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From the Toronto Star, Saturday, February 14, 1983
Two-day-old Cassidy Jane Lefevre was stolen from Gracefield Hospital, snatched from the nursery between 1:00 and 3:00 a.m. The hospital is cooperating with the official investigation. Cassidy’s parents, Bottle-Up magnates Gina and Daniel Lefevre, are devastated at the loss of their first child. Five million dollars is offered for the return of their baby. There are no suspects but there are a few people of interest, including a missing nurse.
In the past year, four newborns have been abducted from hospitals in Quebec and Ontario. Is there a black market?
Mary scanned the rest of the five-month-old article. It sounded so ugly. Some people were so desperate for a baby they didn’t know where else to turn. Kids deserved parents who’d love them, not keep them as prizes. Rich people were all the same.
“Excuse me. Would you like something to eat or drink?”
Mary looked blankly at the stewardess. “Something to drink…oh…no. No. I’m fine, thank you.” Mary folded the clipping and stuffed it in the brown envelope she’d propped beside her hip, shuffling the baby to her other arm.
“She sure is cute.” Smiling, the stewardess tilted her head, opened her mouth and clicked her tongue.
“Well, thank you. I think she is too. She’s a beauty. My best…g-grandchild yet.” Mary looked down at the baby sleeping in her arms, then back at the stewardess. She beamed at her. “Aren’t you just the sweetest thing to say so. Thank you. It means a lot when others notice what I think is true.”
“What’s her name?”
Mary’s hand shook as she patted her carefully coiffed, dull gray hair. Her scalp itched, but she didn’t dare scratch. The wig would no doubt shift, so she restrained herself, glad the charade was almost over. “C-candy.”
“How about you? Do you have kids?”
“Oh, that’s a shame. Why, I bet you’d be the best mom ever. It would sure be the cutest tyke, too. You with your blonde hair and blue eyes.”
“Thanks.” She grinned at Mary before shifting her gaze to wink at the baby. “Sorry, but I’ve got to keep moving. Excuse me.”
The stewardess’ eyes darted from Mary to the man beside her. Mary leaned on the armrest between them, closing the distance. His head whipped around to stare at her, his shoulder bumping her cheek. She smiled indulgently at him before shaking her head and shrugging her shoulders. The stewardess nodded in acknowledgement, rolling her eyes as if saying, “men.”
Mary took a deep calming breath, reminding herself that this was almost over.
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The Nihilists are a terrorist cult that appeared during the waning years of empire, worshipping death as a political statement – and very little else. Nihilists have no political ambitions or demands; they simply seek to kill as many humans as possible, including themselves, in order to satisfy their lust for destruction. Their attacks are almost always unpredictable and very destructive.
- Professor Leo Caesius, The Waning Years of Empire (banned).
The stench of death was in the air.
Captain Edward Stalker walked through what remained of the city-block and shuddered inwardly. It wasn’t a pretty sight. Human bodies lay everywhere, some broken and torn, others surprisingly intact, surrounded by the blackened ruins of what had once been their home. Four days ago, the city-block had played host to four thousand middle-class men and women, bureaucrats who had worked to keep the Empire running. They had lived and worked and played within the confines of their block. Their children had grown up, formed relationships with other children and started families of their own. It might not have been a perfect life, but it had been a life. They’d been happy.
And then the Nihilists had arrived. They’d taken over the block and prevented anyone from leaving, taking everyone in the block hostage against the inevitable response by the Civil Guard. The Guard had failed to dislodge the Nihilists from their positions and, in desperation, had screamed for the Marines. The Marines had gone into the block and liberated it, at a cost. Over three thousand hostages – and thirty-one Marines – lay dead in the rubble. The Nihilists had never intended to bargain with their lives, or seek a political advantage; the Nihilists had simply intended to blacken the Empire’s eye by slaughtering its civilians. They’d somehow shipped in enough weapons and explosives to blast the entire block to dust. It had been sheer luck that they’d failed to blow the complex when the Marines went in. Edward knew better than to rely on luck. Marines made their own luck.
He ground his teeth together as he looked towards a billowing cloud of smoke in the distance, towards the other end of the complex. The Civil Guard had sworn blind that there were only a hundred Nihilists within the complex, more than enough to control a city-block full of unarmed sheep, but they’d been wrong. There had been over four hundred Nihilists within the block and over half of them had attempted a breakout when the Marines went in. They’d hit the Civil Guard and smashed right through them, vanishing into the Undercity before the Marines could get into position to block their escape. Retreating under fire was uncharacteristic for the Nihilists – normally, they fought and died in place, turning their deaths into a political statement – but Edward had to admit that it had worked out for them. Their propaganda machine was already gloating over how they’d escaped the Marines. The hundreds of media reporters now swarming through the remains of the block – after paying a bribe to the Civil Guard Superintendent – wouldn’t hesitate to take their propaganda and run it as fact. The Empire would be demoralised, exactly as the Nihilists had intended.
“Captain,” Command Sergeant Gwendolyn Patterson said, as Edward entered the small gym. It, like the other rooms in the complex, had been blackened by fire, but the material used to build it could have stood up to a small nuke. The Marines had taken it over and turned it into a prisoner holding facility. “We have seventeen prisoners here and nine others who have been transferred to the Appleton Hospital.”
Edward nodded, taking in the sight in front of him. The Nihilists didn’t look so threatening now. Stripped of their weapons and combat armour, lying on the hard floor with their hands secured behind their backs, they looked terrified, as if they expected the Marines to start torturing them at any moment. They weren’t hardcore Nihilists, Edward knew; hardcore Nihilists would never have been taken alive. They were just young men and women who had been seduced by the Nihilists and recruited into terrorist cells, just for something to do. They might not even have realised that their new masters considered them expendable. It wouldn’t matter in the end. They’d be walked in front of a judge, once their brains had been drained dry of everything they knew, and either executed or exiled to one of the frontier worlds as indentured labour. It was one way out of the stifling boredom of the Middle City.
“Good,” he said, tiredly. Gwen was short and surprisingly feminine. No one would have taken her for a Marine on first glance, even though she could outfight almost anyone else within the Company. Rumour had it that Gwen had a habit of cruising the bars in the Undercity and beating up rapists, although Edward had carefully refrained from looking into the rumours. He might have had to take official notice of her activities.
“The Civil Guard beat up on a couple of them and raped a third,” Gwen added, her face twisting into an expression of distaste. Marines were supposed to be perfectly controlled at all times. The Civil Guard was really a glorified police force. They carried weapons and acted like a military service, yet they were hardly up to Marine standards. “They now want the remaining prisoners turned over to their custody.”
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I watched the screen as the information rolled in. More breaking news: the bodies of two children now found on the grounds of the churchyard. Police looking for two more. The image panned out to reveal a heavenly view of an idyllic country church.
I turned my head to see Karen standing behind me, holding what looked like a sock.
“They’ve found another body.”
“Could you tidy away your clothes?”
She ignored me. “There’s a jacket in the hall and a pile of clothes in the bedroom.”
“Hmm…” I returned my attention to the screen. Some local woman was now being interviewed. “I don’t believe it,” she was saying. “He’s a lovely man; it just doesn’t make sense. A more gentle human being you wouldn’t find.”
“And could you stop watching that bloody TV?”
Karen hovered over me like a hawk. Her blonde hair was tied back in a pony tail, her arms folded like the clothes she had probably just ironed. She wasn’t going to move until I did.
“Oh for God’s sake. OK.” I picked up the remote and switched off the TV.
“Where’s the baby?” I asked, inferring she’d left him alone, something she’d have killed me for herself.
“In his cot,” she retorted.
I lowered my sword. I knew when I was beat.
Michael was almost two now but still we called him baby. Karen’s mum had cracked a wry joke a couple of days previous. She had said that if we kept calling him that, that he’d eventually think his name was baby.
“I’m going for a shower,” Karen declared. “And then I’ll take the kids to my mum’s.” Even after all this time she still had the accent. She wasn’t actually Australian; she had only lived there for about ten years, before moving back to the UK. But it had been long enough, and she’d been young enough, for the accent to stick. Karen loosened her long blond hair from its tight restraint.
“Am I taking Depp to his sleepover?” I asked. Depp was our oldest son. He had just turned five.
“No, I’ll take him this arvo. I should be back in a couple of hours.”
Excellent. Some quality time to myself. XBOX here I come. I picked up my jacket from the banister and leapt up the stairs, hot on the heels of my darling wife. “They know who did it,” I said.
“I need you to do one or two things about the house while I’m out.”
I wondered to myself whether she’d even heard me. People do that a lot to me. I say something in a crowd and it doesn’t register; it doesn’t even need to be that big a crowd – there just needs to be one other person in the room. I tried again. “He was the local priest.” As soon as I said this I knew I had made a mistake.
