Ghost Hunter Z: Preview

Ghost Hunter Z NEW COVER 2020 RED DRAFT

Originally released in September of 2017, Ghost Hunter Z is the product of a Halloween spent with a marathon of ghost hunter shows on TV. I thought to myself, How messed up would it be if these guys caught a ligit spirit in a recording? Don’t get me wrong, vague sounds and recorded, barley audible voice are spooky in their own right, but what if it was a full on ghost that appeared right in front of them on camera?

That’s where Z started. I took this idea a bit further and gave my character the ability to see ghosts. And they are everywhere. Sure, it’s been done before. But what makes a story great is more than just the premise. It’s all in the details. Settings, characters, dialogue, a good book has to hit on all cylinders. I felt Z had to be special.

I started with an MC I’d used in a fantasy book years before named Pulp, who was big, frightening and had a horrible way with the opposite sex, but he was incredible in hand-to-hand combat. I made Z the polar opposite. Handsome, charming, great with women, but awful in a fight. Unless, it was a gunfight. Z is an excellent marksman and deftly handles the silver bullet loaded revolvers strapped to his hips. Of course, Z is also a haunted man. Running away from a mysterious past in America and cursed by his gift of site, Z starts a business as a ghost hunter to make ends meet.

Here, I took some inspiration from Ghostbusters and gave Z a set of devices he uses to capture the spirits that haunt people’s homes. Of course, since the story is set in London, 1883, most of these devices are steam-powered and a pinch of steampunk is apparent throughout the trilogy.

Next, I introduce the large and lovable Inspector Charles Grant to partner up with Z, and the stern yet compassionate Judge Thomas Long as a client who gets far more involved than he intended, and pit them against an ancient evil entity who was summoned through a ritualistic murder. The result is a fast paced horror adventure in the form of Ghost Hunter Z, book 1 in the Ghost Hunter Z Trilogy.

Though the original release was pulled after my former publisher dissolved, the re-launch went live July 17th and is available now with a new edit and cover through Poe Boy Publishing.

For Goodreads reviews, look here.

Now, take some time and enjoy this two chapter preview of Ghost Hunter Z

 

CHAPTER ONE

London

October 12, 1883

 

Father Time is a harsh bastard.

Benson Algood had worked as a clerk in Judge Long’s office for nearly thirty years and working late was nothing new to him. As a matter of fact, it was a nightly practice now that old Philsby had retired, Father Time taking its toll on him first. Until the judge could find a suitable replacement, Benson would have to pick up the duties of his missing friend and co-worker. Benson didn’t mind though. It was his commitment to his job that had garnered so much of his employer’s trust. To the judge, Benson was much more than a clerk. He was a trusted ally in the fight to clean up the criminal element from London’s streets. The judge had said as much himself on numerous occasions.

Climbing the stairs to the file room wasn’t nearly as easy as it once was. There were many more aches in his body in many more places than there used to be. As much as he hated to admit it he knew his own retirement was fast approaching. He couldn’t imagine life without his work, but Father Time was inescapable. A harsh bastard indeed.

On this night, he found himself alone in the dark offices, again nothing new to Benson. As he moved up the stairs he lit the wall-mounted lamps along the way, adjusting the gaslight to account for his fading eyes. Along the hallway to the file room, he lit the three lamps here as well and pulled the key ring from his pocket.

“Now, where did you go off to?” The search for the right key to the file room was also a nightly ritual. Every night Benson would scold himself for not marking the keys and every night he would forget he was going to mark them. From behind him came the faint sound of footsteps. Benson peered down the dimly lit hallway. “Hello?” he called.

Nothing.

No more than an old man whose failing senses were beginning to get the best of him. He turned back to the file room door and again fiddled with his keys. Suddenly, a man cleared his throat from down the hall where he’d heard the footsteps. Someone else was in the hall with him, but they were beyond the light provided by the wall lamps.

Benson pulled the nearest light from its mounting and walked down the hall with the light held out in front of him. Once he passed the staircase, the darkened portion of the hallway beyond began to come into view. In the weak lamp light, Benson could see the form of a man standing at the end of the hall checking his pocket watch as if waiting for someone to join him.

“Pardon me, sir,” the old clerk called out. “I’m afraid visitors aren’t allowed in the offices after hours. I beg you come back tomorrow and conduct whatever business you have during business hours.”

The man went on waiting as if he’d not heard Benson’s request. Benson walked farther down the hall, but as the lamp light drew closer to the stranger, the stranger faded into nothingness. Suddenly aware of the suffocating silence around him, the old clerk hurried to the end of the hall and shone the light around the corner where a longer hallway continued toward the rear of the building and held more offices.

“I’m working too hard,” Benson reassured himself out loud. “Get a hold of yourself, old man. You’re starting to unravel.”

With that, Benson decided to get back to work. The quicker he finished up the sooner he could get home and sleep. Then perhaps take the day off tomorrow and catch up on some much-needed rest.

Benson looked down the hall toward the file room in time to see the lamps he’d only just lit being extinguished one by one. His heart raced. The small door of the lamp he held creaked open all on its own and the fire blinked out of existence as if invisible fingers pinched out the flame.

The only sounds in the pitch-black hallway were Benson’s quick, shaking breaths  and the rapid thump, thump, thump of his heart. He fumbled in his pocket, but he’d used his last match on the lamps. He reached a shaking hand out toward the wall. It wasn’t there. He shuffled to the right until his fingers came into contact with the cold surface of the wall. A small victory. Benson took a moment to catch his breath. He sat the useless lamp on the floor. With both hands on the wall, he felt his way down toward the corner that would eventually reveal the staircase. His mind, for some reason, considered the flakiness of the wall. How old this building was. It was in need of repair in so many places.

Benson was sure the stairwell had to be close. He’d come so far already. But on and on he went, hands sliding down an endless hallway. It wasn’t right. He’d worked here for more than thirty years and he knew without a doubt that the hallway was nowhere near this long. The darkness was stifling. Was it getting hotter? How could that be in mid-October with no lamps to give off heat and no coal burning in the stove below? It was chilly in here only moments ago, but now the heat grew stronger. So too did the stench of… rotten meat?

Then his hands were off the wall and touching something else. Something moist and sticky. Benson was sure he’d found the source of the rotten meat smell. His hands moved up over exposed muscle and tissue.

A strange hollow feeling invaded his brain.

Fear lumped in his stomach, threatening to send its contents up his throat and out of his mouth in a spray of lumpy liquid.

No matter how much he wanted to rip his shaking hands away from the thing, he could not. Instead, his fingers moved up over exposed teeth where lips used to be and ridged bone where a nose once sat. Then the thing moved its jaw to speak and Benson smelled decay mingled in a morbid dance with long-dead leaves, ancient mud, and tainted blood. And when this creature spoke, this being from another realm, where all that’s good and pure is no more than a vague memory for the tormented souls that reside there, his voice gurgled with the rot of putrid, liquefied organs. He spoke one word and one word only: “Asmodeus!” The word drove a spike of fear into Benson’s brain. Madness overcame him.

CHAPTER TWO

 

“Sir, if’n ya don’t mind me askin’, where’re we goin’?”

Z turned to the diminutive man he had grown to call friend over the years and regarded him seriously. Reginald Cunningham Boulderstern the Third had a name that sounded like he was born into a family that had been very well off, and perhaps at some point they were, but Z had found him living on the streets, stealing food to get by and heading down a path that would have surely delivered him to the gallows.

“There’s a little cottage on the outskirts of town,” Z replied. “The family that lives there is having a little trouble with a poltergeist. We’re going to rid them of their problem. For a small fee, of course.”

“Of course. Will we be needin’ the ecto-extractor?”

“It’s a good possibility.”

The little man hefted a large rifle that Z had customized himself and named the ecto-extractor, and carefully took it outside to stack in the back of the carriage. “Anythin’ else?”

“Better grab a few specter cases as well.”

“And the revolvers? Will they need cleanin’? Re-loadin’ with fresh silver?”

“The guns are all set, but let’s bring two extra boxes of silver just in case. There are stories abound of werewolves and other creatures in the area we’ll be stalking.”

“Werewolves?”

“Relax, one rarely runs into a werewolf. Besides, the next full moon is nearly a week out. Hopefully we’ll be back by then.”

“Right.”

“Where did you get off to last night anyway? You behaved yourself I hope.”

“Just some drinks with a lady.”

“Really? Good for you.”

As Z fastened his revolvers across his hips he stepped outside and walked around to the other end of the carriage only to be met by Mr. Nelly, his landlord and biggest detractor. Z grumbled under his breath and went about his preparations to depart while trying to ignore the pompous ass at his side.

“Mr. Z, I feel it my duty to remind you that you are two months behind on rent,” Mr. Nelly said, the disgust in his voice was palpable. “I don’t know how it works in America, but this isn’t your Wild West. In London, if you do not pay for your business and living quarters you are evicted.”

Z sighed heavily. “I am well aware of the situation, Mr. Nelly, especially since you feel the need to remind me every day. As it happens, my assistant and I are on our way to a job right now and I promise you, we will have your money and then some upon our return.”

“Then by all means, carry on.” The landlord walked away, leaving Z with the building urge to just strangle him and get it over with. Nelly called back over his shoulder. “By the way, all of the equipment you’ve brought into the building seems dangerous and possibly volatile. I shall have to raise your rent to cover any possible damages.”

