Monday, October 31, 2011

Women's Fiction Month: Meander Scar by Lisa Lickel

We're starting off Women's Fiction Month with this wonderful novel by Lisa J. Lickel.

Ann Ballard’s husband, Gene, has to be dead. After seven years of no word, no clues, she is more than ready to get her stagnant life flowing again in a positive direction. When former neighbor Mark Roth, now a respected attorney, shows up and wants to help with the legal aspects, she wonders if she can accept his attractive offer.

Mark has loved Ann forever. She was the only one who supported him when his own family was unavailable. Through gentle wooing, Mark convinces Ann that his dream of happiness for them can come true. Together they face disapproving family members and the legal maneuverings of Gene’s elite family. In a bizarre twist of fate, Ann learns what happened to her husband. How can she tell the truth when it may ruin more lives--hers included?

Just when Ann and Mark overcome the last hurdle, their lives hit the hardest rock of all. Now it's Mark's turn to be truthful to Ann, himself, and the faith he professes.

Read the reviews!

"Lisa Lickel’s Meander Scar challenges us to rethink our ideas of love–to venture past the superficial so that we can focus on the heart, regardless of its packaging. This novel has a little bit of everything: conspiracy, a glimpse of high-society, romance, hatred, passion, mercy–practically the entire gamut of human emotions all wrapped up in about two hundred and thirty pages...Lisa Lickel turns our ideas of 'Romeo and Juliet Romances' on their ears in a story that will keep you turning the pages long into the night."

--Christian Book Reviews 
"I truly loved and appreciated this book. Every bit of it -- story, plot, writing, setting, and characters! Everything about it was unique."

--Shawna K. Williams on The New Book Review as blogged by Carolyn Howard-Johnson

Lisa’s book has got to be one of the most tender, touching, romantic love stories I’ve ever read.  The intensity of the characters’ feelings and relationships are intricately developed and oh so real-to-life, warts and all.  That intensity follows through to the very end of the book...A great read!"

--Onedesertrose, Amazon.com




PURCHASE MEANDER SCAR AT AMAZON.COM IN PAPERBACK AND KINDLE EDITIONS. ALSO AVAILABLE AT BARNESANDNOBLE.COM!


Lisa is a Wisconsin writer who lives with her husband in a hundred and sixty-year-old house built by a Great Lakes ship captain. Surrounded by books and dragons, she writes inspiring fiction. Her novels include mystery and romance, all with a twist of grace. She has penned dozens of feature newspaper stories, short stories, magazine articles and radio theater. She is the editor in chief of Creative Wisconsin Magazine and of OtherSheep, a Christian sci fi/fantasy magazine. She loves to encourage new authors. Her next books releases soon: A Summer in Oakville, with Shellie Neumeier, is the story of saving the family farm, with a lot of love and faith mixed in, coming in September from BlackLyon books. Find her at LisaLickel.com.


Book Spotlight: Empire of Light by Gregory Earls

Jason Tisse is in over his head. As a young black cinematography student at LA’s notoriously tough American Film Institute, he’s got the vision, but not the balls to battle the ruthlessness that is Hollywood. After a failed year at AFI, which includes nearly electrocuting a fellow classmate, Jason embarks on a trip to Europe to hunt down the works of his favorite painter. Armed with an enchanted camera gifted to him by an eccentric film professor, Jason is prepared to master the art of light and shadow as depicted in the infamous baroque artwork of the original Emperor of Light known to the rest of the world as Caravaggio.

What Jason doesn’t expect, however, is that the innocent-looking Kodak Brownie camera he’s been given holds remarkable powers, capable of miraculously bringing his idol’s artwork alive with each snapshot. Caravaggio’s work, packed full of sex, religion, violence and some outrageous hilarity, explodes to life and sends Jason spiraling from one escapade to the next. Spanning the bright lights of Paris, the grand churches of Rome and the cutthroat alleys of Naples, Jason must overcome his inhibitions—even at the risk of life and limb—if he is to one day rule his own Empire of Light.

Read an excerpt!



Chapter 1


The Gospel of Light

I CAN ONLY STARE at Pan’s cigarette, inexplicably dangling from his thin bottom lip, as I wait for his arms to explode away from his body. I’m pretty convinced that at any second now a bolt of lightning is going to punch through his skinny chest and burn his organs to shit before making a mad escape into the ground.

I stand a safe distance away and watch and wait.

His tools are laid neatly on a cart, like surgical gear in a Swiss operating room. And for once, he doesn’t have an iPod plugged into his ears, pushing 160 gigs of noise into his vibrating skull. Today he is focused and serious. I’ve never seen him act so responsibly, and this is a very big reason why I’m beginning to freak the fuck out.

When Pan isn’t wrangling electricity for me, he’s a beach bum who gets off on surfing through the pier pylons at Venice Beach. He doesn’t believe in condoms, and he screws girls who look as if they gargle with tepid mugs of whorehouse Jacuzzi water. If you ever see someone as reckless as Pan acting this cautious, run, because something incredibly stupid is going down.

The energy flowing through this junction box is raw, a constant flow of lightning, harnessed to run this warehouse. I didn’t have the dough to rent a generator to light my set, so I hired Pan as my gaffer to crack open the box and siphon away a dollop of electricity. It’s free power, if you survive the tap. However, if Pan slips and allows his body to complete a circuit, he’ll be dead before his shaved head bounces off the concrete floor.

And it would be my fault.

Me. A first year Cinematography Fellow at the American Film Institute and, just maybe, future manslaughter defendant.

Pan moves cautiously as he attaches the final unstable lead. I catch myself squinting in anticipation of detonation.

Screw this.

This is way too dangerous. I need to be an adult and figure another way to power the set.

“Pan. I’m thinking we should just—”



PHOOM!



Pan spasms at an inhuman speed.

His wrench explodes from his hand and skips wildly across the floor. His fist flies towards me and punches me in the chest. Before I know it, we’re both on the ground and all is quiet again.

“Pan, are you okay?” I ask, hoping he’s alive to answer.

“Yep, bro. I’m good,” he says, lying as stiff as a board.

I look around, still trying to figure out just what the hell happened, when I notice the wrench impaled in the wall on the far side of the room.

“Whoa…”

Pan follows my gaze and spots the wrench.

“WOOOOH! Outstanding!” he screams as he leaps up from the ground in joy like he had just gone for a ride in an F-16.

“I did the dance, bro! Did you fucking see that?”

“Dance?” I ask in shock. “You were almost killed!”

“WHOOO!” is his only response.

Enough of this nonsense.

I put on my gloves.

I’m going to finish this job.

I’m in fight or flight mode, and I can already feel the adrenalin flowing into my body. I snatch the wrench out of the damn wall and march back to the power-box. However, to my surprise, I find myself stopping in front of Pan and holding the wrench out to him. I suddenly realize that my adrenalin wasn’t pumping so I could fight the power-box, but so I could run the hell away from it.

How ‘bout that?

Pan stares at me and lights up a new cigarette. He pops a drag of smoke as he looks down at my gloved hand. He reads the evidence and chuckles out loud. I put the gloves on to finish the job, but then I went coward before getting within five feet of the box. He blows the smoke into the air before gently taking the tool out of my shaking hand.

“S’okay,” he says as he turns his back on me and goes about finishing the tap. “It’s all good here.”

If I watch anymore of this, I’m going to vomit.

“If you’re good, I’m going to the set—”

“You go do what you must do, boss man,” he interrupts. “I’ll come find you when we’re hot.”

Boss man? Screw you, Pan.

As I head down the hall, I hear him begin to whistle, happily. I stop and look back at him working away like one of the goddamn seven dwarfs. Now that the taps are in place, the rest of his job is cake. He survived and now he has a bitchin’ story to tell the rest of the crew. I’ll be nothing but a stupid punch line.

Of course I don’t even make it back to the set. After helping unload the grip truck and sorting out a last minute Certificate of Insurance for my dolly rental, half the day is already gone. Pan completed the tap without killing himself, and at first I didn’t want to see it, but curiosity is getting the best of me. I’ll just take a peek before making my way to the set.

“Oh, Christ.”

You don’t have to be an electrician to know that this just ain’t right. It’s a rape. The power-box mounted on the wall like a prisoner, hanging helplessly with massive black cables clamped to its studs. It’s an unstable hot mess. I had the crew link 100 foot stingers from the power-box and out to the production set so that the violation can stay hidden. In my mind, the stingers are nothing more than my mom’s holiday extension cords that lead back to an ordinary wall plug where a Glade PlugIn is on the top socket, churning out puffs of Apple Cinnamon scent.

