Monday, October 31, 2016

Work Update - Blood of Heroes and Company of the Damned

The muse is not amused.
Four or five years ago I had a conversation with my friend Ed over dinner.  I’d been mulling around re-writing my first fantasy novel.  Well, not so much re-writing it, as tearing it down and rebuilding it.  Having started it when I was 16, it suffered from all kinds of tropes and clich├ęs and immaturity.  The basic premise was still solid, and I have a long and abiding love for the characters, but everything else needed to be chucked.

But I needed help.

Writers do not write in a vacuum.  Flip open any contemporary novel or work of fiction and at the very least you’ll see a dedication, an acknowledgement, or both in praise of people you don’t know.  These esoteric notes provide a pin-hole view of the process that went into the creation, editing, and final production of the work.  Having gone through that process several times myself, I now always read the dedication and the acknowledgements.

Four years ago, I knew nothing.  I’d never heard of a “beta team.”  I wanted people urging me to keep writing, and to give me brutal feedback on the story as it developed.  So, I asked Ed if he and another good friend would be willing to do these things.

They did.

The result was The Blood of Heroes, the first installment in what I hoped would be a fantasy series.  I was pleased with the book.  It was one of the best things I’d ever written.

But it wasn’t ready.

The Blood of Heroes is the story that I’ve always wanted to tell.  I wanted it to be the best that it could be, which meant that even finished, it wasn’t finished.  It needed to sit for some time on a shelf, while I worked on other projects.

Del is not amused.
But then Del is almost never amused.
That’s exactly what I did.  I pulled out Tears of Heaven, which itself had sat on a shelf for a couple of years, and I went hunting for a publisher.  My goal was to work with someone who would help me become a better writer, a better storyteller.

Surprise, surprise—I found exactly what I was looking for.

The past four years, I’ve published two books and been in three anthologies.  I’ve written a steampunk book, a samurai book, and, yes I’m working on the third Flames of Perdition book—Company of the Damned.

So why all the background on The Blood of Heroes?

Simple.  Tor has an open call for novella submissions, and this book, this story, these characters, actually fit that open call.  As soon as I read all about it, I immediately stopped work (sorry) on the Company of the Damned (sorry!) and pulled out The Blood of Heroes.  Blood is a novel just over 100,000 words, which means to turn it into a novella of under 40,000 words, I have to do some major, major editing.

The upside here, for all you Del fans (thank you!) is that editing, while a pain in the neck, is a lot faster process than writing and re-writing and re-writing a new work.  So, while Del is hanging out in a bar somewhere, nursing an absinthe, I’m tearing through this work, getting it ready for submission.

Thanks for your support and patience!

Friday, October 28, 2016

In Memoriam - Deb Walker

I was going to report on my current work, but I received news yesterday that a dear friend of mine, Deb Walker, passed away.  I’m a bit numb and still trying to process.  I rushed over to her Facebook page and saw that this video was the last thing she posted.  I'd never heard of this group, but it is so very Deb. Please take a moment to watch, and smile and maybe even laugh:

I met Deb years and years ago on the now defunct James Randi Educational Foundation forums.  I’d gone there looking for some help on an alternative history timeline for a story I was considering, but have never written.  I never actually met Deb in real life, or even heard her voice, but we spoke almost every day for years, trading one-liners and having deeper discussions over IMs.

Deb was one of my most faithful supporters, but she didn’t blindly follow anyone.  She had a quick wit, and a sharp mind.  She questioned a lot, and woe to the person who came at her with a faulty premise or poor evidence.

Deb didn’t suffer fools gladly, or really at all.  She didn’t have time for that, and I think she was right.  Like me, Deb suffered chronic pain—it was something we bonded over and discussed from time to time.  So it makes sense that she wasn’t willing to put effort into people who gave her nothing back.  In that way, it was something of an honor if she considered you a friend.  If Deb took time out to talk to you, to comment on your posts or read your book, then she thought you had something worthwhile.

The Battleaxe in her natural environment.
I was flipping through our last conversation and I’m simply floored by it.  Deb wanted to bounce an idea she had for a story off me, and we chatted about it at length.  She loved World of Warcraft, and was inspired by it.  An idea had struck her, but she was concerned it was “stealing” from her beloved game.  We had a very good conversation about how her riff on the concept would be original, even if it was inspired by WoW.  

