Saturday, June 27, 2015

Call for Submissions - Inkitt's Sci-fi Writing Contest

"Beyond Time." That's the title of Inkitt's science fiction writing contest. Submissions are open until 11:59 pm PST on July 27, 2015. Here's how the contest is described on the Inkitt contest page:
  Submit your most imaginative and fantastic science fiction stories! Transport us on a futuristic spaceship to meet extraterrestrial friends, experience other dimensions, or uncover a treasure through time travel. We want accounts that are spellbinding and world-altering, and we know you’ll deliver
  There is no minimum or maximum word limit, and, as always, no entry fee. The stories that earn the top 10% of reader votes get the chance to be picked by the Inkitt staff for 1st, 2nd and 3rd prize.
  • Authors will retain all rights to works submitted to the contest.
  • Multiple entries are allowed, but each individual participant may win only one prize.
  • Old or previously published works are acceptable.
  • Physical prizes can only be shipped to the United States, Canada, countries in the EU, and Australia/New Zealand.
  • There is no age requirement for participation but all stories must be rated appropriately by their authors.
  • Inkitt staff are not eligible to receive prizes, or be chosen as winners.
  • Before submitting a story be sure to check our guidelines page to ensure that you comply with all of our publication rules.
The third place winner will receive Brenda Ueland's If You Want to Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit as well as a voucher for $20 worth of books. The second place prize is the same except the value of the voucher is $30. The grand prize includes Ms. Ueland's book as well as five printed-and-bound copies of the winner's story with custom typography created by Inkitt’s designer, and a Scrivener software package.

As always, this is just me sharing info. I am in no way compensated for sharing this, and its inclusion on my blog does not constitute an endorsement.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Release Date for Five Secrets

The next installment in the Lupa Schwartz Mystery Series, Five Secrets, will be released to the public in electronic formats as well as paperback on July 18. The introductory book in the series, Extreme Unction, is FREE in electronic formats at all of the major retailers, and all of the other books (including Five Secrets when it comes out) are currently each selling in eBook format for $2.99 until September, when they will return to their regular price. Extreme Unction is also now available in a much cheaper 2nd edition paperback. Here's the book description:

   After surviving a vicious attack, magazine reporter Cattleya Hoskin learns that her ex-boyfriend, Ulric, has gone missing having left only a coded message the police cannot decipher. Digging deeper, she learns that he'd been working with the man who got her injured on the last story she covered, Pittsburgh PI Lupa Schwartz. The two men had been trying to covertly unravel a centuries-old scheme, but the conspirators found him out and drove Ulric underground. To complicate matters, a mystery woman arrives with a tale of peril linking her to the same nefarious plot. 
   In order to protect this client and Ulric, Cattleya and Schwartz delve into the mysteries of sacred geometry and a genetic line that traces back to Charlemagne and beyond. Now the pair must work together to expose an ancient secret before being thwarted by the agents of a shadow government which has been secretly operating since Mesopotamia. 
   If they succeed, they just might topple an empire. If they fail, there may be no place for them in the New World Order -- or anywhere else.

Now here's a brief excerpt to whet your appetites...


