Friday, September 30, 2016

Excerpt from The Devil's Work by Mark Edwards.

Back in her room, she was about to start unpacking her suitcase, trying hard not to think about Liam or the gift she’d turned down, when a scream came from the room next door. 

Sophie jumped up, yanked the door open and peered out. Several other girls had done the same. 

Becky stood outside her room, both hands held to her mouth, eyes stretched open in horror, fingers clawing at her head like the character in that painting, The Scream. All the blood had drained from her face. Her bulky pink suitcase lay at her feet. She was staring at the room like there was a monster inside. Or a corpse. She made little gibbering noises, unformed words, like the sound of her sanity shattering into tiny fragments.

Sophie reached her first. ‘What is it?’ she asked in a soothing voice. ‘What’s happened?’ 

‘My. Room.’ That was all Becky could say. She pointed a shaking finger at the closed door then sank to her haunches. She stared up at Sophie, her eyes empty. What had she seen in that room? Sophie didn’t want to know. 

Two other girls had reached them, Jenny and Ameera, the latter crouching and putting an arm around Becky, who was making the awful noises again, noises that penetrated Sophie’s skull, made the inside of her head itch. Sophie guessed that not many people had returned yet or the whole corridor would be filled with gawping, concerned students. 

‘Go on,’ Jenny said. ‘Take a look.’ 

Sophie turned to her. ‘Me?’ 

When she realised no one else was going to make a move, she approached the door, gripped the handle and pushed it open slowly, sticking her head inside then immediately withdrawing it. 

‘Oh, God, it stinks in there.’ 

‘What of?’ Jenny asked, clamping her hand over her nose as the smell escaped the room and reached them. 

It smelled like a cut she’d once had that became infected, sweet and rotten. 

‘What did you see?’ whispered Ameera. 

Sophie had been hit so hard by the stench that her other senses hadn’t kicked in. She moved back towards the door and pushed it open. 

‘Oh, my God,’ said Jenny, as Becky began to wail.

All the clothes and possessions that Becky had left behind were strewn around the room – clothes and underwear on the floor, CDs and books smashed and ripped and scattered. A large cuddly rabbit lay in the middle of the floor, its belly slit open, stuffing bulging out. Its eyes had been pulled out and there was a vibrator stuck into one of the holes, still buzzing. Photos of Becky which were stuck to the wall had been defaced – devil’s horns drawn on her head, red pen slashes across her face. A family photo had been torn to shreds and a picture of a woman who was clearly Becky’s mum had been rendered obscene, saggy breasts and a dense pubic triangle drawn over her clothes, a crudely rendered penis spurting close to her lips. 

That was far from the worst of it. 

A washing line had been strung across the room, tied to the wardrobe handle at one end and attached to a nail in the wall at the other. Dead mice had been attached to it by their tails, their plump white bodies hanging motionless, little black eyes open, staring sightlessly. Their stomachs had been slashed open like the rabbit toy beneath them. Stepping closer, forcing herself to confront the horror, Sophie could see that wire had been wrapped around the tails and the washing line to pin them to it. There were seven of them. 

‘I’ll call Security,’ Jenny said quietly from the corridor. 

Sophie looked back. Becky sat on the floor, arms wrapped around her legs, rocking back and forth, her expression glazed and slack. Her sleeves were pulled up and Sophie was shocked to see scars criss-crossing Becky’s forearms. She realised she had never seen Becky in short sleeves. There were no fresh cuts but the scars were evidence that Becky had, at one point, self-harmed. 

‘Take Becky to the kitchen, give her something to drink.’ 

The other two girls nodded and led Becky away, leaving Sophie on her own in the room, trying not to look at the dead mice, focusing on the bed.

Photos of Becky and Lucas lay on the pillow, ripped in two. A used condom lay unfurled on the quilt, apparently still containing sperm. She turned her head away. Someone had scrawled words on the mirror in red lipstick. 



Small words designed to cause maximum pain. 

Next to them were more photos, dim and underexposed, of Becky pressed up against a wall, face screwed up, a man entering her from behind. 

Sophie left the room. Her head felt light, legs shaky. The urge to be sick bubbled up through her but she fought it. A minute later, one of the caretakers arrived along with a security guy. Sophie drifted away towards her room. She wasn’t going to be sick. She wasn’t. She had a horrible feeling about who had done this. She remembered hearing Liam say that Becky needed to be taught a lesson, recalled Jasmine’s threat to Becky after she revealed her identity. 

