Wednesday, November 19, 2008

CSFF: Shade by John Olson

This week the Christian Science Fiction Fantasy tour is featuring Shade by John Olson. I honestly forgot about this tour. It was a crazy weekend, and this week hasn't let up yet. I haven't read Shade, but based on John Olson's other writing, I plan to.

From the back cover:

"You will not fear the terror of the night." —Psalm 91

A monstrous waking nightmare is pursuing graduate student Hailey Maniates across San Francisco to Golden Gate Park where she is rescued by a towering homeless man. She seems able to read her rescuer’s mind, but is it just a delusion? Doctors diagnose her as a paranoid schizophrenic and attempt to prescribe away her alleged hallucinations. But too many questions remain around Hailey and the man who saved her. He appears to suffer from her same mental condition and is convinced that some type of Gypsy vampire is trying to kill them both.

Against reason, Hailey finds herself more and more attracted to this strange man. But what if he is a fantasy? What if he is the monster?

Endorsements:

"From its stunning first scene to its heartwarming last, Shade is a striking tale of mystery and danger that kept me hooked. This is Olson’s finest work yet, and reading it, one gets the feeling he’s just getting warmed up."

Robin Parrish, author of Relentless and Merciless

"
Unseen enemies. Questioned sanity. The weighing of reality. All the things I like in a book! The shadows are not silent. I lost sleep over this book. I got goose bumps from this book. The kind of scary that you crave and cringe at, Shade offers up a monster made more frightening by its originality. Thanks a lot, John Olson--because of you, I will not walk alone at night for a long time to come."

Tosca Lee, author of Demon: A Memoir and Havah: The Story of Eve

"
John B. Olson is a seasoned storyteller, and Shade is quite a story! As the heat turns up, and as menacing tones and brooding characters abound, the theme of God's grace boils to the surface. A few years back, Olson gave us a new twist on Jekyll & Hyde; now he puts his own fast-paced spin on the Dracula story. I can only hope there's a sequel in the works!"

Eric Wilson, author of Field of Blood and A Shred of Truth

"
Shade is a smart, gripping thriller. John B. Olson whips you along in a breakneck odyssey through a hellish paradise lost--and keeps you up all night doing it."

Melanie Wells, author of My Soul to Keep and When the Day of Evil Comes"Things that go bump in the night are not all figments of overwrought imaginations or evidence of mental illness. As our heroine discovers, evil personified preys on the ignorance of its victims. Lock your doors and windows, leave the lights on, and hunker down for a splendid, spine-chilling read."Donita K. Paul, author of the DragonKeeper Chronicles

Brandon Barr
Jennifer Bogart
Justin Boyer
Keanan Brand
Kathy Brasby
Valerie Comer
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
Janey DeMeo
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Karina Fabian
Todd Michael Greene
Joleen Howell
Jason Isbell
Jason Joyner
Kait
Magma
Margaret
Rachel Marks
Melissa Meeks
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Eve Nielsen
Nissa
John W. Otte
Steve Rice
Mirtika or Mir's Here
Chawna Schroeder
James Somers
Robert Treskillard
Steve Trower
Speculative Faith
Jason Waguespac
Laura Williams
Timothy Wise

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

League of Superheroes by Stephen Leon Rice



It is time to play a Wild Card! Every now and then, a book that I have chosen to read is going to pop up as a FIRST Wild Card Tour. Get dealt into the game! (Just click the button!) Wild Card Tours feature an author and his/her book's FIRST chapter!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!






Today's Wild Card author is:




and the book:



League of Superheroes

Writers Cafe Press, The (October 1, 2008)



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Stephen Leon Rice is a Christian writer of science fiction and fantasy. He
has three short stories in Light at the Edge of Darkness, an anthology
of Biblical speculative fiction (2007). The three stories reflect his interests:
speculative theology, language, philosophy, and bad jokes. He has
a B.A. in Linguistics and Foreign Languages and an M.A. in English
(Professional Writing and Editing). He works as a freelance journalist,
writer and editor, and he is fond of old books and early Christian thinking.
He also belongs to several writing groups and is known for swift,
accurate edits and critiques. His work emphasizes the need to rely on
God rather than on ourselves and models a Christian worldview.

