Author Spotlight: S.L. Huang

Hey everybody I have a new author you all should check out. S.L. Huang’s debut novel Zero Sum Game is due to be released in October. From the excerpt I’ve seen (Pasted below) Zero Sum Game is something to look forward to. It’s a sci-fi thriller set in the near future. If you look at Huang’s bio she not only has a math degree from MIT but she is a weapons expert, sword-wielder, and professional stunt woman. I could not think of anyone better when it comes to loading a book with some pretty awesome action scenes. Though this is her first novel, S.L. has been recognized for short fiction numerous times. Hope you like Zero Sum Game. I can’t wait to get a look at the whole thing. Her publisher is TOR so you’ll be able to get a copy everywhere. See below:

 

Blurb:

This near-future science fiction thriller features a mercenary whose genius level math prowess gives her superhuman abilities: taking down men twice her size and dodging not just fists, but bullets, too. If you liked Trinity from The Matrix but could do without the blind devotion, meet Cas Russell.

As far as Cas knows, she’s the only person around with a superpower, and she’ll take any job for the right price. Then, she discovers someone with a power even more dangerous than her own. Someone who can reach directly into people’s minds and twist their brains into Moebius strips. Someone intent on becoming the world’s puppet master.

Cas should run, like she usually does, but for once she’s involved. There’s only one problem: she doesn’t know which of her thoughts are her own anymore.

Excerpt:

I trusted one person in the entire world.

He was currently punching me in the face.

Overlapping numbers scuttled across Rio’s fist as it rocketed toward me, their values scrambling madly, the calculations doing themselves before my eyes. He wasn’t pulling his punch at all, the bastard. I saw exactly how it would hit and that the force would fracture my jaw.

Well. If I allowed it to.

Angles and forces. Vector sums. Easy. I pressed myself back against the chair I was tied to, bracing my wrists against the ropes, and tilted my head a hair less than the distance I needed to turn the punch into a love tap. Instead of letting Rio break my jaw, I let him split my lip open.

The impact snapped my head back, and blood poured into my mouth, choking me. I coughed and spat on the cement floor. Goddammit.

“Sixteen men,” said a contemptuous voice in accented English from a few paces in front of me, “against one ugly little girl. How? Who are you?”

“Nineteen,” I corrected, the word hitching as I choked on my own blood. I was already regretting going for the split lip. “Check your perimeter again. I killed nineteen of your men.” And it would have been a lot more if Rio hadn’t appeared out of nowhere and clothes- lined me while I was distracted by the Colombians. Fucking son of a bitch. He was the one who’d gotten me this job; why hadn’t he told me he was undercover with the drug cartel?

The Colombian interrogating me inhaled sharply and jerked his head at one of his subordinates, who turned and loped out of the room. The remaining three drug runners stayed where they were, fingering Micro- Uzis with what they plainly thought were intimidating expressions.

Dumbasses. I worked my wrists against the rough cord behind my back—Rio had been the one to tie me up, and he had left me just enough play to squeeze out, if I had half a second. Numbers and vectors shot in all directions—from me to the Colombian in front of me, to his three lackwit subordinates, to Rio—a sixth sense of math- ematical interplay that existed somewhere between sight and feeling, masking the world with constant calculations and threatening to drown me in a sensory overload of data.

And telling me how to kill.

Forces. Movements. Response times. I could take down this idiot drug runner right now, the way he was blocking his boys’ line of fire— except that concentrating on the Colombians would give Rio the in- stant he needed to take me down. I was perfectly aware that he wasn’t about to break cover on my behalf.

“If you don’t tell me what I want to know, you will regret it. You see my dog?” The Colombian jerked his head at Rio. “If I let him loose on you, you will be crying for us to kill your own mother. And he will like making you scream. He—how do you say? It gives him a jolly.” He leaned forward with a sneer, bracing himself on the arms of the chair so his breath was hot against my face.

Well, now he’d officially pissed me off. I flicked my eyes up to Rio. He remained impassive, towering above me in his customary tan duster like some hardass Asian cowboy. Unbothered. The insults wouldn’t register with him.

But I didn’t care. People pissing on Rio made me want to put them in the ground, even though none of it mattered to him. Even though all of it was true.

