The Devil Whispered by Shawn Starkweather

Science-Fiction/Mystery/Detective

Date Published: 3/1/2021

Retired special-forces commander Jacobi Slate is drawn into a downward-spiraling vortex of fear and doubt while investigating a brutal murder committed by an old friend. As evidence mounts that someone else might be pulling strings from the shadows, Jacobi struggles to understand a developing connection to his own past, which is quickly catching up to him.

Near-future cyberpunk collides with gritty detective noir in this fast-paced thriller that shines a light on both the vast shortcomings and the noble heroism of the human condition. To unravel the mystery, Jacobi will pull on every thread while chasing leads from the squalor of the most dangerous streets to the high-tech towers of the wealthy elite on his quest to understand a truth he might not be ready to face.

Excerpt

My consciousness snapped online with abrupt decisiveness. I had the acute feeling of being alone in a world that was wrongly serene, like the silence of the dead. I’d been dreaming of something horrifying, but the details were dancing just outside the boundary of my ability to recall. The panic I’d woken with was caught in my chest. It held me frozen to the sheets as my mind reconfigured to the safety and familiarity of my apartment. Though the context of the dream was faded and surreal, the fear was vivid and raw. It was a visceral terror, compounded by a deeply rooted aversion to vulnerability.

As I lay there, waiting for the sensation of cold dread to die away, the room was unceremoniously lit up by the glow of the wide monitor that comprised the wall opposite my bed. Shielding my eyes from the sting of the sudden light, I heard Ava, my virtual concierge, ask if I would like to receive a call.

Who’s calling?” I asked with what little energy I’d mustered.

A Pavel Volkov is awaiting your response.” Her voice was always the same, mildly empathetic with a touch of encouragement.

I wrapped the sheet around me and grudgingly pulled myself up to sit on the side of the bed. Looking out from the tall windows that constituted the eastern-facing wall of my bedroom, I saw that it was still deep in the night. The only radiance beyond the panes was generated by the city itself; from the broken lines of luminous code emanating from the trickling streams of traffic far below, and the windows of the high-rises that towered above them – light and dark, the ones and zeroes of a binary skyline.

Yeah, okay.”

Then, Pavel’s finely kempt visage was smiling keenly at me from my wall. He was standing on a rocky beach, and waves were lapping at the shore behind him. He wore a white silk suit and a bemused expression that seemed inappropriately unapologetic.

It’s late, Pavel.”

Good morning, Jacobi. My apologies for contacting you at this hour, but I thought you’d want to know that I’ve located the target.”

Where are you?”

I’ll send coordinates to your CUBE.”

Pavel Volkov was a liar and a thief. He’d conned so many wealthy aristocrats that he’d become one himself, but he stayed in the game for the sake of his own twisted entertainment. He was an artist, who specialized in painting perfect illusions. Deception was his medium, but I’d worked with him for long enough that I trusted him when it came to getting the job done. Traces of malaise from my restless sleep were lingering, so the notion of lucid wakefulness was a welcome one.

I’m on my way,” I said. “End call.”

Pavel’s smirking face faded as the monitor went dark, and I was left with only my thoughts and the reiterating cycles of light from the softly glowing city outside. In the silence, I heard the faint percussion of fiery horse hooves falling away as the nightmare visiting me surrendered the assault and retreated to the depths of wherever dark dreams were designed.

About the Author

Shawn lives in Massachusetts with his wife and the handful of childhood stuffed animals that they’ve been unable to part ways with, even despite the awkward situation it occasionally puts their house guests in. He wields a coveted Associates of Liberal Arts degree from Greenfield Community college in an overly enthusiastic, flailing manner, and puts it to work writing both fantasy and science fiction stories. Using subliminal codes and hidden messaging carefully placed throughout his books, he plans to captivate the minds of his readers and insidiously manipulate them into purchasing subsequent releases.

As a novelist, musician, graphic designer, and a purveyor of fine games, Shawn is often confused about exactly who he is when he wakes up in the morning. It’s been said (by him) that perhaps he embodies all of these things so equally that a singular definition could not comprehensively impart a satisfactory description. With your support, and a sufficient demand for more novels, he secretly hopes that he’ll have no choice but to formally acknowledge the prevailing label of ‘author’ and spend the rest of his days providing a sense of wonder and adventure to everyone who helped him solidify his nebulous identity.

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Dark Secrets of the Bayou

Mystery, Suspense

Date Published: November 2020

Publisher: Raven South Publishing

Catherine “Tink” Mabrey, an up and coming attorney, is shocked by her recent inheritance from her estranged family on the bayou. After her mother died during childbirth, Tink’s father had quickly relocated them to the big city of Atlanta, Georgia. With no memory of her mother, she is determined to learn more about her lineage and decides to visit the bayou town of Kane, Louisiana. Candace, Tink’s co-worker and best friend, agrees to make the trip with her.

