J.D.R. Hawkins

One bullet can make a man a hero… or a casualty.

Archive for the tag “books”

Release Day Blitz – Justice Gone

Justice Gone Cover copy

When a homeless war veteran is beaten to death by the police, stormy protests ensue, engulfing a small New Jersey town. Soon after, three cops are gunned down. A multi-state manhunt is underway for a cop killer on the loose. And Dr. Tessa Thorpe, a veteran’s counselor, is caught up in the chase. Donald Darfield, an African-American Iraqi war vet, war-time buddy of the beaten man, and one of Tessa’s patients, is holed up in a mountain cabin. Tessa, acting on instinct, sets off to find him, but the swarm of law enforcement officers get there first, leading to Darfield’s dramatic capture. Now, the only people separating him from the lethal needle of state justice are Tessa and ageing blind lawyer, Nathaniel Bodine. Can they untangle the web tightening around Darfield in time, when the press and the justice system are baying for revenge? Justice Gone is the first in a series of psychological thrillers involving Dr Tessa Thorpe, wrapped in the divisive issues of modern American society including police brutality and disenfranchised returning war veterans.

Book Links:

Goodreads * Amazon

Read an Excerpt:

Chapter 7

The funeral services, particularly the burial, had been announced as private and that sympathizers should remain at a discreet distance; and in a demonstration of exemplary respect, the hundreds of supporters complied with the request.

Family and comrades, especially those from the New Hope Clinic, were designated to be at the gravesite. An uninvited guest, surprisingly, was also among them: John Garson, Police Chief of Bruntfield Township.

After the lowering of the coffin, and the slow deliberate departure of the mourners, Garson slipped away, in the opposite direction that everyone else would follow toward their cars and hired limos: crossing fields of gravestones until he reached the coppices of oak trees, in order to escape the press.

Everyone else present merged into the group of activists who assembled at the gate of the plot, all intent upon making known the measure of their sorrow to the public.

The crowd that participated was moderate in numbers, but in no way insignificant—about seven hundred were reported to have shown up. They marched, waving their signs and chanting slogans, from the central commercial district to the Bruntfield Veterans Memorial Park, where a makeshift stage had been set up for the guest speakers. The local TV stations from Newark and Trenton, including the network affiliates, were present covering the march.

The whole thing was fairly orderly, despite the loud chants of “Justice for Jay” and the cardboard signs that said: WE DON’T WANT KILLER COPS, SHAME ON YOU, PROTECT NOT KILL, PUT THE ANIMALS BEHIND BARS. Police presence was minimal and subdued.

Once they arrived at the previously setup podium in the park, representatives of the various groups got their chance to express their views with the condition of keeping it short, and as per Marshal Felson’s request, focused on the incident. The fact that Jay Felson was approached by police when he was not in the act of committing any crime was stressed on more than one occasion. The TV crews covered the speeches with utmost diligence, as this was one of the highlights to be expected. Finally, for the emotional touch, the organizers called on the young man’s father.

“We are here today to let the city authorities know that we will be following very closely the grand jury proceedings!” Marshal Felson shouted. “That we, as a community, will not just brush this aside. I am grateful to all of you who have shown concern and have voiced their support for my son.” He gave up the mike and walked off the stage amid cheers and applause.

A rather frail-looking young man with glasses took control of the audience to announce that Dr. Tessa Thorpe from the New Hope Trauma Recovery Clinic was to be the next speaker.

Tessa had given much thought as to how she should dress for the occasion. Her first instinct was her Karen Kane pants suit, but dismissed that idea to wear her copper-brown print kaftan in its stead.

Now, with its folds caught in the vigorous September breeze, giving the illusion of a multitude of miniature flags fluttering around her, her thick locks of hair dancing around her head, she spoke to the crowd, slowly, deliberately taking her time. “Hello, my fellow citizens.” She stopped to survey the mass of people standing in front of her. Dramatic pauses replete with eye contact, if not overdone, were quite effective in getting one’s message across. Not surprisingly, Tessa knew how to get her message across, a special art in the realm of behavioral scientists. Public relations firms, advertising companies, political campaigns, all hired an army of psychologists to sell a product. And Tessa Thorpe, as someone who had thirty years’ experience as a criminal psychiatrist, could sell as well as any of them. “We are here today for two reasons, two very important reasons that are essential to our well-being in a modern society. Freedom is one, and justice is the other.”

Enthusiastic cheers.

“When the call for war came, we were told that our enemies hated our freedoms. We were told that the citizens of Iraq had been held hostage by a ruthless dictator who denied his own people these freedoms. Our invasion of that country was sold to us as Operation Iraqi Freedom. And so we sent our young men and women off to war, the most traumatic experience a human being could ever go through, with the belief that they were fighting for liberty and freedom. And yet, one of those whom we had sent…had come back to us only to have his own freedom denied. His single offence at the time he was approached by law enforcement officers was that he was exercising his freedom to stand on a street corner.”

This elicited a roar from the crowd.

“This is not merely tragic, it is an act of deplorable fraud, being denied the very thing he fought for!”

More heartfelt cheering.

“When I was young, we were made to pledge allegiance, an oath that ended with the phrase, ‘with liberty and justice for all.’ Well, Jay Felson was denied liberty…let us make sure he is NOT DENIED JUSTICE!”

An ear-shattering reverberation of concurrence.

Having descended from the little platform with the crowd still shouting in endorsement, Tessa was serially embraced by her coworkers: Casey, Ed, Penny…all with praise about her wonderful speech, culminating in Marshal Felson’s hug, whispering into her ear, “Amazing.”

The next event on the program was to go together to the site where Jay was killed at the bus depot in order to lay memorial flowers and gifts. The TV teams followed, instinctively knowing that this was indeed another newsworthy item. In fact, as a human interest story, it tugged at the heart to see the gift bearers laying their offers down. And what made it even more poignant was the huge bloodstain that had yet to be cleaned off the pavement, a crimson smear that drew numerous zoomed-in shots by the camera crews.

About the Author:

N Lombardi copy

Lombardi Jr, the N for Nicholas, has spent over half his life in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, working as a groundwater geologist. Nick can speak five languages: Swahili, Thai, Lao, Chinese, and Khmer (Cambodian).

In 1997, while visiting Lao People’s Democratic Republic, he witnessed the remnants of a secret war that had been waged for nine years, among which were children wounded from leftover cluster bombs. Driven by what he saw, he worked on The Plain of Jars for the next eight years.

