Friday, March 31, 2017

Crafty Lady Sandi: Very sick with allergies

Crafty Lady Sandi: Very sick with allergies: Hi! Crafters! I am sorry I haven’t posted anything. Unfortunately, I have been extremely sick with allergies; the Texas wind has be...

Market Closed: Publisher 280 Steps

Having seen a number of authors involved posting on Facebook over the matter, I went looking and found this roundup on The Rap Sheet explaining what little is known at this point in the post Steps Down.

Buried Under Books Blog Review: An Unsettling Crime for Samuel Craddock by Terry Shames

Buried Under Books Blog Review: An Unsettling Crime for Samuel Craddock by Terry Shames

My Ffriday Afternoon

With Sandi still far too sick to be out anywhere, Friday afternoon finds back on the campus of UTD as Scott has a grad school class. He did the picture earlier causing pic suggestions by somebody about my age as he took the pic. So, I am studly looking off to my left at her.

A Writer's Life....Caroline Clemmons: OUR LATEST PROJECT MEANS GREAT READING!

A Writer's Life....Caroline Clemmons: OUR LATEST PROJECT MEANS GREAT READING!: Each of us has projects in which we participate—whether it’s a business, civic committee, PTA, church group, or other. I’ve been fortunate ...

FFB Review: NATURE GIRL (2006) by Carl Hiaasen -- Reviewed by Barry Ergang

A few years ago, Barry reviewed a Carl Hiassen book titled Lucky You. I had not read him at that time. I still have not. Barry is back with another review of a Carl Hiassen book. This time he reviews Nature Girl. Make sure to go over and check out all the reading suggestions at  Patti’s blog.

NATURE GIRL (2006) by Carl Hiaasen
Reviewed by Barry Ergang

On the first day of working the airboat concession on the Big Cypress reservation, half-blood Seminole Sammy Tigertail acquires a very drunk customer named Wilson who dies of a heart attack while on the boat ride. Advised by his uncle to dispose of the body somewhere not on the reservation, Sammy does so, then decides that it would be prudent to disappear for a while.

Honey Santana, who has been known to have anger issues, among several others, has just quit her job at the fish market owned by Louis Piejack after he groped her and she responded by fighting back. At dinner she tells her twelve-year-old son Fry that she’s thinking about earning money by doing the same thing one of her girlfriends is doing: taking tourists on kayaking eco-tours in and around Florida’s Ten Thousand Islands.

In Texas, telemarketer Boyd Shreave, using the surname Eisenhower, interrupts Honey Santana’s dinner hour and tries to pitch her on a Florida real estate deal. When she says she’s not interested, berates him for bothering people, and calls him “a professional pest,” Shreave fails to do what he knows he should: just hang up and call another prospect. Instead, he says something grossly insulting and disconnects the call. This leaves Honey with the unshakeable determination to get back at him somehow.

Lily Shreave knows her husband Boyd is having an affair and hires a private detective named Dealey to obtain photographic evidence for divorce proceedings. Boyd’s paramour is his telemarketing co-worker, Eugenie Fonda. Dealey gets the photos, one of which is very graphic, but this isn’t enough for Lily. She offers Dealey a great deal of money for even more explicit evidence.  

When Louis Piejack is brutally assaulted, Honey is sure her ex-husband Perry Skinner is behind it. Fry tells Honey how Piejack suffered further indignities at the hands of paramedics and surgeons, and she eventually pays a sympathetic visit to him at his home. Piejack misinterprets this as sexual interest on Honey’s part and begins stalking her.

How these disparate plot elements and quirky, fleshed-out characters ultimately converge on Dismal Key in the Everglades to satisfy their aims or fail to makes for a hugely entertaining, neatly paced comic novel by Carl Hiaasen, whose satirical skills have been compared to Mark Twain, James Thurber, and S.J. Perelman. Readers with a taste for sometimes skewed humor, who aren’t offended by some instances of raw street language, will likely devour it as I did. Then again, this is the eleventh novel by Hiaasen I’ve read, and I have yet to be disappointed.

© 2017 Barry Ergang

Some of Derringer Award-winner Barry Ergang’s work is available at Smashwords and Amazon.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Dallas MWA Meeting Saturday, April 1, 2017, 10:00am

April 1, 2017 - "The Panel of Experts" holds a "What Do You Want to Know?" session for all your writing and publishing questions

Back by popular demand, The Panel of Experts will answer any and all questions about writing and publishing in mystery and a few related genres. Join LaRee Bryant (bunch o' books),Janis Susan May Patterson (bunch o' books), and Sandy Steen (bunch o' books) on Saturday, April 1, 2017. But be warned - these ladies will tell you the truth. Make sure you can handle the truth.


