Kevin J. Anderson’s Blog

i write. i make up stuff. i adventure hard, so you don’t have to.
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    Rushcon 14—a Headlong Flight

    Posted By on September 15, 2014

    When I do appearances and travel, sometimes I’m just a guest author. Sometimes I fit right in.  The Rushcon folks are definitely my people.

    I was invited to be a guest at Rushcon 14 in Toronto, August 22-24, so I could talk about CLOCKWORK ANGELS the novel and the new comic series being released by BOOM! Studios. It’s always good to have any excuse to go up to Toronto, and I gladly accepted the invitation.

    I flew out a day early to spend time with Mark Leslie LeFebvre from Kobo Writing Life, since my WordFire Press does so much direct work with Kobo. Of course it was business-related, but since Mark is also a big microbrew fan (and Rush fan, too) we spent the previous evening together hitting (crawling) the local pubs, and I even had my obligatory poutine at a pub—which was far superior to any other one I’d had previously.

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    Mark Leslie LeFebvre, poutine, and beer: three essential items for a visit to Toronto

    After spending the night in Mark’s guest bedroom, we headed out Friday morning to a meeting at the main offices of Wattpad, a vastly popular reading-sharing site, where we meet with the Wattpad people to talk about my experiences as an indie author and how WordFire Press could work with them. Wattpad is also a sponsor of next year’s Superstars Writing Seminar. We had a great brainstorming session with a lot of exciting ideas, and then Mark took me to check into my hotel for Rushcon—and then it was off to the main Kobo offices, where I met many of the staff then spent an hour behind closed doors with their development team to discuss how they could work more closely with WordFire Press, and we came up with some great ideas. After such productive talks with Wattpad and Kobo, someone remarked, “How many big traditional publishers would bring in one of their authors for meetings on how everybody could work better for the mutual benefit of all?”

    Kobo held a reception, talk, and autographing for me. I gave a talk for about an hour, answered questions, signed autographs. Fans came from all around Toronto, and each attendee received Kobo copies of one of my books.  Kobo also gave me a high-end Kobo Aura eReader loaded with CLOCKWORK ANGELS and my story “Drumbeats” with Neil Peart as a door prize for Rushcon.

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    Then back to the Chelsea Eaton hotel to switch from my Author/Publisher persona to Rushcon Author persona—and the Rushcon VIP reception. I picked up my badge, program book, met up with the fabulous JILLIAN who is the goddess of Rushcon and a fine person, and hung out with a lot of other fans, with my table of Team Presto for a trivia game (which we didn’t win, despite my team’s outstanding performance). A good time was had by all…and we were just starting!

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    with Jillian Of Rushcon

    As part of Team Presto, I also met Elaine Kosteva, who took the rest of the terrific photos—posted below with her permission, and my great thanks!

    Saturday, I worked in the room that morning, editing BLOOD OF THE COSMOS, and then met up with friend and fan (and invaluable assistant) Jonathan Flamm, and we hauled my books over to the Rushcon venue, The Great Hall. We set up our table with many copies of CLOCKWORK ANGELS in both hardcover and trade paperback, RESURRECTION, INC (my first novel, also inspired by a Rush album), the BOOM! comic issues, and other Rush ephemera, as well as some Dan Shamble books (which the Rush fans also love).  ECW Press had arranged to deliver copies of the books, and the publisher, David Caron, would come to hear my talk on Sunday.  Apart from a bit of frantic panic when we discovered that my Square credit card reader decided not to work in Canada, we had a great morning in the dealer’s room.

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    During the afternoon trivia game, I presented the Kobo Reader prize to one of the winners, and also made one of two promised “big announcements”—that I would be editing a new anthology, along with John McFetridge, of stories inspired by Rush songs, to be published by ECW Press…and that I am doing an original novella titled “2113.”  [A title sure to send a tingle through every Rush fan.]

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     with Elaine

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    I had dinner with one of my former writing students, Stephen Kotowych, got back to the room and did a little more editing (I missed the concert by the Rush tribute band Lotus Land, alas). Next day, Sunday, was my big day.  I gave my hour-long talk on the main stage in front of the full crowd. Just before I started the speech, David Caron, the publisher of ECW, arrived (and I was glad, because I wanted him to hear my second surprise “big announcement.”)  I talked about my life growing up inspired by Rush, how I had gotten to know Neil Peart through my first novel RESURRECTION, INC., which ECW had just reissued, how that led to the wildly successful CLOCKWORK ANGELS novel and comics. And then I paused and delivered the news that I had kept a close secret all along—that Neil and I were working on a sequel, CLOCKWORK LIVES, and that we’re about 1/3 of the way finished. That was greeted with a nice long round of applause!

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    After the talk, we sold completely out of RESURRECTION, INC as well as most of the copies of CLOCKWORK ANGELS. My time was tight, and after a quick lunch with Jonatan Flamm and David Caron (who was quite happy to hear of a new CLOCKWORK novel), David took me off to the Toronto airport—YYZ, of course—and I flew home.  A headlong flight indeed, and I enjoyed myself a lot.

    I just might have to come back next year, with two new Rush-related books under my belt!

    A REMINDER:  Right now, we have a big Cyberpunk Storybundle running—13 cutting-edge science fiction novels, including RESURRECTION, INC.  Name your own price to get the whole batch.  Go to Storybundle.com, or read my previous blog entry for full details.

     All Covers Wide Large

     

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    Massive cyberpunk storybundle: 13 novels!

    Posted By on September 10, 2014

    Announcing another storybundle,  this one crammed with gritty, cyberpunk novels—including my first novel RESURRECTION, INC. (inspired by the Rush album “Grace Under Pressure”), and HIGH OPP, a previously unpublished Dystopian SF novel by Frank Herbert, author of Dune.

    The important details: Name your own price at storybundle.com, get seven complete novels in your preferred eBook format for as little as $3 (minimum bid); if you pay $15 or more, you get an additional six complete novels.  Thirteen novels for fifteen bucks? And the offer is good WORLDWIDE.

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    A quick visit to Wikipedia will confirm that “cyberpunk is a subgenre of science fiction in a near-future setting. Noted for its focus on “high tech and low life,” it features advanced science, such as information technology and cybernetics, coupled with a degree of breakdown or radical change in the social order.” But for me it’s always been about the radical change in social order over the high tech. It’s been about hackers, artificial intelligences, and megacorporations, and tend to be set in a near-future Earth that’s absolutely dystopic, not some far-future setting in a galaxy far far away. What’s important is the extraordinary cultural impact of the technology being twisted in ways its creators could never have imagined. And, thanks to Blade Runner, it will always have the echo of film noir inside my head.

