Shadows Over Cymande: The Complete First Season

Now that I’ve got the first season of Shadows Over Cymande done with, I suppose it’s as good as time as any for me to try and explain what I’m doing with this series, where it’s going and how it came to be in the first place.

Why did it start? Well, if you’ve been a Patron of mine for a while and before that you know my work from my Frontier period then you know how dedicated I am to presenting online serialized fiction. I don’t know why that is and someday I’m going to have to sit down and try to figure it out for myself but I’ve been committed to telling serialized stories ever since I first discovered The Internet. I spent a lot of years in DC/Marvel fan fiction writing serialized stories about my favorite superheroes and I enjoyed it immensely. Fan fiction was a good way for me to keep the creative juices flowing when I got stuck on a piece of original fiction. And since I considered it highly unlikely that either DC or Marvel was going to come knocking on my door and offer me a job, it was a fun way to tell the superhero stories I always wanted to read. I also made a lot of good friends. Many of whom I still work with and socialize with to this day.

So, when I started up this Patreon thing, I naturally intended to use it as a way to tell serialized stories that in some ways would be me experimenting with storytelling in a way I thought would be more entertaining that just presenting it as a novel.

Of course, there’s the whole ethical angle of me experimenting on your dime when I’m supposed to be entertaining you but we’ll put that to the side for awhile.

Shadows Over Cymande was born out of my love of Soap Operas, believe it or not. I grew up during the 1970s and 1980s when Soap Operas were the primary daytime television entertainment. And for a time there, we even had nighttime Soap Operas such as “Dallas” “Falcon Crest” and the wildly successful “Dynasty”. The daytime Soap Operas are almost all gone, now. I think only two or three are still hanging in there, including “General Hospital” which was one of the daytime Soap Operas that is a huge influence on Shadows Over Cymande

There was a period during the 1980s where “General Hospital” was the craziest, most batshit insane pulp action adventure cliffhanger serial you ever saw. Luke and Laura Charles (played by Anthony Geary and Genie Francis) along with superspy Robert Scorpio (Tristan Rogers) and ace reporter Jackie Templeton (played with a ruthless kind of feistiness by Demi Moore. Yes, that Demi Moore) ran around the city of Port Charles getting embroiled in wild adventures that came straight out of comic books and 1940s Saturday cliffhangers, culminating into the classic “Ice Princess” storyline which saw our heroes battling the wealthy yet insane Cassidine family bent on world domination who had at their disposal a weather machine they intended to use to freeze the Earth if they didn’t get their way. Believe me when I say that for a few years there, “General Hospital” was unlike any other Soap Opera on daytime TV what with its mad scientists, secret societies, hidden cities within cities, ruthless crime bosses, fights, captures, chases, explosions and fates worse than death. And mind you, this was every day.

In fact, the show was so popular it attracted a whole lot of really world renowned actors and actress who showed up either in cameos or small supporting roles. Culminating in a genuine Film Icon, Elizabeth Taylor herself appearing as Helena Cassidine, matriarch of The Cassidine Clan looking for revenge against Luke and Laura for foiling her husband’s plans to freeze the world.

And then there’s “Dark Shadows” It started out as a Gothic melodrama and didn’t really take off until a year after it’s debut when Jonathan Frid took center stage as the vampire Barnabas Collins. It didn’t take long after that until we also had werewolves, witches, warlocks, zombies and all sorts of monsters running around Collinsport. And if that wasn’t enough, the writers threw in concepts such as parallel universes and time travel. “Dark Shadows” even flirted with Lovecraftian themes with the “Leviathans” storyline, heavily influenced and inspired by Lovecraft’s “Cthulhu Mythos.” And just like “General Hospital” this batshit insanity was on the tube five days a week.

In fact, the first scene of Episode One of Shadows Over Cymande is intended as a homage to the first scene of the first episode of “Dark Shadows” which has the heroine Victoria Winters (Alexandra Moltke) arriving by train to the mysterious town of Collinsport, located in Maine. My heroine Alexandrea Ainsley similarly arrives by train to the mysterious city of Cymande in South Carolina. 

And on top of that, for years I’ve been taking notes about ideas for a series of novels involving two African-American families of great wealth, power and influence with lineage going back to the Civil War and their rivalry from the days of slavery to the 21st Century. I envisioned it as a John Jakes type of multi-generational epic series of novels. But after a few years I realized that this was a genre I simply wasn’t hardwired to write. For one thing, it would take tons of research and quite frankly, I’d rather be writing than doing research. I have a tremendous amount of respect and admiration for writers who can spend years doing pure research before writing Word One but I’m not that breed of writer.

But somewhere along the line I got the bright idea that maybe I could smoosh all of these ideas/concepts together and come up with something halfway readable. Judging by the fact I have not as yet gotten an email from my patrons demanding to know What Is This Shit? and Can I Have My Money Back? I guess I’m safe for the time being.

So why not call the first twelve episodes Book One instead of Season One? Mainly because unlike the other serials that are running here, I currently have no plans as yet to publish Shadows Over Cymande as a novel. It’s going to be running here exclusively on my Patreon for a good long while. And if I think of each twelve-episode arc as a Season that will enable me to build certain storylines organically and manage the huge cast of characters much better. So far, I’ve got five Seasons planned. But that could change and it could go longer. Or something else could happen and I end it sooner. These days I like to be extremely loose with my writing plans. Makes me feel less constrained.

So, we’ve met most of our main and supporting characters in Season One and been introduced to the Redfern and Jalmari families. The Redferns are deep into highly advanced technology that almost seems…well, alien or magical in nature while the Jalmaris have connection to…Something Else.

(Cue ominous music)

Even though we now know who killed Carol Baylor and Walter Pinckney, there’s still a lot about the why they were killed that still has to be uncovered. As well as the words the unconscious Carole said to Isaiah Jalmari. And what happened to Sheriff Mark Francis? Why did David Redfern just suddenly disappear? Why was he spying on his family? Why does Cab Westminster have a retro secret office straight out the 1950’s in his basement and why is he typing up reports on everything that happens in Cymande?

I promise I won’t be stringing out these mysteries for long. But the thing about writing something like this is that for every mystery that’s solved, it seems to give birth to two more that need to be solved.

If you’re at all curious as to what this is all about then just bounce on over to my Patreon site. Shadows Over Cymande: The Complete Season 1 is available in both Epub and Mobi formats I hope this has enhanced your understanding and hopefully enjoyment of Shadows Over Cymande. And if not, let me know and I’ll take another whack at it and we’ll see where we’re at.

