New Science Fiction Short Story pack available on Pre-Order!

Now available for Pre-order on Amazon and Smashwords! A science fiction short story two-pack, featuring “Model #37” about a genetically enhanced young adult, and “The Nannypod,” about the device that people just can’t live without. This ebook will be out for sale on September 30, 2015.

Amazon link: Model #37: A Science Fiction Short Story Two-Pack

Smashwords link: Model #37: A Science Fiction Short Story Two-Pack

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Model #37: Baby has lived a privileged life—her father always said she was “special.” And Baby knows she’s not like normal humans. She’s only 47 inches tall, even though she’s eighteen years old. She can live off tiny amounts of food. And she’s got a dorsal fin in the middle of her back.

Today’s the big day. She’s supposed to model for the world, and make her father proud. The only questions are why is she so nervous, and why won’t her father let her out of the lab? Most of all, Baby, also known as Model 37, wants to see the world.

Maybe even meet another “special” person like her.

Bonus short story:  The Nannypod

It’s Monday morning, and Chris has to get to work. The only problem is, his Nannypod, the device strapped to his wrist that runs his life, just died. He doesn’t even know which bus to get on.

How will he live without it?

(Also included is an excerpt from the paranormal novella, “Dreams and Constellations”)

And here’s an excerpt from “Model #37”:

Baby’s heart lurched as the announcer called her number. She heard people beyond the curtain murmuring to each other, though she couldn’t discern the words. Sixteen years of training had led to this moment. She glanced at her father, breathing hard.

Lines around his eyes deepened as he granted her a smile, towering over her diminutive size. He patted her on the head. “Show them, Baby. Make me proud.”

She fidgeted, adjusting the sheer bodysuit. It hid enough for modesty, but it felt confining. She didn’t like the open back, exposing her dorsal ridge. Father didn’t have one of those. He said it made her special.

“Go!” her father urged, giving her a push. She brushed the curtain out of her way and stepped onto the runway. Lights blinded her, but she’d practiced this over and over. Smile at the people beyond the glare of the lights. Ignore the flash of cameras taking pictures. Walk with confidence down the runway. She moved, forcing herself not to rush despite the pounding of her heart. Keep to the rhythm of the music.

“And here’s Dr. Heim’s model, number 37. She’s a little thing, as you can see, but this isn’t dwarfism; she’s perfectly proportioned with no deformities or known genetic defects. Dr. Heim designed her with the group objective of species modification in light of our water and food shortages and increasing global temperature.” The female announcer’s voice blared through the speakers, and Baby wondered what the woman was talking about. She was specially bred, that was true. Father had told her so. And she knew she was smaller than others, than the true humans. But group objectives? What group objective?

She reached the end of the runway and gave a twirl in the white body suit, smiling at those in the front row. Men and women of different ethnicities looked her over critically, jotting things down into their tablets. Several took pictures of her, reporters, possibly. Not one returned her smile. Baby tried to keep the fear at bay. Did they like her?

The announcer continued. “Dr. Heim wants to remind viewers that while Model 37 may be small, she is fully mature at eighteen years old. She requires only 500 calories and 32 ounces of water a day. Note also the dorsal ridge, designed to regulate body temperature, even in extreme heat.”

“What is her exact height?” One fellow asked, raising a pen.

“Approximately 47 inches, or 119 centimeters tall,” the announcer replied. “Model 37 weighs only 45 pounds, about the same as a six year old child.”

A woman carrying a tablet with a bud in her ear called out. “Are there concerns that this type of design could face discrimination, such as the kind faced by individuals with dwarfism? What about things like car designs, kitchens with high shelves?”

Baby was nearing the end of her walk, almost back to the curtains. The questions bewildered her—what discrimination? And why? She’d lived her entire life in a facility with others like her. Some were human; others were four-legged animals, dogs, sheep, even a pig. All of them had modifications, to make them special. Like her.

Before she could duck behind the safety of the curtains, her father stepped out on stage and grabbed a microphone. He squinted at the woman who had asked the question. “Society already has in place protections and equipment to assist those of lesser physical stature. I imagine that over time, things would be adjusted to the new standard height. This has historical precedent. Modern man is taller than his ancestors. In this day and age, I see that as a liability, not an asset.”

Baby stood at the edge of the curtains, hovering. She thought she recalled him telling her to wave and bow at this point, but her thoughts had scattered. Her father sounded angry. Another person near their end of the runway raised his hand. “How do you expect people to take your design seriously? She looks like a child!”

