Friday, 28 November 2014

Book Spotlight: The Gertrude Threshold

A sci-fi spotlight today, with the intriguing book, The Gertrude Threshold, front and center.

The Gertrude Threshold by Christopher Brooks

Brandon knows today will be his last. He has been dreading this moment his entire life. Scientists had long ago predicted the year and the day when all living things, everything Brandon has come to know, would go up in flames – the day Earth hit the Gertrude Threshold.

For seventy years, Brandon had aged with the sun. He’d watched it grow bigger and the Warming fry the planet. Science was powerless to stop it. Plants withered. Oceans dried up. Humanity went mad. People sought safety underground. Radiation poisoned the world they left behind above.

Now, Brandon languishes on his deathbed. He looks after his grandson, Ky, and again wonders what survival left him with. Ky’s parents, John and Ellen, wander throughout the underground tunnels. Ellen mourns the loss of everything she and her child will never experience. Desperate to spend his final hours with the man he has grown to love, John abandons his wife and child.

Brandon, his family, and the underground survivors have no future, only the past, and less than 24 hours to reclaim the years the Warming stole while Earth begins to fall apart around them.

The Gertrude Threshold is available at Amazon

Author Bio

Christopher Brooks is the author of The Gertrude Threshold. He was born and raised in the suburbs of Chicago.

Christopher graduated from Illinois Wesleyan University. Originally, he set out to study biology and become a doctor. Organic chemistry and a love of writing convinced him to study English-writing instead.

Christopher now works at Edelman, a public relations firm, at its headquarters in Chicago.

You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter 

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Drabble Wednesday: Flying Monkeys

Here’s another short fiction series (my favourite) created from a series of prompts from a writing group. I call it my Flying Monkey Genetic Laboratories Saga.

(Just a note: The first drabble, We Don’t Serve Brains!, is a prequel that sets up the series.)

The Flying Monkey Genetic Laboratories Saga

We Don’t Serve Brains!

I never thought meeting Kate would be so traumatic, but then I never expected her to be a zombie with a taste for brains. Frankly, I was gobsmacked.
The evening began with a real-world party to celebrate the fifty-week milestone for our online writing group. Then the lights went out, and the screams started. We restored power, and found poor Tracy and Mick dead, and Kate scooping parts of Tracy’s brain from her bashed head with a spoon. More screams resonated and everybody scattered, Kate in pursuit.
Me, I’m always prepared and retrieved my zombie killing kit from my car.

Mad Science and Tracy

In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I've been turning over in my mind ever since.

Never clone.

Maybe he was right, but after the zombie incident there wasn’t much choice; the group needed Tracy. Therefore, I secretly obtained the DNA of the woman, utilized my day job at the Flying Monkey Genetic Laboratories, and engineered her clone.
Everything seemed fine at first. She tossed out wonderful writing prompts for the group, but then odd behaviours started: the burrowing, the rolling into a ball, the insect eating. Perhaps using those armadillo genes was a bad idea.
Now she’s packed up and gone missing. I shudder to think what will happen when the T-Rex DNA kicks in.

Mad Science and Tracy- Part 2

The drought had lasted now for ten million years, and the reign of the terrible lizards had long since ended.

It’s funny what goes through your head when watching a hybrid armadillo/dinosaur/woman clone suck up her fifth pink lemonade through a yellow straw. Especially after she has just rampaged across the downtown shopping district in a wild shoplifting spree using the mayor’s stolen red corvette as her getaway vehicle.
The S.W.A.T team has the cafe surrounded and the negotiator is trying to get Tracy to surrender, but so far, the only communicating she’s done is to throw an ugly shoe at him. I was hoping she would submit peacefully, but now I’m going to have to go with Plan B...

Mad Science and Tracy- Part 3

“Of all the things that drive men to sea, the most common disaster, I've come to learn, is women.”

I look at Igor as if he’s lost his mind. “Can the commentary and check the gas valves. The anaesthetic has to knock out the cops, Tracy, everybody.”
We make final adjustments, put on our gas masks, and open the canister valves. Within in minutes bodies drop like flies, fast asleep. All but Tracy; she staggers around, making odd noises.
“Here.” I pick up the trank gun and hand Igor a plate of chocolate covered insects. “Lure her out.”
Igor runs screaming, insects flying, but I take Tracy down. We load her into the cryo-chamber and head for the lab.

