Oct 24, 2014

Stone Cold Touch (Dark Elements, #2) by Jennifer L. Armentrout ~ Blog Tour, Character Interview & GIVEAWAYs



Character Interview with Roth & Zayne!

Valerie- Hey guys! Thanks for talking to me.  I know you don’t like each other much but you need to play nice, okay.  I may have to bring out the teacher tactics and sit between you.  What am I thinking, I WILL sit between you two. (Moves between them and gives them the teacher look)

Valerie- Besides the obvious, that the other breaths and is a warden/demon, what is you issue with each other?
Zayne-When Roth showed up, Layla didn’t come to me and she started keeping secrets.  Yeah, I’ve made some mistakes, but I’ve always been there for Layla.  Not Roth.  And I don’t like that she didn’t trust me because of him.

Roth-My issue with Stony?  Seems pretty obvious to me.

Valerie- Two words to describe Layla?
Zayne-Best friend
Roth-Just one—Shorty 

Valerie- What is your favorite time with Layla?  What were you two doing and where were you?
Zayne-All my time with Layla is special, but I’ve always loved our coffee dates on Saturday mornings.  
Roth-Hmmm…probably the night that Layla and I spent together on my rooftop and she woke up in my arms.

Valerie-What do you want for Layla?
Zayne-I want her to be able to be close to me without feeling the urge to steal my soul.  I hate how much she struggles with it because I know that it’s hurting her.
Roth-I want Layla to be able to accept everything about herself—both her demon side and her gargoyle side.  She’s always been looked down upon by the Wardens because she’s part demon.  I want her to realize that it doesn’t matter if she’s part demon or part gargoyle or even part chupacabra.  

Valerie- The thing is, I love both of you.  I want both of you to be happy and get the girl.  This never happens to me.  I always know which guy should get the girl.  There are quite of few of us that feel this way.  What would you tell us to convince us to your side?
Zayne-Roth’s a demon.  There isn’t anything about being with a demon that could possibly be good for Layla.  She deserves so much more than what a demon, especially the Crown Prince of Hell, could offer her.
Roth-I don’t think we have time for me to list all of the reasons why I’m better than Stony.

Valerie- Thanks for talking to me guys.  I appreciate you being mostly good.  And I really enjoyed sitting between you.  J (Steals hugs from both guys) 

 Click covers for Goodreads links
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17455811-bitter-sweet-love?from_search=truehttps://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17455585-white-hot-kisshttps://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17455815-stone-cold-touch



About STONE COLD TOUCH:

Every touch has its price

Layla Shaw is trying to pick up the pieces of her shattered life—no easy task for a seventeen-year-old who’s pretty sure things can’t get worse. Her impossibly gorgeous best friend, Zayne, is forever off-limits thanks to the mysterious powers of her soul-stealing kiss. The Warden clan that has always protected her is suddenly keeping dangerous secrets. And she can barely think about Roth, the wickedly hot demon prince who understood her in ways no one else could.

But sometimes rock bottom is only the beginning. Because suddenly Layla’s powers begin to evolve, and she’s offered a tantalizing taste of what has always been forbidden. Then, when she least expects it, Roth returns, bringing news that could change her world forever. She’s finally getting what she always wanted, but with hell literally breaking loose and the body count adding up, the price may be higher than Layla is willing to pay…


About Jennifer L. Armentrout:
# 1 NEW YORK TIMES and USA TODAY Bestselling author Jennifer lives in Martinsburg, West Virginia. All the rumors you’ve heard about her state aren’t true. When she’s not hard at work writing. she spends her time reading, working out, watching really bad zombie movies, pretending to write, and hanging out with her husband and her Jack Russell Loki.

Her dreams of becoming an author started in algebra class, where she spent most of her time writing short stories….which explains her dismal grades in math. Jennifer writes young adult paranormal, science fiction, fantasy, and contemporary romance. She is published with Spencer Hill Press, Entangled Teen and Brazen, Disney/Hyperion and Harlequin Teen. Her book Obsidian has been optioned for a major motion picture and her Covenant Series has been optioned for TV.

She also writes adult and New Adult romance under the name J. Lynn. She is published by Entangled Brazen and HarperCollins.

And don't forget! 

The choice is yours...

Beginning October 21st you’ll have 3 weeks to visit the series website, www.thedarkelementsseries.com, to take a poll and decide which guy Layla should ultimately choose in the final book in the trilogy, EVERY LAST BREATH.
At the end of 3 weeks, we will tally all the votes, and that’s when Jennifer L. Armentrout will start writing EVERY LAST BREATH. The guy who gets the most votes is the one Layla will pick.


To prevent early spoilers, we're not going to reveal who won the poll in advance…you’ll have to wait until EVERY LAST BREATH goes on sale on July 28th, 2015 to find out whether Zayne or Roth wins Layla in the end. We promise the book will be epic and definitely worth the wait!


Who do you want Layla to end up with? Go to www.thedarkelementsseries.com and vote for your choice!

BUY LINKS:

And don’t forget the previous books in The Dark Elements Series…

BITTER SWEET LOVE

WHITE HOT KISS






Giveaway #1
Giveaway #2

Walk with Me by Kaitlyn Stone

Walk with Me by Kaitlyn Stone photo ks-walkwithme257kb1_zps685f7b2a.jpg
Walk with Me
(The Thin Blue Thread)
Author:  Kaitlyn Stone
Genre: Contemporary New Adult
Publish Date: July 22nd, 2014
Publisher: BookStrand
Oraganized by Literati Author Services

~ Synopsis ~

After escaping her abusive parents, nineteen-year-old Kenna Sloane is determined to create an independent life, free of emotional distraction. The last thing this focused college student wants is a relationship, especially with a hot rookie cop popular with the badge bunnies.

When Kenna reluctantly agrees to a double date with Santa Monica cop Donovan Alexander, she’s launched on an exciting and dangerous journey. With time, she discovers some souls are instinctively drawn together to quiet the pain of their traumatic pasts. But even after the revelation of Donovan’s own secret burden, Kenna continues to battle the fear she may be too broken for her modern day knight in blue.

