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Monday, February 27, 2012

Another COLD BLOODED 5 Star Review

I received a second five star review on COLD BLOODED, posted to Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Goodreads by my friend, author Charles Gramlich. If you would check it out and click on the YES button on Amazon, it helps to disperse thoughts of sock puppet reviewers, and bolsters Charles’s reviewer status. He hit all the high points about the novel including the humor, which I appreciate very much.

An addendum to this good news – Author Jordan Summers gave COLD BLOODED a five star review, pointing out a factor I worked hard to bring out in the book about my writer/assassin Nick becoming someone a reader will end up rooting for although he is a killer.

On the writing front, I’ve started a sequel to DEMON, which I’ve only begun to query with agents. Here’s the opening.
“D!” Janis Jefferson screamed out as she fell backwards to the hanger deck surface of the USS Hornet, her empty CO2 powered ‘Haunt’ weapon held up like a shield between her and the fanged apparition bearing down on her.
Navy memorial ship USS Hornet’s hanger bay, eerily backlit by red emergency lighting, crackled with capacitive discharged beams of holy water, and shotgun blasts of blessed salt. The battleground seethed with what the teen formed group Demon Inc called ‘Haunts’. Connie Emmerich shrieked as she dragged back on the straps holding the CO2 powered holy water tank at Janis’s back with one hand while firing her weapon with the other. Three of the Haunts had dropped from the hanger bay ceiling structure amidst the shocked teens and their camera crew, causing the added problem of a cross-fire. Only Demon’s instant reactions had saved the teens.
The fully formed ghoulish looking forces attacked the Demon Inc crew from front and rear with their brethren slashing at the group from where they’d dropped down from the ceiling structure, only kept at bay by Demon. Janis had emptied her tank within minutes, firing into the wave of Haunts charging from the front. The laser lighted charged stream of holy water made ectoplasmic slop out of the Haunts just as the weapon’s inventor, Denny Stossle, had envisioned. Mike Rawlins circled around to fire short bursts into the Haunts that had dropped down so as not to hit his comrades while Stan Brickwalter, Jerry Clark, and Gail Corbett fired controlled shots as they crouched back to back. Stan and Jerry blasted wide blessed salt barrages toward front and rear. Gail alternated her holy water bursts to bolster Stan and Jerry’s salt shots.
Gail’s Father, Steve, twenty-five feet behind the group, filmed the paranormal warfare next to his assistant, Denny Stossle. Denny fired off one million volt arcs in all directions, jabbing the blue arc at the point of his eighteen inch long stun-gun like a rapier around them, warding off the Haunts’ assault on the camera crew. The air reeked of sulfur, brimstone, sweat, and fear, tantalizingly wrapped in an acrid smoky haze.
A blur dodged salt shots and sizzling holy water streams. The black and brown sixty pound terror called Demon ripped apart Haunts as if they were chicken nuggets. The paranormal pup had originated from a dimensional rift across worlds, which had also momentarily spewed forth an unknown number of unholy spirits. Demon had the power to chomp them and he was very good at it. Janis turned her head away in resignation. The Haunt over her raked the weapon from her hands with corporeal fury, causing Connie to lose her hold on Janis’s straps and pitch backwards to the Hornet deck. Slashing downwards toward Janis’s face, the clawed appendage caught in Demon’s fangs in mid slice. Demon’s leap ripped the Haunt sideways, its hideous shrieks bearing witness to how long it had been since it had felt pain. Demon tore into the thing’s exposed neck, his teeth vaporizing the apparition to nothingness.
“Damn, dog, could you have cut that any closer?”
“Arf!” Demon leaped over to Janis, licking her face.
The attack ended in a chilling silence, with only the teens’ heavy breathing and Connie’s gasping croaks of disbelief to disturb the hush rolling over the hanger bay. Mike ran over to pull Janis to her feet, checking her over anxiously. The Haunt’s slashing talons had shredded Janis’s jacket and front straps. Janis gave him a playful push back.
“Quit pawing me, Dempsey.”Janis smiled at Mike’s growl concerning his nickname Janis had dubbed him with when he began fighting in mixed martial arts. She turned away and helped Connie to her feet. “Thanks girlfriend. If you hadn’t pulled me back, D wouldn’t have had anything to save but a few pieces.”
Stan, Jerry, and Gail all jogged over, still clutching their weapons, expecting another attack. Jerry hugged Janis. “I’m sorry we got cut off, babe.”
Janis stroked Jerry’s face, ending with a gentle pat. “No blood, no foul. Anybody know what the hell just happened?”
“I got nothin’,” Stan replied, putting an arm around Connie. “They came out of nowhere. We’ve faced a few at a time, but that was bad. If not for Denny’s holy water gizmos we’d have been toast. Even D couldn’t have stopped that many.”
“Maybe they were waiting for us.” Gail squeezed Mike’s hand momentarily with her free one. The Sci/Fi special has been advertised for a solid week. I’m sure glad it’s a taped broadcast. Hey, Dad, you and Denny okay?”
Steve Corbett waved with a shaky hand as he and Denny joined the group, still filming as he approached. “I’m fine, thanks to Denny. Wow, that ghost goop stinks. You’ll have to work on something that deodorizes them as it blasts the Haunts into goo, Denny.”
Denny lifted his foot, looking down distastefully at the ectoplasm residue on the bottom of his tennis shoe. “Yuck! I’ll get to work on it. I sure didn’t mean for my new ‘Haunt-killer’ rifles to get that kind of test. Hey, look!”
Everyone turned to follow Denny’s gesture. Against the far hanger deck wall, ghostly sailors dressed in different styles and types of uniforms lined up in shimmering formation. All at once they saluted, and then stood at attention. Steve crouched to one knee in order to hold his video camera steady. Connie ducked around behind Stan with a single whimper. Mike walked forward, following Demon.
“At least they’re not attacking,” Gail whispered. “I don’t have enough holy water left in my tank to wet a Kleenex.”
“I think these are the regular ‘Haunts’ on board,” Jerry offered. “If D’s not worried, I’m not worried.”
