Saturday, March 28, 2015

Stone Soldiers #11 (SNEAK PEEK)

As #11 is finished up for imminent release, here's a glimpse of the Kindle cover, and Chapter One...


As the little green man eased one leg out the window of a remote Kentucky cabin, James Van Zanger held his breath and squeezed the trigger of his rifle. The big gun bucked slightly, driving the stock deeper into his shoulder as a large, subsonic bullet cleared the barrel, then the long, home-made suppressor. At this distance, the muffled shot would go undetected, smothered by the night sounds all around the lone home so far from anything or anyone else.

The uninvited, evil little visitor jerked as the bullet passed through its head, punching out the back of a hairless, mishappen head. The bullet continued on, drilling into the head of the next unwanted visitor in line. Both targets collapsed lifeless to the floor of the remote house. 

With two of their number dead, the remaining four intruders dropped the paralyzed body of the woman they were carrying and ducked back, away from the window, fear sweeping over their grotesque faces.

Van Zanger swung his rifle slightly to the right, drawing in a fresh breath and watching through the large night vision scope. A shadow on the wall of the room moved--a silhouette of one of the short, nightmarish figures that had tried to abduct the homeowner in the still of the night. 

He shifted the rifle back to the left, aiming at a blank section of wall, then fired again. Had this been a more sturdily-built home, the 7.62 millimeter round might have lodged in that wall. But Lauren P. Rager's home was a prefabricated one--made of thin sheets of plywood in a far-away factory, transported over land, then assembled in the remote backwoods. The grotesque shadow on the wall jerked then collapsed, the well-aimed bullet guided into its torso. 

Van Zanger smiled. Three down and three to go. 

The view through his scope suddenly flashed green then winked out, the light amplification circuits overloaded by a sudden flare of light on this dark night. 

He put the rifle down and looked around, immediately spotting the source of the bright light. A brilliant ball of white energy, hanging in place above the ground, flooding the woods with light like a miniature sun--only ten feet away from his position. 

They had found him.

Van Zanger leapt to his feet, throwing off the camouflaged tarp he had been hiding under. His knees burned and his joints protested as he propelled himself away from his sniper nest, charging away through the woods. 

Jim Van Zanger was not a young man anymore. Life had been hard on him and taken its toll on his body. He had a large paunch and weathered skin. What hair he had on his head was mostly in a beard that was graying, or hidden by his lucky ballcap. But despite his fading physical prowess, the graying alien hunter sprinted away from the bright light like a quarterback trying to make a touchdown.

As he raced along, his ghillie suit snagged at branches and brush in the dark woods. His feet thumped loudly on the trail he'd prepared two days ago, working in secret during the day while the visitors' intended victim was away from her home. 

Van Zanger made a terrible ruckus as he ran. Stealth was not his concern--distance was.

At last, he reached his fall-back position and leapt over a log, landing roughly on the other side, then ducked down. 

He was now sixty feet away from his sniper nest, concealed from view in thick brush. The bright light that had overloaded the light amplification circuits of his rifle scope had winked out during his mad dash, plunging the woods back into darkeness. The only sound he could hear in the dead of the night was his labored breathing. He centered himself, forcing his lungs to take shallower breaths as his pulse pounded in his temples. 

As he reached for the detonator he'd previously placed under the log he now hid behind, he thought to himself once again that he was getting too old for this. He could see the age spots on the back of his hands as he quickly wired up the detonator. His brown eyes searched in vain, trying to see through the deep, impenetrable black of the woods.

Finally, his wires in place, Van Zanger pulled a small night vision monocle from a pocket and pressed it to his eye, peering up over the edge of his cover. Something was moving near his sniper nest. Something big. Far bigger than his normal prey.

Van Zanger ducked behind his log again and squeezed the detonator handle, triggering the explosives around his nest. 

The blast shook the earth and drove the air from his lungs like a sledgehammer. A huge fireball flashed up, roiling into the sky as it ripped the position to shreds and sent shrapnel in every direction.

Jim Van Zanger waited several moments, then peeked over the log again. Fires were burning all around the crater where his sniper nest had been. He hated losing his rifle--it had been a good one, responsible for many kills over the past few years. Some trees were flattened nearby, while others smoldered, limbs torn and twisted in the blast. 

Slowly, he rose to his feet, picking up a shotgun from he'd stashed with the detonator. There were still targets down at the house.

As he turned toward the lone cabin, another bright light flashed into existence by the isolated building. Unlike the one near his nest, this light rose rapidly into the air, fleeing the scene.

"Dammit!" Van Zanger cursed. His eyes followed the gleaming, silvery craft, lights flashing around its circumference as it rose swiftly from the ground.

The circular, disk-shaped craft streaked up in a straight line, rising a good hundred feet into the air. Then it abruptly changed course, rocketing away at a right angle.

Van Zanger's scowl suddenly turned to a look of astonishment as something even faster raced up behind 
the glowing white and silver saucer. An orange ball of light, moving at super-sonic speed.

Orange light met white and a huge explosion ensued, bathing the remote woods in a flash like momentary sunlight and echoing like thunder.

Van Zanger turned quickly in the direction the orange ball of fire had come from--the house where he'd shot three of the intruders. The house the silvery craft now torn to shreds had taken off from.

A lone man stood outside the house, a long, tube-like launcher on his shoulder. Even at this distance, Van Zanger could hear the man hollering in excitement.

"What the hell?"

A sudden crunching in the brush alerted him. Van Zanger spun around, bringing his shotgun up and firing from the hip. 

A large, dark mass propelled itself from the shadows, batting the shotgun aside and knocking Van Zanger onto his back. He felt the wind pushed form his lungs as he hit the ground then felt hot saliva dripping onto his face. It fell from slavering fangs in a mouth filled with teeth. The mouth of something that looked like a bear and wolf combined. And which was pinning Van Zanger to the ground like a helpless kitten.