Can Kenna open her heart to the healing light of true love before peril strikes?
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Purchase Links

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | BookStrand 



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Excerpt

“Now, that’s not fair. How can someone look so unbelievably hot in just my T-shirt and boxer briefs?” He makes me blush, which is not easy to do. He saunters over to me and wraps his arms around my waist, letting his hands slowly wander down the back of the boxers. Grazing my backside with both hands, Donovan gently grabs a handful. “These look so damn sexy on you. Forget about Victoria’s Secret.”

“I may have to steal these to wear at home,” I say. “I like the way the shirt smells of you.” I lift the collar, taking a whiff.

“Really? They’re clean.”

“I know I can smell the laundry soap, but I can also smell your scent on it.”

“Hmm. Something about that is sexy, too. Okay, you can take the shirt home, but we’ll keep these boxers here for you when you sleep over. Deal?” Donovan says, squeezing my bottom. “Now let’s get this cute little ass of yours into my bed.”

I giggle and pause at the foot of the bed.

“Wait. What side do you sleep on?”

He points to the right side, furthest from the door. “I sleep on that side.” Which makes sense since the alarm clock is over there. So I walk over to the left side and slide in under the covers. Donovan takes a quick trip to the bathroom and when he comes out he turns the lights off, checks the locks on the door, and comes over to his side of the bed, slipping under the covers.

“Can I kiss you good night?” he asks, shifting on his side to face me.

“I would love that. Please do,” I purr at him.

The room is almost pitch black except for the faint blue glow of the clock radio, but I can make out Donovan is leaning in for a kiss. When our lips connect a warm glow begins to spread from my face to my neck and down my body. So slowly and gently we move our lips together. The contact awakens all the sexual feelings suppressed throughout the night, during our no-touching ride-along. Donovan lifts his hand to stroke the side of my face and cradles my head, deepening the kiss. His tongue is cool and tastes of toothpaste and Diet Coke. Our breaths begin to mingle and come at a more rapid rate. With every exhale Donovan absorbs the earlier tension allowing me to relax and succumb to him. We continue to kiss—lips, tongue, lips and tongue, making love with our mouths.

Donovan’s hand leaves my face and, starting at my waist, inches up to my right breast. Skimming the pad of his thumb along my erect nipple, he sends a shockwave of passion right between my thighs and I arc into his hand. His kissing becomes more urgent and our breaths come in quick short bursts forcing us to break. Moving his lips along my jawline to my neck and over to the sensitive spot below my ear, he continues kissing, licking and sucking on my neck and fondling my right breast over the T-shirt.

Moving his hand back down to my waist, he slips his hand under the shirt, stroking my bare skin and making me shudder. A small whimper seeps from my mouth, and like a beacon, the sound brings Donovan’s lips back to mine. With each stroke he moves his hand higher up my shirt. The anticipation of his hand touching my breast is almost agonizing, and I begin sucking and biting at his lower lip and teasing his mouth with my tongue. I want him to touch me so badly, but he’s taking his time.


5 star by natalie

About the Author
Since childhood, Kaitlyn Stone has gravitated toward fairy tales and happily- ever-after's, forever chasing the first love dragon. She is a self-professed adventure junkie, constantly talking her husband and family into some new life adventure, where they’ve learned to just buckle up for the exciting ride. When they do stay home, it’s in sunny Southern California located along the Pacific Ocean.

Connect with the Author

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Giveaway

$25.00 Amazon Gift Card

PASSIONATE BITES Hot Tales of Vampire Romance Boxset at incredible discount!

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Presenting

Ten hot vampire romance novels by NY Times & USA Today bestselling authors.

PASSIONATE BITES

Hot Tales of Vampire Romance

BY

K.F. Breene (Goodreads Author)Arial Burnz (Goodreads Author)Victoria Danann (Goodreads Author)Brenda K. DaviesTeresa Gabelman (Goodreads Author)Kym Grosso (Goodreads Author)Sharon Hamilton (Goodreads Author)Travis Luedke (Goodreads Author) , RaShelle Workman (Goodreads Author)

Passionate Bites is a paranormal romance collection loaded with sizzling hot alpha-males & badass heroines. From vampires to werewolves to witches & demons, these dark, sensual tales of romantic suspense weave a tapestry of intrigue, desperation, betrayal, & enough steamy desire to satisfy every taste.

Over $40 in bestselling vampire romance! BUY NOW at incredible discount!

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Only available until January 2015

AMAZON | BARNES AND NOBLE | SMASHWORDS  | iTUNES

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18478103Destined by Brenda K. Davies

Terrified of becoming mated like her parents, Isabelle has locked herself away in order to avoid their fate. She is content to stay sheltered amongst her family, hidden away as she lives out her days away from the human race, and the world. Despite her determination to remain alone, her world is rocked when a person from her parent’s past arrives at their door, bringing with them the powerful, and stunning vampire Stefan. Though Stefan is not expecting to arrive at a nest full of vampires, he is immediately drawn to the vibrant, often defiant, and willful Isabelle. To his surprise, Isabelle does everything in her power to avoid him, and her desire for him. No matter how hard she tries to fight it though, Isabelle begins to realize that trying to deny her destiny may just destroy them both, as there are some things that cannot be stopped. But just as she begins to let her guard down, Stefan’s dark and deadly past catches up to him and threatens to destroy them both.

Meet the Author

74578_397193390363166_1096902927_n-2Author of the adult paranormal romance, Vampire Awakenings Series, and historical romances. I also write young adult under the pen name Erica Stevens.

Facebook | Twitter | Website | Blog | Goodreads


damoncoverThe Protectors Damon by Teresa Gableman

Damon DeMasters is a vampire warrior who has taken an oath to not only protect his own kind, but humans as well. Crimson Rush is the new drug on the streets and it’s their duty to find who is behind the selling of vampire blood and stop it.

As a social worker, Nicole Callahan fights for the right of every child placed in her care. There’s a war now as vampires have stepped out into the spotlight taking their place in society and the children are at the heart of it all.

Damon and his fellow warriors have been ordered by the Vampire Council to train Nicole and her colleagues against the dangers they now face in their new world. Even as sparks fly and tensions mount, Nicole and Damon depend on each other to protect the children of both races.

Meet the Author

198215_1628571076727_2801624_nTeresa lives in Ohio with her husband, son, their dog Cin and her son's snake, Steve Irwin. She is a third degree black belt in Taekwondo, is a huge Mixed Martial Arts fan and follows her husbands MMA fight team, G-Force, which her son fights for. When not writing she is either screaming like a crazy woman at MMA fights or reading in some quiet corner with her Kindle. She loves books that are fast reads filled with romance, humor, sexy alpha men and the women who drive them crazy.



