Tuesday, February 26, 2013

"Book Cover: Selected" by Susanna Ivy

Book Cover: Selected 
by Susanna Ivy

The cover counts.

The importance of a great cover is not to be underestimated. It is like with most things in life - the first impression counts.

The internet is flooded with hundreds of new eBooks everyday. To be successful, yours must stand out. Therefore, it is important to find a designer you trust and who matches your needs for your very own masterpiece - your book.

Book Cover: Selected shows that book covers can be art, too. Featured here are some of Susanna Ivy's more popular cover designs. For lovers of graphic design and fans of art, Book Cover: Selected seeks to remind the viewer that first impressions mean everything.

Susanna Ivy got a degree in Graphic Design and works as freelance designer and photographer.

Please note: For best results it is recommended that you view this book on Kindle Fire, a free Kindle computer application or a free Kindle smartphone application. For those with black and white Kindles the photos will still be viewable.

By Eve Paludan

This Kindle book is a cool showcase of selected Kindle eBook covers designed by the talented Susanna Ivy. Further, her covers help sell books - a number of these covers resulted in bestselling books and viewing them is a good study for what works in Kindle book design. With only a front cover for Kindle books, the design of a cover has to have maximum impact at thumbnail size, as well as on a small rectangle on the Amazon buy-it page. My publisher had her design one of my covers and it is a good-selling book. It is not enough to write a great book. It has to be wrapped in a beautiful package. Susanna Ivy has a keen artist's eye and an intuition for design that takes the high concept of a novel and delivers the author's words as a visual theme in the marketplace. Also an award-winning photographer, Ms. Ivy has a sense of light, color, and composition that translates from her photo savvy into her graphic design for book covers. This is a display of her talent as a book designer that shows an understanding of what makes novels intriguing.

About the Author

Susanna Ivy is an aspiring and passionate wildlife and travel photographer who grew up in East Berlin behind the wall. Inspired by her grandfather she discovered in an early age her love for all kinds of animals. So far she had traveled 30 countries and has taken thousands of photos. In 2010 she won an international competition and could fulfill her childhood dream and travel to Galapagos.


"The Takers" by D. T. Peterson

The Takers
by D. T. Peterson

Holograms, guns, celebrity status, a penchant for theft, and red warpaint tattoos.
This is the arsenal of the Takers, a gang of Robin Hood-like thieves terrorizing the rich in Chicago during the year 2067. Enthralled with their reputation and the chance to support her fellow lower-class citizens, a young woman named Lash gleefully becomes their newest member. Her quick-thinking and eagerness to learn earns her acceptance and an invitation to the gang's most important heist yet. But as Lash learns more about the Takers' history and intentions, she begins to realize there's more to the gang than meets the eye.

Lashira Grey wiped away the blood on her cheek as she looked in the mirror.

“Looks good, Lash,” Zeke said, standing beside her.

With her fingers, she followed the three bright red streaks freshly tattooed on her dark-skinned face. One was above her left eye, one was below, and the third ran diagonal across her left cheek. It was the infamous mark of a Taker.

Lash turned around to look at the others with her in the tattoo parlor, all of them Takers as well. Their gang operated as a modern Robin Hood in the city of Chicago, stealing what they could from the rich and powerful and using it to help the poor and oppressed. At least, that was what they claimed. For the most part, stealing from the rich was what they put into practice. But this was enough for Lash. She idolized them, as did many of the poor in Chicago. They represented a form of class warfare the public could stomach: theft, not bloodshed.

The trio of red stripes on each Taker’s face represented war paint and was a symbol of courage and life-long dedication to their cause, a symbol each member could proudly display in public. They were mini-celebrities in Chicago, respected as heroes by many. While the infamy made them targets of police suspicion, questioning, and surveillance, a red tattoo was never enough for an arrest. The three streak symbol was usually the only identifier left behind at crime scenes, whether graffitied on walls or visible on conveniently-corrupted camera footage.

And now, Lash was one of them. It had been hard, contacting them and earning their trust. But after making an impression on Zeke, she was soon accepted. The tattoo had been the final step in her initiation.

“So, when do we get started?” Lash asked.

“Tonight,” Penelope said, the current de facto leader of the Takers. She was sometimes referred to as Penny, and the nickname was an accurate summary of her wealth before she joined the Takers, though the bronze coin was no longer a part of US currency and her current economic situation was dramatically different. Unknown to the public, the Takers did not give away everything they took.

