WHEN THE ANGEL OF DEATH COMES CALLING

The irony wasn’t missed on me while doing edits on Freaky Franky, my latest novel that focuses on Santa Muerte, also known as The Angel of Death. One of the fastest rising cults in the world, people worship her for any number of reasons: wealth, health, love, and to come to grips with their mortality and insure safe passage into the afterlife. The irony is this. Finishing up my edits on a novel that has as one of its main themes safe passage into the afterlife, I learned that two dear friends had passed away, one of them tragically and unexpectedly, snatched away at a tender young age; the other not even sixty, who lost a long and burdensome battle with the curse of cancer. The loss of two dear female friends less than two months apart led me to start thinking about my own mortality and how, in my writing and sometimes in my attitude, I flaunt death.

Maybe it was an epiphany of sorts that led me to believe otherwise. Hearing the tragic news, my first response was to stop editing, go into grief mode and begin reflecting on the strange thing called death and my view of it.

After much thought I realized I don’t flaunt death; I just embrace it with some mysterious and ineffable logic that there is an afterlife and that I will pass into this pastoral and peaceful place when my time on Earth is done. This knowledge isn’t based on a subscription to any institutionalized religion but rather on a largely undefined sense of spirituality.

Something else happened during this reflection. The feeling of grief and mourning that had initially swept over me was suddenly replaced by a sense of peace and tranquility and a profound yet inexplicable knowledge that my two friends had passed safely and contentedly into the afterlife. I could actually feel their spirits hovering above me, telling me almost telepathically that I shouldn’t be mourning their deaths. I should be celebrating their lives, and I should be happy that they are now in much better places.

It made me think of Saint Death, and how the mysterious saint brings followers happiness on Earth and happiness in the afterlife. I began to realize that Freaky Franky is much more than a grim story about death. It’s also a celebration of life and an exploration of the moral conduct necessary to achieve safe passage into the afterlife. After learning of the news, I flew to Calgary to attend celebration of life services and parties and to console and provide moral support to surviving family and friends of the deceased. Obviously production of Freaky Franky was delayed. Now entering my last round of edits, I hope that my recent first-hand experiences with death will help make the novel more powerful than I believe it already is.

Without any further adieu, I enclose some teaser chapters for your enjoyment. Watch for Freaky Franky coming soon to Amazon. Enjoy and thanks for reading.

 

                                                FREAKY FRANKY PROLOGUE

I’m sick of being poor. Estella Mendoza peered out the misshapen window of her ramshackle home on the outskirts of the small city of Nacozari, Sonora, Mexico. All she saw was a barren and scorched landscape, the sun setting in the distant and bleak horizon. Her stomach was knotted by more than just hunger pangs. A sense of frustration and hopelessness was giving birth to a sense of desperation. A fly buzzed around her head and landed on her middle-aged cheek, leathered, lined and senescent by the cruelty of Mother Nature. Time had not been kind to her. With her right hand, she smacked her face hard, squashing the pesky fly and smearing its blood and guts across her face and hand.

“Got you, you son of a bitch,” she said in Spanish, wiping her palm on the knee of her dirt-stained, torn and weathered jeans. She ignored the fly remains on her cheek, moving away from the screenless and paneless window and rummaging through dusty cupboards for a morsel of food. Nothing. A grease-stained dented fridge door hung open, a small bowl of rice the only thing resembling nourishment on the otherwise empty shelves. Flies circled the rice, at times dive-bombing in for a small stale snack. Bending down, she reached inside, waved the flies away and picked up the small bowl. Looking around the cluttered kitchen counter, she found a dirty spoon, wiped it on her oversized and dirty white t-shirt and, sidestepping debris littering the dirt floor, walked over to a green plastic lawn chair, weathered by the elements and cracking in various spots.

As she sat down, a brittle leg snapped, catapulting her headfirst into a wooden wall. The rice bowl flew out of her hands, shattering against the wall and showering her head with rice and shards of glazed earthenware. She hit the ground ass-first and groaned. “You son of a bitch.” Dazed, she rubbed a small goose egg beginning to sprout on her forehead. Realizing she still clutched the spoon, she flushed and flung it against the door. With a metallic clang, it bounced off the door and skipped along the floor, stopping a few inches from her outstretched feet. Her face tightened and she reached for it, with the intention of throwing it clear out the window.

A knock on the door stopped the arc of her arm. “Who is it?”

From the other side. “It’s me,” the female voice said in Spanish. “Are you busy?”

Estella recognized the voice. Alejandra Rivera, her friend for over twenty years. Alejandra lived a few blocks away and in Estella’s view had everything. A middle-class home, a wonderful working husband, and a ten-year-old devoted and well-behaved son. Where Estella had famine, poverty and despair, Alexandra had an abundant food supply, an income stream, love and hope. Poison tentacles of jealousy and resentment coursed through her dazed mind. “What do you want?”

“I brought you refried beans. And rice.”

Estella slowly got to her feet. “Come in”

The door opened and Alexandra entered. “What happened?” she asked, concern furrowing her brow as she examined Estella and the accident scene.

Estella pointed to the shattered remains of the plastic chair leg. “It broke and sent me flying.”

“I’m sorry,” Alexandra said, putting the white bowl of beans and rice on a cluttered kitchen table and rushing to her friend’s aid.  She escorted her to a nearby wooden chair, looking slightly less dangerous than the offending plastic one, and sat her down. The chair creaked and groaned, but held.

Alexandra produced a plastic spoon from a blue apron attached to her white dress and handed it to Estella. “Eat. It’ll do you good.”

Estella peeled the plastic wrap from the spoon, tossed it on the floor apathetically, and stabbed it into the food. A wave of dizziness swept over her and she waited a moment for her head to clear before digging in, quickly shoveling three spoonfuls into her mouth and swallowing them without hardly chewing.

Alexandra looked at the bump on Estella’s head and searched her friend’s eyes concernedly. “Are you okay?”

Between mouthfuls, Estella said, “Yeah, just a little bump.”

“Well, be careful.” As Estella ate, Alexandra approached the kitchen counter and began busily cleaning up, rifling food wrappings into a nearby wastebasket, and neatly piling dirty dishes next to the sink. It wasn’t the first time she’d helped her starving friend by bringing her food and cleaning her humble abode.

“You don’t have to do that.”

Alexandra spun around and looked at Estella cheerily. “It’s not a problem. And, look at you, you’re in no shape to do it right now.” She resumed cleaning, turning her back to Estella.

A blind rage—a dark and hateful energy—seethed through Estella’s veins. My chance. Now’s my chance. Before she even realized what she was doing, she leapt from the chair with a vitality and vigor she never knew she possessed, grabbed a hatchet and rushed toward Alexandra. As she swung the hatchet, Alexandra turned around, dropped her jaw in shock and horror and looked at Estella with fear-filled brown eyes.

The hatchet sliced into Alexandra’s throat, blood spraying Estella’s face and body. Two more swings and she chopped her head clean off. Alexandra’s decapitated head dropped to the floor, rolled along it, bumped into the front door and stopped. Almost as if she was pursuing her head, Alexandra’s headless body convulsed and, spewing blood like a life-giving lawn sprinkler, staggered to the door, crashed into it and slumped to the ground, outstretched hands frantically reaching for her head for a second or two before growing still.

Estella put the hatchet on the now uncluttered kitchen counter, wiped her bloody face with a soiled dishrag, sat down at the kitchen table and continued eating. Perfunctorily she glanced at the lifeless head and body of her one-time friend. “By the way, thanks for the food.”

Two hours later, when the night had blanketed the day, clutching Alexandra’s head in both hands, she danced around a small skeleton statue, sprinkling blood on and around the shrine. Satisfied with her efforts, she placed the head next to the statue, lit a candle and placed it next to the skeleton. She knelt down and began praying for abundance. In the suffused candlelight, the skeleton saint’s hollow eye sockets glittered and glowed. Its grin seemed to mock her efforts and she realized there was more work to be done.

In the month that followed, Estella beheaded two ten-year-old boys, one of them her grandson, and sacrificed their blood to the skeleton saint. At the end of that month, she was convinced she had finally bought the favor of her Goddess. On that day the police raided her home and discovered the bodies of all three victims buried beneath her dirt floor. She was sentenced to life imprisonment, showed no remorse for the killings, and authorities labelled her a serial killer.

 

                                                  CHAPTER ONE

“I’m sorry, he’s dying.”

