Conclusion to Elle Klass’ “Zombie Girl” Series coming soon!

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I’m excited the final book in this series will be out soon so I can read it. When you read the following guest post, particularly the excerpt, from fellow author, Elle Klass, you’ll probably be able to figure out why. I’m really not a big vampire or zombie fan, but Elle creates vivid and endearing characters along with clever plots with new twists on what are often worn-out themes. This one has a fair share of humor, which will draw me in every time since I can use all the laughs I can get. Check it out! –MF



Maddie is my kinda girl. She’s tough, feminine and even when afraid does what needs to be done. It’s always tough saying goodbye to characters, probably why I have such difficulty in ending a series.

If you’ve been reading you know she started out as a 14 year old girl who hated science and everything related to it until one day when the unthinkable happened.

With the whole apocalypse thing and zombies trying to eat her and the group she’s with they’ve traveled over seas and lived through some extremely treacherous times.

No matter what, the humor was always there and it gives the entire series a light heartedness that makes it memorable. It’s more like Zombieland than The Walking Dead.

zombiegirlbooksI had a ton of laughs writing the story and learned a lot developing a story in a genre I wasn’t real familiar with. Writing horror for kids is different than for adults. I had to watch my words and their words. That’s where the humor comes in. I’d also never dabbled in sci-fi or post apocalyptic fiction. It was a first and I’m proud with how it turned out.

No spoilers here! Read the series. Try the game and see which character you are, share your results on social media and feel free to comment below. Click here to play.

Book 1 Premonition is now free!  (Read my review)

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Book 2 Infection is at .99 through August 1st. (Read my review)

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Book 3 Retribution is on pre-order for .99! That will only last through release day August 1st!

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Excerpt: (one of my favorite parts. Hehe!)

Two dead zombie eyes stared at me. I knew that was more a reflex. It couldn’t see me. Its long gray hair hung limp on its shoulders as it clicked its tongue, blood dribbling from its mouth on its way towards me. Its drip drag stagger-walk was impressively quick. A flowered sundress covered in sprays of blood, chunks of human skin clung to the fabric.

On the floor behind her was a man in a black robe. His mouth was in an O as he screamed, “No!”

I swung the blade of the katana towards her dirty, slimy neck when she came within a few feet of me. It nearly connected then something I’d never seen, nor imagined, happened. The zombie blew apart from the inside out. I was glad my teeth were gritted as I’d have had a mouth full of deader if I hadn’t. Chunks and blood sprayed the walls. It was a definite ten on my disgusting scale.

Chunks of her blew into the man’s mouth. He gagged and spat to rid his body of the nasty zombie meal. His face met mine and he scooted backwards on the floor. His eyes barely visible through the zombie mess covering it. I moved closer to him. He was living. “Are you hurt?”

“You killed her!” he growled. “You are a murderer!”

What? I hadn’t expected that one and I hadn’t killed her; she blew up like one of Deavers’ grenades. “I didn’t kill her. She was infected and there’s no cure. Did she bite you?”

“You killed my wife.” He continued sliding backwards.

That’s when I noticed it. The beam from my flashlight caught the silver barrel of a gun, only a couple feet from him. I moved towards him. “Don’t think about or you’ll be dead like your wife.”

He scooted again and I moved quicker now and jabbed the end of the katana’s blade into his chest. Keeping it centered on him, I side-stepped and kicked the gun. It flew across the floor.

“Get up!” I ordered with a sneer.

He pushed his back against the wall and slid up it. His short, dark hair was coated in zombie film. I jabbed the blade lightly into his chest so he knew I meant business. When I did, it slid through a hole in the dark robe hanging around his shoulders. “Did she bite you, Professor?” I didn’t know what else to call him and it looked similar to a graduate’s robe.

His Adam’s apple bobbed as he swallowed. “That makes no difference. Go. Go now!”

Well, this wasn’t going well. The patter of rain stopped, meaning the worst of the storm was over. I glanced over the hallway. A collar of sorts clung to the wall in the muck. I grabbed it. “You’ve been keeping her alive, treating her like a pet?” That was sick. Really sick and morbid.

He narrowed his eyes into tiny slits. A chunk of deader flesh dropped from his forehead. “She was my wife.”

The memory of my father turning seemed like a million years ago but it was still fresh in my head. I knew he was turning and that I should kill him, but I didn’t. Instead we tied him up. This guy did the same thing. He put a collar around her neck. I brought the katana to my side. “I don’t want to kill you and I didn’t kill her. She exploded. I’ve never seen that before. When did she turn?”

“In the beginning. The very beginning.”

That begged a lot of questions like how did you get her past the military? What has she been eating? Was that why her drip-drag was so quick?

The rain stopped and I was on a mission. “We have to go.”

“I’m not going anywhere with you.”

I rolled my eyes. I needed some answers and he would provide them. “Yes, you are. Remember I have the weapon and you don’t. I also have your wife’s collar and I bet it’s a shock collar. The kind used for training dogs.” I smirked.

“Fine,” he seethed.

I lifted the katana towards his chest again and spread the cloth of his robe. What I saw didn’t surprise me. A set of round, fresh, human-deader teeth marks. I lifted the collar towards him with my free hand. “Put this on just in case.”

Reluctantly he grabbed the collar and wrapped it around his neck. The motion caused a chunk of flesh to fall from his robe, revealing a name tag.

“You first, Mitchem.” I read the tag.

For the next hour we steadily walked towards the marina and I pried all sorts of information from him. He was a Duval County judge. That explained the black robe. He and his wife were visiting family in Gainesville when the end of the world went down. She was exposed immediately but didn’t turn until a couple days later. Dumb luck saved them from the military. They’d spent the night in their RV deep in the woods. When he woke up the next morning his wife, Gloria, was eating their Pomeranian. I imagined large puffs of fur stuck between her teeth and chuckled.

“It’s not funny!” he growled.

He was wrong. It was funny. In this new world I had to find humor where I could and that was hilarious. However, I stopped laughing out of respect and let him continue his story.