That she could not stand for. “I’m not a child!” Baby said. Her voice didn’t sound childlike; it earned surprised looks from several of those closest. She looked to her father, but he frowned and shook his head, then made a gesture for her to go backstage. Shooting the fellow a glare, Baby pivoted and exited through the curtains.

She heard the announcer clear her throat. “Right, so any further questions for Dr. Heim? Remember that you all can place your votes on what you consider to be the most promising breakthroughs as we move forward to approach the world community with our proposals and designs.”

Baby nearly ran into the next model, a tall thin thing with blue skin and gills, wearing some kind of apparatus that supplied it with water to breathe. It wore a tiny bikini Baby would be horrified to wear. Baby ducked out of the way and stood off to the side, waiting for her father to return backstage. She’d known about the voting. But it seemed there was much her father hadn’t told her.

When she looked at the other models milling around, Baby saw them with new eyes. A model with dark brown skin shifted her stance, and Baby realized her skin was scaly like a snake. Another model, this one a tall, strong-looking fellow, had tiny horns on his forehead. He chewed gum sleepily, leaning against the wall.

She walked over to him. He smelled of grass and something else, something she’d never smelled before. The closest she could describe it was ‘male.’ “What’s your name?” she asked, hoping that since her part was over, she’d be able to enjoy herself a little before Father returned.

The young man scraped the toe of his boot along the wooden floor, looking down as he answered. Brown hair fell into his face. “They call me Moo.” She couldn’t tell by the dim lighting, but Baby suspected he was blushing.

“Moo? That’s an odd name. Why do they call you that?” Baby knew why Father called her Baby. She was his baby. He’d told her that nothing fit better. He loved her. He’d even given her a rag doll to hold when he locked her in her pen at night.

Moo rocked back and forth, holding himself. He swallowed whatever he was chewing. “I’m part bull. So…Moo.” He didn’t seem particularly happy about it.

“Is that why you have horns?” She reached up to touch one.

He shied back, breathing hard, but then stilled himself, hands clenching into fists as he allowed her to feel the hard smoothness. “Sorry. My instincts get the better of me sometimes. They’re real.”

Baby glanced over as the next model stepped towards the curtains, but there was no sign of her father. “Are you nervous?”

Moo shrugged again. “A little. I don’t think the judges will like me.” He took a step towards the scaly girl but she hissed at him. He stepped back, lowering his head again. “Everybody thinks I’m stupid.”

“Well that’s stupid,” Baby said, pouting. No one had ever questioned her intellect before. She could speak and read four different languages, and Father said her math skills were exceptional. She only wished more of her education had come from something other than books. He hadn’t even allowed her to watch TV, though he’d told her about it. “So where is your parent?” She glanced around, but most of the people backstage were like them, unusual mixtures of genetic material. She noticed the security guards wearing utility belts with things like handcuffs and batons. That struck her. Why would the models need security guards?

Moo scratched his head, looking nervous. “Out watching the show. I don’t like these things. I’ve already been to three of them.”

Baby studied his eyes, noticing for the first time that his pupils were abnormally large. She admired his eyes. She couldn’t explain why. “Why don’t you like them?” She hadn’t liked the tone of the announcer. Perhaps that was it.

Scaly Girl threw them a dirty look. “They don’t showcase our skills. It’s a bloody waste of time. Just a media circus to make the politicians happy, that the scientists are thinking up something as the world goes to hell.” Baby blinked at the thick Australian accent, but even as she opened her mouth to ask a question, the girl turned away again, ignoring them.

From beyond the curtain, Baby heard clapping and muted voices. Apparently the audience had liked the girl who breathed underwater. As the underwater breather returned backstage, Scaly Girl stepped towards the curtain to take her call. Moo stamped one foot, breathing hard. Baby placed a hand on his well-muscled arm to calm him. “I’m sure you’ll do fine.”

“I want to run. I want to escape,” he told her. At first she thought he was joking. By the fear in his eyes, however, she realized he meant it.

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Now I know what a Hurricane feels like!

Okay it was actually a microburst during a monsoon. In Arizona, you can sometimes get a tiny localized torrential downpour and near-hurricane force winds during our thunderstorms that blow in first with a dust storm, then a downpour and lightning, and then just as quickly are gone. This means wind speeds of about 70 miles an hour, and I really do mean torrential rain–I think we got an inch in a half hour.

