New Superhero Fiction: Chapter 1

You may or may not be aware, but my newest is up for pre-order right now at these locations: Amazon, B&N, iBooks, and Kobo!

Just the ebook for now, paperback coming later.

But how’s about a free sample first, eh?

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This is Secret Origins: Book One.  The SO trilogy will be all about the histories of some of the mainstream characters in my other Identity Crisis Universe books.  This book consists of a novella, a novelette, and a short story.  And I thought this weekend, I’d share the first two chapters of the cover story, “Masks” —

1

RED MANTIS

The nondescript grey van turned left, without signaling, and rolled lazily into an alleyway.

Another car followed from a distance: a small, red Prius with the headlights switched off.  It was a hybrid model, capable of prowling the streets nearly silent on battery power.  That’s what the driver told himself, at least.  Truthfully, the payments were kind of steep on a gym teacher’s salary in Mesa City, but he loved that car.

Tonight he wasn’t a gym teacher, though.  He was a superhero.

Red Mantis allowed ten seconds to pass after losing sight of the van.  Then he crept the Prius to within a block of the alley, gliding along the curb.

There was no other activity in sight.  It was past ten o’clock at night, after all, and this was a small business neighborhood.  There were no residents here.  No one to notice any suspicious activity.  No one to hear a young girl scream.

He eased to a stop, threw it in park, and turned off the engine.

From across the street, Mantis could see that the alley was flanked by a small adobe-faced shop on the left and a larger, dark building on the right.

Papito’s Tailor and Dry Cleaning was a square, one-story structure with a large, darkened front window.  The mechanical centipede of the rotating dry cleaner’s rack made an ominous shadow on the other side of the glass, but there was no obvious movement inside.

The other place was a much larger lodge hall, three stories of dark brick.  The Honorable Brotherhood of the Sunset Horizon, the sign read.  The lodge crest looked Native American in theme: a red semi-circle resting on a thick black line, irregular, like a brush stroke.  A falcon or hawk soared above and a sinuous snake crawled beneath.

“That even sounds like a cult,” Red Mantis mumbled to himself.  “Why hasn’t anyone looked into these guys?”  He peered over his steering wheel.  “Huh.  Maybe that’s why.”

A smaller sign read: “Food Pantry: Tuesdays 5-7pm” and “Bingo Night: Thursday at 7”.

Maybe I’m chasing the wrong suspicious van

He looked at his watch, its face spun around to the underside of his left wrist to allow for the rigid plastic brace that was strapped to his forearm.  The digital display read 10:14:49, alongside the time zone and his current pulse rate, which was an excited 92 and anticipating more.  (Let’s face it, the watch had probably cost more than he’d needed to spend, too.)

He’d now allowed twenty-seven seconds to pass since the van had left his sight.  Too long.

Without another second of hesitation, Caesar Hernandez—the Red Mantis—popped out of the driver’s seat, adjusted the crimson plates of his segmented combat armor, pulled the pointy-frilled mask down over his face, and burst into action.

The big cargo van idled in the alleyway, its side door ajar, brake lights casting a sinister crimson glare behind it.  Two figures in shiny green robes, like shapeless satin gowns, were struggling with a blanket-wrapped bundle between them.  Or rather, the bundle was struggling in their grip.  One emerald-cloaked cultist was backing away, the other was still inside the cargo hold.

Neither was prepared for the stout, muscular man in red plastic armor who came sprinting into the alley in a wide-curved arc, heading right for them.

The Red Mantis came hurtling through a haze of scarlet-lit exhaust fumes and ploughed straight into the cultist standing on the ground.  The villain was blasted off his feet and thrown to the asphalt.  Thanks to his armor and mastery of balance, Mantis bounced off his victim and near-perfectly replaced him, catching his end of the blanketed burden.

Something squirmed and kicked inside, bound by hooked bungee cords.  The prisoner was petite, not much more than five-feet tall and little over a hundred pounds.

