Monday, December 31, 2012

See ya later, 2012

December 31 marks a milestone for everyone, right? We all have a tendency to take stock as one year ends and another begins, and I'm nothing if not predictable, so here goes.

Three years ago yesterday I signed the contract with Medallion Press for publication of my first book, FINAL VECTOR. Each year since then has seen a steady progression of my writing career, and this year was no different.

In terms of sales, 2012 was successful beyond my wildest imagination, thanks mostly to the lightning-bolt success in February of my thriller, THE LONELY MILE, which peaked at #21 overall in the paid store at Amazon and resulted in 12,000 sales for the month.

With that as the springboard, sales of all my work totaled nearly 14,500 copies. When you add in the free giveaway promos we did over the course of the year, which came to well over 60,000 copies, in 2012 more than 75,000 copies of my novels and novellas found their way into people's hands.

I know, I know, when you do a giveaway, lots of people download the books and never get around to reading them. Guess what? I don't care. If even ten percent of the people who downloaded one of my books for free decides to give it a try, more than 7500 people were introduced to my name and my work this year.

That's a win, as far as I'm concerned.


What did I learn this year? Here it is: Nobody knows anything. When I signed with Medallion, I wanted to give myself the best possible chance to be successful, so I was conscientious about researching what was expected of me as a brand-new novelist.

- The general consensus was that an author needed to be active on social media like Facebook, to maintain a presence. I made sure to do it.

- The general consensus was that an author needed to blog regularly to bring attention to his or her work. I made sure to do it.

- The general consensus was that an author needed to do blog tours to bring his or her work to the attention of new readers. I made sure to do it.

- The general consensus was that an author needs to hustle for reviews, because the more reviews your work has, the more likely it is to be "discovered." I made sure to do it.

Wanna know what I found out? None of it makes a damned bit of difference, at least not in more than a very general - and very minor - way. All these things I tried did little more than take valuable time away from what's important: writing.

Success, at least in terms of sales, is largely dependent upon things out of the author's control, at least any author who is not a household name. What is much more valuable than any of the above things, in my opinion, is writing!

Writing more accomplishes two things: It helps the writer improve, because like anything else you only get better with practice. Plus, producing more work gives you a better chance to be noticed, and in so doing have your work catch on with a reading public inundated with choices.

Remember, though, nobody knows anything, including me, so treat the above with the healthy skepticism it deserves.

By the way, some of the stuff I still do because I enjoy it. Facebook, for example. I love interacting with readers and other writers. But now I do it when I want to, not because I think I need to simply to advance my writing career.


Each year of this journey has seen an exponential growth in sales of my work. It will be hard to continue that trend in 2013, given the success of THE LONELY MILE last February, but I'm excited about the coming year. On January 15, my Cold War thriller, PARALLAX VIEW, will be released, and although I'm understandably prejudiced in favor of this book, I think with a little luck it could be a big success. It's exciting and fun and filled with action.

Within a couple of months after that, my horror/paranormal suspense novel, MR. MIDNIGHT, will be released. It's not quite ready for prime time yet, but I'm working hard on it and when all is said and done, I think it could be big as well.

Beyond that, I hope to finish the third book in my PASKAGANKEE series this year, as well as work on a followup to PARALLAX VIEW, featuring kickass CIA heroine Tracie Tanner.

A busy year upcoming? Absolutely, but I'm having a blast writing and am nothing but excited about the prospects moving forward.


It wouldn't be an end-of-year manifesto without thanking a few people:

First, my wife, Sue, who encourages my writing and never, ever, falls preys to my constant and unrelenting conviction that my work sucks and I'm one bad review away from the whole tenuous writing career I've built falling apart like a house of cards.

Aaron Patterson and StoneHouse Ink. This is a guy who has his own very successful writing career, but who sacrifices time on his own work to help others succeed. He singlehandedly built StoneHouse Ink on instincts and business sense into a mega-growing indie publishing powerhouse. I'm proud to be associated with Aaron and StoneHouse and look forward to big things ahead for him.

Writers I admire and am inspired by. It's a varied group and includes people like Lawrence Block, Brad Thor, Vincent Zandri, Heath Lowrance, CJ Lyons, Robert Bidinotto and many others.

And finally, readers - every single person who has given one of my books a chance, especially if he or she spent their hard-earned money to do so. I am honestly humbled by the fact you gave me the opportunity to entertain you and will never take that for granted. I'm going to work even harder this coming year to prove myself worthy of that opportunity.


Happy New Year. Here's to a happy, healthy, safe and productive 2013. Let's buck the odds and make this the best year of our lives.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Love books? Today is your day!

These prices are available on Amazon only.

For a listing of books offered and to enter to win, click here!!

I'm fortunate to be a part of this tremendous promotion, and it is for ONE DAY ONLY!

I'd love it if you take advantage of the 75% savings on my Amazon Overall Top 25 paid bestseller, THE LONELY MILE, but also check out these 98 other books from 98 other unbelievable authors in all different genres, all offering books for just 99 cents, today only...

Oh yeah, plus you can WIN CASH...

Monday, October 22, 2012

Mallorie is braver than you

Imagine for a moment that we had made such wonderful progress in the fight against cancer that only two hundred cases remained in the entire United States. Or substitute heart disease for cancer if you'd prefer. Or HIV.

That would be a revolutionary day, right? Something to celebrate, as by that point we would be just one more small breakthrough away from eradicating an entire disease, from wiping it off the face of the earth forever.

But what if, instead of cancer or heart disease or HIV, the disease affecting two hundred Americans was something you had never heard of? What if this disease was so rare, affecting such a small percentage of the population, that there was virtually no incentive to devote any funding to medical research?

And what if the disease was incurable, affecting mostly teenagers and young adults, and once diagnosed, meant a future of gradually worsening seizures, muscle spasms, dementia and eventually death?

What if you were diagnosed with Lafora Disease?

Welcome to Mallorie Lindo's life. Mallorie is braver than you. She's braver than me, too. Mallorie is a seventeen year old neighbor of mine in New Hampshire, living a few towns away, and she suffers from Lafora Disease.

Mallorie has been forced by circumstances beyond her control - beyond anyone's control - to carry a burden no teenager should ever have to carry. She knows what her future holds, and unlike many people diagnosed with a deadly disease, Mallorie can't even cling to the possibility of a miracle cure, because little is being done to find one.

Needless to say, Mallorie and her family are facing the battle of their lives. These kinds of fights aren't cheap, either, and many of the expenses Mallorie and her family are facing aren't the sorts of things health insurance will pay for.

It just so happens that at the same time I was learning of Mallorie's situation I was putting the finishing touches on my brand-new collection of mystery novelettes titled UNCLE BRICK AND THE FOUR NOVELETTES. The collection includes three previously published stories, including "Uncle Brick and Jimmy Kills," a finalist for a 2010 Derringer Award for excellence in short mystery fiction, as well as one brand-new story, written just for this collection.

UNCLE BRICK AND THE FOUR NOVELETTES is available at Amazon, Smashwords, Kobo, and any minute now at Barnes and Noble. I am pledging all of the royalties I earn from this collection - every penny - from now through Thanksgiving to Mallorie and her family. That amounts to about $2.06 per download.

I'd like to think the collection is a pretty good deal on it's own, $2.99 for 40,000 words of entertainment, but when you add in the fact you'll be helping contribute to a young woman facing a future none of us should ever have to face, in my opinion it becomes a no-brainer.

If you're not interested in Uncle Brick and would like to contribute to Mallorie's fight directly, you can do so via the Paypal button at her website, Mallorie's Joy.

Mallorie's Joy - that's not the name you would expect on the website of a young woman facing what she's facing, is it? But that's because Mallorie is not what you would expect. She's braver than you and I, remember? She is determined to face each day as brightly and optimistically as possible, and while no one should doubt the difficulty of doing so in her situation, it's one of the things that make Mallorie Lindo and her challenge so special.

So check out Mallorie's Joy, click around and get to know this extraordinary young lady. Consider helping Mallorie and her family financially if you're able, either by purchasing UNCLE BRICK AND THE FOUR NOVELETTES or by contributing directly.

If financial support is not possible, I'd be willing to bet she would appreciate a prayer if you pray, or a good thought if you're not religious. Maybe a card or a note.

But please keep Mallorie in your thoughts.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Don't buy my book tomorrow!

If trying to introduce people to my books has taught me anything (it has), it's that you have to be willing to try new things, because you never know what's going to work.

