Fiction that explores the monsters and strangers among us.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Killer Crowds


Have you ever watched one of those old films of city street scenes shot more than a century ago? The people are scurrying about like folks today in our big cities. The clothes are different. The cars and horse-drawn buggies are ancient. The brick and stone buildings in those flashing images have been replaced with ever higher glass and steel towers. But the action of the people is still the same. City life is, and always has been, about hustle and bustle.

Have you ever wondered where all those people in those old films are today? The simple answer is they are dead. But are they? Where do the people go who once hurried about our city streets?

I have seen people come and go for a decade in Philadelphia and multiple decades in Chicago. My travels, business and personal, have taken me to Boston, New York, Washington, Atlanta, Dallas, Denver, El Paso, Tucson, Detroit, Cleveland, Seattle and other great cities. The scene is always the same. Even in Canada, where I have visited Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg, Calgary and their other cities I have witnessed the phenomenon: people in motion.

But where do they go?
Chicago, where I have spent the most time studying this mystery, makes a great example. The people scurrying about the Loop today are not the same people who labored there a generation ago. Where did those other folks disappear to?

I asked people in my business network. Their answers can be summed up in four words: “home, retirement, Florida, death.”

But do they really go to those places?

Try this experiment
Follow someone you see on the street in the evening rush hour when a mass of humanity heads for the train station. It doesn’t matter which city you’re in. Pick a person and follow him or her. Most of the time that person will simply disappear into the crowd and you will never see her again. Where did she go?

The mystery of the vanishing horde has haunted me these many decades. I have followed thousands of individuals. Pick the right person on the correct day and you’ll tail them right to their train. Those folks went home for dinner that night. But what about the people who vanished into the crowd right before your eyes? You watched them walking not more than 10 paces in front of you when suddenly they were nowhere to be seen.

Where did they go?

Two theories
In the interest of science (fiction and otherwise), I humbly offer two theories for further development by you or an expert of your choice:

Transcendental Departure: Could it be that when our time in the city is up and our business tasks are performed enough for one lifetime, we disappear into the crowd? We in effect become part of the crowd or one with the crowd. We are absorbed into the crowd. Our essence, our personhood, is distributed to the other individuals who make up the crowd. Our essence invigorates and strengthens the crowd, but at the price of our individual existence.

Adult Rebirth: Perhaps we become someone else as we are absorbed into the crowd. At one end of the mass sea of heads bobbing up in down to form a wave pattern, we vanish unnoticed by our casual passerby neighbors intent on making their homeward train on time. At the other end of the crowd, someone emerges, new and vigorous from our essence, someone you have never seen before. Meanwhile, no one in the city remembers you once you have vanished forever into the crowd.

A possible third theory? Beam me up, Scotty.

Read Hags for Free Now – Offer ends Today
Today is the last day to receive of free copy of my horror novel Hags for free from Amazon for your Kindle reader. Download it by clicking here.

If you prefer the paperback version of Hags, you may purchase it by following the same link above.

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Thursday, March 14, 2013

Don’t Cry Over Spilt…


Police Detective Larson’s Irish green eyes didn’t light up when Primerot explained the reason for our late night gatherings of the Fox River Writers Group. Larson apparently had no experience with horror novels or the creatures who create them. His interest was that huge blood stain to the right of the bar at Murphy’s tap in St. Charles.

Morty the barkeep tried to explain that it was his fault the blood was spilled, but Larson didn’t get it. What’s not to get? We all have our little accidents. People are so data-focused these days, not like frontier times when a little bloodletting was a normal part of life and nobody much cared unless it was their own blood.

When Larson asked to see the liquor license, Morty laughed. “I don’t sell alcoholic beverages in this establishment, detective.”

“What do you sell?” Larson rubbed his hand across the pull tap for one of the kegs under the bar.

The rest of us laughed except Primerot who took notes for her new novel Bloodlust.