I meander back onto the set and realize that I’ve been so worried about the power and stupid insurance that I’ve neglected my lighting. It looks like hell. And learning to light is why I’m here in the first place!

Two weeks ago I wasn’t even really sure just what the hell cinematographers did. I knew they were responsible for pumping enough light onto the set so that the camera could record a healthy image, but a monkey could do that. What I’m clueless about is how to tell a story with light, how to move people with it.

The director is nowhere to be seen. Cool! I have time to maybe tweak one light. Maybe I can do something… artsy? I put my gloves back on and head for the Key Light, jumping onto an apple box and reaching for the barn door.

“Where are we? Are we lit?” Like some demonic wood sprite, the director, Maal, appears out of nowhere just as I reach the light’s barn door.

Shit! I can’t catch a break!

“Hey, Maal,” I say.

He ignores me as he inspects my lighting.

He stands majestically in the middle of the set, like one of his Senegalese warrior ancestors, his head panning and taking in every inch of my lighting set up. He shows no emotion as he speaks down to me with his cool French-African accent.

“Are you happy with this lighting, Jason?” he asks calmly.

“Yeah, but I could tweak—”

“No,” he interrupts and marches toward the monitor. “Let’s get this over with. Where are my actors?”

The Assistant Director runs onto the set just as Maal asks the question. “Sorry, but we need fifteen more minutes for make-up.”

“What are you talking about? They’ve had all morning!”

The set comes to a halt. Nobody has ever heard this very Zen-like artist scream before. The A.D. gathers himself. “I had make-up come in later because I knew we’d be unloading for most of the morning and—”

“Stop,” he interrupts. “I’m going outside for a smoke. Get me when they’re ready.”

Now, I could use these fifteen minutes to have the crew fix my lighting, but I’m not. Why? Because I’m afraid of my own crew. How messed up is that? Here’s the deal, a lot of these people already had professional careers as Camera Assistants or Gaffers before coming to AFI. Me? I just graduated from Central State University, a small black college back in Ohio, three months ago. Ordering around a guy that just pulled focus on the last three Ridley Scott commercials is just not all that easy. So my flight mode kicks in again, and I escape beneath the loading dock where I pop open a can of Coke, sit back and guzzle.

“Fucking disaster!” Maal screams as he storms onto the dock above me with Pan in tow. “How the hell did I get stuck with this fool?”

“The guy’s just green. He’s only twenty-two,” Pan says in my defense.

“I’m all for giving somebody a shot. If AFI wants to save a spot for some kid from the sticks, fine by me. But I didn’t drop twenty-thousand large to babysit some idiot from Iowa.”

“Jason’s from Ohio.”

“Both states have four letters and mean nothing to me.”

Maal and Pan look out towards the Los Angles skyline in thought, as if regretting what has to be done next.

Maal finally says it.

“I need you to take this over.”

Oh, this is just great.

“You’re going to fire him?”

“Can’t do that. He paid his tuition just like we did. You just need to take it over.”

Pan thinks about it. “Naw, Maal. I can’t get down with that,” he finally says. “I’ve got my own projects to light, man. I’m not here to put my work on somebody else’s reel.”

“So I’m just screwed.”

“Calm down, dude. The only reason I didn’t help Jason with the first set-up was because I was too busy gaffing the tie-in. I’ll get him through it all okay and your video will look great. So give us all a break and chill with the Survivor alliance bullshit.”

Way to go, Pan. Tell that jerk, what for.

“I hope you’re right,” says Maal as they both stomp out their cigarettes and head back into the warehouse. “Nice work on that tie-in, by the way. I guess I owe Jason at least that. That’s the only thing he’s done right.”

“I wanna go home,” I mumble to myself.

After five minutes of this mantra, I suddenly notice that the din of noise coming from the set has died down to nothing. Did they really roll camera without me? I scramble up the loading dock and burst onto the set.

“What the hell?”

Empty…

It’s as if the rapture hit just as I was praying to Jesus that Maal die a horrible Ebola death.

I stand in slack-jawed silence, that is, until I hear murmurs coming from the direction of the power tap. I follow the twisting path of the black stingers, which lead me back to my crime scene. All eyes turn on me as I enter the room. There I find the entire cast and crew, including a pissed off Maal, and five grim members of the Los Angeles Fire Department. They’re all staring at the illegal power tap that up until six minutes ago was the only right thing I had done all day.

The dour-faced Captain looks too damn tired to hear any of my excuses. Is it really possible that I screwed up and managed to get us shut down on the first day of the shoot? I mean, come on. It can’t really go there, can it?

The Captain takes off his helmet and wipes the sweat from his brow.

“All of you, get the fuck out!”


Read the reviews!


"...Gregory Earls did a fantastic job in drawing me in and making me wish I was there with Jason."

--You Wanna Know What I Think?



PURCHASE EMPIRE OF LIGHT AT AMAZON.COM!

When Gregory Earls isn’t eating at Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles, he pays the bills by taking up space at 20th Century Fox in the Feature Post Production Department. He’s a proud graduate of Norfolk State University and the American Film Institute, where he studied cinematography. He’s an award-winning director who has amassed a reel of short films, music videos, and (yes) a wedding video or two. Steadfastly butchering the Italian language since 2002, he hopes to someday master the language just enough to inform his in-laws how much he loves their daughter, Stefania, who was born and raised in Milan, Italy. Gregory currently resides in Venice, California where he goes giddy every time he spots that dude who roller skates and plays the electric guitar at the same time. During football season, he can be found at the Stovepiper Lounge, a Cleveland Browns bar in the Valley where he roots for the greatest football team in the history of Cleveland.


Visit his website at www.gregoryearls.com.


Sunday, October 30, 2011

Horror Novel Month: The Black Chronicles: Cry of the Fallen by Joel Andre

We are without power from the latest extreme weather to hit Western Mass this year. I am posting this remotely and hope to be back home soon.




All around her Lauren Bruni is faced with destruction. Her marriage has ended, and her professional life is at the breaking point. For Lauren, this is only the beginning of her pain.

In the small town of Cottonwood, AZ everything seems to be headed in the same direction. A serial killer is on the loose, and his trail of victims holds no connection. His rampage escalates and becomes far more brutal with each murder he commits.

As Lauren attempts to prevent her own life from collapsing down around her she must stop a killer with supernatural strength. But there is something far more sinister in the works than she could ever imagine. In the end it is up to Lauren to make the ultimate sacrifice to save a community from the purest form of evil.

Read the excerpt!


Ashen smoke covered the, once radiant, blue skies of the Verde Valley. Controlled burns were in full swing as the summer season quickly approached. The heat of Arizona this time of year could prove to be deadly, especially in the thirsty desert foothills.

From her front porch, Lilia Sanders looked at the clouds of smoke that rose in the air. The purple mountains, covered with patches of green, always amazed her.

This was the whole point of her moving to Cottonwood, Arizona. The clean, dry air and amazing views were truly a Godsend. With her horrific allergies, the desert had proven to be the perfect place for her to seek refuge.

Closing her eyes, she inhaled deeply, as the smell of mesquite tickled her nose. In this area, there were so many different plants that she could enjoy. The Saguaro cacti were, in her mind, animated versions of Gumby she remembered as a child. At dusk, they would be there to guard her from the dangers that the night can bring. At their base, a number of prickly pear cacti, mesquite bushes, and native grasses littered the ground.

Certainly, there was no reason she couldn’t own a home with a yard, but one of the benefits of living in the desert was that gravel and a natural feeling were okay. Especially with the cost associated with keeping grass.

Standing up for a moment, she dusted off the back of her blue jeans. One downfall of the desert was the amount of dirt that seemed to get everywhere. As she passed the window, she took a look at herself. Her once raven black hair was now streaked with strands of gray and her emerald green eyes weren’t as bright as they had been when she first arrived in the Verde Valley.

Smiling a wrinkled grin, it was all okay with her. She was alive, and that was all that truly mattered. Getting older was a part of life. This is the part that most people forget to enjoy, but not Lilia. She relished being able to watch the beautiful sunsets and the mysteries of the desert that the monsoons created as the water surged across the land.

