Category Archives: Free Fiction

The Scribe’s Arcanum: Anatomy of an Indie Novel—Wolves of Vengeance Part 1

Note: Since most people are sheltering in place, I figured I’d make my first novel FREE for as long as Amazon lets me. You can get Wolves of Vengeance here. If you read it, and you’re so inclined, I’d love for you to post a review on Amazon. Just a few sentences and whatever star rating you feel it deserves would be perfect. Thanks! 

Back in 2006, I abandoned my first novel. I had spent four long years trying to wrangle that mess of a manuscript into a cohesive whole, and by the time I figured out how to save it—I had a big problem. My skill level at the time was no match for the complexity of the story.  I stepped away from the project.

I decided to develop an idea originally envisioned as a screenplay. 

The seed of that idea came from an incident in high school and the aftermath that would stay with me forever. 

The “stranger comes to town” motif of Stephen King’s novels, along with the “man and woman come together to defeat a great evil while healing themselves in the process” motif, often seen in Dean Koontz novels, inspired my approach to this story.

 

Salem's Lot

Buy Salem’s Lot from Amazon*

Also, the film Flatliners, where Kiefer Sunderland’s character “flatlines” and has a confrontation with the “ghost” of the child he bullied when he was younger, was very influential.

Flatliners

Buy Flatliners on Amazon*

Here’s some background information: 

In 1987, after dealing with bullies in my freshman year, I attended an old school Tae Kwon Do dojang (training hall). Our teacher ran the place like a fight gym. The students were motivated adults, mostly working-class men who liked to beat the crap out of each other for fun. It was a rough tutelage. We maintained military bearing, conditioned ourselves like fighters, and lived for continuous contact sparring practiced every night without safety equipment. 

Within a short time, the fierce reputation of the dojang, along with winning a few school fights, ended the bullying.  

In my senior year, I slacked off a little with my training. Without the constant need to defend myself, I lost my motivation. 

Then providence intervened. 

Without going into the details, I had an altercation with a student. We’ll call him Jack. After the encounter,  he said he would beat me up after school. 

I waited for him in the parking lot, but he never showed. That should have ended it. 

Instead, the next day, a female student asked if Jack and I had fought. I told her he never showed. And then, stupidly, I added: “He must have been too scared to fight me.” 

My comment didn’t allow Jack to save face. I had just been afflicted by the symptoms of foot-in-mouth disease.  My remark made it back to him, and this time he was waiting for me after school. 

We had a standoff and a shouting match. The principle broke it up. Although we threw no punches, we both declared victory. 

Of course, neither of us wanted to fight and is the reason we ended up in a stalemate. But from that point on, I needed to train just in case we ended up throwing down.  I went straight back to hard training at the dojang. Two years later, I would earn a black belt. You can watch the highlights of that test here. Skip to near the end for sparring. 

Jack and I never had words again. We ended up at the same party once, not long after high school, but we kept to ourselves. 

The last time I saw him, he was walking around the downtown area. I was driving my girlfriend’s (now my wife) brand-new car. We made eye contact. That moment seemed like a little victory. 

I never forgot about our skirmish, though. Without a resolution, the incident nestled insidiously in my subconscious. 

A few years later, my dad called to tell me Jack had died of a drug overdose.

I began to wonder what would have happened if he had turned his life around. That gave me an idea. I could give him a new life in the screenplay idea I had always meant to write. In that instant, Jack Amon and Wolves of Vengeance were born. 

In 2006, I decided to develop that idea into a novel. 

Next time, I’ll explain how I expanded the idea into novel form and how I developed the main cast of characters.

 

*As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Free Kindle Version of Epitaphs!

I hope everyone is doing well during these crazy times. Just wanted to let you know that Epitaphs: The Journal of the New England Horror Writers is free for a limited time on Kindle. This anthology includes my story, “Malfeasance.” Happy Reading!

329497_2380596282434_1476502813_4611496_1310210381_o

If you’re interested in how I wrote and sold this story you can read about it here.

Before I go, I want to let you know I’ve been behind on my blog writing. You probably already know that. Haha! But I will be continuing The Scribes of Arcanum: Anatomy of a Sale series. I also want to get back to my NaNoWriMo novel, BLACK MAGIC BULLETS.

On an encouraging note,  I just received an acceptance from an award-winning webzine. I’ll have a  free story online for you to ready sometime in July.

I’ve been plugging away at the final edits of a 90,000-word horror thriller. Hopefully, I’ll be finished soon and can put it on the market.

The better part of this week was spent rewriting a short story for an anthology open call. I really love the story, but it needed a lot of TLC to bring it up to my current standards.

I also sent out a Lovecraft inspired story to another anthology open call.

That’s it for now. I’ll be back soon. Stay safe out there!

 

 

As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. 

 

Black Magic Bullets: Chapter 17

 

I have finally returned to Black Magic Bullets. This chapter is very short, but after so long a wait, I wanted to post something. I’m sorry for the delay. Before I present this next chapter, let me explain what led up to the previous chapter.

I had no idea what would happen when Kenzi and Harrison entered the basement. Usually, I’d just write out of order and go to a scene a little further along in the narrative, but since I’m posting the first draft publicly, I didn’t want to leave the audience hanging. By moving on, the next scene usually tells me what needs to come before. In that way, I can become unstuck and move on. Since I wasn’t going to do that, I had reached an impasse. Luckily, an idea arrived quickly.

Everything I read, watch, and experience tends to inform how the story develops. Black Magic Bullets is no exception. 

Interestingly enough, we ended up putting on Bright with Will Smith on Netflix one night. Not a great movie, even when just streaming in the background.

Bright

Bright reminded me of Alienation meets Lord of the Rings in an Urban Fantasy world. I thought it interesting how close the orcs and elves were to J.R.R. Tolkien’s creations. After the movie ended, I realized I wanted to put orcs in the basement level of the building in Black Magic Bullets. I was intrigued but didn’t want my story to be derivative of Tolkien’s world.