When Amazon introduced the Kindle Select Program last fall, with the ability for authors to give their books away, I was skeptical. How would offering a book for free help me make money?

Well, after the program had gotten up and running, I saw it working out for the brave authors who tried it, so in February StoneHouse Ink and I gave it a whirl, making THE LONELY MILE free for three days, giving away 42,000 copies and launching a bestseller in the aftermath of the explosion. We sold eight thousand books in the three days following the promotion, and 12,000 total for the month of February, sending the book rocketing as high as #21 in Amazon's Paid store among all books, #2 in all Suspense Thrillers.

It was a ride I'll never forget, and one which I've yet to come close to duplicating, despite going back to the well and trying the free thing a few times in the months since.

The fact is, things are constantly changing in the wonderful world of publishing (as if you haven't heard that one before) - and especially selling - books.

All of which leads back to my initial point. Gotta try new things.

To that end, I decided to try something a little different with my new supernatural suspense novel, REVENANT. The way the Kindle Select Program works is the author or publisher gets five days of free promotion in exchange for making the work exclusive to Amazon for ninety days. I had three promotional days left for REVENANT approaching the end of the ninety day period, so I decided to use those three days during the last three days of the period, then re-up with Kindle Select, and use all five promo days at the beginning of the next ninety day period, giving me eight free days in a row.

Something different. Worth a try, right?

Well, there was a problem. Of course.

Turns out you can't schedule the free promo days with Amazon until after the new ninety day exclusivity period has begun, so there will be a break of one day between the three free promo days at the end of the old ninety day period and the five free promo days at the beginning of the new period.

That day is tomorrow. Saturday, September 29, 2012. The only day during the nine-day stretch from September 26 through October 4 when you will have to pay to download REVENANT.

I don't know if making my book free for eight days will do a damned thing for it or not, but I do know Medallion Press made FINAL VECTOR free for fifteen days at the end of August and we went on a pretty good sales run immediately following that promo. I figure it's worth a shot, but I will feel a little guilty if you buy the book tomorrow when you could have gotten it free the day before or the day after.

So please, spare me the feelings of guilt. Don't buy my book tomorrow. Get it free on Sunday. Or wait and buy it on October 5, if you prefer...

Friday, August 17, 2012

Interview with Debut Author Jim Wilsky

For the past couple of years, I've been posting interviews with authors I admire on a semi-regular basis. I've been privileged to bother ask questions of Lawrence Block, Robert Gregory Browne, CJ Lyons, and many others, some of whom you are probably familiar with, others you may not be.

Today I'm really excited to feature a new kid, a debut author who is older than me, and that's not an easy feat to accomplish. Jim Wilsky has written some kick-ass short fiction in the past, but never got around to writing a novel. Until now.

He has teamed up with veteran Frank Zafiro to produce BLOOD ON BLOOD, a blistering, profane noir/crime fiction effort that any fan of the genre absolutely must check out. I was lucky enough to read an ARC of BLOOD ON BLOOD, and I tore through it in about three days, diving into it whenever I possibly could.

BLOOD ON BLOOD reminds me of the best of Tom Piccirilli and Les Edgerton, and if you know how much I admire those two guys, you know what a compliment that is.

Jim Wilsky is my guest today, and he agreed to answer any question I threw at him. Here's the result:

You’re a pretty prolific short story writer, having placed tales in any number of outstanding publications, including this nasty little gem in one of my favorites, Shotgun Honey. What makes an accomplished short story writer decide to move on to novels?

Well thank you Allan and thanks even more for letting me do this interview. To borrow from your blog name this is a thrill a minute for me.

I have to say though that as far as me being prolific – well, I can’t even see the front of the prolific line from where I’m standing. Much appreciated, but I sure don’t think I’m in that category, not by a long shot. The outstanding publications mention is absolutely spot on though. There are some great homes for short stories and what talent there is these days. The editors of these publications make that all possible. Those same editors are extremely talented writers as well. I have been lucky enough to get to know them and learn from them. I’ve just been very fortunate and early on I submitted and inquired so many times that I think they finally just said Okay, OKAY, we’ll accept the damn story.

I’ve been writing quite a while but it’s been on again and off again for many years. Now it’s on again at a pretty heavy pace. For me anyway. Throughout this entire time though, the thought and dream of writing a book has always been there for me. When I say the dream, I don’t take that word lightly. It seemed only a dream forever, as time and life as a non-published author just continued to click along. I really don’t think there was any definite point in time where I firmly decided okay this is it, but I had a lot of constant support and encouragement along the way to give it a try one day. Then along came a book idea and an offered writing project made by a very good friend/associate of mine Frank Zafiro. Some more persuasion/encouragement and then bang the starting gun went off and away we went.

Your debut, BLOOD ON BLOOD, just released from Snubnose Press, was co-written with veteran Frank Zafiro. That’s a pretty unconventional way to write your first novel. What was that process like?

To be honest with you there is only one person I would have ever tried this with. It had to be Frank or this thing wouldn’t have even been considered – or hell, offered to me, for that matter. I am not what you would call the most cocky writer around. I’m just very hard on my writing and that’s as it should be, but there’s a little fear mixed in too. Fear of acceptance I suppose, or dread that everybody will read something of mine and unanimously think what the hell was that supposed to be? It’s very odd with me and writing, it’s not like I’m Mr. Trepidation about other things in life. I’ve always been outgoing, foolishly confident and simply an idiot when it comes to accepting challenges.

For me, writing isn’t like sports or business or even raising kids. When somebody reads something of mine, it’s like I look down and notice that I’m not wearing any clothes. There is a baring it all feeling for me there that is tough for a normally confident person. It’s been said many times but writing is just so personal. People are looking through my windows dammit and there are no drapes to pull. Anyway, I’m my own worst critic, half paranoid and cynical about my ability to write something of value that a few people might enjoy. Good example? This interview. Am I nervous about it and how it will read?…Oh, hell yes.

So after that little schizophrenic confession, I’d say that with anyone else but Frank Zafiro, no matter how talented, accommodating and helpful they were, I would have been very skeptical and worried that my work would not measure up in terms of quality and/or I wouldn’t be able to keep up. There would be something that I’d just be sure to screw up.

With him though, it’s different. He’s always been positive and always supportive of my writing but he also is able to tell me in a casual convincing way, ‘oh bullshit, you’re a writer, so write’. I trust his misplaced judgement, value his help and appreciate the hell out of the friendship we’ve forged. Frank and I were somehow introduced or met on line years ago. How many years ago, or when and how it happened, I have no idea. Main thing is, it did happen and without that chance meeting, my first book would probably still be waiting to happen.

We went into it prepared with a damn good shell of a story, pretty well defined characters and a solid but flexible story outline that we constantly adjusted. We kept a lot of open room in the outline. We knew that we would have to expand and collapse the story at times depending on the story pace, our two different characters and our writing styles. We also went with 1st person and we each took one of the two main characters. This was also fairly daunting for me. We alternated the chapters though which always kept it fresh for me as a new chapter of mine would be finished and sent, then I would receive the next chapter from Frank. Once we got that rhythm going, it flowed. It just hummed along. It flowed so well that I was positive I was writing garbage. It shouldn’t come that easy, it shouldn’t be enjoyable…I mean, should it? Frank told me to just shut-up and keep writing. We had momentum and fed off each other.

Were there times during the writing of the book where you wanted to go in one direction and your co-author wanted to go in another? How were these types of issues resolved? Any bloodshed?

Well, I have finally reached the conclusion that Frank is an absolute ass. I mean that, I’m sorry, but there it is.

Seriously though, there were only two fork in the road type occasions. Pivotal points in the story, where we had to lay things out on the table and decide on where we were going, or how we were going to get there. I believe we only had two phone calls the entire time we wrote this novel. Long calls, but only two, the rest all email. I look back on that and think damn – that’s pretty amazing - I think. But him and I read each other well. Really well. We’re also a lot alike personally I believe. Like hearing someone’s tone of voice and inflection, we seem to be able to read each other’s tone. As we were writing, Frank had confidence in our plan and that our combined work would be good. Maybe better than good. I appreciated the hell out of that confidence he had in me. It was classic coach psychology. You don’t want to let them down. We just flat clicked as writers.