An old white mail truck slowly made its way down the street toward Lilia’s home. Taking a quick glance at it, she just shook her head. The old man waved his hand slightly at her. Smiling, she nodded her head warmly. At that moment, she didn’t have thirty minutes to talk foolishness with Carl the mailman. There was an appointment she must get to; however, her gentle nature prevented her from being rude. Walking out to the mailbox, she met his eyes and smiled again.

“I’ve missed you Lilia.” He winked at her. “You are the most important stop on my mail route.”

“I’m sure Carl.” Her words were even-toned. “Is your day going alright?”

“It remains the same as usual.” He laughed as his brittle yellow teeth appeared from behind his caked lips.

“You look thirsty Carl.” Lilia sighed. “When did you last have some water?”

“You know I hate the stuff,” he scoffed and playfully pushed her. “Maybe I can come in and get some.”

“Some water perhaps,” she quipped, and turned, while Carl playfully slapped her on the rear as she made her way back toward the porch.

“Carl,” she growled. “I don’t have time for your games today. I am sorry for being short, but I have a very important appointment.”

“Aww, come on Lil. Why do you keep playing hard to get,” he demanded. “Don’t you see how excited you have me?”

“I’ll give you some water and a swift kick in the ass,” she chuckled.

“Tell you what my sweet little Lil, I’ve got a package in the back of my truck. When you bring me the water, I’ll give it to you.” He winked at her devilishly.

As she turned once again towards the house, she rolled her eyes. Carl was certainly harmless, but she didn’t appreciate the attention he gave her at times. There was nothing wrong with being friends, she just couldn’t understand why he continued to harass her.

From the south, a warm breeze smacked the back of her neck, and she could feel the sweat begin to bead up. She made her way for the old wooden door that was in desperate need of paint, and pushed it open.

Cool air blasted her face as she entered her home. The smell of furniture polish and stale smoke made her eyes water. She hated the way that the smoke smelled, but quitting wasn’t an option at all.

Turning to look behind her, she noticed that Carl had gotten back into his mail truck and was nervously looking around. The man was all talk and no action, but this pleased her to no end.

Walking to the kitchen, she opened a wooden cupboard and dug through the glasses in it. There were a number of chipped and cracked glasses, she didn’t mind using herself, but she tried to avoid giving them to company. In the back, she found a decent sized glass with a blue hue to it.

Pulling it out, she walked over to her freezer and began to fill it with ice cubes. Counting out exactly ten, she dipped down to her refrigerator, pulled out a bottle of spring water and filled the glass.

Water was scarce in the desert, and the nearby wells were loaded with minerals and heavy metals that were native to the area. Bottled water was the one luxury that Lilia afforded herself.

With glass in hand, she stepped out of the air-conditioned home and was immediately welcomed with a blast of hot air. Sweat once again began to bead around her neck. It seemed hotter now and she felt her skin begin to moisten under her white tank top.

Making her way over to Carl, she noticed he was staring straight ahead. His knuckles were pure white against the black steering wheel in his hand. He remained unmoving even as she approached.

“Carl,” she called out to him.

No response. The unmoving man left a sense of dread in Lilia’s stomach. Was he another victim of dehydration, or could it be a case of heat stroke, like what happened to those poor immigrant workers in Phoenix the other day? Perhaps he was just slightly overheated. Quickly picking up the pace, she scampered over to the side of the car and placed a hand on his shoulder. His head did turn, but, she could barely hear him breathe.

“Are you okay,” she demanded, and shoved the water in his face. “Drink this Carl, you’re overheating!”

Again, there was no response. As she placed a hand on his shoulder, she then noticed for the first time his right eye and the tears that were seeping from it.

“Why are you crying?” She anxiously demanded.

Pain paralyzed his face, and although Lilia tried to figure out what the problem was, he sat there frozen. His eyes remained unmoving.

Finally, she shook him hard and his head bobbed enough for her to see the trickle of blood seeping down his left side. Taking a step back, she watched as he convulsed slightly and moaned.

As she embraced her friend, she grimaced at the sight. Where the left side of his face had once been, his left eye just hung swaying in the wind. The muscle and tissue now exposed with the cheekbone poking out. Lilia screamed a horrified cry, as she felt the waves of nausea flow over her.

“Carl? What happened?” she demanded.

Turning, she began to run toward her front door. She knew she needed to call 9-1-1. If he stood a chance of living, it would be up to her.

As she grabbed the front door, she felt herself being flung back. It seemed surreal, as the front door began to blast backwards until she felt her body slammed hard against the mail truck.
The crack of her bones and muffled cries filled her ears. Around her, the world began to spin around in violent waves, and she fought to remain conscious.

Move Lilia. She thought. If you don’t move, you’re going to die.

Giving it all she had, she attempted to push herself forward. However, all she could muster was only enough to cause her body to scream in pain.

As blood seeped from her mouth, she began to look around. Her house was intact. There had been no explosion, and no apparent reason for the incident.

Then, she noticed the polished, black cowboy boots to her right. Trying to look up, she couldn’t see anything past the stranger’s knees.

“Who are you?” she demanded. “Why are you doing this?”

Among fits of coughing and struggling to breathe, she couldn’t hear a sound from the man before her. He was simply standing over her. It was almost liked he enjoyed the chance to watch her die.

Giving it all she had, she reached for the cowboy boots and weakly clawed at them.

Finally, he spoke. His words were as cold as the distant San Francisco Peaks.

“Don’t fuck up my boots.”

The muscled legs moved back and then slammed down hard on her hand. The bones inside crushing, and pain shot through her body. She wished she was dead now. Lilia knew that death would be far less painful.

Almost as if the man understood, he took a step closer to her, and he let the steel toe of his boot finish the job.

Darkness began to enclose Lilia, and soon there was nothing more for her to feel, as Death welcomed her into its’ loving arms.

Read the reviews!

“For lovers of horror, Cry of the Fallen is, quite frankly, a devilish delight. Joel Andre has the incredible talent to bring the reader right in to the midst of the story and his magnanimous use of description will leave the reader reeling. This is a story whose shock value runs high and will definitely leave the reader wondering which way is up. As I read, I felt as though I was watching a movie playing out around me. The story runs amazingly smoothly, consistently and never has a “down” time. With constant action and a continuous “creep factor”, Cry of the Fallen is a story that screams to be read quickly and without interruption.”

– Cafe of Dreams Book Reviews

“…an enjoyable read that leaves you guessing. Definitely recommended reader for your Halloween enjoyment!”

– Confessions of an Overworked Mom

"This is a first class horror/suspense story. "

- Donna's Blog Home

"I VERY highly recommend this book! Joel has really become one of my very favorite authors and I will be anxiously awaiting his next book!"

--Life in Review

"Joel combines a fantastic type of dark humor, with creepy horror and suspense, and turns out a novel that will hook the reader and leave them looking over their shoulders..."

--Reviews by Molly

PURCHASE THE BLACK CHRONICLES: CRY OF THE FALLEN AT AMAZON OR SMASHWORDS!

Originally, Joel wanted to be a poet growing up….but then things began to change for him. People took notice of his off the wall tales, and encouraged him to go in a new direction. That is why he is proud to deliver some of the most unique tales to date.

From, A Death at the North Pole, (a new revised edition is coming in 2011) to, Kill 4 Me, and his newest addition to his books The Black Chronicles: Cry of the Fallen, Joel has taken readers across the world, and painted worlds that are dark, sometimes comical and always exciting.

If you haven’t had the chance to read anything by Joel M. Andre, then pick up the new book today…..it will be a tale that plays with your fear and opens your mind.

Visit Joel online at http://joelmandre.info/

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Horror Novel Month: Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator by Karina Fabian

By the 2040s, the shambling dead have become and international problem. While governments and special interest groups vie for the most environmentally-friendly way to rid the world of zombies, a new breed of exterminator has risen: The Zombie Exterminator. When zombie exterminator Neeta Lyffe gets sued because a zombie she set afire stumbles onto a lawyer's back porch, she needs money, fast. So she agrees to train apprentice exterminators in a reality TV show that makes Survivor look like a game of tag. But that's nothing compared to having to deal with crazy directors, bickering contestants and paparazzi. Can she keep her ratings up, her bills paid and her apprentices alive and still keep her sanity?

Read an excerpt!

The workout room had a weights set and an elliptical in one corner, but Neeta ignored them. She needed more vigorous exercise than that if she wanted to burn off her emotional funk.


