Blitz/Giveaway: The Unseen by J. L. Bryan

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Today, I’d like to give a shout out to one of my favorite indie authors with his newest book release.  You can check out my review of his JENNY POX series or read up on his awesome GUEST POST about time travel.  Thank you to Xpresso Book Tours for organizing this blitz.  I do plan on eventually reading THE UNSEEN, as it looks amazing!

Unseen

The Unseen by J. L. Bryan

Genre: Dark Fiction/horror

Publisher: Self published

Pages: 343

Published: October 31, 2013

Links: Amazon |  Goodreads  |  Barnes & Noble

Author Links:  Website  |   Twitter  |  Facebook  |  Goodreads  |  Amazon Author Profile

Cassidy is a young tattoo artist living in the Little Five Points neighborhood of Atlanta. She’s always suffered terrible nightmares, and sometimes the hideous creatures seem to follow her out of her dreams and into her waking life, though she’s the only one who can see them. Drugs and alcohol can blot them out, but never entirely chase them away.

When a demonic cult begins to take control of the people in her life, including her younger brother, Cassidy discovers that the unseen world of monsters is very real. She can no longer avoid it. To protect those she loves, she must accept her own hidden supernatural talents and face the forces of evil before the sinister cult achieves its twisted goals and casts the world into darkness.

about author

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The Unseen by J.L. Bryan has a special release price of 99 cents through Halloween.  See his website for details and links.

J.L. Bryan studied English literature at the University of Georgia and at Oxford, with a focus on the English Renaissance and the Romantic period. He also studied screenwriting at UCLA. He enjoys remixing elements of paranormal, supernatural, fantasy, horror and science fiction into new kinds of stories.

He is the author of The Paranormals series (starting with Jenny Pox), The Songs of Magic series, Nomad, and other books. He lives in Atlanta with his wife Christina, his son John, and some dogs and cats.

 

excerpt

Chapter One

 

Years later, Cassidy would remember the night of the party as her first encounter with the unseen world.  It began with broken glass, blood, and a homemade Ouija board.

The day after Cassidy’s seventeenth birthday, her mother was away at work for the night, inadvertently giving Cassidy the best possible present: a Saturday night alone at the apartment.  Her younger brother Kieran was staying at a friend’s house for the weekend.  Cassidy’s mother had forbidden her to have any guests except for her best friend, Barb.  Boys, as always, were doubly forbidden while Cassidy’s mother was working the night shift at the hotel.  Her mother called her on the land line to make sure she was home—never Cassidy’s cell, always the land line.

The night started out calmly, with no sign of the horror to come.

Cassidy and Barb stood in the narrow kitchen, spreading sauce and mozzarella on a pre-made Boboli crust. Cassidy opened a jar of olives.

“Seriously?” Barb asked. “Why you are always trying to sneak olives into everything?  You’ve got an olive fetish.”

“Olives are awesome on pizza,” Cassidy said. “Way better than one of your Hawaiian-style travesties.”

“I like things that follow a theme.”

“Even though pineapples and ham actually taste terrible and ruin it?” Cassidy scattered olives on one half of the pizza. “There.  I’m saving you from any olive deliciousness.  Tamila and I can eat this half.”

“You really invited Tamila?” Barb frowned.

“I told you I was.”

“I thought you were kidding.” Barb had never particularly liked Tamila Evans, who was Cassidy’s “old” best friend from middle school.

Barb was the sort of sixteen-year-old girl who dressed in black lace, corpse-white face powder, purple lipstick, and hair dyed “Black Death,” just one of the colors offered by Barb’s beloved Horror Girl Cosmetics.

Cassidy’s old friend Tamila, by contrast, played trombone in the marching band and had joined groups like Math League to pump up her college application, while Cassidy and Barb spent the football games getting high or drunk under the bleachers.  Cassidy and Barb also struggled to pass Science and Society, a boring remedial class better known as Science for Slackers.

Cassidy had tried for a couple of years to create a friendship between Tamila and Barb, but neither girl had any real interest in the other.  Cassidy had found herself drifting away from Tamila and closer to Barb, and having both girls to her apartment at the same time could get awkward.

“Reese said she’s coming, too,” Barb said.

“Ugh,” Cassidy said.

“I’m telling you, you’d like her if you just give her a little bit of a chance.”

“What’s to like about Reese?”

“She’s fun,” Barb said.

“Let’s not confuse loud with fun,” Cassidy replied, shaking her head.

Cassidy couldn’t stand Reese Warwick, but the skinny blond girl was Barb’s latest girl-crush.  Barb was always hunting for a third girl to link into her and Cassidy’s friendship so they’d be a “clique” instead of “just a couple of losers.”

Barb had been hopeful about Reese as a third Musketeer because she was pretty and had a salty tongue, able to cut down the lame preppy kids with a few choice words.  Cassidy thought Reese was a big fake—her blond pageboy-type hair, the golden ring in her nose, the skimpy tops and ultra-short skirts she wore, as though being pretty wasn’t enough and she just had to snag the attention of every male in the room at all times.

Barb herself was chunky, with a low build a bit reminiscent of a bulldog.  Cassidy was tall and gangly, with a hideous number of freckles and long, unmanageable red hair.  Cassidy was five foot eleven and holding, hoping each day she didn’t grow another inch and cross over into six-foot territory.  She already towered over her mom and her brother.

Cassidy’s unusual height had led to her being recruited for the girls’ basketball team as a freshman.  She had sucked at basketball and quit after one season—Cassidy liked the Art Club, she liked painting backdrops for school plays, and she liked getting high in the woods behind the gym.  She did not like chasing a ball and putting it through a hoop like some kind of trained hamster.