LOTR

The Lord of the Rings*

Then I remembered Ogre, Ogre by Piers Anthony, a novel set in his Xanth series. I hadn’t thought of that novel since the mid-80s. Using an ogre appealed to me more since they’re derived directly from world mythology.  And that’s how ogre’s ended up in my manuscript.

 

Ogre

Ogre, Ogre (Xanth)

Now, without further ado, here’s the 1st draft of Chapter Seventeen.

 

BLACK MAGIC BULLETS

An Urban Fantasy

by

David North-Martino

Working as an Inhuman Resources Recruiter is no walk through the cemetery, especially when you’ve been cursed and your head is filled with stollen secrets from one of the most powerful occult groups in Boston. To survive, you might just need a few…

BLACK MAGIC BULLETS

Chapter Seventeen

The next location went much the same way as the first, this time—thankfully— with no ogres. That was a relief. But all this searching was eating up time. 

Cyber contacted us not long after we dejectedly left the second abandoned structure. She had an idea for a place to check out that I would never have imagined. I supposed that was why Dreadstone employed her. She had thought through the situation and trusted her, but I still didn’t have much hope of finding Dedra’s body. 

When we arrived at the maze of small buildings, the sun had reached its zenith. 

“Take another hit,” Kenzi said. 

I already hated this part of the job. I couldn’t wait until my mystical abilities matured. 

I took the hit of the gas and stepped out of the BMW. 

Entering the maze, we snaked our way through squat metal buildings. Kenzi followed my lead. Each unit painted blue reminding me of the identical prefab houses in the culdesacs of the middle-class and the ubiquitous brick government housing of the underprivileged.  

Then I saw the signature and told Kenzi as much. I wish I hadn’t. 

The storage locker looked the same as any other, but this one was different. Would the locker contain Dedra’s body? I didn’t want to know. 

Kenzi stepped in front of the locker, raising a crowbar. 

Metal struck metal. Once, twice, a third time. Finally, the padlock gave way. Plucking from its resting place, Kenzi tossed it. The padlock bounced once off concrete and came to rest. 

Squatting, Kenzi lifted the gate and immediately turned her head. 

Foul air escaped the confines. Now I knew the odor of the dead. 

Kenzi turned her head as if slapped. I suspected once we found the body, I’d turn green and throw up. Unlike the male body in the basement, this one had succumbed to heat and cold and was generally worse for wear. 

Although I felt queasy, my stomach didn’t betray me. I was grateful. The last thing I wanted was to lose my cookies in front of Kenzi. 

“If this is her,” Kenzi said, examining the body. “We won’t be needing that shovel.” 

“How will we know?” 

Kenzi grabbed a body bag from the trunk and then returned. 

“The body’s female,” she said. “We bring her back to Dreadstone.”

“And if it is her?” I asked. 

“Then we have a murderer to find.” 

To be continued… 

 

*As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. 

 

Black Magic Bullets: Chapter 16

Moving right along… Here’s the first draft of Chapter 16. NaNoWriMo might be over, but the show (novel) must go on.

 

BLACK MAGIC BULLETS

An Urban Fantasy

by

David North-Martino

Working as an Inhuman Resources Recruiter is no walk through the cemetery, especially when you’ve been cursed and your head is filled with stollen secrets from one of the most powerful occult groups in Boston. To survive, you might just need a few…

BLACK MAGIC BULLETS

Chapter Sixteen

I bent my knees. Absorbed the impact, and still felt electric pain in my soles as I landed. 

An intense light blinded me. Defensively, my hands rose to my face. Kenzi turned, pointing the flashlight away from my direction.  

I blinked away orange stars, yellow moons, and green clovers. My retinas were none too happy with being attacked by a flashlight as bright as the sun. 

“Let’s move,” Kenzi said not waiting for me to recover. The thin beam led the way, parting the darkness in front of us, dust particles creating the appearance of walking through a snowstorm. 

From what I could see, and I couldn’t see much, the area looked like a concrete storage room that had long ago fallen into disuse. 

“I smell something,” I said quietly. That was an understatement. Somewhere in the blackness, just out of view, a putrid pile of refuse, or perhaps a dead body, (I didn’t know what a carcass smelled like at the time) had been left to ripen. 

Had we found Dedra’s body? Dread overcame me and I hoped it was just a pile of trash. 

Kenzi hushed me. She already had her weapon drawn and was scanning the shadows with lumens to the power of 1,000. 

Then the shadows moved toward us—surrounding us—closing in. 

“What the hell?” I asked. My brain couldn’t make sense of what my eyes were seeing.

“Ogres!” was all Kenzi said before pandemonium broke out. 

Here’s the problem with non-human anthropomorphic races: most are not magical in origin and as such, are not as easily manipulated or inured through the Collective. Not at least immediately. More on this later. 

Ogres stand just about as tall as humans, are ugly as sin, and sport a musculature that would make Arnold Schwarzenegger jealous. As aforementioned, they also stink. Masters of stealth, sometimes their tell-tale odor is the only sign that you have come across an ogre raiding party. 

Kenzi didn’t tell me to cover my ears before she squeezed the trigger in rapid succession. The report of the firearm deafening as decibels echoed off concrete. The muzzle flash all but blinded me and created a strobing effect strong enough to give all but the strongest a seizure.

Jaring impact and my head snapped back. I stubbled in the same direction. Yet, I regained my footing. Tunnel vision made me lose sight of Kenzi. My lips swelled and my jaw ached. Luckily my head and body hadn’t betrayed me. Moving with the blow had allowed me to keep my teeth.

Momentum facilitated an ill attempt at retaliation. Letting my body turn, I sprung into the air and completed a jumping turning sidekick. Contact made, I pushed the ogre back but a kick that would have broken an ordinary mortal’s ribs didn’t even faze this overgrown oaf. 

Meaty hands grabbed me as he reached forward, and then I was sailing through the air wishing I had learned better how to receive the ground in my training. 

Landing on my back, I sucked wind. Pain arrived along with the feeling of suffocation. Panic followed. I had to get up. At least I got a reprieve from smelling the walking trash canister. 

My eyes continued to function even though my lungs had fled the scene. I watched as Kenzi fired two blasts and then turned and moved, effectively throwing an ogre who had penetrated her defenses. I envied the smoothness of her movements. 