Z said nothing, though he could see the sneer curling the corner of the landlord’s lips. he chose to give the wagon a good punch instead. Above him, Reg seated himself on the bench and lifted the reins in his gloved hands.

“All ready, sir?”

Z took a moment to consider whether he’d forgotten anything. Satisfied he hadn’t, he climbed into the carriage and rapped his knuckles on the roof. The horses pulled away, giving the carriage a jerk as they started off. He came to London four years ago with visions of riches swimming in his head. A man with his particular talents and inventiveness accomplished little in America, but the history of hauntings in England was a rich one, filled with tales that he felt may carry at least some kernel of truth. The land was rife with spirits. The difficult part thus far had been getting his name out there, and though it had taken longer than he’d anticipated, there were a growing number of jobs coming his way. His ship was going to come in soon, he just knew it.

It would be an easy job, he was sure. A country cottage was ideal for this trip. It would be nice to get away for a few days from London’s grimy surfaces and unbearable stench and the constant whirring sound of Scotland Yard’s blimps patrolling overhead. As the carriage rocked along the cobblestone streets, Z let his mind drift back to the place it so often did. New York, a woman’s scream, a specter’s shrieks.

He jolted in his seat and pulled the curtain away from the window. London’s old buildings greeted him with their sooty blackness and unforgiving bulk. Yet even now, with his disdain for the city and near failure in his endeavors, he had no wish to return to the States and the horrors that awaited him there. He missed nothing. Not really. Except, perhaps, the affection of a certain girl.

Z let these thoughts drift from his mind like balloons from a child’s hand. Pulling his Stetson off, he rested his head on the back of the cushioned seat then placed the hat over his eyes. Within seconds he was asleep.

Preview: The 9 Ghosts of Samen’s Bane

Enjoy this special preview of The 9 Ghosts of Samen’s Bane.

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About a hundred yards past our property line in the back yard, there was a narrow line of trees that divided our housing addition from a small strip mall. Lucky’s Pub was located at the far end of the building and it made the perfect hang out for someone like me, who liked to get a little toasted every now and then and was a stickler for following the rules of the road by not driving while intoxicated.

As I took this walk, I had taken so many times before, I had almost forgotten what had brought me outside in the first place. That is until my new friend Jeffery appeared, walking right beside me.

“Hello, Adrian,” the ghost boy said. I noticed that the slight glow was surrounding him once again. “Are you ready to see the world the way it truly exists?”

“What does that mean?” I asked. I was growing annoyed with all of the cryptic insinuations.

“I will show you once we are on the other side of those trees.”

As we neared the trees the ground began to slope downward toward a small creek. I asked the boy a question that I had been thinking about all through dinner. “Tell me something there, Jeffery, why are you appearing to me in this ghostly image and using the phone to talk to me in secret? If you and your gang of creepy friends are residing in my body, why not speak to me from within?”

“That is a good question,” the boy said, jumping the creek as if his feet would get wet if he walked through the water. “We are actually clustered in a part of your brain and we feel mental communication, although possible, would be a little too much strain on your sanity. If you start hearing voices in your head you may think you’re going mad.”

“Oh, yeah, we wouldn’t want that to happen,” I mumbled sarcastically.

Jeffery stopped and turned to look me in the eyes. “I know things seem strange right now, but we need you to be as stable as possible, for the things you will see tonight will push your sanity to the limit. I only hope you can handle it.”

I nodded at him, silently hoping the same thing.

We came out of the trees and up into the parking lot of the strip mall. Jeffery came to a halt and I stood beside him, wondering what our next step was.

“Look around you, Adrian.”

I did as the boy said, and although I didn’t notice anything at first, I soon began to see a familiar glow surrounding some of the people that were walking up and down the sidewalk. Not only that, I noticed many of them showed signs of their deaths. A noose around a neck. A needle in an arm. Those who showed no signs I could only assume died of natural causes.

“You see them, don’t you?” Jeffery asked.

“Ghosts,” I said with a trembling breath. They were everywhere, walking amongst the living as if they were merely going about their day-to-day business.

I suddenly noticed that my heart was beating fast and I was sure that explosion was imminent.

“Try not to be scared, Adrian,” the boy said. “These ghosts will not hurt you, some of them can be very helpful.”

Jeffery began to walk across the parking lot, and after a few seconds, I convinced my legs to follow him.

“Why are they here?” I asked once I had caught up with him. “Shouldn’t they be in the land of the dead like the ones on the train?”

“Ghosts stay in the living realm for various reasons. Some have unfinished business to attend to, some have trouble moving on to the next step and leaving their earthly lives behind, some just prefer to stay here. Haunting the living is one of the most entertaining pastimes you could ever experience.”

“Is this your power?”

“Yes, and when I was living, it was a gift I was terrified of, but I soon learned that no harm would come to me at the hands of these people and while I was together with the other eight ghosts, I found that it was a power I could share with only them.”

“What about these evil spirits that you mentioned before?”

“The evil ones can and will harm you if they get the chance. Luckily, they are easily distinguished from the ghosts you see before you now. Their auras are black and corrupt.”

“Kind of like a politician’s soul?” I joked. I got the impression Jeffery didn’t care for the comment. “So, where are we going now?”

“Our next destination is a cemetery that lies about a mile west of here. Do you know it?”

I thought about a few of the funerals I had attended for some friends who had been lost in the train accident. “Yeah, I’m familiar.”

As we made our way to the main road, I noticed a woman walking slowly through the parking lot toward us. Her clothes reflected a long-gone age, when the females wore bodices and carried frilly umbrellas to shade themselves from the sun. When we drew close enough to see the woman’s face, I was surprised at the sunken features that graced it, as if the years of decay that must have destroyed her earthly body by now had somehow translated to her face. The glow that surrounded her was slightly faded and I could see parts of her skull through her thin, transparent skin.

As if reading my mind, (come to think of it, he probably was) Jeffery answered my next question before it passed my lips. “The longer a ghost remains in the realm of the living, the weaker their image will get. It is the memories of the living, of those who loved us in life, that keep our spirits strong. As those people pass on or their memories fade, our spirits fade with them. Soon, that woman will fade into nothingness, unless she decides to move on to a different realm.”

“The realm of the dead?”

“Either the realm of the dead or one of the many others that await after life.”

“What do you mean? Are we talking about Heaven and Hell?”

“Perhaps. I know of other realms, such as that of The Nightmare Tree, an awful place I visited while alive, but I know not what is to be found within the others.”

We continued to walk down the main road with the number of ghosts that crossed our paths far outweighing the living.

“Cemeteries are extremely heavy with spiritual activity, and many of the older ones act as gateways into the other realms. There is one in particular in southern Indiana that is very powerful, in a town called Triloville, are you familiar with it?”

“I’ve heard of it, but I’ve never been there.”

“There have been quite a few strange occurrences in that town over the past seventy-five years or so. The cemetery affects the entire area. If worse comes to worse we may have to go there.”

Up to that point I was only partially listening to Jeffery, my attention still being held by the multitude of ghosts that were passing us, but the foreboding in his last sentence brought my attention fully back to the conversation.

“See, what does that mean? Why are you so damned cryptic all of the time? Why can’t you just come out and tell me what would happen if we went to that town?”

“Because there is much to learn, and you do not need to be burdened with that information unless it is absolutely necessary. For now, we just need to focus on the cemetery down the road.”

Both of us fell silent after that and it wasn’t long before we found ourselves standing at the entrance to the Woodbridge Cemetery. Only days before, I had read a news story in the paper about recent vandalism to some of the gravestones and the plans to add heavy wrought iron gates to the entrance. At this point there was nothing to bar our entry into the welcoming darkness beyond.

I stepped over the threshold and somehow felt an immediate drop in temperature. Trying hard to shake off the cold, I kept walking down the paved path. A gravestone near the entrance caught my eye and Jeffery must have noticed the recognition.

“What does it say?” he asked.

“Joseph Wincot,” I answered. “He was killed in the train crash. One of our porters.”

We walked on. The dead leaves crunching under my feet echoed in the empty air and as Jeffery and I drew closer to the headstones within the middle of the grounds, more ghostly figures came into view and an eerie mist seemed to seep out of the ground like steam from a hot soup.

“The mist, what is it?” I inquired.

“The cold you felt when you entered the cemetery is caused by the low temperatures of the ghosts, the mist is also caused by this and surrounds a spirit at all times. When such a high number of ghosts populate one area, the mist will be more visible.”

I watched with interest as the ghost of a young man crawled out of a freshly covered grave and ran to another ghost to ask what was happening to him.

“Is this mist something only I can see?”

“You and anyone else who has the gift of sight. Despite what society thinks of them, there are many people in this world who are able to see the dead. When I was alive, back in London, I was apprenticed with a ghost hunter for a while. He used this gift to make a small fortune ridding haunted houses of their ghosts. Now, society sees these people as con artists and charlatans.”

“Wait, you’ve been dead for over a hundred years, how would you know anything about our society?”

“I know everything that you know, Adrian, for I picked it directly from your brain.”

That little piece of information made me feel a bit uncomfortable.

As we started to near the center of the graveyard, I noticed that the number of ghosts were starting to thin considerably, which made the creepy mist thin out as well. Soon, Jeffery stopped near a large headstone and pointed to an enormous, ugly tree that was hanging over a big puddle of muddy rainwater.

I looked into the ghost boy’s face and saw his eyes widen with fear.

“Hide behind the headstone,” Jeffery said with urgency, “he’s coming.”

Jeffery and I quickly crouched down behind the grave marker and I asked; “Who? Who’s coming?”

