Paginations

Gabriel’s Revenge Excerpt – The Shadowy Benefactor


Final Cover - Click to Enlarge

A loud bang startled the man sitting on the couch. He looked up from his reading to see that a large painting on the far wall had fallen onto the floor, and was now leaning against the wall. The glow from Earth in the skylight illuminated the painting like it sat on display in a museum.

He set his flexscreen down and picked up the half-empty wine glass from the table in front of him, then stood up. He walked over to the painting and stared down at it, slowly sipping his wine. He didn’t question why the painting had fallen. It wasn’t the first time. Nor would it probably be the last, he thought.

It was an oil on canvas work depicting his hometown, a riverside village on the outskirts of Buenos Aires called Ramallo. It was a poor slum, commonly referred to as a villa miseria, with tents and shanties scattered amongst cheaply made prefab housing units and textile sweatshops. Ramallo was where he and his three brothers and one sister had grown up, trying to scratch out a life without falling prey to the gangs and the stims and the gunrunning and the thievery. He, as the oldest, had taken over his mother’s role after she disappeared following a civil war, and had raised the others as best he could. Yet he still saw his sister and one brother die at the hands of rival gangs. He had blamed himself for being weak and passive, and swore then he would never allow such weakness to interfere with his life. Or his plans.

The villa miseria was long gone, having been swept away by the massive asteroid-induced tidal surges that began the Dark Days. Many towns nearby had pulled through because their structures were newer and stronger than Ramallo’s. That was in no small part due to Ramallo not giving in to the corruption and gangs, and therefore not having the means or funds to improve their small village. And it had perished because of that. He had seen what power and influence could do, and what the lack thereof could lead to. And it had guided his life ever since.

He had the painting commissioned a few years before the Shanghai asteroid, and the artist had done a superb job of showing Ramallo in its finer days. The various colors of the rooftops were shown in beautiful contrast to the stark prefab units, with the sun gleaming over Rio Paraná in the background, and there were no signs of the ragged tents and corrugated metal shacks. The artist had signed the lower right corner without any flourish, just a simple “Ekaterina 2138.”

He brought it with him wherever he had gone, including the isolated and cold moon. But as he stared at it on the floor, he remembered the last few times it had fallen. Each time, it had preceded some disastrous downturn in his life, almost like the old wives’ tale of if you straighten a picture on a wall, someone close to you would die. He had always thought of that tale as absurdly negative, but this painting almost seemed to sense what was coming — whether it was the mining incident on Ganymede, the death of his wife Marianna in a car accident, the Poliahu mission Tevez had fouled up resulting in their self-imposed banishment to Luna, and others — so he had learned to listen to it.

He snorted as he stooped down to pick up the frame. Listen to a painting, he thought. I’m turning into an old woman.

***

Enjoy the genre, like the scene? Gabriel’s Revenge is now available for all e-book platforms. Get into the trilogy with book 1, Gabriel’s Redemption, and book 2, Gabriel’s Return. Thanks for stopping by!

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Gabriel’s Return entered into Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel contest

I’m coming up on my one-year anniversary of publishing Gabriel’s Redemption (February 2nd), and I was struck with a memory the other day. Last year on a whim, just before publishing, I submitted it to Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel Award Contest (ABNA), and a few weeks later was astounded to find it qualified for the second round. Seeing my name, and the book title in ‘official print’, in that master list of 1,000 qualifiers was damned exciting, I must say.

In the year since, a lot has happened, including publishing two more Gabriel novels, completing the trilogy (a trilogy I didn’t even know was going to happen last year at this time – I thought it was a one-and-done novel). Gabriel’s Redemption has over 50 reviews with a 4.6 star average on Amazon, and the follow up novels have done just as well (better actually, according to average rating, though the sample size is admittedly smaller).

When the subject of 2012’s ABNA came up a few weeks ago, I didn’t even consider it at first, but then it hit me. The second in the trilogy, Gabriel’s Return, I feel is an even better story than the first (if I do say so myself), and I don’t see anywhere it’s written that a second in a trilogy wouldn’t qualify, so what the hell.

It’s in as of last night, with a pitch based on the book description, and the first two chapters as the excerpt. And away we go…

Anyone else in??

 

P.S. In a Twitter chat last night with @Harper_Jayne, I had a thought…winning the whole contest, and telling Penguin thanks but no thanks for their publishing contract. Yeah…that’s a nice goal.

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Blast from the Past: Star Blazers…one of my ultimate childhood memories.

