Sunday, May 10, 2015

Excerpt from THE SECRET OF EXCALIBUR by Sahara Foley

I’m excited to announce that I will be adding a new feature to my blog, chapter excerpts from published Indie Author books.  But first, I want to whine about something that all authors face, especially us Indie Authors.

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There aren’t too many professions where the general public has the ability to critique your work.  If you’re a waitress/waiter, and you do a terrible job with your customers, they may leave you a penny or no tip at all.  But they don’t verbally tear your lack of work ethics apart.  Even a customer service rep will never know how bad of a job they did, and to be honest, most of them don’t care.  The only exception to this rule, that I can think of, would probably be a Lady of the Evening. I’m sure she hears about her bad performance in more ways than we want to know.

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But not a writer.  No, the moment we click on that PUBLISH button on Amazon, we’re leaving ourselves vulnerable to the wolves.  We end up like fish in the barrel to the dreaded Trolls.  Now,we all understand this, and try to bear the negativity, but come one.  Would you put up with this in your job?  NOT!. 

My book The Secret of Excalibur is no exception to the trolls.  I have 23 reviews, 17 five stars, 4 four stars, and 2 one stars.  So these 2 one star reviews actually help my 4 & 5 star reviews stand out.  Thank you for that, you trolls.  Anyway, here are the 1 star reviews and after that Chapter One from The Secret of Excalibur.  You be the judge.  This first one makes me laugh every time I read it.

1.0 out of 5 stars An adolescent fantasy, May 8, 2015
By J. Martin
Arthur Merlin, the main character, is gifted with the skills of teleportion and telepathy. This could have been an excellent story, if the quality of the writing and plotting had remained constant throughout the book. Instead, in the middle, it lapsed into report after report of the hero's sexual encounters. There's voyeurism, sexual assaults as pranks, and other distasteful events. There's a lot of gratuitous violence, including deaths in the hundreds, and one scene in which the main characters are literally wading in body parts. Several times Arthur fries someone's brain with his telepathy, and the response seems to be 'oops, I just don't know my own strength'. Were we supposed to admire his ability to destroy someone's mind? This disregard for minor characters, treating them as props to be killed, was not attractive, and numbs the reader into not caring about the minor characters because they're sure to become collateral damage soon.
If you're looking for a story that relates to the Arthurian legends, this isn't it.

1.0 out of 5 stars Clunky, April 26, 2015
By Wildwily "wildwily"
Odd shifts between viewpoints. First person...plural? Strange sexual harassment and an overly complicated opening scene.
You don't have to do EVERYTHING in the first chapter.
I just couldn't keep reading. Poorly written.


“I have no idea why you get so adamant about this, Dr. Tober,” says a tall, thin woman, wearing a white lab-coat and a conservative, grey, pinstriped skirt with matching expensive pumps. Arms loosely crossed, lips pursed, she's peering down at a man who has large, soft, brown eyes, made larger by the coke-bottle lenses of his glasses.

“As I've told you before, Dr. Burns,” the older doctor impatiently explains, “having several psychic abilities is theoretical. We've never found clinical evidence a person can have more than one paranormal ability. And the few people we've found with only one ability are sad specimens indeed.”

“Commander Dobie seems perfectly satisfied with the results from Williams and Halvorson,” the lady says with a trace of annoyance in her soft, cultured voice. She's toying with a man's gold wedding band threaded on a gold necklace around her neck. “And after all, he's in charge of the Institute, sir.”

“Yes, quite Doctor, as he's so fond of reminding me.” Adjusting his glasses, he picks up some reports and heads towards a door. 

“Should anyone need me, I'll be in my office.”

With a heavy sigh, Dr. Burns strides stiffly to her workstation and sits, crossing her long, thoroughbred legs. Picking up a gold-plated pen with well-manicured, soft pink fingernails, she starts doodling on a yellow legal pad.

