Piece of Mind by L.R. Braden
Stale, slightly ionized air flooded my lungs, bringing with it the scent of disinfectant and…something else, sharp, sweet. Panic flitted around the edges of my exhilaration. I exhaled. I’d been dead another eighteen months.
The scientists didn’t like us using that term, but what else could I call it? Hibernation? Dormancy? Suspended animation? None of those were strong enough to fit the empty silence of the limbo where we waited.
What piece of myself have I left in that cold, dark place this time?
“Back with us, Mr. Thompson?” A voice floated out of the darkness, but not the inky void of that other place. Not even close.
I opened borrowed eyes, blinked.
Dr. McCarthy perched at the edge of her steel stool, watching me, waiting to see if I remembered how to speak, how to move, who I was. The gray at her temples was more pronounced than I remembered. Skin sagged from her cheeks like deflated balloons, silent testament to the time that hadn’t passed for me, proof of her indispensability.
One hand poised over the tablet in her lap, she leaned closer. “How do you feel?”
I raised one smooth, pale hand, translucent skin bright under the ceiling lights. It tingled as motes of dust brushed against it, asteroids pummeling my senses compared to the nothing that came before. Purplish veins swelled when I made a fist.
“Alive.” My lips snapped closed, cutting off the deep baritone voice I didn’t recognize as my own.
“Do you know where you are?”
I blinked twice, slowly, relishing my control over the flash of light and dark as the room flickered in and out of existence. Medical tools lined the otherwise bare walls. An endless vibration thrummed through me, and I dug into my memory for the cause.
“Still on the Ark.” The unfamiliar voice cracked, shattering the last word.
Her mouth twisted to one side. “I’m afraid so. What do you remember about your life on Earth?”
“I lived in…an apartment, in…” I wracked my brain, sorting through labels until I found one that felt right. “New York.”
“Very good.” She smiled and nodded encouragingly.
“I—” More images flitted by, but I couldn’t hold them. “I was a—” My fingers tightened on the chair as I groped for some way to end that sentence, but all I found was a gaping hole where the information should have been.
Liquid trickled down the side of my face, and I was momentarily distracted by the need to identify it.
“It’s all right, Mr. Thompson.” Dr. McCarthy set one cool palm over the back of my clenched fist, and the low moan I hadn’t realized I was making subsided.
“I can’t remember what I did before,” I said, waving my free hand, “this.”
Her smile returned, small and sad. “You were a writer, Mr. Thompson.”
About Far, Far Away:
In a land far, far away… In a distant galaxy… Once upon a time…
These are all ways to begin fantastical tales of love and adventure. Gateways into the realms of imagination. In this anthology, we bring together authors from all over this world to transport you into the worlds they’ve created.
Travel through space and experience infinity three hours at a time. Explore dangerous caverns for the source of a deadly disturbance. Get stranded on a mysterious island from which no one returns, then learn to survive on a distant planet while you hope for rescue.
In this far-reaching, magical collection love allows you to see in colour, time is vast but fragile, and changing minds and hearts in Ancient Rome is only one stop on an epic journey across time, space, and reality.
Stories Included in the Anthology:“Piece of Mind” by L.R. Braden
It’s 2021. The pandemic drags on and we’re all stuck inside. Blegh. Reality sucks.
So why not take this opportunity to escape into fiction?
A year ago we ran a contest and we asked writers to submit stories set in other times, places, and versions of reality. Then we had our judges pick the best ones to include in this anthology.
Therefore, the seven stories you are about to read are windows into other worlds, but also into the minds of eight extremely creative and talented individuals. We’ve included their bios and a few words from each of them so you can get to know the people who have created such imaginative stories to take us far, far away, if only for a little while.
So pack your bags, or don’t because you won’t be needing them for this journey. Instead, sit back, relax, and turn the page to find distant galaxies, alien cultures, mysterious magical islands, unknown planets, the value of colour, the fragility of time, and the fickle nature of fate.