I ran across a blog post at Tor.com by Rajan Khanna when doing a little military scifi research, and the title caught my eye: A Ship Called Argo. Wow, flashes of running home from 4th grade to see Star Blazers pops into my head. And since I can’t simply describe the coolness of Star Blazers, I’ll use two very cool YouTube videos. Enjoy, my scifi cartoon-loving brethren:

Opening Theme:

Wave Motion Gun:

Was anyone else as fascinated as I was back in ’79/’80?

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Excerpt from Gabriel’s Revenge – Chasing the Station

The Trilogy Concludes

“Closing, sir,” said Stirling. “Slowly but surely.”

McTiernan clenched at the armrests of his command chair, staring at the main wallscreen that showed the computer generated image of their course. The icon for the Marcinko was inexorably drawing closer to the icon representing the out of control skyhook station. The computer superimposed their courses, showing intersection in less than five minutes.

At this distance, they still were not able to visually see the cable itself. Being only sixteen inches in diameter, and matte black, they’d have to be right on top of it before even the long range visual sensors would catch a sniff of it. But the asteroid on the far end was in sight. And still moving.

“Lieutenant Commander, time to flipover,” he called out.

Vaillancourt answered without taking her eyes from her screen. “Ninety seconds, Captain.”

“Mister Giroux?”

The ensign held up a hand. “Captain, I’ve got…” He tapped at a few icons on his screen. “Four tugs. Three are projected to be where we need them to be, the fourth is going to be a bit behind. I’m having the computer redirect that one further up the trajectory. I’ve got calls into two more, but I don’t think they’ll make it in time.”

McTiernan looked at the main screen, where the computer had added the mining ship icons. He grimaced as he saw the tight window of opportunity. He felt the Marcinko straining at the max accel run, her engines’ thrum more of a roar. A distant corner of his mind played out the situation on two different paths. One where they caught the station, and one…

“Ensign, any word from the station itself?” he asked.

Giroux turned around, and McTiernan saw the sadness in the young man’s eyes. He knew the answer before Giroux even opened his mouth.

“Nothing, sir. No answer to comm, all channels. I don’t even know if it’s worth…”

“We have to try, Mister Giroux,” McTiernan said. “Even if the possibility is remote.”

“Aye sir,” Giroux replied and turned back to his screen.

“Five seconds to flipover. Engine cut off,” called Vaillancourt. The sound of the engines faded, and the bridge was left in silence as the Marcinko performed her end over end turn to begin the deceleration. McTiernan took a deep breath as the pressure in his chest ceased and the bridge went back into weightlessness.

“Captain!”

McTiernan looked away from the main screen towards LaFuente, who was excitedly signaling from his Sensor station. He waved for him to continue.

“Sir, I picked up one of the skyhook cars. It appears intact!”

He squeezed his armrest hard enough to feel the plastic underneath buckle. Maybe…

“Put it up on the screen, max resolution.”

The wallscreen changed from the course trajectory plot to a grainy video image. Mars’s shadowy outline appeared on the left third of the screen, just a sliver of red showing as the sun set across the planet. The computer outlined the skyhook car location in blue. The car wasn’t visible.

“Mister LaFuente, can’t you get it any closer?”

“Trying, sir,” the young man said, tapping furiously at his screen.

McTiernan squinted, trying in vain to make the image clear up. Suddenly the screen flickered and the skyhook car came into view.

“Got it, sir! I messed with the algorithms, and…”

The seaman’s voice trailed off as he looked up to the screen. McTiernan’s heart caught in his throat as he stared at the image.

The skyhook car, a boxy structure slightly larger than a standard ship-to-surface shuttle, was tumbling, and to the bridge crew’s horror, was entering Mars’s thin upper atmosphere. Pieces of the car were breaking off and bursting into pinpoints of light. Now that the image had cleared up, it showed the car itself starting to glow around its edges as it rolled slowly.

“Sir, can we…” Giroux began.

“No,” McTiernan said. He surprised himself with the sadness and resignation in his voice. “It’s too late. God rest the souls of anyone in that car.”

Several moments of silence passed as the crew watched the skyhook car tumble and break apart. With one last burst of light, the car disappeared from the image.

Vaillancourt cleared her throat. “Sir,” she said in a low voice.

McTiernan gritted his teeth. He knew those cars could hold a hundred people or more. People with families, children, people heading off planet on vacation. A hundred people…

He pulled his eyes away from the screen. “Yes, Karlyn.”

“Sir, ten seconds to decel.”

He nodded. “Very well. Mister Stirling, have the battlecomp shut down all active jammers and stealth systems. No need to sneak up at this point.”

