It’s a bit of a new thing for me, today because as well as the usual lovely peps, I am welcoming many of you to my blog for the first time as part of a blog hop. Hello and welcome to the Books 2 Brain cyber convention blog hop.
You are now mostly at, stop 4: Excerpts.
What you will find in this post is a brief wee snippet from a selection of fabulous speculative fiction books. Also, just for interest, I have asked the authors to answer ‘The Zombie Question’ you know the one, it goes like this:
‘The zombie apocalypse has begun. A zombie crashes into the room. You pick up the first thing you can see on your left hand side, right now, to defend yourself. What is the object you pick up and how will you kill the zombie with it?’
So without more ado, I welcome our first guest, J D Brink.
Here is an excerpt from Invasion (Identity Crisis, Book 1):
The creature’s head split in half with a burst of steel wool brains and azure sparks. Ballista’s big glaive proved sharp enough for cleaving the skulls of even robotic alien vermin. She planted the weighted pommel of her staff in the thing’s back and easily vaulted over it in the low gravity, catapulting herself into the next target. Her kick sent it sideways, and she twirled her weapon back for another slash, severing a segmented limb. It had many, however, and another insect arm snapped around, firing a bolt of green bio-electric energy that barely missed burning a hole through her ribcage. In these close quarters, that miss was as much luck as skill. She couldn’t give the thing another shot. With a flurry of blows, Ballista repelled the beast with the glaive’s pommel and slashed with its heavy blade, repeatedly trading one side of the staff for the other until the thing had but one leg and an exposed underbelly. One more swing and the collection of wires and tubing that the bug called organs were leaking into the compartment.
Ballista breathed heavily. She stretched a kink out of her neck and felt the dreadlocks of her spongy hair stick to her sweaty back. These metallic monsters were a challenge, at least, and though she fought for her life, she found that she was enjoying it. This was much more like what the gladiator was used to; being a “superhero” on Earth, especially in American society, was more delicate work. You often had to pull your punches, and killing was largely frowned upon. Though not killing, she had found to her own surprise, had been a relief to her conscience. Mercy was not a bad thing. Still, her combatant’s muscles had missed this kind of fight.
She strode to the next hatch and punched the button to open it. The octagonal room beyond was dimly lit white with grey shadows. It took a moment to recognize the crumpled shape of a man wearing a spacesuit and hiding among two empty suits hooked to the bulkhead. (The big white clown costumes were too cumbersome and confining for her tastes.) Ballista marched up to him and lifted him from the floor by the suit’s big round collar. “Captain Marcus?” she asked sternly. The panicky man’s mouth gaped and his blue eyes flashed around, not seeing anything but his impending death. “I asked you a question,” she barked, shaking him. “Are you Captain Marcus or not?” She’d not paid enough attention to these astronauts to keep track of which was which.
The jarring got him to focus on her. His mouth made a few attempts to speak, gasping for air like a fish thrown from water, before finally finding words. “Ye—yes. Marcus. I’m Marcus. Oh, thank God it’s you.”
She did recognize him now, between the eyes and the thinly-trimmed beard. He was the one who’d said something stupid about never having seen a purple woman before. It had been some pathetic attempt at flirtation, which she’d been nice enough to let go without physically injuring him. “Make prayers to your deities later,” she said, turning and flinging him toward the open hatch. In the low-g, he soared through perfectly.
Want to read more? Here are three places to grab a copy of Invasion:
The Answer (to the Zombie Question).
To my immediate left as I type this is my dog, Jack. He’s a fluffy white Maltese with a fierce attitude, a cross between a mop and a shark leaping for a seal. As the zombie crashes through the front door, I react with lightning reflexes, pick up Jack, and spiral-pass him like a football. Jack soars teeth-first into the zombie and proves himself more vicious than any brain-starved walking corpse!
Three places to find out more about J D Brink.
And now, I welcome our second guest, Chess Desalls.
Here is an excerpt from here free novella Lantern:
Fireflies lit the sky, dancing and twirling beneath a curtain of stars. Weary eyes found it impossible to tell where the stars’ twinkling ended and the fireflies began.
One by one, rays of light flickered to life, stretching from torches held by a circle of party guests. No sooner would one’s eyes adjust to a new beam before the one next to it made itself known, appearing to the former’s right, and so on, until the circle of light was complete.
