Karen’s Killer Book Bench: A Very UnCONventional Christmas, Division One Book 3 by Stephanie Osborn #SciFi

読書KAREN’S KILLER BOOK BENCH: Welcome to Karen’s Killer Book Bench where readers can discover talented new authors and take a peek inside their wonderful books. This is not an age-filtered site so all book peeks are PG-13 or better. Come back and visit often. Happy reading!

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A Very UnCONventional Christmas
DIVISION ONE: BOOK THREE
BY STEPHANIE OSBORN

Blurb

It’s Christmas in NYC, but for Alpha Line it’s anything but a Silent Night: The Agency has a mole, leaking classified information to toy manufacturers and film producers alike, and the Agents are in danger of losing their anonymity. To complicate matters, the Prime Minister of Lambda Andromedae III, complete with entourage, has arrived to negotiate a new trade agreement with Earth. Worse, the more paranoid Division One field agents look at Omega’s recent history with the Agency and suspect they have identified the mole!

Simultaneously, the discovery of a grim countdown in the most incongruous place possible — the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center — augers the threat of horrific events on Christmas Eve itself.

Meanwhile, Omega is struggling to adjust to her very first Christmas in the Agency, made more difficult by the exposure of parts of her past long hidden from her conscious mind.

Will Omega be able to refute the accusations, or be punished for crimes she did not commit? Will the internal conspiracy expose the Agency? Or will efforts to thwart it see Echo — and Fox — caught up in the accusations as well? What is the meaning of the countdown to Christmas Eve, and will any of Alpha Line survive it?

A Very UnCONventional Christmas
DIVISION ONE: BOOK THREE
BY STEPHANIE OSBORN

Excerpt

“Hey, Ed, come here a sec,” one of the YuleCon convention chairs called to her guest liaison.

“Yeah, Brandy? What’s up?” Ed Smith replied, detouring from his intended route to the con suite and veering over to the Ops Room door. Ed was a stocky, strong brunet of about average height, in his mid-forties, though he looked younger. His eyeglasses gave him an intellectual appearance, and his goatee a rather dashing look.

“Have you seen Doc Taylor in the last, oh, half an hour?”

“No; I left him in his last panel with Howard and Sarah and ran to the con suite to grab something to eat. I didn’t get lunch or breakfast either, and I was starved. I got there just before they cleared out the food, as it was. Then I had to run back to my room for a minute.”

“How long ago was that?”

Ed glanced at his wristwatch.

“I dunno. Maybe an hour and a half, an hour forty-five?”

“Mm,” Brandy said, thinking.

“What’s up?”

“That big panel he’s moderating this evening? We got a no-go from one of the guests. I have no idea where they went, but John apparently picked up a touch of food poisoning when he went out to dinner with that group last night, and he can’t get outta his bathroom, let alone leave the hotel room.”

“Shit!”

“Pretty much, from what I understand. Some puking, too.”

“Ooo, that was cold, Brandy!” They laughed.

“Well, you started it! Anyway, I need you to find Travis and give him a heads-up that John won’t be there. I know he kinda had a loose plan for how the discussion was supposed to go, so I need to know, like, ASAP, if I need to grab a substitute from the rest of our pool of guests. I’ve only got about two and a half, three hours, before that panel starts, and I’ll need to juggle some stuff in the schedule to find a substitute.”

“Oh! All right, I’m on it. I’ll track him down, tell him what happened, and get back with you in the next…” Ed glanced at his watch again, “if it takes me an hour, I’ll be surprised.”

“Good man! Thanks!”

And Ed headed off, to track down YuleCon’s Author Guest of Honor, Travis S. Taylor.

* * *

“Okay, he wasn’t in the con suite; he wasn’t in the green room,” Ed muttered to himself, twenty minutes later, rushing through the hotel. “He wasn’t in the dealer’s room or art show. He wasn’t in his hotel room. He’s not in the hotel restaurant OR the bar.” He shook his head. “I ain’t got a clue where the hell he is!”