I'm already regret not getting to read her writing, or cheer with her at its publication.

Deb and I talked artwork for book covers and her kids (whom she loved deeply) and more.  A conversation with Deb was always involved and could roam around on many subjects at the same time.  You had to be quick to keep up with Deb.  She considered herself a "battleaxe" but she really was a soft-hearted and kind soul.  She was concerned about the world around her, and the pattern of history, and how people treated each other.

Deb’s loss has really highlights the short time we have on this planet, and the vast impact people can have, and can go on having.  I’ve “met” a number of wonderful people like Deb through similar interactions, and I really do cherish them.  Their influence on me, even though we’ve never met in real life, only underlines their importance.  If you're reading this, you're probably one of those people—thank you very much for taking the time, and for being part of my life.  Any that I’ve lost touch with is certainly cause for grief.  

Our flames only burn for a limited time, and then we’re gone.

Thanks for reminding me of that Deb.

I miss you already.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Bad Guys and Gals Can't Just Be Bad

Of course I'm evil!
I'm sexy and wearing black, aren't I?
The trouble with a lot of villains isn’t just that they’re evil, but that they’re only evil.  Think Sauron or Emperor Palpatine or the White Witch or Voldemort.  What they’re generally after is power over the masses to . . . rule, I guess?  It’s never exactly clear what they intend to do once the good guys are all defeated, and the rest of Middle Earth is safely under the oppressive heel of their fashionable, black leather boot.

They’re evil, and that’s about it.

The best villains aren’t.  That is, they don’t have a black hat, mustaches to twirl and a handy set of train tracks nearby where they can tie down a helpless damsel putting her in great distress.

A hero is only as good as his/her villains, and the best villains aren’t easily identified by the glowing green evil wafting in the wake of their passage.

If you haven’t watched Longmire yet, give it a go.  It’s a mystery-of-the-week kind of show, but with some fascinating story-arcs that cover multiple seasons.  Possibly my favorite character as a villain on the show is the ever-present Jacob Nighthorse (A. Martinez).  Without any spoilers, Nighthorse (which is such a great name) starts out as the identified man-you-should-hate.  He’s big business and pro-casino and most importantly anti-Walk Longmire—or rather, Longmire is anti-Nighthorse.  Having the hero point with one inflexible finger at a character and say, “That’s the evilest baddest no-goodest bad guy around!” pretty much cements them from the start.

Keep calm and call Jacob Nighthorse.
Nighthorse isn’t all bad.  In fact, one of the things that makes him such an excellent antagonist for Longmire is that he is easy to dump all the ills and evils on, even if he was out of town that week.  Nighthorse has a set of goals, one of which is to make a lot of money.  That’s not his end goal, but since greed is equated with bad, if not downright evil, that goes some distance to making him the villain.  But wealth is not his end goal.  He wants the money to, so he claims, better the position of his people on the Indian Reservation.  Nighthorse’s checkered past and run-ins with the law, not to mention Longmire, mean that he has huge moats with pointed sticks at the bottom to overcome if we were to even consider removing the “villain” title.

And he does.  Sometimes.

Everyone on Longmire has their demon or demons.  Nighthorse is no different, and most assuredly neither is Longmire himself.  Their goals and ideals clash and clang until the raucous noise leaves your ears ringing.  That’s the perfect protagonist-antagonist relationship.  Five seasons in and Nighthorse has ridden them all along the spectrum from Horrible Nogoodnik to Dudley Do-Right of the local Cheyenne tribe.  The ability to relate, or even to sympathize with Nighthorse is what makes him such a great “villain” and Longmire such a wonderful, and wonderfully flawed, hero.
Checklist for good villains:

What does an Evil Overlord have to do
to get a decent Scotch?
Motivation—More than just “power” and “domination”.  The goal(s) motivating the villain need to be realistic and understandable, driving the bad guy to blur, step over, and cross the lines.

Relatable—No man/woman is evil in their own eyes.  The path they took that brought them to the point of conflict should be on a scale that most reasonable people can grasp and understand the logic of the choices, even if they wouldn’t do it.

Likability—No hitting the minions, shooting the messengers, or whatnot.  A good villain is Bill Clinton silky smoothness, or at least has more likable characteristics than unlikable. No matter how much wealth and power are offered, most people will stay through charisma.

