The only thing to save two old friends from death may also be what kills
Mr. Peters is a successful business owner. Other than dealing with a recent
rash of break-ins, he lives a very satisfying life. That was until a
childhood friend and brilliant scientist paid him a visit.
While the two friends had a troubled past, not speaking for ten years, the
reunion was a happy one. That happiness quickly took a wrong turn as their
lives are threatened.
Now held captive, the use of an experimental drug was the only option. A
top-secret drug that enhanced a person’s will and physicality is the
only thing giving them a fighting chance.
However, there are deadly side effects. Along with enhanced abilities comes
a decrease in mental stability. Moreover, there is more to the kidnappings
than first thought.
Will the two childhood friends maintain their sanity long enough to
Excerpt from Chapter 2
The lab environment was huge. There were tables and equipment everywhere; it was a spotless room with a lot of testing and sample stations in different areas. Michael and Trey got off the elevator and walked over to two large tables at the back of the lab. Each of those tables had a maze set-up that spread the length of them. Next to the tables were cages. One cage held about twenty little white mice. Trey stood by the table looking at the mazes.
“I don’t get this new set-up,” Trey said.
He pointed to one table and commented on how that maze wasn’t really a maze, but just a straight line to the end. Then he looked at the maze on the other table and pointed out how there were a lot of branching paths going in all different directions.
“Yes, sir! That is exactly what you are looking at. The table with all the branching paths circles around the cheese. If you notice, there is no access to the cheese in that maze,” Michael explained.
Michael reached in and grabbed a mouse from the cage. He held it dangling it by his tail. With his other hand, he held a piece of cheese in front of the mouse, almost teasing it. The mouse reached out while swinging back and forth, trying to grab at the cheese. He then put the piece of cheese in the middle of the maze. He put the mouse at the beginning of the maze and let it go.
The mouse sniffed around for a moment. Once it got a whiff of the cheese, it ran into the maze. It kept running through all the branching paths of the maze and ended up running around the path that circled the cheese. The mouse could smell the cheese but had no path to get to it.
“So, the mouse knows the cheese is there, and he just keeps circling it. Seems like typical behavior,” Trey said.
“It is indeed typical behavior. That’s the control, the mouse acts as it is expected. This maze here with the straight line to the finish is the test,” Michael said, pointing to the table as if he was displaying a prized showcase.
“Okay, that’s a single hall to the cheese. But it’s still blocked—”
“Yes, the cheese is blocked off,” Michael interrupted.
Michael reached down and picked up the little wooden block that ended the straight line on the table. He handed it to Trey, and Trey examined it. He noticed that the block was slightly heavier than what these mice could physically move. Michael then walked back over to the cage of mice and grabbed a different mouse. He took a syringe from the table and injected the mouse.
“Well, mice have been known to gnaw off their own limbs to escape mousetraps,” Tracy said. “Is that the idea here?”
Trey watched as Michael dangled the mouse in the air. He then took another piece of cheese and held it in front of the mouse. The mouse seemed to get excited trying to get at the cheese. The mouse viciously grabbed at the cheese, trying to bite it while dangling. It even bit Michael a few times.
“Damn, that mouse seems a lot more aggressive than before,” Trey said
“Take a look at this…Oh, just so you know, this is the thirty-seventh time we have done this today,” Michael said.
Michael took the weighted block from Trey and placed it back in its spot at the end of the maze. He then took the piece of cheese and put it behind the block. Trey examined the maze, which was just a straight line to the weighted block with the piece of cheese hiding behind it. Michael walked to the front of the maze and placed the mouse at the starting point.
The mouse immediately ran toward the maze’s finish at a speed beyond that of the fastest mice they’d seen in the lab. The mouse ran to the end of the maze and slammed head-first into the weighted block. The block moved, just a fraction of an inch. The mouse then viciously clawed and bit at the block.
“Wow, I’ve never seen anything like that before. That mouse seems to be really determined, to the point where it completely ignored the pain from slamming into the block at that speed,” Trey said.
The mouse then ran in the opposite direction, back towards the beginning of the maze. It turned and sprinted back to the block at an even faster speed than before, slamming its head on the block once again.
“The mouse isn’t ignoring the pain. The brain stopped registering it,” Michael said.
The mouse repeated this act several times, moving the block just a fraction each time. After a few minutes of this display, the block had moved just enough for the mouse to slide through the opening. The mouse did so and ate the cheese.