He abruptly stopped dead in the lobby, and three fen promptly ran into him from behind. Quick apologies were exchanged all around, and the fans moved on, as Ed stood where he was and pondered where to look next.

“Maybe he’s sitting in on somebody else’s panel,” he decided. “I’ll just stick my head in the back of all the programming rooms and check.”

He headed off to the convention center area to look.

* * *

Ed started at one end of the row of programming rooms and systematically worked his way down and around the corner. He eased open each door, nodded at the moderator as he slipped inside, then stood silently in the back, looking for a certain familiar dishwater-blond head with ginger highlights. Upon failing to spot it, he nodded to the moderator again, and slipped out, heading to the next room.

He got to the corner of the L-shaped convention center and went around it, checking the last room that he knew had active programming. There were two more rooms past that, carved out of a ballroom, but no panels were scheduled in them for that time of day. Consequently, Ed fully expected them to be locked.

“Still,” he considered, “I oughta go check. It’d be just the sorta thing for him to drag some fans off for a long technical discussion, if somebody left one ‘a the doors ajar. And it ain’t like I don’t have the keys, anyway.”

So he headed down the broad corridor toward the nearest door.

* * *

But when he reached it, he could indeed hear voices coming from inside. Ed took hold of the door knob, but it was firmly locked.

Reaching into his pocket, he fished out the special key ring for the hotel, selected one of the master keys, and stuck it in the lock. Pushing the door open, he stepped inside, prepared to tell Travis that he was needed and to quit hiding out with a brew—

—And stopped dead, gaping.

The two rooms had been merged into the full ballroom; the tables for the panelists had been rearranged to form a long central table, and around that table, and at several chairs along the periphery, sat an entire phalanx of people in costume, from black Suits to chartreuse, betentacled, three-eyed aliens.

“Who are you and what are you doing here? You’re not supposed to be here! These rooms are supposed to be closed to all convention members when not in use! Are you with that film or something?” Ed demanded to know.

One of the people wearing black Suits, a strapping, middle-aged blond man, pushed back from the table and stood up, moving toward Ed, who stood his ground despite the fact that the man was intimidating as hell…and easily a head taller than Ed, who was not especially short.

“May I help you?” the man asked, in a soft, cultured, European accent.

“Um, you haven’t seen Dr. Travis Taylor, have you?”

“No, we have not. Is there anything else we can do to assist you?

“You can help me by getting outta here before I have to call Security,” Ed said, stern. “I don’t care who the hell you are, or if you’re from Hollywood or what! This facility is supposed to have been contracted exclusively for YuleCon’s use this weekend! And I’m on the con comm, and I’ve never seen any of you before in my life! If you’re practicing for the masquerade competition, you’ll just have to practice someplace else! Now, c’mon, get moving!”

The man in the black Suit glanced back at the others.

“I believe we shall have to do just that,” he said, reaching into his jacket pockets with both hands. Behind him, the others all produced some sort of odd-looking wraparound sunglasses, putting them on and staring at him in silence; the aliens just looked odd to Smith, with their three-eyed spectacles. The man slipped on his own pair of glasses, then waved a cell phone in Ed’s face. There was a multicolored flash of light…

* * *

Ed found himself back in the broad corridor of the convention center, wondering how he’d managed to nod off while standing up. He looked around; the current hour’s panels had not yet ended, but he’d checked all of them, and Dr. Taylor was not there. Nothing was left except the two ballroom segments.

“But they should be locked. Still,” he considered, “I oughta go check. It’d be just the sorta thing for him to drag some fans off for a long technical discussion, if somebody left one ‘a the doors ajar. And it ain’t like I don’t have the keys, anyway.”

So he headed down the broad corridor toward the nearest door.

* * *

But when he reached it, he could indeed hear voices coming from inside. Ed took hold of the door knob, but it was firmly locked.

Reaching into his pocket, he fished out the special key ring for the hotel, selected one of the master keys, and stuck it in the lock. Pushing the door open, he stepped inside, prepared to tell Travis that he was needed and to quit hiding out with a brew—

—And stopped dead, gaping.

