Sins of the Past – Griddlebone

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The werecat padded silently across the cobbles of the dark Vienna street. It was deserted now, but Griddlebone knew it would soon be filled with bootsteps and cries, gunshots and blood. They were slated to come at dawn, to cleanse this last Jewish neighborhood of its vermin, so that the proper folk of Vienna could finally live Judenfrei.

Inside the darkened houses, the residents huddled in fear. The news of the transport had only come hours before, and some still couldn’t believe it. They had been fooling themselves for months, believing this one insignificant street could survive in its own little bubble, that somehow God would protect them.

They readied themselves with what few valuables they had left. Maybe they could still bribe the Nazi soldiers. Maybe there was still a way out.

The werecat flexed his claws, as he waited in the shadows. Griddlebone wished he could rescue them all, but his orders were clear. He could only take one. They needed to be the right age too – a teenager would be good, strong enough to fight, strong enough to survive the turning.

As the first rays of light caught the cobblestones, Griddlebone felt the bootsteps echoing down the street. Soon. His tail swished back and forth in anticipation. Within minutes, the first soldier came into view. The werecat was all but invisible to the soldiers, his mottled grey coat blending perfectly with the cold grey street.

At the same time as the first soldiers appeared on foot, a silver-grey truck arrived on the street and parked in front of the buildings, waiting for its human cargo.

As the Gestapo soldiers marched past the werecat’s hiding place, he longed to dig his claws into their ankles, to hear them scream with pain. Not yet, Griddlebone, not yet.

Listen to Debbie reading her story Griddlebone from Sins of the Past on Outskirts Science Fiction Theatre.

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Historical Stories of the Macabre including my tale, “Griddlebone”.

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Sins of the Past – Andy Morris

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Today on Paws 4 Thought we continue our Sins of the Past series with Andy Morris, author of Birthright. Tell us a little bit about yourself, Andy.

I live in a small town in the West Midlands, England called Wednesbury with my fiancé, Gemma and my two children, Harry (6) and Emily (4). I’m currently working for a joinery company manufacturing door frames and doors, which at the moment is taking up a lot of my time so finding time to write is difficult, but I do what I can when free time becomes available. I’ve always been a big horror fan, whether it be films, novels, or even comics and have often been told I have a morbid imagination, which does come in handy when writing horror.

Who are your favorite authors?

 Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and Brian Keane.

Tell us a bit about your story, Birthright?

Birthright is a story about a young boy and how his haemophilia transforms him into a vampire. I set it during the Russian Revolution because of the Tsar’s young son Alexei, who did suffer from the condition and whose disappearance has been shrouded in mystery. Birthright is actually a small part of a much larger story that I have been working on for a while.

 If you could travel back in time to any place and period in the past where and when would you go?

I’d travel to ancient Greece around 2000 B.C.

 What attracts you to writing horror?

The macabre and the sinister have always fascinated me and having a slightly weird imagination, it seemed a perfect fit.

 What are you currently reading?

The Strain by Chuck Hogan and Guillermo Del Toro.

 Are you planning to write a story for Sins of the Future? Any hints about your story?

I do have plans for a story. All I can say at this time is when the world is ending and food is running out, what lengths would you go to to survive?

 What do you like to do to relax?

I like to read, watch films, and spend time with my family.

 What are you currently working on?

I’m currently working on the series of novels set in the same world as Birthright.

How about a snippet from Birthright?

It has been sixteen years since my whole family, including myself, were killed in the town of Tobolsk, Russia.

It all started in 1905 when peaceful protesters marched upon the Winter Palace, my family’s home at the time. Although my father was not in residence then, he was blamed for the shootings by the palace guards, which resulted in nearly a hundred deaths and over 300 more severely injured. This day was to be known as Bloody Sunday and was the start of my father’s decline as the ruler of my motherland. This set in motion events, which would take another thirteen years to come to a head and during that time my life would change forever.

What happened next, you will not find in any history books. Scholars will not be talking about it. For what happened to me, Alexei, son of the last tsar of Russia, heir to the throne, was unnatural. I was born with a blood disorder, a disorder known as haemophilia. To many this is a disorder where the body can’t produce the blood-clotting agents it needs in order to heal, but what you may not know is that the literal translation for this disorder is

Love of blood”.

