My campadre, C.A. Floyd, had made it into the excerpt portion of the 2014 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. I tip my hat and suggest that everyone read and review her entry.

They Called Her La Llorona – 2014 ABNA Entry

If you have a sense of humor, it’ll be enjoyable.

Download it free for your kindle at Amazon.com.

I’m posting this as a reference for a “how to” article I wrote for a friend’s blog. Check is out: The Minutia Of Writing Fight Scenes: Episode 1 | Three Types Of Action

 

Excerpt from Tough Target:

Cass had never stayed out long. Her and few buddies used to practice knocking each other out in order to familiarize themselves with the process—on both sides. Cass had always been hard to put under. It didn’t take long to make sense of the voices.

“Yes sir, we got the girl like you asked. No sir, no trouble at all. Right away, sir, I’ll deliver her personally,” said a man’s voice from the front seat.

Cass listened to the near end of a telephone conversation. It sounded like this wasn’t an accidental kidnapping. Of course, she remembered, the guys in the cafe. They must have been after her all along. She wondered what this was all about. Then she remembered that she was n a reality show and was supposed to be waiting for things to happen. A kidnapping would make sense, a revisit of her past. The more she thought about it, the more sense it made. The guy on the phone even had a hint of a slavic accent. She stifled a snort. Anne was probably in on it too. She’d do that, play a trick on her. Cass relaxed as she decided that she was right. Guess it was a good thing she hadn’t gotten around to shooting these guys back there. She berated herself for being so blind. When she’d heard that gun, she’d forgot about everything but the situation and how to survive it. She’d have to be more careful in the future, she didn’t want to kill any actors.

But they wouldn’t use real guns for the show. She smiled as she realized that hadn’t nearly killed a couple of innocents. Now the fun could begin. Time to put on a show.

She considered her position. She was in the back seat of a car. Her hands were tied and she was gagged, but her feet were still unencumbered. She was slumped across the seat next to Anne, who appeared to be unconscious. Next to Anne was one of the men. The other two were in the front seat. The apparent leader was sitting on the passenger’s side, talking on a cell phone. The car was moving fast, probably on a freeway.

She wondered where they were going. She knew little or nothing about the layout of the area and her normally accurate sense of direction didn’t work so well in an urban setting.

She nearly giggled as she heard more of the phone conversation.

“One more thing, sir. What about the other one? What should I do with her?” A short pause ensued before he finished, “Very well, I’ll have Marco do it, he enjoys that sort of thing. We’ll be back soon.” The man ended the call by closed the cell phone. Then he returned it to a pocket and said,” Marco.”

“Yea, Pete?” said the man in the back seat.

“The boss says we don’t need an extra. We’ll let you out up here and then you take care of it. I’ll have Jimmy come back for you after he drops me off at base. Got it?

“Sure, I got it. No problem.”

Cass pondered the exchange and could not come up with any reasonable interpretation other than that they wanted Anne safely out of the way—and the writer was more than a little melodramatic. The whole situation belonged in some cheap action flick. But she was no one to throw stones, she’d watch it—probably more than once.

She just relaxed, letting her head rest on the soft seat. The ride continued in silence until the driver stopped the car.

“This’ll do, Marco,” said the boss. “Wait until we’re gone and be sure to clean up.”

Cass was expecting the man called Marco to drag Anne out of the car. She was momentarily surprised when he reached for her. She continued to feign unconsciousness while the big man maneuvered her out of the car. He unceremoniously dropped her on the ground several feet away before returning to slam the door closed.

Guess they wanted a one-on-one bit. Cass watched as the car drove away down the street. She quietly rolled around and got her feet under her.  She looked for an escape. The narrow, dead-end alley offered no hope. The only way out was past the man standing in the narrow mouth. That was okay, running away didn’t make for good television.

An inconvenient streetlamp illuminated the opening to the extent that she would never be able to sneak past him convincingly anyway. She could run for it, but he supposedly had a gun and if he could shoot half-decent, her odds were bad. Embracing the need for a more direct approach, she took a few steps back until she was cloaked in the deepest shadow the alley provided. She smiled grimly. It was only one man.

He turned towards her and looked at the spot where she had been.

He twisted his face into an ugly smile as he looked around and said, “Come here, little girly. You can’t hide from me. You’ve got nowhere to go.” He stepped farther into the alley, hands out in front of him, like he was going to catch her.

Cass stood still and watched him advance.

He was taking his time, kicking the profuse garbage that littered the alley. He stumbled a little, his eyes not adjusted to the darkness yet. Ah, the drama.

