Western Wednesdays: SHOWER OF GOLD + Giveaway

This powerful novel was written in 1913, but for over ninety years it has existed only in a weaker, censored form, published as Desert Gold. That edited version trimmed violence, changed dialogue…and removed the climactic fight scene altogether. The result was a novel quite different from the one Zane Grey had intended. Now, nearly a century later, Shower of Gold has been completely restored, using the author’s original manuscript.

This preview is on the longer side, but it’s so good. SO GOOD. I’M USING THE CAPSLOCK HERE, PEOPLE. That’s how good it is.

Giveaway: One lucky commenter will win a trade copy of Shower of Gold, so be sure to let us know what you think of the preview!

As always, happy reading,
Allison Carroll
Editorial and Web Coordinator

PROLOGUE

A face haunted Cardashan—a woman’s face. It was there in the white heart of the dying campfire; it hung in the shadows that hovered over the flickering light; it drifted in the darkness beyond.

This hour, w hen the day had closed and the lonely desert night set in with its dead silence, was one in which Cardashan’s mind thronged with memories of a time long past—of a home back in Peoria, of a woman he had wronged and lost, and loved too late. He was a prospector for gold, a hunter of solitude, a lover of the drear rock-ribbed infinitude because he wanted to be alone to remember.

A sound disturbed Cardashan’s reflections. He bent his head, listening. A soft wind fanned the paling embers, blew sparks and white ashes and thin smoke away into the enshrouding circle of blackness. His burro did not appear to be moving about. The quiet split to the cry of a coyote. It rose strange, wild, mournful—not the howl of a prowling upland beast baying the campfire, or barking at a lonely prospector, but the mourn of a wolf, full-voiced, crying out the meaning of the desert and the night. Hunger throbbed in it—hunger for a mate, for offspring, for life. When it ceased, the terrible desert silence smote Cardashan, and the cry echoed in his soul. He and that wandering wolf were brothers.

Then a sharp clink of metal on stone and soft pads of hoofs in sand prompted Cardashan to reach for his gun and to move out of the light of waning campfire. He was somewhere along the wild borderline betweenSonora andArizona, and the prospector who dared the heat and barrenness of that region risked other dangers sometimes as menacing.

Figures, darker than the gloom, approached and took shape, and in the light turned out to be those of a white man and a heavily packed burro.

“Hello there!” the man called as he came to a halt and gazed about him. “I saw your fire. May I make camp here?”

Cardashan came forth out of the shadow and greeted his visitor, who he took for a prospector like himself. Cardashan resented the breaking of his lonely campfire vigil, but respected the law of the desert.

The stranger thanked him, and then slipped the pack from his burro.

It was always necessary for a prospector to be careful of his beast of burden, and this man was, also, gentle and kind. He brushed the tired burro, strained the water he gave him, and then led him away into the darkness, evidently to find a little patch of grass. When he returned, he carried a bundle of mesquite and greasewood sticks. These he broke into short pieces, some of which he laid carefully upon the fire. Then he rolled out his pack and began preparation for a meal. His movements were slow and methodical.

Cardashan watched him, still with resentment, yet with a curious and growing interest. The campfire burst into a bright blaze, and by its light Cardashan saw a man whose gray hair, somehow, did not seem to make him old, and whose stoop-shoulders did not detract from an impression of rugged strength.

“Find any mineral?” asked Cardashan presently.

His visitor looked up quickly as if startled by the sound of a human voice. He replied, and then the two men talked a little. But the stranger evidently preferred silence. Cardashan understood that. He laughed grimly and bent a keener gaze upon the furrowed, shadowy face. Another of those strange desert prospectors in whom there was some relentless driving power besides the lust for gold. Cardashan felt that between this man and himself there was a subtle affinity, vague and undefined, perhaps born of the divination that here was a desert wanderer like himself, perhaps born of a deeper, an unintelligible relation having its roots back in the past. A long forgotten sensation stirred in Cardashan’s breast, one so long forgotten that he could not recognize it. But it was akin to pain.

When he awakened, he found, to his surprise, that his companion had departed. A trail in the sand led off to the north. There was no water in that direction. Cardashan shrugged his shoulders; it was not his affair; he had his own problems. And straightway he forgot his strange visitor.

Cardashan began his day, grateful for the solitude that was now unbroken, for the cañon-furrowed and cactusspired scene that now showed no sign of life. He traveled southwest, never straying far from the dry streambed, and in a desultory way, without eagerness, he hunted for signs of gold.

