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Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Next Step PR Presents: Talen by Shay Savage; #ReleaseBlitz, #NowAvailable, #OutNow, #Live

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#TalenReleasePromo #ShaySavage
#SavageRobinHood #AdventureRomance #Talen #Secrets #Survival #Division #Conspiracy #Earthquakes

In a world plagued by constant earthquakes and volcanic debris, people in the valley struggle to survive while those on top of the hill want for nothing.

This is where I come in.

I spend my nights plundering supplies in the walled city of Hilltop, and I trade them to the valley people below. I’m not a thief.  I prefer to be known as the head of Lost and Found.

When I discover a beautiful but dangerous competitor in my territory, I also learn she knows more about me than she should. Is she a spy sent by my father, or is she a rebel like me? I don’t trust her, but together we’ll discover secrets that may destroy what’s left of our world.

There have always been those with wealth and those without.

My name is Talen, and I’m here to even the score.



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Chapter Reveal:

Chapter 1

A large house sits in darkness at the end of a cul-de-sac.  No light shines from the windows, and a thin layer of grey ash covers the roof.  A cold breeze blows past the leafless trunks of trees before moving along to other neighborhoods.
I hunt in total silence.
I step slowly, gingerly, from toe to heel.  I stop, listen, and then move again. My shoulder brushes against the wall, and I pause once more to make sure the sound doesn’t echo.  Reaching forward, I glide my hand over the handle of a sliding glass door, locating the lock. I insert a thin piece of metal inside the keyhole, manipulating the pins to mimic the lock’s key.  I hear a click, quietly slide the door open, and step inside.
I ignore a line of shelves featuring books and a few valuables—well, items that would have once held value anyway—and head up a short staircase to the next level of the house.  Though I’m almost positive the house is devoid of people or animals, I still keep close to the wall, watching everything carefully and preparing for the unexpected.
On a table next to a wingback chair sits a pair of reading glasses.  I pick them up and shove them into the large pack at my side. Inside a desk drawer, I find a cache of batteries.  Though their worth is immeasurable, I close the drawer without disturbing them.
People count their batteries.
In the next drawer I find a ball of twine, which I take before moving on to the next one.  There are candles in this one, and I slip one of them, along with a pack of matches, into my bag.
A slight movement catches my attention, and I freeze in place.  Turning my head slowly, I let out a slow, controlled breath. It’s only my reflection in a large, freestanding mirror.
I pause and take a step closer, staring at the golden-brown eyes in the mirror as they stare back at me.  It’s been some time since I’ve seen myself. My black hair is longer than usual, falling over my face with a slight wave.  My beard is much fuller than the last time I looked, and my face is a touch more haggard. The years of living outside have taken their toll, I suppose, and I appear older than my twenty-seven years.  I glance down at my worn clothing—dark jeans and a T-shirt, a long, zippered jacket with a few slight tears in it, and a black leather belt with pouches for my various thieving tools. On either side of my belt in short, sleek scabbards are my prized possessions—a pair of bone-handled knives with carved silver blades.
I look away, urging myself back to the task at hand.
Around a corner, I find the kitchen and a basket of fresh fruit.  I reach out and run my finger along an apple, surprised to find the fruit is real and not some plastic facsimile.  I take the apple and place it in my bag, then rearrange the rest of the fruit so the bowl still appears full.
Inside a cabinet, I find several bottles and canisters.  I take only those items that have duplicates so the missing ones won’t be noticed.  I add them to my pack and then pull out three water bottles, quickly filling them from the sink and then placing them carefully inside my bag.
On the counter I find a wooden block of cooking knives.  I slowly remove a large carving knife and examine the sharp blade.  Removing it would be obvious, but the carving knife is a major find, so I slide it into a loop on my belt.  I open drawers carefully until I find another, dull knife. It’s smaller than the carving blade but fits into the empty slot in the wood block.  The ruse isn’t perfect, but it will cause the owner to question where the knife might have been misplaced instead of assuming it’s been stolen.
I acquire a few other items to add to my pack before making my way back to the sliding glass door at the rear of the house.  I close the door quietly and then head through the back yards of several other houses, watching closely to make sure there are no residents around to catch sight of me.  It takes only a few minutes to reach the wall surrounding the quiet, upscale neighborhood.
A tall, slender tree stands firmly rooted to the dry earth right next to the wall.  I scurry halfway up before I have to slow down and plan my movements more carefully.  I grasp the branches at the base, near the trunk, and pull myself higher up. When I am near the top, I balance on a limb barely able to take my weight, shifting my pack to the center of my back for stability.  With a deep breath, I leap forward and grab for the top of the wall, my fingertips barely able to hang on long enough for me to get a grip and pull myself over. Vines growing up the dark side of the wall make my descent easy enough.
