Saturday, December 28, 2013

Another Year, Another Book

Another Christmas has come and gone. Soon the new year will be upon us--2014. I marvel when I think how much has happened in my lifetime and how far I've come. Being born in the 50's has given me a great perspective on things. I've seen great Presidents and not great ones, witnessed wartime and peace, lived in prosperous times and survived the poor ones.  Some things have not changed.  Still married to the same wife of 40 years.  Have two great daughters. Kept a roof over my head and food on the table. For all this  I thank God.

I've decided to not to make any resolutions, but keep with the big plan. In 2014, I will publish another book, and began writing another. For 2014, the book will be Strigoi: The Blood Bond. This is my first vampire novel, although it's not another blood sucking story.  This one came to me while taking a walk one night in the Allegheny Mountains.  What if a vampire created a town, hidden in the hills where he kept and protected his subjects? They provided a constant blood supply for him and he infects them with his disease that allows them to live forever.  Enter into this world a new citizen of the town, who does not like the arrangement and wants out.

I changed the lore. My vampire is a shapeshifter. He has a reflection, but the mirror shows his true nature.  Sunlight does not destroy him but robs him of his powers.  Only fire or decapitation can kill him, and an iron stake through the heart immobilizes him. Buried in the tale is a murder mystery as someone is killing off residents of the village and its not the big guy in the mansion.

Looking forward to the next year. Happy new year to all!!!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Oh, Christmas Tree, how dangerous are your branches.

This week I give you an excerpt from Penelope and The Christmas Spirit. This one is where Penelope and her family get their first Christmas tree.
    When she reached him, he was standing with his eyes lifted toward the sky, staring at a fir tree that loomed ahead. “There it is. Our Christmas tree.”

    She tilted her head to take in its peak. “It’s big. Maybe too big.”

    “Time to get started.” Father dropped the saw as he surveyed the tree. With the coil of rope still slung over his shoulder, he vanished into its abundant foliage. A quiver moved up the branches. As he went higher, she caught glimpses of his red plaid coat and green Cossack hat. Near the top, he peeked out and waved.

    “If you fall and kill yourself,” she shouted, “Mother will be mad at you.”

    “No need to worry about me. Take the end of the rope.” He tossed it to her and secured the other end to the top of the tree.

    Branches bounced and jostled as he climbed back down. He reappeared at its base. “I want you to  pull on the rope when I say.” He took the saw and plunged back into the greenery.

    A rasping sound filled the air. Creak-whoosh-creak-whoosh. “Drats!”

    “Are you OK?” Penelope craned her neck to see through the branches.

    “It’s the saw. Too much rust. I should have sharpened and oiled it. Just remember to pull on my command.”

    “I will.” Her knuckles turned white as she gripped the rope.


    “Almost there.” he shouted. Creak-whoosh-creak-whoosh. “Pull, Penelope.”

    With the rope wrapped around her hands, she tugged with her body’s weight. “I’m pulling, Father.”

    “Well, pull harder.” Creak-whoosh-creak-whoosh. The saw’s rhythm intensified, and Father grunted with each push of the blade.

    “Are you pulling, dear?” he asked, out of breath.

    “Yes, Father.”

    “I don’t understand. It should be falling by now. Keep the rope taut.” He resumed sawing.

    Her feet dug in the thick of the forest floor. Her body listed forty-five degrees, supported only by the stretched rope.

    “I just don’t understand,” he said.


    The line slackened, and she nearly lost her footing.

    “Pull,” Father shouted.

    She strained against the rope as he scurried from the tree and to her side. He grabbed the loose end. “Together now.”


    The tree finally surrendered, and the rope went completely slack.

    “Run, Penelope, run,” he said as he sprinted away.

    Years of avoiding her parents’ advice left her watching the tree’s progress. Its dark image silhouetted against the crisp morning sky rushed toward her, whooshing around her as she dove to the ground. She closed her eyes and wondered what death was like.

    The air was devoid of sound. The pungent odor of tree permeated her senses. For the moment, it was a most pleasant experience. She must be in heaven, and it was pine scented.

    “Penelope?” Father’s voice was firm and calm. “Why didn’t you run?”

    Her heart raced as she recalled the moment. The thought of nearly being killed by a mammoth Christmas tree had taken her life to a new height, if for a brief moment. She had stood her ground, or rather lay on it, and survived.

    She composed an answer for Father. “The artistic moment of the tree framed against the sky was too inspiring. It reminded me of something Henry Thoreau, the philosopher, had once said, but that moment passed, and I don’t remember what he said now.”

