all the more disconcerting for the younger Stanton to see the deceased man standing before him now.

“Father? No! It can’t be you!” Stanton gaped in terror and astonishment. The background behind the elder Wardgrave was ephemeral and indistinct, but Stanton was too shocked to notice.

“Why not? Don’t you believe your own eyes? Your own ears?” The deep, ringing voice could not be mistaken.

“I’m asleep. I must be having a dream,” Stanton pinched himself. “That’s the very thing. I drank wine after dinner, and I’m dreaming about you now. Yes! There’s more of wine cask than pine casket about you.”

“Clever, but in this case precisely untrue.” The elder Wardgrave didn’t smile.

Stanton took a closer look at his father. This must be a dream, or nightmare, and his brain must be quite well pickled by drink not to have noticed it earlier. “Father, you’re shot with holes!”

Two sections of the elder man were missing, large circular swaths cut from his body. The left side of his chest and the right upper quadrant of his head were gone, with the cloudy gray background visible in the gaps. Yet the man stood without apparent discomfort.

“Oh, that,” the partial man looked down at his breast. “I removed those parts of me while I lived. I daresay I didn’t even notice them gone at the time, let alone miss them. I certainly miss them now, wandering the afterlife with the ethereal wind gusting through my ribs and chilling my skull.”

At that moment, a breeze picked up and the older man winced. Stanton even heard a whistling noise as air sped and swirled through the crevices.

“But that’s beside the bloody point,” the father said, aiming a finger at Stanton. “The same sections of you are missing too, son.”

Stanton looked down in alarm and felt his chest and head for wholeness and continuity. Everything seemed connected and in place.

“You don’t see it now, of course,” the elder man chuckled. “You’re still alive, more or less. But I’m here to advise you this state of affairs is unacceptable. Something must be done. As to that, you will be visited by three beings this night.”

“Three . . . beings?” Stanton snorted. “You mean ghosts, Father?”

“Not ghosts, confound it all! Entities. Personages. Call them what you will. You will receive three visitors.”

“Three visitors,” Stanton repeated. “This all sounds rather familiar. It’s like the famous yarn written by that Dickens bloke. What the devil was it called?”

“Charles Dickens, the writer chap? Oh, he’s now with us; the dead, of course. But he wrote fiction, son, and you’re living a real life. Each has—or should have—elements of the other, but surely you know the difference.”

“See here, Father. You’ve cast me in the most unsavory role of that Ebenezer Scrooge bloke. But I’m no miser, as you know full well. I give sizeable sums to charity.”

“This isn’t about money.”

“What, then?”

“The visitors will make it all clear, my son.” The senior Wardgrave began to fade from view, becoming dimmer with each passing second.

“Father!”

“Listen to the visitors, son. Listen.”

He vanished.

Stanton blinked and tried to sit up. A wave of nausea seized his stomach, and his head pulsed with pain. By minimal degrees he found he could attain a sitting position, though he swayed a bit.

What the devil am I doing in my laboratory? Soft moonlight streamed in the windows and gave the tables and equipment a dim, silvery appearance. On the table sat his holographic apparatus. Stanton winced, partly from his headache and partly from recalling how hard he’d struggled to improve the device. True, the public loved holograms, and he’d earned a second fortune from selling the machines. But holograms worked only with the Stanton’s patented focused light dynaphoter rays aimed into a mist, like steam or smoke. He’d not yet discovered a way to form a holographic image in the open air.

On the table before the couch on which he sat rested an empty bottle of 1868 port. Stanton groaned. He must have drunk the wine while puzzling over his hologram dilemma and fallen asleep.

Asleep. Asleep to dream the strangest . . . no; a nightmare, it was. Father was there, he thought. Warning him. Some Dickensian nonsense or other.

Well, no harm if I lie down a bit longer . . . three visitors, indeed . . . balderdash and poppycock. . . .

Links:

http://www.gypsyshadow.com/StevenSouthard.html#SteamCarolExc

Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/Steampunk-Carol-What-Wrought-ebook/dp/B00A9K1KAA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1374595076&sr=8-2&keywords=A+Steampunk+Carol.

 

The Perfect Christmas….

21 Jul

Next up on the GSP Legends Promo we welcome Dawn Colclasure. 

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Dawn Colclasure is the author of five books, among them BURNING THE MIDNIGHT OIL: How We Survive as Writing Parents and 365 TIPS FOR WRITERS: Inspiration, Writing Prompts and Beat The Block Tips to Turbo Charge Your Creativity. Her articles, essays, poems, book reviews and short stories have been published in regional and national newspapers and magazines, as well as online. She lives and writes in Oregon with her husband and children.

Her book that we are highlighting today is The Perfect Christmas.

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Lynn Johnson’s sister, Patty, visits for Christmas and all seems to go well until memories of an abusive childhood from the sisters’ past threaten the holiday cheer. Will the sisters be able to come together in the spirit of the holiday season in order to find the power to forgive and move forward in life?

Excerpt:

“Is she here yet?”

Lynn Johnson smiled. “You just asked me that five minutes ago.” She turned away from the potato salad she’d been stirring at the kitchen counter, and then sighed as she folded her arms at her son. “I’m sure she’ll get here soon. What’s up with the impatience?”

Her sixteen-year-old son smiled, showing white teeth that seemed to make his blue eyes sparkle. “I just can’t wait to see the look on her face when she opens my present for her.”