The Dallas MWASW group meets the first Saturday of each month (except January) athe Olive Garden, 4240 Belt Line, Addison, TX, 75001. Meeting time is 10:00 AM – Noon, followed by lunch.
There is a $10 fee (cash only – please bring fives or ones) for the program and drinks-only attendees. The fee is reduced to $5.00 (cash only) for those staying for lunch. All who attend are encouraged to remain and break bread(sticks) with your fellow writers.

Contact info:

James E. Gaskin
Writer / Consultant / Speaker
Member Internet Press Guild

Review: Where I Can See You by Larry D. Sweazy

Detroit has nothing for him now and Hud Mathews has come home to work for his small hometown police force. It is tough to come back as the area holds so many very painful memories as well as unresolved questions. Some locals are unhappy that Hud is back as it means somebody else is in their way up the ladder of local law enforcement. Some are unhappy because Hud’s return means he will again try to find out why his mother disappeared all those years ago.

Detective Hud Mathews' first case begins three days after he is hired and it is a difficult one. A young woman, shot in the back of the head, is found dead on the shoreline of the local lake. She may have been executed there or dumped after being killed elsewhere. Corner Bill Flowers, who has been around for decades, isn’t sure as he doesn’t see any obvious powder burns at the impact point. The autopsy should tell him more.

According to a local resident who comes forward to talk to the investigators at the crime scene, the deceased woman was a mom to an eight-year-old boy. The boy is missing and the witness is very concerned for obvious reasons. Detective Mathews and Deputy Moran go to the trailer where the family was staying and do not find him there. Detective Hud Mathews has some ideas where the boy is as he grew up in the area and roamed far and wide to avoid stress at home. There is a boy to be found and that comes before the current murder or the case he has never been able to solve--- the disappearance of his mother.

Where I Can See You is a first rate mystery full of complicated characters, dark secrets, and deep emotion. The author has created a diverse cast of complicated and very real characters that are each doing their best to survive their pasts while functioning in the present. As the pages pass, readers are drawn into a dark and complicated cast of folks that are hiding much and yet slowly giving away everything they hold dear.

This is one of those books that is extremely difficult to review without giving away too much. Where I Can See You  is one of those books that really must be read and will surprise you throughout. It works from both a reader standpoint as well as a writer standpoint as there is a very nice storytelling technique used throughout the book that works exceptionally well. Intense and compelling, Where I Can See You is highly recommended. 

For another perspective, check out Lesa Holstine’s review from last January.

Where I Can See You
Larry D. Sweazy
Seventh Street Books
ISBN# 978-1-63388-211-9
Paperback (eBook also available)
255 Pages

Material supplied by the good folks of the Plano Public Library System.

Kevin R. Tipple ©2017

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

FROM DUNDEE'S DESK: Noteworthy Reads: GERONIMO MUST DIE by J.R. Linder...

FROM DUNDEE'S DESK: Noteworthy Reads: GERONIMO MUST DIE by J.R. Linder...: This delightful new novel from John Lindermuth is a blend of fact and fiction skillfully woven into a highly entertaining tale. ...

Bookblog of the Bristol Library: Ambrea's Read Harder Challenge: Playing for Pizza,...

Bookblog of the Bristol Library: Ambrea's Read Harder Challenge: Playing for Pizza,...: Next up for my Read Harder Challenge, I… ·          Read a book about sports. ·          Read a book you’ve read before. ·       ...

Publishing ... and Other Forms of Insanity: 29 Writing Conferences in April 2017

Publishing ... and Other Forms of Insanity: 29 Writing Conferences in April 2017: Conferences are not only the best way to meet agents, get tips from other writers, and learn about the publishing industry, they make you ...


A Writer's Life....Caroline Clemmons: REMNANTS--A PSYCHOLOGICAL THRILLER BY CAROLYN ARNO...: Remnants by Carolyn Arnold GENRE : Mystery GIVEAWAY INFORMATION:  Carolyn Arnold also will be awarding a paperba...

Review: Quick: A Hunter Kincaid Mystery by Bill Kring

Border Patrol Agent Hunter Kincaid saw the murder happen, but was powerless to prevent it. From a half mile away from where she stood on the side of Devil’s Ridge watching through binoculars, she saw the big man shoot the Mexican in the head. She had no idea who the guy was, but he was clearly huge. She and three other agents had chased the pair all day until “the giant” had solved the problem by killing his companion.

After the shooting in Presidio County of the Big Bend region of deep Southwest Texas, the man easily escaped back across the border. Dressed in his military camo outfit he had stared back at her as he stood over the man he had just killed and then left at an easy jog secure in the knowledge she and her people could not stop him. Not only did they lose the guides as he left and his fellow guide was dead, they never found the forty illegals that came across the river with the guides.

