WORTHY OF THIS GREAT CITY BLOG TOUR | #Excerpt #Satire @asmikemiller


COVERRuth Askew, a minor celebrity, is spouting some highly incompetent philosophy about the end of virtue. Con Manos, a journalist, is attempting to uncover a political scandal or two. Add some undistinguished members of City Council, an easy listening radio station, a disorganized charity, a prestigious Philadelphia newspaper, and any number of lawyers and other professional criminals. In Worthy Of This Great City the compelling stories of two stubborn individualists intertwine in a brisk, scathing satire that invites you to question everything you think you think about today’s most discussed issues: populism and elitism, the possibility of truth, the reach of profound stupidity, and the limits of personal responsibility in these post-truth, morally uncertain times.



ABOUT THE AUTHOR — If you know my website and Twitter addresses (asmikemiller.com and asmikemiller, respectively), you must realize Mike Miller is only an author name. It’s not a matter of privacy or secrecy; anybody can find me with minimal effort. It’s about keeping things separate. My writing is about what appears on the page. It’s not about my personal politics or religion or history. 
Worthy Of This Great City is a B-game book. I’m ambiguous about this, being interested in money like most people, but I don’t want to compete with a slick professional cover or smooth editing so I’ve stuck to a sort of reasonable, human middle ground. I value those things for what they are, of course, but I see them as artifacts, part of a system of publishing that fought like hell for a week’s worth of shelf space, that fought to catch the eye, not the mind or heart. 
As my character Con Manos says: “It’s a revolution, isn’t it?” I say: Why fight on the side of the enemy? Why imitate and thus perpetuate a business model that stifles originality? Just to show you can? Unless, of course, you’re fighting to attract the eye, not the mind or heart.
I’ve played a joke with this novel – my first, incidentally. Played with the idea of narration and who can be speaking after all. It’s all very literary.

Website | TwitterGoodreads


An now an excerpt from Worthy of this Great City...


Earlier that day, I lay in the shade with only my bare toes exposed to the vicious sun, part of a modest audience similarly disposed beneath the modest fringe of trees surrounding the field. Light fell down through the foliage, thick victorious beams that described powerful angles in their descent inside the usual breathtaking green cathedral. Around me the grass was withered and compressed into a flattened mat over ground still saturated from the previous night’s thunderstorms; everything smelled of baking wet earth, sunscreen, and greasy event food. I don’t remember any intrusive insects or even visible birds except for a couple of extremely distant hawks, dull specks in the otherwise empty sky.

Another respectable scattering of spectators occupied the baking field, most sprawled directly in front of the small Camp Stage, true fans eagerly upright despite the merciless heat. So just as expected, one of those perfectly innocent afternoons you buy with the ticket, monotonous while deeply nourishing, readily absorbed through the whole skin like childhood summers.

didn’t know about the witches yet, but they were out in force. Yeah, it’s a silly description but I don’t know how else to capture the awful effect of those damn women. So they were witches who’d been summoned by a highly demanding assembly of affluent suburbanites, people accustomed to commanding natural forces. And while arguably these were all benevolent females who only meant well, with witches you never know how it’s going to turn out.

Every August for more than a decade I’ve headed out to Schwenksville for this dependable throwback party. And not precisely to enjoy the music, because although it commands my absolute respect I find it too intense for everyday entertainment. It’s a kind of church music, an unashamed church of humanity: pure sound, plaintive and honest, twanging and rambunctious, dulcimer gentle. Fitting, then, for this late-summer pagan rite in honor of righteousness, and I immerse myself in it to perform a spiritual cleansing of sorts, processing across the fields from one rustic venue to another, affirming a succession of bluegrass pickers and ballad wailers and theatrical tellers of old tales. And it’s a mildly uncomfortable ritual in another sense, but that’s because of the mostly undamaged people, the one’s who wholeheartedly enjoy everything and applaud too often.

As with anything religious, there are incredibly subversive undercurrents longing to manifest, easy to exploit by those portending witches. Two of them performed that day, one with such tragic skill and clarity it unintentionally aroused huge amounts of self-loathing and subsequently resentment, at least in me. The second inspired a joy vigorous enough to move the plot. And the third exerted an indirect but equally damning influence courtesy of her own celebrity, her mere idea inciting a shaming nostalgia. In fact it was dangerously stupid to speak her name aloud. All three arrived wearing absolute certainty.

This current festival setting, the Old Pool Farm, is perfectly suited to the occasion. There are wide fields to accommodate the generous crowds, a nicely crisp and sparkly creek, and the requisite gates and groves, all at a situation remote enough to evoke a wholly separate culture despite easy proximity to the city. Although that’s not difficult, because even today you only have to poke your nose outside the nearer suburbs to spot a rusty silo on some decrepit farm with another of those filthy black-and-white, diarrhea-spewing dairy cows leaning against a sagging wire fence, its pelvis practically poking through its muddy hide. Peeling paint and hay bales directly across the road from another mushrooming pretentious development, a slum of dull, identical cheapjack townhouses. So despite the fervent country claptrap the festival is essentially a metropolitan scene, drawing a sophisticated crowd, and therefore in one sense condescending, an insult.

Murmurs of anticipation brought me up on my elbows to discover Hannah Lynch already onstage, a typically modest entrance. I sat up and paid attention, catching sight of her inside an amiable circle of probable musicians, a glimpse of her face and one thin shoulder between competent-looking backs in cowboy or cotton work shirts, all of them endlessly conversing there in surprisingly gentle voices.

Until finally they broke apart and here she came gliding towards the front of the tiny platform, moving within a reputation so illustrious it made her physical presence unlikely and you had to struggle for it. A tiny bird of a woman, an elderly, fragile sparrow with fine gray hair and hazel eyes and translucent skin, nodding to us and smiling nicely with small unremarkable teeth while seating herself on a wooden folding chair. She was dressed like good people, like a decent Christian farmwife in a faded print skirt and cotton blouse of mixed pastels, pink and beige and blue. Only with dangling silver jewelry to be noticed, since after all she was a major star.

With this one unshakable article of faith: that her famously quavering soprano was entirely unrelated to her own ordinary self, more of an imposition or a trust, an undeserved gift from God that in no way merited personal praise. So she has stated. And accordingly she exuded genuine empathy with all of us waiting out there for her, straining forward to better capture the spirit and stamina investing each word. A curve of laughter lit her face, and there was grief there too, but nothing to diminish that serene spirit.

Beside me Crystal, blatantly artificial trendoid in that audience of cosmopolitan pseudo-naturals, for once had the good sense to keep her mouth shut. Crystal, please note, was present only because she suspected this event mattered to me and meant to chain herself to it in my memory. She was an unashamed criminal, and really sweet, and I admired her.

Lynch sat there looking at us and hugging her guitar, once giving it a surreptitious pat like a favorite pet before launching into one of those unexpectedly piercing old songs, a rather shocking rush of raw bitterness and despair – nothing silvered there – railing rather than mourning yet cleanly tragic because without any confusion of entitlement or excuse, in fact totally untainted by melodrama, an expression of rightful fury to upend your sensibilities and make you cringe inside your pampered, complacent soul.

And onward, commanding that summer hour with a repertoire of futile longing, black misery, true love, unalloyed injustice, and journeying away as only the truly dispossessed can journey. How inadequate we were by comparison, what undeserved good fortune to be sitting there vicariously sharing the infinite human endurance of those former generations, thus beatified now. Sharing a deep pride in our good taste and our faultless fundamental values.

And that’s how this festival always goes for me: a fusion of rapture and fleeting realization, of purging and rebirth I suppose. We avid celebrants being served by true vicars, unassuming conduits of grace because essentially craftspeople evincing the unquestioning self-respect of their kind, therefore automatically accepting us as equals and worthy of their respect, refusing to cater. That’s how Lynch and her ilk deliver their deadly blows, how they incite our reckless, self-destructive impulses.

Because the problem is, nothing is enough and never can be, not in any case. And in addition to that, this particular event carries an impossible burden of triumphant civil rights baggage. A weight of expectation, purest gold and just as heavy, presses down on those fields like an approaching storm, flattening the trees, placing an unbearable strain on our moral muscles, making even the most authentic and engaged participant stagger for reasons most often never identified.

You see there’s no battle here anymore, a situation as frustrating as it is pathetic. I mean, what’s so pitiable as striving mightily to wage a war already won, or achieve a moral victory already popularly embraced? Like you’re on some lone and dangerous crusade instead of enjoying a mere reenactment, an amusement park ride. As if any real social hazard or physical extremity ever threatened most of these initiates. As if they could face the real front line today. Come to that, what in the world ever sprang from this placid piece of Pennsylvania countryside anyway, or even its nearby metropolis, so far from the bloody front lines of decades past? What justifies this hallowed ambience? Everyone knows the real struggle was over in another state, in the deep South or New York or California, all that televised passion and pain. Yet here’s a similar legacy, an undeserved renown.

Seriously, you have to consider this heritage of the sixties, that era of righteousness and innocence and victory, you have to ponder the connection to the contemporary lives and events I’m describing here. Resurrect that intoxicating scent of possibility. Realize how strong it is, what it can do. Watch any old news film and it’s literally like viewing creatures from another planet, those young people are so alien, their gestures and expressions so certain and strident, an entire new world in their angry, accusatory eyes. What can any of that mean in this age of spent possibility?

So today the Folk Fest is largely a masturbatory farce of self-congratulation, courtesy of this pushy, upscale audience basking in its accustomed sunshine, displaying that forceful amiability that means money, smiling too brightly over bare freckled shoulders. Uniformly pale people displaying their ease on this bucolic faux battlefield, all aggressively self-aware. And meanwhile a barely perceptible, slightly demented energy flutters along at grass level, an intrepid narcissism bent on having a significant experience and more than a little desperate to measure up to itself.

I’m as progressive as anyone, I secretly gloat over my superiority, so for me all this underlying energy eventually manifests as low-grade irritation, and the fact that bad temper is implicitly verboten at this event only makes it that much worse. And then here comes Lynch to further emphasize everyone’s obvious unworthiness and what can you do but silently seethe with frustrated moral ambition. This is the one Folk Fest constant I always dismiss until it’s too late and I’m climbing aboard one of the yellow school buses that shuttle people in from the parking fields, listening to all the boisterous but balanced chatter. Probably a deliberate amnesia, because as I say, for me it’s a religious event.

So by later that Saturday afternoon I was largely disgusted with myself and as you can imagine, wonderful company. Once again stretched out on my back but this time my whole body obstinately exposed to the brutal heat, and while I had a bucket hat shielding my face I’d raised my knees to better facilitate the burn penetrating my jeans. I reached my left hand out past the edge of Crystal’s spongy blue blanket, feeling for the heart of the earth deep underneath the dispirited vegetation, Edna Millay style.

There we greeted the second witch, and for an interlude of spontaneous revelry the whole phony carnival dissolved, wiping away our precious fictions to reveal the one face behind the infinitely varied masks. Rather commonplace moments to underline the supertext, a brief but blessed release from introspective angst, an intoxicated dance that anyway began wholeheartedly but inevitably dwindled into posturing before ultimately discarding us back into isolated, shattered pieces of humanity scattered over a sunlit field.

We were in front of the main stage, the Martin Guitar Stage, a venue that backs into some tame leftover woods. The smaller Tank Stage was to my right, with behind it a private area for performers, and to my left the equally small Craft Stage. Further left was all the familiar festival retail, folkie variety, striped tents selling hippie throwback goods like handcrafted ceramics, carved wooden bowls, tie-dye skirts, hand-strung glass beads, and bad art. In between the main and Craft Stages a tiny dirt path paralleled a shallow creek of sparkling mica and soft mud; both disappeared into the dim coolness of the Dulcimer Grove, a rather precious habitat of jugglers and magicians and others of that Renaissance Faire ilk, a determinedly magical place more or less reserved to scantily clad or frankly naked children, their cheeks painted with stars and moons in indigo and crimson. Either they’re truly mesmerized by these archaic amusements or they’re convinced they should be by the adults and the daycare atmosphere, because they all sit there expending fierce concentration on colored sand and sparkly fairy dust, their little pink tongues extended in effort. I mean, all the world is fake, even the kids. Around them circles a protective hillside of slender trees roped together by string hammocks in bright primary colors, a haphazard effect of beggars’ rags pegged out to dry.

If you follow that same path straight on you come out on field with more dry grass, more distant trees, and another vacant horizon. On the right is the Camp Stage, site of Lynch’s morning concert; on the left an unremarkable gate gives onto the campers’ settlement, one of those ephemeral constructions of funky tent-and-RV fantasies, castles and pyramids and suburban estates complete with lawn furniture and barbeques and anything else you need for rustic comfort. The affable professional performers come here after the regular shows to sit and drink and play their music well into the summer nights, just for these special stalwarts. Notice how everyone’s personal effects are carefully positioned to define private family spaces but without absolutely excluding the requisite hobnobbing community, because that would repudiate the spirit of the thing.

And anywhere you care to look there are all these exceptionally pleasant people, a seasonal confluence of the enlightened: middle-aged, nattily-bearded men with thick hairy ankles showing beneath those long gauzy skirts; visibly well-educated younger couples falling all over each other in reassuring mutual recognition; friendly teens aglow with their own laudable social spirit or familiarity with meaningful music or both; and grimy toddlers in T-shirts and shimmering plastic haloes with their baby curls shining and their fingers to their mouths and their tiny feet covered with dirt. Skimpy tank tops and glittery backpacks, idiosyncratic witches cones and sombreros and straw cowboy hats covered in button collections, pale muscled calves and freckled backs red with sun and damp with perspiration.

All these regulation types navigate cordially across the fields, buying and eating and exercising their approval, until later in the afternoon when the heat is truly intolerable and it’s a matter of claiming a place for the folding chairs and coolers and settling in for the afternoon concert. When for a couple of hours all these enervated devotees create for themselves an enormous patchwork quilt of blankets and tarps, an American prayer rug rolled out beneath the glare.

I among them, hiding under my hat, squinting up from under the brim, intending not so much to watch the performances as to absorb them from a neutral distance. Meanwhile I was relishing the sense of Crystal beside me, resentful at having to endure all this legitimate music.

When here came a second celebrated woman into this extraordinary and disorganized day, an ineffably cosmopolitan presence in a white silk shirt that billowed out over notably slim hips and tight black jeans tucked into cowboy boots. The costume only emphasized the unmistakable sophistication in the sharp angle of her jaw and the sleek black bob swinging at her shoulder. That taut body edged itself onto the stage and into our attention, anticipation suffusing her narrow face, her whole person radiating the intrinsically cool self-content of a magician about to pull off the big illusion and astonish us all.

Lifting fiddle and bow, lowering them to call a comment offstage, bringing them back up to her pointed chin experimentally while a guitarist, drummer, and another violinist fooled with getting into position, and around me an expectant rustle shook off the afternoon lethargy, and once again I sat up and wiped the sweat and sunscreen from my forehead.

She leaned forward a fraction to acknowledge us.

“Hello all you very special people.” Now decisively raising her instrument. “Three jigs.”

Well, you know that kind of tritely manipulative music, but then her exceptional skill, that energy climbing into a frenzy, the first notes reaching us with the adolescent enthusiasm of uncurling spring leaves. Music so familiar and yet astonishingly fresh, something behind the insistence of it transcending its own rather sentimental imagining. Passages as fleet but powerful as pure energy, and you’d actually have to defend against the physical impact but why would you bother to fight off such delirious joy?

They have a reserved seating section in front of the main stage, a modest pen containing rows of wooden folding chairs surrounded by a fence of deliberately rickety palings. It was largely unpopulated for the afternoon performance. A dirt lane about ten feet wide separated this area from the field of common folk. Crystal and I were up front, right near the dusty edge of this path, and close to us, in the lane itself and with one tiny hand firmly grasping the enclosure fence, stood a fairy-slim blonde girl of five or six. Just as I fully noticed her she launched into the familiar steps of an Irish jig, lifting first one exquisite bare foot and then the other into tentative arcs, curving each arm alternately above her head. From her shoulders a pastel summer dress floated out in the shape of a loose triangle, and her movements caused her hair to caress her perfect little back.

With the increasing confidence of the music her delicate feet, fragile pale-pink petals, rose and crossed each other in an assured sequence that bespoke formal lessons, and meanwhile her eyes never lifted from her toes and her pallid face was tense in concentration. Only once did she manage a quick glance up to a middle-aged scholarly type, probably her father, who nodded mild encouragement but displayed, I thought, some slight annoyance.

