Weekly Update 05/20/2022


Welcome to my weekly update, if all goes well I’ll be posting every week with updates on my current works in progress along with comments about the books I’m reading and any movies I may have watched in the past.

Current Project

The biggest project I’m currently working on carries the title This Way to Heaven which will likely change once the book is finished. It was a story I started working on for Kindle Vella at the end of last year. I pulled it from the platform after Amazon wrongly accused me of having multiple accounts and closed my account. I managed to get my account reopened but the fact they could so easily close it without cause made me reconsider remaining exclusive with them.

The story is tied to my series This Lawless Land that I will take up again this year. I started book 5 at the beginning of the pandemic, and as the story unfolded I came to understand where the series was headed. I realized I needed to take a step back to explore this new route in detail, which I have been doing. Stay tuned for more details.

In This Way to Heaven, eleven-year-old Jimmy and his three friends bear witness to the dawn of the zombie apocalypse. The story follows the survivors who live in the Willowbrook apartments in Richmond, Virginia. Willowbrook is a stately old place constructed by the rich for the rich before the start of the civil war. Rebuilt afterwards it became a playground for those with means who had some rather unsavory appetites. There are many dark secrets hidden in the bowels of the building. Now in a state of disrepair and undergoing a conversion to offices, the few remaining tenants will struggle to survive in the dawn of this new age as the ghosts of the past emerge.

The apartment building was featured in the first book of my post-apocalyptic series, All Roads Lead to Terror. Meat, the main character from all roads, and his friends are captured by a feral cult of children who inhabit the building and worship an ancient creature that lives in the basement.

Word count update  

Beginning: 61,238  

Completed this week: 3,337

New total: 64,575

Sneak Peek:

Tommy lay on the floor, whimpering as blood seeped from around the hand he’d clamped over his shoulder. Ronnie was on his knees beside him trying to see how bad the damage was, but every time he tried to move Tommy’s hand, the boy cried out in agony.

“How is he? Randy said, standing above Ronnie the pipe still in his hands.

“How do you think he is. One of them bastards bit him. If you had stayed where you were it wouldn’t have happened. But no, you gotta be Mr. smart ass.”

“Are you done?” Randy said, unmoved by Ronnie’s rage.

“You asshole, you don’t give a shit about anyone but yourself.” Ronnie was pushing himself up to his feet when Randy brought around the iron pipe and struck him across the back of his neck. Ronnie dropped with a grunt, sprawling across his brother. He struggled to pull his hand under him, to push himself up when Randy brought the pipe down and shattered his skull.

“Whadidja do that for?” Tommy said, watching him with the glassy eyes of someone going into shock. Faint black lines were spreading up the flesh of his neck, growing from his injured shoulder.

“Because I’m gonna have to kill you Tommy, you’re gonna become one of them, and I didn’t want your brother trying to stop me from what I’ve got to do.”

“You son of a bitch,” Tommy said as he tried to push himself up.

“I’m sorry,” Randy said before he jammed the end of the pipe into Tommy’s left eye, driving it down through the boy’s brain, killing him instantly.

End Excerpt

Short Stories

I love reading short stories but have always found it difficult to write them, yet I persist.

One of the best I’ve read recently is Christopher Golden’s God Bag. It appears in the anthology Beyond the Veil edited by Mark Morris, go look it up, it’s chock full of some good shorts.

Comments from early readers of my 8500-word short story, Nobody’s, is promising. A first-person account that follows a character who was late to work and witnessed the fall of the twin towers. He then starts running into people from his office who should have perished that day.

Moving forward with Laundromat People after some very illuminating comments from early readers. When he was six William uncovered a secret in the local laundromat. As an adult he will come face to face with that secret again and will never be the same after.

Current reads:

Beulah by Christi Nogle

Do not Weep For Me by Tony Tremblay

Recently completed.

Come With Me by Ronald Malfi 5 stars. I’m a big fan of his work.

Summer of Night by Dan Simmons 5 stars.


Haven’t watched a movie in some time, not since I saw The Quiet Place for an assignment, but I am looking forward to the next season of Love Death & Robots on Netflix, which should drop today if I didn’t mess up the scheduling of this post.

That’s all I have for this week. If you like what you’ve read and want updates when I post I’d appreciate it if you hit the like and follow button for this post and my blog. I’ll soon be giving a free short story away every month for everyone who signs up for my newsletter. I’ll share more details when they’re available.

What book or short story have you recently read that really stuck with you? Let me know in the comments.

Thanks for stopping by.

