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Friday, December 18, 2015

Boom Goes the Dynamite!

An Excerpt from The 25th Hour (Book One in The Adventures of Mackenzie Mortimer):

The frantic blasts of the car horn and the noise of screeching tires were replaced by the eerie calm and silence of Q-Time. Mackenzie tumbled from his bicycle, landing unharmed on the asphalt road. “Phew! That was close. I could have been killed.”

“Yes, you could have. You should be more careful at intersections.”

“Usually, I am,” Mackenzie explained. “But I was rushing because…” He stopped when he realized he was still in Q-Time. Whenever he was in Q-Time, Mackenzie had felt like the last boy on Earth, alone after the desolation of a neutron bomb or some natural disaster had wiped out all other life on Earth. It was always eerily silent in Q-Time. For him to hear another person or object, it would have to be moving at the same vibrational frequency he was. He spun in the direction of the voice, realizing if he were encountering another person in Q-Time, it could only be the mysterious time traveler. He wondered if the cloaked figure before him was his future self, his grandfather, or his father? Then, he recalled the time bomb and realized the mysterious stranger might mean him harm. Afraid the man might vanish before he could find out, Mackenzie twisted the larger watch stem all the way to the right. He had read enough in his grandfather’s journals to theorize by expanding his chronal energy field to the maximum to encompass both himself and the time traveler, he could trap the traveler in the field. “Who are you?” Mackenzie demanded to know. He heard a subdued rumbling in the distance.

The figure stepped closer and lifted his hood, revealing a young man in his early 30s. “What have you done?”

“I’ve expanded the chronal energy field as far as it will go. If I’m right, it’ll counter your own field and trap you in Q-Time with me until I get some answers.” What had begun as quiet rumbling grew tonitruous in the usually silent realm of Q-Time. Mackenzie felt the air vibrate and the ground quake. “Are you the same time traveler who gave me the key? He was ancient and you’re young. Either you’re someone else or you haven’t given me the key yet, in your timeline. Which is it? Who are you?”

“Don’t you hear it? Can’t you feel it?” The traveler’s voice betrayed his panic. “You don’t know what you’re playing with… the forces you’ve unleashed. Keep this up much longer and you’ll rip the fabric of Q-Time apart. You’ll destroy us and everything else.”


Available in paperback or Kindle exclusively on Amazon.com


Time is running out… fortunately, Mackenzie Mortimer has a few more minutes than anyone else!

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Stocking Stuffers

‘Tis the season to be giving gifts, and with that in mind, I thought I’d share a few suggestions for stocking stuffers. Books make excellent gifts because they are filled with wonder, can entertain for hours, and provide a uniquely intimate experience for the reader. Here are four rather different books to put on your gift list:

The Halos and Horns Omnibus Edition is a deluxe coffee-table book with 61 breathtaking color illustrations. The ultimate paranormal, supernatural, fantasy saga is available in both hardcover and softcover editions. This special printing includes never before published essays on the series, an interview with the author, a guide to the Halos and Horns universe, and a preview of the forthcoming sequel, Fangs and Fur. Mixing fantasy with philosophy, and written in the style of episodic fiction, the Halos and Horns saga is unlike anything else in its genre.


Shards is a collection of 61 short stories, ranging from flash fiction to a novelette, and crossing all genres: gothic mystery, science fiction, slice of life, humor, horror, drama, urban fiction, political and sociological fiction, fantasy, and speculative fiction.


Collected Essays of a Reluctant Blogger blends humor with social commentary, collecting some of the more entertaining and enlightening blog posts from KeithBDarrell.com.

The Trial of Santa Claus and Other Christmas Stories is an e-book collection of irreverent Yuletide short stories that could only have been penned by the king of snark himself, Keith B Darrell. [Note: the noun snark is defined both as (1) rude or sarcastic criticism and (2) a mysterious, imaginary animal; both definitions have been found to accurately describe the author.]


You can purchase the above books through Amazon or Barnes & Noble using the handy links provided at KeithBDarrell.com.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Will Someone Pull the Fire Alarm?

An Excerpt from The 25th Hour (Book One in The Adventures of Mackenzie Mortimer):

Mackenzie rushed in through the doorway moments before the bell tolled the start of history class and sat next to Marlene.

“Good morning, Mac. I thought you might be skipping today when I saw you weren’t in homeroom.”

He gave a sheepish grin. “I had a late start this morning. I had to finish my term paper. You know how important it is to our course grade and Mr. Larson’s not accepting any excuses for being late with it. I’ll fail history if I don’t turn it in today.”

