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Ronin (Part 2)

As promised here’s another extract from Jan Domagala and his book Ronin.

 

PROLOGUE

He stood on the Observation Lounge looking out at the vista of stars, waiting to die.

Out of the four volunteers for the special experimental programme, only he and Kurt Stryder were left alive. The other two, Summerfield and Watson, had died in circumstances too horrible to contemplate. Was this his fate too, to die like them?

He knew there were risks involved in the programme, a fact of any experimental programme but seeing those risks, seeing the consequences up close and personal made him doubt the validity of both the programme and his eagerness to enlist in it. It was too late to pull out now though, for the final round of tests had been completed. At least he had gotten that far, more than could be said for Summerfield or Watson.

Turning away from the large panoramic viewport he decided to return to his quarters. It was after midnight station time, which was synchronous with Earth Central Time. At this time of night only the night shift were working keeping this station, Research Station Five, operational. He walked towards his quarters, nothing more than a cubicle with a bed really, and he entered. He soon had disrobed placing his uniform in the wardrobe, the only other piece of furniture present in the Spartan quarters before climbing into the bed.

He was more tired than he had first thought and sleep came to him quickly. After a few hours sleep, he was suddenly awakened by a searing pain that ripped through his abdomen like a wildfire. He tumbled out of bed wrapped in the duvet that strangled his movements. He tried to stand but a wave of nausea engulfed him like a raging tide washing over the shore. He stumbled and steadied himself against the wardrobe to prevent falling on

the floor then activated the locking pad on the door. As it opened on a cushion of compressed air he threw himself out into the corridor beyond.

A series of hacking coughs wracked his body and when his sight returned he saw the wall he had leaned against for support was splattered with blood.

This was not good. This was how the other two started before they died.

He was afraid then and he screamed for help before another coughing fit took control.

He fell to the floor, his stomach heaving, the pain building to excruciating levels. As he lay on the floor he turned his head to see a pair of boots running toward him. He had never felt such pain and he was so weak he could hardly lift his head.

He felt someone cradle his head and he looked up into a pair of worried eyes.

He coughed once more spraying the shirt of whoever was holding him with blood before he succumbed to the darkness that had been creeping into his peripheral vision.

The man cradling his head accessed a comm channel via his Neural Interface.

When the call was connected he said, “Sir, Captain Bell

has just died.”

1

Kurt Stryder was taking a shower when his Neural Interface tingled, telling him a comm. channel had been accessed and a call was coming through to him.

“Go ahead,” he said. The NI automatically connected him to various networks, wherever he was on a starship, station or on a planet, whether it was comm. networks or the main computer on board. Effectively doing away with the need for external devices, the NI gave remote access to the same sources. Most Col Sec personnel were fitted with these NI’s and also, some private citizens who could afford the cost of surgery, and the device.

“Something’s happened to Bell,” General Sinclair said, his voice coming through as clear as if he stood next to him in the room.

“What, same as the others?” Stryder asked almost knowing the answer, which would make his own worst fear come true.

“I’m afraid so, just like Summerfield and Watson.”

“How long have I got?” Stryder asked, for he was part of the same project and now, the only remaining test subject left alive.

“There’s no guarantee that what happened to them will also happen to you. They assure me they’re doing everything in their power, to get to the bottom of this,” Sinclair said.

“Excuse me sir if I don’t feel reassured. What I don’t understand is, if we all had the procedure at the same time, why have the others died at different intervals?”

“That’s something they’re looking into, I can assure you. I want you to come to the main lab right away. There are some tests they want you to perform and I want you

under close surveillance at all times, until we get to the bottom of this.”

“Right, I’ll just finish my shower and be right there sir.”

“There’ll be an escort waiting at your door when you’re ready, Sinclair out.”

Stryder continued with his shower now that the tell tale tingle had left him, as the connection was severed.

All he could think of was, when would he die? He’d seen the reports of the first two deaths and they were horrible. He’d seen his fair share of death during combat and had caused enough of his own to warrant his participation in this project. This was supposed to help bring about the end of the needless death, or at the very least, help reduce it. He had thought that if the results of this project helped to save one life in the field, then whatever they had to endure would be worth it.

Now he wasn’t so sure. It didn’t seem right to sacrifice three lives, possibly more, to save only one life. The balance was off, and he had no idea how to redress it.

Finishing his shower, he dried off and quickly got dressed in his uniform of white shirt and dark blue trousers. The Col Sec emblem was on the patch pocket on his shirt, over his heart and the three pips of his rank of captain were on the epithets. He glanced in the mirror to ensure he was presentable, but what he saw disturbed him somewhat. His blond hair was cut to regulation length, not too short but trimmed neatly around ears that lay flat against the side of his head. High cheekbones gave evidence of his Nordic ancestry, as did his cobalt blue eyes. His normal, warm smile was missing now, replaced with a worried frown. Trying not to think about what could lie ahead, he went to the door.

As the door opened he saw his escort, two marines from Recon Delta. Delta was his old unit, the elite of Col Sec, which meant the General was taking this development

seriously. The marines promptly fell in behind him as he left his room.

Arriving at the main lab he was met by General Sinclair and Doctor Baxter, the two main men heading this project. General Sinclair was in overall command of Col Sec; both Recon Delta and Intelligence Division. Doctor Baxter was in charge of the lab.

“There you are Captain,” Sinclair said as Stryder entered the lab, flanked by his escort. Sinclair was in his fifties but still ram-rod stiff from his years in Col Sec. His brown hair was receding from a high forehead in a widow’s peak. Below that, his deep brown eyes were unfathomable, as was his normal, stoic expression. Thin lips rarely if ever, spread into a smile. It was said in some circles that, if Sinclair had ever indulged in playing poker, with his normal deadpan expression, he could have been wealthy beyond his dreams.

“Yes sir, I see you’ve beefed up the security somewhat,” Stryder replied with a sardonic smile.

“Yes I thought it about time.”

“Granted, but don’t you think it smacks of closing the stable door after the horse has bolted, just a little?”

“Your opinion is thus noted Captain, but Baxter here doesn’t share your sense of doom. Tell him Doctor.”

Stryder turned to the doctor not daring to hope. He said, “Tell me what, Doc?”

Baxter was smaller than the other men in the lab who were all professional soldiers standing between six feet one and six feet three inches tall, with lean hard physiques that had been honed through years of hard training. Baxter, however, was five feet ten inches tall, with a thin, reedy body that had rarely seen exercise. His mind though was as sharp as any blade known to man.

“Well Captain, you know as well as any on this project, that what we’ve witnessed, has been unprecedented and quite frankly, simply should not have happened…,” he

said, his slate grey eyes aglow with excitement. He ran his hand through his thinning, salt and pepper hair, and then pushed his spectacles up his aquiline nose, a habit of his when he was nervous, or excited.

