Sins of the Past – Meet Jen Ponce

Jen

Today on the Paws 4 Thought we welcome fantasy and horror writer, Jen Ponce. Jen is the author of several novels including Blood Curse, The Bazaar and Bug Queen. She has a story in the Dragon’s Rocketship fantasy anthology, The Scribes Journal and in Sins of the Past. Welcome Jen. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

My mom taught me the most important thing I’ve ever learned: to love books. For me, loving books also means writing them, so that I can share my passion with others. Books mean escape, emotion, adventure, learning, and open-minds to me.

In addition to reading and writing, I work as an advocate for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. I am a feminist who is learning more about what that means every day. I have three amazing boys who teach me a lot about love and life and laughter, and I have a great extended family. I’m also very lucky to have great writer friends who I’ve learned so much from.

When did you start writing?

I started writing in sixth grade with my friends Kathy and Becky. Kathy and I wrote an eclectic mix of sci-fi and absurdity: My Science Teacher is an Alien was one. Becky and I wrote romances, often featuring rakish pirates and heroines who seemed an awful lot like their authors. The coolest thing is I’ve taken some of those early characters and rewritten them into current projects. Patrick, aka Patch, was my pirate character and you can find him in my vampire novel Blood Curse (along with his brothers.) Sam, the hardboiled detective I wrote with Kathy, has his own small place as a reporter in an unfinished novel of mine. Remembering those past stories helps honor who I was as a writer. (Plus it’s fun.)

Who are your favorite authors?

That’s a hard one because I read in so many genres. What one author does well in horror, another does equally well in fantasy. Stephen King is always a favorite because his stories talk to my soul. Faith Hunter is another fave because her Jane Yellowrock series is so engrossing and features a kick ass woman main character. My fellow authors in the Scriptorium are also favorites of mine because they are each brilliant in their own way.

What attracts you to horror and fantasy?

Horror and fantasy both hold terrors, but they are the manageable kind. I can control those experiences. It’s the real world that is truly scary, in that it is utterly mundane and full of insanity all at the same time. In horror, there’s meaning behind the violence—if it’s good horror. In real life, there’s often no meaning at all, or none that can be easily extrapolated. In fantasy, there’s always hope, even in the darkest stories: hope for a savior, hope for a magical solution, hope for redemption. In real life, there are no guarantees for a happy ending. There are no magical fixes. I’m drawn to horror and fantasy because it gives me a place to scream, to cry, to be scared, to be joyful, in the safety of the story.

What is your favorite of your books?

This is so hard. They each have taught me a lot about being a writer. If I pick one, will the characters from my other books rebel? If they rebel, what happens to my brain? If I die of an aneurysm, I am totally coming back to haunt you. Just saying.

With that caveat, I’m going to say my favorite book is the one I haven’t written yet. The ones I’ve written sit on spotlighted podiums in a vast display area in my head. They have been formed and shaped and are now real. I love them but now that they have “The End” written in them, they are finite. The books I haven’t yet written expand like the universe in my head. They are potential and possibility. They are what-may-be. Grabbing the ideas out of the ether, pinning them, squirming, to the page. Shaping their glistening bodies, paring off a bit of flesh here and sewing on an appendage there, that’s what I love. Once they are done, someone else can adore them or hate them as they wish.

Tell us a bit about your story in The Scribe’s Journal?

You’re So Vein is a silly little confection about a narcissist named Jack who is in a relationship with a vampire named Molly. She wants him because he’s pretty and he wants her because she thinks he’s pretty. It’s a match made in heaven, eh? At least until Molly confesses her vampirism and gives Jack a demonstration that changes him forever.

What do you like to do to relax?

I read or crochet. Sometimes I take long baths because they help me tease free story ideas and help me mend plot holes.

Tell us about your story in Sins of the Past?

The Beast of Alkali Lake centers around a woman named Honoria who married without her father’s permission. She and her husband fled West and settled in the Panhandle of Nebraska. The Beast of Alkali Lake is based on the legend of the monster that allegedly dwells in what’s now called Walgren Lake near Hay Springs, (the town I grew up in.) The story was going to be a psychological piece about a woman being driven mad by the wind—a distinct possibility in Western Nebraska, let me tell you. Then her husband opened his mouth and began talking, and I heard the reckless disdain in his voice, and the Beast raised its hoary head and wanted a piece of the action. Since I like oogy monsters, I obliged.

So what’s next? What are you currently working on?

I’m almost finished with book three of my urban fantasy series. I’m editing another urban fantasy that I plan to release in four parts, a light romance, and a steampunk sexy-adventure-time novel that’s going to be part of a mixed-author boxed set. Finally, I’m writing a series of spidery short stories full of horror and silliness and fantasy that I will publish as a collection later on this year/early next year.

How can readers connect with you?

People can find me in lots of different places. The easiest thing to do would be to visit my website at: www.JenniferPonce.com. You can find links for Facebook and Twitter there, as well as find updates about the books I’m working on or those I have available for purchase.

Want to read a little of The Beast of Alkali Lake? Sure you do!

The lake’s surface rippled, water choppy from the push of the ever-present wind. Honoria held her palms flat against her skirts as she stood near her husband and wondered, not for the first time, why she had followed him into the wilderness west of the Mississippi.

“See, Honoria, darling? There is a place for us to swim here.” Donovan looped his arm around her shoulder and smiled down at her, memories in his eyes of their illicit meetings at the lake back east. Warm summer nights and clear water. His hands on her in ways that made her blush to think on it.

“It’s not the same.”

“Nothing is the same, my sweet. That’s why it’s all so wonderful.” He nuzzled at her neck, obviously wanting her to forget the tiny dwelling made of dirt that they would be living in for the next five years and the work it would take to ready the land for planting. Wanting to forget her father’s threats to kill him.

