Cliffside Rose Flash Fiction: And the Winners Are . . .

Two weeks ago, I challenged readers to a contest telling us how a rose would end up atop a desert cliff in the middle of nowhere. Their stories had to include the words “Dixie,” “witness protection,” and “cheese grater.”

See The Cliffside Rose–Flash Fiction Contest

For the last week, readers voted here and at our sister WordPress blog to determine the top three winners of The Cliffside Rose Flash Fiction Contest with the combined totals. With some brilliant entries, this was no easy task, but three entries tied at the top.

And the winners are . . .

Olympic Ring Espionage image from Ebay.com

Olympic Ring Espionage
image from Ebay.com

BrickHouseChick:  Olympic Ring Espionage

Dixie was conflicted about being on The Bachelor, but she wanted the chance to meet her Prince. And that she did. Thor was very CALIENTE and had cheese-grater abs. The problem was, that he was a spy in Russia during the Olympics and they were ‘on’ to him. Putin blamed Thor for the 5th ring not lighting up during the opening ceremonies and was not happy. Thor was about to give Dixie the FINAL ROSE. If she accepted the rose, she would enter the program with him (no TVs allowed in the witness protection program), if she didn’t, she would have to let him go, forever. After much pondering, Dixie decided that she could NOT miss the Oscars, and opted for the RED CARPET rather than the RED ROSE. She kissed him goodbye and ran home to watch the E channel. Thor was devastated and jumped off the cliff.

You want to WHAT? image via Canstock

You want to WHAT?
image via Canstock

Michelle Morrison:  You Want to WHAT?

After six years in witness protection, Diane was free. She moved home and reconnected with loved ones. She rescued a dog and named her Dixie, and they had lovely walks by the cliff near her house.

Diane met Peter. It was love. Peter seemed smitten also. “You’re special,” he told her.

She smiled. “So are you.”

Diane and Peter went for walks by the cliff. They watched the sun go down and threw sticks for Dixie. Peter gave Diane a rose each month.

At the fourth month, Peter gave Diane four roses and said, “I’m sorry, I’ve met someone else.”

“What is this?” Diane asked. “You’re unhappy?”

“It’s not you, it’s me; we can still be friends.” Peter said.

Diane beat Peter to death with the cheese grater she always carried. She left the roses by the body. The judge ruled justifiable homicide and she got probation.

Motorcycle or Death image from Canstock

Motorcycle or Death
image from Canstock

Gry Ranfelt:  Motorcycle or Death?

“You said it didn’t matter.”

Tom flexed his jaw and refused to look away.

“The court cares. Think of our daughter. What life will she lead if you refuse witness protection?”

Dixie swallowed the dry mountain air. Had he brought her to these uncomfortable heights just to tell her to do what she’d refused four times?

She slammed the roses into his chest. They fell to the ground, petals still intact.

“The entire evening was an act so I’d warm up and give in.”

“No, I –”

She turned away. “Take us home.” She hated the thought of wrapping her arms around him on his motorcycle.

His sigh trickled her neck. She stiffened.

“I can’t.”

He grabbed and pulled her towards a waiting car. “Sorry. I’m not letting you get the fucking mafia on us.”

She screamed. She struggled. The cliffs scraped her skin bloody like a cheese grater.

 Congratulations!

Each of you has won a copy of USA Today Bestseller Vicki Hinze‘s clever tale of death and romance, Down and Dead in Dixie.

Down and Dead in Dixie Cover

I will forward your emails to the awesome Vicki Hinze, and she will get in touch with you to send your your prize.

A Big Thank You to all of the participants.

May your remote wanderings never include cliffs

and/or cheese graters.

Cliffside Rose Flash Fiction Contest — Vote Now!

By Piper Bayard

Last week, I challenged readers to a contest telling us how a rose would end up atop a desert cliff in the middle of nowhere. Their stories had to include the words “Dixie,” “witness protection,” and “cheese grater.”

See The Cliffside Rose–Flash Fiction Contest

The Cliffside Valentine

The Cliffside Valentine

This week, we ask you to vote on these outstanding entries. Voting will take place here and at our sister site, Bayard & Holmes, and we will combine the totals. The top three will receive copies of USA Today Bestseller Vicki Hinze‘s clever tale of death and romance, Down and Dead in Dixie.

Down and Dead in Dixie Cover

And the entries are . . .

Olympic Romance image from Ebay.com

Olympic Ring Espionage
image from Ebay.com

BrickHouseChick:

Dixie was conflicted about being on The Bachelor, but she wanted the chance to meet her Prince. And that she did. Thor was very CALIENTE and had cheese-grater abs. The problem was, that he was a spy in Russia during the Olympics and they were ‘on’ to him. Putin blamed Thor for the 5th ring not lighting up during the opening ceremonies and was not happy. Thor was about to give Dixie the FINAL ROSE. If she accepted the rose, she would enter the program with him (no TVs allowed in the witness protection program), if she didn’t, she would have to let him go, forever. After much pondering, Dixie decided that she could NOT miss the Oscars, and opted for the RED CARPET rather than the RED ROSE. She kissed him goodbye and ran home to watch the E channel. Thor was devastated and jumped off the cliff.