Before she has time to explore her family’s history, or decide what to do with the declining property, local murders plague Tink’s homecoming. She quickly finds herself caught in the middle of a multiple murder investigation – and quite possibly, the prime suspect. When Candace retreats back to Atlanta, Tink, with the support of an unlikely cast of characters, sets out to discover clues that have haunted and tormented her family for generations.

Could a concealed crime from the 1800’s, or the family’s estate itself, harbor keys to unlocking the past? The more they learn, the more they question whether some secrets are best left buried.

Other Books By Kim Carter:

Sweet Dreams, Baby Belle (2017)

Murder Among The Tombstones (2017)

No Second Chances (2017)

Deadly Odds (2018)

And The Forecast Called For Rain (2018)

When Dawn Never Comes (2018)

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About The Author

Kim Carter is an author of suspense, mystery and thriller novels. She was a finalist in the 2018 Killer Nashville Silver Falchion Award and recipient of the 2017 Readers’ Choice Award for her book Murder Among The Tombstones. This is the first book in her Clara and Iris Mystery series. The characters in this series are a couple of overly curious widows who become private investigators and were inspired by Kim’s mother and her mom’s best friend.

Her other titles include: When Dawn Never Comes, Deadly Odds, No Second Chances, And The Forecast Called For Rain, and Sweet Dreams, Baby Belle.

Kim’s writing career started after she suffered an illness that made her housebound for a couple of years. An avid reader of mystery novels, she embarked on writing as a means of filling her time. Kim shared those early writings with friends and family who encouraged her to pursue writing professionally. Her health struggles and successes have been chronicled on The Lifetime Television in early 2000, The Atlanta-Journal Constitution, Women’s Day Magazine, and Guideposts.

Prior to her illness, Kim worked in many different capacities in county government ranging from Park Director with Parks and Recreation to the Grant Department with Human Services. But, ultimately, it was her job as a correctional officer that provided her the opportunity to interact with a variety of people from all walks of life. Her experiences ran the gamete of inspiring success stories to tragic endings, much like her mysteries.

She self-published her first book No Second Chances. One of the guest speakers at the launch party she had at the Performing Arts Center in Newnan, Georgia included her close friend retired Atlanta Police chief Eldrin Bell. This connection would become helpful as she started doing more research for other books, this time working with a small publishing house.

Kim started networking and made connections with the Fulton County Medical Examiner’s Office. Her research has taken her many places including morgues, death row and the occasional midnight visit to cemeteries.

She is a college graduate of Saint Leo University, has a Bachelor Degree of Arts in Sociology. Kim and her husband have three grown children and live just outside of Atlanta, Georgia.

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Sleep State Interrupt

Science Fiction (Cyberpunk) / Thriller
Date Published: September 1, 2016
Publisher: See Sharp Press

 

 

 

Awards: 2017 Compton Crook Finalist for best first science fiction novel!


 
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In Sleep State Interrupt, a giant media corporation has taken over the Internet, created an addictive virtual reality called BetterWorld, and controls nearly all information. Politicians do their bidding and a brainwashed humanity serves a privileged few.
Waylee Freid, an unemployed Baltimore journalist with ever-worsening bipolar disorder, is the only hope for a brighter future. She and her countercultural friends bust a notorious teenage hacker out of jail and sneak into a closed presidential fundraiser at the Smithsonian castle, where they hope to record incriminating admissions that will wake up the world. Hunted by Homeland Security, Waylee and her friends must reach a sufficient audience by broadcasting their video during the Super Bowl. But to do so, they’ll have to break into one of the most secure facilities ever built.
Read the First Four chapters of Sleep State Interrupt, plus a lot more extras, free at http://savethereefs.wixsite.com/sleepstateinterrupt

Excerpt

The stormwater pipe sloped gradually upward. The air grew still and humid, and stank of oil, mud, and rotting leaves. Despite the chilly temperature, sweat dripped from Pel’s brow and into his eyes.

The pipe’s rough concrete jarred his knees. His jeans provided almost no padding. But with only three feet of clearance, especially with that bulky bag on his back, he couldn’t move any other way. The cement scraped his palms, but pushing with his forearms banged the elbows. He pulled his flannel sleeves forward to cover his hands, providing some protection at the expense of dexterity.

He heard rapid breathing behind him. Sounded like Waylee. He stopped and turned.

Charles halted, a grimace on his face. Further back, Waylee’s lips trembled.

“Waylee,” he whispered, “are you okay, love?”

“I… can’t see… back here.” Tears glistened at the corners of her eyes.

“Take my data glasses.” He activated the low light vision app and passed it back to her via Charles. Trouble was, low light seriously hogged the battery. “And pull your sleeves up to protect your hands.”

