Serial Story: When She Cries, Part 46

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.


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When She Cries
Part 46

Patrick watched Nicole struggle on his net from a fallen log ten yards away. He should have put a fabric barrior under the ropes at her wrists. He’d known she would struggle, but not hard enough to draw blood. He’d made the knots self-tightening though, so they should stop any bleeding shortly. Unfortunately, they’d also cut off the blood supply if she struggled too long, but in the grand scheme of things, it didn’t really matter.

She was going to die there, one way or the other. He’d rather end it now and allow her a dignified death, but the viewers preferred their victims broken, and prey like Nicole came few and far between. It could be a few hunts before another crossed his path.
When she called for him, his fingers tightened on the leather whip coiled on his lap, tracing the smooth edge of the tight round braid as he ignored her cries.

He had to bide his time, wait for her to calm down and believe she was all alone. The physical pain was only a tool, though he made it visual purely for those viewers who got off on that sort of thing. It did nothing for him, personally – he preferred to play in the mind, manipulating the most basic fears into something completely untenable to process.

It was getting darker, and he built a fire, noting that she cocked her head toward him when she heard him moving around.

“Patrick? Is that you?”

He didn’t answer, of course. He’d have no further verbal contact with her. Even just the sound of another human being could give hope, and while she could hear him moving around, she couldn’t tell whether he was human or animal, and he’d keep it that way as long as he could. Her imagination would supply far more horrendous answers to sate her curiosity than he ever could.

The fire crackled as it burned through the kindling and started consuming the smaller branches, unmistakable sounds she’d surely recognize. He placed a few more thick logs in the pile and watched them start to glow underneath.

Nicole was quiet, her head hanging low with her chin close to her chest. She was weak, he’d imagine, having gone without food or water for hours now. Her wrists and ankles were crusted with blood and her body sagged into the net, most of her weight on the ropes at her upper thighs giving her an odd posture, but also ensuring she wouldn’t suffocate.

It was time.

Patrick unfurled the whip, testing his grip a few times and then sending a few gentle flicks her way just to get a feel for the distance. A couple steps closer, and a quick glance to make sure several cameras in the area had caught his movement and focused on them.

Careful with his aim, he flicked his arm and popped the end of the whip right next to Nicole’s head, startling her awake. The loud crack echoed up and down the valley, an erie sound in the darkness as it gradually faded to silence.

“Patrick?” He could barely hear the rasp of her voice whispered low on the breeze. It affected him more than it should have. Made him wonder if maybe he shouldn’t just cut her down and haul her off to some deserted island where she’d learn to love him, eventually.

He shook off the rogue thoughts. He was not that guy. He didn’t fall for his prey, and he sure as heck didn’t think about leaving everything behind for some pansy-ass ocean-front property. He must be coming down with something.

The woman on the net was nothing more than a challenger who’d lost. Beautiful and smart, yes, but not savvy enough to outsmart him, and he’d certainly given her plenty of chances.

The whip sang through the air, the tip already on the ground again before she twitched and cried out. A small rivulet of blood flowed from the wound he’d just made high up on the right side of her chest, and it made a nice dark streak down the center of her breast, droplets hesitating at the tip before falling to the ground with a tiny ping.

His captive was breathing hard, and he flicked her again, this time on the left side of her chest allowing a matching stream to trickle down off her body.

She flinched, but didn’t cry out. He opened several more cuts in quick succession on her upper thighs, her ribs, her upper arms. By the time he’d made the last one she hadn’t even flinched, and he dropped the whip, wondering if he’d pushed her body farther than it could go.

He moved closer, opening a bottle of water and splashing a healthy dose in her face, soaking the blindfold over her eyes. She shook her head, sputtering as she lifted it and turned one way, then the other trying to see.

“Patrick – is that you? Whoever you are, tell me what you want, and I’ll do it, just cut me down. Or kill me, if you’re going to. Either way, just end this.”


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WSC is Finished! Now About Nicole…

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I spent a good chunk of the holiday weekend writing, working on finishing up the draft of When She Cries. Which is why my first Tuesday non-fiction post is late. The serial draft will run several more weeks yet, but the whole thing is now in the hands of my editor, who I’m relieved to say really liked the ending.