Cassidy thought Barb just wanted a hot girl like Reese around to make their small group look more attractive.

The doorbell rang.  Cassidy opened it and hugged Tamila, who gave her an uncertain smile that said everything about the deteriorating state of their friendship.  Tamila was devolving toward a gross preppy look, too.  She wore a blue and white Abercrombie dress with two matching bows in her long, soft black hair.

Tamila’s smile, weak enough to begin with, faltered more when she saw Barb.

“Hi, Barb.” Tamila waved.  Tamila was a shapely, dark-skinned black girl who had grown out of middle-school gawkiness to become a real beauty with large, deep brown eyes.  If Barb wanted a cute girl for their group of friends, Tamila should have been a top pick, but she was too bookish and not wild enough for Barb.

“Tamila!” Barb said with fake friendliness, then turned her attention to sliding the pizza into the hot oven.

“Want some wine?” Cassidy offered.

“Is it a merlot?” Tamila asked.

“It’s a…pinot noir.” Cassidy read the words off the label, pronouncing them peanut no-wire, since she had no idea how else to say it.

“Just a little, thanks. I don’t want to get dizzy,” Tamila said.

“This should be fun, right?” Cassidy asked them, handing Tamila her wine.

“Sure.” Barb refilled her own glass, avoiding eye contact.

The evening was quiet and awkward until Reese arrived, at which point it became loud and awkward.  Barb let Reese in the door while Cassidy and Tamila sliced the finished pizza in the kitchen.

“What’s up, bitches?” Reese announced as she entered, waving a tall vodka bottle like a trophy.  The blond girl staggered into the room, dressed in a transparent mesh shirt with a skimpy bra top underneath, her tight low-rider denim shorts strategically slashed in several places. “So you call this a party, huh?”

“Want some pizza?” Barb offered.

“Um, do I look like I want a giant ass?” Reese unscrewed the vodka bottle and swigged. “So can we have some fucking music up in here?”

The group moved back to Cassidy’s room to blast Cassidy’s stereo.  Cassidy sat on her daybed, which was lined with cushions, between Tamila and Barb.  Reese was left with the sagging armchair in the corner.

“So what’s for entertainment tonight, ladies?” Reese asked.

“I brought a pack of Uno cards…” Tamila reached into her purse.

“Uno?  Because we’re a bunch of kindergarteners?” Reese snorted. “Let’s play ‘Hot or Not.’”

“What’s that?” Cassidy asked.

“Where we judge the boys at school like the pieces of meat they are,” Reese said. “I’ll start:  Hot or not?  Dexter McKenna.”

“Ew, not,” Tamila said, frowning.

“How is he not?” Reese scowled.

“Because he’s a dick.” Tamila sipped her glass of wine.

“You don’t like dicks?  You’re a chick-licker, aren’t you?” Reese laughed and stuck out her tongue, pierced with a stud that looked like a black pearl. “A preppy little dyke.”

“I am not!” Tamila snapped.  She gave Cassidy a desperate look, her eyes pleading for rescue.

“Come on, leave her alone.” Cassidy held out her glass to Barb, who had the open wine bottle. “Let’s drink more.”

“What do you think, Cassidy?” Barb poured until Cassidy’s wine glass was dangerously full. “Is Dex hot or not?”

“He’s kind of cute, but Tami’s right.  He’s a dick.” Cassidy drank her wine and fought down the urge to grimace at the bite of the alcohol.  She had a feeling Reese would make fun of her for it.

“I think he’s hot,” Barb said.

“Thank you, Barb!” Reese said. “All guys are dicks, people.  You just have to pick the hot ones.”

“Wisdom from Reese.” Barb toasted her and drank.

“I’m full of it.” Reese lit a Parliament.

“You really are,” Tamila said softly.

“What was that?”

“I’m going to let the smoke out.  It’s getting hard to breathe in here.” Tamila stood and opened the glass door to the balcony, letting in a warm, damp April breeze from the night outside.

Cassidy’s apartment was crappy and small.  The air conditioner smelled like sour rust, the plumbing was unreliable, and she could hear her neighbor’s dog barking day and night on the balcony below hers.  She and her brother shared a small hallway and a bathroom.  Their mother had the master bedroom, all the way across the living room.  The only good things about her apartment were that it was on the top floor of the three-story building and it had the little corner balcony.  Doors opened onto the balcony from both the living room and Cassidy’s room.

“Does my smoke bother you?” Reese asked, blowing a thick plume toward Tamila.

“It bothers anyone who doesn’t smoke,” Tamila said.

“Can I have a Parliament?” Barb asked.

“Oh, sure!” Reese stuck a cigarette in Barb’s mouth, then held out the open pack to Cassidy. “And you, ma’am?”

“Let’s go outside.” Cassidy took one and led the way out.

The balcony wasn’t large, but Cassidy and her mother had decorated it with outdoor shelves full of small, blooming plants.  It overlooked a broken concrete walkway next to a chain link fence.  Past the fence lay a big sinkhole thick with pine brush and kudzu.  Tires, beer cans, and an old boxspring had accumulated in the weedy sinkhole over the years despite the high fence around it.

“Oh, yeah, we wouldn’t want to bother all the non-smokers here.” Reese just happened to blow a big cloud of smoke into Tamila’s face on her way out.

Tamila hung back, standing inside Cassidy’s room and watching the three girls stand at the wooden railing.  The railing’s blue paint was faded and peeling, neglected for years by the apartment complex’s cheapskate management.

Cassidy wondered what Reese was secretly thinking about her tiny apartment.  She’d been to Reese’s house for a party once.  Reese had a big princess bed, a flower garden and swimming pool in her back yard, and a pool table and a bar in her finished basement.

