Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Escape from the Past Trilogy by Annette Oppenlander!


Escape from the Past: At Witches' End (Escape from the Past #3)
by 
Annette Oppenlander

Genre: YA Historical Fiction, Time-Travel, Action/Adventure
Release Date: November 25th 2016




When Max learns that Karl helped spring him from Schwarzburg’s dungeon during the first game, he feels obligated to return the favor. Not only because it’s the right thing to do, but supposedly Max is the one who rescued Karl from Hanstein in 1473 and helped him return home. 
With Karl’s programming help Max reluctantly agrees to enter the game a third time. At least he can visit his old friends and get cozy with Juliana while he’s at it. But two years is a long time in the Middle Ages. Something foul is in the air. Lord Werner is mysteriously absent and the new guards refuse Max entrance. Even Bero’s mother is terrified to see him. With no place to stay, Max soon finds himself on the run from Schwarzburg who hasn’t forgotten Max’s miraculous escape two years earlier. 
When at last Max finagles a way into the castle, Bero is less than pleased to see him, Lady Clara is near death and Juliana is not meeting his eyes. Can Max sway his friends, help Karl and stay out of Schwarzburg’s clutches? And will he ultimately stop Dr. Stuler’s evil computer game?
This is the final book in the Escape from the Past trilogy.

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Karl showed up around nine a.m. to install a bunch of code on
my computer. I’d been up early watching my mom get ready for
work, putting up a show about enjoying my fall break. Secretly,
I’d craved her hug, but was afraid I’d fall apart.
“I can stay,” Karl said after he explained what he’d done and
I comprehended nothing. “Until…”
“I’d rather be alone,” I said, my mouth dry again.
As soon as the door closed behind Karl, I began to sweat.
Then shiver. I was having a panic attack. If Karl had made a
mistake I’d go to the wrong place, having to complete impossible
missions. I wasn’t strong enough to survive battles and diseases
and who knew what else. Not this time.
I paced through the living room into the kitchen and back.
Minutes ticked by. An hour. Then another. Unable to eat, I
gulped down a Coke. What are you waiting for? You’ve got to do this
today. You said you would.
I don’t remember how I ended up in front of my computer,
how I turned on the game. It was like some out-of-body
experience, watching myself go through the motions, my
forehead burning as if I had a fever.
The screen buzzed, showing the familiar stone gate.
Somewhere crickets and birds chirped. As the stone gate fell
away, the outline of a castle appeared in the distance. Just like the
first time. I expected to see Lord Werner and his brother, Lame
Hans, in the woods but the dirt path in front of me was empty.
The button flashed. Upgrade to master level?
With a sigh I took mental inventory of my outfit, the items I’d
prepped and stuck into my pants. You may not return this time. Just
because I saved Karl didn’t mean I’d be able to get back.
You’re nuts.
It was like the chicken and the egg. Which came first, Karl
being there and being rescued by me or me going because I’d
rescue Karl. The time-travel thing was weird because you
returned the exact moment you left. And since Karl had played
the game a long time ago, he’d also returned a long time ago.
According to him, I’d been the one to save him.
My forefinger’s hover turned into a tremble. In fact my entire
body wobbled. The game had taught me respect for historical
environments. Modern guys like me just didn’t fit in. How many
times could I be lucky?
If I wanted to survive I’d have to make my own luck. What if
it wasn’t enough? Still, all I’d do is postpone the inevitable. I was
going to play so why not now. Get it over with.
I clicked.




At Witches End, book 3 of the Escape from the Past series, begins by revisiting Max's first venture into the game, 15 months earlier, a quick reference to happenings in The Duke's Wrath, book 1. 
Returning to the past brings with it unpredictable challenges and dangers.

Karl, the head programmer for Mad Man and gaming company owner Stuler, also survived a time travel nightmare via the game, and needs Max to go back in time once again to settle things. 
Once Max it is successful, it is their goal to destroy the game. 
Which time period will turn out to be more dangerous for Max? 
Can risking it all for something you believe you must do make one understand what is truly valuable and help one appreciate living in the here and now?

Sprinkled with historical personalities and fact, deftly designed with vivid imagination, this is an exciting adventure series. Max is an admirable friend and hero. 
It is always difficult to appreciate a series you enjoy coming to an end, but when written so well, we are able to come to terms.