The work was toilsome, yet the periods of rest in which he indulged were not taken because of fatigue. He rested to look, to listen, to feel. What the vast silent world meant to him had always been a mystical thing, sensed in all its incalculable power, but never understood.

That day, while it was yet light and he was digging in a moist white-bordered wash for water, he was brought up sharply by hearing the crack of hard hoofs on stone. There down the cañon came a man and a burro. Cardashan recognized them.

“Hello, friend!” called the man, halting. “Our trails crossed again. That’s good.”

“Hello,” replied Cardashan slowly. “Any mineral sign today?”

“No.” 

They made camp together, ate their frugal meal, smoked a pipe, and rolled in their blankets without exchanging many words. In the morning the same reticence, the same aloofness characterized the manner of both. But Cardashan’s companion, when he had packed his burro and was ready to start, faced about and said: “We might stay together, if it’s all right with you.”

“I never take a partner,” replied Cardashan.

“You’re alone . . . I’m alone,” said the other mildly. “It’s a big place. If we find gold, there’ll be enough for two.”

“I don’t go down into the desert for gold alone,” rejoined Cardashan with a chill note in his swift reply.

His companion’s deep-set luminous eyes emitted a singular flash. It moved Cardashan to say that in the years of his wandering he had met no man who could endure equally with him the blasting heat, the blinding dust storms, the wilderness of sand and rock and lava and cactus, the terrible silence and desolation of the desert. Cardashan waved a hand toward the wide, shimmering, shadowy descent of plain and range. “I may strike through theSonoraDesert. I may head for Pinacate or north for theColoradoBasin. You are an old man.”

“I don’t know the country, but to me one place is the same as another,” replied his companion. For moments he seemed to forget himself, and swept his far-reaching gaze out over the colored gulf of stone and sand. Then with gentle slaps he drove his burro in behind Cardashan’s. “Yes, I’m old. I’m lonely, too. It’s come to me just lately. But, friend, I can still travel and for a few days my company won’t hurt you.”

“Have it your way,” said Cardashan.

They began a slow march down into the desert. At sunset they camped under the lea of a low mesa. Cardashan was glad his comrade had the Indian habit of silence. Another day’s travel found the prospectors deep in the wilderness. Then there came a breaking of reserve, noticeable in the elder man, almost imperceptibly gradual in Cardashan. Beside the meager mesquite campfire this gray-faced thoughtful old prospector would remove his black pipe from his mouth to talk a little, and Cardashan would listen and sometimes unlock his lips to speak a word. And so, as Cardashan began to respond to the influence of a desert less lonely than habitual, he began to take keener note of his comrade, and found him different from any other he had ever encountered in the wilderness. This man never grumbled at the heat, the glare, the driving sand, the sour water, the scant fare. During the daylight hours he was seldom idle. At night he sat dreaming before the fire or paced to and fro in the gloom. He slept but little and that long after Cardashan had gone to his own rest. He was tireless, patient, brooding.

Cardashan’s awakened interest brought home to him the realization that for years he had shunned companionship. In those years only three men had wandered into the desert with him, and these had left their bones to bleach in the shifting sands. Cardashan had not cared to know their secrets. But the more he studied this latest comrade the more he began to suspect that he might have missed something in the others. In his own driving passion to take his secret into the limitless abode of silence and desolation where he could be alone with it, he had forgotten that life dealt shocks to other men. Somehow this silent comrade reminded him.

Read more of this post

Pardon the Interruption—actually, we take that back

 

Haven’t we all felt this way at some point?

All About Audio(books)—BREEDING GROUND

Today’s sample audio chapter is not for the faint of heart. Sarah Pinborough’s Breeding Ground delivers creepy-crawlers in a most terrifying spin. Infestations don’t get more disturbing, or personal, than this. 

“With BREEDING GROUND I think Sarah Pinborough has finally cemented herself among the big boys of horror, gender issues be damned. As it was with all her other books, I can’t wait to see what she’s got in store for us next!” —Dread Central

Listen to the first chapter of Breeding Ground for free!

Guest Blogger: Bon Bons and Reveries reviews Shadow Bound + Giveaway

Today, we welcome guest blogger Caroline from Bon Bons and Reveries. To give you a little taste of what life over at the Bon Bons and Reveries blog is like, Caroline is reviewing Shadow Bound by Erin Kellison. Readers become listeners as all Bon Bons and Reveries reviews include a playlist for the book. So whether you’re new to the Shadow series or not, take a listen as you step into Shadow…

Take it away Caroline!

