The First Few Steps – Kelli Hackett


Non-fiction, Self-Improvement
Date Published: October 27, 2016

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In her debut non-fiction title, Kelli Hackett delivers a simple, no-nonsense guide to nourishing the soul. The First Few Steps: A Beginner’s Guide to Practical Soul Care describes the action steps she took in her own life to revive a spirit illness she didn’t even know she had… until it became too painful to ignore.
This guide aggregates several major recovery tools and principles into a quick, easy-to-read, how-to manual in healing the spirit. Offering a fresh perspective on how to prevent death of the spirit, this book includes techniques in NLP and meditation, borrows from 12-step recovery principles, incorporates the work of leading healers, and draws from the author’s personal experience.

After practicing each Action Step, you will know how to:

* Put yourself and your health first
* Keep moving forward, no matter what
* Remove negativity from your life
* Find a mentor
* Enjoy the present moment
* Discover the lesson in everything
* Start healing your inner child
* Depend on your inner spiritual strength
* Begin a meditation practice
* Live and let live
Using the tools laid out neatly in this guide, you can tap into an internal source of power that will enliven your spirit and give you a life of wisdom, purpose, and peace.

EXCERPT
Distance Yourself from Negativity
“You are an average of the five people you spend the most time with.” – Jim Rohn
Think about this for a moment.  If you are watching the news every morning and every night before bed, you are bookending your day with negativity. The news is designed to instill fear in its audience. The media hooks us in and creates a desire in us to watch more. Social media is not much better. We constantly sit at our computers or on our phones and get caught up. We look at a few articles or catch up with an old friend, and suddenly we have fallen down a two-hour  long rabbit hole of the political and social ranting of “friends”. Even the office isn’t safe. We go to the break room to get a coffee, and the next thing you know we are engaged in water cooler gossip about the receptionist’s bad haircut or the boss who’s cheating on his wife. Even our private social lives can be a hotbed  for negativity. Our best friends tell us how terrible their marriages are, and we quickly find ourselves comparing stories about whose spouse is the most awful.
If we surround ourselves with negativity, it seems to seep into our spirits by osmosis. Soon, we let the uncontrollable events on the morning news run our emotions for the entire day. We feel we have to out- do our friends’ negativity with the negativity of our own. We get sucked into gossip and social media,and let other people’s problems affect our personal peace.
I remember watching a news story several years ago about the Chinese stock markets falling. The newscaster was in a panic, and so were the people he was interviewing.  They were predicting  major international fallout from this one-day drop. I took that panic with me to work that day. I was anxious, irritable, and short-tempered. Finally, a co-worker asked me what was wrong. I answered that the Chinese stocks had crashed, and our economy was going to take a punch  for it. He laughed. It pissed me off, actually. I asked how he could be laughing when the economy was going to shit.
He asked, “Kelli, do you own Chinese stock?” I said I didn’t. He asked me, “Is this going to affect you directly?” After thinking about it, I said it probably would not. Then he smiled and asked, “Can you control any of this?” He was right. I laughed, then, too.  I realized in that moment how worked up I had gotten over a fear-induced news story. None of it mattered. In the bigger picture of life, family, love, and all things important to me, the Chinese stocks falling for one day didn’t matter one bit. After taking back control over my own thoughts, my day turned out to be much better.
We can’t let people steal our happiness. People in this case include the media, our friends, coworkers, neighbors, social media, family, etc. Joy is a precious thing, and if you find yours being threatened by certain people or things, take a good  look at where it is coming from and make the necessary adjustments. Decrease the time you spend with negative friends, cut back or eliminate the news you ingest, leave the room when the conversation turns to gossip, limit social media, and unsubscribe from negative news feeds. In general, eliminate the things that produce fear, judgment, or insecurity in you.
Action Steps
Try something different. Eliminate or severely limit your intake of negative people, news, social media, and gossip for the next several days, and see how  you feel. I stopped watching the news completely in early 2015, and I have not regretted that decision. If you can’t stay away, deactivate your social media accounts for a while.
Replace the negative with positive. Hang around more positive people over the next few days. Read only positive news stories. Read inspirational quotes and books. Print out spiritual passages or write out uplifting quotes (Pinterest is a great source for inspiration), and put them on your walls, desk, or your screensaver. Surround yourself with positive people, places, and things.
Determine if the event that has you concerned is something you can control. If the situation is something you can control, then take the small steps necessary to make the change. If it’s something you can influence, talk to the right people or do what you can to influence the situation. Take the first step, and do something. If you decide it is something you can’t control, do your best to acknowledge your lack of control over the situation, accept the situation as it is in this moment, and let go of the worry around it.
Over the next few days, listen to the words you speak and the stories you tell. Are they mostly negative? Mostly positive? Become aware of which group you fall into. Are you the negative person in the group or on social media? Are you the one bringing negativity into the office? If so, realize this and make adjustments to stop spreading negative energy.
About the Author
Kelli Hackett is the author of the suspense novel Defending Wellton and the contemporary fiction trilogy Something Perfect. The First Few Steps: A Beginner’s Guide to Practical Soul Care is her first self-improvement publication. Kelli holds a BA in Psychology and is a certified Spiritual Life Coach. She is also a certified practitioner of Reiki, meditation, and neurolinguistic programming (NLP). Her passion is helping others see their own potential and grow to radical levels of self-love, while reminding them of their connection to Spirit. For more information about spiritual coaching, meditation classes, Reiki and NLP services, or workshops, visit kellihackett.com.


