You Say Goodbye

 

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Murder Mystery
Date Published: February 2019
Publisher: Black Opal Books
 
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After a temperamental meltdown on stage, Sean Hightower, a regretful and resentful “one-hit wonder” rock musician hoping for a comeback, returns to his girlfriend’s condo seeking comfort from the woman he loves. But after letting himself in, he discovers her naked body on the bed, murdered from a bullet to the head. When the police detective arrives and sees the two taped pieces of paper on the wall with the word, “hello,” on one and “goodbye,” on the other, he realizes that the renowned serial killer, The Beatles Song Murderer, has struck again. In the days that follow, he reaches another conclusion—the Beatles Song Murderer is probably somebody Sean knows. Now the detective needs Sean’s help to find the killer.
About the Author

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After several years devoted to poetry, followed by a few minor achievements as a professional song lyricist, I eventually decided to write a novel, culminating in the completion of The Poe Consequence, a supernatural thriller/human drama that received Books-and-Authors.net’s Supernatural Thriller of the Year, Kirkus Reviews’ listing as a top Indie book of the year, and a Finalist placing in 2017’s International Book Excellence Awards competition.  Signed to a contract with Black Opal Books in June of 2018, it will be re-released through them later this year.
My second novel, also published by Black Opal Books, is entitled, You Say Goodbye. It’s a whodunit murder mystery featuring a Beatles influenced theme, a one-hit wonder ex-rock star, and a little girl with cancer who’s a big fan of the LA Lakers. The child’s character was inspired by the life, and unfortunate death, of Alexandra Scott from the Alex’s Lemonade foundation.
Although I currently pay the bills through a long career in the landscape industry, in my heart I’ve always considered myself a creative writer first and foremost. And as I’ve often replied when asked about my license plate that reads, Do Write, “I make my living through landscape, but I make my loving through writing.”
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South Pointe

 

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Mystery & Suspense
Date Published: February 6, 2018
Publisher: RedBird Books
 
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Paige Carson never expected that both a handsome sheriff and a charismatic newcomer would be vying for her affections. The choice isn’t an easy one, as she’s now responsible for raising her orphaned goddaughter, Jess.
Sheriff Sam Wallace didn’t lose at love. He got kicked to the curb. Hopeful that courting the feisty Paige will end differently, he can’t help but feel suspicious about his romantic rival. Is Ben Hampshire the man he seems—or is Sam’s jealousy clouding his perspective?
Sam’s determined to win Paige’s and Jess’s love, but he also has to keep Providence Island safe. More than just Sam’s heart is at risk if he fails to find the killer who walks the streets of PI—a killer with more than one agenda.

Review

Well, I’m a sucker for puppy’s and this book cover drew me in. 🙂
Paige is in a bit of a interesting situation in this one. She has two suitors and is trying to determine what fits best in her life. After all, it is not just her she has to think about. That in itself could be a great story, but then we get even more.
I loved the sweet build up of the relationship and how Sam connected with not just Paige, but Jess. I liked how Dianna Wilkes managed to really balance the romance with the suspense. There was plenty of each to satisfy fans of both genres.
About the Author

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Dianna Wilkes is an award-winning contemporary romance author, known for the Providence Island mystery series.
Reading has always been an important part of her life. “I learned to read when I was four years old,” she said. “Writing my own stories seemed a natural progression.”
Dianna holds a B.A. in Visual Communication and a M.Ed. in Instructional Technology. She worked as an Education Consultant for a medical technology company before leaving the corporate world to write full time. Despite all that nerdy stuff, she loves creating stories of romance and mystery with touches of humor.
When she isn’t writing, Dianna is deep in researching various twigs and branches on her family tree or fulfilling entries on her travel bucket list.
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Mamma’s Moon

 

Crime/Romance
Date Published: May 7, 2019
Publisher: Little York Books
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This suspenseful sequel to “One More Last Dance” follows Peck Finch’s search for his mother after leaving home at the age of nine, and the struggles of his friend Gabe, who is simultaneously facing a second-degree murder charge. Set within the rich and storied culture of Louisiana, this tale of self-discovery explores important questions about the meaning of love, friendship, family and more.
“Mamma’s Moon” has received early praise for its layered storytelling with BlueInk Reviews calling Antil’s newest work “a lovely story about the strong bonds of friendship that often supplant family ties.”

Review

This is a very character driven novel and I love the fact that Jerome Mark Antil always gives us both characters to root for and dislike.
My favorite part of this novel was the fact that along the way you don’t know what is going to come next. There were many surprises and the way that the author was able to keep the pacing just right really helps everything flow naturally.
There is a darker element to the novel that I loved. I also really enjoyed the authenticity of the crime element.

