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Author of The Gemini Effect - Winner of the 2014 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award for Science Fiction / Fantasy / Horror

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Magic of Short Stories

In my post this past Saturday, I mentioned how I discovered flash fiction, and how writing those little short stories really changed my "writing world".  I found that crafting a complete story in less than 1,000 words was really a challenge, but a good one.  Most of my flash fiction stories ended-up at probably 1,500-1,600 words with the first draft, and cutting them down to below 1,000 words really helped me learn how slice and dice unnecessary words, craft shorter sentences, remove any unneeded exposition, etc.  Basically, writing flash fiction taught me how to self-edit much more effectively than what I was capable of before.  And they're fun to write, too!

I have a collection of my short stories available at Amazon titled, "Scattered Bones".  From today until November 30th, I'm offering the Kindle version for FREE.  Yeah, I know all the flash fiction I have out there is free on the US Amazon site (haven't broken the code with the UK site yet), but you also get three short stories, "Burial Ground", "Reflections" and "Broken" in this collection, which aren't free.  Nice little read for a long Thanksgiving weekend!

So . . . why do I think short stories are magical?  Below is the intro for "Scattered Bones", which I believe explains it pretty well.  If you'd like to grab yourself a copy, just click on the picture.

http://www.amazon.com/Scattered-Bones-Chuck-Grossart-ebook/dp/B00GQCVXAW




Introduction
The Magic of Short Stories

I always tinkered with the idea of writing fiction while growing up, but never formally put pen to paper until my late 30's. I still remember the moment I decided to start writing; it was April 2001, and I was on a remote assignment for the Air Force in the middle of Alaska, sitting in my dorm room & counting down the days until I could return home to my wife & kids in California. I'd finished reading an absolutely horrid horror novel (pun intended)—the author and title escape me—and thought to myself, "If this joker can write a book, I certainly can!" So, later that night, armed with a boatload of blissful inexperience and a clunky Acer Pentium 75 desktop, I started the draft that would eventually become my first novel, The Coming. I soon discovered writing a novel was far more difficult than I thought, and later realized finding an agent and/or publisher willing to take on a new writer was even more frustrating than I'd ever imagined. The hundred-or-so rejection letters I received for that first novel (including a very special one date-stamped the day prior to the date I sent the query package) never stopped me, though.  I truly enjoy telling stories, and I haven't quit writing since.
For those who've written a novel, you know it's quite an all-encompassing endeavor.  Some writers—those prolific wordsmiths whom I happen to envy—can pump-out a novel in a matter of months, or even weeks.  Sadly, I tend to write much like Forest Gump runs: not very fast, but steady when the spirit decides to move me (I also like boxes of chocolates, and I'm not a smart man, but that's not important right now).  Novels are a time-sucker, and like most writers not named King, Koontz, Patterson or Saul, time to write comes late at night or early in the morning, before or after the normal hours of the day, where one must take care of the annoying day job/rent/mortgage/car payment/eating thing.  More than anything, that simple fact is why I enjoy writing short stories—when it comes to time-sucking, short stories aren't quite as vampiric as the Great American Novel tends to be.
While perusing the titles at Smashwords.com (where I first published The Coming and my second novel The Mengele Effect as eBooks), I ran across a short, flash fiction horror story.  I read it, enjoyed it, and did a little research.  Flash fiction—stories with word counts anywhere between 300 and 1,000 words—seemed like a perfect way for me to put pen (fingers) to paper (keyboard) and give birth to some of the ideas bouncing around inside my misshapen noggin.  They wanted out.  So, I obliged.
My initial venture into flash fiction, titled "Ripple", is the first story in this collection.  I wrote in on a Saturday afternoon, and published it on Smashwords the next day.  For me, the magic of crafting short stories began a few hours later, when "Ripple" received its first review.  Two little words.  One was "Definitely", the other, "disturbing".  With that, I knew I'd hit the exact mark I was aiming for, and the aforementioned spirit gave me a forceful shove.
Most of the stories in this collection—with the exception of "Reflections", "Burial Ground" and "Broken"—are flash fiction pieces, each roughly 1,000 words in length.  If you want a little scare before you head off to work, or before you crawl into bed for the night, a quick dose of flash fiction might just be the ticket.  I'll let you decide.
So, now that I've rambled on for much too long, why do I think short stories are magical, you ask?  If I can take your hand and lead to a different place—if only for a few short minutes—and guide you down that darkened path of the mind where fear and shock await at every turn, then yes, I believe that is surely magical.  If I happen to scare you, shock you, cause you to wonder, or perhaps make you smile a little, the magic, my friend, is there.
Each story in this collection is a small, emaciated bone tossed along the darkened path down which I wish you to travel.  I encourage you to pick them up as you go, touch them, hold them in your hands for a bit, feel the texture.  If I've done my job, you may realize these little scattered bones seem oddly familiar.  As well they should, for down deep—whether you wish to admit it or not—they're part of you.
I hope you enjoy reading these stories as much I as I enjoyed writing them.
After all, I wrote them especially for you.

Chuck Grossart
Bellevue, Nebraska 
November 16th, 2013


So there you have it.  Enjoy the magic, and have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

For All You Potential 2015 ABNA'ers: The Publishing Journey UPDATE!

Wow, has it really been four months since my last post?  A lot has happened since July 21, and it's all been A-M-A-Z-I-N-G.  For all of you out there who are considering entering the 2015 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest, let me give you two words of advice:  DO IT.  I know there aren't any details on the 2015 contest out there yet (at least I haven't found any), but keep your eyes peeled.  Come January/February 2015, the details should come out (probably here).

First, a little background on my personal history with the ABNAs:  I submitted my first novel, The Coming, in the 2011 ABNA, and it made it to the quarter finals round.  Hoping to improve the next year, I submitted my second novel, The Mengele Effect, which I personally thought was a better book.  Didn't make it past the pitch stage.  Bummer.  In 2013, I submitted it again . . . same results.  Bummer, Part Deux.  Some say a sure sign of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again when the results aren't that good, so, call me insane, but I decided to submit it again for the 2014 contest (after significantly reworking the pitch).  My hopes weren't that high, especially considering the results from the previous two years, but I figured (insanely), what the heck.  And . . .

BAM!  Made it to the second round. (Third time's a charm, I said.)
BAM-BAM!  Made it to the quarter finals.  (Hey that's cool, I said.)
BAM-BAM-BAM!  Made it to the semi-finals.  (Whoa . . . this is getting more cool, I said.)
BAM-DIDDY-BAM-O-RAMA!  Made it to the finals! (Holy keeee-rap Batman!)

My little self-published novel was named the winner of the 2014 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award for Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror.  And do you know what?  If I hadn't entered, well . . . you know the rest.

So what's happened since my last post?  This picture sums it up, and we'll go over each part:



On the day I was notified that The Mengele Effect had won (by email; we noticed the missed call from Seattle on the phone a few days later-HAH!), I was introduced to Mr. Jason Kirk, Senior Editor at Amazon Publishing's 47North imprint, which would be publishing The Mengele Effect.  I had no idea what to expect, but immediately got the sense that this was going to be a collaborative process . . . and I was right.  There was no "You must do this," or "You shall change that," not at all.  Every change was discussed in depth, and my opinions & concerns were taken into account throughout the weeks that followed.