“Full moon tonight,” Barb said. “The werewolves will be out.”

“So, Dex McKenna…?” Reese said.

“We already did him,” Cassidy replied.

“I haven’t done him,” Reese snickered. “But I will.  I know he’s kind of a douche, but…so hot.  So, so hot.”

“I’m not sure he deserves the double ‘so hot,’” Barb said. “A single one, maybe.”

“That’s why I invited him over tonight,” Reese told them.

“What?” Cassidy asked.

“It’s cool, he’ll bring some goodies if he comes.” Reese touched the side of her nose. “I was going to let it be a surprise, but…”

“A surprise?  Like a present?” Cassidy asked. “Isn’t a present supposed to be something you actually want?”

“I told him he could bring Kyle Bowers, too.  Kyle’s totally up for grabs.  Who’s calling him?  Barb?  Cassidy?”

“I made out with Kyle at Jerry Krazinksi’s party freshman year.” Barb shuddered. “He tasted like bologna.  It was like sticking my tongue up Oscar Meyer’s crack.”

“I don’t want those guys in my house,” Cassidy said. “Reese, you should have asked me.”

“First of all—‘apartment,’ not ‘house.’  Let’s not mangle the English language.  Second, I’ve been after this guy forever, for like four weeks.  It’s cool if we use your mom’s bed, right?” Reese asked.

“Gross.  Use my little brother’s bed,” Cassidy told her.

“Um, even grosser?  I am not hooking up with Dex on your brother’s snotty-caked little Star Wars sheets.”

“Then go somewhere else.”

“Fine.  The living room couch?”

“Like somewhere not in my apartment,” Cassidy said. “I’m not cleaning up those stains.”

“We’ll use a towel!” Reese offered.

Cassidy shook her head. “I can’t believe you invited them without asking me.”

“They probably won’t even come, okay?” Reese said. “Dex said he was busy.  It was just my fantasy that he would show up anyway, and take me right to the…couch…Cassidy, does your mom’s bathroom have a Jacuzzi tub?”

“Nope,” Cassidy said. “So those boys are not coming?  Right?”

“Almost definitely not.  But maybe.”  Reese shrugged and flicked her cigarette out into the sinkhole, where it landed among dry weeds and brush.

“Watch out!  You could start a fire.” Tamila leaned out to see where it had gone.

“Don’t be such a panty-pisser.  Your friend is boring me, Cassidy.” Reese nudged Tamila aside with her elbow as she returned inside Cassidy’s room.  Tamila gave Cassidy a look of disbelief and shook her head.  She mouthed the word bitch, and Cassidy laughed.

“What’s funny?” Reese looked back, frowning.

“Nothing,” Cassidy said.  She stepped inside and grabbed the vodka bottle from her dresser.  Barb followed her in and closed the balcony door behind them.

When they sat down, Reese stole Tamila’s previous spot at the head of the daybed and Barb sat beside her, leaving Cassidy to sit at the foot of her own bed.  Tamila rolled her eyes and dropped into the sagging old armchair instead.

“So, yeah, probably no boys,” Reese said. “What do we do instead?”

“Vodka shots.  Everybody empty your glass,” Cassidy said.  All four girls turned their glasses up and drained the wine.  Reese poured vodka.

“That’s too much!” Tamila gaped at her wineglass, filled to the lip with clear liquor.

“If you get drunk, maybe you’ll be more fun!” Reese gave her a chipper smile, and Barb laughed. Reese raised her glass. “Here’s to me hooking up with Dex, and to whatever you bitches want for yourselves.”

“Cheers!” Barb replied, clinking her glass against Reese’s.  Vodka sloshed over her fingers. Barb turned to Cassidy and held up her glass. “To whatever us bitches want for ourselves.”

“Cheers.” Cassidy clinked her glass against Barb’s, then leaned and stretched toward Tamila, but it was too far to reach, and neither of them made the effort to stand up and cross the room.

Cassidy, Barb, and Reese downed her entire drinks, but Tamila took a small sip, wrinkled her nose, and coughed.  She waved her hand in front of her mouth and set her mostly-full glass on Cassidy’s dresser, shaking her head.

“What?  How can you wuss-gag on vodka?  It has no taste,” Reese said. “Who wants seconds?”

“We don’t want to waste all of it right away,” Cassidy said.

“It’s not wasted if we drink it.” Reese winked, and Barb laughed.

“You know what we should do?  A full moon is the best time to contact the dead,” Barb said.

“Why would we want to do that?” Reese asked.

“To see what’s on the Other Side,” Barb replied.

“Isn’t that why the chicken crossed the road?” Tamila asked, but only Cassidy laughed at her joke.

“I’m serious, let’s do it,” Barb said. “Let’s talk to the spirits.”

Cassidy bit her lip.  Barb thought death was dark and romantic, but Cassidy didn’t find it romantic at all.  Her own father had died when she was six years old.

“How do you want to contact the dead, Barb?” Cassidy asked. “A séance?”

“Oh, this is all part of your ‘Look at me, I’m so Gothic and mysterious and weird’ thing,” Reese said to Barb.

“It’s better than your ‘Look at me, I’m wearing a see-through shirt’ thing,” Barb countered.

“Bitch!” Reese replied.

“Slut!”

Reese gasped and slapped playfully at Barb, who tackled her in return.  Cassidy watched them, drunk and friendly on the bed beside her, and still couldn’t think of a single good reason to ever hang out with Reese again.

“Want to do the séance, Tami?” Cassidy asked.

“That’s not funny,” Tamila said. “Let’s talk about something else.”

