Category Archives: Uncategorized

Cover Reveal, Calamity

Calamity - FullRes 6 x 9I’m pleased to reveal the cover of my next airline thriller, Calamity. The amazing David C. Cassidy took my vague suggestions and worked them into this eyebrow-raising, smile-inducing cover.

 I’ve sent the manuscript off to be edited by Susan H. Gottfried, the editor of my previous novels. I look forward to seeing the magic she works. I’ll post the first chapter of the novel after I get the manuscript back from her.

 

The Hot Box 8 Thrillers Bundled Together

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SIZZLING THRILLER HOT BOX RELEASE:

8 SIZZLING THRILLERS FROM 8 BEST-SELLING AUTHORS

Get Yours Today

Amazon

Smashwords (99c)

Goodreads

It is my pleasure to host the release of The Hot Box. A bundled book containing eight thriller authors at an incredibly low price. A couple of these authors I have read and highly recommend. The others I can’t wait to read their offerings in this bundle. Below are the list of authors and a blurb for their story.

Fade to Black by Steven BannisterSteven Bannister – Fade to Black – Allie St Clair is young and brilliant and today she’s been promoted to Detective Chief Inspector at New Scotland Yard. But the time for celebration is short. Something is wrong in rain-swept London. Very wrong.

 

 

 

 

 

The Cortes Enigma Jonn Paul DavisJohn Paul Davis – The Cortes Enigma –1581: It appeared in the west as the sun was setting, a distant silhouette like a fire on the water. Twelve hours later it appeared again, this time much closer to the mainland. Who was on board or where they came from remained a mystery. No trace of the vessel was ever found.
 

 

 

 

 

Never Released Before:

Sanctioned Kill CR HiattC R Hiatt – Sanctioned Kill –Destined for Danger. Sanctioned to Kill. Hot on the trail of an international weapons ring, covert agent Kyra Ray finds herself caught in the cross-hairs of a ruthless arms dealer in the perilous mountains of war-torn Afghanistan. Closing in, the mission takes an unexpected and near-deadly turn in the high-stakes drama of New York City, where Kyra is mysteriously spared by an assassin sent to kill her. Retrained as an assassin and given strict orders to take him down, Kyra becomes trapped in a game of cat-and-mouse that will put her life on the line and her directive to the test—her sanction to kill.
 

 

The Disavowed David LeadbeaterDavid Leadbeater – The Razor’s Edge –Trent, Silk and Radford are the Razor’s Edge and the best spy team in the business – until the government they toiled, served and bled for, disavowed them.

 

 

 

 

 

Race Amazon Andy LucasAndy Lucas – Race Amazon –James Pace, ex-RAF helicopter pilot and amateur cameraman, is still trying to figure out what to do with the rest of his life when a child’s bullet nearly kills him.

 

 

 

 

 

Dead Reckoning Karen PerkinsKaren Perkins – Dead Reckoning –A historical adventure of piracy, love and revenge in the Caribbean in the seventeenth century.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heron Park C. K. RaggioC K Raggio – Heron Park –A small Long Island town erupts in a panic when a woman and her dog are found savagely murdered on a popular hiking trail.

 

 

 

 

 

Wild Child Mike WellsMike Wells – Wild Child –A fast, suspenseful thriller with an ending that you’ll never see coming.

 

Scott Bury’s, Army of Worn Soles

Army of Worn SolesI’m pleased to be part of a group promoting author Scott Bury’s new novel, Army of Worn Soles. I look forward to reading it when it is released. Here’s Scott’s blurb:

1941: Their retreat across Ukraine wore their boots out—and they kept going.

Three months after drafting him, the Soviet Red Army throws Maurice Bury, along with millions of other under-trained men, against the juggernaut of Nazi Germany’s Operation Barbarossa, the assault on the USSR.

This true story is unique in English: the personal account of a Canadian man conscripted into the Red Army, facing the of the biggest invasion in the history of warfare.

Army of Worn Soles launches June 22 on Amazon. Visit the author’s blog, Written Words, for more info and to pre-order.

Charlie’s Story Improvement

ImageCharlie here, I’m Dana’s other dog. Recently while he was away on a trip I pawed through one of his novels and had to shake my head. Not the ear flapping shake I give it when I wake from a nap, but a slower one. There isn’t a single mention of a dog in the story. After living for years with Hunter and me you’d think he’d know how much better a dog can make a story.

Here’s a short passage from one of his stories. Afterward I’ll show how much better it could be if he’d put a faithful four-legged companion in the story.

A movement outside the glass doors leading out to the pool caught Kyle’s eye. He stared, but didn’t see anything. Was he seeing things because he’d had a long day?

When he flipped the switch for the lights out back, blackness greeted him. Had the circuit breaker popped? A kid in the neighborhood might’ve sneaked over to use the pool and unscrewed the bulbs. That had happened once before.

He swung the door open and stepped out. Before he was fully through the door, he sensed more than saw movement coming at his head from the side. His Kung Fu trained reflexes took over. He leaned back, letting the punch fly past him, and latched onto the attacker’s arm.

He lurched forward, twisted, used the arm as a lever, and propelled the guy to his knees.

He kicked the extended arm hard enough to cause pain but not break it. If it was the neighbor kid, he only wanted to teach him a lesson, not cripple him.

