Saturday, October 27, 2012


(NOTE: This serial takes place out of order chronologically with the Challenger Storm novels, which are being written with a definite timeline in mind.  "The Valley of Fear" happens after at least book 5 or 6, but this shouldn't hinder the reading experience.  I'm flying by the seat of my pants here, so I make no guarantees in regards to quality or coherence.)


Episode 6: "Lunch and Treachery"

There was a moment of silence as the two men sized each other up.  A wind sprang up and stirred the humid air of the island, and the trees around them sighed and whispered in the breeze.  Finally, Storm ended the silence.

"I was blind not to see the signs.  The uniforms were one, and that bull-horned fellow with the helmet... I suppose he's Taurus?"

Count Zodiac nodded.  "Absolutely.  Taurus is my current enforcer, the strong arm of my empire."

Storm scoffed.  "Empire?  Seems to me I quashed your dreams of an empire back in '35.  I wouldn't exactly call hiding out here in the jungle an empire."

An ember of hot anger briefly stirred in Zodiac's black eyes, but it passed and he smiled.  "I suppose this seems small-scaled when compared to the scope of my vision when we last met," he calmly said, "but I needed to get my feet under me again somewhere, and this was as good a place as any."

"Yeah, the natives here don't seem too thrilled about that.  I don't suppose you know anything about a girl we heard screaming in the jungle out there?"

Zodiac ignored the comments and turned on his heel, motioning for his captives and their guards to follow him into the castle.

"It's regrettable that your aircraft had to be destroyed to bring you here: the ornithopters were designed only to destroy your craft, not to eliminate you and your men when you bailed out.  It's a shame, but necessary.  I admire your fleet and the modifications that you make on your planes."

"A fleet that's now down by one seaplane, thank you.  I suppose those ornithopters should have raised a flag for me too," Storm replied, shuffling along with his shackled feet.  "They were a piece of work, really.  I noticed that they split into two to do their dirty work once they landed on the plane.   I suppose that's another zodiacal reference, too: Gemini, the twins... an 'air sign'?"

Zodiac chuckled.  "Right you are.  You continue to be as perceptive as when we last met."

"And you continue to keep sticking to your tired horoscope-shtick," Storm countered with a lopsided grin.  He remembered Count Zodiac's mania for astrology and how he disliked it being mocked.  "Ever thought about getting a new gimmick, Count?"

Zodiac wheeled, the spark again within his eyes.  "The stars chart our fate, our course in life.  It is no gimmick, no arbitrary theme that I have chosen.  Fate chose me, as I told you before.  It is a gift, a gift of power, and you are in no position to poke fun at it."

Storm grinned back in defiance but his eyes held anger, a rage he'd held suspended for four years.  "Whatever you say, Madame Zelda."

Zodiac ignored the taunt and turned again, and the others followed in his wake into the castle.  Willy and Brock exchanged a questioning glance before they started to walk with the others.  The MARDL troubleshooters had heard of the villain known as Count Zodiac, and had known that Storm had encountered him once before while on a mission for a secret US government group simply called "The Eye", but they didn't know much more about the event.  Neither of them had been on the mission with Storm, and their friend and leader was very reluctant to discuss the details of the encounter with them.  There were some raw nerves being played upon here and it was evident that despite Storm's flippant attitude toward the strange Count, there was a seething and deep-seated anger between the two men.  For now, however, they would have to wait for an answer, if one would ever come.  All they could do was continue their march into Zodiac's fortress and wonder, just as Storm was wondering, exactly where and what they were being led to.

The castle's structure was enormous, with soaring arched ceilings and ornate stonework at every turn.  Everywhere Storm and his teammates looked, their gaze was met with a beautifully crafted tribute to a zodiacal sign in nearly every room: a statue and fountain built to honor Aquarius, a massive stone lion representing Leo, an enormous flaming chandelier designed to look like the scales of Libra...  There was a grand hall, and the floor was an elaborate mosaic depicting all of the signs of the horoscope in a circular pattern, with corresponding constellations and planetary figures at the design's outer edges.  The grandeur of the setting was only matched by the military-like presence of Zodiac's forces: there were uniformed guards everywhere, many of them adorned with astrological symbols that denoted their specialties within Zodiac's mad army.

Finally, after leading his soldiers and the captive adventurers to an upper level of the castle, Zodiac paused before a closed door.  He turned briefly toward his captives and said, "You're just in time for lunch," before he turned and pushed open the massive wooden door.  Beyond the portal, a sunny open terrace was revealed, and beyond it was a beautiful panoramic view of the island's valley.  A long wooden table was laid out with a pristine white tablecloth, and upon this were succulent-looking exotic dishes in serving bowls and platters.  The odor of spices mixed with the jungle air on the breeze to bring the feeling of a tropical paradise to the newcomers, a feeling only broken by the presence of the armed soldiers of Count Zodiac's army.

Sitting at the table was a man in a crisp white shirt and khaki trousers.  He looked like a vacationing member of the idle rich, but on second glance Storm recognized him: he was the missing B-movie producer and director, Jimmy Keane.  Keane's round face beamed in a grin at the sight of Storm and his men.

"You got him," he said in a slightly hushed and awed tone to Count Zodiac.  "Geez, I can't believe you really got him."

"Of course I got him," Zodiac replied imperiously as he sat at the head of the table.  "There was no reason he wouldn't have come."  Then to the captives: "Please, sit."  He motioned them to their chairs.

Storm rattled his shackles.  "Oh, you're just too kind," he said sarcastically.  He sat down at the other end of the table, and Willy and Brock flanked him on either side as they sat.

Servers appeared and they set about making plates for the men at the table.  The dishes were hard to identify, being some kind of fusion of styles: Indian spices, Chinese vegetables, an American-style sirloin steak... the mix was heady but delicious.  Several ice-buckets appeared, and the diners were served fine red wines in crystal goblets.  Although they chose ice water over the wine, Storm and his team ate with surprising gusto, and they had not realized they had been so hungry until now.  The first half of the meal was eaten in silence.

Finally, after the most of his hunger was sated, Storm broke the silence.  "All right, Zodiac.  I know you didn't just invite us over for lunch.  What's it all about?"  He sipped at his glass of water.

"Well, it's all about revenge," Count Zodiac said, leaning back in his chair and steepling his fingers before him.  "It's about a dream you plucked from my grasp, and the dreams I've had since of destroying you."

"Ah, of course it is.  Spoken like a true mad villain with a thorn in his side," Storm shook his head.  "And I suppose Mr. Hollywood here and his crew was just the bait?" he nodded toward Keane.