“But it did happen, sir, three times now. The same every time. What I need to know is, when is it gonna be my turn and can you prevent it?” Stryder asked.

“But that’s just it, the same every time. All three died exactly the same.” said Baxter, thrusting his hands into the pockets of his white lab coat.

“I understand that Doctor, what’s your point?”

“You know the basis of what we’re doing here, right? We’ve injected you all with a serum that would alter you genetically; to enhance your immune system, to give you the ability to heal faster and to aggressively attack toxins.”

“Yes sir, I was briefed fully at the induction, we all were.”

“And you agree that no two people’s d.n.a. is exactly the same?”

“Yes sir.”

“So why would the treatment affect three people in exactly the same manner, at different intervals, when it has been proven, that there are no toxins present in the serum?”

“I don’t know Doctor; you tell me, you’re the expert. No wait, you suspect foul play. How is that possible? I thought the facility was locked down tighter than an air lock in deep space”

“It is, but considering we are in deep space, that comment is redundant. Having said that, it’s the only explanation that fits the facts,” Baxter said.

“So what’re we gonna do sir?” Stryder asked, glancing at the general.

“You are going to continue with the program, leave the security of this facility to me,” Sinclair replied confidently.

“Do you have a list of suspects sir? I’d like to know so I can keep an eye out, or am I to be the bait?” Stryder asked.

“We’re looking into it Captain,” Sinclair said, giving nothing away as usual.

Stryder watched as Baxter turned to the General and said, “Tell him.”

“Tell me what sir? What is it you’re keeping from me?” Stryder asked suspiciously.

Sinclair stared at Baxter for a second, his eyes boring into him with repressed anger. Baxter was a civilian scientist working for Col Sec, but not directly under Sinclair’s command, otherwise that little outburst would not have happened. He looked away from the doctor then turned to face Stryder. There was a battle going on inside his head, Stryder could see that. When he came to a decision he said, “Okay, we suspect that Captain Howard may have something to do with all this.”

“Howard? Isn’t he in charge of security here?”

“Yes and we have to handle this carefully. If he has ties to the Alliance, then we need to find out. We’ll have to keep him under close surveillance but without alerting him to the fact we’re on to him. If he is our man and he gets wind of our suspicions, there’s no telling what he might do.”

“One thought has occurred to me sir, why is he going to so much trouble, when this project clearly doesn’t work?” Stryder asked.

“Excuse me?” Baxter replied indignantly, staring at the taller man as if he had insulted him.

“Well sir, if this serum is supposed to increase our immune system, to make us more able to fight off toxins, how is he killing us off one by one? All the testing we’ve undergone so far has been to see if it affected us on a physical level. As far as I can see, our immune system has not been tested yet. Surely if a poison or toxin of some sort has been used shouldn’t the serum have neutralised it?” Stryder explained with no trace of malice.

Baxter’s expression softened a little. He said, “That again, is something of a mystery. You were right to point out about the testing. We had to ensure that the serum had no debilitating effects on your abilities to perform as a soldier. In fact, in your case Captain, it had quite the opposite effect; it actually increased your strength and stamina. I’m sure you’re aware that your endurance levels have increased by twenty five per cent.”

Stryder expressed mild surprise and a little bewilderment.

“To be honest Doc, I thought you were taking it easy on me, well on us, actually. I never realised it was just me, we never tested together. I just put it down to my training in Recon Delta being harder than what you put us through.” He paused then asked, “But why me?”

Baxter had no answer for him other than a shake of his head and a bemused expression. When he spoke his voice displayed his frustration.

“We’ve encountered so many variables that that were, to be honest, unexpected. Each test subject has had a different reaction to the serum, however small. You, it seems Captain, are the only one to exhibit any positive reaction to the serum. It seems the serum did not affect the immune system of the first three. In fact, once the autopsy results are in on Bell, I’m sure it will confirm my earlier findings, that their immune system, actually saw the serum as a threat, and destroyed it.”

“How is that possible sir, and what does it mean for me? Am I in danger from it?” Stryder asked a little concerned.

“On the contrary, it seems to have increased your metabolism, now all we need to do in order to get it to increase your immune system. We need to get it to attach itself onto your DNA to affect your immune system genetically; otherwise it could be perceived as a threat by

your body’s defences and be destroyed by the very thing it seeks to improve.”

“And how on earth do you intend to do that?”

“I’ve developed a nano serum, billions of tiny robots programmed to attach the serum to the specific strand of your d.n.a. We just inject it into your bloodstream and they get to work. We should see results within a very short time.” Baxter said smiling and almost rubbing his hands together in glee at the prospect of this new development.

“Billions of tiny robots Doc? I’m no scientist but how have you programmed so many, in such a short space of time,”

“We’ve been working on nano bots for many years. They’re used extensively throughout the medical profession as I’m sure you’re aware. Programming them was relatively easy; they work in series you see. If you programme one, it passes that data along to the rest almost instantaneously.”

“When are you planning on—” Stryder stopped short when he saw Baxter reach for a syringe.

“Right now Captain, roll up your sleeve please.”

Before he knew it the injection had been administered and he was pulling down his sleeve again.

“How soon Doc, before you know? What can I expect?” he asked, unsure of what would happen next.

“Not sure really, but the nano bots should get to work immediately. As to the question whether you’ll feel anything, I wouldn’t expect so. Remember this is taking place at the genetic level so the changes should go unnoticed until the immune system is threatened.”

“So what you’re saying basically, is that I won’t know if it’s worked until I get injured?” Stryder asked.

“Well, I suppose that’s somewhat true, yes,” Baxter replied seeming a little unsure.

“You don’t sound too confident Doctor.” Sinclair said.

“We’re not dealing with absolutes here, we’re into uncharted waters. This has never been attempted before and quite frankly, until we get some sort of results, until we can test this, I don’t know what to expect.”

“Forgive me Doc if I don’t feel reassured.” Stryder said.

“If it works though, just think of the potential. Think of the lives we’ll be able to save.” Baxter said, pushing his spectacles up his nose again.

“Going back to my earlier question about Howard sir, why is he going to so much trouble to kill us all off? Does he know something about this that we don’t, or is the Alliance so afraid that we may be on to something, that they’re desperate to stop us at any cost?”

“It’s no secret that they are desperate to prevent us gaining any sort of advantage over them and if they can’t duplicate our research, then the safest thing to do is either discredit it or destroy it,” Sinclair said.

“If he’s in charge of security won’t he be pissed off that you brought in Recon Delta to take over?”

“Oh, I do hope so,” Sinclair said with an uncharacteristically smug smirk.

