26 September 2009

The DragonCon Report, 2009 Edition

DragonCon's Steampunk Morgan Le Fay.

A dozen DragonCons, and I still want more.

The 2009 edition of the World’s Greatest Summer Camp for Wayward Adults featured a worthy attempt at the world’s record for number of people dancing to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”, amazing Steampunk costumes and programming, and four—count ‘em, FOUR—of the biggest stars in the Star Trek universe in the summer they re-launched the franchise.

The headliners included William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy (who was honored with the 2009 Julie Award for achievement in more than one SF, fantasy and horror genres and media), Kate Mulgrew and Patrick Stewart. I’m surprised nobody tried to shoot a movie, but the cost might’ve been prohibitive, especially if the stars charged by the frame.

As soon as Shatner signed on two weeks before the con, the blogs were alive with the sound of outrage—at the $120 fee he and Nimoy were asking for posed autographed photos. Then somebody reported Patrick Stewart’s going rate: $200 per shot. I’m told the charge kept the autograph lines manageable. Ya think?

Monetary concerns in no way affected the stars’ panels, though. The only scheduled Shatner/Nimoy panel started 10 a.m. Friday. Con organizers knew it would be wild, even though it was set several hours earlier than the con’s official kick-off. They had no idea how wild.

It should come as no surprise there were more
Red Shirts than usual in this year's DragonCon

As my roommate and I exited the Voltaire concert at, um, I think it was a little after 1 a.m. Friday, we nearly tripped over a circle of teenagers in costume sitting on the carpet outside the Centennial Ballroom (the Hyatt Regency Atlanta’s biggest). We didn’t think anything of it, since Voltaire’s biggest hit, “BRAINS”, was written for the cartoon series The Grim Adventures of Bill and Mandy. Then one of the young women asked my roomie Dorie if she was with the con. Dorie said yes. As they guessed from her badge ribbons, Dorie volunteered on the media staff and after hours security.

The young woman immediately brightened. “Oh, then you’ll know—can we stay here tonight?”

Both Dorie and I both went a little white around the gills. “Don’t you have a place to stay?” Dorie asked.

The young woman waved the question aside. “Yeah, we’re fine. But we don’t want to miss out on the Kirk/Spock panel. If we’re really quiet, and don’t make any trouble, do you think Security will let us stay until they open the doors?”

Security was of the opinion no one would be allowed to line up until 7 a.m. I suspect the fans simply retired to the Hyatt’s 24-hour coffee bar to wait it out, because they—or somebody much like them—were at the Centennial doors at 5 a.m.

I’m a bad fan. Dorie and I hooked up with friends, and I don’t think either of us saw the inside of the room until… Well, let me put it this way, I told my husband I got in at 4. Yeah, that’s what I said.

Not that I was worried. None of my eight panels were scheduled for the first day of the con, and after seeing teenagers whose parents weren’t even born when the original show aired in line eight hours before showtime, I knew I wasn’t going to get within shouting distance of the ballroom, much less the actual program.

As it turned out, I did get within shouting distance. At 9:14 a.m., I was awakened by the roar of a bullhorn on the street five stories below my hotel room window: “Attention! Attention! If you’re waiting in line for the 10 a.m. Bill Shatner/Leonard Nimoy panel, the Centennial Ballroom is already one-quarter full. If you are standing outside the Hyatt at this time you will not get to the ballroom. The panel will be televised in the Atrium Ballroom at the Marriott. Please, proceed to the Marriott.”

If I ever cherished the vaguest notion of throwing myself together in time to make the panel, that killed it. Happily, I rolled over and again abandoned myself to the pleasures of Morpheus. Nine minutes later…

“The Centennial Ballroom is full. Go to the Marriott. Now. I repeat, the Centennial Ballroom is full.”

More amazing Steampunk costumes.

Needless to say, I actually made it to a Friday morning panel: the 11:30 “Captain Jack Experience” in the British Sci-Fi Media track, which possessed three inestimable virtues: James Marsters, Gareth David Lloyd (Torchwood’s Ianto Jones) and a location as far from the Shatner/Nimoy panel as it was possible to get and stay on the con reservation. Just so you know, Marsters’ hair was green this year. He dyed it for the occasion—or for his photographs, which were going for half the Shatner/Nimoy rate.

On the other hand, a signed photo of yourself in the company of a green-haired James Marsters just might be worth $60, but I digress.

Despite having my lack of panels, Friday may have been my busiest day. In addition to pimping my new art book (Fantasy Art Templates, coming from Barron’s Educational Series in March 2010) and lining up related programming for next year, I had parties to attend. Lots of parties, including the Time Travelers Ball, the Art Show Reception and the Baen book launch, where John Ringo announced he was separated at birth from Rogue of the Cruxshadows.

From left to right: Cruxshadows singer and frontman Rogue,
back-up singer/dancer (and Rogue's wife) Jessica Lackey, back-up
singer/dancer Sarah Kilgore, and John Ringo.

Words fail to express the complete and utter weirdness of the moment. Ringo’s the guy with the brush cut and utili-kilt. He used to jump out of planes and helicopters—usually with a parachute—for a living, and like a lot of ex-military, he never lost the ‘tude. Rogue is the one with the dancers.

On another level, though, I can see it. Ringo’s latest hardcover, Eye of the Storm, takes its name from a Cruxshadows song. In addition, Rogue was a military brat, and his peripatetic childhood, like Ringo’s, set the stage for the artist he would become.

For regular readers of this blog, however, highlight of the day was the dinner hosted by Samhain Publisher Christina Brashear for the Samhain writers and staff at the con. There proved to be fewer Samhellions than I expected: M/M star Ally Blue, bestselling vampire romance writer Rosemary Laurey (who also writes World War II fantasy as Georgia Evans) and her husband George, Samhain Office Manager Jacob Hammer and his lady Alex Ross.

From left to right: Your fearless girl reporter, Rosemary Laurey
(aka Georgia Evans), her husband George Laurey, Christina
Brashear, Ally Blue, Alex Ross and Jacob Hammer.

With a line-up like that, I knew the company would be first-rate. What I never, ever anticipated was the venue: Nikolai’s on the Roof, the Hilton’s rooftop restaurant with spectacular views of Atlanta and a food-gasm in every bite. If you don’t believe me, check out my DragonCon 2009 Flickr photostream. The last one of Jacob, smiling through his tears of bliss, says it all.

From a trend standpoint, however, I’d have to say the con was all about the Steampunk. Aficionados reveled in a track of their very own (their first at DragonCon), a Time Travelers Ball so well attended latecomers couldn’t get in until someone left, and some of the most exquisite costuming I’ve seen in years. My only regret was not having a fast enough camera finger to document the Steampunk X-Men or do justice to Steampunk Star Wars.

Another key component of this year’s con was the effort to capture the world’s record for the number of people dancing to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”. The rehearsals started Thursday night—hours before the concert I mentioned earlier. The organizers of the bid dotted all the “I’s” and crossed all the “T’s”—using nine minute version, registering and documenting all nine-hundred plus participants, even filming the dance from multiple angles to verify the numbers. But in the end the Guinness Book of World Records opted to give the palm to the Mexico City event held on Michael Jackson’s birthday, August 29. Even though the Mexico City crowd only danced the short version, they did pull in over thirteen thousand folks to do it.

Thurdsay night's "Thriller" rehearsal.

Once again, I lucked out on panels. All eight were great in their own way, but some moments inevitably linger in the memory—hearing fantasy grandmaster Katherine Kurtz talk about researching Dublin and causing Van Plexico to bury his face in his hands for the second year in a row. (And Van said we didn’t go far enough on the late night “sex panel”…)

I also enjoyed the rush of the first DragonCon Rapid Fire Reading with my buds from Broad Universe, an organization dedicated to promoting women science fiction, fantasy and horror writers. Unless you’re a national bestseller, solo readings can be really lonely; RFRs, never. Even if no one else shows, you still have each other. Our Sunday night reading did better than that: we had more people in the audience than readers—and at eleven readers, that’s saying a lot. Plus, I learned about a lot of new writers to watch out for.

But from the perspective of my inner fan girl, the con saved the best for last: “Under Raven’s Wings: 200 Years of Poe”. You know all that stuff I said about being a bad fan with respect to the Shatner/Nimoy panel? Well, I made up for it at Monday’s Poe panel. I got to sit between the Kat Richardson (author of the wonderful Greywalker series) and Rogue. In case you didn’t pick up on it before, let there be no doubt, I am a music total geek. At DragonCon, I typically take in two or more concerts a night and as many daytime shows as my schedule allows me to catch. The highlight of the musical side of the weekend is usually the Cruxshadows show. To share the stage with Rogue while he’s reciting “Annabel Lee”… well, there was only one way it could be topped.