“Thanks, Pel.” She sniffled.

The slope leveled off. Muddy, dank-smelling water pooled on the bottom. The pipe continued in the same direction. He kept crawling.

The flashlight revealed an opening in the distance. A maintenance tunnel? They’d be able to walk then.

Pel heard something approaching, a pattering noise. He swiveled the light. Two orbs stared back at him in the semi-dark. He focused the beam on them, revealing a huge rat with long, bacteria-coated incisors.

The flashlight dropped. He rose up, and smacked his head against the top of the pipe. Pain shot down his spine. “God—”

“What is it?” Charles said.

Pel fumbled for the flashlight, teeth gritted. It was still on and just at his knees. He swung it around, searching for the rat.

There it is. The rat turned and scurried off ahead of them. He hoped it wouldn’t return with reinforcements.

Pel explored his aching head with his fingers. It felt damp, but maybe from moisture or sweat, not blood. His fingertips didn’t look red. “Just me being stupid,” he told Charles. Best to keep the rat a secret.

He resumed crawling. Definitely an opening ahead. He hurried forward and reached an intersection. Unfortunately, with a cross pipe that was smaller, not larger.

Rungs headed up to a manhole cover. At least he could stand and stretch.

Pel let the others enter. They crowded together in the vertical space, their clothes and hands coated with grime.

Waylee looked up. “Can we get out here?”

“No, too close. Still in the factory district.”

“I can check.” She pulled her comlink out of a pocket, even though she had his data glasses on, which were easy to command. She opened the navigation program and peered at the screen. “No signals.”

“Wouldn’t think so,” he said. “Which is good, that means no one can see us.”

“So we keep going straight?” Charles said. “I mean, we’re not gonna go down those little pipes, are we?”

A joke rose toward Pel’s tongue, but his exhaustion smothered it. “Can I have the tire iron?” he asked Waylee.

“Why?”

“Just ‘cause.”

Rat defense in hand, he knelt, took a breath, and crawled into the pipe’s continuation.  He pushed himself, crawling as fast as he could, knees banging against the concrete.

After a few minutes, Charles squeaked, “Wait!”

Pel turned. Charles and Waylee were far behind. Oops. He waited for them to catch up, then resumed at a slower pace.

How did Homeland find us? Maybe someone turned them in. But who? Not Waylee, obviously. Not Dingo or M-pat – they did the dirty work, setting off the EMP and knocking out the guards. And they both had records. Kiyoko? She let herself get captured. But she wouldn’t turn in her own sister, that just wasn’t in her.

That left Shakti, as improbable as it seemed. “Waylee?”

“Yeah?”

“Do you think Shakti could have turned us in?”

She coughed. “Are you fucking kidding me? We might as well ask if you did it. Just get us out of here. Please?”

She was right. One thing at a time. “It wasn’t me, obviously, or we’d have stayed at the house and got caught.”

“Just shut up.”

“Shakti’s no snitch,” Charles said quietly behind him.

How would you know? He decided not to pursue it, though.

About the Author

Ted Weber has pursued writing and music since childhood, and learned filmmaking and screenwriting in college, along with a little bit of physics. Trapped at home during the “Snowmageddon” of 2010, he transformed those interests into novel writing, and has completed four novels and a number of short stories since then. By day, Mr. Weber works as an ecologist for a non-profit organization and has had over twenty scientific papers and book chapters published. He lives in Annapolis, Maryland with his wife Karen. He enjoys traveling and has visited all seven continents.
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Marketing Means Don’t Be an Asshole

Over the past few weeks emails like this one have been circling around.

====

Subject: Do You Want MORE Reviews For Your Newest Book?

Hello,

I saw on Goodreads that you are interested in getting more reviews for your newly published book. I am offering an inexpensive book review tour service whereby your book will be promoted to

a) 14,000+ book readers, targeted by genre
b) 2,000+ active book bloggers
c) Thousands of readers across social media
d) And much much more

If you are interested, please reply to this email for details (SERIOUS inquiries only, please).

Thanks,

Jim J.

====

Now, I didn’t bite on this. It had a bit of a roadkill odor to it. The fact they admit to mining GoodReads for spamming addresses was the first warning. While they may or may not have 2000+ “active book bloggers” I suspect the 14,000+ “book readers, targeted by genre” is some other chunk of software to scour the bookshelves of GoodReads users and spam to them based on genre. Don’t know for certain, but I suspect.

“SERIOUS inquiries only” without any mention of actual pricing and no Web site listed where one could obtain further information gave off the road kill lying seven days in the sun odor.