Cass had been careful to keep one eye completely closed while in the light in order to preserve her night vision. She figured that she could she several feet further than her enemy. She had an edge.

It was not that she needed one, but she was of the opinion that every edge should be taken advantage of. Nothing was too small to swing the odds just a bit more in her favor. That would make a good voice-over or interview clip… She’d have to remember that.

Back in the game, she watched as he foolishly came further into the shadowed alley, calling to her in his thick Boston accent.

“Come on, baby. Come on out.”

She held her breath as he came close and then walked right past her. The way out was clear, but she turned away from the street. Her eyes were bright and a tight smile crossed her face as she silently stepped away from the grimy brick wall at her back.

“Don’t be afraid, little girly, come to papa,” said Marco as he stopped a moment to scan the alley. His vision was improving. He kneaded his hands in anticipation. He paused when Cass came out of the shadows.

Cass quickly hid her confidence behind a timid facade. She wasn’t very good a faking submission, but it only had to work for a moment–and it was nice and dim.

“Come here,” he grunted. Cass raised her arms slowly, in what might be confused with a surrendering gesture. She stopped just of arm’s length. He was reaching out to grab her when she raised her eyes. He hesitated when she met his gaze. Cass attacked.

She threw a ridiculously slow, but pretty kick towards his head, trying to play along with the drama level she’d observed so far. He ducked, and she followed with a double roundhouse. He dodged the first kick, but caught the second. With impressive strength, he threw her against the alley wall.

“You stupid girl. Now I’m mad. I was gonna make it quick.” He shook his head and pulled out the Glock. Cass tried to overcome the instinctive urge to try and kill the man. She kept telling herself it was not a real gun right up until he the bullet tore through her left thigh. Cass looked down, shocked. It must have been a solid core 9mm hot a hollow-point, because it went right on through. It hurt like the dickens, but she could hardly feel it. She was angry and that made her focused, focused like the laser beam mounted on the side of her very own Glock 19, back home in  the safe.

“Now you won’t be trying any of that kung fu crap on me, babe. Let’s have some fun.”

He moved towards her, teeth bared, and a look in his eye that said he wasn’t going to kill her right away. The moment he’d fired that gun, Cass had forgotten all about the show or anything else other than the right here and now. She was no longer playing by any rules.

She’d puled herself up into a sitting position, her back against the grimy brick wall, her hands curled up against her left shoulder. She kept her eyes glued to her target as she waited for him to get close enough. The seconds were eternities as he walked up, then knelt down over her. He reached out with his free hand and felt of her hair. His other hand, still holding the gun, was against the ground, helping to hold him up. It was the end.

Cass’s tied hands moved in unison towards their target, one just an inch behind the other. The edge of her right hand struck the big man’s throat. The other hand followed it, adding the strength of her other arm. A blow that was dangerous with one hand became deadly with two. There was a wet sound as he tried to breathe through his partially crushed trachea.

His jerked back to his feet, hands instinctively grabbing at his neck, trying to ease the pain. Cass was free and the gun was out of play. She stood and set herself against the wall, using it to steady her injured leg long enough to kick with the other. The kick wasn’t pretty, or high, or any of the other things that look good on a television screen. It was only nasty. Cass’s foot nailed him right above the groin.  He took a step back, still searching for air, then he collapsed, no longer capable of standing.

Cass fell down, unable to maintain the balance needed to recover without both legs working. She got her good leg under her and picked up the gun, but there was no need for it. The kick, as intended, had not only knocked the wind from her enemy, but dislodged the cartilage connection of the pelvis, damaging the structural integrity of his body. He was not going anywhere.

Cass put her boot on his right arm and let her other knee fall on his chest, provoking a violent gasp. He continued to moan as she searched his coat and found an extra magazine for the Glock and a switchblade knife. She stuck the mag in her pocket and used the knife to remove the bindings from her wrists.

“Listen here, bub,” said Cass, aiming the gun at a discolored spot of skin between his eyebrows. “Where is my friend? Where’d ya’ll take her?” Her voice was a low growl, unsteady. But her hand was not. “Tell me.”

“D..D..Derchev,” he coughed between ragged breaths.

“Derchev? Is that a man? A place? What are you saying?” Her accent became more pronounced her anger and her fear for her friend grew. “Tell me where those punks took her so’s I can go an’ get her.”

“You..you..cannot…” he gurgled. “..you..just..a..a..little girl.”

“I reckon I am, bub.” Cass grinned, letting her eyes stray from the sights to lock gazes with her prey. “But that never stopped me before.”

Before she could do or say anything else, the man died.

