Fiction that explores the monsters and strangers among us.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Hags Again


With Halloween around the corner, I have selected Hags as my focus novel for the month of October. The price of Hags has been reduced to $.99 for the Kindle version for the entire month. If you haven’t read Hags yet, here’s what it’s all about:

This Present Darkness meets The Blair Witch Project in my full-length horror novel Hags. After 15 years in prison for a crime he claims he didn’t commit, Micah Probert 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 roast this side of Hades. It’s in this coffee shop that his ex-girlfriend from high school works and where he runs into her sister, the accuser in Micah’s long ago trial.

But the real action begins when Micah learns that the beautiful young woman living next door to his fixer-upper, the girl he has just started dating, may actually be a witch as wicked as any from medieval times. Mix in a few dark secrets, a serial killer or two, a hot romance or two, and this novel takes you deep into the heart of horror in the suburbs. Will Micah heed the call to spiritual warfare with the evil forces mounted against him in time to save the city of Naperville? And will he discover the secret identity of the second hag who is out to destroy him? Find out when you read Hags. For paperback or Kindle version, click here.

Novel Quote
"In the half awake time before rising when images, dreams and half dreams ascend from the darkness of the soul and imprint themselves on the memory for the rest of the day, Micah Probert observed the faerie in a mountain meadow."
Hags by Paul R. Lloyd

Thursday, September 26, 2013

What Holds Your Attention in Speculative Fiction?


Speculative fiction includes science fiction, fantasy, horror and those creepy stories that don’t fit into a box with a genre label. Think of Twilight Zone and you get the idea.

What is it about speculative stories that hold our attention? A story works because the author blended the elements into a beautiful tapestry that delights and entertains the reader.

A well-told tale is located in a specific time and place. The author may change both as the story progresses, but the locale has to be believable. The location doesn’t have to be an actual place. Some of the best writing takes us to made up worlds like that galaxy far away that serves as the setting for Star Wars. Or you could tell a tale set in a real environment but with a dystopian twist like London after the zombie invasion has wiped everyone out except for a small band of intrepid survivors.

Stories revolve around characters. Ordinary stories feature ordinary characters in ordinary situations. Speculative fiction may have its share of ordinary characters, but you also find a few extraordinary characters in extraordinary places doing extraordinary things.

Speculative fiction moves at a pace appropriate to the tale. Science Fiction tales may need extra time for the author to create the fantastic world of the story, including an explanation of the science behind space travel, time travel, atomic fallout’s contribution to the size of insects, etc. But once the story is setup, it takes off at lightning speed. That because fantastic journeys are rarely languid. There’s simply too much going on to maintain a slow pace.

Location, characters and pace are three of the many elements that form the fabric of a good story. They provide clues to solving the mystery of my new novel Steel Pennies. The location is a working class neighborhood of a small Pennsylvania town in 1960. The characters are a group of teenagers whose summer is destroyed by a serial killer. The pace is fast as you might expect from a thriller. Check it out on Amazon by clicking here.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

How Young is Too Young for a Teenage Relationship?


Teen couples experience emotions at the extremes. They call lust love while having little understanding of the commitment love requires. If they learn the lessons of love, the lust will give way to a loving, committed relationship. If not, they eventually tire of each other and move on to new objects of desire. The extremes of love and lust among teen couples are fun to write about and a pleasure to read. There is no need to delve into the pornographic details of a backseat romance, but teens have an awkwardness and innocence that is both a joy to see and a cause of breakups.

As a writer, I consider age important to whether my characters will have a successful loving relationship. In my stories, teens of the same age have a chance, but it will be tough for them. The maturity level of the boy and girl are important to their success as a couple. Because girls mature earlier than boys, successful relationships happen when the girl dates one or two years up. Boys succeed when they date one or two years down.

A big age gap creates its own problems. For example an age difference of three years is too much because it tends to be abusive. It’s difficult to have an equal status when one of the teens is that much older.

An example of a couple with a three-year age gap can be found in my new novel Steel Pennies. Penny Durkin loves Tommy McConnell, but Penny is 17 and Tommy is 13. The story is a thriller that requires Tommy to protect Penny from a serial killer. That’s a big burden to place on a 13 year old boy’s shoulders. The love story weaves as a thread throughout the novel as Tommy and friends attempt to solve the case. At first, Penny plays with Tommy’s affections because she knows he has a crush on her. As the story progresses, watch how this playful teasing evolves into a classical romance between two star-crossed lovers. The ending is a shocker so I’ll let you read the story and enjoy it without giving away any of the secrets of this full length novel.

