March 31, 2014

The Wild West and the Living Dead: a review of "Those Poor, Poor Bastards" by Tim Marquitz, J.M. Martin, and Kenny Soward

Those Poor, Poor Bastards (Dead West #1)
by Tim Marquitz, J.M. Martin, and Kenny Soward
210 pages

For some reason zombies don't often wind up in westerns. Well, you need only read the collaboration between Tim Marquitz, J.M. Martin, and Kenny Soward to know that this is a problem that needs to be remedied, and those three guys are more than up for the challenge.

It's 1868 in the Nevada desert, and young Nina Weaver is traveling with her father into the town of Sierra to trade some goods just when all hell breaks loose on the streets. It starts with a stampede of horses gone mad, attacking other animals and even people, and from there it gets even worse. Whatever has afflicted the horses has spread to the people in town as well, with folks turning on each other and tearing and biting into flesh. Nina, her father, and a small group of survivors flee, but in the wilds of America it's not like you can rely on military intervention or seek out some compound for shelter.

It's a frenetic opening once the so-called "deaduns" pour into the dusty streets, but these aren't run-of-the-mill zombies, which becomes readily apparent after a few action-packed chapters. Think less Night of the Living Dead and more Brian Keene's The Rising. There's an intelligence to certain deaduns, but that's a mystery Nina and the others can't afford to concentrate on with hundreds of flesh-eating creatures snapping at their heels.

As far as characters go, Nina is a resilient and resourceful gal, and a far cry from a railroad damsel. A little bit of a spoiler here, but early on in the carnage Nina's grizzled father takes a hit and she has to become his guardian among a crew of disparate strangers. Some good, some bad, some just plain ugly. She may well be the least colorful character of the bunch, acting in many scenes as a "straight man" to the real oddball and sleezeballs she must align with in order to avoid becoming zombie feed, but she does become a very likable character and one who is easy to root for.

As far as villains go, a couple come close to being mustache-twirling scoundrels--in fact, one of them may have been twirling his mustache now that I think of it--but there is a diversity and a psychology to their actions. No one is evil for the sake of being evil. Even the truly evil villain of the tale has motivations beyond the generic bwah-hah-hah. And they definitely had a lot to offer in terms of swerves and obstacles for Nina as she tries to keep herself and her father alive amid the madness.

The blending of the wild west and horror can be a bit tricky, I suppose, but it's done quite well here. The ending is a little abrupt, but not cliffhanger-y. It does, however, leave me wanting more--and it looks like there is plenty more in store. Yee-hah!

March 30, 2014

A Vamptastic Giveaway Going On Right Now Over at Bitten By Books

If you love vampires, chances are you will love this giveaway hosted by Bitten By Books. Here's the write-up straight from the blog:
We are excited to to offer you all a chance to win a HUGE Vampires Suck Prize this week! In it you will find a hardback copy of Undead and Unsure by MaryJanice Davidson, an ARC of The Care and Feeding of Stray Vampires by Molly Harper, an ARC of Blood Gospel by James Rollins and Bite Me HatRebecca Cantrell, The complete Underworld Trilogy, Vampires Only Parking Sign, A Vampire Girl necklace from A Charming Time, a Bite Me Hat from Nitty Gritty Threads AND a NEWDraculara Monster High Doll!
Be sure to enter our other contests and events here:
Please note, this contest is in no way sponsored by the author or publisher it is sponsored by Bitten by Books. ARC’s are advanced reader copies that are not the final copy of the book.
Sound good to you? Thought so. Just enter using the Rafflecopter form below or click the link at the top of the blog post and go directly to the blog. Only five days left in the giveaway, so don't waste time.

March 28, 2014

Chasing Tale [3/28/14]: Winter Is Staying

Chasing Tale is a recurring feature in which I highlight the books I have received as review copies, freebies, and hidden gems in bookshops and online retailers.

So much for spring. The Atlantic coast got a bit of a reminder that winter doesn't play fair, dumping a brand new heap of snow on top of everything, and throwing in some gale force winds for good measure. Okay, I guess I'll just have to leave the Hawaiin shirts and jean shorts in the closet for a little while longer. Fine by me. My legs are as pale as plucked turkey drumsticks, anyway.

Plus, being cooped up indoors gives me an excuse to read. And I have even more books on my to-be-read pile this week. Have a gander and see if anything catches your eye.

Matador by Ray Banks - This showed up on sale this week. A man wakes up in a shallow grave with no memory and a bullet in his skull. And that's how it opens. Yup. I'm in.

The Pines by Blake Crouch - Another Kindle book I got on sale. I love the idea of a stranger in a strange land, and the Twilight Zone -esque nature of the plot is right up my alley. The first of a trilogy no less.

Hell Up In Houston by Garnett Elliott -This is the second novella in the Drifter Detective series. And the Jack Laramie character is the grandson of Cash Laramie, from another Beat to a PULP series. Ah, synergy.