No. Surely not. Liam was a self-proclaimed rebel, but she couldn’t believe he would do something this hateful. Beneath the pose, he was a nice guy. She had to believe that. Jasmine too. She could be hot-headed, had told Becky she’d cut her tongue out, but there was no way she would do this, surely? 

It had to be Lucas, Becky’s betrayed boyfriend. Apart from seeing his band play once at the Student Union she didn’t know him very well, but he came across as pretty intense on stage, his lyrics all about S&M and suicide. She had thought that was just him playing at being a rock star but maybe it went deeper. And besides, jealousy could turn the mildest people into monsters. The room was full of vile sexual imagery, including the shots exposing Becky’s betrayal of Lucas, plus naked photos that had probably been taken for Lucas’s benefit. Everything in the room spoke of revenge for Becky’s betrayal of her boyfriend. It had to be him.

Excerpted from THE DEVIL'S WORK © Copyright 2016 by Mark Edwards. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.

About The Devil's Work by Mark Edwards

A gripping psychological thriller from the bestselling author of Follow You Home and The Magpies.

It was the job she had dreamed of since childhood. But on her very first day, when an unnerving encounter drags up memories Sophie Greenwood would rather forget, she wonders if she has made a mistake. A fatal mistake.

What is her ambitious young assistant really up to? And what exactly happened to Sophie’s predecessor? When her husband and daughter are pulled into the nightmare, Sophie is forced to confront the darkest secrets she has carried for years.

As her life begins to fall apart at work and at home, Sophie must race to uncover the truth about her new job…before it kills her.

About Mark Edwards

Mark Edwards writes psychological thrillers in which terrifying things happen to ordinary people. His first solar novel, The Magpies (2013), reached the No. 1 spot on Amazon UK as did his third novel Because She Loves Me (2014).  He has also co-written various crime novels with Louise Voss such as Killing Cupid (2011) and The Blissfully Dead (2015). 

Mark grew up on the south coast of England and started writing in his twenties while working in a number of dead-end-jobs.  He lived in Tokyo for a year before returning to the UK and starting a career in marketing.  As well as a full-time-writer, Mark is a stay at home dad for his three children, his wife and a ginger cat.  


Twitter: @mredwards



Monday, September 19, 2016

Guest Post by Tade Thompson - Horror as a Reminder.

Horror as a genre exists in part to remind us of fear. Fear is an emotion essential for survival because it indicates danger and triggers fight or flight. On a primal, lizard-brain level, for horror to work it must evoke an existential threat of some kind. This threat is of harm to the self, if you can indulge me as I stretch the definition of ‘self’ to include the individual or the group. When executed properly, all horror emanates from here.

If I were more web-savvy I would have an info-graphic here, but this is what I’ve got: Predators trigger a direct danger to the self. The unknown triggers the idea that it might be a predator, and tracks back to danger to self. In evolutionary terms, it is smart to consider the unknown dangerous until proven otherwise. To understand the danger to children you’d have to see that in some way children are the means by which the self propagates or transmits to the next generation. To transmit your DNA (or cultural/psychic DNA if adopted) to the next generation is important to the self, therefore to endanger children is to endanger the self. Evil children in horror fiction represent a form of contaminated seed, which is a danger to the self.

Horror is a big part of my literary DNA. Shirley Jackson, Henry James, Mary Shelley, Clive Barker, Peter Straub, and others, I read their books to pieces. ‘It’ by Stephen King is probably my most re-read book. I do write straight up horror (the short stories Monkey House, Slip Road, and the novella Gnaw, for example) but I also see horror as in integral part of the fantastical fiction storyscape. To me, the best sci-fi works with a horror element (like Aliens, for example). 

In my novel Rosewater there are several scenes of full-blown horror. In the contaminated biosphere there are several alien creatures, often used by criminals. Kaaro, my protagonist, is captured and held by a criminal who has a carnivorous alien for a pet. I took time to design the monster. Aliens trigger the fear of unknown, and in addition, this monster is a carnivore, a predator. Floaters are used by gangsters for body disposal. Floaters use protein breakdown products to produce a gas which they use to inflate biological bladders harnessed for flight. It also stinks and remains suspended in the air even after death.

Imagine if you will, a man walking down the street peacefully, when a hungry floater descends like a hawk, grabbing the man with clawed limbs, lifting the person into the sky silently and eating the man during ascent. The next time the man is seen is when the stripped skeleton falls to the Earth, forty minutes later. Imagine swarms of these creatures haunting the rooftops of your city.  Imagine their mummurations at breeding season.

