Category Archives: Martial Arts

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. 

 

The Scribe’s Arcanum: Anatomy of a Writers of the Future Honorable Mention—Blade of the Vagabond Part 2

In part 1, I examined the  inspiration that led to writing Blade of the Vagabond (you can read that here). In Part 2, we’ll continue as I turn BOTV into a novelette and send it out to the  L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future contest. 

Originally, Blade of the Vagabond had a subtitle. The first 20,000-word version was called Blade of the Vagabond: Heaven, Earth, and Woman. The subtitle is a play on a Confucian concept of Heaven, Earth, and Man where, in very simplistic terms, man acts as the harmonizing force between the spiritual and material realms or perhaps between the opposites of Yin and Yang. The place in-between where truth resides. That’s close enough for a laymen’s understanding, but I’m sure I’ll get some criticism for it.  If you have a more succinct explanation, feel free to post in the comments. I welcome your thoughts. 

Heaven-Earth-Man

Anyway, I changed Man to Woman in the subtitle as my main character is female. 

I was introduced to the term through my martial arts practice and have been fascinated ever since. The concept became the central focus of the story. 

Once I had finished the first draft, I put the story away, awaiting a viable market. As I mentioned in Part 1, the open submission period  ended before I completed the first draft.  Luckily, soon after, the original publisher reopened for submissions. 

I edited my draft and then gave it to Patty for a proofread. After reading the initial draft, Patty dubbed this story her favorite of any I had written.  After a polish edit, I felt satisfied enough to send it and await a response. 

Feeling this story represented my best work,  I was convinced it had a good chance of selling. I sent it to them with high hopes. What happened next would change the course of how I submitted the story. 

The editorial team from the publishing house contacted me and their response surprised me. Originally, the story had a prologue. In the opening, we see one villain, a henchman to the Big Bad, not the protagonist, as he prepares for infiltration and assassination. It was a long opening filled with action and intrigue.  The idea was to pull the reader into the action before we reached the first chapter and met the protagonist. I felt this high action opening increased the danger and tension, setting up the story for the final confrontation.

The editors, however, had mistaken my prologue (which was clearly labeled) with the first chapter and the villain’s henchman with my main protagonist. They felt too separated from the  “protagonist” as if watching a movie and weren’t fully engaged by the writing. I found this odd since my story’s subtitle was Heaven, Earth, and Woman,  how could they mistake my male antagonist for my female protagonist?  

Here’s what they wrote:

I appreciated how this began in media res, watching someone on a mission , but there was a lot of action with no motivation. Movies often open this way and perhaps it works better in cinema because camera angles and music can create emotional sensations in the audience, but with prose our connection is a little more difficult to forge. I spend too much of this story following the protagonist without sharing the feelings, which hamstrings our ability to anticipate or experience true tension. This is subjective and another editorial team may feel differently, so I wish you the best of luck placing it elsewhere.

Pro Tip: Editors are overworked and if they’re confused by your submission, they’ll reject you. They won’t give you the benefit of the doubt. They don’t have time.

Yet, there’s more to learn. Many wannabe writers base their stories on films and TV shows and use a cinematic technique throughout the whole book. Because of this, the cinematic technique may brand you as an amateur. It’s unfortunate but understandable. 

Also, there’s an important reason I didn’t share the antagonist’s feelings: he doesn’t have any. Using a potion and mind-altering meditative techniques, the antagonist blots out his feelings. 

What I thought was obvious wasn’t. Would every editor feel the same? There was no way to know. Removing the Prologue didn’t hurt the story. With a few tweaks, I annexed it. Cutting the story lowered the word count making it more marketable. 

Pro Tip: Novellas and novelettes are a harder sell for newer and less established writers. 

I also wondered if readers who liked the prologue would enjoy the main story and vice versa. Both sections had a different tone. 

Next, I sent a modified version to a top pro magazine.  The response I received was encouraging. This editor enjoyed the writing. He wrote, “some really good writing here,” personalizing the rejection letter. 

