Something Old Something New

superSuperheroes have been around for decades. Comic books really took off with the introduction of Superman in 1938. They’re filled with good guys, bad guys, indifferent guys, supervillains, tights, muscles, anatomically endowed women (and men), incredible powers, angst, love, joy, hate, and storylines that last for years.

That’s the something old. The something new is what I’m working on now. It’s about a group of hitmen who assassinate superheroes.

It takes a special kind of person to eliminate a hero that’s universally beloved…which is exactly why they’re all in a support group. Read the first chapter below and let me know what you think!

————

SUPER

Ernie Lindsey

©2014

 

There’s a hero in every villain.

 

The woman from South Korea looks fetching in a white pantsuit. Her hair is the color of a raven, flecked with rainy day gray, and she wears it cropped close and level, like a ’50s flattop.

Out of everyone in this godforsaken support group, I trust her the least. In fact, I couldn’t trust her less if I tried; yet, I’m starting to think that she’s not why I’m here.

Still, she’s got some nerve.

John Conklin carries doughnuts around the circle and when he asks in a hushed voice if I want glazed or Boston Crème, I politely decline. I know where his hands have been. “Suit yourself. They’re from that gluten-free place up near Powell’s.”

“Patsy’s?”

His eyes light up. “Yeah, that one!”

I reassure him that, indeed, I do not want a doughnut, though on most days, I’d give my right arm for their stuff. Bottom line, I don’t want John Conklin anywhere near my food.

Dallas works that Cheshire grin on her face, lying to everyone in the room, claiming that she’s responsible for Superman’s death off the coast of the Maldives.

We’re supposed to be here for that cotton-candy bullshit: love, support, understanding, and a shoulder to cry on. We’re not here to beat our chests about past conquests.

I should clarify: they’re here for that reason. I’m here for my own.

While the world mourns the death of the man in blue tights, from New York, to Shanghai, to Cairo, with newspapers screaming their headlines of despair, I sit here smoldering inside because I know the truth.

Dallas is lying, but that doesn’t mean she’s my culprit.

She sips her steaming mug of green tea and says, “You know I can’t tell you where the rest of the body is, Charlene, that would defeat the whole purpose. Imagine the hysteria.”

Charlene—she’s the attractive redhead—congratulates my South Korean counterpart and hugs her handbag closer to her chest. Her paranoia issues far outweigh my own manufactured problems, and the rest of us had begun to speculate that we’d never see her again. The fact that she’s here, that she made it again, says more about her character than I care to admit because she’s still a suspect. I like Charlene, no doubt, but if it comes down to a cup of coffee or handcuffs (not the furry kind) I’m choosing duty over desire.

Dallas goes on and on about her methods and tactics. She’s such a braggart that I’m beginning to wonder why she’s even here in the first place. She doesn’t belong. Neither do I, but I don’t care that she suffers from compulsive lying. I don’t like her.

“He was right there, guys. I’m telling you, just ripe for the plucking, and I was in and out before he took a second breath. Not that he would’ve had a chance to, mind you.”

Lie.

“Of course I was sure he was dead before I left. Don’t you all double check?”

Lie. Lie.

“I got the liquid kryptonite wholesale. I’ll see if my supplier wants me to pass his card around.”

Damned lie.

How do I know she’s not telling the truth?

Because that gig was my handiwork. A week ago, I took out dear Mr. Kent with a simple medicine dropper full of liquidized kryptonite. Even Superman needs a nap, right? I’d waited until that floozy Lois went out for a dip in the crystal blue waters surrounding the aptly named yacht, Misery’s Fortune, slipped into the forward cabin like the stealthy ninja that I am, and viola, one dead superhero, as ordered. Everybody knows that he was vulnerable to kryptonite, but a single, concentrated dose that close to the brain? Dude never had a chance.

The thing is, see, people had been trying to send the man of steel to his grave for decades, but they were going about it all wrong; the trick was to get in there where he was vulnerable.