Mad Science and Tracy- Part 4

I write this sitting in the kitchen sink.
It was either write in the sink or hanging from the ceiling fan, the rest of kitchen now being in the basement. With several of the Tracy clones.
It’s all Igor’s fault. That stupid idiot had to go and hit the infinite button on the cloning machine when we were fixing Tracy’s DNA. Now the lab’s overrun with Tracy clones causing mayhem and eating the yogurt. Thank heavens for the explosive floors and lockdown procedures.
I’m initiating the kill switch on the clones. We’ll have to start the Tracy project from scratch.

Life Begins

With a click, the video begins...

The smiling face of a scientist in a laboratory appears. He begins walking across the room and talks to the camera.

“Here at Flying Monkey Genetic Cloning we take the creation of cross species DNA splicing seriously. We know there has been much squawking in the media lately about our irresponsible approach to gene manipulation and accusations that we have been experimenting in reckless creation of hybrids.”
“I just have to say that all our hybrid creations are produced in the most responsible manner possible, and that we take all safety precautions to ensure the protection of the public. Rest assured, the recent incident at one of our labs was a result of sabotage and an isolated event.”
“In fact, one of our projects has just reached a successful conclusion and we are in time to unveil the latest addition to the Flying Monkey family, the living Teddy Bear. Release the chamber door please.”

A lab assistant unlatches a door on a large steel cylinder and slides it open.

“And now we will see our- what! Tracy! That’s not—”

The video breaks to static...

In Court

“How do you plead to the charges, Lotta Moxie?”
“I’m proud to plead guilty. Those hybrids at Flying Monkey Genetic Cloning needed to be freed. I bet that scientist was surprised to see a duct taped Tracy clone instead of his living Teddy Bear. I know it was a hit on YouTube.”
“Miss Moxie! Your escapade let hybrids loose downtown!” Lotta laughed.
“The policeman and the cantaloupe caused that! Did the Mayor scream when the Gator-Pigeons took a bite out of his posterior?”
“Incorrigible! You are hereby sentenced to six months, plus a ten dollar fine for overdue library books.”

Is the ArmaTeddy® Right for You?

Are you alone and without companionship?
Do you cuddle with that well-worn stuffed animal?
Do you want something more than just a toy?

Do you hide behind closed doors, afraid of the criminal element?
Do you jump at every sudden sound?
Are you allergic to guard dogs?

Are you a rich and eccentric collector?
Just can’t live without that newest gadget?
Does a living, breathing hybrid teddy bear/armadillo appeal to you?

Would you like a sentient, armoured, action teddy bear to solve your companion needs and security concerns?
Are you salivating at the thought?

Are you ready for the ArmaTeddy®?

Corporate Retreat

Yesterday we arrived at Nimrod, this dysfunctional Flying Monkey Genetic Cloning family, for our annual camping trip. We found a flooded campground, but with the Sonic Vacuum, plus the help of Scuba Eagle and Cyber-Man the site was dehydrated.
That first night Doctors Spaulding, Philip and Theodore made their famous wiener chilli and we had a sing-a-long; Mothman and Armateddy did a wonderful duet of Kumbaya.
We needed this vacation after all our troubles with zombies, Tracy clones, and that gator/Tracy/teddy mix-up. I just hope no one gets the collywobbles from the food; last year’s bucket spew fest was enough.

Primeval Instinct?

We here at the Flying Monkey Genetic Laboratories are worried about the Tracy clone. Two and a half weeks ago, she won a free company trip to our subsidiary, Prehistoric Park. We thought it was a splendid idea for her to explore her roots, seeing how she’s part T-Rex.
She and Dr Stein ventured off to the observation habitat in good spirits, sending back video reports on the fauna and flora. Four days ago, we lost contact and sent out a team. There was no sign of Tracy or Dr. Stein. Even more disturbing, the battery-powered food processor was missing...

Time Sheep

In the world of science news, tragedy struck the Flying Monkey Time Institute—a subsidiary of the Flying Monkey Genetics Laboratory—this week, as their ongoing time travel experiments went awry. Initial tests went well, as the so-called “Time Sheep,” Debbie, was successfully transported five minutes into the future. Unfortunately this excursion had unforeseen side effects and Debbie is now a time-hopping, flesh-eating monster. As of today, sightings of Debbie the “Time Sheep” have retroactively been recorded in 1985, 2001, and 1957, with twelve known incidents of a “strange, ferocious biting sheep that disappeared.”