“The God I realized I believe in is hidden for a very different reason,” I said from my hospital bed. I’d been recovering from a stab wound for several weeks. It was touch and go for a while. The knife had nicked my spleen and lacerated my liver. I’d gotten a secondary infection after surgery, and my fever had spiked several times; but I was recovering nicely now, and Mia had come to visit from the house that she and I shared with her boss who was my  - well, I don’t know what I’d call him. Lupa Schwartz was not my boss, and he wasn’t exactly my friend after the way he’d used me as bait to lure a murderer. But I needed to stay where I was in order to chronicle his cases for the magazine I worked for.
I had come to Pittsburgh almost a year before in an attempt to simply score an interview with the man who, working as an independent contractor, had successfully resolved more unsolved murders in the tri-state area than any two official police investigators combined. However, what began as a hoped-for interview had snowballed into a living arrangement and a working partnership between Lupa Schwartz and myself.
Mia pulled her fingers like a comb through my hair as she spoke in comforting tones. “What reason is that?” she asked genuinely curious. Mia was a Catholic, the same as our other roommate, Beverly Seanesy, Schwartz’s housekeeper. Well, maybe not the same as Beverly. Beverly’s Catholicism was the devout variety that did rosaries and went to confession. Mia’s was the nominal variety that wore a crucifix and only spoke about sex in whispers, but who nonetheless actually had sex, although probably with the crucifix still on. All of which was in stark contrast to the man of the house, who was a vocal and outspoken atheist; the kind that fundamentalists called “militant” despite his never having actually declared his intention to shoot anybody for their refusal to denounce faith.
“That way we can find Him when we need Him,” I said answering her question about why I thought God was hidden. The question had come up as part of a discussion about why I had called things off with my most recent beau. I had been dating Schwartz’s friend, Ulric, a rabbi and a somewhat older man. Ulric was sweet and kind and handsome and charming; but he’d been too paternal; and I don’t think that was because of our age difference. I think that was just who Ulric was. Oddly, I’d seen Schwartz behave in much the same way with Beverly; and there was no secret that Beverly was madly in love with Schwartz.
“Well,” Mia said, “I hope you let him down gently.”
“I hope I did too,” I said. “I tried to.”
“Has he called you since the break up?” Mia asked still tugging at my shaggy mane. It had grown-in more than I normally liked in the weeks since I’d been bed-ridden.
“No,” I said, “I haven’t heard from him.”
“Does your doctor still plan to release you tomorrow?” Mia asked mercifully changing the subject.
The ride home from the hospital had been quiet and awkward. Schwartz knew that I was furious with him, but I had the feeling that there was something more to it. There was something I was not being told. He and I had worked more than a few cases by this time. I knew his body language cues. I’d made it a point to learn them. Not only were they an insight into his character – which I needed to understand so I could write about him; they were an insight into his thought processes – which I wanted to understand so I could help him in his investigations. My father had been a gumshoe. I was instinctively drawn to that life.
As we finally climbed to the top of Murray Avenue, I could see that there were several Pittsburgh police department cars parked on Hazelwood Avenue, and I knew that something was definitely going on. Schwartz pushed the button on his key-fob signaling the garage door to open, and as he pulled his Jensen into the drive that led to his private parking complex, I could see that standing outside one of the cruisers was Detective Trevor Johns. Something off was definitely going on.
   By the time Schwartz had returned the keys to Mia, off-loaded my bags, and we had climbed the stairs out of the subterranean car park to enter the main hall of Schwartz’s large Victorian home; Trevor had already rang the doorbell, and Beverly was already welcoming him into the residence along with two uniformed cops and a skinny guy with a laptop.
“What’s going on?” I asked Schwartz as the door to the garage level shut behind me. He ignored me, and moved forward to greet Trevor, dropping my bags in the open foyer.
Beverly retrieved the discarded luggage. “We didn’t want to tell you while you were in hospital,” she said as Schwartz and Trevor entered the office, “but Ulric has gone missing.”
“Missing?” I said as I stormed past the uniform and entered the office before the door was fully closed. I stood slumped in the doorway, expecting to be rebuffed and told to leave.
“Ah,” Schwartz said from his place behind his desk, “Ms. Hoskin, please have a seat. You look uncomfortable.” He directed me to sit across from him in the far seat of the two that faced his desk.
“What’s this I hear about Ulric gone missing?” I demanded.
“Cattleya,” Trevor said as he took the seat beside mine, “relax. It’s only been a few days.”
“Is that why Mia was asking me so many questions about Ulric yesterday?”
“We’re still trying to piece together the whole picture,” Trevor said. “I asked her to find out if Ulric had been in contact with you.”
“Next time you want to grill me,” I said with a sarcastically curled lip and a wink, “do it yourself. Don’t be sending your girlfriend in to do your dirty work.” I sighed and shook my head, but sloughed it off. “You don’t think he hurt himself because of our breakup, do you?” I asked.
“No,” Trevor said quickly. “I mean, at first we weren’t sure, but today we found this where Lupa said we should look for it, so now we need his help to decipher it.” Trevor was holding a flash drive in a plastic zip-lock baggie. “It was inside a puzzle box in his enigma room.”
I’d been in that room. Ulric was a collector with two passions, maps and puzzles. His enigma room was filled wall-to-wall with every kind of brainteaser imaginable. If he’d taken the time to secret a flash drive in one of the many puzzle boxes he owned, I could understand why they’d come to Lupa Schwartz for help. Whatever information it contained would be cleverly encrypted, and it would take a sleuth of Schwartz’s abilities to decipher it.
“It’s a code of some sort,” Trevor said. “There’s only one thing on it; a document in Word format. The entire document consists of three lines of text. Each is a long string of numbers. Do you think you can decipher it?”
“Of course I do,” Schwartz said. “May I see it please?”
“Do not copy the file or in any way alter it,” Trevor said. “It’s potential evidence.” My throat closed.
Trevor handed the memory stick to Schwartz who slipped it into the port on the front of his computer tower. Momentarily he had the document open on his computer screen. It was just as Trevor had described it; three lines of numbers and nothing more. As Schwartz was loading the file, Trevor had invited the computer tech into the office. “Have a seat there,” Schwartz said indicating the couch just inside the entry beneath the fern. “Please open a notepad window and type the numbers as I call them out. Before typing, please press down on the alt-key and the plus-key on the numbers pad simultaneously, and hold them down as you strike the numerals I call-out. After each fourth number I call out, please release all of the keys.”
“That would be for Unicode,” the tech said.
“That’s right,” Schwartz said. “Actually, it’s technically ASCI in this particular circumstance.”
“The numbers are not ASCI or Unicode,” the tech insisted.
Schwartz pushed back from his position behind his keyboard. “Do you have a copy of the file saved on your laptop?” he asked. The tech indicated that he had. “Open it for a moment.” The tech opened his copy of the file. “Please read off the first line of numbers.” The tech read aloud the string of seemingly random numerals; 07314611835712936009786886337287914361559187311
0884111160872617100105622871149. As he read, Schwartz leaned in to read along. From his vantage, Trevor could see neither screen, and I was sitting too far away to be able to follow along from the monitor. However, I was not so far away that I didn’t notice a brief flash on Schwartz’s display. For a brief moment, extra characters had appeared and then vanished.
As he finished reading the string of numbers, the tech said, “That’s not ACSI code. I tried it, and it comes up gibberish.”
“It is if we put a zero at the front of every three digits,” Schwartz said. “Please type this into the notepad window: zero zero seven three.”
“That’s a capital letter I,” the tech said.
“Zero one four six,” Schwartz continued.
“An apostrophe,” the tech announced. Minutes later the tech was reading the first line of text. “I’ve had to go into hiding.” Before long, we had the entire message:
I’ve had to go into hiding. My life is in danger. Tell Schwartz you’ll find me on Washington, his and Herrs.
“It’s another puzzle,” Trevor said in clear annoyance.
“He’s on Washington’s Landing,” Schwartz announced confidently.
“It could mean that,” Trevor agreed. “Or it could mean Mount Washington or Little Washington.”
     Schwartz shook his head. “Prior to 1987, Washington’s Landing was known as Herrs Island,” Schwartz said. “It was spelled without an apostrophe, just like in the coded message. That wasn’t an oversight. Earlier in the message Ulric used the apostrophe in the word ‘I’ve.’ If he was using a possessive he’d have used it again. The word ‘his’ references Washington, and the word ‘Herrs’ references the alternate name. His and Herrs means Washinton’s and Herrs. Ulric Devacki is on Washington’s Landing in the Allegheny River, and he’s in hiding because he feels his life is in danger.”