“I get it, you want to rattle his cage and force him to make a mistake.”

“Of course,” Sinclair said.

“So, not only am I a guinea pig, but I’m bait now as well?” Stryder said.

Baxter looked from him over to Sinclair, then down to the floor, unable to maintain eye contact with him. The General though, had no trouble at all looking at him.

“Don’t feel guilty Doc, I’m first and always a soldier, this comes with the territory,” Stryder said never taking his eyes off Sinclair.

“You got that right Captain; this is what you signed up for,” Sinclair said coldly.

“Yeh! The life in Recon Delta, it’s not just a job, it’s an adventure.” said Stryder.

 

Download this book now from Amazon.

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Blood Descendants

Here’s a blurb from Blood Descendants by Beverly Toney – what do you think?

 

Cheyenne wanted to be part of a family, but she had been a peculiar child and her behavior had her shuffled from one foster home to another. After 13 years in as many foster homes, Cheyenne’s wish was granted. Her foster mom, Joyce Redding, was a gift from heaven and for 5 years, they lived a nice, quiet life. But, in life, appearances could be deceiving.
The summer before her senior year, Tabitha came to town and the two became fast friends. But, Tabitha brought more than friendship. Cheyenne would have to decide who to trust, what sacrifices to make, and, most importantly, what she was willing to become!

 

Download the book here:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00N9A8OS8
http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/blood-descendants-beverly-toney/1120172017?ean=2940046084917


A Guide to First Contact

Today s the turn of Terence Park and his novel A Guide to First Contact.

 

A mission to a near earth object. Sound familiar? I guess it should; we’ve been aiming at that for the last 50 years or so. Ruling out the Moon and Mars landings, the Rosetta mission to 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko counts as the first. What will we discover? Dunno; but in a fictional sense that’s where things kick off in my book: A Guide to First Contact.
 
Like most science fiction, Guide is a blend of fact and supposition. It has larger and smaller story arcs. In the outermost arc, evolution is set into a narrative framework. In doing this, attention is drawn to a wrinkle (or flaw) in Darwin’s thinking. It’s there which makes it convenient for plotting purposes. This arc goes on to describe classes of entity who are powerful enough to shape the course of life on Earth. To do this they use creatures who double up as living tools. Both classes of entity have a function and purpose – but events go awry. This ultimately drives them to take on human shape. So Guide has aliens who look like us, can act like us and in the end, start to think like us. Their story is touched upon enough to show personality and desire. 
Set within this is the main story arc. The hero in this is Triste, who is first tested and then goes on to become the bait in a larger scheme.
 
The minor story arcs are set in the present day and begin like this: Brent doesn’t fit. He’s a square peg in a round hole. Though he’s an intelligence liaison, he’s too clumsy to shack up to the woman he fancies. She heads up a research team who are busy looking into genetics and the history of man. What they don’t know is what they’re looking at is the result of an alien intervention, long, long ago, in the Late Pleistocene. Back in the present day, Brent’s long-time buddy, Watcher, bails him out again. Brent’s got a degree in haplessness – from the College of Life. 
 
The thing is, Watcher’s into stuff like conspiracies. Be careful Brent or you’ll be sucked in, gutted and hung up to dry.
 
Forty years later, the West has collapsed and the apocalypse is in full swing. What happened? Quite a lot. Earth was contacted by aliens triggering a rapture effect. No one has worked out what to do with the undying flesh of the undead. Most cities are abandoned as unsafe; they’re known as former urban areas. Xenogens – genetic plagues in all but name – are still raging out of control. Catch one and you degenerate into a dangerous, sub-human brute. The problem with dangerous, sub-human brutes is they’re xenogen carriers. Former Urban Area One (former New York) is crawling with them. Triste prowls its streets. There’s always work for a mercenary. 
 
Watch out Triste; something wicked is coming.
 
Heroes never listen. Triste meets Shoe. She’s on the run. They stumble upon an abandoned research lab and find old records of life before the apocalypse. But will they work out what went wrong? Do they want to? Shoe has got dark secrets; she knows more about xenogens than she lets on. There are other things she can’t tell Triste.
 
What does it mean to be human? Some appear human but aren’t. Others aren’t aware of the fact they’re not human. What comes after? (us of course) The apocalypse is the trigger. It takes the shape of a genetic storm which impacts on the human race as epidemics. This is a pre-cursor to post-human creatures. They begin to appear. The main character meets one. Not everything is sweetness and light in this future Earth, but they reach out to each other. They get to debate whether God exists. A key undercurrent is sex, but this rarely breaks the surface. There is more than one ‘First Contact’. The most powerful characters are female; the story won’t work otherwise. Guide, however, isn’t a feminist tract.
 
I’ve put up a resources site which is here: https://aguidetofirstcontact.wordpress.com/ After my book was edited (by Stephen Cashmmore of SfEP) I did a web interview with Louise Harnby which is here: www.louiseharnbyproofreader.com/4/post/2013/09/client-talk-the-independent-author-tp-archie.html (note: at that point I was writing under my web name). Guide is made up of two novels: The Fécunda, and The Xenocotrix. At some point in the future I will break it up into its constituent parts.
 
Where to get it: 
The UK links are:
 
US links are:
 
See also:

 


Mary Genevieve Fortier – Terror Train

Here’s some more info about Terror Train, from Editor’s Choice Award winner Mary Genevieve Fortier.

What is your contribution to this amazing book?

Mary: My poem, “Midnight Train.” It is a 500 word narrative horror poem. Unlike many poems, it reads as a story in rhyme. I am a passenger, witnessing the many horrifying sights and sounds upon this haunted railcar. If you love horror and like to squirm, I believe you will enjoy “Midnight Train”

I understand you are involved in the podcast version of the anthology. In what capacity?

Mary: Yes, it’s a wonderful project and it has developed into a separate entity from the book.

We have taken the stories to another level for the reader’s pleasure; imagine the old time radio shows with sound effects and theatrically read pieces that draw pictures in ones mind.

I wrote both the opening and closing poems, as well as the dialogue for “Terror,” a character I created. “Terror,” is the disembodied ghost host who introduces each story in the creepiest way possible. I have been told my wicked laughter is scary all on its own! LOL

Aside from “Terror Train” the anthology and the podcast, are you involved creatively in anything else?

Mary: Indeed, I am. I have been a poet for well over 40 years and am published in various anthologies, both traditional and horror. I am an Editor/Author for Black Bed Sheet Books, a Book Reviewer for Hellnotes and Dark Regions Press and I have my own column on Staying Scared, under the guise of “Nighty Nightmare.” I addition to the podcast, my husband and I have become professional Dramatic Audio Narrators.

Do you have any future projects in the works?