He looked me in the eyes. “Samen!”

I then heard a strange bubbling sound coming from the old tree. “I’m not ready for this!”

“Of course not,” Jeffery shot back, “you are only here to observe. You must know what you’re up against. Peek over the top of the headstone, but try your best not to be seen.”

I pulled myself up to my knees and cautiously peered over the top of the stone. I could see the puddle of dark water bubbling and watched in horror as a large shape began to emerge from within.

He had to be over ten feet tall, and at the tip of his head I could see something rotted and green that coiled once on itself and then came to a point. It was only after I saw the rest of his head that I realized it was a stem. The back of his head was that of a dull, orange, pumpkin that gave way to a large, skeletal face. His long teeth met in a terrifying grin of death. He wore a heavy cloak and from each sleeve protruded hands that most resembled the curling vines and leaves that his pumpkin head would have been born from. From the midsection down, the cloak changed into a shadowy smoke that seemed to move of its own accord. I could see black hands flowing out from the darkness and grabbing the surrounding gravestones for support as angry eyes stared out of the cloud to take in the surrounding area. It was then that I realized one of these creatures was what held my son in the Taco Hut bathroom.

“The dark clouds that surround him house many of the evil spirits at his command.” Jeffery stated.

As I stared at the horrific being that was slowly moving across the graveyard, I could faintly pick up the sound of torturous moaning that I assumed came from the damned spirits around him. It was with dawning dread that I realized the sounds were coming from deep beneath the ground. As if the dead bodies which populated the cemetery were crying out in great discomfort at the very presence of the nightmarish creature.

Samen suddenly came to a stop and turned in our direction, his hollow eye sockets searching the grounds around us.

I ducked down behind the stone and looked at Jeffery. “Do you think he knows we’re here?”

The boy paused for a long moment, and then said; “He may have seen us, but strange things like this tend to happen when he’s around.”

“What do you mean?” I asked, but Jeffery didn’t need to answer. I could feel the ground beneath me rumbling and as I tried to back away from the headstone, I was thrown off my feet by an emerging coffin.

With a great splintering crack the lid of the casket was torn away and a tattered, skeletal dead body began to crawl out. The dead man was dressed in a three-piece suit that was as rotted and deteriorating as his flesh. What remained of his face was a mixture of loose muscle and decayed skin over a gaping skull. As he tried to reach me, his hands made clawing motions at the ground in an effort to pull himself further out of his hole, his jaw moved up and down as if trying to form words, but only a dusty, rasping sound came out.

I clumsily got to my feet and turned to run from the zombie, but was stopped in my tracks by the broad chest of another walking corpse. Suddenly, I was back on my butt and surrounded by four more wheezing, rattling dead bodies.

With a blinding move of its arm, the big one gripped my throat in his boney hand. His strength was uncanny. His decaying flesh was rough and cold against my skin. He swung me hard and I felt my feet leave the ground, just before I was slammed full force into a tall, monument headstone. The headstone moved with the weight of the impact, tilting backward slightly but remaining in the ground.

The pain in my back was searing, but soon forgotten when the arms of the other zombies began to cover me and hold me down against the grave marker.

The first zombie was now fully out of his grave and was limping toward me slowly, while his companions held me in place.

I struggled to try and get free and felt a wet sensation around my midsection. Looking to my right I saw that the one holding me from there must have died fairly recently. Her soggy, rotting arm was dripping down the front of my shirt.

The first corpse had now stopped directly in front of me and was looking into my eyes. Again, his jaw moved up and down, but again the same rasping, gurgling sound poured from his throat. Only an inch from my face, I could smell the ancient earth, and long decomposed innards on his breath.

From the corner of my eye I could see Jeffery watching the show unfold with a look of utter hopelessness.

“Do something!” I croaked.

“I can’t, our powers can only work through you.”

“Then use me, just hurry they’re crushing me.”

“You can’t control it yet, something could go wrong and you may be hurt.”

“I’m hurting now,” I groaned.

“Very well. Emma, we need you!”

The pain was immediate. A white-hot stream of fire blasted from my mouth and the zombie in front of me was engulfed in flames. He began to stumble away and an unholy scream poured from his throat. Suddenly, I could feel the blaze searing from my eyes and my vision was filled by a fuzzy, white blur. I could feel the grips of the other corpses loosen and more screams filled the air.

Then, once again, everything went black.

 

Find out what happens next in The 9 Ghosts of Samen’s Bane, available now on Amazon in paperback and for the Kindle and Kindle app.

Relaunch Phase One

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Second edition relaunches of my books are under way. The 9 Ghost of Samen’s Bane is the first of these and is available now right here. The Kindle edition is live for $2.99, and the paperback edition will be available in a matter of days for only $12.99 (as opposed to the original edition which was nearly $20).

July will see the relaunch of Ghost Hunter Z, followed by The Nightmare Tree (GHZ book 2) in August, This all leads up to the release of my brand new novel in September, Staff of Set, the third and final book in the Ghost Hunter Z Trilogy.

Moving into the new year, February 2021 will see another new release in the form of Salvation, and The Mourning Mansion is coming next fall.

A ton of reading ahead. Stick around.

D

The 9 Ghosts of Samen’s Bane

The 9 Ghosts of Samen's Bane 2

Re-launch round one is coming later this month! The 9 Ghosts of Samen’s Bane was originally self-published in 2008. Admittedly, I didn’t know what the hell I was doing at the time. It was one of the first books I’d written and I was completely new to the world of self-publishing. The reviews for my early work are what turned me away from self-publishing. I continued to write, churning out three more finished novels and sitting on them until I was signed to a publisher with Ghost Hunter Z. Though the story and pros were solid on those first five books, formatting and editing left much to be desired. Now, with the help of Poe Boy Publishing, this novel has an all new, professional edit and format, as well as a new haunting cover by DAWD Designs.

Working with pro editors over the years has given me invaluable experience and helped refine my writing style. I highly recommend it for all you first time writers out there. Don’t go it alone. Seek out an editor and beta readers who know their shit.

Here’s a first look at the new and improved The 9 Ghosts of Samen’s Bane.

D.

 

I awoke in my bed feeling groggy and confused. With great effort I sat up and stared around the room, searching desperately for the clock radio. I found the blurred, red numbers that read 8:45pm, or was my mind only telling me it was 8:45pm. I don’t think I could actually see the clock.

A woman’s laugh traveled up the stairs to my room. I remembered that my wife was having a party of some sort.

A scrapbook party?

Yes, that seemed right, a scrapbook party. How she loves to take her photos and put together scrapbooks. She’s really quite creative with it all. I must have dozed off while trying to stay out of their way. Can’t have a man crashing the scrapbook party after all.

Now, however, they would have to put up with me, because when my hunger awakens, I must heed its call.

I slowly pulled my limp body off the bed and began to move down the hallway, dragging my half sleeping feet like a zombie in a blood bank.

Wait, that’s not right, is it? Zombies don’t drink blood, they eat brains, right? I don’t know. I’ve never been much of a horror movie buff.

Nevertheless, I felt very much like I was moving through molasses, or deep water.

When I made my way down to the kitchen, I peeked into the living room to find Michelle, only no one was there. I still heard their voices, as if they should be standing right in front of me, but the room was empty.

Odd.

I remember wondering where Luke was.

I then went to the kitchen and was surprised to see my grandfather sitting in a chair, against the wall.

“Grandpa? What are you doing here?” I asked, my voice sounding tired and muffled in my own ears.

He opened his mouth as if to reply and an earsplitting whistle escaped from deep within his throat. I immediately put my hands over my ears in a feeble attempt to drown out the sound. It didn’t help at all. Then it dawned on me what the noise was.

A train whistle.

A great crashing sound erupted from behind me and I turned to see a steam locomotive ripping through the kitchen window. Everything slowed down and I could see the number of the locomotive.

No, that was impossible, it just didn’t make sense. Not here! Not now!

How could I have read the number?

How could I have smelled the coal burning?

How could I feel my bones being crushed as the train made contact with my body?

 

I sat up with a shot. A strange, choked scream trying to escape my mouth. Michelle’s hand suddenly gripped my shoulder and I realized I was just having a nightmare. The nightmare.

“Honey, are you alright?” she asked quietly. Her voice a comforting whisper. Calming.

“Yeah,” I answered, my own voice most resembled a hand full of gravel in a blender. I placed my right hand on hers, “It was just a dream.”

“The same dream?”

“Yeah.”

It was then I realized my breathing was still heavy and I’d sweat a small pond through the sheet and my pillow case. I stood and walked toward the door.

“Go back to sleep,” I called back to her without turning. I felt an inexplicable shame from the dream, “I just need to get some air, then I’ll come back to bed.”

She flopped her head back down on the pillow and I could hear her snoring again before I reached the end of the hall. I stopped at Luke’s door and quietly eased it open. He was lying face down with his butt sticking straight up in the air, snoring just as loudly as his mother.

Taking care not to make too much noise, I crept down the stairs and into the kitchen where I put on a pot of coffee. Michelle and I both knew there would be no getting back to sleep for me after the dream, I don’t know why I say that I’ll be coming back to bed every time.

I threw on a flannel robe and a pair of insulated slippers and went to the cabinet for my favorite coffee mug. A big, green, ceramic one with a polar bear on the side and little snowflakes surrounding the surface.