None of the plebes had done the routine she'd just set for herself. It didn't really reflect the reality of zombie movements, either. Although the crew had designed the targets to look much like actual undead, they moved too quickly, changed direction too suddenly, lunged and retreated in ways zombies couldn't imitate. They zigged and zaggged, dropped from the ceiling to zoom back up, flung themselves from the ground to trip the unwary. For once, this wasn't about training.

Neeta steeled herself, found an opening and dove in with a roar. She swung high, tagging the first zombie with the edge of her blade just as it got within her reach.

This was about reflexes,

She jumped over the arm that sprung up in front of her, doing the splits as she brought down her chainsaw to slice the hand off at the wrist.

…about burning aggression,

She spun a full circle, moving the saw in a sine wave. She took one target out at the knees, sliced another sideways across the chest, beheaded a third.

…about moving beyond thought and planning and negotiations with writers and directors and people who cared more for ratings than lives,


She lunged, spun, kicked and swung, her battle cries a perfect accompaniment to the pounding music.

A buzzer sounded, and the lights brightened and steadied. The targets stopped their frenetic motions and presented themselves for her to examine. She dropped the saw where she stood and braced her hands against her knees to catch her breath. Her arms felt like lead. A good feeling. She moved among the grimacing targets, noting the strikes that would have severed limbs, the ones that would have beheaded... When she came to the long-haired one with the pot belly, she gave a feral grin.

She's landed the blade in perfect position to slice Dave's manic smile right off his face.

Read the reviews!

"Funniest. Zombies. EVER! I laughed so hard I cried at times….. I highly recommend it to everyone."

--You Gotta Read Book Reviews

"Fabian shines in her ability to create believable supporting characters (with distinctive personalities full of their own idiosyncrasies and quirks… With zombie fever raging across America with the phenomenon of AMC's Walking Dead, lovers of the genre will certainly enjoy Fabian's spin on things. Neeta is to zombies what Buffy is to vampires!"

--Examiner.com

"At long last, a zombie book with some life in it! With Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator, Karina Fabian--taking a break from astro-nuns and gumshoed dragons--has produced something that stands out—a zombie tale that is a direct-hit satire of modern American culture (and anti-culture).

--Walt Staples


PURCHASE NEETA LYFFE, ZOMBIE EXTERMINATOR AT AMAZON!

From zombie exterminators to dragon detectives to nuns in space, Karina Fabian's universes make readers laugh, cry and think. Winner of the 2007 EPPIE Award for best sci-fi and the 2010 INDIE Award for best fantasy, she lets her characters take her where they will and is never disappointed. Karina Fabian is married to Colonel Robert Fabian. They and their four kids call home wherever the Air Force sends them. Learn more at www.fabianspace.com.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Guest Blogger: Dana Pratola, Author of The Covering

Today's special guest is Dana Pratola, author of The Covering.

Gunnar doesn’t think he’s worth saving – if there is such a thing. He doesn’t want anything from a God who failed him so bad in the past. Tessa is determined to keep him alive. But how much can she do when he refuses to be helped?

Opposites Attract by Dana Pratola

Tessa loves the Lord and does her best to serve Him. Gunnar wants no part of a God Who failed him so badly in the past. She’s genial and sweet, always willing to help. He’s arrogant and hostile and wants nothing more than to be left alone. Well maybe one thing…death. What better recipe for love?


The concept of opposites attracting works well in the pages of my book, but what is it that draws two people from vastly different planes and experiences to one another in real life?

Let’s look at a typical “good girl” falls for “bad boy” scenario. I took a poll recently, asking what makes a “bad boy”, and what is it that people find attractive about them? Most said a bad boy is someone who doesn’t conform to rules but does their own thing their own way. Also, a man who had a dangerous job or performed dangerous tasks could be considered a bad boy by some. Once the definition was established, I asked why someone (an opposite) would be interested. Excitement was the primary answer when applied to the bay boy.

What of men who aren’t skirting danger every day, or keeping women on the verge of temptation with their brooding eyes and crooked smirks? Those for whom excitement isn’t looming on the horizon? The every guy?

I’m sure there’s some clinical label that encapsulates the reason, but in my observation it’s human nature to want what we cannot have. It’s true of possessions, job opportunities, dietary restrictions, and I think it applies not only to people in general, but specifically to character traits. We’re often drawn to those who possess qualities we wish we had.

But I also happen to believe it’s God’s way of providing a means to develop those qualities we’re lacking in ourselves. If not for our mutual love of Christ and a love of walking in the woods my husband, Rob, and I would have virtually nothing in common. I’m pretty laid back, he’s intense; I’m not a big worrier, he stresses over most things; I’m always right, he’s always wrong. Yet somehow the relationship works, not always smoothly, but well-enough to maintain a 30 year relationship. Part of the reason is he had qualities I wanted. For example he’s an extrovert and thinks nothing of being the first to enter a room of strangers or confront someone on an issue. Things that make me – an introvert – uncomfortable.

Whatever your opinion, there’s no question opposites attract. Just keep in mind that on the novel page, opposites work best when they’re pitted against one another. In real life, not so much.

You can purchase The Covering at:

Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/Covering-Dana-Pratola/dp/1611161010/


White Rose Publishing: http://www.pelicanbookgroup.com/ec/index.php

Barnes and Noble.com http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-covering-dana-pratola/1104473665?ean=9781611161014&itm=4


Dana Pratola is a 47 yr. old mother of 3, married 25 yrs. The Lord is her Savior, writing is her passion and publishing inspirational books that show the grace of God is her ministry. You can visit Dana online at www.danapratola.webs.com

Pump Up Live Chat Tonight!

WE’RE HAVING A PARTY!!!!


Strike up the band and join the chorus…Pump Up Your Book will be hosting the October 2011 Authors on Tour at a chat/book giveaway party on Friday, October 28, 2011 starting at 8 p.m. eastern (7 p.m. Central, 6 p.m. Mountain and 5 p.m. Pacific) and ending at 10:30 p.m. (eastern time). Tell your book friends that not only will this give them an opportunity to chat with their favorite authors there will be a huge giveaway at the end of the chat!

* 8 p.m. eastern * 7 p.m. Central * 6 p.m. Mountain * 5 p.m. Pacific *

Here’s how it will work:

The party will kick off at our brand new chat room with an approximate 2 to 3 hour chat in which all authors touring with Pump Up Your Book in October 2011 will get a certain time slot to answer questions. All time slots are listed below so you’ll know when your favorite author is going to appear. When the party winds down, it’s time to dish out the goodies! All winners will be announced below after the chat is over so be sure to check this page to see if you’ve won a prize! If you are a winner, you have 48 hours to contact us in order to win your prize. We will be using Random.org to determine winners.

CLICK HERE TO ENTER CHAT ROOM

In order to get into the chat room, you will need to click on the link above and put in your real name. Only those with real names are eligible to win prizes. Ignore the part that says password, and hit Login. The chat room will magically appear before your eyes!


The doors will open at 7:45 to allow everyone to get in and the first author will start at 8:15. Because of the amount of authors participating, we have extended our usual end of the month chats to 3 hours. You do not have to stay the full 3 hours to win prizes. All you have to do is ask one of the authors a question to be eligible.

You have to be logged in under your real name as no prizes will be distributed under false names.

Once the chat starts and the first author is announced, all questions will then be directed to that particular author for the 10 minute timed segment. If you ask a question during the time limit and the it’s time for the next author, the author still can answer the question. PLEASE NO CHIT CHAT WHEN THE AUTHOR IS TAKING QUESTIONS OUT OF COURTESY TO THE AUTHOR.

Because the authors only have 10 minutes to answer your questions, it would help to get acquainted with them before the chat and start writing down your questions to ask. You must ask a question to be eligible to win prizes.

Prizes include free books and a Kindle giveaway valued at $79!

Horror Novel Month: Frightliner: And Other Tales of the Undead by Karina Fabian and Colleen Drippe

A truck-driving vampire terrorizes Interstate 10 in New Mexico and Texas. When he targets trucker Jay Carlson, Jay finds himself unwillingly teaming up with an illegal alien and a tough-talking custodian--both of whom claim to be vampire hunters.  However, they are injured in the fight, and Jay will have to conquer his disbelief and destroy the vampire himself before it kills them all.

Read the excerpt!