Welcome to Rosewater. I hope you enjoy your stay. Don’t get eaten.

© 2016 by Tade Thompson

Tade Thompson lives and works in the south of England. His first novel MAKING WOLF won the 2016 Kitschies Golden Tentacle award for best debut novel. He has written a number of short stories including “Budo” at Escape Pod. His horror novella GNAW will be released in December from Solaris Books. ROSEWATER comes out 15th November, but is available for pre-order now.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Vanishing Girls

Title Author: Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver.
Read by:  Saskia Maarleveld, Elizabeth Evans, Dan Bittner, Justis Bolding, Tavia Gilbert, Joel Richards.

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Mystery.

Source: Library.

Synopsis: Dara and Nick used to be inseparable, but that was before the accident that left Dara's beautiful face scarred and the two sisters totally estranged.

When Dara vanishes on her birthday, Nick things Dara is just playing around.  But another girl, nine-year-old Madeline Snow, has vanished too, and Nick becomes increasingly convinced that the two disappearances are linked.  Now Nick has to find her sister, before it's too late.  ~Goodreads.

Midnyte Musings: Vanishing Girls caught my attention from the beginning, and held it throughout the story. 

I liked main character Nick and felt kind of sorry for Dara.  The dynamics of the two sisters were interesting.  They are envious of each other because they see in each other what they do not see in themselves.  Nick was athletic and smart and Dara was pretty and popular.   Mix that with the boy next door and the jealousy, insecurity and resentment escalate.  

But Nick also discovers that Dara holds a secret and it might be the key to not only Dara's strange and distant behaviors but also a missing child.   The plot was intriguing and at times exciting with the twists and turns.

I did like the alternating pov's of the two sisters telling the story.  It gave insight into the characters and even more once you get to the end.  Oliver also has a lovely and haunting writing style and the chapters flew by.

I admit it, I did not predict the mystery/ending.  A lot of people did, but I guess that was good for me in that I was surprised.  However, I was also annoyed.  I don't mind unreliable narrators, but for some reason, my reaction was less than positive.  I really wonder if Oliver didn't intend to have Dara be dead at first, because it really read like that.  I know this is part of the twist and drama, but it felt a a cheat?  

Narration:  The narration was very good.   No complaints.

Enjoyable.  Worth the read.


Thursday, August 4, 2016

Guest Post by Erica L. Satifka - Stay Crazy.

I like killing things.

Not real things, mind you. In person, I'm a pacifist. But fictional things? I'll happily send wave after wave of troops toward certain death in Civilization, usually in the direction of my spouse Rob's cities.

Writing characters, though, is a little different from clicking a mouse on a unit and pushing them into battle. While there are certainly a lot of lighter moments and clever zingers in Stay Crazy, the central conflict is grim: an alien entity that is attempting to destroy the universe by sucking the life energy out of workers at a big-box store. When the victims are depleted, they commit suicide, bringing the world one step closer to annihilation.

Stay Crazy is also the story of a young woman haunted by her neurological issues. Em, our heroine, is faced with such an improbable situation – a second, helpful paranormal being contacting her via the RFID chips in frozen foods – that she's not sure whether or not she's falling back into illness. Like nearly all people with schizophrenia, Em is not violent, and I worked hard to tell her story respectfully and not buy into false stereotypes. (No "psycho-killers" in this book! Or any of my books, ever!)

Even though the two otherworldly beings in the book manifest mostly as disembodied voices, the self-inflicted human deaths are all too real. And it's all massively triggering for Em, who at the start of the book has just gotten out of a mental hospital. Because of the gravity of the overall situation, I didn't want the deaths in Stay Crazy to be mere cannon fodder, and I thought long and hard about the consequences for the plot. Who was this character in relation to Em? Would their death matter? Was I falling into any of the tropes I hate most as a reader? One important character in particular came in and out of my focus as a person to murder. I almost felt like I had them at the edge of a plank on a pirate ship, hovering between life and death, waiting to be rescued (or not!) by my keyboard strokes.

Ultimately, I won't be the final arbiter of those questions. Readers will. But I'd like to think that I took death seriously in Stay Crazy, the same way that I took Em's mental illness seriously, working hard to ensure I captured the nature of her struggle while still creating a compelling narrative.

As for the character I mentioned above? Did they live or die? I guess you'll just have to wait until August 16th to find out!