She nodded, and then walked over to him and put her arm around his shoulders. “It’s a special Christmas for all of us. I haven’t seen your Aunt Patty for ages. She’s always been too busy with her job. The globe-trotting newspaper reporter.” She swung her head around and nearly sang the last words.

“I’m proud of her, Mom; and you should be, too. Even if she’s not ever around in person, at least we get to have her articles.”

“Yes, and I’m proud of her, too.” She tousled his black hair. “Now go get your sister. It’s almost time to eat.”

She folded her arms over her chest again and smiled as she watched her son walk away, knowing she didn’t have to remind him to wash his hands before dinnertime. Andy knew what was expected of him. So did his sister, Lillie.

As she turned to walk back into the kitchen, Lynn caught sight of the snow coming down outside the dining room window. She frowned, walking over to the window and placing her hands on the sill. She stood there watching all the snow that just never seemed to allow a clear view of anything. The radio had said the weather conditions might cause a delay for incoming flights, but hadn’t Patty’s plane landed hours ago? She hoped the car her sister rented wasn’t stuck somewhere. Then again, she’d probably call on her cell if anything went wrong.

“We can’t eat dinner yet!”

Lynn turned from the window to see her fourteen-year-old daughter, Lillie, standing next to the dining room table, her arms outstretched. The only thing her hair had in common with her mother’s was the blond color; Lillie’s hair ran down her back, whereas Lynn’s was cut to shoulder-length. She had her mother’s green eyes, but her hips were a tad wider than Lynn’s. Still, Lillie remained active in sports, the sweatshirt bearing the emblem of the local tennis club proving as much.

“Aunt Patty’s not here,” Lillie continued.

Lynn smiled. “Don’t worry. She should be here any minute!”

As if on cue, a knock sounded at the door.

“See?” Lynn said, looking from her daughter to the door as she walked to it.

“It might be Dad,” Lillie mumbled.

“Think positive,” Lynn sang. “And anyway, why on earth would your father knock at his own door?”

Lynn didn’t wait for an answer. Instead, she unlocked the front door and opened it. Her eyes widened, she smiled and a squeal of excitement left her mouth as she jumped up and down at the sight of her sister on the porch. “Patty!”

“Sis!” Patty Everett exclaimed, holding out her arms to return Lynn’s embrace.
The two women moved away from each other. “Look at you, all covered with snow!” Lynn said, brushing snow off of her younger sister’s coat.

“And look at you, still as skinny as ever,” Patty said. She shook her head. “I don’t think you’ll ever lose that California girl image, no matter how far east you move or how old you are.”

“Every year I get older is a gift!” Lynn enthused.

“Speak for yourself; I’m not exactly looking forward to turning thirty-five next year.”

“Aunt Patty, you’re here!” Lillie said behind Lynn. Lynn moved away so that Lillie could hug her aunt.

“Lillie! So good to see you!” Patty gushed, hugging her niece.

“I missed you,” Lillie said, moving back to stand by her mother.

“I missed you too, sweetie,” Patty replied.

“Is that Aunt Patty I hear?”

The group turned to see Andy walking toward them, holding a wrapped Christmas gift.

“There you are, Andy!” Patty exclaimed, smiling and holding her arms out to hug her nephew.

“I’m so glad you made it,” Andy said, hugging her. “We were worried.”

“You’re lucky your house isn’t buried in all this snow!” Patty joked.

Andy held up his free hand. “Not on my watch!”

Links:

http://www.gypsyshadow.com/DawnColclasure.html#PChristmasExc

Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/The-Perfect-Christmas-ebook/dp/B00A9N2EKW/ref=sr_1_sc_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1374436459&sr=8-1-spell&keywords=The+Perfect+Christmas+Dawn+Colclausre

The Six Hundred Dollar Man…

19 Jul

Next up on the GSP Legends Promo is Steven R Southard.

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Growing up in the Midwest, Steven R. Southard always found the distant oceans exotic and tantalizing. He served aboard submarines and now works as a civilian naval engineer. In his stories, he takes readers on journeys of discovery in many seas and various vessels. Steve has written in the historical, science fiction, fantasy, horror, and steampunk genres. 

    Visit Steven’s new website at: http://www.stevenrsouthard.com/

HIs book we are highlighting today is The Six Hundred Dollar Man

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Sonny Houston, cowpoke. A man barely alive. “I can rebuild him, make him the first steam-powered man. A darn sight better than before. Better, faster, and a heap stronger, too. I’ve got the know-how.” A century before any bionic man, a doctor in the Wyoming Territory attached steam powered legs and an arm to a man trampled in a stampede. Get ready, Pardner, for a rip-roarin’ steampunk adventure!

Excerpt:

Doctor Rudolph Wellburn looked up from his workbench as Red dragged the trampled man through his door.

“I brung him as soon’s I could, Doc,” Red said, looking around the office. “Whereabouts should I—”

“Set him up on the table over there.” Doc pointed and rushed to assist. “Don’t unstrap him. Just lift the whole thing.” The man had been bound with ropes to three tree limbs lashed together. From the way the ‘foot’ end of the limbs had been worn smooth and stained grass-green, Doc figured Red must have dragged the tow-haired young man for miles behind his horse. Blood had run down the logs in a dozen places. Together they lifted the stretcher onto the table.

Doc leaned over the patient’s chest and listened.