Anisa Worthington put both hands to her face and knelt down on the floor next to the bed. She spread two fingers and peered at her five-year-old son Connor, watching his labored breathing as his face flushed as red as the satin bedspread covering his sweating body. He had closed his eyes and appeared to have drifted off into sleep, or a coma. A lone tear snaked down her cheek and she brushed it away with a hand, suddenly turning to the doctor standing behind her, his brow furrowed with worry wrinkles.

“He can’t be dying. He was healthy three hours ago.”

“That was three hours ago,” Doctor Manuel Ricardo said. “I’ve checked his vitals repeatedly. His systems are shutting down. His heart rate is sporadic. He’s not getting enough oxygen to the brain. We need to get him to a hospital, and fast.”

“No hospitals.” They had been down that path before, soon after the doctor had rushed to the scene. Anisa had adamantly refused to have her ailing son taken to the hospital. Not long ago, her friend Melissa had died in the hospital after a heart surgery had gone awry. The heart surgery was apparently a success, but the towel left inside Melissa’s chest cavity was not. It had caused an infection that ultimately resulted in her untimely death. There was still a lawsuit pending. No hospitals. Definitely no hospitals.

Connor precipitously jerked, arched his back and clutched Anisa’s wrist. His sea-blue tear-filled eyes bored into hers, pleading. “Help me, Mommy. What’s happening to me?”

Earlier Connor had been outside playing in the large garden surrounding the small bungalow in Montague, Prince Edward Island. He had left the house as chipper as usual, excited about the prospect of getting outside on this sunny June day, the first day of summer. He played happily on the grass, somersaulting around, at one point leaping up and chasing a butterfly, even making funny faces that almost made his mother laugh. Then everything went wrong. He disappeared into the tree-line for a few minutes and suddenly emerged panting and puffing, as red as a beet and breathing so labored it appeared as if he was on the verge of massive cardiac arrest.

Why do I hate the first day of summer? Why do I hate all the seasons? Anisa put a comforting hand on his chest. “You’re gonna be fine, honey. It’s probably just an allergic reaction from something in the forest.”

His breathing became more labored. He released his mother’s wrist and slumped back into the bed. His panicked expression slowly morphed into a strange resigned dread.

Anisa stood and swung around to face Doctor Ricardo. Her hands were twitching, her face now wet with fresh tears. “Do something. You’re the doctor. Fix him for God’s sake.”

Doctor Ricardo moved in with his stethoscope and began listening to the erratic heartbeat. Connor’s eyes had closed again and his head tilted toward the bedside window, where a spear of light poked in, illuminating what appeared to be a yellow scythe swiping across the child’s throat.

Doctor Ricardo’s eyes bulged with recognition and he leaped back, turning to Anisa and wrapping his big arms around her in a bear hug, squeezing the breath from her lungs. “Santa Muerte… Santa Muerte.”

He finally released her. She gasped for breath, mirroring her son’s failing attempts to live. “What did you say? What is Santa Muerte?”

“Not what, who? Santa Muerte is Saint Death, or holy death. She is the personification of death. But she is also a great healer of many ailments. I believe she can save your son.”

Before Anisa could respond, Doctor Ricardo rushed from the bedroom.

Anisa rushed to the window and watched him snap open the trunk of his Audi Quattro, fumble around for a moment and then carefully lift a small statue—perhaps two feet tall—of a skeleton draped in a red tunic. He also removed a purple jar candle, tucking it into his jacket pocket. As he walked swiftly toward the house, she noticed the black scythe in the skeleton saint’s outstretched left hand, a small globe of the world clutched firmly in its right. What the hell is this? The grim reapress?

Inside the bedroom, Doctor Ricardo placed the statue on a bedside table. He placed the candle in front of the grinning statue and lit it. Flickering flames cast jagged yellow lines across its hollow black eye sockets.

“What’s with the purple candle?” she asked, clasping her hands together in an attempt to contain her nervousness.

“It’s the votive candle for supernatural healing and health.”

“Do you think it’s gonna work? I don’t believe in hocus-pocus.”

Doctor Ricardo’s face tightened. “Of course it’ll work. It always does. Please don’t use blasphemous words around this all-powerful saint. She might get angry.”

“I’ll be angry if it doesn’t work.”

“Calm down. “Do you have any tequila?”

Fear and panic coursed through Anisa’s body, an unstoppable debilitating tide. She clenched her hands tighter as the color drained from her face. A wave of dizziness washed over her. Her vision blurred. She put her hand on the wall. Don’t pass out. Connor needs you. “No.”

“Do you have any alcohol at all? To petition Santa Muerte to save your son we need an offering.”

“Rum.”

“Go get it quickly. And bring three glasses.”

Connor opened his eyes, turned to them, and started convulsing, spittle spraying from his mouth like a tiny erupting geyser, a grim picture of a boy who looked like he was possessed by a demon.

Turning to Connor, Anisa froze, finally overcome.

“Not now,” the doctor said. “Bring the rum.”

She stood motionless, now chalky white.

Doctor Ricardo shook her violently. “Don’t go catatonic. Get the booze. Now!”

Her eyes slowly focused on the man in front of her, deep concern etched into sharp gray eyes. Snapping out of the panic and fear-induced catatonia, she rushed from the room and returned quickly with a bottle of Bacardi white rum and three glasses. She set the glasses on the makeshift alter to Santa Muerte. Doctor Ricardo took the bottle and splashed a little rum into the skeleton’s face. He then filled all three glasses. He picked two up, leaving the bottle and a glass of rum on the shrine in front of the Skinny Lady. He offered a glass to Anisa. With an unsteady hand she took it.

“Drink it,” he said.

Connor’s convulsions became more violent. “Mooommmmy! Help me!”

Doctor Ricardo raised his glass to Anisa. “Drink.”

They clinked glasses and took large swills. He took her glass, set it on the alter, gently took her arm and pulled her down to a kneeling position in front of Saint Death. “I need you to pray with me. I need you to believe.”

She studied her son. Getting worse. She looked at Doctor Ricardo. “O… Okay.”

He clasped his hands in prayer, turned to the statue, bowed his head and closed his eyes. “Repeat after me, okay?”

Anisa did the same. “O… okay.”

“Most Holy Death, protector and restorer of bodily ailments.”

In a voice suddenly soft and calm, she repeated his words.

He continued. “Angel of death. Angel of life, whom our Father created to help and serve. I implore and beseech you to restore the life and health of Connor Worthington. May he live long and may his body and mind recover fully its youthful energy and vigor…”

Anisa repeated his words, her tone now pleading.

The child’s movements grew less frantic. But he still twitched slightly.

Outside, a gray bank of clouds descended over the house and it began to rain, torrential.

Thunder rumbled from the heavens. A fork of lightning cracked from the sky, struck the ground and exploded, fanning out mounds of red PEI dirt.

The boy’s convulsions slowed, stopped. He dropped his arms to his sides, splayed his legs out on the bed, lifeless. He closed his eyes. His expression grew calm.

Anisa stopped praying. She opened her eyes, glanced out the window at the torrential rain, saw the mound of dirt exploding into the air a few feet away and slowly looked at Connor, his deathly stillness unnerving her once again.

Doctor Ricardo opened his eyes and followed her gaze. He touched her arm. “Please, we must finish the prayer.”

Against her better judgment, she continued praying.

Once again, he continued. “I implore you, Most Holy Death, restore Connor’s health. For the sake of Jesus Christ, who died on the cross to save our sins, answer our pleas and bring him back. Amen.”

“Amen,” Anisa said. She opened her eyes and turned to Conner. Both hands were crossed on his chest, over his heart. His expression was calm and serene. His breathing was no longer labored.

He had stopped breathing.

Screaming bloody murder, Anisa sprang to her feet and rushed out of the room.

Doctor Ricardo heard the front door slam as the echoes of her grief-stricken screams were swallowed up by the old house.

He knocked back his glass of rum, bowed his head, and calmly continued praying to the saint of death.