    It’s dark. It’s gritty. It’s exciting and the books included in this bundle are designed to showcase that very trend, available September 10th through October 1st. You’ll find a vast and dizzying array of ideas here—important ideas, because that’s what this kind of science fiction is all about. There’s social commentary. There’s angst. Heartbreak. Heroes. It’s a grim near future we’re facing. We see it in the news every day. So it’s hardly surprising that some of our best writers have taken this bleak future and laid it bare.

    StoryBundle’s Cyberpunk bundle is curated by bestselling author Steven Savile, a man who certainly understands the genre. His brand new novel, as yet unreleased (it’s debuting here in StoryBundle first, a month before it will be available anywhere else for sale!) is a heartbreaking example of a future you wouldn’t want to live in, brought about by choices no man should have to make. He’s just written a cyberpunk computer game for a major studio, too. Joining him are New York Times and USA Today bestsellers, Kevin J Anderson, David Farland, Kindle sensation Michael Bunker (whose Pennsylvania will challenge the way you think about SF), Rob MacGregor and his writing partner, Billy Dee Williams – none other than Lando Calrissian himself!), Melissa Scott & Jo Graham (with a collaborative novel and a solo novel from Melissa), brilliant British novelist Keith Brooke and one of the founding fathers of science fiction, Frank Herbert. There’s a complete trilogy of incredible novels from David Bischoff and something really special, a debut novel from an exciting new writer who David Farland describes thus: “If Wordsworth had written cyberpunk he might have done something like this.” That’s Beowulf: A Bloody Calculus, by Milo Behr.

    All Covers Wide Large

    Says Savile, “Some of these writers are among my favourites in any genre. I can honestly say I adore each and every one of the books in this bundle. I’m incredibly excited to share them with you, especially the opportunity to help launch what I think will be a dazzling career for Milo, one of David Farland’s students. Why do I think you should pay attention? David’s other students include Brandon Sanderson, Dan Wells, oh, and Stephanie Meyer. He knows a thing or two. More than anything, I think the books here do a fantastic job of showcasing the dark cities and darker edges of where this world is going and can’t help but capture your imagination in the same way that Philip K Dick and other great writers captured mine. I really hope you enjoy them.”

    The initial titles in the bundle (minimum $3 to purchase) are:

    • Resurrection, Inc. by Kevin J. Anderson
    • Lost Things by Melissa Scott and Jo Graham
    • The Infinite Battle (Star Hounds: Book 1) by David Bischoff
    • PSI/NET by Billy Dee Williams and Rob MacGregor
    • The Accord by Keith Brooke
    • On My Way to Paradise by David Farland

    If you pay more than the bonus price of just $15, you’ll get another six books, including the next two books in the Star Hounds series!

    • Immortal by Steven Savile
    • High-Opp by Frank Herbert
    • Pennsylvania by Michael Bunker
    • Dreamships by Melissa Scott
    • Galactic Warriors (Star Hounds: Book 2) by David Bischoff
    • The Macrocosmic Conflict (Star Hounds: Book 3) by David Bischoff
    • Beowulf: A Bloody Calculus by Milo Behr

    The bundle is available for a very limited time only, via http://www.storybundle.com. It allows easy reading on computers, smartphones, and tablets as well as Kindle and other ereaders via file transfer, email, and other methods. You get multiple DRM-free formats (.epub and .mobi) for all books, but after the three weeks are over, the bundle is gone forever!

    It’s also super easy to give the gift of reading with StoryBundle, thanks to our gift cards – which allow you to send someone a code that they can redeem for any future StoryBundle bundle – and timed delivery, which allows you to control exactly when your recipient will get the gift of StoryBundle.

    Why StoryBundle? Here are just a few benefits StoryBundle provides.

    • Get quality reads: We’ve chosen works from excellent authors to bundle together in one convenient package.
    • Pay what you want (minimum $3): You decide how much five fantastic books are worth to you. If you can only spare a little, that’s fine! You’ll still get access to a batch of thrilling titles.
    • Support authors who support DRM-free books: StoryBundle is a platform for authors to get exposure for their works, both for the titles featured in the bundle and for the rest of their catalog. Supporting authors who let you read their books on any device you want—restriction free—will show everyone there’s nothing wrong with ditching DRM.
    • Give to worthy causes: Bundle buyers have a chance to donate a portion of their proceeds to charity. We’re currently featuring the ALS Association, Mighty Writers and Girls Write Now.
    • Receive extra books: If you beat our bonus price, you’re not just getting seven books, you’re getting thirteen!

    StoryBundle was created to give a platform for independent authors to showcase their work, and a source of quality titles for thirsty readers. StoryBundle works with authors to create bundles of ebooks that can be purchased by readers at their desired price. Before starting StoryBundle, Founder Jason Chen covered technology and software as an editor for Gizmodo.com and Lifehacker.com.

     

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    DragonCon autographing and panel schedule

    Posted By on August 27, 2014

    Rebecca and I have attended DragonCon for about the past 20 years—it is one of our favorite conventions all year.  This year, I’ve got a packed schedule, as well as three big tables in the Dealer’s Room.  Look for us under the listing WordFire.

    Here’s my DragonCon autographing schedule for the Dealer’s Room.

    Friday
    12:30–2:15 PM

    Saturday
    10 AM–12:30 PM
    2:30–6 PM

    Sunday
    11:30 AM–2 PM
    4–5 PM

    Monday
    10–11 AM
    1:30–4 PM

    And here’s my panel schedule.  (Don’t miss my reading on Sunday at 10AM, where I’ll read a brand new Dan Shamble story!)

    FRIDAY
    11:00-Noon Writing Workshop with Jody Lynn Nye  Hyatt: Marietta  (with Rebecca)
    2:30 PM  New York Times bestselling authors Hyatt Regency VI-VII
    4:00—6:30 PM  Things I Wish Some Pro Had Told Me  Hyatt: Embassy D-F  (with Rebecca)

    Saturday
    1 PM  Magnificent Men of Fantasy Fiction

    Sunday
    10 AM Reading  Dan Shamble “Role Model” story   Hyatt: Edgewood
    2:30 PM Star Wars EU authors Marriott A706  (with Rebecca)
    5:30 PM Remembering Aaron Allston & Ann Crispin Hyatt: International North
    8:30 PM  X-Track Anthology  Marriott M106-107
    10 PM  Humor in Horror  Westin Chastain ED

    Monday
    11:30 AM  Ask Me Anything  Hyatt Centennial I

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    Teaser Tuesday: MILLION DOLLAR PRODUCTIVITY

    Posted By on August 19, 2014

    I’ve long established myself as a very prolific writer, and I’ve given countless talks and workshops on productivity over the years. Finally, I’ve put together all the most important advice I have to share, in a book just released by WordFire Press, MILLION DOLLAR PRODUCTIVITY.  Available in all eBook formats for $4.99, or in trade paperback for $9.99.