Death by Margarita image by Zalmac, wikimedia commons

Death by Margarita
image by Zalmac, wikimedia commons

Shawna Coronado:

Naked, bleeding, trembling, and frightened-out-of-her mind; Dixie teetered at the cliff’s edge with a pitcher of margaritas in one hand and a single red rose in the other. Behind her stands 350 pounds of hate, the stranger who had been stalking her for the last 9 years and who dragged her out of witness protection to bring her here. He says, “One last drink, my sweet, before we fly over this cliff together and crash like cheese grater at the bottom.” As he lunges for her throat she swings the margarita pitcher smacking him hard on his temple. Arms wheeling, he falls screaming over the side, landing with a deafening crunch. She drops the rose and falls to her knees, happy to be alive and rid of her torment. Death by margarita.

Motorcycle or Death image from Canstock

Motorcycle or Death?
image from Canstock

Gry Ranfelt:

“You said it didn’t matter.”
Tom flexed his jaw and refused to look away.
“The court cares. Think of our daughter. What life will she lead if you refuse witness protection?”
Dixie swallowed the dry mountain air. Had he brought her to these uncomfortable heights just to tell her to do what she’d refused four times?
She slammed the roses into his chest. They fell to the ground, petals still intact.
“The entire evening was an act so I’d warm up and give in.”
“No, I –“
She turned away. “Take us home.” She hated the thought of wrapping her arms around him on his motorcycle.
His sigh trickled her neck. She stiffened.
“I can’t.”
He grabbed and pulled her towards a waiting car. “Sorry. I’m not letting you get the fucking mafia on us.”
She screamed. She struggled. The cliffs scraped her skin bloody like a cheese grater.

Tire Iron Freedom Maneuver image from ebay.com

Tire Iron Freedom Maneuver
image from ebay.com

Melissa Borgioli:

THE TIRE IRON FREEDOM MANEUVER

“Shut up, Carol Ann!”
She kept talking. “I can’t believe you got us lost and broken down in the desert! ”
“Shut up, Carol Ann!”
Still talking. “What did you say was busted? MacGyver could have fixed it with a cheese grater!”
“Shut up, Carol Ann!”
“My Mama said not to go to the desert on vacation. She said we’d be all alone out here like we were in the witness protection program. And I said, ” You ain’t just whistling Dixie, Mama! ”
“Shut up, Carol Ann!”
Of course, she didn’t shut up. She never did. A nice whack with the tire iron would do the trick, he thought. He’d bring a rose to this very spot every year on the anniversary of the tire iron freedom manuever.
“Well? Is it fixed? ” Carol Ann screeched in his ear.
His fingers tightened around the tire iron, then relaxed.
“Yes! Now get in the damn car, and for God’s sake, shut up, Carol Ann!”

Valentine Cheese Grater image from houzz.com

Valentine Cheese Grater Surprise
image from houzz.com

MrMeanGenes:

O Cliffside Rose,
My Valentine
Stands here before me:
Hear her whine ?

She dreamt of roses-
But not much later
Wound up with a used
Cheese grater.

Ol’ Dixie made a poor selection:
Orlando’s not a happ’ning Dude-
He’s just a Witness in Protection–
A Baby Daddy-truly crude.

Our Cliffside Rose
Thinks he might shtup her:
Instead, he merely wants
His supper.

Desert Dejection image via Canstock

Desert Dejection
image via Canstock

Kathleenjanzanderson:

The morning sun crept over the distant mountains as Dixie sat next to a tent sipping coffee & dabbing her swollen eyes. Beyond the fire a lizard poked its head over a paper plate and nibbled on a stale cheese grater. A vase of red Valentine roses looked out of place next to the cactus and endless grays & browns of sand & rocks: the only green was on its leaves & the body of her jeep. Ever since she’d entered the witness protection program this was Tim’s & her favorite spot, where they had planned to wed.

“Damn you Timothy Boon for not showing up!”

She leaned and yanked the flowers from the vase, bolted to her feet and to the cliff, stems dropping all the way. Raising her arm she was ready to heave what was left when she noticed a black car winding up the narrow road.

Victim No. 6 image via Canstock

Victim No. 6
image via Canstock

Kay:
Looking over the edge of the cliff at victim number 6, Detective Bayard thought to himself “I have no choice now! I must convince Dixie to go into witness protection before she is the next victim.” His partner, Detective Holmes was busy scaling down the cliff to get what little evidence was on the ledge. Seriously? Another cheese grater? What is the significance of a cheese grater? Just like the last 5, all Holmes finds is a single red rose, a dead female and a cheese grater.
You want to WHAT? image via Canstock

You Want To WHAT?
image via Canstock

Michelle Morrison:

After six years in witness protection, Diane was free. She moved home and reconnected with loved ones. She rescued a dog and named her Dixie, and they had lovely walks by the cliff near her house.

Diane met Peter. It was love. Peter seemed smitten also. “You’re special,” he told her.

She smiled. “So are you.”

Diane and Peter went for walks by the cliff. They watched the sun go down and threw sticks for Dixie. Peter gave Diane a rose each month.

At the fourth month, Peter gave Diane four roses and said, “I’m sorry, I’ve met someone else.”

“What is this?” Diane asked. “You’re unhappy?”

“It’s not you, it’s me; we can still be friends.” Peter said.

Diane beat Peter to death with the cheese grater she always carried. She left the roses by the body. The judge ruled justifiable homicide and she got probation.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

A huge THANK YOU to all of our participants!

The choice is a tough one. I’m so glad it’s yours, readers, and not mine. Please show your appreciation for these creative powerhouses and vote between now and midnight on Tuesday, March 11. All votes will be tallied at that time, and winners will be announced next Wednesday.