The Elder Unearthed: Tales of NasNoroth and the Cult of the Elder by Michael W. Garza - This one is a collection of a dozen short stories and poems inspired by H.P. Lovecraft.

Afterparty by Daryl Gregory - Imagine a 3D printer that could replicate illicit drugs. Okay, that might help you imagine the catalyst for this scifi novel in which a designer drug hits the proverbial streets and becomes a new kind of epidemic. Sounds really interesting.

Writers Workshop of Science Fiction and Fantasy edited by Michael Knost -I read Knost's Writers Workshop of Horror a couple years back and really enjoyed it. I imagine this book will be no different in gleaming some useful advice.

White by Tim Lebbon -This award-winning novella is now available as its own ebook. Lebbon is a heckuva writer, so I imagine I'll like this one a fair bit.

Deadly Curiosities by Gail Z. Martin - This is a new book set for early summer with a cool little twist on the urban fantasy genre. Or maybe not. Time will tell. But a curio shop in South Carolina serves as a bit of a Warehouse 13 for smalltown weirdness. Fingers crossed on this one.

Stranded by William Vitka - Looks like this novel is a bit of a prequel to Vitka's Hroza Connection series. I'm always up for an alien invasion every now and then.

Vampires Don't Sparkle edited by Michael West - Here's an anthology from Seventh Star Press that tries to put some bite back in vampires. It's on sale right now, and some proceeds go to cancer research, too.

Deadfolk by Charlie Williams - How about some black comedy noir set in smalltown UK? If anyone can pull it off, I'm guessing it's Charlie Williams.

Deadinburgh by Mark Wilson - I caught this one last week as a freebie, vouched for by Paul D. Brazill, a talented storyteller in his own right. Good enough for me.

Phone Call from Hell and Other Stories by Jonathan Woods - This is a brand new book from New Pulp Press. I can't recall reading Woods' work before, but he's got a bit of praise going for him, and this one looks like it could be really good in the noir department.

Deadly Dozen: 12 Mysteries/Thrillers by various authors - This is another one of those omnibus collections. Twelve books from twelve authors. The two that caught my eye when I saw it on sale were Vincent Zandri and J.F. Penn. For a scant 88 cents, I didn't hesitate downloading it to my Kindle.

March 26, 2014

The Blunder Games: a review of Jeff Strand's "I Have a Bad Feeling About This"

I Have a Bad Feeling About This
by Jeff Strand
Source Books/Fire (2014)
256 pages
ISBN 1402284551

I never got to go to any kind of summer camp in the woods when I was a boy. Maybe that's because I practically grew up in the woods, so it would have been kind of redundant. Reading Jeff Strand's I Have a Bad Feeling About This, I wonder if I would have wound up in the "wuss" category that Henry Lambert finds himself in--by decree of his own father no less.

Henry is meek and mild, to the point even that he makes Clark Kent look like Bill O'Reilly. He's sixteen with one real friend in school who is way more psyched about spending a week in the woods to test his burgeoning manliness. There's not a lot he could do to get out of it though, and even less to escape it once he realizes the camp is a little less impressive than advertised. The accommodations are rustic to say the least, and the counselor is about as congenial as Bill O'Reilly when someone messes with his teleprompter--too many O'Reilly references? I'll stop, I swear.

Anyway, it's not all bad for Henry. He's getting better at archery, in so much that he isn't missing by so great a distance any longer, plus he made a new friend while sleeping outside as punishment, a very cute friend from a neighboring camp. But things turn dangerous before long, even more dangerous than teaching clutzy kids how to handle firearms, when a trio of gangsters show up looking for the counselor whom they believe owes a great deal of money.

Jeff Strand writes this fast-paced novel with the quippy forthrightness that you might expect from an angst-ridden and terminally awkward teen boy. The humor permeates through every paragraph, but there are moments where it goes one punchline too many. Some of the jokes are meant to be bad, so there you go. Henry's brain--since it's his story for the vast majority of the novel--is a hornet's nest of hypochondria. One sentence barely finishes before he's worrying about something else in the next. If you find that kind of narrative hard to take at the beginning, it isn't going to go any easier for you for the rest of the story.

If you have a soft spot in your soul for those old 80s movies like Meatballs or Revenge of the Nerds and Adventures in Babysitting, I'm guessing you'll find a fair bit to enjoy with I Have a Bad Feeling About This.

March 24, 2014

Hard-Boiled Sci-Fi That's More Than Meets the Eye: a review of Maurice Broaddus' "I Can Transform You"

I Can Transform You
by Maurice Broaddus
Apex Books (2013)
118 pages
ISBN 1937009173

Set in a world where corporations have taken over in the wake of failed governments, and where great pillars of earth have risen calamitously up to the heavens, a former member of a privately-owned police force involves himself in a murder case when he discovers one of the victims is his ex-wife.