Like all parents, mine were very protective, but more so because of my condition. The slightest bruise or cut could have been life threatening and like most young boys growing up I had my fair share of bumps. This bought all kinds of doctors to treat me, but it was one instance in 1912, when I was just ten years of age, when my condition really took its toll. We were vacationing in the town of Spala when I fell from my horse while hunting and I was in a critical condition – so much so that the last sacrament was read to me by a priest. Doctors could do nothing for me and my mother resorted to turning to a starets (a spiritual elder of the Russian Orthodox Church) to come and see what could be done. This man’s name was Grigori Yefimovich. Known to many as Rasputin…

Connect with Andy on Facebook.

To read more pick up a copy of Sins of the Past today in Kindle or paperback.

UK readers can follow this link to Amazon UK.

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Sins of the Past – Misha Burnett

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Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’m nearly 52 years old, divorced with three grown children, and I work in the maintenance department of a small university.  I have been writing and self-publishing for about four years, and have four novels published, a series collectively called The Book Of Lost Doors.

Who are your favorite authors?

Mostly New Wave Science Fiction.  Tim Powers, Phillip Dick, George Alec Effinger, Samuel Delany, Thomas Disch, William Burroughs.  I am also a huge fan of G K Chesterton, and have a weakness for Romantic poets.

Tell us a bit about your story, We Pass From View

I love the schlock drive-in cinema of the 1960s and 1970s and wanted to write about a film crew making a low budget horror movie.  I am also fascinated by the Lovecraftian concept of books that are so horrible that they drive you insane if you read them.  “We Pass From View” combines those two ideas.  I also sneaked in a few references to my main series, but you don’t need to catch them to enjoy the story.

If you could travel back in time to any place and period in the past where and when would you go?

Honestly, I don’t think I would—I kind of like it right now.  I think sometimes about being able to travel back and talk to myself in, say, 1973, and explain a lot of the facts of life to the younger me, give some stern warnings and some advice, but knowing who I was then I wouldn’t have listened anyway.

What attracts you to writing horror?

The freedom.  Horror is supposed to be socially unacceptable. When readers pick up a horror story, they know that are going to be shocked, frightened, disconcerted, and maybe even grossed out.  That’s what they are there for. I get to make people really uncomfortable and get paid for it?  What’s not to love?

Tell us a little about your series, The Book of Lost Doors.

Recently I came across the phrase “slipstream fiction”, which seems to fit my work better than any conventional genre designation.  I use elements from science fiction, fantasy, horror, and psychological fiction.  It’s set in a world that looks like ours on the surface, but has a lot of odd little corners and hidden passageways where strange things from strange other places lurk. My main character, James, has an alien intelligence called Catskinner in his head and the two of them encounter a lot of other people with alien things about them.

Are you planning to write a story for Sins of the Future?

I’ve written it and sent it off.  Fingers crossed.

Any hints about your story?

It’s actually quite a departure from my usual style.  I tend to avoid moralizing in fiction—I go with the credo that if you want to send a message, call Western Union.  However, in this one case I am very troubled by a particular trend in technology and I set out to write a story specifically to point out some problems that no one else seems to be thinking about.  I think the story works but it’s very much a cautionary tale and that’s new territory for me.  I’d like to think that it would fit in Harlan Ellison’s Dangerous Visions.

What do you like to do to relax?

Movies, television, and wine, mostly.  I’m very plebeian.

What are you currently working on?

I’m taking a bit of a vacation from writing, although I am noodling around ideas for the next novel in my series, World Edgewise. Right now my day job is very demanding—the students will be returning to campus in just a couple of weeks—and I am making preparations for Archon, a local science fiction convention that I’ll be attending in the fall.

How can readers connect with you?

My blog on WordPress is the easist—it has links to everything else and a page for sending me e-mail.  I do love hearing from readers and I try to reply to any mail I get.

http://mishaburnett.wordpress.com/

Ready to read a little from We Pass From View?