“You shouldn’t have waited until the last minute to write it. At least you completed it. You did finish it, didn’t you?”

“Of course.” Mackenzie’s sheepish expression returned. “Although I did have to use my twenty-fifth hour this morning to get it done in time.”

Marlene was aghast. “Mac, you did it again? Using up your hour at the start of the day? Now you can’t use the pocket watch today, since you’ve sworn not to override its safety feature again, so you don’t end up trapped in the past or the future. I thought you had finally become responsible.”

“Not failing history is being responsible, Marlene. I have become responsible. I was on time for class and I have my term paper right…” Mackenzie’s face turned ashen. “Right on my kitchen table, where I left it.” He struck his forehead with the palm of his hand. “That’s it. I’m dead. I’ll be spending all summer making up history in summer school. Maybe I’ll get lucky and someone will pull the fire alarm as an end-of-school-prank in the next hour.”


Available in paperback or Kindle exclusively on Amazon.com


Time is running out… fortunately, Mackenzie Mortimer has a few more minutes than anyone else!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

American Fascist

Donald J. Trump has accomplished something truly remarkable: he’s become the first major party frontrunner in an American presidential campaign to be compared to Adolf Hitler by the mainstream media. An Internet meme had previously noted Trump’s similarities to Hitler: both used racism to rise to power, blamed minority scapegoats (Hitler: Jews, Trump: immigrants) for their nation’s problems, proposed an unpopular religious minority (Hitler: Jews, Trump: Muslims) should wear special identification,  proposed mass deportations, and promised to make the country great again. I might add they both have bad hair.

Other similarities abound: both charismatic speakers who know how to play to their audience; both experts at simultaneously manipulating and attacking the media; and both proposed limits on free speech. But while Trump suggested a Black Lives Matter protester at one of his rallies might have deserved having been roughed up by his supporters, it’s not as if he travels with an entourage of Brownshirts. Oh, wait… He did tell Univision anchorman Jorge Ramos “Go back to Univision,” as he motioned to his bodyguards to have Ramos physically removed from the press room.  

But I’m not going to call Trump a fascist. I’ll leave that to the Philadelphia Daily News, which on its December 8th front page showed Trump raising his hand in a Nazi-style gesture with the caption “The New Furor”. But what does The Donald himself think of the comparison to the Reich’s Fuhrer? Former Clinton political advisor turned journalist George Stephanopoulos asked Trump: “You're increasingly being compared to Hitler. Does that give you any pause at all?” To which Trump answered “No.” He then went on to talk about “solutions” presidents might use to deal with undesirable ethnic groups. He even raised the specter of internment camps within the U.S., although he added, “I don't like doing it at all. It's a temporary measure.” It’s somewhat reassuring to know his solutions are only temporary and not final.

I don’t know if Donald Trump is a fascist. He certainly has been spouting a lot of fascism lately but that may merely be part of his act. I’m not convinced he’s truly running for president. Trump is an egomaniac and loves the limelight. As you can tell from his three-hour speeches, the man is in love with the sound of his own voice. He may be the star of his own one-man reality show, in which he is willing to do or say anything to get ratings. How else can you explain a so-called political candidate who is so obsessed with touting his own poll numbers in every speech?

Donald Trump, whether egomaniac or fascist, doesn’t worry me. What I do find scary – make that downright terrifying – is the huge number of mindless Trump supporters to whom he panders, who lap up the hatred and visceral he dishes out like flies on a turd. It’s not the man who scares me; it’s his followers.

As one of my characters in my Halos and Horns series put it:
“By serving others, I am fulfilling a greater purpose,” Remick replied. “For even the greatest leaders would be naught without followers. Do you know what they call a leader lacking followers? A fool. And what do they call a leader with many followers? A great man. Thus it is followers such as myself that separate a fool from a great man.”

There are lots of fools in the world. They only become dangerous when they obtain followers. I wrote a short story entitled “The Devil is in the Details”. I wanted to give it the politically incorrect title of “In Defense of Hitler” but I was afraid it would be misjudged before anyone bothered to read it. Its premise was it was unfair to blame the deaths of fifty million people on Adolf Hitler because he didn’t do it alone; he had help… lots of help, in fact. Sure, he may have been the poster child for evil, but it was his followers who did the actual legwork. In my story, the devil gives us a guided tour of Hell, where we find Hitler housed in a section reserved for the insane, while a lower level of Hell is reserved for the truly evil souls: his followers.

