Sci-Fi Pinups: Mr. & Miss November

Pin Cushion Stop your grinnin’ and drop your linen—it’s time for the Sci-Fi Pinups!

If this is your first time joining us, welcome! This is the monthly segment where we celebrate the hunks and hotties of the science fiction and fantasy world—the strong men and women with the guts, guns, and green skin to prove they’re the best and baddest. They ain’t your momma’s pinups.

Unless you have my mom. She’s pretty awesome.

For more pinups, check out our previous submissions.

Since I’m late on the pinups once again (gah), let’s just jump right into it!

Miss November hails from good, normal British stock—and don’t you dare look down on her for that. She’s loyal, brave, and is a fast draw with her wand. She can do everything a boy can do, except figure out a magic spell for manageable hair. When you’re in a jam and don’t know how to get out, never fear—her love of libraries has made her brain an encyclopedia! There’s never a problem she can’t solve with her books and big noggin. But before you scream, “Nerd alert!” let me assure you that she’s seen quite a few fights and never backs down from anything or anyone. The only thing bigger than her heart is her patronus.

She is…

Hermione Granger

…Hermione Granger from Harry Potter!

If you’ve never heard of Miss November, you must have been living under a rock for the last fifteen years. You should make yourself acquainted with our Miss November immediately! She’s strong, she’s brave, and she’s smart—everything we like in our sci-fi ladies. None of that whining, crying, hiding under the bed for her! And if you try that kind of behavior in her presence, she’ll pull you out by your hair and turn you into something awful. Believe me, she can do it.

Here’s a little more in case you can’t get enough of Miss November:

Moving on!

Mr. November comes to us from Astoria, Oregon. Like Miss November, he’s locked and loaded and always packing for a fight. At first glance, you’ll think he’s dressed like a young flasher-in-training, but once he shows you what he’s packing under his trench, you’ll change your mind faster than you can say “Pincers of Peril.” When the chips are down and his crew’s in danger, he’ll stand in the gap and whip out his contraptions. Hopefully they won’t punch him in the face first. Mr. November sticks with his friends to the end and never says die.

He is…

Data - The Goonies

…Data from The Goonies!

I realize this movie’s super old and you probably haven’t seen it in a long time, but it’s so good. And Mr. November is great! He uses his brains and his heart to overcome adversity… and score some pirate treasure.

In case this just isn’t enough of Mr. November for you (of course it isn’t!) here’s a little more:

Thanks for joining me for another month of Sci-Fi Pinups. I hope it brought you a little smile. If you like what you see and want a little more, pick up a copy of my bestselling comic urban fantasy novel, THE FOURTH CHANNEL.

Subscribe to the site for more! The links are in the sidebar, and you can follow me on Twitter and Facebook.

Pincushion photo courtesy of Lina-Sydney. Continue reading

The Cure: Part Five (Vote Your Adventure)

IncubatorThis is the fifth part of an adventure series where YOU determine the next step in the story. If you’ve been following the story thus far, you’ve probably noticed that I haven’t stuck to a strict schedule as I typically do. Unfortunately I’ve been dealing with other things that have kept me from being diligent about my schedule. So I understand if you’re asking yourself: where in the hell are we in this story?

The “parts” are short, so it’s not hard to catch up:

Part One: You and your team are on a suicide mission to infiltrate New Milwaukee. You don’t get the antidote you were sent for, but you do find the scientist responsible for the demon-human-hybrid virus sweeping through your city. You kidnap the scientist, then voted to head to the southwest exit toward the armory, medical suite, and garage.

Part Two: You exit the ladder shaft on the armory floor, hoping for some weapons. Unfortunately, you’ve exited into an ambush. You voted to run for it rather than jumping back into the ladder shaft.

Part Three: Your decision results in being trapped in a tiny room filled with occult training gear that you don’t know how to use. Before you can run out of the room to safety, the security forces outside decide the best way to deal with you is by unleashing a full demon to destroy you. You voted to stand and fight the demon.

Part Four: You shove a book into Tankwald’s hands and read the demon into submission. You make a hasty escape in the demon’s cage and set the demon on the security forces outside. You voted to escape through the quarantine zone.

And now, ladies and gentlemen, we continue with Part Five! Leave a vote in the comments below or on Twitter. Voting ends Saturday night.

You decide to head into Quarantine. You reinforce your grip on Tankwald’s wrist and yank him behind you, toward the closing emergency door on the right side. Tankwald, still in hysterics from the near-miss with the demon, isn’t helping you along. When you reach the orange striped area marked “Quarantine,” he pulls against you, trying to break free.

“We can’t go into quarantine! Even I’m not allowed inside!”

You don’t answer. There’s no time to argue. You need to escape this facility and you’re determined to bring Tankwald with you. Hopefully, New Milwaukee’s security forces are so occupied with the rampaging demon that you can make your escape unnoticed.

“Please let me go,” he pants. “I won’t tell anyone where you are. I’ll say you knocked me unconscious. Hell, feel free to do that if it makes you feel better!”

By the time you both reach the door, the armor plated slab is two feet from the ground. You dive for the narrow opening, pulling Tankwald with you. The slide through the door is a sloppy, painful affair, but you make it to the other side safely and pull the flailing scientist through. Just as Tankwald’s limbs clear the opening, the door seals, muffling the gunfire, shouts, and demonic tongue.

You stand and drag Tankwald to his feet. Before he can say more, you grab his wrist and start running. You see a security checkpoint up ahead—short posts bearing card readers. The security detail that should be standing guard is gone, probably recruited to deal with the demon.

You blow through the checkpoint, setting off another alarm that warbles an excruciating, high-pitched howl at regular intervals, accompanied by purple warning lights that flash against the orange walls. But no one else comes. This section has been evacuated. You continue to run down the long, narrow hall and pull the resisting Tankwald behind you.

You find the first door about thirty feet from the security checkpoint. Three large windows are set in the wall just after, to provide viewing from the hall. The door looks like an interior door but you make no move to open it, in case you catch a weird disease. Besides, all you want is an exit. As you run past the windows, you see a large, dimly lit room crammed with incubators. And babies. Wall-to-wall babies. Maybe this is a sick ward?

You continue on, pulling Tankwald behind you. His energy is waning, dragging you down like dead weight. The emergency alarm is still going, throbbing in your ears, and the lights are flashing. But you still see no one. There’s no one here but you, Tankwald, and those weird babies.

