Tuesday, October 29, 2019

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The Temple of the Exploding Head Omnibus by Ren Garcia - Book Blitz + Giveaway




Ren Garcia is a Science Fiction/Fantasy author and Texas native who grew up in western Ohio. He has been writing since before he could write, often scribbling alien lingo on any available wall or floor with assorted crayons. He attended The Ohio State University and majored in English Literature. 

Ren has been an avid lover of anything surreal since childhood. He also has a passion for caving, urban archeology, taking pictures of clouds, and architecture. He currently lives in Columbus, Ohio with his wife, and their four dogs.






~ Website ~

  



Three books in one:
The Dead Held Hands
The Machine
The Temple of the Exploding Head


Starfarers and explorers, the League
settled on Kana thousands of years ago. They found it to be a paradise, a
perfect, virtually uninhabited planet waiting just for them in the cradle of
space.

Lovely Kana … it was too good to be
true …


But, all was not as it seemed.
Simmering beneath the ground was a demented god who had soaked Kana in blood
for untold ages, luring in victims, lying to them, and rejoicing in their
suffering as they died at the hands of his dark angels.

And there will be blood again … From
his Temple in the ground, the Horned God stirs.

When Lord Kabyl of Blanchefort, a
young man troubled by the weight of the world, dares give his heart to a girl
from a mysterious ancient household, one that pre-dates the League itself, he
comes to know the shadows of the past that hover over her.


He comes to know of the Horned God,
and for love he is destined to face him. All roads lead to the Temple of the
Exploding Head, a place of evil and death, rooted in the ancient past, but also
tied to the distant future.

“We were evil once,” she said, “and
the gods are still punishing us…”





Snippet:


Sample
Chapter:   The Pale Ghost 


Crash!
Thump!

Lady Kilos of Blanchefort sat properly on the stone wall and watched
with passing disinterest.

Her older brother was on the leafy ground, trying to stand. A tall woman
in a Fleet coat stood over him.

“Ok, so all that pretty Vith fighting is nice for show, but, if you
really want to win a fight, you do it street style, and you do it dirty, too.
Right? And, don’t ever hesitate to cheat. All that Vith honor I hear so much
about—leave it for the dinner table,” Lt. Kilos said, lending Kay a hand while
pulling him out of the leaves.

They were out in the cold of the Telmus Grove surrounded by old, gnarled
trees and fallen leaves. Kilo’s silver Tweeter bird bounced around in the
branches and fussed with the other birds.
She was showing Kay how to street fight, Onaris style.

Lord Kabyl of Blanchefort, or ‘Kay’ as everybody called him, had had a
crush on Lt. Kilos for as long as he could remember. She was an old friend of
the family, his father’s first officer and a trusted mentor to Old Dav’s kids.
There she was: tall, a lot taller than his rather tiny mother, wiry and lean in
her ever-present Fleet uniform with a thick head of long brown hair that
touched the small of her back. Kay had always thought she was so pretty.
“Let’s go again,” Kay said, raising his fists.

She laughed. “I think you’ve had enough for today, but you’re doing
well. Just get a little more meat on your bones, and you’ll be tough as nails.
Promise.”

Kay reached down behind the wall and put his purple and black coat on.
His younger sister, Lady Kilos, sat nearby in a minty blue gown watching them
spar, her whitish blue hair done up in the Blanchefort style. She had been
named in honor of Lt. Kilos, which got a little confusing sometimes with both
of them running around. The Lady was growing up to be much more prissy and
girlie than the brusque tomboyish Lt.

“Lt., I’d like to try,” she said standing up. If she’d had sleeves to
roll up, she would have.

“I like your spirit, Bottle, but you’re too much of a lady to do things
like fighting. Your cousin Sarah, on the other hand, oh boy, I think she’s
going to be in quite a few of them before she’s done—the kid’s a real blue-haired
hothead.” Lt. Kilos always called his sister “Bottle.” Since they both had the
same name, a nick-name was a must. Lady Kilos used to have a habit of throwing
her bottle around, which Lt. Kilos thought was funny.
“I don’t like Sarah,” Lady Kilos said. “She’s mean to me.”
“She is not,” Kay said.

“She does have a big mouth,” Lt. Kilos agreed, “and that never gets you
anywhere, but I think she means well.”
Ki stared hard at Kay. “Come here, kid. Let me have a look at you.”

Kay stepped in front of her, and she placed her strong hands on his
shoulders. “You’re getting so big. How old are you now, Kay?”
“I’m twelve.”

“Twelve? Oh Creation, where’s the time go? I still remember when you
were bouncing off  Syg’s lap. I’m only a hundred and four, and you’re
making me feel like an old maid.” She took a hard look at his eyes. “You’ve got
the coolest eyes, Kay. What are they, sort of a jade color, creamy jade?”

