I wrote a gritty short story called Red. It’s published in a collection of western horror by Griffin Publishers and available as a trade paperback and eBook through Amazon and other retailers. It’s not for the faint of heart–my son refused to read past the opening paragraphs because–well, he’s a gentle soul and at first this story is shocking and raw, but there’s a pay-off that puts the whole thing in a different light. I’ll be signing copies in February at LTUE and advanced copies will be available in January at FanX in Salt Lake City, UT.
From the back of the book:
The West has always been a symbol of the wild frontier, rugged adventure, and dangerous exploration. However, if it wasn’t for fear of the unknown, the West would just be another cardinal direction. Old Scratch and Owl Hoots delves into that fear and captures it in fourteen tales of terror set in the West ranging from the 1800s to the present day. Take a gander inside and you’ll find stories dealing with… …a strange creature on Antelope Island that can never satisfy its hunger… …a young girl kidnapped by highwaymen; but she carries a dangerous secret… …a woman’s vacation to Zion National Park that takes a dark turn when she can’t stop hearing the cries of a newborn baby… …an outlaw on the run from Porter Rockwell who finds more than he bargains for in the Utah wilderness… …a war veteran who carries a darkness inside him that threatens his very own family. Experience these stories and more in Old Scratch and Owl Hoots. All the stories in the anthology are written by authors with Utah connections. Some are veterans at the craft, while others are making their debut. Cozy up next to a campfire and delve into these fourteen stories and find out why it’s dangerous to be out and about in the West when the sun goes down.
I admit it. This year Christmas sneaked up on me. No decorations went up in the house until December 21st. A lone wreath my husband bought at Costco after Thanksgiving was propped on a sofa table for weeks waiting for someone to find a door hanger. The weather was the weirdest ever; in prime ski country we had no snow until early Christmas morning—a result, I am certain, of the fervent prayers of foolish people who believe in the necessity of a white Christmas.
But I digress. We’re supposed to be talking about poi here.
No snow, no decorations, no surprise that it was Dec. 23rd when my husband and I were frantically trying to get all the shopping done, shopping that I used to pat myself on the back for finishing before Thanksgiving. (My younger self was such an overachiever.) I’d invited my parents and my brother for Christmas dinner and now needed to figure out what to serve.
“Something simple,” my son requested. “Something good that can sit in an oven while we play cards.”
“You mean like a roast?”
“Yeaaahhhh.” Not too enthusiastic.
I thought some more. “How about a pork roast? I’ll make it kalua style.”
“Perfect!” He grinned.
What can I say? The kid loves Hawaiian food.
Running our last minute errands, my husband and I’d bought the roast, cabbage, and sweet rolls. Liquid smoke and alaea salt were already in the pantry. Rice, I thought, steamed yams, carrots for those who hate yams, haupia—I have two cans of coconut milk and cornstarch. What else?
Oh, no. “Uh, Kevin?”
“We need to run to a few more places. There’s just one thing I need to pick up for Christmas dinner.”
“Poi?” The car came to a screeching halt. “It’s Dec. 23rd!”
“I can’t serve a traditional Hawaiian dinner—”
“Without poi. I get it. At least we’re in Provo. You better pray somebody got a holiday care package they’re willing to share.”
Our first stop was L&L Hawaiian Barbecue. L&L Drive-Inn in Hawaii is plate lunch place the serves all the best local foods. In Provo I found it to be hit or miss—mostly miss.
I walked up to the counter, scanning the menu for poi.
“Can I help you?” asked the perky girl with long black hair pinned with a fake plumeria.
“Yeah.” I pointed to the tip cup taped to the cash register. “I’d like some poi to go, about that much.”
“Poi? You mean that kalua pork?”
I blinked. That kalua pork? “No, poi.” She looked at me blankly. “It’s mashed taro root.” Still nothing. “It’s greyish/purplish and thick like a paste.”
“Uh…” She yelled over her shoulder to the cook. “¿Tenemos poi?”
“Poi. ¿Hay poi?”
You have got to be kidding me. My husband saw the look in my eye, grabbed my arm, and shook his head. He slowly backed me away from the counter.
“¿Que es poi?”
Another voice from the back said, “No hay.”
“Sorry,” she called, but by that time he had me half-way out the door with a kung fu death grip on my shoulder.
For their own safety, of course.
Our next stop was a pacific rim/Asian market called Food From Many Lands. When I was in college it was the place to buy calrose rice, rice cookers, shoyu, kakimochi, and dubious Portuguese sausage. The same Chinese proprietor very kindly told me she didn’t carry poi, but the 7-11 next door was owned by a Hawaiian man who might know where I could get some.
