William Blackwell

Dark Fiction Author

Author: william Page 1 of 9

Screw Xmas

Whoa! Wait one second. Before you get all bent out of shape and start accusing me of being the Grinch who stole Xmas, please read on. Screw Xmas is actually my little Xmas gift to you, dear reader. That’s right, it’s a complete story from Tales of Damnation, my collection of short horror tales scheduled for release in early 2021. And, I’m not gonna throw out any spoilers, but I think you just might enjoy it.

Here’s a synopsis of Tales of Damnation:

If you enjoy a nail-biting roller-coaster ride through hell, you’ll love Tales of Damnation, a collection of short horror stories.

Watch a school bully finally get his comeuppance in grisly fashion.

Witness an insensitive narcissist realize a little too late that it’s time he started caring.

Feel the heat when a pyromaniac learns that playing with fire also means getting burned.

Learn the shocking difference between real friends and fake friends.

Ride shotgun with a demented stalker as she tracks her prey through the haunted woods.

Discover the horrifying consequences when a loser succumbs to the seduction of a succubus.

And there’s more. Fourteen finely crafted short horror tales guaranteed to titillate, terrorize, and entertain.

And here’s Screw Xmas:

Screw Xmas

“Screw Xmas,” Hank Weimer told his sister Andrea. “And, no, I won’t accept your Xmas dinner invitation.”

“You shouldn’t talk like that,” she said.

“Why not? That’s how I feel. It’s a stupid holiday.”

“Why do you say that?”

“People you never ever hear from and never talk to send you stupid Xmas cards. What a bunch of bullshit. Phony bullshit.”

“Well, aside from its religious significance, it’s also a special time to get together with family and friends. You know, share special moments and all that.”

“And all that,” Hank said. “And all that bullshit. It’s a terrible time of year. The malls go crazy, retailers go crazy. Commercialism runs rampant. People buy shit for people they normally wouldn’t even talk to. A pair of socks, a pair of underwear, a box of chocolates. They max out credit cards and spend money they don’t even have.”

“You don’t have to focus on the materialistic part of it,” Andrea insisted. “That’s why we draw straws.”

Maybe she had a point, Hank thought, but he wasn’t willing to acknowledge it. This year, from his family of three brothers and two sisters, he’d drawn Andrea’s straw; technically that meant only one gift. But could he really ignore his sister Karen’s three toddlers? By the same token, could he ignore his brother Brandon’s twin ten-year-old boys? Could he reasonably expect to ignore his mother and father, knowing most of his other siblings wouldn’t? No, the whole thing was just fucked.

“I just don’t like Xmas,” he said. “Actually, I hate it.”

“Well, you should try and change up your attitude a bit. And I know your reasons are much more deep-seated than what you let on. You should learn to get over it. And, I know why you always pronounce it Xmas even though it’s Christmas. You want to make a mockery of the holiday. Stop that, will you.”

“Merry fucking Xmas,” Hank said, pressing END CALL and slamming the phone down.

Feeling angry and irritated, he went into the kitchen of his modest one-bedroom apartment in downtown Vancouver, snatched a Coke from the refrigerator, and returned to the living room. He went over to the window and looked outside on that dreary Saturday afternoon. It was December 14th, and there was a steady and insidious drizzle that was coming down. It had been raining all day today and all day and night yesterday. Welcome to the west coast of Canada in the winter. On the busy street below, a few umbrella-holding pedestrians moved along, going about their daily tasks, whatever the hell they might be. Cars swished through puddles, grinding slowly down the busy street. Even on a Saturday, it was wall-to-wall traffic.

He sat down on his favorite tattered armchair, popped the tab on his Coke can, and briefly thought about doing some channel-surfing. He moved his hand toward the TV remote but abruptly changed his mind. He’d torn a lower back muscle at his shipper-receiver warehouse job two weeks ago and had been practically doing nothing but staring mindlessly at the Idiot Box for the last ten days. Laid up indoors on sick leave, he was fast becoming bored out of his mind. Worse still, due to the severity of the injury, he was under doctor’s orders to rest for at least another two weeks before even attempting any exercise.

He ran a hand through his thick black hair and adjusted his glasses, which lately had started to slide down the bridge of his nose. Time for an adjustment, he knew. But not now. Now he could only do short walking stints around his apartment before the pain would stab his lower back, protesting loudly for him to sit his thirty-seven-year-old skinny ass back down. He grabbed a nearby pill bottle, popped the tab, and stuck two Ibuprofen pills in his mouth, washing them down with a mouthful of Coke and burping loudly.

Finally it began to occur to him that he might have upset his sister. Andrea had just gotten married to a successful lawyer. They’d just purchased a brand-new home in the suburbs and were now planning a family. She had just married the love of her life, had just started a new career as a radiographer. She had everything to look forward to. Especially around Xmas, a holiday he knew she loved. As a child he remembered how she could barely contain her excitement on Xmas Eve, eagerly anticipating waking up to all those presents under the tree. She would wake shouting with glee, and all ear-to-ear smiles. Her enthusiasm and happiness were infectious and in no time at all would spread through the entire family.

But not today, Hank thought glumly. At least not for the moment. I just pissed in her cornflakes.

He reached for his cell phone, suddenly feeling guilty and remorseful, like he owed Andrea an apology. After all, she’d done nothing wrong. All she’d wanted to do was cheer her brother up for the holidays. What was so wrong with that?

He started to punch in her number and stopped. Fuck it. She’ll get over it. She always does. He set the phone down and tried to think of other things to think about, other things to do. Maybe he could call a friend to come over and watch a movie? Who ya gonna call? Ghostbusters.

Hank’s friend list wasn’t exactly extensive if you didn’t count family. There was Mitch Silver, who, at 46, worked as a carry-out boy at a local grocery store. He’d just left for Ontario to spend Xmas with his family and all he really liked to do in his spare time was play video games and watch chick flicks. Strange combination, but it worked for Mitch.

There was Ryan Boddington, who’d lately taken a fancy to drinking excessively and trying to get laid on internet sex-hookup sites. How’s that working for ya, Ryan? Pick any hotties up while you’re shit-faced? He doubted it. In his last conversation with Ryan, Hank learned that five of the eight sites Ryan had once subscribed to had banned him for lewd and offensive behavior. Not a good role model to say the least.

Then there was Deborah Brasher, a likable and good-looking thirty-something woman, who had expressed some interest in Hank after he’d met her in a downtown coffee shop almost a year ago to the day.

However, even her interest had begun to wane after Hank mentioned to her a week ago over coffee that, “Xmas was for kids. Period.”

And that was Hank being polite.

After reminding Hank that Christmas represented the birth of Jesus Christ, she called it “a special time to express your love and devotion to friends and family.”

Then she continued to gush over the holiday. Maybe it was his dead-pan expression while listening to her parade of positivity. Hank wasn’t sure. Whatever it was, she’d stopped abruptly in mid-sentence, frowned, and said, “I don’t think you really care about any of this. I think it’s time for me to go.”

So clearly, contacting Deborah Brasher, especially in the mood he was in now, wasn’t a good idea. He extended his fingers, ready to count down all the digits of his other good friends. But no one, besides family, came to mind. The sad fact was that Hank no longer had a lot of friends. Many of them had moved away, and others he’d just lost contact with, as people often do.

And family wouldn’t work right now. They were all crazy-happy over Xmas and Hank wasn’t in the mood for any Xmas cheer right now.

So he dimmed the lights and wallowed in self-pity. Pity over the overwhelming depression that settled over him every Xmas. Pity that he was suffering way too much chronic pain to even go for a long walk and stop for a coffee or a drink. Even if he was well enough, who wants to go out in this soup?

Absently, Hank picked up his cell phone and scrolled though the contacts. Nothing, no one, zero, zilch, zip, nada.

Even though it was only 8:30 in the evening, he decided it was time to call it a night. He slowly rose, wincing as sharp pain stabbed him in the back. Pretty bad when you’re so bored and depressed and in so much pain that all you want to do is sleep. What a life. Fuck life. Fuck Xmas.

                                                                       ***

Hank was nine years old all over again, playing in the backyard of his suburban home with his sister Lisa, born a year behind him. She was the one who looked so much like him and acted so much like him. Many people had commented that they could’ve been twins. Lisa was really a more refined and feminine version of himself, he realized as he watched her swing back and forth in the swing set.

He looked around the snow-covered backyard on that bright and sunny mid-December day. Where were his other siblings? Why weren’t they out playing? But did it really matter? He always had the most fun with Lisa.

He stuck a twig in the nose area of the snowman he was making and turned to Lisa. “What do you think?”

Lisa laughed. “Use something else,” she said. “It’s too big and skinny. It’s like a Pinocchio nose.”

Giggling, Hank stood up. “You’re right. I’ll wait for you to help me.”

“Push me,” Lisa said with a wry grin. “I want to go high. Way, way high.”

Hank approached Lisa and positioned himself behind her on the swing. He started off slowly, but soon had her soaring high in the air.

Back and forth. Back and forth. Higher and higher.

She giggled with delight. “Now I know what I wanna be when I grow up.”

“What do you wanna be?”

“I wanna fly a plane and be a pilot. I love going higher and higher. Weeeeeeeeeee… I love it… weeeeeee…”

“A pilot? That’s dangerous, isn’t it?”

“Weeeeeeee… it doesn’t matter. It’ll be fun. Don’t you think?”

“Sure, it’ll be fun, just like this.”

“Make me go higher, Hank. I wanna go higher.”

“I’m getting scared. I don’t want you to go too high.”

“Come on, don’t be a chicken. Just a little higher.”

“Okay.”

Hank backed up a little, allowing himself more pushing and pulling power, and soon had Lisa swinging a good four feet higher.

“How’s that?” he said.

“I love it… I love it… weeeeeeeee…”

The back door of the house opened and Hank’s mother poked her head out. “Come in now, kids. It’s lunch time.”

Hank took his eyes off Lisa and looked at his mother for a fraction of a second but that’s all it took. On its backward momentum, the metal seat of the swing smacked him in the head and knocked him down. As a constellation of concussive stars danced around his head, blurring his vision and dulling his senses, he saw Lisa flying through the air. As the lights of consciousness dimmed, he felt warm blood trickle into his left eye, and he saw his sister plummeting to the ground head-first.

“No… Lisa!!”

He heard a loud blood-curdling scream and then everything went black.

                                                                   ***

He opened his eyes slowly and brought his hand to his head. What? It was wrapped in gauze. His eyes slowly adjusted to the powerful white light and he tried to focus. For a moment he saw only a shadowy image, undulating and indistinct.

Then the image changed. Blue eyes. Soft, pale skin. Shoulder-length golden blond hair. A small and dainty nose. And lips pursed in an expression of concern.

Then a voice. “Hank, you had a little accident. You’re gonna be okay.”

Confused, disoriented and precipitously terrified, he bolted upright in bed. “What happened? Who are you?”

As soon as she smiled and those two dimples danced across her pretty face he recognized her instantly. But she had aged. Albeit, gracefully, but aged nonetheless. She must be at least as old as he was. No, right. A year younger. How could that be? She was dead, had died in that terrible swing accident that Hank could never stop blaming himself for.

“Lisa,” he said. “Is it really you?”

She bent over, hugged him warmly, and pecked him on the cheek. Then she backed up and sat down on a chair that magically appeared bedside. “It’s me, dear brother, and I want you to know something.”

It took a moment for Hank to overcome the incredulity of the situation and get over his shock. It took another moment for him to compose himself enough to speak. He was being bombarded by strong and powerful feelings of love and well-being.

Finally, Hank said, “What… what do you want me to know?”

“I’m okay, brother. I have a different life in another otherworldly dimension, but I’m okay. I’m happy.”

Hank sighed as a heavy wrecking ball of guilt began to float away from his shoulders, making him feel as light as a bird. “You’re not dead? But I thought I killed you in that swing accident.”

“That was never your fault. You must learn to accept that. It was an accident, nothing more. It ended my earthly existence, but gave me another more divine purpose outside of the mortal realm.”

“So, there is life after death?”

“I’m living proof, if you’ll pardon the expression.”

Hank watched the wrecking ball float higher and higher until it disappeared into a cloud of white, powdery dust. Then, he said, “It’s a miracle.”

“That it is, my brother. But the Supreme Being works in mysterious ways. I’m here to save you. I’m here to assure you that I’m okay, it was never your fault, and from this day forward you have to get over the guilt, stop blaming yourself, and start living your life and begin living up to your true potential.”

Hank was overcome with emotion. Tears of joy began streaming down his face. “Thank you, sis. I… I love you.”

“I love you, too, dear brother,” Lisa said. “Please, change for me, change for yourself, and change for the positive contribution you can still make to the world.”

Then Lisa rushed into her brother’s open arms and embraced him in a tight hug. “Don’t worry,” she whispered into his ear. “I’ll never leave you.”

                                                                   ***

“Don’t ever leave me, sis. Don’t ever leave me.”

The sound of his own voice startled Hank awake and he bolted upright in bed, looking left and right, right and left, frantically before it registered that he was indeed in his own bed, in his own bedroom, in his Vancouver apartment.