“I guess. I don’t know. All the bloody lords and ladies who come in to
stare at me don’t like them much.”

“What is the deal with that? Every Tuesday, Dav and Syg have you
downstairs standing there in the gallery, and all these stuffy blue folk come
in and start pawing you like a mannequin at the stores holding a tray of free
samples. What is that?”

“It’s called ‘The Review’. It’s a Vith tradition. All the various Houses
that think they might wish to ally themselves with the House, or arrange a
marriage or do business with the House, come and have a look at the eldest
children up until we turn fifteen.  And we have to stand there and not
move or say a word. I moved once to scratch my nose, and one of them wanted to
cane me for moving, but Father wouldn’t let them.”
“Cane you? I wouldn’t think so.”
“I hate it,” Kay said.
“I have to do it, too,” Lady Kilos said.

“Yes, but they love you, don’t they? They love your blue hair and your
blue eyes and everything about you. Me? They say a green-eyed Vith lord is no
Vith at all. They talk about me like I’m not even there. They say I’m too
short, and they don’t like my hair either. And I just have to stand there, lock
still, like a bloody statue for hours sometimes and take it.”

Lt. Kilos ruffled his hair. “I guess being a peasant like I am has its
advantages sometimes. I couldn’t put up with all that rigid society stuff. I’d
have knocked somebody’s damn teeth out by now.”

Kilos squinted and looked at Kay’s hair. It was purple, like a
grape-flavored popsicle, long, wavy, tied-up in a tail.

“You know, I guess I’m used to seeing it this shade by now. I mean, you
Blancheforts come in all sorts of cool colors, don’t you? Your dad with his
blue hair, Bottle over there with her whitish-blue, and Hathaline and your baby
brother Maser—boy, those two have a carrot-top going, don’t they?”

“I used to chase Kay around and try to put his hair in my mouth. I
thought it would taste like grape,” Lady Kilos said.

“Yuck!” Lt. Kilos replied. “I’ll bet it doesn’t taste like grape, does
it, Bottle?”
“No.”
“You don’t have any kids, do you, Ki?” Kay asked.

“Me? No, sure don’t. I’ve never had time for it. My husband brings it up
every so often, but I’m not ready. I’m having too much fun hanging out with
your mom and dad. I don’t even have my womb turned on—Elder Women can do that,
you know. If you leave it turned on, it gets messy.”
“Really? You’d be a good mother, Lt.,” Kay said.

“Think so?” She checked the time. “We’d best be getting back to the
castle. It’s getting late and your mom will have my head. Come on.”
“You’ve been in fights with mother before, haven’t you, Ki?” Kay asked.

“Fights? Yeah, yeah we used to fight all the time. That was before we
became friends. She hits pretty hard for such a tiny squirt. She’s a great
lady, your mom. Great lady.”

They got their stuff together, hats and coats, and headed back,
crunching through the leaves and stepping up onto the cobbled path. It was a
long walk back to Castle Blanchefort.

Lt. Kilos suddenly stopped and checked her coat pockets, slapping them
frantically with her hands. “Damn! I think my flask fell out somewhere back
there while we were sparring. It’s missing. I’ve got it topped-off with some
good stuff, and I don’t want to lose it. Tweeter, find me my flask!”

Tweeter, glowing like a silver candle-flame, hopped off her shoulder and
flapped back the way they came, ready for her to follow. “You two, wait here,
ok? I’ll be right back. I’m just going to get it.”
She headed into the trees. “Don’t move!” she called back one last time.

Kay and Lady Kilos stood still on the path as asked. She smiled. “I
wouldn’t listen to those stupid lords and ladies,” she said. “I wish I had your
eyes and hair, and I wish my face wasn’t so puffy. You’re so pretty, and I look
like a marshmallow,” she said, touching her swollen eyes with her hand. “I hate
my face right now.”
Kay made to respond when a noise came from the trees ahead of him.
Kay!” he heard.
Kay gazed into the trees. “Who’s there?”

He saw a tan, brown-haired face peek out from around a tree. “It’s me,
Kay. It’s Kilos.”

Kay stepped forward. “Lt.? Where’d you come from?” She had previously
disappeared through the trees to the east but was now peering out at him from
due west.

Kilos’ voice was trembling. “Can you come here?” she said at a whisper.
“Please?”

Leaving Lady Kilos behind, Kay stepped into the trees. There was Ki,
leaning against a stump.
Ki?

Her clothes were different. She was wearing a crinkled black gown
covered with intricate black-on-black designs, low cut, showing off arms and
shoulders and a fair amount of her cleavage, pulled tight into an hour-glass
shape. Odd—Lt. Kilos didn’t have a girly figure; she had more of an up-and-down
tom-boy body like Sarah’s, only taller. Kay, also, had never seen her wear
anything other than her Fleet uniform, and seeing her in this black getup was a
little disconcerting.