The man on the other end of the bundle stood paralyzed, hunched over in the van, shocked by the sudden transposition he’d just witnessed.  Mantis shoved the writhing thing between them, forcing the second cultist backward and feeding all three of them back into the vehicle.  The cultist—a brown-skinned man with a black scrunchie for a headband—stood with mouth agape and eyes wide in surprise.  His hands unconsciously fumbled with the human bundle as it slipped away from him and folded up on the van floor.

Two red-plated fists struck his bulging eyes shut and slammed him against the van’s opposite hatch.  Mantis then hugged and flung the man bodily.  The thug nearly cleared the prisoner on the floor and rolled against the extended van’s rear doors.

“It’s all in the hips!” Mantis bragged, panting.

He snapped toward the driver’s seat.  (His unexpected speed in the ring had always been Caesar’s greatest asset.)  A third villain, the wheelman, sat half-turned around, arm wrapped around the headrest, hipster glasses mismatched with his heavy Cheech and Chong style mustache.  Just as he opened his yap to fling out a string of curses, Red Mantis’s thick hands slapped onto either side of his head.  He squeezed and pulled simultaneously, jerking the driver half out of his seat.

The Spanish obscenities came fast and loud as the driver tried to wrestle with the forearms that had arrested his face, but he found gripping the irregular arm guards problematic.

Mantis pulled again with his full weight, dragging the now screaming hipster cultist into the cargo space.  He let go with his left hand, only to bring it back with a vengeance.

The blanket-bound captive screamed too, the high-pitched wail of a teenaged girl—Mantis had stepped on her.  The van’s hold was big, but not that big.  Collateral damage was unavoidable when fighting outnumbered in a confined space.

Then the entire world came unhinged: the van was moving!

“The brake!” Mantis realized aloud, spitting the words into the wheelman’s face, as if it were his fault he was no longer standing on it.

Selective darkness moved beyond the windshield as the headlights probed the walls on either side of the alley.

Mantis climbed on top of the kneeling driver and dove between the seats—but found that his broad shoulders with their (perhaps overly ornate) armored plates couldn’t squeeze through.  His head poked into the cab and came to an abrupt stop.

Just in time to see someone new appear in the headlamps.

Mantis gasped.  This headlong tumble into chaos was all happening too fast.

A figure stood before the runaway vehicle, buttoned-up in a trench coat with an old-style fedora on his head.  His hands flashed up as if to somehow stop the two tons of rolling steel.

“Move!” Mantis roared.

But the man only had time to stare up at him.

Half a second later, he was under the van.

Mantis froze.  Hunched over, shoulders pressed between the headrests, too stunned now to act.  The momentum of his attack had been broken and someone had just been run down by the errant vehicle, thanks to his rash, thoughtless assault on the driver.

If he was real.  Did he even have a face? 

In that flash of panic, as the figure had glanced up just before disappearing beneath the van’s nose, Caesar’s eyes had been convinced that there was no face in the V formed by the raincoat’s up-turned collar; nothing at all beneath that archaic hat brim.

His weight jostled as bodies moved behind and beneath him in the chaotic cargo hold.

The van continued to idle further down the alley’s throat, picking up speed.

Hands clawed at Mantis from behind.  Both cultists came at him again—were already on top of him.  The black scrunchie headband, swollen eyes, the hipster glasses, a bloodied nose.

Three men became entangled in a very tight melee, all on top of the poor girl bound in a blanket on the hard steel floor.

Have to end this quickly, he thought.

Luckily, this was his element.  Little did the cultists know that Caesar Hernandez was even more adept at ground work than slugfest.  His days in the MMA circuits had made him a consummate grappler.  Even tangling with two men at once wasn’t much of a challenge when his opponents were untrained in the arts.

He wrapped one flailing arm—he didn’t know whose—against his own shin and pulled.  Something snapped audibly, followed by a howl of pain.  The scrunchie curled to one side, no longer a threat.

Boom!  The van—and their world—suddenly crashed to a violent halt.