“The smell is atrocious,” she said, wrinkling her nose at the rotting vegetal smell. “I wouldn’t put a toe in that dirty water.” Besides the smell of decay, there was something about the place that made Honoria shiver. Which was ridiculous. The lake was banded by cottonwood trees and, beyond, the rolling grasslands of the plains. Nothing sinister, nothing shadowed or hidden. Just water, sand, and trees. Still. She didn’t like being near the water and knew she would never get in it and said so.

“You might change your mind in the heat of the summer.”

A gust of wind tossed her skirts, nearly knocking her sideways and tearing her hair from under her bonnet. The bonnet itself fluttered and flapped, its pretty laces and bows already fraying from the blasted breeze. “I won’t change my mind,” she said, realizing it was the same thing she’d said when she first told Donovan she wouldn’t leave everything behind to stake a claim in the middle of nowhere and look where she was now. “I mean it,” she added, as if that would make all the difference.

“We’re free, here.” He tapped her chin with his knuckle. “Eh?”

She hated when he treated her like a child and she jerked her chin away. A brief flash of temper between his eyebrows, quickly gone.

A sharp smile. “Fine,” he said and stripped off his shirt.

“What are you doing?”

“Showing you there’s nothing to fear.”

Shoes next, then pants, until he stood naked as the day he was born. Her cheeks heated as she watched him stride to the water and hesitate at the edge. “You’ll catch your death.”

He tossed her a grin over his shoulder then into the water he went, gasping at the chill. “It feels like a thousand hands are grasping at my legs.”

Her stomach twisted. “Donovan, this has gone far enough.”

He didn’t listen. Of course he didn’t. When did her impetuous, beautiful husband ever listen to reason? When he was up to his waist in the murk, he dove under. Honoria’s heart leaped into her throat and stayed there, pounding, choking her as time passed and he did not surface. He was playing a trick. She knew that much. Knew he could hold his breath for a long period.

A bird called off to her right, singing to its absent mate. Honoria didn’t know how birds made nests here. Why their mud and wattle homes weren’t tossed out of the trees and dashed to the ground, broken.

It had been too long. She strode to the water, careful not to let it lap over her toes, and stared hard at the place he’d gone under. “Donovan!”

A thrash of water to her left. Then Donovan broke free, blowing water from his mouth, coughing. She stood trembling in fear and anger as he waded to shore. Lake weed clung to him, wrapped around his neck, his arms. One piece tangled about his ankle. She kept herself from going to him, wanting him to explain himself, wanting him to struggle free himself and admit his wrong to her.
He stood shivering on the bank. She asked, “What happened?”

“Tangled. Damn lake bottom is a forest of growth.” He coughed and then spit, a brown, phlegmy wad that made Honoria sick to look at. “Sorry, wife. I guess you were right. I almost did catch my death, though not in the way you meant.”

They went home, Donovan still shivering despite having his dry clothes back on his body and that night she nursed his fever that burned bright and hot through him. Later, as she wrung out cool water from the bucket she’d drawn from their well earlier that day, drawn by hand using muscles she’d never used that way before, she heard a sound that chilled her blood. She’d left him to go outside the tiny sod structure they called home and saw that the stars were gone. A low rumble of thunder hailed an early spring storm and wind tugged incessantly at her hair. To the east, in the direction of the damnable lake, rose a thick, dense fog. It steamed into the air like a living thing and from its depths, she heard a roar. Seconds later, the ground shook, knocking her off her feet to tumble against the rough sod bricks.

A louder crack of thunder and then it began to rain. The wet chased her inside, cold, afraid, and grateful for the thick walls of the soddy.

She prayed that whatever it was roaring from the lake stayed there and she vowed to make sure Donovan never visited again.

Want to read more? Pick up a copy of Sins of the Past.

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Sins of the Past – Traitor Coward Betrayer by Joseph Lofthouse

Traitor

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

Sins of the Past – Meet Chasity Nicole

chasity nicole

Today on Paws4Thought we welcome fantasy author Chasity Nicole. Chasity is not just a contributor to Sins of the Past, but also the publisher and cover designer. Tell us a little bit about yourself, Chasity.

I’ve been writing since high school, but never had the desire to publish anything. But I enjoy writing and try to write as much as I can, though time doesn’t always permit me to. I also draw, paint, read, and do a lot of graphic work. If I’m not doing one of those things I’m spending time with my little brother.

Who are your favorite authors?

I bounce around between authors, and it really depends on what genre of books I’ve been reading at the moment. Lately, it seems I’ve been reading quite a bit of manga. But my favorite authors seem to be Gena Showalter, Kathy Reichs, and Tolkien.

Tell us a bit about your story, A Ghostly Haunting?

A Ghostly Haunting is actually based on real life events in more than one way. All of the stories in Sins of the Past hold to something the happened in the past, but each author gave them a little twist. Most of my story actually happened. My family lived in a house several years back that was actually haunted. I really would wake up in the morning and walk into the kitchen and greet a slave spirit that was trapped in the house. I always called him George, and never found out if that was his real name or not. Other events that happened in the story literally happened to my family while we lived there, it was a very creepy house.

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

I’d want to go back to medieval times. There has always been something that has piqued my interest around this time.

Tell us a bit about your novel, Wickedly Misunderstood?

wickedly misunderstood

Wickedly Misunderstood is about eleven teens who have superhuman abilities. They are all outcasted by the people in the areas where they live. They are taken to an island where they are to learn about who and what they are. Though something more sinister is the actual reason they are brought to the island. You follow along with Ember and the group to see if Ember can put it all together before it’s too late for her and her friends.

What are you currently reading?

I’m currently reading Quarantine by Lex Thomas. It’s quite a good book.

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

I am planning to write a story for Sins of the Future. So far my story takes place in a school on graduation day. Though it’s not a happy graduation day for a lot of the students that get caught up in something horrible. I’ll leave it at that.

What do you like to do to relax?

Relaxation isn’t a term my body knows. But I typically paint or read when I want to wind down, it usually relaxes me. But since I’m currently planning a wedding, there isn’t much time for relaxation in my life.

