Blog Tour + Excerpt + Giveaway: Flying Mutant Zombie Rats (Moto Maddie BMX Portal #1) by Kat de Falla

Title: Flying Mutant Zombie Rats (Moto Maddie BMX Portal #1)
Author: Kat de Falla
Release Date: December 2, 2018
Pages: 132
Age Group: Middle Grade

Summer vacation is almost here! And Pea O'Neil is stoked to try out the new local BMX track which is finally open. He and his gang of friends can ride all summer long! But when Pea tries a back flip, he unwittingly opens a portal to another dimension and hordes of flying mutant zombie rats are unleashed upon the city. With the help of an otherworldly talking cat sent to help prevent the demise of humankind, Pea and his friends must hunt down the hungry mutants and send them back before the portal closes. But when the zombie rats attack a neighbor man, the boys have to enlist the help of a graveyard looney and the city's stray cats. With time running out, Pea and his gang track the monsters to the city's sewer system. But in the city sewer of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, it’s eat…or get eaten.

June 1982, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

“Peabody Cleveland O’Neal the Third, you turn out that light right now! No matter how much you wish otherwise, it is still a school night.”

He groaned, but did what his mom asked. He hated when she—or anyone else, really—used his full name. Didn’t his dad or his grandpa realize how much the name sucked before saddling him with it too? It was bad enough everyone called him “Pea,” although even that was better than “Peabody.”

Pea tried to go to sleep. He really did. But nothing worked. Not even counting sheep. His mom was right—it was a school night. Even better, tomorrow was the last day of school before summer vacation.

But as he tossed in his bed, staring at his ceiling fan, he couldn’t make that matter. He couldn’t wait one more second for daylight. He wanted school and his paper route to be over so he could be out racing his BMX bike!

He tried kicking off his blankets, then pulling them back on. Nothing worked. When the clock read 3:38 a.m. he gave up and decided to risk sneaking out.

Just a peek. A quick drive-by. Maybe it would calm him down before the big event tomorrow afternoon: the opening of his very own neighborhood BMX bike track, designed by none other than Moto Maddie, the local hero. His PJs and high-tops would suffice for the jaunt.

He wrenched up his bedroom window and hopped into the bush that cushioned his landing on all his late-night escapades. Hoping his dad had forgotten to lock the garage again, he tiptoed past his mother’s roses. He crouched low as he passed under his parents’ bedroom window, timing his steps with his dad’s chainsaw snoring. So far so good. Past the pear tree. Around the ratty swing set. He twisted the garage doorknob with a sweaty palm. It turned. He slipped inside with a sigh of relief.
There she was. His trusty Redline bike with white frame and red and black lettering. He wheeled her into the alley and was off.

The residents of his neighborhood were out cold. Even the next-door neighbor, the notorious night owl Mr. Avalon, was sprawled on the couch, sound asleep despite his bright living room lights and the television still flashing images.

An unusual early June heat wave made the night air muggy and thick. He was grateful for the breeze he created as he zipped down sidewalks and through dark alleys. Finally he eased to a stop inside the tree line of the park, where a small, newly painted sign hung on a chain-link fence:

Moto Maddie’s BMX Track
Dedicated to all those with no fear and a desire for speed.
Ride at your own risk.

A risk Pea was ready to take every day.

Moto Maddie was a local girl, a diva of sorts to the BMX community. And she was beyond good. She’d hit the big time—got sponsored by a local business at fifteen, which led to a major sponsor at seventeen. Pea and his friends watched in awe when she raced at the State Fair Park the summer before she went away to college. She’d vowed to give back to the community that had supported her. She was true to her word. Her uncle owned a construction business and her dad owned this little chunk of vacant land. Moto Maddie drew up the plans herself. To Pea and his friends, she was now an official local legend.

Lightning zapped behind ominous clouds. But no rain.

Pea leaned his bike behind a tree on the sidewalk, then hopped the fence with ease.

The new dirt track took his breath away. It was a mesh of all things BMXers could wish for—a sweet half-pipe built right into the racetrack! The crazy-high berms tucked at the two sharpest turns would have him riding almost parallel to the ground. There was even a professional-style starting gate. Plus, the track was way bigger than it looked from the outside.

Over. The. Top.

The track probably looked like a junkyard without junk to adults. Good, maybe they’d stay away—because to BMX kids, this was heaven. He couldn’t resist walking along the middle of the dirt track, imagining each jump, corner, and trick he and his friends would practice all summer.

The lightning came fast now and he counted the seconds until the thunder followed. The storm was getting close. Just a few more minutes.

Bang! Pop! A bolt of light extended from the sky and slammed into the bushes in front of him, throwing him backward. Wisps of smoke trailed up from charred branches.

Then the bushes…jumped.

Pea’s heart thumped. He glued his eyes on the bush. Was someone in there?

Bright flashes of yellow-green light sparked from inside the crackling bushes like a science experiment gone wrong. Squinting, he watched for movement. Did a squirrel get struck by lightning?
“Is anyone there?” he called.

A huge flash blinded him for a second. The branches rustled and cracked as the air itself...changed. The air rippled. Everything looked wavy, like a stone dropped in a calm lake. Then in a blink, everything went back to normal.

“I’m losing it,” Pea said out loud. “Shocker.”

Or not. The branches lurched back and forth again, worse than before, as if someone or something was trying to get out. Pea braced himself for an angry raccoon or a possum. He picked up a stick, brandishing it like a weapon. “You coming out?” he asked. Fear was not in his repertoire. He’d inherited that from his dad. When his friends ran away, Pea was usually the one to stay put or take a step forward.

Once more, the leaves and shrubs shook, but this time a flying ball of fur hurtled toward him. He took a swing at it and missed.

Whatever it was, maybe it hadn’t come out voluntarily.

Pea whirled around only to realize it was a tabby cat. And like a cat, it landed on all fours facing Pea. He lowered his stick. The cat’s hair stood on end and its tail was a blur of angry fur. It was brown and black with white on its chest and part of its left ear was missing, as if it had been ripped off. Stranger still, its eyes glowed a bright electric blue.

The cat looked as startled to see Pea as Pea was to see it.

“You win the fight in there, tomcat?” Pea jerked a thumb toward the shrubs. At least this explained all the noise. But what about that weird ripple in the air? And the colors?

The cat cocked his head and gave Pea that Oh, you’re only a dumb human look cats pull off so well. Yet, something about this cat was different. Pea couldn’t put his finger on it.

Cops. Chasing someone, or checking out a report of a lightning strike? Either way, Pea’s bike wasn’t totally hidden and kids tooling around the inner city of Milwaukee in their PJs in the middle of the night weren’t looked upon too kindly. Time to scram.

“Later, Tom. Hope you catch Jerry.” He jogged to the fence then stopped, looking back for the cat. The animal had vanished. And the bushes were quiet.

He hopped the fence, sped home, parked his bike, and snuck back into his house in record time. Right before the rain came down in buckets.

Images swirled in Pea’s mind before he fell into a fitful sleep: lightning strikes, the BMX track, rippling air, the tomcat with blue eyes.

Pea woke up to the glaring light of the eastern sun.

He blinked. No, it can’t be!

The tomcat sat perched in his open bedroom window. Like he’d been waiting there all night.

“Wait for me!” Pea called to his gang of seventh-grade friends as he skidded to a sideways stop on his Redline. Dust settled in a brown cloud around his wheels.

School had flown by and he’d finished his Milwaukee Journal route in record time. Even so, everyone else was already there—Paco the brute, Jules the brain, and the sporto twins—Thad and Tad (their parents weren’t the brightest with names).

“About time you finished delivering papers! Ready to race?” Pea’s best friend Paco said after taking another bite of a beef stick from his dad’s store. Pea figured it must be nice not to have to earn your own spending money, and just walk in and grab a free snack whenever you were hungry.

Pea’s own dad seemed to live on protein shakes and canned salmon on crackers. His half-brothers were never around, and his mom almost always stopped for fast food on her way home from work. Sometimes his dad got a hankering to cook, and then there were feasts. Home-cooked Italian food from recipes his dad had memorized from his mother and grandmothers. But most days, Pea felt like a scavenger in his own home, living on scrambled eggs for breakfast, peanut butter and honey sandwiches for lunch, and canned chicken and stars soup he heated up for dinner.

“I’m ready!” Pea pulled into the offset starting gate, which was like the tail of the letter a, connecting with the track like an on-ramp.

Paco stood by the gate with his sparkling, almost all chrome GT bike. He had a habit of constantly shoveling food into his mouth, but in spite of that he was wiry—and someone good to have on your side in a fight. The kid had honor and was true to his word. Pea liked that.

Their dads had been Force Recon Marines in Vietnam together, and honor and being a “man of your word,” as his dad always said, was what kept them alive. They’d drilled those values into their sons. The few times he’d heard his dad talk about the war, it was with Paco’s dad. They would be out in the garage, lifting weights and boxing, when Pea came in to put his bike away. Paco’s dad would sometimes put an arm around Pea’s shoulder and whisper things like, “Your dad’s a hero, boy. He always had my back.”

Pea and Paco wanted to be like their dads. So they looked out for each other. And, they were fiercely protective of the underdogs and the bullied. Once, Paco punched a sophomore in the stomach for pushing a fourth-grader off his bike and making fun of him. Pea was there in a flash, ready to back him up.

Paco was a “please and thank you” kind of guy who always complained, “Nobody has manners these days!” Pea wholeheartedly agreed.

“I pulled a pretty cool 360 jump already. You missed it!” Paco said through bites of beef stick. He flashed two five-dollar bills. “You got five bucks? Tad and Thad are in. Winner after three laps takes all.”

Pea fished a crumpled five out of his pocket and handed it over.

Pumped with adrenaline from lack of sleep, Pea took a second to study the track in broad daylight. Even better than last night. The two berms, a few double jumps, tons of rollers, and that built in half-pipe—ah, the launches, air tricks, and stunts that lay before him! Spring had passed painfully slowly as he watched the earth movers roll in and out of here, transforming a mound of dirt into a BMX paradise. He’d pinned all his hopes on this track, wishing this would be the best summer of his life, give him a reason besides a paper route to get out of bed. Maybe he’d even invite his dad down here when he got some really cool tricks mastered.

The sporto twins, Thad and Tad, pulled into the starting gate next to Pea on their matching Mongoose bikes. “You losers ready to eat my dust?” Pea said, hopping up and down to keep his body suspended above his seat.

“Whenever you wimps are ready, let me know.” Paco stood with his foot poised over the spring release lever. When he pushed his foot down on that, it would open the plywood doors on hinges that made up the starting gate.

Thad and Tad narrowed their eyes and tried to level identical sneers.

“You guys look constipated.”

Tad broke character and laughed, readjusting his Brewers baseball hat.

“Maybe I’ll go clone myself after I kick both your butts!” Thad said, then stuck his tongue out at them.

On the sidelines, Jules lifted his head from a notebook he’d been scribbling in and waved. “Hey, Pea!”

Pea nodded back to the fifth member of his neighborhood BMX gang. “Hey, brainiac. Want to join us?”

“Maybe next time.” Jules pushed up his glasses and continued writing. Poor Jules—who names their kid Julian? It’s even worse than Peabody. No hopes of coming out of that one without getting a girly nickname. At least his professor parents had bought him a cool Takara Outlaw with sweet blue ACS Z-Rims. Not that he rode it often. Jules was usually concocting some Einsteinian calculation for ways to jump higher or hold air longer. The kid was a more mathematical genius and an inventor than a BMXer. Pea loved picking his brain when he and Paco weren’t pushing down kids who picked on him.

“Good luck.” Paco tapped knuckles with Pea for luck.

Pea eyed the first berm on the oval-shaped track. He’d have the lead if he reached it first. I’ve got this, he thought, smiling to himself even though he felt his heart beating inside his throat.
“Winner after three laps gets the cash. Deal?” Paco reminded them.

Pea wanted that money. That meant a week’s worth of vanilla sports shakes and raspberry Zingers to him. Nobody else understood.

“Three…two…one…GO!” Paco stepped on the release. The boys broke through the gate.
Pea reached and rounded the berm first and had a clean landing over the first jump before the pit. Next was the pit or half-pipe. Totally rad. Pea dove straight down into it at a crazy speed. The other end was ramped and launched him back out onto the track, but not before he pulled out a clean can-can, kicking his left foot over the middle of the bike frame before he landed.

Straight into the second berm.

“Awesome!” the twins both yelled from behind.

Pea held the lead. Glancing back, he saw Thad pass his brother in the rollers, but Tad was close behind.

Lap one.

Pea decided to slow up. He let the twins pass him. He wanted that cool half-pipe all to himself on the second lap. He felt confident he’d catch them on the final lap.

Tad reached the half-pipe on lap two first and flew through it, pulling out a tabletop jump. Thad went full bore after him, trying to outdo his brother with the same move, but with more style.
“Nice,” Pea shouted, descending again into the pit. On the way out he nailed a superman, legs extended out behind him. He managed to get the bike back in control to prevent wiping out through the corner.

Paco and Jules cheered.

Lap two.

Pushing himself to catch the twins, Pea pedaled hard, making his legs scream.

Last lap! The three of them roared through the pit a third time, banked hard around the berm, nailed the rounds, and had only the last double to contend with. Pea snuck inside and beat them both, the twins barreling in behind him toward the finish.
He’d won!

Skidding in a semicircle to a stop, Pea watched in horror—as if he watched a video in slo-mo—as Tad pulled right and Thad left on the last jump. Tad didn’t catch enough height for his parachute jump and smashed Thad in midair. His front tire landed first, sending him flying over his handlebars. His body reconnected with earth with a loud thump and he bounced and skidded to a stop at Pea’s feet.
Tad tossed his bike off the track in midair and landed on his feet, running. His bike sailed through the air and disappeared into the same bushes where the cat had appeared last night.

Pea coughed from the haze of kicked-up dirt surrounding them. Laughing, Tad asked, “Hey guys, where’s my bike?” before he glimpsed his brother, still at Pea’s feet, and not moving.

Kat was born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin where she learned to roller skate, ride a banana seat bike, and love Shakespeare. She holds a Doctor of Pharmacy degree and is happily employed as a retail pharmacist. She is married to her soul mate, composer Lee de Falla and raising four kids together ala the Brady Bunch. The Seer's Lover was Kat's first book and she is working feverishly on four different series at the moment! Register for her newsletter to learn about her upcoming projects and find out about deals and giveaways at Kat is so much an extravert that she has come full circle and enjoys her alone time as much as her social adventures. Connect with Kat (who does indeed love cats!)


One lucky winner will receive a $25Amazon gift card, International.



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