Sunday, 25 August 2019

The FarOut World - a short story by Allan Hudson Part 1

Outer Space - that void above the skies has always intrigued me. I think Space Travel is worth every penny we spend on it.

I work in the jewellery business and I wondered what it might be like to shop for jewellery in outer space some time in the future. I wrote a short story called The FarOut Mall. It was first published here on the Scribbler and is now available in my short story collection - A Box of Memories.

Today's short story takes place in same quadrant of Outer Space where humans live in Off Earth Living Pods. The only thing they can't supply themselves is...Water!

The FarOut World

September 23, 2657

The Caterpillar XN4789 is the largest truck out of this world. Its sole purpose is to transport water to the off-Earth living pods (LPs) hovering above the globe, anywhere from the International Space Boundary (ISB) of two hundred miles to the InterCosmic Manor 2599 – the farthest LP, which orbits at six hundred and three miles. All two hundred and sixty-three LPs are self-sustaining except for their water supply. There’s no shortage of Adam’s ale on planet Earth. Not since the ice caps melted late in the twenty-fourth century, followed by a downpour of biblical proportions. Now, only the extremely rich and some water-heavy industry exist on the mountaintops. 

Macintosh Fairweather, who foresaw and forecasted the extreme conditions coming to the planet, had proposed to the world’s leaders that the only way the human population would survive was to build living pods in space. At first they scoffed at his proposal, calling it the vision of a madman. He assured them that they had the raw materials, the finances, the ease and simplicity of space travel. That they should act now. Most rejected his idea. But eventually he convinced the most populous countries – China, Canada, India and the United States – to divert funds to erecting the first LPs. Unfortunately, their timing was too late and billions of people perished in the flooding. Besides the 1,500 residents living and working in the mountaintops, the rest of the human population lives off-Earth, in LPs, in the twin cities of Aether and Hemera in the Tranquillittatis Mare of the moon, or in the Arcadia Planitia of Mars.

Interplanetary travel is a breeze thanks to the forward thinking of Geronimo Placedo, who pioneered teleportation in the twenty-first century, a concept only possible in science fiction in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Nowadays, teleportation is taken for granted and travelers often complain about the forty-two minutes it takes to get from one planet to the next as being too slow. No one complains about the 1.2 second trip from Earth to the moon though.

Geoffrey (Geo) Galanos is the only person with enough experience to handle the XN4789. In Earth’s atmosphere, the vehicle would weigh over a million pounds. In space, it weighs nothing but possesses abundant inertial mass. Improper or inexperienced handling of the controls and thrusters could extensively damage an LP during docking. So only the most experienced orbital jockeys are hired to operate the large water transports. Galanos has nicknamed the vehicle Potizo, the Greek word for irrigate. Today is the first delivery for the colossal machine and the first LP needing an immediate resupply is the hostile LV2. Galanos is the only one of three drivers who volunteers for deliveries to either LV1 or LV2. As evil as the owners are, they know better than to fuck with Galanos. He carries not one but two extremely rare Remington Valences, the most powerful ionic handguns in off-Earth. Dubbed sensei by the practitioners of sangfroid, the deadliest of Canadian martial arts, he has few equals in hand-to-hand combat. His very demeanor and Greek arrogance cause the boldest of men to step aside. 

LP2429 (numbered for the year it was built) was the first LP built by the Save the World Conglomeration. Updated many times, the lowest orbiting LP is now a docking and work station for water transports and other space vehicles. The smaller transports that enter the Earth’s atmosphere are hardy “pickups” that skim the surface, filling their tanks for transfer to the larger trucks that are too big to travel back and forth. Mainly financed by Toyota, LP2429 contains a spacecraft dealership, work bays, body shops, a gym, a college for mechanics, welders, electricians, plumbers and millwrights, its own “breathe and feed” levels, and the mandatory hospital and living quarters for the 2,300 people who inhabit the LP. It also contains an armory. That’s where Geo is now while Potizo is being loaded.

Geo is a big man. Muscles bulge from his limbs like tree knots. His long dark hair is tucked behind his ears; his eyes shine in anticipation. He’s wearing the latest design in spacesuits, slick and body forming. The armorer, Rieta Balser, helps him strap the Valances to his thighs after charging the weapons. She slaps him on the ass after she’s tightened the straps, pausing for a moment to squeeze the firm buttock. She winks at him before he leaves.

“If you make it back from LV2, big guy, I’m off at 1800 and I’d love to rub your sore muscles. Know what I mean?”

“Don’t you worry about me making it back, Rieta. There’s nothing on LV2 that I can’t handle. If your offer’s good, you’d better rest up while I’m away. Know what I mean?

Before they go their separate ways with a chuckle and a promise, she warns him of the virkon-eptile detected on LV2 several days ago and passes him a Threat Detector calibrated for the unique sound of slithering scales, the faint scent of raw meat, and x-ray visuals of the flesh-eating monsters. If one of the virkon-eptiles is within a range of thirty feet, it will sound a loud warning and he’ll have but seconds to react. Otherwise, he’ll be fodder for the beasts.