THANK YOU FOR YOUR VOTE!

MyPhotos Dixie watching sunset in desert Feb 15, 2014

FIRELANDS–It’s Back & Nominated for 2014 Best Indie Novel!

By Piper Bayard

I had the pleasure of waking up and finding out that my Nine Year Baby is

nominated for  a book award!

Dystopian thriller FIRELANDS was first released last June from StoneHouse Ink.

Firelands Cover

Then it was acquired and re-issued by Shoe Phone Press on February 25, 2014.

FIRELANDS_2ndEd

It’s now available on Kindle,

and it will soon be up in paperback at Amazon,

and on Nook, Kobo, and iTunes.

As an excellent “welcome back,” FIRELANDS was honored with a nomination for Indie ReCon’s Best Indie Novel Award 2014.

Indie ReCon Logo

Voting is at Indie ReCon. If you are inclined, click on the link below to vote. Voting is open until 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, February 27.

Vote here for

FIRELANDS 

Indie ReCon Best Indie Novel Award 2014

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

Thank you for your support and for such a warm welcome back for FIRELANDS.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

FIRELANDS

Eighty years in the future, America has devolved into a totalitarian theocracy. The ruling Josephites clone the only seeds that grow in the post-apocalyptic climate, allowing their Prophet to control who eats, who starves, and who dies in the ritual fires that atone society.

Subsisting on the fringes, Archer risks violation and death each day as she scours the forest for game to feed her people. When a Josephite refugee seeks sanctuary in her home, Archer is driven to chance a desperate gamble. A gamble that will bring down the Prophet and deliver seeds and freedom, or end in a fiery death for herself and for everyone she loves.

Seeds are life . . . Seeds are power . . . Seeds are the only hope of a despairing people. What will Archer do for the seeds of freedom, and what will she justify in their name?

Field on Fire Canstock

Flash Fiction Contest — The Cliffside Rose

By Piper Bayard

Since my writing partner, Jay Holmes, is a covert intelligence operative, we often meet and work in remote locations. The day after Valentine’s Day found us plotting our next novel while we hiked up a cliff in a remote section of a desert. Near the top, I noticed a rose. Yes, a rose. In the middle of nowhere. Then another, and another. A trail of four roses that led to the very edge of the cliff.

The Cliffside Valentine

The Cliffside Valentine

I immediately turned to Holmes and expounded on how two lovers quarreled the night before:

Dixie arrived first and watched the sunset from the edge of the cliff, remembering Orlando’s kiss. Just because they had met at a meth lab three weeks ago…Just because they were only sixteen…Just because they were cousins…None of that would keep them from testifying and entering witness protection together before the baby was born. Surely he would make her a Valentine’s bride.

MyPhotos Dixie watching sunset in desert Feb 15, 2014

Orlando topped the rocks behind her and held up four roses. “Check out what I scored from dad’s new girlfriend. Oh, and I got you a cheese grater. Let’s go back to dad’s trailer, and you can make me a pizza.”

Dixie, stunned by his words, numbly took the flowers. “A cheese grater?”

Orlando shrugged. “What else would I bring? Come on. I’m hungry.”

Furious, Dixie flung the roses at Orlando with such force that she lost her balance and toppled over the cliff. The mountain lions rejoiced.

When I finished, Holmes rolled his eyes and said, “Back to our spy thriller . . .”

We agreed to leave the romance to you and to USA Today bestseller Vicki Hinze. So today, we offer you a flash fiction challenge.

Come to the Bayard & Holmes website and tell us your story of the Cliffside Valentine Rose in the comments below. Tell it in 150 words or less, and include “Dixie,” “witness protection,” and “cheese grater.” Click here . . .

Bayard & Holmes

The Cliffside Rose — Flash Fiction Contest

Next Wednesday, March 5, come back and vote for your favorites. USA Today bestseller Vicki Hinze has generously donated three copies of one of my own favorite books, Down and Dead in Dixie, about a young woman who stumbles into the middle of a mob turf war and finds out that to live, sometimes ya gotta die.

Down and Dead in Dixie Cover

“Dixie” and “witness protection” are some clues as to what you will find in this clever, humorous novel. Cheese grater? Nothing to do with Vicki Hinze’s book, and everything to do with a reason to throw flowers at a boyfriend. But that’s another story.

Ghostbusting, 100 Years Ago — Guest Post by K.B. Owen

Today we welcome historical mystery writer K.B. Owen to tell us about Ghostbusting in the early 20th century. K.B. taught college English at universities in Connecticut and Washington, DC and holds a doctorate in 19th century British literature.  A long-time mystery lover, she drew upon her teaching experiences to create her amateur sleuth, Professor Concordia Wells. She currently lives in Virginia with her husband and sons and is busily planning the lady professor’s next adventure.

K profile pic 2014

Historical Mystery Author K.B. Owen

You’ll find K.B.’s latest release, Unseemly Pursuits, at the links below. Be sure to enter her Big Giveaway for a chance to win the Swag Kit.

Ghostbusting, 100 Years Ago

By K.B. Owen

Among the joys of writing historical mysteries is running across cool nuggets of research. While writing Unseemly Pursuits, I needed to learn more about late-19th century spirit mediums and their tricks, which inevitably led me to some ghostbusters and absurd situations that I like to call “gotcha” moments. The public exposure was sometimes funny, sometimes pathetic. I thought I’d share some with you today.