Hundreds of miles away in Pembroke Pines, Florida, Homicide Detective John Quick and his partner, Randall Ishtee have their own very difficult case. The body of a woman was dumped in a drainage canal. She was stabbed with something like a machete or a large knife somewhere else and then transported to this location to be dumped. With the way the body is in the drainage canal, it would take somebody big and strong to do it. Possibly the person who left size fourteen, if not bigger, shoeprints at the scene.

Gradually the two storylines merge as Quck: A Hunter Kincaid Mystery shifts back and forth between various members of law enforcement and the criminals involved in the cases. Despite the fact this is billed as A Hunter Kincaid Mystery, the majority of the read is with Detective John Quick and numerous other characters. Much of the story slows down dramatically to fill in the backstory of John Quick who, like Hunter, has been deeply traumatized by the past and his previous actions.

That trauma involves the brutal and graphic torture murders of his family. Both his wife and baby son were killed. Unfortunately, that is not the only brutality vividly described in the read. The adult language as well as detailed and graphic descriptions of violence, including the removal of a baby’s genitals, will be an issue for more than some readers. Much of these very graphic descriptions do little, if anything, to advance the story line and are present for the sole reason of shocking the reader.

While not as severe a problem in the read, Quick: A Hunter Kincaid Mystery contains a number of typos, incorrect word choice usage, missing quotation marks, and other grammar and formatting issues. While they did not affect the understanding of the storylines, they were distracting from the read.

Though there is a good core story to Quick: A Hunter Kincaid Mystery by Bill Kring, the typos and other grammar issues, as well as the descriptive torture scenes definitely negatively impact the book. So too does the fact that, despite its title, the vast majority of the read is not with the signature character Hunter Kincaid. In fact, it appears to this reader that Hunter is present in approximately a third, if not less, of the book.

While the basic storylines had significant potential, in the end, the read was significantly harmed by too much filler, a number of graphic torture descriptions that serve no point to advance the story, and the need for editing in terms of typos, incorrect word choice, missing quotation marks, etc. The book would benefit from proofreading to correct the grammar issues as author understanding that not everything somebody does to somebody else has to be described. It is also not at all necessary to describe every single item in every single room of a home though that is far preferable to detailing everything with regards to torture and mutilation scenes.

Having previously read The Devil’s Footprints: A Hunter Kincaid Short Story I am well aware that the author can do much better than this effort. While I do recommend that very entertaining short story, I do not recommend Quick: A Hunter Kincaid Mystery for the reasons noted in this review.

Quick: A Hunter Kincaid Mystery
Bill Kring
January 2014
eBook (paperback available)
265 Pages

According to Amazon, I picked this up back in June of 2015. I have no idea now if this was by way of a free read promotion, funds in my Amazon Associate account, or some other means.

Kevin R. Tipple ©2017

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Lesa's Book Critiques: Desert Vengeance by Betty Webb

Lesa's Book Critiques: Desert Vengeance by Betty Webb

A Writer's Life....Caroline Clemmons: PURR M FOR MURDER IS CLEVER AND FUN!

A Writer's Life....Caroline Clemmons: PURR M FOR MURDER IS CLEVER AND FUN!: The author will be awarding autographed copy of  PURR M FOR MURDER  (hardcover - US ONLY) to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopt...

Sundown Press: New Release -- GERONIMO MUST DIE by J. R. Lindermu...

Sundown Press: New Release -- GERONIMO MUST DIE by J. R. Lindermu...: Half-breed Indian scout Mickey Free has saved Geronimo’s life twice, but how long will that kind of luck hold? Though Mickey and Geronimo ...

Bill Crider's Pop Culture Magazine: Antiques Frame -- Barbara Allan

Bill Crider's Pop Culture Magazine: Antiques Frame -- Barbara Allan: Barbara Allan, as we all know, is the husband-and-wife writing team of Barbara and Max Allan Collins, and Antiques Frame is the latest entry...

Monday, March 27, 2017

Bitter Tea and Mystery Blog Review: The Bourne Identity by Robert Ludlum

Bitter Tea and Mystery: The Bourne Identity: Robert Ludlum: Most people reading this will have some familiarity with the character in this book, Jason Bourne, due to the 2002 movie starring Matt Damon...

In Reference To Murder Blog: Media Murder for Monday 3/27/17

In Reference To Murder Blog: Media Murder for Monday 3/27/17

Bookblog of the Bristol Library: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Bookblog of the Bristol Library: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline: Reviewed by Rita OASIS is a massive multiplayer online game that has become part of the daily lives of most everyone on Earth i...

