The End is Nigh Chapters

I recently started reviewing my website traffic and realized the Chapters sub-category under Blog was getting a lot of readership. It seems people want to sample my wares before they buy. Fair enough. Without any further adieu, please find below a sample of The End is Nigh, my latest post-apocalyptic thriller. Modesty aside, it’s received rave reviews and has wowed many readers.

First, here’s a short summary:

Cray Lenning’s life as a garbage collector in a small town is reclusive and boring. Burdened with strong feelings of distrust and resentment, 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 spirals out of control.

Initially, Cray dismisses the wayward preacher as a wacko, but ominous signs begin to convince him otherwise. Enter Sandra Colling, a heartbroken but resolute nurse. Together, they build an underground shelter to try and survive a deadly inferno blazing across the country, and embark on a frantic mission to save others. Trapped inside the shelter, they learn the terrifying reality of their choices: 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.

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.

                                                              Prologue

You got this. Relax. But Pastor Jonathon Brackley couldn’t shake the uneasy feeling that this sermon would not go to plan. He was nervous, fidgety, and unsure about how the congregants would respond. He clasped his hands together, trying to hide the twitching of his fingers as he stepped up to the pulpit on a dark and cloudy Sunday morning. Tapping the microphone, he misstepped, staggered and swayed, and then put a hand on the mahogany platform and the Holy Bible for support. The Bible, more than the mahogany, gave him comfort and strength.

A murmur rolled through the packed church, echoed eerily, and subsided.

Pastor Jon cleared his throat. Feedback screeched from the microphone. Stopped. The worshippers murmured, a little louder this time. A baby tucked into her mother’s bosom in the first row began crying. The mother, with hushed niceties, tried to silence the pinkly-clad infant. Soft sobs turned into a loud wailing cry—“Whah, whaaah, whaaaah… whaaaaaaaaah!” The mother flushed, rose quickly, and left with the baby.

As the heavy oak entrance door thudded shut ominously, the baby’s cries grew faint, and Pastor Jon cleared his throat a second time. No feedback. No murmurs. No crying baby. Only silence and attentive eyes.

He looked out at the congregants, nodding fondly as he spotted some of his friends. He didn’t know if they were ready, if he was even ready. But one thing he did know. This would probably be his last sermon, so they better be ready. He better be ready. Lately, due to the controversial nature of his sermons, his superiors in the clergy were fast becoming alienated from him. More than just alienated, actually. Downright angry and offended. The comment from senior Pastor Gary Ellington before this morning’s sermon couldn’t have been more direct: “If you don’t tone it down, stop this doom and gloom talk, we’ll have no choice but to defrock you. Keep it upbeat. That’s what people want to hear. Give them what they want. And stay off the wine… at least while you’re preaching.”

But Pastor Jon hadn’t toned downed his sermons. Nor had he stayed off the booze. It was all he could do to cope with his disturbing visions of late. And his failing marriage. Earlier this morning, in spite of admonitions from his disgruntled wife, he’d polished off a bottle of Chilean red wine. His justification—the Bible was full of wine references. Jesus had even turned water into wine at a wedding. Of course, that didn’t prove He drank the wine, but it would have been perfectly normal for Him to do so. It did prove, at least to Pastor Jon’s logic, that Jesus didn’t condemn drinking wine any more than He condemned drinking water. Pastor Jon took his theory one step further, actually, believing Jesus was not only a wine drinker, but an excessive one. Maybe even a drunkard. Water to wine. Never mind. Get going…

He cleared his throat. “Thank you all for coming this morning. Today I want to talk about the Book of Revelation. Specifically, I want to talk about a vision I had last night that relates to Revelation.” He waited for the whispered murmur to die down before continuing. “As you all know, my name is Jon. According to Revelation, one day around the year 95 AD, a man named John had a vision from Heaven. Well, last night, I too had a vision, which I believe to be a vision from Heaven. Maybe epiphany is a better word.” His voice had started off as a low, slow, monotone droll. But as he talked, it gained volume, speed, passion, and conviction. “I’m guessing some of you might be curious as to what that vision might be about?” A pause. “It has to do with The Seven Bowls of God’s Wrath. Revelation 15:1 – 16:21.”

He paused again, listening to pages shuffling as the congregants found their reference points. “John sees seven angels with seven bowls filled with God’s wrath. He hears a voice, telling the angels to empty out the disaster-filled bowls one at a time upon the Earth. Now, this is the part you might find hard to believe… but I tell you to warn you. I tell you to save you. I’ve been directed by God! I saw the angels, I heard the voice telling the angels to destroy the world.”

Thunder boomed overhead. A few people stirred. The rain came, slow at first, then torrential, tapping on roof and windows like so many nails in a coffin. A young couple seated at the back row got up and left. Pastor Jon waited until the thunder stopped, and once the heavy wood and metal door had thudded shut a second time, he continued: “Let’s talk about the bowls of God’s wrath. The angel poured out the first bowl on the Earth. Ugly and painful sores broke out on the worshippers of the devil. Look at the rampant spread of disease today: Ebola, Zika, Swine-Flu, Aids, common flu viruses mutating, getting stronger, killing people, becoming immune to treatment.”

He found his place in the Bible and quoted from the text: “‘The second angel poured out his bowl on the sea, and it turned into blood, like that of a dead man, and every living thing in the sea died.’ Look at what we do to our oceans. Reckless oil companies, irresponsible government, common people polluting and killing our eco-system. Killing us.”

A middle-aged man seated near the back rose and turned to leave. “No, don’t go. Stay and listen. The end is nigh. Prepare yourself.”

“You’re a fucking nutcase,” the man said, and stormed out.

Like a rising swell in turbulent ocean waters, a loud murmur swept through the church. Then grunts, throats clearing, gasps, followed by derogatory comments. “Something’s wrong with him… He’s lost his mind… He never had it… I’m not gonna listen to this shit… Fucking bullshit, you ask me.”

“Quiet, please,” Pastor Jon said, gesturing with outstretched hands. “Hear me out. That’s all I ask.”

Silence settled over the church. He continued reading aloud: “‘The third angel poured out his bowl on the rivers and springs of water, and they became blood.’ More pollution. More human negligence. The world is full of it and God has decided we need a cleansing. I now come to the fourth angel, and the most powerful and evocative image in my vision. If you listen to nothing else I say, listen to this. ‘The fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and the sun was given power to scorch people with fire. They were seared by the intense heat and they cursed the name of God, who had control over these plagues, but they refused to repent and glorify Him.’”

Pastor Jon coughed, took a sip of water—water to wine, water to wine—and resumed: “There are forest fires burning out of control as we speak. They will worsen. They will spread and devour our entire planet. The devil’s insidiousness has permeated the very fabric of our culture. He is in our thoughts, heaven forbid, in our prayers, and in our deeds. Cast him out and save yourself.”

“How do you propose we do that?” Ron Baxter shouted. Pastor Jon recognized the voice and spotted his one-time-friend-turned-acquaintance standing up in the third row. The obese, black-bearded man’s brow was furrowed and he rubbed the creases with a hand in an attempt to smooth them out.

“I’m getting there, Ronnie. Sit down. Be patient. Please.” Pastor Jon had planned on outlining each of the bowls of wrath in detail, referencing them with a corresponding modern day man-made calamity. Now, he realized, he was going to have to cut this sermon short if he had any hope of reaching the congregation. Too many naysayers. If he continued at this pace, he would lose half, if not all, before he properly prepared them for the end of the world. In any event, at least he had gotten to number four, the most important according to his epiphany. “Reaffirm your vows to God. Repent your sins. Go home and pray. Denounce the devil and his ways so you might be spared…”

Thunder boomed and the church trembled. A lightning bolt smashed through a large, oval-shaped stained-glass window in the peaked-roof temple of God. People started screaming, some fleeing, as shards of glass rained down on them. The lightning bolt forked and struck a white-robed Jesus statue. The lightning buzzed, circled the statue, shot through its arm, and blasted out from the pointed finger of Jesus like a well-aimed laser gun. The powerful bolt then struck a wooden church pew. It burst into flames. Pandemonium erupted and people fled en masse.

