Friday, March 24, 2017

Cover Reveal for The Negotiator by Avery Flynn


Tasty Book Tours Presents....


THE NEGOTIATOR
A Hot Romantic Comedy
Avery Flynn
Releasing April 24th, 2017
Entangled Select


Wanted: Personal Buffer

Often snarly, workaholic executive seeks “buffer” from annoying outside distractions AKA people. Free spirits with personal boundary issues, excessive quirks, or general squeamishness need not apply.  Salary negotiable. Confidentiality required.

Workaholic billionaire Sawyer Carlyle may have joked he needed a “buffer” from their marriage-obsessed mom, but he didn’t need a waiting room filled with “candidates” to further distract him. (Thanks, bro.) But when a sexy job applicant shooes his mom and the socialite in tow out of his office, Sawyer sees the genius of the plan. And the woman. In fact, Miss Clover Lee might just get the fastest promotion in history, from buffer to fake fiancĂ©…

This “free-spirit” might look like hot sunshine and lickable rainbows, but she negotiates like a pitbull. Before Sawyer knows what hit him, he’s agreed to give up Friday nights for reality tv, his Saturdays for flea markets (why buy junk still baffles him), his Tuesdays and Thursdays for “date nights” (aka panty-losing opportunities if he plays his cards right). And now she wants lavender bath salts and tulips delivered every Monday?

Yup, she’s just screwing with him. Good thing she’s got this non-negotiatable six-weeks-and-she’s-gone rule or Sawyer may have just met this match…



When Avery Flynn isn't writing about alpha heroes and the women who tame them, she is desperately hoping someone invents the coffee IV drip. She has three slightly-wild children, loves a hockey-addicted husband and has a slight shoe addiction. Find out more about Avery on her website, follow her on Twitter, like her on her Facebook page or friend her on her Facebook profile. Also, if you figure out how to send Oreos through the Internet, she’ll be your best friend for life. Contact her at avery@averyflynn.com. She’d love to hear from you.




Excerpt Tour & #Giveaway for Meet Me At Beachcomber Bay by Jill Mansell

Meet Me at Beachcomber Bay
By Jill Mansell

Publisher:  Sourcebooks Landmark
Pub Date: May 2, 2017
Genre: Humorous Fiction
Length: 416 Pages
ISBN: 978-1492649557
ASIN: B01N0TA9IM



International bestseller Jill Mansell weaves a heartwarming tale of love, family and friendship in her latest novel

1. A brief encounter that could have become so much more…if only everything were different
2. Step-sisters, bitter rivals in every area except one—by unbreakable pact neither will ever steal a man from the other
3. A love triangle that starts out as a mess of secrets and mix-ups, and only gets worse from there

Plus!
Friendship, family ties, crossed wires and self-discovery, second chances and first impressions


Welcome to Jill Mansell’s blustery seaside world. Once you step inside, you’ll never want to leave!



EXCERPT

Much of the beach was busy, but Belle made her way to the quieter section and found a peaceful spot where she could sit and think without being disturbed.
With her bags and the bunch of lilies resting beside her, she wrapped her arms around her knees and surveyed the shoreline of Beachcomber Bay.

The tide was receding, and small children with buckets and spades were excitedly searching the clean wet sand for uncovered shells, fascinating pebbles and comical crabs. Two dogs, a golden retriever and a mink-gray whippet, were bounding around together in the shallows.

OK, back to Ronan and Clemency. Well, well, when had this happened? Had they been hiding it from her last Friday evening at the Mermaid?

And if so, how much longer had they been planning on keeping it a secret?

Plus, how was it making her feel?

This was a tricky one to sort out. Did she feel jealous?

Yes.

Did she have the right to feel jealous? Probably not, but it didn’t make any difference; the emotions were the same either way. Once you had that sibling rivalry thing ingrained in you, it was hard to let it go.

Belle puffed a strand of hair out of her eyes, keeping her arms clasped around her knees in order to hold her skirt in place and remain decent. It was one of those weird beach-etiquette things; if you were wearing a tiny bikini, fine. But if you happened to be dressed in a collared shirt and stripy knee-length skirt, you wouldn’t dream of flashing your knickers. Even if they were super-expensive pink silk ones from La Perla.