The arm belonged to a black-clad man who wore a ski mask. The guy cried out.

Clothing rustled behind Kyle. He spun and landed a heel kick into another masked guy’s stomach.

Attacker Two let out an “Oomph” but grabbed Kyle’s leg.

Kyle launched a palm strike at the man’s throat. Before he connected, Attacker Two touched his leg with a device.

There was a flash of blue light and pain raced through his body. Kyle yelled and crashed to the patio, twitching with seizure-like spasms. His limbs seemed to have a mind of their own.

As if from a distant place, he heard Attacker Two asking One if he was okay.

“Fucker might’ve broken my arm.” Attacker Two grabbed Kyle’s ankles and dragged him towards the pool.

Kyle’s shirt rolled up. The concrete tore into his skin. He squeezed his eyes shut against the pain. The majority of his twitching had subsided, but he was powerless to squirm away. He lay quivering at the pools edge.

Assailant Two leaned down. “Stay away from Stacy Herren. If we find out you’ve talked or met with her, your next warning won’t be as gentle.” His gravelly voice suggested he was a heavy smoker.

He rolled Kyle into the pool.

Now see how much better this scene would be if he’d included a one-hundred-plus-pounder like me.

Charlie began to growl before movement outside the glass doors leading out to the pool caught Kyle’s eye. He stared, but didn’t see anything. Was he seeing things because he’d had a long day? No. Charlie didn’t get riled easily.

When he flipped the switch for the lights out back, blackness greeted him. Had the circuit breaker popped? A kid in the neighborhood might’ve sneaked over to use the pool and unscrewed the bulbs. That had happened once before and Charlie had chased him off.

He swung the door open and before he could step out, Charlie bolted barking with that deep bark that would scare off the jackals from hell.

“Ahh,” a man yelled out.

Charlie had clamped in his teeth the hand of a figure clad in black. Faithful loyal Charlie gave the hand a vigorous shake.

“Get him off me! Get him off me!”

Charlie must’ve smelled someone else as he let go and turned to sink his teeth into the wrist of another man. An object fell from his hand and clattered on the patio.

Kyle picked it up and touched it to neck of the first guy Charlie had taken out.

A flash of blue light lit up the night accompanied by a buzzing noise before the guy fell to the ground and lay quivering.

Kyle twisted and touched the second man with the device. He also collapsed.

“That’s enough, boy,” Kyle said giving Charlie a pat.

Charlie let go and looked up into his master’s eyes.

“What would I have done without you, big boy?”

If you think the second scene is better than the first, let Dana know. Maybe he’ll start putting one of my brethren in his stories.

Interview with Sami Saxton

ImageI’m at Brio, a quaint Italian café on Lexington Avenue in New York City with Sami Saxton, from Douglas Wickard’s thriller, A Perfect Husband. Sami is having a martini with lots of large green olives. Seriously. That’s how she ordered it. I’m sticking to coffee.

She looks younger than the early forties that she is and combined with her above average height I wonder why her ex-husband strayed. His loss.

“Sami, at the beginning of A Perfect Husband, you sold your house you shared with your ex-husband for many years to move to a cabin you inherited from your family in New Jersey. It seemed from this reader’s perspective the move gave you the opportunity to do some soul searching about your upbringing and marriage you might not have accomplished had you stayed in the city where you’d lived all your life. Do you agree?” 

“Well, let’s just say I needed a major break from the City. I wanted a disruption. Kind of like when you move to a foreign country and you don’t speak the language, know the customs, the people… at the time it felt like the right move, the right choice. Little did I know…?”

That’s an understatement. Learning new customs doesn’t even compare to fighting for her life. “What did you hope the move would do for you?”

“Here goes Sami; wearing rose-colored glasses…I think in my mind, I had an ideal picture of the country house being my own personal Walden’s Pond. You know, solitude, peace, the great outdoors. I didn’t really get in touch with all those childhood memories until I actually stepped over the threshold. Then, they sort of all came crashing in on me… do you mind if I order another martini. If you catch Luigi’s eye, can you wave him over…thanks.”

The immediate raising and waving of my arm reminds me of the veterinarian in the story who wanted to please Sami. Get a grip, Dana. “Putting aside the fact you and your dog, Blue, came close to being murdered, do you have any regrets about making the move?”

“Other than coming close to being murdered?  No. (laughs nervously) Luigi, this is Dana Griffin. A wonderful writer friend of mine. Can you shake me up another? This is my limit, though, Dana. Only two. Promise.”

I give Luigi a nod while wondering how often Sami feels the need to limit herself. Is it me, or did she avoid answering the question. “If you hadn’t had the encounter with the serial killer, do you think you would’ve come to enjoy living in your cabin? Or, might’ve spent summers there?”

“I think the idea of living at the cabin was more intoxicating than the actual reality of it. Kind of like LOVE. Thank you, Luigi. Cheers, to love… I would’ve gotten bored. It was a nice fantasy. I’m glad I’m back in New York. Blue misses the country, the woods…but this is our home. Right Blue? (Blue is curled up in a ball beside her. He looks up for a second then goes right back to sleep after a sigh) I grew up here. I love the City. Don’t you?”

