Excerpt from Explosive Decompression : A Novel by John L. Sheppard


screen-shot-2016-09-27-at-15-05-24Isaac Asimov meets Charles Dickens with a dash of Jonathan Swift… 
In a world that is a science experiment gone horrifyingly wrong, scientist Audrey Novak awakes from a centuries-long sleep to discover that her work has been used to create an appalling world. Aided by commoners, bots, and another refugee from 20th century America, Audrey takes on the power elites on Earth and on the Moon in a novel that is equal parts adventure, science gone haywire, and rollicking humor. ?
Read an Excerpt –
Let’s begin our story with Orlon Pledger, shall we? It’s his fault that you’re stuck with me as a narrator. Braedon Pledger, Orlon’s father, answered the bell when the visitor had arrived.

The visitor was dressed simply in a charcoal gray tunic, black jodhpurs, and glossy black boots. He was clearly a True Canadian, a well-bred Gentry, a Level 2 class. “Is Master Orlon
Pledger home?” the white gentleman asked.

“I’ll fetch him, sir,” Braedon replied. He did not invite the man into his humble home, so the gentleman stood on the front stoop shuffling nervously about, certain that a dark complected commoner would stab him to death. A bee buzzed round his head and landed on his shoulder. The gentleman did not brush it off. It was an artificial creation, a spybot sent to make certain that the gentleman discharged the duty bestowed upon him properly.

The heir to the Duke of Ontario was, at that moment, sitting comfortably inside a barge tied up on the Cuyahoga River, watching the gentleman as he twitched around in this commoner neighborhood, filled with naturally conceived people who were, he was certain, plotting his doom. CBC News made a habit of hyping up any crime committed in a commoner neighborhood so that everyone was convinced that commoners were naturally violent. Even commoners bought into this.

For their part, the commoners were staring out their windows at the gentleman from their
modest homes, wondering what a white man was doing making a call on the local blacksmith during the supper hour.

Orlon was in his room, the door open, flopped across his feather mattress, reading a musty old book of poetry illustrated by Buzz Pepper, an artist from the 20th century.

The pages practically crumbled as Orlon flipped carefully through them. Books were a rarity, and frowned upon by all classes of Canadians. Orlon peered over the top of the book and brightened, “Was the door for me?” He clutched the book to his chest as if the person at the door might want to steal it.

“Yeah,” Braedon said, leaning against the door jamb. “And no, it is not Miss Alice. It is a gentleman.”

“A gentleman, Pop? I don’t understand.”

“You best go talk to him. It’s not good to keep a gentleman waiting, especially a True Canadian gentleman. I know the accent well enough from when your mother and me lived there.”

Orlon slipped a torn piece of paper into the book to hold his place. Pepper’s illustrations were drawn in the closing days of his life. He’d been a soldier in the Gulf War in the 1990’s and had been exposed to chemicals and radiation, causing him to develop glioblastoma multiforme, an incurable brain tumor, at age 36. Pepper, in the years following his death, was thought of as one of the greatest artists of that period. A lot of his fame came from the way he died, from the suffering-porn industry of the 21 st century.

Pepper had been mistaken by the Canadians as the second man on the Moon—Buzz Aldrin—even though several of Buzz’s artworks, including a massive frieze depicting soldiers stepping off a plane in Saudi Arabia, hung in the Imperial Gallery of Art in Toronto.

He was also widely thought of as a Canadian. It was an easy enough mistake to make after history was nearly erased by that series of calamities known collectively as “The Great Collapse.”

“You’re gonna go blind reading that stuff,” Braedon said as Orlon slipped past him and walked down the hall to the front parlor.

“I know, Pop,” Orlon replied. Orlon jerked open the door revealing the gentleman standing there. The gentleman, as he had been instructed to, bowed deeply before the young apprentice blacksmith. “I represent His Lordship, Studholme Prescott, heir to the Duke of Ontario, colonel of light infantry, commanding His Majesty’s Royal Rifle Corps, currently on assignment to put down the rebellion in the Unquiet Zone. Please excuse the liberty of my intrusion. His lordship wishes to know if you are well.”