 

                                                          CHAPTER TWO

Cofresi Beach, Dominican Republic, Sunday, 1:36 am. In the black of night, a million stars twinkling in the sky under the ominous glow of a full moon, waves lapped gently on the shore. The beach along the shore was quiet and still, the surrounding grassy park strewn with empty rum bottles, beer bottles and other debris. A motorcycle roared down the two-lane street fronting the beach, cracking the silence with the loud thumping sound of a broken muffler. Six small dogs dashed out from a two-storey oceanfront apartment building, barking furiously. Two of them gave chase. The male driver kicked at the attacking canines as he slowed and they ceased their scare tactics and grew silent, retreating to the security of the apartment building front parking lot. A light went on in a main-floor apartment behind them. A sliding-glass door squeaked open and a dark-skinned thin man, wearing only white underwear, staggered out, a half-full rum bottle in his left hand. He shouted obscenities in Spanish at the dogs and they scattered. Then he face-planted the concrete parking lot, smashing his head hard. A tiny river of dark red blood poured out of his injured head, zig-zagging a path to the road. A small black mangy, mixed-breed dog returned, stopped at the man’s head, and began slurping up the red river. A Chihuahua hopped up—favoring its injured left hind leg—to survey the scene, sniffed at the blood, barked twice and hobbled down the street. Its barks slowly faded into the night.

A six-seater white motorized golf cart, also with a broken muffler—splitting the silence like thunder—roared up and skidded to a stop. It was occupied by four tourists, drinks in hand, laughing and slurring.

Seeing the fallen man, a fat man climbed out of the driver’s seat, promptly dropped his drink-filled plastic cup, splattering its contents on the road, and turned to the others. “We gotta help him.”

A woman with a cackling voice said, “Holy shit. That dog’s drinking human blood.”

“We gotta help him,” the man repeated.

“Screw that. He might have AIDS or something. We don’t know who he is.”

But the man ignored her. He staggered up to the face-planted man, knelt down, and hoisted him up, the half-full rum bottle still clinging to his blood-drenched hand. The dog that had been drinking fresh warm blood reared back and barked three times threateningly. The fat man kicked it in the ribs, not too hard, but not too soft either. It yelped, turned and ran down the street.

Dragging the bleeding man like a rag doll, the man leaned him against a white four-door sedan and slapped him gently in the face. “Are you okay? Wake up.”

“Let’s go Herman,” Cackling Voice said. “I wanna get to Ocean World casino.” The other couple occupying the back seats of the golf cart sat watching in stunned silence.

The bleeding man opened his eyes, muttered something incomprehensible, and closed them again. With one hand, Herman propped the accident victim’s head up. “Wake up.”

The bleeding man opened his eyes. “Al… Alfredo.”

“Is that your name?” Herman asked.

Afredo nodded.

A white and blue cop truck rolled down the street and stopped in front of the scene. Flashing red lights illuminated the neighborhood. As two Dominican cops got out, a young Dominican woman wearing a pink low-cut blouse, red hot pants and impossibly high heels ambled past, led by her flashing smartphone. She glanced briefly at Alfredo and Herman and the two cops then, click-clacking past, quickly refocused on the drama contained inside her smartphone, electronic virtual reality taking precedence over real-life drama.

Some conversation and pointing ensued. Herman peeled off his white t-shirt, Trust In Guns emblazoned on the front in black, and handed it to one of the cops, a tall lanky man, unsteady on his feet. Lanky Cop wrapped it around Alfredo’s bleeding head. It took only a moment for them to help Alfredo, now slipping in and out of consciousness, his hand still clutching the rum bottle, into the back seat of the truck. Before they pulled away, Lanky Cop, eyeballing Herman inquisitively, stuck his hand out the window, rubbing his belly with the other hand. Herman produced a US twenty dollar bill and handed it to Lanky Cop. He grinned, rolled up the window and sped away.

As Herman climbed into the golf cart, Cackling Voice said, “What are you doing giving the cops money? They’re all fucking corrupt around here. You gotta pay for saving someone’s life.”

Herman nodded. “Where’s the rum?”

“Oh no,” Cackling Voice said. “Turn this thing around and go back to Lifestyles hotel. We gotta get you cleaned up first. You’re full of blood. And no shirt.”

The golf cart U-turned and sped away, the metallic rattling sound of the ruptured exhaust pipe fading in the distance.

But for the gentle lapping of waves, silence once again prevailed.

Blackness enveloped the night, illuminated faintly by the moonlight and stars.

Behind and above the blood-stained parking lot, a light flashed on in a second-floor apartment, directly above the suite in which unfortunate Alfredo had emerged.

Franklin Reimer slid the balcony door open and stepped out. For the last five minutes, wrapped in the protective cloak of darkness, he’d been watching the scene below with unbridled glee. He rubbed his clean-shaven chin, rolled his hand across his six-pack stomach muscles and studied the blood stream below, marveling at how it glistened diamond-like in the glint of the moon. Looking down at his bare foot, his rapture was swept out to sea in the receding waves. Franklin tensed, veins swelling in his neck and forehead. He had stepped in fresh, steamy-warm dog shit. That wasn’t the first time. Nor would it be the last. As long as Alfredo kept collecting (he called it rescuing) street dogs, which he couldn’t afford to feed or properly care for, Franklin’s upper balcony would continue to be a mine field of doggy dung. The dogs wouldn’t shit on Alfredo’s balcony. Oh no. Don’t do-do on the hand that feeds you, or at least not on the hand that tries to feed you.

“You fucking piece of shit,” Franklin said, referring to Alfredo, but bending down and scooping up a handful of the moist fecal matter, “I hope you fucking die from that concussion.” With lightning speed, he dashed down the stairs and, using the handful of feces as a crude writing instrument, scrawled FUCK YOU on Alfredo’s sliding-glass window in large capital letters. Examining his artistic (at least to him) handiwork, his frown slowly morphed into a grin, highlighted with perfectly aligned white teeth. He swung around, took a few paces and picked up a small garden hose lying next to a steel cage draped with brown shower curtains. An outdoor shower caretaker Niamia Fernandez had fashioned, renting it out to beachgoers for fifty pesos a pop on the weekends when hundreds of partiers, locals and foreigners alike, descended on the beach, often playing unbearably loud and awful music and getting merrily pie-eyed and out of control. Fucking stupid bitch, Franklin thought as he washed the crap from his hands and then trained the nozzle on his shit-stained foot. She’s a piece of shit. She’s just a fucking caretaker here and gets free rent for that. But that’s not enough for her. Working every angle she can to make a buck, all behind the owner’s back. Using their water, that they pay for, and making a business out of it.

Franklin had a point. The makeshift beach shower was one of many of Niamia’s business ventures. During the day, and sometimes even during evening hours, there was a steady stream of people calling for her. She sold sandwiches, tourist trinkets from a makeshift shack in front of the apartment building, after-hours alcohol and cigarettes She’d even hired a Haitian man to rent out parking stalls (ostensibly belonging to tenants of the six-suite apartment building) during the busy weekends. Franklin couldn’t even remember how many times he’d blasted Niamia and the Haitian for renting out his parking stall to beach-goers during his absence. And each time, he was met with the same calm response. “Sorry about that. I won’t do it again. I promise.” But each weekend, either from his balcony, or returning home from a sex-filled evening of debauchery, he would see the dark Haitian, standing in the middle of the road, waving in oncoming traffic with a smile while Niamia stood or had her fat ass parked nearby, smiling, as calm as a glassy sea, counting her coins, thinking up new ways to exploit the property, exploit the property owners, exploit the foreigners. Franklin had counted sixteen business ventures that she ran from the comfort of her tiny main-floor, rent-free, apartment. But he knew he had missed a few, knew there were more and there would be more. Fuck it. Forget about her for now. She’s next, but not now.

He rinsed his foot clean, tossed the hose haphazardly on the pock-marked lawn, turned it off and made his way back up to his apartment. What a fucking gong show around here. Insane asylum, this building. I hate this country. Stepping inside his living room, he slid the door closed, flicked the light off and sank into the plush brown sofa. He reached for a fresh black votive candle, a symbol for protection, vengeance and death in the cult worship of Santa Muerte. He lit it with a match and placed it in front of a two-foot high skeleton statue, cloaked in black and gripping a silver scythe that glinted in the candle’s glow. He studied the skeleton saint’s hollow black eye sockets, her mocking grin that seemed to widen with the flickering of the candle. It took a few minutes of closed-eyed silence before Franklin felt calm enough to continue. He shouldn’t be angry. Shouldn’t be disappointed. Shouldn’t be sad. After all, Santa Muerte had answered at least part of his prayer of last night. Wishing to rid the building of its insane inhabitants, he’d prayed to the saint of death for the untimely death of Alfredo. And he had watched and snickered as he watched Alfredo slam his stupid head into concrete and bleed like a stuck pig. It was true he seemed somewhat alive as the cops had driven off with him. But that didn’t mean he would last the night. Maybe he would slip into a coma overnight and die. Maybe he would even die before he arrived at a hospital. That’s it, think positive. Now was not the time for negative emotion. It was a time to give thanks to Santa Muerte for answering his prayer.