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Into the Darkness – Kat T Masen


**FREE ON IBOOKS***


Make sure you download Into the Darkness which is currently free on iBooks!into-the-darkness

What do you do when the man that broke your heart walks back into your life 7 years later?
Do you run? Or fall in love again?
Into the Darkness by Kat T. Masen (not paranormal)
https://itun.es/au/-FQDgb.l

Teaser Tuesday! Gilded Cage – Sherry D Ficklin


TEASER TUESDAY
YA/Historical
Date Published: 12/1/16

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Masie, the flaxen-haired daughter of notorious bootlegger Dutch Schultz, returns home from boarding school to find her family in crisis. Her mother is dangerously unstable, her father’s empire is on the brink of ruin, and the boy she once loved has become a ruthless killer for hire. To keep her family’s dangerous secrets Masie is forced into a lie that will change the course of her future—and leave her trapped in a gilded cage of her own making. As she watches her world fall apart, Masie must decide whether to take her place in the hierarchy, or spread her wings, leaving the people she loves, and the life she despises, far behind her.
Excerpt
“How you feelin’, Mas?” Vinny asks.
Relaxing back into the chair I look up, unable to keep the sour grin from my face. “Never better.”
Releasing me he steps around the table, helping himself to a seat. “That’s not how I hear it. I hear you lay in bed all day feelin’ sorry for yourself”
“Can you blame me?” I ask harshly, straightening in my chair.
He’s still for a minute, then pulls the fedora off his head and plays with it in his hands. “I’m sorry about your ma, she was a fine lady.”
I snort, the booze in my belly making me bold. “She was a nut job and everyone knew it.”
Now he looks up, his thin lips downturned at the edges, “She was good to me.”
Sighing I stand, helping myself to the crystal decanters on the tray. “She loved you like her own,” I offer gently as I pour myself another drink. “It’s the only thing she was good at, loving people. Wasn’t great at taking care of them, though.”
She’d tried to take care of Daddy at first. I know she always secretly hoped he’d change his ways, as if her love could make him a better man. But, as much as they may want to, people don’t really change. Time passes, choices are made, but we are who we are in the end.
“Is there anything I can do?” he asks, twisting in his chair to look at me.
I just hold up my glass, “This seems to be helping.”
Standing, Vinny walks over, taking the glass from my hand he swallows back the contents in one gulp. “Never drink to feel better, Mas. That’s not how the stuff works.”
I frown, pushing past him, “Don’t tell me what to do.”
He stops me, grabbing my arm and pulling me toward him until the tip of his crooked nose is touching my forehead, “I’m not gonna let you throw yourself away like she did.”
His words are sharp and they cut like glass
I shut my eyes against them, against the closeness of him, the heat radiating off his body, the smell of bourbon on his breath. Part of me demanding to push him away, the other part wanting to lose myself in him.
“You left,” he continues, his tone accusatory. “You left so you wouldn’t have to watch—but I watched. I watched the light in her go out. I won’t watch that happen to you, Masie. I can’t. So you’re going to have to be strong. Because we need you. I need you. It’s awful dark here, Mas. We need you to be the light.”
The first tear slips from beneath my closed lids. Maybe it’s the desperation in his voice, or the fact that he’s right, but something in his words strikes me to the core. It’s tempting, far too tempting, to drink the pain away, to let it eat me from the inside out until there’s nothing left to hurt.
But I can’t.
I can’t be like my mother.
I won’t.
  
