Happy Holidays 2015

Happy Holidays everyone, may those who celebrate the season have a joyful time with family and friends. May 2016 bring you everything you hope for. 

We will be closed from December 24th to January 4th as I celebrate the holidays with my family. 

Fridays 5 will return January 8, 2016 with Gerri Taylor.

Fridays 5 with James Roby

James H. Roby III was born in Detroit, MI.  After attending Cass Technical High School, he went to Michigan State University.  While there, he enrolled in Air Force ROTC.  Upon graduation, he was commissioned a Second Lieutenant.

James was one of sixteen lieutenants hand selected to be the initial cadre of ‘Gold Bar’ Recruiters.  After completing this assignment, he went to Vandenberg Air Force Base for training as a Missile Launch Officer.  Training complete, he was assigned to Minot Air Force Base where he spent four years, three months, twenty-three days, seventeen hours as a missileer in the 91st Missile Wing.  Before leaving, he earned his Masters’ degree from Central Michigan University. While there James started his first novel, Past Debts.

After Minot, he was an instructor at the University of South Alabama.  While there, he expanded his role to include teaching at the University of West Florida.  This tour of duty was followed by a remote assignment at Clear Air Station in Alaska. James completed his military service at Peterson Air Force Base.  After ‘wandering the wilderness’ of civilian employment, he finally landed at Aon.

The novels that would be the UrbanKnights almost never came about.  It was only after a spouse of one of his fellow instructor got a hold of an incomplete Past Debts that James was inspired to continuing writing.  The UrbanKnights reflect some of James’ loves – classic movie detectives, James Bond, and of course, Detroit.

When he isn’t foiling crimes through his character, Jordan Noble, James is involved with his family; his wife Alicia and his other ladies – his mother, sister and niece back home in Detroit.  A true child of his generation, late nights will find him taking down enemies of every stripe on his Xbox.  While at lunch, his nose can be found in between the pages of the works of Tom Clancy, Vince Flynn, Dashiell Hammett, Ian Fleming, or Walter Mosley.

James has done his share of traveling.  He’s been to World Cities like London and Toronto, seen three icebergs come together 500 miles above the Arctic Circle, and watched dolphins play in the Caribbean.  Still, no matter what, even when he’s not in Detroit, Detroit is in him.

1.) When did you first get serious about writing?
A.) Seriously is such a strong word…I been writing since high school.  I first made the stab at serious writing, meaning getting published was back in the 90s.  The company I went through for self-publishing turned out to be a ‘vanity publisher.  I then refocused – write my latest novel, Pale Horse and really got serious.  This was probably five years ago.  I did all the legal things and got plugged into the community – especially online.  I got involved with Nanowrimo and attended writing workshops.  For me, getting out of living room and meeting other writers, helps center me.  It’s comforting to know that other people are out there creating world and facing the same pitfalls as me.

2.) What is the hardest part for you about writing?
A.) The actually writing part – would be finding time.  Working full time, family and other things makes it so easy to put off writing.  It is, however worth the effort and for the last couple of years, I’ve been making a greater effort to find time to write.  I credit my writing group, Writers @ Work, for that.  When you get feedback, bad or good, it pushes you to get back in the chair and bang out that next chapter.
Now, the publishing part – that I hate.  All of it.

3.) How did you feel upon publication of your first completed project?
A.) At the time I was over the moon.  It was a copy of my book, with a cover and everything!  Over the years, I’ve looked back and have seen all the errors I’d made.  If nothing else this has taught me the value of good editing.  If you aren’t in a writers’ group or don’t have an editor, you owe it to yourself to do one or the other.  Or both if you can afford it.

4.) What is more important to you, story, or character? Why?
A.) Character.  Why?  I look at the wasteland that primetime television has become and realize the only we watch it is because we like the character.  Seriously, more than once I’ve figured out whodunit before the first commercial break.  Not because I’m so smart (don’t tell my wife) but because so many of the plots are just retreads of some other show.  Movies and in some cases novels commit this sins as well.

5.) What is a typical day like in your world?
A.)  Work.  Go home. Write until my wife gets home.  Some days I edit, others, I work out.  Then there’s laundry…oh, crap!  Did I do the laundry?

Click on cover for more info or to order.

Pales Horse - Jordan Noble left the insidious world of global espionage behind and vowed never to return. Now home in the mean streets of Detroit, he forms the UrbanKnight Detective Agency and tackles the crimes everyone else is afraid to touch. Just when things appear to be going perfectly, Noble’s former commander returns with a mission so dangerous, refusal means the death of millions.
International illegal arms dealer, Saif Al-Matwalli is captured by an elite military team. Unknowingly infected with a deadly disease by the CIA, Al-Matwalli executes a daring escape across two continents, ending in the concrete jungle of the Motor City. Disaster looms as time is running out before Al-Mattwalli unleashes a plague of biblical proportions. The government task force deployed hasn’t the first clue where to find Al-Matwalli. They need Noble and his team with its matchless knowledge of the city to ferret out Al-Matwalli and defuse the impending crisis. Now, with no other choice, Noble returns to the devil he knows to stop the one who could kill them all. Will Jordan Noble be able to stop this rider on a Pale Horse?

James maintains a website at jamesroby.net


I grew up watching westerns every Saturday morning. Some of you may remember the old black and white weekly television shows featuring characters like Roy Rogers, Tom Mix, and the singing cowboy Gene Autry. Did you know Gene Autry was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions in WWII?

I’m full of odd little tid-bits of information like that.

As I grew older my tastes matured, yet my love of Westerns remained strong. I became an early fan of Clint Eastwood when he appeared in the Rawhide series. I know, we’re getting into ancient history here. I’ve followed Clint’s career through the spaghetti westerns of the late sixties early seventies, his Dirty Harry phase, “Make my day.” And beyond. In my mind his best western will always be The Outlaw Josey Wales. “Hell is coming to breakfast.”

But what does all this have to do with Zombies and post apocalyptic fiction? You may be asking.

I’m getting to that.

The biggest reason I liked westerns, and I feel confident enough to say it may be a major reason why post apocalyptic fiction is so popular, is that feeling of being an explorer in a new world. A place of wide open spaces that offered elbow room to roam, a lawless land where the strong backed their words with the firepower they carried as they carved out a new life for themselves.

One of my favorite western movies is Tomstone with Kurt Russell as Wyatt Earp. “I’m bringing hell with me!”  He played along side Bill Paxton and Sam Elliot who portrayed brothers Virgil and ????. The last member of this quartet was Doc Holiday played by Val Kilmer. “Who’s your huckleberry?


When I first started writing the story that has become All Roads Lead To Terror I envisioned my main character Meat as a blend of the ruthlessness of Clint Eastwood,  with the courage of John Wayne, and the wisdom of James Arness who portrayed sheriff Matt Dillon on Gunsmoke. Meat was born at the height of the Zombie apocalypse, upon his birth his mother took one look at him and pronounced him meat before she abandoned him with the man that would raise him. He grew up in a reality where they were all nothing more than walking bags of meat, so in his mind the name fit perfectly.