Mac Peterson feels like an old-fashioned gumshoe set amid this dystopian dreamscape, at odds with nearly everyone around him and seemingly always within a hair's breadth of getting kicked off the case and eschewed into further disgrace. He aides Detective Aid Walter, a bionically enhanced flatfoot with little humor and even less tolerance for Mac's methods, the two make for a futuristic buddy cop duo--minus the buddy. I Can Transform You doesn't go for the pulpy feel, but does offer up some darkly tinged mystery, and the futuristic backdrop gives the kind of Blade Runner vibe that you're either going to love or hate.

I lean towards the former, since Broaddus deftly captures Peterson's grief and turmoil in the wake of his ex-wife's murder. The guy is determined to solve the case, but as he and Aid dig deeper into the case and the ramifications of where it leads, Peterson realizes justice and reconciliation will be harder than expected.

Getting an idea for the world in which Peterson lived was a little hard to grasp at times, visualizing the great spires of earth reaching into the sky felt so at odds with how the characters moved about sometimes. I just had trouble picturing how easy or difficult for a society it would be to maneuver within and around these obstructions, and just how pervasive they were on the planet. The characters by contrast felt so much more tangible that they came off the page with crystal clarity.

For fans of blending genres, I Can Transform You does a heckuva job bringing a murder mystery to a futuristic setting that feels reminiscent of older books and movies, yet completely original as a grand design. You yourself may not be transformed, but it's easy to see that Broaddus is getting better and better at this storytelling racket.

You can purchase a copy on Amazon or directly from Apex Books

March 20, 2014

Chasing Tale [3/20/14]: Spring In, Strung Out

Chasing Tale is a regular feature in which I highlight the latest books added to my to-be-read pile. Some are review copies, some are bargains, some are freebies, and some are hidden gems found in the darkest corners of independent bookshops.

It's the first day of spring!

Mosquitoes and mud puddles are welcome annoyances in the wake of a wonky winter. I tried very hard not to complain about winter, considering summer garners the lion's share of my bellyaching. But it's spring right now, which is my second favorite season, second only to autumn. I got my fly swatter. I got my galoshes. I'm ready for spring. Give me a fishing rod and I'm golden.

With spring comes spring cleaning, too. And I lightened the load on my bookshelf a couple weeks back. Yet more have found their way onto my TBR pile thanks to a slew of sales, reams of review copies, and flagrant freebies. Check 'em out.

The Year I Died Seven Times by Eric Beetner -This crime novel coming out through Beat to a Pulp is being released as serial fiction, with seven installments coming out through the year. There are two out so far and I bought 'em both. Got my eye out for the third, too.

The Black Act by Louise Bohmer - I actually read and reviewed this one a few years ago, but it's since Louise Bohmer has re-released as a serial novel and now the omnibus edition is available. If you like darkly-tinged fairy tales, check it out.

Heartsick by Chelsea Cain - This one sounds like a very cool psychological thriller akin to a Robert Harris novel, with an investigator obsessed with the beautiful serial killer who tortured him then let him go. Creepy.

Shadow Ops: Control Point by Myke Cole - I've heard of military sci-fi, but I don't hear much about military fantasy. This novel, the first in a trilogy, should take care of that. Added bonus that it's on sale via the Kindle Store right now, too.

A Rip Through Time: The Dame, the Doctor, & the Device edited by David Cramner - How about some pulpy time-travel short stories from folks like Chris F. Holm and Elliott Garnett? Yes, I thought you might. A freebie on the Kindle Store, no less.

Beat to a Pulp: Hardboiled 3 edited by David Cramner & Elise Wright - I read the first of this series and enjoyed the heck out of it. I bought the second in the series not too long ago, and now the third in the series is on my Kindle after seeing it as a freebie. Gritty, take-no-prisoners crime fiction. F**k yah.

Zombie Kong by James Roy Daley - Honestly, this could be an ironic title for some existential memoir. Either way, it's a cool-ass title from Books of the Dead Press, and I look forward to reading a novella about a giant, undead ape.

Tales of a Suburban Samurai by Milo James Fowler - Two short stories about a guy with a katana he bought off eBay, then commences life as a vigilante. Cool concept.

Tower of Obsidian by L.T. Getty - Looks like I have some more swords and sorcery on my TBR pile with this novel. I really should try to read more of this genre, so maybe I'll take this one for a test drive first.

Adventures of Cash Laramie & Gideon Miles by Edward A. Grainger - Rough and tumble, guns ablazin', western tales. Don't mind if I do.

The Reluctant Reaper by Gina X. Grant - At first glance, this reminded me of the show, Dead Like Me, but it looks like the gal turned reaper in this book has a bit of a different story to tell.