Back in the car we jumped. Down the road was another Hawaiian food place called Sweets. When I walked in the beautiful young woman behind the counter began uncovering trays of teri chicken, beef stew, and other plate lunch staples. Hawaiian, I thought, hapa-haole and maybe some Samoan or Tahitian. “Hi,” I said, “I’m looking for poi. Do you have any?”
A panicked stare. “Um…”
Raised on the mainland. Bummers.
She disappeared in a flash.
Another beautiful Hawaiian woman came from the back, the girl’s mother perhaps, and eyed us with The Look. I knew it well. It was the look Hawaiians reserve for crazy haoles who had lived TDY at Schofield Barracks or Wheeler Army Airfield for a year and thought that made them Hawaiian. She spoke carefully and slowly. “We don’t have poi today.”
“Oh. Do you know where we could get some?”
“Try the Hawaiian 7-11.”
Hawaiian 7-11? Another round of send the haoles on a wild nene chase? Seeing the confusion on my face, she continued.
“It’s just up the block. They might have some in the freezer.”
“The Hawaiian 7-11?”
“Oh, yeah. He has all kinds of things there—poi, laulau—”
“Laulau? No way.”
She laughed. “Check it out.”
When we pulled up to the 7-11, I was disappointed. Nothing about it said Hawaii, no signs about deliciousness available inside, no throngs of Pacific islanders standing in line for last minute stocking stuffers. I walked through the entire store and saw nothing out of the ordinary—just coffee, burritos, chips, candy, gum.
Then my husband called from the other side of the cash register, the part of the store that looked like employee-only storage. “You gotta see this.”
And there it was. A freezer case with char siu manapua, red Redondo’s hot dogs, S&S Saimin, a pink slab of kamaboku fish cake, laulau, cubed ahi for poke, spicy and mild Portuguese sausage—and frozen 1 lb. bags of Taro Brand poi.
Next to the freezer were mostly empty shelves (it was Christmas, after all), but there were a few bags of crackseed, kakimochi, jars of guava jelly, and li hing mui powder. I grabbed lemon peel, dark arare, rock salt plum, dried cuttle fish, cream crackers, spicy sausage, and two pounds of poi. I handed my credit card to the clerk and tried not to gulp at the total.
It was Christmas after all. Well, Dec. 23rd. And everyone knows two day poi is the best!
The fun-sized candy calls eat me, eat me, eat me to Josey Brackenburg. No, she resists, but an hour later Josey heaves herself behind the steering wheel trailing empty wrappers like breadcrumbs. Gotta start line-drying my jeans, she thinks. Stupid dryer’s shrinking them.
In her grocery cart she chases apples with caramels, adds popsicles for their sticks, and stacks cases of soda underneath—no diet-death chemicals allowed in her house, thank you very much. Rounding the bakery, pumpkin chocolate-chip cookies leap off the shelves, perfect for midnight snacking. Not until Piggly-Wiggly’s checkout does she remember. Halloween. She needs more candy.
With twenty bags jammed in the trunk, Josey hitches herself back into the driver’s seat, popping the button on her jeans. Cruising past the drive-thru, she scans the line stretching around the block and reluctantly parks. No time to wait. Waddling in, she super-sizes her biggie fries. Hot grease and salt sizzle as she drags them through her peanut-butter malt.
Catching her eye, Annie hefts her triple burger. “It’s perfectly normal to gain a few pounds before winter,” Annie laughs. “We’ll diet later!”
Josey pats her swelling muffin top. “Carrots sticks and rice crackers in January,” she grins. “But through the holidays let’s all get fat and happy!”
In space Zargog adjusts a dial. “You’re right, Captain. The mountain species are more susceptible than the coastal varieties. Scans also show fewer contaminates.”
“Excellent. Inform Chef the calorie ray is optimized. Harvest Fest will commence as scheduled.”
Zargog smacks his lips.
Heart of Annihilation by C.R. Asay is an electrifying military black ops thriller with a sci-fi twist that challenges ideas of nature vs. nature and cold war politics.
It’s a little complicated, so bear with me. U.S. Army Specialist Kris Rose has her own hidden agenda when she’s plunged into a military secret. She discovers that our world is home to several societies living in different dimensions with different technologies and philosophies. The most advanced is 13 and it’s been known not to play well with others. Someone in number 12 has developed a weapon—the Heart of Annihilation—that has the potential to take care of number 13’s proclivity to end other dimensions.
