Meji Book III?…Meji Book III!

Eight years ago when I completed Meji, I had no intentions for a sequel. It was my first novel, a homage to African culture, spirituality and tradition. To me, the book was less about the characters as it was a book about fate. As some of you know, Meji was meant to be one book, but on the advice of friends more experienced with self publishing I divided it into two books, which explains the abrupt ending of Book One (sorry!).

As I neared the completion of publishing Book One in 2008 the thought of a book three crossed my mind again. And again I said no. By that time I was familiar with my characters but I still couldn’t imagine a story beyond Books One and Two. I did however develop a story that takes place on the same continent of Uhuru but 200 years after Obadoro has joined the pantheon of great ancestors. Titled ‘Soul of Obana,’ it’s a story that deals with the descendants of Obadoro and a crisis instigated by their long time enemies, the Kossi. In 2009 I released Meji Book Two still with no intentions of created a third book.  And so I left it.

Then in 2012 I began writing Woman of the Woods. It was my first book with a female main character, so I spend a lot of time making sure I got it right. As the story progressed I decided to place it in Uhuru, the land of Meji. I also decided to start the story with a brief mention of Obadoro. In order to do so I had to imagine Obadoro’s status in the world, which began the wheels turning about the reign of the Two that became One. The effort gained steam as other stories based in Uhuru came to me, each involving Obadoro in some form or another, either as active participant or a fond memory.

One more situation sealed the deal. Over the past few years I’ve read books about Sundiata Keita, Askia Muhammad, and Sonni Ali. These were all great leaders, but as with all men they had their flaws. It was after I completed the book on Askia Muhammad that I realized why I was avoiding a third Meji book. Yes, that’s right, avoiding. A third book would have to be about Obadoro. I felt I had created a character that would be considered perfect in the eyes of his subjects, and perfect doesn’t make a good story. But after reading these books I realized that Obadoro didn’t have to be perfect, that he could be chosen by the ancestors, flaws and all. And years after he transitioned, the stories told about him would gradually shed his less desirable qualities, at least those told by his admirers. The histories of his enemies would see him in quite a different light.

So there will be a Meji Book III, and it will be about Obadoro. As I contemplate more on his circumstances after the merging of the twins I can see all types of issues that he would have to overcome, as a leader of a diverse empire and as a man trying to merge two lives into one. I think it will make for good writing. I hope it will make for good reading. Stay tuned.

The Butler/Banks Blog Tour: Balogun Ojetade returns!

Today Balogun Ojetade returns to feature his latest book, Fists of Africa!

For those who know me, I am a writer.

For those who don’t know me, I am a writer.

I write speculative fiction – mainly Steamfunk, Dieselfunk, Rococoa and Sword & Soul.

Recently, I have expanded my writing into the  Fight Fiction – aka Action / Adventure, aka Pulp – genre, which was pretty much inevitable because my novels contain lots of exciting action and fight scenes.

What, exactly, is Fight Fiction. You ask?

Fight Fiction is comprised of tales in which the fighting – whether it happens in a temple in Thailand, a boxing ring in Las Vegas, a cage in Atlanta, or in a bar in New York City – is not merely in the story to make it more exciting; or to add a different spin to it. The fighting must be an integral part of both the story and its resolution. Take the fighting out and you no longer have a story. Think Fight ClubRockyBlood and BoneKung-Fu HustleMillion Dollar Baby; and Tai Chi Zero.

Writing fight scenes has always been something I enjoy and that I believe I do fairly well. This is probably due to the fact that I have been a student of indigenous African martial arts for over forty years and I have been an instructor of those same martial arts for nearly thirty years. I am also a lifelong fan of martial arts, boxing and Luchador films.

Recently, I joined a team of stellar authors, who all write under the pen name Jack Tunney (for e-book versions only; paperback versions are in the authors’ names), as part of the Fight Card Project.

The books in the Fight Card series are monthly 25,000 word novelettes, designed to be read in one or two sittings, and are inspired by the fight pulps of the 1930s and 1940s, such as Fight Stories Magazine and Robert E. Howard’s two-fisted boxing tales featuring Sailor Steve Costigan.

In 2013, the Fight Card series published twenty-four incredible tales of pugilistic pandemonium from some of the best New Pulp authors in the business. I am writing under the Fight Card MMA brand with my book, Fist of Africa.

Here’s a brief synopsis:

Nigeria 2004 … Nicholas ‘New Breed’ Steed, a tough teen from the mean streets of Chicago, is sent to his mother’s homeland – a tiny village in Nigeria – to avoid trouble with the law. Unknown to Nick, the tiny village is actually a compound where some of the best fighters in the world are trained.  Nick is teased, bullied and subjected to torturous training in a culture so very different from the world where he grew up.

Atlanta 2014 … After a decade of training in Nigeria, a tragedy brings Nick back to America. Believing the disaffected youth in his home town sorely need the same self-discipline and strength of character training in the African martial arts gave him, Nick opens an Academy. While the kids are disinterested in the fighting style of the cultural heritage Nick offers, they are enamored with mixed martial arts. Nick decides to enter the world of mixed martial arts to make the world aware of the effectiveness and efficiency of the martial arts of Africa.

Pursuing a professional career in MMA, Nick moves to Atlanta, Georgia, where he runs into his old nemesis – Rico Stokes, the organized crime boss who once employed Nick’s father, wants Nick to replace his father in the Stokes’ protection racket. Will New Breed Steed claim the Light Heavyweight title … Or will the streets of Atlanta claim him?

I really enjoyed writing this book because I have always wanted to share with the world the fierceness, efficiency and effectiveness of the indigenous African martial arts for self-defense, as well as their transformative powers in the building of men and women with self-discipline, courage and good character. Fist of Africa is a perfect outlet for my unique brand of Fight Fiction, which I am sure you will enjoy reading as much as I enjoyed writing it.

In Fist of Africa, readers will experience jaw-dropping action on the mean streets of Chicago, in the sand pits of Nigeria and in cages in the “Dirty South” (Atlanta), as well as a bit of romance.

Please, enjoy this excerpt, then hop on over to my website, or to Amazon and purchase the book. You’ll thank me later.

ROUND SIX

Vee-Vee’s was packed. The line of men and women spilled out of the Nigerian restaurant and onto the hot sidewalk as the lunch crowd eagerly awaited the mouth-watering, sweet fried plantains, egusi soup with pounded yam and coconut rice.

Standing in the line, Nick and Baba Yemi still had two customers ahead of them before they were in the door. Nick rubbed his hands in excitement.

Baba Yemi raised an eyebrow. “Is the food really that good, Nicholas? You look … eager.”

“You just don’t know, grandfather,” Nick replied. “I haven’t had Vee-Vee’s in over ten years.

“You’ve had Nigerian food in Nigeria,” Baba Yemi said. “What’s so special about Vee-Vee’s?”

“It’s Vee-Vee’s,” Nick responded with a shrug.

Baba Yemi shook his head.

“Excuse me, you just jumped ahead of me,” a woman’s voice said.

Nick peered over his shoulder. A rotund woman addressed three young men who stood in front of her in the line.

“Look, lady, we just want to get some plantains up out of here,” one of the young men – a lanky teen with jeans hanging halfway off his butt – said. “You look like you’re about to order the whole damned menu.”

The young men laughed heartily and exchanged high fives.

“Teens today have no respect,” the woman said. “If you are the future, we’re in big trouble.”

“Shut up, pendeja!” Another young man spat. “That’s moron, in case you don’t know … pendeja!”

More laughter from the young men.

“Hold my place in the queue,” Baba Yemi whispered.

“Grandfather, don’t …” Nick muttered.

Baba Yemi approached the young men, stopping a few inches behind them. “You are being very rude. This young woman deserves an apology.”

The teens turned to face Baba Yemi. The largest of the trio, a tall, athletically built young man, who had not yet spoken, looked Baba Yemi up and down.

“Push on, old man, before you get yourself hurt,” he said.

Baba Yemi smiled and tapped the young man on his muscular chest. “Hurt? How?”

The lanky young man with the sagging pants placed a firm hand on Baba Yemi’s shoulder. “Get gone, old dude, before we kick your …”

The young man hit the pavement with a dull thump.

“My hand!” He screamed, clutching at his wrist and writhing in agony.

The Spanish-speaking young man launched an awkward-looking kick toward Baba Yemi’s belly.

The old wrestler side-stepped to his left, bringing his right arm up to scoop the young man’s leg. Baba Yemi shifted toward the trapped leg, grabbing it with both arms in a tight grip. He ducked under the leg, lifting his arms over his head at the same time.

The young man’s knee twisted at a sickening angle. He landed next to his friend with the dislocated wrist, who joined him in a chorus of cries, whimpers and yelps.

Baba Yemi exploded toward the remaining member of the trio.

The young man stumbled backward, then whirled on his heels and sprinted off.

The teen with the sagging pants and damaged wrist helped the young man with the dislocated knee to his feet. “Sorry, ma’am,” they said in unison.

Baba Yemi laid a hand on the shoulder of the young man with the sagging pants. The young man jerked in fear.

“Relax,” Baba Yemi said. “Let me fix it.”

The young man cautiously gave Baba Yemi his damaged hand. The old man grabbed the teen’s fingers and yanked hard. The teen winced at the pain of his wrist sliding back into its correct position.

“Thank you,” the young man said. “And I … I’m sorry.”

“What about my knee, sir?” The Spanish-speaking young man inquired, still gasping in pain.

“That is going to require more treatment than I can do here,” Baba Yemi answered. “Do either of you have a car?”

“Yes, sir, I do,” the Spanish-speaking youth said.

“What’s your name, boy?” Baba Yemi asked.

“Hector, sir,” the young man said.

“And yours?” Baba Yemi asked the young man with the sagging trousers.

“Miles,” he answered.

“Miles, take Hector to the hospital,” Baba Yemi said. “They’ll put the joint back in proper position, then you bring him to me and I’ll really heal him. Talk to my grandson over there. He’ll give you the address.”