Cass stood up, keeping the gun ready, and listened. There was nothing extra to hear over the standard racket of a city. She started walking towards the street, staring at the darkness.

She had to find Anne. Who knows what they intended to do. Nothing good, for sure. Cass used a word she saves for special occasions and started looking for her cell phone. It was gone, of course. She started walking as fast as she could manage with the bum leg. She had to find her friend before something happened. She would make it right either way.

The Winter Season of festivities and frantic and frightening shopping is upon us. Here’s my gift to start off the Holiday Season.

Pass the Stakes, It’s Thanksgiving
By A.L. Brown

Dinner was on the table.

The turkey was partially carved and my aunt was passing the dressing to her husband, Howie. He never eats the dressing. All those carbs will do him in, he says. I think that a pack a day and a case every weekend will do it first. Me and my cousin have a going bet. She’s a big fan of heart disease. Guess she got it wrong.

It looks like I did too.

I’ve never been much for making the table pretty and proper, but as I stared at it this time, I knew without out a doubt that it was all wrong. Everything was wrong except for the cranberry sauce.

Cranberry sauce is supposed to be red.

Merry Christmas everyone!  Here’s my present to ya’ll.  Have a go at this chapter from the suspense novel I’m working on, Tough Target.

***

Chapter 4

Washington D.C.