Before we dive in, though, let's jump back a bit for a little perspective.  I finished The Coming back in 2003, and received over 100 rejections from various publishers & agents over the next few years.  For The Mengele Effect, which I finished in 2005 or 2006 (I honestly don't remember), I received less than 20 or so  rejections before I decided to take a break from writing for a couple of years.  I'd send out an e-query every six months or so whenever the spirit moved me, but always had the same results:  Sorry, not what we're looking for, good luck, yada yada yada.  Bummer.  My dream of being a writer, which I began pursuing in 2001, wasn't working out so well.  Once I retired from the USAF in late 2008, I decided to pick it up again.  One of the guys I worked with at STRATCOM told me of a local writers group his wife belonged to (Kim Stokely, author of Woman of Flames and Winter Trees), and I decided to give it a try.  I attended the Nebraska Writers Workshop when I could, and always enjoyed listening to all the various genres represented, as well as the different skill levels.  It was there that I first learned about the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, and I submitted The Coming.  One of the NWW members had self-published one of their works on something called Smashwords, and I decided to try it out (it was either James M M Baldwin or Lisa Kovanda, I can't recall whom).  On 1 Jan 2012, I self-published The Coming, followed a week or so later by The Mengele Effect.  When someone actually bought one of my books, I almost fell out of my comfy recliner.  Coolest feeling in the world, it was.  Sales were miniscule, and later dropped-off to almost nothing, but it was still kinda neat.  Later, I ran across something called flash fiction - and my writing world took on a whole new dimension.  But that's a story for another post . . .

So, why did I just dump all that yak on you?  Well, I have to pinch myself just about every day to make sure this whole publishing journey is, in fact, real.  There was a time when I'd given up on being a published author, and now, it's happening.  Sure, I didn't get published the traditional way--finding an agent, or a publisher, though querying, attending conferences, etc.--but here I am, one happy short fat bald man with a novel ready for release early next year.  If it can happen to me, guess what . . . it can happen to you, too.  Let me stress this again; if you're thinking about entering the 2015 ABNAs, don't let your fear of rejection or self-doubts about whether or not your book is good enough keep you from taking the chance.  JUST DO IT.

Okay, let's dive into the details.  After I learned The Mengele Effect had won its ABNA category on July 2, here's what happened:

July 10, 2014
 I received an Amazon Publishing Questionnaire from Jason Kirk; in it, I had to provide the following details:
- Personal details about the short fat bald guy who wrote the book (that'd be me).
- A headshot photo (thanks to Ashley Crawford Photography, I had one).
- A listing of all previously published works.
- A brief personal bio.
- A 1-sentence pitch for the book.
- Who I thought my target audience was.
- A plot synopsis (yep, a synopsis . . . if you don't have one for your book, write one.  Yes, they suck, but you'll probably need it at some point).
- Descriptions of all my main characters.
- A list of plot points that could be considered spoilers.
- Cover design ideas.
- Editing questions; what I thought the editor should look for (potential problems) and identify any stylistic choices I wished to retain.

After this, the 47North team provided a revised "book blurb" that I had the opportunity to cut on, and approve.

July 21, 2014:  Developmental Edit Begins
Being a publishing rookie, I had no idea what a developmental edit was.  I explained it somewhat in a previous post, but think of it as a broad-brush look at the story as a whole, and identifying major adjustments to help take the book where it needs to go.  For me, it involved some character changes, a major sub-plot re-work, and re-ordering/combining chapters.  Jason Kirk provided the feedback he'd received from his team, and we--yes, we--went to work.  Again, this was an entirely collaborative process, made much easier due to the fact that every adjustment Jason suggested was something I'd thought of myself at one point or another (but never got around to fixing).  I felt as if Jason had found the little steel lock box in my head labeled "All The Things I Hope Aren't Noticed With This Story" and broke into it.  I should also point out that my personal writing style had changed somewhat since I first wrote the book, so this gave me the opportunity to go through it line-by-line and change things.  The first pass through the manuscript took about three weeks or so, and after going back and making additional changes/adjustments, we moved on to the next phase in September.

During this time frame, I reached out to J. Lincoln Finn, winner of the 2013 (and first) ABNA for Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror with her amazing novel, Poe. I asked if it had been all she'd expected, and she answered with a resounding YES.  If you haven't read Poe, please do.  When I say it's amazing, I'm not kidding.  I believe she had a different editor than I, and also had a much quicker production timeline to work with based on the dates of the 2013 contest, but her feedback filled me with confidence about the whole process.  One thing the 2013 finalists got to do that the 2014 finalists didn't, was to travel to Seattle for a Grand Prize Award ceremony (yes, even as a Denver Broncos fan, I would've enjoyed going to Seattle).  I was a little disappointed they didn't do it for 2014, but who knows, maybe 2015 will be a different story.

September 14, 2014: Copyedit Begins
In this phase, Jason provided me a copy of the manuscript that had undergone a line-by-line review (more like a character-by-character review) by a professional copyeditor.  As a self-published author, I've learned that one can look at a work hundreds of times, and fail to see some of the most glaring errors--your eyes will pass over them without noticing (I no there's a few mistaches in this pohst which I haven't noticed, ether).  He found them.  A lot of them.  Apart from being just a spelling/grammar/punctuation review, he also had some suggestions to make the story better.  Again, it was a collaborative process throughout.  This phase lasted a little over a month with a few more passes through the manuscript.

September 16, 2014: Title Change
What?  You want to change my title?  How can that be!  Well, once I understood the reasons why 47North wanted to change the title (mainly due to marketing concerns), and I put my faith in the publishing professionals who know what they're doing, we set out on yet another collaborative process to come up with a new title.  Jason had ideas, his team had ideas, and I had ideas, and together we decided on The Gemini Effect.  I love the title since it captures the story just as well, if not better, than the original, and it enabled the creation of one kick-arse cover design.

September 24, 2014: Cover Designs
Jason provided three different draft designs for The Gemini Effect, and I was blown away.  The main effort was to produce a cover that captured the story, was marketable, and met presentation format guidelines (small or large, color or black and white).  I really wish I could share the earlier designs, but due to copyright concerns, I can't (believe me, they were way, way cool).  Based on feedback from Jason, his team, and me (short fat bald guy), the designer presented a few other designs, and eventually we settled on the one you see on The Gemini Effect's Amazon product page, and I have to say I absolutely love it.  The full cover will look like this (finalized on November 11, 2014):


October 21, 2014: Audio Book Questions
On this date, I learned Phil Gigante would be narrating the audio book version of The Gemini Effect.  Once I Googled him, I was more than pleased.  His resume includes a number of big-name authors, some of whom are my favorites (like Dean Koontz).  He wanted to make sure he was pronouncing some of the character's names correctly, and how to say my goofy last name (GRAH-cert, not gross-art). ;)  I can't wait to hear it.

October 24, 2014: Proofread
Jason provided a pdf copy of the manuscript that had been through a proofread--a final check on the book's production-level formatting & wording.  What made this so cool was I was finally able to see exactly what the book was going to look like.  Those of you who have formatted books for Create Space know what I'm talking about . . . seeing your words as a real book is a neat experience, and seeing them as a professionally-done book is even MORE neat.  Within this copy, there were numerous notes, some for my review, and others for the book designer.  I was amazed by the level of detailed attention paid to every word; for example, some notes to the designer concerned moving one word in a sentence up a line, to improve how the lines looked on the page.  Incredible.  My review took only a few days . . . and with the approval of the proofread copy, and of the full cover on November 11, we were D-O-N-E.