“My research stated that this would happen, but I didn’t think we could achieve it this soon,” Trey said.
“Well, the last set of changes you proposed to the formula seem to put us at the almost there state. As you can see by the speed of the mouse, the brain is able to tell the body’s muscles to perform at levels above normal. The mouse’s skin seems to go into a protective mode and harden, just a tad, to brace for impact,” Michael explained.
Michael reached into the maze and removed the weighted block. The mouse continued to eat the cheese.
“So, we have created a near invincible mouse,” said Trey.
“No, the mouse is still completely vulnerable, but it will be the toughest mouse you have ever seen…for a short period of time.”
“Well, it’s hard to say with other specimens, but with the mice we have, and the dosage we have been giving them, it lasts about five minutes. The other problems we have had are still there with prolonged use, so we have been using a new mouse each time,” Michael said. “There is one problem…”
Trey looked at the maze and noticed the mouse was lying limp on the floor beside the cheese. The lab tech walked over and picked up the mouse as if it was dead, and put it in a second cage filled with a different set of mice.
“Did the mouse die?” Trey asked.
“No, it didn’t die. All the benefits of the formula are fueled by a goal, which in this case is getting to the piece of cheese. Once the goal is accomplished, the hypothalamus realizes it has delegated functions beyond the body’s safe capabilities. Tries to normalize the brain functions in a hurry. Thus, the mouse passes out,” Michael explains.
“Hmm…new problem,” Trey said.
“Yep, new problem. The passing out seems to have no effects on the mouse. Just looks like it’s a way of the brain returning to normal in a hurry. But it’s something you must be mindful of. Nothing we can do about it now.”
Trey looked over at the mouse cage to see the once-limp mouse running on the pinwheel like nothing had happened.
“That was fast. The mouse is back to normal again.”
“Yeah, they seem to be resilient… but it’s a mouse, and it is a very small dose that they receive.”
“I don’t remember sleeping that long,” Trey said.
“You slept for two days, Tracy. We almost took you to the hospital,” said Michael.
“Okay, yeah, you are right, it was a long time. Was some good sleep,” Trey said. “But this is a different formula. Improvements have been made, as you said.”
“Yes, that’s true. But even though you passed out, that never happened with the mice until the new improvements.”
“Something to think about,” Trey said.
“Something to think about indeed,” Michael echoed.
About the Author
DL Jones is a Writer, IT Professional and Tech Enthusiast.
DL Jones was born in Brooklyn NY, grew up in Newport News VA and has spent
the last 8 years in Charlotte NC. He has served time in the US Army and
works as an IT Professional. His first love has always been tech, well
computers and the web specifically, which has led to a lot of writing.
Female psychic detective, Epiphany Mayall is on the track of stolen antiquities and a clay tablets relating the Epic of Gilgamesh. Through a combination of her psychic abilities and the technological resources of PI Maro Gaido and the FBI’s art crimes division, they zero in on the mysterious conspirators who people the shady global underworld of the arts and antiquities black market. Can they find the Gilgamesh tablet with its map to the “flower of immortality,” or will the treasure disappear forever into the private vault of a billionaire art thief?
The Spiritualist Camp
“Nana, Nana! Come quick.”
Epiphany Mayall got to her feet and hurried across the dining room. “What is it, Maddie?”
“Look, Nana. Endora’s acting really funny.”
Epiphany leaned forward and peered out the window. Endora, her black and white cat, was crouched in the grass, completely focused on something. The cat suddenly flinched and jumped sideways, then resumed its position as though preparing to pounce.
“She’s stalking something,” Epiphany said, “But I can’t see what it is.” Even as she spoke, the cat once again sprang sideways and dropped to the ground.
“What do you think it is, Nana?”
“A bird maybe, or a frog. Goodness knows what she’s got cornered.”
Epiphany unlocked the window and lifted the bottom pane. She pressed her face against the screen and looked down. A slow wave of movement caught her eye. “Oh,” she said, stepping back, “it’s a snake!”
“A snake,” Maddie cried with delight. “Where?”
“Right below the window. Along the foundation. It’s hard to see because of the leaves.”
“I see it!” Maddie looked up at her grandmother. “What kind is it?”
“I don’t know, dear.” Epiphany turned away from the window. “Michael,” she called. “Michael, can you come here?”