Stirling acknowledged the order, and Vaillancourt began her countdown. The main screen switched back to the trajectory plot and McTiernan unconsciously cinched his belt tighter. He fought to push the image of the tumbling skyhook car from his mind. It was replaced by thoughts of what it must be like on the station as it headed away from Mars.

He squeezed his eyes shut as the Marcinko lit her main engines for the decel, and the pressure returned.

***

Enjoy the genre, like the scene? Gabriel’s Revenge is now available for all e-book platforms. Get into the trilogy with book 1, Gabriel’s Redemption, and book 2, Gabriel’s Return. Thanks for stopping by!

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Excerpt from Gabriel’s Revenge – Renay in Trouble

The Trilogy Concludes

The cot creaked again as Renay shifted her weight. Her arm was now throbbing almost as much as her head. After the tube ride, the next thing she remembered was this room, now, and she wracked her brain to try to figure out the timeline and which tube they took her through. Arsia Mons had four, each leading to other domes with their own branches, so any guesswork was just that: guesswork.

She reached out to the table and gave it a tug. It was firmly fastened to the wall. However, of the four support legs beneath it, one wobbled a bit as she pulled. With a glance up at the now-invisible A/V bug, she got up off the cot and positioned herself between the bug and the table, and sat down on the floor. She made a show of stretching her good arm up and over her shoulder, grabbing onto the edge of the table that was behind her head. She grunted with the effort, hoping the person or persons watching would assume she was working out kinks. She raised one leg at a time, alternating, as if to stretch her hamstrings.

She turned her body slightly, and reached behind her lower back with her wounded arm. The pain shot through her like a laser, and she felt the bandages stretch. Wetness ran down her arm as she pulled at the loose table leg, all the while shielding her actions from the bug. After a few pulls back and forth, the leg came free, and she gasped with the effort. She slid the thin piece of metal down the back of her pants, down her left leg, leaving just an inch above her waistband.

She released the table with her other hand and stood up carefully, not wanting to injure herself further by slicing open her femoral artery with a jagged table leg. The end of the leg ran down to just above the back of her knee, so she could still walk normally, but sitting down on the cot could be challenging.

She walked over to the corner of the dark room where the A/V bug was stashed. Pressing her hand against the soaked bandages, she looked up into the corner.

Oye, banditos,” she called in her best accent. “Ayuda me. Mi brazo está sangrando.” She hoped that meant her arm was bleeding. With her neuretics offline, she now realized how much she relied on them. There was only so much she was able to pull from high school Spanish.

A few seconds passed with no response. She tried a different approach.

“Please,” she said in a weak voice. “My arm is bleeding badly. I need some help.” She started to cry, sniffling loud enough for the bug to pick up, she hoped.

A few more seconds passed, then the light came on. She blinked away her fake tears.

“Move to bed!” the voice commanded.

She obeyed, walking backwards with her head down, keeping the table leg out of sight. As she reached the cot, the door hissed open and red light spilled in, framing a large man in the doorway.

“Hurt?” he said.

She nodded, biting her lower lip. “My arm is hurt bad, I need a doctor.” She pointed to the bloody bandage covering her upper arm.

The man hesitated, looking over his shoulder for a brief second, then back to Renay. He seemed to come to a reluctant decision.

“I fix,” he said, and stepped into the room.

Renay sprang towards him. She pulled the table leg from her pants and swung it over her head in one smooth motion. The metal rod caught the large man over his right eye and he grunted in pain. He went down on one knee, holding up his arm.

She pulled the table leg back and swung again, this time sideways. The rod smashed into the man’s temple, and he dropped to the floor soundlessly.

She didn’t waste any time, knowing the entire scene had just played out on a video monitor somewhere. She stepped over the man’s unconscious form and into the doorway.

A hallway extended in both directions with no other doors in sight. Ruby-lensed lightstrips illuminated the corridor in a bloody glow. She heard a voice from one end of the hallway, so she padded across the threshold of the doorway and started running in the other direction, still clutching the table leg.

After a few dozen feet the corridor floor started to curve upwards, like an underground tunnel, but before her amped-up brain could process the information, a bolt of electricity shot through her system. Her already-frazzled nervous system was overwhelmed with the charge and she dropped to the floor. The table leg clanged on the metal decking. The last thing she saw before fading were the guard’s worn brown shoes in front of her eyes.

***

Enjoy the genre, like the scene? Gabriel’s Revenge is now available for all e-book platforms. Get into the trilogy with book 1, Gabriel’s Redemption, and book 2, Gabriel’s Return. Thanks for stopping by!

