June 29, 2016

An excerpt of Ed Duncan's "Pigeon-Blood Red"

Pigeon-Blood Red is a fast-paced and suspenseful crime thriller by Ed Duncan. It was released in March 2016, published by Zharmae and is available for sale on Amazon.

Duncan says, “It’s always been said that you should write what you know. I am a lawyer - as is a pivotal character in the novel who is being pursued by a hit man - and I'm excited to be able to use my legal training creatively as well as professionally.”

Synopsis

For underworld enforcer Richard "Rico" Sanders, it seemed like an ordinary job. Retrieve his gangster boss's priceless pigeon-blood red ruby necklace and teach the double-dealing cheat who stole it a lesson. A job like a hundred before it. But the chase quickly goes sideways and takes Rico from the mean streets of Chicago to sunny Honolulu, where the hardened hit man finds himself in uncharted territory when a couple of innocent bystanders are accidentally embroiled in the crime.


As Rico pursues his new targets, the hunter and his prey develop an unlikely respect for one another and Rico is faced with a momentous decision: follow his orders to kill the couple whose courage and character have won his admiration, or refuse and endanger the life of the woman he loves?


Excerpt from Chapter 1
When Rico knocked on Jean’s door he was happy to hear the sound of footsteps. At least she was there. Maybe it was a good omen. Jean, a stunning redhead with a figure that made the heart leap, looked through the peephole, opened the door, and greeted him wrapped in a towel. She was even more tantalizing than she’d been in the car earlier that day. She wasn’t completely dry, and here and there tiny droplets of water glistened on her arms and shoulders. Rico inhaled the subtle fragrance of her shower gel, but before it could distract him, a voice in his head reminded him, “Point one percent.”

I wasn’t expecting you back so soon,” she began, a playful, sultry smile on her face.

From the doorway Rico scanned the living room and saw nothing amiss. He walked in and closed the door behind him. Too bad. He only knew how to do this one way. “Jean, how long have you known me?” he asked stoically.

She was baffled. “You know as well as I do. What kind of a question is that?”

I never tried to hide from you how I make my living, true?” They stood face to face, inches apart, before she took a few halting steps backward. “So you know what happens to people who don’t tell me what I want to know, don’t you?”

Rico,” she stammered, her voice trembling, “you aren’t making any sense. What’s this all about? I don’t know what you’re accusing me of, but I haven’t done anything, I swear.”

He took a straight razor from his coat pocket and opened it. As he walked toward her, she covered her face with her hands. He stepped behind her, thrust his left arm through the triangle formed by her hands pressing against her face, and grabbed her right shoulder. With his right hand he held the blunt side of the open razor against her right cheek.

Where is it?”

Please, Rico,” she sobbed. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” He pressed harder and tightened his grip on her shoulder. “Please, please!”

I don’t believe you.” He turned the sharp side to her cheek.

Rico, not my face, please! I swear I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Her tears puddled where the razor met her skin.
Sorry, baby.”

As Jean cried out he let the razor fall from his hand and, in one uninterrupted motion, expertly muzzled her scream with the same hand before the razor hit the floor. She fainted.

When she came to, she was lying on the couch where Rico had carried her. He stood with his back to her, talking to Jerry on the phone. Jerry hadn’t been able to get past lobby security in Robert’s building.

He palmed it, right?” Jerry asked.

Rico glanced over his shoulder at Jean. “I’ll be there in a few minutes.” He hung up. “I had to be sure,” he said unapologetically.

She shivered in her towel and glared at him, anger roiling in her eyes. He went to the bedroom and returned with a blanket, which she allowed him to drape around her shoulders.

Sorry, baby. It was just business.”

Still too furious to speak, she defiantly turned her back to him and silently dared him to say anything about it. A small victory but it was something. Ignoring the gesture, Rico walked out and closed the door softly behind him.

She was enraged, as much at herself as at him, because she knew that the next time he called she would answer. She tried to justify her emotions by telling herself that he’d stopped short of actually harming her and that he never would have. But who was she kidding? She could hope but she could never know for sure.

