Thursday, December 29, 2016

New Release Excerpt: Better Than Dead

I have a new book out:


In the twin cities of Clayton and Callahan, Alex Cheradon and Devon Christian are two somewhat famous-ish private investigators. They’ve saved the twin cities a couple of times, stopped a werewolf apocalypse or two and are the best of friends, despite that short period of time when Devon went crazy and tried to kill Alex. But it’s all water under the proverbial bridge now.

Times are tough and cheating spouses and missing kids don’t always pay the bills. Of course, thanks to a mysterious, mystical gem embedded in his chest, Devon can go weeks, sometimes even months without eating. Unfortunately for Alex, though, all he has is a sharp wit and an awesome collection of hilariously ironic T-Rex t-shirts, neither of which do much to satisfy the grumbling in his stomach.

Things start to look up, though, when the citizens of Clayton City end up getting harassed by the kind of monsters that nightmares are made of, that Stephen King’s best friends with and that American Horror Story features on a weekly basis. Monster hunting may not be Alex and Devon’s specialty, but at least it’ll put food on the table.

Fortunately for them, before they have a chance to trade in their PI licenses for battle axes, a new slightly less nightmare-inducing case walks right through their front door:

Ernest Leonard Milton died the night before. Cops say it looks like natural causes. Ernest Leonard Milton’s will says otherwise. From beyond the grave he’s demanding that Alex and Devon investigate his death. But what are they looking for? Nobody knows and all the evidence points to it being an open and shut case. That is, until the bodies start piling up. 

Now in the course of investigating a simple dead body, Alex and Devon find themselves in the crosshairs of the twin cities most dastardly and deadly. Danger lurks around every corner, and creatures of the night under every rock. Perhaps they were too hasty with not purchasing those battle axes after all.


Here's a sample chapter:


2  
MY FAVORITE AUNT





“You know,” I grunted, as I was slammed into the kitchen cabinets again. The cheap formica crumbled under the impact, not that it made it hurt any less on me, “when I said I wanted to diversify, this…wasn’t what I…had in mind.”
Devon didn’t respond. Maybe he didn’t hear me. To be fair, I wasn’t sure I could even hear myself over the growling noises from the monster. I couldn’t tell if they were coming from its throat or its stomach.
The monster took another swipe at me, specifically my head, with its massive claw, topped with razor sharp tips. Despite the birdies that I swore were circling my head, I managed to duck out of the way and the monster’s claws made contact with part of the cabinet that was still intact, though that didn’t last. It was shredded on impact. I wasn’t sure if that spoke to either the poor craftsmanship of the cabinets or the fact that this beast had a seriously intense right hook.
The monster roared in an irritated fashion. As much as I cared for my personal wellbeing, I got it. Nobody liked to miss, not even weird devil hell beast monsters. Everybody had to take a little pride in their work.
I pivoted on my heels and made a mad dash out of the kitchen, aiming for going through the actual doorway this time instead of the counter passthrough.
The monster roared again and I flinched at what sounded like the remaining kitchen cabinets just being shredded to splinters.
“I said,” I repeated loudly, jumping into the living room, which was already trashed from the first time the monster tore through it.
“No need to repeat yourself. I heard you the first time.”
I paused and turned to find my partner, Devon Christian, standing exactly where I had left him only moments ago, leaning against the kid’s bedroom door. Only now he was snacking on an apple that I was eighty-five percent certain he hadn’t had on him when we got here.
There wasn’t so much as a scratch on him, which, of course, was actually pretty standard for him. His charcoal suit didn’t even look ruffled. The tie was still perfectly positioned. The flat, rectangular glasses he wore weren’t even askew.
“To be fair, though,” Devon continued, between apple bites, “you weren’t very specific on what you meant when you talked about diversifying our services.”
“You haven’t even moved,” I said. “You haven’t even moved.”
Devon frowned. “Alex, I have taken a solemn vow-“
“Oh. My. Goodness. This again? Really?”
“A solemn vow of partial non-violence.”
“I don’t think that it really applies to this situation,” I said.
“It applies to every situation,” he replied. “I can’t just blindly charge in and violently assault every situation.”
“You do it all the time!”
“I used to do it all the time,” he corrected me. “Now I’m committed to making sure I find non-violent solutions to problems with higher consciousness beings.”
“It’s a monster!”
“We don’t know what it is, Alex,” Devon replied. “All we know is that it attacked you.”
“Exactly!”
“That doesn’t make it a monster.”
“It makes it a threat!”
“Why are you shouting at me?” Devon asked. “Am I the one who’s trying to kill you right now?”
“Well, you’re certainly not the one who’s helping!”
“I just want to be certain.”
“Of what?!”
Devon sighed. “I feel like you’re not listening to me at all. Honestly, I’m not even sure why I bother.” He took another bite from his apple. “By the way, duck.”
I exhaled loudly. “What?”
“Duck,” he repeated and yanked one of the pictures from the wall, throwing it at me.
This was one of those expectations versus reality things. Which meant that, somehow, this was all my fault. Because when I imagined myself at thirty-three years old, running a private investigative agency with my best friend, what I didn’t bother to include was my best friend tossing picture frames at me while I was trying to subdue an actual monster. That was totally on me. One hundred percent. I had no problem spending entire days imagining what it would be like if Green Lantern and Black Widow teamed up and eventually had a baby. But this right here? This I couldn’t imagine. Totally my fault. Obviously. I wasn’t even going to argue about it.
The picture frame struck me in the abdomen and I doubled over. Well, maybe not one hundred percent entirely my fault. I mean, it wouldn’t be very nice of me to selfishly hog all the blame, would it? Isn’t it supposed to be better to give than to receive? I heard that somewhere.
As I doubled over I felt something fly over me.
I twisted around and caught the monster crashing into the bookcases on the far end of the living room.
I turned back to Devon. He shrugged. “I did say to duck.”
I shook my finger at him, but didn’t get the chance to say anything as the monster tackled me again.
A grunt of pain escaped me as the monster smashed me into the dining table. Its massive claw swiped at me, aiming for my face again.
“Devon!” I shouted, doing a terrible job holding back the massive claw.
“Okay, okay,” he said. “Look, I have some questions here we can ask it, to better establish its motives.”
“Its motives?” I grunted. “Are you serious right now?”
“I don’t really think this is an appropriate time for jokes, Alex,” he replied.