Proceeding to the docking station on the second level, Geo sees the setting sun reflecting off Potizo’s golden skin through the tall windows. It’s huge. It reminds him of the Zeppelins of the nineteenth century that he saw at the aviation museum on LP2589, only five times bigger. Passing through the airlock, he removes his helmet and oxygen pack and leaves them in his locker.

When he enters the cockpit, he breathes in the rare aroma of real leather on the pilot’s seat. They had gone all out on the interior. Sitting at the controls, he admires the 240-degree viewing field. Hovering cam-bots show the spacecraft at every angle. Settled in, the control panel senses his implant and appears within easy reach. The tryedellium panel is pure energy, stored in the ship’s memory, responsive to touch, voice. Due to limited breakthroughs in thought-control technology and advances in human implants, he can command it to appear and rest at will.

“Check engines.”

A multi-gauge panel appears over the control panel. Everything is in the green.

“Rear cam-bots.”

The top panel is replaced by a ten-screen panel with images from behind. The docking arms hold the ship in place; he sees the glistening exterior of the LP with the sun shining directly on it along with the hovercraft of the exterior maintenance crew. Several cameras show the rear of the truck. The sleek metallic skin, the docking and transfer hub, the rear-mounted laser cannon. He presses a combo of keys on his left pad and the gun swivels and rotates. The lower right screen zooms in and a bull’s eye follows its every move. Even with the world mostly at peace, there are still pirates, especially where he is going.

“Ship monitor.”

The screen is replaced by the command center and communications. The right-hand pad controls the engine, steering thrusters, all external components. Entering the right combination, the ship unlocks from the docking arms; the top thrusters ignite and push the ship slowly away. Letting inertia carry him a thousand feet, another finger command and the fisome-fueled engine grows hot. Deeming his distance beyond launch perimeter, he commands the main thruster to boost him toward outer space. Satellites keep him posted at all times of where each LP is located, where it is in its orbit. LV2 is at mile 455. The Scatter Zone, or debris field, where LP2344 had been destroyed by an asteroid, extends from mile 445 to mile 465. The computers have calculated his path in and, exactly thirty-three minutes later, the path back out.

When he reaches the outer perimeter of the Scatter Zone, Geo leaves Potizo on autopilot, ready on a second’s notice to take over manually if necessary. At mile 448, the ship hovers in its path when a chunk of the former LP whizzes by overhead at 20,000 miles an hour. A whole section, maybe three hundred feet across, circles the globe endlessly. The ship reaches LV2 at the apogee of its orbit, the timing synched by the delivery team. Going manual, Geo calls up cam-bots six and eight. The docking station on LV2 is on the lowest level. Huge bay doors with wild graffiti and murals line the No. 3 octagonal. The second door slowly slides apart. Potizo would never fit inside, so Geo skillfully parks its ass-end nearby, and the docking arms clamp onto his upper frame. He shuts it down and dissolves the control panel.

Freeing himself from his seat, he grabs his helmet and life support system, and after strapping everything on, he steps into the airlock. He backs into his extravehicular mobility unit (EMU) – custom designed by Bombardier Propulsion – locks in, hits the exit cycle button, and as soon as the vacuum is restored, the door slides upward and he flies out. He loves the jetpack; it’s their newest model: lighter, much faster than the previous one and easier to control.

Landing in the cargo bay, he watches the docking personnel, called bay-grunts, marveling at the size of Potizo, swarming around the outer perimeter, admiring the sleek lines and high gloss, while others swing the off-load tubes into place and connect to the ship. They know who he is and stay out of his way. By the time he enters the platform airlocks, he can see the huge pipes pulsating from the pumps sucking the precious liquid into storage tanks on the second level. When oxygen is restored, he removes his helmet, unstraps his EMU and places them in an open visitor’s rack and locks it, pocketing the key. Even in the twenty-seventh century, nothing beats an old-fashioned lock. photo credit
The receiving bays are the busiest in the LV2. Every LP has manufacturing levels, but LV2 manufactures very little, so shipping is a small section of the service octagonal. Their specialty is drugs, weapons, gambling, prostitution and alcohol. Anyone needing such vices came here; very little got shipped out, other than waste and dead bodies. Geo is met by two members of the Pod Patrol, LV2’s own policing unit. Even though Geo is over six feet tall, the two men tower over him. Clad in black mondicor armor, which is hard and flexible, weapons strapped to wrists and ankles, they are an intimidating duo. The one with the eye patch and tattooed face is obviously senior and greets Geo with a raised hand.

“No entering the Pod with weapons, you’ll have to leave them with us.”

Geo stands, arms akimbo, and glares at the two men. Without weapons, he’s a dead man.

“I’m getting the bot-credits for the water and as soon as the truck’s empty, I’m leaving. If I have to walk through those revolving doors to the purser’s office, I’m not going in this hellhole without my weapons. So you have two choices. Either go get the payment and bring it to me, or try taking the weapons from me. Your call.”

To be continued August 28th........

Thanks for visiting today. I hope you're enjoying the story and that you'll be back for the rest. Please leave a comment. Tell me if you like it...or hate it!