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    All other eBook formats

    Life is crazy and hectic for most of us. We’re surrounded with personal and family obligations, jobs, fitness programs, virtual mountains of email, not to mention videogames, TV, smartphones, social networking, and millions of things to check out on the web.
    With all those distractions, how does an aspiring author find time to write?
    And when you do find the time, how do you make the most of it?

    Award-winning and #1 international bestselling author Kevin J. Anderson is one of the most prolific authors in the business. He has published over 125 novels—an average of five novels a year, every year, for the past quarter century. Anderson has taught numerous writing seminars and lectured on productivity, and here he shares his tips on how to find the time to write, and how to make the most of that time.

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    Introduction

    Back in the heyday of pulp fiction magazines, when freelancers struggled to pay the bills by writing stories for half a cent per word (at most), they had to produce, produce, produce. Their motto was “Be prolific or starve.” Armed only with manual typewriters and carbon paper, the most popular and productive writers managed to crank out entire novels in only a few days, stories and novelettes in a single sitting.

    Today, with an arsenal of writing tools that includes word processors, email, scanners, internet research, lightning-fast printers, digital recorders, and voice-recognition software, it must be easy for modern authors to be even more prolific than their “prehistoric” predecessors. Right?

    Life is crazy and hectic for most of us. We’re surrounded with personal and family obligations, jobs, fitness programs, virtual mountains of email, not to mention videogames, TV, smartphones, social networking, and millions of things to check out on the web.

    With all those distractions, how does an aspiring author find time to write?

    And when you do find the time, how do you make the most of it?

    That’s what I’ll show with this book. You don’t have to be manically productive (though some of us consider that to be fun), but you will learn ways to get more writing out of every available moment.

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    Flophouses and Fourteeners

    Posted By on August 19, 2014

    Every year for the past seventeen years since I’ve lived in Colorado, I have climbed at least one Fourteener, or 14,000-ft peak in the state. I’ve summited all 54 of them, so now I’m going back to do some of my favorites, climbing from different sides.

    This year, I set my sights on Mt. Lincoln, 14, 236 ft, highest peak in Park C0unty and 11th highest peak in the continental US. It’s an impressive-looking peak as seen from Hoosier Pass, just south of Breckinridge. I had climbed it before, but this time I wanted to climb from a different side, on a little used trail.

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    In order to get an early start on the trail, and thus avoid early-afternoon thunderstorms, I decided to stay overnight near the trailhead. On previous drives through the area, I had been intrigued by a tiny town right at the foot of Mount Lincoln, Alma CO, population Not Many, with a handful of buildings … something I called a “zombie town”—a ghost town that won’t admit it’s dead.  I was charmed by the handful of “necessary businesses”—general store, feed store, liquor store, and a most intriguing little place called (this is its exact name) Alma’s Only Bar and Hotel.  Of course I had to stay there.

    I called ahead, but they didn’t take reservations. “Just come in, we’ll find a room for ya, don’t worry.”  $50 per night. So I drove in, arrived in the middle of the afternoon to find a sign on the closed door of the hotel “See bartender for room.”  I found the bartender, and she rummaged among a tray of keys behind the bar, took my credit card, and said “You have room number one.”  Then gave me set of complicated directions through a maze of doors and staircases to get to my room.  Fortunately, she had two kids out of school who were very excited to have a lodger, and they went off on a great adventure with me to find my room.  Up at the top of the stairs, we found #1.

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    It was a real flophouse, a room not much larger than the bed and a little dresser, torn bedspread, one lamp, creaky floors, and a communal bath.  Even a little more rustic than my usual “off the beaten path discoveries.” But I had my laptop, a cooler with a growler of microbrew IPA, and a place to work. I edited a few chapters in BLOOD OF THE COSMOS that afternoon before wandering off to the saloon to get a burrito for dinner, made a call to Rebecca (with very poor cell reception). When I made my way out of the hotel, one of the other lodgers bumped into me in the hall, a single man who was sharing the room with his two dogs.  He said, “Oh, you’re in room number one–you know that’s the haunted room!  I stayed there for ten days, but I never heard anything.”

    After dinner I came back to the room (mind you, it was not much bigger than the bed and the dresser), crawled onto the bed, took out my laptop…and my screen was going crazy. Menus going down and up, random characters scrolling across the screen, cursor blinking.  Huh?  I managed to shut down and restart, but the screen was still going haywire. Haunted room, indeed!  How was I supposed to get editing done?  Of course, I discovered that I had left my bluetooth remote keyboard in my computer case, which was on its side pressing against the keys, hence creating the mayhem on the screen. So much for ghosts. I got another several chapters edited then went to bed—I had a Fourteener to climb the next morning, ghosts or no ghosts.

    Next morning, alarm set for 5:30 AM, I got up, took a shower in the shared bath, used the Keurig I had brought along for a cup of coffee (good thing, because nothing in Alma was open), ate a granola bar, filled my backpack with water, and hauled everything out of the haunted room. I drove off through a maze of dirt roads, winding up into the foothills around Mount Lincoln in search of the trailhead. Part of the road was a real horror, the type where you have to stop the car, walk ten feet ahead and figure out the best spots for the tires to go, then drive ten feet, and do the whole thing again. But I got to the trailhead, parked off the road, and started heading uphill.

    It was a beautiful hike. Now this was worth it! On the way up I reveled in the scenery, didn’t even do any writing (I saved that for the hike down).  Up winding rugged roads, past mining ruins, higher and higher. This was not at all the standard route up Mt Lincoln, and I had the trail ALL to myself.

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    By the time I reached the summit, however, it was an entirely different story. Crowds had come from the popular Kite Lake Trail, and I shared the top with 28 people.  I didn’t stay long after I got my picture taken.

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    I trudged back down (hard on the knees!), got back to my car, toiled and struggled my way—driving ten carefully assessed feet at a time—back to the main road…and home!  I did manage to write two new inserted chapters in BLOOD OF THE COSMOS, tying up loose threads, all with another Fourteener under my belt.