“Yes, sir,” Miles said, approaching Nick.

“Thank you, sir,” Hector said.

Vee-Vee’s waitress, who had come outside to see what the commotion was all about, handed Nick an ink pen and an order slip. Nick wrote the address to his parent’s house on the slip.

The two young men shambled off, Hector’s arm wrapped around Miles’ shoulder for support.

“Thank you!” The pudgy woman shouted. She wrapped her arms around Baba Yemi’s torso and held him in a warm hug.

The people in line applauded as Baba Yemi returned to his place in line.

“We’re running a compound for young thugs out of my parents’ house now?” Nick said, shaking his head.

“You weren’t so different when you first came to me, Nicholas,” Baba Yemi said.

“True,” Nick said.

“So, I ask again,” Baba Yemi said. “What now?”

The Butler/Banks Book Tour: Crystal Conner!

Our next Butler/Banks black speculative fiction author is Crystal Conners! Instead of my boring prose, Crystal is taking over my blog to describe her latest project in her own words. Take it away, Crystal!

An entire year ago, I swore an oath of secrecy when I agreed to co-write a book with paranormal-romance author Lori Titus under the penname of Connor Titus. The reason, in the beginning, for the vow of silence was simply for the sake of peace.

Now this is in no way meant to be a complaint, but my fans take their jobs seriously. It takes about a year for me to write a book, but just a month or two after announcing a new WIP that’s all my fans talk to me about, and writing is all they want me to do.

I know some of you remember me posting in ‘Walgreens incident.’ Two weeks after the release of Book II: Artificial Light I was standing in line in Walgreen and asked the woman in front of me where she got her drop dead gorgeous shoes. When she turned to tell me, I was recognized, and she demanded to know why I wasn’t at home writing. Sadly she didn’t tell me where she got her shoes.

If my fans had found out that I had teamed up with Lori their excitement would have been too much especially because at the time we where both working on our own books which of course held more priority than a joint project, so we didn’t even know when this book would be finished.

About a 3rd of the way into the project, the fact that mum was the word literally became a life saver, because we started to realize that we were going to be writing two books. And at that moment it stopped being about peace and immediately became a trade secret.

“One catastrophe. One Town. One story told two different ways.”

We co-wrote, two, stand alone books about the same thing.

We’d never heard of anyone doing that before and because it’s such an insanely original idea or had been done which such infrequency that the concept isn’t widely known we didn’t want anyone finding out what we were doing and beat us to the punch.

Once the decision was made that this story was going to be told from two different points of views, we also made the decision to not only stop working together, but to also not to talk to each other about what was written from that moment forth. I mean we went into complete radio silence, we didn’t even see each other’s cover until they were revealed earlier this month as part of our blog tour. We did this because we didn’t want to influence each and judging by the reviews that turned out to be a really good move.

After our books were shipped off to the editor Lori and I decided to interview each other for our own blogs. Those interviews turned out to be a blast and that’s what I am going to share with you today.

The Wordsmith: Ok, 1st off I need to get something off my chest. I heard through the grapevine that you prefer Pepsi over Coca~Cola. Is that true?

Lori: Yes, I’m a Pepsi drinker,

The Wordsmith: Oh hell no, this is a crime against the Crown. This interview is over, we’re not friends anymore. Lol I’m just kidding.

Lori: LOL! But I drink Coke if I’m at a place and that’s what they’re selling. I still get the specific craving for Coca Cola now and again.

The Wordsmith: Oh, okay …good save cuz I was about to send you straight to the gallows. I write straight up horror with a service of science fiction and dark fantasy on the side. As a rising star in paranormal romance what was it that made you want to be a part of the Mt. Empyreal project?

Lori: I think of dark fiction as being one genre, whether it includes romance or science fiction. I love anything that challenges the characters with something greater than themselves, and that was definitely the obstacle our characters faced in the Keep. Since I’m a huge romantic, something of that always comes through. I couldn’t write you a cookbook without some reference to romance in there.

The Wordsmith: OMG that’s so true! I knew from the beginning that the story would have elements of romance but you do it really well so I wasn’t worried. That’s one of the things that interested me in co-authoring with you is seeing how we would build off each other’s strength. You also co-authored the novel Harmony’s Prophecy, with Angel Brown Kemph, which is now out of print, was it the same kind of writing process or was it totally different and if so why/how?

Lori: The book with Angel was very different. She was the primary author. I worked on editing with her, and we had some sessions where we tossed around story building ideas, but it is  her book. I was really pleased and surprised that she felt my efforts earned a co-author credit.

The Wordsmith: Dude, how in the hell did we end up co-writing two books? Who does that?

Lori: I think only we do, ha! It was a great idea that you came up with. We both got to have complete creative free reign. Whenever I read about authors who co-wrote together, I always hear about the constrictions placed upon the authors, and how one person ends up being the leader with the other being the follower.  We were able to build our foundation for the stories together, and then throw the proverbial paint against the wall to see what would stick.

The Wordsmith: I like that concept, that we both had creative free reign. The constrictions was something I knew I wanted to overcome before either of us wrote word one. It didn’t take long to see that we had two very different ideas of how this story should be told but I didn’t want to sacrifice one idea for the other and that’s what made me start thinking about doing something completely different.

The funny thing is, I didn’t start researching ‘how to co-write a book’ until we we’re nearly done. Otherwise I don’t think I would have done it. LOL, speaking of horror stories about co-writing, what was the hardest part about working with me? (Tell the truth).

Lori: The hardest part was figuring out where we needed to split! I was enjoying watching the story unfold, and I was so curious as to where you were going to take it. Once we did split, it took a week for me to get back into the story properly, because I missed being able to see what you had written and talk about our ideas together.

The Wordsmith: OMG I was the exact same way. I was starting to think that splitting up wasn’t going to be a good idea. Thank God we didn’t chicken out of that decision lol. Was there anything that worried you about Mt. Empyreal?

Lori: Yes! I was really concerned about which characters were going to make it, and who wasn’t. With a story like this one, there is a balance between making things so hard that it’s impossible for your characters to triumph, and making it too easy.  You don’t want to make it so easy that the readers roll their eyes at how neatly things work out. That’s often a concern I have when I’m writing. Real life is messy, and I tend to like stories that reflect complexities in character and outcome.

The Wordsmith: I know one of the things I was worried about and brought up often was I felt like I had unfairly taken charge and all the ideas were mine. I didn’t mean for it to be that way, I was just having so much fun that my excitement got the best of me. This was my 1st co authored book, so I guess my question would be, is this just the way things work when co-writing a book or was it really not an issue for you?

Lori: It’s part of the beast – someone has to start, (The Wordsmith nods head) and you wrote a beginning that was so unique and chilling that I wanted to let you run with it. Once our start was firmly in place, I was able to see what I wanted to elaborate on and where I wanted things to go. That said, I don’t think that our writing partnership is like anyone else’s. While you were in the driver’s seat I was already planning.

The Wordsmith: LOL, that’s the Virgo in you, I was thinking ahead when you were the one with the pen too. Which of the characters that we created together do you think will totally blow my mind?

Lori: I always say Emerson; I love that character in ways that I could never have expected. We have talked about Khrystle before, and that she surprised you with some of the things she did in our shared copy of the book(s). Jerrod is also going to be a big surprise to you. Just you wait until you read it!

The Wordsmith: I can’t wait to read it either, you have no idea how hard it’s been not to open  the ARC copy you sent me to send to my reviewers.

Wait…I don’t think I mentioned this, ok so the reason Lori said she can’t wait until I read her book is because once we stopped working together we promised each other that we would not read each other’s books until our editor signed off on both books. And we didn’t even see each other’s covers until the 18th of April. Dudes, its been brutal.

So far our reviews have been really good but every time a review for yours comes in it just amplifies my excitement. That’s it, I’m changing the subject! You have another book coming out soon, can you tell us a little more about that?

Lori: lol. Bell House is a ghost story about a modern southern family with many skeletons in their past. At the forefront of the story are two half-sisters, Jenna and Diana, who share a  contentious relationship. They were raised by different mothers, and most of what they believe about each other comes from things that they have been told by others, some of which may not be entirely true. After a tragedy in the family, Diana moves into a house willed to her by her father, and all sorts of trouble ensues.

The Wordsmith: Just for fun. If you got the funding to take a year off to write where in the world would you live for that year and why?

Lori: It could be Hawaii or Bora Bora, but I want to live somewhere on the ocean. I think it would be great to wake up every day with the ocean right outside, and take my laptop out onto the patio and write while I enjoyed my coffee. And of course I’d want a great big house where I could invite my friends to come out and stay for as long as they want. That would be great.

The Wordsmith: Dude for as long as they want, by the beach, in Bora Bora? And you expect to actually get any work done? Yeah ok.

(With laughter in the background fade to black)

We were lucky enough to have our forward written for us by Jaime A. Geraldi from, wait for it…..RT Book Review Magazine! (screams, swoons, and faints) But 1st let’s set the mood with the book trailer!

http://youtu.be/Nl_u4n_gRL0

“One catastrophe. One Town. One story told two different ways by two different authors…What started in the foothills of Mt. Empyreal could be the end of all of us.”

The dynamic duo known as Connor Titus have merged together to create a story that will chill you to the bone. Each adds a dark and distinctive quality to this compelling read and it’s almost impossible to favor one over the other as the ink bleeds upon the page for everyone to witness.

Connor’s interpretation is fierce and grabs readers by the throat as they gasp for breath once Old Man Winter strolls in and they’re left powerless. She allows you to visualize the characters movements and endure their emotions without flaw. The highly descriptive settings throughout will make one feel as if they’re part of the story which makes her rendition realistic and absolutely terrifying.

Titus’ version captivates one by taking hold of their mind first before they even know what hit them. Then the emotional setback follows. Her gifted storytelling ability will have you thinking you’re reading just a novel, but your brain may tell you something different as you actually may experience bouts of terror or feel perspiration at your brow.