Now complex annotations around the tune turned tight elegant spirals; it was all self-interest now, you understand, nothing to do with us but instead its own internal voyage. In the path the child reworked her steps, her frown expressing frustration with her own limited expertise.

When suddenly appeared two barefoot, competent-looking women in their early thirties skipping down the lane, then widely twirling, then skipping again, their hands clasped and arms outstretched to form a traveling arrow. Both flaunting gauzy pastel skirts and silvery tank tops that exposed perspiring firm flesh, both draped with multiple glittering strands of Mardi Gras beads flashing purple and green and mauve. They acknowledged the blond child with an upward swing of their joined hands high over her head, a bridal arch speeding by on either side. It made her giggle but move closer to the fence.

The fiddler was bending practically in half over her bow and the second fiddler not being any slouch either, their hands and arms pushing towards the absolute limits of muscular possibility, straining against themselves to maintain their momentum.

Then four ethereally lithe teenage girls forming two pairs, and they were in regulation T-shirts and shorts except all bore silvery translucent wings that flapped at their slim shoulders; they went whirling around and around each other and simultaneously forward, delightful gyroscopes with their feet stomping hard on the infectious strain yet for all that maintaining the ludicrously disinterested expressions of runway models.

Promptly followed by a young couple charging along in an outright polka, aggressive but a tiny bit shamefaced, too: he was slim and wore a neatly-trimmed dark beard; she was sturdy and short with a pixie haircut and a refined air, like an educator. The little dancer flattened herself against the fence but continued a rhythmic bopping, presenting no less enchanting an image. And she was proved wise, because here came the same young couple back again, being the kind of people who need to underline the obvious.

Passing midway an approaching male pair, seeming now a little more obliged than inspired, their muscular calves flashing below their khaki kilts: one was broad in the shoulders and chest with a thin ass and spindly legs; his partner was entirely slim, remarkably tall, and balding. Presenting the impression although little of the force of a strong wind, they nevertheless managed to turn the little dancer halfway round, her moist mouth open in wonder. She paused there, staring after them.

Now the dancing was everywhere. I stood up to confirm a modest sea of erratically bobbing heads at every side but especially to the right, past the Tank Stage: enlightened middlebrows and emotionally stranded hippies and likeable healthy teens and self-disciplined mandolin players and confident cultural elitists and miscellaneous commonsensical types engaged in a nearly impromptu production number, for one bright second emerged from behind the mask of individualism, openly expressing one joyously creative soul.

Well, we were dancing out in the field as well, all of us to some extent, the more exhibitionist characters gyrating on their bright blue tarps and lifting their hands in the air, and some efficient types illegally occupying the marked-off aisles, prancing with impudent liberty up and back. Patrons excessively enthusiastic or self-consciously hesitant but almost everyone involving themselves in the music. I was dancing too, not to make a spectacle of myself or anything but feeling myself a part of the gala. And about then I realized it was already ending because that’s how these things always go.

Frenzied vibrations, faster than you could believe, and we listeners attended first with our ears and then with our bodies, stilling them now, desperate to capture every last second until inevitably all of it was swiftly and immaculately recalled into one compact point of silence and we found ourselves abandoned to our accustomed exile, returned to the pretense of our separate selves.

She played two more sets, we in her audience dutifully imitating our initial enthusiasm, grateful for the continuing reprieve. I’ve said it before: reality moves so fast anymore, we’ve all become experts at polite deceit.

Folk Fest protocol is to kick everyone out around six, sweep the grounds, then ticket everyone back in for the evening concert. You wait in a cattle shoot, at least if you’re fairly close to the gate, or anywhere nearby if you’re not, until finally the loudspeakers blare a Sousa march and you grab your chairs and blankets and coolers and run like hell to beat the other folkies to a premium patch of grass. Therefore it’s prudent to leave early enough to ensure you’re at the front of the return pack, and that afternoon, as usual, the knowledgeable attendees ignored the high, unrelenting sun, ignored even the name performer just introducing himself, and started unobtrusively filtering out.

I was making my own preliminary moves when I recognized Ruth off to the right, by herself and slightly beyond the audience proper. She was rather elaborately brushing grass off her shirt, and her hair was drifting into her face as usual; her entire aspect projected excruciating self-consciousness. It was the intricate performance of a woman uncoordinated at life yet used to being watched. She was in a lacy peasant blouse that didn’t suit her big-boned frame – it was lavender, too, which didn’t help – and loose black jeans over black cowboy boots. Her attention shifted to getting the blouse centered correctly; when finally she noticed me, that man standing perfectly still and staring at her, I waved a hand over my head in greeting. I have no idea why I didn’t just avoid her.

She assumed an automatic grin but then recognized me back and her smile turned beaming, and with it she transformed herself into a reasonably attractive woman, an odd but intriguing combination of big straight white teeth, thick dirty-blond hair, low forehead, pale freckles, and a long, arched nose that enlivened her profile with an aquiline swiftness.

Behind me Crystal was standing with our blanket gathered up in a big, baby blue synthetic wad; we watched Ruth maneuver through the half-seated, half-moving spectators, visibly enduring our inspection. When she got closer you noticed the deep frown lines between her brows and realized how much older she was than you’d assumed from the juvenile posturing.

A forthright greeting to Crystal and a frankly offered hand, all fraught with the deep disdain of the intelligent, accomplished woman encountering the undeserved self-esteem of the merely lovely. To which assault Crystal responded with her typical flaccid grip and a near shrug, an implied refusal to expend any more of her precious personal energy on uninteresting shit. Ruth turned away from us, towards the stage, where an athletic-looking but otherwise unassuming man of about forty in a tired cowboy hat was inaudibly explaining a song. That duty done, she faced us again.

“This is all new to me. It’s wonderful! That dancing.” She opened her arms wide to encompass the stage, the field, and the discreetly dispersing audience. “Very Caucasian.”

Well. The cowboy strummed an acoustic guitar, meanwhile calmly examining his surroundings for concealed gunslingers. And naturally I remembered our lunch but that was months ago, so surely whatever she was babbling about then was probably old news and anyway too vague to reference or be embarrassed over now.

She was brushing at her jeans for no discernable reason. “Did I tell you about Leticia Rowan?”

Just typical. What about Leticia Rowan? How aggravating when I hadn’t seen Ruth for months! I knew Rowan was the night’s closing act. Meanwhile my brain was automatically playing familiar media images backed by the old uplifting refrains: that bold soprano keening from the Capitol steps, debunking the myth of American justice; the slim, avid girl of the famous photograph where she’s perched on a stool in a Greenwich Village coffee house, radiant with the novel excitement of causing real change. Set on living a validated life, perfectly exemplifying those decisive, glorious years, that age of energy and faith. Today still socially engaged, as you would expect, and while no longer that wondrous sylph just as lovely in the clean bone beneath the motherly padding. But most often appearing during those public broadcasting fund-raisers, programs aimed at prosperous boomers eager to relive a spurious past.

“I’m introducing her tonight.”

“The hell you are.” It was such a stupid lie, not even remotely sustainable. Especially outrageous when you considered Ruth’s musical identity: her morning drive-time show featured one of those feel-good formats: generic soft rock interspersed with headlines, traffic, celebrity gossip, and a few carefully screened listener calls. Media hypocrisy providing a safe harbor for the harried immature listener, carefully friendly and slick and sympathetic and definitely never politically or socially oriented when that might mean causing offense. Also never mind that Gene Shay, comfortably stout folkie radio program host from a very different station, legendary teller of truly horrendous jokes, always introduced the performers here, world without end, amen. Come on.

“Right, you know everything. I forgot. And you’re never wrong.” I suppose that was an ostensibly genial poke at my renowned erudition. I happen to think if someone asks you a question they should have the courtesy to listen to the answer.

“I’m speaking after Gene.” Gene! And she was looking repulsively self-satisfied. “I asked Leticia Rowan if I could say a few words and she agreed, for some strange reason.” Now slipping into her professional mode, that rather arch blend of certainty and faux intimacy delivered with an indelible Lina Lamont slur: cay-unt um-an-jin. Fingering the silver holy medals at her throat, a crucifix and two others piled up together on a single delicate silver chain: Jude of the impossible and the Virgin Mary.

And she laughed at my horrified expression and launched into what I assume was a fairly mendacious account of a reception for Women in the Media at the lovely old Bellevue, where at that sort of event there’s a rigid social hierarchy: the unfed proletariat leaning forward from chairs up on the mezzanine to watch on monitors, and the elite dining at tables down on the ballroom floor. Ruth skipped over who was speaking on what and cut straight to dessert for the privileged few, she naturally among them being her gracious public self, wandering around being affable and networking with vibrant women in suits too bright for an office and intelligent men with refined, open faces, clearly expensive slacks and jackets, and beautifully cut hair.

And there was Leticia Rowan already in town and seated comfortably in a corner behind a tortured centerpiece of bamboo and tiny orange orchids, casually chatting with a couple of intimates. So Ruth went up and offered another of those frank handshakes. “I’m truly awed.” Basically insinuating herself into the party, making it clear who was honoring whom.

Then went prattling on in her practiced glib fashion about youthful idealism and her own fictitious activist past, seasoning it with ingenuous regret over her current disengaged state to smooth along the manipulation. Although this with a woman surely inured to dubious approaches? There’s something unconvincing about this I haven’t the time to investigate but the result must hinge on Ruth’s accumulating nervous tension, the months if not years behind the coming explosion. That kind of stress sets you performing impulsive actions, forcing unaccountable outcomes.

In retrospect I think Ruth once again mistook a fortuitous encounter for the hand of destiny and just barged ahead. Either that, or else she fell victim to that common desire to cleave to what one professes to despise.

I was dumbfounded. “Why?”

“Oh, envy I guess. I wanted to be part of it.” Charmingly stated, her forehead furrowed in recollection. And what was I supposed to say to any of it?

Behind us the cowboy mooed through a mild dirge, disrupting nothing; around us the field was nearly empty, abandoned to the insistent sun. And Ruth was standing before me explaining too much and nothing at all, once again too intense, setting off all sorts of warning bells.

Crystal lifted a pastel spaghetti strap from a pink shoulder and raised her impudent big gray eyes, looking at Ruth with that innocent expression women use to express contempt. Her private opinion of Ruth: “Nobody has to be seen looking like that.”

Crystal was another communications major and model manqué hoping to become, of all things, a personality. That ubiquitous blond hair, the pleasant features of no special distinction just slightly out of proportion: another responsibly raised, college-educated harpy bereft of individuality because nature abhors individuality. Instead she emanates sex, it’s in her bones and baby face, her short upper lip and outrageous ambition. Don’t expect her to evolve, because she’ll never be other than she is right now. Fortunately she’s immune to jealous criticism, not being that kind of stupid nor shy to succeed. She held some kind of entry-level management job at the Center City Holiday Inn Express, an occupation that never seemed to seriously impact her real life. Crystal is her birth name.

“Thom here?” I asked.

Ruth’s husband, a frequent guest on her program as either political insider or amiable comic foil, was a local celebrity in his own right, a Philadelphia familiar, a compendium of agreeable ugliness, frightening intelligence, crooked teeth in a moist marshmallow grin, Ivy League polish, loud patterned shirts, genuine charm, horrible posture, an unrepentant gift for outrageous flattery, and an impudent, cutting wit. Outsiders considered him the epitome of Main Line class.

“He’s in Harrisburg.” Acknowledging my disquiet, looking amused for my benefit, but her eyes were shading into wariness. She pushed that uncontrollable hair from her damp forehead. “I’m running around loose today.”

And she gave me a minor, tight smile, raised a few fingers in a little goodbye salute, and strode purposefully towards the gate.

“Hunh!” Crystal said for both of us.

Festival security is handled by costumed volunteers: polite, energetic young people impersonating funky pirates or medieval wizards or just nameless creatures of purely idiosyncratic design. This clean-cut constabulary was now shepherding we stragglers to the main gate with cordial efficiency, their intricate hats, adorned with oversized badges of authority, visibly bobbing over the heads of the crowd. The cowboy singer had vanished.

I stood there in the empty afternoon glare, again hunting around for a rational line of thought but failing to find one. Finally, today, I have an insight: my being there that afternoon helped determine the event.

I navigated us out of the grounds and smuggled us under the rope to a decent spot not too far back in the queue; none of the polite people already there objected. Crystal was perking up now she could catch the scent of approaching evening, her posture opening up to opportunity, her eyes brightly observant. I ducked back under the ropes to get a couple of Cokes from a vending machine and together we waited out the forced restorative lull, letting the afternoon settle down around us, watching the families in lawn chairs eating their dinners, relaxing in public. At length the loudspeakers sounded and we all pushed forward through the gates and launched into the usual painfully hilarious sprint. I got us fairly far up front on the center aisle and bent over gratefully, hands to knees, while from the corner of my blurred vision I saw Crystal plop herself down with her mildly victimized face.

Faint applause, which had to be for the traditional bagpipe welcome; a moment later I could hear the piper myself, and then came Gene Shay with his terrible jokes. By twilight we were enduring a young bluegrass quartet of some nascent merit but an unfortunate air of artsy superiority. Then an enjoyable mambo interlude evoking romantic images out of fifties movies, and by full darkness the Jumbotron screens displayed a close-up of a frail, dedicated Canadian singer-songwriter, another of those admirable females. Insidious damp was seeping through my jeans and sweatshirt, chilling my ass. Disembodied light-sticks moved at random, children giggled, and the kindly scent of marijuana wafted by in sporadic gusts.

Crystal and I outlasted the Canadian over strawberry smoothies doctored with vodka while around us the night coalesced into a blackness that seemed physical and bulky, something you could push aside like drapes. Then there was that huge yellowed moon illuminating the speeding brown clouds, making the entire universe feel unusually sentient.

Gene Shay was back with even more of those horrendous jokes, to be replaced by a middle-aged dignitary in a blazer over jeans, quietly defiant.

“We are the light of truth, the truth the capitalists and the banks and the conglomerates want forgotten. But we’re still here, still burning bright through the darkness.” He actually said that, sure of the personal politics of these many music lovers, all these people who could afford to share his opinion. Declaiming thus in an understated but confident bass, Main Line meets simple country boy to produce unfaltering self-respect. Positions shuffled onstage and there was Gene Shay back, leaning sideways into the standing mike to signal brevity.

“And now let’s talk about one particular brilliant candle shining through the darkness, brighter than almost any other, one of the iconic voices of an era of civil renaissance: the inimitable Leticia Rowan.” Grinning back offstage as if to a good friend, as maybe she was. “And just to underline how special this really is, we have an additional guest, because Philly’s very own Ruth Askew is going to provide us a more personal introduction.”

There was a kind of group shrug but nothing worrisome.

A further positional dance, the screens displaying indistinct blobs and random emptiness, and finally there was Ruth behind the microphone. We observed her taking us in: waving lights skittering over dull shapes, anticipatory shifting and murmurs, a few people in motion pausing on their way somewhere to see if it was worth the wait. Magnified, she looked brutally plain, with noticeable lines around her mouth and those disproportionately large, disturbingly vulnerable blue eyes.

And she just stood there, absolutely rigid, until we all paid complete attention. I think she was overwhelmed by pure contempt, that it confounded her ability to speak, so instead she spat at us

When everyone instinctively recoiled, as you can imagine, but now she was past her initial paralysis. More, she was beyond pretense, out in the wild ether, and you could almost see the crazy. We instinctively coalesced into a tight defensive silence.

“That’s for all you virtue thieves.” She’d struck this theatrical posture of aggressive confidence, all very square and speaking directly down to us.

“But unfortunately for you, we’ve reached the end of righteousness. Not in this electronic age. No more fleeing consequences and calling yourself good. Time itself is nothing but our continual separating away from the primordial dead nothingness of absolute truth and rightness.”

It’s almost over, but I hope you see how excruciating it was. I’m sorry to have to assault your sensibilities with this shit but we were all squirming in unforgivable embarrassment and you should understand.

And to be fair, is your religion less silly? Isn’t every great religion or even philosophy as impossibly childish? And here’s something else: she was handing us a diagram of her own psyche and circumstances, issuing a perfectly clear warning that went ignored simply because it was way too obvious. Because this is, after all, a story about stupidity where everything is fucking clear if you just pay attention.

Ruth put a hand to the mike, still keeping that confident posture.

“This is the next great evolutionary leap. We will claim the future responsibly, and we will become more like God.”