“You have one year,” Pastor Jon shouted after the fleeing mobs. “One year to the day. The world will burn in one year. Dig a cave, stock it with supplies, and wait. You will be told when it’s time to emerge. The end is nigh… prepare yourself!”

                                                              Chapter One

“I’m sick of all these conspiracy theories. The world is not gonna end soon, and I’m gonna keep on doing what I do best.” Even as Cray Lenning said the words, he wasn’t sure what they meant, or at least wasn’t sure what the latter part meant. What do I do best? He eyeballed his friend Mike Timble across the table of an outdoor patio in front of a Starbucks coffee shop in downtown Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island.

I do my job best. That’s what I do.

Cray sighed. Maybe he did do his job best. But his job, a garbage collector in the small city, had become mundane. Uneventful, unexciting, unfulfilling. Boring, actually.

Four years ago, after discovering his long-time girlfriend Emma Thymes fucking his so-called best friend Greg Smallton, Cray had lost interest in people and relationships. Friends and lovers… they can go fuck themselves. They burn your trust. Burned by love, he had become cowardly concerning romance. He was unwilling to approach women for fear of rejection or, worse still, infidelity. Emma had ruthlessly ripped his heart from his chest. But never again. Never would he give someone that opportunity again.

Maybe that’s why he was sick of Mike’s conspiracy theories. Maybe he was sick of his own life—his own attitude—and taking it out on Mike. It’s your shit. But no, it was more than that. Had to be more than that. Mike’s theories were asinine. He had just told Cray that in his infinite wisdom the world would come to an end on Thursday, June 30th. Today was June 1st.

But Mike was insistent. “I’m telling you, this isn’t another one of what you call my lame-brained conspiracy theories. This is the truth.”

Cray sipped his coffee and gazed momentarily out at the passing traffic and pedestrians on Queen Street that sunny afternoon. “What do you mean ‘truth’? It hasn’t come true yet.”

“No, but it will. Mark my words.”

“Let’s just say for a second there is a shred of truth to your theory—which frankly we both know isn’t the case—where did you acquire these prophetic words of wisdom from?”

“Someone told me. Then something else happened that confirmed it. Then I had a dream that confirmed it.”

“Some wacko told you? Who? A dream? You think just because some nutcase told you and you had a dream that it’s gonna come true?”

Mike was becoming irritated. He squeezed his empty paper coffee cup, pushed it on the table. It tipped over and rolled onto the sidewalk. He ignored it. “Oh, forget it, Cray. You’re not gonna believe me. Sometimes I don’t even know why I bother.”

“Bother with what? Telling me shit?”

“Even living, for fuck sakes. What’s the point? The world’s gonna end soon anyway and my life sucks.”

 “Sorry, Mike. Don’t talk like that. Please.”

Mike scratched his two-day stubble and adjusted his baseball cap. He always did that when he was rattled or confused. He pointed across the street to an old, scraggly-haired, disheveled man—street beggar-bum—wheeling a shopping cart. It was stuffed with all kinds of goodies; at least goodies to him. “Shit, that’s him.”

“Who?”

“The man. The preacher I met.”

“What—” Cray didn’t have a chance to finish.

The man suddenly stopped, reached into his shopping cart, and extracted a sign. He released the cart. Unattended, it careened down the sidewalk, causing two pedestrians to deftly step out of its way.

Holding up the sign, the man, with speed belying his years, ran across the street. But ten feet from the sidewalk patio where Cray sat, a newer model Toyota Camry, pulling away from the curb, struck him. He flew back, landing with a thud as his head slammed into the asphalt surface. His hands still gripped the sign tightly.

Cray ran to his aid but stopped short. The offending motorist had already stopped, climbed out of his vehicle, and knelt down beside the man. Troubled, he scanned the faces of the gathering onlookers. “Someone call 911. He came out of nowhere.”

As Cray neared, he saw the pool of blood fanning out around the man’s head, dark red on black asphalt. His eyes were closed, expression sullen, leathery face ashen. Dead or unconscious, Cray didn’t know.

Cray turned around. Mike was frozen in his seat, expression sullen, pockmarked face ashen.

“He’s moving,” someone said. “Stand back.”

The man’s eyes opened wide. He lifted his head. His steel blue eyes locked onto Cray. He lifted the sign and repeated its proclamation scrawled in black on white cardboard. “The end is nigh! The end is nigh! Prepare yourself!”

Then he dropped the sign, fell back, slamming his head on the road a second time. His eyes rolled in his head, then closed. He grew still. Deathly still.

The end is nigh, all right buddy. At least for you. Cray was embarrassed and ashamed that a small smile actually played across his lips at those thoughts. He quickly wiped it away. It was replaced by a somber expression, a feeling of remorse and sadness for the poor bastard stretched out on the road, probably dead. But those feelings were intermingled with something else: a nagging, troubling, fearful feeling that something wasn’t quite right in the world anymore.

A crazy coincidence. That’s all.

Cray glanced back. Mike had disappeared.

More spectators began to gather. An ambulance siren blared. A cop car approached and stopped in the middle of the street, blocking traffic. Two cops got out. One knelt down to the victim while the other began questioning bystanders and surveying the damage.

A middle-aged woman, dressed in frumpy gray sweatpants and an oversized white sweatshirt with a pink elephant on the front, approached Cray. She had a little boy in hand who slurped an ice cream cone, white melting rivulets streaming down his chin, onto his clothes, dribbling onto the sidewalk. She touched Cray’s arm. “Do you know him?”

“Know who?”

An ambulance stopped at the scene. The shrill siren died. Two paramedics got out, one removing a stretcher from the back.

She pointed to the man, who was now being carefully examined by the paramedics.

“No, never seen him before. Why?”

“He stared right at you. As if he was giving his death message directly to you.”

The ice cream-carrying boy moved closer to Cray, oblivious to the bloody accident scene. He slurped the ice cream and held it up to Cray. Small white drops sprayed onto Cray’s blue jeans and black tennis shoes.

“Do you want some?” the boy asked.

Cray stepped back, out of melted ice cream range. “No thanks.” Morbid thoughts pressed into his mind. White light, red blood, black dawn. He shuddered.

“Josh, watch yourself,” the woman said. “You’re getting it all over him.” She pulled Josh closer to her side. Ice cream drops dribbled down her already stained gray sweatpants. Oblivious, she turned to Cray. “Did you see it?”

Cray nodded nervously. “I gotta go.”

She touched his arm. “Wait. You’re a witness. They might want to talk to you.”

Cray noticed a male cop, who had been questioning other spectators, glance curiously at him.

Without knowing why, Cray turned and ran, sprinting down the street and weaving around pedestrians on that beautiful Tuesday afternoon. A block and a half later, he stopped and glanced back, almost expecting the cops to be in hot pursuit. They weren’t, but he could barely see the old man being hoisted onto a stretcher and loaded into an ambulance. Who is he? And what does he know?

Chapter Two

He knows, Mike thought that evening as he sat in his humble apartment two blocks away from Cray in downtown Charlottetown. He knows we’re all gonna die. He knows the future.

He had arrived home two hours ago and started taking stock of his life. Cray had called twice. He ignored both calls. Fucker doesn’t wanna believe me. I tried to warn him. He won’t listen. Fuck him. He can go and fuck himself, all I care.

But it wasn’t only Cray. He had told his mother Edith the story a few days ago. She wanted to have him examined by a psychiatrist. “You’re full of stupid conspiracy theories. Why don’t you go out and get yourself a job instead of worrying about the end of the world? I raised you to work hard and all you do is sit around watching TV and collecting social assistance.”