Ghostbusters

Almost as plentiful as fraudulent mediums were the debunkers who sought to catch them at it.  Below are some of the most well-known of their time, made up of earnest scientific researchers as well as flamboyant entertainers.

John Nevil Maskelyne, 1839-1917

John Nevil Maskelyne image by wikimedia commons

John Nevil Maskelyne 1839-1917
image via wikimedia commons

After watching the Davenport brothers exhibit their “spirit cabinet,” purported to manifest spirits while the brothers were tied up inside, Maskelyne suspected fraud.  He built his own cabinet and in 1865 launched a career of stage magic that lasted decades, whereby he demonstrated how to artificially create many of the spiritualists’ effects. The picture below gives you an idea of what a spirit cabinet looked like.

Davenport Brothers 1870 image via Wikimedia Commons

Davenport Brothers 1870
image via Wikimedia Commons

Harry Houdini 1874-1926

Harry Houdini 1874-1926

Harry Houdini 1874-1926
Image via Wikimedia Commons

image via Wikimedia Commons

image via Wikimedia Commons

Harry Houdini was the ultimate showman.  We associate him primarily with escape artistry, but many of his shows were based on re-creating spiritualists’ effects and demonstrating the fraud behind them. He was particularly impressed with researcher Harry Price’s work (below) in exposing the tricks behind spirit photography. Price’s findings enabled Houdini to duplicate the effect. Below is a photo of Houdini with the “ghost” of Abraham Lincoln (1920-30), created by Houdini to prove how easy it was to perpetrate the fraud.

Harry Houdini and the "Ghost" of Abraham Lincoln image via Wikimedia Commons

Harry Houdini and the “Ghost” of Abraham Lincoln
image via Wikimedia Commons

Harry Price Testing 1930

Harry Price 1881-1948 image via Wikimedia Commons

Harry Price 1881-1948
1930 image via Wikimedia Commons

Price had an impressive credentials list: he was a member of the National Laboratory of Psychical Research, London, belonged to the Society of American Magicians, and was Librarian for the Magicians’ Club of London. He authored many well-respected journal articles documenting the fraudulent techniques of spiritualists, including spirit-writing and spirit-photography. A master-conjurer himself, he could spot sleight-of-hand and other maneuvers. However, unlike other “ghostbusters,” he deeply believed in psychic phenomena and did endorse some spirit mediums. Think of him as a believer in the psychic world – as long as he could first subject it to strict scientific controls.

Slade vs. Lankester

Owen Lankester 1908 image via Wikimedia Commons

Ray Lankester
1908 image via Wikimedia Commons

Dr. Henry Slade (1835-1905) was an American medium who specialized in spirit writing on slate blackboards.  “Spirit slates” consisted of two chalkboards bound together that, when opened, were said to reveal messages written by spirits.  The trick was performed by putting a blank slate on an audience member’s head, or asking him/her to hold it under the table.  Then, after a suitable interval, a chalk-written message would be revealed.  It wouldn’t be that difficult to switch out a pre-written slate, or for the medium to hold a piece of chalk in a ring and become proficient at writing under the table.

During Slade’s tour in Britain, Professor (of Zoology, of all things) Ray Lankester (1847-1929) set out to expose him.  During Slade’s seances, Lankester and another witness watched carefully. At the second séance, Lankester snatched the supposedly blank “spirit slate” to find that it had been pre-written.  Lankester published an account of the incident in a letter to the Times, and sued him. Slade was convicted and sentenced to three months of hard labor (in England, they typically used an old statute of vagrancy, originially meant for gypsies). However, upon appeal the sentence was dismissed, whereupon Slade fled England.

Rival Mediums: Cook vs. Guppy 

Florence Cook image via Wikimedia Commons

Florence Cook
image via Wikimedia Commons 

Sometimes a jealous rival or the skeptical onlooker can prove to be one’s undoing, which was the case with medium Florence Cook.

Florence Cook (1856-1904) began her career as a medium at 15, when she apparently levitated off the floor while with a group of friends.  Soon after, she was causing the ghost of Katie King to materialize.  Katie King was rather notorious in spiritualist circles, as she was supposed to be a murderess who, to atone for her sins in the afterlife, returned to convince people that the spirit world was real.  (I think Jacob Marley had better justification for returning to save Ebenezer Scrooge, but that’s just my opinion).  Being able to produce Katie King on demand became a profitable venture for Florence Cook. The spirit cabinet was Cook’s go-to device for perpetrating the trick.

However, success is not without its drawbacks.  Rival medium Mrs. Samuel Guppy (1838-1917), an older and, by some accounts, a less attractive woman (couldn’t find a picture to bear this out, sorry), decided to give her rival a come-uppance.  Of course, Mrs. Guppy couldn’t attend a seance of Cook’s – she was too well-known – so she enlisted the aid of William Volckman (who later became her husband).  He bribed his way in with jewelery. When the spirit appeared, he grabbed her and proclaimed the fraud. However, other attendees at the séance fought back and assisted Cook’s escape (one of them was Cook’s fiance at the time).  Volkman got a bloody nose and no proof out of the deal, for by the time they looked back in the spirit cabinet, there was Florence Cook tied up again, although her clothes were disarranged.

Cook was caught for real later, when she was pretending to be the spirit of a young girl. One of the sitters noticed the spirit was wearing a corset – not something your young Victorian girl would wear – and decided to grab the lady the next time he got the chance. He did, and the spirit cabinet was found empty, except for boots and outer garments. When the lights were turned on, there was Florence Cook, in her underwear.