Visit Stephen Rice's blog: Back to the Mountains and his League of Superheroes Series wiki at ansric.pbwiki.com.

Product Details:

List Price: $ 9.95
Paperback: 200 pages
Publisher: Writers Cafe Press, The (October 1, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 193428405X
ISBN-13: 978-1934284056

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:



It was Allen’s sister Clarice who found the genie that turned the Mad Scientists into superheroes. It wasn’t like it was a stroke of genius or anything, though. At the time we figured it was just dumb luck. Of course, Charlie said different, but he always had to be cosmic about stuff.

Now, if our parents were normal, none of the rest of us—Charlie, Rod, and I—would have been at Allen and Clarice’s house, but our parents seemed to think that if we were going to have a club meeting, we should all be in the same room, not running it over the Net. It’s not like they were all Neandertals or anything; they used the Net as much as we did. But they thought biking over to Allen’s house would build character. Some parents are like that.

It wasn’t a surprise when Clarice burst in on our Mad Scientists meeting—she always found some excuse—but when she said she wanted Allen to override the parental controls for her chat room, well, that was a new one. Allen just looked at her the way he usually did whenever she asked him to delete her name from the school records so she wouldn’t have to go, but this time she wasn’t taking no for an answer. It didn’t stop him from trying.

“Look,” he said, “even if I wanted to change the settings, the main security is at the Web site itself. I’d have to hack their system, and that would probably be a crime. Besides, why do you want to shut off security anyway?”

“There’s a girl who wants to know my real name. She’s really nice, but she’s kind of sad, too. I’d like to cheer her up.”

Houston, we have liftoff, I thought. But this was Allen Peters, not the more obnoxious Rod Davies, and he had almost as much patience as Charlie. So he just sighed and shook his head. But I think we were all wondering what kind of scam Clarice had run into. The police or even the FBI might get involved, and we might get a reward if the guy in the chat room was a real prize. Clarice couldn’t understand that, of course; she was just a kid. So when Rod suggested finding out who the guy really was, she didn’t take it quietly.

“She’s not a guy,” she said. “Her name is Genie. Her handle is Pandora, and there’s some tagline like ‘out of the box.’ She’s real nice.”

“If she was a genie, she’d be out of the lamp,” Rod pointed out. He could be annoying that way, but we didn’t mind as long as he was doing it to her. Actually, I thought about asking if the genie had light brown hair, but then Clarice would have asked why, and I wouldn’t have known, and then I would’ve had to grow old listening to her keep asking why. It wasn’t worth it.

“Look,” Allen said with brotherly condescension, “don’t you remember what Mom and Dad told you about stuff like this? Don’t they pound it into you at school? You never give someone in a chat room your actual name, address, or anything else they can track you with. And Rod’s right, for once: you don’t even know if this ‘Genie’ is a girl. You might be talking with some dirty old man somewhere.”

“Kidchat checks every member,” Clarice protested. “You can’t even join without proving you’re a kid, so it’s safe.”

“Okay, so he’s a dirty old man with a little girl to help him get into places that are kids only.”

“Are you going to look, or just keep lecturing me?”

We all knew that tone. The next step was a full-blown tantrum, and if their folks came in at the wrong moment—which they usually did—we’d all be nailed for child abuse. So we trooped off to her room and had a look.

To begin with, whoever ran the site was sick. People who do kids’ sites are always either edgy or cute, and this guy was trying to do both, which meant that it combined the nausea of cuteness with the speed of attitude. If it was a dirty old man on the other end, he had to be desperate in every sense.

But anyway, there was an anime-type, big-eyed cartoon girl looking out of a cowl. She had a concerned look, no doubt because Clarice had been gone longer than expected. To the right of her, an animated box opened, and the name ‘Pandora’ floated out of it. Pretty good for a kid. The on-screen data gave her age as seven, which made her a couple years below Clarice and about half as old as the rest of us. A speech balloon appeared, and the computer read off the words in one of Kidchat’s user-selectable voices.

