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Kevin J. Anderson has more than 140 published books, 56 of which have been national or international bestsellers. He has written numerous novels in the Star Wars, X-Files, and Dune universes, as well as steampunk fantasy novels Clockwork Angels and Clockwork Lives, written with legendary rock drummer Neil Peart, based on the concept album by the band Rush. His original works include the Saga of Seven Suns series, the Terra Incognita fantasy trilogy, the Saga of Shadows trilogy, and his humorous horror series featuring Dan Shamble, Zombie PI. He has edited numerous anthologies, written comics and games, and penned the lyrics to two rock CDs. Anderson and his wife Rebecca Moesta are the publishers of WordFire Press.
i write. i make up stuff. i adventure hard, so you don’t have to.
My parents live in Kingman, AZ, and when Rebecca and I visit, we fly into Las Vegas, rent a car, and make the 2-hr drive to Kingman. Along the way, near the town of Dolan Springs, is a big billboard to “Exit Here for the Grand Canyon Skywalk”—a breathtaking glass-bottomed walkway that extends out over the canyon, so you can look down between your feet 4000 ft to the bottom of the canyon. We’d heard about it before, and always wanted to do it (no, we’re not afraid of heights), but it’s a hefty trip out of the way (56 miles off the highway) and we knew there was a fairly high admission fee, and we had never planned for it before.
But this year, because of crash book deadlines for both of us, we didn’t do very much for our 26th wedding anniversary in September, so we decided we would go out and see the Skywalk as part of our anniversary celebration. It was spectacular, and we enjoyed the experience, but it was ridiculously expensive. I did my research ahead of time, and even called to verify the costs, so *we* weren’t surprised, but a lot of other people were clearly shocked. Here’s a full report, so you can make up your own mind.
We turned off the highway at Dolan Springs and headed off for the hour drive off into the middle of nowhere, isolated desert mountains and some tremendous scenery, including a sweeping Joshua Tree forest. A beautiful drive on a good road all the way out to where we entered the Hualupai Reservation and “Grand Canyon West” where the Skywalk is located.
Arriving at the entrance, we saw the fringe of the canyon, numerous helicopters swooping around (for the helicopter rides, offered to tourists). After parking, we immediately heard the loud sucking sound of money being whisked out of our wallets. The entry building and visitor center is, of course, a gigantic gift shop which also sold snacks and water (since you are not allowed to bring your own food or water!) We paid the entrance fee of $49.92 per person … and that’s exactly what it is, an ENTRANCE fee. It lets you go to the other side of the gift shop and allows you to get on a shuttle bus that takes you to three viewpoints. If you actually want to go out ON the Skywalk (i.e., the reason anybody goes out there in the first place) you have to pay an *additional* charge of $21.62 per person.
We got on the shuttle bus, which took us to the first stop, a cheesy Old West town reconstruction that held little of interest. The second shuttle stop was the Skybridge. The canyon here is truly gorgeous; not as spectacular as Grand Canyon National Park, but still breathtaking. (I’ve hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and back twice.) We took a lot of pictures.
The Skybridge itself is in a separate building, and looks amazing from the side. The walkway extends right out over the sheer drop-off. We couldn’t wait to get out there.
We entered the building (another gift shop, of course), ready to go through out onto the Skywalk. Nothing to worry about: the website says “Have no fear; the Skywalk is strong enough to bear the weight of seventy 747 passenger jets.” Even though the bridge is so strong, however, you are not allowed to bring your cameras out there “to protect from dropping any items into the canyon or onto the glass”. Fortunately, they have their OWN photographers who will take your picture on the bridge for $40 (tips expected).
So, I won’t be posting any pics of us on the bridge.
It was quite amazing however. Great view along the canyon, wonderful scenery, and very cool to stand on the glass and look down into open space between your feet. Kind of a bucket-list experience. We spent about fifteen minutes just admiring the view.