The gleaming, razor sharp-tipped claws were, like, millimeters from my face. Seriously, if I inhaled too much and puffed my cheeks out, I’d be gaining three new, and in my personal opinion, wholly unnecessary, holes in my face. Granted, they hadn’t actually made contact with my face, so maybe that accounted for something. Maybe. I mean, it was my face and I was the one who was exerting all the effort into keeping it from getting a Nightmare on Elm Street-style makeover, so I don’t know what I was complaining about. Any non-contact with razor sharp claws should be good. So why was I thinking I was doing a terrible job?
The monster on the other end of the massive claw roared and gross monster spittle splattered all over me. I want to say that some of it didn’t get into my mouth, but that would be a lie. It definitely got into my mouth and it was definitely gross.
I gagged a little.
(Well, a lot, really.)
It was a seven foot tall thing that was covered in tangles of hairs, boils and things that looked like heavily made up eyeballs. The monster reminded me of my Aunt Petunia. She was kind of gross looking and always had a really bad attitude if you woke her up before noon and/or she hadn’t had her first six glasses of wine. She, too, also had really sharp nails for some reason, and they were always a little too close to my face. Either this was a really strange coincidence or my memories of my childhood were seriously compromised.
My arms were starting to tremble and the razor sharp tips of the massive monster claw got just a little bit closer to my face. All that was missing was the stink of wine on its breath and suddenly I was thirteen years old again, suffering through an awkward and increasingly uncomfortable cha-cha dance routine with my Aunt Petunia.
“Ax!” I shouted.
“Ax?” Devon repeated. “What is that supposed to mean?”
“It means-” I cut myself off with a loud grunt as the monster doubled down, pushing its massive claw just a little closer to my face. “Ax!” I managed to croak out again.
“Ax?” Devon repeated again. “Ah. That’s right. We came here with an ax.”
And he wants me to think his short term memory is all hunky-dory.
“I have no idea where that is,” he said. “It was your responsibility. What am I always telling you about your weapons, Alex? Your weapon is an extension of your body. You are the only person who can be responsible for it. I can’t be responsible for it. Your dad can’t be responsible for it. Would you ask me to keep an eye on your little toe for you?” He paused, like I was actually going to answer. “No, I didn’t think so. Let this be an important lesson for you.”
I was going to kill him. I know that, technically, it wasn’t possible to kill him. But I was going to find a way to actually kill him and then I was going to do it.
The monster roared again, getting more spittle everywhere.
Assuming, of course, that I didn’t actually end up dead myself.
I winced, trying really hard to keep my mouth shut this time. But I was quickly becoming more concerned with the possibility that my Aunt Petunia may have actually reincarnated as this mindless devil monster. 
(That being said, I couldn’t actually remember if she was dead or not. I mean, it had been almost twenty years since I had last seen her. If she kept up her standard one, two, three bottles of wine a day, basic math said she had to be dead by now. Of course, basic math also, allegedly, said that I needed to keep more money in my bank account. So, I don’t know. Either I was bad at basic math or the universe was trying to tell me something.)
A loud crack signaled the breaking of the table Aunt Petunia had pressed me against. It collapsed underneath me and, suddenly, there was nothing holding me up anymore.
Oh boy.
The pressure from the monster sent me down to the ground. Momentum and gravity were about to bring my face and its claws closer together on a very physical level when I just simply let go of its hairy arm and quickly jumped to the side.
There was a loud, violent squish noise.
I turned around to find that two of the table’s legs, the only two that hadn’t toppled over, had shoved their way through Aunt Petunia’s head, coming out the other side covered in a weird pink goop. The monster twitched once or twice, just for creepy dramatic effect, and then stopped moving completely, much like my real Aunt Petunia after she finished her third bottle of wine.
I took a couple of deep breaths, trying to get my racing pulse back down to a rhythm that wasn’t going to end with my heart exploding out of my chest.
I pointed at Devon and tried to say something, but I couldn’t get the words out due to all the wheezing.
“I’d compliment you on a good job,” Devon said. “But, understandably, I feel conflicted about that. What with my vow of partial non-violence and not really establishing any kind of baseline for the creature.”
I shook my head. “You have one job.”
“I’d like to think I have more than one job.”
I shook my head again and held up my finger. “One job.”
“And it’s called being your partner.”
“It’s called: going in first.”
Devon finished off the apple and tossed the core into the mess that was the dead monster. “I know that I’m not the best with subtext and basic human emotions, but I feel like I’m sensing a little…anger from you right now? Is that right? Anger?”
“Only a little?”
“Did I do something wrong?”
“Did you do something?” I repeated. “Really?” I shook my head. “Yes, Devon, you did something wrong. Raise your hand if you have a gem that’s embedded in your chest that makes you indestructible.”
Devon didn’t do anything for a minute, and then he slowly raised his hand. “This is what I’m supposed to do, right? You said that because you wanted me to raise my hand, right? Because you’re not going to raise your hand. In fact, you cut your hand the other day on a post-it note. So, obviously, you’re not indestructible. Am I interpreting this correctly?”