Hell, I can’t think of any good examples right now—okay, say it’s like Luke Skywalker and the Death Star. Superman’s ear canal could be that opening that Skywalker flies into and then fires his pew-pew proton torpedoes or whatever. Anyway, we all know how that ended.

Am I proud of it? Damn straight.

I mean, I guess I am. Superman had done a lot of good for the world and it was a shame, but come on, I accomplished something that no other person in history has been able to do. More people have walked on the moon.

Dallas says, “Tara, there’s simply no way—I’m sorry, Mara—there’s no way I’m going to offer you any legitimate proof and reveal my sources. We all know how this works.”

Mara crosses her legs and her arms. She pouts until Charlie Delta tries to put a hand on her shoulder. She squirms away with an upturned lip.

Dallas says, “Well, he certainly didn’t die with his books on—wink, wink.”

Here’s the problem: I have no way to refute this woman. She can sit there and lay claim to Superman or any of my other conquests like Gray Ghoul, Scarlett Gargoyle, Captain Kane, Deathmarch, Quickstrike, Sam Diamond, the entire Power Hour Team, and even the Crimson Gargoyle, and nobody would know the difference.

I’m bound by contractual obligation to keep my damn mouth shut—the US government doesn’t look kindly on its subcontractors sharing state secrets—and she gets all the glory. It’s ridiculous, and I have half a mind to call her out in front of this entire gaggle of heathens, but who will believe me? Dallas has clout among this den of miscreants and, supposedly, I’m just here for the anxiety issues.

What I’m doing with this gathering of mentally imbalanced, professional assassins is another story that I’ll get to in a minute, but first, let me offer a little background.

We meet every Tuesday in the back of a bowling alley that smells like stale beer and floor cleaner. I’m always worried about being congregated here with nearly everyone of my ilk.

If Billie Bombshell happened to learn about this highly clandestine meeting, she could swoop in, drop one of her explosive devices on the roof, and ninety percent of the world’s elite superhero assassins would vanish.

She swore her vengeance after I eliminated her brother, Billy Barbell, but if I took the time to worry about everyone who wants retribution at my expense, I’d be a quivering mess just like Charlene.

Remember how in Forrest Gump all the shrimping boats were destroyed and that left the spoils to Forrest? If somebody blew up this building right now, our few remaining colleagues left out there would have more work than they could handle.

The owner, this wrinkled raisin of a guy named Jeff, is a retired super-op himself, so he doesn’t mind if the twelve of us gather and whine about how hard our lives are, travelling all over the world to beautiful, exotic locations so we can purge superheroes as various governments deem fit. They have their reasons. I don’t ask. I just collect the paycheck.

‘If the price is right, no job is too small or too light.’

That’s my motto. Sure, the rhyming is hokey, but it makes it simple to remember me, and I’m partly convinced that’s why I get more work than some of these other jokers. I thought about getting it embossed on a stack of business cards and changed my mind. You don’t want a paper trail in this line of work. Literally and figuratively.

Anyway, back to the support group and this ratty bowling alley. I’d prefer a bagel shop, but a certain amount of discretion is required when you do what we do for a living.

On the plus side, Jeff also allows us to roll a few free games, and I have to admit, my skills have gotten better over the past month. I broke a hundred last week for the first time ever. John Conklin—he of the doughnuts, who is also the demented bastard with a necrophelia addiction—nearly rolled a perfect game back in March. I’ll never forget the look on his face when that final 10-pin didn’t fall, and if the guy humped something other than dead superheroes, I might be able to find a dash of sympathy for him.

I mean, damn, one pin away from a perfect game. Can you imagine?

Sorry, was that too callous? I’ve been at this a while, and I’ve seen shit that would make Stephen King cringe, so you’ll have to excuse my forays into not-giving-a-crap insensitivity. It’s natural to me at this point. You have to adopt a thick shell of armor or you’ll never get through the day.