So what do you think of these daring ghostbusters and their undergarment-clad targets? What fraud-perpetrators today get caught with their pants down?

Piper and Holmes, thanks so much for hosting me today. I had a blast!

————————-

Unseemly Pursuits: A Concordia Wells Mystery

 KB Owen Unseemly Pursuits Cover

A deadly secret that won’t stay buried…

It is the fall of 1896, and Miss Concordia Wells is hip-deep in the usual tumult of a lady professor’s life: classes, clubs, student pranks, and the unending drama generated by the girls she lives with on campus.  Complicating this normality is the new Lady Principal, whom the students have nicknamed “the Ogre.”  The woman seems bent on making Concordia’s life miserable.

And then there’s the exotic spirit medium, Madame Durand, who has befriended Concordia’s mother and has started a “Spirit Club” on campus.  Madame’s prognostications of doom are at first only mildly irritating – until events take a sobering turn.  An ancient Egyptian amulet donated to the college mysteriously disappears, the donor is found murdered, and his daughter – Concordia’s best friend – confesses to killing him.

Desperate for answers, Concordia unravels a 20-year-old secret, closely guarded by men now dead.  But such secrets can be dangerous for the daughters left behind, including Concordia herself.  Can she make sense of the mystery that has bound together their fates, before it’s too late?

Available as:

KindlePaperback, Nook, Smashwords, Kobo, iBooks

Unseemly Pursuits is the second book of the series.  The first book, Dangerous and Unseemly, was published in early 2013.

KB Owen SwagKit

An Unseemly Giveaway:

During K.B.’s Unseemly Pursuits book tour, which goes through the first week of March, there’s a giveaway at each blog stop (including here!).  The winner, randomly drawn from the commenters at each stop, will get a free ebook copy of Unseemly Pursuits.  At the end of the tour, she’ll hold another random drawing from among the ebook winners for the final prize: a special Concordia Wells series swag package! It includes customized mug, keychain, JellyBelly mini-tin, and signed paperback copies of the first two mysteries: Dangerous and Unseemly and Unseemly Pursuits. You can read, sip your coffee, and snack on candy in unseemly style. Check the sidebar on the home page of kbowenmysteries.com for the full tour schedule and other info.

To comment and enter for the Big Giveaway, come to 

Bayard & Holmes

Ghostbusters, 100 Years Ago by K.B. Owen

Cop Killer: A Phenomenal Thriller

Today we welcome two of our favorites to our site–Screenwriter and Best Selling Author Ryne Douglas Pearson and Author/Editor Ellie Ann. Holmes and I both thoroughly enjoyed this book by Ryne, the man Piper calls the Prince of Prose, and we hope you’ll check it out.

810XHQqpcpL._SL1500_

Review of Cop Killer, by Ellie Ann

Product Synopsis:

Danny Owen. A hard-charging detective who thrives on the thrill of the chase, the danger in the catch. His life is the street. Dark alleys and vicious crimes fill his every waking moment, and often his dreams.

Until tragedy turns his world upside down.

Transferred to District One, considered the tamest slice of the city, Danny is partnered with veteran detective Jack James, a cool and methodical investigator whose near legendary tenure is considered pivotal in creating the District’s peaceful environment.

But even shining cities have their shadows, and the new partners find themselves facing a cold and calculating killer. One who might be avenging angel, or may simply be atoning for their own sins.

As Danny and Jack identify and close in on their suspect, the bounds of right and wrong, justice and vengeance, begin to blur. So much so that one detective begins to doubt just who is adversary, and who is ally.

This is an incredible tale of loyalty and trust, murder and mystery. What with the dark style and beautifully written prose, not to mention the themes of coldness/hardness and betrayal, it reminded me of a classic gothic novel. This is Wuthering Heights meets District 1.

The story is masterfully told. From the very first murder scene, I had a feeling I knew where the plot would end up–but I was wrong. And then around half the book I was sure I knew where it was headed–only to be surprised again. There’s nothing simple about this story. No decisions are black and white, and there are no knights in shining armor.

Danny is not your average protagonists. The first scene he was in made me sure I wasn’t going to like him–but as more layers were revealed in his character the more I realized what a complex, flawed, and inexplicably heroic soul he had.
I really can’t wait to see where this series goes. This book is highly recommended.

Check out Ryne Douglas Pearson’s website for buying options.

***

Screen Shot 2012-11-24 at 2.35.45 PM

Ellie Ann is an author and an editor for Stonehouse Ink Publishing. Check out her new thriller, Breaking Steele, and Twisting Steele, she co-authored with #1 Amazon bestseller Aaron Patterson. Her first solo novel, a YA science fiction called The Silver Sickle, was released this spring. Something else that tickles her fancy is working with transmedia books at Noble Beast Publishing, where she is a producer of enhanced digital books.

Ellie Ann blogs at EllieAnn.net and would love to meet you on Facebook or Twitter.

Everything I Know About Writing Sci Fi I Learned from Star Trek

By Piper Bayard

There are dozens of books out there that will teach you to write, but I learned everything I need to know about writing Sci Fi from Star Trek: The Original Series. Star Trek has it all.