You can find my Patreon site HERE and besides Shadows Over Cymande there’s plenty of other goodness such as Dillon and The Island of Dr. Mamuwalde and One Night In Denbrook to enjoy if you’re so inclined to part with a couple bucks a month to check it out.

My Thanks to Perry Constantine for his technical assistance in preparing the ebook version and his most excellent cover design.

And as always, Thank You for your time, your patronage, your interest and support in my work and may God continue to bless you and yours. Stay safe and be good to yourself and others.

Kickin’ The Willy Bobo With…BERTRAM GIBBS

Derrick Ferguson: It’s been three long years since we did this last so we have to do this obligatory bit of business for the people that came in late. So here we go: Who Is Bertram Gibbs?

Bertram Gibbs: Husband, father, writer, brutally sarcastic curmudgeon, cinema, television, and comic book historian, purveyor of true crime stories, collector of oddities. 

DF: Where do you live and what do you tell the IRS it is that you do for your cheese and crackers? 

BG: While I am always saying/reminding people I’m from the Bronx, New York, I live in Lynn, Massachusetts.  I do issue the warning that I have constructed an electrified moat around my home (oft referred to as ‘The Psychedelic Shack’) and is guarded by a bevy of attack gerbils.  That’s on top of my rescue pup and three cats. Regarding the felines, one is a spastic germaphobe, one constantly retreats to the basement to work on her thermo-nuclear device, and the last one sits calmly, staring and plotting the demise of us all.

DF: One of the things that intrigued me about you right from the start is your background so yes, I’m gonna make you tell the folks at home about it. Proceed.

BG: OH, C’MON!!!

My rapier wit, my brutal sarcasm (re-mentioned in case the readers skipped over the first part), my near-encyclopedic knowledge of films, my love of comic books, and my cinematic writing style which lets the readers ‘see’ the story they’re reading.  But originally, we crossed paths when I was writing for Curtis Fernlund’s Justice League fan fiction site where he was great and righteous enough to publish a novel I wrote (that DC/Warner wouldn’t) in monthly installments (The Return of BWAH-HAH-HA, for those who came in late).  It was a team-up story with a lot of cameos from the DC heroes’ roster.  I decided to let Plastic Man, The Blue Beetle (Ted Kord) and Booster Gold go after Lex Luthor, using their combined powers of annoyance.  This was done in the 80s period where super heroism was mixed with outlandish comedy.  I tried to do all the characters justice and threw a few comedic moments that the DC writers didn’t come up with.

DF: How long have you been writing?

BG: YEESH!  If you want photographic proof of when I started, there’s a pic of me at 4 years old, frowning in front of a typewriter (I’ve aged of course, but the frowning rictus remains the same).  If you asked Ma, she would say it was about the time I learned to read on my own; which was at 3.  Ma had read me comics since I was aware enough to question the bubbles above the superheroes.  One day, after a bedtime story, I complained (yeah; I’ve been doing that since birth) that I didn’t like the story.  She said, ‘So, go write one!’  Been writing ever since.

Ma was my biggest fan and harshest critic.  I would sit in my room, writing in longhand, finish the dozen or so pages and pass it to her for review.  She would sit in her chair, a cup of tea on the ever-present folding TV tray next to her chair, going over page after page until she was done.  One of two things would happen: Ma would either tell me she liked it, commenting on the plot, the story structure, the characters, then give a few tips on how I could improve it.  Or, she would lock eyes with me, take a sip of tea, then tear the sheets of paper in half, then in haves again, telling me why the story didn’t work, if it seemed like I used a known character or one from something else I wrote, or if it was crap to begin with, then proceed in telling me why she felt it was crap.  All the while smiling under her dark eyes and speaking in her soft Lauren Bacall voice.  Which could also go full New York with a Jewish twang.

True, the latter could be ego-blitzing, but living in a sarcastic environment, where the digs flew like a flock of insane geese, it thickened my skin.  And helped me deal with rejection.

Quick Ma story showing her caustic remarks weren’t just meant for the family: She had to go through a parents/teacher’s night and each one (there were eight in total) said that I was attentive, had my homework down, always willing to help out, polite, always had my hand raised with an answer, and things like that.  Ma got bored of hearing the stings of praise by the third teacher.  The last one said basically the same thing as the others, except she added, ‘When Bertram was born, they broke the mold!’  Ma said in her dangerous monotone, ‘And to make sure there were no duplicates, we backed a truck over the pieces.’

DF: In the three years since we last did this, have you found an audience for Bertram Gibbs or have they found you?

BG: A little bit of each.  I’ve been passing my stories around to different people; professionals and John Q Public.  The civilians really like them; so did some of the professionals, but not enough to publish them because they did not fit into a particular literary niche.  And because my stories read like a film instead of a book, the few professionals who responded felt they were off-putting because I did not adhere to a particular format.

Between the end of last year all the way into the Spring, a filmmaker asked to do a film adaptation of The First Thing We Do.  Because I lack the talent to do screenwriting, the gent happily took on that task.  What came from that was very disconcerting.

He had merged one or two characters, changed the gender on one, removed key murders, altered the motivation of the villain, as well as the ending, and because the story revolves around my two NYPD Homicide detectives, Desmond Fine and Frank Costa, versus them being equals, he tried to make one the older, senior detective and the other the newbie on the force.  That caused a bit of a back and forth brouhaha between us because I explained – repeatedly – that a pairing of that type was an overused film trope that went back to Kirk Douglas’ ‘The Detective’. 

Then it occurred to me that even if he changed the characters and the events from the book for a film, it did not change what I wrote in any way.  I decided to allow him to make whatever changes he wanted to (within reason) because if/when the film came out, it would turn people towards the book.  The readers would see what as written versus what they saw and determine which was done better.

End result: he couldn’t get the funding to get the production off the ground.  That equally saddened and overjoyed me.  Sure, I was disappointed, but felt that if the book was in the right hands, and the time was right, a film would be made based on my story and characters one day.

DF: The world has changed in extraordinary ways in the past three years. How has it affected your writing? Has it affected it at all?

BG: If anything, the dark paranoia and tenuous nature of the world; especially 2020, has spurred my imagination.  Part of my work has more of a cynical edge, and part has more humanity running through it.  Many I know are going through anger issues, anxiety attacks and increasing bouts of worry and depression.  But they are what they are and even as bad or horrific as they are – in my mind – they’re only temporary.  We have gone through troubling times and have gotten over them.  WW1, WW2, the Korean, Vietnam and Iraq wars. The assassination of both Kennedys, King, Malcom.  9-11. The Oklahoma bombing.  Waco. School shootings, mass murders. The murders of Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Breonna Taylor, Trayvon Martin, George Floyd, and others. And on.  And on.  Ad infinitum.  I am old enough to remember them all.  That said, I am fully aware of the social and political unrest that appears on the news every other minute, but throughout it all, I am hopeful.  We, as humanity, have come out of each one a little more cynical, but – for the most part – on the better side.  Maybe not as complete as we’d like it, but they’re stages in our being.  It’s an understanding that we, as a society, are broken.  And we’ve known this all along, but now and once again we have to face the shattered pieces and fix it.