STsmashwordsCoverA Summoner's Tale by Victoria Danann

Named BEST PARANORMAL ROMANCE NOVEL of 2013, REVIEWERS' CHOICE AWARDS, the Paranormal Romance Guild.

While the devastatingly seductive ex-vampire, Istvan Baka, is forced to relive his tragic life as human and confront his past as vampire, a very pregnant Elora Laiken faces an ultimate test of survival when she's attacked by assassins from her dimension of origin. While their friends and mates mount respective searches and epic rescue efforts, these two friends and almost lovers, joined by a mystical bond, separated by distance, must simultaneously struggle alone through their own personal tortures in pain and darkness.

This is the story of Heaven McBride, a Black Swan demonologist who was temporarily assigned as Baka's assistant. When he turns up missing, Heaven agrees to submit to hypnosis to help the rescue effort with possible clues about his disappearance buried in her subconscious mind. During those sessions, she proves that love can wait patiently through lifetimes for the chance to blossom and be fulfilled. She also inadvertently reveals that she's been hiding a unique musical talent. She's the once-in-a- generation summoner, who can call any creature with her flute. Even vampires.

About the Author

Victoria120x180My first book was published May of 2012.

I write cross-genre with uniquely fresh perspectives on paranormal creatures, characters, and themes. Add a dash of scifi and a flourish of fantasy to enough humor to make you laugh out loud and enough steam to make you squirm in your chair. My heroines are independent femmes with flaws and minds of their own whether they are aliens, witches, demonologists, psychics, or past life therapists. My heroes are hot and hunky, but they also have brains, character, and good manners - usually - whether they be elves, demons, berserkers, werewolves, or vampires.

My first book, My Familiar Stranger, was nominated for Best Paranormal Romance of 2012 by both Reviewers' Choice and Readers' Choice Awards. All of my books have opened on the Amazon Best Sellers list and earned Night Owl Reviews TOP PICK awards.

For books published in 2013, Black Swan won three awards. 1. Best Paranormal Romance Series 2. Best Paranormal Romance Novel - A SUMMONER'S TALE 3. Best Vampire~Shifter Novel - MOONLIGHT.

Author Bio
If you're interested in me personally, I am also a classically trained musician who defected to Classic Rock music. I'm the utility player which means I play rhythm guitar, keyboards, sing back ups and a few leads. My band has covered everything (note for note) from Styx to Led Zepellin to Rush. We have played biker bars at 3:00 am to 10 people and played Warrior Dash to 35,000.

I live in The Woodlands, Texas which is why I sometimes joke about being the witch in the woods. Married. Four children. One very smart, mostly black German Shepherd dog.

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16089837Luca's Magic Embrace (Immortals of New Orleans, Book 2)

An erotic paranormal romance...

Sexy vampire, Luca Macquarie doesn’t do love; especially not with humans. Yet, ever since he rescued Samantha Irving, he can’t deny the enigmatic attraction he’s developed for the alluring mortal woman. Concerned for her safety, he’s determined to bring Samantha back to her coven. His mission is to go find the novice witch and bring her home, nothing more, nothing less; falling for her is not supposed to be part of the plan.

Samantha doesn’t want to be a witch, yet that’s exactly what she is. After failing to elicit her magic, she escapes to the mountains in an attempt to resume a semblance of her previous human life. When an arsonist torches her cabin, Samantha’s worst fears are realized. Aware that her life is on the line, she reluctantly agrees to return to New Orleans with Luca.

In the Big Easy, Samantha and Luca embark on a spellbinding journey, searching for a mystical amulet that promises to release her obligation from an ancient, lethal vampire who’s been threatening her life. With cryptic clues and clandestine allies, will Luca and Samantha destroy the dangerous amulet before others acquire it, setting forth a chain of catastrophic consequences? And will Luca give into his erotic desire for the witch who magically captures heart?

About the Author

5785692Kym Grosso is the award-winning author of the bestselling erotic paranormal romance series, The Immortals of New Orleans. In addition to romance, Kym has written and published several articles about autism, and is a contributing essay author in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Raising Kids on the Spectrum.

Kym lives with her husband, two children, dog and cat. Her hobbies include autism advocacy, reading, tennis, zumba, traveling and spending time with her husband and children. New Orleans, with its rich culture, history and unique cuisine, is one of her favorite places to visit. Also, she loves traveling just about anywhere that has a beach or snow- covered mountains. On any given night, when not writing her own books, Kym can be found reading her Kindle, which is filled with hundreds of romances.

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1916251119162557DARKNESS SERIES, 1 & 2 - K.F. Breene


Sasha has always known she was different, but now she also knows that the shadow men she’s seen all her life, are real.

With a life goal of fitting in, Sasha hopes her strange abilities will finally make true friendship a possibility. Unfortunately, her magic doesn’t function like everyone else’s. What she thought would make her belong, sets her apart now more than ever.

Stefan, all but promised to a different woman, has tried to keep his mind on his duties instead of the irresistible and free-spirited human. But when she is threatened, he can’t keep his distance any longer. He realizes he’ll stop at nothing to keep her safe, and more importantly, make her his.

Just when one thing clicks into place, another spirals out of control. Stefan’s clan isn’t the only group that would benefit from an extremely rare type of magic. And their enemies will stop at nothing to get what they want.

About the Author

7010202A wine country native, I moved to San Francisco for college just shy of a decade ago to pursue a lifelong interest in film. As I settled into the vibrant city, it quickly became apparent that, while I thought making and editing films was great fun, I lacked cinematic genius. For that reason, my career path quickly changed direction. My next goal was a strange childhood interest, conjured at the dining room table while filling out a form. For some reason, my young self wanted to be an Accountant. Thinking on it now, I wonder how I had any friends. Regardless, it was the direction I finally took.

While I could wrangle numbers with the best of 'em, and even though I wore the crown as the most outspoken, belligerent accountant in the world, my mind got as stuffy as my daily routine. It was here that I dusted off my creative hat and began writing.

honeymoonbite_133x200Honeymoon Bites by Sharon Hamilton

Anne caught her husband cheating before their wedding cake was cut, so she takes her honeymoon in Tuscany alone. Bitten by a vampire on her wedding night, she is left for dead, until Marcus Monteleone, her 300 year old fated mate, rescues her. Will they be able to navigate Marcus’ rocky and dangerous past to have an immortal future together?