The ogre who had come for me wasn’t done yet. 

I still couldn’t breathe and could do nothing but writhe in agony. 

Bending over me, the Ogre reached out one final time. This was it. My time had come. I resigned myself to peering deep into the darkness of whatever abyss awaited. 

Another report and the ogre hit the deck, mortally wounded, just as I took my first greedy breath. 

I coughed and then breathed again which brought on more coughing. Once started, I couldn’t stop and it took Kenzi dragging my ass off the floor to get moving again. 

I can’t express to you how much this changed my training. Failure will do that to you. Unfortunately, I went about everything the wrong way and in the end, my training would make me weaker, not stronger. You’ll see how that happened soon enough. 

“Let’s get a move on,” Kenzi said. “There will be more coming.”

Finally, the bronchial spasms subsided and normal respiration returned.

“I need to know where the body is,” Kenzi said and then for emphasis and to get my ass in gear screamed: “Now! 

A staircase led upstairs and I found myself scrambling up it, using my connection to the Collective to lead the way to the deceased. 

In a closet on the 2nd floor, we found the body. 

Kenzi examined it while I looked away, pretending to be guarding our six. I hoped I developed the stomach for this type of work. But then again… Maybe I didn’t hope for any such thing. 

“The body is male,” Kenzi said. 

“Are you sure?” I asked. 

”Do you want to see for yourself?” Kenzi asked. I didn’t. 

“No, I believe you,” I said. Forcing myself to give a cursory look, I recognized the remnants of the psychic cord that had given me a false positive and told her as much. “What do we do with the body?”

“We don’t do anything,” Kenzi said. Dreadstone doesn’t have the facilities to store the body and we certainly don’t want his DNA on us. You want to have an overzealous DA charge you with murder? I didn’t think so.  

“And we can’t give the information to the police. They wouldn’t last long if they came into contact with the ogres. I can assure you, they’ll run into them if we send for them to search the premises. 

“What do we do then?”

“Get in the car and check the next location. Hopefully, find something before we run out of time. 

To be continued… 

NaNoWriMo – Chapter 15 – Black Magic Bullets

 

In the last chapter, I realized that I needed to continue the chase that I had resolved in Chapter Thirteen. I’m still not sure who is chasing Harris and Kenzi, but that doesn’t matter yet. I’m sure it will all be revealed in time. That’s how the subconscious works. Chapter Fourteen works as a way to keep up the tension while world-building. We now know there are safehouses, so to speak, throughout the city, and I’m sure this will play a role later in the story.

I also spent some time working on The Tower, a 74,000-word horror thriller, and polishing a short story to send to another open call.

Chapter Fifteen came very slowly, and I have a reason for including it in the grand scheme of the narrative. Again, this is just a first draft and is still very rough. Will I be able to make 50,000 words by the end of November. To me, it doesn’t really matter. Writing good words and keep a coherent story structure is more important to me than word count. That’s my way of saying: probably not! Haha! Thanks for reading.

BLACK MAGIC BULLETS

An Urban Fantasy

by

David North-Martino

Working as an Inhuman Resources Recruiter is no walk through the cemetery, especially when you’ve been cursed and your head is filled with stollen secrets from one of the most powerful occult groups in Boston. To survive, you might just need a few…

BLACK MAGIC BULLETS

 

Chapter Fifteen 

We spent over an hour and a half scouring abandoned property in Boston.  The effort exhausted me. Looking into the Collective, I had either seen nothing of interest in and around the buildings or things that confused me. Strang creatures prowling about, invisible to all but the most sensitive of psychic mediums, and those, like myself, who used some sort of enhancement. 

Then there were the phantom structures that stood psychically where a building had been torn down long ago and a new property erected. Those were the hardest to make out, needing to tune out all but the freshest vibrations. 

Kenzi tried to convey what I was looking for, the signature of a corpse with no soul, but yet somehow attached to whatever remained of the consciousness of the deceased. 

A serpentine cord would still be connected to the body, snaking its way psychically to the Lemure. So far, I didn’t believe I had seen anything close to what Kenzi had described, but how could I be sure? How could I be sure she could even describe it correctly. Kenzi didn’t even know. She didn’t have first-hand observable knowledge. 

Then at the third building, I found something I thought promising, a faint signature that might be the connection to Dedra we needed. 

“You think, Harris?” Kenzi asked when I relayed my impressions. “Or are you sure?” 

“It’s the best I can do,” I said. “The closest I’ve seen so far. No guarantees.” 

Kenzi sighed. Thought for a moment. Her eyes darted to the rearview mirror. She was doing double duty, acting as a lookout while also trying to lead the operation. 

I didn’t envy her position. Going inside could be dangerous. If this was a false lead and either of us got hurt or were killed… Then again, this was the most promising lead we’d had all day and who knew how long it would be before our tail returned.

 If I were leading the operation, I’d have made the call to go inside. Yet, I could understand why she might not. Either way, I’d abide by her decision. She had way more experience than I had at the time. 

“What else are you seeing?” Kenzi asked. “Anything that concerns you?” 

“I’m having a hard time differentiating between threats and old psychic impressions,” was all I said. She was really asking a lot of me. 

“Let’s go,” she said as she exited the vehicle. She had disabled the dash light and the door chime and although it didn’t matter in the pre-dusk hours, I still found it a little disconcerting especially with the BMW being so new. 

Kenzi popped the trunk and then grabbed a derringer in a thigh holster. After loading each chamber with a black bullet, She strapped it on just above the hemline of her skirt. 

I looked down at the ground, averting my gaze. 

“The Derringer was my dad’s,” Kenzi said, and then to explain why she was carrying a weapon that wasn’t on the AG’s approved roster and then added… “It’s pre-ban and so technically legal for me to carry.”

I hoped the cops thought the same if we got caught breaking and entering. The odds were high that someone would see us and call the police. How long it would take the cops to respond was beyond my operational knowledge. I didn’t want to ask Kenzi. I’d just trust she had all her bases covered. 