Chess, Comics, Crosswords, Books, Music, Cinema: Daredevil TV Series

Chess, Comics, Crosswords, Books, Music, Cinema: Daredevil TV Series: Wilson Fisk: The city and its future...seeing Hell's Kitchen to its fullest potential is very important to me. Matt ...

Monday Markets and Jobs for Writers for 3/27/17

Monday Markets and Jobs for Writers for 3/27/17


A Writer's Life....Caroline Clemmons: LATEST THRILLER BY DENISON HATCH--NEVER GO ALONE: Never Go Alone by Denison Hatch ~~~~~~~~~~~~~ GENRE : Thriller ~~~~~~~~~~~~~ NEVER GO ALONE Blurb: THE FIRST RU...


TEXAS BOOK LOVER: Monday Roundup: TEXAS LITERARY CALENDAR 3/27-4/2: Bookish events in Texas for the week of March 27-April 2, 2017:  Special Events: New Visions, New Voices Playwriting Festival , Dallas, ...

Review: The Gun Also Rises: An Aaron Tucker Mystery by Jeffrey Cohen

While billed as book four of the Aaron Tucker Mystery Series, the short story titled, The Gun Also Rises, is also a prequel to the series. For readers familiar with the books, this ten thousand word short story is an explanation of how things got started with characters we already know and love. For those readers new to the series, it is a nice taste of what is to come in the series that started with For Whom The Minivan Rolls.

Set several years before the books, the tale opens with Aaron Tucker dealing with a school issue that haunted many parents in the late 1990s--- zero tolerance. Driven by fear, zero tolerance policies covered many things that used to be handled on an individual case-by-case manner as things happened. Bringing a toy water gun to school and shooting your fellow first grade classmate is something that does not go over well. What would have been dismissed as a childhood prank and the offender warned, now results in a heavy administrative response. Barely two weeks into the school year and Aaron Trucker is already sitting down with the Vice Principal Anne Mignano of Sydney Primary School located in Midland Heights, New Jersey.

According to the vice principal, there isn’t any question Ethan used his water gun on the other student.  Even if Abby, Ethan’s mom and Aaron’s wife, and is also an attorney, was there for the meeting Ethan could not avoid a two day suspension from school. After all, it is a mandatory district rule and therefore can’t be open to interpretation.

But, what if the water gun wasn’t his?

Aaron knows once he sees the water gun that it does not belong to Ethan. Aarons knows what toys Ethan has and certainly does not have a yellow one. All Ethan has are red and blue toys, except for dinosaurs, as they have to be yellow because it is an accuracy thing. Once Aaron points out the fact that he had the water gun isn’t his, Vice Principal Mignano gives him three days to identify the guilty party or Ethan starts his suspension on Monday.

Not only does Aaron need the time to clear his son of the false accusation, he needs time to do his freelance writing assignments. Being a working writer operating from home means he has his hands full with taking care of the home front in all aspects as well as taking any and all writing gigs as they come. That includes an assignment for a baseball periodical that wants Aaron to write a piece on the star pitcher of the local minor league team. The same star pitcher that died right on the mound during the celebration minutes after the team won the championship. As Aaron does his research on the player, when not dealing with the water gun problem, Aaron begins to realize that the death was a murder. The question is—who did it?

First published in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, The Gun Also Rises is a mystery with a couple of twists and plenty of humor. Those of us who were work from home parents or still are will recognize some of the issues that have to be dealt with on a regular basis. Those who aren’t will still get a chuckle or two as the primary mystery of what happened to the baseball player takes over the read.

Fun and entertaining, The Gun Also Rises: An Aaron Tucker Mystery, is a nice treat for longtime readers of the Aaron Tucker series as well as a very nice entry point for new readers. Well worth your time, the short tale is highly recommended. 

The Gun Also Rises: An Aaron Tucker Mystery
Jeffrey Cohen
Self Published
August 2011
46 Pages

I picked this up to read and review earlier this month when I discovered it using funds in my Amazon Associate Account.

Kevin R. Tipple ©2017

Sunday, March 26, 2017

The Rap Sheet: Revue of Reviewers for 3-25-17

The Rap Sheet: Revue of Reviewers for 3-25-17

Guest Post: Excerpt from Division One by Stephanie Osborn

Please welcome award winning author Stephanie Osborn to the blog today. Billing herself as the “the Interstellar Woman of Mystery” she has been a real life rocket scientist and is the author, co-author, or contributor to more than thirty books including a number of science fiction mysteries. Today she shares an excerpt from her new book, Division One, available in both print and eBook. Dr. Megan McAllister, aka Omega, and her experienced partner, Echo, handle everything from lost alien children to extraterrestrial assassination attempts and more.