Each author singularly has the ability to lure you into the book quickly, but as a pair it may feel as if they’ll never let you leave.

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Mt. Empyreal.

-Jaime A. Geraldi, RT Book Review Magazine

Thank you so much for letting me take over your blog for today , if you would like to see the interview of Lori interviewing me here is the think.

http://loribeth215.wordpress.com/

And to follow us on our blog tour as we promote both books please click here. If you follow us be sure to enter for a chance to win a signed copy of both books, a promo T from each of us plus a signed copy of The Darkness along with a signed copy of Ryder

http://junipergrovebooksolutions.com/foothills-mt-empyreal-connor-titus/

The Butler/Banks Blog Tour: Zig Zag Claybourne!

Today we continue the Butler/Banks Blog Tour with author Clarence Young, aka Zig Zag Claybourne. Zig Zag is a lifelong fan of speculative fiction and of writing. As Clarence Young, he writes humor and drama. As Zig Zag Claybourne he writes fiction and poetry, ranging from science fiction to street-lit satire to magic realism.

Zig  Zag says “I love fiction. Period. Worlds imagined, worlds altered, whether simply reshaped or irrevocably twisted. Anything that fires the imagination is a gift from the gods. I grew up on Star Trek, the Twilight ZoneSir Graves Ghastly’s Saturday Matinee Movies (for us Motown folks), and the other-realm lives of a bunch of kids ganged up against one named Charlie Brown. Peanuts was ‘Village of the Damned’ minus the world domination, mixed with a psychic dog trying its best to be human.”

His works have appeared in The Wayne ReviewFlashshotReverie Journal,Stupendous Stories, and numerous online attractions. The books Neon LightsBy All Our Violent Guides, and Historical Inaccuracies are all independently-published.

You can find him scribbling like a mad man at his author site www.Writeonrighton.com, his Amazon author page Zig Zag Claybourne, tweeting or squawking at: @zzclaybourne, while having silly fun at www.thingsididatworktoday.blogspot.com.

Be sure to look out for the Science Fiction adventure, The Brothers Jetstream: Leviathan, coming to save the world summer 2014!

Zig Zag Claybourne

Historical Inaccuracies contains several science/speculative fiction selections, including the pile-driver “Revolver,” praised by Lois Tilton of Locus Online as “harrowing” and one that delivers. These are stories meant to disturb the dust, call forth the spirits, and sit with you a while.

Zig Zag says: “All fiction is speculative fiction. That’s what the spirit of the Butler/Banks tour celebrates, because how else can you get away with writing things like this (from Historical Inaccuracies):”

“The only evidence I need of Intelligent Design,” said Senator Bloodaxe, unsheathing his crusted blade and laying it before the security dogs for evidence of illegal killing, “is what I have seen with my own eyes.”

“But, Senator,” someone said from the throng of pelt-clad reporters, “isn’t it true you were once a staunch supporter of the scientific prin—”

“Who said that!” Bloodaxe raged, grabbing up the sword that had sent scores of unbelievers to undeserved glory and swinging it round.

The news crews were used to his rages and smoothly raised shields. The senator calmed.

“Senator, it’s been rumored,” came a crisp, female voice from beneath the turtle’s back of shields, “that you yourself have killed angels and that this conversion is purely political.”

Bloodaxe grinned at their fear. “Face Bloodaxe, wench,” he said, eyes scanning. “Taste congressional steel.”

Movement issued from the rear. Reporters parted until she stood before Bloodaxe (R) from Indiana. The huge man’s eyes narrowed.

“I am Kurok, daughter’s daughter of Couric,” which sucked balls because politicians hated a reporter with something to prove.

“Bring it, wench.”

Kurok approached. “Today is a good day to cry…”

The Butler/Banks Authors Tour: DaVaun Sanders!

Davaun 1

Today I have the privilege to share the information of one of my favorite writers, DaVaun Sanders. His two novels are some of the best YA science fiction I’ve read in quite some time. Not best independent writer science fiction, or best mainstream science fiction; best, period.

If imagination was a mutant power, DaVaun could have enrolled at 1407 Graymalkin Lane. Instead, he went the safe route and earned a Bachelor’s degree from Washington University in St. Louis in 2002. After two fulfilling service terms with AmeriCorps in Phoenix, he eventually acquiesced to the student loan gods and returned to architecture. Yet his passion for the field faded as he spent more free time writing and performing spoken word poetry.

Davaun 3

The Seedbearing Prince began as a dream vivid enough to play like a movie trailer. Deciding to write his debut novel took some time, as it wasn’t part of “The Plan,” but the housing market collapse forced DaVaun’s small design firm under in 2008. He decided to plunge into writing full-time, and is loving every minute of it. When the keyboard cramps his fingers, DaVaun gets lost in the great outdoors of Arizona or attends open mic spots in the Valley. DaVaun is currently hard at work editing The Course of Blades, the third book in his World Breach series. Follow him on Twitter @davaunwrites and like on Facebook (facebook.com/davaunsanders) for updates and giveaways!

Check out the excerpt the first novel by DaVaun Sanders, The Seedbearing Prince: Part I posted below. You can download it for FREE on Amazon for a limited time! The Seedbearing Prince: Part II is also available — click here! You can thank me later.

Davaun 2

Dayn Ro’Halan’s adventures will continue in The Course of Blades, to be released this summer—the third of six total books in the World Breach series. I’m really excited about this novel, it’s going to be the best one yet.

That being said…let’s do a giveaway!

Rules are simple: send DaVaun a picture of yourself READING a novel by ANY AUTHOR on The Butler/Banks Book Tour. You use an e-reader? Great.  Reading in costume, or upside down? Even better! Go crazy – just keep it SFW please! Share with DaVaun on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

He’ll post your pictures to his Facebook and happily send you aFREE ebook of The Seedbearing Prince: Part II OR The Course of Blades when it is released this summer. We’ll all pretty much be famous together. It’s all so clear to me.

Let the photobomb commence, because this giveaway ends with the last day of the Butler/Banks Book Tour, April 30th!

The Seedbearing Prince Part I: Prologue

The torrent shifted again, and a thousand shards of onyx flashed to fire as Corian swept through a roiling field of ice and stone. The sheath on his worn black armor held, but would not last much longer. The stream of rock in the space between the worlds drifted slower here, and boasted several floating mountains large enough to hold a layer of air. Green ferns covered the surface of the nearest, providing plenty of cover. Corian was tempted to stop and rest, but crater wolves likely roamed in such thick foliage. The entire World Belt hung on the message he bore to the Ring, and he could rest after his task was done.

A field of red granite stretched in the space above him like the bizarre clouds of some nightmare, the individual boulders careening off each other by the hundreds. Only the hardest minerals and metals endured the endless pounding of the rock flow, and only the most foolish men would brave such a swath of torrent. They were moving the direction he needed to go, into the flow where the rock moved fastest. In the torrent, speed kills, he reminded himself. He was the best courser among the Ring’s Guardians, but the rock never cared.

Corian deftly attached a new talon to what remained of his silver wingline, then heaved it. The metal hook took hold, his wingline snapped taut, and the boulder yanked Corian into the flow. He repeated the process, each time roping a boulder moving faster, until his last guide rock pulled him along at hundreds of spans a second. A layer of white frost appeared on his armor and mask in a blink. He reeled himself in and clung to the red surface, like a flea riding a river bison in the middle of a stampeding herd. He watched every direction at once from his perch, digging his gauntlets into the crumbling surface. The boulder was actually some ancient rusted metal, not granite as he first thought. The torrent here was so thick he could barely see the stars, and it filled his ears with a distant roar.

He sped along this way for some time, until he spied a pockmarked mass of stone and iron, large as a dwarf moon. A cleft right down the middle threatened to split the entire thing in half. A tower in the northern axis had seen more than its fair share of rust, but the light strobing from it pulsed regularly, illuminating the smaller rocks orbiting around it. As a whole, the wayfinder was ugly and old, but the mass of rock was the most blessed sight Corian could imagine after a week of surviving the torrent’s attempts to grind him to powder.

His next wingline took him closer. If the wayfinder was powered as well as he suspected, he could use the array inside it to find out where he was in the torrent, and see how close the Ring lay. He might even find food and water, if peace favored him. A fellow Guardian must stop here often for such an old wayfinder to be this well preserved, he thought.

Smaller debris pelted the wayfinder’s old crust, disintegrating in flashes of light. The surface shone with hundreds of impacts, large and small. Corian chose a crater near the old tower, perhaps seventy spans deep with high walls that would offer good angles to slow himself as he approached.

As he prepared to throw out another talon, dark shapes poured from the wayfinder’s cleft. He stared for a moment, incredulous. There could be no crater wolves on a wayfinder, with no game to hunt, unless they were marooned after striking some other erratic in the torrent. No, those shapes moved with a military precision, more lethal than the deadliest pack. He could see them clearly now, massive men covered in black. “No. Not here!” Corian barely recognized his own weary voice.

The voidwalkers had seen him. A pinprick of light shone on the wayfinder’s surface, brighter than the tower’s regular strobe. He eyed it mistrustfully as he searched for a place to throw his next wingline and change his momentum. He spotted a tumbling boulder half covered with ice, moving away from the wayfinder too fast.

The light near the voidwalkers flashed. A beam of energy rushed into Corian’s path, hot as molten steel. A lifetime of coursing experience kicked in, and he curled his legs up until his knees touched his ears, rolling forward. The strange fire passed underneath him by less than a span. He could feel the heat of it through his protective layer of sheath. The beam burned past, and slammed into a rock fifty spans away. The tumbling boulder barely even slowed in its course, but the spot where the weapon struck—for there was no question that is what it was—glowed red hot at the edges. The glistening center had cooled quick as glass.