Erica L. Satifka is a writer and/or friendly artificial construct, forged in a heady mix of iced coffee and sarcasm. She enjoys rainy days, questioning reality, ignoring her to-do list, and adding to her collection of tattoos. Her short fiction has appeared in Clarkesworld, Shimmer, Lightspeed, and Intergalactic Medicine Show, and her debut novel Stay Crazy will be released in August 2016 by Apex Publications. Originally from Pittsburgh, she now lives in Portland, Oregon with her spouse Rob and an indeterminate number of cats.

Preorder Stay Crazy at Apex Books

Monday, July 25, 2016

Guest Post by Darren Beyer - An Emerging Sub-Genre: Smart Science Fiction.

Most nights after I get into bed, I pick up whatever is my current novel and read to clear my mind of the stresses of the day. It tends to be a little too effective – usually after just a few pages, my eyes grow heavy and I’m forced to close the cover. A couple years ago, while searching for another science fiction novel to grace those few minutes each night, I came across Andy Weir’s The Martian. It seemed to have an interesting premise, was science fiction, and was getting good reviews. I was happy the day it arrived, as my previous book was now sitting on the shelf, and I needed something new to bring on my slumber. The Martian failed miserably to meet that need. When, on the first night of reading, the clock hit two, I had to force myself to put it down. It grabbed a hold of me from page one and wouldn’t let go. I finished it two nights later – so much for a good night’s sleep.
Science fiction novels tend to rely on action and the genre itself as a means to draw readers. The Martian is science fiction, but it differs from the norm. It is a novel first and science fiction second. It is every bit as engrossing a story as Robinson Crusoe – just in a science fiction setting. As such, it appeals to a wide variety of readers, including those who would have never otherwise even looked at the cover of a pure science fiction novel. People who had never shown interest in anything resembling a space ship, were drawn to theaters to watch the movie adaptation. The technology and science Weir depicts is nearly flawless. The challenges that must be overcome, real and relatable. The plot, the details, the ingenuity are what made The Martian so successful – the genre played a role, but the work as a whole appealed to everyone.
Last year I had the luck to fall into another novel from a first-time author. Like The Martian, this book had a science fiction theme to it, but it wasn’t what made it so appealing. It treated me to as detailed and interwoven plot as one could hope for. It brought in historic world events, science, and technology to tell a history of humanity that had never before been explored. The book was The Atlantis Gene by A.G. Riddle. It was followed by two more enthralling installments: The Atlantis Plague and The Atlantis World. Even though the books have decidedly sci-fi components, Riddle bills them as techno thrillers. I like to call them, and The Martian, something else: smart science fiction.
Novels like The Martian and the Atlantis series rely on plot, theme, tempo, and realism to draw the reader in, versus attracting them simply because they belong to a genre the reader finds appealing. They have detailed back stories that draw on real history, science and technology to create believable worlds in which the reader can fall into. I’ve read a myriad of science fiction novels. They’ve painted wonderful pictures of far-off worlds, star ships, alien attacks and interstellar wars. As a fan of the genre, I’ve enjoyed the reads, but aside from providing those few minutes of escape each night, most left me with little else. In fact, aside from a select few like Dune, Ender’s Game, I Robot, 2001, and Ring World, I can’t even recite most of the titles I’ve read over the years.
Science fiction authors are now beginning to weave more stories that transcend the genre and attract a wider audience. This metamorphosis is taking place in film as well. Movies like Avatar and Interstellar are less about laser beams and explosions, and more about the story, science and character development. Certainly, no one can say this type of science fiction didn’t exist over the years – it’s been there from such greats as Heinlein, Clarke, Asimov, and others . But it never made the leap to mainstream, primarily because the majority of works in the genre catered to the same old themes and diluted those that could have broader appeal. For the longest time I was happy reading those nameless novels, but now authors like Weir and Riddle have ruined it for me. Now I demand more from my reads. Now I demand smart science fiction.

Check out Darren Beyer's blog at

Thursday, July 21, 2016

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown - Audio by Holly Black.

Title/Author: Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black.

Read by: Christine Larkin.

Genre: YA, UF.

Publisher:  Little, Brown Young Readers.

Source: Library.

Synopsis:  Tana lives in a world where walled cities called Coldtowns exist.  In them, quarantined  monsters and humans mingle in a decadently bloody mix of predator and prey.  The only problem is, once you pass through Coldtown's gates, you can never leave.

One morning, after a perfectly ordinary party, Tana wakes up surrounded by corpses. The only other survivors of this massacre are her exasperatingly endearing ex-boyfriend, infected and on the edge, and a mysterious boy burdened with a terrible secret.  Shaken and determined, Tana enters a race against the clock to save the three of them the only way she knows how: by going straight to the wicked, opulent heart of Coldtown itself.