Saturday, 17 August 2019

Award Winning Author MJ LaBeff of Arizona, US.

MJ LaBeff is an American author best described as the girl-next-door with a dark side. She’s drawn to writing suspense novels, featuring complicated characters and twisted plot lines that will keep readers turning page after page. (quoted from MJ’s website –

The Scribbler is beyond happy to have MJ as this week’s guest. An accomplished and award-winning author. She also goes “above and beyond” sharing other people’s work and accomplishments, an author’s best friend. She has generously agreed to a 4Q Interview and is sharing an excerpt from one of her novels.

***Since MJ and I put together her interview and Excerpt, MJ received the fantastic news that her novel Last Fall’s Hunted (Book 2 in the series) is the winner in the 2019 American Fiction Awards.

Thanks for inviting me to join your blog today! It’s always fun chatting writing and books with a fellow author.

My bio is on my website along with other fun tidbits about me and also included in all of my books. You captured most of it nicely in your fantastic introduction. Basically this is a snapshot of moi: MJ LaBeff grew up in northeastern Ohio but traded snow for sunshine and moved to southern Arizona over two decades ago where she lives with her husband and three dogs. When she’s not writing or plotting her next novel, MJ enjoys reading, running, lifting weights, and volunteering for the American Cancer Society. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications-English from Gannon University in Erie, PA and currently works in the financial services industry. MJ says, “I play with numbers all day and words all night.” Although she’s a morning person, night time is her time when it comes to writing her next thriller.

4Q: Before we chat about your books, please tell us what draws you to Suspense novels, the kind you like to write.

MJ: As I young reader I was initially drawn to mystery books and especially enjoyed The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew. I gravitated toward light horror and paranormal books too. One of the first paranormal stories I read was The Poltergeist of Jason Morey by Gloria Skurzynski. As young girl I was fascinated by things that happen that we can’t explain. I also lost many loved ones when I was young and I think that opened my mind to the possibility that somehow their presence was still with me. When your under the age of 14 and suffer the death of your maternal grandmother, uncle, aunt and the family dog- it leaves an impression and plenty of questions. I think my Catholic faith helped me understand death a little better at those tender ages, but it didn’t make the loss any less painful or me any less curious about the afterlife. I became more receptive of the idea of the paranormal. Perhaps some readers of faith will find that an odd or interesting contradiction. During my freshman year in college I discovered author Mary Higgins Clark and that’s when I fell in love with the idea of becoming an author. I devoured her books and could read and reread some of the smart prose. From there I explored edgier crime fiction and suspense. That changed me as a writer. I wanted to take readers into the minds of the victims and criminals. I wanted to explore what drove a criminal mind. I needed to try to understand the “Why”. Why is this person doing these things? I find posing the why questions like this to be helpful. Why do you hurt people? Why do you enjoy doing the horrific things you do? Why are you angry, scared, sadistic, manipulating, deceitful, untrusting and more, so many whys! My early and later years as a reader shaped the way I write today.

4Q: Your website tells us that you’ve written two romantic suspense novels and the Last Cold Case series. Tell us about series.

MJ: The series is best described as the TV shows Criminal Minds meets Ghostly Encounters with the romantic pull of Castle happening between Homicide detective Rachel Hood and FBI agent Nick Draven. Each story has a current case linked to a cold case. Rachel’s dad is a retired detective and in the first two books the cold case she inherits were originally unsolved by her dad.

Last Summer’s Evil book 1 opens with Rachel searching for her missing sister Amy who has been missing for the last four years. She’s tracking a serial killer who strikes every year during the summer solstice. Each summer one woman disappears and another is brutally murdered and left clutching a ragdoll made of the previous deceases victim’s clothes. Rachel’s pushed to the brink searching for this elusive serial killer and hoping to find her sister alive.
FBI Agent Nick Draven was assigned to the multiple murder cases with Rachel when he was with the Ohio Detective’s Bureau, and now he’s back again. Rachel has also been struggling with something she doesn’t understand. Every time the killer takes another victim she can feel every ounce of the victim’s pain but is paralyzed and powerless to save her. She confides in Nick- an occult crimes specialist with the FBI who is hiding some psychic secrets of his own. Personally and professionally Rachel’s struggling with her newly discovered psychic empathy but remains committed and focused to the cases. Time is not on their side, and together they’re racing against the clock before another woman is taken and another murdered. It’s a fast paced thriller that leads readers in many directions. Even my editors could not figure out “who dunnit”. The book also won the 2018 American Fiction Award in the thriller general category.

In Last Fall’s Hunted book 2 Rachel is drawn into a hunt for a deranged serial killer harvesting kidneys from his victims’ corpses during the fall equinox. A dismembered body is found in Kill Buck Wildlife area in Snug Harbor, Ohio, and the discovery of two more victims within a twelve mile radius suggests a sadistic killer's return.
She joins forces with FBI Agent Nick Draven again to hunt for a killer who after a twenty year hiatus strikes again. But, why? (See that- Whys are always important to me!) They draw a parallel between his first crime and the recent murders. His first victim was murdered in 1991 during the rare occurrence of the super harvest moon, an event that will happen this year and fuel his blood lust to kill again. Time is not on their side. Hood and Draven have five days to find the killer before the next full moon rises and another teenage girl is found murdered and missing her kidneys. Rachel’s psychic empathy is helpful but it’s also a hindrance.
Cases are built on hard evidence, not feelings, but she’s trying to learn how to use her psychic gift much like she would her cop’s instinct. This might be my favorite book in the series, but how can author love one book baby more than any other. Well, I might spoil the story if I shared my deeper connection, but maybe not. When I was 14, I lost an aunt to kidney disease. That led me to my “Whys” with this story.

This brings us to Last Winter’s Taken book 3. It’s a chilling tale about a sociopath, who murders expectant mothers and abducts infants during the winter solstice. The murder of Willow Danby, a married woman and expectant mother, thrusts Homicide Detective Rachel Hood into a murder investigation and missing person’s case as she searches for the baby ripped from Willow’s body. The mysterious undertone surrounding the current investigation forces Rachel to reopen a similar cold case. 

Yvonne Johnson and Willow Danby couldn’t have been more different. Wrong side of the tracks meets white picket fence. The only thing the two women have in common: they’re both dead and their infants are missing. The sinister murders and infant abductions reunite her with psychic FBI Agent Nick Draven. Even with a long list of suspects to interview, they are no closer to solving Danby’s or Johnson’s deaths. Rachel’s psychic empathy draws her closer to the taken infants, and she suffers from a haunting premonition. A single clue left at each of the crime scenes links the cases together and leads Rachel to a mystery dating back to the year 1638. They unearth a mysterious enigma for the first time in over 372 years that draws them closer to a modern day sociopath, murdering expectant mothers and taking their unborn infants. By now, Rachel has come to embrace her psychic empathy and puts her own life in jeopardy. This book was fun to write because I enjoyed the close knit neighborhood where the Danbys lived and the envy, jealousy and gossip amongst neighbors. I think one reader commented it’s a little like Real Housewives but with murder!

4Q: Please share a childhood anecdote or memory.

MJ: I grew up on a small town in northeastern Ohio. When I was a little girl my dad owned a Ford dealership. The local radio station WWOW was doing a promo and put me on the air. I said, “Come buy a car from my daddy because I need a new pair of shoes!”
My mom was mortified. I was six or seven years old and vaguely recall we had been out shopping that day. The irony of it is: I’m a clotheshorse and love shoes to this day.

4Q: Many authors have the “special place” where they feel most creative. Please tell us about yours and your writing habits.

MJ: Since I work fulltime, my writing day looks like a notebook and pen that sits next to my desk at work, just in case an idea sparks to move my current work in progress forward. My job requires my full attention but having a pen and paper helps to jot something down. So, I’m a night writer.
My morning starts early just after 5 a.m. with a cup of coffee and my iPhone. I catch up with my friends on Twitter and sometimes Facebook and then I’m racing to get ready and out the door. Depending upon book edits or writing, I may visit social media again before I start working on my book(s) at night.

My desk has two computers on it. An old trusty Asus netbook for writing and an HP laptop that’s 4 or 5 years old for editing, research and social media. However, I really use my iPhone for posting on FB and Instagram and tweeting on Twitter. I also have a couple of paperweights, several rocks from the shores of Lake Erie, including a piece of quartz from Arizona, small writing pads, a file for my current work in progress, and a wooden caddy for pens, bills and more paper. Sometimes, I like to get away from my desk so I’ll take my netbook out to my dining room, light a candle and write there.

4Q: What’s next for MJ LaBeff, the author?

MJ: I have a few books that are unpublished. I’m concentrating on finding a literary agent and hope to connect with someone who is interested in the books I write and can connect me with an editor at a larger
publishing house. I finished a single title standalone thriller last year, titled The Perfect Revenge. I’ve had a nibble but still don’t know if I’ve caught a fish. It’s a process and takes time.

The next novel in the Last Cold Case series, Last Spring’s Stranger has been with my current publisher Muse It Publishing for over a year and I’m not-so-patiently waiting for edits, HaHaHa! The wheels of publishing move slowly at times and one of my editors at Muse recently left to care for her health and family. I wish her the very best. As they say, “Life happens”. Being a writer is a job. So I keep writing and searching for traditional publishing avenues to share my work.

Thank you again for inviting me to be part of your blog and for the opportunity to share more about the books I write. This has been fun. If people would like to connect with me, please visit my website There are links to my books and social media; I’m on FB, Twitter and Instagram. 

4Q: Anything else you’d like to share?

MJ: Here’s a sneak peek at Last Spring’s Stranger book 4 in the Last Cold Case series. This book will have readers questioning everything they thought they knew about Homicide Detective Rachel Hood!

Secrets can have deadly and life altering consequences. The legend of Verch’s Hollow has intrigued the residents of Snug Harbor, Ohio for generations. Myths about the abandoned property abound.
When a teenage girl is murdered in the Hollow, her gruesome death threatens to expose a secret from Homicide Detective Rachel Hood’s past. Forced to face the truth of her deception, she reopens a cold case that could jeopardize her career. A victim of adolescent cyber bullying, messages fill her personal inbox with threatening undertones from years ago. Do keep evidence and share it with an authority. Enter FBI Agent Nick Draven an occult crimes specialist and Hood’s fiancé. As they delve deeper into the sender’s motive, Rachel has to confront the harsh reality she left behind over twelve years ago: a murdered friend, Tina; a glimpse of the killer at the scene of the crime, but she can’t identify the person despite her psychic empathy; and her own involvement with the evening’s sinister events.

I’m delighted to share a short Excerpt from my book Last Winter’s Taken. Book 3 of the Last Cold Case thriller series. It’s hard to believe the book released over a year ago on May 15, 2018. I hope this piques readers’ interest in this story and encourages them to check out the other books too. 

“I’d like to contact someone at the historical museum to exam the swatch,” Nadia said. “As I said before, this textile is not a modern fabric. I’m hoping to find an expert to help me determine its origin.”

“Excellent idea,” Nick said. “Let us know what you find and if you’d like help from the bureau.”

“Would you mind if we went to the lab and you can show us the fabric under a microscope?” Rachel asked.

“Not at all.” Nadia flattened her hands on the top of her desk but didn’t push herself up from behind the desk. “But, first tell me what brings you by.” She peered beneath her glasses to the bag near Rachel’s feet. 

“A couple of things, first we’re trying to locate a diamond ring Tyson had recently given Willow. The diamond was set in the baby’s birthstones so we’re looking for a diamond set in aquamarine gem stones. Do you have it in the evidence file?”

“The only rings we have are her wedding rings.”

Rachel looked over at Nick. “Maybe our killer took a souvenir after all.”

She turned her attention back to Nadia. “Second, I need you to check this wine bottle and these glasses for any foreign substances.” She picked up the bag and set it on top of the desk. “One of the neighbors, Paisley Reed, paid Tyson a visit last night. I think she might have drugged him. Enter this into evidence under her name. We’re in the middle of a double homicide. Reed was killed in a car accident last night. We suspect foul play. The fuse for her emergency contact system was pulled.”

Nadia stared at the bag. “I’ll rush this and let you know what I find.”

She entered the items into an evidence log then pushed her chair back from the desk and picked up the bag. Rachel and Nick followed her to the door. Nadia waited for them to exit, locked her office, and then led them to the lab.

With a plethora of possible cross-contaminates the three of them donned blue gowns, matching blue booties and caps to cover their heads. Next, they snapped on gloves. Nadia escorted them into the lab. Other scientists worked in silence with their heads bent over microscopes and other devices used to analyze evidence.

She fished in her lab coat for a set of keys. The swatch of fabric was pressed beneath several glass slides. Carefully, she exchanged the bag containing the wine bottle and glasses for the tray of slides and then locked the evidence in the cabinet.

“We’ll need to use the scope over here,” Nadia said.

She placed the first slide beneath the microscope and peered down at it, making some adjustments for their viewing pleasure.

Rachel stepped up and bent over the microscope. She squeezed her left eye into a permanent wink and squinted into the lens with her right eye. All she could see was a bunch of squiggly lines which meant absolutely nothing to her.

“You did keep the main sample intact, didn’t you?” she asked Nadia.

“Of course, this is a tiny cross section.”

Nadia walked back to the locked evidence case and came back with the swatch of fabric. It was exactly as Rachel had remembered it except now the blood that had saturated the fabric had dried. She extended her hand, and Nadia handed the bag to her. She lifted the bag, scrutinizing the hardened swatch.

“I haven’t found any other biological evidence. The blood is the victim’s.”

Rachel nodded. “I’m not surprised. It was placed beneath her pelvis after she was probably dead. Even if she was still clinging to life, it’s unlikely she could have struggled with her attacker.”

“The sample you were looking at are strands of dark black hair, not threads,” Nadia said.

Rachel lowered the evidence bag to her side and bent over the microscope again, pressing her eyeball against the lens.

“When I first discovered the strands of hair I thought we might have recovered hair from the perpetrator or victim but upon closer examination it was clear the hair had been woven into the fabric. To be certain I removed two cross sections. As I mentioned, the weave is not from a modern textile. That much I do know. That’s why I’m hoping someone from the historical museum can identify what time period the fabric came from.”

Rachel’s eye strained. The sample beneath the microscope lens danced. She blinked and readjusted her position to gain a better view of the sample. Squinting harder, she tried to focus on the image. The black strands climbed up and swirled around her, taunting her. A mist formed before her open eye peering down through the magnifying lens.

A pair of hands rose up from the mist, reaching for her. She gasped but before she could look away the hands opened, revealing a bloody, fleshy, wriggling mass. The mist evaporated. A woman appeared. She walked toward Rachel with outstretched arms. She drew closer and in her upturned hands was a baby.

The woman’s face with glowing eyes jumped out at her.

“Thou shall not conceive and deceive!”