Escape from the Past: The Duke's Wrath


Genre: YA Historical Fiction, Time-Travel

Release Date: July 31st 2015




Summary from Goodreads:

When fifteen-year-old nerd and gamer Max Anderson thinks he's sneaking a preview of an unpublished video game, he doesn't realize that 1) He's been chosen as a beta, an experimental test player. 2) He’s playing the ultimate history game, transporting him into the actual past: anywhere and anytime. And 3) Survival is optional: to return home he must decipher the game's rules and complete its missions—if he lives long enough. To fail means to stay in the past—forever.

Now Max is trapped in medieval Germany, unprepared and clueless. It is 1471 and he quickly learns that being an outcast may cost him his head. Especially after rescuing a beautiful peasant girl from a deadly infection and thus provoking sinister wannabe Duke Ott. Overnight he is dragged into a hornets' nest of feuding lords who will stop at nothing to bring down the conjuring stranger in their midst.







 The guard yanked me to face the group. Not ten feet away
towered one of the largest horses I’d ever seen. Its humungous
head swung back and forth as if it were proud of the armored
breast and nose shields. On top soared Knight Werner whose
piercing blue eyes searched my face. For a moment, the world
retracted into stillness. I felt my knees wobble.
Any moment now they’d cut off my head. Hadn’t Bero said
the Lord would kill me? Yet, the Lord of Hanstein neither showed
anger, surprise nor fear. Nobody spoke as I stood pinned between
the guards, their hands iron cuffs on my arms. I smelled them,
their unwashed bodies and filthy hands. I wanted to leave the
game. Return to the safety of my former life. Now! I sucked air.
My room might as well have been on the moon. Werner’s men
waited, probably ready to charge on command.
“Your name is Nerds,” Werner finally said. The blue eyes were
unsettling.
I stared up in surprise. “I’m Max.”
“Then what is the odd script on your robe? Are you a ruler’s
son?” He pulled his sword and pointed toward my chest. I kept
my eyes on the tip of the blade when I remembered. The right
side of my T-shirt had a kind of logo showing the word Nerds
underneath a crown. Despite the filth, the printed word and
image were clearly visible. Bero hadn’t noticed because he
probably couldn’t read.
“I…it is a fashion where I come from,” I stumbled. I wanted to
kick himself, having opened the door to more disaster. Werner’s
knights broke into chuckles.
Werner retracted his sword. “Most interesting. Tell us, you
come from where?”
“A distant place, My Lord,” I said, attempting to buy time.
“I’ve traveled afar, a pilgrimage to Jerusalem ten years ago.”
Confidence radiated from the knight’s voice. “You speak like a
foreigner. Are you on a quest?” Werner’s expression was still
more curious than suspicious. A glimmer smoldered in his eyes
as if the blue had been turned into gas flames.

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I was fortunate and happy to read Game of Life...An Introduction by Annette Oppenlander just before beginning this first full book of the Escape From The Past series. It really set the scene and tone for understanding and enjoying this entertaining read.

At first I found it a bit difficult to believe that a sixteen year old boy who prefers gaming to other activities knew as much history and natural medicine as he did, but the book keeps the pace moving and I was able to suspend that disbelief. Maybe it will even encourage readers of the same age group to pay more attention to their studies. You never know when and where that knowledge could come in handy.
There is a scene near the beginning of the book that is difficult to read, as it details graphic physical harm, but considering the death and destruction of many video games, it pales in comparison.
The historical aspects of the book were easy to follow and I felt described life believably. There were details that one does not often consider, such as water quality and unusual fare.

Not all my questions were answered so I look forward to reading the next books in this series.




Escape from the past: The Kid (Escape from the Past #2)
by 
Annette Oppenlander
Genre: YA Historical Fiction, Time-Travel
Release Date: February 26th 2016


Summary from Goodreads:

Time-traveling gamer, Max, embarks on a harrowing journey through the Wild West of 1881! After a huge fight with his parents, Max tries to return to his love and his best friend, Bero, in medieval Germany. Instead he lands in 1881 New Mexico. Struggling to get his bearings and coming to terms with Dr. Stuler s evil computer game misleading him, he runs into Billy the Kid. To his amazement Billy isn t at all the ruthless killer history made him out to be. Trouble brews when a dying Warm Springs Apache gives Max a huge gold nugget to help his sister, Ela, escape from Fort Sumner. Shopping for supplies Max attracts the attention of ruthless bandits. Before Max can ask the Kid s help, he and Ela are forced to embark on a journey to find his imaginary goldmine. This is book 2 in the Escape from the Past trilogy."

The voice was deep and cold as the wind. Something hard and
unyielding dug into my back. Maybe it was one of Werner’s men
or had I run into Schwarzburg’s guards? But something felt
wrong, something I couldn’t put my finger on.
Before I knew what to do, the ground shifted as several
shadows rose around me.
“Wade, what is it?”
“Found us an intruder,” Wade said. “Showed up like a stray
coyote.” For emphasis he shoved at my ribs. I suppressed a yelp
as the pain spread to my stomach.
“You sleeping, Wade? Let someone walk in here like that.”
This voice was scratchy as a cheese grater with an Irish-sounding
twang.
A sudden light stung my eyes. One of the shadows had lit a
match not five inches from my nose.
“Look at that. What is that?” the man with the Irish voice said.
“It’s a kid.”
I caught a glimpse of a reddish beard, a grimy bandana on the
neck below and a leather vest. Definitely not Duke Schwarzburg
or Werner.
Wait a minute.
I gulped as new panic sucked away my air and turned my
stomach. Though they spoke a weird dialect, these men spoke
English. I understood them clearly.
I was nowhere near Hanstein.
I shook my head. It had to be the game. I’d been able to
communicate with Bero and Juliana even though they spoke
some kind of medieval German. What if they were speaking some
other language entirely and it was all an illusion? What had
Jimmy’s father done?





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You might think that after having struggled to survive and wondering if you'd ever make it home to your own time, you would hesitate to (or avoid) unpredictable time travel again. Then again, how unpredictable and changeable are sixteen year old boys?
While Max had hoped to return to the same place and time he had traveled in the previous book, The Duke's Wrath, this time he lands in a situation totally new to him, again. And he meets another cute girl.  Could this time be the one he is supposed to stay in?
The fast pace doesn't give much time to breathe, as Max and Ela find themselves taken hostage, Max has an encounter with a rattler and needs to find a healer of this era.
What would an old west tale be without a famous gunslinger - here in the form of Billy The Kid, written unlike you've read before.

As in her other books, the author has a talent for creating settings and situations that keep us on the edge of our seats.


 About the Author

Annette Oppenlander writes historical fiction for young adults and anyone who loves stories set in the past. When she isn’t in front of her computer, she loves indulging her dog, Mocha, and traveling around the U.S. and Europe to discover amazing histories.

"Nearly every place holds some kind of secret, something that makes history come alive. When we scrutinize people and places closely, history is no longer a number, it turns into a story."

Author Links:



Tuesday, November 29, 2016


damian-layla-book-cover
Title: Sunset Reads: Damian & Layla
Author: D.C. Triana
Genre: Romantic Suspense
One year.
It’s been one year since Agent Damian Trent left for Washington without a word.
One year since he’s seen her beautiful face.
One year since he’s heard his name on her lips.
He’s been recently called back to New York City on assignment, to catch a criminal who’s trying to infiltrate Sunset Reads. The last thing he expects is to work side by side with the woman he turned his back on.
Having her close is an unwanted distraction that he’s more than willing to ignore, if only she wasn’t so damn tempting.
Everything seems under control, until a night of feverish passion has him abandoning all thoughts of reason. Now, he will do everything in his power to get her back, and even more so to protect her.
Layla Reece wants nothing to do with the man who left her a year ago.
The man who took her heart with him, leaving her broken.
After a year of trying to forget Damian Trent, she is finally ready to move on.
But trying to forget him becomes a tedious task when he suddenly reappears in her life.
Although she fights to stay away, his magnetism is too strong and she finds herself giving into the deep timbre of his voice, and the strength and safety of his arms.
Staying away from Damian turns out to be futile, especially when his kisses consume her and his heart shatters the walls she spent so much time building.
Finding herself in danger, she now has to turn to the only man she trusts to keep her safe, but can she trust him enough to give him her heart once again?