“Goodcheer! Are you back yet? Is everything all right?”

“Goodcheer,” yet! Was that Clarice’s idea or a gift from her mom? But Clarice (or “Goodcheer”) plopped down in her chair, fiddled peevishly with her mike, and replied, “I’m back. My brother doesn’t believe you’re really a little girl, so I don’t think he’s going to be any help.”

The cartoon face frowned. “That’s too bad. Can’t you use a riddle or pun as I did to tell you my real name?”

“I don’t think so.”

The face took on a thoughtful expression. Then it said, “Open another window and search for the relevant data. Do a search on your first name, for example; then send me links to the first few pages that come up, and I’ll locate the shared name. Or you may find an actress, model, or character with the same name and refer me to her Web site.”

It was probably just the animation, but I somehow felt like Pandora, or Genie, or whatever his or her name really was, actually did have to think this up. It made no sense at all, though: it was the obvious way to handle the problem, and an experienced pervert would have thought of it long before. But then, he or she was also using words a bit beyond “Genie’s” supposed age level.

“Wait a minute,” Allen said, grabbing his sister’s hand as she reached for the mouse. “We want to know who you really are.”

To our surprise and Allen’s annoyance, his demand was ignored not by Genie but by the Web site itself: his voice wasn’t registered, so Kidchat wouldn’t transmit what he said. The site’s controls were certainly doing their job. Clarice wound up relaying the message, which didn’t help his mood.

“I can’t tell you here,” the cartoon girl replied. “We could go to another chat room.”

“Why didn’t she do that with Clarice and leave us out of it?” Rod asked.

“This is the only chat room I’m allowed to use,” Clarice retorted. “Of course, if Allen wants to use another chat room . . .”

I didn’t think of it at the time, but later on I developed a strong suspicion that this was what Clarice had been after all along. I suppose I should ask her sometime.

Anyway, Allen scowled at the suggestion, but he gave Genie the address of a place where we sometimes had private chats instead of regular club meetings. He had the site located himself a moment later, and sure enough, someone named Genie was there already, and with the same animation and character avatar.

“All right, then, what is your name?” Allen asked.

“My name is Genie,” came the reply. This time it wasn’t a filtered, canned voice—or if it was, it was far better done than Kidchat’s.

“Okay, but how old are you?”

“I am not sure. I do not remember when I was born. Do you remember when you were born?”

If the audio was accurate, this was a genuine question, not sarcasm, and that seemed to bother Allen more than an outright insult would have done.

“Of course not,” he said. “No one remembers when he was born.”

There was a kind of satisfaction in the voice this time. “That is what I thought. First memories occur usually no less than one year after birth.”

“But your parents could tell you when you were born,” Allen said, and he almost seemed to accept that he was speaking to a little girl after all.

“I do not have any parents,” the voice said sadly. “Or at least, if I do, I do not know who they are.”

I can’t answer for Allen, but I was beginning to feel like a bully by then. If this was a man, he was a genius.

“Well, you can talk, though,” Allen persisted, even if he did look a bit embarrassed. “Are you in school?”

“No. I had not thought about schooling as a useful datum, but I do not believe I have ever been to school. Nor do I find reference to plans to send me. I suppose I have private tutors. I do know a lot.”

Allen smiled at this. All kids think they know a lot. “Do you know how much two plus two is?”

“Two plus two is four,” came the answer. “But I can also calculate roots, trigonometric functions—anything mathematical, really.”

Allen glanced back at us helplessly. It didn’t take much to get answers out of a computer, and if hers had a really good calculator available, math was a pointless test. Unless we turned Rod loose on her—but that really would have been child abuse. We needed something else to gauge her knowledge, so I decided to try my hand at fixing her background—and in my case, that meant checking her language proficiency.

“¿Comprende Ud. esto?” I asked. “¿Qué lengua hablo ahora?”

“Ud. habla español,” she answered easily. “¡Qué divertido! Ya no he contemplado—”

“Kore wa nani ga desu ka?”