“Reckon he’s alive, Doc?”

“Barely alive.” Doc sighed. “He’s the Widow Houston’s boy, isn’t he? What in tarnation happened?”

“Thunder spooked our cattle and they started in to stampedin’.” Red was still breathing heavily from his ride. “Sonny lit out after ‘em a’fore we could stop ‘im. Then a lightnin’ flash spooked the herd agin and they turned right into Sonny, poor devil. Can you fix ‘im up, Doc?”

“Can’t rightly tell, yet.” Doc glanced up from his examination. “Go fetch the Widow.”

After Red left, Doc worked by the light of oil lamps, untying the ropes, stripping off interfering clothing, and cleaning the wounds. He kept checking to ensure the young man still breathed and had a heartbeat. So many bones had been broken in the stampede, Doc knew he’d have to amputate three limbs. Only the patient’s head, torso, and right arm remained uncrushed.

“Sonny, you messed yourself up something awful,” Doc murmured, pausing to wipe his brow. He sighed and gazed out the window. The earlier storm had passed and now the moon bathed Cheyenne with a dim, silver light.

He glanced over at his workbench with its pile of papers showing drawings of pistons, crankshafts, flywheels, and boilers. Should Sonny be the one, the very first to get it?

#
“Looks like this stump has started in to healing, too,” Doc said as he peered at the knob where Sonny’s left arm had been. Doc sat in a chair next to the straw-filled mattress on which Sonny lay sleeping.

The interior of the Houston’s shack looked plain, but clean and well kept. A single room served all purposes, with a wardrobe and dresser near two straw mattresses, a table and chair along the back wall, and a coal stove for supplying heat and cooking food. Liberty Houston sat at the table, looking at Doc, her brow knitted with worry. At thirty-nine, she’d weathered almost as many years as Doc, but her gray, wispy hair made her look older. Only a tough woman can deal with the death of a husband and the crippling of her only son.

“I’ve got to talk to you, Libby.” Doc began putting instruments back in his black case. It had been a week since he’d amputated three of Sonny’s limbs. Sonny spent more time awake each day now, though he still winced a lot from the pain. His mother had cried a good deal, and fretted over her son, and asked Doc how she was supposed to work the farm and care for Sonny by herself. “I might be able to make Sonny walk again,” he said, “and have the use of two good arms.”

Libby’s eyes filled with hope. “How?”

“There’s a chance I can rebuild him. I can put new limbs on him to make him a darn sight better than before. Better, faster, and a heap stronger, too. I’ve got the know-how to fix him up.”

She frowned. “You gonna give him someone else’s legs and arm? Like that monster Doctor Frankenstein made?” She shuddered.

“No, Libby, no.” Doc shook his head. “I can strap a steam engine to his back and use it to power mechanical legs and an arm.”

“A steam engine?” Her face showed puzzlement and shock. “Like a . . . like . . .”

“Like a Union Pacific locomotive, that’s right.” Doc nodded and turned his chair to face her better. “Only this engine would be much smaller.”

She looked about to swoon.

“Stay with me, now, Libby. Stay strong for Sonny.”

She breathed deeply, fanned herself, and appeared to recover. “Steam powered,” she murmured, then looked up. “You ever heard that song, ‘The Steam Arm,’ Doc? The one about that feller got himself a steam powered arm? That arm went plumb crazy. The feller ended up tearin’ his house down, hurtin’ his wife, and clobberin’ policemen. What if—”

“Now don’t you worry,” Doc said. “Sonny’s iron limbs would be under his control and will only do what he wants them to.”

Her worried look returned. “It sounds plumb expensive to me. How much does such a contraption cost?”

Doc knew the parts would cost close to six hundred dollars, and also knew Libby couldn’t pay, not with the farm just getting by. “Don’t you fret. I’m not fixing to charge you a penny. I wouldn’t build it for the money.”

Her eyes widened in curiosity. “Why on Earth would you do this for us? For Stephen?”

Doc frowned, his memory dredging up horrific scenes too ingrained to forget. “Back in ’63, I was an Army surgeon with the Union side. At Gettysburg, scores of lads were getting limbs blown off. All I could do was saw their bones, patch up their stumps, and tell them they’d never walk again. Even so, plenty of those fellers died. They hauled all the wounded men off in a steam train. As I watched it chug away, I got to thinking.” He squeezed his eyes shut but his mind’s eye still saw each wounded soldier. “I’ll build this for Sonny because of all those boys at Gettysburg whose limbs I couldn’t save. Maybe someday when someone loses a leg, they won’t end up crippled; they’ll be made better.”

Links:

http://www.gypsyshadow.com/StevenSouthard.html#SixHundredExc

Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/Hundred-Dollar-What-Wrought-ebook/dp/B00A9N5XT6/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1374250387&sr=8-2&keywords=The+Six+Hundred+Dollar+Man

Toys, Lights and Trinkets….

18 Jul

Today on the GSP Legends Promo we feature Jim Woods. His book that we are highlighting is Toy, Lights and Trinkets.

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The stories in this eclectic trilogy are unrelated, except for their setting at the end of year holiday season. The first must be saddled with the based on true events disclaimer; the next is related just the way it really happened; and the last story is pure fantasy.