Skinny Dip by Carl Hiaasen - This is a book I grabbed at a used-book shop on pure impulse. Pop art kind of cover and a quirky plot involving a beautiful women thrown overboard by her villainous marine biologist of a husband, only to seek revenge with the help of an ex-cop whose beach she washed up on.

The Posthumous Man by Jake Hinkson - A guy tries to kill himself only to wind up entranced by a nurse and lured into a million dollar heist. Oh brother, this could be good. This was only 99 cents when I grabbed it, and it might still be priced low, so look it up.

The Last of the Smoking Bartenders by C.J. Howell - A drifter and his motley crew of psycho patriots travel the American highways hunting a terrorist cell. Or are they just plain crazy and killing innocent people. I look forward to finding out.

Flash Move by Andy Kasch - This is the second novel in Kasch's Torian Reclamation space opera. He actually offered up an excerpt here on the blog recently. Click here to check it out.

Patient Zero by Jonathan Maberry - The latest Joe Ledger novel hit the shelves a week or two ago, and with that the first in the series, Patient Zero, was put on sale. I enjoyed Maberry's Pine Deep trilogy, so let's see how this technothriller fares.

Reaping the Dark by Gary McMahon - I'm already a fan of Gary McMahon's stories, so what could this one from DarkFuse be about? How about a getaway driver on the run from crime lords and occultists. Yup. That's my wheelhouse.

The Pack: Winter Kill by Mike Oliveri - Werewolf noir? Oh heck, how can I resist a blending of genres like that. It's custom-made for a genre mutt like me. Ahrooo!

Hexes by Tom Piccirilli - I don't need much of a reason to buy an ebook by Piccirilli. It's practically a monthly ritual. But when i can score one for a buck, I can't hit "buy" fast enough.

Kill Me Tomorrow by Richard S. Prather - This old paperback looked so deliciously pulpy, sitting like it was atop a pile of well-worn crime novels in a bookshop's back room. Like a lost puppy, I just had to give it a home.

The Medea Complex by Rachel Florence Roberts - A historical novel involving a married woman locked up in an asylum, condemned as insane and unfit to face trial for terrible crimes. But did she do it? I guess I gotta read to find out.

Merrie Axemas by M.R. Sellars - A young lady has an ax to grind--literally--with Santa Claus. Snagged this one as a freebie on the Kindle Store. Sure, it's a while before Christmas, but it's never too late to get into the spirit of things.

Deathbringer by Bryan Smith - I saw this occult-themed thrillfest on the Kindle Store for a mere 99 cents the other day. Nothing wrong with that.

Sacrifices by Roger Smith -A thriller set in South Africa involving a murder covered up by a rich, white family and a justice system that doesn't seem to give a damn. The one-star reviews compel me to read this as much as the five-star reviews.

The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year: Volume 8 edited by Jonathan Strahan - For all the anthologies I've read over the years, this is a series I've yet to try out. Received an eARC from Solaris, so I can see what this acclaimed anthology series has to offer.

Slingers by Matt Wallace - Serial fiction has a new home in digital publishing. I won the first episode of this new series from the fine folks at Adventures in Sci-Fi Publishing. So thanks to them and to Matt Wallace.

Second Chance by Chet Williamson - Hey, here's another book with time-travel featured in it. I got the heads-up on this one from Crossroad Press, when the audiobook was released and I saw the ebook only cost a buck. Kaching.

Dark Force Rising by Timothy Zahn - I figure if I'm going to read a Star Wars novel, I should read the most popular ones, the first ones for that matter. I have the first book on my TBR pile from Zahn's Thrawn trilogy and I found this second one dirt cheap at a used-book shop.

Small Crimes by Dave Zeltserman - I have a slew of Zeltserman's books on my Kindle, but none on my actual bookshelf. Until now. This is one of his earlier novels, and one that got praise from multiple authors and even NPR. Not too shabby.

From Darkness Comes: The Horror Box Set (8 Book Collection) - I actually have four of the eight books in this collection already, but it was released for 99 cents in its opening days on the Kindle Store. The one I didn't have that caught my eye was Kealan Patrick Burke's Kin. Sold.

March 19, 2014

The Torian Reclamation Continues: an excerpt of Andy Kasch's "Flash Move"

About the author: Andy Kasch lives in Southern California with his beautiful wife and two neurotic cats. He writes when he is not fly-fishing from his kayak or travelling. The two greatest things to happen in the 21st century so far, according to Andy, are the craft beer revolution and the advent of the self-publishing business. These are good times if you are blessed enough to be in a position to enjoy them. Andy wishes you much benevolence and advises you to lead a balanced life, always. Tulros.

About the book: Freedom left unchallenged is an undervalued asset.

Book Two of The Torian Reclamation. It’s been 25 years since the Earthlings were resuscitated and Brandon Foss’s unique set of skills became the deciding factor in Tora’s first interstellar war. A second-generation of Torian humans is now in young adulthood, including Derek’s thrill-seeking son Jumper—whose insatiable thirst for adventure often entangles him and his friends in the darker shenanigans of their home world’s fallen culture.

