Old Man Winter

Blue Plate Special has creepy characters similar to Old Man Winter.

“DEATH ANGEL.”

The headline jumped at me from the newspaper, bringing back memories of my first winter as a respiratory therapist ten years ago. I saw myself on nationwide television, rushing to the phone to answer a page. My father got wind of the investigation, and he urged me to move south. Miami needs therapists, he’d said. He’d moved there after my mother suffered a fatal heart attack. Died while waiting for an ambulance that couldn’t navigate the streets during a blizzard. Sometimes I imagine her ghost patrolling Pennsylvania’s highways.

Still, I didn’t want to go to Miami. I was bewitched, a captive audience of Old Man Winter and the Death Angel that haunted Brandeis hospital.

Philadelphia’s residents called the blizzards and snow drifts Old Man Winter.

From December through March, he victimized the elderly and sick with howling winds and sub-zero temperatures. The Death Angel went after elderly and sick people, but no one has figured out why.

That year, Philadelphia endured a winter that rivaled those of Canada and Maine. It snowed so hard that the ice-cold wind erupted forty-inch drifts. Patients filled the emergency room, chased there by the demons of emphysema, heart failure, and pneumonia. The biting frost chilled to the bone, and people’s resistance to disease dropped with the temperatures. Ice sheeted on parked cars and homes. People struggled to work, their cars crawling like ants on unplowed streets.

At night, the snow’s gauzy curtain shielded the inky sky. Icicles poked downward from roof ledges like fingers, and the flakes came thick and fast. The unwary driver would leave his home confident that his four-wheel could handle the storm. Instead, he’d crash into a telephone pole, listening to his whistling breath, and gagging on the smell of smoke billowing from his hood. The lucky drivers found a plow truck to smooth the way. The luckiest ones had no compelling reason to leave their homes.

Patient admissions flooded Brandeis’ floors. After running out of patient rooms, the nurses set up makeshift beds in the hallways.

Around midnight, an ICU nurse checking vital signs screamed for a crash cart, dropping her clipboard on the lap of the dead woman still tethered to her respirator. The patient’s face was cherry red and her cardiac monitor registered a flat line. A glance at her respirator gave the reason why. Someone had jerry-rigged a carbon monoxide tank to the gas inlet for that room. The code team spent an hour trying to jump-start her idle heart. The patient’s family huddled in the waiting room, weeping into their handkerchiefs.

When I received shift report the next afternoon, everyone talked about the incident. Who would do this? Misguided relatives? Enemies? Staff?

“Certainly not her family. They made her a full code.”

“Enemies? Don’t think so. She denied having any enemies.”

“It had to be one of the staff. Who else?”

Everyone knew Gloria Harper. A sixty-five-year-old frequent flyer at Brandeis, she’d suffered from angina and end-stage emphysema. Her five children spared no expense with flowers and other gifts, but the nurses couldn’t stand her. Her doctor prescribed breathing treatments every four hours, and she watched the clock to make sure she got them on time. Old Man Winter raged outside, and on the afternoon of March 5, everyone concluded that Harper had made a staff person angry enough to kill.

Police officers questioned all the nurses and therapists assigned to Harper’s care. After report, I headed to Surgical Trauma to dole out breathing treatments. On my way there, officer stopped me and asked to see my employee ID badge. Bad timing. I’d lost it the other day and Human Resources hadn’t yet issued me a new one.

“Where do you get carbon monoxide?” the officer asked cunningly.

“I wouldn’t know because I don’t use it.” I looked at him. “Is this about Harper?”

“Why do you ask?”

My treatment rounds ran an hour late.

Old Man Winter blasted Philadelphia with more snow. Two coworkers called, saying that they’d gotten stuck and couldn’t make it to work. The fear in the voices said that the Death Angel spooked them. The wind howled in long, mournful notes and I felt each note shudder up my spine.

During dinner break, Mark, a coworker, burst into the lounge. “They caught the creep,” he said. “I overheard Lisa talking with an officer.”

“So who killed Harper?” I stared at my pizza and fries.

“Crumb Cake. That doesn’t surprise me. The guy’s nuts.”

I leaned back, drawing in my breath. Our boss Lisa had caught Bill Crumty, known to everyone as Crumb Cake, falsifying Harper’s records. Harper had complained about him more than once, so he had a motive.

“That’s low, even for Crumb Cake,” I said.

Mark paged the other therapists to spread his news. I returned to my pizza and fries, decided that I’d lost my appetite, and tossed the leftovers in the trash.