Pro Tip: Getting compliments from professional editors at top magazines is a very good sign. It may mean you’re writing at a professional level or are close. 

Here’s the thing: did I think a top magazine would buy a 16,000-word novella from a virtual unknown? No, but it was worth a try and gave me valuable feedback. You can’t win if you don’t play. 

Encouraged by the pro editor’s response, I sent the story to L. Ron Hubbard’s Writers of the Future Contest. The 16,000-word version didn’t win. 

Then I heard about another contest at a very large and popular SF and Fantasy Independent press. The problem? Their upper word count was 8,000 words. If I wanted to send them Blade of the Vagabond, I’d have to cut the story in half. Could I trim the story to its essence, reducing it to the low end of novelette form, while keeping enough plot for the story to make sense? That was a good question. Some poignant moments and a subplot or two would need to be removed, but I believed it could be done. I set out on a mission. 

I whittled it down to 9,000 words without losing the main plot, but I had to do without some poignant moments and some of what made the first two versions of the story unique. 

Now to shave the manuscript to 8,000 words, I had to lose a connector scene. The story still worked well enough, but I wasn’t happy with the transition between one chapter.  If I wanted to submit to the contest, I’d have to live with it. 

Once sent, I returned to my novel (working title: The Tower) already in progress. 

When the contest ended, and they announced winners,  it was time to send Blade of the Vagabond somewhere else. 

WOTF-35-Front-Cover

L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future Vol. 35*

I received an email notification from the director of Writers of the Future that there was still time to submit a story for the 3rd quarter. Could I send a different version of the same story to the contest? I’d have to find out. If allowed, I figured it was worth a shot. 

Next time I’ll tell you what happened, how I edited my manuscript into shape, and what I learned in the process. I’ll see you then.

*As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. 

The Scribe’s Arcanum: Anatomy of a Writers of the Future Honorable Mention—Blade of the Vagabond Part 1

 

Today I’d like to discuss how my story, Blade of the Vagabond, was created and how it was ultimately awarded an Honorable Mention in the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest. 

The idea to write Blade of the Vagabond came when I noticed an open call from a major science fiction and fantasy publisher. They were looking for fantasy novellas inspired by non-European cultures. An idea hit me so powerfully that I stopped work on my novel in progress to focus on this new project. 

At the time I had no hope of making the deadline, but the idea wouldn’t leave me alone. I put everything aside and pushed on. 

The first inkling of a concept for this story began to sprout while taking an Arthurian Literature class at UMASS Lowell. The professor, Dr. Archer, assigned a paper where we were to write about any topic on the Middle Ages we wanted to explore. I knew exactly what I wanted to research and became excited by the prospect. 

Having been a martial artist all my life, and having years of training in a system centered on Japanese Feudal combat, I decided to research Medieval fighting systems. My focus was on sword schools as there was ample woodcut evidence through surviving woodcuts that depicted the techniques. 

I used books like Sigmund Ringeck’s Knightly Arts of Combat: Sword and Buckler Fighting, Wrestling, and Fighting in Armor by David Lidholm. 

Knight

Knightly Arts of Combat: Sword-and-Buckler Fighting, Wrestling, and Fighting in Armor

As I crafted the paper, I thought about how interesting it would be to include realistic combat dynamics into fantasy fiction. The concept stayed in the back of my mind but remained just a potential idea jotted down in my notebook. 

When I learned about the open call for non-European inspired fantasy fiction, I thought it would be fun to create a world based on ancient Japan. Although, I also drew from ancient Korea and China. 

Conan

The Comming of Conan The Cimmerian*

Wanting to create a swashbuckling sword and sorcery epic fantasy drama, I drew upon many inspirations including Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian and Kull the Conquer series of stories. Inspiration also came from the Seven Samurai (1954) and the Jidaigeki (period dramas) and chanbara (sword fighting Amurai cinema). 