(Shot of Microburst from helicopter East Valley, 8/31/2015)

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A microburst only hits a tiny area–maybe a mile radius. It hit our neighborhood–the noise was so loud, I thought it was hailing, but instead it was raining–sideways, because the wind was so strong. Afterwards, my neighbor’s tree was in my yard, my two large garbage canisters had been tossed down my side yard and broken, the ceiling fan on my back porch was mangled and broken, my barbeque had been shoved against my AC unit, and anything that wasn’t nailed down was against the side wall. Along my street, about two dozen trees were uprooted and torn out of the ground. A street light was blown over in another neighbor’s yard. Across town where another microburst hit, a semi-truck was blown onto its side onto a car on the freeway. This is about the closest we come to a tornado here.

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I went for a drive to check my parent’s house which is in the next block over, since they were out of town. No damage over there whatsoever–looked like all they got was a bit of rain.

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More pictures, including a shot of that semi truck:

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Review: The Christopher Killer (Forensic Mystery)

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Title: The Christopher Killer (Forensic Mystery)

Author: Alane Ferguson

Publisher: Puffin Books

Genre: YA Mystery

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I have one thing to say about this forensic mystery targeted at YA readers. Really great book, and really terrible cover.

I haven’t read a lot of gritty forensic mysteries with a younger protagonist, so that’s what drew me to the book. Catelyn is just about to graduate high school, and wants to become a medical examiner. That’s handy, since her father’s the town coroner. When a local murder shocks the small town, she has a front row seat to all the evidence and the investigation.

Of course in addition to a murder mystery, there are relationship issues and family issues, as one would expect in a YA novel. In this book, there’s the mystery of Catelyn’s mother who left years ago, as well as two young men she can’t decide are threats or allies. There’s also an interesting theme parsing out where science meets religion meets fake mumbo jumbo when a famous psychic comes to town. And of course there has to be danger, and there’s plenty of that.

The forensic scenes were well done–just enough ugly reality and facts to keep things interesting without going full CSI and being gross. The interactions were also well done. I found this an easy book to read, and was sorry to see it hasn’t done better. This is a case where I hope the author gets the rights back and is able to republish at some point. I think the publisher did this book a disservice.

Overall, a very enjoyable murder mystery, suitable for both adult and YA readers.

Book Review: Hounded, by Kevin Hearne

Title: Hounded

Series: The Iron Druid Chronicles (Book 1)

Author: Kevin Hearne

Publisher: Random House LLC

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars!

I’m pretty stingy on my five star ratings. Five stars means you wowed me; you expanded beyond the genre and gave me something I’ll want to read again. This book did both those things, and what’s even cooler is that the author perfectly captured the city of Tempe, Arizona where I grew up.

Hearne did a great job integrating things, including Arizona locations and culture, Celtic legends and lore, and even some Indian mythos in the mix. Atticus was something of an eternal college kid, but the humor in the writing was so infectious, I pretty much just embraced it. His Irish wolfhound was hysterical with his fascination with Genghis Khan and poodles, and the entire Celtic pantheon were a hoot. I particularly liked “the Morrigan,” the sexy goddess of death.

The action was fast-paced, as was the dialogue and overall style of the book. This is urban fantasy at it’s finest, with an immediate threat and a lot of finagling with supernatural entities in order to survive. A touch of romance, a good heaping of humor, and lots of monster blood. What made this book different was the druidic aspect, as well as the setting.

Countdown Sale Today through Sunday! Heart of the Witch

Okay, NOW the book is up for sale! Now through Sunday, grab the epic fantasy novel Heart of the Witch for just $0.99 on Amazon.

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Amazon.com:  http://www.amazon.com/Heart-of-the-Witch-ebook/dp/B00AR5HMZO/

Zerrick’s fears are closing in on him. As an awkward scribe of nineteen, he should be courting ladies, or helping his father, the Reverend, in his endless tirades against magic. But a local girl has been accused of witchcraft. The mayor’s son is ill. And the town is clamoring to put all users of magic to the stake. He can’t tell them that he’s the one they’re hunting for.

Beyond the colonial town, a vast wilderness awaits, with strange tattooed natives who worship the Goddess, mythical monsters, and magic in every plant and tree. Forced to flee, Zerrick searches to find out if his magic is a curse or a blessing. He meets a young woman, Mira, who seeks to flee the harsh constraints of their society as well.

