Saturday, December 31, 2011

What's Coming In 2012




2011 has seen a lot of changes in the book industry as well as in my personal life, so everything's changing.  :)

The ebook market has really changed the game.  I first started dabbling in it in 2010 so I could teach the setup to my Professional Writing students at the University of Oklahoma.  With the way New York has downsized, there are fewer and fewer editors able to look at undiscovered writers.  More of the burden is being put on agents, who have always been trying to sell new writers to publishers.  The creative process got a little more bottlenecked at the same time that technology has allowed anyone to become a published writer -- and some of them very successful.

I grew intrigued by the sheer ease (after some learning curves that were incredibly tough) by which a writer can get a book out there.  I started out learning stuff for my students and ended up becoming blown away by what was possible.

I've always loved genre books, but some of those can be tough to sell these days.  Especially the Western, which people have said has been dead for decades.  I think it's making a comeback of a type because many of today's young readers view the West as something almost as magical as a fantasy novel.  My fourteen year old son has gotten to where he loves them and the way that a lot of cowboys have codes by which they live.  He's fascinated by the morality landscape that is out there (and that is echoed by Raylan Givens in Justified), and I think that's probably because that code is as binding as the rules for magic in fantasy.

I've always wanted to write a Western, one of the true Westerns instead of a mystery or detective story set back in the Old West.  A man against man or man against nature story.  So I contacted a couple friends of mine who also share a love for Westerns, and we came up with Rancho Diablo, a fine little series now five books long and counting.




During the 1980s, a lot of Westerns got mixed up with sex novels along the way, and while those were interesting reads and remain popular, I wanted to do something different.  Bill Crider, James Reasoner, and I sat down and hashed out what as become the backbone of our series as well as some future plans (including an upcoming cattle drive that will span several months).  We remembered great shows like Gunsmoke, Bonanza, The High Chapparral, Sugarfoot, Cheyenne, and even Maverick.  We talked about how we'd loved those shows and the moralistic values they had, but we also wanted the action and adventure we'd become accustomed to in other stores we'd read and written.

Rancho Diablo primarily centers on the Blaylock family, but the stories are growing along with the cast of characters.  Bill Crider is currently working on a book that will tell some of the "almost-true" adventures of Gabby Darbins, the ranch's "town character."  I enjoy writing the stories a lot because I get to dip back into all those Westerns I grew up on (Louis L'Amour, Luke Short, Max Brand, etc.) and mix it up with growing up in southeastern Oklahoma.  I was something of a cowboy myself when I was a boy and a teenager.  I rode horses long before I rode motorcycles.  I'm pretty sure Bill and James feel the same way.

Another series that I've put together with a fellow writer (Paul Bishop) is Fight Card.  Paul and I got to talking about a novella I'd done (Smoker) and how much he enjoyed the old boxing stories in the pulps, especially ones written by Robert E. Howard.  We kicked things back and forth for a while, then came up with the series idea for 1950s boxing stories.  After we did that, several other writers (Eric Beetner, Robert J. Randisi, Wayne D. Dundee, Gary Phillips) contacted Paul and told him they'd like to climb into the ring with us as well.  The first three books are out and more are coming.  Paul and I are both penning second books about our characters, so 2012 should have plenty of fights in store for fans of the "sweet science."



My artist buddy Keith Birdsong has started drawing cowboys lately, probably because he got interetested while doing the Rancho Diablo covers.  He did a painting of a Confederate soldier that was just the bomb, and it got me to thinking that we could do books about that guy as well, so we're cooking up Cullen's first adventure too.  This one is going to be a hell-for-leather ride about a guy trying to find something to live for and a place to carve a new life after the Civil War.  He's lost everything, doesn't believe in anything, and has nothing except an iron will to survive, to kill or be killed.



My friend Phil Athans and I have got some projects going on as well.  Two series, in fact.  The first is called The Fathomless Abyss and is an SF series with true greats in the field:  Mike Resnick & Brad Torgersen, Jay Lake, J. M. McDermott, and Cat Rambo.  The intial anthology springboards into individual novellas about a group of humans and aliens trapped/living within an impossible world and what they make of that and their lives.