Another voice quietly reprimands her from the far corner of the room. “Ruth, you shouldn't keep reminding Dr. Tober about Commander Dobie. You know how upset he becomes over bureaucrats and their paperwork.” This man is short and round, also wearing a white lab-coat that makes him resemble a giant cotton ball. He has curly blond hair and sparkling, periwinkle eyes. Waddling to her workstation, he continues, “I can understand your place here, the pressure of trying to find the perfect specimen, when we very well know that if such people truly were alive, we'd never know of their existence.”

“Yes, Gordy,” she agrees with a soft, dejected sigh. “And whether we did, the person would have so much psychic power he couldn't possibly be controlled, not by us anyway.”

* * *
For the past half hour I've been hanging around, invisible, eavesdropping on the doctors. I call this trick my 'Almost Mode'. Learning this ability took weeks of practice and resulted in some embarrassing moments. It's surprising what happens when a person materializes among a group of people. I've caused ear screeching screams to drop-dead faints and a few times even mild coronaries. Then there are people who wet themselves over the least provocation.
* * *
“Do you ever feel as though we're wasting our time here?” She's still doodling on the yellow legal pad, looking as if she just lost her best friend.

“If I felt like that, I'd have left the Institute years ago,” Gordy says, leaning one round buttocks against her table top. “Think of the specimens we have found so far. Not just Williams and Halverson, but the others who showed one type of the phenomena or another.”

“I know, but each year it's harder to obtain funding, and after twelve years, all I have to show for our research is several hundred miles of computer tapes.” With a slight, elegant shrug she adds, “Oh, and a few tons of paperwork in boxes no one cares about. Our lack of results is rather depressing sometimes.”

Waddling to a cabinet, her lab partner pulls out a folder. “I remember a few years ago a young woman who was very excited about this man.” He plops the manila folder on the table in front of her.

“But I was only twenty-two,” she explains, ignoring the closed folder, “and Uri was my first contact with the phenomena.”

“Yes but certainly not your last,” he replies, laying a comforting hand on her shoulder.

Ruth glances up at Gordy with a thoughtful frown. “Do you think it's possible for a person to have more than one psychic ability?”

Picking up the ignored file with stubby fingers, he slides it back into the drawer. “Do you remember Mrs. Holmquist?” Twirling the wedding band on her necklace, his unhappy coworker reluctantly nods. “Then you should remember, for a brief span, how many psychic tendencies she exhibited.”

With a sigh of exasperation, she rises from her chair, gliding gracefully to a hot-plate and pours steaming water into a monogrammed mug, then adds a tea bag and sugar. Talking over her shoulder, she disputes, “Yes Gordy, but she was a fluke and you know it.”

“Call her what you will Ruth, but for three weeks we had our hands full with that woman,” Gordy reminds her, following her to the hot-plate.

“I remember. I still have the paperwork.” She takes her steaming mug and returns to her workstation, trailing behind her a faint scent of herbal tea. “But if she didn't have the automobile accident, she never would've shown any of them,” Ruth points out.

“Aha, but we don't know that for certain. She may have done some of her tricks for years, and never even noticed.” Now he pours hot water into a bright-yellow mug.

“How can someone do everything Mrs. Holmquist did and never notice?” She gives a slight shrug as she swirls the tea bag in her cup.

He pours a generous amount of sugar into his hot water and stirs, but no tea bag. “The same way you aren't noticing what you're doing with your spoon.” Gordy nods towards her mug.

* * *
Moving over a few paces to see what the doctor's doing, she glances directly at where I stand; a funny look on her face. She has the spoon balanced on the edge of her mug.

* * *
“Oh, this is nothing,” she dismisses with an elegant wave of her hand. “It's just an idle habit of mine.”

“Precisely Ruth, just as Mrs. Holmquist may have telekinetically opened and closed doors for years, never paying any attention to what she was doing. If a habit feels natural and done often, we take it for granted more often than not.”

“Yes, I understand what you're saying,” Ruth argues, “but that doesn't explain how she could move things, start fires, even go to sleep in one place and awake in another. Sometimes so far away the journey would've been physically impossible to make in the time allowed.” She removes the tea bag, dropping it into the wastebasket next to her workstation.

