Post Turkey Coma

Holy cow. First, my stomach hates me, so yeah, MISSION ACCOMPLISHED. =) If you’re dropping by here from the U.S., I hope you and yours had a wonderful Thanksgiving yesterday. Today, after some errands and avoiding any and all shopper-filled locations, I foresee multiple naps. Perhaps some leftovers as well, as long as I can roll myself into the kitchen.

Starting next week, I’m back to editing SKYNOISE before it goes to the editor the following week, and then I hope to have it available before the end of the month. If you’d like to preview the first five chapters, click below:

SKYNOISE – SNEAK PEAK

Other than that, I have my own little Black Friday special going, and if you’d like to grab a copy of the entire SARA series, plus the companion novella One More Game, it’s only $1.99 through November 30th.

Y’all stay awesome, and keep your eyes peeled for the release of Skynoise soon! Sign up for the email list over there on the left.

Peace!

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The Author’s Morning

Vancouver, WA
Interior – Day

The author sits alone in his hotel room, tapping away on a laptop. Outside, the faint hum of I-5 traffic provides the soundtrack of progress. The coffee to his left tastes like it someone filtered it through two-day-old campfire ashes. He’s disappointed. He misses his coffee back home.

The sun! The sun! Eureka! It peeks through the clouds.

The author decides he would roll up his shirtsleeves if he had any. Time to get back to work, he thinks.

Reading over his shoulder, the kindly blog reader asks, “Get back to work on what?”

THIS

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The Launch of Rebel Wing

My friend Tracy Banghart is releasing her novel REBEL WING, which sounds amazing, and she stopped by for a few words. I’ll just let her take it from here! (And don’t forget to sign up for the $25 Amazon Gift Card giveaway down there at the bottom. Plenty of easy ways to enter!)

==========

 

Hello! My name is Tracy and I am so excited to be here today, celebrating with my blogger buddies! WHAT are we celebrating, you ask? Well, today marks the launch of a very exciting, special new program. Alloy Entertainment (of Vampire Diaries, Gossip Girl, and Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants fame) has partnered with Amazon to create a new imprint! As a “Powered By Amazon” imprint, it will be exclusively distributed by Amazon. Here’s more info from the official press release:

“Today, Amazon Publishing and Alloy Entertainment, a division of Warner Bros. Television Group, announced a digital-first imprint that will focus on young adult, new adult and commercial fiction. The new imprint, named Alloy Entertainment, will be part of Amazon Publishing’s Powered by Amazon program. Powered by Amazon enables publishers and authors to leverage Amazon’s global distribution and personalized, targeted marketing reach.”

I am super super proud to share that my previously self-published novel, Shattered Veil, is one of the inaugural books in this program! It has been retitled REBEL WING, given a new cover (check out the beauty below!), fully edited, and I am so, SO excited to share it with you today! In addition, two other books are part of the launch, and they are AWESOME. Read on for more info and purchase links for EVERY UGLY WORD by Aimee L. Salter and IMITATION by Heather Hildenbrand.

REBEL WING

YA Scifi Adventure

“I’ve never been actively jealous of a fictional character .  . . until now. Aris’s adventures set my imagination on fire, and made my heart take flight.” ~Kass Morgan, author of New York Times bestseller The 100

Description


The Dominion of Atalanta is at war. But for eighteen-year-old Aris, the fighting is nothing more than a distant nightmare, something she watches on news vids from the safety of her idyllic seaside town. Then her boyfriend, Calix, is drafted into the Military, and the nightmare becomes a dangerous reality.
Left behind, Aris has nothing to fill her days. Even flying her wingjet—the thing she loves most, aside from Calix—feels meaningless without him by her side. So when she’s recruited to be a pilot for an elite search-and-rescue unit, she leaps at the chance, hoping she’ll be stationed near Calix. But there’s a catch: She must disguise herself as a man named Aristos. There are no women in the Atalantan Military, and there never will be.

Aris gives up everything to find Calix: her home. Her family. Even her identity. But as the war rages on, Aris discovers she’s fighting for much more than her relationship. With each injured person she rescues and each violent battle she survives, Aris is becoming a true soldier—and the best flyer in the Atalantan Military. She’s determined to save her Dominion . . . or die trying.
 
