As well as ebook. Hot off the press from Crossroad Press!
As some of you may know, my prior publisher, DarkFuse, shut down last year. I will always be grateful to them for taking me on, publishing my debut novel, as well as several other novels and novellas while I was with them.
Crossroad Press picked me up last summer. Since then, they have re-released all my prior DarkFuse titles, as well as released two new novels that I’d completed for DarkFuse, but which didn’t get released before the shutdown. They’ve even published an audiobook of THE GENESIS CODE!
I just wanted to share some Crossroad Press links. I have an author page there, with all my books listed. They have their own store–plus you can purchase the titles at Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, and more.
As always, thanks for reading!
This is a little piece I wrote about how my novella SKINSHIFT came to be. It’s actually a rather creepy story unto itself. This piece was published in DarkFuse magazine at SKINSHIFT’s original launch. SKINSHIFT was recently re-released by Crossroad Press and is available in ebook form at Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, and more.
INSPIRATION STRIKES IN THE STRANGEST PLACES
What would you do? Would you stay—or would you be too scared?
Forget cruises, fancy destinations, and anything involving a commercial airplane. Give me a good road trip any day! My boyfriend and I have driven through quite a lot of the Lower 48 over the years, with a ton of pictures to prove it. We love to hit the back roads, to find the unusual and the weird. The weirder, the better.
In the summer of 2013, we were roaming through the middle of nowhere (Middle of Nowhere being one of our favorite spots), hunting for a campsite we’d seen on our map app—when we had cell reception, that is. By this point, there was no signal to be had, so we were off the grid, incommunicado, and hoping for the best.
After heading down a lonely dirt road for a while with nothing at all on either side, we saw what looked like a site amongst some trees and turned toward it. The remains of what appeared to be a cow skeleton lay scattered right at the turnoff. We pulled in farther, and lo and behold, there was a weathered old picnic table. And not another soul in sight. Not a vehicle. Not nothing. We’d found our place to stay for the night.
We started unloading the camping gear and getting the feel of the place. There were some menacing-looking biting flies around, but nothing too bad. We had a table (albeit a little the worse for wear), a fire ring, a nearby stream, trees surrounding the site, and what appeared to be an ancient wooden outhouse a short distance away at the end of a narrow path. And we had it all to ourselves. Cool.
Then we noticed the bonus feature: skulls. Skulls of all kinds. In all sorts of places.
There was one on the picnic table that appeared to be from a deer-like creature. Just sitting there on the far end, facing us, as if it’d been expecting guests. There was what appeared to be a horse skull and another sheep- or elk-like creature’s skull fastened to the birch next to the site. A bovine-looking skull lay on the ground on the other side of the picnic table. Hung on another tree were more elongated skulls, like wolf or fox. All the skulls were well-cleaned and in excellent condition.
While we were standing there trying to make sense of what we were seeing, something made a loud bang. I nearly jumped out of my skin before realizing it was just the outhouse door slamming. I hoped it was just due to wind.
But there wasn’t any wind.
Never did figure out why it picked right then to bang like that.
We stood very still and listened as hard as we could for sounds of humans, animals, anything. What if some survivalist type had taken over the site and we’d walked into what he considered home? We didn’t see any other sites nearby. This certainly wasn’t an organized and patrolled campground by any stretch of the imagination. But there was nothing more. Nothing but the buzz of some big black flies and the sound of the nearby creek coursing over stones and logs.
When had these skulls been left there? By whom? And why? We stalked around, looking for answers and finding none. Eventually, we decided whoever’d left them wasn’t going to join us—or at least we hoped not. So, after watching some bats flit around for a while, we settled in for the night. Nothing bad happened, and we left everything as we found it when we left the next day.
Of course, now a seed was planted in my head. How could I not use this as the germ for a new tale? At the time, I was still in the midst of writing BLOCKBUSTER, so I had to set the idea aside for a while. When I wrapped BLOCKBUSTER up in early 2014, I decided I wanted to do something shorter—a novella—and I just had to use the skulls in there somehow. And so began the concept for SKINSHIFT.
The skulls made an inspiring image, a great start, but they were only that: a start. How to build a story around them? What characters would I create, and what role would the skulls play? As I noodled it around in my head, a character came to mind. Dominic Donato. He’s not a good man. In fact, he’s a rather evil man. He begins the story alone, injured and abandoned in the Mojave Desert, seething with rage and hell-bent on revenge.
Dominic learns some powerful new skills, skills that enable him to survive his ordeal, to convert his rage into action, and the skulls figure into this. And that’s as much of a spoiler as you’re going to get out of me. I hope you enjoy SKINSHIFT, and that it makes you think twice the next time you’re driving along a desolate desert road and you see a vulture circling high in the air. You’d better watch out. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
As always, thank you for your support and thanks for reading!
Pleasant dreams—or not,
Lisa von Biela
This is a little intro piece I wrote that was published by DarkFuse as bonus material at ASH AND BONE’s original launch. Thought I’d share it here, since Crossroad Press just re-released that creepy little novella. Enjoy!