I relaxed my head back and then snapped it forward, driving my forehead directly into the Colombian’s nose with a terrific crunch.

He made a sound like an electrocuted donkey, squealing and snort- ing as he flailed backward, and then he groped around his back to come up with a boxy little machine pistol. I had time to think, Oh, shit, as he brought the gun up—but before firing, he gestured furiously at Rio to get out of the way, and in that instant the mathematics realigned and clicked into place and the probabilities blossomed into a split- second window.

Before Rio had taken his third step away, before the Colombian could pull his finger back on the trigger, I had squeezed my hands free of the ropes, and I dove to the side just as the gun went off with a roar of automatic fire. I spun in a crouch and shot a foot out against the metal chair, the kick perfectly timed to lever energy from my turn—angular momentum, linear momentum, bang. Sorry, Rio. The Colombian struggled to bring his stuttering gun around to track me, but I rocketed up to crash against him, trapping his arms and carry- ing us both to the floor in an arc calculated exactly to bring his line of fire across the far wall.

The man’s head cracked against the floor, his weapon falling from nerveless fingers and clattering against the cement. Without looking toward the side of the room, I already knew the other three men had slumped to the ground, cut down by their boss’s gun before they could get a shot off. Rio was out cold by the door, his forehead bleeding freely, the chair fallen next to him. Served him right for punching me in the face so many times.

The door burst open. Men shouted in Spanish, bringing Uzis and AKs around to bear.

Momentum, velocities, objects in motion. I saw the deadly trails of their bullets’ spray before they pulled the triggers, spinning lines of movement and force that filled my senses, turning the room into a kaleidoscope of whirling vector diagrams.

The guns started barking, and I ran at the wall and jumped.

I hit the window at the exact angle I needed to avoid being sliced open, but the glass still jarred when it shattered, the noise right by my ear and somehow more deafening than the gunfire. My shoulder smacked into the hard-packed ground outside and I rolled to my feet, running before I was all the way upright.

This compound had its own mini-army. The smartest move would be to make tracks out of here sooner rather than later, but I’d broken in here on a job, dammit, and I wouldn’t get paid if I didn’t finish it. The setting sun sent tall shadows slicing between the buildings.

I skidded up to a metal utility shed and slammed the sliding door back. My current headache of a job, also known as Courtney Polk, scrabbled back as much as she could while handcuffed to a pipe be- fore she recognized me and glowered. I’d locked her in here tempo- rarily when the Colombians had started closing in.

I picked up the key to the cuffs from where I’d dropped it in the dust by the door and freed her. “Time to skedaddle.”

“Get away from me,” she hissed, flinching back. I caught one of her arms and twisted, and Polk winced.

“I am having a very bad day,” I said. “If you don’t stay quiet, I will knock you unconscious and carry you out of here. Do you understand?”

She glared at me.

I twisted a fraction of an inch more, about three degrees shy of popping her shoulder out of the socket.

“All right already!” She tried to spit the words, but her voice climbed at the end, pitched with pain.

I let her go. “Come on.”

Polk was all gangly arms and legs and looked far too thin to have much endurance, but she was in better shape than she appeared, and we made it to the perimeter in less than three minutes. I pushed her down to crouch behind the corner of a building, my eyes roving for the best way out, troop movements becoming vectors, numbers stretching and exploding against the fence. Calculations spun through my brain in infinite combinations. We were going to make it.

And then a shape rose up, skulking between two buildings, zig- zagging to stalk us—a black man, tall and lean and handsome, in a leather jacket. His badge wasn’t visible, but it didn’t need to be; the

way he moved told me everything I needed to know. He stood out like a cop in a compound full of drug runners.

I started to grab Polk, but it was too late. The cop whipped around and looked up, meeting my eyes from fifty feet away, and knew he was made.

He was fast. We’d scarcely locked eyes and his hand was inside his jacket in a blur.

My boot flicked out and hit a rock.

From the cop’s perspective, it must have looked like the worst kind of evil luck. He’d barely gotten his hand inside his coat when my foot- flicked missile rocketed out of nowhere and smacked him in the fore- head. His head snapped back, and he listed to the side and collapsed.

God bless Newton’s laws of motion. Polk recoiled. “What the hell was that!”

“That was a cop,” I snapped. Five minutes with this kid and my irritation was already at its limit.