Clever/Smart/Witty—Really-real villains are talented, gifted, and accomplished or they wouldn’t have risen to the level they have (unless daddy gave them a small loan of a few million).  To really match the hero, they should at least be the hero’s equal, if not better.

Willing—Remember those lines that most people won’t actually cross?  The villain must and should cross them.  The reason can be fuzzy, although clarity here doesn’t hurt and only helps.  But when presented with failing outright, or erasing the moral barrier, the villain gets out stain remover and gets busy being a bad guy.

If you can hit all those, then you're find that not only is your villain truly a scary antagonist, but your hero will become a better protagonist to overcome.  Invest the extra effort into the realism and that rising tide will lift all the ships in your Black Fleet of Doom!

Don’t forget to watch some Longmire.  It’s very good!

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The Road Goes Ever On

It's a dangerous business, going out your door!
How long is too long for a book?

That’s going to depend on a lot of factors, but before we go citing famous books that are lengthy, let’s keep in mind that they’re often famous for a reason.  If you’re an author who isn’t published, or (like me) isn’t known, then your ability to vary outside certain guidelines is somewhat limited.

Does that mean you should compromise your art?  Not at all.

It means you have choices that you need to keep in mind.

For example, let’s take the grandmaster of fantasy himself, J.R.R. Tolkien.

Tolkien’s seminal, epic work The Lord of the Rings is a massive tome at just over 455,000 words.  But we need to keep in mind that it wasn’t meant to be a standalone story.  Tolkien had one out of the park in 1937 with The Hobbit (just over 95k).  The good professor was widely acclaimed for the story, was awarded a prize from the New York Herald Tribune for best juvenile fiction and nominated for a Carnegie Medal.

Naturally, with all that, the publisher wanted a sequel, and that’s exactly how The Lord of the Rings began.  Tolkien originally intended for it to be one volume of a two-volume set to include The Silmarillion.  Can you even imagine the shelf-space such a tome would take up?  Well, of course you can, because single volumes now exist just as Tolkien intended.  At the time the publisher balked completely at the idea and for other economic reasons, the single book was broken into three more manageable (but still massive) parts:

The Fellowship of the Ring—over 180,000 words
The Two Towers—over 156,000 words
Return of the King—over 137,000 words

My god, it's full of elf-stars!
So yeah, longer works can definitely make the grade, but it helps if you have a hit already and your publisher is willing to give you some leeway!

Also, the science fiction/fantasy genre is far more forgiving about story length than some other genres, where average book length will vary.  Remember, these are averages for informational purposes only:

Contemporary Fiction—80k to 90k
Westerns—50k to 80k
Memoirs—70k to 90k
Young Adult—70k to 90k
Middle Grade—40k to 55k
Scifi/Fantasy—90k to 125k

As you can see, the averages provide quite a bit of range.  Safe bets start around 85,000 words for novels and around 35,000 words for novellas.  If you start to stray too far outside of those figures, you may find that instead of one book, you actually have two or three in a complete series—just like Tolkien!

By far, though, the best advice is to write the story until it’s complete.  Word count is a thing that publishers and agents look at for sound economic reasons, so they’re a thing that writers need to be aware of as well.  But if you’ve got a good story and it’s well-told the rest will follow.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Gone Country

Does anything better say "small hands"?
While I certainly grew up in rural areas of Nevada and Utah, I’ve never been a “country boy”.  My idea of roughing it, is limited cable selection and no room service.  Despite that, I’m a fairly tall guy, and most vehicles are not built for me.  I don’t so much get into a sedan, or a mid-size car (much less a compact) as I fall into them with some measure of control and then sort out the bits afterward so I can close the door.

I’ve always preferred to at least step into, if not up onto, my vehicles.  Generally, this means an SUV or a truck of some kind.

Boots and hat not included.
Now, I am definitely a truck kind of guy.  This might have something to do with my rural upbringing, where all the “cool” kids and most assuredly the “coolest” had trucks.  Not just any trucks, but 4X4 vehicles jacked up to the sky with exposed shocks and chrome and giant tires that can crush a herd of cattle.  I’ve never understood low-riders, but a truck with a six-inch lift kit and tires to book just makes sense. 