I wasn’t sure she would. And I’m not sure you will either, but I do think it’s exactly what it needs to be.

I’ll be careful about how much I say here to avoid spoilers, but  as usual, I didn’t start out with a very strong sense of who Nicole was. I never have that with any of my characters – when I start writing, I generally just pluck a couple people out of thin air, give them names and I don’t even know exactly what kind of crap I’ll throw at them at that point. I’ll just start watching them as they interact with the situation I’ve put them in, listen to them talk, see how they look and what they’re wearing, and let that guide who they become.

Yes, technically it’s my subconscious doing the work, not the actual characters, so it’s still “me”, but it feels more like I’m watching a movie or play, letting the characters lead me instead of the other way around.

The Nicole we start out getting to know in this story isn’t anything like the Nicole she becomes…and that’s a good thing. I think she’s probably the most dynamic character I’ve written yet, though I’ve tried several times before. Her situation made it an absolute necessity for her to change though, in ways neither of us could ever have predicted. She’s fascinating to me, which probably sounds like hubris on my part, but truly, I don’t feel like she’s my “creation” or like I had anything to do with her personality arc. That’s not really the way it works.

I named her Nicole for a specific reason that has nothing to do with any sort of actual meaning of the name, and more to do with the people I’ve known, seen, or otherwise met even for a very brief time with that name. We all form certain stereotypes of people based at least partially on names, and I had a certain specific sort of person (though no one in particular) in mind when I named her that.

In some ways, she embodied that stereotype I hold, and in others, not so much. She developed into her own person in the first half of the story, and then someone entirely different, shaped by the circumstances she’s forced to endure.

As we all are.

A lot of the people I write about are…not good people. They’re scary in the worst way possible (IMO), which is psychologically.  What I’m most interested in is how they got that way. What went wrong to set them on the path that they’re now traveling? And how do they live with those choices day in and day out?

Fascinating, I think.


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New Cover, New Release Dates, New Blog Schedule

First off, allow me to present the cover art for When She Cries, releasing this October 31st. Creepy, isn’t it? But so very Nicole…

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Yes, I know that last year I hosted this big Halloween bash here on the blog, with bunches of authors and giveaways and such, but when it came time to start planning this year, I had a choice. I could spend a lot of time scheduling blog posts and monitoring comments/giveaways, or I could focus on getting a bunch of drafts done this month. You know which option I picked, obviously. Blog parties are a lot of fun, but also a lot of work, and I really, really wanted to get this book out to you by Halloween. And so I shall. I’m working hard to finish the draft this week (even though the serial will run longer), and get it to my editor because…

TastefulMurders

I also want to write one more Death by Veggies story this month. This one was actually inspired by a flash fiction story (250 words) that I wrote this summer for the Tasteful Murders anthology (which is available now on Amazon, by the way – click the cover & go grab a copy…lots of great stories in there, and perfect for this month!). The story I wrote is called Kale Chipped, and…well, it’s only 250 words, and I’m just not quite done with those characters yet. So once I get WSC finished up, I’ll be writing Cooking with Kale, and it’s scheduled to be released this November 28th (yes, just in time for Thanksgiving).

If you’re a newsletter subscriber, you may get the skinny on how to get a free, early copy when I finally start up the monthly newsletter again in November.

And finally, the entire Death by Veggies collection will be released as a whole on December 5th in both digital and print formats. Which is perfect timing for…say…Christmas gifts. What could be better than a stocking full of freaky little  horror stories?

So…lots of cool stuff coming up, and there’s more fun news for next year as well. But I won’t spoil that just yet.

Starting today, I’ll be posting a non-fiction post weekly on Tuesdays. I thought it might be fun to discuss some things related to not only my books, but suspense and horror in general. Books (by other people), movies, TV shows, creepy things and people and animals…stuff like that. It’ll be fun, and it will help me with some research and psycho-analysis that will be used in future books. Cool how that works, right?

Thanks for reading, and I hope in addition to the weekly serial installments, you’ll drop by for the non-fiction posts as well.


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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!

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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.

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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