A woman raised her hand during question and answer period at the end of the panel. She was curious about Rogue’s hair, and wanted to know how hard it was to style.

“It’s a pain in the ass,” he admitted.

“What’s it look like when it’s down?” she asked.

“Really thick. I look like Conan the Barbarian.”

DragonCon's finest Red Sonja and Conan the Barbarian.

Again, words fail.


25 September 2009


It's that time again, folks. That's right. Dead men (and women) walking, ghosts haunting, werewolves (and other wereanimals) ducking into shadows.

October is my favorite month on the calendar. Not only do I share my birthday with my good friend Paige McKellan, but it's also the month of my favorite holiday. Nope, it's not Columbus Day. It's Halloween. What other time of the year can shapeshifters, witches, and other things that make people scream come out to play without disguises?

And if you're looking for those dead men walking, ghosts, or shapeshifters running amok, then Samhain Publishing is the place for you this month. The Coming Soon pages are riddled with them!

To start off the month on October 6th, and just in time for my birthday, is my Maggie award winning novel, ANGELIC AVENGER. It's a first person Urban Fantasy in which my undead heroine is out to make her mark on the world by subverting chaos, beating down a shapeshifter rebellion, capturing a rogue angel, and fending off the advances of one very sexy, very much alive, hero.

It's the first book in my Angelic Avengers series. Check it out!

If you're looking for something that's a bit on the lighter side, consider Vivi Andrew's Romantic Comedy follow up to THE GHOST SHIRT, THE ACCIDENTIAL GIGGILO, AND THE POLTERGEIST ACCOUNT, a novella every beit as memorable as the title suggests. *wink* It comes out on October 27th, just in time for the doorbell patrol duty.

The next Karmic Consultants novel is THE GHOST EXTERMINATOR. Here, East meets West, figuratively speaking, in a memorable way. Jo Banks is the Ghost Exterminator and Wyatt Haines is the non-believer who happens to own a very haunted inn.

How much mischief can two ghosts get a body into? That's a question THE GHOST EXTERMINATOR answers in hilarious fashion. If you're looking for a book to sit down with while you're waiting for the mini-monsters to ring your doorbell, this one will guarantee that you answer the door with a bubbling smile.

But, if you're looking for something a little hotter, consider Mary Hughes's Red Hot Biting Love story, BITE MY FIRE. It's also an October 27th release. In this prequel to her book, BITING NIXIE, Mary Hughes brings two things to life that are an essential element in a Halloween Romance: a sexy master vampire and a kick-ass heroine who can't let all the temptation he represents distract her from solving her case...well, not too much, anyway.

BITE MY FIRE has all the promise of being a wonderfully written romp filled with Hughes' trademark wit and wonderful characterization. I know I can't wait to read it.

*sigh* October is never a good month for my bank account, and I think my book budget is officially spent.

In other news, we're looking at putting together a "TRICK-MY-TREAT" contest, so stay tuned for details! If you're an author who would like to participate, please let me know and I'll send you the participation details.

So...there ya go....BOOOO a little early!

19 September 2009

The P.U.P strategy: Persistence Using a Plan

I. Snowstorm
You may have heard the story about the guy lost in the blizzard. It’s freezing and he’s shivering so hard he can barely walk. Its dark, the snow is swirling around him. He has no idea if he’s going in the right direction. Onward he pushes. On and on. Until he just can’t go any further. Finally, he gives up and lies down in the snow. He’s exhausted and goes to sleep. The next day, they find the man dead. Ten feet from his front door.

Let’s relate that story to writing, since I’m familiar with that. But I think the blizzard analogy has something to say about life too. What’s that? To just keep going, right? Well...maybe.

II. Mountains

Let’s leave the snowstorm. I’m from Tennessee, so I can’t really relate to that much snow.

Let’s go to the Smoky Mountains. Let’s pretend you’ve been dropped in the woods. You don’t know where you are, where you need to go, or how long it’s going to take to get there. So, is the plan to keep walking and walking — simply to persevere?

A. Easy
It could work. There are people who write their first book, and it sells right away. Or maybe they get a great job and climb the corporate ladder with ease. Or they marry their high school sweetheart and live happily for years. Maybe they have a great sense of direction — or maybe they’re just lucky. But most people, like me, you can wander around out there among the trees for years.

B. Stuck
What if, you write one book, or 2-3 connected books. Maybe in a hard to sell subgenre. Is continuing to revise these books, or continuing to send them out, really the way to go?

What about going from one job to another of the same type, always expecting to actually like this one. Dating the same type of guy, but it never works out. Hmm, maybe you’re wondering around in circles and need to figure out the direction you’re traveling in.

And speaking of direction.

C. Direction Changes
How about the person who goes in one direction for a while, decides that might not be working; changes to another, decides something else would be better, and goes in yet another direction. That would be me, BTW. I’ve written nonfiction, science fiction, horror, humor, mainstream, paranormal romance, contemporary romance, romantic suspense, you name it, and I’ve probably tried it. That, plus an “interesting” life, and is it any wonder it took me so long to get published.

It was actually my frustration that finally got me my first success. I’d gotten a few too many rejection letters, and I wrote a humorous little piece about rejection slips coming alive and harassing the writer. I sent it out, and it got rejected—the only time I laughed when I got a rejection. I ran out of places to send it, so I put it away. A couple of years later, I found out about a small press magazine called The Rejection Quarterly, and I thought if there was ever a place for “The Dreaded Rejection Slip” that was it. I sent it in, and it was accepted.

This experience taught me a lesson. You not only have to be persistent have to match what your strengths to what’s available out there. You have to have a plan.

III. My Plan
Let’s to back to the woods. Let’s say you’re pretty sure there’s a road somewhere toward the north. So you pull out your compass. Didn’t pack one? Okay, so you try to figure it out some other way. But you do pick a direction. Then you go in it. And keep going. No matter what the distractions, you keep your focus on the direction you’re going. But you also keep re-evaluating. You need a plan, but it shouldn’t be set in stone.

Looking back, what held me back for so long, in writing and in my life in general, was not dealing with my weaknesses, ignoring my strengths, and not matching my abilities to where I could most effectively use them — in my case the publishing world.

Everybody has different interests, strengths, abilities, and weaknesses. We’re all different, and that’s a wonderful thing! Don’t fight your differences; put them to work for you.

III. Your Plan
Okay, to get out of the woods, you have to decide on a plan and go with it long enough to really give it a chance.

For writers, the first question is romance, women’s fiction, horror, mystery, etc. Then what subgenre. For me, romance, paranormal, action, suspense, that’s what really gets me going. Look at what you read, and at the movies and television shows you watch. While I was busy beating my head against the wrong doors, I was watching mostly action and paranormal type movies and television shows. When I finally tried a paranormal, I loved the writing process, and immediately got interest from editors and agents.

I recommend looking at what you read and watch (television and movies). That should give you an idea of what would be best for you to write, or what area you should be looking for work. Look outside the box. Like medicine but don’t have years to become a doctor? How about lab tech, receptionist at a doctor’s office, transcriptionist?

Still, you may have to write a lot of books, date a lot of guys, and try a lot of jobs to finally figure out where you belong in the big bad world. Just be careful out there.

IV. Conclusion
Do some soul searching. Decide YOUR direction. Then go and keep going for long enough to give your direction a chance. You may decide later that the road really isn’t to the north, and then you have enough information to decide whether to go south, east, or west.

Whatever you decide, I wish you all the best!

Cheryel Hutton

18 September 2009

Midnight Rose Print Copy Coming Soon

It’s my turn to blog today. I apologize to all the readers and the other blogging authors that I missed several of my last turns. It was probably my subconscious knowing I didn’t know what to talk about, LOL.

But, this time I do have something to talk about. The print version of one of my books is coming out October 1st. It's Midnight Rose, the second novel in The Watchers series.

Rosa Bella is a singer in an upscale nightclub. She’s used to fans admiring her talent, though one fan pushes his admiration too far. He has plans for her, ones that will change her life forever. Rosa has eyes for one man—Vane—but he has fans of his own. The Watcher, known as the Latin Lover, has women falling at his feet.

When Rosa’s psycho vamp admirer takes what he believes is his, Rosa wonders if her knight in shining armor will find her in time, that is if he searches for her at all.

Catch all the action in Midnight Rose – The Watchers, Book Two. Currently available in ebook download at http://www.mybookstoreandmore/. The first three of the series are also available.
Diane McEntire

16 September 2009

A Romance Treasure Hunt

A Romance Treasure Hunt!
20 authors, over 20 prizes, 20 chances to win. Read below to learn how to enter.