“What? Then why did you—he could have helped us!”

I resisted the urge to smack her. “You’re a drug smuggler.” “Not on purpose!”

“Yeah, because that makes a difference. I don’t think the authorities are going to care that the Colombians weren’t too happy with you any- more. You don’t know enough to gamble on flipping on your crew, so you’re going to a very faraway island after this. Now shut up.” The pe- rimeter was within sprinting distance now, and rocks would work for the compound’s guards as well. I scooped up a few, my hands instantly reading their masses. Projectile motion: my height, their heights, the acceleration of gravity, and a quick correction for air resistance—and then pick the right initial velocity so that the deceleration of such a mass against a human skull would provide the correct force to drop a grown man.

One, two, three. The guards tumbled into well-armed heaps on the ground.

Polk made a choking sound and stumbled back from me a couple of steps. I rolled my eyes, grabbed her by one thin wrist, and hauled.

Less than a minute later, we were driving safely away from the com- pound in a stolen Jeep, the rich purple of the California desert night falling around us and the lights and shouts from an increasingly agi- tated drug cartel dwindling in the distance. I took a few zigs and zags through the desert scrub to put off anyone trying to follow us, but I was pretty sure the Colombians were still chasing their own tails. Sure enough, soon we were speeding alone through the desert and the dark- ness. I kept the running lights off just in case, leaving the moonlight and mathematical extrapolation to outline the rocks and brush as we bumped along. I wasn’t worried about crashing. Cars are only forces in motion.

In the open Jeep, the cuts on my face stung as the wind whipped by, and annoyance rolled through me as the adrenaline receded. This job—I’d thought it would be a cakewalk. Polk’s sister had been the one to hire me, and she had told me Rio had cold-contacted her and strongly suggested that if she didn’t pay me to get her sister out, she’d never see her again. I hadn’t talked to Rio myself in months—not until he’d used me as his personal punching bag today—but I could connect the dots: Rio had been working undercover, seen Polk, decided she deserved to be rescued, and thrown me the gig. Of course, I was grate- ful for the work, but I wished I had known Rio was undercover with the cartel in the first place. I cursed the bad luck that had made us run into him—the Colombians never would have caught me on their own. In the passenger seat, Polk braced herself unhappily against the jounces of our off-road journey. “I’m not moving to a desert island,”

she said suddenly, interrupting the quiet of the night.

I sighed. “I didn’t say desert. And it doesn’t even have to be an island. We can probably stash you in rural Argentina or something.”

She crossed her spindly arms, hugging herself against the night’s chill. “Whatever. I’m not going. I’m not going to let the cartel win.”

I resisted the urge to crash the Jeep on purpose. Not that I had much to crash it into out here, but I could have managed. The correct angle against one of those little scrub bushes . . .

“You do realize they’re not the only ones who want a piece of you,

right? In case our lovely drug-running friends neglected to tell you before they dumped you in a basement, the authorities are scouring California for you. Narcotics trafficking and murder, I hear. What, were all the cool kids doing it?”

She winced away, hunching into herself. “I swear I didn’t know they were using the shipments to smuggle drugs. I only called my boss when I got stopped because that’s what they told us to do. It’s not my fault.”

Yeah, yeah. Her sister had tearfully shown me a copy of the po- lice report—driver stopped for running a light, drugs found, more gang members who’d shown up and shot the cops, taking back the truck and driver both. The report had heavily implicated Courtney in every way.

When she’d hired me, Dawna Polk had insisted her sister wouldn’t have hurt a fly. Personally, I hadn’t particularly cared if the girl was guilty or not. A job was a job.

“Look, I only want to get paid,” I said. “If your sister says you can throw your life away and go to prison, that’s A-okay with me.”

“I was just a driver,” Courtney insisted. “I never looked to see what was in the back. They can’t say I’m responsible.”

“If you think that, you’re an idiot.”

“I’d rather the police have me than you anyway!” she shot back. “At least with the cops I know I have rights! And they’re not some sort of freaky weird feng shui killers!”

She flinched back into herself, biting her lip. Probably wondering if she’d said too much. If I was going to go “feng shui” on her, too.

Crap.

I took a deep breath. “My name is Cas Russell. I do retrieval. It means I get things back for people. That’s my job.” I swallowed. “Your sister really did hire me to get you out, okay? I’m not going to hurt you.”