“Don’t worry,” Kenzi said playing mind reader once again. “Cyber will be monitoring all police channels, even the ones the public doesn’t know about.”

Around us stood a multi-zoned area of both residential and industrial structures. On one side, double-deckers and duplexes, paint fading from harsh weather and sea salt, waited for their owners to return home after a long day of work.   

In contrast, old brick factory buildings with lime green window sills, boarded up to discourage vandals and squatters, waited for a time when the work would return. I wasn’t sure that time would ever come. 

Looking around, the street appeared deserted and a cursory glance at the occupied homes gave no tells, blinds stayed in place, not even a breeze moved the drapes. 

Still, I was afraid that there were eyes on us——even if I couldn’t feel them. I knew of practitioners of both martial arts and occult sciences who could hide their intentions. 

As Lao Tzu said in his famous Tao te Ching:

Temper your sharpness…

Mask your brightness.

Be at one with the dust of the earth.

Fully armed, Kenzi grabbed a pry-bar from the trunk before closing the lid with a satisfying thunk. 

I returned to the passenger side of the car, took another hit of the ethylene gas mixture, tossed it back on the seat, and then reluctantly followed her. She trudged onto the industrial side of the street and into the un-manicured lawn that surrounded the abandoned structure.  

Despite the length of the grass, it looked like months had gone by without a mowing, each strand had taken on the color of straw, making me wonder how long it would take before the whole yard was dead. 

As we disappeared behind the old factory building we practiced the old maxim: out of sight, out of mind. 

Back here, Kenzi went to work prying off a protective board and then took off her jacket and used it to cover the small window hidden underneath. The jacket suppressed the noise of the bar smashing the window. A few quick blows and the glass was mostly dislodged. Tossing her jacket inside, Kenzi scraped the jagged glass that remained attached to the frame with the bar. Again, the jacket muted the tinkling of the glass. 

Kenzi slipped inside before I could protest. I was having second thoughts. 

“Harris,” she whispered. “Get down here.” 

I looked around. We appeared to be alone. Still, I didn’t like the idea of descending into the depths of the building one foot in the real world and the other in the Collective. Nothing good could come of it. 

Sliding inside, I dropped to the floor without another thought. 

To be continued… 

 

NaNoWriMo – Chapter 14 – Black Magic Bullets

I think it’s been about five days since my last post. The writing has been progressing, albeit slowly. 

In the last chapter, I imposed a device known as a ticking clock. I did this to add tension to the narrative and drive the plot. I also had Kenzi and Harris chased by an unknown group. They are even unknown to me, as in, they haven’t revealed themselves through the narration. 

I added the bit about how Dedra needing to self attach to the location as foreshadowing for later.  

Dedra came about because my research shows I need a mystery element in an Urban Fantasy. I should be able to craft one, my wife has been binging episodes of Criminal Minds on ION and WE. Haha! They’re always on in the background. Even while I write. 

Originally, I had envisioned Kenzi driving a black Mustang. I took inspiration from my wife who owned a fox-body Mustang when we met. As I began to get to know Kenzi better, I realized she’d be more at home driving a BMW.

 Also, I liked that some Bimmers have All-Wheel-Drive. Oh, and my research shows that a BMW car or SUV is not a Beamer (the Beamer nickname goes to the BMW motorbike) it is actually referred to as a Bimmer. I’m not sure how many people know that. I certainly didn’t, and my wife thought the real nickname was a typo. Maybe I’ll change it back to Beamer just for clarity. It’s not correct, but it’s the name most people use. 

I’m also trying to stay away from politics. I don’t like politics in my fiction, but sometimes, to ground the story in reality, I have no choice. 

Massachusetts gun laws are very restrictive and convoluted for law-abiding citizens, and I’m a stickler for characters following those laws, at least until they’re able to break them safely. 

Once Harris learns how to manipulate the Collective, they will have more leeway in what weapons they carry. My plan had been to have Kenzi carry a Glock 19, but civilians can’t buy those in Massachusetts. They’re not on the approved roster, and so I decided she’d carry an M&P. 

In this way, I hope the story will be grounded enough in reality that the reader can suspend disbelief as I ratchet up the fantasy elements. 

I should probably mention that I’m also trying to ground those, in reality, using real magical practices, exaggerated and enhanced for drama, with which I’m thoroughly familiar from research and experience gained in what feels like another lifetime. That’s a story for another day. 

While I’ve been waiting for my subconscious mind to catch up with the story, I haven’t been idle. I’ve been working on the third draft of a horror thriller called The Tower of Abandon. As of this writing, I only have one more scene to edit and then, after a short break, I’ll be polishing the manuscript with the help of ProWritingAid before handing it off to my wife for a proofread. 

I also prepared and sent out a short story to an anthology open call. Unfortunately, I somehow missed the word count guidelines. After I had sent it out, I realized my submission was 1,000 words under the required word count. At least I didn’t forget to attach the Word file! That’s probably the most common mistake committed by writers sending out submission. I hate when mistakes like that happen, but we are only human. I’ll just wait and hope for the best. Maybe I’ll get lucky. You never know.

 

BLACK MAGIC BULLETS

An Urban Fantasy

by

David North-Martino

Working as an Inhuman Resources Recruiter is no walk through the cemetery, especially when you’ve been cursed and your head is filled with stollen secrets from one of the most powerful occult groups in Boston. To survive, you might just need a few…

BLACK MAGIC BULLETS

Chapter 14

“Hold on, again!” Kenzi said, accelerating. 

The torque knocked me back into my seat. Then we were turning right on red with no regard for oncoming traffic. 

Tires squealed. 

Horns blared. 

“They’re still after us?” I asked wishing I knew who “they” were. 

“I need you to enter the Collective,” Kenzi said her voice tight, her fingers on the steering wheel even tighter. 

I hesitated.  

“Now would be a good time!”

Against my better judgment, I unbuckled my seatbelt and scrambled between the seats stretching to reach my bag. 

Another breakneck turn. Releasing my hold on the bag, I grabbed the back of both seats to keep from slamming into Kenzi. 