About the Author

5752621Romance novelist with three series:
  • SEAL Brotherhood (Accidental SEAL, Fallen SEAL Legacy)
  • Golden Vampires of Tuscany (Honeymoon Bite, Mortal Bite)
  • The Guardians (Guardian Angel Erotic Romance) Heavenly Lover, Underworld Lover
Lives in wine country, Northern California. When not writing, she is getting vera vera dirty in her flower and vegetable gardens.

Facebook | Twitter Website Goodreads

BBB02_1700x2550Midnight Captive by Arial Burnz

After seven years, James Knightly returns as a master swordsman, ready to captain a ship and wed his childhood sweetheart, Cailin MacDougal. Waiting for him is a dagger-toting hellion for a bride, an immortal father-in-law, and an enemy bent on threatening the family James holds most dear–the MacDougals. Broderick MacDougal is lured away from his family with the promise of a way to protect them from his clan enemy. Broderick unravels the beginning of a prophecy that will lead to redemption for all vampires. The cost, though, may be the very soul of the woman he would die for...his wife Davina.

About the Author

Arial_2003Arial Burnz has been an avid reader of paranormal and fantasy for over thirty years. With bedtime stories filled with unicorns, hobbits, dragons and elves, she succumbed to crafting her own tales, penning to life the magical creatures roaming her dreams. Having a romantic husband who's taught her the meaning of true love, she's helpless to weave romance into her tales. Now she shares them with the world. Arial Burnz lives in Rancho Cucamonga, California, with her husband (a.k.a. her romance novel hero)—who is also, quite coincidentally, a descendent of Clan MacDougal—along with their dog and two cats.

Facebook | Twitter | Website | Google + | Goodreads | Pinterest 


22232612The Nightlife San Antonio by Travis Luedke

Vampires, Mafia & Mayhem: The Nightlife San Antonio is violent, sexy, and occasionally violently sexy.

All she wanted was to escape the police. All he wanted was to get laid. They both got more than they bargained for.

EMT on call, Adrian Faulkner resuscitates a beautiful woman after a Mexican mafia shootout. He can't explain why he picks her up in the hospital parking lot three days later and then ducks the San Antonio police and the Feds. Well, the hot sex might have something to do with it.

She needed to hide. With no memory of even her name, she didn't know from who. She only knew she wasn't safe.

Adrian soon learns she is much more than a damsel in distress, and he’s stuck with her. It isn't long before the past she cannot remember begins to catch up with them both...

About the Author

6517376#NSFW author of the violently sexy NIGHTLIFE SERIES (Vampires, Escorts & Strippers). Has auditioned for Christian Grey in 50 Shades film. He is currently catching a 3rd degree sunburn in San Antonio, Texas, and loving every minute of it.

As the author of the Nightlife Series novels, Travis lives very vicariously through his writings. He invites you to enjoy his macabre flights of fancy, but be warned: The Nightlife Series is violent, sexy, and occasionally violently sexy.

15781629Blood and Snow: volumes 1-8 by RaShelle Workman

Every thousand years the Vampire Queen selects a new body, always the fairest in the land, and this time she's chosen Snow White.

Snow isn't an ordinary girl. She doesn't know that yet.

When Snow gets bitten by a Hunter, her life is thrown into a whirlwind of change where instead of worrying about what to eat, she has to fight not to drink the blood of fellow high school students. She becomes a revenant - not quite human, not quite vampire.

With the help of an eccentric old Professor, his seven adoptive sons, and her best friend, Snow learns to control her blood craving. Sort of. She drinks a bloodlust tea, but she'd rather drink from her Hunter.

Or, a human.

She also discovers a whole other realm, one filled with fairies, dragons, and magic. And not only does the Vampire Queen want her, but there's a pendant called the Seal of Gabriel created for Snow by the Vampire Queen's twin sister.And Snow's supposed to use it to restore balance to all magical creatures. Including vampires.

About the Author

6-7-14me2RaShelle Workman is the author of the popular Blood and Snow series. She loves to reinvent fairy tales teens and adults can sink their teeth into. Her stories include kissing, vampires, werewolves, witches, aliens, and more kissing. Her books: Sleeping Roses, Exiled, Beguiled, and Dovetailed have foreign rights contracts with a Turkish publisher. RaShelle is also one of the co-founders of Indie Recon LIVE, a self publishing conference that will debut October 10-11, 2014 in Sandy, Utah.

Facebook | Twitter  | Blog Website | Pinterest


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Giveaway

8 $25.00 Gift Cards Winner Choice from Amazon, Barnes and Noble or iTunes and 8 Ebooks of author back list.
LAS Tour Button

M9B Friday Reveal: Chapter One of Lucas Mackenzie and the London Midnight Ghost Show by Steve Bryant and Giveaway #M9BFridayReveals



Welcome to this week’s M9B Friday Reveal!
This week, we are revealing the first chapter for

Lucas Mackenzie and the London Midnight Ghost Show 

by Steve Bryant

presented by Month9Books!
Be sure to enter the giveaway found at the end of the post!
Lucas MacKenzie eBook Final
Lucas Mackenzie has got the best job of any 10 year old boy. He travels from city-to-city as part of the London Midnight Ghost Show, scaring unsuspecting show-goers year round. Performing comes naturally to Lucas and the rest of the troupe, who’ve been doing it for as long as Lucas can remember.
But there’s something Lucas doesn’t know.
Like the rest of Luca’s friends, he’s dead. And for some reason, Lucas can’t remember his former life, his parents or friends. Did he go to school? Have a dog? Brothers and sisters? 
If only he could recall his former life, maybe even reach out to his parents, haunt them.
When a ghost hunter determines to shut the show down, Lucas realizes the life he has might soon be over. And without a connection to his family, he will have nothing. There’s little time and Lucas has much to do. Can he win the love of Columbine, the show’s enchanting fifteen-year-old mystic? Can he outwit the forces of life and death that thwart his efforts to find his family?
Keep the lights on! Lucas Mackenzie’s coming to town.
add to goodreads
Title: Lucas Mackenzie and the London Midnight Ghost Show
Publication date: November 18, 2014
Publisher: Month9Books, LLC.
Author: Steve Bryant
Chapter-by-Chapter-header---Excerpt
Lucas Mackenzie and the London Midnight Ghost Show
By Steve Bryant