“Ah… I enjoy visiting it.” It’s amazing the ability she has to turn a conversation away from herself. She doesn’t even seem to notice she does so. “During your time at the cabin, you discover clues it was used in your absence. You also discover a scarf from a young woman who’d been murdered in the woods behind the cabin. Now, do you wish you’d looked further into who and why your cabin had been used?”

“You know, once my mother died and my father abandoned the cabin, I never thought of it. I didn’t drive at the time and I was overly concerned with my father, who was in Florida living in a retirement community developing Alzheimer’s and suffering from Leukemia. I didn’t have an opportunity to even think about the cottage. What it was being used for… the thought never crossed my mind. I was working full time, living my life, going through a divorce… (a big gulp of Vodka) I did have a dear friend of mine go up and check on it from time to time. He’s a writer, also. I’ll have to introduce the two of you.”

“That’d be nice.” I sip my coffee while thinking about how we get so caught up in life we ignore signs of trouble. “Without giving away the ending of the story, or the following sequel, A Perfect Setup, how has the experience in the story changed you?”

“I’m alive. And, getting stronger every day. Drew, you know Drew… we’re taking a transatlantic cruise together this summer… to Italy… I don’t know how she ever convinced me to do that!  Hopefully, it will be perfect!”

I chuckle. It seems everything in Sami’s life that is perfect is just the opposite. “Thank you for your time Ms. Saxton. Hopefully we can meet again to continue our discussion.”

“Thank you, Dana. I’m looking forward to your next novel. I loved the first two COERCED and THE COVER UP. Maybe I’ll take it along with me on the cruise… xoxo!”

I lay a credit card on the table. “Thank you, but I doubt my wife would approve of me going on a cruise without her.”

“No, no, this is my treat! Even the tip!”

 If you wish to read the adventure Sami has in A Perfect Husband. You can find it here: http://www.amazon.com/Perfect-Setup-Sami-Saxton-Novel-ebook/dp/B00E9BT8LI/ref=sr_1_3?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1394976012&sr=1-3&keywords=Douglas+Wickard

You can find out about her creator here: http://www.douglaswickardbooks.com/

Hunter’s Worries

ImageHunter here, I’m one of Dana’s dogs, and I’m worried about him. He sits at his desk when the light outside gets bright and stays there staring at that thing that glows making it go click click until it gets dark outside.

 I worry about him during these times. What’s that light doing to him? Why do his fingers dance around?

I try to help him break out of the trance he seems to get in by walking under his desk and putting my head in his lap with a toy in my mouth. Once in a while he pulls it from my teeth and throws it down the hall. Other times he’ll give me a pat, which I don’t mind a bit, but he always resumes making the thing click.

 Occasionally he’ll stand and I think we are going to play or go outside and go for a walk. I’ll jump to my feet and search for a toy to take with us. But he’ll either get another cup of that dark drink with the strong smell he consumes large quantities of and returns to his desk, or, he’ll pace back and forth before plopping back into his chair and the clicking resumes.

 During these times I might get a pat, which I don’t mind a bit, most of the time I’m usually ignored. What’s a dog to do?

 I heard him telling Becky, my other master, he’s a third of the way through his next airline thriller with a working title of A Calamity. Does this mean he’ll be this way for a while longer?

 Dogs of writers out there, do you have the same problems with your masters?

Interviewed by Douglas Wickard

I’m interviewed by the author of the thrillers, A Perfect Husband, A Perfect Setup, and Encounter, Douglas Wickard. Your can read the interview at: http://douglaswickard.blogspot.com/2014/02/up-close-personal-with-dana-griffin.html?showComment=1392926078037#c8264938390262789836

He asks me about the creative process and where my stories come from. We discuss my two books. Look for an interview of one of his protagonists here in the near future.

Thank you for the fun interview, Douglas.

Fantastical Reading Event, Day Four

A new author is featured on the eight day M. E. Lorde’s Fantastical Reading Event.

ImageToday’s author is Elyse Salpeter, author of thriller novels. Unfortunately I haven’t read the book sponsored here, yet. But I have read another of her novels, Flying to the Light, a young adult thriller. The plot of that story surprised me since Elyse is a mother. She put children into situations that had this adult squirming to get involved in the story and help the characters out. Children shouldn’t have to go through the  trauma and difficulties Elyse puts her characters through. The pace of her stories is fast, making this reader forget he should be getting ready to catch flight, or get some much needed sleep.

I have no doubt The Hunt for Xanadu is as enjoyable read as Flying to the Light. I look forward to reading it. You can learn more about Elyse, or follow her here:

Twitter: @elysesalpeter

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/elysesalpeter

Website: http://elysesalpeter.wordpress.com/

ImageThe Hunt for Xanadu-

Link http://ow.ly/sDBf7

Author Elyse Salpeter-

FANTASY/THRILLER

Twenty-two year old Kelsey Porter has dedicated her life to avenging the death of her parents, murdered in their quest to find the mystical land of Xanadu. Before she can locate the murderers, she has to discover their motives for the brutal crime and finds herself at the epicenter of a Buddhist mystery as old as time. With the help of her companion, Detective Desmond Gisborne, she hunts the killers across the globe and discovers a darkness in her spiritual past that tests the very limits of her soul. Soon she realizes that it is not she who is doing the hunting, but the one being hunted. Kelsey must find a way to survive, while ancient demons attempt to destroy her.

Fantastical Reading Event

Starting today, February 1st until February 8th, these writers are being presented on M. E. Lorde’s Fantastical Reading Event.

ImageThe author being sponsored today is Elise Stokes, author of three young adult superhero series, Cassidy Jones. I’ve read all three of her novels, Cassidy Jones and the Secret Formula, Cassidy Jones and Vulcan’s Gift, and Cassidy Jones and the Seventh Attendant, and can’t wait for the fourth one to be released this year, Cassidy Jones and the Luminous. Although listed as young adult, any age reader would enjoy the antics Cassidy and her genius best friend Emery get into. Reading these books will deepen your smile and worry lines. There are some very tender scenes that’ll make you want to give Cassidy a hug. I hope you enjoy her books as much as I do.

Below is her bio, an excerpt from book one, and some reviews.>

Cassidy Jones Series

Elise Stokes cassidy jonesCassidy Jones and The Secret Formula

Elise Stokes lives with her husband and four children. She was an elementary school teacher before becoming a full-time mom. With a daughter in middle school and two in high school, Elise’s understanding of the challenges facing girls in that age range inspired her to create a series that will motivate girls to value individualism, courage, integrity, and intelligence. The stories in Cassidy Jones Adventures are fun and relatable, and a bit edgy without taking the reader uncomfortably out of bounds. Cassidy Jones and the Secret Formula, Cassidy Jones and Vulcan’s Gift, and Cassidy Jones and the Seventh Attendant are the first three books in the series. Book Four, Cassidy Jones and the Luminous, will be released in 2014.

DescriptionCassidy Jones and The Secret Formula
One Girl. One Accident. One Incredible Superhero.  
     

Cassidy Jones is your typical fourteen-year-old– that is, until a seemingly harmless accident in the laboratory of a world-renowned geneticist turns her world upside down. 
Discovering incredible strength, speed, and enhanced physical senses that defy logic, Cassidy embarks on an action-packed adventure that has her fighting for answers…and for her very life.

Excerpt-

Chapter Nine: A New Friend

Summary: Cassidy takes Emery into her confidence.

We sat on opposite benches, our knees a foot apart. Emery watched me curiously while I considered how to start. I resorted to small talk. 

“Uh, Emery, so where do you live?”

“We rent a condo near Wallingford,” he answered patiently, making no attempt to elaborate. 

“Oh.” I touched my forehead. “Were you born in Seattle?”

“No, Washington, D.C.” Placing his forearms on his knees, he leaned forward. “How did you hurt your forehead?”

I dropped my hand. “Funny. That’s what I want to talk to you about.”

Intently looking at my face, he waited for me to continue.

I touched my nose. “Before yesterday, I had freckles. They were light, but they were there.”

Narrowing his eyes on my nose, he attempted to decipher.

Taking a deep breath, I continued, “Sorry, that didn’t make any sense. Let me put it this way—I had freckles when I went to your mom’s lab with my dad.”

His expression became so intense, frightening almost, that I hesitated. My feelings about him were conflicted. He made me uneasy. Everything about him was so foreign.

Emery’s voice took on a soothing tone. “I understand that you injured your head in my mom’s lab. Please, tell me how. You can trust me. I want to help you.”

I searched his eyes. It was difficult to penetrate through the blackness, adding to my unease. “I don’t think you can.”

Impulsively, or maybe intentionally, he grabbed my hand, holding it between his. “Please, tell me,” he repeated.

I took another deep, tortured breath. “Your mom had something cooking in beakers on that Bunsen burner near the coffeemaker. While Dad interviewed her, I sat on a stool next to them. The stool collapsed and I fell, knocking everything over onto the table. When the liquids ran together, they formed this white cloud, and I breathed it in. It’s difficult to explain exactly what happened. My whole body felt like it was on fire, melting from the inside, and then everything went black. I guess I passed out or something. Afterward, I was…changed.”

“What do you mean by ‘changed’?” he asked, slowly and calmly, squeezing my hand.

Pulling my hand from his grip, I lifted it to my fore-head. “When I passed out, I hit my head on the edge of the counter. My forehead split, or at least, that’s what Dad and Ben said, and with all the blood, I don’t think they were wrong.” My fingers trembled against the gauze. “The doctor at the ER said it was only a surface wound. He thought Dad and Ben had been fooled by the blood, thinking it was worse than it really was. Heput a bandage over it and this gauze.”

Emery’s gaze fixed on my unsteady fingers, watching as I pinched the surgical tape and hesitantly pulled the gauze away, exposing my forehead. His eyes filled with disbelief.

“How did this happen, Emery?”

Shaking his head, his gaze dropped to his hands in his lap.

Quiet minutes ticked by. With each passing one, I sank deeper into despair. When I couldn’t take the silence anymore, I pleaded, “Please, Emery, say something.”

“Be patient. I’m thinking.”

“Well, think out loud.”

Smiling slightly cock-eyed, he said, “Trust me, you don’t want me to do that.”

Does he think this is a joke? Furious, I slapped the gauze on my forehead. “Trust you? Apparently that was a mistake.” Abruptly, I stood up, causing the swing to sway.

Emery commanded calmly.

Glaring, I sat. I had nowhere else to go.

