Alex McKenna and Death Is Not The Beginning by Vicki-Ann Bush

Alex McKenna and Death Is Not The Beginning
Alex McKenna Series 
Book Four
Vicki-Ann Bush

Genre: YA Paranormal, LGBTQ
Publisher: The Parliament House
Date of Publication: September 20, 2022
Cover Artist: Shayne Leighton

Tagline: Death Doesn’t Mean Forgiveness

Book Description: 

In the fourth and final installment for the series, Alex faces his most difficult case yet—the school bully.

For two years Kyle tried to make Alex’s life even more complicated than it already is. Choosing to single him out for his psychic abilities and other life events, the angry teen took every chance he could to challenge Alex’s well-being.

Despite the constant insults, when the bully is murdered and comes to him for help, Alex sets aside the past to help a soul in need. Searching for the killer, Alex uncovers a truth that answers the question why he was the victim of Kyle negative attention, and the answers that will set them both free.


Slipping off his jeans and boxer briefs, he unraveled the straps and stepped into the harness, centering it to his body. Then, pulling the front cradle away from his skin, he placed the packer in the sling and positioned it to the left. He had no idea why he did that, but he did. Pulling his boxers back up, he turned sideways to soak in the full view. Swiveling to face forward, he pulled his t-shirt over his head and tossed it on the toilet lid. Inching closer to his reflection, he examined the scars lining his chest a few inches below his nipples. Tracing the seam with his fingertips, he peered into the mirror. A lot changed over this past year.

Glancing to the side, he cocked his head. Rapid breath competed with the drumming of his pulse pumping through his chest, deafening all other sounds. He turned toward the small window that faced the backyard. He was drawn to it, being pulled as if tethered to a rope wrapped around his waist. Padding towards the glass, he rested his shoulder on the frame and peered out. Abruptly he pulled back…what the hell was Kyle doing in his yard? Quickly, he pulled on his t-shirt and jeans and flung open the door.

“Tesoro, I gotta go downstairs.”

“Why? What’s going on?” Margaret rushed into the hallway.

“Fucking Kyle is in the backyard.”

“What? I’m coming with you.”

The teens swiftly took the stairs focusing on their mission to confront the bully who’d verbally abused Alex for the past three years.

Wilby lay on the throw rug in front of the television when they jumped down to the solid wood floor, skipping the last few steps.


“Wilby, stay in the house.”

“What? Why?”

“Just listen, okay?”


Alex narrowed his eyes, but Wilby followed them anyway. Sliding the glass door open, Alex stepped onto the small porch that crowned the yard. Kyle stood in the center of the property on the pathway that split the yard into two equal sides. Behind him stood an unattached garage. There wasn’t a solid fence, only a row of hedges separating their property from the sidewalk and any unwanted guests, like the guy who stood poised and ready for whatever he was ready for.

“Alex, don’t. He’s not what you think.” A young boy stood at his side.

“Jacob, this isn’t the time for games.” Alex narrowed his eyes.

Margaret tapped his shoulder. “What did he say?”

“Not important.”

“Well, looks like Kyle left in a hurry,” Margaret remarked.

“What? What are you talking—”  Alex glanced down at Jacob. The little boy shook his head up and down. “You’re kidding me?”

“I tried to tell you,” Jacob murmured.

“Alex? You can see me, right?” Kyle asked in a shaky voice.

The boy glared at the intruder. “Kyle’s like me.”

Jacob had died in a car accident with his mother, and somehow, they were separated. Afraid to face the unknown alone, the six-year-old would haunt the halls at his elementary school until the day he followed Wilby home. He’d heard from others in the ghost world that Alex had special gifts and helped the dead. Alex tried several times to convince the little boy he’d be okay to crossover, but fear had rooted deep, and even the coaxing of a living teenager who talks to the dead wasn’t enough for the boy to go. He’d been a permanent resident of 55 Geranium Avenue ever since.

            “Now who are you talking to?” Margaret huffed.