Chapter One

Ghost Story

It was a chill, gooseflesh evening, thanks to the damp ocean air and to ghostly expectations. Thin black clouds scuttled past the moon like witches on broomsticks.
Far below, on an eerily empty California street, a delta wing Buick Electra neared a little theater. The four high school girls in the car shivered, surprised to find themselves so alone at this late hour. A line of empty cars stretched down the block to the black Pacific, and streetlamps glowed faintly in the mist. This was the San Diego community of Ocean Beach, a few heart palpitations shy of midnight.
“Sweet Mary,” said the Ponytail at the wheel. “The show must have started already. Who would have thought ghosts were so punctual?”
“Shut up!” said the French Braids seated beside her. “Ghost stories give me the heebie-jeebies. I can’t believe we came down here tonight to see dead people.”
The car entered the oasis of light cast by the theater itself. Although The Strand’s daytime fare ran to Elvis Presley and surfing movies, its illuminated marquee on this ghost story evening promised far more than Love Me Tender and Sandra Dee.
ONE NIGHT ONLY!
PROFESSOR MCDUFF AND HIS LONDON MIDNIGHT GHOST SHOW
SPOOKS RUN WILD IN AUDIENCE
PLUS
ALL-STAR CREATURE FEATURE
“Creepy!” said the Toni Home Perm in the back seat. “I think that skeleton in the window just looked at me.”
“Drive on by!” said the Poodle Cut beside her. “Let’s go home. I have a feeling. I think something is wrong with this show.”
* * *
Inside the little movie house, in the tiny projection booth at the top of the narrow winding stairs, a little boy peered through the small square window. His name was Lucas Mackenzie, and he was ten years old. Lucas felt as though he had been ten forever, and there seemed to be nothing he could do about it.
On stage at that moment, a magician in a smart black tuxedo and a red turban stood still as death, his dexterous hands moving only as his mysteries required. Professor Ambrose McDuff, as pale as storybook vampires in the glow of a single spotlight, showed both the fronts and backs of his hands to be empty, then plucked fans of playing cards from the air. Individual cards fell from his fingertips like rose petals falling upon a grave.
But despite the Professor’s eerie mastery of nineteenth-century card manipulation, this was 1959, and audiences demanded more. Lucas knew that the couples on hand were impatient for the theater to be plunged into total darkness, that the teenage boys on hand were hoping for something more dramatic than snatching jacks and aces from the air. This was supposed to be a ghost show, and the crowd—if the pockets of teenagers scattered about the theater at this late hour could be called a crowd—was tiring of card tricks.
“Come on, Pops,” someone shouted. “Let’s see some ghosts!”
A narrow cylinder of light sliced through the darkness as a young usher aimed his flashlight beam at the outburst. “Quiet! I’m warning you!”
“Aw, who’s gonna make me?”
On stage, a royal flush appeared at the magician’s fingertips.
Beautiful magic is not to be rushed, the Professor always said. There would be time soon enough for so-called ghosts.
Nevertheless, Lucas rolled his dark eyes in response to the outburst below—a shame, he felt, as he loved the Professor’s card tricks—and concluded that it was time to move the show along.
He wore a set of large black metal headphones, and he spoke into the grille of a gray bullet microphone. “Bravo, Professor. Nice work. Yorick is set to go on, and then Alexandra. This crowd should love the Juan Escadero number.”
As Lucas knew, Professor McDuff, could hear him perfectly thanks to earphones concealed beneath his red turban. Lucas had designed the show’s secret radio network—the entire theater was wired with microphones and receivers—and was very proud of it. It had been his first contribution to the show. Before Lucas’s time, electronic communication relied on copper plates in the bottoms of the Professor’s shoes, and on long copper wires hidden under the runway carpet, a holdover from the Second Sight mind-reading acts from the thirties.
No one would suspect the simple arrangement of the Professor’s next exhibit of using hidden electronics or secret mechanisms. He placed a glass shelf across the backs of two chairs, and atop this innocent platform he placed the centerpiece of the demonstration, an oversized human skull in a red sombrero.
The reaction was immediate. As Lucas expected, the agitators in the audience fell silent. At least this skull in the red hat looked as if it belonged in a spook show. Its eye sockets and nose cavity were dark hollows, its teeth a fixed, mocking grin.
The Professor tossed decks of cards into the audience and instructed three boys to stand and take a card. Could this “Juan Escadero,” proclaimed by the Professor to be the “floating, talking head of one of Mexico’s most notorious card cheats,” look into their minds and identify their cards? Could anyone?
The ivory-hued head on the glass platform twisted from one boy to the other.
“Ay, amigos,” it said, in a voice that sounded like Speedy Gonzales. “My Inner Eye sees all. No one keeps secrets from Juan Escadero. Could you be thinking of the king of hearts? And you the two of spades? And the ace of diamonds for the muchacho in the middle? Please be seated if I am correct.”
Instantly the three spectators sat down, and the audience rewarded the disembodied card sharp with applause and whistles.
As always, uncertainty rippled through the theater.
A wise guy in row 4 voiced his solution. “It’s a hidden microphone,” he said. “Someone behind the curtain is speaking into it.”
Another boy said, “It’s the old man. He’s doing it. It’s nothing but card manipulation and ventriloquism.”
A third shouted, “Hey, Pancho. What about the floating?”
The audience gasped as the skull suddenly turned, ever so slightly, in the direction of the challenge. For the first time the thing appeared to be genuinely alive, as though it had heard the comment.
“Ay, mi cabeza,” the skull said. “I feel so light-headed.” At which point the talking skull rose two feet in the air above its glass shelf. The ghastly thing bobbed in space, its red sombrero at a jaunty angle, its mouth open in a gaping grin. Lucas grinned too as the audience again broke into appreciative applause.
“Threads,” said a worried voice in row 10. “It’s gotta be threads.”
Lucas hoped for a similarly warm reception to Professor McDuff’s next magical presentation, the Houdini Metamorphosis Trunk. As the Professor introduced a wooden packing case large enough to conceal a dead body, Lucas cued Alexandra, one of the lovely Gilbert triplets. Though the three Gilbert girls were only twenty-two, they treated Lucas as though they were his mom. Tonight, it was Alexandra’s turn to do the box trick.
“Thanks, kiddo,” she said from a communication console in the wings. “I’m set. I love these California kids. They think I’m the ginchiest.”
The teenagers whooped and whistled as the beautiful Miss Gilbert strutted onto the stage in a black crepe dress. A red bow adorned her long blond hair, and her movie-star figure was breathtaking. She threw kisses to the audience and winked at Lucas in his booth.
The trunk, Lucas observed with pride, was old and creepy, weather-beaten, and just too darn real—like something that might have been found at night on a dock. This was no glitzy magic shop prop. The Professor locked the lovely Alexandra inside, the lock snapping shut with a heavy clunk.
The magic itself was spooky, like a dissolve in a monster movie when a man turns into a werewolf. Lucas loved the movie I Was a Teenage Werewolf and wondered what it would feel like to change. What if your muscles bulged until they ripped your shirt, if the fur of a wolf sprouted from your face, if your teeth became deadly fangs, all in a matter of seconds? Would teenage girls be frightened, or would they admire you?
The Professor made it look so easy. One moment he was standing on the box, hidden behind a large cloth. After a mere flicker, the cloth fell away and revealed a liberated Alexandra standing in his place. She then wiggled off the box, opened the formidable padlock, and produced the Professor from within.
The cast was proud that magical insiders would swear the exchange could not take place so quickly. It must be a new invention. According to reports in the leading conjuring magazines, the great Blackstone himself had seen the show in Cleveland and had left the theater shaken.
“It’s just the old switcheroo,” a boy in row 8 rationalized. “It’s a sliding panel. They all do it.”
But now it was Lucas’s turn to tremble, high in his aerie. His favorite part of the show was coming up. With both hands he adjusted the headphones, and he faced the microphone, paralyzed. Seconds ticked by.
He forced her name out at last. “Uh, Columbine?” His voice squeaked. “Ready? You’re up next.”
“Of course I am, Lucas.” The words danced in Lucas’s headphones. He had said her name. She had said his. It was the highlight of every performance. “I’m a mystic after all, a seer. And, Lucas, I think you should look behind—”
Just then something cleared its throat behind Lucas.
“AAUGH!” the boy yelled, startled to realize he wasn’t alone. Lucas turned to find a behemoth of a man standing behind him. The man might have been a stunt double from a Frankenstein movie, except that he was too tall and, perhaps, too green. His short black hair carpeted a flat head, and he wore a loose fitting brown suit with a brown bow tie. The two of them barely fit in the room.
“Oh, it’s you,” Lucas said. “For a moment you gave me quite a start.”
They both laughed. It was a private joke between the two of them, a riff on a favorite Charles Addams cartoon. Lucas felt the fellow, whose name was Oliver, looked a little too much like the servant in Mr. Addams’ spooky cartoons.
“Greetings, Master Lucas,” said Oliver. “I thought I should drop in to ascertain that you hadn’t swooned from love. I wouldn’t want to find you incapable of performing your duties.”
“You’re soooo funny,” Lucas said. And then he slapped his forehead and turned back to the microphone.
“Uh, sorry, Columbine. Good luck. Just follow the Professor’s lead.”
Lucas looked through his little window with concern. The theater was musty, a consequence of being so close to the ocean. “It’s such a small house tonight,” he said. “I hope she doesn’t take it personally.”
“What’s the count?” Oliver asked.
“I’m thinking only 150 or so,” Lucas said. “And this theater seats 800.”
“My, my,” his large friend said. “A pity. Goodness, we drew 3100 at the El Capitan in San Francisco, back in ’42. And 4000 a year later at the Bijou in Cincinnati. That’s a lot of screams.”
Audience numbers had been dwindling for some time, and night after night Lucas became more disheartened. Could the show actually come to an end some day if people quit coming? If the cast dispersed, where would he go? To be adrift, alone, was unthinkable, like stepping into a black abyss. And more importantly: where would she go?
But at that moment she was about to take the stage, and the teenagers who were on hand welcomed her warmly when the Professor introduced her as “the Teenage Telepath, the Diva of Destiny, the Psychic of the Century—the sensational Columbine.”
She strode onto the stage, this tall, thin, stargazing girl of fifteen years, with midnight black hair. She wore a plain white shift, and her skin was fair and moonbeam pale. The only color on stage was the girl’s lips, afire with red lipstick. Most would judge her to be six feet tall, though she would insist she was no more than five eleven. Her dark eyes turned to the crystal ball resting in the palm of her right hand.
The audience suddenly became very quiet. One boy coughed, apologetically.
“Okay, Eddie, let’s sell this,” Lucas said into his microphone.
The theater suffered from an ancient wiring system and a shaky bank of lights, but they were not a problem for Eddie, the Lighting Guy, hunched in the back of the building. Lucas watched as Eddie bathed Columbine in a blue spot. She looked ethereal. A Columbine performance was like a religious experience.
“This girl is like putty in my hands,” Eddie said into his microphone.
Lucas hated it that Eddie thought he had Columbine wrapped around his little finger. Ever since she had joined the cast, over two years ago now, Eddie had strutted about as though he were her boyfriend. Columbine herself seldom seemed to notice him, but Eddie just passed this off as her distant personality. “That’s just my girl,” he would say. “We have an understanding.” Lately she spent most of her private time listening to Buddy Holly records and consulting her astrological charts.
Oliver and Lucas leaned their heads together as both attempted to see through the little window at the same time.
“What’s that I hear?” said Oliver. “That unearthly tapping? I’d call it a rhythmic tapping, but it keeps skipping beats. Certainly it couldn’t be, oh, your heart?”
“Quiet, you big goofus,” Lucas said, “or I’m cutting your minutes.”
In the audience, hands exploded into the air, vying for the pale seer’s attention. All the teens wanted their fortunes told.
Columbine turned her lovely face from one longing soul to another. Her gazing-glass visions began.
To one girl, she said, “There is a jukebox, at a place near the beach. The moon has just risen, and the lights are dim. Johnny Mathis is singing ‘Chances Are.’ You will dance with one boy, but another will cut in. He’s the one!
To a boy, she said, “You are in a roller skating rink, and there is organ music. It’s a couples skate, and the song is ‘Volare.’ There is a girl who shows up on Saturdays, with a long blond ponytail. This time you won’t be too shy to ask her to skate.”
And then, “Oh, dear,” she said. “In the third row. I am sorry. Your girlfriend will see the scary movie The Blob with another boy. They will sit through it twice.”
A whispered argument broke out in the third row.
“Big deal,” said a boy in row 12. “That ball is probably just one of those Magic 8 Balls.”
