__MAIN_TEXT__

Page 1

1


Halloween reading magazine Executive Editor - Laurence O’Bryan Editor-in-Chief - Tanja Slijepčević Graphic Designer - Mirna Gilman Ranogajec

Produced by BooksGoSocial 5 Dame Lane Dublin 2 BooksGoSocial.com Admin@booksgosocial.com

https://bgsauthors.com

2


Table of contents 04

Editor’s Letter

08

A NIGHT IN THE LONESOME OCTOBER BY LOREN COOPER

11

I AIN’ T AFRAID OF NO GHOSTS

17

GET YOUR READER INTO THE HORROR OF IT ALL BY JAMES MUSGRAVE

21

MEDICAL KILLERS

27

REVIEWS

33 39

MONSTER ROMANCE BY HOLLY BARGO SHORT STORIES

51

THE ART OF CREATING A VILLAIN BY OLIVIA CASTILLO

54

THE ART OF CREATING UNSETTLING HORROR AND SUSPENSE

59

THE LEGEND OF JACK O’LANTERN BY STEVE CONOBOY

64

SHORT EXCERPTS

78

POEMS 3


Editor’s letter You are very welcome to our Halloween magazine ‘18! From scary stories, ghosts, paranormal sights, excerpts, and advice on how to write a perfect villain, we have a delicious mix of Halloween goodies for you! And if you look carefully, you’ll find a couple of free books around the magazine. We start with a classic - Loren Cooper shares why everyone should read Zelazny’s last novel A Night in the Lonesome October. Canadian mystery author Mike Martin tells us why he is afraid of no ghosts - and the importance of one in a story. James Musgrave shares his tips on how to get your reader into the horror of it all.

4


Zeena Nackerdien takes a more sombre approach with examples of medical killers in real life. Debbi Mack shares her opinion of Draculas by Strand Wilson and Eerie by Blake and Jordan Crouch, both novels worthy of Halloween read. What would you do if you saw a dead girl walking into a bar where you’ve been drinking your pint in peace? Jameson Tucker says not to panic - more on page 39. What if your roommate is not who you thought she is? Or you find a wolf under your bed? Or something worse? Find out what happens on page 43. And of course, don’t forget to check out our book recommendations, which are not limited to Halloween themes - there is something for everyone. This and much more in our new Halloween magazine! It should entertain you - and scare you senseless! And if you have any ideas for articles or things you would like to see covered in our magazines, let me know. Tanja Slijepcevic Editor in Chief Halloween Magazine

5


Absence of Light---Crawford Hill by Marsha J. MacDonald

It is the mid-1800’s as Brandon Stewart, a handsome foreign correspondent for The Illustrated London News, leaves England with his wife and young son for the rice plantations of the pre-Civil War South. Amid the turbulence of the Deep South, assigned to report on the interrelationship of Southern politics, society, and the anti-slavery movement, Brandon has no idea of what his future holds. When tragedy strikes, Brandon must persevere despite the uncertainty that fate inevitably brings. In this historical novel, an English family is impacted as the American Civil War begins in the Deep South and forever changes their destinies. Perfect for fans of Gone With the Wind!

The Proposition by Jan Selbourne

They met on the eve of a battle. One enlisted to avoid prison, the other enlisted to avoid the money lenders. On the bloodied fields of France, Harry Connelly risks, a hanging offence—his only hope for a future. Harry swaps identity discs. Now known as Andrew, he is just another face in post war London until a letter arrives with a proposition. Not accepting might cause discovery. Accepting will plunge him into a nightmare of murder, family jealousy and greed. What will he choose? 5 Stars: “Jan Selbourne has once again outdone herself with a masterfully written novel of love, lies, intrigue and mystery. A must read!”

5 Stars: “In Perilous Love Ms. Selbourne gave us a love story surrounded by the beginnings of a world war. In Lies of Gold she had her characters find love amidst spies and the worst kind of human trafficking. In The Proposition, Andrew Haines and his cousin Lacey Haines find each other in a post-World War I murder mystery. … Thanks for another great story, Ms. Selbourne!”

6


Negative Space by Silvia Sanza When Jessie’s husband dies of cancer barely a week after 9/11, she finds herself involved with three people: a younger man, an older man, and a younger woman and embarks on a passionate journey that will take her into new realms of intimacy.

Blank by Sabrina RG Raven Confined to Oasis after the war people are genetically matched via matching birth marks. City Ordinance makes sure mutagen free status is maintained. But in a world of marked people, what happens when you’re blank?

Teardrops of the Innocent: The White Diamond Story by Allie Marie 18th century spirits seeking answers to secrets hidden since the Revolutionary War haunt a modern-day woman in search of her ancestry. Stephanie Kincaid knows she may find skeletons in the closet. She doesn’t expect to find one buried in the back yard.

Forgiven by Geoff Lawson 1899 - I am in South Africa. I am wounded and surrounded by scruffy, heavily armed, scowling men. I am a prisoner. Thank God Rachel can’t see me now. I feel low. Lower than I have ever felt before, and I wonder if I will ever be able to find my way back to her.

7


A Night in the Lonesome October by Loren Cooper Everyone has seasonal favorite works to read and revisit around the holidays. At Christmas, it may be Dickens’ Christmas Carol, or O. Henry’s Gift of the Magi; Doyle’s Blue Carbuncle, or Shepherd’s Christmas Story. For Halloween, it may be The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, or Stoker’s Dracula; The Tell-Tale Heart, The Shadow over Innsmouth, or Frankenstein. A less known and particular favorite of mine has always been A Night in the Lonesome October, by Roger Zelazny, Illustrated by Gahan Wilson, published in 1993. A Night in the Lonesome October was Zelazny’s last published novel before his death in 1995. A Nebula nominee, it’s not precisely horror so much as an homage to classic horror. It’s generally not as well-known as many of Zelazny’s other works, like Lord of Light or the Chronicles of Amber, but it is pure Zelazny magic, complemented by Wilson’s surreal rendering of the characters. Narrated by Jack the Ripper’s dog, A Night in the Lonesome October is a romp through horror tropes, a tale told in a typically Zelaznian wry tone. Snuff and his fellow familiars (and their Players) are assembling in October for a regular meeting and gaming session where the Players align themselves on

8


one side or another to open or keep closed a gate to the Lovecraftian realms of chaos. Things get strange from there. It’s a fun read. Each chapter represents a day and night in October, culminating with the climax of Halloween’s game. I am an admirer of Zelazny’s works, I confess, but there is something about A Night in the Lonesome October that always brings me back for an annual reread. Perhaps it is the fact that, like many of Zelazny’s works, it is Romance, shot through with elements of horror and humor. I hope you have the chance to pick it up and enjoy it as much as I have over the years. It is available on Amazon in paperback, hardcover, and audiobook, but sadly not in Kindle. There are electronic editions online in other venues than Amazon, as well, but given the illustrations, it would seem best enjoyed in print. Loren W Cooper is the author of 6 published books. His fourth novel, CrossTown, released last year in print from Red Hen press and this year the electronic editions became available. CrossTown is currently a Finalist for the Endeavor Award for best speculative fiction novel from a Northwest Author. He has won awards for Best Electronic Anthology (2001 EPIC Award) and the NESFA in 1998 for Best Short Story.

9


Sober and Pissed Off by Jane Zarse

Sober and Pissed Off is a book for recovering alcoholics who are struggling with emotional wellbeing. There is no known cure for alcoholism, and the only proven treatment is spirituality. Jane Zarse is a recovering alcoholic who will never be cured. What she really has is a daily reprieve, contingent on the maintenance of her spiritual condition. When Zarse got tangled up emotionally, her spiritual condition suffered greatly. When a recovering alcoholic loses serenity, sobriety is usually next. Zarse is grateful that she didn’t return to drinking, but if she stayed as miserable as she had become, there’s no telling what could have happened.

There are millions of people in recovery who are struggling with emotional sobriety. Most alcoholics come into AA as very sick people. They are maladjusted to life, unhappy, mentally defective, and out of touch with reality.

Nyira and the Invisible Boy: The Graveyard Club, Book I by K.M. Harrell

Slavers burn Nyira’s village and murder her father. Hiding in the jungle, she befriends Gord, a young gorilla. The slavers capture Gord, and Nyira surrenders, to save him. They take her to Haiti. Enriquillo’s tribe hides in the Haitian mountains for hundreds of years. French soldiers kill his father; his friend is murdered by a local planter. Enriquillo meets Nyira on a day he sneaks into the town market, and discovers she is prophesized as his future queen. When Nyira uses magic to save a friend’s life, she is condemned to burn. Will Enriquillo risk everything to save her? “Harrell writes convincingly of a child’s worldview, balancing the protagonist’s vulnerability with fortitude. Prose flows eloquently, with hard-hitting observations about cruelty and inhumanity.The author’s blending of magic into a story of survival and oppression under colonialism, results in a rare and powerful work of speculative fiction.” - The Booklife Prize “Strikingly original and very well-written, Nyira and the Invisible Boy is a wholly enjoyable read!” aweatherbee—Amazon.com 10


I Ain’t Afraid of No Ghosts by Mike Martin Well, that’s not really true. Some ghosts scare the dickens out of me. But in many mysteries, like my Sgt. Windflower Mystery series, ghosts and spirits pop up quite often, and always unexpectedly. They serve to help tell the story, particularly about the history of a place and even allow for a little light humour in sometimes dark places in the story line. Ghosts and mysteries have been called the perfect combination. Both ask the reader to delve a little bit into the unknown and then back again across the line into reality. You have to pretend to accept a ghost as part of a story, even in mysteries. But then, all fiction requires the reader to suspend belief in order to follow the story. You have to pretend that you are in a different location with people that you don’t know in order to experience the full effect. Those who can’t do that often claim that they don’t like fiction books or stories, but I think it may be that they just don’t know how to let themselves go and be captured by the story or the characters. I also think they are missing out on a great deal of fun!! What most people don’t realize is that writers have to do the same thing. Suspend our belief in the ordinary and escape to another reality, 11


inside our heads. In my Sgt. Windflower Mystery series I use the very real town of Grand Bank, Newfoundland, as a backdrop for my stories. It settles the stories in a solid foundation of place that many people who have read the series now think they know. I hope so. But the setting is truly just the beginning. Because, with the exception of a few historical facts and bread crumbs, the rest is all imagination. The main character, Sgt. Windflower, came out of the fog one night in Grand Bank and started telling me his story. All I did was write it down. Once I did that, all these other characters came along and I started writing their stories too. My main job today is to try and keep them all happy and allow each of them the appropriate time to tell their part. If that’s not enough to stretch your imagination, there’s more. Two of Windflower’s family, his aunt and uncle, turn out to be dream weavers. They can interpret dreams, their own and others. Windflower learns how to do that too, and soon he is awake while he is dreaming and understanding the messages that come to him. I know it sounds crazy, but it really happens, at least to Windflower. He uses it to access the spirit world, the other side. At first, Windflower appears skeptical about this whole spirit and dreaming thing. Until he starts to realize that there might actually be messages and information about himself that he can learn. That’s when 12


he decides to ask his relatives to teach him how to do it. After a while he comes to see that reality might be more than just what we can see in front of him. Once he accesses this power, his life becomes richer, and of course, the story gets better. The other thing that is happening in the Sgt. Windflower Mystery series is that the spirit world starts to become more visible. In the latest book, Darkest Before the Dawn, there’s a ghost. Or maybe there’s a ghost? That’s up to Windflower to discover, or for readers to decide. You don’t get to see the ghost. That would be too easy. But if you look carefully you just might see the signs. This all gets me back to the first point. You have to suspend your belief in order to enjoy the story. That is true in all fiction, and more particularly in mystery fiction. So, don’t rule out Windflower’s dream weaving abilities or the possibility that an old ghost is wandering around the old B & B that he and Sheila have bought. If you do, you might miss half the fun. Mike Martin writes the Sgt. Windflower Mysteries, a light mystery series set on the east coast of Canada. Darkest Before the Dawn is the latest book in the series. It is available in print and e-book versions worldwide through Amazon and in Canada through Chapters/Indigo and other fine bookstores. And from Ottawa Press and Publishing at https://www.ottawapressandpublishing.com/

13


Fairfield Corners from LA Remenicky! Love stories with a TWIST of paranormal Each is a suspense filled standalone ebook, pb, AUDIO & FREE on KU! http://myBook.to/FairfieldCorners From Book 1: Some secrets are too dangerous to keep. After ten years in the big city, Cassie Holt is back in Fairfield Corners. She may look like the same girl who left home a decade before but she’s hiding a dark truth from everyone. When her life is threatened by the demons of her past, her best friend—who happens to be the local sheriff—offers his help.

14


It Began With a Lie by MIchele PW (Pariza Wacek) A fresh start. That was what Becca hoped the move from New York to Redemption, Wisconsin would be for her troubled family. But instead of a new beginning, Becca is thrust into a mysterious past she barely remembers. A past that includes the complications of interacting with her old teenage crush, Daniel, as well as living in her aunt’s old house (what the locals call “The Witch House.”) But is the house really haunted? Or is there something far more sinister out to destroy them? “I literally could not put this book down! Having read a couple of the author’s other novels, I knew to expect a page turner, and she did not disappoint. Highly recommended!”