12’s a mannered, pacifist society, so there’s some (ahem) disagreement between factions about whether or the Heart of Annihilation is a good thing. Most of the time, 12’s solution to conflict is a quick serenity break. For those who can’t chillax, 12 relocates them to a penal colony more their speed—our everyday world. Medium bad guys keep their memories. Really bad ones gets the ultimate reboot with their memories wiped and are regressed back to infants. They aren’t human, but can usually pass.
Did I mention the Heart of Annihilation is lost?
You can see where all of this is heading.
C.R. Asay’s own military experience shines as so many of the details from wounds to the interior of a C-130 to tactical mind-sets are spot on. Lovers of stories within stories will find much to enjoy here along with a lot of shoot-‘em-up-cloak-and-dagger action. As fun as the guns and camaraderie are, it’s really a story that explores the nature of evil and questions how much a person can be nurtured away from destiny.
With such big concepts and worlds to explore, Heart of Annihilation is the first in a series. Looking forward to the next book!
Facebook: C.R. Asay
I am sitting in a cafe in the middle of an ancient bull fighter’s arena in Barcelona, Spain, that rivals any modern mall I’ve seen. There’s a cup of hot chocolate the consistency of a melted Hershey bar next to me. My two years of high school Spanish is just enough for shopkeepers to smile indulgently and speak to me in their perfect English. It should embarrass me, but I’m relieved.
A woman with a 5 month old named Gabe is meeting me. Teething and totally off his schedule, Gabe is the mellowest kid I’ve ever seen, but there are some inescapable realities of traveling with an infant we’re dealing with.
Gabe is a chick magnet.
Or maybe just a person magnet because it’s not just abuelitos or senoritas that make google eyes at him. On the metro Gabe had hard-core punk rockers–tattoos, shaved mohawks, and piercings–vying to make him smile.
Good thing he’s a soft touch with an easy toothless grin.
There’s something about a baby that reminds us we’re all human. With Gabe around, everyone is a little softer, kinder. Gabe is soaking it all in through his big baby eyes and mostly going with the flow.
Some day his parents will show him his passport photo and tell him all about his trip to Spain. He won’t remember a thing. But maybe, just maybe when he’s long out of diapers and binkies there will be a sound, a scent, a flash of light on a curved wall and for a brief moment Gabe will remember the Barcelona sun and the pattern of leaves against the sky on the Las Rambas walkway as it arced above his stroller canopy.
Or at least wonder why the sound of a train always puts him to sleep.
Eyes of Persuasion by Adrienne Monson is an afternoon’s escape into a world of dressing for dinner, marriage as high finance, and a lady who intends to stay that way despite her uncle’s gambling debts. It’s a romp through polite English high society that isn’t afraid to take a side trip down the steamier side of the docks.
Lady Isabeau Maybrick’s got a deeper secret than playing detective or dress-up—a paranormal superpower that would put her life in jeopardy if anyone knew about it. She’s a modern thinking woman in a repressive historical past, so it’s no surprise that the unconventional Everette Radcliff turns her world upside-down.
Eyes of Persuasion is the kind of book that’s best read with a hot beverage and a plate of cookies. It’s an easy, entertaining read that will leave you wanting more. Readers who like historical romances are sure to enjoy the paranormal twist on an (almost) bodice ripper plot.
Eyes of Persuasion by Adrienne Monson available as an eBook or trade paperback from Amazon.
Web site: http://www.adriennemonson.com/
Knowing when I was going to get mail used to be a simple thing. Never on Sundays. Around 11:20 am Monday through Friday and around noon on Saturday. There was no reason to keep checking the mailbox—one delivery a day brought all I was going to get until the next time the mailman made her rounds.
Yeah, our mailman was a lady, but we still called her the mailman. When I was little I thought the word was mail ma’am. I also thought the song Cherish You was all about cherry shoes, but that’s another blog post.
Growing up in Hawaii, I could predict when I might get a card or letter from my mainland family. Christmas and birthdays were a sure thing. Presidents’ Day, Groundhogs Day, Flag Day—not so much. I’d haunt the mailbox the week before an anticipated arrival but ignore it the rest of the time. A kid can only get so excited about Hawaiian Electric bills, Longs ads, and mail addressed to Resident.
But with email, you just never know. Any second somebody could be sending that all important message, the one you didn’t know you were waiting for until it arrived. I find myself reaching for my smartphone and checking my inbox way too often in meetings, watching tv, at kids’ soccer games—even church. I’m starting to feel like Linus with his blankie.