The two rooms had been merged into the full ballroom; the tables for the panelists had been rearranged to form a long central table, and around that table, and at several chairs along the periphery, sat an entire phalanx of people in costume, from black Suits to chartreuse, betentacled, three-eyed aliens.

“Who are you and what are you doing here? You’re not supposed to be here! These rooms are supposed to be closed to all convention members when not in use! Are you with that film or something?” Ed demanded to know.

One of the guys in an alien costume, dressed in rather more opulent clothing than the other alien costumes, turned to a strapping, middle-aged blond male in a black Suit.

“Did we not just do this?” the guy in the alien costume wondered.

Ed watched in amazement as everyone donned odd-looking wraparound sunglasses, in despite of the fact that the room had no windows. The blond man rose and hurried toward him, pulling a smart phone from his pocket.

There was a multicolored flash of light…

* * *

Sugar pulled his actual smart phone from one pocket as he dropped his brain bleacher into another. He activated it with a couple of swipes, then waited for the other party to answer.

“Yes, Echo, this is Sugar. We have a little problem here. Yes, someone with the convention has come looking for Dr. Taylor, and he has a key to the room. Of course I brain-bleached him…for the second time just now. Can you gather up your Alpha Line team and send them out, find Taylor, and bring him down here as soon as possible? I think if the man could actually be sent off with Taylor, we’d be good. But he is systematic, and keeps coming back here to search. Yes, he would be…but that’s up to you lot. My team and I have a treaty to negotiate. Of course, if the Director wants to help you look, that is his business. But if this ‘Ed’ person—according to his con badge—shows up many more times, it is going to look like a Keystone Kops routine down here. Yes? Excellent; thank you, my friend.”

Sugar looked up at the Prime Minister and his entourage.

“My apologies about that, all. Alpha Line has gone to find Taylor, and they’ll bring him down to the man in the hall. That should solve our problem.”

“Let us hope so,” the Prime Minister noted, seeming peeved. “We have had interruptions enough aplenty.”

* * *

Ed found himself back in the broad corridor of the convention center, wondering why he felt so very strange, almost light-headed. He hoped he wasn’t coming down with con crud, the ubiquitous, influenza-like disease that so often plagued such large groups of people.

He looked around; the current hour’s panels had not yet ended, but he’d checked all of them for Dr. Taylor. Nothing was left except the two ballroom segments.

“But they should be locked. Still,” he considered, “I oughta go check. It’d be just the sorta thing for Doc Taylor to drag some fans off for a long technical discussion, if somebody left one ‘a the doors ajar. And it ain’t like I don’t have the keys, anyway.”

So he headed down the broad corridor toward the nearest door.

* * *

But when he reached it, he could indeed hear voices coming from inside. Ed took hold of the door knob, but it was firmly locked.

Reaching into his pocket, he fished out the special key ring for the hotel, selected one of the master keys, and stuck it in the lock. Pushing the door open, he stepped inside, prepared to tell Travis that he was needed and to quit hiding out with a brew—

—And stopped dead, gaping.

The two rooms had been merged into the full ballroom; the tables for the panelists had been rearranged to form a long central table, and around that table, and at several chairs along the periphery, sat an entire phalanx of people in costume, from black Suits to chartreuse, betentacled, three-eyed aliens.

“Who are you and what are you doing here? You’re not supposed to be—wait a minute…” Ed swayed, dizzy.

“Again?” said the important-looking alien. “Perhaps you should take him farther away this time.”

Ed watched in amazement as everyone donned odd-looking wraparound sunglasses, in despite of the fact that the room had no windows. A tall blond man rose and hurried toward him, pulling a smart phone from his pocket.

There was a multicolored flash of light…

* * *

Back in the ballroom, Sugar, the head of the Agency’s Diplomacy department, sat back down, mildly annoyed. He pulled his actual smart phone, activated it, and waited for the other party to answer.

“Echo? Yes, it’s Sugar again. Yes, that’s the third time now. We REALLY need for you lot to find Dr. Taylor and bring him down here before I have to brain-bleach this man into nappies or some such thing. No, I don’t know how they work! I’m a diplomatic negotiator, not a neuro-engineer!”