I hesitated. I was a practicing Catholic and Karen wasn’t. She had been born a Catholic, but that didn’t make you a Catholic. I suppose like with most people these days she belonged to the faith of secularism. For a second I thought about changing the subject. Was I betraying my faith by going any further? The last thing the church needed was another scandal involving kids. I decided to tread very carefully. “The murdered children. They’re holding the local priest for it. I think they’ve charged him.”
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The old man was dying, and the worst part was, he knew it.
He could feel it in his brittle bones, popping and cracking with every move. He tasted it in his mouth – the bitter phlegm sitting on his tongue. He could even see it through the viscous film caught between his quivering eyelids.
But the telltale sign of approaching death was the feeling of surrender that had crept into his aching body – complete
resignation to his current existence and to the life he’d led. The fight was just about gone.
He pursed his lips, pushing back against the spoon Katy pressed to his mouth. He couldn’t take his eyes off the thick braid of auburn hair hanging over her shoulder, moving like a pendulum, each swing bringing the broom of split ends
closer to the bowl from which she scooped his oatmeal.
He refused to eat, trying to prove there was at least one thing over which he had control. Nothing tasted right anyway. Over the past thirty years food had lost its flavor, and his passion for the fine wines and nouveau cuisine he once sought was gone. He was now eating to live and wondered if it was worth the effort. As he approached his last days on earth, living had become secondary to discovering where his life had gone wrong and if, in fact, that day thirty years ago was the day he truly died.
“Jonathan!” Katy pulled the spoon from his mouth and tapped the uneaten oatmeal back into the yellow plastic bowl. “You can’t go on like this. I don’t want to have to threaten you with the feeding tube again.”
Gently, she pushed the few wisps of white hair off his damp forehead, patting the mist of sweat with her apron. “I can see you smiling inside, Jonathan, under that sour grimace of yours. You can’t fool me.”
But he was fooling her. He wasn’t smiling: not inside or out. Why would he smile? What inside this so-called “elite” retirement home could make him smile? The stench of urine wafting into his room from the littered hallway? The monotony of cries and moans from other residents, most strangers to him, some even younger than his 75 years, being hushed back into their rooms with gentle whispers? The crumpled white bed
sheets, hardened and pilled by bleach and overuse? Were these the things Katy thought he was smiling about? She must be crazier than I am.
If you know an indie book lover, now's the time to spread holiday cheer! We invited self-published authors to Underground Book Reviews for our first ever Self-Published Author Awards, and fans voted for their favorite. We hope you'll join us to spread the word about these underground titles.
And the winners are...
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First Place: One Last LieBy Rob Kaufman click on image to purchase
Philip and Jonathan have the perfect life together but still want a child. Along comes Angela, Philip’s college friend who apparently conquered old demons of obesity and depression.
After reacquainting and becoming friends, the three decide to have a child through artificial insemination. From that point, Philip and Jonathan’s idyllic life begins to unravel.
Angela’s mask of deceit slips as her pregnancy awakens psychological and physical problems, leaving Philip and Jonathan regretting ever allowing her into their lives.
Told from an elderly Jonathan’s hospital bed, Angela’s tangled web unwinds into heartbreak, deception, and finally murder – with an unimaginable surprise ending.Rob Kaufman lives with his partner of 22 years, owns a marketing company and spends his few free moments developing characters for his next bestseller. You can find him at www.onelastlie.com
Second Place: Dead Broken click on image to purchase
By Gerard Gray
Six months ago, Peter Murphy was brutally attacked by a group of local youths. Obsessed and deeply traumatised by the event, he finds himself struggling to come to terms with family life.
A late night eBay transaction leads him to meet Steven, the brother of a priest currently accused of murder. At first Steven appears to offer him salvation from his tortured psyche, but his unhealthy interest in Peter’s attackers takes a sinister turn.
What happens next leads Peter down a spiral of horror, revenge and retribution.
Gerard Gray is a Scottish writer of Psychological Thrillers/Horrors. Despite this, he considers himself to be fairly normal. Dead Broken is his first novel.
Third Place: Oil, The Fourth Renewable ResourceBy Shawn Alli click on image to purchase
The first and last book you'll ever need to understand oil and the myth of fossil fuels.