Of course, that doesn’t change the fact that I’m still a “city boy” and I prefer it that way.  Living in SoCal, where you can drive three hours in any direction and not run out of city, doesn’t exactly lend me any country cred.  That said, I don’t just own a truck because I’m a tall guy and it fits better.  That’s the biggest reason, but not the only reason.  On the weekends I haul boys, equipment, and often have to bring in supplies for my eternal battle with sprinklers.

Once in a while, I even haul something that makes my truck look like it’s fresh from the ranch.  This past weekend, that was eight bales of three-string straw.  Not exactly a crushing load.  Also, the straw was purely for decorative purposes, but still, it made the bed look, for a few short hours, like I should be in well-worn boots, and have a sweat-stained cowboy hat hanging from my gun rack.


Friday, October 21, 2016

Nanas and Papas and Scarecrows

My parents moved out here and took over our old house about two months ago.  It’s been one of the greatest things ever.  For starters, it meant that we weren’t really “renting” our house anymore.  Don’t get me wrong, we lucked into some really great renters—but they were still renters.  Little things that broke or needed to be fixed weren’t reported, and the house itself was regarded as temporary, so the upkeep was minimal.
Do you have a moment to talk about King Candy Corn?
 Parents are different—or at least mine are.  A lot of stuff we didn’t even know needed to be repaired has been identified and already fixed!  I keep trying to throw money at my parents for these items, and, like all good parents, they keep saying it’s already paid done.

Then, of course, there’s a free babysitting.  Nothing has even come close to how awesome this is.  The boys have always loved their Nana and Papa.  Having my parents this close also means that the boys can “help” as Papa works on my ailing/failing sprinkler system or other little tidbits.  They’ve already had two sleepovers and learned that Nana’s house means “treats” almost the moment they walk in the door.

Most telling of all happened last night/early this morning.  For once, my youngest didn’t wake up and start screaming.  Instead, he came down the stairs and started calling out for Nana.  There was fear and panic in his voice, so I immediately rushed out to find him.

“Where’s Nana?” he asked me.  He was wrapped up in his ducky blanket.

“She’s at home.”

I scooped him up and we sat down on the couch.

“Ok.  I had a scary dream.”

“It’s ok.”

“There were scarecrows,” he told me.  “And they were scary and they had green eyes.”

“That does sound like something Nana could help with.”

We sat on the couch, with him in my lap, and I sang him a song.  He quickly went back to sleep and I carried him back upstairs to his bed.

The update to the scarecrows came this morning.  He bounced down the stairs all wide grins and bright eyes.

“Daddy, when I went back to sleep I got a team with Papa and we fought the scarecrows!”

Thanks Nana!  Thanks Papa!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

High School for Me!

High school, BAYBAY!
Here are the instructions I received:

“Tell us about your SENIOR year of high school! The longer ago it was, the more fun the answers will be!”

I’m not certain why “longer ago” equates to “more fun” but I’m a giver, so here we go.

The year was: 1992

1. Did you know your spouse?

Nope.  Although, we were in the same state at the time.

2. Did you car pool?

Yes, sometimes with my buddy Dennis, especially when my car wasn’t running so great.  Dennis owned a Chevy C10,

3. What kind of car did you have?

I had a1964 International Scout.  My dad and I had rebuilt the engine and I believe this is when the transmission started having trouble.  I remember taking it out and putting it back in several times.

4. Friday night football?

I’m sure we had a team, but I knew nothing about it.  I’m not even certain if I knew anyone who played.

5. What kind of job did you have?

I worked for a brief time at a micro-sprinkler assembly line.  We put the parts into the plastic boxes and whatnot for shipping to stores.  We were terrible at it.

6. Were you a party animal!

I played a lot of basketball and “ward ball” but I didn’t even know there were parties.

7. Were you considered a jock?

Never.  Even when I played on several sports teams in Battle Mountain, I was a pretty well-established as a nerd.  When we moved to Bountiful I didn’t go out for any sports.  I did, somehow, manage to be on the speech/debate team.

8. Were you in band, orchestra, or choir?


9. Were you nerd?

As much as those things actually existed in my high school, yes.  Cliches at Bountiful High weren’t nearly as pervasive as they had been in Battle Mountain.  I wasn’t cool, but no one really bothered me about who I was.