Easy for her to say. She grew up in a generation where if she didn’t work, she would starve. So she forged a successful nursing career until her recent retirement. Now her title was cynic and potato farmer’s wife. For a nurse, a career dedicated to caregiving, she certainly didn’t seem to give a shit about her only son. More than that, Edith was downright abusive to Mike. At least for the last two years, when her expectations that he would become a doctor were shattered after he was caught drinking during a lecture and expelled. Would have happened sooner or later anyway. It was his first year of university and he’d only lasted four months. His marks were shit. Lack of concentration. Lack of focus. “Doesn’t apply himself.” So they said, anyway. Well, they can fuck themselves. And so can Edith.

Mike moved a kitchen chair to the middle of the living room and stared up at the ceiling.

His father Thane was a little more sympathetic, but seemed equally doubtful of the veracity of the prediction. “I don’t know, son. It sounds a little farfetched to me. People have been predicting the end of the world since the beginning of time, and none of them have gotten it right. And besides, we’re all gonna die sooner or later. And none of us know when. So, we may as well make the best of it.” Handing Mike a sack of potatoes. “Here, gimme a hand with these, will ya. Try and take your mind of that stuff. It ain’t good for ya.”

So Mike took the potatoes, helped his father, and dropped the doomsday prophecy. At least for the time being. But it kept rearing its ugly head. Little voices kept telling him to get his affairs in order. Sorry, Dad. You’re gonna die in the apocalypse. I’ll miss you.

Holding a small handsaw, Mike stood on the chair and cut away a small circle in the ceiling. He examined the cast iron pipe underneath. Hope it’s strong enough.

When Mike met Pastor Jonathon Brackley a week ago, whom he now revered as a doomsday prophet, he did what few others would.  He listened to the old man with the shopping cart. Bought him a bottle of rum. Sat in a park with him and drank it. Got drunk. Learned the man’s story. Although his theories had resulted in the loss of his preacher job, Pastor Jon, as he preferred to be called, would not let it go. Even though the repeated prophecies also resulted in a separation from his long-time wife and an estrangement from two adult sons, Pastor Jon hit the streets of his hometown, Moncton, New Brunswick, proselytizing to anyone who would listen. “The end is nigh. Prepare yourself.” Of course most people—99.9 percent—brushed him off as a lunatic and ignored him, even ridiculed and shunned him. Over time the frustration became unbearable. Hardly anyone would listen. So Pastor Jon took refuge in the bottle, drained his finances, and ended up living on the streets. When the nastiness in Moncton got too much to bear, he relocated to Charlottetown to preach his message, or “save the few who will listen.”

Mike began tying a rope around the exposed cast iron pipe. He tugged it. It’ll hold.

At first Mike had his doubts. But the reoccurring signs, signs that Pastor Jon had said would prove the truthfulness of his predictions, soon convinced him. Pastor Jon had said three things would happen to Mike after that fateful meeting in the park. The first one happened fifteen minutes after leaving the park. A crow swooped down low, circled Mike’s head twice, just as predicted, then promptly shit on it. The following evening Mike had a nightmare, again, as predicted. In it, a massive fireball engulfed the Earth. Horrific screams of dying people, the terrifying shrieks of dying animals; cars, buildings, infrastructure exploding everywhere. Mike tried to outrun the flames, searching for the hole, the underground shelter that Pastor Jon had told him to dig, the one that would protect him from the massive destruction. But, when he found it, it wasn’t what he remembered. It was only three feet deep, clearly not enough to protect one from such a lethal fireball. Terrified and with no options remaining, Mike took refuge in the hole, watched the Earth burn to the ground around him for a few horrifying seconds until the fireball engulfed him, fried and sizzled him like a pesky wasp.

Mike tugged on the rope, cinched it tight around the plumbing pipe. He sat down and began working the other end.

But the third sign was the clincher. The one that had made him run away scared. The one that happened only a few hours ago. Pastor Jon had been clear. “When you see me get struck down, and die, the end is nigh. Take refuge in the hole. Count the days. Stay there for ninety days and then come to the surface. My tribesmen will be there. They will help you rebuild.”

“What about you?” Mike had asked.

Pastor Jon had in one large pull drained the bottle, looked at Mike sorrowfully, and said, “I don’t care about me anymore. My life is over. Look at me.”

Only problem was, Mike had not been able to find a hole or underground shelter; other than the shallow one in his nightmare that had become his fiery grave. Although he had tried to find one. Not wanting to wait until the final prediction, he had, stoned out of his mind one night, driven to what he thought was crown land, a government-owned forest, stolen a backhoe from a nearby farmstead, and started digging out an abandoned well in an attempt to make his refuge from the coming apocalypse. Three hours and forty feet down, he was accosted by an angry farmer, pointing a double-barreled shotgun at his head and threatening to kill him. The result, three charges: theft, trespassing, and destruction of private property.

Mike finished the noose, wrapped it around his neck, and snugged it tight. Satisfied, he climbed onto the chair and stood up.

He lit up a joint and inhaled deeply, surveying the messy living room as the reassuring buzz seeped into his brain and dulled his senses. Take-out cartons littered the coffee table. Some had spilled over onto the stained carpet. He took a few more tokes, enjoying the comforting numbness. At least I won’t have to make my court date.

Before this moment, Mike had often wondered what his last thoughts might be. And it didn’t surprise him they would return to Sybil Saunders. She, after all, had been his only true love. But when Mike couldn’t hold down a steady job, nor a steady education, she had disappeared like a bat out of hell. Another toke. Exhale. Bat out of hell. Shit, can’t you come up with anything more original than that?

But as his mind cinema replayed the two-year union with Sybil, he realized he couldn’t blame her. She was twenty-eight. He, thirty-two. It was time for him to grow up and take life seriously. Toke. Exhale. For any woman to take him seriously, he would have to demonstrate the ability to provide emotionally, spiritually, and financially. Hell, he could hardly provide for himself, let alone a significant other. Toke. Exhale. Fucking loser.

“It doesn’t matter. The world is doomed. I sure as hell can’t survive in a fucking wasteland. I can barely survive here, for fuck sakes.”

Toke. Exhale. He flicked the joint away. It skipped off the hardwood, landed on a Chinese take-out container and started smoking.

Seeing it, he laughed. “Typical. Burn in Hell, motherfucker! You can all go and burn in Hell, motherfuckers!”

He kicked the chair over. The pipe creaked and groaned, but held. He dropped, abruptly halted by the force of the noose tightening around his neck. His body dangled about five inches from the floor. Perfect. His neck tightened. Bulged. He gasped and emitted a gurgling sound. He felt his face redden, eyes bulge, a tremendous painful force gripping his neck, the stinging of rope burns. His world grew dark. Yes, it’s time. It’s finally time to end my miserable existence.

As life drained from his body and mind, and his vision began to blur, he surveyed the room, and saw it: a greeting card. From Sybil. Probably a birthday card, since his birthday was a week away. Maybe she wants to get back together. Oh shit, what if she wants to get back together?

In an instant, Mike changed his mind. He didn’t want to die now, at least not until he’d read Sybil’s happy birthday message. He tried to raise his arms, reach the rope, and break the goddamned pipe from the ceiling. But his weakening arms would not obey brain commands. He tried to shout out to anyone who would listen but had no voice. The rope was too tight, too constricting.

He wriggled his feet, struggling to grab the rope, struggling to shout out. All in vain. No use. As a terrible blackness encompassed him, he saw the Chinese take-out carton, the one with the smoking joint, burst into flames. The flames fanned out quickly, devouring the old red shag carpet.

In the blackness, Mike saw fiery red. In the redness, Mike saw death.

Pleeeease! I don’t wanna die. Noooooo… nooo… noo… no…

Hope you enjoyed the sample. Lucky you, The End is Nigh is now on sale. For a limited time you can buy the ebook for $0.99, reduced from $3.99. Click the link below to buy on Amazon.

