Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Excerpt & Giveaway: THE REPUBLIC OF JACK

Jeffrey Kerr

Political Satire / Texas Humor / Texas Fiction
Publisher: Independently published
Date of Publication: April 7, 2020
Number of Pages: 253

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Jack Cowherd will do anything to win the Texas governorship, even flirt with twenty-first-century secessionists in the Texas Patriot Party. Victory is achieved, but only at the cost of Texas being tossed out of the United States. The Republic of Texas lives again! And Jack is president. 

Friend and political advisor Tasha Longoria has long warned Jack of the dangers of his demagoguery. Now when he tries to halt the madness, the worst comes to pass: he is impeached, arrested, and charged with treason, the penalty for which is death.

Jack has but one chance to save his beloved Texas, not to mention his life. But success depends upon help from the one person least likely to give it . . . Tasha.

PRAISE for The Republic of Jack:

"Jeff Kerr's Republic of Jack is a ribald, raucous farce of Texas politics that often exposes the self-serving cynicism boiling beneath the surface of public debate."

—Texas political reporter R.G. Ratcliffe 

"Jeffrey Kerr's ideal Texas politician—a man truly for these bitter times—bites off more than any enabler could ever chew in this romp of a new novel, The Republic of Jack! It's time for readers to discover this writer's range, intelligence, humor, and, ultimately, compassion. Or maybe you should just go and see his movie or read his catalog of nonfiction titles! In any case, it's Jeff Kerr's time."

David Marion Wilkinson, author of Not Between Brothers and co-author of One Ranger


The Republic of Jack
Excerpt from Chapter 15

 At that moment, the old guy was preoccupied with studying the pattern in the carpet at his feet. The combination of dots and curved lines looked like a dog if you stared long enough, Fred thought, or maybe a rabbit. He dismissed the notion and raised his head to answer. “He’s probably busy banging an intern.”
Hopeful, Jack raised an eyebrow. “Have you heard something? Maybe we could use it.”
“No, they’ve shut that sort of thing down. Clinton ruined it for everybody.”
Tasha strolled into the room and dropped into a chair. “Felicia said to tell you that Harris is on the line.”
Jack snatched the phone. “Mr. President, thank you for taking my call.”
At his desk in the Oval Office, a relaxed President Harris leaned back in his stuffed chair and said, “Oh, so it’s ‘Mr. President’ now. I thought I was the ‘jack-booted thug.’”
Jack grimaced. “Mr. President, you know how things are on the campaign trail. I have always had the greatest respect for you.”
“What do you want, Jack?”
 “Well, it’s about that presidential order. Does that really count? I didn’t know a President could do that.”
“Absolutely, it counts. The attorney general and forty-eight state governors agree with me.”
“All except Rhode Island. Rhode Island shouldn’t even be a state. You’ve got counties in Texas bigger than Rhode Island.”
“Sir, uh, we didn’t secede.”
“I saved you the trouble. You’re welcome.”
“It just seems kind of hasty.”
“No, you've had this coming for years. Anyway, I can't take it back, we're already making a forty-nine-star flag. That way you get seven rows with seven stars each. Looks better like that, don't you think?”
“Yes, sir. I mean no, sir. You can’t take our star off the flag.”
“Can and did, Jack. You Texans are so proud of that lone star shit, so there you go, now you really are a lone star.”
“Maybe if I flew up there we could discuss it.”
“No dice, Jack, you'd need a passport. I'm told that takes about six weeks. Oh, costs a hundred bucks too.”
“You won’t let me come?”
“Gotta protect our borders, Jack.   Which you are now outside of. You Texans understand that.”
“But, sir—”
“Gotta go, Jack, got a country to run. Hey, let me know if you guys want to send an ambassador. You know, Earl Campbell, Willie Nelson, somebody like that.”
“Mr. President, can we talk about this? Mr. President?”  Jack slammed down the phone. “Shit, he hung up on me.”
“That sounded bad,” said Tasha with a sigh.
Jack massaged his temples. “Tasha, what am I gonna do?”
“Ask Fred. He’s been giving you such good advice.”
Fred bolted upright. “Hey, I was paid to do a job. Mission accomplished too, by the way.”
Tasha snorted. “If your mission was to flush us down the toilet, yeah, you did great.”
Fred grumbled something unintelligible and returned to his study of the carpet.
“Don’t get your britches in a twist, little lady.”  Charlie Clutterbuck had slipped into the room. “This is the greatest thing that’s ever happened to Texas.”
“That’s what I’ve been saying,” said Fred.
Charlie ignored Fred and marched up to Jack. “Mr. President, you’ve got a cabinet meeting in half an hour.”
Jack stopped massaging his aching temples and looked up at Charlie. “What are you talking about? I don’t have a cabinet.”
“A prospective cabinet, then. I took the liberty of inviting a few of the boys over for a sit-down.”
“No girls?” Tasha asked.
“Figure of speech,” said Charlie.
Are there any women?” said Jack.
“Well, no, but Senator Donaldson is an expert on women’s issues.”
Tasha’s jaw dropped in astonishment. “An expert on women’s issues? He’s the guy who forced the closure of all the Planned Parenthood clinics with his anti-abortion bill.”
“See? What did I tell you?”
 “I ran a campaign for him once,” said Fred. “We did have trouble with the vagina vote.”
Tasha angrily smacked her thigh. “The vagina vote?”
“Settle down, Wonder Woman,” said Charlie. “Women do have vaginas.”
“Yeah, it’s better than the ‘C’ word,” said Fred with a nod.
Charlie said, “He’s right, little lady, my ex-wife hated that word.”
Jack clasped his hands together and looked at Charlie.  “Where’s the meeting?”
Charlie smiled smugly at Tasha. “Conference room at the Capitol.”
Disgusted, Tasha stood and made for the door.
Jack said. “We’ll be there.”
Tasha stopped. “We?”
“Hey,” said Fred. “You wanted a woman there, didn’t you?”