She turned again, in the opposite direction, and I gritted my teeth and held on for what some people like to call dear-life. Once the vehicle straightened, I snatched the duffle and dragged it through the opening between the seats. 

Not bothering to buckle up, I unzipped the duffle bag and struggled to get out my equipment. Once I had retrieved the concentrator, I plugged in a bottle of ethylene gas. 

I tossed the bag back between the seats and let it flop to the floor.  Now I bucked in and then turned the valve. Too little ethylene and I wouldn’t enter the Collective, too much and I’d end up dead. I only hoped my memory wouldn’t fail me. The events in the ritual room felt like they’d happened a lifetime ago. 

Seating the mask to my face, I pressed firmly, creating a tight seal, and then breathed in deeply. 

The car and the world flipped and then righted itself. Had I taken a little too much? It didn’t matter. I’d have to deal with the aftereffects and hope I could do whatever Kenzi wanted while still under the influence. 

In front of me, through the windshield and the driver’s side window, I saw all that had been hidden from humanity. Creatures and phantom buildings projected where they had been torn down but their physicality still resonated enough to make them psychically viable, at least within the Collective. 

What am I looking for, I wondered? 

Overwhelmed by the influx of new sensory input. A protective circle would have been a nice buffer. Now I really understood its importance. 

“What am I looking for?” I asked Keni as she continued her escape and evasion routine. 

“Look for a masked entrance. Something that only you can see.”

That was easier said than done. I didn’t have the experience to interpret what I was seeing. Masking a location was difficult and I had to believe that Dreadstone’s security measures were well above the feeble abilities of the sorcerers who worked at The Chasm. In that, the people who were chasing us would have a harder time finding said entrance than I had when I used to frequent the occult shop. It wouldn’t be a matter of just relaxing and thinking good thoughts. This was high-level wizardry. 

Then I saw it, an iridescent archway, unmistakable from the normal environment. Situated between two buildings, I could just make out the narrow opening. The question was: could Kenzi, even with my help, navigate through the gap?  

“There!’ I Said pointing to show her the location. 

“You’re my eyes,” Kenzi said through gritted teeth, turning the vehicle and then gunning it in the direction I had pointed. 

“A little to the left.”

“A little to the right.” 

I did my best to direct her and I was impressed at how easily Kenzi took my directions on faith. 

We entered the tunnel too close to the right, sparks flying on the passenger side as Kenzi sheared off paint. I hoped we were really being followed and this wasn’t just some sort of paranoia on Kenzi’s part. 

We slowed to a stop. 

Kenzi shut off the vehicle allowing the silence along with the darkness within the manmade cavern to blanked us. My own breathing sounded too loud in my head. Kenzi’s breathing was no more than a whisper. In the background somewhere in the dark water dripped, most likely the result of condensation. 

“Why don’t they just have a GPS point marked off on the system?” I asked, in frustration.  I kept myself from cursing, but I wanted to say every swear in the book. Professionalism won out. 

Yet you had to admit It seemed crazy that to find this place you had to either be a psychic or be jacked up on ethylene gas. 

“It’s harder to hack a human brain than it is a computer system,” Kenzi said.  “I only know the general whereabouts of the masked entrances. 

“I’ll have Cyber hack the traffic cameras in the area and find who was following us. That will take some time. In the meantime, we have some locations to assess.”

Kenzi set a text. 

Kenzi showed me her phone, its bluish-white glow the only light in the cavern. Cyber had sent over a complete list of abandoned buildings in the waterfront area. 

“Let’s hope we’ve lost our tail,” Kenzi said. “Time to take another hit of the gas. I need your eyes on each building. Look for anomalies.” 

“We haven’t even been to the first one yet!” I said.

“That’s right,” Kenzi said. “We better get cracking.” 

The BMW purred to life, lighting up what now really looked like a cave. Kenzi put her foot down on the accelerator performed a reverse 180 (J-Turn) and then rocketed us out of the hiding place and back into the busy street, my heart beating out of me. 

 To be continued…

NaNoWrimo – Chapter 13 – Black Magic Bullets

I’ve had some great feedback on this story, and it’s made me think about how I categorize my writing. Looking at some of my unpublished work, and even some of my published, I didn’t realize how close I had wandered into the urban, dark, and contemporary Fantasy subgenres. Even my first novel, WOLVES OF VENGEANCE, is closer to dark and urban fantasy than it is to horror. Also, a little while back, I let you know I received an Honorable Mention for my novelette, Blade of the Vagabond, which is a traditional high fantasy story. It’s all very interesting, and I’ll be discussing what I’ve learned shortly.

On this NaNo project, I’ve reach about 10,000 words. I’m still very behind, but I’d rather have a fairly clean first draft than a pile of words I have to shovel out to get to the story. Understand, what I’m printing here is not everything I’ve written. Before I post here, I do a quick edit and remove as much as I can to tighten the final published product. Also, I count notes that I make to myself in with the word count, and I do my best not to include that information here on my blog.

The next time I post, I’ll try to break down some of what I was trying to do and why I added some potential complications to the plot. Again, this is a very rough first draft written organically (by the seat of my pants) and is not what it will look like in its final published form. Thanks for reading. Let me know what you think. Really! I have a think skin.

 

BLACK MAGIC BULLETS

An Urban Fantasy

by

David North-Martino

Working as an Inhuman Resources Recruiter is no walk through the cemetery, especially when you’ve been cursed and your head is filled with stollen secrets from one of the most powerful occult groups in Boston. To survive, you might just need a few…

BLACK MAGIC BULLET

Chapter 13

We stopped outside a women’s locker. Kenzi entered and a few minutes later returned with a duffle-bag stuffed with equipment she’d curated for me, along with a go-bag of her own. 

Mine included a concentrator with three canisters of ethylene gas. I wouldn’t want to run out in an emergency, I guess. The time wouldn’t arrive soon enough when I could traverse the Collective naturally and on command. 

“This will get you started,” she said before leading me back to the armory. 

There, she removed a Smith & Wesson M&P .40 caliber from a gun safe, seated a magazine, racked the slide to put a round in the chamber, and then engaged the safety before holstering the weapon in an inside the waistband (IWB) holster. Two spare magazines slid into a carrier on the opposite side of her belt. 