Jimmy Keane dropped his gaze shamefully, and Zodiac spoke for him.  "Indeed.  Mr. Keane had run afoul of some bad men in America.  He was already living the Hollywood high life, but it wasn't as high as others.  So he borrowed money to help him live above and beyond his means and he couldn't pay it back.  And then the men he borrowed money from were threatening him with torture and worse.  It's a very old story."

Storm nodded, already sensing where this was going.

"Mr. Keane," Zodiac continued, "sunk all of his remaining money into what he hoped would be an epic film to be shot on location in the islands of the Pacific-"

"And it stunk," interjected Keane without looking up from his plate.  "I would never have been able to make back what I owed.  I was a damn fool."

"And that's where you came in, I suppose?" Storm asked Zodiac.

"Of course.  You see, I've been watching you for some time, Mr. Storm.  I see you globetrotting and travelling, and the whole time I've been biding my time and waiting for you to come near me.  I knew that you cannot resist helping someone in need, and so I contacted Mr. Keane and arranged to help him if he helped me."

"In the US we say 'you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours'," Brock grunted.

"Very quaint, but nonetheless appropriate," Zodiac replied before continuing.  "I helped him to arrange an 'accident' to befall his crew's chartered aircraft when it neared my island home here, made sure you heard the distress call on your return trip from Australia, and the rest, as they say, is history.  The timing couldn't have been more perfect for me.  The stars smiled in my favor once again."

Storm glanced over at the filmmaker, who was starting to look nauseous.  "And what about the others with Keane?  The crew and cast... where are they?"

"Safe, for now," Zodiac replied.  "Although I can't guarantee how long that will last.  Their livelihood is going to rest squarely on your shoulders, I'm afraid."

Finishing the last of his water, Storm swallowed.  Here it comes, he thought.

"And why is that?" Storm asked.

"You'll find out, just as soon as you wake up," Zodiac smiled.

A wave of heat washed over Storm's insides, and he felt a cold sweat spring up on his forehead.  The water...

Storm stood up but his legs tottered and felt like noodles beneath him.  The world was spinning around his head.

"I am such an idiot...," Storm mumbled aloud with a loopy grin before collapsing into unconsciousness.


Saturday, October 13, 2012


(NOTE: This serial takes place out of order chronologically with the Challenger Storm novels, which are being written with a definite timeline in mind.  "The Valley of Fear" happens after at least book 5 or 6, but this shouldn't hinder the reading experience.  I'm flying by the seat of my pants here, so I make no guarantees in regards to quality or coherence.)


Episode 5: "Marauders"

The black armored vehicle bore down on where the captive adventurers stood along with the king and Bob the translator.  Between the horns on the front-mounted battering ram and the flames from Storm's incendiary grenade, it appeared to be a demon on a rampage... and it was out to trample over them.

The knot of people scattered, but the king stood defiant with a raised spear as the truck barreled toward him.  Storm leaped back into the path of the vehicle and knocked the king out of the way just as the flaming truck roared through the space where he'd been standing.  Storm thought the king was proud and brave and he admired that, but he thought he was also foolish for standing ground against such an enemy while armed with only a spear.

The other trucks, meanwhile, were tearing through the village, chasing women and children.  One of the behemoths demolished one of the larger huts as easily as a bowling ball would roll through a stack of toothpicks.  This had to stop.

Reaching into one of the pouches on his utility harness, Storm withdrew a handful of small metallic objects in assorted pointed-shapes, and he flung these into the path of the nearest armored truck.  The chassis and body of the truck were heavily plated with thick armor, but the wheels were standard pneumatic tires.  If one of the caltrops could pierce one of those wheels....

The first set of the truck's tires sped unharmed over the patch of spiked caltrops, but as the rear wheels reached them there was a loud pop as one of the tires was punctured.  Fishtailing wildly, the truck fought to keep control.

Storm seized the moment and charged the truck, leaping up onto it just as a grey-uniformed gunner popped up behind the machine gun turret.  Storm swung a hard left roundhouse punch and it caught the would-be gunner on the chin, knocking him out cold.  The man limply fell back into the turret.

The door to the truck popped open: another soldier leaned out and swung a pistol up toward Storm's face.  Ducking and lunging forward, Storm gripped the soldier's hand with his own while striking out with his other. Storm's fingers jabbed at a nerve cluster at the soldier's neck, and he found his gun hand limp as Storm snatched the weapon.

Suddenly, a surge of uniformed soldiers washed over Storm as a group of men clambered from the back of the vehicle.  They fought to wrestle the adventurer down off the truck and onto the ground, but they didn't count on the whirling dervish that was suddenly within their midst.  A practitioner of several martial arts, Storm struck out in multiple directions at once.  A punch Storm had thrown across the face of one soldier in front of him became an elbow-strike to a soldier behind him, while a soldier sneaking up on Storm's side was knocked off with a swift kick to the stomach.

Meanwhile, Willy and Brock had been in action since avoiding the first truck.  The pair had gone for their confiscated weapons after the tribesmen holding them had dropped them in their surprise.  After plucking them up, the MARDL team members followed Storm's lead and turned their guns on the wheels of another of the armored vehicles.  With tires blown, the vehicle skidded to a stop and began to discharge its own soldiers.  The wave of soldiers were surprised to find the fighting spirit of the native tribe was still strong in the face of their blitz, however, and were met with a wave of the spear-wielding warriors before they could begin to fight.

The tide of the sudden attack was turning against the soldiers, but as sudden as the fight had begun it was ended.

"Enough!" a voice boomed above the fracas, and everyone stopped in mid-fight to turn toward the sound.

The leader of the squad of marauders stood in the center of the village.  He was huge, well over six and a half feet tall and thickly muscled.  His grey uniform was like those of his comrades, but the sleeves had been ripped off and exposed his arms.  Covering the leader's head and face was a steel helmet, and this was broken only by a narrow slit that his dark eyes peered out from.  Mounted on the helmet was another pair of steel bull's horns, similar to what was mounted on the trucks' battering rams.  Behind him the crew of the flaming armored truck were smothering the fire that had engulfed the vehicle, but the dying inferno seemed to frame his outline and made his appearance even more devilish.

The horned leader held one of the tribe's children up by the throat in one hand, and a heavy war mace in the other.

"Tell your men to stand down, Storm, or this little jungle-rat becomes my baseball."  His voice was heavy and thick, strangely accented and modulated by the bizarre helmet he wore.  "You won't get another chance."

The child kicked and flailed his legs and gripped the monstrous leader's wrists in a struggle to get free from the choking grasp.  His eyes were wide and teary with fear.  At the sight of the boy's struggling, the tribes-people had already ceased their fighting.  They retained the grip on their weapons, however, and their eyes shifted from their leader to Storm.