Another pinprick of light. He twisted around in the weightlessness of the void to point his feet back toward the wayfinder and make himself a smaller target. It did no good. The beam rushed straight at him, and his world turned red with pain.

An impact jarred him awake. Another. Corian opened his eyes. I’m much too cold. The voidwalker weapon had burned away his sheath. Layers of his black armor were peeling away from the metal plates like paper curled in a fire. He had been caught in a tangle of purple-rooted vines intertwined in a mile long cluster of the floating rock, what Jendini coursers called a knotted forest. The roots were nearly hard as stone in places. Dusty old bones from animals Corian did not even recognize littered the tangles. Debris from the torrent stretched around the forest in every direction, and errant stones pelted the mass of vines, which he immediately recognized. Courser’s nap, the whole forest is covered with it.

Corian reached into a compartment on his armored belt and removed his last flask of sheath. He applied the clear liquid to his ruined armor in quick, smooth motions, not leaving one inch exposed. The sheath locked together in small patches of light, and his body’s heat immediately began to warm the interior of the invisible, protective barrier. Once the sheath was gone, his armor would not prevent the smallest pebble from killing him, if one struck him moving fast enough. For the first time, Corian considered that he may not survive.

This was to be his last circuit as a Guardian for the Ring, and he held the hope that he would look into his grandchildren’s eyes back on Jendini now that his service was finished. Yet his duty hung over him, heavier than ever. In the distance he could see the world of Shard, verdant and green just beyond the torrent’s chaos. His resolve hardened.

He slipped a speechcaster into his mouth and began to speak as he worked himself free of the tangled vines. The small wafer could hold his words in secret for a few days, should things go badly here.

“I am Corian Nightsong, a Guardian of the Ring. There are Thar’Kuri warriors on the world of Nemoc. The voidwalkers have built a device that allows them to…teleport themselves at will through the Belt. They are gathering in numbers, preparing for an attack. There are captives from all over the worlds imprisoned on Nemoc. The voidwalkers have weapons unlike anything known from the Ring. They use energy and can attack over great distances. They must have been made in the age before the Breach.

If you knew where to look for this message, you must deliver it with all haste to Force Lord Adazia on the Ring. The worlds all depend on you, for I have failed them.” The admission filled Corian with bitterness, but he forced a strength he no longer felt into his words. “My sons and daughters live in Denkstone, on Jendini. Tell them…their father served well.”

One of the vines tangled around his torso began to quiver. Corian looked down, fearing a leaf, but instead he saw a voidwalker, climbing toward him. Corian was tall, but the hulking brute easily overtopped him by a head. His glistening black armor looked as if it were melted to his frame, and covered him from head to toe save two dark slits for his eyes. The vines broke like dried mud in the voidwalker’s grasp.

Corian began to climb, scrambling further into the vines. He did not bother to draw his sword, the voidwalker would overpower him in moments if they were to fight.

“So afraid of an old courser?” Corian shouted. He pulled at every vine in his path as he fled, but most of them were stiff and gray. Living vines of the courser’s nap were purple and sticky, but the true danger lay with the leaves.

The voidwalker’s gravelly voice called to Corian, cold as an orphan’s gravestone. “Come to me, degenerate.”

Corian drew his sword, and began slashing his way through the vines. They sparked as his blade struck, but gave way. He leapt through an open space nearly ten spans across. The voidwalker followed without hesitation. So strong. Corian knew the brute meant to take him alive. He could not allow that.

He landed on a solid gray swath, fleshy beneath his feet. He rolled and lunged just as the leaf stirred. A row of spikes slipped out of the edges, thick as Corian’s leg and sharp enough to cleave a horse in two. Corian barely cleared them. The voidwalker was not so lucky. His momentum carried him right into the center of the carnivorous plant, which enveloped him with a twist of blue-veined leaf. Steam issued from the folds near the plant’s edges as it fed.

More pods of the courser’s nap were coming to life, enlivened by the voidwalker’s screams. Corian avoided the leaves wherever they stirred. He climbed and lunged and dived through the vines, soon pulling himself to the edge of the knotted forest. Pure torrent lay before him, an endless landscape of chaotic rock. There was no clear flow in any direction, the individual boulders in the skyscape crashed into each other in a hundred shattering impacts. I’ll leap blind and pray that my sheath holds.

Another voidwalker tore himself out of the vines a few spans away. Peace, but look at the size of him! The voidwalker’s armor looked as chewed up as the oldest rocks of the torrent, endless dents and scratches plastered the black surface.

“I’ve enjoyed hunting you, degenerate.”

Another courser’s leaf reared up behind the voidwalker as he lumbered toward Corian. The leaf lunged and took the voidwalker up, curling round and round as the folds of leaf tightened. Corian allowed himself a moment of elation, but it was short lived. A pale hand appeared on the side of the courser’s nap, and bright green fluid poured out. The leaf whipped back and forth, emitting a piercing shriek as the voidwalker pulled it apart piece by piece from the inside. Corian needed to see no more. He leaped, and prayed the torrent would show him mercy.

The Butler/Banks Blog Tour Author of the Day: K.Ceres Wright!

And the Butler/Banks tour keeps rolling! Today’s author is another favorite of mine (they all are favorites of mine, actually!) K. Ceres Wright. K. Ceres Wright graduated from Seton Hill University’s Writing Popular Fiction program in 2007. Her book, Cog, will be published in 2013. Her other works have appeared in Hazard Yet Forward; Genesis: An Anthology of Black Science Fiction; Many Genres, One Craft; and The 2008 Rhysling Anthology. She lives in Maryland with her son, Ian, and her daughter, Chloe.

K. Ceres Wright’s first novel takes us a future D.C./Maryland/Virginia for a thrilling and gritty cyberpunk ride. Nicholle Ryder is a holo art dealer and daughter of Geren Ryder, owner of the largest holo company in the world. She lives a life much different from her drug addicted past, having little to do with her father’s empire. But in a matter of days she finds herself in the middle of a personal maelstrom. Her father succumbs to a coma and her brother Willis disappears with a large sum of money. So sooner does the running of the company falls into her hands that she is suddenly on the run herself, her father’s company now controlled by an illegitimate son kept hidden from Nicholle and her brother.
K. Ceres Wright does an excellent job revealing the Cog world, a world where people are continually connected, a world where drugs are chemical and programmable, and a world where human traits of greed, jealousy, cruelty and revenge have not been erased by the advance of technology. We learn more about Nicholle’s abilities and her past as she flees for her life while trying to discover the reasons for her situation and the people behind it. The journey take some unexpected turns and reveals that Nicholle, nor anyone else in this excellent novel, are what they seem on the surface. Ms. Wright delivers an exciting and thought provoking tale which pulls the reader along breathlessly to the end. A fine debut by a talented new writer.

Interested? You should be. Here’s an excerpt:

“You’re joking, right?”

William Ryder stretched the skin between his eyebrows with his thumb and index finger, then formed a fist and slammed it on the table in front of him. He stood up, hunching over the edge of his father’s cherry wood desk. The owner sat on the opposite side, glaring. Light from a squat, burnished pewter lamp threw up blurry shadows on the metal paneling.

“Right?”

“Wills, sit down!” The stentorian voice of Geren Ryder echoed in the large office. The bones of his face set like ice, holdovers of the Last Glacial Maximum. Salt-and-pepper hair framed a mahogany canvas.

His son was a mirror image, only more muscular, and a coloring of polished sepia.

Perim Nestor remained silent as he leaned, arms folded, against a credenza along the wall opposite a picture window. However spartan the office, it reflected more than the green and brown décor. It reflected the multi-trillion-dollar company that Geren Ryder had built from scratch. And he was used to being listened to.

Wills sat down, but the tenseness remained. He hovered on the edge of the chair, ready to spring. Geren continued, his voice now measured and calm.

“I didn’t know Perim was my son until last week. After I confirmed it, I’ve been…coming to grips with the implications.”

“Confirmed?” Wills said. “So it’s been confirmed that you whored around on my mother. As if I hadn’t already known. And what do you expect me to do? Jump up and say, ‘I’ve always wanted a brother’? Shed heartfelt tears and give him a slap on the back?”

Silence. The ether froze, like hanging mist on a December morning. Perim drew up his lips and met the flinty stare Wills leveled at him. He couldn’t blame the man. Heir apparent to a wireless hologram empire and presto change-o . . . a long-lost older brother appears.

“Does Nicholle know?” Wills said, eyes still riveted on Perim.

“No. She’s busy recreating the Prado in Anacostia. I didn’t want to distract her. It’s her first full-scale exhibit,” Geren said.

Wills relaxed somewhat, straightening and placing his arm on the desk. Mrs. Arthur Knowles and her Two Sons looked on the proceedings from the wall behind Geren. In the painting, Mrs. Knowles was sitting on a couch, one son clinging to her as his hand rested on a book. The other son lay wrong-way on the couch, barefoot, his hand on his chin, as if contemplating some mischief.

“Look, I don’t want anything material. . .no money, no stock. I just want acknowledgment,” Perim said.

“Acknowledgment!” Wills sprang from his seat. “And why do I have a hard time believing that? On the eve of my father announcing his retirement from American Hologram, you just happen to show up.”

Wills approached Perim, jabbing a finger in the air between them.

“I’ve dealt with drug dealers, pimps, and CEOs, and I know bullshit when I hear it. It’s all the same.”

Perim straightened. “I head my own accounting firm. What would I need with your company?”

“Why settle for a little power, when you can have a lot?”

“Is that your life’s motto?” Perim stole a glance at Geren. “In that case, you’d better watch your back, Father.”

Too late he noticed the oncoming blur of flesh, the carpet rising to meet the side of his face. His next view was of a sideways Potomac River through the picture window. The reflection of neon pinks and blues undulated in the invisible waves, only they careened like a slow-motion merry-go-round. Wills’ feet left his field of vision. Wind chimes whispered as he exited through the magfield.

“I should have told you he boxed in college,” Geren said, matter-of-factly.