Author Bio

D.C. Triana is a new romance author and novelist. She was born in raised in New York and is currently residing in Florida. Last March, Her dream of publishing a romance novel came true with, Sunset Reads: William & Cristina. The novel is currently holding a 4.5 star rating on Amazon as well as GoodReads. She is excited to announce her second novel in the series, Sunset Reads: Damian & Layla, releasing on December 26, 2016.
When she is not delving into her hopeless romantic thoughts, she is expanding her experiences and travelling around the world. She also will not miss an episode of the Walking Dead, has an obsession with Superman, and has watched Pride and Prejudice at least ten times. An avid fan of all types of music and dancing; she enjoys cuddling up with her puppy Obi, and helping new authors like herself. You can visit her at http://www.dctriana/com, or be part of her newsletter where you can take part in giveaways, receive updates on upcoming storylines, and get reviews on hot new titles. Sign up for her Newsletter here: http://eepurl.com/bXH-P9

Quote

damian-layla-teaser-quote

Links

Spotify playlist :
Twitter: @DCTriana1

Guarded by the Warrior Book Blast

Aurora Publicity is pleased to bring you Eliza Knight's GUARDED BY THE WARRIOR book blast 

Inside the Book:

guarded-by-the-warrior
Title: Guarded by the Warrior (Conquered Bride Series Book 5) Author: Eliza Knight
Release Date: November 29, 2016
Publisher: Knight Media, LLC
Genre: Historical Romance
A lady in need of protection... Suffering through a short marriage to an enemy of Scotland, Lady Emilia MacCulloch manages to escape just before her husband dies. But the Ross Clan will stop at nothing to get her back, for she plays a big part in their plans to thwart Robert the Bruce. She fears not only for her life, but for her family who will be labeled traitors. Placed by her king as a governess in the household of a devastatingly handsome warrior, Emilia finds herself drawn to the man when she had previously sworn off love altogether. His passion, charisma, loyalty, and strength shake the very foundation she's built around her heart. A warrior in need of saving... Ian Matheson has spent his entire life trying to prove himself. To belong. When his father passes away and his mother takes her vows at a nearby abbey, he is suddenly left in a position he was wholly unprepared for. And then his father's dozen illegitimate children arrive on his doorstep in need of a father figure of their own. They are adorable and reckless, and he's certain they'll drive him mad. Just when he thinks he might actually need to find a wife to help him, Lady Emilia is presented to him by the king. She needs his protection and he needs her help with the bairns. Ian is tempted by her angelic face, her fiery tongue, and the secrets that surround her. He must resist the growing desire that's laying claim within him. He must prove to his clan that he is a worthy leader. But maybe, just maybe, he can have the respect of his people and Emilia, too.
BUY HERE:

Meet the Author:

 
Once upon a time, in a land far away, there lived a princess… Growing up, I was a proficient story teller, with most of my plots encompassing princesses and princes and dreams coming true. Now as an author, some of my stories are still about royalty, knights, duels, ladies, intrigue, betrayal. History fascinates me and I try to bring history back to life in each of my stories. My favorite time periods are medieval, renaissance and Regency eras of Europe. Growing up, I was lucky to have grandparents who lived in Paris, so many a summer was spent exploring medieval ruins and historical sites. One of my all time favorite books is Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte, and I am of course Jane Austen fan, my two favorites being Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility. I love the in-depth, emotionally riveting and intriguing works of historical author, Ken Follett. I am also a fan of Shakespeare, and you will find in a lot of my writing reference to the literary God and his work. Not only Shakespeare, but other period poets and literary notables of history are on my keeper shelf. My love affair with the romance genre started young. I picked up my first romance novel, The Bride, by Julie Garwood when I was in high school, and I haven’t been able to stop reading or writing romance since. When I’m not reading or writing I am usually doing research for fun. If you love history, come visit me at History Undressed, where we discuss all the wildly fascinating and titillating facts of history! Recently I’ve started to post reviews of historical fiction and romance novels as well. Connect with Eliza: Website | Facebook | Twitter|Instagram|Pinterest  
 


Book Blast Unexpected: Short Stories from Around the World by P. F Citizen One

  Unexpected: Short Stories from Around the World by P. F Citizen One
Unexpected is a collection of true life short stories inspired by the author's travels around the world and the people he has met. The book features seven thought-provoking, humorous and engaging stories that end with the most unlikely twist.
In one of the stories, The Wedding Contract, the author tells the story of a man who was forced to sign a pre-nuptial agreement simply because his wife was wealthy and he was considered poor. As time went on, fortunes changed and the man became far wealthier than his wife. His wife and friends dreaded the worst from him because of his new financial position but what he did next was shocking.