Midnyte Musings:
Holly Black does it again with The Coldest Girl in Coldtown.  The story had me hooked from the first page (or rather disc).  It starts out strong,  is exciting and fast paced.  Although not a "light" book, as it delves in some deep issues, it is easy to read/listen to and enjoyable to follow.

There is mystery and Holly's signature twists.  Her characters drew me in immediately. All of them.  They are adventurous, human, monstrous, damaged and some are, at times, deceitful. I love the main character Tana.  She's kind of a badass and can be remote and distant, but there's a reason she has walls built up around her.  I especially loved how her ex-boyfriend, Aidan, perceived her.  I thought it was so interesting because Tana was presenting herself as one way and he took it as another.  Gavriel, the vampire that Tana saves is another intriguing character and there is so much more to him than what you see at first glance.  Also a character named Midnight.  What?  And guess what?  She's a blogger.  Not a book blogger, she blogs about vampires.

There is romance, but it is definitely not the main storyline, which is another reason I loved it.  And you could say there is a love triangle, but no, not really.  Maybe just the potential for there to be one.

I haven't read a Holly Black book in a while and you know how you sometimes get worried that an author may disappoint you when you read a new book?  Well Black's writing doesn't diminish.  Her style is compelling, her dialogue smart.  When she talked about a character's hair color being akin to a blue gum ball, by God, I wanted a blue gum ball!  The world building, the vampire mythology, the Dystopian atmosphere -- all are so unique and clever.

Narration: Fabulous.  I loved Christine Larkin's voice and would listen to anything she reads.  She brought Tana to life and is skilled and convincing in her portrayal of all the characters, yes even the male ones.

In a word - fabulous!


Monday, July 18, 2016

Excerpt from The Demonologist by Gerald Brittle.

Beyond Amityville

Outside Ed Warren’s office in Fairfield County, an old chapel clock ticked away the passing moments with quiet, mechanical precision. All else stood still. It was the middle of a cold, dark night in New England.
Inside the office, a brass lamp lit the desk where Ed Warren, a pensive, gray-haired man of fifty, sat working. Hundreds of books surrounded him, most bearing strange, arcane titles on the mysterious lore of demonology. Above the desk hung photographs of monks and grim-faced exorcists, standing with Ed Warren in abbey-like settings. For Ed, working in the still silence of night, it had been a wicked day—one that was not yet over.
Just before the hour, the clock movement came alive in a series of clicks and relays, finally churning up three somber, resonating bongs. At the third stroke, Ed looked up, listened into the darkness, then went back to writing. It was three o’clock in the morning, the true witching hour, the hour of the Antichrist. And now, unbeknownst to him, Ed Warren was on borrowed time.
Only hours before, Ed and Lorraine Warren had returned to their home in Connecticut after having been called in to investigate claims of a “haunted house” on Long Island’s south shore, in a pleasant residential suburb of New York City. In December 1975, the house had been purchased by George and Kathleen Lutz, who moved into it around Christmas of that year with their three young children. A year before the Lutzes bought the house, the eldest son of the previous owner murdered the six sleeping members of his family at 3:15 in the morning of November 13, 1974, with a .35 caliber rifle.* On January 15, 1976, the Lutzes fled from the house, contending that they had been victimized by manifest supernatural forces. It was a case that later came to be known as The Amityville Horror.
By the end of January 1976, the press had become fully aware of the Lutz family’s claim of a bizarre experience in the house, and promptly called experts into the case. The experts brought in were Ed and Lorraine Warren. The Warrens were consulted because, in professional circles, they are considered to be perhaps this country’s leading authorities on the subject of spirits and supernatural phenomena. Over the course of some three decades, Ed and Lorraine Warren have investigated over three thousand paranormal and supernatural disturbances.
The question the news media had essentially wanted answered was whether there was a “ghost” in the house at the time.
The answer the Warrens gave at the end of their three-day investigation, however, was something no one had bargained for. Indeed, their answer literally strained credulity.
“Yes,” the Warrens disclosed at the time, “in our judgment, there was a spirit that had plagued the Lutzes in the house. But,” they also concluded, no ghost was present.”
What did this paradoxical statement mean? Did this imply there were other kinds of spirits than ghosts?
Incredibly, the answer the Warrens gave was “Yes!”
“There are two types of spirits that are encountered in true haunting situations,” the Warrens explained on March 6, 1976. “One is human; the other, however, is inhuman. An inhuman spirit is something that has never walked the earth in human form.”
The Warrens’ sobering information was not merely well-intentioned speculation—because fully two weeks before, Ed and Lorraine Warren had been confronted by an inhuman spirit in their own home. The visitation happened to Ed first.