The next day, the newspapers posted a photo of Crumb Cake. In it, oily blond hair fell into his sad, brown eyes. The s-shaped scar on his left cheek made him look sinister. He hadn’t confessed, but the police found compelling evidence. During mornings when Harper’s wheezing got nasty, she complained that she’d missed her night treatments. Crumb Cake lied and said he’d given them; even concocted phony breath sounds and vital signs. I knew this because most of his “data” conflicted with Harper’s other reports. Our boss Lisa fined him a two-week suspension.

The police found the paperwork detailing Crumb Cake’s suspension in his locker. Someone had drawn a skull over the letterhead and taped under it a picture of Gloria Harper. It showed her walking with a cane; a portable oxygen device hung from her left shoulder. Her eyes squinted and she appeared short of breath. So the evidence pointed toward Crumb Cake.

It snowed again that night, adding another blanket to the white-capped houses and sidewalks. After my shift, I went for a walk. My head ached and I relished the fresh smell of the brisk wind slapping my cheeks. The ice-crusted trees glittered like a queen’s ransom of diamonds. I thought I’d never seen anything so beautiful. It occurred to me that such icy conditions had hastened my mother’s death, but then the thought vanished like a fluttering bat. Footfalls slushed around me, and I saw shadows of people entering and leaving the hospital. I kept moving, leaving deep footprints that soon filled with snow.

By two a.m., I was covered in white. The snow stopped and the street lights threw distorted shadows on the sidewalks. Which one of these shadows belonged to the Death Angel? I couldn’t tell because the darkness hid their faces.

****

The phone’s harsh ringing startled me at seven the next morning. It was Mark. I demanded to know why he’d called so early.

“Someone else checked out,” Mark said in a trembling voice. “They had to let Crumb Cake walk.”

I rubbed the dry cotton that had replaced my tongue across my cracked lips. “Why?”

“Crumb Cake was sitting in jail,” he said. “He couldn’t have done it.”

“Did what?” I rubbed my eyes. If only he’d let me sleep another hour.

“The Death Angel killed again last night. The victim’s eyes are missing.”

****

Brandeis was known as a community hospital. Back then, patients and staff treated each other like family. The respiratory therapists had a nodding acquaintance with all their lung-diseased patients.

Everyone called Emily Warrell by her first name. She’d spent a month in ICU, fighting the granddaddy of emphysema flares. Winning the war, too, judging by her speedy wean from the ventilator. Her son owned a bakery and he treated the staff to chocolate chip cookies and other goodies. Emily worked hard at physical therapy, determined to celebrate the forthcoming Easter with her family.

Emily hadn’t survived. She’d never celebrate any future holidays.

I proceeded to my assigned floor, greeting people I knew. I smiled a plastic grin while analyzing their emotional weather they way they analyzed mine. Emily had come to Brandeis, trusting the staff to put her back together. Instead, some monster disguised as a caregiver had taken her life. According to the autopsy, Emily was dead when the killer gouged her eyes. Her blood tests showed lethal levels of morphine. Other than the mutilations, the technicians found no signs of a struggle. The killer left no clues. I looked at my coworkers, trying to see the guilt behind them, but my eyes saw nothing.

The police patrolled the floors on the snowy nights of March sixth, seventh, and eighth, and pulled staff aside for summary questioning. Lisa organized a buddy system where two therapists would countersign each document. A foolhardy intern was overheard making slurs about older patients. The police hauled him to their barracks and grilled him for three hours.

The panic which ensued caused a false alarm on the ninth. A nurse found her patient unconscious with a cherry-red complexion. Without bothering to check a pulse, she called a “code blue.” While the doctors burst into his room, the corpse sat up and stared wide-eyed at the crash cart. Two student nurses screamed and bolted from the room. The corpse was a middle-aged man with a leaky mitral valve. I don’t recall what made his skin so red, only that his condition caused fainting spells. The upshot was, he underwent a mitral valve reconstruction and made a full recovery.

The storms continued, varying the theme with sleet and freezing rain. My coworkers picked fights over the slightest offenses. Looking at the same faces each night bred suspicions and rumors. Some people claimed to overhear two well-known cardiologists plotting and whispering by the basement morgue. Others said that the Mob had ordered hits on both patients. Maybe the Mob had used these women to get to certain enemies. Maybe I didn’t want to know the truth. The bone-chilling nightmares which haunted my sleep and left me bathing in sweat discouraged further speculation.

The press used Brandeis as the lead character in their consumer-beware articles. A Philadelphia newsman christened the killer Death Angel after the notorious physician, Harold Shipman, who drugged over 200 patients. Because both women had terminal diseases, the name stuck.