The dogs were chasing after a ball now, barking with excitement as they cavorted through the waves. A toddler, his face splashed by their antics, let out a wail of protest. An athletic-looking young woman in a slate-gray bikini skipped and swerved to avoid the two dogs as she ran along the shoreline. Seconds later, she passed a group of teenage boys, one of whom wolf-whistled in youthful appreciation. The young woman ignored the whistle and jogged past them, her blond ponytail bouncing jauntily with each step.

Belle closed her eyes and pictured Ronan the first time she’d ever seen him. It had been soon after he’d moved to St. Carys in order to take up his new job with Gavin Barton. Word had spread rapidly around town, of course it had, that the new arrival was a twenty-four-year-old with looks, charisma, and a decided way with the ladies. Belle, however, had assumed he wouldn’t be her type; apart from anything else, he was from a working-class background, and why on earth would she be interested in a boy like that?

Until she’d seen him for the first time a week later, playing a game of pool at the Mermaid, and against all odds her interest had been piqued, because he was pretty and he exuded fun and sometimes your brain chose not to care about working-class backgrounds and simply thought: Ooh, he’s nice.

Which had been embarrassing in one way and confusing in another. But at the same time it had been a complete thrill. A fresh challenge was always good.

As an attractive twenty-one-year-old from a wealthy family, Belle had been accustomed to getting any boy she wanted. She’d expected to get Ronan. But it had never happened, which had been both puzzling and annoying. For some reason he hadn’t been interested in her. Which had naturally had the effect of keeping her interested in him.

Belle knew perfectly well that if they’d gone out together for a few weeks, the novelty would have worn off and they’d have drifted apart—because that had been the recurring pattern of her relationships up until then. But it hadn’t had a chance to happen, which was why the weird crush had continued unabated. She’d never had the opportunity to get it out of her system.

And now this.

Taking out her phone, she texted Clemency.

Where are you?

As soon as the text had been sent, she was overcome with impatience and scrambled to her feet. Collecting up her bags, her discarded shoes and the bunch of lilies in their tissue paper wrapping, she dusted the sand off her palms and made her way back up the beach to the stone steps that led to the Esplanade. It was only five minutes from here to the real estate agency, so she may as well head over there now.

The text arrived less than thirty seconds later, and she stopped in her tracks, fumbling for the phone she’d tucked into the narrow side pocket of her handbag. In the struggle to reach it, the bag’s leather strap slid off her shoulder and the expensive calla lilies slithered sideways, causing her to double over in order to catch them before they landed headfirst in the soft, dry—

Woomph! Something thudded into Belle’s side, knocking her off balance and sending her crashing to the ground. She let out a shriek of alarm, the lilies went flying, and so did her shoes as she sprawled on the sand. For a split second she thought it was a mugger, about to make off with her bag and everything in it.

“Oh God, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. Are you OK?”

It wasn’t a mugger. It was the girl in the slate-gray bikini, who’d careered straight into her. Mortified at how idiotic she must look, Belle said furiously, “Well, that’s the stupidest question I ever heard. Do I look as if I’m OK?”

“I meant are you hurt?”

Was everyone watching? Were they all laughing at her? Belle stumbled clumsily to her feet, shrinking away as the girl reached out to try and help her up. “I’m not hurt.”

“Oh, thank goodness. Sorry again. It was all my fault.” Belle glanced at her in disbelief, because of course it was all her fault. Who else could possibly be to blame?

“I was timing myself, you see.” The girl tapped a gadget on her left wrist. “Trying to beat my record. It’s harder to run on soft sand, so I checked the coast was clear, then put my head down and just went for it.”

“You didn’t see me at all?” Still furious, Belle dusted sand off her skirt then watched as the girl hastily retrieved her scattered bags and handed them back to her.

“Of course I saw you, but I thought you were heading for the steps. I thought you’d be long gone by the time I reached this bit; I didn’t know you were going to stop dead…but of course, I should have been looking where I was going. I’m an idiot.” As she handed over the lilies, the girl fixed her steady light-blue gaze on Belle. “I’m really sorry.”