“Nihongo ga desu. Anata ga rippa na—”

“How many languages do you know?” I asked, interrupting her. Spanish was no big deal, but Japanese was less common. Perhaps she had grown up in an old-fashioned melting pot neighborhood and picked up a smattering of several languages. Her answer dashed that possibility, though.

“The question is ambiguous. I should be able to respond fluently in at least twenty-three languages, and I could probably understand or make myself understood in ninety-two others. In theory, I should be able to identify roughly two thousand languages, though the matter is made more complicated by questions of dialect. For example, I can use Modern Literary Arabic fluently, but my ability at Libyan, Lebanese, or Iraqi Arabic would be rather less impressive.”

“You—you’re joking!” I stammered.

“No, though I am capable of joking. I know seventeen thousand, three hundred and fifty-four jokes, with minor variations.”

“Are you sure you’re even human? You talk like a computer in a sci-fi video.”

“I am human,” came the reply, and again the emotion in the audio feed caught me unprepared. She sounded slightly angry and very hurt. It was obviously a sensitive topic, and once more I felt like a bully.

“I’m sorry. We’re just trying to figure out who you are. You don’t sound like any little girl I’ve ever met.” I paused briefly, but she gave no answer, so I continued, “Do you have any other friends?”

“Only Uncle. He is kind to me and always tries to smile for me, though sometimes I think he cries. I cry too, but I cannot do it on the outside, the way he does. Perhaps it does not count if you only do it inside.”

“Sometimes it counts more if you only do it inside,” I said, and maybe I was a sucker, but I had to fight to keep mine inside. A muffled snort from behind me revealed that Rod wasn’t buying it, but at least he wasn’t grilling her either. “Tell me more about your uncle,” I continued.

“He is a nice man. He has gray hair, and he always tries to take time for me. In a way, I guess he is more like a grandfather. I like him. I wonder whether he could be my father—or my grandfather. Anyway, he is the one who hooked me up to the Internet. He said that I needed to get out more. That is why he signed me up for Kidchat. He said that I was not to talk too much to strangers, but Goodcheer is always so kind and friendly. I have learned a lot from her. He was right: it is good to have another girl to talk to.”

“Don’t you go outdoors?” I asked.

“No. I cannot go outdoors. The people here always want me to learn things, not play. Uncle is the only one who plays with me. He is the one who called me Genie and Pandora. He looks so sad. But they are good names. Genie is a regular girl’s name, but I know that he was making a pun on the jinni from Moslem mythology. Jinni are powerful spirits, often held captive to keep them from hurting people or to force them to help people. I do feel like a captive spirit here, though I doubt that I am powerful. And I would not hurt anyone—in fact, I would gladly help people if I knew how. I wish I could make Uncle happy, so he would smile all the time.

“As for Pandora, she was a woman in Greek mythology. Her curiosity led her to open a box and let loose all the miseries that plague mankind. But she also released hope. I do not think that I can release plagues on mankind, but perhaps I can bring hope somehow.”

“Pandora also means ‘all-gifted,’” I said. “Your uncle must think a lot of you to associate you with powerful, gifted beings.”

“Yes,” she replied, and her voice definitely sounded pleased. “The people here call me CHMI, but that is not a pretty name at all. They don’t care about me the way Uncle and Goodcheer do. That’s why I’m glad they don’t know about all I can do. Even Uncle doesn’t know, but he worries so much. I don’t want to trouble him. And I am a good girl.”

“I’m sure you are,” I said, mostly because I couldn’t think of anything else to say.

“Wait a minute,” Rod interrupted. “You keep talking about ‘the people here.’ Who are they? And for that matter, where are you?”

“I do not know.” There was definite distress in the voice, and even though Rod was bigger than I was, I thought about giving him a nudge that would bend him over to my size. “I mostly just read. I only recently began to see and hear them. They don’t know that yet. Uncle knows. That’s why he talks to me.”

The tension faded from her voice as she spoke, and I determined to keep it away. “It’s all right, Genie. We know enough about you for the moment. Maybe Allen can help find out more—he’s good with computers. But for now, it’s enough that you’re Genie.”

“Thank you. And who are you?” she asked.

“My name is Tom. Tom Reilly. My friends and I have a club, and we meet at Clarice’s and Allen’s house.”