“You locked me up again.”

“Only so you’d stay put until I could come back for you,” I tried to assure her.

Courtney’s arms were still crossed, and she’d started worrying her lip with her teeth. “And what about all that other stuff you did?” she asked finally. “With the cartel guards, and the stones, and that cop . . .”

I scanned the constellations and steered the Jeep eastward, aiming to intersect the highway. The stars burned into my eyes, their altitudes, azimuths, and apparent magnitudes appearing in my mind as if stenciled in the sky behind each bright, burning pinprick. A satel- lite puttered into view, and its timing told me its height above Earth and its orbital velocity.

“I’m really good at math,” I said. Too good. “That’s all.”

Polk snorted as if I were putting her on, but then her face knitted in a frown, and I felt her staring at me in the darkness. Oh, hell. I like it better when my clients hire me to retrieve inanimate objects. People are so annoying.

By morning, my madly circuitous route had brought us only half- way back to LA. Switching cars twice and drastically changing direction three times might not have been strictly necessary, but it made my paranoid self feel better.

The desert night had turned cold; fortunately, we were now in a junky old station wagon instead of the open Jeep, though the car’s heater managed only a thin stream of lukewarm air. Polk had her bony knees hunched up in front of her and had buried her face against them. She hadn’t spoken in hours.

I was grateful. This job had had enough monkey wrenches already without needing to explain myself to an ungrateful child every other minute.

Polk sat up as we drove into the rising sun. “You said you do retrieval.”

“Yeah,” I said.

“You get things back for people.” “That’s what ‘retrieval’ means.”

“I want to hire you.” Her youthful face was set in stubborn lines.

Great. She was lucky I wasn’t choosy about my clientele. And that I needed another job after this one. “What for?”

“I want my life back.”

“Uh, your sister’s already paying me for that,” I reminded her. “But hey, you can pay me twice if you want. I won’t complain.”

“No. I mean I don’t want to go flying off to Argentina. I want my life back.”

“Wait, you’re asking me to steal you back a clean record?” This girl didn’t know what reality was. “Kid, that’s not—”

“I’ve got money,” she interrupted. Her eyes dropped to her knees. “I got paid really well, for someone who drove a delivery truck.”

I snorted. “What are the going rates for being a drug mule these days?”

“I don’t care what you think of me,” said Polk, though red was creeping up her neck and across her cheeks. She ducked her head, letting her frizzy ponytail fall across her face. “People make mistakes, you know.”

Yeah. Cry me a river. I ignored the voice in my head telling me I should take the fucking job anyway. “Saving the unfortunate isn’t really my bag. Sorry, kid.”

“Will you at least think about it? And stop calling me ‘kid.’ I’m twenty-three.”

She looked about eighteen, wide-eyed and gullible and wet behind the ears. But then, I guess I can’t judge; people still assumed I was a teenager sometimes, and in reality I was barely older than Courtney. Of course, age can be measured in more ways than years. Sometimes I had to pull a .45 in people’s faces to remind them of that.

I remembered with a pang that my best 1911 had been lost back at the compound when I was captured. Dammit. Dawna was going to get that in her expense list.

“So? Are you thinking about it?”

“I was thinking about my favorite gun.”

“You don’t have to be so mean all the time,” Courtney mumbled into her knees. “I know I need help, okay? That’s why I asked.”

Oh, fuck. Courtney Polk was a headache and a half, and clearing the names of idiot kids who got mixed up with drug cartels wasn’t in my job description. I’d been very much looking forward to dumping her on her sister’s doorstep and driving away.

Though that small voice in the back of my head kept whispering:

Drive away where?

I didn’t have any gigs lined up after I finished this contract. I don’t do too well when I’m not working.

Yeah, right. Between jobs you’re a fucking mess.

I slammed the voice away again and concentrated on the money.

I like money. “Just how much cash do you have?”

“You’ll do it?” Her face lit up, and her whole body straightened toward me. “Thank you! Really, thank you!”

I grumbled something not nearly as enthusiastic and revved the station wagon down the empty dawn freeway. Figuring out how to steal back someone’s reputation was not my idea of fun.

The voice in the back of my head laughed mockingly. Like you have

the luxury of being choosy.