Check out Steel Pennies on Amazon by clicking here.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

A Well-Twinkled High School Memory


Reggie Van Fleet drooled whenever he spotted Charlene Wilkins, the tall blonde with emerald green eyes and a body made for Hollywood. But Reggie and Charlene lived in Lansdowne, Pennsylvania, in 1964, not Hollywood, California in 2015. Reggie about died when Charlene said yes to his invitation to the junior prom at Lansdowne-Aldan High School.

“But not if there’s a full moon,” said Charlene.

“What’s wrong with the full moon?” Reggie, who hadn’t learned yet how to take a hint, asked.

“My family keeps me under lock and key on the full moon. No dates allowed.”

“Not even for prom?”

“Reggie, you know I’m a werewolf, right? It wouldn’t do for me to show up in a full-length blonde fur coat, cold black nose and a mouth full of canine teeth.”

“I love an honest girl, but I never guessed. You always look so… so… clean shaven at school. I mean, I’d never know if you didn’t tell me. But your hair appears to be a B or C on the Fischer–Saller scale so I’m sure you’d be okay if you wore it long at the prom. Everyone likes those shades.”

“I could check with the prom committee on hair length. In the meantime, I’m sure I’m not the only one with secrets, Reggie Van Fleet. My Dad swears you were in his eleventh grade lit class at good old LAHS. And didn’t I see drool dripping off those fangs of yours? I’m sure a dentist could do something with them.”

“You do recall the dentist vanished mysteriously about six months ago, right?”

“You didn’t?” Charlene gasped.

“Mom chased me out to the dentist before I could drink my dinner. I was so thirsty. And then Dr. Martin started poking around in my mouth. He leaned in so close and his jugular vein practically pulsated with the sweet elixir of life.”

“I ate the eye doctor once. That’s why I’m not allowed to wear glasses until I’m eighteen. That’s two full years away.”

“I don’t have that problem, I’m already past eighteen.”

“When did you turn eighteen?”

“In 1793.”

“And you’re still a teenager?”

“I’m a teenage vampire.”

“My Dad would kill me if he knew I dated a vampire.”

“My Dad has forbidden me to date werewolves. He said werewolf blood will make me sick. But I figure we’re okay as long as I don’t suck you dry.”

“I might tear you limb from limb on a full moon, Reggie. You wouldn’t want that would you?”

“There’s only one thing to do.” Reggie pounded his fist into his hand, raising a dust cloud of twinkles.

“Not go out? But I like you a lot, Reggie. And I always wanted to be close to you since I was in kindergarten and you were a junior in high school. And look, you waited for me to catch up with you. How sweet.”

“I didn’t exactly wait for you, my dear. I’ll still be a junior in high school when you’re too old to teach new tricks to.”

“Oh, but at least we can be together now. But you said you had an idea.”

“Yes, I should have thought of this 125 years ago. Don’t know how I missed it.”

“Maybe because I wasn’t born until 1947?”

“Could be. Anyway, my idea is to suck your blood while you scratch me a good one. That way I’ll be a werewolf-vampire and you’ll be one also.”

“Technically, you’ll be a werewolf-vampire and I’ll be a vampire-werewolf.”

“Same difference.”

Charlene raised her voice. “No it’s not. A werewolf-vampire started out as a vampire but then a werewolf scratched it. A vampire-werewolf, on the other hand, began as a werewolf but a vampire sank its teeth into its throat.”

Reggie’s blood, what little he still had from the previous night of snacking, boiled. His face went from death-gray to a bright orange-red color. Twinkles streamed up into the air from out of both ears. He attacked Charlene right there in the middle of third period gym class.

Their battle lasted until the bell rang, but it was long enough to raise a cloud of twinkles from Reggie. Charlene Wilkins, the vampire-werewolf, didn’t get her revenge until the night of the next full moon.

It took another 50 years for Reggie and Charlene to accept that they were stuck with each other. Reggie was Charlene’s vampire master and Charlene was Reggie’s werewolf mistress. By then, they both were juniors at the real Hollywood High School out in California with the bright lights, sunshine, and beach parties where you can twinkle all you want and not stand out in the crowd. And where there was always a handy snack around the next dune anytime the moon shone bright. And where Reggie and Charlene finally fell in love under the moon and stars in the full, eternal way of great lovers.

THE END

Do you enjoy stories of young love, especially when blood sucker meets flesh ripper? Or how about when girl meets boy in another kind of unusual relationship? If you answered yes, please allow me to introduce you to Penny Durkin and Tommy McConnell. They're two teenagers in love. Their relationship is a bit odd in that Penny is 17 and Tommy is 13. But the only unanswered question so far is the age old mystery of love. Now, let's add a little spice to the tale of Penny and Tommy. What if Penny is a mad-dog serial killer? Tommy's not sure. But if she's not, then she's definitely on the killer's list of who to hit next. Can Tommy solve this whodunit thriller before the killer strikes again? Find out by reading Steel Pennies. Check it out on Amazon.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Frankenstein’s Rant


Mrs. Frankenstein, like all women, doesn’t leave the old castle the way us regular men do. No, Mrs. Frankenstein, my darling Hildegard, has to get ready first. Let’s say we’re due at the Coplenopolis’s at 7 pm. Guess what time Mrs. Frankenstein saunters to the front door and announces “Okay, I’m ready?”