September 16-30

World War I is over, jazz music is blossoming, the flapper changes the definition of modern women, Art Deco is peaking, and the Great Depression looms! Go back to school (just for a few minutes) and learn about this fascinating era through photos. You'll have a chance to win one, or perhaps several, prizes donated by some of your favorite romance writers!

Here's how it works: Find one image (it won't be hard) on each of the following websites. They could be Mickey Mouse as Steamboat Willie, a well known image from the Dust Bowl, or perhaps a flapper! You'll know it when you see it. The more images you find (each author has only posted one image), the more chances you have to win. Find one image, you are entered once! Find twenty, and your name is entered twenty times!
One you have danced your way through the sites, email your answers to ciarcullen@gmail.com

NB: If you want to opt out of being put on any newsletter lists, please just tell us so in your answer email. We will NOT be offended! We promise that if you opt out, it will NOT affect your chances of winning.

Here's how to answer: "I found a flapper on Betty's new release page." No links, please!

Easy? You bet. Want to get started? Here are your links! Contest opens 9/16 and closes 9/30 EST. Good luck. Now, 23 skidoo, scram. And have fun!

Pam Champagne
Prize: Two winner's choice ebooks!

Michelle Pillow
Prize: Ebook Divinity Warriors: Lilith Enraptured

Imogen Howsen
Prize: Ebook Heart of the Volcano

Shelley Munro
Prize: Winner's choice of download from her Ellora's Cave, Cerridwen or Samhain backlist

Catherine Wade
Prize: Her latest release, Another Time Around

Debra Parmley
Prize: Ebook A Desperate Journey

Sharon Cullen
Prize: Ebook Obsession

Juniper Bell
Prize: Ebook The Extremist

Debbie Mumford
Prize: Ebook The Silver Casket

Leslie Dicken
Prize: Ebook Beauty Tempts the Beast

Carolan Ivey
Prize: Choice ebook or print A Ghost of a Chance: Legends, Book 2

Vivian Arend
Prize: eBook winner's choice of backlist

Ciar Cullen
Prize: Ebook winner’s choice

Renee Wildes
Prize: Paperback Duality

Mychael Black
Prize: Ebook Blood & Fire

Eliza Gayle
Prize: EBooks Rope Dreams and Watch Me Hide

Skylar Kade
Prize: Ebook Maison Domine

Janna Lee Hayes
Prize: Ebook Drive Me Crazy

Sydney Somers
Prize: Winner's choice download from backlist

Ella Drake
Prize: Ebook Scent of Cin

Pamela Fryer
Prize: Punch Studio Tiny Book

Meg Benjamin
Prize: Ebook Wedding Bell Blues

15 September 2009

Contest Starts This Week!

Starting Wednesday, Sept. 16, Carolan Ivey and Sharon Cullen will be part of Ciar Cullen's big Roaring Twenties Treasure Hunt. Twenty authors, twenty prizes! The contest runs through Sept. 30. I'll be offering the winner a choice of a download or print copy of A Ghost of a Chance. Sharon's offering a download of her Obsession. Click here for contest rules!


14 September 2009

Brainstorming - A Hazardous Venture

There are a few writers I talk to on IM who seem to evoke the ideas in me. Sometimes we'll have a discussion that is not even related to any kind of idea or WIP and suddenly the plot bunnies are exploding like mine fields through my brainpan, urging me to come up with entire worlds, plots, characters and conflicts on the spur of the moment.

This has happened twice in the past month while talking to the same person. Now, I wouldn't mind this phenomenon so much if I had all the time in the world in which to further develop said ideas. As it is, my writing plate is full. Overfull really. I have a virtual idea gluttony going on on my hard drive at the moment, so this prolific idea factory isn't helping matters any. I'm starting to worry that there is no way I'll have the time to finish all the ideas I have...ever. And that's a crying shame. Really.

What is it about certain phrases, conversational gambits, or offhanded comments that spark the imagination? The latest in my stack of "need to write" ideas came as a flippant title for a nonexistant book. After I typed it into the IM window I said..."Hmmmm. I like that title. I has possibilities." - The plot bunnies were in the mood again and procreating at an alarming rate.

Before the conversation ended (which grew into a phone call to continue the brainstorming - bs - session) I had a complete story arc for a futuristic novella. This isn't the first time I've had a little kernal of something or 'nother and it blossomed into a full story. I once was in the chat room at Romance Divas telling the girls about a snippet of a dream I had and before we all had to call it a night, I had an entire three-book series. It's just amazing how things can blossom and grow from the tiniest of information.

Forget about reading magazines like Scientific American or Discover. They are absolute breeding grounds of fertile idea seeds - pods if you must - that stick to a body like Velcro covered Post-it notes as you thumb through the pages. I'm not kidding! I just love 'em. But I have to read with an eye towards research I'm doing for current projects rather than tilling the soil in prep for new ideas.

If I didn't know better, I swear brainstorming was in addiction worthy of a 12-step program. Honestly, it's my crack. And it doesn't matter if I'm brainstorming for my own projects or helping someone with theirs. I love to sit and discuss and try to come up with plausible reasons for motivation, conflict, plugging plot holes, etc. Even if the ideas are ultimately rejected, or don't end up fitting in the overall project, it's still fun to expand your mind and dig for something different.

I love brainstorming so much, I think it should have its own national holiday, complete with parades, picnics, fireworks and a brainstorming pagent where hunky men worthy of cover-model hero status compete for the title of Brainstorming Beefcake.

What do you say? Think we can get a movement started?


11 September 2009

Other creatures of the night...

Besides the interesting Zombie trend Jody blogged about, there are other mythical monsters that have evolved over the years. My favorite being the ever-hairy, often misunderstood werewolf.

Werewolves have been part of human culture for centuries. It will come as no surprise that one of the original versions of Red Riding Hood involved a werewolf-type creature. Tales of shape shifters have been told since medieval times. In the past fifty years or so, furry shape-shifters have leapt from the pages of folk tales to be dramatized on the silver screen. At first, audiences were entertained with the rather cheesy representation of The Wolfman.

Even today's Halloween werewolf costumes closely resemble this original fuzzy-faced-fiend. And fiend he was -- a human being cursed to behave like an animal without conscience or will.

Later on, as movie magic became more sophisticated, we were shown a more gruesome transformation in the hit flick An American Werewolf in London. I'll admit the scene of the 'hero' changing -- very painfully -- into the monstrous half-man, half-wolf creature made me squirm. It looked and sounded grotesque. And again, a mindless villain was born.

But then somewhere along the line, the image of the werewolf -- were-creatures, in general -- changed. From the hideous villains they transformed into sexy, intriguing and even erotic heroes and heroines of romance. I'm not sure where it began, but I'm betting it was in a romance novel. ;) Now, along side of the mindless shape shifters of old, we have a new breed of heroes.

I must say I prefer the new version of the were-hero. He isn't ugly. His transformation is often effortless and painless. As a wolf, he looks more like the majestic animal that has been so maligned over the years. Often, the werewolf can change at will and is not slave to the cycles of the moon. He's strong, powerful, fearless... and he makes a great romantic lead.

The were-heroine is rather cool, too. In Blood and Chocolate, it's the beautiful she-wolf that commands the screen. She's the one who defends her man. She becomes the leader of the pack. Yes, a very modern take on the whole fairytale -- but then we women aren't shrinking violets in distress anymore.

~~Meg Allison

Indulge your senses...

09 September 2009

What Is It With Zombies?

Bianca's post a couple days ago got me thinking. No, not about cover art or headless torsos--about zombies!

What is it with the current zombie infestation in popular media? Should I be stockpiling blunt weapons and clean water or just a strong stomach?

Traditionally, zombies are antagonists--the dark forces of voodoo or virus our protagonist must face, usually unsuccessfully. Zombies are implacable, extremely infectious and legion (not legend--that would be Richard Matheson). There's a thriving subgenre of zombie survival guides, though they're generally "om coms" (zombie comedies, a phrase I found on one of the sites I visited for research and swore I'd find a way to work into this blog!). There's zombie literature, zombie games, zombie movies, zombie costumes, zombie conventions (http://zombieconx.com/), and zombie walks. (http://blogs.funeralwise.com/dying/2009/08/03/zombies-stalk-the-streets-from-alabama-to-alaska/ & www.zombiewalk.com )

The walking dead (as opposed to the bloodsucking undead) have existed in literature and cinema for quite some time. I've found references to movies from the 1930's and 40's and a literary reference from the late1600's, though the term "ghouls" was used. Ghouls were also the monsters featured in one of the Arabian Nights tales. Merriam-Webster claims zombi entered the English language in 1871 (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/zombie ).

