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Posts Tagged ‘suspense’

THE RETREAT 5: The Profound and the Profane

June 13, 2018 1 comment

 

“God damn it, why us?” Nutter said. “We’re always in the shit! This makes my balls retract, man!”

“Hadn’t noticed they’d dropped, sweetheart,” Campbell said.

“Campbell, shut the fuck up,” Nutter snapped as the rest of the troops climbed aboard the truck.

“Hey, take it easy there, Colonel,” Muldoon said. “You know you’re in the Army, right? We’re lightfighters, we always get the shit duty.”

Nutter looked across the truck bed at Muldoon. “It’s getting kinda old, Duke,” he said. His eyes looked hollow, and that worried Muldoon a bit.

“Can’t promise you nothing bad’s going to happen,” Muldoon said. “But I can’t promise you anything good is gonna go down either, so there’s that.”

Nutter slumped back against the truck’s side rail. “You’re a bright beam of sunlight in the darkness of my eternal night, Duke.”

“Damn. That sounded profound.”

“That’s because I forgot to add ‘motherfucker’ at the end to make it profane.”

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The Retreat 5: Shrooms

Sandra Rawlings watched as Muldoon harassed his lightfighters and the other troops supporting them. Three five ton trucks sat at the edge of a small clearing, their empty beds pointed toward the field, heavy tail gates lowered. The small collection was guarded by one of the remaining Stryker combat vehicles that stood off fifty yards or so, its diesel engine idling. The eight-wheeled infantry combat vehicle was adorned with a GAU-19 .50-caliber Gatling gun mounted in a remote controlled Protector turret, one of two that remained in service with the battalion. Rawlings didn’t care much for the Stryker as a platform in general—it was a bitch to work on, and as a former wrench turner she hated shit that was difficult to care for—but the tri-barreled GAU-19 was another matter entirely. The weapon was a wonder of engineering, and the amount of lead that thing could emit was truly terrifying.

Except to the Klowns, she reminded herself.

She hefted her M4 and watched as Muldoon walked over to Nutter, who was busily spooning food into his mouth from a glass jar. That was an oddity; Army chow rarely if ever came packaged in glass, so she surmised it was something he’d rat-fucked from the dining facility in High Point. Muldoon approached from behind, so Nutter didn’t see him coming. And even though the grass was tall in this meadow she stood in, Rawlings didn’t hear Muldoon make a sound. Despite his size, he moved with the grace of a ninja.

“Colonel Nutter, sir!” Muldoon barked.

Nutter kind of choked at the sound of Muldoon’s voice and turned toward him, a stricken expression on his face. As Muldoon shot the smaller man a jaunty salute—right from his crotch—all Nutter did was quickly chew and swallow whatever was in his mouth.

“Oh hey, Duke,” he said.

“Whatcha eatin’ there, Slick? Buffalo balls, or something?”

“Um—no, they’re not buffalo balls, Duke.”

Muldoon stopped in front of Muldoon and looked down at him, a half-smile on his face, hands on his hips even though they should have been around his M4. Rawlings knew Muldoon was making a statement with his easy stance. Everything was cool. The big NCO’s eyes were unreadable behind his sunglasses.

“Well, if they’re not buffalo balls…what are they?”

“Uh, they’re marinated mushrooms.” Nutter cleared his throat. “You, ah, want some?”

“Mushrooms?” Muldoon took half a step back and grinned. “Mushrooms? Hey Rawlings, you hear this shit, ba—” At the very last moment, Muldoon censured himself. The last thing Rawlings wanted to hear was a man like Muldoon call her “babe”.

“I can hear fine from where I am,” Rawlings replied. “Guarding my lane and all.”

Muldoon snorted and looked back at Nutter. “So, Colonel. Where did you get marinated mushrooms from? Are they funny mushrooms? Laced with PCP or something?”

“No, no. Just plain old marinated mushrooms, Duke.”

“I think the bigger question here leads us to matters of class, Nutter. Why are you eating marinated mushrooms? Were you short of like the rest of the salad they should garnish? I mean, really, you have to admit. A soldier eating marinated mushrooms in a combat zone is some pretty weird shit, right?”