I’m not ADD. I can choose when I’m going to pay attention and can sustain that attention for a scarily long time when I’m engaged. My problem is low boredom threshold.
It’s easier to let people think I’m ADD.
The Brothers Washburn are Berk and Andy Washburn, two talented brothers from a sprawling family who re-imagine their days growing up in Trona near Death Valley with a certain twisted genius. Pitch Green, Book One in the Dimensions in Death series introduced us to Camm and Cal who with the help of the FBI reveal some of the noxious secrets hiding in Trona. Just in time for Halloween, Mojave Green, Book Two is ready to sweep readers back to the desert for more suspense, horror, and thrills.
The Brothers Washburn stopped by to chat about their experiences.
Pitch Green and Mojave Green are the first two books in The Dimensions in Death young adult horror series. Based on a scary story we used to tell as kids to our siblings and friends, these books combine horror, suspense and mystery, moving at a breathtaking pace as our protagonists fight for their lives while they battle a monstrous evil presence hiding in and around an old, deserted mansion in a small mining town, located near Death Valley in a desolate part of the Mojave Desert.
The mansion was built almost a hundred years ago by an eccentric genius, who got funding and structural specifications from a clandestine source of ancient wealth and knowledge. One night the genius was mysteriously slaughtered, and ever since, children and other defenseless animals in the Trona area have been disappearing without a trace on a regular basis. In the first book, Pitch Green, we meet two teenagers, Camm and Cal, who are destined by wit, pluck and luck (not always good) to become the balancing force against the unearthly predator, who came to call the mansion home. Our heroes are hurled from one scene of horror to the next. Though their intentions are good, they don’t understand what they’re facing, and by the end of the first book, a door has been left open to predations on an even grander scale.
When we were writing that first book, we thought that writing the novel with the best story we could tell was the hardest part of the business. But, when we started looking for a literary agent or publisher, we were surprised to discover the getting a novel published is in many ways more difficult than writing it. Surely getting your book published was the hardest part. But, when we started marketing our book, we were surprised to discover that building a fan base was the most difficult part of the business. We’re still building a fan base and that’s still difficult, but we understand now, there may still be more surprises down the road.
In the second book, Mojave Green, a call from her best friend, Cal, brings news Camm had hoped never to hear. Children are again disappearing from Trona. Has the unnatural creature they killed last year returned to life or has the ancient Searles Mansion spawned a new menace? Ignoring dire warnings from federal agents, the pair take a road trip home with unsuspecting school friends in tow and discover the situation has gotten worse. With giant predators seemingly coming out of nowhere, enigmatic forces tear the friends apart, pulling Cal into another world, where his chances of survival are slim. Finally coming to terms with her feelings for Cal, Camm desperately seeks help where she can, even from the dead, but can a rogue agent and other peculiar misfits help her uncover the long-lost secrets that she needs to rescue Cal and stop the inter-dimensional attacks? The destiny of her own world may lie in Camm’s young hands.
In the second book, the desert around Trona is the setting where much of the story takes place. And, the desolate desert environment is a perfect stage for this kind of story. While the events are limited only by our imaginations, the location of each event is firmly anchored in the reality of what is Trona and the desert around it. All the landmarks described in the book actually exist and their descriptions add to the bleakness of the story. A desolate landscape works well as a backdrop for giant, marauding, alien predators.
In the third book, Green Death, both Camm and Cal are tested to their limits. Cal is whisked back to the alternate world by federal agents to find his friend Lenny and to help implement a process to control the random transition of life forms between the two worlds. Cal will ultimately have to face the deadly, giant Mojave Green before his work is through. Camm will have her own demons to fight and cannot avoid a show down with the undead, ravenous green rat that is determined to eat her alive. And behind it all, the gargantuan mansion still stands in its eerie, creepy splendor, a mausoleum of yet undiscovered ancient secrets. As everything comes to a climax, who will be left alive? Who will be left behind? And what will be the destiny of our own world?
Can’t wait. Thanks for stopping by, Berk and Andy. Mojave Green is published by Jolly Fish Press and is available as a trade paperback and eBook from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other fine book retailers.
Goodreads: Berk Washburn; Andy Washburn
My sixty year old neighbor at the end of the cul-de-sac phoned late this afternoon. We live in an area with only six homes over about 30 country acres, so it’s not your typical suburban cul-de-sac. Two of her horses were loose and she’d been chasing them for hours from property to property. She was calling me to see if anybody was home—besides me, since she knows I’m crap at horses—who could hop on one of our horses to help her wrangle hers home. Last seen her horses were munching on grass in a field near my house and she was worried they might get out on the busier road.
