Monthly Archives: March 2020
Today I’m sharing an excerpt from WINDMILLS, the first book in my post-apocalyptic trilogy THE COLOR OF FEAR. This piece gives us insight into Valery Paz, and a glimpse into her history.
Before she stepped over the threshold, Valery Paz patted her two front pockets. The left one held the book she was currently reading, a fantasy story about a modern-day barista and a glass slipper, the right a fully loaded pistol she wasn’t afraid to use.
Yep, Uncle Dave, you’d be proud of this little Latina. Self-defense: Never leave home without it.
Wary of the street after hearing about Kwan’s encounter with the gang, she set off at a swift pace, spurred on by the damp chill in the air, her well-worn sneakers making hardly a sound. Twenty blocks along Broadway, then a right turn, then up to the attic of a small house just past Jackson Square, and she’d be home. She could sit by her tiny window and look out over the bay near the Embarcadero.
If she was lucky, and the fog held off, she might catch a glimpse of the Golden Gate.
The bridge still seemed more like another fantasy to her than reality, even though she’d seen it in clear weather, swathed in fog, and in dozens of different states in between.
She hadn’t lived in the city before the Second Holocaust. Then, she’d been the nearest thing to a Valley Girl at Everett Alvarez High School in Salinas, about a hundred miles south of San Francisco, her daily language peppered with southern California slang. She’d been slated to graduate salutatorian of her class, bound for Stanford. The Second Holocaust ended the school year early.
Then it ended a lot of things early.
Her younger brother had died first, but in the twelve months afer the SH, she’d lost her mother and “Uncle” Dave too. Her parents had broken up years before, but her dad had always stopped in when his sales job brought him within shouting distance. It had been maybe a month before the SH when he stopped in before heading to southern California. She hadn’t seen him again.
She’d buried her mother and Dave, then packed a duffel bag with her dearest possessions and those her family had treasured as well. She had to go somewhere,
People came through town, heading to Colorado or New Mexico, and said San Francisco was at least providing some services to residents. Valery had some very
fond memories of the city by the bay, one visit in particular when she’d gone shopping with her mother as a young adolescent. They’d had warm sourdough bread and
shrimp cocktail from a cart on Fisherman’s Wharf and toured Chinatown, just the two of them. Her mother had bought her a new pair of shoes and a tiny cable car ornament
for their Christmas tree. A magical day.
That’s what made up her mind.
Six months now since she’d moved here, and she still sought real direction. When she was younger, she’d wanted to be a fashion model. She was tall enough, and when she only let herself eat lettuce—for a week or so—she could be skinny enough. It wasn’t like modeling scouts came through Salinas, though. And Mama wouldn’t take me to the city to try out. Not till I was eighteen.
She muttered, “Well. Now I’m eighteen, Mama. Look at me. Sneaking around the streets after dark like some matón.”
Kwan said the Enforcer had rescued her from the gang. A tendril of wistful thought wound itself around Valery’s heart. When will I have a white knight riding out to save me, huh?
Even as she wished for that person who might be waiting out there, somewhere, she shoved that idea aside.
That’s why I’m better off. I don’t need saving.
Besides, she didn’t intend to stay in San Francisco all her life.
She reached her house without incident and ran up the steps, scanning the street before she opened the door. Once she was safe inside, she triple-locked it and headed
upstairs to her room, locking the door to the attic as well. She tossed her pea jacket onto her bed, a mattress on the floor she’d dragged up the narrow steps, then lit several
candles. When everything was arranged to her liking, she rummaged through her “pantry,” a cardboard carton of cans and boxes of food she’d collected over the
last few weeks. One can called for her attention, and she took it out, cradling it in her hand. The brilliant orange of the mangoes on the Goya juice can reminded her of the
ambrosial juice awaiting her inside. She could almost taste the sweet tartness on her tongue.
She popped open the top and took a small sip, letting it roll around her mouth like the finest wine. Amazing.
She leaned down to glance out the window before settling in, disappointed that the cool, wet air had brought along a flood of fog that covered the waters of the bay. No bridge-gazing tonight. What else to do?
She plopped down on the worn blue beanbag chair she’d wrestled up the steps the first week she’d arrived. It was just like the one her brother Jimmy’d had, back in the
The loneliness was starting to get to her. She should leave. Comparing the number of survivors in the site of the SH attack, San Diego, and San Francisco, she could extrapolate
the differences between San Francisco and other parts of the country. The farther east you went, the better the chances there would be a healthier population.
Who knew? Maybe they still had fashion runway shows in New York City.