Nick maintains a website with content that spans most aspects of the novel: The Secret War, Laotian culture, Buddhism etc.

His second novel, Journey Towards a Falling Sun, is set in the wild frontier of northern Kenya.

His latest novel, Justice Gone was inspired by the fatal beating of a homeless man by police.

Nick now lives in Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Follow the Author:

Website * Goodreads * Amazon

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Book Blitz – Prisoner of Yakutsk

Prisoner of Yakutsk by Shreyas Bhave

The Subhash Chandra Bose Mystery

Final Chapter

8th to 10th February

About the Author:

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What exactly happened to Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose?

  • In 1945, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, Leader of the INA leaves Singapore to take a series of flights, and dies in Taiwan after his plane crashes near Formosa. Or so it seems.
  • In 1947, Mr Mrs Singh, an illustrious army couple, both veterans of the Indian National Army, are last seen in Delhi, and then never again.
  • In 1949, the plane carrying the first deputy Prime Minister of India, Sardar Vallabhai Patel, mysteriously disappears for seven hours.
  • In 2012, following the fall of WikiLeaks, a female hacker of the notorious X group is on the run as most wanted by everyone from Interpol to the KGB
  • In 2015, the millionaire CEO of a Fortune 500 company suddenly resigns and vanishes from the public eye.

A set of seemingly unconnected disappearances emerge to be woven into a single fabric as the answer to one leads to another… In this riveting narrative, bestselling author Shreyas Bhave, takes the reader on a thrilling adventure to solve the greatest mystery the Indian nation has known. 

Book Links:

Goodreads * Amazon

 

Read an Excerpt:

 

At minus 5 degrees celsius, the cold is refreshing and a light hat and scarf are all that are required to keep you warm. At minus 20, the moisture in your nostrils freezes and it is difficult not to cough. At minus 35, the air is cold enough to numb exposed skin, making frostbite a constant hazard. And at minus 45 degrees, metal sticks to your cheeks and tears off chunks of flesh when you take off your sun goggles. Jay Rasbihari was not wearing any metal, just his fur coat, but the cold was such that even the plastic earphones in his ears felt painful as he tugged at them to listen to his contact from HQ. He waited for the connection to be established. The thermometer attached to his clothes showed minus 40. His ears had begun to sting. Next would be his legs. Nevertheless he stood still and waited.

                          “HQ to Jay.” His contact’s voice filled Jay’s ears. He opened his mouth to acknowledge the call but realized the cold had caused his throat to freeze. “Jay here.” He willed the words to escape his mouth. 

                       “Start the GPS on your phone so I can track you,” the voice from HQ instructed. For a moment Jay felt envious, thinking about his contact sitting somewhere in warm comfort. Such thoughts were dangerous, he knew. They sapped one’s will. He struggled to find his phone and struggled to enter the codes with his numb fingers. “I see you,” the voice from HQ confirmed. “Move forward.” Jay cursed as he lifted his leg and brought it forward. His foot sunk into the snow but he pulled it out and continued. Walking up the slope was a breathless challenge as he climbing at snail’s pace. “Okay, stop!” The voice from the HQ said once he was on the top of the small hill. Jay halted, struggling to catch his breath.

“Should be at your feet,” the voice said. The mist made it hard to see anything. Jay sank to his knees and groped. He could feel nothing but snow, all around him. “I don’t see it.”

                     “Of course you don’t.” Jay thought he heard amusement in the voice. “Mr. Jay, you’re going to have to dig.”

 

Book Trailer:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_drRmIwXtmI
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About the Author:

Shreyas Bhave’s love for history since his childhood prompted him to write his take on the story of Asoka who was one of the towering figures in the history of India, which has been taken up as ‘The Asoka Trilogy’ by Leadstart Publishing. The first part of the trilogy called ‘The Prince of Patliputra’ has been published in January 2016 and the second part called ‘Storm From Taxila’ was published in 2018.

 

Connect with the Author:

Website * Facebook * Twitter

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Book Blitz – Opera by Mari.Reiza

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 Literary / Romance 

About the Book:

A wealthy arts patron receives a wrongly delivered letter at her secret address in Kensington. Her therapist recognises the intended recipient immediately, leading her into the hands of a defeated composer she will, together with her sweetest accomplice, help back into music. A passionate rendition of human resilience.

Find it on Amazon

About the Setting

There are three main settings. First, Ivanka’s secret Kensington flat where she weekly receives her massage therapist Fer. She has instructed her doctor to send any correspondence to this address, helping her channel misery away from her everyday life. Second, a ruinous local mansion where Maria has caged himself, confined to the largest of its rooms, a boundless nest with a floor of sand and a central shiny black grand piano. Finally, a sophisticated high-class London Mexican restaurant resembling a theatre set where guests can pick a character and live only the fun parts. Here Ivanka regularly meets and plots with playfellow and long-life confidant Igor.

Meet Ivanka

Ivanka is a beautiful young woman born in Saint Petersburg, wedded to rich banker Alexey. But their marriage has only given birth to a story of misuse of wealth and human limitation. He doesn’t like losers. Neither does she. She couldn’t stomach grievers orbiting around them if her sorry news became public. It’s impossible to be naturally kind or forgiving with her pain, but in Maria she has seen something precious. She wants to bring it out in him though not the way Alexey did in her…  After all, was she not once the most wonderful music promoter, a genius in seeking talent?

Meet Fer

Fer is slim as a river reed, looks so innocent-pretty despite his cut-rate-dental teeth and wobbly eyes always alert to never miss anything, so gay in his hideous rainbow shirt. He has been hired by Ivanka for his osteopathy services alone, yet  has from day one committed himself to deliver much more, channeling a constant flow of psychic vigour to every corner of her system in peril. He’s drawn to her talk of Igor even if he doesn’t understand who he is. He’s full of childish excitement about Maria he recognizes as a musician in a popular band when he was growing up in Italy. Very few people seem to afford Fer a chance other than for what they want for themselves, but he knows Ivanka is his chance, that something in her will make things happen for him.