Which is why I write.  I create worlds where this; our reality, doesn’t exist.  And if it does, it does in a somewhat different way.  Despite the dark, weird and otherworldliness of my stories, there’s a degree of hope at the end.  And if there isn’t, the ‘bad guy’ gets their due.  Either way, I like to see my stories as a distraction to our day to day.  Something to take your mind away, if only for a few minutes.  To give you a moment of peace so you’re not dwelling on what’s going on around you.

DF: Whenever I recommend your work to anybody I always tell them to start with THE FIRST THING WE DO… is that fair of me?

Some months back, I would have said yes, but these days, no.  To clarify that answer, I have to tell you a story, and we all know that stories are a part of life.

When I first met my publisher, the company published ‘Reflections From the Abyss’.  Because of my aversion to sequels and feeling that if you can tell a story the way you want it, it should be a one-and-done.  That is how I wrote ‘Reflections’.  The publisher demanded a follow-up story and because the book had a finite ending, there was no logical way to create a ‘next chapter’.  But the requests continued and my imagination led me to think in a cinematic way.  Like in films, you could do a prequel; a story that happened before the story.  So, using my detectives, Desmond Fine and Frank Costa, I came up with an earlier case that became ‘The First Thing We Do’.  After that was published, the kinks in the fabric started to show.

Seeing that how I ended ‘First’ did not refer chronologically to how ‘Reflections’ began, I knew I had to write a bridging piece that tied both works together.  That story is called ‘The Cup of Their Deservings’.  At the same time, the publisher began to make very drastic changes in how their author’s work was to be published (marketing, the cost of book covers – which had to be from their house artist -, editing, the actual publishing, and how the nut fell into the author’s lap).  While I debated each point, a friend – who is a big fan of my detectives – pushed me to write another book with Fine and Costa.  Again, ‘Reflections’ had such a finite ending, it really couldn’t be done without stretching the reality I created.  In short, ‘Reflections From the Abyss’, while being published first, is actually the third in the series, and ‘The First Thing We Do’, is the first story while ‘The Cup of Their Deservings’ is the second.  I can send you a stack of 8 x 10 colored glossy photographs with circles and arrows and paragraphs on the back if you’re confused by this point. 

Then thanks to my watching the ‘Forensic Files’ show, I figured out how to do a follow-up story to ‘Reflections’ and keep the reality, well, real.

Suddenly, the head of the publishing company became ill and subsequently passed away.  The person who took over started sending a battery of emails, reassuring the authors that their work would not go unattended.  They were followed by more emails that invited the authors to submit more work, requesting said authors to invite new and unpublished authors to join, and adding a new price structure that seemed legit if you were willing to hock your mother’s respirator to get your work published through them. 

Warning: When a publisher sends you an email filled with spelling and grammatical errors, moonwalk the hell out of there.

So, I did a test:  I sent a copy of the bridging story that was purposefully quite graphic in violence, profane past the point of shock value and purposely filled with spelling and continuity errors.  I expected that these glaring points would be mentioned and a request for a rewrite would follow.  What I received was a contract to publish it, filled with said new and improved pricing structures and detailed sections on what they would not do to push the book; which was just about everything.  I requested the full rights of ‘Reflection’ and ‘First’ and ended my relationship with the publisher.

So, because both books are out of print, you may find them online somewhere, but will have to pay a hefty price for them.  But no worries; as the Joker said, ‘It’s all part of the plan’.

DF: Tell us about NO WORD OF A LIE.

‘No Word of A Lie’ is Stage One in my nefarious plot for world domination.  The book has 14 short (and in some cases, not-so-short) stories covering different genres.  Science fiction, modern fantasy, satire, straight drama, realistic horror, comedic; all stories that I feel everyone will enjoy.  Taken from the Amazon site:

‘A man dies and finds Heaven is not as perfect as advertised.  Two friends and how a long-hidden secret change everything.  What goes on in a self-help group.  A man who is stalked by himself.  A 40s private eye works to solve the case of an impossible murder in modern-day Hollywood.  A serial killer is forced to take a hard look at his misdeeds.  The ultimate workout program.  A man finds out how far he will go to change his life.

These stories and more.

As you turn each page, you’ll find No Word of A Lie.’

At this point, the book is only available in Kindle format.  Maybe as time moves forward, I will include a paperback edition.  But, as it stands now, you have a collection that is a little over 500 pages for $3.04 a pop, so versus adding a luggage rack to lug the thing around in to your cart, I think you’re getting a pretty decent bargain. 

DF: What other pots you got boiling on the stove?

BG: Now that I am publishing my work through Amazon, I intend to re-publish my crime thrillers in book order.  In a short time, you’ll have a slightly revamped and updated ‘The First Thing We Do’, ‘The Cup of Their Deservings’, ‘Reflection From the Abyss’ and the other dozen or so books I’ve written that follow.

I will also be publishing another mystery, outside of the Fine and Costa pieces, called ‘Split Decisions’, and my irreverent take on the superhero genre, called ‘The Collector’.  There’s also a second book of shorts in the making.

DF: What’s A Typical Day In The Life of Bertram Gibbs like?

BG: Since the fun of COVID-19, I’ve been working from home.  I get up around 5:15, have my coffee and alternate between watching the news and a show I have on DVR (presently, it’s the first season of Star Trek: Discovery).  Then around 6:20, I do a moderate workout with weights, then assist my wife in getting ready for her day at the office (she does not work remotely).  Then I begin my job in credit and collections.  Insert 16-ounce mugs of coffee through the day.  Because I have my work laptop on the same long desk as the home computer, I roll in my chair from computer to computer, office-working on one while writing or noodling on a story on the other.  So, if a camera was filming me, it would be like watching a tennis match with me rolling from one end of the desk to the other.  I tend to do my stories on weekdays so I can devote my time to hanging out with my wife in the evenings and weekends.  Of course, there will be moments when my brain returns to a story and I go to add a line or page or two.  My wife is my inspiration; my muse, and she thankfully understands when I get that glazed look in my eyes (outside of my generally glazed look) and skips to the office to go back to a story.  Or begin a new one.

Wash, rinse, repeat.