Storm, who had frozen in mid-punch, release his hold on a soldier's collar and nodded angrily.  "Drop 'em, guys," he told his friends.  "There'll be other chances."  Willy and Brock begrudgingly did as they were told and lowered their weapons to the ground.  The other soldiers trained their weapons on the people of the village.  If there was any trouble from Storm and his aides, they would be cut down.  Too many innocent lives would be lost.  Storm and his men were powerless.

"Predictable," the leader grunted.  He lowered the boy to the ground but did not release the hold on his throat.  "Give up your weapons to my men.  And those gadgets, Storm... hand those over as well.  Someone wants to see you."

Frustrated and helpless to act, the Americans did as they were told.  Unarmed now, they were brought to the vehicle that had carried the hulking leader into battle; a group of soldiers accosted them.  Storm and his friends were shackled and led into the rear of the truck, and the soldiers kept their guns trained on the captives the entire time.  None of the group of uniformed men said anything else to the troubleshooters, even when they prodded their captors with questions.  In the meantime, soldiers began repairing the tires on the crippled armored vehicles, and the fire was finally smothered on the armor plating of the lead vehicle.

Soon the vehicles were ready to leave, and one by one they left the village and its confused residents behind. They drove through the jungle as the sun reached its apex in the sky, through rough roads and bare sandy paths.  The invaders on the island- if indeed that's who these men were- had obviously been quite busy and had cut their presence into the jungle for some time now.  The paths lead the trucks inexorably onward, through the deep green jungle, to the other end of the island.

Finally, as the jungle path rounded a corner, the trees dropped away from the side of the road and exposed a deep, dark valley to the trucks' view.  Storm, Willy, and Brock viewed the scene through a thin opening in the armor-plates on the side of the truck.  They had glimpsed this valley earlier that morning from the air a few moments before the ornithopters' attack, and it seemed like a deep cut that bisected the entire island along its length.  The valley was overgrown with jungle trees, and it seemed to swallow the light from the noonday sun above.

At the head of the valley, at the top of a cliff, stood a strange building.  It looked like a castle, but the walls were smooth and window-less and the parapets were sharp and threatening teeth against the blue sky behind it.  This was seen only for a few moments before the trucks rounded another turn and the trees around them swallowed the road up again.

Finally, the three trucks emerged from their road and rolled to a stop before the strange castle.  The grand entrance was fitted with massive iron doors, over twenty feet in height, and these were wide open.  Leading from these doors to the open archway of the cobblestone courtyard around the castle was a massive red carpet.  As the shackled prisoners were led up the carpet toward the castle, they were approached by a tall man dressed in some kind of crimson and black military-dress uniform.  He was flanked on either side by black-uniformed bodyguards.  Tall and broad-chested, the man walked with a regal bearing and with his hands clasped behind his back.  His mane of leonine hair was the same jet-black that his full beard was, and his eyes burned with a wild and dangerous light upon seeing the captives.

"Challenger Storm," he said in greeting, his voice deep and smooth.

"Count Zodiac," Storm responded.  He was calm and assured on the outside, but inside the adventurer was kicking himself: he should have known it was Zodiac all along.


Saturday, September 29, 2012


(NOTE: This serial takes place out of order chronologically with the Challenger Storm novels, which are being written with a definite timeline in mind.  "The Valley of Fear" happens after at least book 5 or 6, but this shouldn't hinder the reading experience.  I'm flying by the seat of my pants here, so I make no guarantees in regards to quality or coherence.)


Episode 4: "The King's Tale"

“Don’t move,” Storm quietly told Willy.  “Don’t even blink.  We’re dangerously close to becoming shish kebabs here.”

“I can see that,” Willy replied, slowly rising to his feet.  “Don’t worry about me.”

There was a long, heavy silence.  The woman’s screams had ceased abruptly when they had been captured, and they had not been heard again since.  Somewhere in the jungle there was a flurry of squawking as a flock of birds lifted off from the treetops.  The tribal warriors ringed around Storm and Willy were unflinching and watched the duo with stern and curious eyes.

Finally, Storm broke the silence.  He spoke several languages and was striving always to learn more… unfortunately, the language of these islanders was unknown to him.  “English?  Do any of you speak it?”

The islanders were silent for a few moments before one of them said to another one something low and quiet in their own language… the word “English” was buried within it but Storm didn't recognize the rest.  The second man, who appeared to be a leader from the slightly more ornamental elements of his primitive dress, nodded and said another few words without taking his eyes off of the captive duo.  Finally, he jerked his head over his shoulder and said something to Storm as the ring of captors parted.

“I guess he wants us to follow him,” Storm said, and Willy nodded.  Before they started following the natives' lead the weapons were plucked from Storm and Willy’s grasp, although Storm’s utility harness remained untouched.  “What else can we do?"  Storm confided to his friend.  "If things get too hairy, we've still got a few tricks up our sleeves.”

“Yeah, but what about Brock?” the mechanic asked.  “Maybe he got away & is still out there?”

“Nope, I’m comin’,” Brock rumbled, coming up behind them.  He was accompanied by his own group of captors, and they had disarmed him as well.

“Swell… the gang’s all here,” Storm muttered as he began to follow the warriors’ leads.

The warders led their captives through the jungle and the sweltering & humid air for about twenty minutes before a rough path appeared before them.  They followed this path for another ten minutes before they came at last to a village.  A large ring of bamboo huts surrounded a communal fire pit and rings of sitting-stones, and from doorways and the surrounding trees children and women began filing out to take a look at the strange newcomers.

“Are we dinner guests,” Brock rumbled, “or are we dinner?”

“They’re not cannibals, Brock- at least I don’t think they are.”  Storm searched them for signs of man-eating behavior and didn’t see anything… yet.

They were brought to a sandy patch near the center of the village, and a runner was dispatched to a nearby hut.  A few moments later, another islander appeared wearing the same grass and reed clothing as the others, and he was carrying a book.  He wore a pair of round spectacles, and he pushed these up his nose with a finger in a typically studious gesture, strangely out of place here in the jungle and primitive people of his tribe.

“Uh… hi,” the studious looking tribesman said to the captives in perfect English.  “My name's Bob, and I’m your translator.”

“You speak English?” Storm asked rhetorically.

Bob nodded.  “I spent some time in America,” Bob replied.  “Akron, Ohio to be precise.  I learned a lot there.  It’s a long story-“

The leader of the capturing-party- evidently the leader of the entire village- spoke up in his native tongue, and Bob fell silent.  Finally when the tribal leader was done speaking Bob began again.

“The king is wondering who you are, and where you came from, and why you’re here,” he said.

