Mood Music for Meadowlark Mayhem

I mentioned this briefly awhile ago, but the first newsletter of the year went out yesterday, and it contains the first installment to this year’s serial story, Mine (Book 1 of the Meadowlark Mayhem series). If you didn’t get signed up in time, don’t freak! Head over to The Pit of Despair, put your email address in (and a name of some sort, if you want personalized emails), click the button, and you’ll get an email with a link to the installment you missed so you can get caught up.

And here’s a little music from a couple of my favorite artists to get you in the mood (if not for the new serial story, then at least for the week):


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Excerpt Day: Jack

Today’s excerpt is from a Halloween story…which I thought was somewhat appropriate given that some people on Facebook are calling for an end to Valentine’s Day with a second Halloween instead…

The next serial story starts Monday and will be exclusive to newsletter subscribers. If you’re not already signed up, do it now!


Jack_300

Excerpt: Jack

Two hours later, Brad was frustrated.

May hadn’t exactly been in a cooperative mood once she figured out what he had in mind. He’d already tied her down, which kept her from going too crazy, but there was no way he could let her go now. Not until after Halloween. And by then, well, he doubted she’d been in a forgiving mood, given her current state.

He regarded her from his work stool as she sat tied to a folding chair across the room. The orange paint had stained her skin nicely – just a light wash was all it took. And the green he’d found had clumped nicely in large chunks of her hair to create a cascade of real-enough looking leaves. A bit of white for the triangles around her eyes and nose was cracking, but it was old paint, and before he’d found enough metal wire to create a stretcher frame for her lips, she’d moved around too much before the paint dried.

He’d touch that up later.

Now he just had to decide whether it was easier to store a live body or a corpse. The corpse would be safer, obviously, since it couldn’t really run off (and if it did, well, that would be fitting for the season). A live body would need water and probably some sort of sustenance for the remaining three days…but no refrigeration, which was a plus, since he didn’t own a large enough freezer.

Having no experience with corpses, he wasn’t sure what kind of changes the body would go through either. And he was quite fond of how his little “Jill” had turned out so far. Those plump pumpkin-breasts were sure going to be a hit with the older teens and dads. The thought made him smile.

So it’s settled then,” he said, enjoying the way her eyes darted nervously to him, and then around the room. They looked almost animalistic, wild when she did that. “I need you alive for the big show.”

Perfectly freaky.

He’d have to make her somewhat comfortable though – she couldn’t stay like that for four days. And he certainly wasn’t going to clean up after her. Considering his options, he decided on the basement guest room and bathroom suite. No windows, thick concrete walls, a sturdy lock, and she’d be safe there until Halloween. His very own pumpkin-girl.

I’m really glad you’re staying, May. You’ll be the star of the show, I promise. And when I win the Jack competition, we’ll celebrate. How’s that sound?”

Tears leaked from her eyes as she shook her head, trying to speak, but the wire holding her mouth in the standard toothy jack-o-lantern grimace wouldn’t allow more than a strangled sound from her throat.

He walked over and untied her feet first, then cut the rope holding her arms to the chair while leaving her wrists bound. Slinging her over his shoulder, he took her to the house through the connecting door and deposited her on the bed in the basement guest room. Carefully removing the wire lip frame, he severed the rest of the ropes and left her sobbing on the old comforter his mother had made, locking the door behind him.


Want to keep reading (with the lights on)? The audiobook is especially chilling, I think. Get your copy here:
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Children & Death

I debated whether to write this post, because it’s pretty rough stuff, but just be warned – it could be hard for some to read as it centers on children being killed by their parents. I wouldn’t blame you if you wanted to skip…I just need to get it out of my head, and it seemed like as good a topic as any for a horror/suspense blog post.

 

Recently in our local news there was a story about a younger couple who had abused their ten-week old twins to the point where one of the babies died. The other was seriously injured, and is now in the care of others while the parents are in jail. Both parents were complicit in the abuse, and admitted as much.

 

Shortly after, I saw another news story about a mother who smothered her baby to death, and left said baby in a closet (somewhere not local). And then just in the past week, a mother whose small kids were found left in a car and dressed for summer on a very cold day. When pressed, she admitted she left them there to die.

 

I have a pretty sick mind. I can generally look at things a serial killer does or says, and see the twisted logic in it. I can see how someone would arrive at the conclusions they do even when it’s just a one-off killing, given their own circumstances and environment or whatever. I’m almost too good at putting myself in other people’s shoes (it’s draining, as I also have a pretty high personal moral code, so my understanding their thoughts & actions doesn’t at all signify agreement with their decisions on any level).

 

I could even understand wanting to euthanize if a child has some horrific disease or problem that will plague them throughout their lives. Not a decision I’d probably make, but I can understand the logic behind it and how one would come to that conclusion.

 

These killings of one’s offspring though, probably due to stretched tempers/lack of sleep/messed up hormones (though in the first case, the father was abusive as well…) – that I just don’t get. There are so many people who want kids that there is just absolutely no excuse for keeping them if you don’t want or can’t handle them. So many ways to get help with parenting – and those programs are very easily accessed too. Yet so many adults choose to keep or kill the kids they can’t cope with. Which signifies something far worse going on in those psyches, in my opinion.

 

I have let a child die in fiction before (under my own name)…but it was an accident, and something that just sort of happened while I was writing, and it seemed organic and plausible enough that I left it in. I don’t know if I could even write a character who would deliberately kill a child though. Because to write that, I’d have to get inside their head…and that might be too much for even me to face.

 

I’m not a parent, so obviously my perspective is skewed a bit, but by all means, if you’d like to discuss, feel free to share in the comments…


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Excerpt Day: Angel Eyes

AngelEyes_Update_web

Excerpt: Angel Eyes

 

She stirred, shivering as her skin puckered against the cool porcelain. Sitting on the edge of the tub, he tied a length of rubber tubing around her arm and waited for the veins to rise before slipping a needle into the largest. When the syringe was empty, he removed the tubing and placed it with the needle back in his case. He’d have to work fast now.

Quickly he changed his gloves and then opened one eyelid, and inserted a speculum to hold it away from the eyeball. He used a small set of forceps to pull the eye away from the socket, careful not to squeeze hard. Megan shuddered beneath him, and he frowned, hoping he’d given her enough to keep her still. Too late now, in any case. With his favorite scalpel, he quickly severed the optic nerve and placed the eyeball in a small jar of solution, then repeated the procedure on the other eye. He screwed the lid on the jar and wrapped his tools in plastic before returning them to the case. He’d clean them later, when he could do a good job. Megan whimpered, and he wasn’t sure what to do. Normally they were dead by now – why was she still alive? For a moment he considered using the scalpel, but he hated to make more of a mess than necessary. Checking his watch again, he gathered up his things. He had morphine in the car. If he hurried, he could make it back with another dose before she became fully conscious.

He let himself out the back door and walked down the alley to the side street where he’d left his old Buick. Placing his kit in the spare tire compartment of the trunk, he filled the syringe and replaced the cap, then locked the car and jogged back down the alley with a grin. After he took care of Megan, he could spend the rest of the evening with Angel.


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Not Quite Butterflies

© Glinn | Dreamstime Stock Photos

© Glinn | Dreamstime Stock Photos

I’m on the cusp of starting to write the first story in this year’s Insecticide collection, and moths are the central theme I’ll be exploring. I find it quite fascinating that you rarely (if ever) meet anyone who’s afraid of butterflies, but the mere thought of a moth will make some people shudder in fear. Why is that, I wonder? They’re really very similar in nature, when you get right down to it…

Perhaps because most moths are nocturnal, and most people are more skittish at night/in the darkness. Or maybe because they tend to rest with their wings displayed wide, rather than modestly folded together like the butterfly. Maybe it’s their generally fuzzy little heads, or slightly chunkier bodies…

Moths are not actually dangerous at all – they can’t bite or sting. And yet people tend to treat them like wasps…something to be feared and stay far away from. Interesting, don’t you think?

Are you afraid of moths? If so, do you know why? Or is it one of those fears that you just sort of “have”, and can’t explain it at all?


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Excerpt Day: Working Late

I like writing short stories – it’s always a challenge trying to fit as much detail into as little space as possible. Today’s excerpt is one of the four flash pieces in No Hazard Pay, a little sampler I put together a few years ago. Enjoy!


NoHazardPay_300Working Late

Working Late

Janice stared at the spreadsheet on the screen in front of her. Black numbers blurred together on a white background, and she blinked, coaxing her tired eyes to cooperate. She just had to finish this last budget sheet, and then she could go home and curl up with a glass of wine and a movie.

She scrolled down the columns, trying to find the line that was throwing off her calculations. Not seeing anything, she sighed, and went to the top again, scrolling through one more time, slowly.

Thump.

Janice jumped. She frowned, looking up at the window in the door. The hallway was dark, and her heart beat faster. Everyone else had gone home several hours ago. Had someone forgotten something? She waited, expecting someone to appear at her door any second. But no one came.

Maybe it had been her imagination. She sat still for several moments, listening. Hearing nothing, she shook her arms and hands briefly, trying to rid herself of the tension that had frozen her muscles. It was nothing. She turned back to her screen, and stared at the numbers again.

Thump.

Janice froze. It sounded closer now, just to the left of her door. Adrenaline raced through her veins, and she couldn’t seem to breathe. There was definitely something out there.