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Hard to Regret – Kris Pearson


Sexy Contemporary Romance
Date Published: November 4, 2016

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Heiress Anna Wynn is hiding a secret – a secret that has blighted half her life and forced her to become an unfulfilled over-achiever. Even preparing for her wealthy family’s summer break in their idyllic New Zealand holiday house, Anna has to be all business and is strung tight as piano wire. Finding her bedroom appropriated by an over-muscled, overbearing, testosterone-soaked tower of annoyance is the final straw.
Dragged up under the callused thumb of his dirt-poor father, Jason Jones regrets his choice of security over his dream. His ambition to work as a freelance photographer has been ruthlessly suppressed in favor of setting up his own construction company. He has a pre-Christmas deadline looming on the current project, and the last thing he needs is constant surveillance by the owner’s sharp-tongued daughter – or the lure of her hot body and big blue eyes.
Forced to endure each other’s company in the small-town beach house, mutual frustration and undeniable chemistry pull Anna and Jason together for a few stolen days. Enemies become lovers – but how long before secrets are revealed that will change everything?
HARD TO REGRET is the first in Kris Pearson’s new Scarlet Bay series of sexy, funny and heart-warming romance novels and is intended for mature readers.
 Excerpt

CHAPTER 1 – SAUSAGE ON A FORK

“I’ll do it,” Annaliese Wynn said, heaving her travel bag from the back of the taxi to save the overweight driver waddling out. Finally she’d be swapping her stilettos for summer sandals and solitude, and hopefully winding down from the everlasting treadmill of her life.

As she listened to the waves crashing on the shore of Scarlet Bay, she drew a deep satisfied breath and discovered the delicious aroma of grilling meat wafting on the warm breeze. She glanced at her watch. Someone was barbecuing. At ten-fifteen? She inhaled again. Her tummy gave an unladylike gurgle. The barbecue smelled amazing after her hasty early breakfast of a fresh pear.

Sighing, Anna clicked the bag handle up into place and rolled the case over the cracked concrete path to the old shorefront cottage. This would be her last holiday here before it was demolished to make way for a new, much larger dwelling for her extended family to share. She unlocked the front door and stepped back into her childhood. Faded Indian cotton curtains, Great-aunt Emily’s fussy watercolours (also fading) and… the back door at the end of the hallway swinging wide open!

She stood stock-still, like a cat transfixed by a bird that had just landed unwisely close. Loud masculine laughter billowed in and echoed around the high-ceilinged space.

“Shit, no…” someone said.

“Totally crappy luck,” another man agreed.

“And probably a spoiled little bitch,” a deeper voice added.

Anna released her bag, set down her laptop, and crept the length of the old house on tiptoe, trying to stop her high heels from echoing on the varnished hardwood floor. “What do you think you’re doing?” she demanded, bursting through the doorway.

Four pairs of eyes swivelled in her direction. Three men stuffed meat into their mouths and chewed.

“Ms Wynn?” the deeper voice asked. The attached male raised a can of cola and took a leisurely swig. Dark eyes locked with hers over the shining can, and she watched his tanned throat constrict as he swallowed. He lowered the drink and wiped the back of his hand over his mouth.

“Anna Wynn. Why are you all here?”

Plainly they were the crew from the almost finished house through the hedge. Why weren’t they there instead? And how had they opened the door?

Three sets of teeth continued to chomp. Three pairs of eyes shifted away. The other man set the cola can down with no haste, and stood.

Up and up.

Anna had to tilt her head back to keep eye contact.

He thrust out a large hand as though he expected her to shake it. “Jason Jones,” he said.

He blocked out the light, stole her breath, irritated her far beyond anything that was reasonable.

“We’re having breakfast,” he added in that gritty velvet voice that had queried her name with unmistakeable amusement.

She inspected his fingers for cleanliness before extending her own. His boots were caked with mud, his long, powerful legs were smeared with dust, his khaki shorts had the zipper at half-mast, and there was sawdust all over his garish orange visibility vest. She tried not to ogle his arms and shoulders.

“Breakfast?” She found her fingers enclosed in firm warmth and then held captive.

“Or brunch, if you want to be fancy.” A faint grin teased the corners of his mouth.

Suddenly Anna’s choice of high heels and tailored black silk crepe pants felt ridiculous. Why hadn’t she worn jeans?

She tried to retrieve her hand and he tightened his grip, allowing her no escape.

“We’re on the job by seven in weather like this, and we work hard. We’re ready for more than a sandwich by now. You want a sausage?” Without waiting for a reply he reached sideways with his other hand, speared one from the barbecue on a bent and tarnished fork, and passed it to her.

Of course she didn’t. Nothing was further from her mind. A sausage with a gang of rough builders who had no business intruding into the house? From this over-muscled, overbearing, testosterone-soaked tower of annoyance?