“My name is Clifton Storm,” he began.  “My friends here are Brock Thurman and Willy Avis.  We’re from the United States, and we were searching for a missing film crew from Hollywood.  We had heard they had been passing through this area when their airplane disappeared.  When we came close to this island we were attacked by some kind of flying machines.  They tore our seaplane to pieces and we had to jump out and swim to the island.”

Bob relayed this to the king, who eyed the captives warily as he listened.  He said something back to Bob, who translated it back to the group.

“The king doesn’t believe you.  He said that he and his hunting party heard a woman screaming out in the jungle.  When they came to investigate they found you running through the jungle, like you were chasing someone.”

“No, now wait a second: we weren’t chasing anyone,” Storm defended himself.  “We heard the woman and we were looking for her, too.  We never found her, and have no idea who she was.  We never even saw her.  Are there any women from your tribe missing?”

Bob related this to the king and the pair of them asked other tribesmen to take a quick census.  After a few minutes, they conferred and Bob spoke up again.

“All the women and children are here and accounted for,” he said.  “The king still doesn't trust you, though.  He thinks you might be working with the other outsiders on the island.”

“Wait, what other outsiders?” Willy asked.  “You know of others here besides yourself?”

Bob spoke to the king, who seemed to consider something for a moment.  Finally, he nodded and Bob spoke.

“He says I can tell you our story,”  Bob began as the king related his tale for him to translate.  "This island is very closed off, far away from everyone, and that's just the way we liked it.  We used to have free reign over all of it until several months ago when a strange airship arrived.  Many men like yourself, white men from somewhere else, got out of the airship and set up a camp.  We were curious and wanted to be friendly with them.  Instead, we were chased away by the men and their weapons.  Some of us were killed, and we got all of our tribe's people together and moved in here at the other end of the island, to be as far away from them as we could be.

"Shortly afterward," Bob continued, "we sent scouts back to the other end of the island, to watch the outsiders' actions.  We were surprised: the newcomers were building a fortress there, and ships were bringing supplies to them.  We are not sure who they are, but they are frightening to us... especially their leader.  The king says he has the look of madness in his eye, but also of strength."  Then, in a lower tone, Bob confided "I just think he's a loon myself, but the king is right... he does have some power over those soldiers of his  They'd die for him... and we already know that they'd kill for him."

Storm thought deeply about the story... so deeply that he nearly didn't hear the rumbling sounds tearing through the jungle.  His sensitive hearing alerted him several seconds before anyone else heard the noises.  The villagers and their captives began looking around wildly.  Something big and menacing was rocketing through the deep foliage that surrounded the village.

"Bob, give us back our weapons!" he commanded.  The native's face had gone blank in the confusion.  "Tell the king we need our guns!" he barked again.  Bob began to speak rapidly to the king, who had already leaped to his feet,  his spear at the ready to meet the incoming threat.

From the trees burst three heavily armored vehicles.  The trucks were jet-black, their shapes nearly buried beneath the angular armor-plating and the double machine-gun turret upon their roofs.  From the front of each truck a sloping battering-ram jutted out, and each of these was adorned with a pair of wide and sharp metal horns.  On the vehicles' doors was a single decoration: a gold circle with a U-shaped line connected to the top.

The villagers scattered in fear.  Warriors held fast to their spears, knowing the primitive weapons would never penetrate the thick armor of the vehicles.  Confusion reigned.

Storm's hand whipped to his utility harness and he flung an incendiary grenade at the nearest armored truck.  He had aimed the bomb toward a slit in the armor, seeking to shatter the windshield behind it but his throw was off and it struck the plating instead.  The grenade burst across the front of the marauding vehicle instead, sheathing it in a spreading wave of fire.  The driver of the truck ignored the flames and swerved the speeding juggernaut toward Storm and his allies, racing toward them with murderous intent.


Saturday, September 22, 2012


(NOTE: This serial takes place out of order chronologically with the Challenger Storm novels, which are being written with a definite timeline in mind.  "The Valley of Fear" happens after at least book 5 or 6, but this shouldn't hinder the reading experience.  I'm flying by the seat of my pants here, so I make no guarantees in regards to quality or coherence.)


Episode 3: "Out of the Frying Pan..."

Tumbling through the air, Clifton Storm, Willy Avis, and Brock Thurman found themselves surrounded by shrieking winds and the swooping robotic flying machines.  The survival bundles the men had grabbed on their way out of the Dolphin held weapons, but they were sealed tightly within their waterproof outer coverings and would be difficult- if not impossible- to get into as they fell.  They were, for the time being, unarmed among their attackers.

The adventurers had bailed out low over the water, and they had to open their parachutes immediately.  One by one the white silk canopies blossomed above them, yanking them upwards by their harnesses with the suddenness of their slowed fall.  Several of the ornithopters that had surrounded the seaplane had followed it as its flight continued; above the troubleshooters the main swarm of ornithopters was still diving, following the course of the now doomed Island Girl.  The flock of robots swooped down towards the three men as they dangled helplessly from their 'chutes.  They braced for impact as the metal monsters streaked toward them.

The swarm reached the men, and for a moment there was chaos as the things flew around and among them and then there was silence.  The ornithopters had flown among the three parachutists without damaging them, then had flown on and continued on their course toward the Island Girl's flight.  As each one reached the Dolphin they landed on the plane and split apart into their dual-forms.  As the doomed seaplane receded in the distance over the island, Storm could see the outer hull of the plane as the robots swarmed over it like insects, tearing the craft apart.  Eventually, the wings became sheared off along with parts of the tail.

As Storm, Willy, and Brock watched, the MARDL plane dropped like a stone, somewhere over the jungle of the mysterious island.  As smoke rose up from the crash, so did the swarm of the ornithopters.  They wheeled up in the sky like a steel tornado, then headed off toward the other end of the long, spindle-shaped island.

After steering their 'chutes to bring them as close to the island as possible, the trio touched down in the warm, deep blue saltwater.  A water landing can be life-threatening for a jumper, and the men had to immediately get clear of the dangerous lines and shroud of their 'chutes.  Once free from the encumbrances of their parachutes, they swam with their survival packs to the shore and regrouped on the beach, waterlogged but alive and grateful.

There was a few moments of silence, which Brock finally broke.  "What the hell," he panted, "was that?"

Storm shielded his eyes from the early morning sun and gazed into the distance toward the other end of the island.  "Your guess is as good as mine," he said evenly.  "Whatever they were, they ignored us... they wanted the plane."

"Well, they got it," Willy grumbled as he rose from where he sat on the beach, wiping the wet sand from the seat of his denim pants.  As the chief mechanic at the Miami Aerodrome Research & Development Labs, Willy had a very proprietary view of the aircraft under his care.  "I just fixed up her ailerons, too."

Storm smiled.  "Don't worry, Willy, I'll get you a new one when we get back home."