Mike halted with his arms at his sides, having holstered his ‘Haunt-killer’. He watched Demon walk right up to the line of sailors, and then begin prancing back and forth, his tail wagging. Ghostly laughter broke the silence as the USS Hornet’s permanent crew gathered around the cavorting Demon. They petted and hugged him with undisguised glee, their touches casting a yellowish glow where coming into contact with him.
“Holy crap…” Denny said in a hushed voice. “I…I guess they’re happy to have the invaders off the ship.”
After many moments, Demon retreated to Mike’s side. The motley crew stood at attention a final time before vanishing, some waving at Demon even as they dematerialized from view.
“Everything okay now, D?”
“Arf!” Demon looked up at Mike expectantly as if waiting for another question.
“Should we leave?”
Demon shook his head in the negative. Mike grinned. “We’re supposed to clean up before we go, aren’t we?”
Mike glanced back at the other members of Demon Inc. “Boy, they won’t be happy about that assignment. I bet you know where the cleaning equipment is too, don’t you?”
In answer, Demon trotted toward one of the hatches. He sat down to wait patiently. Mike walked over to his friends. “D says we have to clean up before we leave.”
“Frack you, D!” Janis pumped a fist in Demon’s direction.
With a low pitched rolling growl, Demon charged. A split second later Janis yelped, and ran for it, Demon nipping at her ankles and shoes.
“Okay! Okay! I’ll clean… damn it!”
Demon snorted, stopped his attack, and padded back to the hatch he had been waiting in front of. Janis walked back amongst her howling cohorts who were in varying degrees of helpless laughter. “Can’t you do anything with that dog, Dempsey? If this keeps up, I’m going to buy you a collar.”
Mike patted Janis’s shoulder. “Mop detail or broom detail, Jan? Remember, you wanted to be TV reality show famous. Besides, D saved your life… again.”
Janis shrugged off Mike’s hand and trudged toward Demon. “I’m going to find me some Demon Kryptonite one of these days.”
Jerry jogged up next to her and grasped her hand.
Two hours later, the teens had finished sweeping and mopping. Steve and Denny worked the final touches on the hanger deck walls where some of the salt blasts had hit. It took a final half an hour to clean the equipment and put it all away under Demon’s watchful eye. As Janis closed the hatch to the cleaning supplies a ghostly vision dressed in dungarees and blue cap materialized next to Demon. He nodded at the dog with a smile and saluted before disappearing.
“What a fantastic Friday night,” Janis muttered. “I nearly get hacked to pieces and then wind up with a mop in my hands for two hours. Hey, Dempsey, think you can talk your Dad into hosting another kegger?”
“Already done.” Mike held up his iPad. “Denny had the parentals on a live feed. Need I tell you how thrilled they were?”
“I’ll bet our preggo office manager turned your ear red,” Connie said. “She’s getting crankier every day. Ever since we got the Moomoos deported for trying to kidnap her back to the Kingdom, Laura’s turned it up a few notches. She can go from zero to bitch in a nanosecond now.”
“Welcome to my world,” Mike agreed. “If we’d let poor old baby daddy Mahmoud Jamil and his Dad take her back to Saudi Arabia, we could have had a couple months of peace before they paid us to take her back.”
Amidst wild laughter, Gail smacked Mike’s arm. “Michael Rawlins! I’m shocked, shocked I tell you. You are so out of line. Ah… do you think they’d take her now?”
Mike started down the corridor, gesturing for his crew to follow. “C’mon… let’s-”
Suddenly, the wicked witch’s theme song from the Wizard of Oz began playing. Mike came to a dead halt, glancing down at the iPad in his hand with his friends all pushing and shaking him as he tried to answer.
“Mike asked me to put a special ringtone on for Laura’s calls,” Denny explained, having kept back away from the teens with a laughing Steve Corbett.
“Oh… Dempsey… you dog.” Janis gave Mike’s shoulder a final shake. She glanced back at the grinning Denny. “Does Laura know yet?”
Denny shook his head. “I’m just the IT guy. I install. I don’t announce.”
“Hello,” Mike answered. He gestured for the group to quiet down, which provoked an opposite reaction.
“Mike! It’s been hours since you called after the ghost war! When are you coming home? What’s all that noise? Are you guys at a party?”
Catcalls intensified with Mike trying to quiet them. Finally, he whistled. Demon charged in amongst the members of Demon Inc. In seconds, he had them fleeing down the corridor, leaving only Mike, Denny, and Steve. “We were cleaning up, Laura. We’ll be coming home shortly. Can you move your broomstick before we arrive?”
“What! I…I… nuts! I’m doing it again.”
Mike heard laughter in the background from his parents and sister Joanie. He figured Laura must have had him on speakerphone. “Yeah, you are.”
“Fine! I’ll see you when you get here… sorry, Mike.”
“Hey, I have an idea, Laura. Maybe until you think you’re comfortable with moving into the living quarters we fixed up for you over at Demon Inc, you could… you know… work on not having to apologize for-”
The connection went dead in his hands. He saw Steve and Denny smiling at him. “That ringtone is tight, Denny. Do you think the production company will accept tonight’s action, Mr. Corbett?”
“That’s a good question. I wish we could have let the Hornet’s caretakers come along with us. We would have unbiased corroboration. I could be interviewing them for an after action report.”
“The Board of Trustees didn’t want to let us do anything on board for fear it would turn into a disrespectful circus. Only the huge donation and the fact the Hornet’s volunteer caretakers were refusing to escort any more groups if something wasn’t done about the disturbances changed their minds.”
“I know,” Steve replied. “Still, that condition they insisted on about not allowing anyone to accompany us put a damper on what might have been an incredible clip when the attack launched.”
“They might have been killed, Sir,” Denny added.
Steve nodded his head with a shrug. “Yeah, Denny, there’s that. Sorry, my filmmaker persona clicked on for a moment of idiot observation. I guess we need a new plan if my daughter’s right about the Haunts gathering on us here.”
Mike headed down the corridor. “Kevlar comes to mind, and maybe a variation of that head gear they use in fencing. We would have been fine if we’d had time to retreat to the circle I’d made at the hanger bay entrance. So much for safety zones.”
Denny patted Mike’s shoulder, following him with the video equipment bags. “Yep, it was all fun and games until the Haunt-pack arrives with razor sharp talons.”

