“Secrets of the Scarecrow Moon” – Kindle eBook Giveaway!

Beyond the confines of Barnesville, NY almost no one has ever heard of the Scarecrow Moon. And even among its less than 2000 residence, only a dozen or so truly understand the origins of this sacred time of year. A cross-breeding of the Native American tradition of naming each month’s full moon after seasonal events, old-fashioned New England witchcraft, and the small town’s deepest, darkest secret, the Scarecrow Moon is the full moon that falls in the month of April. In honor of it, the people of Barnesville build competition scarecrows, hold a funeral procession-like parade down Main Street, and conduct nothing less than a full-blown Pagan ritual in the center of town complete with a bonfire turned funeral pier on the weekend nearest to Beltaine, or May Day, as it is more commonly known.

But why? By all appearance Barnesville is your typical, American small town. There are no outward signs that this is a place rampant with witches practicing their craft. In fact, there are two prominent churches in town, both very active and well-attended.

And yet, every year come April, something shifts. That shift takes a considerably dark path one year when the body of an old man was found in the local cemetery. His death was ruled an accident by authorities, but very soon those that understand the secret of the Scarecrow Moon begin to see things in a way that hasn’t been spoken of publicly in almost two-hundred years.

To honor this year’s Scarecrow Moon, which will be on April 11, I have put five Kindle versions of “Secrets of the Scarecrow Moon” up for grabs over on Amazon.  Contest end April 12, 2017.

Interested? Follow the link to learn more about rules and requirements for entry.

Do the clicky-clicky here —> KINDLE GIVEAWAY – SECRETS OF THE SCARECROW MOON

 

Good luck!

 

Speaking Of Crows : Part 3

If you’ve been following the blog for a while you’ll know I’ve been working on making friends with the small murder of Crows that resides near my house. And what better way to befriend a wild animal than to feed it?

Last year I noticed they were over at the neighbors quite often, eating under her front pine tree. Not sure what she was putting out there, but I was eager to have some ebony-winged visitors of my own. After some research I found out that they really like peanuts in the shell and pet kibble so started tossing a bit of that into the side yard between my house and said neighbor.

It didn’t work all that well. The Crows would come, but they acted very, very uncomfortable about the location I’d chosen. I suspect it had to do with the big forsythia bush and the woodpile being fine places for cats to hide. Especially after I saw our local prowler out there lurking in the bush, eyeballing the array of bird feeders my son maintains.

After some consideration, the feeding spot was moved to the back corner of the property, some twenty feet from the new deck we put up just before the wedding in August. Not so many hiding places for the cat and a comfy place for me to sit and watch my future feathered friends should they ever got over their obscene level of paranoia.

More research had taken place between the start of the experiment and then and I’d learned to use some sort of call every time I went out to scatter the goodies.  I considered an actual Crow call, but was quickly talked out of that idea when my fellow Corvid enthusiasts said it probably wasn’t a good idea if I lived in an area that permitted Crow hunts. Sadly, I do. In fact, I pretty much refuse to patronize a certain bar in nearby Pennsylvania because they sponsor a Crow hunt every year. Shame… it’s a nice bar, but I just don’t feel right giving money to a place that encourages the senseless killing of my totem animal.

Be that as it may … the feeding place was moved and in a way I allowed the Crows to train me at first. I’d wait until I heard them cawing away in the front maple tree. That told me they were nearby and that they’d see me, unless they flew away, of course, which they did for awhile. Thus, leaving the peanuts to the ever-vigilant Blue Jays instead. Blue Jays are Corvids as well, so I can’t really get too annoyed at them for being clever like that. From my studies, I knew the Crows watched the Blue Jays, so I’ve let it slide and besides, running back out there shooing away the Jays won’t encourage the Crows that it’s a safe place to fly down and feed.

Since returning from our honeymoon, the tactics have been changed slightly. I’ll sometimes still go out if I hear the Crows in the tree, but not always. And when I do, I’ll look to see where they are – usually in the front maple watching and waiting – give the whistle, rattle the plastic dish, then toss out the goodies. I want them to associate that whistle with food, Pavlov’s Crows, if you will.  Just this past week, I’ve found that I can go out on the back deck, shake the dish and whistle and eventually, the Crows will arrive. It’s slow and not always guaranteed. On Saturday I went out three times and when no Crows came the first two times, I went back inside after fifteen minutes without putting the food out. This did not sit well with the Jays, but they’ll get over it, I’m sure.

My third attempt was a success. Maybe the first two times they just weren’t within hearing range of the whistle, but the third time, within ten minutes after stepping out the back door and whistling, the first Watcher Crow came to perch in the maple before moving closer to pine beside the one I feed them under. I waited a bit, whistled again and then another showed up. Of course, the Jays were already bouncing around in the tree oh-so-eager. I’m surprised they don’t dive bomb me while I have the dish in hand.

Knowing the Crows won’t come down until I walk away, I had no choice but to toss out the nuts and kibble. They had seen me, they heard the whistle, they knew I had the food and well, it was up to them to get rid of the Jays if they wanted to get any of it.

They are getting braver and don’t fly away quite so quickly as they used to when I step out. In fact, the Watcher Crow doesn’t even move from his perch now. He, well, watches. When he deems the coast is clear, then they will come down and feed. And, when I first started there were only three Crows. This weekend, there were four. Maybe Jr. got himself a girlfriend?

It’s going to be tougher now with the time change in effect. Crows go to roost before sunset and now I won’t be getting home from work until after that. Kind of sucks. This leaves me only the weekends or days I have off to try and call them in. I’ll keep at it though and post another progress report in a few more months… sooner if something phenomenal happens!

Caw, caw, caw!

Write What You Love: The Joys of Genre Hopping

Back in November of 2015, I blogged about The Horror of Women . It dealt with the difficulties women have getting published in the Horror Genre. Though I still struggle with the reality of that whole situation, I’d much rather write horror than what I was initially published in, erotica.

For centuries women have been viewed by the publishing world as inferior writers. For that reason they have used more masculine or gender neutral nom-de-plumes . What many people may not know is that some of their favorite female authors have also written in multiple genres.