"If we get back home, you mean," Brock said as he turned from the ocean and looked into the jungle.  "Does anybody know we're here?  Do we even know where 'here' is?"

"I launched a radio-flare before we jumped," Storm told him.  The flare was one of Storm's aeronautical inventions for flight-safety.  It contained a transmitter and a small buoy, and it broadcast a strong radio signal with a distress-call along with the last coordinates that had been recorded by the plane's transmission logger, another of the adventurer's creations.  "We should be okay."

"Maybe, if the radio signals aren't still being jammed" Willy reminded him.

Storm turned to the mechanic.  "You're right.  This does all seem a bit deliberate, doesn't it?"  Willy nodded.

Suddenly a woman's scream rang out, sharp and piercing and frantic.  It shattered the idyllic feeling of the tropical beach.  The sound came from the jungle, and it cried out again, more panicked now.

Without another word, Storm raced into the trees and toward the sound, followed closely by Willy Avis and Brock Thurman.  They had already gotten into their survival packs and had brought their weapons out: each man had a Tommy gun and 2 drums of ammunition, plus their own sidearms- .45 caliber Colt 1911's for Willy and Brock, the Mauser C96 for Storm, plus spare ammo for these.  Storm was outfitted as well with his multi-pouched utility harness, which held many of the tools and gadgets he had created to aid in his war.  The group was armed and ready for action as they sprinted toward the sound of the screaming, which was coming from deeper in the jungle now.

The canopy of vegetation rapidly closed in over them as they raced toward the sound.  Trees and vegetation whipped by them as they followed the screaming.  It was impossible to be silent in their pursuit, but they were fast and seemed to be closing in on the sound.

Something strong and fast closed around Brock's right ankle, and he was yanked into the air by his leg.  He yelped in surprise.

"Brock!" Willy yelled as he and Storm turned to him.

"Go on, I'll be ok," the dangling strongman told them as he flailed, trying to reach the vine rope that had ensnared him.

Storm and Willy again took up their chase again as they headed further into the deep jungle.  The screaming started again, still further away but still in the direction they were headed.  Someone was taking the woman- whoever she was- deeper into the jungle.  Something bothered Storm: there was something familiar about the screaming, but he wasn't sure what it was.  And the trap that had ensnared Brock... there was danger here, and something wasn't right.  The task at hand was to save that woman, though, and they kept crashing through the curtains of deep green leaves and vines.

Suddenly Storm stopped short.  Willy collided with his Storm's back before falling back onto his backside.  "What the...?" the aging mechanic began in protest, but Storm raised his hand and cut him off.  Blinking, Willy looked around them and realized the gravity of their new situation.

Storm and Willy were surrounded by a ring of fierce-looking Polynesian warriors.  Their spears were held steadily toward them, the points hovering just an inch away from their flesh.  They had been ambushed.


Saturday, September 15, 2012


(NOTE: This serial takes place out of order chronologically with the Challenger Storm novels, which are being written with a definite timeline in mind.  "The Valley of Fear" happens after at least book 5 or 6, but this shouldn't hinder the reading experience.  I'm flying by the seat of my pants here, so I make no guarantees in regards to quality or coherence.)


Episode 2: "The Steel Wind"

Storm, Willy, and Brock watched the rising cloud of airborne visitors as it thickened before them.  The objects looked like the dark silhouettes of bats or birds with wings flapping on either side of central bodies, but something about the shapes themselves indicated to the MARDL flyers that they were neither as they headed toward the Island Girl.  The Douglas Dolphin seaplane was a utility ship and not a combat aircraft, but she wasn't without fangs of her own.

“Brock, get the starboard machine gun ready,” Storm ordered.  “Willy, take the port side.  Something tells me these things aren’t going to be too friendly.”

As Storm gave his orders, each of the flying objects suddenly started trailing a thick, white smoke.  As the mechanic and the strongman scrambled for their posts Storm began to bank the Dolphin away from the advancing cloud, attempting to evade the unidentified flyers.  The group followed them; their speed was far greater than that of the Island Girl.  The troubleshooters had no sooner taken their positions at their guns than the flyers reached the seaplane.  The swarm broke their formation and veered off from each other; they swooped around the aircraft and soon the visibility dropped amid the thickening smokescreens.  Storm and his men were flying blind.

Above them, one of the flyers swooped down out of the haze and toward the Dolphin.  Willy tracked it as far as he could from his position on the left-hand side of the seaplane.  He fired a burst at the thing from the Browning machine gun, the bullets making a throaty roar and the empty shell-casings tinkling on the floor around him.  The swooping object disappeared from his view.  Almost immediately afterward, there was a thump and a rending screech: the object had sliced gouges from the Dolphin's roof and swooped off to come in again.  At the right side of the plane, there was another scream of tearing metal as another slash appeared in the Island Girl's starboard side.

"They're cutting us to ribbons!" Willy shouted over the roaring of the engines and the machine guns; he and Brock were doing their best to try and shoot the shapes from the sky but as soon as one would dive out of the mist it seemed to disappear again.

Realizing the danger of the situation, Storm barked to his men: "Hang on, I'm gonna try to get us down out of this pea-soup!"  Sensing a lull and an open spot below, he shoved the control yoke forward, sending the Dolphin into a sudden dive.  Willy and Brock hung on to their safety harnesses in the back of the plane as the Island Girl burst from the artificial cloud.

Leveling out the seaplane over the waves below, the three adventurers were able to collect themselves for a moment before the things dove out of the smokescreen to renew their attack on the Island Girl.  As the flying things headed toward them in the full daylight, the morning sun reflected off of metallic skin: they were mechanical constructs that flew with flapping wings.  Ornithopters.  Storm had heard of similar flying machines that had attacked New York once not too long ago and had been defeated by the members of a mercenary air force, but the machines in the photos of that attack had been larger than these ornithopters, which were more man-sized and had a wingspan of only about 15 feet or so.  The machines' bodies were different, too: not as pod-shaped as the ones that attacked New York, these had the suggestion of smaller appendages.  

The attackers were too swift to get a clear view of at the moment and they were now diving down toward the  Island Girl.  There was no time to examine them.

Storm jinked the Dolphin hard to the right and climbed as the ornithopters drew nearer.  Willy and Brock hammered at the flying machines with their guns when they were in range but they realized now their efforts were pointless: the ornithopters were armored, and the heavy slugs bounced off of their metallic hides.

There was a sudden thump and a tremor that shuddered through the Island Girl.  From his starboard-side gun placement, Brock could see a dark shape as it hung onto the underside of the seaplane's wing.  The shape suddenly folded its wings and split apart as it seemed to sprout two separate sets of mechanical limbs.  The twin shapes scurried over the wing like a pair of massive cockroaches.  With razor-sharp bladed limbs, the robots crawled toward the seaplane's fuselage, shredding the wing as they advanced.