Bio:

S. L. Huang has a math degree from MIT and is a weapons expert and has worked as a professional stuntwoman on Battlestar Galactica and a number of other productions. Her short fiction has appeared in Strange Horizons, Nature, Daily Science Fiction, and The Best American Science Fiction & Fantasy 2016.

You can get Zero Sum Game everywhere but here is the Amazon link: https://www.amazon.com/Zero-Sum-Game-Cas-Russell-ebook/dp/B078X1FD6C/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1538441446&sr=1-1&keywords=sl+huang&dpID=51eZ%252BT-46tL&preST=_SY445_QL70_&dpSrc=srch

Don’t forget to check out my work on Amazon or any other bookstore. My newest novel Where Angels Sing is on sale now.


Changing Things Up

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Hey all this is just a short post to let everyone know that I’m changing the format of this blog. I got a little bored with trying to come up with random posts so I decided that I’m going to focus on crime in the south.

Though I grew up in New York I was a southern policeman. Law enforcement has always been my passion and studying criminals is fascinating. So from now on we’re going to stick with writing about new cases, historic cases, maybe some unsolved mysteries, and maybe some cool Law Enforcement-centric issues.

Be back soon, stand by.

 

Writing so Hard I had to Sit Down


So I write in the morning before my day job. I drop the wee one off at day care, try not to cry, and head to my office. I leave the light off so it’s just me and the screen for about forty-five minutes. I started my newest novel, untitled, the other day. So far we’ve got a broken down former Army Ranger caught up in an ethnic cleansing where a cabal of demon possessed humans are trying to wipe out all the remaining fae-folk on Earth, or realm as we call it.

Anyway I was writing a scene this morning where my Ranger buddy wakes up to find himself face to face with a cybernetic ‘interrogator.’ It’s kind of a black, scorpion looking thing that’s half underworld beastie and half robot that is used to infiltrate the nervous system of a prisoner and make them docile for simpler information retrieval. This thing is strong, it’s ugly, and it is not the kind of thing you want to meet immediately upon being jolted awake from a drunken stupor. As you can imagine the scene is pretty dynamic with my guy battling this thing as it wraps itself around his arm and tries to get at his brain stem. No spoilers but the scene ends with him bashing the thing against a stone fireplace until he shatters its carapace and takes a bath in yellow goo. He’s exhausted, and gross, and to add to that he’s hungover but still has that feeling you get when you wake up right before you hit the ground in a dream. You know kind of fidgety and weak like you just got done going five rounds with Randy Couture. That was where I had to leave it since it was time to start the job that actually pays me. I shut my computer down and put it away and started my morning ritual. Like most people, my morning ritual starts with coffee. I go through the motions setting up the coffee pot, cleaning out the basket that I forgot to clean yesterday and start organizing myself when I notice my legs feel a little jiggly. My arms also have that kind of tense feel you get at the end of a good heavy bag workout.


Weird, where did that came from? The most strenuous thing I had done so far in the morning was wrestle with my fifteen month old to change his diaper and get his clothes on (the little guy is a fighter in the morning…red head, go figure). It’s a strange feeling but I remember what people say about visualization techniques and dream states. How the body reacts to the events in your brain even if you’re not moving. I was intrigued, I’m still intrigued, so I did a little research.


I found an article in Psychology Today titled, “Seeing is Believing: The Power of Visualization,” by AJ Adams. The article cited a study that compared muscle gain in two groups of weightlifters. One group worked out at the gym, the other conducted mental rehearsal, visualizing themselves lifting rather than physically doing it. Here is a quote from the article:


“A study looking at brain patterns in weightlifters found that the patterns activated when a weightlifter lifted hundreds of pounds were similarly activated when they only imagined lifting. In some cases, research has revealed that mental practices are almost effective as true physical practice, and that doing both is more effective than either alone. For instance, in his study on everyday people, Guang Yue, an exercise psychologist from Cleveland Clinic Foundation in Ohio, compared “people who went to the gym with people who carried out virtual workouts in their heads”. He found that a 30% muscle increase in the group who went to the gym. However, the group of participants who conducted mental exercises of the weight training increased muscle strength by almost half as much (13.5%). This average remained for 3 months following the mental training.” https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/flourish/200912/seeing-is-believing-the-power-visualization


The article also went on to explain that visualization is a common practice among elite athletes, Olympians, and the like.