Amulen society has been decimated due to widespread addiction to the alien game polwar. Derek and his family stubbornly remain on Amulen despite the continually deteriorating conditions. When a new, suspiciously power-hungry leader makes progress in re-uniting Amulen through the very thing that destroyed it, Brandon shows up and gets the kids involved in reconnaissance work.

But an uninvited guest also arrives. The Torian military is provoked into action, tested to extremes, and forced to discover who their friends really are.

Open this space adventure story to page one and see if you can spot the flash move.

an excerpt of Flash Move
by Andy Kasch

“Park here.” Jumper motioned towards a depression in a small sand dune along the foothills.

“This isn’t the same spot where your 2-seater was found,” Lakor5 said.

“I know, but the trailhead we located is closer here, almost straight ahead.” Jumper pointed to a clearing in the woods at the base of the mountain in front of them.

“All right,” Lakor5 said to the driver, a dull-skinned Amulite who Jumper had already forgotten the name of. “Do as he says.”

The driver took the cruiser over the dune Jumper pointed to, came down the other side of it, found a low spot, hovered, and set down. The vehicle wasn’t as hidden as Jumper liked, but at least it wasn’t directly visible from most of the immediate flatlands.

Jumper waited impatiently while everyone else gathered their gear and got themselves together. He finally led them all to the trailhead and began the ascent into the Sinlo Mountains. The path was lightly used; most would probably not use the word “trail” in referring to it. It was heavily overgrown in some areas, but passable. It didn’t become steep immediately. Everyone followed Jumper as they hiked up several switchbacks.

Alan and Kayla stayed up with Jumper. Lakor5 was right on their heels. Jumper was happy about that. It wasn’t as though he and Alan were bona fide friends with Lakor5—in fact, on several occasions they had gotten into altercations with his patrol. But Jumper knew the combativeness between them was more friendly banter than serious contention. Lakor5 always ended up letting them pass wherever they were heading—even into heavily patrolled Midlands areas. Jumper figured him for someone thirsty for stories and information, and his way of getting it was by pretending to act tough. Ultimately, Jumper and Alan were glad he—and not someone else—was the eastern patrol captain.

The other three natives followed a short distance behind. Mulb9 brought up the rear. The route Jumper led them on circled behind an outcrop of boulders through a thicket of bushes. When they came out of it, they found themselves on a plateau above the big rocks. A sizable crevice full of dry brush separated the mountainside from the boulders. Some of the brush was broken up in places, and a bad smell permeated in the area.

“Nice view from here,” Kayla said when they stopped to wait for the others. She was gazing out over the valley. They had climbed high enough to see the swamps on the far northern horizon.

Jumper noticed Alan wasn’t looking out to appreciate the view. He was staring into the rock crevice and grimacing.

“What’s wrong?”

Alan pointed at the broken bushes. “Isn’t this where your opponent landed?”

A look of horror came over Kayla.

Jumper pushed Alan on the shoulder. “No. We were farther north. An animal or rock must have fallen there. Enough about that. What’s wrong with you?”

The three natives cleared the bushes and came up on to the plateau.

Jumper waved ahead. “Let’s move.”

But before they could continue, the sound of three small explosions echoed from high above, separated by evenly-timed pauses. It was a signal.

Totlen6 turned to Mulb9. “Answer them.”

Mulb9 unhitched a black cylindrical object from his belt and held it skyward, his arm fully stretched. Two sparks emitted from it and shot high into the air. They detonated in two timed explosions.

Jumper and his six companions remained standing in the open and waited. After a few minutes, the series of three overhead explosions repeated.

“They’re telling us not to come,” Totlen6 said.

“Well, at least they know we’re coming now,” Lakor5 said.

When Mulb9 stowed his device, Jumper led them up into the next batch of woods to continue the ascent.

“More importantly,” Kayla said, “they now know that we know they know we are coming. So we won’t appear as hostile—hopefully.”

Jumper saw Lakor5 glance at her and nod in obvious appreciation of her logic. He seemed impressed by her. But then, Torian females didn’t play a prominent role in their society, especially native females. Encountering an Earth woman as brave, agile, and smart as Kayla had to be a new cultural experience for these natives.

Jumper suspected Kayla wasn’t quite as brave as she acted, though. As they made their way through thick woods and brush, sometimes having to improvise a new section of trail to get back to Jumper’s intended path, rustling noises could be heard in the wilderness around them. Birds and small game, no doubt. Once in a while, Kayla’s hand would find its way to grasping Jumper’s arm right after one of those noises occurred nearby. Jumper kept looking at her when that happened, but she always appeared to be steadying herself from stumbling, sometimes apologizing as she reached for her ankle or foot, as if to blame some vine on the ground for the incident.

