Serial Story: When She Cries, Part 34

This serial story is posted weekly on Fridays in draft (unedited) format. Each installment is available for one week. If you’ve missed an installment, email me and I’ll send you what you’ve missed.

When She Cries

Part 34

“Shit.” Nicole didn’t bother struggling – she knew it was no use. She couldn’t decide whether to be relieved or angry at the turn of events as she swung back and forth, waiting for Patrick to show himself. On the one hand, she’d just lost a round of play, which was good. On the other, the price was a notch cut into her leg and no rest period.

 
“How’s it hangin’?”

 
She looked down to see Patrick stroll nonchalantly through the trees, looking up at her as if it were perfectly normal to find a woman in one of his traps. Bastard.

 
“You tell me,” she called back. “Or better yet, cut me down. I’ve got places to go, things to see. Roads to find.”

 
He laughed, shaking his head as he walked out of site for a moment. Her prison started to lower, stopping when her body was resting on the ground, but before the sides could fall and release her. She struggled to a sitting position as Patrick came back and stood over her, hunting knife in hand.

 
“I believe you owe me a notch,” he said, squatting down beside her left leg. “I’ll be quick. Unless…”

 
She knew he wanted her to ask. “Unless what?”

 
Patrick ran the tip of his finger over her bare skin, and Nicole could practically hear the viewer numbers climbing. Damn voyeurs.

 
“Unless you’d rather give me something else of equal value. In flesh, I mean.”

 
She knew exactly what he meant, and while the whole seduction thing seemed to be working, she wasn’t even close to giving it all up to him yet. Not until she was ready to make her final play.

 
“Take your notch, Patrick, and let me go. We have two more rounds to play, so let’s play.”

 
He laughed again, respect in his gaze as he lowered the knife to her calf.

 
“As you wish, sweetheart.”

 
She winced as he flicked a half-inch triangular piece of skin out of the side of her leg with the tip of his knife, thankful it was sharp enough that it didn’t hurt much until after it was done. Blood ran down her leg to soak in the dirt, and he handed her a roll of gauze before going back and lowered the net to release her.

 
She bandaged the wound as well as she could, and then got to her feet, ignoring the pain. When Patrick didn’t reappear, she put the tablet in her pocket and started jogging toward the river. If he followed her, it would be an easy catch, but she knew that wasn’t what he was after. He wanted money, and in this case, money cost drama. Which meant letting things play out as long as he could.

 
It was only somewhat surprising that the boat was gone by the time she found her way back to the rocky beach where she’d left it. Stopping for a quick drink, she checked the tablet and saw his dot on the other side of the river, headed back upstream.

 
Nicole had no idea why he’d be moving away from her, but she wasn’t about to let the opportunity go to waste. Taking one more drink, she started moving downstream, following the river but staying back in the trees and out of sight of the banks. Skirting the waterfalls, she kept going down, collecting enough fallen leafy branches along the way to work up a face shield by the time she’d hit the bottom where the river raced by on white-capped rapids.

 
When she pulled out the tablet to check Patrick’s position again, she rolled her eyes.

 
His dot on the screen was just behind hers, and she turned to confront him.

 
She couldn’t hold back a loud gasp as she dropped the tablet and put a hand to her mouth.


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New Release: Canvas (A Holiday Pact Story)

Some of you may have read along with the holiday serial stories last year – a tale of a woman who uses human skin as her canvas. Preferably after it’s been removed and properly tanned…

I’m happy to announce that Canvas is now polished up and ready for sale – you can get it for .99 cents at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Smashwords, or for this weekend only, you can download whichever format you’d like for free from the Brazen Snake Books store! It doesn’t get much better than free, right? Here’s the blurb:

Melanie
Donner has certain…urges. Bad urges. Urges she knows she needs to get
control of, or she’s going to end up either in prison or dead. When her
two best friends decide to make a pact to each pick up a guy to spend
the night with on every major holiday, she figures it’s a good way to
set a few boundaries for her little “hobby”. 