Josef Naamaire directed 47 films, beginning with The Congo Gunman in 1955 and ending with Mission: Asteroid in 1974.  All of his films were made for B-movie mill Spectacular Studios, mostly produced by Hymie Greenbaum. While several of his movies—notably Hellcats In High Heels (1964), and The Room Without A Door (1966)—enjoyed  a brief cult status for what were, for the time, shockingly explicit scenes of lesbianism, Naamaire is best known for a film that, it is said, no living person has ever seen.

We Pass From View was filmed in July and August of 1963, with principal photography on location in what is now Wildwood Canyon Park, outside of Burbank, CA.  The script was based on the book of the same name, written by a young man named Michael Chase, who would go on to found the cult, Clear Vision World.  Chase and his followers—including four children—were brutally murdered on April 23, 1982, by persons unknown.

How Chase’s book became the basis of a Spectacular film is an interesting story in itself.  In 1961 Robert Sterling, at the time the chairman of the studio’s board of directors, made arrangements to purchase the film rights for the entire catalog of the paperback original publisher Cupid’s Bow Press.  As a condition of the purchase, Spectacular was required to film We Pass From View.  It is believed that this unusual clause was made a condition of the deal by Cupid’s Bow publisher, Sabrina Erikovitch, who went on to join Michael Chase’s organization, and eventually to die with him.

Since Cupid’s Bow owned the rights to the popular Code Name: Hangman spy thriller series, Sterling agreed to the terms, and gave studio staff writer, Robin Wilde, the task of converting Chase’s book into a screenplay. (Spectacular went on to film six Code Name:Hangman movies, which were among the studio’s most lucrative films.)

No known copies of Michael Chase’s original book exist.  By all accounts it did not sell—only one edition was printed and the majority of it was likely sent back to be pulped.  Robin Wilde, in a letter to his longtime companion, actress Ellie Vance, called it, “this unreadable pile of shit.”

Even the Cupid’s Bow catalog entry is uncharacteristically terse. We Pass From View appears in only one edition, Fall, 1960.  The entry reads: “A fascinating look at the myths and realities surrounding death and dying, by professor of philosophy, Dr. Michael Chase.”  Michael Chase, it should be noted, often claimed a doctorate, sometimes in physics, sometimes in philosophy, however there are no records of him completing an advanced degree at any of the schools that he claimed to have attended.

Faced with the daunting task of transforming a “look at the myths and realities surrounding death and dying”, fascinating or otherwise, into a screenplay suitable for the drive-in movie market, Wilde chose to pen a tale of a group of college students who go camping in the woods and die from mysterious causes, one by one. (It will be remembered that Wilde is also responsible for the screenplay of Spectacular’s “adaptation” of Baudelaire’s Flowers of Evil that contained, among other things, vegetable creatures from Venus who had come to Earth to harvest human males’ “vital fluids”.)

Since neither the book nor the screenplay is available for comparison, the question of how faithful the latter is to the former must remain unanswered.  Given what we do know of both works, however, the probable answer is “not very.”

There is, however, one section of the screenplay that seems to have been lifted directly from Chase’s book.  Shortly before her death from bone cancer in 1987, Bette Blowe, (born Elizabeth Tucker) the lead actress in We Pass From View and Josef Naamaire’s wife was interviewed in Playboy magazine.  While most of the article is concerned with her claims that she carried on numerous homosexual affairs with various female celebrities, towards the end of the interview she was asked about We Pass From View and the film’s alleged effect on the test audiences.  Her reply follows:

“It was that fucking Appendix B. They made me read the whole thing aloud. Robin refused to transcribe it—he just told me to read it out of the book. He said Bob [Sterling] told him that had to be in the movie.  That’s the part that made everybody go apeshit. It was bad.  I don’t remember what it said—I don’t remember reading it at all. It was like I was in a trance.  But I know it was some serious bad shit.  Joe didn’t let anybody watch the dailies of that scene, he just shipped it straight off.”

