Family historian Graham Hasselhoff thought there were no skeletons in his cupboard. That is, until the day he met the son he never knew he had.
Getting to know Andreas, who is now the boss of a road haulage firm, soon leads him to a trail of arson, beatings, mysterious warnings – and murder.
Can his son really be behind this deadly business?
Graham has to quickly work out if Andreas is an impetuous eccentric – or a dangerously ruthless criminal.
Biography – Mark Eklid
It took Mark until he was fifty-seven to finally fulfil his dream of being a published author, but seeing his work in print was far from a new experience by then.
Sunbeam, his debut novel, was self-published in November 2019 and will be followed by Family Business in late May to early June of this year. Both are fast-moving, plot-twisting contemporary thrillers which use Sheffield, the city of his birth, as their backdrop, though Family Business is also partly set in his current home city, Derby.
But his writing background is based on a career as a newspaper journalist, starting out as a trainee reporter with the South Yorkshire Times in 1984. Three years later, he joined the sports desk of the Derby Telegraph, where he’s been ever since.
Most of his time in Derby has been as the newspaper’s cricket writer, a role that brought national recognition in the 2013 England and Wales Cricket Board awards. He’s also been a contributor for the last nine years to the Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack and has had many articles published in national magazines, annuals and newspapers.
The hefty workload of writing as a profession meant writing for pleasure was largely left on the back burner but changing priorities at work made it possible – essential, even – to pick up the threads of one of the many half-formed novels in his computer files and, this time, see it through to publication.
Sunbeam was the result, but it was never the intention to stop there. Family Business was well on the way by the time Sunbeam was published and a third novel, possibly the start of a series, is already well into the planning stage.
Mark was born in Sheffield and has lived in Derby since 1988 with his partner, Sue. They have two sons.
Today is the unveiling of the cover for author M.D. Neu’s latest work, T.A.D. The Angel of Death. So what’s it all about?
Tad loves bouncing around in time and watching mankind grow and change. He loves humanity and helping when he can. However, his job isn’t conducive to helping people. He’s an Angel of Death.
Doug is fun loving and a drama queen. Despite his witty exterior, he has a dark history and is prone to self-destruction. He’s also an amazing drag queen and hairstylist with big dreams.
When Tad pushes the boundaries of his duties too far, his angel wings are stripped away from him, and he is sent to New York City to live as a human. Lost and alone he ends up meeting Doug, and the two start a friendship that will shape them both and last a lifetime. But nothing is simple when you’re dealing with a former Angel of Death and a Drag Queen. Could these two cause the fabric of our world to collapse or will they manage to keep the future as it should?
To give you a bit of a tease, here’s the prologue:
Walking between the past, present, and future, seeing what I’ve seen, isn’t for everyone.
One day, I can be in San Francisco on October 17, 1989. On another—well, it was longer than a day, more like half a year—I was in Petrograd and Moscow from March through November, 1917. That was a busy time. On my favorite day, as tragic as it was, I was at Alpha Base, Mars, on September 21, 2051. There was so much hope and heroism on Mars that day. I’d go back and relive it anytime.
When I think about all I’ve seen, in the grand scheme of the universe, it’s not even a blink of an eye. However, what I’ve been left with is one overlying thought: humanity is amazing.
No matter what happens, humans keep moving forward. Humanity is a joy to witness and be a part of. Even in my own small way.
Humans here—at this time—aren’t much different from in other realities.
I’ve been to three. There are more, but I’m still pretty new. In one, mankind has paranormal creatures living among them. The humans don’t know it, but they are there, living and working together. I wonder what would happen if the humans on that world knew about the paranormal creatures in their midst? Something like that would be up to the Fates to decide. Which is way over my pay grade. I doubt I’ll find out, but anything’s possible.
On another alternate Earth, aliens have arrived. The good kind. That has been an interesting scenario to witness. I’m not sure the humans in that dimension were really ready for aliens, but they didn’t have much of a choice. The Arches and Fates were working overtime there, and I’ll admit, considering how bad it could have been, well, it turned out pretty good for both the humans and the aliens. At least from what I’ve been told and seen.