Window, his best friend, is pure Val Kilmer as Doc Holiday. Very quiet, studious with an ever watchful eye and a quick hand. To him friendship was the most important thing in the world. His family had perished in the ruthless times after the awakening and his temperament had been forged in the fire that took them from him. His friends were all he had left so he watched over them with a jealously protective nature strengthened by the sense of invulnerability all boys his age embraced. Backed by a quick hand with the .44 he’d used to kill the men who had raped and killed his mother.

The remaining members of this quartet are Einstein who had been born within the compound at Bremo Bluff after the apocalypse occurred. Having spent his life behind the fence he has no first hand knowledge of how brutal the world has become beyond the fence. As his name implies he’s the smartest in the group, as well the most innocent. While that innocence helps to soften the ruthlessness of the other three, it also serves to drive a wedge into their friendship. But he will discover just how terrifying the world beyond the fence has become.

The final member is Billie-Bob, one half of a set of twins who appeared outside the fence several years earlier. Your typical class clown his mouth runs a mile a minute, if he isn’t sharing overused jokes about Zombies, he’s whispering the passages from a book his mother used to read to him when he was younger, a chant that provides him with a degree of comfort. Billie-Bob is unique in that at the tender age of eleven he has proven himself to be a natural born sniper with a willingness to use his special talent to protect his friends.

All of them had been born during the apocalypse, growing up in the time after, surviving in a world that had little sympathy for those unable to defend themselves. It is said we are  the product of our environment, these four boys have shouldered the responsibilities of an adult long before their pre-awakening counterparts would have been required to. They became survivors in a ruthless world that had as yet to reveal the true depths of its depravity.

I believe post-apocalyptic fiction is the modern western. But unlike the westerns of old, where the ability to go back and experience it first hand would require a time machine. These modern tales of strong characters surviving in a wide open places has the potential to become reality.

New Release: All Roads Lead to Terror

The horrors of the past meet the brutality of the present.

 Click on cover for more info or to order


Four boys strengthen the bonds of their friendship, while taking their first hesitant steps into adulthood, as they face the brutality of an old, new world. They will be tested at every step in their journey, as they travel through a blasted land where the only hope is for a swift death followed by an endless sleep. Survival lay in the firepower they carried, coupled with their willingness to use it, and their ability to trust each other with their own lives.

The world has become a wild place filled with wild things, and into this new reality each of them had been born. Coming of age at the end of days, where savagery was the norm, and man's inhumanity to man was on daily display. Where the only law was the firepower one carried and the only hope was for a swift death followed by an endless sleep.

Meat was born at the height of the Zombie apocalypse, upon his birth his mother took one look at him and pronounced him meat. He grew up in a reality where they were all nothing more than walking bags of meat, so in his mind the name fit perfectly.

Window, his best friend, is very quiet, and ever watchful with a quick hand. To him friendship was the most important thing in the world. His family had perished in the ruthless times after the awakening and his temperament had been forged in the fire that took them from him. His friends were all he had left so he watched over them with a jealously protective nature strengthened by that sense of invulnerability all boys his age embraced. Further backed up by a quick hand with the .44 he'd used to kill the men who had raped his mother.

The remaining members of this quartet are Einstein who had been born within the compound at Bremo Bluff after the apocalypse. Having spent his life behind the fence he had no first hand knowledge of how brutal the world has become. As his name implies he's the smartest in the group, as well the most innocent. While that innocence helps to soften the ruthlessness of the other three, it will serve to drive a wedge into their friendship. On this trip he will discover just how terrifying the world beyond the fence has become.

The final member is Billie-Bob, one half of a set of twins who appeared outside the fence several years earlier. Your typical class clown whose mouth runs a mile a minute, if he isn't sharing overused jokes about Zombies, he's whispering the passages from a book his mother used to read to him when he was younger, a chant that provides him with a degree of comfort. Billie-Bob is unique in that at the tender age of eleven he has proven himself to be a natural born sniper with a willingness to use his special talent to protect his friends.

The trail they follow leads them East, into the Dreadlands, from which those who had dared venture in the past never returned. There are places where the fabric of reality is at its thinnest. Where nightmare creatures roam the shadowy corners of a well lit world. Existing at the edge of man consciousness, an indistinct blur briefly glimpsed in our peripheral vision. Their presence felt on a primitive level that reached our consciousness as a faint whisper in the night. Their touch the soft caress of chilled fingers dancing along the spine like the half remembered terrors lurking within the childhood memories of every person who had ever feared the night.

In Richmond they will be confronted by a savage cult of children who worship a creature of the night. A nightmare being that feasted upon the fear of its victims, delving into their innermost secrets, revealing half forgotten terrors that lay like a rotting carcass at the heart of their souls. For these creatures, that were once considered nightmare imaginings, are now awake in a world where the population that once served as their food source has been reduced.

Awake and very, very, hungry.

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About the Author
Richard was born in Frostburg, Maryland, in the winter of '58' and currently lives eight miles away. A five-year stint with the military allowed him to see what he wanted of the world. Married with four grown children and eight grandchildren, he and his wife provide a home to four pets that are spoiled beyond rotten.

In addition to writing daily he works a full time job in retail, and piddles around in his wood-shop making one mess after another when time permits.

Richard can be found online at:

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B006MF80VI

Facebook: http://www.facebook/RichardSchiver

Follow Richard on Twitter: @RichardSchiver

Written in Blood is Richard's personal blog where he shares his thoughts on writing, and whatever else that might strike his fancy. http://www.richardschiver.com

He can be contacted directly at rschiver@gmail.com and would be delighted to hear from you.

Sign up to be notified of publishing updates and new releases as they become available. He promises to never share your contact info, nor will he swamp your inbox with unnecessary crap. He’ll also toss in a free copy of White Walker when you sign up.

Author Pages

Fridays 5 with Aimee McNeil

Aimee McNeil was born and raised in Nova Scotia, Canada, where she continues to live today with her husband and three children.

Alluring Song is her first novel, which she presented to the world after a lifetime of dreaming. Aimee writes fantasy because she does not like to be confined within the boundaries of reality. Other interests include reading, painting, and enjoying every moment with her family.

1.) When did you first get serious about writing?

A.) Writing has always been a strong part of who I am. Whenever I had downtime I would curl up with a pen and paper and let the words flow. Even as a small girl I would daydream and create stories. Writing has always had a natural pull on me. Though, it was not until January 2015 that I decided to take the next step with my writing and present it to the world. I finally decided to let go of the lingering doubt and put myself out there. I no longer feared rejection and wanted to know if my words would be enjoyed by others.

2.) What is the hardest part for you about writing?

A.) Finding the time to write is definitely the hardest part about writing for me. I am a homemaker and stay-at-home mom to three wonderful children who are very actively involved in a many number of activities. Life is busy and some days will pass me by and I regretfully do not get a chance to sit down with my writing. My family always takes center stage in my life and sometimes claims the majority of my time. I know that because writing is so important to me I always find myself back in front of my keyboard before long.



 3.) How did you feel upon publication of your first completed project?