“Should I bow?” Orlon asked his father, who had strode up behind him.

“No,” Braedon said. “He is a Gentryman.” Gentry were Level 2 class, genetically modified into effective middle-managers, their built-in flaw an insatiable taste for the acquisition of shiny baubles. “Let him say his peace and then beat feet.” He placed his hand on Orlon’s shoulder protectively.

Orlon was dressed in fireproof coveralls despite the heat of the mid-afternoon. If there hadn’t been another row of houses across the street, man and boy would have been looking at Lake Erie, glistening like a jewel before them, gooey with hundreds of years’ worth of pollutants. Instead, they saw Mrs. Marbury, their across-the- street neighbor, standing on her front stoop staring openmouthed at them and their visitor.

“Your father,” the gentleman said, “your biological father, wishes an audience with you
tomorrow. You will stand where I stand now at precisely half past noon. A carriage will arrive. You will step into it. You will then be transported to your father’s location.”

“My boy will not be having an audience with that rapist,” Braedon said. “Lord or no.”

“It is his choice. His father wishes to see him on his sixteenth birthday.”

“That was last week,” Braedon said.

“His father—”

“Enough! Get off my stoop, you proper gentleman of Canada! Go away and leave us be! We’re not on the dole, and we owe you nothing!”

“Typical Fussy sentiment,” the gentleman muttered darkly. He turned to Orlon again. “The order stands, young Master Pledger.” He bowed again, backed away, stepped off the stoop and a black carriage, an opaque black box with no discernible wheels, whisked silently up to the curb. A door manifested itself in its side, the gentleman stepped in, the door disappeared, replaced by seamless black boxiness, and off it glided.

“Fussy” is how True Canadians referred to subjects of the crown residing in the lower provinces, in the Former United States. Hardly anyone there even blinked at the term

“Fussy” by that time. After two centuries of Canadian rule, it failed to be an insult any longer. The only people in the lower provinces who ever referred to themselves as “Americans” were white people living off the grid in the Rocky Mountain Province, a.k.a. “the Unquiet Zone.” They also called themselves “the Sons of Liberty”—a term they picked up from a popularly shared video created by the Walt Disney Company, Johnny Tremain, which they mistook for a documentary.

The bee buzzed into the homestead and sat atop the fake gilt frame surrounding a painting of “St. George Slaying the Dragon” hanging on the parlor wall next to the 48- inch TV set, the only electronic device in the home other than the two LED storm lamps that the man and the boy carried around with them at night. The TV and lamps were powered by solar panels bolted to the roof, which juiced up strung-together batteries filled with genetically modified algae stashed in the attic. The TV picked up three channels: CBC One, CBC Sports and CBC News.

Orlon and Braedon were both well-acquainted with the antics of Colonel Prescott from CBC News. A typical broadcast from the Unquiet Zone featured the 30-ish lord standing in a field, resplendent in a red tunic weighted down with medals, a riding crop under his armpit, his head held high, blonde hair flowing off his scalp, business in the front and party in the rear whipping round in the mountain breeze, his emerald eyes gleaming with psychotic glee, declaring that he had these white supremacist scum on the run and that the rule of law would be the order of the day, surely.

Orlon recalled Braedon’s reaction, time and again, as one of bitter contempt toward the
Colonel. He’d assumed that it was merely his father’s (and nearly every commoners’) general contempt for the aristocracy. But it became clearer that evening when the two of them sat in the parlor together watching the PKK fights on CBC Sports.

“That man is your mother’s rapist,” Braedon said during the break between rounds.

“Know that before you go rubbing elbows with that… lord.”

The colonel watched Orlon’s worried reaction through the eyes of the bee with a measure of sadistic satisfaction.