About the Author

JEROME MARK ANTIL writes in several genres. He has been called a “greatest generation’s Mark Twain,” a “write what you know Ernest Hemingway,” and “a sensitive Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.” It’s been said his work reads like a Norman Rockwell painting. Among his writing accomplishments, several titles in his The Pompey Hollow Book Club historical fiction series about growing up in the shadows of WWII have been honored. An ‘Authors and Writers’ Book of the Year Award and ‘Writer of the Year’ at Syracuse University for The Pompey Hollow Book Club novel; Hemingway, Three Angels, and Me, won SILVER in the UK as second-best novel.
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Duncan

 

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Thriller
Date Published: February 2019
Publisher: Gatekeeper Press
 
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A cunning pederastic serial killer nicknamed “Santa” is making his way up the East Coast from New Orleans to Boston, leaving a trail of young bodies in his wake. Santa covers his tracks along the way by working as an itinerant bass player in a series of jazz combos. At the same time, the Driscoll family – Mark, Julie and their nine-year-old son Nate – who live in an upstate suburb of Syracuse, New York, struggle to come to grips with Mom’s quadriplegia following a horrific auto accident. The suspense builds to a fever pitch as these two plot strands approach each other for the inevitable confrontation. All this tension is heightened by the mystery of Duncan, Nate’s stuffed-toy gorilla, who is not only the boy’s beloved companion but becomes a kind of family totem, and, later on in the story, so much more.
This is a novel not only for readers addicted to thrill rides and maddening suspense, but also those who are curious about the abnormal psychology of the pedophiliac killer. The book gives food for thought as well as a kind of perverse satisfaction for the imagination and senses. It is a thinking reader’s thriller.
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Excerpt
It was the best cut at the ball little Joey Simmons had ever taken, but he fouled it back over the chain-link fence. As catcher, Zach Moss had the job of retrieving it. He slipped down through the hollowed-out area under the fence, looked both ways before crossing the empty street lined with warehouses and loading docks, and darted across to where the ball lay nestled against the curb—just a few feet in front of the charcoal van. It was Sunday afternoon and the area was deserted. As Zach reached down, out of the corner of his eye he spotted the tall man in the black polo shirt leaning casually against the van’s open sliding door, kicking a crushed paper cup to the curb.
                “Whatcha got there, pal?”
                “A baseball,” Zach answered shyly, noticing the van was empty.
                “Wow, that looks like a Phillies ball. I’ll bet you caught it off the bat of Ryan Howard or some big slugger like that, huh? Could I have a look?”
                Zach hesitated, torn between advancing and retreating, politeness and caution. That hesitation sealed the boy’s doom. The man made as if to reach for the ball, but grabbed the little wrist holding it instead. It was a deft move, a practiced move, and lightning fast, carried out with the larcenous dexterity of a seasoned pickpocket. The boy was so stunned that he forgot to scream.
                The sliding door slammed shut and the man was behind the wheel pressing the accelerator before the boys on the ball field knew what was happening. He had kept himself on the sidewalk side of the van during the entire abduction, carefully hidden from their view. Zach knew he’d done something very wrong, even though he hadn’t meant to. All those endlessly repeated parental warnings raced across his mind, all the “Don’t ever listen’s” and “Always avoid’s” and “Run screaming from’s.” Could he have another chance? Please! He’d do it right this time. He splayed his fingers against the window, crying out—too late—to his friends as the van pulled away. He hadn’t noticed that its windows were dark-tinted, transparent only from the inside.
                Passing through the industrial outskirts of the city, the van headed up Old York Road into the northern suburbs. It neither sped nor lagged and it obeyed all traffic laws. The man at the wheel enjoyed a supreme confidence in his trapping skills. It was a craft, an art even, and he had mastered it. Soon there was more wilderness than houses, until at some point the van turned left off the main road onto a poorly marked crossroad that, in short order, forked at a dirt road. The van took the dirt road across a tiny rustic bridge spanning a creek, continuing then across a cleared, open field on the right, at the end of which stood a modest white colonial house atop a gently sloping lawn. Potted plants overhung the small porch with its two rockers diagonally facing each other on either side of the front door. The place stood in the open, yet was well hidden by hilly wilderness beyond property boundaries. The dirt road saw little traffic.
                The van pulled off the road and circled around to the rear of the house, stopping next to the angled steel cellar doors. The man got out, looked around and inhaled deeply, basking in the mellow sunlight of late afternoon. He was alone, the only sound that of the gently rustling trees. He slid open the van’s side door and leaned in, hands braced against the roof, ogling his prey with satisfaction. And lust.
                Terror widened the boy’s eyes, making them—and him—all the more alluring to his captor. He cowered, pressed against the corner of his seat, his body balled up in futile self-protection.
                “What do you want, mister? Why am I here?” he asked tentatively, knowing full well the man knew he knew why he was there.
                “All in good time, Zach, all in good time,” the man chuckled. He’d heard the other kids call the boy by name weeks ago when he first began scouting him. He always made sure, if at all possible, to get a kid’s name before taking him. The process went much smoother that way. Strategic use of a boy’s name soothed the boy with the delusion that, despite appearances, his captor was well disposed towards him. A tactic that would make an adult instantly wary tended to pacify an eight-year-old. He’d learned that the hard way many years ago from the debacle in Austin when the words, “Whaddaya say, kid, let’s hang out,” triggered a shrieking that forced him to start, rather than end, the process with lethal violence. After that, from Atlanta through Nashville and Blacksburg and on up the east coast—it was his first “tour”—he made sure to get the name up front and learned to soften his diction. It was part of his evolution from a seat-of-the-pants amateur predator to a serial pedophile of deadly proficiency.   