Just at that moment, the words flown, the energy abating, I could sense her dawning comprehension of the enormity of her situation. She looked to her side – for something, someone? And then she sent a little nod out to us, to the compact, alert darkness.

“Then to the elements be free, and fare thou well!”

That’s Prospero, retiring his magic and releasing the slave-spirit Ariel at the end of The Tempest.

But Ruth stayed out there, holding that same strong, taut pose until a calm Gene Shay was suddenly present and gently thanking her from the stage, sending us a tolerant nod while herding her aside. And there at last was the great Leticia Rowan herself, that vast, benign goddess in a golden caftan, smiling an unrestrained country smile, exuding inexhaustible strength and kindness. Clearly decent people, both of them.

Ruth was barely visible now, but I saw her turn to take a final glance back at us, her face for one moment revealed to the giant screens, then as abruptly absent. Terrified of course, because terror is her resting state, and still insolent, and definitely smug.

WAITING FOR AEGINA BLOG TOUR | #Excerpt #WomensFic #ComtemporaryRomance@EffieKammenou

Waiting for AeginaIn 1961, five little girls moved into a suburban neighborhood and became inseparable, lifelong friends. They called themselves the ‘Honey Hill Girls,’ named after the street on which they lived. As teenagers they shared one another’s ambitions and dreams, secrets and heartaches. Now, more than thirty years later, they remain devoted and loyal, supporting each other through triumphs and sorrows.

Evanthia’s Gift follows the life of Sophia Giannakos. In Waiting for Aegina the saga continues from the perspectives of Sophia and her friends as the story drifts back and forth in time, filling in the gaps as the women grow to adulthood.

Naive teenage ideals are later challenged by harsh realities, as each of their lives takes unexpected turns. Now nearing their fiftieth year, Sophia, Demi, Amy, Mindy and Donna stand together through life-altering obstacles while they try to regain the lighthearted optimism of their youth.

Waiting for Aegina is available on…



cover photo 2Effie Kammenou is a believer that it is never too late to chase your dreams, follow your heart or change your career. She is proof of that. At one time, long ago, she’d thought that, by her age, she would have had an Oscar in her hand after a successful career as an actor. Instead, she worked in the optical field for 40 years and is the proud mother of two accomplished young women.

Her debut novel, Evanthia’s Gift, is a women’s fiction multigenerational love story and family saga, influenced by her Greek heritage, and the many real life accounts that have been passed down. She continues to pick her father’s brain for stories of his family’s life in Lesvos, Greece, and their journey to America. Her interview with him was published in a nationally circulated magazine.

Evanthia’s Gift: Book One in The Gift Saga was a 2016 award finalist in the Readers Favorite Awards in the Women’s Fiction category. Waiting for Aegina: Book Two in The Gift Saga is Kammenou’s latest release.

Effie Kammenou is a first generation Greek-American who lives on Long Island with her husband and two daughters. When she’s not writing, or posting recipes on her food blog, cheffieskitchen.wordpress.com, you can find her cooking for her family and friends.

As an avid cook and baker, a skill she learned from watching her Athenian mother, she incorporated traditional Greek family recipes throughout the books.

She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Theater Arts from Hofstra University.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Goodreads


And now for an excerpt from Waiting for Aegina

Chapter 26

Mindy ~ January 2000

When Mindy first arrived at the Fotopoulos home on the island of Chios, her sole purpose was to isolate herself from the world. Content to be on her own with no distractions, she re-examined her life. What Mindy needed more than anything was to process what she’d discovered and get past it—Tyler was a happily married man with children.

As she pondered her own circumstances, Mindy’s thoughts swung from one extreme to another. One day she would think to herself, ‘I am a successful woman, fulfilling my dreams every day.’

But then, the next day, Mindy would sink into a depressing abyss convinced that she had nothing to look forward to in life and that she was destined to spend it alone—until the fateful night when she met Apollo.

One evening after spending the day binging on frappés and loukoumathes, Mindy slipped on a body-hugging dress and went into Chios Town. She had to do something to get out of her funk and she thought experiencing the local nightlife might be the cure.

The time had come for her pity party to end and she planned to dance like the locals. She came upon a taverna with a large stone patio and strands of white lights strung between the trees. Weaving between the empty tables, Mindy crossed to the entranceway. Music filled the air and as she approached she smiled, watching people of all ages dance as though nothing was as important as what they were doing at that very moment.

Spotting a table with a prime view of the entertainment, she asked to be seated. And that’s when she saw him. With a voice dripping of seduction and a face that matched, the singer locked eyes with Mindy. She’d learned a few sentences to get her by, but the words that rolled off his tongue were, well, Greek to her—but sexy as hell.

Every part of her burned. Heat rose to her cheeks causing them to flush and her heart quickened as he moved closer to the table where she was seated. His velvety voice captivated and the hint of cologne he wore mixed with the scent of the salty sea tantalized her. But as the sexy singer continued to work the room, Mindy could see that he had the same effect on every woman in the taverna and he, in turn, looked at each one as though he wanted them.

Sipping her Skinos Mastiha cocktail, a liquor made from the sap of a tree indigenous to Chios alone, Mindy watched the joy emanating from the villagers around her. Given her current state of mind, she could not relate to their exuberant joviality. Staring into her glass as she stirred, causing a mini whirlpool to form, she hadn’t noticed that the music had stopped.

“May I join you?” Mindy looked up to see who had spoken to her in heavily accented English.

She tilted her head, looking at him inquisitively. “How did you know I speak English?”

“American? I am wrong?”

“No,” Mindy laughed. “You’re not wrong.”

“I am Apollo.”

“Ah! That explains it,” she said wryly.

“Explains what?” he asked as he seated himself in the empty chair beside her.

“You know,” Mindy said, gesturing to the sky. “Greek God. Son of Zeus. God of music.”

“You are very amusing beautiful American woman who is nameless.”

“Oh! I’m Mindy. No Greek goddess name for me.”

“You should be the goddess of fire.” Apollo reached for a lock of her red mane, wrapping it around his finger. “I will call you Fotiá.”

She shrugged her shoulders. “Then katalavaíno.”

His eyes sparkling with amusement, Apollo laughed. “You say that well.”

“I say it a lot. I don’t understand anything people say, so I let them know.”

“Fotiá means fire. My break is over in a minute, but promise me a dance.”

A shiver crawled up her spine with the thought of her body pressed up against his on the dance floor. Her answer came out a breathy whisper. “Yes, I’d like that.”

She eyed him as he began the song. Commanding and strong; male yet beautiful, Apollo mesmerized her. Casually dressed in black slacks and a white shirt, his sleeves were rolled just below the elbows and he’d left enough buttons undone to show a tease of hair across his tanned chest.

He curled a finger in her direction, inviting her to join him, but she shook her head. Apollo’s deep brown eyes bore into Mindy’s emerald green ones, as he extended his hand to her and pulled her out of her seat.

Microphone in hand and his other at her waist, Apollo drew her close and began to dance as he continued his love ballad. She reveled in the feel of scruff from his manicured beard against her delicate face. She looped her arms around his neck and they slowly rocked back and forth to the music. Escorting her back to her seat when the song had ended, he said, “I sang those lyrics for you alone.”

“Then kat—” Apollo pressed a finger to Mindy’s lips.

“I know, I know” he bantered. “You don’t understand. In the song, the man is telling the woman he will go crazy if he can’t see her again soon.” He motioned for the band to play. “Wait for me until I finish this set.”

It had all begun so perfectly. They talked out on the patio, ignoring the chill in the air, and when it was time for her to go, he pressed her up against the stone wall outside the taverna and kissed her with a passion so deep that every part of her body was tingling. Even when she broke the kiss, he kept his lips so close to hers that Mindy could feel his breath breezing across her face and it intoxicated her. Staring into her eyes, he kissed her again, devouring her, leaving her lip swollen from the sensual assault when he finally pulled away.

Desire built up inside her but, although she’d been tempted, Mindy resisted his seduction. She thought of her first night with Tyler. Adamant that she would not repeat the same mistake, Mindy was careful not to rush into anything. The days of one-night stands and affairs that amounted to nothing but heartache and emptiness were over.

Staring at her with an intensity that made Mindy nervous, Apollo made his intentions clear as he pressed his body to hers. What was the root of the uneasiness within her? The demand in his eyes? Or the fear of jumping into deep waters, unknown?

Mindy steeled herself and ducked out beneath his arms. The tightness in her chest and her rising panic gave her the strength to break away from him where he had her pinned against the wall. “I have to go,” she insisted.

Gripping her wrist before she was out of his reach, he held onto it with unyielding determination. “I will make you mine.”

Mindy tried to read Apollo’s eyes before walking away. Had she seen passion or intimidation? There was no way to be certain.

EVANTHIA’S GIFT BLOG TOUR | #Excerpt #WomensFic #ComtemporaryRomance@EffieKammenou

evanthiasgiftIn the year 1956, Anastacia Fotopoulos finds herself pregnant and betrayed, fleeing from a bad marriage. With the love and support of her dear friends Stavros and Soula Papadakis, Ana is able to face the challenges of single motherhood. Left with emotional wounds, she resists her growing affection for Alexandros Giannakos, an old acquaintance. But his persistence and unconditional love for Ana and her child is eventually rewarded and his love is returned. In a misguided, but well-intentioned effort to protect the ones they love, both Ana and Alex keep secrets – ones that could threaten the delicate balance of their family.

The story continues in the 1970’s as Dean and Demi Papadakis, and Sophia Giannakos attempt to negotiate between two cultures. Now Greek-American teenagers, Sophia and Dean, who have shared a special connection since childhood, become lovers. Sophia is shattered when Dean rebels against the pressure his father places on him to uphold his Greek heritage and hides his feelings for her. When he pulls away from his family, culture and ultimately his love for her, Sophia is left with no choice but to find a life different from the one she’d hoped for.

EVANTHIA’S GIFT is a multigenerational love story spanning fifty years and crossing two continents, chronicling the lives that unify two families.

Evanthia’s Gift is available on



cover photo 2Effie Kammenou is a believer that it is never too late to chase your dreams, follow your heart or change your career. She is proof of that. At one time, long ago, she’d thought that, by her age, she would have had an Oscar in her hand after a successful career as an actor. Instead, she worked in the optical field for 40 years and is the proud mother of two accomplished young women.

Her debut novel, Evanthia’s Gift, is a women’s fiction multigenerational love story and family saga, influenced by her Greek heritage, and the many real life accounts that have been passed down. She continues to pick her father’s brain for stories of his family’s life in Lesvos, Greece, and their journey to America. Her interview with him was published in a nationally circulated magazine.

Evanthia’s Gift: Book One in The Gift Saga was a 2016 award finalist in the Readers Favorite Awards in the Women’s Fiction category. Waiting for Aegina: Book Two in The Gift Saga is Kammenou’s latest release.

Effie Kammenou is a first generation Greek-American who lives on Long Island with her husband and two daughters. When she’s not writing, or posting recipes on her food blog, cheffieskitchen.wordpress.com, you can find her cooking for her family and friends.

As an avid cook and baker, a skill she learned from watching her Athenian mother, she incorporated traditional Greek family recipes throughout the books.

She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Theater Arts from Hofstra University.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Goodreads


Now an excerpt from Evanthia’s Gift…

November 1955

The air was unusually chilled for early November in NYC, but despite the dropping temperature, sweat trickled down the back of Anastacia’s neck. Unable to wish away the nausea that

was taking hold of her and too ill to sit through her last class, she’d left the NYU campus, hopping on an uptown subway to return home for the day. She’d been lightheaded and queasy the past few days, but nothing as violent as what she was currently feeling. Waiting at the crosswalk, the aroma of garlic and cheese permeating from a nearby café antagonized the volcano that was about to erupt in her belly, and she prayed she would get home without incident.

At last, Anastacia ducked into her apartment building, closing her eyes, and offering a silent thank you to the heavens for the safety and comfort of her home. Once inside her foyer, she removed her coat, hung it in the closet and glimpsed herself in the mirror hanging over the Bombay Chest. Pale skin and sunken eyes replaced her usual olive complexion and healthy glow.

I just need to sleep off whatever this is.

Her husband, Jimmy, was not expected home from work for several hours, and she hoped to be feeling better by then.

Suddenly, the sound of voices startled her. She walked through the living room, following the noise. She almost forgot the motion sickness that forced her home earlier than usual as the guttural sound of rhythmic moans grew louder, interrupted only by a woman’s shrill laughter. Anastacia forced her legs to follow the cacophony and found herself at the doorway of her bedroom. She stood there frozen. Seeing, but not believing. Tears sprang to her eyes and dripped down her cheeks, and she began to shake uncontrollably. Anastacia attempted to speak, but bile rose to her throat, rendering her incapable of uttering a word. Then, a cry that seemed to escape from her very soul, revealed her presence.

In that second, they knew she’d witnessed their betrayal. Anastacia was taken aback by the look of pure satisfaction that flashed across the naked woman’s face. A face that held not even a hint of guilt or remorse.

Her husband’s face told a different story. Shock, fear, maybe regret. For getting caught. It couldn’t have been more than a few seconds, but so many thoughts bombarded her mind that it was as though she were moving in slow motion. But then, the impact of it all slammed into her, and she ran.

Jimmy jumped up, wrapping himself in a bed sheet.

“Ana! Wait!” He pushed the woman off him. “Get off me! Move! Get out of here.”

Barely making it to the bathroom, Anastacia leaned over the toilet, expelling the contents of her stomach.

“Ana,” Jimmy pleaded, coming up beside her.

“Get away from me.” She wiped her mouth with a towel, straight- ened up and gathered all her strength to push past him.

Jimmy blocked the doorway.

“Ana mou, I’m sorry. Please. Let me explain. Sagapo. I love-” “Don’t touch me or ever say that to me. You’re disgusting. You

both are.” She ducked under his arm, but he grabbed her wrist.

His touch seared her to the bone and she pulled away. She was shamed, shaken—broken, but there was no way she was going to let him see it.

“I said don’t touch me. Never come near me again.”

“It’s not what it looks like. She… it was all her. I never meant to… Ana, please.”

“It looked like it was both of you. Now let me pass,” she spat. He lifted his hands in surrender and stepped aside as she pushed her way past him through the narrow bathroom doorway.

In the hallway, the woman stood, watching, gloating. Although she and Anastacia both had dark brown hair and similar Mediterranean features, she lacked the poise and grace that Anastacia exuded.

“Get out of my home,” Ana ordered her. “I never want to see you again.” Anastacia stormed out her front door, slamming it behind her. Doubling over, she thought she might heave again, but she drew in a deep breath and continued down the hall to Soula’s apartment. She frantically knocked on the door. When she opened it, Soula took one look at her best friend and she hugged her.

“Ana mou, what is it?

Between gasps and cries, Anastacia relayed the entire humil- iating scene, as well as Jimmy’s despicable attempt to explain the unforgivable.

“What do I do now?”

“We go upstairs and talk to your uncle,” Soula said. “He will know how to handle this.”

“How can I tell him? What will my parents say? How could I be so stupid? What will Uncle Tasso think?”

“Of you? Nothing different than before. Of them? They will get what they deserve. Come. We will go together. I will tell your uncle if you cannot.”

Climate Change Blog Tour: Guest Post from Daniel Durrant


Daniel Durrant is touring the internet this week on a virtual book tour, supporting his debut novella. A Steampunk tale with elements of espionage and suspense, Climate Change is book those who love the genre are not going to want to miss. So when I found out I was going to be hosting Daniel, I had a simple question for him – I wanted to know what went into creating the world his characters lived in. What I received from him is a delightful piece titled:

This Animal is of No Use to Mankind

Daniel Durrant

Climate Change is the first piece of Steampunk I’ve written, so the process was a steep learning curve for me. When the idea struck me I was tremendously excited – so much so that I drank several beers in something akin to the celebratory equivalent of a pre-emptive strike. But when the alcohol wore off, I realised something terrible; I had no idea how to write Steampunk.

After a short panic, I approached the problem like all good geeks: I would plan it first. The setting, at least, was easy; the quest to navigate the Northwest Passage provided that. Above all else, Steampunk is defined by technology, so I made that my next job. The “decay engines” I imagined effectively shaped the political landscape of my fictional world (and sometimes the geographical landscape, when they malfunctioned).

The development work was great fun; I wrote thirty pages of notes detailing every aspect of life in my re-imagined world. Then, realising I was enjoying it too much, I stopped and hit the last task – my characters.