Ed Warren’s office is located in a small, cottage-sized building attached to the main house by a long enclosed passageway. As Ed sat working on preliminary details of the Amityville case that fateful February morning, the latch at the end of the passageway snapped open, followed by the percussive boom of the heavy wooden door. Footsteps then started toward the office.
Ed leaned back in his chair, waiting for Lorraine to enter with a much-needed cup of coffee.
“In here,” Ed Warren called out. Long moments passed, however, and she did not appear. “Lorraine?” Ed called out again, but there was no reply.
What he heard instead, building in the distance, was an eerie, howling wind. It was not the whistling of wind under the eaves, but rather the menacing roar of a distant cyclone. Goose flesh rose on his arms.
“Lorraine?” he asked forcefully. “Are you there?” But still there was no response.
As the ominous swirling sound built in power and intensity, Ed quickly thought back over the last few moments. It then occurred to him that he’d heard only three footsteps in the passageway—not the continuous tread of a person walking. Something was wrong!
Suddenly, the desk lamp dimmed to the strength of a candle flame. Then, abruptly, the temperature in the office plunged to that of a walk-in freezer. A rank, pungent smell of sulfur rose in the room.
Suspicious of the unnatural clamor, Ed Warren opened a desk drawer and withdrew a vial of holy water and a large wooden crucifix. He then got up and walked a few steps out of his office into the anteroom. As he did, there swirled out of the passageway a horrendous, conical whirlwind.
Pointed at the bottom, broad at the top, the thing was blacker than the natural blackness of night. Far larger than a man, the swirling black mass moved into the dimly lit room and drifted slowly to Ed’s left side and came to a halt some ten feet away. As Ed watched, it appeared to grow even denser and blacker than it was before! Indeed, within the swirl, he could see that something was beginning to take shape. An entity was beginning to manifest in physical form!
As a demonologist, Ed Warren knew he had to act quickly, to take the initiative before this fearsome black mass transformed itself into something even more forbidding and dangerous.
Holding the cross toward what was now rapidly changing into a macabre hooded spectre, Ed Warren stepped forward. The moment he did, however, the entity moved defiantly toward him!
Ed stopped and stood his ground as the form slowly drifted forward. When the swirling black mass was no more than a few feet away, Ed methodically, and with absolute determination, showered the thing in the sign of the cross with the contents of the holy water vial. Then he spoke the ancient command: “In the name of Jesus Christ, I command you to leave!”
For eternal seconds the black mass stayed motionless, no more than a foot away from the cross.  Then, slowly, it began to back off - though not before giving Ed a clear vision of himself and Lorraine involved in a potentially deadly automobile accident along a highway.  With that, the entity, withdrew into the passageway from whence it came. 
An enormous sense of relief came over Ed Warren as he stood, sweating profusely, in the freezing cold room.  Yet as he attempted to collect his thoughts, the vicious snarl of fighting animals suddenly erupted outside the house.  Immediately, Ed realized there were no animals fighting:  the visitation was still in progress.  The entity had simply moved upstairs to attack Lorraine!
Avoiding the passageway, Ed flung open the side door to the office and ran up the back steps of the house.

He would be too late. 

All Rights Reserved. Reprinted with permission of Graymalkin Media (Reprint edition).

* The New York Times, November 15, 1974.


Monday, June 20, 2016

Rarity from the Hollow by Robert Eggleton - Excerpt.

Lacy Dawn's father relives the Gulf War, her mother's teeth are rotting out, and her best friend is murdered by the meanest daddy on Earth. Life in The Hollow isn't great. But Lacy has one advantage -- she's been befriended by a semi-organic, semi-robot who works with her to cure her parents. He wants something in exchange, though. It's up to her to save the Universe.
To prepare Lacy for her coming task, she is being schooled daily via direct downloads into her brain. Some of these courses tell her how to apply magic to resolve everyday problems much more pressing to her than a universe in big trouble, like those at home and at school. She doesn't mind saving the universe, but her own family and friends come first.
Will Lacy Dawn's predisposition, education, and magic be enough for her to save the Universe, Earth, and, most importantly, protect her own family? Rarity from the Hollow is adult literary science fiction filled with tragedy, comedy and satire. It is a children's story for adults, not for the prudish, faint of heart, or easily offended.