 Her traitorous stomach chose that moment to give another loud gurgle, and she gave in to the inevitable, trying to accept the fork without touching him any further. She took a cautious nibble and closed her eyes. She possibly moaned. God, it was good!

“Ketchup with that?” the velvet voice asked, stroking every one of Anna’s nerve endings exactly the wrong way.

Snorts of amusement exploded from the other men and he threw a sharp, “Shut it,” in their direction.
 She opened her mouth wider and took a more ravenous bite.

“Go for it…” the youngest man encouraged.

“Shut it, Hoolie,” Jason Jones repeated.  He turned to Anna. “Doesn’t take much to amuse someone with no brain.”

Anna glared at them all. The youngest one grinned from ear to ear, the other two tried to stifle their laughter, and even Jason Jones had the faintest twitch at one end of his surprisingly gorgeous mouth. No prizes for guessing what they were imagining.

She managed to swallow the mouthful without choking, took a step backward in case it made him look less impressive, and pinned him with her best ‘you’re-an-insect-beneath-my-notice’ gaze. “And I’ll ask you again; what exactly are you doing here? This is my family’s home. I’m staying to do some work for a few days, and I’m not expecting, or wanting, company.”

Jason Jones folded his tall frame down onto a battered white plastic chair and glanced toward the open back porch of the old house. “I arranged with your uncle for us to use the… facilities… there.  But some big rocks slid down the hill and bashed the wall in a couple of days ago.”

“No more facilities,” young Hoolie explained helpfully. “No bog, broken basin, only half a shower.”
Anna flicked her gaze into the damaged porch, bared her teeth, and took another bite of sausage – a really savage one – while looking Hoolie in the eye. Her action had the intended effect, and she had the great satisfaction of seeing him flinch.

She tried to suppress a smirk as she chewed and swallowed. “You’ll have to get a Porta-loo then. I don’t want you in the house. How did you get the door open?”

A big hand rummaged in the pocket of the khaki shorts. Anna glimpsed lime green undies through the gaping fly. Lime green? Did the man have no class?

He pulled out a key on a twist of string. James’s key. The little white lighthouse on the end of the string was a souvenir she’d given him on a long-ago holiday.

He swung it to and fro. “Your uncle gave me this in case I wanted to stay over. There have been burglaries from the other house. Boxes of tiles, appliances – and I don’t need any here at mine.”

Why don’t they lock things up more securely?

“So you’re the foreman?”

“Project manager.”

This brought a ‘yeah, right’ from Hoolie, and a tightening of Jason Jones’ features. He glared at the offender and said, “Hoolie’s not worth meeting until he grows up a bit, but the rest of my men are.” He waved an arm in their direction, and the sun glinted on gilded skin and bulging muscle. “Brett Lambourne and Eric Hansen.”

“Pleased to meetcha,” the younger Brett said.

“Yeah, gidday,” balding Eric added, wiping his lips with a crumpled handkerchief and stuffing it back into the pocket of his shorts.

“But…” Anna said. This was absolutely not what she wanted. She shook her head. “I don’t want to share my bathroom with a crowd of men.”

Jason leaned back in the chair and drew a deep breath. Anna found it hard not to stare as his chest expanded, and saw from the set of his jaw that he was making quite an effort to stay polite.

“There are only four of us,” he said in a tone suitable for explaining quantum physics to young children. “And I’ve been telling them to take their boots off. But okay, I’ll order a Porta-loo. I can’t guarantee they’ll have it here before Monday though. Not with the big surf carnival over the weekend.”

“Every bog’ll be busy,” Hoolie contributed.

“Oh, for heaven’s sake!” Annaliese snapped. She took the last bite of sausage and wondered what to do with the fork. A big hand on the end of a long arm closed around it and she let go in a hurry.
“Thank you,” she added, a few seconds too late, turning and flouncing back into the house.

“Yep – spoiled little bitch”, she heard Jason say just before the door swung closed. So it was her he’d been talking about as she arrived? He’d already known she’d be staying? She nearly whirled around and gave him another earful, but what would that achieve? It wouldn’t do to make an enemy of the builder. Keeping out of each other’s way would surely be the wisest course.

She inspected the bathroom as she returned down the hallway. Men! Four empty toilet roll inners sat along the windowsill… the tap wasn’t properly turned off… and very dirty handprints decorated the pale blue towel.

Oh well, at least they washed their hands to some degree, and from the lack of mud on the floor they were indeed kicking their filthy boots off before they came inside.

She tried to be pleased about that as she collected her bag and pulled it into the front bedroom – the one with the best and biggest bed.