The fact is this: you can have the best novel ever conceived, but without great characters it’s rubbish. Now, having drawn this very detailed alternative world, I didn’t know what the inhabitants would be like.

Our attitude and beliefs are the direct result of life experience. We’re all defined by the world we live in. The same needed to be true of my characters, but everything I came up with felt a bit “twentieth century” and just didn’t work.

Eventually I pinned down the problem. Yes, my characters would see advanced technology, but in the nineteenth century. They needed to see through Victorian eyes. The issue was how to portray that.

Then something – luck, fate, call it what you will – intervened, and I happened upon the Children’s Home Book of Natural History, dated 1855. This pocket-sized hardback has just 93 pages, each devoted to a domesticated or wild animal. The little engraving prints are lovely, but the real value is in the text.

There are too many gems to list here, but most precious amongst them are that “elephants are the most sagacious of all beasts”, that “a tame puma can make a suitable pet for children” (seriously) and that “a good dog is of more service than many idle men or boys”.

But best of all is the entry for the hippopotamus. A brief description is followed by the summary: “this animal is of no use to mankind”. Those eight words are a remarkably concise expression of the nineteenth century mind-set: “we can’t eat it, train it or wear it. Can’t even make glue out of it. It is worthless.” The Victorians saw everything as a resource to be used up.

Yes, Steampunk is all about twisting technology, but attitudes and beliefs must be twisted to match. Given the technological opportunity, would the Victorians have replaced slavery? You bet they would, and so my marionettes were born. Would new medical knowledge be used purely for good? No chance; in my world Edward Jenner makes his living from biological weapons.

Going right to the heart of the novel, what about the polar ice caps we worry about today? Merely a barrier to be destroyed; the environment was something to conquer, not cherish. That realisation defined my novel, and along the way, even provided the title. Perhaps fittingly, it was all inspired by a little book published in 1855. I rather like that.

Thank you Daniel! Now that we’ve read a little bit from his mind, let’s take a moment to get to know him a little better…

DD PhotoABOUT THE AUTHOR – Daniel Durrant is a new author writing mainly in the horror and science fiction genres. His short stories have been published in anthologies in the UK and USA, and he is currently working on his first full-length novel. He lives on the Norfolk Coast in England.

Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads


And now let’s take a look at Climate Change and read an excerpt from it!

ClimateChange_DanielDurrant_FrontCoverPromoIn a world driven by steam and power-hungry Industrialists, can one man change the course of history?

Edward Rankine, inventor and engineer aboard the battle-cruiser Dominator, has devised an ingenious plan to open the frozen Northwest Passage.

Believing he is performing a service for the benefit of mankind, Edward is appalled to discover there is a saboteur in his midst.

Working with a crew of ‘Jacks and Jills’, mechanically enhanced humans sentenced to a life of servitude, Edward is forced to battle on the icebound waters of the northern seas.

Not only does Edward have a mutiny on his hands, but he must also find a way to save the passengers aboard the Dominator, possibly abandoning his own noble ambition in the process.

Will Edward’s plan succeed in the face of adversity, or in failing to clear the Northwest Passage will he stumble upon something greater?

Purchase Links:


US | Canada | UK |Australia | Germany |France | Italy | Spain | Brazil | India | Mexico | Japan



Barnes & Noble

iTunes (Apple)

An Excerpt from Climate Change by Daniel Durrant… At the end of the excerpt is the giveaway information!

On the ride out, Edward tried to glimpse the modifications that were his design. All space forward was taken by three quadruple turrets. They began to pass the castle, but before the stern became visible, the ship was lost in a fog bank of her own making.

“She has decay engines?” Charlotte asked, watching steam engulf the superstructure.

“Yes, four.” He pointed at the cooling towers. “I can arrange a tour if you’d like,” he offered, hoping to impress.

“Yes.” She smiled. “I would.”

After hopping off at the loading pavilion, they pushed through the crowd and showed their papers to the Royal Marine manning the embarkation point. He directed them toward the nearest elevator, but as they approached, an enormous man began to close the gate.

“Hold, if you please!” Edward called, hurrying forward.

The giant hesitated, but dropped the latch at the signal of an expensively dressed woman standing beside him. The platform began to climb, but those aboard were unprepared. Near the guardrail, two men struggling with a huge portmanteau overbalanced.

Muscles battled gravity as the platform continued skyward. Gravity won. The luggage teetered on the edge before plummeting down, dragging one of the men behind it. They landed together. Clothes, trinkets, and blood dispersed across the unforgiving stone.

“Medic!” Charlotte yelled, running forward. “We need a doctor!”

Edward knelt down and grabbed the man’s wrist, but found no pulse.

“We shan’t need one, I’m afraid.” He shook his head.

“He’s dead?”

“Don’t trouble yourself, Miss,” a marine said. “He’s only a Jack.”

“A Jack?” Edward removed the man’s woolen hat. The scalp beneath was fashioned not from flesh, but metal. A bundle of wires trailed down under his collar. He stood, and looked around. Free from distraction, it was obvious; the stevedores moved with the stilted gait of the converted.

“You bloody fools!” The woman from the elevator barged past them, directing her staff to clean up. “Don’t touch that!” she shouted, as a maid picked up an ornate music box. She snatched the item away, and passed it to the tall man.

“Can I be of assistance?” Edward offered.

“I very much doubt it!” His offer seemed to feed her anger, but then she calmed. “It was a gift from my father,” she said, perhaps trying to justify her outburst. “Excuse us.”

“Lady Holden,” Charlotte murmured, as they climbed aboard another elevator. “I see she’s every bit as charming as her reputation suggests.”

The name seemed familiar, but Edward had no chance to enquire about it.

As they stepped aboard, a young man burst through a service door, charging toward them.

“Stop!” someone hollered, but the man paid no heed. He dashed for a loading ramp, but a gunshot ended his journey. He collapsed beside them, blood erupting from his chest.

Marines ran forward with guns drawn, but had no more targets.

“Sir? Madam? Are you alright?” An officer lowered his weapon, and stepped forward.

Edward looked at the would-be escapee. Blood spread unchecked until it hit the edge of the plank under him. Acting like a miniature dyke, the caulking carried it to the gunwale drain.

“Yes, we’re fine. Thank you, Lieutenant,” Charlotte replied.

A rhythmic hammering sound finally drew Edward’s attention from the body. Looking up, he saw Captain Fitzjames approaching. Standing nearly seven feet tall on his pneumatic legs, he strode forward to join them.

“I must apologize,” the Captain said. “Hardly an appropriate welcome, Miss Redpath.” He smiled. “It’s a pleasure to see you again.”

“Captain.” She nodded. “I was most grieved to hear of your injury at the battle of Buenos Aires.”

Redpath? Charlotte Redpath? Edward tried hard to keep his face blank, but knew he’d failed. Charlie? Stunned, he shook his head.

“Chance hit from a shore battery, but the objective was achieved. The Argentine Navy was completely destroyed.” Shrugging, he tapped the brass thigh tank. “The admiralty insists my uniform should be tailored to hide them, but I believe it does the men good to see that officers share the danger with them.” He turned to Edward. “Doctor Rankine, I presume?”

“Yes, Captain.” As a civilian, Edward had no protocol to observe, but pulled himself upright nonetheless. “It’s an honor, sir.”

“Hmn. Frankly, I don’t care for what you’ve done to my ship, Doctor. The loss of the aft turret concerns me.” He frowned, but then a narrow smile crossed his lips. “However, I must admit I’m curious to see the system in action.”

“Sir, look at this.” Kneeling beside the body, a Marine pulled the man’s shirt open. A small tree was tattooed on his sternum.

“Creationist!” Fitzjames growled. Air hissed from a bleed valve as he stamped a foot. “Lieutenant, organize a search-”

“Sir, we have another one!” Two Marines exited from the nearest elevator, dragging a man between them. “Caught him in the engine room, sir. Chief Engineer said he was tampering with the vortex transducers.”

“You are aboard a vessel of the Royal Navy,” Fitzjames said, clipping off each word. “Sabotaging a ship-of-the-line carries a mandatory life sentence. Take him for marionisation.”

“No!” The man sagged down between his captors. Only their grip prevented his collapse. “Captain, I beg you!”

“I’m sorry, son. It’s too late for that.” He hesitated. “Be grateful we have a good surgeon. It won’t hurt.”

Listening to him scream as the Marines hauled him away, Edward wondered if the dead man hadn’t been the luckier one. At least he couldn’t suffer any more.

“Captain, chance seems an unlikely explanation for this,” he said, trying to focus. “We have to consider that someone has leaked details of our mission.”

“You’re suggesting there’s a traitor aboard the Dominator?” Fitzjames snarled.

Thinking himself the target of the Captain’s anger, Edward took a step back.

“Damn it, you’re right. Too much coincidence.” He called the officers close. Through clenched teeth, he ordered an immediate departure. “We don’t want a panic. Keep this quiet, but place double guards on all restricted areas.” Surrounded by his entourage, he walked away, still issuing orders.

“You’re Charlotte Redpath?” Edward asked.

“The last time I checked, yes.” She looked down at herself.

“You might have told me.” The daughter of one of the wealthiest industrialists in the world, and he’d taken her for some grubby scout. Edward shook his head, feeling dizzy. He couldn’t take much more of this. As if the expedition alone wasn’t terror enough, trouble had struck before the ship could even sail.

“I’m sorry, Edward.” She touched his arm. “Don’t sulk. It wouldn’t have been nearly so much fun.”

“Oh, Miss Redpath?” Fitzjames turned back. “As I said, this is a vessel of the Royal Navy.” He gestured at her filthy clothes. “Sponsor or not, Her Majesty’s rules dictate a dress code.”


It’s a Giveaway!!

Sirens Call Publications will be giving away digital copies of Climate Change by Daniel Durrant to 5 (five) lucky winners! Follow the link to enter for your chance to win!

Win 1 of 5(five) copies of Climate Change by Daniel Durrant

SUMMER OF ZOMBIE 2014: John O’Brien Teaser!!

Have got a treat for you all today!! John O’Brien, author of the A New World series is touring the internet along with 32 other Zombie authors during the Summer of Zombie 2014 Blog Tour!

So without further ado, let’s get to this teaser!!

Seattle, Washington

Untold Stories large2Captain Sheldon Hendricks stands just outside of the cockpit door near the front entryway nodding at each passenger as they board. If his other duties don’t interfere, he likes to greet the passengers. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Mary, the lead flight attendant for the flight, is stunning. It’s not that he has any ideas about taking it further than talking with the occasional flirt thrown in. He just isn’t like that for a number of reasons. He has observed too many ugly situations arise when flirtation becomes more. He is one of the few that keeps his private life separate from his professional one. Anything that has the potential to bring drama into his life, he avoids at all costs, regardless of how attractive anyone is. He’d been bitten by that one a couple of times before the lesson finally sunk in. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t look though, or do a little friendly flirting from time to time. He is human after all.

Mary and he chat amiably between greeting the passengers and him checking the enroute weather reports. Sheldon enjoys flying the red eye flight out of Seattle to Minneapolis and feels a little let down that this is to be the last one for the foreseeable future. It just doesn’t support the decreased number of fares. Normally, this flight is filled with every available seat taken. Tonight, however, they are less than half full with fewer than a hundred passengers. The operations center had cancelled numerous flights in the last few days for the same reason. The Cape Town flu virus has taken its toll on the tickets sold; along with a vast number of crew ill and unavailable to staff the flights.

As a matter of fact, they are going to have a late takeoff due to having to call up an on-call flight officer and a flight attendant. He and the ticket agents decided to board the aircraft on time though in order to shave off a little time. The on-call flight crew members reported that they were on their way and Sheldon knows that he can cut some time off their flight with the jet stream on their tail.

Several of those boarding entered attempting to stifle coughs. Sheldon nodded at them in sympathy. With all of the hours he’s had to fill in, he hasn’t been able to get his flu shot even though there is a company mandate to get it. He isn’t sure when he’ll have time, perhaps the following day; he’s just been too busy having to fill in on other flights. There were days where he’s barely made crew rest and there was talk about the Federal Aviation Administration suspending that requirement for the short term. The same availability was affecting the controllers and was another reason for the cancellation of flights.

With the number of passengers boarding with flu symptoms, Sheldon worries that, with the enclosed nature of the aircraft, the virus could easily spread. He’s surprised that, considering the contagious nature of the flu, those exhibiting symptoms are even allowed to fly. However, the need for fares is apparently overriding any concerns along those lines. The CDC put out a warning about flying but there has yet to be a mandate prohibiting it.

The floor of the aircraft rocks as the baggage handlers close one of the compartment doors. The airliner is fueled and the flight route has been put into the nav computer. When the flight crew members arrive, they should be able to make a quick start and push back from the gate.

Sheldon checks his watch for perhaps the twentieth time in as many minutes. He’s proud of his on-time departure statistic and is a little annoyed that the virus has affected it. The number of passengers boarding slows to a trickle, allowing him to talk more with Mary, which he doesn’t mind and alleviates his annoyance to a large degree.

One of the late passenger arrivals rounds the corner of the walkway being assisted in a wheel chair. The woman, in her mid-twenties, has a blanket over her lap. Her pale face, with red-rimmed eyes, and constant runny nose makes it apparent that she is deep within the throws of the flu virus. Sheldon nods but the woman is too ill to raise her head and acknowledge his greeting. It’s the seventh passenger to require such assistance to board the flight.

Watching as the woman is assisted into her first-class seat, courtesy of Delta, Sheldon hears voices echoing down the walkway. Turning, he sees the on-call flight officer and flight attendant round the corner towing their wheeled luggage behind them. Following behind is one of the ticket agents.

Sheldon steps aside as the on-call members begin stowing their gear. The flight officer nods his greeting and heads into the cockpit get ready for the flight. Mary takes the final manifest from the ticket agent.

“Everyone has boarded so we should be ready on our end. Have a good flight,” the agent says, exiting the aircraft to assist with closing the door.

Sheldon informs Mary of their flight and arrival times, telling her that they’ll try to make up some of the time enroute.

With the door closed, Sheldon enters the cockpit and seals the door shut. In the cabin, Mary begins making her announcements for everyone to get settled in so they can push back quickly, apologizing for the late takeoff and gives their estimated enroute and arrival time into Minneapolis.

With clear skies overhead, allowing the multitude of stars to twinkle on a black velvet background, Sheldon looks to the lights shining in the mostly empty terminal buildings of SEATAC. He is reminded of why he likes the red-eye flights so much. It’s the peacefulness that they afford and the limited traffic flying the airways. The radio isn’t filled with the constant chatter of controllers directing traffic in and around the busy airports. It’s like they are the only ones aloft and it brings him back to his early days of flying, when he could actually enjoy the feeling of being airborne. He is able to forget feeling like a bus driver and allow himself to sink into the peace of the night.

Climbing steeply out of the basin of Western Washington, the twin engines of the 757 howling with their characteristic whine, Sheldon banks the aircraft to the east. The lights from the western corridor, from Seattle south to Olympia, shimmer under the night sky. Moonlight glitters off the waters of the Puget Sound fading behind, also reflecting off the ice fields of Mount Rainier to the south.

Levelling off at their cruise altitude of 35,000 feet, Sheldon sets the autopilot and glances at the lights of Spokane shining off their nose ahead. The glow of the city rises starkly amid the darkness surrounding it. Settling back into his seat, he wants to enjoy the last night flight that he’ll see for some time.

Looking at the approaching city, he reflects on the current pandemic sweeping across the world. Many of his friends have been stricken with the virus, but with advent of the vaccine, he hopes the contagion will be brought rapidly under control. He’s not sure just how much longer he’ll be able to function with the continuous flights and lack of rest. With Spokane sliding past the wing, he wonders how many below are currently lying on their sick beds. The lights continue to sparkle regardless of how many have been afflicted.

With a strong jet stream pushing them, they leave Spokane far behind. Entering the western edges of the Rocky Mountains, the intercom light from the cabin illuminates, letting him know one of the flight attendants is calling.

Probably to see if we want something to eat or drink, he thinks, answering.

“Captain,” Mary says, “I just thought you should know that the woman in 3A is out cold and looks worse. She’s one of those who had to be wheel-chaired in. We’ve been trying to rouse her without success. There are others in economy that are in the same condition.”

“Are you sure they aren’t just asleep?” Sheldon asks, knowing most of the passengers on red-eyes try to get whatever rest they can.

“That’s what I was thinking but they look really sick; worse than when they came in. They’re all very pale,” Mary answers.

“Do you think it’s bad enough that we need to divert?” Sheldon asks.

“I’m not sure.”

“Okay, make sure the door is clear. I’m coming out,” Sheldon states.

“It’s clear.”

Sheldon informs his co-pilot, a man he hasn’t flown with before, of the situation and that he’s going into the cabin.

“Be ready to divert us. We have Salt Lake City to the south and Denver ahead,” Sheldon says, rising.

Entering the cabin, he closes the door and is greeted by Mary. Looking over the dimly lit interior, he sees some of the overhead seat lights shining down, brightly illuminating a couple of passengers who can’t sleep and are attempting to catch up on their reading or work. He’s been on enough of these flights that he’s surprised that their neighbors aren’t complaining about the lights being on. There’s not much for the flight attendants to do on these flights as they usually suspend the in-flight service so as to not wake the passengers.

Under one of the shining lights in first class is the young woman in question, seated next to the window. Over the top of the seats, only her head is visible and is pressed against the cream-colored plastic wall with her eyes shut. Even from the front galley, he can see how pale the woman looks.

“I was worried so I’ve tried waking her several times,” Mary says, standing to the side in the galley.

“And the others?” Sheldon questions.

“They look in the same condition and we’ve tried waking them as well. They just aren’t responding,” Mary replies.

Sheldon nods and takes the few steps to the seat row. A series of very slight bumps rock the aircraft as they proceed through a small area of turbulence inherent over the Rocky Mountains. No one wakes to the slight tremors.

In the darkened cabin, the light illuminating the woman makes it appear as if she’s under a floodlight, the circle of brightness highlighting her pale face. Gazing at her, Sheldon observes dark circles under her eyes, giving them a sunken look. On her cheeks, there appears to be gray blemishes darkening her pale skin. He’s not sure if she had a pale complexion before, but it now looks waxy and almost translucent. Her skin seems clammy and looks as if it should be moist. There is no doubt in his mind that this woman is very ill and, considering how many people across the world have died from this pandemic, he knows she needs medical attention soon. Upon leaving the cockpit, there was a possibility of a divert. Looking at the woman, that now becomes a definite reality.

“Show me the others,” he states, looking to Mary.

They journey down the narrow aisle, working their way past sleeping passengers and doing their best to avoid the occasional elbow or foot poking out into the passageway.

The next ill passenger is just behind the exit seating over the wing. Seated in seat 28E between two resting passengers, is a middle-aged man wearing a light-colored sports coat. His head is tilted to the side, almost resting on his shoulder. His condition is similar to the woman in first class.

Sheldon knows he has a situation on his hands. He has no choice but to radio that they have an emergency medical situation as soon as he makes his way back to the cockpit. First though, he wants to see the remaining ill passengers. Mary and he meet with another of the flight crew as they make their way to the rear. All of the sick ones brought aboard are asleep and have the same gray tinges on translucent, pale faces. Near the rear of the aircraft, a young boy, about twelve years of age, is in the same condition. None of the passengers awake to the gentle ministrations of the flight crew. All in all, there are seven who appear to have taken a turn for the worse.

“Okay, we’re going to divert into either Salt Lake City or Denver,” Sheldon tells the flight attendants. “You’re about to become very unpopular and the passengers aren’t going to like it. Just be ready to make the announcement once I decide where we’re going and be prepared to deal with some irate passengers.”

“We’ll offer them free drinks if that’s okay with you,” Mary says.

“Yeah, that’s a good idea. I suppose it’s the least we can do. Except for the sick ones. They don’t get anything except water. If anyone gets too unruly, you know how to handle it. Call me if someone gets overly upset.”

Stepping around elbows and outstretched feet, Sheldon slowly makes his way back to the cockpit thinking that operations is not going to receive his divert well. However upset they may get, they also know that it will be a worse situation if Sheldon continues with his original flight plan and one of the passengers dies.

Pausing at the row with the young woman, Sheldon assesses her condition once again. The woman is panting but not heavily. He is startled as she abruptly opens her eyes. Turning sharply toward him, he sees a wild expression in her gaze. He takes her look for one of fear. Perhaps her illness and sudden waking is causing her to not understand where she is. With his frequent travels, he’s woken under those circumstances many times. Recovering and with her fearful expression, he seeks to reassure her.

“It’s okay, ma’am─” Sheldon begins.

The countenance of the woman that Sheldon first took to be fear immediately becomes one of a feral nature. She draws back her lips, a low growl coming from deep within. The woman snaps toward the man resting next to her. With her mouth opening, she tilts her head back. A high-pitched scream fills the interior of the cabin, jarring awake the man next to her, along with most of the rest of the passengers.

The shrill nature and volume of the scream causes Sheldon to jump backward. The man sitting next to the shrieking woman gasps deeply as he rapidly comes out of his slumber, jumping in his seat only held down by his lap belt. Mary, standing next to Sheldon, adds her scream of shock.

Sheldon recovers and, thinking the woman is in deep pain, bends forward, once again attempting to reassure the woman. With a speed belying her illness, she turns in her seat and lunges toward her seat mate. The man shies away but the seat belt fastened about his waist prevents him from escaping.

The young woman, her shrieks subsiding, snarls and grabs the man by the front of his dark, lightweight jacket. Before Sheldon can react, the woman pulls the man toward her, sinking her teeth into his neck. Shocked by the suddenness of her actions, and not believing what he is seeing, Sheldon watches as the woman’s teeth bite into the exposed flesh. Bright red blood sprays across her pale face and runs down the man’s neck.

Screaming from the intense pain, the man tries to push the woman away but her grip on him is firm. The man tries to pull away but only succeeds at stretching his torn skin. Sheldon, reacting to the brutality of the attack, grabs the woman’s head, trying to help the man push the woman away. Shaking her head, she rips a chunk of flesh from the man’s neck, sending more blood streaming.

Doing the only thing he can think of, Sheldon reaches down and unbuckles the man’s seat belt. Grabbing his neck and screaming in pain, the man tumbles over the arm into the aisle. Knowing the woman entered the aircraft alone, he can only think she is delirious from her illness. In all of his years, he has never witnessed such a horrific act.

The woman spits out the mass of flesh and begins shrieking once again. She lunges toward Sheldon but the lap belt holds her firmly in her seat. The woman is frantic in her attempt to get at him and he can only imagine what will happen should she remember to unbuckle. This is one moment when he wishes he had a sky marshal aboard. The wounded man is lying in the aisle, still screaming with one hand holding his neck, blood leaking between his fingers and staining the carpeting. The other passengers, fully awake now, look on with shocked expressions. Most are unable to see what is going on but can to see the man lying at Mary’s feet.

The woman wiggles and continues lunging, pulling against her restraint. Sheldon is at a loss as to what he should do. His training involved protecting the passengers and crew, and if the situation arose, subduing anyone threatening their safety by any means. Thoughts race through his head, trying to figure out a way to subdue the woman without posing a risk to the others. In her current state, he’s not sure how to go about that. They have no means to administer a sedative.

Knowing that he’s about to make the biggest mistake of his flying career, and going against his base moral character, Sheldon swings toward the lunging woman. His fist connects solidly with her upper jaw, snapping her head backward. Momentarily stunned, the woman ceases her frantic attacks and quiets.

That should have knocked her out, Sheldon thinks, hoping the punch will pull the woman out of her current state.

The woman, blood circling her lips and dripping down her chin, shakes her head and continues her attempt to get at Sheldon. Not believing that this is how he gets to spend his last night flight, he punches again, feeling a jolt of pain in his hand. The woman collapses sideways, falling across the middle arm rest. Drops of blood slowly drip from her lips, soaking into the seat fabric.

“Get the first aid kit,” Sheldon directs Mary, nodding toward the man on the floor. “And find something to tie her hands.”

The remaining passengers look on with shocked expressions. About to reassure them that the situation is under control, a shriek similar to the one the woman emitted comes from farther to the rear of the aircraft.

All heads, once focused on him, turn sharply toward the sound. Looking past Mary, who has halted in mid-step, Sheldon sees a man rise quickly from his aisle seat. In the gloom, he watches as the man lunges down the aisle. He can’t see much other than a flurry of movement due to one of the other flight attendants standing in the passageway near the exit rows. The on-call attendant, who Sheldon recalls flying with once before but can’t remember her name, has turned toward the scream.

About to call out a warning to her, he watches as the woman stumbles and falls heavily to the floor, the man on top of her. His shrieks filling the cabin, the crazed passenger begins tearing at her face and neck. Screams of fear erupt from those passengers near the flight attendant being ravaged. Brushing past Mary, Sheldon begins a headlong flight down the aisle. Even in the dim light, he sees the attendant looking at him with pleading, pain-filled eyes.

Before he can get to her, several other passengers leave their seats to help the woman. The man and attendant are quickly engulfed in a sea of bodies. A couple of the would-be rescuers are tossed back from the pile, some landing in the aisle while others are thrown into adjacent seats. The entire cabin is filled with cries of fear.

Sheldon loses sight of the attendant as several men punch at the crazed one, trying to subdue him and pull him off her. One man, standing to the rear of the pile, suddenly lurches forward and goes down, pushed from behind by another. The twelve year old boy claws at the man’s head and leans down to sink his teeth into the exposed neck.

Sheldon slows, seeing a woman climbing across the top of the seats and attacking the seated passengers. A red splash of blood passes through the stark beam of one of the overhead lights. The young boy stops attacking the man and begins an onslaught of another passenger seated nearby. Stunned, realizing that the sick ones have gone crazy, Sheldon is at a loss.

He is unable to get past the pile of bodies in the aisle, many of whom have ceased to move. The crazed man who pushed the flight attendant down emerges from the pile only to continue his attack on the people seated in the nearest row. Panic ensues with many rising from their seats and pushing toward the front. In the rush, Sheldon is forced backward, stumbling into Mary who is looking on at the brawl open-mouthed.

The entire cabin is involved in a fight with many rushing to get out of the way. In the dimness, dark stains begin coating the walls and overhead bins, lines streaming down from the thicker blotches.

With a rush of passengers approaching, Sheldon knows he won’t be able to stop them before being trampled underfoot. It’s a dilemma between protecting the passengers or his crew. He’s not certain how he can safeguard the passengers at this point. Stymied by indecision, he watches the approaching horde. Behind them, he sees others go down. The first man attacked lies at his feet. Sheldon can’t hear his moans above the chaos rolling through the cabin. The very aircraft threatens to shake apart from the screams of terror, the shrieks of the infected, and cries of pain. All of his other flight crew are trapped behind the passengers streaming for the front.

“Into the cockpit, now!” he shouts to Mary.

She remains standing, transfixed by the horror coming at them. Grabbing her shoulder and turning her, Sheldon pushes her toward the cockpit.


Stumbling over the prone, wounded man, she comes to her senses. With a quick glance behind, she starts for the cockpit with Sheldon following. Knowing he can’t open the door, he grabs for the attendant’s phone and punches the line for the cockpit.

“Everything alright back there?” the co-pilot asks.

“This is Hendricks. Open the door and be quick about it,” Sheldon responds.

Seconds later, although it seems like an eternity, the door opens a crack. Sheldon pushes Mary inside. Following, he closes it quickly behind. The screams permeating the cabin, become muffled. Leaning against the door, Sheldon becomes aware of his panting breath and pounding heart. The co-pilot, standing behind Mary, looks bewildered having heard the screams. His face tells of a hundred unasked questions.

“I’ll tell you in a sec. Right now, we need to get this aircraft on the ground,” Sheldon states, starting for his seat.

The cockpit door shakes from repeated fists hammering on the other side. His co-pilot turns to the door but Sheldon ignores it as he belts in. Looking at the nav display, he sees that Denver is the closest airport lying twenty minutes away to the southeast. As he sets in a new course, he briefly relates to his co-pilot what is happening. Sheldon has trouble telling it because he really doesn’t know what just happened. He sees the look of disbelief in the eyes of the flight officer. If it wasn’t for Mary backing him up, he would think he was the one going crazy.

He keys the mic. “Denver Center, this is Delta 1493 declaring a medical emergency. Requesting divert from present position direct to Denver International.”

“Delta 1493, Denver Center. Copy emergency. Turn right heading one two zero, descend and maintain two five thousand. State nature of medical emergency.”

Sheldon really doesn’t know how to respond to that. He knows if he tells them what he saw, they’ll think they have a lunatic pilot on their hands.

“Center, we have a number of passengers attacking the others. We have numerous casualties and we believe that most of the flight crew are down. The cockpit is secure.”

Sheldon can imagine the looks the other pilots on the frequency are giving one another right now.

Thank goodness we’re on a red-eye and there aren’t many flights airborne, he thinks, knowing it would be a hard one to live down should the world hear about it.

The pounding against the cockpit door continues with a frenzied pace and intensity. He can only imagine the fear that the passengers must be feeling. However, there is nothing he can do.

It’s not like they can go anywhere from here and we certainly can’t hold many in the cockpit. There’s no way I’m letting those crazed ones in here.

The long pause from Denver Center continues. “Delta 1493, state number of casualties and nature of attacks. Squawk appropriate code.”

Sheldon knows the message of his aircraft being attacked is making the controllers believe that he’s being hijacked. However, he can’t really say that, although those infected people may inadvertently bring down the aircraft.

Sheldon replies that their squawk is correct and that he has an unknown number of casualties on board. Denver Center tells them that they are cleared direct Denver and to descend at their discretion. They are giving Sheldon clearance to do as he deems appropriate.

A particularly hard slam against the door shakes the cockpit. All three turn toward the entrance with concern. Rising, Sheldon peers through the peep hole to determine what is going on. The expanded fish-eye view is startling. One of the pale-faced passengers is standing in the aisle. At his feet lie a number of bodies, some piled on top of one another. The man takes a run at the door. As the peep hole fills with his body, Sheldon flinches. The entire aircraft shakes as the man slams into the entrance with his shoulder. The hinges, although holding, vibrate.

Sheldon turns toward the front of the aircraft. Out of the windows, a few pinpoints of light shine from miles below. The lights from Denver and its surrounding cities glow from far away directly off their nose. The altimeter winds through 30,000 feet. His thoughts feel muddled, in shock most likely. Here he stands, on what was to be his last red-eye for some time, a flight to be enjoyed in peace. Instead, he is six miles in the air, flying over some of the most rugged, mountainous terrain in the world, a cabin full of dead passengers, with crazed sick people trying to get into the cockpit.

This all might be easier if we weren’t trapped miles high with nowhere to go. This is it. If they get into the cockpit, there isn’t anywhere to run.

Hoping the door does its job, and thankful, in a strange kind of way, for the need of it, Sheldon retakes his seat. Mary hasn’t moved from the side and is gripping her shirt, her eyes wide with fear. The co-pilot, who Sheldon still doesn’t know although they exchanged pleasantries, looks on with worry but without the fear he should be feeling, his not having witnessed what happened.

Another hard slam startles him. He never knew someone could hit the door so hard and he isn’t sure how long the entrance will actually hold under the onslaught. He informs operations of their predicament knowing he’ll be in for a psyche exam first thing in the morning.


Another hard crash shakes the cockpit. Instead of weakening, as he would expect, the crashes against the door seem even harder.

Perhaps out of desperation.

His heart thuds against the wall of his chest. Not knowing if the infected in the back will start hammering against any door they see, Sheldon has the co-pilot and Mary go on oxygen in case of rapid decompression.

Denver Center continues to guide the flight, allowing for any deviations that Sheldon might require. He informs them that he thinks the entire passenger manifest might be either injured or dead. This will make the authorities treat the flight as a hijacking which will extend this long night. Sheldon doesn’t care as long as he can get the 757 on the ground before the infected break through the door. There isn’t an escape hatch built into the aircraft but he’ll feel better knowing they can’t fall miles to the ground.

Slam! The door shakes.

The lights of Denver are closer as they pass through eighteen thousand feet. Their voices and actions are shaky as they progress through their approach to field checks. It’s a race between the structural soundness of the door and the airfield. The cockpit entrance is meant to withstand tremendous pressures to keep potential hijackers out, but Sheldon doesn’t know if it was meant to handle the pounding its taking.

It feels as if the crashes against the door are timed with each couple of hundred feet they descend.

How can those infected sustain that kind of intensity without harm?

Twelve thousand feet.

They turn to the east, setting up for a long turn to final.


The vibration sounds different. It has a ring to it as if the door is loosening. Beads of sweat break out on his brow. The race is going to be a close one.

Please let the door hold.