I felt terrible when I had to tell that none of our horses were at the house. They were all having a last summer hurrah at what I thought of as Pony Heaven—a wooded 100 acre parcel a few miles away filled with meadows, hills, and a running stream. In a few weeks they’d be back to their boring corrals at our house, stuck there through the long, cold winter. But for now all the summer parades and horse shows were over, and they were living the horsey high life.
She was tired, angry, and thoroughly over her rotten horses. Of course, her husband was out of town. Another ten minutes of chasing them, and I think she would’ve gotten a gun. She knows I’m not a horse person, so any of my suggestions—grain buckets, more help corralling them—was given a sniff of derision and a snapped, “I’ve already tried.” Frustrated that I didn’t have the solution she wanted, she hung up.
My husband had heard enough of my side of the conversation to know horses were loose and was already putting on his shoes. “I’ll come,” I said.
“You don’t have to. I got this.”
“She says they’re really naughty.”
I grabbed my shoes, too. “How about I just go spot them for you?”
I went out the front, down the road, and over to the field she’d last seen them. There they were, bold as brass, nibbling on the far side on top of a hill. When they spotted me watching them, they squealed and ducked behind the hill.
Yeah, they know they’re being bad.
A few minutes later my husband walked up the road carrying a couple of halters and a bucket of grain he’d snagged from our horse trailer.
“You’ve seen them?”
“Just over the hill. Want me to come?” I asked.
“Nah. Just stay here in case they make a break for it and head to the road.”
Off he went.
When he got close, the horses started to run, so he stopped, looked away from them, and stood shaking the bucket, the halters held out of sight behind his back. The horses moved away from him and started eating again. Working an angle, he moved closer to them, still holding and shaking the bucket. When the first horse turned to look at him, he immediately turned his back to them and moved away, walking toward their house. The horses looked at each other and started walking quickly toward him. When they got close enough to nudge him, he turned and showed them the bucket, then kept walking away. They hurried to keep up with him and nudged him again. He stepped sideways and let them have a taste of the grain in his bucket. Then he walked away. They chased. He stopped and gave them more grain, this time slipping a lead through their headstalls. Caught, they meekly followed him back to their corral.
It took all of five minutes.
Later when I asked him about it, he said horses are a lot like people. They like to think they are getting away with something they shouldn’t. They like to think they are in charge. Chasing them only makes them think they are winning. You have to walk up with something they love and then deny it to them. You’re the boss and they have to recognize it. They have to decide they want what you’re offering more than freedom. You have to be the one that fulfills their desires. You make them come to you. You start with a bucket of grain, but you act like it’s all yours. They want it. You give them a taste and ignore the dangling ropes and halters for the moment because if you grab at them too soon, they’ll sense a trap and bolt. You make them love you. And once they do, you slip the halter or rope around them and they forget they’re much bigger and stronger. They’ll go exactly where you want them and will do what you ask of them.
My horse whisperer of a husband thinks horses are just like people. Boggles the mind when you think it through, doesn’t it? Politics. Religion. Peer pressure. Professional organizations. There’s something to this.
What’s your bucket of grain, who’s holding it, and what freedoms are you giving up to eat it?
Teri Harman’s Black Moon, book two of the Moonlight Trilogy, continues the story of Willa and Simon, young adults taking those first steps into a grown-up world of magic, witches, soul mates, trials, and too many talents. It’s a fast-paced and engrossing read that expresses all the confusion of perfect love that isn’t perfect, leaving home to share one’s life with another, completing magic trials to prove one’s worth, and, oh, saving the world.
I won’t mention the guilt Simon oozes because of the deaths in Blood Moon (book one) or Willa’s anguish in wanting to save someone who won’t let her in. I won’t say a thing about the balance of light covens and dark covens and how truly twisted the dark can be when it seeks to control the powers of the earth on the night of the black moon. And I can’t tell you about the whole terrifying plot around being extraordinarily gifted magically and the suspicion and doubt having too much talent can cause. I can’t tell you any of these things because that would Ruin the Story.
And this is one you’ll want to read for yourself.
Black Moon by Teri Harman is a New Adult paranormal thriller with a romance twist sure to delight readers 16 and older. Published by Jolly Fish Press, it’s available in trade paperback and eBook from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other purveyors of fine books.