The measured sound of Bach’s “Prelude from the First Cello Suite” halted abruptly and Epiphany’s son Michael appeared in the dining room arch. A brown-haired man with a round face and a neatly trimmed beard, he was already growing a bit stout in early middle age. “What is it, Mom?”
“Sorry to interrupt your practice, but Endora appears to have cornered a rather large snake, and I don’t know if it’s poisonous or not.”
Michael crossed the room to stand beside his mother and daughter. “Where is it?”
“Down there,” Maddie answered, pointing.
Michael braced his hands on the sill and looked. “I see it. Looks like a brown rat snake. They’re harmless.” He grinned at his mother. “Unless you’re a rat.”
Maddie wriggled under her father’s arm and peered out. “What’s it doing, Papa? Why is it turning upside down?”
“It’s, uh. . . Wow! It’s shedding its skin. Look at that!”
“Awesome!” Maddie cried.
Michael turned to Epiphany. “Take a look, Mom.”
“I’d really rather not.”
“Can we go outside, Papa, and get up close?”
“Sure. But we don’t want to get too close. Snakes get a little edgy when they’re shedding. But we should grab Endora.”
Maddie looked up. “Why, Papa?”
“Snakes are really vulnerable when they’re shedding. They need some peace and quiet.”
“What’s all the fuss in here?” A small woman pushing a walker came through the dining room arch, wisps of white hair radiating around her face.
“It’s a snake, Great-Gram,” Maddie said.
“Where?” Susan said in alarm. “In here?”
“No, outside. Under the window. Endora found it,” said Maddie.
“Good for her,” Susan said. “Florida,” she muttered. “First alligators in the yard and now snakes. Sometimes I wish I was back in Ohio.”
“It’s a harmless little rat snake, Gram,” said Michael. “Come on, Maddie. Let’s go watch it shed.”
“Watch it what?” Susan asked as father and daughter hurried past her.
“It’s shedding its skin,” said Epiphany. “Something snakes do now and then,”
“That sounds perfectly dreadful,” Susan exclaimed.
“Mom,” Epiphany objected, “we had snakes in Ohio. Remember the time I brought that garter snake into the parlor when Reverend Ashby was visiting?”
“I remember telling you to get that evil serpent out of our house.”
“Serpents aren’t evil. They do a lot of good.”
“They eat vermin.”
“Fine. I just want them to stay in the garden where they belong.” Susan steered her walker toward the hall. “I’ll be in the kitchen if you want me,” she said over her shoulder.
Epiphany stood for a moment, considering. Then she headed for the kitchen door.
Michael and Maddie were standing next to the house gazing down in rapt fascination. Maddie had Endora in her arms, but the cat was struggling to get free.
“Here,” Epiphany said, reaching for the cat, “I’ll hold her.”
“Take a look, Mom,” Michael said. “It’s rubbed the skin loose from its nose. That’s the first step.” Michael put his hand on his daughter’s should. “Let’s stay back and bit and give it some room.”
They all took a few steps back from the struggling snake, then watched as the process continued.
“Look,” Maddie cried, pointing. “It’s crawling out of itself!”
Epiphany watched in amazement as the snake writhed and pushed, rubbing its nose against the twigs, then oozing away from its own skin like a lady peeling off a nylon stocking. The empty sack of paper-thin scales lay still as the snake inched forward bit by bit until it left its former self behind. Its new skin shone, bright and smooth, in the late morning sun. It rested for a few moments, then curved its way along the base of the foundation, pausing now and then to sample the air with its tongue. Then it flowed around the corner and disappeared into the grass.
“Now that,” said Michael, “was a great performance.”
“Worthy of a master,” Epiphany agreed.
“Look, Papa. It’s a perfect empty snake.” Maddie was holding up the discarded skin.
Epiphany set Endora down and joined Michael for a closer look. “My goodness,” she exclaimed. “You can even see its eyes.” The delicate ribbon of skin was like a phantom serpent¾nearly weightless and paper thin but decorated with a herringbone pattern of tan and brown. The head was perfectly formed¾mouth open, clear bubbles where the eyes had been. It looked as though it might at any moment re-animate itself.
“Can I keep it?” Maddie asked, the snakeskin dangling from her hands.
“Fine with me,” said Michael.
“Just don’t show it to Gram,” advised Epiphany.