He picked up the bottle of Brugal Anejo rum he had placed beside the ominously glowing statue and replenished the powerful saint’s empty glass. Then he closed his black eyes, and began praying. “Oh Holy Death, Sacred Death, Saint Death, thank you for answering my prayers. Thank you for causing the head injury to Alfredo. I pray that you finish the job. Saint of all saints, I am deeply in your debt. Amen.”

On a whim, he picked up the bottle of rum. Franklin was not much of a drinker, prided himself on never getting drunk in the three years he had lived in the DR, but surely a little nip wouldn’t hurt now. It’s what Saint Death would want. They now had a contract. She had done his bidding, or at least part of it, and she would want something in return. He was prepared to do anything she asked of him.

As well, this was a time for celebration, a time for rejoicing, a time to join with the venerated saint in the revelry that surely must accompany the answering of a prayer, the very first time he had ever asked the Skinny Lady for anything. And she had delivered. Delivered in spades. Well, maybe in hearts, meaning Alfredo’s heart would be returned to a stillness richly deserved, returned to its final destination. Franklin allowed himself a long swill on the bottle—swallowing a good four ounces of the potent rum—enjoying the stinging sensation in his esophagus as it settled into his stomach. A pleasant buzz slowly began to envelop and dull his senses.

He closed his eyes, shut his mouth, and sank into the plush couch, allowing his mind to wander, drifting back to a happier time, a time when his psyche wasn’t constantly engaged in a tumultuous battle between the forces of good and evil. But try as he might, the panoptic tragedy of his early life pervaded his troubled mind.

Growing up in small-town Montague, PEI, Franklin was the youngest son in a family of two brothers, Caleb and Nelson, and one sister, Anisa. He had a healthy relationship and a close bond with his brothers and sister. His father Cole was a dedicated husband, a good man, and a hard-working fisherman. His mother Marina was a consummate caregiver with the children and a devoted and loving wife. A Catholic, God-fearing, church-going family. Picture perfect. Or so it should have been. When he was only eight, and he was thirty-four now, his father died at sea, the victim of a tragic and ferocious storm that plunged the fishing vessel and his father into the depths of the ocean, never to be recovered.

Franklin was close to Cole, a favorite son actually, although Cole would never admit it. After his father’s death, Franklin went on a voluntary hunger strike, refusing to leave his bedroom, except for Mother Nature’s callings, for almost three weeks. Finally when he was as thin as a rail, and sick as a dog, it was his older brother Caleb who had convinced him to eat. “It’s what daddy would’ve wanted, brother. He would’ve wanted you to be happy and healthy. Please, eat something. Snap out of this or Mom will have you committed to a care facility for your own good.”

Three years later the tsunami wave of tragedy swelled and unleashed its fury. On a bright sunny day, Caleb and Franklin were playing soccer on the expansive front lawn. Franklin guarded a net improvised with old tires and Caleb kicked the ball. Franklin dove but missed. The ball went through the goal posts and bounced across the lawn toward the two-lane highway.

“You get it Franky,” Caleb said.

But Franklin had become frustrated chasing balls. It was the third goal in three shots. “I’m tired. You get it for a change.”

“Suit yourself.” Before Franklin could change his mind, Caleb raced after the ball. As it bounced into the middle of the highway, he reached it. As he collected it in both hands, he spun around, ready to return. But it was too late. A speeding pickup truck driven by an impaired driver hit him square on, catapulting him airborne for thirty feet, before he smashed into asphalt, dead on impact. Franklin never got over the guilt. It should have been me. Should have been me.

Exactly three years later the tsunami waved of destruction reared its devastating head again, unleashing another wave of tragedy. Franklin’s eldest brother Nelson was out in the garage, repairing a 1971 Mustang Shelby Cobra convertible. Nelson was underneath the vehicle, installing a right front shock absorber when Franklin entered the garage. All tires had been removed and the car perched precariously on four metal jacks.

“Adjust that right side jack will you bro,” Nelson said as Franklin, down on all fours, watched his brother work. “It needs to go up a notch.”

Franklin had never been mechanically inclined. “What do I do?”

Nelson pointed. “Just take that red handle, stick it in there and pump it up a bit. I’ll tell you when to stop.”

“Don’t you want to slide out first?”

“No, no, it’s secure. Hurry I’m dying under here. Hardly any room. My shoulder’s killing me”

Franklin moved around to the front right side of the vehicle and picked up a small red hollow pipe.

“In there, “Nelson said, pointing.

“Okay.” Franklin put the handle in place and began cranking. The vehicle began to rise.

“Almost,” Nelson said. “Another inch or so.”

Franklin continued cranking.

“Right there is good.”

“Okay.” As Franklin got to his feet, he heard a whooshing sound. The hydraulic jack sprayed oil on his brother’s face and, with lightning speed, descended and tipped over, sending the front axle crashing onto Nelson’s neck, snapping it with a horrifying pop and killing him instantly.

A police investigation ruled the death an accident and Franklin was cleared of any wrongdoing. But the Poison Ivy tentacles of guilt ravaged him mercilessly from the inside out. He leaned back into the couch, opened his eyes slowly and took another swill of rum, hoping to dull the pain of his tragic past. He wanted desperately to escape the grim images haunting his mind day and night—especially at night. He gazed at the face of Saint Death, studied her menacing grin. Lit intermittently yellow-orange by the flickering candle flame, it seemed to mock his descent into his tragic past.

With a mountainous effort, he willed his mind away from the three horrifying deaths, although they had changed his life irrevocably—No, nothing is forever—and plummeted him into sociopathic tendencies. No, I’m not crazy, everyone around me is. Suddenly restless, he got up, strode through the dungeon-like quarters—most of the windows were sealed with tinfoil and a thick black blanket covered the sliding-glass door apartment entrance—pulled aside the makeshift curtain, and studied the dark street below. Studied the snake-like stream left by Alfredo’s blood. A motorcycle roared past, its headlights momentarily bathing Alfredo’s blood in a twinkling silver glow. Franklin scratched his black head stubble and a grin slowly replaced the frown. Alfredo, that little shit, is gonna die. Saint Death answered my prayer.

As he returned to the sofa, now relishing his third glass of rum, the grief was once again replaced by glee. As he commenced another prayer, the dark irony of his situation was missed on Franklin. As a die-hard Christian, in his youth, he had prayed for the resurrection of his siblings. Prayed for life.

Now, he prayed exclusively for death.

 

THE RISE OF SAINT DEATH

She goes by many names: Lady of the Shadows, Lady of the Night, Skeleton Saint, Grim Reapress, Lady of the Seven Powers, Black Lady, White Lady, Skinny Lady, Bony Lady, Lady of the Dead and Most Holy Death. But she is probably best known as Santa Muerte, Spanish for Saint Death. But who is she? Considered by some to be vengeful, she is the personification of death and patron saint of the religious cult of Saint Death, currently the fastest growing religion in the Americas. While her roots and origin are a matter of debate among religious scholars and devotees alike, worship of Saint Death has been going on for over half a century, exploding like wildfire from Mexico into the United States and many other countries around the world.

Some say she gives job security and advancement, justice, protects loved ones, and is a miracle worker in matters of the heart and happiness. She is also known for her supernatural healing powers. But others, including the Catholic Church, have condemned her worship as blasphemous, evil and satanic. To be sure murders in Mexico and the United States have been committed in the name of Saint Death. Some victims have been decapitated and their blood poured out on or around Saint Death shrines as sacrificial offerings to win her favor. Many devotees come from the fringes of society, marginalized in some way by poverty and unemployment. Others are petty criminals and a small percentage are violent drug cartel members, who pray to Saint Death using various colored symbolic votive candles, asking her to destroy their enemies and insure safe passage of illegally smuggled drugs.

But still other devotees are successful professionals; police officers, doctors, lawyers, or just everyday working middle-class members of society. A large percentage of followers are decent people searching for a religion they can identity with, free from the often more rigid protocols of an institutionalized religion like Catholicism. Saint Death doesn’t discriminate. She accepts everybody.