“Kyle from school? What the heck? He’s not here—uh oh.”

“Yeaaah. Uh oh.”

“Is he, I mean, is he messed up?”

Alex understood why his girlfriend had asked the question. It wasn’t just because she was curious; it was one of the ways she connected with him. She knew some of the gruesome spirits he’d encountered over the years. They’d had several explicit conversations. Margaret was his everything, and that meant shouldering the burden of seeing things that were hard to look at. Even if it was only through his descriptions.

“No. He looks like he always does.” Alex turned back to Wilby. “Bro, get in the house now, or I’m telling Ma, and you know what’ll happen. You won’t be playing any of your games for a really long time.”

“Okay, okay. Jeez. Just because I didn’t get the know doesn’t mean I have to be sent away all the time.”

“Hey. No one said you’re not getting it. Just wait.”

“Whatever. I’ll be in my room.”

Alex’s heart ached for his brother. He’d been waiting since he was about five to get the gift that most of his family from his ma’s side possessed. There was always the possibility that Wilby could be like his dad, but he tried not to think about it. Alex had seen spirits since he was old enough to talk, but it was different for everyone. There was still time. Alex let his gaze travel from Wilby to Kyle, the terror that had been the starring role in most of his nightmares since the ninth grade now had an aura of a mouse more than a lion. Slouching shoulders, gaunt cheeks, and eyes wide with fear consumed any remnants of the hulk he was.

Alex took a cautious step toward the billowing ghost. A new spirit hasn’t mastered the skills of holding onto a solid appearance, and in the beginning, it can look like ripples in a pond.

“Kyle, what happened to you?”

“I…I don’t know. I can’t remember. Why can’t I remember?”

“It’s okay. You’re gonna be okay. It happens sometimes. It’ll come back to you.”

Alex glanced over at Margaret. She was biting her cheek. She knew he was lying. It didn’t always become clear what happened to the person, and those were the spirits that went insane. Not fully comprehending their death, how they got there, where they’re going. They refuse the light and wander endlessly in an abyss of the dead, the living, and the creatures that are damned and sinister. Telling Kyle that now would serve no purpose other than a cheap jab at revenge for all the crap he’d done to him. Alex couldn’t do it.

“Kyle, listen to me. We’ll figure it out, but for now, I want you to follow me to my room. Can you do that?”


“Are you sure you want to do this? The guy’s a beast. A creep.” Margaret huffed.

“I know, but he’s a dead creep, and he needs my help.”

About the Author:

Originally from New York, Vicki-Ann currently reside in Nevada. Writing Young Adult paranormal, she finds inspiration from events that have been in her life for as long as she can remember. Inheriting the sensitivity to the supernatural from her family, they continue to be an endless source of vision.

Released in September 2019 from The Parliament House, Alex McKenna and The Geranium Deaths. The first book in a YA, Paranormal, LGBTQ series, that features a seventeen year old, transgender boy with paranormal abilities.
Book Two, Alex McKenna & The Academy of Souls, debuted October 2020.

Vicki-Ann has several titles that have received Reader’s Favorite Five Star seal, as well as the 2017 and 2018 winner of, 50 Great Writers You Should Be Reading. Most recently, Alex McKenna and The Geranium Deaths, received the Gold medal in the Readers Favorite Book Awards for Young Adult, Paranormal.

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Arch by Michael N. Riley


Michael N. Riley

Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Writers Republic
Date of Publication:  June 24, 2022
ISBN: 9798885364409
Number of pages:  190

Tagline: Some men are just to mean to die!

Book Description: 
The book is set around 1900, when New Mexico was still a territory. 

Doc Strafford has bought a small mercantile in Portales, New Mexico Territory, to start a new life. Over the years, Doc has become more involved in the growth of Portales. He eventually sells his interest in a saloon to two seedy characters, Jewels Davis and his albino son, Jefferson. 