Book Details

Genre: Anthology, Short Stories
Published by: BookBaby
Publication Date: October 7th 2016
Number of Pages: 23
ISBN: 1483577856 (ISBN13: 9781483577852)
Purchase Links: Amazon  Barnes & Noble  Goodreads 

Excerpt:

Julie’s parents were concerned. Julie was a single child from a pretty wealthy family with many properties and stores. So, her parents, her family, and her friends convinced her to protect herself by writing a prenup agreement. Should they get divorced, Julie would keep all her family’s belongings. All her entourage pressured her so much that Julie finally arrived at the idea that it was necessary to sign a prenup.
Jean-Pierre didn’t accept it at first, but in the end, he had no choice: Was it worth losing the woman he considered to be his soulmate?
Jean-Pierre and Julie finally got married and had two gorgeous daughters. But Jean-Pierre was still a little bit sad. After all, if they insisted on a contract, it was because her family didn’t completely trust him.
Jean-Pierre had been writing for a few years, and he had written many books. He was also working as a French teacher to get some additional revenue. However, he decided to stop writing to become a full-time teacher and contribute more to the family expenses.
He threw himself into his work as a teacher. One day, as Julie was watching television, she saw that the press was looking for the anonymous author of three books. From their description of the writing, she immediately recognized her husband’s style. After he was identified as the author of these books, he was given royalties for the book sales.
Jean-Pierre soon became very rich and famous, so much so that Julie (and, indeed, the press) was now waiting for the day when Jean-Pierre would cheat on her. She expected that he would eventually divorce her to marry another girl—probably an actress or a model or simply a younger woman. He was now famous and powerful, far richer than his wife and her entire family.
Rumors of cheating grew more and more persistent. The rumors said that Jean-Pierre would ask for a divorce and that he was getting ready for another wedding.
During a press conference, Jean-Pierre was asked about the rumors. He answered that he would act like a man and not hide anything anymore. In front of everyone, he told his wife:
“Honey, since the very first time I met you, I loved you more than I loved any other woman. Then, we got married and had two wonderful girls. I love them so much Over the years, I always thought about…that prenuptial agreement I had to sign because I was poor. Today, I am very rich… I am sorry, honey, but I am announcing...

Author Bio:

P.F  Citizen  OneP.F. Citizen One is a writer. He works as a petroleum engineer, which requires a lot of traveling to different countries, and he uses the situations and varied people he has come across as an inspiration for his great love of writing. His interest in travel has meant that he has picked up some useful languages along the way, and he is now fluent in English, French, Portuguese, Spanish and German, allowing him to go just about anywhere and still be understood. Most of the time. He lists his great fear as ''being stranded alone on a desert island'' and, as a result, he avoids traveling by boat whenever he can.
P.F. Citizen One’s new book, Unexpected, was published on October 7th and is a book of short stories, inspired by his travels throughout the world and the people he has met.
Catch Up With P.F. Citizen One on his Website & on Facebook!
 


Book Tour Coming Soon!

In February Unexpected: Short Stories from Around the World will be featured in a virtual book tour. Visit the sites below for great features, reviews, and giveaways!

 

Join More Great Tours at Providence Book Promotions!

FIRST DEGREE MUDDER BOOK TOUR



First Degree Mudder


First Degree Mudder (A Pacific Northwest Mystery)

Cozy Mystery
4th in Series
Kensington (November 29, 2016)
Mass Market Paperback: 304 pages
ISBN-13: 978-1496705099
E-Book ASIN: B01CMGS41G
When a mud marathon champion bites the dust, Meg Reed has to go the distance to make sure a killer comes clean . . .
Back home in Portland, Oregon, Meg is ready to take her career as an outdoor writer for Extreme magazine to the next level. Lesser journalists sling mud—Meg plans to run through it. To train hard for Mud, Sweat & Beers, an extreme 5K mud run, she’s signed on with the Mind Over Mudder team, run by ten-time mud marathon champ—and former drill sergeant—Billy the Tank. But when Meg finds her tenacious trainer dead in the locker room, she has a sinking feeling someone may have been pushed too far. Digging through the hidden secrets at Mind Over Mudder is a dirty job, but somebody’s got to do it. Meg will have to tread carefully, though—or she may soon be running for her life . . .



