Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Mercy Thompson Read-a-Long: Grand Finale

Once upon a time, I thought that I would never get the hang of Twitter or enjoy it in any way. 140 characters you say? Yeah right. Have you seen my blog posts?

But then I tried it, and it is sooo much fun. It's definitely different than blogging but the short form encourages so much interaction, and so much cleverness!  So OK. Blogging, Facebook, and Twitter. But that's definitely it. Vlogging? nuh-uh. Podcasting? nuh-uh. Bookstagramming? nope.

Turns out, I'm eating my words on at least one of those... vlogging and Instagram (OK, I have a feed; there are exactly 2 entries in it) remain to be seen, but 2017 is the year I became a podcaster!

More accurately, 2017 is the year that I subbed in to an ongoing series with Tamara at ShelfAddiction, who is an AMAZING podcaster, blogger, and vlogger, and Casey from HeartFullofInk to talk my head off about Mercy Thompson. 

December is a time for finishing things up, and this series is no different: the three of us are finishing up Patricia Briggs' fabulous Mercy Thompson series, and just to keep it all tidy, you get a double dose this month: Silence Fallen as well as Shifting Shadows, which is an anthology of short stories across the entire timeline of the series, include a few hundred (thousand?) years of prologue.  Find the podcasts at ShelfAddiction/podcast.

But wait, there's more: Tamara, Casey and I are so pleased to let you know that the Penguin/Random House, publisher of the Mercy Thompson series as well as the related parallel series, Alpha and Omega, has partnered with us to give ONE of our US listeners the ENTIRE Alpha & Omega Series in PRINT!  Head on over to the Rafflecopter link to enter for your chance to win.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Not Dead Yet...

So 2017 has not been a great year for this blog, clearly.  I've been scarce on Twitter, too. It really is a different world than it was a year ago. If it hadn't been for the Rust City conference, I probably wouldn't have posted since May.

It's hard to pin down exactly why--there's no one reason. Family, career, and current events have been consuming a lot of energy lately, and while I've still been reading (you only have to worry about me if I'm NOT reading), I don't seem to have much left for blogging or engaging in the online book/romance community.

Why today? What changed? I dunno, but I'm glad for it! Maybe it's because I just passed up my ten-year 'bloggiversary'... I know, I can't believe it either. But hey, here I am with three cups of coffee on a Sunday and I have the time, the inclination, and the words under my fingers to blog, so let's do this thing. What's new? Well, quite a bit, actually!

Rust City Debrief
Shoot, I really should have done this a long time ago. I always have fun at conferences and Rust City was no exception. As much as I love online interaction, it's great to really connect with book-lovers in person. I made some new friends, connected with old ones, and also touched base with my mother-in-law, so I get good-person points for that.

Also, I really love the Five Words stories.  I'm thinking about running a game or two in 2018 that won't be tied to a conference.  And glancing over the blog, I realize that I never posted the Stunning Conclusion to our Immortal Hunters story, so I'll put together a couple of posts to finish off both of those, so you can read them beginning to end without jumping through a bunch of links. 

Speaking of Rust City, that's where I met Tamara Ford, host of the Shelf Addiction blog and podcast. She also came out to Casey's Reading Until Dawn conference last June where we further cemented our commitment to books and alcohol. One thing led to another and now I'm involved in a three-way with her and Casey. Um. Three-person podcast series, that is. The "Three Bloggers One Series" is Tamara's brainchild, and I was super-flattered to be invited along when their original third person had to drop out. If you love book-related podcasts, check it out--look for the hashtag #3Bloggers1Series.

At this point, we're almost finished with Patricia Briggs' Mercy Thomson series, but you can listen to all the episodes from that link.  If you want to jump on the bandwagon for the next series (and you should! It's a really fun wagon with a great band... or something like that?)  then click on over to this short and sweet rundown of the two series we are considering for our next read-along, and give us a vote!

Book Club
Just about a year ago, I posted a review of Circling the Sun, which is way outside my normal type of book, as chosen by the workplace bookclub I joined. We choose a different genre every month (I made them put Romance in the rotation!)  Since then we've read Path of the Fury, In a Dark, Dark Wood; SevenEves; The Bollywood Bride; 11-22-63; As I Lay Dying; Good as Gone, and most recently, The Eyre Affair. I feel like I deserve adulting stickers for keeping up.

Find Me on RT Book Reviews
I typically do 2-4 reviews per month at the RT Book Reviews site, mostly in contemporary. If you really want to find my stuff specifically, you can find most of them by searching on my last name, Onychuk (good thing I'm not a Smith or Johnson or Roberts...) I will occasional tweet some real-time reactions to these and other books with the hashtag #amreading or #reviewerlife.