     

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    Kirkus and Fresh Fiction review SLIMY UNDERBELLY

    Posted By on August 13, 2014

    SLIMY UNDERBELLY

    From Kirkus Reviews

    Dan Chambeaux, zombie private eye (Hair Raising, 2013, etc.), once again juggles a series of cases as deftly as if he were equipped with the same tireless tentacles as his chief suspect. In the Unnatural Quarter, it’s either a feast or an orgy of malefactors. Just as Chambeaux & Deyer’s former client, frog demon Lurrm, is celebrating the opening of the Recompose Spa, his smartly refurbished zombie bathhouse, the competition between Alastair Cumulus III and Chambeaux’s client Thunder Dick over which of them will be elected head of the Weather Wizards Fraternal Order breaks into open warfare, as each wizard stoops to new lows to undermine the other. Mr. Bignome, head of a ring of garden gnomes that robs flower shops, compounds his felonies by stealing the glorious baritone voice of Stentor, the ogre opera star who’s frantic that he’ll get fired by The Phantom of the Opera. Twelve-year-old junior mad scientist Jody Caligari seizes the moment to ask Chambeaux to take on a pro bono case: overturning his eviction from the underground lab he’d rented from fearsome Ah’Chulhu, the demon sewer landlord who’s the richly tentacled half-breed son of a pair of Senior Citizen Gods. Ah’Chulhu, it turns out, has a tentacle in most every one of Chambeaux’s current cases—which may make them easier to solve but certainly doesn’t make them any less dangerous. An appended bonus story, “Stakeout at the Vampire Circus,” reminds you that the best parts of Chambeaux’s waggish adventures are often the early chapters, before the normal zaniness of the Unnatural Quarter gets clogged with criminal mischief. Anderson’s obviously found his niche. Readers who share it will be in zombie heaven, or wherever zombies would go if there were life after undeath.

    from Fresh Fiction

    SLIMY UNDERBELLY is Book four in Kevin J. Anderson’s Dan Shamble, Zombie PI series. I love this series! I always look forward to a new book in this series because it is always funny, and very entertaining. This book is no exception. Even though SLIMY UNDERBELLY is part of a series, I believe that it can be enjoyed without having read the previous books in the series. Kevin J. Anderson does a good job of establishing characters and background information. This is a great book for anyone who likes paranormal mysteries with a little goofiness and great story-telling.

    As with other books in this series, there are a few side stories going on at the same time. Dan works a few different cases throughout the course of SLIMY UNDERBELLY, but a lot of them tie back to the sewers. For that obvious reason, there are some gross bits in the story but nothing that ruins the story. There are some cases that are lighter in tone than others. Some situations border on slapstick. I think it’s because of the sillier moments that the more serious ones pack such a punch. Right after some amusing antics by some paranormal characters, a crime will happen and a character you get emotionally invested in or some innocent bystander might get hurt.

    In addition to the cornball jokes, a little social commentary is thrown in for good measure. In SLIMY UNDERBELLY, the villains might be bizarre, gross, or goofy, but I like that Dan humanizes them and considers what made them become a bad guy. This is illustrated beautifully by the storyline involving one of Dan’s clients — junior mad scientist Jody Caligari. He’s a cute little kid who might be too smart for his own good, and aspires to be a supervillain. Dan and company take him under their wing and try to encourage his intelligence, while trying to steer him away from a potential life of crime. For me, there are no stock characters in this series. All of them are full of life and multi-faceted.

    SLIMY UNDERBELLY is another in a long line of wildly imaginative and entertaining detective stories. Dan Shamble is a zombie take on Philip Marlowe. I can’t wait for the next installment in this excellent series!

     

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    Teaser Tuesday: TALES FROM THE TRAILS

    Posted By on August 13, 2014

    Many of you have followed my blogs about my adventures while hiking, often with my brother-in-law Tim. We both just completed the 500-mile Colorado Trail together, and we’ve both summited all 54 mountain peaks in Colorado over 14,000 ft.  Along the way we’ve learned much, experienced much, and built up some great stories to tell.

    WordFire Press just released Tim’s book TALES FROM THE TRAILS, which collects the best stories of those adventures. It is available now in trade paperback and in all eBook formats. Here’s the introduction I wrote for the book:

    FINAL 1425 TFTT Cover

    Getting away from it all—and
    getting to the heart of it all.

    S

    o far the dentist appointment has been the best part of the day—and that should tell you what kind of day it was. Numerous deadlines, complications, and administrative details as the publisher of Wordfire Press; several new releases coming out at once as well as some major revisions to a six hundred page novel manuscript of my own; a looming deadline for an entirely different (an entirely unfinished) novel manuscript and travel arrangements for a convention appearance; ninety-six story submissions to read for two anthologies my wife and I are editing … and on top of it all getting a new crown put on at the dentist. Bombarded by all that, as I was driving back home from the dentist appointment, I saw how beautiful it was outside. A Colorado February day: sixty degrees, blue skies, only a few patches of un-melted snow remaining, it made me recall how long it had been since I went hiking

    Which of course reminded me that I had to write this introduction for my hiking partner and brother-in-law Tim’s book. Sigh. Another deadline. Then I realized that writing the introduction was not actually a burden—but an opportunity. Rather than being locked in my office, strapped to the keyboard to fight back the constant flood of emails or to wince each time the phone rang with someone requesting “just a quick little thing,” I could think about all of the wonderful hiking adventures I’d done with Tim. And since I do all of my writing by dictating into a digital recorder, I could actually go outside in this beautiful day, walk along a few wonderful trails, breathe the fresh air, listen to the trickle of melting snow. No, that wasn’t a burden at all. I could get away from it all, I could be outside, surrounded by beautiful Colorado scenery and just recharge my batteries.

    When my wife and I had moved to Colorado seventeen years ago, I was already an avid hiker in California, but I did most of those hikes alone, climbing Half Dome in Yosemite, Mt. Whitney, Lassen Peak, wandering dozen miles of trails in King’s Canyon or Sequoia National Park, exploring the deserts of Death Valley. Tim and his family had moved to Colorado a few years ahead of us. An avid hiker and outdoorsman, he had done plenty of exploring on his own and had discovered many places that I simply had to see.

    On the Christmas before we moved to Colorado, Tim gave me two books, a set of books as a gift. Trails and instructions on how to climb all fifty-four of the mountain peaks in Colorado that were over fourteen thousand feet high, comma dubbed the “Fourteeners.” Tim had decided to climb them himself and was hoping for a hiking partner. I spent that winter (as many forlorn hikers do) looking at the guidebooks, reading descriptions of trails and imagining myself out there on those dotted lines, wending their way up ridges, over saddles, and up to the final ascent.

    When we did move to Colorado that following July, I already had my marching orders and Tim had his plans. Although I did climb some of those peaks solo, Tim and I ascended many of them together. We tried to get friends to join us, most of whom had insufficient lung capacity or endurance. We did the harder and harder ones. Each summit had its own unique character; each name checked off on the list felt like another triumph. While staying in shape throughout the winter season we would go snowshoeing up around Rocky Mountain National Park or in other high mountain trails. We’d exchange tips and maps of new places we had discovered, new trails to explore.