Sixty feet from the checkpoint, you pass a second door identical to the first. You’re so focused on finding an elevator or stairwell that you barely notice the windows.

A startled cry from Tankwald snaps your attention to the window. The room is larger than the first and crammed with incubators, though these are larger to accommodate the toddlers sleeping inside. You immediately see what Tankwald was reacting to. The sleeping children all exhibit deformities you’ve seen before: sharp black talons, small horns the color of new and flushed flesh, small leather wings, and more. You realize they’re grouped by the strains of disease that Tankwald created.

You aren’t surprised by the sight, just sickened. Humans have birthed so few children since the initial demonic invasion that they’re a priceless treasure. You can’t help but think of your niece who suffers from the same affliction, and you reaffirm your goal to bring Tankwald home and force him to create an antidote.

As you pull Tankwald past the windows and continue down the hall, you hear him sob. “They’re children…” His voice trails off for a second. “The virus I created was for soldiers—willing participants who wanted to become the next great evolution of mankind. They promised—”

You cut his sentence short by stopping dead in your tracks and whirling on him. His red-rimmed eyes widen in fright. “Do you know why I’m here?”

“T– t– to kill me?” he stammered.

You shake your head. “To find a cure to your disease. My six-year-old niece is morphing into one of your demon-hybrid freaks.” You lean in close and fix him with a cold stare. He shudders. “I was advised that this was a suicide mission but I volunteered anyway. I didn’t find the cure, but I’ll do them one better and deliver you—” You turn away and clamp down on Tankwald’s wrist again. “—if I can find the way out of this damn place.”

As you continue down the hall, the alarm shuts off with a snap, leaving cold, startling silence in its place. The purple lights continue to flash incessantly. You pass by two more rooms but you don’t look inside. Tankwald says nothing about them, though you sense his horror and despair.

Just beyond the second room you spot a service elevator on the left wall. Relieved, you make a beeline for it and pound the up-button with your fist repeatedly. You can’t leave this hallway of horror soon enough.

“Wait.” Tankwald’s voice struggles to be heard, choking through tears and labored breath. “Look!”
You glance over your shoulder and look at a metal door that you thought led to another incubation room. A small sign reads “Control Room.”

You shrug, turn away, and resume pounding the elevator button. Just how damn long does it take for the elevator to get here? If you’re lucky, it will take you straight to the garage so you can get an armored vehicle and get the hell out.

“Please,” Tankwald says, trying to pull his arm away. You hear him trying to wrestle the control room door open, but it sounds locked. “Help me,” he says. “There’s a self-destruct code built into the machines.”

You pause, fist in midair by the elevator button, and you turn to him. “Pardon?”

“In case of invasion,” he explains. “We don’t want the technology falling into enemy hands. We can destroy all the machines.” Tankwald starts throwing his thin body against the door, trying to break it down. The desperation in his voice is clear. So are his tears. “Please help me.”

Behind you, the elevator chimes. The doors open.

Tankwald throws himself against the control room door again, but a thunderous sound overshadows the one he’s making: the demon is pummeling the security door. Another deafening slam suggests it will be through within minutes.

What do you do?

A. Help Tankwald destroy the machines, and then get into the elevator.
B. Forget the machines! Jump into the elevator.

Don’t forget to vote! Leave your vote in the comments below or send me a message on Twitter. Thanks, guys! Hope you’re enjoying our latest adventure.

Incubator photo courtesy of Silent Observer. Continue reading

Sci-Fi Pinups: Mr. & Miss September

Pin Cushion Grab your 20-sided dice and a giant bag of Funyuns—it’s time for the science fiction and fantasy pinups of September! If this is your first time joining us for the pinups, welcome! This is the monthly segment where we ogle two hot specimens that will certainly set your phasers to stun, if you know what I’m sayin’!

Yeah, I don’t know what I’m saying either.

Anyway, the pinups are hot and ready for action! If you’d like to catch up on previous pinups, click the Sci-Fi Pinups link in the sidebar. (Our list of hotties started in January 2012, so if you want to peruse you’d better go to your bunk.)

Miss September is the girl next door from the rainy city of Seattle. She’s so adorable and such a sweetheart that you’ll offer to hack into the school computers to raise her grades. But don’t let her catch you doing it—her high moral standards will make you change it right back. Her turn-ons include talking computers, leg warmers, and bombing Las Vegas. Turn-offs include global thermonuclear war.

She is…

WarGames - Jennifer

…Jennifer Mack from War Games!

Isn’t she adorable? I confess, this month’s female pinup was largely inspired by the book Ready Player One, a must read for nerds like me. There are a ton of ’80’s references and trivia, and War Games gets a major shout out. (Not going to spoil it for you, so if you want to know more, click the link and read the book!)

And now, here’s a clip of the iconic scene that shows Miss September (and Joshua the computer) being adorable.

Shall we play a game?

And now for Mr. September! He was born on a battlefield, and the lust for adventure and mayhem took hold of him right from the womb. His days are spent wandering around the land, enjoying local cultures and making friends—and then pillaging the towns, strangling their kings, and becoming their ruler. That’s ambition, ladies! His turn-ons include oiled biceps, leather codpieces, and the lamentations of women. Turn-offs include nothing. Mr. September is always on.

He is…

Conan the Barbarian

…Conan the Barbarian! With sword placement that isn’t at all phallic!

If you head out on the town with Mr. September, bring your sword and your loincloth and prepare for a night of romance and pillaging.

As an added bonus, a very talented individual created Conan the Barbarian: The Musical! It’s a song from Conan to you. Pay special attention to the 2:09 mark for the best part of the song. Seriously. I watched that part ten times and nearly died laughing.

Thanks for joining us for this month’s pinups! If you like what you see and want a little more, pick up a copy of my bestselling comic urban fantasy novel, THE FOURTH CHANNEL.

Subscribe to the site for more! Link is in the sidebar, and you can follow me on Facebook or Twitter. Next week, we’ll post another episode in our “Choose Your Own Adventure” style story, THE CURE. So stick around for more!

Pincushion photo courtesy of Lina-Sydney. Continue reading

The Cure: Part Four (Vote Your Adventure)

Steel DoorThis is the fourth part of an adventure series where YOU determine the next step in the story. Read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3. If this is your first time joining the VYA, welcome! You can jump in and vote at any time so please vote! Voting ends on Saturday night.