                “Why don’t you climb out of there and come in for a cold drink, Zach? You must be thirsty. Catchers eat a lot of dust. They need to rehydrate all the time.”
                “No! I don’t want to! I wanna go home!”
                “I’d like you to think you are home—for now.”
                “No, I’m not!” the boy cried with mounting panic. He began to whimper.
                “Come on now,” the man said, mildly irritated. He extended his powerful right arm inside, like reaching for a prize in a grab bag, and gently but firmly pulled Zach out of the van. Then, bending over slightly while holding onto the boy, he pulled open the already unlocked cellar doors with his free arm.
                Instinctively, Zach began to buck. He tried to pull away and squirmed furiously—to no avail. He had never felt such physical strength before. It was like trying to jerk a piece of wood loose from the vice in his father’s basement tool shop. Even when, not so long ago, his father would playfully toss him up in the air and catch him coming down like a medicine ball, it was nothing like the sheer physical resistance, the total control by another, he was feeling now.
                The man carried the boy down the steps, bracing him on his hip like a surfboard. They entered a finished basement, though one that had the same dank, musty air all basements have, with or without dehumidifiers. The smell of the air caused a new spike in the boy’s panic, suggesting as it did the mold of the grave. Even at eight Zach was aware of the connotations of mold. The man cuffed him, as if scolding a pet, and got off on it. It was all part of the one-way foreplay.
                The man carried him to the far end of the dark basement, which was largely uncluttered by the usual piles of stored junk, as if the house hadn’t been occupied long enough to accumulate much to store. There, well behind the furnace and hot-water heater, was a small, inconspicuous room, walled off from the rest, no doubt originally intended as a study or office. But the man had converted it to a kind of private pleasure cave. Richly paneled and lushly carpeted, hung with lurid pornographic images, both paintings and photographs, of naked children, many interacting with “erect” naked men, the windowless room was the sick expression of what had become the man’s sole reason for being. He had left the door unlocked and ajar for quick and easy sequestering of his latest prey. Lowering the boy onto the quilt-covered king-size bed that occupied more than half the room’s space, he raised an index finger to his smiling lips to shush the signs of panic contorting the boy’s face and body language. Then he leaned forward and switched on the portable CD-player on the nightstand. The soft strains of “So What” filled the room, the opening track of Miles Davis’s cool-jazz masterpiece, Kind of Blue, with the insouciant opening base sequence introducing Davis’s smokey trumpet. It was always the same music, always “So What,” setting the same naughty jazzy mood— anything else would have been unthinkable to him.
                As the man pulled his shirt over his head and began unbuckling his jeans, the boy’s whimpering swelled into alternating sobs and shrieks. He had no idea he was playing right into his predator’s game plan, for the man’s lust was spiked above all else by another creature’s helplessness. He wanted the boy to beg for his innocence, his bodily integrity—his life. He craved the dark bliss of godlike power over the destiny of another, especially when that other was fully aware of his own utter dependency. This was his drug, his elixir, immeasurably more potent than the heroin he had tried so many times, which, while bestowing bliss, had also dulled his senses, and he lived for the sharpening of his senses. This got him out of bed in the morning.
                “Zach, Zach. It’s all right. We’re just gonna cuddle for a while. Okay? Just lie together and hold each other and make each other feel good, you know?”
                “I wanna go home!” the boy bawled in tearful protest, apparently shocked by the urgency of his own voice, for his sobbing escalated, opening up to a pathetic wail fueled by panic.
                Its only effect was a quickening of the man’s desire. Stimulus … response. No one could hear them there, and it was all just becoming so delicious. As the man slipped out of his jeans, Zach’s eyes were riveted on the bulge in the crotch of his briefs. At eight, he had just enough sexual awareness to know what that bulge meant. Still, it was his dim but nightmarish sense of what might come afterward that intensified the stabs of panic.
                The man lay down on the bed and snuggled up to his prey, whose flinching reflex merely spiked his lust once again. The man was lost within the dark caverns of his desire, the boy trapped within those same caverns.
                “This is so nice,” the man breathed dreamily, reaching down deftly to their mutual nether regions while pressing the sobbing boy to him with unnatural strength …
The sun was down and a purplish twilight graced the overgrown area behind the house as a dark figure strode purposefully from the cellar doors in the rear into a little copse of oak and cedar about a stone’s throw away. He was carrying a base fiddle case. But his firm grip and taut right arm left no doubt that the case’s contents were heavier than any fiddle.  
                After a while, the only sound to pierce the darkening stillness was the rhythmic thrusting of the spade into the soft earth. Far from being drained by the effort of the
cleanup, the man felt juiced, energized, expansive, and, at the same time, utterly relaxed. He reveled in the digging, each thrust of the shovel a little aftershock of that explosion of pleasure for which he lived. Finally, dropping the shovel behind him, he sank to his knees, opened the case and stared for a while at the olive-hued double-strength trash bag that served as a shroud for the lifeless body. Gently lifting the body from the case, he lowered it into its shallow grave, again staring and carefully straightening out both the bag and the body it contained, though without attempting to pose the body in any way. No tableaus, no “necro-symbolism” to titillate the profilers. Just putting it where it belonged.
About the Author