10. Did you get suspended or expelled?

Never.  I did get called into a vice-principals office for my number of absences.  They wanted me to attend some kind of weekend school.  My dad went in with me, and pointed out that he had no problem with me attending the class, but he wasn’t going to pay for it, especially when I was an honor student.  The vice-principal agreed and I didn’t have to attend.

11. Can you sing the fight song?

If we had one, I didn’t know it.

12. Where did you eat lunch?

It would depend.  We had an open campus, so I could go anywhere with anyone during lunch.  A lot of times I would just go home.  I arranged my schedule so that my lunch and a “free period” were back-to-back, which meant I could watch TV, do homework, etc. for about two hours of lunch.  Sometimes, I would just grab a Dr Pepper and a Grandma’s Cookies for lunch and eat it in the library.

13. What was your full school name?

Bountiful High School.

14. What was your school mascot?

I had to look it up to be certain.  We were the “Bountiful Braves” so our mascot was “Braves”.  Sorry about that.

15. If you could go back and do it again would you?

Oh yeah.  Moving back to Bountiful was one of the best things that my parents ever did for me.  It was secondary, as we were moving for a job, but going back was great.  I was able to get into Advanced Placement and honors courses, things that didn’t exist in Battle Mountain, and I took my first speech/debate class which pretty much warped the rest of my life.

16. Did you have fun at Senior prom?

It was ok.  I wasn’t dating anyone, and didn’t really know how to date.  I took one of the smartest girls in the school, and we had a decent time, but we didn’t click.  We started the evening going to a screening of “Casablanca”, my favorite movie, which was awesome for me.  I think she enjoyed it too.  Mostly, we just talked about stuff, danced a few times, but there was nothing there.

17. Do you still talk to the person you went to prom with?

No.  High school was all we had in common.

18. Are you planning on going to your next high school reunion?

Yes, but probably not the Bountiful one.  I was invited to the 20 year for Battle Mountain high.  Even though I didn’t graduate there, I have more in common with those folk.  I wasn’t able to attend for scheduling reasons, but my good friend Ed did, and had a great time.

19. Are you still in contact with people from high school?

A few.  Facebook has allowed me to be in touch with some of them, and some have actually sought me out (which is always a good feeling).

Interesting Trivia from 1992: Bush and Yeltsin proclaim a formal end to the Cold War (Feb. 1). Czechoslovak Parliament approves separation into two nations (Nov. 25).  Four officers acquitted in Los Angeles beating of Rodney King; violence erupts in Los Angeles (April 29 et seq.).

Top Music of 1992: “Baby Got Back” by Sir Mix-a-Lot, “Jump” by Kris Kross, “Tears in Heaven” by Eric Clapton” and “End of the Road” by Boyz II Men.

Top Movies of 1992: “Aladdin”, “Home Alone 2: Lost in New York”, “Batman Returns”, “Lethal Weapon 3” and “A Few Good Men”.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Tired and Sick (Again)

Sorry folks, I’ve been a bit under the weather.  However, here’s a video of really cute puppies playing in leaves.  If you don’t awe, you have no soul—and I’d like to know how much you got for it!

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Fall Traditions—Pumpkin Patch

Soul? No thanks.  I'll take your wallet!
Since I moved out to SoCal, my wife and I have had the same tradition around this time of going to a U-Pick pumpkin patch for (obviously) pumpkins, and then on up into the mountain to an apple orchard for (again, obviously) apples and cider.  The pumpkin patch, Live OakCanyon Pumpkin Patch, has grown more popular and theme-parky over the years.  But this past weekend it went over the top.

In the past, the Pumpkin Patch was a quaint, almost side-of-the-road afterthought affair.  The fields were mowed down, it was a walk through muddy ground, and the best they offered were wheelbarrows to carry out your spoils.  It was cold, dirty, fun work.

It apparently caught on, because they expanded the parking lot into what had been their Christmas Tree groves, and started putting up out buildings.  Some temporary games and rides came into being—mostly jumpy-house type affairs.  For a buck or two, the kiddies could go play.  A few years ago they added a corn maze, which was nice.  A bit pricey to wander through, but still fun.  The kicker is that you have to find animal signs throughout the maze to get a code for the door out.