Si, chica, the models, they are very skinny this year…skin and bones…well, maybe bones without the skin…
A chill ran up her back, the black humor a little too close to truth.
Welcome to guest author Laura Strickland, here to talk about her new book, Cross Checking: A Buffalo Steampunk Adventure. Take it away, Laura!
The thing I hear most often when I attend Steampunk Festivals and other events promoting my books is, “What’s Steampunk?” It’s a fair question. Many readers aren’t familiar with the genre, and feel a bit intimidated by it. But as I’ve learned since starting this wild ride, penning my Buffalo Steampunk Adventures series, there’s no easy answer. Steampunk means something different to all those who love it.
For some of us, it’s all about the gadgets. Steampunk aficionados love to tinker. They build teapot racers, life-sized robots and fully-operational automatons. Others love the costuming, and the chance to transform into someone other than their every-day selves, to walk for even a few hours on the wild side. Goggles and helmets, brass-buttoned jackets and sweeping skirts…and stepping through the looking glass.
For me, it’s all about what-might-have-been. What if the glorious age of steam heralded by the Industrial Revolution had never been superseded by electricity and the internal combustion engine? What if the Victorian age hadn’t died but merely morphed into something bigger, grander—and more twisted?
If you’d like to imagine the Steampunk world, think Victorian, with a twist. Just a little bit darker (a la Jack the Ripper), a little bit weirder, and to those of us who appreciate the strange, that much more delightful.
The characters in my Buffalo Steampunk Adventures books are real—far from perfect, they have warts and fears, and disadvantages. The city’s real too—Victorian Buffalo, city (if not time) of my birth. Buffalo makes the perfect setting for Steampunk, industrial, gritty and yes, it has an edge.
Me, I love the edge. I love the twist. If you do too, come walk the brick streets of Steampunk Buffalo with me. You may never want to leave.
BUFFALO STEAMPUNK ADVENTURES Book Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_aauK5ob3zI
Blurb for new release: Cross Checking: A Buffalo Steampunk Adventure
When Maddie MacGillicuddy loses her job, she’s desperate to find another. Though good jobs are available at the stables, only men are hired. A big, strapping girl, she becomes Matty in her brother’s clothing. Complications arise when a city magnate, assembling a tournament hockey team, admires Matty’s skating skills and recruits “him,” with real money and the city’s reputation on the line.
Huritt Gilbert is used to battling his way through life. At the stables, he routinely endures racial slurs, sometimes striking back. He’s never met a woman like Maddie and would do anything for her, including accept the dangerous position of goalie for her team. But when competition heats up, loyalties get twisted. Will Gilbert and Maddie play for glory, or love?
“Gilbert, you should see how good Maddie skates.”
“I’d like to,” Gilbert said in his dusky voice. The dark—which somehow matched that voice—seemed to close around them. It made the encounter feel more intimate than it should.
Maddie shivered. “I’d better get Roddy home. It’s getting colder.”
“Going to snow some more, too,” Gilbert offered, not taking his eyes from Maddie’s. “I can always tell.”
He wagged his dark head. Maddie had a sudden and completely inappropriate impulse to plunge her fingers through that black hair. But he still held her fingers captive.
He told her, “I get an instinct for certain things—sometimes I just know.”
“I see. And are you never wrong?”
He shrugged those wide shoulders. “Seldom enough.”
“Come on, Maddie,” Roddy demanded, completely immune to any undertones. “I’m hungry.”
“Yes, all right.”
She tugged at her fingers again; this time Gilbert let them go. Together, they climbed up over the bank and trudged to the foot of Ferry Street.
“Do you live far?” Gilbert asked. “Can I see you home?”
“Peach Street,” Maddie told him, wishing this somehow enchanting encounter had happened on any other day than the one during which she’d destroyed her life. “I think we’ll be all right.” She hoped so.
Gilbert nodded. “Maybe I’ll see you again on the ice.”
Later she wondered if he, with all his bright instincts, had uttered a prophecy.
Multi award-winning author Laura Strickland delights in time traveling to the past and searching out settings for her books, be they Historical Romance, Steampunk or something in between. Her first Scottish Historical hero, Devil Black, battled his way onto the publishing scene in 2013, and the author never looked back. Nor has she tapped the limits of her imagination. Venturing beyond Historical and Contemporary Romance, she created a new world with her ground-breaking Buffalo Steampunk Adventure series set in her native city, in Western New York. Married and the parent of one grown daughter, Laura has also been privileged to mother a number of very special rescue dogs, and is intensely interested in animal welfare. These days while she’s writing, you can always find her latest rescue, Lacy, nearby. Her love of dogs, and her lifelong interest in Celtic history, magic and music, are all reflected in her writing. Laura’s mantra is Lore, Legend, Love, and she wouldn’t have it any other way.
