Thursday, November 29, 2012

A Treat for You!

Welcome back, all my wonderful friends! Today, the Penguin and I have two very special treats for you. First, he's sober enough to not fight me and try to take over the laptop. (YAY!!) Which is really awesome news, because my broken nose has time to heal. Second, we managed to coerce author John Peters to give us a sneak peek into his world, and he graciously donated an excerpt from one of his very highly praised books. OH! I almost forgot, our new friend John's book Holiday Horror (released 11/21/12) has skyrocketed into the Amazon Top 50 Hot New Horror Releases. Amazing!! 

And now an excerpt from the story Anything For the Cause, part of the Holiday Horror collection. Enjoy!!

          Next was a narrow dark passage. Elena knew the way well, for halfway through -- just before the floor slanted -- she paused long enough to steal a kiss from Rob, then she pulled away and moved forward. The pitched floor made walking difficult. Rob was forced to lean against the wall, concentrating hard to maintain his balance. His head brushed the ceiling, and before Rob realized it he was bending at the waist. The ceiling had gradually lowered -- or had the floor ever-so-gently inclined upward?
          “Damn,” Rob whispered, in awe of how the designers had contrived this portion of the haunted tour. Soon he was crawling, progressing blindly, when beneath him a light flashed. Under the floor, which was clear, he glimpsed the face of a man. In the second before the bright yellow glow winked out Rob saw creatures -- ants and roaches, even a mouse -- feeding on the man’s face. One of the victim’s eyes looked flat, sunken in like a deflated basketball. The end of his nose was missing, and small bite marks cratered his face. Despite blaring, pulsing music that overwhelmed the senses Rob heard muted screams. In the fraction of a second before the light winked out, the man and Rob made eye contact, and Rob shuddered. He stopped, taken aback by the haunting look of fear and pain in the man’s working eye.

          Jostled from behind, Rob moved forward, crawling, finding the ceiling was again higher. He was able to stand, stooped at first, then he straightened up. Elena took his hand. Ahead he could see strobe lights. The corridor ended. Rob followed Elena into a room painted in black and white checkers. From hidden speakers screams erupted, the sound of chains rattled. In the center of the room were two people chained to the floor -- man or woman Rob could not tell, for he glimpsed them no more than a second before turning away. He closed his eyes as tightly as he could, covered them with his hands, but still the strobe invaded his darkness.

          Rob heard Elena, lips pressed to his ears, screaming. “What’s wrong?”

          “The strobes…” Rob struggled to breathe. “I … get me out … ”

          Rob felt Elena grab his right arm, two other hands on his left -- two male hands, he guessed, by the strength of the grip. He moaned, not that anyone would hear. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Psycho Penguin Too Drunk To Be Coherent

Hullo, evrybody! Tis' the season to buy a penguin a shot. Who's game? Who's gonna buy me a shot?

**Clanging, banging noises, some weird penguin shrieks, and a slamming door.**

Sorry folks, the Drunken Space Penguin is in rare form today, and I had to lock him away before he ruined today's post about indie author John Peters! Hopefully you've all taken the time to check out some of his works, but in case you're not sure where to start, I have some links for you!

Follow John on Twitter:
Find him on Facebook
Keep up with his blog
Check out his author page on Amazon

Lots of great stuff here, so make sure you check out all his links!!

**Crashing sounds, a loud thump.**

Heeeeyyyyyyy, guess who's back!! Yup, an don't worry bout them sounds, Ashley just fell. Tell em. TELL 'EM YOU FELL!!


Aaight, now y'all go on and buy me drinks. I expect e'ry one of ya to bring back drinks. Be here in a hour! Better hurry!

*More crashing and thumping, a loud squawk, and glass shattering.**

Stupid penguin. Okay, I'm going to sedate the penguin and let him sleep off the liquor. Have a great night!!

Monday, November 26, 2012

And Now, Our Feature Presentation...

Hellllooooooooo ladies and gentlemen!! The penguin has drunken himself into a stupor and can't work the keyboard right now, so I took over the blog today. And it's a good thing, too, because I get to introduce you another amazing indie author, John Peters! Some of John's numerous works include Claiming Moon, The Chosen, and Patron Saint.

So I won't bore you with rambling on and on about how awesome he is-just find out for yourself. Without further ado, I'm pleased to introduce you all to indie author John Peters!!

DSP: Welcome to the Drunken Space Penguin, John! I'm sorry the Penguin himself isn't here to greet you personally, but believe me, it's likely better this way. I'm sure he'll make an appearance later in the week. For starters, though, tell us a bit about yourself. We like to get to know our authors as a person!

John: Well, where do I start on this one? My full-time job is the dual role of editor of a small daily newspaper in North Carolina and regional editor for a group of smaller newspapers our company owns in the area. I’ve spent most of my adult life as a full-time journalist, though I have had stints as a full-time freelance writer, executive director of a suicide prevention/crisis hotline, and as a grant writer/PR person for a community college.

My family and I live in the mountains of SW Virginia, just a few miles north of the Virginia-North Carolina border. My wife and I have five kids, along with an always-changing number of animals (cats, dogs, bearded dragons, hamsters, wolf spiders, tobacco hornworms…I think you get the idea). I love basketball, coached little kids for a while, then coached a local high school ladies varsity team for three years – we won 72 games in those three seasons and played in two state title games, winning one of them. I gave it up though, primarily to spend a little more time at home before the kids move on and to have time to devote to my writing. This is my first basketball season in some time not on the sidelines, and I’m having withdrawal symptoms. I write more to try to alleviate them.

DSP: Nice to meet you! So tell us, where did you find the inspiration for your most recent book?

John: I just published a mini-collection of holiday-themed horror shorts called Holiday Horrors (, but for this question I’ll talk about my latest novel, CLAIMING MOON ( I’m not really sure if I can pinpoint a single inspiration. Part of my desire to write the book came after reading several romance novels. I like to challenge myself as a writer, try working in genres that are not natural for me, and I had been reading a fair amount of romance as well as murder mystery work at that time.

So I decided to try my hand at writing romance. A funny thing happened, though, as often does when I’m writing. The story went a different direction than I had planned, and I ended up with a combination of the romance angle I wanted to write and a horror novella I had been working on. I didn’t want to do a horror work – remember, I was really looking for something outside my comfort zone, so rather than follow a horror angle, I decided to make it a murder mystery romance. I have to admit, a bit of my old horror leanings wormed their way into the work, but it’s truly a romance murder suspense novel, if there is such a genre.

DSP: So, do you have any kind of ritual for writing? Such as, you have to write with music on, or you can only write when you’re completely alone, etc?

