Happy Hallowe’en! A spooky story for those who liked Dark Clouds



As a Hallowe’en treat, I’m reprising here a little story I wrote as an entry in a writing competition about four years ago. The idea was to start with “Shadows crept across the wall.” Extra points were awarded for ending with “everything faded,” and using the word “orange.”

This vignette follows the action in Dark Clouds. See if you can guess where Matt and Helen will turn up next.

Helen’s prison

Shadows crept across the wall, then slithered across the floor. Their teeth reflected the orange sunlight that slanted through the dirty, narrow window.

Slumped on the floor, back against the wall, Matt watched it slide onto his thigh. It grinned at him. Its fangs tore wide rents through his jeans.

The shadow laughed, a sickening hiss. Its fellows joined it in shredding Matt’s pants. The lead shadow laughed again and sank its teeth into his skin.

Matt sighed and shook his head. Won’t she ever learn?

The shadow teeth did nothing to him. How could they? They’re just shadows.

All the shadows hissed, frustrated. They merged and faded into the gloom of the doorless cell. A new shadow appeared on the floor. It grew into Helen.

“So you are immune,” she said.

“Hello, Mom. Do you have anything to drink?”

“Wipe that smirk off your face…you’re no good to me here. And you are my son.” A door appeared in the concrete-block wall and swung open slowly.

“You’re letting me go?”

It was Helen’s turn to smirk as she faded back into shadow.

The last of the sunlight disappeared. Matt crawled out the door just as everything faded.

Dark Clouds: a cross-genre occult paranormal espionage thriller in the making.

Matt always knew when his mother was about to arrive: the wind would swirl from every direction at once and dark clouds would mass in the sky.

He and his pretty wife, Teri, try to get out of the way, but as the Witch’s Son, Matt is drawn into a spider’s web.

He has to use his special abilities to spoil the Witch Queen’s plans—but the price for that is to be paid in blood.

Fortunately, Teri has a few special abilities of her own …

Find it on Amazon or download it for free.

Spooky sample: The Bones of the Earth



Photo used under Creative Commons from wwarby

It’s the last Sunday before Hallowe’en, so I thought I’d share a scary episode from my first novel, The Bones of the Earth. Here, the protagonist, Javor, is riding with a column of Roman Legionnaires because … well, you’ll just have to read the book for the “because” part.

The column is riding two wide along a long, twisting forest path, when suddenly they’re attacked by something they cannot see. Their only option is to gallop as fast as they can to the end of the path and hope …

In one motion, Valgus picked up the fallen standard, jumped on his own horse and yelled “Ride! Legion, forward!” He kneed his stallion and the animal leaped forward into a full gallop. Together, the column raced along the path. Javor clung to his horse’s mane as tightly as he could, but as mud and water sprayed onto his face he felt himself slipping sideways until a strong arm pulled him upright: Antonio again.

Three times, they heard screams; three times, legionnaires at random points in the column fell to the side. But the column dared not break stride and flew along the path. Horses stumbled, but righted themselves. Men gripped their saddle horns and prayed for salvation. Javor heard nothing but thundering hooves and jangling steel, and the amulet was vibrating so hard it felt like it was on fire.
Up ahead, he could see light as the path came to some kind of clearing, but at that moment, something cold and damp clutched around his neck and yanked him from the saddle.

He fell to the ground in a tangle of leather and steel, landing hard on his side. From the side he could see a blur of horses’ and men’s legs and flashes of steel. The wet grip around his neck tightened, but he couldn’t see what it was. He groped for his sword or knife or something.

Then there was a blur as something else landed on the ground. It grunted, yelled, and moved, and Javor realized it was Antonio. He had thrown himself from his horse when he saw Javor topple. He landed on his feet with his short sword drawn and stabbed at something shadowy. The pressure on Javor’s neck ceased and the two men heard something rustle into the underbrush.

Javor scrambled to his feet and fumbled for his dagger. “Did you see it?”e72b9-bonescoverfinalforweb

Want to find out what happens to Javor? Click the cover image on the right and get the whole book!

iAi cover reveal: The Dark by David C. Cassidy



The multi-talented author David C. Cassidy has completed his third book. He’s releasing The Dark, a very creepy, scary and riveting tale on December 15. It’s available for pre-order on Amazon right now. 

What’s it about?

It knows what you want. It knows what you need.