Judy Bloom, known best for her “Fudge” series took a walk on the trampy side with her novel, “Wifey”. Anne Rice took a side trip from her witches and vampires to explore kink with the “Sleeping Beauty” trilogy.  Joyce Carol Oats wrote gothic horror, murder and crime fiction, romances, historic fiction, fantasy, realism and surrealistic novels. All these woman are successful writers who dared step outside of their comfort zones and explore beyond the old adage of “write what you know”. I’m more inclined to write what I enjoy writing and I’ve had several different loves.

As a young adult I dreamed of writing Children’s fiction and even took college level classes in Children’s Literature and Illustration to pursue that goal. Somewhere along the lines for reasons that are unclear to me, my first novel turned out to be in the Fantasy genre. Beyond what was require of me in high school and the reading of The Hobbit, fantasy’s not my thing. On an awkward dare from a friend, I began writing erotica. I never saw that one coming (pun intended). Five published novels later, I’d had enough.

Having always loved murder-mysteries, horror, and anything to do with the paranormal, that was my next genre pick. This, I feel, is where I truly belong. Witches, ghosts, and bogeymen, oh my! In 2013 I saw my first paranormal murder-mystery published and was on cloud nine until, about six months later, my publisher announced they were going out of business. Now what? I already had another novel done and in the editing process for these people. Heartbroken, but knowing this was where I wanted my writing to go, I carried on and finished the second book and began the whole query, query, query, submit, submit, submit, rejected, rejected, rejected process all over again.

Had I messed up? Should I go back into the closet and return to the erotica where I was still seeing decent sales and a monthly royalty deposit in my account? Don’t get me wrong, the erotica was fun to write and I learned a great deal about some aspects of the publishing business, but my heart and writer’s soul wasn’t into it. No. I just couldn’t do it. I’ve never felt so creative and productive and pleased with my writing since making the genre hop. With fans of the first murder-mystery contacting me at least once a month over when I’d have another book out, I realized it was time to change tactics … again. The traditional publishing Gods were not with me. I was letting everyone down. I had to do something drastic and decided to self-publish.

Because of that, I had the pleasure of being invited to five author events in 2016. I’m hoping to do at least that many for 2017. It’s rather difficult to peddle your erotic-wares in public knowing your mother’s pastor is likely to walk by and say hello or you’re going to see old friends and teachers and try to explain how you know about “those sorts of things”.  It’s called research, people. As I’ve said before, I like vampire and murder-mysteries, too, but that doesn’t mean I believe I’m a vampire or that I’m going to go out and murder someone. Sex may sell, but not in a small town family-friendly community center or a privately owned bookstore. It’s a lot easier when it’s a murder-mystery or something about haunted houses or Shadow People or urban legends.

With three paranormal novels now out and another on the way later in 2017, I may not be raking in the dough as much as I one day hope to, but I’m having a lot more fun and I’m getting much needed exposure. I’m mingling, setting up displays, doing book talks and signing and, though I write under my maiden name, I’m not really hiding behind a pen-name anymore. I’m being myself and sharing my love of the macabre.

I’d still love to put out a Children’s book, too. Maybe I will one of these days.

If you’re considering writing something different than what you’d normally do, do it! Don’t limit your imagination to a single genre. You have a slew of successful female (and male) writers who have already dared to be different. Georgette Heyer, who is better known for her romance novels, has also dabbled in detective fiction. Children’s book author Sonya Hartnett wrote a rather sexually graphic novel that created a bit of a stir. You’re in good company no matter where you decide to let your writing take you, just don’t be afraid to explore.

Taking that step could very well lead you exactly where you want to go. Start walking!

Movie Review – Hunger (2009)

Movie Review – Hunger (2009) – Rated R – Directed by Steven Hentges. Starring: Lori Heuring, Linden Ashby, Joe Egander, Lea Kohl, Julian Rojas, and Bjorn Johnson

Five strangers wake up in an isolated cave with no memories of how they got there. With the discovery of large barrels of water, a makeshift toilet, and a scalpel but absolutely no food, they soon realize they are part of an experiment in survival, murder, and cannibalism.  Their captor watches from a series of hidden cameras, taking notes on every move they make. Through flashbacks we learn he survived an automobile accident as a child by eating the flesh from his mother’s corpse. This seems to be his motivation.

With the exception of the cave’s stone walls, that reminded me of one of my favorite childhood shows, Land Of The Lost, this movie was surprisingly good. The acting was decent and the plot kept me more than interested with some twists popping up that I didn’t see coming. Suspense built slowly but surely, in pace with the rising tension between the characters, their environment, and their kidnapper all the way to the very end.

The five hostage characters, three men and two women, were somewhat generic; Doctor, Voice of Reason, Paranoid-Whiner, Trouble Maker, and Outsider.  Their psychopathic captor remains calm, cool, and totally enthralled in the suffering of his subjects, like a cat watching the half dead mice its caught, but isn’t quite ready to put out of their misery just yet.

“Hunger” is one of the better low-budget (at only $625,000) movies I’ve seen on Chiller. It was part of the Fangoria FrightFest series which tend to be not so frightening and all too often, not so good. All things considered, not bad, not bad at all. Not GREAT, but certainly a nice little bite of horror to keep a person entertained on a dark and stormy October night.

3 out of 5 Ravens

Author Appearance & Book Signing

Witches, Shadow People, and Ghosts, oh my! Just in time for Halloween!

On Friday, October 7th, I’ll be at Riverow Books for the final 2016 First Friday Artwalk event in Owego, NY from 6-8pm. I’ll have hot of the press copies of my latest horror release, No Rest For The Wicked along with copies of my murder-mystery titles, Secrets of the Scarecrow Moon and That’s What Shadows Are Made Of.

We’ll be signing, selling, and chatting it up for two hours and we may or may not have cookies.

Hope to see you there!