Her face withered from Rachel’s vision, behind her stood a weeping woman. Tears streamed down her cheeks. Faint sobs and ragged breathing grew louder, louder, louder. Her sorrowful cries shattered Rachel’s heart, pulling her emotionally closer to the woman. The weeping woman drew in a deep breath. She blew out a mist of black haze in Rachel’s face.

“Give me my baby,” she pleaded, and then broke into the most terrifying cry Rachel had ever heard.

The weeping woman’s shrill shrieks pierced Rachel ears. She dropped the evidence bag and fell to her knees, hands cupping each ear in an attempt to drown out the weeping woman’s words and sobs that echoed like unwanted ringing.

A huge thank you to you MJ for being our guest this week. Wishing you all the best in your future writing.

It was my pleasure and greatly appreciated. Wishing you the same with your writing and books!

***For those of you wanting to discover more about our talented guest, please follow MJ’s links below.

My books are available where all eBooks are sold and in print online at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Links to my latest release Last Winter’s Taken:

Watch the book trailer:

special thank you to you, our faithful readers. Please feel free to leave a comment below, we’d love to hear from you.

Saturday, 10 August 2019

Blindshot – A Thriller from Guest Author Denis Coupal of Montreal, Quebec.

Denis’ debut novel – Blindshot - published by Linda Leith Publishing, is receiving a lot of attention, as well it should. A thriller that promises suspense, twists and an enthralling read. Accolades pour in from other authors and reviewers. It’s the next novel on my list and I’m anxious to discover what Denis Coupal has to say. He has graciously accepted an invitation to the Scribbler. A 4Q and an excerpt from his thriller.

Denis Coupal is a Montreal writer and business strategist. By day, he works as Director of Business Development for BDO Canada, a global accounting and business advisory firm. By night, and on weekends, he writes fiction. His feature-length screenplays were funded by the Foundation to Underwrite New Drama for Pay Television, Roger’s Pay Television and SODEC. His short story, Brand Loyalty, won Honourable Mention in the 2011 Quebec Writing Competition and was published in the anthology Minority Reports, New English Writing from Quebec. Denis is also Chairman of the Board of Dawson College Foundation, is an active in the Mergers and Acquisitions Club of Canada and of the Montreal Board of Trade’s major partners program.

Blindshot is his first thriller.

4Q: After visiting your website ( and reading a recent interview from The Miramichi Reader, your novel is a must read. Please tell the Scribbler’s readers what to expect.

DC: I love hearing that Blindshot is a ‘must read’. So cool! Great thanks Allan and South Branch Scribbler for this invitation. It’s an honour and I look forward to your thoughts on Blindshot. I hope it lives up to all the hype. Writing the book, then publishing it, and now selling it and talking about it, has been such great fun. The reaction of readers, and other authors as well, has been even better than I expected. In fact, I’m not sure I had expectations. I just tried to do the very best work I could, with the support, of course, of the team at Linda Leith Publishing. Needless to say, publishing is a hard, rather quirky, business. It isn’t an easy ride for anyone involved in the process. What makes it work, though, or perhaps the oil in the machine, is the passion that everyone puts into it. People love books and stories and that’s what makes it all work. I hope all the passion poured into Blindshot, my first novel, comes through to readers as they turn the pages. And I hear the pages are turning fast!

Blindshot originated as a movie idea, many years ago. The story had about thirty-two working titles before becoming Blindshot. That’s just part of the process. But at first it was a movie idea about a stray bullet, or perhaps a purposefully shot bullet, that kills a financier and family man. When the police don’t, or won’t, solve what could be a murder, his two teenage sons take on community, demanding a proper investigation, and then demanding the truth from those they feel are responsible. The two boys take matters into their own hands, putting in motion a plan that leads to events they could not have predicted. Their mother is one of the main characters and she faces a difficult decision when she finds herself caught between the law, the community, and her well-meaning, vigilante sons. She has to choose. Not easy.

Important to me was the idea that Blindshot be both entertaining and have literary muscle. I aimed to write a book that I would want to read. That meant creating a merge of genres. Dangerous to do in a first book. One of my inspirations for the concept of Blindshot was Lord of the Flies (Did I really dare to put both of those titles in the same sentence?). I love that book, as many do, and I hoped to create a fable, of sorts, that had social relevance. Slaughterhouse Five, was an important book to me as well. Vonnegut’s “The Children’s Crusade” helped propel Blindshot, whether anyone would know it by the final work or not. That’s how inspiration works, in my view. It’s like choosing to sit by a creek, in a far-off forest, as you work, with water flowing, making that delicate, trickling sound in your ears that is constant and soothing. The world, the life, around you drops ideas in your head. Ideas like that propel your work. But no one needs to know exactly where this creek in the forest might be that pushed forward your creativity. That’s your secret. 

**Read the Miramichi Review here

4Q: An interesting note on your background is the writing of screenplays which I find fascinating. How does the writing of a screenplay and a novel differ, if they do?