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How Justified makes me a better writer…or at least humbles me to try

Confession: I time-shift everything I watch. I hate commercials. I mean, I delay the start of a show by 15 minutes so when I do finally hit the Play button on the DVR remote, I can watch my one hour show in 44 minutes. What does this confession mean? Nothing, except that Tuesday night, I did what I haven’t done in maybe two years…watch a one hour, prime time television show live. Why? Because it was the season three premiere of friggin’ Justified, for Pete’s sake – perhaps the best written, best acted, best shooting’ show I’ve seen since…well, maybe ever. (Maybe BSG or Firefly, I’ll admit).

The reason I enjoy it so much is that it give me impetus, motivation, and perhaps a kick in the ass to write a better story myself. The dialogue, the one-liners, the incredible characters, the plot arcs with individual subplots all tying into a larger story, the realistic acting right down to the facial expressions, are all so high quality, I feel myself bowing before the screenwriters (figuratively of course).

In Monday’s premiere, Boyd Crowder (maybe the coolest bad guy on TV, played by Walton Goggins) and Raylan Givens (the underrated Timothy Olyphant) had these little, minor exchanges (like many others they’ve had) in the US Marshal’s office:

  • Raylan: Did you do something you shouldn’t have?
  • Boyd: Well, that’s a pretty low bar, Raylan.
  • Raylan: There’s still a sizable amount missing.
  • Boyd: How sizeable, Raylan?
  • Raylan: Well over ten dollars.
  • Boyd: Well now, if I found that kind of money, I’d be in Mexico by now.
  • Raylan: Boyd, I’ve been to Mexico, I don’t think you’d like it.
  • Boyd: How so?
  • Raylan: There’s a lot of Mexicans.

All told in deadpan, straight face, one to one conversation that showed such an amazing character interaction, I was blown away. And the story itself? Even better. By Season 3, they’ve interwoven three different villains – the Crowders, Mags Bennett, and now the Dixie Mafia with a surprise visitor from Detroit – into the overall arc so well, you’d have no idea the same story is still going on…yet it is.

Special shout out to Wynn Duffy, played by Jere Burns (love that guy) for the show’s most memorable and laughable quote: “Raylan, I’m sorry. I would like to be of more help but I’ve gotta get back to watching women’s tennis.” And for a little slapstick value, Joelle Carter’s character Ava’s cast iron skillet to the face bit was excellent. Not a stretch, not gratuitous, but like everything else in Justified, it fits right in.

Entertainment factor aside, and there is a massive one, Justified shows what a story can be in the hands of a talented writer (or group of writers), and for that I’m thankful. And damned jealous…

Aspiring writers, take an hour out of your week to catch Justified and see what a story really is. (Or like me, take 44 minutes…)

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Flash Fiction – Stuck

Just a little 600 word Flash Fiction – what do you think? It’s from a prompt that’s simply “magic sled.”

Stuck

I’m gonna nail him so hard! Alex thought. As a snowball flew towards his face, he ducked, and the projectile whistled over his head. Pathetic, thought Alex.

Alex had short, blonde hair, with snow boots and a thick woolen jacket. His face was thin, and his nose looked as if it had been broken numerous times.

Alex straightened up, and a snowball hit him in the face like a sledgehammer. He stumbled to his knees, and cradled his face, thinking his nose was broken. Again.

After the pain disappeared, Alex called out, “Joey, don’t attack me, I’m done!”

The response came back, “OK, I won’t!”

Alex crawled into the woods to his right, making snowballs as he went. After a while, he veered towards Joey’s base.

A couple feet from Joey’s base, Alex chucked a snowball, then another and another. Joey tried to return fire, but was forced to give ground due to the onslaught. Alex pursued, following Joey behind a rock. When Joey wasn’t there, Alex started to walk forward. But just as he took his first step, click. A hole appeared in the ground, and Alex fell into the pit. Before he even had time to think what?, he had hit the ground. Alex looked up in time to see the hole close. He groaned, already beginning to feel claustrophobic.

Alex swayed to his feet, and walked toward what he took was a cave. Soon he came to a branch, with three tunnels leading off into the distance. The cave was huge, and the three tunnels were covered in ice. The tunnels were perfectly round, and Alex suspected they went on for a while.

Alex took the first tunnel on the right, and started at a jog. He found a dead end, so turned back and tried the middle one. Again, though, he hit a wall. Alex started down the last tunnel, starting to get scared. What if I can’t get out? He thought. At the end of the tunnel, it was another dead end, and Alex started to panic. He pounded on the walls, but only bruised his knuckles. He then stomped on the ground, and suddenly the wall slid to the side, and revealed an even larger tunnel. Alex started forward, and something crashed to the ground behind him, forcing him to go forward.