    “If you are finished being inspired, would you mind coming out of there.”

    She surveyed the surroundings. Every branch and limb had missed her, some by only inches. Pine needles stuck out everywhere on her coat. She ran her fingers over her head, finding more of the green slivers attached to her stocking hat.

    Orienting herself on her hands and knees, she began the process of crawling out, which was difficult because of the coat’s length. As she weaved between the tree limbs and pine verdure, she spied jagged edges of light and Father’s legs.

    He made a small sigh as she left her woodland shelter. “You should have followed me.”

    “You won’t tell Mother, will you?”

    “Under the circumstances, it is best for us both that she does not know.”

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

How do I kill thee? Let me count the ways.

My wife becomes a bit distraught that I write about death.  Murder to be exact.  I sit at the key board, tapping keys and describing details of the gruesome demise of some poor soul, while pausing briefly to spoon ice cream into my mouth and contemplate the finer points. Not enough blood. The best location to drive the knife into the body.  A bullet to the head or heart. I wonder if we have any more Rock Road.

But the murder mystery is not about death, but solving a riddle. For most mysteries, the detective remains detached from the emotion of the death and focuses on finding the killer. And that is what makes the genre endearing—pitting intellect with the detective to discover to who-done-it.

And now back to killing someone…

Monday, November 18, 2013

"...some maniac could have...killed me."

This week, I bring you a cut from Claws of the Griffin.  Peter Reynold nosed his rental car in the ditch during a heavy rain.  Left with the prospect that he has to walk to town in the dead of night, he sets out toward Archer Springs, NC.

     I rechecked the cell phone and still no signal. What was this godforsaken place? The last stop before falling off the edge of the world?
     When I was thirteen, my father and stepmother sent me to a boarding school in Ohio. They said it was to prepare me for college. I think it was because my stepmother hated me. I ran away three times during my freshmen year. The night of my last escape, the police picked me up hitchhiking down a lonely stretch of road. Later the headmaster at the school lectured me and said some maniac could have picked me up and killed me. Until tonight, I didn’t truly understand.
     Drizzle pelted my face as I walked in the direction I had driven earlier. Muddy and wet, I plodded ahead, thinking about lying in my warm bed back home. My hope lay with some Good Samaritan coming by and rescuing me. Hopefully my grungy appearance wouldn’t scare him off, and he wouldn’t be a maniac.
      The sizzle of tires rolling on wet pavement echoed from ahead. Car lights came over the dark horizon like the rising of two moons. I waved my arms and shouted, “Hey,” but the truck zoomed by, spraying me with water.
      I stared at the vehicle driving away from me, but then the taillights grew brighter. Even in the dark, I realized it made a three-point turn and drove back. A wave of relief surged over me, but as the truck neared I wondered what was coming to my rescue.
     The truck looked gray or blue in the night and sat high on oversized tires, looking like something from a monster truck rally. A skull and crossbones decorated the door, and the chrome grill caught glints of the headlights, almost glowing in the night. The gargantuan truck pulled up in front of me and stopped.
     I waited, expecting the door to pop open and someone to invite me inside. An eerie feeling crawled under my skin, and I remembered a movie where the devil drove a black hearse, cruising the back roads, looking for souls to take back to hell. But this was a truck, gray or blue—I looked hard and thought maybe it was black.
     Not getting a formal invitation, I reached high and worked the door handle, opening the cab. I expected the dome light to illuminate, but the inside stayed dark. Behind the wheel sat a man, the contours of his face accentuated by green lights on the dashboard. He never looked at me, and I wondered if he was the devil.
     “I’m sorry to sidetrack you. Obviously you were heading in the other direction. I can wait for another car and let you go back to wherever you were going.” I swallowed hard and took a step back.
     “Get in,” the stranger commanded.
     My heart said no. My head said no. I thought about the headmaster’s warning that a maniac would get me on some deserted road. But the wind whipped up, blowing frigid mist against the back of my neck as if touched by the hand of a corpse. I shivered and climbed inside. I barely had the door closed when the driver pressed the accelerator. The truck lurched forward, snapping my head back. I fumbled with the seatbelt and strapped myself in.
     The dashboard lights reflected off his face and made him look surreal, like a Dali painting. Straggled wisps of hair hung over his ears, and the contours of his face resembled the work of an unfinished sculpture. I thought of Norman Bates in Psycho and regretted climbing into the truck.

Claws of the Griffin is available from Amazon for 99 cents.