Okay, so I mentioned there are twelve of us: Dallas, Charlene, John Conklin, myself, Don Weiss, Tara, her twin Mara, Eleanor, Mike, Charlie Bravo, Charlie Delta, and Fred McCracken. Each of us has our own—well, we call them “quirks” to avoid the true nature of the fact that we’re all certifiably insane—on some level—to do what we do as professionals.

I’m the normal one of the group, if we’re being generous, because I’m here under false pretenses. I don’t have “quirks” like these guys, but you sit around and listen to them long enough, it’s hard not to think that you might be one job away from tilting the pinball machine in your gray matter.

This is the Superhero Assassin Support Society (SASS for short—let it be known that I did not vote yes to that acronym) and I’m here because there’s a traitor among us.

At least, an underground branch of the US government thinks so, and I’m getting paid to turn on my own kind…which leaves me wondering; which is worse, betraying your country, or betraying your friends?

If there’s no honor among thieves, then there’s certainly no honor among sassy people.

See what I did there?

***

The meeting went well, aside from every single lie Dallas told. Fred McCracken had a breakthrough and cried for the first time. Don Weiss was the first to offer a clean hanky, and those two have been rivals for thirty years. Charlie Bravo and Charlie Delta didn’t argue once over whom Mom loved best and John Conklin kept his hands where everyone could see them. All in all, I’d say it was a successful Tuesday, and I’ve only been attending for a month.

I’m now standing by the shoe counter waiting on Jeff to bring me a pair of size elevens. Charlene approaches with her handbag clutched to her chest like it’s a shield—a zebra-striped shield with pink piping, but a shield nonetheless. She glances nervously from side to side, a tennis match of paranoid observation, and then manages to give me a smile.

“Hey, Leo,” she says.

I have to be suspicious of everyone, because that’s what I’m getting paid to do, but this is equally strange because she’s never spoken a word to me outside of “And how did that make you feel?”

Charlene has one thing in common with Dallas. She’s not why I’m here either and of that I’m positive.

Charlene is wearing a green shirt that compliments her red hair, so I say, “If it isn’t the Terror of Teal,” and immediately question if I could’ve come up with a better line. She’s a terror, all right. This five-eight bundle of cuteness is responsible for eighteen kills if you believe Homeland’s data.

Every single super with the ability to look great in spandex has it out for her after CNC revealed her identity on Tonight with Don Donner. It’s no wonder the poor woman wears her suspicion like a heavy winter coat. I shake my head, embarrassed, and add, “Sorry, that was dumb.”

Charlene titters nervously, like she wasn’t sure she’s supposed to laugh, and I feel a gooey warmth in my stomach. I can read people well enough to know that laughing when it’s not warranted is a sign of liking someone—I mean like like—and I immediately feel as if I’m back in high school. Next thing you know, Charlene will be wearing my class ring, but it’ll be too big for her and she’ll have to wrap blue string around the band so it doesn’t fall off her finger.

With that thought, my eyes go down to her hands, which I’ve never really examined before, and I see that they’re large and sort of masculine. Maybe she wouldn’t need the string after all and—

She says, “I wanted to ask you something.”

“Oh?”

Jeff shows up at the counter—stealthy bastard—and drops off the red, black, and gray size elevens. He sprays them with the anti-death-by-feet-fungus stuff and then seems to notice that Charlene and I are hanging out…together. He winks at me like she’s not standing right there looking directly at him. I roll my eyes and take the fashionably awful shoes.

Charlene nods at a nearby table. “Want to go sit?”

“So it’s a sit-down conversation, huh? Do I get detention afterward?”

I’m mentally punching myself in the nads because that was probably the lamest joke I’ve ever told.

Thankfully, she doesn’t notice, or doesn’t care, because she titters again and heads to the table. The sound of bowling balls galloping down the lanes and the ear-shattering crash of flying pins reverberates around the room as we pull the seats out and sit across from each other. I feel like we should be sharing a root beer float.

This is the reason I’m still single. A woman says hi to me and I’m already planning who’ll get the kids after the divorce.