DC: They are disciplines that to me are indivisible from one another. I matured as a writer by opening my creative spirit to film many years ago and the rigorous methodology behind good, tightly edited, screenwriting. So books and music were always equally important. In interest of full disclosure, music was just as important. Music is the binding element in my ideas, as if there’s always a humming in the back of my head, whether writing for film or prose. Ennio Morricone was as much an inspiration as the great Sergio Leone himself. I’ve read a great deal of books and watched a great deal of movies. No surprise that Blindshot is very visual. It’s how I write, I am discovering. Since I’ve written only one book, I won’t pretend to claim a developed voice or way of writing. I’m learning and hopefully learning enough to keep moving forward. I’m like an actor with one play under his belt. That doesn’t make me a veteran of the stage, and certainly not a star. Hopefully, I’ve told a story that brings readers on a meaningful, entertaining journey. The books are selling fast, and reader comments are amazing, so maybe I’ve achieved at least that.

I wrote my first screenplay at sixteen. It was the story of a group of high school friends that borrowed a car and went on an expedition to a small airport in the country in order to parachute for the first time. It was a light, juvenile comedy. However lacking in structure, it was my first script. I learned from writing it, and my friends enjoyed reading it and figuring out which characters they had inspired. Inside me though, I was bitten by the writing bug as much as by the movie bug. The bite though, was like that of a shark, with three rows of teeth. It never let go.

Over the years, I’ve written over a dozen feature-length screenplays. One or two of them good. There were a few occasions when serious deals were on the table. It got very exciting once or twice. But wow, what a fickle industry and things did not materialize as I would have liked… or you would have heard about it already. With the publishing of Blindshot, the fire is lit again. The concept would lend itself wonderfully to the movies. Personally, the creativity is pouring out and projects are in the works. 

For example, in collaboration with my wife Josée-Lisa LeFrançois, I’ve written a French language feel-good movie that we are shopping around. I’m actively writing a new screenplay, in English. It’s an urban thriller about a special crimes unit facing off with an extraordinarily smart serial killer. It’s great fun to write. See you at the movies.

Technically, books and screenplays are very different. The script is not geared to a wide audience, but specifically aimed at an audience of producers, directors, cinematographers, and the creative crew that it takes to make a film. Writing a screenplay does not really require the application of a love of language. Books, of course, need that. Scripts are technical documents, within which all sorts of language might be contained and supported, but not all elements within a screenplay (like technical direction) is part of its lyrical expression. Where books and screenplays come together, is that they both require an expression of a story and, fundamentally, a vision or a dream. Without vision, the story is just a list of occurrences no more special than a grocery list. Vision raises a work of fiction, film or prose, up past the clouds and into the wide, blue yonder where great stories float and are remembered by the people and their communities down here on the ground. Writers are alchemists. Freaky. 

4Q: Please share a childhood anecdote or memory.

Photo credit: Jamie Beck
DC: Well, this will be the first time I share this. When I was in first year of high school, a young boy in my grade began missing classes. He was liked by everyone. He had a gentle demeanor and laughed easily. It became very apparent that he was very sick and battling something serious. He then stopped coming to school entirely. Being a friend, his family invited me to visit him at his house. Perhaps I could distract him and raise his spirits, they proposed? When I got there, he was so sick he could barely hold up his head to talk to anyone. He didn’t even look like himself. There wasn’t a hair left on his head. I tried talking with him, but it was too difficult for him. He was moved to his room where he could lie down to sleep. He passed away a few weeks later. He was missed by all at school. The following semester, I wrote a short story about him and how bravely he fought, right to the end, against leukemia. When came time to name characters in my first novel, I named the father in the family, the victim of a tragic incident, after my late friend. His name was Paul, just like the name of the main character in one of my favourite books, Dune, that I was reading at the time.  

4Q: Every creative person has that niche they escape to when they want to write or paint. What’s your favorite spot and writing habits?

DC: I have none. I write anywhere, anytime. I don’t have the luxury of routine in my life, so I’m ready to right anytime the opportunity comes. I always carry notebooks for ideas. I love writing by hand as much as with computers. On weekends I pop open a laptop and begin writing. Where? Anywhere. I love cafés and restaurants, filled with people and buzzing with talk and music. I’m lucky that I can concentrate and get in my ‘niche’ or zone absolutely anyplace. My usual ‘niche’ at home, usually early morning, is somewhere not too far from my wife, Josée-Lisa, each of us with a coffee in hand. I wrote Blindshot with my youngest son Luca sitting right next to me, almost for every sentence, himself writing or drawing his own projects. No surprise he inspired the character of Noah in Blindshot.

4Q: What’s next for Denis Coupal, the author?

DC: My next novel will be a thriller set mainly in Montreal, more urban than Blindshot, but which will also have strong international elements. It’s a bigger, more ambitious story than I’ve done before. I dare to say that it’s a blend of James Michener, John Le Carré, John Irving and Michael Crichton. I had a really great time reading Dan Brown’s Origin last month, so that might have an impact. I also admire Blake Crouch, who’s really someone to watch as he tackles cutting edge technological ideas. Crazy mix, but that’s how I think. Again, it will be a book that just has to become a great, big movie that everyone has to see. As you can tell, I’m having a lot of fun with this. 