But everything was not the same. It was pretty far from the same. He jumped out of bed with the exuberance and enthusiasm of an overly rambunctious teen and began dancing around his bedroom singing, “My sister Lisa is alive… my sister is okay… my sister is happy… my sister is healthy… my sister loves me… and it’s not my fault… oh, no, not my fault…”

He stopped suddenly, thinking for a split-second that perhaps he’d taken leave of his senses. But it was more than that. Something wasn’t right. In his explosive bliss, he’d forgotten all about his aching back. Yet it wasn’t aching anymore. He ran his hand down to the injured spot. Feeling for the swollen area. It was as smooth as silk.

“Yippee,” he shouted, jumping for joy and resuming a little dance number around his bedroom, “It’s a miracle. Lisa cured me. The Supreme Being cured me.”

“There’s still hope for you,” he said to his grinning reflection in the bathroom mirror a little later. Even his face looked fresher. Gone were the dark circles under his eyes. Even his deep blue eyes, identical to Lisa’s, looked brighter and more alert.

As he reached for his shaver, he caught another glimpse of his reflection. Disbelieving, he moved closer to the mirror. Over his left eyebrow, he noticed a drop of blood. Sure enough, the three-inch scar resulting from the head injury he’d suffered from that fateful swing accident so many years ago had started to bleed.

He wiped it with a clean facecloth and examined it closer. It had been sliced almost surgically yet superficially. A much greater understanding of what had happened to him began to sink in and his body began to twitch with the epiphany.

He hadn’t been dreaming at all. He’d dream-teleported, gone back in time, and then shot forward to another dimension where he’d been saved by Lisa. And now, here he was back in the so-called real world.

“It’s a miracle, all right,” he said to his refection. “It’s a bloody miracle.”

After showering, and then cleaning, disinfecting, and bandaging the small cut, which he was confident would heal in no time, he made a pot of coffee, finished one cup, and then decided a few calls were in order. He could barely contain the urge to start dancing around his apartment and singing his heart out again, but he wasn’t sure his neighbors would appreciate it. And one part of him thought this was all a dream and he’d wake up, be in severe pain, and everything would be as miserable as it had been when he’d gone to bed last night.

He dialed Deborah and got her voice mail. “Hey, Deb, first of all I wanna apologize if I offended you with my scrooge attitude about Christmas the other day. Merry Christmas to you, and I hope I get the chance to see you before the holidays.” He thought the Supreme Being would forgive a small white lie. “I bought you a Christmas present and I’d love to give it to you before Christmas. Bye for now. Take care.”

Overflowing with excitement, Hank then got his sister Andrea on the phone.

“I didn’t think I’d hear from you today, of all days,” she said.

“What do you mean, sis?”

A long pause. Then, “You do realize that today is December 15th, the anniversary of our sister’s death? Usually you go into complete hibernation mode around this time.”

In the fog of his earlier self-pity, depression, and self-loathing, it actually hadn’t dawned on Hank. But it struck him now as the divine intervention of the Supreme Being, as Lisa had called Him. Or Her.

“I saw Lisa,” Hank said. “I mean really saw her. She’s okay.”

“You saw her?” Andrea’s voice cracked with emotion. “I wanna hear all about it.”

“And I know the perfect time to tell you. Is that Christmas dinner invitation still open?”

“Of… of course. It’s always open. You’re my brother, and I love you.”

“I love you, too.” Hank felt his cheeks moisten with tears. “Please forgive me for being such an asshole yesterday.”

“Forget about it. I know you hate Christmas.”

“Not anymore, Andrea. I think from now on I’m gonna start loving it.”

“Oh my God. This is a miracle.”

“Merry Christmas, sis. Merry Christmas.”

 

                                                             The End

If you’re still here, that probably means you enjoyed that little tale of redemption. And, if you enjoyed Screw Xmas, I’m sure you’ll love In Your Dreams, my new release.

Teaser: A zombified TV and junk food addict discovers vicarious carnal comfort in his dreams only to confront the grim prospect that the escapist fictional world he’s so meticulously constructed might actually be a terrifying reality.

If you feel so inclined (of course you do), click the link below and buy it before Xmas. Or, should I say Christmas?

BUY IN YOUR DREAMS NOW

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Thanks so much for your support, and stay safe.

NEW RELEASE: IN YOUR DREAMS

Over a year in the making, my newest release, In Your Dreams, is finally here. And just in time for Christmas. The culmination of  extensive research on psychological disorders, a series of bizarre and terrifying nightmares, and more than a few sleepless nights, my new horror novel is now available for purchase on Amazon. Without any further adieu, here’s a short synopsis:

A zombified TV and junk food addict discovers vicarious carnal comfort in his dreams only to confront the grim prospect that the escapist fictional world he’s so meticulously constructed might actually be a terrifying reality.

A more detailed synopsis:

Alienated from humanity, Oliver Gimble is a self-indulgent sloth who finds vicarious comfort in binge-watching horror movies and gorging on junk food. During sleep, he escapes into a meticulously constructed dream world where he discovers carnal delight with an enigmatic woman called Stella.

His bizarre lifestyle begins to unravel when he meets Carmen Weathersby, a lonely woman, who in Oliver’s mind’s eye mysteriously transforms into Stella, the woman of his dreams. But soon Oliver realizes Stella is actually interfering with his new relationship and will go to any lengths, even murder, to possess him.

When Carmen’s elderly mother suffers a heart attack, fingers point to Stella.

Suddenly, people close to Carmen start dying—brutally and inexplicably.

Careening helplessly down into a cryptic and otherworldly realm somewhere between reality and perception, Carmen and Oliver struggle to try and solve the macabre mystery before it’s too late.

A multi-layered, horrifying journey of self-discovery, In Your Dreams examines the powerful and shocking connections between our conscious and subconscious worlds—boldly questioning the very nature of reality.

Here’s what one reader says: “This is an amazing book. Great ending!”

So, before you go gallivanting around Christmas shopping in the middle of a pandemic, why not shop from the comfort of your home and buy In Your Dreams with just a few clicks?

I knew you’d say yes. Click the link below to find a store near you:

GET IN YOUR DREAMS NOW

Thanks for your support.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

A NEW YEAR NEARING, A NEW NOVEL EMERGING

As the countdown to 2020 begins, many of us like to take stock of our lives. Reflect on what we’ve accomplished (or lack thereof) in 2019 and make our 2020 New Year’s resolutions. Eat less junk food. Get more exercise. Travel. Be more compassionate and caring. Get organized. Learn to manage money. Save more. Forge new friendships. Find a soul-mate maybe. Buy more William Blackwell books, lol.

You get it.

Whatever your plans for 2020, from the bottom of my heart, I hope it’s productive, healthy and happy for you and yours. Happy New Year!

As part of my New Year’s resolutions, I’ve decided to bring in 2020 by starting a new full-length novel. My God, how time flies. I can’t believe I’ve been scribbling stories for over eight years.

In any event, here’s a short summary of IN YOUR DREAMS:

A zombified TV and junk food addict finds vicarious carnal comfort in his dreams only to face the grim prospect that the escapist fictional world he’s so meticulously constructed might actually be his terrifying reality.

To whet your appetite, here’s the prologue for what promises to be a wild and entertaining ride. Enjoy:

                                                         Prologue

Stella, or that’s what she thought she was called, watched the opaque image appear from a black void, devoid of passion, absent of feelings, empty of emotion. A bleak nothingness. She blinked a couple of times, watching it take shape and color. It slowly morphed into the form of a large gray man, bulbous and ballooning as he neared. It didn’t arouse her curiosity much. It was the seventieth time she’d seen it. For the first twenty times, the specter had given her faint hope of a better life, a love-filled union, and a consummation of souls. But the hope had always vanished before it ever turned into anything tangible. In the past, she’d tried desperately to communicate with the apparition, but had only been met with a sad, sad silence. On three occasions, it had opened its mouth to speak, but no words had emerged, and a few seconds later it had vanished with a pop and a fizz.

Right now, Stella knew one thing. She’d had enough. “Get the hell out of here,” she said. “You’re nothing more than a figment of a lonely imagination, here to taunt and tease me. Leave, will you?”

She closed her eyes and curled up into a little ball, hoping against all hope that when she opened them the Goodyear tire man with no discernable facial features would be gone for good.

Inside the black void, the temperature rose rapidly and Stella began to perspire. A salty bead of sweat dribbled into her open mouth. She licked and swallowed it, wincing at the taste. Hadn’t her past tears tasted salty when they’d flowed, so many times before? She thought so.

She wrapped her hands around her knees tighter, burying her head in her bosom and wishing she too could just vanish into thin hot air. So much sadness. So much disappointment. So much loneliness and despair. It was high-time to end it all.

“I feel your pain,” a voice said. “I feel your sadness. I feel your despair.”

Its compassionate tone sent hot flashes radiating up her spine.

She convulsed, jerking her hands free from her legs, and looked up. The gray image had thinned noticeably and for a second she thought she saw facial features on its head. But she blinked and they were gone.

“Who are you?” she asked. “And what do you want?”

“I’m her to tell you that there is hope. Hope for you. Hope for me. Don’t give up being. Don’t give up wanting.”

Overwhelmed with a rush of loving emotions, Stella tried to stand. But the surface on which she stood was spongey like quicksand, and she felt herself sinking into it. This time, I’m the one disappearing, just when it matter the most.

“No, she said, now up to her neck in the black ooze. “Help me.”

“I can only help you if you help yourself,” the voice said, distant now.

Helpless, she watched the form shrink as it faded into the black nothingness that was her life. “No, no, please, no. Come back. Heeeeeelp me!”

As a tidal wave of negative emotions bombarded her—fear, sadness, hopelessness, and a debilitating loneliness—she closed her eyes and succumbed to the inevitable state of being which she had so uncomfortably grown accustomed to.

Black nothingness.

It was as if time and space had no relevance in her life, but it felt like a long time later that Stella again opened her eyes. Seeing only the black void of despair, she closed them again and repeated in her mind the questions she’d so often asked herself.

Why is my life so black? What am I doing here? Is there any hope?

Where usually the same answers flowed, this time there was a slight derivation from the previous theme of helplessness and misery. Why? Because the voice had spoken. For the first time.

Is there a chance for me? A chance for happiness. A chance for a soul mate?

But those questions only produced troubling answers and more disturbing questions.

I’ve seen the same thing over and over and over again. Why the change. Why now? Why me?

Is this a dream? Is my life a dream? Am I even alive?

Yes, I must be alive. I think, therefore I am.

Stella closed her eyes again, giving slight hope to the possibility that when she opened them, all the blackness would be gone and, although she had no recollection of it at all, that she would find herself living some wonderful, productive, loving and happy life in an ideal and pastoral setting.

But when she opened them to the black void, the tears started flowing freely again, salty, sure enough; and suppressing any notion that she actually had a life, any life at all.

 

REAL FRIENDS VERSUS FAKE FRIENDS

Ever wonder who are your real friends and who are your fake friends?

To celebrate the completion of the first draft of Tales of Damnation, my collection of short horror stories, I’m giving you a little gift. It’s a creative piece of fiction, but it just might help you solve that little conundrum.

Enjoy.

                                                  FAKE FRIENDS

“Fake friends,” Michael MacDonald said to a dark and empty house. “That’s all they are.”

He’d just arrived at his inner-city Calgary home after leaving a dinner party at a suburban home. He’d been an invited guest of Mila and Dennis Steinweister, his friends. At least they called themselves friends. Three months earlier, he’d gifted them a paperback copy of his new novel, practically begging them to read it and post a review on Amazon. At that time they’d seemed interested, asking Michael to summarize it.

He’d spent weeks polishing The Dark Presence short synopsis and proudly regurgitated it: “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.”

They’d both promised to read it and post reviews if they liked it.

Leading up to the dinner party, Michael had tried to keep his expectations in check. He kept repeating the wise stoic philosophy: “Expect nothing, for thou shalt not be disappointed.”

The Dark Presence had already garnered many rave reviews from book-buyers whom he didn’t even know and hadn’t even solicited. Five-star reviews, many from readers who’d said they couldn’t put it down until they’d finished it. Shouldn’t that be enough? Maybe, but it was nice to get a little support from your friends. Nice to know they took an interest in your passion and would give you a little positive feedback and encouragement once in a while. A little validation for all of your blood, sweat, and tears.

But that’s not what had happened a few hours earlier at the dinner party. Washing a mouthful of delicious lasagna down with a sip of white wine, Michael had asked, a hint of trepidation in his voice,” By the way, have you guys read The Dark Presence yet?”

Mila had given Dennis that look. That rolling-eyed look. That picture that meant a thousand words. Then she’d said, “No, I haven’t gotten around to it yet. Sorry, I can’t even remember what I did with it.”

To which Dennis had added: “I haven’t had a chance to read it. I’m too busy right now.” Turning to his not-so-lovely wife, he added: “I think you put it upstairs in your office, honey. On the bookshelves with all your other books.”