“Or she could have looked this stuff up in this morning’s horoscope,” said another. “In the paper.”
“Yeah, but I’d sure like to take her to the prom,” said still another.
Lucas sat with his mouth open as this astral Miss Lonely Hearts spun out her prophecies. The crystal in Columbine’s hand turned slowly, casting streaks of ice blue across her enchanting face. To look at her was to believe her, to not look at her was impossible.
“My public awaits,” said Oliver. He passed a large hand back and forth before Lucas’s goggled eyes, but the boy didn’t blink. “You’re a lost cause, Master Lucas.”
The big fellow left, closing the door behind him.
“I don’t know what to say to her,” Lucas said, his eyes still drinking in this witch-girl vision in blue. “I never know what to say.”
He adjusted the microphone and reverted to his professional voice. What Lucas lacked in adult vocal register he made up for in authority. “Okay, everybody. Let’s wrap it up for Columbine. Flowers, please, Professor. Oliver is up, and then into the blackout. Stations, everyone. It’s ghost story time.”
Professor McDuff returned and made a big to-do of presenting Columbine a bouquet of blood-red roses, then escorted her offstage to continued applause and whistling.
At the edge of the stage, with the girl safely in the wings, the Professor turned again and explained the rules of the blackout to the audience. “One: remain seated. Two: no flash photographs—our ghosts are bashful. And three: if something cold and dead should put its hands around your throat, you can always scream. And now,” the Professor added over the audience’s nervous laughter, “I give you the Curse of Frankenstein!”
Fog oozed across the stage floor, lightning flashed, thunder rumbled. Lucas gave birth to all three effects: a thick white cloud issued from his Vapor-250 Atomizer, simulated lightning exploded from a bank of flashbulbs, and thunder from his Hollywood Sound Effects phonograph record erupted from speakers the size of refrigerators. With a deft replacement of the phonograph needle, he threw in one more extended rumble for good measure.
“Ka-booooooom!”
On this note, Oliver lurched out, doing his best to look like the Frankenstein monster from the movies. His green hue, some last-minute Hollywood stitches, and a pair of sparking neck electrodes constituted special effects that rivaled those of the best Hollywood monsters. The teenagers granted him full attention as the hulking actor grimaced, spread his arms, and began his recitations.
Oliver’s low voice gave life to a selection of spooky rhymes. James Whitcomb Riley’s famous orphan told her witch tales, Edgar Allan Poe’s black bird perched ominously, Shakespeare’s witches issued their dire portents.
But as entertaining as the actor’s recitations were, and despite his looking like someone to avoid in an old castle on a rainy night, his welcome began to wear on his young audience.
“This isn’t the ‘Curse’ of Frankenstein,” an anguished voice said. “It’s the ‘Verse’ of Frankenstein.”
The teens in the front rows began to throw things at the stage. Milk Duds, Chuckles, Tootsie Roll segments, and a hailstorm of popcorn filled the air. The “monster” waved these trifles aside as he continued his soliloquy.
“That should do it,” Lucas said into the mike. “Cue the McClatter boys.”
In military formation, six life-sized skeletons marched onto the stage. Two of them wheeled out an enormous guillotine as the others restrained Oliver.
“Cool,” said a boy near the front of the theater. “Marionettes.”
The skeletons dragged Oliver to the guillotine and forced his head through the opening. The device’s steel blade loomed eight feet above.
“Murder most foul,” Oliver cried.
With a smiling glance at the audience, one of the skeletons pulled a lever, and the heavy metal blade dropped with a sickening thunk.
The audience gasped.
At first, nothing happened, as though the blade had passed through Oliver’s neck without harming him—the old magician’s trick. Then gravity set in, and Oliver’s head slid down the face of the thing, leaving a bloody red stain, and fell to the floor. It rolled toward the audience, wobbling this way or that as an ear or nose went round.
“EEEEEEEK!” the girls in the audience screamed as one.
The oversized green head stopped just at the edge of the little stage. Its eyes were open and looking about wildly.
The headless remainder of Oliver himself lumbered to its feet and began swinging its huge arms, knocking two of the skeletal McClatters aside in the process. On a quest for its head, it began walking toward the audience, with its arms held straight out, like a sleepwalker‘s. Just as it was about to step off the stage into the audience, Lucas directed Eddie to plunge the theater into total darkness. Even the blue illuminated exit sign faded from view.
This time, everyone in the audience screamed. The blackness was terrifying.
Lucas’s fingers played over the keys and toggles on his control panel, creating further screams, moans, and thunderclaps.
The phonograph needle settled into a recording of “Zombie Jamboree” by the Kingston Trio. The McClatter boys, being phosphorescent and therefore visible in the dark, lined up like a Las Vegas chorus line at the edge of the stage and began dancing a frightening mountain jig. “NOOOOOOO!” More panicked teenagers screamed.
“Launch the aerials,” Lucas commanded.
Flying in formation, three glow-in-the-dark female ghosts soared low in the darkness, just above the audience’s heads, their arms trailing alongside their bodies. At first the boys in the theater oohed and aahed over their pretty faces and their scandalously loose shirts and their pale green glow.
“Hey!” a girl shouted angrily. “I thought you came here to kiss me!”
“It’s a slide projector,” said a boy in row 10. “They’re shining it onto the ceiling.”
“Cheesecloth,” said another ghost show pundit. “I’ve read about this. They just treat it with luminous paint and wave it about.”
Lucas loved the idea of gliding over the heads of the audience and wished he could do that. Surely Columbine couldn’t ignore a boy who could fly.
But then the situation turned from romantic to revolting. The youthful faces that fueled the boys’ imaginations began to age at an alarming rate, decades falling away in a flash, until they became the faces of wrinkled hags. Their eyes glowed red. The gentle drift of the ghosts’ initial flight pattern gave way to a whirlwind of rocketing ectoplasm. The ghosts banked and swooped and buzzed their trapped victims. One of the phantoms shot straight up to the roof of the tiny theater, paused, and then dive-bombed back toward the audience. The teens in her flight path leaped from their seats to avoid being struck. Another plunged to the floor and zoomed along beneath the theater seats themselves, in that crusty netherworld of old popcorn and chewing gum. The excited teens leaped up onto their armrests as the spirit light flashed beneath their feet. The third ghost, to the shock of everyone who saw in the dim glow, lifted a boy into the air, planted a slobbery old grandmotherly kiss right on his lips, and dropped him back to earth.