It was a very small crew who traveled to the campsite north of Burbank to film We Pass From View. Most accounts report that Naamaire operated the cameras himself (he had begun his film career as a camera operator, and frequently chose to run the cameras, both to keep costs low and to control the specifics of his shots.)  The sound technician was one Greg Donnely, who committed suicide in May of 1970.  It is likely, although employment records are unclear, that Alice Monroe served as assistant director on the film.  She worked with Naamaire on many of his other films, and at least one account of the location shooting refers to “Alice” setting marks during the shoot.  Alice Monroe died in September of 1968, also a suicide. Although there were almost certainly other crew members, no one else associated with the location shooting has been identified.

The cast was also small.  In addition to Bette Blowe (first billed on the released material), Ellie Vance (billed as Esther Vance for contractual reasons), Eve Eden, Neville Brook, and Hank Renck comprised the company. Bette Blowe’s sole published remarks regarding the film are referenced above.  Neville Brook is on record threatening the life of a reporter who asked him about the film.  None of the other cast members are believed to have commented about the film in print at all.

Eve Eden vanished without a trace in late 1965.  She had reportedly incurred very large debts to Las Vegas casinos, and it is believed that she either vanished to avoid her creditors or was murdered by them and her body hidden.  Rumors have circulated regarding her reappearance since then, but none have been confirmed.

All of the other cast members are now dead.

Ellie Vance was murdered in February of 1972 by Robin Wilde, who then killed himself.

Hank Renck died of complications from syphilis in November of 1975.

Neville Brook was found in a hotel room in Tijuana, in June of 1980, shot in the head.  The case is still unsolved.

At the time that the following interview was conducted, January 17th, 2014, Josef Naamaire was the only living person who could be reliably placed at the campsite north of Burbank during the filming of We Pass From View. He was 83 years old, and had recently been diagnosed with latestage pancreatic cancer. He would die within the month, on February 12th.

The interview was conducted by Aaron Tellman, a graduate student in film history at UCLA. Naamaire was residing at the time in a managed care facility in Anaheim, CA.  Tellman contacted the notoriously reclusive Naamaire without much hope that permission for an interview would be granted. The director agreed to talk, however.  It is likely that news of his impending death induced him to tell his story.

The transcript that follows is unedited …

To read this exclusive interview pick up a copy of Sins of the Past today!

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And don’t forget to check out the book of lost doors series – on sale today in honor of Misha’s bithday for just 99 cents a piece – I promise you won’t be disappointed.

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Sins of the Past – T.D. Harvey

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Today on Paws4Thought I continue my Sins of the Past series with British author T.D. Harvey. Tell us a little bit about yourself, Tee.

My name is T. D. Harvey, but you can call me Tee. I live in Hampshire, which is on the south coast of England. I’ve been writing all my life, but in spring 2013, I decided to get serious. Since then I have had three stories published and have many more scheduled for this year. My writing is generally dark fiction, but can go in any direction. I am a discovery writer. I make no plans, nor do I plot my characters’ journeys. I simply sit at the keyboard and write. It’s a wonderful experience, but it makes editing a nightmare.

My writing time is limited. I work full time as a Business Analyst—a job I very much enjoy. However, my dream is to drop my hours and concentrate more on my writing, perhaps even write full time. I also have to make room for my chronic pain condition, Fibromyalgia, that can make me too ill to write. So, I scribble at every opportunity; in my lunch break, whilst waiting for a doctor’s appointment, when I am unable to rest at night and when my partner is out of the house and I have some peace and quiet.

Who are your favorite authors?

My favourite authors are varied.

Mark Tufo (Zombie Fallout series) is a fabulous storyteller and an inspiration for Indie writers. He has built a loyal fan base by developing a relationship with his readers. He’s someone an aspiring Indie writer can learn from. 

Tell us a bit about your Sins of the Past story?

In the Stillness and the Silence came to me whilst watching some of the World War I anniversary coverage on television in 2014. It got me thinking about how difficult life was in the trenches and how brave those men were, how much we owe to them. When the idea of an historical horror anthology was first raised, I was intrigued, but not particularly interested in submitting.