Tori found herself standing in the center of the circle. Funny, she thought, squinting. I don’t remember being invited to a party. She looked down at her dress and smiled. Fabric and lace in soft pastels blossomed from a belt of lollipops cinched around her waist. Her gaze followed the knee-length hem to her legs, covered with tights banded red and white like candy canes sticking out of clumps of mud. She frowned. Instead of dainty ballerina flats, she’d worn her hiking boots.
Confused as to why she’d forget such an important detail for her costume, Tori ran her fingers through her blue and pink wig. Feeling the weight of a handle pulling against her other hand, she looked down, expecting to see a trick-or-treat bag filled with candy.
She stared at her hand as a sick feeling washed over her. Instead of a bag, she held a lantern. All of the torches were aimed toward it, making it glow more brightly than she’d ever seen. Trembling, she lifted the lantern away from the converging beams of light. She sucked in a breath as she stared at an unlit globe, empty with darkness.
“What’s wrong, Tor?”
Tori’s mouth fell open. “Shawna, what are you doing here?”
“You invited me, silly. I wanted to check out that lantern you’ve been telling me about.” Shawna’s broad shoulders shrugged forward as she bent to look inside the lantern. “Hmm, not much going on in there tonight.” Silky black sleeves and leggings accentuated the slim outlines of her arms and legs as she straightened up. Brows lifted above gray eyes in a mock accusatory look, which Tori might have taken seriously had it not been for the mini witch hat perched on her head.
“Great costume,” said Tori. “How come you’re not dressed in your volleyball uniform this year?”
“I had time to come up with something different while you were away. I wanted to surprise you.”
Tori squeezed her friend. “I’m not sure what’s going on, but I’m happy to see you.”
“I brought someone with me.” Shawna smirked. “He’s been waiting a long time to see you.”
Jared? Is he here? Is that why he’s not inside the lantern? Before Tori could repeat her questions aloud, Shawna playfully shoved someone in front of her, a male dressed in a plum-colored cloak; his regalia sparkled with candies made of silver and gold.
“Surprise! I hope you don’t mind that I hinted at your costume. You know, so you could match.”
Want to read more? Here are three places to grab a free copy of Lantern:
The Answer (to the Zombie Question).
I pick up a retractable pen and shake it back and forth. “Here, boy,” I say, whistling. “Tastes like brains.”
The zombie darts his half-rotten eyes back and forth, following the clicking sounds I make with the pen’s push mechanism.
“You want this, don’t ya? C’mon, you can get it.” I wind up my arm and let it spring forward.
A trickle of drool leaks from the zombie’s slackened lips. Groaning as his prize soars through the air, he turns to follow. He leaps after the pen—catches it. But not until it falls below the gutters lining the roof’s edge.
Three places to find out more about Chess Desalls:
And now, I welcome our third guest, Kate M Colby.
Here is an excerpt from The Cogsmith’s Daughter:
“Until we meet again,” King Archon said, staring only at Aya.
Lord Varick took Aya’s arm and led her away from the thrones. With every step, she tightened her grip around his elbow. Varick must have noticed, but he didn’t let on, keeping his face even and greeting the various nobles as they passed. The nerve of King Archon. Sitting up there on his throne, taking compliments on his new wife as though she was some sort of trophy. And the way he looked at Aya! If he kept up such piggish behavior, Aya would have no problem setting him up for execution.
Aya tried to temper her breathing by gazing around the room. She saw many noblemen she recognized from working at the Rudder, but she’d never served any of them. She doubted any of them would remember glimpsing her in the hallway or through a cracked door, but even if they did, they could not reveal her identity without exposing themselves as adulterers. She searched the crowd for Lord Collingwood or Lord Derringher to see if she could get a look at their wives to report back to Dellwyn. Unfortunately, she didn’t see either of them. Perhaps they had already paid their respects to the queen. She made a mental note to look for them again at the ball—assuming she really did attend.
When they were back in the corner of the room, Lord Varick released her arm. “For a woman, you have quite a strong grip.”
Aya shrugged. “I do a lot of clinging in my line of work.”
Lord Varick laughed.
“How did I do?”
Lord Varick grinned, his eyes crinkling. “You did quite well, my dear. I would say the king already seems intrigued by you.”