Then we got on the shuttle and rode to the third viewpoint, Guano Point, a really awesome view, the site of a former industrial operation, now in ruins, of excavating a real bat cave filled with guano (bat poop), which is very valuable as a chemical substance. Here we took a short hike out to some other viewpoints, more of the canyon, rock formations, the ruins of the tram to the bat cave, even glimpses of Lake Mead.
We stayed about two hours and saw all we wanted to see. There were, of course, additional helicopter or airplane rides ($107.42-$262.67 per person) or private tours (of the same places we saw on the shuttle bus) or the opportunity to get our photos taken with real Hualapai members, or to buy Native American crafts. There was even a “Guano Cafe” at Guano Point, but knowing what guano IS, we weren’t sure we could trust the food they prepared there. We returned to our car and drove the hour back through the desert to the highway and continued on our way to Kingman to visit my parents.
Overall, Rebecca and I did have a great experience and saw wonderful scenery. We came prepared for how much it would cost, but even so the Skywalk experience is grossly and deceptively overpriced, with many other tourists–after making the 2-hour roundtrip out there–shocked to discover that the entry fee does not include access to the main attraction. We’re glad we did it, but we won’t be doing it again.
Note, this is NOT inside Grand Canyon National Park—the cost of an *annual* National Parks pass, which allows you into ALL of the Grand Canyon National Park and ALL other national parks in the U.S. costs what we paid just to get onto the Skywalk. All in all, you would have a much more satisfying experience at Grand Canyon National Park.
To continue celebrating the release of the new Dan Shamble, Zombie P.I. novel, TASTES LIKE CHICKEN, I’m posting another free Shamble story, just in time for the holidays. Dan and his team have a very important case, to retrieve Santa’s stolen “naughty and nice” list before all gift-giving is ruined!
Sorry you missed the free week of the story, but if you still want your copy, you can support the author by downloading for 99¢ at the links below.
And for more free stories and other sneak previews, please sign up for my readers group at WordFire.com.
Don’t miss the new Dan Shamble novel, TASTES LIKE CHICKEN—in hardcover, trade paperback, and eBook.
In 2010, Rebecca and I launched WordFire Press as just a small company primarily to reissue some of my old out-of-print novels as eBooks, which were just starting to become popular. When that went well, some of my author friends asked if we would do the same with their backlist books, and our catalog really started to grow. We got some of Frank Herbert’s classic novels, the political masterpieces by Allen Drury, then books by Tracy Hickman, Mike Resnick, Jody Lynn Nye, Mike Stackpole, Todd McCaffrey, and others. Alan Dean Foster gave us a new novel, and we started doing works by newer authors as well.
We are the eBook publisher of both Clockwork Angels and Clockwork Lives, my steampunk fantasy adventures written with Neil Peart from Rush. And when Kensington decided they didn’t want to publish a collection of my Dan Shamble, Zombie P.I. short stories, we decided to do it through WordFire, and we are reissuing ALL of the Dan Shamble books under our imprint.
StoryBundle offered us a way to spotlight some of our books with this Super Spotlight, 17 different titles that highlight our range of titles and authors. You can get all 17 books for a minimum price of $15—but feel free to pay what you feel they’re worth. The bundle only runs Dec 6-28.
A part of the proceeds will go directly to the worthy Be a Santa nonprofit run by our dear friend Patricia Tallman (from Babylon 5 and Night of the Living Dead). Thanks for helping to support our small publishing company. Our authors sure appreciate it!
I put in my own DEATH WARMED OVER, the first novel in my Dan Shamble, Zombie P.I. series. I hope you find it hilarious! There’s also the fun and exciting MONSTERLAND, by Michael Okon, the Goonies meets Jurassic Park with monsters. And JB Garner has INDOMITABLE, the first in his entertaining superhero trilogy.
If you like unusual detectives who *aren’t* zombies, there’s Brooks Wachtel’s beautifully illustrated and innovative LADY SHERLOCK and David Boop’s noir SHE MURDERED ME WITH SCIENCE. Or maybe you prefer werewolves with PTSD? Then try Julie Frost’s PACK DYNAMICS. In other Fantasy and Urban Fantasy, there’s GRIFFIN’S FEATHER by J.T. Evans and FIRST CHOSEN by Todd Gallowglas. DEATH WIND by Travis Heerman and Jim Pinto is a weird western horror novel, while Mike Baron’s BANSHEES proves that death doesn’t have to put an end to sex, drugs, and rock & roll.