History, as my GCSE history teacher will attest, has never been my strong point. However, the WWI coverage struck such a cord with me, that I wasn’t surprised when the story made itself known. As a discovery writer, I never plot or plan a story. So when I sat at my laptop and started typing, Frank appeared. At that point, I didn’t know this was to be my ‘Sins’ submission. I just typed and waited to see what Frank’s story was.

What inspires you to write?

Life, the universe and everything. I was recently driving to work and a single word inspired me to write a story the moment I stopped the car. I keep pens and pads with me at all times because I never know what will trigger a new idea.

If you could travel to any time and place in the past where and when would you go?

I found this a difficult question. As I said, history never interested me when I was younger. The older I get, the more interested in history I become. There are many periods in history I find fascinating, but if I were to have been born then, I wouldn’t be in a good position in life. But as a visitor, I could simply observe and enjoy. So, I think I’d probably visit 1910 through to the late 1920’s Britain. I find that part of our history fascinating. There was so much change around then. The fall of the big estates and the servants that held them together, the rise of Hitler, the increased reliance on new technologies…The rate of change back then must have been exciting for the young and terrifying for the old. I think there are many similarities between the then and now. It would be fascinating to see just how much.

What do you like to do to relax?

With physical activities no longer open to me, my relaxation often comes from TV, movies and audiobooks. I also have two Tonkinese cats and three tropical fish tanks. I like to grow my own vegetables too and my partner has built a greenhouse and garden on stilts so no bending down or digging for me!

Kike  Kike and Anjali

We love kitties here at Paws4Thought. Tell us a little about your furry friends Tee.

Kike (Keekay) is my 4 year old, brown tabby Tonkinese. She is smart, cuddly and a complete mummy’s girl. We tragically lost her brother, Kai to a very rare cancer in March. She was devastated and miserable without him, as were we. Tonkinese do not cope well with being alone, so in June Ajali joined our family. Ajali is a chocolate mink Tonkinese. He is now 18 weeks old and has brought life and laughter back into our home. Kike loves him, although he can be a bit too rambunctious for her. He is smart, lively and a daddy’s boy.

Anjali and Kike Anjali

What are you currently working on?

It’s a very exciting time for me. I’m completing the editing of my first novel, Paper Dragons and Shadow Demons. This is the first in the Hidden Realm trilogy, a dark fantasy series for middle grade readers. It is not for the faint hearted. The artwork is in progress. My wonderful illustrator understands the tone required and has produced some fantastic proof of concept pieces already. I have been recording some trial readings of the novel, as I intend to publish an audio version, read by myself.

I am working on the second of the Hidden Realm trilogy as well as discussing with my illustrator a series for younger readers, based on the Hidden Realm universe.

As ever, many short stories are whizzing round my head, as well as three other novels, all dark fiction for an adult audience.

I’m also in the progress of finishing up a fun anthology project with the theme of pants, or trousers if you’re British like me. We’re in the final editing stages now, the cover art is complete and we’re nearly ready to publish. It’s a multi-genre collection of stories that stemmed from a bet between friends that we couldn’t possibly write a story all about pants. How wrong we were.

How can readers connect with you?

I have a Facebook Author’s page here: https://www.facebook.com/T.D.HarveyAuthor

I also have a blog here: http://tdharveyauthor.wordpress.com/

I love to connect with my readers, and I look forward to meeting more of them. If you wish to contact me directly, my email address is t.d.harvey.author@gmail.com

Thank you for taking your time to answer my questions Tee.

Want to read a little of Tee’s story? Sure you do …

In the stillness and the silence, Frank could imagine he was night fishing with his pals back home in England, instead of in a trench in France, fighting a war he didn’t entirely understand. In Frank’s imagination, there was no ‘Great War’ with Germany. There was only night fishing.

He stares into the Pacific, waiting for that elusive tug on the lines. At the peak of high tide, the sea stops its ebb and flow, becoming still and quiet. No fish take his bait. No men speak during these minutes of calm quiet. The temperature drops, a mist develops over the sea and the cold creeps inside his bones. Just when it seems the world has stopped forever, the eerie atmosphere is broken by the sound of water rolling once more. As the tide begins to drop away, the spell of emptiness is lifted and the fish begin biting once more. Frank pulls sharply on his rod, bedding the hook in the fish. He reels frantically as the fish ‘runs’ and the world returns to normal.