A.) Wow!! I was completely overwhelmed with emotions. To have a final, polished product available to the world that represented the many hours, days, and months of work that it took to get to that point ... incredible. It also made me feel vulnerable because it was a big piece of my heart that I was finally brave enough to share. So far I have only published my first book, Alluring Song, but I am very hopeful that I will find success and be able to continue publishing more books in the future.

4.) What is more important to you, story, or character? Why?

A.) I don't know if I see either the story or characters as more important than the other because they go hand in hand. A good story needs solid characters and vise versa. I put equal importance in developing my characters as I do the story line. My characters grow and develop as the story is created. The characters and the story have to work together to achieve a successful finished product.

5.) What is a typical day like in your world?

A.) I wear many hats throughout the run of a day, which can be very unpredictable when it comes to having children. I struggle to find balance every day because it is impossible to complete my to do list that is always endless. Now that my children all attend school and when I am not running errands, cleaning, preparing meals, tackling the never-ending pile of laundry, or at the grocery store I revel in those few precious hours that I have the house to myself to sit down with a cup of tea and write my heart out. I make the most of my time until the hour of beautiful disaster arrives and my little ones come jumping off the bus and barreling down the driveway completely famished and desperately needing to be fed. After I feed their hungry, talkative little mouths I open their lunch bags to discover that they barely touched their lunches that I spent great consideration packing the night before ... ugh. Then the running around for extracurricular activities which can fall before or after dinner depending upon the day and planning supper accordingly so we can all sit down together and eat. Once my children are tucked in for the night and everything is organized for the next day is when my husband and I enjoy some time to ourselves, this is where I usually sneak in some reading or on the rare occasion get to do a bit more writing but usually by that time of night I'm running on fumes so my creative thoughts are not as forthcoming. Though my imagination always kicks into gear in the middle of the night! Ahhh...sleep, the wonderful, sometimes elusive luxury.

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All Roads Lead to Terror: Chapter Ten

The horrors of the past meet the brutality of the present

Chapter 10

Gathered around the warmth of the wood stove they dined on cans of Spam Maria had retrieved from the basement. They were outdated by a number of years, as was everything else in this world, yet they had been stored in a cool dry place so there was little chance of getting sick. Over time their bodies had adapted to the changes forced upon them anyway, making outdated food less of a danger than it might have been, and a welcome change from the steady diet of rabbit, squirrel, and deer.

“So where are you guys from?” Maria said.

“A place just down the road a piece, past the bend in the river, you know, on the right,” Billie-Bob said, drawing a look from Meat that warned him to be careful.. “I’m not telling her anything important.”

“What’s wrong?” Maria said, glancing from Billie-Bob to Meat with a worried expression.

“They’re all a bunch of old ladies where we come from, always afraid someone will find them. They’re as bad as my brother.” Billie-Bob said.

“You have a brother? What’s his name? Is he older? Younger? I’m sorry I haven’t had anyone to talk to in so long.” Maria said.

“His name’s Bobbie, and he’s the same age as me.”

“And you’re Billie-Bob, right?” Maria said, a look of confusion slowly creeping into her expression.

“Just Billie, they call me Billie-Bob because me and my brother are twins and when we were growing up we’d trade places to confuse people, everyone calls us both Billie-Bob now.”

“It all sounds so confusing.”

“How long has your dad been gone?” Meat said.

“He left a year or so ago I think, I’m not really sure, we’ve been hiding here for such a long time. I’m sorry, I didn’t catch your name.”

“They call me Meat,” he said as he extended his hand, hoping to once again hold hers.

“Why such an odd name?” Maria said, then stopped, “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to offend you.”

“It’s all right.”

“It was only you and your Mom?” Gregory said.

“Since last year I think, Jamie, he was my younger brother, he came down with a fever and died, we buried him,” here she faltered as the memory overwhelmed her. Billie-Bob rested his hand on her back and she turned in her seat to bury her face against his shoulder.

Her actions sparked a touch of jealousy in Meat who had sat on her other side patiently listening to her and Billie-Bob. Everyone became quiet as Maria fought to get her emotions under control. Window had remained quiet throughout, eating when Meat instructed him to do so, a part of the group in only a physical sense. It seemed like he was off in a world all his own.

Meat noticed Einstein watching Window very closely.

He knew what was wrong and needed to get it out in the open as soon as possible if they were to be successful, much less survive what they intended to do. It wouldn’t do them any good as a group to have two of their members angry at one another. Then there was the question of Maria and what to do with her. He didn’t really want her to come along. Not with what they planned to do. He’d only allowed Gregory to accompany them as he had lost his wife and daughter to that roving band of savage children, his motives for coming along were pretty obvious.

There would be no survivors, that decision had been made before they even left the compound, it was one of the stipulation the council had put on their little trip. They were to leave no survivors who could reveal the location of Bremo Bluff.  It was simply a matter of survival and the presence of that group, especially since they now knew what lay at Bremo Bluff, meant they would have to be destroyed.

“Is anything wrong?” Meat said.

“More than you realize,” Einstein said as his gaze drifted over to Meat. His brow was wrinkled in anger, reminding Meat of their first meeting in the classes they attended when Einstein was eight. It was during recess and Einstein had been cornered by two of the larger boys in class, even after an apocalypse some things never changed, bullies would always go after those they perceived as being weaker, though in this new reality weakness was sometimes characterized by an unwillingness to do what was necessary to survive.

They had been learning to raise rabbits, the three R’s, reading, writing and arithmetic, had been replaced in this new reality by resource, raise, and re-purpose. Rabbit meat was good and with the animal’s ability to reproduce it had become a staple of the community. They had reached the last lesson, harvesting, and the instructor had shown them how to quickly and efficiently break the rabbit’s neck to minimize its suffering.

It was at this point Einstein hesitated, having become quite attached to his charges; he was unable to bring himself to kill the animals he’d spent the past three months caring for. The two biggest boys in the group had no problem with harvesting and quickly dispatched their own small herds before moving among their classmates dispatching what the others hesitated to kill. When they came to Einstein he tried to stop them, his actions angering the boys who took a great deal of pleasure in the suffering of Einstein’s animals, dragging out its death as the rabbit screamed in agony.

A rabbit’s scream is something that stays with a person, a cry reminiscent of a baby’s squall. A chilling sound that stirred old memories that were better left undisturbed as the image of that lone door at the end of a shadowy hallway invaded Meat’s mind.

Einstein had thrown himself at his tormentors in a flurry of fists that were as ineffective as was his ability to do what was needed to survive. The teacher intervened, an old man who had less patience for Einstein’s feelings than for those of the rabbits he’d been teaching them to raise.

At the time Meat and Window had been hanging out together since Window’s arrival. Naturally gravitating to one another, two lost souls seeking confirmation that they were not alone in this world. Their paths to The Bluffs, while somewhat the same, were as different as the night and day. Two years older than Einstein they had already taken the class for raising rabbits and currently oversaw several small herds they’d started from rabbits they had captured beyond the fence. In the small school yard they came upon Einstein cornered by his tormentors. His ferocity in the face of such odds impressing even Window.

Einstein simply refused to give up. With a busted lip, one eye nearly swollen closed, and blood from his nose smearing the front of his shirt he had stood his ground. Holding his fists up in a vain attempt to defend himself as they pummeled him at their leisure.