Samurai

Seven Samurai*

However, I didn’t want to include the samurai or the ninja as this had been done to death. Instead, I used an obscure book as my inspiration for a fighting wizard character: Leung Ting’s Skills of the Vagabonds. The book had capitalized on the 1980s ninja boom comparing the  Chinese Vagabond assassins to Japan’s ninja assassins. Marketing at its finest! The glowing eyes on the cover of the book had stayed with me over the years and I thought it would be great fodder for fantasy fiction. 

Skills

Skills of the Vagabonds 

Delving deeply into Japanese mythology, I began to craft the story into a 20,000-word novella, the low end of the word count required for submission. 

For the title, I decided on a mixture of Skills of the Vagabond and a variant of the “Swords” titles prevalent in the fantasy genre like Swords against Wizardry (Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser sequence) by Fritz Leiber and Sword of Destiny (Witcher Saga) by Andrzej Sapkowski.  Blade of the Vagabond sounded like a fantasy story to my ear. 

Witcher

Sword of Destiny (The Witcher)*

Despite the open call ending before I finished, I soldiered on completing the first draft and then shelving the project until, six months later, they opened for submissions once again. 

Next time, I’ll delve into the submission process that led to receiving an  Honorable Mention. I’ll also reveal the original title and how and why it changed. I hope you’ll follow my blog to find out what happened.

*As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. 

 

Year in Review 2019

Each year I create a list of goals for every area of my life. Throughout the year I work on my goals, track my progress, and then commit to posting my top accomplishments. I hope in doing so it will inspire you to do the same. 

Writing

Novels

Finished the third-draft of The Tower of Abandon, a horror-thriller novel that is hovering around 75,000 words. 

Entered the St. Martin’s Minotaur/Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel Competition. 

Participated in the National November Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). 

Began writing Black Magic Bullets (Urban Fantasy) during NaNoWriMo and published 16 (first-draft) chapters on my blog.

I FREAKING LOVE THIS. It fills a void that Harry Dresden has left. –Review from a Twitter follower. 

Began utilizing ProWritingAid to tighten my prose. 

Black Magic Bullets

Short Stories

 

award-honorable-mention-wotf

 

Awarded an Honorable Mention in the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest putting my story in the top 2% of all entries.

My story Shattered (3,200 words) was shortlisted for inclusion in an anthology. 

Submitted to 11 fiction markets including 2 submissions to WOTF. 

 

Reviews 

Wrote and posted a review of glass slipper dreams, shattered by Doungjai Gam.

Wrote and posted a review of Ararat by Christopher Golden. 

Read through a manuscript and gave input to a pro/Indy writer.

 

Notable Books Read

The Chinaman (The Foreigner) by Stephen Leather 

Eaters of the Dead by Michael Crichton 

Ararat by Christopher Golden 

The Big Bopper Rises by Reb MacRath 

Dr. Sleep by Stephen King

Without Remorse by Tom Clancy 

Storm Front by Jim Butcher 

Writers of the Future Vol. 35

 

Marketing/Platform

Wrote 21 plus Scribes of Arcanum Anatomy of a Sale blog posts.

Reposted 2 of my out of print stories on my blog. 

Posted 16 (1st draft) chapters of Black Magic Bullets on blog. 

Family & Friends

Introducing our adoptive cat, Diesel! 

Desielgift

We adopted a five-year-old tuxedo cat from the Woonsocket Cat Sanctuary. He had gone semi-feral and they thought he might never be adoptable.  Surprisingly, to all the staff, Diesel took to us very quickly. Although, once we got him home, he hid for almost a month. Now he can’t get enough of us and has made it his mission to become a lap cat. The main challenge we had with him is that at some point, as far as the vet can tell, he bit the inside of his cheek and he had to take meds to heal his wound. We brought him to the vet 4 times this year for checkups and it seems he has finally healed. Diesel has made himself at home and has become a part of our family. 

I drove my dad (and my mom) to an eye doctor appointment the day after his cataract surgery and then we went to lunch. 

I met my parents for breakfast at Foxwoods. 

Met briefly with friends at the New England Whiskey Fest. 

Saw Rambo: Last Blood with my dad. 

Went to New Orleans for our Anniversary. 