“Trusting me is the right thing to do. Aside from my mom, I’m the only other person who understands anything of depth about Formula 10X.”

“Formula 10X?” I said with hope. “That’s what was in the beakers?” 

“Yes, or at least, a variation of it. I don’t know for certain, because she kept her latest experimentation with the formula undisclosed.”

“Why would she keep it a secret from you?” I asked, truly interested. 

He smiled to himself. “That’s the way she is. I assume she wanted to prove out her new theories before bringing me back in.”

Strange, I thought. He says this like he didn’t ask her about it. Why wouldn’t he ask? “Well, she did it. It works. I’m living proof she succeeded.”

“No, I don’t think she did,” he disagreed, sounding regretful. “How the formula has affected you would not have been her intention.” Pausing, he looked thoughtful. “However, it’s premature for me to come to that conclusion until I know precisely how you’ve been affected, or changed, as you put it. Tell me everything.”

“Everything” poured out at once. I ended my twenty-seven-hour saga with this: “At the police station, I thought you’d figured it all out. The way you looked at me all intense, it seemed like you guessed everything that was going on.”

Shaking his head, Emery smiled. “Though I admit I did find your behavior odd, I wouldn’t have guessed this in a million years.”

Despite the situation, I laughed. He found my behavior odd? I also thought the “million years” was an exaggeration. I had a feeling Emery wasn’t in the dark about anything for long. “Okay, now you know everything. What do you think?” Silence was his only response as he studied my face. His scrutiny reminded me of his mother’s—clinical, detached—like he observed me under a microscope. This was disturbing, to say the least. 

My brow furrowed. “Stop staring at me like that. I know I’m a freak.”

“Cassidy, you are not a freak,” he contradicted, his expression softening. “Don’t ever say or think that. I certainly don’t view you that way. I’m only astounded by how you’ve been affected. From a scientific perspective, it’s impossible.”

“It can’t be.” My eyes welled. “Look at me.”

Alert to the coming despair, Emery placed a reassuring hand on my shoulder. “But that doesn’t mean we won’t find a solution. I promise you, we will.”

Emery spoke with such earnest confidence that I couldn’t help but believe him. Nodding agreement, I dabbed my wet eyes with my sleeve.

It a human recipient by choosing genes that represent different strengths of the nonhuman and infusing those genes into the weakened cells and tissues of the human. For example, a human who is crippled would perhaps be infused with puma genes, since they are known for their agility and strength. The goal is not to make the human like the puma, but to restore the human’s function and health within a normal range.”

“Well, why am I like a puma, then?”

“I don’t know exactly. Obviously, by your intense physical reaction when initially exposed, something in the formula overloaded your nervous system. Maybe 10X affected you so extremely because you’re a young, healthy girl who received the formula in its entirety. What I mean is, you would have never been a 10X candidate, since you suffer none of the disabilities and ailments an appropriate candidate would. Also, the recipient would have been administered the formula in small doses, tailored to their needs. Your exposure was radical, and now you’re experiencing the full potent affects of 10X. Do you understand?”

I nodded. “I think so. It’s like a glass half filled with water, slowly having more added until it reaches the rim. I was already a full glass, and 10X was an entire pitcher poured into me at once.” Dread brewed inside me as I continued. “And now that the water has spilled, there’s no way to tell where it will go or what will happen to it.”

“That’s one way to look at it,” Emery said, dismally looking at the woods. For several seconds he didn’t speak, lost in thought.

During those quiet seconds, I stared at the ground, not thinking, only waiting. When I felt his eyes on my face, I looked up. His expression was determined.

“None of this makes sense, but obviously, it isn’t impossible. As you pointed out, you’re living proof. Since it isn’t impossible, there is an answer and solution. Tell me again, in detail, what you experienced when the liquids converged.”

Quickly, I explained again. Finishing the account, I held my breath expectantly.

Smiling slightly, he shrugged. “I have nothing.”

My breath rushed out in an offended gust. “What? Do you think this is a game or something?”

“No,” he quickly clarified. “I’m sorry, Cassidy, that came across as glib. I truly have nothing, and it frustrates me. I understand the compounds turned to a gas, but I have no idea why. And I have no idea what they formed or why your nervous system reacted so violently when you inhaled the gas. There has to be an unknown, a catalyst that pushed everything over the edge. What that catalyst is, again, I haven’t a clue…Cassidy, are you listening to me?”

Actually, I wasn’t. A black cat near the path leading to the woods had caught my eye. Low to the ground, it focused intensely on something in the tall grass. I recognized what it was doing because I had done it myself. The cat was hunting, stalking its prey. After commando-crawling toward its victim, it sank low in the grass, anticipating the kill. Opportunity arrived. Black fur gracefully glided through the air. The cat easily landed on the unfortunate victim: a brown field mouse.

I watched the cat excitedly toss the mouse in the air, remorselessly tormenting its victim. Dread slid through my stomach. “Emery, you mentioned pumas. Do you think there was cat DNA in that stuff I sucked in?”

Turning back to him, I saw that he had been watching the cat, too. He replied, “She experimented with feline DNA.”

I took this as a yes. Oh, geez.