“I had forgotten his voice.” A shudder slipped down her spine. “I thought I could hear it clearly in my nightmares, but it is much sharper in person. And his eyes, they pierce you.”
Lord Varick nudged her. “Some women find piercing eyes appealing.”
“And some women find piercing eyes a reminder of the ax that pierces through a man’s neck.”
Lord Varick’s eyes widened, and his lips curved into a smirk. “The more you speak your mind, Miss Aya, the more delightful you become. You really should be more open with your thoughts.”
Aya rolled her eyes. “I was taught to be open with nothing but my legs.”
“Ha! That is it!” Lord Varick clapped. “That fire! Keep that blazing, and King Archon and every other man in this palace will come crawling to you.”
Aya blushed. She hadn’t meant to be so forward, but seeing King Archon again ignited something in her—something she hadn’t been allowed to express when she’d been thrown out of her home and selling off her dresses for bread and washing noblemen’s seed off of pillows. She had been good. Mouth shut and legs open. She had allowed Madam Huxley to command her every action and Dellwyn to speak for her. No more.
This was her chance to reclaim her life, to get back her father’s shop, and finally attain justice for his death. She was going to take it or die trying.
Want to read more? Here are three places to grab a copy of the Cogsmith’s Daughter:
The Answer (to the Zombie Question).
As the zombie staggers toward me, I grab my aluminium water bottle off my desk. It’s rather useless–cylindrical, blunt–but it’s the only object within reach. I fling water at the zombie. The stream hits it in the eyes, but the zombie keeps coming, undeterred. It opens its mouth to groan at me, and I seize my opportunity.
With a war cry of my own, I run forward and ram the narrow end of my water bottle into its mouth. We fall to the ground, and I use my body weight to grind my water bottle further into the zombie’s head. A crack, a pop, a spurt of blood, and the zombie falls still.
I stand, my entire body shaking, and wipe the sweat from my brow. I notice a tear in my sleeve, and search my arm. No scratches. For once, I feel grateful for my apartment’s inefficient heating system and the thick, wool sweater my grandma knitted. With a sigh, I head to the kitchen. The water bottle proved its worth, but next time, I’d rather be attacked near a butcher knife.
Three places to find out more about Kate M Colby:
And now, I welcome our fourth guest, David Kelley.
Here is an excerpt from Dead Reckoning and Other Stories:
A white-hot pain burned through Hector’s chest and head; for one brief second he was overwhelmed by agony roiling up his spine and cauterizing every nerve.
No, wait. Maybe this isn’t such a good idea after all. Can I think this over a little longer? His mind skittered in fear.
A second stab of agony completed the transfer. The pain was gone. The ache in his limbs that had been there for at least twenty years was gone. The stabilization-induced torpor was gone too.
And so were his clothes.
While the first three items were blessings and made him want to jump around screaming like a madman, the idea of wandering naked around the virtual heaven of LifePlus Inc’s Select community bothered him. He’d have settled for just about anything, even a pair of pajamas. He had a beautiful pair of dark red silk ones Kaydianne had bought him. She said they made him look just like Bublé in all those classic movies, a little heavier perhaps but…
Hector’s confusion grew as he examined himself. He had the same body he’d died in. Where was the twenty-four year old hunk-body he’d never had, but ordered? And why didn’t he have any clothes? Dark red silk, gray woolen worsted, a pair of jeans and a T-shirt promoting General ToyoSan Motors would have been acceptable. Where was his luxury villa, complete with swimming pool and maid service?
Instead he gazed down on a flabby chest, gray-hair covered man-breasts, flaccid arms and thighs. This wasn’t what he’d signed up for. Glowing letters flared up inside his vision, but they were meaningless:
Tren-Hump, Hector. TH15D3AD-1485-13A6-5661A946B3101857
Cycles: 1 CPU Credit: 1% Ducks: 0.0
Hector jumped, his body arching reflexively. This wasn’t the same moment of disconnection he’d experienced during the transfer; this was a blistering pain that cut across his back as though his spine had been ripped out.
“Okay, Noob. Time to get all those gleaming new Hoxels dirty.”
The creature facing Hector was huge: a powerful humanoid at least three meters tall with four arms and a physique that would have made the Hulk turn white.
“I’m Marshal, but you call me Sir, and make sure you shout it loud so there’s no mistake.”