“What are we going to do?” Lash asked.

Penelope smiled and said, “What we do best. Take.”

That evening, the Takers parked along the street of a particularly wealthy neighborhood. In fact, one of the mayor’s houses sat one block away, though the Takers weren’t stupid enough to provoke the man in charge of the city’s police force. Their target that night was the mansion of a wealthy executive, who was currently enjoying a vacation in South America. The exquisite home was surrounded by a line of trees intended for privacy, something the Takers were happy to use to their advantage.

“Ok, so we just go in and take whatever we can find?” Lash asked.

“No. We’d be here all night if we wanted to just take anything that looked pretty. To make this count, we have to grab only what’s important,” Zeke explained.

“And what’s important?”

“Anything high-tech. Mini-computers, holographic projectors, anything that’s lightweight like that. This stuff is easy to take, easy to sell, and easy to miss. We want them to know we hit them. We want this to hurt. And, if we’re lucky, sometimes we can use the computers to access their bank accounts. They’re tough to steal from, but it sure is fun to buy them all kinds of crap they don’t want. Tons of toilet paper, random furniture, weird sex dolls… One time we used a guy’s account to order three-hundred thousand custom pens, all engraved with ‘You’re an asshole.’ Good times.”

“Wow. What did that guy do?” Lash asked.


“The guy with all the pens. Why’d you go after him?”

Zeke frowned. “I dunno. He was rich. He gets to sit in his castle eating caviar while others are on the streets eating a few dry noodles. Therefore, he’s an asshole and fair game for us. It’s not that complicated, Lash.”

“I know, I know.” Some part of her still wasn’t content, but the light pain on her face from her tattoo reminded her that the time for second guessing was long gone.

“Ok everyone, let’s get started. Lash, you’re going to go in first with Zeke. Clear the place, then the rest of us will come in. Got it?” Penelope asked.

“What happens if there’s a security system?” Lash asked.

“There will be one. Zeke will show you what to do.”

“Let’s go,” Zeke said, pulling open the door of their van and stepping outside.

Lash followed and looked around. The only vehicles on the road were the three vans the Takers had arrived in. It was dark, and Lash hoped the black clothes they all wore would be enough to conceal their actions from any neighbors. She was surprised by Zeke’s nonchalant stride across the road. He was entirely unconcerned that anyone would see them.

As they neared the mansion’s front lawn, Zeke stretched out a hand to stop Lash. He pointed to the corners of the front lawn and said, “Sensors.”

They walked along the sidewalk until they reached the corner of the property. As Zeke had predicted, hidden in the grass was a small, green object.

“What is it?” Lash asked.

“Motion sensor. Nothing impressive, though I’m sure whatever it’s linked to is. If we step on the lawn, the whole neighborhood will know we’re here.”

“Can you turn it off?”

Zeke shook his head. “Not from here. We have to do that inside.”

“So, we’re stuck?”

Zeke chuckled. “Not at all. How these things work is they only go off when large objects pass by. Otherwise, the cops would be here everyday because of bunnies.”


“Yeah, and squirrels or whatever. Animals are always running around people’s lawns, so the system won’t go off if it only picks up small objects.”

“How does that help us?”

“We hide behind the bunnies,” Zeke said with a smile.

Lash gave him an incredulous look.

Zeke pulled out a small metal stick and extended it to nearly three feet. Then, he pushed it into the ground right at the edge of the mansion’s front lawn. He pulled out his palm-sized mini-computer and put in a command. The stick began to project a holographic, two-dimensional bunny on the lawn.

“You’ve got to be kidding,” Lash blurted out.

“Check it out,” Zeke said, pointing to the sensor. There was now a tiny yellow light on its side.

“What does that mean?”

“The sensor has picked up something, but it’s not big enough to set off the alarm. Now if we just…” Zeke then put in another command on his computer. The stick now projected a long line of hologram bunnies, running in a constant stream across the lawn. They were abnormally large, yet the sensor light remained yellow. “Now, all we have to do is crawl to the door. As long as we stay behind them, the sensor won’t be able to tell that we are a large enough object to set off the alarm.”

“That’s amazing.”