Excerpt:

GHOST BREAKERS (third story in book)

The wizened old witchdoctor in Zimbabwe had been right all along. Although he obviously did not know us—my wife Anne and me—he was much too believable in his wisdom. He somehow knew things about us he had no need or right to know, but we solicited the interview. No one tricked or coerced us to consult him, so we listened to him. Anne and I were a lot younger then, and at the same age, and on one of our several safaris in southern Africa when the old Mashona gentleman consulted the bits of carefully arranged chips of mystic bone that spoke to him. One of his revelations predicted Anne would live ten years longer than me. He was right on; I crossed over a full decade before Anne joined me once again. And while it is true, there is a time to die, Anne’s family would take her passing especially hard, it coming so near Christmas—a time that should be reserved for happy memories.

Even though I left earlier, and fittingly, in the fall of the season and the autumn of my time, I couldn’t stay away. Our lifetime together was too strong in the physical world to be fractured, simply because I happened to be deceased. I hung around the house to keep Anne company. Admittedly, a few friends and even family tittered behind her back about her carrying on conversations with me. We tried to pay no attention, and really were not offended. In fact. it was amusing to us knowing what was going on and they only could guess, and speculate that Mom or Grandma, depending on which generation was the questioning source, was hanging on to the cusp of dementia. Anne and I held a lifetime of memories to recall between ourselves, and we untiringly relived and talked them over.

Anne and I stood together, hand-in-hand, at her funeral service. Being unseen, except to one another, made it easy for us to get a front row view. The Anne beside me was beautifully young, and she noted the same about me. Shucks, I don’t mean she said I was beautiful, just she thought me young and in my prime. We both agreed the body on display the day before at the funeral home was not Anne, but some wrinkled lady who still showed evidence of having been beautiful, and if we examined her closely, my red-haired Anne did show through. Everyone in attendance had nothing but kind words for my bride, as they did for me as well, ten years back. The difference was at my wake; everyone still talked respectfully about me, which was to be expected since Anne was present for all the comments and conversations. That condition changed somewhat drastically at the after-service gathering in remembrance of Anne. It was our granddaughter, Rochelle, whom we both loved, who opened the less than lovable exchange with her mother, Anne’s only child, Charlene, from her first marriage which went awry before I came into her life.

                                                                      <<>>
“What are you going to do with all of Grandmother’s crap?”

“I’m surprised you’d say something like that. Mom and Dad may have accumulated a lot of things over their lives and travels, but certainly no crap. They always bought quality.”
Good for you, daughter, Paxton telepathed. You tell her!

“Sorry, I didn’t really mean it that way. They just have so much stuff. How do you even start disposing of it all?”

“Let’s not rush into disposing of anything. I still have to locate the will, although Mom has told me everything goes to me and I’m listed as executor.”

What do you mean, have to locate the will? It’s right where I told you it would be, in the safe, and the safe combination is pasted behind that framed certificate in my library.

About the author:

Jim Woods wrote novels and short stories, many of which stand alone, while others are assembled into collections, in worldwide milieus. He was a world traveler, having researched numerous exotic locales as settings for his stories. Much of his world travel was for big game hunting which, coupled with his background as editor with Petersen’s Hunting, Guns & Ammo and Guns magazines, frequently allowed him to bring firearms into play in his tales. Jim Woods passed away October 8, 2012; he lived and wrote in Tucson.

Links:

http://www.gypsyshadow.com/JimWoods.html#ToysLights

Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/Toys-Lights-and-Trinkets-ebook/dp/B00A9K869S/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1374118427&sr=8-1&keywords=Toys%2C+Lights+and+Trinkets+Jim+Woods

Halloween Candy and a Christmas Tree

16 Jul

Today we welcome Sara Dean to the GSP Legends Promo.

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I live in West Virginia, with my husband and my two young children. I also have several picture e-books and one picture book in print available: Bobby Bunny And The Missing Tooth, published through AKW Books, The Puppy Who Found A Boy, published through Publish America and Clean Clothes For Bobby Bear, through Fairy Tales And Dreams Publishing.

Her book we are highlighting today is Halloween Candy and a Christmas Tree.

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t’s the day after Halloween and 5 year old Pamela and 8 year old Jackson are still experiencing a sugar high. They’re driving their mother crazy and she can’t get them to stop fighting or bouncing off the walls. What’s the solution? Make them agree on something to do of course! The problem is all they want to do is put up the Christmas tree! Hilarity ensues as their mom tries to convince them to do ANYTHING else, loses the battle, and discovers that Halloween candy and a Christmas tree don’t make such a bad combination.

Excerpt:

November first. My kids Pamela, age five, and Jackson, age eight, made it their sole mission to drive me crazy. This was probably largely because they spent the night stuffing themselves full of Halloween candy, and they no doubt had reached for it again before their eyes were open all the way next morning.

As I sipped my first cup of coffee, Pamela hopped; yes, hopped into the kitchen.

“Mom, I was thinking . . .” (hop, hop, hop) “. . .We should go to the park today.”

I glanced out the window at the rain; the high temperature was supposed to be only fifty-seven degrees.

“Not today,” I said, getting dizzy from seeing her hop in circles around me.

“But why?” she whined, not missing a hop.

“It’s too cold and wet.”

“I’m a bunny, and bunnies like rain.”

“No they don’t,” I said.

She stopped hopping, blinked several times, and began galloping.

“Then I’m a horse, and horses like rain.”

I looked at my coffee and sighed. I was never going to get peace, quiet or any more of my coffee until I got her to leave me alone.