Mary: In addition to continuing the podcast for “Terror Train” and other readings, my poetry will be published in six anthologies due out between Halloween and Christmas. Sometime in 2015, I hope to have my own book of poetry published.

LINKS:

http://www.stayingscared.com/Nighty%20Nightmare.html    (My column)

https://www.facebook.com/MaryGenevieveFortierWriter       (Facebook Writer Page)

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/viktoraurelius/2014/04/04/whispers-in-the-dark–episode-92  (Radio Interview)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-GmmAY5EO-8  (Terror Train Episode 105- Midnight Train)

http://www.blazemcrob.com/search?q=Mary+Genevieve+Fortier (Named Woman in Horror)


The Old Spook

I’ve got a spy thriller for you today. Introducing Charles Ameringer’s The Old Spook

 

The spy/thriller The Old Spook is a roman a clef story about a fictional CIA special operations officer (Tom Miller) that takes the reader on a journey of adventure and intrigue during the Cold War. The novel begins with Miller reflecting on his 26-year career of spookery (1951-1977), during which he collaborated with rebel chieftains in Cuba, Nicaragua, and Bolivia; plotted the assassination of Fidel Castro with Mafia dons in Miami; and matched wits with KGB agents in Mexico and Chile. Forced to retire owing to the reduction in force (RIF) of the CIA’s clandestine services in the wake of revelations of CIA “dirty tricks” during the Nixon administration, Miller retreats to his hometown Milwaukee.

But wait! Not ready to call it quits, he draws on his spying skills to set up a one-man detective agency. In his sleuthing, he takes on a missing person case that unwittingly puts him on the trail of a Mafia hit man, which, in turn, threatens to reopen the can of worms about his previous dealings with the Mafia. To avert this problem, the CIA reinstates Miller and sends him packing to Central America to make war on the Sandinistas. There, he builds a secret airfield, clashes with drug lords, and is the victim of a bombing. The man just can’t stay out of trouble. And the reader will enjoy every minute of it.

* * * * *

Three of today’s top action novelists have high praise for The Old Spook. Nik Morton and Frank O’Neill rate it five stars; James Bruno rates it four.

Charles Ameringer is professor emeritus of Latin American history at Penn State University, a former captain in the U.S. Air Force Reserve, and before beginning his teaching career served as an intelligence analyst for eight years with the U.S. Department of Defense.

 

You can download this story from Amazon


Maximilian and Carlotta Are Dead

Today it’s the turn of Scott Larson and his coming of age novel Maximilian and Carlotta Are Dead – have a read!

Maximilian and Carlotta Are Dead is your new book about two teenagers, Dallas and Lonnie, taking a road trip. What are these boys like and what is their relationship?
Dallas and Lonnie have grown up in a small farming community. They are both kind of oddballs and so when it comes to friends they have mainly had only each other. They know each other better than they know anyone else. As they graduate from secondary school, they are feeling a bit alienated. A lot of people their age are already getting married and starting a life of hard work. They’re not really mature enough yet to want to settle down. Also they have grown up in a conservative religious environment which they have rebelled against. They are not particularly political, but they are definitely rebels by nature.
The book is set in 1971 for those of us too young to know anything about the 70’s, too old to remember, or those who were in the 70’s and therefore can’t remember, can you tell us what was culturally happening at the time and in particular what Dallas and Lonnie were facing?
Yes, I would in the third category: I was there and thus it is all a blur! More seriously, for much of the United States–and in much of the rest of the world, for that matter–in that year there was a lot of turmoil going on. The Vietnam War was still being fought and university campuses were roiling with protests and resultant police crackdowns. Because of the rural setting of where they live, Dallas and Lonnie are largely sheltered from all of this. It is a politically conservative area where most people are supportive of U.S. policy. But what the two young men are not sheltered from is conscription. They have a lot of uncertainty hanging over them because, having turned 18, they could now be drafted into the army and sent to fight in the war.
 
The boys are hitting the road under the pretence of looking for a missing friend – can you expand on this?
A few years before the story begins Tommy Dowd, a young man that Dallas and Lonnie were acquainted with, went to Central America as some sort of freelance journalist and then disappeared. Lonnie has always been bothered by not knowing what happened to him and so, after a period of bad behavior and boredom and family problems, he cajoles Dallas into the totally daft idea of driving down to Central America to look for Tommy. They both understand that the idea is completely crazy but each wants to see how far the other will go before insisting on turning around. Basically, it is all just an excuse to run away from home, engage in a lot of bad behaviour and let off steam before they have to finally grow up.
But this isn’t a book about missing people – what happens to the boys and how do they change throughout the story?
Lonnie, who is the more self-destructive of the two, seems to be on something of a downward spiral. But for Dallas the travelling opens up a whole new world to him. On the way to the border they pick up a younger Mexican boy and he becomes a window for Dallas on Mexican language and culture. Dallas even manages to have a brief but intense love affair before the journey leads to a series of difficult situations. They run into muggers in Tijuana, become stranded in the middle of nowhere, get arrested by a corrupt policeman and eventually wind up separated. By the end of the story Dallas finds himself on his own in a very dangerous situation with no one else to rely on but himself. In the end Dallas and Lonnie have opposite reactions to their experiences. While Lonnie’s reaction is to want to retreat to the places and people he knows, Dallas is fascinated by the wider world that he never knew that much about.
This is a story based on some of your own memories, are you Dallas or Lonnie? And what memories contribute this story?
Well, I am the exact same age as the two characters and grew up in the same place, which made the research a bit easier. The details of the draft and the lottery by which draftees were selected were (and are) all still vivid in my memory. Both characters are composites of various people that I knew, but I suppose I drew more on my own personality for Dallas. And there is a lot of the best friend I grew up with in Lonnie. But we never got into nearly as much trouble as these two characters! And while I had some interesting road trips with my own best friend, we never went to Mexico together. I did go down across the border a few times with other friends during my misspent youth but never as far south as Dallas and Lonnie go, so I had to do some research on Mexico. I have always had a fascination with Latin American culture so that informed Dallas’s awakening to that world. And I lived in Chile for a year, so that will explain why references to that country keep cropping up. And, given that I have lived in Ireland for the past decade or so, I had to introduce an Irish character along the way. After all, you can’t go anywhere in the world without running into the Irish.
The setting is the South down to Mexico for those of us who have never seen that part of the world can you describe it to us (please feel free to use an extract).
The region where the story begins is more accurately described as the Southwest. (In the U.S. “the South” somewhat illogically refers to area bordering the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico and evokes the old Confederacy and plantations and Gone with the Wind.) The Southwest is very dry and very hot, alternating between deserts and mountain ranges. The following passage from the second chapter describes a journey I made often, climbing into the mountains and looking back at the flat floor of the San Joaquin Valley:
As Lonnie’s Impala strained its engine climbing the Ridge Route toward Tejon Pass, I turned to look back at the lights on the San Joaquin Valley floor. When it came down to it, I hated the valley. I always had a feeling of escape when I drove up out of it. Even hell isn’t as hot as the San Joaquin Valley in the summer. And it’s flat. It has to be the most boring place on the face of the earth. As we got higher into the mountains, things felt different. We were headed to places that weren’t boring and hot. We were headed to places that people had actually heard of. We were less than two hours from Los Angeles. I had only been there a few times, and that was only straight to my uncle Jack’s and back with my parents. Now it was just me and Lonnie heading down there, and anything was possible.
And finally what is next for Scott R Larson?
In a total departure from the first book, I’m currently working on a fantasy novel. It’s a story I first wrote in high school and which evolved into a recurring bedtime story for my daughter. In some ways it is a variation on Maximilian and Carlotta Are Dead in that it is a road story and a coming-of-age story. After that I plan to write a novel set in the burgeoning software industry in Seattle in the 1980s, another time and place that I lived through. And I keep going back and forth about whether to write a sequel to Dallas’s story, specifically where is he and what is he doing nine years after the events of the first book.
You can read more about Scott and his other works here