The last reality I’ve witnessed so far has none of those things. It’s the Earth I’m on right now. The one where my work takes me today. These humans still accomplish great things, but they’re alone, at least as far as I know.
A loud blare of a taxicab’s horn shifts my focus. I check up the street at all the people and traffic. This is such a busy and noisy place. I don’t understand how anyone can think.
As much as I’d like to, I don’t get to spend all my days bouncing between realities. I’ve heard from my brothers and sisters there is an Earth where magic and dragons exist. That would be pretty neat to see. Maybe another time. Today, I have a job to do, helping the dead. Unfortunately, I can’t always interfere with history, especially if the event is a major convergence point. You know, something like the Black Death, or the fall of the Roman Empire, something hugely important to human development. So, I can’t stop a dictator from rising. I can’t keep millions from dying. But I can help those who die cross over and make their journey painless.
Sometimes, people don’t want to leave, and who am I to tell them they have to go? Yes, it’s upsetting, because I know the suffering they are going through, and I can help them, but I can’t force them. Some think they have unfinished business, and that might be the case, but not for all of them. Those spirits don’t want to let go, and they think staying is better. It’s not. But I let them stay. I will, however, come back and check on the lingering deceased from time to time. Most souls eventually come around and let me help them. That’s always a nice feeling.
To date, I’ve never lost a single soul. Everyone I’m responsible for gets crossed over, maybe a little late, but they still get to where they are supposed to go. Not many of my brothers and sisters can make that claim. Maybe that’s why I’m able to get away with messing with fate and altering the timeline.
Inhaling the fall morning air brings back so many memories. I wish it could always be like this. It can’t, of course. Without the sadness and the pain, humans wouldn’t know how to celebrate the happiness and the pleasure.
I check the sky. Nothing yet.
Sitting on the park bench, I adjust my arms, flexing my wings as a pug trots over to sniff my feet. The dog’s caregiver tries to tug at the leash to get the pug to move. The man can’t see me, which is a great perk of my job. I don’t think most people would appreciate or understand my current appearance, but animals do. I reach down and pat her head.
I love animals. Dogs. Cats. I love them all. Now, working with animals would have been a good job to have. Helping the animals cross over. They never complain, and they’re always happy to have the attention. I’ve heard some choose to stay and watch over their caregivers and wait for them.
Now that’s dedication.
Finally, the man comes over and attempts to pick up the pug. He has no clue why she stopped. I wave my hand and she trots off, confusing the man even more. I chuckle through my exhalation.
I rest my arms across the back of the bench and sigh as I glance up at the twin buildings. I’ll be honest, I’ve played with how many die, who dies and when, but I have to be careful. I can really screw things up, and I don’t want to do that. Fixing reality is no easy task, and they never get it just right again. Too many variables, I guess. And way above my pay grade. That work gets handled only by the top Arches and the boss. Anyway, the trick for me is finding the balance. Like I did in 1989.
My time in San Francisco and Santa Cruz, California, on October 17, 1989 worked out well, and I count it as a huge success. I was able to find the sweet spot, the perfect balance between life and death. All I had to do was make a few of my tweaks, and the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland Athletics were in the World Series. The Battle of the Bay, they called it. I called it a job well done. Only sixty-three people died, instead of almost twenty-five thousand. Who says baseball can’t save lives.
I suppose the changes didn’t affect the timeline much. Well, at least, I didn’t get in trouble. I’ve heard punishment can be bad. So that’s good.
The shadow of War flashes above me.
Right on time.
She’s scary but misunderstood, like all of us. Still, my wings tighten, remembering the deaths she’s caused.
I don’t like to focus on my failures throughout history because there have been so many. Sometimes, there is nothing I can do. Certain moments in time only offer me small amounts of wiggle room, and humans are as bloodthirsty as they are kind.
My wings tighten again, and I scout around. It feels like there’s another one of us here.
It’s hard not to help, because I want to. I was created to help. We all were. I’ve been reprimanded—well, warned I could be put on probation or dismissed—and reminded I do help, and I do make a difference, so I should be happy with that. Leave fate in the hands of others. The Arches take care of human’s fate. They ensure what is to happen, happens. It’s not up to me.