Had Thanksgiving dinner with the In-Laws. 

Kept in touch with my friend and former English professor through email. 

Martial Arts and Other Training. 

Kuhapdo

I was Patty’s plus one at Planet Fitness. Most of my time there was for leg days. I spent 30 minutes on either the treadmill or incumbent bike and then performed weighted leg lifts and squats among other exercises. 

Celebrated 32 years of formal martial arts training. 

Had the opportunity to take a couple Hapkido and open classes this year. 

Attended the Chung Suk Kuhapdo (Korean sword) seminar taught by Master May of the Blue Stone Dojang. 

After the seminar, I was invited to have lunch at Arisu Korean Restaurant in Leominster, MA. Had Sujeonggwa Cinnamon with Ginger Punch, Bulgogi beef with white rice and some appetizers, miso soup, and either Seafood Paijeon or Kimchi-jeon.

KoreanRes

Home training included shadow boxing using JKD attack by combination (ABC) and Bas Rutten Boxing and Tai boxing HITT training, Kali double and single stick, stick and dagger, Bunkai and forms training, and Kunhapdo sword draws and 100 cuts. 

Health

Had my annual physical and am the picture of health. Although, I could use to drop a couple pounds. Haha! 

My doctor wanted a spot on my forehead checked by a dermatologist. I went to the appointment but it was a false alarm. No issues. Whew! 

Began calcium and magnesium supplements. 

Saw my ophthalmologist twice and my pressure has been down. 

Had two dental cleanings. Dental exam showed a cracked tooth and I had to have a root canal that took three appointments to complete.  

Cars

Had to replace tires on my car. They were nearing the end of their tread cycle and had dry rot. 

I went through the process of replacing my driver’s license with a Real ID. 

Patty’s struts failed and were replaced under warranty. 

A small piece of composite worked it’s way inside one of Patty’s tires and was fixed for free. 

Patty’s vehicle needed brakes and rotors. 

Updated Patty’s out of date Mazda infotainment system firmware. 

Cord Cutting

To save money we hooked up a Clearstream antenna to receive free Over The Air TV. 

At the same time we switched to Philo for live TV streaming. 

During the year we utilized free and discounted premium streaming services including Showtime and Starz. Starz is still ongoing. 

Utilized free 30 day free trial for Netflix that is still ongoing. 

Shopping

Utilized various discount stores and got loyalty cards for Ollie’s Bargain Outlet and Ocean State Job Lots. 

Utilized a discounted BJ’s membership that is still ongoing. 

Finances

Refinanced our mortgage 

Leveraged taxes again to a tax preparer. 

House

I put everything aside for about a month to do some much-needed house repairs.

We brought in an electrician to replace wired smoke and CO2 alarms along with adding a heat detector in the garage. 

The electrician also updated lighting in the dining area, kitchen, and upstairs hall. We also had them replace the broken exhaust fan in the bathroom. 

As part of the bathroom refresh to prep for the electrician and plumber, we painted the ceiling and installed a stick-on backsplash.  

We had Victory Plumbing come in and rebuild shower fixtures in both the upstairs and downstairs bathrooms. The downstairs had seized and needed replacement and the upstairs was going. Also, I had to refresh the downstairs bathroom faucet and the kitchen faucet which was leaking. 

I replaced the downstairs toilet innards to stop it from running. (I was tired of chasing after it! Haha). 

I replaced the doorbell with a wireless doorbell. 

I also changed out the garbage disposal. 

We replaced our old stove since two of the burners no longer worked, and our old fridge since it was dying. 

We had the electricians add an outlet in the garage ceiling to be up to code and then replaced our broken garage door and automatic door opener. 

Travel & Fun

New Orleans

Patty&DaveNOLA1

We hadn’t been to New Orleans since the year 2000 and it was nice to return to the Crescent City. It was very hot and muggy and we decided not to venture too far from our hotel, but still had a great time. 