If you want a lot of short stories, we have two anthologies, A FANTASTIC HOLIDAY SEASONS, with everything from zombies for Thanksgiving to aliens at Christmas: perfect reading for this time of year. Award-winning Mike Resnick has AWAY GAMES, a collection of his stories about sports and science fiction. And MAXIMUM VELOCITY, science fiction adventure stories, the Best of Full Throttle Space Tales.
In the edgier, dark thriller category, Jeff Mariotte’s EMPTY ROOMS and Colum Sanson-Regan’s THE FLY GUY will keep you awake at night better than espresso at midnight. Aaron Michael Ritchey’s post-apocalyptic adventure DANDELION IRON is about a strong young woman trying to lead a cattle drive in the West after the fall of civilization. And THE CROWN AND THE DRAGON is a colorful epic fantasy with (as the title suggests) crowns and dragons, as well as a few swords and magic.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. We hope you’ll enjoy these books and check out some of our other titles at wordfirepress.com. Thanks for your support of our small publishing house, our authors, and the wonderful Be a Santa organization. Remember, the WordFire Press Super Showcase RUNS ONLY THROUGH DEC 28.
Click Here: WordFire Press Super Showcase
At long last, the zombie detective is back for his most fowl case yet! TASTES LIKE CHICKEN comes out tomorrow (Dec 1), but to get you started, here’s the first chapter!
You can order now in hardcover, trade paperback, or all eBook formats.
Some monsters are friendly. You learn that while working as a private investigator in the Unnatural Quarter, where you never know what size, shape, species, or temperament your clients might come in.
Some monsters want to live their daily lives without undue hassles, just like anybody else.
Some monsters even eat cookies and are adored by children nationwide.
But some monsters eat people. They’re vicious, violent things that deserve to be called monsters.
The demon Obadeus fit into that last category, without question. And McGoo—Officer Toby McGoohan, beat cop in the Quarter and my best human friend—had tracked Obadeus down before he could murder again. I was along for backup, moral support, and, if necessary, a diversion.
Serial killers are bad enough, but a bloodthirsty demon serial killer, now that’s not a good thing at all. Obadeus’s death toll now stood at nineteen, and since demons can be a little OCD about round numbers, we knew he would strike again just to make it an even twenty.
Fortunately for us, although not for his numerous victims, a monster with so much enthusiasm for killing isn’t very good at covering his tracks. Some supernatural psychologist or monster profiler might speculate that Obadeus wanted to be caught, deep down inside. I had a different theory: he was just too lazy to clean up his messes.
We had tracked the demon down to his lair, which Obadeus called his “man cave.” The place reeked. The walls were decorated with dripping blood and flayed skin or pelts from his victims, both human and unnatural. I didn’t envy the crime-scene cleanup team, or the landlord who would have to make the place ready to rent again, after McGoo and I took care of this creep. At least Obadeus wouldn’t get his cleaning deposit back, so there was some justice in the world.
The big demon bolted from his blood-soaked lair just as we arrived—which was a lucky break, because McGoo and I didn’t exactly know how to arrest a serial-killer demon from the Fifth Pit of Hell. I had no idea where the pits of hell fell, on a scale of one to ten, but pit number five must be a nasty place if it had spawned something like this.
Obadeus was ugly, with a capital U-G-L-Y. He had a leathery hide with knobs, warts, scales, and leprous patches, a face full of spikes and tendrils, triangular pointed ears, and a jaw that extended all the way to the back of his head filled with enough fangs to keep an orthodontist in business for life.
“Ick,” McGoo observed. “He makes vampire bats look cute.”
Whether Obadeus was insulted, or enraged, or just shy, he spread his thorny wings and lurched toward the door of his lair, where the two of us happened to be standing. Letting out a roar that sounded like a cow caught in a barbed-wire fence, Obadeus charged past, knocking both of us aside like bowling pins, and smashed out the door. He ran off into the streets.