“Frank? What the bloody ‘ell are you doin’?”

“What does it look like I’m doin’?” he answered the private on patrol. “I’m fishin’, ain’t I?”

“In a trench in the middle of France? Look, I know we’re practically swimmin’ in ‘ere, but it’s not exactly the Atlantic, is it?”

“Where else am I gonna fish?”

“You ain’t gonna catch nothin’ ‘ere! And besides, you ain’t got no rod an’ line, ‘ave ya?”

“Don’t need one,” Frank said. “Just dreamin’.”

“Dreamin’? You dream when you sleep, not stood up actin’ it out.”

“I dream however I want to.”

“Well, if you wanna catch something, why not take the dog for a walk an’ see if he can catch some rats? Or you could pop on over to Jerry and catch one o’ them.” The private laughed at his own humour but Frank just shook his head. “Maybe…maybe you’re tryin’ to get invalided out? Tryin’ to say you’re nuts? That’s it, innit?”

Frank simply sighed at his friend, “’Course I ain’t, Bob.”

“You’d have to try ‘arder than that, anyway. You’d ‘ave to be really nuts for ‘em to take you outa here.”

“Get back on patrol before they catch you chattin’. And put that bloody cigarette out before you do. Idiot, gonna get yourself shot!”

“Don’t you worry,” he said. “I got the angels lookin’ after me. Me Mum sent ‘em.”

The private continued his rounds, still smoking his cigarette, its glowing end the only thing visible as he moved further away. The cloying scent of tobacco drifted past in his wake.

“Bloody idiot,” Frank muttered under his breath.

Alone once more, Frank was returned to silence. He hated the silent trenches at night. The eerie quiet of slack tide was a party compared to the trenches. His nerves were wrought with the tension, but his body and mind were exhausted. The night could be broken at any time by a single sniper shot or a full attack. In the day, the trench was filled with the bustle of constant battle, superiors shouting their orders, men running, guns firing. At night, there was often silence. Though not always.

His reverie was broken by movement to his left. Bayonet raised he searched in the darkness. He tried moving silently towards the spot where he had caught the movement, but his boots squelched in the mud and sloshed in the water. He advanced cautiously, placing his feet carefully to reduce noise and avoid losing his footing. It was a cold night but the air around him seemed to freeze, reminding him once more of slack tide. A low fog was spilling over the edge of the trench, filling it with an ethereal curtain that obscured his view.

“Shit!” he whispered when a dark figure appeared, the white mist seeming to glow around it. “Who’s there?”

The figure did not answer him but simply stood, still and silent. Frank couldn’t even tell if the figure was facing him, or away from him because it was nothing more than a silhouette. Frank felt a trickle of sweat roll down his spine and shivered from the cold. His hands, protected by gloves, were stiff and frozen; his fingers felt thick and immovable. His trench coat was warm, but not warm enough. He wasn’t sure he could fire the gun. The shape began to dissolve, dissipate like smoke. He advanced quickly now, thinking the figure was moving away. Surrounded by the fog, Frank could see nothing but wisps of white. The air was damp on his skin, he shuddered but kept going. The cloud of moist cotton began to break up; tendrils of mist clung to the bottom of the trench as the rest dispersed.

“Frank!”

Frank whirled around in surprise. The patrolling private was back.

“What the ‘ell are you doin’ leavin’ your post?”

“I saw someone,” Frank answered, “In the fog.”

Bob pushed past and shone his torch. He advanced up the trench with great caution, gun raised. When he returned he shook his head.

“Nothin’,” he said. “You sure you weren’t dreamin’ again?”

Fists clenched, Frank said, “I wasn’t dreaming.”

“Well, whoever it was, they’re gone now. Probably just someone stretchin’ their legs.”

“Then why didn’t they answer me?”

“Probably didn’t hear you. Stop spookin’ yourself! Shift’s over soon an’ we can get some sleep.”