When the cab pulled up in front of Robert’s building, Jerry was standing outside smoking a cigarette. It was an expensive high rise on the city’s Gold Coast along Lake Michigan’s north shore, with a security guard on duty twenty- four hours a day. There was no way around it; if they wanted to get into Robert’s apartment, one way or another they’d have to deal with him. This was admittedly a minor detail, more of an annoyance than anything else.

Jerry knew Rico hated cigarette smoke. An icy stare from him whenever Jerry lit up was as effective a deterrent as a punch in the gut, so he put the fag out as Rico left the cab. Rico kept his body rock solid by lifting weights at a neighborhood gym, jogging regularly, and minimizing his intake of junk food. He didn’t like the idea of second-hand smoke undoing any of his hard work.
So what happened?” Jerry asked.

She didn’t have it.”

I could’ve told you that. She’s good people.”

Don’t start with me.”

But—”

But nothing. Anybody can cross the line.”

Including me?” Jerry hoped Rico might exempt him
but didn’t expect it.

Yeah, including you.” The two men stared at each
other for a long moment before Rico smiled. “No, not including you.” The smile vanished as quickly as it had appeared and his eyes narrowed. “You know better.”

The comment stung and Jerry hung his head a little, but it was true and he knew it. It wasn’t easy to get close to Rico and not many people did. He was loyal to a fault, yet distant and brooding. Deadly as a cobra but with a dry, sometimes biting sense of humor. Brutally honest, he lacked guile. Hated hypocrisy. Loathed arrogance. If you were in a fight for your life against hopeless odds and could pick just one person to help even them out, he would be your choice every time. But if you needed a shoulder to cry on or even a pat on the back, you’d have to think long and hard before you settled on Rico.

Now, about this guy...” Rico said, ignoring Jerry’s reaction.

Jerry snapped out of it. “You have to tell the security guard who you want to see. He rings the apartment. If the person answers, the guard buzzes you in.”

High-class joint.”

No wonder he’s always out of money.”

How much traffic in and out?”

Not too bad so far.”
Taking in as many details as his eyes could process in one sweep of the area, Rico slowly turned in a circle, looking for anything out of the ordinary, anything that counseled against getting on with the business at hand. Outside, there were pedestrians and cars passing everywhere, but it was a busy street, so there was nothing unusual about that. Inside, the foyer was empty except for the security guard. Nothing looked menacing. Nothing looked out of place. He nodded. “Okay?” Jerry nodded back. “Let’s go and talk to the man.”

They walked briskly to the entrance, donning sunglasses almost in unison, then glanced behind them one last time before opening the door. Rico nodded to a spot inside. Jerry planted himself there. Without slowing, Rico continued toward an oak-paneled counter facing the door, behind which sat an unarmed security guard casually reading a newspaper. He was about forty, with a gaunt face and stringy hair reaching below his collar. He was the kind of guy who went through life trying to keep from stepping on anyone’s toes and hoping everyone would try to avoid stepping on his. He looked up in time to see Rico, advancing quickly in his direction, throw open his coat and jerk a .45 out of a powder-blue shoulder holster. He leaped to his feet and raised his hands above his head. Rico slammed the gun on the counter.

Put ’em down,” Rico said. Eyes bulging and hands shaking, the guard complied and his face took on the look of a condemned man who had just received word of a reprieve. “That’s right. Relax,” Rico said. “Now buzz Robert McDuffie’s apartment.” There was no answer. “Try again.” Still no answer. “Get the key and take me up there,” he ordered, then nodded in the direction of the .45 resting on the counter under his hand. “This’ll be pointed at the back of your head on the way. Any questions?” The guard shook his head. “Then let’s go.”