“I tied her up with bungee cords and glanced a peek out of the window. I would have waved my hands and let them take me, but they’d have killed Gloria. I couldn’t have that. A soldier approached the RV, I stood inside with my gun loaded and waited. A radio voice came through, “Need help now! Surrounded by them.” That was it. They never returned and I got us out of there.”

Copyright Elle Klass 2018 Retribution

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Choose “The Alternative” Day 5 Blog Tour!

BOOK COVER

Choose “THE ALTERNATIVE” Blog Tour DAY 5.

Welcome today! Thanks to my marvelous host …

Thank you for joining me here on my New Release Blog Tour.

Book Blurb

There are those that cling unreservedly to the lifeboat that believing in Karma hands them so willingly.

They work, they live, and they function in a world that allows them the option of unreservedly trusting that Karma has no deadline.

Until they are handed the spark that ignites them into becoming the instrument of Karma itself.

There are others who have had all they once held to be truths, everything they once stood for and took pride in, torn apart and ripped from them by the hand of a cruel fate.

Then, of course, there are those who believed in nothing and no one, to begin with …

These are their stories.

The stories of people both good and bad, who made the choice to exact “The Alternative.”

Today I want to give you a brief look at “Isolation Can be Deadly”

An Excerpt.

Chapter 5. Isolation can be deadly.

The woman’s body language screamed stress. One long-fingered hand toyed with the ends of her honey-colored hair; she clenched and unclenched her fingers, totally unaware of the tangled mess she was weaving.

Her right hand showed white knuckles as it gripped the telephone.

Her voice, however, was controlled and ice cold.

“Yes, yes I can hear you just fine. Yes, I am going to place another advertisement. Not that it’s any business of yours, daddy dear. Do you think me a complete idiot?” She paused to listen to his reply.

“Why didn’t they stay? You, of all people, have a damn nerve asking me that. Why would they stay?” Sam hissed out the words. “You didn’t!”

Sam shifted the phone to her other ear, taking a deep breath before she continued, “I don’t want to hear it. I am thirty years old, not thirteen! You have no right to play the concerned father. You forfeited that right when you walked out on mother and me to be with that, that, slut! Even that stupid bitch could only stand you for six months. You are a pathetic, useless, excuse for a man!” Sam slammed the phone down.

She braced herself against the edge of the kitchen sink, feeling the bile rise in her throat. “Shit! Why do I let him get to me like that?”

“Shit!”

Two large Rottweilers came charging into the room, responding to Sam’s raised and angry voice. Their hackles were up and they searched the room with their eyes ablaze, seeking any perceived threat to their mistress.

“Easy, my boys, easy.” Sam hunkered down, soothing the agitated animals.

“Good boys. Momma’s fine … sit.” The two dogs dropped to their haunches immediately, and Sam rewarded them for their loyalty with a loving hug.

She made herself a fresh coffee and took out the writing pad to reword yet another advertisement for the city papers.

WANTED: Male Ranch-Hand, Jack-of-all-trades. Must be good with horses. Property located in Far North Queensland. Must be able to tolerate isolation. Applicants must be fit and healthy. Doctor’s certificate required. Generous wage, plus all meals. Large bonus after three months continuous employment. Written applications only. Single males only. No family ties. Successful applicants will need to travel to North Queensland for the interview process. The employer will recompense reasonable expenses incurred. Apply, Sam Mannix c/o Post Office, Shady Creek: North Queensland. Australia.

******************

There are things that can kill you in the Jungles of far flung North East Australia.

BUT … Which of them is the most deadly?

Is it the beautiful Samantha Mannix … The Owner of Euphoria Homestead?girlwithhorse

Or perhaps it’s her newly hired Ranch-Hand Ben Edwards!

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Or was it something else entirely?

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Buckle in, stay alert and hang on … it’s one HELL of a ride.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts.


Again my sincere thanks to my host, and to the great crew at 4 Wills Publishing for organizing my blog tour!


“The Alternative” NOW Available Amazon.com


Author Bio:

Suzanne Burke resides with her daughter and grandson in a small country town located hundreds- of miles to the west of her previous home in Sydney Australia.

Suzanne had long wanted to write, life interrupted and she didn’t begin her journey into the world of writing until she was in her early fifties.

Suzanne has written her memoirs under the author name of Stacey Danson, both her non-fiction books have ranked in the top 100 paid in Kindle on Amazon. “Empty Chairs” and “Faint Echoes of Laughter” continue to earn wonderful reviews.

Suzanne writes her powerful Thrillers “Acts Beyond Redemption” and “Acts of Betrayal” and her Paranormal anthology “Mind-Shaft” as S. Burke.

Connect with Suzanne

Amazon Author Page

On TWITTER.

On Facebook.

My Blog

This tour sponsored by 4WillsPublishing.wordpress.com

Historical Fiction at its Best: Review of “Finding Billy Battles: The Lost Years” by Ronald E. Yates

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5stars

This well-written conclusion to the Billy Battles trilogy is its crown jewel. This series’s characters are so vivid and compelling it’s hard to believe that this is a work of fiction. Their involvement in the events of the late 19th and early 20th century brings history alive as well. The author has outdone himself in researching that era and many of the events of which only true history buffs would be aware. In doing so, he has performed a great service bringing them to readers’ attention because these various international skirmishes laid the foundation for much of the contention seen in today’s world.

As they say, victors are the ones who write history. It’s also true that what you hear in history class is based on what higher powers want people to believe and incorporate into their view of the world. There is nothing more enlightening than to see familiar situations from the other side of the fence. Through these novels, Ron Yates has done a stellar job of placing the reader in the middle of various international situations and, in the true spirit of journalism, objectively presenting both sides. Sadly, today there is so much bias in the news media that true journalism has virtually disappeared. But even before they stooped to fake news and blatant lies, the stories presented by the media were designed to maintain a certain mindset that fueled nationalism at its worst.

When the U.S.A. entered World War II, they were definitely invited. Western European countries still appreciate us for the victory made possible by our intervention. For example, to this day Luxembourg places a wreath every Veterans Day on George S. Patton’s grave, which is in a U.S. Military Cemetery within that country. However, there have been times when our actions were nothing less than intrusive, albeit based on self-protection. That is justifiable to a point, but once that goal is achieved, hanging around terrorizing other country’s native populations is flat-out wrong. If you’ve ever wondered why Mexico hates us, this book will provide some answers.

