Albert Camus

Don't walk behind me; I may not lead. Don't walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Spells, Salt, & Steel - Season One by Gail Z. Martin & Larry N. Martin

"The novellas included in this volume are interesting, amusing, addictive and thanks to them even our reality seems to be more magical. This collection is a great entertainment, fantastic adventure and an opportunity to enrich the circle of our fictional friends with some really amazing characters." Karolina, Goodreads


Published: November 5th, 2018

“When all else fails, the ass end of a carp makes a damn fine weapon.”
Your new favorite monster hunter has arrived! Bubba the Monster Hunter has some competition in this horror comedy collection from best-selling author duo Gail Z. & Larry N. Martin! 
By day, Mark Wojcik can be found elbow-deep in engine grease, making cars and trucks safe for the highway. By night, he can be found traipsing through the wilds of Pennsylvania, making the world safe for humans. He’s more than just a mechanic, he’s a New Templar Knight. He travels the backroads and byways fighting weresquonks, ningen, selkies, ghosts, and…gnomes? Is that gnome…naked? (sigh).

Season One collects the first four novellas in the Spells, Salt, & Steel series – 
Spells, Salt, & Steel
Open Season 
Deep Trouble
Close Encounters

The old Keystone Ordnance Works looked even more ominous in the dark. The full moon should have let me navigate easily, but the cloud cover kept blocking the moonlight. We’re in one of the spots in the US that has the most cloudy days, and I’d been told that was one reason the TNT plant got located here—because aerial surveillance didn’t work well. Tonight, it made my job that much harder.
Forget about climbing the fence. I found a hole in the chain link and crawled through.
Apparently, I wasn’t the only one who’d decided to ignore the warnings. Thanks to the maps and Chiara’s research, I’d come in near the old water tower instead of near the front, because the site covered acres and I didn’t want to hike through tick-infested scrub or fall into a polluted catchment pond.
The clouds broke, and I could see clearly. In the distance, I could make out the silhouette of one of the larger buildings, like a hulking shadow. Ahead of me, I saw the water tower, and to its right, a stand of trees.
I’ve got to admit, I was feeling pretty jazzed about this hunt. My grandad fought in “Dubya-Dubya-Two” as he called it, and now here I was, picking off a Heinie sniper. I felt like Indiana Jones and the Hunt for the Last Nazi.
Shoulda known it was all gonna go right to hell.
The weeds tangled around my legs like tripwire, dragging at my jeans with burrs. Mosquitos rose into a fierce, bloodsucking cloud, and I wondered if I could get turned into a mutant superhero by getting bitten by one, considering the stuff that probably got dumped in the shallow ponds. The ground beneath my feet felt rutted and squishy, probably from the rain we’d had lately. Bats dive-bombed me, swooping out of the broken windowpanes like a squadron on a mission.
Great. Bats, mosquitos, ticks, and Nazis.
That’s when I tripped over a rusted piece of equipment, landed flat on my face in the mud, and added “lockjaw” to the list. I got to my feet, and then I realized there were two water towers and I had no idea which one held the ghost of Helmut the sniper.
A shot rang out. I heard the cha-ka-ching of the bolt and guessed Helmut had a Mauser K98k, one of the deadliest guns of the war. Ghost or no ghost, I ducked and ran for cover. Another shot, and son of a bitch if the dirt didn’t kick up close to me. Fucking ghost sniper was shooting fucking ghost bullets.
I didn’t intend to find out whether or not those shots would kill me. I dodged into the stand of trees between the water towers and weighed my options. The clouds parted again, and I could make out some cattle far down the field, apparently oblivious to the spectral sniper. Then I looked from one water tower to another and spotted my quarry.
“Gotcha,” I murmured, watching the silvery shape of a man in an outdated uniform scan for his next shot, with his rifle sighted and ready.
Except, I didn’t have him, not yet. I knew where Helmut was, but I had fully expected him to come down from his perch and hunt me like a man. Fortunately, I’d come prepared. I shrugged out of my backpack and pulled out my paintball grenade launcher pistol. I grabbed a paintball shell I had repurposed, pre-filled with salted holy water and an iron BB inside, and let fly.
The first shell hit the tower just over Helmut’s head, and I heard cursing in German as the water splashed the rusted catwalk where the sniper had just been. His ghost winked out, only to reappear at a better vantage point to take a shot at me, and I threw myself out of the way as a bullet cracked against the tree trunk behind me.
I popped up, got off another shot, and this time, the shell went right through Helmut’s chest before it hit the tank behind it and splashed all over everything. The yowl of pain might have been from the salt, iron, or holy water, or a little of all of them. Damn, this was even more fun than firing holy water balloons with my hunting slingshot.
Helmut showed up again, a few feet to the right along the walkway by the tank, and I nailed him again with another paintball shell. His shot nearly parted my hair, forcing me to scramble to change positions before I discovered whether his bullets were “real” enough to do damage. I had the feeling we could shoot at each other all night and still be at a draw come morning.
According to what Chiara and I had found in the records, the Feds took Helmut Zinzer’s body away and disposed of it, so salting and burning his bones wasn’t an option. But I had Eugene’s button, and a half-assed plan, and that was as good as any of my jobs ever got.
