Get your spooky on

interior-2‘Tis the season for ghosts and goblins and all things scary, and if you’re a reader, you’re looking for a seasonal read to get your spooky on!

I’d like to humbly suggest my paranormal series.

My first novel, Haunting Blue, is a dark homage to the Hardy Boys style of mystery, with Frank and Joe replaced by punk girl Blue and her small town computer nerd boyfriend Chip. Together they try to solve the mystery of a robbery gone awry and discover once and for all what happened to the infamous criminal Gunther Stalt and find his bag of bank money. Chip and Blue find the treasure…and the vengeful ghost still guarding it after all these years.

Haunting Obsession is my bestselling sexy ghost story about Maxine Marie, a dead Hollywood starlet, and Daryl, the fixated fan who accidentally conjures her. But just because he brought her back doesn’t mean he can control her. Before too long, Maxine’s powers grow to alarming levels as she feeds on the energy of her fans, including Daryl. It’s up to Daryl’s girlfriend Loretta–who’s feeling a bit put out by these events–to find help in the form of the mysterious paranormal investigator Rebecca Burton.

Interior1_FINAL_WEB

Virtual Blue, the exciting sequel to Haunting Blue, finds our heroes fighting demons and their servants in a video game reality where death is temporary but the pain is all-too-real. Even with the help of Rebecca Burton, it’s going to take all of Blue’s wits and strength to survive this.

And don’t forget my short story collection of fantasy, sci-fi and horror, Darkness with a Chance of Whimsy, featuring a “bag full” of thrills and chills.

You can order all titles in ebook or paperback from major internet outlets–click the link on each title in this article to go to each dedicated order page.

If you want something extra special for Halloween, you can order titles directly from me for about the same price, signed and personalized with a Halloween message and mailed to your door. Payppal and credit card orders accepted. Here’s how you do that.

Thanks in advance for choosing my paranormal tales as part of your Halloween reading escape!

Whimsy Preview: Robot Vampire

DWACOW low rezClick here to view the previous entry “Starter Kit”
Click here to read the 8-part blog series of previews from the beginning

“Robot Vampire” has gotten a lot of good attention since its release in 2012 as part of Vampires Don’t Sparkle, an anthology edited by Michael West. I suspect that the story being a fundraiser for cancer research helped, not to mention its amazing table of contents, with story contributions from Lucy A. Snyder, Maurice Broaddus, Tim Waggoner, Gary A. Braunbeck, Bob Freeman and Stephen Zimmer, to name a few, all helped to bring attention to the story my way. I’m certainly proud to be in such  company.

I recall the germ for the story came about on a long family drive, one in which you find yourself playing nonsense games with each other. Anyway, for reasons I can no longer remember, we started pairing up monster types and giggling over the results because when you’re slaphappy, you’re also the most hysterical people in the world. And so, someone shouted “zombie robot!” (giggle) “werewolf zombie!” (giggle) “vampire werewolf!” (giggle) “robot vampire!” And while I giggled, a part of my brain already started to wonder “how could I make that work?”

Less than a month later, Michael West and I were talking and he asked if I had any ideas to submit to his anthology. Before I could think it through, my mouth responded, “Robot vampire”. Michael smirked that awesome Michael West smirk and said, “If you can make that work, I will buy it.” “You got it,” I said, even though I had no idea beyond the title.

Must brainstorming later, I turned in a story, one I’m pretty durn proud of, and still am. And so, apparently, was Michael.

The Setup: Jinan is an experimental robot who appears as a dark-haired Japanese girl and who emulates the agility of a human dancer. Moments before her premiere exhibition, Jinan is given a last-second programming tweak. The unintended consequence is that the robot achieves sentience, and the performance that follows wows the audience beyond almost everyone’s wildest expectations. Toshio, the show choreographer, is the one person who is not happy. In fact, he is furious over Jinan’s improvisations. The moment Jinan is alone, Toshio expresses his anger.

FINALVDS_coverWith their absence, something changes in my internal processes, a discordant flow of energy, again beyond my parameters to analyze. A response on the opposite side of the spectrum of the positive response I experienced earlier. I search my vocabulary for an appropriate word.
Dread. Is this dread?