I often wonder if I could be an Arch. Really play with fate, and decide more than just life and death. Decide when events happen if they happen at all, who is born when, how to alter the timeline for the best results. I don’t think they have it so tough. They get to write the past, present, and future and that gives them a lot of flexibility, but there are whispers about how they leave their positions. Some have fallen. The idea makes my wings shudder, but sadly, it happens.
Not too often.
I check the sky, not seeing anything notable yet. I wonder if the Arches are involved today? Maybe. It’d make sense. I massage the spot between my back and the base of my wings.
I can hear the Arches now when they lecture me.
“You do good work,” the Arches tell me. “Be happy with your job.”
And for a short time, I will be.
Then I’ll watch something awful happen, like I did today, and my wings will tingle all over again.
I have to act. I have to change things. I know I’m only supposed to shuttle the dead. That’s my job, but sometimes, one has to bend the rules to make things right.
Humans, you are beautiful and wonderful, so creative. Watching you come to be, I can see why some of my brothers and sisters were envious. You’ve got a lot, including free will. However, you didn’t get everything. There were counterbalances to your gifts; limited lifespan, pain, suffering, and worst of all, in my opinion, heartache.
That is something I’ll never experience, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little jealous.
It makes my wings shudder to think about the amount of suffering you go through and cause throughout your short lives. Which is why, on a day like today, I bend the rules, just a little. Despite this moment of respite, it’s been incredibly busy for me.
I don’t expect praise or thanks, because the truth is, people are still going to die, some in awful ways. They are going to leave behind families and friends, and there will be so much sorrow. Not only for their families but for the country and the whole world. I wish I could do more for those left behind, but that is a job for my brothers and sisters.
I’ve done what I can. And really, a few lives continuing on won’t affect the future. Today, I’ve made several trains run late. I’ve made some people oversleep. I’ve made mundane matters urgent for those they affect. I made a small group of airplane passengers brave and courageous. In years to come, their daring will still be talked about. Hopefully, I’ve done enough to make everyone’s passing as painless as possible. What I’ve altered won’t stop the events to come and my tweaks won’t help a great many people, but I’m limited. This event is too important. Too painful. The ramifications will drive the humans and their future to the next fixed point.
Under three thousand people was my hope, and I did it. So that is something I’m very proud of. I’m getting better at my manipulation of people and events.
I glance up at the sky and watch.
It’s 8:40 a.m., and I’ve got to cross over just under three thousand people from three different locations. These deaths are so much less than the almost forty-three thousand it would have been without my interference. And nothing near the almost half a million people over the next two weeks from a different part of the world that will keep me and my brothers and sisters busier than we care to be. So, for the next two days, my wings will get a workout. But I’m feeling pretty good. I saved five hundred forty thousand people this time, the most people saved yet for this event.
This is my last attempt. I stand. I’ve tried five different times, and I can’t risk another go. Plus, I think my boss is coming around to my tricks. After today, I won’t be able to come back to this day, at least not to change things, but maybe I’ll come back to visit.
In the distance, I see the first plane heading for the first tower. Time to get to work. I flex my wings, stretching them out. Enjoying their heaviness before I take to the air.
My name is Death, and I’m going to have a busy day.
M.D. Neu is a queer Fiction Writer with a love for writing and travel. Living in the heart of Silicon Valley (San Jose, California) and growing up around technology, he’s always been fascinated with what could be. Specifically drawn to Science Fiction and Paranormal television and novels, M.D. Neu was inspired by the great Gene Roddenberry, George Lucas, Stephen King, Alice Walker, Alfred Hitchcock, Harvey Fierstein, Anne Rice, and Kim Stanley Robinson. An odd combination, but one that has influenced his writing.
Growing up in an accepting family as a gay man he always wondered why there were never stories reflecting who he was. Constantly surrounded by characters that only reflected heterosexual society, M.D. Neu decided he wanted to change that. So, he took to writing, wanting to tell good stories that reflected our diverse world.
When M.D. Neu isn’t writing, he works for a non-profit and travels with his biggest supporter and his harshest critic, Eric his husband of twenty plus years.