    As a prolific writer, I produce several novels a year and numerous short stories and articles. To me when I’m out on the trail, I find the inspiration to describe alien worlds and interesting characters. In the silence and the solitude, I can walk for miles and dictate dozens of pages.

    After we finished all the Fourteeners, Tim and I decided to tackle the Colorado Trail. Nearly five hundred miles winding through the most beautiful mountainous terrain in the state. As of this writing, we’ve done all but one segment, only twenty miles left, and you can bet we’ll finish it this summer.

    Tim and I have a system down, how we’ll walk together, but far enough apart so that I can have the concentration I need to dictate my stories and he can revel in the beautiful scenery and take all the photos he likes. Oftentimes we’ll start at opposite ends of the trail and hike toward each other and swap cars on the way home.

    We both find the wilderness a place to get away from the chaos and pressure of modern life, from deadlines and bills and family obligations. It’s an environment where we can simply get to our roots, clear our heads and just be filled with all the majesty around us.

    Even though we’re both in our fifties, we can do things that most of our peers can’t. A few years ago, we drove to Arizona and hiked down to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and back up in a day, passing signs warning us not to do that and winded, muscular German hikers who were struggling to keep up. Twenty more miles in a day is no longer an impossible challenge, we would simply do it and we work hard to stay in shape so we can keep doing these things we enjoy so much.

    And even though there are times we are snowed in, trapped by a raging blizzard close to the summit of fourteen thousand foot Columbia Peak, huddled between rocks and shivering; or dancing across the treacherous Sawtooth Ridge that connects Mt. Evans and Mt. Bierstadt as thunder rumbles and lightning flashes all around and the hair stands up on our heads and arms; or when we’re plodding along through a Noah-worthy downpour with miles to go  before we reach our cars, it’s all part of the adventure. While dangling on ropes climbing a six hundred foot sheer dry waterfall on the face of Little Bear Peak, or when Tim missed the trail turn off and walked for miles out of the way (after already having hiked sixteen miles that day), we still wouldn’t trade that for anything.

    When I tell these stories to my wife, Rebecca, she doesn’t understand why we would consider that to be “fun.” But if you have to ask, you won’t understand. There’s something indefinably special about walking hard for hours and hours, reaching a saddle and seeing a pristine and untouched vista of mountain and valleys spreading out in front of you, knowing that you are quite likely the only human being within miles. It’s not just to get away from all the frenzy of modern life, it’s to get in touch with your core.

    It’s good for your soul.

    Tim has discovered that and this book includes some of his most heartwarming and nerve-wracking adventures. Some of them include me without (much) exaggeration. Some of them are escapades and insights Tim had with other companions or just by himself.

    I hope you enjoy the vicarious journey and I hope that Tim and I continue to have real outdoor adventures of our own.

    — Kevin J. Anderson —

    TALES FROM THE TRAILS is available in print and in all  eBook formats.

     

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    HELLHOLE INFERNO released tomorrow!

    Posted By on August 11, 2014

    For those of you following my epic HELLHOLE science fiction trilogy with Brian Herbert, the waiting is over…and could be the end of the universe is at hand!  HELLHOLE INFERNO hits bookstores (and eTailer outlets for those of you who prefer to read electrons) tomorrow in the US and UK.

    After doing more than a dozen novels in Frank Herbert’s DUNE universe, we used our collaborative skills to develop a sweeping, big SF trilogy with galactic empires, lost alien races, politics, a war for independence, ruthless leaders. HELLHOLE INFERNO is the grand finale.  Preorder your copy now at your favorite retailer, or pick up a copy tomorrow. We pulled out all the stops for this one!

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    The other two books in the trilogy are now out in paperback, in case you need to catch up.

    Hellhole-MM-2  HHawakemm

    This has been a summer of momentous releases from me and Brian—we do the Dune books together as well as the original Hellhole trilogy, but we also write many solo novels.  My most recent SF novel is THE DARK BETWEEN THE STARS, first in the Saga of Shadows trilogy.

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    And Brian also has a new standalone SF novel that just came out, THE LITTLE GREEN BOOK OF CHAIRMAN RAHMA, a “green” dystopian nightmare.  Also from Tor Books in hardcover.

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    And on a lighter note, by the end of this month you’ll be able to get the fourth novel featuring Dan Shamble, Zombie PI—SLIMY UNDERBELLY. Not quite the end of the universe, as with our science fiction epics, but something smells dangerously funny…

    SLIMY UNDERBELLY

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    The End of the Trail

    Posted By on August 10, 2014

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    485 miles from Denver to Durango, Colorado, through some of the most rugged and most spectacular wilderness in the state.  28 segments ranging from 11-23 miles long.  And Tim and I walked it all.  Last week we completed our final segment in the long journey, a remote 21-mile stretch from Kennebec Pass north of Durango, to Hotel Draw, south of Silverton.

    Tim and I started hiking the Colorado Trail eight years ago, working off one segment at a time, many of them with his wife Diane. We would often take two vehicles, park one at each end of a segment, and hike toward each other, then drive the opposite car back home or to base camp. After we finished all the easy ones, the remaining segments were harder to reach, some accessible only by horrific rugged roads out in the middle of Absolute Nowhere. But each hike was an adventure, each segment full of amazing scenery, and it just got better and better.

    And I sure dictated a lot of new stories and chapters along those miles. On this latest hike, Segment 27, I did four chapters of a great new project (one I haven’t even announced yet)

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    I drove out to Durango a day early (about a six-hour drive) so I could spend a day holed up editing BLOOD OF THE COSMOS and also to join fellow writer Blake Crouch (WAYWARD PINES) for dinner at a fine Durango microbrewery restaurant. Tim arrived the following day near sundown (we had just enough time to drive out to the actual terminus of the CT in Durango…we had done this section several years ago, but we wanted victory pictures! See above.) Then we got to bed early after setting the alarm for 4:30 AM.

    Tim drove north toward the Purgatory Ski Resort and Silverton, then worked his way out to Hotel Draw, where he parked the car for me to pick up at the end of the day. And he started hiking.  I enjoyed a second cup of Keurig coffee in the room, then drove off to the other end of the segment, south and west out of Durango, then 14 miles up an absolutely awful road … one we remembered from the last time we were there, doing the adjacent segment of the trail. But by the time my Expedition made it to the top of Kennebec Pass, at a little before 7 AM, the sun was bright on the mountains and beautiful for miles around.

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    After making sure my moleskin and blister bandages were properly placed, socks adjusted so there were no lumps, hiking boots tightened (I had 21 miles ahead of me!), I gulped a Red Bull from the car and headed off, hiking stick in one hand, digital recorder in the other.