Publisher Website: http://www.mirrorworldpublishing.com/
Publisher Blog: http://www.facebook.com/mirrorworldpublishing
Publisher YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC-d6tf8fpn4_mjraKjM-hUQ
“Hi, Nikki.” A strange, hollow-sounding voice came from somewhere behind me.
I turned and saw a young boy dressed in a blue uniform standing at the foot of my bed. I dropped the ball and fell against my dresser, knocking my kerosene lamp over. I quickly picked it up before the oil spilled out onto everything.
“W-who are you?”
He fit the description of the ghost we were looking for. Only now, I wasn’t too excited to see him. My knees were shaking.
“My name is Oggie.”
“Oggie? Jesse’s friend?”
I couldn’t think of anything real smart to say. In fact, my mouth didn’t want to work real good at all. I wanted to run away, but I stood frozen.
“I just want to talk to you.” He sat down on the edge of my bed as if to make himself at home.
“Are you a g-ghost?” I asked in a shaky voice.
“No, silly. I’m just a soldier. Don’t let this jacket fool you. I ain’t no Yankee.”
“So you’re the ghost from Battlefield Ridge?”
“I told you, I ain’t no ghost.”
“Then how’d you get in my room without anyone seeing you?”
He looked around. “I don’t know. Do you know where my regiment is?”
“No, I don’t know nothing about no regiment. I just know I’m here in my room talking to a ghost.”
“Why do you keep calling me that?” He glanced around again. “My name is Ogden Watkins, and I’d appreciate it if you’d just take me back to my regiment. I have to find where I buried that tin box.”
“What box?” I asked.
“The box I put my mother’s Bible in.”
“Whoa. You need to start from the beginning.”
“The beginning of what?” He looked confused.
“Okay, I know your name, but what happened to you? Why are you lost?”
He scratched his rough and dirty mess of brown curls. Then he stood up and inched closer to me. “I can’t remember.”
I backed toward the door. “How do you know my name?”
“I followed you from the graveyard,” he said. “I heard the other kids call you Nikki. For some reason I know you can help me, but I don’t know why or how.”
Looking at this young boy’s confused face, I was no longer afraid. His name was Ogden…Oggie for short. Even if he was a ghost, which it was apparent that he was, he was more lost than he was scary.
About the Book:
Publisher Website: Mirror World Publishing
Enter the Giveaway:
Winner’s choice of a Kindle copy of one of the books in Rita Monette’s Nikki Landry Swamp Legends series. Go to Amazon to learn more about the books in the series
Zarda, Fate-Seer of her people, the Drax, has chosen to join the wingless and their broken-winged dams on their long and dangerous journey into exile. But Kalis, the Prime she has abandoned, dispatches flyers to hunt her down and offers a reward to anyone who will give her up.
When their path takes them into the Crimson Forest, horror and death stalk the exiles beneath the vines. As the pain and hardship of banishment begin to take their toll, Zarda wonders which of the exiles will be the first to betray her, but nothing can prepare her for the discovery that awaits her beyond the furthest reaches of Drax territory; a discovery that has the power to alter the course of history.
Exile’ is the sequel to ‘Unreachable Skies’, and Karen is currently working on the third book in the trilogy.
Print Length: 286 pages
Publisher: Mirror World Publishing (https://www.mirrorworldpublishing.com/)
Publication Date: September 17, 2019
Genre: Fantasy, Science Fiction, Adventure
The females, their wings broken by Kalis’ new Elite Guard, had been netted over the river along with their younglings, and had been left on the claw of reed-tufted sand that jutted into the ocean from the Manybend estuary’s north shore. As I’d circled over the nines of fires, their spiralling layout had shown that someone had taken charge of setting the camp properly, and my sole concern had been finding somewhere to land without being seen. In the end I had set down on the beach to the north, wetting my feet as I landed at the edge of the incoming tide. Taking care to make sure I would not leave any traces of my approach, I had walked along the tideline till I reached the promontory at daybreak. I had intended to find my friend Doran and make myself known to her, but the sound of raised voices had drawn my attention, and I had instead made my way across the camp to the ridge of snow-covered ground that separated the hook of sand from the mud of the Deadlands. I smelled cooking – branmeal bubbling in a pot to my left, meat patties warming in a pan to my right. My stomachs rumbled a protest that I was not stopping to eat, but my attention was on the group at the foot of the slope where Shaya stood, and the arguments that I could now hear more clearly.