With my coffee in one hand and the morning paper in the other, I walked out to the back porch and sat down in the old wooden rocking chair. The first light of sunrise was looming on the horizon and falling gently on the changing leaves in the surrounding woods. Soon the last lingering memories of the dream were washed away by the brilliant color of the sky and trees and the chilly November air.

Two hours passed before I heard a small, tired voice from behind me. “Hi, Daddy.”

I sat up halfway and turned to see Luke staring at me from the other side of the screen door. “Well, good morning, big man. How’s my favorite little nerd.”

“I’m not a nerd, you’re a nerd,” he replied with a grin. He still wasn’t quite able to articulate his r’s and the word came out sounding like “nud”.

“Is your mother up yet?”

“No, and she’s snoring really loud.”

“She is, huh?”

“Yes.”

“Well I know somebody else who snores really loud.”

“Who?”

“You.”

“No I don’t, I’m a little kid and little kids don’t snore.”

“Well, you may be right about that one, my man. Whatever the case may be, we need to go drag your mother out of bed.”

Luke put his hand in mine and together we walked upstairs and into the bedroom Michelle and I shared. Luke jumped on the bed and proceeded to bounce up and down and chant, “Wake up, Mom!  Wake up, Mom!  Wake up, Mom!”

Michelle began to stir and a low groan arose from her throat. “I don’t want to get up,” she moaned.

“Well you have to or you’re going to be late for your appointment,” I said. “C’mon, there’s piping hot coffee waiting for you downstairs.”

Michelle slowly sat up, her long red hair hanging in a tangled mess around her face, and growled. “You know I’m not allowed to drink that stuff.”

“Yeah,” I chided, “I just like to rub it in. I find it amusing.”

“I’m glad one of us does,” she shot back as she shuffled into the bathroom.

“Luke and I will go down and make breakfast,” I called to her through the door.

“K,” she shouted. At least she’s past the morning sickness, it didn’t seem to last as long with this one as it did with Luke. We decided not to know the sex of the baby this time, but either way we were having trouble coming up with a name we were both happy with.

Heading back downstairs with Luke following closely behind me, the vision from my dream of the train crashing into our window flashed into my head and I suddenly found myself afraid to go into the kitchen. The fear was so real that I actually stopped in the doorway and stared at the kitchen window.

“You okay, Dad?” Luke’s voice snapped me out of my trance. I looked down at his face, small and full of concern.

“Yeah, Luke, I’m alright. I was just thinking about a weird dream I had last night.”

“Was it the one about the train coming into the kitchen?”

“Yeah, I…” I stared into the boy’s eyes and a disorienting feeling washed over me. As if I were staring into my own eyes set in the face of some alternate version of myself that had just stepped through a magic portal from another realm. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you Bizarro World Adrian Dillard. How could he know about the dream, I hadn’t told anyone about it besides Michelle. Only one way to find out.

“Luke, how did you know about my dream?”

“I don’t know, maybe I had the same one,” he said, “Can I have some chocolate milk?”

“Huh? Oh, yeah, sure you can,” I poured his milk, added the powder, and began to stir it with a spoon.

I was just about to ask him about the dream again when Michelle came down the stairs shouting; “How are my boys doing down here?” She had her hair pulled back in a ponytail and was dressed in the maternity overalls that I always thought looked incredibly cute on her.

Luke looked up at her with a smile, “We’re fine. Look, Mommy, I got chocolate milk.”

“Mmm, that sounds yummy. Can you make me some, Daddy?”

I guess I didn’t hear her right away. I soon felt her tugging on my shirt sleeve. “Hey, you awake in there, chief?”

“Huh? Oh, yeah, I’m sorry. I was off in my own little world.”

I looked back at Luke to find him studying me as if I were some strange new species of baboon. I rubbed my hand through his hair, which was kept short and neat like mine (only his was a bright red instead of my dark brown, a trait he no doubt got from his mother) and assured him that I was fine. After another few seconds of staring, he wondered out into the living room and turned on cartoons.

New Books and Stories!!

A ton of exciting projects coming up in the next few months. To kick things off, there are two new short stories available for your favorite ebook device, with a third on the way. Sci-fi adventure Kavidian and horror oddity TOOTH are available now, and the Ghost Hunter Z prequel The Magic Mirror of Agnes Waterhouse, is available this week.

Next up, look for the re-release of one of my early novels with an all new (and professional) edit and cover. The 9 Ghosts of Samen’s Bane is a fun horror romp that features a lot of real haunted Indiana locations as a backdrop. This one will have you turning pages till the wee hours of the morning.

Looking further down the road,  books one and two in the Ghost Hunter Z Trilogy (Ghost Hunter Z, The Nightmare Tree) are set for re-launch through Stargazing Publishing UK, leading up to the release of the third and final book in the trilogy Staff of Set, this fall. If you’re a fan of horror, there’s plenty coming to keep you reading. Stay tuned!

 

 

 

Ghost Hunter Journal: Entry 3

empty building during daytime

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New York, New York,  January 30th, 1866

“Explain it to me again,” Wilson McCreedy said.

“Which part?” I asked. We had made our way to The Bronx where I’d rented a small warehouse to work and store the may devices I’d concocted.

“Well, I recon the part that’s giving me the most trouble is the seeing ghosts thing,” the old man said with a wave of his hand, as if the motion would help clear things up.

I chuckled. “I’m not sure I can explain it any clearer than the first four times I laid it out for you.”

Wilson had agreed to accompany on my little adventure at the mere mention of ghosts, though he was having trouble wrapping his mind around all that I’d told him since we left his hotel room.

“I was born with the ability to see ghosts,” I explained again. “Now, I’m embarking on a little business venture to help rid people of the spirits that haunt their homes or businesses or what have you.”

“And you have machines that can catch them?”

“Well, I’ve invented several devices that I intend to use to capture them. However, to do this, we must find and collect ectoplasm.”

“Which is a substance left behind by ghosts?”

“Correct. If I line my nets and traps with ectoplasm, I’ll be able to contain the ghosts. At least that’s my theory.”

“So, in order to find this substance…”

“…we must head into a graveyard.”

For some time the two of us walked in silence as Wilson turned all this over in his mind. We reached the warehouse door and I produced a key for the heavy lock. I slid the door aside on its tracks. Inside, many of my inventions were littered about on the floor and along my workbench. Wilson stepped inside and held his gaslight up to have a better look. The customized rifle, the containment chamber, the steam engine that would be used to power my equipment, it was all in the first stages of development.

“Good Christ,” Wilson said in awe. “You built all this yourself?”

“That’s right.”

“And what do you want from me?”

“Well, I need your help collecting the ectoplasm in the graveyard for starters. And, if things should go badly and we run into any trouble, I may just need your guns and sharp shooting skills.”

The old man eyed me suspiciously. “Against who? Not the ghosts, I imagine?”

“No, some folks who don’t like what I’m up to and are very much alive. But, I’ll fill you in on that once we get there.” The sound of horse hooves arose in the distance. “Ah, the cab I hired is here. Come, help me carry these cases to the street.”

The four cases were small and lined with several glass vials that clanked together like wind chimes as we walked. The cab stopped and we loaded the cases, then I closed the warehouse door and locked it. Moments later, the two of us were in the cab and moving along toward the graveyard and the mysteries it held.

 

Ghost Hunter Journal: Entry 2

monochrome photo of man wearing cowboy hat

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New York, New York, January 30, 1866

I had much to do to ensure I was prepared for this venture into the realm of the dead, so I set out a week ago to make sure I had all of my ducks in a row. One thing was for certain, There was no way I could do it alone.

Among the many hotels in the city was one called The Algonquin, and in this hotel is where I found the perfect assistant. There was a traveling Wild West show in town and one of the attractions of said show was a sharp shooter. A man who’d had an intimate history with a gun and was quick on the draw as well as accurate. It was this very same man that had taught me to shoot as a boy. A skill that had led me to win quite a few trophies in youth shooting competitions.

I found the room where he was staying and knocked on the door. It opened to reveal a rugged man with a thick beard and a weathered face. He looked at me a moment before it dawned on him who I was. “Little Zachary Willis?” he bellowed.

I held my hands out. “In the flesh.”

“Christ almighty, boy! You sure have grown up. Damn near as tall as your old man.”

“Twice as handsome though,” I joked.

Wilson McCreedy, the self-proclaimed fastest gun in The West, let out a hearty laugh. “Same arrogant fucker I remember.”

The gunslinger pulled me in for a rough hug, then invited me inside for a drink. I was glad to oblige. The room was stately. The kind of luxury that was reserved for the rich and famous. I whistled through my teeth as I took it all in. “You’re doing alright for yourself.”

“Yeah, well. People here on the east coast view me as a bit of a rare breed. They come from miles around to see the man with the quick revolver and deadeye.”

“I can imagine.”

“Speaking of which,” McCreedy said as he poured a glass of bourbon for me and another for himself. “What exactly brings you to my door. Surely you’re not here to shoot the shit and kick back some booze.”

I feigned offense. “I’m hurt. Why can’t a man just come round to see a dear old friend?”

“I know you a damn sight better than that, Z.”

I smiled at the aging cowboy. I’d forgotten the way he’d call me Z and found I was rather fond of it. “Alright, fine. I do have a proposition for you. The pay is good.”

McCreedy waved a hand in disgust. “Fuck the pay. If I’m in, it’s for the thrill of adventure.”

“Well then, I can promise you an adventure unlike any you’ve known.”

The expression on his face said he wasn’t buying it. “Keep going.”