I’m hoping, as all writers do, that No Word of A Lie is a springboard to being able to write fulltime.  A bum can dream.  Writing is the best thing I do.  Legally, anywho . . .

Derrick Ferguson: Anything else we should or need to know?

Bertram Gibbs: There are probably some odds and sods I could add, but they’d probably bore you to tears (I know it does me).  So, I will leave it to your readers to ask whatever question they feel the need to ask.  I will respond, but will warn you to expect a modicum of sarcasm in my answers.  As Ma has said, my level of sarcasm could power a third-world country.

NO WORD OF A LIE is now available on Amazon. All you got to do is bounce over to HERE

And Bertram is a really entertaining guy to hang out with. Why not slide on over to his Facebook page and make friends?

From The “Feeling The Heat In Miami File” by Sean E. Ali

Yes, there’s some art for a book I’m not attached to, but felt compelled to create because…

Well, therein lies the tale…

Since coronavirus came to town my world in particular had gotten crazy and uncertain…

But on the upside, my days aren’t nearly as stressful as say coming home to find the place ransacked and picked clean of profits from something you worked pretty hard to get through means you’d rather not discuss…

…It’s criminal what a guy has to go through.

And what makes it worse is that it happens in the last place you’d expect things like this to happen: a quiet suburb just outside of…

…Miami.

Especially when you just settled down there after retiring from your last job in Las Vegas. But as you’ll soon discover, whatever happens in Vegas, could have consequences you never expected.

Which is a set up for Van Allen Plexico’s all the fun you’ll find in this second helping of professional heisters Harper and Salsa as they find themselves putting in work in MIAMI HEI$T.

109098655_10213354644699306_3088732545099693336_n (1)

Heist stories, as I’ve said on numerous occasions, have a special place in my heart. They’re entertaining, tricky to plot and execute, and offer some insight into what motivates people to take what doesn’t belong to them and the extremes they’ll engage in to get the job done. And Van, bless him, chose the 1960s to set these up in where these guys were both brutal and cool thanks to films like the original OCEAN’S 11 and books like the series featuring professional criminal Parker written under the pen name Richard Stark by the late, great Donald Westlake. There’s nostalgia and a wonderfully tech free world to work in carry your action without the fear that one of your crew will be posting up video to social media and blowing the job.

So when we last saw our heroes, John Harper and Saul “Salsa” Salzman have successfully managed to get out of Vegas in one piece and considerably richer than they were going in…

…given they were a team of four at the start of the caper, there were a few hitches.

Well we are now months and miles away from Nevada and deep underground on the sun splashed beaches of Miami where Harper has adopted a new name, bought a new home he’s rarely at in Flagler Beach, and picked up a (presumably) new girlfriend Connie Perrigen – who is aware of what Harper does and has none of the issues expected of grad student, and a new Camaro which has brought him back to said new home after leaving (presumably) new girlfriend down at a South Beach hotel after getting a message sent to his new adopted name letting him know someone, somehow knows exactly who he is, where he lives and what he has

…from that time in Las Vegas.

When Harper gets to his house, he finds that his stash with his money from Vegas is long gone from where he hid it. He checks in with Salsa who got an earlier message from Harper that sent him, not to his stash to check his loot, but to the house of Lois Funderburk, who was the finger for the job in VEGAS HEI$T and is now Salsa’s steady girl. By the time Harper gets to Salsa’s office, he finds out Salsa’s been cleaned out too. Lois, being a practical woman, had the bulk of her cut tied up in legitimate investments or it’s in the bank earning its interest on more faith than Harper and Salsa has for those institutions. As despair and desperation kick in, Salsa brings up a job that Harper passed on earlier tied to a local but solitary spot known as Ruby Island which houses an old estate converted into a casino and a legend that there may be gold hidden away in the grounds.

Gold that came there by way of a Nazi submarine during World War II.

Harper and Salsa have a limited crew of themselves and the ladies and while scouting the job they come across a second crew looking to pull a straightforward robbery run by Big Bob Bigelow, a local planner who is talked into supporting Harper’s effort, but is a little annoyed to find the pay day may not be as nice as his team co-opting the job for their own for the risks they’re taking. Harper himself wasn’t too keen on the job from the beginning, and the number of red flags he’s noticed and ignored haven’t helped any.

But with their Vegas money gone and no idea of who took it and where to find it, Harper and Salsa have to play some long odds and go for broke.

109277719_10213354643859285_1357102374002529771_n

Now, I’ll stop with the summary because I caught myself about to reveal things you shouldn’t know about if you plan to read the book, or details you may be a little fuzzy about if you haven’t bought/read VEGAS HEI$T, which this book leans on heavily to set things up to tell its tale. I want you to check in without spoilers of any sort on my end.

As to how I felt as it played out though?

Yeah, I can share that with you…

Heist stories are solid because most folks think of them as two major acts: everything up to the heist, and the heist itself and everything that follows. You watch the job get planned, you see it executed, you wait for whatever fallout comes of doing what they did and any flagged aberrations that will flip the circumstances in different ways, and you hope all of the above is executed in such a way that you feel you invested your time well. But the thing about heist stories and the folks who occupy them is nothing’s ever according to plan with a nice neat finish. Look at some of the best literary heisters and con artists and in a lot of cases the antihero be it a “gentleman thief like Raffles, or Earle Stanley Gardner’s Lester Leith, or Westlake’s Parker, or TV shows like LEVERAGE and HU$TLE, you’ll find a certain element of chaos that adds to the tension of the story as everything goes off the rails making the crooks we’re rooting for got to work on trying to get everything back under control. The thing is that the bulk of these guys keep their cool and tend not to be reckless as they adjust. And while that’s all well and good, what you almost never see is what happens when your guy pulls off the big job, gets away…

…and it still blows up later.

What MIAMI HEI$T does is take that exact route, if snatches away a successful job with a messy finish in VEGAS and turns this tale into a heist, a caper…

…and a getaway story of sorts. Which is a part of the whole heist genre that gets overlooked as a subcategory a lot. In this case, things don’t just go wrong, but they’re going wrong from the last job which is spilling over into how this job is put together. It’s a nice play of controlled panic and desperation where all concerned are pushed well out of their comfort zone from the folks we met in VEGAS and the new members of the cast who turn up in MIAMI. You get the feeling right away that Harper’s winging this more than he wanted to because he has no safety net, but everyone around him thinks he’s got it together.