 
About Me
 

Award-winning author, Army wife, and mom Tracy Banghart has an MA in Publishing and an unhealthy affection for cupcakes. Her quiet childhood led to a reading addiction, writing obsession, and several serious book boyfriends. Rebel Wing is her third novel.  She can be found at www.tracybanghart.com 

 
EVERY UGLY WORD
 
By Aimee L. Salter
 
Description
 
When seventeen-year-old Ashley Watson walks through the halls of her high school, bullies taunt and shove her. She can’t go a day without fighting with her mother. And no matter how hard she tries, she can’t make her best friend, Matt, fall in love with her. But Ashley also has something no one else does: a literal glimpse into the future. When Ashley looks into the mirror, she can see her twenty-three-year-old self.
Her older self has been through it all already—she endured the bullying, survived the heartbreak, and
heard every ugly word her classmates threw at her. But her older self is also keeping a dark secret: Something terrible is about to happen to Ashley.
Something that will change her life forever. Something even her older self is powerless to stop.
 

Perfect for fans of Thirteen Reasons Why and The List, Every Ugly Word is a gripping and emotional story about the devastating consequences of bullying.
 
About Aimee
 
Aimee L. Salter lives in Southern Oregon with her husband and son. She writes novels for teens and the occasional adult who, like herself, is still in touch with their inner-high schooler. She never stopped appreciating those moments in the dark when you say what you’re really thinking. And she’ll always ask you about the things you wish she wouldn’t.Aimee blogs for both writers and readers at www.aimeelsalter.com. You can also find her on Twitter and Facebook.

Every Ugly Word is her debut novel.

 
IMITATION
 
By Heather Hildenbrand
 
Description
 

Everyone is exactly like me.

There is no one like me.
 
Ven wrestles with these contradicting truths every day. A clone of wealthy eighteen-year-old Raven Rogen, Ven knows everything about the girl she was created to serve: the clothes she wears, the boys she loves, the friends she loves to hate. Yet she’s never met the Authentic Raven face-to-face. Imitations like Ven only get to leave the lab when they’re needed—to replace a dead Authentic, donate an organ, or complete a specific mission. And Raven has never needed Ven . . . until now.
 
When there is an attack on Raven’s life, Ven is thrust into the real world, posing as Raven to draw out the people who tried to harm her. But as Ven dives deeper into Raven’s world, she begins to question everything she was ever told. She exists for Raven, but is she prepared to sacrifice herself for a girl she’s never met?
 
Fans of Cinder, The Selection and Sara Shepard’s Lying Game series will love Imitation, a thrilling, action-packed novel sure to keep readers guessing until the very last page.

 
 
About Heather
 
Heather Hildenbrand was born and raised in a small town in northern Virginia where she was homeschooled through high school. She now lives in coastal VA, a few miles from the Atlantic Ocean, with her two adorable children. She works from home, part time, as a property manager and when she’s not furiously pounding at the keyboard, or staring off into space whilst plotting a new story, she’s lying on the beach, soaking in those delicious, pre-cancerous rays. Heather loves Mexican food, hates socks with sandals, and if her house was on fire, the one thing she’d grab is her DVR player. You can find out more about her and her books at www.heatherhildenbrand.blogspot.com 
 
Heather is a co-founder of Accendo Press, a publishing group she operates with fellow authors: Angeline Kace and Jennifer Sommersby. Accendo (a-CH-endo), A Latin word, means “to kindle, illuminate, inflame, or set fire.” This is something Accendo strives to do inside a reader’s imagination with every title released.
 
Please join me, Aimee, and Heather, along with some other great YA authors for a Facebook party this afternoon to celebrate the big launch! And don’t forget to enter the giveaway below!  
 
Thanks so much to my wonderful bloggers friends who are helping me spread the word!
 
 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Honored

One of the highlights of a writing career, aside from interacting with amazing fans and seeing how you affect readers with your words, which really is the best part, is recognition. It’s nearly impossible to say authors aren’t motivated by having people say, “Ya did good, kid.”

We tell stories because we have a story inside us, yearning, yearning, I say, to get out. Ugh, melodrama. Plus, on some level, you have to be a little bit nuts to pour your heart into something and toss it into the world for others to tear apart. Creative people are gluttons for punishment, huh? It’d be an interesting psychological study if it hasn’t been done already.