    We are usually out of cell-phone range, often out of walkie-talkie range, but strangely on this hike we managed to have text access on our phones, so we were able to update each other on our progress.  I took a lot of photos. I think this was truly one of the most beautiful segments of the entire Colorado Trail. Wildflowers everywhere!  I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves. At one point, I even heard a distant group of coyotes howling in a full choir.

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    At this time of year, we got hit with heavy rain, and there was a downpour (hail included) right about the halfway point when Tim and I met up on the trail…which was also right around lunchtime. We were both wearing our rain ponchos (which kept us nice and dry, but made it impossible to have a nice lunch, or even get our snacks out of the backpacks!)  I hiked another two miles before the rain stopped enough for me to get out my lunch.  Fortunately, I had sunny skies for the rest of the afternoon, but an even worse deluge hit Tim as he covered the trail I had already finished.

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    Finally, after more than ten hours, I was getting closer to the end of the segment, listening to an audiobook (THE DEVIL’S EYE by Jack McDevitt) on my iPod as I trudged along with very sore feet. And then I spotted my car parked on the Hotel Draw 4WD road. Some of the best scenery I saw all day!

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    After reaching the car, I changed into clean socks and soft shoes, a dry t-shirt, drank some water (all while moving very slowly), and headed back to the hotel. It was still an hour drive back, but boy did that shower feel good! Tim was behind me, since he had been forced to hunker down for an hour in the furious storm, unable to keep going, so I went out to a celebratory steak dinner [still moving VERY slowly and stiffly]. Tim checked in that he had made it back to the Expedition parked on the top of Kennebec Pass and was toiling his way back down the horrendous road.  I was back at the room when he made it home—and we had cleverly prepared the day before by getting a growler of IPA for me and a growler of Amber for Tim. So we could just relax and enjoy our microbrews, exhausted but victorious!

    If you’d like to read more of our hiking adventures and anecdotes, check out Tim’s new book TALES FROM THE TRAILS, published in eBook an print from WordFire Press. I wrote the introduction, Tim wrote the stories. Print at amazon and Barnes & Noble, eBook for Kindle, Kobo, Nook, iBooks, and all other formats.

    FINAL 1425 TFTT Cover

     

     

     

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    Teaser Tuesday: DEATH WARMED OVER

    Posted By on August 6, 2014

    Since Kensington has just put the very first Dan Shamble, Zombie PI novel as a special on Kindle for FREE download, I thought I’d give you a sample of humorous zombie flesh. Try the first chapter of DEATH WARMED OVER, then download the whole novel FREE ON KINDLE.

    Single Dead Detective Seeks Clue

    Ever since the Big Uneasy unleashed vampires, werewolves, and other undead denizens on the world, it’s been hell being a detective–especially for zombie P.I. Dan Chambeaux. Taking on the creepiest of cases in the Unnatural Quarter with a human lawyer for a partner and a ghost for a girlfriend, Chambeaux redefines “dead on arrival.” But just because he was murdered doesn’t mean he’d leave his clients in the lurch. Besides, zombies are so good at lurching.

    Now he’s back from the dead and back in business–with a caseload that’s downright unnatural. A resurrected mummy is suing the museum that put him on display. Two witches, victims of a curse gone terribly wrong, seek restitution from a publisher for not using “spell check” on its magical tomes. And he’s got to figure out a very personal question–Who killed him?

    For Dan Chambeaux, it’s all in a day’s work. (Still, does everybody have to call him “Shamble”?) Funny, fresh, and irresistible, this cadaverous caper puts the P.I. in R.I.P. . ..with a vengeance.

    “Wickedly funny, deviously twisted and enormously satisfying. This is a big juicy bite of zombie goodness. Two decaying thumbs up!”–Jonathan Maberry

    “Anderson has become the literary equivalent of Quentin Tarantino in the fantasy adventure genre.”–The Daily Rotation

    “An unpredictable walk on the weird side. Prepare to be entertained.” –Charlaine Harris

    cover DEATH WARMED OVER

    1

    I’m dead, for starters—it happens.  But I’m still ambulatory, and I can still think, still be a contributing member of society (such as it is, these days). And still solve crimes.

    As the detective half of Chambeaux & Deyer Investigations, I’m responsible for our caseload, despite being shot in the head a month ago.  My unexpected murder caused a lot of inconvenience to myself and to others, but I’m not the sort of guy to leave his partner in the lurch.  The cases don’t solve themselves.

    My partner, Robin Deyer, and I had built a decent business for ourselves, sharing office space, with several file cabinets full of pending cases, both legal matters and private investigations. Although catching my own killer is always on my mind, paying clients have to take priority.

    Which is why I found myself sneaking into a cemetery at night while trying to elude a werewolf hit man who’d been following me since sunset—in order to retrieve a lost painting for a ghost.

    Just another day at work for me.

    The wrought-iron cemetery gate stood ajar with a Welcome mat on either side.  These days, visiting hours are round-the-clock, and the gate needs to stay open so that newly risen undead can wander out.  When the gates were locked, neighbors complained about moaning and banging sounds throughout the night, which made it difficult for them to sleep.

    When I pulled, the gate glided open on well-oiled hinges.  A small sign on the bars read, Maintained by Friends of the Greenlawn Cemetery.  There were more than a hundred ostentatious crypts to choose from, interspersed with less-prominent tombstones.  I wished I had purchased a guide pamphlet ahead of time, but the gift shop was open only on weekends. I had to find the Ricketts crypt on my own—before the werewolf hit man caught up with me.

    The world’s a crazy place since the Big Uneasy, the event that changed all the rules and allowed a flood of baffled unnaturals to return—zombies, vampires, werewolves, ghouls, succubi, and the usual associated creatures. In the subsequent ten years, the Unnatural Quarter had settled into a community of sorts—one that offered more work than I could handle.

    Now, the quarter moon rode high in the sky, giving me enough light to see the rest of the cemetery.  The unnatural thug, hired by the heirs of Alvin Ricketts, wasn’t one of the monthly full-moon-only lycanthropes:  He was a full-time hairy, surly beast, regardless of the time of month.  Those are usually the meanest ones.

    I moved from one crypt to the next, scrutinizing the blocky stone letters.  The place was quiet, spooky . . . part of the ambience.  You might think a zombie—even a well-preserved one like myself—would feel perfectly at ease in a graveyard.  After all, what do I have to be afraid of? I can still get mangled, for one thing. My body doesn’t heal the way it used to, and we’ve all seen those smelly decomposing shamblers who refuse to take care of themselves, giving zombies everywhere a bad name. And werewolves are experts at mangling.

