Rachel Thompson

Jack Canon's American Destiny

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Orangeberry Free Alert - American Ghoul by Walt Morton

American Ghoul - Walt Morton

Amazon Kindle US

Amazon Kindle UK

Genre - Horror

Rating - PG13

5 (12 reviews)

Free until 24 May 2013

AMERICAN GHOUL tells the story of seventeen-year-old Howard Pickman, a boy with odd problems. He just got dumped into the worst high school in the state of New Jersey, but that's nothing compared to his secret family history of digging up corpses for dinner. This is a novel filled with the creepy funkiness of the 1970s, a bygone age of punk rock, bad disco and muscle cars roaring through hot summer nights. AMERICAN GHOUL explores the good times of teenage friendships and the darkness at the heart of American youth. It's a fun, scary, and zany look at a time when being a teenager was so dangerous you just might have to be a monster in order to survive.

AMERICAN GHOUL is recommended for readers from age 13+ on up. If you lived through the 1970s, a few flashbacks are guaranteed, both pleasant and shocking.

Orangeberry Book of the Day - The Hunter’s Son by BE Jewell

Chapter 2

“You know who I am and you know what he is, so you better start talking. I saw him come in here earlier.” The stocky man slams his hand down on the table. He keeps his eyes locked forward and squeezes his hand, making the veins in his forearm pop.

This elicits the desired response, and James has to fight back a smile. The owner of the grungy little shop nearly jumped out of his skin at the sound of the hand slamming on the dirty laminate counter top. It’s the typical type of place a sympathizer might own. Funneling black market goods might pay the bills, but this guy certainly isn’t getting rich off this line of work.

“Look man, I don’t know what you’re talking about. So you better buy something or…” James’s hand shoots out and grabs the shop owner’s neck. A slight squeeze cuts off his voice with a gargle.

“Don’t you lie to me. The smell in here is enough to make me puke. One warlock doesn’t smell up a joint like this,” James says through gritted teeth. “I saw him leave here earlier and have been chasing him since. I lost him when he jumped off the fifth floor of the parking garage over on Beaubien Street and took off toward the river. Tell me where he stays and maybe I’ll let you live.”

He squeezes just a bit tighter and the shop owner’s eyes bulge just slightly from his now-purple face. A noise squeaks from his collapsing throat that sounds enough like agreement to allow James to release his grip. The shop owner rubs the red area where the incredibly strong hand was affixed and clears his throat loudly.

“He’s gonna kill me. Ya know it’s true, hunter,” the shop owner says in his new, gravelly voice.

“Either him or me.” James opens his jacket and taps the gun sticking out of his waist band. Surprisingly, this doesn’t get a rise out of the man behind the counter.

“That supposed to scare me? You know what that warlock can do. He’s not normal. The things he will do to me will hurt far worse than getting shot. Maybe I should just let you shoot me and get it over with.”

James looks at the mousey man and puts his hand on the butt of his gun. The man might be afraid of the warlock but he is clearly more afraid of dying. He can barely stop the words from spewing from his mouth.

“Alright, alright. Ya better get him though, or we’ll both be dead. He hangs out in Milliken Park down on the river. It’s off Atwater Street. Not that I care if you live, but you better be careful, hunter. Like I said, this warlock is different. Got some powers I haven’t seen in a long time.”

“Oh, dontcha worry about me. Believe it or not I know what I’m doing.” James walks to the door. “And if he isn’t there, I’ll be back. No need to worry.”

The air outside the shop is cool, even for September in Michigan. James regrets not dressing warmer. His body shivers, partly from the cold but mostly from frustration. He does not usually have this much trouble and rarely has to run like he has today. The air burns his lungs like he is breathing boiling coffee. The money he was paid isn’t worth all the trouble this warlock has given him and the thing doesn’t look much older than JC. Should have asked for hazard pay, he thinks to himself.