When Doc invites his old friend from the Civil War to visit Portales and the surrounding territory, it draws suspicions from the Davises to the point that they torture Doc’s hired hand, Gustavo, just to find out what Doc is up to.

Amazon     BN     Writer’s Republic

About the Author:

Michael N. Riley was born in Grants, New Mexico, in 1960, the second generation born in New Mexico from either of his parents’ families. Like most, they homesteaded from other states. His father’s side was from Texas and his mother’s family was from Alabama. When he was three, they moved from Grants to Clovis, New Mexico. He went to school and graduated high school and eventually moved to Portales, New Mexico, to attend Eastern New Mexico University. He ended up getting married and working for an electric cooperative reading electric meters. During that time, he had several old timers tell him stories about coming to New Mexico when it was a territory. Most of them were old ranch hands and farmers. Their eyes would light up when they told stories about the real Wild West and some of the shenanigans they would get into. This is how he came up with this story. 

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The Enthronement by Charity Mae

The Enthronement
Book One
Charity Mae

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy/Romance
Publisher: Knighted Phoenix Publishing
Date of Publication: 6 September 2022
ISBN: 978-1-958797-01-3
Number of pages: 411
Word Count: 189,088
Cover Artist: Charity Mae

Book Description:  

You’d think winning a princess test is easy. It’s a lot harder when you have to kill the prize.

Becoming princess was always expected of Kascia Thorapple Custod. It’s her duty as a Custod, but all she wants is her own perfect partner she’s found in her arranged engagement. But duty gets in the way when the only way to end the five-hundred-year war between the kingdom of Purerah and the three rebel factions is for Kascia to join the Enthronement, enabling her to assassinate the royal family. Everything is on the line in this political romance as love and duty battle in ways she never expected.

A war taking place two-thousand years after Cedrick Custod freed their world from the dark sorcerer Heklis, fans of The Custod Chronicles will find something familiar and excitingly new in this latest installment to the Custod world.


I shut the door behind me as politely, and yet, as quickly as I can. My feet march on the path I know so well without much conscious thought. I need something concrete. I need an embrace to remind me what all this is for. And I know where to get it.

Normally, it’s from my Dad. But as that won’t work, I know who can fill the emptiness and fear I feel with warmth and hope.

I hug myself as I push past the trees, old berry bushes, and mossy stones until I reach our spot. Like the other night, the water sparkles in the moonlight and the lantern light.

Beside the lantern, sitting on the mossy rock that is our bench, waiting for me with a smile that lifts my heart like the rising sun, is Jake. I knew he would be. He opens his arms wide to me.

My heart lifts again. The smile escapes before I can process it. In moments, I’m engulfed in his loving embrace. I smile and hide in it. I shut my eyes and listen to Jake’s breathing and heartbeat.

In my life, that sound was one of the few things that was truly mine. I adore my music and dance, but they are not mine, but my mother’s and the theater’s. I relish in fencing and my swordplay, but that’s Dad’s. Jake’s warmth, his embrace, and his love are mine, and mine alone.

And Dad wants me to betray the one thing that is mine.

My heart sinks at the thought, but then Jake hugs me tighter, squeezing the despair out of me. He chuckles at my delight, making my heart sing. Oh, how I love that feeling. I soak it in along with the sound of his breath, the tinkle of the river, the distant rush of the seaside. I take in the scent of the evening air on Jake’s clothes, the smell of his breath, the mossy scent in the air. I can hide here and enjoy the one thing that is mine. The thing I can’t betray. I’m reminded of how I had the strength to reject my Dad though I never had before.

 “Even after all your work during the day, your hair always smells so sweet,” Jake says.

“Like coconut and the sea.”

“We do live next to the ocean,” I point out, delighting in this banter.

Jake smiles. “Yes, but you are far more beautiful. I can’t wait to enjoy it more once we’re married.”

He entwines his fingers with mine, playing with each finger as I had his earlier. He plays with the ring on my right hand most. It’s our secret bond to one another.