The last third of the book, as in almost every book or novel, was crucial. Things were really cooking, coming to a boil and we were looking for that perfect set up/ending. I don’t know that there’s such a thing as perfect but you gotta try right? We had other considerations too, like a sequel or possibly a series. At the end of the day, hey, he’s a pro and I’m like some goofy walk-on in college trying to make the team. Let’s just say I listened. A lot. No bloodshed whatsoever, although I’m sure he thought about where he could hide the body.

Talk a little bit about BLOOD ON BLOOD. It’s billed as a hard-boiled chase novel about half-brothers racing to recover missing diamonds – accurate?

Yes, I think so. That’s a pretty good synopsis. I’m terrible at that. Paul Brazill asked me to write a 25 words or less billing and what I wrote sounded cheesy, like I was trying to be too damn cute or something. For me it’s very hard to wrap it up, but hell you have to. Otherwise, the billing you write up is too long, too descriptive, too something. Attention spans ain’t what they used to be, including my own. You better hit somebody right in the nose with something. A hard, quick jab.

Since I’m a wordy bastard though, I’ll add that I liked that we chose Chicago as the setting for this story. Neither one of us are natives but I’m very familiar with that town and it doesn’t get enough stories. We felt that it was an excellent fit for what we had going on. So many possibilities there. We had a great brother thing going on but we also had some strong ethnic play mixed in. We all know about the distinct neighborhoods and burroughs of NYC but if you’ve ever been to Chicago and I mean really been there, you know that Chicago is second to nobody in the wonderful rich ethnic stew that makes up every major city. And last, the brother that I had was a great character and I had a ball with it. Known some guys like that, not to that extreme but I wasn’t writing blind that’s for sure.

I see you’re hard at work now on the followup to BLOOD ON BLOOD, again to be written with Frank Zafiro. Is this a partnership you see continuing? Any plans to work on a solo novel?

It will continue for as long as he wants to partner up on a project. He writes a lot of books and he’s very good at that, so believe me, it’s his call all the way. Hey, I’m in if he calls. Because of him, Blood on Blood was an absolute blast to write and I’m hoping we’ll get some positive reaction and a good acceptance. We do have some plans for future work together and unless he wakes up to the obvious mistake he’s made with me, or the old warrant out there on me gets noticed, it’ll happen.

Blood on Blood has also allowed me to think very seriously about a solo novel. Not only think about it, but I’m definitely going to make that jump. I’d say about a year from now if I was guessing…and I am. For me, this will be a damn leap. Actually, the equivalent length of an Olympic triple jump event.

What’s easier to write, a novel or a short story? Which is more rewarding?

I’ll answer the last question first. Here’s the way I look at that. I think a story is a story and I love them both. I see them as two different kids. One is older, taller and has more miles, more backstory to tell, more experiences to call on and talk about. Periods of action and then not so much, times that were fast and slow and in between.

The other is younger, shorter but has a certain energetic burst, a quickness. There is an urgency and a little less to tell maybe but it’s in your face. Excited and exciting with a faster pace but still a full story.

As far as easier to write? Wow. I think a better way to put it might be which is harder to write. In some ways, I think the short story is more difficult. You need to cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time. You still have to have a full story though, so every word is crucial and the dialogue doesn’t have the luxury to be drawn out but it has to be meaningful. With a novel you don’t have those issues but you have pace and rhythm and continuance worries, action or lack of, the middle book blues and the dreaded premature ending.

So my answer is neither and both. I’ll take the vague/easy/cheap way out anytime. But it also depends on who you are and what you cut your teeth on. I know of people, and have read about authors, who have basically never written anything but novels or like me have the opposite experience with shorts. There is a certain level of comfort that comes with familiarity.

You’re one of the few first-time novelists older than I was when my first book came out, so I’m allowed to ask this: What took you so long?

Yes, you are allowed but no one under 40 can ask that. Great question too. I think as I mentioned earlier I’ve always had a little devil on my shoulder saying ‘no way’ on novel, but I also have been writing for a very long time so in a way that kept me from rusting out. My first story was probably at about age 8 or 9 but you have to remember, which I know you do, this thing I’m typing on didn’t exist. A typewriter or just a pad of paper and a number 2 pencil. The medium of the internet that we all take for granted didn’t exist. Neither did the opportunities. There were library cards for crying out loud and rolodex files to check books out and shut the hell up signs (I still miss all of that and it’s not all nostalgia based). I think there was true value in going to a Library. As a young kid like so many others, I was writing to myself many times.

Then life started changing a little. My kids got older and time became a little more free. I still have a career and still need to provide for my family, college, etc. of course. That has always been the number 1 priority for me. You live through your kids. I believe that strongly. Nothing different or special there, millions of other people have the same view or outlook. But people are different too, they look at themselves and the world differently. Others maybe don’t have a family or kids yet, or they never will through choice or chance. All of it figures into writing. If you write early, you take it seriously, then you do what you can when you can afford to. So the short answer I suppose is life. Life is what took me so long. And that, that’s a good thing I think. Again, a wonderful question Allan.

Is there any one author or group of authors you look to for inspiration?

Another good question. I love Western writers. They have a certain passion that I admire and a real dedication to a genre that isn’t always tops on reading list of the masses. I’ve always felt a good solid western is one of the toughest stories there is to write. Writing authentic and realistic are damn hard things to do with a western story.

Demographically, I value guys like you and others in our age group. When you’re in that age bracket and you can relate to others it can be a true inspiration to keep writing. Use our life experiences and celebrate those lifespans instead of shunning them. At the same time, the current crop of young writers is so talented and so damn deep in numbers that I think it pushes me. I mean that in a good way. Makes me compete. Work harder. Gives me a better sense of urgency and makes me realize the time I lost when I was younger. I don’t think I could have matched them back then anyway though. It seems that the younger writers are just more mature and accomplished now. Could be a generational thing - or it might just be that I’m a dinosaur.

What are you reading right now? What’s next on your “To Be Read” list?

Well I was lucky enough to get an early read of City of Heretics by Heath Lowrance, published by Snubnose Press. Wow, it just blew me away. Never stopped until I finished the damn thing. Also, just finished The Innocent by David Baldacci. I like Baldacci, like his style and have right from the beginning. Then Pulp Ink 2 is out, a short story collection with an unbelievable author list. Chris Rhatigan and Nigel Bird did a fantastic job of putting that together. This should be strong, very strong. Then there is some book called Revenant that sounds mildly interesting.

Hypothetical situation #1: You’re shipwrecked on a desert island, but before fleeing your sinking ship, are able to grab any one book of your choosing. What book do you take, and why?

This is going to sound very odd but then again it makes sense. Golding’s Lord of the Flies. The island tie in one thing but for some reason this book hit me at just the right time and age. I was young but it had real meaning. I just barely ‘got it’ at the time because of my age, but I got it.

That story has never left me. Written in 1954, the message is ageless, the depiction of our human nature is a bulls-eye and it could easily be set in 2054 or 2154, if we last that long. Somethings will never change.

Hypothetical situation #2: You are given a choice by the Gods of Publishing. Your books can either bring you tremendous monetary wealth or they can be universally acclaimed as outstanding by the critics. Which do you choose, and why?

That’s an evil question Allan. You really ought to be ashamed of yourself.

Hey, okay, here’s what I think. It depends on the author. Authors are people and people are different. You won’t ever find me dissing a popular bestselling author. A bestselling author who by the way writes books that people f’n buy and buy a lot. They write in a way that rings bells for readers. Whether or not that happens because of reputation, or because everybody else is buying it, or because everybody is reading it in the airport, or Oprah likes it…or because his last ten books did the same thing. I hear people say the masses just don’t appreciate good writing and the masses just jump on the bandwagon. I got news for the gifted ones, if you think you have the corner on brilliant, deep writing well that might be true – for some people.

Because you have preferences and appreciate a particular writing style or content doesn’t mean you’re right and others are wrong, but it does mean you have an opinion. All I know is that ‘good’ books are as varied and different as ‘good’ food. Sorry but that’s the truth.

I could find you a minimum of ten paintings, that in my opinion, beat the living hell out of the Mona Lisa. I have a little art, and the appreciation for it, in my background so I’m not Jed Clampett studying art on the wall and cocking my head sideways. It also means that the Mona Lisa is still a helluva piece of work.

If you write what’s true to you, what you’re proud of, then that’s the choice for me. Hey, if I by some serious (almost impossible) stroke of luck, happen to sell some books with a story I love then I’m good. I’m all good in fact, because I don’t find money to be necessarily evil. I sure as hell find some people with money to be evil. I don’t measure illuminated critics opinions anymore higher than I do everyday readers buying books.