 What are you currently working on?

Right now I’m currently working on The Wicked Rescue Mission this is book two in my Valhaven Island Trilogy. I’m also working on a few short stories in some other anthology projects that should be releasing later this year: Forever Red, Agabe, Sins of the Future, and Carolina Horror Stories. I seem to work on short stories more than I do my own novels lately.

How can readers connect with you?

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorChasityNicole

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ChasityNicole90

WordPress: https://chasitynicole720.wordpress.com/

Website: http://chasitynicolebooks.weebly.com/

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Chasity-Nicole/e/B00IK00OPS/ref=dp_byline_cont_book_1

Would you like to read a snippet of A Ghostly Haunting? Sure you do!

My life is far from ordinary, but who would expect a person that sees ghosts to have a normal life. I spend my days talking to people that do not physically exist—well they did at one time, but now they are dead. Usually these people have some form of unfinished business. They’re too scared to move on, or they simply don’t want to move on. Those who don’t want to move on, spend their entire afterlife haunting the living. They claim it is the only thing that makes them feel whole again—whatever that’s supposed to mean.

I was able to see the dead at a very young age, and it freaked my family out. Ever since I first realized that I could speak with the deceased, I have had a strong bond with both the spirit realm and the world we live in. I was the only one that understood my ability to see ghosts and communicate with them; everyone else pinned me off as nuts—until they needed my help because they were being haunted. Everyone calls the psychic chick when they need help, but, aside from that, I’m just your average seventeen-year-old nutcase that lives down the street.

Read the rest of the story in Sins of the Past.

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Sins of the Past – Sanctum by J. Kendall

SanctumBanner

There was only the sound of the wind, howling endlessly day and night, from long ago. What was once a busy town of rich miners during the Gold Rush was now a ghost town of rotting buildings, barren fields, and wind.  Oh how the wind howls in that valley as if filled with wolves hungry for prey in the darkness…

All was darkness. No light penetrated the eyes of the young boy as he lay face down on the cold stone floor.  His breath came in violent bursts from his chest; he tried vainly to rise and could not.  Panting he pushed with all his might against the floor and lifted his shoulders a few inches. All he remembered was pain, searing agony that penetrated his very existence.  He had no idea what caused the pain, only that he felt the pain in his soul and longed for an end to it.  He struggled to rise again. This time he was able to roll onto his back and sit up.  Memories of the pain still fresh, his very nerves still tingled as he sat. He closed his eyes and fought with his mind to stop the pain completely, to just brush it aside. It was no use the pain was still there, overwhelming him.  What was happening to him?

He opened his eyes again slowly, trying to maintain control and not give in to the pain. Something was different, there was light around him, a soft glow from behind him.  He could not see the source, but could see that his own body made a shadow before him.  He took strength from the change and coerced his body to do his will. He stood. He felt weak, but forced himself to stand steady.  Time passed. He had no way to measure how long. Isaac turned his body around toward the light.  His head was still looking down. Slowly, through the pain he raised his head. It seemed like eternity passed him by as his face climbed toward the sky. The light became brighter and his eyes came into focus. He realized what he was looking at, the moon…

“Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh,” the scream tore through his lips. His mouth opened wider that he thought was possible. Pain exploded, beginning in his feet and climbing his legs. More pain that he could imagine, worse than before, and then all went dark…

All was still. First he felt the softness of the blanket he was wrapped in, and then he heard soft voices in his room.

“Will he be all right?” the anxious voice of his mother asked in the darkness.

“He’ll be fine, woman. He is just starting early,” his father’s deep voice answered. It seemed to be his father, yet the words sounded strange as if formed by a different mouth.

“He won’t remember this in the morning.  We may have to send him on his next birthday instead of waiting till next year.”

“No! We can’t. I don’t want him to go.” His mother’s voice rose as she spoke.

“We have no choice and neither does he, foolish woman.  We cannot deny him the only help available.  Besides the Council will make him go if we try to keep him here.  Surely they already know what happened here tonight.  Their spies are everywhere; they know everything.”

Want to read more? Pick up a copy of Sins of the Past!

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J Kendal has been creative all his life. He has expressed that creativity in many ways including writing, drawing, painting, and music. He lives In Illinois, USA, has a wife named Kelly and a red heeler named Dain Ironfoot.  He loves reading and sailing.

J Kendall has written many short stories including Where the Darkness Dwells, Whatever happened to Seth and The Chronicles of Overworld.  Two children’s works that are nearly completed are KA and the Dragon and MUB (Monster Under the Bed.)  Most of his writing is in the fantasy genre.  He has two novel length works in process right now. He has also written several comic strips including Pigmail-Leon, Snowman’s Life and Pirates of Santa Louisa.

Visit J Kendall on his website or on Facebook.

Sins of the Past – Introducing Kristin Roahrig

Kristin

It’s Sunday and that means it’s time for our weekly Sins of the Past interview. Today we talk to Kristin Roahrig, author of the story, Melusina. Tell us a little bit about yourself, Kristin.

Generally my days are spent either chasing toddlers or dusting off old records in the archives of a courthouse.

Who are your favorite authors?

I have a small list which includes Leo Tolstoy, Elizabeth Hand, and Nathaniel Hawthorne to name a few.

Tell us a bit about your story, Melusina?

The story is a mixture of revenge and a ghost tale. It centers around a Swiss soldier in Paris during the tumultuous days of the French Revolution.

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

Either England or Italy during the Renaissance era.

What attracts you to writing horror?

I enjoy the subtle unexpectedness to be found in many horror stories.

What are you currently reading?

Samurai-The Last Warrior by John Man

What do you like to do to relax?

I do either meditation or practice playing my cello.

What are you currently working on?

I am currently working on a young adult novel, Afflicted. The novel is about the Salem Witch Trials. The story is inspired by events in my family history where one of my ancestors was a juryman of the trials.