“Adolf is in the Asylum because he is a madman. Listen to the others shriek their cries of insanity. Adolf and the mad soul in the next cell spout the same indistinguishable madness. The only difference is, the people listened to Adolf and acted on his demagoguery. Fear and despair combined with demagoguery and Crowd Behavior Theory allowed the evil within their hearts to bubble to the surface. The ordinary citizens were the ones who committed the heinous acts of the Holocaust. They brought the dreams of a madman to life. Adolf was only the catalyst; a mere spark. They were the individual flames that composed the conflagration. It is only fitting they be damned to the pit of the Inferno.”

There will always be fools, fascists, and madmen preaching political demagoguery. As Americans, we have a choice to either ignore them or succumb to their impassioned appeals to our prejudices and fears. That choice will determine whether we see the real American fascist the next time we look into the mirror.

Monday, December 7, 2015

The Colt Principle

I am indebted to my writer friend Colt for introducing me to the literary device I have dubbed the Colt Principle. A writer often finds he has written himself into a corner and desperately needs that can of magic paint to draw a door on the wall from which to escape. Simply put, the Colt Principle says that when you have written a non sequitur into a scene, merely address it and move on.

Surely, it couldn’t be that simple, I said. Take my forthcoming novel Fangs & Fur: Flashbacks. I had written a scene where my characters had to be in the waters off the southern coast of Australia. I wanted one character to be attacked by a crocodile. No big deal; after all, Australia is famous for its crocodiles. Think Crocodile Dundee, or Australia’s renowned croc hunter Steve Irwin. But there was one problem: it turns out there are no crocodiles in the waters off the southern coast of Australia. The waters are too cold for them. Oops. The location was set: my characters couldn’t be moved to northern Australia. And I wanted the crocodile scene. What to do? Time to apply the Colt Principle: address the inconsistency and move on.

“What the hell is a croc doing this far south? It’s rare to see them south of Queensland. These waters are too cold for crocodiles.”

“Someone forgot to tell the croc.” Donahue shrugged. “Could be it escaped from the reptile park in Somersby and swam in the wrong direction, or maybe it got loose from one of the tourist attractions. Doesn’t matter now. The poor sheila won’t even have a fair go to make it ashore. That croc will be on her in seconds.”

Someone forgot to tell the croc. Doesn’t matter now. Here’s a plausible explanation, but let’s get back to the action. The Colt Principal strikes again. In my forthcoming book All the Time in the World (The Adventures of Mackenzie Mortimer Book 3), Mac is strip-searched, imprisoned, and issued a prisoner uniform. There’s no way he would have been allowed to keep his time-controlling watch. But of course, he’ll need it to escape. Oops. Time to employ the Colt Principle. Since Mac had received a new watch in the previous book when he had traveled to the future…

“I traveled far into the future and came back with a few improvements.” Mackenzie passed his hand over his wrist and his wristwatch appeared. “Camouflage mode. It does it with holograms. It’s a souped-up version of your pocket watch, Gramps. I’ll explain it once we’re out of here.”

Camouflage mode. Once again, the Colt Principle explains a seeming non sequitur and I’m able to write my way out of a corner. In my forthcoming novel Nightstalkers (Book 2 in the Fangs & Fur series), I introduce a Valkyrie who arrives on a flying horse. The flying horse happens to be the legendary Pegasus. Unfortunately, Pegasus is a product of Greek mythology and Valkyries are from Norse mythology. Oops. Time to resort to the Colt Principle to reconcile this non sequitur.

“Pegasus?” Lupe asked. “The mythical Greek flying horse?”

“He was, until I captured him and made him mine. There is no finer horse in existence, save my Lord Odin’s eight-legged horse Sleipnir. But I’m not here to discuss equine matters.”

The Valkyrie acknowledges that Pegasus’ origins are Greek but explains, in what must remain a fascinating untold back story, that she captured the famous flying steed and “made him mine.” Now let’s move the story along.  Problem solved, thanks to the Colt Principle.

So, if you’re a writer with a deadline approaching and no topic for your blog, simply address it and move on. The Colt Principle… it works every time.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Which Will She Choose?

An Excerpt from The 25th Hour (Book One in The Adventures of Mackenzie Mortimer):

Marlene’s mother set a plate of scrambled eggs and bacon before her. “Have you thought about what we discussed last night, dear?”

The teenager swallowed a forkful of egg. “I’m still thinking about it.”

Her father looked up from his coffee. “It’s a terrific opportunity, sweetheart.”