“Yes, but all Mrs. Holmquist's psychic abilities occurred after her concussion from her auto accident,” Gordy patiently reminds her, “then after three weeks, just stopped.” He waddles back to his corner with his steaming mug of sugar-water.

“So, what are you saying, as if I didn't already know?” Ruth says, rolling her eyes.

“I'm afraid I side with Dr. Tober on this subject. I think we have the latent tendencies in us, maybe not every person, but certainly many of us, and with the right stimulation they manifest themselves.” With pressed lips, Ruth toys with her spoon. Dr. Gordy continues. “And I feel strongly, as Dr. Tober does, that somewhere there's at least one person who has these and other traits of the phenomena. Some abilities we may not be aware of yet.”

* * *
Right on, doctor, I think. My psychic abilities are part of the reason I'm here. I can do so many things, and this is the place to show off my talents: The Institute of Psychic Research, London, England.
I mentally concentrate on Dr. Tober's office, and BLIP! I teleport into the doctor's office.

He's reading some reports, papers strewn across his desk, unaware of my presence, though I'm no longer in my 'Almost Mode'. He finally glances up at me, his eyes growing bigger, then in an instant he's under control. I guess working at the Institute would condition you to the unexpected.

Clearing his throat, he asks, “Ahem, uh, who are you, and why are you in my office?” Then he peers around me, probably trying to see whether one of the doctors had ushered me into his office.

“Excuse me for dropping in Doctor, but I'm the man who called you the other day.”

“The American, uh, Mr. Merlin?” he politely inquires.

“That's right, Doctor. Arthur Merlin, late of the US of A,” I proudly announce with a flourish and a bow.

He stares at me impassively, not at all impressed. He waves to a nearby chair. “Please sir, be seated.”

I sit in a chair designed to get you up and out of the office as quickly as possible. Apparently, lollygagging isn't allowed in Dr. Tober's office.

Shuffling up the scattered papers, he places them in a file folder, sliding it to the right side of his desk. Leaning forward, with clasped hands on top of his desk, he asks, “I have the standard tests to arrange, but why don't you start by telling me what abilities you're capable of performing that you think I might be interested in?”

“Okay Doctor, it's been called the Geller Effect, but what he plays with, I do quite well,” I brag. “Then there are other tricks I do he can't even pretend to do.”

Leaning back in his chair, Dr. Tober removes his glasses and tiredly rubs his big, round eyes. “Uh, exactly what do you do, Arthur?” Stifling a yawn, he replaces his glasses.

I sit here flummoxed. I don't understand why he isn't impressed. I'm exactly the person the doctors were discussing in the lab, but he doesn't seem at all interested. True, there can't be that many people, if any, who have all my abilities. I suppose Dr. Tober would have to be leery in his position. Who knows what kind of nutcases wander in off the street? I'll have to prove my uniqueness.

“Telekinesis, teleportation, pryokinesis, astral projection, levitation in any form,” I elaborate, ticking them off on my fingers, “and a kind of matter transference I doubt you've had any experience with.”

“Uh, yes Arthur, well perhaps you'd consent to a small, uh, demonstration for me?” With an impatient frown, he starts fiddling with a pen on his desk.

“Certainly, Doctor.” Eager to flaunt my talents, I shift in that unwelcoming chair, glancing around his office. Filing cabinets, a few pictures, and a dozen framed diplomas. Not much else. Ah, the wastebasket, full of crumpled-up papers. Focusing my pryokinesis ability on the wastebasket, the crumpled-up papers burst into orange flames.

Springing from his chair, Dr. Tober yells, “My God, man.”

“Relax Doctor,” I hastily assure him, “I can control the flames.” I mentally shut down the fire and it fizzles out with a small WHUMP. Simple, if you remove all the oxygen from that spot. But there'd been some interesting episodes while mastering the trick. Once, I almost suffocated a roomful of government scientists. I still get a chuckle over that one.

The good doctor's plastered against his filing cabinet, eyes as round as the frame of his glasses, mouth hanging open. He doesn't look nearly as disinterested or skeptical now. Thick, grey smoke drifts through his office, causing him to lean over coughing.