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Author Dennis McCort (1941-) was born and raised in Hoboken, New Jersey, the „mile square city“ on the Hudson, in the shadow of Manhattan. He writes of his experiences growing up there in the postwar industrial era before gentrification in his book, A Kafkaesque Memoir: Confessions from the Analytic Couch (PalmArt Press). McCort is now retired from Syracuse University in upstate New York where he taught German language and literature over a long career. He has authored literary studies on German and Swiss writers and on the influence of Zen Buddhism on such Western writers as J.D. Salinger, R.M. Rilke and Thomas Merton. His understanding of Zen, both as scholar and practitioner, i.e., from both outside and inside, helped him to add layers of complexity to the fascinating personality of the pedophiliac protagonist of Duncan. McCort has also written a comic novel, titled The Man Who Loved Doughnuts, about a young professor who fails to get tenure at his upstate university and spends a lost weekend in lower Manhattan. It is available as an Amazon Kindle eBook. Duncan is his novelization of a macabre seed-concept coming from his wife Dorothy: that of a serial pedophiliac murderer on a collision course with a young boy whose only defense is his stuffed toy gorilla. Both McCort and wife describe the book as a “thinking man’s thriller.”
 
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The Case of Billy’s Missing Gun

 

 

(Sherlock and Me series)
Cozy mystery
Date Published: March 2019
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Super sleuth Lucy James is hired to find the Colt pistol that may have belonged to Billy the Kid. Hampered by dishonest weapon experts, a pawnshop murder and unusual architecture at a downtown casino, her investigation is rocky at best. A massive snowstorm has blanketed Reno leaving Lucy to slog her way to interviews with uncooperative witnesses. Her father’s abrupt firing from his job as the host of a local children’s television show and the impending marriage between her best friend Cindy Floyd and her detective fiancé Skip Callahan grab chunks of Lucy’s fleeting attention. But she is determined to find the missing gun before the next snowstorm even though she on and off relationship with handsome professor Eric Schultz is off again. With sheer tenacity and a pair of thick snow boots, Lucy muscles through to the mystery’s resolution. It isn’t easy but the mystery and murder never are.

Review

This is a mystery at its best. It will make you want to cuddle up for a while and get lost in the story and world SJ Slagle has created.

Lucy is such a great main character, I feel like I connected right off the bat and that really helped me get invested in the story.

Lucy’s voice was so easy to get into my head.

Mystery and History. A little bit of romance. It’s got so much going for it! Don’t miss this Mystery! 

 

About the Author

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SJ SLAGLE started her writing career as a language arts teacher. Her initial interest was children’s stories, but she moved on to western romance, mysteries, and historical fiction. She has published 24 novels, both independent and contract. SJ contributes regularly to guest blogs and has her own blog called anauthorsworld.com in which she discusses the research involved in the books she writes. SJ has established Twitter and Facebook fan bases, a quarterly author newsletter and a website under her pseudonym: JEANNE HARRELL at jeanneharrell.com.
Her first historical fiction novel, LONDON SPIES, was awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion in 2018 and Slagle was a finalist in the 2017 UK Independent Book Awards. She was given the Silver Award with the International Independent Film Awards for her screenplay called REDEMPTION. SJ conducts writing/publishing symposiums in her local area. OSLO SPIES, her second historical fiction novel will be published in September. She lives and works in Reno, Nevada.
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The Gordon Place

 

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Horror
Date Published: 04/15/2019
Publisher: Lost Hollow Books
 