John: Generally I just sit and write when I have some time. I’ve spent most of my full-time career in newsrooms, with phones ringing and people conversing and all sorts of noise around, so I’m used to being able to block out a lot of distractions and zero in on what I’m doing. Generally I’ll put some earbuds in, read the final few paragraphs I left off with during my last writing session, and then dive in. Generally I’m good to write for 60 to 90 minutes at a time, then I’ll take a little break before going again.

DSP: Who is your favorite character in your book, and why? How about the character you had the most trouble with?

John: Frank Taliaferro, the detective hunting for a serial killer. He’s a good guy, totally committed to the job, but he’s also got a lot of layers to him, and he’s definitely not a conventional cop. On the job he’s by-the-book, serious-minded and relentless, but he’s also got a dry sense of humor, and off the job there are a few surprises for readers. He has trouble making a romantic connection, though, not because he’s afraid of commitment or change, but he’s seen a lot in his career – he’s good at putting himself in the mind of a killer, tracking them down, and as a result he’s been used by the FBI, some international war crime tribunals – and he’s seen the worst people can do. To cope he’s shut down some parts of himself, emotionally, and it’s hard for him to open up after what he’s witnessed.

The most difficult character for me to write was Cassandra, a reporter who is assigned to cover the same serial killer Frank is investigating. In fact, much of the novel is told from her perspective. Writing from the angle of a journalist was easy, but this was the first time I had attempted writing from the perspective of a woman. I wanted readers to believe they were seeing, hearing, and experiencing things in the way a female writer would communicate. That was a big challenge for me.

DSP: Now, when you sit down to write a book, a paragraph, or whatever you‘re working on at the moment, do you just sit down in front of the computer, or do you need an outline of some sort? Is there any other prep you need in order to organize your thoughts either before you write or in the process of writing?

John: I just sit and write. I’ve never used an outline. Having said that, I do work on story lines and plot points when I’m not writing – in the shower, on my work commute, maybe before falling asleep every night. But I don’t work from a written outline, and even when I sit down with a mental outline and have an idea how I want a story to go, sometimes once I’m writing we go an entirely different direction.

DSP: Do you foresee any more books to continue this story? If so, do you think we can get a taste of what’s to come?

John: Oh yeah. Already started working out how that will flow. Frank, of course, will end up hot on the trail of a killer – probably one with a bit of an other-worldly origin. It’s a woman who’s been killing a long, long time. Longer than Frank’s been alive. That’s about all I can say without giving away some of the plot points of the first novel.

DSP: Other than this most recent story, do you have any ideas for different books that might be published in the future? Care to give us a teaser?

John: Oh heck yeah. My inspirational/religious holiday novel, CHOICES, will be out in just a few days. It’s the story of a young man named Joey Reagan who has a unique opportunity to make peace with his father, his past, and himself. His dad made some hard, and bad, choices years earlier that tore the family apart, left Joey and his sister alone, and Joey’s never forgiven him, never gotten over his feeling of hurt and loss, and that’s affected many of the choices he’s made in his own life. He has this chance to find some peace, but even with a bit of divine intervention, it’s not clear at all if Joey will make choices any better than his father.

Outside of that I’ve got two horror novels outlined in my head; a separate murder mystery with a cast of characters different from the CLAIMING MOON series, and I’m working out some ideas for an inspirational/religious romance piece that takes place in the months after the conclusion of the Civil War. That novel will be my next work. It revolves around a woman and her two children struggling to survive and rebuild their family farm in the Virginia foothills after learning her husband was killed in the closing days of the war; and a man dealing with crippling guilt over his killing of two enemy soldiers literally hours before learning the war had ended. What made this worse for him was the fact that he got to know about them after their deaths – they had families back home, letters written expressing their desire to return home, take care of their families.

I hope to get these four novels done over the next year. For anyone wanting to keep up with my work, they can visit my blog at

DSP: Do you have any aspirations to be similar or comparable to another author? Why?

John: You know, there was a time I would have said Stephen King, without any hesitation. At that time my aspirations were to become a horror writer. I’ve written quite a lot of horror over the years, seen a good bit of it published in some nice pro and semi-pro markets, but over the past three years I’ve grown far outside the horror genre – writing romance, religious and inspirational, and some other categories. I’m not sure I have any particular writer I look at and think “I’d like to be like that person.” If there were, it would be the late Robert Parker. That man could tell a story, communicate so much more with such sparse language, and he was a writing machine.

DSP: Okay, one last question, and this one is different for every author, not to mention completely off the wall! If you were a brand-new character in the video game Mortal Kombat, what would your name be, and what would be your finishing move?

John: Oh wow. I’m thinking my name would be Speedy and my finishing move would be to turn and run the other way as fast as I could.

That's one way to finish the game. "See ya, catch me if ya can! Oops, too slow, try again!" There's a game that could easily go on for weeks! Love it.

Well, there ya have it, kids. Another fantastic author, and we've been given the privilege of getting to know him. You can check out his books on Amazon HERE. Stay tuned all this week, I'll be posting more info on this awesome and accomplished author! 

Thanks for stopping by, and Happy Reading from both Ashley and the Drunken Penguin!!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

I Just Wanna Touch It...

Let me start off by saying how much I desperately hate that stupid stomach bug that's going around. I damn near went to the ER Friday night, I was in so much pain. You know you're in trouble when you can't keep water down...hell, I didn't leave my bed except to go to the bathroom from 8p Friday until this morning. As a matter of fact, I thought I was dying and was considering drafting up a will, but couldn't get to my computer.

Thank goodness, though, it's all over, and I can return to my normal geeky life that revolves solely around my computer. :)

Now, I don't know how many of you braved the crowds and went Black Friday shopping, but if you did, no offense, you're a moron. It's just not worth it to get up that early, park 17 miles away, and elbow your way through mobs of people to save $20 on a video game. It's not even worth it to save $200 on an 80" TV. My life-not to mention my sanity-are worth way more than that. I will, however, be sitting at my computer shopping on Cyber Monday. 

Oh, Cyber Monday, how I love thee!! All the benefits of Black Friday without leaving the safety and comfort of my home. I can shop in my PJ's. Hell, I can shop naked, no one else will be here! I save gas money because I don't have to drive to get to a store, perhaps the discounts aren't QUITE as enormous as Black Friday, but they're still awesome, and I don't have to be around people. Geeks and nerds like me don't like crowds of people. This idea of Cyber Monday is exactly what we need.