So what's next?  On my end, nothing.  For me, it now becomes a waiting game for that April 1, 2015 release date.  The marketing folks at Amazon Publishing and 47North have some amazing plans for this book's release (which I obviously can't disclose), and I'm incredibly excited for that date to roll around.  All the previous versions of the original The Mengele Effect have been taken down from Smashwords (and their partner platforms, like Barnes & Noble, Apple, etc.) and Amazon (my decision, not Amazon's, in case you're wondering).  The book that rolls out on April 1, 2015 (no foolin') is a much, much better book than the original, and I can't wait to see how it's received.

Finally, let's go back to the original purpose for writing this post: the 2015 ABNAs.  I wanted to show those of you who are considering entering the contest that winning--even for a short fat bald guy who spends most of his off-time in a comfy recliner with a homebrew in his hand and a laptop on his lap--is a possibility.  I can't speak for the four other 2014 ABNA finalists, but for me, this has been an incredible journey.  Like J. Lincoln Finn told me, if you were to ask me if it's all I expected it would be (up to this point), I'd answer with an enthusiastic YES.

Best of luck to those who enter this year's ABNAs.  It could be a dream come true for you, too.  If you want to contact me directly, you can reach me through Twitter, on Facebook. or through my website.  I'd love to hear from you.

DISCLAIMER:  In case you're wondering, neither Amazon Publishing nor 47North asked me to write this post.  I read a few things from previous winners who spoke about their experiences, but the whole publishing process was always a mystery to me--that's why I wrote this post.  Scout's Honor. ;)

Saturday, July 26, 2014

And the Publishing Journey Begins...

As most of you know by now, The Mengele Effect didn't garner enough Amazon customer votes to win Grand Prize.  My congrats go to D.M. Pulley and her novel, The Dead Key, for taking the top spot!  After watching the download rankings move up and down all week for each of the five Finalists, it became obvious to me The Dead Key was going to end up on top; The Mengele Effect shifted from #2, to #4, to #3, to #5, and back again, along with the others.  Based on the download rankings, I wasn't surprised at all when Amazon announced the Grand Prize Winner on 21 July.  Again, congrats to D.M., and I wish her the very best of luck.  To those of you who voted for The Mengele Effect, you have my deepest thanks and appreciation.  I can't say that enough.

Winning my particular category, as I've mentioned in previous blog posts, was quite humbling.  Why my novel was chosen over 2,000 other Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror entries is a question I can't answer; I'm certain there were better novels that were, for some reason or another, passed over.  Luck and timing were on my side this year...I believe it's simple as that.  The Mengele Effect didn't make it past the pitch stage into the Second Round for both the 2012 and 2013 ABNAs, but I didn't let that stop me.  Sure glad I didn't decide to give up!  If I would've, I'd have never gotten my ugly mug in the local paper!




So what's next for The Mengele Effect?  On 10 March 2015, it will be re-released by Amazon's Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror imprint, 47North, in both hardcopy and Kindle eBook formats.  If you wish, you can pre-order a copy HERE and it'll be delivered on 10 March.  Will it be the same book you've read before (if you've read it, that is)?  For the most part, yes, but there will be changes.  The basic storyline will remain the same, but it'll be BETTER.  I can't stress how excited I am about all of this, and this is why...

Immediately after learning The Mengele Effect had won the 2014 ABNA Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror title (which still gives me the chills, by the way), I was contacted by Jason Kirk, Editorial Director for 47North.  [That's right, I have an E-D-I-T-O-R.  How cool is that!]  Over the past week or so, we exchanged emails back and forth regarding what he and his team thought were some areas where the story could be improved--starting the process called a Developmental Edit (being a publishing newbie, I had no idea what that was).  He sent me a long email touching on five or six areas...and I almost fell out of my Comfy Recliner.  I couldn't believe what I was reading!  It was as if he and his team had reached inside my head, found the little steel lock box with the sign on it that says, "ALL THE WEAK PARTS YOU HOPE AREN'T NOTICED", and broke into it.  Absolutely amazing.  I agreed with each and every point he made, because, quite simply, I'd thought about them myself at one point or another.

So what is a Developmental Edit?  In terms of my novel, basically this:
- Plot - This particular part didn't make a whole lot of sense.  Let's change it to something a bit more believable.
- Characters - This guy got way too much "screen time", and this other character didn't get enough, and she deserves it because WE LOVE HER!  This other character was overly sexualized, diminishing her impact & making her less believable.  Let's change it.

Notice how I say "Let's", and not "You must".  I wasn't sure what to expect--other than knowing the manuscript needed some work as it had never met the eyes of a professional editor before--but I have to admit I'm extremely pleased by how Jason Kirk and his 47North team are approaching this.  Totally collaborative.  I love it.  The changes they suggested--which as I said didn't surprise me at all--will make this novel even better.

So, not only do I have an EDITOR now, I also have my very first PUBLISHING DEADLINE.  Roughly a month from now, I have to have the developmental edits completed.

No sweat.

The journey to March 10th, 2015, begins NOW, and I couldn't be happier!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

THE MENGELE EFFECT - 2014 ABNA FINALIST!

This morning, Amazon officially announced the five Finalists in this year's Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest...The Mengele Effect was on the list!


To say I'm humbled would be an understatement.  I'm excited, shocked, happy, relieved...it's definitely a mixed bag of emotions I find difficult to describe.  The worst part is, I've known since 2 July and haven't been able to say anything!  You may not think ~6 days is very long, but it's been an ETERNITY (especially over a long holiday weekend).  Today, though, the announcement is out and I can finally TALK!  For those of you who asked if I'd heard anything, I promise I wasn't ignoring you!

This is how it went:

On 2 July, I came home from work, plopped down in my comfy recliner, fired up my laptop & checked my email...nada, zip, zippo.  According to the contest rules, I knew Amazon would contact the finalists "on or about July 2nd".  So, with no email or phone call during the day, I figured The Mengele Effect's run in this year's contest was over.  Like I've said before, I was extremely honored to have my silly story make it into the top 5 entries in the Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror category, and if it didn't make the Finals cut, I would still be happy.  Then, I remembered the email I received form Amazon prior to the Semi-Finals announcement, informing me my silly story was a potential semi-finalist due to the judging scores it received.  I dug through my inbox, found it, and noticed it'd come in at about 5:50 PM (Amazon is HQ'ed in Seattle, two hours behind Central time).  I looked up at the clock...and it was ~5:10 PM.  "Well," I thought, "I guess I still have forty minutes or so until--"

Ding.  Email notification.

And there it was, an email from Ms. Sarah Funk, Senior Product Manager for Amazon Publishing.  I read the first line, and almost fell out of said comfy recliner:  "We're excited to let you know that The Mengele Effect is our Semifinalist judges' pick for the ABNA Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror title for 2014!"