A sampling of acclaim for John L. Sheppard
“Sheppard’s characters pretend not to be funny, to not be emotional, to not need each other, when of course, they are and they do. There’s a clarity to the chaos, the restraint, the vulnerability Sheppard creates, something so human and essential you can’t help but turn the page.”
–Entropy magazine
“…an easy affection for his characters and a sense of natural, unforced humor.”
“…You have a good time seeing someone have a bad time. It’s fun…”
–Padgett Powell
“…raw feeling and taut smart prose.”
–Sam Lipsyte
“The author grips you from the beginning, I couldn’t have put it down if I wanted.”
–Amazon reviewer

John L. Sheppard wrote the novels After the Jump, No Brass, No Ammo and Small Town Punk.


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Glad I love the research! Guest Post from author Laura Stapleton


Glad I love the research!

Historical romances are notorious for being researched to the nth degree. In fact, I’ve heard more than one historical writer want to write contemporary because it’s easier.

As a writer of both then and now I have to say, really? No, it’s not easier. In my newest adventure, the Nova Scotia Murder Mysteries, being from the US meant I had more than my share of study into a Canadian’s daily life. Taking the easy way out meant having my characters go to McDonald’s for their fast food, Walmart for shopping, and make up a name for a grocery store and go with that. Doing the investigation meant knowing McDonald’s has poutine, Walmarts are eerily similar, and Metro or Sobey’s looks a lot like every US grocery I’ve been to from Los Angeles to Portland, Maine.

I needed to keep track of little things like the metric system. Canadians think in Celsius, and you know the Yanks think in Fahrenheit. It was a constant math-a-thon in my head with the numbers. Then, miles per hour versus kilometers per hour? One hundred at one is vastly different than the same number in the other. On my final read through for Betrayal and Imposter, the first two books in the series, I had to check for miles and temperatures, converting when necessary.

Writing the third book, Pleasures, has been interesting in one of those, “Hope the NSA isn’t laughing at my searches,” ways. The plot meant researching strippers and where they work. I learned a lot and read a lot of advice from the employees. Let’s just say the food and the housekeeping are not the clubs’ focus. Considering my main character is a doctor, he’s well aware of the biohazards possible, and I have fun with that fact.

The bottom line to everything is I feel infinitely lucky with research. The internet, traveling to the books’ settings and making friends who are experts in the areas I need have all been invaluable.

imp_medIn the second full novel in an Atlantic Maritime series, an assumed loyal son is the first suspect after his invalid mother’s surprise death.

Was the suspect impatient for his inheritance? Or did old age catch up to the dear elderly lady?

Can Aaron and Mandy teaming up again help explain his patient’s death before the wrong man is arrested?

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Welcome to the first full novel in an Atlantic Maritime series soaked in romance and murder. When a family friend of Mandy Hays washes up on shore, everything points to homicide. But how, when he was alone on a fishing trip? Her sexy neighbor, Dr. Aaron Nicholson, knows much more than he can say. As the evidence piles up, all of the victim’s family and closest friends seem guilty. Need to know more? Grab your copy of this “enticing page turner!” today.

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With an overactive imagination and a love for writing, Laura Stapleton decided to type out her daydreams and what-laura_stapleton_ifs in order to share her lovable characters and their worlds with readers. She currently lives in Kansas City with her husband, daughter, dog, and a few cats. When not at the computer, you’ll find her in the park for a jog or at the yarn store’s clearance section.

Find Laura online at https://twitter.com/LauraLStapleton, https://www.facebook.com/LLStapleton, and at http://lauralstapleton.com.  Subscribe to Laura’s newsletter and keep up on the latest updates and new releases.




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5 Tips for Character Development

5 Tips for Character Development

As writers we are fascinated with people. Why? Our characters reflect real people. As such, they must act in realistic ways. We can’t have them do things that are “out of character.” We can dig deep inside ourselves and our experiences to create the people who fill our books or we can use other methods. After a while–book two or three, we may find that our own resources–the people we know– may run dry. Here are some tips for learning more about people in order to develop believable characters:

Tip #1: Observe everyone around you

When you see a parent and child interacting in the grocery store, don’t turn away. Lurk, listen and learn. The language the parent uses, the way the child responds are fodder for your characters. Wherever we go, we encounter people. Observe and learn from those observations.