The final strange touch on her clothes was a chain wrapping around the
skirt portion of her gown and dragging on the ground.
“What happened to your clothes?” Kay asked.
“My clothes? I lost them,” she said, her whispered voice trembling.
“Lost them? What’s with the chain?”
“Oh, it’s a tradition. Don’t pay it any mind.”

She advanced on him, her large brown eyes wide and rather intense. Her
lips and hands were shaking uncontrollably. Her hair was rather wooly and down
to her ankles.
“And what happened to your hair?”
“My hair?”
“It’s really long. Why are you shaking?”

“It’s so cold. Aren’t you cold? You fought well today, and I wanted to
offer you a kiss as a reward. Would you like that?”
Kay’s insides bloomed. A kiss from Lt. Kilos?
“Umm, sure.”

She came forward and put her trembling hands on his shoulders. “You’re
so handsome, I’ve always thought so. Such colors.”

Kay had thought she was going to give him a friendly peck on the cheek
like mother often did, but, no, she lifted his chin and parted her lips to give
him a kiss. As she came in, he noticed her fingernails were long, pointed,
almost claw-like.

The kiss she gave him was like none he’d ever received before, slow and
warm, moving and moist, and full of passion. He felt the tip of her tongue come
wandering into his mouth.

“Kay!” came a voice. He surfaced from the kiss and craned his neck. Lt.
Kilos was standing a distance away on the path next to his sister, hat on and
blue coat parted, booted, holding her newly recovered flask.

There was a rustling and rattling of a chain, and the “Kilos” he’d been
kissing was gone. He caught his breath. “I’m here, Lt.!” he said coming out of
the trees.
The two Kilos’ came running up. “I thought I asked you not to move!”
“I saw you bade me go into the trees,” he replied.
“You what?”

“Yes. I heard you call my name, and then I saw you beckon from the
trees. Right over there! It looked like you, only you were wearing a low-cut
black gown, like for a funeral. You also had really long fingernails, kind of
scary.”

Kilos drew her gigantic Marine SK pistol from its holster. “Show me,”
she said.

Kay led them over to where the other “Kilos” had been standing. She
leaned down and inspected the grass. “Right here,” he said. “She gave me a
kiss, tongue and all.”
Ki looked up, open-mouthed. “What?”
“Yes. She wanted a kiss, or, I should say, ‘you’ wanted a kiss.”

“Listen, I love you, kid, but you’re a little young for me, right? And,
by the way, when I want a kiss, I don’t ask, I take, so it wasn’t me.”
“Did you give it to her, Kay?” Lady Kilos asked.
“Yeah.”

Ki blushed a little and began inspecting the ground again. “Tweeter, was
there someone standing here with Kay?”

He hopped a little and rustled his wings. “Hmmm, he says, ‘yes, I see a
trail’. Wait here.” She stood and followed it back into the trees, SK at the ready.
“And,” she called back, “if you see me again, and I want another kiss, it’s not
me, ok?” She disappeared into the trees.

Kay and Lady Kilos stood there. “It might have been Sarah playing a joke
on you,” she said. “I think she’s been developing the Gift of Cloak. Maybe it
was Sarah.”

“Sarah can’t Cloak. Besides, she’s not here. She’s south for the winter
with her mom and dad and Phillip; and, even if she were here, Sarah would
rather punch me than kiss me.”

“It was just a thought.” Another idea came into her head. “You know,
Kay, it might have been the ghost!”
“What ghost?”

“I see a pale ghost all the time in the castle. It’s a girl ghost, I
think. She’s always off hiding in a corner. I see her peeking out all the time
when your back is turned.”
“It felt too solid to be a ghost.”
“Ghosts can feel solid. Father told me.”
“What does this ‘pale ghost’ look like?”

“I think she’s a kid, like us. A bit bigger than we are perhaps. She
wears black, just like what you described, and her hair is black. She has a lot
of hair, all the way down past her knees. Her skin is really pale, chalky white
almost. That’s why I call her the Pale Ghost, because she’s pale, see? 
And she follows you around everywhere. I went to mother, and I said: ‘Mother,
how come Kay gets a ghost following him around, and I don’t have one?’”
“And what did mother say?”

“She didn’t say anything. Oh, and the Pale Ghost’s fingernails are really long—I
mean this big!” Ki lifted her hands and held them out several inches apart.

Kay considered the thought and shuddered. “That’s creepy. What does she
want?”

“I don’t know. I’ve seen her coming out of your room, and once, when I
was in the village with mother, I saw her standing on your balcony.”
“Oh, Creation ...”
“I don’t think she’s a bad ghost. I don’t think she means you any harm.”

Lt. Kilos returned. “I found a fresh trail in the woods. It went back
near to the clearing where we were sparring.”
“You mean the ghost was watching us?”

