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The Woods – 7 Return to the House (1985) by LV Gaudet

1The Woods:

1 – The Woods – The Dare (1985)

2 – Thirty Years Later – The Old Bennet House is for Sale (2015)

3 – The Woods – Jesse Hears a Noise (1985)

4 – The House – First Entry in 30 Years (2015)

5 – The Woods – Return to the House (1985)

6 – The Woods – Inspecting The House (2015)

 

1985

The boys race back, crawling over the rotting downed tree, and through the woods.  They can see the house through the barren limbs of the trees, branches that stick out, their branching fingers trying to block their view of home.  They push through those branches, some twisted in odd directions, misshapen bony arms that were broken and healed to grow that way. They focus on the house through the trees.  Home.

They break free of the woods into the sudden freedom of their yard. Their boots slip on the snow, sloppy wet from the early spring melt.

A discarded bike lies on the ground, half buried, sticking out of the snow like the skeletal remains of a man fallen in an odd position.

“The grass,” Kevin calls breathlessly as they run for the house.

“We must have imagined it,” Jesse pants.

They charge into the house again, kicking off their boots, racing past the comic and discarded socks, to the kitchen again, calling.

“Mom!”

“Mom?”

“Mom!”

She isn’t there.  They search the house again.

“She’s not here.”

“Next door?”

Jesse frowns.

“Come on,” Kevin urges.

They head to the back door again, pulling their boots on, and going out.  They go around to the side, heading for the front.

“Kevin! Kevin!” Jesse cries.

Kevin blinks, disoriented. It’s hard to breathe, a crushing weight is pressing down on his chest. He tries to move and can’t. He’s pinned down.

Kevin is laying on his back in the snow. He stares at the bare branches of bushes pushing up through the snow around him and the bare branches of trees above.

“Jessie? What’s happening?” His voice is cracking with fear.

He is pinned beneath the rotting fallen tree they had climbed over earlier.

“How?” he croaks.

“Kevin?” Jesse’s voice is shaky.

Jesse takes a step back, staring fixatedly ahead, stopped by a tree behind him.

“Kevin, what’s happening?”

Before him is the rotting old stump, its sharp splinters and points of shattered wood sticking up, soft and crumbly with rot. He feels vertigo, the world seems tilted, and he feels the sickening sensation of falling.  Falling on the sharp jagged edges sticking up from the stump. He imagines himself impaled and his blood oozing out to drip down the stump, staining the snow and rotting leaves.

He turns and staggers away, looking for Kevin.

He takes four or five steps before he spots him.

“KEVIN!”

Jesse runs and falls on him, clawing at the snow and the downed tree, his fingers scratching at the rotting wood, trying to dig at the ground still hardened with the winter frost.

He’s sobbing as he frantically tries to dig his brother out.

 

* *   ***  **  ***  **  ***  **

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Author’s Note

Summer is here, and with it another year of every night busyness running around officially ends with the closing ring of the school bells.

This weekend we celebrate Canada Day here in the Northern part of North America and it is a big one inspiring a more intense round of both celebrations and protesting the act of celebrating the country.

This year Canada celebrate’s 150 years of Canada’s anniversary of confederation.  Whether that is good or bad depends on which side of that argument you are on.

Across Canada, people are asking, “What is Canada to you?” in an effort to determine that hard to pin down intangible thing, the Canadian identity.

In our new world, this 150 year benchmark celebration also brings the (no surprise) never ending threat which hangs a darker cloud over the world: ISIS’s war against the world and threats of attacks during the celebrations.

While our police and military will stand on guard for us against all threats, including terror, drunk drivers, and possibly the occasional summer spider; and scores will celebrate hugely this weekend; I will have a nice quiet summer weekend with friends, deep fry, wine, and a small local book signing.

Go Canada!  All of us who make Canada what it is: the indigenous celebrating more than 150 years of  making this country what it is today, the immigrants and refugees from around the world who add so much diversity, whether they are new first generation people welcomed to our country, or second or third or older generations,  and the generations born here whose ancestors colonized this great country.  For better or worse, we are all a village.  Together, we are Canada.