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Lost Hollow constable Graham Gordon just walked into his abandoned childhood home for the first time in twenty years. Local teenagers have been spreading rumors about disembodied screams coming from inside. Now, thanks to a rickety set of cellar stairs and the hateful spirit of his dead father, he might never escape.
Meanwhile, Channel 6 News feature reporter Afia Afton—whose father is the victim of a local decades-old hate crime—is meeting with town administrator Patsy Blankenship. Her mission is to develop a ghost story feature for a special to air on the station’s Halloween broadcast. When Patsy tells her about the screams at the Gordon place, the past and the present are set on a collision course with potentially catastrophic results.
Can Graham come to terms with his father’s past and redeem his own future? Can the murder mystery that has haunted Afia for most of her life finally be solved?
It’s a fight for the future and the past when spirit and flesh wage war at the Gordon place.
Excerpt
CHAPTER ONE EXCERPT
The only net gain for Graham, if it could be considered such, that had come out of the election so far was that he had been able to use the position to convince the town to turn his old homestead over to him for a song and a promise he’d clean up the blight. That had been another lark. In the same town board meeting that had seen him sworn in as constable there had appeared on the agenda a plan to demolish the old place as a means of curbing the juvenile delinquency it seemed to entice. The rumors being spread by the kids in town had reached the board’s ears, and they had come to the same conclusion he had: the place was turning into an attraction for vagrants and ne’er-do-wells. Therefore, tear it down.
When the time came for public input on the matter, he’d suddenly found himself standing—without having previously planned to do so—and arguing that the place had sentimental value for him and that he’d like a shot at restoring it. He might even turn it into some kind of tourist spot, an idea he’d come to by way of town administrator Patsy Blankenship, she whom he’d hung up on moments ago. She had already renovated one old local homestead into a bed and breakfast that hosted the occasional guest or local event. The board had balked at his idea at first, but after he’d promised to either clean up the blight or hand the old Gordon place back to the town for demolition within a year, they’d relented. Now he owned the home: a shelter for rats, snakes, vagrants, and bored teenagers. He had no idea where to begin.
Graham pushed the thoughts away. This was no time to go second-guessing his life choices and cost himself what little nerve he had summoned to search for trespassers. He sidled up the hall. The back of his shirt created a loud scraping sound against the faded and peeling fleur-de-lis wallpaper covering the entry hall, a remnant of his mother’s New Orleans roots. He left his own narrow trail of Wolverine sole prints in the dust on the floor, carefully avoiding stepping on the ones left by the previous visitor. The physical memories of life in the house came flooding back to him. The sound of his footsteps on the hardwood floor. The sound of his father’s footsteps. Even the scrape of the wallpaper against the fabric of his shirt bubbled up memories of him dashing all over the house, running his hands and fingers over the walls as he did, just as any normal wild young boy might do.
The tiny hook and eye latch that had been meant to secure the cellar door was already undone when he got there. Graham didn’t know whether his father had initially installed that latch, but he’d always thought it a silly and unnecessary addition. The door to the cellar was no more than three uneven slats of painted pine carelessly supported along their backs by two horizontal two-by-fours. Large gaps between each slat rendered useless any attempt to keep the cooler air of the cellar out of the entry hall by just shutting the door. Besides, it had always managed to swing shut and stay closed on its own—even unlatched—which was one more reason the cellar had made for such an excellent hiding place.
A small wooden cabinet knob was mounted a couple of inches below the hook. Graham grabbed it and pulled. The door swung open easily on its spring hinges and without much complaint about the new tension; surprising after so many years of disuse. The ray from his Maglite spilled into the opening and revealed three splintery and slowly disintegrating steps, approximately one-quarter of the familiar set of plank stairs leading from the mouth of the door before vanishing into the damp darkness below. Graham felt for the light switch just inside the cellar door and flipped it on, but it produced nothing. He’d had service activated so he could begin work on the place. Maybe the power company hadn’t gotten around to it yet. That would certainly explain the state of the security light out front.