“What the hell’s going on here — yeow!” Hector squealed again as the whip snapped out and flayed across his shoulders. Virtual or not, the pain felt like his skin had been torn from his body.
Hector cowered, the searing pain in his back throbbing mercilessly. “What the hell’s going on here, Sir?”
Again the whip lashed out and Hector screamed.
“And be respectful when you speak to me,” bellowed the Marshal. The whip flicked several times like a cat swishing its tail but didn’t land a blow. “Join the line and get ready to do some heavy duty Judgment.”
“Judgment? Ahhhh!” The whip lashed out again, wrapping around Hector’s flabby torso.
Want to read more? Here are three places to grab a copy of Dead Reckoning and Other Stories:
The Answer (to the Zombie Question).
The object on my immediate left is my wife. I’d grab her. She’d be useless for killing the zombie with, but I’d throw her in anyway. This would buy me time to make a run for it and get to safety. 😉
Mwah hahahargh! And if his wife sees that one, look out for David Kelley in a shallow grave near you!
Three places to find out more about David Kelley:
And now, I welcome our fifth guest, Massimo Marino:
Here is an excerpt from Diamones (the Daimones Trilogy: Book 1):
Excerpt. Characters: Dan, and his wife Mary. Location: their place, turned into a stronghold, in the Geneva countryside, at the border with France.After the culling of the human race, and months spent surviving and in search of others, Mary lost all hopes.“[…] this proves there could be others. With time, maybe, many others.”
She was somber and stared at the stove. Without raising her eyes from the dinner she was preparing, she asked: “How many, Dan? Can you tell me? Maybe it’s just that girl we saw…and we might not see her ever again.” She paused then, looking straight into my eyes. “I love you, Dan. And I love Annah. Sometimes I wonder whether all this makes sense. What will be our life next winter, or a year or more from now? Can you tell me?”
“Mary…” I started, but Mary raised her hand to silence me.
“I will carry on, for you and Annah. But I cannot promise you for how long, not this way. Why didn’t we die, too? Why, Dan?” Her body seemed to implode, as if something broke internally. Resting both stiff arms on the counter, her head collapsed between her shoulders. “It would have been so much easier now.”
“Now? What are you talking about? We’d be dead, now. You would be dead, Annah would be dead. Is that what you want? You’ve seen those rotting remains. Don’t do this…”
She kept her head down. “Just hold me. Please.”
I held her tightly in my arms. I cried without making any sound. Mary wasn’t, and that made me cry even more. Warm tears, heavy, and coming from the depths. I couldn’t lose her. I simply could not.
As if she was reading my mind, Mary whispered in my ear, “I don’t have any more tears…”
I stayed there, and hugged my wife hoping she would not crumble any further. That night, the whole night, I kept searching for her, continuously pressing my body against her, breathing her.
During the night, Mary complained a few times she was cold, and asked me to lay next to her even closer and to put my arms around her. I prayed to God that I could be the fire that kept her alive, that kept her away from that cold that grows from the inside. It rises like a shivering fever, and consumes you inexorably, eating up all your strengths and leaving you emptied, hopeless, and ready to give up.”
Want to read more? Here are three places to grab a copy of Diamones (The Diamones Trilogy: Book 1):
The Answer (to the Zombie Question).
Depends on the room, but the one I’m in here right now gives me nothing I can turn into a real weapon.To my left, books, some boring to death but reading won’t do it. The soft cushions of the sofa might suffocate a living, but not a zombie. On the coffee table a silver tray catches my eyes and I grab it. It’s sturdy, the edge is blunt and the zombie can’t bite through it. I push him back with all my weight. His hands try to grab me and I slam the tray into its open mouth. He gurgles and his grin wides as I push the tray through. We fall and his jaw rips off. I keep slamming with the tray over and over at the root of his rotten nose. Something breaks, and it’s not the tray. A fetid fluid sprays my face. I keep hitting with all my strength and I stop only when two hands grab me by my shoulders.“We have to run! More are coming!”The zombie’s head is a pool of black and thick goo and I’m covered with it.“Let’s go!” screams my girlfriend. I fail to recognize her for at first.Scratching sounds and raucous snarls comes from the porch. The front door slams open and three bodies stumble in.We run.I’ve never been back home since.
Three places to find out more about Massimo Marino.
