Thursday, May 14, 2015

Now available: FIGHTING ALASKA, the eBook version

My entry in the Fight Card series, Fighting Alaska, is now available as an eBook at Amazon. You can find it by clicking here.

You can also find my article on writing Fighting Alaska, "A Fighter's Trail to the Alaskan Gold Rush," at the Fight Card site. Read the article to find out why Charles Bronson's photo is included with this post. Click here to visit the site and see the article.

For those who prefer paper and ink over Kindle pages, the print version should be available soon.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Coming this week: Fighting Alaska

I join the ranks of the Fight Card writing stable with the upcoming publication of Fight Card: Fighting Alaska. I'm looking forward to this release. It will appear first as an eBook, and the print version will follow soon after. The cover is by Carl Yonder.

The Fight Card series of books works this way: the eBooks are published under the house name, Jack Tunney. The subsequent print versions appear with the authors' actual names.

The Fight Card series was launched by authors Paul Bishop and Mel Odom and was "inspired by the fight pulps of the ’30s and ’40s – such as Fight Stories Magazine – and Robert E. Howard’s two-fisted boxing tales featuring Sailor Steve Costigan."

Many of the stories are set in the boxing milieu of the 1930s and '40s. However, there are stories set outside those confines. For example, one series of tales within the Fight Card ring feature Sherlock Holmes in boxing-related mysteries. My entry, Fighting Alaska, occurs during the turn of the 19th Century to the 20th. Here's the promotional blurb:

1900 Alaska … Gold, greed, and gamblers – a dangerous combination in a gold rush boomtown. Itinerant boxer Jean St. Vrain has a lifetime of rootless wandering behind him and ten years of knuckle-busting boxing, bar bouncing, and disillusionment. He wants to call quits to the fight game, but he needs a way out. Joining a mob of desperate men heading for the Alaskan gold fields, Jean is caught between crooked judges, crooked businessmen, a soiled dove, and infamous gunman Wyatt Earp and his cronies. With his future looking as harsh as the Alaskan landscape, Jean has one chance left – fight again.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Writers and baseball pitchers

"In Billy Beane's mind, pitchers were nothing like high-performance sports cars, or thoroughbred racehorses, or any other metaphor that implied a cool, inbuilt superiority. They were more like writers. Like writers, pitchers initiated action, and set the tone for their games. They had all sorts of ways of achieving their effects and they needed to be judged by those effects, rather than by their outward appearance, or their technique. To place a premium on velocity for its own sake was like placing a premium on a big vocabulary for its own sake. To say all pitchers should pitch like Nolan Ryan was as absurd as insisting that all writers should write like John Updike."

MONEYBALL, by Michael Lewis.

Moneyball is available at . . .

, , , and hey, look, it's a Brad Pitt movie, too! And shockingly, Hollywood kept the title: Moneyball.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Friday doodle

Time for another Friday doodle. (I know, I know, it's nearly Saturday before I got it posted.)

This one executed with that underappreciated artist's tool, the ball point pen.


Thursday, October 3, 2013

Friday Doodle

I know it's Thursday evening as I post this, but by doing so you'll have a doodle all day Friday to visit and waste your employer's bandwidth while you're at work.

I haven't posted a Friday doodle in many moons, so it seemed time to hop to it.

Today's doodle has several action-type violent events going on.

"Hasan Chop!" came to mind from the Looney Tune Bugs Bunny/Daffy Duck short, "Ali Baba Bunny." But perhaps I misspelled Hassan/Hasan.

Anyway, enjoy: for your Friday.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Work in Progress: Evening Wolf

A new Thor movie is on the way. Long before Chris Hemsworth swung his hammer onscreen as the God of Thunder, I was fascinated by Vikings and Norse mythology. The Icelandic sagas are filled with vigorously descriptive narratives, interesting poetic turns of phrase (particularly those known as kennings, such as “slaughter dew” [blood], “spear din” [battle], “whale road” [the sea], “Ymir’s skull” [the sky]), and understated (sometimes deadpan) passages detailing power grabs and double crosses that may be so subtle the reader is unaware of an incident’s significance until a scene of violence suddenly erupts.
The best-known of this sort of tale is Beowulf. Indeed, my introduction to the Viking narrative was Beowulf. It’s a remarkable tale of heroism and monsters, and if you haven’t read it, let me encourage you to do so. There are many translations into modern English available, and you can choose from prose or poetic versions. A very nice one is that by the late, great Irish poet Seamus Heaney.