 

Follow The Woods installments

 

L.V. Gaudet is the author of Where the Bodies Are and The McAllister Farm
where the bodies are

 

What kind of dark secret pushes a man to commit the unimaginable, even as he is sickened by his own actions? Find out in Where the Bodies Are.

 

The McAllister Farm-cover 1

Take a step back in time to learn the secret behind the bodies in Where the Bodies Are:  The McAllister Farm reveals the secrets behind the man who created the killer.

 

Link to purchase these books by L.V. Gaudet

 

 

Link to reviews of Where the Bodies Are on Angie’s Diary

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5 The Woods – Return to the House (1985) by LV Gaudet

 

 

The Woods:

1 – The Woods – The Dare (1985)

2 – Thirty Years Later – The Old Bennet House is for Sale (2015)

3 – The Woods – Jesse Hears a Noise (1985)

4 – The House – First Entry in 30 Years (2015)

 

 

1985

 

The boys burst into the house, hurriedly kicking off their boots at the back door before going any further.  Everything looks exactly like it did when they went out to play.

It’s 1985 and the furniture and décor are a clash of pieces mostly from the sixties and seventies, some bought new, some second hand, and some are hand-me-downs.  Nothing has been upgraded in the past ten years, a testament of thoughtful care and financial mediocrity.  The worn couch and dented coffee table, victims of having two rambunctious growing boys in the house, are overdue to be replaced.  A comic book lays discarded on the floor, open as if it is trying to fly away, The Thing is caught forever in an epic battle against a green monster that looks like a rough tree bark wall with many arms surrounding The Thing with flailing punching fists.  The television, an ancient tube set, sits dark and quiet on its stand.  A pair of discarded boy’s socks are tossed carelessly on the floor, and the latest edition of TV Guide sits on the coffee table.

“Mom!” Jesse looks around.

The house is dead silent except for their own breathing.

“Mom?”

Kevin stands there, looking around.

The house is exactly as they left it before they went outside to play.  How long has that been?  An hour?

But not quite.

Everything seems a little muted.  Off.

And more dusty than he remembers.

Jesse runs into the kitchen.  After a pause of a few heartbeats, Kevin follows.

“Mom?” Jesse pauses just inside the doorway, looking expectantly for their mother.

The teakettle still sits on the stovetop, two tea towels hang from the oven door handle where they were hung to dry after washing dishes in the sink, and the table is set for dinner with places for four.

Flour and sugar bags sit on the countertop next to a mixing bowl with a wooden spoon and measuring cup, pulled out in preparation of baking a cake.

Their mother is not there.

They run through the house calling, “Mom! Mom! Mom!”  They end their search back in the living room, out of breath.

“She’s not here.”

“Where could she be?”

“Next door, maybe?”

“Let’s go see.”

They pull their boots back on and rush out the door into the backyard, trained not to use the front door because that would somehow make more cleaning work for their mother, and around the side of the house to the front.

They stop, staring around wide-eyed, and turn to stare at each other, their faces full of fear and confusion.

They are standing in the woods next to that old stump.

“What the hell?”

“Don’t cuss,” Jesse says automatically.  There is hell to pay if their mom ever hears them use bad language.  Hell is one of many forbidden words.

Kevin turns to him, appalled.

“Seriously?  You’re worried about me cussing? We are back in the woods! How?  This is impossible!”

He stops.

“Jesse.”

“What?” Jesse is sulking now.

“The grass.”

“What about it?”

“Wasn’t there grass in the yard?”

“Yeah, so?  There’s always been grass in the yard.”

Kevin narrows his eyes, wondering if Jesse is just being dumb or is messing with him.

“It’s early spring.  Look around.  There’s still snow everywhere.”

“Yeah, so?” Jesse isn’t getting it.

Kevin’s shoulders sag with the futility of it.  Do I even bother? He sighs.

“Jesse, do you remember what the yard looked like? Just now, when we went back to the house.”

“Yeah, your bike was laying on the grass. I almost tripped on it.”

“Where was the snow?”

