Category Archives: Other Books

Ninja Penguin Comic — Oh, Yeah. Ninja Penguins do Exist!

We are working on a side project that has grown to be something fairly large. At first, it was to be a somewhat simple iPhone multiple choice game, but it has now grown to a less-than-simple game and a paperback to boot.

Our hero, the penguin learned his ninja skills while studying under Master Namakemono (a sloth) in Okinawa. But, being a penguin, he had to leave for cooler grounds and before his training was complete. Master Namakemono gives him the final task of traveling all 47 prefectures of Japan. If he reaches Hokkaido, he will become a master ninja penguin.

Here are two over-the-top cartoons I did that will be included in both the game and paperback. The language may change and it probably is too silly, but that is the style of the book:

comic4

These two will bookend the sections for Mie and Shiga prefectures–both of which are historically rich with ninja clans.

comic7

We are having a lot of fun with this project. More comics and information to come…

The Captain’s Play: Two Tocks before Midnight — Released and FREE (today)

After a series of updates (I would find a missing comma, insert it, upload the ebook, and find another one…), I’m pleased to announce Two Tocks before Midnight is available for public consumption, a 9,500 word short novella or long novellete murder mystery.

It is currently available only at Amazon.com through the KDP Select program, but I will probably only do that the first three months.

Here is the first thousand words:

October 24th, 1859
Carl Brooke
Boston

 

 

I have never been fond of sentimental ramblings so I will keep this short.  Indeed, if not for the insistence of my friends, I would just as soon let the matter slip away with the sands of time.  But repeated pleas from the curious and the morbid compel me to share with you the strange affair of October 24th, 1859.

I can’t even say with certitude that the events of that date occurred exactly as I remember them.  As time passes, so do the minute and myriad details; rough edges are made smooth and the inevitable romanticizing of the past plays havoc with true fact.

Still, as I am a Christian and an honest man, what follows is as accurate as my fallible mind can relate.

Nearly two score years separate us from those days and that night in particular.  I, alone—so I am told—am survived out of the lot of us. 

Our society had a dozen members at its zenith. 

Each brought to the group his individual talents and ambitions.  Mine lay in ancient Near Eastern languages.  To give a brief sampling of the others pertinent to our discussion, Dr. Christopher Harding was an expert in papyrus, cuneiform, and writing methods of antiquity; Mr. Thomas Phillips was skilled at ancient weaponry; and of course there was Mr. Charles Tock who could converse in thirteen languages and read five more. Charles Tock and Thomas Phillips are of special interest to our story.

Before I begin about the events of that night, I think it important to share a little more about our group.

We called it the Agora.  It was to be an open marketplace to foster ideas for the betterment of man.  That was the name; the structure, however, was modeled after Dr. Franklin’s Junto society.  In a show of hubris that even today causes me to cower with embarrassment, our charter set forth the goal of leaving to the world a greater legacy than that of the good Doctor.  Indeed, we had the mind to compete with the man who “took lightning from the sky and the scepter from the tyrant’s hand” as Turgot put it.  He surely laughs at my friends in the hereafter.  There are times I fear I hear his laughter echoing in my dreams, beckoning for me to come.

I do not think it wrong, however, to recollect our accomplishments as humble as they may be when held to Dr. Franklin’s light.

We established a Freeman’s society which secured the release of one hundred and thirty-six Negroes.  Our society also made sure these men and women were taught a trade and their letters.  It is of considerable pride to report nearly all of them transitioned well after the war.  Indeed, several families prospered.  To this day, there is no greater joy than to receive a letter or a visit from one of the families.

It is also true that our services were used on a number of occasions by the police, as this letter will attest.  Though small, we were well-connected and able, by merit of our collective talents, to be of some value to law enforcement.

We financed the repairing of the dam in Clarkesville, which was completed a mere month before the great flood of fifty-six.  Several of us were involved with building libraries, windmills, schoolhouses, and churches.

In short, our efforts saved the lives of hundreds of mortal and immortal souls.  However, again remembering our foolish goal, Dr. Franklin’s invention of the simple lightning rod alone, has surely saved millions.

We met every Monday night precisely at six in the evening.  If someone was absent or tardy, he was made to do “community service.”  This usually meant clearing the streets of horse manure.  The honor of such a job was a great incentive to show up on time and it was a rare occasion when one of us did not.

Charles Tock came to us a few years before the events of that dreadful night.  (As a matter of protocol we all referred to each other by our first names no matter our age or status outside the Agora.) I distinctly remember Charles’ introduction the first time he appeared before our group.  I relate it now because it accurately illustrates his dry humor and breadth of knowledge.

