Hell Holes: What Lurks Below

Hell Holes: What Lurks Below by Donald Firesmith


GENRE: Science Fiction (Apocalyptic)


Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000026_00096]BLURB:  It’s August in Alaska, and geology professor Jack Oswald prepares for the new school year. But when hundreds of huge holes mysteriously appear overnight in the frozen tundra north of the Arctic Circle, Jack receives an unexpected phone call. An oil company exec hires Jack to investigate, and he picks his climatologist wife and two of their graduate students as his team. Uncharacteristically, Jack also lets Aileen O’Shannon, a bewitchingly beautiful young photojournalist, talk him into coming along as their photographer. When they arrive in the remote oil town of Deadhorse, the exec and a biologist to protect them from wild animals join the team. Their task: to assess the risk of more holes opening under the Trans-Alaska Pipeline and the wells and pipelines that feed it. But they discover a far worse danger lurks below. When it emerges, it threatens to shatter Jack’s unshakable faith in science. And destroy us all…


Excerpt:  My phone rang. Angie paused so that I could take the call. It was from Kevin Kowalski, an ExxonMobil manager for whom I’d occasionally worked as a consultant.

“Dr. Oswald,” he said when I answered. “Thank God, I got you. We have a big problem, and I need you up here right away.”

“What kind of a problem?” I asked, putting him on speakerphone so the others could hear. “Classes are about to start and I need to…”

“Forget the classes,” Kowalski interrupted. “We have a disaster in the making up here. You know those huge holes that opened last year in northern Siberia?”

“Sure,” I replied. “They’re probably just big sinkholes caused by the melting of subsurface ice or the melting of very large pingos.”

“Huh? What’s a pingo?” Kowalski asked. To Kowalski, surface features were merely something that made life difficult when drilling wells and piping oil.

“Pingos,” I replied, “are large conical hills of ice covered with a relatively thin layer of dirt. Anyway, what about the sinkholes? Are you telling me we’ve got one up on the North Slope?”

“Damned straight,” Kowalski answered angrily. “In the last twenty-four hours, we’ve spotted over two dozen, and several have opened up near our oil wells. There’s one close to the Trans-Alaska Pipeline down near Pump Station 2, and I don’t have to tell you the hell there’ll be to pay if another one opens up under the pipeline. We’re facing a financial and environmental disaster, and I need you up in Deadhorse ASAP. How soon can you put a team together? We need to know what’s causing them and how likely it is that one will open under our facilities.”


AUTHOR Bio and Links:

AuthorPhotoA computer geek by day, at night and on weekends Donald Firesmith writes modern paranormal fantasy, apocalyptic science fiction, action and adventure novels and relaxes by handcrafting magic wands from magical woods and mystical gemstones.
A computer geek by day, Donald Firesmith works as a system and software engineer helping the US Government acquire large, complex software-intensive systems. In this guise, he has authored seven technical books, written numerous software- and system-related articles and papers, and spoken at more conferences than he can possibly remember. He is also proud to have been named a Distinguished Engineer by the Association of Computing Machinery, although his pride is tempered somewhat worrying whether the term “distinguished” makes him sound more like a graybeard academic rather than an active engineer whose beard is still more red than gray.
By night and on weekends, his alter ego writes modern paranormal fantasy, apocalyptic science fiction, action and adventure novels and relaxes by handcrafting magic wands from various magical woods and mystical gemstones. His first foray into fiction is the book Magical Wands: A Cornucopia of Wand Lore written under the pen name Wolfrick Ignatius Feuerschmied. He lives in Crafton, Pennsylvania with his wife Becky, his son Dane, and varying numbers of dogs, cats, and birds.

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1290902.Donald_G_FiresmithBook Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/embed/amXuTAlKoX0

Buy Links: The book is free 


Praise Quotes

“I enjoyed my time in Firesmith’s world. I did not want to leave. I really got a kick out of it, and would happily come back for more. Recommended.”
MJ Kobernus, author of The Guardian: Blood in the Sand

“This book rocks.”
Barton Paul Levenson, author of Dark Gods of Alter Telluria

“a quick, enjoyable read. Full of action and fraught with danger”
Dave Robertson, author of Strange Hunting, Strange Hunting II, and The Brave and The Dead

“The book is an easy and quick read and an action-filled one that you’ll imagine as a TV series or a movie with no difficulty.”
Olga Núñez Miret, author of Escaping Psychiatry



Donald will be awarding an autographed copy of the Hell Holes 2: Demons on the Dalton (US ONLY) to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