Excerpt from “No Rest For The Wicked”

     The following is the the intro and first two chapters of my upcoming ghost story, NO REST FOR THE WICKED scheduled for release Fall 2016. Please note this novel contains some explicit sexual content. If that sort of thing turns you off, you may not wish to read further. However, it is intricate to the plot and to the hauntings you will learn about further in the story. The rest of you brave souls … read on.
August 1882
     She didn’t have to see it to believe it. She could hear them just fine. She’d suspected the truth for months. It was time to do something about it. She’d waited and planned long enough. Lucy looked up the stairs, gripping the top of the wooden balustrade with a firm, steady hand. Oh, yes, he was up there. He thought her so meek and submissive, but he knew as well as anyone who had not hesitated to shoot those damned Yankees point blank during the War. Yes, Beauregard Addams and his little trollop really should know so much better than to do what they were doing up there. You didn’t cross Lucy Addams without paying a price.
     She dried her palm against the folds of her dressing gown before pulling the revolver from Beau’s holster. Idiot, she thought, keeping his gun loaded and ready on the table at the foot of the stairs like that. He’d done it for years, though and now it would be his undoing. Her footsteps were silent and slow as she climbed each tread. Sweat dampened the brow above her hazel eyes, but her heart had gone cold and the color of her rage was icy blue and lethally calm.
     “C’mon, suck it,” she heard him order. “Suck it, my little slut.”
     Feminine moans and grunts of pleasure shuddered through the closed bedroom door as Lucy’s damp hand wrapped around the knob. She turned it oh-so-slowly. Lucy licked her lips.
     He had his back to the door as a dark-skinned woman knelt on the floor in front of him, naked. Beau’s trousers were pushed down to just above his knees. He’d not even taken off his waistcoat yet. Both of his hands held the kneeling woman’s unseen face against his groin as he rocked his hips back and forth faster.
     Beau moaned.
     Lucy knew that sound well. He was about to climax. Let him, she thought as a smile touched her lips and she raised the gun, aiming it at the base of his skull not ten feet away. Her husband’s ass flexed as he pushed himself into the other woman’s mouth and tipped his face towards the ceiling with a helpless groan that bordered on a yell.
     “Beau,” Lucy said just loud enough to be heard over the noise of his release.
     His eyes shot open.
     Lucy exhaled slowly and squeezed the trigger just like he’d taught her to do.
***
Chapter 1
     Twin, square columns painted ghost white and topped with massive cast iron planters stood guard on either side of an iron gate into which had been worked an impressive letter ‘A’. Vines poured from the tops of the planters and reached out in opposing directions. Their delicate stalks twisted along the top of the fencing to create a thick, tangled drapery of vines and leaves. Behind the fence, two more sentinels loomed tall and foreboding in the guise of ancient gray elms. Their yellow-tainted leaves shivered as the Harley and its two riders passed slowly beneath the entwined branches of the trees.
     Hidden further back stood the house. A ripple of fear stroked Grace’s spine and set the hairs on her arms on end. She hugged Eric’s sides just a little tighter. Bone-white with black shutters, the entire front facade boasted a two-story porch where thick, lathed spindles held aloft paint chipped railings. Half a dozen steps led up to a wide door framed by a fan window on top and glass side panels. Two more urns, like the ones atop the front columns, squatted empty on either side of the front door.
     As they passed beyond the elms, Grace turned her attention to the left. A single story room of some sort jutted out from the main body of the house. Solid-colored drapes prevented any chance of seeing what was inside. More of the familiar vines spread their long, greedy fingers around the corner and had worked their way halfway across the front, almost touching the narrow windows.
     The grounds were unkempt and ragged. Wisteria grew at random lengths over the porch while shrubs stood tall and jagged at the corners. In the center of the circular carriageway they now rounded, a scantily clad statue of a woman stood poised above a brier of roses gone wild with dead and withered blossoms.
     Eric pulled the bike to a stop behind a white compact car while lowering his boot-shod feet to the ground. The engine was cut. For a moment, silence rang in Grace’s ears. The house would easily accommodate both of their businesses, but for what price? Grace put her hands on her husband’s shoulders and swung one leg over the back before landing with a soft hop on the dry, Virginia soil.
     Both worked off their helmets before speaking.“What do you think?” Eric asked. At just under six foot Eric was a lean one hundred seventy pounds and towered a good nine inches over his petite wife. He hung his helmet on the end of one of the bike’s handlebars.
     “It’s huge,” she said.
     Eric chuckled.
     “Oh, stop it!” she mock punched him on the arm, “Men are such pigs.”
     “Oink,” he grinned and leaned in to give her a tender kiss. Eric looked every bit the bad-ass biker dude with an unruly beard, made even more so after the ride, and long blonde hair he kept pulled into a ponytail that, even when braided, reached the middle of his back, but Grace knew all too well he was nothing but a teddy bear inside. In their eight years together, she’d never seen him start a fight. He’d broken up a few, but he was never one to throw the first punch or deliver the deciding blow. Eric used his hands for making music and when they saw the ad in the paper for this property, it had sounded a perfect space to set up the private studio he’d been talking about for the past year.
     The front door squeaked open and a well-dressed, balding man emerged carrying a single manila folder, “Afternoon, folks. Welcome to Greenbrier,” he grinned like some seedy, used car salesman. “Couldn’t help but hear you pull in.” He thrust out his free hand to Eric. “I’m James, James Fletcher. Pleased to meet you.” He shook Grace’s hand, too.
     “Eric McLaughlin, and this here is my ol’ lady, Grace.”
     “Pleased to meet you both.” The realtor looked slightly uncomfortable. “Well, let’s not waste any time, shall we? Let me show you around.”
     “Lead on,” Eric replied as he reached back and took Grace’s hand. “C’mon, woman. Let’s see what this boy’s got to offer.”
     Grace gave him a little smirk that the realtor didn’t catch, “Stop,” she mouthed silently and was about to punch her husband in the arm again until Mr. Fletcher turned around.