I tried to be helpful. “You may have noticed, Detective Larson, that we are not exactly like the people you meet every day in your job.”

Larson had enough of us. “Pour a glass of whatever brew you have in this keg.”

Morty snatched a beer mug from the warmer oven. He raised the glass high in the air. Our entire writer’s group including Primerot, Nosebuster, Suckbreath, Dimsnort and me craned our necks with eyes the size of silver dollars, for those of you who remember silver dollars. Anyway, they’re big.

Morty grinned a little wider than most people’s mouths will allow. This little trick made Larson’s eyes light up. Certain he had the detective’s attention; Morty pulled the tap, filling it with red joy.

“What is that? Some kind of wine?” Larson had not yet made the connection between the sweet aroma of fresh kill and the rubicund liquid Morty handed to him.

The link became obvious when Larson gawked in our direction. We, who couldn’t resist that flavorful scent, had our mouths open wide enough to expose the full length of our three-inch needle sharp incisors.

Larson pulled his handgun. I think it was a Glock, but what do I know of weapons other than my own fangs? As for the blood stain on the floor, Larson should have arrived earlier when we wrestled for the privilege of licking it up.

Despite Larson’s tough guy exterior, we each had a share with Primerot taking the devil’s portion. She is, after all, our leader.

Read Hags for Free Now – Offer ends March 15, 2013
Download Hags for free this week only from Amazon for your Kindle reader by clicking here.

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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Evil Incarnate at Your Local Coffee Shop


Ted Wilson had no intention of kissing a vampire hag full on the lips when he entered the coffee shop earlier than usual yesterday morning. With the local Twilight Coffee Shoppe operating a 24-hour Latte and Leave service, Ted knew he could caffeinate on the 50-minute drive down the Reagan to the Eisenhower to the Loop. Fifty minutes if you left before the morning rush which explained his stop at the Twilight Coffee Shoppe.

When the tall, extremely pale barista asked if he wanted the usual, Ted moaned yes, but when he opened the plastic top to pour in a little almond-flavored imitation creamer, he did not expect to see a blood-red brew.

“What’s this?” he inquired.

The barista flashed a toothy grin before announcing, “Oops, that one’s mine.”

Ted snagged the correct brew cup and slid his debit card through the machine. He headed for the door without the almond-flavored imitation creamer.

“Wait,” said the barista. “Please allow me to apologize profusely for the error. Entirely my fault.”

Ted, who by this time had a hand on the front door, spun about. “No problem.” He didn’t see the barista so he shrugged. When he turned to leave, he bumped into her.

“When I say apologizes profusely, darling, I mean profusely.” The barista planted her ample lips firmly over Ted’s.

Ted was not one to mind a pair of warm female lips connected to his own, but they must be warm. The barista’s lips were as cold as Italian sausage yanked from the refrigerator, not that Ted ever kissed a cold Italian sausage. He preferred his meat hot, juicy and well done, but that’s another story for a different sort of blog than this one.

When the barista pulled back from the kiss, Ted noticed her fangs. It’s hard to miss a pair of three-inch upper incisors on a woman whose beauty is in the range of oh… let’s say Morticia Addams.

“What the…” Ted began to say before he was interrupted by the insertion of the barista’s incisors into his jugular vein.

As I said, that was yesterday morning before sunrise. This evening, Ted returned to the Latte and Leave.

“Usual?” the tall, pale barista asked.

“Yes, the usual,” replied Ted.

Read Hags for Free Now – Offer ends March 15, 2013
Download Hags for free this week only from Amazon for your Kindle reader by clicking here.

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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Are You Afraid?


Scary, invisible things haunt your soul and keep you from the life you deserve. But what happens when one of those frightening creatures turns visible, for your eyes only? Creepy, right?

You’re alone in your bedroom, late at night with the lights on because you’re reading a horror story (like my Hags). The window flies open and something flaps its way into your room. Is it a bat? Or is it a mist on the wind?