“Perhaps,” Tortok suggested, “we should make the annoying human disappear permanently? It would solve a great many problems at the moment.”

“NO!” Sugar exclaimed. “Echo! Did you hear that? Yes! You and Omega have GOT TO FIND TAYLOR! No, I don’t know WHAT the deuced man wants, I just know he’s looking for Taylor! No, I don’t even know Taylor. Look, just find him as soon as you can, and get him down here, preferably five minutes ago. Yes, thank you!”

A distracted Sugar raked his hand through his short pale locks, and pondered what to do next. He looked up to see the Prime Minister scowling.

Just then, a key rattled in the door’s lock, and the door opened.

“Who are you and what are you doing here?” Ed Smith demanded to know.

“Oh, damn it all to hell and back,” Sugar grumbled, rising and putting on his goggle-glasses.

About Author Stephanie Osborn…

Stephanie Osborn, aka the Interstellar Woman of Mystery, former rocket scientist and author of acclaimed science fiction mysteries, goes back to the urban legend of the unique group of men and women who show up at UFO sightings, alien abductions, etc. and make the evidence…disappear…to craft her vision of the universe we don’t know about—the universe containing a galactic civilization and government, of which Earth is a provisional member. Her new series, Division One, chronicles this universe through the eyes of recruit Megan McAllister, aka Omega, and her experienced partner, Echo, as they handle everything from lost alien children to extraterrestrial assassination attempts and more.

Division One books, in order:

  1. Alpha & Omega
  2. A Small Medium At Large
  3. A Very UnCONventional Christmas
  4. Tour de Force
  5. Trojan Horse
  6. Texas Rangers
  7. Definition & Alignment

Coming soon:

Phantoms (book 8 – October 2018)
Head Games (book 9 – Winter 2019)
Break, Break Houston (book 10 – Spring 2019)

with more planned.

I also hope to release the adjuncts to the series, The Division One Agents Handbook and The Division One Cookbook. Can’t promise on those yet.

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Links to Stephanie’s website, blog, books, etc.

Paperback: https://amzn.to/2MIlgqc

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**SPECIAL GIVEAWAY**: Stephanie is giving away an ebook copy of ALPHA & OMEGA (Division One Book 1) to one lucky reader who comments on her Karen’s Killer Book Bench blog.

Thanks, Stephanie, for sharing your book with us!

Don’t miss the chance to read this book!

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8 Responses to Karen’s Killer Book Bench: A Very UnCONventional Christmas, Division One Book 3 by Stephanie Osborn #SciFi

  1. Karen Docter says:

    Good morning, Stephanie, and welcome back to Karen’s Killer Book Bench. I’m falling in love with this series with each book you share. Such a fun concept and love your creativity! Thanks for sharing your book with us today!

    • I’m so glad you’re enjoying it, Karen! Trust me when I say it’s as much fun for me to write as it is for you to read!

      This particular excerpt was particularly funny to write; the longer it went on, with more variations occurring with each successive “iteration” of the action, the funnier I think it got! By the time I finished the sequence, I was laughing so hard, tears were running down my face!

  2. Helen Rodin Drake says:

    Hi Stephanie,
    I enjoyed reading the synopsis and excerpt. This sounds like a fascinating book I’ll have to add to my TBR list.

    • Wonderful! I’m so glad you enjoyed it!

      A Very UnCONventional Christmas is book 3 of the Division One series, and the special giveaway is for book 1, Alpha and Omega. If you’d like me to post the purchase links for the series, just yell!

  3. Kathleen Bylsma says:

    Well my goodness! This is a corker! Quite the introduction!
    Thanks, Karen and Stephanie!

    • Thank YOU! I’m glad you got a kick out of it! It was an AWFUL lot of fun to write!

      A Very UnCONventional Christmas is book 3 of the Division One series, and the special giveaway is for book 1, Alpha and Omega. If you’d like me to post the purchase links for the series, just yell!

  4. ELF says:

    What a fun excerpt! Thanks for sharing.

  5. bn100 says:

    lots of books in the series

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