Plus two Flying Monkey Bonus stories:


“And then, down there at the very bottom? Those two buzzard wings?”
I looked up from my armadillo potato carving and glanced over at the next table. Two ugly and hairy goblins were studying a series of drawings, of what looked like an abstract sculpture of an inverted Harpy.
“I think they’re perfect. Once we add the human head to the claws, it should be ready to display.”
I shrugged. Personally, I’d have gone with eagle wings, not that I’d tell them that; minding your own business was always the best policy at the Flying Monkey Paranormal Artiste Café. I learned that lesson the hard way with the vampire performance artist incident.

Come One, Come All

The ring mistress, a short, well coiffed woman, stepped into the center square. “Attention one and all! Welcome to the Flying Monkey Circus! First up in the show is our leading attraction, The Stupendous Atina! Watch in awe as she deftly demonstrates a dangerous display of dexterity!”
A willowy blonde walks out into the square, her gold lame pantsuit shining in the glaring track lights. Behind her trails a young man holding a tray covered in burlap cloth. She flips off the fabric, throwing the tray’s contents into the air. The audience gasps as she expertly juggles four live armadillos.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Interview with Debbie Manber Kupfer

Today I bring you another interview, this time from busy author, Debbie Manber Kupfer, who stops by to chat about her fantasy writing, books, and puzzles. Enjoy.

Interview with Debbie Manber Kupfer

Why don’t you begin by sharing a little about yourself.

I was born in London, and lived in Israel, North Carolina, and New York before finally settling in St. Louis, Missouri about 16 years ago. I’ve got a husband, two kids, and a very opinionated kitty, Miri Billie Joe, who is the true ruler of our household. I get through about a gallon of strong hot tea with milk each day and like to reward myself with squares of dark, dark chocolate.

You’re the author of P.A.W.S., a YA fantasy series. Can you tell us a bit about this series?

Certainly! P.A.W.S. is the story of Miri, a young Jewish girl who receives a silver cat charm from her grandmother, Celia, the night before Celia dies. Little does Miri know, but the charm holds the family secret, a secret that saved her grandmother from the Nazis and is about to change Miri’s life in ways she never thought possible.
Miri’s story continues in the second book of the series, Argentum, which recently came out and I’m currently working on the third book. I have a whole world inside my head that’s waiting to come out!

What attracted you to write in both the fantasy genre and the young adult genre?

They are the genres I most enjoy reading. My favorite authors include J.K. Rowling, Terry Pratchett, Cornelia Funke, Cassandra Clare, and Neil Gaiman. I love immersing myself in a story and I love magic – in fantasy anything is possible.

Another project which you’re involved in (as a writer and an editor) is the historic horror anthology, Sins of the Past. Can you tell us about that book?

Sins of the Past was the brainchild of British horror writer, Kelvin Allison. The idea was to take a true event in history and set a tale of the macabre within that timeframe. Sadly Kelvin backed out of the project, but we had too many good stories to let it go, so Chasity Nicole and I took it over.
There are 17 stories which span history from a poison maiden in ancient India to a haunted Vietnam veteran in LA. My story in the collection is Griddlebone, a tale of genetically mutated werecats in Nazi-controlled Europe.

You’re also a puzzle writer. What exactly does that involve, and how different is it from writing novels and stories? Are there any similarities?

I write all kinds of word and logic puzzles mostly for Penny Press and Dell Magazines and for my website Paws4Puzzles. These include crosswords, word seeks, anagram puzzles, and quotation puzzles among others. I’m also currently putting together my own book of logic problems, Paws4Logic, which hopefully will be released early in 2015.
With the logic problems there is definitely a crossover between writing puzzles and writing fiction. Each puzzle is a story, albeit a short one, and I have a lot of fun coming up with creative scenarios, names, and settings. This is something I enjoy a lot when I write fiction too.

Do you find it challenging to switch between these different projects and genres?

Sometimes yes, but I try to balance it out, doing a little writing and a little puzzle work each day.

Do you have any tidbits or anecdotes you’d like to share about your books, or your writing life?

I love the weird and wonderful characters that sometimes pop, seemingly out of nowhere, onto my page. Sometimes I’ll mention someone in passing, like the clown, The Great Bobbert, who Joey (the animagus kangaroo) follows around in the first book of P.A.W.S. Low and behold that clown comes back in Argentum, and wait a second, he has a pet weasel called Popgoes – where did that come from?

Who has inspired you as an author?

My greatest inspiration is probably JK Rowling. My favorite Harry Potter is book 3, The Prisoner of Azkaban. It is in this book that we are introduced to the idea of animagi. I was fascinated by this idea, but wanted to delve deeper. How does it feel to turn into an animal? What was the process like learning to be an animagus? How would a magician choose which animal they were, or was that animal always part of them? All these questions inspired me to create P.A.W.S.