Belle looked away first and gave the kind of angular, dismissive shrug that signaled their unwelcome encounter was at an end. “OK. Bye.”

With over 10 million copies sold, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Jill Mansell writes irresistible and funny, poignant and romantic tales for women in the tradition of Marian Keyes, Sophie Kinsella and Jojo Moyes. She lives with her partner and their children in Bristol, England.



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Book Blast & #Giveaway for Make It Happen Blueprint by Michelle McCullough

The Make It Happen Blueprint
By Michelle McCullough

Publisher: Morgan James Publishing
Release Date: March 21, 2017
Genre: Self – Help/ Non-Fiction
Length: 200 Pages
ISBN: 978-1683501138

Despite living in a world of abundance, many people still feel unhappy, over scheduled, tired, and unsuccessful. Yet there seems to be an group of people who “get it.” They catch all the breaks, accomplish more in a day, make more money in their business ventures, bounce back from trials faster, and always have their lives in order. Are they just lucky, or is there some sort of secret most of us are missing?

Michelle McCullough has spent thousands of hours studying, listening to, and learning from success experts including Stephen Covey, Jack Canfield, Brendon Burchard, Jim Rohn, Brian Tracy, Ken Blanchard, Darren Hardy, and more. Applying key principles (and learning a few things on her own) she’s built three successful businesses and while still maintaining a meaningful personal life. Everyone has the ability to be a high performer. All it takes is the right mindset, the right tools, and a willingness to work. As she shares eighteen practices for high performance, you too can learn how to take your business and personal life to the next level. Success is possible, happiness is achievable, so stop dreaming about it and get out and MAKE IT HAPPEN!



Excerpts – From The Make It Happen Blueprint

-Success is not a destination, it’s a practice. The actions we take every day, week, and month to make our dreams a reality are what determine our success and happiness.

-The most paralyzing thought keeping you from your goals is, “I don’t deserve it.”

– “Plan” is the four- letter word for success. Peak performers know this, and they find power in a plan and thrive on the execution and ultimate success of seeing it through to completion.

-Trying to do two things at once is a recipe for failure. The time has come for you to give up your “Multitasker of the Year” award.

-High performers don’t just understand the value of a person—they understand the value of every person.


–  If you’re going for a gold medal in raising high performers (and I hope you are), daily ask kids this powerful question, “What did you do to make someone else happy today?” This helps them become more aware of others.




Praise for the Book

“I do love this book. McCullough is real and relate-able. I was only in the first chapter when I felt hopeful and empowered. While some of her golden advice is aimed mostly to those working in the field of Business (which I am not), there is more than enough real-life help that a Homemaker can use too. She doesn’t create, yet another, list of things “I should be doing”, but attainable solutions to MAKE TIME for the other things I really DO need to do. These recommendations are easy to do. I am so thankful for McCullough’s inspiration and passion to share this knowledge; my life was immediately changed and improved for the goals her book motivated.” – Kristin Call; London, ENGLAND

“Michelle McCullough has one of those minds you love to be around! She shares fresh ideas, content, and strategies for creating a life and a business that you love. Reading this book will elevate your life!” – Tiffany Peterson, Professional Speaker, www.TiffanySpeaks.com; Utah, USA

“The beauty of Michelle’s book & writing is that it is a lucid, unadorned reminder that we periodically need. It reinforces powerful practices which we often brush past and only remember when we fail to “make it happen”. I love her earnest voice and really personal examples.” – Vilasi Venkatachalam; INDIA

“As entrepreneurs we often feel alone. McCullough’s book Make It Happen reminds us that we are all in this together. She manages to rekindle your purpose as well as provide pertinent ideas and strategies to help you preform at your best. I love the way she provides a section at the end of each chapter to help you implement the things you read and learn in Make It Happen. Every purposeful entrepreneur should have this book on their nightstand!” – Nicole Carpenter, CEO of MOMentity.com and bestselling author of 52 Weeks to Fortify Your Family: 5-minute messages; Utah USA


Author Michelle McCullough

Michelle McCullough started her first business when she was 19 and currently runs 3 companies including consulting other businesses all over the world.  A seasoned speaker, Michelle teaches success principles and leadership insights that help boost employee engagement and higher performance. In addition to running her own consulting businesses, Michelle is the managing director for Startup Princess, listed by Forbes as “One of the top 10 resources for Women Entrepreneurs”. 