New release reduced from $3.99 to $0.99

I promised I’d tell you when the sale starts. I’m a man of my word. It starts now. It’s finally here. Post-apocalyptic thriller The End is Nigh. Re-released and reduced from $3.99 to $0.99 for the ebook. This blow-out price starts today and ends March 31st, 2019, so get it while it’s on sale. The first edition was such a big hit that I decided to tighten it up, make some corrections, and drop the price for you, the reader. By the way, the paperback is only $11.99.

Here’s a synopsis:

Cray Lenning’s life as a garbage collector in a small town is reclusive and boring. Burdened with strong feelings of distrust and resentment, 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 spirals out of control.

Initially, Cray dismisses the wayward preacher as a wacko, but ominous signs begin to convince him otherwise. Enter Sandra Colling, a heartbroken but resolute nurse. Together, they build an underground shelter to try and survive a deadly inferno blazing across the country, and embark on a frantic mission to save others. Trapped inside the shelter, they learn the terrifying reality of their choices: 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.

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.

Read some honest and unbiased reviews:

This book kept me up all hours, until I had finished it! I could NOT put it down!! With complex characters, a fast-paced plot, escaped convicted felons and an apocalyptic theme, this book has everything you could want and more. What happens when the world as you know it is on fire? If you had to choose who you could save, could you? What would you do in order to ensure your survival? Could you trust strangers? Who do you warn of the coming dangers? When seven people are forced to live together underground in order to survive, personalities, manipulations and secrets will push them all to breaking point. When they are forced to return top side, they are faced with a new reality, one that will have them questioning everything they thought they knew. I hope there is more of this.

…………………………………………………………………………………………….

Loved this book. I’ve read it like a billion times.

…………………………………………………………………………………………….

This is a suspense-filled, action-packed thriller. Unlikely bonds are forged between seven complex and disparate characters as they fight evil forces that are both external and internal in an attempt to save themselves as their world burns. They are confronted with the reality of the burning inferno (and subsequent disasters sent to destroy the world and all life forms), the uncertain pasts and intentions of each other, and the real threat of marauding murderers who want to rule the post-apocalyptic world. Underlying the strong plot line is vivid character development and intense examination of relationships and individual motivations.

……………………………………………………………………………………………….

Click the applicable link below to download the ebook today. For ninety-nine pennies, you can’t go wrong.

Canada, Amazon.ca: https://amzn.to/2tkU7SY

United States, Amazon.com: https://amzn.to/2I5O2Ew

Smashwords: http://bit.ly/2SFYztS

UK, Amazon.uk: https://amzn.to/2E4m9IJ

Apple Books: https://apple.co/2I7Y5Zt

If I’ve left you and your retailer out, I apologize. Please let me know if your preferred book retailer doesn’t have it listed. As always, thanks for your time, have a great day, and enjoy The End is Nigh. One last thing. Please post a review on your book retailer website. It’s the highest compliment a writer can receive.

The Hat Man: Guardian Angel or Devil?

Who is the Hat Man? A guardian angel or the devil in disguise?

According to numerous reports, he’s a mysterious spirit entity who often visits people in their bedrooms at night while they’re sleeping. Sometimes he terrifies them. Other times he leaves them with a sense of peace and calm.

What does he look like? He’s a black, shadowy apparition, darkly cloaked, wearing a wide-rimmed black hat resembling a fedora.

What does the Hat Man want? To some he’s the devil in disguise, a grim reaper of sorts, and a harvester of souls.

Some believe he preys on fear, striking you when your defenses are low and you’re down and out.

Many people report seeing him in their waking lives. Some even claim he’s trashed their houses and tried to strangle them to death in the middle of the night.

According to Heidi Hollis, author of The Hat Man, The True Story of Evil Encounters, he’s not only real, but he is the devil. She writes, “Victims worldwide have reported seeing this man peering into their homes, their bedrooms, their baby cribs, their cars and even—their souls.”

Some have been able to defeat him by calling out the name of Jesus, or having their homes blessed, while others, according to reports, just beat the crap out of him. Some simply order him out of their homes.

But others claim the Hat Man is a guardian angel, whose purpose is to protect them from harm.

The Hat Man is often seen with his band of followers, the Shadow People.

Where did the Hat Man come from? Where did the Shadow People come from?

According to Wikipedia, shadowy entities are “the perception of a patch of shadow as a living, humanoid figure, particularly as interpreted by believers in the paranormal or supernatural as the presence of a spirit of other entity.”

Researchers say shadowy entities date as far back as 300 AD. Wikipedia says, “A number of religions, legends, and belief systems describe shadowy spiritual beings or supernatural entities such as shades of the underworld, and various shadowy creatures have long been a staple of folklore and ghost stories.”

There are other theories about the origins of the Hat Man and the Shadow People.

A neurological theory: Shadow People and Hat Man images occur during sleep paralysis, a mysterious sleeping disorder occurring in that transitional stage between waking and falling asleep during which a person becomes completely immobilized and often sees frightening images. According to the neurological theory, these shadowy entities are merely the manifestation of a sleeping disorder and by extension nothing more than a product of the subconscious mind.

A religious theory: Shadow People and the Hat Man are the evil minions of the devil, sent to snatch our souls and drag us down into the bowels of hell.

Another religious theory: Shadow People are guardian angels, sent from heaven to protect our souls and shield us from evil.

The scientific theory: Some physicists believe that unexplained forces are causing other dimensions to merge with ours. This merging of different dimensions would explain why we can only see the Shadow People and the Hat Man as shadowy figures who have the ability to transcend our laws of gravity, float through walls, fly, and change shapes at random.

According to this theory, the Hat Man and the Shadow People are the extra-dimensional inhabitants of another universe or another dimension. That’s why they can disappear and reappear in the drop of a hat. Or maybe in the drop of the Hat Man.

Regardless of what theory you subscribe to, one thing is certain. The Hat Man and the Shadow people drive terror and fear into the hearts of some, and peace and calm into the hearts of others.

Doing research recently on my soon-to-be-released supernatural thriller, The Dark Menace, I posted a blog asking people to tell me their experiences with the Hat Man and the Shadow People.

Needless to say, I received a lot of responses—some terrifying, others heartwarming. Here are some excerpts:

  • Rather frightening:

When I was around four, I think at the time my parents were going through a divorce. I was sleeping on my mom’s bed one night and had to go to the bathroom, so I got up and went to use the bathroom and she was still sleeping. I came back and fell back to sleep. I woke up to a pitch black shadow of a man staring at me at the edge of the bed. It felt like an eternity, he was staring. My whole body was frozen with fear. He started growing in height, almost reaching the ceiling. At this point I turned my body and fell back to sleep. The next night I woke up and felt the urge to walk to the living room. I walked to the living room to see a shadow man at my front door. My dad was sleeping on the couch. I tried waking him up. I tried pushing at him, and to no avail. He wasn’t waking up. I walked back to my mom’s room to sleep, hoping it would go away. I looked back to see the shadow person staring at my dad.

  • On a more positive note:

The Hat Man visits me nearly every week in lucid dreaming. And I have only good experiences with him. We just talk normally and I often ask him questions. For example, I ask how he comes to my dreams, who he is, and so on. Once he showed me his tarot cards. That was funny. I always try to look in his face, and he looks like an Arabian type of man. But I want to mention, that he’s not the only Hat Man. He has a brother, too. They are very different.