European colonialism, which we supported, is another thorn in the side of many countries, especially in Far East countries like Korea and Vietnam. Bringing our version of civilization to these foreign shores, which we were convinced to consider a favor, in many cases wasn’t. How we’ve treated indigenous populations in other lands is shameful and even persists to this day with regard to Native Americans.

Of course America did not start this practice, which originated millennia ago. Not that long ago, we were a colony ourselves, who were being oppressed, which ultimately resulted in the American Revolutionary War. So what did we do, but turn around and support colonization by those who had once been our enemy. When our borders or way of life are threatened, that’s one thing. If someone attacks us, we have the right to defend ourselves, but our intrusion into these other battles has often made us the invader. It’s no wonder that other countries fear us, and it spirals down from there. However, the world is now entangled in the unfortunate consequences of thousands of years’ worth of conquests. Cliché though it may be, it’s true that those who fail to learn from history are indeed doomed to repeat it.

I didn’t intend for this review to turn into a political essay. However, it demonstrates how effective this novel and its predecessor, “The Improbable Journeys of Billy Battles”, have been in enlightening me to some of the less than savory facts embedded in U.S. history, thanks to the exploits of Yates’s amazing characters. Their interaction with actual historical figures makes it all the more interesting and convincing. Astounding imagery puts you right in the thick of things, whether geographically or via the use of the conversational vernacular of the time. In more ways than I can count, this book is a masterpiece. Do yourself a favor and get started on this series today. You’ll not only be entertained, but see the world in an entirely different way. Isn’t that what great fiction is all about?


You can pick up your copy on Amazon of “Finding Billy Battles: The Lost Years” here.

You’ll also want to read “Finding Billy Battles: An Account of Peril, Transgression, and Redemption”, Book 1 of the series, which you can find here.

Book 2, “The Improbable Journeys of Billy Battles”, can be found here. My 5* review of this one is here.

Ron at Southcoast WineryLearn more about the fascinating background of author, Ronald E. Yates, and how it prepared him to write such outstanding stories from our interview here.

 

“Gravity Waves” by Scott Skipper: Another Hilarious Addition to the “Alien Affairs” Series

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This is one of my very favorite series, ever, and this episode further confirmed that whatever science fiction sub-genre this happens to be, it’s what I’d choose if I had to, over just about anything else. I guess it could be called something like “snarky, politically incorrect, hard sci-fi” and I love it. It has technology and theoretical physics speculations to feed my nerdy, physicist brain; sarcasm that makes me wish I could be as witty; and snarky undertones to evoke hysterical laughter, such that my cat glares at me for disturbing her sleep when I’m reading in bed.

It was so much fun to get a glimpse of half-breed, Terrie Dreshler, now fully grown not only to adulthood, but middle age, to say nothing of her mother, Carrie Player, now an old lady, at least chronologically, and stepping into that role where she admonishes those around her for their every faux pas.

Every time Terrie called Deshler “Dad” I cracked up. I can just see this entire series as an uproarious sit-com that comprises a family where the father is a grey alien; the mother, human; and the daughter, well, mostly human, other than her eyes. It just gets better and better. Such a show could even beat out my two favorite sit-coms of all times, “Third Rock from the Sun” and “Alf.”

Situations involving interdimensional time travel sometimes left my head spinning with regard to when and where they were, but things sorted themselves out eventually. The new alien, Emelda, a towering Nordic wonder, was a great addition to the group. Her penchant for Uncle Eddy was hilarious, as well as her insisting repeatedly that Mars was still a “sh*thole”, in spite of  the earthlings’ innovative terraforming efforts. Then there’s Terrie’s renewed relationship with Marcus, which adds a touch of something bordering on romance. The inclusion of a character who was supposedly Elon Musk’s grandson, to say nothing of the involvement of SpaceX, tied the story into current events, which gave it even more credibility. Frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Terrie turn up on the news one of these days, or an equivalent of their electronic personal assistant, Casseopeia, in the local Wal-Mart.

While the author does a tremendous job of tying in events from previous books as reminders and plot gap fillers, I highly recommend reading this series from the start. The evolution of the absurd situation that started in Roswell in 1947 as well as the roles of this diverse cast of characters is priceless. Trust me when I say you don’t want to miss out on any of it.

Anything that can make me laugh is worth its weight in gold. I’ve already read the first book twice. These are definitely stories that I’ll read again and again, which is extremely unusual for me since I tend to have a very long To-Be-Read list. But who doesn’t go back to their favorite stories, whether it’s a two year old wanting mommy to read the same tale every night, or a great-grandma who’s found a series that couldn’t be more perfect if it were written expressly for me?

Keep ’em coming, Scott! I think the entire “Alien Affairs” series is nothing short of magnificent. (But be warned, you probably won’t agree if you think it’s important to be politically correct. It’s not, but some things just need to be said.)

You can get your copy from Smashwords, Amazon, or your favorite online retailer.

Ronald E. Yates: Premier Journalist in Fact…and Fiction!

Ron at Southcoast Winery

Today I have the pleasure of introducing you to Ronald E. Yates, former foreign correspondent, professor emeritus, and author of the highly acclaimed Finding Billy Battles series.  If you haven’t experienced his work, you are missing out on some of the finest novels I’ve had the pleasure of reading.  Not only do his characters jump off the page, but you’ll find yourself transported back in time to historical events of which I, for one, had little knowledge or understanding. His stories brought me to an entirely new comprehension of the Spanish-American and Vietnam Wars, as well as how and why the USA is often viewed in a negative light. You can find more regarding my thoughts on “The Improbable Journeys of Billy Battles”, second volume in his series, in my review HERE. I am now an avid fan and hooked on properly researched and objective historical fiction.

Meanwhile, here’s a glimpse of the person behind these landmark works, demonstrating that personal experience contributes greatly to the stuff of which an outstanding writer is made.


MF: You had a long and interesting career as a journalist, not unlike your protagonist, Billy Battles. Does any one particular correspondent assignment stand out above the others? If so, why?