Work in Progress


I’ve finished the first draft of Bitter Hollow and I’m letting it sit for a bit. I’ve started working on the book after with the working title, A Bad Place. This will likely change as I get closer to the end of the first draft. It typically does. Knocked out the following 900 words yesterday and have only performed minor edits to clean it up for inclusion today. What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments.

If there was one thing Gerald learned from life it was to be happy with what you had, and not worry about what others might be doing, or how they succeeded. Unfortunately, his wife Rita had yet to discover that one simple truth. Instead, she constantly worried about the success’s others had, comparing her life to that of her closest friend whose husband worked for the federal government and had moved up to a leadership position, taking over the local IRS office. In reality it wasn’t that much of an accomplishment when you considered he was responsible for an office with only two full time staff.

The labored breathing of his yellow lab, Max, brought him back to reality and he stopped.

“Do you need to take a break, buddy.”

Max looked up at him with a soulful gaze, his muzzle grey, and promptly settled onto the damp pavement. The air was heavy, damp with humidity, carrying the scent of the recent rain and an eternal mustiness. The forest bordering the road lay shrouded in deep shadows, whispering in its secret voice as smaller animals scurried about in search of food. Birds darted back and forth, calling to one another in melodic tones, greeting the approach of the new day. Beside him Max panted in a steady rhythm.

Rita had been after Gerald for several weeks now to do something about the old fella. At fourteen he at times still acted like the puppy he once was, but those moments were becoming increasingly rare. Instead, he preferred his soft pillow and a warm room, or cool depending on the season. His walked that once extended nearly to the old train depot at the top of Depot Road, had been drastically shortened by advancing age. Now he was lucky to make it to the end of Borden Road where it met Depot Road without a break or two. This morning he seemed especially slow, and Gerald knew Rita was right about one thing, neither of them were getting any younger.

“It might be time,” she said just the day before.

“Time for what?” he asked, knowing full well what direction the conversation was about to take.

“Fourteen years is a long time for a lab.” Max was asleep on his pillow in the living room, probably dreaming about taking a long walk, oblivious to the conversation and its implications.

“What are you suggesting?”

“He’s in pain. You know it, I know it. He sure as hell knows it, and if he could talk he’d ask for an end to it. I’ve already spoken to Doctor Foland, and he agrees. We can take him down tonight, stop and get him an order of the fries he likes. Let him pig out and help him along.”

“Is that what you’re going to do to me? When I become too much for you to take care of. Get me an order of fries on the way to hospice.”

Tears sparkled at the corner of her eye and Gerald took savage satisfaction at being the cause of them. “Don’t be ridiculous.”

“What is it really? Debbie at work telling you about their new puppy, I know about it, I spoke to Richard the other day and he was telling me about it. You know them specialty breeds are prone to major health issues.”

“It’s not that, I’m just…” She threw up her arms, surrendering to his argument and walked away. Later that night he apologized for his comment, but inside he was still seething. She’d shown him photos of Debbie’s new puppy. A Pomsky, and Gerald shuddered at the thought. They’d crossed a husky with a Pomeranian. What was the world coming to?

A low growl from Max alerted Gerald he was no longer alone. Footsteps came from the road ahead. They were hard, full of purpose, ringing solidly against the pavement.

Looking up he spotted someone approaching around the bend in the road. The sound of life in the forest grew still as the stranger got closer. It became so quiet the footfall of the stranger’s approach carried a warning that caressed the sleeping part of Gerald’s primitive psyche. Max’s growl became a whine, and he lowered his head to his paws, watching in silent terror as the stranger approached.

“Morning stranger,” Gerald called out in greeting and the stranger stopped. With the stranger’s face in shadows Gerald found it difficult to make out his features. He was aware of a bearded chin with what looked like several days of growth. Below the stranger’s chin, glowing in the predawn darkness, was a small white square.

Was he a priest?

“Afraid I don’t recognize you,” Gerald said, “I’m Gerald Simmons from Broken Heart Mine Road. And you’re?”

The stranger pointed at Max and Had Gerald been the more imaginative type he might have decided at that moment to push on around the stranger.

“Is that your dog?” The stranger said in a gravelly voice accompanied by the faint whisper of a million others raised in soft terror. Gerald wasn’t the imaginative sort and paid little attention to the whispers that replaced the sounds of life in the dense shadows of the forest. It felt like it had gotten darker since the stranger’s arrival and Gerald glanced at the lightening sky, the clouds above tinted at their edges with the golden fire of the approaching dawn. Around him the world remained hidden in darkness.

“Yes, it’s my dog, Max,” he answered, worry blossoming too late for him to do anything about it. The stranger had closed the distance between them and was now less than arm’s length away. Yet he still could not make out anything other than the faint glimmer of white.