Jeffrey Kerr is the author of three nonfiction books on Texas history, a historical novel, and, most recently, The Republic of Jack, a satirical novel that imagines Texas as an independent country in the twenty-first century. His history of Austin's founding, Seat of Empire: The Embattled Birth of Austin, Texas, was named one of sixty essential books about Texas by Michael Barnes of the Austin American-Statesman. Kerr also co-wrote and co-produced the documentary film, The Last of the Moonlight Towers, and a feature film, the psychological thriller Writer’s Block. He lives in Austin, Texas, with his wife and two dogs.

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One Winner: One signed copy of The Republic of Jack
July 7-17, 2020

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Monday, July 6, 2020

Monday Roundup: Texas Literary Calendar July 5-12, 2020

Bookish goings-on in Texas for the week of July 5-12, 2020, compiled exclusively for Lone Star Literary Life by Texas Book Lover.   

Special events this week include a Barrio Writers virtual writing camp for kids, the Texas Library Association's Virtual Summer of Learning, and Diverse Literary Voices of Texas: Protests & Civil Rights. Most events are still online via Facebook Live, Instagram Live, Zoom, and other venues. 

For a complete calendar of bookish events in Texas this week, including special events, daily listings, and exhibits, visit the GO! Calendar at Lone Star Lit

Monday, June 29, 2020

Excerpt & Giveaway: GATES OF MARS

The Halo Trilogy #1
Genre: Science Fiction / Detective (hard-boiled) 
Publisher:  Pumpjack Press on Facebook
Date of Publication: June 16, 2020
Number of Pages: 336

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The year is 2187. Crucial Larsen, a veteran of the brutal Consolidation Wars, is working as a labor cop on Earth. The planet is a toxic dump and billions of people are miserable, but so what? It’s none of his business. He’s finally living a good life, or good enough. But then Essential, his beloved kid sister, disappears on Mars. When Halo—the all-powerful artificial-intelligence overseeing Earth and Mars on behalf of the ruling Five Families—can’t (or won’t) locate his sister, Crucial races up-universe to find her. 

In the Choke, the frigid, airless expanse outside the luxury domes, Crucial uncovers a deadly secret from Essential’s past that threatens to shatter his apathetic existence … and both planets. Blending science fiction with the classic, hard-boiled detective story, Gates of Mars is a page-turning, futuristic thrill-ride featuring a gritty, irreverent anti-hero, Crucial Larsen. The first book of the Halo Trilogy, Gates of Mars is the eighth novel by award-winning authors, Clark Hays and Kathleen McFall.


"An indelible introduction to an interplanetary saga and its sublime characters."
Kirkus Reviews

"The authors' imaginations again run wild, this time a science fiction/detective series looking at what our lives may hold in the not too distant future if everything that can go wrong does go wrong. And they've done it with their trademark undercurrent of humor that lifts an otherwise dreary future into something resembling—do I dare say?—hope. Their best work to date. And the giraffes? You'll have to read Gates of Mars to find out. I'm already wishing they could write faster." —Renee Struthers, East Oregonian newspaper

"With twists and turns true to some of the best noir detective pieces—but with an other-world setting and futuristic society—along with psychological insights and connections, Gates of Mars is a riveting, unexpected story, filled with intrigue and change. Sci-fi and detective story readers alike with find Gates of Mars one of a kind, worthy of avid pursuit." —Midwest Book Review


Amazon  ||  Barnes & Noble

By Clark Hays and Kathleen McFall

10:20 a.m., August 31, 2187
Multnomah Ward, DuSpoles Consumer Protectorate Unit, Earth

