Work in Progress

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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.”

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Work in Progress.

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This week I want to share a little taste of what I’ve been working on. An excerpt from my current work in progress, Bitter Hollow. I hope you enjoy, and would love to know what you think, feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.

BITTER HOLLOW

“Is everything okay, Harold?” I stepped onto the deck, unsnapping the strap that kept my pistol secure.

“I tried to warn him,” Harold said, turning his head to look at me with a distant stare. It was the same thousand-yard stare I saw every morning gazing back at me from the mirror while I shaved.

“Who did you try to warn, Harold?”

In the yard Harold’s German shepherd barked again, a high-pitched whiny sound I knew so well. The dog sat at the top of the yard, keeping its distance while favoring its left paw.

“It doesn’t matter.” Harold turned his attention back to the German shepherd. “It’s gotten into all of them, and there’s only one cure for what they’ve got.”

“What have they got Harold?”

“I told him to stay away from that place.”

“What place Harold?” I had to keep him talking, as long as he was talking everything would be okay.

“Bitter Hollow, you’re not from these parts,” Harold said, “you wouldn’t understand, you’re from down around the city, I’ve heard about you, and why you came here.”

“Why did I come here?” I’d eased my way onto the deck and was carefully moving towards Harold when he spun his head around and stared at me. I’d seen such fear before, in Afghanistan when the shit hit the fan, and everything went sideways. It burned in Harold’s eyes, flowing across his lined face like the touch of a shadow barely seen. It was then I spotted the revolver in his right hand hanging at his side.

“Doesn’t matter,” Harold said, bringing up the revolver. I took a step back, pulling my own weapon. But Harold didn’t turn his pistol in my direction. Instead, he aimed at the German shepherd.

“We can’t let it get out,” Harold said as he drew a bead on the dog.

“Put your weapon down.” I took a two-handed stance and settled the forward sight on Harold’s chest.

“Fuck you,” Harold said before squeezing off a shot. The German shepherd darted to the right as a spurt of dirt was thrown up to his left. The sharp crack of the shot rolled away into the distance.

“I said put your weapon down.”

“Or what?” Harold said as he abruptly swung the muzzle in my direction. Instincts, fine turned by the brutality of the war, took over. I squeezed off one shot as Harold fired. The sound of our dual reports echoed through the forest like thunder. My bullet hit Harold high in the chest, above his heart, and a surprised expression replaced the terror lurking on his brow.

My left shoulder was driven back. It felt like I’d been hit by a sledgehammer, and my entire arm went numb. My calm, rational half, took a step back while the more primitive side took over as adrenaline flooded my system. I knew the feeling, had experienced it several times on the battlefield. It was a survival mechanism, a throwback to our distant past when reasoning with one’s enemy was not an option. When the only thing you could do was fight to survive. I knew I’d been hit, my left arm was useless, hanging dead at my side. Thankfully, I was right-handed.

Harold stood his ground for a moment, weaving back and forth on his feet. The color draining from his face as understanding dawned in his eyes. He was about to die, and he knew it. He staggered towards me, the pistol still clutched in one hand, the muzzle weaving back and forth as his own blood mingled with the other blood on his clothes.

He squeezed the trigger, the sharp report echoed through the shadows as the wicked sound of the bullet slamming into the post behind me came to my ringing ears. I flashed back to another time and place when I’d been confronted by an enemy that refused to die. There was no time to dwell on these memories and I pushed them away as I steadied my weapon, and the old man took another step towards me.

A shadow washed across Harold’s face, contorting his features. The dog barking in the back yard came to me as if from a million miles away. The old man smiled and opened his mouth to speak, darkness escaping the prison behind his teeth as I fired again, aiming higher this time. Harold’s head whipped back, a bloody wound forming a third eye in the center of his forehead. Something old and terrifying crawled through my belly when Harold lowered his head to look at me with those flat, dead, eyes. A wicked smile bisecting the bottom half of his face.

What do you think?

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Cursed

Weekly Writing Challenge

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Third Times a Charm

The story is coming together in my mind. I know where it’s going to end, it’s just a matter of putting my butt in the chair and getting it there. 689 words this week. Pretty good for an hours work. Too bad we can’t do that all the time.