On the tenth, it snowed another six inches, and Vine Street, the main road leading to BrandeisHospital, became a parking lot filled with wrecked cars. An eighteen-wheeler jack-knifed on the ice, blocking traffic. The police pulled their men from the floors to handle the accidents.

Night came, with worsening drifts, blotting out the shape of the buildings one by one. It was a small storm compared to the previous ones, yet frightening. Everyone believed that the Death Angel was a man. If the snow acted as his accomplice, and she were female, then theirs was an unholy union breeding war and bloodshed. The Brandeis patients became their prisoners. While drinking my coffee, I gazed out the window at the courtyard lights and wondered when the killing would stop. Mark entered the lounge, laid his sandwich and Coke on the table, and joined me.

“Old Man Winter is running out of steam,” he said.

“What makes you say that?” I asked, still watching the lights.

“Because it’s March. In like a lion and out like a lamb.”

“You sound like my grandmother,” I told him.

He took a seat and unwrapped his sandwich. “Sometimes Old Man Winter sleeps and you hardly notice him. But when he erupts, you wonder when the snow will end. He usually gets his last wallop in around this time. Did you know that my dad got his coronary from shoveling snow?”

“No, I didn’t.” I rubbed my arms. “Shoveling snow can cause heart attacks, but coming to Brandeis for treatment is pure suicide.”

“You’ve got that right.” Mark smiled and took a swig of his soda. “I don’t trust anyone here.” His smile faded. “Sometimes I even wonder about myself. Want to go to Poppy’s for a few drinks after we finish?”

“I’d rather sleep. The ER nearly slaughtered me tonight.”

For a long time after he left, I could only look out the window. Even after I returned to my floor, part of me remained outside, walking in the streets where something dark and brutal had taken charge.

That night, Sally Mayes bought it. Eighty-year-old with end stage heart failure. Despite Lisa’s so-called buddy system, the Death Angel killed again without leaving clues. The distractions of the storm aided him and Mayes was found dead with a pillow over her face. Both of her eyes missing. Two words were written in blood on the wall above her bed—no rumor this time: FOOLED YOU, DIDN’T I?

By now, the shouting matches and backbiting had gotten so ugly that Lisa called a meeting, insisting on an attitude adjustment. It didn’t happen. Everyone knew Sally Mayes. Alzheimer’s had made her a prisoner of her own mind. Sometimes she’d converse with nonexistent people. Her family expected her to die soon, but not like this. How could this creep get to her? Did she see what was coming? I wonder.

The next day, the police arrested an ICU nurse named Kevin Fenimore. He’d had a prior history of two felonies, and more important, he had no alibi or recall of the past “lethal” nights. They charged him, jailed him, and then set him free after the night of Old Man Winter’s last coup, when Anna Schultz was found slaughtered in bed.

Anna had caught a bad pneumonia while visiting Philadelphia. According to her chart, she had no living relatives. She was seventy-five. Why someone her age would travel in such foul weather I can’t imagine. But the cough, fever, and breathlessness had fallen her, and she slipped into Brandeis as easily as the Death Angel himself. Why Brandeis, given its track record? Maybe she suffered from loneliness, a need as secret and unfathomable as her killer’s. Maybe she was hurting so badly that she sought comfort in the cold night, the drifting snow, and Death himself.

****

That was March twelve and the snow had stopped. The weatherman predicted sunshine and temperatures in the forties. Chunks of melting snow were sliding off the rooftops, but the warming trend failed to thaw the ice between my coworkers. Conversations seldom went beyond “hi” and “bye.” No one went to Poppy’s or anywhere else after work.

I took my father’s advice about moving to Miami. According to the papers, the hospitals there were begging for respiratory therapists. Mark and I promised to keep in touch; otherwise, no one offered any lingering goodbyes when I left Brandeis.

Temperatures continued to rise as I moved south. On the way, I listened to the radio detailing the power failures, smash-ups, and other casualties of Old Man Winter. My own mother died because the snow had robbed her access to medical treatment. What made me think I’d enjoy working in a climate that had caused such grief?

They called this season Old Man Winter and that’s a lie, given his capacity for destruction. The Death Angel left with the snow, and by April, people were putting in requests for summer vacations. By June, no one mentioned the Death Angel, though I suspect that some people still lay awake at night, trying to make sense of the madness.

During my first year at Miami, I met Carolyn at the hospital where I worked. We married a year later. Two years after that, we had twin girls, soft-spoken children with my features and her hair. Last summer, the Miami hospitals downsized, so Carolyn and I moved to Philadelphia to find new jobs.

Then today’s department meeting.

Why didn’t this surprise me? I saw it coming last night, when a storm dumped eight inches of snow on the streets. The drifts sent liquid chills through my veins. I knew Old Man Winter had struck again when I skidded on the ice and had to turn up my heat. Even my high beams afforded a limited view through the snow-clouded darkness.