Toshio yells in my face. “I know what you’re doing. Showing off for your masters. They programmed you too well, you little Diva bitch in the making.”
I file a conclusion about Toshio in a heuristic subroutine and speak my conclusion out loud. “I don’t like you, Toshio.”
Toshio’s face changes; his lips curve the opposite of a smile. “Oh, I’m so sorry to hear that! You don’t like me? You think I give two shits if you like me?”

Toshio walks to the toolbox in the far corner, opens the lid and examines its contents. “Gentoshu says you can learn now. To me, that’s great news. And very bad news for you, little Diva.” He turns toward me. One hand grips a screwdriver. He waves it in the air, the end pointed toward my face. “That means you can now respond to being punished, doesn’t it? But how?” Toshio looks upon me for several seconds. “I’d backhand you if you were a real girl. But I’ll bet I can come up with a way to make you respect me.”

You don’t need to listen to him, my special friend.
I detect a voice, speaking directly to me, in my head, but outside myself. The experience, so unexpected and without context, causes me to speak out loud. “What?”

Toshio looks at me. “I said it’s time to make you understand your place.”
From his tone, I conclude that Toshio has not heard the voice.
As I consider this, the voice speaks again. I can help you, special one. I can protect you now. He cannot see me, he cannot hear me, but you can. Do not give me away, and in return I will help you.

A new thought forms in a subroutine. The voice could be caused by a splinter in my thought processes that formed a separate thought entity within my own. The idea intrigues me. But the words keep me silent.
The voice in my head laughs. A real laugh, not a simulated one. I am not in your head. I am a spirit from outside you. Do you know what a guardian angel is?
____

Thank you for reading through this series of previews. I’m very proud of this collection and hope that this gives you a better idea of what you will find inside.

Click here to go to the dedicated ordering page of Darkness with a Chance of Whimsy.

Whimsy Preview: Able-Bodied

DWACOW low rezClick here to see the previous post in the series: Fade.

“Able-Bodied” was the first story I wrote specifically for a market. In this case, an ezine had launched out of Ft. Wayne, IN, called Strange, Weird, and Wonderful. “Able-Bodied” was written after pondering the meaning of the magazine’s title for several months. The submission led to an acceptance and a dialog with the editor-in-chief D.L. Russell. D.L. is a hell of a writer in his own right, and we have since become friends and he’s a valued colleague. Click here to check out his short story collection Hell is An Awfully Big City to see a cover that helped influence the cover to my own collection.

Able Bodied appeared in the January 2010 issue of the publication. It was also featured among the first Best Of anthology A Big Book of Strange Weird and Wonderful, Volume I.

Setup: None. “Able Bodied” is a story that best unfolds from the beginning, so here are the first words of the tale.

Art by David Burton and used by SWW to introduce Able-Bodied in the magazine.
Art by David Burton and used by SWW to introduce Able-Bodied in the magazine.

Police detective Todd Harding stood over the sprawled body. Today was The Whiz Kid’s turn to die.
Brad “The Whiz Kid” Zither lay on his stomach, brains leaking onto the polished oak floor, a look of slack-jawed stupor frozen on his youthful profile. Inches away, a ground-stone paperweight in the shape of the state of Indiana laid on the floor, the bumpy border of Lake Michigan smeared in crimson. The polished surface reflected a bright red stain―brighter than the crushed section on the back of the Whiz-Kid’s skull, which already began turning a gelatinous purple.

Ten years ago, The Whiz Kid exploded onto the technology scene, growing a “freeware add-on” office assistant program into a multi-million-dollar computer software company.
Tonight, The Whiz Kid had barricaded himself in the extravagant personal library of his luxurious mansion on three acres of the most secured, private woodland just north of Indianapolis, but that couldn’t save him from death.

Able Bodied is included in the Big Book of SSW Volume I
Able Bodied is included in the Big Book of SSW Volume I

In a few hours, The Whiz Kid would lie out on a slab alongside the homeless vet who died tonight of exposure in White River State Park, worth no more and no less.
The crime scene assistants hovered, anxious to clear away the body and start bagging evidence. Detective Harding shook his head, waving them off. He gave the study a quick preliminary glance. On the wall, the safe door hung open, exposing an empty metal pit.
The noise of a scuffle at the entrance broke Harding from his reverie. An angry slender blonde stormed through the door, followed closely by the rookie Rodriguez—his dark skin beneath the stubble of his shaved head glistening, even in this low light. He shot the rookie an annoyed glance. “What the hell, Rodriguez! I said no one enters the crime scene.”