    I decided I wanted to avoid that, if possible.

    Even undead, I remain as handsome as ever, with the exception of the holes left by the bullet—the largish exit wound on my forehead and the neat round one at the back of my head, where some bastard came up from behind, pressed the barrel of a .32 caliber pistol against my skull, and popped me before I got a good look at him.  Fortunately, a low-slouched fedora covers the big hole.  For the most part . . .

    In the broader sense, the world hasn’t changed much since the Big Uneasy.  Most people go about their daily lives, having families, working jobs.  But though a decade has passed, the law—not to mention law enforcement—still hasn’t caught up with the new reality.  According to the latest statistics by the DUS, the Department of Unnatural Services, about one out of every seventy-five corpses wakes up as a zombie, with the odds weighted heavily in favor of suicides or murder victims.

    Lucky me to be on the interesting side of statistics.

    After returning to life, I had shambled back into the office, picked up my caseload, and got to work again.  Same as before . . . sort of. Fortunately, my zombie status isn’t necessarily a handicap to being a private detective in the Unnatural Quarter. As I said, the cases don’t solve themselves.

    Days of investigation had led me to the graveyard. I dug through files, interviewed witnesses and suspects, met with the ghost artist Alvin Ricketts and separately with his indignant still-living family.  (Despite Robin’s best mediation efforts in the offices, the ghost and the living family refused to speak to each other.)

    Alvin Ricketts was a successful pop-culture painter before his untimely demise, attributable to a month’s worth of sleeping pills washed down with a full bottle of 21-year-old single-malt. (No sense letting it go to waste.)  The ghost told me he would have taken more pills, but his insurance had only authorized a thirty-day supply, and even in the deep gloom of his creative depression, Alvin had (on principle) refused to pay the additional pharmacy charge.

    Now, whereas one in seventy-five dead people returns as a zombie, like myself, one in thirty comes back as a ghost (statistics again heavily weighted toward murder victims and suicides).  Alvin Ricketts, a pop-art genius, had suffered a long and debilitating creative block, “artistic constipation” he called it.  Feeling that he had nothing left to live for, he took his own life.

    And then came back.

    His ghost, however, found the death experience so inspirational that he found a reawakened and vibrant artistic fervor.  Alvin set about painting again, announcing he would soon release his first new work with great fanfare.

    His grieving (sic) family was less than enthusiastic about his return to painting, as well as his return from the dead.  The artist’s tragic suicide, and the fact that there would never be more Alvin Ricketts paintings, had caused his existing work to skyrocket in value—until the ghost’s announcement of renewed productivity made the bottom fall out of the market.  Collectors waited to see what new material Alvin would release, already speculating about how his artistic technique might have changed in his “post-death period.”

    The Ricketts family sued him, claiming that since Alvin was dead and they were his heirs, they now owned everything in his estate, including any new or undiscovered works and the profits from subsequent sales.

    Alvin contested the claim.  He hired Robin Deyer to fight for his rights, and she promptly filed challenges, while the ghost happily worked at his new painting. No one had yet seen it, but he claimed the work was his masterpiece.

    The Ricketts heirs took the dispute to the next level.  “Someone” broke into Alvin’s studio and stole the painting. With the supposed masterpiece gone, the pop artist’s much-anticipated return to the spotlight was put on hold. The family vehemently denied any involvement, of course.

    That’s when the ghost hired me, at Robin’s suggestion, to track down and retrieve the painting—by any means necessary. The Ricketts heirs had hired a thug to keep me from succeeding in my investigation.

    I heard a faint clang, which I recognized as the wrought-iron cemetery gate banging shut against the frame.  The werewolf hit man wasn’t far behind me. On the bright side, the fact that he was breathing down my neck probably meant I was getting close.

    The cemetery had plenty of shadows to choose from, and I stayed hidden as I approached another crypt.  BENSON.  Not the right one.  I had to find RICKETTS.

    Werewolves are usually good trackers, but the cemetery abounds with odors of dead things, and he must have kept losing my scent.  Since I change clothes frequently and maintain high standards of personal hygiene for a zombie, I don’t have much of a smell about me.  Unlike most unnaturals, I don’t choose to wear colognes, fancy specialized unnatural deodorants, and perfumes.

    I turned the corner in front of another low stone building fronted by stubby Corinthian columns.  Much to my delight, I saw the inhabitant’s name:  RICKETTS.  The flat stone door had been pried open, the caulking seal split apart.

    New rules required quick-release latches on the insides of tombs now, so the undead can conveniently get back out.  Some people were even buried with their cell phones, though I doubted they’d get good service from inside.  Can you hear me now?

    Now, if Alvin Ricketts were a zombie, he would have broken the seal when he came back out of the crypt.  But since ghosts can pass through solid walls, Alvin would not have needed to break any door seals for his re-emergence.  So why was the crypt door ajar?

    I spotted the silhouette of a large hairy form loping among the graves, sniffing the ground, coming closer.  He still hadn’t seen me. I pulled open the stone door just enough to slip through the narrow gap into the crypt, hoping my detective work was right.

    During the investigation into the missing masterpiece, the police had obtained search warrants and combed through the homes, properties, and businesses of the Ricketts heirs.  Nothing.  With my own digging, I discovered a small storage unit that had been rented in the name of Gomez Ricketts, the black-sheep of the family—and I was sure they had hidden the painting there.

    But when the detectives served their warrant and opened the unit, they found only cases and cases of contraband vampire porn packaged as sick kiddie porn. Because the starlets were actually old-school vampires who had been turned while they were children, they claimed to be well over the legal age—in real years if not in physical maturity.  Gomez Ricketts had been arrested for pedophilia/necrophilia, but he was out on bail.  Even Robin, in her best legal opinion, couldn’t say which way the verdict might go.

    More to the point, we didn’t find the stolen painting in the storage unit.

    So I kept working on the case.  Not only did I consult with Alvin’s ghost, I also went over the interviews he’d given after his suicide.  The ghost had gone into a manic phase, deliriously happy to put death behind him.  He talked about awakening to find himself sealed in a crypt, his astral form rising from the cold physical body, his epiphany of throwing those morbid chains behind him. He had vowed never to go back there.

    That’s when I figured it out: the last place Alvin would ever think to look for his painting was inside his own crypt, which was property owned by the Ricketts family (though a recent court ruling deemed that a person owned his own grave in perpetuity—a landmark decision that benefitted several vampires who were caught in property-rights disputes).

    Tonight, I planned to retrieve the painting from the crypt.

    I slipped into the dank crypt, hoping I could grab Alvin’s masterpiece and slip away before the werewolf figured out what I was doing.