That being said, I would also like to mention that my NaNoWriMo novel is not complete. It is not even close to complete. Instead of focusing on my NaNo book, I took a little time out and focused on finishing Daughters of Night: Possession. It was far more important, being the second in a series, and it was merely 3 chapters from being completed. I poured my heart and soul into it, and completed a novel. Then came the Breaking Dawn premier, so I lost a whole day there. Then I had to start prepping for Thanksgiving, and writing had to be put on the back burner. And finally, I got a heck of a lot of writing done Friday...and got deathly ill. I'm going to work on it today, but it's not looking too promising that I'll finish all 50,000 words before the end of November. Of course, if I could include this, plus Twitter and Facebook, and my emails too, I'd reach it in a day!!

Speaking of Breaking Dawn...holy roasted monkey nuts!! Did anyone else have a heart attack?? It took me several days of thinking on it, but I finally decided I'm happy with the ending. It was mostly true to the book, but it gave the viewers SO much more. It was an emotional trainwreck, but worth it. We spent the entire day at the theater watching the marathon, and let me tell you, you can overhear some pretty awesome stuff. Like, the title of this blog post. During one scene in one of the movies, we overheard a chick say, "He's legal now...I just wanna touch it!" Well, I don't know if she meant Jacob's six pack, or another part of his anatomy, but we busted out laughing at that one. There was also the comment outside the theater, "I just love dirty Englishmen in skinny jeans." God, I love people. They make me laugh so much...

Well, I've bored you enough for one day. Stay tuned, tomorrow should hold a new indie author interview, and I'll be able to introduce you all to a new awesome writer. Happy reading!!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Midnight Ramblings & Why Cats Make Great Writing Buddies

By Julie Keith

Thanks again Drunken Penguin for letting me spread my lunacy to your blog.

I was trying to come up with something inspiring to write so I could sound all professional and intelligent.  Realizing this was a futile dream; I ventured to a bookshelf and stumbled upon a quote I think we can all agree is nothing short of inspirational.  It just makes you feel so worthy and gun-ho about life and about writing.  But what else can you expect from Theodore Roosevelt.  He took time out on his way to accept the Nobel Peace Prize to say the following to some students in Paris,

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.  The credit belongs to the man in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly… who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who have… known neither victory nor defeat.”

As I sat here typing this gem on the laptop, sucking on a candy cane, lounging on my couch, I couldn’t help but be moved by that quote.  Figuratively of course, there was no way I was going to actually move.
I may never be in an arena marred by dust and sweat and blood, duking it out with someone else but I have my moments.  I undertook the insanity of NaNoWriMo.  I am 35,342 words into my new out of the blue novel.  It is not the stuff of hand to hand combat but finishing the challenge is quite the achievement.  Coming up on the last stretch, I can clearly see the glorious 50,000 word marker in sight.

I would like to say that I could not have even neared the completion of a novel in only one month without the constant lack of support from my cat.  Sitting usually on the back of the couch beside my head, her lack of enthusiasm for my most inspired works stirs me onward to create better words with which she will be impressed.

This is of course likely to never happen.  The sad reality is, my cat will never be impressed with my work.  She’s a harsh critic.  But as Roosevelt said, it is not the critic who matters, it is the one who does the deed. I am the writer and I write.  I know the passion of writing, of striving to create something others will want to read, striving to create something I would want to read.

That is why I have a dog.  My dog understands the journey, the satisfaction of accomplishment.  For my other novels in progress, short stories saved on the hard drive, notes about possible stories and general passing ideas for new stories – she is there to route for me to finish.  She is the one with the look that says, “You can do it!”  And at times the, “You’re a lazy bum, pick up the laptop and type something!” look.

Then again, maybe not, I may be overestimating my dog’s abilities. I could possibly be insane and imagining all of that.  But she sits at my feet on the couch, happily wagging her tail when I look at her, hanging on my every word and offering her constant unwavering devotion.

If only I had fans like that reading my words.  I need a following of people who hang on my every word and exhibit unwavering devotion.  Then again, that might make me more of a cult leader than a writer.  For now, I’ll stick to writing.  I don’t have time to lead a cult.  But hey, if you’d like to read more of my raving, you can always check me out on  I hang out there on a regular basis!

Drunken Ramblings of a Drunken Penguin

Tomatoes. Jumprope. Money. Sunsets. Chairs. Pumpkin. Clarinet. Cabinets. Cassette tapes. Cloud. Mask. Toes. Pasta. Bicycling. 

I hate. I used to love. I wish I had more. I think these are pretty. I could use more of these in my house. I carved my first one this year. I used to play. I need more. I almost miss these. Not a single one in the sky right now. The one on my wall scared my baby niece last night while I was feeding her, and we all laughed. I'm afraid of. My favorite food is. I used to love going with my friends before I got fat. (-er). 

To all those idiots out there rushing out to buy stuff at a SUPER AWESOME LOW BLACK FRIDAY EARLY BIRD price, screw that!! I get panic attacks from grocery shopping, my ass is NOT going out in that insanity. Besides, could you even imagine what kind of reaction I'd draw, being a penguin, carrying a bottle of vodka around screaming, "That's my Furby! Don't you dare take the last Furby!" I'm pretty sure I wouldn't enjoy it. But watching the video of everyone's reaction later would be hilarious.

So, I'll shut up and go back to my drinking, but before I do, I wanna introduce you to a phenomenal blogger, Julie, who is going to grace us with some ramblings of her own. Non-drunken, from what I understand, but we won't judge her! Enjoy!!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

My Poor Toilet...


Oh, like I was really going to let today go by and not post about the holiday?? Come, now. Even a drunken penguin remembers the holiday where it's perfectly acceptable to eat ridiculous amounts of food and consume alcohol, then pass out. Please. However, courtesy of my mother and two brothers, I am accepting donations for the therapy I know have to put my toilet through after our giant dinner. Say a prayer, light a candle, whatever you do, it is in desperate need of help...

Okay, now that the turkey day junk is out of the way, I have a special treat for all you non-drunks out there. The second book in the Daughters of Night trilogy will be available soon, but just for you, I convinced my blogger, Ashley, to post the first couple of chapters here. It's still in it's roughest form, but you get to read it before it goes on sale next month. (Hopefully.) Enjoy!!