RY: Hmmm. Let me count the assignments. There are several but I would say covering the end of the war in Vietnam between Jan 1974 and April 30 1975. The last day was chaos incarnate. Russian made 122mm rockets were slamming into buildings, 130mm mortars were hitting Tan Son Nhut airport, and the U.S. Embassy was surrounded by frantic South  Vietnamese desperate to get out of the country because they had worked for the American military or some U.S. agency. The city was in full panic mode. Several of us made our way to the sprawling Defense Attaché Office building at Tan Son Nhut and we were finally evacuated by a U.S. Marine CH-53 Sea Stallion helicopter. It was a relief until the door gunner told me later aboard the U.S.S. Okinawa that the pilot apparently had to drop flares to misdirect a SAM-7 (surface to air missile) that had been fired at our chopper.

Every year I post a story detailing the last 24 hours in the fall of Saigon. People can find it on my blog. I could add a few more such as the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989 and the time I was taken prisoner in El Salvador by anti-government guerillas, but that would take up the entire interview.

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MF: One thing that impressed me the most about the Billy Battles stories is how well you maintained his objectivity. I learned so much about historical events that have colored other country’s opinion of America. It seems the old standards of journalistic objectivity have gone the way of landlines and 20 megabyte hard drives. How do you feel about today’s highly biased reporting?

RY: As someone who spent 25 years as a journalist practicing it at the highest levels and then another 13 years as a professor and Dean at the University of Illinois where I taught journalism, I am terribly disappointed and disgusted by the lack of fairness and accuracy I am seeing—especially in Washington. It seems to me that too many journalists today see themselves as subjective opinion leaders rather than impartial purveyors of information that is fair and accurate. Coming as I did as a neophyte into the cavernous news room of the Chicago Tribune back in 1969 right out of college, I had editors who made sure that I didn’t stray from accurate, evenhanded and unbiased reporting into opinion and rumor. When I did, I heard about it from some crabby City Editor.

An even worse sin at the Tribune was the sin of omission. That occurred if you took it upon yourself NOT to report something because doing so might not coincide with YOUR interpretation of the event or your political predilection. Good journalism, somebody once said, is a nation talking to itself. Sadly, it is the public that suffers when journalists become advocates for one party or cause at the expense of providing unbiased news. Some say journalism in America is dead. I won’t go that far. But I believe it is in a coma.  

Ron Yates in Bangkok with title 2 (2016_01_14 15_27_28 UTC)MF: Billy is one of the most memorable and realistic characters I’ve encountered in fiction. Did he just spring to life or is he mostly you time-traveling to historical settings?

RY: That is very perceptive of you, Marcha. Aren’t all novels (or trilogies in my case) supposed to be autobiographical in some way? I guess if I’m honest I would agree that Billy is me time-traveling to the past. There are parallels in Billy’s life and mine. For example, both of us grew up in Kansas and we both attended the University of Kansas. Of course I graduated and Billy didn’t. We both spent a lot of time in Asia and Latin America in places like Saigon, Manila, Hong Kong, Mexico City, Veracruz, etc. We both lived in Chicago and we both worked for newspapers there. Even though my wife is German she is not a baroness as Billy’s second wife was. I only had two daughters, not three like Billy. We both owned guns. That’s where the similarities end. Unlike Billy, as far as I know, I never killed anybody.

MF: If you had access to a time machine, which period of history would you go to first?

RY: There are two periods that I have always been fascinated with. One is the 19th Century during the period my trilogy begins. I grew up in Kansas and I was always fascinated by what life was like there in the 19th Century when the state was still quite wild. One of my passions during my time in Kansas was the state’s past, with its cow towns, gun slingers, law dogs, and other assorted characters. I spent a lot of time learning about some of the people whose reputations were made in Kansas—Wyatt Earp, Doc Holiday, Bat Masterson, Wild Bill Hickok, etc.

One of my forefathers from that time knew some of these people and I used that fact in having Billy rub shoulders with them. The other is the period between 100 BC and 200 AD during the height of the Roman Empire. I would love to be able to walk through ancient Rome now that I have walked through it in the 21st Century.

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MF: How much harder would it have been to write your Billy Battles stories without the research capabilities of the internet?

RY: Let me see, how much more difficult? How about 10 times more difficult. The internet has opened up myriad avenues for conducting research. I have a fairly substantial library containing lots of reference books countless subjects, as well as books on Asia and Latin America, etc. because of my time as a foreign correspondent. I use those a lot—especially if I need to double check something I find on the internet that seems a bit off. Believe me, there is plenty of misinformation on the internet—even in Wikipedia, which I support annually with a modest contribution. I had a lot of books on Asia’s colonial period and those were invaluable. Same with books about 19th century and early 20th century Mexico, but I still found myself surfing the internet almost every day. For a writer the internet is an invaluable tool.

MF: Do you (or have you) physically travel to the locations where your stories take place or do you do so vicariously? If the former, what new insights and inspiration came from any of them that made a significant difference in the story?  Did any new plot twists come as a result?

RY: Because I was a foreign correspondent posted to Asia and Latin America I spent years in the places I write about in the Finding Billy Battles Trilogy. I actually lived in the same hotel (The Continental Palace) in Saigon that Billy lives in when he is there in 1894-96. In fact, I had him stay in the same room I lived in, so I could describe the scene outside his window quite accurately. I think it is really important for any author to have visited, if not lived for a while, in the places he or she writes about. There is a ring of truth that you simply cannot achieve by visiting these places virtually on the internet or in travel books, etc. For one thing, you can’t effectively describe the heat, the smells, the way a place can envelope you unless you have been there.

As for plot twists, there are a few in each of the three books. Probably the most significant one in Book 1 is when Billy encounters the Bledsoe clan for the first time and winds up accidentally shooting the matriarch of that family of outlaws. It changes his life and sets him on a path that borders on criminality. In Book 2, it has to be the way Billy and Katharina grow together despite their many differences. I hadn’t originally planned to have the two of them fall in love, but somehow they forced me to do it! In Book 3, I would have to say it is tragedy that sends Billy very definitely on a lawless path along with his cousin Charley Higgins. I won’t say any more. I don’t want to spoil the book for those who haven’t read it yet.