It is a beautifully put together character examination of Harper over the rest of the cast where he’s fleshed out a bit and slight divergences from his spiritual father of Westlake’s Parker are starting to show up. Mostly because Parker wouldn’t have gone this route with so many potential holes in the plan. Van also shows some subtle things with Salsa who still wears his feelings on his sleeve, especially where Lois is concerned, Connie may be a keeper, her role in this left me wondering how she and Harper hooked up and exactly what kind of life she had led up to this introduction. There are great character bits, small stuff that puts some weight to Salsa being thought of as a partner more than a convenient associate. Van makes it understandable why Harper works with Salsa and even gives us a sort of Salsa moment from Harper which could very well lead them into their next big job after going to a movie. I also like that I’m personally uncomfortable with Lois being involved as she is. Her use in this book and the way Van plays with her interactions with everyone makes her the same sort of question mark she was in VEGAS but maybe more so given the callouts to the first book. But this is more Harper’s story than anyone else’s and you get inside his head a little with him being more desperate than in control.

The cast is a bigger than the last book as moving parts go, but it was well worth it because, like any good heist story, you’re trying to figure out exactly where the twist is…

…and I’m telling you now, you’ll never see it coming.

…or that other one…

…and definitely not the one…

Well, you get the idea.

Get a neck brace though, you will get whiplash trying to follow all of this after the heist when everything gets WILD!

Plus there’s a lot of loose ends dangling that could (and should) be followed up and at least one guy I’d like to see the crew catch up to on camera as opposed to off. That guy turned out to be slicker than a kitten on skis.

No need for a spoiler alert, that’s the bulk of the cast in this book.

109117014_10213354645259320_5172032602427678893_n

If there’s any complaint it’s that the McGuffin was gotten to pretty easily, but it set up some really nice sequences after the job was done. Also, though it works from a marketing standpoint, you really should pick up VEGAS HEI$T to really appreciate everything that happens this time around. And you can find that definite gem of crime writing at a link like this one: https://www.amazon.com/…/ref=pd_aw_sim…/146-2096148-8091948…

Also, if you’re so inclined by what I said above, check out MIAMI HEI$T. I picked up a copy for my Kindle app right here:

https://www.amazon.com/Miami-Heist-Harper…/…/ref=mp_s_a_1_1…

Available in ebook and hard copy. Sadly we don’t get a movie version, but hey never say never…

Now, did I enjoy this one more or less than VEGAS?

Let’s just say I doodled a lot more this time around.

Until next time…

…Be good to yourselves and each other.

Oh yeah

As for the doodling inspired by this…?

Told you there were a lot…

116073319_10213354644459300_4464099788935501881_n

115982628_10213354645019314_1318630932051196035_n

116016982_10213354644099291_6384126305951182518_n

Indie Authors Read Provides Free Author Readings For Those Sheltering At Home

Atlanta, GA—In the wake of Georgia’s shelter in place order, many folks find themselves at home looking for ways to occupy their time without spending a lot (or even any) money. For readers and fans of sci-fi and fantasy conventions who normally get their fix of meeting their favorite authors and listening to them do readings during the con, that stay at home can be doubly difficult during what is normally a strong and busy convention season.

That’s why Lawrenceville-based writer Sean Taylor created Indie Authors Read, a website devoted to providing video “convention reading” for those stuck at home. “Panel readings are one of my favorites things to take part in at conventions, both as a writer and as a fan. Knowing I’m not alone in that, I asked several fellow writers from my ‘convention family’ if they’d be interested in helping out with a project where we could just sit at home and read our stories as if we’d been at the big shows at the local convention center. The response has been humbling, and many have joined the group,” said Taylor.

81472012_10220777864978403_7191166758483394560_n

Although the project has its creation in the closure of sci-fi and fantasy conventions, the stories included on the site will include various genres beyond just those two. Fans can expect action stories, thrillers, drama, horror, romance, and everything in between.

“I love this idea and am honored to be part of it. Especially now, when the arts are more essential than ever,” said Bobby Nash, whose story “Beyond the Horizon” actually does fall into the fantasy category.

 

The website launches April 6, and fresh readings will be added weekly.

“All that oohing and aahing, that cringing and crying, that laughing and wowing you’re expected at the con is missing from your life. This is a taste of it,” said Robert J. Krog, who contributes a Cthulhu-themed tale to the site’s launch.

Indie Authors Read is a free video resource where authors read from their stories. For more information visit the Indie Authors Read website at http://www.indieauthorsread.com (or http://www.indyauthorsread.com since that usage is becoming common as well) or visit the Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/Indie-Authors-Read-100275171639336 or visit the YouTube page at http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCOo8qLFK2qLR5kQo02TvKmQ. Authors wishing to take part in the project should fill out the contact form on the Indie Authors Read website.

Sean Taylor is an award-winning writer of stories. He grew up telling lies, and he got pretty good at it, so now he writes them into full-blown adventures for comic books, graphic novels, magazines, book anthologies and novels. He makes stuff up for money, and he writes it down for fun. He’s a lucky fellow that way. For more information visit his website at http://www.thetaylorverse.com.

Contact:

Sean Taylor

Creator of Indie Authors Read

http://www.indieauthorsread.com

For Immediate Release: PRO SE PRODUCTIONS Licenses Characters Of Alleged Lost Pulp Publisher-42 Writers Sign On!

Every field of work, every career, every fandom, every anything that catches peoples’ interest and involves creative types producing works comes with its own mysteries. Obscure players and disregarded pieces that get lost to history and end up nearly completely forgotten, except for whispers of ‘Do You remember…?’ and tales of ‘Someone told me about…’

Such are the rumors of Vincent St. Germain and his nearly literal flash in the pan self-named pulp publishing company-St. Germain Publishing. Pro Se Productions announces that after exploring the nearly unknown stories and whispers about this extremely short lived publishing outfit, it has licensed from the owner and potential creator’s estate all characters featured in five apparently and two unpublished magazines.

“As little is known about the man St. Germain as is about his alleged almost momentarily St. Louis, Missouri based magazine publishing concern,” says Tommy Hancock, Editor in Chief of Pro Se Productions. “I have uncovered no written records confirming his existence, except potentially a few pieces of paper held dearly by reclusive collectors of such ephemera. No copies of signatures, of his own handwriting, not even of checks issued by his company. This last matter has led to speculation among the few who still discuss St. Germain that he may not have had many employees beyond what it took to physically publish magazines. In other words, there is a belief that Vincent St. Germain, ‘Vinny’ to a very few apparently, may himself have written every story that his company published, all of them under a variety of pen names. This is further potentially supported, based on lists of the works he published, each story by an author that had not published before or since St. Germain Publishing’s one month rise and fall. It is curious, though, that a Vincent St. Germain died in New Orleans, Louisiana in late 1938. Also, other than supposedly eyewitness encounters with the man, the only possible proof that he ever lived are two images, taken a few years apart apparently, that, based on my own personal deductions, are likely Vincent St. Germain.”