What does the vapor shape into while it floats above your bed at midnight? The eyes, red and glowing like coals, appear first. Then a long, green nose slithers out of the haze. The rest of the face follows. You’re staring at a hag older than humankind.

You pull the covers over your head in hopes the creature will vanish by sunrise. As you contemplate your fate, you consider the value of praying to a God you’re not sure you believe in, just in case the thing in your room is real. Because if it is, then maybe there’s more to this God thing than meets your busy eyeballs. That’s when you hear the bump.

You pull the covers down from your face as you summon the courage to peek at the hag in your midnight bedroom. But there is no hag, only the wind through your open window, billowing curtains, and your paperback copy of Hags on the floor where it landed after that last big gust.

You close your eyes, snuggle into your pillow, and wait in the dark for what you know always comes next. 

Read Hags for Free Now – Offer ends March 15, 2013
Download Hags for free this week only from Amazon for your Kindle reader by clicking here.

After you read Hags, please give it a 5-Star review on Amazon. Thanks.

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Monday, March 11, 2013

Hags: Kindle Free Today Until Friday


Hags is my horror novel set in Naperville, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. For the next five days you can download a free copy for your Amazon Kindle. And if you don’t have a Kindle, you can download the Kindle Reader software free for your computer, smart phone or tablet. If you prefer the paperback version, it’s available for purchase on Amazon.

As one of my Amazon critics wrote:
“For a story dealing with such dark topics, Hags surprised me with its genuine humor. Once all the pieces are on the table, the story has a very distinctive and clever personality that flows quickly…. you'll find Hags a delightful read that may have something to say about fear, lust, greed, brokenness and most importantly, redemption.”

If you read a chunk of Hags on my blog the past several weeks, you know that Micah Probert is an ex-con who wants to clear his name after 15 years in prison for a rape he insists he didn’t commit. For this reason, Micah returns to his hometown of Naperville, Illinois, where he starts his first day by discovering a human-sized faerie flitting about in his backyard, a dead body in the parking lot behind his house, a pioneer ghost in his kitchen, and a local coffee shop that serves the darkest brew this side of Hades. Mix in a few black secrets, a couple of serial killers, a hot romance or two, and this novel takes you deep into the heart of horror in the suburbs.

I’m happy to offer this five-day free download of Hags. Here’s how we can make your Hags experience a win-win for both of us:
  1. Click here to download your free copy of Hags from Amazon. Act by Friday, March 15, 2013, the last day of this free offer.
  2. Read Hags and enjoy.
When you are finished reading Hags, please do the following:
  1. Recommend it to your friends
  2. Give it a five-star review on Amazon. This is important because five-star reviews help to sell books.
Read Hags for Free Now
Download Hags for free this week only from Amazon for your Kindle reader by clicking here.

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Friday, March 8, 2013

Hags Episode 20


Do you want to start at the beginning of this series? Click here.

Denise knelt to receive her cat. She lifted her head to face Micah. “How do you know so much about the intellectual capacity of criminals?”

“I spent a huge chunk of my life among thieves, robbers, murderers and rapists.”

“Were you one of them?” Denise picked up Fritz.

“I served time with them.”

Denise stood up with Fritz in her arms. “What are you doing way out here, you naughty thing.”

“Ummm, strolling with you, remember? It was your idea.” Micah folded his arms across his chest.

“I meant the cat.”

“I know.”

“Which were you in for?”

“Rape.”

Denise stared bullets into Micah’s eyes. She dropped Fritz and punched Micah so hard in the ribs that he had to sidestep several times to avoid falling over. Fritz ran towards the trees.

Micah grabbed his ribcage and glared at Denise with his mouth open and his eyes wide. “You promised not to hit me again and besides, did I say I was guilty?”

“How could you do such a thing?”

“Did you hear me?”

Denise pointed an accusing finger in Micah’s face. “All criminals claim they’re innocent.”