Someone had been sleeping in it. The cover had been tossed back and the pillow held the unmistakable indentation of a head. A half empty water bottle and an electric shaver sat on the chest beside it.

Jason Jones’ firm, clean-shaven jaw came immediately to mind, and for some reason his gorgeous mouth, and she just knew it would be him. Turning on her heel she clattered back along the hallway and flung the door open again.

“Who’s been sleeping in my bed?” she demanded.

“Big bad bear?” Hoolie suggested.

Brett Lambourne grinned. “Don’t you know your fairy stories, boy? Big bad wolf.”

Eric Hansen threw back his head and managed a passable howl.

“Hell,” Jason muttered. “It was the longest bed.”

“Well, will you move please? It sounded like you knew the ‘spoiled little bitch’ was coming to stay.”

Jason drew another of those devastating, chest-expanding breaths. “Your hearing’s a bit too good, eh? Sorry about that.” He set his can of cola aside and stood. Anna was almost willing to believe he was blushing under his tan.

“Move your stuff out at the end of the day,” she said. “I wouldn’t want to stop you working.” This time she slammed the door behind her so she wouldn’t hear any more smart comments.

About the Author

New Zealander Kris Pearson was born to write – at twelve she completed her autobiography – an easy subject which required no research. It filled a whole school exercise book! 
Her first proper job was as a radio copywriter. After living in Italy and London she returned to the capital city of Wellington and worked in TV, radio again, several advertising agencies, and then spent many happy years as a retail ad manager. Totally hooked on fabrics, she followed this by going into business with her husband as a curtain installer. It was finally time to write fiction. In sixteen years she hasn’t fallen off her ladder once through drifting off into romantic dreams.
She writes sizzling contemporary romance, pure and simple. Well, maybe not that pure! They’re sexy stories about modern couples who fall in love and into bed along the way, just like real people do. She’s the author of fourteen novels, three of which were finalists in New Zealand’s Clendon Award. Four have been translated into Spanish.
The most widely distributed is ‘The Boat Builder’s Bed’. She gave away more than two million ebook copies of this to kick-start sales of all her others. Did it work? Beyond her wildest dreams. See them all on her website – http://www.krispearson.com
Contact Links
Twitter: @Krispiewrites
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Giveaway
3 ebook copies of Hard to Regret
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Running on Empty – Meg Benjamin


Contemporary Romance
Date Published:  September 2016
Salt Box Trilogy, Book 3

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She’s running her heart out to stay in the same place.

Ronnie Ventura has every reason to distrust Fairstein Productions: she’s had run-ins with their shows before. But Fairstein’s newest reality show offers Ronnie a chance to redeem herself from looking like a blonde bimbo. All she has to do is win a modified triathlon. Simple, right? Except this is Fairstein, and nothing is ever simple with them.

Ronnie’s boss at the Blarney Stone bar and café, owner Ted Saltzman, is a lot less convinced that another Fairstein show is just what Ronnie needs, particularly when he’s head over heels about Ronnie himself. But she’s determined, and he’s a man in love.

Ted becomes her running coach, which fans their budding romance to a fever. But can Ronnie’s newfound confidence stand up to the usual Fairstein plots? And can Ted find a way to keep his true love in Salt Box if Hollywood tries to steal her away again?

Other books in the Salt Box Trilogy:
Salt Box Trilogy, Book 1
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Published: June 2015

Reality can be hotter than fiction.

Monica McKellar, associate producer of Finding Mr. Right, is desperate. One of the show’s bachelors has bailed one week before shooting starts. She not only needs a replacement ASAP, he has to get the temperamental bachelorette’s stamp of approval.

Fortunately there’s a hot guy right under her nose who’s a perfect fit. Unfortunately, he pushes all her hot buttons. Until the show’s over, her hands—and every other part of her body—are tied.

When Paul Dewitt signed on to write for the reality show, “Bachelor #10” wasn’t supposed to be in his job description. He fully expects to be cut early on, which will free him to focus on the real object of his attraction. Monica.

Instead, he’s a finalist, and they’re all packed in an SUV climbing the Continental Divide, headed for Salt Box, Colorado. Where stampeding horses, vindictive tabloid editors, and one capricious bachelorette’s waffling over suitors may conspire to end Paul and Monica’s romance before it even starts.

Warning: Contains hot sex on the sly, cold nights, creaking wicker couches, and a gypsy wagon that gives a whole new appreciation for the pioneers.

Salt Box Trilogy, Book 2
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Published: January 2016

Breakfast with benefits…

The reality show Lovely Ladies of L.A. should have launched Lizzy Apodaca’s catering company into solvency. Instead, when her carefully prepared appetizers mysteriously gave the cast on-camera food poisoning, she lost everything.