Daughters of Night: Possession

“Her house sinks down to death,
 And her course leads to the shades.
 All who go to her cannot return
 And find again the paths of life.”
-Proverbs 2:18-19

“Her gates are gates of death, and form the entrance of the house
 She sets out towards Sheoul.
 None of those who enter there will ever return
 And all who possess her will descend to the Pit.”
-4Q184 (Exorcism text)

Chapter 1


“Abby, does this dress make my butt look enormous?”
As soon as she asked the question, every hormone-driven teenager in El Paso County High School jerked their heads to gawk at my best friend’s rear, which, at the moment, was inches away from my face as I was kneeling down to tie my shoe, with a clingy black material stretched against it.
It was no secret Olivia’s butt was quite possibly the most sought-after in the whole school. She was gorgeous, golden hair, clear blue eyes, flawless skin tanned just right, with a perfect body, and she knew it. She also craved the attention.
I blushed, brushing a few wisps of auburn hair out of my eyes. Not that I was a total eyesore, but I was definitely no Olivia Parks. I had deep auburn hair set against fair skin a few shades away from being pale. My eyes were my favorite feature, a deep emerald green ringed by long lashes. I stood a little short at 5’3”, but even Olivia envied my shapely curves. No, I was definitely not ugly, but I was always in the shadow of Olivia.
Which was fine by me, I didn’t really care for the spotlight so much. I was actually glad Olivia took so much attention off of me, because I only had one guy in my radar.
Jackson Shears.
Just thinking his name caused a little smile to tug at my lips. Sure, technically I could have dated nearly anyone in my school, but Jackson was my best friend, and had been my best friend since we were 2, when our moms had arranged play dates for us. And even though I grew up to be on the dance team and run with the popular crowd, while Jackson was a science and math junkie, part of the yearbook team, and class treasurer, he still had the social status every student craved and only a few privileged were blessed with. Besides, I loved the way his gray eyes danced every time he looked at me. He made me feel like I was the only girl in the world. Despite the fact that we had been together practically our whole lives, my stomach still turned flips when I saw him. When he kissed me, my heart fluttered in my chest, hard enough that I felt sometimes like it would lift us both off and fly us far away. Everything was perfect.
“Um, he-llo, Earth to Abby?”
Olivia’s voice jerked me back to reality. Literally. I nearly fell I jumped so violently. I looked back up again at my best friend’s butt wagging at me, and I couldn’t help but laugh. 
“Liv, your butt is huge, mammoth, and in fact-” I reached down and grabbed my history book from the stack I had set on the floor, then lifted it up in an attempt to balance it on her backside-”I think I can use it to help me carry my books, now!” I burst out laughing.
Olivia spun quickly as I grabbed my book back and stood.
“Abby!” Olivia glared at me.
“Relax, Liv,” I laughed. “If your butt gets any more perfect it’s going to take over the rest of you, and then all the rest of us won’t even be able to look at you without your perfectness blinding us.”
“You’re just jealous,” Olivia said, tossing her hair over her shoulder.
We walked down the hall toward our 3rd period class, Olivia shaking her perfect rear as we walked, me just trying to keep up, taking 2 steps to her one. Olivia was droning on and on about her wardrobe choice and how she was super concerned that it would make her look fat, but thank goodness she has such considerate friends (which she sneered and dripped sarcasm as she said it) to make her feel better. I pretended to listen, faking interest the whole way to class, stepping into the room right as the bell rang, making a beeline to my desk. Which happened to be right in the middle of my two favorite people-Olivia on my left and Jackson on my right? Life was good.