This was the face I made:


So, what does this mean?  The Mengele Effect is now #1 out of 2,000 Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror entries, and stands with the other Finalists as one of the top 5 entries out of 10,000 for this year's contest.  Along with the Finalist selection is a $15K royalty advance and a publishing contract with Amazon Publishing.  Amazon's Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror imprint, 47North, will publish The Mengele Effect in early 2015.  The handy-dandy graphics below describes the ABNA contest & the stages each of the finalists progressed through:



It's been quite a surreal day since the announcement.  Seeing my name in the Wall Street Journal was waaaaaay weird!  My wife Vanessa said the same thing...my name was in a major newspaper, and I didn't even do anything illegal!  HAH!

From now until 11:59:59 Pacific time on 18 Jul, Amazon customers will vote to decide the Grand Prize Winner ($50K advance vice $15K).  To see all the finalists and vote for your favorite, click this LINK; there's a voting block right below the excerpts.  I encourage everyone to read ALL the excerpts and vote for the one that tickles your fancy.  Only caveat is, if you don't vote for The Mengele Effect, I'll kill you off in a horrible manner in my next novel.  Nah...only REAL caveat is, you have to have an Amazon account in order to vote!

So what are you waiting for!  Click on over and vote for your favorite!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

ABNA Finals...2 July 2014 might be THE DAY


One week from tomorrow, I'll probably have a good idea whether or not THE MENGELE EFFECT is going to be selected as one of the five lucky finalists in the 2014 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award (ABNA) contest.  Right now, it's one of five Semi-Finalist entries in the Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror category, along with twenty other Semi-Finalists in the Romance, Young Adult, Mystery/Thriller and General Fiction categories.  On 8 Jul, Amazon will announce the five Finalists, each representing the #1 of 2,000 initial entries in each category.  Along with that comes a publishing contract with one of Amazon's imprints, which will make me do this \oo/  \oo/ with both of my hands (and maybe listen to Rob Zombie's "Superbeast" and "Demon Speeding", each of which I seemed to have listened to a lot while writing the book)!  After that, Amazon readers will vote to select the Grand Prize Winner, but that's not on the radar right now.

Is THE MENGELE EFFECT good enough to make the Finals cut?  I don't know...but, I sure hope so.  I'm humbled the judges thought enough of it to take it forward in the contest, now sitting as one of the top 25 out of 10,000 initial contest entries.  I'm not so caught up in the moment to NOT realize that surely some better novels than mine have been eliminated over the last ~four months.  Being lucky enough to have my entry land in front of a set of reviewers who happened to like it is...well, lucky!  I know that.  I am grateful, though, the judges liked it, and I appreciate all of you who've taken the time to read the novel or the ABNA excerpt and pen such amazing ratings.  You know who you are, and I thank you.

So, why is 2 Jul an important date?  Amazon will start contacting potential finalists on or about 2 Jul.  If I get a phone call or email on that date, then I'll know my entry is in the running.  If not, well...I'll wish my fellow competitors the best of luck with their entries, and start working on finishing one of the other novels I have in my goofy mental hopper.  I'm glad it made it to the semi-finals, and if it ends there, that's okay!

Like I said, THE MENGELE EFFECT is in the Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror Semi-Finals bucket with four other stories:

LOWER POWER by Michele W. Miller

PANDO by Nat Buchbinder

THE BOUND GODS by Rachel Dunne

THE VOICES AT CERN by Franklin Clermont

Amazon has the 5,000-word excerpts for each story posted HERE.  I've read each of the four other excerpts, and I have to say...well, I'm NOT going to say.  I'm interested in what YOU have to say!

If you have the time, take a look at 'em.  Do you think THE MENGELE EFFECT will make the cut???

Come 8 Jul (or maybe 2 Jul), we'll know for sure!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

THE MENGELE EFFECT - 2014 ABNA Semi-Finalist



I learned yesterday THE MENGELE EFFECT was selected to move on to the Semi-Finals round in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest.  A "Bald Man Happy Dance" quickly ensued!

So, what does this mean?  THE MENGELE EFFECT is now one of the top 5 of 2,000 entries in the Sci Fi/Fantasy/Horror category, and one of the top 25 of 10,000 entries overall.  You can see all the Semi-Finalist selections HERE.  CONGRATS to each of them!

I was disappointed a couple of my favorites didn't move on - one was titled "Faust's Butterfly", which I thought was excellent, and another was from a fellow Nebraska Writers Workshop member, Shannon Smiley, titled "The Age of Knowing".  I hope both of these authors submit next year, because their talent deserves recognition.  One glance at the number of 5-star reviews they received on their excerpts should tell you something.

I'm happy my novel made it though, but I know simple luck and timing play a LARGE part (as it does in most things in life).  I was lucky enough to have my 300-word pitch, 5,000-word excerpt and entire manuscript land in front of reviewers who happened to like what they read.  I knew, though, if I were able to get this novel past the initial pitch judging, it would have a chance...and this year, it did.

In 2011, THE COMING made it to the quarter finals round, but wasn't selected for the semi's.  I was pleased it went as far as it did, considering it was my first novel.  In 2012, I submitted THE MENGELE EFFECT, and it didn't make it past the pitch.  In 2013, I tried again, but had the same results.  "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again."  Yep...I'm glad I decided to submit it a third time.

The #1 entry for each category will be announced on 8 Jul.  Out of those top 5 finalists, Amazon readers will vote to choose the Grand Prize winner.  Amazon is supposed to start contacting potential finalists on 2 Jul--if I don't get a phone call or email around that date, then this fun ride is probably over...and that's okay.

So what am I going to do until 8 Jul?  Well, to start, I'm going to enjoy playing with my new smoker my wife got me for Fathers Day (I have the best wife ever, in case I haven't mentioned that), chew on a couple pieces of chocolate-covered bacon she picked up for me for Fathers Day (best wife ever, did I mention that yet?) and enjoy Fathers Day  with my three kids & their 'significant others' tomorrow while I cook two tri-tip roasts, Santa Maria BBQ-style, in my new smoker!

Wish me luck! (both with the contest, and that the tri-tips come out okay!)


Friday, May 23, 2014

2014 ABNA Publishers Weekly Review of THE MENGELE EFFECT is in and...and...and...Hmmmm.

As part of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award (ABNA) Quarter Finals, each entrant has their entire manuscript reviewed by Publishers Weekly.  The PW review of THE MENGELE EFFECT came in today, and...well, I don't think I'll be making the Semi Finals this year! [UPDATE:  I was wrong!]

If you haven't read THE MENGELE EFFECT yet, SPOILER ALERT!  Here's what the PW reviewer had to say:

"This fast-moving apocalyptic story provides edge-of-seat tension and raises far-reaching moral questions as U.S. President Andrew Smith orders the last-resort use of nuclear weapons on American soil. Chance natural events cause the abandoned remains of a laboratory experiment to produce huge ‘super-rats’ that unite to attack people. Their victims mutate to join their rapidly reproducing ranks. Millions of Americans are killed as military units and cities are quickly overrun, the plague spreads to birds, and conventional and chemical weapons prove inadequate defenses. As ace researcher Carolyn Ridenour and foe-turned-friend Col. Garrett Hoffman race to discover a solution, Jessie Hruska, national security advisor, uses her sexual enchantment over the president to promote the goals of a secret worldwide cult. Revelations that the outbreak stems from research by Nazi doctor Josef Mengele, built on by both sides during the Cold War, lead Ridenour to a possible remedy, but suspicions at the increasingly erratic decisions of Smith lead to a showdown between Hruska and Vice President Allison Perez amid the remains of America. [AND HERE COMES THE GUT PUNCH>>>] Although the writer’s intrusive moralizing and overly short chapters provide a steady onslaught of unsubtle, punchy blows, and the unnecessarily premature disclosures of Hruska’s duplicity diminishes the possible build-up, the reader is guaranteed tense moments in this well-executed horror-thriller."