“Hello?” he shouted into the depths of darkness. “Lost Hollow Constable! Is anyone down there?”
There was no answer.
Graham stepped through the door. He’d covered only one tread before the sound of the creaking staircase started to get to him. There he paused, not allowing the door to swing shut behind him and not liking the soft and spongy feel of the tread on which he stood. It had much more give in it than he remembered from his youth.
From this position, the narrow beam of his Maglite enabled him to see the end of the staircase, but nothing beyond. The final step looked black and almost completely rotted away. The one above it didn’t appear to be in much better shape. If he went forward, he risked breaking those steps, which would make climbing out of the cellar much more difficult. If he didn’t go on, and someone was trapped down here, he might lose his job in disgrace. Worse, a real law enforcement officer, like a county sheriff’s deputy, might end up investigating the “screams” and finding a dead body he’d missed out of fear, in which case he could at the very least be accused of neglecting his duties as an officer of the peace.
Maglite secured in his left hand, Graham pawed at his right hip, immediately taking comfort in the shape of the county issue radio clipped to his belt. He ran his fingers along the top of the device until they closed around the volume knob, which he turned to the right. A thin click and a spurt of white noise erupted through the tomb-like silence of the old house. It vanished just as quickly, leaving in its wake the distinct hum of radio silence. Even so, it was reassuring that he had not only remembered to carry his direct connection to the Hollow County Sheriff’s Department inside with him but it also appeared to be in proper working order.
“Let’s hear it for technology. Thank God.”
From somewhere inside his head, he thought, the darkness replied: GOD AIN’T GOT NOTHING TO DO WITH IT.
The next thing he felt was the bone-crunching shock of something blunt and heavy striking the back of his head. He heard what sounded like the shattering of thick glass. He was able to stay upright just long enough to feel what might have been a trickle of blood oozing from his scalp to the nape of his neck. A pair of unseen hands at his back thrust him into the darkness of the cellar, launching him down the full length of the rickety staircase. He fell forward, plummeting face first into the densely compacted earth beneath the house. The bridge of his nose exploded in a bright starburst of pain. His upper teeth crashed down on his lower lip, ripping open the pliable flesh. He felt an immediate swelling there. A thin stream of hot blood ran tear-like down his chin from the wound. Dimly, he heard the crack of splintered wood as his shins came down last, disintegrating the deteriorated lower steps in a fireworks show of wood rot and ancient dust.
His radio went flying when he hit. He heard it shatter in a hiss of static somewhere off to his right. The base of his Maglite struck the ground at the same time. It flew from his hand and bounced off the earth once, twice, and rolled some distance over the ground before coming to rest against the farthest cinder block wall of the cellar. The lamp behind the flashlight’s lens flickered madly, creating a nauseating strobe effect, a stop-motion version of Graham’s shadow on the wall beside him as he at first struggled to regain his feet and then gave up, collapsing flat to the earth.
The lamp finally steadied itself at a low burn, illuminating almost nothing about the cellar but the corner in which it had landed. It had come to rest too far from the limit of Graham’s reach. He stretched his left arm out for it anyway, hopeful that the darkness had merely created some sort of illusion of depth. His fingers clawed at the dirt for a second or two before they ultimately surrendered and lay still.
Graham Gordon lay broken and exhausted on the black earth at the bottom of the cellar stairs. In the fading last rays of his dying Maglite, he saw an eye: a disembodied, full white orb broken by jagged lightning-shaped lines of red capillaries. The iris in the center of the eyeball was a murky dark brown color, unshining and nearly black. Its pupil was but a pinprick in the beam from the flashlight.
It stared at him from just beyond the edge of the darkness, unblinking.
“Dad?”
The world went dark.
About the Author