The dogpile of bodies lurched forward.

Mantis found himself near the bottom now, with a whimpering lump beneath the small of his back, a hand wedged against his throat, and gritted teeth growling above him.  He heard the click of a switch blade and saw the van’s pale internal light glistening off the thin plane of steel.

“You’re dead, muchacho,” Hipster Chong snarled.  He stabbed down to pierce the would-be hero’s heart, but the strike was blunted by his sturdy plastic armor.

Finally good for something!  The thought blurted across his mind, but his relief was short-lived.

The blade dragged itself across his red chest plate, dropped a quarter-inch off the edge, and found nothing but cloth backing to protect the sternum beneath.  The gap between plates was little more than thick elastic.  The chink in his Red Mantis armor.

A toothy grin split wide beneath the fogged lenses and their thick, black frame.

Every muscle in Mantis’s body exploded in an effort to escape, but they failed to free him.  His burst of motion managed only an inch of disruption.  Not enough to save him from the knife that was about to splinter through his breastbone.

The girl squirmed under him.  Once he was dead, there’d be no one to save her.

Suddenly, two gloved hands appeared on either side of Hipster Chong’s sweaty, wild expression.  Ten fingers curled around his ears and yanked him backward.

He disappeared with a yelp.

Mantis shot up into a sitting position.

Outside the van, Hipster Chong was stabbing wildly at a trench coated figure who now had the thug in a sleeper hold.  The knife landed several vicious points right into the man’s face, but he never blinked.

In fact, he had no eyes.  Nor any other features.  The head beneath the hat brim was smooth, blank.

He had no face at all.

* * *

Chapter 2 up tomorrow!

 

New Superhero Trio for Pre-Order

MASKS, book one of the Secret Origins series, is now up for preorder!  Order now and get the ebook on launch day, which is May 2nd.

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A doomsday cult has risen in Mesa City. 

Signs of the Never-Ending Serpent haunt alleyways and nightmares, and the police seem powerless to stop it.  Medicine Man and Coyote stood against them and Coyote paid the ultimate price.  Her partner hasn’t been seen since.  Gone off the deep end, they say.

Is there no one who can save us from the End of Days?

Red Mantis doesn’t have a lot of experience, but he’s no stranger to combat.  And the mysterious Shadow Puppet appears impervious to death and everywhere at once.  But when faced with the true horrors of the Never-Ending Serpent, will these rookie saviors prove friends or foes?

Nakai and Nizoni Proudtree are Native American kids growing up on the wrong side of Mesa City, where it’s not cool to root for superheroes.  No wonder: the patron cape of the neighborhood is currently on a rampage.  Probably not a good idea to steal his car, then, even if it is for the right reasons…

Masks is a triple play of action, adventure, and pure pulpy fun.  Combining the classic conventions of the genre with gritty new twists, this trio of superheroic tales is sure to please comic book fans young and old.  The featured story “Medicine Man” also earned an honorable mention from the Writers of the Future Contest.  

Pre-order it on Amazon, B&N, iBooks, and Kobo.

“But why do we have to wait until May 2nd?”

For one thing, pre-ordering is a great way to give a new book a little shot in the arm come publishing day.  All those pre-orders count as sales for that one release day, which helps it jump forward into a more noticeable algorithm on the retail sites.

For another, that day would be my Grandma Jones’s birthday, if she hadn’t just passed away a few weeks ago.  (There’s also a brief dedication in the book for her.)

Cowl_Cover_Ebook_miniMay 2nd also happens to be the release date for Hiding Behind the Cowl, a multi-author anthology of superhero tales that features my novella Secret Identities, which will actually become book two in the Secret Origins series!  So if you want a jump on the next background story planned for my Identity Crisis Universe, that’s the way to go!

To look into pre-ordering HBTC on Amazon, click here.