According to my boss, an elderly woman was killed at Brandeis, the hospital across town. The autopsy revealed toxic morphine levels and her head was missing.

Carolyn asked me where I’d gone last night. I couldn’t remember, so I told her that I’d worked overtime. It had to be true. I remember driving to work and skidding on the ice, but nothing more. I would have given anything to fill in the blank pages. Instead, I thought about Mom and the way she’d turned blue while waiting for an ambulance that never arrived. Then I got to thinking about the suitcase stashed in my car, and wondering why the thought of opening it would turn my knees to water.

As I write this, I can hear my wife weeping. She didn’t buy the overtime story. She thinks I spent the night with another woman.

Dear God, I’m afraid she’s right.

The End

Barbara will be awarding an eBooks to a randomly drawn commenter.

1st prize Night to Dawn 25 PDF

2nd prize Steel Rose PDF

3rd prize Close Liaisons PDF

Where Paul DeBlassie III, Author of The Unholy, Gets his Ideas

UnholyThe_Unholy_Banner_copyIdeas come from the deep repository of the collective unconscious mind that inspires images and symbols during the fantasies of waking life and during dreams and nightmares. Mainly, it’s the nightmare stuff that bodes best for writing psychological thrillers and dark fantasy such as is in The Unholy. When I wake up in a cold sweat with the characters of the novels threatening me (I remember when Archbishop William Anarch, sinister prelate in The Unholy tormented me for nights on end, demanding that I not write the story) that’s when I know that real inspiration is flowing and that to listen to it and follow the images and symbols that emerge from my deep, unconscious mind during sleep and during the reverie of writing the story will end up in the development of spine tingling realities that jettison both me as the writer and the reader into phantasmagoric realms that have a way of shaking up conscious mindsets and get our heads blown out in a very, very unsettling but ultimately useful way. My writing, in other words, comes from an inner place of torment that needs to be let out so it can be set right. When mind stuff is set right inside me I can feel it by sensing a quality of being at peace, that I’ve written to the best of my ability and been true to the deep, archetypal energies swirling through my mind during the narrative. It really is a trip to listen to ideas, let them become images, and suddenly have them take over a page. It’s like the pages catch fire and everyone has come to life and things become disorderly, fraught with conflict, and danger looms.

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The Unholy contains psychological suspense.

BLURB: 

A young curandera, a medicine woman, intent on uncovering the secrets of her past is forced into a life-and-death battle against an evil Archbishop. Set in the mystic land of Aztlan, The Unholy is a novel of destiny as healer and slayer. Native lore of dreams and visions, shape changing, and natural magic work to spin a neo-gothic web in which sadness and mystery lure the unsuspecting into a twilight realm of discovery and decision.

Excerpt:

Lightning streaked across a midnight dark sky, making the neck hairs of a five-year-old girl crouched beneath a cluster of twenty-foot pines in the Turquoise Mountains of Aztlan stand on end. The long wavy strands of her auburn mane floated outward with the static charge. It felt as though the world was about to end.

Seconds later, lightning struck a lone tree nearby and a crash of thunder shook the ground. Her body rocked back and forth, trembling with terror. She lost her footing, sandstone crumbling beneath her feet, and then regained it; still, she did not feel safe. There appeared to be reddish eyes watching from behind scrub oaks and mountain pines, scanning her every movement and watching her quick breaths. Then everything became silent.

The girl leaned against the trunk of the nearest tree. The night air wrapped its frigid arms tightly around her, and she wondered if she would freeze to death or, even worse, stay there through the night and by morning be nothing but the blood and bones left by hungry animals. Her breaths became quicker and were so shallow that no air seemed to reach her lungs. The dusty earth gave up quick bursts of sand from gusts of northerly winds that blew so fiercely into her nostrils that she coughed but tried to stifle the sounds because she didn’t want to be noticed.

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Paul De Blassie is the author of The Unholy

Author Information:

Paul DeBlassie III, Ph.D., is a psychologist and writer living in Albuquerque who has treated survivors of the dark side of religion for more than 30 years. His professional consultation practice — SoulCare — is devoted to the tending of the soul. Dr. DeBlassie writes fiction with a healing emphasis. He has been deeply influenced by the mestizo myth of Aztlan, its surreal beauty and natural magic.  He is a member of the Depth Psychology Alliance, the Transpersonal Psychology Association and the International Association for Relational Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy.

One randomly drawn commenter will receive the choice of a $50 Amazon/BN gift card.