“There is another thing I’ve noticed different about me,” I began hesitantly. Emery looked back at me, and I could feel my cheeks warm under his gaze. I really didn’t want to bring this up, but thought I should after what he witnessed at the sports field. “I don’t usually have meltdowns. I’m not one of those emotional girls… at least, I wasn’t…I have no idea why I started bawling like that.”

His response wasn’t hesitant at all. “The changes you’ve experienced are not only physical, but chemical, so it stands to reason you will be more prone to mood swings and extreme reactions. And it will be more difficult—how should I say it?—to shove feelings down.”

I stared at him in surprise. He had pegged me. I was the queen of shoving down unwanted feelings. “If you’re right, Emery, poor me—poor everyone.”

To this, he only smiled, and then said, “It’s about time you showed me what you can do.” Glancing across the sprawling lawn, his eyes settled on a couple lying together on the grass. They were far enough away that their facial features were indistinguishable. “Tell me about them.”

Rising to the challenge, I adjusted the couple until they appeared a few feet away. On their stomachs, they turned their heads in so they were nose to nose.

“Okay, the guy has shoulder-length, brown—”

Emery interrupted, squinting his eyes. “You’ll have to do better than that. Even I can see his hair.”

“Well, can you see he has a silver hoop through the right side of his bushy, black unibrow? And there’s a mole smack in the middle of his left cheek.” I grimaced. “Geez, he should have that removed. Okay, his girlfriend has multiple piercings. She looks like a pincushion. There are three small hoops through her left eyebrow. One. Two. Three. No, four diamond studs on the left side of her nose. Gross. A gold hoop hanging between her nostrils—”

With a look of distaste, Emery cut in. “You’ve convinced me with vision. All right, they appear to be talking. Can you hear what they’re saying?”

“No prob.” I smiled confidently, weeding through surrounding noise. After a moment, I tuned into the man’s husky whispers. “Okay, got them. He’s saying—” My jaw dropped. Immediately, I severed the connection, but not before turning bright red.

Emery laughed hysterically.

Still blushing, I watched him sternly. Every time he looked at me, he laughed harder. Child prodigy or not, ultimately, boys will be boys.

Taking a deep breath, he suddenly composed himself. “Sorry, Cassidy, but your expression was hysterical. You’ve convinced me that you heard them.” He grinned.

In response, I scowled.

“Again, I apologize,” he repeated with an amused grin. “All right, let’s move on to another test.” Scanning the park, his gaze settled behind me. “Don’t turn around. Behind you, that toddler is now eating something.”

Closing my eyes, I sniffed the air. There were so many competing scents. “Is it sweet?” I asked.

“Yes, it is.”

Nodding, I took in a deep breath. Distinguishing scents, I pinpointed a sweet, edible one close by. Opening my eyes, I grinned. “My, you’re tricky, Emery. First of all, that isn’t called eating. That’s called drinking, and he’s drinking apple juice.”

Emery gave me an impressed look. “I can’t see the juice box from here, so I’ll take your word for it.” Grabbing my hands, he stood up, pulling me to my feet. “Now, let’s test strength.”

 “Are you asking me to toss you off here or break your fingers?” I teased, slightly squeezing them.

Grinning, he pulled his hands away. “Definitely not the fingers, and I think tossing me from this swing is too public, though I admit it would be a good show.” He nodded to the woods. “We’ll find something more discreet in there.”

While following the path through the woods, Emery’s eyes roamed for that something discreet. About a hundred feet in, he suggested, “Let’s get off this main path. Over there.” He pointed to a thinly trodden trail cutting through thick growth.

 Following Emery, we pushed our way through the growth. Obviously, no one had come down this overgrown trail in a while. I got the brunt of the overgrowth as the branches Emery pushed forward sprung back at me. After getting slapped in the face with one, I was prepared to demand that I lead, when Emery said, “Yes, this will work.”

Stepping into a clearing, he pointed to a fallen tree twenty feet ahead.

Smiling, I decided to show him leaping before strength. “Stand back,” I warned, pushing him aside. Then, running forward, I leaped for the target. Leading with my right foot, my body glided easily through the air. The exhilaration I had felt while speeding around the school track returned, and that strange, pent-up feeling released. For whatever reason, this very unnatural thing felt as natural as walking to me, and incredibly freeing, as if I had been meant for this.

My right foot touched the top of the massive trunk,and my left pulled in next to it. The landing had been perfect, steady and strong, without even a hint of balance loss. Pivoting on the trunk to face Emery, I smiled smugly.

Walking toward me, he exclaimed, “That was incredible. You move like a cat.”

His praise wiped the smile off my face. “Cat,” I grumbled to myself. “What’s up with the cat theme?” With a sigh, I hopped down next to him. “I suppose you want me to move this.” I patted the thick tree trunk.

Emery examined the area around the tree. “It appears safe. I don’t see any danger if you disturb it. First, make sure there isn’t anyone nearby.”

My ears quickly searched. “All clear,” I announced, moving up to the trunk.

Emery stepped back, his face shining with anticipation.

Resting my palms against the trunk, I prepared to move the giant tree. Pulling in a breath, I pushed. The tree was heavy, but with exertion, the giant’s resistance gave way. I rolled the trunk up out of the indented ground. From underneath, something scurried up the trunk near my left hand. Squealing, I jumped back. The thick trunk rolled back into its resting place.