The myth of fossil fuels and peak oil has been a part of the North American lifestyle for almost 100 years. Beginning first in the schools, children are anxious for an education but instead are indoctrinated to
believe this deception. As a student grows up they hear the same message propagating through governments, media and various interest groups, eventually accepting it as a scientific fact. But the truth is now within your grasp in finding this book. Shawn Alli is a philosophical researcher educated at York University in Toronto. He’s also worked with Aboriginal youth in the Northwest Territories of Canada. You can find him at www.oilrenewables.com
Fourth Place: The Empire's Corps By Christopher Nuttall click on image to purchase
In a dying galactic empire, Captain Edward Stalker makes the mistake of speaking truth to power and is exiled – along with his men – to Avalon, a planet on the edge of settled space. There, they discover that civilisation is under threat from barbarians, forces who wish to separate themselves from the empire and even the Empire’s representatives. Edward and his men are plunged into a multisided war that, if they cannot win, will shatter Avalon forever. And then the Empire abandons them completely.The Empire’s Corps
starts a space opera/military SF series about the rebirth of civilisation and the salvation of a dying empire...
Book Two will be online soon!Christopher Nuttall has been reading SF ever since he learned to read and creating universes for almost as long. He currently lives in Malaysia with his wife, Aisha. You can find him at www.chrishanger.net
Fifth Place: Captured LiesBy Maggie Thom
She was kidnapped not once but twice and now someone wants her dead.
Her life was a lie!
Bailey's mother suddenly dies and if Guy, the private investigator is to be believed, she wasn't really her mom. To find answers, Bailey has to travel back through a sketchy and dangerous past. Everyone has a story but who’s telling the truth? Is Guy part of the problem? Or part of the solution? Who wants her dead? To discover the facts, she’ll have to untangle a web of deceit, lies, and secrets, dating back over thirty years. But can she do it in time?Maggie Thom left her 20 year career in management to write full time. Captured Lies is her first published novel. Her second, Tainted Waters, will be published Spring of 2013. You can find her at www.maggiethom.com
.Want to see the final vote count for all authors? Click 'read more' below:
Welcome to the Self-Published Author Awards. If you know and love a self-published book, now is the time to show your support!
-Voting will close Monday, December 3
-Winners will be announced Friday, December 7
Vote carefully! You will NOT be able to vote again, or change your vote. Our poll server blocks multiple votes by screening for repeat IP addresses.
Voting is closed!
And the results are...
One Last Lie by Rob Kaufman
Dead Broken by Gerard Gray
Oil, The 4th Renewable Resource by Shawn Alli
The Empire's Corps by Christopher Nuttall
Captured Lies by Maggie Thom
Spirit of Lost Angels by Liza Perrat
The Virgin and the Griffin by Sandra Cordon
REM by Cheryl Abbott
Election (Minding the Heavens: Part 1) by James Pyle
Weekend in Weighton by Terry Murphy
White Lies by Alice Sabo
Heroin, Hurricane Katrina, and the Howling Within: An Addiction Memoir by Eliza Player
Shadow of the Wraith by Ross Harrison
Fresh Squeezed by James Ewing
Angels & Warriors: The Awakening by Dawn Tevy
Ice Cream Headache by Jeffrey Miller
The Last Mask (Book 1) by Stephen Winterflood
The Last Days by Andy Dickenson
The Appetite of Floyd by Joe Schlegel
I Spider by Anthony Lance
H. A. Carter: 3 Years Later by Kimberly Fuller
Seven Years in Dog Land by Johny Tay
Falling in Love by Stephen Bradlee
Drayling by Terry J. Newman
Love Again, Love for Them by R. A. Lee
Dark Matters by T. Joseph Browder
Brackets by David Sloan
Order of the Dimensions by Irene Helenowski
Lessons: The Wisdom Within Each Moment by Teresa Sue McAdams
Making Waves by Gemma Parkes
Something Nice - 10 Short Stories by Andrew Lawston
The Whispers of the Sprite by Joanna Mazurkiewicz
Orphan of the Olive Tree by Mirella Patzer
Fighting the Effects of Gravity: A Bittersweet Journey Into Middle Life by James Robinson, Jr.
The Wicked Wives by Gus Pelagatti
Letters I Wish I Had Sent by Preston Randall
Spontaneous Combustion: Enlightenment and the Cosmic Crucible by Miles Gentry
Moonlight Dancer by Deb Atwood
Following Yonder Star by Martin Gibbs
At Underground Book Reviews we feel that self-published authors should be given as much respect as traditionally published authors. Maybe even more. After all, these authors are putting themselves on the line with no support system and no one to help them market their work.