Enter to win an autographed copy of the book – a Rafflecopter giveaway

An Unwilling Suspect by Jo A. Hiestand

An Unwilling Suspect by Jo A. Hiestand

~~~~~~~~~~~~~   Blurb:

GENRE: British mystery

McLaren’s fiancée tragically died one month ago. Trying to heal emotionally from her death, McLaren settles into a rented farmhouse in the woods near picturesque Lake Windermere, in Cumbria. But he’s barely had a chance to rest when Helen, the woman in the neighboring cottage, is killed…and is discovered near his front door.

Because McLaren had spent much of the previous day with her, and his snowy footprints lead to and from her house, he becomes the prime murder suspect in what the police label a frustrated romantic advance.

Motives for Helen’s murder are as chilling as the outdoor temperature. There’s the hands-on garage mechanic who’d like to put his hands all over her, the affluent fishing guide, and Helen’s former boyfriend who wanted to renew the relationship.

Can McLaren find the killer before the police jail him for murder? Continue reading

Cherry Clafoutis

Sarachel gave me some cherries the other day. They were too sour to eat, but perfect for a clafoutis. Interestingly, the name is said to come from the Occitan dialect word claufir, to cover or fill – which could describe the way the batter covers the cherries. There are two schools of clafoutis. One is the pitters and one is the pitted’s. I never pit cherries for my clafoutis. Just warn the people about to bite in…The reasons are that, 1) the pit adds extra flavor, and 2) it’s easier, and 3) it’s not so slushy.

Here is my recipe:

Enough cherries to cover the bottom of your pie tin. (I used a shallow rectangular pyrex cake dish)

40 g melted butter; 4 eggs; 3/4 cup milk, half a cup of flour; 1/4 cup sugar; teaspoon vanilla (optional – I never use it). 

Wash and dry the cherries, but don’t pit them. (Yes, take off the stems…) Put them in the bottom of your greased cake or pie tin. Preheat oven to 400°. Melt the butter, add the sugar and beat until creamy. Add the flour and eggs and stir well – add the milk and whisk everything together but don’t fret about small lumps – it’s like pancake batter – it will be fine. Pour over the cherries.

Pop into the hot oven for ten minutes, then lower the heat to 350° and cook 15 – 20 minutes more. It will rise and bubble. Remove from oven and let cool.

You can sprinkle confectioners sugar over it to decorate (I never do, but it looks pretty).  Enjoy – and watch out for the pits! 

Clafoutis grand-mère aux cerises



The weather report said we were going to have a two week heat wave, starting today. So far, twelve hours into the fortnight, the report has been correct. This morning there was not a cloud in the sky. I took Auguste for a walk before breakfast, and already the sun is scorching. I mopped the floor to cool the air, dropped all the shutters and closed the windows, turned on the fan, and did a load of laundry. I’ll hang it to dry in the apartment, and that will further cool the air. As you can see, there is no air conditioning here in France (or very little).

Here are my heat-beating plans for the next two weeks:

Lemonade (my Great-aunt Minnie made the Best lemonade – her recipe is easy: take three (preferably organic grown) lemons, wash them well. Cut into small chunks, put in heavy pitcher with 1 cup sugar and crush with a wooden spoon.  Add water, a mint leaf, and strain into tall glasses full of ice cubes. 

Wet kitchen towels. At the height of the last heat wave, when the apartment was hopelessly hot, and neither fans nor lemonade helped, I wet kitchen towels and hung them on a broom in front of the fan. The other towels went draped over my legs. Instant cool!

Mint tea. In Morocco, I drank steaming hot, very sweet mint tea. The Moroccans drink it all day long, and in the worst of the heat, it’s oddly cooling. You take whole sprigs of mint and using a spoon, crush them in a glass with a sugar cube (or three or four). (The Moroccans love it very sweet). Then,  in a teapot, steep some gunpowder green tea leaves.  What you should do is first add a cup of boiling water and then, after only a few seconds, pour that “spirit tea water” carefully into a cup & save it. Now, fill the teapot again with boiling water and swirl it around to “clean” the leaves.  Discard the resulting tea-pouring-getty-2564-x-3884.jpgmurky tea. Fill the pot a third time and add the cup of “spirit tea water” you’ve saved. Add the crushed mint and sugar  and bring to a boil. Do not stir! Pour into tall glasses, using a strainer if you don’t have a teapot with a long spout.

Beat the heat by waking up early and opening all the doors and windows. As soon as the sun rises and starts to heat the air, close everything and make sure the rooms stay in the shade. After next week, the air at night will most likely be as hot as daytime, so I will have to get up at 4 or 5 am to open the windows and let in the cool. There is always a moment of cool at dawn…

Go to the local parks. Under the tall trees, the deep shade is cool. We take picnics to the park and sit on the grass. After, it’s time for a long nap. In Spain, where the heat is unbearable, everyone naps at noon. The streets are empty until five or six in the evening.

Head to the coast. If all else fails, head to the coast. Deauville and Trouville are only an hour and a half away from us – and the English Channel is always icy cold. We can go for the day and play in the surf, have a dish of mussels, and come back late at night – itchy with sand and salt, but refreshed!