She thought about all those women in horror flicks, and how they always did the wrong thing. And sometimes they died. Horribly. She reached for the phone, carefully picking it up and dialing 9-1-1 before sliding off her chair to the floor. She heard the ring tones in her ear, and felt marginally better. Phones never worked in a horror film.

Thump. Thump thump.

Janice crawled under her desk, pulling her knees up to her chest as she whispered her fears to the operator. It was at the door now, rattling the glass. A deep moan came from the other side, and then a click as the knob turned.

Frantic breathing filled the room, with groans and little high-pitched noises as someone stumbled into the office. Trembling, Janice peeked under the modesty panel of her desk. Two pairs of feet, one in black dress shoes and the other in beige high heels stepped into view, and she closed her eyes, the breath she’d been holding rushing out of her lungs in relief.

She couldn’t help it. She laughed.

The noises stopped abruptly, and she crawled out from under the desk, hoisting herself back into her chair. Samantha and Mr. Harlun stood just inside the door, just staring at her as she laughed until the tears came.

Janice?” Samantha was holding the two sides of her shirt together, a blush creeping over her face. “I-we thought-what are you still doing here?”

Janice wiped the tears off her face, taking deep breaths to steady her nerves. “I was just finishing up a few spreadsheets,” she said. “You guys scared me – I thought there was something in the hall!”

Mr. Harlun ran a hand through his hair, clearly upset. Obviously he and Samantha had been working on another one of her promotions. “I’ll, uh…expect your discretion in this matter, Janice.”

Of course Sir.” She opened a bottom drawer, and got her purse. “I’ll just…” Sirens drew closer, and she glanced over at the phone, the receiver still hanging off the edge of her desk. “Uh, I’m afraid I called the police, Sir. I was scared, and –”

Just go. I’ll deal with it.”

His voice was calm, and Janice nodded, hurrying past them out into the still dark hall. Her heels clicked on the tiled floors as she rounded one corner, then the next. The front door was just 10 yards or so away when she thought she heard footsteps behind her.

She shook her head, trying to shake off the excess adrenaline that seemed to be making her paranoid. Just a few more steps, and she’d be out in the brightly lit parking lot, where emergency vehicles were pulling up to the building.

Something grabbed her hair, pulling her head back violently. She felt a sharp sting across her neck, then a deep, burning pain soothed by liquid warmth as she fell to the ground, unable to move or draw breath. Someone screamed, and Janice heard the front doors open as her mind grew foggy.

The last thing she saw was Mr. Harlun standing over her. He winked.


If you’d like your own copy of No Hazard Pay, it’s available in ebook format from these online retailers:

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A Few Little Things…

Welcome to the new year! Seen any thing strange or creepy yet? If not, you’re probably not looking hard enough…

In any case, 2015 is bringing some new changes to my blog(s), so here’s the skinny (does anyone say that anymore, or did I just show my age again?):

– I’ll be discontinuing the serial novel postings on Fridays. Instead, Fridays will be Excerpt days, wherein you might get a piece of something already published and ready for you to read the rest of, or you might get a sneak peak of something new in progress. I’ll be working on a few new short stories and a brand new novel this year, so you’ll get to read snippets of those as they progress.

– There will be a serial story this year…but you’ll have to sign up for my newsletter to get it. Newsletters will go out at the end of each month, so you’ll get part of the story every month for the whole year, after which you’ll receive the whole thing in it’s edited, polished entirety for free. The first installment will go out on the last Monday of each month, so you have plenty of time to sign up, and I’ll remind you before the first one goes out for January.

– Tuesday random posts will continue as normal.

I mentioned above that I’d be working on shorts and a novel – for the curious/anxious (my favorite people), here’s what’s on the list:

Insecticide – a collection of three short stories involving…you guessed it…insects.
The Wine Maker – Coppery, sticky, burgundy sweet…

As to the serial story, it doesn’t have a title yet, but it will be set in the rather windy and desolate northwestern Montana town of Meadowlark, and will be the first in the Meadowlark Mayhem series. I think it might turn out kind of kinky…in a rather terrifying sort of way.

So that’s what’s coming for you this year. Freaky fun, not recommended for kids or anyone with a pacemaker.

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Christmas Red

A little gift for you – have a Creepy Christmas!

 © Milogu | Dreamstime Stock Photos

© Milogu | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Christmas Red

Coppery. Sticky. Burgundy-sweet.
Thick liquid candy, and always a treat. 

Tip the bottle up high, feel it burn down your throat.
Soft fuzzy trim on a dark Santa’s coat. 

Who are we to judge what makes you replete?
Coppery, sticky, burgundy-sweet. 