Since we grew up on great SF and sword and sorcery barbarian novels, Phil and I have also created another series, Arron of the Black Forest.  The first book is out, and the second one is coming, and it's sporting one of the niftiest titles I've ever created.




I love the fact that ebooks are so versatile and that I can write some of the stuff I've always wanted to write.  The coolest thing of all, though, is that the ebook has brought back the novella.  Some stories just don't fit in a 5,000 word short story or an 80,000 word novel.  Plus, I like reads (and writes!) that take less time.  I have trouble fitting a big novel into my schedule.  I like to read a book pretty much cover to cover when I it down with it, but that's just becoming harder and harder to do.  And if I let a week go by, I tend to forget who is who and why I should care.  I think a lot of readers will favor these shorter (30,000 word) reads.  An adventure in a night that costs less than a movie ticket and about as much as a video rental.  How awesome is that?

I'm also working hard in the New York publishing market because I love the opportunities I've got there.  At first blush, there appears to be something of a segregation between New York "legacy" publishin and the emerging ebook phenomenon, but I think after a while readers won't notice the lines between them.  They'll be looking for favorite authors in whatever venue they can find them, and hardworking authors will have plenty of stories to tell!

I've got a new military series coming from Tyndale publishing, home of the Apocalypse Dawn books and the NCIS books I wrote, and I'm really excited about that new cast of characters and the stories I'm writing.  The first one is called A Thousand Deaths and will be out sometime in 2012.  More on that as the pub date finalizes.

I'm also working on the second book in the Identity trilogy for Fantasy Flight Games.  The first book is out now and was a lot of fun.




My agent and I are also putting together a military-SF trilogy called Warlord of Makaum that I've been wanting to do for a couple years.

I've got other projects I'm working on as well.

This is my 1,000th post on this blog.  I'm pumped about that as well.  I hope our venture into the new year brings hope, health, and happiness to everyone.


 

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Daily Science Fiction For Free!


Just found this and some of the stories are fabulous.  They can all be read in just minutes to give you a chuckle or something to think about, or just to kill time.


Click here.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Free Ebook!


For five days only!


Cullen: Gray Warrior Coming Soon


Coming soon!  Western action!

Joe Golem!


From Amazon:

In 1925, earthquakes and a rising sea level left Lower Manhattan submerged under more than thirty feet of water, so that its residents began to call it the Drowning City. Those unwilling to abandon their homes created a new life on streets turned to canals and in buildings whose first three stories were underwater. Fifty years have passed since then, and the Drowning City is full of scavengers and water rats, poor people trying to eke out an existence, and those too proud or stubborn to be defeated by circumstance.
Among them are fourteen-year-old Molly McHugh and her friend and employer, Felix Orlov. Once upon a time Orlov the Conjuror was a celebrated stage magician, but now he is an old man, a psychic medium, contacting the spirits of the departed for the grieving loved ones left behind. When a seance goes horribly wrong, Felix Orlov is abducted by strange men wearing gas masks and rubber suits, and Molly soon finds herself on the run.
Her flight will lead her into the company of a mysterious man, and his stalwart sidekick, Joe Golem, whose own past is a mystery to him, but who walks his own dreams as a man of stone and clay, brought to life for the sole purpose of hunting witches.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Dean Koontz's 77 Shadow Street


77 Shadow Street

The new Dean Koontz thriller comes with an online immersive site.  Click here to go there.



I am the One, the all and the only. I live in the Pendleton as surely as I live everywhere. I am the Pendleton's history and its destiny. The building is my place of conception, my monument, my killing ground. . . .

The Pendleton stands on the summit of Shadow Hill at the highest point of an old heartland city, a Gilded Age palace built in the late 1800s as a tycoon’s dream home. Almost from the beginning, its grandeur has been scarred by episodes of madness, suicide, mass murder, and whispers of things far worse. But since its rechristening in the 1970s as a luxury apartment building, the Pendleton has been at peace. For its fortunate residents—among them a successful songwriter and her young son, a disgraced ex-senator, a widowed attorney, and a driven money manager—the Pendleton’s magnificent quarters are a sanctuary, its dark past all but forgotten.

