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Monday, 15 August 2022

Book Blitz & Giveaway - The Acadian Secret by Tammy Lowe

The Acadian Secret
(The Acadian Secret, #1)
Author: Tammy Lowe
Published by: The Wild Rose Press
Publication Date: August 10th, 2022
Genre: YA Action / Adventure / Time-Travel

Book Description:
Nova Scotia has kept an incredible secret for centuries. In 1795, sixteen-year-old John Smith, convinced he’s found buried treasure, digs down into a mysterious pit on a small island.

​In present day Nova Scotia, twelve-year-old Elisabeth London knows there’s no such thing as magic, but when she finds herself in 17th century Scotland, she no longer knows what to think. While under the guardianship of a kind-hearted Highlander, Elisabeth discovers his ancestral home holds a mystery of its own.

​As John continues to dig the strange pit, he inadvertently begins the longest running, most expensive, and deadliest treasure hunt in history. Now, Elisabeth London and John Smith each try to unravel the secrets consuming them, unaware that a tormented young man holds the string weaving all of their lives together.

​For Elisabeth, the adventure is just beginning. Unless her parents discover she’s time-travelling. Then…she is so grounded.

Buy Links:

Sunday, 14 August 2022

Talisman Of El is FREE on Amazon

 Talisman Of El FREE on Amazon


In honour of Charlie’s birthday, we are offerring readers a chance to grab a FREE copy of Talisman Of El (Arcadia, Book 1) on Amazon between August 12 – 16.


Already have a copy? Great. Why not gift a copy to your family and friends and enjoy the celebration together?


One Planet. Two Worlds.
Population: Human… 7 Billion.
Others… Unknown.

Mankind's only hope is not human!


Check out the updated character profiles over at the Official Website for the Arcadia Saga

Saturday, 13 August 2022

Guest Post with Brett Salter - The Talisman Series

CBY Book Club is pleased to welcome Brett Salter, who is here to introduce his YA Fantasy books, The Talisman Series.

The Talisman Series
Genre: Middle-Grade Fantasy
Publisher: Self Published
Publication Date:  May, 2017 - February 2022



Buy Links:



GUEST POST

MY BOOK IS A MOVIE. WHO IS THE CAST?



Ah, the bright lights of Hollywood!  La-La Land!  Tinseltown!  The place where stars live, and dreams come true.  Producer of that world-beloved media called motion pictures.  Strangely, or maybe not so strangely, the movies have a historic, symbiotic relationship with books.  The two mediums have always intertwined and amassed diehard audiences ready to delve into their near limitless potential.  They work together in tandem to entertain us, to cull out our emotions, and to keep our imaginations percolating.  This relationship has created some of the best and worst discrepancies between the two artistic forms, and even spawned the curious phrase “the book was better”.  

Why am I mentioning this at all?  Well, because when a book is turned into a movie, it takes some of the allure away from the book, right?  The magic of books is that everything is dependent on the reader’s own imagination.  Once a movie tags an actor to a character or a studio stage to a specific setting or even a soundtrack to a book’s particular ambience, that freedom of vision gets stricken from us as viewers.  And we sacrifice our own creativity for convenience.  We are entertained in much less time and with much less labor.  These all sound negative, right?  However, it seems that when a piece of fiction gets a cinematic push, it is usually considered worthy to be broadcast on a massive scale.  To a massive audience.

As fan of movies and a constant reader, I struggle with this debacle when I want to consume a book or a movie.  And as an author, I sometimes entertain ideas of grandeur like my series making the jump from written word to the movie theaters.  So, naturally, that brings up the question, who would be my dream cast to play the characters in my series if it ever made it to blockbuster levels?  And I refuse to lie; this is something that my fanboy head has contemplated more times than I would care to admit.  Now, since you’ve made it this far, just sit back and enjoy my ideas for who would play the cast of The Talisman Series if it ever made it to the big screen.

Starting off with one of our main characters, we need to cast for Rome Lockheed.  Rome is my fire dragon stuck in the body of a teenager who gets caught up in a whirlwind of worlds in the first book.  The obvious choice to me is Marvel’s own Spiderman, Tom Holland.  He has the mindset, the physical appearance, and the ability to play a character who steps into a world much bigger than he ever knew.  I foresee him playing Rome exactly as I have on my pages.  Starting out somewhat reluctant and confused, but soon developing into a leader with doing the right thing always at the heart of his decisions.  Tom’s boyish good looks and willingness to do stunt-involved acting make him an excellent Rome Lockheed, in my opinion.  