MF: Did you always aspire to become a novelist some day or did it simply evolve over time?

RY: I knew when I went into journalism that I wanted to write novels. But I also knew, that like Ernest Hemingway, George Orwell, Edna Buchanan, Graham Greene, and the late Tom Wolfe who started as journalists, I needed to learn the craft of writing. I needed to develop a style and I needed to develop confidence in my writing. I didn’t want to write fiction while I was still working as a foreign correspondent, but doing that job allowed me to collect scores of characters for the books I knew I would write someday. My experiences as a journalist have been priceless and vital as I transitioned from journalism to fiction. I think any author who started as a journalist will tell you that. Hemingway once said, “everything I ever learned about writing I learned from the Kansas City Star style sheet and covering the streets of Kansas City.” I could say the same about my 25 years with the Chicago Tribune.

MF: What’s your favorite part of being an author? Your least favorite?

RY: I really enjoy telling stories. It’s what I have done all my life. Journalism is essentially storytelling, but in a different format. Of course, writing fiction is quite different. In fact, I think being an author is both a curse and a gift. It is a wonderful gift if you allow the process to come to you and don’t force it. However, don’t let anybody tell you it is not damned hard work. It is. As I said, the joy of writing for me is telling a good story. I don’t care about imparting a “message.” Nor do I care about creating any hidden “meanings” that some literature professor will hold forth about in a writing class when I am no longer around to rebut him/her. I just want to tell a good story. That, to me, is the ultimate goal of writing.

The curse is that writing can take over your life, isolate you from family and friends, and turn you into a kind of inscrutable recluse if you are not careful. Writers need to take breaks from working. If they don’t I believe they run the risk of becoming stale, self-absorbed, and misanthropic.

MF: Besides Billy, who’s your favorite character in the series and why?

RY: There are a few, but if I had to single out two they would be Charley Higgins, Billy’s shadow rider cousin who has spent part of his life south of the law. Charley is a tough hombre who never shrinks from a good scrap. He is a man-killer and were it not for him, Billy might not have lived to reach old age. Then there is the Baroness Katharina von Schreiber whom Billy meets on the SS China in 1894 on the way to Asia. At first Billy is not attracted to Katharina. She seems aloof and caustic and Billy avoids her until one night she knocks on his cabin door and his life is forever changed.

MF: What’s the most fascinating historical fact you uncovered doing your research?

RY: French Indochina was home to lots of rubber plantations and I was planning on having Billy become involved with them in some way. Then I learned that there were no rubber plantations in French Indochina until after the turn of the century. So between 1894-96, when Billy is there I discovered that coffee and black pepper plantations were the main crops. I was fascinated by the black pepper plantations, how pepper is grown and harvested, etc. so I had him involved in those. I learned a lot.

MF: What are you working on now?

RY: I am beginning a book on a woman named Iva Toguri, AKA “Tokyo Rose.” I wrote a series of stories back in the late 1970s that resulted in President Ford giving her an unconditional pardon. Iva was convicted in 1949 on one of eight counts of treason—one of only 11 Americans ever convicted of treason in American history. However, that one count was based on the testimony of two men who confessed to me that they had been forced to lie at her trial. “Iva never did anything treasonous,” one of the men told me. “Just the opposite. She was fiercely pro-American.” The two men asked for Iva’s forgiveness. They never got it. And with good reason. As a result of their lies Iva spent 6-1/2 years in Alderson Federal Women’s Prison, was fined $10,000 and essentially lost the rights of American citizenship. Those convicted of treason can never vote, never be certified for any profession, never get a passport. My stories went all over the world and, as his last act as president, Ford pardoned her. Iva and I got to be good friends. She lived on the North side of Chicago while I was with the Tribune. We had planned a book together, but in 2002 she suffered a minor stroke and we never got the book off the ground. She died in 2006, but she always told me she wanted to tell her story in her own words. That’s what I plan to do in this book.


9781545632819_cov2.inddBilly Battles: The Lost Years, third and final volume of the trilogy, is now available as an ebook; the print version will take a few more days. If you haven’t already enjoyed the other books in the series, you probably should start with them so you can travel alongside Billy, witness his progression as a character, and chronologically experience history through his eyes.

Link to Finding Billy Battles (Volume I)

The Improbable Journeys of Billy Battles (Volume II)

Billy Battles: The Lost Years (Volume III)

 

NEW YA FANTASY RELEASE from Annie Douglass Lima!

Nameless Soldier KINDLE cover

The Nameless Soldier is book 4 in the Annals of Alasia young adult fantasy series. Haven’t read all (or any) of the others? That’s okay! The books can be read in any order, and each one can stand on its own.

Description:

What do you do when you’re the only survivor?

Nineteen-year-old Tarvic bears the name of a mighty hero from Alasia’s past. However, the young soldier feels anything but heroic when he regains consciousness to find himself the lone survivor of a brutal attack by invaders from the neighboring kingdom.

Forced to leave his identity behind, Tarvic is thrust into civilian life in the role of protector to three war orphans. When the four of them encounter a mysterious stranger, he must choose between keeping the young girls safe and taking on a mission that could help free his kingdom. Can Tarvic live up to his noble name and find a way to balance his duty and his dreams?

Where to Get a Copy:

Click here to buy the ebook or paperback from Amazon. (The ebook is $2.99 just $0.99 through June 6th!)

Not sure if you’ll like the story or not? Take a look at the first chapter and see!

The Nameless Soldier

Chapter One

Tarvic woke to the sound of a distant yell, abruptly silenced. He pushed his blankets aside and sat up, puzzled, but heard only the light patter of rain on the canvas. “What was that?”

Drevel, his roommate in the barracks and tentmate out on campaigns like this, stirred and rolled over. “What?”

“I heard something. Someone shouting.”

“It’s probably just another drill.” But Drevel sat up too, shoving his own blankets away, as Tarvic crawled over and untied the tent flap.

A blast of wintry air and raindrops greeted him as he leaned out, peering across the tent-studded hillside. Clouds hid the moon and stars, and on every side the thick dark of the forest leaned in from the edges of the large clearing. But the telltale flickering light of distant torches sent shadows leaping over tents and across the open spaces between them. Why would someone be using torches out here? Any soldier in camp had easy access to lanterns among the supplies.

Something was wrong. Very wrong. Tarvic pulled back into the tent and yanked on his breeches and jacket.

They both heard the next yell, closer this time, and then the unmistakable clash of swords. Both men snatched up their own swords, jamming their feet into their boots and fumbling for shields. From all around them, shouts of alarm erupted as men in their company woke up.

And then the enemy was upon them. Horses exploded through the camp, trampling tents and the soldiers just crawling out of them. Riders leaned low off their mounts’ backs, swinging swords and waving torches.

Halfway out of his tent, Tarvic threw himself flat on his face to avoid a slash that would probably have decapitated him. He scrambled to his feet, only to be knocked off them again by a blow that he barely caught on his shield.

Light, shadows, horses, blades, rain. Chaos raged through the clearing to the sound of crashing metal, pounding hooves, shouts of challenge and desperation. Tarvic regained his feet and fought as best he could from the ground while enemy riders thundered around him. Dodging and ducking, he aimed for the men’s legs and tried to keep out from under their horses’ hooves. With no idea who he was fighting or why, his only goal to stay alive for the next heartbeat, he dodged and darted through the tumult looking for spots where horses and enemy swords weren’t. All around him, men fought and ran and crumpled to lie as limply as the trampled tents.

Slipping and stumbling in the mud, Tarvic felt a surge of satisfaction as his sword met flesh and an enemy yelled in pain. And then the man wheeled his horse and charged back toward him, and Tarvic turned to flee.

He tripped on something soft that groaned. Pain shot through Tarvic’s wrist as he caught his fall, and only a quick roll saved him from being trampled as the man’s horse cantered over him.

Its rider wheeled again, and Tarvic rose to his knees, barely raising his shield in time to protect his face. The force of the blow threw him backward, jarring his already sore wrist.

Another horse leaped over him, and Tarvic cried out in pain as a hoof struck him on the shoulder. He stumbled to his feet, ducking low to present as small a target as possible, and ran through the melee.

map of Alasia & MalornHe saw fewer people on foot now, more obstacles in the mud. Was it cowardly to flee from a battle you couldn’t win? Nothing in Tarvic’s eight months in the military had prepared him for this. Not counting occasional minor border skirmishes, the kingdom of Alasia hadn’t seen an actual war in six generations. Besides routine patrols, city peacekeeping, and the frequent drills and training, the military’s primary duties involved escorting merchant wagons through robber-frequented stretches of rural highway and keeping an eye on the sections of coastline where seafaring raiders were known to attack. Tarvic had never fought in a battle that involved more than a handful of opponents at a time, and none of those opponents had been anywhere near this organized — or this deadly.

If we escape, we can regroup somewhere safer and — A hard blow to the back knocked him to the ground again as another horse pounded over him. Giving up all pretense of courage, Tarvic scrambled to his feet once more and fled for the edge of the clearing and the relative safety of the trees beyond. I can’t do anything here. They’re going to slaughter us all!

He was practically there when another rider appeared in front of him, leaning low with sword outstretched. Tarvic almost impaled himself on the blade, raising his shield just in time. He fought back frantically as the man slashed, swinging his weapon again and again. I need my horse! Military training had included nothing about how to fight a mounted enemy from the ground. But Lightning was tethered in the row of makeshift stalls on the far side of the camp, probably prancing restlessly under his blanket and wondering why his rider didn’t come to spur him into battle.

Tarvic didn’t even see the blow that almost killed him. His ears barely registered the thudding of more galloping hooves from behind, nearly drowned out by the rain and the sounds of battle. But the world exploded in light and pain as something struck the back of his head harder than anything had ever hit him before.

He lurched forward, feeling his sword drop from limp fingers. Managing two steps before his legs buckled, he was just conscious enough to recognize the urgent need to crawl. Don’t stop. Don’t stop. Don’t stop. Or they’ll kill you out here. That was the only thought left in his mind as he pulled himself toward the concealing shadows behind the line of tree trunks. And then even that faded, giving way to darkness.


Want to know what happens to Tarvic? Click here to purchase the book and find out!

 Annie Douglass LimaAbout the Author:

 Annie Douglass Lima spent most of her childhood in Kenya and later graduated from Biola University in Southern California. She and her husband Floyd currently live in Taiwan, where she teaches fifth grade at Morrison Academy. She has been writing poetry, short stories, and novels since her childhood, and to date has published seventeen books (four YA action and adventure novels, five fantasies, a puppet script, six anthologies of her students’ poetry, and a Bible verse coloring and activity book). Besides writing, her hobbies include reading (especially fantasy and science fiction), scrapbooking, and international travel.

Connect with Annie:

Email: AnnieDouglassLima@gmail.com

Blog: http://anniedouglasslima.blogspot.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AnnieDouglassLimaAuthor

Twitter: https://twitter.com/princeofalasia

Goodreads: http://bit.ly/ADLimaOnGoodreads

Google+: http://bit.ly/ADLimaOnGooglePlus

Amazon Author Page: http://bit.ly/AnnieDouglassLimaOnAmazon

LinkedIn: http://bit.ly/ADLimaOnLinkedIn

 

Meet Actor T.W. Ashworth, Narrator Extraordinaire of “The Terra Debacle: Prisoners at Area 51” Audiobook.

TWAshworth

Getting my first audio book produced was a thoroughly enjoyable experience, thanks to the talents of my narrator, Hollywood actor, T.W. Ashworth. You can learn more about him and his credentials on  IMDB. Meanwhile, he was willing to participate in a short interview so I could show you the face behind the many voices you get to enjoy in the audio version of “The Terra Debacle: Prisoner’s at Area 51.”

MF: How long have you been acting? How did you get your start?

TW: I’ve been performing since 1970 in a pretty varied career. Ballet dancer, Classical regional Theatre as an actor and director, national tours in musicals, movie musicals, commercials, music videos, and television. I got my start when a friend in high school dared me to audition for Eugene Ionesco’s RHINOCEROS…I got cast and fell in love with the stage.

MF: What’s your favorite part about narrating a book?