“Don’t seem fair two against one,” Window said as he came up behind them.

“This ain’t none of your business, Window,” Franklin, the oldest said. His father was currently serving on the council and from the way Franklin acted you’d think it was he who was serving. The fact that his family had been among the founders of this outpost further added to his sense of entitlement.

“I’m making it my business,” Window said.

“I don’t need no help,” Einstein said through tears of anger and frustration.

“Could have fooled me.”

Franklin and his friend turned their attention from Einstein to Window, two big boys who were confident they had the upper hand. Meat saw the look in Window’s eyes, a wild glee, a barely restrained rage that flashed in greedy anticipation. Faster than they could react Window drove into Franklin’s friend, hyper extending his knee with a well placed kick right beneath the kneecap, followed up with a one two combination that doubled him over and set him up for a crushing uppercut that sent him falling to the ground like a tree felled in the forest.

It happened so fast Franklin barely had time to react. One moment he and his friend were towering over what they considered easy pickings. The next second his friend was lying at his feet unconscious while Window stood silently in front of him, his hands on his hips as he gazed up at him with quiet eyes.

Franklin held up his hands as he backed away from Window, “I don’t want no parts of this,” he said.

“That should even things up for you,” Window said before he turned on the ball of one foot and walked away.

With a smile Einstein advanced on Franklin, who once he was alone, suddenly realized just how vulnerable he really was.

The memory receded as Meat once more came face to face with the problem that was growing within his own ranks. Twice now Window and Einstein had clashed over differences. At the barn Window had been right and Einstein was wrong. But now there appeared to be a new problem.

“It’s like he’s trying to get me killed,” Einstein said.

Window jumped to his feet and walked to the back door. His gaze fixed on the forest behind the house.

“What’s wrong?’ Maria said looking up from Billie-Bob’s shoulder as Window brushed past her. 

Window pushed through the back door and raced down the steps into the backyard. He ran across the yard, vanishing into the forest behind the house.

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New Release: Flowers in a Dumpster

Click on cover for more info or to order.

Seventeen Tales to Frighten and Enlighten

The world is full of beauty and mystery. In these 17 tales, Gunnells will take you on a journey through landscapes of light and darkness, rapture and agony, hope and fear.

A post-apocalyptic landscape where it is safer to forget who you once were... An unusual support group comprised of cities dying of a common illness... A porn star that has opened himself up to demonic forces... Two men battling each other to the death who discover they have much in common... A woman whose masochistic tendencies may be her boyfriend's ruin... A writer whose new friendship proves a danger to his marriage and his sanity.

Let Gunnells guide you through these landscapes where magnificence and decay co-exist side by side.

Come pick a bouquet from these Flowers in a Dumpster.

About the Author:

Mark Allan Gunnells loves to tell stories. He has since he was a kid, penning one-page tales that were Twilight Zone knockoffs. He likes to think he has gotten a little better since then. He has been lucky enough to work with some wonderful publishers such as Apex Publishing, Bad Moon Books, Journalstone, Evil Jester Press, Etopia, Sideshow Press, and Gallows Press. He loves reader feedback, and above all he loves telling stories. He lives in Greer, SC, with his fiance Craig A. Metcalf.

All Roads Lead to Terror: Chapter Nine

The horrors of the past meet the brutality of the present

Chapter 9

Drops of rain clung to the windows, chilling the glass and forming a frame of condensation around the perimeter of each pane. Beyond the window the sky was full of dark clouds churning in a volatile way, almost touching the ground, as rain pelted the roof above their heads with a steady drone. He knew this place, had learned to read within its wall, it was the classroom at Bremo Bluff.

What am I doing here?

The children had left for the day and he was alone with Anna who was two years his senior, helping her clean up. It was odd that he had been assigned to help out in the school instead of with one of the scavenging crews embarking on their varied searches beyond the fence. 

But he wasn’t complaining.

It was warm and he had the added pleasure of working with Anna who had caught his eye several weeks earlier, emerging from her bulky winter clothing like a beautiful butterfly after a long harsh winter. Being inside with her was better than being out there in the cold rain. Here he was warm and dry, the warmth enveloping him in a comforting embrace that lulled him into a sense of security he’d never really known. It was so warm in fact that Anna was wearing a pair of shorts and a halter-top.

A faint yell intruded upon the scene, coming from the darkened hallway beyond the door of the classroom. Meat glanced in that direction as a cold chill whispered down his spine and he thought briefly that he should go help whoever was yelling.

Anna crossed the room towards him, stopping as she touched his arm, standing within the arc of his legs that were splayed out before him, one bare thigh resting gently against his own. Even thought he wore pants the sensation of her flesh against his was electrifying, sending jolts of delicious anticipation coursing through his body, deepening that feeling of secure warmth that enveloped him. Carnal thoughts whispered through his mind as he hesitantly reached out to touch one of her breasts encased in the thin fabric of the halter-top.

The scream came again, filled with terror, a man crying out for aid. His gaze was drawn to the door where he saw Window watching him through the crack in the door that stood ajar.

“You said you would help,” Window said

Meat returned his attention to Anna who stood before him without any clothes. “It is so hot in here,” she said as she fanned her face with her hand, “wouldn’t you feel more comfortable without all these clothes?”

He didn’t question the how or why of what was happening, buoyed as he was upon a volatile sea of yearning. Meat nodded as he tried to look at her secret place, shrouded in shadows his gaze could not penetrate. He’d seen naked women before while growing up, some dead, some alive, and others stuck in the hell in between. None of them had made him feel like Anna did.

The sound of something slapping against the glass came from the row of windows along the wall to his left. He looked in that direction, a horde of Zombies had gathered beyond the window,  slapping uselessly against the glass with melting flesh. Blood smearing the glass, and the rain washing it away in some places, the image overwhelming his desire, leaving him cold and lifeless inside.

“Don’t you love me any more?” Anna said, her voice low, grating, a guttural sound that came from somewhere deep in her throat.

She had changed, her once soft flesh now hard and gray, mottled with black spots where the decay was advancing. She grasped his head in her hands, her cracked nails raking against the flesh of his cheeks. She opened her mouth as she leaned forward, rotting teeth like the slats of a fence behind her twisted lips, and he pushed her away with his foot.

“Shoot her,” Einstein yelled, his voice coming from some distance away.

“Shoot her,” Einstein screamed, his shout driving away the dream and Meat opened his eyes on a dark world.

For a moment he was disoriented, unsure of where he was. The memory of finding the old house filtered through his mind, mingling with the memory of another old house that lay  shrouded by the shadowy wisps of terror that sent his heart racing as it squeezed his windpipe in an icy grasp . He sat up, glancing over at Billie Bob and Gregory who lay to his right, breathing in that steady rhythm of deep sleep. From his left came the sound of a struggle.

“Shoot her dammit,” Einstein shouted from somewhere in the depths of the house and Meat jumped to his feet. Though a fire was burning in the stove the room was cold, the night sky beyond the kitchen window alight with a full moon partially hidden behind dense clouds that still carried the promise of rain. Crossing the kitchen he came to the open basement door and in the shadowy depths below he saw the light of a candle softly illuminating the end of a couch on which Einstein sat. Only he wasn’t sitting. He had crawled halfway up the back of the couch, struggling with something outside of Meat’s view.