I drop the last few feet, and a cloud of ash billows around the spot where I land, adding to the layer of grey already covering the legs of my dark jeans.  I pull my thin scarf over my mouth and nose and wait a moment for the ash to settle before taking a long, deep breath. My take has been good tonight, and I smile, pleased with myself.  I head past the tall, leafless trunks of Deadwood Forest on the slanting trail away from the plateau community of Hilltop and toward the valley town of Platterston.
Halfway down the trail, my legs start to vibrate.
I run to a clearing, away from the larger trees, and drop quickly to my knees.  I place my palms on the earth to brace myself as the ground shakes. Ash, dirt, and few rocks roll down the hill, but nothing substantial hits me as I wait out the quake.
A tree limb falls a few feet away from me, toppling end over end before coming to a stop, and the ground stops shaking.  I stay where I am for a few minutes, waiting to see if another shockwave will come through the area, but the land is silent.  I stand, brush myself off, and continue my trek toward town.
The last earthquake was just two days ago though no more violent than this one.  Before that, the quakes were coming more than a week apart. Those who like to speculate say that the worst of it is finally coming to an end, but I bet they keep quiet about it for a while now.
The remainder of my journey is long but uneventful.  Whatever other thieves are out and about tonight, they don’t appear to be in my territory.  Maybe they have learned their lesson, maybe not. I don’t care as long as they stay out of my way.
The trail widens and becomes steeper when I approach the edge of the tree line.  As I emerge from the dark forest, the ground flattens out, and the temperature drops slightly.  I shiver as I grasp the edges of my coat and pull it tighter around me. Hundreds of tree stumps cover the area between the forest and the road, a testament to the need for fuel.  To the north, a winding river trickles by, the water gurgling over the rocks. In the distance, over the second mountain range, a dim circle on the horizon attempts to break through the thick, ashy clouds but offers only meager, blue-grey light.  The obscured orb marks the morning, though its warmth makes little difference, and its light is barely enough to navigate by.
Along the edge of the main street, large bales of discarded plastic are stacked in lopsided, ash-covered pyramids.  Rectangular openings surrounded by smashed, green soda bottles and milk jugs, covered with sheets of plastic grocery sacks form the front doors of each abode, giving meaning to the area’s nickname—Plastictown.  Residents stumble out of their makeshift plastic homes, rubbing their eyes and coughing as the breeze tosses ash into the air around them. I walk between the rows of homes and through the debris-covered streets of Plastictown to the marketplace on the edge of the settlement, keeping an eye on the skyline of rubble on the other side of the river.
Decades ago, these were the warehouses, office buildings, and homes of a good-sized city.  After the Great Eruption, everything west of the mountains was completely razed and covered in ash.  Very few people survived, I’m told. In the valley, the buildings fell as the ground shook, but more people made it out alive.  Now, destroyed bricks and steel girders lie in huge, unstable piles. People used to try to make shelter in them, but everyone who did ended up crushed the next time an earthquake hit.  These days, everyone sticks to plastic homes in the open areas on the edge of town where they are less likely to be smashed when a shockwave charges through the area.
Overhead, clouds of ash cover the sky, blocking the sun and making food scarce.  No apple trees bear fruit here, and the few crops that survive the cool summers produce minimal food.  Though minimal is still better than nothing, the land around the line of small towns running through the north-south valley barely produces enough to provide for the meager population.
I pause as I reach the edge of the market, brush powder from my clothes, and adjust my pack.  People mill about, dressed in drab, grey or brown clothing, and most have their mouths and noses covered with a scarf or bandana to keep the volcanic ash from their lungs.  Their clothes match the color of the sky and the dim light that shines from above. The thick ash clouds mask most colors from their brighter hues.
I’m tired and cold but in good spirits as I go around the corner.  I’m hit with a strong fishy odor as I make my first stop of the day—Milinder’s fish cart.
Milinder kneels on the ground as she stocks her cart with her early morning catch.  Her long, grey ponytail hangs most of the way down her back, and her wrinkled face further creases with a frown as she stares at the fish.  
“Good morning, madam!” I say, bowing slightly.  I reach my hand into my bag and produce one of the bottles I obtained from the kitchen cabinet.  “Does this belong to you?”
She beams up at me, shaking her head slowly as I hold out the bottle of vinegar.  She pushes herself up from the ground, knees creaking, and dusts off her threadbare dress.  She reaches for the bottle, examining it closely.
“This is good stuff,” Milinder says.  “Expensive, I think.”