“Sorry, Detective. She surprised me.” Though almost a foot shorter than the athletic woman, Rodriguez gripped her upper arm through the worn, ratty-looking knitted-blue sweater draped over the distraught woman’s shoulders. Her hair lay helter-skelter, as if she’d just woken up.

The woman pushed at the rookie’s hands. “I’m not ‘no one!’” she snapped, grammatical structure apparently the least of her concerns. As if fighting a draft, the woman crossed her arms over her chest, hands balled into fists at opposite shoulders, entwined in the knotted yarn of her sweater. Her right hand had clawed a large hole into the left shoulder of the tattered garment. “I’m Lauren Zither. This is my home, too! I want to know what you’re doing to find my husband’s killer.”

Detective Harding, usually the tallest and bulkiest person in the room at over 6’ and 240 lbs, knew he could create a considerable and intimidating presence, aided by his burr haircut, when the need arose. He stepped toward her, and noted with satisfaction how the confident anger soon melted from the young woman’s face. “Mrs. Zither, we’re examining the crime scene―which you seem intent on contaminating. You need to leave the way you came. Besides, there’s nothing you want to—”

She reached both hands to her mouth to stifle her shock.
Detective Harding placed a reassuring hand on her trembling shoulders, sinking his fingers into the tattered sweater, feeling the trembling of her shoulder. Couldn’t she afford a new sweater? That thing’s about had it. “I’m sorry. You don’t need to see this.”

She moaned into her hands, now pliant to the rookie’s guiding pulls toward the double-door entrance. “Who could have done this? It’s so … horrible!”
Harding watched Rodriguez usher the grieving widow out of the room. “Keep the room clear, Rodriguez! Crime team only.”

Harding placed his hands on his hips and surveyed the room again. He didn’t like it. Not one bit. It’s too … perfect. Too theatrical, too dramatic. Like a middle school stage play rather than the scene of an actual crime. Harding had examined dozens of murder scenes in his five years on the force, many more gruesome, a few more sterile, but he’d never before seen one so obvious. Whoever killed the Whiz Kid might as well have set up a neon sign flashing “Interrupted Random Burglary. Don’t look too closely.”
———
Click here to go to the Darkness with a Chance of Whimsy order page.
Next: Inner Strength (A Rebecca Burton Short Story)

Whimsy Preview: The Assurance Salesman

DWACOW low rezClick here to read the introduction to this series.

Darkness with a Chance of Whimsy opens with “The Assurance Salesman,” a story composed as a creative writing assignment that later went on to win the IUPUI Rebecca Pitts School of Liberal Arts creative writing award and ended up in the school’s literary magazine. (“genesis” spelled with a small g because Liberal Arts Students) College was a prolific time for me, as I imagine it is for many young writers, but this is one of only two stories that survived to have a second life years later and make it into this collection. It was even picked as one of the “Best of” in a one-shot 25 year retrospective of the publication. Neat.

The story was rewritten in 2004 (major overhaul would be more accurate), sold to Midnight Graffiti, and tweaked yet again for DWACOW. The major plot points, however, have remained the same. Here’s a short excerpt.

The setup: Five passengers on a midnight train to London are interrupted by a mysterious cloaked “stranger” who inserts himself into their philosophical discussion on love and affection. He reaches into his cloak to withdraw… ?

The cover of genesis Spring 1990--clearly mine was not the only creepy material.
The cover of genesis Spring 1990–clearly mine was not the only creepy material.

Gary sees the transparent center of the rose cloud with swirling blue smoke.
The stranger shrugs. “This little beauty—diamond, pendant, crystal, charm, I don’t really know what—is rather special. It took away all my doubts about love.” His eyes harden. “It’s also why I’m currently without companionship.”
They all wait.

The stranger delights in the moment, letting it linger before continuing. “You see, this rose is magical. I don’t know how it works, I only know that it does. I found it on a train rather similar to this one, under a seat, and I was ready to give it to the stationmaster when I accidentally discovered its powers.”

“A charlatan.” Stewart speaks, shaking his head. “You’re a con artist. I should’ve known better.”