HP Lovecraft began writing zombie and undead tales in the 1920's and 30's. According to the UGO website and reinforced in many other articles, types of horror movies and zombie popularity (in the US) can be traced to deep, underlying national fears: "Zombies have always been most popular in America when, as a country, we're most scared of an enemy who looks just like us yet doesn't have the same moral code. Zombies became huge in American pop culture during both the Cold and Vietnam Wars, when it wasn't such a stretch to go from Commie to Zombie. It's equally easy to jump from terrorist to walking dead, which explains the current zombie resurgence in US culture." (UGO's History of Zombies: http://www.ugo.com/a/zombies-attack/?cur=history )

That's not the only evidence of zombies and philosophy. Most of the articles I read today suggested zombies and zombie movies, in particular, often have deeper political or social statements to make, while some psychologists "attribute the interest in zombies to the resurgence of off-the-wall humor reflected in programs such as “The Daily Show.” " (http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/metro/20070726-9999-1n26zombies.html ). Yes! Zom coms! I'd be as inclined to lean toward the second explanation as the first one, because I'm shallow and because I get to say zom com again.

If you're a fan of zombies or just curious about how in the world rotting corpses who yearn for human flesh can have deep, philisophical ramifications, here's a motley list of links that are guaranteed to EAT YOUR BRAIN! Also, some of the links have graphic pictures and language, so surfer beware (of zombies).

Zombie Cinema:

1) Top 10 Zombie Movies: http://www.movie-moron.com/?p=2160

2) Another Top 10 Zombie Movies: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/howaboutthat/6054654/Top-Ten-list-the-best-zombie-films.html

3) More Top 10 Zombie Movies: http://www.stylusmagazine.com/articles/movie_review/stylus-magazines-top-10-zombie-films-of-all-time.htm

4) Wiki List of Zombie Movies (has more than 10): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_zombie_films

5) Printable Zombie Movie List with over 4500 films: http://www.trashvideo.org/zmdb/view/printable_list.php

6) Free (legally I presume) Zombie Movies Online: http://www.fearnet.com/movies/index.html

7) Definitive Zombie Movie List (Chronological): http://www.geocities.com/shape_of_infinity/

8) What You Can Learn from Zombie Movies: http://discovermagazine.com/2007/aug/peer-review-what-you-can-learn-from-zombie-movies

9) Weirdest Zombie Movies: http://ninetythrees.com/zombie/the-20-weirdest-zombie-movies-ever-made/ (with gruesome clips)

10) Zombie Movie Popularity: http://coolrulespronto.wordpress.com/2009/01/13/zombie-movies/

11) 2007 Article about Zombies in Movies, which is fun to read because of what happened with zombies in 2008 and 2009: http://www.buzzle.com/articles/hollywood-newest-ticket-to-box-office-gold-zombies.html

Zombie Literature:

1) Zombie Novels Wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_zombie_novels

2) Ultimate Zombie Book List: http://www.zombiebooklist.com/

3) Competing BEST Zombie Book List: http://bestzombiebooks.com/

4) Article about Zombie in Publishing (No, I don't mean overtired editors): http://www.publishersweekly.com/article/CA6670427.html

5) Zombies in Literature: An Actual College Class: http://www.lsu.edu/faculty/jpullia/2025.htm

General Zombies, Pop Culture Studies, Etc:

1) All Things Zombie: http://www.allthingszombie.com/

2) Zombies in Pop Culture Wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zombies_in_popular_culture

5 Scientific Reasons a Zombie Apocalypse Could Happen: http://www.cracked.com/article_15643_5-scientific-reasons-zombie-apocalypse-could-actually-happen.html

3) Zombies in Videogames: http://videoonlinegames.suite101.com/article.cfm/why_are_zombies_in_video_games_so_popular

4) Zombies Lurch Into Pop Culture: http://www.usatoday.com/life/books/news/2009-04-08-zombies-pop-culture_N.htm

5) Zombies on NPR: http://www.kpbs.org/news/2008/oct/29/zombie_genre/ and followup: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=105510752

6) Forget Zombies, I Prefer Werewolves: http://io9.com/5207453/nevermind-zombies-+-ive-moved-on-to-werewolves which is in response to an article in Time magazine: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1890384,00.html

7) Reflections on the Zombie Panel at WorldCon 2009: http://www.fearfulsymmetry.net/?p=273

8) Zombies During The Recession: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/us_and_americas/article6169084.ece

9) PhD Zombies: http://uanews.org/node/20144

10) Zombies and Racism: http://popularsymbolism.wordpress.com/2009/03/10/the-impact-of-zombies-on-society/

11) History Channel's DVD about Zombies: http://shop.history.com/detail.php?p=67800&ecid=SEO-0000046&pa=SEO-SSP


While I am not inclined to write about zombies myself (and I'm not a huge fan of horror movies or fiction), I do find all the intense interest they're generating right now fascinating.

Jody W.
SURVIVAL OF THE FAIREST--In Paper, Samhain Publishing
LIAM'S GOLD--In Electrons, Samhain Publishing

07 September 2009

Cover Art Goodness

Let's have an art show, shall we? I want to show off some new covers for new books of mine that will be out next year. I have two Kensington Brava covers for my upcoming zombie stories. And just for Carolan, they actually have heads! (See the previous post by Carolan Ivey.)

My short novel in the HALF PAST DEAD duology is called SIMON SAYS. Here's a little bit about it:

Special Forces soldier Simon Blackwell ended his affair with Mariana Daniels three years ago, but he hasn’t stopped protecting her. Mariana has no knowledge of the dark, deadly creatures that lurk in the forest surrounding her clinic, or of the mysterious powers that make Simon the only one who can defeat them. But soon he’ll have no choice but to reveal the truth, and urge her to trust in an explosive passion that never faded...

And it's already available for pre-order from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and BooksAMillion. The book is slated for January 2010 release, though the official release date is 12/29/09. The short novel in this book starts a whole new series of paranormal tales I'll be writing for Kensington Brava that continues with:


Thrills, chills and a smoldering sexy hero combine to unforgettable effect in Bianca D'Arc's irresistible new novel of paranormal romance...

When police officer Sarah Petit investigates a disturbance in an abandoned building, she expects to find a few underage drinkers. Instead, she's attacked by creature straight out of a horror movie. Waking a week later in a hospital, Sarah is visited by Special Forces soldier Captain Xavier Beauvoir. The zombies who attacked Sarah are the result of military research gone terrifyingly wrong, and Sarah's immunity to the virus makes her the perfect person to help Xavier eradicate them. But his smooth Cajun accent, whiskey-colored eyes, and dizzying kiss are risky to her in a very different way.

Sarah attracts danger like a magnet -- and the smart, fearless cop attracts Xavier too, instilling a bone-deep need that's undermining his steady facade. Enlisting her aid is a necessary gamble, but vicious undead creatures are not the only enemy they face. And the only way to keep each other safe is to trust in an instant connection that could be their greatest strength -- or the perfect way to destroy them both...

Another stunning cover, isn't it? And this novel will be out in March 2010, to be followed by another novella in September 2010 and two more novels - one in November 2010 and one in 2011.

I also recently got a new cover for my next dragon book, DRAGON STORM, which will be coming out in eBook from Samhain in November. It hasn't been officially approved yet, so I'm not allowed to post it, but it's very different from my other dragon covers, as is the book. I'll post it next time it's my turn to blog. :)

Oh, and if you're interested, INFERNO is now available for pre-order on Amazon and BAM too. It's a red hot romance between a werewolf and a vampire with a little help from some other supernatural friends. ;-)

05 September 2009

Look, Ma! No heads!

This morning, an interesting reader poll landed in my email box, from one of my favorite sites, Joyfully Reviewed. It concerns one of the top three sources of angst for authors (behind writing synopses and blurbs/taglines). Book covers. Here's the poll:

Titles, Covers and Decision Making...
Ever buy book on title alone? = 6.6%
Ever buy book on cover alone? = 27.9%
Ever not buy because of title? = 13.1%
Ever not buy because of cover? = 52.5%


Personally, so far I've been richly blessed by the Cover Goddess. No complaints, here! And overall, with the improvement in technology, ebook covers overall (at least for the established epubs) are works of art compared to the first cheesy efforts of a decade ago.

However there's a recent trend that I just don't quite get. The Incredible Headless Torso. For a while there, it seemed at least half the new release covers featured a ripped male torso with...no head. And I'm still seeing them often enough to notice the trend.