“Ghost? Are we calling this kiss-seeking, gown-wearing manifestation a
ghost? Well then, yes, the ghost was watching us. Come on, we’re heading back.”
*
*  *  *  *


When they returned to the castle, Lady Kilos followed Kay to his tower,
Zorn Tower, one of the larger ones on the western face, southern wing. “Hey,
you know what we can do, Kay?” she asked. “We can do an exorcism. Yeah. I have
a book I inherited from Aunt Pardock that shows you how to do it. Let me go get
it, and I’ll meet you upstairs. Leave your door open.” She stood straight up
and concentrated. After a minute or so, she Wafted away. Ki’s Gifts, at only
eight years old, were manifesting quite well. Kay felt a little jealous as his
Gifts weren’t doing anything yet, and he was four years older.

He went inside and took the lift up. The floors, mostly empty, whizzed
by as he climbed.

He got out and went into his bedroom. While not feeling scared, per se,
he was feeling a bit anxious. Perfectly understandable seeing how a ghost just
tried to put its tongue in his mouth.

He got his toy gazelle down from its shelf. It was his favorite toy;
he’d had it forever. It always helped calm him on nights when he was certain
there were monsters in the room with him. He swore it had a voice. He swore it
sang to him sometimes.

As he waited for Ki, he sat to check his holo-mail. There were several
new posts, mostly from Sarah.

His cousin Sarah, two years younger than he and the daughter of his
aunt, Lady Poe of Blanchefort, had a love of the bizarre and the grotesque. She
lived there in the castle in Xyotel Tower during the summer and went south with
her parents in the winter.  Every day she trawled the Posts looking for
lurid headlines and sordid articles, looking for stories of monsters and
murder, never failing to find them in abundance. When she was there in the
summer, she assailed Kay and her twin brother Phillip with all the sensational
stories she’d found. When she was gone in the winter, she’d holo-post them to
Kay’s account every day. Sarah and Phillip, by all accounts, were Kay’s best
friends, their friendship growing with each passing year.
He’d get items from her like:

“DEMONS TERRORIZE CHRISTOPHER PARK!”
or:
“WRAITH OF GASTON’ STRIKES.”


He read the posts as Ki Wafted in with a crash of wind and noise. She
was holding a huge book.
“Where did you get that?” he asked.

“I said I inherited it from Aunt Pardock. It belonged to our great
grandmother!” Kilos put her hand to her mouth and whispered. “... And she was a
Bloodstein Witch. Yeah.”
“Oh,” Kay said, impressed.

Ki flopped down cross-legged in the massive inverted funnel of her gown
and opened the book, flipping through the creaky pages.

“Ah!” she cried. “Here it is. Ritual to perform an exorcism. It says the
three points of a triangle are very important. It says the top of the triangle
represents the present, the left side the past and the right side the future.
It says that, if we can surround something of the Pale Ghost on three sides,
then we can wish it away or do whatever we want. Oh wait! We don’t have
anything of it, do we?”
“I’ve got some of its slobber in my mouth.”
“Good idea! Spit on the floor.”
“Really?”
“It can’t hurt.”

Kay leaned forward and spat on the floor. Reading her book, Ki drew some
symbols on the floor in chalk, front, left and then right. “There!” she said happily.
That takes care of the Pale Ghost.”
“Is that all?”

“Yep.” She yawned. “I’m going to bed. Performing exorcisms makes me
sleepy.”
She Wafted away.

Kay looked at the little three-sided design Ki had made on the floor
with his spit in the middle of it.

A Pale Ghost had come to him for a kiss. Why? Thinking back on it, he
hadn’t felt scared or put off; her clothes were a little strange and she had
seemed a little intense, but that was all.

“Hey, if you can hear me, thank you for the kiss. I wish you hadn’t run
away. Why do you hide? What’s your name? Hello?”

No answer.  Oh, wait—Ki’s exorcism. Did it really work? Was the
Pale Ghost no longer able to reach him in his room?

He debated it in his mind and then went to his bathroom and fetched a
towel. He got down on his knees and rubbed out Ki’s markings and his blob of
spit.
He had decided to welcome the Pale Ghost and not shun her.

Kay sat up for a bit longer, wondering if she’d show. Not seeing
anything, he went out onto his terrace. Across the way was Harkness Tower,
where his sister Kilos, the exorcist-in-waiting, lived. The lights in her room
were on. They went out a moment later; Ki must have just gone to bed.

Feeling sleepy himself, he undressed and crawled into bed. As he
ventured into the warming realms of sleep, he heard a tiny voice.



That was the worst exorcism I’ve ever seen. It wouldn’t have worked, but
I’m proud of you for getting rid of it anyway. Don’t be afraid of what’s on the
other side of the door. You might be surprised by what’s there ...









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