And while one can argue, in the face of violent and sacrificial decapitations, that Saint Death is nothing more than a dangerous and evil cult, think for a moment about the other religions. For centuries people have been perverting the good tenets of Christianity and Islam; in some cases perverting those religions in their entirety and committing heinous atrocities. You don’t have to look far to find hundreds of examples. Some say more blood has been shed in the name of religion than anything else in the world. So, as people would mask their evil deeds by holding up religion as a false banner of righteousness, so too would people kill people and justify it as a sacrificial offering to win the favor of Saint Death. But, as with Christianity and Islam, that doesn’t mean it represents the majority of followers.

Saint Death adherents also believe she provides safe passage into the afterlife. And, perhaps more importantly, she helps devotees come to grips with death so they might enjoy their lives. If you face your mortality, wouldn’t that encourage you to live every single minute of every day to its fullest? The grim reality is, we are all going to die some time. The irony, of course, is that while she helps followers come to grips with their mortality and provides safe passage into the afterlife, she is also revered for her healing powers.

In perhaps one of the most scholarly books written on the subject, Dr. Andrew Chesnut, in Devoted to Death, explores this: “…One of the great paradoxes of the cult is that a saint who is the very personification of death is charged with preserving and extending life through her awesome healing powers. Here Santa Muerte isn’t the Grim Reapress harvesting souls with her scythe but the Mother of all Physicians mending broken bodies and fractured bones.”

Chesnut writes, “Santa Muerte is first and foremost an unofficial saint who heals, protects, and delivers devotees to their destinations in the afterlife.”

In my latest novel, tentatively titled Freaky Franky, I took great care to be fair to the cult of Saint Death. As a work of horror fiction, I certainly embellish some of the violence that has been associated with the Grim Reapress, but I also include many examples of her benevolence as a protective saint who helps with health, wealth, and love.  I recently completed the first draft and it will likely hit the shelves in about two months. I hope it entertains and provides you with a better insight into a patron saint who is often misunderstood and maligned. Without any further adieu, here is a short summary:

When an enigmatic town doctor saves the life of Anisa Worthington’s dying son, she abandons Christianity in favor of devotion to the cult of Saint Death. Some believe the mysterious skeleton saint will protect your loved ones, help in matters of the heart, provide abundant happiness, wealth, health, job security and justice. But others, including the Catholic Church, call the cult blasphemous, evil and satanic.

Anisa introduces Saint Death to troubled friend Helen Reiger and strange things begin happening. An enemy of Helen’s is brutally murdered and residents of Montague, a peaceful little town in Prince Edward Island, begin plotting to rid the Bible belt of “religious heretics.”

Anisa suspects Helen is perverting the good tenets of Saint Death but a terrible nightmare propels her to the Dominican Republic in search of Freaky Franky, her long-lost and unstable brother, who mysteriously disappeared twenty years ago without a trace.

To her utter shock and horror, she learns Freaky Franky is also worshiping Saint Death with evil intentions. As a possessed and hell-bent lynch mob gathers momentum, mysterious murders begin occurring all around her. Unsure about who is an ally and who is an enemy, she’s thrust into a violent battle to save her life as well as the lives of her unpredictable friends and brother.

 

 

THE NAKED NEWS

As an infrequent blogger, I haven’t been around my web pages lately. But rest-assured, I’ve been busy. Thanks to a writer’s grant from The Government of Prince Edward Island (I do have many reviewers who actually like my work), all sixteen of my titles are now available in paperback and ebook formats. Previously only two or three titles were available in both formats. They are easy to find on my website and on Amazon.ca and Amazon.com. Some of the titles have yet to appear on the website but soon you’ll see them all.

In the decision to make all my ebooks available in paperback format, I decided to revisit each novel and do one last editing and revision pass.  I also revised the inside front and back pages, my author biography and tightened up each novel summary. Book covers were also tweaked by talented cover artist Johnny Breeze and made much more visually explosive than before. Although Johnny has three jobs and works harder than almost anyone I know, he calls me “a brother from another mother” and put my cover designs as a priority.

The whole project was a four-month process that also involved painstaking proofreading, editing, rewriting, and even a few times when I threw my arms up in frustration and disappointment and proclaimed, “I hate editing.” Trust me, if you edited for eight hours a day for a solid four months you might say the same thing. But then I started to think. Without disappointment there can be no joy. It reminded me of a quote by Pascal Mercier, author of Night Train to Lisbon:

“Disappointment is considered bad. A thoughtless prejudice. How, if not through disappointment, should we discover what we have expected and hoped for? And where, if not in this discovery, should self-knowledge lie? So how could one gain clarity about oneself without disappointment? One could have the hope that he would become more real by reducing expectations, shrink to a hard, reliable core and thus be immune to the pain of disappointment. But how would it be to lead a life that banished every long, bold expectation, a life where there were only banal expectations like “the bus is coming”?”

Through the disappointment of revising twelve titles, there was a certain joy. Part of my disappointment came from the simple knowledge that my writing style when I started writing novels five years ago was nothing like it is today. Much more satisfied with where my storytelling ability is now, I initially wanted to dramatically rewrite dozens of chapters. To be sure, I did major rewrites on several chapters spread through many titles. But then a realization occurred to me.  The books show an evolution of style, a polishing of skill, a honing of talent. Serious readers might want to see the evolution of a writing style. Hell, I even found it interesting to note, at least in my own mind, how far I’d come. That’s where the joy came in. With a smile, I thought, I’ll clean them up for crispness, glaring errors of fact, typos, and grammar. But I’m not about to go changing major elements of the novels; like inserting characters, changing main themes and sub-texts, things like that. Let the early works stand alone as a representation of a time period in the early career of an author.

Besides, not that I have hundreds of reviews, but the majority of them are four or five stars. These are readers who are not saying my writing has potential. They say it’s already there. They say I’m a proficient storyteller, writing tales that grab them, and make them want to keep going without a pause right to the finish line. If readers seem to like the early works the way they are, who am I to tell them anything different? And there is something to be said for letting go of a work of art, with all its imperfections (that others may consider perfections). Release it and move on to the next. So I’ve done that and I hope you enjoy the result. What is the next, you ask?

I recently returned from a three-month trip to the Dominican Republic where I was researching another novel. That, in conjunction with the twelve-novel reformatting project. I’m continuing my research but am also well into writing the novel. I’m moving along at a decent clip. On the next blog, I’ll reveal what the latest work-in-progress horror novel revolves around. I’ll give you a hint. It deals with a cult religion that over the past few years has exploded in popularity, becoming the fastest growing religion in the Americas. Some claim it’s evil and satanic, while others say adherence brings abundance, prosperity and can help in matters of the heart.

THE END IS NIGH

About six months in the making, THE END IS NIGH, my latest post-apocalyptic thriller, will be released before Xmas in ebook and paperback. It was a long journey. It’s a long novel, almost 90,000 words. It will be available in Chapters, Amazon, Apple I-store, Ingram, Barnes & Noble and the like.

While richly rewarding in ways often difficult to put into words, writing can also be a lonely, excruciatingly painful journey. It takes a hell of a lot of self-discipline and focus, not to mention energy. Admittedly, after completing the last of many edits, guided by the unfailing expertise of Winslow Eliot, my long-time editor, I was burnt out, emotionally and physically exhausted; having delved deeply into the minds of many psychologically scarred, volatile, and emotionally damaged characters. Proof-reading it for the very last time, however, I realized I was so deeply in the thoughts of my characters that their personal tragedies had become mine. Reaching THE END, I was moved to tears. nigh-blogSad that I would have to let them go, sad and deeply touched by their plights and the strength and courage they demonstrated trying to overcome their demons.

But through the sadness, emerged an overwhelming sense of relief and accomplishment. I realized my tears were not only tears of sadness, they were mixed with joy. Thrilled about my achievement, elated about typing the words THE END. Then another thought pierced my heart like a lightning bolt. I realized I was not alone on this often dark path. I was with my invented characters every step of the way, feeling their pain, feeling their happiness. And then something more important hammered me over the head like a lead paperweight. Friends, readers, family members, rooted for me every step of the way, propping me up when I was feeling down.

I’m very disciplined when I write. I turn off all social media for long stretches of time while I traverse the cryptic world of my imagination. Often I don’t eat, don’t shower, speak to no one. Good thing I live on a quiet, secluded country acreage, you know what I mean. While writing, I often survive for most of the day on coffee and the adrenaline rush of thrusting people into extreme danger and then finding a way to pull them out of it. Often I get so immersed, I don’t want to turn on the phone, the internet, or the news and listen to tragedy and crap. I don’t want to face the world. But, as always, reality eventually rears its ugly head.