First, to distract Helmut. I had made a run over the Ohio line earlier in the day and came back with a trunk full of fireworks I couldn’t buy locally. I pulled out a string of firecrackers, tied it to a stone so it would fly when I threw it, then lit them and tossed them so they hit to the right of the water tower.
They went off like a series of loud pops, and in the distance, the cows mooed their annoyance.
Then I pulled out a big cylindrical container of salt that I had duct taped onto an M80, lit the fuse, and lobbed it under the water tower where Helmut’s ghost was still firing at my dummy shooter.
The M80 exploded, tearing the canister to bits and spraying salt in a wide radius that effectively trapped Helmut on the tower. I used my grenade launcher pistol to send another holy water paintball shell through Helmut, momentarily dispelling him and buying myself enough time to run headlong for the safest place—directly under the water tower. Helmut couldn’t come down to ground level because of the salt, and he couldn’t see me from the catwalk. The water tower tank and its catwalk might be steel, but the rusted support structure was iron, which ghosts hate.
I pulled out the old button and clutched it in my palm. Ghostly footsteps paced above me, and the cows sounded downright pissed. I had to hurry because the firecrackers had been loud and I didn’t want to explain myself to either a local cop or a security guard.
I put the old button in a tin can that I’d brought for that purpose, filled the can with kindling, gave a squirt of lighter fluid, and dropped the button into the flames, followed by a generous handful of salt and iron shavings.
Overhead, I heard a man’s shriek followed by what I guess was some creative cursing—everything sounds worse in German. All the research Chiara and I found said that burning a personal possession in the place where a troubled spirit manifested with plenty of salt, iron, and holy water should do the trick if the bones were not available. I hoped that was right because I’d sure as hell had enough of the KOW to last a lifetime.
Once the fire burned out, I dusted off my hands and stared up at the catwalk overhead. The clouds slid free of the moon, but I did not see any trace of Helmut’s ghostly silhouette.
Cautiously, I edged out from under the water tower, ready to dive back to shelter if a shot rang out, but nothing happened, and I sighed in relief.
The galloping hoof beats echoed in the quiet night, and I looked up to see a wild-eyed, fullgrown, big as fuck bull coming right at me like a hellhound with horns.
I grabbed my backpack and ran. I’d faced down wendigo and werewolves, vengeful ghosts and possessed raccoons, but right now, I was reenacting the Running of the Bulls in Bumfuck, Pennsylvania, in the middle of the night, and my money, if I were a betting man, was on the bull.
I lit a cherry bomb and threw it behind me, barely slowing my pace. It exploded, and the bull made a noise between a snort and a whinny that told me it intended to have Wojcik-kabob for dinner.
The fence loomed up ahead of me, and now that I looked at the cut I had used to enter, I wondered whether or not the bull could tear right through after me. I’m thirty-five, so I’ve slowed down a bit since my teenage years, but tonight, my legs ran like I was seventeen again. I threw myself at the fence like a two-strikes junkie caught with a pocket full of dime bags and scrambled up the metal links before my manly ass could get deflowered on the point of that bull’s pointy horns. As I flipped over the barbed wire at the top and shredded my jacket, I thought about how easy they make this look in the movies.
Just before I could let go, the bull hit the fence full speed, catapulting me free. I might have pissed myself, just a little. Or maybe I landed in a puddle. Either way, I came down hard and landed with an inglorious splat.
The bull stared at me with pure malice in its beady black eyes, huffing and snorting on the other side of a chain link fence that looked as delicate as lace to me right then. It backed up a few steps, and when I saw how the fence support posts had tilted after its last charge, I had visions of it chasing me all the way back to Adamsville.
Screw that. I reached for my grenade launcher, grabbed another paintball shell, and took my shot. The shell hit the chain link fence and exploded all over the bull, spraying holy salt water in its eyes and pinging it on the nose with the iron BB. I didn’t wait; I ran for all I was worth, legs pumping, chest heaving, and I didn’t stop until I collapsed next to my big, black Silverado pickup, Elvira. I damn near threw up on my boots, and I sat on the running boards until I could breathe without gasping, then I hauled my ass into the driver’s seat and spun out on the gravel, before that bull could follow.

About the authors:
Gail Z. Martin discovered her passion for science fiction, fantasy and ghost stories in elementary school. The first story she wrote at age five was about a vampire. Her favorite TV show as a preschooler was Dark Shadows. At age 14, she decided to become a writer. She enjoys attending science fiction/fantasy conventions, Renaissance fairs and living history sites. 

Larry N. Martin is the author of the new sci-fi adventure novel Salvage Rat. He is the co-author (with Gail Z. Martin) of the Spells, Salt, and Steel/New Templars series; the Steampunk series Iron & Blood; and a collection of short stories and novellas: The Storm & Fury Adventures set in the Iron & Blood universe. He is also the co-author of the upcoming Wasteland Marshals series and the Joe Mack Cauldron/Secret Council series. 

The Martins have three children, a Maltese, and a Golden Retriever.

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Stephanie LaPlante said...

Sounds like a great book.

Dan Denman said...

I like the images in the book cover. The description sounds like a lot of fun. I want to read about all of the monsters and battles.