Interesting. I found a few more references alluding to the effect mental training has on the physical body but that article explained it the best. So, Was I in the zone, so focused that the story in my head was translating to my physical body? That hasn’t happened before that I have noticed. It was an interesting thing that happened this morning. Thought I would share.


What do you think? Writing so hard I had to sit down? Or am I reading into things and I need to hit the gym more since making coffee appears to tire me out?

Don’t forget to check out my work on Amazon or at any bookstore. My newest novel, Where Angels Sing is on sale now.


Ungentlemanly Warfare, Yup that’s a Real Term

Quite possibly one of the longest titles in history: “Churchill’s Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare: The Mavericks who Plotted Hitler’s Defeat,” was also one of the most fun books I’ve read in the last five or six years. Giles Milton managed to find and capture an aspect of World War II that I had never heard of, and I am a history buff.

In 1940 the Nazi’s were taking over Europe. Winston Churchill had just taken over in Britain and was pretty much the last man standing up to Germany. He recognized Britain was on Germany’s hit list and wanted a plan in place to resist once the Nazi’s invaded Britain.

Hence the Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare.

“Churchill’s Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare,” details how a secret ministry of sabotage started from scratch and became and industry unto itself. Milton does a great job of capturing the cultural, genuinely British, conflicts that were a constant between the regular military and Section D of the Secret Intelligence Service. The idea of saboteurs and assassins did not sit well with the right kind of English gentlemen. On the flip side Section D argued that dropping a hundred bombs on a target might accomplish the mission. But a group of highly trained and motivated saboteurs could guarantee a surgical strike at a fraction of the cost or the collateral damage bombs dropped from 30,000 feet apt to cause.

The book follows Colin Gubbins, who stood up and made Section D into a powerhouse. Gubbins created a factory for explosives, specifically designed for devious small unit raids. He organized a kill school run by two old British ex-pats tossed aside by the establishment when they came home to fight for Britain. And he inspired a world-wide intelligence network that facilitated acts of sabotage from a vital hydro-facility in Norway to an ancient aqueduct in Greece used to supply Rommel’s tanks in Africa. Not only does Milton take you through each of these adventures but he does it by capturing the wild spectrum of men and women who fought the secret war. Professional adventures, engineers, secretaries, and even a conscientious objector turned operative made Section D what it was. Of note among Section D and its saboteurs, Milton does a particular service to the contributions and the sacrifices women made to ungentlemanly war.

If you are a history buff and want to read about an important but forgotten part of World War II give Giles Milton’s “Churchill’s Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare” a serious look.

Here is the back-cover blurb:

“Six gentlemen, one goal: the destruction of Hitler’s war machine

In the spring of 1939, a top-secret organization was founded in London: its purpose was to plot the destruction of Hitler’s war machine through spectacular acts of sabotage.

The guerrilla campaign that followed was every bit as extraordinary as the six men who directed it. One of them, Cecil Clarke, was a maverick engineer who had spent the 1930s inventing futuristic caravans. Now, his talents were put to more devious use: he built the dirty bomb used to assassinate Hitler’s favorite, Reinhard Heydrich. Another, William Fairbairn, was a portly pensioner with an unusual passion: he was the world’s leading expert in silent killing, hired to train the guerrillas being parachuted behind enemy lines. Led by dapper Scotsman Colin Gubbins, these men―along with three others―formed a secret inner circle that, aided by a group of formidable ladies, single-handedly changed the course Second World War: a cohort hand-picked by Winston Churchill, whom he called his Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare.

Giles Milton’s Churchill’s Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare is a gripping and vivid narrative of adventure and derring-do that is also, perhaps, the last great untold story of the Second World War.”

Don’t forget to check out my work on Amazon or any other bookstore. My newest novel Where Angels Sing is on sale now.


Author Spotlight: Alison McMahan

Hey Everybody, Alison McMahan has a short story in R.L. Stine’s new Anthology, Scream and Scream Again! Her contribution is called, “Kamikaze Iguanas.”

About the Book:

A harrowing array of scary stories that all have one thing in common: each either begins or ends with a scream!