Star Trek Original Series

Great Structure

The typical episode starts with some kind of “normal world” setting. Spock is irritating Bones, or Kirk is settling into his bridge chair after a strenuous night seducing an alien. The ship or crew is attacked by a mysterious force that’s set on complete domination or destruction of the future world as we know it. The struggle ensues. The Starfleet crew responds by learning and growing in a way that makes them capable of being the heroes they were hired to act like. It all culminates in a grand battle and the enemy’s defeat, followed by a denouement consisting of a pensive thought or a humorous exchange. The hero’s journey in an hour, minus commercials.

Regardless of what kind of novels we are writing, they need structure. Look to Star Trek.

Cool Gadgets

Star Trek has the lock on cool gadgets. Warp engines, communicators, motion sensor doors, etc., and Bones McCoy always has some sort of scanner in his hand that makes surgery unnecessary. But as with all great Sci Fi, each of these enterprising gadgets is a logical extension of existing scientific theory.

Star Trek Kirk Pregnant Meme

Science fiction definitely needs some science in it, and it’s okay if we indulge our imaginations to the limit. But we need to stay rooted in reality so that people will quickly relate to our worlds without being distracted by objects that have no frame of reference.

When we pull pie in the sky technology out of the air, our stories become about the gadgets. Readers may get a kick out of gadgets, but they don’t relate to gadgets. We must always remember that the meat of our stories is our people. Transporter beams and food replicators are only side dishes.

BTW, Bones’ scanning instruments are mostly salt & pepper shakers acquired from garage sales and the like. And the motion sensor doors?  People standing behind the wall waiting for cues to pull them back when someone approaches. The Shat cracked his nose more than once when the “door men” weren’t paying attention. But today those and so many other Star Trek gadgets are part of our current reality because they were based on science in the first place.

Hot Babes

Spock Vulcan of Love Meme

James T. Kirk was Da Bomb back in the day. Always passionate, always taking the go-for-broke gamble and winning, and always getting either the girl or the alien. Even if we prefer the cool, emotionally unavailable guys, we girls have Spock and plenty of material for Pon Farr fantasies. And for the guys, there’s a limitless selection from the beautiful, competent Uhura, to pixie-like, mute empaths, to an occasional dominatrix.

Lesson to be learned? Every good Sci Fi story needs a babe to build a dream on.

Extra Crew Members

Somewhere between our third and fifth episodes of Star Trek, we all catch on that whenever there is an extra crew member present, someone is going to die a horrible death. This has both Do This and Don’t Do This lessons.

Most Interesting Man Star Trek Red Shirt

DO put in extra crew members (characters) to murder, mutilate, torture, blow up, starve, kidnap, feed to monsters, and take back to the pod for a slow blood drain, etc. But DON’T broadcast which characters those are by giving them all red shirts. Treat them with just as much attention as your regular crew so that we (the readers) are surprised when they die, and we mourn them.

High Concept Parable

The most important element of great writing, including Sci Fi, is an idealistic integrity. That can be anything from a halcyon future worth fighting for to a post-apocalyptic world where at least some humans retain their humanity. Star Trek: The Original Series is penultimate in this respect.

Star Trek takes on themes such as racism, class warfare, human rights, feminism, and the role of technology in society, but it never comes out and tells us that. Instead, it speaks to us in parables.

Let’s take racism, for example, which was a violently charged issue during the 1960s, as it has become once again. Star Trek’s creator, Gene Roddenberry, makes the radical move of casting a racially diverse crew, and then making their racial diversity irrelevant. Instead, he uses alien races to teach his lessons about racism.

Star Trek Half Black Half White

Each of these alien races behaves in very human ways and represents some human race or culture. That allows us to relate to them, even if we do not consciously identify them. Klingons at the time represented the Soviets, our sworn enemies. Romulans were the Chinese behind their Bamboo Curtain. And Spock was the minority outsider within our own American society.

In Star Trek, these alien races and their interactions with humans reveal our fears and small-mindedness to us, as well as show us what is possible when we all work together with respect and good will to solve our problems. In doing so, it calls us to be better people.

The fascination of Science Fiction is its ability to show us dreamers and romantics what is possible. To remind us that there is reason for our struggles, and that no matter how grim our reality might be, there is always hope for a better day. When we write Sci Fi, that hope is the gift we give to our readers. The gift I received from Star Trek.

Write well and prosper. 🙂

The End is Near (and we deserve it) . . . Sock Monkey Kama Sutra & FIRELANDS Apocalypse Challenge Winners

Sock Monkey Kama Sutra Brings New Meaning to “Monkey Business”

Sock Monkey Kama Sutra

Original title was “Curious George Gone Wild.”

Click on the title above the picture for the full story.

And now . . . The moment we’ve all been waiting for! The winners of the FIRELANDS Apocalypse Reader/Blogger Challenge!

FIRELANDS Cover

First we have our Reader Winner . . . You will now have your very own, one-of-a-kind FIRELANDS Apocalypse Survival Kit, including a Swedish Fireknife so you can kill your post-apocalyptic squirrel, skin it, and start your fire to cook it. Along with it, you, Lucky Reader, will be taking home a can of Tactical Bacon, candy cigarettes and a chocolate bar for bartering with those post-apocalyptic traders, a handmade stuffed Grumpy Cat to keep you company, and a signed copy of FIRELANDS, all packed in an Eddie Bauer Ripstop Go Bag.

Thank you, DD, for being our Vanna tonight!

Thank you, DD, for being our Vanna tonight!

*drum roll please*

And the FIRELANDS Apocalypse Reader Winner is . . .

Bob Farkas!