“This poor place really only needs some T.L.C., you understand? It’s been empty for years,” the realtor said. His thin lips turned up in a grimace. Grace didn’t like it.
     “How come?” she asked.
     “The last folks abandoned the property nearly five years ago. Just up and left. Some sort of family emergency, I’m told.” Mr. Fletcher pulled the grand front door open and motioned for the prospective buyers to proceed ahead of him.
     Even before she stepped through the door, Grace’s nose crinkled. “What’s that smell?”
The front entry was generous, but not overwhelming. To the left and right doors, led into what appeared to be twin rooms on either side. In front of them a large staircase ran up along the left hand wall. A wide hallway running parallel to this staircase led to rooms lost in a murky haze of dust and cobwebs. Grace sniffed the air again. “Do you smell that?”
Eric and Mr. Fletcher both sniffed but shook their heads.
     “What’s it smell like?” Eric asked.
     She shrugged. “Like something burning, maybe? Or like … like when we went to Gettysburg.”
    Eric’s eyebrows arched, “Gettysburg?”
     “Oh, you know how all that cannon smoke smelled.”
     “Gunpowder?”
     Grace nodded, “Yeah, just like that, just like gunpowder.” She sniffed again, but the air held nothing but the scent of an old, shut up house, dust and aged wood. “It’s gone now.”
     Mr. Fletcher chuckled, “Well, you’re near Winchester. We saw a lot of the War here. In fact, I’m pretty sure there’s a re-enactment going on west of here about sixty miles. Get the right sort of wind blowing and you can smell those things for miles. However, I can assure you this house saw no part of the real war. Greenbrier Plantation was built several years after it ended to replace the original house that burned down in 1862. The story goes that the owners, Dr. Addams and his young wife, Lucy, fled in the middle of the night and spent the rest of the battle torn years in France.” The realtor adjusted his glasses and walked into the room immediately to the right. “This was the front parlor, the ladies parlor as it was known, very bright and cheerful in its day. Just needs a bit of paint and new paper on the walls to bring it back to that.
     Grace hugged her elbows to her stomach, looking at the room and the cobweb-draped light fixture that hung from the ceiling. “I like it,” she said as she turned slowly in place. “Would make a great room for painting in. The natural light that comes right through is perfect.”
    Mr. Fletcher grinned his approval and ushered them towards the room across the hall.
“Originally, this was the dining room.” He headed towards another door along the back wall. “Kitchen is through here. Plenty big enough to be an eat-in if you’d like.”
     “Hold up,” Eric said. “What’s all this about?”
      The realtor paused and looked at the pile of sheetrock and stack of two-by-fours as if he’d not seen them at all before. “Oh, those, well, the last owners were renovating the place. Those are the materials they left behind.”
     Eric strode closer in long, easy steps over. “He left his toolbox,” he bent down and picked up what appeared to be nothing more than an old rag, “and his apron. Still has nails in the pockets.” Eric steadied his gaze at Mr. Fletcher. The biker knew how to look mean when he had to. “Tell us again why these folks left, Mr. Fletcher?”
     The older man licked his lips nervously. “In the night, quickly. They packed up their car as if a tornado was coming and were gone.”
     “I thought that was how the first owners left.”
     “Yes, well,” Mr. Fletcher stammered, “yes, they did. It was during the War and the original place was on fire. They had to run for their lives. These folks just had a family emergency.”
     Eric crossed his arms and planted his feet firmly on the hardwood floor. “That must have been some family emergency.”
     “I only know what the office told me, Mr. McLaughlin.”
     “It’s haunted, isn’t it?” Grace’s voice was edged with hope.
     Dust motes sparkled in the beams of sunlight that streamed through the dirty dining room windows.
     “I’ve heard that, too.” Mr. Fletcher conceded. “Most places around these parts claim to be haunted.”
     Grace felt herself smile, “How exciting. Who by, Mr. Fletcher? What happened?”
     The realtor nudged his glasses up on his nose again and was about to speak.
     “Another time, huh?” Eric said with a chuckle. “Let’s finish the viewing first. If we decide we’re interested and want to discuss price, you two can talk about ghosts.”
     “Party pooper,” Grace mock pouted, “ruining all my fun.”
     Eric reached back and swatted her ass playfully, “I’ll show you some fun later.”
     Fletcher cleared his throat and looked away. Eric chuckled, “Sorry. Back to the business at hand.”
     The kitchen had been updated completely by the last owners and from Grace’s perspective needed nothing more than a good, hard scrubbing and some fresh paint more to her liking. A narrow staircase led from the back left corner of the kitchen up to a small room that the realtor told them was probably used by a servant A second door led into the upstairs hallway, but Mr. Fletcher took them back to the foyer the way they’d come.
     “The den,” Mr. Fletcher said as he swung open the second door on the right. It was the same size as the ladies parlor but was dim and very little sunlight came in through the single east-facing window. Layers of brittle wallpaper clung to the walls. “Electric was put in sometime in the early fifties. Apart from the kitchen and bathroom, it’s not been updated as far as I know.”
     “Damn,” Eric let out a breath and shook his head. “All I’m seeing are dollar signs, babe.”
     Grace ignored the remark. “How long did the last people live here?” Grace eyed the walls, calculating how much work would have to go into peeling, scraping, priming, and repapering them.
     “About six months.”
     “Things that go bump in the night,” Grace snickered.
     Mr. Fletcher smiled. “Family emergency,” he corrected her. “After the family left, the estate was handled by their lawyer and the bank. They never came back. The house was foreclosed and has been empty and on the market ever since.”
     Eric nodded. He had never been one to believe in ghosts or any of that kind of thing. That was Grace’s fancy, not his, and he had always let her have her harmless fun with it. Her sense of wonder and fantasy had also helped make her series of children’s books and illustrations very popular. Who knew, maybe the house and its alleged ghosts would inspire that young adult novel she’d always wanted to write. She found inspiration in the oddest places.
     Mr. Fletcher stepped back out in the hallway. “Shall we go upstairs?”
     “Lead on,” Eric replied.