New #Superhero #Ebook on #KindleUnlimited

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Eight tuxedo-clad felons are committing copycat robberies, mimicking infamous criminals from the late ‘90s.  Normally, the Phenomenal Five wouldn’t bother with something as mundane as bank heists.  They’re superheroes.  They’re supposed to fight monsters, thwart terrorists, and jail supervillains.

That’s what Silk Spider tells herself, but the team has her on the case nonetheless.  She’s putting her detective skills to work, as well the vast resources of a superhero HQ.  

She’s also jonesing for a cigarette.  And when she catches up to this new Eight-Ball Gang with her bullet-proof corset and denied urge for nicotine, she’ll make them sorry they ever put on their masks.  

Behind the Eight-Ball is a supercharged, superheroic story of crime and justice, action and adventure, fantasy and science fiction, set in the mature spandex world of the Identity Crisis Universe.

That’s the latest story from the Identity Crisis universe.  It was originally written as three chapters in the forthcoming Twilight of the Gods books.  But it makes a great story all by itself.

For the first 90 days it’ll be exclusively on Kindle Unlimited (click here), so if you’re a subscriber it’s free for you there.  After that, it’ll be everywhere: B&N, Kobo, iBooks, etc.

The paperback chapbook (only about 60 pages) is also in process.  You can order it for $5.49 right now via Create Space (click here), and on Amazon in the next few days.

(Forgive the hashtags in the post title.  Trying something new.)

Sci-Fi Boxed Set Still Available on a Planet Near You

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The Out of This World science fiction bundle is still out there!  It may have run out of time on Bundle Rabbit, but now it’s a little closer to the planets you visit most often: namely, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Apple, and Kobo!

You get 16 ebooks for less than ten bucks!  You can’t beat that deal with a Klingon stun baton!  (Do Klingons use stun batons?  Probably not.)

Here are your links.  Get it while you can, before this super deal goes supernova!

Amazon

B&N

iBooks

Kobo

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Science Fiction and Fantasy Deals!

Just a reminder of what’s happening for a limited time:

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Beginning August 15th, you can get 16 exciting science fiction titles worth $69 for as little as $9.99!  I’m talking about the “Out of This World” ebook bundle on Bundle Rabbit.

Bundled books include works from best-selling authors Kristine Kathryn Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith, Douglas Smith, Blaze Ward, and even me!  You can choose your own price and donate some to charity.  It’s win-win!

Stock up on your fall reading right now for less, because this amazing deal will only be around for a limited time.

Click here to find its home on Bundle Rabbit and here to find its page on Facebook.

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cirsova3

The Kickstarter for Cirsova issues #3 and #4 is up and accepting all comers!  There are rewards to be had for both meager and generous contributions, not the least of which is knowing that you’re supporting a quarterly indie magazine and the authors who publish within its pages.

I myself, Captain Leonidas Hawksblood, am one such author.  Or rather, one such lively buccaneer of the Vast Empty Sea.  Join me and my crew—Mister Pug, Soot, Pidgeon, Spleen, and Comely John—aboard the Lion’s Share as we venture off for daring-do across the black canvas of stars.  Assuming The Lion’s engines don’t fail us and torpedo tubes can spit for all their worth.

Rewards via Kickstarter are greater than those without, so don’t delay!  You can’t get a better piece of the pie without stealing it, and then you’ll be running for the rest of your days.  Trust me, I’d know!

Click here to go to the Kickstarter Page.

 

Steeped in the Mire

The hardest thing about writing, I think, is the tenacity.  The keeping at it to complete a book, or at least a long one.  Short stories I can turn out fairly quickly.  Even some short books I’ve been able to get out in a surprisingly short amount of time.  But the longer books…  They take more endurance.

I’ve been working on Twilight of the Gods, which is a prequel of Hungry Gods, and the more I work on it, the longer it gets.  There are a lot more characters with a much, much bigger plot going on.  This one’s going to be a superhero epic!  But, damn, does it take a long time to write!

Which wouldn’t be an issue if I were a full-time writer.  Then my job would be to entertain all you fine folks!  I could do so much more!