Go ahead, guess. If you said 7:05 pm, you’d be correct. Does she then proceed to the family SUV? Of course not. “Okay, I’m ready” translates into “Okay, it’s time to check to make sure I unplugged every plug in the house, turned off the stove, shut off the dryer, turned down the heat, put the trash out, fed the dog, made sure the cat is back in the house, and given written instructions to the babysitter for little Frankie and Franny.

At 7:25 pm, she slides into the passenger seat of the SUV. We need a big one because, if you saw the film, you noticed we are tall people. I think old Doctor Frankenstein added extra parts in us. I put the SUV in reverse and back out of the driveway while the missus yells at me for driving before she has a chance to buckle up and settle in.

When we finally arrive at the Coplenopolis’s, it’s 7:45 pm. But do the Coplenopolis’s see our scarred good looks at 7:45? Don’t be silly. You could stick four guys in a car and drive somewhere, I don’t care where, let’s say I haul my buddies the count, the werewolf and one of those mummy chaps to choir practice (strip joint). What do you think we do when we get there?  Exactly. We get out of the car. Four doors on the old SUV pop open at approximately the same time – immediately upon stoping.

Now, let’s consider Mrs. Frankenstein, who by the way, is like most women you know, if a bit uglier, well, I shouldn’t say “uglier.” It’s an ugly word. She’s just a little bit scar-challenged if you get my drift.

“Don’t worry,” says the missus. “Everyone always comes late.” She says this with a straight face while I’m checking out the 32 automobiles stuffed into the Coplenopolis’s driveway. I make the mistake of popping my door open. Big mistake. Wife says, “Where are you going?” Doesn’t she know?

Okay, the search for her purse begins. Then she asks if she should wear her sweater into the house. “Why’d you wear it, if you didn’t want to wear it?” I ask. This conversation is a repeat of the same stupid conversation we’ve had since 1889 so you’d think I’d learn a new line or two, but no, I’m Frankenstein’s monster. He didn’t exactly steal the high IQ brain for my head.  Anyway, the wife has removed the sweater and is now going through her purse. “Purse,” of course, means that giant tote bag she drags around with her so rummaging through it takes a while.

“Aren’t you ready yet, dear?” I ask repeating the century old script.

“In a moment, darling. I want to check my makeup.”

Let’s think about this, boys and girls, she wants to check her makeup. Mrs. Frankenstein wants to take a gander at her face. The mirror cracked the first time she peeked at her mug in this vehicle, and that was a long time ago so I don’t  know what’s she’s expecting to see. Did you ever try to check a face full of scars in a cracked mirror?

A few minutes go by. The face that could sink a thousand ships now has shiny red lips and some rosy colored rouge smeared on her scarred cheeks. The scars now stand out as deep rose lines against a pale-as-death complexion because the rouge settles in the deepest places.

“How do I look?” she asks.

By this time I remember the consequences of truth. “Beautiful, my darling.”

She gives me an angry look. “Why are you just sitting there? We’re late. Let’s go.”

Yes, finally, she exits the SUV and heads for the front door. I’m about to ring the doorbell when she says, “I’ve changed my mind.”

Where have I heard that before?

She smiles like there’s no reason in the world why I should be beside myself with Frankensteinian anger. She says, “I think I’ll take my sweater after all. Will you run to the car and get it for me?”

THE END

Deep inside many a monster is what used to be a troubled human. Dracula was once a medieval count with a propensity for scaring the delights out of his enemies, especially the invading Turks. The Werewolf of London was an English bloke who minded his own business until one day a dog bit him. Well, he thought it was a dog. Our friend Frankenstein was a pile of dead bodies without a care in this world when a crazy scientist began sewing bits and pieces of people together.

In my new novel, Steel Pennies, there’s a monster loose who doesn’t look like a vampire, werewolf or a hideous pile of spare parts sewn together, but my character is a human monster just the same. Your challenge is to figure out who the monster is before this character kills Tommy’s girlfriend. Tommy is the main character in this teenaged romance gone wild. Blending humor with horror is a fun challenge for me as an author. But the humor fades away before the shocking conclusion of Steel Pennies. Did you enjoy reading Frankenstein’s rant? If yes, you’ll love the fast paced action of Steel Pennies. Check it out on Amazon.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Mirror Fried Vampires


To read from the beginning of this story, please click here.