And it’s not always ugly. As I mentioned, and before I swan-dive into a black pit of despair, I need to say it was the words of encouragement from my friends that in many ways kept me going. Social media messages like, “I’m proud of you, keep going.” Or, “You’re writing is so much more polished now than when you began this journey five years ago.” Or, “Congratulations, I can’t wait to read it.” Perhaps the one that struck me the most, and really I’m not trying to blow my own horn here: “You’re a great writer and I sure hope you get the acknowledgement you deserve.”

Funny thing. Not funny ha-ha, but funny amazing. Shortly after that last Skype comment, I checked my email  while taking a one-hour break from writing to answer nature’s call, finally take shower ( I was starting to reek like Pig-Pen in the comic strip Peanuts), and eat a late lunch. Earlier this year, I had applied for a publishing grant from the Government of Prince Edward Island, hoping to use the money for book promotion, formatting existing titles into paperback, and launching a social media campaign to draw more attention to William Blackwell.nigh-blog-2 After submitting the application, I forgot about it and adopted a stoic mentally: Expect nothing for thou shalt not be disappointed. Needless to say, I was elated to learn the provincial government had accepted my application and approved me (William Blackwell Publishing) for a grant. I’m gonna say it right here, right now. I gratefully acknowledge the financial support from the Government of Prince Edward Island. From the bottom of my heart, thank you very much.

To my friends, family, colleagues and readers who’ve rooted for me every step of the way, I’m eternally grateful. Thank you very much.

It hasn’t been a lonely journey after all. Colorful characters, products of my twisted imagination and often terrifying nightmares, have accompanied me. More important, friends, family, and colleagues stood behind me. And now, thank God, the PEI provincial government is backing me one hundred percent.

Before I start bawling, let’s get to THE END IS NIGH. Please support a Prince Edward Island author. Buy it, read it, and please post a review on the website from which you purchased it. Here’s a summary:

Cray Lenning’s life as a garbage collector in a small town is reclusive and boring. His tragic past has created strong feelings of distrust and resentment for humankind, and as a result he’s content to wallow in lonely self-pity. But when he witnesses a defrocked preacher proclaim “the end is nigh” seconds before getting struck by a car, Cray’s world is shaken. Then his only friend hangs himself, setting off a chain of events that spiral out of control.

Initially, Cray dismisses the wayward preacher as a wacko, but ominous signs begin to convince him that the preacher’s apocalyptic predictions might be coming true. Cray meets Sandra Colling, a heartbroken but resolute nurse, who invites him to her underground shelter to try and survive the rapidly advancing apocalypse. Meanwhile, a deadly inferno blazes across the country, threatening to destroy Earth.

With time running out, Cray and Sandra embark on a frantic mission to save others. Once they’re all trapped inside the shelter, they learn the terrifying reality of their choice of company: a traumatized police detective; a manipulative and self-righteous psychologist; a sadomasochistic sex-addict; a rambling alcoholic preacher; and a mentally ill redneck with an explosive temper, who might very well be a murderer.

Their dire predicament worsens when water runs out and they’re forced to emerge from the shelter. To survive in this God-forsaken wasteland, they must form an unlikely alliance and battle a far more deadly presence topside—a gang of ruthless escaped convicts hell-bent on starting an evil polygamist cult that rules by fear, intimidation, and brutal murder.

Black Dawn Cover Reveal

It’s finally here. Or almost. Black Dawn, my newest horror novel, will be released around mid-August (yes, 2016) in ebook for $3.99 and in paperback for $18.95. I’ve painstakingly edited the novel five times myself, my editor Winslow Eliot has worked her magic on it, and finally it’s out of my hands.  black dawn cover front finalProduction staff are churning it out as we speak. Here’s a quick summary:

Saul Climer is a down-on-his-luck alcoholic. Dwindling finances, the isolation of country living, a souring romance, and a lurid love affair with the bottle all drive him into a pit of depression and reckless abandon. As he’s dragged deeper into the black void of despair, he realizes his nightmares are not only becoming more vivid, he’s actually dream-teleporting and witnessing gruesome, macabre murders.

At the end of his rope mentally and physically, he realizes his ex-girlfriend’s life is in danger, as well as the lives of some close friends. Thrust into a battle with internal and external demons, he discovers there’s more to this life-and-death struggle than meets the eye: Voodoo spells, calculating killers, and a possible government cover-up.

Black Dawn is a dark tale about an epic war of real and perceived dangers. Pitting human vulnerability against the courage it takes to risk life, limb, and heart, it’s an action-packed ride that is both terrifying and uplifting.

It will be available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and the like. I hope you enjoy it. At just over 70,000 words, it’s the longest novel I’ve ever written and was a long time (too long in my humble opinion) in the making.

Other news. I’m working on a post-apocalyptic tale tentatively titled The End Is Nigh. It should be ready to rock ‘n roll by mid-October, providing I stick to my disciplined writing schedule; which thus far I am happy to say, I have.

Currently sitting at just a tad over 40,000 words, The End Is Nigh will likely top out at 80,000 or 90,000 words, which will make it my longest novel to date. It’s a tale about a group of troubled souls who take refuge in an underground system of caves after learning the world will be burned to ashes, as predicted in The Bible’s Book of Revelations.

I’m enjoying writing The End Is Nigh and that usually means a good story. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy Black Dawn. Until next time, thanks for stopping by. And thanks so much for your support and many positive reviews. Without you, the reader, my journey into mad worlds wouldn’t be possible.

Enjoy your day.

 

 

Life Gets In The Way

According to my 2015 production schedule, Black Dawn, my work in progress, should have been published by now. But, here we are in May, 2016, and it still isn’t done. But, thank God, it’s awfully close. life gets in the way two I have finally completed my multiple edits and rewrites and am just about to cut it loose to my editor. Of course after that, there will be at least another three editing passes, not to mention cover design and the actual publishing process. Realistically it is a month to two away from being published. But that’s the nature of the beast. It’s the sometimes lonely, sometimes rewarding nature of being a writer.

Continue reading

The Dawn of Black Dawn

At long last it’s time. Time for another novel. Black Dawn is taking shape. Many months of note-taking, research and writing in the Dominican Republic and on Prince Edward Island have led to its birth. I’m about 45,000 words into a horror novel which should take about 70,000 to complete. I plan on finishing the first draft by mid-August.skull It will probably be June, 2016, before it’s published. Multiple rewrites and edits (that can be bloody painful), cover design and the actual publishing process will take at least that long. And first I have to finish the first draft before any of that can begin.

What’s it about? Here’s a quick summary:  Saul Climer, a down-on-his-luck alcoholic loser, battles external and internal demons while slowly losing his mind. That’s a capsule comment really. Black Dawn is multi-layered. It’s also about dream teleportation, the ability to physically leave your bed while dreaming and wind up in another location in real time. Sound far-fetched? Not according to some.

There’s a Doctor Bruce Goldberg, a clinical hypnotherapist. Written many self-help books, some bestsellers apparently. He’s been on Oprah, Regis & Kelly, CBS News, even CNN. Anyway, he claims you can teleport—physically relocate the body from one place to another site without touching it in any way—in a dream state. He differentiates between regular dreams and lucid dreams, claiming, “…Your body physically leaves the bed and travels to another location on a different dimension.”

Enter Andrew Basiago, a practicing lawyer. He plans on running for US president and is on a massive campaign to get the US government to declassify its teleportation and time travel secrets. You can find him at Project Pegasus on Facebook.

Basiago claims teleportation has been used as far back as the late 1960s on behalf of the United States government by DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. As a child, Basiago says he was involved in a highly classified research project called Project Pegasus. green barnSays he’s teleported many times. Claims to have been teleported to Mars and even gone back in time. Says he’s met George Washington, instructed him to withdraw troops, even witnessed Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg address. He wants to have teleporters at all airports. Claims it’s a more efficient, safer and more environmentally friendly way to travel. Even has a book in the works supposedly.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out why the government might want to withhold this information from the public, if indeed teleportation is even possible. If we could teleport troops into enemy territory, well, so could they.