She’s worked with top brands like Visa Small Business, UPS Store, AWeber and more. She’s spoken for the Air Force Reserve, Goldman Sachs and Ancestry.com, among others. She’s been featured in entrepreneur.com, in the 40 under 40, Fox TV and has been interviewed for television and radio over 100 times, including Good Morning America and The Today Show.  She was recently named in the Top 100 Small Business Influencers with Inc Magazine, Michael Gerber and Grant Cardone. Her own radio show “Make It Happen” has over 1 million downloads.





Blast Giveaway

  • $50 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash - Ends 4/6/17
  • Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Amazon.com Gift Code or Paypal Cash.
  • Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary.
  • You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you.
  • The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen.
  • This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified.
  • The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning.
  • Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader and sponsored by the author.

VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.

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Book Beginnings & Friday 56 - #73


Book Beginnings on Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Gilion at Rose City Reader. Every Friday we share the first sentence (or so) of the book we’re currently reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires.


My Book Beginning:  

Magic Breaks (Kate Daniels, Book 7) by Ilona Andrews



"Kate, this is really dangeous," Ascanio said.  

My Thoughts:  I have loved this series since I began reading it years ago and fell behind on th books so I decided to get caught up before the next one comes out.  The beginning doesn't really tell us a lot - though people who follow this series know that Kate always seems to find danger, or it finds her, and that Ascanio is another trouble magnet.....lol

What do you think?  Don't forget to leave your book beginning below and to link-up at Rose City Reader.  





**************


Friday 56 is a weekly meme hosted by Freda at Freda’s Voice on every Friday.

To Play along here are the Rules:

*Grab a book, any book.
*Turn to page 56 or 56% in your eReader (If you have to improvise, that's ok.)
*Find any sentence, (or few, just don't spoil it)
*Post it.
*Add your post below. 
*Don’t forget to add your post URL (not your blog url) at Freda’s Voice.  
*It's that simple.

My 56 (Also from Magic Breaks (Kate Daniels, Book 7) by Ilona Andrews - about 56% on Kindle) 

“I would have mourned him with his mother," Robert said. " I would've felt terrible and grieved.  But I would've let d'Ambray kill him.  He's just one of the Pack's children. Your'e the Consort. If you had let yourself be taken by d'Ambray, we would've been leaderless.  I would have to go to the pack with the news that d'Ambray had captured you and they would have marched on the Casino to save you or retaliate.  It would be a bloodbath. So as painful as it is, I would've let Ascanio die." 

My Thoughts:  I haven’t gotten this far in the book yet and even though what he says sounds absolutely horrible - it would be much, much worse if Kate had been taken by d'Ambray for the 1500 shapeshifters/people the Pack represents.  So it's one of those sacrifice the one for the many type scenarios.  


So what do you think?  Do the teaser’s tempt you?  Don’t forget to leave your 56 and link up at Freda’s Voice





About Magic Breaks (Kate Daniels, Book 7) by Ilona Andrews

No matter how much the paranormal politics of Atlanta change, one thing always remains the same: if there’s trouble, Kate Daniels will be in the middle of it…

As the mate of the Beast Lord, Curran, former mercenary Kate Daniels has more responsibilities than it seems possible to juggle. Not only is she still struggling to keep her investigative business afloat, she must now deal with the affairs of the pack, including preparing her people for attack from Roland, a cruel ancient being with god-like powers. Since Kate’s connection to Roland has come out into the open, no one is safe—especially those closest to Kate.

As Roland’s long shadow looms ever nearer, Kate is called to attend the Conclave, a gathering of the leaders from the various supernatural factions in Atlanta. When one of the Masters of the Dead is found murdered there, apparently at the hands of a shapeshifter, Kate is given only twenty-four hours to hunt down the killer. And this time, if she fails, she’ll find herself embroiled in a war which could destroy everything she holds dear… 




Don't forget to post your meme's and link up at both host locations.  

