Thursday, January 31, 2013
Tuesday, January 8, 2013
Today, I’m welcoming Steven Manchester to my blog and he is sharing an excerpt of his new book Goodnight Brian.
Click picture to go to the Amazon buy link
Fate was working against little Brian Mauretti. The food that was meant to nourish him was poisoning him instead, and the doctors said the damage was devastating and absolute. Fate had written off Brian. But fate didn’t count on a woman as determined as Brian’s grandmother, Angela DiMartino – who everyone knew as Mama. Loving her grandson with everything she had, Mama endeavored to battle fate. Fate had no idea what it was in for.
An emotional tale about the strength of family bonds, unconditional love, and the perseverance to do our best with the challenging gifts we receive, Goodnight, Brian is an uplifting tribute to what happens when giving up is not an option.
Brian was eleven months old when Doctor Alexander summoned the Mauretti family into his office to deliver the final verdict. Mama insisted that she be there. No one objected.
It was a late winter afternoon, a howling wind knocking on blocks of ice that were once windows. Doctor Alexander sat behind his tidy desk, looking distressed. Joan nearly cried when she saw his demeanor and immediately leaned on Frank for support. Avoiding initial eye contact, the young doctor was clearly having trouble offering his prognosis. He cleared his throat and finally reported, “We’ve discovered that Brian has metabolic alkalosis.”
“He has what?” Frank asked.
“Metabolic alkalosis is a blood disorder that affects an infant’s ability to digest properly and gain weight. It’s caused by a lack of chloride, or sodium, in the diet.”
“So what does that mean for Brian?” Joan asked.
“Several of Brian’s tests have shown some abnormality in the frontal area of his brain.”
Joan, Frank and Mama’s silence begged for the man to embellish. The doctor took another long pause, making Joan feel like her heart was going to explode. She tried to slow down the hyperventilating. It was no use.
“Your son’s development has been severely damaged,” he finally told Joan and Frank directly. “And at this point, I believe it’s irreversible.”
“Irreversible? I don’t understand?” Joan screeched, frightened for her baby boy’s future. She felt so lightheaded that the room began to spin.
Doctor Alexander shook his head. “It means that Brian will never walk.”
“Never walk?” Frank repeated, his face instantly bleached to white.
“I’m sorry, but we don’t believe he will.” He scanned the reports in front of him and took another deep breath. “It’s also doubtful that Brian will ever talk or communicate effectively.”
Joan looked toward her mother again, her terrified eyes begging for help. Mama got to her feet and took a defensive posture.
Without acknowledging the old woman, the doctor went on, “Brian may never be able to do what normal children—or adults—are able to do.” He paused again. “We believe it may have been caused by the Neo Mulsoy formula. The low chloride concentration in his urine is substantial proof that the sodium deficiency within the soy formula has been the primary cause of Brian’s medical problems.”
While the doctor tried to explain further, Joan wailed, “Oh God, what did I do to my boy?”
“You didn’t do anything,” Doctor Alexander and Mama vowed in unison.
The doctor backed off, allowing the old lady to take over. She grabbed her daughter’s panicked face. “This wasn’t you,” Mama promised. “You did nothing wrong!” She shook her head. “And this is only one opinion. There are other doctors…more tests.”
While Joan wept sorrowfully, Frank rested his hand on his wife’s leg and stared helplessly at the doctor. “But Doctor Carvalho prescribed the formula to Brian,” he muttered in a wounded voice, as if it would make some difference.
“There’s no way he could have known at that time that it would have caused your son harm,” the man replied.
“You say he’ll never walk?” Joan cried.
“Sorry, but I really don’t believe he will,” the doctor answered, sadly.
“Or talk?” Joan gasped, trying to breathe.
The man slowly shook his head. “I have to believe that the damage to your son’s frontal lobe will prohibit any real speech.”
As Joan struggled to continue her panicked line of questioning, Mama shook her gray, curly head. “That’s crap!” she said, loud enough for everyone to hear.