Of course that was why he had not come out to check on her, she thought with a surge of relief. He probably thought it was an abandoned car. But now--she stepped out onto the gravel, hearing for the first time how loud the crickets sang. She smelled the strong scent of the cooling air. Too early for snow. Too warm, still anyway, though she cursed herself for not thinking to put on jeans before making her big exit. She peered at the cab, but nothing moved.


“Hello!” she called, moving closer. She could not make out a logo on the truck. It was dark, dark paint. She had an impression that the shape was--not wrong exactly, but not usual. It was an older model, she decided. An old truck.

She had reached the door.

“Anyone there?” she called, hesitating to step up and look inside. What if something had happened to the driver? What if he were dead? What if she opened the door and a body spilled out onto the road?

But that was silly. He had just pulled up. Probably he was rummaging around in his berth for some tools.

But what if he was dead? What if she took hold of the door and--and what if he was right there, watching her?

She had almost decided to go back to her own car. But the thought of the semi parked behind her, silently cutting its chunk from the sky, was in some strange way even more frightening than opening the door. She reached up for the handle and pulled herself up level with the window.

The handle turned in her hand.

It was then she knew she had done the wrong thing. If only someone else had come--she prayed for someone else. A cop. Even a car full of good old boys. Anyone.

The crickets fairly screamed their shrill and mindless song, the scent of the Russian knapweed was overpowering. But it wasn’t strong enough to hide another smell, a dark earthy smell. A smell of death mellowed by long usage.

The door opened.

Reba froze, clutching the handle, balancing there with the driver’s seat in front of her. She tried to speak, to call, but nothing would come out. She hung there, thinking of death, while the night passed and the stars moved and the moon looked in over her shoulder. Finally, she climbed into the truck.

“Daniel,” she whimpered. She was ready to forgive the new pickup, but it was too late. Something moved in the back and she turned in the driver’s seat and saw a pale face, caught in the moonlight, eyes gleaming. She had an impression of lank hair, grizzled beard. And then two hands reached up to take her shoulders and she saw the mouth open.

Read the reviews!

"...touches reminiscent of some of Stephen King's better efforts without actual aping his style. The protagonist is everyman, the people he meets are everyone, his allies are mortal, and the Evil is ancient."

--Walt Staples

PURCHASE A COPY OF FRIGHTLINER AT AMAZON!


Karina Fabian: Karina Fabian writes fantasy and science fiction, with the occasional foray into the world of horror. Her first novel, Magic, Mensa and Mayhem, the 2010 INDIE Award for best fantasy. Her latest book, the comedic horror, Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator, was a top ten in the Preditor and Editor reader’s polls and winner of the Global E-Book Award for best horror. Learn more about her works at http://fabianspace.com/.


Colleen Drippe has been writing since age 6 and has had a lot of science fiction, a moderate amount of horror and fantasy, and assorted nonfiction scattered throughout the small press and online. She also writes for children and has had three children's books published so far (The Little Blue House, Christmas at the Little Blue House, and Mystery at Miners’ Creek) and another one (Growing with the Little Blue House) due out any day. She has had one sf book published (Godcountry) and another (Gelen!) coming out this year. She is the former editor of Hereditas (of happy memory but dried up funding) and is currently working on another sf book along with various other projects.

Shoe Done It by Grace Carroll Giveaway at Debbie's Book Bag

Stop by Debbie's Book Bag to see what kinds of book giveaways she's running right now, like this one for Shoe Done It (An Accessories Mystery) by Grace Carroll.

If you enjoy cozy mysteries, this book might be up your alley. Check out this giveaway at http://debsbookbag.blogspot.com/2011/10/review-and-giveaway-shoe-done-it.html.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Book Review: A Christmas Journey Home by Kathi Macias

After her siblings and parents are murdered in gang-and drug-related violence in Mexico, Isabella Alcantara's grandfather begs her to flee the country with her husband, Francisco. Her abuelo uses his life savings to hire a "coyote" to take a very pregnant Isabella and Francisco across the border. The young couple soon finds themselves alone in the desert and without a penny.

Miriam Nelson lives on a small farm along the Arizona border. Her faith is put to the test when her husband, a border patrol agent, is murdered in a skirmish with drug smugglers. Now the sole support of their son, Davey, the only help she has is her mother, whose health is in question.

As Isabella's due date arrives, she finds herself alone without any idea of how she will care for her baby. Their paths destined to collide, these two women soon discover a common yearning that binds them together.

Outstanding! A modern-day nativity story that blends a ripped from the headlines situation, a crisis of faith, and a grandfather's intercession. I think I have discovered a new favorite book by Kathi Macias.

With her masterful hand, Macias wows the reader with this story that tackles the issue of illegal immigration so prevalent in today's news. Portrayed in an even-handed way, you may never look at this issue the same again. Just like Joan Hochstetler did with One Holy Night, Macias weaves a tale that tugs at your heart and brings the reader to kneel before the feet of the Prince of Peace.

A superb story, don't be surprised if reading A Christmas Journey Home becomes one of your family's holiday traditions. Don't miss this one!

Title: A Christmas Journey Home
Author:  Kathi Macias
Publisher:  New Hope Publishers
ISBN-10: 1596693282
ISBN-13: 978-1596693289
SRP:  $12.99


The author paid me to promote her book with a virtual book tour through Pump Up Your Book. That fee did not include a review. I have received no monetary compensation of any kind to provide my honest opinions.

Book Spotlight: Boogedyman by AP Miller

“What if the Boogeyman was real?”

Plagued by horrific boogeyman nightmares since childhood, Murray Thompson is deathly afraid of the things that he thinks “go bump in the night”. The one thing that keeps him grounded is his psychiatrist of many years, Dr. Rosen. With regular visits since he was 11 years old, Murray feels progress should have been made already, but with his dreams becoming more intense and “real”, he thinks something needs to be done. Going to see his family, Murray believes that this is the break he needs to keep sane. Feeling at home, and safe around his family, it works for a time. But when the nightmares start up again, he once more relies on Dr. Rosen for help. Once back, Dr. Rosen takes Murray on a journey to root out his longtime phobia and find out if there is cause for his fear or all in his mind.

Read an excerpt!

Prologue

The clouds perforated the moonlit sky in a dance macabre. The street lamplight’s bulb flickered, and blew out.

The sound of a cat screeched through the nearby alleyway as it knocked over the lid of a steel trash can it had been hiding under for shelter. Along the heavily tree-lined, dimly lit street, cars were neatly parked while their owners nestled inside the safety of their homes, sleeping soundly.

Sixteen year-old Abigail Moorehouse walked home as usual after her shift at the all night diner. With her mp3 player tucked neatly in her jeans pocket, she plugged the earphones tightly in her ears while moving to the beat of the music as it soothed her. She never could get used to walking alone in the dark late at night. If she wasn’t forced to take a job after school to help her mother support her two younger brothers she would be in the comforts of her own bed right now. Her feet ached as she continued her pace.

The music ceased in her ears. She knew the battery must have died.

Irritated, she removed the earphones and placed the player in her apron pocket instead. One more block to go she knew and quickened her pace. The night breeze began to blow a slight chill that surrounded her so she wrapped her arms about her for warmth.

Behind the tree ahead, the unseen dark figure hid waiting. Abigail hastened her pace as she felt a familiar pit in her stomach. The kind she sensed when she knew something was about to happen, and her instincts set off a jumble of warnings.

As she reached the tree the figure stepped out, grabbed her from behind with a firm hand to her mouth and a sharp blade to her throat. Her fingernails dug into the assailant’s firm grip as she tried to scream but her mouth was muffled. She stumbled, scratching and kicking his legs. Twisting, turning every which way. Her family’s faces flashed before her eyes. She wasn’t giving up, not now.

Tears stung her eyes as she continued her fight. She bit his hand, for a brief moment freed from his grasp. He pulled back on her hair as she kicked and screamed. Lights to the surrounding homes turned on as the owners emerged from their doors to see what the ruckus was all about. He pushed Abigail down on the ground the moment he wanted to shove the knife he carried deep into her back. Too late.

A young man came running from one of the homes to her aide. “Back off of her! Someone call 911!” Her attacker was up and running as two more men followed on his heels. He was too fast for them and gone from sight before they could see his face.

“Are you all right, miss? Here, let me help you up. The police were called and on their way.”

She was visibly shaken and still crying. “Thank you for saving me,” she managed in a whisper.