In denial over his father’s death in a horrific accident, Kelan Lisk has grown fearful and withdrawn. For this meek and bullied child, a burning desire to tame a deadly sledding hill consumes him, drawing him inside a wondrous place where anything is possible … including his father. But as this strange new realm spills into this one, twisting an innocent boy into an agent of evil, the world is forever changed, devoured by an even greater evil—the Dark.

Reviews on Amazon:

“Dean Koontz would be proud of this writer.”“Exceptional writing on a par with Stephen King.”“Readers are at the mercy of a masterful storyteller.”“Eloquent and eerie … this is how a story should be written.”

 
I’m thrilled about this book and doubly proud of it, because I’ve been a fan of David Cassidy (the author, photographer and designer, not the teen idol) since I discovered his first book, Velvet Rain, and saw several of his gorgeous cover designs. In fact, I asked David to design the covers of both One Shade of Red and Army of Work Soles.
 
The other reason I am so proud of The Dark is that I edited the manuscript. I’m very happy with the way that worked out.
 
So check it out. And if you want a scary, creepy and excellent book to read over the holidays, or if you want to give one as a present, then this is what you’re looking for.

Deadly Company – a spooky tale that reveals an author’s darker side



By Rosa Storm
What does choosing your own name say about you? What about when the chosen name is a mirror of the given name?
 
One of my favourite indie authors is Cinta Garcia de la Rosa, who wrote The Funny Adventures of LittleNani for children. She has a distinct voice and style, and a sense of humour that bubbles through the text. She’s not afraid to break through the “fourth wall,” engaging directly and very effectively with the audience. No matter what the subject, when you read Cinta, you see that she is enjoying the art of writing.
 
Now she has turned to a subject very different from children’s stories, under the name Rosa Storm. Does moving her second surname to the front signify that she is bringing some suppressed characteristic to the fore?
 
And Storm: storms can be dark times. Rosa Storm’s newest story, Deadly Company, is dark indeed. And very bloody. As Rosa Storm, Cinta Garcia may be letting someone dangerous out to play.
 
Deadly Company is based on the Spanish Galician (as opposed to the Polish Galician) legend of La Santa Campaña, the Holy Company also known as “the night ones.” The legends tells of a procession of dead spirits wearing hoods and carrying candles, led by a living person dressed in a hood and carrying a cross and a cauldron of holy water. Their appearance means someone nearby is close to death.
 
The person leading the procession can only be freed from this duty if he or she finds some other living person to take over.
 
Deadly Company follows a well-worn path in reinvigorating an old legend like this, involving teenagers, graveyards and spooky woods. But what sets this story apart are Storm’s vivid descriptions, her realistic characterization and that irrepressible sense of humour. This writer understands children and young people, and I cannot help but think she must have a vivacious presence in person. Yes, even though this is a spooky and gory story, there are laughs as she describes her characters’ motivations and reactions. Little details, like an errant tuna sandwich and the way the characters interrupt a story-teller—breaking the fourth wall within the story—bring the story to life.
 
Deadly Company reveals two very different sides of this writer’s personality. But most important, it’s a story that grabs your attention and doesn’t let go until the last word.
 
4* (a few minor editing errors)
 

DEADLY COMPANYBased on the Spanish legend of La Santa Compaña (The Holy Company), this story talks about the unknown and unexplainable things that go bump in the night. When a group of teenagers decide to spend some time in their hometown’s graveyard, they didn’t know they were going to learn about one of the darkest periods in the history of their town. The souls of the dead, hooded figures, and weird deaths combine in this chilling story of ancient legends and facts.

Visit Rosa Storm’s 


 

BLOG ANNOUNCEMENT: Fantasy Novel Extravaganza!



Starting February 1 through 8, Fantastical Reads is hosting their first Facebook event. Games will give book lovers chances to win an array of prizes. 



Join the fun all week on Fantastical Read’s Facebook Event page.  


And visit their blog for a chance to win the paperback of Tolomay’s World and the Pool of Light by M.E. Lorde and The Hunt for Xanadu by Elyse Salpeter through a Goodreads Giveaway


Fantastical Reads— only the best reads and reviews!