Lucas chose this moment of collective panic, when the entire assembly was on the verge of rushing to the exits—and perfectly timed to coincide with the finale of the skeleton song and dance number—to liberate the crowd from its fears. “Lights, Eddie,” he said into the microphone.
“Got it, Squirt.”
A single bright spotlight, so bright that some had to shield their eyes to look, revealed Professor McDuff standing center stage, smiling. The skeletons, frozen in their final configurations like characters in an anatomy class, drifted backward into the shadows.
The Professor thanked the audience for attending, explained that the goings on had been “our little way of saying boo,” and introduced the feature film, Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, starring Lon Chaney Jr., Glenn Strange, and Bela Lugosi, in their classic roles as The Wolfman, Frankenstein’s monster, and Count Dracula. It was one of Lucas’s favorites, one he often fantasized about watching with Columbine.
“And for any of you asking the question, ‘Do the dead return?’ our answer is, ‘Of course! We’ll see you next year.’ Pleasant nightmares.”
The California high schoolers responded with enthusiastic applause.
It was the same every night, wherever the show played across America. Part of it, Lucas figured, was that the teens enjoyed the show. Part of it was that the clapping masked the fact that many were still shaking from the strange goings on. And part of it, of course, was that the movie would give the lovebirds in the audience time to nuzzle with their sweeties in the dark, well after midnight, with no more fear of being interrupted by spooks that had seemed just a little too real. It was best, Lucas knew, that they not think too much about card skills no one could acquire in a single lifetime, about a floating skull that could steal thoughts, about an impossibly fast Houdini Trunk escape, about a beautiful girl who could see into tomorrow, about a decapitated giant, dancing skeletons, or floating ladies.
Lucas flipped a switch and the film began. The projector lamp gave off a pleasantly familiar burning smell, and the filmstrip ratcheted noisily through the mechanism, casting the movie’s opening black and white images of London at night onto The Strand’s little screen.
Later, there was to be a cast party in the theater manager’s office. Perhaps at the party, among the manager’s framed movie posters of King Kong, Godzilla, and Attack of the 50 Ft. Woman, amid the hubbub of post-show chitchat, Lucas might muster the courage to tell Columbine how wonderful she had been this evening, or to invite her for a stroll along the dark beach, only a block away. In his fantasy they walked barefoot in the sand, the black waves slapping the beach, alone beneath a silver moon and a spray of stars.
Right, he thought. As if that were going to happen. Why would the flattery of a ten-year-old boy make the slightest impression on a girl who was already fifteen? Why would his beach-walk invitation hold the slightest interest to a girl who no doubt liked boys on the beach to be taller, with muscles? And what if he were older, more her age? Would she reject him anyway, prefer Eddie over him, or prefer someone else entirely?
And so, once again, Lucas knew that he wouldn’t even speak to her. Rather, just before retiring, at sunup along with the rest of the cast, he would extract his diary from his little traveling suitcase, and he would draw, for the day’s date next to her name, in his small neat hand, his evaluation of her performance: four perfect stars. Lucas Mackenzie—boy critic.
* * *
Meanwhile, none of the teenagers settling in for the movie, the munchies, or the smooching opportunity seemed to notice the scratching noise coming from the back row.
Gleefully entering notes into a little journal, and the only one of the audience who had pointedly not joined in the applause, was an adult named Harlan H. Hull. Mr. Hull—Doctor Hull to his colleagues and students—was ecstatic over his findings. He salivated over a possible book advance, a research grant, a guest appearance on television.
Dr. Hull chaired the Paranormal Studies Department at Bradbury College, a distinguished liberal arts institution in upstate Illinois. From the moment he had entered the theater, armed with a battery of electronic sensors that the FBI’s J. Edgar Hoover himself might have envied, Dr. Hull had been monitoring various energy fields.
At first there were only hints. The needle on his Graviton Flux Indicator had registered surprising variations in body mass. If a stage show cutie could lower her body density that far, she could pass right through solid objects. Could the trunk have been normal? The spinning mirror on his Extensible Luminosity Gauge had picked up abnormally low dermal reflectivities. Could the psychic girl have been that pale?
But then came conviction. Dr. Hull’s Remote Thermal Scanner 360 had provided the proof he had been chasing. With a pistol grip, a cross-hair gun sight, and a readout with glowing red numbers, the device resembled a hand-held Flash Gordon ray gun. The RTS 360 could measure body temperatures across a room to an accuracy of one tenth of one degree, and what Dr. Hull had determined was still making him shiver.
If his readings were correct, he knew what he had feared to know.
He now knew the talking skull had housed no hidden microphone, the trunk no secret panel, the guillotine no trick-shop blade. He knew the gyrating skeletons were not string puppets, the soaring phantoms neither magic lantern show nor chemically treated gauze.
For every member of the show—from Professor McDuff to the yakking skull to the pale girl to the big green guy to the dancing skeletons to those floating hussies—had a body temperature of exactly fifty-nine degrees Fahrenheit. The temperature of the grave. The room temperature of Eternity. In a word, everyone in this show was dead. There was no other way to say it.
They had no business gallivanting around on stage before children. They belonged under the dirt, under the sod, under the feet of the living. And he was the one to put them there.
“I’ve got you, my pretties,” Dr. Hull said aloud, twisting one of his long strands of white hair in his fingers. “At last, truth in advertising.”
The London Midnight Ghost Show?
Spooks run wild in the audience?
Do the dead return?
Yes, indeedy!
And he had the proof!

Chapter-by-Chapter-header---About-the-Author
Steve Bryant is a new novelist, but a veteran author of books of card tricks. He founded a 40+ page monthly internet magazine for magicians containing news, reviews, magic tricks, humor, and fiction; and he frequently contributes biographical cover articles to the country’s two leading magic journals (his most recent article was about the séance at Hollywood’s Magic Castle).

Connect with the Author: Website | Twitter | Goodreads
Chapter-by-Chapter-header---Giveaway
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