Now, I'm all for a nice-looking male bod. I'm all for using one to sell a book - there's a hot, bare-chested guy on my latest release. Except mine has a head attached. Why do so many of the recent releases I'm seeing look like near-sighted Aunt Millie got ahold of the camera at the last family reunion?

(Disclaimer: The following examples in no way reflect my opinion of the content between the covers. Check them out - I've read many of these authors and love 'em!)

This is just a random sampling of literally hundreds of releases within the last month or two.

Now, call me old fashioned, but in life and in reading, when it come to heroes I'm just as interested in what's above the neck as below it. Are the headless torsos a clue as the the book's heat level? (not all of them are what I'd term smokin' hot stories). Is it a lack of willingness (or time) on the publisher's part to find a photo that closely matches the hero's appearance? Is it so the publisher can more easily re-use an anonymous torso on multiple covers?

For what it's worth, the couple on the first draft of the cover of my novella Wildish Things didn't match the couple in the book. Changing the heroine's hair color was simple for talented artist Anne Cain. The hero was perfect except the model had short hair; Kellan has shoulder-length hair. Rather that ruin the otherwise pitch-perfect cover, I told her to just leave the model's hair alone. An easier solution would have been to cut off the tops of the couple's heads, but that wasn't an option for me!

I'm not saying that the covers look bad - not at all. They're artistic and very well done. (Check out the gorgeous covers for Jody's and Jorrie's books in the sidebar of this blog! Yummy!) I'm just wondering why the sudden rash of headless heroes (and sometimes heroines)? Does something like this affect your decision to buy the book? As for me, probably not. The covers are indeed enticing and I'd definitely at least read the blurb and an excerpt.

Just gimme a nice set of eyes, please, to go along with those ripped abs and broad shoulders? Pretty please?


04 September 2009

Bestiary 102

We're back for another round of fantastic beasts!

First, I'd just like to thank the universe for the wonder known as Inter Library Loan. My library system didn't own a copy of T.H. White's Book of Beasts, so I was able to borrow a copy all the way from the University of Wisconsin! I can't tell you what a happy library geek I am. :)

Today's information will all come from that source as I only have it on loan until next week.

Bestiaries are often divided into sections of beasts, birds and reptiles/amphibians. As I mentioned last time, many of the beasts that are catalogued are real creatures, even if their allegorical traits are a spiritual stretch.

The unicorn is described as being the size of a goat, and may be trapped by a virgin. There's one thing that has always puzzled me about that, though. If a unicorn is a creature of purity and innocence and goodness, and the girl is a willing accomplice in trapping this creature, then how on earth does her physical state of being trump her basic greed and evil? Because you'd have to be a pretty slimy specimen to want to kill a unicorn. You'd think that a mythic beast attracted those wholesome traits would be able to smell the evil intent a mile away.

Oh well, there's a mystery for the ages.

One of the charming things about White's translation are his footnotes. They crack me up. Under the entry for the Griffin, he first quotes Lewis Carroll from Alice in Wonderland: "If you don't know what a Griffin is, look at the picture." He then goes on to theorize that the Griffin has no basis in a real creature, but is an animal of fantasy. He illustrates with a Victorian poem about a mythical Dodo (not the one we know is extinct), but ends with the following statement: "The Griffin, however, was a serious animal.... It does not pay to be supercilious about the creatures in a Bestiary."

Yes, sir.

The section on birds is largely based on real animals with a couple of notable exceptions. First, the Caladrius -- a white bird that could foretell death. If it was shown to a patient who would survive, the bird would face the patient. If, however, it prophesied death, it would turn its head away. Again, White's footnotes add to the story with a uniquely human point of view.

It would be difficult to actually sell a Caladrius to anyone, he writes, because the buyer (presumably the victim of the illness) merely needed to enter the store on the pretense of purchasing the bird, have it look at him and tell his future, then leave the store without actually exchanging cash for the prophecy. White tells us that birdsellers became canny and refused to show the bird unless there was cash in hand.

Typical humans.

The Fenix (sic) is a familiar beast to many of us. The allegory to the risen Christ is unmistakable. It foretells its own death, makes arrangements -- builds a sweet smelling nest/funeral pyre of cinnamon and spice branches, then sets itself on fire. "Then verily, on the ninth day afterward, it rises from its own ashes!" The bestiary mentions another creature which may simply be the Phoenix by another name -- the Cinomolgus. And again, White gives us more information by mentioning the Emperor Heliogabulus (3rd century) who was a "glutton and debauchee." He decided that he wanted to eat a Cinomolgus/Phoenix so that he could take in its longevity and probably its ability to rise from the dead. Some poor rare bird or another was obtained for him, he immediately set fire to it and ate it. "One is thankful to know that he was murdered very shortly afterwards." And presumably, didn't come back.

There are hundreds of creatures listed in White's translation -- many are ordinary creatures exalted to an uncomfortable place in medieval symbolism, but the extraordinary few do set fire to the imagination. More next time!

03 September 2009

Another Free Read from the PIACT Agent Archive. (Not work friendly)

Don't forget if you want to win a super duper Secret Agent ID card like this one

and your own presentation packaged archive superspy mission for yourself, or a loved one, all you have to do to enter the free draw is comment on this thread. Stories can be written in four styles, sex free, romantic, spicy and erotic. Just let me know what you want.

Come along and join us, your superspy comrades are eagerly waiting...

Lethal Lion Leaps into a Lavish Lair

“Now, make sure you wear your underwear.”

Lethal Lion cringed as Omniscient Otter gave him her final orders over the telephone. She was hip deep in a mission in the Middle East while he was preparing for his, in a villa standing on a Greek beach next to the Mediterranean. And all she could think about was his underwear.

“Oh God, you’re going commando aren’t you, I can tell. We’re doomed!”

“No, I’m not.” Lion countered churlishly. He wasn’t doomed, at least. He certainly wasn’t going to admit to going commando.

“Just ask Warrior Wolf,” she told him. “Ask her about the dangers of not wearing underwear. Clean ones at that. Ask her about the YouTube videos, the ones she’s always hacking into and trying to hide.”

“Aw, hey babe, you know that isn’t going to happen to me. Besides one guy looks like the next when it comes down to that.”

“Trust me, bozo.” Her tone of voice held dire warnings. “I’d recognize that penis anywhere, so don’t let me see it somewhere other than our bedroom. Don’t forget, I bite.”

Lion winced again. Otters, he knew from experience, had sharp teeth.

“Trust me dear, wherever I go the underwear goes with me.” Just to keep to the truth Lion shoved a pair of cotton plaid boxers down the front of his pants. The padding gave him an impressive bulge in the front of them.

“Going commando again?” Formidable Fox stepped out of the shower naked except for a shower cap, grabbed a jug of coffee, then sauntered back into the shower.

“And I hope those women aren’t sauntering naked around you,” she growled. “I gave them express orders— “

“Breakfast is here,” Lightning Lynx came up the stairs carrying a huge delivery box from the local bakery. The smell of croissants, Greek bread, feta and baklava along with even stronger coffee made his mouth water.

She lay the box on a small breakfast bar on the balcony just outside Lion’s bedroom, dropped the sheer nightgown she was wearing, shook, her hair in the slight breeze, giving him the perfect view of everything she had before she delicately crossed her legs and nibbled, very teasingly, at one corner of croissant.

“—they are perfectly well behaved,” Lion assured her. “There’s not a single inch of flesh to be seen.” Nope, not an inch, bloody yards of it maybe but not a single inch.

“Okay,” Otter appeared to be mollified by his continued assertions. “Okay then, but, well take care. I hear the twins are deadly with their bazookas.”

“I will dear, I promise, now don’t go flying into any male harems will you. I hear they’re ferocious with a lone woman once they get them in the pool.”

“Don’t be silly dear, nothing happens like that here.”

“Love you, Bye.”

“Bye, Love you!

Hearing the phone hang up brought Lion’s blood pressure out of the fatal heart attack range, which Fox pumped right up again when she came out of the shower, naked again, and passed him a towel, asking him to rub her dry, and do it really quickly at the bottom because it was always wet.

Lion was plucking up the courage to get started when the outside door opened and the unmistakable stomp of Wolf came in. She quickly traced the gang, and the breakfast, to the upper balcony and caught the three of them in a flagrant á trois.

Lion looked at her and relaxed. Calf high skirt, long sleeve and full collar shirt, a hat that covered most of her face. Other than being a very attractive woman, Wolf hadn’t brought anything naked with her to add to the plethora of temptation.

“Really girls,” Wolf chastised them. “You shouldn’t be walking around naked while a man is watching you.”

“A man…?” Fox squeaked.