 


But right from the start, things get weird when a would-be student of her work shows up and won’t take no for an answer… 

Pick up your copy today…and let me know what you think!


Brazen Snake Books is also offering my flash collection, No Hazard Pay free today only, for Valentine’s Day…so grab that one while you’re there!

Wishing you a very freaky Valentine’s Day…

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I’ll Be Back…

I know I’ve been quiet this month – especially after the big blog blitz last month. But I’m not abandoning you! Well, not out here where it’s only sort of scary. If I were going to abandon you, I’d do it in an old graveyard with at least a couple big mausoleums and some broken headstones sinking into their respective graves. 
Aren’t you glad I’m not a zombie writer? (I’d suck as a zombie writer. Trust me.) 
Anyways…the reason I’m quiet over here at the moment is because this month is National Novel Writing Month, and I’m participating, though not in horror or suspense (I know, boo! hiss!). And I’m also working on several other drafts at the same time (also in other genres *ducks*). 

But! I have a new installment of Cutting Back for you that will be posted on Thanksgiving Day, and then, after the madness that is November is over, I’ll be starting a new suspense serial story over here that’s unlike anything I’ve done to this point. Pure suspense/thriller, it’s a cautionary tale of what happens when you date the wrong man…and then don’t live down to his expectations. I’m actually really excited to start it, so look for the first installment straight away on December 6th! We’ll have some fun. Our heroine? Not so much. 

In the meantime, if you’re so inclined to try one of my Death by Veggies audiobooks, click that “Connect” button at the top of the blog and email me with “Free Audio” in the subject. I’ll send you coupon codes to download all three of them for *free*, until I’m out of codes. These really turned out so well…I hope you’ll give them a try, and the audiobook for Angel Eyes will also be available in early 2014. 

The best is yet to come…so stick around! And thanks for reading…

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Month O’Screams Grand Prize Winner: Marilyn R.!

Our first winner hasn’t claimed the prize after two days and an email, so I’ve put Random.org to work again. Our new winner is:

Congratulations to

Marilyn R.

You’ve won of the Month O’Screams Grand Prize drawing!

Please email me at alex@alexwesthaven.com with your
mailing address within 24 hours to claim your prize!

Posted in Halloween, Month O'Screams | 1 Comment

Month O’Screams: Thank You & Credits

Today I’d like to thank all the wonderful authors and readers who participated in our Month O’Screams event throughout October 2013. It was great getting to meet so many new people through all the interviews and fiction, and finding some new favorite authors to read in the process.

If you haven’t already done so, I hope you’ll go get to know these authors through their web sites and fiction. Here’s a list of everyone who participated and links to where you can connect with them online (most websites will have links to other social media connections)!

In order of appearance:

Steve Vernon: Website | Twitter

Saul Tanpepper: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Google+

Cynthia Moyer: Website

Stacey Claflin: Website

Edward Medina: Website | Facebook | Twitter

Piia Bredenburg:
Blog | Tumblr | Twitter

Christiana Miller:
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest

Nicolas Wilson: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Ford Forkum: Website | Facebook | Goodreads | Twitter

Brie McGill: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Blog

Cole Knightly: Website

Ryan Casey: Website

Thanks again to all who participated!


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Author Interview: Ryan Casey

Today we’re chatting with dark suspense author Ryan Casey – read an excerpt from his story, The Painting here. And remember to comment on this post or sign up here for your chance to win a box of books and other fun stuff this Friday!


Why suspense-thrillers?

First and
foremost, suspense-thrillers are what I read, watch, and consume (not
literally. Perhaps.). I find that sense of dread and foreboding almost
addictive, so it’s a hell of a lot of fun to write. I often combine
suspense-thriller elements with horror, as I think the two genres can go
rather hand in hand. Suspense is absolutely key to horror, so those
elements are interchangeable  But yeah, the short answer would be that I
have the most fun writing it. I like keeping people on the edge of
their seats and I love creating a sense of overwhelming dread. Call me a
literary sadist, but it’s just how it is.
 
Is your fiction more physical or psychological in nature (ie, gore/slasher or mind freak)?

I’d
say it’s primarily psychological, but I do enjoy building up to these
great climactic moments of violence in some of my works. I think it has
to be within reason, though, in that violence and gore can lose its
effectiveness when it’s in every chapter, for example. I like to create a
sense of dread, and if it lends to the book, I’ll bring that to a
violent conclusion. In my assassin-thriller, Killing Freedom, there’s a
real sense of foreboding in the first quarter of the book when the
assassin protagonist is debating whether to kill a family or not, and it
all comes to a rather horrible, physical conclusion. In The Painting,
on the other hand, the sense of dread works independent of
gore/violence.
 
Which dark fictional characters (not your own) have resonated with you, and why?

Wow,
there are so many. Probably too many for comfort! I think the stock
answer would probably be Patrick Bateman from American Psycho. He’s a
dark, twisted sociopath, and yet he’s an absolutely tremendous and
alienating narrator. I think that his rants against contemporary society
and critique of consumerism and materialism are wonderful. Ultimately,
Patrick Bateman is the demon in the back of everybody’s minds. He has
violent urges he can’t control, speaks the harsh truth about many
aspects of young professional society, and is a walking satire of
everything wrong with that. The pay-off is even more fantastic at the
end of the book as it suggests (spoiler alert) he does in fact control
his deepest, darkest urges after all, leaving the question: aren’t we
all a little bit Bateman-ish? No? Oh. Okay then.
 
Which of your own characters intrigues you the most, and why?

I
always write protagonists I’m engaged with in one way or another, and I
always write protagonists with fatal flaws. I think my favourite
character is Jared, the assassin character in Killing Freedom. He’s so
alienated and detached from society, yet he offers a remarkable insight
into the world around him through these very different eyes. He’s a lot
of fun to write, that’s for sure. I’m working on the sequel at the
moment, and his development is profound.
 
What’s a typical Halloween like at your house?

I
think I can go on record here and say that over in the UK, Halloween
isn’t as much of a deal as it is in the US. Or am I just grossly
stereotyping based on what I’ve seen in films, etc? Typically though,
our nights are spent hiding away in the house with all the lights off to
avoid giving away any of our hard earned sweets. But more recently,
I’ve warmed to watching a horror movie or two, which I suppose is a
pretty boring and standard answer. 
 
What scary situation do you hope to never find yourself in? Do you have a plan in case it ever happens?

I
both do and do not want to be involved in a zombie apocalypse. There’s
something alluring about an end of the world scenario like that. We have
an old Ministry of Defence bunker behind our house, and we’re out in
the countryside, so the odds would be better than those in the city…
without an MoD bunker. So the plan would be to raid the shed for weapons
and make some sort of stronghold in that bunker before anybody else. I
think I’d be worryingly like The Governor on The Walking Dead. Don’t
come near my bunker!

Ryan Casey is a mystery and thriller author from Preston,
Lancashire, in the UK. When he can’t be found writing, he generally
can’t be found.

His work typically centres around complex
protagonists with fatal flaws. His novels include suspense thriller,
Killing Freedom
, and coming of age mystery, What We Saw.

Ryan is also the author of psychological thriller/horror novella series, The Watching, as well as several short stories.

Check out Ryan’s books: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Apple

Posted in Author Interviews, Guest Posts, Halloween, Month O'Screams | 5 Comments

Why Horror?

I wrote a post last summer called “A Horror Writer’s Dilemma“. In it, I explored the reasons I read and write horror, and today, I’m reposting the majority of it for your thoughts and/or discussion. If you’re a writer, feel free to add your reasons for writing what you do in the comments. Readers, jump in and tell us – why do you read horror?