Episode 5 of Jude Nerdworthy, Teenage Monster Fighter, in The Day the Characters Escaped

With Marvin directing us, Marylou, Fritz, the wheel loader operator, and I positioned the mirrors so that we could flash sunlight up into the rafters inside the storage closet where the giant bats slept.

All we had to do was wait for the rain to stop.

Marty Surgermond, one of the foremen, came in from a jobsite closed down by the rain.

“What’s with the mirrors?” he asked.

“We’re about to fry some vampires,” Marvin said.

“Not in my barn,” Marty said.

“Why not?” Marvin asked.

Marty reached into the cab of his pickup and produced a large pistol. “Rain for one thing. They are my friends for another.”

“You’re friends with a flock of bats?” Marylou asked.

“You mean a colony of bats,” said Marty.

“Either way, we plan to show them the light of day,” I said.

“Over my dead body,” Marty said. You should never say “over my dead body” if you’re a character in a horror story. Marty, who obviously was serving as the Renfield for the local bat colony, should have known that Marylou Brambach was a gifted skid steer operator who at the moment had the skid steer bucket headed straight for him.

Marty fired his pistol at Marylou until he used up a clip of ammo, but Marylou had the bucket raised on the skid steer which served as a giant bulletproof vest. Marty’s last word was “Ahhgphh!” which roughly translates to “crap.”

We heard the fluttering of bats excited by the aroma as Marty's blood ran along the concrete floor of the barn.

The rain stopped.

Phew, were we ever glad.

We repositioned the mirrors, except for the last one. The door to the storage closet flew open. Three giant bats landed on the remains of Marty. Three vampires in human form knelt to lick up the blood on the concrete.

I aimed the last of the mirrors to direct sunlight on the vampire colony. I cooked five of them, but the sixth flew up into the darkness of the rafters. I chased the bat with light from the mirror system, but the creature was too fast. It was like trying to shoot down a British Spitfire with a German ack-ack gun.

Fortunately for us, the bat became overly excited and flew out the barn door into the sunshine. It almost made it to the safety of a shaded oak tree before it crashed in a smokey mess.

Once again, the tiny city of Warrenville, Illinois, was safe from the vampire, werewolf and zombie menace. All that remained was to help Marvin Bloodleder figure out how to keep his characters from escaping his books.

“Maybe it’s because they’re electronic pages,” Marylou suggested.

“I never thought of that,” said Marvin. “I bet my laptop sprung a leak.”

THE END.

Today's novel quote
"We stopped where the skull waited for us."
Steel Pennies

Check this out:  Jude Nerdworthy is light-hearted horror that pokes fun at my hometown of Warrenville, Illinois. If you would like to sink your fangs into a darker, more terrifying story, try my new novel Steel Pennies. It's set in my former hometown of West Chester, Pennsylvania, where they grow mushrooms and teachers among other stuff. It's a mystery, a thriller and a love story wrapped around the horror of a serial killer on the loose. Purchase the full-length novel for less than $3 on Amazon today. Click here.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Guilt of the Thirsty Vampire


To read from the beginning of this story, please click here.

Episode 4 of Jude Nerdworthy, Teenage Monster Fighter, in The Day the Characters Escaped

Unless you can suck them into the open at daybreak, Vampires are the toughest monsters to kill because you have to get up close and personal with them. This is what they want you to do so you are as likely to fall into a vampire’s snare as you are to trap one of them.

Religious artifacts work well against vampires if you combine wearing one with a healthy dollop of faith. This was no problem for me or Marylou as we were both devout sex addicts, oops, I mean Presbyterians. We also shared a certain sentimental affection for the fine art of bathing vampires in Holy Water.

By the time we finished with the high school teachers, I mean werewolves, sunup was only minutes away. Marylou and I scanned the sky for large bats. We didn’t have long to wait. We spotted six huge white bats fluttering around Warrenville’s Public Works building. Surely we would find blood suckers there if nowhere else.

The public works building has a large barn in the back with very high rafters. This is where the city stores the skid steers, trucks, cherry pickers and other heavy equipment used to keep our streets safe and in good working order. At the back of the barn, we found a huge storage room with no windows. I poked my head into the closet and shined a flashlight into the rafters above where I spotted a row of large bats, each about eighteen inches long.

One of the bats yelled, “Hey, turn out that light. We’re trying to sleep up here. Oops.”

I turned off the light and slammed the storage room door. “Marylou, do vampires say ‘oops?’”

“I don’t know,” said Marylou.

“They do in my books,” said Marvin.

“Then there’s a good chance those giant bats are vampires up in the rafters in that closet,” I said.

“What should we do?” Marylou asked.

At that moment, a front end loader pulled into the storage barn.

“Where do you want me to put these mirrors?” the driver asked.

Click here to continue...

Today's novel quote
"Wickedness attracted and scared us at the same time."
Steel Pennies

Check this out: Unlike Jude Nerdworthy who sees monsters on a daily basis on the pages of this blog, the only monster you'll find in Steel Pennies is that certain someone responsible for murder, mayhem and mischief in 1960 West Chester, PA. Whodunit? Find out when you download Steel Pennies for less than $3 on Amazon today.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Zombie Destruction


To read from the beginning of this story, please click here.

Episode 3 of Jude Nerdworthy, Teenage Monster Fighter, in The Day the Characters Escaped

While the zombies invaded Warrenville, Illinois, Marylou Brombach and I finished our entire vocabulary of words that rhyme with "duck" except for one word that Marylou refused to say because she didn't want to sound like a chicken and besides it had an extra letter in it. 

“What should we do?” Marvin asked.

“Skip that word and move on to the zombies," I said.

"But the zombies," Marvin implored.

"Shoot ‘em in the head. Works every time.” I said. Shooting zombies isn’t the big deal some people think it is. Zombies aren’t the brightest of people, despite their love of eating brains.

"But I don't have a gun," said Marvin.

"We'll take care of it," I said.

Marylou Brombach and I ran to Albert Bringlebaum’s house to recruit him for the zombie action committee. His gun-toting dad was home and they both volunteered to shoot up the town.

“Can I bomb the zombies?” Albert asked.

“If it works,” I said. “The main thing is to destroy their heads. That’s what kills them.”

The sounds of gunshots and bomb explosions soon filled the night. Apparently finding zombies roaming around the Chicago suburbs is not difficult.

For the werewolves, Marylou and I went to my house where we loaded up on silver bullets for our AK-47s. The next step was to snag a hammer and a few oak stakes to stuff in our belts for the vampires. While many vampire slayers prefer to use a backpack, my preference has always been to belt stuff. What you gain in speed to heart offsets any issues with belt-related slippage. You can always pick up an oak stake that falls out of your belt, but you can’t always pull one out of a backpack faster than a vampire can suck.

To find a werewolf, follow the howling, growling and chewing sounds. Marylou and I found and killed six werewolves that way. Being a small burb, we knew all six werewolves from high school. Who knew our teachers had formed a committee. Miss Tribbett had been the biggest surprise. She was a science teacher who should have known better than to join a cult of moonlit shape shifters. Mr. Trottlebaum, the boys gym instructor, was no surprise.

We were ready to move on to the vampires until Marvin pointed out that we had killed the wrong werewolves. “I don’t write about teachers turned werewolves,” he said. “I write about ordinary citizens who become werewolves. People like you and me.”

Marylou fired at me and Marvin.

Fortunately she missed.

“He means ordinary people in the same way that we are ordinary people, Marylou. He doesn’t mean us specifically. We’re not werewolves.”

“Yeah, but those people could be,” Marylou said as she opened fire on a crowd of extremely furry, sharp-toothed citizens who growled a lot.

“That’s them,” cried Marvin.

Marylou and I killed three of Marvin’s werewolves before the rest of them attacked Marvin. At first I thought Marvin was a goner, but then he began to shake and bake as he absorbed the remaining werewolves back into himself.

“I just got a great idea for Chapter 23 where the werewolves return,” Marvin said.

Click here to continue...

Today's novel quote
"I gawked at the eye holes, gasped, and dropped a chunk of somebody’s skull at Bob’s feet."
Steel Pennies
Buy it for less than $3 on Amazon today.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Werewolves on the Prowl


To read from the beginning of this story, please click here.

Episode 2 of Jude Nerdworthy, Teenage Monster Fighter, in The Day the Characters Escaped

The elderly gentleman took off without drinking the werewolf’s blood. The werewolf listened to the “zom… zom… zom” song of the Warrenville marching zombie brigade and took off for the woods behind Marylou Brombach’s house. Marylou and I made out for another minute before the zombies came too close.

Fortunately, we had experience with zombies, although fictional zombies may be tougher to kill than the real ones.

“Maybe we should call Professor Booger from Fermilab,” Marylou suggested. Fermilab, the national accelerator laboratory famous for racing neutrinos around the track, happened to be next door to Warrenville. Professor Booger happened to be a mad scientist who was rumored to work there when not hanging out in his garage attempting to invent the real flubber, an antigravity device used mainly on Model T Fords.

I said, “Let’s run to Marvin Ledbeder’s house because in the time it took to read that paragraph of explanation above, the zombies had enough time to break through your wide open front door. It wasn’t much of a challenge, but the zombies figured it out anyway. RUN!”