So, who should play everyone’s favorite rulebreaker, Julian Rider?  Okay, cast your mind with me.  Close your eyes and imagine a younger, much blonder Zac Efron!  I’m talking High School Musical days, okay?  Way before he got ripped and became one of Hollywood’s elite.  I think an adolescent Zac would do a stupendous job as my sarcastic, devil-may-care, rebellious Synergist Knight, adding a certain pizzazz that only he could pull off.  He could bring a youthful energy to the character and give him a little snark that Julian so emphatically personifies.  I believe he would seal the deal the first time we saw Mr. Efron give one of Julian’s patented, sideways smirks setting the viewer to wonder just what he’s got up his sleeve.

Since I am limiting myself to only characters from the first book in the series, “The Search For Synergy”, we quickly run out of characters to portray.  The first book really only has a small handful of characters.  And only a slight portion of those mentioned even speak.  So, casting for the lesser role of Mr. Rider, I would be absolutely wonderstruck to get someone like Jude Law for that extra snarkiness.  I feel like Jude would be abloe to pull off that “better than you” air very well.  Add in a dash of Tim Curry from the movie “Clue” as Wadsworth, the butler, and I think you’ve got an arrogant and pompous character that would definitely look down on someone like Rome from his “ivory tower”.

And now, to cast the Earth realm’s resident Merlin character.  The one destined to lead Rome and Julian to their inevitable battle with the Darkbrands and their heinous leader, The Tyrant King.  The man whose sole mission is to mold these young and na├»ve boys into Earth’s greatest defense against the things that slink out of The Void.  A majestic wizard who is responsible for most of the magic on Earth and whose shoulders carry the future and continuance of our very planet…Yeah, he’s a combination of Johnny Depp’s, Captain Jack Sparrow from the Pirates of the Caribbean movies and Christopher Lloyd’s, Dr. Emmett Brown from the Back to the Future trilogy.

Last but not least, we need to find someone to play the role of Mrs. Case.  She’s the principal of the boys’ school.  For Mrs. Case, we need someone in her late 30’s to 40s with classic beauty and a side of mysteriousness to her.  So, I have come up with a few names.  Please let me know if this is how you envision the somewhat peculiar faculty member.  I was thinking of either Jennifer Connelly or Natalie Portman.  I think Portman can play mysterious well, but Connelly just seems to simply ooze enigma in some of her roles.  So, I think either actress would do a stellar job portraying Mrs. Case and her dedication to constantly keeping an eye on the boys.

So, there’s my cast!  No doubt, it would be a huge blockbuster the likes of Avatar, and Harry Potter, and anything from the MCU.  We’re talking breaking box office records!  It’s fun to dream about a work making it to Hollywood, and speculating which stars may play your characters, but at the end of the day, I like giving my audience the freedom to envision whoever they want as the characters.  The idea of how characters foirm in the reader’s head and everything from how they look to the way they speak is part of what keeps us coming back for more book, right?  It’s your own imagination tying into an author’s imagination.  And that, my friends, is the whole reason I write.  To create that magical bond between author and audience.  Kinda like The Great Synergy.

Thank you for reading my post.  I hope you enjoyed it or, at least didn’t fall asleep.  Feel free to reach out to me with your own casts of my books.  Or if you are looking to collaborate, find me on social media.  Or, if you just wanna theorize about dragons or my series, don’t hesitate to contact me.  An EXTRA special thank you to the CBY Book Club for letting me be a part of their creative genius as well!  Everyone stay safe and keep a wary eye out for portals!




About the Author
My background in writing stems mostly from the inspiration I found as a kid when I read Fantasy and Sci-Fi books. These include The Chronicles of Narnia, The Xanth Novels, The Time Quintet, The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, and everything from Shakespeare to Dr. Seuss. In my formative years, I joined several punk rock bands and wrote songs, poetry, and short stories aplenty. As an adult (?) I took on a dare and wrote the first book in my Talisman Series. I loved the feeling it gave me and the idea of inspiring others so much that I kept writing until I had an entire series.