To make matters worse, her car breaks down in Salt Box, Colorado, a town not much bigger than a salt shaker. But maybe her luck is changing—the handsome owner of Praeger House, the town’s premier hotel, needs a kitchen assistant.

Clark Denham realizes his diamond in the rough is a polished gem when Lizzy steps up to save the hotel’s breakfast buffet after his temperamental head chef quits. It isn’t long before she’s winning his heart as smoothly and efficiently as she runs his kitchen.

Their relationship goes from simmer to rolling boil with the speed of a short order cook. But when a bevy of not-so-lovely ladies shows up in Salt Box, Lizzy’s past disaster threatens to flatten her happily ever after faster than a falling soufflé.

Warning: Contains salty dialogue, several servings of high-carb cooking, and a big platter of screaming-hot bedroom delights.

About the Author

Meg Benjamin is an award-winning author of contemporary romance. Her Konigsburg series for Samhain Publishing is set in the Texas Hill Country and her Salt Box trilogy is set in her new home the Colorado Rockies. She also has the paranormal Ramos Family trilogy from Berkley InterMix. Meg’s books have won numerous awards, including an EPIC Award, a Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award, the Holt Medallion from Virginia Romance Writers, the Beanpot Award from the New England Romance Writers, and the Award of Excellence from Colorado Romance Writers.

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The Little Voice – Joss Sheldon


Psychological Realism / Contemporary / Literary Fiction
Date Published: 23rd November 2016

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“Can you remember who you were before the world told you who you should be?”
Dear reader,
My character has been shaped by two opposing forces; the pressure to conform to social norms, and the pressure to be true to myself. To be honest with you, these forces have really torn me apart. They’ve pulled me one way and then the other. At times, they’ve left me questioning my whole entire existence.
But please don’t think that I’m angry or morose. I’m not. Because through adversity comes knowledge. I’ve suffered, it’s true. But I’ve learnt from my pain. I’ve become a better person.
Now, for the first time, I’m ready to tell my story. Perhaps it will inspire you. Perhaps it will encourage you to think in a whole new way. Perhaps it won’t. There’s only one way to find out…
Enjoy the book,
Yew Shodkin
Excerpt
ONE