Thanks for taking the time to visit A Thrill a Minute. Any last words of wisdom you’d like to share with my thousands hundreds dozens handful of readers?

The pleasure was, and is, all mine. I really mean that and I very much appreciate you extending an opportunity like this. Also Allan, if you have a handful of readers, that’s a pretty big hand. It also means, doing the math comparison, somehow I have a negative 4 readers.

As far as words of wisdom, man have you got the wrong guy…However, I’ve always been a big quote guy. I love reading quotes from people in history. Sometimes they are misquoted or outright taken from someone else and credited to the wrong person. There is one that I’ve always liked, because it’s honest and true, and those two words have to be at least part of the definition of wisdom. I’m relatively sure it comes from Carl Sandburg and he said, “I’m an idealist. I don’t know where I’m going, but I’m on my way.” It sure as hell fits me and probably some others too. Thanks again Allan.


BLOOD ON BLOOD was released by Snubnose Press on August 4. It's priced very reasonably at $4.99 and is well worth your money, not to mention your time.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

REVENANT excerpt: Chapter Eight

It's the final day of my week of Revenant excerpts; tonight is Chapter Eight. Here are links to the first six days of previews if you'd like to check them out before reading today's preview:


Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapters Three, Four and Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Here's Chapter Eight:


In the corner of the dark basement, the industrial-sized floor freezer hummed monotonously, its motor powering a compressor, the compressor flooding the inside of the container with ice-cold air, cooling . . . nothing. The freezer’s former occupant lay unmoving in the middle of the floor, a gaping hole in his chest, severed veins and arteries framing the location where Earl Manning’s heart used to reside.

The corpse’s extremities, which had previously been stiff and unyielding after being frozen through and through, now rested limply on the tarp separating the body from the concrete floor. A soupy mix of bodily fluids had gradually thawed, following the irresistible pull of gravity as they did so, and had collected on the tarp, molding around the dead body like the world’s most disgusting bath water.

Manning’s skin was dark grey, devoid of any of the color provided by a beating heart pumping blood through a living body. His eyelids remained open, dead eyes staring unseeingly at the ceiling, a thin, milky caul covering each one.

The stairs creaked and groaned as Max Acton and Raven descended them. The pair turned at the bottom and stood at Manning’s bare feet. Max examined the corpse with a critical eye, his lips compressing into a thin line as he concentrated. He glanced at his watch and did a little quick figuring. Then he smiled. “I think we’re ready to proceed,” he told Raven, who nodded once and looked away.

They were dressed in fresh jumpsuits and booties. Latex medical gloves once again covered their hands. Raven stepped to the side and watched closely as Max wheeled a five-gallon wet-dry vac across the floor, easing it to a stop next to the corpse and flipping a switch. A high-pitched whine filled the room and the two of them grimaced as Max maneuvered a plastic tube fitted to the end of a rubber hose around the body, sucking the fluids off the tarp and into the vacuum.

He flipped the switch again and the motor died, the whine fading away, leaving a ringing in Max’s ears and, he assumed, in two of the four other ears currently occupying the basement. Fresh fluids immediately began collecting on the tarp, trickling slowly out of the body, replacing what had just been cleared away.

Max sighed and knelt on the floor. He reached over Manning’s chest and rapidly turned the thumbscrew on the rib spreader, drawing the metal arms toward each other, allowing the broken ribs to collapse into the chest cavity. A wet sucking sound accompanied the movement of the bones; to Max it sounded like a drumstick being pulled off a well-done roast chicken.

After a few moments, the resistance of the bones on the rib spreader had been eliminated and Max pulled the metal contraption up and out of Manning’s body. It was slick with watery-looking blood and some kind of residual yellowish pus-like substance. Max examined the mess with distaste and set the rib spreader aside. He placed one hand on either side of the large incision he had made yesterday, then pulled the dead man’s slack skin back together with his palms. It felt thin and rubbery and it sagged in the middle of Manning’s body, where there was no longer the support structure of a functioning rib cage to hold it in place.

Max turned and nodded to Raven and she opened a small plastic box, setting it on the floor next to Max. Then she backed up and resumed watching. She was clearly on edge and for a moment Max thought about shouting “Boo!” and watching her piss her pants, then he decided just to get on with the business at hand. He reached into the box and selected a suture needle and surgical thread, then went to work, leaning over the corpse and efficiently if not artfully stitching the two sides of the corpse’s chest back together.

When he had finished, he leaned back on his heels and examined his handiwork. The chest was caved in at the center, the result of the broken rib bones and, of course, the missing heart muscle, but under the circumstances looked relatively passable. Despite the delicate appearance of the mottled grey skin tissue, it appeared the stitches would hold for as long as Max needed them to.

He smiled up at Raven. “Looks pretty good, don’t you think? I’d say this might even be an improvement over what you dragged out of that bar last week.”

“Well, it would be hard to get any worse,” she said wryly.

“I’ll have to give you that one,” Max said as he rose to his feet, brushing the knees of his jumpsuit and stretching his back. He strolled toward the small table next to the freezer, upon which lay the two wooden boxes, one ornate, adorned with the intricate Navajo carvings, and the other simple and plain.

Raven followed a couple of paces behind. “Is this really going to work?” she asked nervously.

Max stopped and turned, scowling at Raven. Her face blanched and she took a step back. “You’re the one that turned me on to this whole deal,” he said. “You’re the Navajo squaw with the background in all this Native American mumbo-jumbo. It goddamn well better work after all the time and effort I’ve invested in this project. I don’t think I need to remind you what will happen to us if we don’t deliver the goods to the North Koreans. Not only will we not get paid, no one will ever find our bodies again.”

“I know, I know, don’t get upset, baby.” Raven held her hands up in a placating gesture. “You’re right, I do know it will work, it’s just hard not to be a little nervous, that’s all. I can’t believe you’re not nervous, too!”

“Why would I be? If what you’ve told me about this special rock is true, we have nothing to worry about. Right?”

Raven said nothing.


She finally nodded.

Max thought he had never seen a less-convincing emotion. He continued staring until she dropped her gaze to the floor and left it there. Then he reached over and unlatched the boxes, lifting both lids. Inside the plain box was the zip-locked plastic bag containing Earl Manning’s heart, now completely thawed and looking exactly like what it was—an unmoving lump of dead muscle tissue.

Inside the more ornate box decorated with the intricate Navajo carvings was the baseball-sized stone Max had stolen from Don Running Bear three months ago in the Arizona desert. The stone looked almost ordinary but just a little . . . off, somehow. Max gazed at it almost as if expecting something mystical to happen. Nothing did. The stone sat in the middle of the box, ancient and inanimate.

After a moment Max reached inside and rolled the stone to the edge of the box. He needed to free up space inside the small area for its new roommate. He then picked up the sealed plastic bag containing Earl Manning’s heart and lifted it out of the plain box, placing it next to the Navajo stone in the ornate box. Then he stepped back and waited expectantly.

And he waited.

And he waited.

And nothing happened.

Max turned slowly, his face reddening. He glanced pointedly from the wooden box to Raven’s face and back again, saying nothing. She backed up another step, her mouth working overtime but managing nothing more than a tiny squeak of barely controlled fear.

“Why is nothing happening?” Max said softly, the words more menacing for their lack of volume than if he had screamed them.

“I. . . I . . . it’s . . .”

Max took a step toward her and her pretty green eyes widened in terror. But she was no longer looking at his face. She was peering intently over his shoulder.

He stopped and turned.

Walked back to the table.

Looked in the box.

Inside the clear plastic bag, Earl Manning’s severed heart was beating, slowly and steadily.

REVENANT is a 75,000 word novel which works as Book Two in the Paskagankee series and also as a stand-alone supernatural suspense novel. It's priced at $3.99. Thanks for reading!

Friday, July 6, 2012

REVENANT excerpt: Chapter Seven

It's Day Six of my REVENANT preview week - today features Chapter Seven. Here are links for the first five days pf previews if you'd like to check them out before reading today's preview:


Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapters, Three, Four and Five

Chapter Six

Here's Chapter Seven:


The geography of Paskagankee, Maine was deceiving. For a town with such a small population, the landscape encompassed a very wide area, featuring wild, rugged terrain, most of which was heavily wooded and virtually impassable even in the best of weather conditions. Such a large area to patrol made being the chief of the tiny police force a challenge, but was one of the many things Mike McMahon loved about the job.