TW: Like Bottom in Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, I get to play all the roles. I enjoy finding different voices in my story telling.

MF: What was your favorite role so far as an actor?

TW: Let me give you an answer as varied as my career: Classical Stage – Face in Ben Jonson’s THE ALCHEMIST, Musical Theatre – Harold Hill in THE MUSIC MAN, Stage – Pastor Brian in Christine Ashworth’s two person play CASSANDRA CRIES, TV – Mr. Fisher in HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER, sketch comedy – Pat Bristow’s HOW TO SURVIVE A ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE.

MF: What are you working on now (either acting role or narrating, or both)?

In narration I’m working on A Fairy Night’s Dream: or The Horn of the Oberon by Katharine Elise Chapman, Samantha V. Hutton and Symbols: Book Two of The Allegoricon Parables by Jason P Doherty. It’s the off season for TV and a slow time for film, so I’m primarily working on narration.

MF: Who was your favorite character in “The Terra Debacle”?

TW: Gabe, a gentle telepathic  intellectual botanist, who is more than a bit bothered by his psychic  gift.

MF: Did any part of “The Terra Debacle” surprise you?

TW: The bittersweet ending.

MF: Who do you think would enjoy this story the most?

TW: A person with an intelligent heart.

So now you know what the man behind the voices you’ll hear in “The Terra Debacle: Prisoners at Area 51” looks like and a little bit about him. You can get your copy of the audiobook on Amazon (where you can listen to an excerpt), Audible, and iTunes. If you’re not already a member, you can get it for free if you sign up for a 30-day trial. If you’re already a member and would be willing to give the story a review, contact me at marcha@kallioperisingpress.com and I’ll make arrangements for you to get a complimentary copy.

TheTerraDebacleAudioRGBflatsmall+ copy

How to Make an Animated gif Using Photoshop

BTHS2-DWOGiving promotional graphics a bit of “zing” helps them stand out and draw attention, which is always a challenge in today’s glutted market. If you have Photoshop, it’s a cinch to create automated gif files. I created the ones you see here when I purchased ADOED2-DWOadvertising on a site that had dozens of other ads, most in the postage stamp size you’re looking at. (Making them in a larger size is no problem–the final product is based on the size you start with. The dimensions of these are 225 x 150 pixels with 300 dpi resolution.) I wanted mine to stand out, videos weren’t allowed, so I decided to put together gif files.

I have an older version of Photoshop, not the new and improved version that now requires a subscription. That’s a bit rich for my current author income, so I make do just fine with my old-faithful version. The directions for creating a gif that I originally found were apparently for that newer version, but it was similar enough it didn’t take me long to accomplish it on mine. Rumor has it that you APPB2-DWOcan achieve the same thing with Power Point, but I haven’t tried that. I suspect the process would be much the same.

You can include as many frames as you like. The only limit will be the file size of your final product. Each of these is around 450K, but they are quite small.

Here’s how it’s done:ROFT-DWO

  1. Open all the jpg files you want to use and make them the correct size and resolution. It should be intuitively obvious that they all need to be the same size.
  2. Open a new file and add each jpg as a separate layer. This is best done via a simple cut and paste.
  3. Make sure the pictures are in the order you want; rearrange if necessary. If you put them in order first, it’s easier later. The one on the bottom of the layer window will be first, so you’re stacking them, bottom to top.TDPA51a-DWO
  4. Open the Animate window from the pull-down menu at the top of the screen. This places a long, skinny window on the bottom of the screen. The “Animate” window has its own menu, which opens when you click on the tiny arrow on the top right.
  5. From that menu, choose “Make frames for all layers”. Ka-boom! All of your pictures will now show up as frames in the Animate window. If they’re not in the order you want, fix it now using drag and drop.
  6. Now you’re going to add transitions between each frame using the tween command. You can use the Animation window’s drop-down menu, or the glyph that looks like little dots under the frames to the left.
  7. The next step is to adjust the timing for each frame. You do this by clicking on the time at the bottom of each picture. It’s easier if you do this when you’re done. If you do it before “tweening”, all the added transition frames will have the same time as the previous frame, which you may have to adjust by hand. I gave the pictures between 2 – 5 seconds, and the transition frames generated by tweening 0.2 seconds. Do as you like to achieve the effect you want.
  8. Use the arrow in the Animate box to play the result, which will show up where your picture is on the screen. When you’re happy with it, use the option “Save to Web” in the main menu to save it as gif file. You must use this save feature for the animation to work! Using the normal “save” doesn’t capture it.

These are a natural for cover reveals and new releases to grab a little extra attention for your Facebook and Twitter posts. It also works well for highlighting reviews or excerpts, special deals, or upcoming events.

Indie authors on a budget like myself get to use their creativity in their marketing efforts as well. This is one way to do just that. Have fun!

 

Guest Post: New Release from Elle Klass!

Award winner, Elle Klass, is one of my favorite authors. She has a gift for creating characters who jump off the page then dropping them into plots saturated with nail-biting suspense.  Fortunately for her fans, she’s extremely prolific, so keeps ’em coming.

Her other works include the Baby Girl series, which I absolutely loved, as well as the ongoing Zombie Girl series, Bloodseekers series, and Ruthless Storm trilogy.  Another one I love is As Snow Falls, which is entirely unlike the others,  yet a classic in its own category, showing her talents span numerous genres.

As she’s gravitated toward the horror genre, her writing easily compares with greats like Mary Higgins Clark. She has just released her latest in that category, Scarlett. Check it out! –MF

scarlett banner

Mistress of Death may be strong language, but it’s a title that describes my thriller/horror books well. Today I’m celebrating the release of Scarlett, Book 1 in the Evan’s Girls series.

The writing that comes easiest to me is dark, demented, and terrifying. Scarlett is a girl who, under other circumstances, might be quite normal. She seeks that balance anyways, but life has something else in store for her. She is surrounded by death. It follows her and yes, many people die.