They both just stare at each other.

 

 

Follow The Woods installments

L.V. Gaudet is the author of Where the Bodies Are and The McAllister Farm
where the bodies are

What kind of dark secret pushes a man to commit the unimaginable, even as he is sickened by his own actions? Find out in Where the Bodies Are.

The McAllister Farm-cover 1

Take a step back in time to learn the secret behind the bodies in Where the Bodies Are:  The McAllister Farm reveals the secrets behind the man who created the killer.

Link to purchase these books by L.V. Gaudet

Link to reviews of Where the Bodies Are on Angie’s Diary

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The Woods 4 – The House by L.V. Gaudet

the-woods-4-the-houseThe key jams in the lock, not wanting to go in.

The realtor looks at him nervously and smiles.

“It’ll go in.  The key works.”  His grimace gives face to the lie.  He isn’t so sure it will work.

He fiddles and struggles with the key for too long before the rusting lock mechanism finally unwillingly gives and allows them access.

His smile is almost sickly with relief.

He turns to the prospective buyer, hoping yet again that this is not a big waste of his time.  His commission is going to depend on how much the house actually sells for.  It’s not the usual commission deal.  He is getting more than the average commission percentage, an unusual agreement made with the municipal office that wants only to unload the property and get it off their books, doubtful anyone will bother to bid on it.

This guy is the only person who has shown an interest.  He could bid a dollar, the lowest bid allowed, and walk away with the property for nothing, less than the price of a cup of coffee.

He tries the door, hoping it opens easily.  A warped door can turn off a buyer before they see anything else.

The door sticks in the frame and, after he puts some weight into it, gives with the dull sound of two pieces of swollen wood pressed against each other giving up the fight to hold together.

They enter the house and step back thirty years in time.

.

Follow The Woods installments

L.V. Gaudet is the author of Where the Bodies Are and The McAllister Farm
where the bodies are

What kind of dark secret pushes a man to commit the unimaginable, even as he is sickened by his own actions? Find out in Where the Bodies Are.

The McAllister Farm-cover 1

Take a step back in time to learn the secret behind the bodies in Where the Bodies Are:  The McAllister Farm reveals the secrets behind the man who created the killer.

Link to purchase these books by L.V. Gaudet

Link to reviews of Where the Bodies Are on Angie’s Diary

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My First Book Signing

So, I had my first book signing this month.  Luckily for me it was a very casual laid back affair.  I would have felt completely awkward with any kind of crowd.  My neighbor and friend, who runs the local lumber store in our small town, graciously agreed to host me in a combination wine tasting and book signing event.

If you are not familiar with small town Manitoba, one of the things that separate it from the urban cities is that small town businesses like grocery and lumber stores can be a licenced Liquor Mart retailer.

Armed with a box of books and boxes of cheese and crackers and some one-bite brownies (that we were fancy enough to serve out of the boxes), I was set up at a table sandwiched between displays, a stack of boxes, and shelves.

Although it was a Wednesday, we failed in advertising it in advance (my printer is DOA), and it is a very small town, we had a fairly steady stream of traffic – for a small town lumber store on a Wednesday night.

We got to visit with neighbors who we seldom see, and I even sold a few books.  Seven books, in fact.  Much more than I thought I would.

I call this first ever Sanford wine tasting and book signing event a success.  I even left signed copies behind on sale on consignment.

We discussed doing a second book signing before Christmas.  Maybe this time I’ll find a way to print up some posters in advance.

It’s small, and it’s a start, but even the writers who are big today started small somewhere.  With luck, I’ll find more nooks and crannies to have book signings over winter.

Maybe I’ll even sell another seven books.

 

Can you handle a little darkness?

Follow The Woods installments

L.V. Gaudet is the author of Where the Bodies Are and The McAllister Farm
where the bodies are

 

What kind of dark secret pushes a man to commit the unimaginable, even as he is sickened by his own actions? Find out in Where the Bodies Are.

 

The McAllister Farm-cover 1

 

Take a step back in time to learn the secret behind the bodies in Where the Bodies Are:  The McAllister Farm reveals the secrets behind the man who created the killer.