Although muffled from his headset, Sheldon hears Mary whimper with each slam against the door. Passing through eight thousand, with the engines in flight idle and speed break deployed to aid in their rapid descent, Sheldon turns to a long final. In the distance, he sees the strobes of the approach lighting system and the steady white of the runway lighting.

“It’s been a helluva night,” the co-pilot says, bringing the flaps down another notch.

“That it has,” Sheldon replies, adjusting their airspeed.

With the continued pounding behind them, almost in their sub-conscious, the gear is lowered. They forgo their normal announcements as, well, they just do, feeling the need for them to be rather moot at the moment. Three green lights flash on and remain steady near the gear handle.

Seven thousand feet, two thousand feet above the ground, and descending in a landing configuration. The pounds against the door continue. The aircraft shakes as it goes through turbulence stemming from the mountain waves. Sheldon applies small corrections to the controls to keep the aircraft aligned. The strobes from the approach lighting blink in rapid succession, pointing toward the runway.

Their bright landing lights illuminate the red metal towers of the approach systems as they flash underneath. Another bang on the door and Sheldon can definitely feel and hear the difference. He knows the door is giving way.

Six thousand feet and the strong beams of their landing lights begin picking up the runway markings. The red flashing lights from the responding emergency vehicles stand out near the runway along its length. Sheldon knows that some will chase the aircraft down the runway when it lands. Due to the nature of their emergency, they’ll stop and hold on the runway, awaiting further instructions.

Almost there.

*  *  *  *  *  *

The tower crew watches Delta Flight 1493 approach, their binoculars trained on the landing lights growing larger and brighter by the second. Due to the nature of the emergency, they’ve cleared the field and airspace around. Of course, it’s early in the morning so they don’t have much traffic to begin with.

With clearance to land given, it’s just a matter of waiting for the flight to touch down and then handing control off to the authorities. They are short-staffed due to the large numbers who have called in sick but, using on-call personnel, they have enough to manage.

The reports from center were sketchy. The pilot reported that the passengers were being attacked and that they had numerous casualties on board. How many there might be were unknown as the pilot was unsure. The latest report indicated that the pilot, co-pilot, and one other flight crew member might be the only ones left alive. They had also reported someone trying to gain entry into the cockpit. That means a hijacking and it may leave Denver closed for some time.

Staring at the approaching lights, the tower personnel note the occasional swing as the aircraft rides through turbulent air. The red flashing lights of emergency vehicles stand to the sides of the runway, the only real indication that something is amiss with the flight. Other than that, it looks like any other airliner approaching for a night landing. The runway controller holds a radio in his hands, ready to turn control of the flight over to the FBI agents who arrived a short while ago. Once the wheels touch the ground, it’s their show.

Over the approach lights, the landing lights break through the darkness. The aircraft experiences another wobble of turbulence which is almost immediately righted. The runway threshold begins to be illuminated under the intense glare. Going through another moment of turbulence, the 757 slews slightly to the side. Used to seeing the effect of turbulence from the wind passing over the mountains a short distance to the west, the controllers gathered together in the tower expect an immediate correction. They are taken aback, and then watch in horror, as the aircraft slides to one side of the runway and slams into the ground. Dirt, metal, and fuel are thrown into the air and off to the sides. Skidding across the ground, the aircraft begins coming apart. The fuel, thrown from ruptured tanks, becomes vaporized by the impact and ignites with a tremendous concussive explosion that lasts only moments before settling back down to a slow burning fire.

They were right about one thing; Denver would be closed for some time.


SummerZombie Shirt Front

The stench of rotting flesh is in the air! Welcome to the Summer of Zombie Blog Tour 2014, with 33 of the best zombie authors spreading the disease in the month of June.

Stop by the event page on Facebook so you don’t miss an interview, guest post or teaser…and pick up some great swag as well! Giveaways galore from most of the authors as well as interaction with them! #SummerZombie

Summer of Zombie 2014 Blog Tour

AND so you don’t miss any of the posts in June, here’s the complete list, updated daily:

Armand Rosamilia, Horror Author


Five Line Friday: The Rematch

Howdy! I’ve been thinking about doing this for a while and then finally broke down and did it. I’m starting a new segment here on The FlipSide where I’m going to give anyone out there who’s interested a peek at some of the fiction I’ve been working on. I figure, what better way to entice readers than to get them salivating over a tidbit each and every week.

When I do post, I will post only five lines. That’s it, that’s all.

So here are five lines from a story I’ve recently finished called ‘The Rematch’…

Eventually the memory of that race faded into the background for most, but not Hare. No, he always remembered his folly of taking that nap and allowing his smug friend to best him. From the first taunt, he set himself to plotting. To scheming. Oh, he’d make Tortoise pay alright.

Intrigued? I’ll let you know when it’s published!

Seasons of Death and Echoes of Death Book Tour: An Excerpt from Seasons of Death

The FlipSide is presenting an excerpt from Seasons of Death by Marlene Mitchell and Gary Yeagle. First let’s start off by finding out a bit about the authors…

MarleneMitchellMarlene Mitchell: Originally from St. Louis, Marlene makes her home in Kentucky now. A mother and  grandmother, Marlene has a wide range of interests including watercolor and oil painting,  yet writing has always been her passion. That comes through loud and clear in her wonderful novels! These novels reflect a genuine sincerity with very strong characters to which her readers can relate. To quote Marlene: “It took me a long time to start writing, but now I can’t stop. The stories just keep on coming.”

GaryYeagleGary Yeagle: Gary Yeagle was born and raised in Williamsport, Pa., the birthplace of Little League Baseball. He grew up living just down the street from the site of the very first Little League game, played in 1939. He currently resides in Louisville, Kentucky, with his wife and four cats. He is the proud grandparent of three and is an active member of the Jeffersontown United Methodist Church. Gary is a Civil War buff , and enjoys swimming, spending time at the beach, model railroading, reading, and writing.

Now let’s get to that excerpt! From Seasons of Death

The man nodded his head in an affirmative fashion, smiled, leaned over and unzipped the bag.  When he stood back up he held a large pocket knife in his hand, which he proceeded to open as he displayed the knife to Asa.  A broad smile came to Asa’s face.  He realized the joke was coming to an end.  He was now going to be freed and he, his pals, and the man would all have a good laugh.  But then the man leaned over once again and extracted something else from the bag; a roll of duct tape.  Asa watched silently. The man brought the tape up to his mouth, where with the use of his teeth, he gripped the edge of the loose end and pulled the roll forward, stopping when a six-inch section appeared, at which point the man cut it.  He then stuck the knife into the trunk of a nearby tree and hung the roll on the knife.  Asa was once again confused. He looked toward the tree line for his friends, then back to the man who was again smiling. He was about to say something when the man placed his index finger across his lips indicating that Asa should be silent, then placed the tape across Asa’s mouth and smoothed it to ensure a tight fit.  Asa’s objection sounded like nothing more than muffled, indescribable words.

The man removed the knife and tape from the tree and placed them back in the bag. “I realize that taping your mouth may seem a bit uncomfortable but it’s necessary. We wouldn’t want anyone who just happens to be out walking in the woods this morning to hear you screaming…now would we?”

The man then pulled a pair of old brown gloves from his coat pocket, and after wiggling his fingers into them, leaned over and removed some sort of a tool from the bag that he held up in front of Asa’s face.  As Asa stared at the heavy-duty lopping shears he once again began to object, the only sound coming from his taped mouth was senseless mumbling.  “Now, now,” said the stranger. “You need to calm down so I can explain what is going to happen. I want to make sure you understand.”  Examining the shears, he explained, “I’ve had this tool for years.  I originally purchased it to cut unwanted branches down from the trees in my backyard.  It really does work quite well: a fifteen inch, heavy-duty wooden handles with plastic grips, four inch blades that can snap anything from a small twig up to a sizable branch.”  Reaching up he placed the shears around a two-inch, low hanging branch and with both hands squeezed the handles, the sharp blade snapping the branch off instantly. The sharp snap sent a shiver through Asa’s body.  “Everyone should own one of these,” said the man.  “You see it can be used for many other things…like locks.  Just last week I went out to my storage shed and wouldn’t you know it, I had lost the key.  Then, I thought about my lopping shears.  They did the trick. Cut right through that metal lock like a hot knife through butter. Cutting through skin and bone should be a piece of cake.”  Reaching out he took Asa’s left hand and balanced it on his raised knee, placing the shears around Asa’s pinky finger. Asa’s eyes grew wide with fear. He tried to pull his arm back, but the duct tape restricted his movement. The man gripped his arm tightly and then lopped off the little finger.  Following a spurt of blood the finger fell to the ground as Asa let out a scream that sounded like the lowing of cattle.  As the stranger reached for his right hand Asa resisted as best he could.  The man, growing impatient with Asa’s feeble struggling brought the lopping shears down across Asa’s right knee.  The instant pain in his leg captured Asa’s attention for the next second at which point the man calmly grabbed his right hand and repeated the lopping shear process, Asa’s right pinky falling to the ground.

The man leaned the now bloody shears up against the trunk of a nearby tree then placed his hands on his hips, admiring his handy work.  Asa’s muffled screaming and weak attempts to loosen himself from his restraints caused the man to smile. He sat on a tree stump, removed a pipe from his trench coat pocket and pointed the pipe at Asa. “The more you thrash around the worse it’s going to get.  The faster your heart beats the more blood you’ll lose.  If you will try to remain calm the loss of blood will not be so rapid.  You might want to cup your hands to slow down the process of bleeding out.”  Looking down at his slightly blood smattered trench coat, he remarked, “Good thing I wore this old coat. I knew this was going to be messy work.”

Asa stared at his hands, his two blood-stained little fingers lying on the ground at his feet, blood slowly dripping from where his fingers moments earlier had been attached.  He couldn’t believe what had just happened.  His heart was racing and it felt like the life-giving muscle would pop right through his heaving chest.  Placing his head back against the tree he closed his eyes and tried to scream but it was to no avail.  Taking the stranger’s advice he slowly cupped his hands. The bleeding didn’t seem to slow, but rather than dripping directly down to the ground the blood momentarily delayed its flow where the fingers had been severed. Within seconds it ran across his hands forming a small ever-growing pool of blood in his palms, then dripped in between his fingers and onto the ground.

Getting up, the man walked over to the tree and wiped Asa’s forehead with a white handkerchief that he had taken from his trench coat. “There, there now, you’re really sweating. Try and relax. The pain you are feeling is nothing more than mental.  If you’ll calm down I’ll tell you why all of this is happening.”

Fantastic huh? Let’s take a look at Seasons of Death

SeasonsofDeathCoverIn the fall of 1969 in the mountains of eastern Tennessee, a poor backwoods farmer and his wife were brutally shot and killed by four drunken hunters, along with their three dogs, horse and two fawns. The farmer’s two young sons managed to escape but were unable to identify the killers. Now decades later, the murders of the Pender family remain unsolved. In Townsend, Tennessee, in Blount County, someone has decided to take revenge.

And Echoes of Death

EchoesofDeathCoverIt’s springtime in the Smokies and despite the four murders of the previous year, tourists from every corner of the country have made the journey to Townsend, Tennessee. The hiking trails are packed, the restaurants are jammed, and the campsites are full. Vacation season is in full swing in the peaceful side of the Smokies.

But then… there is another murder.

Don’t forget to click on the covers to be whisked away to Amazon!

An Unforgiving Land, Reloaded and Nakba Book Tour: Guest Post and Excerpt from Jason S. Walters

Today the FlipSide has a special treat! Jason S. Walters has stopped by to support two of his soon to be released books – An Unforgiving Land, Reloaded and Nakba.  Let’s take a moment and get everyone acquainted…

JasonSWaltersPhotoJason S. Walters is an author, essayist, and publisher best known for running Indie Press Revolution (IPR), a distributor of micro-published roleplaying games. He is also one of a small group of investors that purchased Hero Games in 2001, and serves as its general manager. After owning a San Francisco bike messenger service for 15 years, he and his wife Tina moved to Midian Ranch: a homestead near the town of Gerlach, Nevada. It is also the location of IPR’s warehousing complex. They have a daughter with Down syndrome named Cassidy and animals too numerous to mention.

So now that we’ve introduced Jason, let’s take a moment to read a few words from the man himself.

“She knew that introspection was the enemy. It assaulted her with a kaleidoscope of “self” in the past tense. All her “was” kept bubbling up to the surfaced of her “is” in a mélange of memory. A dirty little girl with a black eye sitting in the dust near a singlewide in Bakersfield. A terrified teenager sitting in an LA abortion clinic where everyone else spoke Spanish. Arguing her way into a club in San Francisco’s SOMA district. Working as a bike messenger deep in the cement canyons of the city, alternately dodging and screaming at cars. Cooking meth in a warehouse in San Leandro. Doing meth until the normally hard lines between real and unreal, possible and impossible, and good and bad became blurry and hard to recognize. The arrest. Bending over a metal laundry table for a fat, sweating guard in Chowchilla. Waiting tables at a rundown restaurant in the no-man’s-land between Berkeley and Oakland, the days turning into months as she waited for… for what?”

~from the story Crucified Coyote, An Unforgiving Land, Reloaded

There’s a question that every thoughtful male author is forced to ask himself at some point in his career: namely, as a man how do I get women “right” in  my work? How do I portray them fairly, as three-dimensional characters? And, of course, there’s no one single correct answer – though there are an awful lot of wrong ones, and those are sadly the ones that often get chosen. By it’s nature being an author is a profession (or, for most of us, pastime) which attracts people who either enjoy spending time alone by themselves, or who due to their lack of social graces seem to have little choice but to do so. Neither case produces a temperament perfectly suited to understanding the intricacies of the opposite sex.

Of course, many writers of either gender aren’t interested in presenting or creating overly complex characters of the opposite sex at all. There can professionally and within the context of genre literature be very good reasons for not doing so. An author of women’s erotic fantasy novels has very good reasons for portraying men as distant, restrained, vaguely menacing, and supremely muscular, while an author of military science fiction can legitimately choose to portray women as basically “male” space marines as expressionlessly dedicated to killing alien menaces as their male counterparts. In both cases these choices reflect not only the artistic goals being pursued by the book, but also the well-understood wants, needs, and desires of their readers.

More often, however, male authors have somewhat limited experiences with women. A classic example is the talented and highly influential science fiction author Robert H. Heinlein (though there are many others). A former US Navy lieutenant and WWII veteran, Heinlein tended to view his female characters a lot like a sailor on shore leave might view women: either untouchable and pure, or wanton and willing, but always in need of help or rescue. Later, he went in the opposite direction, creating characters like Friday Baldwin that were specifically tougher and more competent than most of the men they encounter. Neither approach is particularly realistic – though it’s possible that, as a science fiction author, Heinlein was never attempting to be all that realistic to start with.

If, however, a male author is interested in creating a realistic female characters for his work, there are a few basic things to remember. The first is that women are, like men, individuals – often complex ones – whose personalities and motivations are mostly shaped for good or ill by their upbringing and environment. A woman raised in a primitive, highly ritualized environment may have very different views from one raised in a modern, Western society on even such basic matters as gender identity, rape, and a parent’s individual responsibility to her child. It’s important to keep this in mind, especially when crafting genre fiction such as scifi or fantasy.

The second is that he should closely observe how the women he knows behave. (If he doesn’t know any, than that situation should be quickly rectified!) Base your characters on a fair and objective reading of the women you know and are important to you. If you’re having the character do or say something that doesn’t “feel” right based on the behavior of the women you know, then that’s something you may want to consider changing. Or if you know a particularly fascinating women, turn her into a character in one of your books. Some of the very best characters in literature have begun that way.

However, with all that said, there seem to me to be some aspects of female behavior that are unique to the woman’s experience and nature – and that are very different from those of men. I can’t provide these in the form of clearly defined and useful list (If I could I would probably have my own show on the Oprah Network.), but I can provide two examples that clearly illustrate what I mean: woman go crazy different from men, and women go bad different from men. Which isn’t to say that men don’t also go crazy and bad. They most certainly do. But that it’s different when it happens to women.

In my soon-to-be-reprinted short story collection An Unforgiving Land there are a variety of important female characters as well as numerous minor ones. For example, the aging and lonely character of Maud, the pregnant survivor known as the Scarred Girl, and the tough DEA Agent Esperanza Gomez are all important characters whose personalities are based on those of women I have known. But in the original edition of the book I also created a “throw away” character called Shuttup Amy who wasn’t given a lot of screen time compared her more important sisters. After the book’s publication I felt bad about this (I rather like Amy), and wrote another story called Crucified Coyote to correct that oversight. After all, of all the women characters Shuttup Amy felt the most real to me, based on my 20 years living in San Francisco, following by moving to the Black Rock Desert: home of the cult-like Burning Man festival and all of its attendant crazy people.