I leaned in and in a sly whisper asked the question I knew would have him hooked. “Wilson McCreedy, do you believe in ghosts?”

Article: Driver

This article originally appeared on https://mygreenlivingguide.com/, a website loaded with great articles covering everything from business to environment and several topics in between.

DRIVER by D.A. Schneider

adult automotive blur car

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A look at the pros and cons of driving for app-based delivery/taxi services.

So, you have a full time job, but you’d like to make a little extra spending cash on the side. Or, maybe you plan on being a Lyft driver full time, but you’re not sure about the pay. Is it worth the gas? Can you really make it a career? And what kind of effect will this have environmentally speaking?

In this article, I’ll explore the ins and outs, pros and cons, and all the variables to consider before embarking on your first drive.

FOOD DELIVERY

Let’s admit it, getting into a restaurant on a Friday or Saturday night can be a pain. Sometimes you just want to avoid the crowds, the forty-five-minute wait for a table, have your food delivered, and binge watch something on your favorite streaming service. That’s were food delivery apps like DoorDash and Grubhub make their money and driving for one of these companies can be profitable for you.

The Pros: You can make your own schedule. Let’s say you’re leaving your day job and you need a little extra cash, or maybe you’re saving up for your next tattoo or beach vacation. Schedule a block of time and an area of town to deliver food and get paid. DoorDash gives you a portion of the delivery fees, which varies by restaurant, and any tips are yours to keep. DoorDash and Uber Eats pay by the delivery and on a good run you can make around $15 an hour. Grubhub has an hourly rate that varies by city plus you get to keep the tips.

The Cons: Scheduling can be difficult. There are a lot of drivers out there and only so many orders to go around. It’s best to schedule a few days in advance. But, the worst part in this writer’s opinion, is the fact that you’re at the mercy of the merchant. On a busy day, expect long wait times to get your delivery out the door. Time is money with these apps, after all, and while you’re waiting sometimes up to thirty or even forty-five minutes for one delivery, other runs are going to other drivers. Don’t hesitate to give these restaurants (or in some cases grocery stores) a bad review after your drop-off. Also, people don’t tip, but more on that later.

RIDE SERVICES

A great idea for a night out drinking with friends. Get a ride to the bar and a ride back home at the end of the night. Or get to work and back an avoid a monthly car payment, gas, and insurance. What’s it like being a driver though?

The pros: Unlike the food delivery apps, you can turn on your service at anytime without scheduling, and you can turn it on anywhere. Both Lyft and Uber charge by distance and the driver gets a portion of that and 100% of tips. Also, the rides come in fairly quick and there’s no waiting around for merchants to get to your next ride. Plus, you meet some interesting people.

The Cons: Some of those people suck! A week into driving for lift and I had a drunk guy barf down the outside of my SUV. And not just the outside. On the inside of the window and the door panel as well. There’s really nothing you can do for this beside give the customer a bad review, which prevents them from matching up with you again in the future. Then of course there’s the safety. Both services do what they can to prevent any crimes from being committed, including background checks. Though this reduces the chances, it doesn’t eliminate them altogether. Also, people don’t tip. We’ll address that right now.

The Tips and other negatives: Perhaps the biggest downside to all these services; people don’t tip. Sure, you’ll get $3 here or $5 there, and you may even get big tip from time to time (my third Lyft ride tipped $40 and subsequently set my hopes way too high) but for the most part, people aren’t willing to tip. And when you think about it, it’s easy to understand why. DoorDash charges up to $8.99 for a delivery fee. And most people use Lyft and Uber to get to and from work, which could run close to $30 a day depending on distance, and that’s without a tip.

And let’s not forget gas. You’ll use a lot of it and if you get poor gas mileage, you may begin to wonder if most of your pay is going right back into your tank. Though none of these companies reimburse you for gas, there are apps (Everlance, MileIQ) that will track your trips so you can claim them on your taxes. Of course, you must pay a monthly fee for those apps.

And all these apps, across the board, have god awful support for their drivers. Problem with your delivery, app crashes, someone barfs in your ride? Good luck getting any help.

ENVIORNMENTAL EFFECT

Both Lyft and Uber have repeatedly stated that their intentions are to vastly reduce personal car ownership. They go on to claim that multiple passengers will work to reduce carbon emissions as well. However, new studies show that Lyft and Uber drivers spend twenty percent of their time driving without passengers. At this point, the services are still relatively new, and it remains to be seen just what the effects on the environment, whether positive or negative, will truly be.

To sum up, these driving services can be a decent way to bring in some extra money, and for some a full-time job. DoorDash and Grubhub even offer health insurance for drivers. My personal experiences listed above are restricted to my city and these things likely vary in others. As with anything, it’s best to research each money-making opportunity before you jump in, but with some luck and a little personality, you may be the type that can pull in some nice tips and make some decent cash.

D.

Resources: Some personal experiences. citylab.com, glassdoor.com, indeed.com

Ghost Hunter Journal: Entry 1

silhuoette of a person

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New York, New York, January 18, 1866

Today is my 20th birthday.

I’ve been home from the asylum little more than four years and now, as a gift on this day that to me has become no different than any other day, my father has given me this journal. I suppose I can put it to some good use in the startup for my little business venture. I imagine, if things go well, I’ll have quite a few harrowing tales to record within these pages. You see, I’ve decided to put my little curse to good use and start hunting the ghosts I see, for a substantial fee of course.

I saw my first ghost when I was only ten. I had attended a funeral with my father and was terrified to go near the casket. Imagine the horror I felt at the sight of the dead man crawling out of his wooden box. I shrieked and ran away, and later, my parents had me convinced that the entire thing had been cooked up in my mind. The overactive imagination of an impressionable young boy. That was before the screaming man showed up at the foot of my bed.

He didn’t scream in the beginning. No, those first two nights, he only stood there, staring through the window of my room, out into the cold night like he were expecting a visitor he was overly anxious to see. I called for my mother and father on both nights and pointed to the man that was there, in my room, plain as day. They looked to where I pointed and again tried to ensure me I was seeing things. I insisted.

“There,” I said, flabbergasted by their inability to see him. “He’s right there!”

My mother even went so far as to walk around the end of my bed to the spot where he stood, and when she passed right through the man, I knew there was something more going on.

“See, there’s no one,” my mother said. Then she rubbed here arms. “Brrr, it is rather cold here by the widow. We’ll have to fix that tomorrow. I don’t want you getting sick.”

It was on the third night that the dead man began to scream. This gentleman, this specter in a three piece suite, came to the realization that I could see him. He looked down at me from the foot of my bed with anguish in his eyes, and began to scream.

As you can imagine, my reaction was that of a terrified young boy. My parents thought I’d come unhinged and sought medical help. I was diagnosed with split personalities and eventually sent away to the asylum for treatment. There, things only took a turn for the worse. You see, the asylum was full of ghosts that only I could see.

I was the only one that didn’t question my sanity and in time, I learned to cope with my ability. Now, at age twenty, on my birthday, I’ve taken my ongoing education in engineering to create my own contraptions to catch and hold ghosts. Soon, families who live in haunted houses will turn to me to rid them of their spirits. But first, I needed a certain material to help complete my designs. A material that the ghost themselves left behind. That material is called ectoplasm. And to find it, I must venture into the one place I’d always avoided throughout my years. A graveyard.

Z

 

For more adventures of Ghost Hunter Z, find these novels on Amazon.com

Ghost Hunter Z (Book 1)

The Nightmare Tree (Book 2)

 

 

Final Cut: The Importance of Professional Editing

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Being a storyteller is hard. Being a successful writer is damn near impossible.

When we decide to walk this path, to pour our hearts and guts out on paper with reckless abandon and no sign of a filter for our deepest, most twisted thoughts, it’s safe to say the majority of us envision a day when we do it as a full-time career. And a lot of us, myself included, decide to take a chance at self-publishing without the benefit of a professional editor.

Yeah, I did it. I was very green and overly confident in my skills, despite being relatively new to the realm of writing. The result was a poorly worded turd of a book that was loaded with spelling and grammatical errors. Don’t get me wrong, the story was strong, the characters interesting, the dialogue fluid and witty. It was descriptive and raw, a violent and bloody romp of a vampire adventure, that was unfortunate enough to see release at the height of the Twilight craze. Imagine hearing “Oh, like Twilight?” every time you promoted it to someone.

My personal feelings for overrated vampire fluff aside, what that first book lacked was editing by someone who actually knew what the fuck they were doing. I, sadly, was not that person. While I had my strong points as a fledgling writer, I had my weaknesses as well. Spelling has never been my forte. Nor do I have the ability to look at the screen as I type. Yeah, I look at the keys as my clumsy fingers dance across them, conveying loads of run on sentences. My first editor described me as “too wordy”.

Finally, after self-publishing a couple more books, I decided this was not the path I wanted to continue to take with my writing. Instead, I went to work submitting short stories to online and print publications, as well as literary agents and publishers. My novel, Ghost Hunter Z, then caught the eye of a small U.K. based house (KGHH Publishing) and I was offered a three book deal. The lessons I learned on that book from my editor were invaluable. My writing improved immensely, in every conceivable way.

These days, I know I can’t rely on my eyes alone to catch every misspelled word or missing question mark, hell there are probably some in this very article. I enlist beta readers and editors to make sure my manuscript is as clean as possible. Unfortunately, hiring a pro editor can be costly. And even then, if you find one online, who’s to say it isn’t some jack ass looking to con you out of your hard earned money. Do your research.