Brock opened fire again with his gun.  The bullets bounced off of the metal adversaries with no effect.  The Island Girl began to shake violently.  "They got the wing!" Brock cried.

In the cockpit, Storm fought the controls of the plane.  He knew there was no point in trying to stay aloft now: the Island Girl was going down hard and they were going to have to bail out.  He managed to point the craft toward the small island the ornithopters had originated from and locked the controls in place.  There was a shrill scream of metal and something exploded on the Dolphin's roof.  One of the crawling robots had reached the starboard engine and had destroyed it.

"Bail out, guys!" Storm called back to his men, "We're going into the drink!"  He yanked a lever, launching a flare from the roof of the Dolphin, and began to strap into his parachute.

In the rear of the seaplane, Brock and Willy hurriedly struggled into their own 'chutes.  The Island Girl was nearing the beach but two more of the strange robots were crawling around the plane and tearing it apart.  The Dolphin would fall apart around them before they reached the beach, and the men knew they would have to jump now over the Pacific and swim to shore.

After they strapped small survival bundles to themselves, Storm threw open the plane's door and the wind rushed in around them.  Looking out through the open doorway, they could see the air was full of the swooping and diving ornithopters as they circled ever closer to the crashing seaplane.

Another scream of metal rang out.  A huge section of the plane's port-side fuselage tore open like paper under the claws of another ornithopter-machine.  A metallic head looked in on them, a single green sensor glowed where a face should be.  The thing began to advance through the hole it had made.

Storm, Willy, and Brock leaped from the Island Girl's open doorway and out into the open air, surrounded by the swooping deadly machines.


Saturday, September 8, 2012


(NOTE: This serial takes place out of order chronologically with the Challenger Storm novels, which are being written with a definite timeline in mind.  "The Valley of Fear" happens after at least book 5 or 6, but this shouldn't hinder the reading experience.  I'm flying by the seat of my pants here, so I make no guarantees in regards to quality or coherence.)


Episode 1: "Hollywood SOS"

The sun was just coming up over the Pacific Ocean as the Douglas Dolphin began its descent.  On the nose of the plane the painting of a dark-haired beauty in a grass skirt lounged beneath the plane's name: "Island Girl".  The sky around the seaplane was clearing and there were now only a few patches and shreds of clouds between the aircraft and the barren stretch of blank water below.  The trio of men inside the Dolphin examined their map yet again and checked the ocean for any signs of what they had been searching for.  So far, their search had turned up nothing.  The mission had been a bust.

At the controls of the plane sat an athletically-trim man with blue-gray eyes and dark hair.  He was handsome despite the three long vertical scars that marred the left side of his face, and he seemed to radiate a quiet yet intense energy as he scanned the waves below.

His name was Clifton Storm... the world called him "Challenger".

Storm had grown up wealthy, his father the owner of an industrial empire.  He had been a cruel youth, however, selfish and self-absorbed and reveling in the superiority and elitism that his family's wealth bought him.  Despite the urging and guidance of his philanthropic parents he had been living his life as though it had been one big party until fate intervened: Storm's mother and father had been killed in an automobile accident.  While flying home to attend to their funeral, the passenger plane Storm was travelling in had been caught in a freak blizzard and crashed into the mountains.  Everyone aboard was killed except for Clifton Storm, and though he was scarred from the experience he managed to emerge from the mountains alive and whole... but changed.

No longer was Storm living his life only for himself: between the pair of tragedies and his own near-death experience, he had found himself turned inside-out and now burned with the urge to help others.  Throwing himself into his education, Storm soaked up knowledge like a man possessed.  After graduating from a prestigious college at the top of his class, he disappeared from society and embarked on a globe-spanning journey of discovery as he honed the skills that would make him a force to be reckoned with.  He became a dynamo of action, defending the weak and punishing those who would prey upon them.  After establishing an enclave of like-minded scientists and engineers known as MARDL (the Miami Aerodrome Research and Development Laboratories), Storm gathered together a group of adventurers who shared the same goals and dreams that he did and this became the troubleshooting arm of his organization.  Together they would aim to make the world a better place, fighting tyranny & injustice and helping those in need in corners of the globe both near and far-flung.

It was such a mission that brought Storm- who had been given the nickname of "Challenger" Storm by the overeager media- and a pair of his aides to the Pacific ocean, in search of an island that simply wasn't there.

The trio had been returning to the United States after an adventure involving a wayward scheming debutante, her gangster cronies, and a lost diamond mine in Australia when they had received word that an American movie production crew that had been filming in Hawaii had been hijacked as they had been flying back to California.  The details of the kidnapping were sketchy, but the mid-air hijacking made Storm question whether his sometime ally/enemy, the air-pirate Simon Crowe, was involved.  The M. O. was all wrong for Crowe and his band, though... money was his big motivator, but kidnapping seemed a little out of character for him.

After the film crew's disappearance, there was a silence and mystery surrounding the event until a final panicked radio transmission was sent out giving approximate map coordinates, and then all was silent again.  It seemed as though the Hollywood movie-makers had simply ceased to exist.  The crew consisted of largely B-movie personnel, including leading man and frequent gangster on film Billy Hartsell, wide-eyed blonde actress Fay Durning, and the director and producer, Jimmy Keane.  Keane was especially noted offscreen due to tabloid rumors of his involvement with the mob, and the hyperbolic movie-maker had raised a few eyebrows by packing up a crew to film on location in Hawaii instead of spending within his budget and making his latest "epic" on a soundstage in Burbank.

Whatever the reason for the kidnapping, the crew was missing and in danger.  While Storm and his team were flying over the empty Ocean, search parties were coordinating their plans.  Time was of the essence, however: the missing people had to be found, and soon, or risk perishing at sea.  The MARDL seaplane was the only plane or boat in the vicinity, and it all rested on their shoulders for now.

"There, over there!"  Willy Avis shouted over the Dolphin's engines.  The graying black mechanic was at the upper end of middle-age, but was a combat veteran and still sharp as a knife.  Clifton Storm and the third man in the cockpit, the bald and heavily muscled & tattooed Brock Thurman, turned and followed Willy's pointing arm.  Down below, through the patchy clouds, they saw a small green jewel of foliage amidst the endless Pacific.  An island.

"Thank God," Storm sighed.  "We'd be flying on fumes soon.  If we didn't find them we'd have to go back for fuel."

As Storm banked the Dolphin to get a better look at the island, Brock checked the map.  "The island's close enough to the where the SOS said they went down," he rumbled.  "I only hope they made it there."