  • Somewhere in that mysterious twilight zone between black and white:

Hey, I have seen the Hat Man. He was on the left side of my bed but when I awoke and saw him. I did feel an intense sense of fear. I began to think that fear was created by myself over time. I was sleeping next to my partner and we were going through a troubling time, when I saw the Hat Man I saw it wasn’t me he had interest in but my partner. It’s very strange because I couldn’t see his eyes but I knew he was looking at him. He was there until I managed to panic and turned on the light. I have never seen him again but on occasion I think about him and wonder if he will reappear and why he did. I was scared at first but now I feel he is of some good. I am unsure. This was in maybe 2011. I was sexually attacked by a man that year. I put him behind bars for seven years but I felt strong, like I knew I could do it, but then suffered a year with anxiety and depression. Did he cause this? Or was it a warning? I am unsure. I am mentioning this due to other related aftermaths.

  • Now that’s downright chilling:

He’s from the Void/VALE of DARKNESS. I saw the hooded man/grim reaper. I saw two of them when I was 6 years old and I was shaking and heard whispers and voices and I had a severe high fever. I was hallucinating with nightmares and night terrors. This happened back in 2004 and after that the next day I was blacking out in the morning. I had to go to the doctor. I almost died in that experience.

  • And on the flip side:

I’ve seen the Hat Man four times in my life. The first time I was about 6 years old, and the sighting snapped me awake from a dead sleep. The next two visits followed that night closely (maybe within 4-7 days apart from the first visit). Seeing him the first time, the tall, dark shadow figure, wearing a fancy top hat, absolutely petrified me. The next two times he woke me from a dead sleep, dressed the same (trench coat, top hat, beard, kind features) and wasn’t in shadow form. I wasn’t afraid of him at all, and actually rather drawn to him. I felt like he was an old friend in this form. I won’t go into much detail but these two accounts are drilled into my memory as something spiritual and friendly. Now, the fourth time I saw him was a few days ago (some 30 years later), back in shadow form, just watching me sleep. I wasn’t afraid and felt oddly comforted. My research the past few days has been really surprising because I’m not finding any other stories of people with good experiences with the Hat Man. Surely, I can’t be the only one?

No, you’re not. Researching the strange Hat Man phenomenon for The Dark Menace, two things became abundantly clear. Some view him as evil, others as good.

I certainly don’t have all the answers, but have you ever thought about this: Maybe it depends on your perspective. Are you glass half full? Or glass half empty?

In The Dark Menace, I take a deep dive into these questions and many more. The culmination of over six months of research, this supernatural thriller endeavors to find answers to a strange and mysterious real-life phenomenon that has haunted and terrorized thousands of people around the world for centuries.

The Dark Menace short synopsis:

Mysterious and terrifying attacks by the Shadow People and the Hat Man lead a nightmare-plagued man to suspect an enigmatic doctor has accidentally opened a portal to Hell.

THE END IS NIGH COVER REVEAL

If you’ve been following my latest blog posts, you’ll already be aware that I’ve unpublished post-apocalyptic thriller THE END IS NIGH and will be republishing it within the next month with brand-new edits and rewrites, and a fresh and stunning new book cover.

If you’ve ever worked with a cover designer before, you’ll know that really it’s an artist collaboration. Typically—in the form of images and words—I send talented cover designer Johnny Breeze my vision. Through a back-and-forth dialogue that often results in a phone conversation or two, Johnny tries to interpret my vision. The result typically is something spectacular. Check out some of my backlist of book covers if you don’t believe me. They’re awesome. And so is Johnny.

But, I digress. On the latest cover design for THE END IS NIGH I decided to do something different. Instead of dreaming up a cover concept—I like to call it a cover vision—I decided on a departure. I thought I’d let Johnny do it for a change. I thought I’d let him create the vision and see what happened. All I did was send him the short and long synopsis.

Short synopsis:

As a blazing inferno decimates the world, seven social outcasts form an unlikely alliance, fleeing to an underground shelter, where they’re thrust into a life-and-death battle with vicious evil forces threatening to seize control of a post-apocalyptic wasteland.

Long synopsis:

Cray Lenning’s life as a garbage collector in a small town is reclusive and boring. Burdened with strong feelings of distrust and resentment, 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 spirals out of control.

Initially, Cray dismisses the wayward preacher as a wacko, but ominous signs begin to convince him otherwise. Enter Sandra Colling, a heartbroken but resolute nurse. Together, they build an underground shelter to try and survive a deadly inferno blazing across the country, and embark on a frantic mission to save others. Trapped inside the shelter, they learn the terrifying reality of their choices: 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.

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.

 As is normally the case, Johnny and I had to discuss details a few times before we reached the finished product. Adding more flames, eliminating the cocaine line from below the preacher’s nose (I told him he’s an alcoholic but as far as I know, not a coke head, LOL), adding a few wrinkles, making his hair Einstein-like. Stuff like that. All the rest, I left to his creative imagination. I think you’ll agree when you reach the bottom of this page—the result is nothing short of spectacular.

The second edition promises to be everything the first edition was and much more. Tighter prose. More detailed, hair-raising suspense, and scares. Complete elimination of a few grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors. Best of all, the prices will be much cheaper. With the first edition I had no control over pricing and the ebook was priced at $5.99 and the paperback sold for as much as $35. Are you kidding me? Thirty-five bucks for a paperback?

When THE END IS NIGH is re-released, the ebook will retail for $3.99, paperback $11.99. But the savings don’t stop there. For a limited time, I’ll be offering the second edition ebook for a mere ninety-nine pennies. Stay tuned. I’ll advise you when the SALE starts.

Modesty aside, I think you’ll really enjoy THE END IS NIGH. But don’t take my word for it. Read what reviewers say:

This book kept me up all hours, until I had finished it! I could NOT put it down!! With complex characters, a fast-paced plot, escaped convicted felons and an apocalyptic theme, this book has everything you could want and more. What happens when the world as you know it, is on fire? If you had to choose who you could save, could you? What would you do in order to ensure your survival? Could you trust strangers? Who do you warn of the coming dangers? When 7 people are forced to live together underground in order to survive, personalities, manipulations and secrets will push them all to breaking point. When they are forced to return top side, they are faced with a new reality, one that will have them questioning everything they thought they knew.
I hope there is more of this!

-C.P.

Another page-turner from Blackwell, as most of the others novels I had my hands on from this outstanding horror-fiction writer. I’m pleased to say that this novel met all my expectations, and then some. They main characters create a terrifying and fascinating storyline that quickly turns into an addiction which you won’t let out of your hands before you finished reading it. This dark fiction novel will strike you to the core and creates a tension which I have hardly ever felt with a book in my hands.

-Amazon Kunde

This is a suspense-filled, action-packed thriller. Unlikely bonds are forged between seven complex and disparate characters as they fight evil forces that are both external and internal in an attempt to save themselves as their world burns. They are confronted with the reality of the burning inferno (and subsequent disasters sent to destroy the world and all life forms), the uncertain pasts and intentions of each other, and the real threat of marauding murderers who want to rule the post-apocalyptic world. Underlying the strong plot line is vivid character development and intense examination of relationships and individual motivations.

-N.B.

Watch for the BIG BOOK BLOW-OUT SALE.

As always, thanks for stopping by and have an awesome day.

New Looks and New Books in the New Year

New looks and new books in the New Year. That’s right dear readers, I’m making a number of changes in 2019. First to the new looks.

I’ve unpublished Black Dawn and The End Is Nigh. I did it because my former publisher controlled all the pricing. Paperbacks were priced as high as $30 each, ebooks around $4.99. In my opinion, $30 for a paperback is just too high. Both novels will be re-edited and given a fresh new look with dramatic new covers. Telemachus Press, my tried-and-true publisher, will be helping with the process and talented cover artist Johnny Breeze has been tasked with cover design.

When the new versions reappear, probably in about two months, horror novel Black Dawn will be priced at $3.99 for an ebook and $9.99 for a paperback. Post-apocalyptic novel The End Is Nigh ebook will retail for $3.99, paperback $11.99. Far more affordable for you, the reader.

