Blood and Brimstone, Chapter 4 – Free Serial Novel

The rented Ford Focus pulled up to the house where Dale grew up. He cut the engine and pressed his forehead against the wheel. The last time he’d been here, he told his father that he didn’t want his life, because his father’s idea of life was complete bullshit, a bad fucking play where the actors weren’t told they were acting but still faked every daily motion. Or at least that how he’d wanted it to come out. Wasn’t hard to envision his diatribe being far less eloquent. Probably a lot more vulgar. Now Todd had died without them ever reconciling.

“Well, here we go,” he said. He turned to Melissa. She had her feet propped up on the dashboard. Her phone rested on her knees and she typed a message to a guy whose name Dale didn’t recognize. Dale felt a flare of jealousy, but pushed it away. “Thanks for doing this with me.”

She finished the message and put the phone back in her purse. “You so owe me a trip to the beach after this.”

The beach was the only place he ever saw Melissa smile.

“It’s a deal,” he said.

“I can’t promise I won’t slap your sister or mom for saying something stupid though.”

“I’m sure it won’t come to that. Who starts a fight at a funeral anyway?”

“You don’t know my family.”

Dale didn’t pursue the matter further. They got out of the car and he slipped his arm around her shoulders. As they neared the front door of his old home, he felt nauseous, and his skin grew hot. He made himself ring the doorbell.

The door swung open. The woman on the other side couldn’t be his sister. She had grown up so much since he left. Her features held a weariness no amount of makeup could hide. He wondered what happened to her. He knew about the break-in, but not much beyond that. Katie had relayed only scant details. When he asked if she needed him to come home, she said not unless he was ready to talk to Dad. Fuck that.

Resentment toward their late father aside, he felt like a real shit right now. He and his sister fell into an embrace. The frame in his arms was thin and frail, as if it would break if he squeezed too hard. He almost cried, but he didn’t want to be weird. Especially not with Melissa standing behind him. She didn’t like oversensitive men.

They broke the hug, made introductions and went inside. Jake met them in the kitchen and offered them breakfast. The four of them sat down around the island in the kitchen. Katie took a gulp of black coffee, but didn’t touch her food.

“So did you lose your phone?” she said.

“What?” Dale said.

“You didn’t answer any of my messages.”

“Yeah, sorry.”

“I didn’t think you were coming.”

“He said he was sorry,” Melissa said.

A heavy silence full of shifting gazes fell upon the group. Dale’s face grew hotter.

“You’re right,” Katie said. “Let’s just…I’m glad you’re here. Both of you.”

“Thanks for reaching out,” Dale said.

Melissa gave a tight smile that held anything but warmth, nothing like her smiles at the beach. They finished their food and dressed for the funeral.

A Presbyterian pastor presided over the service, with most of the religious language removed. Katie was never clear on what her father believed or didn’t believe, and her mother was no help, so she went with something in the middle. She sat between Jake and her mother. Dale, Melissa, and Keith all shared the row with them. They showed solidarity, despite how fractured their family had become. The entire time, Katie felt as if she sat in a glass cage. The preacher’s words sounded muffled. Every few minutes, Jake tried to take her hand, but she kept her hands folded in her lap. She focused mostly inward, recalling the day her father died. She remembered the beaten expression on his face and the defeated words that conflicted with his determination to find some sort of answer for everything that had happened, to try to find Chloe.

She hoped he found whatever he was looking for, but resented him all the same. In his last few years, he seemed perplexed more than half the time, lost in his own thoughts, dreaming of that self-fulfillment he neglected for so long, perhaps.

She touched the scar on her cheek. It was mostly faded, but still rough to the touch.

“You okay?” Jake whispered. She lowered her hand and nodded. He tried to touch her knee, but she pulled away.

The pastor called Katie up for the eulogy. She left what she’d prepared in a folded paper stuffed deep in her dress pocket and improvised something formal, but sweet.

Dad was extraordinary. Blah blah blah. He was always a dreamer. Blah blah blah. I love you, Dad.

She finished, but felt no weight lifted off her shoulders. At her pew, she told Jake she needed some air, and she stepped outside.