I snagged Marylou’s hand and we took off running in all caps. We stopped long enough in the garage to convince Marylou’s Mom to drive us in her pickup truck to Marvin Ledbeder’s house in the part of town where the ancient houses hung out.

We didn’t slow down until we hit Mr. Ledbeder’s front door which only hurt for a little while. Fortunately the door wasn’t locked because, well, that’s the kind of town Warrenville is.

“What are you people doing here?” Marvin asked.

“Zombies, vampires and werewolves, oh my,” said Marylou.

“Don’t tell me they escaped again?” Marvin asked.

“They escaped again along with Ms. Bucket," I said.

“You had to say it, didn’t you?” asked Marvin. “We’ll have to round them up then.”

“Now would be a good time. The zombies are stomping around town looking for brains,” I said.

“It’s a good thing that boy genius Jude Nerdworthy isn’t around,” said Marvin. “He’d know how to round up these monsters.”

“I’m around,” I said. “I’m Jude Nerdworthny.” Sometimes you have to emphasize who you are before people will listen to you.

“Why are you waiting?” asked Marvin.

“Waiting for what?” I asked.

“Do something. You’re the monster fighter. I thought you’d know what to do.”

“I told you about them. You’re the author. Round them up.”

“Not so easy as it sounds, young man. Once a character escapes, it holds no loyalty to the author.”

“If you won’t, then I will,” I said.

“But how?” Marylou asked.

“The old fashioned way, Marylou. With pluck and luck and other words that rhyme with duck.”

Click here to continue...

Today's novel quote
"She was busy getting murdered."
Steel Pennies
Buy it for less than $3 on Amazon today.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Marianna Bucket Saunters In Followed by the Horse


Episode 1 of Jude Nerdworthy, Teenage Monster Fighter, in The Day the Characters Escaped

For local independent horror novel author Marvin Bloodleder, things got out of hand the day his characters escaped. I became involved when Marianna Bucket sauntered into the Brombach house like she owned the place. I was on the couch making out with Marylou while her mom grease monkeyed around with the Chevy pickup in the garage.

“May I help you,” Marylou asked.

“No, dear. I’m fine, except I don’t know what you’re doing here. And who is that with you?”

“I live here and this is my boyfriend, Jude Nerdworthy, teenage monster fighter. We were busy making out despite it being so early in the morning or so late in the evening depending on when we started kissing which was sometime after the late movie at Roxy’s Picture Show.”

“I’m afraid you people will have to leave or I’m going to call the… well, I’m not sure who I’m supposed to call.” Ms. Bucket studied the ceiling for a good five minutes. She didn’t move the whole time. Not a muscle. I’m not even sure she breathed during that time. “Well, I’m afraid I don’t know who to call, but I do know that I own this house and you’ll have to leave now. Go on. Your parents will be worried.

“My parents live here,” Marylou said.

“No, I’ve already explained that, dear. I live here." She gave us a street address that matched the Brombach's address on McGurk Court. "I should think I’d know my own address. How do you think I arrived here this morning?”

“Where did you come from?” I asked.

“Work, of course. Well, now that I think about it, I may have simply stepped out of Marvin Bloodleder’s butt. He’s my author, you know. Yes, of course. I remember now. How silly of me to forget. I stepped out of his butt at five-thirty this morning. But he didn’t write anyone for me to call. Well, I suppose the police will have to do. Now, where did I put the phone?”

“Excuse me, ma’am,” I said. “But did you say you are a character out of a book?”

“I did, didn’t I? That doesn’t make a lot of sense, though, does it?”

“No, ma’am, it doesn’t,” I said.

“That’s because it’s still a manuscript. I fell out of the manuscript or the author’s butt around page 247, right after Simon Snicksnaker blew my house to smithereens.”

“As you can see, Mrs. Bucket, my house isn’t blown up. So this can’t be your home, can it?” Marylou said.

“Oh, I didn’t realize I was married,” said Ms. Bucket.

“Perhaps you’re not,” I said.

At that moment, a man with a bare, hairless chest and dark trousers walked in pulling the reins on a horse. The other end of the reins were attached to a great black stallion.

“Ah, Marianna, my darling, I’ve found you at last.” The bare-chested hunk swept Marianna into his arms and planted a supersized whopper of a kiss on her lips.

“I thought Marvin Bloodleder wrote horror novels, not romance,” Marylou said.

“To prove her correct, a tall man covered completely in fur with a business suit burst in behind the horse. The horse whinnied while the wolf-man wiped his shoes off on the carpet.

The men growled and snarled several times which scared the horse, but the wolf-man lacked the ability or sense to move out of the way. He did, however, continue wiping his shoes on the Brombach carpeting.

