Category Archives: Selling Fiction

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 3 & 4 – Black Magic Bullets

This is only my second day working on my NaNoWriMo novel. I wasn’t sure about joining in on the festivities, but after writing a short 800 words yesterday, I felt like I might be on to something. Also, had an encouraging Twitter comment from a very kind reader comparing my scant pages to Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files. Wow! Those are big shoes to fill! Although very flattering, and it certainly made my day, I won’t let it go to my head.

200px-Skin_game_cover

I got up early and after helping my wife get off to work, and feeding our cat, I wrote the 1st draft of the 3rd and 4th chapters. I made word-count easier and quicker than expected. Sometimes it works out that way. I’ll take it. While I might write more later, I still have the 3rd draft edits of an 80,000-word horror thriller on my plate and some short story work I need to revisit.

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While I have you here, I  wanted to mention I’m now officially listed as receiving an Honorable Mention in the 3rd quarter of the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest. My story ended up in the top 2% of all submissions. This is one of the most prestigious contests in the Science Fiction and Fantasy genre with thousands of entrants every quarter.  A contest like this can make your career. If you write SF&F, you will be well served to enter this contest. Bring your A-game and strive to be better every submission. And like Han Solo famously said, “Never tell me the odds!” If you want to see all the contest winners along with the Finalists and Honorable Mentions, click the link here.

Never Solo

 

I know I owe you another The Scribes Arcanum blog, where I talk about short fiction sales, and I hope to post more shortly.

Now without further ado, the next first draft chapters of Black Magic Bullets. Click here to read chapter 1 and 2.  Let me know what you think in the comments or on social media. I wish you all the best with your writing.

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 3

As I approached the elevator bank I caught sight of a young brunette, very well put together, very corporate, stepping out of the cab. She stopped for only three-tenths of a second. Gave me a once-over and then headed out to, I could only imagine, a trendy restaurant for her lunch break. Almost a full foot taller than me, I mussed that dancing might be out of the question. 

Feeling like a geek all my life, I was taken aback. Did that girl just check me out? I wasn’t used to it, but I couldn’t say I didn’t like it. Must be my new suit. 

They were waiting for me when I stepped off the elevator. It wasn’t the 666th floor but the ascent felt like it. My ears popped more than once on the way up. 

“Jasmin Stone, Executive Vice President of Human Resources,” the woman with the black silk skirt suit and the morticians smile greeted me with a cold handshake and spidery fingers. 

“Harrison Thorne,” I said

“Do you go by——?”

“Just Harrison,” I interrupted. Hate is not the word for what I think of nicknames. 

“I’m not a fan of names with three syllables,” she said with a wink. 

“Harris,” I said, trying not to sound exasperated. Seemed like a fair compromise. 

“Well then, Harris,” She said splaying her fingers palm up, directing them toward a man in an equally shiny silk suit. “This is James Peal III our Director of HR. We’ll be conducting the interview. Come this way please.” 

Instead of a cold clinical corporate headquarters, the expanse of hallways and offices exuded warmth and reflected the refined taste of the CEO and executive management. Yet, instead of classic prints or success platitudes, oil paintings that can only be described as ghoulish adorned the walls. I wondered if they had been purchased from a serial killer’s estate sale. 

The conference room held nothing out of the ordinary, a long mahogany table, set with a water pitcher and glasses on a tray in the center, with plush crimson chairs surrounding, and a 75-inch flatscreen obelisk hanging on the wall, as reflective as any mirror. 

They sat across from me, my puny resume placed in front of them. I had no experience to speak of and very little education. What did I have to offer? 

“We don’t care about your resume,” Jasmin said as if reading my mind. If the rumors were true about Dreadstone, maybe she could. She tore the paper in half leting it float back to the tabletop. 

I didn’t know what to say, so I said nothing. My heart raced and my palms felt clammy. I placed my hands below the table to wipe them on my pants. 

“What Ms. Stone means,” Peal said interjecting to break up the silence. “Is we’re not interested in your previous work or schooling. We want to see if you can recruit for us. It’s a very special type of recruiting that only those who have spent time in the environments you have could accomplish successfully.” 

“How will you know?” I asked. It was no idle curiosity. I had a very bad feeling about what was going to happen next.

“We’ll test you,” Stone said, with a mischievous sparkle in her eyes. 

“How?” My mouth went dry and I found it hard to wrap my lips around the word. I pointed toward the water pitcher. Stone nodded. I waited a beat but when it didn’t look like Stone nor Peal were planning on playing gracious host, I reached for a glass and helped myself. 

She sat patiently until I’d hydrated before continuing. 

“There is a… place we call the Collective. The old joke is that you can’t get there from here. That is more than true. You can’t walk there or call an Uber. No bus, train, or plane can reach that destination.

“It says here that you have martial arts training,” Stone said, pointing to the ripped resume before her. 

Not having much work experience I had listed my black belt and assistant instructor status, but I was really pushing it with that. The assistant instructorship wasn’t anything formal.

 “Have you pursued mediation?” 

“Yes,” I said, then qualified, not wanting to oversell myself. “A little.” 