Shuttup Amy has become mad, bad, and dangerous to know due to a variety of life experiences, some of which she’s been responsible for, some of which she hasn’t been. These include an abusive childhood, drug use, prison time, and other unspecified but equally traumatic things. She’s not a victim or a passive actor in her own life, but she’s vulnerable and damaged all the same – like a lot of the punk rock, junky, bike messenger, and “burner” (or Burning Man) girls I’ve known. She’s recklessly brave, sexually aggressive, and often erratic. Introspection is difficult for her (though she tries), and other people are a total mystery. Her personality and problems are very hard for her younger Mexican boyfriend to understand, and this causes not only a great deal of friction but an actual life-threatening situation to occur. The other inhabitants of the fictional Nevada town of Haulapai accept her more-or-less for who she is, but at the same time keep their distance. She desperately needs rescuing (really), but responds to even the gentlest attempts at rescue with hostility and distrust.

So, in short, I tried to make Shuttup Amy a real woman – or, to be more specific, a real type of woman with which I’m very familiar – living a kind of life that I’ve witnessed some women living. I’ve tried to make her realistic, be objectively fair, and create a three-dimensional person: scars, green dreadlocks, fading beauty, and all. Maybe in the end my efforts have been unfair (though it’s mostly women that seem to have enjoyed and related to the characters in An Unforgiving Land), but not due to lack of trying. And definitely not due to staying alone in a room with a computer, avoiding the company of women.

Thanks Jason! As a quick break, let’s take a sneak peek into both An Unforgiving Land, Reloaded and Nakba

TheUnforgivingLandReloadedCoverIn the desert life is hard. It can also be surreal. In the absence of congestion and convention, imagination takes you by the hand: or the balls. In this macabre collection of riveting tales, ENnie Award-nominated author Jason S. Walters grabs the reins of storytelling as if it were a wild stallion, leading the reader ever deeper into the physical and spiritual wasteland of the Black Rock Desert.


Nakba CoverA thousand years ago humanity’s dissidents fled, leaving behind a peaceful, unified world content to exist in a state of perpetual hedonism. Then a daring escape plunged civilization into chaos, forcing its rulers to expand outward to maintain order. Now all that stands between a newly imperial Earth and the rest of the solar system is a loose coalition of Maasai tribesmen, cloned feminists, shape-shifting humannequins, and vengeful Berbers led by the least likely hero in human history: a young woman with Down syndrome and a bad attitude.


Now hang on to your hats for an excerpt from Nakba!

Mitchell Green: Mars, Arabia Terra

Big. It was big.

The sea of red spread out infinity in all directions, blurring the distinctions between land and sky. It made Mitchell feel incredibly small. In fact, the landscape of Arabia Terra – that vast, cratered plane of iron-colored soil and winding canyons in the north of Mars – was so immense that it dwarfed even the mighty hull of the Andrew Levitz, still steaming and glowing behind him from its violent entry into Mar’s atmosphere. Not for the first time he felt intimidated by this huge, open place. By the tall, russet-colored grasses that brushed gently against the outside of his safety garb. By the vast intimidating ceiling of firmament that pressed down upon him from every angle. By the ocean of genetically modified plant life that spread out before him in all directions, it monotony only broken by the distant black dots of massive Martian buffalo grazing in their thousands. It made Mitchell feel dizzy and sick just to look at it.

Mars was all so terribly large when compared to his normal world of cramped corridors, artificial light, and recorded birdsongs. So… real. Yet Mitchell knew that much of the world he gazed upon had been created by the hands of men, just as his own had been. But it was also different. The Martians had used highly modified nanotechnology – a science his own people shied away from – to craft their home, whereas his people had relied extensively on Antigravity to create theirs; a science the Martians seemed to have lost. It had taken centuries of patient, never ceasing toil to turn some of the landscapes of the Red Planet into environments that could support a limited number of extremely modified species. Yet in many ways it remained as inhospitable to men as the hard vacuum of space, its promise of a new Eden seemingly eternally, tantalizingly out of reach.  

A figure detached itself from the countless black dots in the distance and headed toward him with long, confidant strides. Mitchell knew that would be his Maasai contact. He hoped it would be his friend Sironka. They had worked together on previous trade missions, and Mitchell enjoyed his company. But there no guarantees. Martian-Maasai society worked in ways unfathomable to Mitchell Green, though he had done his best to study and understand it. He knew that they were nomadic, wandering across the northern latitudes of Mars much as they had Tanzania and Kenya on old Earth. He knew that they worshiped a god called Engai, believed that having a lot of cattle made you rich, and that most of their food came from those cattle. He knew that their society was grouped into “age sets” of people who grew up around the same time, that they were divided into twelve tribes, and that they were very tall and very tough. He also knew they were masters of genetic modification: the art of changing living things so that they were different.

But these were mostly just words on a screen to him. He liked the Maasai. They were cool and alien; though Mitchell suspected that his own kind were as alien to the Maasai as they were to his. It was difficult to say. The skinny Martians were so easygoing and confidant that it was very difficult to say what they did and didn’t find strange. Really, he would probably never know. The two groups of human beings had become very other – and possibly they were that way before either had ever left Earth. But such things were never spoken of. There were only three rules universally held by all of the scattered and diverse children of Earth, those Interesting People who in desperation had fled its safe, comforting biosphere for the unforgiving wildernesses of the void. The Children of the Nakba. The Disaster. One, they didn’t make war upon one another. Two, they didn’t interfere with one other’s internal affairs. Though, really, they didn’t have to. The solar system was so unthinkably large that avoidance, rather than conflict, was the social norm. Trade, rather than conquest, its standard for interaction.

Three, they didn’t talk to the Earth. Ever.

Before very long the figure began waving. Mitchell waved back. He could make out its characteristic red robe slung over a skintight, reddish-brown environment suit. The Special and the Maasai were such a study in contrasts that they could have made an excellent comedy team, he reflected to himself with a quiet smile. (He liked comedy teams.) Mitchell was dressed in a bright yellow, inflatable outfit festooned with pulsing lights and topped with a spherical dome for his head. He was short, pale, clumsy, and as generally incongruous with his surroundings as a parrot on the bottom of an ocean.

The Maasai, on the other hand, was fantastically tall and angular, looking as though he had been hand crafted from the rocks, grass, and soil that lay around him: all reds and browns and rags and dust. His face was covered with antique looking goggles and a breathing apparatus that wouldn’t have been out of place in the trenches of one of the Earth’s ancient world wars. He carried a long spear with the air of a man who knew how to use it. His billowing dark red shuka contrasted against the brown and black skintight wrappings below it, giving him a fierce, exotic look.

The lanky figure stopped a meter from Mitchell. It cocked its head and peered down, regarding him with what the much smaller man guessed was curiosity or puzzlement.

Perhaps it was having trouble figuring out whether I am me or not, he reflected with slight amusement.

Then it reached down, clasping his forearm in greeting while simultaneously pressing its breathing apparatus into the flexible dome of his helmet. “Habari za safari?” boomed a deep voice through the plastic. How was your journey?

“Nzuri, asante.” Mitchell responded with a grin. Fine, thank you. It was his friend after all. He grasped Sironka’s arm in response, his smaller hand making it about half way to his elbow.

“Habari yako?” Sironka continued, still gripping his arm. How are you?

“Niko salama.” Very well, thank you. Swahili speakers typically enjoyed greetings, and could go on this way for a while until all possible formal and informal greetings were used up. This suited Mitchell fine. He liked greetings too, and they were pretty much all the Swahili words he knew in any case.

“What have you brought us this trip?” Sironka asked, releasing his arm and gesturing back toward the Andrew Levitz. Sentience was translating now, sending completed words into his mind through his earbud. Mitchell frowned slightly. Sironka was, by Maasai standards, being slightly rude. Normally they would have exchanged at least another two sets of greetings. Then he shrugged. Perhaps, uncharacteristically, his friend was in a hurry. At least by his own kind’s standards.

Mitchell pointed back at his ship using his right index finger. On cue – and quite dramatically, he thought again with a smile – the bottom two thirds of the craft began to disassemble itself; rectangular sections detaching and slowly drifting to the ground to hover obediently behind him. It was as if he owned his own herd of giant mechanical cattle. Which was rather the point.

“AntiG tech,” he began, counting theatrically on his fingers, “suitable for attaching to lifting platforms. Ceramic insulation to help harden your AIs, and near-sentience level semiconductor wafers to improve them. Blocks of pure aluminum, titanium, and surgical grade steel…”

Sironka nodded, looking impressed.

“…and that kind of stuff,” he concluded a bit lamely. Drama really wasn’t his strong point. But the Maasai bowed sagaciously, as if he had made some excellent point.

“For you little ones we have next generation non-self-replicating nanoviruses capable of repairing cell structures after radiation exposure, “ Sironka responded grandly with a sweeping gesture outward toward his unseen home, “new extracellular matrix cultures for regrowing organs. Something new to prevent early onset Alzheimer’s that doesn’t have the side effects of our old tech. And, of course, as much beef, grain, and frozen water as you can pack into your containers.”

Mitchell nodded thoughtfully. Those were good things. Alzheimer’s was the great curse of Specials, and even some Standards. You simply couldn’t have enough cures for it. The other two medical things sounded good too. Great tech to have when you lived out in the vacuum. And it went so without saying that biomass and water were such prized commodities on a space habitat that he didn’t even think about their value.

“Haya.” Okay. Mitchell knew that one without the help of his Sentience. Sironka nodded gravely, and then placed his index fingers on his chin, bringing them out and up slowly to indicate a smile. The smaller man beamed back appreciatively. Like everybody else in the solar system he knew a bit of Sign, and it was polite of his friend to pantomime his facial expressions. Otherwise it was like talking to a mask.

Sironka pointed out into the distance with his spear, in the direction that the tiny AI inside of Mitchell’s safety suit informed him was southwest.

“Let us now go to the Manyatta,” he said. “It is not a long walk. And you should stretch your legs after such a long journey.”

“Yes,” Mitchell responded simply, and the two of them strode out into the vast, russet emptiness, shipping containers following along behind them like a pack of huge mechanical dogs.

That sounds fantastic, doesn’t it??? Thank you Jason for taking the time to stop by today! If you’d like to connect with Jason and keep up to date on when both An Unforgiving Land, Reloaded and Nakba are releasing, you can subscribe to his blog or send him a friend request on Facebook.

Book Tour: No Alternative by William Dickerson

Today I’m featuring a guest post from William Dickerson, the author of NO ALTERNATIVE. Here’s a little info on William…

WilliamDickerson-AuthorWilliam Dickerson graduated from The College of The Holy Cross with a degree in English and received his Masters of Fine Arts in Directing from The American Film Institute. He is an award-winning writer/director whose work has been recognized by film festivals across the country. He recently published his first novel, “No Alternative,” and completed his debut feature film, DETOUR, which hits Theaters and Video On Demand (VOD) this year. He is currently finishing up his second feature, THE MIRROR.

He is hard at work on several new feature films and is writing another novel. In his spare time, he creates music for his band 9068dash39.

He lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Rachel, and Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Duet.

In support of his novel, NO ALTERNATIVE William is touring around the internet, leaving little golden nuggets of the things he loves best and talking about his book. We are lucky enough to have a guest post about music, more specifically the band Weezer. So sit right back and you’ll hear a tale… Oh and stay tuned for the excerpt at the end!!


Photo Provided by the Author

One of the more amusing videos on YouTube lately is one that is probably not meant to be funny at all.  It’s from the rock band Weezer, and if you haven’t heard about it yet, they have a cruise:

It’s a promotion for a 4 -day cruise to the Bahamas, on which Weezer will play atop the veranda deck to emo sunbathers.  This entire notion stands in contrast to the long-held belief that alt-rockers, grunge-folk, and emo-mopers hold the hue of their pale skin in high regard.  The Bahamian sun will no doubt throw a wrench into this ethos.  The video also begs the question: was Weezer being held hostage while making this video?  There have been more willing subjects in front of a lens in some of Al Qaeda’s best viral videos. 

For the sake of full disclosure, I love Weezer.  I sprained my back crowd surfing at a concert of theirs at Roseland Ballroom in 1995.   I don’t hold the injury against them, in fact that sprain lead me to quit the tennis team and spend more time learning to play the drums, so I have Weezer to thank for that.  I saw the group again at Roseland last year, a show in which they played their “Pinkerton” record – their masterpiece – from beginning to end.  It was as close to live musical perfection as I’ve ever seen.  Part of that perfection was imbued by the lore that surrounds the album, how Rolling Stone declared it the worst album of 1996 and how front-man Rivers Cuomo refused to play any songs from this deeply personal record for many years.  It was like this huge cathartic explosion on stage and I witnessed it.  From what I recall, Rivers was dealing with a significant break-up during the writing process, and his lyrics overtly reflect bad relationships, sexual disappointment and issues with personal and professional identity.

If I were to buy a ticket and take the cruise with Weezer, I’m not sure what I would experience, but I can’t imagine it approaching the magnificence of the Pinkerton concert in any way.  Cruises have been in the news lately, specifically the cruise line that happens to be hosting Weezer on this island excursion.  They’ve been heralded for their exciting midnight breakdowns, food shortages and feces-filled hallways.  Imagine enduring those indignities to the soundtrack of “If You Want To Destroy My Sweater…Woo, Woo, Wo-Woooo.”  Don’t let your sweater come undone and drag its threads along the muck on the starboard side of the ship. 

Rivers famously quit the music business to study music at Harvard and then lived in a garage for a number of years as a protest against his rock’n’roll stardom and its requisite riches.  The cruise gig seems like miles and miles from that artistic monkdom.  Has Rivers and his band sold out?  Or are they just planning to play “Island in the Sun” in some demented loop for four full days?  I have to think there’s some hidden agenda of performance art in this.  Rivers is not like other rock stars; he’s an aesthetic soul.  I’m betting on performance art.  I mean, it has to be, right?


NOALTERNATIVElgNO ALTERNATIVE is a coming-of-age drama that drills a hole into the world of suburban American teenagers in the early 90’s.

Thomas Harrison is determined to start his own alternative band, an obsession that blinds him to what’s either the mental collapse, or the eruption of musical genius, of his little sister, Bridget. Bridget boldly rejects her brother’s music, and the music of an entire generation of slackers, by taking on the persona of an X-rated gangsta’ rapper named “Bri Da B.”

NO ALTERNATIVE probes the lives of rebellious kids who transition into adulthood via the distortion pedals of their lives in an era when the “Sex, Drugs & Rock’n’Roll” ethos was amended to include “Suicide” in its phrase.

Bridget is parked in art class, surrounded by her classmates at their individual easels. Ms. Sheehan, her skinny, exceedingly longhaired, Earth-mother of a teacher, makes her rounds from student to student. She stops behind Bridget, eyeballing her canvas. While others concentrate on drawing bowls of luscious fruit, glistening and ripe, Bridget touches up an image of fruit, apples and such, impaled on several razor-sharp meat hooks. Ms. Sheehan surveys the depiction with interest, “Do you think you’ll ever actually follow the assignment, Bridget?” Bridget adds some luster to those metallic hooks, “Not likely.”

“I do kind of like it.”

“It needs more blood,” Bridget observes.

“Of course.”

Sheehan shakes her head, but has to smile, as she continues along to another student. Bridget places her pencils down, closing her eyes, and exhales. Bridget exhales for the therapeutic value of the act.

Bridget has been prescribed anti-depressant medications, many different medications, a bounty of medications, medications as plentiful as Baskin & Robbins ice cream flavors, medications in all shapes and colors, in colors much more numerous than the colors of the rainbow, medications in quantities nearly equal to the many languages of the human race, a tower of Babel of medications and she has been on this laundry list of medications since she was eight years old. What childhood malady could have justified this salad bar of meds being visited on Bridget? Sure, a casual observer with an eye for analysis might have detected her lack of motivation on the soccer field at an early age, like the way she’d shy away from the ball whenever it was kicked anywhere near her, or noticed her brittle temper, like the time she smashed all the windows on the garage door with a hockey stick. An ever-increasing percentage of the medical community views these childhood failures as justification for testing new wonder drugs on innocent children. Bridget suffers much, there’s no doubt about it and most of all from a debilitating anxiety. The bone-chilling anxiety that accompanies her while being forced to give classroom presentations. The gastrointestinal stomach ailments that she swears are there, but no doctor can officially confirm. The anxiety of her compulsive drawing and erasing, drawing and erasing. Bridget suffers.