After school, I was being forced to participate in this family thing. Dinner with my mom, her boyfriend, my sister Lily, her new fiancé, and my cousin Jeff, fresh out of the closet. At least I won’t be the only one there without a date. I hope.
Dinner was set for 5:00pm at some new fancy restaurant downtown, and I would be meeting everyone else there. Which, by the time school let out and I got home to change, left me zero time to work with. I traded in my baggy blue sweater-dress and skinny jeans for a form fitting black dress that flared out at the hem just above my knees. I had gotten the dress just for the occasion. It came with a silver belt about three inches wide, covered in fake diamonds that shimmered in any light, which sat high on my waist. The halter strap was a string of the same jewels, and the hem was adorned with a scattering of the jewels. 
It looked absolutely stunning on me, which was exactly what I needed. It was going to take all the confidence I could get just to make it through the night unscathed. I threw on my drop diamond earrings and a simple silver chain, pulled my hair back into a tight bun, and just before leaving I pulled on my strappy black stilettos. I was a knockout.
Of course, even though it only took about 10 minutes to throw myself together and touch up my makeup, I still managed to head out late, and was stuck in traffic when the clock hit 5:00pm. A few seconds later, a message came through on my cell. 
“Where are you? Are you still coming?”
My mother. Of course. I started to text back when another message popped up on my screen.
“Abby, Mom is freaking out! And I need you to meet Edwin…he’s SOOO dreamy! :)”
I sighed in exasperation. Heaven forbid I be 5 minutes late. I texted both of them back, letting them know I was on my way, stuck in traffic, then turned the ringer off and tucked my phone away in my purse. I would get there when I got there. And if that wasn’t good enough, then I would bail, grab Olivia and a huge tub of ice cream, and we would spend the evening watching old movies.
I made it to the restaurant at 5:08, and the overly friendly hostess guided me to the table where my family had already ordered.
“Abigail!” My mother’s screeching voice was filled with excitement and impatience. “Oh, you FINALLY made it!”
Great. I haven’t even been offered a seat and already I’m feeling guilty. Awesome. I can’t wait to get through this dinner.
“Abby, I’m so glad you made it, we were getting worried!” Lily exclaimed. 
“Sorry I’m late,” I replied, the irritation leaking through in my voice. “Actually, I’m not even 10 minutes late, which, I might add, is not too shabby on my part, considering the traffic out there.”
I took a sip of my water, clearing my head.
“That’s our Abby, always fashionably late,” came a high-pitched male voice from behind me.
I turned in my seat, my night already getting a little better.
“Jeff!” I exclaimed.
He beamed at me; the whitest and straightest smile on the planet aimed straight for me, as he reached out and pulled me back out of my seat. I wrapped my arms around his neck, standing on my toes against his height, and he pulled me in a bear hug. 
I adored my cousin. He was the only one in my family whom I felt totally comfortable around. We were practically raised together, until his aunt became a raging alcoholic and moved him out to California. I had missed him so much, and I buried my face into his shoulder. He smelled like peppermint and axe body spray. I pulled away and he held me at arms length, examining me.
“Looks like someone has been doing something right, gorgeous!”
“Oh, and look at you, handsome!” I looked him over. “You look amazing! How long has it been?”
“Too long. You’re still in high school, right?”
“Ugh, don’t remind me,” I cringed. “I swear, one more year, and I’m SO out of here.”
“Um, hate to break up the happy reunion, but the waiter wants to know what you’d like to order, Abby.”
I turned from Jeff to my sister, and the blood rushed to my cheeks. I glanced at Jeff, who just shrugged and helped me back into my chair.
I ordered the grilled mahi mahi, and as soon as the waiter left, my sister and mom started giggling. I noticed there were two empty chairs at the table.
Oh. Right. The new boyfriend and fiancé. Where were they?
As if on cue, two men approached the table. One was quite tall, well over 6 feet, dark hair cut military short except on top, where it was gelled into a spiky style. He had a well trimmed goatee, and looked very snazzy in a white button down shirt under an ivory blazer and slacks. He was rather attractive, probably not older than 25. The other man appeared older, probably in his mid 40’s. His receding hairline gave way to dark blonde hair, a little shaggy. He kind of gave me the impression of a mad scientist. Especially with those dark rimmed glasses perched on his beak-like nose, and his thin, lanky build. Which was the complete opposite of Mr. Goatee, who was well built, muscular, and lean, his face chiseled off in a square-like shape. Everything seemed so proportionate on him, he almost looked unreal.
Imagine my surprise when the older mad-scientist guy walked up and planted a kiss on Lily’s cheek, then Mr. Goatee plopped down next to my mom, draping an arm around her shoulders. I couldn’t stop my eyes from bulging out of my head or my jaw from clanking to the ground.
Lily took the mad scientist’s hand as he sat down, then looked between me and Jeff. Suddenly, the giddy school-girl-in-love look vanished from her face and she crunched her brow.
“So, Abby, Jeff, this is Edwin.”
My voice failed me. I could do nothing but gawk at the scene before me. What I wanted to do was ask Lily if she picked up a bum from the shelter as an act of charity. Then ask when her new fiancé would get there. I felt her glaring at me as I moved from staring at Mr. Goatee with my mom to Mr. Mad Scientist. I was just so incredibly confused I couldn’t force my mouth to speak. At least not until I felt a pointy elbow jab into my ribs. I jumped, tore my gaze from the train wreck in front of me and shot a glance at Jeff. Who just happened to be gawking as badly as I had been.
“I, er, pleased to meet you, Edwin,” I stumbled, looking back at Mr. Mad Scientist and my sister. Of course, if looks could kill, I’d have died 3 times from the look on Lily’s face.
Much to my surprise, Edwin laughed heartily. 
“The pleasure is mine, I assure you, Abby. I know I’m not exactly what you were expecting, but I hope that I will be able to prove myself worthy of your amazing family.”
The surprises just kept coming. Not only was Edwin a perfect gentleman, but he spoke in a rich voice with a heavy English accent.
“I’m sure you’ll fit right in, Edwin,” Jeff spoke with an air of elegance, as if intimidated by this guy. “So tell me, how did the two of you meet?”
Lily answered quickly, “Oh, Edwin and I work together.”
She smiled at him, and I almost felt bad for all the gawking. She genuinely seemed attracted to him. 
I glanced toward my mother’s voice.
“Abby, I also wanted you to meet David. David is a writer, and my company took an interest in his books. Then, well, we just seemed to hit it off!”
My mother was all smiles when she spoke, then giggled like a love struck schoolgirl. David looked at me and smiled lazily.
“Abby, Jeff, it’s good to meet you. And Abby, I know you what you’re thinking, I’m barely older than you are, but I hope that doesn’t stop us from becoming a family.” Then he smiled like a dirty used car salesman. “I sure do love Kathryn, and I think we’re going to get along just fine.” Yeah, I didn’t like him already.
The rest of the dinner went by as uncomfortable as the beginning. Fortunately, when Jeff and I excused ourselves everyone else seemed more than happy to let us leave. 
I gave Jeff a ride back to his hotel room. Even though it was the opposite direction of my house, I didn’t mind spending some extra time with him. After all, he was my best friend growing up.
“Jeff,” I said when we were in the car driving, “I would really love for you to meet my best friend Olivia. You would love her, and her style.”
“Oh, really, so I’m not your best friend anymore?” Jeff joked. “I didn’t think I was going to be that easy to replace.”
Jeff puckered out his lower lip and gave me the puppy dog eyes.
“Whatever, Jeff, you’re more like the sister I wanted but you just couldn‘t follow directions and fell into a boy‘s body.”
“Hey, this is boy’s body grew into a fine specimen of sexy man, thank you very much. I just happen to want another one as a companion.”
We laughed and played catch up for the rest of the drive to his hotel. It was kind of sad to leave, but I knew he had things to do, and so did I. 

Chapter 2


I was rocking out to some awesome tunes on my long drive home, trying to push thoughts of my sister with Mad Scientist and my mom with Mr. Goatee. I had SO much to tell Olivia when I saw her again. I guess my head was distracted a bit too much, though, because when I finally turned the radio down, I realized I had missed my freeway exit by about 5 miles. 
Damn. This is definitely not what I needed after tonight’s fiasco.
I took the next exit, which put me in a really bad part of town. It was already really dark out, and I didn’t know my way around that area, so of course I couldn’t find my way back to the freeway. I pulled over on a side road to plug my address into my GPS so I could get back before my mom got home. I had already heard enough criticizing for one evening between the main course and dessert; I didn’t need her harping on me for getting lost in a bad neighborhood, too.
I plugged the address into the GPS and pulled away from the curb. As I followed the verbal commands telling me where to turn, I noticed a car following me with no headlights. I started to get nervous. I kept my eyes ahead, glancing in the rear view mirror only occasionally, each time finding the same car with no headlights on keeping pace with me. Even after I found my way back to the freeway and drove back to familiar territory. I turned onto my street and the car still followed. I pulled in the drive quickly and watched the car creep past my house. 
Great, I thought. Now I’m going to have to tell my mother about this. She’s going to completely freak out on me.
I walked in quickly after locking up my car, made my way upstairs to my room, and flopped on the bed. I was not looking forward to the conversation with my mother about the evening’s events. 
I fell asleep lying there on my bed, still in my party dress. If my mother checked on me, she left me alone to sleep. I didn’t wake up until 9am the next morning, which was thankfully Saturday, considering if it were a school day I’d have already been late.
I dragged my disheveled self out of bed and stumbled across the hall to the bathroom. I was still in my little black dress and my makeup had smeared all over my face while my hair was poking out all around my bun. I was a nightmare.
After a quick shower and a fresh change of clothes I felt a heck of a lot better. It’s amazing how a pair of yoga pants and a tank top can make a person feel completely at ease and renewed. I settled onto the couch with a bowl of cereal and some cartoons, completely forgetting about the previous evening and the creepy car that followed me home.
My cell rang at 10:30, and Olivia’s perky voice was on the other end.
“Ohmigosh Abby, you will never believe what happened to me this morning!”
Olivia proceeded to tell me how she got into a huge argument with her boyfriend over doughnuts at breakfast. Every last detail, down to how many had sprinkles, with much emphasis on the part where he actually had the audacity to pick up doughnuts when he KNEW she was on a very strict diet. I sat there patiently talking her though her latest crises with sympathy and support.
“Oh, Abbs, I almost forgot, you’re still coming over today, right?”
“Oh, yeah,” I said, a little too slowly.
“Ohmigosh, Abby, I swear your brain is dead! Remember? My house at 1, going to look at prom dresses? Only 3 months till the big day?”
Crap. I forgot.
“Come on, Liv, you think I’d forget something that important?”
“Yeah, sure, whatever, just don’t be late. I am NOT getting my prom dress from Wal-Mart or worse, the consignment store.”
“Liv, I’ll be there.”
“Kay, loves ya, buh-bye!”
Olivia hung up before I even had a chance to respond. It was going to be a long weekend.