A gray sky greeted her. She leaned against the cold brick wall and stared across the grassy acreage spread in front of the church. Thick woods surrounded the grounds and made her think of fairy tales and magical places, but there was nothing magic about this place. The preacher’s words rung hollow. Her eulogy, full of sweet words, came out cold. Headstones filled half the field around the church. This was a dead place.

She longed for the fire. At least it was warm.

As if in response, something pale and green glowed between the trees. The amorphous shape expanded and contracted. It floated some five yards into the woods.

Katie pushed away from the cold bricks and tromped down the chapel stairs. She crossed the headstone-laden field, hypnotized by each movement of the illuminated shape. Though she expected it to brighten as she drew closer, it seemed instead to grow dull. She got halfway across the field, and the light slipped behind a thick pine and disappeared.

She glanced over her shoulder. Part of her wanted to go back and write off the strange apparition as some trick of the light. Another part compelled her to move forward. She felt as if something awaited her in the woods she needed to see.

She reached the edge of the field and stepped through a carpet of undergrowth until she reached the tree the light slipped behind and peeked around its trunk. The light was gone. A bizarre scent drifted under her nostrils. It was milky and sweet and reminded her of her childhood friend Maddie. Something about that made her sad. Though she still kept in contact with Maddie, they weren’t nearly as close as they used to be. But it was more than that. It was her father. It was trauma that robbed her of a life without fear. It was something undefinable and very old, something that had been with her since she was born, or maybe even before that.

Her gaze scanned the expanse of pine trees, moss-covered rocks, and bushes she could never name. She heard no animal sounds. Usually the woods were full of life’s music: birds whistling back and forth, bugs click-click-clicking. But now she heard nothing, nothing but her thundering pulse.

Her father stepped out from behind one of the trees.

Saint Sadist Cover Reveal

I’m delighted to show you the cover for my next book, Saint Sadist, which will debut this March from Grindhouse Press. This image is perfect for the book, given its content and themes, which is crazy considering the image existed prior to me writing the book. The art is by the incredible George Cotronis, who is one of my favorite cover artists in the game today. Check this shit out.


I’ll provide more updates as they come. In the meantime, don’t forget my newest book We Are the Accused is out now via Sinister Grin Press, or you can grab my collection Engines of Ruin via Crossroad Press if you’re more in the mood for short fiction.

Weekend was nice. Got a lot of writing done, made a little money, bought some pet fish, and started putting a new bookcase together. School starts on Tuesday. Updates may be a bit more sporadic after that, but I will try to keep up as best I can. I enjoy writing these blogs quite a bit, and I hope you enjoy reading them.

Fever

Finally got a good night’s sleep last night. It required forcing myself to stay awake until after midnight. I’m sure I dreamed, but I don’t remember many details.

It’s been a weird week. If you’ve been following this blog, you know my novel We Are the Accused was released on Tuesday. Release weeks always stress me out. Maybe it’s because I’m still fairly green, but damn, I found myself engaging in unhealthy obsessive behaviors. I refreshed the Amazon page for the book every hour or so. I constantly checked Twitter. I re-read the book and noted everything I would now do differently. I ate lots of candy, chocolates, and a massive piece of cheesecake. Last night, I finally managed to talk myself down from the ledge, hopefully averting a potentially extended manic episode.

It’s scary putting yourself out there. Once a book is published, it really is the point of no return, and We Are the Accused was such a personal book in which I took many risks and plumbed some really dark places, it frightened me knowing that it now lives in the wild and has to fend for itself. I imagine it’s something like sending a child off to college.

I wonder if this anxiety will decrease with each subsequent book release. Let’s hope so. My sixth was accepted by a publisher last Sunday (still can’t give details), and I now have a seventh and eighth lined up. At least this time I managed to call myself out and remind myself of what I can control. This list included writing a blog today (check), writing 1500 words on book 7 (getting there), finish cleaning the upstairs (this afternoon), and acquiring books for classes next week (also this afternoon).

We can only control so much. Reminding myself of this works wonders on my mental health.

Now I just need to kick this cedar fever. What’s cedar fever, you ask? Move to Texas and you’ll find out real quick. Just prepare to hate having sinuses.

In closing, I just wanted to let y’all know that my friend Josh Blakesley interviewed me over on his blog. We talked about writing as a spiritual practice, books that made me cry, and my newest releases. You can check it out here.

The Accused Are Released

It’s here!