Author Web site: www.laurastricklandbooks.com
Author Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000002632317
Author Amazon page: http://www.amazon.com/Laura-Strickland/e/B001KHSACW/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1
Author Goodreads page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/760146.Laura_Strickland
Laura Strickland Author @LauraSt05038951
BookBub page: https://www.bookbub.com/search?search=Laura+Strickland
A passage from DESTINATIONS, second book in my post-apocalyptic series The Color of Fear. Seems apropos, esp. if these greedy Senators who used the news to save their own purses reap what they have sowed….
Later that evening, San arranged blankets on a chaise on the deck, now used to sleeping in the open air.
The Ranger perched on the deck’s peeling wooden rail, and he turned it on, ready to listen to the voice of the woman who’d soothed him to sleep since he’d left San Francisco.
As he settled in, the boy’s voice broke into his thoughts.
“Who’s that? Regular radio? Not ham?” Hang went over to adjust the dials.
“Hey! Don’t touch that!” San moved to protect his territory.
“Chill, homeboy.” Hang grinned as the opening guitar riff from “Dust in the Wind” started to play. “Oh, man. Didn’t know real radio was still around.”
“Yeah, well, it is.”
Somewhat embarrassed by his extreme reaction, San stoically returned to his makeshift bed. The boy dragged a futon onto the deck and curled up on it. They contemplated the starry heavens in silence as the song played to its haunting conclusion.
How true that is, San thought. Money hadn’t saved anyone from the infectious “dust” in the air, not in the Second Holocaust. Bankers and millionaires had died side-by-side with hookers and welfare moms. He’d lived for more than a year, traveled hundreds of miles, without need for dollars or even gov-scrip.
“Dust in the Wind”…a metaphor for this whole society lost to the schemes of those seeking ultimate power.
“Hope?” you say? From all these stories of civilization torn down, people in chaos, life destroyed?
It may seem contrary, when real life is at a frightening point. But one common thread in much of this fiction is the inherent goodness of man. For every toilet-paper hoarding idiot, there is a Stu Redman fromThe Stand. For every self-serving politician, there is a Daryl Dixon from The Walking Dead. Even in Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, which is about the most bleak, horrifying, hopeless story ever, in the end there is a moment of humanity.
I believe we’re starting to see it now, in the communities around the world. People are beginning to reach out to others, while observing the new rules and realities of Covid-19 times. Italians confined to their homes sing to each other to boost morale. Local restaurants in my city make sure kids have lunch while schools are closed, and surely they can least afford it, since restaurant attendance is down. People shop for their at-risk elderly neighbors who should not be out. Granted, we are early in the process, and things may become more desperate as it lingers on. But humans are best at doing human.
My own post-apocalyptic YA series THE COLOR OF FEAR is founded on that issue of hope, and the conviction that those who stick to the path of right will triumph in the end over those who espouse hate and fear.
Tzu Lin Kwan, Xi San, Valery Paz, Eddie Garrick, Marie, Arik and all the others who try their best for their fellow humans are inspirational, and some of the favorite characters I’ve created. Not only do they fight the results of a terrorist plague, but they also oppose the white supremacist cult leader Gabriel and his Angels, who take advantage of the decimated population and the fears of the remaining white men and women to try to overthrow what remains of a poorly-organized government. The first book, WINDMILLS, takes the reader from Hong Kong to San Francisco; the second, DESTINATIONS, tells what happens as the ethnic survivors band together in the face of Gabriel’s threat, and the yet-to-be-released ADVERSARIES will reveal what happens when the inevitable clash of the two occurs. Find out more at the COLOR OF FEAR tab above.
In the meantime, there are many other books that can remind you about the good that may come from tumultuous, post-apocalyptic times:
If you prefer movies, check these out: https://www.cnn.com/2020/01/30/entertainment/contagion-and-pandemics-in-movies/index.html
Paul Carlson, Janet Joyce Holden, Michael Bailey, Carla Robinson,
Jeff Seeman, Kate Jonez, Gary Phillips, Lucio Rodriguez, Terry Bisson,
explore the future of trucking in this new science fiction anthology!
There’s something for every genre fiction fan in this follow-up to
the hit “18 wheels of Horror – a Trailer Full of Trucking Terrors.”