Often I will encounter some odd little thing that triggers a story idea, especially for my shorter work. Almost anything might strike me. For example, a little coin-operated clock I saw in a museum inspired my short story Caught in Time (published as bonus material with my novel THE JANUS LEGACY).
It can be a turn of phrase. Once on a road trip, we stopped for gas in Iowa. We happened to pump $6.66 worth. When we went inside to pay, the clerk took one look at the amount and declared to my boyfriend, “That’s a bad number, Mister.” That sentence was too good to ignore. I used it in a short story entitled Hunting with the Boys, in which the protagonist stops for gas on his way to a rather ill-fated hunting trip involving some deer bent on revenge.
More recently, a wonderfully photographed scene from an old movie struck me so strongly, I remember sitting there and thinking I just had to use it in a short story or novella. ASH AND BONE opens with this dark, foggy noirish waterfront scene. I started drafting the novella with that scene, but still had to decide (and I went back and forth on this!) who would be in that scene, what that person would be doing there, how that scene would tie into the remainder of the story, and so on.
Mere words on a sign can spawn a story, too. When we lived in Minnesota, there was a small office building not far from home. On one side were the words “Control House.” Well, if those words don’t burst with potential, I don’t know what does. I thought about it for a while, and eventually came up with my short story, Control House.
My two novellas previously published by DarkFuse, ASH AND BONE and SKINSHIFT, have been re-released by Crossroad Press with great new cover art! They can be found at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, and more…
Thanks for reading!
With INCIDENTAL FINDINGS, I depart a bit from my usual near-future medical thriller modus operandi. This one’s a medical-legal thriller (yes, you get both in one novel!), featuring Nikki Avalon, a young lawyer out to overcome her past and prove herself, despite plenty of obstacles–and outright danger. It’s the first in a potential series of novels for Nikki.
To address any confusion, this novel was slated for publication a couple of years ago with my prior publisher, but there were various delays and it was never released. So no, you didn’t miss anything. It’s just now–as in today–being released!
I’d be interested to know what you think about Nikki. I put her through a lot in this book, and hope to put her through a lot more as time goes on. She’s my first series character, so she has a lot of work–and dangerous situations–ahead of her!
Coming soon to Barns and Noble…
Well, here it is. 2018. I always try to imagine what every new year will hold. And let’s just say, I’m no oracle! 2017 had its surprises–good, bad, and in between.
On the publishing front, I kicked off 2017 by self-pubbing a novella that I’d originally written at a particular market’s invitation. They declined the final product, so I took the bull by the horns and published it last New Year’s Day. That’s my little thriller, Moon Over Ruin. It’s set (mainly) in an abandoned resort we ran across on a trip to Canada a couple of years ago that got caught in my mind.
Then, around the beginning of summer, my long-time publisher, DarkFuse, closed down. They reverted rights to me, but this of course meant my titles went off-market. I had 6 titles with them at the time, and 2 completed manuscripts that had not yet been published. I was very fortunate to join up with Crossroad Press soon afterward. So far, they’ve republished my 4 novel-length works (with new cover art) and one of my previously unpublished titles (Down the Brink). And, they published an audiobook of The Genesis Code! The 2 novellas (Ash and Bone and Skinshift) and the other previously unpublished work (Incidental Findings) are in the works and will be out soon. Meanwhile, I’m in the second draft of a novel-in-progress that concerns a drought of historical proportions and a young family’s desperate escape from a mega-fire into…even worse things.
This has been a big year for my artwork, too. I picked up some cheap watercolors a couple of years ago and started dabbling around (I hadn’t painted/drawn in some years). One thing led to another, and I also got involved with colored pencils about a year ago. My skills have noticeably progressed, and I’ve posted work on RedBubble and Pixels. Made a couple of small sales, too. I also drew a blue and gold macaw with colored pencils and donated the image to Zazu’s House Parrot Sanctuary for use on their Pixels site. I hope it’s sold a lot for them!
On the travel front, I’ve had some mighty interesting/contrasting trips! In the summer, we returned to Canada, and took a flight to the icefields in Kluane National Park. We actually landed on a huge icefield (see the picture below) in a Helio Courier. Awesome! Then in November, we visited Death Valley National Park, parts of which are well below sea level. So from high-altitude snow to low-altitude desert, all in the same year. Not sure how to top that!
So, a big thank you to my readers and those who have purchased my art, and to everyone reading this, best wishes for 2018!
This is a piece I wrote for Broken Chain’s original launch in 2015. It appeared in DarkFuse’s online magazine at the time. I’m reposting here as a companion to the novel’s relaunch–a little glimpse inside what went into the novel! Thanks for reading…
BROKEN CHAIN: HUNTING DOWN THE LINKS
Lisa von Biela
You are what you eat.