Praise for Pigeon-Blood Red

Fast-paced and full of surprises. Will keep you on the edge of your seat!” – Amazon Customer

Pigeon Blood Red has a dramatic and satisfying conclusion, leaving the reader nodding his head with approval." - Readers' Favorite

In a novel with as much action as love, it is sure to be a story that will fulfill the desires of readers of all ages, genders, and areas of interest.” – Red City Review


About Ed Duncan

Ed Duncan is a graduate of Oberlin College and Northwestern University Law School. He was a partner at a national law firm in Cleveland, Ohio for many years. He currently lives outside of Cleveland, OH and is at work on the second installment in the Pigeon-Blood Red trilogy. To learn more, go to http://eduncan.net/

Readers can connect with Ed on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

June 27, 2016

Switching Gears: a guest post by Robert Dunn, author of "Motorman"

Running from a night of humiliation and murder, Johnny Burris leaves his home in an urban junkyard fleeing into the Ozarks countryside. While he flees, mysterious streaks of blue light in the night sky drive him into a bit of nowhere lost in the hills. Johnny thinks he’s found home and good work in an odd little gas station from another time. The station isn’t the only thing strange and Johnny quickly gets pulled into a world where the cars aren't the only things all chromed out and everything seems touched with a little of the flying blue streaks that led Johnny there.
Enticed and torn between two sisters, one an outcast for her normality, Johnny becomes the pawn of their father. The old doctor is looking for a replacement and Johnny Burris is the man with just the right skills.
But Johnny doesn't want anything to do with the doctor's plans so he runs, taking one of the sisters with him. But the people, and the girl, turn out to be even more than he imagined. And his whole world becomes the one choice, live as a monster, making monsters or die like a man. If he chooses to die, who will he take with him?


Switching Gears
by Robert Dunn


It’s hard to change gears. And yes, I’m kind of a car guy but this isn’t about bad clutches or anything. This is more of a car metaphor so… Changing gears… I’ve been doing it a lot. Changing gears, changing lanes, even changing the races I run. My current release, the novella Motorman, is a horror story with monsters and people built up with machine parts. Leading up to its release and mixed in with some changes I made to it, were a series of revisions on another book. That book is something very, very different. While working on Motorman I was also revising a romance. Talk about a change of gears.
The romance I’d been working on is a romantic suspense, so some of the same elements are there, you have to create appealing characters and put them in danger. The larger differences are nuanced within the idea of danger. My romantic characters must also face emotional danger. That’s a huge shift. Especially since that book is releasing this year also.
After I had written the romance book and before I had the editor’s notes to begin my revisions, I was making changes on what I call an Ozarks noir mystery. It is not a romance but there was a time when it might have been. Quite a while back I wrote a book with romantic elements and sent it out to readers and then to some agents and publishers. The feedback that returned was that I had written a romance. It sold to a romance publisher. So this more recent book I wrote with a lot more sex and romance thinking it would be a good fit with the same publisher. It went to a new publisher who liked the mystery so the mushy stuff got the axe. That book is also coming this year. Shift.
Before all of that is a book I wrote and tinkered with for a while before placing it with the same publisher as Motorman. The Harrowing will also be coming out this year. It’s a thriller dressed in the shroud of horror. Mercenary biker goes to hell on a rescue mission. You know it goes horribly wrong.
So you see where I’m going with this? Or there are better questions, all directed at myself: do I see where I’m going, and, is it a good thing?
In the past year and for the foreseeable future I’m a car in several different races. Shift. Shift. Shi… Romance requires a happy ending. Horror doesn’t require, but works better with at least ambiguity, if not an ending outright terrible for the main characters. Thrillers need something in between but a solid resolution that puts all of the sticky parts back together. My head spins at it all. The worst thing is that while some can learn the tropes and rules by reading the books, I haven’t been able to. I can know it but not get it, not really. The truth is that I keep learning by doing it wrong, burning out my clutch so to speak. I like to think I get it eventually but I do that by writing it wrong and going back to fix things.
But I’m learning something else as I go along. The hard rules of genre are for the shelves at the local B&N. The books themselves are best served by a furious and liberal cross pollination. While it’s true a romance with a horror ending is going to be a tough sell, bringing a new layer of tension, a jolt of fear into the story can serve it well. Taking character expectations and types from one to another is also liberating. It’s easy to see with the growing influence of paranormal in romance and, I believe, a simmering resurgence of gothic in horror. Have you noticed a creeping rise in weird western titles? I have.
Books like my upcoming, The Harrowing, a mix of thriller, horror, and contemporary fantasy, are something that better writers than I are leading with. Jonathan Maberry is one of those authors forging the new hybrid genre, horror/thriller. His Joe Ledger series about a team of special operations agents that confront everything from genetically modified monsters to zombies and Lovecraftian elder things is the product of a lot of gear shifting. And it’s shaking things up. Not an earth quake shake up but something I notice when I browse at a book store. I’ve seen his wonderful Joe Ledger and Dez Fox books shelved as horror, as science fiction, and simply in the general literature heading. I picked up one of his latest, Kill Switch, at the library and it had a Suspense sticker on the spine identical to what was attached to the latest historical mystery from David Morrell.
Another author that’s doing the genre mix and making it work so well is Richard Kadrey. In the Sandman Slim series of books, Kadrey has succeeded in fusing horror fantasy with a hard boiled noir feel. It is a potent mix both with readers and the people who choose shelving position.
Maybe I’m just rationalizing my own lack of focus and short attention span. Or maybe I’m part of a larger trend of writers shifting our gears more often. I hope so. Not just to make myself feel better but because of the books. Writers and their work benefit from a broadness of experience. It works the other way as well. Writers who read widely bring different energies and viewpoints to their work. In all cases, it is books, and publishing, and book selling that benefit. That’s good for everyone.
I wish I could make it look easy like Jonathan Maberry does. I don’t know him. We’ve shared some posts on social media and I read his books. (I can’t imagine him reading one of mine). What I do imagine is him shifting easily, down into the curve and up on the long straight away taking the different bits and pieces of genre and melding them into his own smooth road. I’m getting better at it but the thing is, as I said and I slowly figured out, it’s not about the writer. It is about the books, the finished bits that stand for us in neat rows on the shelf or online display.
So even though it makes my head spin, and I don’t make any of it look easy, I’m going to keep shifting and jumping tracks to make my own road. It will feel so much better sharing it that way.
Don’t stop reading now this is important too. Let me tell you about Motorman my latest book from Necro Publications: http://www.necropublications.com/
Running from a night of humiliation and murder, Johnny Burris leaves the city and his junkyard home, fleeing into the Ozarks countryside. While on the road, mysterious streaks of blue light in the night sky drive him into a forgotten bit of nowhere lost in the hills. Johnny thinks he’s found home and good work in an odd little gas station from another time.
Johnny quickly gets pulled into a world where the cars aren't the only things all chromed out and everything seems touched with the energy of the flying blue streaks that led Johnny there. Enticed and torn between two sisters, one an outcast for her normality, the other a beautiful monster, Johnny becomes the pawn of their father. The old man is both the town's mechanic and its doctor. He's looking for a replacement and Johnny Burris is the man with just the right skills.