And if you’re not hot enough – here is my blog from 2 years ago:

All day long, the sun beats down and the wind blows fever hot. In the courtyard, the leaves on the trees and bushes droop and the grass crackles. In the evening, the sky turns apricot and gold, tangerine and salmon, the clouds tinged with glittering dust.

Yesterday, trains were delayed, tempers frayed, and I made lemonade with fresh mint from my balcony. This morning, I was woken up by a grumble of thunder and a few drops of rain cooled the morning air for a brief moment, but then the sun rose and now the sky is white with roaring heat. Today we stay inside, shades and windows closed, and sit in front of the fan.  11403210_10153444393195798_836473422188519935_n

The plants are gasping, I will water them when the sky is dark. The heat leaches every drop of moisture from the air.


Soon summer

The solstice is right around the corner. Here in France, it’s the fete de la musique, with public transportation free all evening and bands and musiciens on every street corner. The town of Mantes will set up the stage in the square for the bands, and we will stroll through the streets, listening to rock n’ roll, acordians, hard metal, folk, and much more. Hopefully the weather will be good, because last year it rained buckets, and although the sky cleared dramatically for the festival, everything was still damp and the air cool.  Continue reading

The Last Gig by Norman Green

Cover_TheLastGigThe Last Gig
by Norman Green


GENRE: Mystery (detective)



A teenage runaway from the Brownsville projects, Alessandra Martillo lived with an indifferent aunt who had taken her in when her mother killed herself, and later, after more than a year on the streets, a caring uncle found her, took her in, and showed her she had a chance. That was many years ago, and now Alessandra’s all grown up, working for a sleazy P.I., repossessing cars, and trolling for waitstaff on the take. The cases aren’t glamorous, or interesting, but the work pays the bills. And she’s good at it—if there’s one thing she’s learned since leaving the streets, it’s how to take care of herself around life’s shadier elements.

When an Irish mobster named Daniel “Mickey” Caughlan thinks someone on the inside of his shipping operation is trying to set him up for a fall, it’s Al he wants on the job. She’s to find the traitor and report back. But just a little digging shows it’s more complicated than a simple turncoat inside the family; Al’s barely started on the case when she runs into a few tough guys trying to warn her away. Fools. As if a little confrontation wouldn’t make her even more determined. Continue reading

The Louvre

I love living near Paris,  because one of my favorite places in the world is The Louvre. It’s huge, and I have noticed that I never see the same things twice, no matter how hard I try. For 15 euros, you get a full-priced day pass, enabling you to go to all parts of the huge palace. The other day, I took my sister, brother-in-law, and nephew to see the museum. “What do you want to see most?” I asked – and my nephew replied “Rembrandt“.  Luckily the Louvre is like your corner drugstore – it has a little of everything. Once we finished with the Greek statues, the Egyptian exhibit (my favorite – it covers over 5,000 years of history – So cool!), the Neolithic room, & the Spanish and German religious sculptures, we headed to the North European paintings –  and got lost.  Continue reading

The English Proposal

The English Proposal is a historical Christian Romance. Set in England, during the Napoleonic Wars, I imagine, it features a headstrong, beautiful heroine and her dilemma – she’s engaged to her best friend, and in love with another man. The author, Jenna Brandt, is my guest blogger!

The Window to the Heart Saga started out as short story. I loved the character, Margaret, so much, I decided to write a whole book around her, which later turned into a three-part series, centering around her life and the trials and obstacles she faced. The original book leant itself to a trilogy type set-up because Book 1 was set in England, Book 2 was set in France and Book 3 was set in America. Hence the names, The English Proposal, The French Encounter, and The American Conquest. Continue reading


We have a favorite game now – we always have favorite games. I love games, my kids love games, and we have tons. But lately we have been playing One Night Werewolf and it’s a blast. A typical game starts with Sebi looking at me and saying, “Mom’s a werewolf” – no matter what card I have. And I can never bluff my way out of it – if I’m not the werewolf I’ll sputter that I am Not the Werewolf, and the kids believe me, or if I AM the werewolf I turn red and that’s it for me – unless the Robber or the Troublemaker switched my card.

Alex and Sebi are consummate liars – which makes me wonder if I’ve done such a great job raising them. They lie about everything in the game – even if they are the Seer or something innocuous. They lie – and they somehow convince me that poor Tony (their best friend since 5th grade) is lying, and so Tony and I lose (he’s usually a villager). If you want to play, it’s easy and here are the cards to print – you should download the app that speaks while everyone has their eyes closed.

Julia is a pretty good player, but she doesn’t lie as well as the twins. The worst is when both twins are werewolves. The best is when I’m the Troublemaker and I switch them around.