“No shit,” Perim said, only it came out sounding like, “Oh ih.” His head spun, mental function a whirlpool. He edged up on one elbow, then leaned against the credenza and slid up right. The room slowed.

“You’ll come to work for me. I’ll make you a vice president, but you’ll have to prove your mettle,” Geren said. “Especially to Wills. He can be a hothead, but he respects skill.”

“I have my own–”

“Company, yes. That has a quick ratio of point seven eight. How long do you expect to stay in business running those numbers?” Geren arose and began packing a briefcase that lay open on the desk.

Perim pulled himself to standing, gripping the credenza. “We just scored a large contract with the defense department.” He rubbed his jaw, hoping there would be no bruise.

Geren guffawed. “If you call forty million a large contract. Look, it’s settled. I just sent in the approval. Let your second run the company and report here first thing in the morning. But. . .we will wait on the acknowledgement until after I announce my retirement.” He closed the case and hefted it off the desk. “Come prepared to learn. See you tomorrow.”

Wind chimes echoed again as Geren disappeared through the doorway. Perim smiled to himself. This is going better than expected.

Purchase Cog:

http://www.amazon.com/Cog-K-Ceres-Wright/dp/1935738437/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1376185894&sr=1-1&keywords=cog+wright

The Butler/Banks Book Tour presents Kai Leakes!

The Butler/Banks Book Tour continues with another fabulous author: Kai Leakes.

From Iowa, but later relocating to Alton, IL and St. Louis, MO, Kai Leakes was a multifaceted Midwestern child, who gained an addiction to books at an early age. Sharing stories with her cousins as a teen, writing books didn’t seem like something she would pursue until one day in college. Storytelling continues to be a major part of her very DNA, with the goal of sharing tales that entertain and add color to a gray literary world.

In her spare time, she likes to cook, dabble in photography, and assists with an internet/social networking group online. Loving to feed her book addiction, romance, fantasy and fiction novels are her world. Reading those particular genres help guide her as she finds the time to write and study for school.

Kai is the author of Sineaters: Devotion book one and the soon-to-be-released Sin Eaters: Retribution: Devotion book two, coming in June.

You can find her at her website: kwhp5f.wix.com/kai-leakes.

“The Light Will Always Prevail, but when the Light and Dark are at war, sometimes the Grey can only be your salvation.”  ~ Kai Leakes

Sin Eaters: Devotion Book One Synopsis:

Khamun Cross was born to do one thing and that was to watch Sanna Steele, a woman so unique and special he would risk his all to have her. So what, that in his job of watching her, he happens to prowl the streets, hunting the very things that go bump in the night. Even monsters or everyday looking people that steal humans’ souls become Khamun’s victims, and he brings with him a power, a vampirism, that would send one straight to the dark.

Khamun craves the darkness in his victims as if it were his own personal dinner, but not as much as he craves the very woman he has been ordained to watch over as her Guardian Angel. Sanna Steele is just your average twenty-seven year old, with your everyday hopes, dreams and insecurities. She is clueless about the war that is secretly raging around her in the streets of St. Louis. A war she will soon become a part of. But what is so special about Sanna that the very things that go bump in the night, seeks to snatch her from her very existence in life?

Sin Eaters

Sin Eaters 2: Retribution (Devotion Book Two) Synopsis:

Darkness is swallowing the streets of Chicago, and a key may have been found.  Khamun and Sanna’s epic journey together has led them to this, their mission to save Nephilim Society from themselves. Still trying to open the secrets of the first book, Khamun and Sanna’s fight has resulted in a travesty that may change their lives. Now with Khamun at the cusp of a life and death decision, it’s up to his team to close ranks and protect their Oracle.

Calvin Freeman is surrounded by death. Not only has his cousin fallen in battle, but he’s now being stalked by ghosts from his past lives and a familiar lethal foe, The Medusa. What is deathly has become alluring, and what is toxic has become bittersweet. His dreams are betraying him, and war is coming as society turns a blind eye. It’s up to him and his family to bring their retribution, and it’s up to him to find out why the woman known for bringing nightmares has suddenly knocked at his door.

Take a final walk in the chilling world of Kai Leakes in Sin Eaters 2: Retribution Devotion Book Two.

If you’re already #Teamsineaters, or if you are just looking for a great read, keep a look out for the action-packed continuation coming soon June 24, 2014.

Sin Eaters 2: Retribution Pre-order now on Amazon! http://goo.gl/YtqkOu
Or Pre-order SE2 at BN: http://goo.gl/MEKt6H

Sin Eaters: Devotion Excerpt:

Today…

Metallic, sweet and mind intense flavor filled the air.  The quiet that floated around made the hairs on passerby’s in the night to stand up as if the already chill filled wind wasn’t enough to have them shivering.  Rich, black ebon swallowed the alleyway keeping the individuals who occupied it secured and sequestered away from all who dared peek down the tight tunnel.  Water idly sliding down the asphalted street, mixed with oil and idle trash skating against the cracked surface, cushioned midnight colored Timberland’s as the flash of twinkling light cascaded in a flash like a pulse near the booted body.

Inhaling even shallow breaths, the individual listened as all sound seemed to be absorbed away as if in a tornado.  This silence triggered the timed attack, which had the anticipation in the individual’s body expand with power, velocity, speed and well checked strength.

If one was to be one of the many idle flies which hovered in the nearby dumpster, they would be amazed at the sight of the super human individual running in an almost flying position and landing on the second hulking form in the alley.
The rise of a scent that had cats meowing and arched in defense on the railings of a window and under a parked car filled the air again as the crisp white flash of light slashed in the night air, landing against the second balked individual as the attacker hissed.

In a fraction of a blink, claws the size of an oversized lion slashed in the air as tentacles dipped out near the blind spot of the attacker, making the being jump in the air. Bringing down a flashing light of metal unto the second balked former human looking being but now entity of horrendous looks, the precise slash against the entities flesh caused the now familiar smell to fill the air once more.

The attacker crouched low in a resting battle position, taking in shallow calm breaths as the thing turn to attack again, running full speed.  Its Italian leather wing tipped shoes creating a rhythm of tapping song on the alleyway floor, causing the attacker to hum, throwing the entity off its thoughts.
Light sheen of perspiration kissed the attacker’s forehead with each calm inhale.  The attacker lived for this, loved it and desired the hunt of creatures such as this.

Strategizing the next move, the attacker thought back to how this prey was hunted.  A quiet smile flashed across the attackers lips.  It wasn’t hard to get to the sick bastard, the attacker posed as the entities preferred targets, an angry teenager, who wanted nothing but to get away from their parent.  It made the attacker clutch the blade that nestled comfortably against his palm, in anger at the obscene and pornographic discussions that would occur with the demon.
It made it even easier to identify that this monster wasn’t the shrewd Italian entrepreneur he portrayed to be, but was in fact a succubae level soul polluter demon.  These breed of evil were the most degenerate of demons, they enjoyed feasting off the pain of the victims through lewd sexual means, physical decapitating torture and flesh eating.
Knowing this, it silently pleased the attacker to stalk and mentally threaten the demon’s territory by baiting it, since these demons were known for their territorial nature.

Allowing the demon to believe they were to meet up outside of a popular artist’s concert, the attacker led the demon to the alleyway through simple mind manipulation and the rest is history.  Shuddering with a lethal dose of pleasure and battle tactics, the attacker’s body tightened with the wait as the breeze in the alley lightly brushed against skin.
Side stepping within the low crouch, the attacker pivoted and flipped forward with the lithe agility of a panther producing a silver gun.  Suddenly as if time stopped, bullets exploded in the air as the glimmering and glowing objects penetrated the thrown back body of the beast, causing it to howl in pain.

The attacker ran full speed, watching the bullets hit each expertly calculated point on the beast’s body.  Landing a blow to the entities ribcage; the muscles in the attacker’s bicep tightening with the impact of breaking bones and tearing flesh.
Seething in anger, contempt, disbelief and hate, the monster attempted to slash at the attacker with its claws, its teeth dripping with a mixture of its own blood and a liquid miasma.  The beast successfully slammed the attacker into the side of a building, breaking bricks and creating a crater in the wall, rushing like a bull to launch another attack of teeth and claws.  Pivoting out of the way with a deep guttural grunt, the attacker let another round of bullets to release and absorb into the slashing and bleeding beast, watching him fall.

High pitched human screams burst from the beast as it lay on the cold glistening wet pavement, its twisted and contorted body writhing as the attacker casually walked over it kneeling down and grabbing it by its neck.
Watching slowly as the entity howled, hissing and fighting back, its eyes begged to be left alone as its tentacles and claws melted away into a very human hand.  As the once beastly thing revealed itself during its cries, a disheveled looking handsome muscular man, dressed in an Italian designed straight from the runway suit, coughed up spewing blood and wheezed in agony.  The clawing man, murmured in unintelligible sentences, his sun kissed olive skin, slowly fading into a murky grey.

Wrinkles of decay and diseases, emitting from his once handsome frame, seemed to slosh away with every scream of pain and anger.  Flowing oak colored hair, drifted away as if it was dust in the wind. The man reached out attempting to tear at the attacker’s throat as flashes of the demon’s past life of darkness flowed into his vision through the eyes and briefly flashed smile of the attacker’s photogenic face.

Hunching over in a swift movement that would rival and shame a snake, if a snake could be shamed, the attacker hissed, claw palmed the man in the chest clutching at his engorged heart to pull it to its surface, beating against rapidly thinning skin, as the man screamed in garbled terror.

“Ashes to ashes…”, was whispered in the air as the attacker pulled the heart from the man’s cavity and ferociously bit into the side of the screaming man’s neck tearing and cavernously biting until the attacker’s mouth seemed to fuse with the writhing man’s jugular, as rivers of blood fluidly glided everywhere.

-Sin Eaters by Kai Leakes ©copyright 2012-

Sin Eaters 2 – Retribution (Book Two) Excerpt:

Prelude

The past . . .