Brought up in Staffordshire, England, Karen now lives in West Sussex where she is enjoying her retirement. When not writing, she enjoys reading, watching films, local WI and U3A activities, volunteering with the South Downs National Park Volunteer Rangers, and spending time with friends and family. She has also flown in a Spitfire!
Karen has written articles on films and British history for a number of British magazines including ‘Yours’, ‘Classic Television’, and ‘Best of British’. In 2009, her essay on ‘British Propaganda Films of the Second World War’ was published in ‘Under Fire: A Century of War Movies’ (Ian Allen Publishing).
She also wrote a number of online articles and reviews for The Geek Girl Project (www.geekgirlproject.com), as their British correspondent.
Karen’s short stories have appeared in anthologies by Fiction Brigade (2012, e-book), Zharmae Publishing (‘RealLies’, 2013), Audio Arcadia (‘On Another Plane’, 2015), Luna Station Publishing (‘Luna Station Quarterly’ December 2015), Horrified Press (‘Killer Tracks’ and ‘Waiting’, both 2015; and ‘Crossroads’, 2016), and Reflex Fiction (‘Voicemail’, published online 2017). She also won second prize in Writers’ News magazine’s ‘Comeuppance’ competition in 2014 with her short story ‘Hero’.
‘Exile’ is the sequel to ‘Unreachable Skies’, and Karen is currently working on the third book in the trilogy.
You can follow Karen on Twitter @McKaren_Writer, or check out her website at www.karenmccreedy.com
About the Book:
Young bookseller Cathy Finn is having a bad day. First, there’s the assassin’s bullet. Then comes the realisation that she’s been living in a work of fiction. Worse, she wasn’t even the main character.
Cathy’s quiet, bit-part life may be over, but her troubles are only beginning. Her last day on Earth is also her first as a citizen of New Tybet. For over four hundred years, its people have been rescuing those destined to die in other narratives, but now the system is faltering. A saboteur is at work and Cathy will have to stop him if she’s ever going to find a way home. Failure could maroon her forever and spark a revolution that sets all the worlds of literature ablaze.
Silence. Only the beginnings of the pistol’s muffled report reached Finn’s ears and then all sound abruptly ceased. The bookshop’s organic murmurings, the noise from the road outside; all of it vanished at once.
So – death was silence. Well, that was one mystery solved.
She’d blinked at the instant her visitor had fired – an instinctive, pathetically ineffectual response – and she’d held her breath. Now, as she let it out, she heard the movement of the air. Against the perfect stillness, the sound was startling.
She opened an eye.
The scene hadn’t changed, but it was stopped; a frozen moment. An orange-grey floret of smoke bloomed from the killer’s gun, but it hung there, quiet and harmless, like a sculpted thing planted in the barrel. Beyond it, still visible, the stranger’s incongruous smile.
She opened the other eye.
“Thirty seconds. Go.”
Her whole body flinched. The voice – a woman’s, crisp and businesslike – had come from her left, from the cupboard under her stairs, and that didn’t make sense at all.
The cupboard door vanished, bright light spilled into the shop and a tall, silhouetted figure ducked through the frame.
“Cathy Finn?” A darkly-uniformed man strode towards her, one muscular arm outstretched. Behind him, another figure was emerging.
Print Length: 338 pages
Publisher: Mirror World Publishing; 1 edition (http://www.mirrorworldpublishing.com)
Publication Date: July 17, 2019
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
Genre(s): Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Literary Mashup, Parallel Worlds, Comedy
Learn More About Shelf Life:
Follow the Tour to Read Exclusive Excerpts, Guest Posts, and Reviews:
Rob Gregson spent much of his youth reading fantasy novels, immersing himself in role playing games and generally doing everything possible to avoid the real world. In his defence, we’re talking about the late 1980s – a time when ridiculous hair, hateful pop music and soaring unemployment were all very popular – so it wasn’t altogether a bad decision. However, had he abandoned the realms of wizardry at an earlier age, he might have developed one or two useful life skills and he would almost certainly have found it easier to get a girlfriend. Rob lives in Lancashire and has two children, although he has absolutely no idea why anyone should find that interesting.
Connect with the Author:
AmazonEnter the Giveaway:
Beverlee Beaz, the brown Burmese, longs for adventure and has the powerful imagination to make it happen. On a lovely, but otherwise ordinary day, she seeks excitement among the forests and fields surrounding her home. The ordinary suddenly becomes extraordinary in the eyes of this wildly creative little brown cat.
Follow Beverlee on her adventure through the forest, over the hills… and into the world of her imagination!
Page Count: 48
Genre: Children’s Picture Book
Tags: Fantasy, Imagination, Farm Animals
Publisher: Mirror World Publishing
Publish Date: April 17, 2019
Meet the Author:
Regan W. H. Macaulay writes novels, short stories, children’s literature, and scripts. Writing is her passion, but she’s also a producer and director of theatre, film, and television. She is an animal-enthusiast as well, which led her to become a Certified Canine (and Feline) Massage Therapist. Other award-winning picture storybooks by Regan W. H. Macaulay include Beverlee Beaz the Brown Burmese, Sloth the Lazy Dragon, and Tamara Turtle’s Life So Far. She is also the author of The Trilogy of Horrifically Half-baked Ham which includes Space Zombies! (based on her film, Space Zombies: 13 Months of Brain-Spinning Mayhem!—available on iTunes and on DVD), They Suck, and Horror at Terror Creek.
Meet the Artist:
Alex Zgud is an artist from rural Ontario, currently living in Calgary. She attended the Ontario College of Art & Design, where she majored in drawing and painting, and earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts. After finishing school she went on to begin a tattoo apprenticeship, and has since been developing her skills as a tattoo artist. Her preferred media are inks and watercolours.
Enter the Giveaway:
“Gage…Gage…Gage?” No answer. “Gage Gimmal, where are you? I know you’re home you little dweeb!” Gwen shouted, impatience showing in her voice. She stomped up the stairs to his room and didn’t bother knocking, she walked right in.
Gage was getting his groove on in front of his fan, singing along with the radio. “A-hem.” Gwen cleared her throat loudly. “Okay, wrap this up, Little Gaga,” she said. “Dad is on his way home and he wants to talk to us.”
Without missing a beat, Gage launched into a new song, singing louder:
“She is fam-i-ly. ♫
I’ve got an annoying sister – poor me. ♫
She is fam-i-ly. ♫
Get out Gwen – just leave!” ♫
“Whatever. Just get your butt downstairs.” Gwen said, hiding her smile as she left the room.
Gwendolyn Gimmal desperately wants an invitation to the mysterious Gimmal Gala where her family’s coveted ring is bestowed upon new inductees. It’s not that she particularly likes bling, but because she knows it will unlock exciting secrets and reveal what she believes will be her true life’s path. Her younger brother, Gage, also wants to attend the party, but mostly for the food.
Their newly discovered enhanced abilities, while fun, are not completely reliable. Cracking newspaper codes, deciphering invisible maps, and playing a high stakes game of Enigma Machine Twister, are just some of the challenges they must overcome if they are to succeed in time. The adventure starts when they flush themselves in The Tele-Potti, a teleporting commode, and it all goes down the drain from there.
Karen resides in Windsor, Ontario with her husband, two daughters and a Moose.Enter the Giveaway:
Mirena hit the ground hard. Rocks dug into the side of her face and her hands stung fiercely where she’d scraped them by instinctively trying to break her fall, even though there was no way she could have anticipated it. Her stomach lurched with the impact as she tried to fight off a wave of disorientation and nausea that threatened to overwhelm her.
A horn sounded. Two quick blasts. Despite herself, she counted them. I made it! I’m home.
She struggled to sit up. The air around her filled with the sounds of doors and windows being flung open as every person in the Stoa rushed to see who had arrived in the courtyard of their hidden College for talented Magi. Mirena grinned, her expression half grim determination and half hard-won pride. She forced herself the rest of the way to her feet and pushed the remaining nausea aside as nearly sixty students and half a dozen staff members barrelled down on her.
The cheering started as soon as they saw it was her and that she was on her feet and relatively unharmed. Mirena’s grin grew wider. I passed my exam in record time. Only four years study to make it to this moment, where most people take decades. The Mentor is going to be so impressed!
The gathering crowd parted to let the aging Mentor pass uninhibited. With his presence, the noise died down, slightly. The grey-haired Mentor smiled at the sight of her, leaning heavily on his cane as he alone out of all those gathered made his way down the steeply curving steps to stand just outside the sizeable ring of tall standing stones.
“Well done, Mirena.” He very subtly drew upon his majik to enhance the volume of his voice so all could hear him praise her.
Mirena beamed and starting running the minute the words were out of his mouth. She crossed between two stone pillars and flung herself at the Mentor, careful to throw her slight weight at him on the opposite side from where he held his cane, so he’d be able to keep his footing.
There was a collective gasp from the crowd that subsided as they realized the Mentor was still standing. “Whoa, there!” he called out, catching Mirena in one arm. “I know you’re excited, but you’re not done yet!”
“I know, but I’ll do the next part with no problems! You’d expect nothing less from your number one student.” She winked at him.
The Mentor shook his head. “Remember what I told you: rushing into things will only lead to a job half-finished. You have to look before you leap.” He put a hand under her chin to lift her blue eyes up to his before tilting her chin to the right. “I dare say that you wouldn’t have gotten these,” he noted the cuts the rocks had left on her cheek, “if you’d been more prepared to make the trip through the Sentinal Stones.”
“I would’ve been more cautious, but I was being chased by a large winged monster!” she exclaimed, stepping back from him so she could wave her arms emphatically. “I had to think fast and perform under pressure, so a slightly bad landing should be understandable…”
“Tall tales, Mirena?” the Mentor asked, but his tone was light and his words kind.
“No, really. It’s true, it got my back with its claws, see?” She turned slightly to show him the claw marks that marred her left shoulder and the blood that she could now feel running down the length of her simple white dress.
Now it was the Mentor’s turn to gasp. He called back over his shoulder for someone to fetch the Healer.
“It’s okay, I’m fine. Just let me finish my test.”
Dog Eared is out now in e-book and paperback formats.
About Dog Eared:
Dogs can’t read. Right?
When Sophie’s grandfather moves in to a retirement home, Sophie is delighted to take over responsibility for his super obedient dog, Lector. Her grandfather also gives her two journals for Lector and tells her how important they are. But listening isn’t one of Sophie’s strong points.
Sophie’s dream-come-true turns into a nightmare when the usually well behaved Lector turns super-bad overnight. After midnight on his first night with Sophie, Lector gets himself into all kinds of trouble and leads Sophie into a run-in with the local bully. Dogs in the town have been going missing too. Could there be a dog snatcher on the loose?
Sophie desperately needs Lector to return to his former obedient self, especially when her dad and step-mum-to-be announce, to Sophie’s horror, that they are having a baby. Lector’s future with the family is in danger. If Sophie can’t retrain Lector before Sophie’s new half sibling is born, he’ll have to be rehomed.
Can Sophie discover the magical secret to training Lector, and keep him away from the dog snatcher, before it’s too late?
Get your copy:
Buy Dog Eared on Amazon here: hyperurl.co/1q43xz
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