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ISAAC THORNE is a nice man who has, over the course of his life, developed a modest ability to spin a good yarn. Really. He promises. Just don’t push him down a flight of stairs.
You can find Isaac on Twitter or on Facebook
Isaac reviews films for TNHorror.com and TheHorrorcist.com. He is the host of Thorne’s Theater of Terror and Classic
Cuts on 24/7/365 horror-themed SCRM Radio at scrmradio.com.
More of Isaac’s work is available at isaacthorne.com and wherever books are sold.
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Tick Cooper

 

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YA & Adult Historical Fiction
Publisher: Black Opal Books
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“I swear by everything I ever owned that my adventure will be the honest truth—even if I had to tell a few lies along the way to get to the meaning of that truth.” So promises Tick Cooper, a twelve year old Ohio boy who’s about to accompany his Uncle Ned down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers to New Orleans. It’s the autumn of 1860, right before the election that will send Abraham Lincoln to the White House. With his mother deceased and his father having deserted him for the chance of gold in California, Tick has been most fortunate to receive the care and love of his father’s older brother and his wife—Aunt Clara. Although she has recently passed away, she and Uncle Ned have educated the boy about living a good and proper life. But Tick hasn’t had much of a chance to put what he’s learned into practice—nor to face the moral challenges every young person will face as he or she grows up. But the river journey will provide plenty of those experiences and tests of character. Yet, reaching New Orleans does not conclude the lessons and challenges, for there Tick witnesses a slave auction, and on the block is a thirteen-year-old freed black girl named Clarissa, whom Tick had briefly met in Ohio. Now Tick faces his most significant challenge. Can he help get Clarissa back to Ohio all the way from New Orleans?
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Excerpt
There I was jumping from the top of one tree to another. It wasn’t exactly as if I was flying, because I had to land on the top branch of each tree, but it sure felt like flying. Geese were following me and honking away like they were trying to warn me about something. But when I decided to forget about the tree tops and just fly, I fell hard to the ground thirty feet below and started rolling down the side of a hill while I was hiding my face in a pillow. I kept feeling the feathers from the goose down pillow sticking out and poking my cheeks and the side of my neck. Try as I might, I couldn’t pull that pillow off my face and it got to be stained with the blood coming out of me. But I kept rolling and rolling until I was stopped by something firm but soft. But by the time I finally pulled the pillow away from my face to see what or who had stopped me, I woke up and I never found out. That happens to me in dreams a lot. Wish it didn’t, though. What woke me up was my Uncle Ned telling me it was time to leave our house and get on the train to Cincinnati where we would get aboard the steamboat the St. Paul and head down to New Orleans. I was about to leave on the greatest adventure of my life. I swear by everything I ever owned that it will be the honest truth—even if I had to tell a few lies along the way to get to the meaning of that truth. Uncle Ned shouted from the front porch of our house in Oxford, Ohio, “Time to catch the train, Tick.” That’s my name—Tick—Tick Cooper. Or what they’ve always called me anyways. Uncle Ned said I’d always remember this day as long as I lived, but I still wrote it down when we got on the train in Hamilton so I’d be sure never to forget— “November the 1st, 1860.” We would ride some thirty-five miles to Cincinnati, the 2 largest city in the whole state. I’d a been on the train only once before—when the railway first opened, when I was six. But what gets a boy excited when he’s six and what gets him excited at twelve are quite different things—so this time I acted all grown up like I’d ridden the railroad every week. I didn’t jump around and bother Uncle Ned the way I did the first time. Even so, it was still pretty special chugging along in such high style. Nothing much happened on the train for the first twenty miles or so, but two more passengers got on and right afterward I heard some commotion going on in front of where we were sitting. “I say that’s my seat you’re sitting in. Get out of it now.” The man who said that was an elderly gent who looked like he had gotten into many tough scrapes in his life. He had long white hair and side whiskers, but what I grabbed my attention most was his scarred-up face. It looked like someone had dug trenches on his cheeks and above his right eye. And he seemed much bigger and stronger than men as old as he was. He was talking to a boy who looked younger than me—maybe nine or ten. The boy was in the seat by himself and was just too scared to say anything back. “You had better come up with a good reason why you took my seat or I’ll rip your nose right off your face, boy.” Because Uncle Ned had fallen asleep, it was up to me to do something. I just had to be sure that boy kept his nose on where it was, so I ran up to the man. “Excuse me, mister. My brother here is in the wrong seat. Come on, Ben. Your seat is back with us.” That boy almost flew out of the seat and headed to the back of the train car. “Excuse my brother, mister. He doesn’t hear well and sometimes I have to tell him things twice.” I turned and walked back to my seat, expecting that that white-haired old devil would 3 grab me and try to take my nose off. But he didn’t say or do anything. He just grunted and sat in the seat I guess he always sat in when he rode on that train. I found out that Ben’s real name was Peter Butler and that he was put on the train by his grandpap so he could take a steamboat from Cincinnati to Pittsburgh, where his mother, father, and baby sister had just settled in a house. I told him I’d look out for him until we reached Cincinnati, where his grandpap’s brother lived and would take him in for the night. We talked about the man with the scars on his face—I mean we talked softly so we wouldn’t wake Uncle Ned or let that old buzzard hear us. I told Peter that some folks believe they really own whatever they use often—cups, chairs, and such–and that it’s easy for someone big to get what they want from someone smaller, who can’t do anything about it. And if that big someone is also real ugly, it’s all the easier. When I told Peter my name, he wanted to know if I was born with it. I told him that when I was born my father named me John Polk Cooper, but those first two names never really suited me much. It was Aunt Clara who first called me “Tick” because when I was a baby I used to burrow into the blanket like a tick into a dog’s back. But the name really stuck when I started running around and hiding in bushes, old dead trees, and holes in the ground. I also like the sound of Tick Cooper better than John Cooper or John Polk Cooper any day of the week. One of my teachers said that Tick Cooper wasn’t as easy to pronounce as John or