Naval Maneuvers by Dee S. Knight Men and women of the armed forces experience desire and love pretty much like everyone else. Except, well, there is that uniform. And the hard-to-resist attraction of “duty, honor, service.” Those aren’t just words. Apply them to a woman’s pleasure and see just how hot Naval Maneuvers can get! 5 Stars “These short stories have made me remember the passion between a woman and a man. Inspiring and heartfelt. A true gift this author has for sharing the beautiful relationship between a man and a woman.” 5 Star “Past regrets. Hard choices. And oh yes, hot sex. This book is a real crowd pleaser. Five stars.”

15


The Island Dog Squad (Book 1: Sandy’s Story) by Deb McEwan She has no idea who, or where she is. When Sandy’s people parents take her home, she focuses on her future. Then she meets Lola, Obie and Chip, and the flashbacks begin. As her past unravels, and her memory returns, Sandy must make a choice that will determine her life and her future. ‘The Island Dog Squad’, a novella, told by Sandy the rescue dog.

Pam of Babylon by Suzanne Jenkins A Reader’s Favorite winner! When Jack has a heart attack on the train from Manhattan, his wife and two lovers discover secrets and lies, and each other.

The Meadows by London Clarke A decades-old murder. A blood-thirsty cult. And a house full of spirits. It was supposed to be a new beginning, a fresh start in the Shenandoah Valley, where her memories weren’t riddled with addiction and rehab. But after purchasing an abandoned house with a checkered past, Scarlett has no idea what she’s really battling. And her nightmare is just beginning…

Last Another Day by Baileigh Higgins All it takes is one mistake... As the sun sets against the backdrop of the African veldt and living nightmares walk the streets in the shape of their loved one’s bodies, humanity’s last hope rests in the hands of ordinary men and women called to do extraordinary things. 16


GET YOUR READER INTO THE HORROR OF IT ALL By James Musgrave I have just begun a new historical mystery series called Portia of the Pacific, starring Clara Shortridge Foltz, Esq., and many members of her family. My third mystery, The Stockton Insane Asylum Murder, is set inside the first-ever state asylum in 1887 northern California. I did my due diligence and became immersed in the history of mental health in California, and especially as it concerns this specific state asylum in Stockton. I have completed the first four chapters, when I realized the possibility of getting my readers involved in the actual writing process. Why not have five “winners” of a raffle become five mental patients inside my asylum and inside my mystery? If you want your readers to become enthused with your subject matter, and possibly increase your purchases, then here are the steps you can take to do this: 1. Think of a way your reader can become a character in your book and then hold a raffle to do this. See my current raffle using (free) Rafflecopter software. 2. Promote your raffle on your author’s website as well as in Facebook 17


ads. 3. Let them read sample chapters from the novel in which they will be appearing. 4. Be certain to also promote this inside your other books in the series. 5. Post the “results” on your book series Facebook page so others can share in the excitement. 6. Do a mailing to your reader’s mailing list. That’s about it. It takes some loneliness out of the writing process, and it just may increase your motivation to please your readers. That’s not too horrible, now is it? James Musgrave was born in Fall River, Massachusetts. He taught as a Professor of English and worked as a Supervisor, Management Development at Caltech, Pasadena and at various San Diego colleges. He is now the author and publisher at EMRE Publishing, LLC in San Diego. He has won many writing awards, and his mysteries are ‘featured selections’ by the American Library Association. He was also a Finalist in the Bram Stoker Awards, First Place Award for Best Historical Mystery in the Chanticleer International Book Awards, and a Finalist in the Heekin Fellowship.

18


An end of the world romance from Sam Jacobey Enemies to lovers - Caleb & Bailey face Armageddon Can they survive when it all falls apart? Read in order - Ebook, PB, AUDIO & FREE on KU http://myBook.to/TheIrrevocableSeries From Book 1: Bailey Dewitt is on a crash course with Armageddon. Orphaned, she and her young brothers find themselves living with their renegade uncle. Part of a group of survivalists, she is terrified to discover they are preparing for the end of the world! Could they be right – is mankind headed for a global disaster of his own making? While Bailey struggles with that question and what she should do about it, Caleb, a man from the group, becomes her dearest friend and the one person she can trust to love and protect her. When things spiral out of control, will their bond be enough to save the entire community, or will rival forces strip away all that they have worked for at the time they need it most…

19


Live Like a God by Taylor Kole Josh chooses to be miniaturized where he gains god-like attributes. The kicker is he is then placed in a terrarium with ants, spiders, and other killer insects.

Cailleach~Witch by Jane Gilheaney Barry A LITTLE SPOOKY, A LITTLE QUIRKY, A WHOLE LOT OF ATMOSPHERE AND MYSTERY... A beautifully lyrical and eerie tale, with touches of magic and an abiding sense of atmosphere and place. Jane Gilheaney Barry drives her cast of memorable women at lightning pace through the landscape and climate of Ireland’s wild west.

Proper Exercise Primes Preppers for Disasters by Dan Vale This book describes why health and physical fitness are important during normal times and especially during disasters. Its chapters describe different types of exercises that can be done without a gym membership and in as little as 20 minutes a day. There are many suggestions that will help readers to motivate their family members achieve health and physical fitness.

Pieces of You by Abbye Kovacevic Lacee is the perfect upper class mom and wife. She’s active at the schools of her children and is the perfect host with a great husband, at all the social gatherings. Seemingly destined to keep the peace that surrounded her childhood, when her grandparents died, she was left their farm property that was situated by a beautiful river. Though she had her home, it became her retreat. 20


Medical Killers by Zeena Nackerdien

While the medical profession remains our bulwark against illness, this is a summary of the few “bad apples” that could easily leap from the pages of a Stephen King book. Have you ever had an allergic reaction to all the medical soap operas serving up medical doctors deftly juggling their love lives and solving medical mysteries that stump their colleagues—read House meets Grey’s Anatomy? Rarely, in our attention-deficit prone world do we seem to stumble upon the doctor as mere mortal or, worse, someone as sinister as any anti-hero in a Stephen King novel. Fear not, armchair cynics and medical history buffs. A quick flip through the pages of a series of related articles reveals a roll call of medical murderers motivated by personal or political gain—villains who might make the overly-paranoid think hard about switching to a new physician. If the death of one man is a tragedy and the deaths of millions considered to be a statistic (a quote often attributed to Joseph Stalin), then it follows 21


that the murders of millions numb us to the horror of each individual act of violence. So, stories describing political serial killers like Drs. Behaeddin Sakir and Mehmet Nazim and their roles in the establishment of extermination squads during the Armenian genocide in Turkey (1915) read like the recitation of dry historical facts from a bygone era. Perhaps the extent of brutality is best understood at the individual level when reading about the barbaric acts of Dr. Mehmet Resid, which included branding his victims with red-hot horseshoes and crucifying them on makeshift crosses.[1] The Armenian example is by no means unique, as evidenced by the well-known atrocities practiced by Nazi and Japanese doctors during World War II. Perhaps the squeamish among us should steer clear of books like Unit 731, which describes acts of horror committed by Japanese doctors, including mass infections of prisoners in Manchuria with anthrax, plague, and cholera. The impersonal reference to prisoners as “logs,” on the grounds that killing the prisoner was equivalent to cutting down a tree, only serves to underscore the horror of these acts.[2] While the egregious acts of the men described above, which are further illuminated in history tomes, may be attributed to the distortions of war or political indoctrination, it is the motives of the solitary medical murderer who “walks among us” that may often be hardest to decipher. The Postgraduate Medical Journal devoted several pages to the case of Dr. Harold Shipman, a 54-year-old general practitioner in the British town of Hyde, Manchester who, in 2000, was found guilty of murdering fifteen patients with lethal heroin injections.

22


Post-trial estimates of his victims were far higher, ranging from 215 to 450, making him one of the most prolific serial killers in English history.[3,4] Dr. Shipman’s acts— namely the killing of patients from the time he went into practice in 1974, with a one-year break during which he was treated for drug addiction until his arrest in 1998—were only uncovered after suspicions arose that he had forged a will. His motivations may be as murky as those of Dr. Michael Swango, who killed 60 patients across several states. [1] Sometimes the motives of these doctors only become tragically apparent with hindsight, such as the case of Great Man Syndrome suffered by Dr. Ferdinand Sauerbruch, a famed surgeon of the previous century. Beset by erratic mental behavior caused by vascular dementia, his operations degenerated into crude butchery, but his underlings felt too intimidated to intervene.[5] Regardless of whether the law eventually catches up with them or leaves us wondering for centuries—as in “was Jack the Ripper, a medical doctor?”—all these cases emphasize that the medical profession is not immune to the presence of individuals capable of performing acts of great cruelty. Sources 1. Kaplan, R. (2007). “The clinicide phenomenon: an exploration of medical murder.” Australas Psychiatry 15(4): 299-304. 2. Williams, P. and D. Wallace (1989). Unit 731 (Part One). (London. Hodder). 23


3. Kinnell, H. G. (2000). “Serial homicide by doctors: Shipman in perspective.” BMJ 321(7276): 1594-7. 4. Baker, R. (2004). “Implications of Harold Shipman for general practice.” Postgrad Med J 80(944): 303-6; discussion 307-8. 5. Cherian SM, Nicks R, et al. (2001). “Ernst Ferdinand Sauerbruch: rise and fall of the pioneer of thoracic surgery.” World Journal of Surgery 25: 1012-1020. Zeena Nackerdien obtained a PhD degree in Biochemistry from the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa. Zeena has been a research chemist at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Maryland and a senior research associate at The Rockefeller University in New York. She is the author of several publications in scientific journals and has also written many books in different genres. As a scientist turned patient advocate and writer, she is intensely interested in building relationships with people from different cultures through storytelling and education. Her books include American Voices, Lethal Copycats, Butterflies, The African Piper of Harlem, The Heroine Next Door, Mist over Peace, Scatterlings, A few good women in science and engineering, Perspectives on Type 2 Diabetes, and the HIV/TB/Diabetes resource kit. Zeena currently lives in Brooklyn, New York.

24


The Coven Murders by Brian O’Hare In the past Chief Inspector Sheehan and his team have dealt successfully with murderers, serial killers, vicious psychopaths, but how will they succeed against a malevolent Satanist who has the support of a determined coven and a very powerful demon? And bizarrely, will Sheehan have time to discover who is murdering members of the coven while trying to rescue a young lady who is targeted by them for human sacrifice on midnight of the sacred feast of Lughnasa? 5 out of 5 stars. A Brilliant Who-dun-it with a Twist. By Kendra Morgan “The Coven Murders is a brilliantly crafted mystery that left me on the edge of my seat right up to the last page. DCI Sheehan investigates when a skeleton is discovered near a dilapidated church in the countryside. During this investigation, another series of murders begins. It’s impossible to get into without some serious spoilers, so I’ll leave you with this: It will make the hairs on your arms and neck stand up straight. If you like a great mystery that’s hard to figure out, you gotta read The Coven Murders!”

Water Ghosts by Linda Collison “I see things other people don’t see; I hear things other people don’t hear.” Fifteen-year-old James McCafferty is sent aboard a Chinese sailing ship for a forced therapeutic experience with other young misfits and miscreants. James knows the ship is doomed. Water Ghosts is a nautical adventure and survival story, a psychological and supernatural struggle, and a trip into imperial China of long ago. “A witty YA voyage with plenty of narrative power.” -Kirkus “James’s voice is relatable and often laced with sarcastic teen wit. With this leavening, believable characters, a well-constructed plot, and writing that avoids all the possible clichés, Water Ghosts should appeal not only to teens but to adults looking for a jolt of adventure or a reminder of what being a teen feels like.” – Susan Waggoner, Foreword Reviews

25


Award winning THRILLERS from A. Nicky Hjort Psychological & Medical fans don’t miss out Dark, horror & MA Reads – each a stand alone Ebook, PB & FREE on KU http://myBook.to/SinisterSeries From Book 1: Devyn Mitchell has a choice… listen to the voice of her unborn baby – or die- again. After a near death experience, Doctor Devyn Mitchell finds herself not only mysteriously pregnant but able to communicate with her fetus. She has two choices: give in to total madness or surrender to her new reality, which just may be the only way she and her family will survive the obsessions of the Homeless Hunter’s mind. A true paranormal romantic thriller, A Sinister Bouquet: Awakening, the first of the Sinister Series, will take you right to the edge of what you know to be possible and then drop you in a place so dark, so terrifying, that the only passageway out is through the blinding light of awakening. Wake up. Open your eyes. Finally. We’ve missed you so. (MA18+ for graphic sexual and violent content) 26


Reviews

Review of Draculas by J.A. Konrath, Blake Crouch, Jeff Strand, and F. Paul Wilson. Review by Debbi Mack

The intro to Draculas includes the following dire words: “If you’re easily disturbed, have a weak stomach, or are prone to nightmares, stop reading right now. There are no sexy teen heartthrobs herein. “You have been warned.” Now those words could either be met with a knowing snicker or a pang of dread. Oddly enough, both responses would be appropriate. Draculas starts off looking like your fairly average horror novel. An aged eccentric recluse buys an unearthed Transylvanian skull that appears to be that of Dracula. He does something I won’t tell you (too much of a spoiler—yes, already!) that leads to all sorts of problems. Essentially, the eccentric man’s actions lead to the creation of another Dracula. But the problems don’t end there. No sir. The problems are just beginning.