Awesome Indies:

“…a hillbilly version of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, only instead of the earth being destroyed to make way for a hyperspace bypass, Lacy Dawn must…The author has managed to do what I would have thought impossible; taken serious subjects like poverty, ignorance, abuse, and written about them with tongue-in-cheek humor without trivializing them…Eggleton sucks you into the Hollow, dunks you in the creek, rolls you in the mud, and splays you in the sun to dry off. Tucked between the folds of humor are some profound observations on human nature and modern society that you have to read to appreciate…it’s a funny book that most sci-fi fans will thoroughly enjoy.” --

Readers’ Favorite:

“…Full of cranky characters and crazy situations, Rarity From the Hollow sneaks up you and, before you know it, you are either laughing like crazy or crying in despair, but the one thing you won’t be is unmoved… Robert Eggleton is a brilliant writer whose work is better read on several levels. I appreciated this story on all of them.” --
From chapter 13, Mom I’d Like to Introduce You to My Fiancé:

            …..…Jenny (the mother) walked up the hill to Roundabend. She called Lacy Dawn's name every few yards. Her muddy tennis shoes slipped and slid.
            I hear her voice. Why won't she answer me? 
            “Sounds like she’s talking to someone,” Jenny said to the Woods. 
            Nobody responded. The trees weren't supposed to since Jenny was no longer a child. Her former best friends had made no long-term commitment beyond childhood victimization. They had not agreed to help her deal with domestic violence in adulthood. She hugged the closest tree.
            I will always love you guys. 
Jenny quickened her pace, stopped, and listened for human voices. A few yards later, she stopped again.   
            Now it sounds like she’s behind me instead of in front. 
            Jenny looked to the left of the path.
            There ain't no cave Roundabend, but there it is. 
            She walked toward the entrance. The voices grew louder and she looked inside. Lacy Dawn sat on a bright orange recliner. Tears streamed down her face.  Jenny ran to her daughter through a cave that didn't exit and into a blue light that did.
            “All right, you mother f**ker!”
            “Mom!” Lacy Dawn yelled. “You didn’t say, ‘It’s me’ like you're supposed to (a traditional announcement mentioned earlier in the story)."
            DotCom (the android) sat naked in a lotus position on the floor in front of the recliner.  Jenny covered Lacy Dawn with her body and glared at him.   
            "Grrrrr," emanated from Jenny.  It was a sound similar to the one that Brownie (Lacy Dawn's dog) made the entire time the food stamp woman was at their house.  It was a sound that filled the atmosphere with hate.  No one moved.  The spaceship’s door slid shut.
            “Mommmmmy, I can’t breathe. Get up.”
            “You make one move you sonofabitch and I’ll tear your heart out,” Jenny repositioned to take her weight off Lacy Dawn.
            Stay between them.
            “Mommy, he’s my friend. More than my friend, we’re going to get married when I'm old enough -- like when I turn fourteen. He’s my boyfriend -- what you call it -- my fiancé.” 
            “You been messin’ with my little girl you pervert!” Jenny readied to pounce. 
            “MOM!  Take a chill pill! He ain’t been messing with me. He’s a good person, or whatever. Anyway, he’s not a pervert. You need to just calm down and get off me.”
            Jenny stood up. DotCom stood up. Jenny’s jaw dropped.
            He ain't got no private parts, not even a little bump.   
            “DotCom, I’d like to introduce you to my mommy, Mrs. Jenny Hickman. Mommy, I’d like to introduce you to my fiancé, DotCom.”
            Jenny sat down on the recliner. Her face was less than a foot from DotCom’s crotch and she stared straight at it. It was smooth, hairless, and odor free.  
            “Mrs. Hickman, I apologize for any inconvenience that this misunderstanding has caused. It is very nice to meet you after having heard so much. You arrived earlier than expected. I did not have time to properly prepare and receive. Again, I apologize.” 
            I will need much more training if I'm ever assigned to a more formal setting than a cave, such as to the United Nations.
            “Come on, Mommy. Give him a hug or something.”      
            Jenny's left eye twitched. 
            DotCom put on clothing that Lacy Dawn had bought him at Goodwill. It hung a little loose until he modified his body. Lacy Dawn hugged her mother…    
            …(scene of Dwayne, the father, overheard by those in the spaceship while talking to himself)… “Besides, the transmitter was part of Daddy’s treatment. There're a lot of other things that he did to help fix Daddy. DotCom is like a doctor. You can see that Daddy has gotten better every day. And no, there ain’t no transmitter in you. DotCom figured you out like a good doctor and the only things wrong are a lack of opportunity and rotten teeth that poison your body. You don’t need no transmitter. He just gave you a few shots of ego boost. I don’t know what medicine that is, but I trust him. You ain't complained since the shots started -- not even with an upset stomach.”
