Book Review: Occult Assassin #3: Spirit Breaker by William Massa

Spirit BreakerEach new title in William Massa’s Occult Assassin series expands its supernatural universe in new and exciting ways, without compromising the thrilling action sequences. Former Special Ops soldier Mark Talon uses his “particular set of skills” to terminate those who seek to bring Darkness into the world through occult means.

More and more, though, Talon is forced to take on supernatural menaces head on. When a 9mm round won’t stop the baddie, a demon-slayer blade, blessed Crucifix or even an electro-magnetic ghost-scrambling pulse rifle becomes the weapon of choice.

Damnation Code had a strange, malicious entity that used a cult and computer code to create a monstrous techno-human hybrid. In Apocalypse Soldier it was maniac bikers and demon possession. With Spirit Breaker, Talon goes high-tech ghost hunting to stop a bunch of crazed, skateboarding “Occupy” fanatics, their psychic “ectoplasm battery charging” leader, and a malevolent ghost that refuses to be evicted from an abandoned shopping mall.

The body count of anonymous evil-doers is high, as it should be in this genre, but like zombies, ghosts have a tendency to get back up and keep coming. At roughly 180 pages, Spirit Breaker is a very quick read, and priced accordingly.

When we last saw Talon in Apocalypse Soldier, he was precariously close to burnout. The brutal murder of his fiancee, his abrupt initiation to the war against other-worldly enemies, injuries and exhaustion have taken their toll. Massa gives him barely a chapter to recuperate after taking out a human sacrificing, Santa Muerte worshiping drug dealer, but it does the trick.

In no time at all Talon’s investigation of copycat murders of wealthy people brings him to the eerie condemned mall where the original killer met an untimely death. But sometimes dead things don’t want to stay dead, and the killer ghost is rebuilding an army of cast-offs and misfits who murder others to feed his energy field.

In each book, Talon gains an ally with a specialty. Most of them could return in future adventures, and it would be awesome to see a team-based effort at some point. This time around Talon works with a well-funded psychic investigator who has developed the Spirit Breaker, a combination of body armor, display helmet and the previously mentioned ghost-scrambling rifle. If an earthbound spirit is stuck and wants to move on, she’s ready to help. But if they are malingering spirits, well, let’s just say they’re given a little push into the light.

There’s actually some character development worked in and around the nearly non-stop action. Talon develops a sense of humor. More significantly, Casca, the brains and bankroll behind the Occult Assassin operation, insists on taking part in a mission and immediately falls for the temptation to use blood magic when the chips are down. Talon realizes that his friend, mentor and sponsor might someday cross the line to the dark side and become a target.

I can’t get enough of the Occult Assassin series. Fortunately, William Massa is cranking them out. There are two short story adventures available, and another novella in the works.

Fiction: Action/adventure urban fantasy writer Joseph Nassise has bad news, good news for fans

One of my all-time favorite action/adventure, urban fantasy writers, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Joseph Nassise gave me some bad news this week.

In addition to several series of his own, including The Great Undead War (Steampunk meets zombie soldiers in WWI Germany and England) and my absolute favorite Templar Chronicles (Vatican-Supported commandos fighting supernatural beasties), the prolific author was part of the “Alex Archer” team of six to nine authors who penned the Rogue Angel series, featuring globetrotting archeologist Annja Creed, inheritor of Joan of Arc’s mystical sword.

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R.I.P. Annja Creed

Nassise wrote ten of Rogue Angel’s 57 titles in four years! These were Gold Eagle books, but in the ever-churning shark tank of traditional publishing houses, Harlequin was purchased by HarperCollins, and the line was discontinued.

Say it isn’t so!

It’s so.

Nassise had two more titles in the pipeline, that aren’t going to happen.

Rogue Angel was a breakthrough series, bringing elements of the supernatural into a traditionally techno-realistic action genre.

Annja, you will be missed. And Lara Croft is a poor substitute.

That’s the bad news.

The good news is that the previous books are still available. Here’s a link to Joseph Nassise’s Rogue Angel page: CLICK HERE.

Once you’ve identified the titles, you can find them on Amazon. The series is all listed as being written by “Alex Archer,” but on the copyright page you can see “special thanks to Joseph Nassise.”

There’s even BETTER NEWS!

Nassise isn’t slowing down. Not by a long shot. He’s got LOTS MORE books coming up, including a very exciting anthology collaboration. I encourage you to check out his Amazon Author Page, and become a loyal follower.