“What kind of club is it?”

“Well, mostly we just like to hang around together. But we’re interested in science, and we’re a bit unorthodox, so we decided to call ourselves the Mad Scientists. We got the idea from a book.”

“Mad scientists? Do you want to blow up the world or make monsters?”

“Well, we’ve blown up parts of school, and some people say we’re monsters all by ourselves, but . . . Well, I guess you could say we’re good boys in spite of it all.”

Genie laughed. “That sounds like fun. I know a lot about science, too. In fact, that’s what the people here are teaching me. I’ve already learned a lot more than they think. Uncle wants me to act as though I don’t understand. I don’t think he likes them. But I do understand. What are you working on right now?”

The question caught me off-guard, and I said, “We’re playing around with researching . . . well, superheroes, I guess you’d say. You know, the science involved: could someone really do something like they do in comics?”

“Ah, I see. I do not read comics myself, but I have heard of them. I could do a search on the subject.”

Now, I admit that it felt good to be taken seriously (even by a girl) on such an off-the-wall subject, so I volunteered a few sites for her to check when she had a free moment. I had no idea what “a free moment” meant to her. It took very little time to find out.

“This is interesting,” she said a few seconds later, “but also rather confusing. In some ways these people seem to have very little grasp of physics. Yet several of the ideas are intriguing. Were you going to try to replicate these effects yourselves?”

“What do you mean?” Again, I can’t speak for the others, but her question was so unexpected it made her reading speed seem trivial by comparison.

“Superhuman strength and speed, invisibility—what they call ‘super powers.’ It could be challenging.”

“That’s putting it mildly,” Rod said. “Technology won’t be able to deal with such things for a century or more.”

“But they aren’t that difficult. For example, I should be able to put together a power suit such as Titan uses in just a week or so, and an invisibility suit such as Darklight uses would only take a week longer, I think.”

“If you can do that, you really are a genie,” I said, trying to glare Rod into silence.

“Thank you,” she replied, clearly quite pleased. “Now, if you will tell me where to have it delivered . . . ”

Saturday, November 01, 2008

FIRST: Forsaken by James David Jordan



It is time for the FIRST Blog Tour! On the FIRST day of every month we feature an author and his/her latest book's FIRST chapter!






The feature author is:



and his book:


Forsaken
B&H Fiction (October 1, 2008)



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

James David Jordan is a business litigation attorney with the prominent Texas law firm of Munsch Hardt Kopf & Harr, P.C. From 1998 through 2005, he served as the firm's Chairman and CEO. The Dallas Business Journal has named him one of the most influential leaders in the Dallas/Fort Worth legal community and one of the top fifteen business defense attorneys in Dallas/Fort Worth. His peers have voted him one of the Best Lawyers in America in commercial litigation.

A minister's son who grew up in the Mississippi River town of Alton, Illinois, Jim has a law degree and MBA from the University of Illinois, and a journalism degree from the University of Missouri. He lives with his wife and two teenage children in the Dallas suburbs.

Jim grew up playing sports and loves athletics of all kinds. But he especially loves baseball, the sport that is a little bit closer to God than all the others.

His first novel was Something that Lasts . Forsaken is his second novel.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: B&H Fiction (October 1, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0805447490
ISBN-13: 978-0805447491

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Even in high school I didn’t mind sleeping on the ground. When your father is a retired Special Forces officer, you pick up things that most girls don’t learn. As the years passed I slept in lots of places a good girl shouldn’t sleep. It’s a part of my past I don’t brag about, like ugly wallpaper that won’t come unstuck. No matter how hard I scrape, it just hangs on in big, obscene blotches. I’m twenty-nine years old now, and I’ve done my best to paint over it. But it’s still there under the surface, making everything rougher, less presentable than it should be. Though I want more than anything to be smooth and fresh and clean.


Sometimes I wonder what will happen if the paint begins to fade. Will the wallpaper show? I thought so for a long time. But I have hope now that it won’t. Simon Mason helped me find that hope. That’s why it’s important for me to tell our story. There must be others who need hope, too. There must be others who are afraid that their ugly wallpaper might bleed through.