“Okay, let’s get out of here.” 

“I’m not carrying?” I asked. Not that I cared. I was very happy to leave sans-firearm. I had never conceal-carried a pistol in my life. 

“No. You’ll buy one and Dreadstone will reimburse you,” Kenzi said. “Until you’re able to manipulate within the Collective, we have to do everything above board. If a cop stops us, in Mass, you’ll need to have a firearm that’s on the Attorney General’s list of approved firearms and have the transaction recorded by the Firearms Records Bureau.”

“Things can get real messy legally if you don’t.” 

Shlepping our bags down the hall, we headed to our next destination.

“We can take your car or we can take mine,” Kenzi said. “Your choice.”

“I came here by ’T’,” I said feeling wholly unprepared. The “T” is the colloquial name in Boston for the subway system and is short for MBTA, Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority and stands in contrast to the Commuter Rail, run by the same authority, which provides train service to surrounding communities and goes as far as Rhode Island. 

“Mine it is then,” Kenzi said matter-of-factly. I didn’t notice even a hint of annoyance or sarcasm in her voice. “Do you have one?”

“A car?” I asked, without thinking. 

“No, a time machine,” Kenzi said. “Of course, a car.” 

“Not yet,” I said and steeled myself against an onslaught that never came.

“Dreadstone will help you buy one,” she said. “You just accepted a job where you’ll be on the road a lot. You’ll need something that fits your station and your style. You’ll be living out of the thing. I also suggest all-wheel drive. This is New England, after all.”

We entered the ground floor garage and I followed Kenzi to her vehicle. 

The parking area was filled with various vehicles I can only assume were all owned by Dreadstone employees, but I did wonder if some belonged directly to Dreadstone and what enhancements might have been made for various purposes. I would find out later

We both slid into the leather seats of her shiny black BMW. I envisioned her as more of a Mustang girl, but I had to admit the Bimmer fit her style—luxurious on the inside, sporty on the outside. I wondered how much it had set her back, and how much of the tab Dreadtone had picked up. The thought made me anxious to car shop. 

As we pulled out into crazy Boston traffic, Kenzi laid down a situation report on the way to our first stop. 

“Here’s what we’re working with just so you know. There’s a time-limit on spirit bargains. We have about three days to seal the deal. If it doesn’t happen in by then she’ll drift. 

“I’m not sure I understand. How did Dreadstone acquire her spirit in the first place?” 

“Okay, I can’t go into all the whats and wherefores it’s too complicated. Here’s the layman’s explanation: 

“When Dedra died she was able to attach herself to an object. In this case a doll. Dreadstone acquired the doll, and through a series of arcane rituals, I don’t fully understand, transferred her spirt to a containment vessel. Once they released her spirit in the ritual room, to make the pact, the clock started ticking.” 

“They can’t just put the genie back in the bottle, so to speak?” I asked.

“Easier said than done. She can attach willingly to an object. To force her would be very difficult. That’s why we have recruiters. 

“Your job is to make the pact and help hold up our end of the bargain. Once we get her as much as we can of what she wants, we still have to hold something over her, and it has to be enough that it keeps her spirit restless. If not, spirits are prone to drift. If she drifts, we breach a contract with our client. 

“How do you keep her from drifting from the location she’s been assigned?” I asked. 

“Simple. She self-attaches to the house for the required amount of time,” Kenzi said. 

“She can set a time limit?” I asked. 

“No. That’s where things get tricky,” Kenzi said. “Once the contract ends Dreadstone sends a wizard or psychic medium to release her. They’re supposed to fully release her.” 

“Supposed to? Do you mean they don’t always hold up their end of the bargain?”

“These contracts can play out over fifty, sometimes even one-hundred years. By the time the contract is up—,” Kenzi trailed off, thought for a moment before continuing. Well, let’s say sometimes things fall through the cracks. 

“I’m not saying it’s on purpose or anything, but it does happen. We have some spirits, and… other things, still in our employ well past their expiration date.”

I didn’t like the sound of that. I could be all for both parties entering into a contract, even if I thought Dreadstone might be exploiting their workforce——they wouldn’t be the first company to do so——but not honoring the contract seemed beyond the pale. 

I didn’t like it, but I wasn’t sure I had the power to do anything about it. When the time was right, I’d have to weigh my options carefully. 

At a light, Kenzi asked me to enter the first address into the onboard GPS—safety first! 

Then we were weaving in and out of congestion, traversing tunnels, and avoiding one-way streets that always seemed to pop up out of nowhere overnight. 

“Are you buckled up?” she asked to my puzzlement. Using a seatbelt had become as automatic as breathing, I didn’t even have to think about it anymore. 

I acknowledged in the affirmative and wasn’t shy about asking why she was asking.

“We might have a tail,” Kenzi said shitting the vehicle into sport mode. “Hold on.” 

What the hell was going on? Who was after us——or was Kenzi just paranoid? 

Kenzi bolted left then (in Boston parlance) banged a right. A few quick turns with one eye on the road and the other on the rearview mirror and Kenzi seemed to relax a bit. 

“Who the hell was after us?” I asked. 

“I can tell you it wasn’t a government agency. They’re total professionals. You’ll never see them coming. If we were being followed, the people in the vehicle behind us were amateurs at tradecraft. Dreadstone has plenty of enemies. Congratulations, now they’re your enemies, too.”   

To be continued… 

 

NaNoWriMo – Chapter 12 – Black Magic Bullets

Between family obligations and the slower nature of this next chapter, It’s been a couple days since I’ve checked in. Glacial is probably a good word for how the writing has been proceeding.  Most of this is because world-building and crafting a mystery out of whole cloth are labor-intensive.

I’ve now reached a point where each layer is crucial to building a cogent and engaging narrative. There’s no doubt that I’ll have to go back and flesh out some early scenes as I move forward. Still, I’d like to keep the narrative readable and understandable, even in rough 1st draft form. Don’t forget, I’m writing this book organically (by the seat of my pants) and, as such, I’m not using an outline or figuring out anything beforehand. I’m trusting my subconscious mind to fill in details between writing sessions.  For now, I’ll consider this chapter finished and present it to you.