“Where are you going to go, boy? You’re surrounded!”

Like hell, woulda ever let ya take me down, boss, rushed into his mind as he ran. More like sprinted through the thick, grasping trees that surrounded him. Rigged branches reached out to him as if they had a mind of their own. Their thick almost-black rooted stems twisted in their uprooting from the bowels of the earth to make him trip, but he was smarter than the trees. He leaped and veered out of their menacing way and his arms jolted outward to part through bushes.

With all of the trees that surrounded him, he would not have believed that he was back in Harlem, had he known any better; but for those who don’t know it by that name, New York was where he was. The bustling city lights covered the sky like fireflies splashed across the sky’s black canvas. The noisy zipping of various buckets and hacks driving carelessly pass tourists and city folk gave him a sense of how close he exactly was to civilization. It also gave him a sense of purpose.

Twigs snapped suddenly and the rustling of leaves tussling against each other let him know they were still hot on his trail. His mind was racing as he looked for an out. All of this was too familiar to him. Beady red eyes flickered at him in the darkness of the wilderness—no, of the park. He was in Central Park. He should have realized that. Those piercing eyes stared at him in delight, ready to seize the opportunity to hogtie him so that he could be their little plaything but he would not give them that satisfaction. Not yet.

Beads of midnight dew kissed his face the moment he stepped through the thicket. His wingtip shoes abruptly skidded as they made contact with wet, slick grass. He jumped. Then he lifted in the air, almost floating for a mere second. Both of his large feet clacked against pebbled stone the moment they met the ground.

He could hear the enemy. He could feel them breathing against the back of his neck. Each hair on his body stood in salute, coming alive in electric awareness. In this life at least, he knew he could die on his terms and die giving them a fight. In seven minutes, his time would be up soon anyway, so what could he really do about not being bumped off?

Seven . . .

A whizzing sound sizzled past his ear and he felt the hot trickle of blood mixing with his sweat and the quick pop of the gun after the fact. They wanted to play dirty. They wanted to make him appear to be a patsy and a hood. He had to laugh; he was better than a hood. Sure, at one time, he had to fill that slot but now he was his own man, a bruno to a well-known trouble boy who protected the meek of Harlem. They worked together with his gang to find those who were kidnapped or were bumping gums to the wrong people. They worked to regain money lost in predatory loans and schemes and wrongful repositions. They worked to build up their people and to protect all who walked the streets of Harlem from the highbinders that made it their mission to tear down the community. But these men who were after him, the very scum and thugs themselves, were no normal men.

Corrupted monsters in the flesh of coppers more like it. Oh, what he wouldn’t give to go out between the gams of a looker for a change.

Six . . .

The menacing snarl of dogs in the distance made him grimly chuckle before closing his eyes with the feel of his body vibrating with his gift. His gift allowed him to use the sound waves around him to channel it into music. With a slight part of his lips, he let out a low hum. Whistling he changed the pitched and dropped into a low crouch. Both hands extended outward and he observed his skin lighting up in swirling patterns against its burnished surface. That was his clue to project that vibrating power out in waves toward the hunting dogs. A change in his vision instantly allowed him to see through their glittering eyes. He then knew where to run next. With a quick shift of the pitch of his song, he caused the dogs to halt their barks, whimper, and then stopped in their tracks to turn. Attack, was his simple mental command and he watched the dogs attack their owners before sprinting away in retreat.

His sweat dripped down his face like rain on the ground before him. His ragged breath came out in sharp bursts and he pushed up to start his run again. They wouldn’t get what he had been given a vision to find. That he was sure he had hidden well; he had taken something priceless, something rare, and something they wanted destroyed but couldn’t. Something they had to hide from his people because he had learned it could kill the leader of their kind.

Five . . .

Find out what the countdown is about when Sin Eaters 2: Retribution drops June 24th 2014!

To follow Kai, check out the following links:

FB – https://www.facebook.com/kaileakesbooks

Twitter – https://twitter.com/KaiLeakes

Tumblr – http://kaileakes.tumblr.com/

Butler/Banks Blog Tour Spotlight: Balogun Ojetade

And the tour continues…

Balogun is the author of the bestselling Afrikan Martial Arts: Discovering the Warrior Within and screenwriter / producer / director of the films, A Single Link and Rite of Passage: Initiation.

He is one of the leading authorities on Steamfunk – a philosophy or style of writing that combines the African and / or African American culture and approach to life with that of the steampunk philosophy and / or steampunk fiction – and writes about it, the craft of writing, Sword & Soul and Steampunk in general, at http://chroniclesofharriet.com/.

He is author of six novels – the Steamfunk bestseller, MOSES: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman (Books 1 & 2); the Urban Science Fiction saga, Redeemer; the Sword & Soul epic, Once Upon A Time In Afrika, two Fight Fiction, New Pulp novellas – A Single Link and Fist of Afrika and the two-fisted Dieselfunk tale, The Scythe. Balogun is also contributing co-editor of two anthologies: Ki: Khanga: The Anthology and Steamfunk.

Finally, Balogun is the Director and Fight Choreographer of the Steamfunk feature film, Rite of Passage, which he wrote based on the short story, Rite of Passage, by author Milton Davis.

You can reach him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/Afrikan.Martial.Arts; on Twitter @Baba_Balogun and on Tumblr at www.tumblr.com/blog/blackspeculativefiction.

Balogun’s latest book is The Scythe:

He has been given a second chance at life. A second chance at revenge. He is the bridge between the Quick and the Dead. He is…THE SCYTHE!
Out of the tragedy of the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921, a two-fisted hero rises from the grave!
Inspired by the pulp magazines of the 1930s and 1940s, a tale of action, adventure, thrills and chills await fans of Dieselpunk, die-hard pulp fans and readers who just love a gritty story that packs a mean punch.
Enter a world in which Gangsters, Flappers, vampires, robots and the Ku Klux Klan all roam the same dark back streets; a world of grit, grime and grease; a world of hardboiled gumshoe detectives and mad scientists; a world where magic and technology compete for rule over the world.
Dieselfunk has emerged in The Scythe…and the Roaring Twenties will never seem the same!

Here’s an excerpt:

“He who sleeps with an itching anus wakes up with smelly fingers.”

Ikukulu opened his eyes. Anesusu stood over him smiling. A horde of Agu stood behind him.

“Only a madman would go to sleep with his roof on fire,” Ikukulu replied, hopping to his feet.

“This is the sigil, then?” Anesusu inquired, pointing at the carving on the kuka tree.

Ikukulu nodded. “It is. It will require all of our blood to activate it.”

“Let’s get to it, then,” Anesusu said, drawing his knife.

Anesusu held his obsidian blade high above his head.

Hundreds of similar obsidian knives, with gazelle antler handles, were thrust into the air.

Ikukulu drew his coral knife. He slid the blade across his palm, rending his flesh and then pressed the leaking gash to the sigil for a few moments.

Anesusu followed him and then each warrior from amongst the Agu did the same until the sigil was covered in gore.

“The sigil is now activated and well-fed,” Anesusu said to his brethren. “The Jugu will be upon us in a few hours and we will send them to their doom. So drink; make love – preferably not with your own wife or husband, for you married warriors – and rest up…for at midday, we usher in a new era…a new world!”

A cheer erupted from the army of Agu.

Ikukulu turned away and sauntered toward the river. The ways of the Agu disgusted him, but the refusal of his own brothers and sisters to work with the Agu had forced him to ally with them alone – a dangerous undertaking, indeed, but one most necessary. He prayed that his punishment would not be too harsh and that the Abo would one day come to realize his level of sacrifice.

###

Ikukulu and Anesusu stood at the edge of the Ogun River with three hundred armored Agu behind them.

The dawn air was cool; crisp; and carried the scent of sulfur and putrid flesh.

“The Jugu are close,” Ikukulu shouted, drawing his knife.

“Swords!” Anesusu commanded.

The Agu drew their knives and pointed them skyward. A white energy, like a bolt of lightning, coursed through the obsidian blades, from base to point. A moment later, the knives expanded into broadswords.

Ikukulu knelt, slamming the pommel of his knife into the soft earth. The knife twisted; shifted; stretched. Ikukulu stood, a razor sharp, coral scythe now gripped tightly between his fists.

A muddy, marsh- green mass thundered toward them.

Ikukulu charged toward the mass, his scythe, held low, cutting a swath in the red dirt behind him.

“Forward!” Anesusu ordered, pointing his sword toward the fast approaching mass.

The army of Agu followed their leader, keeping pace with his loping gait.

As Ikukulu came closer to the mass, the monstrous forms of the Jugu became clear. Their brawny, grey-green bodies stood upon seven foot tall frames and their thick skin was scaled and ridged like that of a crocodile. Their facial features were human, but their mouths were extended, tapering into a ‘v’, like the maw of a crocodile.

The creatures roared in unison, exposing their dagger-like teeth. They raised their arms shoulder-high, baring their razor-sharp claws.

The Jugu had no one leading them, for their Mistress, Kielgek, commanded her warriors – with whom she was psychically linked – from the Abysmal Plane.

Ikukulu leapt into the fray, his scythe slashing furiously. The coral blade met scale-armored flesh and Jugu fell.

With each death of a Jugu, Kielgek cried out in agony upon her dark throne.

However, with each death of an Agu, of which there were many, she roared in ecstasy. Her warriors fighting on the Terrestrial Plane roared with her

“Fall back!” Anesusu bellowed, turning on his heels.

The army of Agu about-faced and retreated from the battle, sprinting along the edge of the Ogun River.

Ikukulu whirled about and took off, running closely behind Anesusu.

Ikukulu could hear the Jugu galloping behind him, hot on his heels. He felt their foul breath on the back of his neck.

The Agu ran a few yards past the tree bearing the sigil and then turned to face their enemy.

Ikukulu dived forward, rolling past the tree.