“I don’t think there are many dangerous animals in these mountains,” Jumper said to her after the fourth such occasion.

“Good,” she replied. “That’s one less thing I have to rescue you from.”

“Actually,” Lakor5 said, “a small population of large felidors lives up here. Plenty of birds and small game for them, although they’re partial to wild dogs and zaboar.”

“Felidors,” Alan said from behind them. “My dad calls those saber-tooth tigers. Says they went extinct on Earth thousands of years ago.”

No sooner had Alan said that then the bush next to them exploded with sound—much too loudly for a small animal. All ten of Kayla’s fingers dug themselves deep into Jumper’s right arm. The bush then emitted a spine-chilling growl and a blurry object sprang from it.

Jumper wrapped Kayla backward with his arm and pushed her to the ground, falling on top of her and knocking Alan down as a domino. Jumper rolled off her and reached for the hand laser on his belt—but it wasn’t there.

A felidor had ambushed them. Jumper’s quick reaction moved him and Kayla out of its path, but the big cat landed on Lakor5 and now had him pinned on the ground. Lakor5’s forearms were extended to the felidor’s thick neck. He was managing to hold the cat’s large fangs a few inches away from his throat. But the felidor was winning the struggle and Jumper could see Lakor5’s strength beginning to give way. Jumper turned behind him and yelled.

“I lost my weapon! Help!”

Kayla had crawled back behind a fallen tree and her head could be seen thrashing about behind it. Jumper heard her cursing in what sounded like a crying voice. Alan was trying to stand but might have been knocked senseless from the fall. Jumper crouched at his side and grabbed the rifle still strapped to his back, trying to pull it off his arm. But Alan rolled to that side, probably as an instinctive reaction. The rifle ended up beneath him.

Jumper looked behind him in desperation. Totlen6 was there, thank Erob, and had his rifle up. But wait—the butt end was wedged between two tree trunks behind him and the front was stuck in a hole in a tree in front of him. He was struggling to free it.

The great beast let loose with a ground-shaking growl. Jumper looked back to Lakor5. The cat was leaning ever-closer to its intended victim. Lakor5 then managed to roll slightly to his right, freed his left arm, brought it to the opposite side of the felidor’s neck, and pushed it sideways away from him to his left. The cat jumped off, but crouched and pounced right back on him. Lakor5 was back in the same position, even weaker now, trying to hold the cat’s jaws off his throat.

That’s when a laser fired from behind. The beam connected on the felidor behind its shoulder, causing the beast to howl horribly and jump off of Lakor5 again. It landed on the path in front of him, where it turned and crouched in a pouncing position. Jumper looked back down the trail.

Totlen6 was still struggling to free his wedged rifle. Lying on the ground beneath him was Mulb9. He had just set his hand laser on the ground and was extending his other arm forward, which held a long, thin device. He aimed the device and fired. A long red segment of light shot out of it and struck the felidor in the chest, resulting in another loud shriek from the cat. It changed positions again, but was still on its feet.

Quickly, Mulb9 stood and charged. The felidor saw him coming and crouched lower, preparing to spring with whatever strength it had left. But Mulb9 fired again first. This time, the red light could be seen sinking deep into its neck. The felidor dropped stiff.

Lakor5 managed to sit up and get his rifle positioned at his shoulder. Too late.

Jumper looked behind him again. Totlen6 cursed and slowly dislodged his rifle from the trees, a much easier task when not panicking. The driver was finally coming into view on the trail. He had a confused look on his face, obviously unaware of what was happening.

Alan stood up and surveyed the scene in front of him. He looked as confused as the driver. Kayla also reappeared from behind the big log. Her hair was a mess. She was holding her hand laser, but her hand was shaking a little.

Jumper moved forward on the trail, disgusted at the humans’ performance under pressure. Lakor5 stood and reached his hand out towards Jumper.

“Is this yours?”

Jumper looked at his hand. He was holding Jumper’s laser. It must have dropped when he pushed Kayla backwards.

“Thanks.” Jumper took it and fastened it back on his belt, hopefully more securely this time. Kayla came up by his side and started fixing her hair. Jumper stared at her.

“Rescue me, huh?”

Kayla shrugged and appeared to be recovering. “I probably should have told you. I’m afraid of animals.”

“Great.” Jumper shook his head and went over to inspect the dead felidor.

It was bigger than Jumper, with red fur and impressively muscular shoulders. Those fearsome fangs were about the size of the span of Jumper’s hand. Mulb9 came up and stood next to Jumper.

“That’s a dart gun, isn’t it?” Jumper asked Mulb9. “I’ve heard about those.”

“Yes.” Mul9 re-strapped it to his ankle and then produced a different device, a small silver metallic ball. As he held it, an antenna rose up. Jumper thought he detected a slight popping noise for a second, and then birds in nearby trees and bushes could be heard flying out of them and away in every direction. The antenna went back down and Mulb9 put the device away in one of the small pouches hooked to his belt.