He persisted as was his nature, getting dressed for work, going through the motions of a regular life that was far from routine. Beyond his bedroom window the world continued to follow its own course, seemingly unaware of the drama that was his life. The sound of traffic on third avenue reached his room as he gazed into the mirror, adjusting his tie. He never could get the damned thing to work right.

The thought sparked a memory of Mona reaching around his neck to fix his tie, joking with him about his inability to do something so simple. Can’t even tie a knot, she’d say with a sparkle in her eye as his love for her swelled in his chest until it felt like he was about to explode. Her missed her so much he sometimes wished he would have never pulled the trigger. So what if she killed him, at least he wouldn’t have to live without her.

He pushed away the sorrow, refusing the acknowledge its existence, moving through the small apartment to the tiny living room with a kitchen in one corner. At the door he paused, slipping on a happy face to show the world before opening the door and stepping into the hallway. Out here, in the world, the memories were not as strong, and he found he was able to function. The door across the hall opened and Denise stepped out, pulling the door closed behind her.

She slipped her arm into Nicks. “Good morning stranger, what happened last night?”

“I’m sorry, got tied up in a meeting at work, then my boss wanted to have a couple of drinks.”

“I heard you stumbling in around two, did you get enough sleep?”

“You were still awake?”

“I wanted to make sure you were okay.”

Nick was touched by her concern, had it not been for Denise he might not have made it through those first few months. They’d become fast friends after he moved in across from her and that friendship was slowly evolving into something more intimate. They’d shared a few dinners, and he had slept over in her place twice, but they were far from taking the big step of moving in together. It was mostly a friends with benefits arrangement, but he sensed Denise wanted to take it to the next level.

It was a step he was far from prepared to take. For starters he had yet to tell her the truth about what happened between he and Mona. As far as she knew they were divorced, and nothing more.  He was worried about how she would respond if she knew he killed his first wife in self-defense and he wasn’t entirely sure how to broach the subject with her.

“I’m all right. You want to try for tonight?”

“I’m up for it if you are.”

“It’s a date then, I’ll pick up from Mario’s on my way home, you grab the wine. Some good food, some good wine, we’ll see where the night leads.”

“I know where I want it to go,” she said, tightening her grip on his arm. “The only question that remains, your place of mine?”

“I’m sorry, it’s just so cramped in my place, can’t we eat at your place.”

“Are you sure it’s because your apartment is so small?”

“What do you mean?”

“You’re not hiding anything from me are you?”

“What would I be hiding?”

“I don’t know, the fact you’re still married, maybe you have kids you don’t want me to know about. I don’t know that much about you aside from where you work, and what you do for a living. I don’t know where you grew up, if your parents are still alive, does your ex come around. I poured my life out before you and you’ve yet to tell me where you’re from originally.”

“I’m sorry, it’s just.” He hesitated. Denise was right, she deserved to know more about him and his past. But that past included the death of his first wife by his hand. It wasn’t a subject you simply dropped into polite dinner conversation.

So what do you think about the story so far? Keep in mind this is raw, unedited work.

Fridays 5 1/29/2021

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January 29, 2021

If you could ask any author, living or dead, one question, what would it be?

William F Nolan:

A: Bradbury said that he wanted to be buried on Mars in a Campbell soup can in the “Bradbury Abyss”. I’d ask Ray Bradbury if he found his way home to Mars.

Bio: William writes stories in the science fiction, fantasy and horror genres. He is best known for coauthoring the novel Logan’s Run, with George Clayton Johnson. He co-wrote the screenplay for the 1976 horror film Burnt Offerings which starred Karen Black and Bette Davis.

Scott Nicholson:

I’d like to ask Mark Twain what he thinks of the 21st Century. I am sure he’d have a grand time making sport of Facebook!

Bio: Scott haphazardly trades words for magic beans and uses “haphazardly” as often as possible while decrying the overuse of adverbs. He had 105 rejections before his first story sale and over 400 before he sold a novel. He hasn’t learned much from his mistakes but thinks he’ll probably improve with practice. If nothing else, he’s become a better liar.