“Don’t worry, you’re safe now.”

She heard one of the approaching policemen say how lucky she was compared to the girl two nights ago.

“Come now, Miss, you’re all right. We have an ambulance on the way to take you to the hospital. Can we call your parents?”

Abigail handed him her cell phone.

“You’re a very lucky girl. We will find the person that did this to you, I promise.”

The music ceased. More abrupt and more impact.

Read the reviews!

"The characterization is excellent. I quite like the interactions between Murray and Doctor Rosen. I also like the psychological horror element of the book. It's a far cry from most YA horror which, if anything, pays only lip service to the psyche side of horror. I think it's remarkable that a young adult book focuses so much on older characters as well. You never see that."

--Rosser's Relaxed Reading Reviews

PURCHASE BOOGEDYMAN AT MUSEITUPPUBLISHING.COM OR AMAZON!

The writing team of AP Miller lives in sunny and mostly warm Las Vegas, Nevada with their three dogs who are plotting for world domination, and they wouldn't have it any other way. Their writing is based on the belief that readers' needs are of the utmost importance. They are committed to meeting those needs. Their readers are very important to them and they enjoy meeting and hearing from each and every one. They welcome the opportunity to earn your trust and deliver you the best books possible in the industry.

Visit AP Miller online at http://apmiller.weebly.com/.



Horror Novel Month: Don't Make Marty Mad by Calico Skelly


Marty has a few issues, like needing anger management. Can his family help him solve his problems?

Read an excerpt!

Opening the door to our doublewide, I expected the fragrant odor of dinner on the stove to settle my raw nerves after the rough day I’d had at work.

I expected to hear the happy voices of my young son and daughter at play as their imaginations ran rampant.

I expected a warm and loving embrace from my wife of twelve years; the woman I’d loved throughout high school and had married upon graduation because my first son was on his way into this world.

I expected to receive the respect of my family for bringing home the bacon week after lousy week despite having to put up with the bastards at the factory who pushed for more out of me when I was already giving all I had.

Stepping into the trailer, my senses were assaulted instead with dank, foul air, a roaring television, toys strewn everywhere so there was nowhere to step, and a dark, empty kitchen which bore no signs of recent occupation.

My wife, again pregnant, this time with our fourth child, lay sleeping on the sofa, snoring softly.

Frozen for several moments on the top step, absorbing this scene of undomesticated bliss, I was dumb-founded—speechless. Obviously the lessons of the past were forgotten.

PURCHASE DON'T MAKE MARTY MAD AT MUSEITUP PUBLISHING OR AMAZON!

Calico Skelly resides with her family in the countryside. She enjoys watching psychological horror movies, reading well-written horror and dark fiction books and discussing the difference between good horror and slasher horror. Besides writing horror, she enjoys going to the movies, watching good horror television shows, shopping and attending horror conventions, such as Spooky Empire in Orlando, Fl.

Read more about Calico and her WIP at Macabre Raconteur. (http://macabreraconteur.com/)






Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Monday, October 24, 2011

Book Spotlight: Devil's Hand by M. E. Patterson

A Las Vegas poker ace with supernatural luck is swept into a world-ending conflict between fallen angels and otherworldly shades, in a thrilling debut novel for readers who enjoy Dean Koontz, Jim Butcher, and Tim Powers.


The lone survivor of a tragic plane crash, Trent Hawkins inherited a mysterious lucky streak that made him famous, and hated, in the poker circles of the City of Sin. It wasn’t long before the eyes in the sky threw him on the blacklist and chased him out of town. Now, after years away, Trent returns to Las Vegas, and walks right back into trouble.
As a serial kidnapper terrorizes the city, Trent and his wife, Susan, rescue a strange, thirteen year-old girl, only to find themselves caught in a fallen angel’s plot to cleanse Las Vegas with an unholy blizzard.

As the neon dims and the city freezes, Trent is forced to make terrible sacrifices in order to protect his new charge, and learns dark truths about himself and the creatures plotting against mankind. Poker-playing demons, fallen angels, and otherworldly shades all vie to enlist his strange luck, and Trent must choose his role in the coming War, or watch our world fall to ruin beneath a blanket of shadow and ice.

Read an excerpt!


Chapter 1

“The end times are nearly upon us! We will all stand in judgment beneath the watchful eyes of our Lord! Come now, to the arms of the King, and repent! Repent for your sins, and you will find everlasting love in the—”

Bullshit, thought Trent Hawkins as he punched the tuner button and sent the radio frequency careening toward the next solid signal on the band. End times? Who even believes that shit anymore?

He had only listened to “Eddie Palisade’s Hour of Faith” for a few minutes out of sheer curiosity and a certain morbid fascination. Too hellfire-and-brimstone for Trent’s taste, but the syndicated radio show was immensely popular with the God-fearing crowd. Trent had found it on three separate stations as he searched the band for some decent music.

Thick drops of rain splattered against the windshield of the rented moving van. Ahead, the flat horizon glowed like a neon tube set in the sand of the south Nevada desert, and beyond stood the hypercolor wasteland of Las Vegas, a neon monstrosity to which Trent had no interest in returning. He looked sidelong at Susan, asleep in the passenger seat, smiling, blonde hair half-covering the pixie-like features of her face. He would do anything for her, though, even if it meant coming back here.

The radio hissed through a patch of white noise and then settled on an oldies country music station, a bit weak in strength, but listenable. Johnny Cash cried from the van’s tinny speakers, barely audible above the endless drumming of the rain atop the metal roof. Trent smiled. To Hell with Eddie and the “Hour of Faith.” He’d take Cash as his preacher any day.

He shifted uncomfortably in the driver’s seat as the van bounced along Interstate 15. His right thigh ached—an old injury from the crash—the only physical wound that had lasted. The wet-slick road trashed the van’s handling, making every steering adjustment a nerve-wracking event. He had always hated traveling. But after the crash, the hatred had become dread. He wondered again why he had let Susan talk him into coming back here.

He glanced at her, and then at himself in the rearview and used a free hand to adjust the angle of the gray cowboy hat. He didn’t think the hat looked silly. She had said that to him a few months back, on his thirtieth birthday no less, when he’d insisted on wearing it out to meet friends at a bar. She had been teasing, he knew, but still…

“You look ridiculous,” Susan had said. “Like you’re trying to be that guy from Pale Rider.”

“You mean Clint Eastwood?”

Susan frowned. “No, the character, not the actor.”

“The Preacher?” Trent laughed. “You think I look like an old-west preacher? I’m more like the guy in High Plains Drifter.”

Susan had smiled at him then, one of her smiles that made him feel weak and strong at the same time. She leaned in and kissed him on the forehead. “You’re not that guy,” she whispered. “That guy’s pure evil. He only looks out for himself. And that’s just not you, honey.”

Trent smiled at the memory and turned his attention back to the road, fingers drumming on the steering wheel.

Johnny sang out from the radio, “Well, there’s things that never will be right I know—” And then an intense, screeching burst of static, timed perfectly with a shuddering thump upon the roof of the van that set the entire vehicle to ringing. The noise dashed Trent’s smile and he ground his teeth together in surprise.

Susan sat up, alert and confused. “Wha—?”

Trent gripped the steering wheel even tighter as another massive bang rang out from the roof above him. The van skidded wildly on the road. He peered through the window, up at the sky, and saw white dots growing larger and larger until one of them resolved into a chunk of ice that slammed into the windshield right in front of him and exploded, sending icy shards in a radial spray across the glass.

Trent snapped back and his foot hit the brake. The cowboy hat flipped backwards off his head and dropped behind the seat. The moving van squealed and fishtailed, the popping coming faster now, rapid-fire against the metal panels, a sudden and tumultuous barrage of softball-sized hail.

“Shit!”

He over-corrected and the vehicle swerved on the two-lane interstate and crossed over the middle before he managed to bring it back into its original lane. Balls of ice smashed against the road and the van and it was all he could do to keep the tires tight against the pavement. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Susan, fully awake now, gripping the door handle in frozen panic, her lips moving, but he couldn’t hear anything except the pounding hail.

He turned his full attention forward again and suddenly saw the thing in the road. A tire? A hubcap? No, something green and rigid, like a piece of a highway sign. Trent threw the wheel to the left, desperate to avoid the debris. The van screeched, swayed, and veered off into the left lane again and then he heard the loud pop and felt the sickening sideways drift as the van careened out of control.