In Part 3, the vote was almost a landslide to stand and fight the demon. Good luck, Gang!

You decide to run for the workbench. On your way, you grab Tankwald by the collar and drag him with you. Still paralyzed by fear, he stumbles backward, his eyes locked on the demon taking up the entire doorway. You grab one of the black gauge-and-needle contraptions from the bench and sling the strap over your shoulder. As you’re reaching for one of the silver rings hanging on the pegboard, a memory from your short time in basic training flitters through your mind: words have power.

You grab a small black book from the tall stack, flip it open, and shove it into Tankwald’s hands.

“Read,” you hiss.

He blinks and stares up at you stupidly. His mouth opens and closes like a fish. No sounds come out.
The demon enters the room. It doesn’t walk, but it doesn’t glide either. It simply comes forth. Even now, though it’s been years since the initial invasion, you have no words to describe how they move. Supernatural beings defy the laws of this world, even when they take physical form.

Tankwald takes a step back. His knees start to give way.

You grab him again, hauling him to his feet. “Read, damn you!”

Your words galvanize him into action. He blinks and looks at the book in his hands as if noticing it for the first time. His words are robotic. He stumbles through the ancient text printed on the pages.

“T- t- tene tene isene ereth! Vron erebekk bet!”

The demon stops moving, as if barred from coming closer. You place your hand on the back of Tankwald’s neck and push him forward.

“Keep going,” you order.

The demon’s black, soulless eyes bore into you. You think the creature is moving backward. It’s hard to say. You know it isn’t moving forward, and that’s at least better than the situation was five seconds ago.

Tankwald wipes his brow with the back of his hand and continues. You have no idea what he’s saying. From the look on his face, he isn’t entirely sure either. He reads another line and you shove him forward another step. Behind the demon, you can see the box it was kept in. The thick metal walls have strange symbols and foreign writing engraved in the steel. The walls are so thick, you’re sure it comprises a few layers, each one bearing similar symbols to keep the creature contained.

A low rumbling fills the room that causes the hair on the back of your neck to rise. Tankwald reads faster. Louder.

The demon braces itself, standing to full height, stretching its arms stiffly at its sides. Its fingers elongate into razor-sharp tips. Its mouth opens. A cloud of brown and green fumes billows forth from the fanged hole, smelling of bile and feces. The feeling of terror returns, raw and real. Your muscles clench so hard they hurt. Moving is damn near impossible. You can’t help but marvel at how effective demons are at manipulating your mind. Like many others, you suspect that this, not physical force, is Hell’s greatest weapon.

You concentrate on Tankwald’s voice—the thin, shaky words barely heard beneath the growing hellish hum—and you shuffle to the side. The demon’s eyes flicker to you, then back at Tankwald. You take another step and the black gadget hanging on your arm slips down to your elbow. Its swinging motion sparks an idea. You grab the strap and force yourself to take a step closer.

The demon looks conflicted. It moves forward, then back. It sees you trying to sneak around and it moves toward you, but Tankwald’s girlish screaming sends it back. The hum gets louder. As you move closer to the door, you hear the soldiers shouting outside.


“No! Hold your ground, dammit!”

You glance at the metal box in the doorway then back at the demon. If you had a gun you could end this. But you don’t, so you improvise.

You wrap the black gadget’s thick strap around your hand and swing. The metal contraption sails through the air and slams into the back of the demon’s head. Black ichor splatters from the wound. Leathery wings sprout from the demon’s back, expanding like onyx sails as the demon crashes sideways to the floor. The humming stops. You’re pretty sure the demon isn’t dead, but you don’t stop to check—nor do you wait for the damned thing to get up. You grab Tankwald by his lab coat, scramble around the demon, and run for the metal box.

You shove Tankwald inside. He tumbles forward and smacks against the back wall. His sloppy landing pushes the box away from the door frame, reminding you that it’s sitting atop a rolling cart.

Tankwald’s scream increases and his eyes bulge at something behind you. The sound of rustling wings fills the room and a tremor ripples beneath your feet. The same fear that gripped you moments ago comes flooding back.

The demon’s up and it’s pissed.

You put your hands on the sides of the metal box and push. You don’t know where you’re going and you really don’t care. You let out a primal scream and give the cart a strong shove. The wheels move. Adrenaline kicks in and you turn the cart right, into the soldiers.

Tankwald continues screaming. “It’s coming! It’s looooooooooose!”

You join him, hoping your combined panic will divert their attention. “We’re all going to diiiiiiiiiie!”

Around you, soldiers are barking orders, some shouting to retreat, others shouting not to retreat. A single bullet slams into the metal and ricochets off into the wall. Chaos and panic erupt.

You push the cart into the soldiers. You meet resistance as you slam into someone and knock them down. Soldiers flatten themselves against the wall, trying to squeeze around the metal box. Someone grabs you from behind and tries jerking you back. A human voice screams in your ear to surrender. But you don’t stop pushing and you don’t look back. You know what’s coming.

And in a single breath, a dreadful, tangible silence descends upon the hall. Within seconds it’s broken by a roar of ancient words. The front of Tankwald’s pants darkens.

Soldiers run past you, no longer concerned with you or the scientist fleeing the scene. After thirty feet of pushing you slam into the wall at the end of the hall and flop headfirst into the box.

You scramble back out and toss a glance over your shoulder, just in time to see a torso flying through the air.

No limbs, no head. Just a torso.

The demon towers over the soldiers. It’s staring at you.

An alarm goes off. You hear an official voice over a loudspeaker, calling for reinforcements and a lockdown. The overhead lights flicker and turn red. To your left, you see armor-plated barriers lowering from the ceiling.

If you don’t move, you’re going to be trapped.

You roll the box down the left hall, trying to get past the dropping barrier, but you don’t make it in time. The barrier clamps down and pins the box in place. The lowering mechanism makes a horrible grinding noise, but the box is too strong to collapse. You put your whole body into it, but you can’t push it loose. The mechanism gives up and the emergency lights start flashing in a new area. Somewhere up ahead, you hear a backup barrier coming down.

A familiar deep hum fills the air and you glance back over your shoulder at the corner you just came around. Bullets tear into the wall and you catch a glimpse of a black, leathery wing.