Today sees the release of a book that took so much out of me, I didn’t finish another for over two years.

WE ARE THE ACCUSED

A mad god lusts for power. Two demon lovers lust for death. An ancient man seeks to devour plagues natural and supernatural.

All converge on the small town of Blue Brook, Pennsylvania to wage war unlike any other, yet strangely familiar.

Bianca is an Afghanistan war veteran turned police detective whose ex-con high school sweetheart has just come home. Boone is a boy entrusted with immense power and living with a mother who’s struggling to hold their family together. Lafferty is a priest with many secrets.

All are caught in the middle of something beyond their understanding. The inner and outer darkness of each doomed soul must be faced. 

And blood will be shed.

WE ARE THE ACCUSED is now available on Amazon.

Read an excerpt right here.

Back in the Fight

It’s Monday morning.

Tomorrow, my new novel, We Are the Accused, comes out.

Last night I got exciting news about my novel, Saint Sadist. I will share further details once the contract is signed. It will be my sixth published book.

In a week and one day, I start my final semester of college.

I couldn’t sleep much last night, but it wasn’t from nightmares or distress. I’m frankly just excited about a lot of things. Things are happening with this writing stuff, and not just works being published. Ideas I’ve had for YEARS are coming together, forging new, full-length projects. My brain is making connections that now seem so obvious, but eluded me for so long.

You’ve got to celebrate the victories. They are rare, wonderful things. For instance, this is my tenth post since starting this blog last month. It’s cool that I’m staying, more or less, pretty consistent. Granted, my posts aren’t particularly long, but really, anytime someone else’s post runs over a thousand words, I almost always find myself skimming, so perhaps brevity is best. I can’t be the only one who feels this way.

I’ve really missed blogging. I think it’s the best way to kickstart a day of writing.

So begins the third week of new year. Last week was difficult, but I’m forging ahead. 2019, you look tough, but I’m tough, too, and I’ve been reading Robert E. Howard’s boxing stories. You want a fight? You’ve got it.

All the Books I Read in 2018

I meant to post this a LOT earlier, but the first ten days of the new year have been packed with work and family drama. Last year I read 37 books, most of it in the latter half of the year. A lot of these titles seem like they’re from an AP English reading list, and that’s intentional. I passed up a lot of these titles in my late teens/early twenties, because I don’t like being told what to do. It was cool getting around to these books after all these years. Plus, there’s some Richard Laymon, Carlton Mellick III, and books from some friends. Check it out below.

  1. This is a Horror Book by Charles Austin Muir
  2. Elevation by Stephen King
  3. I Love You When I’m Drunk by Empar Moliner
  4. Sex and Rage by Eve Babitz
  5. To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
  6. A Minor Storm by J David Osborne
  7. Glimpse by Jonathan Maberry
  8. Areopagitca by John Milton
  9. Paradise Lost by John Milton
  10. Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller
  11. The Short Stories, Vol. 1 by Ernest Hemingway
  12. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers
  13. A Very Easy Death by Simone de Beauvoir
  14. After Dark by Haruki Murakami
  15. Stacking Doll by Carlton Mellick III
  16. Their Eyes were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
  17. The Aeneid by Virgil
  18. Cold Blooded by Lisa Jackson
  19. Louisiana Stories by Kate Chopin
  20. Paperbacks from Hell by Grady Hendrix
  21. Toy Cemetery by William W. Johnstone
  22. The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
  23. In Other Words by Jhumpa Lahiri
  24. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
  25. The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler
  26. Nightmares in Ecstasy by Brendan Vidito
  27. Spider Bunny by Carlton Mellick III
  28. Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy
  29. Singularity by William Sleator
  30. The Metamorphoses by Ovid
  31. The Odyssey by Homer (Emily Wilson translation)
  32. Ruined by Tracy Wolff
  33. Forever… by Judy Blume
  34. Freedom by Jonathan Franzen
  35. Those Across the River by Christopher Buehlman
  36. Dark Mountain by Richard Laymon
  37. Island by Richard Laymon

It’s worth noting that this list doesn’t include books I didn’t finish, or the ridiculous amount of poetry and short stories I also read. So, yeah, I read a lot last year, and a lot of it, I liked. If I do anything different this year, I will try to read more current titles. We’ll see though.