In the end, writers have editors for a reason. We can’t do this alone. Use friends and loved ones who have an eye for mistakes and aren’t afraid to offer you some constructive criticism. And if you’re able, hire a professional editor to shape your work into something great.

Happy writing.

D.

NaNoWriMo: Crow on the Cradle

This past November, I participated in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) for the first time in my fledgling writing career. I’d known about the challenge in previous years, but was never in the right place with my projects to join in and test my writing metal. This time, however, I happened to have a novel I’d barely begun and was ready to take the plunge.

Crow on the Cradle is a study of one man’s curse. Divided into three parts and told in a mixture of first and third person points of view. The story follows bestselling novelist Ray Farmer as he returns home to Indiana and the farmhouse where he grew up. Here, he’d left the girl he’d loved behind a decade earlier, and had regretted that decision ever since. His re-connection with her leads to a desire to find some semblance of a normal existence. In order to do this, he must investigate the curse that has followed him his entire life. Discover the secretes behind the creatures in the dark that haunt his every waking moment.

What he finds is far more disturbing the he ever imagined.

The writing challenge was a success and I made 50,000 words by the end of the month. Now, the first draft is finished and I’m on to revisions, but I wanted to share an excerpt

selective focus photograph of black crow

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just for the hell of it. Enjoy.

 

 

1

RAY

 

I found myself face down in a ditch.

Movement was hard, made even more difficult by the crushing pain that throbbed in my skull. I rolled onto my back and tried to open my eyes against the bright summer sun. After a few failed attempts, I sat up with considerable effort and let my long hair fall in my face. It smelled like booze. That almighty tool we all use to smite the things that go wrong in our lives.  The smell was all it took for my stomach to lurch. I leaned over and threw up, my head pounding worse with each heave and given way to a full native drumbeat ricocheting through my head.

“Fuck!” I growled. My voice was a gurgling rasp. Sandpaper over broken glass.

The night before was a blur. The only thing I vaguely remembered was getting punched in the mouth. Wasn’t sure why, but I had the feeling a girl was involved. Or at least a girl’s tits. It was difficult to say.

I wiped my bloodied lip with the back of my wrist and realized there was something in my hand. With some difficulty, for my vision was still adjusting to the harsh light and blurred with water from my upchuck, I looked down at the old photo. Jolene smiled back at me from a happier time. I couldn’t remember why I had it. At least it was daylight out. I had that much going for me. Daylight was safe. Daylight was calm.

After a few minutes, I was able to get to my feet. The photo was shoved into my wallet and I began the seemingly insurmountable quest of climbing out of the ditch. It eventually took dropping to my hands and knees in an infant-like crawl to make my way to the top. There I found a deserted country road with miles upon miles of cornstalks on the other side.

“Where the fuck am I?” I ask aloud, once again surprised by the sound of my own voice. I had the brief, maddening idea that maybe it wasn’t my voice at all. Maybe there was some dark being beyond my abilities of daylight perception speaking in my ear. Or a long dead killer with malicious intent. It wouldn’t be outside the realm of possibilities.

I pushed these thoughts aside and cleared the gravel from my throat, assuring myself that things were good in the sun. Everything was fine. Everything was safe.

Sane.

Off in the distance, I could see a large weeping willow tree living on a grassy hill. I suddenly knew exactly where I was. I suddenly knew why the picture of Jolene had been in my hand. My mind slipped back to a simpler time. To the days before the curse came to me.

 

I was only six when I met Jolene. Her parents had moved into the farmhouse about a mile down the road from my parent’s farm. I’d first seen her on the school bus. Auburn hair in braids, wearing denim overalls over a pink shirt with frilly sleeves, she stutter-stepped down the aisle looking for a place to sit. My father had always taught me to be a gentleman, so I moved closer to the window as she neared.

“You can sit by me,” I squeaked.

The little girl took a seat and offered me a toothless smile. “Thank you. I’m Jolene, what’s your name.”

“Raymond,” I said. “I live in the house down the road from you.”

“That’s nice. I’ve decided we are going to be friends. In fact, you are my best friend now.”

And that’s the way Jolene had always been. Decisive and bossy. A girl that always knew what she wanted. I just went along with it, nodding my head and mumbling, “Sure. Okay.”

“What do you do for fun, Ray?”

“Play outside. There’s a tire swing on the tree that sits on the hill by my house. It’s really fun to swing on.” Not being the best judge of distance as a six-year-old, I didn’t realize until later that the tree sat about halfway between our two houses.

“I know that tree. Maybe we could meet there after school.”

“Okay.”

“Maybe,” she emphasized, as if she didn’t want me to get my hopes up. “Whose class are you in?”

“Mrs. Murphy’s”

“So am I. I think we should sit next to each other.”

I nodded my agreement with this and Jolene proceeded to tell me about her doll collection and how she loved Scooby-Doo and wanted so badly to have a dog just like him who she would also name Scooby-Doo, but her father had to go and get a big, mangy, dumb old hound dog that lays around and does nothing but sleep. His name was Earl.

I just listened to all of this, nodding along, never once suspecting that I’d just made a lifelong friend in the girl with the auburn braids and denim overalls.

 

 

An Introduction

Hello, fellow fans of the written word,

I’m excited to be on WordPress and I hope to connect with my fans and make new ones through my storytelling. You can expect to see a lot of short stories here, not only in the horror genre, but detective, fantasy and sci-fi as well. Currently I’m working on a short story called The King of Red Flags, as well as the third book in my Ghost Hunter Z trilogy.

My road to becoming a published author was a long one. After self-publishing a few books with little success, I decided to take my latest novel to the Kindle Scout website, where readers can nominate books to be published by Amazon. Though I just missed the mark there, Ghost Hunter Z did get noticed by an independent publishing house in the U.K.

I signed a three book deal with KGHH Publishing in early 2017 and book one of my trilogy was released in September that same year. Through those early novels and the editing process with my new publisher, I feel my writing has improved greatly and I love sharing my stories with you, the reader.

Ghost Hunter Z came about one late Halloween night as I watched a marathon of Ghost Adventures and thought to myself, how fucked up would it be if a real ghost just showed up, right there on TV for all to see. This led to to the creation of my ghost hunter, who has the ability to see ghosts, and I mixed in a bit of Ghostbusters and dropped my hero in a steampunk, Victorian London setting.

Z’s partner in the books, Inspector Charles Grant, was inspired in appearance and personality by the actor Robbie Coltraine, known for his voice acting in various movies as well as From Hell, Ocean’s 12, and most notably the lovable half giant Hagrid in the Harry Potter series.

The recently released sequel to Ghost Hunter Z is called The Nightmare Tree and started out as a poem I wrote that was inspired by a nightmare my son had when he was 5. He described the strange dream to me in great detail and I was shocked at the odd things that had popped into his brain at such a young age. Especially since his mother and I were very careful monitoring the type of material he and his brother were exposed to in TV, Movies and games.

2017 also saw the first publication of several short stories I’d written and submitted. Kavidian was the first of these. A sci-fi tale that was split into two parts in the May and June issues of The Scarlet Leaf Review. This was followed by my comedy Masque of the White Christmas in the June issue of Storgy. Later that year, my fantasy short The Naglis Uprising was selected to appear in the short story anthology The Clarion Call book 3: UNBOUND. In 2018, my fantasy short Rosemary appeared in the online magazine Across the Margin, my horror short Horror on the Housetops was included in the holiday anthology RED Christmas, and my Ghost Hunter Z short The Magic Mirror of Agnes Waterhouse was picked up to appear in an upcoming issue of Kensington Gore’s Hammered Horror.

So, I’ve built a nice publishing resume over the last couple of years and am currently shopping around for a literary agent and that ever elusive major publishing deal. In the meantime, I invite you in the WordPress world to join me and check out some of my work. Message me. Share some of your work. I’m always quick to share advice with less experienced writers and take some from the more experienced. Thanks for reading and taking this journey with me.

D.

Links:

Ghost Hunter Z:

The Nightmare Tree:

UNBOUND featuring The Naglis Uprising:

Red Christmas featuring Horror on the Housetops:

Amazon (Kindle) https://www.amazon.com/RED-Christmas-Red-Publicati…
Amazon (paperback) https://www.amazon.com/RED-Christmas-Red-Publicati…

Tales of Terra Ferna FREE on SmashWords
Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/918811
Barnes & Noble Nook: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/tales-of-terra-fe…Scarlet Leaf Review:

Kavidian part 1|http://www.scarletleafreview.com/short-stories12/category/derek-a-schneider

Kavidian part 2|http://www.scarletleafreview.com/short-stories1/category/dereck-a-schneider

Storgy:

The Masque of the White Christmas|https://storgy.com/2017/06/05/fiction-the-masque-of-the-white-christmas-by-derek-a-schneider/

Across the Margin:

Rosemary|http://acrossthemargin.com/rosemary/#

Hammered Horror:
The Magic Mirror of Agnes Waterhouse- Coming soon!

Audio Reading by CreepyPastaED

TOOTH|https://youtu.be/ei8KJHsJZyw

The Thing in the Closet|https://youtu.be/5IlJjs0v7XU

Audio Reading by The Crow Flies
The Magic Mirror of Agnes Waterhouse https://youtu.be/e4FW_-4Ry0w

amazon.com/author/daschneider

The Nightmare Tree: Preview

Available today, The Nightmare Tree is book 2 in the Ghost Hunter Z Trilogy. In this book, we rejoin Z, Inspector Grant, and new characters Helena Brownstone and Rudder Wallace, as they embark on an investigation that involves a missing child. Even more, the boy shares Z’s ability to see ghosts.