27


Most of the story takes place in a hospital (one that’s out in the remote countryside, naturally), where the Dracula gets loose and starts biting people and turning them into Draculas. Thus, the name of the book in plural. Not just Dracula, but Draculas—and an awful and ever-increasing lot of them. At the heart of the story (because, this story does have a heart, actually) are three couples: hospice nurse Jenny and her average Joe, lumberjack ex-husband, Randall; Shanna, a biological anthropologist (how convenient) and her lawman/cowboy would-be fiance, Clay; and Stacie, a pregnant woman on the verge of giving birth, along with her preacher husband, Adam. The book jumps around in perspective from head to head, among the various Draculas and the six protagonists trying to defend themselves from them. It’s written with an almost stream-of-consciousness style that keeps the pace fast and the emotions immediate. However, the bulk of the story is hardly the stuff of nightmares. In fact, it perfectly combines horror with whimsical humor. In fact, it manages to be gross and incredibly funny. Scary, yes, but in the most cartoonish of ways. Let’s put it this way: if Carl Hiaasen and Bram Stoker collaborated, they could’ve produced this book. And, as for the Draculas themselves, each has his own distinct personality and agenda. (Although, I could’ve done with a little less time in their heads. The words “Bloodbloodblood” became less like a threat and more like a drone with each reading.) 28


And as for one absolutely positively knock-your-socks-off funny scene involving a legless Dracula in a wheelchair. Well, it elicited outright belly laughs from this reader. (Perhaps the intro should be modified to address the hopelessly politically-correct, rather than the easily disturbed. But that wouldn’t be much an intro, would it? Never mind, the intro’s fine.) Now, without revealing anything specific about the ending, let’s just say that things take a very serious turn right around the time the story reaches the point of becoming resolved. The resolution itself has serious repercussions for each of the couples. And the climax is, in fact, quite explosive. And the end—well, remember that pang of dread I mentioned? The noir twist on the ending is truly dreadful. And turns out to be the scariest part of the book. In any case, Draculas is an absolutely brilliant example of macabre humor at its best. (With a lesson: look out for those handsome heartthrobs. They aren’t always what they seem.) Debbi Mack is the New York Times bestselling author of the Sam McRae Mystery Series, featuring lawyer-sleuth Stephanie Ann “Sam” McRae. She’s also published an award-winning young adult novel, a thriller, and several short stories. In addition, Debbi has a podcast called the Crime Cafe and writes screenplays. Her feature-length script made the 2016 Scriptapalooza semifinals and she’s adapted her first novel into a screenplay. A Queens, NY native, Debbi lives in Columbia, MD, with her husband and their cats. Her website is www.debbimack.com.

29


Review of Eerie by Blake Crouch and Jordan Crouch Review by Debbi Mack Seattle Police detective Grant Moreton’s murder investigation leads to his long estranged younger sister, Paige. The siblings were essentially orphaned as young children after their mother died and a car crash left their father incapacitated. Thus, Grant has always felt responsible for Paige, since the accident, and he mourns for his father, who lives in a nursing home and with whom he can’t communicate. However, what waits for Grant behind the doors of Paige’s house is way more than he could have imagined. Not only does Paige seem emaciated, beyond his expectations, but the house itself has a strange hold over her. Paige has been working as a high class call girl for a select group of clientele, but when they leave the house, they all seem possessed by a spirit with an unknown agenda. When Grant tries to help his sister, things turn ugly, due to the strange force within the house. This force not only exerts a hold over Paige, but won’t let Grant leave. So, Grant must figure out how to alert his partner and solve the murders, while protecting his sister from something he doesn’t understand or quite believe, but can’t deny. In Eerie, the brothers Blake and Jordan Crouch weave an old-fashioned ghost story, through a suspense novel with characters harboring

30


dysfunctional family secrets to make it a cut above the usual horror tale. This book’s thrilling storyline kept me reading late into the night, but I couldn’t bear to look under the bed. Debbi Mack is the New York Times bestselling author of the Sam McRae Mystery Series, featuring lawyer-sleuth Stephanie Ann “Sam” McRae. She’s also published an award-winning young adult novel, a thriller, and several short stories. In addition, Debbi has a podcast called the Crime Cafe and writes screenplays. Her feature-length script made the 2016 Scriptapalooza semifinals and she’s adapted her first novel into a screenplay. A Queens, NY native, Debbi lives in Columbia, MD, with her husband and their cats. Her website is www.debbimack.com.

up n sig our to ader re t lis

31


Are you an author who wants to sell more books? Our authors are selling books fast - join us to find out how!

32


MONSTER ROMANCE By Holly Bargo Think of the stories and movies that capitalize on humanity’s fascination with horror and monsters. From Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818) to Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897) to Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (1820) to Edgar Allan Poe’s poem The Raven (1845), we mix the horrifying with the romantic, all for the purpose of thrilling ourselves. That mixture of allusion and mystery that imbued Romantic Age literature took a turn for the prurient with the more recent addition of cryptozoological erotica, also known as “monster porn,” written under such pseudonyms as Pandora Box and Virginia Wade. Although romance within the original stories may be mild or even absent, Hollywood can’t and won’t let an opportunity for romance pass. In Dracula Untold, the Twilight series, and Vampire Diaries, writers and directors pair bloodthirsty creatures of the night with angst and love interests to make them into flawed heroes of a sort. However, this pairing of monsters with romance didn’t start all that recently. Remember Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954), Swamp Thing (1982), and Teen Wolf (1985)? 33


As society’s tolerance for monsters as romantic leads grew, so did the availability of literature that pandered to that growing interest. In 1991, when L. J. Smith first book in the Vampire Diaries series was published, the sub-genre of paranormal romance hardly existed. What did exist focused on the active imaginations and hormones of adolescent girls and college aged women, a cohort which soon attracted its own subgenre classified as “new adult.” More than twenty years later in 2003, Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series also focused on the same audience with publication of her first novel which Hollywood picked up and turned into an enormously lucrative movie franchise. Paranormal romance officially exploded into popularity and left the umbrella of the fantasy genre which had only recently distinguished itself from science fiction in the last few decades. It became a distinct category of romantic literature. It began with the usual vampires and werewolves, but then authors seeking originality and to meet consumers’ demands for something new and interesting branched out into other species of shapeshifters and different varieties of supernatural creatures. Today, readers of paranormal romance indulge their fantasies with stories of ghosts, sorcerers, shapeshifters, zombies, the abominable

34


snowman, and Bigfoot finding their own true loves with, usually, ordinary human women. The genre’s familiar topes recall an even older, more enduring romantic archetype of the weak or powerless woman capturing the interest and devoted affection of a powerful man. Can you say “Cinderella?” In many of these stories, our supernatural hero is usually wealthy and powerful, a leader among his people. He’s handsome and virile, often a womanizer whose lecherous ways only cease for that one special woman whose innate purity— if not virginal status— inspire him to be a better man. Some literary scholars posit that paranormal romance allows female readers the safety of indulging their fantasies of being dominated, controlled, and wooed by animalistic, powerful males without actually having to endure such treatment. These scholars fail to associate the commonalities of paranormal romance with other subclassifications of romance, from contemporary to BDSM. In a society in which women bear an ever greater burden of responsibility, the fantasy in which we indulge is in having someone tend to our wants and need and taking care of us, species be damned. The allure of paranormal romance and its ghosts, zombies, and monsters simply rests upon the added excitement of associating with something large and powerful and mysterious.

35


Some people think of horses and elephants the same way. Ask any equestrian. He’ll echo the truth of Winston Churchill’s famous quote: “There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.” That goes for women, too. We take pride and pleasure in mastering the beast and bending it to our will so that it becomes a willing partner to accomplish what human bodies cannot achieve on their own. Why would anyone be surprised to see that manifested in the literature that caters to the happiness and pleasure of the women who read it? Halloween serves as a target date for the release of monster-themed books. Paranormal romance is no different. We do love our monsters. Holly Bargo is the pseudonym for the author who has published over 20 novels within the larger romance genre, including paranormal romance. She lives on a hobby farm in southwest Ohio and works full-time as a freelance writer and editor. Her latest book is a paranormal romance titled Bear of the Midnight Sun, available on Amazon as of October 31. See Holly’s catalog of work on her website (www.henhousepublishing.com) or on her Amazon author page.

36


SEVEN-X by Mike Wech

Investigative Reporter Eddie Hansen receives information that a death row prisoner known as the “The SIDS Killer” had her execution staged, before being secretly moved to a Behavioral Health facility outside the small town of Dell City, Texas. With the opportunity to break the story, Eddie voluntarily commits himself into the asylum. His journals and recordings chronicle a series of radical paranormal experiments conducted on patients without their consent. As the mystery unravels Eddie discovers that he is an unwilling pawn in asylum’s unorthodox research to discover the core of evil within humanity. “Mike Wech has produced a stunning work with Seven-X. I found myself unable to put it down. Not only was the story intriguing and thrilling, but it left me completely entertained and enthralled. Seven-X is filled with characters that you will find not only interesting but terrifying and deliciously confusing at the same time. Spend some time with Eddie at Uphir and ask yourself - Do I really know what I am capable of?” - Penny White - Readers’ Favorite “This is a story of good vs. evil. Possession and redemption. Demons’ fighting to gain entrance to one’s very soul. The Bible states when one demon is exorcised he will bring back 7 more to try again (Matthew 12: 43-45) hence the title. Ironically, before starting this book a friend had posted the question, what are your favorite lesser known found footage movies? That is exactly how this book reads! You can visualize what’s happening as you go along journal entry by journal entry. I can’t wait to see this on the big screen.” - Paula Limbaugh - Horror Novel Reviews

The Spiritualist Murders by James Musgrave

Women in 1886 San Francisco are killing their husbands. Attorney detective Clara Foltz uses an eighteen-year-old clairvoyant to track down the mysterious man using the powers of sexual magnetism and mesmerism to turn abused women into murderers. This becomes a family mystery, as Clara’s two oldest children get involved. Clara’s assistant, AhToy, must also enlist the help of her evil uncle, Little Pete, because he also uses his paranormal abilities to control his harem of prostitutes in Chinatown. Ah Toy learns how he does it and leads Clara and her family inside the dark, seamy side of how women are controlled for nefarious purposes. “It’s a terrifying and interesting trek to figure out the truth behind women murdering their husbands. Full of entrancing mesmerizing intensities and mysteries of the mind, and control over someone else.” - Amy’s Bookshelf Reviews “A thrilling adventure, perfect for whodunit fans and historical fiction buffs.” - BookLife Prize,37


Great Book Offers to read in October! Read now for free!

38


Short stories A Dead Girl Walks Into a Bar... By Jameson Tucker Yeah, I know, it sounds like a really bad bar joke, right? I mean, seriously, a dead girl walks into a bar? Everybody knows those things only happen in cheesy horror flicks or in badly written scare-stories like you might find on the Internet, if only. And, in all honesty, I really wouldn’t believe it myself, if I hadn’t been there to see it with my own two bleary eyes, really I wouldn’t. Sure, I’d had a few drinks by that point, but still... The bartender, not surprisingly, was the tiniest little bit taken aback at first. The place was a dive, true enough, but at least most of their clientele generally bordered somewhere along the lines of the semi-living. Not on this particular day, though. “I want a drink,” the cadaver in question stated simply from her place at the bar. The bartender, to his credit, seemed pretty much to take this latest little twist in stride, seen-it-all and all that. “We don’t serve dead girls here,” he informed her simply back, his business with her promptly done it seemed to his satisfaction. The allegedly deceased young lady, however, was presumably not quite ready to be so easily deterred. “Listen, you old turd,” she snipped impatiently back right on cue, “I’ve had a really bad day, okay? A bad freakin’ week, if you must 39


know. And I really...” “I told you,” the old turd volleyed just as impatiently back, apparently less than impressed with his newly-coined nickname. “We don’t serve dead people here.” “So you say.” She looked to shake her hair indignantly back a little at this, several little crawly things haplessly skittering their way out of it as a result. “I’ve seen some of the stiffs that stumble their way into this place, okay, and that crawl their way back out of it some nights, too. You should be so lucky to have a few dead people in this... this dump.” Somehow, that little commentary didn’t seem to help her overall case in the least. “You smell,” the bartender said airily back it seemed on a whim, offering a little sniff in her general direction for full effect. “What?” “You smell,” he repeated slowly and imperiously back, accompanying the sniff this time with a little frown of rapt indignation of his own. “Stink, actually. You’re smelling the place up, you’re gonna drive off what little business we have left here.” Now, admittedly, I had moved myself a careful barstool farther away from the lurid little encounter, but I most certainly wasn’t ready to leave quite as yet, cadaverous stench or not. “You’d smell, too,” the allegedly odorous girl muttered a little defensively back 40