Zeke smiled. “This job certainly has its perks.” He then walked over to the other side of the lawn and set up another stick along with another line of bunnies. When he returned, he said, “Ok, let’s go.”

“How will we know if this works?”

“The light on the sensor will turn red, there will be loud noises, and people in uniforms will show up. Trust me, we’ll know if it doesn’t.”

“Seems like overkill. What if we were just some kid picking up a ball that rolled away?”

“At night? Still, you’re right. The police probably won’t respond right away. But we don’t want to take that chance.”

“Fair enough,” Lash agreed.

“Ok, follow me,” Zeke said. He got on his stomach and crawled between the two rows of holographic bunnies running on the lawn. Half a minute later, he arrived at the door and stood up against the wall. Lash checked the sensor. The light had not turned red.

Zeke impatiently beckoned for Lash to hurry up. She got on her stomach and began to crawl. It was a surreal experience as she passed the white bunny holograms on the lawn of some stranger’s house. When she reached the house, she stood up against the wall as Zeke had done and brushed off the grass from her clothes. Zeke then touched his computer and the bunnies disappeared.

They kept against the exterior wall of the house as Zeke tried to open the front door. It was locked, as expected. Zeke pulled out a small laser cutter from his pocket and cut the door in a half-circle around the door knob. Now unattached to the electronic lock, the door swung open.

“Is it always this easy?” Lash asked.

“No, but usually it is,” Zeke answered.

They stepped into the dark foyer of the mansion. A grand staircase greeted them, along with all manner of expensive decor. Zeke checked for cameras, but saw none.

“Wow,” Lash whispered. She had never seen anything quite like it. Some of the paintings on the walls were worth more money than she had seen in her entire life, though that wasn’t saying much. She was 24 and the only job she had ever taken was at a grocery store, which went out of business only two years later. It was the golden age of automation and the result was rampant unemployment. Why hire a person when a computer can do the same thing?

Zeke moved over to a small monitor on the wall near the front door. He pressed a single button and the sensors outside deactivated. Turning back to Lash, he said “Now to make sure there’s…”

A faint buzzing noise came from further in the house. Zeke grabbed Lash and threw them both to the floor. He looked at her, put a finger to his lips, and motioned for them to crawl to the adjacent room.

They quietly scrambled over into the mansion’s dining room. There was a luxurious set of wood chairs and a table which they moved behind. Zeke eyed the foyer. Lash followed his gaze and nearly gasped. Floating directly above where they had been standing seconds ago was a silver sphere, only a few inches in diameter.

They waited behind the table and chairs for a full minute until the buzzing sphere retreated back to another room. Zeke exhaled in relief.

“What was that?” Lash asked.

“It’s a little camera robot. A Securi-Drone, it’s called. It scans each room for intruders. They’re incredibly expensive, so we usually don’t see them in homes. I guess this guy is a bit more paranoid than most.”

“What do we do? Can we turn it off, or do we have to use the bunnies again?”

“Ha, no. Even bunnies would set that thing off. For now, we just have to avoid it. They always have a local computer that controls them, but unless we can access that, there’s nothing we can do.”

Penelope spoke through their headsets, which both wore on one ear. “How’s it going in there?”

“They have a Securi-Drone,” Zeke answered.

“Damn. Alright, get out of there.”

“We can handle it.”

“I know you can, but this is Lash’s first time. It’s too risky.”

“She’ll be fine.”

“No, she…”

“I can do this,” Lash said.

There was a brief pause, then Penelope replied, “Alright. But if anything goes wrong…”

“It’s on me,” Zeke finished for her.

“I was going to say ‘get the hell out of there,’ but yeah, that works too.”

“We’ll let you know what we find,” Zeke said, ending the conversation. He turned to Lash and said, “Let’s find this guy’s office. Hopefully there’s a computer there.”

They stood up from behind the table and crept into the next room. It was a massive kitchen, with long counters, a plethora of cabinets, and three refrigerators.

“Three fridges? What the hell do you need three of them for?” Zeke commented in a hushed tone. He opened one of them to find it full of a wide variety of beverages. He pulled out a beer and offered it to Lash. She shook her head. Zeke shrugged, popped open the can, and chugged half of its contents. He then poured the rest into the sink and crushed the can. As he went to put it in his pocket, Lash gave him a look.

“What are you doing?” she whispered.

“Well, clearly we don’t want to leave any DNA.”