Charlene lets go of her bag long enough to pull her seat closer to the table. An unpleasant funk emanates from the bowling shoes and I discretely remove them from under my nose. They go into the chair beside me, but it’s too late; the nostril damage has already been done.

“So,” I say, “what’s up?” My voice comes out deeper than it usually is and I can only assume that it was subconsciously intentional.

She says, “Can we talk about Dallas for a minute?”

I scoff and do that nasally snort of disapproval. “That woman. Jesus. I don’t even have the words.”

Charlene checks the surrounding area and I follow her lead. Jeff remains behind the counter, spraying the fog of anti-death into a row of shoes while the other ten participants in SASS fling heavy balls at ten pieces of carved wood made from rock maple.

We don’t really have a group leader, by the way. Too many strong-willed egos for that to happen, but if I had to pick someone to be in charge, I’d go with Charlene. While she may be more timid and paranoid than a mouse poking it’s head into a room filled with starving alley cats, she also seems levelheaded and is highly precise with a Garrote wire.

That’s her trick. Even superheroes need oxygen to survive. Most of them anyway.

Charlene leans forward. Her lush red hairs falls around her shoulders and I get a whiff of perfume that smells like strawberry cream. She whispers, “It’s none of my business, but how could you sit there quietly and let Dallas take credit for your work?”

Whoa. What?

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The Martian | Andy Weir | Review

Sometimes I think that maybe I write too much to really lose myself in fiction. I critique, I judge word choice, and given the way my mind processes stories, I have to censor that part of the reading process, lest I constantly slap myself with spoiler alerts. Bad example, but yeah, I knew the Titanic was going down because that’s how I would’ve written it…

I start books. I don’t finish them. I can’t tell you how many novels and non-fiction works are in my To Be Read piles that I have stacked around the house, and let’s not even get into the number on my Kindle.

I’ll get around to them one of these days, but for now, we need to talk about a book that grabbed me and just absolutely wouldn’t let go.

Rarely does a work of fiction hit me hard enough that I’m sad that it’s over. You go through this process of A) I’m going to read this book, B) I like this book enough to keep reading, C) That book was enjoyable with a satisfying ending…now I have to go walk the dog/make dinner/put laundry away.

When I finished reading The Martian by Andy Weir, I was hit by a couple of different emotions (aside from the fist-pumping, hell-yeah-that-was-awesome moment). The first was, “That was so good, I’m jealous of Andy Weir,” and the second quickly followed: “Damn, I don’t get to hang out with Mark Watney anymore.”

(For the uninitiated, Mark Watney is the astronaut who gets left behind on Mars.)

It’s kinda ridiculous how fun it is to follow Mark’s adventures, which are primarily told through log entries during his isolation on the Red Planet, and listening to his voice is a treat. I think I read somewhere that Weir would like to see Bradley Cooper play the role, but in my head, I couldn’t picture anyone but Sam Rockwell. The way that Weir/Watney handles being stranded, alone, a gozillion miles from Earth, is both lighthearted and thrilling at the same time. He waffles between cool, laid back, relaxed, I can do this no problem, OH MY GOD I SCREWED UP, okay that wasn’t so bad, and every bit of it keeps you turning the pages to find out he’s going to survive.

The only quibble I have with the novel is that occasionally the science behind it all was over my head, but even then, it’s not a fault because Mark Watney makes it so entertaining. I could listen to this character describe paint drying, and the chemical reactions that cause it, and it would still be engrossing.

I’m a writer…you’d think I’d be able to more accurately (and more eloquently) describe how profoundly blown away I was by this novel. Just go grab a copy, because it’s incredible. I laughed, I cried, and I did both at the same time.

Andy Weir is a rock star and a genius, and if I ever get trapped on Mars, I hope the dude is there to duct tape something together and save my sorry ass. Hat’s off to you, good sir. Can’t wait for your next work.

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An Interview with author Peter Cawdron

Thumb-XenophobiaOne of the things we indie authors like to do is spread the word about our own kind. We got involved in blog hops and such so that we can introduce our readers to some new and fantastic voices. Peter Cawdron, author of Xenophobia and Feedback  and other wonderful works,contributed to From the Indie Side, the speculative fiction anthology I was a part of recently. Check out our Q&A below!