Sample Sunday: a chapter from the spooky work-in-progress



Hallowe’en is coming up fast, and in honour of that auspicious occasion, I’m posting some spooky stories on the next few Sundays. 
If you’ve been to this blog before, you’ll recognize Dark Clouds. “The Mandrake Ruse” is the first chapter in what is slowly growing into a complete novel that I hope will cross the occult/paranormal-spy thriller genre boundary.
You can download Dark Clouds: The Mandrake Ruse as an e-book for free from the tab at the top of the page.

What follows is a short chapter, this one focusing on “pretty little Teri,” the heroine of The Mandrake Ruse, What Made me Love You? and The Graveyard, and the wife of the Witch’s son and hero of the tale, Matt.

Dark Clouds: Teri and the river 

Photo of Dumoine River copyright Scott Bury

The water was surprisingly warm, swirling and dancing in the setting sun, dark where it was deep, orange where it flowed over rocks, white were it leapt and spun and rolled in joy.
Teri let herself drift. She closed her eyes to let her spirit see freely. She felt the river’s joy, its happiness in its own strength, in its ability to feed the life in it and around it. Teri saw the fishes and the other creatures below its surface, hiding under soil and rocks and among the trees that pushed their roots into the river to draw their lives.
Teri’s skin tingled with the energy of life, but she ignored the sensation. She could not even be certain she was breathing, whether she was above or below the surface, but she pushed those thoughts, those fears out of her mind. She opened her spirit wider, searched for every sensation and tried to contact the river’s spirit.
A riot of sensation shocked her and her eyes flew open involuntarily. She found herself lying on her back on the water’s surface. She let the river take her. Trees drifted past on either side. The current pulled her until she drifted downstream, head-first. She felt a tug to one side and saw a boulder slide past her vision. The river had kept her from injury.
Teri took a deep breath and closed her eyes. She opened her mind again, willing herself not to think of language or any human constructs so that she could communicate with the essence of the river.
There it was: the joy, the power of the river, constant motion, different in every second, eternally the same. Dark, alive, irresistible. The river acknowledged Teri’s attempt at communication, and her mind filled with a cognizance of a powerful, dark, living and curious presence.
She wanted to ask “Where am I?” but knew that forming human words in her mind threatened to break the communion she had with the river. She explored the edges of her consciousness and found she could not exactly see, but gradually become aware of the world beyond the river’s banks, of the trees and hills and other rivers and lakes and animals, the forest stretching across the world’s curves. Life buzzed and oozed until it twisted or cramped in pain, and Teri understood that happened where humans built their cities.
But there, to her left, no, now her right as the river turned her playfully, there, far but not so far for the river, was her home. And beyond it, her parents’ home. And over there, yes, she could tell where Racine was. She could feel his rancour, feel the stink of his fear.
And in the other direction, a malevolence that could only be Helen. The Witch Queen was looking for her, but she did not have a connection with the joyous river and could not see Teri.
Teri felt the river probe her spirit. Later, her memory would translate the deep connection she had into words.
“Do not fear, little one,” the river said.
“I am not afraid. Thank you for saving me. How did I end up in you?”
“I do not know. One moment, you were there. Perhaps you fell in? The banks, though, do not remember you.”
“The last thing I remember is being in a dark room, chained to a bed,” Teri told the river, careful not to make her thoughts too concrete. “How long have I been in you?”
“A full day. Do not worry, my child. I will keep you warm until I deliver you into the waters of my brother/sister.”
Teri realized she was naked, but not cold. She wondered, briefly, if the sun had set yet, but she did not dare open her eyes in case that would sever her communion with the river.
“Who is your brother?” she asked.
She felt the presence swirl under and over and around her, like an enormous otter or fish, playing in the water. “Some of your kind call her/him the Ottawa River,” said the presence. “I will carry you to him/her by the time the sun rises again. You are tired. I can tell. Peace, child. Sleep. Trust me to take you home.”
Sleep. How long had it been since she had slept, Teri wondered. Days? Weeks? She had no idea how long Helen had kept her in that windowless room. The time had dragged; she knew that Helen had drugged her, somehow, to bring her there, and had used drugs or spells repeatedly to take away her consciousness. She remembered opening her eyes to see Helen’s only inches away, or across the room, supervising Loretta or one of her other bitches as they humiliated her. Even the water’s warmth could not keep her from shivering at the memory of two of Helen’s coven, hands on her ankles, spreading her legs apart while Helen laughed and brought a small crystal vial toward her vagina. But it had only been psychological torture; Helen would never bring herself to actually touch Teri.
Teri let the river calm her, let the water caress her skin. Her thoughts retreated from the world around her, from the embrace of the water, from the presence of the river. And then she felt the presence within her, and she knew that she had defeated Helen.
She slept, and the Dumoine River carried her gently through the night until it gave her to the embrace of its great sibling, and Teri moved with the speed of the deep natural world toward her home.