Meat took the steps two at a time, his revolver in his hand as he entered the finished basement to find Einstein struggling for his life with an older woman who had obviously turned. He drew a bead on the side of the woman’s head, a part of him wondering why Window was just sitting there, his gun in his hand, staring up at the woman with rapt attention.

The sound of the shot was deafening in the confines of the basement, that violent roar amplified by the close walls, leaving a ringing in his ears. The round hit the woman in the side of the head, high and to the right, a spray of blood marking its entry point. The soft nosed bullet expanded as it penetrated her skull, shattering bone, and slicing off the top portion of her skull that landed on the floor at Window’s feet. Instead of dropping instantly she folded up slowly, her knees buckling as her motor controls were cut and she rolled backwards onto the floor to gaze unseeing at the ceiling as the last of her bastardized life drained away.

“What the fuck’s wrong with you man,” Einstein said as he turned to confront Window, his voice tight with emotion, “why didn’t you shoot her?”

Window turned his head slowly to look at Einstein, a faraway expression in his eyes, as if he wasn’t really there.

Footsteps sounded from above as Gregory, followed by Billie Bob, crowded down the steps.

“What happened?” Gregory said, spotting the dead zombie lying on the floor at Window’s feet.

“I heard a noise in the basement,” Einstein said, “Window and I came down to see what it was and she attacked us.”

“And Window killed her,” Billie Bob said.

Einstein shook his head and pointed at Meat as he pushed himself off the couch to stand on shaking legs. Window remained where he was, his gaze fixed on the corpse at his feet.

Gregory crossed to the corpse and knelt down along side it. “It hasn’t been that long ago that she’s turned. There might be others.” He said before pushing himself to his feet.

“Are there anymore of them?” Meat said as he crossed to the darkened hallway and peered down its shadowy length.

“I think she was the only one,” Einstein said, “why didn’t you shoot her?” he finished, swiveling his head to look at Window with an angry expression, “are you trying to get me killed?”

“We better check the rest of the basement,” Meat said and turned back to the hallway. Einstein and Gregory followed as Billie Bob remained with Window who had yet to move from the couch.

Three doors greeted them as they moved into the shadowy depths of the hallway, one on the right, another opposite, and one at the end of the hallway. All three were closed. At the first door Meat turned the knob and pushed it open slowly, Einstein was behind him and held up the candle so they could see what awaited them. The stench of a sewer greeted them as the door opened upon a small bathroom. It was obvious the toilet had not been flushed in some time.

Stepping back he closed the door, not wanting to spend any more time than necessary in that tiny room. He turned to the door opposite the first. In that room they found a bed whose surface was covered with blankets and clothing. The sheets were filthy and looked like they had been used recently as they carried the sour scent of an unwashed body. Dirty clothes were piled against the opposite wall. The closet door stood open, empty, a lonely wire clothes hanger hanging from the closet rod.

Back in the hallway they cautiously approached the last room. If there were any more zombies left they’d be hidden behind this door whose surface was marred by what looked like bloody smears. Taking a deep breath Meat turned the knob and leaned into the door pushing it open. In this room was more of the same, another bed with a nest of clothes and blankets, more dirty clothes piled against the far wall. Like the other room all of the clothes belonged to a woman.

As he turned to leave he heard the unmistakable sound of someone moaning. Stepping back into the room he rounded the bed, the muzzle of his pistol aimed at the floor as he approached the pile of clothes. He probed them with his foot, coming into contact with something hard yet yielding.  He kicked aside the clothes to uncover a person crouching on their hands and knees, their long hair hanging to the floor as they shook with fear.

“It’s okay,” Meat said as he knelt down, “I’m not going to hurt you.”

She was a young girl, fourteen, possibly fifteen years old, and she lifted her head to look at him with terror filled eyes. Her face was dirty, her eyes haunted as they darted left and right.

“SSSsssshhhhh,” she said holding a finger to her lips.

“It’s okay, you’re safe now,” Meat said.

She shook her head as she looked over Meat’s shoulder, “she’s out there waiting for me.”

Meat shook his head, “who’s out there?”

“My mom.” The girl’s eyes widened with remembered terror. “She kept trying to get in but I wouldn’t let her.”

“What happened to her?” Meat said, trying to keep her talking until he could get her to come out.

“She tripped down the steps in the dark, I think she broke her neck.”

“Is there anybody else here?”

“Daddy left a long time ago, he went to get water and never came back. Jamie died last year but wouldn’t stay in the ground, he kept digging himself out, and coming to the backdoor, pounding on it for us to let him in.”  She clamped her hands over her ears as she relived the memory of that incessant knocking.

“He’s gone,” Meat said, “take my hand, it’s safe.” He held out his hand for her.

She reached out hesitantly as her brow furrowed with a sudden thought, “are you real?”

Meat smiled, “I certainly hope so.”

As her hand came into contact with his own he felt an electric spark of desire race the length of his arm. It reminded him of his recently vacated dream..

She was, after all, a girl. Beneath all the grime and dirty clothes she was a female, and Meat’s hormones surged in response to her proximity as that new, yet familiar stirring came from his loins. The purple-headed bastard was waking up and as he stood up he quickly adjusted himself to make room. It didn’t feel right referring to it by that name, but his limited experience with the opposite sex left him with little real knowledge, forcing him to fall back upon familiar schoolboy jargon.

The adults had tried to teach them about sex and babies, but the greater needs of the survival of the compound left little time for such things. It was after all a natural process, and the adults felt that each of them would in time figure things out; it was how it had been done since the days of the caveman.

Meat was suddenly very conscious of how dirty he was. They were all grimy, every last one of them. Water’s scarcity in this new age had caused a monumental shift in thinking towards ones own personal hygiene. While they might be making drinking water in the Bluff, it still had to be rationed to make sure everyone got their share. Of course the outlet lines of the steam turbines at the power plant offered a nearly limitless supply of hot clean water, and the proximity of the river, permitted many of the inhabitants to bathe regularly. Yet the fact remained he was fourteen going on fifteen, and one thing that hadn’t changed with the awakening, was an adolescent’s disdain for bathing. The only difference now was that no one was riding them to get a bath everyday.

She stood unsteadily on her feet, the flickering light of the candle casting strange shadows on the walls around them, and she jerked her head left and right trying to catch a glimpse of whatever was lurking in her peripheral vision. She smiled, revealing a row of fairly straight, yet dirty teeth, that to Meat was like a ray of sunshine suddenly bursting through a dreary overcast day.

“Who do we have here?” Gregory said from the doorway as Meat led the girl across the room. It was then he realized he’d never asked the girl her name.

“I’m Maria,” she said as she followed Meat into the hallway where Einstein and Billie Bob were waiting. They stepped back as Meat led her into the family room where Window was still sitting on the couch with the dead woman at his feet.

