“Transmutation of Shadow” Chapter 1

"Transmutation of Shadow" Chapter 1 — Kimia WoodCheck out the first chapter of my upcoming action-adventure Transmutation of Shadow! Meet Eric Kedzierski, psionic human and assassin extraordinaire…and, yes, his last name is very “long, ugly, and Polish” (his words).

Subscribe to the mailing list to be alerted as soon as it’s ready for publishing! (We’re currently waiting on beta reader feedback…)


Business As Usual

In which I kill somebody.

I eyed the two-lane country road, twenty yards below me.

“Target is four minutes out,” came Oscar’s voice through the plug in my ear.

“Roger,” I said, low toned.

Combat mics are designed to pick up soft voices. Of course, I was the only human being in about two miles of the spot. I’d made sure of that when I first arrived.

I double-checked my handiwork on the tree. It was already dead, leaning slightly toward the incline and the road. A storm had recently passed through, as the lightening-scorched poplar a hundred feet to my right showed, so the set-up was more believable.

I had weakened the base of the dead tree with a focused energy lance, and now all it would need was a concentrated mental shove. The age of the tree, and the lightening in the area, would both discourage anyone from analyzing for psionic scorches.

“Target three minutes out,” said Oscar.

I knelt at the base of my tree, the better to see the road through a gap in the foliage. My form-hugging combat suit protected my knees from the damp grass.

“Any word on the escort?” I asked.

“Armored SUV, three bodyguards, one driver,” said Oscar, from the data pulled up on his computer screen in the command center at Langley. “Chase vehicle about eight minutes behind, looks like, so you’ll have to hustle.”

I nodded to myself. The branches I had tossed onto the curve of the road fifty yards away would look like storm debris, and would make the car slow down.

“Three bodyguards,” I muttered. “Oil sheiks are paranoid, huh?”

“I think anybody who makes it onto our list is paranoid,” Oscar answered. “After all, it’s not just the United States he’s ticked off over the years. I’m sure there are some rival oil kings who’ve lost minions or trade deals to him. Maybe he’s responsible for that ambassador we lost in the Middle East. I don’t know; they don’t tell me these things.”

I adjusted my goggles, switching to thermal vision to make sure no stray cars were coming. The last thing I needed at the moment was a civilian blundering in to the set-up.

“Not my problem. I don’t make the big decisions,” I said.

My handler of many years said nothing. It’d been a standing inside joke between us: we don’t get paid enough to decide who should die. That’s for the bureaucrats who run the Agency to do. Got a complaint? Go talk to Congress.

Car engine. With a directed psionic ping, I received feedback in one of my goggles for movement telemetry.

Sure enough, they were moving around the corner. They slowed at the tree branches, and lumbered carefully around the curve.

“American car,” I whispered to Oscar.

“Huh?”

“It’s a GMC. Are you sure –?”

“Look, the spooks have been tracking them for weeks. Yes, it’s the right car. Go for it!”

The SUV cautiously picked up speed. The driver was being careful, given the hilly terrain.

Digital overlays in my goggles gave me the timing. With all the technology, this job was hardly a challenge —

I lanced the tree, giving it an energized shove with my hand for good measure. The tree crashed into the road, and the SUV plowed into it, squealing as the driver tried to apply the brakes.

As I sprinted down the hill from my hiding place, I was already feeling out the lock. Very standard stuff…I mean, couldn’t a corrupt Arab tyrant invest in a little more complicated door lock?

At the touch of my finger, an electrical pulse overrode the car’s computer, and I yanked the rear door open.

My other hand cracked the top on the vial, and nonlethal gas blew into the car. My glance flitted between the unconscious faces

“Target ID?” I hissed, checking with another psionic pulse that every heart was beating.

“Guy in the middle. Chase car is picking up speed; hurry.”

“Did you do a biometric –”

“It’s the guy in the middle, Shadow! I know my job.”

Holding my breath, I leaned into the car and un-clicked his seat belt. Touching – Ruthless Oil Despot was imitating American culture, with a very nice tailored suit.

With an energized heave, I flung him through the windshield. A psionic pulse, and my Heads Up Display flashed a confirmed death.

I relocked the door and sprinted back up the hill. There was nothing left to do. The tree left no traces. The car lock was un-breached.

And there were no collateral deaths.

“All right, Shadow. HUD says we’ve got a confirmed target elimination.”

I started the hike back to my car, pulled off the road and hidden on the other side of the hill. As I forged deeper into the trees, I heard the chase car’s engine purring around the corner.

“I guess the Middle East will be safer, now,” I said. “Though I can’t help wondering that they’d stage his death on American soil.”