    It should have been as quiet as a tomb inside, but it wasn’t.  I heard a rustling sound, saw two lamp-like yellow eyes blinking at me.  A shrill nasal voice called out, “It’s taken—this one’s occupied!  Go find your own.”

    “Sorry, didn’t mean to disturb you,” I said.

    “You can’t stay here.”

    Zombies have good night vision, and as my eyes adjusted, I made out a grayish simian creature with scaly skin.  I’d heard that trolls sometimes became squatters inside empty crypts whose original owners had returned to an unnatural life.

    The troll inched closer.  I carried my .38 revolver loaded with silver-jacketed bullets.  I would use it if I had to, but a gunshot would surely bring the werewolf hit man running.  I had enough silver bullets to take care of the thug, too, but that would open a can of maggots with the law, and I just plain didn’t want the hassle.

    The troll rubbed his gnarled hands together.  “If you’re interested in a place to stay, we have many viable options.  Pre-owned, gently-used post-mortem dwellings.  If you’re undead and homeless, I can help you with all of your real-estate needs. Edgar Allan, at your service.  Here, let me give you a business card.”

    “This crypt doesn’t belong to you,” I pointed out.  “I happen to know the actual owner.  He hired me to retrieve some of his personal property.”

    “Then we have a problem.”  The troll looked annoyed.  “Burt!”

    From the gloom emerged a larger and more threatening creature.  Trolls come in various sizes, from small and ugly to huge and ugly.  At close to seven feet tall with wide and scabby shoulders, this one belonged in the latter category.

    “Burt is our evictions specialist,” Edgar Allan explained.

    I held up my hands in surrender.  “Now, no need for that!  I came here for a painting, that’s all.  No intention of interfering with your rental business.”

    “Painting?  You mean this one?”  The little troll flicked on a tiny flashlight.  Hanging on the stone wall was a painting, unmistakably in the cute pop-culture style of Alvin Ricketts:  Two large-eyed puppies . . . gaunt, zombie puppies.  “Somebody left it here.  Looks real nice on the wall, brightens up the place.”

    A plan began to form in my mind.  “I have a suggestion that would benefit both of us.”  I glanced back at the door of the crypt, straining to hear the werewolf outside. I doubted I could slip out of the cemetery carrying the Ricketts “art” without the hairy hit man intercepting me.  Werewolves can run much faster than zombies, and inflict severe bodily damage—the kind that’s difficult to repair.  If he got his paws on the painting, I would never get a second chance to retrieve it.

    I also knew that Alvin Ricketts had no interest whatsoever in owning this crypt.

    “What kind of suggestion?” the real-estate troll said. “I can make a deal. Nobody beats my deals.”

    “What if I could get the legal owner of this property to sign over the deed to you, free and clear, completely above-board—in exchange for the painting?”  (Which was rightfully Alvin’s property anyway, but I didn’t want to tangle up the conversation.)

    Edgar Allan seemed interested, but narrowed his big yellow eyes.  “If we handed over the painting, we’d never hear from you again.”

    “I won’t take it now.  You deliver the painting to my office tomorrow,” I said.  “Bring Burt for protection if you like.”  I nodded toward the huge troll.  “I’ll see to it that the crypt owner signs all the right documents.  We have an attorney and a notary right there in our offices.”  I reached into my jacket and pulled out one of my business cards.

    After making sure that I took one of his cards, the troll shone his little flashlight on mine.  “Chambeaux & Deyer Investigations. What’s the catch?”

    “No catch.  Just be careful.  That’s a beautiful painting—I’d hate to have it damaged.”

    The troll glanced back at the large-eyed zombie puppies.  “You think so?  I was wondering if it might be a bit kitschy, myself.”

    “I’m not an art critic.  Tomorrow, in my offices at noon.”

    “We don’t usually go out at that hour . . . but I’ll make an exception.”

    I slipped out of the crypt and back into the shadows, ducking behind a tall stone angel, then moving to a big flat grave marker.  I intended to circle around as quietly as I could on my way to the wrought-iron cemetery gate.

    Before I made it to the third tombstone, a furry mass of growling energy slammed into me and knocked me to the ground.  The werewolf hit man grabbed me by the collar and yanked me back to my feet.  He was a smelly, hairy, muscular guy, half wolf and half human.  His claws dug into the fabric of my sport jacket.

    “Careful, this is my only suit.”

    The werewolf pushed his long snout close to my face.  “I caught you, Shamble.”  I could see he was having trouble forming words with all those teeth in the way.

    Chambeaux,” I corrected him.  “Can’t a guy take a peaceful stroll in a cemetery at night?”

    He patted me down, poking with his claws.  “Where’s the painting?”

    “Which painting?”  Not the cleverest response, but werewolves aren’t the cleverest of creatures, especially the at-will lycanthropes.

    “You know which painting.  I’ve been watching you.”

    “I know you were hired by the Ricketts heirs,” I admitted, “and I’m sure your employers think they’re very important, but I have plenty of other cases.  As a private detective who specializes in unnatural clientele, believe me, I’ve got more than enough reasons to come to a cemetery.”

    Growling, the werewolf searched me again, though I don’t know where he suspected I might hide a large rolled-up painting.  My chest pocket?

    I heard heavy footfalls and looked up to see the scaly form of Burt the troll.  “There a problem here?”  Burt was sufficiently intimidating that even the werewolf didn’t want to mess with him.

    I pulled myself away from the claws and straightened my jacket in an attempt to regain some dignity.  “I was just leaving,” I said, and looked pointedly at the werewolf.

    “I was escorting him out,” the hairy guy growled. “Name’s Larry.”

    Burt loomed there, watching as the two of us left the cemetery.

    After we both passed through the gate, I sized up the werewolf.  Since Chambeaux & Deyer had accepted the Alvin Ricketts case only a month-and-a-half before my murder, maybe it was connected to my own case somehow.  “Say, Larry, you wouldn’t happen to be the guy who shot me, would you?” No harm in asking.

    “Yeah, I heard about that.”  The hairy hit man growled deep in his throat.  “Do I look like the kind of guy who sneaks up behind someone in a dark alley and shoots him in the back of the head?”

    “That wouldn’t be my guess.”

    “Have you ever seen a werewolf victim?  Look at you, Shamble.  You could pass for human, if somebody doesn’t look too close.”  He flexed his claws.  “If I killed you, you’d have been a pile of shredded meat.”

    “I’ll count my blessings then,” I said.  “See you around.”  I touched a finger to the brim of my fedora in a brief salute and headed away from the cemetery.

    DOWNLOAD THE ENTIRE NOVEL FREE ON KINDLE

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