The young doctor turned his attention to her. “I realize that this is…”
“You’re wrong!” Mama insisted, taking a step toward him.
“Excuse me?” he asked. “I know this isn’t easy to hear, but…” The man shot her a kind smile, but Mama wasn’t swayed. “I’m so sorry, but Brian is now mentally disabled,” he concluded.
“No. I don’t think you understand,” Mama replied, staring straight into his sapphire eyes. “Our boy is going to walk. He’s going to talk. He’s going to ride a bike, swim, and learn to do everything that any other kid can do. It might take a little more doing, but I guarantee it!”
Although it was the slightest movement, the doctor shook his head at her foolish hope. “Believe me, I wish that were true, but…”
“Wishing won’t have anything to do with it. No, this’ll take faith and determination, and the love and support of our entire family.”
Unable to do more, Doctor Alexander turned back to Joan and Frank. “I’m here for whatever you need.”
“For what?” Frank barked, his shock turning to rage. “It was a doctor who ruined my son’s life!” By this point, Joan was nearly rolled into the fetal position, her body paralyzed from the devastating news.
Doctor Alexander nodded compassionately and, handing Frank a piece of paper, concluded, “This is a different soy-based formula that you folks can start Brian on, as well as an additional chloride supplement. We’ll talk about solid foods and other alternatives during his next visit.” Patting Joan’s shoulder, he said, “I’m so sorry” and stepped out of the room.
Mama watched the back of him disappear down the long hall and nodded herself into the slightest smirk. In that one moment, she realized her life’s mission had just begun.
While Joan sobbed and convulsed, Frank held his head in his hands, trying to process it all. Mama grabbed her dejected daughter’s face again and forced Joan to look into her eyes. She spoke sternly. “Joan, you listen to me right now. That doctor’s wrong! Brian’s going to write his own story. He’s going to sing his own song and no one’s going to sing it for him. It’s his life and it’s between him and God…not some fool doctor who’s had so much schooling that he’s forgotten the power of faith.”
Joan shook her head. “But, Ma…” she sobbed. “You heard him. Brian’s brain has been damaged.” The final word made her wail out in pain.
“Your Nana said that she had such a difficult time bringing me into the world that she nearly died. And the horse doctor who assisted in the birth told her that I just wouldn’t be right.”
Frank looked up from his spell and began to quietly weep.
Mama nodded again. “Yep,” she said, with burning determination. “Brian’s going to be as right as rain. I guarantee it. Only God knows how…but that’s enough.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Steven Manchester is the published author of the #1 best seller, Twelve Months, as well as A Christmas Wish (the holiday prequel to Goodnight, Brian). He is also the Pressed Pennies, The Unexpected Storm: The Gulf War Legacy and Jacob Evans, as well as several books under the pseudonym, Steven Herberts. His work has appeared on NBC's Today Show, CBS's The Early Show, CNN’s American Morning and BET’s Nightly News. Recently, three of his short stories were selected "101 Best" for Chicken Soup for the Soul series.
FIND STEVEN ON THE WEB
Tuesday, January 1, 2013
Today, I’m welcoming Melissa McPhail to my blog with an excerpt of her new epic fantasy. Unfortunately, I was unable to read this book in time for the tour but it’s definitely on my review pile for one at a later date. If you love epic fantasy, you will love this book!!!
"All things are composed of patterns..." And within the pattern of the realm of Alorin, three strands must cross:
In Alorin...three hundred years after the genocidal Adept Wars, the realm is dying, and the blessed Adept race dies with it. One man holds the secret to reverting this decline: Bjorn van Gelderan, a dangerous and enigmatic man whose shocking betrayal three centuries past earned him a traitor's brand. It is the Adept Vestal Raine D'Lacourte's mission to learn what Bjorn knows in the hope of salvaging his race. But first he'll have to find him...
In the kingdom of Dannym...the young Prince Ean val Lorian faces a tenuous future as the last living heir to the coveted Eagle Throne. When his blood-brother is slain during a failed assassination, Ean embarks on a desperate hunt for the man responsible. Yet his advisors have their own agendas, and his quest for vengeance leads him ever deeper into a sinuous plot masterminded by a mysterious and powerful man, the one they call First Lord...