But there are many great sagas. For instance, in recent years, J.R.R. Tolkien’s version of The Saga of the Volsungs was published. Tolkien fills in some of the blanks for modern readers by including related scenes from other works, and so the title of his translation is The Legend of Sigurd andGudrun.
That all may be a long-winded way to get to my point, which is to introduce the passage below, part of a work in progress from my own Viking tale, Evening Wolf. The title character, Kveldulf (whose name translates to Evening Wolf), actually appears in one of the original Norse tales, Egil’sSaga, a famous saga about a black-hearted warrior-poet named Egil Skallagrimsson. Kveldulf is Egil’s father. A few hints about Kveldulf’s youth are mentioned in the saga, but no specific details. I use those few clues to build my story about Evening Wolf. On with the tale . . .

Chapter One

Osvif Knifetongue was awake and up before the day to see the sun burn off the fog that had separated them from the other ships they traveled with. Last night, quickly reaching the point they would be unable to see or hear, the longship turned closer to the coast as the stars appeared and then disappeared in the building haze. The thickening dark of night had moved them to cease seeking the rest of their pack and to anchor in this cove.

Someone of the company stirred the embers of the fire into life behind Osvif. Already the water and the fog had shared their last kiss, and the cloud’s belly rose to show the pink sea surface.

“What’s that?”

The vanishing haze and the rising sun revealed a skiff out on the water.

Thorolf Gellison was at Osvif’s shoulder now. The two had been companions since they were youthful playmates. Thorolf was bigger and usually won whatever physical game the boys played. But Osvif was more thoughtful, smarter in ways Thorolf couldn’t quite manage, and Thorolf had recruited Osvif to lead this raiding party.

Thorolf’s sight was sharp as a [raptor’s]. He peered at the skiff. “Someone’s aboard,” he said. “But he’s not moving about. Not coming in.”

Osvif gestured with his head. A smallboat was put out, oars shipped, and he was rowed to the skiff.

As they approached, Thorolf swore. “It’s not a man.”

Then Osvif saw with his own eyes. What they had thought was a man was simply a man’s skin, wrapped about a frame of sticks to approximate a man. It sat upright in the skiff. A bear’s pelt was draped over its shoulders to complete the illusion.

“It’s a witch’s boat,” one of the crew said.

Osvif nodded.

“Burn it,” Thorolf said.

“It might carry treasure,” Osvif said.

“Burn it,” Thorolf repeated.

Osvif felt the same chill as the rest when he gazed at the craft as it swayed on the water. He agreed with Thorolf, but some contrary twinge made him say, “We’ll bring it with us.” The hairs rose on the back of his neck even as he spoke.

He heard Thorolf growling deep in his throat. The sound was nearly inaudible, but Osvif caught it. He turned to Thorolf.

“We won’t bring it aboard,” he said. He refused to go that far with what even he recognized was an irrational decision. “Tie it aft. We’ll tow it until we find someone who’ll know what to do with it.” He turned away from Thorolf to look at the skiff again. “We’ll find someone.”

Thorolf rubbed his palms on his thighs. He continued to growl.

+  +  +

Two days later.

Osvif Knifetongue leaned forward as the longboat approached another dragon ship. It lay still on the water. It had the same graceful lines as his craft.

“Slowly,” he ordered. The crew complied. Osvif was surprised at their continued loyalty. Or at least their compliance. He wondered why they had not yet pitched him overboard and cut loose the skiff. Was it merely Thorolf’s presence? Or something else? How far would Thorolf go before he, finally, refused Osvif’s commands?

They came alongside the other ship. The thwarts touched, and Thorolf led the men in securing lines between the two craft.