Buy Links:

http://www.amazon.com/The-Unholy-Novel-Paul-DeBlassie/dp/0865349592

The Unholy contains psychological suspense by Paul De Blassie

 

Joseph Spencer’s Inspiration for Wrage

Joseph Spencer's Wrage features crime fiction.I’ve written a lot about the influences that mythology, religion, and historical lore have had on the supernatural aspect of my Sons of Darkness series books Grim and Wrage, so I thought I’d touch on the crime aspects of the novels and their influences today. There are parallel threads running in both books. There are events occurring in the supernatural realm which affect the afterlife and there are events which affect everyday life in Prairieville. The supernatural realm and the realm of men have become interconnected thanks in large part to the corruption in Prairieville caused by the influence of organized crime.

Though I’ve read a lot of crime fiction and it’s one of my favorite genres, I’ve gathered part of my inspiration for the characters which work for the Prairieville Police Department from my real life experiences. I work as a manager at a 9-1-1 emergency communications center for my full-time job, so I work alongside police officers every day. My center handles between 300 to 400 9-1-1 calls on a daily basis and even more non-emergency calls. Our job is to gather information such as location, types of crimes being committed, description of victims and suspects, description of the direction these suspects are travelling away from the scene of the crime, a medical disposition for those who are injured and any officer safety information such as weapons being used by suspects. After we’ve gathered that information, we relay it to police officers, firefighters and paramedics on the radio to respond to the scene of active and previous crimes.

The experience I’ve gained in public safety has helped to humanize these responders and given me a window into their personalities when I’m working on character development for my novels. Over the course of my five-year career, I’ve dealt with calls reporting to suicides, bridge jumpers, homicides, bank robberies, fatal fires, fatal car accidents, airplane crashes and almost any situation you can imagine. I’ve also had front-row access to see how people are first on scene at some of these tragic events handle the situation. In my experience, most of the public lauds these responders as heroes and rightfully so. But there’s more to their stories, and that’s what I try to capture when I create that sort of character. The stresses of the job are difficult to handle, and that’s resulted in some of the gallows-type humor I’ve incorporated in Grim and Wrage. That’s why some of the characters are heavy drinkers or womanizers. It’s a release from the pressures and stress of a stressful job which I’ve observed.

Another advantage to working in the public safety sector is that it allows me to become familiar with jargon and procedures used by police, fire and ambulance personnel. Did you know officers have specific radio codes to let each other know there’s a suspect armed with a gun or a business has received a bomb threat? Unlike what the movies and television shows would have you believe, you can report someone missing without waiting 24 hours. Did you know that when a fire department refers to a RIT team that it’s a specially-designated group called a Rapid Intervention Team with the sole purpose of evacuating fire personnel in case there’s some sort of accident while fighting a fire? These are all intricate details that I try to weave into my writing to add some authenticity.

Organized crime is another prominent aspect featured in Grim and Wrage. Even though most communities don’t have larger than life villains like the ones featured in my books or in movies like The Godfather, organized crime is still a pervasive problem in our society. Gangs traffic people, weapons and drugs every day, and I didn’t fully realize the severity of the problem until I worked in public safety. That’s why I chose to make gangsters such an integral part of the decay of Prairieville. I think gangs plague their surroundings wherever they are allowed to gain a foothold.

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Joseph Spencer's Wrage features crime fiction.Blurb:  

Sometimes the toughest fight lies within yourself.

As more dark secrets come to light, the battle for souls pushes Prairieville to the brink of war in the living and supernatural realms.

Jeff Wrage swears a blood oath to Abaddon, the supernatural avenger of murder victims, to hunt the crooked cop who butchered his wife. Jeff wonders whether he can be the executioner Abaddon requires. Their pact throws the supernatural realm in chaos and threatens to trigger an apocalyptic fight for control of the afterlife between the Sons of Darkness and Sons of Light foretold in the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Orlando Marino sees the death of Cyrus Black as his opportunity to restore the Marino family’s stronghold in Prairieville’s organized crime scene and become a mob kingpin. He unleashes a plague, turning its victims into mindless followers. Cyrus’ heir is busy rooting out a traitor and is unable to stop the coming turf war in the realm of man.

The fate of all rests with Homicide Detective Anna Duke, who steps into the shoes of her mentor while coming to terms with unrequited love. As she tries to clear the fallen hero’s name, she takes on a case where corpses go missing. Her new partner is reported dead. She learns the truth about her true identity and uncovers a trail of secrets questioning her tragic past. She journeys to avert the destruction of all creation.

Joseph Spencer's Wrage features crime fiction.Author Information:

As a boy, Joseph Spencer immersed himself in the deductive logic of Sherlock Holmes, the heroic crime fighting of Batman and Spider-Man, and a taste for the tragic with dramas from poets like Shakespeare and Homer.

