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Posts Tagged ‘Fiction’

20115

 

The realtor enters first, staring in fascination at the outdated furniture and décor.  The air feels heavy with dust and it tickles the back of his throat.

Awkwardly, he remembers and steps aside to let the other man in.

The buyer steps inside after the realtor and, like him, stops to take it all in.  He scans the room, absorbing the old furniture, the layer of dust covering everything like a shroud. The dust in the air is heavy and gives his throat a dry tickle that makes him want to cough.

With a distracted nod to the realtor, he steps further into the house, feeling a momentary pang of regret for not taking his shoes off. “You are supposed to take your shoes off when you enter someone’s home,” he thinks.  He looks around taking it all in.

“It’s eerie how the house feels like the family just left it moments ago, like they are about to come back at any time.  The house looks lived in, except for the thirty years of dust coating everything and the vague feeling of abandonment.”

The mostly green cover of a comic book left laying open on the floor catches his eye.  He picks up the comic book and looks at it, trying not to disturb too much of the dust clinging to it.  It’s unavoidable, his fingers rub smudges in the dust coating the old comic book.  The Thing, an orange blocky comic book creation made of stone, part monster and all hero.  On the cover, The Thing appears to be battling a many-armed green wall, the green arms surrounding him in a barrage of punching fists.  Marvel Comics, The Thing issue #21 dated March 1985.  The price on it is sixty cents.

The top front corner is curled from a boy’s rough handling.

He puts it down with a frown, wondering if it’s worth anything on the collectors’ market.  He can’t take it, though.  It belongs to the municipality, along with the property and its contents.  At least until after the auction.  He hopes the realtor didn’t notice it.

“How often do realtors scoop up gems like this without anyone ever knowing?” he wonders.

Against the wall on a stand, a tube T.V. with its faux wood exterior box, two front dials, and bent rabbit ears poking up from the top at the back, sits darkly silent, a haze of dust coating every surface.

He walks through the house, past a pair of socks discarded on the floor, and into the kitchen.

“Did you say they still lived here after the boys vanished?” he called to the realtor in the other room.

The realtor is studying the spines of books in a bookcase on one wall.  It’s made of the old particleboard that expands and crumbles when it absorbs moisture, which it inevitably does over time.  The shelves have some warping and bubbling, crumbled on some edges.

“Yes, I don’t know how long.  They lived here while the search for the boys was going, and for some time after the search was given up.”

“And the husband moved out, leaving the mother alone?”

“Yeah.”

“How long?”

“I don’t know. Months? Years? They locked the place when they took her away. Like I said, we’re the first to set foot in the house since they institutionalized her.”

He leaves the bookshelf and starts for the kitchen.

In the kitchen, the buyer walks around, taking in the two tea towels carefully hung on the oven door handle, yellowed and rotting with age.  The teakettle on the stovetop. On the countertop, a measuring cup sits next to a mixing bowl with a wooden spoon. Two bags he guesses are flour and sugar bags sit next them. The bags are faded and stained with age, the paper brittle with age, and even the larger print words hard to read.

“Looks like someone was going to make a cake.”

He turns away, circling the table, studying the place settings set with care.

An old tan rotary dial phone hangs on the wall not far from the kitchen table, where the person on the phone can sit down at the table while they talk, the coiled cord stretched from them to the phone on the wall.

The realtor walks in and looks around, his footprints in the dust coating the kitchen floor joining those following the buyer’s trail across the room.  “Weird, the table is set for four.”

“For her family.” It is said with a dull gravity that makes the realtor turn and stare at him.

He breaks the awkward moment.

“I’ll show you the bedrooms.  There’s three bedrooms, I think.”

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Jeff Russell The Girl Who Watched Over DreamsLife for Kat (Doctor Katrina Hammond) is not turning out the way she envisioned.  Despite her misgivings, she agrees that her mother going into E.D.E.N.’s perpetual sleep program is the best choice for her mother, who is suffering from chronic rheumatoid arthritis.