The ship’s fine workmanship was marred by cuts and gouges made by swords and axes. Claws had apparently splintered the surface of the central mast. Below those marks sat one man huddled in a robe of wolf fur. His interest in the newcomers seemed hardly aroused.

“Where is everyone else?” called Osvif. He saw streaks of blood on the deck.

“Left me behind,” the stranger answered.

“Who are you?”

“Ulf Bjalfason. My mother is Hallbera, daughter of Ulf the Fearless. I am called Kveldulf.”

“I’ve heard of him,” Osvif replied. “You don’t seem very interested in whether you float alone here or get taken aboard.”

Kveldulf shrugged. “Someone will come along. You came along.”

“You may not want to join us.” Osvif nodded toward the stern. “We’re towing some bewitched thing, not sure what to do with it.”

Kveldulf raised his head and peered. “Let’s see.” He arose, nearly naked beneath the robe. He strode leisurely to where he could see Osvif’s tow and stared long at it. Osvif noted the long, lean muscles that wrapped the stranger’s frame and stretched and knotted as he moved.

He came back to the central mast. “I know that man.”

Osvif heard one of his men mutter, “Od’s blood,” while another shushed him: “Odin’s fickle. Best not call his name, or he’ll make matters still worse.”

“A man no more,” Osvif said. “A skin sark warming sticks.”

“I’ll take it,” Kveldulf said.

Osvif peered at this stranger. He heard the crew whispering behind him.

“Give me the skiff,” Kveldulf said, “and you can have this boat. I’ll take some provisions, what I’m wearing. You can have the rest.”

Osvif wondered if this was some pirate’s trick. He turned to Thorolf, who frowned and nodded. He then saw the jittery mass of men on his own deck and recognized how worn thin was the strand that held them in check: ready to part, sending them into some blood fury that would likely lead to his own death.

He turned back to Kveldulf. “We’d be off roaming and raiding. We’re to meet up at the Orkneys, drive south to Francia. We’ve fortunes to make. It’s yours.”

+  +  + 

The transfer completed, Osvif watched Kveldulf paddle the skiff toward the south. The skin still sat upright on its frame in the bow.

Thorolf led the men in shifting goods from the abandoned longboat. They had found no sign of another person. There were a few weapons—an axe, two knives, and a sword. The men kept these. But four mail shirts were turned up and then tossed into the deeps. One of the men muttered, “I’ll not wear the armor of ghosts.” Thorolf had not scolded.

They set fire to the empty ship. Osvif and his men turned their craft to the west. The smoke of the fire smudged the sky behind them for hours.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Work in Progress: Dreams and Terrors

I've had a short hiatus from the Works in Progress series. Let's get back to it . . .

Shalimar Bang is the primary character in my ebook The DreamStalker. The following excerpt is the opening from the story that takes place soon after that previous story. The first tale introduced Shalimar to readers and gave a look at how she operates. In “Dreams and Terrors,” we learn a little more about this consulting detective's interior life.

Dreams and Terrors: A case from the files of Shalimar Bang.


2 a.m.

Raymond Munro couldn’t recall his last good sleep. Maybe last month, when he and his wife had visited his mother-in-law a few days. Even then, the couple had stayed in his wife’s old room, and they were expected to sleep soundly in a twin bed. It might have been a fine bed for a young woman not yet aged seventeen years, but for two middle-aged adults whose ages and waist measurements nearly matched, it was a launchpad for the next day’s crankiness. Still, Raymond thought he’d gotten better rest then than he got now in his king-sized bed in his own house.

He snorted, a sound of resignation and decision. He left his wife asleep in bed, picked up the poker from the living room fireplace and carried it next door, where he broke open the French doors at the back of the house. Inside, a black and white rat terrier rushed Munro while barking furiously. Munro swung the poker, silencing the dog.

Upstairs, James McIntire was stirring from sleep when Munro entered the bedroom and bludgeoned his neighbor to death.

That would be the last time McIntire thoughtlessly left his dog barking outside at night for two hours, disturbing Munro’s sleep.


2:07 a.m.