91247643_1341674252701228_3426270650979844096_o

“There is even less available evidence of the five single issues, each one the first of a hopeful magazine within the St. Germain line, that the company allegedly released on the same day in the first week of April 1938. I have been allowed access to information and such surrounding the characters and contents of each magazine, six stories in each issue, all intended to be the first in series within each title. If the magazines ever existed, actual issues are either in the hands of the very protective collectors I mentioned earlier or hiding possibly in someone’s basement in a box thrown in the corner. Fortunately, the creator, if St. Germain, or creators, if multiple writers, made detailed notes and character descriptions and synopses, all supposedly at the direction of St. Germain, another way that he stood out from other Pulp publishers of the era.”

Also, there were allegedly two magazines prepared to debut the month after the first five. Though they were reportedly never published, Pro Se does have access to purported notes and details of these two books, and they will also be a part of this project, meaning that there will be seven anthologies featuring new stories starring these characters alleged to have appeared in St. Germain’s works.

The magazines that were supposedly published included ENDLESS MYSTERY, EVERLASTING TERROR, IMMORTAL ACTION, FOREVER WESTERN, and TIMELESS TALES. UNDYING LOVE and ETERNAL FANTASY were the two unpublished magazines. All these titles indicate that Vincent St. Germain was aware of the folklore associated with his surname and the infamous Comte de St. Germain, possibly a relative.

Based on a few notes left by St. Germain, it was intended that every story in each magazine would continue as a series. This did not occur, however, because there was no second issue of any of the five periodicals, or anything else ever published by St. Germain Publishing. The characters in St. Germain’s magazines at least on the surface resembled types made popular in other Pulp magazines. But, upon closer review, it turns out that Vincent was not only revolutionary in how he chose to do business, but he attempted to be tremendously forward thinking in both style of storytelling and crossing certain boundaries.

This has been,” Hancock states, “more than just a research project for a curious publisher, though. In the weeks I’ve invested in putting together the scarce remains of St. Germain Publishing, I have made progress that I did not expect. Pro Se Productions has licensed the characters believed to be included in St. Germain’s seven magazines from the person who currently owns them. To this end, Pro Se intends to bring all seven magazine titles back initially, each one as a book, an anthology. Each will feature a story for all the characters that reportedly debuted or would have debuted in the original pulps in the order in which they first appeared. The intent is to publish these seven new collections over the next twelve to eighteen months, twelve being the target. Following this ‘re debut’, we would then most definitely do novels, anthologies, digest novels, and even standalone digital short stories of the characters and expand them in their own series, hopefully as St. Germain might have intended.”

Pro Se Productions proudly announces that artist Kristopher Michael Mosby has agreed to provide a cover fore each anthology, each one bearing the title of a St. Germain magazine. Also, 42 writers have signed on to be a part of this project. The writers involved are-

Ron Fortier, Melinda Lafevers, E. W. Farnsworth, Adrian Delgado, Ariel Teague, Joshua Pantalleresco, Troy Osgood, Atom Mudman Bezecny, Andrew Butters, Rich Steeves, Raymond Embrack, HC Playa, Davide Mana, Quenntis Ashby, Paul Brian McCoy, Richard B. Wood, Colin Joss, Mark Bousquet, Derrick Ferguson, Sean Taylor, Neal Litherland, Susan Burdorf, Gary Phillips, Barry Reese, Frank Schildiner, Rob Howell, Gordon Dymowski, Richard C. White, Ernest Russell, Thomas Fortenberry, David Farris, Barbara Doran, Aaron Bittner, David White, Erik Franklin, Mike Hintze, Guy Worthey, Emily Jahnke, Mandi M. Lynch, Derek M. Koch, Aubrey Stephens, and Dewayne Dowers.

Please follow Pro Se’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/ProSeProductions for regular updates on this project as well as Pro Se news at www.prose-press.com. Contact Tommy Hancock at editorinchief@prose-press.com for interviews or further information.

91258556_1341676649367655_4507020092080390144_o

Kickin’ The Willy Bobo With…BEX AARON

IMG_2547

Derrick Ferguson: It’s been four years since we did this so we have to reprise the basic question I always ask: Who Is Bex Aaron?

Bex Aaron: Bex Aaron is Bex Awesome – at least, that’s what I tell Siri to call me! I’m almost 37. I’m a Mac person. I can be professional when the situation warrants, but I also have the mouth of a sailor. I’m a master of accents, except for New Zealand (the vowel pronunciations are so different from ours that it’s hard to master). I’m an NBA historian and a Clippers fan. I’d make a great lifeline on Millionaire. I love cats, ice cream and cold weather. I hate Mondays, LeBron James and Texas summers.

DF: Where do you live and what do you tell the IRS you do for a living?

BA: I live in Houston, Texas – born and raised, and I’m itching to get out! I want to live in the Pacific Northwest, namely Seattle. I currently work as a senior case manager for a personal injury law firm but am more than open to other opportunities! 🙂

DF: Catch us up on what been going on with you personally and professionally between our last interview in 2015 and now.

BA: Well, since we last talked, I took a really long sabbatical from writing (I just released one book between our first interview and now), but I am getting back into the swing of things now! Trying to finish up the long-awaited final book of the series, and planning out what the future might bring.

DF: Has your philosophy of writing changed from 2015 to now?

BA: I don’t know if my philosophy has changed, necessarily, but my style has. I’ve been brushing up on my skills, trying to get better and grow as a writer. I always find that reading material from writers who are better than you is a great motivator. I have a few that I’m enthralled with, and their style and way with words is helps me to be better myself.

As for my philosophy of writing, one of my songwriting mentors said it best, Christine Dente (and this is a rough paraphrase): “My goal as a writer is to create something people can connect to, to make them think and feel…but to do that, you can’t always beckon them from the front door. Sometimes, you have to use the window or the chimney to lure them in more slowly.” I believe very strongly in creating an immersive world people can get lost in, one that they (hopefully!) want to come back to.

DF: For those who are not familiar with your work (and shame on them!) tell us about your INDEPENDENCE DAY series.

BA: Independence Day takes place in a small town called Haven Park, Wyoming (fifteen miles outside of Laramie). Haven Park is quiet, and its residents are, by all intents and purposes, wholesome, god-fearing people…until the night of July 4, 1966, when the walls came closing in and the skeletons began to creep out of their closets.