It wasn’t until that evening that Epiphany thought again about the snake. She was sitting on the screened porch listening to the chirp and buzz of frogs and cicadas. In the distance, a limpkin gave a shriek and a pair of Barred Owls erupted into a riotous duet of hoots, cackles and gurgles. The early summer air was heavy with moisture blowing in off the nearby Atlantic. Lightning flickered toward the east, too far away for the thunder to be heard.
Epiphany drifted with the gentle breath of the wind, watching the Spanish moss swaying like silver veils from the branches of the oak trees.
But her peaceful reverie was suddenly interrupted with a mental image so clear and so immediate that she bolted upright and stared out at the dark canvas of the yard. The image blazed in her mind’s eye¾a naked man sprawled on the ground surrounded by two snakes. The man was so emaciated she could see his ribs quite clearly. His hair was carefully fashioned into small curls, almost as though he was wearing a wig, and his beard was also formally dressed. In his left hand, the man was grasping a leafy plant. But one of the snakes had also grabbed the plant in its mouth and appeared to be trying to take it from the man’s clenched fingers. She then realized with a little jolt that the second snake was the empty skin of the first.
She tried to determine what the image was made of¾clay, perhaps, or maybe carved, the lines enhanced with a dark pigment. It looked ancient, but undamaged. Like a piece from a museum. She dredged her memory for something similar. Egyptian, maybe. But no, not Egyptian.
Mesopotamian! That was it. She remembered seeing a similar image when she took a course on the art of the ancient Near East. This was an image of the legendary King Gilgamesh who left his home to search for the secret of immortality.
Instructed by a wise man, Gilgamesh locates a magical plant that renews youth. But during his journey home, he falls asleep. A serpent steals the plant, eats it and promptly sheds its skin. Thus, the serpent thwarts man’s hope for immortality, keeping for itself the ability to renew itself and re-emerge in all its youthful radiance.
When she finally went inside to go to bed, Epiphany couldn’t stop thinking about the possible connection between witnessing an actual snake shedding its skin and the evening’s vision of the Mesopotamian carving. Had watching the snake simply jogged her memory, or was there some deeper meaning? What message was Spirit sending?
“You’d think that after thirty years in this business, I’d be able to figure out where a damned vision came from,” she said aloud. But it just wasn’t that easy, was it?
Psychic visions had been a part of Epiphany’s life since childhood¾images, voices, visitations, phantoms materializing out of thin air. Sometimes she just wanted it all to go away¾for the voices to fall silent, the images fade to black. To stop being a conduit between the living and the dead. She remembered saying to a reporter in a TV interview that sometimes her “gift” was more like a curse. But there was no escaping destiny.
“Get over it,” she told herself. She would just have to wait for Spirit to send her the next clue.
About the Author
Award-winning author Mallory M. O’Connor is a writer, art historian, musician, and professor emerita at Santa Fe College (SFC) where she taught art history and served as director of the Santa Fe Art Gallery. Since retiring from her position at SFC, Mallory has written five novels, the American River Trilogy. Book One, American River: Tributaries, was published in 2017 and recently won First Prize in the Fiction Category from Northern California Publishers and Authors. The book also won the President’s Award for Fiction from the Florida Authors and Publishers Association. Book One of her new paranormal/eco-thriller series, Epiphany’s Gift, was released in April 2019. Key to Eternity is Book Two in the new series.
Some secrets draw people closer………after they tear them apart.
Marybeth and Hollister moved to rural New York to escape—both the city life and a checkered past. Their lives were unassuming, until they bought a grandfather clock. They just wanted something to fill the space under their stairs, but they got much more than they bargained for. What secrets could the clock possibly hold?
Jane was sent to Callicoon to find the Eagle diamond, which was stolen from the Museum of Natural History in the ‘60s and never recovered. Convinced she won’t find what she’s looking for, she grudgingly takes the assignment. When she arrives, things aren’t what they seem and Jane finds more than she ever expected.
Brenda Loring was far too small for the overstuffed capacious couch. She appeared uncomfortably absorbed by the cushions, hardly consoled. At first glance, she looked swallowed by the plush off-white arms. It could be assumed that her body had found a semblance of solace, but the truth was, there really weren’t any sacred places to turn for comfort; the fluffed-up cotton squares were far too affectionate and they consumed her behind their good intentions, providing only a pretense of succor.