I am currently working to finish The Talisman Series. I have self-published 4 of the books which can be found on Amazon. At this very moment, I am on book 11 of the 12 I have planned.

Author Links:

Monday, 8 August 2022

BOOK REVIEW: The Parting Mirror by C.C. Crimefighter

The Parting Mirror
Author: C.C. Crimefighter
Genre: Children's Picture Book
Publication Date: 7th December 2021

Book Description:
Would you ever take a dare,
to face the mirror without a care,
and with a bold determined stare,
wonder if you're really there?

To fix your gaze upon the twin,
reflecting back with equal grin,
and in a stance, straight as a tree,
speak both in perfect harmony...

Could it be the one I see,
Is not the me I think to be?


In this thoughtfully composed story, written by acclaimed writer, C.C. Crimefighter, a young girl stares into a mirror, and with her attention fixed upon her reflection, wonders how much of what she sees is actually her.

Allowing this new conviction to guide her, she begins to identify each of her 5 senses, and in a playful array of imaginative expressions, explores whether these are merely functions of the body or aspects of her “true self.”

Should these physical qualities fade away, would she be a different self, or would the ‘inner self” express its nature in new and exciting ways?

Buy Links:



MY REVIEW

This is definitely a picture book that should be read with adult assistance for the mere fact that it's for an advanced level (9+ perhaps) and there will be a lot of questions asked, which I think is the fun part, being able to explore the meanings behind each segment. It's definitely a conversation starter that poses some very thought-provoking concepts and questions that makes you look deeper at yourself.

VERDICT

It's very colourful and loved the illustrations. Quite a magical display from start to finish. I wouldn't say I was thoroughly excited throughout, however, I did enjoy the read and the creative and clever vocabulary.

RATING


Source: Own copy

Friday, 5 August 2022

Book Blitz & Giveaway - A Coup of Tea by Casey Blair

A Coup of Tea
(Tea Princess Chronicles, #1)
Author: Casey Blair
Publication Date: August 2nd, 2022
Genre: Adult Fantasy

Book Description:
When the fourth princess of Istalam is due to dedicate herself to a path serving the crown, she makes a choice that shocks everyone, herself most of all: She leaves.

In hiding and exiled from power, Miyara finds her place running a tea shop in a struggling community that sits on the edge of a magical disaster zone. But there’s more brewing under the surface of this city—hidden magic, and hidden machinations—that threaten all the people who’ve helped her make her own way.

Miyara may not be a princess anymore, but with a teapot in hand she’ll risk her newfound freedom to discover a more meaningful kind of power.

A Coup of Tea is the first book of the Tea Princess Chronicles, a cozy fantasy series full of magic tea, friendship, and lifting people up even when the odds seem impossible.

Buy Links:

Monday, 1 August 2022

Book Blitz & Giveaway - It Started with a Dance by Tinia Montford

It Started with a Dance
(Pacific Grove University, #2)
Author: Tinia Montford
Publication Date: July 28th, 2022
Genre: NA / Adult Contemporary Romance

Book Description:
WILL THEY PULL OFF THE PERFECT PERFORMANCE?

It’s double time for Cami Clinton…

Dance is in Cami’s blood, but a bombshell diagnosis puts her on the sidelines. Now returning for her senior year of college, she’s determined to prove she is the dancer she once was. Each year, at the end of the semester, the campus hosts a dance festival. Cami knows this is her shot at redemption, but while at a party, things go horribly wrong and Cami suddenly has a new boyfriend: Marsh Lincoln.

Marsh Lincoln has two left feet…

He doesn’t dance. A nasty accident haunts Marsh and he’s just ready to graduate. Until he’s told he’s missing credits. The only class left to fill his missing credits? Ballroom dancing. To make matters worse, his girlfriend breaks-up with him in front of everyone at a party, leaving him with a new girlfriend he’s never met before…

It takes two to tango…

Acting like the perfect couple isn’t easy when you’ve just met. When the lines between what’s real and pretend blurs, they have to ask themselves: Can you catch feelings for something that’s all pretend?