“Mom,” Maria said. She pulled her hand from Meat’s grasp and crossed to the dead woman, dropping to her knees at her side as tears rolled down her cheeks. She ran her hand along her mother’s cheek, her other hand covering her mouth as she bent her head and cried silently.

Meat crossed to Window and knelt down next to him, placing his hand on Window’s knee as he looked into his eyes. What he saw frightened him. Window had always been the strong quiet one in the group. It was a quality Meat had grown accustomed to so he wasn’t entirely sure how to proceed when he realized Window wasn’t really with them. He might have been physically sitting on the couch, but mentally he’d become lost in his memories.

Meat glanced at the dead woman to his left. Maria bent over and gently kissed her mother’s cheek, then wiping her eyes, she pushed herself to her feet.

“Is he all right?” She said, motioning to Window.

“I think so, come on Window, let’s go upstairs,” Meat said as he stood up and took Window’s hand. Window followed them willingly enough and as the false light of the approaching dawn filled the overcast sky they gathered in the kitchen.

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A Date Which Will Live in Infamy

74 Years Ago, Today

The attack on Pearl Harbor was a surprise military strike by the Imperial Japanese Navy against the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, in the United States Territory of Hawaii, on the morning of December 7, 1941. The attack led to the United States' entry into World War II.

Japan intended the attack as a preventive action to keep the U.S. Pacific Fleet from interfering with military actions the Empire of Japan planned in Southeast Asia against overseas territories of the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and the United States. There were near-simultaneous Japanese attacks on the U.S.-held Philippines, Guam and Wake Island and on the British Empire in Malaya, Singapore, and Hong Kong. The attacks - from troop landings at Kota Bharu, Malaya, to the air attacks ranging geographically from Hong Kong to Pearl Harbor - took place over seven hours.

The attack commenced at 7:48 a.m. Hawaiian Time. The base was attacked by 353 Japanese fighter planes, bombers, and torpedo planes in two waves, launched from six aircraft carriers. All eight U.S. Navy battleships were damaged, with four sunk. All but Arizona were later raised, and six were returned to service and went on to fight in the war. The Japanese also sank or damaged three cruisers, three destroyers, an anti-aircraft training ship, and one minelayer. 188 U.S. aircraft were destroyed; 2,403 Americans were killed and 1,178 others were wounded. Important base installations such as the power station, shipyard, maintenance, and fuel and torpedo storage facilities, as well as the submarine piers and headquarters building (also home of the intelligence section) were not attacked. Japanese losses were light: 29 aircraft and five midget submarines lost, and 64 servicemen killed. One Japanese sailor, Kazuo Sakamaki, was captured.

The attack came as a profound shock to the American people and led directly to the American entry into World War II in both the Pacific and European theaters. The following day, December 8, the United States declared war on Japan. Domestic support for non-interventionism, which had been fading since the German attack on France in 1940, disappeared. Clandestine support of the United Kingdom (e.g., the Neutrality Patrol) was replaced by active alliance. Subsequent operations by the U.S. prompted Germany and Italy to declare war on the U.S. on December 11, which was reciprocated by the U.S. the same day.

From the 1950s, several writers alleged that parties high in the U.S. and British governments knew of the attack in advance and may have let it happen (or even encouraged it) with the aim of bringing America into war. However, this advance-knowledge conspiracy theory is rejected by mainstream historians.

There were numerous historical precedents for unannounced military action by Japan. However, the lack of any formal warning, particularly while negotiations were still apparently ongoing, led President Franklin D. Roosevelt to proclaim December 7, 1941, "a date which will live in infamy". Because the attack happened without a declaration of war and without explicit warning, the attack on Pearl Harbor was judged by the Tokyo Trials to be a war crime.

All Roads Lead to Terror: Chapter Eight

The horrors of the past meet the brutality of the present

Chapter 8

They fanned out across the small living room, carefully checking each room of the house until they were confident they were alone. In the back of the house they found the kitchen, and against the back wall of the screened in back porch they came upon an old wood fire cook stove that was still operational.

It was obvious someone had used the stove sometime in the recent past, as ashes were still present in the firebox. On the flat surface a cast iron skillet, its bottom coated by a thin layer of old grease, sat abandoned.

Meat sniffed the pan, noting how the grease was still relatively fresh, and as his eyes scanned the small kitchen he noticed signs that someone had recently used the kitchen as a shelter. He hoped it had been someone passing through, not someone who was using the house as a shelter and would return any moment to find them invading their space. 

Situations like that had a tendency to spiral out of control rather quickly with gunplay entering the equation more often than not. Anymore it was easier to just shoot your problem than deal with it in a rational manner. Compromise had given way to a wild west attitude.

In no time they had built a small fire that provided warmth and heat for cooking. In the cast iron skillet they prepared a feast of venison stew from the deer jerky they all carried, boiling it down as best they could in rainwater. Adding potatoes and carrots from the garden they maintained year round, along with several spring onions they’d picked up along the way.

Though they were young they had been taught at an early age to fend for themselves. They gave little thought to the fact that what they were doing would have been unheard of fourteen years before, unless they belonged to a Boy Scout troop, or some other wilderness preparatory organization. Of course each of them would have been equally lost in that world of instant gratification where a fast food restaurant occupied nearly every corner.

With their bellies full they sat around the stove as night descended and the rain continued to tap against the roof in a steady rhythm that served to lull them into a false sense of security. Without posting a guard they soon nodded off to sleep.

Einstein was the first to stir, it had become colder, and he awakened to find the fire out. As he was starting another, the rest of the group sleeping around him, he heard the sound of movement coming from beneath their feet. Window stirred on his right as he turned his ear to the house, straining to hear more.

A distinct thump came from below them.

“What was that?” Window said, struggling to sit up, “whose on guard?”

“Ssshhh.” Einstein put his finger to his lips to quiet him. To Window’s right Meat and Billie Bob slept soundly, their breathing coming in that steady rhythm indicative of deep sleep. Beyond them, curled up next to the wall, lost in his dreams of what once was, Gregory lay wrapped in a dirty blanket.

The thump came again and Window pushed himself up from his seat. He leaned over to wake Meat but Einstein stopped him. “It’s probably nothing, I’ll go check it out.”

“I’ll come with you,” Window said as he strapped on his holster and checked the chambers of his revolver.

Lighting a candle from the fire he’d started, Einstein led the way, holding the candle high, his hand cupped to protect the flame as they cautiously crossed the kitchen floor. The sound of movement came from beneath their feet.

“It’s in the basement,” Einstein said. He reached a door and opened it to reveal a small pantry, its shelves bare. Moving to the next door he opened it to reveal a yawning black pit. From the inky well of darkness came the sound of movement and Einstein knelt down on the top step to try and shed some light into the basement. At the very edge of that faint pool of illumination they saw a couch sitting against the wall. The basement was finished, and what they were looking at had once served as a family room for those who had occupied the house in the past.

Followed closely by Window, Einstein carefully moved down the steps. Reaching the bottom they saw the entire room in the fain glow of the candle. Two easy chairs occupied the wall next to the couch, across from it stood a massive flat panel television and on the rack next to it were several pieces of recording equipment along with two game consoles. A thick layer of dust covered everything, and the wires connecting it all together had been chewed clean through leaving nubs protruding from the rear of the components.