He jammed the brake to the floor again and squeezed the wheel in a death-grip, gritting his teeth as the van pitched off the left shoulder and headed for dirt. He wrenched his right hand free of the wheel, threw his arm across Susan’s chest, and felt her slam against it as the vehicle dove into the muddy desert and slid to an awkward stop.

The hail continued its staccato rhythm upon the metal vehicle as Cash sang, “Well I know I had it coming, I know I can’t be free—”

“Susan, baby, you alright?” Trent leaned across the cab, arm still pinning his wife to her seat.

She looked up at him, eyes wide and mouth agape. She blinked, and then formed a weak smile. “Holy shit,” she said.

Another massive ball of hail splattered against the windshield, making them both jump.

They looked at each other for a long, silent moment and then began to laugh, quietly at first, inaudible above the din, and then louder, until they were both cackling, foreheads pressed together. Trent kissed her and could feel her shaking with both laughter and adrenaline overload. He pulled back, looked at her with a crazed grin on his face, and shook his head.

“I think we blew a tire,” he yelled, gesturing behind him with his thumb.

“Holy shit,” she said again, still chuckling.

Trent looked around the cab for something—anything—that he might use as a shield against the falling hail. He thought about waiting the storm out, but it didn’t look like it intended to let up soon. He needed to get the van moving, or they might end up stuck in the gathering mud. He couldn’t see anything useful, just the old gray Stetson behind his seat—the hat the hospital staff had given him from the wreckage of the plane. They had thought it was his but he never had the heart to tell them it wasn’t. He grabbed it and put it back on his head, covering up his short black hair. He shrugged and kicked open the driver-side door with his foot.

“Trent!?” shouted Susan.

He turned to look at her. “What?”

She gave him one of those you’re-doing-something-stupid-again looks that both infuriated him and made him smile. Susan had an arsenal of those kinds of looks; it was part of what made him love her. And Trent had a history of doing stupid things since the crash. Maybe it was facing certain death and winning that had left him dull to the sense of threat. Or maybe the impact with the ground had just knocked a few screws loose. He wasn’t quite sure.

“It’s too dangerous!” she shouted. Another icy softball punctuated her statement by smashing against the windshield right in front of her. She winced.

“Gotta change the tire!” Trent replied. “Or we’ll get stuck in this mud!”

She stared at him for a moment and then, with a determined look, she grabbed the hardcover novel in the passenger-side floorboard, lifted it above her head, and popped open her door.

“Wait—” said Trent, but she was already out, yelling at the top of her lungs, the book barely covering her head.

He stared for a moment, irritated but not surprised. Susan was like that. Farmer’s daughter, never one to stand by while others worked. He shrugged and leapt out the driver’s side and into the pounding hail, expecting that he could make it to the back of the truck without any major damage. After all, he was the luckiest man alive, right?

The first ball smacked against his arm, bringing up an immediate welt and intense, stinging pain. The second smacked against his denim-covered thigh as he dashed toward the back of the van. The third chunk of ice crashed down atop his head. The sudden shot of pain was like a hammer blow, blinding, and he reeled and barely caught himself on a handhold at the back of the U-Haul as the cowboy hat tumbled to the ground.

Susan was there and already had the back of the van open and had jumped inside. She was rummaging through the few pieces of furniture and boxes. Trent grabbed the fallen hat and then managed to climb gingerly in next to her. He slumped down in a beat-up old recliner they had taken from her apartment. Most of the stuff in the van had belonged to Susan. After the Gaming Control Board blacklisted him, they needed money. Trent’s expensive items brought in more cash at the pawn shops. Pawn shops and the GCB—two more reasons he hated seeing that glowing city on the horizon again.

“Yes!” She held up an old whiteboard she had used while studying for her nursing exam. It was large enough for them both to hide under if they crowded close.

“That’ll work,” said Trent. He reached up to touch the sore spot on his head. His fingers came away with sticky blood. “Dammit.”

“Oh, honey, are you okay?” Susan set the whiteboard down and rushed over to him.

He waved her off. “No, no, don’t worry about it. It’s fine.” He jammed the Stetson back onto his head and grinned at her, but her expression still showed worry. “I’ve had a lot worse.”

She gave him a plaintive look.

“Come on,” he said and got up from the recliner. He walked over to the spare tire hanging on the inside wall of the van, next to a hand-crank jack. “Let’s change a tire.”

The off-road jaunt had sent the front driver’s-side tire across a jagged chunk of rock, cutting its rubber flesh like a knife. No way would this roll any further. Trent brought the new tire over, trying his best to avoid the crashing hail as Susan struggled to keep them both beneath the whiteboard.

They worked as a team, Susan holding the flashlight and whiteboard as Trent worked to break the lug nuts on the ruined wheel. Every few minutes, he heard her yelp as a ball of ice crashed down on some part of her that had snuck out from beneath the rectangular shield. He wanted to tell her to quit—to get back inside the truck and let him handle this—but he knew better. She wouldn’t leave him here by himself, even if he told her to.

Trent forced his weight down on the tire iron, struggling to break the last nut. “Dammit!” he swore, as the hail battered the whiteboard over his head. He summoned as much strength as he could find and gave the tire iron a powerful shove. The lug nut broke with a pop, nearly sending Trent pitching forward to the ground as the tire iron started to spin. He dropped to his knee, removed the final nut, and pulled off the useless tire.

The hail stopped, as sudden as it had come.

Susan looked up at the sky and then down at Trent with a quizzical look on her face. He shrugged. The rain had not abated, but at least the pounding hail had quit. She hesitantly lowered the whiteboard. A sudden, sickening thwack startled them both. They looked at the top of the van as Susan shone the flashlight on it. A thin stream of—blood?—was running in a rivulet down the white side-panel.

Trent dropped the tire and stood up. “What the—?”

Another splat as something landed on the van’s hood and they both jumped again. A fish? Another slammed down next to it, splattering Trent with blood. He grimaced and leapt back, away from the van.

Susan screamed as a sudden multitude of fish began to rain down. Panicked, she dropped the whiteboard and ran for the back of the truck, still shrieking, hands covering her head.

Trent watched her go, astounded. He had never seen her so terrified, not once in the years they had been together. She usually had a remarkable fortitude and a stern strength in the face of obstacles. But this… He looked up as dead fish began bouncing off the top of the van.

Fucking Eddie was right, he thought. It is the end times.

He grabbed the fallen whiteboard and sprinted for the back of the van. He reached it and found Susan curled up inside the truck, tears streaming down her face.

“You okay, baby?!” he shouted.

“Jesus Christ!” She looked at him with tears in her eyes. “What does it look like?”

Trent climbed in and put an arm around her. “It’s just fish.”

She sobbed. “It’s not about the fish, Trent.” Tears streamed down her face. “It’s everything. Everything’s gone wrong. We shouldn’t have come back here. The job at the hospital and fucking James and you didn’t want to be here anyway and your head and this place fucking hates us both—”

Trent grabbed her by the shoulders and kissed her on the lips. She kissed him back, hard. After a moment, they pulled away and Trent looked her in the eyes and smiled. “Come on, babe,” he said, gesturing toward the storm raging around them. “It’s just fish. Happens sometimes. Bad storm, tornado picks up some garbage from a lake and throws it a few miles. It’ll be over soon. Least it’s not hail.”

They stared at each other for a moment. Finally, Susan cracked a tentative smile.

Trent laughed. “You gotta find the humor in this, right?”

Susan nodded and took the whiteboard from hand. “Okay,” she said. And then, “Thanks.”

After a minute or so, the rain of fish lightened, and they made their way to the front of the van, to the ruined tire. Susan lifted up the whiteboard, just in time to catch another bloody slap on top of it. Trent dove under the shield and grabbed the spare tire. Something about fish dropping from the sky encouraged him to work harder on the tire. Then the pace picked back up again, as another wave of slimy bodies splattered against the van and the pavement and the muddy shoulder, some still alive, flopping and writhing as they died.

“This is awful!” shouted Susan, struggling to be heard over the thumping sounds of flesh against the metal van.

“At least it doesn’t hurt as much,” Trent replied without looking up from his work. He had two of the lugnuts back on the new wheel; two to go.

Susan stumbled as a particularly hefty fish slammed down atop the blackboard. Blood ran off the edges in glimmering red streams. “Hurry up!” she yelled.