“Do you know what horses really like?” I asked.

Her eyes twinkled in anticipation. “What?”

“They like to watch a Saturday morning cartoon while their mommy drinks a cup of coffee.”

For some insane reason, this worked.

“Yay!” she screamed, as she galloped through the kitchen and into the living room.

I picked up my cup and downed as much as I could before Jackson appeared in the doorway.

His blond hair was sticking out in ten different directions. His Transformer pajamas were wrinkled from tossing and turning in his sleep, but he wasn’t galloping, hopping or whining this early in the morning, so he was my favorite child for the moment; that is until he opened his mouth.

“Pamela took the remote from me, and said that Mommy horse told her to do it. I tried to take it back and accidentally elbowed her in the nose. Now it’s bleeding.” He said it so calmly it took a minute to sink in that I needed to move, NOW!

Pamela was sitting on the couch, her bloody hands covering her nose, her eyes full of tears.

I grabbed a towel and cleaned her up. Once her nose stopped bleeding and I made sure it wasn’t broken, the kids decided to start fighting over the remote again.

I was tired, experiencing caffeine withdrawal, and the thought of another elbow colliding with another nose sent me over the edge. “Both of you sit down—now!” I screamed.

The remote fell to the floor with a thud, and both kids obeyed.

“I am going to finish my coffee and maybe even have a second one. When I get done, I’m coming back in and I want you two to have an idea of an indoor activity we can do today. You both have to agree on it, and I don’t want any arguing. Do I make myself clear?”

Both kids nodded. I went back to the kitchen, downed the rest of my coffee, which was now cold, and poured myself a second cup. Better have another one, I thought, pouring a third cup. The way this day is going, I may need it. When the last drop was gone, I went back to the living room. Both kids were smiling like the cat that ate the canary.

“Did you agree on something?” I asked.

“Yes,” Pamela said.

“We want to put up the Christmas tree,” Jackson joined in.

The very idea made me glad I’d had that third cup of coffee.

“We could play checkers instead,” I offered.

Both kids shook their heads.

“Chinese checkers?” I asked.

They shook their heads again.

A movie marathon? I could rent The Little Mermaid, Spiderman or whatever movie you want. We could make a fort out of blankets, pop popcorn and watch movies all day long.”

Two little heads shook side to side in unison.

“Face it, Mom,” Jackson said, “we win this time.”

I sighed. He was right, and I knew it.

Every year the kids begged me to put up the tree starting the first day of November, and I put them off until the middle of December, but this year I had no choice. They had beaten me. I thought of staring at the tree trimmed in silver and blue, and lit from top to bottom for almost two months. I felt like the Grinch already. I’ve got to stop Christmas from coming, but how?

I got desperate, really desperate. “Who wants a cat? We could go to the Humane Society and pick out a little fluffy kitten.”

Two heads shook in unison again. I gave up. “I didn’t want a cat anyway,” I mumbled as I headed for the stairs. Time to dig the half bare, artificial tree from the depths of the storage closet.

Every year when I put away the box of ornaments, lights and color-coded tree branches, I promised myself I wouldn’t pile anything on top of it, so that I wouldn’t have to dig it out the next year. Every year I broke this promise the first week of January.

Piles of suitcases, kids’ artwork, curtains I never got around to hanging, shoes, summer clothes, old toys bagged up and headed for the Salvation Army, knickknacks and assorted items that fall into the junk category were standing between me and the dreaded Christmas tree.

Within an hour I had dug deep enough into the closet to find the box that held the tree. I felt triumphant, until I turned around, saw the mess behind me and wondered how I was going to get myself and the tree both out.

Pamela’s face appeared in the closet doorway. “Tell Jackson I am old enough to put the star on the tree this year,” she said.

“I didn’t say she’s not old enough; I said she’s not tall enough. There’s a difference.” He stuck his tongue out at Pamela, who stuck hers out at him in return.

“Pamela stuck her tongue out at me!” Jackson whined.

Pamela pointed her finger at her brother and jumped up and down. “He started it!” she cried.

Apparently, both of my children were under the impression I was suddenly struck blind and had not seen what had just happened.

“Let’s put your energy to good use and help dig me out of here,” I said.

“You’re stuck in there?” Jackson asked.

“No,” I said sarcastically. “I just like sitting in the closet, knee-deep in crap, while you two fight in the doorway.”

“So, how stuck are you?” Pamela asked.

“Stuck enough that I’m begging my kids to help get me out.”

The kids smiled at each other, sinister smiles that made my blood run cold. Then they both darted down the stairs.

“Don’t run!” I called after them. “You’ll fall and break an arm or a leg!”

I began trying to fight my way out, but it was useless.

I glanced down at the tree box I had spent so long finding and sighed. I would have to come back for it after I foiled whatever candy-induced scheme my children had come up with. Out of desperation, I climbed on top of the pile and crawled out of the closet.

Links:

http://www.gypsyshadow.com/SaraDean.html#HalloweenExc

Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/Halloween-Candy-Christmas-Tree-ebook/dp/B009ZJR3ZW/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1373948555&sr=8-1&keywords=halloween+candy+and+a+christmas+tree+sara+dean

Snow Cat…

15 Jul

Today on the GSP Legends Promo I am featuring my book Snow Cat.