“Wouldn’t know, madam.”  I bow again. “I just try to return things that I find to their proper owners.”
“Proper owners,” she mutters under her breath.  “Sit down for breakfast, at least. You deserve something for your efforts.”
“Can’t stay,” I tell her.  “I have a few other items from lost and found to deliver.”
I wink, and she chuckles softly.
“Take this with you, then.”
She hands me a piece of sweetbread wrapped in a cloth.  I unwrap it and hand the cloth back to her before departing.
I continue down the brick roadway lined with carts and booths, devouring the sweetbread as I go.  It’s dry but tasty, and I welcome the nourishment it provides. To my left and right, haggard merchants display meager wares on chipped wooden tables, inside dirty baskets, and on top of stained quilts.  Beggars lean against each other for warmth, holding out cups as I walk by, but I have no coins from today’s hunt.
Many people stare at me as I go by.  I tell myself they do that because they know who I am, not because I look stronger and healthier than the average Naught.  Some of them watch me with wide eyes full of reverence and some with fear. A few of them smile and wave at me. I return the gesture as I go by.
Samuel, the glass and pottery merchant, is my next stop.  I offer him the bottle of glue from my pack, and he rewards me with two small, glass bottles he’s equipped with hooks so they fit on my belt.  
“These are perfect,” I tell him as I attach them to my belt.  “They’ll hold liquids, right?”
“Perfect for scotch, if you ever find any.”  He laughs loudly, his whole body shaking as he holds his belly.
“Hell yeah!”  I grin. “You need anything else?”
“Not at the moment,” Samuel says, “but you might want to ask Elihu.  He said something about needing a new tool for his leather making.”
“I’ll check with him.”  I shake Samuel’s hand before continuing down the bricks.
More people are beginning to gather as the morning progresses, hurrying along to keep warm as they get their tasks done.  Merchants finish setting up their tables and begin to call out to the forming crowd, letting everyone know what they have to offer.  
I take quick glances at the merchants’ wares just in case someone has an item I need.  When nothing catches my eye, I continue on, turning right down a narrow alley. The air is filled with foul scents—human waste the most prevalent—so I make my way to the next street quickly.
I stop at Elihu’s stand, and he describes to me the tool he needs.  I promise to keep an eye out before heading deeper into the market area.  More people mill around, arguing over prices and offering to barter. Few people possess coins, and a good barter is happily accepted as payment.  A young woman offers baskets she’s woven from dry vines to a couple with burlap sacks of grain, but she’s not having much luck with her transaction.
“I don’t need any more baskets,” the merchant tells her.  “I want to help you out, but you don’t have anything I want!”
“Please!” the young woman says, her tone becoming more desperate.  “I have a little brother. He got over the virus, but he’s still weak.  He needs more food.”
“What would you trade for a bag of grain?” I ask the merchant.
“Something I actually need,” she says as she places her hands on her hips.
I offer her the candles from my pack along with a few other items, but she’s not interested.  I glance back at the young woman with the baskets and see tears forming in her eyes. Though its value is more than the price of grain, I pull out a jar of dried herbs and hand it to the merchant.
She takes it tentatively from my hand, squinting at the label on the jar.
“What is this?” she asks.  She sniffs at the bottle’s cap.
“Sage,” I tell her.  “Properly dried and sealed.”
“I can find sage in the woods,” the woman says as she squints at the label once more and then hands the jar back to me.
Unless the merchant has the climbing equipment to make it over the eastern mountain crest, there is no way in hell she is going to come across sage growing wild, and she knows it.  I raise an eyebrow at her, wondering if she’s just being a bitch or if she really is just this hard a sell. She squints at me again, and I grin.
“How about these?” I ask as I pull from my pack the reading glasses I found during my hunt.
She looks from the glasses in my hand to my face as her eyes widen.  Tentatively, she takes the glasses from my hand and tries them on. She blinks a few times as her expression softens.
“For a bag of grain?” she says quietly.
“Three bags,” I reply with a stern look.
She takes a deep breath, nods, and then collects three bags of grain.
“That should keep you going for a while,” I say with a smile to the young woman.  “I hope your brother feels better.”
She stands unmoving with her mouth hanging open.
“Do you need help carrying them?” I ask.  When she doesn’t respond, I wave my hand in front of her face and chuckle.  “Anyone in there?”
“I don’t understand,” she finally says.
“You said your brother was sick.  He needs food, right? This should make a lot of bread or porridge or whatever you like.  Should keep you going until he gets healthy again.”
“But…why?  What…what do you want from me?”
“Well…”  I pause, chuckling again.  “I was kinda hoping for a loaf of bread if you end up with extra.  I’m a terrible cook. But if you wove those baskets, you can probably weave mats too, right?”
“Yes, I can.”
“I could really use a long one that rolls up.  You know, to sleep on. Could you make me one of those?”
“That’s all?”  Her eyes show her skepticism.