They proceeded out of the kitchen and found themselves in the living room. This room alone was six times the size of Lash’s apartment. She was beginning to understand why the Takers hated these people, regardless of whether they truly deserved it.

There was a hallway on the opposite side of the room. They made their way to it, keeping alert for the buzzing sound of the Securi-Drone. Halfway across, they heard it.

The two of them dove behind one of the couches. They could hear the drone flying nearly overhead, but neither of them dared move to see it. As it drew closer, Zeke crawled under the couch, followed by Lash. There was just barely enough room for the two of them.

They waited for a few minutes as the buzzing continued around the room. When the noise finally faded, they climbed out from under the couch and checked the room to make sure the drone was gone.

“Why can’t we just destroy it?” Lash asked.

“If the computer that controls it stops receiving data from the drone, an alert will go out, whether to a security agency, cops, or the guy who owns this place. Probably all of them.”

“So we need to find that computer.”

Zeke nodded.

They reached the hallway and could now see that it split into two different directions. Neither seemed more promising than the other.

“Let’s split up,” Lash suggested.

“I don’t think so. It’s my ass if anything happens to you…”

“I can take care of myself. This way we can find his office in half the time.”

“We aren’t even sure it’s on this floor,” Zeke protested.


Zeke sighed. “Alright. Keep in touch.”

“Don’t do anything stupid, Lash,” Penelope said through their headsets.

“I won’t,” Lash answered.

She moved down one of the hallways and began opening doors to check the rooms. Within a minute, Zeke was out of sight. She was amazed by how big the house was. Doors opened to a bathroom, a bar room, a billiard room, a second living room, and another bathroom. She reached the final room attached to the hallway and opened the door to find a lone desk surrounded by towering bookshelves along the walls. She walked over to the desk. There was nothing there. She started to leave, but then decided to check the drawers. She walked behind the mahogany desk and opened the first one. Inside sat a mini-computer.

“I found the office and a mini-comp,” she said into the headset.

“Nice work,” Penelope answered.

“Where are you?” Zeke asked.

“Farthest room down the hallway.”

“I’ll be right there.”

Lash eyed the computer. Its holographic monitor displayed a small message: “Securi-Drone: Active.” She couldn’t access anything more without passing voice recognition or a fingerprint scan. She was surprised the security system was linked to a mini-comp, but few things those days used anything larger or less mobile. Perhaps the owner felt the security feed was something he would someday need to take with him to the bathroom. One of his many, Lash thought.

“Hey, Zeke. Do you think it would work if I…” she began to say, but was interrupted by Zeke.

“Lash!” he called. Not only could she hear his voice in her headset, but also echoing from the hallway.

She ran out to the hallway and saw him running towards her. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw the drone approaching. He pulled her back into the office and shut the door.

“Did it see you?” she anxiously asked.

“I don’t know, but I think it’s coming this…”

The door of the office automatically swung open as the drone floated inside. The two Takers pressed themselves against the wall next to the door. The drone was only two feet away, but its camera was aimed at the rest of the office. For a moment it was motionless. Then it began to turn.


By Lynda Dickson
This is an exciting and original story set in the year 2067. The Takers tells the story of Lashira Grey, or Lash, a newly initiated Taker. Marked by red facial tattoos, the Takers are modern day Robin Hoods operating in Chicago with the help of some imaginative high-tech gadgets. There's something for everyone here. My favorite gadget was the Securi-Drone, a flying camera robot used to detect intruders.
We follow Lash and her fellow Takers during her first year on the job, culminating in the most dangerous heist of their lives. Will they get caught this time or make it through unscathed yet again?
Things start to look grim when Lash realizes that her idols are not quite who she thought they were. Lash's future is left up in the air. I just hope we get to meet her again.
The Takers is one of three short prequels to the novel Darkness on a Pale Blue Stone, set five years later. The others are Lights Out and Automation. These three prequels can also be found combined in Before the Darkness, which also includes an additional prologue and epilogue.

About the Author
D.T. Peterson is a 21-year-old storyteller and for most of those years he has been living that out through writing. He loves grappling with complex issues, uncovering exotic mysteries, and attempting to understand the darker parts of human psyches, all of which come through in his writing. If something is simple and straightforward, it's probably not something he's all that interested in. He loves challenging, complex stories with equally complex characters and settings. His writing journey has a long way to go and, for him, that's what makes it so enjoyable.
D.T. Peterson currently lives in Chambersburg, PA. His future plans involve thoroughly earning the title of "Author", learning to cook something more than eggs, and living long enough to own a self-driving car.