It’s of two hands reaching for a heart in the center with a crown on the top. I wear it with the heart pointing inward to show I am taken, but wearing it in this manner meant only dating to most. But not to us. We know what it meant. He wears one like it, only his is pure silver. Mine has an opal in the heart. It is a tradition handed down by my family. And it suits our secret engagement well.

I sigh heavily as I watch Jake fiddle with my fingers. I had wanted to talk to him so badly about it, but now, I just want to avoid it. He is too busy kissing the tips of my fingers to notice my mood yet.

He pulls back just a bit, still smiling. “I brought something for you.”

I gasp in delight. “Jake, you didn’t?” But I hope he did.

Jake grins like a cat over milk and steps back to his bag. He pulls out exactly what I love most, a yellow cake with chocolate frosting, cream in the center, and a small blue flower on top. My eyes pop out in delight. That is an expensive and rare treat for a girl who is on a strict diet and small budget.

Jake laughs in pleasure. “Those blue eyes could outdo the sea for vastness when I bring you cake,” he says. “It’s worth every gemlet.”

“Oh Jake, you’re the best!” I kiss him on the cheek in excitement, my heart brimming with happiness. How I love him. How he looks after me. How much he gives up for me.

“I know,” Jake sighs dramatically, making me giggle. “Come on then.” He sits on the rock, putting his arm out, so I can sit and lean against it.

I sit down and let him wrap his arms around my shoulders. I smile as he hand-feeds me bites, taking bits for himself now and then, but he gives me far more of it. I never let him not at least share a little. But it also means the world to me how he wants to give me the most.

I hold Jake’s arm around my shoulders, hanging my hands off arms almost like I am going to pull myself upon them as I lean against his chest and enjoy our shared treat.

I wish this would never end. The perfect sunset, the glitter of the water, the sweet treat, his warm arms around me. I just want to turn and kiss him, give him everything. But that’s not for today. We still have to wait. If I break my oath, we’d be in far worse trouble.

We finish the treat, and Jake puts the box aside. I lean deeper into his arms, holding him tight and sighing in contentment, shutting my eyes. I needed that. I wanted to vent to him when I came, but now, I just want to enjoy the moment.

I close my eyes, taking in all the smells, savoring the chocolate and cake flavor on my tongue, listening to Jake’s breath and the wonderful waterworks around us. This is heaven. I can’t betray this. I can’t lose this.

“How was your raid?” I ask in a relaxed tone, eyes still shut, wanting to forget why I’d come into this magical place so upset.

Jake’s exhausted sigh shakes me from my moment. I frown in concern for him. He sounds so tired. I turn to look at him as he lets his head plop back on the tree behind him.

“Not great,” he laments. “It wasn’t one of the Enthronement loads like we hoped. We hardly got enough to feed those who helped us, let alone help the others.”

I feel the sadness and weight that came with those words. Jake is dedicated to the Loyalist rebellion, most of all, in its efforts to feed those in the ranks who want to support themselves. He sounds worn already, and we aren’t even on the throne yet. My heart aches for the stress and exhaustion in his voice.

“We’ll figure it out.” I assure him.

“I just wish we knew how they were transporting all their money. They tax it. It should go right to them, right? How are they spending it if it never gets into the castle?” Jake scowls.
His frustration makes his breath hot, his arms tense, and his movements haphazard as he moves his free hand about. “We tried the sea. It’s not coming in there, and what we get in raids is nothing, hardly enough to feed the palace for a day. So, what in creation are they doing to get the money?”

I have no answers. I never do. I don’t think anyone does or we’d have tried it by now. I wish I was more helpful, but I feel useless when it comes to this kind of strategy. I would support Jake on the throne, but I feel much more confident in helping with orphanages and schools and programs to help people get jobs than… this.

“I just wish…” Jake sighs, all the anger draining out of him in a heavy sigh, “…we had enough. I’m so tired of looking at the small ones begging for food and… being powerless.” Jake drops his head.