I met Liv at her house at 1:30. I’m always running late. When I pulled up, she was standing outside her house tapping her foot impatiently, while shooting me dirty looks. 
“Really, Abby?” Liv said after sliding in my passenger seat, clearly irritated at my tardiness. “I swear you are going to be late to your own funeral.”
I sighed. Liv was my best friend in the whole world, but sometimes she was a handful.
“Liv, let’s just get this over with.”
We drove to the mall and spent the next 3 hours trying on dresses. Liv found a gorgeous orange dress that proudly displayed her generous cleavage. I had to admit it was awesome. It fell just below the knees and flared out in a wide swooping ring around her body, it was strapless, and had wide lacing across the back like a corset. It really flattered her body type and skin tone.
I picked out a beautiful floor length champagne gown trimmed in silver. It had spaghetti straps and was low cut, the whole back was cut out, and the close-fitting bodice was covered in sequins. The skirt had several layers that made it a little poofy but flowed with my body. I loved it, and couldn’t wait to show it off at prom.
After an early dinner, I dropped Liv off back at her house around 6pm, and started making my way back home. Halfway there, I got a call from Jackson. My heart fluttered when I answered. 
“Hey, Jackson.”
“Hi, babe, what’s up?”
“Just dropped Liv off at her place, now I’m headed home. Why?”
“Abby,” he said, voice turning serious, “you know I hate it when you use your phone when you drive. It’s not safe; call me when you get home.”
“Jackson, I-”
And that was when it happened. After all that protesting over the last few years about how nothing was going to happen, the worst did. I didn’t see the truck speeding toward the intersection. I didn’t even think twice about it because there were hardly any cars on that particular street, and I had the green light going straight. So when the semi plowed into my driver’s side at a 90 degree angle, I didn’t even have time to tell him I loved him before I felt the searing hot pain engulf my entire body. The phone had been knocked from my hand, but I still heard Jackson screaming for me.
“Abby? Abby! What’s happening? Ohmigosh, Abby, please, answer me! Oh, God, baby, please…”
I wanted so badly to tell him I loved him. Tell him I was sorry for not listening, and to comfort him. But all I could do was scream in pain and terror. And as the flames consumed my body, darkness took me over and his voice faded into nothing. 


“Abby, please hold on, baby girl, PLEASE!”
What the hell just happened? And what is the horrible roaring sound?
I started freaking out the moment I heard the loud crash and the sound of metal scraping and bending. But the moment I heard Abby’s terrified screams, I snapped into action. I grabbed another phone and dialed 911, slid my shoes on without tying the laces, and as soon as I gave the specifics to the 911 operator I jumped in my car. I raced to where I assumed Abby was, considering there were only a handful of streets between Abby’s and Olivia’s houses.
By the time I got to the intersection of Hapley and Oak, where I suspected the accident had happened, the police, along with paramedics and fire trucks, were already on the scene. But what I saw was far worse than anything I could ever have expected. Abby’s car was engulfed in flames several stories high. The fire fighters were working hard at putting out the car so they could get Abby out. She was trapped inside. My car came to a skidding halt behind a cop car, and I jumped out. An officer grabbed me as I ran toward the inferno, but I barely heard his words. I needed to get to Abby. She was my life, my heart, the other half to my soul. All I could think about was getting to her.
“Son, you can’t go over there!” the officer was screaming.
“ABBY! ABBY! I’m here, Abby, I’m gonna get you out of there, just hold on, baby, HOLD ON!”
I screamed for her, thrashing my scrawny body against the massive wall of the officer’s body. I felt her burning alive. I heard her screaming with pain, agony, and anguish. My heart shattered. I finally stopped fighting and slumped to the ground with the officer holding on to my shoulders. I couldn’t feel the tears streaming down my face. I couldn’t hear the officer when he tried to find out who I was and if I was going to be ok. My mind was spinning. All I could focus on was Abby’s screams.