Before Joseph took to spinning his own tales, he pursued a career in print sports journalism, graduating summa cum laude from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale. He covered such events as NASCAR’s Subway 500 race in Martinsville, the NBA Draft Camp in Chicago, the Junior College World Series, and Minor League Baseball’s Midwest League All-Star Game during a ten-year career throughout the Midwest. Now, he works as an emergency telecommunications specialist with an Illinois police department. The combination of years of writing experience with a background working with law enforcement professionals gave rise to his writing aspirations.

Joseph was married to Dr. Amy (Waggoner) Spencer, an accomplished veterinary doctor, on March 14, 2012. He received word his debut novel was accepted by his publisher, Damnation Books, the next day. Joseph is hard at work on the rest of the series. Book 2 – Wrage – was released June 1, 2013.  The Spencer family enjoys reading Charlaine Harris, George R.R. Martin, Mary Janice Davidson, and most paranormal stories. The Spencers also enjoy quoting movie lines from “The Princess Bride”, “Rain Man”, “Bridesmaids”, and “Office Space.”

Twitter Link: https://twitter.com/josephspencer00

Facebook Link: https://www.facebook.com/joe.spencer3

Goodreads Link: http://www.goodreads.com/user/show/7881659-joe-spencer

Book Video Links:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wJMdOhL-Qrg  (Grim trailer)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j3Z-ECZw3AE  (Wrage trailer)

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Joseph will be awarding a $25 Starbucks gift certificate to a randomly drawn commenter during the tour.

Joseph Spencer's Wrage features Crime Fiction.Excerpt:

Thunderclaps from high above jolted Jeff out of his slumber.

Something hard and cold with jagged edges pressed into his back.

When he tried to move, iron shackles strained against the skin of his arms and legs. Chained to a rock in a dry stream bed, he knew he’d become a helpless prisoner who could do nothing more than wait for his captor. Stormy skies threatened from directly above him with bright flares of lightning snaking among sooty clouds and disappearing. Out of the corner of his eye, he could detect that the sun was shining brightly on the other side of the rock.

Scant rays of brilliant sunshine peeked over the rock, reflecting bright light off a magnificent golden shrine on a bank not far from where he was chained.

This can’t be real. He’d never seen a place like this in his life.

Large wet drops crashed against his skin. The coolness of the rain streaking down his body caused steam to rise from his skin, which he noticed had turned a dark shade of crimson. The only being this red was….

“Lucifer,” a calm voice echoed from above Jeff on the shoreline.

A giant, dressed in white armor sparkling like diamonds in the spare sunlight, stepped into view. He wielded a golden-hilted silver sword in one hand and a silver shield with the Latin inscription “Quis ut Deus” (I am like God) on the front in the other hand. He loomed above Jeff. A large gold cross ran down the center of the giant’s breastplate. A second inlaid golden cross glinted at the center of his white helmet. The helmet obscured his face, save for flawless ivory skin which radiated a blinding light. There was something across his back casting a large shadow, but Jeff couldn’t see what it was.

“You were thinking of Lucifer, whose skin is often portrayed as red,” the giant said. The ivory giant stepped into full view. From his back a pair of massive wings spanned over ten feet wide and five feet long majestically fluttering in the breeze, yet didn’t cast a shadow. The rain pelting Jeff in the eyes didn’t touch this giant. He certainly was no man. The only thing Jeff could compare it to would be—

“An angel,” the giant completed Jeff’s sentence again. “You are correct.”

The Genesis of Tom Johnson’s Three Go Back

Most of my life I’ve had a deep interest in paleontology and entomology. In school, while we were reading Shakespeare, I was thinking about bugs. During History class, I wondered what new discovery was being uncovered in fossil beds around the world. The only reason I passed History in the ninth grade was due to my artistic talent at the time. The teacher asked me to draw Hannibal crossing the Alps with his elephants.

I wanted to write as far back as age ten, when I wrote a comic book story. Of course, it was terrible, but the fire was there. Then about age 25 I started creating plots and characters, and putting them on paper. The stories involved animals. One plot eventually became the Jur series several years later. I was living my dream and creating stories to be read.

One of my favorite comic strips is Luann. While reading the strip one day, I began wondering why that evil little Elvis guy doesn’t hire a scientist to build a time machine, and accidentally send Luann and her girlfriends, Delta and Bernice, back in time. Then someone could go after them. Well, I figured that would never happen, but I liked the idea. I started thinking about writing it myself, only not with Luann and her friends, but with girls in their mold.