Division One Excerpt 

“I don’t get it,” said Romeo from his seat in the training observation room. “Y’all didn’t put ME through all this testing crap. Creativity testing and obstacle courses and puzzles an’ junk. I know we’re shorthanded an’ all, but...what gives? It’d be way simpler an’ quicker to just put her through the old testing.”

“We’re getting ready to start up a new department,” answered Fox, across the small conference table from Romeo; next to the younger agent sat his new partner, India. “Echo’s already agreed to head it up, while you were laid up with the leg. Good to see you off the crutches, by the way.”

“Damn good to be off ‘em. Still hobblin’ around a little, but that’ll go away eventually; ‘s why I’m keepin’ a cane handy for a while. So tell me about this new department. If you can, yet.”

“I can. It’ll be a kind of combination SWAT team and commando unit. Teams from this department will take the point whenever we have the really dangerous situations—the interstellar terrorists, the galactic invasions, things like that. We think, with her background, she may have what it takes to make it in this department. We sure as hell can’t send her back where she came from. She seems intrigued by the idea, at least. And no family complications to worry about. Single, only child, birth family gone in a car accident.”

“But, Fox, what if she can’t hang?”

“I don’t know yet, Romeo. We’ll cross that bridge—”

“We won’t have to,” interrupted Echo, coming into the testing observation room and moving past the table around which the others were seated, directly to the observing window. “She’ll make it.”

“But how do you know?” asked Romeo. “‘Got a feeling’?”

“Yup. Same one I had about you, junior.”

“WELL, the lady’ll hang, then.” Romeo sat back in his chair, satisfied.

“Damn,” muttered India.

Echo shot her a hard look, then returned his attention to the observation window overlooking the course.

“Have we started yet?”

“No,” Fox answered. “We’re still getting set up. And we were waiting for you.”

“I’m here. Let’s get rolling.”

“Done.” Fox hit a button on an adjacent control console.

Romeo, Echo, and India watched as the observation window, as well as a hooded monitor on the command console, showed several aliens of various types entering the obstacle course. Romeo gasped as he recognized a Betelgeusian giant arachnoid, possessing, by his estimate, a good fourteen-or fifteen-foot leg span—accompanied by several Division One agents sporting flamethrowers, lasers, blasters, and disintegrator rifles, entering the course. Two heavily-armed guards in black armor moved into position at the entrance. Romeo and India noticed then, with a shock, that they were FACING the course, as if the concern was from something inside.

“Hope she’s not afraid of spiders,” Echo remarked offhandedly.

“Hope she’s not afraid of death,” Romeo murmured to India. “Shit.”

* * *

Megan came into the observation room just then. She was wearing black workout leggings and sports-bra top, but the rest of her attire was somewhat odd: menswear-style black lace-up dress shoes, a black tie, a dress leather belt, and a pair of the special goggles-cum-sunglasses strapped to one hip. An unusual device, like a large plastic bangle bracelet, was fastened around her right ankle. Sensors attached to her head and torso connected to a small transmitter pack on her back. Echo met her and led her to the command console.

“All right, Megan,” Fox began, waving a hand at the view in the monitor, which now only depicted a door and two guards, “this is the obstacle course. When you go through that door,” he pointed to the image of the guarded door on the monitor, “you will enter the first of a series of six rooms, each of which has your progress. Your objective is simply to reach the exit of room six as quickly as possible. The tracking device on your ankle will enable us to monitor your progress. You may make use of anything on your person, as well as anything you find along the course. In addition, you may select from one—and only one—of the items on this side table.”

Megan eyed the monitor display in detail before Fox led her over to the table. On it was an eclectic collection of items: a Phillips-head screwdriver, a small glass bottle, a pair of wire cutters, a coil of rope, a pen knife, a jar of cheese spread, a pocket-sized Winchester & Tesla Mark II death ray, a packet of facial tissues, and a chocolate bar.

Megan was in no rush. She scanned the table carefully, considering, as the four Division One agents watched. She looked herself up and down, fingering the items she already carried. Echo watched as she flipped over the tie and checked to see what was on the label. He smiled inwardly, pleased as he followed her mental processes, realizing he understood how she thought. Finally she reached out, picked up the pen knife, and clipped it to the belt at her waist.

Echo raised an eyebrow in carefully-hidden surprise and looked at Fox, who returned his gaze unemotionally. Romeo and India watched the whole scene in amazement.

“Ready, then?” Fox asked Megan.

“As I’ll ever be.”

“All right. Follow me.”

As Fox led Megan out, Echo turned to the console, put on a headset, and began entering commands. Romeo and India walked up to the observation window, and Echo hit a button. Blast shutters on the window began to close.