Hmmm.  "Intrusive moralizing"?  Wow.  I actually try hard NOT to do that!  Although, I believe it's difficult for any writer not to have at least some of their personal beliefs seep into their characters...for example, if you read Koontz, you know it's probably a safe bet Mr. Koontz doesn't have a photo scrapbook from the 2012 Democratic National Convention on his coffee table.  Also, if you've ready any of Stephen King's recent stuff--say, 11/22/63 for example--you may find he's become pretty blatant about having his characters spout a liberal point of view.  Sometimes, it's so obvious and out of place it's hard to read without a chuckle or two.  Okay, Stephen, it's Bush's fault, I get it...now can we please get on with the story?  (I thoroughly enjoyed 11/22/63, by the way.)

Hmmm.  "overly short chapters provide a steady onslaught of unsubtle, punchy blows"  Exactly.  I happen to REALLY enjoy reading James Patterson, because he (or whoever writes his books these days) employs very short chapters.  For me, it quickens the pace & keeps me interested...there's nothing I hate more than slogging through a 20-30 page chapter, wondering when the heck it's going to end so I can get to sleep!

Hmmm.  "unnecessarily premature disclosures of Hruska's duplicity"  I felt I brought her "secret" forward at about the right time...guess not, for this reviewer anyway. ;)

So...am I disappointed with the review?  A little, but not too much.  Compared to the off-the-top-rope-crush-my-spleen PW review I received for THE COMING back in the 2011 ABNA contest (you can go back to 2011 in this blog and read it), this one was positively GLOWING!

"This fast moving apocalyptic story provides edge-of-seat tension and raises far-reaching moral questions..."  Yeah...I'll take that!

Well, like Wile E. Coyote, Suuuuper Genius, liked to say, "Back to the old [electronic] drawing board..."

Friday, April 18, 2014

2014 ABNA - The Quarter Final Reviews are IN!


This afternoon, Amazon posted the reviews for the 5,000-word excerpt I submitted for THE MENGELE EFFECT as part of the 2014 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award (ABNA) contest.  As was the case when THE COMING made it through to this round in 2011, there are two reviews.  I find both to be straight forward, and constructive:

***

ABNA Expert Reviewer

What is the strongest aspect of this excerpt?

The strongest aspect of this excerpt is its vivid prose style, which renders the terrible things described all too real for readers, really capturing the horror of what's happening. From the opening, in which historical background that at first seems out of place becomes unpleasantly relevant and oddly hypnotic, to the almost unbearable slowness with which the contagion escapes and transforms the rats, to the stomach-turning reality of what the police officers encounter, the author gets the tone just right for the type of horror thriller action the moment demands. This is the kind of excerpt that demands to be read straight through, in one uncomfortable but riveted sitting.

What aspect needs the most work?

This excerpt gets so much right that it's quite difficult to make suggestions for revision. It might help to give the police offer in the second half of the excerpt a bit more backstory. Obviously he's cannon fodder rather than an ongoing character, but still, at least a name and a small amount of character detail will make readers care more about the dark fate that's coming for him. That material can also be tied in to the intensity of the moment, as when the fact that he grew up on a farm gets him thinking about animals nesting. Because this excerpt ends before any of the main characters come onscreen, the one thing it can't do is show how the author will handle character drama and the revelation of personality. But you can at least give a taste of that by turning the police officer into the somewhat fleshed-out protagonist of his own brief, unpleasant story. That added richness can only make this excerpt more appealing.

What is your overall opinion of this excerpt?

This is a great excerpt by a writer fully at home in the world of the sci-fi/horror thriller. The prose is great, the horror is gruesome without being overdone or exploitative, and the premise offers some originality within a familiar apocalyptic framework. The author has a particularly nice sense of pace, beginning innocuously then slowly ratcheting up the tension before everything explodes into gory chaos. Omniscient narration rarely works even in thrillers, but this author knows how to handle it, and the stuff from the cop's point of view reveals a command of third person limited as well. The only missing piece is character drama, which might be added in via some revision to the scene with the cop. But even without that, this is first-rate work. If the novel is as good as the excerpt, this is a book that deserves publication in its present form, by a writer with a real flair for his or her chosen genre.

...and the second review, which is somewhat more critical (none of which I entirely disagree with, though):

ABNA Expert Reviewer

What is the strongest aspect of this excerpt?

The author of THE MENGELE EFFECT builds suspense through a variety of methods: the short sentences, the repetitions, the closing distance. The reader is horrified through graphic descriptions of death, yet the reader is also drawn forward to find out how far the plague will extend and how mankind will react. Starting with small animals (rats) is a good idea.

What aspect needs the most work?

The wordy chapter 1 could be tossed. People are unlikely to read on after being subjected to a quick history of the 1960s and the Cold War. Start with Chapter 2. There are also places in Chapter 3 that would allow entrance into the action sooner.

A second quibble: too many adverbs!

What is your overall opinion of this excerpt?

This novel provides many striking images that include sound, smell, and touch. The writer has a good firm hand in telling the story (with the exception of Chapter 1)and the biomedical thriller is a popular genre. The writer does not reduce the flow the the action with too much scientific data.

***

So what's my favorite line from the above?  This one:  "The author has a particularly nice sense of pace, beginning innocuously then slowly ratcheting up the tension before everything explodes into gory chaos."  Gory chaos...exactly what I was aiming for!  Mwah hah hah...

Sometime soon, the excerpts will be posted for YOU to review & rate.  Stay tuned...

Monday, April 14, 2014

2014 ABNA Quarter Finals - THE MENGELE EFFECT!

The list is out - THE MENGELE EFFECT made it through to the Quarter Finals round of the 2014 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award (ABNA) contest!  The 300 word pitch was judged for the Second Round, and the 5,000 word excerpt was judged for the Quarter Finals cut.

400 Second Round entries in the Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror category are now reduced to 100.  By the end of the week, each of the Quarter Finalist excerpts (with Amazon judge reviews) will be available for download at Amazon for you--my AWESOME reader--to take a look & leave your own review.

So what's next?  Well, the REAL tough judging begins.  Publishers Weekly will review & rate the entire manuscript for the next cut for the Semi Finals round.  The 100 Quarter Finalists in each category (General Fiction, Mystery & Thriller, Romance, Young Adult Fiction and Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror) will be reduced to...*gulp*...5 Semi Finalists per category on 13 Jun.

My novel THE COMING made it this far in 2011...I'm hoping THE MENGELE EFFECT will get a little farther!  Wish me luck!


Monday, March 31, 2014

Time for a Blog Hop!