Back to the novel. Taking place in multiple locations, made possible by dream teleportation, Black dawn also involves elements of Voodoo; exploring the good, the bad, and the ugly about this largely misunderstood religion. It documents the personality types that are drawn to Voodoo and tries to understand why they might find comfort and solace in its teachings and tenets. And, as a creative construct, it works well because it lends itself to inventiveness and horror; after all, the novel’s genre.

What else does Black Dawn do? It examines the lawlessness of Dominican Republic culture juxtaposed with the ridiculous laws and overregulation in Canada. It tries to uncover the paradox of what it means to be Canadian. It questionsblack dawn two why we as a people are being placed under microscopes and in little boxes, our personal liberties, privacies and freedoms being stripped away in the process. Is it better to take your chances in a lawless and dangerous culture like the DR  and really live? Or exist with a plethora of laws in a first-world country and live like a caged lab rat? Don’t get me wrong. I love our country. I’m a proud Canadian. But isn’t it getting a little bit ridiculous? Go to practically any Canadian beach or public park and read the signs: No smoking, no recreational vehicles, no dogs, no open fires, no barbeques, no flotation devices of any kind, no bicycles, no overnight camping, no alcoholic beverages, no lifeguard on duty. Swim at your own risk. Beach open during these hours and closed during these. Did I miss anything? How about no people allowed, no laughing allowed, and HAVING FUN STRICTLY PROHIBITED! That’s only one example. There are many more. What is the establishment trying to do to us? Keep us off the beach and house-bound? Begs the question, but onward and upward dear readers. I have a work in progress to discuss.

Black Dawn is also a love story. What good novel doesn’t contain an element of romance? To love and be loved is fundamental to humankind’s basic needs.

But perhaps at its core Black Dawn is a tale of human vulnerability. It examines vulnerability in the context of the courage it takes to be able to risk it all in the face of overwhelming odds and adversity. black dawn oneThe courage to risk big on something or somebody when there are not only any guarantees for success, but high chances of failure.

As Mother Teresa says:

To laugh is to risk appearing the fool. To weep is to risk appearing sentimental. To reach out for another is to risk involvement. To expose feelings is to risk exposing our true self. To place your ideas, your dreams, before the crowd is to risk loss. To love is to risk not being loved in return. To live is to risk dying. To hope is to risk despair. To try at all is to risk failure. But risk we must, because the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing. The man, the woman, who risks nothing, does nothing, has nothing, is nothing.

In the pages of Black Dawn, follow the action-packed trials and tribulations of a down-on-his-luck alcoholic loser struggling with demons and insanity. You might laugh. You might cry. You might be scared shitless. You might stay up all night. You might relate to the human frailty and vulnerability that is a part of all of us.

Thanks for stopping by. Until next time, adios. Enjoy your day!

The Bittersweet Journey Home

I’m winding down a seven-month stay in the Dominican Republic with mixed emotions. On one hand I am looking forward to returning to life on Prince Edward Island with Mister Stihl (yes forging new paths with the trusty chainsaw will never end), enjoying the beauty of the forest and the ocean, seeing my friends, and tightening up my writing schedule (yes, admittedly I’ve become a little lax living my dream on a Caribbean island).

But there is always a flip side, always a little gray area that blurs our subjective perspective of reality. I thought initially it would be an easy thing for me to leave here (black white if you like) and adjust to a completely different life in Canada. I know now that is not true. I have forged some deep friendships and intimate bonds. The upcoming trip to the airport will be an emotional and a difficult one. punta rusia beach Puerta Plata, with its quirks, dangers, and cultural idiosyncrasies, has become my home. At the risk of using a corny and overused cliché, home is where the heart is. And right now my heart is firmly embedded here. Sure, it’s been a difficult cultural adjustment to spend this much time in the DR. Service for the most part isn’t as efficient as in Canada, the island doesn’t offer the same diversity of culinary delights as you would find in Canada, you must always remember to put your toilet paper in a garbage can instead of down the toilet, the power outages are frequent and long lasting, internet connectivity is often spotty and slow, and almost everything seems to move in slow motion. Not too mention the abject poverty and the money agenda of many Dominicans. Or the fact that occasionally foreigners are brutally murdered and robbed.

But where else would I get a police escort home after having one too many drinks (no they weren’t arresting me, they were looking after me), be able to enter a restaurant with a road pop, be able to meet more beautiful women than I can shake a stick at, drink on the beach freely and without fear of police intervention, and create a social life like that of a rock star?

Not at my other home, I can tell you that much.

So with heavy heart I leave this Friday. I will be leaving behind people I love and care about deeply. People who would give me the shirts off their backs and come running to my aid if I ever found myself in a jam.

But, alas, you are probably wondering if this blog post even has a point. Don’t worry, I was wondering the same thing a little while ago. But it does and, bear with me, I’m getting to it. When I started this journey almost seven months ago I told myself maybe I will write a lot when I am gone and maybe I won’t.To justify my lackadaisical attitude I referred to a quote by Henry David Thoreau: ” How vain is it to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.” But as the months down here wore on and my productivity dropped off (to be sure I have done a hell of a lot of what I like to call research and have made scant inroads into a new novel) I started feeling guilty. Guilty because I often heard myself say, out loud and in my cinematic mind, that writing was my passion and the most important thing in my life.

Well frankly speaking I was wrong and Thoreau was right. I can’t pretend to sit down and write if I have not stood up to live. pei beachI can’t pretend to write about love found and love lost if I have not lived it. I can’t pretend to write about brutal murders or vicious robberies and beatings if I haven’t experienced them (you might be surprised just what I have witnessed in the DR). At least I can’t explain them with any real conviction or passion unless I’ve experienced them, or at the very least, interviewed someone who has.

So, yes, Thoreau was right. But I learned something far more valuable during my stay here. Writing is not the most important thing in my life, although it is my passion and always will be. My friends, family and loved ones will always come before any bit of prose I can scratch together. I think somehow I lost sight of that before I arrived here, writing book after book after book at such a furious pace that even Stephen King would be envious (as if).

Call my rationale a  justification for laziness. Call it a seven-month sabbatical. Call it a research project. Call it anything you want. I call it a journey for connectedness, intimacy and love.

And a successful one at that.

There is something far more important than an occupational passion. It’s called love. And I have enough of it in my life now to inspire another three novels, maybe more. And that’s something all the success or money in the world can’t buy.

Thanks for stopping by. Spread the love.

 

 

 

 

A writer in the Dominican Republic

It’s been some time, over two months actually, that I’ve written anything at all. I’m not counting emails or Skype messages. And as a writer, that’s not always an easy thing. What’s stopping me, you might ask? Maybe it’s a quote from Henry David Thoreau that’s been sticking in my mind: “How vain is it to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.” Maybe it’s writer’s block. Maybe I feel, with the fourteen titles I’ve written, I’ve said all that I wanted to say. Maybe the furious pace I kept previously finally burned my bulb and I needed a break from the craft. A long break.

If I sit down and analyze it all, Thoreau’s quote leaps to the forefront. I needed to stand up and live a little, get to know more people and interact with characters of all traits, shapes and sizes. Well, I have to admit, since my arrival here November 23rd, I’ve been doing a lot of living. Actually I think I was trying to compensate for the isolated and sometimes lonely existence on my acreage in Prince Edward Island. There I often would not speak to a soul for days; where here I’m hard-pressed to sit down at a table in a beach bar and in less than fifteen minutes be surrounded by friends and acquaintances. Over copious amounts of booze, the ocean waves slapping the sand not fifty feet in front of me, I can indeed observe human nature first-hand,  sometimes at its highest point and others at its most debauched, lascivious, crazy and corrupt.

Continue reading

Mourning the Loss of Canada’s Sons Patrice Vincent and Nathan Cirillo

I was deeply saddened and affected in a way that is difficult to put into words after learning that terrorists had recently murdered Canadian soldiers Patrice Vincent and Nathan Cirillo. To say the least, it brought tears to my eyes and, yes, sent chills up my spine.

Vincent was killed when he was run down by a vehicle Monday, October 20th. After a brief car chase, the terrorist was shot and killed by police.

Patrice Vincent

Patrice Vincent

Two days later, Wednesday, October 22nd, Cirillo was murdered while standing guard at the National War Memorial outside the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa, the nation’s capital. A lone radicalised gunman, who was later shot and killed by Sergeant-at-arms Kevin Vickers, had opened fire.

My heart goes out to the family and friends of these fallen heroes. I offer my deepest sympathies and condolences.