Get more information on where to get the book here at this link.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Three New Paperback Covers

I have two new novels coming out this year, and have already revealed the electronic covers for both, but this week I finally got around to designing the paperback covers. The first cover is for the latest Lupa Schwartz mystery novel, Five Secrets. I used a photo my girlfriend shot at the Phipps Conservatory in Pittsburgh. The photo features orchids and a few other tropical plants.

Click to see a larger image.
The next cover is for a collection of noir stories I am publishing at the end of the year after the second season of my podcast concludes. I made this cover with royalty free images.
Click to see a larger image.
 The third cover is for the re-release of the first Lupa Schwartz novel, Extreme Unction. I released it in May of 2013, and have learned a lot since then. You'll also notice that the price of the new release of Extreme Unction is greatly reduced.
Click to see a larger image.
This second edition of Extreme Unction will be available in a couple of weeks. All of my paperback books are available at Amazon, at Barnes & Noble and can be purchased directly through Createspace.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Danny and the Three Monsters by Andrew Joyce's Dog

Administrator's Note:
Today's post represents a milestone for this blog as it is the first non-human composition to grace these pages. The author, Danny, is apparently a cute little dog. I might be wrong, but I think he's a Bichon Frise, although he might just as easily be a mix breed or even an Ewok in a collar. 

Anyway, the dog's owner is a respected author with a new book out that's performing very well on Amazon. It's a 100,000 word historical adventure tale called Molly Lee. I'll let you know what it's about in a few seconds, and then we'll let the author, Andrew Joyce, have a few words before Danny takes over. Here's the book's description:

   Molly is about to set off on the adventure of a lifetime . . . of two lifetimes.
   It’s 1861 and the Civil War has just started. Molly is an eighteen-year-old girl living on her family’s farm in Virginia when two deserters from the Southern Cause enter her life. One of them—a twenty-four-year-old Huck Finn—ends up saving her virtue, if not her life.
   Molly is so enamored with Huck, she wants to run away with him. But Huck has other plans and is gone the next morning before she awakens. Thus starts a sequence of events that leads Molly into adventure after adventure; most of them not so nice. 
   We follow the travails of Molly Lee, starting when she is eighteen and ending when she is fifty-six. Even then Life has one more surprise in store for her.