Standout Reads
I read 6 or 8 books a month, and it's been a while since I've posted, sooooooooooo this could get really long.  But generally it appears that I'm deep in a paranormal groove this year, because some of the series I've been loving on are:  Jeffe Kennedy's Uncharted Realms as well as the Sorcerous Moons series; a long-overdue summer binge on Jeaniene Frost's Night Huntress series; Nalini Singh's Psy-Changeling entry for the year of course; a fun new series from Kathy Lyons called "Stone Men;" and a recent fave, the Irin Chronicles from Elizabeth Hunter. Oh, and did I mention Ann Aguirre's Ars Numina series? She started it off and hooked me and now she's off on some other series, boo. But the two that are out are amazing.  

In contemporary I'm fangirling all over Julie Anne Long as always, and Alisha Rai; and then I've fallen hard for Kerrigan Byrne on the historical side.  In short, I have no lack of great reading.  I owe reviews for a few of these mentioned, and others; I hope to get a few of those posted at a more-than-6-months frequency too.  If any of the titles or authors I've mentioned have you really wanting a review, leave me a comment and I'll see what I can do!

I feel like no blog post is really complete without some sort of image. Since this post is kind of a hodgepodge of what I've got going on, here's a visual -- my desktop this morning.  The pile of books is a tiny bit staged but everything else is just how things are -- girl scouts and books and crafts and chocolate and coffee and the internet and earbuds for this morning's podcast and... well, lots of stuff. IDK why the light is so weird but that's the best it's gonna get today.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

RustCity Flash Fiction: Sage Spelling

Please welcome Sage Spelling for her Alpha Heroes debut! Sage agreed to wrap up our Contemporary Realistic story and I must say, I think she delivered a wonderfully satisfying ending, despite being swamped with crazy (and just possibly, maybe, more important) deadlines than our fun little game.  Thanks so much Sage!

Given all that, we decided to cut through the chit-chat and get straight to the story.  Sage's challenge words are: Banana, Wrench, Wood, Sterile, and Peacock


Part 1, by Rue Allyn
Part 2, by Azriel Johnson
Part 3: by Robin Nadler

Part 4:

There is nothing like seeing the love of your life covered in bandages and surrounded with the steady rhythm of machines to put life in perspective. Arielle loved Van and yearned for the small things she’d taken for granted now that they were apart. Exhaustion washed over her and she’d realized she’d slept very little since before she’d gone home to visit her family. She missed falling asleep to the warmth of his body wrapped around hers and the comfort his arms provided after a long day.

She'd spent the evening watching a documentary about peacocks on the Animal Planet channel while Van slept peacefully in the hospital bed. The room was the typical depressing hospital room with white washed walls and sterile equipment. They’d been at the hospital for nearly six hours, but she’d kept her post at his bedside waiting for him to walk up. She’d been terrified of losing him and hadn't left his side from the moment they’d let her see him. She’d forgiven him. Yes, he’d cheated with some random girl, but she wasn't an angel. She’d kept her friendship with Baxter even after he’d made his intentions to get her back clear and enjoyed every second of the attention he bestowed. Her heart heavy with guilt, she remembered the kiss that Baxter laid on her when they’d taken a walk in the woods. She’d secretly hoped for that kiss and always wondered if there was more between them. But she’d felt nothing when their lips finally met. No spark. No fireworks. No toes curling or girly parts melting. She’d would have probably felt more if she’d kissed a bark of wood.

“Hey, beautiful.” Van’s groggy voice awakened her from her thoughts.

“Van.” Arielle leaned in and caressed the stubble on his cheek. “How do you feel?”

“I’d be better if you were still shirtless.” His lop-sided grin melted her heart. “Is that a large banana... wearing shades? on your shirt?”

She’d laughed despite the uneasiness in her chest. “Officer Dan had this t-shirt in his truck.”

“Arielle, I’m sorry. Sorry for everything.” His hand covered hers.

“Lets not talk about it now.”

“No, I have to say this.”

She nodded, too afraid to speak and not brave enough to voice her own feelings.

“I’ve been such a wrench.”


“Yeah, like the kids say.”

“You mean tool?” She suppressed a laugh.

“Whatever.” He grinned. “Anyway, I was so afraid of losing you, I pushed you away. I didn’t think you would ever think I could compare to Baxter. But I love you. Baby, when I saw you fall, my whole life flashed before my eyes and I know that I’d be nothing without you.”


“Please, Arielle. Forgive me.”

Her throat tightened. “I forgive you, but you might not forgive me.”

“What are you talking about?” His blue eyes darkened.

“Baxter kissed me and I let him. I wanted to see if you were right and I’d really been in love with him.”

“And?” His voice was barely a whisper.

“I don't love him. I love you. Only you. It's always only been you, Van.”

He reached for her and groaned in pain. “Kiss me,” he whispered.

“Sure thing, Dollface.” When their lips finally touched, she’d moaned and he deepened the kissed by cupping her face within his hands.

“Marry me?”

“Ask me again, when you're not high on pain meds.”

“I already have the ring.”

“Still, ask me again when we're not in the ER.”

“Will you say yes?”