"Yeah," Willy agreed as he clamped the radio headphones to his head, "and I hope they're all still alive.  I'll call it in."  As he tuned the radio dial, a frown appeared on his face, followed by a scowl.  "Cliff," he said finally, "... something's wrong."

Storm turned.  "What is it?"

Willy held the headphones out for Storm to hear.  A screaming peal of white noise was tearing from them.  "The radio- I can't get any channels at all.  Something's blocking it."

Storm started to say something, but was interrupted.

"Look!"  Brock shouted and pointed, startled.  "What the hell are they?"

Looking through the windscreen, the trio beheld a chilling sight.  Large winged shapes, batlike and menacing, were rising from the island and heading straight for the "Island Girl" on a collision course.


Friday, August 31, 2012


Earlier today, Paragon Studios announced they were shutting down, and taking their massively-multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) "City of Heroes" with them.  This will be done before the end of the year.

This announcement has had a big effect on me.

In a previous interview, I stated that I counted video games among my influences on writing.  The main video game that has helped my creative process since I began writing my own adventures was "City of Heroes".  The game allowed players to create their own characters, design their costumes, designate their powers, etc., then turns them loose in a shared "world" with other players with its own enemies, ongoing storylines, etc.

The game was a lot of fun, but more than that it helped me to create.  I began playing the game shortly after I began writing "The Isle of Blood", way back in 2008 (maybe even 2007?), and it helped me to crystalize the look of my characters, as well as design quite a few that haven't turned up yet but will hopefully do so in the future.  Beyond that, it helped me brainstorm on other projects.  Finally, it let me "step into the shoes" of my heroes and play as them, which was a very cool feeling.

Beyond these reasons, there were others that made my time playing "City of Heroes" important to me: I frequently played the game alongside my friends Manny and Gabriel, and it's a neat feeling leading your hero into combat next to your friends.  My wife started playing the game for a while too, and that was a terrific experience as the two of us had a good time creating characters and beating down the bad guys together.  We were playing CoH the night my father passed away from cancer, and after the initial crying had died down, we played for a while longer.  It was a great comfort that night, especially knowing the true shock would lay into me when I woke up the next day.

I know it's just a game, but nonetheless it's a game that was a big part of my life, and Challenger Storm wouldn't be what it is without the influence of "City of Heroes".  I will miss it and all the fun and enjoyment that came from it.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Blowing the Dust Off...

Things have been rather quiet for me here lately since the announcement regarding "The Curse of Poseidon".  I'm currently making preparations to work on a short story for a forthcoming anthology, but I don't think I can discuss it too much right now.  It's going to be interesting to write about characters that aren't my own, though.  I'll keep you posted about that.

Meanwhile, I've also begun work on the third Challenger Storm novel.  As I've mentioned before, the title is "White Hell".  Basically, this story could also be called "Storm at the Mountains of Madness", so that should clue you in on what's going down in that tale.  The details are being ironed out, but I have a feeling once it starts, this thing is gonna snowball (pardon the pun).  It should be epic, and a blast to write.  After that, I have some ideas where Storm will be headed in the future: Egypt, some adventuring at home in Miami, off to the mysterious (and fictional) country of Altaveria... I have a list of story ideas that just keeps growing.  And then of course there's a few other projects that I want to get off the ground too...

In the meantime, I've been considering what I could do to keep this blog active as I continue to plod along at my snails-pace while writing.  I mentioned this on Facebook and got some suggestions back from a few friends:

-Behind-the-scenes details on Challenger Storm's gear, gadgets, tools, etc.

-A look at the MARDL compound: one friend even suggested a cut-away illustration of the compound's buildings, etc.  This would be great, but I don't think I could drum up the art for this.

-A file-type post dedicated to each member of the MARDL troubleshooters.

-I considered doing a few short-story type of entries showing how Storm met each member of his adventuring crew.

Finding the time to do stuff like this can be tricky, but dangit: I need something to give this place life.  I'd post every day if I could, but unfortunately I don't think I've got it in me.  And so, fans, friends, and casual readers: what do you think I could do to liven this place up a little bit?  I'm open to suggestions, and actually encourage them... this place gets a little dusty sometimes and it's nice to blow the dust off and do something with the ol' blog, y'know?

Monday, June 25, 2012

Lightning Strikes Twice!

The wheels are turning again, folks.  Enjoy this announcement from Airship 27's Facebook page:

"Don Gates' original pulp hero, Challenger Storm returns early next year in a brand new adventure, "The Curse of Poseidon," and along with this action ride once again is artist Michael Kaluta. Earlier this year, Kaluta become the first artist to win both the Pulp Factory Awards for Best Pulp Cover and Best Interior Illustrations for his work on the first Storm adventure, "Isle of Blood." Airship 27 is thrilled to bringing pulp this exciting new chapter in Gates' series."

So yes, it is official: lightning can strike twice.  The next Challenger Storm novel, "The Curse of Poseidon", will have art once again by legendary illustrator Michael Wm. Kaluta.  This is another dream come true... pinch me, I'm dreamin'!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

On My Challenger Storm Wishlist...

If you've never read Derrick Ferguson's character Dillon, you are missing out on some of the best action-adventure and New Pulp tales today. In the latest post on the Dillon blog, Derrick talks about team-ups, and among the possibilities a certain scarred adventurer is mentioned, or at least his offspring. Can't say whether it would ever happen or not, but it certainly would be fun to see Dillon & Ulysses and/or Destiny Storm crossing over...

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Another Interview...

Posted several days ago (sorry I didn't put it up before now, I've been a little busy), this interview with Sean Taylor at his "Bad Girls, Good Guys, and Two-Fisted Action" writing blog.  Interviews are always fun, and I thank Sean for the opportunity to talk a bit about "The Isle of Blood" and some upcoming stuff...

Monday, April 30, 2012

A Double-Win For Kaluta's Work On "The Isle of Blood"!

As officially announced today, Michael Wm. Kaluta's work for "Challenger Storm: The Isle of Blood" won both Best Cover Artwork and Best Interior Artwork awards from The Pulp Factory.  This is incredibly awesome!  Congratulations to Michael, and to the other winners... outstanding work, one and all!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The All Pulp Interview

I was planning on doing some posts that were more substantial for this blog, but recent health issues have set me back a little and I haven't felt much like it lately.  I'll be back to form (and wrapping up the second Challenger Storm novel) soon.  In the meantime, Black Centipede-scribe Chuck Miller interviewed me for All Pulp.  Check it out over here.