Read an excerpt from Melusina:

I had just shot a rabbit dead when I first saw her. I was ten years old, struggling to fit most of the animal into a sack, its hind feet dangling out.  A river rushed nearby. The sky showed only winter, but the air and bright colors promisedspring. The dry leaves left from last autumn crackled under my feet while I breathed in the air that smelled faintly of burning logs and the recent discharge of gunpowder from the rifle Father had lent me.

To take my kill home I needed to find a place to cross the river. The waters swelled with snow melting in the mountains, and today they rushed past me with no rhythm.

I spotted a section of the river where the water appeared green. Near the edge I could make out sand lines overlapping each other, and the dark water showed the mountains in a fuzzy image. They were mirrors of a landscape I already knew too well in the limited world in which I lived.

The wind began to blow along the ground through the leaves around me. The sky changed to a pale violet, unusual for an afternoon. I continued on my way, the rabbit’s feet hitting against my back with each step I took. A strong wind came out of nowhere and stung my face.

Jerking away from the blast, I saw the figure of a woman walking ahead in the distance.She was on the other side of the river and moved in a stooped manner. I didn’t recognize her, and would have thought her just a passing traveler or beggar, only our region in Switzerland seldom received either. Our town was too far from any important destination for a traveler to pass through, and the roads, difficult even in the summer, were impossible in winter. I crossed the river, paying little attention to the stranger ahead. But whenever I happened to notice her, the woman was always the same distance away. If I walked faster, the stranger would not be any nearer than before. If I stopped and stood still for a few moments, she would be no further ahead. Her pace never quickened or slackened.

I ran ahead, only to find her no closer than before.

Want to read more? Pick up a copy of Sins of the Past today.

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Sins of the Past – Say Hello to N.M. Scuri

NancyScuri

  1. Today on Paws 4 Thought we welcome N.M. Scuri. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’ve always loved books and stories. I grew up on Hammer films, Dark Shadows, and Stephen King. Everything pretty much came from that.

  1. Who are your favorite authors?

In addition to Mr. King, I tend to run the gamut. Right now, I’m reading the Brontë sisters. I wrote my dissertation on Oscar Wilde and James Joyce.

  1. Tell us a bit about your story, It’s All Good News?

I was inspired by the story of Preston Castle. It’s also known as the Preston School of Industry and is located in California. It was a reform school that is alleged to be haunted due to the violence that occurred there over the years. I set my story during the Great Depression. It was a dark time in America, and I could see people clutching for hope in pretty much any form. I see Dr. Weatherbee as a man with a vision for the future, but no humanity.

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

An interesting question! It’s easy to romanticize things. We’ve struggled in one way or another throughout history, so wanting to go back to the days of chivalry, or whatever, would probably be disappointing to some. So, what experience would I want? Would I go back and watch Shakespeare act in one of his plays at the Globe? Would I wander through da Vinci’s work room? Maybe watch my grandparents make their way to America, or tell my younger self that I shouldn’t let negativity get to me, and let my light shine? To (finally) answer your question: I honestly don’t know.

  1. What attracts you to writing horror?

It’s just how my mind works, to be honest. We could all be sitting on the beach, watching the sun rise, and I’d be imagining sea monsters coming up for a snack. I’ve learned to embrace it.

  1. What are you currently reading?

I’m editing a lot these days. Right now I’m reading a collection of short fiction from Crystal Lake Publishing. I’m also going back and forth between Trigger Warning, by Neil Gaiman; Wuthering Heights, by Emily Brontë, and World War Z by Max Brooks. Thank the heavens for e-readers.

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

I wrote some short fiction for a collection with illustrator Byron Rempel called Thirteen Stories and Paintings. In it, you’ll find a story called “Debbie Does the Apocalypse.” I’ve been playing around in that universe for a while. It’s fun seeing where all this goes.

  1. What do you like to do to relax?

As the spring is slowly breaking winter’s death grip on the North-Eastern US, I’m trying to get outside with my dog. I like seeing the world shake off the ice and snow.

  1. What are you currently working on?

I have an ongoing Two Sentence Horrors project with Byron. We produce two illustrated stories per week. He’s amazing. Please check out his work.

  1. How can readers connect with you?

I’m on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, etc. You can find the links, as well as Two Sentence Horrors, on my website: www.nmscuri.com

Read a snippet from It’s All Good News:

He wanted us to put him to work. I’d been here a week, sent away for breaking windows, when we were brought into the courtyard to hear the doctor. They call it the Gladston School of Industry, but they have walls and guards like any other jail. It was early, before breakfast, but it was going to be as hot as a fire, and dark circles were already set into the warden’s white shirt. Not the doctor, though. He was dressed in his gray suit and hat. His tie was set so nice, and not a lick of sweat was on him. We were all dying out there. It just wasn’t natural. The rumble in the yard got louder the longer we all stood. A few of us had a smoke, and I was missing mine. Rules say no smokes for new boys, so I stood and sweated and waited.

Finally, the warden put his hand up, and everything got real quiet. “Boys, you are all very fortunate. Very fortunate indeed. For the benefit of the new boys, I introduce Doctor Weatherbee. I expect your undivided attention.” A few of us shuffled uneasy in the dust, but the screws saw to it that no one interrupted the doctor. His voice carried like the preachers my mam would take me to see when I wore short britches, not that it did any good, mind.

“What fine young men,” the doctor started. His eyes were closed, and he took a deep breath in, like he meant to suck us all up. “Boys, today is a great day. We live in an age of wonders. There will come a time when we will transport people across this great land of ours in a day! Do not be fooled by appearances or the ignorant mumblings of naysayers. We await our deliverance from the old, my boys. Remember, it is all good news!” I didn’t know about any of this. I wouldn’t turn down good news, though. I remember the look in Mam’s eyes when the big dust came to Kansas. Weren’t no good news then.