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Friday, 22 July 2022

Book Blitz & Giveaway - Spark of Madness by Brynn Ford

Spark of Madness
(Ember Glen, #1)
Author: Brynn Ford
Publication Date: July 21st, 2022
Genre: Adult Dark Romance / Dystopian

Book Description:
In Ember Glen, men purge under the full moon. It’s the duty of women to serve them. When Mercy refuses to serve, Arlo will force her to find absolution through three brutal trials. But will their forbidden romance destroy their world?

Mercy
Neglecting my duty to serve is a sin, and during the last full moon, I became a sinner.

He saw me run from my duty, chased me, and caught me.

He promised me that I would be punished.

But I never could have imagined the hellish fate that would be chosen for me. More than that, I never could have imagined the maddening lust that would spark between me and the man who caught me.

This passion is forbidden…and it might set us on fire.

Arlo
It’s my role to catch the sinners, and Mercy sinned gravely.

I saw her and I chased her, drawn to her inexplicably.
She sparked something within me, but she had to be brought to judgment.

Her punishment is coming in the form of an archaic ritual we’re bringing back to make an example of her. I’ll be her warden, her keeper, the man to ensure she stays alive between her torturous trials.

Something within her brings out the worst of me…and the worst of me wants to ruin her.

AUTHOR NOTE: This is a dark romance series that involves many triggering elements which may be upsetting for some readers. A complete list of tropes and triggers can be found on the author’s website at brynnford.com/triggers.

SERIES NOTE: Spark of Madness is book 1 of 3 in the Ember Glen series and it ends on a cliffhanger. The author plans to publish all 3 books by the end of 2022. The trilogy follows Mercy and Arlo and must be read in order.

READING ORDER
Book 1: Spark of Madness (July 21, 2022)
Book 2: Blaze of Misery (October 20, 2022)
Book 3: Embers of Mercy (December 29, 2022)

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Book Blitz & Giveaway - Love You Again by Julia Kent

Love You Again
(Love You, Maine, #2)
Author: Julia Kent
Publication Date: July 19th, 2022
Genre: Adult Comedy / Contemporary Romance

Book Description:
Set in the woodsy small town of Luview, “Love You,” Maine – a tourist favorite where every day is Valentine’s Day – local police officer and single dad Luke Luview has spent the last two years making his young daughter his priority after his wife’s death. When first-love Kylie Hood comes back into town under bizarre circumstances, he learns that nothing’s a coincidence – and maybe second chances are possible after all.

If you’re looking for a fun read about first kisses, second chances, featuring a hot single dad small town police officer and his accidental nanny, set in a small town in New England, with a golden retriever named Jester, a heroine whose dream in life is to run a fairy camp, and a hero who wants to build a place where everyone belongs – then this is your book.

Grab a cup of coffee, tea, and maybe some edible glitter, and get your happy meter ready as you read the second book in the Love You, Maine series – where love isn’t just a feeling – it’s a way of life.

✓Single Dad
✓Second chance
✓Small town romance
✓Local police officer and his last-minute nanny
…and a Golden Retriever named Jester

Buy Links:

Monday, 18 July 2022

Book Blitz & Giveaway - Strut by Jay Hogan

Strut
(The Style Series, #2)
Author: Jay Hogan
Publication Date: July 14th, 2022
Genre: Adult Contemporary Romance / LGBTQ+

Book Description:
New Zealand farm boy turns New York fashion model.

Fairy tale? Maybe. But it hasn’t been easy. A year in this crazy city, working my tail off just to survive in a ruthless industry where sex sells and boundaries are too readily crossed.

A year and a reassuring ocean away from Hunter Donovan—a sexy, humiliating mistake that I’m not about to repeat. Distance is good. Distance is safe.

But now Hunter is back. In New York. In my life. In all those treacherous feelings that haven’t gone anywhere. But when my world suddenly crashes and I have to piece myself back together and fight for my career, will Hunter be there when I need him? Will we have what it takes to make it through this, together?

Note: This book contains themes of sexual harassment and sexual assault.

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Friday, 15 July 2022

Book Blitz & Giveaway - Orb and Arrow by V. L. Stuart

Orb and Arrow
(Exploration, #1)
Author: V. L. Stuart
Publication Date: May 15th, 2022
Genre: YA Adult Fantasy

Book Description:
Brillar was expected to follow in her mother’s footsteps and become a healer but she was headstrong and impetuous and took the Way of the Bow. Now a highly skilled hunter, she has been forced to kill to release a mage, bound in enchanted chains. It was self-defense, but that is no excuse for a healer.