“Okay, got it!” Trent torqued the final nut down and kicked the release on the jack. The van slumped back down, mud squelching from beneath the shiny new tire. “Let’s go.”

They dove into the cab and slammed the door shut. Susan scrambled across the center into the passenger seat. She dumped the whiteboard into the space behind them.

She looked at the windshield, now nearly opaque with fish guts and bloody smears. The periodic thumping against the roof seemed to have a predictable rhythm. “What the fuck?!” she exclaimed, laughing. “This is insane!”

Trent looked at her wryly. “You never been in a fish-storm before?”

She punched him in the shoulder.

He chuckled. “Well we better get this thing out of the mud. Hope it can still move. You need to be at work in the morning.”

The statement made him feel worthless. He had no job. It had only taken a year of unbeatable pro gambling before they blacked him out. A lot of money gained and a lot of money lost; now he did odd jobs if he could find them, and those rarely lasted long. Bad things happened at job sites when Trent was around. After the crash, when the swelling had gone down and his spine turned out to be intact, the doctors called him the ‘luckiest man alive,’ but he didn’t really feel it, not anymore at least. Except at the poker table, he felt just the opposite.

He glanced at Susan, who had pulled her blood-smeared rain slicker around her shoulders. The storm had brought an unusually cold chill with it. She grinned at him, still shaking her head. He smiled back. Well, mostly unlucky, he thought.

A trio of fish smacked wetly on the glass in front of him and then slid slowly down onto the hood. He flicked on the wipers, creating a transparent pink window amidst the blood, illuminated weirdly by the coruscating shafts of colorful light from Las Vegas in the distance.

He gunned the engine. The wheels spun in the mud, but eventually caught, and the van hauled itself back onto the road. The hail chunks had nearly all melted, but the dead fish were not going anywhere, making driving even worse than before. It felt like riding on grease.

Trent eased the vehicle back into the proper lane and gave it just enough gas to set it trundling down the Interstate, barely topping 10 MPH. Only twenty miles to go, but he figured it would be near-morning before they made it to the new apartment.

“Hey, hon?”

Trent glanced at Susan. “Yeah?”

“Thank you.”

Trent nodded, then ran his hand through his hair, matted and wet with rainwater and blood. He winced when he touched the spot where the hail had struck.

“It’s okay,” he said.

But he wondered at the truth in that. It didn’t seem like Vegas wanted him back any more than he wanted to be there. It definitely did not seem okay.

Read the reviews!

"This is a fantastic debut novel by author, M.E. Patterson. It has intrigue, mystery, angels, demons, magic and more included for this engaging ride into the fantastical world of Angels and Demons."

--Mad Moose Mama

“This book is guaranteed to keep the reader on his/her toes. There is constant action and excitement with some undercurrents of menace when the antagonists come in.”

--Live to Read

“This debut author, with his skillful pen, unique mythos, and non-conventional world-building is one to watch.”

--Laurie's Thoughts and Reviews

PURCHASE DEVIL'S HAND AMAZON!


M. E. Patterson is an author of sci-fi, fantasy, horror, and thrillers, as well as an information technologist. He received an English/Fiction Writing degree from Virginia Tech, where he studied under nationally-recognized writers and poets. He has published short stories on RevolutionSF and his first manuscript for his book, Devil’s Hand, placed in the top five in the Writers’ League of Texas Manuscript Contest.


You can visit his website at http://devils-hand.com or his blog at http://blog.digimonkey.com.
Connect with him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/mepatterson or Facebook at http://on.fb.me/dhnovel.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Book Spotlight: Telegraph Island: Jason Smiley Stewart- My Life Story by John Milton Langdon

Step back in time to the Victorian age. The industrial revolution in Britain is in full spate and electronic communication is in its infancy. Based loosely on fact author John Milton Langdon weaves a tale of romance and adventure on the high seas and in the Orient.

Jason Smiley Stewart — My Life Story describes the life of an average man. Although he is born in humble circumstances, he shows how a combination of perseverance and intelligence aided by a little good fortune, can help any child overcome the disadvantages of a lowly birth status and poor education.

In Telegraph Island, the second of four novels chronicling the life of Jason Smiley Stewart, the young man’s continuing adventures are described. He has his share of failure and success but once again demonstrates that his poor origins are no bar to fame and fortune when he leaves the life of a sailor to join the communication revolution.

Read an excerpt!

“- – - – - I felt on top of the world and ate a hearty breakfast and as I did so I noticed that Joanna was neither eating very much nor looking very happy. After a time she stopped moving bacon and eggs around her plate, put down her knife and fork and looked at me with a strange and wondering expression.

She said sadly “You seem very happy this morning, Jason. Are you pleased to be leaving me so soon?”

“No of course not, Joanna” I replied and went on “If I seem happy this morning it’s because I am in love with a most wonderful person and she loves me too. I can barely believe that I’m really awake and not locked in a wonderful dream. I don’t want to leave just as we have found each other”. I held her hand and said “I must go Joanna as I cannot change the arrangements now. I know that I will be desperately unhappy until we can be together again”.

“Haven’t you forgotten something, Jason?” she asked obscurely.

I did a quick mental review of my packing and replied “I don’t think so Joanna, thank you. I’m sure I have packed everything”.

She let go of my hand. “Oh! Men can be so obtuse at times” she said with some asperity and then asked angrily “Don’t you remember what you said to me in the night?”

“Yes of course”.

“Do you remember my response?”

“Yes of course I do” I said still puzzled by her questions.

And then realisation struck. She was angry because I had been thoughtless in my misplaced cheerfulness and what was worse I had said nothing about my suggestion that she should be my wife. It was so much worse that Joanna had found it necessary to remind me about something that should have been my first priority.

What a fool I was. My euphoric mood drained away like water down a plug hole and at least mentally I kicked myself around the room.

I tried to take her hand but she was still angry with me and moved it out of reach as I said “Darling Joanna, please forgive me for being such an insensitive clod. I was so happy this morning that I just didn’t think beyond the here and now. I said last night that I would like you to be my wife and this morning I still feel the same, but I will have to ask your Mother’s permission before I can propose to you”.

“So why just sit there eating breakfast, when my mother is sitting in the next room reading,” was Joanna’s tart reply “She intends to go out shortly”.

I jumped to my feet, left the breakfast room and knocked on the door of the morning room. I went in when I heard Mrs. Evans call out. She was sitting in an armchair reading and I stood in front of her chair feeling a little like a child in front of the headmistress.

“Good morning, Jason, I hope you enjoyed a good night’s sleep?”

“I did thank you, Mrs. Evans and I hope you did as well” I said, then paused, not at all sure where to start or what to say. She looked at me, put her book on the side table and waited patiently for me to continue the conversation without saying a word herself. I collected my thoughts and failed totally to remain calm as I said without ceremony or preamble “I would like to have your permission to ask Joanna to marry me. I know it must seem sudden to you, but as I am just about to leave for India I would like to know that Joanna feels as I do and will wait for me to return”.

“Over the tribulations of the past few years I have come to know you quite well, Jason, and I think you will make my daughter a good husband. I think you have a good future and know that you will provide for her to the best of your ability. You have my permission to ask her”.

“Thank you Mrs. Evans. You cannot imagine how relieved I am” I responded formally and returned to the breakfast room where Joanna was waiting.

As I closed the door and walked towards her she said in a worried voice “What did my Mother say? You weren’t very long. She didn’t refuse did she?”

I smiled at her, then went down on one knee and asked simply but very seriously “I should be honoured if you would consent to be my wife Joanna. Please will you marry me?”

Read the reviews!

"I highly recommend this book."

--Life in Review

"Those who love nautical, historical stories will find this a pleasant read."

--One Day at a Time

PURCHASE TELEGRAPH ISLAND: JASON SMILEY STEWART-MY LIFE STORY AT AMAZON!

Author John Milton Langdon is a Fellow of the Institution of Civil Engineers and has a master’s degree in maritime civil engineering. Langdon retired and became a professional writer after an active and rewarding engineering career. Initially he worked in Britain but from 1972 until 2008, he dealt with project development in Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Nigeria. Langdon lives in the Austrian town of Klagenfurt which has a history stretching back to mediaeval times. Langdon has three children and five grandchildren from his first marriage and two step sons from the second. Langdon has many interests including travel, the British canals, music and literature but hiking in the mountains surrounding his home is a preferred leisure activity.

You can visit John’s website at www.jmlangdon.com.