at last, “if you’d been stuck in the ground as long as I have, all the bugs and the spiders crawling in and out of your little happy spots an’ all, one even chewed off one of my freakin’ nipples, can you believe that? Christ, they didn’t even have the decency to stick me in a box before they dumped me, at least that would’ve kept some of the bugs off my ass, but no. And clawing my way back up and out of the freakin’ dirt,” she held one of her dirt-caked hands up at the old turd at this, several fingers seemingly gnarled down to the bone, “do you have any stinkin’ idea how long that took me?” Maybe it was her wholeheartedly indignant tone that ultimately swayed the old turd, or that little hint of an impending tear in her voice or in her one good eye, or maybe he just wanted to get her back out the door while he still could; whatever the case, he finally relented to her request all the same. Any presumed truce between the two, however, was apparently all-too-very short-lived. “What do you mean,” the bartender recited slowly and steadily at his latest non-patron once he’d placed her drink on the bar, “you have no money?” “Weren’t you listening?” She knocked back another hearty mouthful of her freshly acquired drink as she spoke, a good portion of it seemingly trickling right back out of her and onto the barroom floor as a result. “I’ve been dead, you dumbshit, dumped and buried in an empty field no less, and of course the turds took all my money before they dumped my dead ass, of course they did. Why do you think I needed a drink so freakin’ badly, jeez...” The precise details of the seemingly tense negotiation that followed are probably unimportant, though needless to say there were several moments where I was certain things were going to turn the tiniest bit ugly. As things turned out, I wasn’t disappointed in the least. “So,” the hopelessly rotted dead girl announced simply once the remains of her tattery half-dress had been dropped to the barroom floor. She stretched her cadaverously naked arms presentationally out to each side for full effect, several little snippets of rotty flesh dangling precariously aside her as a result. “Do we have a deal?” I have to admit, I honestly wasn’t altogether certain just where things were quite going to go from this point, I’d probably seen wholeheartedly more twisted things in places like that, after all, then again maybe not. Still, the turdly old bartender did look like it had probably been a long time for him, a 41


really long time I’m saying, and she was rather on the hot side after all, aside from all the rot and the bugs and all, and, sometimes, well... Once they’d both at last disappeared into the deep dark recesses of whatever backroom lair lie in wait behind the bar, I turned a curious little look to the only other patron still left in the seemingly now-vacant place. “Think they’ll be long?” I asked him stupidly, nothing else really coming to my mind to say, under the circumstances. The other patron, in response, seemed to consider it for a long moment. “I wouldn’t sick around, if I were you,” he said thoughtfully at last. “She looked rather thirsty, to say the least.” “Yeah,” I answered him agreeably back, “that’s what she was sayin’. She...” “She looked pretty hungry, too,” he added conclusively with a little half-frown, absently sliding his jacket back on as he spoke. “I mean, like, really hungry.” “What?” I started to ask him more, idly wondering a little at just what he had maybe meant by that exactly, but he was already making his way for the door before my thoughts could form any actual words. I turned myself back to my drink. I listened, for a few, to the seemingly rambunctious sounds emanating from the bowels of the backroom, the kinds of sounds you’d of course expect from an oversized old-turd bartender taking it out in trade for the price of a presumably overpriced libation or the like, taxes and gratuity and all of course included. Wondering a little, too, wondering at just what kind of gal could possibly manage to crawl her way back up and out of her makeshift grave the way this one seemingly had, wondering at just what kind of person or persons might have put her there in the first place, and why, and wondering just a little at just what, exactly, they might have done to her before... before... When the heartfelt grunts and groans and bartendery moans from the shadowy backroom began to slowly evolve themselves into a sort of halfscream, the answers to some of my questions, at least, slowly began to fall into place.

42


I grabbed for my own jacket, sucked down the last of my drink, and made my way for the door. Out on the street, I could still hear the last of the old turd’s screams before, suddenly, everything fell abruptly and mercifully silent. I quickened my pace, and hurried my way toward my car. I never went back there again, I should probably clarify that point, though I should think it would be more or less obvious, surely it must be. As for the girl, the allegedly and all-too-presumably dead girl? I never saw her again, of course I didn’t, if I had I probably wouldn’t be relaying this sordid little barroom-tale now, probably in all likelihood not. I do like to believe she’s still out there, though, somewhere, probably still barhopping her way through the night, doing what she can for the occasional free drink or late-night snack or whatever. Sounds a little crazy? Maybe. But, hey, if you’d seen her, seen her the way I did... well, you get the idea. Oh, and one more thing: I swear I’ve been maybe seeing her outside my bedroom window of late, usually really late at night after all the bars are long closed, though it could just be a dream and nothing more, then again maybe not. And, if it is her, if she really is out there, I mean? Well, let’s just say I’ll be keeping a little extra alcohol on hand, just in case. Jameson Tucker is the author of the Cosmical Pub series, the second book of which, Last-Call Limbo, is available now. You can visit his website here. And, you can also check out the new Cosmical Grub blog here.

43


Let The Children Sleep by Andy McKell Little Marie woke from her sleep with a start. She had been playing with her friends. Now it was cold. It was dark. It was night. She leapt to her feet and cast around for her playmates. They all played here in the graveyard every day. There was nowhere else to go. But this day, they had tired themselves out and stayed too late. Where were those boys? She found them curled up asleep nearby. Marie could feel her bones rattling. They should not be here after dark. It was dangerous. They knew the tales, how the dark creature would hunt them down and… Well, it would do terrible things. She shook her friend awake, hissing in their ears, “Wake up. Oh, do wake up. We have to go.” It was taking too long. From somewhere close behind her came a noise. A foot scuffing on the gravel? Claws scratching at stone? She couldn’t tell. She didn’t want to know. She dragged the boys to their feet. The grogginess of sleep fled them as they stared with wide eyes into the darkness all around. Which way to go? Where

44


was safe? Panic drove their indecision. That dark, terrifying creature from the other side of death would be almost invisible here. It could be anywhere. Marie shuddered. The scuffling sound drew closer. Suddenly, it was right beside them. The creature caught them in its gaze. They were frozen to the spot — with fear, with magic, they knew not which. They heard a muttering, words that tumbled from its mouth with a soothing rhythm. It raised its arms high. It held something that glittered in the moonlight. A blade, a shard of glass, or something unknown and terrible? The creature’s horrible power strengthened. They could not run, could not move. “Children…” It spoke gently. It sounded kind. It was lulling them into its trap. The words crossed the gulf between their worlds, muffled, echoing. “They told me you were here. And I have found you.” They trembled in terror, but there was such sweet temptation in its voice. “You should have gone from here much earlier, but you stayed, didn’t you? You should not have stayed.” The voice sounded gently chastising. “Now you will go somewhere else. I promise you will be happy there.” Marie struggled to overcome the paralysis and the temptation. “But we are happy here! We play all day and bother no-one.” “Child, that happiness is shallow. Where I am sending you, you will be happy in a way beyond anything here. Now go!” It was done. The ghosts of the long-dead children slowly shriveled and crumpled in on themselves as they faded into the darkness, becoming shadows on a nightraven’s wing. The Priest crossed himself and kissed his silver crucifix, then drew his dark cloak around him against the midnight chill. He whispered as he turned to go. “Let the children sleep.”

45


Andy was abducted by science fiction pulp magazines and classic noir in his early teens. He worked in marketing, franchising, and computing in London and Luxembourg before launching his own web design company. In 2011, he sold the company and retired early to write, act, and travel. His multi-genre short stories have appeared in various anthologies, his original space opera series continues, he is working on a second series, and he has branched-out into classic noir. He has little time for acting, these days. He hopes you enjoy reading the adventures of his imaginary friends.

46


The Roommate By Clabe Polk “Wow, I’m here at last,” exclaimed Rich as he flung his bag onto the lower bed. It took long enough to get through high school and get here! I wonder who my roommate will be?

“Hey, another freshman! Fresh meat to pick off the bones! What’s your name?” demanded a big solid but overweight student as he pushed his way into the room and dropped into a chair. He wore a baseball cap in the school’s colors with the logo and bill turned backwards. He was older than Rich, but his face sported colorless fuzz as he stared at Rich through unwavering blue eyes. He was followed by a skinny young man in jeans and a school tee-shirt with coal black hair, black cold-looking eyes and thick glasses with black frames. Strategically wrapped tape at the left frame hinge betrayed frame damage. He collapsed on the futon. “So, give all ready!” demanded the big dude. “What’s your name?” “Lighten up, Brandon,” said the skinny dude, “It’s his first day. Let him take a breath.” “He’ll need a breath; a few of them when he finds out about this place.” Rich looked questioningly at the skinny dude. What did he mean? “Sam Amed”, said the skinny did holding out his hand toward Rich. “I’m a junior and this lunk…”, he said gesturing toward the big guy in the chair, “… is Billy Hardison. Billy and I hang out three doors down the hall.” Shaking hands, Rich replied, “Rich Langley.” 47


“Welcome aboard, Rich. Tie down your possessions…and if I were you I’d find a way to block the locks in this room.” “Block the locks? What are you talking about?” “They have a life of their own.” said Hardison, “Just tape them up or something so they don’t start doing weird things.” “What kinds of weird things?” asked Rich. “Why would locks do weird things?” “Oh, it’s not just the locks, my man,” said Billy, “it’s the heat, the air conditioning, the windows, the lights, your books and papers, even your computer; you’ll probably have to go to the library to get on the internet!” “Without a doubt,” said Sam, “especially in this room.” “Yeah, right!” said Rich doubtfully. “What’s so special about this room?” “She died here; in this very room forty years ago,” replied Sam, “Mae Belle Williams…right before she graduated!” “Don’t give me that crap!” said Rich. “I’m not some freshman that walked in here from the pumpkin patch! You can’t scare me with ghost stories.” “Oh, we’re not trying to scare you, Mr. Fresh Meat,” Hardison replied, “We’re just telling you how things are. No, we wouldn’t try to scare you, would we, Billy? It’s just…well…you see...Mae Belle was getting’ married after graduation, but she and the groom had their first fight that night.” “Yeah, very sad, really,” said Amed. “Guess he went off the deep end and strangled her. Yes, really very sad!” He stood up to go. “Let’s go, Billy. Mr. Fresh Meat can figure it out for himself.” “Do you think I’m going to get a roommate?” asked Rich. “Doubtful,” said Hardison, his hand on the handle to close the room door behind him. “the way I see it, you already have one.” With that, he closed the door and walked down the hall toward his own room. Rich lay back on the bed and relaxed. There would be no time to do that after school started tomorrow. Where do you suppose my roommate is? Drifting off to sleep, he dreamed fitfully; of dying. He woke with a cold clammy feeling pressing down on his neck. He felt cold clammy hands pressing harder and harder. Breathing was impossible. Gasping for breath, he rolled out of bed onto the floor. Something kicked him hard in the back. He little remaining breath knocked out and unable to breathe, he grasped desperately for the door knob. Locked! He rattled it once,

48


before he passed out. Had he been awake, he may have seen a pale misty form in the room with him, bending over him, looking longingly into his eyes. His roommate had arrived. CLABE POLK is the author of the Detective Mike Eiser Series and The Adventures of Harry Morgan Series of crime/action/adventure novels. He is also the author of The Road to Armageddon, a Christian apocalypse action/ adventure novel, a variety of short stories, and numerous flash-fiction works similar to “The Roommate”. A nearly deserted dormitory building with a sixty-year history of haunting by the ghost of a former student who died just before graduation provided the inspiration for “The Roommate”. The author’s two college student daughters occupied a room in that dormitory for a very short time.

49


When the only scream in the night was mine Nights in our new house were scary. And today was going to be worse. It was Halloween. And everyone knew what that meant. “Don’t be silly” mum said when I told her. “You’ve been trick or treating since you were tiny. There’s nothing to fear from a few people dressed in white sheets.” I wasn’t scared of them. Randall was the biggest boy in the class and he’d told everyone the real spooks came out at midnight, when we’d all gone home and were safe in bed. Except I didn’t feel safe at all. We’d left our old house which was new, for a new house which was old. I’d liked the bungalow by the park. At night the lights from the streetlamp and the buses as they trundled past shone through the chinks in my curtains. They were so bright I could see the wardrobe, the chest of drawers and the bed where my elder brother slept. When I woke up from a bad dream, I’d hear his steady breathing and I knew nothing could hurt me. We had a bedroom each now. David’s was in the attic. Mine was in between mum and dad’s and the little box room dad was decorating in pink. Why couldn’t they understand old houses like ours were full of monsters and vampires? Didn’t grown- ups know the moans and howls didn’t come from the wind whistling through the gaps in the window frames late at night? It was the pack of wolves at the front door, baying to be let

50


in. The creaks and groans belonged to the skeletons of long dead people who climbed up the stairs to grab me and take me to the cellar, not the old wooden beams expanding and drying in the new warmth from our central heating. When we first moved in, Dad had helped me down the rickety wooden steps to show me what was in the cellar. Cobwebs draped from the ceilings like curtains and there was a thick layer of dust that made my nose twitch. “Now you know what’s here, you don’t need to poke your nose in again” he had said. “Stay away until it’s been converted into my office and the staircase is safe.” He even padlocked the door. It wasn’t to keep me or David out. It was to stop the ghouls from sneaking into the house. I knew they were there. I could smell them. Mum said the pong was because of the rotting wood. Didn’t she realise it was dead bodies in old coffins? Sometimes the lights flickered. Dad said it was faulty wiring. He was wrong. The nameless horrors that lived with us were waiting their time before they attacked and they liked darkness. Especially at Halloween. “Can I keep my light on?” I asked as mum came and tucked me into bed. “It’s late. You need to get to sleep. I’m not sure trick or treating is a good idea on a school night.” “If I didn’t go, all the other kids will pick on me” I said. I didn’t like the new school either. Everyone in my class was bigger than me. “If anyone is unkind, tell the teacher” she said. She didn’t understand. Randall said he’d get his brother onto me if I said snitched about the time they pinched my bag and threw it in the girls changing room. I think it’s still there. “What if I forget where the toilet is?” I said. 51