The bare-chested man leaped on the horse to ride bareback. He swept Marianna up onto the horse with him. Together they cantered through the dining room and kitchen, presumably out to the backyard.

The wolf-man snarled some more until an elderly gentleman dressed in an antique tuxedo appeared at Marylou’s door. “May I come in?” he asked.

“No!” I shouted. Never invite strangers into your home, especially if they are using a toothpick to peck away at their four-inch long upper incisors as the new visitor was doing.

“Very well, but would you mind sending the werewolf out? He has a rare blood type that I crave.” The elderly gentleman smiled at us while tucking his tooth pick into his cummerbund.

“All we need now is a zombie,” Marylou exclaimed.

That’s when things became ticklish.

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Today's novel quote
"That rapidly thumping thing in my chest melted into putty."
Steel Pennies
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Thursday, September 12, 2013

Where’s the Bloody Formula?


To read from the beginning of this story, please click here.

Episode 4 of Jude Nerdworthy, Teenage Monster Fighter, in The Silence of the Books

The bullets fired by Officer McNally weakened, but did not kill, the Warrenville Public Library District’s copy of Mordecai Blount’s Book of the Undead. I rolled the book off me before it could replenish its blood supply from my jugular vein.

As I suspected, I found the spell for bringing classic books to life tucked into the back of the book by old Mordecai Blount. According to the note, he developed the spell to take revenge on Warrenville for sending him to jail for murdering a half dozen of our town’s teenagers back around the First World War.

The easiest way to break a magic spell is to unravel it backwards. Starting at the end of the bloodied formula in Mordecai Blount's Book of the Undead, I performed the following tasks:
Throw up.
Eat pancake and corn syrup mixture.
Pour on one cup of corn syrup.
Place 4 pancakes on a plate.
Fry on griddle until brown on both sides.
Mix in one dozen pairs of frog eyes.
Mix in two dozen pig toenails.
Mix in one cup of bat blood.
Mix in 347 mosquitoes, living or dead (may substitute one baby vampire).
Mix in shredded paper.
Shred one paperback copy of The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger (well-seasoned dogeared copy with student notes in margins works best, especially if printed before 1990.)
Mix one box of the cheapest pancake mix you can find at your local supermarket following the directions on the box.
Purchase one box of the cheapest pancake mix you can find at your local supermarket.
Go to your local supermarket.

I arrived at the supermarket at 8:00 am to complete the reverse spell. The sun had been up for several hours by that time so the classics had returned to their lair in the Warrenville Public Library building lower level behind the “furnace room” door. There was no way to know if the spell was broken until midnight.

Marylou Brombach and I staked out the library with our new friend Officer McNally who showed up with a replenished supply of bullets. We waited until midnight to be sure the books remained asleep. At approximately 12:30 am, Officer McNally declared that he was calling it a night. Marylou and I gave little fist pumps knowing the rest of the night belonged to us in the “furnace room” of the Warrenville Public Library where we enjoyed the silence of the books.

THE END

Today's novel quote
"She missed my mouth, hit my cheek, and mushed her lips across my skin."
Steel Pennies
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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Officer McNally Turns the Renegade Books Loose


To read from the beginning of this story, please click here.

Episode 3 of Jude Nerdworthy, Teenage Monster Fighter, in The Silence of the Books

Sonnet 111 wasted no time sinking its tiny fangs into Officer McNally’s neck. I swept the Shakespeare across the floor but not in time to avoid a little trickle of blood appearing on Officer McNally’s neck. There was no time to block the other books from escaping their secret chamber in the lower level of the Warrenville Public Library.

Despite my reputation as a teenaged monster fighter, Officer McNally had laughed at my contention that the blood-sucking books were right behind the library storage room door, the one marked “furnace room” to keep bookworms away. Officer McNally also had ignored Moby Dick fluttering around the rafters. Instead, he yanked the “furnace room” door open to the joy of The Complete Works of Shakespeare. And that’s when Sonnet 111 struck.

Hundreds of books, many of them not read since the Ford Administration, flew out of the “furnace room” and escaped into the night. These volumes were too anxious for their freedom and a supply of fresh blood to bother with me or Officer McNally.

As the tomes disappeared into the night, I rushed into the secret chamber in pursuit of Mordecai Blount’s Book of the Undead. An old oak cabinet in the back corner of the room wiggled and vibrated to the sound of a huge living book trapped inside.

I found a screwdriver where I always find one – in my back pocket – and proceeded to yank off the lock on the cabinet door. Before the padlock hit the floor, Mordecai Blount’s Book of the Undead flew at my face. I snagged it with both hands but its huge size made it a tough opponent. The book knocked me to the floor as I begged McNally for help.