Want to read more? Pick up your copy of Sins of the Past today.

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Sins of the Past – Meet Sugar Weasel Wrangler Don Miskel

DeadAssets

 Tell us a little bit about yourself, Don.

Well, Debbie, I am a wrangler of sugar weasels and a writer of tall tales. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Actually, the former is a running joke and the latter is a lot closer to the truth! Add to that, I am obviously a joker.

On a more serious note, I like writing horror, though I am not stuck to any single genre. When I was a kid, my father used to watch a show called Creature Feature, which played classic horror movies. As it came on, Henry Mancini’s creepy, electric-guitar-driven theme from Experiment in Terror played. Though the images of Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney, and Boris Karloff were scary enough, the music alone was enough to make me want to jump out of my skin with fright. My father thought this was funny.

In my teenage years, I became fascinated with the same types of monster flicks, which played on The Son of Svengoolie television program (I grew up in Chicago) every Saturday afternoon. I guess I was more like my dear old dad than I thought.

As an adult, I took to writing like a fish to water. Up until my mid-twenties, I’d done more drawing than writing. I decided to change filling my sketchbooks to transcribing the short stories I’d handwritten in dozens of spiral notebooks. That was the beginning (though my mother says I was trying to manipulate language to tell stories before most babies could even speak, so I guess I was born to this!) of me getting serious about writing.

Once, I wrote a story that featured a very surprising and disturbing twist ending. The folks who’d read it were in awe. I got more questions about how I’d come up with that tale than any other I’d penned up to that point. The horror bug had bitten and the rest, as they say, is history.

Who are your favorite authors?

Though I think I’ve read more Stephen King than any other novelist, I also love Elmore Leonard and Walter Mosley’s crime fiction offerings. I also love Octavia Butler’s take on sci fi. However, it is the drive, determination and great storytelling by my fellow scribblers in the Fiction Writers, Scribbling Siblings, and Authorpreneur’s Corner groups that keep me inspired and let me know I’m not completely crazy. I have much respect for established authors, but the independent ones deserve special recognition.

Tell us a bit about your Sins of the Past story, Blood Tribe.

Gladly. There is imagined horror and real horror. I took the realistic monsters of the Transatlantic Slave Trade and added a creature of my own. Nameless and vengeful, she metes out some much-needed justice.

As a kid, I remember seeing the Roots miniseries and was mentally blown out the water. How human beings could kidnap, enslave, and dominate other humans was beyond me. As I considered writing, I wondered what would happen if the slavers never got the chance to leave the harbor in one piece. After that, the story just wrote itself.

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

In a romantic sense, I’d like to travel back to the times of the Malian Empire, the glory of Timbuktu, and witness the marvel of the Great Pyramid right after the beaten gold had been applied to its capstone. I’ve been to Rome in modern times and would be interested in spending a few days in the Eternal City in its heyday. I’d check out Greece, Babylon, and the Olmecs in Central America. I’d spend a few days in each place, so I could have some questions answered. When my time machine was done with seeing the ancient world, I’d probably just go back to the ‘70s and ‘80s, when I was a kid and play that on a continuous loop. I had a happy childhood, for the most part. But there were even some real monsters to be found there…

Tell us a bit about your novel, Dead Assets.

Ah, good ol’ Assets. I wrote the original, eponymous story while on holiday break from a crazy college class schedule. When I showed the story to my wife (who is NOT into horror at all), she challenged me to expand the entire thing into a full-fledged novel. I decided to create a book that told several stories of an introduction of zombies to a metropolitan area. Turns out, the city still finds a way to function under quarantine, though the undead are not the worst monsters on the block…

I released my book quickly—maybe a bit too quickly. When I reread it, I found that it needed editing (Note to Independent Authors: GET YOUR WORK PROFESSIONALLY EDITED IF YOU WANNA BE TAKEN SERIOUSLY!!!).

A few months later, I was nearly jumped at a function where a certain former classmate stalked me, demanding to know when a sequel was going to be produced. She was one of the first to purchase a copy and give a review, not long after it debuted. I pay homage by immortalizing Rhonda when I released the expanded second edition; she is the basis of the main character in a wraparound story I added to the mix during the next go-round.

When I entered my book into Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel Award Contest, I was surprised that it made it through the first round of eliminations and began hoping I would win the grand prize. When it didn’t make the next cut, I was almost devastated. My darling wife, ever bluntly supportive, asked if I thought it would really be that easy. She told me to pick up my bottom lip, learn the lesson, and continue forward motion. I haven’t looked back since.

Oh, and the rather handsome, though blood-splattered ghoul on the second edition cover is none other than Yours Truly!

What are you currently reading?

I’m reading a wonderful independent novel called Anchors No More by David Edward Wagner. There are two problems with that: (1) I am, by nature, a slow reader; (2) I have so much other stuff going on in my little world that it’s hard to find time to read in the first place. Crazy, right? Anyway, his sci fi novel is about two time travelers who take a leap with some rather interesting and potentially deadly results. Good stuff and I suggest that everyone check it out! Next up will be Fatima Stephens’ Doppelganger. I have a serious backlog going on…

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

I am going to contribute to Sins of the Future, though I am not sure what I will cook up for it yet. I promise you it will be good, though!

What do you like to do to relax?

I rarely have time to relax. I think it’s unfair that I am forced to sleep each night. That’s four or five hours (because I never sleep long—a holdout from my past military career) I could be doing something else. I am a family man, so I spend much of my spare time in direct support of that. I occasionally get to do something fun, like play a video game or watch a really interesting TV series. Currently, The Walking Dead and Empire have my undivided attention, whenever I can sit still long enough.

What are you currently working on?

I am currently compiling several of my horror stories to release in an anthology of my own. I have several other projects in development, including a detective series and two YA storylines. Also, if I can ever finish it, I also have a sci fi novel I’m coauthoring. All this while on the verge of pursuing higher education, setting a new career path, and possibly relocating. As I said, not enough time to get it all done.