“Are you a preacher?” Gerald asked, taking another step back to widen the distance between them.

“May I have your dog?”

End Segment. I know not much to go on, but I know where it’s going after this point and I’ll share later. Thanks for stopping by and if you’re of a mind to do so you can share your thoughts in the comments.

All Roads Lead to Terror

An endless night is closing in.

In a chaotic, post-apocalyptic world, an endless night is closing in, and only the strong will survive. In the midst of the turmoil, fourteen-year-old Meat, and his three closest friends, embark on a mission to rescue kidnapped children from the compound enslaving them.

Battling their way through treacherous terrain and immeasurable odds, the boys must learn to lean on each other if they hope to survive. Little do they know fate has far greater plans for them. For they represent the trinity, a symbol older than time itself, that keeps the darkness at bay.

They are three, bound by a fourth, destined to save mankind.

With time running out, and the cloak of eternal night descending, can the boys find a way to turn the tables on evil?

Or will they be the next to join the growing legion of the dead?

Featured image courtesy of <a href="http://(c) Can Stock Photo / devon

Work in Progress


Here’s another little taste of my current work in progress, Bitter Hollow. I’ shooting for fall of this year with this one. Sheriff Burris stops by the hospital to check on my main character. Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

“One more thing,” I said.

“Sure,” he said with a strained smile and I began to suspect I was pushing my luck. But he settled into his seat with no further comment.

“Harold said something got into them, and about a place called Bitter Hollow, what is it?”

The Sheriff, whose gaze had been wandering, suddenly zeroed back in on me, pinning me to my pillow with a stare that tried to mask an uneasiness fluttering around the edges of his hardened features.

“What did he say, exactly?” the sheriff said as he leaned forward.

“He said it got into him, it was in all of them, and something about warning him to stay away from Bitter Hollow.”

“It’s nothing to worry about, really.” Sheriff Burris patted my good shoulder with a reassuring touch. “It’s just an old wives’ tales, and folk lore. The older folk around these parts come from a time and place where such things were believed to be real.”

“So, what is it?”

“Nothing, really, you focus on getting better.” The sheriff pushed himself up from his seat.

“You know, I spent six years walking a beat in Baltimore, another six carrying a gold shield, three of those on major cases. I know when someone’s lying to me, and you’re lying, what gives about Bitter Hollow?”

Taking a deep breath, the sheriff settled back into his seat, “there’s not much to tell, really, back when my father was a young boy a traveling preacher held a tent revival in Bitter Hollow, said the name fit as everyone he met seemed bitter and distant. Of course, in them days if you weren’t family or known by such, no one really trusted you. He felt he could do some good for the people of the area, bring god into their lives and give them some hope.”

“The night of the revival someone knocked over an oil lamp and the old canvas of the tent, dry as tinder, went up like a match. Only about twenty people, the preacher among them, managed to escape. There were some in the area who believed an evil spirit was responsible for what happened and avoided the place from then on. Some even went as far as to accuse the preacher of being a demon in disguise.”

“What happened to the preacher?”

“Word was he got lynched by an angry mob who had relatives that perished in the flames. Many of the older folks in the area believe to this day the hollow is haunted by the ghosts of all who died there. Hunters who stray into the hollow talk about seeing strange lights and hearing voices where there should be none.”

“A few years later someone built a church on the site of the revival fire, but it never really took off and quickly fell into disrepair. I’m not sure if it’s still standing, haven’t had much call to go that way. The last of the families that lived in the hollow left while I was in high school. The only people who go that way now is the occasional tourist that gets lost. The county doesn’t even plow the road anymore. A waste of taxpayer money as the road dead ends in the hollow.”

Sheriff Burris glanced at his watch and pushed himself to his feet, “I need to get going, I’ve got a meeting with the county budget office to go over next quarters budget.”

“Sounds like fun, thanks for stopping by, I really appreciate it.”

“Of course, and don’t worry about what the paper says, the state police will issue their findings that I know will clear you of any wrongdoing. People will soon forget what happened, they always do, especially when a new scandal draws their attention. You get some rest, and I’ll see you a couple of weeks from today.”

Goodreads Giveaway

Click on the cover to enter.

100 copies up for grabs.

Weekly Writing Challenge


Real life intruded this week and prevented me from adding to the ongoing story. I’ve chosen instead to share the first chapter of my current work in progress. BITTER HOLLOW. I hope you enjoy it. Like the story, the cover below is a work in progress. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.

The past bleeds through.

It didn’t matter how high, or how thick we built the walls around the memories that gave us the most pain, one way or another they found their way through.