I love that! Despite some unconventional twists and turns, Sage gave us a romantic happily-ever-after, and I have to say it took mad skillz to do that. I would read the hell out of a full-length romance based on this story.  Three cheers for Van and Dollface!

For more from Sage, please check out her website.

Con Information:
Don’t miss your chance to meet some amazing authors at Rust City Book Con next week! Come join us as we celebrate the authors who write the stories we love to read in the Motor City! Walk-ins are welcome. 
Be sure to keep up with all things Rust City 2017, by following it via your own personal social media drug of choice: Facebook |Twitter | Google+ | Tumblr | Instagram | RSVP at the Facebook Event.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

RustCity Flash Fiction: Marie Piper

Please welcome veteran of both the Rust City Book Con and our Five Words game, Marie Piper! I loved what she did with the steampunk story last year, and I have to say, our readers are in for quite a treat today.

If you're just joining us, our authors are building on the previous story, using five challenge words from the previous player. Then they pay it forward by giving five words to the next player.  Marie is building on our "anything goes" story, where Our Hero, Rick Who is Somehow Immortal, having defeated a pair of Mongolian Deathworms and a random demon, is now battling the recently possessed Tommy.

Marie's challenge words: sulfur, concrete, split, char, owl... and GO!

The Hunters

Part 1, by Stacy McKitrick
Part 2, by Suzanne Sabol
Part 3, by AJ Norris
Part 4, by Jillian David
Part 5, by Stephen Osborne
Part 6, by Azriel Johnson
Part 7, by Nancy Northcott

Part 8:

Suzie punched Rick hard, right in his healing bicep. “My brother is not a demon!”

“Ow! Don’t be mad at me, look!” Despite the discomfort of his healing body, Rick managed to wave in Tommy’s direction, and there was no mistaking—the boy, who had before looked as gangly and awkward as any 14 year old, shook. He vibrated, and he changed.

“Tommy!” Suzie called from where she knelt, but her words got cut off. Tommy shook apart. He split in half, and from the dissolving skin he’d worn emerged a creature like something Rick had only ever seen in nightmares and legends, a being so ugly and horrible no Hollywood crew could have made it up. Demon Tommy was massive, four armed with skin black and ashy as char and dark eyes that dripped with what looked like oil. The air stunk with sulfur.


“That’s not Tommy anymore,” Rick said, struggling to his feet. “Get out of here, Suzie.”

“I’m not going—he’s my brother…”

“And if you stay here, you won’t live to see him again, do you understand me?” Rick pointed to the car. “Get out of here now. I can’t be worried about keeping you safe.”

Was it with love, the way she looked back at him? Those gorgeous eyes of hers lit up like stars, then turned hard as concrete, and she nodded. “Save him, Rick. Save him and I’ll forgive you that god awful pink shirt.” She tried to keep her words lively, but he saw her fear.

“It’s fuschia,” Rick replied, just as scared himself.

Suzie rose on her tiptoes and kissed him, fast and soft. Then, like the smart lady she was, she ran off in the direction of the car. When he heard the car start, he turned back to his foe. This was no matter for mortals. “Give me back the boy.”

Demon Tommy raised all four of his hands in the air and screamed a blistering cry. The ground shook. Even though Rick knew what was coming, felt it in every part of his entire being, the actual sight of the Mongolian Death Worms—so many of them he couldn’t count as they all burst from the ground at once, stunned him.

“Shit,” he muttered. He had no weapons left, and he was covered in mustard. He was, for lack of a better word, screwed. And then he heard a hoot. Something brown blew past him, and his eyes followed it into the fog.

It was an owl. But it couldn’t be--

Peering, trying to see anything in the dense fog, he made out a shape. The shape got closer and grew clearer, and at the exact moment every worm locked their attention on Rick, he saw someone he’d never expected to see again. His throat closed, his eyes watered, and he beheld the magnificent sight.

The woman who came from the fog carried two swords as long as she was tall, and she was tall. Tall and lean and ethereal, with dark chocolate skin and hair so blue it seemed to glow. With one nod in the direction of the worms, their movements slowed to no more than a crawl. She had those abilities, those time-bending tricks. She also had very little patience for Rick. “Do I want to know why you’re covered in mustard?”

The first words she’d spoken to him in a hundred years, and of course they were meant to sting.

Rick groaned. “Do you mind if we talk about condiments later?” He pointed to the Demon at the center of the chaos before them. “That ugly bitch has the brother of…a friend of mine. He snatched his soul or something, and I need to get him back.”

“Certainly,” she replied, swinging her swords in a circle. “Have you learned anything of use in the past century?” “A couple things.”

With one nod of her head, swords appeared in Rick’s hands. “Then make yourself useful.”

He gave them a swing, pleased to see they felt familiar in his grip. “Yes, Mother.”
Oof. ALLLL the heart-eyes for that twist!!! Come back in a few days to see how it all wraps up! 