The Jugu stampeded toward Ikukulu and the Agu.

Suddenly, as if the air had devoured them, the Jugu vanished.

Ikukulu turned toward the Agu. “The Jugu have been sucked back into their abhorrent world. You have done well, warriors! Now, quickly, we must fell the tree to seal the portal forever. Anesusu and I will beat back any Jugu who try to pass through until you bring the tree down.”

“Work swiftly, my brothers and sisters!” Anesusu ordered.

Ikukulu stood a few feet in front of the tree. Anesusu stood beside him.

A vertical sliver of darkness rent the air. A scaly, grey-green head emerged from it, roaring.

Ikukulu severed the Jugu’s head with an upward slash of his scythe.

Something slammed into Ikukulu’s back with the force of a battering ram. He stumbled forward, his left arm, which held his scythe, disappearing into the black sliver. Something on the other side of the sliver grabbed a hold of him, piercing the skin of his forearm in several places.

“They have my arm,” Ikukulu gasped. Cut it off, Anesusu!”

“I promised you that no harm would come to the Abo from the Agu, my friend,” Anesusu said. “I must honor the truce.”

“If you don’t sever my arm, the Jugu will pull me into their world!” Ikukulu shouted.

“I keep my promises, Ikukulu,” Anesusu replied. “I will not do you any harm.”

A strong yank pulled Ikukulu’s shoulder and half of his face into the darkness.

“You have betrayed me!” Ikukulu spat.

“To betray, you must first belong,” Anesusu snickered. “You cannot run with the hare and hunt with the hounds. Goodbye, Ikukulu.”

Ikukulu vanished from the Terrestrial World and the foul world of the Jugu welcomed him.

Buy “The Scythe” TODAY!

Get it at Roaring Lions Productions (https://www.roaringlionsproductions.com/index.html), or at

Amazon http://www.amazon.com/The-Scythe-Balogun-Ojetade/dp/099140730X/ref=tmm_pap_title_0 Read more »

Today’s Butler/Banks speculative fiction spotlight focuses on author Keith Gaston. Keith is the author of more than a dozen books ranging from Speculative Fiction to Crime novels. His first book was published in 2007. After serving five years in the military, he began college, earning a degree in Computer Science. Since earning his degree he’s gone on to earn two Masters degree in Technology Management and Business Administration. His experience in the military and computer sciences has shaped many of his stories and characters over the years.

His  most recent speculative fiction novel is Taurus Moon: Magic & Mayhem, which is the follow-up to Taurus Moon: Relic Hunter. It’s also one of my favorite reads this year. Taurus makes his living by searching for supernatural artifacts for anyone willing to pay his price. Taurus Moon: Magic & Mayhem is a fast-paced action and fantasy novel, sprinkled with humor. After saving the lives of a family about to be slaughtered by Lycans, Taurus and Gully are pulled into a realm where magic is supreme and technology is nonexistent. They must travel through harsh lands to find their way home.
The uneasy alliance between an evil sorceress queen, Morgana le Fay, and Grimes, a Lycan king, is threatened because of the relic hunter’s and mage’s presence. Taurus and Gully will have to use every trick they’ve every learned to survive the looming battle, but will it be enough?

Here’s an excerpt:

Gully’s lungs burned, and cold sweat dripped down his face, but he couldn’t stop running, because stopping meant death.

Shadowing them on all fours, their stalkers were urged on with an inhuman need to slaughter. The heavy pounding of their massive paws against the frozen landscape grew ever closer. He pictured his pursuers’ tongues lolling from their mouths, salivating with anticipation. Wails filled the night; their terrifying howls alerting others of their pack that the chase was nearly over.

Gully had hoped the thick trees would offer him and the people he’d rescued, places to conceal themselves, but it wasn’t to be. The predators’ night vision could penetrate the dark with ease and their sense of smell could detect the four of them wherever they may hide.

Desperation begged that he plunge deeper into the woods. More than once, he’d seen what the claws and teeth of the predators could do to human flesh—saw the terror frozen in the eyes of their dead victims. Gully saw that same fear in the eyes of the family he was trying to protect. A hard knot had gotten trapped in his throat when the small girl glanced in his direction. Her gaze became saucers and she mouthed a silent scream.

Gully forced himself to twist his neck around to glance over his shoulder toward whatever she saw. He spotted the blood red glow of their ominous eyes first, then saw three of the beasts leap out from the darkness, their maws snapping open and close with enthusiasm as they anticipated flesh being trapped between their razor-sharp teeth.

The girl finally gave voice to her scream. It was time to stop running. Gully turned on his heels and faced the rampaging creatures. Exhausted and out of breath, he struggled to control his panic. Every fiber of his being shouted for him to continue running, but deep inside he knew that running would only get them killed. Gully shoved his fear aside, not for himself, but for the small girl and her parents.

The werewolves hastened their charge.

***

I sliced a jagged line across Darla’s neck with the silver blade from my wrist-mount to let her father know, I was serious about killing her. A thin line of warm blood trickled down her throat to her naked body. Grimes snarled, but stopped his advance toward me. His long abnormal fingernails and fangs retracted. Red menacing eyes reverted back to lifeless gray ones. As the dark brown fur slowly withdrew back into his skin, he grew smaller by several feet as he returned to his natural six-four height.

Grimes, naked and fully human, did not bother to hide his manhood, and he stared at me as if I was the one wrongly dressed for the occasion. “You are bluffing, Moon. You would not kill my daughter in cold blood,” he said not sounding entirely convinced of his words.

Under my grasp, Darla snarled like a wild animal and said, “He’s weak, father! Kill him now!”

“Take it easy, princess. No one has to be hurt here tonight,” I whispered. I spoke to her father in a louder voice with as much confidence as I could. “Make one move, Grimes, and I’ll take off her head. Trust me, I don’t bluff.”

“That’s not exactly true, sir. Since my association with you, you have, indeed, deceived your way out of five precarious situations,” Mosley said deadpan while in his holographic Idris Elba form.

Grimes, Darla and I slowly turned our gaze to the hologram. “You’re not supposed to let the bad guys know you might be bluffing, Mosley. Sort of defeats the purpose, don’t you think?” I scolded.

The hologram winced in apology then his image disappeared. Sometimes, I wondered if Mosley was with me or against me.

Grimes smiled, his teeth elongating once again. “My daughter and I shall have white wine as we dine on your flesh tonight, Moon.”

I gritted my teeth and narrowed my eyes at him. “Despite what my blabbermouth friend said, I will cut her throat!” Something in my expression or body language told him I spoke the truth, because his teeth became human-like again.

“You dare call my daughter and me bad guys, when it was you and your conjurer friend that broke into my castle in a pitiful attempt to rob me!”

Can you believe this guy? “You’re just going to skate over the fact that, in the midst of our pitiful attempt at robbery, Gully and I saved the lives of a family you and your darling princess here, were about to make a meal of. Here’s a tidbit of information for you. Eating innocent folks definitely places you and Darla on the wrong side of righteousness.”

Darla squirmed in my grip perhaps to break my hold, but I wasn’t having that. I pressed the silver blade tighter against her neck, drawing more blood from her. “Play nice,” I whispered into her ear.

“We have to eat,” she said defensively, as if that justified everything. “How else do you expect us to live?”

I shook my head, bowled over by the question. “That’s why the world has frozen meat sections in supermarkets, princess. You and I both know it’s not a prerequisite for werewolves to feed on human flesh. Raw meat is all you need to survive.”

We are predators. We hunt for our food,” Grimes huffed. “You have no right to be here–no right to take our prey!”

“You’re only half right, buddy,” I retorted. “I don’t have any legal right to invade your home, but I do have a noble one. I need something from you. Not to keep… only to borrow,” I said, trying to gain some sort of control over the situation. I needed to nullify them before things got worse.

Grimes stood ramrod straight and folded his arms together. “You are joking, correct? My daughter is your prisoner, and you expect me to let you borrow something from my castle?”

“Kill him, father,” Darla yelled, as she shifted slightly, readying herself to make a move.

I lifted the flat of the blade, scratched off a thin layer of skin from her neck, and then gave her a solid tap underneath the chin. “Will you shut the hell up? Grown folks are talking here.”

She didn’t like that at all.

Too late, I realized, I’d gone too far with my belittling of her.

In an instant, Darla went into full animal state, growing two feet in height with hair covering her entire body. Two inch fangs and long fingernails as sharp and strong as the finest steel knives were only seconds away from ripping into me. I stood at a crossroads in a split second of indecision—if I cut off her head, Grimes would be on top of me with a father’s fury like no other—if I did nothing, Darla would eventually get the upper hand in her stronger animal state. I hesitated a moment too long with my conundrum.

In a flash, she batted my arm away from her neck and heaved her head rearward, slamming the back of her skull hard against my forehead. In pain, I reeled backwards several steps, my vision an explosion of colors. I swung my blade wide and wild to make sure they couldn’t get close while I tried to regain focus. I could have used Gully right then and there, but he was busy getting that family Grimes and Darla had planned to eat to safety.

By the time my vision cleared, I saw that they had moved away to a safe distance. Both father and daughter were now full werewolves, and they both drooled at me with hunger in their eyes. Standing side-by-side, they looked at each other, then spoke in a series of grunts and growls, apparently debating who would get the first chunk of my flesh.

Grimes took a step back, letting Darla take the lead, an indication that they’d made their choice. I glanced over my shoulder, weighing what my chances would be if I sprinted down the corridor. There were no doors or turns, at least not until I’d ran down the long stretch for about thirty yards.

I would never make it. If I turned away to run, Darla would be on top of me before I took three steps, biting and clawing into my back. My pistols were already emptied from an earlier encounter. Though I had spare magazines, I’d never have time to reload. Left with the choice to fight, I planted my feet into a defensive posture and readied myself. One thing was in my favor—they’d decided to come at me one at a time.