I’ve been thinking a lot lately about why I write horror the way I do – and more to the point, why I’ve been leaning towards serial killers as the main characters. What makes me want to explore that particular psychological make-up? Is it healthy? Is it something I should even subject my mind (and my reader’s minds) to? At what point is it best to just leave the door closed? 


I’ll tell you right now, it feels dangerous to even enter some of the places in the human mind that I’ve set out to explore. Sometimes just writing the characters I do, I get the feeling that I shouldn’t be there, shouldn’t be trying to understand someone who would deliberately cause harm to other humans. It’s frightening to think that some minds can justify such horrific actions, and others don’t even try to justify them, but rather simply revel in the fact that they have no conscience. 

But what if the real reason we run from what we don’t understand is the fear of a different kind of death? What if understanding the horror means we have to confront the fact that it’s possible for the mind to justify certain things that we know should never be justifiable? The death of our own ignorance and the birth of the ability to identify with certain ways of thinking could lead to very scary things indeed.


Honestly, physical horror doesn’t scare me nearly as much as the thought of being able to identify with how a killer thinks and feels. Being able to understand the thoughts and emotions of someone who preys on other humans and still rejecting it as “wrong” morally and ethically is a fine line to walk – understanding often leads us to give people more leeway than we otherwise would.


It also leads to the consideration that we are all just a twitch of environment or a flick of the DNA strand away from being that sort of person which we so ardently fear and despise. And that is perhaps the scariest proposition of all.


Some of the greatest horror writers of all time have explored this concept in detail – Thomas Harris being one of my favorites (no, I don’t care for the new TV show Hannibal, though The Blacklist is fabulous.). Red Dragon and Silence of the Lambs were absolutely fascinating and horrifying at the same time – if you haven’t read them (which rock do you live under again?), I’d highly suggest them both.


It’s taken me this long and several stories to really identify what my goal is for writing horror, and I’m sure the stories I’ve written thus far reflect my own hesitancy to embrace that goal. Why did I stop working on Animal? Because I suddenly knew exactly where the story *had* to go, in order for it to be honest, and it scared the crap out of me that I could possibly write such a horrific thing.


It made me reconsider writing horror altogether.

And that, dear readers, is exactly why I need to finish it. It’s not just why I read horror, but why I write it too – to confront the very things I fear the most, and take control of them, even if it’s just in my own mind. Sometimes, that means acknowledging that control isn’t possible, and sometimes evil will win.

Posted in Month O'Screams, Writer's Notes | 1 Comment

Month O’Screams: The Final Week & Grand Prize Drawing

Can you believe it’s the last week of October already? Halloween is just four days away, and my husband and I are knee-deep in skulls and creepy-crawlies planning scares for the kiddies that night. Of course the weather will be bad, but it generally is, so that’s just par for the course. If it’s cold, all the better for the fog machines. Wind is the only thing capable of really wrecking havoc on the evening.

Now that I’ve jinxed us…

For regular readers who’ve been following my holiday story serial (and any new readers who care to jump in), I’ll have it posted around 6pm on Halloween night. 

If you’ve commented on any post this month (or go back and do it before this Wednesday at midnight), or if you have or do sign up using our handy form, you’re in the drawing to win our great Month O’Screams Grand Prize giveaway, which includes the following:


Print copies of: 
Gameland by Saul Tanpepper
The Necromancer’s Gambit by Nicolas Wilson
Angel Eyes by Alex Westhaven
The Death by Veggies series (Jack, Sprouted & Lettuce Prey) by Alex Westhaven
In a Dark Place - a short fiction anthology by Brazen Snake Books

Also included is some great swag donated by the authors, including book roses by Nolie Wilson (Nicolas Wilson’s wife), bookmarks & postcards from Saul Tanpepper, and a few other little Halloween treats & tricks! The grand prize winner will be announced by 9am (MDT) Thursday, Oct. 31st.

As for the remaining Month O’Screams posts, here’s the schedule for this week – I hope you’ll check them out! 