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Dracula Chronicles: Bound by Blood (Volume 1) by Shane K. P. O'Neill

Note: This book is suitable for adults only.

The Dracula Chronicles: Bound by Blood
(Volume 1)
by Shane K. P. O'Neill

The Dracula Chronicles: Bound by Blood was released on 1 December 2012. This is actually the third book in The Dracula Chronicles series, and it is published in two volumes. Volume 1 will be FREE from 3:00 am 22 February (EST) to 2:59 am 25 February (EST). Volume 2 is also available. Books 1 and 2, The Gates of Babylon and Descent to Darkness, are yet to be released. Books 4 to 8 are also in the works.
Look out for my previous blog post about the Prequel to this series, The Dracula Chronicles: Birth of the Monster. You can also read my interview with the author in another blog post. Please note that this series is adult fiction. The series is historical and set in a brutal age, and is therefore quite brutal in parts. It also has a fair amount of erotica content.

The Dracula Chronicles is the brilliant and terrifying new concept of Dracula. It is an epic journey through the ages where the forces of Light and Darkness struggle for supremacy until the Second Great War, as foretold in the Book of Revelations. This bitter feud began after the creation of mankind. Lucifer’s jealousy leads to the First Great War of the angels. Hundreds of thousands of years on the feud simmers beneath the surface. It plots the course of history as we know it today. Both sides manipulate the major players through the centuries to seek an advantage over the other. 

On a cold night in December 1431 in Sighisoara an old gypsy woman delivers a prophecy to the great Vlad Dracul. She tells him he is about to sire two sons, one an angel and the other a devil. He returns to his fortress just as his wife bears him a son, whom he names Vlad. In the very same moment across the country on the border between Transylvania and Hungary a gypsy girl gives birth to another son, Andrei. The die is cast. The twin souls are born. The young Vlad Dracula becomes the instrument of the forces of Darkness. To balance this, the baby Andrei is blessed by the angels and bestowed with awesome powers.These chronicles are their story.

Book Trailer

Chapter 14 - November, 1494. Dracula’s oldest living enemy, Vintila Florescu, sits alone at home awaiting death. His son and heir, Victor, has been murdered and his head sent to him in a box.

The men paused to reflect on their conversation.  Florescu had heard enough.  He stepped away from the window and sat down in his chair.  It was the most plausible explanation for what had happened.  But to murder his son and then send him his head?  That was personal and indicated a real grudge.  Could his nephew dislike him that much?  It gave him plenty to ponder. 

He gazed at Victor’s head where it had spent the last four days on the table in front of him.  His tears had long dried up now.  They would do Victor no good.  He was a broken man.  If Death were to call, he would be welcomed.  He sighed hard and then, drinking the last of the wine in his cup, he drifted off to sleep.

His dreams took him back to another time.  He was much younger then.  Dead bodies littered the streets from the fighting.  Smoke hung over the city from the buildings that burned in the aftermath.

A woman stood naked at the gallows.  A rope hung around her neck.  He grinned at her, though she did not seem afraid.  Even then as her moment of death was upon her she showed only strength.  She stared at him, her eyes full of hate.  He hated her as much, but secretly admired her resolve.

Her face remained engrained there in his mind.  He pushed her down naked on her bed.  The bed she had only ever shared with her husband.  He forced her to watch in the mirror, as he took her from behind.  Holding her by the hair their eyes met in the glass.  The first silent exchange of hatred passed between them.

He then sat in a chair.  One after another his men took turns with her while he watched.  He loved every one of her cries though she fought hard to stifle them.  Pound the Draculesti whore his men encouraged each other.  One at a time they did.

Her face remained there.  Purple and swollen it turned as the rope tightened around her neck.  Her legs dangled free, kicking aimlessly against the cold night breeze.  A tongue black and swollen protruded from her mouth.  Her eyes bulged as the noose slowly choked the life out of her.  Yet still they burned into his.

He turned his focus on a man much younger than he.  A son crushed by the image of his mother dangling from a rope.  One who had already brought himself much honour on the battlefield.  Battered and bruised, he looked up defiantly.  On his knees he cursed them, each and every one.