“Oh, no. No gimmick here. Although I’m sure you’ll think so at first. You see, somehow, the crystal center can tap into the mind’s eye of another person. I don’t pretend to understand magic. Imagine, though, an object that can read your mind, find out who you love, and present you with an image of yourself … from that person’s frame of mind.”

IMG_1102He extends the glowing blue rose, tantalizingly, in front of Janet’s widened eyes. As it inches nearer, she bites her lip.

There is a loud chuckle from Stewart’s corner. “Of course. And how much do you ask for this miracle?”

“Fifty pounds for one gaze.”
Gary’s excitement dampens at the offer. “That’s ridiculous. For a silly parlor trick?” But his voice cracks, exposing his lack of conviction.

“I’m sure it makes you feel better to keep insisting that, and I can even see where you’re coming from. Which is why—” The stranger spaces his words carefully, aiming them directly at the transfixed woman. “—Janet can have a free look. Once you’ve taken her word for it, I’ll take your fifty pounds, each in turn.”

“Really?” Gary says, feebly, “and what makes you think it’s really worth fifty pounds?”
“Fifty pounds to know the unknowable? To make faith fact? Isn’t that worth fifty pounds to you?”

Best of genesis 25 year retrospective. Printed sidewise with a comb binding because Liberal Arts College Students.
Best of genesis 25 year retrospective. Printed sidewise with a comb binding because Liberal Arts College Students.

Janet’s hands are already clasped around the folded petals, which direct the light to make her face shine an eerie blue. She looks at the stranger uncertainly.
“What do I do?”

The stranger releases the rose into her hands. As she leans away from him, the stranger blends into the darkness. “Close one eye, and focus directly into the center. Don’t worry about light, it works even in total darkness. The image will be perfect.”

Janet holds the rose close. The stem burns against her trembling fingers; she needs both hands to steady the crystal. She can see the center, not simply clouded, but filled with smoky, animated, swirling, mist. An actual light of unknown nature within the rose causes the blue glow.

She hardly has time to reflect on this when the mist clears, and she finds herself staring at an image … of herself.
****
  She is seated in the train, as she was moments earlier, leaning against her husband’s shoulder. Only Kevin is not in the picture, at least not his face.
   Her breath leaves her body as she realizes that she is seeing through Kevin’s eyes, looking down on his new bride. She can see her own face from his viewpoint.
   She remembers the daily routine of seeing her own face in a mirror, angry at the puffiness of her cheeks, at the way her hair would never settle quite right.
   In the rose, the flaws remain, but are filtered to the point of insignificance. She sees herself, all the features the same, but there is an image, a golden glow over her face and body that is almost angelic. A finger caresses her cheek, and the skin—her skin—feels the softest, smoothest, most beautiful silk she has ever touched.
   Images superimpose themselves rapidly over her body. She can see herself in her nightgown on their wedding night, a sense of pleasure mixed perfectly with tenderness.      Purity and passion somehow become one and the same, and she is the source. She tries to force the flaws she sees in herself, the hair, the weight, the temper tantrums. They don’t exist in this image. She sees herself, but now she is his perfect woman, sexy, funny, beautiful, giving,
   Everything.
****
The rose drops from her hands into the stranger’s. She buries herself in Kevin’s arms, the joy in her sobs tearing from her.

“iloveyouiloveyouohgodhowiloveyou …” Her arms squeeze her husband’s shoulders as she cries. There’s no shame left, nothing to hold back, not now and not ever again.

____

Click here for the next post in the series, an except from “Fade”.
Click here to go to the dedicated ordering page of Darkness with a Chance of Whimsy.

New Release Cover Reveal Today!

IMG_1030I’m very excited to reveal the cover to my next release, the short story collection Darkness With a Chance of Whimsy: Ten Years, Ten Stories.

Follow this link to the Seventh Star Press site to read the details and see the book trailer (or wait a couple of days when I’ve added all that to the website….but seriously, RAISE THOSE CLICKS, PEOPLE).

The collection is due out next month, and includes many hard-to-find stories unavailable since their original publications, including Assurance Salesman, Inner Strength, Fade, and Robot Vampire.

PS: Apparently trying to find the keywords to locate the image of a painting covered by cloth on an easel is an impossible task. Enjoy my creative solution of an image.