     Hand-carved woodwork greeted them throughout the house, from the carved balustrade to the floors, the wainscoted hallway, doors and frames, and windows casings All spoke of the finest craftsmanship. Sunlight streamed through the dust motes the three of them kicked up in the front bedrooms. A room in the back had been updated into a large bathroom. The claw foot tub with its draw-around curtain was lovely and nostalgic but not practical; plus, the thing was an oasis of rust. With four bedrooms and the servant’s quarters, the place was almost too much.
     “What about that little room I saw from the outside, along the west?” Grace asked as they descended the front porch steps.
     “Ah,” the realtor’s eyes lifted. “If you think the thought of ghosts is fun, you’re going to love what went on over there.” He pulled the ring of keys from his pocket and fished through them.
     “What’s over there?”
     “There were coffins,” Mr. Fletcher said, giving Grace a wink.
     “Coffins?” Her heart gave an excited extra beat.
     Eric pulled back to a halt. “Whoa now, wait just a fuckin’ minute. Why the hell were there coffins here?”
     Concern etched deep into the realtor’s forehead and the hopeful look of a sale dwindled. “Alright, I’m having a bit of fun with you two. Let me show you and I’ll explain.”
     Eric didn’t move even when Mr. Fletcher started to walk away.
     The realtor turned back. “I assure you, there are no coffins in there, not anymore. The original owner, Dr. Beauregard Addams, was a very successful undertaker until the time of his death. That little addition was his place of business.”
     Still, Eric didn’t move. “You’re saying this place was a funeral home?”
     “A hundred and thirty years ago, yes.”
     Grace giggled as she watched her husband’s face. “Don’t tell me big, bad biker man is afraid.”
     Eric scowled, “No, I just think it’s damn creepy, that’s all. Let’s go look.”
     Mr. Fletcher resumed walking as he fiddled with the keys in his hand. “If it helps any, Mr. McLaughlin, there is no access from this wing to the main house. From what I’ve heard, the doctor’s wife was about as thrilled with her husband’s occupation as you are. She requested the two areas be kept apart during the reconstruction.” He slipped the key into the lock and swung the door open. “Well, here we are…”
     Grace stepped forward and peered in.
***
Chapter 2
     Mr. Fletcher moved aside, letting Grace tug Eric into the room as if leading him into a cheap carnival spook house. It wasn’t a big room by any means, fourteen feet wide and maybe twelve feet deep, but with nine-foot ceilings, the emptiness gave the impression of being much larger. Sunlight poked through what remained of a shabby, brown curtain coated with dust and partially eaten by moths.
      Rubble from the crumbling ceiling crunched under Eric and Grace’s boots. From every corner, sheets of cobwebs sagged under their own thick weight. Each was filled more with dust and debris than food for the spiders that had spun them. Portions of the plaster walls that had not already fallen away from the lathe were bowed and cracked.
     At dead center, a trash can waited to be filled by the heap of wallpaper on the floor next to it. Grace let go of Eric’s hand and bent over to pick up the push broom from the floor. “Wow,” she whispered as if afraid her breath alone would send more of the walls and ceiling crashing down around them.
     “Just a little T.L.C., eh, Mr. Fletcher?” Eric chuckled, stroking the length of his foot long beard with one hand.
     The realtor moved away from the doorway and joined them in the dark staleness of the space. “You’ve seen the rest of the house. I assure you, this is as bad as it gets. Even the carriage house is in better shape.”
     The biker grunted and crossed his arms.
     “Someone started to work on it, at least,” Grace said, leaning the broom handle against the trash can from where it had fallen long ago.
     “Where’s that go?” Eric nodded his head towards a door on the opposite wall from the front one.
     Mr. Fletcher searched his key ring again, “That’s the embalming room.” He hesitated when neither of his clients said anything, “Do you want to look or …?”
     “Baby?” Eric deferred to his wife.
     She nodded and brushed her hands off on her jeans.
     The inner room was only slightly larger than the first, but instead of hardwood floors, these had been tiled in white. There was a large drain in the middle of the floor. “Lovely,” Eric muttered. “Bets on what went down there?” For him, at least, the place had lost all its Victorian charm.
     The walls matched the floor a third of the way up before yielding to more cracked and crumbling lathe and plaster walls. There were no windows. Eric noticed Grace’s nose crinkle as she tried not to breath in the bitter tang of what he suspected was formaldehyde. “The tiles aren’t in too bad a shape,” she noted. “Only a dozen or so would need to be replaced.”
     Mr. Fletcher smiled then laughed weakly, “See, no coffins. Just empty rooms.”
     Eric couldn’t help but shake his head, “I dunno. It’s a lot of work and what the hell would we use this for?”
     Grace sidled up to her husband and took his beefy hand in hers. “Let’s go see the carriage house.”
     Eric didn’t like the look he saw in his wife’s eyes. He knew that look and it told him she still liked the place despite the damn funeral home wing. “Alright,” he gave her hand a quick squeeze and looked towards Mr. Fletcher. “The Old Lady’s still interested. Let’s do like she says or I’ll never hear the end of it.”
     Mr. Fletcher broke into a smile, “Excellent, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.”
     “Better be,” Eric grumbled and followed the realtor.
     The lower level of the carriage house was much as Eric expected, a cobbled-stone floor, thick plank walls and open beams. The logs appeared hand hewn and were notched together at the corners. Both sets of double doors, one on the front of the building and the other at the back, moved with surprising ease on huge iron hinges. On the left and right hand sides were open-air carriage ports. Bright sunlight reflected on the single, but fairly good-sized, window over the front doors.
     “Would make a good garage,” the realtor offered.
     Eric hated to admit it, but Mr. Fletcher was right. He hated not having a garage for the bike and with the carports, they would have room for it as well as Grace’s car and his pick-up. “And up there?” he pointed to the window.
     “Let me show you. Entrance is around back.”
     It was clear the back stairs were a recent addition. They ascended along the back of the right hand port and ended with a nice-sized deck that ran the full length of the main body of the carriage house. Eric estimated it to be about eight feet wide. It was all pressure-treated lumber and not in the least bit unstable.