All they want is a place where they can live peacefully, but magic has grown more volatile and dark omens have appeared. For Zerrick and Mira, the only way forward is following a strange call from Zerrick’s dreams, into greater unknowns than they were ever prepared for.

ARRGH!! Amazon messed up my Countdown Sale!

I apologize to everyone who received notice today of my fantasy novel, Heart of the Witch, which is SUPPOSED to be up for sale on Amazon for only $0.99 today through August 17.  Amazon stupidly messed up and deleted the promotion.

I have re-uploaded the request, and the book will be on sale from August 14 through 17 for the Countdown special price of 99 cents.

Here are links to the Amazon US and UK stores for the book:

US:  http://www.amazon.com/Heart-of-the-Witch-ebook/dp/B00AR5HMZO/

UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Heart-Witch-Judy-Goodwin/dp/061574673X/

Description:

As an awkward scribe of nineteen, Zerrick should be courting ladies; or helping the Reverend, his father, in his endless tirades against magic. But a local girl has been accused of witchcraft, the mayor’s son is ill, and the town is clamoring to put all users of magic to the stake. He can’t tell them that he’s the one they’re hunting for.

Forced to flee, Zerrick searches to find out if his magic is a curse or a blessing. Beyond the colonial town a vast wilderness awaits, with mythical monsters, strange tattooed natives who worship the Goddess, and magic in every plant and tree. In a neighboring town he meets a young woman, Mira, who seeks to flee the harsh constraints of their society.

All they want is a place where they can live peacefully, but unrest is everywhere. The land itself is suffering as magic has grown more volatile and dark omens have appeared. Stranger still, Zerrick dreams of another woman calling to him, demanding to be freed. For Zerrick and Mira, the only way forward is following the call–into greater unknowns than they were ever prepared for.

Excerpt:

Like a cannonball bursting out of a cannon, the magic surged beneath Zerrick and spat him out of the ground, sending him flying into a bed of palms. He landed hard, but safe, feeling numb all over. From behind him, a shriek pierced the air, and with a groan, he rolled over and managed to lift his head above the palm leaves to see the earth dance and churn around Madame Lotus.

Plants reared up to twist around her arms and legs, pulling her to the earth, as she began sinking even as Zerrick had. It didn’t stop at her waist, but pulled her in deeper and deeper, leaves flying around in a whirlwind around her head, lightning crackling through the ground and up along the twisted vines. She fought with all her might, clawing at the vines and thrashing to escape the earth’s hold, but it was useless, and in her eyes Zerrick could see she knew it.

She glanced once in his direction, her brown eyes lucid and filled with utter horror at her predicament. The vines pulled her down by her arms, until there was just her head above ground. Then, with a loud crash of thunder and a horrible rumbling deep within the soil, the ground swallowed her up.

The storm and wind ceased so suddenly, Zerrick thought he had lost his hearing. The leaves, no longer held up by the magical wind, settled on the overturned earth, and slowly the sounds of the jungle resumed. Zerrick lay crouched in the palms, breathing hard with the shock of what he had just witnessed, every nerve tingling. His head ached as he raised himself on one knee, looking to see if Murtis had escaped the backlash of power, or if the noise had attracted others.

Murtis was still sitting on his log, his face white with astonishment, his mouth hanging open. Seeing the look of horror on the other witch’s face, Zerrick realized just what he had done.

He had committed murder.

Review: Duma Key, by Stephen King

Title: Duma Key

Author: Stephen King

Publisher: Pocket Books

Genre: Horror

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This book is classic Stephen King. There’s ghosts, monsters, and shifting reality alone with phantom limbs and the mystery of the brain after trauma. As a hobbyist who dabbles in art, I also appreciated the creative aspects of the book. Remember Dorian Gray, who could paint himself young? Yeah, this is kinda like that.

Creepiness included.

I’ve always found the brain fascinating, so coupling that mystery together with weird psychic stuff and ghosts was a perfect mix. I also like that King took what would not normally be considered a scary place–the Florida Keys–and still managed to make it scary. The main character isn’t immediately likeable, but he grows on you. King also makes excellent use of his trademark narrative voice and foreshadowing.

This is not an action-packed book, but there’s enough strangeness to keep the reader engaged. If you liked Dead Zone or Insomnia or even Pet Cemetery, you’ll enjoy this one.