“Or maybe you used it to line the kitty litter box,” Dennis had added, turning to Michael with a wide grin, nudging his shoulder, and causing him to spill wine onto his steaming lasagna. “Just kidding.”

Michael had almost choked on his lasagna.

Removing his winter jacket and hanging it in the closet, he tried to put it out of his mind, pacing around his large empty house, trying to work through the sadness and disappointment. The bitter rejection. Exercise always cheers you up, right? But not this time. Michael’s mind kept returning to the dinner party rejection. The dinner party debacle. He plopped himself down in a chair at the kitchen table.

“Not any fucking more,” he said. “I’m not hanging around with those fuckers anymore. Fuck their dinner parties. Fuck their fake support. Fuck their fake friendship. Fuck them!”

Michael sighed deeply, the litany of expletives going some way to making him feel a little better. Trying to cheer himself up, he went through a mental checklist of friends and family who had supported him on his writing endeavors.

Out of six immediate family members, including his mother and father, three of them had actually read and enjoyed his novels. And, although none of them had posted reviews—the elixir of life that authors rely on to survive and thrive in the industry—they’d all offered words of encouragement.

He counted up his friends. Good friends, not fake friends. He covered ten digits. Not bad. Most people are lucky to count their good friends on one hand.

Michael then went down the list of who’d read some of his novels and who hadn’t.

Five of them had. Four had posted favorable reviews. After reading a horror novel, one friend, Dianne, had said, “I’m sorry, the book was well written, but it’s just not my genre. I can’t handle all that blood, guts, and gore. I was so disturbed and scared after reading it, I couldn’t sleep for two nights.”

Michael thought about it. Little did Dianne realize, she’d paid him the highest compliment he’d ever received. He was a horror writer after all. Sure, he was on a mission to educate, influence, and entertain. But, he was also on a mission to scare the hell out of his readers. It was nice to know he’d accomplished that with at least one reader.

And he’d made a point to thank Dianne for reading On Death’s Doorstep, explaining to her that true horror fans get a thrill out of being scared. He’d also apologized to her, and advised her not to read any more of his novels—if indeed she found them too disturbing. That was not his intention as a writer. To fuck up his reader’s health.

Michael absently flicked on the TV, a small smile beginning to purse his lips. His reflections were beginning to cheer him up. And really, should he expect all of his close friends and family to take an interest in his writing? That was unrealistic at best, downright stupid at worst. In the end, he’d received more support, more positive feedback, more free promotion, and more five-star reviews from people he’d never met. Legitimate book buyers who really enjoyed his novels.

Everyone has their own lives, their own problems, and their own shit. It was foolish to think that all of them would take an interest and encourage him in his work. He thought of something he’d read on people’s ability to even listen to others, never mind having the capacity to encourage, read, and support them in their work.

It went something like this: We listen to half of what’s being said. We give a shit about half of that. We understand half of that. We believe half of that and we remember half of that. Now, what was it you were saying?

Michael watched five minutes of Anderson Cooper slamming President Donald Trump over what he claimed was his insensitive handling of a recent mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio, and then turned the TV off. A seed of doubt was growing in his mind. He needed to chop it down before it festered into an infectious weed of hate and negativity.

Fake friends. If they don’t give a shit about my passion in life, do they really give a shit about me? Probably not. Maybe I’ll just cross them off my fucking friend list then. Chop off a few digits maybe.

 

***

Michael awoke from a nightmare-filled and fitful sleep early the next morning still troubled by the dinner party debacle. He’d dreamt of visiting many homes as a spectral entity, a ghost who could walk through walls, watch and listen to conversations, unseen and unheard. He’d visited the homes of his critics and had heard what they were saying behind his back.

None of it was good.

“He’s probably a hack. Not that I’ve read anything, so maybe I shouldn’t say. But, he probably should’ve kept his day job.”

“I couldn’t tell him to his face but I hated the novel.”

“When God was giving out brains, he thought He said trains and took the caboose.”

The last stop on the nightmare train was the home of Mila and Dennis. They were having dinner, discussing Michael and his work.

“I don’t really care what he writes,” Dennis said. “I’m just not that interested.”

“I’m pretty sure I’ve lost the book anyway,” Mila answered. “So I couldn’t read it if I wanted to. Not that I’d want to anyway. I doubt Michael can write at all.”

“Exactly,” Dennis said, stuffing his face with potatoes. “We’ve got enough of our own shit to deal with without worrying about what someone else is doing.”

“That’s right, baby. But, to shut him up, maybe we should just say we read it and loved it.”

“Can’t do that. What if he asks about specifics?”

“True enough. Let’s leave it then, and hope he doesn’t mention it again.”

“I don’t think he will. He only brought it up once in three months. Did you see the look on his face when I said we used his novel to line the kitty litter box?”

Uproarious laughter.

Michael frowned as snippets of the nightmare played over and over in his mind like a chilling horror movie. He knew a phone conversation with his mentor and close friend Stephanie Bower would set him straight. An accomplished horror author in her own right, she was brilliant at helping him view things in the proper perspective. Maybe it was better to discuss it face-to-face with her. Over coffee.

 

***

Stephanie had listened intently while Michael told the story. He’d watched her small features darken and her blue eyes harden. As he spoke, her cheeks had turned from white to bright pink.

“You wanna know what I think?” she said with narrowing eyes. Her hand tightened around her cardboard coffee cup. She frowned, noticing her firm grip squeezing too hard, threatening to explode its hot contents. She loosened her grip.

“That’s why I’m here,” Michael said. He knew he didn’t have to tell Stephanie not to sugar-coat it.

“If they don’t care about your passion it usually means they don’t give a fuck about you,” she said. “It’s really easy to spot the ones who fully support and hold a true interest in what we do and easy to spot the fake bastards who wear a mask of bullshit.”

“My sentiments exactly.”

“I’ve had total strangers offer positive comments on my books and buy them because they wanted to. To get compliments and positive feedback from people I don’t know has been far more rewarding than anything I’d expect to get from a friend anyway. Maybe a friend doesn’t want to hurt your feelings so they don’t tell you the truth. They could easily lie and say how grand the book was when really they thought it was a piece of shit. So, I never ask friends anymore. Or family either. Not that any of my family has ever showed any interest in my writing. I’d rather a stranger read my works; that way I have a better chance of hearing the truth instead of a pile of sugar-coated bullshit!”

“Or worse,” Michael said, his mood darkening. “They never find the time to read it or have no interest in doing so and make all kinds of excuses. Like they used it to line the kitty litter box.”

Stephanie was aghast. “Is that what they said?”

“That’s what Dennis said. And they both grinned. Holding back laughter, you ask me.”

“The lies, excuses, and jokes people conjure up for why they haven’t read your book is mind-blowing.”

“What do you think I should do?”

“I don’t know these people. Never met them, and from what you say, I don’t want to. Are they close friends of the inner circle kind, or just garden-variety friends?”

“I don’t see them a whole lot. I don’t call them much. Once in a blue moon I see them at a dinner party, either at my place or theirs. These happen maybe once a month and they’re planned well in advance. You know me, I hate making plans. I’m more spontaneous. They’re not the kind of friends I could call if I really had a problem, not the kind who would give me the shirt off their back if I was desperate.”

“More like acquaintances or casual friends then?”

“Fake friends.”

“That’s more like it,” Stephanie said. “I think you should distance yourself from them. You have to ask yourself, do they really add anything positive to your life?”

“It’s not all black and white, but for the most part no.”

“It’s never black and white. I have friends who just don’t read for that matter. It would be stupid to ask them to support me or read one of my books. I have others that’ve told me it’s not their genre, so fair enough. Still others feign interest, but I don’t always blow them off. I have one friend who is going through so much emotional turmoil of her own right now I don’t think she’s capable of bringing herself to a calm place where she actually can see outside of her own messed up bubble.”

“That’s true,” Michael said, starting to feel a little better. “I have family members who said they would read my books but never have. But otherwise they’re pretty good people. I don’t take it personally nor do I blow them off. I just recognize I’m not gonna get the kind of support I want from them and move on.

“Same here. As I said, I don’t ask family or friends anymore. You can choose your friends but you can’t choose your family. But in your case, you’re dealing with fake friends, as you say. Not even paying lip service to supporting you and probably even criticizing you behind your back. There is no mask of deceit there, it’s all out there festering in the open from what you tell me.”

Michael’s nightmare flashed through his mind. He felt downright depressed all over again.

And evidently Stephanie could read him like an open book. “Don’t worry about it, Mike. I’ve read your books. I know you’re a good writer. Not to mention all the people who’ve praised your work over the years that you don’t even know.”

“I guess you’re right. But it still hurts.”

“Don’t worry,” Stephanie said with a grin. “Karma’s a bastard. One day maybe they’ll both get torn a new asshole.”

Michael admired that about Stephanie. She didn’t mince words.

 

***

Mila looked at Dennis with concern. “Did you hear that?”

He washed down a mouthful of bread with a gulp of wine. “You mean the wind whistling? Yeah, I heard that. There’s a storm coming, honey. Remember?”

Mila’s eyes narrowed. “I know there’s a storm coming, silly. We watched the news together. Remember? I’m not talking about the whipping wind. I heard a crashing sound outside in the backyard.”

Dennis stood. “Probably the wind knocked down a garbage can or something. I’ll go check.”

Dennis went to the back door, put his boots and winter jacket on, and went outside. As soon as he stepped onto the back porch a strong gust of wind slammed him into the door, blowing off his Budweiser cap and sweeping it into the neighbor’s backyard. He watched it twirl in the air and disappear in the heavy snow. Fucking white-out. Gonna be a nasty one.

“Fucking bastard,” he said, gripping the door handle with both hands and steadying himself until the wind abated somewhat. Ferocious winds and driving snow pounded him for a few seconds. Finally the wind let up and he scrambled down the stairs, trudged through a foot of snow, and arrived at the detached garage. The garbage cans were in the alley on the other side of the garage so he had to go into the building and press the automatic garage door opener before he would be able to see if the trash containers had been blown down the alley or not.

He opened the man door quickly and slammed it shut behind him a second before another strong gust of wind plastered the garage with a fresh sheet of snow. He flicked the light on and pressed the door opener. More lights came on and the garage door whirred to life and began rising. When it reached the top, he approached the vehicle entrance and looked outside. Three trash cans were halfway down the alley and garbage was strewn all over the white snow, assorted pieces spiraling around in the air like mini tornadoes.

“Fuck me,” he said, balling his fists. He was tempted to forget about the garbage cans, return to the house, and tell Mila he’d cleaned everything up. Of course, come morning he’d then have to explain three missing garbage cans. And he knew. Hell hath no fury like the wrath of Mila.

So he trudged off down the alley, managed to retrieve two garbage cans, and began making his way back to the garage. When he arrived he placed one inside, setting it inside and rolling it to the front of the garage. He lifted the second one high over his head with the intention of setting it on his workbench. But as he was putting it down, a strong gust of wind caught it and slammed it into the back of his head, catapulting him forward violently. He released the can, watched it teeter and roll and collide with the front fender of Mila’s new SUV.

At the same time, he fell forward, slamming his head on the corner of the workbench. As a dizzying constellation of stars danced around his head, he fell on his back on the concrete floor.

A gust of wind blew a blanket of snow on him as his head slowly began to clear. After unleashing a litany of profanity, he got up slowly, deciding wisely to forget about the other can. “And the fucking garbage.”

He stumbled to the door, pressed the automatic garage door opener, and let out a deep sigh as he watched it wind down mechanically and clunk to a stop on the garage floor. He rubbed a growing goose egg on the back of his head and felt fresh warm blood. He brought his other hand to a spot above his right eyebrow, grimaced and winced as he felt another rising bump. At least there was no blood on that injury.

“What the hell happened to you?” his wife said as he staggered into the kitchen.

Dennis went over to the sink and stuck his bleeding head inside. “Help me, honey. I got attacked by a garbage can. Got attacked by my workbench. Got assaulted by the fucking wind.”

Mila rose quickly, fetching a clean towel and wiping the back of his blood-soaked head. Ten minutes later she had him cleaned up, bandaged up, and sitting comfortably, albeit dizzily, on the living room couch.

He’d explained most of the story to her. Then, through a slowly clearing fog, he noticed her right index finger was bandaged. “What happened to you?”

“Oh shit, just bad luck. While you were outside, I cut my finger with the butcher knife while I was trimming the roast.”

“Are you okay?”

Mila nodded. “It was bleeding like crazy but it’ll heal. What about you? Do you want me to take you to the hospital?”

Raw fear wrinkled Dennis’s brow. “What, in this? Are you kidding? I’m okay. Just a minor concussion I think.”

“We’ll see how you feel tomorrow then.”

“Okay.”

“Did you recover all the garbage cans?”

“No. One got away.”

“That’s okay.”

“And one more thing.”

“What’s that?”

“Your SUV?”

Mila’s face tightened. “What about it?”

“I think there’s a pretty nasty dent in the front fender. One of the garbage cans got away from me.

Mila’s brow crinkled and she didn’t say anything for a full minute. When she did open her mouth, Dennis was sure he’d be getting a tongue-lashing.