My name is Andrew Joyce and I write books for a living. Dave has been kind enough to allow me a little space on his blog to promote my latest book, MOLLY LEE. It’s averaging 4.9 stars on Amazon and for the next few days it will be priced at 0.99 cents. It is also available in paperback. Please check it out. Here’s the link . . .
I would love to tell you all about it, but instead, I have to turn the writing duties over to my dog whose name is Danny. You see, he can be pretty insistent at times. We recently had some excitement in our lives and he can’t wait to tell you about it. For what it’s worth, this is a true story. And when you are finished reading it, please click on the link to my book and check it out. Danny is not the only genius in our household.

Danny and the Three Monsters

Hello dog fans, it is I, Danny the Dog! I haven’t been writing much lately because I’ve been helping my human, whose name is Andrew, look after three Labrador retrievers. What a nightmare! There is Chloe, who is fourteen months old, and then there is Beau and Hank. They are both four months old and they are holy terrors. They live on a boat down at the end of the dock. Their human was going out of town and he asked my human to look after them and Andrew, being the idiot that he is, said yes.
First of all, I want to say to Jeff, the human that lives with the three monsters, don’t ever leave them in Andrew’s care again. I wouldn’t trust him to look after a taco, much less three dogs.
The trouble started right away. Jeff had two crates (humans call them crates; I call them cages) for Beau and Hank because, as I’ve said, they are holy terrors. Andrew went over to take them for their first walk after Jeff left, and of course, he has to take me along to help out. Anyway, Andrew gets them out of the crates and is getting them off the boat when clumsy Hank falls into the water.
Let me paint the picture for you. It was nighttime. It was dark. The water was dark and Hank is black. Andrew and I could see nothing of Hank. We could only hear him splashing around. The dock is about five feet above the water so Andrew couldn’t get him out by standing on the dock. Being the genius that he is (just kidding), Andrew got on the swim platform, which—for you landlubbers—is attached to the back of a boat and is only a foot above the water.
Now this is where Andrew’s “genius” comes into play. He took off his glasses and placed them on the transom so they wouldn’t slip off while he was bending over to pull Hank out of the water. He called to Hank. Hank swam over and Andrew got him onto the boat. Then Andrew went to get his glasses and they were not there or anywhere else on the boat. It looked as though Beau knocked them into the water because he had his paws up in that general vicinity while he was watching Andrew rescue his brother (they’re twins). All this in the first five minutes of Andrew looking after the monsters. And it only got better, and by better, I mean worse. I had a ball watching Andrew trying to cope for four days.
On to the next disaster, but first a side note. For some reason Beau is enthralled with me. The damn dog wouldn’t leave me alone. He put his snoot in my face, ran around me, bounced around me; he was a royal pain in my rear end. Finally, I had to growl at him and give him a little nip on his snoot to get some peace.
Now back to Andrew’s genius. We got the dogs back on the boat without further mishaps. Andrew fed them and all was well. But then Andrew decided not to put Hank and Beau in their crates. He felt sorry for them being cooped up like that. Big mistake!
The next morning when we went to get them, there was poop everywhere. The whole floor was covered in it. The babies had gotten into the dog food bag, ripped it open and ate it all. Then they pooped everywhere and walked in it. They got it on the couch, on the sliding glass doors, on everything. I think even on the ceiling. Needless to say, after spending two hours cleaning it all up, Andrew changed his mind about the crates.
Last night we were hanging out. Andrew was staring into space because he did not have his glasses and could not read a book or see the computer screen. I was on the computer starting this story when Chloe came onto our boat. She’s always coming here and stealing my water bowl! To date, she has taken five. But she should have been locked up on her own boat! Andrew got up, looked out, saw Jeff, and said, “Thank God! Thank God!” I barked the same thing. Our days of taking care of the monsters were over. Thank God!
P.S. This morning Jeff came over with Andrew’s glasses. Beau had taken them and hidden them in his stash place. And by the way, I have my own Facebook page and it’s a lot cooler than Andrew’s. Here’s a link:

You can find more about Andrew's other book, Redemption: The Further Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, here