What are you working on?

I’m currently working on two stories: The Children’s Crusade set in the Kindle World of Kurt Vonnegut and My Sweet Satan a science fiction story set in orbit around Saturn.

For me, writing is about taking on a challenge. None of my novels are conventional, but they’re all interesting. They all have some aspect I found difficult and challenging, and that helps me grow as a writer.

Writing in Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five universe has been particularly challenging, especially as Hugh Howey did such a wonderful job with his Peace in Amber, but I’m determined to do Kurt proud. Rather than diminishing great writers like Kurt Vonnegut, I think Kindle Worlds helps to make his stories more accessible to a new generation.

How does your work differ from others in its genre?

I like to make hard science fiction easy.

Hard science fiction is a bit of a misnomer, it’s not hard to understand, it’s hard in its adherence to known science. You can have all the X-Wing and Tie-Fighter battles you want in hard scifi, but you’ll never read about fighters banking in the vacuum of space like an airplane.

Why do you write what you do?

To help readers appreciate the wonder and beauty of life. Some might complain that science has taken all the mystery out of the universe, but science has revealed how wondrous, vast, beautiful and lonely the stars can be. In the midst of a sea of darkness, our world is a beacon of life. That’s something to be appreciated. In each of my stories, I try to subtly place nuggets that will set the reader’s mind on fire with excitement and hope for the future.

How does your writing process work?

I write from the heart, but that doesn’t mean I don’t plan. I’ll make rough sketches of stories on paper or on my iPad so I know where a story is heading, but I’m not slavish about the details, allowing the story to develop naturally.

My “secret ingredient” is running in the forest. No kidding. I’ll have a few rough ideas, go for a run, clear my head of any of the concerns from the week, and out there among the trees and on the gravel paths, I’ll realize what’s needed to give a story some zing. Running is a great cure for writer’s block.

Thank you for inviting me to be part of your blog.

You’re welcome, Peter!

Meanwhile, you might also want to check out Susan May’s blog, who put in a massive amount of work to make sure the anthology got off the ground.

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Updates and Sara’s Game Permanently Free

I have a lot to catch up on. It seems like every time I sit down to write a blog post, I have a moment of “Has it really been ___ days since I updated?!” Between writing, chasing a fifteen-month-old, and life’s interventions, it’s amazing how quickly another week/month/year passes.

Here’s what’s happened recently:

1) Sara’s Game has been set to permanently free on Amazon. (More about that below.)

2) I released both Sara’s Past and Sara’s Fear.

3) I wrote another novella called How White People Die. Strangely enough, the title for that one came to me in a dream and it was so catching that I had to run with it.

4) I released Warchild: Pawn, a young adult, dystopian thriller, similar to The Hunger Games.

5) I just finished another novella for Kindle Worlds and once it’s approved and the cover is ready, I’ll be uploading it. This one is written in the world of Marcus Sakey’s Brilliance, which really is a fantastic novel if you haven’t read it yet. (My other Kindle Worlds piece, Fang, is set in Hugh Howey’s world of Wool.)

That may not be all. These days, Dad Brain is quite prevalent and I have trouble keeping track of where I’m going, what I’m doing, and if I remembered to shower. It seems like the toddler alarm clock is going off at 6AM and then it’s time to crash.

Okay, back to #1 above – I can honestly say that Sara’s Game made my career as a novelist. The life and trajectory of that book has taken me on a wonderful ride over the past year and a half. From selling on its own right out of the gate, to being chosen as a Kindle Daily Deal, to gracing the USA Today bestseller list, that little novel provided me with the ability to do what I’ve always wanted to do for a living, and that’s to tell stories.