To the left of the easy chairs a narrow hallway vanished into the emptiness that was crowding around the small pool of light provided by the candle. The sound of movement came from those shadowy depths and Einstein glanced back at Window with a worried expression on his face.

“What’s wrong?” Window said.

“I don’t think I want to go down there.”

“I’m right behind you.”

“That’s what worries me.”

“Go on, you’ve brought us this far, we might as well finish.”

“You’re right,” Einstein said before turning back to the hallway. As he moved forward the leading edge of the faint light cast by the candle illuminated the floor. Just inside the hallway a pair of bare feet was exposed, the soles flat against the floor, the nails cracked and jagged, the flesh gray with death.

Einstein stopped, his heart climbing into his throat as he lifted the candle higher to expose more of the person standing there. Her dress was filthy and torn, the front stained with a large swath of dried blood that was black in the candlelight.

She lurched forward, drawn by the light, her hands stretched out before her as she stumbled forward. With a moan of fear Einstein stumbled back into Window, knocking him back against the couch, forcing Window to sit down as Einstein plopped down beside him.

“Shoot her, dammit,” Einstein shouted.

Window clawed his pistol from its holster and lifted the muzzle, aiming at the woman’s head.

“Shoot her,” Einstein screamed as he struggled to back away from the woman, clawing his way up the back of the sofa, the flame of the candle fluttering in response to his movement, sending shadows dancing across the walls as shouts and pounding footsteps came from upstairs. Footsteps pounded pounded down the steps. Einstein’s yell had obviously awakened the others.

Window sat stationary next to Einstein’s squirming figure, the pistol forgotten in his hand, his eyes fixed on the woman’s face as a single word formed on his lips.


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Fridays 5 with Casey Bottono

Casey Bottono is an author of poetry and essays on the topic of personal growth after loss. She has a wealth of experience in this area, which led to her starting Navigating Cyberloss, an initiative for people who are grieving the loss of online friends to gain support and understanding from one another. Most recently, an essay of hers on the subject of 'Dealing With The Loss Of An Online Friendship' appeared in Alice's Law: Honoring Lost Loved Ones and Finding Deeper Meaning by Lauren Muscarella (Trauma to Art Publishing, 2015) When she is not writing, Casey is most often found with a guitar in hand singing original songs.

1.) When did you first get serious about writing?

A.) I found my writing voice in 2007, following the death of a dear friend. Poetry was a way for me to understand what had just happened, and take stock of my feelings. Much as I sometimes wanted to run, I found that I couldn't stop pouring heart and soul into this creative work.

2.) What is the hardest part for you about writing?

A.) The most difficult part for me at the moment is getting so far into a project and finding something else I have to research. I am writing a novel at the moment about a sister and her brother, who has Angelman Syndrome. This is similar to epilepsy, with cognitive and physical impairment thrown in. Every five sentences, there is something new that I have to find out about. It's a wonderful and terrible journey of discovery.

3.) How did you feel upon publication of your first completed project?

A.) The publication of Stones in the Road: Poems of Grief and Growth helped me to close two separate but interrelated chapters in my life. I'd struggled to raise my head following the 2011 death of my friend Kim as a result of complications from anorexia. I worked with a very good therapist and finally found my way out in August 2014. The place I ended up in was as good as any to begin to compile what would become Stones.

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4.) What is more important to you, story, or character? Why?

A.) Because I find it difficult to visualise my characters, I am often concerned that the reader does not get enough of a sense of them. Therefore, I have to say that story is far more important. If I can communicate a story effectively, then I have the reader emotionally invested in the piece of writing. The original short story version of my novel was very well received on the basis of the story that I had constructed.

5.) What is a typical day like in your world?

A.)  Right now, I am working very hard on completing my final project for my MA in Professional Writing from Falmouth University, in Cornwall, England. It's a great ride, because I actually get to work on the novel I love at the same time.

So, I'll start the day with getting the compulsive Internet browsing out of the way, and then begin some research. Once I have researched enough, I will either begin a new scene or continue where I left off. I'm so deep into the process at the moment that I don't even have set chapters. I'd anticipate that the final version of Wheels will run in the region of 75-80,000 words, suitable for a YA audience.

Then lunch, and if I'm on a roll, more writing. I don't like to set working hours, because I would feel as though I was locked into a schedule.

Author links:

More information as well as social media links can be found on Casey's website: www.caseybottono.com

Goodreads author page: www.goodreads.com/caseybottono

New Release: Dragons, Droids & Doom

From Fantasy Scroll Magazine comes:

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Wanna date a dragon? How about defend yourself in court with an orc as your lawyer? Or maybe you want to just sit in your loft and have a couple beers with your imaginary friend, or follow Merlin and his final days as he fights to stay alive.

No seriously, what if your girlfriend’s skin was stolen by a hag?

Or if you found sheet music to a song to end the world…what would you do?

Dragons, Droids & Doom: Year One is a collection of all the stories published online by Fantasy Scroll Magazine’s in its first year. It includes a wide range of speculative short stories from fantasy to science fiction to horror. Some stories deal with death, others may leave you laughing to death. It’s all here, and it’s fantastic.

Take a look; you won’t be disappointed. You will find names that you surely recognize such as Mike Resnick, Ken Liu, Piers Anthony, and Cat Rambo, but you will also find up-and-coming writers and even writers whose very first stories are found between the pages of this anthology. There's a mix of sub-genre stories that will keep you reading through the end.

Fantasy Scroll Magazine, who provided the stories for this anthology, is a bi-monthly publication featuring science fiction, fantasy, horror, and paranormal short fiction from speculative writers
from around the world. The magazine was launched in late 2013, and after a successful Kickstarter campaign, published its first issue in March of 2014. Besides short stories ranging from micro-fiction to full-length, the magazine also includes interviews with authors and editors, reviews of movies, games, and books, and other non-fiction articles. Our mission is to publish high-quality, entertaining, and thought-provoking speculative fiction.

All Roads Lead to Terror: Chapter Seven

The horrors of the past meet the brutality of the present

Chapter 7

 Reaching the outskirts of the small town of Columbia Meat called a halt and they gathered on a slight rise overlooking the town, if it could be called that. Route Six ran through the middle of Columbia which was nothing more than a scattering of houses gathered around two churches and an old train station that had once been listed on the national register of historic places by the National Historical Society.

The society no longer existed, all of its members were either dead, or had become one of the walking dead that still populated parts of the world around them. Their mission had been to preserve what had survived the wrecking ball in man’s pursuit of progress. Unfortunately for them they were unable to survive man’s own inhumanity to man.

Everything was buried beneath an ever-growing mound of a mile a minute, a trailing vine that in the past had seemed to grow faster than it could be cut, earning it its nickname a mile a minute. Across from the station house stood a group of houses gathered around two old churches. One of the spires had fallen either as a result of high winds, vandalism that was still prevalent, or simple neglect.

Everything carried a neglected air. The front lawn of one house was covered by the contents of the house, the furnishings having vanished beneath a sea of that ever present a mile a minute that was threatening to consume the house itself.