Meet Maria

A blue-eyed Viking. He looks like a haunted criminal under a witness protection program, a man who would slaughter, skin and bake your family dog, a man you don’t want to be telling you what he has down on his life tally… and what’s with all his leather neck chains and charms unable to hide his prominent Adam’s apple? The sight of him almost immediately wins Ivanka over. His mind has remained full of an old flame, of the grief of living with someone who’s not there, who had once sworn she didn’t mind him not being like other people and had him dream of fathering mermaids, of living under a waterfall. How could he ever get over that?

Meet Igor

Ivanka’s prince. She finds him irresistible in a motherly way. She always did, since she was fourteen and he was a little boy and they were constantly bonding over one activity or another she set out for him in Moscow, when she first arrived from Saint Petersburg. Igor’s a son of a famous actress and director, has tried and failed to follow in his father’s steps. And he’s wanted back in Moscow by his hysterically resentful, erotically hyper-charged Cuban ex-lover (married to an old Russian princess he has duped) who has offered Igor his last opportunity to rehabilitate their shared history or else…Igor can’t go back to Moscow. He can’t ‘holiday’ around sad corners of the continent indefinitely either, like a fugitive. He’s stuck in a bad situation, one that would easily call for him to open a bottle of port every night and weep over his life, which he indeed does, repeatedly. He needs to secure work in London just to be safe. He needs Ivanka. And he would do anything to have her happy; he owes her for old times’ sake…

 

About the Author:

Mari.Reiza was born in Madrid in 1973. She has worked as an investment research writer and management consultant for twenty years in London. She studied at Oxford University and lives off Portobello Road with her husband and child.

Find Mari at:

Twitter * Instagram

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New Review for A Beckoning Hellfire

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A new review was recently posted on Amazon for my novel, A Beckoning Hellfire. The author of the review, An Ordinary Mom, apparently didn’t see the fine print, check out the book on Amazon, or see on the cover that A Beckoning Hellfire is the second book in the Renegade Series. She posted in her review that she didn’t like the ending. But the story doesn’t end there! (Spoiler alert: the protagonist does survive and is a prominent character in the third book.) Here is the review:

December 14, 2018

I really liked the book and I did some fact checking on a couple of things. I was pleased to see that everything I looked up was accurate. However I did not like the end. You spend the entire book getting to know a young man and his struggles and then he just dies at the end? That kind of ruined things for me. Such is war I suppose.

Full Disclosure- I was provided with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Thank you, An Ordinary Mom, for your review!

New Book Tour

About the Book:

GuardianAngel copy


The Man

Security expert Nikhil Mahajan is in mortal danger. Gravely injured and unable to see, he is in the midst of hostile strangers in an unknown place. Any hope of survival is fast fading away. 

 

The Angel

Should an innocent man be left to die just because he had been in the wrong place at the wrong time? Someone has to intervene.


Book Links:

Goodreads * Amazon.in * Amazon.com


Read Short Excerpts:


#1

He walked across the few yards of the forest toward his freedom, leaving behind his guardian angel. He walked across the road to the army cantonment fence leaving behind a piece of his soul. His chest, it seemed, would explode but for the heavy weight pressing on his lungs.

 


#2

Taking the support of the wall, head bent down, he stood under the shower with the water running down his face, and wept. The adrenaline rush of keeping himself alive receded as he emptied the fears, worries, and helplessness of the past month down the drain with the bathwater. The thought of being able to see his parents soon made him more emotional. He sniffed and sniveled, and resolved to take back control of his life. And most of all, he resolved to do something about those monsters back in the Tral forest.

 

Reviews for Guardian Angel:

 

I couldn’t have begun the New Year with a better read! Thrilling, fast-paced, edgy…Ruchi Singh is on top of her game with this unputdownable book! ~ Adite

 

The build up to the culmination is fantastic – the suspense carries through to the end. The romance simmers and sparkles. ~ Reet Singh 

 

Guardian Angel is a brilliant thriller set in Kashmir in which both the principal characters are in deep trouble. This sets the tone for a nail-biting story. There is no let up in the suspense and the book kept me hooked till the last page. I liked the ending immensely! ~ Jennifer Thompson

 

About the Author:

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Winner of TOI WriteIndia Season 1, Ruchi Singh is a novelist, and writes in two genres; romance and romantic thriller. A voracious reader, she loves everything—from classics to memoirs to editorials to chick-lit, but her favourite genre is ‘romantic thriller’. Besides writing and reading, her other interests include dabbling with Indian classical dance forms.

 

Blog | Official Website | Facebook | Goodreads | Twitter


Giveaway:

~ 1 winner for 500/- Amazon Gift Card + kindle copy of Guardian Angel
~ 1 winner for 250/- Amazon Gift Card + kindle copy of Guardian Angel

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Guest Post Article

The following is a guest post written by Melissa Chan of Literary Book Gifts.

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Pen and Pad or Laptop? Why the Platform You Write On Matters

It is undeniable that much of writing takes place brainstorming, jotting down ideas on fragments of paper, or just working through plots and characters in one’s mind. But when it comes down to getting the words on paper and into a cohesive draft, there are plenty of different ways in which this task can be accomplished. In recent years smartphones and other writing software have the ability to replace even the classic blank page document. Digital computers and the technology within them has come a long way and really made an impact on the ways it is possible to write.

It can be easy to say, “well this doesn’t matter, writing is simply one’s ideas and the way in which you get them out of your head into a book is not of any consequence.” But I’m not entirely sure this is true. Here are a few reasons why I think the platform you write on matters, perhaps they will help you consider how you write and how it might affect your finished work.

The interface

I am personally a fan of paper over the laptop. I’ve not written anything of substance just yet, but on the occasions that I have tried it to do so, I have had much more success with pen to paper. With ink and unlined paper I am seemingly able to get my ideas out faster. Although this may appear counterintuitive since like most people I can type at a much faster rate than I can write with a pen, it is something that works for me. The digital interface doesn’t allow for arrows, scribbling out parts of sentences while leave traces of what was left behind, or doodles on the edges. New writing programs may have advanced features such as notes in the margins, and embedded in-line notes but none compare to the simple ease of pen to paper.

How you write dictates where you write

There are definitely advantages of the laptop or other digital forms of writing. As I mentioned before, typing speed is a given. The computer can check your spelling and grammar as you write. It can also store thousands of pages of research and writings that you can quickly search through on demand. Instead of an entire library of notes, the laptop’s database can be accessed from a coffee shop, on vacation, or even miles above the ground on an airplane. Writing on paper can be portable. Notebooks of course can be carried everywhere and don’t require electricity to work. This I suppose depends on the need of an individual writer. Sitting on a park bench writing in a notebook is a much more different experience than a laptop, even on that same park bench. For those who write on a monitor with full keyboard and mouse at home, a notebook is perhaps the only way that they will be able to write out of the house.