Cass Elkins stepped off the private jet and wrinkled her nose at the unmistakable odor of a city. The smell of too many people crammed together like cattle. More like sheep actually, cattle had more spirit. She hoped that she wouldn’t have to be here long. Too much time in a place as populated as D.C. tended to fray her nerves, resulting in attitude that made her normal, less than accommodating personality seem rather pleasant in comparison.  Not that she cared, but anybody unfortunate enough to bother her would.
The sun was dimmer than she was used to, but it was bright enough to make the man standing on the tarmac squint and shade his eyes with his hand. Cass figured him right off for a government employee.  He was wearing one of those nondescript suits with a bland tie, dress shoes, and no hat.  Cass always found it strange how people would rather burn their face and shade their eyes than wear a decent hat. Go figure.
When they were making the arrangements for Cass to travel to Washington, Alan Dobbs had recommended that she wear a suit in order to better blend in the city. She had taken his advice and wore her best black suit. His definition of suit and her definition turned out to be a bit different.  Cass owned a nice, black leather suit coat.  She wore it to church, funerals, weddings and other functions that called for formal attire.  She had a fine, dark gray, button-up shirt which she wore with the top couple of buttons undone so that her necklace could be seen.  She had made the necklace herself, for she rarely if ever found any bought jewelry that she liked.  Most of it was flowers or hearts or something else she didn’t care for.  Around her neck was a plain black leather cord with a beautifully expanded, silver colored, .44 caliber, hollow-point bullet hung on it.  She had recovered the bullet from the ground after she had blown a large diamondback rattlesnake in two with her Eagle.  It was one of a kind.
She appreciated Dobbs sentiment that she should try to fit-in in Washington, but she knew that no matter what she wore she would stand out. Her purposeful stride and confident look marked her as much as the black hat, boots, and dark blue jeans that she wore. 
As she approached the man, Cass could see the subtle bulge under his right shoulder. Cass may have been annoyed that she was going un-heeled, but she was far from helpless.  She had been told to leave her guns at home since handgun possession by private citizens in D.C. was frowned upon if not outright outlawed. No wonder they had such a high murder rate. The only people that bothered to abide by the wishes of the government were law-abiding citizens. The criminals don’t have any problem breaking the law to murder someone. Why should they pay attention to any other laws?
“Looking for me, mister?” asked Cass.
The man looked around questioningly for a moment before replying, “I’m not sure. Are you C. Elkins?”
“I reckon so. Didn’t see anybody else get off the plane. I thought ya’ll were expecting me.”
“Yes. I was just expecting someone, ah, older and more, um, never mind. I’m Justin Wallace and I was instructed to drive you to your hotel.”
Cass laughed mildly and said, “I understand. You weren’t expecting a girl. I’m a bit disappointed, but I can’t say I’m surprised. I’m used to it.  I wouldn’t expect one either.”
 Wallace didn’t know how to respond so he just pointed to a dark sedan with government plates that was parked nearby and said, “This way.”
The drive from the airstrip to the hotel was relatively uneventful. Cass spent most of the trip looking out the windows at the landmarks. She had been around a fair bit, but this was her first time in D.C. She might not go out of her way to find populated areas, but she always found big cities interesting– for a short time. 
They arrived at the hotel. She checked in and started for her room. Wallace offered to escort her upstairs. “You should be relatively secure here, but D.C. is a dangerous place, especially for a nice young lady by herself.”
Cass just looked at him and grinned.  He was obviously in the dark about her.  Either that or he didn’t believe she was competent.  “I appreciate your concern, Mr. Wallace, but I can take care of myself. If some unsuspecting lowlife mistakes me for a nice young girl, that is to say, a likely victim, he’ll find out that even though I may be young and I might be a girl, I ain’t all that nice.”
“Miss Elkins, I still don’t think it would be wise for you to wander around by yourself.”
Cass didn’t appreciate anyone telling her what to do. “So, you’re gonna protect me then?  What makes you think you can do better?  Are you referring to the gun under your coat?  What is it, a Glock, a Sig?  A forty-five, a nine mill?” asked Cass as she stepped closer to Wallace until she stood within arm’s reach in front of him.  He was beginning to annoy her.  Usually she would have let it pass, being an even-tempered person, but today she had a reason to get a reaction out of him.  She wanted to know more about the whole situation and sometimes the most efficient way to gain info about something was to force a reaction.  Most people showed their true stripes when pushed.  Besides, it had been a long flight and she was spoiling for a confrontation.  She innocently asked Wallace, “Tell me, are you considered to be a well-trained and competent agent?”
Wallace looked indignant and he quickly answered, “Of course I’m competent. I wouldn’t be here if I wasn’t. And I’ll have you know that I carry a Glock 19.”
“I see. Then how come you just let me kill you?”
“What are you talking about?” cried the obviously confused Wallace.
“I’ve been standing close enough to you to kill you half a dozen different ways since we started talking.”
“I let you approach because you are not an enemy or an unknown,” said Wallace defensively.
“That was stupid. You don’t know me. I might not be who a say I am. You obviously didn’t have a description of me back at the airstrip. You wouldn’t have been so surprised. I gotta say, so far you guys ain’t impressing me very much.”
“I am still better armed. I have a gun and you don’t.”
Cass laughed incredulously, “You want me to prove it?  Fine. Go for your gun and see if you can get it out before I can get you.”
“I don’t know,” said Wallace, “We’re in public.”
Cass was beginning to enjoy herself. She continued to goad Wallace.  “Come on. Don’t worry about anybody seeing. There’s no civilians here except me. Come on. You afraid of a girl?  Tell you what, if you’re fast enough, I’ll take your advice. If I win, you quit telling me what I can and can’t do. Deal?”
“Okay, you asked for it. Ready?”
“Whenever you are. You go first.”
They stood facing each other. Cass stood calmly with her arms at her sides, waiting for Wallace to make his move. “I’m waiting,” she drawled.
Suddenly, Wallace tensed and his right arm pulled his jacket back to expose his Glock while his left hand reached for the gun. At least that was what he tried to do. Even though his right arm moved first, as soon as he moved, Cass grabbed his left arm with her right. She had noted earlier that he was left-handed and so she knew which hand to be concerned with.  Meanwhile, her left hand hardened into an arc and accelerated quickly towards Wallace’s exposed throat, stopping only a thousandth of an inch from his neck.
She stood there for a moment. Wallace stood frozen. Staring into his eyes, she could see the fear. That was good.  Somebody once told her that the difference between fear and respect was small enough that one was a good substitute for the other.  He nervously eyed the hand which had stopped a fraction of an inch from crushing his throat.
He croaked, “You win.”
Still grinning maliciously, Cass released him. 
He took a step back and straightened his disheveled suit. “You were just lucky,” he stated with fake bravado, more to himself than anybody. He didn’t want to admit that it had shaken him. She had moved so quickly, without hesitation, and smiled the whole time. He had been in serious situations before, but something he had seen in her blue eyes unsettled him.
“Just keep telling yourself that, if it makes you feel better, bub. Now get along, I’ve got bigger fish to fry.”
Cass turned around to see a short wiry man with close-cropped, graying hair, dressed in a nondescript suit, step out of the shadows and begin clapping slowly. About time.
“Not bad. Not bad. You’re even better in person, Miss Elkins. I can also see why Mr. Dobbs thought you a bit blunt. Do you test everyone you meet this way?”
Cass laughed, “Only when I’ve got an audience.”
“You knew I was here?  I’m impressed. I must be losing my touch.”
“I don’t know about that, mister. I thought you were pretty good. But I’ve always been good at knowing when somebody was around. Comes from living in the boonies I guess. I notice people.”
“Curious,” said the mysterious man. “Let’s go some place more private and we’ll discuss the matter of you working for us. Are you hungry?”
“Always,” said Cass.
“Excellent. We’ll have dinner. Wallace will pick you up in an hour.” 
Cass watched critically as the man casually walked out of the room. His outward appearance had been regular in every way, but to her eye, his walk gave him away. Confident, relaxed, balanced, smooth, a predator amongst the unsuspecting prey. A man to be feared by most and respected by those like him.
Cass wasn’t afraid.