But now inexplicable shadows caper across walls, security cameras relay impossible images, phantom voices mutter in strange tongues, not-quite-human figures lurk in the basement, elevators plunge into unknown depths. With each passing hour, a terrifying certainty grows: Whatever drove the Pendleton’s past occupants to their unspeakable fates is at work again. Soon, all those within its boundaries will be engulfed by a dark tide from which few have escaped.

Dean Koontz transcends all expectations as he takes readers on a gripping journey to a place where nightmare visions become real—and where a group of singular individuals hold the key to humanity’s destiny. Welcome to 77 Shadow Street.




The Hobbit!


It's coming next December!

New Series


His name is Cullen, and he's from South Carolina, where the Civil War kicked off at Fort Sumter.  Grant and Lee may have laid down their swords, but Cullen's still fighting for survival.

Look for the books early in 2012.

Art is by Keith Birdsong.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Covers That Sell Books!


I love the blues on this one, how it starts out dark at the top and gradually gets lighter.  The uniform really makes this one pop, and the SF background nails it, but doesn't overpower the military influence.  I also love the familiar slug line:  The few.  The proud...

Yep, I downloaded it, and will be getting to this one soon.

 

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Covers That Sell Books!


I love the use of the red and the black, and the way the gray brings out the mystery guy in the background that you have to look twice for.  This is one of those covers that makes me pick up a book.  If the back cover copy or jacket copy wins me over, I'm sold. In this instance, this is a book in the Hollows series, which I enjoy a lot.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Free Books -- It Doesn't Get Any Better Than This!


My buddy Paul Bishop (and co-creator of the Fight Card series) has generously put up a couple of his books for free on Amazon.  One is a Detective Fey Croaker novel, and the other is a standalone suspense novel involving one of his passions:  soccer.

This is the perfect opportunity to give a little something extra to anyone you put a Kindle under the Christmas tree for!  Or if you know someone that has a Kindle, here are two FREE gifts you can send them today!






 

If you love suspense and crime, or you've GIFTED someone who does, you're in good hands with these two books.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Fangbone Third-Grade Barbarian


I review a lot of books, all kinds of books, and editors are kind enough to send them to me, which makes life pretty sweet.  It's like having Christmas every week!

I just got this one in today from Timothy Travaglini from Putnam Publishing.  The book is going to be released next month and I'm already grooving on it.  It's a kid's book told in graphic novel format, and it's a hoot.  This is one of those that I look at, read, then kick myself and go, Why didn't I think of this?  Well, obviously because writer/artist Michael Rex was supposed to.

I'll be reviewing the book over the next couple days, and I'm going to be looking forward to the next book out as well.

Too bad it's not out in time for Christmas but this is definitely one you'll want to get for your little barbarian around the house who's into graphic novels and cartoons.  And I'm betting your big barbarian won't turn his nose up at it either.  :)



Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Ebook Design Conference 2012



Got a novel/short story that you've been keeping hidden away in a sock drawer or in the back of the closet because New York doesn't seem interested?  Do you believe in  your skills as a writer and just want to get your stories out there?

My colleague Michael Kent (professor of rhetoric at the University of Oklahoma and author of Microsoft Word(PC) to Kindle: Secrets and Lies of Perfect Formatting and MAC to Kindle: Secrets and Lies of Perfect Formatting) are putting together a seminar that we plan to host in April of 2012.  We will offer instruction on formatting your manuscript for ebook publication, discuss book cover construction, and cover marketing strategies.

At this point we're planning to keep the venue small enough to manage and still give individual attention to participants.  I'd like to encourage all local writing groups/individuals to contact us regarding potential attendance.

Contact me here at your convenience.  We want to get a headcount on interested parties.  Thanks!

Blood Dreams by Jack MacLane Review


I've been reading some old school treats lately, horror, private eye, Westerns, all the stuff I grew up on and loved.  A return to my childhood?  I dunno.  But I'm enjoying myself.