R.L. Stine—the godfather of Goosebumps—and some of the most popular authors today bring an unrivaled mastery of all things fearsome, frightening, and fantabulous to this terrifying anthology of all-new scary short stories.

Scream and Scream Again! is full of twists and turns, dark corners, and devilish revenge. Collected in conjunction with the Mystery Writers of America, this set includes works from New York Times bestselling authors telling tales of wicked ice-cream trucks, time-travelling heroes, witches and warlocks, and of course, haunted houses.

List of Authors:

Read it if you dare! With twenty never-before-published scary stories from some of the most popular authors today—including Chris Grabenstein, Wendy Corsi Staub, Heather Graham, Peter Lerangis, R.L. Stine, Bruce Hale, Emmy Laybourne, Steve Hockensmith, Lisa Morton, Ray Daniel, Beth Fantaskey, Phil Mathews, Carter Wilson, Doug Levin, Jeff Soloway, Joseph S. Walker, Alison McMahan, Daniel Palmer, Tonya Hurley, and Stephen Ross—it’s sure to leave readers screaming for more.

Excerpt:

I work my way around the pool fence, slowly, camera-phone at the ready, waiting for an iguana to run out.

A group of kids is huddled around one of the barbecue grills. I’m hoping they’re just trying to keep warm. It’s like, freezing, even though this is South Florida.

“Hey.”

One of the huddlers has seen me. I recognize him, vaguely, from school. He’s one of those guys, the kind that is good looking and knows it. He goes by Spike. So lame.

Where to Buy:

Give it a look. I like a good scare and thought I would share it with you.

As always don’t forget to check out my work on Amazon or at any other bookstore. My newest novel Where Angels Sing is on sale now.

So, the Norse won?

The other night I discovered something that Marvel and the creators behind Thor have missed: Thor is living proof of a deity.

I was cooking dinner when my five year old showed up slinging his Mjolnir (Thor’s Hammer). I asked,

“Hey Thor, want to help with dinner?” I got the usual response.

“No I’m just playing, Can I have Thor God of Thunder song?”

There is no greater pride a parent feels than when a child asks for classic rock. I am quick to respond, “Absolutely!”

Thor God of Thunder song is actually Immigrant Song by Led Zeppelin. Let me be up front here and declare I have had this song in my workout playlist for a decade or more so I didn’t download it because of a movie. Although when you look at Marvel movie music there is an argument to be made that Led Zeppelin might be the new AC/DC. I would say with confidence that Iron Man would not have been quite as cool if is wasn’t for the judicious use of AC/DC throughout the series of movies. Though I thought Thor Ragnarok was a great movie, the same argument could be made that Ragnarok might not have been Ragnarok without Immigrant Song as the backdrop to Thor beating the crap out of a bunch of demons. Additionally, when was the last time you saw an action flick that didn’t have an AC/DC track somewhere in either the trailer or the film itself, just saying. Robert Plant and the boys might be seeing a boost in their royalties soon.

But I digress.

The point I had when I started this bit of word vomit was that I had an epiphany while cooking dinner and praying Thor’s hammer did not go through the tv. Thor is living proof of deity in the Marvel universe. Now if we allow that the Marvel universe is societally similar to our society then wouldn’t him showing up on the world’s stage fighting aliens in Avengers have been a bit disruptive to society. I mean not only do the big three religions all fight (literally) to convince the rest of us heathens that their dogma is “the way.” But how many other sects and systems are out there that think their own deity, whatever that may be is the only path to salvation? Then all of a sudden here comes a hero out of Norse mythology, Thor, the God of Thunder standing in the middle of New York City swinging a giant hammer.

Picture yourself as some pastor, or Imam, or even the Pope himself sitting around watching Fox News as they interrupt a hoverround commercial to bring breaking news. “Alien Invasion: New York” is the headline and then whichever religious leader seems most entertaining in your head (for me it’s the Pope lounging in his robe lint rollering a massive hat but then again I’m Catholic so that makes sense) He leans forward in his big stuffy chair and sees a God standing with Captain America in the middle of Times Square. He doesn’t see the big alien dragon looking things flying around, he only sees the worlds first proof of deity fist bumping Cap and flying off screen under a swinging hammer. I can only think his first thought is, “Merda!” [“Shit!” in Italian].