“That’s all,” I say.  “I end up sleeping on the ground quite a bit, and I need something that rolls up fairly small to carry with me.”
“I can make that.  It will take a couple of days though.”
“Sweet!”  I smile. “I’ll see you then.”
“I live near the edge of town,” she tells me.  “I’m Layshell.”
“I know.”  I wink at her.  “I’ve seen you around.”
Layshell glances over her shoulder before taking a step closer and speaking softly.
“You’re the thief, right?”
“Who, me?”  I place my hand over my chest.  “I’m just the head of lost and found.  I find things and return them to their owners.  Sometimes the owners are grateful and provide me with things I’ve lost in return.”
She narrows her eyes and presses her lips together.
“All right,” she says.  “I’ll have a mat together for you the day after tomorrow.”
“Great!”  I shake her hand and watch her head off with the bags of grain in one of her baskets before heading back down the street.
Near some concrete steps that no longer lead to a building’s entrance, a man stands on top of a wooden box, calling out to the inattentive crowd.
“I’ve told you all before!” he yells.  “It was a plot! A plot to eliminate the Naughts entirely!  They huddled on the other side of the mountains in their bunkers and waited for the Great Eruption to wipe us out!  When that didn’t work, their doctors spread the disease to our families! Did the children of Thaves die in the streets?  No! It was your children!”
“Shut your face, Keller!” yells a woman in a dusty dress.  “What difference does it make now?”
“They have water!” he screams down from his box.  “They have medicine! Do they share it with those of us stuck in the valley?  No! They transport it in the night to the plateaus above while we are left to freeze and starve in filth!”
I scurry past with my chin against my chest and my face turned away from Keller’s wide, fiery eyes.  I don’t need him seeing me and making a scene again. Thankfully, he is too engaged with the woman in the dress to notice me.
“When the ash cloud came, they locked their doors and left us to perish in…”
Once out of sight and earshot, I relax and continue down the street.  I look left and right, trying to spot the newcomer I had seen the day before.
The man crouches in front of two large wooden crates, trying to line them up evenly.  Lying in the shade behind him are two large, plastic containers. Though the containers are closed, I can still smell the rich, dark scent of meat inside of them, and it makes my mouth water.
He wears no bandana over his face, and he begins to cough loudly into the crook of his arm as I approach, unnoticed.  I scrape the back of my foot on the bricks to announce myself, smiling. He startles; his eyes widen, and his shoulders tense.  I smile and take a couple steps closer, pulling the sharp carving knife from my belt. I check the blade with my thumb as I look down at him.
“Have you come to rob me, too?”  He hunches his shoulders, looking defeated and lost.  “I’ll warn ya—I’ve not much left to steal.”
“No,” I say as I shake my head, wishing I had made my intentions clearer so as not to frighten him.  “I saw you setting up your booth yesterday. I heard you tell your son that you’d make more money with a sharper knife—one that could cut the meat in more precise pieces.  I think this one will do the trick.”
I twirl the blade back and forth with my fingers, then offer it to the man, handle first.
“It’s well balanced,” I tell him.  “Sharp, too.”
Slowly and cautiously, he reaches out and takes the knife from my hand.  He furrows his brow as he studies it, flicking the edge of the blade with his thumb, just as I had.
“I can’t afford this,” he tells me as he tries to hand the knife back.
“No backsies!”  I laugh and take a step backward, holding my hands up in front of me.  “It’s a gift, friend. Welcome to Platterston!”
He continues to stare at me incredulously as he holds the knife limply in his hand.  He’s waiting for the other shoe to drop, so I decide to just move away from him until he realizes I’m really not here to steal his wares.  I give him a little wave as I step backwards and start to turn.
“Why would you do this?” he asks.  “Why would you give me such a thing?”
“I’m hoping you’ll sell me some good bacon,” I say with a smile, “once you have your shop set up.”
“At a discount,” he says with a nod.
I shrug and then start to head on my way.
“What’s your name, boy?”
“Talen!” I respond.
“God bless ya, Talen!”
“I rather doubt that,” I mutter under my breath.  I glance over my shoulder and wave at him, still smiling.


RELEASE DAY | February 19 Talen Teaser Shay Savage

RELEASE DAY | February 26 Talen Teaser Shay Savage

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Shay Savage is an independent author from Cincinnati, Ohio, where she lives with her family and a variety of household pets.  She is an accomplished public speaker and holds the rank of Distinguished Toastmaster from Toastmasters International. Her hobbies include off-roading in her big, yellow Jeep, science fiction in all forms, and soccer.  Savage holds a degree in psychology, and she brings a lot of that knowledge into the characters within her stories.

From the author: “It’s my job to make you FEEL.  That doesn’t always mean you’ll feel good, but I want my readers to be connected enough to my characters to care.”

Savage’s books many books span a wide variety of topics and sub-genres with deeply flawed characters.  From cavemen to addicts to hitmen, you’ll find yourself falling for these seemingly irredeemable characters!


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