Brenda Bristow, housewife, had complained to her friend-from-grade-school-days Alice every time they met for their once-a-month daiquiris that she was “terminally tired.” Maybe not every time. But certainly each time they met at Bernet’s Bistro during the past eighteen months, the words had come out of her mouth. Usually after she ordered her second drink. The last three months, she hadn’t smiled as she said it.

This night, Brenda had lain in bed, eyes open, looking at nothing but the darkness between her face and the ceiling. She rose from the bed, picked out pantyhose from the dirty clothes hamper to tie her sleeping husband to the bed. She doused him with rubbing alcohol and set the bed afire.

No more would he come home late smelling of beer and cigarettes.


2:18 a.m.

Vince Shaw had been thinking about purchasing a new TV. Flat screen, “the highest def I can get,” he’d told his co-worker Sam more than once as they’d driven from one plumbing job to the next. But he hadn’t committed yet. He still had a big-tube TV that weighed more than his two college-age sons. But that Vince hadn’t yet shopped and bought his new TV really didn’t matter tonight. William Sandford shot and killed his neighbor, Vince Shaw, who had sat dozing while wrestling flickered on the TV screen. Sanford then emptied Shaw’s garage of the lawnmower, hedge clippers and other tools Shaw had borrowed during the past several months without returning.


9:37 a.m.

Shalimar Bang had purchased Alcatraz Island a few years back and set up her headquarters there. Other parts of the island prison had been converted into residences and posh shopping and dining establishments. She maintained a portion of the old prison still as a museum.

Shalimar gazed out the wall-sized window of her office, watched the boats shuttling visitors over the Bay waters to and from the island. Morning light winked on the fretted surface of the water. Shalimar had dimmed the lights in her office, but as she stood by the window, highlights appeared on the many dark chestnut curls in her hair, touched the small chevron-shaped scar on her forehead, traced the graceful lines of her nose (which she sometimes frowned at in the mirror, thinking it too long) and lips and chin, the arched brows over her delicately curved eyes. She would, at that moment, have made a happy portraitist of any painter or photographer who might have cajoled her into posing, but she habitually shied away from having her likeness captured. To some people, she sometimes seemed obsessive about her desire to cling to whatever shreds of privacy she could control. But Shalimar felt far too much of her life already had been made public, starting with the murder of her parents years ago.

Much of her professional life was purposefully fashioned for public consumption--for example, purchasing a historically significant site like Alcatraz could hardly escape the notice of media newshounds--because doing so promoted her business concerns. But she had learned that keeping the personal and the private separate was an important strategy in staying both profitable and sane in a world in which any shopper, pedestrian, and school pupil could--thanks to mobile technology--serve as a conduit to broadcasting one’s every movement and utterance to the entire global population.

A small chime sounded: Beamish contacting her over the intercom.

“Yes?” When Shalimar spoke, the system automatically analyzed and recognized her voice, then opened the connection.

“Good morning.” Beamish’s voice came across as cheerful. This was his first contact with his boss today. From seven o’clock that morning--as most mornings went--Shalimar had reviewed proposals and requests for projects and cases, updates on existing files, and scanned news feeds from local and international sources.

“News?” Shalimar asked.

“No progress on scheduling a visit with Fred MacIsaac,” Beamish replied. “The mayor is concerned about the amount of boat traffic to the island and the resulting increase in pollution--air, noise, and visual--and wants to meet. Roxanne is getting the new communications systems up and running--”

Shalimar interrupted: “Which phase has she reached?”

“Stage Two diagnostics.”


“And the police chief wants to assign a dedicated liaison from her office.”


“In her words, ‘to monitor your activities and to assess the levels of potential endangerment and opportunities for escalations of emergency alarms to crises alerts requiring management and strategic responses.’ End quote.”

Shalimar rested her forehead against the window. Although she felt nothing from the pressure on the chevron scar, the V turned white as it flattened against the glass. “That was clear and concise.” She watched the boats move on the flashing water, their passengers apparently merrily contributing to a multiplicity of pollutions. “See if you can get any more details from the chief’s office. Put the mayor off for another week . . . maybe tip off the legal team, sounds like it may be their tangle in a few weeks.”


“Send me MacIsaac’s address. I may make a cold call.”

(c) Duane Spurlock