DonMiskel

How can readers connect with you?

Even with my busy schedule, I check my Facebook account throughout the week. I am ALWAYS eager to hear from my readers, as I wouldn’t be a storyteller without an audience! To find out what crazy little story ideas I come up with, check out my blog (www.donmiskel.wordpress.com). That’s where many potential projects of mine will get their start. Fans should feel free to share their thoughts and opinions. As I said, I love hearing from my readers!

Want to read a little Blood Tribe? Sure you do!

I was perched atop my favorite palm tree, basking in the glow of a bright moon, sampling the different scents on the salty coastal breeze.  What came to me nearly singed my nose hairs with a sharp, long-forgotten stench.  The tribal members in my village were too caught up in their activities which focused on sitting around a fire and listening raptly to the griot’s tale.  The children guffawed and hung onto every word that filtered through his cola-nut-stained teeth as he spun tales of the trickster spider god, Anansi, and of creatures like me…

But I’m getting too far ahead too quickly.

It is true that I am not quite human, but you’ll learn more about that as I unravel the tale.  Where was I?  Oh yes, the smell that hung in the air…  The villagers were more concerned with libations brought in calabashes by beautiful dark ladies whose breasts hung free.  The men stood around in the background, also bare-chested, sharing rumors and tales of their own.  Nobody else had picked up on that smell.

My senses are keener than those of humans.  Not to say that I am not human at all.  I am just something…more.

Want to read more? Pick up your copy of Sins of the Past today!

Sins Of The Past

Sins of the Past – Say Hello to Kerry E.B. Black

Kerry

Today on Paws4Thought I continue our series of Sins of the Past interviews with author Kerry E.B. Black.

Tell us a little bit about yourself, Kerry. 

I live in a little town outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in a little sunshiny house stuffed with a very funny spouse, amazing kids, two dogs, a soft cat, and two fish. The house is too small for all of us, but it is ours.

I come from a line of talented storytellers. My mom remains an inspiration. She tells amazing tales.

Who are your favorite authors?  

Good heavens, there are so many! I am an eclectic reader. If I have to choose but one author, though, I adore Neil Gaiman.

Tell us a bit about your story Maleficium?

My story in the Sins of the Past came from a document, a surviving letter from Anne of Cleves’ brother, requesting of King Henry Tudor a change in her household. I quote the letter at the end of the story. It fired my imagination, and that is how the story came to be.

Did you do any research for your story?

Of course!

What inspires you to write?

Writing is a way of being. It is a necessary creative expression and a skill to be honed. I enjoy the work. What inspires my stories? All manner of things inspire my stories. Some spring from my unhealthy array of fears. Others come from personal experiences and observations. I love to share my take on the world. I hope that readers like what I see.

If you could go back to any time period and place, when and where would you go?

I’m a bit of a history nut. I would love to visit much of our past, including Tudor England. However I’m also a wimp and really appreciate our modern conveniences.

When did you first start writing?

My first stories were written for underclassmen at my elementary school. I illustrated and wrote stories, bound them on oversized pages, and presented them. I was ten I think when I started these undertakings. Writing has nearly always been a part of my life. I write short stories, flash fiction, and poetry. I’ve published creative non-fiction and journalistic pieces as well. It is my dearest desire that my stories find homes within the imaginations of my readers.

What do you like to do to relax?

Reading, of course, or spending time with my family and friends. My life is quite hectic, so sometimes stealing a few moments for a hot cup of tea is the best that can be managed. I paint or sketch sometimes, too.

What are you currently working on?

I’m currently working on short stories for an anthology called Forever Red. The one that I’ve submitted is also historic in nature.

How can readers connect with you?

I have a Twitter account (KerryBlack@BlackKerryblick), Goodreads author’s page, and WordPress Blog (http://kerrylizblack.wordpress.com/)

Time for some Tudor terror – read a little of Kerry’s story Maleficium:

Something haunted the garden path. It was difficult to identify the cause of my unease. Certainly, another of the household could be enjoying the pathways. Something about the charge of the air, though, set my hair on end beneath my clothing. My eyes strained as I sought to identify the figures approaching.

Two people, a man and a woman, in proper, courtly attire strolled, but something in their movements betrayed them. The woman walked too free of confinement, and the man stalked like one of the panthers in the tower. Their heads jerked at odd angles, and their hushed tones carried alarming messages.

“Princess pudding is mighty nice!”

“I like royal flesh the best, but I am angry enough to eat the inferiors in there. How dare that flame-haired brat not show? Without a note of explanation, too.”

“I can braid her hair into falls. Red is much in favor these days. Red falls to sell in market when the meat is gone.”

With quiet care, I pulled my feet under the bench. The sulfuric stench choked me, but I held my breath to keep from coughing. They stood within ten feet of my hiding place, conversing as they stripped a thin branch of its leaves.

Want to read more? Pick up a copy of Sins of the Past today.

Sins Of The Past

Sins of the Past – The Mysterious Matt Lovell

MattLovell2

It’s Sunday, and Sunday on Paws 4 Thought means Sins of the Past. Today we introduce the second author in the book, Matt Lovell. Tell us a little bit about yourself Matt.

I’m an insomniac writer, actor, director, puzzle-maker, computer geek, music and TV aficionado, cat-lover, night owl, and internet addict.

Who are your favorite authors?

I’d have to say Douglas Adams and Ray Bradbury are at the top of the list. This list changes of course.  But really anyone that is very clever with words. Both of those authors were amazing wordsmiths in different ways. Adams was a master at taking words and overanalyzing them from a satirical point of view until you forgot what his main point was. That’s pure comedy gold. I’ve seen authors try to write comedy before in genre fiction(fantasy, sci-fi, etc). And they end up just falling flat. They made likable characters but their comedy just wasn’t funny. That takes a special gift really I think. I don’t really think you can teach someone to write comedy. It’s something you have…and absorb from other comedians (whether authors or actors or comics, etc). Anyway he’s a huge influence on fusing comedy into stories, even serious ones. As his stories are usually ABOUT something serious, which makes the comedy work even more.