He had spent the first fifteen years of his career as a patrol officer in the city of Revere, Massachusetts, a blue-collar, hardscrabble city immediately north of Boston, dealing with issues on a daily basis which were often very different than those he faced now. He had left Revere for the chief’s job in Paskagankee after the tragic shooting of a little girl during a hostage standoff on a steamy July evening, determined to make a fresh start and expecting the job to be a relatively easy; a nice change of pace.

What he inherited instead, almost immediately upon his arrival, was a horrific killing spree like nothing he had ever encountered, victims being murdered and their bodies savagely torn apart. Looking back on it now, the nightmare seemed somehow surreal, as if he had imagined the whole thing, but Mike recalled with perfect clarity how he and Sharon Dupont had nearly been killed themselves before being saved by Ken Dye, Professor of Native American Folklore at the nearby University of Maine. Dye had identified the murderer to be not a townsperson, not even a person at all, but rather the remorseless spirit of a Native American mother butchered three centuries earlier. The professor ended the bloodshed only at the cost of his own life, validating his life’s work as he sacrificed himself to the vengeful spirit.

As that nightmare scenario unfolded, Mike and Sharon had bonded like true soul mates, two flawed individuals overcoming their own weaknesses—Mike’s self-flagellation at the accidental killing of seven year old Sarah Melendez during the Revere hostage standoff, Sharon’s life-long problem with substance abuse—to team up with the professor and save the town, literally at the last possible moment.

Mike opened his broken heart to Sharon Dupont despite their nearly fifteen year age difference in a way he had not done with anyone since his divorce shortly after the Revere shooting. It hadn’t been easy; he had sworn he would never expose himself to the pain of lost love again. But when he recognized in her a vulnerability so similar to his own, he found himself drawn irresistibly to her.

And her striking beauty didn’t hurt, either. Without fully realizing what was happening until it was too late, Mike McMahon had fallen for the young officer, regardless of her position as his subordinate on the Paskagankee Police Force.

To Mike their status as a couple was a non-issue. He was quite capable of separating their working relationship from their personal relationship, and he knew Sharon could do the same. Whether it would eventually become an issue for the Town Council he did not know, but had assumed all along it was something they would deal with together, as a couple, if and when the circumstance arose.

Now he thought about the bombshell Sharon had dropped as he drove along the nearly deserted rural blacktop, the Paskagankee Police Ford Explorer sure-footedly handling the gradual rise of the terrain as the road burrowed deeper and deeper into the wilderness. Maybe, after more than six months as a couple, Sharon had come to view the difference in their ages as more of a detriment than she had initially thought it would be.

Their relationship had certainly been an eventful one, between the grisly events of last November and the rehabilitation, both physical and mental, they had both been forced to endure. Perhaps Mike had been nothing more than a stepping stone for Sharon, a way to remain grounded as she progressed through the recovery process. Perhaps now that she was more or less back to normal it only made sense that she would take a step back and reconsider her feelings for him.

If so, Mike certainly understood. In fact, he was happy to have been able to help Sharon regain her bearings, even if that meant now she was ready to be on her own. Understanding didn’t make it any easier to bear, though. His attraction to the rookie officer had grown stronger over time even as he had expected it to wane.

And now, apparently, he was alone again, the second time in barely three years a woman he loved had cast him aside. He felt like there was a hole in his chest where his heart should have been. He shook his head at his own foolishness, forcing his thoughts back to the present, to the reason he was making this drive into the Paskagankee hills on a bright, warm June morning.

As chief of the Paskagankee Police Department, Mike McMahon was expected on occasion to perform the sorts of duties he would have scoffed at as a patrol officer back in Revere—ceremonial appearances, community meetings and the like. Today was one of those occasions, and he pushed his thoughts of Sharon—and their accompanying heartache—to the back of his mind, for the time being at least, concentrating on the task at hand.

He muscled the SUV onto a dirt trail so well concealed by the surrounding vegetation he nearly missed it. The vehicle bumped slowly over the rutted track. The forest loomed, centuries-old trees effectively screening the road from sight of his rear view mirror before the vehicle had traveled twenty feet.

Mike grunted as the Explorer lurched into a massive hole hidden by the natural ground clutter of the forest floor, the truck nearly bottoming out before exiting the other side. Holy shit. He had heard of rich people building out-of-the-way shelters to maintain their privacy, but this was ridiculous. He asked Sharon last night—when they were still officially a couple, he thought ruefully—whether she was familiar with this address and she had just looked at him blankly. And this was a kid who had grown up in Paskagankee and spent virtually her entire life here.

Finally, as Mike turned a corner and crested a small hill, a massive log home rose into his field of vision, materializing as if by magic. The house was clearly new but had been designed and constructed to look old. Mike wondered how much the architect who designed it had been paid. The place was magnificent. Built low to the ground, the log home—there was no way anyone could call this a “cabin”—practically melted into the forest, meshing with the surrounding vegetation and the ancient North Woods so completely he wouldn’t have thought it possible if he hadn’t seen it with his own eyes.

The home was all one story, but easily comprised four thousand square feet of rambling living space. The exterior logs had been stained a dark brown, their monotony broken up by banks of large, gleaming windows. A gigantic fieldstone chimney ran up one side of the house, soaring toward the sky, making Mike wonder how big the damned fireplace on the other side of the wall must be. An oversized farmer’s porch ran the length of the home, disappearing around the corners on both sides. For all Mike knew, the porch might encircle the entire place. It certainly looked like it did.

He whistled in appreciation, his problems with Sharon momentarily forgotten. He wondered what this show place had cost to build, then remembered who he was scheduled to meet today and realized cost would, literally, have been no object. Still, for a shelter that was probably only going to be inhabited a couple of months a year, even a guy as rich as Brett Parker must have had to think long and hard before committing the kind of money to the project he obviously had.

The dirt road widened into an approximation of a driveway as it wound closer to the house, and Mike pulled to the side, shutting the Explorer down next to a massive black Lincoln Navigator. Brett Parker’s luxurious vehicle shared the same family tree as the Paskagankee Police Explorer, but that was where the comparisons ended. Mike wondered whether Parker was planning on storing his car here year-round, then decided he must be. Even a big-time software developer like Parker likely wouldn’t want to pay what it would cost to ship the SUV back and forth across the country.

Mike grabbed his hat off the seat, easing out of the Explorer and starting across the driveway toward the log home. As he did, the front door swung noiselessly open and a blocky-looking man with a sullen demeanor stepped onto the farmer’s porch. The man watched impassively as Mike approached, hands jammed into his pockets, saying nothing until Mike had almost reached the front steps.

“Hello, Chief,” he finally ventured.

Mike stuck his hand out. “Mike McMahon.”

The stocky man fished a hand reluctantly out of his pocket and grabbed Mike’s with one huge, fleshy paw. He shook once and then released his grip. “Josh Parmalee,” he grunted. “Security for Mr. Parker.”

“Formerly Seattle PD, correct?”

“Once upon a time,” Parmalee answered. “I retired almost ten years ago to work for Mr. Parker. Best move I ever made, too.”

Mike wondered about that. Parmalee appeared to be a good forty pounds overweight, a big man who had once probably been an impressive physical specimen but who had, over time, let himself go until now he carried more flab than muscle on his frame. Mike wondered if that kind of gradual decline was what the future held in store for him and whether perhaps Sharon had considered that possibility, too, and decided his was a future she wasn’t particularly interested in sharing.

He forced his thoughts back to the present, annoyed with himself. There would be plenty of time to brood later, but for now he had a job to do, even if it was largely ceremonial—meeting the visiting dignitary and reviewing security procedures. Clearly Parmalee wasn’t losing any sleep over his employer’s safety; he looked as though he had just awoken from a long nap.

“This is quite an impressive home,” Mike said.

Parmalee ignored the comment and said, “Come on, let’s take you to meet Mr. Parker.” He turned his back on Mike and walked into the house, leading the way through a sitting room which was larger than Mike’s entire apartment. From there they threaded their way through a formal dining room complete with a massive cut crystal chandelier hanging over a sturdy oak slab dining table set for two. Mike wondered who Brett Parker might be entertaining later. He guessed it wasn’t Josh Parmalee.