“My name is Charles,” he said, pausing to allow his eyes to greet each of us.  “That can’t be helped, but I always intended to marry royalty to avoid being churlish.” 

Only a few of us caught the etymological jesting.  Having a name, Carl, that shares the same cognate as Charles, namely “churl,” I was one of them.  “Churl,” as you know, came to mean the opposite of nobility, a rude man somewhat above a peasant.

Despite his poor taste in arcane humor, his broad knowledge and experience soon propelled him to something of an elder position among us.  Most of us at the time were, after all, two decades his junior.

Many people have asked me if we suspected anything unusual about him from the beginning. Well, we all knew that he could be willing to compromise his principles to get what he wanted. He had demonstrated this vice in small ways over the few years we knew him. Still, none of us anticipated his spectacular downfall.

He came suddenly, and one winter morning, he left just as suddenly—and without telling anyone.  As I have mentioned before, missing even a single meeting was heavily discouraged.  It was doubly shocking considering how integral he had made himself to the club. 

On the third meeting after his initial absence, it was decided a party should be sent to learn what had become of him.  The talk of discipline from the week before turned to genuine concern.  I was not chosen to join the search party, but I did hear their report.  His lodgings—the address he gave in the society’s records was an abandoned slaughterhouse.  As it turned out, no member had visited Charles outside club meetings during the time he had been with us.

But the mystery was only to begin.

For more, please go to Amazon to download it.  It will remain free through tomorrow (1-11-12).  After that, it will only be .99.

 

Two Tocks Before Midnight eBook Cover

I’m about to release a 9,500 word novelette. It will also include the 500 word The Handkerchief (click to read here).

Here is the cover:

Here is my tentative product description:

 

TWO TOCKS BEFORE MIDNIGHT

The Strange Affair of October 24th, 1859

A flurry of forgeries appear in museums and among collectors. The members of the Agora, a society dedicated to the betterment of man, have taken it upon themselves to stop the rogues.

But among the forgers, there is a murderer.

I have never been fond of sentimental ramblings so I will keep this short.  Indeed, if not for the insistence of my friends, I would just as soon let the matter slip away with the sands of time.  But repeated pleas from the curious and the morbid compel me to share with you the strange affair of October 24th, 1859.

Nearly forty years after the incident, Carl Brooke recalls his part in unravelling a mystery that was for decades left unresolved.

A member of the Agora Society goes missing only to reappear months later with a stranger and an ancient parchment. The scroll is thought to be the lost Book of Jasher and dated 9th century B.C.

The Paleo-Hebrew was consistent; the gevil sheepskin scroll was as one would expect. It seemed authentic.

Then I saw something that would lead to the death of three souls…

On the night of October 24th, 1859, death, lies, and jealousies abound. Only one man, Carl Brooke, has the knowledge and expertise to stop the murderer. But will he succeed?

Adrian Magson’s Red Station Review on Kindle

I mentioned in the previous post that I had read a book by Adrian Magson.  I meant to write this on Sunday, but life and work… well, you know.

It has great pacing, not a boring page that I can remember.  I was able to “get into” the characters quickly and that greatly added to the enjoyment.  I’m looking forward to the sequel! (see bottom)

I’d rather look at it from a writer’s point of view so I’ll just quote one line from the book to describe Harry Tate and copy the editorial review found on Amazon to describe the basic story:

Men like Harry Tate were wild cards in the intelligence community, quiet and diligent most of the time, but apt to go off like a firecracker if something got under their skin.

And from the Amazon product page:

When a drug bust on the Essex coast commanded by MI5 agent Harry Tate goes bad, resulting in the deaths of a member of his team and two civilians, Harry’s superiors post him to Red Station (located in Georgia near South Ossetia), where agents who have committed serious errors are tucked away from the eyes of the press. Harry soon figures out that the job is a sham and that those agents who decide to try to return to England wind up dead. He manages to escape Red Station with some of his fellow black sheep just as the Russian army moves into the area, as it did in real life in August 2008.

It is a fun story as you can imagine.  Think Patrick Mcgoohan’s The Prisoner but without the weirdness; “Red Station” is very believable.

OK, so on to the language.  There were moments where Mr. Magson’s descriptive language made a good story great.  For example, Harry is in a meeting with his bad-guy boss and there is a stranger in the corner listening.  He isn’t introduced to Harry but it is obvious he is someone important — he does learn who he is toward the end.  (No, I won’t tell you.)