I know what that means. They lost another child to illness or hunger or who knows what. Each one strikes Jake hard. We try, but… how can we help those starving children when we can hardly help ourselves?

“H-how many this time?” I ask as gently as I can, trying to comfort him and let him vent.

Jake swallows hard. “Five died in the last month,” his voice shakes. “We got three more. I don’t know how we’ll keep feeding them if we can’t find out how to get the money back from the royals.” Jake shakes his head. “We tried. It goes into that storehouse, and we attack all the carts going to the palace we can. And it’s always chump change. We feed our troops, sure, but that’s not the goal.” He lets his head fall against the tree, “I just want this life to be over.”

Well, I don’t want all of it over. I don’t want to give up my shows, but I know this means the world to Jake. And for him, I’ll give it up. I shut my eyes to dream of what it will be like.

But instead, all I can think about is Dad’s plan that would change everything. My heart drops, and I tense as if to defend the one dream I was allowed to have for myself.

Jake frowns. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing,” I say too fast.

“Kascia.” I hear the hint of a scold in Jake’s voice as I stare into the running water. “We both know it’s not nothing. Something’s wrong.”

I sigh heavily and hold him tighter. “Nothing, just…” I try to find the words to dismiss it,

“It’s not really important right now.”

“So are you saying that to assure me or avoid it?” Jake asks carefully.

I have to admit I’m not even sure. I bite my lip. If I don’t tell him, does that make it as if it won’t happen? Maybe if Mom agrees with me, but she didn’t seem to at dinner. Would I ever find a way out of this? Maybe if Jake doesn’t agree, I’ll have a leg to stand on. Why I felt I had to talk to him at all, but I don’t want to lose this magic. “I love you.” I choose to say instead.

“Kascia, what’s the matter? Did something happen today?”

I nod, biting my lip harder and taking a deep breath to hold in the anger and pain. “Yes, but it’s not something we need to talk about now.”

“If it upsets you, we do,” Jake disagrees. “That’s how we got over ourselves, remember?” He smiles playfully.

“I screamed I didn’t like you. Then we realized we had something in common. Took years.”

Jake smiles. “You were worth waiting for.”

He kisses me deeply; I suck it in. Dad can’t take this. He can’t take the thrill I feel as the energy of that kiss rushes through me, or the intoxicating dizziness I feel at his touch, or the pleasurable press of his lips on mine, and the delightful soft bite of his lips on mine. He just can’t take it. I won’t let him.

“So, tell me,” Jake says when he pulls back, “what is bothering you? Saying it and screaming at each other is always better. You can throw anything at me. I’ll take it.”

“It’s not you,” I insist, grunting in annoyance.

“I didn’t mess up?”

“No,” I kiss him to assure him, “not this time.”

I kiss him deeper, harder. He grins and puts his other arm around me as I push myself up a bit to kiss him better, again and again, sucking his lips into mine, turning and releasing his arm to put one hand to his cheek, while I hook my other hand to his shoulder, keeping him close. I run my hand through his hair on the way to the back of his head. I press closer, almost sitting on his lap.

How I adore him. How he looks after me. How he makes me feel. His strong chest so close to mine. His breath against my skin. How his thick lashes tickle my face as I turn to get at his lips. His arm wraps around my waist. I all but dig into him, kissing him harder and harder, encouraging him to hold me tighter. This is what I wouldn’t give up.

Jake falls for it. He always does, then again, so do I when he tries it. He returns my intensity and fights for that passion too. We struggle for the feeling, relishing every bit of it we dredge up.

I gasp as he switches from kissing my lips to kissing the round of my shoulder. I shut my eyes and relax a little as he kisses down my arm, inch by inch, until he reaches my hand and presses his lips to it, holding it closer to him. I sigh again, eyes fluttering at his touches. I want more of his touch. I want that touch more than anything.

I leap forward and kiss his jaw, yanking his face to mine, bringing him down with me. Jake returns it, kissing me again, and again. I feel myself tilt back as he gets into it.