 Emery grinned. “It was only a lizard.”

 “I hate lizards.” I shuddered. “The nasty thing almost ran over my hand.”

“Ironic. You can push fifteen hundred pounds, and you’re scared of a little lizard.”

I gasped. “One thousand five hundred pounds?”

Surveying the tree, he nodded thoughtfully. “At least.”

The information stunned me. “Okay, then. What do you want me to do next?”

For the next couple of hours, Emery sought out all kinds of challenges, from moving boulders and leaping into trees, to distinguishing sounds and scents. He even had me describe in detail what tree bark looked like microscopically.

Something else took place during this time. My unease around Emery disappeared. In fact, it amazed me just how comfortable I felt around him. Though he was my age, he had none of the uncertainties we teens are usually plagued with. For the most part, I walked on eggshells around girls my age. Saying or doing the wrong thing could trigger an instant “girl war.” Even though my friends weren’t petty, instinctively, I was careful. The boys weren’t as sensitive but were every bit as gossipy. So in general, I watched my back, never letting my guard down. It was exhausting. With Emery, I believed I could be myself, say the wrong thing, do the wrong thing, and he wouldn’t hold it against me. He really was a breath of fresh air.

After testing senses, strength, and agility, Emery announced, “It’s time for speed. Let’s see how fast you can go through these woods.”

Back at the main path, we parted ways. The plan was for Emery to go to one entrance and me to the other. After listening to be sure the coast was clear, I would tune in to him where he would be looping a countdown out loud. From my end of the path, I tuned in to the woods. All I heard was Emery’s looping countdown. Positioning myself to run, I listened.

“. . . Three, two, one—”

I took off at a mind-boggling speed. Within seconds, I stood before Emery. Wide-eyed, he stared at me like he’d seen a ghost.

“Unbelievable,” he uttered above a whisper.

 His reaction made me edgy. “How fast do you think I ran?” I asked, attempting to sound casual.

 “My guess would be forty miles per hour. Imagine how fast you would be on a solid, straight surface. I’ve never witnessed anything like this.” His mouth pulled down in the corners.

With an anxious feeling in my gut, I studied him. His face held no expression, as if he wore a mask to hide real emotions. The more I looked at him, the more I believed the emotion he hid was fear. If he’s terrified of me, everyone will be, I anguished.

 “What do you want me to do now?”  I said sheepishly.

 “Nothing,” he answered, distracted. “Let’s head out.” He motioned for me to walk ahead.

 With Emery following silently behind, I walked in a daze. I assumed he had me walk ahead to keep an eye on me.I am the most dangerous thing out here ,I bitterly told myself. I’d make me walk ahead, too, and—

Something scratchy brushed my cheek, interrupting the thought. Reflex kicked in, and before a second passed, I was crouched on a tree branch, looking down at Emery. Smirking, he waved a dry tree branch in his hand.

 “What’s the big deal?” I snapped, hopping down.

Tossing the branch, he stated, untroubled, “I assumed you would react that way when startled. We’ll have to work on those involuntary reflexes.” With a grin, he added, “We can’t have you jumping up in trees in public.”

Glaring hard, I grumbled, “Nice. Real nice.” With my shoulder, I shoved past him, stomping down the path.

 “I couldn’t have taken you off-guard if I warned you beforehand,” he called after me. “For your protection, I needed to know how you would handle it.”

 I spun around. “For my protection? Don’t you mean for yours or for the innocent public’s?”

He grinned with understanding. “Oh, you think I’m afraid.” Walking toward me, he continued, “Cassidy, I’m fascinated, hardly afraid. Not of you, at least. I am concerned about you being exposed, though.” He stopped in front of me.

Glancing up at him, I asked, “So you think I should keep this a secret?”

Alarm washed over his face. Abruptly, he grabbed my upper arms. “Cassidy, you can tell no one about this. Absolutely no one.” Bending close to me, he searched my eyes. “Do you understand? No one can know. Not your parents, not anyone. Keeping this a secret is not only for your safety, it’s for your family’s safety, too.”

My eyes widened. “Why would my family be in danger?”

“Think, Cassidy. Whoever has my mom will want you. You are Formula 10X, and they would view you as a nonentity, something to be acquired. Your personal value and rights would mean absolutely nothing to them. You would become a lab rat. Imagine what they would do to you.”

I tried not to.

“If they become aware of your existence, they’ll do anything to get you. People like this have no boundaries. Everyone and everything becomes free game for them to get what they want. That includes Nate, Chazz—”

“Stop,” I interrupted, shaking my head to dislodge the terrifying images. “I get it. I won’t tell anyone.”

After quick scrutiny, Emery released my arms. Calm replaced the alarm on his face. I believed this expression was his standard mask. For a moment, I studied the mask that showed no signs of strain or worry. As far as facades go, it was a solid one, but I wasn’t fooled. I knew the turmoil that had to be going on underneath.

“Emery, I’m sorry about your mom,” I said for the first time.

Tightening his lips, he nodded acknowledgment.

“Do you know who has her?”

He stared off into the woods. “No, but I know she’s alive.”

“Please forgive me, Emery.” The words wanted to stick in my throat. It was wrong to ask, but I had to. “But how do you know?”