World religious leaders around the globe are all realizing at the same time that their collection plates are about to run dry. All accept the Asatro (that’s right there is still a religion that believes in Odin and Thor) and those guys leap up and dance a jig, “I knew it!” they scream.

So then what?

Iron Man nukes the aliens and the dimensional gateway is closed, cool. But what about the 84% of people whose guiding life principles just went up in smoke, or more accurately, a lightning bolt?

Thor, chillin and eating falafel (the after the credits scene in Avengers [Spoiler, sorry]) is going to be a real problem for people. Here they were arguing about the bible and the koran, and the torah only to find that the Scandinavians had it all right. What the…? That effect on society is something overlooked by Marvel et al.

Good news though. In the event Thor was to show up and save the world, Santa might get a second look. As far as I know he was adopted by Christianity as a way of absorbing some of those “heathen” religions on their way to world domination.

Now all of a sudden the powers that be find out that Norse mythology was the one…and they missed it. I can only picture the Westboro Baptists protesting Thor’s hair while a bunch of ISIS guys try to blow up Avenger HQ.

What do you think the Asatro head honcho would do during his first press conference? I like to think he would play it really cool. Shrug his shoulders maybe and say, “Told ya,” drop the mike and walk off stage.

Anyway, that’s all I got for today. But hey Marvel, maybe something to look into.

As always don’t forget to check out my work on Amazon or any other bookstore. My newest novel Where Angels Sing is on sale now.


 

Review: The Cobra Event by Richard Preston


Richard Preston’s The Cobra Event was one of those books I had my eye on for a long time but never pulled the trigger on. I would look at it lingering on my book list and wonder if a medical thriller could catch my attention and keep it. From the outside looking in I equated it with like an Outbreak or ER type of story, I thought all the medical stuff would bore me. Man was I wrong.

I didn’t know what was missing from my literary life until I finally dove into The Cobra Event. Richard Preston created a masterpiece with this book. From the opening pages I had one of those books in my hand that make you want to go to bed early so that you had more time to read. It’s been a long time since I read a book like that.

Though it’s a novel the story reads like it could be a case file. The characters depth and scientific backgrounds are believable which shows Preston did his fair share of research in creating them. The details of the labs and equipment needed to effect a bio-terrorism event were expertly explained while not sounding like a technical manual. He even made decontamination process, and small mistakes in the decontamination process sound interesting. And when the intensity ramped up and we drew in on the bad guy the tactics, and tactical mistakes that kept the chase alive were written so real you could feel the danger.

I know the book is a little dated, The Cobra Event was released in 1998 but the old reads are still some of the best. I’m glad I finally took the leap and gave The Cobra Event another chance. It was awesome.

I attached the synopsis below. It’s worth a look.

“The Cobra Event is a petrifying, fictional account of a very real threat: biological terrorism.

Seventeen-year-old Kate Moran wakes one morning to the beginnings of a head cold but shrugs it off and goes to school anyway. By her midmorning art class, Kate’s runny nose gives way to violent seizures and a hideous scene of self-cannibalization. She dies soon after. When a homeless man meets a similarly gruesome — and mystifying — fate, the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta sends pathologist Alice Austen to investigate. What she uncovers is the work of a killer, a man who calls himself Archimedes and is intent on spreading his deadly Cobra virus throughout New York City. A silent crisis erupts, with Austen and a secret FBI forensic team rushing to expose the terrorist.

Even more frightening than Preston’s story about the fictitious Cobra virus, however, is the truth that lies beneath it. As the author writes in his introduction, “The nonfiction roots of this book run deep…. My sources include eyewitnesses who have seen a variety of biological-weapons installations in different countries, and people who have developed and tested strategic bioweapons.” In fact, the only reason The Cobra Event was not written as nonfiction is that none of Preston’s sources would go on record.

Woven throughout the novel are sections of straight nonfiction reporting that reveal the terrifying truth about the development of biological weapons and the clandestine operations of Russia and Iraq. Three years of research and more than 100 interviews with high-level sources in the FBI, the U.S. military, and the scientific community went into The Cobra Event. The result is sure to shock you.”

Hope you like it and don’t forget to check out my novels available here and wherever books are sold. Also I will be at Literary Love Savannah, GA the 26-28th signing and sitting on a couple of panels. I look forward to seeing you there.

Out.