Friday, February 24, 2012

Dear Costumer

I don't normally do much more than report these as phishing scams on my e-mail account. I had to make an exception in this case since the spelling was at least humorous. Between the Nigerian princesses, UK Lotteries, and the Ahmed Sulimans all e-mailing me with promises of love and great wealth, every once in a while you get a real genius trying to use a deadly link embedded inside who thinks the folks at Citibank spell creatively. Anyhow, watch out for this spelling champion's e-mail scam. I of course deleted the troll's link for reproduction on the blog.  :) Costumers beware!

Dear costumer,
We detected irregular activity on your Citibank account. For your protection, you must verify your account before you can continue using your card.Please use the link below to verify your account immediately: :

Go to Citibank page and complete the Account Verification form.

We will review the activity on your account with you and upon verification, we will remove any restrictions placed on your account.

Copyright © 2012 Citigroup Inc

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Lexus Recall Notice - Broken Valve Spring

One of my customers drove in with her 2006 Lexus LS350. It’s a really nice looking car. She likes me to do her maintenance work because I’ve known her for a very long time so after the initial freebies at the dealer are over she brings her vehicles into me for service. Whenever I get a customer returning to me with their new vehicles for service I always keep track of recalls and tech service bulletins for them. Because of that, this particular visit didn’t catch me by surprise, but it was a little embarrassing. Ms. LS got out of her Lexus with panic on her face. The car was running rough and making metallic noises in the engine.