The Bunny and the Big Black Dog: A Fable

THE BUNNY AND THE BIG BLACK DOG: A Fable
(Based on an actual event, as refined through theological reflection)

By Patrick Dorn

Early one cloudy morning, a big black dog trotted along a narrow dirt path, sniffing the air and enjoying the freedom that comes with a retractable leash.

Frankie on walk 6-20-15Without warning, a bunny dashed up the path, directly toward him!

“Good morning, Bunny,” Frankie (for that was the big black dog’s name) said. “Would you like to play chase?”

The bunny did not reply, so Frankie lolled his tongue and grinned a toothy, winning smile.

He repeated the invitation. “Chase?”

The bunny continued straight toward him. A collision seemed imminent.

The big black dog was taken aback. Typically, the bunnies he saw on his daily walks ran AWAY from him. But here was this bunny with pert ears and a bouncy stride coming straight at him, and not slowing down.

Frankie braced for impact, hoping the bunny wouldn’t be injured when it bounced off his big black body.Bunny

With an agile grace that Frankie could only admire, and secretly covet, the bunny performed an abrupt left turn, sprinted across a lush patch of grass, and under a bush.

“I guess he changed his mind,” Frankie said to himself. “But why was he in such a hurry?”

The big black dog looked up and saw, only a few yards above, a falcon, its angry beak gaping, notched wings outstretched against the clouds.

The falcon tucked away its talons, spun and circled upward, perching on the jagged top branches of a long-dead tree.falcon

Frankie glanced at the bush where the bunny crouched and shivered. The poor creature was hunched into a ball, making himself look very small indeed.

“By golly, if I hadn’t happened along, you might have become a tasty morsel for that falcon,” Frankie said. He tried to sound amiable, to calm the agitated bunny.

The bunny twitched its nose.

“You may have saved my life,” the bunny said. “But that doesn’t make us friends.”

The bunny turned, and in a flash of fluffy cottontail, disappeared into the dense undergrowth.

Frankie sadFrankie felt sad as he continued his walk. But he knew the bunny was right. It was a wild bunny after all, running loose in a world of falcons.

It had never known the kind of reassuring freedom that comes with a retractable leash.

THE END

SYMBOLISM ALERT: If you like to figure things out for yourself, READ NO FURTHER. However, if you’d like a hint to aid in deeper reflection, consider this: who is the implied character on the other end of the leash? That’s right. The Master. Now you take it from there.

Short story ‘Thin Skinned’ now available on Kindle

Thin Skinned Cover copy

My short story ‘Thin Skinned’ is now available for Kindle! You can get it free through Kindle Unlimited, or for only 99 cents. Click HERE.

The deliciously profane Chuck Wendig posted on his blog for writers terribleminds a challenge to experiment with e-publishing, just to learn the ins and outs of this new and rapidly evolving option. After hemming and hawing, I finally decided to give it a try. It’s easier than you’d think! Now let the bucks start rolling in. (sarcasm alert.)

‘Thin Skinned’ is a dark, disturbing and gruesome short story (only about 2,250 words) in which an Irish immigrant exacts terrible revenge on the English lord who ruined her life and family. It’s set in the mid-1800s, in the Chihuahua desert near Las Cruces, New Mexico.

Those who know me might wonder where a story like this came from. Ah, but perhaps they don’t know me as well as they thought! I tapped into a very dark place for this one.

I’ve always been intrigued by “revenge” stories, going back to the Curse of the House of Atreus, the bloody Jacobean plays, and Shakespeare’s “Timon of Athens.” Unlike later works, including “The Count of Monte Cristo” and other more “civilized” revenge stories, these early works show little in the way of remorse. They are brutal, savage tales of reckoning and madness, unburdened by Christian morality and guilt.

I was also inspired by “Chato’s Land,” a wickedly ingenious Apache revenge movie from 1972 that starred Charles Bronson and Jack Palance. That and another revisionist western, “Ulzana’s Raid” (starring Burt Lancaster), taught me that cruel revenge had nothing to do with chivalry or fair play, and everything to do with barren, desolate places, both geographically and in the depths of a wounded soul.

If a person were stripped of family, homeland, religion and human dignity, what might they be capable of doing to the person they held responsible, given the opportunity? And a carpetbag of kitchen cutlery!

Purchase ‘Thin Skinned’ and find out.

What in the world[view] is Catholic Fiction?

ImageAre you a writer of Catholic fiction? Or do you wonder what that is?

It’s not a genre, and it’s not a pulpit.

It’s a Weltanschauung.

That’s a German word. Look it up. Nah, don’t bother to look it up, because the English definition is pitiful, thin, lacking in “oomph”. Or as they say in Germany, “oomph pah pah.”