What’s next for you?

I’m currently writing book 3 in the P.A.W.S. series, which hopefully will be released sometime in 2015. I also have my logic project, Paws4Logic, which I’m working on together with my son, Joey. Plus I have stories coming out in several more anthologies in the next few months and will be working on part 2 of our horror anthology, Sins of the Future, to be released in October 2015.

You can find out more about the author and her books at these sites:

Thursday, 20 November 2014

An Interview With Richard Patterson

Today I have an interview with author Richard Patterson, who stops by to talk books and Jack the Ripper...

Why don’t you begin by sharing a little about yourself.

I like to see myself as a writer though I have many years experience teaching English.  Have held other jobs for printing firms, bank, army reserves, and manager of a tabletop game venue. I gained my teaching degree in Melbourne and I have lived in the United Kingdom, where I was able to research my book. My childhood was surrounded by death. Before the age of 9 I had been dead three times. Once, in 1973, when I was aged three, I was overcome by smoke in a house fire. My rescuer dragged me from my burning family home just before the roof collapsed and a volunteer surf lifeguard who had come to watch the fire gave 1st aid. The lifeguard found no heartbeat before he began resuscitation. The second time, I was a five-year-old pedestrian hit and run victim. The paramedics found me lying on the road with severe multiple injuries and no heartbeat having apparently bled to death. The 3rd time was exactly like the second but this time I was eight years old. My horror novel allowed me to write freely on the topic of Thompson as a Ripper suspect, which I was not able to do in an earlier non-fiction work of mine.

Can you tell us about your latest book, Francis Thompson and the Ripper Paradox?

My book merges two depictions of evil, the Ripper and the Antichrist. It uses both to tell the story of the life of an historical figure, the English poet Francis Thompson. My book is prefaced with a ghost story about the crimes and this character’s motive. The bulk of the book explores, in biography, the magnitude and effects, of his apocalyptical scheme. The novel draws on copious factual material gathered from around the world research to explain how his rise began as the perpetrator of the cluster of 5 terrible murders of 1888 in London’s East End. This novel tells that Thompson sought to raise the dead and then stay alive after his own passing by hiding behind history and in our minds.

Why did you decide to write in the horror genre, and specifically the Jack the Ripper subset of that genre?

At the height of the Ripper murders, when the bloodlust of the fiend knew no bounds, the mutilations of these poor women, appalled the populace of London. The press was for once lost for words. They could only describe this unknown individual in terms of the works of horror literature like De Quincy and Edgar Allen Poe. In 1888, when the murders happened the Victorians were hugely interested in spiritualism and the occult. The play of Jekyll and Hyde was showing in London’s West End and people were taken in by the images of ghosts taken with the still new technology of the camera. Nowadays with new horrors like Ebola, terrorism, climate change and assorted conspiracy theories, I felt that people might respond to a supernatural crime story.

Being a bit of an amateur Ripperologist myself, I’m curious as to your opinion on the lasting fascination with Jack the Ripper and that particular historic event. What do you think is the allure that still captures public interest?

I think it was the collision of worlds it caused. The dire poverty of industrialized and a struggling underclass and the pomp and ceremony of the Nuevo-rich and aristocracy. Both classes were united in their fear of this one individual. The crimes created the archetype of the Victorian murderer -The romantic-decadence of the times personified. I believe that contrary to popular belief it is not the mystery surrounds the identity of the criminal that holds the public interest, but more the subconscious- anticipation of what we the world do when we all find out his name.

Your novel mixes in occult and religious aspects to the Ripper story. How did the idea of melding those two facets come about?

It seemed that in the past people were a lot more religious than today. It makes sense to look at the influence of religion over a suspect, it seems natural to take that short step and explore possible religious, and with these horrific crimes, occult aspect. The idea that the murderer may have been a religionist was not knew, having been suggested in letters to the newspapers. Even during the murders in October 1888, people could read “The Curse of Mitre Square” a horror novel on the Ripper in which the antagonist is a specter of an evil monk who stabs a women on the high altar of a medieval church. When I first learned of Thompson, the book’s suspect and face for the devil; I saw that he was a very strictly religious with a belief in the supernatural and demons. I melded these facets because in truth I don’t think they can be seen as separate from the Ripper crimes.

Was there an aspect of writing your novel that you found challenging?