Have a great Friday! 
Maria

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Book Blast & #Giveaway for Sheik's Rule by Ryshia Kennie

Welcome to my stop on the Book Blast, presented by Goddess Fish Promotions, for Sheik’s Rule by Ryshia Kennie.  Please leave a comment or question for Ryshia to let her know you stopped by.  You may enter her tour wide giveaway, where one (1) randomly chosen commenter will be awarded a $20 Amazon/BN GC, by filling out the Rafflecopter form below.  You may follow all of the stops on the tour by clicking on the banner above, the more stops you visit, the better your odds of winning.  Good Luck!

Sheik’s Rule
By Ryshia Kennie
Desert Justice, Book 1

Publisher: Harlequin Intrigue
Release Date: March 21, 2017
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Length: 272 Pages
ISBN: 978-1335720931
ASIN:  B01LYMRA3V

Buy Links:  Amazon US | B&N | Kobo | iTunes | Amazon UK | Amazon AU | Amazon FR  |  Google Play  Indigo  Amazon CA  | Harlequin



About the book:

His sister's life is at stake, and despite his wealth and power, Sheik Emir Al-Nassar feels helpless. At least heading his family's security agency provides him with resources to track down her kidnappers. But when the ace profiler he's sent turns out to be K. J.—Kate—Gelinsky, Emir is furious. Finding the kidnappers' desert hideout is dangerous enough without the distraction of a beautiful woman.


But K.J. is unlike any woman he's ever known. Her fearlessness and incisive mind inspires Emir's admiration. And her compassion breaches his guarded heart. Still, rescuing his sister is a perilous mission. And allowing desire to cloud his focus could endanger them all.


Excerpt

Emir nodded as he covered her progress.  But suddenly they weren’t alone.  The roar of the bike engine bore down on them as it flew over one dune, coming closer, only sixty feet away.  He fired at it, kicking up sand and causing the biker to swerve right and away from them.  Emir fired again and this time the driver lost control.  The bike toppled, skidding on its side as the driver landed on his feet, his rifle in the sand behind him.  They needed to get to the jeep and they had a minute or less to do it before he was back on his bike.

Kate fired once, twice, but the angle was wrong—a dune protected him.

“Run!” Emir commanded unnecessarily as they both ran, keeping low and moving fast.  They launched themselves into the Jeep.

“Go!” Kate yelled.  It was another unnecessary command for he had the accelerator to the floor.  The Jeep sped forward, pelting sand behind them as they flew over the dune, swerving back and forth to avoid any shots from the biker.

Kate turned and fired multiple times.

“We want him alive, if possible,” Emir shouted over the roar of the engine and knew that the odds were slight that that was going to happen, expecially if they both wanted to come out of this alive.

She nodded, and oddly, despite the intensity of the situation, despite the fact that their attention was fixed on their attacker, she turned and smiled at him.

AUTHOR Bio and Links: 

The Canadian prairies are my home and while the prairie landscape is blessed with beautiful blue skies, it also has four seasons that come on full throttle – especially winter and because of that I like to travel.  Often on those trips, stories are born. 

In 2011 I won my city's writing award, and was the first romance writer to do so since its inception.  In 2013 my romantic suspense was a semi-finalist in the Kindle Book Awards.  Published in historic romance and paranormal romance as well as romantic suspense, in February 2016, my first novel was published by Harlequin Intrigue.

There’s no lack of places to set a story as my imagination and the too long prairie winters may find me seeking adventure.  The memories of those worlds both near and far, the words of a stranger, the furtive look one man gives another, often become the catalyst for a suspenseful story with a deadly villain and an intrepid hero and heroine who must battle for their right to love or even their right to live.

When not dreaming of other stories, I can be found scouting out a garage sale or two, dusting off my roller blades or just thinking about the next adventure that may be miles away or in my own backyard. 