Surviving the Fog- Kathy’s Recollections

Who is up for some dystopia? Here’s Stan Morris telling us all about his YA Dystopic sequel Surviving the Fog – Kathy’s Recollections.


Surviving the Fog was the first book in your series, can you tell us about the plot of this book?

Forty eight teenagers attend a quasi-religious camp in the southern Sierra Nevada Mountains.  The camp has an unusual purpose; to preach sexual abstinence and to teach and demonstrate various methods of birth control.  After a week, the cell phones stop working and the mail is not delivered.  The Camp Administrator leaves one counselor in charge of the teenagers and takes the rest on a short trip to find out what’s wrong.  They never return.

Mike, one of the youngest teens, is convinced something terrible has happened.  He asks disturbing questions and gradually convinces others to help him prepare to survive without help.  Then Jacob discovers that the Earth below is covered by a mysterious and dangerous brown fog.

You then have gone on to write about Kathy, one of the teenagers on the mountain. What was it about Kathy that made you want to give her her own story?

The most common complaint about the book came from female readers.  They liked the story, but they were annoyed that the girls did not play a larger role in the development of the story.  An exchange of messages with a woman at Goodreads caused me to consider the girls’ role in the story.  I had never been satisfied with the role of one character, Kathy, age fourteen.  I began to imagine the story from her viewpoint.

It was a  turning point in my writing and in the story.  I learned new techniques of story telling, how to show jumps in time between scenes, and how to do better segues.  The story became much fuller, and unanswered questions were answered.  New characters were introduced, and unnamed characters from the first book became major characters in the second book.

This is a dystopian story but can you expand upon the atmosphere you are trying to create?

What I was trying to show in this book was the evolution of these teenagers, and how they went from being children of an advanced civilization to becoming young adults capable of doing things they had never dreamed of.  It’s a story of community, and how the society of these teens evolved from a gang to a tribe and eventually to a village. It’s a story about grim reality, but it’s mostly about hope.

By the time we got to the bridge, Leah and I were separated by the mass of people trying to get across the small wooden span.  I started running, not knowing where I was going, and I ran and I ran.  The numbness of witnessing Pete’s death was wearing off, and I was having a panicked reaction.  For some reason tears began to drip down my face as I ran, and I could hardly see.  I ran past the mess hall, past Chief’s Headquarters, and continued up the grassy slope.  When I came to the hollowed cave, I climbed onto its rocky floor, and then I spied a small cavern to one side.  I ran into the cavern and came to a halt at the face of a rock wall.  I slumped to the ground with my back against the rock wall and my knees bent.  I folded my arms across my knees, and I laid my head against my arms, and then I sat there and bawled.  I wanted everything to go way.  I wanted to be home.  I wanted my mom to hug me, and to lecture me, and to tell me that it was all just a bad dream.

I’m not sure how long I stayed in that small cavern at the side of the open cave, but it could not have been too long, for the sun was just at the zenith when I rose, left the cave, and went down to the mess hall.  I was all cried out.  And a strange thing happened to me while in that cave.  As my crying died down, I got angry.  Like Douglas’, it was partly an irrational anger, for I was angry at my parents, angry at the missing Admin, even angry at the government, and especially angry at the men who had killed Pete.  And I was angry at myself for crying, and for feeling so helpless and so sorry for myself.

I stood up and walked out to the rocky ledge in front of the cave.  The sun was still shining and high above, the sky had cleared, although a few low puffy clouds had drifted in from the west.  I wondered where the Chief was.  I could see that he had been right, all along.  Whatever had happened meant that no one was coming to save us.  We would have to take care of ourselves.  If we were going to survive, we had better learn how, and we had better start looking ahead.  I looked over the bowl shaped valley, and I knew that if I continued to live, this would be my home for a long time.

 

The book is about teenagers, but is that your target audience or is this a story more suited to older readers?

Surviving the Fog is aimed at teenagers 15 and up, but I have received email from younger readers, and I have received many reviews from much older readers.  Some people don’t like the idea of a camp that is about abstinence and birth control, but I’ve received email from parents who gave the book to their teens.  I find that satisfying.

There are sexual situations between teenagers and young adults, and some people object to that.  It’s hard for me to imagine a post apocalypse world in which that does not happen.  There is a scene of violence in both books, and in Kathy’s Recollections a girl recounts her rape to a minister.

Without giving too much away can you tell us how the kids cope without their parents and what do they have to go through to survive?

The two necessities are food and shelter.  Both are provided by adults the teenagers meet, but the adults must have the help of the teenagers, and without help from the teenagers, it’s doubtful the adults would have survived.

The teenagers are subjected to an attack on their camp.  They fight back.  They have to deal with emotional loss, with digging graves, and with punishing those of the tribe who commit serious infractions.  They have to make and follow rules.

The fog is the known danger in your book – what else threatens these children and their survival?

They are threatened by outsiders and sometimes by wild animals.  They have to deal with freezing weather and low food stocks.  They must learn how to make simple things like soap.  They learn the real meaning of recycling.

Is there any scene or character that you would like to share with us?

Here is a scene.  Mike makes some rules.  The scene appears in Surviving the Fog, but this version is from Kathy’s Recollections.

.  “As of tonight, I’m making a new rule about sex.  From now on, no one can have sex unless they’re at least sixteen.”