In Conclusion

Before the rise of technology, authors had limited options for writing platforms. I wouldn’t be surprised if many contemporary authors elect to write directly on the computer because of it’s many benefits which include speed and efficiency. The platform in which an author writes is by no means as important as the writing itself, but as I am always interested in craft, and the human experience of creating art, it’s a question I have contemplated over the years. My conclusion is that the means of art creation does have an impact on the final outcome of any work of art, and that certainly includes literature.

I hope that some of my thoughts on writing platforms help you consider the way in which you write and how that influences your work as an author. Thank you so much for listening.

Melissa Chan is an occasional writer and the founder of Literary Book Gifts, a virtual gift shop for book lovers, readers, and writers. The store features authors and titles from classic books for all to appreciate.

How do you get your ideas into a finished book? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

(Special thanks to Melissa Chan for this article.)

 

Another Christmas Story

Christmas is one of my favorite times of the year. It is a joyous, sacred occasion, and has always been a special holiday for me, filled with happiness, celebration, and time to spend with family and friends. But the holiday season can be difficult for so many.

There have been many instances in our nation’s history when the holidays presented sadness and difficulty, along with the unknown perils of what the future might hold. This excerpt, from my novel, A Beckoning Hellfire, shows just one example of how a rural family from Alabama dealt with such a blow.

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But what a cruel thing is war. To separate and destroy families and friends and mar the purest joys and happiness God has granted us in this world. To fill our hearts with hatred instead of love for our neighbors and to devastate the fair face of this beautiful world¼My heart bleeds at the death of every one of our gallant men.

Robert E. Lee, letter to his wife, December 25, 1862

 

Chapter One

“Here it is! Come quick!”

David sauntered across the dead grass toward his little sister. Amused by the way she was jumping up and down like a nervous flea, he couldn’t help but grin. Obviously, she was too excited to care that her petticoats were showing from under the brown coat and green calico dress she wore, or that her long auburn hair had broken free from its bondage as her bonnet slid from her head and dangled down her back.

“Which one, Josie?” he asked, stifling a snicker.

She planted her feet and pointed to a small yellow pine near a cluster of sweet gum and ash trees. “Right here!” she exclaimed.

Glancing down at the sapling, he gave her a crooked smile. “Well, that’s a mighty fine tree, but ain’t it kinda scrawny?” He estimated the pine to be three feet tall at most.

Josie frowned at her older brother, who had one eyebrow cocked from under his slouch hat. His hands were tucked into his brown trousers, and his linen shirt hung loosely on his tall, lanky frame. “No,” she said, “ it’s jist right. We’ll string some corn on it, hang some nuts and berries on it, and it’ll look right smart in the corner of the front room.”

With a shrug, he said, “All right. If you reckon this is the one.”

She nodded, her bright blue eyes reflecting her elation.

David relished the moment, for he knew Christmas was her favorite holiday. He had only heightened her anticipation on the way out to the woodlot by reminding her what would happen that evening, how Santa would be stopping by later when she was sound asleep. Of course, he had no explanation as to how eight tiny reindeer could pull a sleigh all the way to Alabama. Josie promptly informed him that she wasn’t a child any longer. She was all of thirteen, and didn’t believe in those farfetched stories anymore, but he knew better. She would be lying in her bed tonight, listening and waiting.

“Well, go on now, cut it down!” Josie insisted.

He put his thumb and forefinger to his lips and gave a high, shrill whistle. Noticing how the gray sky was growing darker, he looked over at the edge of the clearing where they stood and saw the underbrush rustle. Suddenly, two hound dogs bounded out of the trees, followed by a gangly young stallion.

“Come on, Renegade. Over here,” he called out to the colt, who responded by cantering to him.

Josie giggled at the sight. “Your dumb horse thinks he’s a dog!”

“He ain’t dumb. I’ll wager he’s a lick smarter than you are, li’l sister,” David teased.

The horse blew and stomped his front hoof.

“Why, that’s the most ridiculous thing I ever heard of. And not only is he dumb, he looks right silly, too. He can’t decide if he should be spotted or palomino!”

David observed his horse for a moment. Renegade’s face was piebald. His dark chestnut coat was highlighted with white spots and patches concentrating on his underbelly, and his mane and tail were light flaxen. He had white socks up to his knees. His unusual eyes were brownish green. David remembered how he had heard that a horse with strange-colored eyes like Renegade’s was considered sacred and chosen by the Cherokee Indians. Several people had noticed the strange coincidence, and his other sister, Rena, also frequently commented that he and his horse had the same colored eyes.

“I reckon he knows what he is,” David remarked. “Besides, he’s unusual, and that makes him unique.”

“Oh, he’s unique all right,” Josie said, giggling again. She pulled her hair back from her face and replaced her bonnet.

David untied a saw from a leather strap attached to Renegade’s saddle. He knelt down, quickly sawed through the little tree’s trunk, picked it up, and tied it across the saddle’s seat. His two black and tan dogs sniffed around the tree’s sawed off stump. Suddenly, they both lifted their noses into the air with their ears pricked. They bolted across the open clearing, baying at an unseen curiosity as they disappeared into the woods.

“Caleb! Si!” David hollered after the two hounds. “Well, there they go,” he observed wryly. “All right, Renegade, take it on home.” He patted his horse on the shoulder.

Renegade nickered softly, shook his head, and trotted off in the same direction as the two hounds.

Josie gasped. “Look, David! It’s startin’ to snow!” She tilted her head back and stuck out her tongue, trying to catch snowflakes on it.

He chuckled.

“Come on, you do it, too,” she coaxed him.

He obliged his little sister by imitating her.

Josie laughed, spinning around with her arms extended while snow fell silently down around them.

“Oh!” David clasped his hand to his face. “One fell in my eye!”

Josie giggled.

He couldn’t help but smile, although he was careful not to let her see, and snorted to cover up his delight. “Well, I’m right glad you think it’s so funny.” He looked at her, trying to keep a straight face. “Come on, Josie girl. We’d best be gittin’ on back.”