Laura left three months ago, and the pain of her leaving was as fresh as the day it happened. One moment she was there, in the next she was gone. There’d been no goodbyes, no enraged notes blaming me for all my shortcomings, or any drawn out arguments punctuated by the slamming of the door.

It was the opposite in fact.

A silence that spoke with the finality of death.  While I was working she left, moving to her sisters in Baltimore, back to the hectic pace and the bright lights of a lifestyle that blinded both of us to the truth when we were first wed in a union doomed to failure the moment we said, I do.

For Laura’s family I was from the wrong side of the tracks, a point they tried to drive home, but in the beginning her love for me blinded her to our differences. Though I was a beat cop with no education beyond high school, filled with rage at the people of a country I once tried to help, we managed to keep our marriage together for seven years. In that time her family started warming up to me, so much so that her dad invited me to a round of golf.

I declined, I’d never been interested in golf, couldn’t see what was so competitive about chasing a little white ball around. My refusal to join her dad on the links proved to be the first chink in the armor that was our marriage. It wasn’t long before others followed, spreading out from that first little crack like a spider web to culminate in the chasm that opened between us when we were forced to move to the mountains. Here the slower pace removed the blinders the bright lights and fast tempo of life in Baltimore put in place. For the first time she saw me for what I really was, and she didn’t like it.

It didn’t matter that in sixteen years with the Baltimore police I rose through the ranks from patrolman to lead detective heading up the major cases bureau. I was just another poser trying to be something I wasn’t, and I’d invaded her space, tricking her into believing I was something I wasn’t. At least to her way of thinking. She made that quite clear the last time we spoke. Argued would be a better description.

“Patrol six, this is base, over.” A feminine voice came from the radio mounted on the dash.

Keying the mic, I responded. “This is patrol six, go ahead, over.”

“Hey Bill, on nights again I see, over.”

“Story of my life, whatcha got Rosie? Over.”

“It’ll get better, it always does. They hit the circle K again in Red House, over.” Everyone in the office knew about Laura leaving, a couple even blamed me for what happened.

“That’s the second time this month, they need to close after midnight. I’m on my way, over.”

“Roger, Bill, this is base, out.”

There was no need for lights or sirens, the culprits were probably already in West Virginia, so I pulled a U-turn in the middle of 219 and headed south.

The road ahead lay shrouded in shadows as the ridge above burned with the light of the approaching day. Laura always liked the sunrise. Especially in the mountains when the first fingers of morning ignited the ridges in a fiery glow as the night sought refuge in the valleys below. There was something primal about the rebirth of the day, and how the darkness retreated before its approach, seeking refuge in secret places the light dare not follow.

Every morning she’d sit in her favorite chair on the deck as the last of the night fled from the dawn. It energized her in a way I never understood, and to be honest I was a little jealous of that private time she shared with the morning.

When I was home, I’d either be asleep, or would watch from the kitchen as I got ready for work. After she left I wondered what would have happened had I joined her. Would it have given us something in common, a private moment we could share that might have saved our marriage?

Or would my intrusion drive a deeper wedge into the emptiness between us. Of course, that wasn’t the only reason I stayed away. To be honest the night scared me. Things lived in the dark, old things without a care that would devour your sanity given half a chance. I’d seen them in Afghanistan and locked away the memory, but like I said, no matter how high and how thick you build those wall, sometimes the memories escaped.

The past bleeds through.

With the memory I saw her eyes again, ringed in black to ward off evil spirits, too bad it couldn’t ward off incoming fire, and my stomach cramped at the thought.  

The Circle K convenience store came into view, the lights over the gas pumps formed an island of safety, a beacon to weary travelers passing through the night. Why anyone would put a convenience store here, especially one open twenty-four hours a day, was beyond me. It made no sense. There wasn’t enough traffic to warrant the hours, but the owner persisted, so greedy he was afraid he might miss a buck if he locked his doors.

The remote location made it an idea target for those with less than honest intentions. It wasn’t like the convenience stores in Baltimore that were built like a bank with a thick walls of bullet-proof glass protecting the clerk. If you tried to shoot the clerk you ran the risk injuring yourself with a ricocheting bullet.

This circle K convenience store was like any other, a non-descript box sitting at an angle to the intersection. Over the pumps a large canopy with the Circle K logo at each corner provided protection against inclement weather. I pulled in beside an old pickup truck parked next to three farm tractors, the mud still fresh on their tires.  

Inside and to the right, several tables were set up to serve as a small dining area. One was occupied by four old men who spoke among themselves. They held styrofoam cups of coffee in aged hands seeking relief from the morning chill. It was as typical a scene as one would expect in such a place and I noted that the old men were the farming type, judging by their mud-covered boots, and the rides waiting outside. 