 

Link to purchase these books by L.V. Gaudet

Link to reviews of Where the Bodies Are on Angie’s Diary

Follow L. V. Gaudet:

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The Woods by L.V. Gaudet

The Woods

The Woods

It is an ordinary forest, as far as spooky looking woods go, filled mostly with craggy twisted oak trees, their gnarled branches reaching like skeletal fingers and deeply wrinkled cracked-bark covered trunks. The trees cluster together, their branches twisted and tangled together, daring any to enter their midst.

The land here lies low and wet in the spring, leaving the stand of trees a small island of cragged haunted-looking trees bordered by stick-like saplings and sparse tall yellow grass invaded by wild roses with their sharp thorns standing in a shallow bath of melt water throughout the springtime months.

They are far from a silent woods. A small stretch of thick growth surrounded by fields of crops interspersed with some areas abandoned to grass, weeds, and stray crop seeds. Against one side of this stretch of trees, amidst the farm fields, is also nestled a small happy community. The woods team with life, red and grey squirrels, rabbits, mice and voles, and a range of birds. With the damp ground, the woods are a haven for frogs and toads, and of course, the ever-present blood-sucking mosquitoes.

It is a typical small town community lying nestled against the miniature forest. It grew from centuries old land of grasslands mixed with forests. The old forests and grasslands were slowly chopped down, turned over, and settled as the world slowly populated with mankind; the landscape of humanity changing from hunter-gatherers to farms, towns, and villages.

Eventually towns and communities grew together to become cities, family homesteads populated into small farming communities, and untouched land became rare pockets of unsullied old growth forests scattered about in tiny fragments bordering farm fields and stretches of small community homes.

Some of these tiny pockets of untouched woods still hold secrets. Some of these secrets are perhaps best left that way.

 

The woods sit silent and brooding, an ugly tangle of dead looking leafless skeletal branches that look like they belong in a darker and more sinister world, the world of the dead. The clouds hang heavy, dark, and grey on this day; a suffocating thick blanket hanging low in the sky to cast a pall over this small piece of the world.

The snow still lies heavy and wet here where it takes longer to melt away, crystalline flakes shrinking and melding into a dirty slush as the temperatures slowly warm. In time, the snow will vanish and be replaced once again by the murky stagnant melt waters that will take a few months to dry up.

Most of the rodents, birds, and other small woodland creatures are conspicuously absent on this day, having chosen to hunker down and wait out this gloomy day. Nevertheless, a few squirrels and birds still flit about the skeletal trees.  A small rabbit nervously twitches its nose as it sits motionlessly waiting to find out if that sound was a predator.

Two children playing in their back yard off the woods dare each other to go exploring into the spooky trees.

“I bet you can’t go to the fallen tree,” Kevin smirks, the older and taller of the two boys.

The younger boy blanched, his stomach turning sickly, but stares stone-faced at the fallen rotting tree laying nestled within the narrow strip of woods beyond their yard. You can see the tree only because there are no leaves on any of the branches.

“I am not going to let you know how scared I am,” he thinks. He can already smell the mossy rot of the long dead tree, although he has never been near enough to it to catch its odor. It smells in his vivid young imagination like death and decay and something even darker. He watches a small red squirrel flit around the trees, untouched by the dark brooding sullenness and the spooks, ghosts, and monsters his mind screams must surely lurk hidden inside these scary woods. He swallows.

“Can too,” he said, his voice cracking with fear. “I bet you can’t go stand on that old stump,” he countered.

The old stump is a rotting remnant of an even older fallen tree that has long ago vanished into the mud and scraggly growth of the woods. The stump remains, standing defiant and threatening beyond the fallen tree now laying discarded and tangled in the woods, sharp splinters and points of shattered wood sticking up as though waiting to impale any foolish boy who tries to climb it and falls. Its wood is soft and crumbly now with rot, the sharp jagged edges unlikely to be capable of impaling anything for years.