Sort of like the definition of Gemütlichkeit. You either “get it” or you don’t.

Concepts like that defy definition. It’s better just to say them in German. That way, even if you can’t explain what they mean, everyone will still be impressed. Just make sure you PRONOUNCE the word correctly, or everyone will realize you are a poser.

Seriously, Catholic fiction is a “thing.” It’s an ineffable thing, and don’t you dare try to put it in a box, or a category, or God-forbid, a pigeonhole. The pigeons will object and totally mess with your Gemütlichkeit.

It’s a mystery. If you’re Catholic, or Catholic-friendly, you already know better than to try and explain “mystery” to a non-believer.

They either “get it” or they think there’s something wrong with you. Because offhand rejection is easier than considering that they might be missing something ABSOLUTELY VITAL.

And that’s the point. It’s about faith. Not doctrine, or dogma, or discipline. Faith.

Unlike those German concepts, faith is a little word, but the importance of it in your life is vast. Unmeasurable.

It’s a sense, conscious or unconscious (or in my case semi-conscious), of our place in the world and the world’s place in us. It’s the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of earth, coming together through the word. It’s life plus LIFE, woven together and finding a home in each world, because both kingdoms are at hand.

But not two hands. One hand.

Confused? Curious? You should consult an expert about your condition.

Tuscany Press is serving as midwife for the rebirth of Catholic fiction. They’ve got a really interesting web site at http://www.tuscanypress.com. A lot of these ideas get bandied about.

Another related (so related they are siblings) site is CatholicFiction.net.

If those don’t do the trick, fly the coop with me. The pigeons have gone and messed with your Weltanschauung too!

‘Obituary’ short story wins award

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I am a proud and enthusiastic new member of the Littleton Writers Critique Group, associated with Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. About every two months or so, we are given a writing prompt or challenge, with a small award as an incentive.

For February, in commemoration of Valentine’s Day, we were encouraged to write a short short story (100 words or fewer) containing the phrase “broken heart.”

My story “Obituary” won! It’s a darkly comic obituary blurb mentioning some well known characters from a bygone day. You may read it   HERE.

This was a valuable exercise, because it sparked my creativity and imagination, and gave me a mini-vacation from the first draft of my first novel, which I’ve been plodding through for more than a year.

The support, encouragement, wise counsel and insightful critiques my new friends and colleagues provide are helping me grow as a writer. Only a few weeks passed between my submission of the carefully penned and edited “Obituary” and its publication on the web site. Yet when I saw it in cyber-print, I immediately pictured Mike, Darla, Robin, Kevin, Chris, Katy, Mindy and so many others and thought, “I should have run this by the group before submitting. It could have been tighter, faster, funnier.”

Ah well. There’s always room for improvement. It’s possible to tinker something to death, so it’s better for me to do my best, send it out and let it go. Because, as the saying goes, “At the end of the day, the sun goes down. “

Musings from a “hermit” on a writing retreat

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Greetings from Nada Carmelite Hermitage in beautiful Crestone, Colorado! I am so very much enjoying my retreat. 

It rained for the first day or two, but we need to especially pray for the people of Jamestown, Boulder, Longmont and even Greeley, who have had serious flooding issues.

Here in Crestone, the altitude is 8,000 feet. Several 14ers are behind me, and the San Luis Valley stretches before me. I can see mountains 50 miles to the west, and the Great Sand Dunes are just eight miles away. Deer, rabbits and those little stripy chipmunk things walk around like they own the place. And they do! I’m able to take long walks in the 100-acre property, but it’s been too muddy up in the mountains to do any serious hiking.

The spiritual emphasis here is on silence and solitude, so I’m in a cozy “hermitage” cabin far from anyone else. I guess this week, I’m a hermit! Only in the main building library is there internet access. But I’m spending most of my time in the cabin, writing.

I’ve attended morning and evening prayer in the chapel, as well as Benediction, a uniquely Catholic ceremony venerating the Communion Host. Most of it was sung in Latin, which was pretty interesting.

Tomorrow, I will attend the Carmelite (named after Mt. Carmel in the Holy Land, not after a founding saint) community’s Sunday service, which apparently draws a lot of people from the local community. 
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So far in the past two days I’ve written about 7,000 words of my novel’s first draft. It seems like a lot to me, but then I realize the completed manuscript will be about 80-100,000 words, and part of me wants to go back to writing short children’s plays.

I love the process of writing, though. It’s a kind of prayerful activity for me, and since the book is religious historical fiction, a lot of my practical theology is finding its way onto the page (along with my warped sense of humor). I can’t wait to see how it turns out!