In the Nadori desert...tormented by the missing pieces of his life, a soldier named Trell heads off to uncover the truth of his shadowed past. But when disaster places him in the debt of Wildlings sworn to the First Lord, Trell begins to suspect a deadlier, darker secret motivating them.
EXCERPT OF CEPHRAEL’S HAND:
Ean hugged the shadows as he tried to find his way back to le Comte’s estates. He feared they’d hurt his head worse than he thought, for the twisting alleys of the city disoriented him now. He was sure he’d passed the last street corner already once, and he had the uneasy feeling that he was walking in circles.
Trying to break the cycle, he turned into a long and shadowed alley, spotting a streetlamp at the other end. Abruptly a form reared out of the shadows. Ean reached for his sword—
The prince halted with his hand around the hilt. “Fynn?”
“Balls of Belloth!” Fynnlar crossed the distance in a rush and grabbed him by both shoulders, giving him a shake. “What are you doing out here, you wool-brained fool?”
“I might ask the same of you, cousin.” Pushing a hand to his throbbing head, Ean closed his eyes. He’d seen so much death since the last moon…so many lives lost, and for what? He couldn’t fathom the events that spun violently around him, only knowing they somehow had him caught in the whirlwind.
“Ean, are you unwell?”
“Hit my head pretty hard,” the prince murmured, lifting tired eyes to refocus on his cousin. “I’ll be all right.”
“Come on. We’d best keep moving.”
The prince shook off the numbness edging his thoughts and followed his cousin. Fog was rising from the river as they headed back toward le Comte’s villa, fat fingers sliding through the streets to leach the color from the night. They reached a corner, and Fynn paused and looked warily around.
“Fynn, what are we waiting fo—”
But the words stuck on Ean’s tongue, for he heard it then: a strange whispering, the whisk of silk across the rough edge of glass. The sound had prickly tentacles that pierced into the soft flesh of Ean’s inner ear and twisted there, making him cringe.
Something flew out of the shadows and Ean swung his head after it, straining to make out what he’d seen. “What in Tiern’aval was that?”
Grimly, Fynn held his sword before him. “A Wildling—a Whisper Lord.”
The whispering continued, tormenting, growing soundlessly louder until it shrieked inside Ean’s skull, shattering any hope of focus.
The Wildling shot out of the shadows again, and Ean forced his eyes to follow, to find him in the shadows where he hid.
He saw him lurking against the wall, smiling around big white teeth. His leathery skin was pitch black , and his eyes were golden like the desert sands. The man locked gazes with him, and—
Suddenly they were nose to nose. Ean felt the heat of his breath in the same moment that the fiery sting of steel pierced his flesh.
Shade and darkness!
“Ean, he cut you!”
“I’m all right.” But Ean grimaced as he gingerly probed the wound. “Shadow take the abominable creature.” Fynn gave him a long look. “Be ready,” and he rushed to meet the Wildling.
The fight turned instantly vicious. Whisper Lord fought with long, stiletto daggers that speared like claws out of his gloves. His hands crisscrossed with amazing speed, never failing to find their mark on Fynn’s person, while his body twisted and spun. Fynn’s thrusts in turn only seemed to meet with the slashed silk of his garments. So fast did the Whisper Lord dart and cavort that Ean at first felt helpless to join in, for he could barely see the Wildling move until after it had happened, as if the sight had to bounce off the back of his eyes…as if he could only see the man’s reflection.
Then Ean found his focus and rushed to help Fynn.
The Whisper Lord marked him before he even got his blade around, a long swipe at the joining of neck and shoulder that burned bitterly. Ean realized that trying to use his sword alone would get him killed, so he pulled his dagger and dove in again. The Whisper Lord dodged like a jumping spider and managed in the same maneuver to slash a deep cut across Ean’s thigh, his daggers flashing first with the silver of steel and then dark with blood. Ean snarled a curse and staggered into the wall, teeth clenched against the pain, for the wound was angry and deep.