     “Please state your full name and occupation.”
     The voice is soft, soothing, with an undercurrent of authority but not threatening. Perfect for me.
     I stare into the unblinking eye of the camera and think about the room full of security analysts and intel hacks listening in on the other side of the wall. Or the other side of the ward. Or on the other planet, more likely.
     They’re watching and listening like they need to be there, but that’s really ego on their part. Halo does all the work. It doesn’t need them, doesn’t need any human at this point. Halo is monitoring everything—the dilation of my eyes, the pace of my breathing, the sweat gathering in the small of my back, the clothes I wore to this little inquest and why. It knows what I had for breakfast—mirror-gin and a squirt of nut protein on a square of kelp cake. It knows my debt (too much), the kind of avatainment I watch (also too much) and the day I will likely die and how.
     Halo knows everything about me.
     Almost everything.
     Halo lives on data, and it’s identified a gap in my story. But the biggest, most advanced AI the two planets have ever known can’t piece together the missing data.
     I need to keep it that way to avoid death. Or worse. Like being sent through a labor-loyalty reconditioning module. But the truth is I don’t much care what happens to me right now. What I do care about is keeping Halo guessing about that data gap for at least twelve hours. That should be enough time.
     It’s going to be a long night. And day.
     “My name is Crucial Larsen. I’m an officer in the Law Enforcement Corps, Labor Division, Multnomah Ward.”
     After a small pause, Halo talks again.
     “Thank you, Crucial. May I call you Crucial?”
     “Sure,” I say. “May I call you Halo?”
     “Of course, it’s a common nickname.”
     Another pause, a learned pause.
     “Crucial, were you recently on Mars?”
     The pause is learned because the q-machines can do everything much better and faster than us, but Halo knows not to rush because speed tends to put humans, slow and sloppy, on the defensive. Sometimes that’s a good thing, and Halo knows that too. I guess I should take pride in the fact that it’s trying harder with me. Small victories.
     Halo already knows ninety-nine percent of everything about my time on Mars. But it wants to know the rest. It’s what’s in the one percent that counts, what it cares about.
     To be accurate, it doesn’t care. The Five Families want to know the rest. Halo does their bidding.
From here on out, anything I say will be cross-checked with a million possible answers, correlated with my tone and vitals and eye movements, and compiled into a billion possibilities that can be tested and retested and analyzed for probabilities, and all of that in half a millisecond as it tries to get me to talk too much.
     “I was on Mars,” I say. “But you know that already. You can only leave Earth on the Dart, and you run the Dart. Why don’t you be direct and ask me what you really want to know?”
     “Would you like some water? You are dehydrated.”
     “Water would be fine,” I say. “Or something stronger.”
     “That’s not allowed under the current circumstances.”
     “Exactly what are the current circumstances?” I ask. “Am I under arrest?”
     “Of course not,” Halo says.
     “I’m free to go?”
     “That’s not the case either.”
     I shift in my seat and try to get comfortable. “Then how about a cup of tea?”
     Tea, real tea, hasn’t grown on this dumpster fire of a planet in gods know how long but they brought it back on Mars. Up there, I had a variety called Irish Breakfast. It knocked my taste buds back to childhood.
     “Do you have a preferred flavor profile, Crucial?”
     “Something smoky?”
     “Irish Breakfast?”
     Of course, it knew that’s what I drank on Mars. “That’ll do.”
     “Excellent choice.”
     “I’m glad you approve, since you have no taste buds.”
     “Sweetener or cream?”
     I shake my head.
     A square on the silver desk slides back and a steaming mug of tea lifts up on a silent pedestal.
There’s a whirring sound as the optics adjust. The room brightens. It’s planned of course. To signal that the time for pleasantries has ended.
     “Why did you go to Mars, Crucial?”
     I didn’t want to go to Mars. I spent the first forty-one years of my life trying to avoid that very thing.
     “To find my sister, Essential Larsen. She disappeared. I was asked to help locate her.”
     “Did you find her?”
     “Yes. But I was too late.”
     “That must have been hard. You spoke to your sister before she disappeared. When was this?”
     I sip the tea. It burns the roof of my mouth. Halo can optimize temperature. This is intentional.
     “About two weeks ago, give or take,” I say.
     It’s a lie, of course, but it’s a half-lie, which is the best kind because I might be able to slip it past Halo. I did talk to Essential two weeks ago, but it certainly wasn’t the last time.
     Halo knows about that first call she made to me from Mars. It was recorded, like everything else. It was the call that started the whole supernova of events that landed me here in this sterile room being questioned by an all-knowing godsdamned machine.

To continue reading, please visit All the Ups and Downs blog, 7/2/2020 or later.

Clark and Kathleen wrote their first book together in 1999 as a test for marriage. They passed.

Gates of Mars is their eighth co-authored book.

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TWO WINNERS: One Winner: First edition copy of A Very Unusual Romance 
One Winner: All four books in The Cowboy and the Vampire Collection 
June 29-July 8, 2020
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