“Come on, Duke. They taste great. Not like something we’d get in an MRE.” Nutter paused. “Well, except for maybe the jalapeno cheese, but no one will trade me for any of that stuff. It’s like the currency of a new nation, you know? So a man has to make due with what a man has. Am I right?”

“I’ve honestly never had a marinated mushroom that I can recall,” Muldoon said. “Am I missing out on some great delicacy, Colonel? Were you going to slalom all those down you little gibbon monkey neck without offering any to the rest of us?”

Nutter shifted about on his feet for a moment. “Well, listen. I’d be happy to give you one, Duke.” With that, Nutter poked his fork into the jar, speared a glistening mushroom, and held it out to Muldoon. The big NCO regarded it like it was an alien life form for a long moment, then snatched the entire jar out of Nutter’s hand in a flash.

“Hey—!” was all Nutter could say.

Muldoon lifted the jar to his mouth and chugged back its entire contents. Rawlings made a sound of disgust. He didn’t even chew the mushrooms, he just shotgunned them down like he was knocking back a beer. Nutter made a sound of his own, though it was infinitely more mournful as vinegar-laced fluid disappeared down Muldoon’s apparently endless gullet in a single stream. If there was a single chug to the sequence, Rawlings couldn’t see it from where she stood.

Muldoon finished up, cleared his throat, and handed the empty vessel back to Nutter. Nutter looked at it, eyes sad, mouth curled downward in a crestfallen frown.

Muldoon smacked his lips. “A little too much vinegar for me, but—oh, hold on…” The big man paused for a moment, then released a cavernous fart that even the driver in the Stryker a hundred feet away heard. “Yeah, that’s gonna be fire later. Thanks for the warning, Colonel.”

“Damn, Duke.” Nutter looked at the empty jar in his hand. “I mean…ain’t even a stem left.”

Muldoon leaned forward and poked Nutter in his chest protector. “I want you on your fucking rifle, paying attention to what the fuck is going on in your lane. I do not want you stuffing your hillbilly face with mushrooms or artichokes or lima beans or whatever the fuck you find in the Underground Hotel, you get me? You’re here to shoot Klowns, and that means you need to have your shit in your hands, not hanging around your neck by its patrol strap. You read me on this, Colonel?”

“Yeah. Yeah, loud and clear, Duke. Shit.”

Muldoon leaned in even closer. “Then drop that jar and get on your fucking rifle!” he thundered, voice so loud that no one in the field could miss it. Rawlings cocked her head to one side. All the running, all the fighting, all the waiting for the Klowns, all the killing. It was finally getting to Muldoon, and unfortunately for Nutter, it was coming right at him. Rawlings found that curious. Curious as hell, actually. It meant Muldoon was as human as the rest of the unit, and even he was starting to unwind a bit.

The Retreat 5: A Bag of Dicks

April 21, 2018 6 comments

The battalion was bleeding out.

Command Sergeant Major Doug Turner stood and regarded his senior noncommissioned officers from across the dented hood of his Humvee. Dawn hadn’t arrived yet, so the men were more like phantasms than soldiers, their features generally unreadable despite the slowly brightening sky to the east. He could have turned his red-lensed flashlight toward them, but there was no need. Turner knew what he’d see. Four men with over a hundred years of military experience between them bringing him nothing but a huge bag of dicks.

CHARGES Audio Book…Free!

May 31, 2017 2 comments

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Happy listening!

Anatomy of a Cover, and Dead In L.A. Update

May 30, 2017 3 comments

Book covers, like musical scores for motion pictures, are one of the most exciting parts of the process. Here’s the current evolution of the cover for Earthfall 2 to date:

 

 

 

 

Obviously not finished yet, but well on its way. Final graphics and touch-up to Marc Lee‘s artwork will be done by Jeroen ten Berge.

With regards to Dead in L.A., that product has been pushed back until June 15, 2017. Sorry for the delay, but these things happen…and it’ll be better (and longer!) because of it!