Mum ruffled my hair. “Don’t be silly. It’s next to our room. If you need a pee, switch on the light above your bed and you’ll be fine.” Except the ghouls would grab hold of my arm if I dared reach out and I’d be whisked away. I kept my arms tucked inside the covers. Mum looked at me. “Why don’t you have Ted Bear to keep you company?” She went to my toy box and pulled out Ted. He still wore the red bow grandma had put on him at Christmas. She tucked him in bed beside me. “Ted Bear will look after you” she said as she kissed my forehead and switched off the light. “Good night” she said. The door closed and I was left in darkness. I snuggled down. “Keep me safe” I whispered into a furry ear. That night the wolves prowled round the house again. Was the front door bolted? What if mum and dad had forgotten? I pulled the duvet over my head. Then the thumps and bumps began. Like footsteps. Were they coming down the stairs from the attic? Or up the stairs from the cellar? “Help” I croaked. Whose voice was that? Was it me? Was I changing into a zombie? “Mum? Dad?” I whimpered and peeked out from under my covers. Why was my door open? I wasn’t safe here anymore. Mum and dad’s bedroom had a bolt on it. I jumped out of bed. My foot touched something furry. Oh no, a wolf had got in after all. I kicked hard and ran into their bedroom. I leapt onto the sleeping shapes. “Mum, dad” I screamed. “The wolves have got in.” “What on earth?” The light came on and dad sat up rubbing his eyes. “There’s a wolf under my bed” I said. “It tried to grab me.” “Nonsense. It was just a bad dream.” “No. It’s a wolf. A real one. It’s fur was tickly.” Dad climbed out of bed and led me back to my room. He switched on the main light and went over to my bed. I peered from behind the door. 52


At any second I expected the wolf to leap out and gobble him up. He knelt down and picked up something. “Is this it?” He held out Ted Bear by a furry foot. “I reckon you stepped on him” he said. “Back to bed. Your mum needs a lot of sleep now. Don’t disturb her again. I’ll leave the light on in the hall way.” When I go to bed now the nights are noisy and the light in the hallway outside the small box room is always on. My baby sister cries a lot and there’s the smell of sour milk in the house most of the time. Sometimes I wish I could have the dark, silent nights back, when the only scream I heard was my own.

up n sig our to ader re t lis

53


The Art of Creating a Villain By Olivia Castillo

How to capture a true villain in a book is an art form. Some of the most memorable villains of all time were penned by the master of gore, Stephen King. He uses fleshy descriptions to create both unlikeable and likeable characters, as well as common everyday fears found in some of our deep psychological layers. The portrayal of Pennywise, in King’s It, is a classic. What should be a seemingly benign facade of a funny clown is replaced with a truly gruesome monster. With bulging yellow eyes, bright red hair, malicious big grin, and sinister deep voice, Pennywise is a creepy, unforgettable, and evil character. Based on the serial killer John Wayne Gacy, who did dress up as a clown to lure young boys to him, Stephen King uses a real life horror story to help Pennywise come to life. The story opens with little adorable Georgie, in an iconic yellow rain slicker, playing with a paper boat given to him by his brother Bill. Georgie immediately captivates the readers with his innocence and youth. They follow Georgie running after his boat that he loses during the dark storm. When the boat falls into the storm drain, Georgie meets Pennywise, the dancing clown. 54


It is here that King uses the grotesque clown Pennywise to illuminate and play with the character, magnifying his fears. Georgie, like most children, is afraid of strangers and is afraid of disappointing his big brother Bill. Pennywise knows this and alleviates Georgie’s jitters by seeming benign, holding a big red balloon and the missing boat. Pennywise holds out the boat, giving a malicious grin. Georgie is hesitant to take the boat, but is finally convinced into it by Pennywise. The clown tells Georgie, “You said it yourself, Bill’s going to kill you…” to use Georgie’s fear to lure him in. It is then that Georgie’s small arm is severed by the razor sharp teeth of Pennywise as he is reaching out to get his boat. Screaming, Georgie gets taken by the clown. Leaving the readers gasping from this gruesome scene, Stephen King is truly the master of chilling people to the bones. By creating one of the most memorable villains of all times, the stuff of childhood nightmares, he sets himself apart as the expert of horror. So this Halloween, when you are trying to write the perfect villain, learn from the king Stephen King. Olivia Castillo is a New York native. After going to the prestigious Fiorello H. Laguardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts, she went on to study graphic design at Otis Parson’s College in Los Angeles. Along with being an entrepreneur, she is the mother of three children, and grandmother of two. When not writing or spending time with her family, she travels the world and paints. Song of the Boricua is her first novel.

55


Free Books all October 56


THE ART OF CREATING UNSETTLING HORROR AND SUSPENSE by Mike Wech

Halloween season is the perfect time to dive into those books that make your skin crawl. Sitting alone in a room at night, comforted by a hot tea while the words of the horror and suspense masters crawl through your soul. Every rustle of the wind, every shadow around you makes the hairs on your skin stand up. The goosebumps pop, chills creep down your spine. The words are devouring you, but you can’t stop reading. It’s addictive. If you put the book down, it haunts you. You’re always thinking about the story and it’s consuming you. Even after you finish, this book is attached to your psyche. That’s the true Halloween spirit and this year you are ready to dive. Here’s four fan favorites that will do the trick and treat you with disturbing dreams. THE EXORCIST: The 40th Anniversary Edition by William Peter Blatty. Regan MacNeil is a character you can’t ever forget. A seemingly normal 12 year-old girl who’s irrational behavior spins out of control and into a demonic realm so deep that the Catholic church is brought in to perform an exorcism. Father Merrin and Father Karras engage in an unforgettable fight to rid Regan of her demon. Fans of the movie were haunted by the images on screen, but Blatty’s work is compelling and raw. The words hit you in the gut and take you through every excruciating rite of the exorcism. If you hadn’t read the book, do yourself a favor and go for it this Halloween. The Devil Crept In: by Ania Ahlbor This slow-burn story chronicles Jude, a 12-year-old, who goes missing in the 57


quiet town of Deer Valley, Oregon as residents conjure up memories from a past murder that questions what evil may lurk in these woods. We live this story through Stevie, Jude’s 10-year-old cousin, who’s mental health leaves doubt as to what is real and what is in his vivid imagination. The carefully crafted suspense builds as Stevie unmasks an unsettling town full of dark secrets and evil intentions. With narrative from Rosie, an older woman who lives in the woods, Ahlbor brings an urban legend into a new light with skillful and crafty writing. SEVEN-X: by Mike Wech With a disturbing new twist on asylum and exorcist horrors, SEVEN-X thrusts you into a paranormal experiment to determine the root of evil. A tragically flawed reporter, Eddie Hansen desperately needs a groundbreaking story. When he receives evidence that a death row prisoner in Texas had her execution staged before being sent to a remote behavioral health facility, Eddie is compelled to voluntarily commit himself to the asylum to get the story. Once inside, Eddie slowly comes to the realization that he is the subject of this paranormal experiment and he is losing his mind. Eddie’s descent into insanity or demonic possession is left for the reader to decide. In a unique twist, Wech uses Eddie’s journal and recordings of the events as the main narrative tool, exploring the psychiatric and paranormal experimentation through a first person encounter with the evil. This style leaves some holes for the reader to fill with their imagination, but the twists and turns and truly creepy characters make this a suspense horror that really rips your soul. Hell House: by Richard Matheson The setting is simple. Dr. Lionel Barrett, his wife Edith, spiritualist Florence Tanner, and medium Ben Fischer enter the infamous Belasco “Hell House” in Maine at the behest of dying millionaire Deutsch who offers them $100,000 to prove there’s life after death. But paranormal influences in the house that brutally murdered its guests 40 years ago are still at play here, preying carefully on the weakness of each character who enters the house.

58


Matheson sets up his story brilliantly allowing the traits of his characters to become their enemy in the haunting. It’s a carefully woven psychological horror that tricks the reader’s mind subtly, while guiding them through twists of the story into a satisfying conclusion. HAPPY HALLOWEEN Enjoy how these four authors skillfully use different methods to evoke unsettling emotions, create fear and creep into the mind of the reader. To explore this most effectively, we suggest reading them alone at night, especially this Halloween season!

About Mr. Mike Wech Originally from Buffalo, New York Mike grew up with the Buffalo Bills and Buffalo Sabres heartbreaking losses, which may have led him to write horror for his debut novel. Surviving a near-death experience, a debilitating car accident and a career in Hollywood, Mike has maintained his persistence to overcome obstacles and pursue his passion for telling stories that transcend time. As a professional Filmmaker and Film/TV Editor, Mike has worked with some of Hollywood’s Top Talent. He has been developing new technology to create a more immersive theatrical experience for the SEVEN-X Film Franchise, teaming up with AwardWinning Engineers, Technicians and Producers to bring Next Generation 3D Film to the big screen. Learn more about the SEVEN-X Franchise at www.seven-x.com Follow SEVEN-X on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sevenx.volume1 Follow Mike on Twitter: www.twitter.com/mikewech @mikewech

59


The Mattigan kids don't believe in things that go bump in the night. But, when their longlost Grandpa Joe shows up with his Mysterious Monsters journal, begging for help, the siblings find themselves drawn into a search for Bigfoot.

60


The Legend of Jack o’lantern by Steve Conoboy You learn everyday.

something

Incredibly, this creaky phrase is actually true.

new old

Today’s lesson involves the origins of the Jack O’Lantern. Now, I was convinced I knew most things there were to know about Halloween and its roots. I’m a bit of a horror buff, so it comes with the job description. However, I didn’t know a damn thing about Stingy Jack. I really can’t believe I’d never heard this tale until I decided to do a bit of digging around for this series of Halloween-themed blogs. I feel like I’m on the verge of getting my Horror Union card revoked. (Truthfully, it’s one of those moments wherein I find it impossible to believe I’ve accidentally dodged this story for so long. It seems far more likely that something in recent days has occurred that has significantly altered the flow of Time, so that this legend is known to everyone who is a member of Timeline B and is unknown to myself, who is an ex-denizen of Timeline A, which is a sensible dimension with no knowledge of 61


Stingy Jack. I think this explanation makes infinitely more sense.) I’ve read the story over a few times, and here’s my telling with my own usual flourishes. Let’s get into it. Centuries ago, over in Ireland, lived a drunkard of legendary capacity known as Stingy Jack. He was not thought of kindly. As his name might suggest, he was not the planet’s most gregarious individual. He was, in fact, known far and wide as a scumbag. Deceiver, manipulator, beguiler, boondoggler, fraudster, flim-flammer, betrayer, covener, double-dealer, he was a man capable of great trumpery. Tales would be told by the villagers in the flicker of pub fires, stories that were almost impossible to believe. How could any man be so low? One night, out on one of his prowls to stir up the fear of humankind, Satan overheard one of these tales, and it set his forked tail twitching. No mere mortal could be capable of such things. No human could be as bad as the Devil himself. Old Horny Head had a reputation to maintain. So, Satan decided to investigate this Jack fellow for himself. Let’s remember, Satan is the original Prince of Falsehoods and Untruths. The next night, blotto beyond imagination, Jack was staggering his way back home along a midnight path, when he stumbled across a dead body. His natural reaction was instantaneous: rummage through the pockets and see what he could find. The body rolled itself over, face twisted in vile glee. Jack was screwed. Before Satan could swipe his soul, Jack made a swift final request. ‘This is the end, I accept that,’ said Jack. ‘I got away with too much for too long. It’s been quite a time, but I guess we all must pay the price in the end. Do a feller a favour. One last drink, one ale with the great Satan 62


himself. Let’s see which one of us has the worst stories to tell.’ Satan, who liked a grim tale better than anyone, could see no reason to refuse. They found a fine pub at a crossroads nearby, and drank the night away. Jack, a prodigious drinker, got through well past a dozen tankards of ale, his stories getting wilder with each one. Soon his eyes were rattling around in his head. Satan had to agree that Jack was a fine teller of tales (although nothing quite managed to match up with Satan’s finest works), but the night was coming to an end. It was almost time to go. Jack, slurring, asked Satan to pay the tab. He was, as they say, a little light. Satan was too. He was not in the habit of carrying around money. ‘You’re Satan,’ said Jack. ‘I thought you could do anything you want. I thought you’d be able to, I dunno, turn into a coin, then I could pay with that coin, then you could turn back, and we’d be out of here. Perhaps you’re just not up to it, I dunno.’ Satan wasn’t about to let that lie. He transformed into a coin. Jack placed that coin in his pocket. Also in his pocket rested a crucifix. Satan was trapped. Jack laughed as he left 63


the pub. He told Satan the coin of his plan, that he would seal him in a box with the crucifix, and dig a hole incredibly deep and far away from anyone, and he would bury Satan in that tiny box where he would be forced to dwell forever. Unless... Unless he made a promise to Jack. He would set Satan free, only if he agreed to never take Jack’s soul into Hell. Satan had little choice but to make the pact. Jack was victorious! In fact, he was better off than he had been before the encounter. Now he could do absolutely any foul thing he could think of, and there would be no punishment for it, he would not wind up in Hell. He drank, deceived, manipulated, beguiled, boondoggled, committed fraud, flim-flammed, betrayed, covened like a mad bastard, and doubledealt more vigorously than ever before. He knew no bounds, he ignored all morals, he cared not one jot for the damage he wrought upon other living beings. Eventually the drinking caught up with Jack, and he dropped down dead. His soul drifted off towards Heaven .and the pearly gates of St. Peter. God Himself stopped Jack. A soul so full of sin could not possibly pass through the gates. Off Jack went to Hell. Satan too refused him entry. They had, after all, made a pact. Satan could not take Jack into Hell, even if he wanted to. He gave Jack an ember, one that would burn forever, marking him as a denizen of the Netherworld. And thus Jack’s lost soul would wander the earth for all eternity, just an ember smouldering in a hollowed out turnip to light his way.