Title: Shadow Bound
Author: Erin Kellison
Series:  The Shadow Series
ISBN: 9781428511293
Publisher: Leisure Books
Pub Date: June 29, 2010
Genre:  Urban Fantasy/ Paranormal Romance
Author’s Web site | Segue Institute Web site | Excerpt | Deleted Scene

Synopsis:
Death
Some people will do anything to avoid it. Even trade their immortal souls for endless existence.
Wraiths
Secretly, inexorably, they are infiltrating our world, sucking the essence out of unsuspecting victims with their hideous parody of a kiss.
Segue
Adam Thorne founded the Segue Institute to study and destroy his monster of a brother, but the key to its success is held in the pale, slender hand of a woman on the run. There is something hauntingly different about Talia O’Brien, her unknowing sensuality, her uncanny way of slipping into Shadow.
Twilight
This is the place between life and what comes after—a dark forest of fantasy, filled with beauty, peril, mystery. And Talia is about to open the door.

My Reveries and Ramblings: Everything changes for Talia when she witnesses wraiths murder her roommate. Talia spends months running and hiding from the Wraiths who have taken a specific interest in her. Found on the verge of death by Adam Thorne, founder and head of the Segue Institute, Talia is brought to the institute to help find a solution to the wraith-problem. Talia, at times manipulated and at times protected, finds herself pulled into a full-blown war between the humans and the wraiths. And she just might be the key to it all.

The villains in this story are Wraiths that are nearly impossible to kill. They are horrifying. Wraiths are people who have sold their souls for immortality. However, in order to keep that immortality they have to feed on the souls of others. Humans cannot kill them, only injure them. Even then, a person only has a short time to run away before they regenerate.

The writing itself was such a treat to read. It wasn’t just the story, it was how she strung the words together. It flowed like a fairy tale; only, a dark and very adult fairy tale.  The author was not afraid of killing off characters. People die. That’s the reality of an apocalypse. Many authors have full out wars with no or very few fatalities. Not Ms. Kellison. She is fearless in that area, which is very refreshing.

Ms. Kellison’s characters were so well-written. Compared to most heroines, Talia is very unique. She has a Ph.D., which by itself is different. That combined with her ability to manipulate shadows and the fact that she is Death’s daughter makes her a very kick-ass heroine. I really admired Talia. She never had a pity-party. Instead she found a way to solve the problems she was faced with. With each obstacle she overcame, she became stronger. Talia went from being the victim, afraid and cautious to strong, powerful and fearless.

Adam, Talia’s love interest, really got under my skin in the first half of the book. He initially came off as very demanding and selfish. However, about 2/3 through the book, I was just as in love with him as Talia. Ms. Kellison gave him brains! Who doesn’t love a smart man? He has solutions and back up plans for most every situation—very helpful—and he figures out what Talia is (and doesn’t put her in the freak column along with the Wraiths). Also, Adam depends on Talia and her intelligence and expects her not to become the damsel. However, Adam does battle with how he feels for her as a man and how he needs her for his own Wraith-related goals. Ms. Kellison juggled these two sides to his personality effortlessly.

The romance compliments the story nicely. It starts out with frustration and dislike on both sides. Adam, who is used to having others follow his lead, has to deal with Talia’s stubbornness. For the first time in a long time, he needs to earn someone’s trust. Talia, who has been alone and on the run for so long, doesn’t quite see Adam as her knight in shining armor. His focus is soley on defeating the wraiths, which means putting Talia in harm’s way. Not exactly the best trust-building technique. However, she soon realizes that Adam and his resources are her best chance of survival. As the two work together, dislike evolves into respect and then to love. And, love always leads to (if not the other way around) very steamy sex scenes. Ms. Kellison not only delivers when it comes to these explicit scenes, but she writes them with such beauty that they almost seem melodic.

EPIC! Seriously, it was awesome! Ms. Kellison developed a strong plot with amazing characters. Shadow Bound was fast paced and never once lagged. With all the violence, gore, and death, one would think any reader would get depressed. Nope. It was so exciting! All the action and romance is so entertaining. I was transported right into the mayhem with Ms. Kellison’s first few words. I highly recommend this novel! It is a one-of-a-kind epic fairy tale paranormal romance.