I was invited a couple of weeks ago by friend and fellow writer Kim Stokely to participate in a "Blog Hop"—it's kind of like a "Sock Hop", but there's no socks...no music...no dancing...and no physical hopping, for that matter...only writing.  Okay, so it's nothing like a "Sock Hop", but I agreed because I want to show some of the schtuff I'm working on, and most of all, I want to introduce you to Kim Stokely—her bog is at www.kimstokely.com, and I've included her pic & bio below.

As for the "Blog Hop" questions, here goes!  (As I answer these, AC/DC is on the stereo, I'm only wearing socks, and I'm hopping around...now THERE's a vision for ya!)

1) What am I working on?
Let's see...officially, as of today, I have one flash fiction story, two short stories, and two novels waiting to get pried out of my misshapen noggin and slapped down on ePaper.

The flash fiction story, "Crush", is still in the ether...it whispers to me almost every day, but I haven't let it out.  Yet.

"The Coin" is a short story I've been working on for quite a while.  One person who read what I've done so far said he thinks it may be the best thing I've written, but we'll see.

The other short story, "The Dark", is also partly written.  The basic story is in my head, but I don't know where it's going to take me yet.

JEREMY actually began life as my second novel after I'd finished THE COMING.  It's also partly written, but far from finished.  THE MENGELE EFFECT popped in my head soon after I'd started writing JEREMY, and well...JEREMY had to wait.  It's still waiting.  And probably getting pissed, no doubt.

SKINNER in one of those story ideas that came out of nowhere.  I know how this novel is going to flow from soup-to-nuts, but I haven't finished it yet.  That whole day-job-eat-pay-the-mortgage thing keeps getting in the way!

 
I have trailer videos posted on my website (http://cvgrossart.wix.com/chuck-grossart) for JEREMY, SKINNER, and "The Dark".  Just click on "The Hopper" tab.

Now, UNofficially, there's ~6,493,566 story ideas swirling around in my head.  I'll let them out, one by one, eventually.  Or my head will explode first.  We'll see.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?
This is an easy question.  I like to write horror, but I'm not one to dive into the blood-and-gore pool...unless I have to.  I personally think if a writer sketches a basic picture to a reader—and lets the reader pick the paint color, the brush, and complete the picture themselves—the result is sometimes much more horrific than I could ever portray through my choice of words.  I want to open the door to the scary, dark basement...and let the reader see what they will when they tumble down the stairs (after I push them, of course)...I don't know what scares them the most, but they do, and they'll visualize it all by themselves.  I also try to avoid profanity where at all possible.  I personally don't think it adds anything, unless there's a need for it.  Think about the people you know who use profanity loosely...I'd be willing to bet they're 1) not very smart, 2) trying to be someone they aren't, or 3) a 14-year old kid who thinks using the F-word in every sentence is cool.  If I ever have a character who happens to be a dumb 14-year old with a dirty mouth who is trying to act cool, then maybe he/she will use the F-word in every sentence...but I haven't run into that character yet (and if I did, I'd probably kill them off quickly because they're annoying).  If you've read Dean Koontz, I challenge you to find the F-word in any of his books; there may be a few, but not many.  Now, don't get me wrong...if one of my characters gets an axe in the forehead, they're not going to say "Owie Owie Owie!"  I mean, holy crap that would be fucking stupid, right?  Shit.  Damn.  Oops...

3) Why do I write what I do?
Short answer.  Spooky, weird, scary...I like it.  Always have, always will.  Mwah hah hah...