As it stands, I think this is shaping up to be a Dresden Files meets Monster Hunter International type of book.

 

BLACK MAGIC BULLETS

An Urban Fantasy

by

David North-Martino

Working as an Inhuman Resources Recruiter is no walk through the cemetery, especially when you’ve been cursed and your head is filled with stollen secrets from one of the most powerful occult groups in Boston. To survive, you might just need a few…

BLACK MAGIC BULLETS

 

Chapter 12

Kenzi touched an access card to an electric eye. The locking mechanism clicked open, and then we were through a pair of blast doors and inside what looked to be a two-floor loft that housed a control center of sorts. Workers buzzed to and fro, some wearing shoulder holster rigs over button-down shirts or blouses, looking more like Government Agents than employees of Dreadstone.  

Lit by natural lighting, coming from the frosted glass windows above the fray, as much as by electric lamps suspended from the vaulted ceiling, and with the addition of people moving about, created a shifting chiaroscuro, the light highlighting suspended dust particles, making the place appear fog-enshrouded.  

“Welcome to The Body,” Kenzi said. 

“What is this place?” I asked, genuinely curious. 

“It’s an acronym. B-O-D-I-E. BODIE. The Bureau of Defense Investigations and Espionage,” Kenzi said. We’re like a private FBI for the Dreadstone Company. 

“Like the name implies, we take care of the physical needs of the corporation—including but not limited to providing protection for our psychics, dedicated wizards, and recruiters like yourself.”

“I never would have guessed Dreadstone had its own private army,” I said.

“Oh, no. We’re not the army,” Kenzi said as she brought me over to a bank of beige cubicles. “You haven’t seen anything yet.”

“This is Cybil,” Kenzi said.

“I go by Cyber,” the woman with the buzzcut and the black fingernail polish said.  

“She’s what we call a BRAIN transplant,” Kenzi said undeterred, explaining that BRAIN was another acronym for Dreadstone’s Computer science and hacking division: Biologic Computing, Random Access, AI, Information Systems, and Nanotech. “She works here in the BODIE helping us expel viruses and track down baddies using the information superhighway both in Surface Web and all levels of the Deep Net. 

“If not, the BRAIN wouldn’t know what the BODIE is doing,” Cyber said raising an eyebrow. “That’s just a little Dreadstone humor for ya.” 

“We have some intel and clues from SPIRT,” and then for me added, Sorcery, Psychics, Incantations & Remote Viewing.”

“Who are we talking about?” Cyber asked, raising an eyebrow. 

“Chavvi,” Kenzi said deadpan. I had no idea by her intonation if that was good, bad, or indifferent.” 

“Oh, she’s really good,” Cyber said as if she was telepathic herself. Her response also seemed to imply that Dreadstone had employed one or more psychics of dubious reputation. “Lay it on me.” 

“We’re looking for an abandoned building on the waterfront. A killer who is skilled with a garrot or at least has been accused of strangulation in the past, and a wide tie a man would wear that might be a homophone or an exact match for a lemure’s last name.”

“The property records search is the easiest. Do you know how long ago the lemure went missing?”

“I can’t give you an exact date,” Kenzi said. “Her clothing while reduced to rags looked modern enough. I gave a sample to Chavvi to get her impressions.”

“If Chavvi’s done, I’d suggest sending the sample to the lab,” Cyber said. “Even though most of the physical effects are just ectoplasmic facsimiles, for a period of time Dreadstone can determine what type of fiber was in the original garment.” 

“Can do,” Kenzi said.

 “Once we have an approximate time period, I can perform a record search for the perps MO through a backdoor in the local and federal databases. Then I’ll run a missing persons search for the same time period.”

“How much time will that take,”  Kenzi asked. 

“Too much,” Cyber said. Kenzi nodded. “Let’s work with what we have. You mentioned a wide men’s tie. Let’s see if I can get some terms we can search.” 

Cyber made her mechanical keyboard sing, cherry blue switches rat-tat-tatting an echoey staccato rhythm throughout the loft. 

“The first possibility that comes up is the cravat tie,” Cyber said. “What’s the first name?”

“Dedra,” I said before Kenzi had the chance to respond. If it bothered her, she didn’t show it. I was beginning to feel ineffectual just standing there.  

“Nothing comes up under that name combination,” Cyber said, continuing to click and clack on the keyboard. “Let’s try Ascot.” 

We waited as Cyber completed her search.

“Bingo!” Cyber said, jabbing a finger down on the enter key for emphasis and then swiveling on her chair to face us. “You’re in luck, Ascot is an unusual name and I only a few hits in the Boston Area.” 

“Any Dedra Ascots reported missing?”

“We have one,” Cyber said, her fingers still dancing over the keys. “Reported missing back in 2004. Cold case.” 

“Send me all the information on the case, along with a list of the abandoned buildings,” Kenzi said. “ Keep searching. I’ll still have Chavvi send the sample over to the lab. No time like the present to being our search.” 

To be continued… 

 

NaNoWriMo – Chap 10 & 11 – Black Magic Bullets

Day four of NaNoWriMo and got in about 1,500 words. I came up a little short but had to really think about the central mystery and its relationship to the plot. One character’s name became very important, and I had to craft it carefully.

The title also found it’s way into the manuscript. I was wondering if that would happen. You’ll see what I’m talking about if you give it a read.

This is a very rough 1st draft written by the seat of my pants,  but I’m trying to give you as tight a manuscript as possible. Feel free to give me feedback. I have a very thick skin.

In other news: I had an editor contact me today inquiring about I story I had submitted. She asked if the story had ever been sold before. I’m thinking she wanted to make sure it wasn’t a reprint. I let her know the story was an original with all rights available. I haven’t heard back yet, but I am hopeful. I’ll let you know what happens.

 

BLACK MAGIC BULLETS

An Urban Fantasy

by

David North-Martino

Working as an Inhuman Resources Recruiter is no walk through the cemetery, especially when you’ve been cursed and your head is filled with stollen secrets from one of the most powerful occult groups in Boston. To survive, you might just need a few…

BLACK MAGIC BULLETS.