 

 

 

 

 

“Remastering”, AKA Rewriting

May 16, 2017 3 comments

About two years ago or so, I released a co-authored work that frankly sucked balls. It was so bad that I unpublished it, deleted all references where it where I could, and downed many a bottle of Patrón silver in an attempt to purge the exercise from my mind. (The most fitting dénouement–being unable to remove it from my Amazon Author page. Damn me, cursed for all eternity!) To be honest, I’d created the basic storyline–man searches for son in zombie-filled Los Angeles–and after providing my co-writer with a copy of Left with the Dead and the sage advice to “make it like this,” I thought I was done.

Yeah, I was done all right: like “done in.” What was produced was such a steaming pile that I couldn’t save it in the short amount of time that I had to work on it. Golly, does James Patterson ever have this problem? But at least those folks who bought the paperback edition have something handy should emergency bowel issues arise. Hey, who said paper was dead?

This is hardly the way I open a post when hawking my latest ware, so bear with me a bit. Every now and then, a person can succumb to the most basic of deficiencies, most notably laziness and greed, so some mea culpa is probably prescribed. And laziness and greed are where my prior ill-fated partnership took me, pairing up with an author who, while talented, didn’t have the chops for what he was being tasked to do. I should have seen it, and should have stepped out of it right away. But, alas! Sometimes, stupid is as stupid does.

So flash forward a couple of years. Every now and then, I would pull this work out of the dustbin and do some body and fender work on it. Replacing a panel here, banging out a dent there, fabricating a whole new clip and fascia. What I began with was a quasi-comical story about a bumbling moron who, almost by magic, manages to find his son in the ruins of L.A. With some deliberate afterthought and the application of what meager writerly skill I possess, I managed to reimagine the work into what it always should have been: a tense story about a man slowly unraveling almost as quickly as the city around him as he searches for his kid. Along the way, he helps those he can, and turns his back on those he can’t. It’s sometimes callous, but for him, it’s all about his son. Like the stenches that pursue him existing only to feed, he lives only to find his boy.

As the father of a severely special needs kid, I at least can relate to that. And that’s the thing: I could never, ever, relate to the previously-described character in my titular co-author’s work.

I lined this up with the same timeline as The Last Town series, which also takes place (albeit partially) in Los Angeles. While there is no real-time interaction between the characters in this work and that one, they do actually lay eyes on each other. As Reese, Bates, and the others are fleeing the Hollywood Bowl, Wallace is skulking northward through Redondo Beach. And while the survivors of LAPD’s Hollywood Station make their way to eventual safety, Wallace has to contend with a metropolis that is filling with more and more ghouls every day.

In the first book, the lead character was a Hollywood stuntman. That was interesting; I know some stunt folks, and they’re pretty interesting men and women. But the character in the old book was nothing like them; no courage, no forethought, no ability to look at a gag and know it wasn’t going to work. In this work, Wallace is also involved in “the business”–he’s working on an incubating TV series for Gary Norton, a dramatic representation of Wallace’s time with the US Border Patrol–but that’s about it. More importantly, as a former USBP official, Wallace has some skills. Not the same type as, say, Dave Gartrell in The Gathering Dead, but enough to make his survival in the zompoc at least more credible. He doesn’t depend on luck and happenstance to get out of bad situations; he pulls himself through them, by his bootstraps if necessary. That was something in the original that made my clench my teeth in near anger; the original hero was so unworthy of surviving that it had me screaming into my hands.

So I changed that shit.

If you can manage it, look for Dead in L.A. at the end of the month. Hopefully, it’s about 40,000 times better than its ill-fated forerunner.

 

And if not? You know who to blame. No co-author to hide behind this time…it’s all on me. (Though if you want to blame WJ Lundy or Craig DiLouie, I’m all for it. Actually, no…blame Shawn Chesser. The guy doesn’t even drink, so how trustworthy is he, really?)

 

Cover Art: PLAGUE CITY

Just a quick drive by to show of some cover work by Jeroen ten Berge and Nicklas Gustaffson. Have some other work to get out before this one drops, but it’s on its way!