This book is by Texan and friend and Rancho Diablo writer, Bill Crider under an infamous pseudonym.

Review here.

Free E-Book


Archer Mayor is a solid, entertaining writer.  Been reading him for years.  He's got over 20 books out in his Joe Gunther mystery series.  He doesn't disappoint.

And now you can get the first book FREE on your Kindle.  Or you can GIFT someone a free book who has a Kindle.  Or you can add to the Kindle bling when you get someone a reader for Christmas.


Crime Square Short Story


On March 1, 2012, Crime Square arrives in bookstores.  The anthology features crime stories scattered all through the history of New York City's Times Square.  I wrote one of those stories and it features a pulp writer living in the 1930s that I've written about before, a series I'm calling Pulpsmith.

The line up looks great, so if you like mystery in your history and a delivery in short doses, I'd definitely recommend this one.  I'm in good company.


You can find the first Moses Crawford, Pulpsmith mystery for the Kindle and the Nook.


Free Joe R. Lansdale Story


One of his dark fantasy stories published by Fantasy Magazine is now on-line and can be read for free.

Click here.

Take Me To The Future!


Although we've been given some marvelous tech and really cool stuff, a few of the SF basics are missing.

Click here.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter?


I saw the book when it came out.  Never read it.  I can't believe they're making a movie.  But now I'm curious.


Robert J. Randisi New


Prolific writer and friend Robert J. Randisi has got two of his adult Western series coming back in print and digital release.



"JUST TRACKER, MA'AM" It took just one hard-drinking, high-rolling poker game to make Tracker the owner of one of the fanciest hotels in San Francisco. With his buddy Duke Farrell, one of the West's slickest con men, Tracker took off to see his new merchandise. Tracker barely had time to get used to San Francisco's city ways before he was caught up in a boxing match, a couple of gunfights, too many fistfights, and more pretty women then even he could keep track of. But then, Tracker was always good with his hands.

 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Christmas Past


I think I was 21 or 22.  The pistol is a Kentucky .45 black powder muzzleloader.  Awesome replica.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Toby Peters Mysteries by Stuart M. Kaminsky


I just found out that Stuart M. Kaminsky's Toby Peters series has a large release today that features new paperback editions and ebooks.

The books are about Toby Peters, a down on his luck Hollywood private eye living during the 1940s when the Second World War was looming and Tinsel Town was in full bloom.  Kaminsky was a film authority and brought his considerable knowledge to these books, offering up all kinds of tidbits about movie stars and the studios themselves.

I started reading these books when I was twenty or so, and continued reading them till Kaminsky died a couple years ago.  I also followed his Lou Fonesca series, which was brilliant and a lot of fun as well.

Toby Peters is one of those classic private eyes, not to terribly hardboiled, but a guy who will stick till the job is done, even his he has to take a beating from his brother, an LAPD detective and later officer.  I've missed the sense of humor Kaminsky brought to these books, as well as the feeling of listening to a true Hollywood insider.

If you haven't discovered these books before, you're in for a treat.  And, if you're like me, an ebook version of these novels is probably the only excuse you need to sit down with them again.


FIGHT CARD: SPLIT DECISION Is Out!


Kansas City, 1954.

Jimmy Wyler is a fighter punching his way straight to the middle. All he wants is to make enough dough to buy his girl, Lola, a ring. And maybe make the gang back at St. Vincent’s orphanage proud.

A slick mobster named Cardone has an offer for Jimmy – money, and lots of it – for a fix. Jimmy takes the fight. The ring is almost on Lola’s finger, until Jimmy collides with Whit – another mobster with another up-and-coming fighter.

Whit has an offer of his own. Same fight, different fix. Now Jimmy is caught between two warring factions of the Kansas City underworld. He can’t make a move without someone getting mad, getting even, or getting dead.

From sweat-soaked fight halls to darkened alleyways, the countdown has begun. With his girl and his manager in the crossfire, everything Jimmy ever learned about fancy footwork and keeping his defenses up may not be enough …

Fight night is approaching and nobody is going to be saved by the bell.