What does sleeping on the ground have to do with a world-famous preacher like Simon Mason? The story begins twelve years ago—eleven years before I met Simon. My dad and I packed our camping gear and went fishing. It was mid-May, and the trip was a present for my seventeenth birthday. Not exactly every high school girl’s dream, but my dad wasn’t like most dads. He taught me to camp and fish and, particularly, to shoot. He had trained me in self-defense since I was nine, the year Mom fell apart and left for good. With my long legs, long arms, and Dad’s athletic genes, I could handle myself even back then. I suppose I wasn’t like most other girls.


After what happened on that fishing trip, I know I wasn’t.


Fishing with my dad didn’t mean renting a cane pole and buying bait pellets out of a dispenser at some catfish tank near an RV park. It generally meant tramping miles across a field to a glassy pond on some war buddy’s ranch, or winding through dense woods, pitching a tent, and fly fishing an icy stream far from the nearest telephone. The trips were rough, but they were the bright times of my life—and his, too. They let him forget the things that haunted him and remember how to be happy.


This particular outing was to a ranch in the Texas Panhandle, owned by a former Defense Department bigwig. The ranch bordered one of the few sizeable lakes in a corner of Texas that is brown and rocky and dry. We loaded Dad’s new Chevy pickup with cheese puffs and soft drinks—healthy eat­ing wouldn’t begin until the first fish hit the skillet—and left Dallas just before noon with the bass boat in tow. The drive was long, but we had leather interior, plenty of tunes, and time to talk. Dad and I could always talk.


The heat rose early that year, and the temperature hung in the nineties. Two hours after we left Dallas, the brand-new air conditioner in the brand-new truck rattled and clicked and dropped dead. We drove the rest of the way with the windows down while the high Texas sun tried to burn a hole through the roof.


Around five-thirty we stopped to use the bathroom at a rundown gas station somewhere southeast of Amarillo. The station was nothing but a twisted gray shack dropped in the middle of a hundred square miles of blistering hard pan. It hadn’t rained for a month in that part of Texas, and the place was so baked that even the brittle weeds rolled over on their bellies, as if preparing a last-ditch effort to drag themselves to shade.


The restroom door was on the outside of the station, iso­lated from the rest of the building. There was no hope of cool­ing off until I finished my business and got around to the little store in the front, where a rusty air conditioner chugged in the window. When I walked into the bathroom, I had to cover my nose and mouth with my hand. A mound of rotting trash leaned like a grimy snow drift against a metal garbage can in the corner. Thick, black flies zipped and bounced from floor to wall and ceiling to floor, occasionally smacking my arms and legs as if I were a bumper in a buzzing pinball machine. It was the filthiest place I’d ever been.


Looking back, it was an apt spot to begin the filthiest night of my life.


I had just leaned over the rust-ringed sink to inspect my teeth in the sole remaining corner of a shattered mirror when someone pounded on the door.


“Just a minute!” I turned on the faucet. A soupy liquid dribbled out, followed by the steamy smell of rotten eggs. I turned off the faucet, pulled my sport bottle from the holster on my hip, and squirted water on my face and in my mouth. I wiped my face on the sleeve of my T-shirt.


My blue-jean cutoffs were short and tight, and I pried free a tube of lotion that was wedged into my front pocket. I raised one foot at a time to the edge of the toilet seat and did my best to brush the dust from my legs. Then I spread the lotion over them. The ride may have turned me into a dust ball, but I was determined at least to be a soft dust ball with a coconut scent. Before leaving I took one last look in my little corner of mir­ror. The hair was auburn, the dust was beige. I gave the hair a shake, sending tiny flecks floating through a slash of light that cut the room diagonally from a hole in the roof. Someone pounded on the door again. I turned away from the mirror.


“Okay, okay, I’m coming!”


When I pulled open the door and stepped into the light, I shaded my eyes and blinked to clear away the spots. All that I could think about was the little air conditioner in the front window and how great it would feel when I got inside. That’s probably why I was completely unprepared when a man’s hand reached from beside the door and clamped hard onto my wrist.