(Totally agree about Adams and comedy writing. He’s up there in my top writers list too, DMK)

Bradbury on the other hand…every time I read a Bradbury book or short story I feel like I’m reading a free verse poem. Look at things like The Halloween Tree. There is more imagery in one page of that than a whole book of poetry. And even though he is “sci-fi”, most of his stories really are incredibly grounded in reality. No aliens or star wars stuff. A lot of “what if” future sci-fi. And really he melds sci-fi and horror quite seamlessly as many of his stories do NOT have a happy ending. Another thing I learned from him is not to over-explain things. He simply acts as if everything in his little world is common knowledge until suddenly while you reading, it IS! He doesn’t write down to people but assumes they are intelligent. I really like writers like that.

Tell me a little about your story Sic Semper Susurrus.

The first thing that came to my head for a historical time period was Julius Caesar with vampires. Sic Semper Susurrus is what came out of that. It’s about a bored Roman senator who suddenly gets in the middle of a treacherous conspiracy. But just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean something’s not out to get you. For research of course I watched Mel Brooks’ History of the World Part I’. Treasure Bath!

What inspires you to write?

Everything. Absolutely everything. However it’s a matter of whether I’m actually aware and ambitious enough to catch hold of that story idea that comes floating into my life and lasso it to the page. Usually I just absentmindedly let it float by in my laziness and go back to humming tunes stuck in my head. There are a couple of things I do that help me develop ideas. One is taking a shower and the other is going for a walk. In both cases there is just me. I am isolated. There are no distractions. No internet, no computer, no TV.  Just me and my thoughts. And I just force myself to think about my story issues and suddenly other ideas join together until I have a solution.

Let’s talk puzzles – tell us a little bit about the interactive stories and puzzles you’ve created?

Oh wow. I’ve been doing puzzles for several years now. I got involved in helping with various puzzle events at Microsoft. Seattle has quite a thriving puzzle community. Think crossword and word search puzzles on acid. The types of crazy things you found in Games Magazine (or today Games World of Puzzles). That magazine started my love of them. So I started making puzzles for these events. Usually relatively simple puzzles, but they’d always have a twist. My favorite is doing weird things with word searches. I created a word search that was crossed with a cryptogram that got all its clues from music files once.  I love music and like to inject my music favorites onto other people whenever possible. Some of my puzzles have actually been huge undertakings and were very interactive. I made a 4-part adventure puzzle which forced competitors to run to different parts of the Microsoft campus while having to solve four different puzzles based on Rush songs.

What do you like to do to relax?

I watch TV. Yeah, yeah I know. Lots of people say “OMG TV is so bad for you! I never watch TV!” I love TV. Wonderful stories are told on television. In fact it’s probably the number one source of comedy there is. I don’t take TV seriously. In fact I try to learn from it. I often come across a series that does things with a story in ways I never expected. It is great finding a great original new show. Of course if it’s that good of an idea it will probably be cancelled. Ha! I also like listening to music. Again for the same reasons. My favorite is 70s progressive rock. Lots of wonderful musical stories they are.

I’m a big fan of TV sitcoms too – do you have an all-time favorite?

Whoa, that will require a list for sure. Most of my all-time favorites were not exactly standard sitcoms. Topping that list I think is Futurama. The satire and stories are just brilliant. Sometimes really scifirific, sometimes very poignent, sometimes very biting, and usually hilarious.  (Great choice, DMK.)

Others on the all-time list are M*A*S*H, Monty Python’s Flying Circus, Red Dwarf, Blackadder (yes the British do comedy better). For more standard sitcom fair, I always really liked NewsRadio, Frasier, The Office (the Brit version is brilliant but the American version, once it found its own voice, was flat out uberbrilliant and hysterical to boot), Night Court, Seinfeld, and the original Bob Newhart Show…and how could I forget Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In. So most of my favorites are odd in their own way. I think you need that unusual setting or style in order to be really funny.

So music, what are your favorite bands and artists?

I so adore the stories and music landscapes of progressive 70s rock. Rush is my favorite. From 2112 and Hemispheres Grace Under Pressure, science fiction worlds are explored, philosophies pondered, and musical masterpiece achieved. You would really think Bradbury were writing the lyrics to so many of these gems. Also in that list are Genesis and Yes.

Genesis told more fantasy and dark stories with both humor and pathos. More briliant playing and tons of atmosphere. Steve Hackett’s swirling acoustic guitar really takes you on a journey. Yes, is like a bite of poetry that you taste that lifts you up and lets you float away on it. It is a bumpy ride, but at their best there was magic in their sound.

Pink Floyd – another seminal group. Everyone knows them, sure. I think their early middle period was best The Meddle/Dark SIde Stuff. Of course Wish You Were Here is also brilliant. (My favorite, DMK) These are groups really that every time I listen to their songs, there is an entire story playing out in my head to match, and oftentimes a different one than the last time I heard it. Can’t forget Beatles and Bowie of course….but there are tons of others I like. Too many. I must go listen to them all now.

Oh and one more thing .  I got a stereo for Christmas when I was young. I had it into adulthood. It was a very cheap and nothing stereo, but it had a turntable on top. One day I was listening to “Welcome to the Machine” by Pink Floyd, you know the song that starts with this robotic motor sound winding up and has this thump all through it…well at the end, once it is through (listen to it on youtube to hear what I mean), at the end, the song literally winds down. The wind up from the beginning is reversed, the synthesizer pitches up like an alarm sound and then winds all the way down to a low note and a last thump…when it got to that part….my stereo….stopped beating forever…and died. Was the most wondrous and sad music moment ever.

So the question I’m asking everyone in these interviews. If you could travel to any time and place in the past where and when would you go?