Their search leads them to an unholy tree once thought to be only legend. The tree is a gateway to a terrifying realm that houses a panoply of horrific creatures. While Z and Rudder go after the boy, Grant follows clues to uncover the identity of those behind the evil plot.

What secrets lie in The Nightmare Tree?

The idea behind the book started from a nightmare that my son had when he was only 5. Despite his mother and I shielding him and his brother from violent movies, TV and games, the things he described were truly disturbing. Some things from the book were taken right from the dream such as the man with the razor blade mouth.

Originally, I wrote the dream down in the form of a poem with a fun Halloween spin. When I started to write the follow up to 2017’s Ghost Hunter Z, I took the ideas from the dream and poem then incorporated them into Z’s world. The result is an intense, twisted installment in the trilogy.

Now, enjoy a preview of The Nightmare Tree.

CHAPTER ONE

London

December 15, 1883

Fate is a vicious bitch.

Jeffery had learned this at a very early age. The very instant his mother decided she’d had enough of his father’s abuse and took an ax to his head. That was the moment it dawned on him for the first time. When she was arrested, and subsequently hanged for her crime, it only served to drive the point home. When the bloodied form of his father and the broken necked image of his mother appeared in his room at the orphanage, their miserable arguments continuing unabated even beyond death, that proved his hunch once and for all.

Fate is indeed a vicious bitch.

As he cleaned himself in the tepid water of the bath, it occurred to him again. Something was wrong. It was a feeling he had. Something in the atmosphere of the orphanage didn’t seem right, as if the air itself had grown thick with static. It was heavy with anxiety and something else. Something chilling. Jeffery was sure something bad was going to happen. Something awful. And it was going to happen soon. There was nothing he could do but wait and see what wretched hand fate would deal him next.

Once he was clean, Jeffery dressed in his night clothes and left the wash room to prepare for bed. Most of the other children were in their beds already and dropping off to dreamland. He always seemed to be last in getting to the bathroom, and tonight Jeffery was sure there would be no sleep for him. The disquieting feeling was still scratching at the back of his mind like the skeletal hand of a reanimated corpse.

“Sister Shelly,” Jeffery said to the nun who ushered the children into their beds nightly. “I’m afraid something bad is going to happen.”

“Please, Jeffery,” the nun said, shooing him toward his bed. “You mustn’t say things like that. You’ll frighten the other children.”

“But it’s true. I have a bad feeling.”

“Jeffery, you are completely safe here in the orphanage. Now please, get to bed.”

Jeffery walked on, sullen. Sister Shelly was most often kind to the children, but she wouldn’t stand for anyone dallying before bed time.

Henry sat in the hall, mumbling to himself as always. Jeffery waved to the man and said goodnight, and though Henry waved in return, he otherwise didn’t acknowledge the boy, even though Jeffery was the only one that could see him there. Henry had been acting strange lately. It was late. Jeffery always being the last to get use of the washroom was a pain when it came to getting to sleep. It made getting to sleep all the more difficult when everyone around you had already drifted off, snores billowing through the room.

***

It was just one hour later that Jeffery heard the voice. A man whispered in his ear. A man who had broken into the orphanage and somehow found his way to Jeffery’s bed. Jeffery cringed as he listened to the awful voice. “Time to go, little crumpet. The master awaits.”

Then all went dark as a bag was pulled over Jeffery’s head.

***

The slender man skipped through the trees with a lunatic laugh pouring through his crooked teeth. There was no real thought in the mush that made up his brain, only a vague desire to cause mischief and get into trouble. With the moon tucked behind the snow-filled clouds, the only light that shone on the forest floor was that which bloomed from the strange man’s torch-lit eyes. The man was unaware he was being followed.

Epping Forest is a stretch of ancient woodland that sits between north-east Greater London and Essex. Among the typical wildlife that can be found in the woods, there are some beings that are just as ancient as the forest itself. Much like the mischievous man with his mad thoughts and blazing eyes.

A loud snap from behind him and the man stopped. He turned. The woods were quiet. No animal sounds. Most were in hibernation for the winter. Another crack, this one from his left. The man turned back to find nothing but the trees that seemed to close in around him.

***

Another man watched from nearby. The mythical man with shining eyes was confused, but not scared. Beings like this one know nothing of fear and the watcher is well aware of this fact. The watcher found another rock and he threw it high over the head of the mad man to the other side of the trail. The mad man turned at the sound and the watcher saw his opportunity.

Moving quietly, the watcher lunged forward with dagger in hand and, suddenly, became a killer. The killer brought the knife down and the blade sank into the mad man’s head. A haunting scream broke the silence of the wood and the mythical being fell to the ground, his head split open and spilling the muck inside all over the ground.

It all went better than the killer had hoped. As the innards of the mad man’s head soaked into the soft dirt of the trail, the killer moved back into the trees from which he’d sprung, and hefted a large canvas bag over his shoulder. Inside the bag, a boy struggled.

The killer moved back to the body of the mad man with the sliced open head and watched. And waited. And soon, from the middle of the muck and seeds that passed as the mad man’s brains, something began to grow.

CHAPTER TWO

Stacey “Rudder” Wallace drained his third pint and ordered another.

From the far corner of the pub, Z watched the big man in the bowler hat as he drank and got louder and less belligerent with each drink. It was time to approach him before more ale was consumed, but Z knew he’d have to approach with tact. He had to appeal to Rudder’s interest and that should be easy enough, what with his interest being in ghosts and Z being a ghost hunter.

Z had done his research and found that Rudder Wallace was obsessed with the spirit world. Always one to volunteer for excursions into graveyards at night or forays into notoriously haunted structures all around London, Rudder was exactly the kind of man Z needed as a new assistant. The problem was in the approach. Wallace was notoriously foul tempered and this was only made worse by generous amounts of Guinness. However, he was nearly as easily angered while sober. Z had found, upon observation, that there was a window of opportunity, around the fourth pint, where Wallace seemed almost jolly.

Z stood and moved through the crowd. The pub was crammed with revelers and the pipe smoke was so thick it was nearly solid matter. Z deftly slipped through the crowd and maneuvered closer to the bar where Rudder Wallace was engaged in friendly (although incredibly loud) conversation with a short, balding fellow nursing a whisky. All was going as planned, until a man stumbled and slammed into Z just as he neared Wallace. Z fell into the large man and knocked his pint to the floor.

“You spilled my pint,” Stacey “Rudder” Wallace’s grumble boomed over the noisy crowd.

“Oh dear,” Z said. “I’m terribly sorry. Let me buy you another.”

Wallace pulled back and threw a right hook, catching Z across the jaw and dropping him to the floor. Z felt as if his brains had been scrambled. He reached for the nearest barstool and started the difficult process of pulling himself up. Before he could stand upright, Wallace had grabbed hold of his collar and lifted him off the floor. Z was airborne for a split second before pain erupt in his back and he realized he’d hit the front window of the pub and was tumbling out onto the cobblestone street.

Z’s body was racked with pain. He stumbled to his feet in time to see Wallace maneuver through the door that seemed too small for him, with a half empty whisky bottle in his hand that he clearly intended to use to finish the job he’d started by bashing Z’s brains in. Knowing he was no match for the man in hand to hand combat, Z pulled his coat aside and deftly pulled a revolver from the holster at his hip. One shot shattered the bottle in Wallace’s hand. The second removed the bowler hat from his head.

Wallace froze, his hands out as if he were suddenly afraid to move.

“Is a spilled pint really worth dying over, Stacy?” Z asked, pulling the hammer back on the gun once more to prove he was serious.

Wallace looked at him with confusion. “You know me?”

“By reputation only,” Z said. “I’d come here to offer you a job. I need a man with your particular set of skills.”

“What skills would that be?”

“Your big, strong, and a hell of a fighter. And I’m in need of a new servant.”

Wallace laughed. “I serve no man.”

“Very well, an assistant then.”

Wallace shook his head.

“Bodyguard? Laborer? Call it what you will. The point is, I need help with my work and you are the ideal candidate. Especially considering your fascination with ghosts.”

Wallace looked taken aback. “Ghosts?”

“That’s right. I hunt them for a living.”

“Well, I’ll be,” the large man said, a grin spreading across his face. “Are you the ghost hunter what saved the city from those monsters?”

Z eased the hammer on the gun and dropped it to his side, his swelling ego getting the better of him. “That’s right. Ghost Hunter Z.”

The big man stared at him in awe, his grin growing even wider. “And you came here looking for me?”

“I did. My job offer is sincere.”

Wallace rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “What exactly will my duties entail?”

Z holstered the gun and bent to retrieve his Stetson. “Well, there are horses to tend to, equipment to haul from job to job, assistance in flushing out and capturing spirits, various chores around the shop, the occasional perturbed customer that would need to be intimidated or even roughed up, plus any number of odd jobs that may require your attention. And the pay would be more than adequate for your services.”

The large man thought about it a little longer, then said; “Alright, I’ll take the job, on two conditions.”

“Name them.”

“I won’t be referred to as a servant or assistant. Associate should do I think.” 

“Agreed,” Z said with a shrug. “And the second request.”

Wallace came closer and in a very serious tone said; “Never, ever, call me Stacy. Rudder is the only name I’ll answer to.”

“Consider it done. Rudder.”

“Right then. When do we start?”