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Unofficial Challenger Storm Theme Song

Inspired by Chuck Miller's post today concerning a "theme song" for his character the Black Centipede, I decided to throw up my own here.  I've mentioned this to a few friends before, but if I could give Challenger Storm theme-music it would be this piece (and please: listen to the whole thing and try your hardest to separate this adventurous tune from the obvious connections we've all come to make with it).  There was many times while writing "The Isle of Blood" when I would turn to this music to give me a boost:

Monday, February 27, 2012

The 2012 Pulp Ark Award Winners!

Congratulations to all the winners this year!  If you're not familiar with these names then I suggest you check them out, particularly my personal favorites from the list: Derrick Ferguson, Chuck Miller, and Barry Reese.  The awards are well deserved, and I look forward to checking out the entries eligible for next year's awards!

"Tommy Hancock, Editor in Chief of Pro Se Productions and Pulp Ark Coordinator, announces that voting has closed for the 2012 Pulp Ark Awards, the first awards given in association with this inaugural Pulp creators' conference/convention.

The Winners of the 2012 Pulp Ark Awards are-
BEST NOVEL-Yesteryear by Tommy Hancock (Pro Se Productions)

BEST COLLECTION/ANTHOLOGY-Four Bullets for Dillon (Pulpwork Press)

BEST SHORT STORY- The Devil’s Workmen by Barry Reese-The Avenger: The Justice Inc Files (Moonstone)

BEST COVER ART-Hugh Monn, Private Detective-by David Russell (Pro Se Productions)

BEST INTERIOR ART-The Adventures of Lazarus Gray-George Sellas (Pro Se Productions)

BEST PULP RELATED COMIC-All Star Pulp Comics #1 (Airship 27 Productions)

BEST PULP MAGAZINE-Pro Se Presents (Pro Se Productions)

BEST PULP REVIVAL-The Wild Adventures of Doc Savage by Will Murray (Altus Press)

BEST NEW PULP CHARACTER- John Blackthorn Created by Van Allen Plexico (White Rocket Books)

BEST AUTHOR-Teel James Glenn

BEST NEW WRITER-TIE Sean Taylor And Chuck Miller


The awards, 8X10 engraved wooden plaques, will be awarded in the middle of Pulp Ark, the evening of Saturday, April 21, 2012. Hancock stated that all winners as well as nominees are encouraged to attend, but any winners who could not would receive their awards by mail. Pulp Ark thanks all who nominated, all who voted, and congratulations to all the nominees and especially to the winners of the Pulp Ark 2012 Awards!

For any questions concerning Pulp Ark, contact Hancock at or follow Pulp Ark news at"

Friday, February 24, 2012

Challenger Storm Goes "Undercover"...

"Undercover Reviews", that is!  Over at the New Pulp Fiction Blog, Nick Ahlhelm gives his take on "The Isle of Blood".  Thanks for the review, Nick!  More Storm is on the way...

Monday, February 13, 2012

After "The Isle of Blood", What's Next...?

I've discussed this before in a few interviews, but I want to confirm it here as well: the second Challenger Storm book is in the pipeline, and about halfway complete at this point.  The title is "The Curse of Poseidon", and it's shaping up to be a pretty fun ride for me so far: Storm and the MARDL crew versus ancient superstitions and piracy in the Aegean Sea near Greece.  My writing-speed at this time varies from "sluggish" to "non-existent" so I can't accurately predict exactly when it'll be done and submitted for publication, but I'm trying to get it out there.

In the meantime, the seed for another Storm adventure has been planted, and it's rapidly grown pretty big... so big that it's nudged all other plans for subsequent Challenger Storm novels back by a peg or two and has forced me to consider restructuring my planned timeline of the entire series.  I can't give very much info at this point other than the title (which was partially suggested by Storm fan and MARDL feedback-scientist Bob Besco): "Challenger Storm: White Hell".  (I could tell you more, but then I'd have to kill you...)

I have other projects I'd like to work on as well: other series, stand-alone one-shots, things like that.  It seems silly to talk about future projects when my productivity rate is so damned slow, but I find that it helps me to actually work on things if I talk about them publicly... in that way, I look like an idiot if I don't follow-through with my announced plans.  I'm a little jealous of the infernally-prolific writing-machines awesomely-talented fellow writers I'm acquainted with: I'm in awe of their sheer output, and it's all quality stuff.  If you're not familiar with these folks, check the links to the right and start clickin' and buyin'... you'll be glad you did!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Michael Kaluta's Artwork for "The Isle of Blood"... Yet Another Pair of Nominations!

Congratulations to Michael Wm Kaluta for his 2011 Pulp Factory Award nominations for both the cover and interior artwork for "Challenger Storm- The Isle of Blood", and to the rest of the nominees as well... there was some fantastic stuff put out in 2011!

Friday, January 27, 2012

"Terrific, a Six-Demon Bag!"

A mini-interview with yours truly has been posted over at Josh Reynold's blog.  It is pretty brief, but it was a blast to do.  Thanks, Josh!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

"The Isle of Blood"... Nominated for the 2012 Pulp Ark Awards!

The book is up for a total of five nominations: Best Novel, Best Cover Art, Best Interior Art, Best New Character, and Best New Writer.  This is obviously a really cool moment for me.  Thank you for the nominations & votes, and congratulations to all the other nominees!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Visualizing "The Isle of Blood": The Kaluta Sketches

One of the major selling points of "Challenger Storm: The Isle of Blood"... ok, THE major selling point for a lot of people, I'm sure, is the amazing artwork of comic and illustration legend Michael Wm. Kaluta.  Airship 27's Ron Fortier made the official announcement regarding Michael's involvement at last year's Pulp Ark, and while I wasn't there myself I did hear a recording of that panel over at The Book Cave.  It certainly caused quite a stir and interest rose for the then-upcoming book.  We'd been sitting on this secret-weapon for a little while, and we were happy to have finally been able to start talking about it.

If you're familiar with Kaluta's art (and you'd better be... if not, get on that link up there, stat), then you know his style instantly: an extremely intricate melding of Art Deco and Art Nouveau styles; these elements often raise his work above the standard "comic-booky" feel of others in the field and into the lofty realms of high-art.  His work can be very decorative and florid, and his more thematic illustrations can be hyper-detailed and intricate.  It's always been these elements of his art that have long made Michael Kaluta my favorite artist: the fact that he's basically the first guy to visualize my character in publication is just awesome.  He's a consummate professional who brings a lot of dedication to his art, and he certainly didn't skimp on any of these qualities when he did his work for "The Isle of Blood".  I'm honored to have had him aboard Challenger Storm's inaugural flight.

After the jump below are a few of the rough design sketches he did in preparation for the cover and interior illustrations.  Just from these roughs alone, I could tell that he wasn't phoning-in this assignment.  He pulled no punches here, and if you've seen the finished product you know that his work on my book was 100% Kaluta.