The problem is, it's hard for readers to find a good self-published book without first slogging through typos and run-on sentences. Publishing companies assure their readers that the books they put out have been read, approved of, and meticulously edited. But anyone can self-publish a book, so it's next to impossible for readers to pick out the diamonds in the rough.
In this digital age, more and more authors are realizing that self-publishing is not only easier, it is also more satisfying and, in many cases, more lucrative. But even with Amazon giveaways, it's hard to publicize a self-published book. That's why we're hosting the Self-Published Novel Competition this winter. We want to embrace these changing times and elevate deserving self-published authors to a new level.
If you're a self-published author, the competition is free to enter, and will be a great way to promote your book. Here's what you need to know:
-Published within a year of the contest start date (any time after November 2, 2011)
-HAS NOT been reviewed at Underground Book Reviews.
The Self-Published Novel Competition will be 100% popular vote. It will be up to each individual author to gain support from their readers.
Friday, November 2: voting begins (new authors can still be added)
Monday, December 3: voting closes
Friday, December 7: winners are announced
TO SIGN UP
Please contact us
with your name and the title of your novel.
There are a lot of readers out there who would happily support indie authors if they just knew where to look to find a good read. The problem is, internet reviews are a dime a dozen and printed, reputable reviews are reserved for known authors and major presses. So where does that leave the independent, self-published and emerging authors? Swimming in a digital sea of unheard opinions while their would-be fans grab the nearest best-seller.
At Underground Book Reviews, we're here for both author and reader. We know how much work goes into quality book reviews and we're excited to know that there are others out there who put the effort into representing all authors fairly and honestly. The purpose of the Battle of the Book Review Blogs was to highlight those bloggers, and we weren't disappointed. After a month of voting, the Battle has come to a close and two outstanding blogs have risen to the top of the list.
Please support the winners by visiting their websites, subscribing and following them on Facebook. Check back next Friday (the 14th) for a guest post by our second place winner and the Friday after that (the 21st) for a feature by our first place winner. If you'd like to see the complete competition results, click here
.And the winners are...
Darlene Elizabeth Williams Historical Fiction Reviews
Darlene reviews historical fiction novels and is particularly interested in promotion of self-published and independent authors. Her goal is to share her love of historical fiction and discover authors who write excellent novels. Darlene's reviews are geared towards informing the reader, not just about the novel itself, but also about a bit of history surrounding the events in the novel to provide a fuller view for those new to a particular era or historical event. Most of Darlene's historical fiction reviews are author submissions, but she has been known to go begging after an author.
Writer on the Run
Writer on the Run is a blog dedicated to a weekly, fictional short story for the reading pleasure of the public, book reviews, and general snippets from life.
"The idea for this title actually spawned a number of years ago when I was attempting to step into the world of writing in a serious manner; however, it wasn't until recently that I have actually been able to run with my dream! I struggled for the first year, after setting up my blog, about what I would blog about. Suddenly, this past summer, I asked myself "what is it that I do best ... short story!" I sincerely hope that all those who are reading these stories, and my book reviews, continue to enjoy them. All the best to all bloggers out there ... may your pens be the most lethal weapon you ever wield. Gotta run now..."
- Mary M. Cushnie-Mansour, Writer on the RunIf you enjoyed this post, be sure to subscribe to the Underground or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
Welcome to the Underground's first annual website competition! We've collected a list of stellar independent book review blogs, and now it's your job to vote on your favorite...
- Voting will close on Monday, September 3rd
- Winners will be announced Friday, September 7th
Vote carefully! You will NOT be able to vote again, or change your vote. Our poll server blocks multiple votes by screening for repeat IP addresses. Bloggers, if you review books, we'd love to add you to the list! Check out our guidelines for instructions and to see if you qualify.
Voting is closed!
and the results are...
Calling all book review bloggers!
We want to meet our cyberspace peers and fellow bookworms. That’s why we’ve opened our doors to other bloggers who dedicate their time to writing quality book reviews for the everyday reader. We’re hosting our very own party. It’s called the Fall Website Competition, and here’s who’s invited: Bloggers who…
- Dedicate their website to book reviews
- Produce at least two book reviews per month
- Are independent (not directly affiliated with a magazine, bookstore, or publishing company)Want to join us?
If you or a blogger you know would like to participate, let us know via our contact form
and we will add you to the list!
Winners will decided by popular vote. Voting will begin on Friday, August 3rd and close Monday, September 3rd. On Friday, September 7, winners will be showcased on the Underground.