Congratulations, Bob! *tosses confetti* When the Apocalypse comes, I’ll be looking for you, because I’ll know you’ll be prepared. Please contact me at (piperbayard at yahoo dot com) or on FB within two weeks to accept your prize. 🙂

Again, my heartfelt thanks to all of the wonderful readers for participating in this contest. You make every 4 a.m. idea that keeps me awake writing worth it!

SocialIn Logo

And now for our Lucky Blogger . . . You will be featured in a post at Social In Worldwide, Inc., a Twitter-driven news and events network that reaches over two million followers. Also, social media maven and best selling author Kristen Lamb has generously donated 50% off of any basic class she teaches at WANA Intl. But wait! There’s more! In addition, the Lucky Blogger will have a sidebar button at Bayard & Holmes for a month when we get our official website going this fall. . . . I know. You need some smelling salts at this point.

I’ve been so impressed with all of the entries. My deepest thanks to my fellow bloggers for making this contest such a fun success.  I hope all of our readers here at Bayard & Holmes will follow these wonderful, supportive, creative people.

Entries this week:

Jess Witkins of the Happiness Project teaches us the important use of Infomercials when surviving an apoclaypse. Surviving the Apocalypse . . . With Infomercials

MJ Wright explained something I never wrapped my head around, though it is crucial to FIRELANDS — not just the pronounciation of Taupo, the supervolcano in New Zealand–but also The [Fascinating] Science of the Inevitable Taupo Apocalypse.

Jenny Hansen explores the critical necessities in 10 Must-Have Undies in Your “Apocalypse Go-Bag.”

$50 Camo Lingerie from RealTree.com

$50 Camo Lingerie from RealTree.com

Previous entries:

Ryan Ryan (yes, that’s her name) at That Girl Ryan writes a Letter to the Mayans, complaining about their poor apocalypse prediction service, and how she had been looking forward to the hilarious benefits of the apocalypse. A Letter to the Mayans

Diana Beebe addresses a post-apocalyptic lifestyle by asking What Would You Do? Or Grow?

Shea McIntosh Ford looks at Surviving the Apocalypse — Henry Bemis Style. Would you kick ass, or would you be her reading buddy?

Ellie Ann gives you the opportunity to Choose Your Apocalypse. How do you want the world to end?

Catie Rhodes reviews FIRELANDS in Review Roundup: Youth is Wasted on the Young.

Angela Ackerman elevates FIRELANDS to the level of a prize at The Bookshelf Muse: Reality Check, Gratitude, and Cool Books to WIN. Pop on over and leave a comment for a chance to win one of three awesome books.

Julie Glover, a lady I count on the keep me grammatically honest, looks at Words for the End of the World.

The "Duchess" Corset A weapon against Victorian zombies image from wikimedia commons

The “Duchess” Corset
A weapon against Victorian zombies
image from wikimedia commons

How would you have fought off Victorian zombies? Historical mystery author K.B. Owen gives us some great ideas in Dangerous and Unseemly Zombies.

Peace in Relationship and Dystopia. KM Huber discusses the nature of relationship and gives her take on my debut dystopian thriller, FIRELANDS.

What would you write for your last blog post? Jules Davidoski has some hysterical ideas, along with a lively discussion over at her site. If This Were My Last Blog Post

Grab Your Tac Bag, Machete, and . . . Cat? by Sonia Medeiros. What sort of animal would you want with you in a post-apocalyptic world?

Writing Resources 20 June 2013 by Gene Lempp. Gene has the best mashups in the blogosphere. Thanks for the feature, Gene!

Smplefy has been a joy to me this week, tweeting as he reads FIRELANDS. It’s almost like getting to read over his shoulder and watch his reactions. Very cool! He’s got them compiled along with the bittersweet memories from his First Week of the Summer of 2013. 

*another drum roll please*

And the FIRELANDS Apocalypse Blogger Winner is . . .

MJ Wright!

Congratulations, MJ! I’ll be in touch with you soon, and we can arrange how best to showcase you for the masses over at Social In.

Holmes and I are working diligently with the awesome Laird Sapir and Jay Donovan (meaning they are doing all the work) at getting our new digs set up. We plan to move over to our new website, BayardandHolmes.com, around Labor Day. But don’t worry! You won’t miss a thing, because we’re taking you with us. We hope.

Moving Buried Under Boxes Canstock

In the meantime, postings here at Bayard & Holmes will be spotty as we travel, research, and focus on writing the second book in our upcoming spy thriller series, APEX PREDATOR. Look for our first baby, THE LEOPARD OF CAIRO, sometime this fall or winter from Stonehouse Ink.

All the best to all of you for making the best use of your socks.

Piper Bayard

Epic Battles: Bacon Vs. Grumpy Cat

By Piper Bayard

The two most popular social media memes are Bacon and Grumpy Cat, but as Highlander fans can tell you, “There can be only one!” The time has come to decide, and the showdown is right here and now. Who will rule the Cyberverse, Bacon or Grumpy Cat?

Bacon

Bacon

BACON, give us ten reasons why you should be Ruler of the Cyberverse rather than Grumpy Cat . . .

1.  Bacon doesn’t need a litter box.

2.  You can wrap bacon around a filet mignon and get it back.

3.  Bacon doesn’t fight with your dog.

4.  Bacon doesn’t cough up hairballs in your house shoes.

5.  Bacon doesn’t pee in your laundry when it gets mad at you.

6.  If bacon wakes you up at 5:00 a.m., it makes you smile.

7.  Bacon never scratches your furniture.

8.  Bacon doesn’t leave dead animals in your bed.

9.  Bacon tastes good all by itself. If a cat tastes good, it’s probably because it was cooked in bacon.

10. Bacon doesn’t need to be neutered, because you can never have too much bacon.

And now to you, Grumpy Cat . . . Give us ten reasons you deserve to rule.