Bob continued his lonely circuit and Frank returned to his post. He stepped up and peered cautiously over the parapet, seeing nothing but a slight mist covering the ground. No man’s land stretched beyond the defences of the trench. Barbed wire lay in a deadly patchwork, covering the ground. No planks rested atop it—a tell-tale sign, if it had been breached. Frank knew he had seen something. Someone, he quickly corrected himself. He stepped back down and into the hollow in the earth where he would spend the rest of his uneventful shift.

To read more pick up a copy of Sins of the Past today in Kindle or paperback.

UK readers can follow this link to Amazon UK.

Sins Of The Past

Sins of the Past – Traitor Coward Betrayer by Joseph Lofthouse

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Since Elijah left, Mary’s life had fallen into routine. She woke with the dawn and before she dressed or ate she reached for one of his letters. They told of the crackpot general who all the men loved and how he would suck on lemons to sustain his fortitude. Others were about the men Elijah had met from all over the confederacy and their odd habits. Men with strange nicknames like Stinks, Hoarder, and Saint Augustus.
As the years went by the letters became less frequent, and when they did come, they were powerfully somber. After reading one of his letters she would dress and eat a small breakfast of hard bread and fresh milk. Then she tended the goats, feeding them and keeping their fences mended before moving on to the garden. Her body had grown lean and sturdy from the constant work, but her face remained round and specked with a few hidden freckles of girlhood. She kept her wild black hair tightly bound and refused to let it become a nuisance. When it came time to harvest the small share of crops she would pay some of the local boys to help; boys who were either too young or infirm to be taken up in the confederate cause. As the day closed she would sit on the slim porch out front of the cabin and work at her needles.
Once she daydreamed that Elijah returned home, but could not see or hear anything. He wandered about the property, distraught, looking for her fruitlessly while she followed behind calling his name in desperation. Eventually he became exhausted, slumped to the ground, and slept. When such visions plagued her, Mary would sit gasping for breath as if wounded by some invisible dagger.
She woke in a dark mood. A dream filled with fire and the screams of men had haunted her sleep. On the bedside table sat the last letter she had received, stacked above all the others. It was now over a year old and she could recite its contents from memory, but even so, she carefully unfolded it and read it again. The sadness in the letter always weighed heavily upon her, but it was the last piece of him she had.
I have survived the battle at Gettysburg, though I cannot say the same for so many of my companions. We have all lost something here much greater than this battle, or even this war. I am afraid whatever it is, we shall never reclaim it as long as we live. We march ceaselessly towards home and safety, and move as if we are on our last legs. We meander, as an army of living ghosts. It takes all I can muster to write these few words and I apologize for my brevity. Mary, my dear, I promise you I shall come home, and that I will make up for every day we have lost. Always, you are in my heart.
Elijah Stone.
She neatly replaced the letter on the bed stand, and rose to begin the day’s work

Want to read more pick up a copy of Sins ot the Past today!

Sins Of The Past

Joseph Lofthouse is a cubicle dweller in the Washington, D.C. Area who moonlights as a writer

Evil Tegs, Puzzling Puzzles, and Assorted April Stuff

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Whoa, we’re half way through April already. April’s a busy month for me.

This April I’ve set myself TWO challenges. I’m doing both Camp NaNoWriMo and over on my puzzle blog I’m Blogging from A to Z.  Plus tomorrow I’m going to be on Changes with Sally Ember talking all things bookish and puzzly.

Pleased to report the writing part is going well. So far each day in April I’ve completed my assigned one thousand words. I try to write them in the morning before turning on my internet. That way I don’t get distracted. Here’s a little excerpt from today’s writing. Max is reuniting with a certain evil Teg – we know that’s unlikely to go well.

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Anyway Stella knew you’d be hungry. She picked these berries just for you. Don’t they smell scrumptious? They are rich and juicy. Won’t you try one?”

“No, I’m not hungry,” lied Max.

“Stella’s sorry, did she not make it clear? If you want to leave this room and see your darling Celia you must eat. The choice is simple. Eat a berry or stay here in this room until you die.”

“You’re bluffing Stella. Gromer told me. You don’t age in the shadow world, so I would never die.”