Releasing a Master War Mage from bondage could get you killed . . . or apprenticed. When Master Elden insists on the latter, Brillar finds herself on a journey not of her making. When it doesn’t end well, she insists on directing a new journey where her healing skills will find newer and greater challenges.

Settled lands are one thing, but in the Wild, she will have to rely on her Master’s knowledge of the terrain and the people. And the Rovers are not always friendly.

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Monday, 11 July 2022

Book Blitz & Giveaway - Mermaid of St. Moritz by Jincey Lumpkin

Mermaid of St. Moritz
(Mermaid of Venice, #5)
Author: Jincey Lumpkin
Publication Date: July 11th, 2022
Genre: Adult Fantasy / Romance

Book Description:
Billionaire mermaid Gia Acquaviva is back for the riveting fifth installment of the Mermaid of Venice series. Gia struggles with intense feelings for a man from her past, while her passionate love affair with a Hollywood actress threatens to ruin it all.

The Mermaid Civil War unleashes Ancient Magic, putting both mermaids and mankind in danger. Caught in the middle of warring factions is Gia’s daughter, Serena. Will the child master her magical powers, or will she become a casualty of war?

Everything’s on the line for Gia. Will her risky behavior cause her to lose everything she’s worked so hard to regain?

Tropes:
• Love triangle
• Enemies to lovers
• Secret affair
• Billionaire romance
• Paranormal romantic suspense

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Sunday, 10 July 2022

BOOK REVIEW: Moon Touched by Elizabeth Briggs

Moon Touched
Series: Zodiac Wolves, Book 1
Author: Elizabeth Briggs
Genre: Fantasy / Romance
Publication Date: 1st September 2021

Book Description:
My fated mate rejected me—and now I've been captured by someone even worse.

As the half-human outcast of the Cancer pack, I've been beaten and bullied my whole life. Gaining my wolf form and my fated mate is my only chance to change packs and hope for a better life.

Except when my fated mate is revealed, he's the future alpha of the Leo pack—our worst enemies. He rejects me in front of everyone, just before the Leos slaughter my entire pack and murder my family.

I manage to escape, but then I'm kidnapped by a far greater threat: the alpha of the mysterious lost pack. The 13th sign was banished from the Zodiac Wolves years ago, and I thought they were just a myth.

They're real. They're holding me captive. And the dark, dangerous alpha is offering me something I can't refuse—revenge.

Moon Touched is the first book in the scorching hot Zodiac Wolves series.

Buy Links:



MY REVIEW

As the daughter of the Cancer Pack's alpha, one would think life for Ayla would be prestigious or at least have its privileges. For Ayla, however, being half human means being bullied and treated as an outcast by her pack, especially her father. She longs to escape the Cancer Pack, so when her Convergence approaches, shes excited to activate her wolf form as it would mean things would look up for her. Shell finally escape her pack and find acceptance among her new pack. When the Leo Pack strike at the Convergence and attack her entire family, things take a turn for the worse. Ayla didnt think things could get any worse than having to witness her family slaughtered. That was before she got kidnapped by the lost pack, who had been banished from the Zodiac Wolves years ago. What do they want with her? Could this be her second chance to find a home or do they have other plans in store for her?
 
I saw this book on Amazon Prime and because it had raving reviews, I thought I should give it a try. Big mistake. I really tried to like this book, but the MC made it very difficult. She was all bark and no bite, and I'm not referring to her genetic disposition. It was just very hard to like her and come to terms with her senseless behaviour. I couldn't engage with her and that made it hard to get through the book. It took me a while, but I finally got there in the end, and I will be ending the series here. I didn't so much mind the lost pack. They were the only interesting element in the story. Unfortunately, the story didn't have a compelling enough MC for me to care about her story.

VERDICT:

I expected a lot more romance, especially given the book cover, but it fell flat. I was just very disappointed by the overall execution of the story. I did not enjoy it. I think the most disappointing thing was that it had a lot of potential to go places. Give the MC a total makeover and you could have a fun read on your hands. It was very immature, cheesy and far too predictable.