Brenda sat up straight and reached for her glass; next was the cigarette. Comfort was better found in a nicotine binge and a scotch devoid of ice or water.
Brock was still not sure if he should believe her, even though she’d been insisting for months. “I’m not hallucinating,” she kept repeating. “I know what the hell I’m talking about. It’s all going to hell.”
His thoughts raced ahead as he watched her light the tip of her cigarette with a lit butt from an old dish with more ash than a crematory.
Brenda was birdlike but hardly unattractive, just sticky and twiggy, unlike his wife, who was a full hug, an eye level kiss. Brenda took a deep drag and looked at him through smoke.
“What a fuck,” she said. “Both of them. They are both fucks. I’m telling you, Devon has bought Glen off, paid him well to screw us over, though I don’t know why he would, disloyal asshole.”
He shrugged his shoulders. “It’s hard to believe, can’t wrap my head around it, that’s all.”
Brenda leaned forward and crossed her tiny legs, shapely but thin. Her fingers seemed long as arms, her elbows stuck out like wayward bones.
“Peter has lost control of his people. He’s too old to run the organization. That’s what I think. I have my spies, you know, people who hate Devon and will tell me the truth when I ask for it. You think he’s above screwing his brother?
“Why let the organization go to shit now?”
“Why not now? I heard Peter was sick; maybe that’s why he’s losing control. Maybe it’s serious. Maybe Devon doesn’t want anything going to Peter’s idiot wife if he should die. Imagine Delilah in charge of the LVAJ? Ha!”
“I don’t think Delilah would want it. Advising Peter in business is not quite the same as running the entire organization. That’s a mammoth job.”
“Ha!” Brenda took a sip of scotch. “I wouldn’t underestimate her, Brock. She has a degree in art, after all. You sound like a misogynist, just because she’s blonde and beautiful. She’s far from stupid.”
“I didn’t say she was stupid.”
“Didn’t say she wasn’t either.”
“Look, you think we ought to go to Peter with this?” he asked, “he should know about our suspicions.”
“No, I don’t think we should go to Peter.”
Brock took in a deep breath and let it out slowly. “So, you’re saying the Prince was a phony, but what if he wasn’t?”
Brenda threw back her head and laughed loudly. He noticed that her hair didn’t move, so stiff it seemed to stand at attention. Her hair is obedient, he thought.
“Oh, come on,” she said. “The whole thing was a scam. I’ll bet my ass that the Yellow Diamond is sitting behind some asshole’s velvet pull in Saudi Arabia and nowhere near that little turd that calls himself ‘Prince Vizueta.’ She drew out the syllables of the prince’s name and made a face. “Prince of bullshit.”
Brock thought for a moment. “So, if the Yellow Diamond buy was a scam, what’s next?”
Brenda did all three things at once. It was quite impressive. She laughed and took a drag off her cigarette as she put the scotch glass to her lips and drank.
“I wish I knew.”
Brock stood up and looked at his watch. He hadn’t called home. It was after ten p.m. in San Francisco. Jane would be angry. One should make a point of calling home when one is suspected of having an affair.
“It’s getting late,” he said.
He’d spent months on the phone with Brenda, ever since she first uncovered what she believed to be a conspiracy. He wasn’t quite so sure. He thought she was a bit hysterical over nothing. Besides, he was cautious. He liked absolute proof. But with their constant phone calls, he couldn’t blame his wife for suspecting him of infidelity. Once Brenda got to Philadelphia for the Yellow Diamond Buy, she called him several times a day so she could give him the scenario of treachery; so she could share her anxiety as she nervously sucked on her cigarette and drew him into her fears like the nightmare fairy.
“Why don’t we wait for Devon’s next move, see where he’s going with this,” Brock said, putting Jane out of his thoughts, he’d deal with it in his own way. “No sense making a big deal out of something that could just be gossip,” he added. “Or paranoia.” He stared at her.
“Well, it’s been months since this phony prince put out a bid on the Yellow Diamond and went back to his phony country with it.”
“Right, and there hasn’t been anything since, no bids out on any precious stones at all.”
“But it doesn’t mean there won’t be,” she said. “I sense it in my bones that we’re being screwed with.”
“Look, if someone out there really has the Yellow Diamond other than the Prince, wouldn’t they have contacted Peter and told him he was being made an ass of, that you can’t purchase what someone else owns?”