How many times have you heard that old saying? What if it’s true on a much more fundamental level than you’ve ever imagined? What if something went so horribly wrong with our food supply that this simple admonition to eat properly took on a far more sinister meaning?
You’d have the world I present in BROKEN CHAIN, that’s what.
And it’s not pretty.
Here’s a little peek into what went into writing BROKEN CHAIN…
While all my novel-length works to date have involved some degree of medical and/or technical research, BROKEN CHAIN by far required the most research before I could even draft the outline. (Yes, for those of you who don’t already know, I am an outliner, not a pantster!) In fact, it required so much research I had to exercise tremendous self-control to avoid outlining/drafting prematurely. Looking back, I’m glad I did. I would have created a messy tangle of inconsistencies had I not taken that time up front to build a cohesive chain of causation for the food supply disaster and its effects on people and livestock.
In my novels, I always base as much of the science as I can in reality before I go forth and take liberties. So, for starters, I needed to know what sort of feed is used in high-volume beef production. What commodities are used to produce that feed? I had to refresh myself on which amino acids belong to the group of “essential” amino acids, those that will become part of the bodily proteins of those consuming them. This research informed my chain of causation for the physical effects that occur in people and livestock in the story.
Recent real-world research has been showing a linkage between mood/behavior and the flora in your intestines. I took this a step further in the story. Frankly, the leap I made doesn’t seem all that implausible, and makes me wonder if I might be onto something that is happening in the world today. I’ll stop there, lest I let out a spoiler!
Given the nature of what happens to the food chain in the story, I also needed to research alternative nutritional sources—food substitutes, if you will. There are liquid diets out there that purport to replace traditional food. Delicious, I’m sure. I also investigated current technology in the production of lab-based meat. Yep, they’re doing it, but a simple hamburger patty costs a not-so-small fortune right now. Not ready for prime time. Of course, the joy of writing fiction is making up your own world. In the book, I improved that technology to allow the production of more sophisticated lab meat products. Yum.
Oh, and this may sound like only meat-eaters are affected. Hell, no. Not even the vegetarians escape the consequences!
The Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) referenced in the book is a real part of the CDC. Members of the EIS are “disease detectives” who assist with emergency responses, and investigate infectious and environmental disease outbreaks. As the story opens, Dr. Kyle Sommers has just been accepted into the program, and is a member of the team the CDC dispatches throughout the country to figure out what’s causing an apparent epidemic of extremely violent behavior. This is Kyle’s first assignment, and it will cost him dearly.
As far as setting, rural Minnesota seemed the perfect spot, so I created a fictional town in which most of the book’s action takes place. While others of his team are stationed elsewhere around the country, Kyle is sent to fictional St. Joe, Minnesota, near where he grew up and attended medical school. He brings his pregnant wife Gretchen and their precocious young daughter Lara with him and begins what at first appears to be the impossible task of unraveling the mystery. The pressure for an answer builds as the epidemic spreads and people and livestock continue to die.
The agricultural element of BROKEN CHAIN was fun to research and envision. True story: back in high school, we took some standardized career aptitude test. I got my results back and was stunned to see that I scored far, far higher in agriculture than in anything else. A city girl from LA scoring like that, can you imagine? Maybe there really is an alternate universe.
I admit I do enjoy being out in ag territory. We were having dinner at my favorite place for prime rib—The Cattleman’s Club in Pierre, South Dakota—while on a road trip last summer. It’s the sort of place with sawdust on the floor and the best damned prime rib you can get anywhere. You’d better be prepared to wait on a Saturday night. They don’t take reservations and the locals love this place. Farmers and ranchers. I remember sitting there this particular time, watching them all, trying to absorb their mannerisms and imagine their lives to make sure I fashioned my characters properly in the book.
On that same trip, I was enjoying, um, more prime rib in my second favorite prime rib place in Hamilton, Montana. A little girl sat with her family at the table next to us. I took one look at her and nearly freaked out. As I was writing the book, I had a particular mental image of the daughter, Lara. The little girl at that table looked exactly—and I mean exactly—as I’d pictured her. Same age, build, general attitude, hair, everything. Bizarre and disturbing, considering what happens to poor Lara.
So, next time you take a bite of a nice, juicy steak, or chomp into that soy burger, think about what’s in it—or what might be in it. You are what you eat, you know.
As always, thank you for your support and thanks for reading!
Pleasant dreams—or not,
Lisa von Biela
For-profit prisons. Imagine the business model has grown in volume and political influence to become a driving force in the economy. Imagine laws purposely made draconian to feed that business model, fill those beds. Imagine getting tangled up in that system through an innocent mistake. Gil and Aggie Balderas find out what lies behind those walls, and their lives are forever changed.
How far would Guardian Systems go to keep the pipeline full, boost profits? Zach Winters discovers their insidious scheme and decides to do something about it…but will he survive?
What if it’s not fiction, after all?
Undoubtedly the darkest thing I’ve ever written…
Find DOWN THE BRINK at: