I got home from work last night only to find a few tweets, e-mails and a couple of Facebook messages letting me know that my Kindle Scout winning novel, KELPIE DREAMS, was now available for preorder on Kindle.
I can’t tell you just how happy and excited this one makes me feel. It has been a while since I have broken such new ground as this and I am just a little flushed with excitement over the whole notion.
I do intend to write a big old blog talking about my experiences between my acceptance and the release of KELPIE DREAMS – but it is not this day!
Today I have got some writing to do. I am about a week or two away from completing a manuscript for my regional publisher – one that will hopefully hit a lot of bookstores here in Nova Scotia.
Then I have already begun roughing out a Kelpie novella to follow up on KELPIE DREAMS.
I want to thank everyone here who nominated KELPIE DREAMS for Kindle Scout and I hope that you enjoy reading that novel – because, for nominating my book you have probably already received your free copy. I have already heard from one of my readers who has read and enjoyed the novel and will release her review in her blog, at Amazon and at Goodreads shortly before the book goes live.
Every year for Valentine’s Day Maritime author A.F. Stewart hosts a BLOODY VALENTINE event gathering an assortment of slightly twisted authors who post their fiction and/or poetry all in the name of celebrating love.
This year’s theme is BAD LOVE.
I am taking part in this event and will be posting a piece of short fiction.
I have marinated the meat in the best red wine I could afford, five days now, with garlic onion and bay leaf and a little stick of cinnamon, lots of cracked black pepper, and lots of aching tears.
On the fifth day I rubbed it with olive oil and browned it well in a hot pan. I kissed it for luck.
Crane was right, it tasted bitter.
I carried the meat ceremoniously to a black metal roasting pan that I had beaten with a hammer into the rough shape of a coffin. I browned a sliced onion in the pan, added more tears, and a little butter for flavor.
Then I deglazed the fry pan with a bit of the marinade, stirring and scraping the caked-on bits from the pan, swilling it into the juice for more flavor.
I poured the contents into the coffin-roaster, covering the meat just a little over half way. I stuck the coffin-roaster into a slow oven, set to three hundred degrees. Nice and slow, everything took time, let the hurting leak on out.
I added the insecticide last.
I served the meal in a valentine shaped bowl, bought especially for the occasion. I set her body in her chair across the table from me. The freezer kept her when I could not. Her chest hung open like a secret treasure box. She had a smile on her face. I’d placed it there, a finishing touch before placing her in the freezer.
Then I spooned it up. Bitter, it tasted bitter, but no worse than finding your wife in bed with your best friend.
Heart meat is hard, unless you cook it properly.
I ate it up, every last drop.
I bit my lip until the gag reflex stopped working, and then I waited to die.
If I had timed it right, they would find us together before she thawed. A frozen tableau, two hearts, one broken in my chest and one well braised in my belly.
So what I want to know is WHY – if I am writing a young adult novel in NaNoWriMo – does my freaking house look like the crime scene from out of a police procedural? Housecleaning is a joke. Both my wife and I are hard at work on simultaneous NaNoWriMo projects.
It is not that I am all that fussy about keeping the house tidy. We pick up what we can. If we can see the occasional glimpse of floorboards between the dust, the dirt and the accumulated debris – we are happy. But yesterday I swear that I saw the film crew from HOARDERS walking through my living room…
Well sir, I have to say that all in all my promotion was a good short-term success. For starters it sold an awful lot of copies of both books and it has left me with a fine long “tail”.
So what is a tail, you might ask?
A tail is kind of like the splash that a rock makes after you throw into the nearest pond. Basically what a promotional tail is – is the effect on future sales that a short term promotion has.
I made over a hundred dollars in Kindle sales alone in October. No, that isn’t a lot for some of you more successful writer-types – but it is a pretty good month for me. Currently, two-thirds of the way through November I am already past the hundred dollar mark in Kindle sales alone. With a little bit of luck and a few extra sales I might even hit the two hundred dollar mark in Kindle sales as well.
And THAT is a big first for me. Two triple digit sales months in a row is definitely a bit of a personal record. The last two years I have mostly been in the double digits, barring a couple or three out-of-the-average months.
Now, as I reach the back end of November my sales have begun to slow down. I am coming to the end of my “tail”. So it is in my best interests to throw another rock into the pond and see what sort of splash I can make on my upcoming December sales figures.
Fortunately, some thoughtful marketer invented Black Friday some time ago.
I have also signed up for promotions at ebookstage and My Book Cave – both of which cost me absolutely nothing – because both of these promo-sites are just getting started.
I have also spent two five dollar bills on a Fiverr promo with bknights and Bookkitty – both of whom have performed well for me over the last year or so.
So WHICH e-books am I promoting?
I am glad you asked.
My Halifax-based time travelling toilet extravaganza A BLURT IN TIME is available for only 99 cents all November long. I have set up a HeadTalker campaign as well as using the bknights and the bookkitty and the My Book Cave listing to help promote this one – as well as talking about it during the Master Koda weekend.
My hockey-vampire novella, SUDDEN DEATH OVERTIME is likewise available all November long for ONLY 99 cents. I have set up a Thunderclap campaign to help promote this one.
My mermaid short story, HARRY’S MERMAID is going to be available for FREE from November 27th to November 30th. I have set up a HeadTalker campaign and an ebookstage listing to help promote this one.
And – as a reward for reading all the way down to the bottom of this blog entry, my story collection TALES FROM THE TANGLED WOODS is free today and tomorrow on Kindle.
Click the cover and it will take you directly to the Amazon.com listing. 🙂
Yes sir and yes ma’m – I am throwing one big old multi-faceted promo-rock into the pond of Black Friday. It isn’t too late to set up your own promotion as well. You’ll find some VALUABLE tips in Penny Sansevieri’s ULTIMATE HOLIDAY PROMOTION.
I have been slowly crawling out of my skin over these last couple of days. It doesn’t help that we have got a front yard full of pavers tearing up our front lawn to build a brand new, much-needed driveway that is going to leave a great big driveway-sized hole in our bank account.
Tomorrow I will be heading out the door at the crack of crow. I need to load the car and head for a local farmer’s market where I have booked a table for half of Saturday. I have a small mountain of my local books and several of my horror novels – in hopes of making enough sales to cover the modest table fee.
So – sometime tomorrow the very first promo of TATTERDEMON goes live at My Book Cave.
The first thing that I really like about My Book Cave promotes wide – advertising for Kindle, Kobo, Nook, Apple, Smashwords and Googleplay. I sell at ALL of these e-book providers and it is GREAT to get to promote for all of those sites.
The second thing I really like about My Book Cave is promotion is FREE!
You see, My Book Cave is just starting out in the business so for now – if your e-book promotion meets their requirements your book will be advertised on their website for FREE!!!
And free is my favorite word.
In the next day or so I will tell you about the OTHER book that I am promoting this month.
Here’s hoping we move some books – both paperback AND digital.
yours in storytelling,
If this blog entry was the least bit helpful and/or interesting – PLEASE CLICK this banner and nominate A BLURT IN TIME for the Kindle Scout program. If the book makes it into the Kindle Scout Publishing Program you will automatically receive a free Kindle copy of the book.
I love Halloween and ghost stories and anything to do with the fine art of booga-booga.
I owe this love to my grandparents who ALWAYS taught me the value of a good old-fashioned scare. I remember my Grandmother waking me up at midnight so that I could watch the monthly CBC Friday night Fright Night – which consisted of four back-to-back old-school horror movies. I would go to bed early that night and just before midnight she would wake me up and I would plug my grandfather’s television earplug into my ear so as not to keep anyone else awake and I would spend the whole evening watching Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi and Lon Chaney Jr. and Christopher Lee making with the cinematic booga-booga.
I am talking movies like FRANKENSTEIN. (1931)
This is the original, you understand – the film that shot Canadian immigrant William Henry Pratt, better known as Boris Karloff – to Hollywood fame as the actor who would scare the entire world.
I can still picture the beginning of that movie when actor Edward Van Sloan (the dude who played Van Helsing in Bela Lugosi’s great 1931 flick DRACULA) breaks the television screen by stepping out from behind a theater curtain and warning the viewers that “It’s about to get scary around here.”
Then, following the credits, we are treated to that opening scene of a funeral. I love the look of that graveyard with it’s drastically tilted tombstones and crosses and that gigantic statue of Death himself. I love how it echoes the sharp oblique lines of German Expressionism. I love the feel of good old-fashioned black and white terror.
Don’t get me wrong.
I am no caveman Luddite – although I do not own nor will ever own a cell phone.
But all the same there is something moving and ethereal about a black and white horror movie. It is almost like the filmmakers had somehow figured out how to paint in shades of nightmare and delirium.
I watch this movie at least once a year.
I am talking movies like The Mummy’s Curse. (1944)
This was the fifth installment of the Universal Horror series and it is one of my favorites. I have ALWAYS loved the way that Universal figured out how to string one movie after another with Frankenstein and the Mummy and the Creature From The Black Lagoon – although they never quite managed the trick with Dracula or The Wolfman. Hammer Films would later follow this tradition and I likewise enjoyed watching all of the Christopher Lee Dracula movies – looking forward each time to seeing how they brought the Count back to life and how they managed to kill him again and I could happily a dozen Frankenstein or Dracula movies strung back to back.
Lon Chaney Jr. never much cared for his appearances as The Mummy. He felt the make-up too restrictive and uncomfortable and he far preferred his appearances as Larry Talbot, the Wolf Man.
Which brings us to our next movie.
I am talking about movies like FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLFMAN (1943)
This was Lon Chaney’s FIRST follow-up to his classic THE WOLFMAN (1941) and Universal’s FIFTH follow-up to FRANKENSTEIN (1931) and as far as I recollect this was the first BIG monster mash-up where the filmmakers would bring two successful movie monster franchises together – kind of like watching Hulk Hogan square off with Andre The Giant.
Toho did the same thing with Godzilla meeting King Kong, Mothra, Ghidrah, Megalon, Mechagodzilla and a whole alphabet soup’s worth of oddly-named kaiju. FREDDY VS. JASON (did the same thing for the same reasons. It is just a natural sort of evolution for movie monsters. Sooner or later, the viewer begins to wonder – gee, I wonder what would happen if an Alien met a Predator?
The actor portraying Frankenstein was Bela Lugosi. There is a certain undeniable irony in the fact that Lugosi had originally tried out for the first Frankenstein movie and had been turned down flat because he showed up dressed in something that looked a little bit like the 1915 silent movie, THE GOLEM. Now here he is hidden beneath all of the Frankenstein make-up. Lugosi was never as successful a monster as Karloff was – but it is interesting to note that he is the actor responsible for that iconic stiff-legged walk that everybody gives Frankenstein’s monster nowadays. When Lugosi first portrayed the Frankenstein Monster he was told that he had been blinded in the last movie. So Lugosi naturally adopted that stiff, arms-straight-out walk that stuck like Krazy Glue to the character from there on out.
Sadly, I am also talking about movies such as FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE SPACE MONSTER (1965).
I remember how totally bummed out I was when I first watched this movie and realized that Frankenstein wasn’t in this one little bit – and yet schlocky Ed Wood Z-Grade monster films like this are a strong part of the monster movie tradition. Movies like this one are like the Halloween hobo costume that you throw together with your Dad’s old fedora, a suit jacket bought for three dollars at a local used clothing store and a bindlestiff made out of a stick from the garden and your mother’s favorite handkerchief.
Now – what I want to ask is does ANYONE else remember the CBC putting on a monthly Fright Night? I have exhausted my feeble powers of Google-Fu and cannot find a single reference to this event that played such a huge role in my childhood and helped to foster my love for horror movies.
This blog entry was written as part of the OCTOBER FRIGHTS BLOG HOP, an event for readers and authors and Halloween-groupies and fans of the fine art of booga-booga madness. We have brought over FORTY-freaking-FIVE fine authors of horror and paranormal together to share their Halloween booga-booga thoughts with all of you fine folks.
Just click this image to be whisked away to the a world where October rolls on to somewhere long past forever – the October Frights Bloghop!
And lastly, let me tell you about the special gift that I have arranged for all of your reader-types out there – especially you folks who dig crazy horror.
From today until October 3, 2015 my collection OCTOBER TALES will be available FREE for all of you Kindle readers.
Like horror? Got a Kindle? Click this picture to grab a free copy today!
Grand Prix Wrestling – I watched it every Saturday.
And whenever I got the chance I went with my grandparents and saw it live at the Sudbury Arena.
That was where I got to shake hands with Andre the Giant – only back then we knew him as Jean Ferre. It wasn’t until he joined up with the WWF – which is NOW known as the WWE – that his name was changed to Andre the Giant.
Andre the Giant and a VERY young Duane Johnson, otherwise known as The Rock!
I’m not sure why I always enjoyed watching wrestling. I think partly because of the grandiose storytelling of a good match. Good against Evil – the bad guy getting the poop kicked out of him by the good guy. Straight up cliche – but back then I loved every minute of it.
Partly I think it had to do with my Dad. My grandmother always told a story about how my Dad was what they call a “jobber” in a couple of Toronto matches. Basically, he was the dude from parts unknown who was paid to look just good enough to make the other guy look great. Apparently he only did it for a couple of matches and it was only because he needed the money. He never talked about it much – but he was always the sort of guy who would get into some sort of athletic endeavor – so the thought of Big Leigh “Red” Vernon in the squared circle does not surprise me in the least little bit.
Of course, you also know how much I love reading horror novels – so when I stumbled across this nifty little novella that combined wrestling AND horror I had to pick it up. Actually, I contacted the author and asked him for a review copy. He sent me an e-pub so that I could read it on my Kobo and it only took me about three hours to figure out how to stuff it into my Kobo.
I’m not saying that I am a technical wizard, you understand.
Click the picture to pick up a copy for your Kindle, if you like.
Well, it was a fun fast read. Nothing fancy, just the sort of a yarn that a proper “jobber” would come up with.
First off, I really enjoyed the whole back story of demon logic. There is a lot of room for other stories using this whole back story that needn’t involve wrestling.
The protagonist, Tojo, was the earth-born child of two demons on an evil sort of a missionary fund into the mortal world. Their job was to spread ill-feeling and evil just as hard as they could manage.
The problem starts when Tojo decides that he should use his demon powers to become a wrestler. Not just any old wrestler, you understand. Tojo decides to be a “heel”, that is, a bad guy wrestler.
“I can spread bad feelings this way,” he tells his Dad. “Making people feel hateful and angry watching me beat up the good guy wrestlers – also known as faces.”
The only problem is people LIKE Tojo. He just never is all that successful at being a heel.
You see, the problem is Tojo is NOT really as bad of a guy as he ought to be – even given his demonic heritage. Tojo LIKES being a good guy but he does not want to get caught at it – for fear of being banished back to hell and having his memory wiped and being recreated into something truly dark and evil.
It’s a pretty cool concept – although there were a few gaps that I felt needed filling.
Believe it or not I really wanted to know why his demon parents decided to name him Tojo. He wasn’t oriental, as far as I could tell from reading the novella. He wasn’t even Spanish. I thought it was a pretty cool name for a great big old wrestler with echoes of Mr. Fuji – but I would have REALLY appreciated knowing why his parents chose such an odd name.
Also – after his Mom and Dad die and return to hell they sort of fall out of the story – and I really felt that the author missed a great angle there. I would have loved to see him encounter his Mom or his Dad again in some other form.
Still, it was a fun read and I hope that the author revisits this arena again. Fans of wrestling and cheesy horror with a heaping helping of corny jokes will really enjoy this fast and fun read.
Jim, my buddy at the blog WRITTEN IN BLOOD has a really cool running feature in which he gathers up alternative movie posters – that is, posters for horror movies that we all know and love – only these posters WEREN’T widely distributed.
For example, we all know this poster!
But how many of you have seen THIS version of the poster?
This weekend – from today until Monday – you can pick up a copy of TATTERDEMON on Kobo for a big fat fifty percent off.
So – all of you Kobo readers who are DYING to read something with a REAL October feel to it – why don’t you swing on over to Kobo and save a big fat honking 50% off on my big fat honking scarecrow novel.
The regular Kobo price is $5.99 – but if you use that SAVE50 promo code this weekend you get it for three bucks!
That’s about 400 pages worth of big fat scarecrow horror novel for the price of a Starbucks coffee.
This is the Kobo version. It’s currently ranked #19 in Kobo’s horror section. Order it today, Kobo users – but DON’T forget to use that SAVE50 promo code to save 50%!
Not enough for you?
You want to take a peek inside?
Here’s the Prologue AND the First Chapter!
Preacher Abraham Fell stared down at the witch Thessaly Cross, breathing like he’d run for a good long stretch. He leaned over, bending at the knees to lay another slab of fieldstone upon her chest.
“We beat you with hickory and we beat you with iron,” he said. “And you withstood every blow.”
He stooped down and picked up another rock, never taking his eyes off her, as if she were some kind of dangerous viper who might strike at any moment.
He set the next rock on top of her, directly beside the others.
“We shot you and the musket balls swerved in midair like they were afraid of sinking into the taint of your flesh.”
He scooped up another rock, grunting as he scooped. He just wasn’t as young a man as he used to be – and no wonder.
Sights like this one aged you faster than years ought to run.
“We hung you in a noose woven from a widow’s gray hair, a noose soaked in children’s tears and you kicked and cackled like a hell-kite in the wind.”
He laid the next rock down, sank to his knees and scooped up another stone. He was building a kind of rhythm that made the labor just a little easier.
“We burned you but even fired failed us.”
It was true. She had witched a storm from a cloudless sky and drowned the blaze cold. Seth Hamilton, the town smith who had been the only man to dare kindle her pyre had been cindered black.
“Let the stones crush you and the dirt eat you,” Fell said, laying another rock – which made thirteen stones in all. These were all good sized stones, hand-picked, at least the weight of child’s corpse. She ought to have been crushed by the weight upon her yet she carried the load as if it were nothing but sticks and straw.
“Where did you hide the broom, witch?” Fell asked.
“Maybe it’s up your bunghole,” Thessaly taunted.
The broom was her power and Fell feared it – although he knew that he shouldn’t have. It was just a thing of woven willow. His grand-nanny swept the pine boards of her cabin daily with just such a broom and she certainly wasn’t a witch.
He bent for another stone.
Thessaly spat in his face. “Bury that, god kisser.”
He dropped the fourteenth stone upon her. It made a hard sound, like she had stared too long at the Gorgon. He grunted at the effort and she laughed at his strain – which stung his pride hard.
“You must pay for your crimes against God and this community,” Fell said.
Thessaly snorted. It wasn’t any kind of human sound. Her snort sounded like a boar in rut.
“What I pay for is refusing to give you my land,” she pointed out, as the wind rattled the grass. “What I pay for is witching your field in return for your greed. I pay for your cattle that ate the gray grass. Happiest of all, I pay for your daughter, Fell.”
Fell could still taste the smell of the dead meat festering in the back of his sinuses. He’d put down the last tainted beast this morning. He’d beat it square in the skull with his best chopping axe. The metal of the blade had chewed into the bone and stuck hard. He’d had to put his left boot against the cow’s forehead and lean back to work the axe loose. The unholy cattle hadn’t moved, not one of them. Even after he’d cut the first two down. They just stood there in his field, the wind making slow soft harp sounds blowing through their gray rattled guts.
He had put his daughter Eliza down before he had started with the cattle. Then he burned what was left of her and buried her ashes in the field.
The husk that he had burned and buried wouldn’t have nourished a worm.
“Was the milk tasty, Fell?” Thessaly taunted him. “Did young Eliza find it sweet?”
“Witch!” Fell hissed.
He snatched up a skull-sized rock scraping his hand against the rough granite and marking it with his own blood. He would match his stone and his blood against hers, he fiercely swore.
But first he had to know.
“Where did you hide the broom?”
“Closer than you imagine.”
She spat again. The phlegm spattered the grass. The wind blew a little harder as Fell flung the stone. The granite chipped and sparked upon her flesh.
The farmer in Fell’s soul feared a run of wildfire. A spark could easily rise up in dry times like this and tear through an entire countryside.
“I’ll curse you Fell. I’ll curse you and all those who stand with you.” the old woman began to chant. “Merry through the prickle bush, the gore bush, the hump; careful round the holly fall, she’ll catch your shadow hold…,”
The onlookers stiffened like a pack of wintered over scarecrows. Fear, or something darker, rooted their feet to the earth. Fell stumbled back from the pit. The wind stiffened and gusted as Thessaly laughed all the harder.
“Our father,” Fell began to pray. “Protect us from this harridan’s evil spells.”
Thessaly continued to laugh.
“It is no spell, you fool. It is nothing more than a children’s rhyme, Fell. It was only a nursery rhyme. Maybe I wasn’t witching your field. Maybe I was merely waving my broom at a thieving crow.”
Did she speak the truth?
Fell smothered his doubt.
Thessaly Cross had killed Eliza and Abraham Fell would not rest until he saw the witch finally dead.
He knelt down and caught hold of the next stone.
Only she wouldn’t stay quiet.
“Witches don’t curse, Fell. Only men curse,” Thessaly ranted. “They curse themselves and their pitiful lot.”
“You lie,” Fell said, working the stone free
“Truth! I tell truth. Witches dance in easy circles. We follow the rhythms of time and tide and the wind that washes the earth’s bones dry.”
The wind howled. A tangled snare of root rammed through the dirt. Fell stepped back too late. The root twisted like a snake. It snared Fell’s wrists and held him fast.
“Witches plant what men water with tears,” Thessaly shrieked. “Witches sow the sorrow men must reap. Know this, Fell. When you harm a witch you plant a grudge as old as regret.”
Fell tugged against the root. From the corner of his eye he saw the rest of the townsfolk, snared like screaming rabbits.
“I have you Fell. I have you all. Now you will see what a witched field really is.”
Thessaly set the field to work.
She stirred dead grass into unholy life. The strands and stalks whirred like a wind of teeth, slicing through men and women who tried too late to run away.
The first man died in mid-scream, as a gust of grass harrowed the meat from his bones. A root, flung like a dirty javelin, impaled a second man. A third went down beneath an airborne avalanche of fieldstone.
The wind grew gray with dust, straw and flesh. The earth opened in great cratered swallowing mouths. The townsfolk all died screaming.
Only Fell remained.
He stared at the carnage, as helpless as a snared rabbit.
“Witches sow, Fell. Witches sow and men must reap.”
She raised her hands.
He saw gray dirt imbedded beneath her fingernails.
“Shall I tell you where I have hid my broom, Fell? Have you guessed? Do you really want to know? I buried it in your very own field.”
The broom rose straight up from the earth’s dirty womb, not more than an arm’s reach from Fell.
“I and my broom will wait for you, Fell. We will wait for you like a seed waits for rain. Live with this. I have taken every one you know, but I let you live to breed. I let you live with the knowledge that one day I will return to visit your descendants.”
Fell braced his feet in the dirt. He prayed for the strength of Samson. He fought against the root.
“Now I will show you how to bury a witch,” she crowed.
She hugged herself as if hugging an unseen lover. The earth moved in reply as a thousand rocks flew from the flesh of the field and hovered above her homemade grave. Fell tore his wrists from the shackle of root.
He felt the skin rip from his bones.
“No descendants! No curse! Today we die together,” he howled.
He uprooted the broom with his freshly skinned hands. He threw himself down upon her. His momentum drove the broom handle straight through her heart. A gout of stinking blood splashed his face.
The willow twig head of the broom stood out in all directions like an angry star. Fell saw the flash of tiny unimaginable teeth grinning from the end of each writhing twig.
Then the broom took him.
It ate at his face like his skin was nothing more than apple rind. He felt the white-hot twig-worms gnaw his features. He felt them tear and burn through the bowl of his skull. They crawled into the jelly of his brain and nibbled at his thoughts.
He had time for one last scream.
The broom ate that as well. It swallowed each morsel of Abraham Fell’s pain and terror as it dragged him deeper down into the hole with the witch. The rocks poised above them like a pair of hands, ready to applaud. Thessaly pushed him from her. She nearly pushed him from the grave.
“Live, Fell. Let the meat grow back upon your opened skull. Crawl back from the brink of death. My curse shall stand. This earth grows too cold for me. I will wait for you and your descendants in the belly of hell.”
“No!” Fell pushed back down upon her. “The curse ends here.”
He shoved forward. He felt the broom slide and suck through the cage of his ribs. He pushed himself closer, impaling himself on the broom handle. The willow wood splintered inside him. It nailed him to Thessaly’s twisting frame. He felt her bones wiggling beneath her meat like worms in the dirt.
She nearly slipped free.
He bit her lip, tearing grayish meat. The pain racked her concentration. She let her spell and the rocks above them drop. The grave, the broom, the witch and Fell were sealed in completely.
For a long time, nothing moved.
The moon rose like a slow ghost, lanterning down upon the butcher field.
A small gray form pushed from the rocky grave. The gray hairless skin glistened beneath the cool wash of moonlight, like the hide of a stillborn rat.
It crawled away into the darkness that surrounded the field.
A lone owl hooted remorselessly.
CHAPTER ONE – Three Hundred Years Later
* 1 *
I’m going to die, Maddy thought.
And the whole thing is all my fault.
She stared at her reflection in the dark kitchen window and her dead mother’s eyes stared back at her. There was a question asked in those ghost window eyes.
What are you going to do now, girl?
Maddy couldn’t say.
Vic stood in the center of the kitchen, waving his arms like a one-man windmill. Zigger slunk beneath his feet, gazing up with eyes pale as rotted moons, hoping to be fed.
“What the hell were you thinking?” Vic yelled.
Maddy felt her bones reaching down through the floorboards into the Nova Scotian dirt. She felt her bones take root, going to seed. What had she been thinking? She should have run a half a dozen years ago.
Now she was trapped.
Just like her mother.
Vic kept on yelling, one of the only things he was good at. “I come home a little late and you do a thing like this. What were you thinking?”
Maddy didn’t regret what she’d done, just doing it so stupidly. She’d been angry. She should’ve known there’d be trouble. She told herself that she needed to keep just as calm as possible.
She watched her reflection as she answered.
“A little late? It’s nearly midnight. You could have phoned.”
“The payphone at Benson’s was broke. Somebody buried a goddamn slug in it.”
Vic always had a ready lie. Lord but she was tired of it. She was tired of a lot of things. Marriage with Vic had started out fun, but fun changed fast. Vic grew mean just as soon as he had his cubic zirconium leash planted on her finger.
“You weren’t at Benson’s,” Maddy said. “You were at the tavern, spending your pay check. You probably danced yourself a couple of go-rounds with the shortest skirt in the place, I bet.”
Vic grinned, knowingly.
He was such a total bastard.
He didn’t even try to hide it.
“A man’s got a right to relax. Besides, I was at Benson’s, having a cup of coffee.”
She was tired of arguing, but what else could she do? Divorce him? She couldn’t expect any alimony. Vic would just laugh and drive away and that would be that – which would leave her on meant welfare.
She’d be cold in the ground before she’d lean on the dole.
“I smell bourbon,” she remarked and instantly regretted it.
Vic’s eyes flattened like slices of cut glass.
Maddy had just stepped over the line.
“Maybe your nose is broke and you smell things wrong,” he suggested. “It could happen.”
Stupid. She hadn’t planned to make him angry. She should have stopped right then and there – only she didn’t feel like stopping.
She made herself loose and ready to duck.
She usually could dodge the first couple of swings.
“You could have phoned,” she argued. “It’s a public restaurant. You could have asked Jack to use the counter phone. He wouldn’t have minded.”
Vic bulldozed straight through her argument. “Don’t talk goddamn foolishness, girl. Jack Benson never lets anyone use that phone, not unless the kitchen was burning down.”
“You could have tried.”
“Never you mind. Me being late is no excuse to do what you done.”
“It had gone cold,” she explained for the dozenth time.
“Well what’s a microwave for?”
“The microwave was broke, just the same as the pay phone.”
He nearly laughed. It was too bad he didn’t. It would have been over but out of the blue old Zigger started to bark. Vic booted the hound square in the ribs. The dog yelped in protest.
“Shut up hound.”
Kicking the dog should have cooled him down only Vic never worked that way. A little violence stirred him up like a poker shoved in a fire.
“I just need to know what you were thinking,” he asked, coming back to his anger like a dog after a bone. “Doing a thing like that.”
“It went cold,” she repeated. “It went cold, I was tired and it was near midnight.
The dog needed feeding. If you’d put some dog food in the house like I asked, I wouldn’t have had to give him yours.”
“There was a hockey game on,” Vic argued. “Can’t you understand?”
His voice rose at the last like a hurt little boy. Maddy nearly laughed. He was just so dense. He couldn’t realize what an absolute shithead he was being. She nearly laughed, but laughter right now would have been too much like asking for it.
She wasn’t suicidal.
She tried to make peace.
“Look Vic, there’s a stick of salami in the fridge if you want. Some pickles and relish if you’d like. I’d be glad to fry you up a couple of slices and make you a sandwich of it.”
“I don’t want no stinking salami and I’m sick to death of your preserves. I want my supper, damn it, and I want it now.”
From beneath the table’s safety, Zigger barked again. He was always going off, ever since his eyes went. His baying bounced off the ratty gray walls of the kitchen until it seemed the plaster would shatter.
“Quiet!” Vic yelled, kicking at the table and the dog beneath it.
Don’t let him get you going, she told herself, but there was something growing inside her and getting bigger as every moment slipped by.
“So I thought,” Maddy started, still trying to figure how to change the subject.
That instant of lapsed attention was all Vic needed. He grabbed her by the chin and twisted her face around to meet his gaze.
“Thought what Maddy? What did you think? What have you ever thought in your godforsaken life?”
He pushed his face close to her, looming over her. He really didn’t need to. Vic was large all over, a totem of a man, all forehead and chin framed in a thicket of dark tangled hair. It made Maddy feel small, just standing next to him. It was a kind of slow erosion working away deep in her soul. Every year Vic made her feel a little bit smaller, like he was whittling her down until she was nothing but a shadow.
Some days she felt like she was nothing more than a puppet, dancing on his strings.
“If you learned how to think, then I sure want to know about it.” Vic went on.
The thing got bigger inside her. Every breath cut like a fish knife, her heart banged like a crazy drummer. It’s a heart attack, she thought. I’m having a heart attack.
“Maddy? Are you listening to me?”
Oh god I’m glad it’s over. He can bury me where ever he wants to.
I don’t care.
Zigger bayed and skittered across the tile floor.
“Shut up hound,” Vic snarled. “It’s bad enough you ate my goddamn supper.”
Maddy squeezed her eyes shut. She felt a burst of blue light open like fireworks going off inside her skull.
It’s a stroke, she thought. A stroke or a heart attack or maybe some sort of aneurysm.
Whatever it was it couldn’t be any worse than life with Vic.
Just then Vic snapped his fingers a half inch from Maddy’s eyes, calling her back from the brink of her imagined death.
“Hey!” he shouted.
Maddy opened her eyes, startled to attention.
“Are you listening?”
She stared. It wasn’t a heart attack, but it sure was something. A blue dot of light popped open in front of Vic’s chest. Maddy knew that the blue light had to have come from somewhere inside her. It wasn’t anything she thought. It was more something that she just felt.
The dot hovered over Vic’s heart, flickering like a blue firefly.
She saw her chance and she took it.
“It went cold, Vic. Your supper went cold and the pork chops were greasy and I figured you were out at Benson’s and it’s a restaurant so you must have had yourself some supper, now didn’t you?”
The cavalry rode in just that quickly. She shifted the blame to him. She put him on the defensive. It would work. She had trapped him in his lie and made him feel like he had to hide the whole thing.
She’d beaten him again.
She didn’t care. She didn’t even notice, not really.
She was too busy staring at that blue light, wondering just what it was. Maybe the light wasn’t from her. Maybe it was something else. One of those laser gun sights you saw in movies. What if there was a sniper out in the darkness of the field, taking aim on the kitchen? Getting ready to fire? Would it bother her, watching Vic get shot to pieces?
She decided to wait and see.
“Are you listening to me, girl?”
She nodded vaguely, entranced by the blue dot.
Vic rolled his eyes in disgust. “Wake up, hay-for-brains! Jesus Christ, you look like some kind of sleepwalker. Are you listening, hey?”
“I’m listening, Vic.”
Only she wasn’t listening at all. She hadn’t been for years. Vic just had nothing new to say. As far as their marriage went he had stopped growing a long time ago.
The blue light widened. It was like staring at her Daddy’s old television set, turning off in reverse.
“You ain’t listening. Christ. For the life of me I don’t know why I ever married you. Your Daddy was right, you know. You’re stupid and ugly.”
“I ain’t ugly, Vic. Maybe I’m stupid, but I sure ain’t ugly.”
It was true. Maddy was always pretty. No movie star, mind you. She was a tough sort of pretty like a country weed in full bloom. Straw blonde hair, straight as a beggar could spit – with eyes that her Daddy used to call cornflower blue. A little gopher bump on the bridge of her nose, hooked down like a river running around a bend. Thin in the flanks from work and worry, but living with Vic would do that to any woman.
“You’re skinnier than a bean pole, and if them tits get any closer to the ground they’ll leave skid marks where you walk.”
That was a cruel truth. Maddy’s knockers crept closer to her stomach every year. They nearly hid the row of five tiny circular scars Vic called her rib holes. But what could she do about that?
Nail them up?
“It’s the law of gravity, Vic.” she explained. “Sooner or later we all fall down. I can’t help that. Nothing but trouble ever comes back up.”
She stared at the blue dot, watching it grow. Vic didn’t seem to notice the blue light at all, no matter how large it got. The dot started changing like it was taking shape.
“There you go again,” Vic complained. “If you did some work around here instead of daydreaming, I might come home in a whole lot nicer mood.”
That was a bold lie. Vic didn’t know how to be in a good mood unless he was drunk and even that wasn’t any kind of a guarantee.
The blue shape grew into a form. It looked like some kind of rag doll, getting bigger all the time. Vic thumped the pine table for emphasis. The salt and pepper shakers shivered in their wooden box.
Maddy didn’t notice.
She was too busy staring at the hovering blue image directly between her and Vic.
The hovering blue image of her long dead father.
“How long are you going to let this skid mark with legs get away with that kind of crap?” Maddy’s dead father asked.
* 2 *
Helliard Jolleen drove a Mercury, just the same as his Daddy did. Two shades of red sprayed across a patchy rusted skin of red brown primer. Duane called it Martian camouflage. Helliard liked to think of it as something more like flames or blood.
Today it was both flames AND blood.
Helliard was certain of one thing.
Something his Daddy had told him a long time ago.
“Death is all around you boy. It’s just waiting around the next corner to jump you when you least expect it. Believe in that, and you’ll grow strong. The first thing you got to do is learn not to fear death.”
Helliard’s daddy, who had once picked steel guitar with Hank Snow and could shoot the pussy out of a pregnant flea, taught Helliard rhythm and how to kill.
“So long as you are alive, Helliard, you got to fight, eh? Now most folk, they say fight, they mean hit. I don’t mean hit. Hitting is for playground sisters. When I say fight, I mean kill. The man who goes into a fight ready to kill, he cannot be beat. So you got to learn to kill. And killing is just like a country song. It’s got a rhythm, easy as breathing, easy as dancing, whether you shoot them, knife them, or just beat them to flathead hell.”