That statement startled us, but some of the kids started laughing, and some people said some foul things.  Not me.  I was glad to hear the Chief say that.  None of the boys in our camp acted like they wanted to have sex with me, but you never know.  I wasn’t interested, that’s for sure.  Now if anyone asked, I could just tell them I was fourteen, and I couldn’t have sex, even if I wanted to.  I looked around and saw that a lot of younger girls were nodding their heads, just like me.

Maybe some people thought that the Chief was just being foolish, because one of the older boys stood up and said with a smirk, “How are you going to enforce that?”  Some other boys laughed when he asked that.

The Chief stared at him, and then he said in a very menacing voice, “I’ll enforce any rule I make.  Don’t test me.”

And just like that, the laughter ended.  Suddenly people remembered that this was the Chief speaking.  A couple of the Spears, who were always standing at the sides of the crowd during Meeting, happened to choose that moment to bounce the shaft end of their spears off the concrete floor, causing a couple of boys to look over at them apprehensively.

“I have another new rule,” the Chief said. He waited until the buzz in the crowd died.  “This is it.  If any guy forces a girl to have sex, I’ll hang him.  Do you understand?”

The Chief looked directly toward a certain group of boys when he said this, and almost involuntarily he received some small nods.  No one in our camp thought for a moment that he would not do what he said he would do.  He had already proven that at the Hanging Tree.

Finally what is next for Stan Morris?

I always have a lot of projects going.  That is a good way to avoid writer’s block, because if, on a particular day, one project does not interest me, I can always switch to a different project.  I’ve published two books in the Surviving the Fog series, and I’m working on three more.  A short story from the Surviving the Fog series has just been published in an anthology titled, Wyrd Worlds II.  I have books in progress from my other series including some in Tales of the Ragoon, an alien colonization of Earth series, and in Mackenzie’s World, a science fiction series set in a far away solar system.

Meanwhile, I love to garden, read, listen to music (old rock and roll), and watch hours and hours of sports.

Download this book and others by Stan Morris from Amazon now.

 


Flash Fiction/Nemesis

Author Marc Nash approached me a few days ago to see what I knew about Flash Fiction… answer very little. So he’s written a must read article for all authors interested in Flash Fiction and he’s also given us a taster of what he can do – don’t forget you can interact and leave comments below.

I’ve just published my fourth collection of flash fiction stories “28 Far Cries”. If you don’t know what flash fiction is, it’s the shortest form of fiction, ranging from 6 word stories to 1000 words. There’s no agreed definition of length, but 1000 words is generally felt to be the upper limit for flash, otherwise you’re straying into short story territory.

But flash fiction is so much more than a word limit. It actually offers the greatest freedom to writers, because you simply don’t have the words to play with to achieve many of the standard things of story such as introduction, character or setting description and the like. Your opening sentence plunges the reader into your story, as with any longer work, but only in flash does that first sentence have to bear the weight of establishing the world of your story. Word choices are important in flash, because again you do have the room to waste words. And the English language is wonderfully set up to offer you plenty of choice in order to find the exact word that can simultaneously carry different shades of meaning that give your story layers. Words like ‘cleave’ and ‘fast’ which have entirely opposite meanings and the skilful flash writer can imply both together!

But flash isn’t only about language. It offers a liberation for the author of the classic structure of a beginning, middle and end. I’ve written stories that are all about endings. I’ve written stories without any human character, so that these are more like a landscape painting (flash often employs quite lyrical language, where it could almost be seen as a prose poem). I’ve written a story made up of 100 single word sentences, all beginning with the letter ‘C’. In my latest collection, there is a story where one letter in every word has mutated into another, changing the word and therefore the meaning of the piece. Flash therefore represents many different ways of telling a story.

Although a tight word limit might seem to offer only sketches, actually the opposite is possible. You can take a central image or metaphor and examine it from every angle, reflecting different interpretations just like the different facets of a gemstone as the light strikes it in different ways and at different angles. So in the present collection, I have a story “Off Colour” about all the colours we use in every day speech, or another “Nocebo” which explores all the different ways of taking pills and concludes with the ultimate, that of a cyanide pill. In “Nemesis” an ageing superhero develops cancer from the radiation which gave him his superpowers and the story compares the cancer with the nature of his crime fighting.

Flash fiction has really come to the fore in the internet age. Its length is akin to a blog post. It’s easy to read on phones and other portable devices. It’s easy to do a YouTube reading of a story that lasts no more than five minutes and they are great for reading live as against an extract of a novel that needs a lot of explaining the story up to that point. And most importantly perhaps, it’s a really good way of flexing your writing muscles, especially when in between longer projects or if you’re feeling blocked. There are plenty of online communities with prompts such as photos or words to get you going.

Marc Nash

And here is a great piece of Flash Fiction from Marc himself:

 

Nemesis

My superpowers were ineffectual in the face of this particular adversary. Even though our potency derived from the same source, mine ultimately proved the inferior. I might be able to crush solid steel with my bare hands, but my foe could render me prostrate with an invisible motion.

Little did I know, that when I felt the swell of energy through my body as my uncanny physiology unfolded its transformation, a parallel transformative surge was happening too. As my sinew rippled and expanded to fill my costume, so my cells divided and thickened beneath. As my mitochondrial DNA fuelled my malignancy-fighting bursts, so they also unwittingly stoked a corruption of their own inside my body. A metastasis within Megalopolis.

Having been exposed to gamma waves in childhood, inevitably I was immune to radiotherapy. It baffled the oncologists, but at least they didn’t twig my identity. The chemotherapy was supposed to target the carcinomas just as precisely I’d excised villains. The magic bullet which I myself supposedly represented as the cure for the pathology out on our streets. But like the street antagonists I faced, remove one and three more grow back in their place. In the parlance of myth, we might have said like a many-headed hydra. In the clinical jargon of now, we cannot escape the fact of its tumefaction.

Luckily the hood of my cape covered up the ensuing baldness from the treatment. But the clumps of hair I had to remove from inside each time I divested myself of my costume, reinforced my reversion to mortality at the end of every mission.

Exposure to radiation turns the super-villain’s minds, sends them insane with their power. Allied to their innate malevolence which sees them looking to flout law and authority. With me the process has been slower, far more perniciously indirect. The creeping realisation of the price I have paid with my body divided against itself, has tipped me over the edge. The super-villain never felt any pain, except when I slapped the handcuffs on him. There was no slow erosion of the person they once were. My pain is doubled, the tumescent physical spasms augmented by the leeching away of my inviolability.

The felons simply regarded that they had to dislodge me as an impediment to the wholesale advancement of evil. They could not in all bad conscience see themselves as villainous if I, as a force for good, was allowed to prevail. They could not possibly live and operate as super-villains, if a super-hero was still poised against them. That made them heedless of danger for they did not care if they died, so long as they perished in the act of trying to vanquish me. And that ratcheted up the level of their degradation, made them capable of the most dire outrages.

