Monday, October 10, 2016

Excerpt from Deliciously Dark Tales, The Good Wife

Gloria had no marketable skills.

She and Brad married right out of high school because she was pregnant, at least that’s what Brad told her. But no baby came. Brad was too careful to let that happen. She still wore the same clothes she had owned when they got married, though they were fitting poorly these days. For five years, she had been little more than a housekeeper and Brad’s toy. She basically wore rags, while he had a closet full of thousand dollar suits and hundred dollar shirts. 

“They’re for work babe,” he always said. “You know I have to look good when I go to the office.”

But she didn’t know. She stayed in the house, isolated, without a car, and far enough from the nearest neighbor that she didn’t even know if there was one.

The office Brad talked about occasionally, was a complete mystery. Gloria had never been there. Not even to one of the Christmas parties, though Brad had stumbled home drunk from one of them each December since they had been married.

She had never met any of his co-workers, and he never discussed them, “Confidential information, don’t you know babe?” But she didn’t know that either, she had no idea what he actually did. He never brought work home, she didn’t know the name of the company he worked for, or owned, and he never shared any information about what he did for work. When she asked about his job, he jokingly said, “If I told you, I’d have to kill you.” At least she assumed it was a joke.

She looked out the front window at the ragged grass. Brad told her before he left that she needed to mow it. She wondered for the hundredth time, what does Brad do for work? About all he ever would tell her about his work was, “It’s important, you wouldn’t understand.” Then he’d say that someday, he would make enough to take her away from all this drudgery to a nice place in the city. But he’d been saying the same kind of thing for four years. He also promised he would take her on a real vacation. They would go to the beach, and she could sit in the sun, build sandcastles on the beach, and play in the ocean all day if she wanted.

Even the sun sounded good. Brad always told her how lucky she was to have a real house to live in and not some dive apartment, like the other kids they went to school with were living in. Not that she had any contact with any of the other kids.

To Gloria, the house was like a cage within a cage, enclosed on all four sides by an impenetrable wall of trees, by the decaying forest undergrowth beneath, and the perpetual ceiling of gray clouds above. The driveway was the only clear path through the trees, and there were so many turns between the house and the road, driving on it was like navigating a maze.

She opened the front door, took a deep breath of compost scented air, and screamed.

She often screamed. Not that it did any good, nobody heard her, but it made her feel better. Even though the forest muffled her scream the moment she let it loose and it died among the trees, screaming released some kind of pressure that built slowly and steadily inside her stomach. If she didn’t release it when Brad was away, sometimes it would just blow out of her aimed right at him. She learned not to let that happen again.

- From Deliciously Dark Tales, The Good Wife

Monday, September 26, 2016

Goodreads Giveaway for Deliciously Dark Tales

Starting today, on Goodreads, you can enter to win one of ten signed copies of Deliciously Dark Tales. This Goodreads giveaway ends on October 26, just in time to receive your copy by Halloween. Click on over and enter today.

New Excerpt from Revelation

Even though it was a warm day, the water was icy as she waded across. A few feet from the far bank, she slipped on some moss covered rocks and stumbled forward onto the muddy incline, splashing up enough water to soak her clothes. She reached out her hand to keep from falling and ended up scraping her palm on an exposed tree root.

“Stupid dog,” she muttered.

Michelle tried to stand but slipped in the slimy mud, and her foot slid back into the water, twisting her ankle and becoming lodged between two large rocks. She struggled to free her foot without sliding off the rocks and tumbling into the water. Finally, she got loose by pulling her foot out of her shoe, then she reached into the water and worked the shoe loose from between the rocks. With shoe in hand, she crawled onto the far bank and clawed her way up until she reached dry dirt beyond the mud. There, on a fallen log, she collapsed.

While she caught her breath, she cursed Billy, his dog, the creek, the rocks, and her own stupidity.

Sometime during her floundering the barking stopped and Michelle lost her sense of direction. She could no longer tell from which way the barking had been coming. She was deeper in the forest than she had ever ventured, and she’d been so intent on following the stupid barking, she had neglected to keep track of which paths she had followed.

Her throat tightened and her mind raced. Her dad had warned her about hikers who get lost in the forest; “Sometimes they aren’t found for months after they’re dead.” He had meant to make her more cautious, but now it just added to her growing fear. No one knew she was in the forest. She didn’t have a cell phone. No food. Her parents wouldn’t know where to start looking for her, neither would the police. If she couldn’t find her way out...

“Calm down!” she ordered herself. Silencing her spasmodic thoughts, she forced herself to sit quietly and listen.