I’m still totally blown away by how consistently it sold, and I nearly gave myself a panic attack trying to decide whether or not I should set it to free. The intent was to draw other readers into my work and to give some of my other novels and shorts a chance. We’ll see if that works over time. But, it’s a huge risk on my part because that’s the only one that has really been paying the bills! If you’d like to help out, feel free to share it with your reading friends. The more the merrier.

I’ve released six novels (five under my name and one under a pen name), four novellas, a couple of short stories, and contributed to an anthology of some amazing speculative fiction authors, all within the past year. I’m too lazy to go look at the actual numbers, but I think that’s somewhere between 500-600,000 words in the last twelve months. And that’s not counting the projects I’ve started and abandoned.

Not to mention all the marketing, advertising, reading, learning, and baby-chasing I’ve done in that time frame. It’s no wonder that 2013 blinked by.

What’s up next?  I have at least two more books I’d like to write in the Warchild series and, hopefully, I’ll finally get around to writing a sequel to The White Mountain. Three more novels should get me through the summer.  Beyond that, it all depends on where my imagination takes the next million words.

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Sara’s Fear – Soon, Very Soon

Fingers crossed, the final installment of the Sara series will be live on March 1st!

Sara's Fear

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My 6 Minutes and 30 Seconds of Fame

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From the Indie Side: A Speculative Fiction Anthology

FTIS_3D_CoverA while back Brian Spangler approached me about being part of an anthology made up of independent authors.  (Check out Brian’s work here.)  Of course, and absolutely, I said yes because 1) Brian’s a great guy and 2) he and Susan May already had an amazing collection of my colleagues lined up to participate.  It was a huge honor to even be asked because this is a collection of award-winning, New York Times and USA Today bestselling authors who have such a level of talent that I felt like the nerdy freshman who’d gotten invited to party with the cool kids.

To be fair, SARA’S GAME was on the USA Today bestseller list, but some of these folks are big time bestsellers.  Industry giants and whatnot.  I’m lumped in with these guys?  Consider me flabbergasted and thankful.

The collection features original short stories by each author, and rather than blathering on about how amazing each one is, check out the blurb below and then go grab a copy for yourself when it releases on February 1st!  Be sure to check out the forward written by Hugh Howey of WOOL fame, which does an excellent job of conveying why indie authors like me have chosen this path for our creativity.

EDITED BY DAVID GATEWOOD

COVER DESIGN BY JASON GURLEY

FEATURING STORIES BY

Michael Bunker
Peter Cawdron
Kate Danley
Anne Frasier
    Sara Foster
    Jason Gurley
    Mel Hearse
    Kev Heritage
    Hugh Howey
    Ernie Lindsey
    Susan May
    Brian Spangler

A man who remembers the future and a veteran haunted by his past. A witch ignorant of her powers and a vampire achingly aware of his emptiness. An unmaimed man, a cursed queen, a troubled marriage, a family just trying to survive. 

From an abandoned convent to a Martian classroom, an open-mic reading to a New Mexico mountaintop, these fantastical and imaginative tales will take you on a journey through impossible worlds, all-too-possible futures, and disquieting glimpses into the other side of reality.

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FANG – A Kindle Worlds Novella

Some of you may have read WOOL by Hugh Howey.  I’m kidding.  Some.  Who hasn’t?  (If you haven’t, I’m looking at you.  Go grab a copy.)  Hugh likely had something (if not everything) to do with Amazon opening up a new stream of creativity for readers to consume and authors to contribute to called Kindle Worlds.  In short, it’s fan fiction for some of your favorite stories, worlds, and TV shows.  For example, you can read stories written in the world of GOSSIP GIRL, PRETTY LITTLE LIARS, THE VAMPIRE DIARIES, and of course, WOOL.  I just finished a novella, written in the world of the Silo Saga, and you can read some of the unedited version below.  Per my usual standard, it’s a murder mystery / suspense-thriller, and what I’ve basically done is bastardized the Dracula story by turning it into a whodunnit, inside a silo.

I’m hoping to have this released within a couple of weeks and if you’d like to be notified when it’s available, sign up for the New Release Email List.

Enjoy!