Darla let out what I guessed was a laugh as she advanced toward me. She leapt to her left. Her paws pounded heavily against the left wall, as she launched herself to the wall on the opposite side. She bounded back and forth across the walls in a zigzag fashion so fast that she was almost a blur, in what I assumed was an attempt to disorientate me. I didn’t focus on her movements; it would have been impossible to track her that way. Instead, I listened to the timing of her paws as they made contact on the hard surface.

In my head, I counted down, three-two-one. Quickly dropping to one knee, I sliced my blade across the air above me. A dark shadow passed overhead at the same time. A gush of warm air and the smell of foul breath brushed against my face. An incredible weight fell on top of me. Darla and I went barrel rolling down the corridor. Her body stopped its momentum before mine. I continued rolling another few feet and landed on my back. Dizzy and aching, I lifted my head and tried to gain my bearings.

Darla was sprawled on the floor, and blood and spit overflowed from the severed jaw she worked desperately to put back together. My strike wasn’t a killing blow, but I’d nearly sliced her head in two. Darla’s supernatural restoration ability would eventually heal the wound. For the meantime, she would be out of the fight. Scrambling to my feet, I noticed my tumble with the princess had shortened the distance to the end of the corridor.

An anguished howl came from her father, who charged down the hallway. Leaping over Darla, Grimes made a beeline for me.

Already in mid-turn, I ran. Unlike Darla, her father wouldn’t be nearly as easy to subdue. He had a thousand years of fighting in armies throughout history under his belt. He also wasn’t as headstrong as her and had a habit of never underestimating his enemies. Lucky for me, Grimes wasn’t as agile or fast as his daughter. Immortal or not, he still suffered from the slow downs of aging.

I made it to the end of the hall and took a sharp left. Antique tables, vases and artwork adorned the walls. I retracted my blade, and pushed over anything I could get my hands on to slow him down. It didn’t work out as I’d hoped. Rather than duck and weave through the mayhem, he barreled through it as if there were no obstructions.

I groped in my pocket for a magazine and inserted the clip into my pistol. All the rounds were laced with silver. Stopping my run, I whirled around and raised my weapon to shoot. There was nothing behind me but smashed furniture and artwork. Grimes had disappeared. Cursing under my breath, I muttered, “This is not good.” I knew he could attack from any direction. Grimes’ castle probably had a network of secret passages running from every room and corridor. No matter which way I proceeded, I was likely to run into an ambush.

The best maneuver would be to stay where I was and try to find a way out of his little mousetrap. “Mosley, I need you,” I whispered, though I might as well have spoke with a bullhorn, knowing Grimes’ enhanced hearing in his wolf state could detect a pin drop a mile away.

“Is that absolutely necessary, sir? I mean, can’t you do this alone?” Mosley answered.

“Do we really need to have this conversation, you crazy computer? Of course it’s necessary, otherwise I wouldn’t be calling out to you for help,” I said frantically as I watched for an attack.

He let out a synthesized exhaustive breath. “Very well, sir.” Mosley appeared beside me clutching a chimney poker like a baseball bat. “How may I be of service?”

“Give me an overlay of the castle’s interior and then point out any heat signatures other than my own.”

Mosley’s form changed from Idris Elba to a three dimensional map. Red blips indicated Grimes and his daughter. Darla remained where I had left her, but her father was quickly circling around to get ahead of me if I continued down the hallway. I was about to turn in the opposite direction, heading back toward Darla when more red blips appeared on the first level of the castle.

I pointed to the new blips. “Are there any cameras on that level you can tap into for a visual?” I asked, knowing he’d already bypassed Grimes’ security systems. Before Gully and I entered the castle, I had Mosley program in a loop into all the cameras to mask our illegal entry.

“Wait one moment, sir.” The overlay faded for several seconds and then was replaced with a visual of the first floor.

My heart pounded like a drum in my chest. Things had just gone from bad to a hell of a lot worse. Entering the castle like they’d been invited to an-all-you-can-eat dinner were a dozen or so large werewolves. They headed up the front and rear stairways, and used all the elevators. That howl from Grimes earlier hadn’t been anguish over his injured daughter as I had thought. It had been a clever call for backup.

Want to read more? Pick up your copy of Magic and Mayhem here:  http://www.amazon.com/Taurus-Moon-Magic-Mayhem-Hunter/dp/1493695177/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1397962056&sr=1-1

I promise you won’t be disappointed.

The Butler/Banks Tour Day 2: Get to know Alan Jones!

Today on the tour we feature the outstanding independent writer and fellow ATLien Alan Jones!

Alan is a former columnist for the Atlanta Tribune, who has worked most of his adult life as a Business/IT consultant, working all across America from Los Angeles to Wall Street. Born in Atlanta, Alan attended GA-Tech and GA State, obtaining his MBA from Georgia State University’s Robinson School of Business. In addition, Alan was a feature writer for the student newspapers at both schools. Alan also served on the board of the Atlanta chapter of the National Black MBA association.
Alan, is the author of the Science Fiction novels, To Wrestle with Darkness and its prequel, Sacrifices.
In Sacrifices, a prequel to Alan’s first book, To Wrestle with Darkness, we meet Cil, Deborah, Ruth and Sarah. They are four sisters descended from the coupling of angels and humans. And as such they’ve been embodied with fantastical abilities which they use to defend the world from those who would harm it, be they flesh or spirit. In Sacrifices, they find themselves tested, as they must contest the forces of darkness that are intent on ending all of creation. If they are to prevail, there will certainly be sacrifices.
Here an excerpt for you enjoyment:
One by one, four black horses, exploded out of nothingness into the white pristine snowfall of a Scandinavian winter night. Each horse ran hard through the woods of fresh powder. Atop each horse, rode a daughter of Hosea draped in black. Each rider rode with such purpose that no words were needed. Each knew her destination. On the way, they encountered a time walker dressed in white by the name of Akina. Cil pulled on the reins of her steed and her sisters followed suit. “Akina, all is as expected?” she asked.
Akina pulled back her fur lined hood to reply, “Yes, Auntie, all is as expected. But, you know that. Don’t you?

Akina pulled back her fur lined hood to reply, “Yes, Auntie, all is as expected. But, you know that. Don’t you?”

SacrificesCil said nothing but smiled before she kicked her heels into her horse and rode off into the darkness. One by one, each of her sisters proceeded past Akina. First was Deborah, who had, as Akina would later describe, a wide-eyed, overly-excited look on her face. It was almost a bloodlust. Next came Ruth Ann, with a thousand miles away stare on her face. Bringing up the rear was Sarah, with her ever-present sunglasses firmly in place. She rode past Akina flashing her trademark irrepressible smile. Sarah’s opponents hated that smile and longed to wipe it off her face. The sisters followed Cil through the woods and towards the castle on the northern bay. They rode hard and fast through the woods as a winter’s full moon illuminated their path.

As the sisters broke through the tree line, a castle and the wall that surrounded it were plainly in sight. They rode toward the guard tower along the outer wall. Nordic soldiers lined the top of the wall in a heightened state of readiness. As the sisters approached, a gate in the wall swung open and they passed through on their shiny black horses. Aunt Cil led them up the central corridor toward the castle beyond. Residents in the courtyard gasped as the four hooded riders proceeded, escorted by several guards on horseback.

The ladies quickly dismounted in front of the castle and walked briskly towards the large wooden front doors. One of the guards barked out a command and once again a set of doors swung open before the women this time opening into a grand hall. The king and his court were sitting in their assigned places at the other end of the hall. It was clear that the Aunties were expected.

The members of the court were adorned in their finest coats and pelts. A feast for four was laid out on the great dining table, but the sisters paid it no mind. It was an offering of sorts, but Cil and her sisters had no time for such things.

They stood before the court and removed their hoods. This action froze the crowd more than the weather outside ever could. The sight of the four black women standing shoulder to shoulder left their mouths agape.

Deborah leaned over to Ruth and whispered, “They’re looking at our hair.”

Ruth rolled her eyes.

Cil motioned for Deborah to step forward. Deborah did so and began to speak to the king and his court in their native tongue. Deborah had the gift of speaking in the tongue of many languages. She could even speak languages that she’d never heard before. So, she translated between the parties.

“King Helwig, Queen Helwig, and members of the royal court as our herald undoubtedly communicated to you, we are here to rid your realm of the terror currently approaching your gates.”

King Helwig stood up, “We saw what your herald can do but what can you do that would warrant us putting our faith in you to resolve this matter?” He pointed at the Aunties as he made this last point.

Cil nodded to Sarah. She removed her shades which immediately revealed her glowing eyes. Then, she gazed upon a large urn of water and unleashed a red hot beam from those eyes that split the urn in half spilling the water it contained onto the stone floor.

Next, Ruth Ann stepped forward. She raised her hands, and in a single scooping motion projected a blue shell which scooped the remains of the broken and still smoldering urn into the air. The sphere hovered in the air spinning slightly before launching upwards bursting through the ceiling and into the night sky. The entire court could see the blue ball accelerate towards the great beyond and out of sight.

Then, when all eyes landed on Deborah, she simply vanished. From the spot on the floor where she had stood, a spring sprung up spouting water thirty feet into the air. The geyser began to rage and quickly filled the hall with water. Suddenly, water began to flow into the hall from everywhere. Water flowed from every opening including the windows, the cracks in the walls, and the new hole in the ceiling. Members of the court scurried up the king’s landing and to the throne to escape the rising waters. Just as her audience began to panic, the water disappeared and Deborah reappeared right where she had been when the phenomena began as though nothing happened.

Finally, Cil raised her staff but before she could demonstrate anything, the king motioned towards her vigorously shaking his head. There was little need for Deborah to translate.

Deborah glanced towards Cil and then said to the king, “About our fee…”

Hungry for more? You can purchase Sacrifices at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Sacrifices-To-Wrestle-Darkness-Volume/dp/0966667964/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1397533249&sr=8-1

You can also visit Alan at his site: http://alandjones.com/sacrifices/