“Good,” Stone said, a smile coloring her voice. “The best and safest way into the Collective is through transcendental meditation, but it will take time for you to develop the skill.” 

“What do I do until I gain the ability?”

“I’m glad you asked that,” Peal chimed in. “You might not be, though.” 

With that, they led me out into a hall and to another room.

A placard read: RITUAL 667. 

What was I getting myself into?

 

Chapter 4 

The ritual room was more refined than any I had visited. In my teenage years, I hung out at The Chasm in North Hampton. Even in the wilds of Western Massachusetts, the owners went to great pains to hide the place from the inquisitive and the hostile. 

Normals fear what they don’t understand and during The Chasm’s early years someone threw a brick through the decorative plateglass window. After that, the owners had cast a masking spell around the store.

A friend I had met at another occult shop had given me the procedure to get in. 

I would pull up on the opposite side of the street, and shut off my mother’s Hyundai. Looking across the way, I’d see a cluster of businesses accordioning in on themselves. 

My retinas didn’t register The Chasm. It stood all but invisible until I closed my eyes and relaxed, pushed away my desire to visit, and remained still. 

As my mind quieted my body calmed, my heart rate slowed, and once I opened my eyes again, I’d see The Chasm as if it had materialized out of nowhere. 

Maybe I wasn’t giving myself enough credit. 

The ritual room in the basement had been outfitted similarly but was more utilitarian. I had only walked through the ritual space at the Chasm, never having the confidence nor the courage to do more than observe some basic wizardry or a local coven celebrating the change of the seasons during Samhain or Beltane. The sexually charged Beltane rituals were always my favorite. Can you blame me? 

Here the ritual room had been tiled, the same as the hall, in a rich black stone. A ubiquitous pentacle had been etched into the floor, porcelain white over ebony granite. 

Dim red recess lighting kept the place dark and reminded me of a photography darkroom. 

Yet, the glow remained bright enough to reveal all the tools of the trade: a small portable altar, stick incense–I could see that it had been hand-dipped, the kind of quality and attention to detail that relieved the inhaler of headaches caused by caustic additives–very expensive–a bakers dozen of double-sided antheme blades, a bowl for the creature of water, and another for the creature of salt. A solitary black candle waited on the alter for the creature of fire, and a red, blue, green, and yellow candle stood on pedestals at each cardinal compass point. 

A dozen-plus suit valet lined the far side of the room. 

Why are those here?

I didn’t have to wait long for my answer. 

“Undress,” Stone said simply as she and Peal to-the-third-power led me over to the valets. 

“What?” Had I heard her right? I didn’t see a changing room.

“What, are you that modest?” Stone asked before her crimson lips upturned into a devious smile. “I was under the impression that anyone who made time at The Chasm or Phantasmagoria would have no problem disrobing around others.”

My mouth went dry again and all I could manage was a nod. 

Sure, I had observed Beltane rituals, one of the few nights where outsiders to the covens were allowed to watch the Alexandrian or Gardnerian witches do their thing skyclad, but I had never been the one disrobing. 

When in Rome, I suppose.

Averting my gaze as much as my curiosity would allow, I tried not to stare at Stone’s porcelain skin or her chiseled curves. I didn’t want to embarrass myself. 

Now with all of us metaphorically clad only by the sky, Peal removed a portable breathing mask connected to a canister from a draw in the valet. 

“You’ll need this if you hope to enter the Collective,” he said, handing it to me.

“What’s in it?” I managed, not relishing the idea of inhaling some unknown substance.

“Ethylene gas,” Stone answered. “You’re holding a concentrator. Turn the valve one turn widdershins when you’re ready and breath deeply. No more than that at a time. This is the same inhalant, with a couple extra additives, used by Pythia the Oracle of Delphy. If you over concentrate you’ll end up babbling gibberish and will be no use to us. Not only will you fail the test, but you could end up dead. No pressure.” 

Yeah, no pressure. Sure. 

To be continued…

 

 

 

 

 

The Scribe’s Arcanum: Anatomy of a Sale—The Hours of Sleep Part 2

 

I had momentum behind me from recent sales and figured it wouldn’t hurt to have another story acceptance. I had already tried to sell The Hours of Sleep to all the professional publications but no one wanted vampire fiction. Then I came across the open call for an anthology called You can’t kill me: I’m already dead: A Vampire Anthology. Here was a market tailor-made for my story. 

The editor was only offering royalties and a free e-copy of the book, but there was another reason to submit, besides money or placing what seemed an unmarketable story. Cool kids. Yes, I was keeping up with upcoming writers. When I found out that some were submitting or had been accepted, I wanted to be included with that group. I also knew that if they were submitting to this anthology, it would be quality and a worthwhile venture. 

Eric J. Guignard, a Bram Stoker Award winner, a finalist for the International Thriller Writers Award, and a multi-nominee of the Pushcart Prize has probably had the most success of all the alumni of that anthology. Good company to keep, and pages to share.

I also met a writer in that anthology who has also worked as an editor and invited me to submit to his print magazine and podcast. 

Pro Tip 2: Sharing pages with up-and-coming authors and editors can lead to friendships and market invites. You never know. 