But all she said was, “I think I’m gonna turn in for the night. You’d be wise to do the same.”

A few minutes later, when they were all tucked into their Queen-sized bed, Dennis cautiously put his hand across Mila’s stomach. She tensed at first and he almost withdrew it. But then she relaxed and he left it there.

“Sorry about your SUV,” Dennis said softly, his voice punctuated by windblown snow slamming the bedroom window.

“Don’t worry about it,” Mila said after a brief pause.

“Why do you think we’re getting so much bad luck lately?”

“I wish I knew, Dennis. I wish I knew.”

 

***

Michael hung up his coat in the hallway closet and set his snow-covered boots in a rubber boot tray inside the closet. He’d driven home white-knuckled after dining by himself in a nearby Chinese restaurant. Visibility had been reduced to almost zero as a result of the storm and he’d narrowly avoided a four-vehicle collision. It’s only gonna get worse. Wouldn’t be surprised if I lose power.

He lived by himself in a five-bedroom bungalow on a cul-de-sac in an upper-middle class neighborhood. After making a hot herbal tea, he went into his main-floor office, knocked off 563 words on his latest novel, and decided to turn in for the night.

Curled up in bed a few minutes later and listening to his 1959-built home creak and groan with the force of the storm, Michael felt strangely vindicated. He didn’t understand why but nor did he wish to analyze the feeling for fear of stirring up more mentally deleterious memories of the dinner party debacle. Probably just Stephanie’s pep talk. Leave it at that.

Fifteen minutes later he fell fast asleep.

In the dark of night, lit faintly by numerous dots shimmering below him, Michael wiped blinding snow from his eyes and walked effortlessly down a city street. He was a giant on an evening stroll in suburban Calgary. But it was more than a stroll. It was a mission. And he didn’t question whether his mission was real or fake, only knew it had to be done. He found the house, knelt down on one knee and peered into the window. He saw them sleeping not-so-peacefully, tossing and turning under the glow of a purple nightlight. He tapped on the window with his knuckle and it shattered, blowing snow and glass into the bedroom.

Mila leaped from the bed, grabbing a housecoat and throwing it over her slim body. Her eyes were wide with terror. Her tongue hung from her mouth like a rabid dog. “You. What do you want?”

Dennis merely lifted his head from the pillow, screamed and fainted.

“Karma’s a bastard,” Michael said with a satisfied grin. “It tears you a new asshole when you least expect it.”

“No, no,” Mila said in a high-pitched voice. “I’ll read your goddamned stupid book if that’s what you want.”

“Too little too late,” Michael said. “You had your chance.”

He reached over and grabbed a power pole with a streetlight mounted on top. With a rubber-gloved hand he tore it from its concrete foundation, snapping it like a twig and smashing it through Mila and Dennis’s bedroom window. As the power pole sizzled and crackled with electrical sparks, he stood up, wiped his hands and grinned, pleased with his handy work.

“That should do it,” Michael said, as the house burst into flames.

As he floated away, he could hear the horrifying screams of Mila and Dennis as their home went up in flames.

It was music to his ears.

 

***

It took him more than two hours the next morning to shake off the powerful feeling of dread. The nightmare felt so real; unlike anything he’d ever experienced before. When he’d finally calmed down and convinced himself it was nothing more than a bad dream, he showered, dressed, and peered out his front window.

At least three feet of snow. And the storm was still raging. Fortunately it hadn’t killed his power last night. Michael went into the kitchen, poured himself a cup of coffee, went into the living room and plopped himself down on the sofa. He flicked on the TV and quickly surfed over to a local news station. He was anxious to see what kind of devastation the storm had caused and still was causing.

A clean-cut male anchor sat in a news studio reporting on a number of school closures, adding that all federal government offices would be closed for the day due to the raging storm. He went on to list three storm-related traffic accidents, one of which had resulted in two fatalities.

Then the blue-suited man picked up a piece of paper from his desk and his spectacle-framed eyes widened, magnified comically by thick lenses.

He cleared his throat. “This just in. Last night the storm knocked down a power pole in the suburban district of Somerset, smashing it through a home occupied by Dennis and Mila Steinweister.”

Michel froze, spilling hot coffee.

“Fire fighters and paramedics rushed to the scene but…”

Boom!

The TV died. The lights went out.

Michael suddenly heard a loud BOOM and saw sparks fly from a nearby power pole. He rushed to his bay window and watched in terror as a large transformer explosion sent electrical wires flying everywhere. The wires sizzled along the snow—cracking, snapping and writhing like poisonous snakes before fizzling out and growing still.

His body convulsing with fear, he paced the floor frantically, trying unsuccessfully to convince himself that he had nothing to do with Mila and Dennis’s…death? But are they dead?  And if they are, how could I have done it? How could it be me? I was home sleeping.

His right eye strayed to the small foyer at his front door. On the tiled floor stood his water-soaked winter boots. Beside them, his crumpled winter jacket.

A rush of fear-fueled adrenaline shot through his body and he convulsed as if struck by a bolt of lightning.

In the rush of emotions that followed, he didn’t know what was real, what was fake; what was true, what was false.

But it didn’t take him long to realize that one thing was true. Last night, he’d hung up his coat in the hallway closet and set his snow-covered boots in a rubber boot tray inside the closet.

Oh my God! Did I kill them?

An hour later, he still didn’t have any answers. To try and make sense of the nerve-rattling experience, he went into his office and powered up his laptop. He planned on using what battery life that remained to document the ordeal. At the very least it would be therapeutic. At the very best, it would make a damn fine horror tale.

The title came to him in an instant.

FAKE FRIENDS.

 

The Spot: A Short Horror Story

Good day, my friends,

For those of you who’ve been following my blog posts, you’ll know I’m in the throes of creating a finely crafted collection of short horror tales, tentatively titled Tales of the Damned. I had earlier decided to take most of the summer off, but my muse crashed one of my beach parties, kicked me in the ass, and said, “Get back to work!”

Don’t worry, the party wasn’t exactly stuffed to the brim with guests. Unless, that is, you count my mannequins, squirrel and seagull friends.

So here I am. In the office again. Writing. That is, at least until Mother Nature invades my office and invites me to another wonder-filled and raucous beach party.

I guess it’s not a question of if. It’s when.

Until then, it’s back to work.

As a teaser for what’s coming down the blood-soaked pipe, I present to you, dear readers, The Spot, a short horror story that will form part of my haunted collection.

It’s a freebie and I hope you enjoy it. Enjoy your day and thanks for your support.

 

                                      TALES OF THE DAMNED

 

                                                            The Spot

Balboa, or that’s what he liked to be called anyway, moseyed his way through the raucous house party. A stop here. A pretty blonde. A wink. A flexing of the six-pack abs. A look from her. That should equal a little fun in the midnight moon later on. He moved smoothly through a gregarious laughing crowd, making his way over to the rum punch bowl, but not before another stop, another wink, and this time flexing his right bicep to an attractive brunette. Blonde or brunette, it mattered not to Balboa. He was built like a brick shithouse, and very proud of that fact. It got him attention. It got him respect. It got him laid, which was what was on his mind now. He reached the punch bowl and, using the oversized serving spoon, refilled his plastic cup.

He noticed a scrawny, nerdish-looking dude loitering around the punch bowl blinking furtively at the throngs of revelers, evidently lacking the self-confidence to approach anyone.

“You too shy?” Balboa said, extending a meat hook. “I’m Balboa.”

The man’s eyes widened at Balboa’s imposing, muscle-bound physique. “A little bit.” Then he hesitated, spilled a little rum punch onto a pencil-stuffed shirt pocket, and nervously offered his hand. “Ralph.”

Balboa squeezed, grinning as he watched the little man’s face flush with pain. When he released his iron grip a few seconds later, a few seconds too long, Ralph quickly withdrew his hand, set his drink down, and began rubbing his knuckles.

“That’s a vice-grip you have,” Ralph said, a single tear sprouting and glistening on his lower left eyelid.

“Oh, that,” Balboa said, looking approvingly at his massive forearm and bicep. “My old man always told me that a firm handshake is a sign of self-confidence and strength. Nobody wants a wet rag. Right?”

Ralph wiped his eye, studied his reddening hand, picked up his drink, and gulped two large mouthfuls. “I guess so. You… you look familiar. Is Balboa your real name?”

“No. Brad Powers. But everyone calls me Balboa.” He racked his brain trying to remember where it was he might have met this little twerp before. In the cavernous space between his ears, nothing materialized.

Ralph took a few steps back as two women approached the punch bowl. “You mean as in Rocky Balboa? From the movie, Rocky.”

“You got it, Einstein,” Balboa said, a spark of recognition flashing across brain circuits but sizzling out before producing a mental image. As the giggling women stepped up to the punch bowl, Balboa scooped up the ladle and pushed the punch toward the ladies.

“Sure, a pretty blonde said, holding her plastic cup unsteadily above the trickling pink liquid. “Don’t mind if I do, and thank you, Mr. Strong Man.”

“You’re very welcome, my dear.”

The other women, a short-haired bubbly brunette, extended her cup and Balboa seamlessly refilled the ladle and refilled it.

She grinned drunkenly, attempting but failing to curl her hand around his massive bicep. It was like trying to wrap a paper clip around a sledge hammer. “Wow, you’re strong. You’re huge.”

“I am indeed,” he said. “And you’re only scratching the surface.”

Both women laughed.

Ralph backed up a few steps.

“Who’s your friend?” the short-haired brunette said after the laughter had subsided.

“That’s Ralph,” Balboa said. “And I’m Balboa.”

“Ralph?” the blonde said. “He looks like he’s gonna be sick.”

All three of them laughed boisterously. Ralph silently shrank to the size of a mouse.

The brunette hugged Balboa’s bicep with both arms and brought her mouth close to his ear. “We’re over there,” she whispered, gesturing with a finger. “I’m Sarah and my friend’s Sandra. Come and join us and we’ll promise you a little more than scratching the surface.”

She kissed him on the cheek and both women wobbled off. Balboa watched as they joined hands in an effort to stabilize one another, weaved ten feet into the dance floor, spun around and simultaneously winked at him, seductively licking their pouty red lips.

Balboa polished his drink, refilled it, and turned to Ralph, who had returned to the rum punch table and was now leaning on it like it was the only thing in the world propping him up. “Excuse me, I have to go rescue two damsels in distress. Duty calls.”

“You have something on your face,” Ralph said.

Balboa had always prided himself on his impeccably clear complexion and chiseled warrior-like features. “What?”

“It’s a spot. Looks like skin cancer to me.”

“Where?” Balboa said, worry lines creasing his youthful face.

Ralph pointed below Balboa’s right eye. “Right there. On your cheek. I’d get that checked out if I were you. Melanoma’s a bitch. Fast-spreading cancer. Can kill you off in a matter of weeks.”

It was likely just an eerie coincidence, but Balboa felt a tingling sensation exactly on the spot that Ralph had pointed to. He felt his face flush and a vein popped on his temple and snaked its way down toward the spot, creating a slight stinging sensation. Fucking jealous loser.

From his peripheral vision Balboa noticed Sarah and Sandra off in the corner of the large home, seductively gyrating their tight little asses on a table top and waving to him. He knew it was only a matter of time before some other drunken losers would move in and try to take over where he’d left off. No fucking way.

But the fear he was beginning to feel was palpable. He touched the spot on his cheek, took a few deep breaths, and tried to assure himself that it was only the tiny scar left over from a small cut he’d suffered from a brawl a few weeks ago. He’d flattened an acid-witted loser with a straight right to the jaw in the parking lot outside of a bar after the man had upstaged him in front of an attractive woman he had been oh-so close to closing. Surprisingly, the man had gotten to his feet a few seconds after the shot, smashed a beer bottle in half on the lid of a metal garbage can, and swiped at his face. A sharp edge of the bottle had sliced his cheek, before he’d hammered the man with an uppercut and knocked him out cold. After the incident, malignant narcissist that he was, he’d carefully disinfected the wound before applying a topical antibiotic and bandaging it with a small circular adhesive Band-Aid. A week later, he’d grimaced at the small quarter-inch scar in the mirror; yet he’d finally come to terms with it, reassuring himself that “battle scars add character and make you look tough.”

Ralph was grinning at him now. “I see you’re worried about it. As I said, I’d get it checked out if I were you. Melanoma’s a bitch.”

But Balboa found his usual arrogant confidence, seeing Ralph steal a longing look at the gyrating hotties. “I’d invite you over as a wing-man. But who the hell wants a shy, chicken-shit wing-man anyway?”

He spun around and walked purposefully toward his prey. A hunter he was. A hunter he would always be.

***

More than Balboa’s big head was throbbing the following morning after waking up in a strange and disheveled apartment in Calgary’s downtown core. He blinked a couple of times, gouged the sleep from his eyes, and watched as two blanketed heads bobbed and weaved, expertly working his swollen member. He lay back on the pillow, reminisced about the wild threesome last night, and enjoyed the carnal pleasures of the here and now as Sandra and Sarah expertly sucked him to a shuddering climax.