Chapter 10

I followed Kenzi to a new destination. When we entered the vestibule, I realized she had been serious. What else did this place have in store? 

Inside the small room, she grabbed a pair of eye and ear protection, handing them to me before grabbing her own. 

I put the glasses on first and then the muffs. The ear cups created a suction, clamping over my ears, isolating my sense of hearing from the outside environment. My breathing sounded loud in my head. I had always found the experience disconcerting, and today was no exception. 

In an attempt to be a gentleman, I opened the heavy door for Kenzi. She didn’t protest. Following close behind, we entered the range proper. 

Like most indoor ranges, the air was damp, much like a basement. It told me the place had good ventilation, important for filtering out all the atomized lead, gunpowder, and other combustible contaminants released with each shot fired. 

We were met with more battleship gray and surrounded by impenetrable concrete. The shooting muffs not only isolated my breathing, but also every footfall thudded in my head. 

Kenzi had transferred the pistol to a hard carrier and now placed it on a bench at the middle booth. She then plunked down a 50 round box of .45 ASP hollow-points. 

Manstoppers. 

After the meeting with the lemur, humans scared him less than they ever had. He wondered if Dreadstone was in the possession of any rounds that could stop something like that. 

It had been a long time since I’d been to a range. Shooting was an expensive hobby and I didn’t have the money to invest. If this job worked out, my luck just might be changing. 

She stepped aside to let me do my thing. 

Great. 

This felt like a test of sorts. 

Forcing myself to take it slow and steady, I removed the Colt from the case and locked it into battery before placing it on the bench. 

Next, I loaded the two seven-round magazines and arranged them beside the firearm. So far, so good. 

Kenzi brought over a silhouette target, tacket it up, and ran the motorized conveyer until it reached 21 feet away. 

She stepped away as if to say, it was all me. 

Retrieving the Colt, it felt solid and well balanced in my hand. I seated the first magazine and then racked the slide to chamber a round. 

Focused on the target, I lifted the weapon and settled into an isosceles stance. Both arms outstretched creating a triangle parallel to my chest. My upper body ached from the fight with the lemur. I focused on the pain then allowed it to fade away. Dropping my weight and bending my knees, I leaned forward ever so slightly. 

Flicked the safety off with my thumb. 

Breath in.

Line up front sights to rear. 

Breath out.

Squeeze trigger, don’t pull. 

Blam!

The colt bucked. 

Again.

The acrid scent of gunpowder rose in the air but quickly dissipated into the duct system. 

I continued the process until all rounds were spent, and the gun automatically returned to battery. 

Turning my palm up, I released the magazine and returned both to the bench. 

Kenzi had been watching from behind the whole time. Now she came back, flicking the switch in the opposite direction to retrieve the target.

“You’re listing to the left,” she said, examining the holes in the target. 

No shit. She didn’t need to overstate the obvious. 

Following her lead I removed my ear protection, let the muffs rest on my neck. The cool air felt good on my ears. 

“Nothing that can’t be fixed. You just need to adjust your grip,” she said. “That’s good enough for me. I wanted to make sure you could properly handle a firearm before we go into the field.”

“I’m carrying a gun?” I asked, incredulous. 

“You have a CCW?” Kenzi asked. Those were the initials for a Concealed Carry Weapons permit, or in Mass known as a Class A License to Carry Firearms Unrestricted. Seemed the powers that be in the Commonwealth thought the CCW term too appealing to the general populace.

I nodded. 

“Then it’s your choice,” she said. “I’ll be armed. I suggest you do the same until can do your wizardry in the Collective.”

Kenzi replaced the target with a fresh one and sent it back the same distance.

“Watch and learn,” she said, putting on her eyes and ears. I rushed to keep up. 

Drawing her carry gun she mimicked my earlier stance and lobbed maybe 15 rounds of lead down the lane. I lost count. 

Once the gun returned to battery, Kenzi smoothly turned her hand without taking her eyes off the target. She depressed the magazine release, letting it fall to the ground. With her eyes still on the target she retrieved and seated a new magazine and then racked the slide. Another fifteen rounds flew. She reloaded and then holstered her weapon.  

The target rocketed back with a flick of a switch. 

A nice tight grouping. 

“Nice,” I said and I meant it. I was very impressed. 

“That’s how you practice level one combat shooting,” Kanzi said. “I have one other thing to show you.” 

She took out a .45 round that if not for the coating of black fingernail polish would have looked ordinary. 

“I’m not getting it,” I said. 

“This is a black magic bullet,” Kenzi said. “They can be used on the possessed, shifters, zombies, anything in meatspace infused with power from the Collective. 

“Why don’t you just carry silver bullets?” 

“Now you’re just being silly.” 

“What makes that different for an ordinary round?” I asked, half expecting her to say black magic.

“We have a wizard augment them in the Collective,” Kenzi said “It’s a specialty. Not something just anyone can do.” 

“What’s next?” I asked. Did I really want to know?

“You’re full of questions today, aren’t ya,” Kenzi said with a wink. “Chavvi must have something for us by now.”

Chapter 11

“Tell me you have some good news,” Kenzi said as walked through the entry, beads clacking against each other behind us. 

“I might have something,” Chavvi said, rising from her cushion.

The impression I get is of a violent death. Deep, dark emotions. Terrible, really.” 

Poor Dedra. Not only had the end of her life been horrible, but even in death, she was affected by the circumstances of her demise. 

“Anyway to find her body?” I asked. It was unclear as to whether I’d be able to help her. Kenzi had indicated something would be held back until Dedra fulfilled her half of the bargain.  

“The impression I get is that her body was disposed of in an abandoned building. I get a distinct impression it’s near the waterfront. I feel a constriction on the throat like she had been strangled. But I also see a man’s tie, wider than normal. I hope that was helpful. 

“Yes, thank you,” Kenzi said. “It’s at least something to go on. Let me know if anything else comes to mind.” 

Then Kenzi looked at me. 

“It time I introduced you to the Body.” 

To be continued…