“Yeah, a séance!” Reese suddenly seemed interested now that Tamila was clearly uncomfortable.

“We used a Ouija board at my cousin’s house during Christmas,” Barb said. “It really does move by itself, it spells out words.  It was creepy.”

“Those are dangerous,” Tamila said. “We did a study unit on them at church.  Ouija boards, Tarot cards, Satan-worshipers, Wiccans—”

“Hey, Wiccans worship nature,” Barb interrupted, sitting up and looking serious. “Not Satan.  Satanists don’t worship Satan, either.  I read the Satanic Bible.  Well, like three pages of it.”

“Then that’s a rip-off,” Cassidy said. “What are people who worship Satan supposed to call themselves if they can’t use the word ‘Satanist’?”

“They need a name,” Barb said. “They should organize.  They need like a devil-pope, and a whole Satanic bureaucracy—”

“Stop it.” Tamila said. “Stop saying ‘Satan.’”

“Are you fucking serious right now?” Reese asked. “Let’s break out that Ouija board, ladies.”

“No!  They can make people crazy.  There’s demonic possession, ghosts…if you really read up on this, Reese, you’d know.  It’s dangerous,” Tamila said.

Reese and Barb looked at each other, then burst out laughing.

“Dangerous?  They’re made by Parker Brothers,” Reese said.

“I don’t have one here, anyway.  I bought one in middle school, but my mom found it and threw it away before I could use it,” Cassidy said.

“Did she throw it in the sinkhole out back?  Like next to the old homeless-person mattress?” Reese asked, and she and Barb broke down laughing again.

Cassidy felt herself blush—part anger, part embarrassment—and she poured herself more wine.

“We can make one!” Barb, who knew Cassidy’s room as well as Cassidy herself, stumbled across the room and opened the door to Cassidy’s tiny closet.

The closet door was covered in drawings, as were all the walls in Cassidy’s cluttered room.  Her oldest works were approximate drawings of Oscar and Elmo from Sesame Street, in the medium of Crayola, just above the springy doorstop that had fascinated her as a small child.

From there, the drawings had spread up and out, bats and dragons done in colored pencil and marker, then attempts at portraits of people she knew—her mother, her father, her kindergarten teacher, and some preschool friend whose name she’d long forgotten.  Later works included paintings of trees, spiderwebs, and a homeless one-eyed cat who lived in the parking lot.

“You could draw an awesome spirit board, Cassidy!” Barb carried out poster board and a shoebox with markers, glue, scissors, and bottles of glitter, which Cassidy had used to create the colorful, shimmering flowers on her dresser drawers back in middle school.  “It would be so much better than the store-bought ones, anyway.  You know it would.”

“You want me to make it?” Cassidy smiled, a little excited by the idea of creating something new.  Somewhere in the back of her mind, she wondered if they might contact her father’s spirit, wherever it was, but she certainly didn’t say it out loud.

“We’d better not,” Tamila said.

“Come on, Tami, it’s something we can all do together.  What goes on a Ouija board?  Just letters and numbers, right?” Cassidy asked.

“You also need a YES and a NO so the spirits can answer questions, and a GOOD-BYE so they can leave when they’re done,” Barb said. “Use the glow-in-the-dark markers.”

“Good idea!” Cassidy replied.  Barb hopped up to light the three scented candles in Cassidy’s room.  Tamila frowned.

Cassidy carefully wrote out the alphabet in three rows of green letters, then added numbers from zero to nine.  She wrote YES and NO in the upper corners and GOOD-BYE at the bottom.

“And maybe a big FUCK YOU in case they get annoyed,” Reese suggested, and Cassidy snickered and added FUCK YOU between the YES and the NO.

“This isn’t a joke,” Tamila said. “I’m not doing this.”

“Blah, blah, blah.” Reese rolled her eyes.

“Now we just need to decorate it,” Barb said. “There’s usually a sun and a moon…”

“We can do better than that.” Cassidy drew a blue moon, a green clover, a red heart, and a purple horseshoe before realizing she was imitating the ingredients of a Lucky Charms box. “Wait, this is stupid.”

“That’s what I’ve been saying,” Tamila said.

“It looks good!” Barb countered.

“Make it more occult-y,” Reese said, with a sharp grin at Tamila.

Cassidy used the nozzle of her Elmer’s Glue bottle to sketch stars in each corner of the poster board.  She dusted them with red glitter and blew off the excess, leaving four sparkling red pentagrams.

“That seems like a bad idea,” Tamila said. “Just take off the pentagrams, okay?”

“The pentagrams are great!” Barb said.

“Hell, yeah, keep them,” Reese nodded.

“What other occult symbols are there?” Cassidy asked.

“Inverted crosses?” Reese suggested, then smirked at Tamila’s shocked look.

“There’s a symbol for each horoscope sign. I’ll sketch them…” Barb drew the symbols on a scrap of notebook paper, and Cassidy copied them in marker around the edges of the posterboard—blue waves for Aquarius, a red bull pictogram for Taurus.

“The symbol for Cancer is a sixty-nine?” Reese snickered, looking over Barb’s shoulder.

“That’s what Cancers like.  I’m a Cancer, so I know,” Barb replied.

“Here it is—the ultimate Ouija board.” Cassidy held up the colorful, glittering poster board. “We should be able to talk to ghosts from all over the world with this thing.”

“Sweet, international ghosts!  Let’s see how it looks in the dark.” Barb turned out the light, leaving the room in the dim glow of three candles.  The letters and numbers glowed an eerie green.  Outside, the trees rustled in the wind and light rain tapped on the balcony.

“Maybe I should go,” Tamila said quietly.