For more information about Marie Piper, please check out her website.

Con Information:

Don’t miss your chance to meet some amazing authors at Rust City Book Con next August! Come join us as we celebrate the authors who write the stories we love to read in the Motor City!
Be sure to keep up with all things Rust City 2017, by following it via your own personal social media drug of choice: Facebook |Twitter | Google+ | Tumblr | Instagram | RSVP at the Facebook Event.

Monday, July 24, 2017

RustCity Flash Fiction: Nancy Northcott

Please welcome Alpha Heroes first-timer Nancy Northcott to the blog!  Nancy writes in a number of genres, including paranormal romance, historical fantasy, space opera, and romantic suspense. There's something for everyone!

Glad to have you here, Nancy!  Are you ready to play?

I sure am, Nicola!

Alright then! Your challenge words from Azriel are: real, mustard, backpack, tape, and demon; bonus points for using "hirpling" - which I had to google, I'm not gonna lie.

The Hunters

Part 1, by Stacy McKitrick
Part 2, by Suzanne Sabol
Part 3, by AJ Norris
Part 4, by Jillian David
Part 5, by Stephen Osborne
Part 6, by Azriel Johnson

Part 7:

Shocked froze everyone. Pain gnawing its way up Rick’s arm jerked him out of it.

“Mustard,” he snapped, shrugging out of his backpack. He fell to his knees beside it but couldn’t open the zipper with his left hand alone.

Suzie dropped down at his side. “Let me.”

Timmy stood still, staring down at his hands. “This can’t be real. I couldn’t have—I didn’t mean to.”

“We know, buddy,” Rick said. He gritted his teeth. His arm was black above his elbow, the pain already blazing in his shoulder.

Suzie flung aside duct tape, stakes, silver cross, jacket, camera, holy oil. Despite her steady, quick hands, fear tightened her face. “Rick, I can’t find—”

He rarely used the stuff, so… “Try—bottom.” Hurry, he thought but didn’t say. She was doing her best.

“Why mustard?” she asked, coming up with it at last. She popped the cap on the yellow, hourglass-shaped squeeze bottle.

“Squirt—on my arm,” he ground out. “Don’t…touch.” He had no idea what would happen if she touched that black, rapidly withering flesh, and he didn’t plan to find out.

“Don’t be an idiot.” She applied a wide, zigzagging strip up his arm. As he reached to rub it in, she grabbed the tape. “Wait. Just a second.”

Wait? When the pain was clawing into his chest, his arm turning black around his biceps? Compared to that, the pungent odor stinging his nose was nothing. Why wait?

Tearing the heavy tape with her teeth, she yanked off four strips, each four or five inches long and three wide. “Give me your hand.”

When he did, she slapped the strips across his palm and fingers, each overlapping the one before it.

“Go.” He rubbed desperately, spreading the yellow stuff. She taped her left hand and helped him.

“Your chest,” she gasped. She grabbed the rounded neckline of his worm-stained tee and yanked down hard, ripping it to the hem. More mustard went onto his chest and shoulder. Suzie spread it up his neck with great, sweeping strokes.

“Your neck’s not turning black.”

Good. The mustard had stopped the progression.

“Back,” he managed, acknowledging her with a nod.

The pain in his hand might be easing. He couldn’t tell with it roaring into his neck. His jaw.

Suzie muttered something emphatic, squirted mustard onto both hands, and slathered him with it, front and back.

“That’s all there is,” she said, frantically spreading the stuff. “I wish we had an old-fashioned jar. I can’t get the dregs out of this. Opening’s too narrow.” Again, he nodded. “’S okay,” he choked. The pain was throttling back, though slowly.


“It’s better,” he choked. “It’s better. But Suze, your left hand. No tape. You shouldn’t have.”

“There was no time. Besides, Timmy’s magic has never hurt me.”

In the haste to spread the mustard, Rick had forgotten Timmy. He looked up. The boy’s crafty expression turned to distress. Tears welled in his eyes.

Too late, sucker. I saw you. Rick pushed himself to his feet. The blackened skin was flaking off of his hand. New, pink, healthy skin now lay beneath it.

Lower lip trembling, Timmy backed up. “I’m sorry, Rick. Sorrysorrysorry.”

“Rick?” Suzie, too, stood. “What is it?”

“Mustard’s a powerful herb, Suzie. Funny thing, though. Its only use to immortals is as protection against demon magic.”

“Demon? But…” She turned to her brother.

Timmy scrambled backward, the hirpling, or limping, gait another giveaway. Rick hadn’t noticed that earlier, thanks to savoring his private moment with Suzie. And now that he thought of it, the kid’s sudden appearance was a giveaway, too.

“Timmy?” Suzie asked.

“Don’t let him hurt me,” the boy wailed, still backpedaling.

“I’m not going to hurt Timmy,” Rick said. “The demon inside him is another matter.”