It was my sixth birthday when the little voice first spoke to me.
Please do understand, dear reader, that it wasn’t an abstract little voice. Oh no! It belonged to a little creature who lived inside my brain. But that creature had not, up until that point, ever said a word.
That creature wasn’t human. Far from it! Although its eyes were identical to my own.
If I’m to be totally honest, I must admit that I’m not exactly sure what it was. I’ve always just called it ‘The Egot’.
The egot’s skin was as red as hellfire, its hair was as bright as the midday sun, and its belly was as round as a pearl. It had webbed feet, elfish ears and lithe claws. I assumed it was male, but it could’ve been female; it was impossible to tell.
Yet, despite its peculiar appearance, I felt comfortable whenever I saw the egot. It possessed a powerful sort charisma which always put me at ease. It’d lift its flat cap, bend one of its spiky knees, and wink in a way which made its eye sparkle. Just seeing the egot made me feel warm and fuzzy inside.
The egot was familiar. It was a part of the scenery of my mind. My companion. My friend.
But it had never spoken. Not until the day I turned six.
I was at school when it happened, sitting at the set of desks which I shared with five other pupils. The waxy floor was illuminated by white light. The smell of pencil shavings wafted through the air.
Our teacher, Ms Brown, was standing at the front of that prefabricated space. She was scratching a tiny nub of chalk along an indifferent blackboard.
“As soon as those brave explorers stepped foot on that distant land, they
were attacked by a group of wild savages,” she told the class through a cloud of chalk dust.
“Ooh! Ooh!” screamed Snotty McGill.
I liked Snotty McGill. I liked all the children in my class. Back then, I think we all just tacitly assumed that we were equal. That we were all in the same boat. We didn’t really think about our different genders, races or classes. We just co- existed, like one big family.
I think Snotty McGill was actually called Sarah, but we called her ‘Snotty’ because she always had a cold. An hour seldom passed in which she didn’t either sneeze, pick her nose, or wipe a bogie onto her snot-encrusted sleeve. But she had such a lovely colour. That pink glow which comes with the flu used to engulf her like an aura. It suited her. She always looked so damn effervescent.
Anyway, as I was saying, Snotty McGill was waving her hand above her head.
“Ms! Ms!” she called. “What’s a ‘savage’?”
Ms Brown turned to face us. She looked chalky. Everything around her looked chalky. The floor was covered in chalk-dust and the skirting-boards were covered in chalky-ashes. Chalk residue glistened in Ms Brown’s bushy hair. It coated the points of her fingers.
“Well,” she said. “A savage has the body of a man, but not his civility. A savage is like an animal. He doesn’t wear clothes, live in a house, study or work. He follows his base urges; to eat, drink and reproduce. But he doesn’t have an intellect. He doesn’t have any ambition. He’s smelly, hairy and uncouth. He does the least he can to survive. And he spends most of his time sleeping or playing.”
Snotty McGill looked horrified. As did Stacey Fairclough, Sleepy Sampson and Gavin Gillis. Chubby Smith looked like he was about to start a fight. Most of the class looked dumbfounded. But I felt inspired.
‘They don’t have to go to school!’ I thought with envy and intrigue. ‘They spend all their time playing! They sleep for as long as they like!’
It was as if I’d stumbled across a species of super-humans. To me, the savages sounded like gods. I knew at once that I wanted to be one. I’d never been so sure of anything in my life.
The egot smiled mischievously. It rolled a whisker between its skeletal claws and tapped one of its webbed feet.
Ms Brown continued:
“Well, when the explorers stepped ashore, a pack of savages came hurtling towards them; swinging through the trees like monkeys, beating their breasts like apes, and howling like donkeys. They flocked like birds and stampeded through the dust like a herd of untamed wildebeests.”
That was when the egot spoke for the first time.
It leaned up against the inside of my skull, just behind my nose, and crossed its spindly legs. Then it began to talk:
“If you want to be a savage, you should probably act like a savage. You know, you should probably stampede like a wildebeest. Maybe beat your breast like an ape. Perhaps you’d like to howl like a donkey? Yes, yes.”
The egot’s voice was so… so… so… So far beyond description. So subtle. So calm. So quirky. So eccentric. And so, so quiet!
The egot accentuated random letters, as if it was shocked to discover their existence. It swilled its words, like a Frenchman mulling over a glass of confused wine. And it stretched random syllables, as if it was saddened to see them go.
There was a certain melody to the egot’s voice. It didn’t so much speak as rhyme, like a Shakespearean actor on a crisp autumn night.
But the egot was quiet. Its voice was such a little voice.  A little voice inside my head.
That little voice struck me dumb.
The egot strummed its lip, like a pensive philosopher, and waited for me to reply. But I was in a state of paralytic shock. I couldn’t have replied if I’d wanted to. So the egot folded its arms, in a gesture of mock offence, and then continued on:
“I’m only telling you what you want to hear,” it purred. It swirled the word ‘telling’ so much that the ‘ell’ sound reverberated five times; ‘Tell-ell-ell-ell-ell-ell-ing’.
“You don’t really want to succumb to civility. No, no. You want to be a savage. I think you want to jump between tables, like a monkey swinging between trees. If you thought you could get away with it, and no-one was judging you, you wouldn’t think twice.”
It was a moment of clarity. Bright white, unadulterated clarity. Silent. Outside of time and space.
Please do allow me to explain…
I’m a big fan of the founder of Taoism, the ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu. He was a wizened old gent. His hair was as white as virgin snow and his eyes were deeper than any ocean on earth.
Well, Lao Tzu once said that ‘Knowing others is wisdom. Knowing yourself is enlightenment’.
Dear reader, that’s exactly how I felt! In that moment, I felt that I ‘knew’ myself. In that moment, I felt ‘enlightened’.