Rick Hautala:

A: I’d ask Shakespeare not where he got his ideas, but how he developed them … or I’d ask Hawthorne why he seemed to be depressed all the time …

Bio: Rick arrived on the horror scene in 1980 with many of his early novels published by Zebra books. He wrote and published over 90 novels and short stories from the early 1980s on. In 2011 the Horror Writers Association awarded Rick and Joe R. Lansdale the Bram Stoker Award for Lifetime Achievement. Sadly, on March 21 of 2013 we lost Rick to a heart attack. For me personally he was a writer who was always willing to help those of us starting out, and though I never met him personally I counted him among my friends.

Craig Saunders:

A: Joe Hill…when’s the next book coming out!? haha – I love Joe Hill, since reading Heart Shaped Box.

Bio: Craig Saunders is the author of around fifty novels and novellas, including the Amazon bestseller ‘Vigil’. As ‘Craig R. Saunders’ he penned the seven-book fantasy saga of the world of Rythe, beginning in ‘The Outlaw King’ and culminating with ‘Beneath Rythe’.

Jo-Anne Russell:

A: I must say, this is one of the hardest questions I have ever had to answer. To choose only one is torture. However, it would be Ray Bradbury, and I would ask him;  “What is it like on the other side?”

Bio: Jo-Anne Russell is a horror writer, and publisher, living in Edmonton, AB, Canada. Her stories have appeared in anthologies by Brazen Snake Books, Static Movement, Wicked East Press, and Hidden Thoughts Press, just to name a few.
Her taste for the macabre has provided her imagination with a feast that fuels her writing and creativity. If you like horror, the bizarre, or you just don’t like to sleep at night, give her books and short stories a try.

Calling all authors of horror, sci-fi, and fantasy. If you’d like to participate in Fridays 5, follow this link.

Fridays 5



Weekly Writing Challenge

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I managed another 490 words in the hour I allotted myself. A couple of things emerged in my mind while writing. The first is the emotional aspect. Honestly I can’t wait to finish the first draft and get into the rewrites where I can layer in those emotions. Some came through but nowhere near as powerful as what they can be.

The second thing to emerge is a possible title. Third Times a Charm. You’ll see why when you read this segment. Has anybody else tried following along? If so leave a comment, I’d love to read what you’ve come up with.

Without further adieu I give you part two. Tell me what you think, but please keep in mind this is raw work with only minor editing.

Third Times a Charm contd.

He’d had many of them over the past six months, his nights filled with dreams of Mona coming at him with a butcher’s knife. Stalking him while he slept, a ghostly killer lurking in the shadows lying just beyond view. He knew it wasn’t possible for her to be there, but the knowledge never lessened the terror he felt in her presence.

There had actually been a time when they loved one another, when they were first married and the future was bright ahead of them. He remembered looking forward to a long happy life at her side. They hoped to have kids but after her second miscarriage they decided it would be best to put aside that dream. There would always be the option to adopt, and they had even gotten to the point of starting the paperwork.

But Mona was persistent, she wanted to try one last time before they threw in the towel. He was hesitant, not wanting her to go through all that again, but she persisted and in time he relented. Third time’s a charm she always said, and at first it seemed like she might actually make it this time. Each time before she lost the child in the first month. On her last try she made it to the second trimester before everything went south.

The day was permanently etched into his memory. She had a morning appointment with her doctor and he had his own appointment with a new client at work so he wasn’t able to go with her. Maybe if he had things might have turned out differently. But it still wouldn’t have changed what happened.

Nick didn’t know about it at first, but later, after everything happened, he found out she lost the baby in the doctor’s office. Like many expectant parents they read everything they could find about their growing child. By week sixteen their baby was able to blink, the heart and blood vessels were fully formed, and their fingers and toes had fingerprints. It was at that point it really began to sink in they might succeed, that it was true, that sometimes the third time was a charm. 

Mona even got to the point of considering baby names, she bought several baby naming books and pored through the pages every day in search of the perfect name for her miracle child. She was so excited and some of that excitement found its way to Nick who started looking forward to having a newborn in the house. They’d gone through so much disappointment already he was afraid to hope. Worried that by doing so fate would intervene. He even let his guard down and allowed himself to be dragged along by Mona’s happiness. 

Too bad it didn’t last.

The memories followed him as he started his day. A cold shower did little to alleviate the weariness that consumed him, and coffee couldn’t even begin to touch the fatigue.

End Segment!