You drag Tankwald from the metal box, squeeze around it, and run. You soon find yourself at another crossroad with a barrier closing on each side. On the left, the hall slopes downward into darkness. At the edge of the light, you think you see a stairwell heading down into pitch black. To the right, the walls have been painted orange with the word “Quarantine” in bold black.

You turn to ask Tankwald which way to go when a deafening slam fills the air. More gunfire. Screams. Another slam, and a metallic screech that curls your toes.

The barriers are lowering and the demon is trying to get past its box. It hasn’t forgotten about you. You have only a moment to decide which way to go.

What do you do?

A. Run left, down into darkness.
B. Run right, into a quarantine zone.

Vote in the comments or on Twitter. Voting ends Saturday night, September 21st. The highest vote will be the next step in the story, posted in two weeks.

Steel Barrier photo courtesy of Anjan Chatterjee. Continue reading

Sci-Fi Pinups: Mr. & Miss August 2013

Pin Cushion Welcome back to another episode of science fiction pinups, the monthly segment where I reveal my ancient age by featuring old and obscure characters you’ve probably never heard of but really should know.

In related news, get off my lawn.

If this is your first time to the site, welcome! There are more pinups every month, and you can find other humor and satire in the other categories. At the moment, we’re running a Choose Your Own Adventure-style story where you choose the next step. It isn’t comedy, but it is exciting. And, of course, you’re welcome to join in the fun. So stick around! If you like what you see and want a little more, I also wrote a bestselling comic urban fantasy novel.

And now, without further ado, let’s announce the pinups!

Mr. August is a rags-to-riches story of a not-so-humble man who became a professional wrestler and then a porn superstar. After that, his ascension to President of the United States was practically guaranteed. He’s a man of the people, working hard to cure the problems of his mighty nation.

He is…

President Camacho House of Representin

President Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho from Idiocracy!

In case you’re wondering, that’s an action shot of Mr. August giving his State of the Union Address at the House of Representin’.

Mr. August’s turn-offs are water, when everyone’s sh*t gets emotional, and reading. His turn-ons include the smartest person in the world doing his job for him, crushing the smartest person in the world with monster trucks when he isn’t doing that job fast enough, and Brawndo the Thirst Mutilator—it’s got electrolytes!

I went looking for some videos of Mr. August in action, but most of the videos have been removed due to copyright. However, I found something almost as good. Funny or Die has published new speeches by President Camacho.

Please be warned, these are not safe for work – they contain profanity… and a little insanity.

Welcome to Costco. I love you.

Miss August is a hottie out to save the world. She stands for what’s right and isn’t afraid to kick a little ass—even if she isn’t wearing pants. Demons don’t scare her, nor does darkness nor mortal danger. All she wants is to save a child from the minions of hell and have peace on earth. Nothing can stop her… save for being tied up in toilet paper.

She is…

Kee Nang - The Golden Child

…Kee Nang from The Golden Child!

Miss August’s turn-ons include goofy men who like kids and not getting killed. Her turn-offs include kid-snatchers, demons who can’t pronounce the letter “j,” and toilet paper.

Here’s a video of a pantsless Miss August in action:

Thanks for joining me for another episode of sci-fi pinups! To catch up on previous pinups, check out the link in the sidebar. And don’t forget, next week we’ll have the next episode of our Vote Your Adventure story, THE CURE!

Subscribe to the RSS feed in the sidebar, or follow me on Facebook or Twitter.

Pincushion photo courtesy of Lina-Sydney. Continue reading

The Cure: Part Three (Vote Your Adventure)

Metal Box Jen’s note: Gang, I’m so sorry for interrupting the schedule and posting this a week late. The truth is, there’s a lot of things happening in my professional life right now and I just couldn’t get this wrapped up last week. Work has calmed down a bit so we should be back to the regular schedule. I apologize for the delay. Voting will end on Saturday night and I’ll be sure to get pinups done this weekend for your nerdy pleasure.

This is the third part of an adventure series where YOU determine the next step in the story. Read Part 1 and Part 2.

You know there’s no way you can drag Tankwald back into the emergency shaft without one of you falling to your death. The only way for you to escape is to run for it.

You step behind Tankwald and hook your arm around his throat. Surprised, he tries to shout, but it comes out in a gargled moan. You step back, dragging him with you, pressing him against your chest so that his body protects your vitals.

“Help!” Tankwald gasps. His hands grasp at your arm, pulling and slapping at you to get free. “I’m over here!” With your forearm pushing on his throat, his voice is barely above conversation level.

“Yeah,” you say. “They know.”

A head pokes around the corner. The face is obscured by a mask and goggles. The helmet is swathed in gray and orange camouflage matching the hellfire slowly sweeping over the surface of the planet. The soldier sees you retreating and dragging the unwilling scientist with you and steps out from behind the corner. His rifle snaps up, pointing directly at you, trying to get a clean shot. More soldiers file into the hall at the far end. At quick glance, you count six, but you aren’t sure. You’re too busy retreating to count. The soldiers’ shouts fill the air.

“I can’t get a clean shot!”

“Don’t shoot! Don’t shoot!”

“You’ll hit the doctor!”

You drag Tankwald to the end of the hall. Just as your shoulders smack into the door, sending it flying open, movement to your right draws your attention. As you back into the black, unlit room, you look—reinforcements. Six more soldiers. What’s worrisome isn’t their armaments, it’s the enormous metal box covered in occult symbols they’re rolling down the hall. Before you can speculate as to whether they’ve brought in a demon hybrid or a full demon, a voice rumbles from the box in a pitch so low it wavers in and out of the human hearing spectrum. The words are unintelligible to you but laden with an ancient evil that makes every hair on your body stand on end.

Sol zulo’tha innso zolo beleet…

Yep. Full demon.

You back into the room and kick the door shut, encasing yourself in darkness.

You release Tankwald, spinning him away. He yelps as he spills out on the hard floor in a heap. But you barely notice. At the moment, you’re too busy groping for a light switch. The voice outside gets a little louder and you feel a heavy thump on the other side of the door.

Did they just back that box up against the door?

You hear shouts outside. Metal grinding against metal. You can only guess the soldiers are opening the box.

The longest three seconds of your life pass as you search along the wall with one hand and fumble for the door lock with the other. Your fingers brush over a small plastic knob on the wall and the room fills with an intense, sterile light. Above, the light boxes begin to hum. Heart pounding, fingers shaking, you twist the deadbolt into the locked position.