“Sorry, kids. Can’t watch this one; you’ll have to go through this yourselves soon enough.”

“Oh, joy,” India muttered.

“You can monitor her progress on this schematic.” Echo hit another sequence of commands, and a panel opened on the wall. It showed the layout of six variously-shaped, interconnected rooms, a number on each room.

“How are you gonna evaluate her if you can’t see what she’s doing?” Romeo asked him, as he and India sat back down at the table, across from the schematic.

“I didn’t say Fox and I couldn’t watch. I’ve been through it. You haven’t. Yet.”

Fox re-entered the room. “She’s ready, Echo.”

“All right, then.” Echo handed Fox another headset, then keyed the microphone switch. “Megan? GO!”

* * *

The door opened, but Megan was in no hurry to charge through it. Any obstacle course that had a funky-looking little weapon like that strange pocket-sized ray gun as one of the equipment options was not one into which she intended to go running headlong. Let alone the armed guards stationed around it. So she eased around the left side of the doorframe, surveying the room from the threshold.
How odd, she thought, as she scanned the room; it looks like an ordinary study: hardwood floors, bookcases lining the walls, cozy fireplace on the far side, with a wing chair and decorative wrought iron side table next to it.
A heavy walnut desk with granite top stood in the center; a lamp and crystal decanter sat on one corner. Waterford crystal, it looks like. An EXPENSIVE study, then.
The door into the next room was in the far wall, to the right of the fireplace.
She stepped forward into the room.
* * *

Romeo and India watched the display as the first block lit up with a big red ‘1.’ Echo and Fox leaned together over the screened closed-circuit monitor.
“She’s in,” Echo observed.
“Aaannd the timers have started,” Fox noted. “Both of ‘em.”
India and Romeo exchanged glances...and thoughts. BOTH of ‘em?
* * *

Megan had taken no more than two steps into the room when she heard a faint, almost inaudible click off to the left. Quickly spinning, she saw bookcase holograms fade away to reveal a blank wall with horizontal slits halfway up. Oh shit, she had just time to think. She dropped flat on the floor as a flurry of projectiles whistled through the space she had occupied fractions of a second before.
Suddenly the fireplace roared, belching a tongue of flame into the room. She rolled to her right, out of its reach, in the barest nick of time. Another projectile barrage opened up. Scanning the room, she swiftly combat-crawled over to and under the desk, where she caught her breath as she analyzed her situation.
* * *

“She actually heard that,” Echo remarked in surprise. “Damn. I knew her ears were pretty sharp, but wow.”
“Pulse, one-twenty and steady; blood pressure, 130 over 90,” Fox read off the sensor readouts. “Respiration, twenty-three. High left hemispheric encephalographic activity. Trigger the plasma jet, Echo.”
Romeo and India spun around and stared in dismay at the two calm men. Plasma jet?!
* * *
A faint whine was the only warning Megan got before the plasma cannon behind the right-hand wall opened up. She crouched farther back, under the desk, until its initial salvo was complete. Then, in a momentary lull between projectile bank, flame-throwing fireplace, and plasma cannon, she reached up with her right hand, over the desktop, and grabbed for the decanter she had seen there. Miraculously, it was unbroken, having been below the level of the projectile barrage. She unstoppered it and sniffed the decanter mouth. Brandy. Perfect. She put on the special glasses.
She timed her next move carefully. In the split-second after the projectile weapons fired, while the plasma cannon built to discharge again, she emerged from her cover and flung the stoppered decanter with all the force and accuracy she could muster, straight at the plasma gun, then she turned and pushed with all her might against the back of the desk.
The desk slid across the polished floor just as the crystal decanter crashed into the now-firing cannon...and exploded. The improvised Molotov cocktail melted the circuitry and ignited the fuel tank, sending a geyser of flame out into the center of the room. But the desk was no longer in the center. Instead, it was now overturned, with its substantial polished granite top largely blocking the flame-throwing fireplace.
Megan held her breath, closed her eyes, and crouched in the desk’s opening until the flames from the plasma cannon subsided and the current round of projectile barrage ceased. Then, slightly singed, she scuttled on elbows and knees behind the wing chair. She overturned the marble-and-iron side table, heedless of the useless trinkets which tumbled off it, and caught it up in her left hand, holding it by the wrought iron pedestal. Using the tabletop as a shield, she moved up into a crouch, ducking behind it when the next round of missiles opened up.
“Aahh! Dammit!” A ricochet off the nearby marble mantelpiece winged her right shoulder. But she had reached the exit door. Still shielding herself with the table, she tapped the door handle warily with her right hand; no booby traps. She opened it; stepped sideways to her right...
* * *