“Kascia,” he breathes. I love his breath on my skin.

“What?” I ask, kissing his cheek.

“I can’t ever get enough,” he sighs heavily.

“Have enough,” I tease.

“We know better. We’ll lose what made our fathers agree,” he reminds me.

This floods me with anger. Who cares anymore!? Maybe if we just caved in, Dad couldn’t make me lose my whole life again. “I don’t care what he wants!” I snap and kiss him harder.

“Woah.” Jake pulls away and puts a hand to my cheek to hold me back. “Kascia, what is that?”

I hate him for denying me this. I push him away, turning my back to him. I fold my arms tightly and don’t turn around, pulling into myself as if to protect myself.

“Kascia?” Jake frowns deeply. “What’s really going on? What did your father do?”

“You don’t care,” I snarl back.

“Yes, I do.” Jake runs a hand down my arm, starting at the round of my shoulder again. I shut my eyes. Yes, touch, his touch it’s all I want. Dad can’t take it.

I shut my eyes as tears come. “Will you all take it?”

“Take what?” Jake kisses my cheek from behind.

I adore that. I turn to him to kiss him hard, but Jake holds me back. “What is it?” he asks.

I roar in frustration and shove him away. “He can’t take it,” I insist. “So why must you?”

“What am I taking?” Jake asks. “I love you.”

“Do you?”

Jake smiles gently and pulls me closer like a toddler refusing to sit next to her parents and puts his arm around me again, kissing my cheek. I lean into it. I need it.

“Yes, I do,” he assures me. “You can throw anything at me.”

“The only thing I need to throw at you is me.” I don’t want to discuss Dad taking him from me. Even if the plan is to go back to him, I couldn’t be gone that long. And we’d never gotten into the castle. No rebel had in my lifetime.

“You normally are good at taking no for an answer, just like I do when I get too intense.”

Jake rubs my shoulders. “I’m not pulling away, Kascia. Just keeping our rule. What’s the change?” He kisses my shoulder and neck.

“He wants to end it.” I finally admit as hot tears come.

“End us?” Jake laughs.

I turn to him in shock. He’s laughing at this?!

“That’s not what the plan means,” Jake is still laughing.

“Excuse me?” I snap. “You know?”

“He proposed his plan to get us inside, right?” Jake asks, still smiling at me like an overreacting child.

“Which is?” He can’t know, can he?

“To use the Enthronement to get a girl on the inside,” Jake says. “And as you’re the best princess we know. It’s why I love you,” he adds, “he figures you’ll get in, piece of cake.”

I gape at him. “What?” I can’t believe this. “You knew he wanted me?”

“Who better?” Jake asks innocently.

“Do you not understand what the Enthronement is?” I demand, pulling away to see him better.

My anger mounts, but it’s just to cover up the hint of fear. I feel my heart stilling, afraid it’s going to have to deal with the hints of a crack that are threatening to form depending on the answer I’m about to get.

“A contest to prove yourself a true princess?” Jake looks at me as if I’m crazy.

“With what goal?” I demand.

“Uh, for you, it doesn’t matter. You’ll let us in before it’s even over.”

“And you think courting the prince isn’t part of that?”


“So!” I clench my fists and stand up as the flood of emotions rises in me, wanting to break out like a stormy tide against a coastal wall. One wave is anger; how could he not understand!? The next: desperation, he had to be thick because if he isn’t, the last wave strikes: fear.

It was an old fear I’d not thought about in many years. So buried I’d all but forgotten about it until this moment. That the love we’d built was forced so unreal. Did this mean what I’d feared, deep down, for so long, our love was manufactured, fake, unnatural?

About the Author:

Charity Mae lives near Mt. Shasta in Northing California and loves the nature there (though she’d like some more snow and rain). She wrote her first 700+ book when she was eleven-year-old and published her first book when she was twenty-one. 

When she’s not reading and writing, she enjoys making and watching YouTube videos, gaming, hiking, swimming, and sitting outside while working on projects.

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