64


On All Hallow’s Eve, the Irish would hollow out turnips and place lights in them to ward off evil spirits and keep Jack away. When the Irish arrived in America in the 1800’s they found that pumpkins were easier to carve than turnips, and thus has the tradition remained. And every Halloween, Jack comes searching with his lantern, looking for that house with no lights outside, looking for a new place to finally call home… Be careful out there on the streets, people. With two kids, three cats, and a job in care, for Steve Conoboy writing fantasy fiction is a quiet respite from the madness of normality. A Graveyard Visible, available now in paperback and ebook, is his second YA horror novel. His first, Macadamian Pliers, is out in ebook. His short story credits include Polluto magazine, Voluted Tales, and Kzine. He lives in North Shields, UK.

65


Available on Amazon!

66


Short Excerpts

Falling stories by Deborah Dixon Chapter Five When the sudden influx of demons proved to be far more than any of us could handle as individuals, René asked all of us to stay at his mansion until things blew over. We refused him, because we are grown men uninterested in playing at reality television scenarios. But one of René’s defining traits, which most of us have started to pick up as well, is that he does not speak on a matter unless he’s fairly convinced that his opinion is the correct one. This gives him the effect of always being right. On the first day of the Madness, New Orleans attempted to go about business as usual. After demon attacks resulted in numerous car accidents across town, most humans wisely chose to stay inside instead. In other cases, it was a matter of not being able to get out of one’s neighborhood or house, or not having power at one’s residence or office. The demons felled trees and power lines, destroyed cars, and picked fights with anyone they came across. But I am a vampire, so the demons quickly learned not to bother me. I could run them off easily, as long as no humans were on hand to witness the altercation. This became easier as the day progressed and the human authorities, tallying the fatalities and the damage costs and observing the darkening clouds that hovered over the city, instituted a mandatory curfew and ordered residents and tourists alike to remain indoors. All nonessential functions were shut down, and only approved city personnel could travel about the city. The Louisiana National Guard was also activated, a gallant choice that would soon backfire spectacularly. As night fell, I realized that, as problematic as the Madness was, it also offered a solution to one of my usual problems: Feeding. For once, I could feed freely, and the results would be dismissed as another unfortunate demon attack in the morning. That was my theory, at least. 67


So, close to midnight, I went out to hunt. I considered inviting Adrijan along, but ultimately decided against it. I slipped amongst the shadows and along side streets, avoiding the many varieties of police stationed throughout the Central Business District. There were demons everywhere, hanging from streetlamps and tussling among dumpsters, but the coverage was a bit thin in my area, so I went to the Warehouse District a few blocks away, where the numbers of demons running about and of humans breaking the curfew were both significantly higher. I can drink demon blood, but, like animal blood, it does not sustain me. I passed on all of the demon options and instead sought out something human or relatively similar. Shortly I came upon a “Demon Party,” which was little more than an excuse for some humans to throw an illicit gala. The warehouse seemed quiet on the outside, but I sensed a large concentration of humans inside. The makeshift bouncer let me through the door without asking me any questions, and inside I found quite a wild gathering lit by strobe lights and filled with heavy, aromatic smoke. It looked like any other pop-up rave. I have been to plenty in my lifetime, both as a guest and as an infiltrator. There were no demons inside the warehouse. I changed that by sneaking up to a rear door and propping it open. A handful of demons caught the scent of densely packed humans, and they found their way into the warehouse. As they set about their usual destruction, I looked around for an ideal target. Near what functioned as the VIP section was a youngish man who was both drunk and high, if his reaction to the demons was any indication; he was laughing hysterically while throwing back the contents of a large brown bottle. He would make a relatively uncomplicated meal. I made my way across the room, dodging demon-human fights here and there, intending to approach my target at an angle. Just as I closed in, there was a flash of light, and someone crashed into me from my right. My senses warned me that it was someone I knew well moments before Christian yelped, “Rey! What are you doing here?” I shook out my right shoulder. “I should ask the same of--” A demon bowled into Christian, who bowled into me. “Meant to warn you about that,” Christian said as he picked himself up off of the ground and raised his fists. “Thanks,” I growled, also getting up. I extended my claws and let my fangs descend. The demon was a rubbery humanoid sort, a shapeshifter that had some effect of durability. But, facing the two of us, the demon had a change of heart, and it threw itself through the back door instead. “That was anticlimactic,” Christian remarked. “Go home, Christian,” I said. “You don’t want to be around me right now.” “What’s the problem?” Christian asked, having obviously once again forgotten what I am. 68


“I’m looking for dinner,” I said, rolling my eyes. Christian finally understood my intentions. “Oh,” Christian said. “Can I help?” No, he could not help. My friends are far more aware of and understanding towards the plight of a vampire thanks to having been around me for years, but they still do not grasp exactly what it is like. I kill to survive, after all. I did not say this out loud, but perhaps my lack of response or some wayward facial expression gave away my thoughts. Christian shrugged and gestured toward a different man, similarly isolated and as yet untouched by the demons. “He’d work, right? I’ll hold him, and you feed.” I couldn’t help but snort at his good intentions. “That would make you an accessory to murder.” “More like an accessory to helping my friend find some sustenance. Come on, we don’t have all night.” Christian started off toward the new target, and I gave up on trying to argue with him. Sometimes he needed to learn the hard way. I’ve survived for millennia. I don’t need help securing a target. But I will admit that it is much easier with help. In short, Christian and I took the target down and I fed well. I won’t incriminate us by giving more details. As I expected, the death was counted among those caused by the demons that night, and no one ever suspected a vampire of it, much less me specifically. Then we left the scene and made our way back along the side streets, remarking on the tomfoolery of the demons around us. At some point, Christian checked his phone. I saw him frown and tap at it in confusion. “Is something wrong?” I asked. “My phone thinks it’s out of storage,” Christian explained, and then a dark cloud passed over his brow as he studied something on the screen. Wordlessly, he handed the phone to me. I scrolled through dozens of photos of us tackling the target, and of me drinking from him. I was aghast. “Why would you take these, Christian?” Christian scowled. “I didn’t take them, Rey! Clearly, because I’m in them! They weren’t even taken with this phone.” “Then someone sent them to you?” I asked. “Who?” “Yes,” Christian said. “No. They just appeared on my phone. There’s no sign of how they got there.” “Then is someone watching us?” I wondered aloud. The lights of a patrol car swept over us, and we backed into the shadows until it passed. “Maybe we shouldn’t be out here after all,” Christian murmured. We found Christian’s car and, still keeping to side streets, made our way to René’s. Deborah Dixon is an author and editor residing in New Orleans, Louisiana. She has written three novels, seven novellas, and several short stories. Her next novel, Falling Stories, is due out in autumn 2018. She lives with her houseplants, Thing 1 and Thing 2.

69


this month, featuring the following author's interviews: A Canadian practicing medical doctor, Dr. Nicole is a breath of fresh air in children’s literature as her tales teach lessons on morals and medicine. From Pushcart Prize nominee Danny Johnson comes a powerful historical fiction novel that explores race relations, first love, and coming-of-age in North Carolina in the 1950s and ‘60s. In her new novel British author and former BBC broadcaster Ellen Frazer-Jameson reveals how even a picture-perfect image of beauty, privilege and endless riches hides despair, heartbreak, betrayal and loss.

CLICK HERE to listen to the interviews

70


An Unexpected Halloween by Lilly Rayman “I’ve changed my mind.” Julio’s stern voice cut through the haze in Quintessa’s mind. She had never felt so desirable in all her life. She spun away from the mirror to face her mate. The thick velvet cloak fanned out as it followed her around.

“What do you mean?” “We’re not going out.” Growled Julio. “What? Why?” Snapped Quintessa, she was finally feeling excited at the prospect, although Julio still hadn’t changed into his promised perfect costume. The smirk lifting Julio’s lips gave his face a predatory look as he stalked towards her. “Because, my dear, you look good enough to eat, and the big bad wolf wants to ravage you all night instead of show you off.” A new-found confidence burst through Quintessa, and she danced past her mate to the door of their bedroom, escaping before he could capture her. She paused at the top of the stairs, her hands sweeping across the tightly laced corset of her dress, before calling back down the hall. “Hurry up, Julio, get in your costume, the pups are waiting for us.” The wide skirt that lifted around her thighs with the multitude of red, white and black layers of lace made seeing the steps more difficult, so she took them slowly, placing her feet, encased in knee-high stiletto-heeled boots, down with care. Numito was watching her from the bottom, a gang of ghouls, zombies, princesses and monsters gathered around him. He bestowed a proud smile on his daughter-in-law as she stepped towards him. His hands landed softly on her shoulders before he adjusted the full red hood over her head.

71


“You make a beautiful Red Riding Hood, Quintessa. I just shudder to think how Julio plans to complement your costume.” The clacking of claws on the polished wood flooring made all eyes look up the stairs to spot the rich mahogany-red wolf pause at the top step before bounding down them ten steps at a time. Numito groaned as he shook his head. “I should have known you’d want to go out as the Big Bad Wolf, son. Just be careful, and be aware, Quintessa may need to put you on a leash if the cops spot you both, or anyone complains.” Julio huffed out a wolfish curse as Quintessa giggled before sinking her fingers into the thick ruff of fur at Julio’s neck. His wolf damn near purred at the contact while she sighed with delight at the tingling she always felt when she touched her mate, regardless of the form he took. The shrill tone of a wolf whistle caused Quintessa to look up, making eye contact with Pablo. The appreciative gleam in his eyes made her blush as the older wolf wove his way through the costumed pups. He held out a wicker basket, lined with red-check cotton. “Here you are, a basket of goodies for granny.” Pablo gave a full sweeping bow as he passed the basket across to little red riding hood. Curious, Quintessa made to lift the material covering the contents. “What’s in here?” The laugh from the other wolf held a note of pure wickedness. “Well, Julio only asked me to provide clothes, but I also added a leash and collar. I already considered the cops.” Laughing at the growl and snap from Julio at Pablo’s words, Quintessa started ushering the excited trick or treaters out of the house. Continue reading here! Lilly describes herself as a wife, mother and independent author. She lives in paradise with her family on a block of land in country New South Wales, Australia. They breed cattle, sheep and horses. When she’s not writing, she’s reading. Lilly used to write in her youth, but started writing again when her eldest daughter was born in 2012. Her first novel, An Unexpected Bonding won Best Work and Most Popular Work in the 2014 iParchment writing rally. It hadn’t even been edited at that stage, so Lilly felt encouraged to get it edited and then to publish. Her mind is flooded with stories, and when she can, she writes; furiously to bring you her stories. 72


Water Ghosts by Linda Collison -1The doomed ship is set to sail at ten A.M. and I am to be aboard. The taxi has dropped us off at the marina – my mother, her boyfriend and me. They’re here to see me off. From the parking lot I can see it. Good Fortune is unmistakable because it’s bigger than the other boats and because it’s old and foreign-looking. Three masts rise up like pikes from the rectangular deck. A tattered pennant hangs limply from the smallest one. Faded yellow silk. I don’t want to go but Mother is making me. Walking toward it, carrying my sea bag, I already feel like I’m drowning. Dragging my feet along the rickety wooden pier, past neglected powerboats and sailboats covered with blue plastic tarps, I’m trying to resign myself to my fate. I’m trying to do what Dad used to tell me to do when I was afraid. Think of something funny! But nothing funny comes to mind. Looking around at this run-down dockyard in an industrial park near the Honolulu International Airport I’m thinking it’s wrong, it’s all wrong. Hawaii is not paradise – at least, not for me. A jet takes off, flying low overhead, drowning us out momentarily with its thunderous roar. Mother covers her ears with her hands and squeezes her eyes shut until it passes. The boyfriend glances at his big gold watch and grins. “Nine-forty,” he says. “You’ll be boarding soon.” “Oh, James! It looks like an old pirate ship, doesn’t it?” Mother’s perky voice edges toward hysteria. “A Chinese pirate ship, how cool is that! You are going to have the time of your life. I wish I was going!” She continues to talk but I can’t hear her anymore. Her words are bursts of color, blinding me. I look away. I see things other people don’t see. The old wooden ship lists in its slip. Doesn’t look anything like the picture on the website. Up close the Good Fortune doesn’t look fortunate at all. It looks bedraggled and unseaworthy; it looks like it’s about to sink right here at the dock. I think of a lame cormorant, riding low in the water, awaiting its fate. Cormorants are different from most other water birds. Cormorants will drown if they don’t dry their feathers. That’s why you see them on a pier or on shore with their dark, dripping wings spread out in the sun and the wind. But they’re the bravest of birds because they are not really at home in the water; they’re not as buoyant as ducks and geese. They’re marginal creatures, living on the edge. They have to work harder to get by. My father taught me about cormorants. He was a wildlife journalist, specializing in birds. Dad always said he was going to take me on a photo shoot 73


to follow the sandhill crane migration. It was going to be a man-expedition, he promised, an epic father-son trip from Canada to Mexico. We never went. On the front side of the boat a painted, peeling eye stares at me. A dead man’s stare. An eye that never closes. Is there a matching eye on the other side? I don’t want to look, I don’t want to know. “What a piece of junk,” I say. “No wonder they call them junks. “Can’t you see it’s a scam? How much did you pay for this, anyway?” “Don’t be ungrateful, James,” Mother shoots back. “You’re so unappreciative. This is Hawaii. You’re starting your summer adventure in Hawaii. How many kids your age get to do that? You are so lucky!” Orange light leaps out from her head, a solar flare. The intense light triggers the song. With a yo-heave-ho and a fare-you-well And a sullen plunge in the sullen swell Ten fathoms deep on the road to hell I hear things other people don’t hear. The dead men sing as they march through my head, the men from the dream. And now the dream is bringing itself to life in the form of this summer adventure program. Somebody’s sick idea of “helping” kids with behavior problems, a sort of boot camp for misfits. Mother found this program on the Internet. Or maybe the program found her, summoned her somehow. She doesn’t know she’s being influenced by people she has never met, some of them dead. “What’s the matter, James?” Her concern is real, I feel it, little ripples of warmth. But she doesn’t get it. At all. Right now we’re standing side-by-side but we’re worlds apart. Like birds and humans, we merely coexist. I’d like to tell her what the matter is – but what exactly am I going to say? Mother, the dead men are singing, it’s a bad sign. The boat is a doomed cormorant that can’t dry its wings. That’s the kind of talk that gets me into trouble. She hates it when I repeat what they say; she’s afraid I’m psychotic or something. “James?” Gone is the false cheerfulness. Now her aura crackles and spits. A Fourth of July sparkler penetrating my skin with hot little darts. Mother’s face is splotched red from the Honolulu heat. Her once pretty face, now unnaturally fragile, a face stretched too thin, too tight. A face that’s known too many Botox injections, too many interventions, a face carefully