Saturday, December 10, 2011

DRIVEN -- Coming In April!


Loved the book but still haven't seen the movie.  Got it ordered on Blu-ray.  Can't wait!

As we exit the initial novel, Driver has killed Bernie Rose, “the only one he ever mourned,” ending his campaign against those who double-crossed him. Driven tells how that young man, done with killing, later will become the one who goes down “at 3 a.m. on a clear, cool morning in a Tijuana bar.” Seven years have passed. Driver has left the old life, become Paul West, and founded a successful business back in Phoenix. Walking down the street one day, he and his fiancee are attacked by two men and, while Driver dispatches both, his fiancee is killed. Sinking back into anonymity, aided by his friend Felix, an ex-gangbanger and Desert Storm vet, Driver retreats, but finds that his past stalks him and will not stop. He has to turn and face it. At a garage in Guadalupe, an Hispanic and Native American community on the edge of Phoenix, he rebuilds a Seventies Ford Fairlane.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Caught My Eye


Murder is such a dirty word...

New York Times bestselling adult true crime author Gregg Olsen makes his YA debut with EMPTY COFFIN, a gripping new fiction series for teens based on ripped-from-the-headlines stories...with a paranormal touch.

Crime lives--and dies--in the deceptively picture-perfect town of Port Gamble (aka "Empty Coffin' ), Washington. Evil lurks and strange things happen--and 15-year-olds Hayley and Taylor Ryan secretly use their wits and their telepathic "twin-sense' to uncover the truth about the town's victims and culprits.

Envy, the series debut, involves the mysterious death of the twins' old friend, Katelyn. Was it murder? Suicide? An accident? Hayley and Taylor are determined to find out--and as they investigate, they stumble upon a dark truth that is far more disturbing than they ever could have imagined.

Based on the shocking true crime about cyber-bullying, Envy will take you to the edge--and push you right over.


Chuck Norris and Warcraft!


My new favorite commercial!!!!

Thursday, December 08, 2011

New JOHN CARTER Trailer


I can't wait!

New trailer.

THE FATHOMLESS ABYSS Is Available For the Nook!


Nook link here.

“At the heart of it, science fiction and fantasy authors are at play in the fields of wonder, fueled by “what if” and held hostage by the people, places and problems that populate our wacky, slightly-offset imaginations and spill out of us in Story. And if you love Story, you’re in for a solid meal here. And this is just the appetizer. Over the next few months, the real meal begins as the individual titles make their way into the world.”
--Ken Scholes, from his introduction

Descend into the world of the Fathomless Abyss, a bottomless pit that opens who-knows-when onto who-knows-where, just long enough for new people from a thousand different worlds and a million different times to fall in and join the fight for survival in a place where the slightest misstep means an everlasting fall into eternity.

Tales from the Fathomless Abyss features six new short stories, and it’s only the beginning. From here, each author will branch out to spin a series of new books sharing this impossible, explosive, infinite setting.

Your fall into the Fathomless Abyss begins here.

Steampunk Western!


I bought it.  Couldn't help myself.

They're the Chosen—Winchester, Remington and Colt—brothers trained to hunt down supernatural beings using the latest steam-powered gadgetry. It's a hard legacy to shoulder, and it's about to get a lot more dangerous. . .

A Devil Of A Job

Colt Jackson has gotten his name on many a wanted poster with success in the family business: hunting supernaturals across the frontier. Lately, though, there's a sulfur stink in the wind and the Darkin population is exploding. A rift in the worlds is appearing. To close it, Colt will have to do the unthinkable and work with a demon to pass arcane boundaries no human alone can cross.

Except when he summons his demon, he doesn't get some horned monstrosity: he gets a curvy redheaded succubus named Lilly, who's willing to make a bargain to become human again. He also gets Lilly's secret expertise on the machinations on the dark side of the rift. And her charm and cleverness help to get them out of what his silver-loaded pistol and mechanical horse can't. Of course, when all hell breaks loose, he might have to sacrifice his soul. But what's adventure without a little risk?