John Polk Cooper, because the first name ended with a “k” sound and the second name began with the same sound. But she was educated and I guess those things matter to those kinds of folks. Ben said that Polk was a funny name to be stuck with—and it was, but from what Uncle Ned told me I got my middle name because of the then president of the United States, James Polk, who they say kicked the Mexicans out of Texas and took it for the 4 United States. Uncle Ned said that my father thought Polk did the right thing, but from what Uncle Ned also told me, my father once shot a man in the leg who claimed that the twelve feet at the very back of my father’s land rightfully belonged to him. They say the man showed my father the papers, but my father shot him anyways, saying that it was the law that those who live on the land and cultivate it have all right to it. I guess old President Polk never heard of that law when he took Texas. So since I was born on March 3, 1848, I got stuck with a Polk between my first and last names. If I was born three years ago my name would have been John Buchanan Cooper, which was wore then the name I had. As Aunt Clara used to say, “Thank heaven for small favors.” When the train stopped in Cincinnati, we waited until the foul-looking man left the train car before we did. Uncle Ned woke up and finally met Peter, who thanked me for helping him and waited until he saw his grandpap’s brother before getting off the train. I wished he was going to New Orleans instead of Pittsburgh, because I knew I’d never see him again, but my Aunt Clara used to say that the older you get the more often folks would come in and then out of your life—sometimes on the very same day. Aunt Clara. I guess I forgot to say that she was Uncle Ned’s wife and was always like a mother to me, since my own mother died when I wasn’t yet two years old. I’m still very sad that Aunt Clara got real sick and died a few months back. The day before we left Oxford, we went to see her grave at the Old Yard Cemetery. Uncle Ned had been going there every week since she died, but he never made me go with him. I just did it on my own every few weeks or so, but it was more to be with Uncle Ned because I really wanted to go. Not that I’m afraid to visit the graves of all those dead people. I’ve been there after the sun went down with three of my friends and was the very last to run out of there, which won me the wool cap we found snagged on a tree limb the day before. 5 Anyway–at her grave, Uncle Ned told Aunt Clara that he’d be going away for a spell and he’d be thinking of her all the time. He also told her that he’d be taking me with him. She was so good to me—she really was. As soon as we got off the train, we heard a noise on the wooden platform—a kind of “ker-thump” every several second or so, so we looked around and saw a man who looked like he hadn’t shaved his whiskers in a hundred years limping along with a wooden crutch under his arm, which he dragged as he took a step with his good leg. Good leg? I should have said only leg! Uncle Ned reached in his pocket for a coin or two, which he liked to do whenever he saw someone who couldn’t walk or see too well. So I reached in mine and pulled out one of my two new Indian head pennies. My other one was back in my room at home, but I always carried one of them with me for good luck. But when I looked at the coin, I wanted to think that Uncle Ned’s contribution would be enough that the one-legged old soul wouldn’t hold it against me if I jammed my lucky coin back in my pocket. I sure didn’t want to be without luck on my grand adventure to New Orleans. But I didn’t think or act fast enough because the next thing I knew I had put my Indian head penny in the man’s hand. He closed his old fist around it, and I felt like I dropped my hunting rifle down a well. My stomach became as heavy as a cannon ball, and my throat felt as dry as if I had swallowed a campfire. Being charitable isn’t always “its own reward,” as Aunt Clara used to say. The poor man had only limped about ten feet away when two men in fancy clothes, with new top hats and walking sticks came up behind him and started laughing and pointing at his crutch. I guess these were men because they were dressed in all high fancy, but they acted like boys not much older than me. The one in the striped pants took his walking stick and swung it like he was chopping at a low limb and knocked the 6 crutch out from under the old man, who fell to the platform before I could take get close enough to break his fall. Those two dandified gents both burst out laughing as the old man let out one of them painful old man’s screeches, with a whistling sound—probably because he lacked some front teeth. The coins he had gotten from me, Uncle Ned, and some other kindly folks were scattered all over the platform. And then you know what those two popinjays did? They threw down several coins themselves! I couldn’t believe it. I guess they paid for the right to hurt the old man. Or maybe they did it to make sure their consciences wouldn’t bother them none. Uncle Ned told me once that some folks believe they can make up for their being cruel and thoughtless by giving money. And these two gents were nothing compared to what I’d see later on my adventure. But I’m running ahead of myself. When I went over to help up the old man, I saw my Indian head penny about six feet away, picking up the bright sunshine, which made it sparkle. When I got the crutch situated under the old man’s arm, I walked over and picked up the coin. I was afraid someone else would take it and use it to buy something useless. No. Now wait. That’s not all of it. I better come clean or this tale isn’t going to be worth you’re taking the time to read it if I don’t. To tell the honest truth, I picked up the coin mostly because I wanted to think more about his need for it, since four other folks gave the old man more money. I picked up my coin as the lame old man was walking away with the rest of the money that someone had picked up from the platform, along with the new coins just placed in his hand. I knew he wouldn’t miss my Indian head penny—not one bit–and seeing that it and the other penny back home were gifts from my Uncle Ned, I decided to put the penny back in my pocket. For about a second. I caught up with the old man and gave him my good-luck penny for a second time. Maybe I was wrong, but I just felt he needed the good luck 7 much more than I did. Then I heard Uncle Ned calling me, and that was the last I saw of my penny and the old man. But not the last I’d see of those two high-hatted, dandypants scoundrels who knocked the old man down.
About the Author

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During his career as Professor of English at the University of Georgia, John Vance was the author of six books and numerous articles devoted to literary biography and criticism. He also began indulging his love of theater as actor, director, and playwright, with thirty-five of his plays staged. Now he has turned exclusively to fiction, and is the author of fourteen novels, including the humorous memoir Setting Sail for Golden Harbor and the recently BookBub featured In Mind of the Vampire. He lives in Athens, Georgia with his wife Susan.
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