Looking back at me, he stated matter-of-factly, “She’s too valuable to kill. They abducted her because she has something they want. The fact that I’m here talking with you means she must be cooperating to some degree. It’s unfortunate.”

It took me a moment to decode his meaning. “You don’t want her to cooperate, even if it means she’s protecting you? What is it they want from her?”

His smile was a mix of sadness and resentment. “I’ve already told you. They want you. Formula 10X. It is incredibly lucrative, and yes, I want her not to cooperate, no matter the sacrifice. In the wrong hands, 10X is detrimental to the world. Visualize an army of you.”

“But they don’t know about me.”

“And I plan to keep them ignorant.”

Staring up at him, I let his words sink in.He plans to protect me. I’m not alone. With this realization, I threw my arms around his neck, like he was a life preserver. “Thank you,” I said in one grateful breath, tightening my arms.

Grabbing my biceps, he attempted to loosen the hold. “A little tight,” he choked.

“Oh.” Blushing, I released him.

Rubbing his neck, he smiled with ease. “You have quite a grip.” Noting that my cheek shade deepened, he continued, “Please, don’t feel embarrassed. I understand how scared you are. I promise you, though, everything will be all right. You will be all right.”

“Thank you,” I whispered, believing every word.

As he continued to smile, a curious glint appeared in his black eyes. “My mom will shed light on the situation when we get her back,” he said in a casual tone.

Knitting my brow, I rewound his previous statements to figure out what I had missed.

Reading my expression, his smile broadened. “Oh, I didn’t I tell you, did I? You and I are going to find her.”

Reviews-
“Brimful of danger, secrets, a bit of romance and fun, this debut author’s entertaining plot and well-drawn characters not only is all it promises to be, but will leave readers looking for more..” — Gail Welborn, Examiner
“Elise Stokes ranks up there with other YA masterminds!” — Kitty Bullard, Great Minds Think Aloud
“Can I vote now for a movie on this series? With the adventure, the mystery and Cassidy’s super powers, Elise Stokes has delivered everything that a young reader could hope for.” –Stephanie Laymon, Five Alarm Book Reviews

Amazon geo links-

Cassidy Jones and The Secret Formula – http://ow.ly/sDyhv

Cassidy Jones Vulcan’s Gift – http://ow.ly/sDy9K

Cassidy Jones and the Seventh Attendant – http://ow.ly/sDyqI

Contact the Author: Facebook: http://on.fb.me/LGpLhM Facebook: http://on.fb.me/LyQ71E Twitter @CassidyJonesAdv Website: http://cassidyjonesadventures.com/

 

Reading and Reflections on Life

The International Space StationI recently finished astronaut Chris Hadfield’s book titled, An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth. If interested, see my book review below. It was an engaging read and reawakened my fascination with space and the space program.

Like Hadfield, I too watched Neil Armstrong’s walk on the moon and thought there had to be nothing cooler in the world. The dreamer in me fantasized about becoming an astronaut. As I grew into my teens it was a dream that I knew would never be fulfilled. There were too many obstacles I’d never overcome.

At that time, only military test pilots became astronauts. I’ve worn glasses since I was ten. The military did not train individuals to be pilots unless they had perfect eye sight, hearing, and no other physical limitations. Strike one.

Later, NASA accepted candidates to become astronauts who had PhDs that could benefit the space program in some way. I was a disillusioned young man at that time and didn’t finish college. I could not see the purpose of what I termed, “the bullshit courses,” that had nothing to do with one’s major. Now that I’m older and hopefully wiser, I see the practical aspect of those courses and regret I didn’t finished college. Regardless, at the time I began flying lessons which I consumed myself with. College got shoved aside while I concentrated on becoming an airline pilot. Strike two.

Over the years of doing self-reflection, and after reading Hadfield’s book, I also realize I wouldn’t have made a good astronaut. Other than being with my wife, I prefer my time alone. That’s a good characteristic for an author, but not one for an astronaut who will be cooped up with three to six others on the International Space Station. Although I feel I work well with the other pilots I fly with, there are times I’ll let a first officer’s personality bug me. I can put these differences aside for a four day trip. How well would I do on a six month mission in space? Strike three.

But, my fascination with space and astronauts, and my passion for crafting engaging thrillers can work together. I have several threads of ideas rumbling around in my head for stories I’d love to write that revolve around the space program. To make them believable, they’ll take extensive research. The thought of sitting down with an astronaut and discussing their career, training, fears, and how they balance career and family, or visiting the training facilities at the Johnson Space Center have me squirming in my seat.

In the meantime, I can read more about the fascinating career astronauts have and the many ways the space program advances life on earth. I’ve read several great novels I enjoyed years ago I’ll be reading again even though I remember the characters and plots very well.

The first was a novel titled, Gravity, by an author that became one of my favorites: Tess Gerritsen. This book came out a decade or more ago and has nothing to do with the recent movie by Alfonso Cuaron. I enjoyed that book so much I’ve downloaded it onto my iPad and will read it again soon.

Stephen Harrigan also wrote a novel titled, Challenger Park, about a female astronaut, which I’ll be reading again.

After reading Hadfield’s book, I realize how well these two novels had been researched; setting the bar for the investigation I’ll have to do.

What about you? Any dreams or aspirations you may never fulfill, but are at peace with?