“We must be scarier than I thought,” I said as the demon fled. “He could have torn us limb from limb and sipped our entrails through a straw.”
“Law enforcement carries great weight.” McGoo drew his Police Special revolver, and I pulled my .38, which I considered to be just as special, even though it didn’t have the word “Special” in its name. We set off after Obadeus in hot pursuit.
It was the dead of night in the Quarter, which meant the streets were busier than at any time of day. Though the monster’s great wings got in the way as he bounded out among the pedestrians, they also generated a tailwind for him as he flapped them, giving him a boost as he ran.
“Make way!” I shouted. “Killer demon on the loose!”
Werewolves, vampires, and witches scattered. Obadeus charged along, batting them aside.
I put on a burst of speed, which isn’t always easy for a zombie. McGoo fired his revolver in the air. “Halt! In the name of the law.”
Apparently Obadeus didn’t respect the law as much as McGoo hoped. He kept running.
“You missed,” I said.
McGoo pointed his revolver ahead and shot straight at the demon’s back. The bullet ricocheted off the pellet-hard skin and chipped the bricks on a nearby building. “Not much difference even when I don’t miss.”
We sprinted past the closed-down Recompose Spa, which had formerly been the closed-down Zombie Bathhouse. Though the doors were barred and the windows dark, a pair of gaunt gray-skinned zombies stood outside the entrance, bare chested and wearing only white towels around their waists. They stared at the locked door, their faces slack and expressionless. They’d probably been there for days waiting for the place to reopen.
With such blotchy and decaying skin, the zombies were long past an easy restorative treatment. Though I was running after a hellish demon covered with the blood of nineteen victims, I had to frown at my fellow undead. Though they were waiting at the spa, they clearly hadn’t taken care of their own corpses. I’m a well-preserved zombie myself, and it doesn’t come easy. I take pride in my human-like appearance, even though my flesh-colored skin needs a touchup now and then. Some people even consider me handsome, at least in dim lighting.
I placed one hand on my fedora, so it wouldn’t blow off as I ran. Wind whistled through the bullet hole in my forehead. One of these days I was going to get it filled in again, but not now.
As Obadeus stormed past the bathhouse and spa, the waiting zombies stood in his way. With a sweep of his massively muscled arm, he smacked one of them in the head—which not only cleared the sidewalk for Obadeus, it relieved the zombie of his head. Detached, it rolled and bounced in the gutter, still making breathy, offended noises. The other zombie watched his companion collapse in two different directions, then turned back to the door, as if still expecting the spa to reopen at any moment.
“That’s twenty!” Obadeus crowed in triumph.
“Doesn’t count,” I replied. “He’s still alive and kicking … sort of.”
“Darn!” the demon grumbled. Despite his vicious crimes, Obadeus apparently didn’t like to use harsh language.
We kept running, but the monster was pulling ahead.
“Hey Shamble, I have an idea,” McGoo wheezed. His freckled face was flushed. “Get ahead of him and let him bite you—the arm or shoulder will do well enough. While he’s distracted, I’ll put handcuffs on him.”
“I’ve got a better idea,” I told him, without wheezing. I wasn’t out of breath because I didn’t need to breathe, strictly speaking. “Let’s not listen to any of your suggestions.”
An old man was sitting on a bench reaching into a bag full of dead flies, which he tossed toward a flock of bats that swooped around, nabbing the treats out of the air. Obadeus roared, and the old man fell off the back of the bench. The bats scattered.
An animated skeleton pushing a grocery cart out of a small market tried to clatter out of the way, but the demon maliciously snatched him by the rib cage, hooking a long claw beneath his sternum and swinging him around before smashing the skeleton into the brick wall, shattering him into a pile of bones. I wasn’t sure if that counted as victim number twenty. With the undead, it can be difficult to determine the exact point at which a murder is committed.
Obadeus roared and kept running.