“Why do Zombies eat brains with their fingers?”

“I thought they saved the fingers for last?” Gregory answered with a shrug.

“No,” Billie-Bob said with a barely restrained giggle, “they’re not coordinated enough to use utensils.” He finished with a guffaw as he slapped his thigh with his hand. “Do you get it? They don’t know how to use a fork.”

Gregory smiled patiently as Billie-Bob became quiet, resuming his whispered monologue, speaking to himself in a soft voice, the words coming at a staccato, rapid-fire rate. “They roared their terrible roars and gnashed their terrible teeth and rolled their terrible eyes and showed their terrible claws,” He chanted to himself, repeating the same phrase over and over again like a mantra that would protect him.

“Is he always like this?” Gregory said, pointing at Billie-Bob with his thumb.

“Everyday,” Window said with a smile. 

Along the right shoulder, crowded close to route six stood a two-story house that looked like it had once held a business with either a rental, or the owner’s living quarters on the second floor. A balcony on the second floor covered the entire width of the front of the house and hanging from the solid railings were several corpses.

They had obviously been there awhile as all that remained was the mummified torso and head. Beneath each body lay a grisly pile of bones with some of the connecting tissue still intact. Each one had been shot in the head, ensuring that they wouldn’t return for revenge, the blood splatter on the once white wall of the building behind them having faded to a dirty brown color.

Were they one of the missing crews? Meat wondered as he walked by. Scavenging crews had managed to explore all of the points on the compass surrounding Bremo Bluff with the exception of the lands to the East. So far three crews had vanished without a trace in the wilds between the compound and the Atlantic ocean. Earning those unknown areas to the East the name, Dreadlands. 
When Meat first approached the council about going after the children they had been reluctant to give their blessings, content it seemed to mark them off as lost for good. Yet at the same time it was important that they learn what lay to the East, and if it posed a threat to the well being of the compound. A point Meat used to hammer away at their reluctance until they relented, with one caveat. It was a stipulation that even in the present seemed overly brutal to Meat.

There were to be no survivors.

At first he had balked at the requirement, killing those who had taken the children would make them no better that the people they followed, or the roving bands of survivors who took what they wanted killing anyone who got in their way. Yet at the same time he understood their reasoning, so it was with a sense of reluctance that he accepted their terms.

It was also a stipulation he had as yet to share with the others.

As a group they silently walked past the building, even Billie-Bob had grown quiet as the hollow sound of their footsteps on the crumbling pavement echoed from the stillness around them. As they each passed they glanced in the direction of the hanging corpses then cast their eyes down at their feet. Even Billie-Bob, whose ceaseless whispering had become as commonplace as the birds around them, had fallen silent as they passed.

This was real.

Every one of them had seen Zombies, they’d taken shots at them as they gathered beyond the fence at Bremo Bluff. But that fence had served to protect them from the reality of what they faced, keeping them safely encased within the security of the community.

Out here, this far from the security of the fence, the only safety they had was in their numbers, and an ever-watchful nature nurtured by a childhood spoiled by an event beyond their control. They were the children of the apocalypse, survivors hardened by an ever-present death that was no longer hidden away from view as it had been in the past. Since that fateful day in March death had become the norm, an acceptable alternative to what awaited all of them in their final moments.

Moving beyond Columbia they entered what looked like a vast wilderness bisected by the crumbling pavement of route six. Mother Nature had nearly reclaimed what man had taken. Saplings grew from the center of the macadam, their roots cracking the once smooth surface, permitting small brush to emerge. Here and there bare spots of weathered asphalt were the only evidence of the once busy throughway that connected Western Virginia with Richmond.

The rusting hulks of automobiles sat haphazardly where they had been abandoned. The ever present a mile a minute slowly consuming them as weeds grew from their exposed interiors. They dotted the cracked macadam, the shadows beneath them offering refuge to a varied assortment of small animals.

Above them the sky had grown darker as a cool breeze stirred the leaves of the forest around them, speaking to them in its secret voice as the scent of the coming rain was carried upon its currents. Mingling with that refreshing scent was a much darker odor, an earthy fragrance that spoke of things long dead.

“We’re going to have to find shelter for the night,” Meat said.

“Why don’t we go back to Columbia?” Einstein said.

Meat shook his head as a gust of wind threatened to strip his hat from his head, “I want to keep pushing forward, we’ll find something.”

“I hope you’re right.”

With their heads bent to the wind they pushed into the approaching storm as it kicked up around them. Fat raindrops fell from the darkening sky as lightning danced in the distance, its booming voice trailing a few seconds behind. The leaves of the trees around them turned their backs to the wind, a sign that this was going to be a bad one.

Lightning streaked across the sky above their heads, filling the air with an electric tang as the crackling sound of thunder shook them to the marrow of their bones. The deluge had yet to start, but it wouldn’t be long, and Meat scanned the forest ahead for any sign of shelter.

Maybe he should have let them turn back?

Then he saw it, screened by trees on the left side of the road, a ranch style house that sat back from the highway, half hidden behind a front yard that was slowly being reclaimed by the forest around it.

“Up ahead,” he shouted into the wind as the frequency of the falling raindrops intensified. Throwing caution to the wind they ran towards the house, across the lawn where small trees sprouted, and to the front door where they gathered under the small roof that afforded them some protection from the storm. Meat forced the door open and it swung into the shadowy depths of the house as the musty scent of decay greeted them.

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New Release: The Sleeping Serpent

Luna Saint Claire is a costume designer and author residing in Los Angeles with her husband, a philosophy professor. She loves blues rock and Indie music, often setting her Pandora station to Damien Rice. Her personal style can best be described as eclectic bohemian. Though she now enjoys running and yoga, she spent years of her youth in the ballet studio. Her part Native American heritage informs her work as a designer and influences her storytelling.

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Vampires are real. Not the kind with blood and fangs, but rather emotional vampires—the ones who use manipulation and compulsion to seduce. Charming and magnetic, they appear to be perfect—the answer to your prayers. Truth is, they have targeted you.

As arousing as 50 Shades, twisted as Gone Girl, and tortured as Wuthering Heights.

Luna Saint Claire has a loving husband and an enviable career as a Hollywood costume designer. Still, something is gnawing at her. Bored with her conventional and circumscribed existence, she feels herself becoming invisible. When she meets Nico Romero, a charismatic yoga guru, his attentions awaken her passions and desires. Dangerous, but not in a way that scares her, he makes her feel as if anything is possible. Infatuated, she becomes entangled in Nico’s life as he uses his mesmerizing sexuality to manipulate everyone around him in his pursuit of women, wealth, and celebrity.

Immensely erotic and psychologically captivating, The Sleeping Serpent is the compelling story of a woman's obsession with a spellbinding guru and the struggle to reclaim her life. At its heart, it is a painfully beautiful exposition of unconditional love that makes us question what we truly want.

Compelling…a gripping masterful account of the seductive manipulations of a sociopath.

“She realized in an instant that being around him awakened her, stirring the sediment that had long ago settled at the bottom of her well. He made her feel a part of him—of something larger, and somehow more alive.”

Compelled Books