Block 2 of the schematic lit up.
“Pulse, one-thirty and rising; BP, 135 over 92; respiration twenty-five. Hemispheric activity high and equally dominant,” Fox called out.
“Staying calm, thinking fast and getting creative. Great. Fox, did we get the fumes vented properly?” Echo asked, glancing over his shoulder at the two younger agents, so very intent on the largely-blank schematic, with a grin. Good idea Fox had, letting them see only a small part of the test. Ups the ante for ‘em, and gives us a chance to see how THEY react to the pressure.
“Yeah, no problem,” Fox responded. “Didn’t want it building to potentially dangerous levels, anyway.”
* * *

Fumes? What kind of fumes? Romeo and India sat staring, unbelieving, at the schematic while listening to the two men. WE’RE gonna have to go through this?
“How’s she doing?” Echo asked.
“If she maintains this pace, she’ll equal the record,” Fox responded.
“Dayum! Who set it?” exclaimed Romeo.
“I did, about six months ago,” Echo remarked, offhanded, his attention never wavering from the lithe figure going through its paces on the monitor.
* * *

This room was a formal dining room, of all things, complete with chandeliers and elegantly-set banquet table. Funny notions they have about obstacle courses, Megan thought. Whatever she had been expecting, so far this wasn’t it.
Megan discarded the side table and moved cautiously into the room, on the lookout for booby traps now. Her nose caught it first: an acrid, pungent odor. Then she saw the wisps of vapor rising from the floor.
“Acid!” she cried out in horror. The flooring was being eaten away underneath her.
Do they really want to kill me? I didn’t think that Echo-guy would’ve...but at least they would be rid of an eyewitness. Damn. Is this all just a set-up, then? An excuse for knocking me off? I am in such trouble...
An adrenalin-propelled standing leap took her to the near end of the banquet tabletop, irrespective of china and crystal, which tumbled this way and that, shattering. The way out, an open archway, was at the opposite end of the long table, but the opening was far out of reach of her ability to jump. The floor was now out of the question; large holes were starting to appear in it, a bubbling fluid underneath. She looked up.
The row of chandeliers ran almost the entire length of the oblong room, and were of the ornate Victorian candelabra style. Jumping up, Megan caught onto the one overhead and swung on it, tugging, testing. Strong enough, but not far enough, she thought, easing back down to the tabletop. If they only hung a little bit lower...
Abruptly, the table dropped out from under her, lowering by a full six inches, as what was left of the floor gave way. Megan lost her footing and fell, smashing china and sliding across the polished wood, over the edge. Digging her fingernails into the wood, she halted herself, her bent knees mere inches from the acid that now pooled around the bottom of the table. She slowly clawed her way back onto the tabletop. At least now I know how deep the acid is...
Suddenly, she whipped off her tie and belt. She threaded the leather belt through its buckle, making a loop, then used the pen knife to enlarge the last belt notch. Replacing the pen knife securely on her hip, where it clipped to the waistband of her leggings next to the glasses case, she quickly threaded the small end of the silk tie through the hole in the belt and knotted it firmly, jerking it hard to test it. Then she ran to the far end of the tabletop. She didn’t know if it would hold, but there was no time to change her mind. The table legs were starting to disintegrate now.
“Hope the farm skills are still with me,” she muttered as she swung the makeshift lasso.
The leather loop caught a prong of the chandelier, and Megan jerked it tight. Backing up as far as her improvised rope would allow, she made a running start, then swung forward.
No time to check the next room, she thought as she swung through the air. I just hope I hit the door opening straight, or this is gonna hurt bad...
“BANZAI!” she yelled as she reached the top of her arc and let go, flying head-first, arms stretched out in front, hands fisted, through the open doorway.
* * *

“Wow. Nice Superman jump,” Echo noted with a grin.
“Yeah, I liked it too,” Fox agreed, nodding.
Romeo and India just stared at the two men in consternation.
* * *

As soon as she was well through the opening, Megan realized she was in a bad way. Landing hard, she rolled, looked up, and blanched. At the far end of the room crouched a giant, hairy, black spider-like creature, with a leg-spread of at least fifteen feet, in a huge cage. To Megan’s horror, the front of the cage began to slide slowly up.
“Spiders. Dammit. I hate spiders. Why did it have to be spiders?” she muttered.