Spotlight for Mineran Influence by P.N. Burrows

Welcome to my stop on the Virtual Tour, presented by Reading Addiction Virtual Book Tours, for Mineran Influence by P.N. Burrows.  Please leave a comment or question for P.N. to let him know you stopped by. 

Mineran Influence
By P.N. Burrows
Mineran Series, Book 1 

Publisher:  Troubador Publishing, LLC.
Release Date: January 13, 2016
Genre: Sci-Fi
Length: 132 Pages
ISBN: 9781785895142

ASIN: B01N6IUNCY 

Buy Links:  Amazon US | Amazon UK



About the book: 

Sam, an ex-soldier who is trying to rediscover himself after twenty years of service, unwittingly stumbles upon a mysterious alien presence in rural Wales. He is drawn into a tangled web of intrigue, pitting him against forces bent on destruction and putting his life in peril. Feeling mentally eroded by his time in the army and having worked hard to overcome this, he is thrust upon an alien journey that will change his life and beliefs in a profound way.

Claims of benevolence are only the beginning of the mysteries he'll have to unravel as doubt and mistrust haunt him. He will have to form unlikely alliances in order to fathom the mysteries at the secret Mineran enclave, where intrigue, deception and imminent danger reside.

His journey for answers will introduce him to pernicious enemies with hidden agendas, as a heinous plot to kill him unravels. Can he defeat his personal demons to secure justice and discover the truth of who or what is behind the nefarious machinations and why?



 Excerpt

Sam could see rows of large stacked cubes. They were polished bright, reflecting the light from overhead. Sam cast a questioning glance at Reb.

‘Would it make sense if I said they are a by-product of the process? To be precise, they are two-metre tall cubes of solid steel or eight cubic metres of steel weighing over sixty-two thousand kilogrammes each. Does that help?’ The sarcastic tone failed to mask Reb’s amusement at Sam’s quandary.

Sam touched one of the cubes as he walked by. The sides were perfectly smooth, and he couldn’t see the top as it was above his head height. The edges and corners were rounded, giving the cubes a look of gigantic dice.

A subdued glow was faintly visible from the end of the conveyor. Sam calculated it to be a quarter of a mile away. He didn’t bother to figure out how many barrels were passing him on the conveyor. A steady stream of them, spaced six feet apart, were travelling lengthways, slightly faster than the pace they were walking at. They disappeared ahead, near the glow. Sam could not make out what was happening, it all seemed to be occurring in shadows, which didn’t make sense as it was also glowing.

He picked up his pace a bit, subconsciously eager to solve the mystery. ‘Do I need to wear a suit or anything?’ he enquired.

‘No, but do not and I stress DO NOT touch anything. In fact, put your hands in your pockets when you get there,’ Reb replied cryptically.

He could feel the heat; it was definitely getting warmer as he drew nearer to the glow. The air had the feel of a smithy he had once visited. It had a perceptible ferrous taste. He could partially see the end wall of the tunnel thirty or forty feet behind the glow, but something large and dark was obscuring the view.

The conveyor ended suddenly with a short downward section. The barrels seemed to enter a dark cave. Bastards, he thought, they are dumping the drums, after all, that bullshit and holier-than-thou crap he had been fed. The bright glow prevented him from seeing into the new cave or tunnel entrance. It seemed to be a set of ultra-bright strip lights. In his haste, Sam had gotten ahead of Reb at this point; he looked back with anger in his eyes.

‘You go ahead, I’ll catch you up. For your own safety, please do not go up the gantry steps or go into the red zone.’

Sam didn’t realise it, but he had broken out into a small jog as he strained to see clearly what was happening. What seemed to be a tunnel entrance from further back must be the opening of a large twenty-foot diameter pipe, whose opening was facing directly at him as the opening was floating in the centre of the tunnel.

He could see the barrels rise to the top of the conveyor’s apex and then descend, lost in the illumination from the bright strip lights. At thirty feet, his assumptions fell apart. He could see that the glowing strip lights were, in fact, a constant stream of bright luminescent liquid flowing into a grill in the floor. ‘None of this makes sense,’ he muttered to himself. ‘If the liquid was the toxic waste, what’s the pipe for?’ He looked back at Reb. ‘I don’t understand, you’re just dumping it all into the ground, but what’s the pipe for?’