Jim Van Zanger didn't hesitate, he pulled a large knife from his hip and slashed at the monster straddling him. The blade plunged deep through dark fur and penetrated thick muscle.

The wolf-like creature yelped in pain and surprise and recoiled, allowing Van Zanger to roll clear and get to his feet.

His vision swam, his eyes refusing to fully focus. He had a concussion. At the worst possible time.

The huge creature that had attacked him hesitated, eyeing the silver-plated blade in his hand.

Van Zanger glanced at his blade, then the bipedal monster before him, his stubborn brain at last accepting the reality before him.

This was a werewolf.

"Don't like silver, hunh?" Van Zanger asked, slashing with the knife as he took a step forward.

The werewolf, towering a good seven feet in height recoiled, unsure of what to do.

Van Zanger shook his head, trying to clear his vision. Was the monster wearing a camouflaged shirt and shorts?

A hand suddenly clamped down on Van Zanger's shoulder from behind, spinning him around.

"That'll be enough of that!" a gravelly voice said.

Van Zanger lunged with the knife, driving it into the blurry midsection of his attacker. It was like stabbing a wall. His blade glanced off and then was torn from his grip.

Despite being a burly, full grown man who'd worked with his hands all his life, Van Zanger felt himself manhandled with ease, as though he were no more troublesome than a small child. 

He was spun around in place again, his arms pulled behind his back. A loop of plastic quickly encircled his wrists, then he was spun back around.

"We're on your side, dumbass!" the gravelly voice exclaimed.

The man speaking to Van Zanger looked strange. He was big--with wide shoulders and thick arms and neck. He had a bullet-like head, shaved bald. His clothes were black and torn, and the smell of smoke and explosives clung to him. And he was gray.

His face, his teeth, even his eyeballs were made of some gray material, streaked and covered with soot and ash as though he'd weathered some explosion.

Van Zanger kicked at the gray man, but succeeded in only pushing himself backwards. Furry, clawed hands grabbed his shoulders from behind, catching the alien hunter. The hands of the werewolf.

It might not have been a good life, but Jim Van Zanger knew he'd done a lot of good with it. He'd stopped countless abductions and hopefully driven the little green men into near extinction, at least as best he could. He would meet his maker with his head held high. He squeezed his eyes shut and waited for the inevitable death blow.

"Let's get this guy down to the Colonel," the gray man ordered.

Van Zanger felt himself lifted and thrown over what he guessed was the shoulder of the werewolf he had stabbed. He opened his eyes, surprised he wasn't dead.

His captor moved swiftly through the woods, leaping and bounding through the darkness like a wild animal. Which he guessed was at least half right.

The dark melted away, replaced by bright, white, artificial lights. Lights put up around the remote house. 

Hanging on the werewolf's shoulder, Van Zanger could see the boots and legs of dozens of people running around the home. Soldiers.

After a surprisingly short time, Van Zanger was thrown to the ground, landing roughly on his side.

"Careful, there, Kane," a commanding voice said.

Van Zanger rolled over and looked around in astonishment. 

Soldiers were everywhere, dressed all in black. They carried body bags, which, judging by the size, were filled with Van Zanger's three kills. They carried equipment containers. It was a bustling hub of activity that reminded Van Zanger of the firebases he'd been posted at during the Vietnam war.

And in the middle of it was the man now looming over Jim Van Zanger.

He was a huge man, with wide shoulders and thick arms--more than a head taller than the gray man that had captured Van Zanger. He was dressed in black, gray and white urban camoflage and a black combat vest. Wide tactical shooter glasses covered his eyes, and his jet black hair was cut in a very short flattop. On the collar of his shirt were Colonel's wings.

Beside the big Colonel was the gray man. He too was in military uniform--albeit a uniform torn and shredded by what Van Zanger realized had been the explosives he'd set off at his sniper nest.

"He stabbed me, boss!" a whiney voice declared.

Van Zanger turned and saw a thin, pale teenager, wearing baggy camouflage shorts and t-shirt where the werewolf had been a moment ago. He held his side, which was still bleeding. 

"About time the government did something about this," Van Zanger growled, turning back to the Colonel.

The big Colonel reached into a pocket, casually extracting a piece of plastic. He unwrapped the plastic, then popped its contents into his mouth. 

"James Robert Van Zanger," the Colonel finally said, his voice deep and authoritative. He reached in his pocket again, then extended his hand. "Peppermint?"

Van Zanger looked around again, at the werewolf, the gray soldier, the scurrying soldiers and even a couple of medics carrying the unconscious form of Lauren Rager. They walked through an odd circle of dim light hanging in the air nearby, vanishing from sight.

"Is this the part where I get my memory erased?" Van Zanger asked.

The Colonel tucked the second piece of candy back into his pocket and smiled. "No, Mr. Van Zanger. This is where you get to serve your country."

Friday, March 13, 2015

The Shadow Raiders are coming!

Journey to the far North as the portal to ancient Asgard is re-opened after being buried beneath the ice for centuries. To prevent an invasion of Earth of mythical proportions, Detachment 1039 will do the unthinkable: they'll take the war against the armies of darkness into the shadows.

Striking at the heart of Asgard, a new team of super soldiers and psychic adventurers will have to work together to prevent the return of ancient beings of indescribable brutality.


Monday, March 9, 2015

Sneak Peak

Big things in the works for the Stone Soldiers. This summer, several of the characters will spin off into their own, less-pulpy novel, SHADOW RAIDERS.

Here's a sneak peak at the new cover....

A new team. A new mission. A new threat.

Journey to the far north when all of humanity is threatened by the archaeological find of the century.

Check back soon, for a further look at the new series cover and a more detailed description.