“Maybe you should!” Reese snatched the newly made board from Cassidy’s hands and tugged Barb down to the carpet with her. “Come on, let’s call up some dead people.”

“What do we use as a pointer?” Cassidy asked.

“You mean a planchette?” Barb drained her wine glass, then placed it upside down in the center of the board.  A few droplets of red wine dribbled down and blurred the glowing letters M and N.  Barb and Reese laid their fingertips on the base of the inverted glass.

“Let’s do this!” Reese said.

Cassidy slid down from her bed and sat across from Reese.  She placed her own fingertips on the glass along with the other two girls.

“One spot left,” Cassidy said to Tamila, who had made no move to leave the chair.

“I’m not doing it.”

“Come on, Tami.  It’ll be fun.  Please?” Cassidy resorted to a begging tone, locking eyes with Tamila.  What she wanted to say was: I am desperately trying to make you part of the group here, so please stop acting like such a tromboner tonight. “As a favor to me?”

“It does work better with four people,” Barb added.

Tamila sighed, looked at the board, and reluctantly left her chair to sit next to Cassidy, while offering a shaky, frightened smile to no one in particular.

“Okay.  Let’s get it over with,” Tamila whispered.  She placed her trembling fingers on the base of the upside-down wine glass. “We should say a prayer first.”

Barb and Reese found this hilarious, and Tamila frowned at their peals of drunken laughter.

“Let’s go,” Barb said.  She closed her eyes. “Are there any spirits—”

“Come talk to us, spirits!” Reese interrupted, closing her eyes and also swaying from side to side.  In her best drama-club voice, she projected, “Speak to us, give us messages from the world of the dead…”

The glass trembled under their fingers, and Cassidy gasped.  Everybody leaned in for a closer look, but the glass became still again.

“You should say only good spirits,” Tamila whispered. “Or we could end up talking to demons, or evil ghosts, or dead murderers…”

“Calling all demons, evil ghosts, and dead murderers!” Reese cried out in a slurred voice, then doubled forward, laughing.

“Be serious, Reese,” Barb said.  In a louder, more formal voice, she asked, “Are there any messages from the Other Side?  Like from our spirit guides or totem animals?”

“Totem animals,” Reese snickered.

“We all have one.  Mine’s a frog,” Barb told her, and Reese laughed and shook her head, tossing her blond hair.

“You look like a frog!” Reese said.

“Sh!  It’s moving,” Cassidy told them.

The wine glass shuddered again, and this time it began to slide over the poster board, the lip scraping and smearing a few of the still-wet letters, gathering glowing paint around its rim.

The glass moved across the alphabet to the word YES in the upper left corner of the poster, scraping up glue and glitter from a sparkly red pentagram along the way.

“Who’s doing that?  Are you doing that?” Reese asked Tamila, who shook her head, her wide eyes fixed on the board.

“Hello?  Are you a spirit?” Barb asked.

The glass slid half an inch, then right back into place.  YES again.

“Who are you?” Barb asked. “I mean, to whom do we have the pleasure of speaking?”

The wineglass lay still for a moment, then vibrated and hummed as if someone had plinked it with a fingernail.  The glass slid over the alphabet.

Cassidy felt her heart racing.  She hadn’t expected it to work at all, and it was starting to freak her out.  She wished they hadn’t turned off the lights.

The wine glass smeared its way across the board, its entire rim glowing green now.  It stopped at the letter N, and didn’t move again until Barb said the letter aloud.  It stopped again on the I.

“N…I…” Barb said.

“Nipple?” Reese suggested.

The glass continued on to the B, then HA…and then it stopped on Z.

“N-I-B-H-A-Z,” Barb said.

“It’s just nonsense,” Cassidy said.

The wineglass jerked under their fingers, then flew to the word NO, dragging their fingers with it.

“Who’s doing that?” Reese asked. “Is it you, Cassidy?  Barb?  It’s you, isn’t it, Barb?  You big Goth girl.”

“Sh,” Barb said. “Nib…haz?  Is that right?”

The wineglass zipped over to YES.

“What does that mean?” Cassidy asked.

The wineglass spelled out NAME.

“Your name is Nibhaz?”

YES.

“Sounds like a demon’s name to me,” Tamila said in a soft voice.

“Pfft, shut up,” Reese told her. “Like you would know.”

“Do you have a message for someone here, Nibhaz?” Barb asked.

YES.

“For who?” Barb asked.

CASS

Cassidy felt her blood turn cold.

“Oh, shit, for Cassidy?” Reese asked.

YES.

“Nibhaz, what is your message for Cassidy?” Barb asked.

The four girls watched as the glass crept back and forth along the top row of text.  DIE

“Die?  It’s telling her to die?” Tamila gasped.

“Sh, it’s not done yet,” Barb told her.

“Yeah, it’s not done yet,” Reese echoed, her eyes fixated on the glass.

Cassidy shivered, trying to think of any non-scary word that started with “die.”

“Diesel?” Cassidy asked in a shaky voice.  She expected someone to laugh at her, but nobody did.

The glass moved back to the letter D.

“Died,” Barb said. “He’s saying he died, I think.  He’s a ghost.”

The glass whipped over to the word NO, then returned to the letter D.

DIE..

DIE

DIE

 

“Does it stand for something?” Cassidy guessed, trying not to sound scared.  Her heart was thundering inside her chest.

“Is it somebody’s initials, Nibhaz?” Barb asked.

NO.

“He’s telling her to die!  Are you people blind?” Tamila snapped.  She took her fingers off the glass and stood. “I’m gone.  Forget this craziness.”