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Legend has it that the forest animals of Krkonoše are protected by a feline presence. Once many, many, many years ago the animals of the forest faced certain danger that would have surely meant death. The event changed the calm and happy routine of the mountains forever, leaving its trace until today.

Excerpt:

Startled, Metaxa looked up at the window to see Koule pawing impatiently on the cat net.

“Come on Metaxa, we’re going to be late!”

Metaxa hurried through the net. “This morning has been awful. Mom wouldn’t leave and then Zvonek wanted a full detailed description of where I was going et cetera, et cetera. Honestly.”

“It’s okay, but let’s hurry. Today it’s Vendulka telling us the story of The Snow Cat.”

Metaxa hurried alongside Koule. “Really? That is going to be so good, she’s really very popular and I hear a very good story teller, too!”

They both hurried down the road to Whiskers. Whiskers being the local pub, and Mr. Whiskers, being very community minded, opened the back room of the pub to Kit Story Telling Time. Since the episode with the rats kidnapping cats and kittens to work in the tunnels, the feline community had organized activities for the kits to keep them busy and, hopefully, out of trouble. One of the activities was story telling.

Vendulka was a really old cat, well-known and respected in the community. She had raised quite a few litters in her time and seen many changes to Prague 10. Her lineage was very long; years of wisdom passed down to her. Today was sure to draw a crowd.

Metaxa and Koule squeezed into the back of the room and edged along the wall until they found a spot close to the old queen. Just in time, too. No sooner had they sat down than Vendulka called everyone to her attention.

Settling all the excited kits and the older felines that had joined today to hear everyone’s favourite story took a few minutes. She began, “?rkonoše, as you know, is a mountain range located in the north of the Czech Republic. It has been home to many a legend and not least to that of the Snow Cat. In the Middle Ages, the mountains were mostly uninhabited. It was an area of large lush green forests, where the mountain animals played and lived peacefully together.

“In the spring, flowers blossomed, covering the slopes with a bright coat of many colors, with green leaves dancing in the wind. Summer brought long sun-drenched days, blue skies, and warm velvet nights. Fall turned the leaves golden, orange and red, sending the forest and mountain animals skipping about, chasing them as they floated to the earth in the breeze. Winter came early and lasted long in the mountains. Everything was blanketed in soft white that shimmered in the moonlight and the silence brought a peace to the slopes deeper than in the other seasons.

“It is said that before the first snowfall, when the air was cold and the trees bare of their foliage, paw prints would appear in the hard winter ground. Paw prints of a feline nature, heralding the winter to come. If the spoor marked only the surface, the animals knew the winter would be gentle but, if the spoor went deeper into the surface, the winter would be a hard one. This gave the forest animals time to prepare for the winter to come. Sure enough, the snow would fall and fall and fall, covering the hard earth with its soft white cushion. The spoor would return, but this time the paw prints would be in the soft white snow, promising that spring would again blossom.

“And so the years passed and the seasons changed, and changed back again in a peaceful, undisturbed routine. Then one day, around the year 1242, a strange sight never seen before appeared in the mountains.

Links:

http://www.gypsyshadow.com/AnneHPetzer.html#SnowExc

Amazon: 

http://www.amazon.com/Snow-Cat-ebook/dp/B009AYWVPE/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1373860444&sr=8-1&keywords=snow+cat+anne+h+petzer

Beneath the Surface….

14 Jul

Today on the GSP Legends Promo we welcome Steve Foreman.

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I am British, living in Entebbe, Uganda, with my wife and two kids, and currently work as a security consultant.

As a Freelance writer I have been published in several UK and African magazines, including BBC Wildlife magazine, Soldier magazine, Combat & Survival magazine, SCUBA magazine, Church of England Newspaper,African Travel Review magazine, Land Rover World magazine, Your Dogmagazine, Travel News and Lifestyle magazine (Kenya), What’s Happening in Dar (Tanzania), The Dar Guide (Tanzania), Daily Mailnewspaper (UK), and others. 

My true story, ‘The Nomads of Sabalon’ was included in the 2002 edition of Chicken Soup for the Traveler’s Soul (USA), and my fiction story ‘The Revengeful Mistress’ was included in the 1999 anthology After Dark, a collection of horror fiction by Neil Miller Publishing (UK).

Two of my short paranormal stories were published in the June 2011 issue of Twisted Dreams magazine (USA)

His book that we are highlighting today is Beneath the Surface.

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This is a collection of weird tales that scratch the surface of life to reveal both the supernatural and real horrors or unexpected events that can lie beneath.

A photo booth that predicts death, a computer programme with a horrific application, hauntings and ghost stories, morbid vampire humour, a radio that broadcasts momentous events past and yet to come, faint shades of H. P. Lovecraft and Stephen King, a splash of Ray Bradbury…

Excerpt:

THE PHOTO BOOTH

“Do you have the passport photos with you?” asked the blonde bimbo sitting behind the desk, delicately shuffling Ben’s papers, trying to avoid smearing her recently-applied red nail varnish.

“No,” answered Ben, slightly annoyed, staring down at the top of her head, but trying to get a view of her cleavage, “What passport photos?”

“Well, we need two,” the girl replied, looking up and grinning at him as she spotted the direction of his gaze, “one to clip to the application for our records, and the other to be laminated onto the membership card.”

“So, why the hell didn’t you tell me I needed them when I came in here last week to collect the application form?” Ben demanded. “Do you know how long it has taken for me to get here, and how long it takes to find a parking space in London?”