“W– w– why would they release a demon with me in here?” Tankwald stammers.

“Maybe because they think you know how to handle them.”

Something slams hard against the door, bending the metal slab inward. Tiny white particles rain down from the ceiling tiles.

You whirl around. There’s a door on the left, slightly ajar, but the room is dark so you can’t see inside. Black ichor stains the floor around the entry. The sign on the door says “Training Room.” Opposite the door, a tall bench sits against the wall and odd metal instruments hang from brown pegboard. You don’t see a single gun. The gadgets in the room are for occult specialists, the soldiers trained in archaic symbols and demonic languages. The specialist on your team died in the lab explosion and your knowledge of these instruments is vague at best. A few of the gadgets on the bench and pegboard look familiar: a metal ring with little tabs that slide around it, a small black device with a gauge and moving needle, and a stack of small, black books.

Tankwald gapes at the door, apparently unable to rip his gaze from it. He shakes his head. “Demons are hard to control. Th– th– that’s why I make the human-demon hybrids. Easier to control.” The demon slams against the door again, causing Tankwald to jump a foot in the air. “Demons think,” he adds. “They’re intelligent. They’ve had millions of years to think. And they crave destruction before…” His voice trails off and he shakes his head, unable to finish his sentence.

You don’t want to hear it anyway, so you don’t ask.

Another slam. The door bows inward. This time, the top hinge snaps and splinters, spraying metal fragments. You run to Tankwald, grab him by the collar, and haul him to his feet.

You take a step toward the bench when another violent slam fills the room, followed by the gut-wrenching sound of the deadbolt snapping and the bottom hinge ripping away. The door topples to the floor with a deafening sound.

A massive figure fills the doorway. Black robe. Black wings. Frighteningly lean. So tall, the figure has to stoop to see you. Like all demons, it isn’t male, nor is it female. But its appearance is beautiful, blending feminine and masculine together. Obsidian eyes peer out at you from its lovely face, like bottomless pits pulling you in. The demon’s mouth isn’t moving, but you still hear the evil language, dipping in and out of the range of perceptible sound. The demon’s head tilts a little to the side. Its elongated fingers gesture in your direction.

Fear seizes you. You’ve never felt anything like it before. Tankwald goes completely rigid; he must be feeling it too. You can’t think. You can’t move. All you can do is try to remember your training—to break demonic emotional manipulation, scream out the name of your deity.

You panic and scream out six gods—but it works. You find yourself back in control and quickly looking around for a weapon or an exit. You spy the door to your left and the loaded pegboard to your right.

In physical form, the demon moves as fast as you do, so you’ll only be able to choose one.

What do you do?
A. Go for the bench and the occult instruments.
B. Run for the door.

Vote in the comments or on Twitter. Voting ends Saturday night, August 31st. The highest vote will be the next step in the story, posted in two weeks.

Metal Box photo courtesy of KelcyLyn

The Cure: Part Two (Vote Your Adventure)

Laser EyeThis is the second part of an adventure series where YOU determine the next step in the story. Read Part 1.

Last time, you were given the choice to head southeast to the armory and medical floors or northwest to the helipad. The vote was nearly a landslide to head southeast.

Southwest: 11 votes
Northwest: 6 votes

So let’s get to it!

You decide to head southeast, toward the armory and garage. A nagging feeling in the back of your mind tells you this is the wrong move, but you’re pretty cut up from the lab explosion—a stop at the medical floor sounds good too.

You walk over to Tankwald, who’s still squatting on the floor, giving you a look that says he doesn’t plan on going anywhere. As your shadow falls over him, his lips purse into a tight, thin line, and in his eyes you see what you were hoping for:


You may have lost your weapons in the scuffle, but you’re still physically threatening in your body armor. Unlike Tankwald’s, your profession requires physical strength, stamina, and a willingness to use tactics your opponent won’t.

On second thought, that last one applies to Tankwald too. The only difference is that you have morals.

You grab the scientist by the collar of his lab coat and haul him to his feet. By the way he pulls against your grip you know he’s not going to come willingly, so you drag him all the way over to the ladder and shove him against the metal rungs. He stares at you, mouth agape, like you’re the monster. In your mind, you see your six-year-old niece at her birthday party, sporting a pink dress, tiara, and a new pair of black leather wings.

Unfortunately, the wings don’t come off like a plastic tiara does.

You weren’t able to get the serum that would reverse her transformation, but you’ll be damned if you don’t bring her the one person who can. You glare at Tankwald, the threat of violence heavy in your voice.


You wait while he mounts the ladder and, with awkward movement, pulls himself up on the rungs. When his legs reach your head height, you watch his right knee pull up a little higher than necessary and his hands grip hard—

Tankwald kicks out hard, trying to drive the rubber heel of his shoe into your head. Your reflexes kick in and you lean to the right, well out of the way. You grab his ankle and jerk down hard.

He lets out an agonized cry. One hand slips off the rungs and his other foot flies out from under him. He throws a flailing arm around a ladder rung and clings for dear life.

You decide not to tell him how ridiculous he looks hanging only five and a half feet from the floor.

“You do that again and I will throw you off this ladder. I don’t want to carry you home with a bunch of broken bones, but I will if I have to.” You release his ankle and let it fall back against the metal rungs. “Now climb.”

You spend the next twenty minutes staring up under Tankwald’s dirty, torn lab coat at his flabby backside. You’ve passed countless hatches, some with names, some just numbered. Tankwald’s upward movement is getting slower. You can’t blame him; even you’re getting a little winded. You don’t want to give him any ideas about escape, but you don’t want him passing out and plummeting to the bottom, either. You grab the next rung and step up—and that’s when you see the blue text on the hatch above Tankwald that reads “Armory.” You feel a surge of elation and relief with a side of ache and nausea from your injuries. But mostly elation.

You allow Tankwald to keep climbing until you’ve reached the door. Tankwald notices you’ve stopped and does the same, hanging on while panting from the exertion.

You give him a minute to catch his breath, then reach over and grab the metal lever. You push down—it’s stiff, like it hasn’t been used in a long while—and feel the lock mechanism release. You lean over, put your shoulder against the door, and push.

The door swings leftward and its hinges grind out a high-pitched squeak. You freeze, straining your ears for the sound of shouts or armored boots moving toward you, but you hear nothing.