Engulfed with sorrow over her loss of her mother, plagued by doubts about the program, and uncertain about the science and the quality of life her mother will have in a forever dream state, Kat agrees to take a job at E.D.E.N. This, at least, allows her to be near her mother and watch over her.

Soon after taking the job at EDEN, Kat is approached by a reporter, Morgan Brewer, who is investigating EDEN.  Distrusting his role as a reporter and suspicious his interest is only a pretense to get information from her to use against her employer; she unwillingly turns to him when she has no other options.

It doesn’t take Kat long to become suspicious that EDEN is not the idyllic sanctuary promised for the faceless residents of their perpetual sleep program.  There is something darker happening behind the scenes of EDEN, and Kat’s inability to let it go pulls her deeper into that secret.

Jeff Russell creates a believable character in Kat, a recent graduate doctor of Neuroscience.  She is grounded by her newness to the field, filled with enough self-doubt to add to the challenges she faces, and likeable.  As she presses on with her clandestine investigations over her suspicions, she is pulled in opposing directions.  She doubts her own suspicions, becomes newly suspicious of her employer, convinces herself EDEN really is helping, and becomes disturbed again by her discoveries at EDEN.

Jeff Russell does not overburden his medical thriller with technical descriptions, keeping the story flowing and compelling.  I read this story in less time than I usually do, laying back and putting off the things I really should be doing so I could keep reading.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

 

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The Woods

This story was first published in 2009.  It has been tweeked and improved for your reading pleasure.  Watch for a longer short story version to come.  The story has just begun.  Read on…

 

The Woods – a flash fiction story by L.V. Gaudet

 

It is an ordinary forest, as far as spooky looking woods go, filled mostly with craggy twisted oak trees, their gnarled branches reaching like skeletal fingers and deeply wrinkled cracked-bark covered trunks. The trees cluster together, their branches twisted and tangled together, daring any to enter their midst.

The land here lies low and wet in the spring, leaving the stand of trees a small island of stick-like saplings and sparse tall yellow grass invaded by wild roses with their sharp thorns standing in a shallow bath of melt water throughout the springtime months.

They are far from a silent woods. A small stretch of thick growth surrounded by fields of crops interspersed with some areas abandoned to grass, weeds, and stray crop seeds. Against one side of this stretch of trees, amidst the farm fields, is also nestled a small happy community. The woods team with life, red and grey squirrels, rabbits, mice and voles, and a range of birds. With the damp ground, the woods are a haven for frogs and toads, and of course, the ever present blood-sucking mosquitoes.

It is a typical small town community lying nestled against the miniature forest. It grew from centuries old land of grasslands mixed with forests. The old forests and grasslands were slowly chopped down, turned over, and settled as the world slowly populated with mankind; the landscape of humanity changing from hunter-gatherers to farms, towns, and villages.

Eventually towns and communities grew together to become cities, family homesteads populated into small farming communities, and untouched land became rare pockets of unsullied old growth forests scattered about in tiny fragments bordering farm fields and stretches of small community homes.

Some of these tiny pockets of untouched woods still hold secrets. Some of these secrets are perhaps best left that way.

 

 

The woods sit silent and brooding, an ugly tangle of dead looking leafless skeletal branches that look like they belong in a darker and more sinister world, the world of the dead. The clouds hang heavy, dark, and grey on this day; a suffocating thick blanket hanging low in the sky to cast a pall over this small piece of the world.

The snow lies heavy and wet, crystalline flakes shrinking and melding into a dirty slush as the temperatures slowly warm. In time, the snow will vanish and be replaced once again by the murky stagnant melt waters that will take a few months to dry up.

Most of the rodents, birds, and other small woodland creatures are conspicuously absent on this day, having chosen to hunker down and wait out this gloomy day. Nevertheless, a few squirrels and birds still flit about the skeletal trees, a small rabbit nervously twitching its nose as it sits motionlessly waiting.

Two children playing in their back yard off the woods dare each other to go exploring into the spooky trees.

“I bet you can’t go to the fallen tree,” said the older and taller of the two boys.