Bad Blood,” the newest zombie story is now available for download.  Set in the same post-apocalyptic world as “Gone Green,” it chronicles yet another Z-Day Incident.


Z-Day.  The end of civilization. The beginning of an age where humanity is scattered, decimated, and engaged in nothing but survival in the face of the zombie hoards.  In this post-apocalyptic wasteland,  one family of gunslingers is having fun. 

“Five strands of rusty barbwire, held up by widely spaced cedar posts. Just a cow fence.  Good enough to keep most bovines from trying to get through, and known to tangle up a zombie now and then, but unfortunately, it don’t do much against smarter foes–like people.  I use the term liberally when I’m talkin’ about rustlers.  They ain’t real smart and callin’ them people is a compliment. But they can work a pair of side-cutters and cut a hole in our fence like the one I was staring at.
“Tracks are still fresh,” I heard Hanna say.  “Musta been made since this mornin’ cause the wind howled all night, as usual.” Sliding off her horse, she squatted down for a better look. “Only one set, Will.” She looked out over the sandy desolation in the direction the tracks led and grinned.
That smile wasn’t what most folks would call pleasant.  It was anticipatory, predatory, two hundred odd years of gunslingin’ lead-dealing history rolled up into a short, skinny, red-headed young’un. 
I reckon mine looked about the same.”

Wheat harvest is finally over and I’m geting some writing done!  In celebration of that fact, here is an excerpt from “Wanted: Undead or Alive,” the urban fantasy project starring Josey Jackson.  Enjoy!
The narrow state highway stretched across the flat plains in either direction, cutting through the countryside in odd angles and pointless tangents as only a true New Mexican piece of pavement does.  I waited for maybe an hour before I saw the dust on the horizon.  It took a delightfully short time after that before Tommy slid the car to a stop in front of me.  And what a car it was. Orange with a blacked out hood and two matching stripes that ran down and along the sides in a line that was broken only by the words Boss 429. It looked mean and fast, but as good as it was on the eyes, the sound was heaven.  It growled low and deep, 429 cubic inches of big block muscle that shook the body as if it could hardly be contained by the car; like a wild animal trying to escape from under the hood. 
I felt a surge of emotion break out of my heart as it hit home that I had finally got it.  The legendary 1969 Boss 429 Mustang, built not for practicality, but because Ford wanted to run the 429 in stock car racing.  They needed to sell at least 500 of them to the public for the engine to qualify as stock.  Extremely rare and expensive, I had been trying to lay my hands on an original for a long time.  Just my luck that poor Freddy’s papa had one and was willing—if reluctant—to pay his debts to me in the form of classic muscle.
“Hope you enjoyed that, Tommy.  Cause you know I won’t let anyone else touch it again.”
He leaned against the hood and smiled, his clear blues eyes twinkling. “My dear, Josey, I do believe that you mean that truly.  I can’t say that I blame you. This is a monstrous work of machinery.  I must inform you that I was unaware that we were working for such a nondivisable payment.”
“Pop the trunk, fangs, and I’ll see what I can do.”  He did.  The small trunk contained a duffel with $100,000 in nonsequential bills.  Twenty percent of the fee, Tommy’s standard cut for backup duty. 
“Where’s yours, Josey?  I don’t see any more,” he drawled in mild puzzlement.
I grinned and flipped the keys around my finger.  “You’re lookin’ at it.  This car’s worth about 400 grand easy.  Much more fun than cash.”  I started the engine and the torque shook the car.  “You want a ride home? It’s on my way.”
Tommy climbed in and we sped away.  I just leaned back and let the magnificent sound roll over me. 


The elusive muse of lines that rhyme

The poetic spirit that’s hard to find

Made an appearance in this author’s mind

And the following poem’s what it left behind


 

Night Blade


 

A splash of red

     on darkest night

The tear of flesh

 in shadows bright


 

The sweetest taste

 across the tongue

No fresher breath

 ‘er through the lung


 

The thrill of death

 upon the wind

With silver glee 

 keen edges rend


 

Bright steel reflects

 the savage scene

Black hearts rejoice

 in primal scream


 

Deadly seconds

 and endless hours

The fruit of life

 the soul devours


 

A splash of red

 on darkest night

Marks the path of

 blade in the night