‘Look closer, Sam, you not allowing yourself to see the truth.’

Sam paused at the railings which separated the danger zone from the walkway with the aid of red markings on the floor, defining a twenty-foot radius from the illicit dumping area. The whole area was brightly lit. The liquid wasn’t luminescent. It was white hot. He could feel the heat searing his skin even from this distance. The pipe was blacker than night. It was void of any reflection from the incandescent liquid that was pouring down. The barrels moved along the conveyor, and they should have fallen into the centre of the dark yearning chasm and rolled away. Instead, they seemed to hit a solid barrier. Where the metal met the beginning of the opening, it instantly became molten liquid, running down across an invisible surface and into the grate in the floor.

Sam walked around the railing to try and see the process from the side. He didn’t hear Reb as he eventually ambled alongside him. There was no pipe, there was no nothing. From his vantage point at the side, the barrels stopped their descent from the conveyor in mid-air. The metal simply melted as if it were merely chocolate touching a white hot skillet. It ran down and back towards the direction of the conveyor. A river of molten metal floated in the air as if it were on top of an invisible thin sheet of glass that was set at a thirty-five-degree angle. Sam walked further round to see if he could make sense of what he was seeing. All he could see was blackness, a huge disc of blackness.

‘I don’t understand.’

‘My ancient ancestors with their primitive minds called it “Dia Kuklos” because they could go through the circle. This is the cause of distortion here in Minera. This is what we guard, keep secret and safe. This is our primary duty.’

‘So is this a black hole? Shouldn’t all of our solar system be sucked into it?’

‘No, you’re not seeing what is in front of you, Sam. Come back to the front and watch.’ Sam and Reb walked back along the railing to view the barrels landing on the Dia Kuklos.

‘Think back to the balloon model we discussed. If two distortions happened to touch each other, they’d perforate the fabric of space and link together. You can literally step through one side to the other. Your scientists theorise about this and commonly call them wormholes. There’s no tunnel connecting them. Both openings occupy the same space at the same time. They have many names in different cultures throughout the universe such as spatial apertures or perforations, portals, Quantum eyelets, interstices.’

He looked at Sam, beaming. ‘Cool, eh? So we are using this cosmic abnormality to dump your toxic waste. Just not where you thought. The metal can’t get through the surface tension. The reaction is so volatile that it melts upon contact. We use this to allow the waste to escape and flow through while collecting the metal for recycling.’

‘So you’re saying I could step through to wherever you are dumping this stuff?’

‘Well, you could step through, Sam, but you wouldn’t last very long. The other side is in a fixed position near a star you call Canopus. Over the course of a year or so, the waste is gently drawn in by its gravitational pull and destroyed. The aperture itself is black because neither side opens facing the star. If you could pop your head through and look to the right...’ Reb shrugged and put his hand on Sam’s shoulder. ‘I was hoping to have thought of something witty to say by now, but, there you go. What else can I do to prove to you we are the good guys?’ He handed Sam the small stone from his pocket. ‘Go ahead and toss it in, watch it float away. Do it from the other side to get a better view.’

Sam walked to the rear side of the aperture and gently, with an underarm throw, tossed the stone through the portal. It physically slowed as it passed through what Reb had called the surface tension. It carried on into the darkness with its left-hand side clearly visible as it was being illuminated by the unseen sun.

‘Why are you guarding these, why the secrecy?’

‘Why? Well, that’s a long story, but I’ll keep it brief. My race evolved on planet Minera long before the Overseer arrived. As our population spread over the planet, legend says they found a portal and called it “Dia Kuklos”. It happened in the midst of the harshest winter in history. My primitive ancestors found a window to a sunny world; it saved thousands of lives. They sought refuge through it and others harvested food and brought it back. Over the centuries, we eventually learnt how to detect the distortions in the fabric of space and found thirty more on our planet. Because of the nature of their original creation, these portals were always located within spatial distortions like Minera, making them difficult to find unless you know what to look for. Not all distortions contained a portal and many, being like this one, open into empty space, or hundreds of feet above the ground. As our technology evolved and resources dwindled, we abused these portals to other worlds to carry out raids and wage war.’