74


composed yet beginning to crumble. Yet even now I can see the blue light of her love for me shining through the veil of disappointment. Disappointment and shame. I look normal enough on the outside (at least, I think I do) but inside me there’s this, like, hole – a cavity – that I’m constantly trying to avoid. Sometimes I hear my dead father’s voice calling me. James! But his voice doesn’t come from the hole inside, it comes from behind me, and when I hear it my heart flutters. It’s not really him, it’s the echoes of his words bouncing around the universe, never at rest. Then comes the weight of his hand on my left shoulder and the sound of him breathing hard, like he’s been running to catch up. Sometimes when I close my eyes I see his face against the backs of my eyes, like a poor quality video. His lips are moving but I can’t make out what he’s trying to tell me. Mother’s boyfriend interrupts my thoughts; his voice is a Doberman’s whine. “He’ll be fine. You’ll be fine, won’t you, kid? Come on, now. Man up!” He reaches out to grip my shoulder but I step back to avoid it, nearly falling off the dock. I’ve hated all my mother’s boyfriends. I know what it is they want and it sickens me. She smiles, her lips tight. “It’s just – now that we’re here – he seems so young. Compared to the others.” And now I see them – three guys sitting on the dock at the end of the pier. They’re leaning against new Urban Outfitter gear bags, all sprawled out with their long legs and arms, their hair spiked up with gel. They are cut from the same mold, they could be brothers, they could be triplets. They’re going aboard with me, I realize. We’re all in the same boat; we’re all going down together. These guys don’t seem to know it, or care. They’re all holding cell phones, making last minute texts to their friends back home, cigarettes hanging from their mouths. I didn’t bring any cigarettes, I don’t smoke. But I did bring my lighter, I carry it everywhere because you never know. I brought my cell phone too, but it’s already dead and there’s no way to charge it on the boat – that’s what it said on the website. I don’t know why I even brought it, except the weight of it, deep in the pocket of my shorts, feels solid. Comforting. My shipmates have man-legs, I envy them that. . Coarse hair covers their muscular calves like sea grass. Billabong shorts hang low on their hips, they look like some kind of California surf gang. Their feet are all huge in their ragged Converse AllStars: black, brown, red. These three are the shit and they know it. These fuckers will taunt me, they will make my life miserable; of this I’m sure. “He’ll be fine. He just hasn’t got his growth spurt yet. Your boy’s old enough, hell, he’s fifteen. Aren’t you, Jim? You’ll be fine.” The Jerk-du-Jour looks at his watch again. His face is shiny, his Tommy Bahama aloha shirt is all creased and damp, and his gut presses against it like he’s pregnant. “It’s not like he’s going off to war. This is just a cruise, a floating summer camp. They used to send kids like him to military school. Kids these days have all gone soft. Now they get to go sailing the South Pacific. Pretty sweet deal, if you ask me, right Jim?” He has the nerve to 75


wink at me, like we’re buds. Like we share a secret. I hate that he calls me Jim. The truth is I’m here because my mother wants to be rid of me. She can’t deal with what I am, with what I’m becoming. She needs me gone. Not like dead gone, just out of sight, out of mind for the summer. So she and the jackass boyfriend can – ugh – I can’t let myself think about what it is they want to do with each other when I’m not around. Last summer it was a different boyfriend (I forget his name, I forget all of their names) and the Teens for Christ Summer Camp for me. There I endured six weeks of forced socialization, thrown in with people I had nothing in common with. Of course I was immediately rejected from their group, expelled into the void of oblivion where I remained in orbit around Planet Jesus like a piece of space junk – potentially dangerous but mostly forgotten, a reflected light passing overhead. What were the odds of my re-entry? The resident life forms ignored me. . But this summer is going to be worse. Much worse. * “All hands!” a man bellows through a bullhorn. “Ten minutes ‘til cast-off !” Was that the captain? His voice reverberates through my bones like the crash of a gong and I nearly piss my pants with fear. This is it. This is where I board the boat, never to be heard from again. Mother bends her head for a kiss. I feel her warm lips brush my left ear as I turn my head away. She touches my shoulder, like she’s afraid of me. “I’ll miss you, Jamey, honey. Love you!” I want her to hug me, to be enfolded in those fake-tanned arms. “You don’t have to miss me, Mother. You could take me home.” She stiffens and a wave of white light shoots from her head, a scorching flame, a solar flare. She is thinking, You ungrateful brat! She’s also singed with guilt. I can smell her guilt like a slice of bread stuck in the toaster, smoke filling the kitchen. “It’s not every kid who gets to go sailing on a real Chinese junk for the summer,” says the boyfriend, backing her up. Wanting me out of the way. Like he’s the one who paid for it. Maybe he was, for all I know. I don’t think we have that kind of money. The energy pulsates from her body, so intense I’m afraid she’ll spontaneously combust. Her lips move but the words are drowned out by the dead men from the black hole inside me, chanting that stupid poem again. ‘Twas a cutlass swipe, or an ounce of lead Or a yawning hole in a battered head And the scuppers glut with a rotting red Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum… Continue reading here.

76


Born in Baltimore, Linda Collison moved west as a young woman cobbling together a composite career that has included nursing, parenting, teaching skydiving, freelance writing, volunteer firefighting, and other occupations. Linda and her husband, Bob Russell (they met skydiving) wrote two guidebooks in the 1990s based on their travel adventures. The New York Public Library chose her novel Star-Crossed as one of the Books for the Teen Age -- 2007. Collison has won recognition for her fiction, including awards from Maui Writers, Southwest Writers, Honolulu Magazine and others. Her novels Looking for Redfeather and Water Ghosts were Foreword Reviews finalists for Indie Book of the Year.

Division One book 2, A Small Medium At Large, by Stephanie Osborn What is the F’al, and why has a rebel faction sent a special agent to Earth to retrieve it? Ari Ho’d’ni, Special Steward of the Royal House of Va’du’sha’ā, better known to humans as magician Harry Houdini, fled his homeworld during impending global civil war. He brought a unique device—the F’al—whose absence caused the uprisings’ failure and the collapse of the imperial regime. Va’du’sha’ā has been at peace for over a century. All that is about to change. It falls to the Alpha One team—Echo and Omega—to find out why...or die trying. ******* When Ke’ri Gla’d’s caught a cab at her hotel to head for the Machpelah Cemetery late on Halloween, she was unaware that a certain black Lexus, some distance behind, was following her to that same destination. “Not too near, not too far,” Romeo said to India, as he drove down the street, following the yellow taxi, several cars in front. “Here’s hoping she doesn’t catch on, and that she doesn’t make too many detours,” India agreed.

77


“Well, I wouldn’t mind a drive-thru, which she might do, given how much she been eatin’,” Romeo decided. “You’ve got no room to talk, honey!” India exclaimed with a laugh. “I swear, both your legs are hollow. I don’t know where you put it all!” “An’ there she goes, into th’ coffee shop drive-thru,” Romeo said in satisfaction. “I’mma get me a big ol’ café breve, like Meg likes, an’ a Danish. You want an espresso, or one ‘a them frozen, blended things?” “Get me a frozen mocha, I think,” India said. “But nothing else for me.” In moments Alpha Two were in and out, slurping drinks and sharing the Danish, while never losing sight of their target. *** In short order, the Lexus drove past as the taxi let out an older woman, short and slightly stocky, dressed in a form-fitting black jumpsuit, almost a catsuit, with a black-and-scarlet drape cardigan over that. Tall black boots with silver trim shod her feet; long white hair cascaded down her back. “That’s her,” India said. “It matches the description of her disguise we had from Alpha Four.” “Good,” Romeo said. “Then we’ll park on the side street, head in, an’ mingle with th’ professional magicians.” “On it.” *** By the time Alpha One arrived at the cemetery at last, full night had fallen. Street lights illumined the sidewalk along the street, but within the cemetery itself lay mostly darkness, only broken by a few flashlights carried by the few foresighted individuals in attendance. There was a large crowd already there, numbering several hundred; in fact, the crowd was so large that it spilled out of the small, cramped graveyard and into the surrounding streets. Some were in costume, some in formal dress, but most were in street clothes. They milled about, watching; some were anxious, but most were bored or amused. Several people, two of whom were in tuxedos, three of whom were in more...esoteric...clothing, took turns attempting to raise the spirit of Harry Houdini. As Alpha One insinuated themselves into the crowd, Ke’ri Gla’d’s, in what was apparently another human disguise—a short, red-headed, middle-aged female in silken caftan and robes—eased into this smaller group. “Watch, Meg,” Echo murmured, lips barely moving. “You can tell who’s who by how they’re dressed, and how they conduct their séance. The guys in tuxes will be really formal and kind of rote, and they’ll have a real stage presence. Those are the professional magicians, and they’re just here to honor Houdini’s memory; they don’t believe his spirit will return. But the ones who are wearing the robes and buckskins and shit are the spiritualists who really believe the stuff. And they’re halfway expecting something to really happen.”

78


“I have the feeling they’re the ones who will be right, tonight,” Omega replied in kind. “But I sorta don’t expect any of ‘em are necessarily gonna be happy about it.” “And I expect you’re right,” Echo agreed. “Aha. Look, across on the other side of the family plot.” “Alpha Two,” Omega murmured. “But not sticking close together. Good. Oh, and there’s Alpha Six, and Four. Is Five still extracting from the hotel?” “Actually, Five wasn’t scheduled to get here until after us,” Echo told her. “They were working with the hotel’s offworld management, and extracted as soon as she set foot in the taxi. They should be...glance casually over your right shoulder.” “Aha. Got ‘em.” “Yeah. And we blend in rather nicely with the magicians’ societies here, too.” “Yup, I noticed that.” “Heads up,” Echo warned. “She’s decided to take her turn. Wow. Classic Glu’gu’ik quantum spirit contact ritual.” “Ooo,” Omega hummed, intent on the scene. *** Ke’ri Gla’d’s stepped forward, threw her head back, and raised both hands toward the night sky. “Spirit of the great Hou’d’ni, hear me; for I am Carrie Gladys Hardin! I beseech you, I who am your kindred, of your blood and kind, come to me now,” Gla’d’s invoked. “Pa Da’ko ta Gra’ko On’de, de b’oo!” She paused. “‘In the Name of the First Creator, it is time,’” Echo whispered the translation in his partner’s ear. Just then, Gla’d’s flung her arms wide. “Ari Ho’d’ni, ne ko’ko’be, la’la’da ge nu!” she cried. “‘Harry Houdini, I command you, come to me!’” Echo translated again. “Well, it’s dramatic enough,” Omega decided, sotto voce. “And the language makes it sound like a magical incantation.” “Shush—something’s happening,” Echo hissed. 79