Sarah pulled the blanket away, licked her lips, and wiped a sticky milky ribbon from her chin. She winked. “I see you enjoyed that.”

“I did. Thank you.”

“You were a fucking stud,” Sandra said, popping out from underneath the blanket and rushing into the bathroom.

Sarah wiped her sticky finger on Balboa’s leg, stood up and held out her hand. “I think you got your money’s worth. That’ll be six hundred bucks. And a bargain at that.”

“Call it eight hundred,” Sandra said from the bathroom as the pitter-patter of water droplets could be heard cascading into the shower. “Two hundred more for the blowjob.”

“Right,” Sarah said. “Eight hundred it is then.”

In spite of the throbbing in his head, Balboa got out of bed quickly and grabbed his underwear. As he put them on, he said, “What? I never agreed to that.”

Sarah stepped forward and jabbed her index finger into his muscled chest. “Oh yes you did. Now cough up. By the way, what’s that spot on your face? Looks like melanoma to me. Melanoma is a killer, you know.”

In a lightning-fast move, Balboa reached out and grabbed her hand, twisting it back at an awkward angle as she winced, groaned, and quickly bent to her knees. Subdued. He applied a little more pressure, comfortable in the knowledge it would be smarting for a few minutes and would give him a chance to get dressed and escape. The other bitch was in the shower. Occupied.

As Sarah shouted and screamed, Balboa scrambled around the apartment, picking up his clothes and dressing. In no time, he approached the door, checking his back pocket, feeling for his wallet, exhaling a deep sigh when he felt the warm and leathery, cash-stuffed mound.

The dim recollection surfaced. Balboa, in his drunken stupor, had agreed to the threesome. Had agreed to the fee. And he had the money. On him. Thanks to a two-million-dollar inheritance three years ago from his deceased mother—he was still angry that his snobby sister had received ten million—he wasn’t hurting for cash. That inheritance had allowed him to quit his security guard job, downsize, invest modestly, and live off the interest. And pursue his dream. Prey on women. Intimidate men. But he wasn’t the kind of guy to throw money around, even if he had agreed to it.

As he opened the door, he heard a loud clang, and felt a sharp pain on the back of his head. Dazed, confused, and indeed seeing stars, he spun around to see Sandra, buck naked and dripping wet, grinning and holding a cast-iron frying pan high in the air. Raising it up. Coming down for another strike. Reflexively, he brought his right pipe up. She slammed the frying pan down hard on it, so hard it squirted loose from her hand, and bounced on the front porch of the house as Balboa, blood dripping profusely from the head wound, staggered out the door, found some momentum, and fled.

 

***

Two weeks later Balboa waited anxiously in the skin cancer specialist waiting room. He was dazed for at least a day or two after the blunt force head trauma, but he hadn’t bothered to get it diagnosed, instead taking it easy until the goose egg had subsided on its own. But he had sought a diagnosis for the spot on his face, the one that fucktard Ralph had pointed out. He had called his doctor and gotten a referral to a dermatologist—one Doctor Ray Burman.

He had become obsessed with the spot, analyzing it ad nauseam every day in the mirror. He had even begun to have terrifying nightmares of the spot growing rapidly, covering his entire body and destroying his cells one agonizing cell at a time.

The waiting room was full of patients and he had already been sitting there for well over half an hour. One woman came in and sat next to him. Her face was mostly covered with a white blood-stained bandage.

She focused with one bulbous eye on the spot. “Looks like melanoma to me. That’s what I got. I have to get half my face cut off. Complete facial reconstruction.”

Balboa didn’t respond, looking away as he felt this morning’s bacon and eggs churn in his stomach and start clawing up his esophagus—an acidic puke ball. He swallowed hard, tasted egg, bacon and horseradish, combined with orange juice, and coughed.

“You might be lucky,” the cancer-stricken woman said. “Mine is stage four. There is no stage five you know. Well, I guess there is, but it’s six feet under.” Her mouth opened, exposing rotten teeth. A single drop of blood leaked out, clinging precariously to her bandage-wrapped chin.

Balboa felt a bead of perspiration pop on his forehead, dribble down his head, and lodge in his bushy eyebrow. He wiped it away, tried unsuccessfully to smile, then got up and sat in another chair. She was starting to creep him out big-time.

She tssk-tssked him away with a pointed finger.

He picked up an outdoor adventure magazine and began flipping through the pages, seeing but not seeing the kayaks, mountains, campfires, lakes, rivers and wildlife. Would this be his last chance to really live? Everything’s gonna be okay. It’s nothing. You’re gonna be fine. You’re gonna be fine.

His mind drifted back to where it had all begun. Ralph. His nerdy image had popped into his head a few times over the last few weeks, and he was still dumbfounded as to how he knew the man. If I see him again, maybe I should apologize. Fuck that. Fuck him. Just as a dim recollection of where he knew Ralph from began to settle over him, he heard his name called.

“Brad Powers?”

“That’s me.”

“Doctor Burman will see you now.”

He wiped a sweaty brow and stood. “O… Okay.”

Five minutes later, Doctor Burman, holding a large and sophisticated magnifying glass, stepped back, a pained expression on his face.

“What’s wrong?” Balboa said. “Am I gonna be okay?”

Doctor Burman put the magnifying glass down and rubbed his knee. “My knee hurts,” he said. “The joys of old age. It’s arthritis.”

Balboa felt little sympathy for the aging white-haired man. “What about the spot?”

Doctor Burman slowly removed rubber gloves and tossed them in a wastebasket. He went to a sink, scrubbed his hands, dried them with paper towels, crumpled them, and tossed them into a wastebasket. “We’ll have to cut it out and get it biopsied. That’ll tell us for sure what it is. But to my trained eye, and I’ve been doing this for over thirty years, it’s a very common, slow-moving skin cancer. You’re gonna be fine. Nothing to worry about. Make an appointment with my receptionist and I’ll see you in a week or two.”

Out on the busy street, soaking up cancer-giving rays of bright morning sunshine, Balboa was elated. He felt like he had a new lease on life. Maybe it wasn’t too late. Not too late to turn his self-serving ways around. Track down Ralph. Apologize. Return to Sarah and Sandra’s house. Pay them out, even give them a handsome tip. Say sorry. Write down the names of all the people he’d wronged. Right the wrongs.

“That’s it,” he shouted, jumping for joy, tripping on the cross-walk curb and falling head-first into the busy intersection. He rolled on the pavement, began to spring to his feet, and then his mouth formed a wide O of horror as he saw the speeding bus descend on him.

Crunch… crunch… crunch!

Balboa felt his bones snapping like brittle twigs as the large tires squashed and splattered him into the pavement. He felt his skull caving and cracking, his eyes popping from his sockets.

The bus dragged him along the road for about a half block before the tires spat his crumpled remains curbside.

As the last vestiges of life drained from Balboa, he remembered Sarah, Sandra, and Ralph. He had used and abused the two women in high school, probably devastated their self-esteem and led them into prostitution. One night stands. Dropped them like a ton of bricks. He had bullied Ralph to no end, mercilessly stripping the man of his self-esteem and self-confidence—helping to mold the loser that Ralph had become.

But as the skeletal hand of the grim reaper slowly enveloped him in blackness, he realized three things: It’s too late for redemption. Karma’s a bitch. And then you die.

 

                                         

                                                                The End

Tales of the Damned

Tales of the Damned. What is it? It’s my latest work in progress, and it’ll be a finely crafted collection of short horror tales.

For me it represents a deviation from the norm—full-length dark fiction. For the last seven or so years, I’ve written mainly full-length novels across multiple genres: horror, psychological thriller, supernatural thriller, thriller, paranormal, sci-fi, post-apocalyptic or dystopian fiction; even a foray into inspirational fiction.

Why a collection of short horror tales? Call it an experiment in form and structure, call it intellectual curiosity, call it whatever you want but for me it represents an opportunity to try something different. Something new.

I like the idea for a number of reasons. Recently I did a little Twitter poll in an attempt to try and determine the level of interest in short horror tales. To my surprise, the response was overwhelming. It’s no secret that global sales of short fiction and short horror tales are going strong. There are many talented short horror story writers in the Twitter #writingcommunity and I certainly see a strong demand.

In today’s complicated world, books compete with so many other things for people’s attention: gaming, YouTube, Facebook, TV, Twitter, the labyrinth of information on the internet, and dozens of other social media platforms—not to mention the myriad of other distractions, tasks, and problems that are just a part of living.

People lead busy, often stressful lives. It’s often easier for them to read short stories than full-length novels. Waiting in the doctor’s waiting room, they can get through one or more stories and not have to worry about losing the thread if, heaven forbid, a distraction prevents them from revisiting it again for another week or two.

The timing is also excellent. Being that it’s summer and summer is short on Prince Edward Island, I can create a story and, depending on word length, probably knock the first draft out in one sitting before escaping outside to enjoy the glorious summer weather. And, of course, there are my outdoor projects and my outdoor pets to attend to.

When I start a full-length novel, I usually write for about five to six hours a day, six days a week until I get the first draft completed. By writing consistently I stay with the thread and, at least to my mind, it makes for a more powerful and better flowing read.

Tales of the Damned (a working title that may change) will contain at least thirteen short horror tales, examining everything from real-life ghostly encounters; actual horrifying nightmares; and completely fictional yarns that will be the product of a dark and twisted imagination.

I’m only half way through the first entry but can already feel the creative juices generating other story ideas. When I write in a particular genre, I generally also read a lot in that genre. I’ve plowed through dozens of short horror tales in an effort to learn something about structure and form.

I generally have a lot of backstory in my novels which I try to weave into the narrative in bits and pieces as opposed to laying it all out at once in one big info dump. I also use a lot of internal dialogue to give readers a really clear idea of what motivates my characters to behave in often erratic, unstable, and unpredictable ways.

But in Tales of the Damned, I won’t have time for a lot of backstory or internal dialogue. The challenge will be to say more with less—much less.

It’s a dynamic form with limitless possibilities.

As British author William Boyd, says, Short stories “seem to answer something very deep in our nature as if, for the duration of its telling, something special has been created, some essence of our experience extrapolated, some temporary sense has been made of our common, turbulent journey towards the grave and oblivion.”

Stay tuned for updates on Tales of the Damned. As always, thanks for stopping by.

Behave Yourself on Social Media

Why can’t some people behave themselves on social media?

It never ceases to amaze me when I scroll through my Twitter feed and see many posts where people are airing their beefs in public. I’m not talking garden-variety negativity here. I see profanity-laden posts about blocking people for various reasons, or how they hate this, hate that, hate him, hate her. Maybe they’ve decided to launch an all-out public attack on a person or a company who they believe has wronged them.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for righting wrongs and social justice, but there is a time and a place for everything. If you’re mad at a person or entity, there is a time and a place to air your grievances. The time is when you’re cool, calm, and collected. The place is definitely not on social media, where the whole world can see it.

Where perhaps the whole world can see you for who you really are.

I recently stumbled upon a post (I’m not naming names) by an author, directed at another author, who wrote, “Even if you’re the best writer in the world, I don’t care. You’re an asshole and because of that I’ll never buy your book.”

Think about that for a minute. When you post a negative Tweet, you can never really erase it. All someone has to do is copy and paste it, and then it floats around forever in virtual reality, staining, scarring, and tarnishing your reputation. Or perhaps showing your true colors.

Your digital footprint is your reputation. Your legacy. Make it a good one. Whatever you’re selling, whatever services your offering, regardless of your motivation for being on social media, keep it upbeat. If you must rail on someone or something, turn your computer off, find a place where you won’t disturb anyone else (where you’re completely alone), and scream bloody murder at the top of your lungs; if that’s what it takes to vent your frustrations and anger.

Or, how about this? Take a few deep breaths, take a long walk, and when you feel calm enough to talk with someone, call a friend, loved one or family member. If you want to actually have a conversation, try not to make it all about you and your anger. Or about you and your issues. Even the most loyal friends start getting a little exasperated if they hear nothing but negativity.

I know none of us are perfect. I’ve said a few things on social media that I regret. But, I made it a policy about five years ago that I would conduct myself in an upbeat fashion on social media and associate with like-minded people.

For me, it wasn’t that difficult. Overall, I’m just a glass-half-full kind of guy. I encourage like-minded people, retweet their promotional and positive posts, and often engage with them.

I have a few general rules. I don’t comment on negative posts. I don’t comment on political posts. I definitely do not engage in online arguments.

Please, folks, all I’m really saying is before you decide to vent or say something negative on social media, think about it. Do you really want your legacy and your reputation to be overshadowed with venom and vitriol?

When I’m on social media I always keep my mother’s profound yet simple words in the back of my mind: “If you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say anything at all.”

Best of luck with your social media campaigns.

 

Black Dawn Preorder on the Horizon

Maybe there is a black dawn on the horizon given the complicated, stressful, and often overwhelmingly problematic world we live in. But, the Black Dawn I refer to here is my new release, slated for May 15th. That Black Dawn is intended to help you escape from the stresses of your everyday life and lift you into a world of limitless possibilities.