I have to admit, between the blackened skin and squirting mustard, I can't help but think of the last wiener roast I took my scout troop on... but demons are no laughing matter, am I right? Come back soon to see what our next contestant makes of all this.

To read more from Nancy, check out her website - but brace yourself for a TBR influx, there's a lot going on!

Con Information:

Don’t miss your chance to meet some amazing authors at Rust City Book Con in less than two weeks! Come join us as we celebrate the authors who write the stories we love to read in the Motor City!
Be sure to keep up with all things Rust City 2017, by following it via your own personal social media drug of choice: Facebook |Twitter | Google+ | Tumblr | Instagram | RSVP at the Facebook Event.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

RustCity Flash Fiction: Azriel Johnson, Part 2

Azriel Johnson is back for an encore presentation of Five Words, this time for the Hunters story. I think he's getting the hang of this!

As it turns out, Mr. Johnson isn't the chattiest of players so we're going to jump right into the story, which, admittedly, is pretty exciting. So here we go!

Challenge words:  Furnace, Silver, Schoolyard, Drumming, and Chili.  Bonus points if you can work in the word kumquat.

The Hunters

Part 1, by Stacy McKitrick
Part 2, by Suzanne Sabol
Part 3, by AJ Norris
Part 4, by Jillian David
Part 5, by Stephen Osborne

Part 6:

Tommy’s face illuminated in kumquat shaded fire. He barely heard his sister call for him to turn around, rather, something instinctual moved him, like drumming in his crappy garage band. A rhythm beat in his chest, and even with the furnace fire heat, he wasn’t afraid.

Before the two of them stood a scaled, spiked-skinned demon. Rick ran at the short wall of the grave, bounding off of the mud wall and landing on the grass behind Tommy and Suzie. He recognized the beast’s form immediately as a Jikininki, a Japanese corpse-eating ghoul, but the coloring was wrong. Typically, they presented with purple skin and no fire surrounding them. Rick had never seen this variety.

“Tommy, get away from that!” Suzie yelled. She rushed forward, almost as if in slow motion. Rick, too, felt a sluggishness he had not felt before.

The beast had no hindrance whatsoever. With a roar it brought its huge, clawed hands down towards Tommy. The boy, instinctively, punched forward into the chest of the ghoul. The roar caught in its wretched throat. The beast crumbled to dust, like silver staking a vampire.

Rick and Suzie stopped in their tracks. Tommy brushed off the ghoul dust. He coughed a little. It tickled a little, like chili powder. “So, that was weird, huh?” Tommy said, to slack-jawed Suzie and Rick.

“Tommy,” Suzie asked. “How did you learn to do that?”

“Learn to do what?” Tommy asked. “I don’t even really know what I did.”

Rick asked, “So Tommy, those stones you were talking about over by the crypt. Take us to them.”

Tommy lead his sister and her mentor to the crypt. Surrounding it were a few different tombstones which did, indeed, look like they mottled with holes. Rick said, “Let me see your hands.”

Tommy held up his left hand. Rick grabbed it and held the boy’s pointer finger up to the holes. Each hole matched the size of Tommy’s finger. The one tombstone Tommy started to mention looked like it had been reduced to dust. “Tommy,” Rick asked. “Were you poking these tombstones?”

The boy looked sheepishly at Rick. “Yes, sir.”

Rick looked at Suzie. Suzie was baffled. Rick turned back to Tommy. “I need you to poke them again.”

“Okay,” Tommy said quietly, ashamed. He pressed his pointer finger into a tombstone. Immediately, the stone his finger touched turned to dust.

Rick examined Tommy’s clothes, none of them looked burned. “Are you wearing cotton or polyester?”

“Cotton, I think, why?”

Rick looked at Tommy’s shoes. They were sandals and looked leather.

“Rick,” Suzie said. “What’s going on?”

“I think Tommy...” Rick paused, “has the ability to break down dead objects and creatures by touching them.”

To Tommy, Rick pointed off to the left and said, “Go put your hand on the tree.”

Tommy looked nervous. “A-are you sure? I don’t want to hurt it.”

“Trust me,” Rick said. Tommy walked to the tree and lightly laid his hand on the bark. Nothing happened.

“That explains a lot,” Rick said. “If something is living, it’s safe. If something’s dead, it turns to dust. That explains why Suzie was okay when you pulled her out.”

“I’ve touched, not… alive…, things before,” Tommy said. “Monkey bars in the schoolyard, for example.”

“Maybe this is a recent development, sometimes puberty can be a trigger for latent abilities. When did you start noticing weirdness when you touched objects?”

Tommy kicked at the ground. He wasn’t exactly comfortable with puberty talk.

Rick let the matter drop for now. “Tell you what, we’re going to find out what exactly is going on and we’re going to learn to control it. Maybe even harness it. Who knows, Tommy, you might become more welcome on our hunting trips than you ever imagined.”

Rick reached forward to shake hands with Tommy, his previous annoyance dissipated with this new conundrum. Tommy smiled and extended his hand to meet Rick’s. They clasped hands, and Rick’s almost immediately turned black.