This was the only one of twelve cars actually working.
This year, however, is the first year they’ve actually charged us admission to come onto the property to spend our money.  We had to wait in line for the privilege of coming in.  The only upshot I could see is they’ve adopted Disneyland-style parking guides to direct you to a spot.  A smart move to get the people to spend their money just through the front door.  They also have a more boardwalk type area with rides and games.  They get you by making you buy tickets (about $1 each) and then the rides run between 3 and 8 tickets.  With my three sons, I was spending between $9 and $24 to get them on a ride.  We’re now talking almost Disneyland-style prices!

The boys had a great time, went on some fun rides and bouncy houses.  When we were down to our last scattering of tickets, not enough for all the boys, I made the executive decision to shoot at the archery booth.  It was a nice choice, although I haven’t pulled a bowstring in a couple years.  I managed to only flub one arrow (the attendant chided me to make certain it was properly seated on the nock) and then made a nice grouping before I planted three in the bullseye.

But I’m torn.

I get that they want to make money.  I’m all for making money.  I’d like to make some myself someday.  It seems like it makes life easier.  I’m not certainly I can embrace the over-commercialization of a U-Pick pumpkin patch simply for the sake of tradition.  I haven’t fully decided, but I’m certainly torn between what I experienced a decade ago, and the small amusement park that is now the Live Oak Canyon Pumpkin Patch.


Monday, October 10, 2016

Nock by Scott McGlasson

It's a zombie book.  It's an archery book!
It's both!
Scott McGlasson’s novella Nock does more than just build on the zombie mythos.  He creates life-like characters that reflect the real-world stresses of living in a world rife with the undead.  Even if you’re not a zombie or post-apocalypse reader, McGlasson has you covered with a father-daughter story that will actually warm your heart and make you smile.

McGlasson uses a visceral, engaging style of prose to tell the story of Stace, a young girl who has grown up in the After—after the zombie apocalypse—who wants to be a Ranger like her father.  First, she has to prove she’s capable, which means she has to hunt down one of the “ferals” which roam the valley her people have tried to make safe.  The only problem is that her father, Rob, is one of the best Rangers.  Living up to his standards isn’t easy, and if she fails, it means a lifetime of toil on the farm, rather than running free among the woods as Stace dreams.

Of course, if it was simple as nocking an arrow to a bowstring and loosing it into the wasted flesh of a zombie’s head, life would be easy.  McGlasson ensures that life is in the After is never simple or easy.  When things start to go the wrong way, they quickly escalate to the point where Stace has more than her father’s big shoes and long shadow to worry about, and maybe she’ll learn that her father isn’t some granite rock, but a flawed person just like her.
Zombie archer book?  Not quite, Rob!

McGlasson creates characters with very real insecurities balanced against a world that is both familiar and wholly alien.  Even though Stace was was born in the Before, she has almost no memories of that time, and only the stories the older generation still tells.  This lends a hard reality to both the world Stace finds herself in, and a poignant sense of loss to the reader—perfect for the feel of the story.

In Nock, McGlasson crafts a thrilling, heart-pounding adventure around two very real characters.  He subtly plays up the father-daughter relationship, up to and through the climax of the story.  As with any good novella, McGlasson tells a complete tale, but his craftsmanship is right on target, and will leave readers wanting more stories from this world.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Help Get Del to the Library!

Help me Obi-wan Reader, Del needs your help!
Would you be willing to recommend my novels, Tears of Heaven and Hell Becomes Her, for acquisition by your local public library? Because my publisher is a small press, not one of the big five conglomerates, the library acquisition is not automatic. Someone with a library card has to request it.

If you have a library card, it's very easy. Go to the library's website, search for “Tears of Heaven by R.A. McCandless” and “Hell Becomes Her”.  If nothing comes up, click on "suggest a title for purchase," which shows up when a search yields no results. Then put in the details:

Author: R.A. McCandless
Title: Tears of Heaven
Publisher: Wild Child Publishing
ISBN: 978-1617981708


Author: R.A. McCandless
Title: Hell Becomes Her
Publisher: Wild Child Publishing
ISBN: 978-1617981692

The books are about Del, a half-angel Nephilim.  Angels should be a human’s worst nightmare. Del didn’t think there was anything worse than angels, or their fallen kin, demons. She was wrong.  With her partner Marrin, Del helps to keep the world safe from the horrors of escaped demons for generations. But she’ll find that the world is even more dangerous than she suspected. There are worse things than angels and demons.