James heads down the street toward the area he believes is the park. His mind is preoccupied with thoughts of JC and his first day at yet another high school. He bumps into an older couple walking with bags of groceries. Cans and boxes scatter all over the sidewalk. He scrambles to help the folks clean up their food and moves on quickly. He can’t let anyone get a good look at him. If things get ugly with the warlock, he can’t have the local news putting his description on TV.

He generally prides himself on staying anonymous. No one will mistake him for a body builder, but James is sure that most people would not want to run into him hiding in an alley unless they have some sort of power. Despite his stocky frame, there is nothing particularly striking about James. Most would say he looks fairly ordinary. Not strikingly handsome but not ugly either. He could be an accountant when he isn’t wearing army cargos and a black hooded sweatshirt. Hopefully the old couple was so startled they forget everything about him.

It’s nearly dark when James reaches the park. The acidic stench of the warlock hangs on the air and almost ruins the beautiful park set inside the city. The park is completely out of place. Trails lead in every direction and trees line numerous lush green clearings. It would be easy to forget about being in the city altogether.

James heads toward a raised walkway at the edge of the river, letting his nose show him the way. This would be the perfect place for a warlock to hide out. Plenty of space to watch potential victims. It would be easy to snatch someone, drag them into the woods and perform a spell without anyone seeing. Wouldn’t matter how elaborate the ritual, the trees would provide ample cover. One day having a nice picnic in the park, the next kidnapped and waking up to a nightmare–a warlock having stolen their identity or, worse, having made them do terrible things all while they were completely unaware.

This sentiment makes James shudder. He shakes his head and moves further up the river walk. The cold has driven most people out of the park. Only a few people stroll down the walkway, fighting the strengthening breeze. About fifty yards ahead, James sees someone that sparks his interest.

Sitting alone on a bench is a young-looking man wearing an oversized coat. James stops and breathes deeply, but the wind at his back makes it hard to tell if the warlock is close. He takes a step forward and the man bolts off the bench. James rips the gun from his waist and levels it at the young man.

He begins to squeeze the trigger but feels a rumble under his feet. Before he knows it, his shoes are no longer touching the ground. The river walk crumbles into the water below. He hits the water with arms and legs still trying to find steady ground. He surfaces as quickly as possible, gasping for air.

Thankfully, the water is still warm from the summer. James looks up and sees a huge hole in the walkway twenty feet above him. He looks around, sees a ladder 100 yards down the river and lets the slight current drag him toward it.

The wind bites at him as he reaches the top rung and pulls himself onto the walkway. He strips off his soaked hooded sweatshirt and scans the area. He sees movement in the distance between some trees and reaches instinctually toward his waist for his gun but comes up empty. He stares into the river knowing his favorite piece is long gone.

He turns and walks away from the tree line, back toward the city. He doesn’t know what to do without his gun. Hunting has evolved in the last 200 years or so to the point that he has become reliant on shooting as an answer to his problems. It’s no longer necessary to burn a witch, and using a pail of water always had its problems, anyway. Fire does a fine job just like it would with any animal, but a bullet does the trick a lot easier. It takes a hunter a long time to realize they do not need to stock up on garlic and wolfsbane to ward off evil spirits. Silver bullets do work a bit better than the junk from the sporting goods store and nothing beats a wooden stake up close, but who really wants to get that close? Plus, there isn’t always time to drive a stake in the ground or spread a salt ring to protect yourself.

The problem is everyone thinks witches and warlocks are busy running around a castle in England fighting bad wizards with wands, but that just isn’t true. If people knew how heartless these creatures are, they wouldn’t let their kids dress up like them on Halloween or stand in line to see movies glorifying them.

James moves quickly away from the park, putting as much distance between himself and the warlock as possible. After ten blocks, he sees an alley and ducks in to rest and get his bearings. This wasn’t supposed to be so difficult. It’s just a young warlock, he thinks to himself as he crouches next to a dumpster.