“I was.”

“You mean some girl made up a story about you raping her just for the fun of it?”

“She made up the story.”

“For the fun of it?” Denise’s finger touched Micah’s nose.

He stepped back. “I have no idea why she did it. I thought she liked me.”

Denise placed her hands on her hips. “She allowed you to go to prison based on a lie?”

“Yeah.”

“I don’t believe you. You must have done something.” Denise folded her arms in front of her.

Micah scratched the top of his head. “I’ve asked myself what I could have done for her to call it rape, and I never came up with an answer.”

“A girl knows when she is raped, Micah.”

Micah scratched his head. “She was only fourteen, but yeah, she sure knew how to describe it in detail at the trial.”

“You must have hurt her.”

“Fell in love with her older sister.”

“You cheated on her?”

“No. I mean I dated the older sister. Then one day the little sister announced I had raped her. Next thing, I was in jail. Then a trial. My word against hers. Jury believed her. I got ten-to-fifteen. Parole board refused parole. It was such a horrible crime because she was jailbait, and I never acknowledged my guilt, so I served the full fifteen.”

Denise placed her hands in her pockets. “She never recanted her story?”

“Nope.”

“You must have done something.”

Micah grabbed Denise by the shoulders. “Yeah, I lived with real thieves, robbers, murderers and rapists.”

Denise shoved him away.

The End of this preview set of episodes. But the story isn't over yet.

Read the rest of Hags during the big Hags giveaway
Download the Kindle version of Hags free between March 11 - 15, 2013 by clicking here.

If you don't want to wait for a free copy of Hags, or you are reading this after March 15, 2013, purchase the paperback or Kindle version right now by clicking here.

Thanks for reading these blog episodes. Be sure to tell your friends about it. And as always, I greatly appreciate your 5-Star Reviews on Amazon.

Another Big Announcement
Return to my blog next week for a huge announcement regarding the upcoming release of my new novel.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Hags Episode 19


Do you want to start at the beginning of this series? Click here.

“Do you think he killed her here or just dumped the body?” Denise Appleby touched Micah’s arm while batting her blue eyes.

Micah kicked a small granite stone on the dirt path that ran through a meadow located in the forest preserve in Warrenville. The couple faced the east side of the narrow muddy track where yellow police tape outlined an area twenty-five feet on a side.

“The TV news guy said it happened here.” Micah pulled Denise close to him.

Denise gazed into Micah’s brown eyes and pointed at the police tape. “A smart criminal would have buried her to hide the evidence.”

Micah waved an arm at the crime scene. It smelled of innocent forest preserve greenery. “Her killer left her for a Forest Preserve policeman to discover on his rounds.

Denise stepped over the police tape. “Sounds like a rape gone bad. If he had planned to kill her, he would have brought a shovel to bury her with.”

Micah grabbed her arm to pull her back. Robins whistled in the trees.

Denise swung her arm free and giggled as she stepped out of Micah’s reach. “He didn’t cut her. There’s no blood.”

“Probably choked her. Hard to tell with the body hauled in for the autopsy. If he stabbed her somewhere else, there wouldn’t be much in the way of blood here.”

Denise shuttered and returned to Micah. She leaned close to him across the tape. “Poor girl. She was just a kid. Such a waste.”

“High school senior according to the news reports.” Micah put his arms around Denise and rubbed her back.

“The police may not have any clues.”

“They have clues. Criminals are amazingly stupid. They leave a little something behind. A footprint. A fingerprint. Telltale body fluids.”

Denise pulled back from Micah. “Yech! Let’s not talk about it, okay?”

“Sounds good to me.” Micah took her hand and urged her back across the police tape. His eyes wandered along the open ground. “Isn’t that Fritz?”

“Where?”

“Look through those oaks to that weedy area.” Micah pointed towards some underbrush.

Denise took a step away from Micah and placed her hands on her hips. “Fritz! Here, Fritz. Kitty, kitty, kitty.”

Fritz ran to his mistress.

Click here to continue reading Hags...

The big Hags giveaway
Download the Kindle version of Hags free between March 11 - 15, 2013.

If you don't want to wait for a free copy of Hags, purchase the paperback or Kindle version right now by clicking here.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Hags Episode 18


Do you want to start at the beginning of this series? Click here.

After many years of entertaining young ladies in need of a little assistance with their grades, the thought of something new to explore about himself tickled Dr. Lionel Langdon, principal of Ulysses S. Grant High School (“Your principal is your pal”). Taking advantage of senior class girls (always after their eighteenth birthday, mind you) had become boring in recent years. So much so, that he considered abandoning the practice and simply allowing the girls to flunk math or whatever subject slowed them down.

He hadn’t planned it. Really, it was quite an accident. But such thoughts must wait for a more private moment. For now, he busied himself with the business of gathering leaves and sticks to provide a temporary covering for the grave evidence of his new-found avocation.

Not until he was satisfied that Megan McCormick was safely tucked away in her temporary sarcophagus of leaves and weeds did he dismiss himself. He planned to return later that evening with a shovel for the burial. Next time, he must prepare better for the unexpected turning of events. Of course, next time, the event would be well-conceived with the shovel in the trunk of his car, ready and waiting.

Click here to continue reading Hags...

The big Hags giveaway
Download the Kindle version of Hags free between March 11 - 15, 2013.

If you don't want to wait for a free copy of Hags, purchase the paperback or Kindle version right now by clicking here.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Hags Episode 17


Do you want to start at the beginning of this series? Click here.

“So you checked me out while I was painting?” Micah’s smile grew wide.

“I did?”

“I know.”

“No, it was a question. You think I peeked at you?”

“It’s what you told the detective.”

“So.”

“Maybe we should have given him a muffin.”

Denise twirled a finger through her ponytail. “He’s not good looking enough, maybe a tad too old, and probably way too married for my muffins.”

“I’m none of those things, but I am a suspect. Sure you want to feed this muffin to me?”

“You haven’t been here long enough to murder anyone. If you had come to Naperville to kill a few people, you wouldn’t have bought a house.” Denise picked up the big muffin Micah had taken a bite out of earlier. “Here, it’ll feed your heart, your head and your tummy.”

“And it’s tasty.” Micah stuffed another bite into his mouth.

Denise’s eyes glowed while Micah ate more of her muffin. “Uhmm, you did buy the house, right?”

“Yes. So you didn’t leer at me?” Micah swallowed more of the muffin.

“You want me to ogle you?”

“If I get to peep back at you.”

Denise slapped his face.

Click here to continue reading Hags.

The big Hags giveaway
Download the Kindle version of Hags free between March 11 - 15, 2013.

If you don't want to wait for a free copy of Hags, purchase the paperback or Kindle version right now by clicking here.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Hags Episode 16


Do you want to start at the beginning of this series? Click here.


Denise smacked Micah on the arm and then folded her arms across her chest. She stared at Lawson.

The police officer took a step back. “I’ll repeat the question. Would you mind telling me where you were yesterday afternoon between three and six?”

“I was here.” Micah took another bite of muffin.

“Can you prove it?”

“Can you prove I wasn’t? By the way, these are tasty. Sure you don’t want one.” Micah picked up the basket of muffins.

Denise unfolded her arms and grabbed the basket. She placed it on the counter behind her. “I saw him here working yesterday afternoon.”

Micah glanced at Denise. “You did?”

“Yeah. I peeked in through your window as you worked sans shirt. You’re fun to stare at. I also noticed your car never left the driveway.” She turned to the detective, batting her eyes. “I did gawp at him. I was a regular Peeping Tom or Tammy. Will you arrest me?”

Detective Lawson shook his head. “Not at the moment. I didn’t come to accuse anyone of anything. I want to eliminate a few names.”

“You mean suspects, don’t you?” Micah asked.

The detective put his coffee down. “If you prefer, but it’s a bit early to call anyone a suspect. The pervert killed her yesterday afternoon.”

“And she’s not the one I found the other day?” Micah asked.

“No, this is a different case.”

“May I inquire as to what happened?” Denise asked.

“You’ll read about it in the paper or hear about it on the news.” Lawson put his pen back inside his shirt pocket.

Denise frowned. “But, detective, you’re here now. You can’t tease us with a juicy murder mystery and then leave. What happened? Who was killed?”

“Thanks for your time. Both of you.” The detective smiled before making his way out of the house.

Click here to continue reading Hags.

The big Hags giveaway
Download the Kindle version of Hags free between March 11 - 15, 2013.

If you don't want to wait for a free copy of Hags, purchase the paperback or Kindle version right now by clicking here.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Hags Episode 15


Do you want to start at the beginning of this series? Click here.

Micah stared at the officer. “I remember you.”

“You do? I wore a uniform then.”

“I remember every cop on the Naperville police force.”

“Most of the guys you knew retired. May I come in?”

“What’s this about?”

“I need to ask some questions.”

“Do you have a warrant?”

“We could do this back at the station, Mr. Probert. I can get a warrant, but for now I prefer a friendly chat to see if you can clear up a few things for us. Afterwards, I won’t have to bother you again.”

“Is this about the body I found?” Micah’s eyes followed a blur of red movement in the sky. “Can you see that?”

Detective Lawson turned around. “See what?”

“Nevermind. He’s gone now.”

Lawson gestured, palms up. “Who’s gone?”

“If you didn’t see it, you won’t believe it. Trust me, he left the area.”

Lawson rubbed his chin. “If you see things I don’t see, one of us has a problem.”

“You would have seen it if you looked that way. He’s out of sight now.”

“Who are we talking about?” Lawson stepped closer to Micah.

“Not sure. Some guy flying across the sky.”

“In a small airplane?”

“Something like that. A big kite or glider. Or he sprouted wings and flew. You never answered my question.”

“It’s not about the body you found.”

“Then come in.” Micah turned back into the house leaving the officer outside. Lawson opened the storm door and followed Micah into the kitchen.

“Planning to move, Mr Probert?”

“I registered as an offender so I’m sure you know I’m still moving in.”

Denise Appleby furrowed her eyebrows as she stared at Micah.

“I didn’t realize you had company, Mr. Probert. Can she come back later?” Lawson reached into his blue suit jacket and snagged a small paper tablet.

“I want her to stay if you don’t mind, detective.”

“As you wish.” Lawson removed a cheap ballpoint from his shirt pocket. It was the kind of writing instrument sweaty sales people give away at tradeshows.

“What about what I wish?” Denise poured more coffee into her cup, fixed her eyes on the police detective and smiled. She placed her cup down on the counter and climbed up on the chair in front of the refrigerator. Micah admired her lower appendages below her short skirt as she pulled down a cup and jumped to the floor.

“Milk and sugar, detective?” Micah picked up the spoon and gave it a quick wipe with a towel.

“Black is fine. Mr. Probert, I’ll come to the point. Can you account for your whereabouts yesterday afternoon?”

“I unpacked some stuff and did some paint-up, fix-up work.”

“Were you here say between three and six? By the way, those muffins appear enticing.”

Denise jumped in front of the muffins. “You may not have any.”

The detective pulled his arm back. “I didn’t ask for one. I said they appeared tasty.”

Denise checked out the detective with a nervous grin.

“She made them for me, detective. I would offer you one, but you might turn into a frog, and we wouldn’t want that to happen.” Micah smiled.

Click here to continue reading Hags.

The big Hags giveaway
Download the Kindle version of Hags free between March 11 - 15, 2013.

If you don't want to wait for a free copy of Hags, purchase the paperback or Kindle version right now by clicking here