At the far end of the dining room was a hallway which appeared to run the length of the house. The pair walked wordlessly. At the end of the hallway, Parmalee rapped twice with his knuckles on a closed door, then opened it without waiting for an invitation to enter.

Seated at a desk inside the small study was a man Mike assumed must be Brett Parker, although he had seen few pictures of the media-shy mogul who was one of the twenty richest people in America. Parker was slight of frame, with thinning sandy hair and gold wire-rimmed glasses perched at the end of his nose. Dressed casually in khaki pants and a baby blue dress shirt with the sleeves rolled up to the elbows, Parker smiled and stood to greet his guest.

“Chief McMahon,” he said. “I’m Brett Parker. It’s a pleasure to meet you.” He spoke softly but firmly and seemed much more interested in social niceties than his security man had been.

They shook hands and Mike tried again. “You have a beautiful home,” he said, and Parker smiled. “Thank you. The builders just finished. This is the first time I’ve ever seen it. I wanted to check it out before bringing my family for an extended vacation next month.” Mike recalled reading that Parker was married with one child, an eight year old daughter.

“It’s perfect for our needs,” he continued. “I wanted a place where my family and I could disappear; a place we would be out of the glare of the public eye for as long as we wished.”

“You certainly got that,” Parmalee interrupted with the air of someone who would rather be anyplace else in the world.

Parker chuckled. “Anyway, it’s a pleasure meeting you, Chief. I’ll let you continue your tour with Mr. Parmalee; I’m sure you have plenty more important things to do than spend all day chatting with me.”

He sat back down at his desk and the two men eased out of the office, pulling the door closed and continuing down the hall. “The construction is finished,” Parmalee said, “but the alarm system has yet to be activated. The house is fully wired and will be protected by a hard-wired system with a battery backup, connected directly to your police station, as you know. Additionally there will be a full perimeter warning system which will alert us if anyone steps inside the boundary of Mr. Parker’s ten acres of property.”

Mike nodded. “Pretty heavy security,” he said.

Parmalee grunted. “You don’t get to the position Mr. Parker has in the world of computer software without making a few enemies along the way. It’s a fiercely competitive industry, complete with enough corporate espionage and dirty tricks to fuel a hundred Hollywood movies. I know he looks like an easygoing guy, but Brett Parker is a shark in his world. There are plenty of people who would like nothing better than to harm the man or even get him out of the way entirely.”

“You’re not concerned having him here for the weekend with the security system still offline?”

Parmalee shrugged. “It’s only for a couple of days,” he said. “Just a quick scouting trip, in and out. Almost no one knows he is even out of Seattle. Beside, I’ll have him in my sights the entire time. Anyone wanting to get to Mr. Parker will have to go through me.”

Mike bit his tongue. There was no point alienating Parker’s head of security, but he had little difficulty picturing a determined intruder getting past Parmalee. Despite the man’s impressive size, he had gone somewhat to seed and struck Mike as less than the best the Seattle Police had had to offer even in his better days.

And as far as no one knowing Parker’s whereabouts, Mike had a fair amount of experience dealing with VIP movements from his days in Revere, a good-sized city just outside Boston, and he knew that leaks were inevitable where a VIP’s schedule was concerned. Anyone with an interest in determining the founder of Parker Software’s schedule could do so with relative ease. There was always a secretary or travel agent or even a member of the VIP’s own security team more than willing to part with schedule or travel information for the right price.

By now the two men had circled the house and stood just inside the front door. Parmalee strode outside and across the porch to the driveway, moving with a spring in his step he had not shown to this point. Mike wondered what Brett Parker would say if he knew just how perfunctory his head of security’s “tour” had been. It was plain Parmalee wanted nothing more than to get rid of the local yokel from the Paskagankee Police Department and get back to whatever had been occupying his time before their meeting.

And that was fine with Mike. His job was to come and make nice with the billionaire’s head of security and he had done exactly that. The fact that the security itself appeared sloppy and substandard was none of his concern. Besides, whatever he thought of Parmalee, the man was probably right about one thing—Parker’s visit was just a quick two-day in-and-out. What was the likelihood anything would go wrong?


Tomorrow will feature Chapter Eight.   REVENANT is a 75,000 word novel which works as Book Two in the Paskagankee series and also as a stand-alone supernatural suspense novel. It's priced at $3.99. Thanks for reading!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

REVENANT excerpt: Chapter Six

It's Day Five of my REVENANT preview week - today features Chapter Six. Here are the links to the first four days of previews if you'd like to check them out before reading today's preview:


Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three, Four and Five

Now, here's Chapter Six:


The basement was dank and forbidding, even under normal circumstances, although it seemed more terrifying than usual now, Max thought. But maybe that was just because of what was about to happen here.

Two portable work lamps had been set up on sturdy metal tripod legs to augment the dim lighting, one mounted on the north side of the basement and one on the south. The lamps faced each other at an angle, splashing their light across roughly an eight foot gap, focusing the glare onto a heavy-duty tarp which had been spread out on the concrete floor.

Max and Raven stood side by side next to the tarp, dressed in identical denim coveralls, their hair stuffed under baseball caps. Latex medical gloves adorned their hands and disposable paper booties covered their feet. It was probably overkill—pun definitely intended, Max thought with a smile—but he didn’t care. There was no point risking contact with dead human tissue and bodily fluids when a few simple precautions could more or less eliminate the possibility.

“Ready?” he asked, and Raven nodded. Together they walked to the corner of the basement where an industrial grade floor freezer had been set up against the east wall. The freezer was constructed of shiny stainless steel and its interior measured more than six feet in length and two-and-a-half feet in width, roughly the size of a casket, making it perfect for their needs. It had set him back nearly twenty-five hundred bucks. He considered the price a bargain.

Max raised the lid and gazed down at Earl Manning, now almost five days dead, his body a solid block at the bottom of the freezer. The corpse was naked from the waist up. Removing the plastic bag from their victim’s head had been messy and difficult; Max had pulled the sturdy cord so tight during their brief but deadly struggle that it had disappeared into the delicate tissue, leaving a narrow furrow running under the victim’s jawline. It resembled a ghastly necklace.

Manning’s lifeless eyes stared fixedly at the ceiling. The expression of fear, helplessness and confusion frozen onto his face made it seem as though the corpse was accusing them of his murder. Perfectly understandable, under the circumstances, Max thought. Not that it will do him any good. He’s still dead. For now.

Max looped an arm around Raven’s waist and pulled her into him. He could feel her body trembling like a tiny bird’s as she stared at the dead man. “Let’s do this,” he said, and walked to the north side of the freezer. Together they reached to the bottom. Max hooked one large hand under each of Manning’s armpits, feeling his fingers immediately begin to stiffen from the intense cold despite being encased in the gloves. Raven placed her own, more delicate hands under the dead man’s ankles.

Max counted to three and they hauled the body up and out of the freezer. It rose with surprising ease, with their victim’s weight distributed relatively evenly along his nearly six foot frame. It was similar to lifting a heavy wooden plank. They began walking the corpse slowly across the basement floor.

They worked in silence, the only sound an occasional grunt from Raven as she struggled to balance the dead man’s lower half. When they reached the tarp, they bent and set the cadaver on its back in the middle, then stopped back to catch their breath. Manning had been a perfect fit inside the industrial freezer, filling it lengthwise, his shoulders clearing the side walls with a couple of inches to spare, almost as if he had been measured for it.

Now, however, the body looked small and lost, positioned in the middle of the mostly empty basement atop the oversized tarp. Its empty eyes stared steadfastly upward as if beseeching God—or anyone else who might be paying attention—to explain what was going on here. If God had an answer, though, he kept it to himself.

A thin layer of sparkling frost which had built up over Manning’s body now began to melt, giving him the appearance of a sweating athlete, which Max found amusing. Earl Manning’s days of heavy physical exertion—if there had ever been any—were long past, a fact demonstrated by his thin arms and generally scrawny build.

Max picked up a Black and Decker cordless rechargeable drill, which he had placed in a line of tools on the floor next to the tarp. He squeezed the trigger, listening to the satisfying whine of the motor. The drill was fully charged and ready for use. He straddled the slab of frozen flesh, one knee on either side of the subject’s waist, and placed the tip of the drill bit in the center of the chest, just below the sternum.

He squeezed the trigger again, exerting a steady downward pressure, and in a matter of seconds had punched a small hole through the mass of unyielding bone and tissue. Backing the drill out of the hole, Acton set it aside and reached for the next tool, a cordless rechargeable jigsaw, also fully powered and ready to use. Raven crouched on her knees next to Max, watching quietly, obsessive fascination glittering in her emerald-green eyes.