“Oh I wouldn’t be so sure of that. Stella and her sister have some interesting ways of disposing of their guests when they are no longer useful. Interesting and painful ways … and entertaining too. It gets so boring down here, nothing like a little bit of torture to relieve the monotony.”

Max gulped.

“So what will it be? Eat a berry … or die? And certainly if you choose the second option I can make your demise particularly interesting and rather painful. Won’t that be fun … for me?”

Want to read more about the Teg? Pick up a copy of Argentum today!

Now the puzzly part. Over on my puzzle blog is L day and L of course is for Logic problems. You can download a sample from Paws 4 Logic AND all this month both the paperback and kindle versions are on sale – Just 6.99 for the paperback or $2.99 for the kindle.

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And finally there’s Changes – watch tomorrow morning when I meet with Sally Ember via Google Hangouts and Youtube. Who knows where the conversation my lead!

Happy April Folks!

Discovering the World of Argentum – Inis Fraoigh

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Happy St. Paddy’s Day. In Argentum I take the readers to Jessamyn’s ancestral home on the isle of Inis Fraoigh. It is here that Jessamyn grew up with her mother, Cleona and here she first met Quentin.

She was just twelve years old when she’d met Quentin. She was still living at her parents’ home on Inis Fraoigh, a remote islet off the coast of Ireland. Her family had lived there for centuries and had passed on the magical arts from one generation to the next. Folks would travel from the mainland to seek out her mother, Cleona, for herbal remedies and spells.

Cleona was teaching Jessamyn. “Pay attention, Jessa,” she would say, “one day you will have to take my place as Healer. You need to learn the magical arts.”

Jessamyn was eager to learn magic, but frustrated with the slow pace of her mother’s lessons. Seeking out herbs and preparing them for potions was tedious. Jessamyn wanted to do “real” magic.

She’d begun to experiment when her mother wasn’t looking. She would go out onto the deserted beach and pick out an interesting rock or seashell. She found that if she concentrated, she could in turn replicate it. She would continue doing so until she amassed a whole pile of shells and rocks around her. Then she would form them into mini-fortresses, and not once would her hands touch the rocks and shells. But her elaborate constructions were just illusions. She learned quickly enough that if she lost concentration on her task, the illusion would simply melt away.

It was on such a day that she met Quentin. The fortress she was building was wondrous, the biggest and grandest she’d ever made. It reached a full six feet high and was covered with shells that sparkled like jewels. She stepped back from her work and smiled. She wished she could show her mother this. Maybe if Cleona saw how beautiful her illusions were, she would encourage her. But Jessamyn knew in her heart that that wasn’t true. Cleona saw no use for illusion; it was not a practical form of magic, she said, so was clearly a waste of time.

“Leave the illusions to the leprechauns!” she would say, “we have work to do.”

Jessamyn had stepped back to admire her creation when a large seagull had flown in from the sea and landed directly on top of her tower. Jessamyn stared at the bird; surely this was not possible. Her tower was merely an illusion; the gull should have sunk right through it, but here he was, perched like a sentry on its topmost spire. Her surprise at seeing the bird made Jessamyn lose her concentration, and the bird plopped down to the ground in front of her. She’d expected the gull to fly away, but it just sat there looking at her as if it was trying to work out if she could be trusted.

She looked closely at the bird and noticed a strange thing: around its neck it wore a chain of silver with a tiny charm attached. The charm depicted a bird with outstretched wings. It was beautiful, wrought in silver by the finest jeweler. Without understanding what she was doing, Jessamyn reached out towards it. The bird did not stop her and the charm felt warm to the touch.

Then slowly the bird began to change. Jessamyn stepped back and watched in wonder as its wings elongated and transformed into arms ending in pale white hands with long fingers. Its body stretched and formed a torso and its spindly legs and claws formed long human legs and feet. The gull’s eyes had been green and those did not change, but within minutes, in the place of the seagull, was a young man of maybe eighteen or nineteen with long dark hair and a mischievous smile.

Read more in Argentum – pick up your copy today! From Amazon or purchase a signed copy directly from me!

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