Stayed at the Wyndham French Quater – it was fine but would not recommend. The Concierge tried to pressure us into a timeshare presentation. We had trouble getting the maid service to clean our room but they were right there on the day we left looking for a tip. I have a tip for them—do your job! 

Deuce Mcallister’s Ole Saint Kitchen & Tap was right next door, and very convenient when the weather became too oppressive for walking. 

Started many a morning (or afternoon) with Chicory coffee and beignets at Cafe Beignet. 

A bartender at B.B. King’s turned us onto Hochstadter’s Low & Slow Rock & Rye and Old Fashioned cocktail in a bottle. 

We marched in a popup parade. 

NOLAParade

We ate at Oceana Red Fish, had Muffulettas at Central Grocery & Deli, and a farewell meal at Acme Oyster House.

Hung out at Jackson Square, toured St. Louis Cathedral and the Old Ursuline Convent, and walked around Frenchmen Street. 

Watched Steamboat Willie at the Cafe Beignet at Musical Legends Park. 

I performed Karaoke at The Cat’s Meow. Hey, someone has to entertain the people visiting the Big Easy! Watch my performance here! 

Whitesnake Concert  – Twin River Casino in Lincoln, RI 

Whitesnake1

Patty took me to see Whitesnake at Twin River Casino in Lincoln, RI for my birthday. 

We had a blast. Birthday dinner at Texas Roadhouse and washed it down with Slow & Easy whiskey sours at the concert. 

P&DWS

New England Whiskey Fest – Twin River Casino in Lincoln, RI 

Here’s a list of what we tried at the New England Whiskey Fest, along with initial impressions. If it wasn’t so busy, I’d have taken more pictures.

Glenfiddich Bourbon Barrel Reserve 14 – We both prefer the 12 or 15 Solara cask. Sweet arrival with a dry spicy finish.

Eagle Rare – Very sweet. Would make a good mixing whiskey.

Sazerac Rye – one of Patty’s favorites. Very spicy. Probably better in a Sazerac, but no problem drinking neat.

Whistle Pig Straight Rye 15 – Okay, would try again.

Highland Park 12 – Lightly peated. Nicely balanced. One of Patty’s favorites. I liked this a lot.

Auchentoshan 12 – I tried this. Very nice. Floral and sweet. Enjoyable.

Laphroaig 10 – Patty didn’t’ try. Either my tastes are changing or this whiskey has mellowed. Still has a strong taste of cough sweets, but I swear I was hunting for peat. Maybe tasting so many spirts changed the nature of this whiskey on my pallet.

Jameson Black Barrel – Patty tried. She wasn’t impressed.

A mixed drink with Bully Boy white whiskey. Patty tried and enjoyed it.

West Cork Port Cask finish – Patty tried and did not like.

Food

Bourbon infused cupcakes. Awesome!

Fred and Steve’s Steak House Steak Sandwich (I ate two!).

Shipyard Pub Truffle Fries.

Wicked Good Chicken Cheese Waffle or something. I had this but didn’t like it.

Wrapped Scallop w/ Bacon. Patty had one. She thought it was awesome.

Fiji supplied the water.

Popa Chubby provided the music.

A good time was had by all!

 

2019 Movies Watched in 2019 at Home

Triple Threat BluRay

 

The Foreigner **** Starz – This is from 2017 but watched after reading Stephen Leather’s novel.

Captain Marvel ** Movies Anywhere. 

The Curse of Llorona *** Amazon $.99 rental

Avengers: Endgame **** Movies Anywhere

Avengement **** DVD

Triple Threat ** /Blu-Ray 

Annabelle Comes Home ** Prime rental 

Kill Chain *** Prime

John Wick 3: Parabellum **** Blu-Ray

6 Underground *** Netflix 

Men in Black: International * Starz 

Spiderman: Far From Home **** Blu Ray 

Brightburn ** Starz

2019 Movies watched in the Theater

Rambo: Last Blood **** Cinema World Fitchburg.

Ad Astra **** Providence Place IMAX 

 

That’s it for 2019. I’ll see you in 2020!

Happy New Year!!! 

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…