At one point in the story she goes to Mystics and Broomsticks, a metaphysical store, and buys materials to protect her from malicious spirits. I guess I forgot to mention, not only do lots of people die, but she see’s spirits. She buys a bracelet made with a dark stone. It isn’t specified in the book, but my research led me to magnetite. scarlett teaser 3

This doesn’t end the drama in her life because it only wards off evil spirits, not evil people, and her life is filled with them. Scarlett faces more than her fair share of weirdo’s, one after another, while she fights for normalcy. At some point, she just accepts the strange and wicked, but not after her most terrifying ordeal.

Reading the reviews I’m a proud Mama. There are two points they all agree on:

1. The book is seriously twisted.

2. There are some very high points and really low points. I encourage you to read them. Click here.

The best news is the book will remain $.99 for the first few days of its release!

My Store
Kindle
Nook
iTunes
Kobo

Connect with Elle on social media:

Blog: http://thetroubledoyster.blogspot.com/
Website: http://elleklass.weebly.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/ElleKlass
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ElleKlass

“The Student and the Slave”– An New Adventure Novel with a Giveaway!

StudentSlave

Take a look at this exciting new young adult action and adventure novel, The Student and the Slave, now available for purchase! This is the third book in the Krillonian Chronicles, after The Collar and the Cavvarach and The Gladiator and the Guard.

The series is set in an alternate world that is very much like our own, with just a few major differences.  One is that slavery is legal there.  Slaves must wear metal collars that lock around their neck, making their enslaved status obvious to everyone. Another difference is the popularity of a martial art called cavvara shil.  It is fought with a cavvarach (rhymes with “have a rack”), a weapon similar to a sword but with a steel hook protruding from partway down its top edge.  Competitors can strike at each other with their feet as well as with the blades.  You win in one of two ways: disarming your opponent (hooking or knocking their cavvarach out of their hands) or pinning their shoulders to the mat for five seconds.

cavvarach

Cavvarach

First, a Little Information about Books 1 and 2: 

The Collar and the Cavvarach

Book 1: The Collar and the Cavvarach

Bensin, a teenage slave and martial artist, is desperate to see his little sister freed. But only victory in the Krillonian Empire’s most prestigious tournament will allow him to secretly arrange for Ellie’s escape. Dangerous people are closing in on her, however, and Bensin is running out of time. With his one hope fading quickly away, how can Bensin save Ellie from a life of slavery and abuse?

Click here to read chapter 1 of The Collar and the Cavvarach.
Click here to read about life in the Krillonian Empire, where the series is set.

Book 2: The Gladiator and the Guard

The Gladiator and the GuardBensin, a teenage slave and martial artist, is just one victory away from freedom. But after he is accused of a crime he didn’t commit, he is condemned to the violent life and early death of a gladiator. While his loved ones seek desperately for a way to rescue him, Bensin struggles to stay alive and forge an identity in an environment designed to strip it from him. When he infuriates the authorities with his choices, he knows he is running out of time. Can he stand against the cruelty of the arena system and seize his freedom before that system crushes him?

Click here to read about life in the arena where Bensin and other gladiators are forced to live and train.

StudentSlaveAnd now, The Student and the Slave, with another awesome cover by the talented Jack Lin!

Book 3: The Student and the Slave

Is this what freedom is supposed to be like? Desperate to provide for himself and his sister Ellie, Bensin searches fruitlessly for work like all the other former slaves in Tarnestra. He needs the money for an even more important purpose, though: to rescue Coach Steene, who sacrificed himself for Bensin’s freedom. When members of two rival street gangs express interest in Bensin’s martial arts skills, he realizes he may have a chance to save his father figure after all … at a cost.

Meanwhile, Steene struggles with his new life of slavery in far-away Neliria. Raymond, his young owner, seizes any opportunity to make his life miserable. But while Steene longs to escape and rejoin Bensin and Ellie, he starts to realize that Raymond needs him too. His choices will affect not only his own future, but that of everyone he cares about. Can he make the right ones … and live with the consequences?

Click here to order The Student and the Slave from Amazon for $2.99 a discounted price of just 99 cents through November 31st!


Read an Excerpt:

In this excerpt, Bensin meets a character he encountered earlier in less than favorable circumstances.

 In the parking lot, Bensin noticed a man who seemed to be watching him. Choosing not to make eye contact, he quickened his steps as he crossed toward the buildings. 

He bought his envelopes, addressed one of them at the counter, slid the folded letter inside, and stuck it in the mail slot. Now we just have to wait for Officer Shigo to reply. Then he and Ellie could contact Coach and start to figure out a plan for freeing him.

When he stepped out of the post office, the man was standing just outside the door. “Hey.”

Instinctively, Bensin jumped back to gain room for self-defense. There was something about the man’s burly build and the way he was sizing Bensin up with his eyes. And the silver threads spiraling their way through his dreadlocks. 

Bensin brought his arms up, ready for action. “What do you want?”

“Take it easy.” The man backed away a step or two, hands raised to show he wasn’t a threat. He grinned. “You’re a good fighter. Where’d you learn those skills?”

“In the arena. I was a gladiator back in Jarreon.” It wasn’t something Bensin would normally boast about, but if his violent past discouraged a gang member from attacking him, so much the better.


About the Author:

Annie Douglass LimaAnnie Douglass Lima spent most of her childhood in Kenya and later graduated from Biola University in Southern California. She and her husband Floyd currently live in Taiwan, where she teaches fifth grade at Morrison Academy. She has been writing poetry, short stories, and novels since her childhood, and to date has published fifteen books (three YA action and adventure novels, four fantasies, a puppet script, six anthologies of her students’ poetry, and a Bible verse coloring and activity book). Besides writing, her hobbies include reading (especially fantasy and science fiction), scrapbooking, and international travel.

Connect with the Author Online:

Email: AnnieDouglassLima@gmail.com

Blog: http://anniedouglasslima.blogspot.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AnnieDouglassLimaAuthor

Twitter: https://twitter.com/princeofalasia

Goodreads: http://bit.ly/ADLimaOnGoodreads

Amazon Author Page: http://bit.ly/AnnieDouglassLimaOnAmazon

LinkedIn: http://bit.ly/ADLimaOnLinkedIn

Google+: http://bit.ly/ADLimaOnGooglePlus

Now, enter to win an Amazon gift card or a free digital copy of the first two books in the series!

a Rafflecopter giveaway