“…watching us?” Lynx chirped.

Both women dashed to the balcony and dangled over it, searching for their elusive voyeur.

“He’s in here, silly.”

Still excited the two girls turned around and began searching behind the curtains and in the cupboards.

“He’s standing right in front of you.” Wolf added, exasperated.

Fox and Lynx paused to look at Wolf.

“Oh!” Lynx said at last. “I think she means Lion.”

“Lion?” Fox stuttered. “He’s not a man, he’s married.”

“To Otter,” Lynx agreed.

“Damn,” Fox flumped down at the breakfast bar, disappointed.

“Damn, too” Lynx joined her.

Lion swallowed, glanced down at his perfectly athletic body, muscles to die for, and felt about as useful as a butt plug at a gay bar.

“Well, just keep your clothes on around here, okay. The poor fellow is already having fits by the looks of it.”

Lion felt himself blush as Wolf pointedly looked at the front of his pants.

“Don’t worry about that,” Fox stage whispered, “It’s only padding.”

Blushing even more Lion pulled the offending boxers out of his pants to reveal a perfectly smooth, bump free profile. He sank on the edge of the bed, defeated.

“Whatever,” Wolf rolled her eyes. “Don’t forget Furball insisted we keep a low profile on this mission. We’ve finally found a place where I can work without being recognized.”

“Hardly.” Lynx countered. “Why else would that seventeen-year-old look up your skirt at the bakery and yell to his friends. αυτή είναι η μία στο YouTube.”

Lion watched Wolf squirm uncomfortably. “We have no idea what he said.” She told them. “He’s probably one of them kids that gets his thrills from peeking up girls skirts.”

“He said, ‘this is the one on YouTube,’” Lion translated for her.

Wolf blushed bright red, before collapsing on the edge of the bed beside him.

“Damn,” she said. “It looks like you’ll have to do this mission without me after all.”

“Well, what is the mission?” Lynx asked. “Besides sunbathing on the beach and chasing down the local hunks?”

“Okay, come inside and close the curtains,” she told them. “Let’s get this job underway, I want to go home.”

“Yeah, but are you wearing your underwear?” Fox teased, then fell silent as Wolf pulled a huge, pulsating life-like vibrator out of her purse. “How did you get that past customs?”

“I have my ways,” Wolf smirked.

Lion felt even more inadequate as Wolf placed the monstrosity, suction cup to the wood, on the dressing table in front of them. Even the close proximity of two delectable, naked women had no effect on him after the confidence bashing he’d had today.

The vibrator did a little jump, startling him, then three beams of red light burst out from its tip. Laser beams. He watched, curious, as within seconds there was a keyboard, mousepad and monitor drawn in red light on the wall and top of the dresser.

Wolf leaned in and quickly typed in a few passwords and codes. The monitor screen flickered to full hdtv color life.

Furball, in all his bearded wonderfulness, was peering out at them.

“Ah, I’m so glad to see you all in one piece,” he said. “I was worried the Twins might have already caught onto you and eliminated at least a few.”

“You’re expecting us to get killed?” Lion asked. “And you didn’t tell us.”

“Now, now, don’t worry.” Furball reassured him. “I mean we have the best there is in resuscitation. Just as long as you’re not decapitated we have a pretty good chance of piecing you back together. Why agent Persian Pumpkin was found in the sewers, dead for fourteen days, and she’s now walking around with us with no problems.”

“Persian Pumpkin?”

“You know, the girl in our office here, walks with a limp, looks like her eyes are rotted, keeps falling to pieces, that one.”

Lion remembered now the Halloween mannequin he’d seen when he’d visited HQ recently, except it apparently wasn’t a mannequin…

“But regardless, you’re all there in one piece and that’s how we like you. You want to hear more about your mission?”

“Please do,” Lion spoke dryly. “The suspense is killing me.”

“These two girls,” the screen switched to show some video footage of two blond, very well endowed, twins heading into a pedicure parlor. “Are top executives for the Secret Party Looking to Annihilate Terra. Otherwise known as SPLAT. They are currently working on a super secret project here…” a shot of a remote, massive villa in the middle of the deserted Greek countryside. “…known as the Gemini Matrix.”

The holder of the video camera managed to zoom in to focus on some of the people walking around the grounds of the villa. Everywhere the camera focused, there were twins. Male twins. From the corner of his eye Lion could see Lynx and Fox licking their lips.

“I need you Lynx and Fox, to take out the guards, while Lion heads for the ultra-secret laboratory here.” The camera zoomed in to what looked like an elaborate harem style bedroom full of silky chiffon hangings, ceiling decorations and a massive uber king sized circular bed. “Hopefully he’ll be able to locate and destroy the secret research. At the least we’re expected to have the Twins incarcerated by the end of this mission.”

Something big, heavy and fast flew up from the villa and suddenly the picture from the camera consisted of a short tumbling sequence before simply going black, accompanied by a blood curdling scream which was cut short at the interesting bit.

“Ah, Two-Toed Turtle always was a little slow.” Furball sighed. “Anyway, are you all clear on your duties?”

There was a rather subdued round of “Yes.”

“What about me?” Wolf sniffed, miffed at being left out of the mission.

“I’d suggest plastic surgery,” Furball said. “Failing that get your lower half a hair dye, have it trimmed into interesting shapes and make it totally unrecognizable from a certain YouTube video… Hey, have you considered shaving?”


“Good, good, I’m sure you’re the master of disguise, and that you’ll find some way to make yourself unrecognizable to the world’s masses.”


“Excellent! Now go for it guys and gals. Good luck, and don’t forget, this message will self-destruct in ten seconds.” Furball grinned. “I’ve always wanted to say that.”

The image on the screen faded and the vibrator squeaked and hissed a little, deflating slowly until it looked like one of those dinky penises you find on cherub statues in stately gardens.

“Now that was a waste,” Lynx pouted.


“Okay, satellite indicates you’ve got four heading your way girls, two from the west, two from the north west. ETA five minutes. You know, I’m getting some really weird electronic signals from that place. You all take care in there, you hear?”

Wolf, dying to get in on the act somehow was monitoring the whole process from satellite and adding her little bit now and then. She was staying firmly locked inside the vacation villa, hiding from the small crowd of sightseers that were now camping on the beach outside it and which was growing larger every minute.

Lion looked towards the predicted contact area, and closed his eyes as Lynx and Fox stripped down to some very skimpy underwear. He had to concentrate on the job.

Peering towards the nearby wall, the whole villa was encased in a ten feet high privacy wall, Lion tried to assess the easiest place to climb it.

There wasn’t, wherever he climbed it was going to be just as tough. Oh well. Here’s hoping some of that million dollar spy equipment Querulous Q gave him actually did its stuff.

“I’ll take these four,” Lynx sauntered sexily forward as the first men came into sight. “You guys get on to the inside and get the Twins.”

Lion could tell Fox wasn’t too happy with that but at least she didn’t complain.

“Are you sure you can handle four of them alone?” Lion asked.

Lynx licked her lips, waggled her tush and waved her hands. “One less than maximum capacity,” she grinned.

Lion didn’t stay to argue. Instead he moved quickly to the cover of the wall, hoping the coming men didn’t spot him. Going by the grunts and groans that soon emanated behind him, the coming men was a very apt description.

Once next to the wall Lion took out the Invisible Breach Ball QQ had given him. “It will enable you to pass through three foot of rock, brick and mortar as if it never existed.”QQ had said. “Totally invisible!”

“Light blue touch paper and retire,” he read the brief instructions as he pressed the ball against the wall.

Well, he was far too young to retire. Squashing the soft metallic ball against the white mortared wall until it stuck and taking his super duper cigarette lighter, he lit the blue paper which was poking out of the top.

The paper sparkled, glowed, pulsed, then went out.

“Always happens with the cheap ones,” Fox noted. “Try sticking a match in it.”

Feeling a bit wary of that suggestion, he tried to light the blue touch paper again. This time the fuse flared, and zipped all the way into the ball before he had time to pull his hand away.

The ball burst into a glow so bright, it took five minutes before his constant blinking allowed him to finally see again.

“That’s it!” Wolf announced. “You’ve made your way in. Don’t take too long, Lynx looks like she’s floundering.”

“Oh? Is that what they call it nowadays?” Fox muttered.

Lion pushed his hand against the wall. Or more precisely pushed his hand against where the wall used to be. All that remained now of the small section where he stood was a large pile of rock dust on the floor.

Well, he had to admit, it certainly looked like the wall was invisible—he couldn’t fault QQ’s description there.

“Okay, I’m going in,” he announced.

“And not a moment too soon.” Lynx’s words sounded garbled over the headset.