‘Why?’ Harry stared at his superior, then flicked a glance at a heavy figure standing in one corner.  The man, nameless and grey as battleship paint, had said nothing when Harry had entered the room, and there had been no introductions.

“Nameless and grey as battleship paint” — Now, that’s great.  It painted an image in my head that stayed throughout the novel.  When Harry figured out who he was, I knew he was the battleship paint guy.

Another place describes the American “journalist” Higgins’ suit: “His suit looked as if it had been used to bed down a donkey.”

One thing I look for in a novel now is how chapters begin and end.  Here is a good opener:

George Paulton eyed the bodies assembled in the large room and sensed his spirits stirring.  An emergency meeting had been called and the air of excitement was palpable.  He noticed a number of eyes normally dulled by the mundane, gleaming with an inner fire.

“Spirits stirring,” “air of excitement palpable,” dull eyes now “gleaming with an inner fire.”  Oh, yes. I’m there.

Another great passage is when Harry Tate is interrogating his prisoner (a man who broke into his house and had been following him).  He was tied up in the bathroom:

He took his coffee to the bathroom.  There was nothing like the aroma of best roasted to make a man feel uncomfortable.  A classic softening-up technique, mostly recommended now to people selling houses.

I remember being advised that I should brew a pot for potential buyers when we were getting our house ready for sale.  This is a nice tie-in with something normal people can relate to.

The book should have wide appeal. No major profanity.  No graphic description of violence.  For example, this is about the most graphic it gets:

He dropped to one knee, a stone gouging sharply against the bone, and felt the first wave of agony stitch across his upper body.  A flesh wound, he told himself, and felt an impulse to giggle.  A Monty Python movie.  Only a flesh wound.  Bloody hell, it was still flesh–and it hurt!

I could go on showing examples of phrases I liked, but I think this gives a good sampling of his style and excellent handling of the English language.

Lastly, I think his chapter spacing is perfect (for my tastes, anyway).  I guess each chapter is about 1,500-2,000 words long, just enough to enjoy during a quick sitting and leave you wanting more (which means I will probably keep reading even when I should be washing the dishes).

The negatives are really trivialities:

No table of contents for the Kindle.  I really shouldn’t even mention this since a novel is meant to be read in order page-by-page, but I do like to review chapter headings (if so named) before reading a novel.  It sometimes helps to become familiar with a story.

I didn’t see any other formatting issues on the Kindle.

Then there is the almost $10 (USD) price.  It is a little cheaper than the paper back but not much.  I think he would sell a lot more with a lower price.  But I’m sure that is out of his control.

In short, it was a great spy-thriller and I heartily recommend it to anyone interested in that genre. I like Harry Tate (the hero) and want to read more of him.  The author told me the next book, Tracers, will be on Kindle in August.  It is available now as a hardback.

Two for One: Elraton Gang and the Aliens of the Wild West

While still rewriting the last bit of the Tanaka story, I decided to release two somewhat silly short stories under the title of “Two for One.”

The two short stories contained within are “George and the Elraton Gang” and “The Aliens of the Wild West.”  I like George and Aliens has its moments. 

Both should be approved (hopefully) over the weekend.  Both versions have an active table of contents and are formatted specifically for ereaders.

George and the Elraton Gang

George will simply not put up with a gang of terrorist rats.  These rats have taken over the old Henderson’s house across the street.  Harnessing the power of his secret labyrinth, George wields an ultimate weapon to battle the rats.  The rats will not surrender without a fight, however.  Full invasion ensues.

Who couldn’t love a story about a rat named Princess making a Churchillian speech and a nod to an ancient folk-tale.  George and the Elraton Gang is a 3,800 word short story with a surprising twist to the common dream-like theme.

The Aliens of the Wild West

The Boss and Jimmy are inseparable, but it wasn’t always like that.  A mere five years prior, the two were on opposite sides in the Civil War.  Their like-personalities and needs, however, trumped any previous political differences.  Now, the two face giant aliens and the very real possibility that they will be kidnapped and used for experimentation on a strange planet far away.

As you read, just remember, it isn’t what you think.

The Aliens of the Wild West is a 2,300 word story.

I’m hoping to begin recording George and the Elraton Gang to send out as weekly podcasts shortly.  So, you will be able to hear the story for free (probably in three parts) or you can just zoom over to Amazon or B&N and buy the ebook for .99 (USD).

More shortly…

The Cave Published on the NOOK

A friend of mine just released his short story, The Cave.  It is for sale now for .99 for the NOOK.  Amazon should approve it later today.

A 4,321 word short story by David Johnson.