RATING:


Source: Amazon Prime

Friday, 8 July 2022

Book Blitz & Giveaway - Heated by Naima Simone

Heated
(Burned, Inc., #1)
Author: Naima Simone
Publication Date: July 5th, 2022
Genre: Adult Contemporary Romance

Book Description:
From USA Today bestselling author Naima Simone comes Heated, a sizzling novel about a breakup professional who embarks on a fake relationship with a client’s ex—the one person she wasn’t supposed to fall for.

Zora

I’m Denver’s unmatchmaker. Every city needs one.

Why? Because people break up—and sometimes they should. But when I learn that entertainment attorney Cyrus Hart is someone else’s mistake, I can’t believe it. He’s smart, successful, and sexy as hell.

When a chance encounter with Cyrus turns into something more, I can’t help but fall for him. Our chemistry is undeniable. But his ex used my company to send him that letter—and that’s a problem. Especially since he doesn’t know I own the company.

How can this possibly work? I know from experience that the riskiest ventures are the worthiest ones…but falling for Cyrus Hart may be my biggest gamble yet.

Cyrus

I’m a man with a plan—college, law school, a great career. So far, so good.

Until a stranger shows up on my doorstep and reads me a breakup letter from my girlfriend. My carefully laid plans unravel.

But then I meet someone new. It’s spontaneous. It’s electric. And it’s not according to plan.

Buy Links:

Thursday, 7 July 2022

Release Day Promo & Giveaway - Arcadia: The Complete Collection by Al Stone


Celebrate 10 Years of the epic young-adult fantasy series ARCADIA with the Release Day Giveaway

Limited-Time Deal
Grab Arcadia: The Complete Collection at the discounted price of 0.99

Join us today in celebrating the new edition.

Enter below for a chance to win 1 of 2 $10 Amazon Gift Cards and 1 of 3 kindle copies of Arcadia!





Arcadia: The Complete Collection - 10th Anniversary Edition (A YA Fantasy Series)
Author: Al Stone
Publisher: Centrinian
Genre: YA Fantasy
Publication Date: 7th July 2022

Book Description:

AN UNTOLD PROPHECY, A BROKEN COVENANT AND A FALLEN ANGEL AS AN ALLY.


WILL CHARLIE SURVIVE?


Arcadia, 10th Anniversary Edition is a complete collection, featuring three full-length novels in a single volume for the first time. A young-adult fantasy series full of magic, mythology and adventure. Perfect for fans of Harry Potter, Percy Jackson and Lord of the Rings.


Talisman Of El

They have always been here … watching in silence. Now both worlds are about to collide.


Charlie Blake has always known he was different. He hears what others don’t. He sees what others can’t. In his quest for the truth, he discovers he is the physical embodiment of a powerful ruler and finds himself locked in an ancient battle between good and evil that threatens the life of every being on Earth.


Blackout

Hold your breath. It’s contagious.


Saving mankind becomes near impossible when Charlie’s visions start to invade his reality. He can no longer identify what’s real. When he starts exhibiting symptoms of a deadly disease, he faces a race against time to find a cure, but shocking revelations makes him question where his true allegiance lies.


Ground Zero

Mankind’s only hope is not human. Approach with caution.


26,000 years ago, a supernatural apocalypse almost wiped out civilisation. Now that time has come again and no one is destined to survive. Charlie Blake is determined to stop the apocalypse, but fate might not have the same agenda. Is Charlie destined to save the world or destroy it?


The Books:


 Buy Links:


EXCERPT

Taken from Chapter 1 of Blackout (Arcadia, Book 2)

‘Lie down,’ Alex commanded, her rifle still aimed at him.

Charlie removed his mask and dropped it on the ground. ‘As tempting as that sounds, I don’t think this is either the place or the time –’

Alex shot him in the leg, and he winced, hopping back on one foot. ‘In your dreams, Charlie Blake.’ He heard the laughter in her voice.

Submitting, he got down and lay on his back.

Alex stood over him. ‘Always keep your guard up. Better luck next time, eh?

As Charlie lay against the cold, hard ground, a tingling, electric surge of energy rippled through him, and in that moment, every sound came alive. Although the air was calm, carrying only a light breeze, he heard the faint rustling of leaves above him. Muffled voices and the sound of footsteps were like music to his ears. He hadn’t planned to nor did he wish to cheat, but at times, he found he had no say in what he was feeling or doing.