“It’s rude to speak with your mouth full,” Fox chided.

Lion stepped through the more-than-man-sized hole, into the garden of dreams itself.

It was like stepping from the Mediterranean and appearing, well, into a very well-kept part of the Mediterranean. The soil here was still sandy, dry and gritty, but it was a well-watered dry and gritty. And the plants and shrubs grew like they knew they were the rich kids on the block. Lion reached up to a nearby olive tree and plucked a few ripe olives to test them.

“Hmm, not bad at all,” he said, savoring the astringent taste.

“No, I’m not going to pull up my skirt for you to peek at me!” Wolf’s protest shattered Lion’s musing. “Sorry everyone, the local TV station sent a news crew around to interview me. Do you think you could maybe hurry this along a little bit. The local police have started selling tickets for their annual ball and carting off the ones refusing to pay. The jail’s already overfull with two men to a bed and I hear they’ve booked an around-the-world cruise for all their eighty odd employees.”

“Uh, yeah, sorry Wolf, just enjoying some of the dainty delights the garden has to offer.” Lion apologized.

“Just get into the bedroom and savor your dainty delights there.” Wolf said, then under her breath, unaware that he could hear her. “I knew I should have worn underwear…”

“This is the best route,” Fox told him, when he’d almost finished his handful of olives. “Follow the pergolas, the squash growing up the sides will give us enough cover until we nearly reach the house. From there you’ll have to make a short dash to the villa.”

“What about you?” Lion asked.

“I think I saw some twins towards the far end of the pergolas. I’m going to have to go first and distract them.” She licked her lips, adjusted her top so her boobs looked more perky and fussed with her hair. “Give me ten minutes head start okay.”

“Okay,” Lion agreed. “Are you sure you’re going to be okay?”

“Eh, what’s a few twins on a mission eh, Lynx? We’ve handled worse that that right?”

“Mmmphh mm phmmm.” Lynx acknowledged.

Worried about his colleagues Lion nervously paced about the olive tree, constantly checking his watch to see if the ten minutes were up. An agonizing eight minutes had passed when Wolf piped up on the headset.

“Incoming,’ she said. “Can you see them to your east and south west Fox?”

“Oh yes,” Fox sounded rather breathless. “What? Only three?”

“Something’s wrong,” Wolf declared. “Everyone here has a twin, and moves as a twin. Keep your eyes peeled Lion, this could be a trap if we can’t see his twin.”

“Oh man!” Fox exclaimed, her voice buzzing over the headset, followed by a sound similar to a panty thong snapping. “Ooooooh, Maaan!”

Lion, trying not to let his guilt at Fox’s deep pain distract him, quickly surveyed the land just beyond the pergolas. It was wide and open. Off to the left, behind some bushes, he could hear Fox’s desperate attempt to keep the guards away from him—the poor lass stifling her cries of agony.

Knowing he was wasting precious time, Lion took a chance and made a dash for the villa, hiding behind a largish Juniper bush he looked up at the wall. A fifteen foot climb onto the flat roof, head east, another ten foot climb and he’d be able to sneak into the bedroom on the third floor.


Except there was a hand on his shoulder which definitely didn’t feel like it was going to let him go.

Lion turned casually, acting as if he had every right to be trespassing in someone’s secret base garden and hiding behind a juniper bush.

“Hi,” he said, waving to the missing twin guard. “Lovely weather for a walk isn’t it?”

“Πρέπει να σας σκοτώσω.” The twin said.

“Erhm, pardon me for asking but did you just say, ‘I must kill you?’”


“That’s ‘correct’, huh?”

“Ω, ναι, σίγουρα.”

“Oh, yes, definitely?” Lion rubbed his chin. “Well, that’s kind of awkward isn’t it, since I don’t really want to be killed.”

Moving at a speed of lightning mud, Lion punched out, striking the man squarely on the chin—then howled in pain as he nursed his hand between his legs.

“Damn! Well I can tell you don’t have a glass jaw. What did you do? Implant a sheet of steel in your chin?”

“I’ve, er, figured out what those strange signals are guys,” Wolf sheepishly admitted.

“Don’t tell me,” Lion joked. “All the twin guards are robots.”

“Well, androids.”

“It’s okay Wolf, you don’t need to humor me. It was just a bad joke, really.”

“Well…I wasn’t really humoring…”

Lion ducked as the twin threw a punch, the man’s arm ending up buried to the elbow in the wall, and he didn’t even wince.

“Androids,” Lynx gasped. “That explains why they’re so good. I mean, uhm, they don’t seem to be getting tired or slowing down.”

The twin threw another punch at him with its other hand, Lion slipped to one side, feeling the breeze pass his ear as the punch almost connected. The man, android, now had two arms elbow deep in the wall.

“How can we defeat them?” Lion asked, taking the opportunity to beat on the machines head while it couldn’t respond. All he managed to do was make his fists hurt.

“I dunno,” Wolf said. “Maybe you could shove a hand grenade down their pants or something?”

“Right, thanks,” Lion answered as politely as he could. “But I didn’t exactly come all this way just to cop a feel of an android’s wiener.”

It did give him an idea though. The android had almost pulled its arms out of the wall, along with a fair chunk of the wall itself. Pulling out his spare IBB he squashed the soft metal ball to the back of the androids neck. This time he put his free arm over his eyes and thrust the lighter as close to the ball as it could get. Retiring, on this occasion, could be a rather long and fatal affair.

Even with his arm over his eyes it took several moments blinking to be able to see again. Fortunately his plan had worked and all that remained of the android was a pile of metal and plastic dust.

“Oh God, they’re so hard,” Fox moaned. “Difficult, I mean. They’re so difficult!” She squealed.

“Wimp!” Lynx taunted.

“Quickly Lion, you have to get to the Twins and subdue them. They probably have a master control which will turn all the androids off at once.”


Lion looked at the crumbling wall. At least that was one problem solved. Using the convenient hand and foot holes the android had provided it took just a matter of minutes to swing himself up onto the roof and start making his way to the Twins bedroom.

It took just a few more moments to reach the wall just below their bedroom window. Quickly pulling the Clingers onto his hands and feet, he used their super suction ability to help him climb the short ten feet to the window sill.

The whole process went very well. Incredibly well in fact. Except for the last few inches when two sets of hands grabbed his wrists and yanked him the last few feet into the bedroom.

When he managed to get his breath back, and look up from the floor, he saw two very attractive pairs of breasts. No, he meant an attractive pair of twins, honest!

Both of them were dressed in see-through baby doll negligees that just about covered their navels and left little to his imagination—which was currently working overtime, as was another part of his anatomy.

“Oooh,” said Twin number one. “A real, working, human male, Dupli.”

The other Twin licked her lips as she sidled over to Lion.

“You’re right, Kate. Let’s see what he really has to offer. You know that last one had just padded himself out with his boxers.”

Dupli and Kate, Lion wondered what sick parents came up with those names.

As the Twins grabbed the legs of his pants Lion fought vainly to keep his modesty as the girls tried to pull them off. Very reluctantly, he instantly unbuttoned and unzipped before they tugged too hard and damaged something permanently. After all, he did want to have something to take back to Otter.

“Oooh,” Kate said, grabbing him in a place too rude to mention and stroking him up and down. “It’s so hard and smooth, it’s better than the real thing.”

“It is the real thing,” he told them grouchily.

Dupli dipped her head down for a quick lick. Lion decided to take some time out before arresting the poor, pretty things. After all, they probably were innocents in all this.

“Hmm, tastes like the real thing.” Dupli said. “Let’s try him out for a bit.”

“Yes. Lets.” Kate agreed.


A couple of hours later Lion looked around at the chaos in the room. The bed was messed up with the covers all over the place. Half the hangings and the chandelier were dangling in pieces from the walls and ceilings. Worse still the Twins were still going strong, insatiable for more of him.

He was exhausted.

“Has it been good for you ladies?” he asked, desperate for a break. God knows how Lynx and Fox were doing, They’ve been captives to their robot twins even longer than he’d been to these two human ones.

“They’re barely hanging on,” Wolf told him. “They can’t keep it up much longer.”

Neither can I. Lion wanted to add.

“Oh, don’t worry about us,” Dupli told him.

“No man has even been able to make us come,” Kate told him. “We just like to play because its fun.”

“Ugh,” Lion groaned. I’m doomed. “Okay, maybe I have a little toy which will help.”

“Ooh, we like toys.” The Twins said together.

Reaching for his pants Lion pulled out the last device QQ had given him. The Desperation Pill. About the size of a quarter he pulled it out, and following the instructions, squeezed the tube at the two blue marks.