FIRST DEGREE MUDDER EXCERPT
Fort Vancouver National Park
Old Army Barracks
My feet squished inside my drenched kicks as I limped through the damp grass. I’d like to give Billy a swift kick in the shins, I thought cranking the volume on my phone to high. Maybe Dean Martin’s “King of the Road” would give me a final boost. Doubtful. I didn’t feel like the king or queen of the road. Quite the opposite.
The rest of my Mind Over Mudder teammates were nowhere in sight. Thank God. I checked behind me twice, just to make sure. I probably could have taken the shortcut straight to the barracks, but I didn’t want to risk being seen. That might have been a mistake. The historic grounds gave off an eerie aura, especially the dilapidated army hospital Building 614, to my left. It was rumored to be haunted. I understood why. Built in 1904 during an influenza outbreak, the three-story brick building had served hundreds of infantry men over the decades.
I shuddered to imagine the torture some of them must have endured. Was that a moan? A prickly feeling ran down my spine.
I think that’s a moan, I said aloud as I glanced up at the broken top story windows. Something ghoulish floated past.
Run, Meg!
I willed myself forward, ignoring the blisters on my heels or the chafing under my sports bra. It felt like I was breathing under water. I didn’t care. I crested the hill and turned onto Evergreen Boulevard.
Relax, Meg. It’s just your mind playing tricks on you. I had read one too many ghost stories when researching the history of Fort Vancouver and its surrounding grounds. The hospital had been abandoned for years, but people swore that things were amiss. Faucets were said to turn on in the middle of the night, bathroom doors banged shut for no reason, faces, like the one I’d just seen, appeared out of nowhere in the windows. The place was haunted. Definitely haunted.
You’re fine now, I told myself, slowing my pace.
I followed the flour on the sidewalk that marked the route of our pre-dawn run. It took us past the Fort’s parade grounds complete with an old-fashioned bandstand and Officer’s Row—a row of stately Victorian officer’s houses. That’s when I saw the creepy old lady again. I’d seen her watching us from her ground floor apartment before. The twenty-two stately mansions that make up Officer’s Row were now used for a variety of purposes. The Grant House had become one of Vancouver’s premier restaurants and the Marshall House a favorite spot for weddings. The remaining properties had been converted into commercial and residential space.
Yesterday when I jogged past the creepy old lady’s apartment she peeled back one lace curtain and watched me and my teammates. It was unsettling to say the very least.
I stopped to tie my shoe under an ancient oak. Its leaves looked parched from summer’s endless sun. My throat commiserated with the tree. I could use an ice-cold glass of water right about now. Pushing myself to standing all the hairs on my arms stood at attention as a creaking sound came from the creepy old lady’s front door. She appeared out of nowhere on the wraparound porch.
Were my eyes playing tricks on me? Where had she come from? I jumped back in surprise. Her glassy eyes bore into me. She wore a faded pink bathrobe and appeared to have been old enough to be one of the original members of the Hudson Bay Company.
“Hi.” I offered a tentative wave.
She didn’t move.
I tried again. “Good morning.”
Her eyes remained locked on me, but she gave no indication that she’d heard my greeting.
Was she a ghost?
I had no intention of waiting around to find out. I plowed ahead, crossing Evergreen Boulevard, and practically hurdling the waist-high wooden fence that ran the length of the grassy parade grounds. My feet revolted as I stumbled down the hill. It felt like someone was sanding my heels with sandpaper.
            Pick up the pace, Meg.
            The only thing that kept me upright was the promise of a hot shower and the fact that a ghost might be in hot pursuit. I needed to get to the barracks and get out of these shoes. Mud and sweat oozed from every pore. Thankfully, I’d learned my lesson after the first day on the training course and ditched my cute pink tank top and capris for old raggedy sweats and a t-shirt. Everything ended up discolored from the mud. There was no point in trying to look cute while under Billy the Tank’s watchful eye and blaring bullhorn.
            I cut through the grass, something Billy definitely frowned on. “Reed!” he bellowed in his bullhorn when he caught me sneaking around the back of the barracks last week. “When you take a shortcut you’re only cheating yourself.”
            That was fine by me. I happily owned cheating on myself.
There was a single light on in the otherwise deserted collection of buildings down the hill. The reserve encompassed three hundred and sixty-six acres of land. It included Fort Vancouver, Pearson Airfield and Museum, the barracks, Army hospital, Red Cross building, Officer’s Row, an old chapel, stables, and non-commissioned officer’s houses. The grounds are considered the Pacific Northwest’s most important historical site. And this morning I couldn’t shake the feeling that there were whispers from the past surrounding me.
            My target was the barracks’ building where the single light glowing golden yellow looked like a welcoming beacon. Billy and his business partner Dylan had leased the barracks to use as base camp for their three-week intensive training class Mind Over Mudder. They promised that by the end of the session (If you survived, which at the moment looked doubtful for me) that not only would you be in “fighting shape” to finish a mud run, but that you’d also drop pounds and pant sizes. So far the scale hadn’t budged when I stepped on it, and I was so exhausted at the end of the day that I felt like dropping dead.
            Using the wooden railing, I placed one hand over the other and slowly hauled my body up the ramp. The rotting wooden slats buckled. Please hold, I said a silent prayer to the Universe. The last thing I needed was to crash through the ramp.
Compared with the other buildings the barracks were in great shape. Everything had sat empty since the army abandoned its post in Vancouver decades earlier. The National Park, along with a trust, had begun renovations on the massive site. The barracks were first on the list, and Mind Over Mudder the first and only tenant at the moment. A sharp splinter lodged itself in my palm. It protruded from my mud-chapped skin. I stopped and yanked it free. Ouch!
            Yet another reason to love this training program, I sighed as I opened the front door and stumbled inside. Every muscle in my body quaked. Billy had promised us that muscle pain was a sign that our metabolism was revving up and we were replacing fat with muscles. “Embrace the quakes” was his motto. Easy for him to say. Billy aka “the Tank” was the fittest person I’d ever met. That was saying a lot given that I write for Northwest Extreme Magazine and am constantly surrounded by hard bodied adventure junkies.