Here’s a short summary of Black Dawn: A down-on-his luck alcoholic realizes his terrifying nightmares are actually teleportation trips to gruesome murder scenes. Struggling with external and internal demons, he’s thrust into an epic battle to try and save the life of his estranged girlfriend and other close friends. Black Dawn offers a rare and raw glimpse into the dark underbelly of the Dominican Republic.

The End Is Nigh short summary: As a blazing inferno decimates the world, seven social outcasts form an unlikely alliance, fleeing to an underground shelter where they’re thrust into a life-and-death battle with vicious evil forces threatening to seize control of a post-apocalyptic wasteland.

Both novels have received excellent unbiased and honest reviews. When they’re released, I’m considering offering a limited time, re-release promotion price. Don’t worry, you’ll be the first to know.

What else is new?

In 2018, I wrote two novels—The Witch’s Tombstone and The Dark Menace, both supernatural thrillers that I’m really pumped about. The Witch’s Tombstone is still going through the editing stages and The Dark Menace is ready to be released.

It involved a ton of research on alternate realities, other dimensions, sleep disorders, and the strange and mysterious otherworldly entities (that have haunted and terrorized people for centuries) known as The Hat Man and The Shadow People. It’s about a nightmare-plagued man who suspects an enigmatic doctor may have unleashed a torrent of horrifying attacks by the Shadow People and the Hat Man.

When will it be released? There’s the rub. I don’t really know. This year I’m approaching my craft a little differently. I have a new strategy. In search of contractual representation, a book deal, I’ve pitched The Dark Menace to a number of Canadian book agents as well as a few big-name publishers. I’m waiting to hear back. By the way, if you have connections to—or work with—book agents or publishers, I’d like to hear from you.

My new strategy also applies to The Witch’s Tombstone. When the editing and rewrites have been completed, I plan on submitting it to publishers and book agents. It involved extensive research on legends of witches who reportedly lived on Prince Edward Island during the 17th century. One such which was falsely accused of witchcraft, convicted, and burned at the stake.

Short summary: A troubled young woman cursed with shadowy supernatural powers believes she’s the descendant of an evil witch who was burned at the stake in the 1700s for her crimes.

Of course, I’d love to see book deals for both novels. And I know how this game goes. You have to be patient. As Telemachus Press publisher Steve Himes says, “Writing novels is a marathon not a sprint.”

How long will I wait? I think it makes sense to grind it out for about a year. If the marathon begins to look more like a treadmill by the end of 2019, I’ll self-publish both titles through William Blackwell Publishing and Telemachus Press.

At that time, I’ll have to retool my marketing machine in an effort to give those titles, along with my extensive backlist of novels, the exposure reviewers and readers alike say they deserve.

Happy New Year! I sincerely hope all your dreams come true in 2019.

‘Tis the season to better ourselves

Can you believe it? It’s that time of year already. Another year almost under our belts. Another year older. Counting down the days until Christmas. Counting down the days until New Year’s Day.

For better or worse, 2019 here we come.

I’m not a huge fan of Christmas, although I do like the spirit of giving and humanitarianism that it evokes in people. But, sometimes I ask myself, “Why are some people on their best behavior for one, maybe two days of the year? Why can’t they be nice all the time?”

I was surfing through Twitter one morning and I came across a profile that caught my eye. I can’t remember the name now, but I do remember the philosophy the woman had posted on her profile. It went something like this: We have enough smart people. We have enough rich people. We have enough beautiful people. But they’re not going to change the world. Kindness will change the world.

I started thinking about it in the context of the holidays, my lackadaisical attitude about Christmas, and my feeling about New Year’s.

First, Christmas. Why don’t I like it? It’s not so much that I don’t enjoy the giving spirit of Christmas, the fellowship, the time it provides for us to be with our loved ones. I do enjoy that. I also get that Christmas is for kids.

But, literally, figuratively and metaphorically, I don’t buy into the rampant commercialism associated with Christmas. Malls go crazy with shoppers. People are out buying gifts for people they hardly even know, hardly ever see. That uncle you can barely tolerate gets a pair of socks. Maybe a nice pair of mittens for that verbally abusive cousin. You know, the really good ones with the attached strings so he won’t lose them.

And whether people can afford it or not, many make Christmas lists, check them twice, and then go on a shopping spree—often putting themselves in massive debt for the next year or more.

Crazy, you ask me.

Wouldn’t it be nice if instead of buying loads of unnecessary gifts for financially stable people, we gave that money to people in need? Wouldn’t the money be better served there?

Just a thought.

In any event, New Year’s is one of my favorite holidays. As 2019 approaches, I take time to reflect on 2018 and ask myself if I accomplished all of my goals. I review my hand-written goal list and take stock of how I did. I separate my goals into two categories. One, career/financial. Two, personal.

Since the career-financial is less important than the personal, I’ll skip it. You know the saying. When we’re dead and gone, we won’t be remembered by how many toys we’ve managed to accumulate, or in my case how many books I’ve written and sold.

Oh, no.

We’ll be remembered by how many people we’ve loved and by how many people we’ve helped. We’ll be remembered by the depth of that love and the depth of that humanitarianism. It’s that simple.

That’s why New Year’s gives me the opportunity to reflect on my deficiencies, take responsibility for my actions, and not seek refuge in the victim card. It gives me an opportunity to change. To make a fresh start. An opportunity to make new goals and New Year’s Resolutions.

My life, like anybody’s I suppose, is a constant journey in search of positive growth and change. A quest to try and better myself and learn more about my inadequacies, come to terms with them, and find some semblance of happiness and inner peace.

And I’m starting to realize the road to happiness is paved with humanitarianism. Much greater minds than my own have said that one of the greatest joys in life is helping other people. Over the years, I have gotten involved in a number of volunteer jobs, all in an effort to make someone’s life a little better, a little easier, and a little happier.

And the joy and satisfaction I felt through giving unconditionally and selflessly is difficult to put into words. It’s heartwarming, to say the least.

With that in mind, New Year’s resolution number one is to try and practice a more selfless agenda as opposed to a self-serving agenda. A humanitarian agenda.

New Year’s resolution number two. As much as I’m not a materialist, on some level I do tie some of my happiness to financial success—namely book sales. Next year I hope to better understand that the notion that money buys happiness is an illusion. It’s a dead-end street.

At the same time, I take some comfort in the knowledge that I’ve recognized and accepted my faults, and am trying to fix them. Who knows, maybe I’m halfway there. At least recognition, acceptance, and a willingness to change is better than denial.

We live, we learn, and we try not to repeat the same old patterns over and over and over again.

Let’s hope the New Year ushers in a kinder, gentler, and more tolerant humanity.

Happy Holidays!

How to stay focused while writing

With all the distractions in this crazy, mixed up world, mastering how to stay focused while writing can be very difficult. In this complex day and age, it’s often difficult to stay focused on anything for a long period of time, let alone writing.

But, we’re talking about writing here.

I’ve written hundreds of news articles, dozens of university papers, several contracts, and numerous website articles. In addition, I’m currently doing edits and rewrites on my nineteenth novel. A supernatural thriller, The Witch’s Tombstone is about a troubled young woman cursed with shadowy supernatural powers who believes she’s the descendant of an evil witch who was burned at the stake in the 1700s for her crimes.

An aspiring writer friend recently said, “I don’t know how you do it. I haven’t figured out how to stay focused while writing.”

Whether you’re writing an email to a friend, a university or high-school paper, or your own novel, you’ll have to figure out a recipe that works for you. Here are some proven tips to help you master how to stay focused while writing.

Find your flow. When you get into the zone, you can write fluently, holding multiple pieces of a story in your head simultaneously, often without referring to notes. Wikipedia defines flow as “the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterized by complete absorption in what one does, and a resulting loss in one’s sense of space and time.”

When I find my flow, hours seem to pass by in the blink of an eye. I get so immersed and engrossed in the story, I forget to eat, forget to shower, and forget all about the phone and social media. My story catapults me into a fantastical and amazing world that almost becomes more real than the world in which we live.