Overhead, the dry intertwined tree branches creaked and moaned in a light breeze. The water in the creek murmured softly as it flowed over the rocks and debris in its path. Insects buzzed. Birds flitted from tree to tree, moving a branch here, leaves there. Something skittered through the leaves on the forest floor, a mouse maybe. But no traffic or human sounds pointed her in the direction of home.

Her ankle hurt, her hand burned, and she ached all over.

“Just stop and think,” she told herself. “What do you do when you’re lost in the woods?” She examined the unfamiliar landscape. “If you can identify some landmark, or figure out how to get your bearings, then you’ll have some idea which way to go.”


Something heavy stalked through the underbrush just beyond a small rise. It was getting closer. Michelle dared not move. She thought, Don’t be an idiot, it’s probably someone who can help. But cold fear made her cautious. It was moving unhurried through the thick underbrush, and didn’t sound like it was coming toward her.

Then it snarled.

-- Excerpt from Revelation, Book 1 in the Almost Human series

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Excerpt from Deliciously Dark Tales

Thanks to my ring tone, Def Leppard jerked me out of a jasmine-scented dream where I’d been comfortable, lying next to my sweet departed wife Rainee, and into the lonely and harsh one a.m. tang of two-day-stale coffee that languished inches from my face in the half-empty cup I’d abandoned on the nightstand.

My tongue is thick with morning mouth, but I snatch up the phone and answer. “Maroon, here.”

“Captain Plunket here. We need your help locating a body. SR 12, three miles east from Telegraph.”

I would dearly rather return to my dream, but duty calls. I rise, dress, chug down a leftover cup of cold coffee sitting on the kitchen counter, and, as I head out the door, snatch my ‘Y’ shaped rosewood wand from the coat rack just inside the front door.

Outside the early morning is bitter with moist cold, it stings my face and hands during the short walk to the garage. Small patches of ice crunch between the concrete and my shoes, and mesquite smoke from wood stoves warming cold houses hangs thick in the air.

The skin of my left hand sticks to the shiny surface of the door handle like I’ve licked a metal fence post. The cold from the steering wheel wheedles its way into my bones.

Just to reassure myself it is still there in the dark, I reach out and caress the wand on the seat next to me. The rosewood is smooth, and emanates the stored warmth from the house. The rough idling car spews exhaust that hangs in the enclosed garage like a cloud, and invades the passenger compartment with its stench. The door rolls up with a touch of the remote, and I back out, leaving the fumes trapped inside.

Headlights and streetlights illuminate a six foot thick icy fog suspended in the darkness at hood height. It swirls around the car as I plow through the morning.

The police call it a scene, as if the victim plays out the last moments of her life in some final movie act. But they don’t call me to judge or criticize their operation, they call me to help them find the lost. Victims mostly, and sometimes criminals. I am the Huntington Police Department’s official dowser.

I know the location of the crime scene because there are four marked police cars festooned with yellow, “Police Line Do Not Cross,” tape parked across the entrance to a dry riverbed. A wary officer stationed between the vehicles watches me as I approach. He nonchalantly moves his right hand to rest it on the butt of his holstered weapon, his fingers lightly curl around the hand grips. I’ve been involved with the department long enough not to be offended. Perpetrators often return to the scene of the crime.

“Devlin Maroon,” I mutter. The drive over hasn’t done much to make me more lucid. He extends the clipboard for my signature. After I sign in, he points to a point farther up the riverbed where a clump of three officers are huddled in a small clearing.

“Good morning, gentlemen,” I say as I walk up.

All three turn and look at me. “Hi’ya, Mr. Maroon,” one of the older men responds. He looks too chipper for the time, place, and occasion of our meeting. But then, two in the morning is probably the middle of his workday, and he’s grown acquainted with such tragedy and accustomed to the hours.

“Why is it we’re waiting for this guy,” the youngest of the three pipes up as he jabs his finger my direction, “out here at o’dark-thirty?”

The older officer, Harris, nudges him with enough force the young man stumbles away from the group, his grunt of surprise sends a cloud of steam billowing from his mouth into the pine scented moonlight.

“So what? We’re out here for like, some kind of full-moon, witchy kind of thing?” he says, but now he’s far enough from his senior officer that he doesn’t receive another nudge, but Harris glares at him with enough force to shut his mouth.

“Not quite,” I say. “The combined negative thoughts of too many conscious people interfere with psychic vibrations. So this time of the morning, when fewer people are awake, means fewer negative vibes.”

-- Excerpt from The Dowser