“Someone should have told me there were large predators in this region,” he said.

Mulb9 then drew his hand weapon, bent down, grabbed one of the felidor’s fangs, and began shooting short, controlled beams into its mouth at the base of the tooth. A moment later, the tooth pulled free. He wiped the blood on the cat’s fur and stood up.


Jumper saw Kayla walking backwards with a terrified look on her face, until she bumped into Totlen6. Jumper rolled his eyes and looked back at Lakor5.

He was back on the ground, sitting and resting his head on his knees. The driver was crouched next to him with a hand on one of his arms. Jumper hurried over and knelt at his other side.

“Lakor5, are you all right?”

Lakor5 lifted his head. “I think so. Just catching my breath. But I believe I’ll let you Earth kids have your own mountain adventures from now on.”

That’s when Jumper noticed the puncture wounds on both of Lakor5’s shoulders. Small trails of yellow Torian blood were running from either side. The felidor’s claws must have been sharp to puncture the thick leather Torian skin.

“Excuse me,” Mulb9 said as he nudged Jumper out of the way. He held another small device in one hand and positioned it over Lakor5’s left shoulder wound. A flash of light came from it and the wound stopped bleeding. He did the same to the other side, then peeled back one of Lakor5’s eyelids and looked into it.

“He’ll be fine,” Mulb9 said and stood back up.

They gave Lakor5 a few minutes to rest before continuing the expedition. When everyone was ready to start again, Totlen6 insisted that he and the driver lead from this point forward. Jumper’s objections were ignored.

“Stay behind us,” Totlen6 said, “and try to make yourselves useful if there’s any more trouble.”

Alan dropped his head and looked at the ground after that comment, but Kayla furled her brow. She looked upset and determined.

Jumper wasn’t sure how he felt, but it was clear Totlen6 had taken him off point position for the time being. Jumper reluctantly instructed him as to the path and stayed close behind him and the driver. Kayla and Alan were right behind Jumper. Mulb9 walked with Lakor5 in the rear, with a short gap between them.

Before they had gone much farther, Jumper noticed red streaks in the sky. Totlen6 must have seen them also, because he paused for a second and looked upward before resuming the climb.

Alan saw them too. “Are the mountain dwellers shooting at us above the treetops?” he asked.

“Erob no,” Jumper replied. “Those streaks are way too high. You sure your vision is okay? Those are so far up they may not even be in the atmosphere. Could even be meteors.”
Alan glanced back and forth between the sky and the trees a few times while blinking, then shrugged and resumed hiking.

As they continued to ascend, the landscape became less rocky. Thick patches of lush green vegetation grew on the forest floor. Much of it was an edible plant with large web-like leaves, what the locals called sola but what Jumper’s dad referred to as ferns. Jumper stopped momentarily as he noticed many of the sola leaves had recently been picked. He knew they were getting close to population.

Jumper then jogged ahead to correct Totlen6 and the driver to the right path, as they were veering from it again. Totlen6 really should have let Jumper continue leading. But before he reached them, Totlen6 and the driver stopped cold and crouched. Jumper quickly drew his weapon and turned behind him. Kayla had her weapon out and her feet spread apart. Alan was already hunched down with his rifle leveled at his shoulder. Good. The humans were making a comeback. Lakor5 and Mulb9 were also crouching down in the rear, but didn’t have their weapons up yet.

Jumper turned to the front and saw the driver and Totlen6 slowly stepping forward with their weapons pointed. They stopped at an opening in the woods between two larger trees that had twelve or so feet of space between them. There they stood.

Jumper hurried over to join them, but slowed and carefully picked his steps the last bit of distance. When he got there, what he saw was perplexing.

Two native Amulites, both with fairly bright skin, were sleeping on either side of a polwar game. The frame was lit and there were pieces in the field, but not enough for a completed game. They must have fallen asleep while playing. Either that or they were dead. One of the players was hunched over in a sitting up position, and the other was slumped sideways on a tree stump.

Totlen6’s words about doing something useful echoed through Jumpers brain. He decided to pick up a stone and throw it at one of the players. It hit the one in the sitting-up position in the leg, which caused him to stir. That one, at least, was alive.

Totlen6 turned to scowl at Jumper when the stone hit, and raised his rifle closer to his eye. But then he looked back at Jumper and nodded towards the same player, motioning him to do it again. So, Jumper threw another rock, a little bigger one this time, a little harder. It hit him the torso, under his armpit. That did the trick. The player woke up.

He raised his head and looked about him. When he saw the weapons pointed at him, he glanced around rapidly in a panic. But then he noticed his sleeping opponent. He stopped moving, stopped looking about. The game field captured his attention and held it. He finally picked up a piece and placed it in the field. He then picked up the same rock that Jumper just hit him with and threw it at his opponent. It hit him it the head. His opponent came to life, but never noticed the armed party standing next to him. The first thing he saw was the game frame and he never looked away from it. He picked up a piece and studied it. As he did, the first player fell back asleep in the same position.