Grumpy Cat No

Well, there you have it folks. Time to cast your vote. Who is your choice to be the Ruler of the Cyberverse, Bacon or Grumpy Cat?

Here’s the good news. Enter the FIRELANDS Apocalypse Reader/Blogger Challenge, and you won’t have to choose! Reader prize includes BOTH bacon AND a stuffed Grumpy Cat to keep you fed and in good cheer during the post-apocalyptic devastation. They come with the Swedish FireKnife, barter goods, a signed copy of FIRELANDS, and an Eddie Bauer Go Bag.

No purchase necessary to win. Readers can enter now by signing up for the Bayard & Holmes Newsletter. If you have a copy of FIRELANDS, you can enter by leaving a quote or reference to the book for me here, on FB, or on Twitter. You can also enter by leaving reviews at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iTunes, or Goodreads. Feel free to enter multiple ways. Each entry counts.

Swedish Fire Knife on the Dock

Bloggers can enter by blogging about anything to do with apocalypse and linking back to the original FIRELANDS Apocalypse Reader/Blogger Challenge posting. Your prize will be a feature at the Social In Worldwide, Inc., blog network with over 2 million Twitter followers.

See FIRELANDS Apocalypse Reader/Blogger Challenge for more details.

Drawings will be held at midnight, July 18–tomorrow night!

Field on Fire Canstock

Eighty years in the future, America has devolved into a totalitarian theocracy. The ruling Josephites clone the only seeds that grow in the post-apocalyptic climate, allowing their Prophet to control who eats, who starves, and who dies in the ritual fires that atone society.

Subsisting on the fringes, Archer risks violation and death each day as she scours the forest for game to feed her people. When a Josephite refugee seeks sanctuary in her home, Archer is driven to chance a desperate gamble. A gamble that will bring down the Prophet and deliver seeds and freedom, or end in a fiery death for herself and for everyone she loves.

Seeds are life . . . Seeds are power . . . Seeds are the only hope of a despairing people. What will Archer do for the seeds of freedom, and what will she justify in their name?

FIRELANDS

Available from Amazon in Paperback and on Kindle

Also in e-book at Barnes & Noble and Kobo,

and at iTunes for iPad and mobile devices.

Supervolcano Apocalypse Fashion

By Piper Bayard

As humans, we seem, by and large, to have this idea that when we arrived, the planet, itself, arrived. Each generation has the notion that we are the final destination of both creation and evolution that will, somehow, some way, survive any apocalyptic event. Even more, we will survive with sexy fashions.

Tina Turner in Beyond Thunderdome

Tina Turner in Beyond Thunderdome

Who wouldn’t want Tina Turner’s chainmail peek-a-boo or Mila Jovovich’s short shorts and garters in the middle of a scorching desert?

Mila Jovovich in Resident Evil: Extinction

Mila Jovovich in Resident Evil: Extinction

Anybody?

The fact is that, while there’s quite an entertainment industry built up around making us feel like we will be among the few special ones to survive an apocalypse, chances are we won’t be, and if we are, we won’t have much use for peek-a-boo garters. We’ll need every fashion advantage we can get.

In FIRELANDS, Archer is facing the North American aftermath of the explosion of the Supervolcano Taupo in New Zealand. (Sorry Kiwis. I couldn’t exactly make it Yellowstone and have anyone here survive for a story.) Ash blanketed the earth, and lowered the average temperature of North America by 20 degrees for seven years. Twenty-eight years later, other volcanoes, awakened by the rapid reversal of the magnetic poles, still spew their ash, and smoke still blankets the land.

So while Archer would prefer to dress like this . . .

Jennifer Lawrence in The Hunger Games

Jennifer Lawrence in The Hunger Games

. . . she wears men’s pants and camouflage turtlenecks, grubby from days at a time spent hunting to feed her people. That’s because in a real apocalypse, we won’t have enough biore wipes or antibacterial hand wash to go around, and we’re going to have to dress a lot more like Mila Kunis in the Book of Eli if we expect to survive.

Mila Kunis in The Book of Eli

Mila Kunis in The Book of Eli

Until midnight MST on July 18, 2013, I’m running the FIRELANDS Apocalypse Reader/Blogger Challenge. It’s easy to enter whether you’re a reader or a blogger, and no purchase is necessary. The prize for readers is the FIRELANDS Apocalypse Survival Kit, which includes the FireKnife to gut your squirrel, split your kindling, and start your cooking fire, a can of Tactical Bacon for a chaser, candy cigarettes and a chocolate bar to barter, and a stuffed Grumpy Cat to keep you company. Bloggers, you can win a feature at Social In Worldwide and reach an audience of two million. See FIRELANDS Apocalypse Reader/Blogger Challenge for the details.

So what do you think? Have you got the thighs to pull off the Tina Turner or Mila Jovovich look in the event of a Supervolcano explosion? Or are you more of an Archer? What would be your ideal post-apocalyptic outfit?

FIRELANDS Cover

FIRELANDS

Available from Amazon in Paperback and on Kindle

Also in e-book at Barnes & Noble and Kobo,

and at iTunes for iPad and mobile devices.