A few smaller trashcans help hide his position but are too small to hide his broad shoulders. He sits down on the dirty ground and takes in his surroundings. He could not have picked a worse place. This is the kind of alley even a bum wouldn’t sleep in. Whoever is dumping trash here doesn’t care if it ends up in a dumpster or not. At least the smell of rotten fish is a welcome change from the warlock.

Something crashes off to his left and James shakes his head to clear the cobwebs. He glances down the alley but nothing appears out of the ordinary. Just a bunch of kids horsing around out on the street. A boy picks his grimy body up off the ground and starts after his friend. James’s heart beats way too fast and he takes a deep breath. It rolls out of his mouth like smoke and he pats the area where his gun should be again.

“Getting way too old for this. I guess this will have to do,” he whispers as he slowly pulls the six inch blade from his boot.

Suddenly, his nostrils fill with a depressingly familiar smell. Even the rotting fish in the dumpster can’t cover it up. He looks around but sees no one in the alley. His body tenses at the eerie lack of movement out on the street. People should be moving about at this time night, especially in a busy town like this. Maybe they are all down the street a bit. Daylight is gone now and he cannot see much beyond the edge of the buildings. That smell is strong. It seems to come from all around him. He inches slowly around the trashcan and into the alley. He turns toward the main street at the end of the buildings and takes one step forward, quickly glancing over his shoulder.

A blinding pain shoots through James’s throat as a thin, but incredibly strong, forearm slides around it. He lets out a terrified yelp for the first time in years as he loses the grip on his knife. It clanks on the concrete like a church bell ringing. James struggles to get out of the warlock’s grasp. He can feel its hot breath on the back of his head and the smell begins to burn his nostrils. If he could breathe, he would puke. James’s head whips back and he can see an old, broken fire escape above him. He did not notice it before. Such an obvious hiding spot, he can’t help but think.

“What do you want with me, hunter?” The warlock hisses in his ear.

Rancid breath fills his nose, and he can feel heat radiating off of the warlock’s body. He does not understand why the warlock would have a conversation at this point. He has been shooting at it all day. He did not hesitate to try to kill, why would this creature give him this type of courtesy? If he could get to his knife he would stab straight through the thing’s heart. Instead of killing him, the warlock is more concerned with James’s job description. Compassion is not their strong suit. No negotiating with a hunter or with a monster. The rules of war are being broken. The forearm begins to release a little pressure in anticipation of his answer and he gasps for air. His lungs are really on fire now.

“It’s nothing personal. Just a job,” he chokes before the blinding pressure returns to his throat.

James sees the witch’s mark on the creature’s forearm move as the muscles strain to block air from his lungs. Curious things, those marks. Often they look like any ordinary tattoo, with criss-crossing in varying patterns depending on the clan. This particular one is in the shape of the letter “Y” with two lines running through the curved stem. It is the only way to be certain that you have a witch or warlock on your hands and not just an extraordinarily smelly person. Every one of these creatures is born with the little symbol. It really would be fitting if this mark is the last thing he ever sees.

“JUST A JOB,” the warlock snarls. “IT’S NOT A JOB, THIS IS MY LIFE! You hunters seem to think you are the only things on the planet with a life. I did nothing to no one. Understand that? You need to learn that things bigger than you are going on all the time. Maybe in the future you won’t be so quick to shoot at someone who isn’t bothering you or your family. Next time the consequences might be far worse than today. Next time I will rip your heart from your chest. Believe me, I better not see you ever again.”

Everything goes black as something thuds against James’s head.


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Genre – YA Supernatural Thriller

Rating – PG13

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Website http://www.jewellbe.com/

Blog http://jewellbe.blogspot.com/

Living Backwards by Tracy Sweeney (Excerpt)


I woke to the sound of my alarm. The radio was playing Smooth by Santana and Rob Thomas. The fabric under my cheek felt scratchy. I was wearing skinny jeans, and the walls were purple.