Well that seems awfully inconvenient, now doesn't it? Is this the end for Rick the Worm Hunter? You'll have to come back here to find out!

For more information about Azriel Johnson, check out his webpage

Con Information:

Don’t miss your chance to meet some amazing authors at Rust City Book Con next August! Come join us as we celebrate the authors who write the stories we love to read in the Motor City!
Be sure to keep up with all things Rust City 2017, by following it via your own personal social media drug of choice: Facebook |Twitter | Google+ | Tumblr | Instagram | RSVP at the Facebook Event.

Monday, July 17, 2017

RustCity Flash Fiction: Stephen Osborne

Today I'm welcoming a newcomer to Alpha Heroes, one Stephen Osborne! Stephen is going to take on the next installment of our Anything Goes story, and I promise, you guys are going to like it!

Hi Stephen! So can you tell us a little about yourself, and what you like in a fictional hero?

Hi. Stephen Osborne here. The mystery continues! Me, I like snarky heroes with a sense of humor. And dogs. I really like dogs. And playing board games with friends, and Broadway shows. And Doctor Who.

I absolutely cannot resist a snarky hero. OK Stephen, here we go -- your challenge words are: Flamboyant, Pumice, Chipmunk, Fuchsia, and Staggered.  And Jillian says you get bonus points for using spleen. I have to confess that I'm not really sure how I'm going to account for bonus points.  Perhaps they might be turned into alcohol at the con. Let's see what you've got, Stephen!

The Hunters

Part 1, by Stacy McKitrick
Part 2, by Suzanne Sabol
Part 3, by AJ Norris
Part 4, by Jillian David

Part 5:

Rick’s lips were dangerously close to Suzie’s. Okay, he had worm slime all over his hands and some worm blood had splashed onto his brand new shirt, so perhaps this wasn’t the best time for romance. But one doesn’t always get to choose the moments in life, so…

Rick leaned in to kiss Suzie, but she chose that moment to look down at his worm-stained shirt. “You wore the shirt I bought you.”

The moment was gone. Perhaps it was for the best. After all, what chance did an immortal like Rick have with a sweet girl like Suzie? Rick knew how Suzie felt about him, and he knew she knew how he felt about her. And they both knew the impossibility of the situation. So they discussed Rick’s shirt. “Probably not the best color to wear for a night of hunting. Pink’s a bit…flamboyant.”

Suzie frowned. “That’s not pink.”

“Oh, it’s so pink.”

“That,” Suzie said, stepping back and eying Rick’s chest with a discerning eye, “is definitely fuchsia.”

“If you say so.”

A voice came from above them. “Always go by what she says, bro. Suzie’s always right.”

Suzie smiled. Rick tried to hide the annoyance he felt as he recognized the voice. Tommy was Suzie’s younger brother, and she treasured him more than anything in the world. To Rick he was just a bratty kid with chipmunk cheeks and a horrible taste in clothing. In moments, Tommy’s grinning face showed at the head of the open grave.

Suzie gave him a little wave. “Hi, Tommy!”

Tommy returned the wave. “Hey, sis!”

Rick hoped Suzie couldn’t hear the anger he felt. “You followed us!”

Tommy help up the stake he held in his right hand. “Well, yeah! Who doesn’t want to kill Mondasian Death Worms?”

Rick was glad the night foggy now. Maybe Suzie couldn’t see the anger in his face. “Mongolian! Mongolian Death Worms!” Was it wrong that he wanted to rip out Tommy’s spleen?”

Tommy tilted his head to one side, as if deep in thought. “Oh, yeah. Mondasian are the Cybermen on Doctor Who. ”

Suzie staggered a little as she held a hand up to her brother. “Help me up. I don’t want to spend all night in an open grave.”

“Yes,” Rick agreed. “We’ve still got work to do.” Although he preferred to do it with only Suzie as company.

Tommy gripped Suzie’s arm with surprising strength for a 14-year-old. As Suzie braced herself for the climb up, he said, “Yeah, speaking of which, did you guys see those tombstones?”

“We’re in a graveyard,” Rick noted. “There’s a lot of them about.”

“Yeah, but I mean the ones over by that big crypt. They look…weird. All mottled with holes. Like the granite had been turned into pumice. They’re real brittle, too. I touched one and…”

“Tommy!” Suzie screamed. “Look out! Behind you!"
Man, Rick just cannot catch a break, can he? What now?? You'll have to wait for the next installment to find out!

Con Information:

Don’t miss your chance to meet some amazing authors at Rust City Book Con next August! Come join us as we celebrate the authors who write the stories we love to read in the Motor City!
Be sure to keep up with all things Rust City 2017, by following it via your own personal social media drug of choice: Facebook |Twitter | Google+ | Tumblr | Instagram | RSVP at the Facebook Event.