“I’m very sorry,” the girl said, not looking at all sorry. “I am sure I told you. Anyway, no dramas,” she added brightly, “there is a photo booth inside the railway station, just across the road. You can get some passport-size photos there.”

Ben, turning away, shook his head in silent disdain, pushed open the glass door and went outside. “Bloody woman,” he muttered under his breath, “long on hair and nails—short on skirt and brains!”

His car was in a parking slot about six or seven cars away; a hard-won space that had taken almost two hours to find.

Crossing the busy road to the railway station, he entered the cavernous concourse. People were scurrying about like ants from a disturbed nest. Some were hurrying to the escalators for the main line platforms; others to or from the Underground and still others on their way out to the taxi rank, dragging uncooperative suitcases on wheels too small for their size or weight. A girl with a nose ring, wearing a long blue coverall, was unenthusiastically pushing a ridiculously wide broom around, fighting an endless battle to herd discarded litter. Several brightly lit shop windows—some displaying perfume and cosmetics, others looking more like fairground stalls selling London souvenirs with their displays of plastic Policeman’s helmets, plastic Beefeaters, plastic Black Taxis, and others sweets and magazines—attracted those who had time to linger. Near to this row of shops Ben saw the photo booth; that red and black, free-standing booth one can find in nearly every main railway station in Britain, with the large Photo-You! banner surmounting the glass-fronted display of sample photos. A black, mock-velvet curtain covered the top two-thirds of the open entrance, allowing the lower legs of anyone using the booth to be seen from outside, indicating that it was occupied.

It was occupied now; a woman and child were standing to the left of the curtain, awaiting their turn. Ben sidled up and loitered behind them.

With an exaggerated flourish of the curtain, two teenage girls suddenly erupted from the booth, giggling and joshing each other. They moved to their right, looking with anticipation at the empty Collect Your Photos Here slot. The woman and child stepped into the booth and drew the curtain.

From inside the booth’s fibreglass structure could be heard the whirring of a machine processing the girls’ photos; a ratcheting vibration, a few clicks, the momentary rise-and-fall hum of a blow-dryer, and with a final clunk, the strip of passport-size photos dropped into view in the collection slot.

The girls grabbed excitedly at their photos, scrutinised them, and then, with a moan of disappointment, their happy grins disappeared instantly from their faces.

“Oh! They are awful!” one exclaimed. “What’s wrong with this bloody machine?”

“Christ! What a waste of money!” Cried the other, “We look completely messed up!”

Ben, now standing behind the girls, leaned forward curiously, “Can I see?” he asked politely.

The girl holding the photos, still facing the booth, did not answer or turn around, but in a petulant gesture thrust the strip of six photos back over her shoulder.

“Well, they look a bit odd, for sure, but I cannot compare until I see your faces!” Ben said with a touch of humour.

The girls turned to face him. “Okay, happy now?” one said, wary, but with a hint of sarcasm.

“Hey!” Ben exclaimed, and took a pace backwards, hands held up in submission, “I meant nothing by it . . . just wanted to see what the problem was. And I can see it. You are right; the machine has really messed up!”

The two girls had posed for the photos by squeezing together onto the small, adjustable stool, cheek-to-cheek, pulling faces and making silly teenage gestures for each of the six individual photos. But the developed pictures did not portray the images of two pretty young girls laughing and having fun.

Although recognisable, their faces seemed distorted, stretched, like a couple of Madame Tussaud’s waxworks melting in a fire. Their mouths, and eyes, instead of uplifting and smiling, were turned down at the corners, drawn down as if suffering some terrible grief or physical agony.

“I guess the developer or fixer or whatever it’s called must’ve run or not dried properly,” one girl suggested. “I look like that white-faced ghost mask out of the movie Scream.”

“I guess so,” Ben agreed, and the two girls wandered off dejectedly towards the Underground escalator.

Flashes of bluish light had been popping out from behind the black curtain during this conversation, and now the woman and child reappeared from the booth.

They waited patiently, the woman inanely examining the sample photos while the machine whirred, clicked, dried, and finally clunked. The child, a young boy, lifted the photos from the collection slot and held them up at an angle so his mother could see them. “Look Mum!” the boy said, giggling, “on that one I poked my tongue out, and you didn’t notice!”

“You little tinker!” the mother said, smiling benignly down at her child, “Come on, we have to catch our train!” she crooned, and she steered him away from the booth.

“Excuse me!” said Ben, taking a few steps in their direction, “I hope you don’t mind, but could I have a look at your photos?”

The woman spun around and pushed her child half behind her, like a mother goose protecting her gosling under her wing. “What on earth for?” she asked. “What do you want?”

“Honestly, I just wanted to see the quality, nothing else,” Ben explained hurriedly in an apologetic tone. “Those girls who were in front of you . . . their photos came out very bad.”

“Well, ours are fine,” the woman retorted. She held the strip out at arm’s length for Ben to see, her left wing still clamped protectively across the breast of her gosling, pressing him to her flank.

Ben kept his distance, but leant forward at the waist, peering first at the photos and then at the woman and her half-hidden ward. Sure enough, perfect images. “Thanks, you are right, lovely photos,” said Ben.

The woman snatched the photos away in the air as if she were plucking them from Ben’s hand, turned and walked briskly away, dragging the gosling along beside her. She gave a final stern glance over her shoulder at Ben before ascending the escalator to the main line platforms with her son.