You glance up at Tankwald to make sure he isn’t planning on going anywhere, then stick your head out.

The hatch opens to a utilitarian hallway: dingy, off-white walls, concrete floor. You can’t see very well over the hatch to the left side of the hall, but the coast seems clear. The hallway to your right is short and splits off in a T. There’s a door in the middle of the T, slightly ajar. The hall is quiet, save for the thrumming of the air circulation system.

You duck back inside the shaft and descend just far enough to make room for Tankwald. You look up and point at the door. Words aren’t necessary. You see the relief on his red, sweaty face.

As he climbs out, you hang onto his pant leg, making sure he doesn’t run off. It makes getting out difficult, but you manage.

You glance around the hallway and see that the left side is much longer than the right and also splits in a T. A few closed doors line the hall.

As you start to close the hatch, a red flash at the edge of your vision catches your attention. You look to the right and catch a glimpse of a laser sight sweeping across the floor and disappearing behind the corner. You hear the soft rebuke of two sharp finger snaps and the shuffling sound of body armor.

You realize you’ve just walked into an ambush. And you have mere seconds to decide what to do.

What do you do?

A. Grab Tankwald and jump back into the shaft.
B. Use Tankwald as a hostage. Retreat to the open door on the right.

Vote in the comments or on Twitter. Voting ends Saturday night, August 10th. The highest vote will be the next step in the story, posted in two weeks.

Laser Eye photo courtesy of Gerard Fritz

UPDATE: The voting is now closed. The B’s have it, so on August 19th you’ll use Tankwald as a hostage and press ahead! Continue reading

Sci-Fi Pinups: Mr. & Miss July 2013

Pin Cushion Good news, gang! I bought a new calendar so that I won’t forget to announce our monthly sci-fi pinups… though I’ll totally procrastinate working on them anyway.

But hey, at least I won’t have an excuse.

And with that, welcome back to the Science Fiction & Fantasy Pinups, the monthly segment that’s almost always on time. Once a month we comb through the list of hotties and naughties and hard-rock bodies to crown the cream of the crop. But of course, it’s the sci-fi pinups, so they’re not exactly your momma’s Chippendales or your papa’s Playboy Playmates.

They’d be green-skinned Chippendales. With tentacles and laser beam eyes. And that would be hot. And the sci-fi version of Playboy Playmates would be whatever Captain Kirk takes his shirt off for.

Which is everything with legs.

So let’s get to it and announce our winners for July!

Mr. July is a sales clerk at a sporting goods store by day, and a jump-starter of evil undead apocalypses by night. He’s an experienced time traveler, renaissance man, and a total lady killer.

As long as that lady is the rotting undead spawn of hell and trying to rip off his face. Otherwise, he’s slightly awkward with the female gender.

Mr. July is…

Ash Williams - Army of Darkness

…Ash Williams from The Evil Dead!

Mr. July’s turn-ons include great values on home goods, his Boomstick, chainsaw hands, and hot women who first want to kill him and later want to kiss him. Turn-offs include his evil doppelganger, the undead, and memorization.

If you head out on the town with Mr. July, just remember: Klaatu Verata Nicto. You just might need it.

Here’s a clip of Mr. July not remembering the words and subsequently summoning the apocalypse, in the form of an evil undead army:

Hail to the king, baby.

Miss July may be a beauty for hire, but there’s no question that she’s her own woman. She’s smart, cultured, sharp-tongued, and knows how to be your perfect companion. This stunning beauty spends her time wandering the ‘verse with her rag-tag group of felony friends, seeing the sights, visiting her clients, and meeting interesting criminals. But don’t be fooled by her high manners and feminine wiles. She’ll cut you down to size with a pistol or one of her biting one-liners.

She is…

Inara Serra - Firefly

…Inara Serra from Firefly!

Miss July’s turn-ons include respect, honor, and ruggedly handsome spaceship captains who hide their feelings with biting one-liners. Her turn-offs include ruggedly handsome spaceship captains who hide their feelings with biting one-liners.

Now, I went looking for a great Inara video but couldn’t find much. People seem to be more interested in making fan tribute videos with crappy, sappy music behind them. I’ll make up for it by giving you guys another picture of our favorite companion.

Inara Serra - Firefly

And, of course, last month I promised I’d find some pinups swag for our gentlemen readers. And it just so happens that there’s some cool Firefly stuff out there. Think Geek has awesome posters of the Serenity women. Also, I found a pretty sweet peg doll set of the Firefly crew, lavender vanilla flavored Inara lip balm, a super groovy Inara t-shirt, and a funny t-shirt.

Thanks for stopping by! Stay tuned for next week when we continue THE CURE, our Choose Your Own Adventure-style series where you vote for the next step in the story. Subscribe to the RSS feed in the sidebar, or follow me on Facebook or Twitter.

Pincushion photo courtesy of Lina-Sydney. Continue reading

The Cure: Part One (Vote Your Adventure)

The CureThis is the first part of an adventure series where YOU determine the next step in the story.

The lab explodes around you in a deafening roar of violet flame, black smoke, and screams—both human and inhuman ones. A blast of heat and fire slams into your chest and stomach. The shock wave hurls you backward through the air and out of the door. The initial impact is so painful it’s disorienting; you barely notice the steel wall that abruptly ends your short flight. As you collapse in a heap of Kevlar and camouflage in the hallway outside, watching your squad incinerate in the chemical fire, a tiny thought whispers in the back of your mind.

We all knew this was a suicide mission.

Security alarms scream to life in the underground city of New Milwaukee. You hear a voice blaring on the overhead speakers but you can’t make out the words because of the ringing in your ears.

Not that you need to hear it; you know it’s about you.

The voice warbles on longer than it would take to simply notify the city that they were under siege by a small enemy force. You guess the extra bit contains instructions on securing the hybrid project—an unholy genetics program created by the city’s scientists and priests. As if the Biblical apocalypse on the surface wasn’t bad enough, the leaders of New Milwaukee were trying to become the very demons that humanity is fighting against. Since no one would join their cause, New Milwaukee created a virus and infected the water supply of three cities, including yours.

You look back into the destroyed lab and watch fire-retardant foam shower down and abate the fire. The hope for a cure was somewhere in that lab, and you failed to retrieve it.