It started with a murder. Carol Mathison, a lifelong resident and the only daughter of retired police chief Stanley Rogers, was found strangled in the park on the morning of July 5, leaving the community stunned. By all accounts, Carol was vibrant, well-liked, outgoing and cheerful, making her murder all the more senseless. However, as the days drag by, more and more began to be revealed about Carol’s darker side…and the many, many people who might have wanted her dead.

2940011287541_p0_v4_s550x406

DF: While reading Book One and Book Two I couldn’t help but think that INDEPENDENCE DAY falls into a genre I like to call The Little Town With Big Secrets Genre. It starts out like “Twin Peaks” what with a surprising and horrifying murder that shocks the entire town. Then we move into “Peyton Place” territory. Are you a fan of soap operas?

BA: I definitely was growing up. I was always drawn to that human element, the drama of interpersonal relationships. I’m not keen on some of the more dramatic stunts that modern soaps are prone to pull (like back from the dead, rapidly aging babies and the like), but the classic, character-based storytelling really stuck with me when I was a kid. I haven’t watched a soap in a long, long time…I’m not even sure which ones are still on the air. It’s kind of sad the genre has dwindled down to nothing, but I hope, in some small way, my books can help keep it alive for someone.

11832494

DF: I recall you originally conceived INDEPENDENCE DAY as a five-part story. Are there still going to be five books or do you have more to tell about Haven Park beyond those five books?

BA: Yes, BOOK FIVE: THE BIG SURPRISE will be the last. I really hate typing that. I’m not very good with endings, see. This is, in fact, the only one I’ve ever done. Everything else has been open-ended, and I only stopped when I grew tired of it. It’s quite an accomplishment for me to create something with a beginning, middle and an end…even if it tears my heart out to think about having to say goodbye.

There actually is more in the pipeline for Haven Park, though. I am plotting a sequel series, which will be set thirty years into the future. I already have a rough idea of how I want the story to go, just need to sit down and actually, y’know, write it!

511XrSX7oRL._SY445_QL70_

DF: Anything else you’re working on we should know about?

BA: There are a few ideas I’m kicking around – one is a sci-fi, time travel love story and the other is more of a futuristic sci-fi horror short – but none have gone beyond planning stages. I don’t tend to juggle projects well. I have to stay consistent and just work on one piece at a time, or I will never accomplish anything!

DF: What are your future plans for your writing career?

BA: Oh, I’d love to have my books fashioned into a Hulu original (guys, if you’re reading this, call me!) But more realistically, I’d love to branch out into other genres and try other things. At the end of the day, I would just like to tell stories people can enjoy.

DF: What keeps you motivated to write?

BA: Keeping motivated to write is so damned hard. I’m probably the wrong person to ask, because I’m still trying to recapture my motivation myself. I would say, probably the idea that I’ve come this far, and I really need to take it the rest of the way. I want to be able to say I did it, and prove to myself that I can.

DF: What do you do with your free time when you’re not writing?

BA: I read a lot and watch a lot of TV. I’m a very boring person, without much of a social life, so I usually just relax at home with my music and my TV.

DF: Drop some Words of Wisdom on all the aspiring young writers reading this and thirsting for your knowledge.

BA: Okay, first thing’s first – if you want to get rich off this, you might be in for a very rude awakening. It’s very important to be realistic when you go into self-publishing, because while overnight success can (and does) happen to some, it is most assuredly not a guarantee.

Also: be true to yourself and your own vision. Everyone is individual, so embrace that. Don’t try to emulate anyone else, just be yourself. Trust your gut and write your stories your way.

320x0w

DF: What’s A Typical Day In The Life of Bex Aaron like?

BA: During the week, I basically get up, go to work and come home. There isn’t much going on, not that my weekends are jam-packed with excitement! I do tend to get a lot more done over the weekends, though, as far as creativity goes. I’m too mentally exhausted after work to really focus on it, so on the weekends, I try to give it a lot of attention.

Derrick Ferguson: Anything else we should know?

Bex Aaron: I’m back, and I’m trying like hell to get this final book done for you!

 

From The “Making An Impression” File by Sean E. Ali

So, FINALLY, Tommy Hancock over at Pro Se has done his reveal of three author imprints where I got to do the initial logo designs…

The plan was to reveal them over the weekend at the convention that hosts the annual Pulp Factory Awards in Chicago.

Not that I’ve ever been, but I’ve won one to my complete surprise.

So the three authors involved with this part of the reveal were Kimberly RichardsonFrank Schildiner and my good friend and partner-in-virtual crime Derrick Ferguson. All three are authors in something called “New Pulp” but really that’s kind of a narrow definition of their particular brands of storytelling. All three are well regarded, they’re unique in their own rights, they all have their followings who eagerly await their latest projects and all of them have happened to be offered a chance to exercise their prodigious imaginations under their own brands with Pro Se.

And lucky me, I get to contribute by building the first part of that brand with these imprint logos…

So, though you’re probably not asking, how does that work? Well I’m glad you didn’t ask, let me tell you the intricate planning that went into each one of these and the meticulous work we in the independent publishing game go through to make our talent shine…

Last weekend, Tommy hits me up on Facebook with no warning whatsoever and says he needs some author imprint logos for this show in Chicago: “can you do it?” I ask for details because obviously I’m just getting to a party already in progress, and he kicks out the rough ideas for Kimberly and Frank…

…which, BTW, for a guy so full of ideas and stories and plans was woefully light on details just generalities, and he turns me loose after I inform him I’ll talk to Derrick who had already contacted me. Derrick and I do all our stuff more like a couple of guys shooting the breeze on the front stoop on a Sunday afternoon. Yeah we work, it’s just more of a relaxed thing where we kick back and chat and at some point we, usually accidentally, hit on the right thing. I love our process because when we do chop it up, I never fail to end our conversation without a smile at the end and at least two good belly laughs from the soul.

Which is pretty much how his brand POWER PLAY! was done. I, in the course of our discussion run an idea of what I’d like to use as his look and he shows me the very thing I had in mind, which in an odd bit of coincidence was sitting on his desk: a gold clenched fist with that 1960s/70s Soul Brother/grindhouse film vibe as the logo. In my head, what you see as the POWER PLAY! logo was a black light velveteen poster stuck to a ceiling between some mirror tiles with a fish net full of fake starfish.

20190407_120613

It was the 70s, you had to be there.

So he was easy and POWER PLAY! was done in one. There are colored variants and, as a last minute thing, I added the tag line “Old School New Pulp” which is what Derrick does. He’s got an updated Men’s Adventure/Action Hero/Thriller feel to a lot of his projects, so it felt right.