More info, as well as lots more reviews if you need to check before suggesting the book to the library, available here:

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Preview of "Nock" by Scott McGlasson

Zombies and Archers and Zombies—OH MY!
The feral locked eyes with Stace Tomlinson and moved toward her across the forest clearing. Dark clouds threatened rain again, gray above leeching the autumn colors from the forest all around her. The thing’s ruined clothing and filthy pallor blended in perfectly, making her shot difficult. Watching its decrepit state and slow pace, Stace guessed that it had been around for a long time, maybe even going all the way back to just After. It was a big buck. Probably a well-muscled man once, by the looks of it. Stace and her father had tracked it up the hill after spotting its prints in the sodden earth of a deer trail. It was late afternoon and they had been heading back to town, but the patrol had been uneventful and the tracks fresh and easy to see.

“Remember,” her father whispered from just behind, “the arrow flies when you’re surprised. Deep breath now. . .”

Stace inhaled, filling her lungs with chill October air. Her left arm locked straight, holding an ashwood recurve bow, and her right held the fifty pound pull to her cheek as she focused on her target. The damned thing wasn’t making it easy.

Oblivious to everything but living prey, the feral advanced on stiffened legs. It moved like an animated length of chain. Each foot fall caused the body to follow in a stilted wave, the upper torso undulated back and forth and the head, the last link, tilted from shoulder to shoulder. The decay on this one was bad. At thirty paces, Stace could see bones pushing through the remains of its gray skin. Where not covered by tattered clothing, the feral’s hide hung off its frame, puddling around joints and jowls, swaying like wheat fronds as it staggered toward her. What hair it had left dangled in knotted tangles down to its exposed collarbone.

“Hold the string with your back and shoulder, not your arm,” Rob Tomlinson said. “Now . . . breathe out.”

She exhaled through pursed lips and slowly let her fingers relax, trying not to anticipate the moment when her muscles were no longer tense enough to hold the bowstring taut. The feral’s milky eyes stayed on her, its mouth twisted into a snarl. Stace used that as her focus, drawing a line up from the jaw to a spot just above the nose where the bone would be thinnest. She caught the rhythm of the thing’s swaying back and forth, as her father had taught her, allowing the bow to become an extension of her self, and the world shrank down to that one spot on the feral’s horrible face. She released the bowstring to thwack on the plastic guard protecting her left wrist. The bodkin-tipped arrow blurred through the space the feral’s head had just tilted past.

Teeth opening and closing, it snarled at her, a rasp that sounded like dry twigs being dropped down a pipe as it continued toward them through the knee-high grass and brambles.

Her father huffed at the miss.

“Again,” he said.

Stace held two more arrows in her right hand. With a quick, circular snap of the wrist, she swung a second shaft up, nocking it with index and middle finger while holding the third arrow ready with ring and pinky. She pulled the bowstring to her cheek, grunting with the effort, and sighted on a spot just above the feral’s forehead and released.


Much closer this time — she actually saw the thing’s dirty hair flutter as the arrow passed by — but a miss anyway. Failure.

Stace frowned and lowered her bow, grinding her teeth and trembling with all the lambent fury her sixteen-year-old body could muster. A single thought, a mantra, vibrated through her.

I don’t wanna be a farmer.

Ranger field trials were coming up the following week. To fail during Selection was to condemn her to a life of crops and crafts instead of running through the forests outside the security wall. Running was freedom. Running was as far from working the fields as one could get.

Not taking her eyes off the approaching feral, Stace heard the soft noises of her father nocking an arrow in his own massive bow. She realized he was preparing to drop the creature himself. Frustration flashed through her and tears began to build up at the corners of her eyes.

I do NOT wanna be a farmer.

The author, Scott McGlasson consults his human helper.
About the Author
Scott McGlasson is the author of NOCK – the winning entry in the Infected Books Year of the Zombie Pitch and Page competition.

A former member of the US Air Force, he spent nearly a decade as a rock radio personality before getting a “real” job in logistics. He spends what little free time he has herding cats managing the Space Opera and Space Opera: Writers groups on Facebook. Flash fiction contests for SO:W have been judged by such sci-fi luminaries as Neal Asher, David Farland, and Peter F Hamilton.

Scott currently lives in St Louis, Missouri USA with his wife, Monica, daughters Evelyn and Emily, and son, Trip.