Just breath. In. And then out.

The phenomenon of syncing one’s breathing with another’s is seldom discussed, but is a considerable fear held among the anxiety-ridden. It’s something Bridget obsesses over: the idea of someone other than herself controlling her breathing. It is simultaneously smothering and freeing. During an anxiety attack, breathing becomes front and center, you can actually convince yourself to stop breathing if you’re anxious enough. Or so you think. But it’s what you think that matters. It matters enough to actually cause you physical pain and discomfort. And that’s a problem. Inevitably, nobody thinks you’re crazier than you think you are.

In an attempt to combat her anxiety while giving a presentation on earthquake preparedness – an endeavor not worth the chalk when you live in the northeastern quadrant of the country, but an assignment is an assignment, and who knows what part of the country one will abscond to when free to abscond – Bridget focused on her classmates around her. She attempted to picture them in their underwear, a ridiculous cliché, but one that had worked for her in the past. It didn’t work this time. She couldn’t picture anything. No boxers, no panties, no edible thongs, no pierced labia or Prince Alberts; just her breathing

And the sound of other people breathing.

Bridget became deaf to her own rhythm as her classmates began breathing in the same tempo. At least that’s what she thought was happening. In actuality, it was Amanda Welsh, and only Amanda Welsh, overweight by acceptable Westchester standards, with dimples the size of pomegranate seeds and the crease of her belly pinching the plaid of her uniform with every exhale. Her breathing eclipsed that of her peers, thunderous sound waves created at a distinctly lower frequency and emitted from the inner depths of her flesh.

She was like a bag of bagpipes squeezing itself.

Bridget could hear nothing but her breathing; in fact, she honed in on it, on the wheeze of air passing through a crowded windpipe.

Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale.

Like the equalizing knob on her stereo, Bridget’s brain shut off the treble and turned up the bass, louder, louder, louder; all the way to the max. Every word out of her mouth was garbled, as if she was speaking underwater. The only frequencies allowed into her ear canals were those from the bagpipes. As a result, she adjusted her breathing to mimic those of the bagpipes, because if she didn’t begin and end her breath at the precise moment the bagpipes did, she would cease breathing. And, of course, die. The bagpipes were her assisted breathing machine: at this very moment, standing before her class, every movement, every word, every breath, being judged by her peers, her teacher, the loiterers in the hallway passing by, and her breathing was regulated by a bag of human bagpipes.

She was a stock car stuck in its groove, unable to change lanes. Then she stopped. Breathing.

Either the overweight girl she was listening to stopped breathing, or Bridget mercifully broke free of her often unforgiving burden. Either way, the end result was the same: Bridget’s knees buckled, her legs collapsing underneath her, and the side of her head smashed into the corner of her teacher’s steel desk. She was knocked instantly into blissful unconsciousness.

She likes this moment the best.

Awesomeness huh? Consider purchasing a copy via Amazon! Thanks William for stopping by today! If you would like to connect with William, you can find him on his website, Twitter, Facebook, or on his Amazon Author Page.

Oh and there’s a tour wide Rafflecopter giveaway!!

Click here for a chance to win cool stuff from William Dickerson

An Excerpt: Gifted Trust by John Paul Allen

John  Paul Allen is touring around the internet these days, drumming up support for his book Gifted Trust. I have the distinct pleasure of providing you with an excerpt, but there are a few things that need to be taken care of first!

John Paul Allen PicJohn Paul Allen refers to himself as a Semi-Complete Unknown. That said, his popularity seems to be growing. “It’s all material.” Allen says when asked where his ideas come from. “Life is the best source, and nothing is off limits.”

What He Writes: Stories without borders. John Paul Allen is known for crossing lines and warns readers, “Nothing is off limits, if it edifies a story. If you want safe, there’s a lot of that being offered. I expect my readers to go beyond the content, in order to enjoy the story.”

John Paul Allen is originally from Michigan, but served in the US Navy in Cuba and on board the USS Brownson, USS Wainwright, USS Frank Cable and USS Dewert. He’s lived in Florida, South Carolina, Virginia, Texas and now Tennessee. He lives near Nashville where he spends his time with his girlfriend enjoying being Paw Paw to one-year-old Makenzie and his new born granddaughter, Zoe.

Now let’s talk a little bit about the Gifted Trust and the giveaway that Biting Dog Press is undertaking!

Gifted Trust CoverIn 1930 Max Belote, a Dallas literary agent, heard the voice of Virago. “Tell her, just be good,” it whispered and he’d repeat before mutilating or killing his victim. Wanting to stop the evil entity inside him, Max ended his life. In 1970 convicted serial murderer Jeffrey Michael Roberts also heard the words, and until his execution he fulfilled its desires. In 2003 Virago spoke to Edward Paine, a high school teacher, who sought help to destroy the creature within. One soul, three lives, and the evil entity that commands them.

Death is not the end… It’s a brief interruption.

And now the giveaway!

Win a complete John Paul Allen digital library from Biting Dog Press!

And here is the excerpt – read and enjoy!

Chapter Three…

Everett felt the heat, and if able he would have rubbed his hands together. He’d caress his fingers individually then flex the digits until the sting subsided. If he could crawl to them he would place his mouth over each finger and blow temporal warmth. Instead he collected his thoughts of the final words spoken before being left alone. What plans do you have for the rope, Randolph? He’s got nothing left to tie.

Everett moved his arms and remembered all below each elbow was gone. He could not explore the empty holes that once held his eyes and as the dizziness progressed he wondered if his fate was to burn or bleed to death. He smelled the smoke seeping upward through the floor as his thoughts slipped to Clément’s instructions. Do not make a fire. If someone spots smoke you may be discovered. Light the lantern, find blankets and extinguish it. His mind drifted to the torch he saw in the distance as he dismounted the carriage. He assumed travelers preceding him on the road would pass the cottage, give note to the shuttered windows, and continue on. They will not stop, he thought. He was wrong.

I’m going to die, Everett thought. The fear dissipated as the pain climaxed. His only concern was that Celeste might continue her plan and find him in the morning. Maybe she knows. If told, what reason would she have to come? He began to pray then lost track of his thoughts, as the seepage from his empty sockets increased. Even this could not hold his attention, as his mind took him to his last moments whole.

Hours earlier Everett wished Pierre a safe return and turned his attention toward Lever de Soleil. The house was comparable to yearly homes of Quebec’s moderately successful gentlemen, built by Clément to begin his life with Lorraine. He wanted many children, but only his wealth grew and eventually he and his daughter moved to their final residence.

Everett circled the structure and entered the rear entrance where staff carried food across the whistler’s walk from the kitchen quarters behind the main residence. Few rays of light found their way into the cottage, so he located the lantern and Lucifers inside the doorway. He passed through the dining room, continuing down the hallway until approaching stairs, and ascended to the second floor where he viewed four closed doors. Three to his right faced the river. The fourth, Celeste’s room, was to the left and gave sight to those approaching from the road.

Entering the room Everett set the lantern on a table covered by a white embroidered doily and crossed the floor to a chest. Opening it he discovered a comforter, which he removed and placed on the unmade bed. Here he would spend his night wrapped in the cloth that many times kept his lover warm. Built near the Quebec River, screening was placed along all outer windows in late spring to allow the breeze from the water to keep in-house temperatures mild. At the beginning of autumn the same would be replaced by wooden boards to protect against the cold until they departed for winter.

Everett moved to the window and attempted to view between cracks in the shutter, but outside darkness made it impossible. He assumed those spotted earlier had passed quietly and he turned the knob at the base of the lantern to deaden the glow before securing himself within the bedding. He imagined all that happened between Celeste and Varnwell. Tomorrow she’ll come and we’ll be off, he thought.

As Everett drifted to sleep he envisioned the confrontation, assured Celeste would manage the path of least resistance. If the Colonel knew too much she’d accept his anger and beg forgiveness, but would expect none. She would be credited for the break and never again be considered a choice partner. If he believed her, she’d bid him good eve and retreat to her bedroom to wait for the night’s silence. Either scenario ended with her coach, guided by moonlight, setting out to their union. He estimated her arrival to be before dawn. She’d awaken him and they’d instruct her driver to continue to the Port of Quebec where they would seek passage to a destination yet determined. Celeste’s possible condition made him think Philadelphia or Boston the best choices. Giving thought of their future Everett’s mind clouded then passed into dreams and in the heaviness he found difficulty separating sleep from those moments leading to his end.

“He sleeps like a babe, does he not?” The voice gave no owner as Everett’s eyes opened. “Hope we weren’t rough in your waking.”

Everett threw his covers off and swung his feet toward the floor, as the barrel of the long gun pressed against his chest. A match was drawn to the lantern and he saw them surrounding the bed.

“I wouldn’t try rising,” said the soldier.

Everett turned and took note of the man who was obviously the leader of the patrol and attempted to make conversation. “What are you doing here? I’m a guest of the owner of this property.”

“Sir, I’m not here to discuss such matters,” said the soldier. “It appears you’ve sided wrongly with my superior.”

“I am in Colonel Varnwell’s service,” Everett said. “This cottage is property of his …”

Everett couldn’t recall finishing his testimony before the blow came, but he remembered pulling on the bindings connecting his arms and legs to the head and foot boards when he woke. Seven men he counted, three on each side and the one who orchestrated their movements stood at his feet.

“Who sent you?” Everett asked.

“Quiet, no need to converse,” said the soldier. “You already know.”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about. I insist you release me,” said Everett. “This is all a mistake.” The blow of the stock came down upon his chest and the sound of a rib cracking was followed by his cry.

“Again, there is no need for us to talk,” the soldier said. His voice, a deep and graveled whisper, spoke without emotion. His hair, long and dark, paired well with his black eyes. The corners of his mouth hitched upward into a meaningless smile. “Still I will do you the courtesy of an introduction. I am Phineas, of Colonel Varnwell’s command. You may have seen me before. I know I’ve observed you many times. My duty is to tend to special assignments given by the Colonel. He tells me what he expects and I comply.”

“Please, let me explain,” said Everett.

“I’m sorry, but you hold little worth bargaining,” said Phineas. “I am expected to make this last as long as possible and your talking hinders my work. I will ask you once to not put up resistance. Now, prepare to section him.”

Phineas nodded to another in uniform, who set his weapon against the wall and moved to the table holding the lantern. A gloved hand was placed on the base, as the other lifted the glass freeing the flame.

“Permit me to introduce Watson to you, Mr. Everett,” Phineas said nodding to the man standing next to him. “Could you please briefly share what you do?”

“I’m a physician,” Watson said.

“Watson, please …” Phineas said.

“I’ve assisted many doctors,” said Watson as he pulled something out of his coat. Everett looked into the shadow created by the soldier’s body and realized the man held several short pieces of metallic rock, which he placed next to the lantern before continuing to speak. “I’ve had many opportunities to partake in field medical procedures. What I speak of is the occasional amputation.”

“No,” Everett cried. His eyes widened as a rifle fell upon him again.

“Mr. Everett, as much as I’d enjoy a debate, my men have gone without rest for more hours than I care to count because of you,” Phineas said. “Do not interrupt again.”

“Thank you,” said Watson. “As I was saying, I have assisted in a number of operations and as you might imagine the loss of a limb is followed by a considerable amount of bleeding. It is this that leads to deaths more often than the cause of the wound itself.” He paused to lift the wire and a surgical clamp displaying them before Everett. “These will aid in ceasing the flow of blood. What we are about to do is remove various parts of you in whatever order Mr. Phineas directs, beginning with your tongue. As each piece is detached I will follow by searing the wound. Doing so will form a crust and hinder the flow. Clamps will enable me to stop blood released from severed arteries. Unfortunately we are without proper cutting instruments, but Randolph has spent considerable time sharpening his knife and finding substitute tools. Now, I believe we can begin.”

Watson, a smaller and much older man than the others, nodded at Randolph. The soldier nearest Everett’s head on the opposite side of the bed unsheathed a hunting knife and grinned. He held it before the prisoner and ran his thumb across the blade, allowing drops of blood to fall onto the quilt. As Everett turned away, hands grasped his head and forced it to face the steel. Fingers were planted onto his cheeks and pressure was applied to force his jaw open. Randolph took hold of Everett’s tongue, extended it out of his mouth and slit it at its base. Blood flowed and his head was turned to allow drainage. His screams grew as Watson placed the glowing wire onto the stub.

“Maybe I should have asked if you had a last statement, Mr. Everett. I apologize,” Phineas said, “but we have no time for sentiment. Watson, I wish you would do something to stop his crying. Could you remove his eyes?”

Everett was thankful that the haze of the shadows left the bayonet’s sharpness a mystery until it was upon him. A soldier stepped forward and plunged the blade between the left eyeball and the edge of the socket popping it loose. As it dangled Randolph’s knife cut the nerve that attached it to the head and the steps were repeated without hesitation to the right eye.

“This is an act of kindness,” said Phineas. “I wish I was able to avoid witnessing what I’m forced to observe, but I suppose that is the price of duty. Now I’ll have to ask you for your patience for we must modify to accommodate you.”

Everett listened to footsteps leaving and he could hear pounding, as if someone was hammering. When it ceased he heard the men returning and he felt hands moving beneath him. Wooden boards were being slid between him and the mattress. The shutters, he thought.

“I believe we’re prepared to continue,” Phineas broke the silence. “As Watson conveyed earlier, we lack certain medical instruments. He mentioned not possessing a surgical tool for your limbs. Thus we had to devise a replacement.”

Please, Everett thought. Haven’t you done enough? His arms and legs pulled on the restraints and he attempted to protest. “Oow… peesh…” Don’t please. “I’m soree,” I’m sorry.

“We’ll be removing your legs first, Mr. Everett. Randolph, are you ready,” Phineas said. “If you hold still this may go quickly.” He nodded at the soldier who raised the ax over his head and brought it down upon the left leg below the knee. The cut failed, as upper and lower segments remained united by tissue. “I want it off.”

Randolph stretched the sections to create a gap then cut the resisting ligaments. The lower leg rolled and fell off the side of the bed, still attached to the rope. A soldier braced the thigh as Watson attempted to cauterize the stump with the metallic rock, but realized immediately the effort would be fruitless.

“This isn’t going to work,” Watson said, “and I won’t have enough clamps for both his arms.”

“Then we must move faster and get by with what we have. I want him alive when we leave,” said Phineas as he turned to a soldier next to him. “Go begin the fire, hurry. Randolph, the other leg, cut it.”

Randolph moved closer to the bed forcing the ax into the air and down in one motion. This time the blade struck the kneecap splitting it in two. A second swing was needed to part the limb.

“Eesse… Eesse…” Everett screamed. Celeste… Celeste… he wanted unconsciousness to take him and thoughts of her to be his last.

“You cry for the girl? Such a coincidence,” said Phineas. “Fear not Mr. Everett, you’ll be joining her soon. The Colonel’s entourage had their way with her earlier and though it didn’t go as planned I am here to equalize matters.” He looked at Randolph, who stood holding the ax to his side. “Do I need to tell you everything? Pick an arm.”

“Hold the right one to the board,” the soldier shouted at Watson as he took aim. The blade did the work with one stroke and all noticed the fingers flexing after separation. “Now hold the left one still.” Again he swung the weapon, and upon release the limb dangled from the restraint.

“Do you smell the smoke, Mr. Everett? I would distinguish that ability, but you might not appreciate your predicament,” Phineas said. “Now we must leave you to face your end. Bleed or burn, those are your options.” He looked at Randolph, who dropped the ax and now held a segment of rope as he stared at the torso. “What plans do you have for the rope, Randolph? He’s got nothing left to tie.” The soldiers laughed as one grabbed the lantern and they exited the room.

He thought not of the pain or the fire, but only of Celeste as he imagined her calling to him. Everett … Everett, he heard her cries. It was then that he knew she would not compromise to survive without him. He wished to sleep until they were together again and prayed the end would come quickly. He felt the bed give way as flames ate the wood beneath him. As the floor weakened the frame tilted until he slid, dragging the blankets with him. His clothing and hair caught fire and his last thoughts were of his own burning flesh. Days later his blackened remains would be discovered, as his soul watched from another world.