My New Horror Story, Trimixer, Now on Lightning Quick Reads

I’m warning you right now, this is not a light-hearted, feel-good story. Advance at your own risk.

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Scary does not need darkness.

It doesn’t require monsters, ghouls, or ghosts.

Not all evil lurks in human form.

The most ordinary day can become a horror story.

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Aiden’s childish screams pierced the humid air as he ran through his sprinkler. Water warmed in the inflatable pool. The cool, cloudy morning had turned into a bright, hot day.

Steve stood on the edge of the wet grass watching his son play. Matted hair dripped water from his head, and his soaked green and blue swim trunks clung to his legs and made a sloshing sound as he ran. Steve’s wife, Annie, sat on the front porch step. She looked striking in her cutoff denim shorts and maroon bikini top. He could think of a handful of things he’d like to do with her instead of work, but none of them would happen during the day with Aiden awake. Oh, well. Nothing wrong with planning ahead for tonight.

Once they wanted to have another kid; a girl would have been nice. A boy and a girl, what more could they ask for? But after three miscarriages in a row, the hurt became too much, and they decided Steve should get a vasectomy. With Aiden turning seven, they didn’t want to start over with a baby. This would mark the last time Steve would wonder what it would have been like having two children.

A dull, splashing sound brought Steve out of his daydream. He looked down to see water droplets splatter the toes of his work boots turning the tan leather a reddish brown.  He remembered he had work to do. As he walked to the silo shed, Annie’s phone rang. “Hello. Oh, hi Clarisse. Thanks for calling me back. Hold on, I have to run in the house to find the paperwork.”

He passed the barn door and remembered he needed to take another bale of hay to the orphaned calf. He had thrown several bails down, so as not to half to climb the rickety latter to the hayloft more than every couple days. After carrying a hay bale to the stall where he kept the calf, pulling off the twine, and breaking the bale apart, he checked the water tub and found the calf still had plenty before setting off for the silo shed again.

He found the light on in the shed. He had finished chores at dusk the night before; had he left it on? Mistakes like that happened when he hurried. He flipped the switch off, turned on the fuel to his old tractor and worked his way to the rear of the Trimixer to open the silo shoot. He turned on the silo unloader and gave it a few minutes to fill enough for the cattle.

When silage piled to the opening of the shoot, he started the tractor and turned on the power-takeoff (PTO) to bring the silage to the front of the wagon. And earsplitting screech cut deep into his sole. Something must be grinding. He reached for the PTO lever, but the noise stopped.  The shrill screech happened again, this time much shorter, and stopped. The sound couldn’t have come from metal grinding metal as he first suspected. It came from a living creature.

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Continue reading the rest of the story here, if you dare.

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The Squire and the Slave Master–Cover Reveal!

Two of the most exciting days for an author are the day you get your cover and Release Day. Well, the first has finally come for The Squire and the Slave Master. Not only am I going to reveal the cover for the first time, but I’m also going to share an except. I originally shared this excerpt as a short story titled The Message on Lightning Quick Reads in July which had a theme of Freedom.

Before I get to the fun stuff, I have a little business/self-promotion to get out of the way. Muse It Up Publishing, the publisher for Unveiling the Wizards’ Shroud and The Squire and the Slave Master, is celebrating its 5 year anniversary. From now until October 4 you can enter the coupon code 5YEARS2015  in your cart and get 50% off your total order. So take some time to browse around. While you’re there, you may notice Unveiling the Wizards’ Shroud is already on 50% sale for $2.75. So with this coupon code you can have it for less than $1.40. If you haven’t read it yet, now is the perfect time before The Squire and the Slave Master’s Release Day.

Okay, I’ve put it off long enough. Here’s the cover. Just like the first book, C.K. Volnek also designed this one.

The Squire and the Slave Master 333x500

Blurb

The award winning Unveiling the Wizards’ Shroud (CLC’s Best First Novel 2014) chronicled Yara, Owen, and Cedric’s quest to revive King Kendrick from a dark, magical spell. After the adventure to save King Kendrick, for Yara, everyday life has grown monotonous. The dull work of learning her father’s blacksmithing trade, and the pressure from her parents to decide what she plans on doing with her life, has her nerves so stressed she snaps at her father’s slightest teasing.