Turn off your phone. Turn off all social media. Close your email.

Often people who think they can multitask are only fooling themselves. Researchers have demonstrated that when we multitask, oftentimes many tasks are completed poorly. There is still something to be said for concentrating on one task, completing it, and then moving on to the next.

Turn the TV off. Turn the radio off.

I guess some writers listen to music or have the TV blaring in the background while they write. However, I’d hazard a guess that this doesn’t work for most of us. It hearkens back to the research on multitasking; that often your brain is incapable of handling several tasks efficiently.

Come to grips with distractions. Even if you turn your communications off, you will get distracted. Accept it. Sometimes your brain will be slow to kick into gear and you’ll feel your thoughts wandering. Don’t panic. Just remind yourself that you have to concentrate and stay focused. Gently steer your mind to the writing task at hand.

When I start my writing day, often at six or seven in the morning, my mind is generally slow to find the thread of the story. The words often feel clunky, the dialogue wooden. I see plot-holes everywhere. But, as long as you’re comfortable with your revision process, knowing you can polish the sentences later, convince yourself to plow forward and write the story. Often it takes me an hour or more before I find my flow, after which the words seem to come effortlessly and smoothly.

Got ants in your pants? I often find myself getting up from my desk to get something or do something and I have to constantly tell myself to return to the office and get back to work. If you want to learn how to stay focused while writing, you’ll have to learn to sit still. When you find yourself wandering aimlessly around the house, remind yourself to get back to work, even if you have to shout it out to snap yourself back to the task at hand.

Set a schedule. Figure out the time of day when you’re at your best and write then if you can. As I said, I’m at my best in the morning. I put aside three to five hours every morning (of every working day) for nothing but writing. If you have to, determine how many hours your project will take and then allocate a set amount of hours to it weekly so you’ll finish it on time.

Sometimes setting a daily word count goal helps. It works for me. During novel writing, I generally set a daily quota of 2,000 words. When, and only when, I reach that goal, do I begin doing all my other writing-related tasks and domestic chores.

Do the things that inspire you. If your inspiration comes from visiting your friends, schedule a visit before you start writing. I find inspiration from a number of sources: horror movies, news, reading, conversations, people-watching, and Mother Nature. I tap into all of them regularly to keep my creative juices flowing. It’s also important to take time away from your writing so you don’t burn out.

This might contradict what I said earlier, but if you find you can’t get your muse flowing, try changing up your schedule. Maybe you find you have too many things to do in the morning. Too many things on your mind. Maybe your mind will be calmer and more focused at night. It doesn’t hurt to experiment.

Whatever your writing goals are, start now. Don’t procrastinate. If you put aside just a little time every day for writing, you might find that as the days pass, you become more excited about your work and more inclined to dedicate larger blocks of time to it.

Lastly, don’t be daunted if you don’t get it right the first time. Be prepared for disappointment, pain and suffering.

After all, if writing was easy, we’d all be doing it.

Remember what President Theodore Roosevelt said: “Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.”

 

The Witch’s Tombstone Resurrected

After about five months of research and writing, the first draft of The Witch’s Tombstone has been completed. It came in at about 72,000 words, longer than I expected. Whew. Hallelujah.

The writing process never ceases to amaze me. You’d think that after nineteen novels, it would become easier.

It certainly didn’t feel that way with this supernatural thriller. Some days the prose seemed wooden, the dialogue contrived and even a little stilted. Other days I became so immersed in the story and characters, I forgot about my daily word quota—normally 1,500 to 2,000 words. Lost in a dramatic and mysterious world of my imagination, I forgot to eat, forgot to shower, and even forgot to turn the phone on or check social media.

But it certainly wasn’t like that in the early stages. Every writer is different, I suppose. Without doubt, some start a work in progress confidently high on their past accolades, positive reviews and books sales.

But not this scribbling scribe.

To be sure, my books have at times garnered decent sales. And about eighty-five per cent of the reviews are five out of five stars. Perhaps most importantly, when I finish one I won’t release it to the viewing public unless I’m really pleased with it. Unless, regardless of what some naysayers might say, I know it’s a good book.

But that doesn’t seem to stop the self-doubt when I start a new novel. I sometimes ask myself, “Can I still do this? Maybe I’ve used up all my creative juices. Maybe there’s nothing left in the tank. Is this story even going anywhere?”

That usually lasts for about the first 20,000 words or so. After that, as I did with The Witch’s Tombstone, I usually find a groove and the process becomes a little easier and a lot more satisfying. I loosen up and the creativity starts to flow.

Sometimes the satisfaction is difficult to put into words. Indescribable. It’s a kind of magic really when you can take one little idea and spin it into a complicated story with three-dimensional characters, unexpected plot twists and—at least in my case—a heaping helping of macabre, gritty and horrific elements.

To discover that your art contains sub-texts, themes, unexpected layers, and operates on levels that you hadn’t even intentionally constructed, is a small miracle. Finishing up the last chapter of The Witch’s Tombstone, it dawned on me that in many ways the tale is about art mirroring life and life mirroring art. I started to recognize symbolism that I hadn’t consciously intended.

I asked myself, “Did my subconscious intend this? Was it a gift to my conscious?” Whatever it was, it was an incredible moment of elation and gratification, knowing that there were parts of my brain working on the novel while I was doing something else.

In a word, magic.

Writing the last two thousand or so words, I started to wonder if I would have the same emotional response as I had with most of my other titles. Would I get a little teary-eyed knowing my time with my characters, many of whom I’d grown to love, was coming to an end? I hadn’t felt it up to that point so I had my doubts.

You see, this visceral emotional response tells me it’s a decent story. It’s a captivating story. It’s, to borrow words from some of my reviewers, “a real page-turner.”

And then, during a particularly sad and heartbreaking scene, it happened. I felt my eyes well with tears. I felt a little sad. A little elated. Bittersweet. I had to leave the office and take a break before I could return to my keyboard. But when I did, I knew. This story isn’t bad. Not bad at all. Compelling even. People will enjoy this.

I guess that’s why I do it. I was born with a gift. Wouldn’t it be a tragedy to turn a blind eye to our God-given talents? I write because I was born to write. I write because, even with all the agony, despair, and self-doubt, I love it.

I’ve always encouraged my friends and family to pursue their dreams and develop their talents. If we have no passion in our lives, we don’t have much.

So, yes, I’m thrilled that one part of the process has ended and another one is beginning. Editing and rewrites. I’ve started doing some rewrites now—mainly polishing up the last two chapters and the epilogue. I’ve taken many notes and now must systematically go through the manuscript and repair plot holes, fill in backstory, correct technical inaccuracies, dialogue; and obviously punctuation, grammar, spelling and syntax. I do three editing passes of my own and then it’s off to my editor for a professional polish and some honest feedback about the book’s potential.

Maybe I was wrong. But, I doubt it.

Look for The Witch’s Tombstone in bookstores soon. Here’s a short synopsis to whet your appetite.

A troubled young woman cursed with shadowy supernatural powers believes she’s the descendant of an evil witch who was burned at the stake in the 1700s for her heinous crimes.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my rant.

What happened to our right to privacy?

In the age of big information technology companies, the notion of privacy has become a joke. To name a few (and there are hundreds, if not millions of companies, doing this), Microsoft, Facebook and Google all track your movements, develop a profile on you and use that information to make money. What happened to our right to privacy?

Let’s start with Google. If you have location tracking activated on your smartphone, they track your every move. There is even a Google link you can access that shows a map of every location you’ve ever visited. What else does Google do? They know everything you’ve ever searched (and deleted), have an advertising profile on you, know all the apps you use, track your YouTube history, have literally reams and reams and reams of data on you. Some data analysts claim Google has enough data on you to fill millions of Word documents.

And here’s the kicker. There’s little, if anything, that you can do about it.