Mrs. Prentice shot her husband a reproachful look. “We’ll support whatever decision you make, dear. I realize it’s not easy being uprooted and having to make new friends. There’s a lot to consider. It’s your decision… but it is a tremendous opportunity not likely to come by again.”

Her father nodded. “Like I always say, when opportunity knocks, always answer the door.” He rose from the breakfast table to leave for work. “Whatever you decide, honey, your mother and I are proud of you for having been chosen.”

“I’d better head off to work, too,” Mrs. Prentice said. “Those groceries won’t scan themselves. Marlene, you’ll need to make a decision by tonight. I promised your principal I’d call her tomorrow morning to say either we’re on our way to Ferncrest or to give them time to offer the scholarship to another girl.”

Marlene swallowed her bacon. “All right, Mom. Let me get the last day of seventh grade over, first. I’ll be thinking about it all day and I’ll let you know what I’ve decided at dinner.”

Mrs. Prentice smiled. “I know you’ll make the right choice. Have a great day at school, hun.”

Marlene watched her mother dash off to her job at the supermarket. She appreciated how hard her parents worked, but she wanted more for herself than to be bagging groceries when she was her mother’s age. She knew she was smart and now her belief had been validated. She pictured herself sitting behind a large desk in the executive suite of a Fortune 500 business, in a penthouse office overlooking a metropolitan skyline, far from Serenity Valley. And far from Mackenzie Mortimer. She sighed. Her father always said, “You can’t have your cake and eat it, too.” Why did she have to choose? Why couldn’t she have it all? Life was unfair, the 13-year-old concluded.


Available in paperback or Kindle exclusively on Amazon.com


Time is running out… fortunately, Mackenzie Mortimer has a few more minutes than anyone else!

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

I Saw What You Did There

Last month, a story went viral about a 23-year-old Australian man who was upset with Facebook because the social network refused to allow him to have a profile under his name – Phuc Dat Bich. No, that wasn’t his reply to Facebook; that’s his actual name.

The story made news both because it was funny and because it pointed out a flaw in Facebook’s questionable policy requiring “real names” which has often resulted in Facebook refusing to believe an individual’s proffered name was legitimate. However, in this case, it turns out Phuc Dat Bich wasn’t really the Australian’s name after all.

His real name is Tin Le. He claims it was all a joke, writing on his Facebook page: “What started as a joke between friends, became a prank that made a fool out of the media ... Out of this ordeal I’ve concluded not to trust the credibility of the media, it’s twisted by the hungry journalists who mask the truth.”

I saw what he did there … Did you? He lied, in fact he lied to the entire world, and bragged about making fools of the media – and when he was caught lying, he turned it around and blame the lie not on the liar but on the media. Instead of accepting responsibility for his own lies, he twists reality stating we can’t trust the media for accurately reporting what he had said; that the problem is with the media’s credibility rather than his own; and that by accepting what he had told journalists as true and reporting it, it was the media and not himself who were “masking the truth.”

Tin Le, or Phuc Dat Bich if he prefers, has taken a page out of the 2015 politicians’ playbook. Politicians have always blamed the media as a tactic. The messenger has always been a convenient scapegoat and foil. Don’t like the message? Shoot the messenger. But this new strategy is to blame the media for one’s own misstatements of facts. While Marco Rubio, Carly Fiorina, Ted Cruz, and Chris Christie have all done this to some extent, the true masters of the art form are Ben Carson and Donald Trump.

For example, Trump denied having criticized Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. “I was not at all critical of him. I was not at all.” The reporter asked Trump why she had heard that. “You people write the stuff,” he replied. Actually, it was Trump who had written that… on his Website as part of his immigration platform. 

Carson described reports of his relationship with Mannatech –  a nutritional supplement company that claimed it could cure cancer and had been sued in Texas for falsely advertising – as “propaganda”. Carly Fiorina claimed Planned Parenthood was “selling tissue from aborted fetuses.” Marco Rubio denied his tax plan would give more after-tax income to the wealthiest one percent than to the middle class, despite that finding by the Tax Foundation. He then attacked CNBC reporter John Harwood's credibility alleging the reporter had written a story on the topic that required a correction. Donald Trump claimed he saw Muslims in New Jersey celebrating on 9-11. One thing all these candidates have in common is that they have consistently told lies like these… And then doubled-down by claiming it’s the media whom the American people cannot trust.

I hope the American people are smart enough to see what these politicians are doing. To the candidates, all I can say is I saw what you did there, and Phuc Dat Bich.