They finally let me see her on Sunday evening. She had been through multiple surgeries and was still in ICU, but her mom and new boyfriend told the doctors I was family, so they let me in. She had 3rd degree burns covering most of her body, almost every bone in her left side had been either fractured, broken, or shattered completely and had to be reconstructed, she had a punctured lung, and one of her kidneys had been obliterated in the crash.
I was sitting with her cousin Jeff in the ICU waiting room when the doctor came out and told me I could go in there. Her mom was already seated by her side when Jeff and I slowly made our way into the room. There were machines everywhere, and they all seemed to be hooked up to Abby in some way. Wires, cables, IVs, cords, they all seemed to flood into her body, which looked like a mummy wrapped in cloth. It didn’t even look like her. When I walked up to the foot of her bed, I heard Jeff behind me suck in a choking breath. I glanced back and saw the tears welling up. It broke my heart even more. Jeff was a good guy, and he loved Abby as much as Mrs. Wheeler and I did.
Mrs. Wheeler looked up when she heard us, and gave us a weary, teary-eyed smile.
“Oh, Jackson,” she started before her voice caught in her throat and fresh tears spilled down her cheeks.
I rushed over to her, Jeff on my heels, and we both kneeled down and embraced in one big group hug around Mrs. Wheeler. We all cried, thinking about how different everyone’s lives would be, especially Abby. If she makes it. If she ever gets to leave this hospital breathing.
I cried harder at this thought.
I stayed with Abby while Jeff took Mrs. Wheeler home for a while. It was good for both of us. Mrs. Wheeler needed some time away and I needed some time with the love of my life. 
I sat there, staring at the shell that was hiding the love of my life, reliving the last 17 years. Abby and I going camping in her backyard. The first time I realized I felt something for her in 6th grade. Abby losing her front two teeth just in time for school picture day in grade school. The year her mom decided Abby needed a perm, and we stayed up all night with scissors and a straightened trying to get the kinky twists out, eventually giving her a very short haircut that her mom pitched a huge fit over the next morning. Our first kiss behind the bleachers in 8th grade. The homecoming dance when Abby told me she loved me for the first time. The 8 months Abby and I broke up sophomore year and she dated Connor Manning to spite me, and I realized I needed her to make me whole. The junior semi-formal dance where we stayed out till 3am talking and both got grounded. The Christmas her dad left when we were 8 and I stayed with her all night holding her while she cried herself to sleep, and when I was still holding her when she woke the next morning. 
Years and years of memories, some good, some painful, all flooding through my mind. There was no doubt that I loved her now, always had, and always would. And it scared me to think that this could be the last memory I ever made with Abby. This was serious. The doctor gave her a 20% chance of surviving this. Can I go on without her? What would I do without that smile? Those eyes? Her strength?
I was lost in reverie when I heard the door to Abby’s room open. I expected Jeff, or Mrs. Wheeler. I never, EVER, expected to see him.
“Connor?” I asked, my voice barely a whisper, raspy from the frequent battle with the tears.
“I heard about the accident. I wanted to see her.”
I stood up abruptly, anger growing inside my chest.
“Well, you’ve seen her. Now you can leave.”
“Come on, Jackson-”
“No. Get out. Before I call security and have you escorted out of here.”
“Brother, you might want to sit back down and chill. She’s still important to me, too, so you need to get over that.”
“I don’t think so.” I put my hands on his chest and gave a little shove. “I think you’ve outstayed your welcome.”
Connor’s hands balled into fists and in the dimly lit room I saw his expression go from upset and passive to dark and violent. His eyes narrowed and his head bowed slightly. I noticed his right arm pulling back just slightly, ready to take aim at my face.
Suddenly the door opened again.
“What’s going on here?”
Jeff. Back from the Wheeler home. Connor relaxed his arm, but his eyes never left mine.
“This guy was just leaving,” I said, turning and walking back to my perch by Abby’s bed.
Jeff was well built, and Connor was thin and, in my opinion, kind of gangly, but he wasn’t stupid. He knew if he started anything Jeff would have him pinned down and in pain in seconds. Such a pity, it would have been nice to see the rat get some sense knocked into him.
“Don’t think this is over, Shears,” Connor snarled, before spinning on his heels and storming past Jeff and out the door.
Jeff shot me a surprised look as I flopped on the chair and buried my face in my hands.
“Don’t ask, Jeff,” I mumbled through my palms. 
“That seemed to go well.” 
Jeff walked over and rested a hand on my shoulder. I liked the guy, and I was glad he was there.
I sat back and closed my eyes.
“You should take a break from here too,” Jeff said. “You’ve been at this hospital as much as Aunt Kathryn and I. Well, more than I have, even.”
“Uh-uh, I need to be here in case she wakes up.”
“She won’t be alone, Jackson, I’ll be here. And you know I’ll call you the second she starts to come around. You need to get out of here. Besides,” he kneeled next to me and crinkled up his nose. “You kinda need a shower.”
I smiled at that and fake punched his arm.
I hated to admit he was right. I needed some sleep and a shower. Badly. I grudgingly agreed to let Jeff take my position for a few hours. I drove home in a daze, took a hot shower, and fell asleep the moment I laid on the bed.

Tomorrow, I'm going to try and convince the blogger to post a bit more for you. Plus, we may have a guest blogger join us this week. A good one, too. Stay tuned, and after I come out of the turkey coma (with a little help from my pals Jack, Jim, and The Captain, of course) I'll see what I can do for you.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Straight From the Penguin's Beak

Greetings from a Drunken Penguin in Space!! 

I may have a week off from interviews, as it seems the person I have scheduled to interview hasn't gotten back to me yet. Hopefully he just fell behind and will get me some information in the next day or so, but until then, I have some stuff I'm working on too!! 

For example, I have the Twisted Holiday Party that authors and bloggers can participate in. I have a thing for taking the pure innocence of all the December holidays, and twisting them into something dark, scary, and horrible. What can I say? I'm a drunken penguin living in space? Perhaps one day I'll sober up enough to tell my story, but for now, just know I'm a demented sonofabitch. 

Also, I'm going to be interviewing Elrood the Elf (with perhaps a few words with his typist, Eddie McGarrity) very soon. It's going to be pretty weird fun, considering he's an elf and I'm a penguin...I highly recommend everyone reading this character interview!

Not to mention Thanksgiving is coming up. Oh, how I love cooking up a big ol' batch of space turkey! My blogger, Ashley, hosts Thanksgiving dinner at her home, and I laugh while she rushes to clean every inch of her house, then slaves over a hot stove for two days straight. What an idiot. Although, I'd give almost anything to have REAL turkey instead of these kooky space turkeys...

 (<<== Scary Space Turkey!!)

Anyhoo, I will let Ashley get back to her cleaning and crocheting and shopping and writing, and I'm gonna have another drink. Bye for now!!

Sunday, November 18, 2012


I wanna give a big ol' thank you to indie author Tim Kearsley for allowing the Drunken Penguin to interview him and feature him on the blog this week. Everyone rush out to pick up your copy of The Healing Shard for one heck of a good read!!

Tim, the Penguin wishes you nothing but success in your writing career!!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Quoth the Penguin...

I totally failed yesterday as a blogger. I scored a stupid headache that literally turned me into a zombie all day long. I just sat here and stared at my computer like it had two heads, a tail, and was laying eggs while asking to borrow a tampon. Yes. It was that weird for me too. Especially since I'm a penguin. 

So today you will get TWO posts about the incredible Tim Kearsley, author of The Healing Shard. Maybe more, depending on how long I can go before the headache gets bad like yesterday...he deserves it. He's good. :)

That being said, I was curious to hear what others were saying about The Healing Shard, so I checked out Amazon and Goodreads. I was pretty impressed with what was said. I quoted the reviews below, the first from Amazon and the second from Goodreads. Check out what they had to say:

"The Healing Shard was an excellent read with sharp dialogue and wonderful prose. The opening prologue grabs pulls you in filling you with dread and mystery of what is to come. [The Healing Shard] ended up as delightful escapist fun that can truly be enjoyed by all ages!"

"The writing style and editing were excellent compared with some of the books I have read...I was totally drawn in to Leo´s story and would love to see this brought to life on the big screen...He ended the book well (won't say too much) but with enough threads left to continue the story to the next episode. Well done, I will certainly be downloading further books."

This is good stuff! To snag your copy of The Healing Shard for FREE, simply enter the drawing. You can get your name entered multiple times, but hurry! Contest ends tomorrow at 11:59p EST!!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Excerpt - The Healing Shard (Part 2)

You know that feeling you get when you're waiting for the epic conclusion of a really good movie or book? It's ALMOST over, the best part is yet to come, you only have to hold on a little bit longer...then real life intervenes or something happens, and you miss the ending. You're stuck with wondering what happened, and  it's more than a little frustrating. Well folks, that is exactly what you're NOT going to get today! Enjoy Part 2 of the excerpt from The Healing Shard!