 

From The Wine Maker. Coming for you next year…

 

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Instinctual Killers

read an article last week about a 26 year old man in Brazil who has admitted to killing 39 women. When asked if he regretted his actions, he said no, and that he would kill again if released. Apparently killing “calms” him – it scratches an itch, so to speak. These are not crimes of impulse or passion though. From the sounds of it, he’s methodical, and stalks his prey before taking their lives. A sociopath, I’d think, as he doesn’t seem to derive either enjoyment or guilt from his actions. It’s simply what he does in response to a restless feeling, and then the feeling goes away for awhile. Very much like an animal acting on instinct rather than any kind of intellect.

Not that that in any way excuses his actions, of course. And obviously, I’m not a psychologist or psychiatrist, so my opinions are exactly that, and nothing more.

I’m quite sure he’s not the only person in the world with that specific “mental anomaly” (for lack of a better term), and I can’t help but wonder – what if there were a way to harness that instinctual killer and somehow put it to use. Perhaps not “good” use, as I’m not sure there is such a thing when you’re talking about the urge to kill, but something productive, and useful for society as a whole.

Jeff Lindsay explores this notion in the Dexter series, which follows an instinctual killer who’s been taught by his cop step-father to put his skills to use for “good”, insomuch as he hunts and kills only bad guys. I haven’t read the books, but I’ve watched a few seasons of the TV series, and it’s an interesting take on turning an urge most of us would consider morally/socially wrong into something…well, useful, if not passably acceptable. Of course a majority of people would have to buy off on the idea of either vigilante justice, or a sanctioned death-penalty-by-torture in order to make that a reality.

Of course there’s always the option to turn them into soldiers, though I’m not sure that would work either, unless a fairly foolproof way to identify them young and control/redirect them early on was found. But that would have to be done no matter what, if scientists are correct and the brain is pretty well “set” by age 30 or so.

What’s your take? Do you think there’s a place in society for people like this, or do you feel they should either be kept locked up or euthanized for the safety of all? I’m pretty sure there’s no cure (yet) for sociopaths, so working within their natural instincts seems to be the only other option…


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Skin Art

Alex_Tat

An incredibly bad pic of my shoulder tattoo…

Have you ever just looked at skin? Your skin, your partner’s skin, that gorgeous person on the bus or the homeless person you pass on the way to work everyday…everyone’s skin is different, and whether we like to admit it or not, it often affects the way we view and treat people. I’m not just talking about color either, but also textures, lines, markings, scars. Those things that are completely and totally unique only to us, displayed on the largest organ of our body.

Skin is really pretty amazing when you think about it. It takes a lot of abuse, just by virtue of being the “crust” in the pot pie that makes up our body. And much of that abuse is inflicted by us, of course. We tend to take it for granted, much like our other organs, and we don’t always treat it as well as we should. Still, it’s very resilient stuff, regenerating cells year after year, sloughing off the old to make room for the new. It can even be taken from one part of the body and grafted onto another, and stretched to grow more for medical procedures that require it.

Seriously. That is amazing, don’t you think?

Since the beginning of time, skin has been used as a canvas for art. Parchment and vellum were/are dried animal skins, of course, and even now we make all sorts of artwork out of leather, the tanned skins of animals. We tend to decoration our own skin while it’s still attached and alive with tattoos, piercings, and even stretching sections into long loops. We consider body art both a form of self-expression and something that makes us unique.

Have you ever wondered about what human skin would be like as a bona fide canvas? As in, not actually attached to a human any longer, but dried and stretched over a frame, ready to paint or tool or carve just like any other leather product? I’d imagine it would be pretty similar to cow hide, but I really have no idea, since I’m not sure what the difference is in the composition of cow and human skin.

Last year I wrote a story about a woman – an artist – who used human skin exclusively for her canvas. She…ah…harvested and preserved the skin herself, creating beautiful artwork that she then either kept or donated or gave away as rare gifts. In doing the research for that story, I came across a creepy little site that no longer exists called Human Leather. People could donate their bodies to the company, who would in turn create all sorts of different things with your skin once you…ah…no longer needed it.

If you can get past the whole “desecrating-the-body” thing, it actually kind of makes sense in a recycling sort of way. Moreso if the human who previously wore the skin donated it specifically for that purpose. Leather is tough and durable, and I suppose a keepsake parchment made of a portion of a loved one’s tattooed skin might make for a nice conversation starter to hang on your wall:

Guest: That is a striking piece…it looks old. Is that parchment?

You: It is, actually. Poor Uncle Evan. He had a heart attack, you know.

Guest, looking puzzled: Is he the one who made this for you?

You: In a manner of speaking…

Yes, I know. My sense of humor is a bit…off sometimes. Keeps ’em guessing. 😉


Canvas_300This post was inspired by the aforementioned story, titled Canvas. Interested? You can get the ebook as a single story for just 99 cents at your favorite online retailers, or you can get it in a three-pack of stories (the other two are by my alter-egos) called The Holiday Pact for $2.99, if you’re so inclined…

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