“You can’t let go until the spirit says GOOD-BYE!” Barb yelled at her. “That’s how people get possessed!”

“Oh, now you believe in demons?” Tamila asked, brushing off her knees.

“Please don’t leave me, Tami,” Cassidy whispered.  She was genuinely scared now. “Not until this is done, okay?”

Tamila looked at her a long moment, then sighed and reluctantly sat on the floor again.

“Make it quick.” Tamila returned her fingers to the glass. “I mean it.”

“Nibhaz, is there more to your message?” Barb asked.

YES.

“What?” Cassidy whispered.

The glass flew back to the top row of letters.

DIE

 

It moved faster, back and forth, never leaving the top row.

 

DIE

DIEDIEDIEDIEDIEDIEDIEDIEDIEDIEDIEDIE

 

Cassidy watched in horror, spellbound as the glass raced back and forth, smearing the top row of letters into an illegible green streak, but still sliding back and forth, back and forth, touching the spots where the three letters D, I, and E had been.

She wanted to let go and pull away, but her fingertips felt glued to the wine glass.  The glass became icy, burning cold under her fingertips, a crust of smoking frost forming inside the bowl and along the stem.

giveaway image lizzy dark fiction

 

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Short Story Saturday #20: The Shunned House

The story selected for this week’s SSS is the first I’ve read from H.P. Lovecraft.   If you enjoy weird fiction or horror, then you have to read this short story.  Available for FREE on Amazon as well as other online sites.

short story saturday meme book review

Welcome to Short Story Saturday, where I find books 100 pages or less on Amazon that are worth reading, which means you’ll only see mini-reviews of 3 stars and up on this feature!

If you know of an awesome short story (can be your own), send me an email.  If I like it, then I’ll post it on Short Story Saturday.


the shunned house

The Shunned House by H. P. Lovecraft

Originally published: 1924

Retail Price: FREE

Links:  Goodreads  |  Amazon  |  HPLovecraft

Pages: 48

Review:  No book blurb is available for this short story by H. P. Lovecraft, however the descriptions within the book will overload your senses.  Lovecraft braids together mood and visual details to paint a picture of quite possibly the most repulsive and horrifying haunted house.

The narrator (never named) and his uncle are obsessed with this haunted house.  The story deviates from the present to include the horrible history of the house and its inhabitants, so when it returns  to the present to follow the narrator through a night spent with his uncle in the house’s cellar, you experience the same dread and anticipation as the characters.

THE SHUNNED HOUSE also has quite possibly the longest sentence ever written:

 

A weak, filtered glow from the rain-harassed street-lamps outside, and a feeble phosphorescence from the detestable fungi within, showed the dripping stone of the walls, from which all traces of whitewash had vanished; the dank, fetid and mildew-tainted hard earth floor with its obscene fungi; the rotting remains of what had been stools, chairs, and tables, and other more shapeless furniture; the heavy planks and massive beams of the ground floor overhead; the decrepit plank door leading to bins and chambers beneath other parts of the house; the crumbling stone staircase with ruined wooden hand-rail; and the crude and cavernous fireplace of blackened brick where rusted iron fragments revealed the past presence of hooks, andirons, spit, crane, and a door to the Dutch oven — these things, and our austere cot and camp chairs, and the heavy and intricate destructive machinery we had brought.

 

 Have you read H.P. Lovecraft?  Do you have any favorite stories to recommend?

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This is YOUR Song – book playlist #4

Welcome to This is YOUR song

a brand new book meme hosted by Lizzy’s Dark Fiction.

book playlist meme this is your song

Meme name is inspired by the Elton John song.  Here, I’ll pick 5 books from different genres or age groups and match them with the song that I think describes the book the best.  

1) Representing mystery, we have My Dead Friend Sarah by Peter Rosch.

Mere months into recovery, Max, an alcoholic with twisted control issues, meets Sarah – the same woman that for years he’s habitually dreamt will die after a botched abduction. “Doing the next right thing,” a popular AA phrase he’s picked up in the rooms, means befriending Sarah long enough to warn her and hope she takes him seriously. But when Sarah falls in love with Max, his newly sober thinking drives him to choose his overly devoted wife, and he abandons Sarah – even when it condemns her to death. When Sarah goes missing, the NYPD suspects Max’s dream may have been a pre-crime confession. The truth, all of it, lurks inside of Max, but only by drinking again does he recapture the nerve and clarity vital to free his wife, sponsor, and himself from a life imprisoned by lies.

Song Match:  Burden in my Hand by Soundgarden

Lyrics:  Close your eyes and bow your head, I need a little sympathy / ’Cause fear is strong and love’s for everyone who isn’t me  / Kill your health and kill yourself and kill everything you love  / And if you live you can fall to pieces and suffer with my ghost

Reason:  Max is an alcoholic who wants sympathy for his situation, but he’s the prime suspect in the death of his friend’s death.  Plus, he’s not so sure that he wasn’t the one to kill her.

 

wicked2) Representing fantasy re-tellings, we have Wicked by Gregory Maguire.

In Baum’s land of Oz, animals talk and strive to be treated like first-class citizens, Munchkinlanders seek the comfort of middle-class stability and the Tin Man becomes a victim of domestic violence. Green-skinned Elphaba, future Wicked Witch of the West, is smart, prickly and misunderstood; she challenges our preconceived notions about the nature of good and evil.

Song Match:  What It’s Like by Everlast

Lyrics:  God forbid you ever had to wake up to hear the news / ’Cause then you really might know what it’s like to have to lose / Then you really might know what it’s like / To have to lose…

Reason:  The Wicked Witch shares her side of the story.  Walk a mile in her shoes and then “you might know what it’s like”.