Oscar said nothing for a moment. “Politics isn’t my game,” he said at last. “Especially foreign politics. It’s not our problem.”

Again, I nodded to myself, raising my goggles to see the variegated greenery around me unobstructed. A chipmunk popped its head out of a fallen log, stared at me, and ducked back in again.

With thermal vision, I’d be able to see his heat signature. But what would be the fun of that?

Besides, sometimes chipmunks and I both had to hide.


"Transmutation of Shadow" Chapter 1 — Kimia WoodKimia Wood was raised by an aspiring author, so spinning words and weaving plots is in her blood.

She currently lives with her family somewhere in the American midwest, bracing for the collapse of society by knitting, baking, writing, hobby-farming, and reading as much Twitter as possible before the web goes dark.

Subscribe to the mailing list for a FREE e-copy of her post-apocalyptic adventure novella, Soldier! You’ll also receive periodic updates on her latest reading and writing exploits!

“The Janson Directive” by Robert Ludlum

"The Janson Directive" by Robert Ludlum — Kimia Wood What is the cost of peace?

Robert Ludlum is most famous for The Bourne Identity, a spy thriller that inspired several sequels and movie adaptations. But in The Janson Directive, he has recaptured the magical combination of pulse-pounding thriller mixed with deeper psychological themes.

If you’ve got the stomach to get through it, of course. Sometimes the cost of peace is high. Continue reading

“The Collins Case” by Julie C. Gilbert

"The Collins Case" by Julie C. Gilbert — Kimia Wood — Christian Despite having a “Mystery/Thriller” cover and blurb, this book is actually a “Christian/Inspirational” story. If I had known better what to expect, and if the pacing had moved faster, I might have enjoyed this much more.

Slow Start

The story is ham-strung from the very beginning, where for the first chapter and a half, the only conflict is that Rachel Collins is unequally yoked – married to an unbeliever.

The scenes of the “happy little family” living their lives and unaware of the calamity awaiting them is a classic writer move to get readers to connect to the characters. Unfortunately, I had recently read the blurb and knew they got kidnapped – and I was aware of the author-ly tricks at work – and so was very un-invested.

If I was advising the author, I would suggest beginning with Mr. Collins coming home and discovering melted groceries on the counter, his wife’s car in the garage, her phone on the counter, and his family nowhere to be found. (This scene already exists, but is sapped of tension since we’ve already witnessed his family be snatched.) This kind of scenario is visceral enough to connect with readers without the lead-up…a lead-up that lost me before the plot even began. Continue reading

Top Ten Mysteries

I’m a huge fan of mysteries. “Top Ten Tuesday” is a list-making meme currently hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, and the theme for this week is a FREEBIE. Since I’ve noticed a troubling lack of mystery-related lists for Top Ten Tuesday, I offer up my list of the top ten…specifically, the mysteries which most took me by surprise or had the most satisfying twists!Top Ten Mysteries — Kimia Wood

1– Have His Carcase, Dorothy Sayers

Mystery author Harriet Vane is on a walking tour along the coast of England when she discovers a body with its throat cut. Along with her suitor and friend, noble sleuth Lord Peter Wimsey, she sets out tracking down suspects, busting alibis, and cracking conspiracies.

The twist is truly original, beautifully foreshadowed, and is surprising yet inevitable – and thus very satisfying.

All in all, an excellent mystery story, with a smattering of romance mixed in.

2– Gemini Rue (2011)

Top Ten Mysteries — Kimia WoodThe hook for this sci-fi puzzle game is a former assassin hunting for his long-lost brother. But there’s way more in this story about organized crime, friendship, and whether we can really trust our memories.

Read my full review to see how the twist totally floored me and made me a fan for life!

3– The Bourne Identity, Robert Ludlum

Top Ten Mysteries — Kimia WoodA man washes up in the Mediterranean Sea, riddled with bullets and more dead than alive. Several months of care on a tiny fishing island restore him to health, but not to himself – he can’t remember who he is.

Once he steps off the island, a world of danger and secrets rears up, threatening to swallow him unless his “gut-instincts” from who he was can keep him alive long enough to figure it out.

This amnesia mystery is not for everyone, but if you’ve got a strong stomach and conscience, it’s a fascinating onion of conspiracies and secrets!

4– The Maltese Falcon (1941)

This classic noir detective film stars the iconic Humphrey Bogart as Sam Spade – smooth-talking, quick-thinking, razor-sharp intelligent, and sly as a fox. When his partner is murdered, Sam sets out untangling a conspiracy of greed and murder, accompanied by a beautiful and mysterious woman wound in a cocoon of lies.