Vampire Antho

Here’s the blurb and a list of the authors included in the book:

“You can’t kill me, I’m already dead: A Vampire Anthology” presents the chronicles behind modern vampires and provides a chronological tour through vampire literature. Vampires have long captured the imaginations of famous writers, who wrote novels, stories, poems, and plays about the creatures of the night.

Nikki Vogel

James Harley

Eric J. Guignard 

Rebecca L. Brown

Elise Thomas

Joseph A. Pinto

Norman A. Rubin

Jay Wilburn

Kenneth Whitfield

Gregg Chamberlain

David North-Martino

T. Fox Dunham

Mark Slade

Steven Deman

Tyson West 

Denny E. Marshall

D.J. Currivean

Joseph J. Patchen

Alan Russo

The editor sent an acceptance on 11/25/12 and then on 12/2/12 sent a contract for me to sign electronically. 

In the end, I found a home for my story, connected with other up-and-coming writers within the community, and continued my momentum.  

You can’t kill me: I’m already dead: A Vampire Anthology is available for purchase here. 

Next time we’ll continue this discussion and we’ll also touch upon editorial feedback and how it can enhance your career. 

The Scribe’s Arcanum: Anatomy of a Sale—The Hours of Sleep Part 1

I was hoping to tell you by now that I made a short fiction sale this year. Although that hasn’t happened yet, I’m pleased to report that I received an Honorable Mention for the 3rd quarter of L. Ron Hubbard’s Writers of the Future contest. I’m also told that it puts me in the top 2% of all entrants. I’m awaiting my certificate and will tell you more once it’s posted on their official blog.

award-honorable-mention-wotf

Last time I mentioned I would talk about giving your work away or, in this case, gambling on the potential for royalties, and a free electronic copy of the anthology. Think long and hard before you give up “first rights.”  Once you give those rights away, you can never get them back, and the next time you sell the manuscript, you must do so as a reprint. Reprint sales are not as lucrative as new story sales. 

Pro Tip: It’s never a bad thing to give your work away to a legitimate charity anthology.   

The idea for The Hours of Sleep began as, of all things, the original lyrics to a song. Back in 1996, I was working an interim job, and I had some extra time on my hands. My wife had purchased an entry-level keyboard/synthesizer for me to mess around on and burn through some of my creativity. This was a year before I began writing and submitting short fiction. I decided I wanted to write a progressive rock/thrash metal/goth-pop album. All I had to work with was a boombox with a double tape deck, an omni-microphone, the synthesizer, my voice, and a coffee can for reverb and echo. 

Back at my parents’ house, I would have been able to use my dad’s DJ and production equipment. But here in our new apartment, I didn’t have access to those niceties.  I no longer had a drum set, and I wasn’t hanging around musicians like I had in the ‘80s. Still, I was determined to make an album. 

Without going into the full story, I ended up writing a song called Vomit Dirt Cascade. Haha! I know… Great title, right? The title meant to call up the image of the undead exploding from a fresh grave. 

The Lyrics that inspired The Hours of Sleep short story:

Numbness kills the pain

The night was black in vain 

Latent Precambrian 

Urges to kill and win

I’ll make you my slave

Steal your blood from vein

When there is nothing left

You will be twice dead

Thirst in your black hole soul

Carrion has claimed his toll 

Now you’ve become the naïve 

But if I was the grave

Vomit Dirt Cascade! 

Vomit Dirt Cascade! 

The original title of my story was Twice Dead, but I took another song called The Hour of Sleep (inspired by John Carpenter’s Brotherhood of Sleep in the horror movie Prince of Darkness) and made it plural. 

I’ve been thinking about posting the audio on YouTube. If I do, I’ll provide a hyperlink here later. 

 Back in the year 2000, my wife and I made a return trip to New Orleans. We hadn’t been back to NOLA since our honeymoon in 1995. We stayed at the Bourbon Orleans, and a bellhop had given us some advice on where to visit and which areas to avoid. The dark and dangerous streets of the French Quarter excited my imagination. Then, in our youth, being adventurous, we had drinks at a vampire bar, as part of a tour led by a self-proclaimed “real-life vampire,” living in what is known as vampire reality, who called himself Vlad. In the center of the space, there was a cage large enough to hold a human standing upright.

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When we returned home, this experience (along with my song lyrics) coalesced into the story I eventually titled The Hours of Sleep. 

After finishing the manuscript, I sent the story out and began collecting rejection slips. One editor said he thought The Hours of Sleep was the most original vampire story he had read in ages, but he didn’t take vampire fiction any longer and wouldn’t be buying it. 

I sent it to the now-defunct Dreams of Decadence and got a great rejection letter.  The editor thought the story was original and well written but she also passed. I would later study her magazine to discover why it wasn’t such a good fit. I talk more about this in my posts about the story, Despair. 

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With The Hours of Sleep returned to my virtual trunk on my hard drive, I gave up on the story and moved on. 

In 2012, I noticed an open call for You Can’t Kill Me, I’m Not Dead Yet: a Vampire Anthology and tried my luck. 

I’ll tell you what happened next time.