Florescu looked down at the hot coals nearby.  He picked out an iron, its metal red and glowing.  A thousand sparks flew against the darkness when he blew on its tip.  The young man eyed it with fear.  He struggled against those who held him down.  It did him no good.

He pressed the hot iron against soft flesh.  A loud hiss followed by the most horrible scream.  Then silence as the molten iron ate through all in its wake.  Flesh and bone melted into one.  He saw a blinded convulsing body thrown down into an open grave.  It was an image he could not escape.

By aobibliophile™ 
"There is a reason why all things are as they are." - Bram Stoker, Dracula

Vlad III, Prince of Wallachia, of the House of Drăculești, becomes a pawn in the age-old battle between good and evil. In his attempt to return to Heaven and dethrone God, the fallen angel Lucifer sets his plans into motion. He grants Vlad immortal life as a vampire and commands the Voivode of Wallachia to wage war against the Catholic Church no matter what the cost.

Author Shane KP O'Neill blends facts, folklore and myth and goes beyond them in creating a darker and more plausible account of the Dracula legend.

Spanning centuries, this outstanding debut is rich in detail. It offers a behind-the-scenes look at how Vlad Dracula schemes his way and manipulates well-known historical figures in his attempt to bring down the Catholic religion. Niccolo Machiavelli, the Borgias, Martin Luther, Henry VIII, Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn are some of history's famous men and woman whom Dracula befriends and wittingly destroys.

This novel is not for the faint of heart so be forewarned. Although the language is very graphic and there are some sexual situations that may shock some readers, they are necessary to the plot. This is a tale of darkness after all yet there is also hope and goodness among its pages as well.

Overall, this an engrossing and entertaining book that will delight readers who love historical fiction, vampires or a combination of both. I was impressed by its scope and I highly recommend it. Moreover, I look forward to reading the next chronicles.

About the Author
Shane O'Neill is the writer of The Dracula Chronicles, a new and exciting series adding a new dimension to the Dracula myth. He has begun the series with Chronicle 3 to give his readers the vampire first. Chronicle 1 will follow to take you back to the beginning.
The author developed a fascination with Dracula from an early age. Like many others he was enthralled by Christopher Lee's portrayal of him on the big screen. It was in his late teens that he discovered Dracula the man and the love affair began from there. An avid historian, he studied the period in which the real historical Vlad Dracula lived, 15th Century Balkan, for many years. It followed from there then that with his love of writing he would always choose Dracula as his subject.

Away from writing, the author has a wide range of interests. He has lived and travelled all over the world. He has a love for all things historical, with a particular fascination for medieval Europe. Anywhere he travels he likes to search out locations with an historical interest.


Friday, February 15, 2013

Maggie Vaults Over the Moon by Grant Overstake

Maggie Vaults Over the Moon
by Grant Overstake

Read all about Maggie Steele, a role-model for young girls everywhere. This book is best suited to young adults (middle grade through high school), although it truly is a book for the whole family. 

Don't forget to enter the GIVEAWAY for your chance to win a paperback copy of Maggie Vaults Over the Moon. Thanks to Grant Overstake for the generous donation of this prize. The giveaway is open internationally.

Maggie Vaults Over the Moon retells the story of Maggie Steele, a gutsy, grief-stricken farm girl from tiny Grain Valley, Kansas, who pours her broken heart into the daring and dangerous sport of pole-vaulting. Driven by a secret that she dare not share with anyone, Maggie struggles over many obstacles as she attempts to soar way higher than her critics think a girl should ever go. Gripping in its portrayal of a teenager's grief and thrilling in its vivid descriptions of the exciting sport of pole-vaulting, Maggie Vaults Over the Moon is an inspiring and uplifting read!


Here in Grain Valley Township, we don’t have a paid fire department or ambulance crew to rescue us. We rescue ourselves. Dad has been a volunteer fireman, or first responder, since he was eighteen. My late grandpa also was one of the brave men who protected us, twenty-four hours a day, 365 days a year. Dad always carries an emergency radio with him, fastened to the belt of his jeans. At night, the radio sits on the recharger, on his nightstand. No matter where he is or what he is doing, when the radio goes BEEEP! he leaps into action. The alarm means someone’s been in some kind of accident or one of our neighbors’ houses or barns is on fire. It doesn’t happen every day, but often enough. Too often, I say.