4) How does your writing process work?
Now, THAT's a good question.  My "process", if you can call it that, is pretty simple...I start with an idea, have a rough idea of where it might go, but the stories usually end up writing themselves as I go along.  Very seldom have I written a story that unfolds as I initially planned.  They tend to have a mind of their own!  They also tend to wake me up at 2 in the morning and yell at me to get a pen & piece of paper before I forget.  I hate that.

~~~

And now, on to Kim Stokely!  If you're a fan of Christian fiction, you need to check out her latest novel, WOMAN OF FLAMES.  The 5-star reviews it's received on Amazon speak for themselves...

http://www.kimstokely.com/
 
The wife of a submariner, Kim has lived in eight states over the last twenty years. She used her background in Drama (a B.F.A. from the University of Connecticut and a Master’s Degree from Regent University) to stay relatively sane throughout all those moves by performing in various plays and musicals, including a one-person show about women in the Bible.  In 2004, the Navy transferred her family to Omaha, Nebraska, a perfectly logical move that never made sense to her mother.  An avid reader, Kim has written novels in several genres, including Biblical, Historical, Inspirational Fiction and Young Adult Fantasy. Kim’s story Winter Trees was a semi-finalist in the Christian Writer’s Guild’s 2010 Operation First Novel contest. Her non-fiction Inspirational and humor stories have appeared in several Chicken Soup for the Soul books, Vista and online at www.theChristianPulse.com. She is a regular paid contributor to Thriving Family online magazine. Please visit www.kimstokely.com to read a story, find out about upcoming performances, or just to say “hi.”

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

2014 ABNA - Second Round!

Learned today that the 300-word pitch for THE MENGELE EFFECT made the first cut in the 2014 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award (ABNA) and is moving on to the second round!



The contest started with 10,000 entries, and this cut trimmed it to 2,000.  They selected 400 entries from five different categories--mine was one of the 400 selected for the Sci Fi/Fantasy/Horror category.  Next, the judges will base their quarter-finalist selections on a 5,000-word excerpt and cut the 2,000 second-rounders to 500 (400 to 100 in each category).  They'll announce the quarter-finalist entries on April 14th.

In 2011, my novel THE COMING made it to the quarter-finals round.  Hopefully Lady Luck will be with me this time, too!  Fingers crossed...

Saturday, February 15, 2014

2014 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award - SUBMITTED!

Tonight I pulled the trigger and submitted my entry for the 2014 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award!  Now, the waiting begins.  On 18 Mar, they'll announce the entries selected to move on to the Second Round.


The 300-word (max) pitch I'd prepared went through a number of edits (mostly tonight, to tell the truth).  I received a lot of helpful suggestions from friends, most notably from fellow author Kim Stokely, who always sees things I don't.  Thanks, Kim!

So...here's the version that went forward:



THE MENGELE EFFECT
Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror Category

On the last night of mankind's reign, the Reaper rides the wind, and falls from the clouds.

A single raindrop is the catalyst which opens a Pandora's box of genetic horrors, long-forgotten amidst the rusted steel of a Kansas City salvage yard.  The mutations spread swiftly, and a new species catches the scent of prey.  Dawn reveals a dead city, eerily quiet and still.  The mutant beasts hide from the light, multiply, and await the shadows of day's end.

Biowarfare specialist Carolyn Ridenour fights a daily battle to keep America safe from the world's tiniest, most fearsome weapons.  Ordered to investigate the unfolding crisis, she barely escapes the creatures' nocturnal onslaught, saved at the last instant by Colonel Garrett Hoffmann, a man who'd lost hundreds of his troops to a furious wave of things bombs and bullets couldn't slow.  Together they work to halt the plague, but time is short.  Frantic for answers, President Andrew Smith is pushed to consider unthinkable action by members of his own government, trusted advisors who have long prayed—and prepared—for this day.

Carolyn and Garrett race to stop the creatures—the spawn of perverse genetic research performed in Auschwitz’s filthy labs, refined by Cold War enemies and perfected by nature—before a desperate President unleashes the fury of America's nuclear arsenal on his own soil...and his own citizens.

***


Wish me luck!


Thursday, February 13, 2014

2014 ABNA...Final Version?

After receiving some much-appreciated feedback from a few friends (thanks Kim, Melanie, Frank & Angela!), I've changed the pitch again.  Here's version #3.  I think this might be the final version...?



THE MENGELE EFFECT
Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror Category

On the last night of mankind's reign, the Reaper rides the wind, and falls from the clouds.
A single raindrop becomes a catalyst, opening a Pandora's box of genetic horrors long-forgotten amidst the rusted steel of a Kansas City salvage yard.  The mutations propagate swiftly, and a new species catches a scent.  Dawn reveals a lifeless city, quiet and still.  The mutant beasts hide from the light, multiply, and await the shadows of day's end.
Biowarfare specialist Carolyn Ridenour fights a daily battle to keep America safe from the world's tiniest, most fearsome weapons.  Ordered to Kansas City to investigate the unfolding horror, she barely escapes the creatures' nocturnal onslaught, saved at the last instant by Colonel Garrett Hoffmann, a man who'd witnessed the slaughter of hundreds of his troops—and innocent civilians—by a fast-moving wave of things bombs and bullets couldn't stop.  Together they work to discover a manner to halt the spread, to uncover a weakness.  But time is short.
President Andrew Smith, former Navy Admiral and battle-scarred hero, helplessly watches as city after city is eaten alive, the military’s conventional might useless against a swarming foe that inexplicably—and exponentially—replenishes its numbers every twenty-four hours.  Frantic for answers, the President is pushed towards the unthinkable by members of his own government, trusted advisors who have long prayed for this day...secret followers of an ancient order sworn to destroy civilization in order to save their own souls. 
       Carolyn and Garrett race to find a way to stop the creatures—the spawn of perverse, decades-old genetic research performed in Auschwitz’s filthy labs, refined by Cold War enemies and perfected by nature—before a desperate President unleashes the fury of America's nuclear arsenal on his own soil...and his own citizens.

2014 ABNA...Ready, Set, PITCH! (Part Deux)

The other day, I posted a 300-word pitch for the upcoming 2014 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award (ABNA) competition.  I've written a second version of the pitch...and I'm looking for feedback!

Here's the second version...let me know what you think!


THE MENGELE EFFECT
Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror Category

On the last night of mankind's reign, the Reaper rides the wind, and falls from the clouds.
A single raindrop becomes a catalyst, opening a Pandora's box of genetic horrors long-forgotten among the rusted steel of a Kansas City salvage yard.  The mutations spread quickly.  Dawn reveals a dead city, stripped of life by a new species that moves on four legs...sometimes, two.  The mutant beasts hide from the light, multiply, and await the shadows of day's end.
Biowarfare specialist Carolyn Ridenour fights a daily battle to keep America safe from the world's tiniest, most fearsome weapons.  In her world, the twisted rubble of September 11th is only the beginning; a string of chemical and biological attacks, each more terrible than the last, drive Carolyn to fight back in her own way—with computers, test tubes, and unmatched expertise.  Ordered to Kansas City to investigate the unfolding crisis, Carolyn escapes the creatures' nocturnal onslaught at the last instant, saved by Colonel Garrett Hoffmann, a man tortured by the vision of hundreds of his troops—and innocent civilians—massacred by a fast-moving wave of things bombs and bullets couldn't stop.
President Andrew Smith, former Navy Admiral and battle-scarred hero, watches as city after city is eaten alive by a swarming foe that inexplicably doubles its numbers every twenty-four hours.  Frantic for answers, the President is swayed towards unthinkable action by members of his own government, secret followers of a century-old order sworn to destroy civilization in order to save their souls.
       Carolyn and her team race to find a way to stop the creatures—products of perverse genetic research performed in Auschwitz’s filthy labs, refined by Cold War enemies and perfected by nature—before a desperate President unleashes the fury of America's nuclear arsenal on his own soil...and his own citizens.

Monday, February 10, 2014

2014 ABNA...Ready, Set, PITCH!

The 2014 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award (ABNA) competition is just around the corner.  I'll admit, I'm a moth, and the ABNA is a flame!  I first entered the contest in 2011 with my first novel, THE COMING--it made it to the Quarterfinals round (top 250 of 5,000 entries).  In 2012, I submitted my second novel, THE MENGELE EFFECT...didn't make the first cut.  Tried again in 2013...same result.

So...why try again, you ask?  Why not!  The ABNA judges make their initial cut based on a 300-word "pitch"--basically what you'd read on the back of a dust jacket or on the inside flap.  Later, they look at a 5,000 word excerpt, and finally at the entire manuscript.

Below is my edited, edited, re-edited, tri-edited, and edited again 2014-version pitch for THE MENGELE EFFECT.  Let me know what you think!  I'll be sending this off Sunday (16 Feb), so any comments are welcome!



THE MENGELE EFFECT
Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror Category

The survivors would tell stories of this night...a quiet, peaceful evening in America's Heartland that marked the beginning of humanity's war for survival.   The Reaper, patient and devious, comes with the rain.  A single drop finds purchase.