Max smiled at her, then slid the jigsaw’s blade into the hole in Earl Manning’s chest and began cutting. He sliced the flesh in a straight line to the top of the rib cage, the saw’s motor screaming in protest, almost as if speaking for the dead man who could not. The frozen tissue gave way grudgingly but steadily, and after a few moments, Acton withdrew the saw, placing it on the floor next to the drill. He had begun to sweat from the exertion, despite being seated astride what was essentially a six foot long ice cube.

After a moment to catch his breath, Max picked up a rib spreader, a frightening-looking contraption consisting of a pair of heavy metal bars placed side by side, each one widening out to a flat surface with a curved lip. The two bars were connected at their base by a third bar, adjustable along a corrugated track by a large thumbscrew. Max rested on his haunches atop the lifeless Earl Manning, holding the spreader in his right hand. He smiled again at Raven. “Having fun?” he asked. She smiled back tremulously and said nothing.

Squinting in concentration, Max leaned down and placed the twin bars of the rib spreader into his crude incision, positioning each lip snugly against the dead man’s ribs. Then he began turning the oversized thumbscrew, literally spreading Manning’s ribs apart inside his frozen chest.

It was hard work, made even more difficult by the body’s frozen state. Max began to breathe heavily and Raven asked, “Why did we have to freeze him? Wouldn’t this have gone much smoother with a normal body?”

Max wiped the back of one gloved hand across his forehead. “Sure, it would have been easier. But I froze him for two reasons. Doing it this way is not as messy; there are no nasty bodily fluids running all over the place. It makes clean-up a lot easier. That is the secondary benefit.”

Raven nodded. “What’s the primary benefit, then?”

“The main reason we froze him, sweetheart, is because I want to delay the inevitable decomposition of our friend Mr. Manning for absolutely as long as possible. We are only going to have a finite amount of time to accomplish what needs to be done, and every minute counts. So by freezing him, we are left with a body in as close to its original state as possible.”

“But won’t the freezing and thawing cause damage to his body?”

“He’s dead, remember? Who cares?”

“Of course I remember he’s dead, I just wondered if the tissue damage would cause problems for us down the line.”

“I hope not, but who really knows? This is uncharted territory, my dear.” Max pursed his lips and resumed cranking, moving the metal arms steadily apart, spreading the corpse’s ribs wider and wider. A Crack! split the air and Raven jumped. Max chuckled and continued cranking, breaking more ribs, one after the other, until the opening in Manning’s chest was wide enough to serve his purpose.

He reached inside and grasped his victim’s frozen heart firmly with his left hand. With his right he picked up a surgeon’s scalpel and began slicing muscle tissue, arteries and blood vessels. He started with the pulmonary veins and arteries, making clean incisions with a steady hand. Then he raised the scalpel, sliced through the thicker inferior vena cava, and finished with the superior vena cava at the top.

The victim’s heart was now separated completely from his body. Max lifted it out of the frozen chest and held it up for Raven’s inspection. She showed no reaction. He shrugged and stood, holding the muscle carefully in both hands, and walked to a small table set up along the wall near the industrial freezer.

A box adorned with beautiful, intricate animal carvings had been placed squarely in the center of the table. It was the prize Max had gone to so much trouble to procure three months ago in Arizona. Next to it was a similar box, although much plainer. Both lids were standing open. Inside the fancy box was the strange, perfectly smooth grey stone recently liberated from Don Running Bear, and inside the plain box was a sealable quart-sized plastic freezer bag.

Max slid the heart inside the bag and zipped it tightly shut, then placed the bagged heart into the plain box. He closed both lids and secured the latches.

“What do we do now?” Raven asked, glancing at the frozen body of Earl Manning, prone atop the tarp, chest gaping open like it had suffered an explosion from within.

“Now we wait.”

Tomorrow will feature Chapter Seven. REVENANT is a 75,000 word novel which works as Book Two in the Paskagankee series and also as a stand-alone supernatural suspense novel. It's priced at $3.99. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

REVENANT excerpt: Chapter 3, 4 and 5

Happy Fourth of July! I'm celebrating by featuring Chapter Three, Four and Five of my brand-new novel REVENANT today.

If you're just now checking it out, you can catch up by reading the prologue, Chapter One and Chapter Two before starting if you'd like.

Here you go!


Earl Manning stepped reluctantly through the front door and into the living room of the creepy old home. He supposed when the house was new the room would have been considered a parlor—that was what his grandmother would have called it, and they were probably from the same era—but as a guy who did his growing up in the 1980’s and 1990’s, it was a living room. The space was wide-open but stuffy, as if whoever lived here hadn’t opened a window in decades.

And it was empty. Not one piece of furniture had been set up. No TV, no couch, no rugs or carpets; nothing. Just a cavernous shell of a room.

Under different circumstances Earl might have found the emptiness unsettling, but not tonight. Tonight Earl Manning was suffering the early stages of a monster hangover, and smacking his head on the side of the Porsche hadn’t helped. Plus—and here was the worst part—Earl had no idea where the hell he was or what the hell he was doing here, although he had pretty much concluded by now that he wasn’t going to get laid by one of the most beautiful, sexy women he had ever seen inside the boundaries of Paskagankee, Maine. Or anywhere else, for that matter.

In fact, although he didn’t know what was about to happen, Earl guessed it wasn’t going to be good. He reached for his cell phone. It was gone. That traitorous bitch Raven must have appropriated it while he was passed out in the car. Or maybe he had left it at the Ridge Runner; he couldn’t remember. Damn, it’s hard to think when you’re halfway between drunk and sober.

But Earl knew one thing: he had had enough. He came here thinking he would be alone with Raven, and instead the shadowy-looking man had forced him inside this house. Looking at it now, he concluded that allowing the guy to push him around had been a mistake. He should have stood up for himself immediately.

Well, it wasn’t too late. He could still fix their wagon. He would simply refuse to move another inch until the shadowy man or, preferably, Raven explained to his satisfaction just what the hell they thought they were doing. Not one inch.

Earl walked roughly six feet into the living room that might have been called a parlor by his grandmother and stopped, turning to voice his objection to this whole charade, to complain about being treated like a sap by that little black-haired bitch. He spread his feet and set his shoulders, wobbling thanks to all the alcohol coursing through his system. He turned, ready to demand some answers, to know just what in the holy hell this was all about, and as he did, the shadowy man stepped up close, too close, violating his personal space.

The man whipped his right hand over his head in a circular motion like Pete Townshend making his guitar scream during the concert by The Who Earl had seen down in Portland in ‘96, only instead of holding a guitar pick in his hand like Townshend he held a large plastic bag. The bag fluttered through the air and down over Earl’s head and Earl immediately had two thoughts: 1) It really is true that alcohol dulls your reflexes, and 2) It appeared he would be doing the screaming instead of a guitar.

A heavy length of twine, almost but not quite a rope, had been threaded through the mouth of the plastic bag, and after yanking the bag over Earl’s head, the man pulled the ends apart like a garrote. The bag closed neatly around Earl’s neck just under his jawline. In his panic Earl drew in a deep breath to scream, knowing somewhere inside his Budweiser-addled brain that he was making a mistake, that it was the absolute worst thing he could do, but he did it anyway. He couldn’t help himself.

The bag sucked into his open mouth and Earl gagged and coughed it back out. He shook his head violently back and forth as if registering extreme dissatisfaction with this turn of events, which, in a way, was exactly what he was doing. He struck out with his fists, not punching as much as flailing wildly, and felt a millisecond of satisfaction when he connected solidly with some part of the man’s body, although which part he hit, he had no idea and didn’t much care.

After that tiny victory, though, things went downhill fast. Earl stopped flailing and grabbed with both hands at the twine/rope being pulled with steadily increasing pressure around his neck, cutting off his air supply and digging into the soft skin, but it was useless. The shadowy man had all of the leverage, plus he was younger, stronger and presumably sober to boot.

It ain’t a fair fight, thought Earl, realizing immediately it would be a stretch to call it a fight at all. Then all conscious thought departed. He thrashed and grunted and sucked the bag into his mouth again, coughing it out again, his lungs screaming for oxygen, his body weakening by the second, his panicked reaction growing even less effective.