McGoo fired his revolver again—I think he just liked the sound—and we continued our pursuit.
O O O
A killer demon running amuck didn’t cause as much panic as you might expect. The Unnatural Quarter is full of strange creatures, some warm and fuzzy, others scary and fuzzy. Obadeus was arguably on the hideous end of the spectrum, but when the world is full of monsters right out of legends and superstition, most people aren’t too judgmental.
Several years ago, when the reality-bending event called the Big Uneasy changed all the rules, humans had reeled in shock to see the return of vampires, werewolves, ghosts, succubi, banshees, even elves and fairies.
Not everyone viewed this change with a sense of wonder.
Eventually, most of the monsters gathered in the Quarter, where they could be themselves and not feed upon humans. Statistically speaking, unnaturals were much like anyone else: decent, law-abiding citizens with a few bad apples among them. When I was still alive and ambitious, I had set up shop as a private investigator, realizing that even vampires, werewolves, and mummies still got divorced, faced blackmail, needed to recover missing items, and so on. The usual caseload for a P.I.
My partner at Chambeaux & Deyer Investigations, Robin Deyer, is a young firebrand, a bleeding-heart human attorney who wants to see justice for unnaturals. Officer McGoohan, after too many politically incorrect jokes in his old precinct, found himself transferred to walk the beat in the Quarter.
Like any disadvantaged ethnic group, the unnaturals faced prejudice from outside humans and had to work hard to maintain a good image. In order to temper their predatory tendencies, Monster Chow Industries mass produced tasty food for all types of unnaturals. Their major factory on the edge of the Quarter delivered enough synthetic flavored protein, at reasonable prices, to keep the monsters from eating people. And not being eaten kept the rest of the people happy. The world should have been full of peace and harmony.
But some monsters—like Obadeus—were feral, primal throwbacks. They liked killing people. They were a menace to society. As Obadeus’s horrific murder spree continued, panic spread even outside the Quarter.
An old werewolf was found entirely skinned, his pelt taken as a trophy. A vampire piano player who had never harmed anyone, except occasionally making bad choices in his song selections, was found decapitated, his mouth filled with garlic pesto. Five humans were gutted, their organs displayed in full Jack-the-Ripper glory. Witches were impaled with their broomsticks. An amphibious creature was locked inside a solar tanning bed until she had dried into jerky.
It was horrible. All of law enforcement was desperate to catch the killer.
And we had found him.
O O O
As we kept running, McGoo fired a shot from his other revolver, the police extra-special, which was loaded with silver bullets. At least those rounds made divots on Obadeus’s scaly hide. But such minor wounds only annoyed the demon more, and he was already very annoyed. Snarling, he flapped his bat-like wings and leaped up to grab a fire escape ladder, but the ugly demon was so massive that his weight ripped the fire escape stairs from the brick wall. The entire structure came clattering down around him like the bars of a cage. Obadeus ripped the bars free and lurched to his feet just as McGoo and I caught up with him.
Flustered, the burly demon ducked into a wide, shadow-filled alley, from which we heard squawking and clucking and saw a flash of white feathers. A panicked wild chicken flapped its wings furiously as it tried to lift off the ground. At the end of the alley I saw a rickety pile of coops with the doors open, chicken wire strung across the opening. A dozen more birds strutted around squawking.
Feral chickens, the worst kind.
But even though rampant feral chickens have become an increasing problem in the Quarter, this wasn’t the problem that concerned me at the moment.
Obadeus snarled at them, and the chickens scattered back into the garbage-strewn shadows.
Finding himself cornered in a dead-end alley, the demon from the Fifth Pit of Hell turned, hunched down, and spread his bulging arms. He extended his claws, and thrust up his wings. Obadeus snarled at us with a face full of fangs exuding bad breath.
Caught up in the desperate chase, McGoo and I charged into the alley shoulder to shoulder. Each of us had our guns drawn, knowing they were totally ineffective. The bloodthirsty demon was trapped, and he knew it.
We had him exactly where we wanted him.
“Uh-oh,” McGoo said.
“Now what do we do?” I asked.
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