Because Recalls are something the car makers send notices out on, every owner gets one. I had run across the recall for broken valve springs on the 2006 – 2008 Lexus only a few months back, although it had been issued in July of 2010. With recalls such as this, I normally work it into a conversation with the customer after a service, asking them if they’d gotten their recall notice for whatever recall I’ve become aware of. With Tech Service Bulletins, the vehicle has to actually be exhibiting the problem. This was a recall that they would have done without the problem being in evidence.

“Bernie! Listen to this!”

I’m already waving my hands in a calming motion as I walk over to her driver’s side door and reach in to shut off the car. “Did you get a letter in the mail from Toyota about your Lexus? There’s a recall on the valve springs breaking on-”

“Shit!” Ms. LS dives in to retrieve an unopened envelope from her glove box. She pops back out with it in hand. She hands it to me for opening. It’s the recall notice. “I forgot all about it. I knew I should have opened it, but I was on my way out the door when the mail was delivered so I stuck it in here. Is that what the letter’s about?”

I’m reading it over quickly and nodding my head. “Yeah, it is. Come in the office. We’ll get the dealer on the line and see if they can get you in today.”

Yes, I’m being helpful because I probably should have sent her a notice myself and not assume she got one from Toyota or read it. I was worried her next question would be-

She read my mind as we’re walking in the office. “I wish you would have reminded me when you heard about the recall, Bernie.”

“Yeah, me too, Ms. LS. I’m sorry.” No, I’m not ignoring the fact she received the notice and inadvertently ignored it. I’m apologetic because if she were having her Lexus serviced at the dealer they would have noticed she was supposed to have the recall addressed when she brought it to them for any service. They were luckily able to take her in right away for the recall service. I promised to keep her updated on anything I found out on her Lexus, even if it was only a rumor. What can I say… my bad.

Remember, my novel COLD BLOODED is on sale in case I need another career sooner than expected. :)

and my 99 cent novels MONSTER, ARCHANGEL, and STORM  

Monday, February 20, 2012

Reponse To DEMON

Well, the squeaky wheel gets the grease. I sent out eleven queries on Saturday and Sunday, and already received a nice rejection note along with a request for a full printed copy of DEMON from another agent. This means my hook may be good enough to garner some interest, at least interest enough to either elicit a quick ‘no thanks’, or a ‘yeah, let me take a look’. One good thing when an agent asks for a full printed copy these days, an author doesn’t have to send along an SASE pack so they can send it back if not interested. That used to cost me back in the days before the digital age.  :)   They just recycle it now. The good news so far is maybe the other side of this enigmatic profession (agents and publishers) are again becoming a little more proactive. Let’s hope so anyway.  :)

Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Exciting Part

Combining my free minutes at the shop and continuing into the nights after day-job duties, I completed my editing of DEMON, my new YA novel. It turned out to be nearly 78,000 words, but it's a very fast moving, humorous and tightly threaded combination of the paranormal and teen angst, built around the funniest canine character I've ever created. As my main character Mike Rawlins explains "Demon's not really my dog. I'm his human sidekick." Demon loves watching 'Brian' on ‘Family Guy’, eats ghosts like Rice Krispies, and is a holy terror when his friends are in danger. I've sent out three queries so far today, and am working on others. I hope to have ten sent out this weekend.

My writing friends know how exciting the initial querying process is before the rejection tidal wave makes its ugly way to our shore. As I've mentioned in prior posts, we now have to deal with the fact many of the agents don't even respond with a form letter rejection. They tell you on their web sites if you don't get a response in xyz time, consider it a rejection. Nice.  :)  One of mine today went out to one of the good ones - Kristen Nelson. She actually asked for a full look at my last YA novel STORM, and she always sends you an actual notice when she's not interested. Of the fifty-one queries I sent out for my first person POV action novel HARDCASE, I received less than twenty replies. My other novels on the query trail, LAYLA, and THE PROTECTORS have nearly the identical reply to query proportion.

We always think we have a gem in the rough at the start. I know I did and do every time I finish a new one. It's a bit more pleasant editing since I have a Kindle. I just use my Mobi Pocket Creator to build a Kindle Book out of the manuscript my Kindle will read. Then I can see how it looks while bookmarking any error pages even at night. When I read the ghastly editing in the Kindle books I've sampled I'm thankful Amazon allows the readers to sample a large chunk. It sure makes for a graphic reminder to be diligent when editing my own gems. Amazon Self Publishing has birthed a new frontier filled with the good, the bad, and the ugly. Unfortunately, some of us, like me, may be too old for the New York publishing world. Amazon at least gives us a cheap outlet for our writing passion if we get tired of waiting around to be the next Stephen King or Nora Roberts. Anyway, querying a new novel is fun... no matter the outcome.  :)