"Meyers puts the steam in steampunk." —Cherry Adair

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

THE FATHOMLESS ABYSS Is Waiting To Swallow You Up!


“At the heart of it, science fiction and fantasy authors are at play in the fields of wonder, fueled by “what if” and held hostage by the people, places and problems that populate our wacky, slightly-offset imaginations and spill out of us in Story. And if you love Story, you’re in for a solid meal here. And this is just the appetizer. Over the next few months, the real meal begins as the individual titles make their way into the world.”
--Ken Scholes, from his introduction

Combine six of the finest fantasy authors working in the genre today: Mike Resnick & Brad R. Torgersen, Jay Lake, Mel Odom, J.M. McDermott, and Cat Rambo, and mix in veteran editor and New York Times best-selling author Philip Athans, and what comes out is the Fathomless Abyss: a wild new fantasy world where the laws of physics only work against you, there’s no way out, and time means nothing.

This is the world of the Fathomless Abyss, a bottomless pit that opens who-knows-when onto who-knows-where, just long enough for new people from a thousand different worlds and a million different times to fall in and join the fight for survival in place where the slightest misstep means an everlasting fall into eternity.

Tales from the Fathomless Abyss features six new short stories, and it’s only the beginning. From here, each author will branch out to spin a series of new books sharing this impossible, explosive, infinite setting.

Your fall into the Fathomless Abyss begins here.

Read Philip Athans' blog about the book here, as well as get contact info on the authors.


THE NIGHT AND THE MUSIC by Lawrence Block


Review here.


Saturday, December 03, 2011

Justifed Season 3 Coming January


Can't wait until January when Raylan Givens comes back to deliver justice with guns blazing.  My son and I love this series.


So just put your feet up, partner.  You'll be in good hands.


Arron of the Black Forest Excerpt


Phil Athans and I wanted to do a barbarian character in the vein of Conan, so we came up with Arron of the Black Forest.  We hope you enjoy his adventures.