            Billy instructed us to call him Tank on the first day of training. He looked like a tank. His stout body bulged with muscle mass. There wasn’t an ounce of fat on his body. Let’s just say that he was a bit intimidating when he sounded the whistle around his neck, wearing skin tight army shorts and a sleeveless shirt specifically designed to show off his enormous muscles.
            I scanned the dimly lit hallway to make sure the Tank wasn’t there. By my estimate the rest of my teammates should be on the course for another thirty minutes. That should give me ample time to shower, soak my aching soles, and hightail it out of here before anyone was the wiser. I clicked off my music, tugged my earbuds out, and clutched my phone in the hand without the splinter.
            The barracks have an ominous vibe even when they’re packed with my teammates and coaches. Shuffling down the long empty hallway made it feel even creepier. Like the army hospital the barracks are said to be haunted. The top floor was used for gun testing. There are still bullet holes in the walls upstairs, and it was said that you could hear phantom gun shots.
            A loud thud sounded below.
            I jumped and let out a scream.
            My heart pounded in my chest. Relax, Meg. Maybe one of my teammates had the same idea.
            I continued on, checking over my shoulder to make sure no one was behind me. The locker rooms were located in the basement. Not exactly where I wanted to be at the moment, but I hobbled down the hardwood stairs anyway.
            When I was a few feet away from the locker room doors, they swung open nearly smacking me in the face.
            I jumped again.
            Was it the ghost? How were the doors opening? One of the rumors that I’d heard about the haunted buildings was that doors were known to open and close at will.
            I backed up.
            At that moment someone barreled through the doors and knocked me off my feet.
            “Hey!” I caught myself on the wall.
            The guy leaped over me and raced down the hallway before I could get a look at his face. I had a pretty good guess who it was. Tim Baxter, one of my fellow teammates. I recognized his bulk and black hooded sweatshirt. What was he doing in the locker room and why was he in such a hurry?
            I pushed to standing. “Tim, where are you going?”
            He paused at the front doors.
            I noticed a package under his right arm. “Tim!” I called again. “What’s going on?”
            He froze. I thought maybe I’d made a mistake. My contacts were thick with sludge. I don’t see distances very well even when my contacts are perfectly clear. Dirt had formed a thick filmy layer, making my vision blurry. I blinked twice.
            The door slammed shut. Tim, or whoever had run into me, was gone
            Weird.
            I brushed myself off and continued into the locker room. Steam enveloped the front area where three massage tables sat empty. Long mirrors stretching the length of the room were completely fogged over. It smelled like stale sweat, moldy wood, and eucalyptus. Someone, probably Tim, must have left the steam room doors open.
            Using my hands as I shield to avoid tripping over a bench I made my way past the massage tables and into the shared steam, sauna, and whirlpool room. Doors on either side of the room lead to the men’s and women’s changing rooms and showers. Originally the barracks only housed men, so when Mind Over Mudder renovated the basement locker room they’d had to get creative with the design. The actual changing areas and showers were private and on opposite sides of each other, but the steam room and hot tub were coed, which meant that bathing suits were always required.
            My cheeks burned with heat. Muddy sweat dripped onto the floor. The wet air filled my lungs, making me cough.
            I fumbled through the dense layer of steam. My hands landed on the cedar steam room door, which was indeed wide open. Someone had propped it open with one of the locker room benches. Really weird. I pushed the bench away. It made a sound like nails on a chalkboard on the tile floor.
            My feet slid across the wet floor. I landed on my tailbone as the steam room door swung shut. Awesome. Two falls in a matter of a few minutes. That had to be a new record for me. At least my phone was safely secured to my arm. I just got a new phone after a little accident with my old phone. Smart phones aren’t cheap, especially for a girl on a tight budget. I couldn’t risk damaging this one, so I undid the Velcro strap around my arm and placed my phone and earbuds on a bench nearby. 
            Steam billowed from underneath the door. It reminded me of dry ice on Halloween. Whoever turned it on must have cranked the heat to full blast. I braced myself as I opened the door to shut it off.
            I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face, but I knew where the dials controlling the heat and steam were. The steam room and I had become besties over the past few days. Nothing soothed my training aches and pains like the moist warm air.
            I found the thermostat and switched it off. I know I shouldn’t have, but I climbed onto the cedar slatted bottom bench and drank in the steam. Billy would be furious if he caught me wearing my muddy clothes in the hot humid room, but I couldn’t help it. I was freezing. Just five minutes, Meg, I told myself as my breathing steadied and I sunk onto warm bench. This is exactly what I needed, I could almost feel my muscles begin to relax.
            Within minutes the steam began to evaporate and the air began to thin. I opened my eyes. My contacts were like glue. Blinking as hard as I could, I tried to loosen their grip. It didn’t work. They felt like sand. I might have to ditch them, I thought as I stood up.
            The small cedar room came into soft focus. Someone else was in here with me. I blinked again. “Billy?”
            Billy was laying on his back on the top bench with his eyes closed. Why hadn’t he said anything? He must be pissed that I snuck out early.
            “Listen, Tank, I’m really sorry I took the shortcut. My feet are killing me this morning. I have like a thousand blisters.”
            Billy didn’t respond.
            “Tank, I’m a reporter, remember. I’m here for a story. It’s not like the rest of my teammates.” I stood. Spots danced in my vision.
            Again Billy didn’t respond. I moved closer. Suddenly, I knew why he wasn’t responding. Billy wasn’t resting.
As I came closer, a horrific sense of dread came over my entire body. Billy was dead.