Friday, July 14, 2017

RustCity Flash Fiction: Robin Nadler

Please welcome Robin Nadler back to Alpha Heroes! Robin will be adding to our Contemporary Realistic story. Hi Robin! can you tell us a little bit about how you write your main characters?

Hi Nicola! I love characters- both men and women. I think an alpha needs to be challenged and show his vulnerability within the story. I always push into suspense because it brings out the real emotions.

That makes sense -- stressful situations have a way of getting under a person's defenses, for sure!  Are you ready to play the game? Your challenge words are: hammer, level, drill, Disneyland, zip-tie

So ready! Can't wait to see what you think!


Part 1, by Rue Allyn
Part 2, by Azriel Johnson

Part 3:


How did she still get to him? How did he allow her so deep into his heart? How could he rid himself of her clutches?

If he was honest, she was right. He'd fucked up. He'd let his jealousy and insecurity ruin the best thing he had going in his life.

He heard all about this ‘Baxter’. That was the problem growing up in a small town. People gossiped whether you wanted to know or not. All he heard was how Baxter was the one. Baxter had money. Baxter had power. Baxter had her heart.

So Van did what he'd always done.

He'd sabotaged himself. He'd gotten drunk and banged some girl he didn’t even know.

And that was it.

“Earth to Van!” she called out as she took his hammer from his belt.

“Huh? What are you doing?” he snapped out of his stupor.

“I was talking to you and you were zoned out. What the hell is wrong with you? I asked you to fix this rusty nail and you’re acting like I’m on a different planet.”

He watched her walk across an unsteady part of the roof and fear filled his handsome features when he realized what she was about to do.

“Arielle? No!” he yelled as she hit the beam and in a split second, the whole floor gave way.

Fear filled both of their faces as they crashed down onto the level below, dirt and dust billowing up all around them.

They were both coughing and he sat up quickly, ignoring the searing pain in his side.

“Are you okay? Ari? Baby, look at me, please,” he crawled over to her and she was lying on her back, trying to catch her breath.

“I told you it wasn’t up to code,” she said softly as he noticed the blood trickling down the side of her face.

Why was she being so nice and calm?

“Tell me what hurts,” he said, trying to assess the damage.

“My heart because you broke it,” she said as she sat up slowly. “I’m fine.”

He moved away from her and felt the coldness return as her bitterness was evident.

“We need to get out of here,” he said more to himself as he went to get up, but fell.

He looked at her and her face was white as a sheet.


She walked to him and smiled a little.

“Hey, you should sit down, okay?”

“Huh? Why? What’s wrong?”

Arielle saw the drill sticking into his side and she reached for him as he turned and saw it himself.

“Fuck,” he said and pulled it out.

“No!” she screamed as he began to bleed from the wound.

Van realized quickly he shouldn’t have done that, but there was no going back now.

“Oh God,” she said and looked for something to apply pressure. She pulled her shirt off and held it to his side.

“I knew you wanted to get naked with me again,” he grinned as he lay down, his face alarmingly pale.

“Shut up. Why are you always such an idiot? You always do things without thinking of the consequences,” she said as she spoke about so much more than the moment they were in.

He closed his eyes and she pulled his helmet off, running her fingers through his hair.

“Hey, look at me,” she said through her tears. “This is nothing, okay?”

“I’m sorry,” he said for the first time. “I should have believed in you. I’ll never regret anything more than hurting you.”

She looked around and found a bunch of zip ties nearby.

Thankful for the help, she tied her shirt around him and knotted it the best she could, with zip ties holding it together tightly.

She tried to get a signal on her phone, but there was nothing.

“HELP!” she screamed.

“It’s okay,” he said, his blue eyes opening and piercing her heart.

“Please stay awake,” she said. “Let’s talk about something else.”

“You were the best thing that ever happened to me,” he said. “Remember Disneyland? Remember the train ride?” he smiled.

Memories flooded her mind and her angry exterior began to crumble.

She was a hypocrite.

Baxter wasn’t just an old high school flame.

He had been right to be upset.

“Hey, is anyone down there?” someone called.

“Yes,” she cried out. “We need a medic.”

“Help is coming,” they called back.

Van opened his eyes again and smiled.

“Be happy, okay? You are one tough woman, and I love you.”

She stroked his cheek and leaned to press her lips against him.

“Please stay with me.”

His eyes were closed and she wondered if he was still with her.

The medics arrived and she was pushed back, a blanket thrown over her shoulders and her view to him obscured.

Wow, this could go pretty much any direction from here! Can't wait to find out!

Find more from Robin at her website.

Con Information:
Don’t miss your chance to meet some amazing authors at Rust City Book Con next August! Come join us as we celebrate the authors who write the stories we love to read in the Motor City!
Be sure to keep up with all things Rust City 2017, by following it via your own personal social media drug of choice: Facebook |Twitter | Google+ | Tumblr | Instagram | RSVP at the Facebook Event.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

RustCity Flash Fiction: Jillian David

Today on the blog, I want to welcome Jillian David for the first time!  Based on our correspondence, I'd say that a) Jillian has a bit of a mean streak, and b) we're going to get along famously at the conference.  What do you think of the game so far, Jillian?