Kevin humphed at his younger brother. He is just as scared, but is not going to let his little brother know that. He nervously hikes up his pants, which did not need it, and steps forward on a mission. He marches purposely into the woods, careful to keep his back to the younger boy so he will not see the paleness of his waxy fear-filled face.

With a scuff and a shrug, Jesse reluctantly follows his older brother.

A little red squirrel scampers up to the high branches as they pass, pausing to chitter down angrily at the boys.

They reach the first point, the fallen tree Kevin dared his younger brother to venture to. It’s no victory for either boy.

On a forced march of pride, determined not to reveal his fear of some silly trees, Kevin continues on. He crawls over the fallen tree, its rotting length sagging with a soggy cracking beneath his weight. His forward march slows more the closer he comes to the wicked looking ancient broken stump.

He stops; staring at the stump like it is some otherworldly thing. He dares not touch it, yet also dares not refuse to touch it, lest Jesse think him weak or afraid.

Unable to let his older brother face the woods alone, Jesse follows. As he draws near the old stump where his brother has stopped to stare motionlessly at it, he notices something unusual looking at the base of the stump.

“What’s that?” Jesse asks nervously.

Kevin pries his eyes from the stump to look lower.  He kneels down, reaching for what lies there.

“Don’t touch it.” Jesse’s voice is a little too shrill.

“It’s nothing.”  Kevin picks it up, turning it over in his hand.

Jesse turns at the sound of a cracking branch.

The boys are never seen again.

 

Follow The Woods installments

 

L.V. Gaudet is the author of Where the Bodies Are
where the bodies are

 

What kind of dark secret pushes a man to commit the unimaginable, even as he is sickened by his own actions?

 

The McAllister Farm-cover 1

 

 

Watch for book 2 of the McAllister series coming soon at Indigo Sea Press:  The McAllister Farm.  The secret behind the bodies is revealed.

 

 

Book 3 is in progress, title to be determined.  The third book will bring the characters of Where the Bodies Are and The McAllister Farm together for an intense climax.  You are pulled deeper into the mind of the killer as he spirals further into madness, and will find yourself rooting for him as he faces a bigger challenge; he has competition.  A new killer comes on scene, bringing a new level of evil and cruelty.  You will learn the fates of the McAllister Family, and maybe the secret pasts of Detective Jim McNelly and everyone’s favorite unscrupulous reporter, Lawrence Hawkworth, will be revealed.

 

Links to purchase this and other upcoming L.V. Gaudet’s books

 

Link to reviews of Where the Bodies Are on Angie’s Diary

https://angiesdiary.com/bookoftheweek-web/081-botwoct262014.html

 

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Are Minor Literary Awards Worth It? by David Pereda

With the advent of digital technologies like the Kindle and the Nook, which have fueled an exponential growth in electronic publishing, there has also been a mushrooming in organizations handing out literary awards. We all know the impact a major award like the Nobel Prize, the National Book Award, or the Pulitzer Prize can have on an author’s career — or, on a more specialized basis, the Edgar, Shamus or Anthony awards.

But what about all the other awards littering the landscape. Are these minor literary awards worth it?

The answer is a resounding yes, and the reasons are plentiful. Here are five of them:

1- They give beginning writers confidence

2- They provide established writers with a yardstick to be measured against

3- They outline a step-by-step learning process — first compete in the easier ones and then move on to the harder ones

4- They allow winners to add these wonderful words to their bios: “award-winning writer”

5- They provide winners with gold stickers to attach to their books, thereby making them more attractive to potential buyers

Now, mind you, don’t think for a moment that it’s easy to win any of these minor literary awards. It isn’t. There are many good writers entering those competitions, and they are trying to win too.

Consider the awards I have won — the Royal Palm Award, the Lighthouse Book Award (twice with different books), the Indie Book Award, and the Readers Favorite Book Award (twice with different books). I won’t mention here all the other awards I entered but didn’t win. Hey, you know how it is — you win a few and you lose a few.