But it’s not.  My actual job is much more demanding, with much more responsibility beyond myself or even my family.  In fact, both of those things are considered secondary to the greater goals of the service.  So in order to feed my family and stay out of the brig, I need to dedicated most of my time and energy at my “real world” job.

But, hopefully, I’ll be transitioning away from that job next year.  I’ve officially put in a request to get out of the Navy (yes, I have to request it, it isn’t an automatic thing) next summer.  I could go on for days about the goods and bads of being in the service, and I’m very proud of what I’ve done, the people I’ve worked with and for, and the places I’ve seen in over twelve years of selfless service.  But ultimately, I just don’t want to do it anymore.  It’s a young man’s (or woman’s) game.  I have a family now, and dreams other than those issued to me.  It’s time to move on and make a new life.

The bad side of that decision is that my whole life is about to be turned upside down, dropping me and my family into a situation where nothing is guaranteed anymore.  Uncle Sam won’t be there to protect us and nurture us anymore (or throw us into war-torn territories, for that matter).  Which means, I NEED TO START LOOKING FOR A JOB!  So that’s also going to draw precious time away from what I’d rather being doing, which is writing for a living.  Of course, at this point, we’d all starve to death if I hinged our future on that.

(Part of that starvation I’ll contribute to pirate websites and those who download from them, since I’ve just been alerted to another one benefiting from my hard work while I go unpaid for my labors.  Don’t do it, people!  You enjoy an artist’s work?  Then pay them for it!  Is pitching the artist or author a few bucks really that terrible?  Why pay some internet asshole instead??!)

Anyway, the point of my rambling (mostly to myself) is that my superhero epic is going to be delayed more than expected.  I may even push it back a month or so further so that I can shift gears and get a short novel I wrote 13+ years ago up and running and out into the world.  It’s an urban fantasy-noir-Asian mythology story that I’ve been afraid of working on because it’s so important to me.  But now I’ve realized that being afraid of screwing it up and therefore not ever getting it published, isn’t doing me or any potential readers any good at all.

So while I’m working on my resumes and job hunting, I may find time to get that shorter project done.  If so, I’ll let you know.  And then it’s back to the epic, one page at a time.

Thanks for “listening.”  And if you hear of any good nursing jobs opening up next summer—or even better, any creative jobs where people get paid to do what they really love (supposedly they exist, but I just can’t imagine—it’s called “going to work” because you have to do it, not because you love to do it, right?)—don’t be shy about sharing.

(It’s not that I don’t enjoy nursing, but it’s not my dream job.  I’d much rather turn out 4-5 books a year instead of just one per year, you know?)

Okay, better quit rambling and get something else done today…

* * *

p.s.  Another delay in getting more novels out (none in over a year now!) is that I spent a lot of last year writing short stories.  Two of which have been published in the last several months, two more are coming out this fall, and three more are out to editors, awaiting judgment.  “So I’ve been writing, honest I have!” I insist, reminding the stern glare from the mirror…

p. p. s. Amending this the next day: In looking through my old notes on the noir story I mentioned, I see that the first draft of Solitaire was finished almost 14 years ago to the day: 07 August 2002.  Wow.  Now I have to get that story done before any more years go by!

An Out of This World Ebook Bundle

OTW+ebook+cover

Beginning August 15th, you can get 16 exciting science fiction titles worth $69 for as little as $9.99!  I’m talking about the “Out of This World” ebook bundle on Bundle Rabbit.

Bundled books include works from best-selling authors Kristine Kathryn Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith, Douglas Smith, Blaze Ward, and even me!  You can choose your own price and donate some to charity.  It’s win-win!

Stock up on your fall reading right now for less, because this amazing deal will only be around for a limited time.

Click here to find its home on Bundle Rabbit and here to find its page on Facebook.

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Superheroes in Space… and in our ears

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The audio version of INVASION is now in production!

The talented folks at The Voices in Our Heads are working as we speak on bringing these outer space, superheroic adventures to life.   I just listened to the first chapter and it sounds awesome!  It should be complete and out for sale this winter.