Why am I bothering to mention any of this? Most of you get spam like this every week, if not every day. Well, they spammed someone I’ve known for many years whose small book promotional service I do use. She does a bit of active promotion and send out a magazine and has a Web site where those who use the service get their titles listed in their author page with links back to our own sites. Ironically, I had already forwarded her the email some time back and she just got it.

Be sure to read the first line of the spam again.

She doesn’t write books and she is a bit religious about nobody ever paying for a book review in any way shape or form. I guess we all have to keep her away from Kirkus. When she finds out those Holy and supposedly sought after and respected Kirkus reviews are available for $425 she just might go spastic. Industry scuttlebutt is the major publishers have been purchasing reviews in bulk there forever.

Oh, you need to see her initial response to begin to understand

====
No thank you.

One:
I don’t have a newly published book.
Two:
I don’t pay for reviews.
And three:
I run a small book promotion business for authors.

Obviously you don’t research who you contact first. AND you sent this same message out to several authors. (see highlight below)

Where did you see that I was interested in getting more reviews for my newly published book? You didn’t.

I will warn my authors not to use your service.

There are plenty of readers in the world who will post a review wherever they purchased the book for free AND without asking.
====

Ah, now we get to the title of this post. The response from this “service.”

====

>>There are plenty of readers in the world who will post a review wherever they purchased the book for free AND without asking.

One: you are blind and hypocrite

Two: This is not a paid review service. Obviously you reply even before reading emails

Three: If authors can get plenty of free promotion like you said then what the fuck are you doing running a PAID promotional service?

Four: I am going to tell my 3,000+ readers and authors to stay away from a mean bitch like you. Bye bye, and dont bother responding coz you cant do shit to me.
====

Well, maybe she can and maybe she can’t. I know I can write a post here and put some form of it on my geek blog which has north of 18K subscribers being copies on every post.

I have used many review tour services. Typically they range in price from $1500-$5000. They send your work out for anonymous review and you are given the opportunity to yea/nay whether you wish to continue. Legitimate ones have no promise of a positive review. Then they have several (usually 20-30) blogs which will host the review, excerpt, etc. The next thing they do is either sell the review as evergreen content via Web 2.0 services or post it on EZines or some other content pit where it periodically gets scooped up by new blogs as part of their initial content. If you set up a Google Alerts for your title AND if your title is unique enough, you will see your review popping up at various places for the next 2-5 years.

Some of the more legitimate ones:

http://featheredquill.com

http://readerviews.com

http://www.virtualauthorbooktours.com

http://www.readingaddictionvbt.com

I actually allow Reading Addiction to place some content on logikalblog.com. I’ve used them myself in the past. They actually offer “review tours” where every blogger who signs up receives a (usually electronic) copy of your book, promises to read it and post a review on their own blog. They also have interview tours, blitzes and other things. They do send you a list of the blogs which promise to have your stuff up and the posting dates so you can follow up.

While a great many people dump on such things, I find them a legit method of getting the word out. There are thousands of press releases going out every day which nobody reads. Getting word about your content posted on sites where it will remain for the life of the site and _usually_ contain a link or three back to your own sites is a much better bang for the buck than any other form of advertising.

Amazon Pricing Scams

I don’t know if Amazon is directly behind this or it is some other puddle of scum. Just wanted to give a heads up to my customers. One thing is for certain, Amazon is definitely complicit in this, not weeding out the scum.

Pricing scam image
Pricing scam

Please note the north of $1500 price for my logic book. I also don’t know how someone branded it “collectible” since it is still available new from the publisher (me). Guess you gotta say something to pull off a $2400 scam.

I suspect a large piece of this fraud has to do with Amazon Prime where customers get one free one every so often and they “try to make it pay” by selecting the highest priced item listed.

Unless these scammers are selling used/review copies as new, I also don’t know where they are getting their inventory. I don’t fill any Amazon orders. The original ISBN is for the original printing done with real ink on a real printing press is different from the IngramSpark POD version.

Original logic book image
Original Logic book

As you can see, the original book has a $15 list price. It is still available from Barnes & Noble as well as other reputable retailers.

alternate sellers on barnes & noble image
Alternate Sellers on Barnes & Noble

These vendors advertising “new” are most likely selling the POD version. I’ve never shipped new inventory to them and they seemed to pop up once I put a version of this book on IngramSpark POD service to get it into Books-a-Million. It will be a toner printed version instead of ink.

The “like new” seller will most likely be selling you a review copy someone unloaded. It should be an ink print and have the original ISBN.

Just passing along a heads up about yet another Amazon pricing scam.

If you want to be certain you got an original ink print you have two reliable choices.

  1. Purchase directly from Barnes & Noble (not alternate). I supply the BN warehouse directly. Sometimes they second source via Alibris if rush shipping is requested.
  2. Visit Alibris and purchase directly from Logikal Solutions. This method ensures you got legitimate inventory which really is first run new.