A disembodied driver wages war on self-driving trucks… A haul
through time takes an unexpected turn… Reality shatters for a
trucker using an experimental delivery device… Stargazing gives an
overweight driver a new lease on life… A young girl risks her life
to hitch a ride out of an apocalyptic wasteland…
“Skyways” trucking Science Fiction novel series, in which
legendary driver Jake McGraw (now an AI) and his son Sammy find new
adventures on the mysterious skyway between worlds.
exotic alien fuel additive at a truck stop, and the two find out just
how fast their Big Rig will go.
caught in a rebellion, and learns a terrible secret about her past
that affects not only hers and her beloved daughter’s lives, but
threatens humanity itself.
quantum delivery device, and has to make a choice that could re-unite
him with his son, or take him to a unknown future.
experimental driving program, but a cyber-attack by hackers turns him
into an revenge-fueled ghost in the machine.
Magazine, a trucker helps out a young hitchhiker as they travel over
the miles-high mountain that an apocalyptic seismic event has thrust
through the heart of America.
hundreds of trucks through the blasted wasteland of middle America,
and a group of drivers discover a secret that could change the
world—if it doesn’t get them killed first.
the robot drivers that threaten to take over human jobs—and who
also yearn for freedom.
water for a droughtriddled future, but encounter a time paradox
threatens to destroy everything they know.
oils deep into the Arctic tries to find out what the Canadian
government is doing with the odd cargo.
flies through a hidden wormhole and winds up thousands of light years
from home. Scared and lost, he struggles to find a way back to his family.
apocalyptic wasteland, who risks her life to stow away on a truck
that could carry her to freedom.
him years after he committed a hit and run accident. But things are
far from what they seem…
lease on life thanks to the fantastic things he sees while looking at
experimental technology propelling her truck has somehow brought back
a ghost from her past.
afoul of a government agent when he tries to smuggle contraband alien
technology, and his fugitive sister in-law works to save him with a
seemingly magical interdimensional artifact.
when he goes to work for a high-tech autonomous trucking company.
volatile rocket fuel through gang-war torn Los Angeles, and nothing,
not bullets, bombs, or bad luck, will stop him from delivering his
for exclusive content and a giveaway!
Please welcome Lyndi’s adventurous friend Michelle Miles!
I’m excited about my upcoming release next Tuesday! Vol 4, Lord of the Underworld, in my time travel action/adventure series, Ransom & Fortune Adventures, will be available in ebook and paperback (but you can preorder now). Here’s the blurb:
In this new adventure, Dane is heralded as a god while Skye is branded a sorceress. Can he use his godlike power to save them both?
Skye and Dane hurtle through space and time only to end up in a desert world resembling that of Ancient Egypt…but not. As they navigate the dry, dusty world in the aftermath of war, Dane is heralded as the Lord of the Underworld, a god resurrected as human and eerily like the Egyptian god, Osiris. The ancient inhabitants fear him, the pharaoh and his wife worship him, while Skye, with her flaming red hair, is branded a sorceress and sent to work in the blistering heat as a slave.
Now Dane must work his way back to her but is thwarted by factions he never expected and can’t outmaneuver. And when a new enemy appears, their situation becomes the most dangerous yet.
The series started out as a serial a long time ago and ended up in a two-book novel format with a small publisher. When I got the rights back, it took me a while to decide what to do with the books. I finally committed to turning them into 30k word novellas! They have been a lot of fun to revisit and rewrite. Volume 4 is a brand new, never before published adventure!
And if you want to catch up on the series, here are the other three novellas:
Vol 1 – Highland Fling
Vol 2 – Dead of Winter
Vol 3 – The Citadel
They’re short, action-packed reads that will keep you turning pages. I hope you’ll check out the series. It’s a whole lot of fun!
Here’s where you can pre-order Lord of the Underworld: https://books2read.com/Lord-Underworld-Vol4
And here’s where you can find me on the web and sign-up for my newsletter: http://www.michellemiles.net
About Michelle Miles:
Michelle Miles believes in fairy tales, true love and magic. She is the award-winning author of the epic fantasy, IN THE TOWER OF THE WIZARD KING, as well as the fantasy romance series, REALM OF HONOR, featuring knights and their ladies fair, and the paranormal dragon-shifter romance series, DRAGON PROTECTORS.
In her spare time, she enjoys listening to music, reading, cross-stitching and watching movies. Even though she’s a native Texan, she loves castles, dragons, fairies and elves and is an avid Game of Thrones fan. She can be found online at Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Goodreads.
Interesting story about Bozeman, Montana, not too far from the Bitterroot. Seems like they have a lot of problems that my new home city, Asheville, NC, is dealing with:
Is it possible to build up too much fun for anyone to afford?