There was no way that this could actually be happening. As nightmarish as this situation appeared to be, I was clearly not dreaming, but I refused to accept that a pair of retro jeans had killed me. I couldn’t fathom that level of embarrassment. I’d also rather believe in a benevolent God that wouldn’t banish us back to high school when we died. I was a pretty nice person overall. Maybe I tried returning an outfit once after I had already worn it, but I was a good person who deserved the wings, the harp and the flawless complexion in my afterlife. So if I wasn’t dead, there had to be a logical explanation as to why I woke up in 1999. Actual time travel, while popular in a lot of movies, simply didn’t exist. Ashton Kutcher can create his Butterfly Effect and Peggy Sue can decide whether she should get married, but in real life there was no do over. The possibility that I was in a coma was more likely, but still didn’t explain the bump on the back of my head. It shouldn’t still hurt. Regardless, I was back in time without the cool De Lorean.

Now maybe I’ve watched too much TV—well, I know I’ve watched too much TV—but I began to think about how complicated time travel movies were. There were tons of rules. If you change part of one person’s future, it has a domino effect. Ashton Kutcher made one bad decision and—BAM—Amy Smart became a crack whore. This was serious business. There was no way of telling how or why I was here. I didn’t want to screw up the future or become a crack whore so I needed to get my act together as soon as possible.

I glanced at the clock. It was already seven o’clock in the morning. I had been pacing for too long and now I needed to get ready for school. A new wave of panic washed over me as I realized that I had no idea when school started, where my locker was located, or what my first class was. I remembered nothing. Maybe I had blocked out my whole high school existence as a defense mechanism. Maybe all the booze I’d consumed had made me soft. Either way—I was screwed. Peggy Sue never had to worry about that stuff.

I dragged my ass to the bathroom and heard movement downstairs. My mom would most likely be working at the hospital already. It was probably my dad. I wondered if he would still be around when I left for school or if he had the early shift at the station. I was kind of curious to see him.

Walking into the bathroom, I noticed some of my parents’ toiletries on the counter. I picked up my dad’s aftershave and smiled. I wasn’t far away in Seattle so I got to see them fairly often, but usually not for extended periods of time. The scent of his aftershave was always so calming. Part of me missed living here.

I formulated a plan while I got ready. I would head straight to the office when I got to school and ask to see my emergency card. I knew that every year we filled out a card so that Mrs. Jankowski, the school secretary, would know what class we were in if she ever needed to find us. It had our class schedule, locker number and if I wasn’t mistaken, our locker combination. I crossed my fingers because that would be ideal. I was pretty sure my locker was on the first floor near Pruitt’s bio lab, but I just didn’t remember the specifics.

As I was trying to curl my hair without a much-needed roll brush, there was a knock on my door.

“Jill?” my dad called from the other side of the door. “I’m leaving.”

I jumped from the seat in front of my vanity and darted across the room. When the door swung open, he jumped back. I was startled as well as I took in his appearance. His hair was jet black without the now familiar touches of gray. He clearly looked younger. The best part, however, was that he had a mustache—a freaking pornstache. I had totally forgotten his mustache phase. Why did I not find this funny ten years ago? I started to laugh and couldn’t stop.

“Jill?” he said again confused. “What’s going on? And why is your hair all….” He gestured wildly at my head. “You’re just going to school, right?”

I managed to stop giggling. “Of course, Dad. Why? Do I have a choice?” Maybe school was optional. He looked at me strangely again.

“No, of course not. It’s just that you looked kind of…fancy.” He shifted from one foot to the other uncomfortably.

“Oh! No big deal, Dad. Just trying something new.”

It’s called brushing my hair before I leave the house and not pulling it into a messy bun. I’m not socially inept anymore.

He cleared his throat, uncomfortable again. “Well, okay then. I’m going to go so…I’ll see you tonight.”