My Shadow Bound playlist

Giveaway: Dorchester is giving away a copy of Shadow Bound in trade or e-book (winner’s preference) to one lucky commenter. Let me know what you think of the playlist—do you like to have music playing in the background while you read? Do certain books put you in the mood for certain music? How about vice versa?

Deneane Clark talks Virtues + Giveaway

Grace, faith, and charity.

Perhaps these were simply words to you before, but after reading Deneane Clark’s Virtue series, they will become oh so much more!

Grace, Faith, and Charity are the first three books in Deneane’s historical romance series. Each book showcases a different Ackerly sister (all named after virtues, of course) and the persistent men who are in pursuit of their hearts. RT Book Reviews raved about Grace: “Nicely written with a bunch of lively characters…[it] engages readers in a merry chase between a charming English Lord and a spirited young woman in the game of matrimony” and Faith is “just as sprightly, enchanting and fun.”

If you’re a fan of Regency romance, marriage-of-convenience plots, dashing Lords and Earls, passionate trysts, and strong, confident heroines, then Deneane Clark’s Virtue series is most certainly for you!

In celebration of this month’s trade release of Grace, Faith, and Charity plus the e-book release of Grace, Deneane is joining us on the blog today to discuss her books, their inspiration, the romance genre, and ideal leading men (what more could a fan want?!). Read on, and don’t forget to enter our drawing to win all three books in trade! (see below for details)

Welcome, Deneane!

In one sentence, how would you summarize your Virtue series?

A light, engaging romp through the ballrooms of Regency England as the Ackerly sisters take turns trying their hands at the game of matrimony.

You have a series of pictures posted on your blog of fans reading your books in different places. Do you have a specific audience in mind when you write? 

Isn’t that incredible?  I love it when readers send me snapshots of them with one of my books … I’m always so flattered and so humbled.  I think it is supposed that, by and large, historical romance appeals to women.  When I began the series, I had that in the back of my mind, but I don’t really write for a specific audience.  I’ve had correspondence from quite a few men who have read my books, and my amazing editor is male, as well.  So instead, I write about what I enjoy reading, and cross my fingers that it manages to find an audience.

Being the eldest of three girls, how much would you say you and your sisters resemble the Ackerly sisters? 

Wow.  I really had to think about this one, and I think the answer is almost yes.  I think I am the most like Grace in temperment, while my middle sister Tina has some of Faith’s characteristics.  And Mercy is a bit like my baby sister, Mindy.  I never really considered that before.  It’s so funny, though, because it reminds me of how I used to compare the three of us to characters from Little Women.  I once had an elementary teacher ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up, and my prompt answer to her was “Jo March.”

If you have a favorite character from your series, who is it and why? 

Sebastian Tremaine.  Without question.  He’s the most complicated character I’ve ever created and I actually ache with the effort to do him justice.  He has figured prominently in every book of the series to this point, and I’m so happy that I’m finally going to be able to bring him to the forefront with Mercy.  He also reminds me of someone about whom I care a great deal.  And I’ll just leave that little bit right there.  LOL.

Why do you think the Regency era is so appealing to Romance fans? 

It occupies an interesting space in English history, stuck right there, as it is, between the excesses of the French Revolution and the rather prim Victorian period.  The clothing was light and simple, comparitively, and I always feel a delicious undercurrent of humor when I research the day to day life of the aristocracy.  It’s as if they didn’t quite take themselves seriously.  I think you can also sense it in some of the writing from that time, especially that of Lord Byron.

 If you were a character in a Romance novel, who would you want to be and what would your ideal leading man look like? 

I’d want to be me.  It makes me laugh a little, but I think it would be fun to be a writer during that time.  I have a tendency to be audacious and outspoken, though, so I’d likely have to come from a very influential family, find a popular friend who championed unusual girls, or I’m afraid would end up a perpetual wallflower at the balls.  As for my leading man, tall dark and handsome, despite the cliché, would be the way to go.  And, um … a little stern.  I like shaking a few laughs out of a guy who doesn’t laugh very often.

As far as virtues go, which would you say is the most important: grace, faith, charity, or mercy? 

Charity.  Definitely charity.  A small handful of human beings are in a position to do great kindesses for those less fortunate, but we all have the ability to commit small acts of charity every single day … and they really do make a difference.  Charity is just another word for love, after all.  And if it weren’t for love, would the romance genre even exist?  Tell someone they look pretty today, or pay the bill for the car behind you in line at the drive-thru. That’s truly all it takes to make someone feel special.