You glance around the wide hallway and your eyes rest on a red, flashing emergency bulb on the wall, just a few feet down from where you lie. The light illuminates the painted block letters and numbers just below it: LEVEL 85. MAXIMUM SECURITY.

You’re so deep in the bowels of the city that you figure it will be another two minutes before security can even get to you. And once they do, you know they’ll take you in for questioning, torture you for information, and, when you refuse to break, they’ll use you in their demon research.

There’s no way you’ll allow that. You’d prefer an honorable death.

You reach for the pistol at your side but the holster is gone; all that remains is a melted stub of fabric. Your rifle is also nowhere to be found. Both must be in the lab.

You’d better get up then.

You roll over, feeling the pains of the explosion, and a searing pain shoots up your side. As you force yourself to your feet, your body’s agony helps you take stock of your injuries: a broken rib or two, a deep gash in your thigh, a sprained ankle, bruises everywhere, and so many small cuts that you don’t have time to count them all. You’re weaponless but you’re breathing.

You glance around for an exit or emergency hatch when movement in the lab catches your eye. By now the fire is out and the smoke makes it hard to see into the laboratory, but you can make out a small, round hatch swinging open on the right wall. A man pokes his head out and glances around the room. His face falls, crestfallen at the ruin.

Through the smoke you can make out his features: medium height, bald head, mustache, beady little eyes. You recognize him from the briefing. His name is Tankwald and Intelligence says he’s the lead scientist on the hybrid project.

Maybe this mission isn’t over after all.

You step to the side of the doorway so that the wall hides you from his view. Tankwald creeps from the hatch, stepping around and over mounds of foam that hide the bodies of your fallen teammates and New Milwaukee’s corrupt scientists.

Down the hall, you hear shouts. The guards are coming. But you need Tankwald to get a little farther from the door…

You hear footsteps now, fast and hard, heading your way.

A little farther…

Shadows appear at the end of the hall. They’re just around the corner.

Far enough. You duck inside the room, startling Tankwald, who jumps a foot in the air and shrieks. When he lands, he slips on the foam and his feet fly out from under him.

You move toward him as quickly as you can, given the slick floor, but you aren’t going fast enough. Tankwald climbs on all fours and scurries toward the hatch much faster than you can safely move without falling.

You launch yourself forward, throwing yourself onto a counter. The momentum propels you forward fast, sliding you across the slick surface like a greased pig. At the end of the counter you dive off head-first and land on Tankwald’s ankles. He shouts, either in alarm or pain; you can’t be sure. You really don’t care.

You jerk him back toward you and manage to slide him, face-down, beneath you. You jump to your feet, ignoring the pain in your body, and drag the scientist into the hatch. You slam the door shut and press a red button on the wall, which you assume will shut the hatch and activate the lock. The hatch swings shut and air hisses as it escapes. A soft white light illuminates the room.

You’re standing in a bare steel capsule, about fifteen feet to a side and seven feet high. At opposite ends of the room are two metal ladders going up to two hatches with release wheels. The left hatch is painted a soft blue and has a short directory printed next to it:

SOUTHEAST: Medical, Mess Hall, Dormitories, Entertainment, Garage, Armory

The right hatch is yellow. Its directory reads:

NORTHWEST: Engine Room, Hydroponic Gardens, Water Purification, Security, Administrative Offices, Helipad

Tankwald stares at you from where he sits against the wall, between both ladders, with his knees pulled up to his chest.

You check yourself for weapons, but you don’t even have your knife anymore. Without your armaments, you aren’t that much of a threat. And if you don’t get out of there, the guards will surely come through that hatch in the next few minutes.

You look down at Tankwald. “I don’t suppose you want to share the way out?”

His eyes narrow at you. He doesn’t respond.

What do you do?

A. Take the blue hatch to the southeast section of the city.
B. Take the yellow hatch to the northwest section of the city.

Vote in the comments or on Twitter. Voting ends Saturday night, July 27. The highest vote will be the next step in the story, posted in two weeks.

Beaker photo courtesy of Erin M. Continue reading

You Asked, I Answered: The Q&A

Question mark A couple of weeks ago, I suggested we try a Q&A. I know it seems a little corny, but it’s a good way to connect with you and find out what’s on your mind. Your comments and questions provide fuel for stories, blog posts, and even details in the Kari Hunter world. It started with the Vote Your Adventure campaigns we did—your feedback inspired the stories in ways I never dreamed. Sure, your votes directly guided the stories, but it was the additional, often hilarious comments that inspired me to add quirky details I may not have thought of otherwise.

Bottom line: I like connecting with you.

I got a lot of great questions—personal ones as well as book related. And there are a lot, so let’s get started.

Question: I just want to ask how are you doing? (And say I can’t wait for the next book. xx)

Jen: Honestly, I feel awesome. I mean it. A couple of weeks ago, I alluded that the Spouseditor and I made some changes to our lives. It’s given me a better balance and I’m able to make writing a high priority. This is probably the best “head space” I’ve been in in many years, so thanks for asking. And thanks for the excitement about the next book! I’m pretty excited too. It’s really shaping up into something special. And comical.

Question: What kind of car do you drive? Year, model, colour, condition? And if you could have any car what would you buy? (not unplausible if you become a super-novelist)

Jen: I have a dark grey 2009 Toyota Corolla (with a moon roof!) but I don’t drive much—once or twice a month, if that. The Spouseditor and I recently moved into downtown Seattle and we’re both close to our jobs. Plus, the city’s congested and it’s expensive to park. I thought I’d hate giving up my car but the truth is that my stress level has dwindled and I’m infinitely happier now that I don’t have to fight traffic every day.

If I could have any car, what would I buy? Well, in THE FOURTH CHANNEL, Kari owns a red Audi TTS Coupe. Back when I was writing that book, it’s the car I wanted. These days, I don’t really drive, but if a stranger walked up to me and handed me the keys to a brand new Tesla Model S, I wouldn’t complain. I’d hop in and hit the gas… er, electric.

Question: Were the Sci-fi pinups inspired by some strange geek fetish that I may or may not share?

Jen: Hah, no. One day, I was brainstorming blog ideas for someone and I got a weird idea for a zombie-themed pinups post. The person I suggested it to liked it (outwardly, anyway) but they never used it. So, after waiting a few months and not seeing the idea being used, I decided to use it. I liked the idea because it’s funny and nostalgic, and the posts are quick and dirty reads, which makes it ideal for the internet. Sci-Fi Pinups is, by far, my most popular series. So I keep doing it. For you. I’m a woman of the peoples.