With that, he turned and headed down the stairs. I noticed that he stopped and glanced back at me briefly before leaving. My dad was a pretty perceptive guy. Detectives interrogated people for a living, but I was sure he’d probably chalk my behavior up to just being a teenage girl.

I gathered up my messenger bag and looked at the Word of the Day for April 30th.

Redux: 1. brought back; 2. resurgent.

Well, that’s a little obvious.

I headed downstairs and grabbed a Cinnamon Pop Tart from the kitchen. I jammed it into my mouth and headed outside.

Must remember to buy Cinnamon Pop Tarts after I dig the Korn CD out of my closet. Finding lots of hidden gems in 1999.

I saw the old Toyota I drove until it fell apart outside in my parking space. I called her The Red Baron. I had names for a lot of inanimate objects. I climbed inside, feeling sentimental. I loved this car. She wasn’t slick. She wasn’t fancy. She was a good old broad. But even the excitement of being able to drive my beloved car again couldn’t lift my spirits. I put the key into the ignition and headed off to school with knots in my stomach.

As I pulled into the parking lot of Reynolds High, I noticed how small the school looked to me now. I spent four years at NYU. My dorm was the size of this entire school. I noticed some familiar faces milling around; people who I hadn’t seen in years, but had been haunting my Facebook page. Tyler Burroughs was showing a group of kids a dent in his front fender. Newsflash, Tyler, your driving doesn’t get any better. Sarah Spellman was walking into school with her arms crossed in front of her chest. Oh Sarah, enjoy those perky boobs now because small and perky kicks big and wonky’s ass any day. Megan’s black convertible was parked next to Erik McDougall’s van. My heart sank. I wasn’t friends with Megan or Danielle yet. I didn’t even remember seeing much of Megan senior year. I couldn’t imagine going into school and pretending that they weren’t two of the most important people in my life. But maybe I didn’t have to. I was going to meet Danielle at orientation in little over a month. I wouldn’t really be changing the future if I befriended her a few weeks early. It was practically just a matter of days.

Meg and I didn’t have any classes together and I wasn’t what you would call social; however, Danielle was in my World Lit class. I’d see her in class—whenever that was. I could say hi or maybe chat about the weather. As much as it sounded like I was getting ready to ask her to the prom, it was actually more important than prom. This had to work.

As I entered the main hallway, my nostrils were assaulted. The place smelled like teenagers—all full of sweat and angst. If I was sent back to my college days at NYU, at least I’d be able to handle the inescapable smell of the burning incense in the dorm. This was just plain nasty. Pushing my irritation aside, I took a deep breath and headed for the office. Mrs. Jankowski was sitting behind the desk looking just as irritated. Swell.

“Hi, Mrs. J,” I squeaked. My palms were sweating and the day had barely even started.

“Jillian. Hello, how can I help you?” she asked with a wrinkled brow.

“Well, I was hoping to get a copy of my emergency card from you, please.”

Polite. Concise. I’m doing all right.

“May I ask why you need that? It’s a peculiar request.”

She eyed me cautiously. It didn’t occur to me that asking for a copy of my emergency card would sound weird, but now that I had actually said it out loud, it sounded really, really weird. There was no good reason why I should need her to make a copy for me, and because I obviously sucked at this, I never took the time to think of an excuse.

“Well, um, I’ve been taking a medication for…some dizziness that I’ve been experiencing.”

I felt really proud of my ability to think on my feet because Mrs. Jankowski looked genuinely concerned.

“It’s not a big deal,” I continued. “I bumped my head because—you know me,” I added rolling my eyes. “Super klutz. So, it makes me very forgetful, and I’m concerned I may forget my locker combo or my class schedule…” Or what year it is. I could see that she was buying my explanation so I trailed off, quitting while I was ahead. She walked around to the file cabinet behind her desk, searched for my card and headed to the copy machine.

“Here you go, dear, but please take care of yourself. We’d like you to make it to graduation in one piece.” She handed me the paper with a smile.