     “Oh, look at the view from up here!” Grace’s eyes sparkled.
     Beyond a gently sloping embankment that stretched several hundred feet, a stream sparkled in front of a line of trees. “That stream is the property line,” the realtor told them.
     “What’s the acreage again?” Eric asked.
     “Just under five. It was five times that originally. And you get the added bonus of a small slave’s cemetery just over there. It’s hard to see from here, but it’s there.” He pointed off to the east to an area that looked like nothing more than overgrown fields.
     “Ooooh,” Grace cooed with interest, craning her neck to try and see anything off in that direction.
     “Oh joy,” Eric sighed. “But five acres is plenty to keep the neighbors at bay,” Eric found himself smiling again. Maybe he could tolerate that old funeral home idea. He wasn’t so sure about being a cemetery caretaker though.
     “Let me show you inside.”
     Grace gasped as Mr. Fletcher swung open the door, allowing them their first glimpse of the interior. “Oh, wow! It’s an apartment.”
     “The previous owners were living here before they got called away.” He remained out of the way and let the couple roam the space at their leisure. “Bathroom is through there. It’s small but all redone five years ago.”
     “It’s incredible,” Grace was looking through the cupboards. “It’s perfect!” she added. “We could put the leather sleeper sofa up here, Eric, and decorate it all southwestern. Look at these beautiful beams. They must have taken ages to sand down like that.” She ran her fingertips over the glowing wood.
     “All it needs is a good cleaning,” Mr. Fletcher said. “You could do what the other owners were doing, live here while they worked on the house.”
     Eric nodded slightly, not wanting to seem too interested, but the realtor did have a very good point. They couldn’t afford to keep the apartment they had and the mortgage on this place, too. In all their house-hunting over the past few months that had been an issue they’d discussed at length, move-in-ready or no deal.
     “Were you expecting to show the house to others, Mr. Fletcher?” Grace was standing at the front window, looking out.
    “No. Why?”
     “I just saw someone upstairs, a young woman. She looked out the window at me and smiled. She’s gone now; went further back into the room.”
     Mr. Fletcher and Eric came up beside Grace. “Which window?” the realtor asked. Grace pointed it out. “That’s the room over the kitchen. We better go look. The last thing we need here is vandalism.”
     They took the shortest route, through the back door that led directly into the kitchen. A quick search of the house revealed no intruder or signs of anyone having been there other than themselves.
     “There was plenty of time for whoever it was to go out this way,” Eric offered as they stepped off the front porch.
     “We’d have heard a car, wouldn’t we?” Grace looked back at the house. Worry lines creased her forehead.
     “Not if it were kids, baby.” Eric could almost hear his wife’s imagination working. “It wasn’t a ghost,” he added.
     “You don’t know that.”
     He rolled his eyes and shook his head as he turned away, knowing to argue was pointless. “We’ll have to talk it over, Mr. Fletcher,” Eric said as he extended his hand to the realtor.
     “Of course. It’s a big decision.” Mr. Fletcher reached into his suit coat pocket and pulled out a business card, “Call me as soon as you’ve decided.”
     Eric handed the card over to Grace who tucked it into her purse without even looking at it. Her attention was still firmly focused on the house. He knew that look all too well. She was in love; funeral parlor, cemetery, ghost story and all.
     “Babe?” Eric nudged his wife’s shoulder.
     “Huh?” She snapped out of her semi-dazed state, then realized the realtor was extending his hand towards her. She gripped it and muttered some sort of nice-to-meet-you gibberish and smiled.
     Mr. Fletcher headed back towards the house.
     “You alright?” Eric touched her arm.
     “Yeah, tired. Long day.” She shuddered as if cold and gave him a peck on the lips. “And I’m famished! Let’s go eat.”
***
     Grace offered Eric full access to her already satisfied and sweat-dampened body. The sound of her moans alone made him twitch, but he wasn’t quite ready to fill her that way.
Eric drew his mouth back slightly to blow on her sex then slid two fingers inside her. He pumped them back and forth a few times before introducing a third digit. He wet the fingers of his other hand with her spent juices and pressed on her anus, easing them in slowly. Grace was not always receptive to ass play, but she’d had a couple of glasses of wine with their dinner and that was sometimes enough to make her more willing.
He was throbbing hard and he wasn’t sure how much longer he’d be able to hold off. “Come on, baby. Do it again for me.”
     Grace’s tempo increased in response as her hand slid down to rest atop his. Her whole body went rigid and still. Her breathing stopped then gushed back into her as he felt his fingers clenched and released by the involuntary throbbing inside her.
     He rose up between her fully spread legs and entered her with one smooth thrust of his hips. Grace’s legs wrapped around him, hands shifting to his flat stomach before finally coming to rest on his hips. She urged him forward and down until his chest pressed to hers.
     Her hands moved to the small of his back as her lips parted and pressed to his. Eric pumped harder until the muscles of his body clamped him into place as he shouted with the orgasm. Eric’s head grew light as his consciousness threatened to slip away. Then he was back, grunting and sweating over his wife again.
     “God, baby,” he mumbled, pressing his face into the side of her neck, tasting her damp skin and smelling her hair. Eric’s hips rocked unconsciously and he wished he could spend the rest of his life just making love to her over and over.
     She made a soft, soothing sound beneath him as her hands slid up his back and stroked the base of his skull with a tenderness he found unreal. Grace kissed his shoulder and sighed, “I love you, hon.”
     “Love you, too, babe.” He knew he should roll off her but this felt so good right now. Eric flexed his ass, giving another playful nudge into her.
     “Mmmm…” she clenched around him, teasing. “We should sleep,” she whispered against his ear.
     Reluctantly he withdrew and rolled to his back to lie beside her in the bed they had shared for nearly ten years.
     Eric was half asleep when Grace spoke again, “What?”
     “The house, what do you think?” she repeated.
     “I dunno, babe. Too tired to think about it right now.”
     “Oh,” she was quiet, but after a few minutes he felt her roll to her side, away from him, and sigh.