But first a few words of caution. It contains profanity. It’s rather raw-edged and racy. It’s also shockingly real—chock-full of actual accounts of  brutal murders that have occurred in the Dominican Republic, many while I was there doing book research. Of course the names and the characterizations have been changed to protect the innocent. Like some of my previous works, Black Dawn is a chilling journey into the dark underbelly of the Dominican Republic, an underbelly where murders often occur and murderers often walk away scot-free.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. A year in the making, the new-and-improved second edition involved extensive research on dream teleportation, the ability to physically teleport to other destinations while you’re sleeping. Although you might be tempted to dismiss it out of hand, teleportation—sleep-induced or manufactured—has been studied extensively by scientists and scholars and even the Unites States military.

Imagine the possibilities. You want to visit your friend in Mexico, hop into a teleporter and, boom, you’re there.

No airport hassles. No plane ticket. No plane.

Black Dawn weaves together elements of teleportation, the seedy side of the Dominican Republic, Voodoo, murder, and mystery into one hell of a ride. At least that’s what reviewers say.

Review excerpt:

Overall I found Black Dawn to be a very exciting and fast-paced read. Blackwell perfectly merged fantasy, science, and religion so seamlessly that at times you couldn’t distinguish between them. I highly recommend this novel to lovers of fantasy and action. I loved the characters, Saul especially as he goes through a huge transformation. I love how Blackwell constructed several different unique storylines and merged them brilliantly by the end of the novel with many twists and turns that you never see coming.

And one more for good measure:

Blackwell serves up a supporting cast to enhance the narrative as well as time travel, mystery, and murder. The ending may be a forecast of our future.

Here’s the official synopsis:

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 chilling nightmares are not only becoming more vivid, he’s actually dream-teleporting and witnessing brutal murders.

At the end of his rope mentally and physically, he learns he might be next on the killer’s list and, panic-stricken, submerges himself even deeper into a steady stream of alcohol.

Waging a war with internal and external demons, he discovers there’s more to his precarious precipice than meets the eye: Voodoo spells, calculating killers, and possibly a government cover-up.

Pitting human vulnerability against the courage it takes to risk life, limb, and heart, Black Dawn is a pulse-pounding journey that is both terrifying and uplifting.

And here’s the good news. For my loyal readers and followers, I’m launching an ebook pre-order of Black Dawn, slashing the price to $0.99 from now until the May 15th release date, after which it will increase to $3.99.

Order it now. Order it dirt cheap. Click below to get your deeply discounted copy of Black Dawn at your favorite digital bookstore:

GET BLACK DAWN NOW AT YOUR FAVORITE BOOKSTORE

Still on the fence? Okay. Read a few sample chapters (BUY link also at the bottom of this post) before you decide:

 

Black Dawn Prologue

In a celestial sphere of existence unimaginable to most mere mortals, the gatekeeper of the crossroads between the living and the dead sat cross-legged with his head bowed. Through the all-encompassing thick gray mist, the powerful Voodoo spirit couldn’t see them. But Kalfu knew they were there. A jury of his peers. There to judge him. To punish him. Maybe even banish him from the spirit world entirely. He cringed. Although he was master of the malevolent spirits of the night, there were others more powerful.

And they knew.

Kalfu allowed himself a slight raise of his head. It would be a severe breach of protocol to hold his head high during these proceedings. He was not there to be worshiped or revered. Through his peripheral vision he saw a small glowing white dot appear, perhaps fifty feet ahead. The dot grew to a full moon. Gray misty streaks swam across it, painting elongated eyes and a garish grin. Bondye, The Supreme Being, spoke: “You have transgressed your boundaries, boundaries that are paramount to keeping the natural order and peace on Earth. You have been meddling in the affairs of humans to such a degree that you threaten the very balance of this natural order. Our governance over the earthly world does not allow wanton pleasures of the flesh with humans for self-serving reasons. With your blatant lasciviousness and debauchery, you crossed the line. And for this you will be punished.”

Next to The Supreme Being, another small dot materialized and glowed ominously. It slowly formed a skull with empty black eye sockets and cotton batten stuffed into the nose cavity. A lit cigar dangled from the mouth, blue smoke twirling up, barely visible in the suffused gray light. The Baron Samedi, the spirit of resurrection and the dead, said, “Not only has Kalfu wantonly fornicated with humans, but he has also interfered with my role in the natural order, Your Highness. He has been telling me, according to his whims, who shall be resurrected and who shall not. It is not his decision to make.” The Baron glared at Kalfu directly. “Stay out of my affairs. There are others more qualified than you to judge. Nobody died and made you God around here.”

Head bowed, Kalfu remained silent.

A thunderous boom echoed through this otherworldly dimension of reality.

Bondye’s eyes met the Baron’s. “You watch your tongue in my presence,” he snapped. “Unless you too wish a severe reprimand.”

Kalfu tried but couldn’t contain it. A small smile pursed his lips. He wiped it away quickly with a flick of his serpent-like tongue.

“I beg your forgiveness, Your Highness,” the Baron said. “I’m sorry.”

Bondye’s eyes darkened and shrank to tiny slits. They drilled into Kalfu. “You dare smile at such a time? You mock these proceedings? Are they such a joke to you?”

His head still bowed, Kalfu said, “No, Your Highness. I beg your forgiveness.”

Another glowing white dot emerged and magically enlarged, transforming into a face not unlike The Virgin Mary. It was Erzulie Freda, the spirit of love. She eyeballed Kalfu scornfully. A lone tear snaked down her face. A white hand appeared and brushed it away. “You are not the council concerning love and lust on Earth,” she said. “I’ve seen multiple transgressions. The earthlings, in consultation with spirits like myself, make their own decisions in these matters. You are an intermediary between the spirits and humanity. You stand at the spiritual crossroads and merely grant or deny permission to speak with the spirits. But you have abused this power. You have made yourself judge, jury, and executioner.”

There was a brief silence before Bondye spoke. “We are not here to discuss specific details of Kalfu’s transgressions. He knows what they are, we know what they are. There is no question he is guilty. We are here to mete out punishment. And to decide on the severity of the punishment we need to know why Kalfu committed these intolerable breaches of spirit protocol. We need to know if he is repentant for his sins.”

Bondye stared daggers directly at Kalfu. “Can you atone for your sins? Are you remorseful? Are you capable of ever becoming a dutiful and law-abiding spirit? Why would you commit such sins?  Speak now, for this is your one and only chance at redemption.”

Kalfu raised his head. He knew there was no point in denying the accusations. This wasn’t a civil or criminal court where you were presumed innocent until proven guilty. This was a jury of his peers, far away from the boundaries and limitations and laws of Earth. He had already been found guilty. In the strange and mysterious world of Voodoo, his peers could see his transgressions, usually as they happened. They didn’t need proof.

He applied a properly repentant frown. “I want to apologize to Your Highness, Erzulie, and the Baron for my crimes and transgressions. I am deeply sorry and wish I could turn back the hands of time so those things would never have happened. I realize by straying from my duties I interfered with the duties of all of you. I overstepped my bounds in the spirit world. I know the severity of this and am deeply repentant and remorseful. As my excuse, I can only say Satan got inside my head and I was no longer conscious of my actions. But the Devil has been exorcized from my being and I am once again in full control of my faculties.”

“Are you absolutely sure about this?” Bondye said. “You won’t leap off the cliff of temptation again? Because if you do, you will plummet to a fate worse than death. Of that I can assure you.”

“No, Your Highness. I promise you, if it happens again, you can banish me from the spirit world forever.” Why the hell did I say that?

“What makes you think I won’t banish you indefinitely now?”

“I pray you won’t, Your Highness. Please don’t. I promise to stay the path of righteousness.” There, that sounds better.

There was a brief silence as Kalfu waited.

The gray mist turned black, pitch black, enveloping the rising sun. Black dawn, sentencing time. A time for punishment. A time for retribution.

The scene was familiar to Kalfu. He had witnessed this darkness before. It was not the first time he had been disciplined, nor would it be the last.

A thunderous boom clapped through the heavens and reverberated into silence. Finally, Bondye spoke. “I hereby strip you of all your spirit duties and sentence you to three years of pain and suffering in the underworld. One year for the affront to my unquestionable power and absolute divinity, and one year each for your affronts to Erzulie and the Baron. You claim the Devil made you do it? Well, you can cavort with his minions in a torturous existence until you atone for your sins…”

“But, Your Highness, that’s too—”

“Silence your lips, sinner,” Bondye snapped. “Would you rather I banished you to Hell for all eternity?”

“I’m sorry, Your Highness. Forgive me, please.”

“At the end of three years, you will come before the council. We will decide then if you’re worthy to resume your role as spirit of the crossroads between the living and the dead. In the meantime, I will appoint an interim gatekeeper. Is that clear?”

“Yes, Your Holiness.”

“This meeting is over. Disperse.”

Bondye’s image vanished in a flash, leaving only a faint shadow of his former presence, silhouetted against a black curtain. Then the Baron’s glowing white skull shrank to the size of a pin before vanishing entirely. With a popping sound, Erzulie also disappeared.

Spiraling down a dark tunnel into the bowels of Hell, Kalfu grinned. They don’t have a clue what’s coming. Not a fucking clue.

 

 

    Chapter One

Nothing, nothing, nothing. But no, that was something, Saul Climer thought as he turned his chainsaw off and set it down on the forest floor. He looked to where the noise had originated. A tree bluff close to the ocean. Some small bushes. He had heard a hollow rattling noise first, then a loud hissing sound, like a snake. He wiped sweat from his eyes, adjusted his black baseball cap, and stared at the chainsaw for answers. How could I hear anything over that?

Instead of moving toward the noise, he scanned the clearing for something else: his Alpine Lager can of beer, still half-full if memory served. He lumbered toward it, gingerly moving his right shoulder, sure that he had torn a rotator cuff during a fall in the forest a few days ago. Beer had gotten the better of him and his brush-clearing efforts had become haphazardly dangerous at best and downright reckless at worst. The following day he’d been hungover, and while examining his efforts at creating a usable clearing near the Atlantic Ocean on his Prince Edward Island acreage, he’d noticed a few downed trees outside of the orange spray paint of his proposed perimeter. By law on the Island, local authorities wanted to see about 50 feet of tree bluff separating clearing from water’s edge, a buffer against erosion and other environmental concerns.

He reached the beer, lifted the can, drained the contents, and looked back at the patch of bush where the disconcerting sound had originated. The bush was still. All was quiet, but for the chirping of birds, the odd skittering of a chipmunk, and a gentle breeze hissing through the trees. Familiar sounds. Forget it, you’re drinking too much. It’s the beer, nothing else. For the moment, he forgot the noise, approached his well-worn 1979 green Ford pickup truck, opened the cooler, cracked open another Alpine, and thirstily swilled a third of it. It was his seventh, but who was counting? Certainly not Saul. He belched loudly, chuckled at the resounding echo, and peered at the sea through a clearing. The sun had just set. The glassy smooth water reflected perfectly the brilliant cloud colors above. Pink-orange layers illuminated the bottom half and misty purple-gray layers blanketed the top portion of the sky.

Beautiful. But it means nothing with no social life. Deadbeat. Loser. Stop.

Saul set his Alpine on the hood of the pickup, rotated his aching shoulder—I should get that checked out—ahh, fuck it—and surveyed his progress. With the help of a hired hand, a man much more skilled than he with the chainsaw, he had measured a clearing, about 75 feet wide by about 150 feet deep, marked it with fluorescent orange paint, and cut all the trees inside the circle, allowing for the obligatory tree bluff separating clearing from ocean. The idea was to create a usable beachfront area, accessible via a winding road that he had cleared the previous year. He had to admit he was pleased with what he saw, aside from the drunken foray where he’d mistakenly breached the no-go zone. Half of the felled trees were neatly cut and stacked into an organized wall of wood at the back of the clearing. Smaller branches were positioned in the center of the clearing inside a makeshift fire pit that now smoldered due to inattention. He had maybe another thirty felled trees to cut up and stack, a few more slash burns to go (burning off the useless stuff) and then he’d be ready to call in the bulldozer to remove the stumps, pile them somewhere away from the clearing, and smooth out the red dirt, making it traversable by vehicle and on foot.

“Looking fucking good,” he said to no one. He took another swill of beer and staggered toward a plastic lawn chair positioned fireside. It was July 1st, Canada Day, and the weather was a pleasant 16 degrees Celsius. He set his beer on a large log coffee table, perhaps two feet in diameter. He’d fashioned it from an older long-dead Maple tree. He had three such coffee tables positioned around the fire and had even oil-stained the tops blue to prevent further rot and ruin.

He checked his watch: 8:44 pm. Good. Still time for some more cutting, and getting this blaze going good again. He gathered small branches and threw them into the fire, then located a five-gallon plastic container of gas and doused it. Flames leaped seven feet in the air with a whooshing sound.

Saul felt searing heat on his face and suddenly realized he was standing too close. Too late. He smelled something foul and familiar. Burning hair. His hair. “Shit-fucking shit,” he said, stepping back a little too quickly. He tripped on a small branch and face-planted into the dirt.