He allowed her to go ahead of him as they started on the bridle path that cut through the woods.

“Let’s sing Christmas carols!” she said. “That new one we heard last year. Jingle Bells!”

“You start,” he prompted.

“Dashin’ through the snow…”

He joined in. Their voices grew stronger in unison.

“In a one-horse open sleigh…”

They came to an empty field, and trudged through, stepping over mud puddles while they continued singing.

“Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way…”

Their house stood quaintly at the far end of the field. Smoke circled from its two chimneys, dissolving into the gray sky. The sweet smell of burning hickory reached out, inviting them closer. From a distance, the structure appeared to be two separate cabins sitting side by side, but upon closer observation, one could see that they were connected by a covered breezeway. Each section contained two rooms and a fireplace. A wide flat porch on the front of the split log building served as an entryway. The tin roof, which seemed to expel heat in the summertime, also managed to repel snow during winter months.

The cold, damp air encroached upon brother and sister. As they sang, their breath escaped, floated out across the fields, and vanished in phantom gusts.

“Oh what fun it is to ride in a one-horse open sleigh!”

On the last note, Josie’s voice jumped an octave. They laughed at their grand finale and walked around to the front of the house, where Renegade was waiting patiently for the tree to be removed from his saddle. A buckskin horse stood beside him.

“Whose horse is that?” Josie asked.

“It looks like Bud Samuels’ horse.”

David and Josie looked at each other, wide-eyed. “Pa!” they both exclaimed.

Josie sprang onto the porch, burst through the front door, and went inside while David untied the small yellow pine. He set it aside, pulled the saddle from Renegade’s back, and removed his bridle.

“Go on into the barn, Renie,” he said. “Or you’ll be one big ole snowball in a minute.”

The colt blew and trotted around the side of the house.

David carried his tack into the breezeway. He placed it on a horizontal board, which was supported by a plank on each end. Collecting the tree, he heard the sound of Bud’s voice coming from inside.

“I had some trouble gettin’ here,” Bud was saying as he entered. “But I convinced the Home Guard to follow me home so’s I could show them my furlough paper.”

David produced the tiny tree. “I know it’s small,” he said with a grin, “but Josie insisted, and…” The sight that befell him inexplicably filled him with dread. His smile faded. He looked around at the faces before him and let the tree fall onto the wooden floor. Warmth from the fireplace did nothing to relieve the chill that grasped him. “What is it?” he asked.

“Come in, darlin’, and close the door,” his mother said from her high-backed chair, which sat near the empty corner they had readied for the Christmas tree. Her brown skirt encircled her like a puddle. Her dark brown hair, streaked recently with gray, was parted in the middle and contained in a white cotton hair net. She clenched her hands in her lap, and her lips were pursed. The flickering firelight accentuated the grooves on her face, which, for some reason, David had never noticed before. After closing the door behind him, he looked at Rena, who was sitting beside the hearth. She vacantly stared back, her violet eyes welling up with tears.

“Rena?” he asked her.

She looked away and hugged Josie, who had taken the chair beside her.

David walked across the room to their neighbor, Bud.

“It’s a pleasure to see you again, Mr. Samuels,” he said, shaking the man’s hand. “How’s Pa? Is he comin’ home for Christmas, like he wrote?”

“Have a seat, David.” Bud’s eyes filled with concern. He scratched his straggly, graying beard.

Obeying the command, David slowly sank into a chair, keeping his eyes fixed on Bud’s face.

“I’m afraid I have bad news.” Bud cleared his throat, then slowly, deliberately said, “Your father’s been killed at Fredericksburg.” He looked down at the floor. “A little over a week ago. I know he was lookin’ forward to seein’ y’all. I’m…immensely sorry.”

He pulled a folded piece of yellowed paper from his coat pocket. The gray coat was torn and tattered in places, not at all like the beautiful piece of clothing that had been provided to him nearly two years earlier. His trousers and the kepi he held in his hand were weathered, too.

“Miss Carolyn, Hiram wanted me to give you this here letter…in the event of his death.” He solemnly handed her the note.

Squeezing her eyes shut, Carolyn held it to her mouth. Tears streamed down her weathered face. “Thank you, Bud,” she finally said. “You’ve been a good friend to my Hiram. I know he appreciated you dearly.”

Bud nodded. “Please let the missus or me know if there’s anything we can do,” he offered, and walked toward the door.

“I surely will.” Carolyn wearily stood, followed him to the door, and walked him out.

Bud placed his kepi on his head, untied his horse, mounted, and galloped off down the lane. The rhythm of hoof beats faded.

Turning from the doorway, Carolyn somberly gazed at her children. Her two daughters came across the room to hug her. The three of them burst into tears. Carolyn gazed at her son, who was sitting motionless across the room, his handsome young face drained of color, his hazel eyes growing a darker brown.

“David,” she said, her voice filled with the sorrow that had now overtaken the room.

He looked over at her, his face blank with grief-stricken shock.  Finding no comfort in her anguished expression, he glanced up at the ornately-carved mantle clock, the one his father had given to her as a wedding gift. It read ten minutes past five. Beside it sat a framed tintype of his father, adorned in Confederate glory, ready to march off to victory, but now he was never to return. David’s eyes wandered, and he noticed things he’d taken for granted before: the raised oval portrait of his paternal grandmother on the wall, the paintings of flowers his mother liked so well that hung on the opposite wall, the fieldstone fireplace that his father had built, and the pine furniture that had been there ever since he could remember. Somehow, all of it seemed irrelevant.

Moving numbly, he rose and walked across the room to pick up the little tree he had dropped earlier. A tiny pool of water remained where it had fallen. He carried the tree outside, leaving a trail of moisture that splattered onto the floorboards. The cold winter air, uncluttered with snow, barely whispered, its breath deathly quiet and still. Dusk was rapidly approaching.

David hurled the tree as hard as he could. It landed with a rustled thud out in the yard. Without pausing, he walked into the breezeway past his mother and sisters and grabbed a kerosene lantern. He carried it outside, lit it, and threw it at the pine. The glass shattered upon impact. Kerosene trickled out onto the tiny branches and within seconds, flames engulfed the little tree. He stoically watched tongues of fire consume the sapling. Slowly, he turned to face his mother and sisters, who were standing on the porch, watching him while they wept.

“I reckon we won’t be celebratin’ Christmas after all,” he said, his voice raspy with distress.