So what did I achieve? I provided my citizens with the briefest of short-lived remissions. Before the pathology reared up again, more virulent and resistant to any relief I might provide. A superhero is supposed to provide protection, to keep death at bay, yet ultimately I’m unable to achieve either. A superhero can’t be killed, but he can still die. Undermined and overwhelmed by his own frailties. Harking back to the Greek origin of the term ‘hero’. Someone displaying the hubris to imagine they could rise up above the human throng, always to be brought crashing back down by the nagging apprehension that their life is no more elevated than anybody else’s. Narcissus is the more pertinent myth, only the pool that we gaze upon our reflection, turns out to be a mirage.

You can find Marc Nash here:

Amazon Author Page

Goodreads

Twitter @21stCscribe


Bitter Candy

Here’s an exclusive from YA Contemporary Romance Bitter Candy. Enjoy!
Yet again, Eric was throwing a party for people he couldn’t care less about. He’d only been at Edith Wharton High School for a day, but already he could tell the students there would be carbon copies of people at his old boarding school: vapid, shallow, and pretentious. People who pretended to have a passion for politics and Vladimir Nabokov when they would rather piss their parents’ money away on drugs and alcohol than pick up a newspaper or Lolita.
Why do I keep providing superficial teenagers with free booze? he thought, wrinkling his nose when he saw a wasted girl throw up into a priceless Ming vase and an intoxicated boy stick his tongue into an apathetic blonde’s mouth. The pathetic answer—to be liked, popular. Which was an incredibly idiotic reason considering he didn’t especially want to be friends with these people and the “friends” that he’d had at his old boarding school were dull douche bags who had dropped him like bad weed when the stain of scandal had fallen upon him.
Needing a drink, he walked to the refreshment table. A curse left his mouth when he realized all of the chardonnay bottles were empty. Sigh… He guessed he would have to be content with a glass of red wine.
As he poured himself a glass, his eyes caught a girl—a beautiful girl. She had one of those maddeningly perfect, Snow-White-esque, innocent-looking faces that couldn’t be achieved with either any amount of plastic surgery or makeup. The girl possessed skin like flawless, unblemished porcelain; eyes the color of a warm, sparkling ocean; and lips as red as—you guessed it—a rose. She also had a delicate little body like a doll and long, shiny blond hair that flowed down to the small of her back.
Hello, scholarship girl, he thought, thinking of his nickname for the pretty—if slightly irritating—girl who’d called him a douche. Hilarie Walsh. Her bold insult had sparked his curiosity and—to be honest—kind of turned him on. Something told him that she wasn’t like his other guests; she seemed like she had some depth and had more on her mind than the latest designer handbag or newest luxury car model.
He cocked his head, continuing to stare at her. The girl inspired a strange mix of feelings in him; both lust and tenderness filled him. Her beauty and apparent innocence made him want to tear off her clothes and ravish her, but they also made him want to cradle her fragile little body in his arms.
The sight of her, all alone with a sad look on her face, for some reason, caused him to feel lonely too.
But who says we have to be lonely? he asked silently with a smile on his face, making his way to Hilarie Walsh…
And here’s a real exclusive sneak peak

“Hello,” a black-haired boy said as he leaned against the locker next to Eric’s at the end of gym class.

Eric turned to face his classmate and blinked. The black-haired boy was completely nude, and from the absence of a towel or clothes in his hands, Eric could tell that the guy was in no hurry to change that.

His classmate winked. Eric recognized him as one of his teammates, the Asian kid who had made their team lose the lacrosse game in class because of his total lack of interest in defending the goal and who some of their less tolerant teammates called, “Faggot chink,” under their breaths. “Admiring my muscles?”

“Sure,” Eric said, rolling his eyes.

“I have to say, I’m a huge fan. Anyone who beats up that hypocritical bastard is a hero to me. Daddy Buck is an asshole too, but at least he practices what he preaches.”

“Who are you and what do you want?”

The guy’s dark brown, almost-black eyes lit up. “I’m Teddy Chan, aka not just a pretty face, and I want to be your bro.”

“Not interested.”

“Is it because you’re afraid I want to suck your dick? I’m disappointed. I didn’t take you for a homophobe. And FYI, I wouldn’t want to suck your dick anyway. You’re not my type,” Teddy said, seeming more amused than genuinely offended.

“I couldn’t care less about what you suck.”

“Then why the refusal?”

“Told you. Just not interested.”

“Hey, a guy can never have too many friends.”

“Shouldn’t you get dressed and go to your next class?” Eric asked, closing his locker.

Teddy lifted his golden shoulders. “I can miss a few minutes of Human Geography.”

“Whatever,” Eric said as he buttoned up his shirt.

“Hang out with me tonight. I’ll show you the best Cleveland has to offer.”

“No offense, but Cleveland sounds only slightly more appealing than watching a bad Nicolas Cage movie.”

Teddy held up a finger. “First, Cleveland is great. People who say otherwise are either snobs or New Yorkers.” Then he held up two fingers. “And second, Nicolas Cage is one of the greatest actors of our generation. There is no such thing as a bad Nic Cage movie.”

“The answer is still no. I’m hanging out with my girlfriend tonight.”

“How about tomorrow night?”

“I’ll probably be hanging out with her again.”

Teddy shook his head, clicking his tongue. “My man, it’s not a good idea to be so clingy.”

“Who the hell says I’m clingy?”

“Answer these two questions for me.”

“I don’t have to answer shit—”

“One, have you gone a day without seeing her?”

Eric clenched his teeth. “No, but we have two classes together.”

“Okay, have you gone a day without seeing her outside of school?”

“Well, no—”

“I thought so. Two, are you always the one initiating things?”

“Well, technically yes, but—”

Teddy crossed his arms, grinning. “I rest my case.”

“You don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Fine, fine, ignore my totally valid opinion. But if your plans with your girlfriend fall through, give me a call,” Teddy said, handing Eric a business card.

As Teddy sauntered away, Eric read his card:

Teddy Chan

Young entrepreneur

Cell: (555)-555-7820

Office: (555)-555-6130

Email: yourgirlfriendwantsme@gmail.com

“Prick,” Eric muttered when he saw Chan’s email address.

But he put the card in his pocket.

You can buy this book now from Amazon


Fallen

I absolutely love it when authors approach me right before they publish. It’s so exciting for them, for me and for you. So today, being the 3rd of October is the official release date of Fallen by Ann Hunter and as well as telling us a bit about the book we have an exclusive sneak peek too. Be the one of the first to read this awesome book.