Murders past and present get mixed in the mud as Meg sloughs through a challenging training in search of a story and the truth.
I read this as a stand alone but my gut is telling me that this murder mystery, focused on Meg's training leading up to a Mud Race challenge, pales in intrigue to the evidence uncovered regarding Meg's father's death. I am positive that is where the juicy story lies. 
I am hoping that, as with several popular television crime dramas, that investigation will be drawn out over multiple books, giving additional insight, but keeping the readers curious and craving more. By this book's end, I still had unanswered questions.

In First Degree Mudder several story lines entwine. Meg has always desired to be a top notch journalist. It is in her blood, inspired and encouraged by her Pop. She has a strong sense of intuition, perhaps inherited from her Gram, although like most young people, Meg doesn't always give it due diligence. She has two best friends who are also pursuing their dreams and new careers. Emotions exert strong influence in events and actions. 

As a main protagonist, Meg gives us much to appreciate. She's curious, enthusiastic, generous and dedicated. We also feel she's on the verge of growing pains. 
I want to know more about Gram and Meg's relationship with her mother. There is room for all sorts of emotional turmoil between Meg and her gentlemen friends. And Portland is ripe with characters to meet and be entertained by, oh- those hipsters!



Kate Dyer-Seeley writes the Pacific Northwest Mystery Series for Kensington Publishing, featuring a young journalist, Meg Reed, who bills herself as an intrepid adventurer in order to land a gig writing for Northwest Extreme. Only Meg’s idea of sport is climbing onto the couch without spilling her latte.
She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and son, where you can find her hitting the trail, at an artisan coffee shop, or at her favorite pub. Better yet—at all three.
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