He felt his extremities tingling, he was losing feeling in his hands and feet. All of a sudden he could feel his bladder release. Urine, hot and wet and humiliating, soaked his jeans at the exact moment he began falling toward the dingy hardwood floor.

His head struck the floor and he heard something crack and was surprised to discover he didn’t feel any pain. Didn’t feel anything at all, in fact, other than a warm, sort of fuzzy ambivalence. Turned out dying was a lot like getting drunk. Earl thought that in some ways it was a damned shame you could only do it once.

Panic subsided and serene acceptance took its place and Earl’s last thought before the blackness descended like a shroud was that he would never have imagined in a million years that he would die on a stranger’s parlor floor.


Max turned to Raven, whose gaze was glued to the prone body of Earl Manning. She was moaning and breathing heavily and a shudder wracked her body as she licked her bright red lips. Max smiled. He enjoyed watching Raven’s reaction to violent death almost as much as he enjoyed the actual killing. It was always the same and yet it never lost its appeal.

He stared until she turned her attention from the unmoving victim to him. A sheen of sweat coated her angelic face and her eyes were glazed. She swallowed heavily and Max said, “Shall we celebrate?”


Mike McMahon lifted his hat and raked his hand through his thick brown hair, shaking his head in frustration. He slid into a booth at the Katahdin Diner and placed the hat on the seat next to him before glancing across the table at Sharon Dupont. “I don’t know how many times we need to have this conversation,” he said. “Listen closely: You are a valuable member of this police force and I need you on it.”

The sun shone through the window next to the table and waitresses hurried back and forth carrying trays piled high with silverware, food and coffee, somehow managing to avoid running each other down. This was the breakfast rush, the Katahdin’s busiest time of the day.

Sharon shrugged. “You need me on the force? That’s bullshit. The truth of the matter is I’m more trouble than I’m worth, and you know it. I’m a double-whammy: a low-time officer with little practical law enforcement experience who is sleeping with her superior. The first half of that equation is an annoyance, but the second half will get you fired once the Town Council gets off their asses and decides to take action. They’ve looked the other way about us seeing each other to this point only because they wanted a steady hand to guide the department after last fall and the whole fiasco with Chief Court supposedly murdering all those people.

“I still can’t believe anyone in this town bought that load of crap, especially after everything Walter Court did for Paskagankee. The idea that he single-handedly ripped a bunch of people apart with his bare hands is simply ludicrous. But the point is, sooner or later the public fascination with the murders will die down—I think we’re just about there—and when it does, the council will decide our living arrangements are unacceptable, and they’ll move to terminate you.”

Mike sighed and placed his hand gently over Sharon’s arm. “I know you were close to Wally Court, and there’s no question his reputation took a beating in the official investigation, but what choice did the State Police have, really? Would anyone, anywhere have believed the truth—that the aggrieved spirit of a dead Abenaki mother had been reawakened and was wreaking havoc as vengeance for her baby’s murder more than three centuries ago? Hell, I was there, I saw the thing with my own eyes, fought with it, and sometimes I still have a hard time believing it.”

“But, still—“

“—And don’t forget,” Mike interrupted, “Chief Court is dead and gone, so he can’t defend himself. Add to that the fact he didn’t have any close living relatives to demand answers to all the unexplained questions, and the result is that he’s going to remain the scapegoat, no matter how either of us feels about it.”

“Until Melissa Manheim’s book comes out, that is.”

Mike snorted, half in amusement and half in frustration. “Okay, Manheim the Maneater knows exactly what happened in that cabin out in the woods, but my question remains the same—who’s going to believe it? Her book is going to be viewed as the hysterical ranting of an attention-grabbing reporter trying to make a name for herself—“

“—which she is,” they said simultaneously, and laughed.

“But that doesn’t change the truthfulness of her account,” Sharon pointed out.

“Truth? The truth is whatever people want to believe,” Mike answered. “And most people aren’t going to buy the whole reanimated spirit angle that Manheim the Maneater is selling, whether she’s a star reporter for the Portland Journal or not. And whether it’s the truth or not.”

A young waitress cleared her throat and the pair looked up at her in startled surprise. It was clear from the confused half-smile on the waitress’s face that she had heard at least some of their conversation and had no idea how to react to it. “Are you ready to order?” she asked hesitantly.

Mike deferred to Sharon, who ordered a half-grapefruit with apple juice and coffee, and then Mike added, “A Lumberjack Special with a large black coffee for me, please.” The waitress wrote it all down on a small pad and walked away, clearly relieved to be hearing words that made sense again.

“Anyway,” Mike continued, “my point—which I don’t believe I made before we got sidetracked with talk about Wally Court and Melissa Manheim—was that I don’t give a rat’s ass about the Town Council. I think you know me well enough by now to understand that. And as far as being a ‘low-time officer with little practical law enforcement experience,’ how the hell do you think you get experience? You work the job! I was a ‘low-time officer with little practical experience’ at one point, too, but I worked the job, day after day, and you know what happened? Eventually I gained the experience and wasn’t viewed as a rookie anymore.”

He shot her an earnest look and she shook her head glumly. She appeared ready to say something then stopped and stared at the table as the waitress reappeared, her tray piled high. No one said a word as the young woman unloaded their meals and then walked away.

Mike blew on his coffee, sending tendrils of steam dancing away on an invisible air current. “Don’t quit the force on me,” he continued. “You’re going to be a damned fine police officer some day; you’re already much better than you give yourself credit for. Plus, I need somebody to watch my back around here. It may not seem like it with all that’s happened since I took this job, but I’m still the new guy in town, and I have no real idea who’s going to back me up in this department—besides you, that is—and who will throw my ass to the wolves the first chance they get. Don’t quit,” he said again.

“I’m not talking about quitting the force,” she replied quietly. “I’m passionate about law enforcement, I have been since my very first day at the FBI Academy, and I know some day I can be a good officer. I want to be a good officer. I want to be an officer like you,” she said simply. She looked everywhere but at Mike and he began to feel uneasy.

“Then what are we talking about? I thought you were worried about the Town Council. If you’re not thinking about quitting the force, then . . .” Mike grew silent as the impact of what she wasn’t saying began to dawn on him. “You don’t mean . . .”

Sharon nodded miserably. “Yes,” she whispered. “I think we should stop seeing each other. It’s the only solution that makes sense.” She raised her gaze from the plate on the table to look up at Mike. Her eyes were red-rimmed and moist.

“Shari, we can work this out, there’s got to be another way.”

“This town needs you, and it’s going to need you even more when Manheim’s damned book comes out and when filming begins on the movie being made out of the book. Once those things happen, every kook in the northeastern United States is going to trek to Paskagankee, Maine to see the place where the cursed spirit butchered a half-dozen people. We need someone in charge who understands what really went down and who has a good, strong head on his shoulders. That person is you.”

“Shari, let’s slow down a little, okay? Why don’t we wait until the Town Council makes a move and then try to figure out the best way to respond?” He saw the pretty young officer shaking her head, her short black hair framing her face in the way he loved, and stopped.

“No,” she insisted. “We can’t wait. If we wait for the Town Council to make the first move it will be too late. Once they fire you they’ll never reconsider. We have to head off that possibility now. Besides, the uncertainty is too painful. I can’t live this way, knowing that at any moment you could lose your job because of me.”

Mike sat unmoving, his hand hanging in the air halfway to his coffee cup. Things had seemed almost normal this morning as they dressed for work. Sure, Sharon had been quiet, but he assumed she was simply suffering one of the lingering headaches that had plagued her off and on since her emergency brain surgery last fall.

“Besides,” Sharon added, trying to smile but failing, wiping away a tear with the back of her hand. “I’ll still get to see you at work, right? We’ll still see each other pretty much every day. We’ll still have that.” A sob wrenched her tiny frame and she stood, jostling the table in her haste and sloshing her juice into her grapefruit. “I’m sorry,” she said. “I have to go.” She grabbed her hat and rushed out of the diner.

Mike watched her leave, stunned by the suddenness of this development, and then pushed his plate away, no longer hungry. Outside he could hear the door to Sharon’s cruiser slam shut and then the rumbling of the engine as she backed out of her space and exited the parking lot. The engine noise faded away and then Mike was alone.

Tomorrow will feature Chapter Six. REVENANT is a 75,000 word novel which works as Book Two in the Paskagankee series and also as a stand-alone supernatural suspense novel. It's priced at $3.99. Thanks for reading!