Here’s the blurb for the book.  You can find links for it on my Identity Crisis portfolio page.

A mix of superheroes, space opera, and pure pulpy fun.

The future of the Identity Crisis Universe hangs in the balance.  While on a mission to assist NASA, the Earth’s greatest super-trio find themselves suddenly thrust onto the frontlines of an interstellar war. 

The heroine Ballista is an orphan of alien gladiator circuits.  Nuclear colossus Adam Smasher is the most powerful man on the planet.  And Symian’s genius could only be born from the unfettered jungles of the Congo.  Together they are the future’s greatest (dysfunctional) superhero team. 

Now they stand with one foot in the airlock and the other on the edge of deep space.  To save the Earth, do they stand their ground or take the fight across the galaxy? 

Who was it that said the best defense is a good offense?  (Can’t remember?  Oh well, Adam will take credit anyway.)

J. D. Brink brings you another series of mature spandex and pulp adventure to grownup fanboys and fangirls everywhere.

This book is about to be featured in a bundle too!  You’ll be able to get $57 worth of sci-fi adventure for about 12 bucks, starting mid-August.  Stay tuned for that…

 

Superhero Progress Report

blu & grey hero miniWe’ve now made the turn: we are halfway through 2016.  (More than halfway now, ‘cause it’s taken me weeks to write this.)

Holy poop, how did this happen?!

Time flies when you’re working your too busy to notice, I guess.

Aside from the perilous schedule of the day job and family time, I have actually gotten quite a bit of writing done so far this year.  My general goal has been 10,000 words a month, though that number is somewhat misleading.  It’s more a measure of work than actual, printed words.  It also includes writing blog entries and newsletters, like this one.  And it counts revision work at one-half value.  (I know that doesn’t make sense to you, but it’s a way for me to confirm with my demanding boss—me—that revising is work and still counts for something.)

Though I’m still not going to publish Twilight of the Gods when I originally wanted to.  I was hoping it’d be done by now, but it just hasn’t happened.  Too many real-life changes to adapt to, too many side projects and distractions.

And bouncing back and forth between Twilight and Deus Ex Machina didn’t help either.  Deus Ex Machina, by the way, will be the third book in the Identity Crisis series (with a return of Spitball as the star hero).  I started both books in the latter part of 2015 and couldn’t decide which would come out first, so I went back and forth too much.

I’ve also been working on this new blog/author’s website.  And I’m still posting to my old one (found here), but eventually I’ll convert over and leave it behind.  I wanted a new look and a new start.  Something sleeker, cooler, and more professional.  And so far, so good.

So now that I’ve settled on Twilight of the Gods as book two for sure, I’m about 35,000 words into it.  That’s about the first third of the book.  I’m projecting it’ll be about 80,000 words long or more, but I won’t really know till I get there.

I was also hoping to get the final manuscript to my copy editor, and the final page count to my cover artist, by the end of September.  And having just plotted out the likely course of chapters and events through the second section of the book…  That seems unlikely.  This sucker is going to be pretty epic.  Hungry Gods started as a short story that just kept growing as I went and ended up a fair-sized novel.  This baby started out knowing it would be big, and my stuff tends to end up bigger than planned.

Why is that?  Because as I write, things develop and evolve of their own accord.  Characters and events take turns I didn’t see coming.  And things I know have to happen, have to happen naturally.  I can’t rush it, I have to build to it in a realistic manner.  People don’t change on a dime.  You have to give them good reason.  Otherwise the story is rushed and unbelievable and crappy.  And I don’t want to put out a crappy story.

So when will it be done?  I honestly don’t know.  At this point, I’m crossing my fingers (and setting in my mind) that I’ll have it out in time for Christmas.

But I’ll leak little bits as I go.  For example, if you’re getting my Conspiracy Newsletter, you’ll be getting an exclusive look at the prologue of the book.  If you’re not, why not?