Here are some examples of complete invasions of my privacy by Google that irk the hell out of me. They’ve just started sending me news notifications on my smartphone. Every day, based on what they see me searching on the internet and watching on YouTube, I get notifications sent to me. There is some weird disclaimer saying something to the effect that this information may be used to develop a profile of my interests, something along that line.

But, guess what? I didn’t ask for the notifications. I didn’t activate a switch or push a button agreeing to receive them. They just started showing up one day. I also discovered I can’t turn them off. There is no setting to turn them off. Even though they annoy the hell out of me, there isn’t a damn thing I can do about it.

Trust me, that’s the tip of the iceberg.

I inadvertently installed a Google app to send and receive text messages on my smartphone. For a few months it worked fine. Then all of a sudden, I started getting prepared responses to incoming messages. Here’s an example: Let’s say I received a message saying, “Have a great time at the party. Talk to you soon.”

I might get three, maybe more, possible responses from Google. Something like this: “Thanks, will do. Take care.” Or, “Have a great night. I’ll be in touch.” And then there’s always the short and sweet option: “Okay, thanks.” Or, “Sweet!” I can simply click a button to select one of these messages or choose to type my own response.

This new technology is not only on my text messages. It has also recently started appearing on all of my Gmail emails. And, as with the news notifications that suddenly appeared on my smartphone, I didn’t ask Google to give me three pre-selected automated responses to incoming emails or text messages.

I didn’t ask for them and, try as I might, I can’t find settings anywhere that will allow me to deactivate them.

Talk about infuriating. Talk about an unmitigated invasion of privacy.

What does this mean? It means Google is reading all of my emails and all of my text messages without my authorization to do so. I’ve been told it isn’t people reading the texts or emails. Some tech guys have told me it’s some electronic smart software, a bot or something that recognizes speech patterns, words and sentence meanings. Some sort of artificial intelligence.

I might have been born in a day, but it sure as hell wasn’t yesterday. I just don’t buy it. Not now, not ever.

I’m constantly being bombarded by online ads based, not only on my internet search history, but also on the content of my emails.

Google Photos is another one that irritates me. One day my phone was overloaded with photos and I was running out of memory. I made the bad decision to activate Google Photos and back up thousands of images onto the Google cloud, or whatever they call it nowadays. It isn’t enough that I get bombarded with unsolicited news notifications, now Google is regularly doctoring my photos (maybe they call it enhancing) and sending me notifications telling me about it. Or, they’ll select a series of photos of a special moment in history and send me a notification encouraging me to “Rediscover this day,” and take a nostalgic trip down memory lane. We know they’re not doing this out of the goodness of their heart. They want more data for my profile. Thanks but no thanks.

Again, I didn’t ask for it, and I’ve yet to figure out how to turn it off. If I spent all my time trying to figure out how to safeguard my privacy, I’d never get any work done.

Besides, it would be all for not anyway. I’ve already established, as have greater minds than my own, that internet privacy is a fallacy, a joke, an illusion of monumental proportions.

And if you believe Facebook is some kind of a social media saint, guess again. Facebook has tons of data on you, including every message or file you’ve ever sent or ever received; every audio message you’ve sent or received. Based on what you’ve liked and what your friends discuss, Facebook determines, tracks and stores what they think you might be interested in. When you log into Facebook, they track and store log-in location, time, and from which device you logged in.

According to data consultants and analysts, Facebook also tracks, when technologically possible, where you are. At random, they can access your laptop or desktop webcam or microphone, your computer contacts, emails, calendar, call history, files you download, photos, internet search history and more.

Much, much more.

If you have Facebook on your phone, they have access to all of your contacts and photos, in some cases even your text messages.

It doesn’t take an Albert Einstein to figure out all the potential nefarious uses of this information. As a writer, I’m dependent on the internet for my livelihood. If I wasn’t, I’d be awfully tempted to buy a landline to keep in touch with friends and family, and toss my smartphone and laptop into the trash can. Maybe then, I’d reclaim my privacy.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not denying there are good things associated with the internet and social media. But, if you think for a second that Facebook or Google will make (or are making) concerted efforts to protect or safeguard our privacy, think again.

It seems abundantly clear that they’re doing the exact opposite—going to great lengths to invade and exploit our privacy for commercial gain.

What happened to our right to privacy? We forfeited it when we decided to watch cute little cat videos on Facebook or YouTube.

Be careful what you search for. Big Brother is watching.

International Make a Friend Week—August 9th to 16th

It’s been said if you can count them on one hand, you’re doing very well. Friends, that is. I’m not trying to brag or anything, but I must be extremely fortunate. Without specifying numbers, I can count my friends on more than two hands. I’m not talking acquaintances here. People you say hi to once in a while, maybe even invite to dinner occasionally, and perhaps have a five-minute—often mundane and meaningless—conversation with when you bump into them in the grocery store.

I’m talking inner circle people. Those who know you well, know your character flaws, and love you anyway. Those who—as long as you don’t cross a moral red line in the sand—are willing to forgive and forget your indiscretions. I’m talking people who would give you the shirt of their back, loan you money (if they had it), drop everything and come running to your aid if you were suffering a major crisis. I’m talking about people with whom you connect with on an emotional and intellectual level. People you can tell your innermost secrets to with the sure knowledge that they will not betray your trust. People you don’t need an appointment with to talk to or visit.  People you can call anytime. People who praise, not criticize your success, support you through good and bad times, have confidence in you, and encourage you to reach for the stars. You can spend hours with them and time flies by as if it were mere minutes, even seconds. Instead of sapping you of energy, they rejuvenate and fill you with happiness.

Of course, these are just a few of the criteria for close friends. The list goes on and on. I understand I generalize to a degree. What works for me might not work for someone else. Some people might be more or less forgiving; others might be able to tolerate more bullshit and still consider someone a close friend.

Whatever, your criteria, you know what works for you.

How many close, inner circle friends do you have? Have you ever stopped to ask yourself how many close friends your friends have? Have you ever asked them? The answer might surprise you. To some of my close friends, I’ve asked, “This isn’t a competition or anything but how many really close friends do you have?” I’ve received answers such as, “One… and it’s you.” This from a close friend whom I considered to have a vast social circle.

Another response, “I’m lucky I can count them on one hand.”

Once I was bold enough to ask an acquaintance this question. The answer, sad but true, “I don’t have any friends unless you count family. And I don’t.”

I told you that to tell you this. Maybe it’s time we stepped out of the shell of imperfection and misconception and ventured out in the world to try and make a new friend or two. Whether we’re willing to admit it or not, we all need social contact, love and companionship.

I once mistakenly thought I could survive on the cherished friendship of Robbie the Rabbit and Alvin the Chipmunk. Don’t get me wrong, their social skills are impeccable and they would never let me down. But after some time, we solved all the world’s problems and I realized it was time to broaden my horizons and make friends with a few human beings on Prince Edward Island. I’m managing okay, but I still have some work to do.  After all, we can never have too many friends, at least not of the inner circle variety.

That’s why I’m declaring the week of August 9th to August 16tth (that’s tomorrow, folks) International Make a Friend Week. So step out of the box of solitude, reservation and self-doubt. Step out of your comfort zone. Call up an acquaintance, someone you’ve always wanted to get to know better and start building a friendship. Revive an old friendship, one that perhaps has become extinct with the ravages of time. Or, put yourself in social situations where you can meet more people, make new friends. I’m sure you’ll be glad you did.

You might be wondering who died and made me God, granting me the power and authority to suddenly declare it International Make a Friend Week. No one did. Hey, I’m just trying to help you guys out; maybe even trying to help myself out.

Whatever you might think about all your worldly possessions—your beautiful car, your beautiful house and all your beautiful toys, they do not measure up to the value of true friendship. As Thomas Aquinas once said, “There is nothing on this earth more to be prized than true friendship.”

So go on, give it a try. Pay it forward. Maybe it’ll catch on.