He uttered a muffled gasp and started rolling toward the blaze that was now burning full-tilt, threatening to engulf his drunken moving body. A few feet from the fire, dizzy and disoriented from the fall, he put his right hand firmly on the dirt and stopped. Hot pain shot up his arm from the injured shoulder.

“Fuck sakes, you idiot. Get out of here.” He started crawling away from the blaze as the wind picked up, showering his moving body with hot embers. He kept crawling on all fours, finally reaching a safe distance some thirty feet away. He stopped, rubbing the aching shoulder until something foul assaulted his nostrils. Burning hair. And burning clothes. He looked down. His steel-toed shoe was on fire. Flames licked up his right pant leg.

Screaming bloody murder, he pounded the shoe and pant leg flames out, and examined the damage. The shoe was charred black, but had not burned through to the foot—although part of his sock was burned in a ragged V-shape that clung to shriveled leg hairs. About six inches of the pant leg had burned away. Wincing, he examined the leg. It was red and swollen, singed and burnt. Beginning to blister.

He removed the shoe. Although his foot was hot, most of the sock was undamaged. He put the shoe on, tied what was left of the laces, and gingerly touched the injured leg. A patch of about eight inches continued to swell and redden.

Narrowing his eyes and balling his fists, he stood up, staring at the fire. “You can’t beat me, you fucking thing. You can’t, so get used to it.”

He tested the foot and leg. They worked just fine, although the burned calf smarted like a hundred hornet stings. He gathered up a few bigger logs and tossed them in the fire, keeping a respectful distance from it. He quaffed his seventh beer, opened the cooler, and cracked Alpine number eight. He took a long pull, then raised it up. “Happy fucking Canada Day, motherfuckers.”

He had no idea who he was talking to. Himself? Maybe forest critters? Maybe the seals that occasionally swam in the little bay bordering the waterfront? Maybe the trees? But who the words were meant for didn’t matter to Saul right now. He focused bleary-eyed on the flickering orange flames, licking higher as the gentle breeze transformed into a more formidable wind. He decided that the chainsaw work, at least for tonight, was done. He had just about toasted himself extra crispy in the bonfire, and wasn’t about to tempt fate by cutting timber that was slowly turning black with the blanket of nightfall. He absently rubbed his right eyebrow, simultaneously realizing two things: the eyebrow was almost singed bare, and there was a small cut above what remained of it—a result of the face-plant onto God’s red Earth.

He wiped wetness away from his eyebrow and examined his hand. A little blood. Must not be that deep. Who fucking cares.

Canada Day, the country’s birthday, he thought. Over a hundred and fifty years old. A lot to celebrate for some people, but not me. Since returning from the Dominican Republic two months earlier, Saul couldn’t help but compare the island of Hispaniola to Prince Edward Island. Too many laws here. Not enough there. But where would you have more fun? Not here, certainly not. Go to practically any Canadian beach and read the signs—Sign, sign, everywhere a sign. Blockin’ out the scenery, breakin’ my mind. Do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the sign?—No dogs allowed, no open fires, no alcoholic beverages, no vehicles of any kind, no lifeguard on duty, no inflatable objects permitted in the water, no barbecues, no camping, open during these hours, closed during these hours.

“Why the fuck don’t they add no swimming allowed, laughing and having fun prohibited, and all people prohibited on the beach? What about no walking or talking?” Saul said. Some Canadian laws and bylaws were completely nonsensical. He had been to many public parks across the country where NO SMOKING signs adorned the greenery. The city council in Calgary, in its infinite wisdom, had passed a bylaw declaring that all cats must be on leashes. What? And smoking in bars was restricted on outdoor patios, but permitted in tiny, specially designed rooms inside the establishments. What the hell was that? City bylaw officers towed vehicles on private residential driveways in certain municipal districts because of invalid license plates. Goddammit, it was private property.

That was just the beginning, but Saul didn’t want to think about it anymore. Too damned depressing. Since returning from his Dominican adventures, he’d been unable to curtail his alcohol abuse. In Costambar, where he’d stayed, alcohol was just part of the culture, particularly among expats. What do you do when you’re at a beach bar, enjoying a nice breeze and the gentle lapping of ocean waves, not to mention the varied and entertaining mix of foreigners and locals alike? Drink water? Yeah, right.

So Saul had stayed with the booze, something that was now part of his everyday existence. And he had rationalized it in just about every way possible. I’m just easing myself back into Canadian culture. A drink a day keeps the doctor away. I need it to get over the culture shock. I can stop anytime I want. I don’t need a drink. I want a drink. Alcohol makes the world go around. Society can’t function without a few good drunks.

After some time, the rationalization stopped, but the drinking continued as it had in the DR. There, it was eat breakfast, hit the beach, and start drinking. Carry on, with a tour of no less than ten and no more than twelve bars, until maybe three or four in the morning. The next day, if you weren’t too hungover, you started all over again. Why the fuck not? What else was there to do there?

But what else is there to do here? At 59, Saul was dead broke. He had blown what little savings he had in the DR—the savings were left over from his job as a public relations officer for a large oil company, a position he’d held for five years before being laid off due to an economic downturn. He’d left the company two years earlier and relocated to Prince Edward Island, intent on becoming a great Canadian bestselling author. After spending fifty thousand dollars on renovations and taking two tours of drunken debauchery in the DR, he went to work on The Final Hour, a post-apocalyptic tale about savages surviving in a wasteland created by humankind’s stupidity. Four months later, he’d completed an 80,000-word, full-length novel. But, while doing edits and rewrites, he’d grown to hate the manuscript. He thought its best use would be either as ass wipe or kindling for a bonfire. Focusing on the latter and more sanitary option, one drunken night, he actually tossed the manuscript into a raging blaze. The paperclip-bound pages landed on the edge of the fire, and just then a freak thunderstorm erupted. Looking at it as some kind of divine intervention of fate, he’d collected the manuscript, threw it in a file box, and tucked it up in the attic. Out of sight, out of mind.

Maybe The Final Hour wasn’t the problem. Maybe it was the money. Financial stress, the root of all evil. While writing, his cash reserves had dwindled. First he was in the black. Then he was in the red. And as the colors changed, so did his moods. He kept second-guessing his talents, believing he never had any in the first place. And how can you pretend to write a book if you can’t even support yourself?

Then he hit rock-bottom.

The money going out had far exceeded the money coming in. He refinanced his only material asset, the Prince Edward Island home, into a $120,000 line of credit, which now sat at $19,000 remaining. He was living on credit. This road would eventually dead-end. He’d crash into a concrete wall, or maybe crash and burn in the bonfire one night, whichever came first.

So he had a plan, however weak-minded it might be. He wanted to finish the beachfront clearing and slap a FOR SALE sign up. He had to try and bail himself out of his debt-ridden, alcoholic existence. He might scratch together fifty thousand dollars after legal fees, which would go toward a new-and-improved life in the DR. The beachfront clearing and beach access were key to getting a good buck for the property. Typically waterfront property rose at ten times the rate of rural real estate sans waterfront.

He sat silently, watching the fire, and felt the pain, emotional and physical. He felt dizzy and disoriented from the face-plant and his self-diagnosed torn rotator cuff ached. The arm felt weak and he had even lost partial sensation in his two middle fingertips. Gotta be a torn rotator cuff. Gotta be. His calf stung from the bonfire barbecue and now even a rear upper molar was starting to smart. A Dominican dentist had done a root canal on it and fashioned a crown. The fucker must have missed a canal, he thought, gliding his tongue over a spongy, sensitive, probably infected gum.

Saul finished his beer, crushed the empty, and tossed it next to a log pile. He staggered to the cooler and grabbed another one. Alpine number nine. He cracked it open and took a deep pull, reflecting on the tooth. I better get that looked at. He had read somewhere that if left unchecked, gum infections could actually spread straight to the brain and kill a person—though documented cases of tooth infection death were pretty rare.

Lost in reflection, Saul sat still for a while, contemplating all the ways he might die. The sky grew black as the moon rose over the horizon, the stars twinkled, and the coyotes began to howl off in the distance. But Saul was oblivious, as his thoughts now turned to his emotional pain. It was all because of her, he thought. Wasn’t love the root cause of all emotional pain?

After the usual tours of drunkenness and debauchery in the DR, he’d met twenty-nine-year-old Joella Rosario in a supermarket cafeteria. Although Joella had a basic command of English, Saul had a very good grasp of Spanish. Generally, they communicated in Spanish and the language barrier was practically non-existent. And in the beginning, it appeared there would be no barriers at all.

Joella was different than all the others. Timid, sensitive, quiet, honest, with a good sense of humor, and he believed she actually loved him. Her body was perfectly proportioned, Saul thought. Small, perky breasts and the most beautiful little ass he had ever laid eyes on—not to mention her long, slender legs. She had blemish-free mulatto skin, small facial features, a bright, infectious smile, and nice white teeth. And that she had three kids didn’t bother Saul either, though he was childless.

She’d been a breath of fresh air. Being with her, every day had gotten better and better, with no arguments worthy of even mentioning. It had taken him four months, but he’d found the proverbial needle in the haystack, one of a small percentage of the women in the Puerto Plata area who wasn’t a predator, didn’t have a money agenda, and didn’t have five foreigners simultaneously sending her money via Western Union. He had found the single most important thing in life, the thing that eluded so many. He had found true love. He should have been happy.

But no.

Like many things before the Joella relationship, he had fucked it up. Not royally, perhaps not irreparably, but fucked it up nonetheless. During their three-month intensely passionate and happy union, he’d lied to her, saying he was a prolific and commercially successful novelist, and was always working on a project or two. They talked about the future and how one day they could live together (the kid issue had not been factored into this equation) in near-perfect bliss and harmony, totally and happily in love. In the DR, of course.

He had left on a good note. But when he returned to PEI, the lies started pounding him like so many headshots from a mixed martial arts fighter. He felt guilty. Soon the guilt festered and infected his mind. What had started off as daily phone conversations slowed to once a week, once a month, and then nothing at all. The river of love ran dry, at least on his tributary. Her texts and calls went unanswered. And she, like any rational person, began to lose interest.

Her last text: I know you don’t love me anymore, if you ever did, because you won’t even return my calls. I hope you enjoy your life and I’m sorry if I caused you any grief.

That had been two weeks ago, and Saul couldn’t even bring himself to respond. The phone had grown silent, at least as it concerned Joella communication. How could he face her after so many lies? He had told her initially he would be returning to the DR after two months, the amount of time it would take him to write another bestseller, take care of some unrelated business matters, and then it would be bye-bye Canada. Forever. But now it was two months and maybe a week, and aside from his physical injuries, increasing daily, he had leapt into a black alcoholic abyss of self-pity, depression, even self-loathing.

Wallowing in this emotional black hole, Saul retreated into the comfort of his imagination. At least he had that. He closed his eyes and began to drift off. He called up an image of Joella. She materialized, nude apart from a pink G-string, dancing around his bed in his DR apartment. Saul lay on the bed, grinning, knowing, waiting. The lighting was subtle and romantic. Gray with spears of yellow. The air conditioning hummed. The bedside candles flickered.

Bob Marley sang, I wanna love you and treat you right; I wanna love you every day and every night; We’ll be together with a roof right over our heads; We’ll share the shelter of my single bed.

Joella gyrated, raising her arms in the air, snapping her fingers, her perky breasts bouncing in flawless harmony with the beat, shaking her impeccable derriere rhythmically like only Dominican women could do. Saul was becoming more aroused by the second. It was the best day of his life, bar none.

He dozed off and the mental image transformed into a bizarre dream. Joella was dancing, inching closer to the bed, then retreating at the last second, just out of reach. Saul was pleading: “Come here…I wanna love ya.” This went on for a few minutes before the landscape changed. Joella vanished and another woman appeared—a Russian seductress, clad in black dominatrix boots, panties, and a matching black vinyl bra that barely concealed voluptuous breasts. She held a whip and flicked it teasingly at Saul as he lay…Where? The same bed, the same apartment? The dream fast-forwarded and transformed into a love affair montage. He and the dominatrix were doing things together: taking walks in the park, having wild sex, whispering sweet nothings to each other, the whole gamut. Then a giant gloved military hand appeared, snatching them away, taking them into protective custody. A steely-eyed general announced the end of the world, but promised to deliver them to salvation. They were on a large ship in a swelling sea. It overturned and left Saul and the nameless Russian woman floating helplessly in the ocean, clinging to a flotation device. Small, smiling children on canoes appeared and started shooting arrows at them. They were somehow rescued again and suddenly on the streets of a large city. Massive explosions penetrated the sky and a brilliant fireworks display began destroying multiple buildings, a vividly spectacular display of death and destruction.

It was the heat from the explosions that Saul first became cognizant of. It started at his leg, then raced up and flashed through his entire body and into his head, causing multiple, intense hot flashes. He opened his eyes and saw red. He felt intense, searing heat, and smelled the sweet smell of burning flesh. His flesh.