     “What do you think?” He gave up trying to sleep and turned to wrap his left arm around her waist, pulling her close under the blankets.
     “I like it.” “It’ll be a lot of work. I thought we’d decided we wanted a place move-in ready?”
     Her shoulders sagged a little. She didn’t just like it, he could tell. It was the house she wanted. “But with the price so low, we could have a lot left over to fix it up with, maybe even hire people, too. And we can live in the carriage house. It isn’t much smaller than what we have here.”
     She was right on all counts. “Let’s sleep on it, okay?” He really was tired and if he let her go on much longer, she’d have him signing the paperwork in his sleep. She had a way about her that sometimes he just couldn’t say no to.
     “Deal,” she said, hugging his arm tight and kissing his forearm.
     Eric closed his eyes. Few things in life felt better than laying with her like this, except maybe the way they got to this point in the first place. His mind drifted, letting the feel and smell of her and their lovemaking sink deep into his muscles and bones.
     “She was naked.”
     His eyes popped open again. “Huh? Who?”
     “The woman I saw in the back window of the house. She was naked.” She said it rather timidly which was somewhat unusual for her.
     “You sure you weren’t just seeing some sort of reflection in the glass? You know how the glass in those old houses can be warped and rippled. Maybe it was a cloud or something.”
     “It wasn’t a cloud,” she insisted. “It wasn’t a reflection of anything. I saw her, Eric, clear as I would see myself in the mirror. She was young, early twenties, I’d guess, and real pretty. I saw her face, her breasts, and they were bare. She looked right at me.”
    He pulled her a bit tighter into his arms. “I believe you saw something, baby. Can’t we just sleep and talk about all this tomorrow?”
     “Sure,” she said, her voice dull and resigned to dropping the subject for now.
     Eric kissed her again. “Go to sleep.”
     Grace said good night, but it was hours before she was able to sleep. The woman’s face would not be erased from her inner eye, the soft tilt of her dark brown eyes and the curve of her full lips turning up ever so slightly. She’d told Eric and the realtor that the woman had smiled and she had, only it wasn’t a happy smile. It was forced and pleading and it begged to be seen. Their eyes had locked for a split second before the woman seemed to step away and fade back into the darkness of the room behind her.
    Or maybe, Grace thought as sleep did finally pull her down, she’d not stepped back at all. Maybe she’d simply dissolved like the ghost Grace believed she was.
***
    The warm aroma of brewing coffee tickled the inside of Eric’s nose before he opened his eyes. Grace’s side of the bed was cold. She’d been up awhile. Pity, he thought rather selfishly as he lightly fondled his morning erection. His initial idea was to toss off right here and now in bed. Grace would have a fit, though. She’d either be upset she’d missed out, or pissed off he’d made a mess, or both.
     Naked, Eric padded to the bathroom and closed the door, still holding himself. He lifted the toilet seat and gazed into the blue water with a blank, just-woke-up stare. Having Grace know he still jerked off now and then never sat comfortably in his head. He didn’t want her to think she was doing something wrong or maybe she wasn’t enough. Women were weird like that. The only time she ever turned him down was when she was having her monthly.
     With a generous amount of toilet tissue, he cleaned himself and the edge of the toilet bowl off, then flushed. As he washed his hands, he looked in the medicine cabinet mirror. “Damn, you’re getting old.” He scowled a bit, wondering where all the wrinkles had suddenly come from. The wild days of his ill-spent youth were catching up way too fast. Eric ran his fingers through the head of hair that was already starting to gray even at thirty eight. “Better old than dead,” he said, quoting his grandfather now many years the latter.
     A pair of arms snaked around Grace’s waist as warm lips and the brushing of long whiskers tickled her neck. “G’morning,” Eric’s soothing voice whispered against her ear.
     She let out a soft purr and turned her back on the eggs she was scrambling up in a bowl. “And a good morning to you, too,” she kissed him on the mouth. “Sleep well?”
     “Yes,” he grinned and was on the verge of adding how he’d waken up with a hard-on but decided against it as soon as the thought crossed his mind. He didn’t want her asking what he done about it, and she would. “Whatcha making?” he asked instead, eyeing the eggs.
     “Scrambled eggs, omelets or French toast. Name your poison.”
     “Omelet,” he decided and pulled away slowly from her inviting body to pour himself some coffee. “Going for a smoke,” he continued, lifting the half pack and lighter from the countertop and heading out to their small patio. It was just off the kitchen through a pair of sliding glass doors and just big enough for two lawn chairs. Eric lit up and looked at the cityscape below. He found himself imagining standing on the back deck of that carriage house in Virginia instead. Maybe he had made up his mind.
     He had grown to dislike city living more and more lately. Twenty years ago when he’d been a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed high school graduate it was everything he wanted. He’d landed a job with a security company helping to install and update systems. This led to designing layouts for contractors, builders, and pre-existing businesses all over the city. The pay was good, real good, and he enjoyed doing it. The rest of the time he’d spent with his band mates getting way too drunk and stoned after practice and gigs. They were good, or at least he thought so. But, as it goes, people meet new people and end up not wanting to, or being able to, hang out with the old ones.
     Eric was just as guilty as the rest of them. He blamed Grace.
     There she was, sitting off to the right one night during a show. He could barely take his eyes off her. His playing suffered. He’d never believed in soul mates or love at first sight until that night. Maybe it was the dusting of freckles on her otherwise flawless skin or her light brown eyes. Whatever it was, Eric was hooked. This one was not going to get away. The whole thing had felt crazy. After only a month of dating, he’d popped the question. Without a moment’s hesitation, Grace had said yes. He’d do everything in his power for that woman.
     He drew in the last bit of smoke from the cigarette and crushed out the butt in the clear ashtray. “Good-bye, city lights,” he said to the gray steel and brick buildings nearby then went inside to tell his wife the good news. She cried, just like he knew she would.