Well, Nicola, I got handed some pretty amazing words to work with... I hope that the ones I'm passing along the next player will be equally as horrible... I mean, as, um... amazing, yeah, did I already say that? Amazing. Yes. That's the word.

I see... well OK then!

Also, I like cats and damaged alpha heroes who are far from perfect. 

Well, I completely agree that perfect heroes are no fun at all.  As for cats, I like them when they belong to other people, since they sadly make me sneeze.  So... moving on to this amazing story: Jillian's challenge words from AJ are: obedient, evanescent, itchy, jellyfish, trick

(The don't seem so bad to me... I mean, I've seen worse, am I right??)

The Hunters

Part 1, by Stacy McKitrick
Part 2, by Suzanne Sabol
Part 3, by AJ Norris

Part 4:

Too many worms, not enough time. Story of Rick’s endless existence.

Actually, he had tons of time. Oodles of time. One of the perks of being immortal, thanks to his curse.

But Suzie, with her stiff upper lip and determined set of her shoulders? Still mortal. Fragile. He clamped his teeth together until his jaw creaked. Damn it all. For the first time after all those years of isolation, he finally cared about another human. That simple fact made his gut churn like a mass of jellyfish. Sad to say, but this cemetery was as close as he and Suzie would ever get to “date night”. And that fact pissed him off even more than the impending danger.

“Get ready,” she hissed, pointing toward a grassy section of the cemetery.

The earth shifted and rolled, transforming the ground into a living, hellish rollercoaster. Then Snatcher 2.0 emerged with a pop and a howl that made Rick’s skin itchy, like a thousand fire ants marched up and down his body.

Damn her brave soul, but Suzie waved her arms and danced around like a deranged bullfighter, trying to trick the nasty beast into charging. Rick spied the thing’s movement, evanescent in the moonless night, as the Snatcher opened its hideous, dripping maw. Then the creature eyed its wide-eyed snack: Suzie.

“Run this way!” Rick hollered, resetting his grip on the stake as he dropped into a defensive crouch.

In the darkness and thick fog, though, Suzie raced the wrong direction, abruptly dropping out of sight. A thud and an oof followed her disappearance. For the love of Pete, would it be too much for her to be obedient when he gave directions?

No time to formulate an answer.

The Snatcher loomed in front of Rick. The whiff of festering carcass clogged Rick’s nose, but he didn’t care. That creature stood in the way of Rick’s goal of checking on Suzie. Ok, maybe making a move on her, although that dream just wasn’t materializing this evening. A cursed immortal could always hope.

Damn this life. Sick of prancing around the wriggling Snatcher, Rick’s strength and reflexes ratcheted up to another gear as he leapt onto the back of the worm. A growl of rage ripped from his gut and filled the foggy night. With a shoulder-burning plunge of the stake, Rick silenced the creature for eternity.

A splash of gas and a flick of a match was all it took to finish the task at hand. He stood over the smoldering bastard. Air raked in and out of Rick’s lungs.

Silence permeated every inch of the still cemetery.

He wiped his worm-slimed palms on his jeans, spun on his heel, and rushed to the open grave.


“Yes. What?” Her voice, muffled and low, drifted up to him. He pictured her with a pouting lip and with her arms crossed over her chest. Classic Suzie pose when things didn’t go her way.

Rick eased down into the pitch-dark subterranean space and held his arms up until he encountered her warm frame. He ran his hands over her – only to make sure she wasn’t injured, of course. “Anything hurt?”

“Only my pride.”

“It’ll get easier one day.”

“But will my life get easier?”

His only answer was to pull her flush to his chest and wrap his arms around her, like that simple move could somehow keep all the bumps-in-the-night at bay. Like he could keep her from one day becoming exactly like Rick.

With a sigh, she relaxed into him, her head drifting to his shoulder.

He eyed the black, moonless sky and inhaled the floral and very human scent of her shampoo. As date nights went for cursed immortals, maybe this venue wouldn’t be the worst.

Seriously. It’d be a shame to let the semi-private fresh grave go to waste.
I think I see where you're going with this, Jillian, and I like the cut of your jib. But will our next player follow your cues? or swerve down another sidestreet... er, gravesite? Or produce an even more mixed-up metaphor? Stay tuned to find out!
For more of Jillian's writing, check out her website or come meet us all at the conference!

Con Information:

Don’t miss your chance to meet some amazing authors at Rust City Book Con next August! Come join us as we celebrate the authors who write the stories we love to read in the Motor City!
Be sure to keep up with all things Rust City 2017, by following it via your own personal social media drug of choice: Facebook |Twitter | Google+ | Tumblr | Instagram | RSVP at the Facebook Event.


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