Excerpt from The Healing Shard – Chapter 3 - Departure

(Part 2)

 “I’m feeling much better now.” Leo’s mother settled back comfortably in the passenger seat. Another kick from inside reminded her that there would soon be another member of the Robinson family. Her husband reached across and patted her knee.
“Good.”, he said, his mood improving by the minute. They had left the party ten minutes earlier and were well on the way home now. He glanced down at the clock in the dashboard; he’d see the last half-hour of the football if they got a move on. Life wasn’t so bad after all. He pressed a little harder on the accelerator.
“It’s a lovely evening.” Carol went on, looking up through the window at the starry sky. “I wonder if Leo saw his planets, or comets, whatever it is?”
“That boy worries me.”, said Keith in reply. His wife looked across at him, surprised.
“Worries you? Why?”
“All this astrology and science – its not natural. A boy his age should be interested in sport.”, said Keith firmly.
“It’s astronomy, not astrology. Leo would go mad if he heard you say he was interested in astrology.” Keith scowled.
“Astronomy, astrology – its all piffle.”
“Just because he doesn’t share your obsession with football.”, said Carol, as they stopped at a set of traffic lights.
“He just shows no aptitude for sport at all.”, said Keith despairingly. He slipped the car into neutral and pulled on the handbrake.
“Sport isn’t everything.”, his wife replied.
“What sort of a job’s he going to get, with all this astrology?”, he went on. Carol sighed and turned back to watching the sky.
“When I was at school I was a member of the football team, the cricket team and I played tennis for the county.”, said Keith, oblivious to her sigh.
“I know.”, she said dreamily.
“And I was…. what’s he staring at?” A boy turned the corner and was clearly surprised at seeing Batman driving a Ford Focus. Carol started to giggle as the lights changed to amber and then green. They turned left and were soon heading out of the town. They had just a few minutes drive now, along a quiet country road. Keith loved this stretch. It was long and straight and if you needed to hurry along, well you could. Tonight he was being rather more careful as there was clearly frost on the ground.
Carol felt another kick.
“What shall we call him?”, she said suddenly.
“Who do you think?”, she said crossly, rising to the bait her husband had cast. He chuckled as he flipped the car’s headlamps on to full beam.
“We’ll call her Emma”.
“I don’t think it will be a girl.”, said Carol emphatically.
“How do you know?”
“Hmmm. A woman knows these things.” Keith smiled.
“A woman’s intuition.”, he said with mock seriousness. Carol nodded, suddenly sleepy.
“Something like that.”, she agreed, closing her eyes. Keith glanced again at the clock and eased the accelerator pedal a little nearer the floor.
“Well if it’s a boy, we’ll call him Algernon. Or Cuthbert. Or…Oh my God!” Keith stamped on the brake pedal as the figure of an old man suddenly stepped out from the shadows just yards ahead. His wife screamed as the wheels slipped out of control on the ice and they began to skid across the road. The figure stood motionless as the car slewed past him, missing him by inches. Keith wrenched on the steering wheel to try and regain control but it spun uselessly in his hands and the car careered across the verge on the opposite side of the road, smashed through the hedge, splintering wood and glass as the windscreen shattered and finally thudded hard into a huge oak tree at the edge of a copse. There was a loud hiss of steam as the radiator folded and burst. Keith Robinson felt blood trickle into his right eye and a searing pain in his right leg. Dimly, he saw his wife bent forward, her head on the dashboard, blood pooling on the floor beneath. He thought he saw someone moving outside too; a shadow against the stars. Then the darkness wrapped itself around his pain and he slipped into unconsciousness.

* * *

Every few minutes, Leo put his hand into his pocket to feel the strange, new thing he had found. Every time he was surprised at how it felt so cold. It was as though each time he touched it it drew energy from him. He quickly discovered that the jagged side was razor sharp and had to be treated with respect. The other side was as smooth as ice. He hurried along as fast as he could, both fascinated and a little scared. More than once he thought about phoning his father to tell him about it, but each time something made him change his mind.
Steadily, the star-filled black sky turned to a pale orange desert, as he returned to the town. At last, his back garden hedge came into view. Despite the cold, he was sweating. Usually it took him thirty-five minutes to walk back from the old barn to his house; this time he had done it in twenty-five. He scrambled through the gap in the hedge and walked up the path and along the side of the house. The Robinsons always locked the back door from inside, so he had to use the front door again.
As he came round the corner into the front garden he stopped abruptly. A stranger was standing a few feet from the front door. He caught sight of Leo immediately and the two stared at each other for a few seconds. Then the stranger spoke.
“Leo?”, he said uncertainly. Leo stayed where he was and put his hand into his coat pocket and felt for his mobile phone. He couldn’t see the stranger’s face clearly in the orange light from the street lamps but he was sure it wasn’t anyone he knew. He seemed to be dressed rather oddly from what he could see.
“Who are you?”, he said after a few moments. The stranger seemed ill at ease and kept turning around, as if he was looking for something, or someone. Leo moved a little further away from the house.
“What do you want?”, Leo demanded, tightening his hand on his phone. Then he noticed that the front door was slightly ajar, light from within showing a bright line of yellow down one side. He felt panic rise within him.
“What’s going on?” The stranger took a step towards him.
“I’m calling the police.”, said Leo, taking the phone out of his pocket and aiming it at the stranger like a weapon. Then, out of the corner of his eye, he noticed Mrs. Goodman’s front door was open too. The panic turned into a chilling fear.
“Mrs. Goodman, where is she?”, he said slowly. The stranger stopped and Leo could see his face was that of a man in his thirties or perhaps forty.
“Mrs…. Goodman….”. The man seemed to be searching for the right word. “Mrs Goodman….. is… dead.” Leo stared blankly. Then he pressed the key to unlock his phone and started to key in 999.
“Don’t do that.”, said the stranger. Leo paid no attention. His hands were shaking and he mis-keyed. He cancelled and tried again.
“Please don’t”, the stranger repeated. Leo didn’t look up. This time he got it right. The blue display on the phone shone into his face. 999. He went to press the “Call” key.
“LEO!” The stranger’s shout made Leo jerk his head up. As he did so, it seemed that his hand became paralysed and, try as he might, he could not make the call. Then he began to feel dizzy and it felt as though the ground was pushing up through him and he in turn was sinking through it. It was getting darker and quieter. The display on the phone changed from a pale blue to a beautiful, deep ultramarine and the pale orange of the street lights deepened to red. The stranger seemed to elongate and smear in front of his eyes. The fear and panic disappeared and a peace and calm came over him. Then he sank into oblivion.

Well, there you have it. A good author knows when to leave you wanting more, and I don't know about you, but I want more. Enter the drawing to win a copy of The Healing Shard!!