Impending darkness engulfed his heart. Feeling the need for solitude, he walked around the house toward the barn, vaguely hearing his mother call out to him. The sky opened, releasing icy rain. He stomped past the pigpen and the chicken coop. Upon reaching the old wooden barn, he went inside and blinked several times before his eyes adjusted to his dim surroundings. He caught glimpses of shadows dancing off the walls and up around the rafters. A pungent combination of dry, clean hay and musty wood enveloped him. The rain rattled down upon the barn’s tin roof and sounded like a thousand tiny drums. Three cows studied him with soft brown eyes. One mooed a welcome as he walked past them.

Sidestepping bales of hay stacked near the stall door, David paused to shake off cold drops of moisture that clung to his shirt and ran his hand over the top of his head, wiping the rain from his dark brown hair. A large Percheron, standing in the stall next to Renegade, gazed at David with his ears pricked.

“Hey, Joe Boy,” David said softly to the tall white gelding.

The draft horse sniffled at David’s pockets but seemed to lose interest and shuffled to the other end of his stall when David didn’t offer a treat like he usually did. Renegade looked up from his fodder and nickered softly. David walked over and gently stroked his muzzle. “I’m sorry I put you through all that trouble of bringin’ home a tree.” Anguish and anger welled up inside him. Searing-hot tears streamed down his cheeks. His hatred seethed. His grief was overwhelming, and he could hold it back no longer. Sobs escaped him. He grasped onto his horse’s mane, burying his face in Renegade’s neck. The colt stood quietly, seemingly to console him.

It’s That Time of Year

In exactly two weeks, it will be Christmas! It’s my favorite holiday. Here is an excerpt from my novel, A Beautiful Glittering Lie, the first book in the Renegade Series. This glance into the past shows what a war-torn country was like in December, 1861.

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The day of Callie’s Christmas party arrived. Rena and Josie had primped for a week, repeatedly trying on the five dresses they owned between them, until they finally came to a decision. David didn’t give it much thought, since Callie’s charms had worn off with time, but he did carve a beautiful broach for her.

They reached the Copeland’s as dusk was setting in. It was an unseasonably warm evening, and Caroline remarked about how the weather seemed to be cooperating with the party. Pulling into the yard, they saw several other carriages and wagons parked outside. David directed Joe Boy to an open area. He jumped down, tied the draft horse to a shrub, greeted Percy, who was tending the horses, and after assisting his mother and sisters down from the wagon, he escorted them up the steps to the house. The stylings of festive violin music floated through the air. Caroline tapped on the door. Momentarily, Mr. Copeland answered, dressed in a waistcoat with matching black trousers.

“Why, there y’all are!” he greeted them happily. “Please do come in!”

Extending his hand to David, the two shook and followed the ladies into the parlor, which was aglow with glittering lights. Candles flickered on brass candlesticks, reflecting off blown-glass decorations that adorned an enormous pine Christmas tree regally standing in a corner. The women were attired in festive, colorful dresses, and the men wore fine suits. David thought the entire sparkling room was enchanting.

Josie and Rena saw some friends, so they went off to mingle. Mr. Copeland took Caroline’s arm and led her over to his wife, leaving David awkwardly alone. He gazed around for a familiar face, and finally found one. Jake ambled across the room in his direction, with Callie on his arm. She was radiant in a shimmering, bronze-colored, hooped gown. Her golden hair was drawn up and confined within a snood that matched the hue of her dress. Jake appeared similarly attractive in his best suit.

“Glad to see you could make it!” he exclaimed, giving his friend a playful punch on the arm.

“Y’all knew we couldn’t miss this.”

“Well, I should certainly hope not!” exclaimed Callie. “Everyone knows mine is the most extravagant party in the county this season. And we have cause for celebration, this bein’ the first yuletide since the start of the war.” Releasing Jake, she clamped onto David. “Jake, would you be a darlin’ and go fetch me some punch?”

“It would be my pleasure, Miss Callie,” he said with a smile. Giving David a wink, he strolled off into the crowd.

“Now, Mr. Summers, if you please, I would like you to come with me,” she said, giving his arm a tug, so he obediently followed along like a puppy.

The violinist, joined by a pianist, delved into a tender rendition of “Silent Night.” Callie stopped momentarily to listen, so David took his opportunity.

“Miss Callie, I made you a token,” he bashfully admitted. Withdrawing a small wrapped package from his pocket, he handed it to her.

“Well, I do declare! David, darlin’, you shouldn’t have!” She tore open the wrapping and pried open the box, revealing the broach he had painstakingly carved for her. “Why, it’s absolutely breathtakin’.” She pinned it onto the front of her gown. “I shall wear it always.”

Taking his hand, she leaned over to give him a gentle kiss on the cheek, barely missing his mouth.

He shied away, embarrassed. Clearing his throat while his face flushed, he muttered, “What did you want to show me, Miss Callie?”

“I would like to present you to some friends who are out back.”

He followed her to the garden, but immediately wished he hadn’t, for as soon as they were outside, he saw several faces he recognized.

“David, you know Owen Ridgeway, and his brother, Lemuel.”

“Hey, Summers,” said Lemuel in a friendly manner, but his older brother only glared.

“Hey, y’all,” David responded genially, for Callie’s sake.

Jake arrived, and handed Callie a glass filled with sparkling red fluid. Seeing the tension, he said, “Zeke, go on in and git yourself some punch.”

“Don’t mind if I do,” he said, taking his chance to escape the scene. He knew Callie was unaware of the conflict, but he was riled, and he didn’t wish to spoil her party, so he went inside to the food table.

The spread temporarily distracted him from a possible confrontation. Ham, turkey, stuffing, cornbread, pickles, garden vegetables, bread pudding, and assorted pies were displayed on gold leaf china. His mouth watered as he absorbed the sight.

Rena appeared beside him. “Are you enjoyin’ yourself?” she asked, taking a plate.

“I was, till Callie took me outside. That scoundrel Owen Ridgeway is here.”

“He is?”

“Yeah, and so is his brother. I don’t have a quarrel with him, though.”

“Jist avoid him, David,” she advised.

He looked over to see the seriousness in her gaze. “I’ll be on my best behavior for Ma’s sake, but if he tries to make a fuss, well …”

“Jist don’t.” Rena glared insistently at him before moving on.