***

 

FANG

©2013

 

HiResBehind the sweaty, nervous porter, the landing was empty.  It was well after midnight and the usual hum of activity had dissipated while most of the silo slept.  “Just take it,” he said.  Hands shaking, eyes darting from left to right, the long, metal file slid from his sleeve and into his palm.  He turned sideways, pretending to check the stairs for foot traffic, as a hand emerged from the shadows and relieved him of the plunder.

The whisper was calm.  “How many?”

“All the way from Mechanical?  Plus the fact that it’s stolen?  We discussed this.  You know how many.”

The porter kept his eyes averted.  To look upon the face invited interaction that he didn’t want.  He heard the jingling of chits and felt the weight of the small sack as it was placed in his palm.  It felt about right, and he didn’t dare count them out in the open.

“Some extra for your trouble.”

The porter asked, “Why all this sneaking around, huh?  Couldn’t you just put in a request?  People ask for stuff like this all the time.”

When he risked a peek over his shoulder, there was no one to answer his questions.

***

Sheriff Nathan Parker kneeled down and studied the disturbed soil.  The grow lights above flickered and splashed eerie shadows along the walls.  He pinched some of the loose dirt between his fingers and sniffed.  Why, he didn’t know.  Habit, mostly.  Something he’d seen his grandfather do on occasion, back when he was sheriff.  Talman Parker had been buried under that same soil twenty years ago, but his routines and skills lived on in Parker.

Ellis, the caretaker of the farm on level thirty, and inarguably the worst-smelling man in the silo, crouched beside Parker and said, “See how it looks like a pack of rats were doing some kind of dance in there?” [...]

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Sara’s Game Sequel

Sara's Game - Ernie Lindsey

CHAPTER ONE

Detective Emerson Barker was not happy.

He marched across the playground, enduring yet another misty, foggy afternoon in Portland, Oregon.  You’d think the gods would allow the weekends to be nice, if nothing else, but at least the changing leaves gave some color to the drab, dreary gray.  This was exactly the kind of task he would’ve sent his former partner on, supposing the poor boy was still alive.  Detective Jonathan Johnson, DJ, JonJon, had eaten a bullet trying to protect the woman that Barker now trudged toward.  It had been honorable of DJ, trading his life for this small family, but damn, one life lost was one too many.

Barker thought, it’s been what, well over a year already?  Time don’t wait for the dead to come back, but we still miss you, cowboy.

He stepped in a puddle, splashing sandy, dirty water onto his slacks, making his left shoe soggy and cold.  “Son of a—”  He caught the last word, wrenched it back, realizing he was within earshot of Sara Winthrop and her children.  Lacey and Callie, the twins, and Jacob, her son, who was unfortunate enough to have not one, but two older sisters to torment him.

Over the past year, [...]

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The Marshmallow Hammer Detective Agency

The Mysterious Case of the Golden Egg

 
Here it is, the first two chapters of my latest middle grade / young adult novel. I hope to have it available within the next few days. Enjoy! 

CHAPTER 1

 
Hello. Marshmallow Hammer

My name is Halcyone Acasia Tintersmoot.

Please don’t hold that against me.

Everyone calls me “Hat,” you know, because of my initials, and I don’t mind it at all—in fact, I prefer it, even though my full name comes from historical family origins and has been handed down through many, many generations.

I am the owner and proprietor of The Marshmallow Hammer Detective Agency. It’s a small, one-girl operation that I run out of my bedroom; that is, when I can keep my younger brothers and sisters from barging in and disrupting important detective work.

Ma says that if I have another project (she calls them “projects” and doesn’t understand that this is serious business) like the last one, which I called The Mysterious Case of the Golden Egg, then maybe I can set up shop in the garage where it’s quiet and I can study clues uninterrupted.

It was my most important case yet, and, anyway, this is how I solved it.

***

On the morning of my twelfth birthday, I got an unexpected present from my Grandpa Gordon, which was weird, considering he passed away when I was nine.

Ma went out the front door, carrying her coffee [...]

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