Probably wherever Doctor Who is so I can stow away and become the next companion. Then find a way to go back to the period where Tom Baker and Jon Pertwee were the Doctor. I liked them. I’d steal the scarf for sure. Somewhere in Europe would be nice though. Middle Ages maybe. I’d make sure I was aristocracy of course so I could wear all the cool clothes and not be gawked at and called a mere cosplayer. Live in a castle or manor house. Of course I’d get all the vaccinations I could first…and bring my computer. Do you think castles had wifi?

(Love it – I want to be Tom Baker’s companion too, DMK)

So what’s next from Matt Lovell. What are you currently working on?

Working on a few word puzzle projects right now. Unfortunately the letters don’t always cooperate and I have to keep yelling at the screen to get them to line up properly. As for writing I am going back through a number of short stories which I’m compiling into a YA horror anthology book. I probably have a couple more to write to get it complete. Maybe something about zombie fish or wereflamingoes. The world needs more of them. No wait. Wereunicorns! I hear they are fabulously scary!

(I’d go with the wereflamingoes – definitely – actually I kind of had one of those in Argentum, hmmm … DMK)

How can readers connect with you?

They can pick up the nearest object and throw it at me. Once I turn and shout things at them, we can then have what’s called a conversation. Of course, the days of throwing rocks at each other is a bit passé. I suppose most folks are on Facebook. Here’s a link that I THINK works, although they just YET AGAIN changed how Facebook is displayed so who knows?

Want to read a sample of Matt’s story? Sure you do:

I paid little attention to the orations today.

“And let us send this to another vote shall we, Senators? But first…discussion.”

Same dull lot blathering on. Persuvius….Glomus….Horatius… Dullus, dullus, dullus. They may as well ALL be called Dullus. What are they saying? I don’t know and I don’t care.

“And the temple gates need replacing…”

The hard stonework of the benches did little to improve my mood. Oh, my gluteus maximus.

“There is an ink shortage. Perhaps we can send an expedition to capture a creature called an octopus…”

Oh good, Carius Litus, he of the flashy purple toga. That’s all I need.

“The toga weaver requires yet more cloth and dye to make our new togas…”

I think I moaned.

I could use some mulled wine about now. Maybe I could chat up that fellow Homer and see if he has a new play to boost my spirits. The one about that captain that sailed away and lost most of his crew fighting monsters was a good one. That was exciting. He should write another of those. Things with monsters.

“-alus?”

Everyone is looking at me. Why is that?

“Galus?”

“Uh…what?” I replied.

“Galus, is something wrong? It is your turn to speak.”

“Monsters?” I said.

The onlookers and gawkers chuckled at me.

“Galus, are you feeling all right? You look…”

“How do I look?”

“You look…sad.”

“Sad,” I replied sitting back down, “I look sad. Sad hail Caesar.”

I stared at my sandals. Grey. Like my heart. I didn’t need to look up again to know they were still staring at me. Leaning into one another, covering their mouths with the sides of their hands. As if that hid their gossip from me. Their words were of a poison proportional to the number of teeth they showed. Thankfully, it didn’t last long. They quickly went back to business, i.e. talking at length about themselves to make themselves look good. I left before they finished. I really needed to get out of there.

To read more pick up a copy of Sins of the Past today!

Sins

Sins of the Past – Introducing Sunila Vig

Sunila

Today on Paws 4 Thought we begin a special series of interviews with the authors of the historical horror anthology, Sins of the Past. Our first author is Sunila Vig. Tell us a little bit about yourself, Sunila.

I am from India and deeply connected to my land, its history, colours, food, culture and chaos. Today I live in Australia and enjoy the nature, calm and all that it has to offer. I teach yoga, write and sing amidst other things and try to stay open to the experiences and people that come to me.

Who are your favorite authors?

Hard to put them all down here, but a few are Tolstoy, Hardy, Shakespeare, Gorki, J. Krishnamurthy, Donna Farhi, Amitabh Ghosh, Jhumpa Lahiri and P.G. Wodehouse.

Tell us a bit about your story VishKanya (The Poison Maiden)?

It is about a young woman who is accursed to be a poison maiden and used by her masters as a tool to decimate their rivals. She falls in love and yet can only love from afar.

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

I would travel back in India to Buddha’s time, a few centuries before Christ.

What attracts you to writing horror?

I enjoy writing horror only when I can intersperse it with other elements like love-suspense-mystery, so that the end result is not gory but humane.

What are you currently reading?

Life. I just moved back to Australia and I’m in the throes of a variety of activity.

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

Yes, I certainly am going to write a story for Sins of the Future. It will be unique. That is all I can say at this point.

What do you like to do to relax?

Play with my little one, teach a Yoga class, watch TV, read, write, walk, meet like-minded people, indulge in any art form….

What are you currently working on?

On sprucing up a novella I’ve written.

Read a little from Sunila’s story, VishKanya (The Poison Maiden) here:

She ran her chocolate brown fingers through his hair. In an hour his body would turn blue and stiff, her poison washing through his every cell.

Two hours back the body had a name – a handsome nobleman she’d enticed in his own chambers in the dead of night. It had been easy, too easy, and now he lay on his carved bed, oblivious to life.

She looked bored. This was number hundred-and-two. She kept count by chopping off the little toe from each victim. She wasn’t finicky like that. A string angled from one of the rafters in her attic holding one hundred and one shriveled toes, embalmed with herbs to ward off the stench.

Vishkanya was her name. Actually it was the name of every poison maiden. She wrinkled her long nose, how about a special name just for me? But when she voiced her thoughts she received a rap on the head and was told crisply that she talked too much. The purpose of her life was to be efficient and lethal.

Connect with Sunila

Via email sunila108@yahoo.com

Twitter @whitefielder

Facebook page

Pick up your copy of Sins of the Past today!

Sins Of The Past

Also available in Amazon UK, Amazon India, and Amazon Australia.