56938260_10210328346203735_8239335561223995392_n

 

Now Kimberly’s came with the most detail from Tommy. Crossed guns, gothic mansion, emboss this, something something that…

So I did that first and like an old “Men On Film” sketch: “Hated it!” It didn’t matter how many ways I crossed the 20 pistols I put together, none of them looked right. So instead I went to work on the manor house bit and abandoned the guns. Nice… but generic. The house was sitting on a cliff, so I pulled the cliff, threw in a really basic shield, colored it all black… better, but still needed something. I uncrossed the guns, used them as a frame and was there.

But then I wanted to make it hers. Any schmuck could build a lady a house but it needs to be HER house. So I took a look at the lady I was building the house for since I’ve never had the pleasure IRL or online of getting to know her. First thing I noticed, which is the first thing I notice about a lot of women in photos, were her eyes…

…that, kids was the hook, she’s got great eyes. I stared at those eyes and attempted to be as accurate as I could be despite simplifying them for an illustration. Stared at them for so long, I think I owe her dinner and one failed rom-com running through the airport scene. I tossed an oversized moon in the background added the eyes and I was in love…

…with the final product.

So PULP GOTHIC gave me the Lady of the House, a touch of Stephen King in the mansion, got the guns in and it all was an echo of the old paperbacks that used to come with the mapback covers telling you about the location of the story.

57313650_10210328345683722_739812300034146304_n

 

Last, but not least, came Frank Schildiner. His was done first, I really didn’t like it but I took Tommy’s rough idea too literal. Frank and I aren’t online running buddies, but he and I enjoy decent fight techniques, he’s a martial artist and instructor (in addition to being an author) and I’m immensely impressed by his focus and skill. Unfortunately the logo I came up with didn’t really reflect Frank or his work. It was sort of a hero shot that reminded me of a rejected logo for the old fitness guru Jack LaLanne. It was passable, but it wasn’t Frank. As Friday rolled around I still wasn’t happy with it and it’s hard to put out something I’m not in love with as I send it out. Tommy’s looking for logos and I’m one short. But it was also something Tommy said that sparked an image early on: “Frank’s work goes everywhere.” The image that invoked was pure Jack “The King” Kirby. If you don’t know Jack and his work in changing the face of comics as we know them with Stan Lee…

…move out of that cave so I can get you some help.

So the image I came up with was a complete re-do which is inspired by guys like Kirby and the late Darwyn Cooke and we had something worthy of Frank in particular and his work in general.

And I FINALLY learned how to DIY the famous “Kirby Krackle”…

…yeah, whatever, it’s a big deal to me.

So SCHILDINER’S WORLDS final look is probably more due to Tommy’s summation of Frank’s work than anything else. I had the image in my head, but thought I had to do the other thing based on his explanation of what he said the look should be.

So I did what he said over what he asked.

I submitted both though, as I did with the manor only version of PULP GOTHIC, because you should give a guy options…

I’m glad he chose the ones he did.

57338855_10210328345883727_1393351488914325504_n

Bet you’re wondering where that planning aspect went that I mentioned at the start, right?

Tommy and I refer to this as the “Butch and Sundance”…

If you’ve ever seen how BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID ends for them, you’ll get it.

Sometimes we just have to take a leap, man…

So, if you follow these folks and missed Tommy’s press releases…

…big things are coming from some of your favorite folks…

Get ready to have your minds blown.

The rest of you, as you were…

…and move out of that cave so I can get you help.

Be good to yourselves and each other.

Derrick Ferguson Gets Stung By SKORPIO

Skorpio-front

 

Print Length: 337 pages

Publisher: WordFire Press (October 14, 2013)

Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.

Language: English

ASIN: B00FWG9CLA

If you’re as well read as I think you are (and you must be…why else are you reading book reviews? You’re looking for something good to read, right?) then you should have some familiarity with the name Mike Baron. Mr. Baron first landed on my radar when I discovered his innovative science fiction comic book “Nexus” which he co-created with Mike Rude. Much like other great comic book pairings like Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, Steve Englehart and Marshall Rogers or Marv Wolfman and Gene Colon, the two of them made magic together and if you haven’t read “Nexus” yet then you should correct that at your earliest opportunity.

Mr. Baron has also written many other comic book titles but in recent years he’s been working in prose, writing some really compelling novels such as “Helmet Head” which I really enjoyed. That’s a book you really ought to pick up as it reads like the lost novelization of a John Carpenter movie. Yeah, it’s that good.

SKORPIO is almost as good. It’s not a roller coaster ride like “Helmet Head’ which reads like a runaway train going downhill from start to finish. Mr. Baron takes his time setting up the situation and the characters before he gets to the guts of his story but I appreciate a writer who has the confidence to take his time to take us where we need to go so he can most effectively deliver the goods later on and yeah, SKORPIO delivers.

Vaughan Beadles is a Professor of Anthropology at Creighton University in Illinois where he enjoys a near rock star status. He’s too handsome for his own good with a gorgeous wife and beautiful baby boy. Beadles is riding high due to his acquisition of relics belonging to a previously lost Southwestern Indian tribe, the Azuma. But all that comes to a screeching halt when Beadles is framed for stealing some of the artifacts. And if that wasn’t enough, one of his students dies from a scorpion sting that he got when Beadles lets the kid get an unauthorized sneak peek at the artifacts.

His life rapidly falls into ruin. His wife leaves him, he loses his job and all of his money goes toward his legal fees. The only way Beadles can see to salvage his life is to find where the Azuma actually lived and prove his theories to be true. In his quest to find the birthplace, Beadles runs into a truly amazing diverse cast of characters. Some of them you’ll wonder what the hell they’re doing in the book but trust me, part of the enjoyment of reading SKORPIO is seeing just how Mike Baron pulls all of these characters together and makes them integral components of the story.

It takes a while for the title character to show up but when it does it’s worth the wait. Skorpio is a vengeful ghost of hideous power who appears in the sunlight, which is a nice twist as ghosts are usually associated with the nighttime. I also liked Mr. Baron’s choice of protagonist. Vaughan Beadles isn’t exactly squeaky clean in his dealings and he’s a bit of an opportunist, always actively looking for an angle to advance his career and fatten his bank account.

In fact, most of the characters in SKORPIO are a little more on the gray side than you might expect but I enjoyed that as it gave the book an unpredictability I found refreshing. There’s never any way to tell what these characters are going to do or say and for me, that’s always welcome in my fiction.

Mike Baron’s prose is as uncomplicated and straightforward as the word “No.”  He doesn’t go in for flowery purple prose. He’s a born storyteller who is concerned with only one thing: telling you a good story. He’s not interested in showing off his vocabulary or trying to impress you with his cleverness in turning a pithy phrase. He just wants you to have a good time and I certainly did have a good time reading SKORPIO.