The mutations, sudden and furious, begin in a Kansas City salvage yard; hours later, the light of day reveals a dead city, stripped of life by creatures torn from a madman's dreams.  On this night, the gates of Hell swing wide, releasing the spawn of mankind's hate to pour across the Midwest in an unstoppable, ravenous wave, slowed only by the sun's killing light.
Biowarfare specialist Carolyn Ridenour fights a daily battle to keep America safe from the world's tiniest, most fearsome weapons.  Ordered to Kansas City to investigate the unfolding horror, she barely escapes the creatures' nocturnal onslaught, saved at the last instant by Colonel Garrett Hoffmann, a man who'd witnessed the slaughter of hundreds of his troops—and innocent civilians—under the creatures' horrific advance.  President Andrew Smith, former Navy Admiral and battle-scarred hero, helplessly watches as city after city is eaten alive, the military’s conventional might useless against a swarming foe that inexplicably—and exponentially—replenishes its numbers every twenty-four hours.  Frantic for answers, the President is pushed towards the unthinkable by members of his own government, trusted advisors who have long prayed for this day...secret followers of an ancient order sworn to destroy civilization in order to save their own souls.
      Carolyn and her team race to find a way to stop the creatures—products of perverse, decades-old genetic research performed in Auschwitz’s filthy labs, refined by Cold War enemies and perfected by nature—before a desperate President unleashes the fury of America's nuclear arsenal on his own soil...and his own citizens.

Wish me luck!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Excerpt from my upcoming story, "The Dark"

Wow!  I guess I haven't been on here for a while...four months went by quickly!

Below is an excerpt (the prologue, actually) for a story I'm working on titled "The Dark".  If you scroll down the blog a little, there's a couple of teaser trailers for it as well.  My original thought was this would be a short story...but who knows, it may turn into a novel.  We'll see.

Give the excerpt a read & let me know what you think!


"The Dark" excerpt copyright © 2014 by Chuck Grossart


Prologue

18 June 2017
Port Columbus International Airport
Columbus, Ohio

The engines were screaming.
Minutes ago, he'd been giving a speech in support of a major campaign contributor, a man who'd secured Ohio's eighteen electoral votes, and in turn, delivered him the Presidency.  He'd seen his Secret Service detail react as one, hands to ears, receiving instructions, then rush onto the stage and surround him.  "Mr. President, you have to come with us," they'd said, with no answers to his questions other than, "You need to get airborne, sir.  Now."
He'd left the crowd in stunned silence, hustled away to his limousine.  The ride to the airport had been rough, weaving through traffic at ridiculous speed, his normal motorcade of security vehicles trying to cut a path ahead through a different route—shorter—than they'd taken earlier.  Cars too slow to get out of the way were forced to the shoulder, or rammed.
Time was of the essence.
And he knew why, now.
"What are the targets, General?"
"Unknown at this point, Mr. President." The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff stared from a screen before him, along with the Secretary of Defense and Secretary of State.
The President gripped the arms of his chair tightly as Air Force One banked hard to the right, its nose seemingly pointed straight up, clawing for altitude.  The cabin vibrated as each of the four massive turbofan engines slung under the wings screamed against their mounts, dragging the massive aircraft into the sky with a combined 227,000 pounds of thrust.
"My family, General.  Are they safe?"  His wife and two children were in Colorado Springs touring a micro-electronics factory. 
"They're being taken to a safe location as we speak, Mr. President, but we don't believe Colorado Springs is being targeted.  At least not yet."
Every President since Truman had dealt with the threat of nuclear war, and his term was no different...but it wasn't supposed to happen.  He glanced at a young Navy Lieutenant Commander, whose name he didn't know, sitting calmly a few feet away with the briefcase chained to his wrist—the nuclear "football".  He'd been briefed on what was in that briefcase, and how to use it, when he first assumed the Presidency, but right now it was all a blur.
This can't be happening.
"We've detected a total of nine launches from their Atlantic boat, sir," the Chairman continued.  "One of their Borei class boomers.  The Yuri Dolgoruky.  We lost track of her a few days ago just west of the Azores..."
For the last few years, Russian ballistic missile submarines had resumed patrols off the east and west coasts of the United States, a move harkening back to the darkest days of the Cold War.  Every morning, he was briefed on their locations.  The saber his Russian counterpart liked to rattle wasn't as large as the old Soviet version, but was still sharp.  "And their Pacific boat?"
"Nothing, Mr. President.  The Alexander Nevsky started her return leg last week, and we've had a fast-attack on her tail the whole time.  The Texas will sink her if she makes a move."
"On my order."
A pause.  "Yes, sir.  On your order."
Two days prior, the Russians had invaded Ukraine, a former Soviet Republic, in response to what seemed to be a manufactured crisis involving Islamist rebels from the North Caucuses.  Imagery showed heavy fighting, but against whom was unclear...the Russians were laying down tons of ordinance—massed artillery barrages, short range ballistic missiles, round-the-clock tactical air strikes—much more than would be expected to combat an insurgency.  To make matters worse, the Russian President had seemingly gone underground—no public appearances, no statements, only a terse announcement regarding the invasion from his Chief of the General Staff.  The normal Russian comms had fallen silent.  Whatever they were doing was being kept completely secret.  Nothing about the Ukranian situation was...normal.  And now, just days later, this happens.  The unthinkable.
Putin ruled Russia with the same heavy-handed dictatorial powers wielded by the Soviet Premiers he'd once served.  The Soviet Union had been dead and buried since 1992, but the corrupt, ruthless spirit that once fueled its rise was still alive and well under the tri-color banner of the Russian Federation.  Vladimir Putin was not a man to be trusted, a fact not lost on this President, who also knew Putin had made quite a few enemies within his own country...including the military.
"Could this be a rogue launch, General?  Possibly an attempt to—"
"Negative, sir."
The President was taken aback by the Chairman's abruptness.  "How can you be so sure?"
"This isn't Hollywood, sir.  Russian sub captains don't go rogue."
Before the President could respond, a tinny, oddly female-sounding voice came through the speakers, resounding through the National Military Command Center—the NMCC—in the bowels of the Pentagon.
Nuclear detonation detected.  Russia.  Nuclear detonation detected.  Russia...
"General...what's happened?"
"Standby, sir.  Checking."
"State...could this be a coup d'├ętat?  I'm not convinced the—"
Before the President could complete his statement, and before the Secretary of State could respond, the Chairman delivered the news no one wanted to hear.
"Mr. President, we've detected three nuclear detonations—check that, four detonations....looks like low yield, non-strategic weapons.  Tactical nukes.  Southwest Russia...near the Ukranian border."
"On Russian soil?  Could the Ukranians have—"
"Make that seven, Mr. President.  Now showing four additional low-yield events in southern Belarus as well."
This was happening too fast.  "General, I need to know exactly what's happening over there, and I need to know right goddam now.  State...could this be a coup?"
"Doubtful, sir," the Secretary stated.  "Putin has had trouble with the eastern military district, but the troops in the west and south are completely loyal...as are their SSBN commanders.  The General is right, Mr. President.  The Dolgoruky's captain launched because he'd been ordered to, and that order had to have come from Putin himself."
The Chairman interrupted.  "Threat fans for the SSBN launches are showing possible targets in northern Ukraine, Mr. President."
"How many warheads?"
"Each of their Bulava missiles can carry six to ten warheads, sir, one hundred and fifty kilotons each.  We're talking anywhere from fifty-four to ninety thermonuclear warheads targeted against northern Ukraine."
"What are they shooting at?  What is located in northern Ukraine?"
"Nothing, sir...it's mostly wilderness, uninhabited ever since the Chernobyl meltdown back in the mid-eighties.  They've been bombing the living hell out of that area since the invasion, Mr. President...it's full of their own troops.  It makes no sense."
"Is there any threat to the United States at this moment, General?"
"No, sir.  You went airborne immediately after we detected the submarine launches, before we could get any clarity on their targets...but as of right now, there's no hostile Russian action directly targeting the United States.  Yet."
Inside, the President breathed a sigh of relief.  For the moment, he wouldn't be faced with the terrible decision of whether to launch a nuclear counter-strike.  But he wanted to be ready.
"General, take us to DEFCON 2."
"Copy, sir.  DEFCON 2."
The President paused for a second, letting the situation sink in.  Like the Chairman had said, none of it made sense.  It was madness.
"General, I want your gut feel on this...what is going on over there?"
The Chairman paused, took a deep breath.  "In less than—"
He paused, glancing at what the President assumed was a countdown timer.
"—ten minutes, the northern portion of Ukraine is going to cease to exist, along with a sizeable portion of the ground forces they've pumped into that region...and I don't know why.  Their reason for invading was false, we all know that, but no one knows why they did it.  We're completely in the dark, Mr. President.  Whatever is going on in the Ukraine is—I, I just don't know, sir."
"I'm looking for recommendations, General."
Again, the electronic warning came through the speakers.
Nuclear detonation detected.  Belarus.  Nuclear detonation detected.  Belarus...
"Three more, sir.  Southern Belarus."
"What in God's name is Putin doing?" the President asked, to no one in particular.
"We've always known this day could happen, Mr. President," the Chairman said.  "But not like this.  They're nuking the holy hell out of themselves...."

***