The younger boy blanched, his stomach turning sickly, but stared stone faced at the fallen rotting tree laying nestled within the narrow strip of woods beyond their yard. You can see the tree only because there are no leaves on any of the branches.

“I am not going to let you know how scared I am,” he thinks. He can already smell the mossy rot of the long dead tree, although he has never been near enough to it to catch its odor. It smells in his vivid young imagination like death and decay and something even darker. He watches a small red squirrel flit around the trees, untouched by the dark brooding sullenness and the spooks, ghosts, and monsters his mind screams must surely lurk hidden inside these scary woods. He swallowed.

“Can too,” he said, his voice cracking with fear. “I bet you can’t go stand on that ole’ stump,” he countered.

The old stump is a rotting remnant of an even older fallen tree that has long ago vanished into the mud and scraggly growth of the woods. The stump remains, standing defiant and threatening beyond the fallen tree now laying discarded and tangled in the woods, sharp splinters and points of shattered wood sticking up as though waiting to impale any foolish boy who tries to climb it and falls. Its wood is soft and crumbly now with rot, the sharp jagged edges unlikely to be capable of impaling anything for years.

Kevin humphed at his younger brother. He is just as scared, but certainly is not going to let his little brother know that. He nervously hiked up his pants, which did not need it, and stepped forward on a mission. He marched purposely into the woods, careful to keep his back to the younger boy so he will not see the paleness of his waxy fear-filled face.

With a scuff and a shrug, Jesse reluctantly followed his older brother.

A little red squirrel scampered up to the high branches as they passed, pausing to chitter down angrily at the boys.

They reach the first point, the fallen tree Kevin had dared his younger brother to venture to. It is no victory for either boy.

On a forced march of pride, determined not to reveal his fear of some silly trees, Kevin continues on. He crawls over the fallen tree, its rotting length sagging with a soggy cracking beneath his weight. His forward march slows more the closer he comes to the wicked looking ancient broken stump.

He stops; staring at the stump like it is some otherworldly thing. He dares not touch it, yet also dares not, lest Jesse think him weak or afraid.

Unable to let his older brother face the woods alone, Jesse follows. As he draws near the old stump where his brother has stopped to stare motionlessly at it, he notices something unusual looking at the base of the stump.

“What’s that?” Jesse asked nervously.

Kevin pries his eyes from the stump to look lower.  He kneels down, reaching for what lies there.

“Don’t touch it.”

“It’s nothing.”  Kevin picks it up, turning it over in his hand.

Jesse turns at the sound of a cracking branch.

The boys are never seen again.

 

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Paladin Book 1 The Evil Within the Woods.jpgBefore I get into the review, I received a free copy of this book from the author to review.  That said, this is an unbiased review.  I only review books I have actually read, and only give an honest review.

 

If you read Fitzgerald’s other book UnAlive and are expecting a similar read, you will be disappointed.  Kevin Fitzgerald’s UnAlive is a zombie apocalypse adult genre.  Paladin is a middle year’s animal tale gentle thriller.

 

Similar to stories like Watership Down and the Secret of NIHM, Paladin is written from the point of view of the animal characters, specifically the rabbit whose story is central to the plot.  Unlike the other stories, however, the human characters of Paladin are active characters in the story, rather than being some vague aspect of the animals’ world.  This adds a depth to the story in that you are bound not just by the fate of the rabbit, but also the fates of the people who saved him.

 

Paladin starts with the rabbits of the “warenne” sensing a coming change and danger.  I won’t give away what happens, but a catastrophe does happen, bringing the story from the introduction of the wild rabbits to the meat of the story.  This, the first book of the Paladin series, is Paladin’s story, a young rabbit of the “warenne”.

 

Paladin finds himself a home with a boy, Joshua, and his father, Theo.  Their pleasant life does not stay that way for long.  Theo’s onetime employee, Lou Lyons, has other plans for Theo’s business, and a self-invented grudge to avenge, putting Paladin in the center of his revenge.