Look, some of us are natural born storytellers. Some of us have one great idea, we get it down on paper, and then we’re done. Some of us just like to entertain. Some of us think we can do better than the crappy book we finished reading that morning and set out to prove it to ourselves (and others) that we can. Whatever the case, and whatever camp you fall into as an author, there’s no denying that a pat on the back is evidence of having done something right and having done something well.

I entered my short story Noose (back then called A Noose for Mary) into the Sherwood Anderson Short Story Contest about ten years ago and I placed third. I cried when I got the letter of congrats. True story. I cried because it was the first time I had actual recognition of my writing ability from an outside source. This wasn’t Mom, or an encouraging girlfriend, or even a fellow writer in a university creative writing workshop giving praise for fear of having his or her own work trashed when it came time for their turn in front of the firing squad.

This was real, actual, legitimate, tangible, it-says-right-there-on-the-page confirmation that a stranger thought my work was good enough to be recognized. I can’t say that I wouldn’t have kept writing if I hadn’t gotten that pat on the back, because I was telling my wife the other day that even if we won a gozillion dollars in the lottery we never play, most likely I’d still be telling stories. Granted, I might wake up in a house on Maui, but I’d head for the keyboard like always.

Anyway, the point is, no matter how much you’re told that you shouldn’t care what other people think, when you’re in a career like this, putting yourself out there day after day to be criticized by some stranger on the internet, it’s nice when you get some recognition for your efforts. Same goes for the guy filing his TPS reports. A little attaboy is good for the soul.

I say all that to say this: Super is part of the Kindle Select 25 this week. Someone at Amazon thought enough of the book, and believed in it enough, to toss it in there with some monster names like Judy Blume, Winston Groom (Forrest Gump), Jude Deveraux, Martin Cruz Smith, Barbara Freethy, Blake Crouch, and many others. That’s huge, and I couldn’t be more thankful.

Attaboy.

Want to support a starving author? Grab a copy of Super for your Kindle.

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Sometimes I Find Time to Breathe, Too

So much going on around here these days that I often forget to keep the blog visitors updated.ernie-editor

You know what I realized the other day? I’ve written more books than I’ve read in the past six months. Jason Gurley’s Eleanor, Michael Bunker and Kevin Summers’ Legendarium, and Andy Weir’s The Martian.

In that timeframe, I’ve written Sara’s Past, Sara’s Fear, Warchild: Judas, Super, and I’ve completed two novellas, Fall of Mann for G.I. Joe in Kindle Worlds, and How White People Die.

I don’t have to spell “bananas” to tell you how crazy that is.

I’ve also worked with the fantastic DJ Holte to produce the audiobook version of Going Shogun, so there’s that, too. Going Shogun is still one of my favorite things I’ve ever written, and to hear DJ bring all those crazy characters to life has been a real treat. I couldn’t have cast a better set of voice acting for multiple characters—handled by one guy—if I’d tried. They’re my words, but DJ deserves every bit of credit for bringing the entire world to life.

As if that weren’t enough, we also have an eighteen-month-old little dude running around here, chasing the cat, discovering his obsession with trains and Gangnam Style, and picking up about a word a day.

I’m kinda to the point where so many things have fallen through the cracks, I don’t even know what disappeared. Total madness, but I wouldn’t trade a minute of it.

Super_EmailDid you pick up a copy of Super yet? If not, you really should. I absolutely love that book and feel like it’s one of the deepest, most complex, well-rounded mysteries I’ve ever written.

The Warchild books are shaping up nicely too! I just finished #2 last week and it’s already live on Amazon. My plan had been to go back to the world of WC2_EmailSuper, however, I’m feeling the groove on this one and will likely finish the third and final installment before moving on. So, those of you who want to strangle me when I leave you hanging, fear not.

What else…oh! If you guys show enough interest, I may start offering autographed copies. I’d have to figure out how to get those orders placed so I don’t have a ton of books sitting around here, but I’m looking into it.

How’s that for a scatterbrained, ADHD-fueled update? That’s basically the insanity of life as of late, neatly contained in a blog post. Somewhat.