Thus, Three Go Back was conceived. I set my tale in the future, where teleport machines became the common transportation system. My problem was coming up with the time machine angle for the story. Okay, so what if my characters were teleporting at the same time a magnetic solar flare struck the planet, burning out the teleport circuits, and turning it into a time machine? Bang. That became my gimmick.

With the use of those concepts, my story almost wrote itself. My big problem was finding a publisher. You see, I used scientific names for the animals they encounter in their journey back through time. Publishers told me they would never find an editor who knew if the names were real, misspelled, or in the correct time period. They kindly but firmly rejected the story. I sent a proposal to Barbara Custer at Night to Dawn, who knew my background in prehistoric animal life and my extensive study on the subject. She took a chance. Actually, anyone with a computer can type the names I use and do a Google search, and it will show the data on any creature. But I understood the publishers’ decision to reject the book because of the editing difficulties. It can add a lot of work to an editor’s already hectic job. You do come upon variation of names, which can confuse you.

I live in the Permian Basin of Texas, which is an area rich in Permian fossils. The Permian Period in our prehistory was over 250 million years ago, or roughly 60 million years before the dinosaurs, so this area is famous for reptiles and amphibians. The Craddock Redbeds is an important dig in our area, and Dr. Bakkar, a famous paleontologist, brings a team up from the Houston Museum of Natural Sciences every year. Our town Seymour has a reptile/amphibian named after it – the Seymouria. So my childhood was drawn towards the study, and that’s why I write so much about prehistoric life. They do say to write what you know and love.

Besides Three Go Back and other novels set in prehistoric times, I write action and adventure novels in the tradition of the pulp magazines of the 1930s and ‘40s, a period I also love. My interest varies from western to detective and spaceships. Whether in the far-flung galactic worlds of the future or the eons in our past, to the modern-day mystery, I love the written word and enjoy telling a story. I hope you will read my stories and I’m sure you will see that love I project into my characters.

Blurb:

When their teleport vehicle malfunctions, becoming a time machine, it sends three young girls back in time on a journey of discovery they never expected. From the Ice Age through the Cretaceous, Permian, Carboniferous, and finally to the beginning of the Earth’s evolution of life, they experience their world’s prehistoric past in all its splendor and terror, coming away with the joy of knowledge and adventure!

Biography and Links:

I was born in 1940, going through elementary schools in Seymour and Wichita Falls, Texas. My dad was a cowboy and cook, and often worked at each profession, which required a lot of moves. He wanted me to follow in his footsteps, but I had more of a studious nature and didn’t want to spend my life on farms and ranches. I was different from most kids my age; I didn’t want to be a cowboy and never liked riding horses. My family lived something of an itinerant’s lifestyle, and we never stayed in one place long enough for me to develop friendships. In high school I worked on the ranch my dad was foreman of while other students my age were dating.

When I turned 18, I joined the Army as an MP and was off to see the world, never regretting my decision to leave the life my family had. I had some pretty good assignments, such as a three-year tour in France. Then I spent one year patrolling the DMZ between North and South Korea under fire and 13 months in Vietnam. But I did enjoy my twenty years as a military cop and took some college courses in the process.

After retirement, my wife, Ginger and I started Fading Shadows, a small press imprint. We published a hobby magazine, Echoes, for the next twenty years, as well as half a dozen genre fiction titles, which refired my interest in writing.

Today I leave the publishing for others and continue my love of writing. It has been a good life, and I in no way degrade those men and women on ranches and farms. It just wasn’t a life for me.

Blog http://jurnovels.blogspot.com

Blog http://pulplair.blogspot.com

Tom’s Amazon Page http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B008MM81CM

 

Further on Rod Marsden’s Desk Job

Desk Job features dark fantasy by Rod Marsden.

A satire on office politics

I hate injustice especially when it is disguised as fair play. At the time I was looking for inspiration to start a new book a news report on television caught my attention. A new wave of political correctness was in the planning stage. Political correctness, especially in the office, bugs me. Hence the giant praying mantis menacing a computer jockey on the cover of Desk Job. Like Lewis Carroll and Terry Pratchett, I use symbolism and metaphor to reveal the darker, weirder and more fascinating elements of life as I know it. Fear created by censorship inspired by political correctness is at the heart of why the office where Desk Job mainly takes place is so dysfunction. I have worked in offices not far removed from the office in my novel.

I do most of my rough first draft writing on the train. I edit at home on my P.C. Since I do a lot of travelling for my current job as a researcher for public transportation, this works out fine.