Alex started at a walk, but it soon turned into a jog, then a sprint. He wanted out, and now. Alex slipped, and slid downhill on his butt. He slid to a stop next to a sled. It had red runners, with a plush seat that only had room for one. Suddenly, an immense presence entered his thoughts and said Greetings.

Alex could only look and be dumbfounded, and it seemed as if his mouth didn’t work.

Great, said the voice, another human.

“A…nother…hum…man? Alex stuttered.

Yes, one passed by earlier.

Joey! Alex thought. “Do you know where he went? I need to find him!”

Yes, you may get on. But hurry, for you bore me.

Alex got on the magical sled, and it zoomed off, headed for the unknown.

Alex kept calling Joey’s name, and just when he was about to give up, Joey called back, as quiet as a mouse. The sled swerved, and soon they found Joey huddled in a corner. Alex sat next to him, comforting him.

“Thank you, for everything.” Alex said to the sled.

My pleasure, I haven’t had that much fun in years!

Alex thought back to when he fell into the hole, and sympathized Joey, for it must have been ten times worse, not knowing if he would be rescued.

“Come on Joey, let’s go home.”

***

So you’ve read it and have an opinion. Now what is your opinion when I tell you my 11 year old son Evan wrote this in under an hour, and I only had to correct three words? ‘Cuz it’s true…

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Great experience with my wife this morning (a non-salacious blog post, seriously)

I had a very cool experience with my wife this morning. NO, you dirty minds. Get that out of your head. I’m married…

Here’s the history: A year ago at this time, I was researching self-publishing after wrapping up final edits on a little story called Gabriel’s Redemption. Just testing the waters to see if it was worth doing. I said what the hey, can’t hurt, so on February 2nd, it went live on Amazon. It garnered some nice reviews, but after an initial burst of sales, kind of languished in mediocrity – making just enough to cover the wine bill every now and then.

Six months later, the sequel Gabriel’s Return was published. I did a blog tour with some great friends, tried to spread the word as best I could, and saw some success. But in October, sales really took off (don’t ask me why; I wish there was a simple answer, because I’d keep doing it) and I had my best month to date. As a matter of fact, my sales in October were more than the previous 8 months combined. By this time I was well into writing the trilogy finale, Gabriel’s Revenge, which would end up hitting the virtual shelves just a few days before Christmas.

Where am I going with this? No, not a self-congratulatory verbal hemorrhage. I am loathe to give out sales numbers. Something more personal, more satisfying.

Back to the beginning, my very cool experience this morning. Those of you who publish through Amazon KDP know that the royalty check arrives two months after the close of the calendar month. So a few days ago, a check arrived for my October book sales. And I did something I never thought I’d be able to do, in my wildest dreams.

I paid off all of our Christmas gifts.

Like many others, we buy on credit cards, pay off the following month (I’m also loathe to carry a balance). And like many others, we’re last-minute shoppers, so most of the purchases were in the billing cycle that is due this month. This morning, I handed my wife an envelope of cash that pays off all of our gift purchases.

Sounds strange, I know, but I can’t even describe how satisfying and rewarding that felt. Knowing that I’ve made a few bucks over and above the day job, doing something I really love, and was able to give the kids and family presents that were paid for by my writing.

And maybe the best part? I still love what I’m doing. Second best part? November and December were even better than October…

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And then there were three…proofs of the Gabriel series are in

Just a quick post…well, more of a gush…about the paperbacks of the Gabriel trilogy. Last week I received the proofs from CreateSpace for Gabriel’s Return (2) and Gabriel’s Revenge (3). Interior was perfect, covers on both just need a tiny shift tweak so that the text on the back cover is centered, and they’re ready to go.

Just this afternoon, the updated paperback proof for Gabriel’s Redemption (1) arrived. This book has been available in paperback for several months, but with the release of books two and three, I decided to redo the cover and some of the minor interior formatting to match the two new books. So here, without further ado, are the soon-to-be-released series in paperback, along with the oldie but goodie original cover for Redemption:

 

Another huge shout out of thanks to AJ Powers for the cover art design, all done from scratch by that talented young (well, younger than me) man.

I’ve given CreateSpace the official OK for Redemption to process through, so they should have the new version within a few days, and Amazon should as well. Barnes & Noble will probably take a bit longer as it propagates through the Expanded Distribution Channels. Return & Revenge will be a few days longer – I have to reupload the shifted cover art and approve.

Guess I’d better start writing something else…

 

 

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