 

Paladin is a children’s story.  I would place it around middle year’s grades.  The drama surrounding Paladin will appeal to kids who still like stories about animals, but this story is more than about an animal with a human-like sentience.  You are also drawn into the lives of the human characters, whose own drama Paladin is the center of.  In the end, you are left waiting for book two to find out what comes next as Paladin is thrown into the next chapter of his adventure.

 

Paladin Book 1: The Evil Within the Woods by Kevin J. Fitzgerald is self-published and is available on Amazon.

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Kevin J Fitzgerald UnAlive coverUnAlive is hailed as “Night of the Living Dead meets The Book of Eli.”  I had to watch Book of Eli after reading UnAlive to see if the comparison fits.  I would have to say that UnAlive is better than the comparison to Night of the Living Dead suggests, but The Book of Eli is not a bad comparison.

UnAlive starts with a decent hook; the mysterious character, Cian of the Nomos, the half-lives.  It sets the tone that something unusual is going to happen in a way that leaves you curious to learn more.

Something is happening in the world and, at first glance, it seems to be some kind of an attack.  General Pitman Grady leads the military investigation.  Dr. Kwom Thomas joined them as an unwilling guest brought in at the suggestion of Susan Grey.

Meanwhile Adam Gardner’s world is turned upside down and destroyed during what would have been a peaceful afternoon in the country with his wife and two sons, if not for the sudden withering death of the vegetation around him, followed by the movement of frightening shapes coming from the woods accompanied by terrible noises.  But this seems to be a dream and Adam awakes in prison.  We soon learn that it is memories, not a dream.

UnAlive jumps between the military’s attempts to find out what is going on in a world that seems to be dying en mass, Dr. Kwon Thomas’ The Two Natures study from his attempts to research the strange mass deaths of flora and fauna and worldwide collapse of life, an old priest, and Adam Gardner’s life in jail and flashbacks to his life before.

When the zombies, dubbed the UnAlive, take over the world, it becomes a race for survival and against extinction of the human species.  Meanwhile the Nomos, or half-lives, have their own agenda.  I would describe the Nomos as vampires before I would call them zombies.

I was wary when I was asked to review a zombie apocalypse book.  I couldn’t help the inward groan.  I hoped for the best and was ready for the worst.  The obsession with zombies since Walking Dead made its debut has resulted in a saturation of bad zombie everything, and there have been too many bad zombie movies and books before that.  For the record, I do not dislike zombies themselves.  It’s just that the majority of zombie movies  and my few attempts at reading a zombie book have been B movie grade at best – B for B.A.D.  I do, however love The Walking Dead.  So you have some idea where my standards lie in the zombie world.  This book was worth the read.

In UnAlive Kevin J. Fitzgerald gives us a zombie vampire apocalypse with some good descriptions of faces eating themselves from the inside and some scenes that would be Walking Dead worthy if they were adapted to film by a good director and film team.  The book has enough suspense to draw you deeper into the story.

UnAlive is self-published by Kevin J. Fitgerald and is available on Amazon and Goodreads.

You can follow Kevin J. Fitzgerald on Goodreads and Facebook.

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Ben Hale author photoBen Hale, author of The Second Draeken War series and The Chronicles of Lumineia series joins us so we can dig a little into the psyche of a writer.

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Let’s join Ben in this author interview.

  1. Is there an author or book that inspired you to write, whether to become a writer or just to write a specific story?

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Not one specifically. However, when I was a kid I read a lot. One night as I fell asleep I decided to come up with my own character. It turned out to be a relaxing way to fall asleep so I kept doing it. (Twelve year old problems are so stressful, I know.)  This practice became a habit that continued for almost fifteen years. By then I was married and my wife asked me why I fell asleep so fast. I responded by telling her I had a story I thought about. At her request I began to tell it. It was the first time I had voiced the ideas, and I was quite surprised to realize how much there was. In spite of her prompting to write it, I did not feel that writing was within my skill set. Fortunately she overcame my hesitation and the next thing I knew I had started Elseerian. Because I’d imagined it in such detail it was easy for me to write, and within a month I realized that the story I’d thought of would not fit in one book. The Chronicles of Lumineia began with a single idea and now spans ten books, two series, and ten thousand years.