And now, I welcome our sixth guest, Belinda Crawford.
Here is an excerpt from The Hero Rebellion, Book 1:
It was windy on the foredeck, and cold, but the air smelled like freedom and Fink was warm against Hero’s back.
The ruc-pard purred, a rumble that vibrated from his giant chest into hers, and all the way down to her toes. She snuggled deeper into the hollow between his fore- and mid-quarters, enjoying the feel of his thick winter coat. Golden-red and silky, she sank into it, the hairs brushing her bare arms with every giant breath he took, the longer, coarser hair on his ruff tickling her cheek. Fink’s black, hairless tail wrapped around them both, the heavy weight of it draped across her feet, warming her toes.
Lazy images swam through her mind, carried on the distinct pink and mawberry of Fink’s thoughts – the taste of them sweet, the touch of them a soft fizz winding through her brain. She might have stopped and played for a moment in his memories, if the huge skytowers of Cumulus City weren’t spread across the horizon.
She’d seen all the holotours, interrogated all of the guides, but she’d never thought the city would be so… there wasn’t a word big enough to describe it. Surrounded by its sprawling mass of satellite ‘burbs, Cumulus City rose thirty thousand feet through the atmosphere, an endless patchwork of grey and green connected by the silver threads of bridges and the restless movement of the skylanes.
Below, spires shot planetside and massive generators kept the city and its ‘burbs aloft, while giant tethers prevented it from drifting with the winds.
The city was her ticket, her chance, to see Jørn, to explore the planet’s surface without minders or gadgets or her mum looking over her shoulder. She rubbed the dull plasteel bracelet wrapped around her wrist. Or so she hoped.
She breathed deep and hugged her bare arms against the chill as freedom came closer and closer on the horizon.
‘Hero.’ The Lamb, the latest in her bevy of minders, stood in her peripheral vision clutching a heavy coat, the wind flattening her white-blonde curls against her head. Her mouth was pulled tight and her big green eyes were wide, almost swallowing her face. The way she eyed Fink looked to Hero as if she were waiting for him to flash his fangs and pounce, and she held herself like one of the old Terra creatures Hero had named her for, stiff and tense, leaning away from the ‘pard as if the extra millimetre would save her if he did. A brave lamb, wary but not scared.
Hero wondered at where Tybalt–butler, tutor, substitute parent–had found someone who didn’t quake before six-hundred kilograms of genetically engineered ruc-pard, bigger at the shoulder than Hero was tall, and twice as long. This woman wouldn’t be as easy to get rid of as the others.
Want to read more? Here are three places to grab a copy of The Hero Rebellion, Book 1:
The Answer (to the Zombie Question).
I immediately pick up my tea cup and, channeling Riddick, smash it against the arm of my chair before shoving the broken, jagged end into the zombie’s rotted eye. The eye will burst and the cup’s ceramic teeth will shred its flesh, spraying my hand with old blood and the zombie’s putrid stink, but I’ll keep digging, pinning the thing to the wall with my other hand, until the shards pierce its brain.
The zombie will shudder and twitch, and I’ll give the cup a nasty little twist–just to finish the job–before letting the body slump to the ground at my feet.
Three places to find out more about Belinda Crawford:
And now, I welcome our seventh guest, Me, M T McGuire.
Here is an excerpt from Escape From B-Movie Hell:
I noticed Eric was beginning to go a bit blurry round the edges. If I caught a glimpse of him out of the corner of my eye, I would see something … else, but when I turned to look closely, he’d be Eric again. Whatever was going on, I decided it was best faced on a full stomach, so for now I’d cope with it the British way: ignore it and pretend nothing was happening. Eric kept drifting in and out of focus and the pain behind my eyes intensified each time his image sharpened. He was looking increasingly worried and uncomfortable, and judging by the expression on his face, he thought I was about to have a stroke. I was beginning to think the same thing.
“Andi,” he began haltingly but I interrupted him.
“Eric, have you got an aspirin on you?”
“Can I have one?”
“Because I have a headache, you dolt.” Blimey, what was the problem? I wished he’d hurry up, if he didn’t give me one of those aspirins absolutely immediately the top of my head was going to blow off.
“OK, Andi, I can stop your headache but you have to promise me you won’t go all limp and fall over again.”