Everything was clear. It was clear that I’d been living in a cage. It was clear that freedom was mine to take. It was clear what I had to do. The egot was my clarity. Everything was clear.
I remember a sense of otherworldliness, as if I’d stepped outside of the physical realm. My legs lifted my torso, my frame stood tall, and my spirit stood still. My body melted away from my control.
I watched on as it broke free. As it leapt up onto our shared desk. As it pounded its breast like a valiant ape. And as it puffed its chest like a swashbuckling superhero.
The faint sound of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony started to fill my ears. Delicate violin strings provided a melodic backdrop for the ballet which was unravelling onstage.
My body performed a pirouette.
White paper rose up beneath my feet and span around my shins like froth on a choppy ocean.
I felt an all-encompassing surge of bliss.
One leg rose up in front of my body, forming a sharp arrow which pointed out towards an adjacent desk. I held that position perfectly still, whilst lifting my chin with a pompous sort of grace. Then I leapt like a spring deer, in slow motion, with one leg pointing forward and the other one darting back.
Beethoven’s Ninth sounded glorious as it purred through the gears. Violas joined violins and cellos joined those violas. Double basses began to hum and flutes began to whistle.
I landed with my feet together; an angel of the air, a demon of the sea. My mind floated atop an infinite ocean.
My legs leapt on through the infinite air. They bounded from table to table with ever-increasing speed; gaining momentum, gaining height. I could see my monkey soul. I could hear the monkey calls which were emanating from my open mouth.
I could hear Beethoven’s Ninth reach its first crescendo, as the brass section began its battle cry. Flutes became one with clarinets. Bassoons boomed. Trumpets and horns squealed with uncontrollable delight.
I howled like a donkey at the moment of sexual climax. My lungs filled with pure spirit.
I landed on all fours, looking like a bison. My shoulders were bulging out of my back and my temples were as erect as horns.
I leapt like a giant frog. And I stampeded between desks like a herd of untamed wildebeests; leaving a trail of overturned chairs, twisted students and miscellaneous debris in my wake.
Beethoven’s Ninth called out for redemption, glory and release. It was an impassioned cry. It was a fury-filled yell.
“Yew! Yew! Yew!” Ms Brown yelled. “Yew! Yew! Yew!”
Ms Brown had been yelling since the moment I stood up. But I’d been on a different plane. I hadn’t heard a thing.
My teacher’s voice pierced my ether, burst my euphoria, and threw me down amongst the shards of my shattered pride. To my left; a small calculator bled black ink, a wonky table rocked back and forth like a sober addict, and a potted plant spewed crumbs of soil all across the vinyl flooring. To my right; Aisha Ali was crying into her collar, Tina Thompson was rubbing her shin, and Chubby Smith was holding his belly.
“Yew! Yew! Yew!” Ms Brown yelled.
(I’m called Yew by the way. I think I forgot to mention that).
“Yew! What on earth do you think you’re doing? What’s come over you? I,I, I…”
Ms Brown choked on her words, lifted a hand to her throat, coughed up some chalk-dust, and then gulped down a stodgy chunk of passive air.
She shook her head.
“You’re usually such a good boy!”
She exhaled.
“I’ve never seen anything like it. Whatever came over you? Look at this place! Just look at this place! I… I… I just can’t believe it! Oh my.”
I looked around.
The debris of my liberation assaulted my torrid eyes. The disgrace of my emancipation flushed through my dusty veins. And my glorious body became a tepid vase for the desert’s tears.
“I’m not angry,” Ms Brown sighed. “I’m just disappointed.”
That hurt. It hurt a lot.
I was fond of Ms Brown. She was such a sweet person. She was warm. So her disappointment really cut through me.
It was a heavy sort of disappointment; weighed down by the burden of expectation and the gravity of my situation. And it was an overpowering sort of disappointment. It pinned me to the floor.
My world inverted. Ignorance replaced enlightenment. Darkness replaced light. Density replaced levity.
My euphoria was usurped by a deathly sort of anxiety, which shook me from side to side and made me shiver to the core. Beethoven’s Ninth was snuffed out by the booming of my incessant heart. I was sucked down into a black-hole at the centre of my being; paralysed by my teacher’s disappointment and frozen by my own sense of fear. I felt trapped, small and base.
“Disappointed,” Ms Brown repeated. “Yew! That’s not how you’re supposed to behave. That’s not what society expects of you.”
Ms Brown shook her head, which caused chalk-dust to float up into the air. It glistened in the bright-white light. It sparkled.
Ms Brown tutted.
Then she sent me to see the headmaster.
About the Author


Joss Sheldon is a scruffy nomad, unshaven layabout, and good for nothing hobo. Born in 1982, he was brought up in one of the anonymous suburbs which wrap themselves around London’s beating heart. And then he escaped!

With a degree from the London School of Economics to his name, Sheldon had spells selling falafel at music festivals, being a ski-bum, and failing to turn the English Midlands into a haven of rugby league.

Then, in 2013, he went to McLeod Ganj in India; a village which plays home to thousands of angry monkeys, hundreds of Tibetan refugees, and the Dalai Lama himself. It was there that Sheldon wrote his first novel, ‘Involution & Evolution’.

With several positive reviews to his name, Sheldon had caught the writing bug. So he travelled around Palestine and Kurdistan before writing his second novel, ‘Occupied’; a dystopian ‘masterpiece’ unlike any other story you’ve ever read!

Now Joss has returned with his third, and most radical novel yet. ‘The Little Voice’ takes a swipe at the external forces which come to shape our personalities. It’s psychological. And it will make you think about the world in a whole new way. As the Huffington Post put it, The Little Voice is probably “The most thought-provoking novel of 2016″…

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