It’s not just a cultural icon — it’s also a terrific mystery story.

5– Clouds of Witness, Dorothy Sayers

Lord Peter Wimsey’s brother-in-law to be is murdered in the dead of night. Lord Peter’s brother is arrested for the crime, and to clear him Wimsey must delve deep into his sibling’s darkest secrets.

Full of intelligence and British wit, this is a fantastically tangled tale that resolves with a dramatic twist that stuns the entire House of Lords!

6– The Westing Game, Ellen Raskin

A bizarre chain of events begins when sixteen unlikely people gather for the reading of Samuel W. Westing’s will. And though no one knows why the eccentric, game-loving millionaire has chosen a virtual stranger—and a possible murderer—to inherit his vast fortune, one thing’s for sure: Sam Westing may be dead…but that won’t stop him from playing one last game!

This is a suspenseful and intriguing mystery, with a satisfying ending. There are a lot of characters, but they’re colorful and individual enough to be easily distinguished from each other.

7– “Now You See Him…” (Columbo Season 5)

Top Ten Mysteries — Kimia Wood

Image credit: marketwatch.com

The main question of Columbo is not who committed the murder, but how our shabby, trenchcoat-wearing, cigar-chomping protagonist assembles the evidence to finally nail the culprit.

In this episode, Lt. Columbo faces down a magician. While the ending might be a little “goofy”, it’s adorable, satisfying, and totally condemning (of the bad guy, that is).

8– Murder on the Orient Express, Agatha Christie

Fourteen passengers on a train. One is brutally murdered in the night. It has to be one of them…but who? The Russian princess? The Swedish maid? The American secretary?

Only Hercule Poirot could solve such a case. And trust me, it’s worth it to read the original classic!

9– “Candidate for Crime” (Columbo Season 3)

This episode is one of my all time favorites. As the ending stretches on, Columbo seems to be doing nothing, while the murderer trundles along doing exactly what he wants. Then, in the last five minutes of the show – BLAM! Columbo unleashes his smarts, and the perp can do nothing but hang his head in defeat.

10– Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective (2010)

Another video game – but one well worth your time! Sissel awakes in a junkyard to discover that he’s dead…but not just dead, dead with powers. He remembers nothing about his life, and must use his abilities to unravel the mystery of his own murder before dawn!

Full of easy physics puzzles, bright humor, and unforgettable characters, if you venture into Ghost Trick you will make friends for life (and also explore a neat amnesia mystery)!

Honorable Mention– The Tuesday Club Murders, Agatha Christie

This book is good the way pizza and popcorn are good. Perhaps they don’t have many vitamins, but they’re great to chow down on once in a while.

The short stories in this volume each feature a little mystery, and can be finished in about one sitting each. If you like brain puzzles, clever clue-laying, and brilliant old ladies, you’ll suck this down like a peanut-butter chocolate shake – just as I did!

What are some of your favorite mysteries? What story twists have made you go, “Uhg! I should have seen that coming. This is awesome!”

(Did you see what I did? I went through a whole TTT post without mentioning the Master Chief!)


Top Ten Mysteries — Kimia WoodKimia Wood grew up under an aspiring author, so spinning words and weaving plots is in her blood.

She currently lives with her family somewhere in the American midwest, bracing for the collapse of society by knitting, baking, writing, and reading as much Twitter as possible before the web goes dark.

Join the mailing list for a FREE copy of her post-apocalyptic adventure novella Soldier!

“The Bourne Identity” by Robert Ludlum

"The Bourne Identity" by Robert Ludlum — Kimia Wood — Bourne A man washes up in the Mediterranean Sea, riddled with bullets and more dead than alive. Several months of care on a tiny fishing island restore him to health, but not to himself – he can’t remember who he is.

Once he steps off the island, a world of danger and secrets rears up, threatening to swallow him unless his “gut-instincts” from who he was can keep him alive long enough to figure it out.

Full of shoot-outs, bodies, and secrets peeling back like onion skins, this book is an action-packed read – for the discerning. Continue reading

“Goodbye California” by Alistair MacLean

 Alistair MacLean is known for action-packed, fast-moving, high-stakes mysteries. Goodbye California is no different.

Terrorists have attacked a nuclear power station, stolen truck-loads of nuclear fuel, and kidnapped several nuclear physicist professors and some female secretaries. What is their plan? What do they want?

The husband of one of the kidnapped women is a detective sergeant – a “cop” who can be a terror to those both inside and outside the law. He and his son (CHP) lay down their badges to pursue their own lines of inquiry…all of them racing against the clock once the villain threatens to detonate a nuclear device to create a tidal wave across Los Angeles. Continue reading