It was as if he had become part of the earth. He focused on the light thud of approaching footsteps and smiled. ‘Yeah,’ he finally said, ‘better luck next time.’

Alex must have heard the sound too, for she spun around abruptly.

‘Gotcha!’ Richmond shot her twice in the chest.

Alex sighed and dropped her weapon. Removing her mask, she looked down at Charlie, who patted the ground beside him and said, ‘I saved you a spot.’ She got down and lay beside him. ‘Go get it, Birthday Boy.’ Charlie held his hand up, and Richmond gave him a high five as he ran by.

Charlie and Alex locked eyes, smiling.

‘This was fun,’ Alex said.

‘Yeah. It feels good doing something so ...’ Charlie paused as he searched for the right word.

‘Ordinary?’ Alex offered.

‘I’m not familiar with that term.’

Alex grinned. ‘You know, you two would make thee worst spies ever. The aim is to sneak up on your enemy unannounced and take them down. We heard you coming from, like, a mile off.’

‘Blame Rich. His paranoia meter is off the charts.’

‘Oh, really, he’s the paranoid one? Do you want to rethink that? Maybe the paintball fumes are messing with your head. You remember that thing Candra said, don’t you?’

‘Which thing would that be? There are so many –’

Alex nudged Charlie in the side. ‘You’re supposed to be acting normal. You know, draw less attention to yourself.’

Charlie grinned. ‘You saying I’m not normal?’

Alex smiled for a brief moment and then shook her head. ‘Don’t do that.’

‘Don’t do what?’

‘Don’t bat your eyes and flash your charming smile. That trick might work on some girls, but not me. And stop changing the subject.’

‘Okay. But just answer this one question.’

‘What?’

‘You really think I have a charming smile?’

Alex rolled her eyes. ‘I think you’re an idiot.’

Charlie laughed. ‘All right, fine. I’ll try to be more normal.’

‘Promise?’

Charlie held one hand up, crossing his middle and index fingers. ‘Cross my heart and hope –’

‘Don’t say that.’ Alex’s soft voice trembled.

Charlie caught a glimpse of sadness in her eyes before she looked away. He stared at her for a moment and then looked up at the canopy.

‘So how’s training going?’ Alex asked, breaking the silence.

Charlie huffed a heavy sigh. ‘Let’s just say I’m more human now than when I started.’

‘If you’re looking for sympathy, Angel Boy, you’re not going to get it.’

‘I’m being serious. I swear, if Candra hadn’t been around my whole life, she’d probably think she got the wrong kid.’

‘You’re being too hard on yourself. You’ve only been training a few months. Give it some time. You’ll get it.’

‘You think so?’

‘I know so,’ Alex said.

Charlie glanced sideways at her. ‘So you’re psychic now. You sure you’re not Arcadian?’

Alex laughed. ‘I just know you. I can’t help it if I’m more attentive than you are.’

Charlie chuckled. ‘Oh, really? You think you know me better than I know you?

Alex shrugged.

Charlie turned onto his side and propped himself on his elbow, facing her. ‘Your favourite colour is pink –’

‘Blue,’ Alex interjected.

‘Oh, so you’ve repainted your room?

Alex’s big brown eyes penetrated Charlie’s. She bit her bottom lip, a smile playing at the corners of her mouth.

‘As I was saying,’ Charlie resumed. ‘Your favourite colour is pink, your middle name is Louisa, you want to be a pilot so you can travel the world, and whenever you’re watching a horror movie and think a scary part’s coming up, you cover your ears because you think it’d be less terrifying, but you still scream.’

‘I so do not cover my ears.’

‘Oh, please, that hair fiddling thing you do is so obvious.’

‘I happen to have a lot of hair on my head, which can be a little obstructing at times –’

‘You have a lot of hair on your head? Really, that’s the excuse you’re gonna go with?

‘Yeah. You got a problem with that?’

‘Nope. Your secret is safe with me. But, for the record, I’m very attentive.’

‘Well, I always knew you were one in a million. Yep, definitely one in a million – or should I say seven billion?’

‘Funny. Everyone’s a comedian today.’