I don’t expect to get everything right with the first draft. If I did then I suspect the work, whether short story or novel, would lack inspiration and the kind of flavor that makes for a good read. It is okay to let your id free to play with ideas in the early stages of any kind of writing. You can edit out the accrued garbage in subsequent drafts. Also the ending you originally have in mind is often not the ending you arrive at. You get to know and develop your characters as you write and this can result in your muse finding a more suitable if not a more fun conclusion.

I get my ideas from life. I always have pen and paper handy when I’m travelling. You never know who you are going to meet on the train or how they will inspire you. I also read a lot. I try to get in a couple of factual books a year along with the novels I absorb. Even a bad author can teach you something about writing. There’s the question of why you have decided that he or she isn’t very good.

I have a novel in mind that will deal with a common fear. A man has just won a fortune but his past is about to catch up to him. Will it be flight or fight? It’s presently titled Cold Water Conscience. No plans to imbue it with fantasy elements like my other novels. It will be stark and compelling.

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BIOGRAPHY:

Rod Marsden was born in Sydney, Australia. He has three degrees; all related to writing and to history. His stories have been published in Australia, England, Russia and the USA. He has worked in the American anthology Cats Do it Better. Many of his short stories have been published in Night to Dawn magazine. Undead Reb Down Under and Other Vampire Stories is a collection of his short fiction on vampirism. His novel Disco Evil: Dead Man’s Stand is his first venture into the vampire novel. Ghost Dance is his first undertaking into dark fantasy involving a quest. Desk Job is a first in that it is his salute to Lewis Carroll and it is also his initial surrealist novel. He is no stranger to controversy and much of his writing is purposely as well as purposefully politically incorrect. He prefers truth and integrity over the lies and half-truths we are so often inundated with. Thus his work has a certain honesty about the times we are living in that may not be found elsewhere.

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Buy Links:

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Desk-Job-Office-land-Rod-Marsden/dp/1937769143/ref=sr_1_5?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1376845126&sr=1-5&keywords=Desk+Job

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/178806

Nook Books: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/desk-job-rod-marsden/1111866050?ean=2940044699878

 

 

John Reinhard Dizon’s The Standard – Review

  • Title: The Standard
  • Author: John Reinhard Dizon
  • ISBN: 0-9876027-8-0
  • Publisher: Tenth Street Press
  • Available at Amazon, Smashwords, and other eBook retailers, 279 pages, $4.89

In the near future, international groups are planning to return to the gold standard to resolve a recession. Ruthless international mobsters and drug cartels are planning to convert their holdings into bullion before attacking the major gold depositories in three countries – Operation Blackout – to get a monopoly in the new market. M16 assigns William Shanahan to disrupt Operation Blackout with the help of John Gawain. Ah, but Gawain is a convicted murderer released from prisoner in exchange for his assignment. Protagonist Shanahan, a standup guy, struggles with moral issues. He must put aside his antipathy toward Gawain so they can work together to foil Operation Blackout. Their target? Chupacabra, an assassin for the Medellin cartel who is coordinating a nuclear attack on the mainland.

We have two opposites working together: Shanahan, a righteous, upstanding man, and Gawain, a murderer serving a life sentence for serial killing before the government assigned him to the job. Not only must Shanahan find a way to foil Chupacabra’s plot; he must work alongside a man he despises. Shanahan seldom stays out of trouble, and when he does, Gawain’s Machiavellian, murderous tactics cause more for him. He questions the values of M16 and his country who gave Gawain a blank check in the trail of bodies he leaves while disrupting the terrorists’ network. When will too much be considered enough as Gawain stops at nothing to terrorize the terrorists?

I found all characters, protagonist and villain alike, very interesting. The romantic elements in the story force Shanahan and Gawain to reconsider their values. Shanahan starts out judgmental, with Walter Mitty dreams of marrying into British nobility. Instead, he falls in love with Morgana, a stewardess. He mellows out as he navigates the gray world of espionage. At first, I considered Gawain a despicable character, but his romance with Fianna exposes his vulnerability. For the first time, he finds himself putting the safety of another person above his own. By the end of the book, I liked him.

It was fascinating to watch the two men work the opposite sides of the same street. As the agents work together, they begin to appreciate different qualities in one another. The numerous villains invent creative ways for bloodshed, murder, and kidnapping.

A story with conflict and lots of action gets me reading and keeps me turning the pages. This Dizon did, along with his seasoned, layered characters and snappy dialogue. His writing has a James Bond feel to it and reminds me a bit of Tom Johnson’s pulp thrillers. Shanahan seldom stays out of trouble, and when he does, Gawain’s loose cannon tactics cause more for him. If you like James Bond thrillers or Johnson’s pulp tales, you’ll love The Standard.

I rate The Standard five stars.

 

 

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