The Royal Palm Award is handed out once a year by the Florida Writers Association and it is a prestigious award, available to all writers throughout the United States and internationally. FWA is the largest writers’ organization in Florida, consisting of more than one thousand members; it has chapters all over the state of Florida and other states, including North Carolina. Awards in different categories are handed out at the Florida Writers Association Annual Conference, usually held at Disney World every year, and attended by thousands.

The Lighthouse Book Award is handed out annually at Ponte Vedra, Florida, and it’s available to writers from all over the United States.

The Indie Book Awards are held annually and many authors and small publishers compete.

The Readers Favorite Award is held annually, too, and many small and large publishers compete, as well as writers from all over the world. The award ceremony usually takes place during the respected Miami Book Fair held in Miami in the month of November every year.

There are dozens, if not hundreds, of other minor literary awards – ranging from those handed out by tiny writers’ groups to those promoted by large organizations charging hefty fees. I encourage you to get on the Internet and check them out. All you need to do is Google “literary awards” and they’ll come charging at you like a herd of spooked wildebeests. Unless you are an experienced writer, I suggest you bypass the contests with the hefty fees and concentrate on the smaller ones for now, which are often free — or charge a nominal fee to enter. Later, when you have gained more experience, you can try the larger awards with the hefty fees.

What’s my next step regarding awards?

I’m making a selection of places to submit my new thriller, Twin Powers, recently published by Second Wind Publishing and now available on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Twin-Powers-David-Pereda/dp/1630661112/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1425253277&sr=1-2&keywords=twin+powers.

If Twin Powers does well, which I expect it will because I know it’s a good book and the reviews so far have been outstanding, I’m considering moving up in competition to challenge the “bigs.” What do I have to lose, really?

As Theodore Roosevelt said, “The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena;

who strives valiantly

who errs and comes short again and again;

who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement;

and who at the worst, if he fails,

at least fails while daring greatly;

so that his place shall never be

with those cold and timid souls

who know neither victory nor defeat.”

So, to summarize: Are minor literary awards worth it? Yes, yes, and yes!

If you happen to be an aspiring writer wishing to make a name for yourself, I have three words of advice for you: Go for it! Find a suitable literary award competition for your level of writing, polish up that short story or novel in your drawer you think so highly of but are afraid to show anybody, and get out of your cave and go find the cheese.

What do you have to lose?

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

David Pereda is the award-winning author of seven novels, dozens of articles and a handful of poems. His latest thriller, Twin Powers, published by Second Wind Publishing in February 2015, has received rave reviews. Visit www.davidpereda.com

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Survival

As the day approaches for the release of my third book, Survival, I find the tension building. In this sequel to Extinction, the Roberts family still strives to survive and to find other survivors, but are they winning? Every effort brings victory…and defeat.

The jagged knife wound across Nicole’s right palm left her in no shape for fighting. She needed a chance to heal before trying to fight again. She could move all her fingers. She was lucky. Eventually the gash would heal. In the meantime, it hurt badly. She could live with it. What other choice did she have? A few aspirin were the strongest painkillers in the shelter’s first aid kit. She would ration them and hope the cut did not become infected. She chuckled at the irony. She was stuck inside one of the best hospitals in the country, and could not access any of the drugs located just on the other side of the double doors.

Nicole lay on her cot, thinking about the events of the last several days. The thought of the second Link scream that she had heard the day she yelled into the duct preyed on her mind. The only explanation was that someone uninfected yelled back to her. Other survivors could be nearby, but they would have to survive on their own for a while longer. Her hand had to heal.

Two days before, she and Danny had secured the hallway outside the fallout shelter, a significant step forward. They could have lived safely inside the medical center shelter; however, as days turned to weeks, the confinement of the windowless space took a toll on their nerves and dispositions. Laura cried most of the time. Danny became despondent and withdrawn. She realized they must do something.

With makeshift spears and a few rounds from her pistol, they attacked the Links in the hallway. The deadly gamble paid off. The claustrophobic atmosphere of the institutional green walls faded away. Gone was the trapped feeling of being in a windowless box. Sunlight flooded through the windows in the security doors at the end of the hallway. More importantly, she could see outside.