It was daddy’s truth and a goddamn lie.
Helliard knew that now, for sure.
He swerved the red Mercury, tumbling half of Duane Telford’s potato chips down his beard.
“Goddamn it Helliard!” Duane swore, while trying to stuff the rest of the chips into his mouth. “Are you trying to kill a man?”
Duane was a fat useless fuck. Ordinarily Helliard wouldn’t have paid him any mind. Only today, after visiting that hospital Helliard felt a long way west of ordinary.
“Shut the fuck up, Duane. You eat too much anyway. That stomach is going to be the death of you yet, I swear.”
Helliard shoved a lock of red hair from out of his eye. The hair was another gift from Daddy. He claimed it was the Joleen temper bleeding out.
“Goddamn it Helliard. Ever since you come from that hospital you’ve been acting meaner than a rusty meat axe. What the hell’s got into you anyway?”
Helliard thought about the hospital. He thought about his Daddy. He thought about what he’d been afraid to do.
He couldn’t deal with any of it.
“Shut the fuck up before I kick your ass through your teeth, Duane.”
“Well goddamn it Helly, you made me spill most of my potato chippies,” Duane complained, picking and nibbling the larger crumbs from his beard.
“Chips, Duane. Not chippies. They’re called chips. Besides, you eat too fucking much.”
“I’m growing,” Duane said.
“You’re growing on my fucking nerves is what you’re doing. Now shut the goddamn fuck up, eh?”
Duane shut up. People always shut up when Helliard said to, because Helliard was a tough fucker.
He slid an Export-A cigarette out of the pack in his shirt pocket. He snapped open his Zippo lighter and sparked flame without missing a beat. That was the way Helliard liked to do things – smooth and tough, without thinking at all.
Only right now he didn’t feel so tough. Not after seeing his Daddy in the hospital bed with no more meat on his bones than a stick of kindling. Not after the way Daddy had stared at him, begging with his eyes for Helliard to find the guts to take Big Fuck and….
A growth, his Daddy had called it.Like it was some kind of fucking weed.
Daddy gave him the lighter on his twelfth birthday. It was supposed to be right from World War II. The lighter had some writing on it. The writing said – SO SHALL YOU REAP in big fancy letters, all hooks and knobs that reminded him of meat hooks hanging in a slaughter house. Antique or not, the lighter worked damn good.
It lit the first time, every time.
None of that plastic butane shit for Helliard.
He puffed in a long hot drag and sparked up a couple of coughs to clear the air track. He ought to give this shit up. It was smoke that killed his Daddy. Sooner or later old man tobacco-weed would let Helliard know his bill was long past due.
He puffed again. He blew the smoke at Duane for the hell of it.
The doctor gave Daddy three months to live. He said Helliard ought to stick around to sort of keep an eye on things.
Sticking around, watching a man die, that was too much like sticking around to watch your house burn down after the oil tank lit off kiddle-tee-boom.
Helliard tucked the lighter back in his pocket. He touched the gun, jammed in his black leather belt. It was a big old Ruger Blackhawk. Way too much gun is what his Daddy called it, but Helliard called the gun Big Fuck, because it made a big fucking mess of whatever it shot. It could put a hole through a man large enough to reach your fist clear through.
He knew that for an honest fact.
The pistol wasn’t legal in Canada, but God bless the U-S-A-holes. Helliard’s Daddy drove it up over the border, tucked in the bottom of a welded over gas tank. He gave it to Helliard as a thirteenth birthday present. Since then Helliard had shot more men dead than he had fingers and toes to count on. And that was counting his extra little toe.
Mind you, Helliard didn’t shoot nobody he knew. That’d leave way too much motive hanging out there in the wind for some lawman to catch hold, like the tail of a kite. No sir, the only people Helliard shot were strangers he met on the road. He buried them deep in the woods a mile out past the town.
Yes sir, Helliard was a real bad fucker.
“Yeah right, goddamn it,” he muttered. “A real bad gutless fucker.”
Helliard felt Duane eyeing him like he wanted something.
“We need some pop, Helly. Some Pepsi.”
Helliard glared at him.
Duane shook the Pepsi can meaningfully.
“Yeah, damn it. I’m dry to,” Helliard admitted. “There’s a Night Owl up the road.
We’ll pick up some Coke there. Pepsi is nothing but piss water.”
“I ain’t got any money,” Duane said.
Helliard rubbed the butt of his pistol like it was a woman’s tit.
“Don’t need any,” he said
And he didn’t.
* 3 *
Maddy didn’t get it. There was Daddy, just as big as television. Skinny as a starved rake with that goatish half beard he grew because he’d always been too lazy to shave.
Only he was blue.
He was blue, and he was talking to her.
“I raised you better than this, girl.” Bluedaddy said.
She’d gone crazy.
That was it.
She’d gone absolutely nuts. Daddy was dead and buried. She ought to know. Yet there he was. Was, and wasn’t. He wasn’t more than a tattery blue silhouette, like the light that tatters about a dead stick in a fireplace, just before it bursts into flame. He was Bluedaddy – that’s what he was – glowing like a dime store glow in the dark dashboard Jesus.
“What are you staring at?” Vic asked. “Have your eyes gone buggy?”
Bluedaddy just stood there straight in front of Vic, grinning like a bastard at the tit. She could hear his grinning somewhere deep inside the plates of her skull, humming like the twanging of a guitar string.
Only Vic couldn’t see a thing.
“I asked you a question, girl.” Vic said.
Bluedaddy jerked a crackling blue thumb in Vic’s direction.
“He asked you a question, girl.”
“You’re dead,” Maddy whispered.
“You ought to know,” Bluedaddy replied. “You’re the one who buried me.”
Vic looked confused. It suited him.
“Don’t you be threatening me now,” he warned her. “You’re the only one who’s going to be doing the dying around here Maddy. The only dead I am is dead tired. Dead hungry too. Fry me some eggs, damn it.”
Bluedaddy’s grin danced in the air in front of his mouth like fairy light in a haunted swamp. She could hear the old bastard’s grin buzzing just behind her left ear, like a hive full of crazy bees.