Lucky for her, a surprise messenger from the castle brings the king’s request for her to join a collaborative mission between the Central and Western Domains of Wittatun to stop a recently discovered slave operation in a land to the west. King Kendrick and Owen want her to accompany the mission as a secret weapon disguised as a squire.

She has to keep secret not only her magical abilities from any possible traitors, but also her gender. The people of the Western Domain have a superstition prohibiting girls from sailing. But a chill wind carries the distinct odor of sabotage. Can one girl survive to destroy an evil rooted much deeper than mere slavery?

And now the excerpt:

“Sir, the third ship has arrived.”

Casimir didn’t turn from the window. “Yes, Bronislaw, I’ve seen it. Prepare your men for battle. Hold a few back as guards. If any of the slaves turn against us, execute them.”

The sound of Bronislaw’s footsteps faded as he exited the chamber.

A bird flew past the upper chamber and caught Casimir’s attention. I thought I killed all the birds. Oh well, I’ll get rid of this one too.

He raised his staff but lowered it when the bird redirected for the temple. A scroll of parchment dangled from its ankle. The bird landed on the altar in the center of the room. Casimir approached it with caution. It held up a leg, and he removed and unrolled the scroll. The letter didn’t have a signature, but it didn’t need one. He recognized the handwriting from years of correspondence.

I’m free. I understand what you plan to do, but it must stop. You aren’t powerful enough with magic. The temple will open a portal to the underworld, but you’ll never manage to close it and whose body do you think he’ll take? Someone so powerful won’t survive in a body with no magical experience. He will exhaust it in less than a day. Surrender your plan and join me in the swamp in the Southern Domain. Argnam already built the necessary accommodations there.

The paper flashed into flames on his palm. “You had your chance. I have a plan and a reasonable backup plan, which is more than you’ve ever had.”

The bird pecked at a pair of tiny beetles scurrying along the wall. With the flick of his staff, a green orb of light shot and hit the bird. A singed smell and a few feathers were all that remained.

From the window, he could see troops following the path from the beach to the temple. He watched the ships for the sign. A few flashes of light came in quick succession from the southernmost ship.

“Damn!” He thought back to the note. “It’s all right. I can still do this even though he doesn’t have the magician.” He held his staff high and returned a message in flashing lights. “Change of plans. We have to capture Mansfield. Alive.”

Three lines of slaves faced east in anticipation of the troops coming through the woods. Perfect.

Casimir closed the towering double doors as he exited the chamber. With his staff and a brief incantation, he placed an invisible barrier on the room. He took a piece of stone from a pile of rubble in a corner and tossed it at the door. In a flash, it became dust and smoke. Smiling, he left in search of Bronislaw.

Outside the door of the temple, the slaves waited for the pending battle. Bronislaw had taken a spot on high ground where he could overlook the battle soon to unfurl.

Casimir strolled up to him. “We have a new arrangement. They lost the magician. I need Mansfield alive. If you find him, bring him to me.”

Bronislaw nodded and signaled to his lieutenants.

He returned to the entrance of the temple and watched the battle unfold. The first troops emerged from the forest to an onslaught from the slaves. They had probably expected to hit them with a surprise attack, but the slaves had known. Casimir had known. Casimir always knew.

The second group emerged with their swords and shields at the ready. The slaves matched them well in strength but outlasted them in stamina. Most of the fishermen from Beroe had little or no battle training.

Mansfield’s men had one major disadvantage that greatly outweighed even their lower endurance or their lack of training. Twice Casimir noticed the soldiers relinquish an opportunity to slay their opponents.

They don’t want to kill. They see my slaves as innocent victims.

Another group emerged from the trees. They almost exclusively donned long beards and, barring their sunburns, looked a lot like many of the more recently acquired slaves. Some of the slaves hesitated; others dropped their weapons.

Now we’ll identify my dedicated servants, those who recognize what they have gained by coming here.

Several slaves, most of them having significantly different appearances to the men from Beroe—taller, more muscular, darker skin, some thin with scraggly beards—turned their attention to the traitors. With their weapons lowered, they had no defense. A distant voice shouted, “No!” Heads and limbs splashed into pools of blood as men turned on each other, betraying their former lives for the promises of their master.