With Hounds on His Heels

     The driving rain made the dog’s feral snarl gurgle before it was lost to another deafening crash of thunder. Arron’s stolen horse kicked back at the dog close on its hooves, and both animals stumbled.
     The dog was fast, and of a breed Arron had never seen before. It resembled the big white wolves of the Frozen Vast, but its coat was darker—a mottled red-brown. Its fangs shined white in the darkness in a long, pointed snout under big, sensitive, upright ears. Its long legs were a blur of motion, and it was surprisingly surefooted even in the patently awful conditions. Someone had bred this dog carefully and trained it well.
     Arron tilted precariously in his saddle but dragged himself back to center with both strong arms.
     “Sovitta-Maton awaits you if you fall!” Arron shouted at the horse, invoking the name of the God of Darkness, Cold, and Cruelty that his lost people both hated and honored. The horse didn’t pay any attention to his curse.
     The hound tripped, too, giving Arron’s horse a stride’s lead, but that wasn’t going to be nearly enough. The barbarian gritted his teeth and squeezed the horse’s flanks with thighs like temple columns. The animal grunted, but it obeyed. Arron allowed a quick smile for both the horse and himself as the beast put a few more strides between itself and the pursuing hounds.
     A brilliant flash of lightning revealed the wide-scattered trees, still mostly bare of leaves in the first few weeks of spring. Arron had lost track of anything like a trail long ago, and he’d done so on purpose. The men who followed them meant to take him back to Townshend dead or alive, and since Arron had no intention of going back there alive, he was once again in a fight for his life.
***
     He’d gone to Townshend, the Heteronomy’s stinking little fishing village, a thousand miles south of the southern edge of the Black Forest, having hired on to guard a trade caravan. It was the first such thing he’d ever seen: a line of ox-driven carts half a mile long. He was used to the sea, the bogs, and the wild lands.
     Arron didn’t get on well with the other guards, or the caravaneers. They constantly harangued him about the color of his hair, insisting he’d dyed it—likewise the first time he’d heard of such a thing.
     It was hard enough for Arron to work alongside even the common folk of the Heteronomy, the faceless empire that had destroyed his people, his home, his way of life. But what made it harder still was that the colonists seemed barely to remember the war at all, as though it was but a distant memory.
     Arron had no idea how long he’d lay in the mud—long enough for the Heteronomy’s magi to conjure the great glacier—but it couldn’t have been as long as it seemed. It couldn’t have been years. Could it? His people—forest hunters and coastal seamen with only a rudimentary written language—didn’t share the Heteronomy’s complex calendar. Their dates were of no use to him.
     Regardless, he’d found himself in Townshend, among fishermen he grudgingly recognized as simple folk, not his enemies, not warriors, and not the magi who’d entombed his people in ice. He sat with them in their tavern, drank with them, and learned more of their language. Every once in a while a scuffle broke out, but Arron always held back. He broke a few noses, blackened a few eyes, but always his opponent crawled home to sleep it off—until that night.
     The man was drunk when he came in, as were his men. To Arron they seemed no more sensible than the bog apes he’d challenged months before. They sang songs Arron didn’t understand, were coarse with the serving wenches, and drunkenly confronted one fisherman after another. The commoners only nodded, forced smiles, and got the hell out of there.
     Arron didn’t like that at all, but was willing to ignore them, even when the insults were finally hurled his way. They commented on his rough hide clothing, the homespun wine-colored cloak on his back, his worked-leather bracers, his notched and well-used axe … But most of all they hated his red hair, held up with a beaded band that had been a First Hunt gift from his mother. The people of the Heteronomy didn’t dress like that, and they didn’t have red hair.
     Then he said it, the leader of the drunks: “Oi, Ginger! You’ve the look of a barbarian of the Black Forest!”
     That got a laugh out of his men, and Arron tightened his grip on his heavy pewter mug.
     “I thought we took care of the last of them forest monkeys years ago!”
     Though he had no idea what a monkey was, Arron clenched his square jaw.
     “Guess them brutes’re like fish—there’s always one gets away!”
     That’s when Arron hit him, and hit him hard.
     Whether or not he meant to kill the man, he did—caved in the side of his skull and dropped him right there in the middle of the drinking hall. His own men, staggering drunk, just stood there and watched their boss shudder to a stop on the floor.
     “General?” one of the men slurred.
     “Holy stinkin’ shite, you killed the general!” another of the men—soldiers, then—accused.
     Arron shrugged, then he had to kill a couple more of them to make good his escape. He stole a horse and headed south only because it was the shortest way out of town. He wasn’t headed anywhere in particular because he had nowhere in particular to go.
     It took the better part of a week before they even started to chase him, and even though Arron hadn’t been moving too fast, he couldn’t help but be at least a little impressed that the posse had caught up to him as fast as they had. They chased him for a month, at turns getting a little closer then a little farther behind him, as Arron rode ever south, hugging the east coast of the second of the four Hooks: great peninsulas that curled out from the east coast to reach a few hundred miles out into the Sea of Ghalon.
     It wasn’t necessarily the smartest path. He should have gone west, deeper into the colonies. As it was, he figured he had a few days at most before he literally ran out of land. If he made it to the tip of the Hook, he’d be trapped—and he’d have to fight his way out.
***
     Lightning flashed and Arron smiled.
     Thunder rattled his ears, and as it faded he heard the dog growl behind him.
     Then a flash of brilliant blue-white light stabbed into Arron’s eyes. He winced and squinted while a bolt of lightning as big around as his solid-muscled waist dug into what was left of a tree. Sparks flew and Arron could feel the heat of it—it felt as though his skin was lifting off his body, every little hair first.
     The dog behind him yelped and the horse reared up, echoing the dog’s scream, only louder. The horse’s hooves slipped in the mud and its next scream was overwhelmed by thunder that rattled Arron’s teeth.
     The horse began to fall on him.

Book Drawing



With Christmas right around the corner and ebook all the rage, I'm setting up a drawing for free ecopies of the new FIGHT CARD:  THE CUTMAN.  Simply email me at mel@melodom.net to enter the drawing.  I'll give away three copies every Tuesday between now and December 20.  You can keep it for yourself or give it as a gift to someone you're getting an ebook reader for.