“I'll open a window, Dr. Tober,” I offer gallantly, nodding towards the window.

From his rumpled, brown suit jacket's breast pocket, he removes a white handkerchief, covering his nose and mouth. Big eyes blinking rapidly, he mumbles, “Uh, the windows don't open above the second floor, and we're on the fifth floor.”

I mentally focus on the window set into the wall behind his desk; glass, thick, wire-reinforced. The window begins to dissolve, allowing a stream of fresh air to flow inside.

Jerking his head towards the window, he demands, “What did you just do?”

“Relax. I dissolved the window into a screen. Don't worry, I'll change it back.” With a self-satisfied smirk I lean back, resting my left ankle on my right knee, trying to get comfortable in that torture-device-of-a-chair.

Still staring bug-eyed at the window turned to screen, he picks up his phone, keeping his distance from me. “Doctor Burns, grab Gordy and get in here, right now.”

Judging by his reaction to my demonstration, he might not be as immune to the unexpected as I thought. Returning the handkerchief to his pocket, he gives me the look most people do when I've used abilities they don't have, as if I'm a cockroach crawling across their hand.

The door bursts open and in rushes the tall woman from the lab, followed closely by the short, round and now puffing man. She shoots me the same funny look she did earlier in the lab.

With his underlings at hand, Dr. Tober returns to his chair, introducing us around. He gives a brief description of my demonstration. Dr. Gordy peers quizzically into the trashcan at the smoldering embers, while Dr. Burns hesitantly glides to the window, gently touching the screen. She turns, staring at me with creased brows and fingering her necklace.

Telepathically I say to her, *No Ruth, no hoax.*

Startled, she asks, “Telepathy?”

“Yes,” I answer, gazing back into her enchanting jade-green eyes.

With narrowed eyes at Ruth, Tober says, “But I heard nothing. Gordy?”

“No sir, not a word,” Gordy confirms, also staring at Ruth

Hands on hips, she states, “Well I did.”

“Of course, Ruth,” I tell her with a smirk. “I was only speaking to you.”

She starts toying with her necklace again, glancing from Dr. Tober to Dr. Gordy, and looking like a deer ready to bolt.

“And I read your mind, Doctor,” I say with a smug, arrogant smile, “and now I know everything about you, down to your smallest, little secret.” Telepathically I say, *Don't worry Ruth, I won't discuss your sex life.* I give her a lewd wink.

Her hand flies to her mouth, a bright blush spreading across her cheeks.

“Dr. Burns, are you alright?” Dr. Tober asks with concern.

“Yes Dr. Tober, I'm fine,” Ruth hisses through clenched teeth, trembling with indignation.

Tober's analytical eyes and Gordy's puzzled ones bounce back and forth from Ruth to me.

By her mannerisms and her speech, I can tell she's from an affluent background. She's fighting to maintain her composure. Aloud, I say soothingly, “Relax Doctor, calm down.”

Clearing his throat, Dr. Tober adjusts his glasses, reminding them, “Mr. Merlin has come to the Institute so we can conduct some tests.”

Periwinkle eyes sparkling with teenage boy exuberance, Gordy asks, “I'd like to see the pyrotechnic demonstration again, sir. I'll gather more paper.”

“No need Doctor,” I tell him, “I can burn the ashes for you.” The trashcan bursts into a ball of yellow flames. Creating intense heat takes so little of my concentration.

The Doctors stare transfixed at the smokeless fire, as I lean back with a satisfied smile.

With wrinkled brow, Gordy asks, “Hypnosis?” He holds his hand towards the fire. “I can feel the heat,” he exclaims. Suddenly the flames intensify, the fire growing to twice its size. Too close, Gordy's jacket catches fire, flames rising quickly. “Ahhh,” he screams, staring in shock at his flaming arm.

My foot thumping to the floor, I jerk upright, mentally shutting down the fire with a WHOMP! Gordy's skin is badly burned, the pain beginning to register. Telekinetically, I focus on his pain receptors, blocking his pain and order Tober, “Better get him to the hospital; he sustained a second-degree burn.”