“Why should they say anything? Anonymity is what matters to us, not friendship, you know that.”
Brenda stood up tall but barely reached his chest. She went to a wall of windows and looked out from her thirty-second-floor Manhattan condominium. The night was dark, but the city shone against the sky. It seemed like a false movie set, almost too perfect to be real.
She turned to face him. “Let’s confront Glen, find out what the hell is going on. If he knows we’re aware he’s a turncoat, he’ll tell us everything. When it comes right down to it, he’s a wimp and he’ll play both sides. Glen has no loyalty. “
Brock raised his eyebrow. “And you think Glen is going to admit he has his own agenda?” he said. “Just like that?”
“Where is it going to leave us if Devon takes over the American operation?”
“Under Devon’s employ, that’s where.” He realized Brenda was being too emotional; one of them had to be rational.
Brenda sat and puffed; taking deep drags and pushed the smoke out through her teeth.
Brock paced a bit around the room. “So, according to you, Devon paid the commission out of his own pocket? To make it all look legit?”
Brenda moved her head, barely a nod but he knew that’s what she’d intended.
“Right. He has a plan,” she said. “I just don’t know what it is. I mean, a phony bid? A phony buy? I don’t get it.”
Brock sat on the arm of a chair so thin it hurt his backside and he moved quickly onto the couch with false substance.
“It has to have something to do with discrediting Peter, that’s what I would guess. What else could it be? Devon has finally gotten sick and tired of sharing his customers.”
Brenda squashed her cigarette out. He was relived she didn’t relight. His throat felt raw from her smoke, and the nicotine stunk.
“Devon has thought this whole thing up, a fake prince, a ludicrous bid ─ and he sent it all to Peter on a silver platter. I watched Glen go through the motions of recovering the Yellow Diamond; it was clear bullshit.” She looked back out at her seven-million-dollar view. “I never saw the diamond with my own eyes; I never watched any money exchange hands. He had me answering the phone and reporting back to Peter all day while he said he was doing business.”
Brock wet his lips with his tongue. “Why would Devon approach Glen and not me, or not you, for that matter, if he’s plotting against Peter? I mean, why Glen?”
Brenda rocked her body just a bit. She was flirting, which was always her way, her constant affectation around men. Brock smiled, but only to himself. He’d never wanted any other woman but Jane from the moment they’d met. It was absurd that she now thought he did, especially Brenda, whose scantily fleshed out body reminded him of an adolescent boy. He wanted to flip open his cell phone and call his wife, just to tell her that her father was a bastard and the only thing he wanted from Brenda was assurance. If all this were real, it changed everything.
“Because you’re married to Jane and Peter was always more of a father to his daughter than he was. Jane would never let you betray Peter. And me?” Brenda winked at him. “My few one-night stands with Peter could be interpreted as loyalty, though God knows, I have none.”
Brock stood up. He towered over her and nearly reached her eight-foot ceiling.
“Listen, if what you’re saying is true, I want a takeover. I want no part of this war between Peter and Devon. Let them chew each other up. You and I together have enough contacts to go on our own.”
He stared at her. He was surprised at his own words, but he meant it. If he had wanted to work with Devon, he would have stayed in England. Devon was a mean bastard. He was also greedy; his split had been an absurd five percent.
“I was hoping you’d say that.” Brenda lit another cigarette without leaving his gaze.”
“That would make us partners,” he said, “just you and me, I’m not opening this up to anyone else.”
“I’m yours,” she said, sending him smoke rings. “Peter is getting too old for this and Devon is a creep; we can’t trust him. This idiot ploy of his is going to splinter the whole operation, so let’s take our contacts and run.”
Brock slipped on his jacket. “Let me think this through,” he said. “I’ll be back in touch. Id this is real we’re bound to hear of another false buy very soon. If this is Devon’s plan, to discredit Peter, he won’t wait very long to send him more bullshit about a precious stone that’s surfaced.”
“Maybe art this time, who knows? What about Jane, will you tell her?” she asked.
“Of course, I tell her everything,” he said and paused at the door. “Not right away though, she might not like it.”