Tuesday: Why Horror? 
Wednesday: Author Interview – Ryan Casey
Thursday: Grand Prize Giveaway, Holiday Serial story installment
Friday: Month O’Screams Thanks & Credits

Thanks for joining us for one more week! Scare you on the flip side…

Posted in Administration, Halloween, Month O'Screams | 1 Comment

Ebook Bundle Giveaway 2 Winner: Carol Ward!

Congratulations to our second prize package winner (as per Random.org):

Carol Ward!

Your books will be in your inbox soon…yay!

There’s still time to win – comment on any post this month, or use the handy form for your chance at a print book bundle to be given away next Thursday (Halloween)…

Posted in Halloween, Month O'Screams | 1 Comment

Excerpt: The Sacrifices We Make by Saul Tanpepper

Meet Saul Tanpepper in his interview here, and connect with him at his web site (links to social media, blogs, etc there).

Have you refilled your mug? Turned the lights up bright? Enjoy this creepy excerpt, and then comment on this post or sign up here for your chance to win free booksdetails here



Excerpt: The Sacrifices We Make

They
say the gods require a blood sacrifice, a virgin here, a still beating heart
ripped fresh from the chest there. But not all gods are quite so selfish. The
gods I worship ask for no such sacrifices. They satisfy themselves with much
more modest gifts: eyes, fingers, lips, an occasional ear or tongue. They
prefer the very young, for the morsels are tenderest and tastiest. I give them
what I can.


The rest, they let me keep.


For
David Southeby, the holidays were the best
time of year, even though he hated the cold and snow and, especially, sleet.
Sleet was wet. It was sloppy. It tracked wetness and mud and seeped into his
shoes and froze his feet. Yes, he hated the cold with a passion.

He’d always
had grandiose plans to move somewhere warmer and drier. Southern California,
perhaps. Or Texas. Not Florida, though. No, definitely not Florida. There were
way too many old people there, retirees. Too many old people and not enough
young.

Despite his
disdain for the cold, he liked the holidays. It wasn’t for any personal reason;
he had no family with whom he exchanged gifts. He found the practice both
amusing and infuriating. And he had no friends to convince him otherwise.

He was a
businessman, which is why the holidays so pleased him. It was his most
productive time of year. Halloween, in particular, but Christmas, too. And not
just the day, but the whole season leading up to it, beginning with the day
after Thanksgiving (he looked forward to the chaos of Black Friday crowds with
barely restrained excitement) and extending well into January with mall
returns. Only when school resumed after the break did his productivity drop
off.

In truth,
the rest of winter wasn’t so bad. At least there were business opportunities,
if one kept a keen eye out for them. Weekends. The hour or so after school.

It was just
so damn cold all the time.

“Next
year,” he promised himself. “San Diego, maybe.” They still had the holidays,
and it wasn’t cold. He wondered why he’d never given it much serious
consideration before.

Maybe it
was because this town had been so accommodating.

For reasons
he could not understand—refused to understand—kids loved being outdoors in the
winter, in all that cold. They loved snow. They would spend hours upon hours
out playing in it, even beyond the point where their cheeks grew numb and their
fingertips ached and little snot icicles dangled from the tips of their pudgy
little frostbitten noses. And the sun would always set so abruptly—there one minute,
a pale colorless orb in the drab colorless sky, gone the next. And it was
usually long before dinnertime, before parents even returned home from their
jobs, so why waste those precious hours going home? It would grow dark, and yet
there was still playtime left to burn, just no daylight to burn it with.

The
anonymous snowsuits and the scarf-wrapped faces and the darkness made snatching
them that much easier, muffled their panicked cries.

He was
careful not to leave tracks in the snow.


The abduction of a child reawakens a town to a recurring horror it wishes only to forget.

The Sacrifices We Make is included in two of Saul’s collections: Promises and Sacrifices, and Insomnia. Personally, I just went ahead and got Insomnia. Because…well, sleep is overrated.

Posted in Excerpts, Guest Posts, Halloween, Month O'Screams | 1 Comment