‘We discovered one portal close to a black hole. The conflicting forces waged between the portal, and the event horizon of the black hole made it jittery. The other end wasn’t permanently fixed. It sporadically lashed across the universe, momentarily setting on other portals. We learnt how to manipulate it with gravitational and spatial distorting fields. We could lock onto other portals within its original range. It is, to this date, the only one we know of with this ability. History says we were ruthless, relentless and barbaric. To the unwary, we came out of nowhere. Whole armies massed secretly in the distorted areas, unseen by the local population. It was an era of terror that we waged covertly over the universe and a shame we still carry. The Overseer stopped this. Somehow he changed the surface tension on all of the portals. Nothing but light passed through; they became useless windows. In one fell swoop, he had isolated us. We had no long distance space travel technology as we had never needed to develop it. Our planet was over populated, and resources strained. He gave us an ultimatum, either we sign up and with our knowledge locate these portals throughout the universe and guard them against further abuse or he would cause our extinction.’

‘The elders in their vanity would not bow down to an unknown enemy, and millions died as ruthless factions fought amongst each other for the dwindling resources. After 225 years of planet-bound war, they realised no children had been born. We had been sterilised. The last generation to be born were now in charge, and the war machine had fizzled out long ago. The remaining populace had reverted to a simpler way of life. The preservation of life and the recovery of our planet became almost a religion. It was a hybrid of high technology and ecological, environmentally friendly living. On the eve of 250 years, the Overseer spoke again. The message was clear: police the portals for him or die out. The rest is history, as they say, they capitulated, and we have served him ever since. The Overseer returned to us the ability to reproduce and the use of the portals, though he has never allowed any metal to pass through since.’

‘Well, that’s not what I expected. I don’t know what to say.’

‘There is nothing to say, but you can see a similarity between our chequered history and how your civilisation’s developing. It took a long time for our planet to recover from our greed and negligence.’ Reb ushered Sam back around with his arms. ‘We try to keep the portals secret to make our life easier. There are only a few races out there that are partially aware of them. For some they are a thing of myth and legend, magic gateways to other worlds, but nothing more.’

Sam subconsciously switched the case to his left arm as he walked back around. ‘The process,’ swinging his arm at the conveyor, ‘should end in a few minutes, then we have a few people to see.’
About P.N. Burrows:

Born in England and raised in Wales, I started my working life on a farm in the glorious rural Welsh countryside.  I retrained to become an IT Consultant and having spent thousands on Microsoft, CompTIA and Cisco qualifications; I also obtained a contract to run and teach at a Cisco Academy in England.  After this, I became a small business IT Advisor for WCBC and the Welsh Government.  As this funding dried up, I retrained as a Business Advisor and have since helped thousands of people start up their own businesses.

In my leisure time, I work my way through a comprehensive bucket list with my FiancĂ©e, Cath. This has caused us great delight as we have attended various courses and fun days out, such as beekeeping, pottery making, stained glass making, painting course, cooking courses, hawk walks, animal experiences, quad biking, gorge walking and much more. Our favourite one is learning to dance. This activity has remained with us and will hopefully do so for the rest of our lives. We can do a reasonable Waltz, collapse in laughter trying the Viennese Waltz, but it is the 1920’s Lindy Hop that we have fallen in love with. After three years of dancing, we still attend regular dance classes and events.

Strangely, for an ex-geek, my favourite gadget is my Italian Marcato pasta machine. I love real, unprocessed food and my freshly made pasta with a home cooked sauce is amazing.

I have always enjoyed reading, and in my early teenage years, I read authors ranging from Harry Harrison to HG Wells. Later in life, I turned to thriller writers such as the 3 C’s; Clancy, Cussler and Child. Also, I will always have a Pratchett book on my phone for light reading. His imagination was and always will be, inspiring. I have wanted to write the Mineran Series for several years prior to actually starting and with the encouragement from Cath, who has suffered my many varied, imaginative pranks over the years, I have begun.

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Facebook: /pnburrows
Twitter: @pnburows