Sometimes the first responders are called out of our small country church on Sunday morning. Beeping radios go off all over the sanctuary. And even if the preacher is in the middle of a prayer, the men leap up and bolt for the door.

Being a first responder may seem exciting, but it’s stressful and dangerous. For one thing, they never know what kind of accident they’ll be responding to or how badly someone is hurt. And for another, since everybody knows everybody else around here, there’s a good chance that whoever needs help is related to one or more of the first responders, adding to the pressure.

It was shortly after eleven on Friday night, June third, almost a year ago, when Dad and Mom and I heard the beeper sound on the emergency radio. I was in the bathroom washing my face and getting ready for bed when Dad rushed from the bedroom toward the kitchen and ran out the back door to his pickup truck, which was parked outside in its usual spot, keys left in the ignition as always.

I heard the words “two-car crash, both cars are on fire, 39 Highway, three miles east” as the screen door slammed. The engine roared and wheels spun on the gravel as he sped away into the night.

Mom came out of the bedroom in her robe, fussing with her short salt-and-pepper hair. With the radio gone, the house was quiet. We had no way of knowing what Dad would find out there on the highway.

“Maggie, have you heard from your brother or your boyfriend lately?” Mom asked.

“Not since before supper,” I said.

When the alarm goes out, whoever is closest to the station drives over, opens the metal door, and starts one or both of the fire trucks, depending on what the call is. Some of the other men show up within two or three minutes, skidding to a stop and jumping from their pickups. They put on their boots, jackets, and gloves and dash to the trucks.

Through the screen door, we heard the sirens. Both trucks were on the roll.

“Why don’t you call your brother, see when they’ll be getting back home,” Mom said.

I hit the speed dial on my cell phone. It went straight to voicemail. Alex’s voice said, “It’s Alex. I can’t get to my phone right now, leave a message. I’ll call you back.”

“Alex, give us a call,” I said. “There’s a big wreck on the highway, and we haven’t heard from you guys. So call as soon as you get this. Bye.”

I dialed my boyfriend, Caleb, and got the same result—voicemail.

“Hey, Caleb! Call me back just as soon as you get this, okay?”

I texted Alex and Caleb: Hey! Where R U 2?

After that we just sat there at the kitchen table, Mom and me, listening to the grandfather clock ticking in the dining room, and the old refrigerator humming, and the crickets chirping outside the screen door. We sat there for twenty or thirty minutes but nobody called.

Finally Mom said, “Well, maybe they’re still at the movie.”

I nodded.

“Or maybe they’re just out of range.”

We get lousy cell phone coverage here in rural Kansas.

They say there’s a special bond between a brother and sister, that they always know when the other one is in serious trouble or something. Since I didn’t have either one of those feelings, I thought Alex and Caleb were fine. I expected them to roll in any minute, laughing and joking around, heading straight for the refrigerator to eat us out of house and home. Whoever it was out there in that car wreck, I was sure it wasn’t them.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Book Trailer

By Kirkus Reviews
In this debut young adult novel, a farm girl rebounds after a family tragedy, soaring to new heights as a pole-vaulter.
Teenager Maggie Steele has just lost her brother Alex in a tragic car accident. He was a beloved son and brother and also an all-star high school athlete in a small Kansas town where high school sports matter. Maggie is reminded each day of her brother, and she struggles to cope with life on the farm without him. She's the only child left to take over the family business, and she has a sinking feeling she'll be trapped there forever. As she begins her senior year, she still suffers from grief and anxiety about what to do with the rest of her life. [Plot spoiler removed] … Maggie finds her purpose. Overstake's novel exudes sweetness; in some ways, it feels as if it takes place in another era, as it lacks the dark edge seen in other popular YA stories. Former sportswriter Overstake's crisp style also gives the pole-vaulting scenes authenticity and tension. The story will most likely engage younger teenage girls, but its themes will resonate with anyone who has suffered profound loss.
A fine YA novel about perseverance in sports and in life.

About the Author

Former Miami Herald Sports Writer Grant Overstake is a lifelong participant in the sport of track and field who competed in the decathlon for the University of Kansas Jayhawks. A multiple award winner for excellence in journalism, Maggie Vaults Over the Moon is the author's premiere work of sports fiction.