There has been a tremendous outpouring of support from Canadians (not to mention the international support) for these heroic defenders of our country. The palpable emotion, visible grief, mourning and sadness, accompanying the enormous show of support highlights what it is to be Canadian. For the most part we are a humble people. Polite, courteous, quick to apologize and well-liked internationally. Travel to any country (there are obvious exceptions like parts of the Middle East) and you’ll see what I mean.

By nature, we are passive and don’t like making a fuss. We often prefer to keep our opinions private. But if aroused, as we were last week, we are capable of becoming a unified and potently supportive force.

Although Canada is not a Christian nation by constitional law, most of us believe in a code of ethics similar to Christianity. Always striving to see both sides of an argument, Canadians prefer tolerance and compromise to dogmatism.

Canadians don’t typically brag about how great it is to be Canadian; or how great our country is; or how proud we are to be Canadian. We just go about our business, quietly appreciating who we are. We don’t often boast about our support for our citizens: athletes, movie stars, ahem, politicians, volunteer workers at home and abroad, artists and Canadian soldiers alike. Patriotism for us is often an internal emotion, separate from such symbols as flags or national anthems. I suspect many Canadians, myself included, don’t even know all the words to our national anthem.

But when something happens that moves us deeply we come out of our igloos en masse to show our true colors.

Nathan Cirillo

Nathan Cirillo

We stand behind our fellow citizens vehemently and illustrate loud and clear how proud we are to be Canadians and how we support our citizens and soldiers. Never has this been more evident than yesterday as thousands of wounded and mourning Canadians took to the streets and Highway of Heroes to pay tribute to fallen soldier Corporal Nathan Cirillo as his body was driven via funeral procession motorcade to Hamilton, Ontario.

Many waited for hours along streets and highways for the motorcade to arrive. Some held Canadians flags, others openly wept.

“If you’re driving down Hunt Club Road in Ottawa right now and you don’t have goosebumps, you’re not Canadian,” tweeted writer and actor Neil Bedard.

As reported by The Ottawa Citizen, Steve Kirwan, along with his wife and two youg daughters, said, “This was a tragic event. Everybody should be paying their respects. The city should just be jam-packed full of stopped cars right now.”

“I’m like most Canadians in that I’m truly upset to think that someone living in our country would do what he did to that soldier,” said Fred Hobbs, a Second-World War veteran. “I think of that young man and other men like him who come into the services and wear the uniform. We are all so indebted to them.”

That comment brings to mind other comments I’ve read lately.  images[1]Some people have tweeted and posted on Facebook that they don’t understand why they are so deeply upset by these recent tragic events.

I have a theory. Maybe sometimes we take it for granted what it is to be Canadian, perhaps downplay or often don’t verbalize our love for Canada and our patriotism. But when something like this happens, the cap bursts off the bottled up emotions and we realize how deeply patriotic we really are. At least, that’s how I’ve processed my own emotions in the wake of the tragic events of late.

The two recent Canadian deaths hit me so hard because sometimes I take it for granted what it is to be Canadian and don’t really think about the brave people who are charged with defending our personal liberties and freedoms. I don’t think about how proud I am to be Canadian or how quick I would help fellow Canadians out of a jamb. During a recent trip to the Dominican Republic, I found myself in a few situations where Canadians were in trouble. Without thinking about the repercussions, I came to their aid. In one situation, I met a young female Canadian whose experience in the Dominican Republic was wearing thin and becoming dangerous. She had a nasty skin rash, had been robbed of money and her cell phone, and needed money for a plane ticket home. My offer to loan her money brought tears of joy to her eyes.  She was quick to say she would pay me back.

We exchanged contact details, I loaned her six hundred dollars, and she flew home and out of danger. It’s been over six months and I’ve never heard a word from her since. But, I’m not focused on losing six hundred dollars. No.

Nathan Cirillo's dog

Nathan Cirillo’s dog

The biggest gift for me was seeing her relieved expression and tears of joy, feeling her warm embrace as she hugged me tightly and thanked me profusely. She seemed like a nice person and for all I know she’s too embarrassed to contact me because she doesn’t have the money to repay me. I was just happy to be in a position to help a fellow Canadian return home safely. I don’t care about the money. Call me crazy, but I would do it all over again.

It’s what we do.

It’s who we are.

Now, let’s take a few moments of silence to express our condolences, pay our respects and remember fallen heroes Patrice Vincent and Nathan Cirillo. They made the ultimate sacrifice, their lives, to help and protect Canadians.

Gunfight At My Favorite Bar Results in Multiple Deaths

Dominican Republic–A gunfight at La Canita bar in Puerto Plata last Saturday resulted in three dead and five seriously injured, according to local newspaper Diario.

As a result of the shoot-out, 15 persons have been detained for questioning and the bar, rumored to be one of the biggest drug distribution points in town, has been closed. Now this might be just another news story. But La Canita was one of my favorite haunts during my travels to the DR. I’ve enjoyed many good times with friends there. I was informed of this incident by a friend living in the DR who had been at the bar the night before the fatal gunfight. He was obviously grateful he was there Friday and not Saturday.

Continue reading

The Walls Within

Walls. What do you think of when you hear that word? Wood walls, plaster walls, brick walls? What about emotional walls, the often deleterious walls that prevent us from moving forward in life and living in the present instead of dwelling on the past.

People put up emotional walls for many different reasons. Maybe they got abused during childhood and are unwilling to trust people, lack the self-confidence to show their inner selves or have perhaps been burned in a relationship.

Continue reading

Assaulted Souls III is Now Available

What if the government made it mandatory for you to have a microchip implantedWalk on a roof edge in your brain, telling you it was for your security, for your safety? Would you believe it? Would you take it? 
What if you learned world powers were setting up sophisticated spy cameras everywhere to watch and record your every move 24/7? Would you believe it? Would you run and hide? Would you become a subversive and fight back? 

What if you learned soldiers and law-enforcement officers had become super-soldiers, genetically modified trans-humans capable of out-running Usain Bolt, out-lifting Olympic weightlifters, re-growing limbs, and even communicating telepathically through microchips installed in their heads? Would you believe it? Would you acquiesce to the new world order? Would you revolt? 

In a chillingly real examination of these questions, post-apocalyptic disaster survivors Nathan King and Velvet Jones escape government clutches, returning to war-ravaged Prince Edward Island only to discover their problems are just beginning. Not only are they being hunted by savage, opportunistic tribes struggling for survival, giant insects created by the new world order are also hunting for blood. 

If that isn’t enough, a government desperate to cover up its megalomaniac trail of death and destruction declares them a subversive enemy of the nation and launches a search and destroy mission. 

Battling multiple enemies, Nathan and Velvet soon learn their only hope for survival might be intangible: a portal inadvertently created by the genetic modification drug that seems to take them into another world, another dimension. 

In gritty and shocking fashion, Assaulted Souls III illustrates just how close we might actually be to a totalitarian regime ruled by ruthless and power-hungry leaders and thugs. Buy Now

Visit us on Social Media and Share your review of Assaulted Souls using the hashtag #AssaultedSoul

WILLIAM BLACKWELL ON THE APOCALYPSE

Post-apocalyptic fiction fan Kevin O’Neill recently intercepted my break-neck production schedule and interviewed me on Assaulted Souls, genetic modification and the apocalypse. Without any further adieu, here is the abridged interview:

O’Neill: In your newly released Assaulted Souls trilogy, you talk a lot of doom and gloom. In Assaulted Souls III, post-apocalyptic survivors narrowly escape government clutches, returning to war-ravaged Prince Edward Island only to discover their problems are just beginning.

Assaulted Souls

Assaulted Souls

Not only are they being hunted by savage, opportunistic tribes struggling for survival, giant insects created by the new world order are also hunting for blood. If that isn’t enough, a government desperate to cover up its megalomaniac trail of death and destruction declares them a subversive enemy of the nation and launches a search-and-destroy mission. Battling multiple enemies, they soon learn their only hope for survival might be intangible; a portal inadvertently created by the genetic modification drug that seems to take them into another world, another dimension. Is that how you view escape from an apocalypse? Going to another dimension?

Blackwell: I don’t know. As I was writing the trilogy, this idea of another dimension just sort of popped up, and seemed to fit into the story, adding perhaps a spiritual dimension to it. I think it serves to drive home the point that, without some spirituality, trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic wasteland could potentially be much more terrifying. Oftentimes with spirituality comes hope.

Continue reading