“Thank you so much, Mrs. J.”

I was a sweaty mess, but at least I could now find my locker and get the inevitable over with. Then as I turned the corner, I saw them. Danielle and Josh walking hand and hand. He stopped in front of a locker, spun her like a ballerina and kissed the top of her head. I had to catch myself from yelling “Josh, you nerd!” because, come on, who does that? But I held back, because I think if I randomly called a guy I’m not supposed to know a nerd, he’d be kind of pissed. Pretending not to know my friends was going to be harder than I thought. I had to talk to Danielle and fix this, so I needed to formulate a plan. Maybe I would see if she wanted to study together for…whatever we were studying. Then I would be my charming self and she would realize that I’m awesome and be my best friend.

I may need a more detailed plan.

Fortunately, I had some time to work on the execution because according to my class schedule, World Lit was after lunch. I had trig first period.

After a quick stop at my locker, I headed for Room 218. My plan for going to class was to arrive late after everyone was sitting down. Then I could just take the seat that was left. But as I peeked through the window, there were a number of open seats. It was three weeks to graduation and senioritis had invaded Reynolds High. After a sigh of defeat, I decided that if worse came to worse, I would stick with the head trauma story. It was completely believable because I was clumsy as hell.

“Ah, Jillian, so nice of you to join us today,” Mrs. Jacob snapped from the blackboard. “Maybe you can help us find the reference angle in the example on the board.”

I had no idea what a reference angle was and was fairly certain that I never actually did. I thought I was really good in trig, but I obviously didn’t retain information well. I was under the impression that angles belonged in Geometry. Clearly math wasn’t my strong suit.

“Um, no, that’s okay,” I responded casually. “I’m sure there’s someone else that would be more qualified to do that. I’ll just take my seat.” She looked stunned for a moment, opening then closing her mouth. I thought maybe I’d gotten out of answering the question except I noticed her staring as I sat down in one of the empty seats.

“Jillian,” she began. And I already knew what was coming. “Your seat is over there next to Valerie.” She pointed across the room and my eyes met the bane of my best friend’s existence.

Before I could think of an explanation as to why I was sitting in the wrong place, it hit me. I could fix this. I could make it so that Danielle and Val never go into business together. Maybe that was why I was here. It might be against the rules of time travel, but I doubt the laws of physics took Val Cooper into account.

“Jillian,” Mrs. Jacob repeated.

“Oh, I’m sorry.” I couldn’t stop grinning. “Um, I bumped my head last night and could I…”

“Why don’t you go see the nurse?” Wasting no time, I took off to start planning. With a note from the nurse, I managed to avoid classes for the morning. I was too nervous about having to set up my girl date with Danielle. It seemed silly since I had known her for over ten years, but it didn’t change the fact that I was freaking out.

By noon, I was a wreck. I decided that I needed to get some air and get away from the high school smell for a bit. Following the walkway around the side of the school, I noticed a small space behind the gymnasium facing the woods. There were a few milk crates turned upside down to sit on and the ground was littered with cigarette butts. It looked like a giant ashtray. I sat down on one of the milk crates, bending my knees and leaning my back against the wall. I closed my eyes and tried to take deep breaths to calm myself down, but it wasn’t working. I knew there was one thing that could help me relax, but it felt kind of wrong. It took me less than a second to decide I didn’t care. I grabbed the flask from my back pocket, unscrewed the cap and took a quick sip. The familiar burn warmed me once again. Bending over, I rested my head on my knees, closed my eyes, and imagined a life where Danielle ran her own successful company. No inappropriate behavior to deal with. No lost clients. Her reputation intact. I was still visualizing how happy Danielle would be when I heard a strange noise.

Standing near the corner of the building, lighting a cigarette and looking at me with a curious expression was Luke Chambers.

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Genre – Chick Lit

Rating – PG13

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Website http://www.tracysweeney.net/