When Johnny learns the truth behind the doctor's plans, he runs, taking the "normal" sister with him. But the town, and the girl, turn out to be even more than he imagined. And his whole world becomes the one choice, live as a monster, making monsters or die like a man. If he chooses to die, who will he take with him?

Robert Dunn was an Army brat born in Alabama and finally settled in Nixa, Missouri. A graduate of Drury College with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Communications/Film he also earned a second major in Philosophy with a minor in Religion and carried an emphasis in Theatre. This course of study left him qualified only to be a televangelist.
An award-winning film/video producer and writer, he has written scripts for or directed every kind of production from local 30-second television commercial spots to documentary productions and travelogues.
A writer of blognovels and contributor to various fiction websites his work has also included the book length prose poem, Uncle Sam, the collection of short stories, Motorman and Other Stories and novels Behind the Darkness  and The Red Highway.
Mr. Dunn now resides in Kansas City where he continues to write genre fiction and experiment with mixed media art projects using hand drawn and painted elements combined through digital paint and compositing.

Praise for Robert Dunn
The Red Highway is not one of the best books that I’ve read so far this year, or that I’ve read in a long time…it’s one of the best books that I’ve ever read!  It was an incredible read, one that has so many layers that I was completely enthralled with the story. 5+++ stars!” -2 Book Lovers Reviews
“A thoroughly gripping read. Dunn is a writer with guts and the chops to grab his readers by the eyeballs and dare them to look away.”
–Hunter Shea, Author of Tortures of the Damned and The Dover Demon
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