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  1. What is your last story and what made you want to write it? What was the inspiration, the drive that started the idea for it?

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The last story I wrote was The Forge of Light, the end of my second series, The White Mage Saga. It could be compared in some respects to Percy Jackson or Harry Potter but there is a marked distinction in its scope. I always liked the stories of magic being hidden in our world, but was curious what would happen if it became public. What could compel mankind to believe that magic was real? Who would be strong enough to unite the magical world with the normal world? I also wanted to explore a blending of a fantasy book with real world military elements. The series contains mages that fly and stunning magic, and yet characters that are navy SEALs and a former marine sniper. The combination is hopefully unique and fun to read.

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  1. It is the age-old debate: scene setters vs. seat writers. What is your writing process like? Do you outline extensively, carefully mapping out your story ahead, or do you just go with the flow writing as it comes to you?

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I am certainly a planner over a blurter. My outlines span thousands of years, multiple series, and hundreds of characters. If I didn’t outline it I would lose track, and the story would ultimately crumble. I also practice what I call layered writing, which means there are more layers to a plot than are first visible. For example, one of my more subtle plots will ultimately span several multi-book series before finally being tied into the overall story. Hopefully it will make the story exciting on subsequent reads as readers discover hints and connections they had not noticed before.

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  1. We all know names hold a certain amount of power to give us all a pre-judged idea of what a person is like. You want to hate someone just for having the same name as a despised ex, a strong sounding name makes you think they must be strong, and a name like Poindexter, well you get the idea. How important are your character names to you? What resource would you recommend for someone having trouble finding names?

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A term I frequently use is, “The impression given is more important the text used”. The name does not matter as much as the connotation of the name. I choose names that inspire images of innocence, evil, or morality, to name a few. Since coming up with names on the spot can be difficult I have become a collector of names. When I need one, I go to my list and look for one that fits the character. Google and a thesaurus are always good backups.

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  1. Each writer has their favorite type of scene, the kind of scene that just flows naturally for them. Is there a certain type of scene you find hard to write?

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When I started writing, conversation was difficult for me. It was hard for me to write it so it did not feel stilted. Writers that excel in conversation can bring tension and intrigue without drawing on the conflict in the scene, but that was not my strength from the beginning. Part of my problem was due to a lack of vocabulary. As my vocabulary has grown I have found that writing conversation is easier. Now I’m happy to say that writing conversations are much easier after ten books.

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  1. If you could give only one piece of writing advice to an aspiring author, what would it be?

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Write, write, write. Set a goal to write every day and stick to it. It doesn’t matter if it’s a couple hundred words or a few thousand. Consistency is what matters. Professional writers maintain a pace. Also, if I was to choose a second most important item it would be to edit, edit, edit. My first book I edited 24 times before I published it, and I still think it’s not as good as I would like. It’s good to remember that there is just as much creation in the editing as there is in the writing.

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  1. What is your best do or don’t marketing tip?

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Time is the most precious commodity for a writer, so don’t waste it. I’ve met authors that are engaged in endless marketing of a single book, and end up writing very little. The more you write the more you have to sell, and the more your marketing efforts matter. Keep your marketing time to a minimum by remembering one thing; a book release is the biggest marketing event you can have.

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  1. What is your pet peeve when it comes to writing? It could be about any part from the writing process to publication, marketing, fans, etc.

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The perception that it is free. With indie publishing it is now possible to publish for free, but that does not mean the preparation is. Invest in an editor, cover designer, and if needed, a book coach. It costs money to do it right because you are investing into something. The lack of knowledge and quality can cost you a career as a writer.

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  1. Reviews can drive writers to distraction; looking for them, yearning to get them, and scared of getting them. At the same time it takes a certain kind of reader to put themselves out there and actually post a review. How do you go about encouraging your readers to rate your books or stories and post reviews? How do you respond when you get a negative review?