*** Before the alien medium, faint colors began to swirl in the darkness. Within moments the colors thickened, darkened, as the very fabric of spacetime itself seemed to distort. A bipedal, humanoid form began to take shape, hovering several feet off the ground. It was a man, some five and a half feet tall, with curly black hair, a high forehead over vivid blue eyes, and handsome, chiseled features. The crowd sucked in a collective breath of shocked excitement. But as the ‘apparition’ of Houdini materialized, its appearance changed from the traditional aspect known from photographs, into the classic shortbodied, egg-headed look of a typical Zeta Reticulan Gray, complete with bulbous head, flattened nose, huge black eyes, and lipless mouth. The crowd surrounding the ‘medium’ shrieked in fear and drew back as far as they could. Many of those farthest from the gravesite found themselves pressed against the fence surrounding the cemetery. *** Echo and Omega exchanged meaningful, mildly disturbed glances, then looked across the crowd, where Alpha Two was embedded. Omega rubbed her chin, glanced at her watch, then shook her head. It’s cool. Wait. Don’t take her yet. Got it. Romeo nodded slightly. He made a subtle hand gesture, and he and India both sent the hand signals that forwarded the order to the other Alpha Line teams. Meanwhile, Echo reached into his pocket, palming his cell phone. His thumb tapped several places along its screen and cover, activating the audio recording app. ‘Carrie Gladys Hardin’ held up a staying hand to the unnerved crowd. “Hold!” she cried in English. “The spirits of the dead do not always appear as we would. Harry Houdini, I address you.” “I...hear...” came a quavering, eerie voice, sounding almost like a distant echo. “You know who I am.” “I...do...” “You know what I seek.” “Yesss...” “Where is it?” Houdini’s alien shade was silent. “I adjure you, Harry Houdini, answer me! Where is it?” What came from the extraterrestrial spirit’s lips next was in no wise English. “On’de, oo de n ko’te a tw’a, n do’ok a ko’a’du’ne ba’wa’ne. Tor’ko kl’ee, bo kwa’ta’do! To’de, n do’ok la on’wa ne la’la’du wo’of. D’an, der klo’vi’t do’n. K’oi’du de we. Nda’da’be. Tra’de, ba on’de, n do’ok la on’de ne k’ap wi’if ’de’z, n fes’nus pe’dun ge’da n

80


nu’ke’ke. Ka’de, n do’ok la ne du ka’ka’du b’an dan kre. Gun’gun oi’ko’s’un, wo ga lo om, qu’a’du bre. Kin’de, n do’ok k’en’ti’do, der ne wo ku. Wo’pe’wo’be p’op n b’oo! Bu’ke n dwa’z, der or’k lu’ke n kwa’z!” And with that, the ghostly apparition faded into nothingness. The frightened crowd bolted. ******* For what happens next, see: https://w w w.amazon.com/Small-Medium-L arge-Division-One/ dp/0998288837/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8 Books in the series: 1. Alpha and Omega 2. A Small Medium At Large 3. A Very UnCONventional Christmas 4. Tour de Force 5. Trojan Horse 6. Texas Rangers 7. Definition and Alignment 8. Phantoms With more on the way! ******* Stephanie Osborn, award-winning Interstellar Woman of Mystery, is a 20+-year space program veteran, with graduate/undergraduate degrees in astronomy, physics, chemistry and mathematics, “fluent” in several more. Author, co-author, or contributor to 40 books, including the celebrated Burnout: The mystery of Space Shuttle STS-281 and the Cresperian Saga, she writes the criticallyacclaimed Displaced Detective series, the Gentleman Aegis series, and this, the Division One series, her take on the urban legend of the mysterious people who make things...disappear. She “pays it forward,” teaching STEM through numerous media including radio, podcasting and public speaking, and working with SIGMA, the science-fiction think tank.

81


Free To Scream by Julie Mellon Chapter One

“Aaah!” A scream rang through the early twilight and Katie instinctively reached for her service weapon. When her hand came up empty, her heart started pounding. Michael’s laugh brought her back to her senses and she blushed with embarrassment. The field was crowded with post-dinner families pushing their way through the massive corn maze. Katie had never been to a corn maze, and so far she wasn’t sure she liked it. She was definitely glad that Michael insisted she leave her gun in the car - otherwise she might have shot the first five people who jumped out to scare her. Six-year-old Tommy slid his hand into Katie’s and said, “Don’t worry. I won’t let anyone get you.” The mischievous twinkle in his eyes didn’t make Katie feel any better. Tommy was fearless in a way only a child who’d never experienced anything bad could be. But as an FBI agent, Katie had seen enough bodies that she wasn’t sure she appreciated a holiday that made light of fear and death. Rounding the next bend in the corn maze, a man in a hockey mask jumped toward them brandishing a fake chainsaw. Tommy laughed as Katie tried to

82


shield him. From the corner of her eye, Katie saw Ian edge closer to Michael. At ten years old, he wasn’t as tenacious as Tommy. The baby of the family was sitting on Michael’s shoulders, but Katie smiled when she saw Michael remove one protective hand from Carrie’s ankles and place it on Ian’s shoulder. The children’s parents walked several steps ahead, enjoying some personal time. A cackling scarecrow jarred her out of her thoughts, and she fought the urge to throw a punch at him. This time, Michael couldn’t swallow his laugh at the expression on her face. It must not have been as funny to others as it was to her partner though, as the actors in the corn maze didn’t heckle their group as much as they did others. She liked to think she was intimidating, but it was more likely that the presence of younger children had the characters moving on more quickly. As the group of seven moved past the scarecrow, the cornstalks opened to a large area with picnic tables and food vendors. “Thank goodness,” Ian said. “We made it.” “Uh-uh,” Tommy replied. “This is just half way. We’re in the largest maze in the world!” Hoping to divert a sibling argument, Michael spoke up. “Actually, it’s the largest in the south. How about we find some cotton candy while we take a break?” Michael just grinned at the look Caroline sent him. She was careful of the sweets her children ingested, but experience had taught her that Uncle Michael usually spoiled them by ignoring her rules. A noisy group of college-aged kids exited the first half of the maze shortly afterward. The group had been behind them the entire evening and had annoyed the family with their inconsiderate behavior. Katie turned a suspicious gaze on the group. There were three males and three females in the main group. A lone female stood over toward the side but had been trailing them every time Katie had seen them. Alcohol wasn’t allowed on the premises, but from the glazed look in the eyes of the rowdy group, Katie had no doubt that they would fail a breathalyzer. She watched as one of the males snuck up behind a female and grabbed her. The girl’s squeal turned to loud laughter as the boy ran his hands up her side and copped a quick feel of her breast. “Come on, Aunt Katie,” Carrie said, tugging on the hem of her jacket. “I want some cotton candy before the boys eat it all.” Katie looked down and smiled at the little girl. Carrie had just recently started

83


attaching Aunt to her name and it thrilled her every time she heard it. “Yes, let’s hurry. We might have to steal Uncle Michael’s if they ate all yours!” Carrie giggled, the sparkle in her eyes matching the one in Katie’s. “Race you!” she called out and took off as fast as her four-year-old legs could take her. Katie jogged behind her, not wanting the little girl to be out of her sight for a second. “We’re going to wait a few minutes before we go back into the maze. The kids need to let their food settle a little,” Caroline said as they rejoined the rest of the family. When Katie looked up, Caroline gave a subtle nod toward the entrance to the second half of the maze. The boisterous group of college kids was entering the tunnel that disappeared into the corn. “I think that’s a good idea,” Katie agreed, watching as the quiet girl who was a part of the group, yet seemed left out, followed the other six. She returned her attention to polishing off the rest of the snacks. She might not enjoy Halloween or corn mazes, but there was nothing like the smorgasbord of unhealthy food the carnival-like atmosphere provided. The entrance to the second half of the maze was a house of mirrors. Katie really wished she hadn’t eaten so much junk as her stomach churned from the distorted images reflected back. Recessed lights flashed at odd intervals adding to Katie’s seasick feeling. Luckily, the tunnel wasn’t very long, and she kept her eyes focused on the exit – at least she hoped it was the exit and not an illusion. When they stepped out into the maze again, the first thing Katie heard was the rustling of the breeze in the corn. She hadn’t realized the level of sensory deprivation that the mirrors caused until she was able to see and hear again. A woman’s scream came from somewhere up ahead followed by raucous laughter. Katie and Caroline exchanged a knowing look, both glad that the college group seemed so far ahead. Around the first corner, a scarecrow with blood dripping down his straw jumped out at them. She wished she could get away with punching some of these people, but she’d probably end up arrested – which wouldn’t bode well for her career as an FBI agent. An hour later the group emerged from the maze to see the college group standing to the side of the exit. One girl was puking in the bushes as her friend held her hair, swaying almost as much as the one getting sick. The guy who had copped a feel earlier in the evening now just looked on in disgust. As Katie and Michael shepherded the children to the other side, hoping to avoid the group, Katie overheard one of the guys. “Where is she? Why the hell didn’t she stay with us? We’ve got a party to get to.” A second guy approached Katie. “Did you see our friend? She was wearing 84


jeans and an orange jack-o-lantern t-shirt.” Katie knew immediately who the guy was talking about. “Honestly, I wouldn’t blame her if she left you all,” Katie replied, throwing a disgusted look at the sound of retching coming from behind them. “She better not have left!” the guy now disgusted with his girl said. “She was our designated driver. She has the keys to my ride!” “I told you it was a mistake to bring her,” the third girl spoke up. “She’s a weirdo.” “You know we didn’t have a choice, Amber,” the vomiting girl said as she stood up straight and weaved her way over to join the discussion. “We had to find someone to drive. We don’t want to end up arrested for DUI.” It was the first intelligent thing Katie had heard from any of the group. “When did you last see your friend,” Michael said. “She isn’t my friend. I didn’t even know her before tonight. She’s just some loser that got matched up to be Steph’s roommate.” Michael and Katie stood up straighter at the guy calling his designated driver a loser. “What’s her full name?” Michael asked. He actually wondered if the guy even knew that much. He was proven right when the guy turned to the girls for help in answering the question. “Erin Giordano,” Stephanie answered. “She’s a freshman at Vanderbilt. I’m studying to be a lawyer.” She wiped her mouth with the back of her hand, still swaying. Katie rolled her eyes, not surprised that she learned more about the girl standing in front of her than she had about the one missing. Pulling her badge, she identified herself to the group. “I’m FBI Special Agent Katie Freeman. This is my partner, Michael Powell. You’re going to have a seat on those benches and tell Agent Powell everything you recall about this evening. I’m going to check with security about your friend.” Julie is a native of Central Kentucky. After receiving her degree in English, she chose a career in higher education finance. Fifteen years later, she decided to allow her inner creative genius loose and began writing. She has been an avid reader her entire life, with a special love for mysteries, so she thought it fitting to make her first novel one of suspense. Growing up as an Army brat, she has lived in several states and foreign countries. To this day, she enjoys traveling to new places and experiencing new cultures. When at home she is likely to be found enjoying a few extreme sports, such as: rock climbing, scuba diving, or whitewater rafting. Her willingness to enter into activities of mortal peril is balanced by her commitment to ensure the quality of life for animals through her service with various dog rescue organizations. She now lives in Middle Tennessee with her two dogs, Ginny and Luna.

85


Poems

A HALLOWEAN POEM by Angie Neto ‘Twas the night before hallowean When pumpkins are carved And buckets of candy filled right to the top Windows all sparkling with bright orange lights Witches on brooms decorate gardens Spider webs hang from every tree branch Skeletons stand guard outside every door And ghostly shapes stare through dark windows Children climb into bed Too excited to sleep Their empty treat buckets Hiding under the bed Are waiting to be filled With Halloween treats Finally asleep Heads gently nestled On soft fluffy pillows Dream of the moment When they dress up As witches with brooms Scarey ghosts or skeletons A princess and a vampire too

86


NECROMANNIA by George Tyrell Strange apparitions in a graveyard…. Shimmering shadows in the moonlight. Misty, whispering forms hovering over gravestones decomposing in gruesome stages of decay like the corpses rotting beneath. . Then there were the wailings…. And it seemed I heard the murmurings of loathsome rites echoing forth from some dark magician…. It was then I saw a shuddering shroud fluttering from a tomb’s open door, partially hiding murky depths, Then the necromancers came… entering the tomb with lighted torches. And the wailings came louder, and the wolves howled back at the wind…. the macabre song of night. Later, the moon took on the red of dawn. Scarlet shadows crept through purple gravestones; the bloodshot eye of sun peered into the mist. The necromancers filed out from the tomb in grim procession. What ever it was, their gruesome deed was done….. George Tyrrell is a retired psychologist of Jungian persuasion, which brings his interests to myths and archetype symbols of the supernatural. The poem is taken from his book Ripples From the Darkness, which moves through maladies of madness into the sacred and macabre. He previously authored The Book of Thomas the Doubter: Uncovering the Hidden Teachings, taken from the secret Egyptian texts.

87


Halloween poem by Ellen L. Buikema A Prelude to Trick-or-Treat Running up and down the aisle Pulling clothing off the rack I find the Ninja Princess Pushing metal cart on wheels Singing loud at all who shop People raise their eyes amused Grabbing bags of mini bars Paying at the register Coins jingle in my pocket Staring at bike and basket Wishing for a vacuum pump I should don the costume now Smooshing poofs of fabric down Flowing over handlebars Luscious candy calls my name Lightning bursts above my head Stuffing goodies in my shirt Chocolate melts at what degree? Rushing home to beat the rain Cascading water drenches I look down and shake my head Tearing off wet clothes inside Trying to hold back my tears I look about my closet Hiding on a lower shelf Smiling unexpected find Eye patch and matching parrot Gliding ‘cross the bedroom floor Winking at the mirror bright I am the ninja pirate

Author, speaker, and former teacher, Ellen L. Buikema has written non-fiction for parents and a series of chapter books for children—sprinkling humor wherever possible. Her WIP, The Hobo Code, is a Young Adult historical fiction novel. Find her at http://ellenbuikema.com, and her Amazon page.

88


booksgosocial book cover design

email us at admin@booksgosocial.com 89


Booksgosocial wishes you Happy

90

Profile for BooksGoSocial

Your Secret Library Magazine - Halloween edition!