4Q: Anything else you’d like to share?

DC: Sure. Here’s my pitch for why you should buy and read my book. You have bought many books from, from many writers, in your life. You have likely bought books from Stephen King, David Baldacci, Michael Connelly, John Steinbeck, Margaret Atwood and so many other writers known across the world. But you don’t know them. They don’t know you. They are strangers, and you might never know them. And they may never know you. They are unreachable. So why not read my book? I’m here in Montreal, reachable by social media and I will love to hear from you and learn what you thought of my book. And Blindshot is great fun to read! LOL. I’m a shameless promoter of my book, yes absolutely. But I mean it, please read my book and let me know your thoughts. You will be helping me make it a better movie! LOL. Cheers to all. 

An Excerpt from Blindshot.

(Copyright is held by the Author. Used with permission)



The night air was fresh, filled with the rich scents of the forest that wrapped the Carignan family property, Valhalla, in the Eastern Townships of Quebec.

Paul Carignan, family man, father of two, successful corporate financier, walked to the woodpile near the west wall of his cherished Valhalla, went down on one knee and sorted through logs to find just the right ones for this evening’s fire.

A rifle shot sounded from far off in the woods. A flock of crows scattered up and away.

Paul’s vision blurred. He tried to shake it off, dropping the logs. The biggest one fell hard on his ankle but a sudden sensation in his abdomen preoccupied him more, burning to his lower back, intensifying. He lost his breath as he looked down at himself. He slid his hands into his clothes to his mid-section, pain spreading, throbbing through his veins like a freight train. He felt the warm wetness creeping to his legs, confirming the incredible.

He had been shot.

He fell over. With a gasp, he could feel his spirit struggling to leave him, wanting to fly up, chase the frightened crows and disappear beyond the valley and over the dark woods.

The wound burned like nothing ever had.

Thoughts assailed him. What if he were to die right now, on this evening, by this bullet? What would his boys, Jack and Noah, do? They were still so young, with much to learn. What would Catherine do? She was barely getting through their pending divorce. Deep down, he still loved her. They had lost their way, their passion fading, as with so many couples they knew who had children and demanding careers. He had sought passion from another woman and had surprised even himself with his unfaithfulness. He would never have the chance to redeem himself now, not to Catherine, not to himself. All seemed to be over, here and now, by this bullet that had pierced him in the dark. 

Maybe he was getting what he deserved? But who had shot him? Why? The possibilities swirled in his panicked, weakening mind. He had been a tough business adversary to many over the years. His penchant for taking over flailing manufacturing companies, restructuring and reselling them, or sometimes liquidating their parts, had pushed many good people aside, destroyed careers of veteran entrepreneurs, broken partnerships, and set industry veterans adrift. He had taken no prisoners. That was just his way and he had made it work for his benefit. It was easy for Paul to imagine a great number of enemies who might want him gone.

Blood poured from his gut.  

“Catherine!” he shouted, but it came out a whisper. She was nowhere near, and no matter how much he yearned for her to be right there, ready to help, from however deep in him this came, it wouldn’t matter. Catherine wasn’t there, and she would never know how often he thought of her. She would never know and might scarcely believe that he had always thought of her and not his girlfriend, Anne, as his soulmate. Anne was young and striking, but hadn’t Catherine been his muse, his guide, with him through the lean years and the greater part of his life? Together, Paul and Catherine had overcome myriad obstacles and produced, in their view, two of the greatest people on the planet. Jack and Noah were amazing boys. He wondered now, as he bled, if he had done all he could for them. Had he even told them often enough how much he cared? His mind raced to remember precisely, but his energy dropped.

Paul tried to rise, but instead spun weakly sideways and crashed into the grassy slope, sliding downward. Once still, he couldn’t stop his eyes from closing. He reached out, or at least tried to tell his arm to reach out, for anything, for anyone, for the darkness above to lower and provide a soft blanket to comfort him, to warm him. He was so cold.

Footsteps. He heard something like footsteps. He wasn’t sure. Was it only the mad beating of his heart? His imagination was on overdrive. Was someone coming to save him? Or was it his killer, closing in to finish him off, getting closer and closer?

Silence. Nothing stirred. Paul heard only his own wheezing. Had his killer turned away, convinced Paul was taken care of, bleeding to his inevitable death?

Or was his killer standing over him, quietly watching?

Was this all there would ever be? 
Paul’s world went dark.

Merci Denis. Thank you for being our guest. Wishing you much success with your writing journey and especially with Blindshot!

For you readers wanting to discover more about Denis and his writing, please follow these links.

I’m very active and present on social media, so there are multiple ways readers can follow me. And I like to add that I’m very interested in hearing back from readers. There is nothing, for me right now, as fun as discussing my book. It’s been a long road to get it out there and when someone reactions to it, well, wow, what a thrill. The other day, I got an email from a reader. She told her Facebook followers that she had been reading Blindshot, finished the last page while riding the bus, and when she read the ending, she jumped out of her seat and gasped. Too funny.