“Are you listening?” Vic asked.
He got tired of waiting. As quick as you could say stick he backed his right hand hard against her cheek.
“Wake up,” he said. “And fry me them eggs.”
He plunked himself down at the big kitchen table. He faced away from Maddy, like she wasn’t worth worrying about.
“Why don’t you kill him?” Bluedaddy asked. “You sure as hell know how to.”
Maddy grabbed her fry pan. She gave it a half twirl to spill any dust that might have grown overnight. She hadn’t stood griddle at a half dozen Halifax greasy spoons for nothing. In a minute she’d have the pan on the burner, the eggs cracked and sizzling.
“Get to them eggs, girl.” Bluedaddy commanded. “Your man has spoken.”
That stopped her.
Those last four words told her that this was her Daddy and not just some figment of her imagination. Your man has spoken. The same four words he’d said to Maddy’s mother more times than Maddy could count. The last four words he ever said.
Your man has spoken.
Maddy opened her mouth and three more words fell out.
“Make them yourself.”
The hell of it was she wasn’t even sure who she was speaking to. Vic knew though. At least he figured he did.
“Are you looking for a pair of homemade sunglasses, Maddy my girl?” he asked, without even bothering to turn around.
He’d do it.
It wouldn’t be the first time he’d blacked her eyes.
“Well?” he asked.
Maddy stared at the homespun wall of Vic’s back.
“I’m waiting,” he said.
She swung the pan over her head like a kindling hatchet and brought it down into Vic’s skull.
He hit the table face first. His hands pancaked out to break his fall but that was only reflexes talking. He was deader than Jesus’s dog, long before he hit the table. The impact launched the salt shaker into flight. It landed with a clatter, spilling salt on the floor. Hell, she thought, spilled salt’s bad luck. She had better throw some over my shoulder.
She stood there trying to remember which shoulder she was supposed to throw it over.
Vic’s brains began to spread like spilled porridge.
Maddy forgot about the salt.
She grabbed for a napkin to blot the mess.
Then realization hit.
She stared at what she had gone and done.
Then she smiled.
“How do you like those eggs, Vic?” she softly asked.
Bluedaddy smiled too.
For some reason he was holding a gray willow broom – kind of like her granny used to use. He passed the teeth of the broom through Vic’s skull. As the broom touched the skull the air crackled like a hairbrush on a dry winter morning.
“It’s time to clean up, Maddy,” Bluedaddy told her. “It’s time to clean up all of the old messes.”
She let out a long slow sigh.
She thought it was over.
Because a few days later, just like Jesus, Vic rose up
That’s a big old blog entry. The little hamster that runs the WordPress mechanism probably lost about three or four ounces of belly fat pedalling that wheel around.
NOW – for those of you folks who HAVE made it all the way down this far – here’s a bonus.
One of my favorite Friday The 13th television episodes.
Folks who follow this blog know that I frequently hang out at kboards – and if you have ANY sort of interest in indie-publishing you REALLY ought to start to hanging out there as well. There are folks on there that sell a HECK of a lot more e-books than I do – and they are more than happy to pass some of that knowledge onto other writers.
Early back in September a writer started a thread on the kboards Writer’s Cafe saying that she had begun to lose hope and did not know if she had the strength to keep on writing.
Some of you folks might have had a similar experience. Writing – ESPECIALLY independently-published writing – is a constant test of your faith in yourself and your own creative abilities.
So let me tell you what I told her.
I am 56 years old and have been writing for about forty years and I am still trying to figure things out.
Writing isn’t an instantaneous process. You don’t snap your fingers and become a “great” writer. You become a writer by writing a lot of stuff.
There are ALWAYS going to be crap-tacular reviews. There are ALWAYS going to be people who don’t like your stuff.
Look at how many people bought FIFTY SHADES OF GRAY.
I tried hard to read FIFTY SHADES. I tried three times and I could not get past the first couple of pages. It hurt my eyes. They are leaking puss right now just thinking about those first few crap-tacular paragraphs.
But THOUSANDS of people loved that book!
Don’t start figuring that every review is going to be positive – because they are not.
I just released a short novella and had a three day freebie giveaway to try to boost it’s profile. Among other things that promotion netted me eight reviews. Seven of those reviews were glowing. They loved me words. Wanted me to run for President – even though I’m a Canadian.
However one of those eight reviewers didn’t like my book. She peed all over the pages – great big splashing drops of sulphur-reeking e-urine – and she was giggling while she did it. She told me my words stunk so badly that her pet skunk died after sleeping next to her Kindle.
It was bad.
It was very, very bad.
Did I let it get me down?
Remember, you can’t please everyone.
Sit down, write – and please yourself.
Besides – I wish to the high holy Moose Mountains that I had a book with as many reviews as you’ve got. Obviously you must be touching some of those readers.
We’ve all got that inner prune – that sits there and farts at our creations and tells us we are no stinking good. Remember – that’s just the inner prune that is squeaking at you. Don’t pay it no heed. It won’t ever go away. Life doesn’t work that way. But you just remind yourself that the inner prune is NOT worth listening too.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Tell that inner prune to shut on up and then get back to your writing.
(stepping down from the pulpit)
Now that I am done thumping my chest let me assure you that even writers with as many years experience as I have encounter this gnawing nasty inner prune feeling. I’ll come up short and say to myself – “Vernon, who are you kidding? Your words are crap. You had to tie your keyboard to your ankle and jump off of into the deep end of the Arctic Ocean.”
What it boils down to is feeling the fear and doing it anyway.
PS: Don’t forget that today is your last chance to pick up a copy of my BIGFOOT TRACKS: A CREEP SQUAD COLLECTION for FREE over at Amazon.
Or pick up a copy at Amazon.co.uk
If you’ve already picked up a copy I thank you. If you have read it and enjoyed it I could ALWAYS use a good review. And – lastly – please spread the word about this freebie anyway that you can. Tweet it, Facebook it, talk to your cat about it or just scribble the link on your nearest mensroom wall.