Jumper holstered his weapon, walked over to the now-awake player who was leaning against the tree stump, and waved his arms all around his peripheral field of vision. No reaction. He turned back to Totlen6 and pointed up the path.

“Let’s go. No threat here.”

Totlen6 must have surmised this as well, because his rifle was already swung around his back. The driver looked confused, but finally shrugged and turned back to the trail. The expedition continued.

But they moved slower now, and stayed closer together. This was the final stretch. The large clearing where Jumper and Alan inadvertently discovered the mountain dweller camp several days ago was close ahead. Before they reached it, they passed two additional smaller clearings with two more pairs of natives sleeping with a polwar game between them. The sleeping players were thinner than typical Amulites, possibly due to malnourishment. Those players they left undisturbed.

Then they came to the large clearing.

“This is it,” Jumper said to Totlen6 as they stepped out of the trees.

“No one’s here,” Totlen6 said.

But he spoke too soon. Two strong arms grabbed Jumper from behind and held him in place. He saw blurs moving on his left, and then the driver and Totlen6 were both quickly seized as well, by one native on each side of them.

Jumper turned to his right. Alan was also being held in place by a single native from behind.

He looked back into the trees at the pathway. Kayla, Lakor5, and Mulb9 were nowhere in sight.

If you'd like to purchase a copy of Flash Move, it's available at and elsewhere.

March 18, 2014

Feeling Lucky? A Kindle Fire HDX Giveaway (hosted by I Am a Reader)

How would you like to win a Kindle? Well, I Am A Reader is hosting a giveaway that gives you a chance to win 1 of 2 Kindles!

The first one is available via the rafflecopter below. The 2nd is available only to bloggers who post about this giveaway. You can find info on how to enter in the rafflecopter.

Kindle Fire HDX March

Win a Kindle Fire HDX, Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash ($229 value)
Bloggers & Authors have joined together and each chipped in a little money towards a Kindle Fire HDX 7".

The winner will have the option of receiving a 7" Kindle Fire HDX (US Only - $229 Value)

Or $229 Gift Card (International)

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Giveaway Details

1 winner will receive their choice of an all new Kindle Fire 7" HDX (US Only - $229 value), $229 Amazon Gift Card or $229 in Paypal Cash (International).

There is a second separate giveaway for bloggers who post this giveaway on their blog. See details in the rafflecopter on how to enter to win the 2nd Kindle Fire HDX 7".

Ends 3/31/14

Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader and sponsored by the participating authors & bloggers. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.

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March 17, 2014

Between an Expensive Rock and a Hard Place: a review of Les Edgerton's "The Bitch"

The Bitch
by Les Edgerton
New Pulp Press (2014)
Kindle Edition

Previously published a couple years ago, New Pulp Press has breathed new life into Les Edgerton's The Bitch with a new release this winter. I had heard about Edgerton last year through the Booked.Podcast, raving his novel, The Rapist, and didn't hesitate when I got the chance to read this one. While the title is a bit deceptive to those unaccustomed to prison slang, the hard-edged storytelling is there in full glory and made it hard to put this book down.

Jake Bishop used to be a heck of a burglar when he was younger, but he still managed to get sent to prison twice. With the threat of winding up there a third time hanging over his head, he resolved to go straight. He got married, got a good job as a hairdresser, even setting himself up to start his own business pretty soon with the money he has saved, which is great because he has a baby on the way, too. And then his old cellmate shows up in town and all his best laid plains crumble like rotten snow.

The Bitch is impeccably paced and the tension rises from mildly uncomfortable at Jake's first contact with Walker to downright excruciating when the secrets Jake keeps from Paris pile up like a house of cards. Some of that cringe-inducing tension comes from the anticipation of what Jake's bad choices, one after another, are likely to lead to, but there's also the unanticipated repercussions that throw Jake's already careening life into a brand-new tailspin.

Jake is a likable guy, relatable even, but there are moments where it's difficult to root for the guy. Even with detestable characters like Walker Joy and the scumbag jeweler blackmailing Jake into one more heist, the tug-of-war going on with Jake's sense of right and wrong gets more than a little compromised, especially when it becomes harder and harder to hide the truth from his wife. As much as there is intrigue into whether he can pull off the job as smoothly as he's planned it, there's even more intrigue over just how low down he's willing to go to do what he convinces himself is best for his wife and kid.

It's early in the year still, but The Bitch is a novel I will not be at all surprised to see show up on my fave five list of 2014 novels at the end of the year. If you enjoy Joe R. Lansdale's stories, or those of Scott Phillips or Anthony Neil Smith or others who deal with noir fiction, you'll be doing yourself a favor by reading something by Les Edgerton.