Amazon Author Rank & Other News

I just checked my Amazon Author Rank. While certainly not even close to the #1 spot, the trend is inching upward. The highest ranking I’ve seen since the release of THAT’S WHAT SHADOWS ARE MADE OF was #109,426. I’m currently at #271,558. Lower, yes, at the moment, but as you can see by the chart, the trend is climbing. So… what can I say? BUY A BOOK, PEOPLE! If you already have, thank you and be sure to POST A REVIEW. At the very least, give what you’ve read a star rating. Every little bit helps that chart spike up a little higher each time and keeps it from falling too far down.

Some would say all this doesn’t mean a lot and the rankings are less than accurate, but it’s all I have to go on and it gives me hope. I’ve been writing since I was ten years old and by God, anything that tells me I’m not at the bottom of the Author Barrel is a good thing.

I set up my 3rd author appearance for 2016 and am very happy and excited about all of them!  1st draft progress on DARK HOLLOW ROAD is coming along nicely despite the utter HORROR I felt when I realized a couple weeks back that I’d lost nearly two whole chapters to a corrupt file. We’ve worked past and through that and things are chugging along well once more. Well, nice for some characters, not so nice for others. No wait. Everyone is pretty much either terrified, crying hysterically, heart broken or all of the above this moment. Good times, people! Awesome, horrific good times are being had.

Cover art for NO REST FOR THE WICKED is still in progress. The plan is to have fresh off the presses copies for the October First Friday Artwalk at Riverow Bookshop in Owego, NY, a book release party, of sorts! The bookstore manager is already getting terribly excited about the decorations! What better way to kick off October but with a ghost story set in an old, Virginian plantation house?

That about wraps it up for today! Thanks for stopping by.

On Being An Organic Writer

Since August of last year I’ve been working my way through Stephen King’s DARK TOWER series. I started the final book last week and will post a general review of the series once I’m finished. That aside, in book #6 we meet Stephen King himself. Yes, he’s made himself a character in his own book. I’m not sure how I feel about that, but what I did enjoy was getting another glimpse into his mind as a writer and how he works.

Since reading his other book “On Writing…” many years ago, I’ve felt a certain distant kinship to King. We’d always been taught in school that you need to outline your whole story before you begin, that you should know ahead of time what the climax and resolution is going to be. How can you get to the end if you don’t even know what the ending is going to be? It seemed to makes sense at the time, but I always struggled with outlining in school. My characters sometimes didn’t want to fit into the plot I’d constructed nor did they like when I reigned them in. I was cramping their style.

King, I learned decades later, doesn’t generally outline. He has a premise and an inspiration and off he goes. His characters tell their stories and as I felt towards my characters over my many years of writing as well, King’s characters take over. We are but the scribes who write at a feverish pace, doing our best to put down what they are telling and showing us. I liken it to watching a movie you’ve never seen before and trying to write it all down as it plays. I’ve discovered other writers who work in the same way and from one of them I learned the term “Organic Writer”.

All of my erotica titles were written in this way. The opening scene was usually crystal clear. I sometimes had an ending in mind, but everything in between was driven by the characters as they rambled on  in my ear and showed me everything they wanted me to see. People look at you weird when you tell them that’s how you write. The whole voices-in-your-head thing seems a bit crazy, right? It probably would be if I didn’t listen and didn’t write it all down. I honestly don’t know what’s going to happen all that far in advance and if I do, it’s only because THEY have whispered it to me.

I ran into trouble when I decided to quit writing the erotica and switched to my true love of the supernatural, horror, and murder-mysteries. I wrote my first mystery, THE SECRET WELL, when I was ten. Writing SECRETS OF THE SCARECROW MOON was a whole lot harder. I’ve read a lot of murder-mysteries, but writing one in my traditional Organic Writer way wasn’t ideal.  Every suspect needed a secret. Every suspect needed an opportunity. Every suspect needed a motive. Every suspect, save for the killer, needed an alibi. I had to know all that in advance which wasn’t easy when the guilty party didn’t want to give up any of that information! I was finally able to wrestle it out of them about half way through the book which meant I had to go back and fix a few things once I knew what was really going on.

I learned a lot from “…Scarecrow Moon” and  THAT’S WHAT SHADOWS ARE MADE OF proved easier. I knew who did it right from the start. I lined up my suspects and gave them each a secret right off the bat. All I had to do was remain within the confines of that information and then I let them lose. There was still a lot I did NOT know, but it was enough of a mystery to me to also be surprised sometimes at what happened next. In fact, one suspect showed up that I hadn’t planned on which made it even more fun.

NO REST FOR THE WICKED isn’t a murder-mystery, though there certainly is (was) a fair amount of killing going on, nor is DARK HOLLOW ROAD. In fact, at the moment I don’t have another murder-mystery in the works, but in doing those that I have, it’s truly been a great learning process and I’ve grown to appreciate the premise of an outline to help you along. I’d still rather have my characters running amok and telling me what’s next on their own. It’s amazing to sit back after pounding out a few thousands words and saying to yourself, “Huh, I never saw that one coming!” If I didn’t see it coming then surely the readers won’t and that’s a good thing. I like the surprises and the weird twists and turns things take.

The folks down on DARK HOLLOW ROAD have been pretty quiet lately, but I sense them starting to whisper again. That’s a good thing. It’s been too long since I’ve escaped into the strange, paranormal, and taboo-infested world they live in. I’m eager to get back there to see what happens next, just as eager as I am to get back into Stephen King’s world of The Dark Tower.

 

 

*Paperback Release* Secrets Of The Scarecrow Moon

It’s almost spring in Barnesville, New York. That could only mean one thing. It’s time for people to go to their secret places in the dead of night and get to work. In basements, in barns, in the old shed out back, curtains are drawn and lights glow into the wee hours. Ssshhhh. Listen. Listen hard. Maybe it’s just the wind rustling something outside on the dark, empty street. That’s probably all it is, a breeze that makes something shuffle up your porch steps and flutter against the screen door. Care to go peek? Care to open the door and step outside as the Scarecrow Moon rises full and bright over a sleepy, little town that has kept a very dark and bloody secret for over two hundred years?

Barnesville is an odd, little town smack dab in the middle of nowhere and according to my calculations, we have about a month until the rising of the Scarecrow Moon. Of course, that doesn’t mean much of anything to anyone who lives outside of Barnesville, but you might want to bone up on your knowledge if you plan on passing through that way the first weekend of May and decide to check out the Scarecrow Festival they’ll have going on.

A Scarecrow Festival in May? Aren’t those something that’s usually done in the Fall? Yes, but Barnesville isn’t like other small towns in the Southern Tier of New York State and it has its reasons for doing what it does. Most people don’t know exactly what those reasons are, but you can find out by investigating the death of Peter Wakeley along with amateur sleuth Angela Jennings in my latest paperback release, SECRETS OF THE SCARECROW MOON.

Buy, my children, buy!