So Eric was Norwegian but surely he’d seen people faint before – I mean people faint all the time don’t they? His expression was panicky but also slightly shifty.
“It’s called fainting, imbecile and no, I won’t.”
He pressed me.
“Yes I promise!” He eyed me sceptically. For heaven’s sake! How much reassurance could a person need? “I will not faint again,” I told him. As if I had some kind of control over it. “Satisfied?”
“Good! Now for God’s sake give me an aspirin or I’m going to die.”
“No. I’m not going to give you an aspirin. I’m going to stop your headache.”
My reply died on my lips as Eric went into soft focus at the edges again. As he did so, my head began to hurt less. I didn’t like this one bit, there was definitely a correlation between the amount of ache in my head and the amount of blur round Eric. I turned away from him and looked out onto the City of London through the plate glass windows which made up two-thirds of the Student Union canteen wall. I scanned the familiar skyline. The Post Office Tower and the Gherkin were where they should be. The Shard? Check. The Walkie Talkie? Check. All was right with the world and nothing, except Eric, was blurry. I faced him again and as I stared, something moved by his head. Was that a tentacle? No, no. My friend did not have tentacles.
“Andi?” Eric waved his hand in front of my face except …
Hang on. That definitely was a hint of a pincer there. Maybe it was a joke. Yeh that was it: a joke; a piss-poor one at that.
“Eric, what are you doing?”
“How’s your head?”
“It hurts a bit less.”
“OK,” he said slowly. “Andi, this is going to freak you out a bit.”
“Then don’t do it.”
“I don’t have any choice.”
“Yes you do.”
“No, I don’t. Your brain can’t take it.”
My breath caught.
“Can’t take what Eric? Tell me right now or I swear to God I’m going to—”
I stopped. My headache had gone and this time, I knew I wasn’t imagining it. Slowly Eric became a translucent wavy outline and behind him something else appeared. It looked a bit like a lobster, but without a tail and with fewer legs: two pairs to walk on and a pair of ‘arms’ with huge pincers on them. It was about seven feet tall with two long antennae. It had mouth parts like a praying mantis and on top of its head were seven stalks, each with a human-like eye on the end: the eyes were blue, like Eric’s. The creature’s exoskeleton was reddish-brown and glistening with translucent slime. I sat there for a few moments with my mouth open.
“It’s difficult to explain,” he said.
Yeh. I reckoned that was the officially certified understatement of all time.
Want to read more? Here are three places to grab a copy of Escape From B-Movie Hell:
The Answer (to the Zombie Question).
Ah, the thing on my left is my cat, Harrison. Harrison is a food obsessed moron. I can’t see him defeating a zombie.
‘Brainsssss,’ says the Zombie shuffling closer.
I pick Harrison up and contemplate how I can damage the zombie with him. He starts to purr.
The zombie shuffles closer still. I notice that it has a distinctly cheesy smell.
‘Have you been eating Doritos?’ I ask it.
Harrison’s ears go pointy at the mention of the C word.
‘Brainssss,’ the zombie says.
Well, I suppose it would.
‘Conversation’s not your strong point is it? Did you know you smell of cheese?’
The zombie doesn’t answer. Cat in arms, I stand up and back away. What to do? Throw Harrison at it and leap through the window? Possibly but knowing my luck I will bounce off the glass and the zombie will feast on my unconscious form while the cat looks on with a confused expression. Even if I lob Harrison at the zombie, will he distract it long enough for me to pick up a chair and chuck it through the glass. And what if it eats him? It’s hardly responsible pet ownership is it? And the idea of owning a zombie cat lacks appeal.
Then I am distracted by Harrison. He is wriggling. I try to hold onto him but he escapes and leaps to the floor rushing towards the zombie. For a moment I stand petrified and then I realise he’s doing The Cheese Meow. Harrison is obsessed with cheese and the cheesy smell of this particular zombie is driving him wild. In seconds he leaps into the air. Then he is on the zombie. The battle is bloody and swift, and judging by Harrison’s eager and speedy snarfing, the zombie tastes as cheesy as it smells. Soon, the stripped skeleton is all that remains. Harrison drags his distended stomach a few feet away and flops contentedly onto his side. He will enjoy the mother of all sleeps after his feast of undead cheesy flesh. When he looks up at me and winks, I swear he burps.
Three places to find out more about M T McGuire (apart from here):