17-year-old Prince Sylas of Killeagh wants what every one else wants: control over his own life. When he tries to run away from home and escape an arranged marriage, the last thing he expects is to fall in love with a robber in the woods. Hiding behind a mask, the robber girl seems to lead a life of freedom Sylas has only dreamed of. Their adventure comes to an end when the Castle Killeagh guards hunt Sylas down and he’s forced to return home. He convinces his parents to allow him to find the girl again and consider her as a candidate for marriage, but he only has until the next full moon to find her, or all bets are off.

 

 

Death has a name, and it is Crwys. As a ban sidhe, her job is to visit the great houses of The Summer Isle and keen out the living to prepare them for death. King Sionnach has far outlived his days and it is time he cross to the Unliving World. When she arrives, a young prince named Sylas intervenes and offers to go in his grandfather’s stead. This break with tradition, and selfless sacrifice, move Crwys into loving Sylas, who looks so much like a shadow from her past. But when he crosses her to be with his true love, he invokes the wrath of a woman scorned.Rós is just a little, aura-seeing, red hen whose master believes she is chosen by the gods. Her arrival at King Sionnach’s court is insignificant to Sylas at the time, but their destinies are interwoven. Can she help Sylas save himself from the curse Crwys has planned for him? Or will he become a fallen frog prince?A NOTE FROM OUR HERO:

 
“Once upon a time, I fell in love. Madly, deeply. With my whole being. I’d do anything for the girl who robbed me of my heart.
I tried to save her…

 


But Darkness came. The ban sidhe, Crwys, death herself, wants me for her own. She thinks I am someone from her past, and she will not rest until I submit.

 


I have secrets. Some I can barely live with myself for, and every night I dream of two women. One I cannot save, the other I cannot escape….”

Prince Sylas of Killeagh

 

 

WHAT REVIEWERS ARE SAYING:

 
“You expect the author of paranormal books to have a good imagination, but as you will find when you read the story, Ann Hunter’s is exceptional…. All of the characters are larger than life…”
Derek White, Nerd Girl Official Book Blog

“Hunter will have you believing in heroes, once upon a time kind of love, and fairy tales again.”

–P. Gerschler, Afterglow Productions (publisher)

 

EXCERPT:

Sylas stalked the driver of a hay wagon bound for the king’s castle through a tavern. The hay driver took up a seat in a corner with a friend, but the prince boldly sat at the center of the boisterous conversation. Small town gossip had become one of his favorite pastimes while indentured to the blacksmith in Coad. Gossip spread like wildfire. Here was no different.

He kept his covered head low, plunking down a gold coin in exchange for a flagon of mead. He was always sure to wear his gloves and coverings when in public, so as not to startle anyone. Hearing the townspeople prattle on about their daily lives reminded him of his days in the throne room. With a smirk, he leaned back in his chair and croaked softly, “Sylas Mortas.”

No one seemed to hear at first. He casually locked his hands behind his head and croaked again, “Sylas Mortas.”

He repeated it a few moments later. The conversation at a nearby table paused. Sylas listened carefully to the two men sitting there.

“Say, you remember that old legend about Sylas Mortas?” asked the one man to the other.

“What about it?”

“He was a terrible son of a sídhe,” he said with a shiver.

“How do you know? That was nigh eighty years ago.”

Sylas took a slug from his flagon. He spoke over his shoulder. “I heard he killed virgins for fun.”

One of the men at the other table pointed to him. “See? He knows.”

“What does he know?” the other man muttered.

Sylas drank again. “Met him once.”

The two men fell quiet.

The Sylas Mortas,” Sylas croaked a little louder, garnering the attention of other patrons.

“How could you have met ‘im? He’s dead.”

“I know. Bumped into him on my way here. Got lost in the bogloch.”

More of the tavern dwellers turned in their seats. Sylas continued. “He’s not as handsome as the legend says. Then again, he’s been dead a long time. You knew that though. Did you know he escaped?” Sylas tipped his flagon and drained it. He held it upside down over the table and cocked his head as a single drop fell out. He shook the flagon, acting dismayed that it was empty. Someone tossed the barkeep a coin and demanded this poor traveler be offered another drink. When it arrived, Sylas continued.

He placed a hand on his heart, pretending to tremble. “It was awful. Terrifying. The stench of the bog. The hungry, buzzing gnats.” He nodded to one of the patrons. “You ever been there?”

The patron, a fat, squat, balding man, nodded frightfully.

“Well.” Sylas smacked his mouth. “You know how awful it is. That son of a sídhe rose from the water in a belch of green bubbles. He bore his fangs at me. Yes, fangs.”

Gasps rose from the crowd like the sound of waves rushing the beach.

“The legend said he was a handsome lad. Red of hair, face kissed by the sun god. But no longer. Oh, no! He’s green now. Like a frog, and yet… not. Tall as a man, horrific to look at. I saw my reflection in his eyes as he breathed over me with long, yellow nails, and just dripping with spittle from those saw-like teeth of his.” A woman in the background swooned and fainted. Sylas forged ahead, breathlessly. “I begged for my life.” He faked an upsetting sob. Another flagon was presented to him. He allowed his hands to shake. “Do you know what he said?”

Some of the patrons leaned in. Others shook their heads. The woman who fainted received a good fanning.

“He said he would grant me one wish.”

“Is that how you escaped with your life?”

Sylas drained his flagon greedily. “No.”

“What did you do?”

“Too afraid of the price, I asked him only the one thing that came to my mind. What was he was doing in the bogloch?” Sylas said with a tremble.

“And?”

Sylas drummed his nails on the table. “Sick and twisted as he was, he will not show his face in the light. That is why he’s been hiding there for decades. He emphasized the decades bit. “And he will grant a wish to any soul brave enough to seek him in the bogloch, for I did not use mine.”

The patrons hushed.

He had to bite his fist to keep from snorting in laughter. His shoulders convulsed. He hiccuped a breath. Though deliriously silly inside, he appeared to be openly shaken. He knew people appreciated a good story. They paid for the rest of his drinks, consoling him.

He kept an eye trained on the wagon driver who was just as shocked as everyone else. Sylas gripped his final flagon and announced, “The dark prince Sylas Mortas, killer of virgins, does not wish his name to be spoken.” He slammed the empty flagon down a moment later. “For the wishes he grants are closely guarded, stemming from magic deep and terrible. They are not without their price.”

He rose and left, looking for the hay cart outside. When he found it, he hid inside. The driver was not far behind. Sylas smirked as he listened to him speak to someone else. There was fear in his voice, and Sylas knew at once that the driver would run his mouth, eager to tell anyone who would listen of this terrible creature in the bogloch. A bit of theatrics, a portion of truth, and just a twist of the words, Sylas thought, works every time.