Thursday, May 16, 2019

Book Blog Tour and Giveaway: The Open Portal (Conquest of the Veil #1) by Michael Scott Clifton

Conquest of the Veil #1
Genre: Fantasy / Paranormal / Magical Realism
Publisher: Book Liftoff
Publication Date: May 1, 2019
Number of Pages: 337 pages

But with dreams, there can also be nightmares.

Lonely and plain-featured, Mona Parker is just another faceless teenager at Spring Hill High School. One day she runs afoul of Lady Anne Golightly, a beautiful and arrogant classmate who turns Mona’s colorless life into a hellish existence. Bullied relentlessly and with nowhere to turn, Mona considers suicide. One night, Thaddeus Finkle, her guardian angel, appears. He offers her a way out—swap lives with another.
The choice seems easy, and Mona takes the angel up on his offer. She awakens on Meredith, a parallel world of Earth where magic has replaced technology. Mona discovers she is Alexandria, a woman of breathtaking beauty, and the daughter of a Duke complete with servants and riches.

Then she discovers the price of her bargain.

Trapped behind the Veil, an impenetrable curtain of magic, the Duchy of Wheel is the last major province still unconquered by Marlinda, the creator of the enchanted barrier. Known as the Dark Queen, Marlinda’s cruelty includes a singular fondness for melding men, women, and children, with animals…and she has special plans for Alexandria.

Tal, the Prince and Heir of the Empire of Meredith, burns with an intense hatred for Marlinda and her minions. The Dark Queen’s raiders regularly cross the Veil to prey upon the helpless citizens living near the magical boundary. Despite an elaborate system of Watch Towers along the enchanted barrier, it is impossible for the Empire to stop all the raids. Desperate to protect his people, Tal takes dangerous risks to prevent these attacks. Banished to a remote garrison for his reckless behavior, while on a routine patrol, Tal leads an elite unit that happens upon a group of raiders—one whose leader possesses the means for opening a way through the Veil.

Thus begins the conquest of the Veil.
Lady Anne moved and seated herself next to Mona. She whispered in her ear, “You are a dirty little b*tch, but I would add an ugly little b*tch as well.”

Numb, Lady Anne’s words barely registered with Mona. Finally, she mumbled, “Please leave me alone. Why won’t you leave me alone?” This elicited a derisive snort from Lady Anne.

“Oh, Mona. Leave you alone? Of course not. What would be the fun in that?”

“Why? Why not?” Mona pleaded. “You have everything and I’m…I’m a nobody. Why can’t you ignore me and act like I don’t exist? Everyone else does.”

Lady Anne stood and smoothed her skirt. She picked at a piece of lint on her blouse, then looked down at Mona, her expression hard.

“Because people like me are supposed to pick on people like you. You’re the garbage in the garbage disposal, Mona. All you’re good for is to be ground up and flushed down the drain. That’s all your miserable life means to me.”

With a smirk, Lady Anne added, “Well, I’d love to stay and chat some more with you girlfriend, but speaking of life, I have to get back to mine. Ta!” She blew Mona a kiss and skipped off.

Moments passed before Mona finally stirred. The tears that earlier threatened to gush from her eyes were gone. Instead, she felt nothing but helpless futility. Cornered like a rabbit, she had no way to escape, no way to stop Lady Anne’s predacious bullying.

She stood and picked up her lunch and book. Her mouth tasted like ashes, and she dropped the brown sack in the nearest trash. Like a robot on autopilot, Mona walked to the media center, turned in her library book, and after a few minutes of aimless wandering, found herself alone in the girl’s bathroom.

She twisted the cold water knob, cupped some water into her hands, and splashed her face. The shock of the cold water brought her mind back into focus, and she looked at herself in the mirror above the sink.

Frizzy brown hair spread like foam around a narrow face. Her cheekbones were shallow, angular planes, giving her a pinched expression, like she wore shoes a size too small. Her raptor-shaped nose, long and slightly hooked, had a pair of black-frame glasses perched on it. Brown eyes, puffy and red, stared back at Mona from behind the spectacles. Her pasty-white complexion resembled a minefield littered with angry red spots of acne.

Mona stepped a few paces back so the rest of her body would come into view.

She wore blue jeans and a long-sleeved blouse and sweater, which covered skinny, birdlike arms and legs. Her bra size, 32A, hadn’t changed since seventh grade, and even now, at almost 18 years of age, Mona more closely resembled an adolescent girl than a woman.

I’m unremarkable.

I’m plain and colorless as water.

I’m a nobody.

“I hate my life,” Mona whispered to the image in the mirror.

“Do you hear me? I HATE MY LIFE!” she screeched.

The tears she had earlier banished now came back with a vengeance. Mona stumbled into a stall and shut and bolted the door. Hugging herself, she leaned against the wall and sobbed.

Mona’s misery so completely consumed her, she lost all sense of time. When at last she managed to stop crying and look at her phone, she realized lunch was over—her next class had already started fifteen minutes earlier.

She staggered out of the stall. Unable to bear seeing herself again in the mirror, Mona averted her gaze to the cold, concrete floor as she splashed water for a second time on her face. While she dried her face with paper towels, she couldn’t help recall how happy she had been when enmeshed in her daydreams of Brock…and how quickly Lady Anne turned her happiness into humiliation. She learned a valuable lesson.

Dreams were a dangerous thing.
Praise for The Open Portal:
"The Open Portal is packed full of action from the time it begins in our mundane world, to when it jumps to another. It has all the elements of a good fantasy: a cruel queen; a frustrated prince; and beautiful girl with a pure heart. There are brave boys, werewolves, white priests, and watchtowers. I can't wait for the saga to continue." -- Abookanight

Michael Scott Cliftona public educator for over thirty-eight years as a teacher, coach, and administrator, currently lives in Mount Pleasant, Texas with his wife, Melanie and family cat, Sadie. An avid gardener, reader, and movie junkie, he enjoys all kinds of book and movie genres. His books contain aspects of all the genres he enjoys...action, adventure, magic, fantasy, and romance. His fantasy novel, The Janus Witch, received a 5-Star review from the prestigious Readers’ Favorite Book Reviews, and he has been a finalist in a number of short story contests with Edges of Gray winning first place in the Texas Authors Contest. Professional credits include articles published in the Texas Study of Secondary Education Magazine. Clifton’s latest book, The Open Portal, launches the fantasy book series, Conquest of the Veil. In addition, look for the YA novel, Edison Jones and the Anti-Grav Elevator, to be released soon. He is available public speaking.

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