Mercy, the 4th title in the Virtue series, is set for a March 2012 release. Can you tell us a little bit about it?

Ah, Mercy.  I’ve had more correspondence asking about Mercy than any of the other sisters.  She’s been quite impatient about growing up, but she’s finally old enough to have her Season, and to see if she can capture the interest of her hero, the Duke of Blackthorne.  Sebastian, on the other hand, has been dreading this moment since she was thirteen years old.  Since most of his friends have already been snared in the ropes of matrimony, they’re all looking forward to seeing how he deals with the situation … and don’t think they won’t do what they can to “help” the erstwhile couple along.

For more on Deneane Clark, visit her Web site, Ribbons & Romance, or email her at DeneaneElise@gmail.com. Deneane adores interaction with her readers so don’t be bashful!

Grace, Faith, and Charity are all available in e-book and trade, as of this month. Be sure to mark your calendar for Mercy‘s release next year!

Faith is being offered as a $2.99 e-book download through 7/15 on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Sony. All three e-books will be available in a $14.97 e-book bundle on Sony from 7/15-8/19. Don’t miss these great deals!

   

GIVEAWAY QUESTION: Of all her virtues, Deneane thinks charity is the most important. Which do you think is most important and why: grace, faith, charity, or mercy? Reply in a comment thread and be entered to win the Virtue series in trade! The winner will be announced on Monday 7/18.

Western Wednesdays—THE TALL MEN + Giveaway

Today’s edition of Western Wednesdays is a real treat! I’m previewing the first chapter o Will Henry’s The Tall Men from the Classic Film Collection. This classic Western eventually found its way to the big screen starring Clark Gable, Jane Russell, and Robert Ryan. The stage is set from the first page for one explosive adventure. Check it out for yourself.

Giveaway: Fans of the movie? How do you think Westerns compare to their big screen adaptations? Jump in the discussion and be entered to win a mass market copy of The Tall Men.

Happy Reading,

Allison Carroll

Editorial and Web Coordinator

 

Chapter One

They came from the south, riding ahead of the February twilight. Where the stage road crossed the last of the brooding hills they pulled their horses in. They sat them in silence, staring long into the valley below.

Two miles down the gulch, beyond the main settlement, could be seen the lights of a second town. And beyond that, those of a third.

The two riders shook their heads, moved uneasily in their saddles.

They were lonely, wandering men, little taken with the ways of civilization and having, by hard reason of professional calling, ample cause for caution in regard to those ways. The year was 1866, the war nearly twelve months over. Lately they had been soldiers and before that, cowboys. But they had come home to find the herds scattered, the ranches deserted, the owners departed. Bread was no longer to be earned, nor board provided, by the practice of their sole art—the care and feeding of longhorn cattle on the open range.

But the belly, in particular the ravenous, demanding belly of youth, had to be filled.

In the following hunt to fillll that belly it was inevitable that the old profession be replaced by the new. The war had taught them one proficiency. That of the gun. Within sixty days of Appomattox they were in business.

It had proved a poor one.

Along the Smokey Hill and Santa Fe stage roads which traversed their native Texas and Indian Territory heath, paying stage traffic was still but a trickle. And the hostile Kiowas and Cheyennes, grown overbold through the four- year absence of the Union troops, were shutting that trickle down to a starvation drip. Shortly it became impossible for an honest young road agent to earn a decent living.

At this turn, hopeful word filtered down from the north. The gold strikes were still continuing in the country of Grasshopper Creek, Bannack and the Last Chance. It was information which caused the two youthful businessmen to look toward the land of the Sioux and the prospect of paying color at the grassroots with a cool and calculating eye.

Where there was gold in the ground there would be men to dig it out. Those men would be wearing pants and those pants would have pockets. Before long that gold would wind up in those pockets. Men with gold in their pockets were apt to travel. Where they were, other men with no gold in their pockets were apt to gather.

The two riders upon the hill had no gold in their pockets.

Read more of this post

Pardon the Interruption—RISK FACTOR book trailer

“Can a Child be Born Evil? Is a child, or teen, who commits horrible acts born that way, or does something happen that turns them a sociopath? This was the central question I wanted to look at in writing the psychological thriller—Risk Factor. For me, this was a very personal book, and directly related to my work as a psychiatrist.” Read more about Charles Atkins’s inspiration in this special feature.

Risk Factor by Charles Atkins available in e-book and massmarket paperback.