I dropped my face into my hands. “I hate you so much right now, Devon.”
“You don’t mean that.”
“Right this minute,” I said, “I mean it with all my heart. I was about to get mauled by Aunt Petunia, who was going to redesign my basic facial structure, and you were just standing there, all nonchalant-like, eating an apple.” I sighed and put my hands on my hips.
“Aunt Petunia?”
I shook my head. “That’s not really the part you should be focusing on.”
“Didn’t I have an Aunt Petunia?”
“No, that was me.”
“Are you sure about that? I feel like I have this vague memory of an older woman, tucking me in at night and saying,” he pitched his voice a little higher, “‘Remember, my precious little Devon, Aunt Petunia loves you most of all and the other little children can go rot.’”
I just stared at him. Neither of us spoke for a moment. The only sound you could hear was the steady drip, drip of the pink goo from the monster onto the floor.
What?” I finally asked.
He shook his head. “Or maybe it was something I read on a greeting card.”
“Where are you shopping for cards?” I asked. “Miss Hannigan’s Factory Card Outlet?” I brushed my hands through my dark hair. “Wait, where did you even get the apple?”
Devon shrugged. “I found it lying around.”
“Oh, great,” I said. “Now you’re just helping yourself to food from our client’s homes.”
“Well, it’s not like it’s a new occurrence,” Devon replied. “I’ve been helping myself to food from our client’s homes for the last couple of months.”
I stared at him. “Seriously?”
“Why would I joke about this?”
“I’m trying to figure out why you would even do it,” I said. “Am I not feeding you enough?”
“I thought it would be an interesting character trait,” Devon said. “I felt like there was too much focus on my mental stability issues.”
“You hear voices.”
“I thought that pillaging snacks from our clients could help with that.”
I gagged, a disgusting odor reminiscent of a sour, honey scented electrical burn filling my nostrils. I waved my hand in front of my nose in a futile effort to keep it from making its way down my nasal passages. “Okay, well, the smell’s a little unnecessary. I mean, the pink goo, the boils, the hair and the creepy eyeballs all over its body, isn’t that enough?” I stretched and felt my back crack a couple of times. I twisted my hips from side to side. There was an aching pain that was already settling, like, all over my body. When I woke up tomorrow morning, I wasn’t going to be doing much of anything, including getting out of bed. My muscles were sending very loud and clear messages about that. “I feel like that should be enough. It’s a monster. A creepy, ugly monster. Who’s going to argue that? Nobody in their right mind, that’s who. Do we really need a disgusting death smell to cap it all off? At what point do we just say enough’s enough?”
“To be fair-” Devon started.
“Have I mentioned how much I hate it when you say that?” I interrupted.
“-I did tell you that it smelled before. In fact, I specifically mentioned that it had an odor of a soured beehive that had been electrocuted. And you ignored me.”
“Yes, because that’s the problem here,” I said.
“I don’t know why you’re upset-”
“Which is, of course, the other problem here.”
“-you did tell me to wait out here,” he finished, nodding at the kid’s room.
“Because, historically speaking, you terrify little children,” I reminded him.
“I don’t know about that.”
“I do,” I said.
“Children love me.”
“No, they don’t.”
“They don’t?”
“Why do you think they’re always screaming and running away from you?” I asked.
“Isn’t that how tiny humans express love?” Devon asked. “I assumed that was normal.”
“Normal,” I muttered, rubbing my hand across my beard. “Wait a minute, let me get this straight, you know, just so that we’re both on the same page here: You’re worried that people focus too much on the fact that you’re crazy-”
“Worried’s a bit of a stretch,” he interjected.
“-so you thought you’d start stealing food from our clients,” I continued, “and that would make you seem, what? Quirky?”
Devon snapped his fingers. “Yes. Thank you. That’s the word. I’ve been trying to think of it for the last couple of months and it literally escaped me every single time. Quirky. I’m trying to be more quirky.”
“Right.”
“Is it working?” He stepped away from the doorway and held out his hands. “Do I seem more quirky?”
I held up a finger. “Just a quick question before I answer that.”
“That seems reasonable.”
“Whose idea was this: your’s or the voices in your head?”
“Oh, obviously the voices,” Devon replied. “Do I really look like the kind of guy who worries about whether or not I should be more quirky?”
Before I had a chance to answer that, two more monsters jumped out of the kid’s bedroom.




Email your receipt for Better Than Dead to onestrayword@jasonkrumbine.com and I will give you, for FREE, the complete Alex Cheradon V1:



It contains the first three Alex Cheradon novels: Fruitbasket from Hell, A is for Amnesia, B is for Bullet and Little People, Big Crimes. That’s three full size novels for FREE. That’s a pretty sweet deal. Remember, all you have to do is purchase Better Than Dead for $0.99, email a copy of the receipt at onestrayword@jasonkrumbine.com and you get three novels for free.

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