Immediately the capsule popped open and a pink thing flew out.

“Wow,” Dupli cooed.

“Double wow,” Kate aahhed.

“Phew,” Lion agreed.

Grabbing as much rest as he could Lion watched along with the girls as the pink thing expanded and slowly took shape. He had no idea what QQ had created so he was as surprised as the Twins when they ended up with a blow up copy of himself.

“Well, hello girls!”

A moving, walking, talking blow up copy! He was saved!

“Wowowow!” Kate said, reaching forward and grabbing the copy’s extended male member. “And it vibrates too! I’m taking this one.” She told Dupli. “We can swap later.”

“No fair!” Dupli complained. “You always try the new ones first.”

Still, she turned to Lion, determination on her face. “I’ll have to finish you off quickly,” she said.

Lion didn’t think she meant it in a pleasant way either.

“Unless I finish you first,” he gave her what he hoped was a sexy confident smile back. “Now that I can concentrate solely on you, you have no chance.”

“I love a good challenge,” Dupli grinned back. Then gasped as Lion flipped her over and took her doggie style. “You can’t, beat me, like this.” She groaned.

Yet Lion could tell from her tone that he was finally beginning to affect her.

“Then let’s try a little of this,” he teased.

Switching on his fingertip implanted vibrators he reached underneath her and began stroking her clit, she bucked as if he’d just sent a million volts through her.

“No!” she cried. “No!”

Lion glanced over at his copy and saw it was doing the same thing to Kate who was moaning, glassy eyed. He grinned with satisfaction. They were going to do something to the Twins that no man had done before.

“No!” Dupli screamed. “It can’t be! I’m, I’m, c…c…comi…..!”

It wasn’t until he saw the smoke pouring out of her ears that Lion started to get a little bit disconcerted. But when she screamed out at her climax, and her eyes popped out to dangle on springs, and the top of her head blew off to reveal a complex set of circuit boards and electronics he really started to worry. He distanced himself as quickly as he could from the disintegrating machine.

He glanced over at Kate as her orgasmic cries ended in a similar, and very alarming fashion. Unfortunately his copy wasn’t as quick and ended up in various pieces beside her.

“Be careful!” Lion yelled into the headset. “The androids aren’t programmed to deal with an orgasm, they kind of—“

“Wow, talk about popping your cork!” Lynx said.

“Well, I’ve heard about blowing someone’s brains out…” Fox added.

“This whole place,” Lion looked around the bedroom, debris from one of the exploding twins had loosened a panel in the wall to reveal a complex control board behind it. “It was run by androids.”

He hit a few buttons just to see what would happen. The control board lit up like a Christmas tree. Maybe he’d hit the one which switched off the androids.

“Warning! Warning! This base will self-destruct in five minutes.” Lion stared at it in shock for a few seconds. “I’ve always wanted to say that.” The machine added.

“Uhm, ladies…” Lion said forgetting about his clothes and running for the window and the quickest way out of the villa.

“We heard.” Lynx and Fox said together.

“Calling in the escape chopper now.” Wolf told them.

Lion just hoped they’d make it out in time


“I warned you about going commando!” Lion winced at Otter’s tone and held the phone a little further from his ear. “Now where the hell did I put that skinning knife?”

“Baby, really, I have no idea how I ended up on YouTube.”

They were all sitting in Ferocious Furball’s ‘couch’ room waiting for a debrief. No, he wasn’t going to think of that term. Fox and Lynx had both arrived wearing long mackintosh coats, dark glasses and fedoras.

“I haven’t been able to go anywhere without someone asking if I want to try it with five.” Lynx complained.

“My mother keeps talking about my choice of underwear,” Fox moaned. “And the ladies of her church group have started a panties collection for me.” She wrinkled her face in disgust.

“Isn’t it disgusting,” Wolf agreed, innocently twiddling with the satellite controller she’d used to follow and record their mission. “And here we were, thinking you were all safe. Someone who was following me must have tracked you all down to the villa. Well, look on the bright side. At least they’re not all following me around anymore.”

They were all about to comment when Furball announced his arrival by dimming the lights and backlighting the screen so that his silhouette appeared.

“I’m afraid, ladies and gentleman,” he began immediately. “That it looks like we have stumbled on an immensely large group of bad guys we need to trounce.”

They all stared at the screen, riveted by the news, personal problems temporarily forgotten.

“Let me tell you,” Furball continued. “What we have learned about SPLAT.”


If you enjoyed this story come look at the PIACT Agent Roll Call archive here for more.

02 September 2009

Education by Television

I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.
~ Groucho Marx

I think Groucho would have become very educated if he had to look at the 2009 fall TV line up. I'm looking the network choices over, and finding very few shows to get excited about.

That means more time for writing and reading though! My silver lining.

So what am I looking forward to? It's a short list. First, a few returning shows.
- Castle on Monday - and I admit I watch it for Nathan Fillion more than the writing. He'll always be Captain to me. Unfortunately this show isn't Firefly, so I'll probably only remember to turn it on a few times during the season.
- I'll TiVo NCIS on Tuesday and watch it later in the week with hubby. It's about the only show we both watch.
- The Mentalist on Thursday. Ok, so there are two shows hubby and I both watch. This one we'll also TiVo to watch together later.
- Dollhouse on Friday! I'm having an "ugh" moment seeing Fox is leading into it with a pair of sitcoms. Hopefully Summer Glau can chase my fears of imminent cancellation away.

Wow. One show I'll actually plan to watch, one I'm Eh about, and two that are on there to be 'date shows' with the hubby.

Maybe there's something more exciting in the new shows? Don't get too excited.
- V (ABC) Premieres: Tuesday, Nov. 3 at 8/7c. Notice that the new show I'm most excited about won't be here until November. From TV Guide :
Lost's Elizabeth Mitchell stars in this reimagining of the 1980s sci-fi miniseries and series as FBI counter terrorism agent Erica Evans. She is the first to discover that, beneath the skin of a presumed friendly visiting alien race, they're more sinister than anyone imagined. Evans' son, Tyler (Logan Huffman), sees the Vs as an opportunity to make mankind unite with a common goal while news anchor Chad Decker (Scott Wolf) wants to advance his career by getting an exclusive interview with the aliens' leader, Anna (Morena Baccarin).
Am I letting nostalgia get in the way of judgment? I loved the original miniseries. Even bought the novelization, and held onto it until college. The diretoor and cast have a lot of geek cred, so I'm hanging onto my high hopes for this one.

- Eastwick (ABC) Premieres: Wednesdays, Sept. 23 at 10/9c From TV Guide :
The producers of this fantasy series about suburban witches, which stars Rebecca Romijn and Lindsay Price, hope the third attempt to bring John Updike's novel to the small screen will be the charm. The big-screen version, The Witches of Eastwick, was a major success in 1987.
I liked the movie ok, but always thought there was more potential here than a 2 hour movie could catch. So I'm going to give this one a shot. And, witches. Fun times.

- FlashForward (ABC) Premieres: Thursday, Sept. 24 at 8/7c From TV Guide :
ABC has high hopes for this series, centered around a bizarre event that allows millions of people to briefly see flashes of the future. What do they see? What does it mean? And should people be worried if they don't have a future? Watch to find out, we don't know, and yes.
The hype around this one reminds me a bit of the hype around Heroes. And Heroes was fun for one season. Ok, for most of one season, they actually lost me about 2 episodes from the end. Maybe ABC has found a similiar spark with this one?

- The Vampire Diaries (The CW) Premieres: Thursday, Sept. 10 at 8/7c From TV Guide :
Brooding high school newcomer Stefan (Paul Wesley) can't get his mind off classmate Elena (Nina Dobrev) — perhaps because the two of them were deeply in love 130 years years ago. Yeah, Stefan is a vampire, and so is his reckless bad-boy brother, Damon (Lost's Ian Somerhalder). This one also features a special guest appearance by massive amounts of fog.
Vamps. They're hot, they're now, and they may be getting close to being overdone. Unlike HBO's True Blood (which you'd think would be marketed to adults only with all that blood and sex) this show is aiming for the high school crowd; think Twilight fans here. Will the show have any appeal outside the 15-18 demographic the network usually aims for? I'll tune in once or twice and give it a shot.

And that's it for me. One new show I've got as a don't-miss, and a few I'll give a shot. There's a few more on cable that look interesting (Stargate Universe being the big one), but again - a lot of yawns across the listings.

Have I missed something? Is there a show out there that you're especially excited about and think I should give a try?

I'm looking at one bright spot out of this. Maybe I'll be able to find time to get to a lot of great books that have been waiting on my TBR pile for far too long.