A yell of joy reached them, and Charlie looked up and saw Richmond standing on the stone base, waving the flag above his head. Looking back at Alex, he caught her staring at him. ‘So apart from your lame alien jokes, what else do you know about me?’

Alex’s gaze shifted. ‘Hmm ... You’re a terrible dancer, an even worse singer –’

‘I wonder what the bad points are?

‘You don’t like country music,’ Alex went on, as if he hadn’t spoken, ‘you’ve read ''Peter Pan'', like, twenty times since I met you and you love the beach – like, insanely love the beach.’ She regarded him. ‘Who goes to the beach in the winter?’

Charlie hesitated before answering. ‘My mum did.’

Her expression mortified, Alex squeezed her eyes shut, covering her face with her hands. ‘Just pretend I’m not here.’

Charlie took hold of her hands and pulled them away from her face. ‘Not possible.’ Alex opened her eyes and met his gaze. ‘Look, I don’t want to brag, but I clearly won.’ Alex shot him a serene smile, which he returned. His eyes lowered, lingering on her full lips –

Charlie groaned as a sharp pain shot through his right leg. He sat upright and saw red paint where the pain had struck him. Looking up, he met Rebecca’s intense blue eyes.

‘Oops,’ she said, her rifle aimed at him. ‘I thought you were attacking my teammate.’

Charlie narrowed his eyes at her and glanced at Alex, who was also sitting up. ‘Still think she doesn’t hate me?’ he said as he and Alex got to their feet. ‘Can you not point that thing at me?’ he said to Rebecca, indicating at her rifle. ‘The game’s over. You can relax.’

‘Oh, right.’ Rebecca lowered her weapon, a smug grin on her round face.

Hearing a scream of joy, Charlie looked past Rebecca at Carla Shu, who was running towards them. He spotted a few of the other players in the distance.

‘Blue team won,’ Carla exclaimed. As she approached them, Charlie noticed she didn’t have a single paint on her. Removing her mask, she advanced towards him and gave him a hug, a huge grin on her face. ‘Not bad,’ she said as she pulled away. ‘We make a good team.’

‘Yeah we do,’ Charlie agreed.

Carla eyed him up and down. ‘Wow. Someone wanted to make sure you were dead.’

Charlie looked to his left at Alex and arched his eyebrows.

‘At least we won,’ Carla added.

‘With a team like ours, it was written in the stars.’ Charlie shot Alex a knowing smile.

Alex turned to face him. ‘At least I got to kill you,’ she shot back.

‘Don’t feel bad,’ Charlie said. ‘Winning isn’t for everyone.’

The corners of Alex’s mouth curved into a smile, and she approached Charlie menacingly. ‘Be thankful we’re playing paintball and not archery.’

‘Hey.’ Carla grabbed Charlie’s hand. ‘Let’s go congratulate the birthday boy.’

Speaking slowly, Rebecca said, ‘Yeah, let’s do that before I puke.’ She approached Carla and linked arms with her, slipping between Charlie and Alex as the two of them headed off in Richmond’s direction.

‘This day just keeps getting better and better.’ Alex smiled, but Charlie saw the fury in her eyes as she bent down to pick up her mask and rifle. ‘Remind me again why Rich invited them?’

Charlie retrieved his gear. ‘You could try talking to them.’

Alex’s gaze shifted to Carla and Rebecca and then to the rifle in her hand. Glancing at Charlie, a grin spreading across her face, she wagged her eyebrows at him.

Charlie snatched the rifle from her hand. ‘Go.’ He gestured with his head towards the direction the girls had headed.

‘I was joking.’

Charlie raised his eyebrows at her.

‘Fine,’ Alex said, still grinning as she walked off.

Smiling, Charlie shook his head. He had only taken a few steps when he heard what sounded like a whisper and stopped. He turned around, his eyes sweeping across the forest. The other players were still making their way towards them some distance away. A cool breeze rose up out of nowhere and ruffled his hair. He felt his body stiffen.




About the Author

Al Stone is the author of the Arcadia Saga (YA Fantasy). After graduating with a BA in Film & Television, Al worked in the television industry for a brief period before a disabling injury led to a pursuit in storytelling. Talisman Of El is Al's debut novel. The sequels Blackout and Ground Zero are currently available for sale.


At present, Al lives in England, United Kingdom.

Author Links:
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