            "He's a doctor?" Jenny asked.
            “What's your problem anyway?” Lacy Dawn asked. “I know.  You’re prejudiced. You told me that people have much more in common than they do that's different -- even if someone is a different color or religion, or from a different state than us. You told me to try to become friends because sometimes that person may need a good friend. Now, here you are acting like a butt hole about my boyfriend. You’re prejudiced because he’s different than us.”
            “Honey, he’s not even a person – that’s about as different as a boyfriend can get,” Jenny said.
            Mommy's right. Maybe I need a different argument.
            A fast clicking sound, a blur of motion, and a familiar smell assaulted them.
            "What's that?" Jenny asked. 
            She moved to protect her daughter from whatever threat loomed. Brownie, who had been granted 27 / 7 access to the ship, bounded over the orange recliner, knocked DotCom to the floor, licked DotCom’s face, and rubbed his head on Jenny’s leg. He then jumped onto the recliner and lay down. His tail wagged throughout. Jenny sat down on the recliner beside Brownie and looked at Lacy Dawn.
            “But, you were crying when I first came in. That thing was hurting you.” Jenny shook her finger at DotCom to emphasize a different argument against him.
            “Mommy, I'm so happy that I couldn’t help but cry. My man just came home from an out-of-state job. I didn't talk to him for a whole year. Before he left, he told me that he wasn’t even sure if he'd be able to come home. I still don’t know what happened while he was gone. We ain't had no chance to talk. All I know is that he's home and I'm sooooo happy.”
            “Your man came home from an out-of-state job?” Jenny patted Brownie on his head, some more and some more…. 
            It's unusual for a man to promise to come back home and ever be seen again. Brownie likes him and that's a good sign. Maybe she's right about him helping Dwayne. Something sure did and it wasn’t me. It is a nice living room. They've been together for a while and I ain't seen a mark on her. That's unusual too. He ain't got no private parts and that's another good thing. Hell, if I get in the middle, she’d just run off with him anyway. I'd better play it smart. I don't want to lose my baby. 
            “What about his stupid name?” Jenny asked.
            “I’ve got a stupid name, too. All the kids at school call me hick because my last name is Hickman.”
            “My name was given to me by my manager a very long time ago. It represents a respected tradition -- the persistent marketing of that which is not necessarily the most needed. I spam…,” DotCom said. 
            They both glared at him. 
            "Dwayne is sure to be home. I don’t want him to worry. Let’s go,” Jenny said. 
            “Okay, Mommy.”
            “I love you, DotCom,” Lacy Dawn stepped out the ship’s door, which had slid open. Brownie and Jenny were right behind her. 
            “I love you too,” DotCom said.
            Lacy Dawn and Jenny held hands and walked down the path toward home. The trees didn’t smile -- at least not so Jenny would notice. On the other hand, no living thing obstructed, intruded, or interfered with the rite.   
            Jenny sang to the Woods, “My little girl’s going to marry a doctor when she grows up, marry a doctor when she grows up, when she grows up.  My little girl’s going to marry a doctor when she grows up, marry a doctor when she grows up, when she grows up….”

About the author:

Robert Eggleton has served as a children's advocate in an impoverished state for over forty years. He is best known for his investigative reports about children’s programs, most of which were published by the West Virginia Supreme Court where he worked from 1982 through 1997, and which also included publication of models of serving disadvantaged and homeless children in the community instead of in large institutions, research into foster care drift involving children bouncing from one home to the next -- never finding a permanent loving family, and statistical reports on the occurrence and correlates of child abuse and delinquency.

Today, he is a recently retired children's psychotherapist from the mental health center in Charleston, West Virginia, where he specialized in helping victims cope with and overcome physical and sexual abuse, and other mental health concerns. Rarity from the Hollow is his debut novel and its release followed publication of three short Lacy Dawn Adventures in magazines: Wingspan Quarterly, Beyond Centauri, and Atomjack Science Fiction. Author proceeds have been donated to a child abuse prevention program operated by Children’s Home Society of West Virginia. Robert continues to write fiction with new adventures based on a protagonist that is a composite character of children that he met when delivering group therapy services. The overall theme of his stories remains victimization to empowerment.

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