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I make an effort not to solicit reviews. That said, I do request one if someone has said they liked my books. The unfortunate truth is that reviews carry a lot of weight—especially the negative ones. Some reviews are given because the reader didn’t like you, or they read a couple of pages and tossed your book aside in favor of another interest. The good news is that reviews tell you things, and you should listen to them. Even the bad ones give you an idea of how your writing is perceived. Again, perception is more important that the actual words—and far more important than the idea itself. Your idea as a writer may be stunning, but it will not matter unless it is perceived as such.

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  1. And finally, the question every author’s fan wants to now: What are you working on now? What is your next published project going to be?

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I haven’t announced it yet, but I have started a new trilogy in the Chronicles of Lumineia. I will say it follows a fan favorite, and that he is a rock troll. Feel free to post a guess on my facebook page! I hope to write and publish his trilogy this year. With five kids and starting a Masters program, it’s going to be a busy 2015 for me. Good luck to all of you in your own works, and feel free to contact me if you are looking for a book coach.

.Assasins Blade Ben Hale

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You can find Ben Hale and his books on his Amazon author page. .

Visit Ben Hale’s website at The World of Lumineia

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.Eiseerian Ben Hale

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Michael John Sullivan The Greatest Gift-Book CoverThe Greatest Gift is the final installment of the trilogy that started with Necessary Heartbreak, followed by Everybody’s Daughter.

 

In Everybody’s Daughter we were left hanging with Michael Stewart and his daughter Elizabeth still missing after being transported back to ancient Jerusalem when it was a dangerous world ruled by Roman soldiers and brutality. Elizabeth was murdered by a Roman soldier who owned Michael’s beloved Leah through fear and became obsessed with owning Elizabeth too. The only way to rescue Leah and Elizabeth had been to kill the soldier, but it was too late for Elizabeth. Michael and Elizabeth were miraculously reunited when she was brought back to life.

 

Michael and Elizabeth still had no idea how they could possibly get home to their own time.

 

Back home in the present time the desperate search is still on for Elizabeth, who mysteriously vanished, and for her father Michael, who is the prime suspect in her disappearance. While his sister Connie and his friend Susan both refuse to believe Michael could have had anything to do with his daughter’s disappearance, the FBI has a very different opinion and are convinced his later disappearance only seals his guilt.

 

 

The Greatest Gift continues the story …

 

Still trapped in ancient Jerusalem, Elizabeth is pulled into greater danger just as Michael finally had her returned to him alive. His beloved Leah, who lives in that time, is rediscovered and lost to him all at once, having found someone else and married in his absence. But now Leah and Elizabeth are charged with the soldier’s murder and Michael must do everything he can to save them. Posing as a Roman soldier, he travels with them and finds himself helping an Apostle by writing part of his Gospel, an act that does not go entirely unnoticed back home in present day.

 

In the present, Connie and Susan are at odds with each other, disliking each other immensely as the tensions of Michael and Elizabeth’s disappearance drove a wedge between the two who could have been allies with their shared goal.

 

Special Agent Hewitt Paul is as determined as before to find Michael and charge him with his daughter’s disappearance. And now he believes Michael’s friend Pastor Dennis is somehow involved and possibly hiding Michael. For him everyone is a potential suspect in knowing something that might reveal Michael’s whereabouts.

 

Pastor Dennis is the only one who believes Michael’s claims before his disappearance that he had travelled to ancient Jerusalem and back.

 

Somehow Michael must rescue Leah and Elizabeth and return to the present with his daughter. Meanwhile Connie and Susan are pulled together against their will against a bigger foe, the FBI agent who wants to put Michael away. They must try to avoid Special Agent Hewitt Paul while also searching for Michael and Elizabeth, but Hewitt Paul is not so easily avoided.

 

 

 

 

The Greatest Gift brings us to the conclusion of a paranormal story of faith and sacrifice where the unbelievable is the only answer. Michael John Sullivan gives us an enjoyable mix of hope, desperation, and drama that all readers can enjoy.

 

 

The Greatest Gift is published by The Story Plant.

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