After the fight, she and Danny had escorted Laura into the hall and showed her the bodies of the dead Links before dragging them off the loading dock. They dared not try to move the bodies further.

Danny had mopped the pools of drying blood. At least her wounded hand exempted her from cleaning the bloody mess covering the floor. They had discussed the fight with Laura, explaining what had happened and how dangerous it had been, in hopes it would help her understand the seriousness of the situation. If it gave her nightmares, then that was a regrettable but a necessary price for her realizing just how dangerous her world had become.

H.V. Purvis
Author of Extinction and Death in a Small Town

http://www.hvpurvis.com, @hvpurvis, FB page H.V. Purvis

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Excerpt from A SPARK OF HEAVENLY FIRE by Pat Bertram

ASHFborderStraight from today’s headlines! In the novel A Spark of Heavenly Fire by Pat Bertram, hundreds of thousands of people are dying from an unstoppable disease called the red death. In an effort to stop the disease from spreading beyond the state of Colorado where the disease originated, the entire state is quarantined. In this dangerous world, Kate Cummings struggles to find the courage to live and to love. Investigative reporter Greg Pullman, is determined to discover who unleashed the deadly organism and why they did it, until the cost — Kate’s life — becomes more than he can pay.

Excerpt:

After an uneventful day at work, Kate hurried home through the silent streets. More than half the houses she passed had fluorescent orange dots splashed on their front doors indicating that someone had died within. Beside some of those doors were small shrines or memorials—artificial flowers, crosses, dolls, teddy bears. Other houses were unlit, mute testimony that entire families had died.

A white unmarked delivery van stopped in front of a house that already had one fluorescent dot on the door. When two men jumped out of the truck and ran up the porch steps, she knew that soon another orange mark would appear next to the first.

She could hear the men lamenting the loss of the Broncos while they waited for someone to answer their knock. It seemed strange that they spoke of such a prosaic matter. Shouldn’t they be crying, “Bring out your dead. Bring out your dead,” as their counterparts during the Black Death had done?

As she neared the house, she could see the door open. An old woman with bowed head and trembling shoulders stood aside to let the two men enter.

Kate had passed the house by the time the men emerged with their burden, but she could hear the thud of the body when they threw it into the van.

She thought of Greg and how he had cradled Mrs. Robin’s body in his arms as he carried her down the alley and how he had gently laid her under a tree.

And how he had said he liked her, Kate, very much.

***

Until November 23, 2014, A Spark of Heavenly Fire will be available at 50% off from Smashwords, where you can download the novel in the ebook format of your choice. To get your discount, go here: A Spark of Heavenly Fire and use coupon code ST33W when purchasing the book. (After you read the book, posting a review on Smashwords would be nice, but not obligatory.)

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

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Our Mysterious Fascination with the Morbid by Sherrie Hansen

When I first began to write books, I remember saying that I would never write about murder and mayhem – that it just wasn’t in me to dwell on the grisly, gruesome details of such occurrences. These kinds of things were so foreign to my own life, that I couldn’t imagine the characters I concocted even remotely being in a situation where they’d encounter such experiences.  True to my intentions, the most traumatic things my characters in Night and Day, Stormy Weather, Water Lily, and Merry Go Round have to deal with are squabbling siblings, backstabbing friends, insensitive parents, nosy neighbors, troublesome children, minor medical problems, the rare encounter with a wild animal , the occasional disruptive weather emergency, and of course, broken hearts.  Not that lions and tigers and bears – oh, my – tornadoes, and bats in the house can’t  be unnerving, or that unplanned pregnancies, nasty exes, finding out your husband is gay or being betrayed by someone you trust  can’t be demoralizing, but you get my point. Nothing really bad or evil came close to touching my characters.  No one died. No one was hurt so badly that they couldn’t be fixed. Nothing unbearable happened.