Once he had filled his plate, he walked across the kitchen, sat at the table, and began eating. Soon, several guests joined him, and struck up a conversation about his father. Isabelle scurried about to accommodate the partygoers, as did the Copeland’s five slaves, and a few others the neighbors had brought along to help support them.

After lingering for half an hour, David excused himself. He walked into the parlor, where he saw Jake and Callie talking to Alice Walker, so he joined them.

“Oh, David, Miss Alice has jist informed us of the most dreadful news!” Callie leaned against Jake for support.

“What is it, Miss Alice?” he asked.

“We’re movin’ to California,” she announced. A broad smile spread across her young porcelain-like face.

“Californee is a right far piece away!” Jake exclaimed with a chuckle.

She nodded. “My pa has an uncle out that way who struck it rich, so we’re fixin’ to go next year sometime. Perhaps after spring thaw.”

David smirked through a flash of jealousy. “I wish I could go out to Californee and strike it rich,” he muttered.

Callie smiled at him. “Perhaps we can all go out for a visit later on,” she suggested hopefully. Turning toward the wall, she decided to change the subject. “David, have you seen the paintin’ my ma jist acquired?”

“No.” He drew closer to have a look.

“Pa bought it for her for Christmas. Ain’t it magnificent?”

“It surely is.” He gazed at the landscape, noticing how the bluish-purple colors of twilight were accurately represented.

“My ma says that it’s right fittin’ and all. She says that this paintin’, Twilight, symbolizes the transitions we’ve all been goin’ through—the new Confederacy and two new presidents, talk of freein’ the slaves, and the country splittin’ in two. It’s like the dawnin’ of a new day.”

David stared at the painting, reading her description into the swirls left by the artist’s brushstrokes, and reckoned she was right.

Mrs. Copeland’s high-pitched voice cut through the din. “May I have your attention, please?”

Callie’s father tapped on a crystal champagne glass with a piece of silverware, causing it to ring out. The participants grew quiet.

“We would like for all of our guests to please assemble out back in the garden!” she exclaimed, and motioned invitingly, so the partygoers followed her.

As David walked outside, he noticed the entire backyard had been redecorated. Paper lanterns strung across the length of the yard illuminated the setting, and musicians were gathered on a platform near the back. The violinist had transformed himself into a fiddle player. He was joined by a banjo player and a percussionist, who sat poised atop a stool with spoons in his hand.

“For our first song,” the banjo player announced, “we’re playin’ a fine tune by Stephen Foster, called ‘O Lemuel.’”

Owen guffawed at the reference, jabbing his little brother with his elbow. The music started, and the crowd coupled up. Walking out into the center of the straw-covered yard, they began swirling to the music. The chill in the air seemed to dissipate as the dancers moved in synchronized harmony across the makeshift dance floor.

David watched while a schoolmate, Thomas Halsey, escorted Rena. Jake and Callie took to the floor, as did their parents, even though Mr. Kimball’s injured leg prevented him from dancing with much elegance. Like he usually did at gatherings such as these, David partnered with his mother and younger sister, dancing to the lively melodies of “The Yellow Rose of Texas” and “Jim along Josie.” He danced with Alice, and once, timidly, with Callie, who complimented him on his stylish grace. When the music changed to a waltz, she stated that she thought he would easily fit into high society with his fancy footwork.

After the musicians took a break, he strolled into the house for refreshment. Owen followed, confronting him in the kitchen.

“Think you’re quite the rooster, don’t you? Dancin’ with every gal at the party.” He stared provokingly with penetrating green eyes, his blond hair tussled atop his head.

David whirled around to face him. Owen had always been a showoff, and was constantly teasing him because he was left-handed, and trying to outdo him at every opportunity. 

“That ain’t none of your concern. Savvy?”

Owen snorted. “You’re worthless. You ain’t nothin’ but a weasel. All you can do is hide behind them skirts!”

Rena entered to see her brother bristle at his adversary. “David …” she warned.

“Not now, Rena,” he growled back.

“Recall what we discussed.” She could see from across the room that her brother’s eyes were darkening from hazel to brown, which to her was a bad indication.

“I want to have a word with you out on the veranda, Ridgeway,” David stated.

He tromped off through the house. Owen grinned, traipsing behind. David heard his mother’s voice as she entered the kitchen. 

“What’s goin’ on in here?” she asked.

“Dere’s ‘bout to be trouble out front, Miss Caroline,” Isabelle explained as she gathered a trayful of dirty dishes.

“It’s Owen Ridgeway again, Ma,” added Josie.

Caroline growled, “I’ll put a stop to this.” 

“No, Mrs. Summers,” Jake intercepted. “Allow me.” He sauntered through the house as voices outside escalated, and went outside to see David and Owen glaring intensely while throwing verbal spears at each other.

“I know it was you who killed my dog last winter!” David roared. “You did it jist to spite me, because you were jealous!”

“Why would I be jealous of you?” Owen mocked a laugh.

“Because I’m smarter than you, and you know it.”

“You cheated on those school exams so you could graduate! You lied about your pa fightin’ at Manassas, too! You’re spoiled and soft!”

“I’ll have you take that back!”

“Now, boys,” Jake interrupted, “there ain’t no need for—”

Suddenly, Owen lurched at David, who threw a punch into his attacker’s face. They were immediately wrestling on the veranda, tumbling over each other while grunting, cursing, and yelling. Members of the party dashed outside, alarmed by the commotion. Jake managed to break the two apart, and held his friend’s arms behind his back. Lemuel seized his brother in the same manner. The two opponents snorted like bulls, their faces red with vehemence. A trail of scarlet blood trickled from Owen’s nose.

“Take it easy!” Jake hollered.

Mr. Copeland stepped in. “What is the meaning of this?! I will not have you two behave this way at my gatherin’!” He stomped over to Owen and took him by the ear. “I’m throwin’ you out, young man! You’re no longer welcome here!” Leading Owen to the steps, he thrust him toward the yard. Lemuel meekly scurried after his brother. “Off with you now, and don’t come back!”

The brothers staggered toward their wagon, climbed in, and rode off down the lane.

Turning toward David, who was panting to catch his breath, Mr. Copeland sighed. “David, I thought better of you than this.” He walked past him and went inside.

The words stung more than any expulsion could. Frowning, he looked at his startled family, at Jake, who simpered at him, and at Callie, who scowled at him. He knew what he had done, although it was unintentional, and he felt deeply ashamed. He had ruined Callie’s Christmas party.