Independent book review: Reckoning, by RS Guthrie



With Reckoning, RS Guthrie takes the fiction writer’s rule book, shreds it in mighty fingers and reassembles it into a new way of engaging audiences.
Reckoning is the third of Guthrie’s books to feature Denver Detective Robert Macaulay, also known as Bobby Mac and also known as the heir to the occult power of Clan MacAulay.

 

Busting through the genre boundaries

Reckoning, like Black Beast and LOST, the previous Bobby Mac novels, is a noir cop thriller, a police procedural whose villain just happens to be (spoiler alert!) a demon.
Right there, he’s broken the artificial boundaries imposed on genres. Guthrie’s Bobby Mac novels read like gritty cop stories, yet somehow the supernatural elements fit perfectly.
Another rule that he breaks: modulating between the first and third person perspective. Most of the book is narrated by Bobby Mac, and Guthrie’s command of the tough, no-nonsense cop dialect (ever notice how cops all sound the same, no matter where they come from?) is flawless. But where the story needs a third-person omniscient POV, Guthrie smoothly shifts for exactly as long as he needs to.
He has created his own style here. It’s as if Bobby Mac is sitting beside you on the porch, telling you what happened. No, actually, it’s more like he’s sitting across a campfire on a moonless night, telling you about what is deep in those shadows. At times, Guthrie gets a little too philosophical, waxing about the relationships between parents and children or mentors and protégés; occasionally, I started to lose patience. But for all that, Guthrie kept me flipping pages (or flicking my iPad screen, to be precise).

 

Plot

This trilogy is all about the battle between a demon, Samhain, who is opposed on earth primarily by the Clan MacAulay of Scotland. Today, that clan is represented by Detective Bobby Macaulay of the Denver police force, who has inherited the Clan’s ancient weapon against Hell, the Crucifix of Ardincaple.
Decades ago, Pink Floyd said “One day you find, 10 years have got behind you.” The story of Reckoning picks up where LOST left off, but 10 years later. Bobby Mac has remarried, had another family — triplet girls — and is starting to think about retiring from the police force. Evil returns in the form of a serial killer plaguing Denver. In a nod to noir thrillers of yore, the first case mimics the Black Dahlia.
Like any good police procedural, the story follows Bobby Mac tracking down clues and fighting against the awful realization that the enemy he knows best, and thought destroyed, has returned.

 

Best and worst

The best part of Guthrie’s stories are the relationships between the characters. They’re all combinations of positive and negative qualities, inconsistent and flawed. You never really know their motivations, because the characters themselves are never really sure just what combination of attitudes, fears, desires and blindnesses are driving them.
I have always enjoyed Guthrie’s descriptions of Bobby Mac and his son trying to communicate through all the layers of love and mistrust and history and baggage. However, as mentioned, this time it seemed to get a little long. The narrative seemed to keep veering off onto tangents.
Also, I felt that with this installment of the story, you really had to have read the first two books to understand what was going on.
For example, as the book approaches the final confrontation between good and evil, Bobby Mac explains “the whole story” to his partner, but not explicitly in the story. The book reads more like “I told him the whole story,” rather than recapping it, or describing some action that would encapsulate the conflict. While this technique is a good way to abbreviate another info-dump and avoid rehashing stuff that loyal readers already know, it also risks alienating those who have not read the previous installments. (Maybe it’s a clever way of boosting sales of the other books.)
Overall, Reckoning, the finale of the Bobby Mac trilogy (although Guthrie keeps saying he’ll have other stories about Bobby Mac) is an enjoyable, satisfying completion to the trilogy. It wraps it all up in Guthrie’s lean, aggressive writing style without missing a beat or leaving a loose end untied.
And it’s engaging, one of those stories you can’t put down.
If you want a good read that breaks all those worn out conventions of genre boundaries and unnecessary rules, read Reckoning. But you should probably read LOST first, and probably Black Beast before that.
To get the books, the best place to start is Guthrie’s website or his blog. Or visit his Amazon author’s page.
You can also get a signed copy of Reckoning directly from Rob.