McNally tried to pull the book off me, but it wanted revenge for the last time I had encountered this vile tome of magic spells. Officer McNally pulled his gun out.

“Don’t shoot it,” I shouted. “You could blow a hole in my theory on how to stop these renegade classics.”

McNally emptied his pistol into Mordecai Blount’s Book of the Undead, causing profuse bleeding.

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Today's novel quote
"You have to kiss me for the answer."
Steel Pennies
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Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Mrs. Appleburger Sleeps, But the Books Wake Up


To read the beginning of this story, please click here.

Episode 2 of Jude Nerdworthy, Teenage Monster Fighter, in The Silence of the Books

The evil books locked away in the basement of the Warrenville Pubic Library have long fangs they use to suck your blood. Don’t worry, the books sit on the shelves hidden away behind a door marked “Furnace Room” in the library basement. The ancient tomes sleep during normal library hours.

Did you ever wonder why the library closes at nine o’clock every night? It gives the staff three hours to clear the place out before the volumes go on a blood-lust rampage at midnight.

Mrs. Appleburger, our high school English teacher, found out about the blood thirsty books one night this past summer. She worked late doing research on her doctoral thesis on the use of the supernatural in books that otherwise would have been considered classical literature rather than mere pulp fiction.

Mrs. Appleburger fell asleep amidst the stacks in the furnace room at eight-thirty-eight in the evening. The time is important because Madeline Inglebock checked the furnace room at eight-thirty-two to announce the library would be closing soon. No way was she or any other staff member returning to the “furnace room” before sunrise. You never know when a book might wake up early with an appetite for fresh blood.

When Mrs. Appleburger woke up, she spotted Bleak House flapping its pages near the ceiling. A giant pair of fangs hung down from this Dickens classic much the same way you would spot legs on a bat. She told me later she swatted the book away before it could attach itself to her neck.

Huckleberry Finn hissed at her with a Mississippi accent. Mrs. Appleburger enjoyed reading Twain so she snagged it out of the air and began perusing it. The more she read, the more the book purred. Mrs. Appleburger soon recognized that the best way to keep old books from sucking your blood is to read them.

Mrs. Appleburger read as fast as she could, but she was no speed reader despite her advanced degree. She called me for help. I rushed over with a broom and swatted the books out of the way until Mrs. Appleburger could make her way to the exit. I slammed the door as Shakespeare’s complete works banged against the other side, making a clanking noise against the door metal.

“I thought you had to read books to bring them to life,” said Mrs. Appleburger.

I swatted at a fanged Moby Dick that had escaped the furnace room. “These books may have been cursed by Mordacai Blount. I’ll check into it.”

“Good idea,” said Mrs. Appleburger. She ran out of the library leaving me to deal with Moby Dick and the police officer assigned to check out the reason the silent alarm went off at the library.

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Today's novel quote
"She placed her left hand on my right cheek, the one on my face."
Steel Pennies
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Monday, September 9, 2013

The Blood-Thirsty Library


Episode 1 of Jude Nerdworthy, Teenage Monster Fighter, in The Silence of the Books

Fanged things, objects of the imagination, and nightmares live behind the secret door guarding the hidden chamber in the lower level of the public library in Warrenville, Illinois, my home town. I first entered the “furnace room” while searching for information on how to save my girlfriend, Marylou Brombach, who at the time had been turned into a semi-vampire.

You may think the Warrenville Public Library is like any normal suburban Chicago book and video repository with lots of extruded aluminum pillars and posts along with glass windows, imitation wood chairs and a coffee machine, but this mausoleum of mischief and misplaced feigns has books, lots and lots of books. The woodwork is real and so is the secret chamber.

Okay, the room isn’t much of a secret if I, Jude Nerdworthy, teenage monster fighter, know about it, but most people ignore the door on the lower level with the “Furnace Room” sign nailed to it. They never think about how the furnace is behind the unmarked door next to the elevator. Why they never investigate the unmarked door is beside the point. People become curious and peek behind it. But they find the furnace room. The real secret, as I said, waits patiently behind the “Furnace Room” door.

In the pages of a huge medieval book I found the recipe that saved Marylou Brombach. The title was Mordecai Blount’s Book of the Undead. What I didn’t realize at the time was the books behind the furnace room door come alive late at night. How they know it’s night time is beyond me, but somehow they figure it out in the depths of our dark, windowless library basement. Maybe one of them has a clock built into it.

I know your teachers may have told you about living books, those ancient boring classics that nobody reads but everyone wants to say they have. But trust me on this, the living books at the Warrenville, Illinois, public library are alive and they crave your blood.

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Today's novel quote
"Three days later, I saw my first dead person who still had his skin on." Steel Pennies
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