About the Author
I am an award-winning hybrid author of southern and women’s Fiction,
including Dancing Backward in Paradise, The Story of Sassy Sweetwater, Where
the Wildflowers Grow, Pleasant Day, Marybeth, Hollister & Jane and Lies
a River Deep. As my alter ego, Olivia Hardy Ray my books include Annabel
Horton, Lost Witch of Salem, Annabel Horton and the Black Witch of Pau, and
Pharaoh’s Star. The first novel I ever wrote, Dancing Backward In Paradise,
won an Eric Hoffer Award for publishing excellence and an Indie Excellence
Award for notable new fiction, 2007. The Story of Sassy Sweetwater and
Dancing Backward in Paradise received 5 Star ForeWord Clarion Reviews and
The Story of Sassy Sweetwater has been named a finalist for the ForeWord
Book of the Year Awards. I have published in ESL Magazine, Christopher
Street Magazine and I have also written early childhood curriculum for
Weekly Reader and McGraw Hill.
Random circumstances brought them together. Love made them family.
Chef Stevie Fox isn’t just looking forward to a luxurious holiday celebrating her sister’s Christmas wedding, she needs it. A difficult year has her brain bursting and her heart starving. A menu of late-night chats, lots of laughter, and tons of pampering with her beloved foster sisters and Maddie, the woman who made them a family fifteen years ago, promises the nourishment she craves.
But then her sister’s fiancé calls off the wedding, and Stevie’s dreams of a restorative vacation and a love story that actually works out go up in smoke. Heartbroken and simmering with anger on her sister’s behalf, Stevie agrees with her family to stick to their holiday plans to show support.
Throwing oil on her fiery emotions, Stevie runs into her old high school flame and long-cooled feelings boil over. She’s determined to put a lid on them, however. Jackson Bassett may be full of zest and passion, but she’s been scalded too many times.
If you’re a fan of small towns, heartwarming holiday romance stories, second chances, and furry dog friends, you’ll fall in love with Stevie and her soul sisters in CHRISTMAS DREAMS, Book 5 of Soul Sisters at Cedar Mountain Lodge, from USA Today bestselling author Ev Bishop.
Don’t miss a Soul Sisters book – download them all today!
Book 1: Christmas Sisters – perma-FREE prologue book
Book 2: Christmas Kisses by Judith Keim
Book 3: Christmas Wishes by Tammy L. Grace
Book 4: Christmas Hope by Violet Howe
Book 5: Christmas Dreams by Ev Bishop
Book 6: Christmas Rings by Tess Thompson
About the Author
Ev Bishop is an award-winning, USA Today bestselling author, best known for her small-town contemporary romance series, River’s Sigh B & B. Readers describe her books as “full of humor, love and wisdom,” set in places “where breathtaking scenery and the magic of love are the best medicine for the soul.”
When Ev’s nose isn’t in a book or her fingers aren’t on her keyboard, you’ll find her with her family and dogs or playing outside, usually at the lake or in an overgrown garden somewhere.
She loves any and all garden related talk and work, cooking (and eating!), and making all sorts of random things – especially out of upcycled or reclaimed items.
She hopes you love Stevie Fox in CHRISTMAS DREAMS as much as she does and that you’ll catch up with her, Maddie, and the other three soul sisters, in the rest of the Soul Sisters at Cedar Mountain Lodge series.
Simple Natural Methods to Refresh Your Mind, Body, and Spirit
Date Published: April 7, 2020
Publisher: Bublish, Incorporated
“[An] incredible self-help book. Highly recommended!” Susan
Keefe, The Columbia Review of Books and Film
“Dr. Buddharaju dissects the most complex sleep science into simple
practical strategies that can be put to use by anyone!” — Murali
Ankem, MD, MBA, Associate Dean School of Medicine at University of
Did you know that sleep is a key component for a happy life? Research shows
us it is. But with all of today’s technology and stresses, many people
are getting less sleep or experiencing poorer quality sleep. This can
negatively impact mood, concentration, productivity, physical health and,
yes, even happiness.
As a practicing physician for more than twenty years, Dr. Venkata
Buddharaju (known as Dr. Buddha to his patients) has extensive experience
treating patients with sleep problems. And the number of patients he is
seeing with sleep disorders is on the rise.