***

The two of them started the next morning. Rudder arrived promptly at the shop, with horse drawn handsome-cab. Z greeted the big man with a tip of his hat. “Rudder. Punctual and well-dressed. I approve.”

Rudder ran a hand over his short-cropped, greying hair and smiled. “Well, wouldn’t do to get off to a poor start on the first day, right?”

“Right.”

“Yeah. We’ll save that for the second day.”

Z studied the man a moment before breaking in to laughter. “So, Rudder Wallace has a sense of humour under that rough exterior. Good to know.”

Rudder chuckled. “Where to?”

“The home of Mrs. Sylvia Brownstone.”

“As you wish.”

“We have a busy day ahead of us, my new-found-friend. I hope you’re prepared.”

“I’m ready for anything.”

The cab pulled away from the tiny shop and made its way across town. Z sat in back and gazed out the window, where on the cobblestone streets the dead mingled with the living without the latter being aware of the former’s presence. This still baffled the ghost hunter, even after all his years of seeing the dead. How there could be so many of them walking among those that still took in breath. Those who had hearts that still pumped blood. Z sat back in his seat and forced his thoughts toward more pleasant topics. Like Sheila.

Some nights he couldn’t sleep because he missed her so. There had been other women, one could hardly be expected to remain faithful for such a long time apart, but none were Sheila. The love of his life was out there somewhere, solving her own mysteries using her psychic gift. Z wondered how much longer he’d have to suffer without seeing her. At least he had his work to keep him busy. Business had been booming after his recognition in the battle against Asmodeus. His small steam-powered containment unit was becoming over-crowded with ghosts that were too dangerous to be let loose in a graveyard where they could find their way into more trouble. Sylvia Brownstone had invited him to tea with the promise of a solution to this problem.

The grounds of the Brownstone house were meticulously manicured as ever and when the cab pulled around the semi-circular drive and came to a stop, Lady Brownstone stepped from the front door to greet them, now relying on her cane to help her walk far more than she had before. A visit from the ghost hunter had always brightened her day, and it warmed Z’s heart to see the joy on her face as he stepped from the cab.

“Good morning, my dear friend,” Z said as he embraced her. He was somewhat startled at how frail and thin she seemed in his arms. Still, he kept his tone cheerful. “I’m so glad to see you up and about.”

“And I’m happy to see you,” Lady Brownstone said in return. “I can’t wait to be regaled with more of your adventures. But, first, I have tea waiting in the library and a steaming hot coffee for you.”

“Much appreciated, madam. I could use it to shake off this bitter cold weather.” Z motioned to the large man at the reigns of the cab. “Allow me to introduce my new…um, associate, Mr. Rudder Wallace.”

Wallace climbed down from the cab and kissed Lady Brownstone’s hand with a bow. “Pleasure to meet you, Missus.”

“My, aren’t you a big one,” the old woman said. “Please, come in out of the cold. I have plenty of tea to go around.”

Rudder looked in Z’s direction as if searching for approval and Z nodded happily. The two men followed Lady brownstone into the house, through the foyer and down the hall to the impressive library. Z had spent many hours in the room pouring through her numerous volumes on the supernatural, legends, and myth. It was in this very room where Lady Brownstone had been attacked by an unseen force-none other than Asmodeus-in an attempt to prevent her finding information that would lead to stopping the ancient deity from attacking the city. Of course, determination was one of the Lady’s many attributes, and she’d still managed to rip the page she needed from a book and get it to Z when afterwards he visited her in hospital where she lay broken and battered.

“So, Z, what adventure do you have brewing tonight? And what happened to your eye?” Lady Brownstone asked as she poured a cup of tea.

Z said. “Rudder and I were just working out a problem last night and my eye took the brunt of a suggested solution. And how do you know I have anything planned for tonight?”

“Oh, I read the papers, I am well aware of how busy you’ve been lately. I imagine your days of falling behind on the rent are behind you.”

“Further behind than you know. I’ve just purchased the entire building. Now, I will play the part of annoying landlord.”

“Oh, how wonderful,” the lady said.

Z felt pride swell in him at the Lady’s approval, as if she were his own grandmother and her praise was a constant prize for him to seek.

“Very impressive,” Rudder said from the end of the table, where he had dropped two sugar cubes into his cup of tea and was in the process of stirring it with a tiny spoon, his pinky finger held up as if he were a dainty school girl trying to look proper in front of guests.

“Yes, well you know me. Always on the lookout for ways to turn a buck, or a pound, I should say.”

Lady Brownstone clapped her bony hands together with excitement. “This plays perfectly into the reason that I asked you here today. My niece is looking for a new flat. Perhaps you have the room in your building?”

“Your niece? I was under the impression you had a solution for my ghosts overcrowding problem.”

“My niece is the solution you seek. She’s an inventor. A rather brilliant one too. I think she’d make a wonderful addition to your operation. She only recently lost her laboratory, evicted by her landlord because of the noise coming from her flat at all hours of the night. The place was far too small for her in any case.”

Z sat back and thought about this new information. “There is a rather spacious basement in the building, I’m sure the noise wouldn’t be a bother to other residents. My own shop and flat sit between them. Do you think she’d be able to create a chamber large enough to hold these spirits?”

“Absolutely, my niece can create nearly anything she puts her mind to.” Z heard the door open and close from the front of the house and Lady Brownstone added; “Ah, that should be her now.”

The woman that appeared in the doorway was an outright mess. Her petticoat was covered in soot, face smeared with grease, and the goggles she wore upon her brow were all that held the mane of fiery red hair in check. Her hazel eyes looked tired behind the round spectacles that sat on the bridge of her nose, and beneath the grime, Z could see a bed of freckles spreading over her cheeks. “Aunt Sylvia, I’m sorry, I didn’t know you’d have guests.”

“It’s alright, Helena dear. Come, say hello to my very good friend, Ghost Hunter Z and his associate Mr. Rudder Wallace.”

Z and Wallace stood and greeted the young woman in turn, but Helena only looked between the two of them with an untrusting eye. “I’ll leave you to your guests Aunt Sylvia.”

She turned to leave, but her aunt called to her. “Helena, don’t be ridiculous. My friend Z is here to help you. He has a place for you to stay and he is in need of your special talents.”

“Zat right?,” Helena said, suddenly interested. “What is it you need Mr. Ghost Hunter?”

“Please, call me Z,” the ghost hunter said. “Won’t you join us for tea?”

The woman considered the invitation a moment, then moved around to take a seat next to her aunt. As she poured tea in the cup in front of her she asked. “Well, Z, what can I help you with?” Helena said “Z” as if the name left a bad taste in her mouth. It was clear that she was nursing some serious trust issues.

“Well, as your aunt pointed out, I am a ghost hunter. Some of the ghosts I capture have to be contained indefinitely because they are so dangerous. With my recent increase in business the chamber I have is far too small, therefore, I need to have a much larger chamber built.”

“How much larger?”

Z thought about it a moment, the said; “About half the basement in my building I’d say. You can use the rest of the basement as your laboratory.”

“How much would I have to pay you?”

“Nothing at all. In fact, I’d pay you to build the chamber.”

“How can I say no to that?”

“You can’t.”

“Alright, you have a deal. I’ll move me things in this afternoon.”

“Excellent. Let me give you the address.”

Sylvia Brownstone clapped her hands together once again. “Oh, I’m so happy I could bring the two of you together. You two are my favourite people in the world.”

Z stood. “Well, I thank you for your help once again, Lady Sylvia.”

“Are you off so soon?” Sylvia asked.

“I’m afraid so. We do have a job tonight and we must spend the afternoon getting our equipment together. But, fear not, dear lady, I will stop by and entertain you with all the details.”

“I look forward to it.”

“As for you, Helena, Rudder and I will be at the shop preparing all afternoon, so feel free to come by anytime and I’ll show you around.”

Helena nodded awkwardly. “Right. Thanks again.”

Z bid the two women farewell and left the house with Rudder Wallace close behind. “That was very impressive,” said Rudder. “You certainly have a way with women.”

Z chuckled. “Yes, I do alright when it comes to the fairer sex. How about you?”

“Well, most are intimidated by me size, but there’ve been a few lovely lasses here and there. Say, what’s this job we have tonight?.”

Z noticed the way Rudder changed the subject. It seemed the big man was a little uncomfortable when it came to the topic of his love life. “First, let’s get back to the shop. I can help you get familiar with the equipment we use and then I’ll tell you all about tonight’s job.”

Z waited for Rudder to open the cab door for him, but the big man was already climbing up onto the driver’s seat. “Right,” Z said to himself. He then opened the door himself and climbed in.

Sylvia was at the door with her odd niece, the two of them waving goodbye as the cab pulled away. Z couldn’t help but wonder if he’d made the right choice in taking the girl on. Of course, he’d do anything for Lady Brownstone, but something about the girl was unsettling. He wondered just what he was getting himself into.

Read more in The Nightmare Tree, available here!

Book Review: Earthbound by Paul Falk

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Earthbound is the story of a giant asteroid heading toward earth and the chaos that ensues as humanity learns their days are numbered.

We see the story from one man’s point of view as he desperately tries to gather friends and family to him as society caves and erupts into total anarchy. From one shocking event to the next, the author depicts what would surely happen in this situation in real life.

Though the prose is a little stiff, the story unfolds with abrupt and surprising brutality in some instances. It’s solid storytelling that keeps you turning pages to see the awful lengths people go to in their panic and desperation.

 

D