Because I my book is based on an assorted array of non-fiction material, and actual events, deciding what to keep and leave out has been difficult. For example small but interesting detail such as one actual police investigator had one arm because a tiger bit the other off.  I could not work that detail in because it seemed out of place with the scenario I was building. There were many amazing details I had to leave out because trying to hold it all would have taken years further to write. Another challenge was the uniqueness of my premise and my suspect, and keeping to the same style and approach throughout the novel even as it moves further and further into the eerie and bizarre, and modern day.

What type of research did you do for your book?

The book is based on a great deal of research. It entailed reading and taking notes from non-fiction works, including old press reports, police documents, letters, biographies, uncut-volumes, and historical artefacts and documents. It has been resourced from personal access to mostly archival material from places like London’s Guildhall Library, London’s National Gallery, The British Library, The Kew National Archives, (Dear Boss Letter) the New York Public Library, The Victorian State Library, Boston College’s Burns Library's (Thompson’s private notebooks for years, including 1888, and other unpublished documents) I’ve examined the murder sites and have lectured on these murders including as a delegate at the 2005 International Jack the Ripper conference held in Brighton.

Who has inspired you as an author?

I am heavily influenced by science fiction, fantasy stories as a child. Though horror holds a special place for me. I like reading, Poe, Lovecraft, Machen, Shelley, Stoker and Barker, but it was Stephen King who is one of my favourites. When I read his books, during my teens in the 80’s, I remember hearing his voice in my head while I read, well before hearing him in real-life. It was Stephen King’s “IT” that helped shape the initial idea of writing about a great evil. Instead of the small New England town of Derry Main as the backdrop my novel would have the hulking dark and smoky landscape of Victorian London in the year 1888, when all was cloaked in the shadow of the ripper. I liked how King’s “Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption” a novella gave away that the protagonist escapes prison at the start leaving the reader to wanting to know how he did it. That’s why I sort tell the whole story and give away the ending at the beginning of my book, hoping the reader will ask how the Ripper got away with it.

What’s next for you?

As I wrote this novel, I envisioned two more volumes, on the topic with each volume roughly covering a century. With this plan, my current novel would be part 2, while part 1 examined the 20th century while part 1 covered the 18th.  I have other writing related projects that I can continue and complete, including a book on Australian aboriginal archaeological sites, software that writes stories, and a story-telling tabletop game. I would love to continue to explore the Ripper murders writing more on aspects of history, culture, human desires and literature.

You can find out more about the author and his book at these sites:

Author Website:

Author's Blog:

Facebook group for Francis Thompson and the Ripper Paradox:

YouTube Short Film:



Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Drabble Wednesday: Unruffled Gulls

We’re going to the birds today with a short series I wrote based on photograph of a flock of seagulls (not the one pictured, but one similar).

Unruffled Gulls- Part One

Somewhere on a dock, a flock of gulls gather...

“I dare say, Percy, there is merit to your argument that subverting the individual nature within a group dynamic may stagnate creativity and innovative development.  However, too much individuality could lead to chaos and anarchy.  The good of the group must be considered.”
“A fair point, Nigel old bean, perhaps an equitable balance of the two is more in order.  A cohesion, if you will.”
“I loathe ending this philosophical chat,” Pip interrupted, “but I spy an approaching tourist with a camera.  Time to flap our feathers and pose for pictures.”

Unruffled Gulls- Part Two

Again, the flock of gulls gather...

“Can you believe the nerve of that pelican?  Ordering us from the garbage can as if it was his personal property!   The nerve, I say.  I am quite perturbed about the whole matter!”
“Yes, Nigel, he was terribly rude.  I dare say he would have resorted to fisticuffs, had the rest of the flock not “had our back” as they say.”
“No doubt, Percy, he was most uncouth and course.  I wonder where he came from?  I haven’t spied him about town before today.”
“I believe I heard he originated from the Jersey Shore.”

Unruffled Gulls- Part Three

This time the gulls gather for dinner...

“I say Percy, you have outdone yourself with this lunch repast.  How on earth did you manage to find all this lovely food?   Why there’s grilled fish, fish with a lemon and dill sauce, salmon patties and more.  And enough for all.”
“Why thank you, Nigel, you are too kind.  It was a bit of luck.  I hit an odd gust that turned me about and I ended here at this rather quaint seafood restaurant.  Their dumpster certainly is a smorgasbord of delights.  Tomorrow I heard they’re serving a fish bouillabaisse.”
“How wonderful.”