He screamed in agony. And as he pounded out the flames licking up his body, a lone thought entered his troubled mind: Maybe it’s a good day to die.

 

End of sample chapters. Having a good time yet? I thought so.

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Thanks so much for your support.

New Release Black Dawn Coming Soon

Over a year in the making, new release Black Dawn is coming soon. Weaving together extensive research on teleportation, Voodoo, and the dark underbelly of the Dominican Republic, the ebook will be available for pre-order April 10th for a mere ninety-nine pennies. Black Dawn will be officially released May 15th, at which time the ebook will be priced at $3.99.

Stay tuned for future blog posts, which will contain pre-order links to your favorite digital bookstore. Order it early. Order it cheap.

Without any further preamble, read what reviewers are saying:

Overall I found Black Dawn to be a very exciting and fast-paced read. Blackwell perfectly merged fantasy, science, and religion so seamlessly that at times you couldn’t distinguish between them. I highly recommend this novel to lovers of fantasy and action. I loved the characters, Saul especially as he goes through a huge transformation. I love how Blackwell constructed several different unique story lines and merged them brilliantly by the end of the novel with many twists and turns that you never see coming.

And one more for good measure:

Blackwell serves up a supporting cast to enhance the narrative as well as time travel, mystery, and murder. The ending may be a forecast of our future.

Here’s the official synopsis:

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 chilling nightmares are not only becoming more vivid, he’s actually dream-teleporting and witnessing brutal murders.

At the end of his rope mentally and physically, he learns he might be next on the killer’s list and, panic-stricken, submerges himself even deeper into a steady stream of alcohol.

Waging a war with internal and external demons, he discovers there’s more to his precarious precipice than meets the eye: Voodoo spells, calculating killers, and possibly a government cover-up.

Pitting human vulnerability against the courage it takes to risk life, limb, and heart, Black Dawn is a pulse-pounding journey that is both terrifying and uplifting.

For your reading pleasure, here’s the prologue:

 

Black Dawn Prologue

In a celestial sphere of existence unimaginable to most mere mortals, the gatekeeper of the crossroads between the living and the dead sat cross-legged with his head bowed. Through the all-encompassing thick gray mist, the powerful Voodoo spirit couldn’t see them. But Kalfu knew they were there. A jury of his peers. There to judge him. To punish him. Maybe even banish him from the spirit world entirely. He cringed. Although he was master of the malevolent spirits of the night, there were others more powerful.

And they knew.

Kalfu allowed himself a slight raise of his head. It would be a severe breach of protocol to hold his head high during these proceedings. He was not there to be worshipped or revered. Through his peripheral vision he saw a small glowing white dot appear, perhaps fifty feet ahead. The dot grew to a full moon. Gray misty streaks swam across it, painting elongated eyes and a garish grin. Bondye, The Supreme Being, spoke: “You have transgressed your boundaries, boundaries that are paramount to keeping the natural order and peace on Earth. You have been meddling in the affairs of humans to such a degree that you threaten the very balance of this natural order. Our governance over the earthly world does not allow wanton pleasures of the flesh with humans for self-serving reasons. With your blatant lasciviousness and debauchery, you crossed the line. And for this you will be punished.”

Next to The Supreme Being, another small dot materialized and glowed ominously. It slowly formed a skull with empty black eye sockets and cotton batten stuffed into the nose cavity. A lit cigar dangled from the mouth, blue smoke twirling up, barely visible in the suffused gray light. The Baron Samedi, the spirit of resurrection and the dead, said, “Not only has Kalfu wantonly fornicated with humans, but he has also interfered with my role in the natural order, Your Highness. He has been telling me, according to his whims, who shall be resurrected and who shall not. It is not his decision to make.” The Baron glared at Kalfu directly. “Stay out of my affairs. There are others more qualified than you to judge. Nobody died and made you God around here.”

Head bowed, Kalfu remained silent.

A thunderous boom echoed through this otherworldly dimension of reality.

Bondye’s eyes met the Baron’s. “You watch your tongue in my presence,” he snapped. “Unless you too wish a severe reprimand.”

Kalfu tried but couldn’t contain it. A small smile pursed his lips. He wiped it away quickly with a flick of his serpent-like tongue.

“I beg your forgiveness, Your Highness,” the Baron said. “I’m sorry.”

Bondye’s eyes darkened and shrank to tiny slits. They drilled into Kalfu. “You dare smile at such a time? You mock these proceedings? Are they such a joke to you?”

His head still bowed, Kalfu said, “No, Your Highness. I beg your forgiveness.”

Another glowing white dot emerged and magically enlarged, transforming into a face not unlike The Virgin Mary. It was Erzulie Freda, the spirit of love. She eyeballed Kalfu scornfully. A lone tear snaked down her face. A white hand appeared and brushed it away. “You are not the council concerning love and lust on Earth,” she said. “I’ve seen multiple transgressions. The earthlings, in consultation with spirits like myself, make their own decisions in these matters. You are an intermediary between the spirits and humanity. You stand at the spiritual crossroads and merely grant or deny permission to speak with the spirits. But you have abused this power. You have made yourself judge, jury, and executioner.”

There was a brief silence before Bondye spoke. “We are not here to discuss specific details of Kalfu’s transgressions. He knows what they are, we know what they are. There is no question he is guilty. We are here to mete out punishment. And to decide on the severity of the punishment we need to know why Kalfu committed these intolerable breaches of spirit protocol. We need to know if he is repentant for his sins.”

Bondye stared daggers directly at Kalfu. “Can you atone for your sins? Are you remorseful? Are you capable of ever becoming a dutiful and law-abiding spirit? Why would you commit such sins?  Speak now, for this is your one and only chance at redemption.”

Kalfu raised his head. He knew there was no point in denying the accusations. This wasn’t a civil or criminal court where you were presumed innocent until proven guilty. This was a jury of his peers, far away from the boundaries and limitations and laws of Earth. He had already been found guilty. In the strange and mysterious world of Voodoo, his peers could see his transgressions, usually as they happened. They didn’t need proof.

He applied a properly repentant frown. “I want to apologize to Your Highness, Erzulie, and the Baron for my crimes and transgressions. I am deeply sorry and wish I could turn back the hands of time so those things would never have happened. I realize by straying from my duties I interfered with the duties of all of you. I overstepped my bounds in the spirit world. I know the severity of this and am deeply repentant and remorseful. As my excuse, I can only say Satan got inside my head and I was no longer conscious of my actions. But the Devil has been exorcized from my being and I am once again in full control of my faculties.”

“Are you absolutely sure about this?” Bondye said. “You won’t leap off the cliff of temptation again? Because if you do, you will plummet to a fate worse than death. Of that I can assure you.”

“No, Your Highness. I promise you, if it happens again, you can banish me from the spirit world forever.” Why the hell did I say that?

“What makes you think I won’t banish you indefinitely now?”

“I pray you won’t, Your Highness. Please don’t. I promise to stay the path of righteousness.” There, that sounds better.

There was a brief silence as Kalfu waited.

The gray mist turned black, pitch black, enveloping the rising sun. Black dawn, sentencing time. A time for punishment. A time for retribution.

The scene was familiar to Kalfu. He had witnessed this darkness before. It was not the first time he had been disciplined, nor would it be the last.

A thunderous boom clapped through the heavens and reverberated into silence. Finally, Bondye spoke. “I hereby strip you of all your spirit duties and sentence you to three years of pain and suffering in the underworld. One year for the affront to my unquestionable power and absolute divinity, and one year each for your affronts to Erzulie and the Baron. You claim the Devil made you do it? Well, you can cavort with his minions in a torturous existence until you atone for your sins…”

“But, Your Highness, that’s too—”

“Silence your lips, sinner,” Bondye snapped. “Would you rather I banished you to Hell for all eternity?”

“I’m sorry, Your Highness. Forgive me, please.”

“At the end of three years, you will come before the council. We will decide then if you’re worthy to resume your role as spirit of the crossroads between the living and the dead. In the meantime, I will appoint an interim gatekeeper. Is that clear?”

“Yes, Your Holiness.”

“This meeting is over. Disperse.”

Bondye’s image vanished in a flash, leaving only a faint shadow of his former presence, silhouetted against a black curtain. Then the Baron’s glowing white skull shrank to the size of a pin before vanishing entirely. With a popping sound, Erzulie also disappeared.

Spiraling down a dark tunnel into the bowels of Hell, Kalfu grinned. They don’t have a clue what’s coming. Not a fucking clue.

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NEWS AND BLUES IN WILLIAM BLACKWELL’S WORLD

Wondering what’s new and what’s blue in William Blackwell’s world? My world.

Well, let’s dispense with the blue by getting it out of the way straight away. Since I’ve vowed to do more book marketing this year, other than book reviews, website content, and blog posts, I’ve managed very little writing on my two works in progress—The Dark Menace and The Witch’s Tombstone.

Yeah, I always get a little blue when I can’t escape through the lives of my fictional characters. After all, writing has been described as the ultimate form of self-expression, as well as being liberating, therapeutic, and deeply satisfying.

The time will come, I suppose. But right now, I’m immersed in book marketing tasks. If you don’t oil the wheels of your marketing machine they become rusty, antiquated and ineffective. The book publishing industry is constantly evolving and to be successful you have to evolve with it or get left behind in a plume of toxic exhaust smoke.

So what’s new?

My website has a brand-new look and I love it. The free WordPress theme I picked is called Lovecraft, fitting since H.P. Lovecraft, considered by many to be the master of horror, is one of my favorite authors. Some readers had actually complained that they found it hard to read my blog posts on my last outdated theme. On that theme, the words were white, the background black. That can get a little tedious on the eyes after a while. Now, with the more traditional black words on white background, the website is way more appealing to the eye. And I love the font, Times New Roman, the one I use to write all my novels with.

On the new-and-improved website, I’ve also disposed of most the Amazon widgets that drove traffic exclusively to the US-based Amazon site. Too limiting.

In its place is a really cool thing called Universal Book Links (UBL). Created by Books2Read (Google them if you want to know more), these specialized links package many different online bookstores into one convenient link. Click GET WILLIAM BLACKWELL BOOKS NOW AT YOUR FAVORITE BOOKSTORE HERE if you’re curious about how they work. The actual link is in the top right-hand side of this page, but I’ve also added it to the bottom of this post for your convenience.

The links give readers several options to choose from, including Apple Books, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Smashwords, Amazon, Indigo and many others. You simply click on your preferred book retailer and it takes you right where you want to go. No muss. No fuss. The links are flexible and can be checked, repaired and added to as needed.

And, since I just received an email today from Google Play Partner Centre announcing that I’ve been accepted into their publishing platform, I’ll soon be adding Google Play and Google Books to the links of online ebook retailers who carry my books. I don’t know much about publishing on Google Play or Google Books. I’ve spent the last two hours navigating the platform and I’m told my latest release, The End is Nigh, is currently being held in limbo due to a pricing issue and the fact that Google needs to review my new account. Eventually, I’m sure it will get resolved.

Who knows if I’ll sell a lot of books on the platform? But, in reading over a few blog posts on the topic, it definitely helps with book indexing. Certainly with a behemoth big tech company like Google, it will definitely put more eyes on Blackwell novels. Google is working hard to expand its presence in the ebook publishing industry and it’s certainly a no-brainer to jump at the opportunity to open up my books to millions of more readers around the world.

With that goal in mind, I’ve also opened an account on Wattpad, a wide-reaching platform for established writers and aspiring writers. I don’t know much about Wattpad yet except to say that I’ve put one of my earlier works, Resurrection Point, on the site in its entirety—free for the world to read. I’ve read some writers have made it big on Wattpad—movie deals, book deals, and the like.

But I don’t necessarily have any lofty expectations. It’s just another way—in the often muddy book marketing waters—to get a few more eyes on my books. It also gives me an opportunity to connect with readers and get real-time feedback, good or bad, on my prose. I’m still mulling it over, but I’m considering offering two of my series starters on Wattpad for free to generate interest in the other series books.

You guessed it. I saved the best for last. Maybe I don’t need to have lofty expectations or goals. Maybe I’m already famous. I recently made the cover of the internationally renowned Who Knocks?

As the cover says, it’s an “unearthly magazine celebrating the otherworldly, the ghostly, the mysterious and the strange.” And contained within those ten-dollar pages is a “candid and in-depth interview with Canadian horror writer William Blackwell.”  Now I guess people will have to pay to get my innermost thoughts on writing, LOL.

Seriously though, the magazine also contains a collection of short horror stories by some very talented writers. The brainchild of author Krystal Lawrence, with much help from Telemachus Press owner Steve Himes and others, it’s the first edition of a magazine that I truly hope will live a long, successful, and terrifying life.

Who knows, maybe next week William Blackwell will make the cover of the Rolling Stone.

I know what you’re saying: “Don’t hold your breath.”

Trust me, I won’t. I wouldn’t do this writing thing if I didn’t love it. If you didn’t get a chance to check out that cool Universal Book Link I mentioned earlier, I’ve posted it below for your viewing pleasure.

Thanks for your time and enjoy your day.

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