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Between the Lines: An Offbeat Interview with Jason Gurley

Gurley_Jason_4We decided to shake it up around here and ask some livelier questions than what most authors are used to. Jason has been on a whirlwind of publicity lately promoting the upcoming release of his flagship novel, Eleanor, a work that took him thirteen years to complete. I figured he might be tired of answering the same stuff over and over (as in, “What’s your writing process like?” and, “Who inspires you?”) so the following questions are designed to really dig deep into the man behind the curtain.

After you’ve finished with the interview, head on over to Amazon and check out Eleanor. I’ve read it, and the damn thing is amazing. He was even kind enough to use my blown-away quote on the jacket cover. Eleanor is lyrical, poetic, beautiful, heart-wrenching, and powerful. It’s like reading a painting.

Anyway, on with the interview!

You nearly destroyed San Francisco the last time you fought Godzilla in a revenge match. Unfortunately for the Vegas oddsmakers, it ended in a tie. What would you do differently next time, and why?

I’d take Godzilla out for brunch instead. Every major battle should be preempted by brunch. Godzilla would have a stack of pancakes, I’d have the French toast, and we’d talk about baseball, and the bystanders outside — who got up that morning completely prepared to come out and watch and scream and get squashed — would be totally disappointed.

Clearly, you have a superhuman ability with words. I think everyone wants to know why you chose a career as an author instead of taking that all-but-guaranteed position with the X-Men. Care to explain?

If you’re talking about the Cyclops thing, I’ve been told that it wasn’t funny and I should never, ever crack jokes again, ever. Especially jokes that involve laser beams and my butt. But between you and me, who would ever say no to the X-Men?

EleanorI heard recently that you always wear your shoes on the wrong feet, on purpose. Is this beneficial in any way?

More than you know, but if I tell you why, everyone will start doing it, and the world will just tumble out of balance, and we’ll enter a dystopic age and gnash our teeth for a few thousand years while we wait for the prophecy about the One to come true. So don’t ask me about this one again. I can’t tell you.

Say a whole gaggle of celebrities got their hands on a copy of Eleanor. Who would leave you the weirdest review on Amazon, and what would it say?

Jason Priestley, I think. He’d pitch an adaptation of the book to me, starring him as Eleanor, with a score composed by the Barenaked Ladies. Oddly enough, though, he would only give the book a single star.

You know and have worked with a lot of indie authors. Who would you say smells the best? What scent?

Well, Hugh Howey (Wool) has a slight cedar smell about him. It’s nice. Clean. Pleasant. Michael Bunker (Pennsylvania) smells like well-aged scotch and good cigars. But I bet if you bottled them together, you couldn’t count the money you’d make fast enough.

Aliens attack Earth and you have one sentence to save the human race. What do you say?

I would quote one of Michael Chabon’s longest, most epic sentences, and hope that it buys us enough time to invent a way out of that mess. Should buy us at least a year or more, especially if I read it slooooowwwwwllyyyy.

One word: doughnuts.

I’d answer, but I’m too busy eating one now.

Hey, that was mine!

 

 

GreatfallJason Gurley is the author of the bestselling novel Greatfall as well as The Man Who Ended the World, the Movement trilogy and Eleanor, a novel thirteen years in the making. His short stories, including The Dark Age, The Caretaker, The Last Rail-Rider and others, appear in his collection Deep Breath Hold Tight: Stories About the End of Everything. He is work has appeared in a number of anthologies, among them David Gatewood’s From the Indie Side and Synchronic and John Joseph Adams’s Help Fund My Robot Army!!! & Other Improbable Crowdfunding Projects. Jason is a designer by trade, and has designed book covers for Amazon Publishing, Subterranean Press, Prime Books and many independent authors, among them bestsellers Hugh Howey, Matthew Mather, Russell Blake, Michael Bunker, myself and others. Jason lives and writes in the Pacific Northwest.

 

 

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State of the Union

Here’s my problem with blogging. I never know if I have anything important enough to say for visitors to care about reading it.

I’ve probably started this post five different times, talking about parenthood, writing, the Loch Ness Monster, peanut butter, and cats. Not really, but that’s what it feels like. So here’s a good bit of where I’ve been and where I’m going. Hop on for the ride.

What’s going on lately? […]

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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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