Tober is already on the phone, and seconds later two men in lab-coats rush through the door and to Dr. Gordon.

I tell the two men, “He'll be pain free for several hours, which should give you time to get him treated.” Helping support Gordy, trying not to cause more harm to his injured arm, they slowly guide the frightened man out of the office.

I'm stunned. I rub my forehead, trying to figure out what happened. I didn't mean to hurt Dr. Gordon. Maybe I had been showing off, but the fire shouldn't have leapt up like that. Once I mastered my abilities, I've had no trouble controlling them. So why did I lose control now?

In the doorway appear two men in uniforms, wearing guns. They're guards or more likely soldiers. The uniforms march to Tober's desk and stand at attention.

Tober rises stiffly to his feet. Staring down at me, he declares, “I'm sorry Arthur, but I'm afraid we'll have to detain you.” With military precision and steely eyes, the guards draw their weapons, pointing them at me. One guard holds a pair of handcuffs. Tober confidently continues, “We are primarily funded by our government, and I'm sure they'll want to question you, at length. You seem to be just the man we've been searching for.”

Staring into the dark barrels of the guards' weapons, with a wolfish grin, I slowly rise from the nonlollygagging chair and mentally focus on the guards. Their at-attention stances melt to loose-limbed stances. With idiotic smiles, the two guards amble over, handing me their weapons, and the cuffs. I holster their guns back on their belts, ordering them, “Nice of you to stop by, men. Now, please go take a break.”

“Yes, sir.” They salute and do an about-face, marching out the door, with Tober yelling at them to return, to no avail.

With that deer-in-the-headlight look again, Dr. Burns asks in a quivering voice, “Was that a form of hypnosis?”

Being a bit peeved, I give her a curt nod and an icy glare.

Realization dawns on Tober and Ruth. I could've made the guards turn their weapons on themselves, or the Doctors. Tober pales and plops boneless on his plush office chair.

Gathering his wits, Tober stammers, “You must realize Arthur, I meant you no harm, but you're a very valuable speci-, er, I mean asset to us in our research.”

With indignation, I glare down at him. “Doctor, I came to your Institute for several reasons. First, I thought your team would treat me differently and take my abilities seriously. You can't detain me, or hold me one second longer than I want.” Shaking my head at his stupidity, I continue, “Don't you realize how I arrived in your office? After listening to your conversation in the lab, I teleported into your office.”

“But, there was only Dr. Burns and Dr. Gordon when I left,” Tober blusters, fumbling for his handkerchief.

“Oh yes there was, Doctor,” I taunt, wagging my finger at him. “I was there, you just couldn't see me.”

Nervously shifting from foot to foot, twisting a woman's wedding band on her right hand, Dr. Burns sends me that funny look again.

Peering down my nose with an angry glare, I say, “Yes Dr. Burns, you must've felt my presence.”

With handkerchief in hand, Dr. Tober removes his glasses, wiping his enlarged eyes again.

I continue my lecture, “If I work for or with any Institution or Government, it's because I want to. No one can force me to do a damn thing.” I expected this type of treatment, but it's still disappointing they want to treat me like a lab rat. So much for believing in the humanity of man.

Tober studies me for several seconds, calculating, then hesitantly asks, “Uh, Arthur, could you please excuse us for a few moments? I must discuss this with Dr. Burns, in private. Uh, we have a cafeteria on the second floor. Perhaps you would wait there for us, maybe have a spot of tea while you wait?”

With a heavy sigh, I ask, “Where at on the second floor?” I know I need to give them a second chance.

“Uh, the whole east side of the building.”

Trying to impress on the doctor's their inability to detain me, I give them one last piercing glare, then teleport to the second floor, into the stairwell outside the cafeteria.

As I enter the cafeteria, I see my two guards sharing a table. They give me the same idiotic smiles and wave. Giving an acknowledging nod, I order a cup of really bad looking coffee, and sit alone, waiting.
If you read this far to the end of my post please let me know what you think.  Thank you for listening to my rant and have a Happy Mother’s Day. 
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