Stephanie Osborn ©2017

Award-winning author Osborn is a 20+-year space program veteran, with multiple STEM degrees. She has authored, co-authored, or contributed to more than 30 books. She currently writes the critically-acclaimed Displaced Detective Series, described as “Sherlock Holmes meets The X-Files,” and the Gentleman Aegis Series, whose first book was a Silver Falchion winner. She “pays it forward” through numerous media including radio, podcasting and public speaking, and working with SIGMA, the science-fiction think tank. Osborn’s website is

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Mystery Fanfare: Books for Sale: Marv Lachman

Mystery Fanfare: Books for Sale: Marv Lachman: Mystery Readers Journal columnist Marv Lachman is selling many of the books (about 5,000) from his 60 years of mystery collecting . This...

Lesa's Latest Contest: Award Nominees Giveaway

This week, I'm giving away award nominees - James Ziskin's Heart of Stone & Hester Young's The Gates of Evangeline. Details on my blog, Entries from the U.S. only, please.

Lesa Holstine  

KRL This Week Update for 3/25/17

Up in KRL this morning as a part of the Weddings to Die For Blog Tour, we have reviews & giveaways of "Bel of the Brawl" by Maggie McConnon  & "Dying on the Vine" by Marla Cooper & interviews with both of them

Also reviews & giveaways of 4 fun March food mysteries from Penguin & Kensington authors-"Cold Pressed Murder" by Kelly Lane, "Kneaded to Death" by Winnie Archer, "Roux the Day" by Linda Wiken & "When the Grits Hit the Fan" by Maddie Day

And  a review & giveaway of "Silence of the Flans" by Laura Bradford along with an interesting interview with Laura

We also have the latest mystery Coming Attractions from Sunny Frazier

And mystery author Betty Jean Craige shares about her talkative parrot Cosmo, and her latest mystery "Dam Witherston" & you can enter to win a copy of the book

And we have a mystery short story by Nina Mansfield

For those who also enjoy fantasy, we have a review & giveaway of "Dead Seekers" by JC & Barb Hendee

And on KRL Lite a review & giveaway of "For Whom the Bread Rolls" by Sarah Fox
  Happy reading, Lorie

KRL is now selling advertising & we have special discounts for
mystery authors & bookstores! Ask me about it!
Mystery section in Kings River Life
Check out my own blog at

Kristine Kathryn Rusch Blog: Business Musings: Data Diving

Kristine Kathryn Rusch Blog: Business Musings: Data Diving

Amazon Author Insights: Making a (modest) living as a writer by Elizabeth S. Craig

Amazon Author Insights: Making a (modest) living as a writer by Elizabeth S. Craig

Bill Crider's Pop Culture Magazine: Another Cool Interview with Me

Bill Crider's Pop Culture Magazine: Another Cool Interview with Me: PAUL BISHOP ~ WRITER: ALLIGATOR MAN—BILL CRIDER : This is another interview where full disclosure is required. Bill Crider and I have been f...

Review: Escape Clause: A Virgil Flowers Novel by John Sandford

It is late summer in Minnesota and just shortly after the events in Extreme Prey. Virgil well knows what went on with his old boss Lucas Davenport, so he isn’t surprised when those in charge of the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension are very concerned about the Minnesota State Fair that starts in the next few days. After any major event and the situation in Iowa certainly qualified, there are Law Enforcement worries about copycats. However, Virgil isn’t going to work the fair.

Instead, he will be working the theft of two prized Amur Tigers from the Minnesota zoo. The zoo is located in Apple Valley on the south side of Minneapolis and St. Paul. It is the state zoo and that makes it a BCA problem. So too will the media spectacle once they find out the big cats were tranquilized in their outdoor enclosure and stolen in the night.

Because of the black market that deals in such things, it is most likely the tigers were taken to be turned into medicines. On the endangered species list because they are rare in the wild, medicines from them are highly value in China. Time is of the essence to find the tigers while they are still alive.

At the same time, Virgil has a personal situation. Things have been going well with Frankie and are moving into a serious direction. But, Virgil did not know Frankie has a baby sister. After she and her boyfriend suddenly show up, he can see why. Sparkle is back for a little while as she works on her dissertation on undocumented seasonal migrant workers. Those involved don’t want to be investigated at all.

Then the murders began.

The two storylines take twists and turns as Virgil deals with one crisis after another. Fortunately, he has backup and more than one person is a bad shot or things could be much worse.

The latest in the Virgil Flower series by John Sandford, Escape Clause, is another solidly good read. As has happened before in this series, readers know from the start who the bad guys are though not all of the motivations in their actions. That becomes clear as the point of view shifts from them to Virgil and back again.

While not the best read in the series, the book is a good read well worth your time. 

Escape Clause: A Virgil Flowers Novel
John Sandford
Random House Large Print
October 2016
ISBN# 978-1-5247-0872-6
LARGE PRINT (also available in hardback, eBook, and audio formats)
500 Pages

Material supplied the good folks of the Plano Public Library System.

Kevin R. Tipple ©2017