Or maybe I’m just a big ham. Dunno. Could go either way.

Question: What do you read/listen/watch to inspire yourself to write?

Jen: The pros say a writer should never wait until they’re inspired or writing would never get done. I find that to be true. So, I just sit down and do it. But I need a special kind of ambience to stay focused. Music can be distracting if it’s not the right kind. Music has an opening, a climax, and an ending. Then there’s a pause, and a new song begins. Distracting. My brain picks up on all that and it’s hard to focus.

So, to keep a steady, consistent mood, I turn on a very long video game soundtrack. I recommend Skyrim and Halo 2. For even more ambience, turn on Simply Rain behind the soundtracks. Hours of uninterrupted bliss.

Question: Is Kari Hunter a character you wanted to write about or is there a quality in her that represents you or what you want to be?

Jen: Kari is the type of character I wanted to write about. For many years, most books I read were about serious characters in serious situations. Even now, many books try to “out-dark” each other. I didn’t want to go that route. I like comedy and I wanted to write a woman who could be strong while being funny. Even if she did want to go the strong, dark route, nothing in her life will allow her to sink into it. It’s hard to keep a straight face when Rambo’s singing crime show theme songs in monotone.

Question: Which fictional character (other than one of your own) would you want to be, and why?

Jen: I got this question quite a bit, in a few different forms. So I gave it a lot of thought and decided I want to be…

Princess Leia

…Princess Leia.

Hear me out on this one. Princess Leia has it all: she’s a Rebel leader, she’s rich, she has Jedi powers, she’s a princess, and she gets to smooch Han Solo. In her spare time, she’s flying around the galaxy, righting wrongs and fighting evil. In the novels, she even gets her own lightsaber!

Lightsabers rock!

Question: What is your favorite non-popular video game?

Jen: Oof. Answering this is like showing you my gaming skeletons in the closet. I’ve loved a few bad games in my time. Bad ones. You know what I’m talking about. After a long day at work, you come home to find the game drunk and pantsless, sleeping on the recliner, surrounded by open beer cans and empty bags of Fritos. You yell and scream and threaten to leave if they don’t shape up. You know you could walk out the door and be with a game that has a 92 Metascore—but they promise they’ll change and treat you better.

But they never do. They’re buggy and lose your saves and all kinds of crap. The controls are bad, and you don’t know why you do it to yourself. But you keep playing…

A few years ago, I played a game called Hellgate: London. It had a lot of promise and did well initially. It even had an online component that my friends and I all played. But the game was buggy, and customer service wasn’t handled well. The fixes were “too little, too late” and the company closed. The servers were shut down as a result.

Hellgate London Wallpaper

But I kept playing. There was something about a near future where demons were in control of the Earth’s surface that appealed to me. I kept playing it and thinking about it. Even though the game was filled with glitches that made me have to start brand new characters after hours of gameplay, something about the idea of the game wouldn’t let me go.

Our Vote Your Adventure world was inspired by it.

Question: What’s your favorite guilty pleasure song?

Jen: Anything by Toto or Lionel Richie. Don’t judge me.

Lionel Richie Hello Lost Poster

Question: So what is Rambo intended for if the hilt does not fit Kari’s hand? Other than singing Mack the Knife, that is.

Jen: If you haven’t yet read THE FOURTH CHANNEL, our intrepid necromancer, Kari, has named all of her knives. Her fourth knife, Rambo, is very different from the first three, so much so that she has never touched it. When it was created, its wide handle and jagged, black blade freaked her out, so she used a pair of tongs to put it into her knife box, and the knife hasn’t moved since. The question is a really good one. Unfortunately, you’re going to have to wait until the next Kari Hunter book. Rambo’s a big part of the plot.

Question: How is Kari really related to Brad? Seems odd that his third channel dad would miss an important thing about his niece considering how close they all are.

Jen: Brad’s mother and Kari’s birth mother are sisters. Brad’s parents divorced when Kari and Brad were young. The divorce was not amicable. Since Rick (Brad’s dad) didn’t want to see his ex or his ex’s sister, he made it a point not to go over to the house where he thought Kari lived. The only time he went was shortly after the incident that made Kari a necromancer. He saw Kari’s tiny bedroom and it was obvious that she had never been there. After that, he’s always been suspicious that something was amiss.

Furthermore, Uncle Rick has never had prolonged physical contact with Kari. He’s gotten the static shock from a quick brush against her skin, but because she’s just his niece, it’s been easy for Kari to avoid contact that would grant him necromancer sight.

Question: May we have a flashback scene where she comes into her power and meets Mikelis? Just cause I love him.

Jen: I love Mikelis too. Sure. I’ll write that for you. Stay tuned.

Question: When is the next Fourth Channel book being released?

Jen: The sequel has no date yet. Sorry. But I can say that I’ve never written anything this quickly before. I’m very excited about the story and I’ll be sure to update you on its progress.

Question: Sometimes I feel that women have monopolized modern fantastic literature. Perhaps I’m being paranoid?

Jen: That’s interesting because I see men dominating fantasy and science fiction. Before releasing THE FOURTH CHANNEL, I was afraid that male readers would see my name and a female protagonist and largely assume it was a “girl book.” Whatever that means. Maybe that the characters were painting each other’s toenails and shoe shopping. Many female authors have been known to use initials or a pseudonym for this very reason. Now that I’ve published, I feel as though self-publishing is changing that attitude. Or maybe it’s just changed my attitude. Readers are looking for good books. Period.

Question: It’s 4am. There’s a knock on your door. You look over at Tom but he’s so deep in sleep that he doesn’t even stir when you elbow him in the ribs. A second knock. You check twitter on your phone. The trending topics in your area are: MurdererKnockingOnDoorsBeforeKillingEveryoneInside AND GenerousMillionaireVisitingHousesAt4amWithGiantCheques

What do you do? WHAT DO YOU DO?!

Jen: Stand on the other side of the door reading the latest Wall Street Journal aloud. The millionaire will be excited. The murderer will fall asleep.


And that concludes our first Q&A! Did I answer your question? If not, leave a comment below and I will answer. You can also connect with me on Twitter and Facebook.

If you’re curious about my comic urban fantasy, THE FOURTH CHANNEL, you can pick up a copy on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Continue reading