Tip #2: Ask the experts

I am fortunate because I live with a psychiatrist. He carries a wealth of information in his head, and he has access to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM-IV). Most of the characters in my books are “normal,” but it’s fun to give them a few quirks. Maybe one is OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). Another may be a bit narcissistic. These kinds of flaws give your characters depth and dimension.

Tip #3: Pay attention to the character when they want to do something

Often our subconscious will direct the character’s behavior. When we push against our subconscious, we are imposing what we’d do in a given situation–not what the character might do.

Tip #4: When you get to the editing phase of your book, always ask, “Does this behavior make sense for this character?”

 If a character is timid to the point of extreme shyness, would that character speak up in a dangerous situation? Put yourself in the shoes of your characters and see how the action feels.

Tip #5: Let your Beta readers help you

Often we are too close to our work and our characters. Even when we’ve struggled to make our characters believable, as soon as reader says, “I don’t believe Hank would do or say this,” pay attention. These readers are simply reading, absorbing. They are in a different place mentally than we are. Sometimes they can see the most important things that we miss.
MURDERMOONSHINE_LARGEWhen Jenna decides to go to this wedding, she expects to dredge up old secrets and old hurts and she expects to see people from her past, but she doesn’t expect to stumble on a dead body.

Jenna’s friend is arrested. The wedding is cancelled. And Jenna’s tendency to stick her nose where it shouldn’t be leads her into the path of the killer.

Set in the serene mountains of North Carolina Murder on Moonshine Hill is filled with suspense, humor, and a quirky cast of supporting characters.

 Amazon / Nook

Buy any one of Joan’s books this week and get a second
book of your choice free. For the deal they have to purchase
 from this link: MuseIt Publishing


Pick up Book 1

e-Murderer copyOn this anything but typical Monday morning Jenna Scali, who works part-time for a shrink, opens an email that depicts the brutal death of a young girl. On that same day the police uncover a dead coed two blocks from Jenna’s house. The e-murderer’s description creepily echos the death described in the newspapers.

When Jenna receives other emails, she takes what she knows to the police and thus begins her journey in the path of the e-murderer. Her curious nature impels her from e-messages to dead coeds to a ring of prostitutes. With the help of her quirky friends, Jenna learns that she’s more than a conduit for the killer. She’s his target. New secrets unfold, and finally her love life takes a tumble when the true killer emerges.

THE E-MURDERER is a race to find a psychotic killer before he kills again.

This new mystery series with a young female sleuth promises to keep you glued to your seat until the last page.

Buy on Amazon / Barnes and Noble / Kobo Books / MuseItUp Publishing

Watch the Book Trailer for e-Murder

Joan is an award-winning writer who has published 6 books and numerous stories. Readers compare her to the great Southern writer, Fanny Flagg. “She writes characters and a story that will joancCurtisstay with you.”

Her debut mystery/suspense novel, The Clock Strikes Midnight, won the silver medal for fiction/suspense in the Global eBook Awards for 2015 and is a finalist for the Royal Palm Literary Award. The e-Murderer won first place in the Malice Domestic Grants competition for new writers.

Joan has been an avid reader for as long as she can remember. She reads all kinds of books, including women’s fiction, mysteries, biography, and nonfiction. Mystery/suspense with a psychological twist is exactly the kind of book Joan loves to read.

GEbA_Gold“I write about characters who remind me of myself at times and my sister at times, but never fully so. My stories are told from a woman’s point of view with a destiny. Characters drive my writing and my reading.”

Having grown up in the South with a mother from Westchester County New York, Joan has a unique take on blending the Southern traditions with the eye of a Northerner. She spent most of her childhood in North Carolina and now resides in Athens, Georgia.

Enter to win a copy of The Clock Strikes Midnight (award-winning book) and a $25 Amazon GC

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