 

faultinourstars3)  Representing YA, we have The Faults in Our Stars by John Green.

Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten.

Song Match:  All the Right Moves by One Republic

Lyrics:  It can’t be possible that rain can fall  / Only when it’s over our heads  / The sun is shining everyday, but it’s far away / Over the world it’s said, they’ve got, they’ve got

Reason:  Hazel is a teenager with terminal cancer.  She will never be able to do the things most teenagers take for granted.  She knows she will probably never grow up.  The life she has to live is shitty, but it’s the only life she has.  It’s true that misery attracts company and she starts to appreciate what she does have when she meets Augustus, who also has cancer.

 

queenofthedamned

4) Representing horror, we have Queen of the Damned by Anne Rice.

In 1976, a uniquely seductive world of vampires was unveiled in the now-classic Interview with the Vampire . . . in 1985, a wild and voluptous voice spoke to us, telling the story of The Vampire Lestat.  In The Queen of the Damned, Anne Rice continues her extraordinary “Vampire Chronicles” in a feat of mesmeric storytelling, a chillingly hypnotic entertainment in which the oldest and most powerful forces of the night are unleashed on an unsuspecting world.

These narrative threads wind sinuously across a vast, richly detailed tapestry of the violent, sensual world of vampirism, taking us back 6,000 years to its beginnings.  As the stories of the “first brood” of blood drinkers are revealed, we are swept across the ages, from Egypt to South America to the Himalayas to all the shrouded corners of the globe where vampires have left their mark. Vampires are created–mortals succumbing to the sensation of “being enptied, of being devoured, of being nothing.” Vampires are destroyed.  Dark rituals are performed–the rituals of ancient creatures prowling the modern world.  And, finally, we are brought to a moment in the twentieth century when, in an astonishing climax, the fate of the living dead–and perhaps of the living, all the living–will be decided.

Song Match: Bring Me to Life by Evanescence

Lyrics:  All this time I can’t believe I couldn’t see / Kept in the dark but you were there in front of me / I’ve been sleeping a thousand years it seems / Got to open my eyes to everything

Reason:  Lestat goes against the advice of every other vampire.  He goes public as a vampire rock star and his music awakens the lair of the queen of vampires.  He’s brought her back to life and spawned a romance that’s everything he’s every dreamed of – however, the price of keeping her is high.  His queen is determined to destroy every vampire except Lestat.

 

5) Representing dark fiction, we have The Color of Snow by Brenda Stanley.

Can a troubled young girl reenter society after living in isolation?

When a beautiful 16-year-old girl named Sophie is found sequestered in a cage-like room in a rundown house in the desolate hills of Arbon Valley, Idaho, the entire community is shocked to learn she is the legendary Callidora–a baby girl who was kidnapped from her crib almost seventeen years ago and canonized in missing posters with portraits of what the fabled girl might resemble. Authorities soon learn that the cage was there to protect people from Sophie, because her biological father believes she is cursed.

Sophie is discovered after the man she knows as Papa, shoots and injures Damien, a young man who is trying to rescue her. Now, unsocialized and thrust into the world, and into a family she has never met, Sophie must decide whether she should accept her Papa’s claims that she is cursed and he was only trying to protect others, or trust the new people in her life who have their own agendas. Guided by a wise cousin, Sophie realizes that her most heartbreaking challenge is to decide if her love for Damien will destroy him like her Papa claims, or free her from past demons that haunt her mind.

Song Match:  Because of You by Kelly Clarkson

Lyrics:  Because of you / I find it hard to trust / Not only me, but everyone around me / Because of you, I am afraid / I lose my way / And it’s not too long before you point it out / I cannot cry / Because I know that’s weakness in your eyes

Reason:  Sophie has lived in isolation for most of her life.  Her papa has taught her that outsiders cannot be trusted.  When Damien comes to “rescue” her, she finds herself conflicted between believing what her Papa taught her and believing what the rest of the world says.

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Book Review: If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch

I apologize for the slight vacation in posts.  My husband took a weekend vacation and took my computer desk with him (it’s one of those white Wal-Mart folding tables), so I didn’t get everything reassembled until last night.

ifyoufindme

If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch

Genre:  YA Dark Fiction, Contemporary

Publisher:  St. Martin’s Griffin

Links:  Goodreads  |  Amazon  |  Barnes & Noble

Releases March 26th, 2013

THERE ARE SOME THINGS YOU CAN’T LEAVE BEHIND … A broken-down camper hidden deep in a national forest is the only home fifteen-year-old Carey can remember. The trees keep guard over her threadbare existence, with the one bright spot being Carey’s younger sister, Jenessa, who depends on Carey for her very survival. All they have is each other, as their mentally ill mother comes and goes with greater frequency. Until that one fateful day their mother disappears for good, and the girls are found by their father, a stranger, and taken to re-enter the “normal” life of school, clothes and boys. Now, Carey must come to terms with the truth of why their mother spirited them away ten years ago, while haunted by a past that won’t let her go … a dark past that hides many a secret, including the reason Jenessa hasn’t spoken a word in over a year. Carey knows she must keep her sister close, and her secrets even closer, or risk watching her new life come crashing down.

review image

I don’t usually review books this far in advance, however If You Find Me is pre-order worthy.  As a child, Carey believed every word her mama told her.  Carey raised her little sister without electricity, water and sometimes food; because her mama told her that there was a bad man out there looking for them.  When this bad man arrives with child protection services years later, Carey knows that her mother will come and save them again.  Then, she reads the note her mother says relinquishing her custody of both girls and Carey starts to doubt the stories her mother told her.