Abruptly Fynn threw himself backwards, himself narrowly avoiding a deadly thrust to his gut. Those spine-like blades sliced a chunk of flesh out of his side instead. The royal cousin clenched his teeth and held one hand to his midriff, using the other to pull himself out of reach.
Ean dove at the creature with renewed determination, his battered head forgotten in his haste to keep the man away from Fynn. He wore a malicious grin as they battled, and his golden gaze was flecked and sparkling against his face of leathery pitch. As Ean’s strength failed, the Wildling grinned even broader and began to chant in a voice like sand, “Tur or’de rorum d’rundalin dalal! Tur or’de rorum d’rundalin dalal!” Over and over while he pressed Ean on the retreat; gleefully, like a madman.
And then he made a sudden thrust, and Ean jumped to avoid the slashing daggers that barely missed his throat. He came down unevenly on his bad leg, and his knee buckled. Stumbling, he hissed a curse and the man bore down on him. A swipe of his hand, and three spiny daggers cut deeply across Ean’s back with their sharp fire. The Wildling’s other hand darted for his throat again, but the prince veered and twisted so the blades caught his chin and cheek instead. Ean rolled and thrust upward, but the Wildling merely laughed and arched out of his way; the weapon met only the whisper of silk.
Ean lay panting. His dagger seemed lost along with his will, and desperation could no longer drive him on.
The Whisper Lord advanced slowly wearing a grim smile. With the shrieking noise still accosting his skull and the loss of blood and nausea in his stomach, Ean felt only numb acceptance. Shaking, he lowered his head—
A tall form pushed past him, knocking Ean aside as it rushed to engage the Whisper Lord, driving the Wildling back and away, taking the battle out of Ean’s hands.
Ean fell onto his back, gasping as the last of his strength bled out of him, and lay watching his rescuer take offensive control.
The woman’s brown half-cloak floated behind her as she advanced with long, fast strides, forcing the Whisper Lord on the retreat beneath two short swords wielded in a flashing figure-eight.
The Wildling smiled no longer. Every thrust and swipe of his daggers was blocked by the woman’s whirling black blades. She matched him stride for stride, spinning when he spun, darting as he did, dodging as he lunged. They performed a ferocious, twisting dance of death where both knew the steps intimately and took them with ease.
As Ean watched, the Wildling slashed his daggered gloves in a motion that should’ve gutted the woman, but she flipped out of his reach, thrusting long as she landed. Her sword met with the flesh of his side, drawing a hiss as he jumped back. He glared malevolently at her and pressed one palm to his side.
“Merdanti,” he snarled, his golden eyes hot as they assessed her black blades.
Arching brows with a predatory smile, she twirled her blades and lunged for him again, and once more the dance began, the meeting of their deadly weapons a rhythmic beating that seemed in time with Ean’s still-racing heart.
Ean thought he must’ve dreamed it, his tortured mind inventing an impression for what clearly defied explanation. The woman and the Wildling seemed to shift and slow, their cloaks floating as if suspended on the wind. Then the woman launched out of her turn so quickly that Ean lost sight of her, only to spot her again as she stood squarely before her opponent, blades crossed. With naught but a grimace of effort, she chopped her short swords crosswise through the Wildling’s neck, removing his head completely. His body toppled to the stones at her feet, paying respects to her skill.
Silence hung in the street, a palpable blanket sewn of incredulity fringed with pain.
The woman lowered her dripping blades and leveled tawny eyes on the prince…
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Melissa McPhail is a classically trained pianist, violinist and composer, a Vinyasa yoga instructor, and an avid Fantasy reader. A long-time student of philosophy, she is passionate about the Fantasy genre because of its inherent philosophical explorations. Her work reflects a deep understanding of human motivations and adventures into the age-old question of good versus evil as modified by context, viewpoint and time.
Ms. McPhail lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, their twin daughters and two very large cats. Cephrael's Hand, her first novel, is Book 1 in the series A Pattern of Shadow and Light.
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