Soon, the family decided it was best to leave. Barely speaking to each other, they returned home and retired to their bedchambers. The next morning, on their way back from church, Josie broke the silence.

“How come Owen Ridgeway don’t like you?” she asked straightforwardly.

David shrugged. “He never has, and I don’t cotton to him, neither.”

She chuckled faintly. “I reckon you would if he was nice to you.”

He shrugged again. It was a situation he assumed he would likely never know.

Book Blitz – When Our Worlds Meet Again

~ Book Blitz ~

When Our Worlds Meet Again by Aniesha Brahma

16th November 2018

About the Book:

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Two years after the events of ‘When Our Worlds Collide’, Zayn and Akriti are now leading extremely different lives. Akriti has come back from her stint at the business school and running her mother’s café. Zayn has run into trouble in his PhD program and has come home for a break. While he thinks that things are just as he’d left them two years ago, that is far from the truth. In a last ditch attempt to make Akriti remember the connection they had once shared, Zayn tries to recreate all their memories. But things are never the same when collided worlds meet again. 


Book Links:

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Read an Excerpt:

 

Prologue

2015.

Akriti was sitting at the cash counter of her mother’s little café going over the expenses for the day. Her headphones were plugged into her ears as she listened to songs on her phone. Her laptop was propelled open in front of her as she made notes on what else needed to be done the next day.

In the two years that she had been gone, the café had not changed at all. Her mother had kept all the renovations that Akriti and her colleagues had done two years ago. The only difference was that now there was a bulletin board next to the chalkboard menu that had been installed just a few weeks ago. On the bulletin board hung a poster that announced that next week’s Poetry Slam would start at 6PM sharp, and Suzanna needed to be contacted for early registration.

Akriti finished her work and shut down her laptop. She looked around the café in grim satisfaction and let out a happy little sigh. The music from her phone suddenly stopped playing. Glancing down she saw that her phone had started buzzing, flashing a number she had not seen on her phone in quite a while.

Debating for a minute, she received the call.

“Hi, Zayn.”

Airports have seen more sincere kisses than weddings it is said. As Zayn Banerjee waited to catch his flight back home, he witnessed one too many couples bidding each other teary eyed goodbyes. It was watching these strangers that he remembered how it had felt two years ago when he had left his home behind in pursuit of higher studies. How he had come to this alien land which had eventually led him to a lot of heartache and misery!

But there had been something good about those two years. There had been someone who had seen past all his imperfections and focused only on the good that was in him. Who had been his friend against all odds and yet, they had fallen out of touch with each other over the course of two years. He wondered if she was still using the same number. He wondered if she still had his number saved.

On an impulse, he pulled out his phone and dialed her number. She answered it on the third ring.

“Hi, Zayn.”

“Akriti.”

He was pleased as punch that she remembered him.

“Did you want something?”

“I am just calling to let you know that I’d be home soon.”

“Oh.”

“Oh? Honestly, I was hoping for a reaction better than oh.”

“Zayn, it’s really late here. Let’s talk when you’re in town?”

“I’ll do you one better. I’ll come see you.”

“Great. Safe flight.”

Then the line went dead. Zayn stared at the phone, wondering if their friendship was lost over the course of time. This wasn’t like the Akriti he remembered.

This wasn’t his Akriti at all.

Akriti hung up the phone feeling utterly drained. Once upon a time this was a source of her happiness but tonight he was a cause of her stress. The last thing she needed was for Zayn to come barging into her life once more.

She remembered all the memories that they had made together two years ago. The time when she’d finally felt okay to let her guard down and just be herself. It seemed to her like it was a lifetime ago. But he’d left. Like everyone else in her life and she had found herself consumed by her loneliness. Going off to business school had only made Akriti revert back to her old self.

That’s a lie they tell you, Akriti thought bitterly to herself, as she put her headphones back on and started listening to music again, time doesn’t heal a damn thing. It just burns the memories into your mind.


About the Author:
Aniesha Brahma copy

Aniesha Brahma knew she wanted to be a writer since she was six years old. She was schooled in Dolna Day School and went on to pursue B.A., M.A., and M.Phil in Comparative Literature from Jadavpur Univeristy. She currently lives in Kolkata, with her family and five pet cats. She is the author of All Signs Lead Back to You, When Our Worlds Collide, The Guitar Girl and The Secret Proposal. She compiled and edited the 10 volumes series, ‘Children’s Classic Stories’ with love and great efforts.


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Cover Reveal – The Hidden Children

~ Cover Reveal ~

The Hidden Children (The Lost Grimoire #1)

by Reshma K.Barshikar

‘What price would you pay to be extraordinary? What would you do to speak to a butterfly?

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Shayamukthy cruises through life: shooting hoops, daydreaming and listening to her favourite books. Even moving from the US to India, to a new school, a new culture, hasn’t really rattled her. But something isn’t right anymore and it begins when ‘New Girl’ joins the school.


She pulls Shui into a world of magic and wonderment, a world she has been hidden from all her life. What starts as a quest to look for a lost book, hurtles Shui into a world where people live in trees, talk to the dead and speak to butterflies.


But like all power, magic comes at a steep price, and under all things wondrous lie demons waiting to crawl out. The more Shui learns, the more she doubts everything and everyone around her.


Will she be able to master her powers, or will they devour her and everyone she loves?

Releasing on 10th November


About the Author:

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Travel writer and novelist Reshma K Barshikar is an erstwhile Investment Banker who, as she tells it, ‘fell down a rabbit hole and discovered a world outside a fluorescent cubicle.’ As a travel and features writer, she contributes to National Geographic Traveller, Harper’s Bazaar, Grazia, The Sunday Guardian, SilverKris, The Mint Lounge and The Hindu. Fade Into Red, published by Random House India was her debut novel and featured in Amazon Top 10 Bestsellers. She also holds well renowned workshops for young adults at both BDL Museum and Kala Ghoda and is keen to build a strong Young Adult reading and writing community to fill the desperate lack of young adult fiction in the Indian Market. Her new Young Adult novel, The Hidden Children, will be launching at the Vizag Junior Literary Festival. Reshma is from the ISB Class of 2003. She calls both Mumbai and the Nilgiris home.

Contact the Author:

Website I Facebook I Twitter I Goodreads

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