This debut novel is written from the POV of a missing child that didn’t know she was missing.  The brilliance of the novel is the contrast between Carey’s version of truth and her father’s version of the truth; the former we learn initially and the latter we learn over the course of the novel.  The truth behind why Carey ended up in the woods with her mother isn’t revealed until the very end.

This would of been an okay story if it transcribed Carey’s reintroduction with her father, but it’s a compelling story when Carey’s mute younger sister, Janessa, is stitched into the drama.  Janessa’s father was someone their mother screwed for a hit of meth and neither girl has seen that man since.  Janessa’s unwillingness to talk spawns from something that Carey did a year ago and as the horrors of both girls’ past unravels I really wondered what Carey could possibly do to top everything else they had experienced.  It was a relief when her secret was finally revealed and it wasn’t a disappointment.

I have a little sister myself, so the relationship between Carey and Janessa reminded me of my sibling bond.  It’s refreshing to have siblings in a YA story that are so genuine, you wonder if they’re fiction.  I was a less impressed by how pigeonholed Delaney was as a mean stepsister.  Compared to the other characters, Delaney was very underdeveloped and her motives questionable.

I was also slightly discouraged by the opening chapter, as it was written with a “backwoods” accent.  The accent disappears from the narrative after the first couple chapters, so don’t let the opening dissuade you.  Once the hickish accent faded from the pages, there is nothing that could stop me from finishing.  This is a book that I will recommend to friends and I think they will both love and hate me for making them read a book so poignant and real.  If You Find Me is a reminder that when a child goes missing, their story doesn’t end with being found.

rating A minus rating

(I received a copy from the publisher/Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.  I have also pre-ordered a personal hardcover copy as a result of this review.)

about author authorifyoufind(Information and picture borrowed from Goodreads.)

Emily is a writer, a poet, and a lover of books. There’s never a time she’s without a book. Her debut novel, If You Find Me, will be available from St. Martin’s on March 26, 2013 and from Orion/Indigo UK on May 2, 2013. When she’s not reading or writing, you’ll find her caring for her horses, dogs and family on a ranch in rural Arizona, where the desert’s tranquil beauty and rich wildlife often enter into her poetry and writing. Emily’s other passion is saving equines from slaughter. She uses her writing to raise awareness of this inhumane practice, with the goal of ending the slaughter of America’s equines through transport to slaughterhouses in Canada and Mexico. She offers sanctuary to abused and slaughter-bound equines who dazzle her every day with their forgiving nature and gratitude in exchange for security, consistency, food and love. As Mahatma Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Emily hopes her penchant for writing will do just that. All-in-all, she’s a lefty in a right-handed world, writing her way through life and smearing ink wherever she writes.

Website  |  Twitter  |  Goodreads

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Book Review: Flawed by Kate Avelynn

flawed

Flawed by Kate Avelynn

Genre:  YA Dark Fiction

Publisher:  Entangled Publishing

Links:  Goodreads |  Amazon  |  Barnes & Noble

Released January 22nd, 2013

Sarah O’Brien is alive because of the pact she and her brother made twelve years ago — James will protect her from their violent father if she promises to never leave him. For years, she’s watched James destroy his life to save hers. If all he asks for in return is her affection, she’ll give it freely.


Until, with a tiny kiss and a broken mind, he asks for more than she can give.

Sam Donavon has been James’ best friend — and the boy Sarah’s had a crush on — for as long as she can remember. As their forbidden relationship deepens, Sarah knows she’s in trouble. Quiet, serious Sam has decided he’s going to save her. Neither of them realizes James is far more unstable than her father ever was, or that he’s not about to let Sarah forget her half of the pact . ..

 

review imageWarning:  Flawed includes incest, domestic violence, and characters that you will hate more than any other characters in fiction.

As someone who grew up in a dysfunctional home, Flawed caused me to remember some things best left buried.  This story might be too taboo for some readers, but if you’re like me, it’s a good reminder that there are people who come from more f*ked up lives that our own and still have a chance to turn out okay.

I was so drawn into the story that I actually wrote zero notes for Flawed.  It was finished in one sitting.  The characters were realistic to the point where I felt like it was a non-fiction narrative.  My oldest brother was my idol growing up and he was there to help me with things that my parents should have.  Likewise, James is Sarah’s idol.  James is the only one to propel her from one day to the next when a normal girl in her situation would break down and give up.  The tension comes into play when Sarah decides to try to live a normal life.  She develops feelings for one of James’ friends and makes plans for the future.  James isn’t able to adjust from surviving in a dysfunctional house to normal life.  He’s afraid of losing Sarah and tries to keep her with him at any cost.

The ending and continuous plot twists took me completely by surprise.  I can’t say that I’m satisfied with how the book ended (plot wise), but Sarah’s story did have closure at the end.  All I ask is that the author does not write a sequel to Flawed.  No girl should have to endure was Sarah did two-fold!

This is not an erotic tale of two siblings.  There is no romance between them and no porn scenes.  It’s a tale of two siblings who have been wronged by everyone else and have become codependent on each other.  There are scenes in this book that will make you cry.  They will make you question your own morals.  Not all young adults are lucky to be born into a family with loving parents.  I strongly recommend this book to any teen or adult that had to “survive” instead of “live” their teenage years. (A+)

rating Aplus rating

(I received a copy from Netgalley/publisher in exchange for my honest review.)

about author

kateauthor(Images and information borrowed from Goodreads.)

When not devouring books, holding down her editing gig, or attempting to coax life out of the weed patch she calls a “garden,” Kate Avelynn writes dark contemporary YA and NA that blends first love, betrayal, and danger.

Website  |  Twitter  |  Facebook

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