In Better Sleep, Happier Life, Dr. Buddharaju teaches seven simple,
practical, and natural methods to help you get better sleep in order to
refresh your mind and body. Filled with wisdom from his years of experience
as well as simple lifestyle changes, Better Sleep, Happier Life can help you
find rest and refreshment in the midst of your busy life…and reap the
Stress and Sleep
For the purpose of our discussions in this book, we will define stress as physical and emotional tension related to external or internal events. Stress can be acute or chronic. Acute stresses are short lived, our mind and body reacts, responds and adapts, and life
goes on. On the other hand, chronic stress results from ongoing stressful events that go on for a longer period of time and can aff ect our physical and mental health.
Over millions of years of biological evolution, nature’s successful species have developed stress responses to cope with and adapt to their environment. The human nervous system is no exception. It has evolved in order to survive various threats. Before we began living together in cities, the biggest threat to our survival was from natural predators, like tigers and lions. You have to think fast if you want to outsmart a
tiger or lion. This is why one of our natural adaptations is called the flight-or-fight response—we have to decide quickly whether we are going to flee when danger strikes or stay and fight. Even today, with no predators threatening us, we still experience
our body’s flight-or-fight response when confronted with acute stress. Just as we did years ago when we faced the lions, our bodies release chemicals called epinephrine, norepinephrine, and cortisol. These chemicals trigger glucose sugar production
for the quick burst of energy that our muscles need to run. Our heart beats faster to pump blood quickly into our muscles. Our brain is alerted by these chemicals to be more
attentive in order to escape the imminent danger. Our other organ systems slow down during these times of stress to keep our body’s energy focused on the threat at hand. In these moments, our body and mind prioritize survival—nothing else matters.
The flight-or-fight response has been genetically programmed over millions of years, and it continues to evolve as we evolve. In theory, this stress response should last for a short period of time and should dissipate once the threat has passed. In today’s world, however, we often deal with chronic stress. This means our body stays in a sort of ongoing flight-or-fight mode and continues to release chemicals that it shouldn’t
release for long periods of time. The consequence of our body’s confused state can be high blood pressure, glucose intolerance, sleep difficulties, anxiety, depression, and more. Living in an ongoing flight-or-fight mode is bad for our health. Chronic stress must be addressed to avoid lasting side effects on the mind and body. Stress is part of life. We can’t avoid it. Yet, somehow, we delude ourselves. We go through different stages of life believing that the next stage will be better and less stressful. I hear
people say things like, “I will be happy…”“…once I complete this task…”or “…after I solve this problem…” or “…when I pass this exam….” In my experience, this notion of “no more stress” in the future is counterproductive. Solutions for one problem can bring new problems. As humans, we are never satisfied. We are constantly scanning for the next threat, the next potential difficulty. We worry and try to avoid these potential threats in order to live a peaceful life. In reality, it is impossible to avoid stressful situations in life. It is much better to learn coping mechanisms that can help us deal
with the inevitable stresses that life will throw our way. When we spend too much time worrying, called rumination,our sleep can be disturbed. Worry causes frequent
awakening, especially in the early morning hours. Poor quality sleep then results in daytime tiredness and irritability. It becomes a vicious, unhealthy cycle. Therefore, we
must learn coping strategies to combat stress and maintain balance in our lives.
About the Author
Dr. Venkata Buddharaju (or Dr. Buddha, as his patients call him) is a
fellowship-trained physician at the Albany Medical Center in Albany, New
York. He is Board Certified in Internal Medicine, Pulmonary, Critical Care
and Sleep Medicine from the American Board of Internal Medicine.
He now teaches and consults at hospital intensive care units and pulmonary
units as well as sleep medical practices. He is a Clinical Assistant
Professor of Medicine at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) and
teaches medical students from UIC, Chicago Medical School and Internal
Medicine resident trainees at Weiss Memorial Hospital in Chicago.
He directs the Sleep Disorders Center and Clinic at Thorek Memorial
Hospital in Chicago and serves as a Section Chief of Pulmonary &
Critical Care at AMITA Health Saints Mary and Elizabeth Medical Center
Chicago where he teaches Internal Medicine and Family Practice Residents
while working in ICU as an Intensivist. Additionally, he is president of the
medical staff at Kindred Chicago Lakeshore and Central hospitals. Dr.
Buddharaju has numerous medical-device patents and is working to develop
more patient friendly medical devices. Throughout his career, he has
conducted clinical research, published his work in various medical journals,
and worked to develop and implement high quality patient-care policies. He
believes strongly that balancing natural healing practices with traditional
medicine is important for the future of effective health care.