Still visibly shaken by his encounter, the young man at the counter, whose name tag happily identified him as Donald, stuttered as he struggled to answer my questions.

“Did you get a good look at him?”

“I couldn’t see his face clearly, he wore a ski mask,” the not so happy Donald replied.

“Did you see which way he went?”

“To the left I believe,” Donald answered after a moments consideration during which he stared at the front door as he struggled to remember, “but I’m not sure, I was afraid he was going to shoot me.”

“I understand.” I placed my hand on Donald’s shoulder, I needed him to settle and focus before he lost what little information he might have.

“It’s important we know which way he went when he left.” I reassured him, though it really didn’t matter. It was doubtful the direction of the robber’s escape would make much difference in the ensuing investigation, but I needed Donald to believe this so he could focus on what happened. I glanced up at the sign hanging over the register.

Smile, you’re on camera! It exclaimed in bold type beneath a smiley face. 

Under the sign a closed-circuit camera pointed down at the register, the red light below the lens dark. I’m sure the culprit knew the security camera was not working. It was a poor man’s security system only effective with those who had no intention of robbing the place to begin with.

“I don’t suppose there’s a video?” I asked anyway, feeling just a bit foolish for doing so, but you could never be sure when something might break your way.

Donald’s dispirited shrug was answer enough and I turned my attention to the conversation among the four old timers. A conversation centered on a woman it appeared each of them had known at one time or another.  One of them might have noticed something the others missed, I’d have to talk to them, but first I needed to call this in so we could get some of the state boys down here to take over. 

As a detective it would have taken an act of god to get me to turn a case over to another agency, the fact I was so anxious to do so now was just another indication of the new direction my life had taken. As a sheriff’s deputy with over six hundred square miles to cover and more than thirty thousand residents I didn’t have time to conduct a thorough investigation. I needed to be on patrol.

“Almost got him,” one of the old timers said and the comment drew my attention to outside. A white van was racing down route 219 towards us. It wasn’t the van that stood out. On the driver’s side, a bright red smear of what looked like blood ran from the front bumper to just before the rear wheel.

The van jerked right, then left, crossed the center lane as it left the road and shot across the small parking lot, bearing down on the pumps.

“Shut em down,” I shouted as I spun around. Donald was oblivious to the danger as I leaned across the counter. I shoved him out of the way with my shoulder as the image of a rising fireball filled my mind. Just like the FOB when rockets rained down from the mountain peaks above. I smacked the shut off and turned to watch, hoping I’d been fast enough.

The old men at the table were unable to react in time to save themselves as the gas pump crumpled beneath the bumper of the mini-van. There was a moment when I was confident the entire place was going to go up, a moment that thankfully passed as the van came to rest against the second pump after shearing the first from its mount, trapping it between the nose of the van and the second pump.

I raced outside, followed by the others. A woman sat behind the wheel staring straight ahead between the peaks of her white knuckles, her expression dazed.

She had been pretty once, when she was young, before the effects of gravity and indifference from the man she married had their way with her. Her cheeks were streaked with mascara, her eyes confused as she stared into the distance, her hands held the steering wheel in a death grip that made her knuckles stand out like jagged peaks. Reaching for the door handle I realized how fresh the blood was.

“Are you okay, Ma’am?”

She turned to look at me, her head moving so slow I imagined I could hear the creaking of her muscles. She carried a confused expression on her face, a thousand-yard stare that cut through me as she looked at something that wasn’t there. A memory possibly. I’d seen that look too many times before, the survivors of violent crimes wore a similar expression as their minds forced them to relive their terror.

“Where’s Harold?” she said, the blonde hair framing her face damp with sweat.

“Who’s Harold, Ma’am?”

“Harold, my husband,” one of her hands flew to her face and she gnawed on a knuckle as her eyes widened. “No, don’t,” she cried out, “please,” she pleaded.

“What happened?”

“No,” she moaned, closing her eyes and covering her face with her hands.

“That’s Harold’s wife?” one of the men behind me said and I spun around, a thousand thoughts ricocheting through my mind. Questions mostly, with why leading the pack.

Why was she afraid? Why was she running? It was obvious she was running from something, a hastily packed suitcase sat on the back seat, bits of clothing peeking out from around the edges. Where did the blood come from? Was it Harold’s? Why would she run her husband down?

“Harold who?” I asked instead.

“Harold Felton, he runs the vegetable stand on 219 every fall.”

That Harold, I realized as I recalled several run ins with the crusty old man whose customer service skills were in serious need of updating. That brought me back to why. A question I intended to answer.