Ben shrugged and turned back to the booth, in time to see the curtain being drawn across the entrance by another customer who, while Ben had been interrogating mother goose, had entered the booth.

“Shit!” Ben exclaimed, almost under his breath. He glanced at his watch; still ten minutes or so to run on the parking meter.

The camera flashed its programmed six times as Ben fidgeted outside, and a few moments later, a man, mid-thirties, wearing a suit and tie, stepped out of the booth and waited for the machine to perform its rituals. Ben was tempted to step inside immediately, but he really wanted to check this guy’s pictures. There was something about the girl’s photos that had disturbed him more than he would like to admit. So, standing right in front of the mock-velvet curtain, so as not to lose his place again, Ben waited for the final clunk and the ejection of the photos.

“Can I have a quick look, see if they’re okay?” Ben asked, before the man in the suit had a chance to collect them. “Just want be sure it’s working!” He smiled disarmingly.

“Sure, hang on.” The man replied breezily, but, as he lifted the strip of pictures, his demeanour changed. “Hey, you were right to check,” he said, frowning, then held out the photos for Ben to see, “These are buggered!”

Ben took the proffered photos. The man in the suit, mid-thirties, fairly handsome, pleasant features, was portrayed on the photos as a tortured soul from the imagination of Hieronymus Bosch; his face a mask of wretched pain, screaming in agony.

“Oh well”, said Ben, nonchalantly, “I guess I’ll not risk it! I’ll go somewhere else!”

“Good idea,” said the man in the suit, somewhat defeated, throwing his photos in the waste bin as he walked off towards the Underground.

Ben looked at his watch. “Shit!” he cursed, “less than a minute to go!” He ran for the station exit. “To hell with the photos; if I get wheel-clamped, it’ll cost me a fortune!”

Later that evening, lounging on the sofa, idly watching TV and trying to wash away with a cold beer the disappointment of nearly a whole day wasted in London, Ben’s full attention was suddenly caught by a local item on Sky News. He sat up straight, nearly spilling his beer as he grabbed the remote control from the coffee table and turned up the volume. The anchor was leading into a story of a fatal accident on a tube station that had occurred that afternoon; the very tube station where Ben had tried unsuccessfully to have his photos taken by a machine. The program switched to a live outside broadcast, where the reporter was speaking to the camera in front of the railway station . . .

“A tragic accident here today, on this busy Underground station. At 2:30 this afternoon, five people were killed as they fell from the platform directly in front of an oncoming tube train. There is no doubt about the cause, the police say; there were plenty of eye witnesses who saw a man weaving and staggering along the platform, apparently drunk, He blundered into a group of people waiting on the yellow line to board the next train. Five of those he stumbled into staggered forward and fell over the edge of the platform, directly in front of the train, and were killed instantly.

Relatives have been informed, say the police. The victims have been identified as Stephen Thompson, aged forty-two, from Putney, Susan Baker, aged eighteen from Windsor, Cheryl Goodson, aged seventeen, also from Windsor, Julian Thorneycroft, aged thirty-five, from Welwyn Garden City, and Mike Pratt, aged fifty, from Birmingham. The drunken man was arrested shortly after the accident, and is likely to be charged with an offence, although police have said it is too early to say what the actual offence will be . . . unconfirmed sources say it is likely to be manslaughter. . . .”

Links:

http://www.gypsyshadow.com/SteveForeman.html#BeneathExc

Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/Beneath-the-Surface-ebook/dp/B0090R3678/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1373780975&sr=1-1&keywords=beneath+the+surface+steve+foreman

Touch and Go….

12 Jul

Today on the GSP Legends Promo we welcome Russell James.

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Russell R. James was raised on Long Island, New York and spent too much time watching Chiller, Kolchak: The Night Stalker, and Dark Shadows, despite his parents’ warnings. Bookshelves full of Stephen King and Edgar Allan Poe didn’t make things better. He graduated from Cornell University and the University of Central Florida. 

After a tour flying helicopters with the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division, he became a technical writer by day and spins twisted tales by night. He writes speculative fiction and historical fiction, but horror is his primary genre.

His wife reads what he writes, rolls her eyes, and says “There is something seriously wrong with you.” He has published the paranormal thriller Dark Inspiration in 2011 and will publish Sacrifice in 2012 with Samhain. His short stories appeared in Tales of Old, Encounters and Dark Gothic Resurrected magazines, and with Wicked East Press. He is a founding member of the Minnows Literary Group. He and his wife share their home in sunny Florida with two cats. 

His book we are highlighting today is Touch and Go.

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A young, struggling pilot in World War I’s Lafayette Escadrille leaves with his patrol for enemy lines. In the midst of a dogfight, he becomes separated from his squadron. He is forced to land at a strange airfield, and his role in the Allied war effort changes forever.

Excerpt:

A young, struggling pilot in World War I’s Lafayette Escadrille leaves with his patrol for enemy lines. In the midst of a dogfight, he becomes separated from his squadron. He is forced to land at a strange airfield, and his role in the Allied war effort changes forever.

Links:

http://www.gypsyshadow.com/RussellJames.html#TouchGExc

Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/Touch-and-Go-ebook/dp/B008R19TLA/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1373654060&sr=8-1&keywords=touch+and+go+russell+james