With the release of Love Notes and Wild Rose, my readers saw a slight shift to a more suspenseful mode – bad guys that were truly bad, a kidnapping, gunshots, murder.  I’d crossed a line. I think that part of it was that my own reading tastes changed. Several of my favorite authors changed over from romance to suspense / thrillers and I went along for the ride. I read new authors, like Second Wind’s Christine Husom, who writes about comfortable, folksy Midwesterners like me who suddenly find themselves dealing with murdered parents and dismembered bodies in cornfields and cults in their backyards, and does it with dignity and aplomb.  Sadly, I think some of it is that the world has turned into such a crazy place that I can now clearly envision my characters having run-ins with evil, despite their best efforts to steer clear of it. As awful occurrences get more and more prevalent, it’s easier and easier for my imagination to “go there”.

Storm sun beams Sunset - 8-24 close

So what are your thoughts? How do you account for our fascination with the morbid? I hear over and over again from readers that they’re not “into” romance, but that they love to read gritty mysteries and thriller or suspense novels. If you’re one of my readers, are you glad I’m inching towards the unthinkable? (Not to worry – there are still plenty of sweet, romantic moments in my books for those of you with tender hearts. ) Any of you who have read all of my books probably also noticed a shift from steamy to not so much. When I made this switch, I expected accolades, and have instead heard from many who are disappointed that I stopped crossing that squiggly line.  It’s interesting to me that while some readers find my steamy scenes offensive, they seem to have no trouble with reading about violent, evil people and the situations that ensue because of their hatefulness. Personally, if I’m going to “clutter” my mind with one thing or another, I’d rather it be with something I think of as beautiful and natural rather than deeds and actions that are ugly and perverse.

What do you think? Have we opened a can of worms with our mysterious fascination with the morbid? Does the art of writing and reading about it quell our fears or feed them? Does it give you a sense of triumphing over evil, or give you pause for fear we are planting the seeds of further evil? Do you feel anxious and terrified after reading a book where horrible things happen to good people, or do you feel inspired by people who get life’s worst thrown at them and live to tell the story?

I always illustrate my blogs with appropriate photos, so here is the most dark, foreboding photo I could find with it’s cheery, upbeat counterpart. Which would you rather read about?

Photo80Scotland - sheep

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The Importance of Secondary Characters by Deborah J Ledford

Have you ever read a book and found the secondary characters more fascinating than the leading men or women? I must admit, the only reason I pick up a Patricia Cornwell book is to read about Scarpetta’s niece, Lucy, and to see if Pete Marino is still kicking. And let me tell you, when two of my favorite mystery authors, Louise Penny and Craig Johnson don’t feature their fantastic cast of secondary’s, I get beyond angry and frustrated.

I’ve had a blast creating a supporting cast for CRESCENDO. Tried and true, rock and Hawk’s right-hand man Deputy Kenneth Stiles can be found in book three of the series, as well as Mama and Annie, but I’m most excited about introducing Inola Walela’s grandmother, Elisi to readers.

Elisi is full-blood Cherokee, lives on the North Carolina reservation, is a weaver, and knows her hard-headed but warm-hearted granddaughter even better than Hawk.

After a routine traffic stop involves a shooting, Inola is forced to watch from the sidelines as her colleagues investigate the case she’s stuck in the middle of. As the only female Native American Bryson City, NC cop, she must always play her A game, but now her best efforts, training and capabilities are shunned.

On official leave from the force while her case is being investigated, Inola reluctantly allows Elisi to join her in the hunt for a young boy no one—not even Hawk—believes is missing. Their exploits include amusing banter, contentious friction about their past relationship, and conflict that ultimately brings them closer as Inola travels a journey where she vows: Redemption with a bullet.

I hope you enjoy the ride!Crescendo F. Cover -w blurb 7 HR-Final

Deborah J Ledford’s latest novel of suspense, CRESCENDO, is book three of the Steven Hawk/Inola Walela series. Other novels include, STACCATO, and SNARE, Finalist for The Hillerman Sky Award and the NM-AZ Book Awards. Deborah is a three-time nominee for the Pushcart Prize and her award-winning short stories appear in numerous print publications as well as literary and mystery anthologies. Part Eastern Band Cherokee, she spent her summers growing up in western North  Carolina where her novels are set. Deborah invites you to visit her website.

 

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