Category Archives: Writing

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Salem's Lot

Buy Salem’s Lot from Amazon*

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

Flatliners

Buy Flatliners on Amazon*

Here’s some background information: 

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

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

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

Then providence intervened. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

The Scribe’s Arcanum: Anatomy of Writers of the Future Honorable Mention—Blade of the Vagabond Part 3

For Part 1, click here. For Part 2, click here. 

Realizing I could resubmit Blade of the Vagabond to the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future contest, I set out to put the 8,000-word version through a final polish. I uploaded the manuscript into ProWritingAid and began making my prose lean and mean. With an even cleaner manuscript, I went through the process outlined on the Writers of the Future website and submitted it through their web-portal. 

WOTF-35-Front-Cover

Writers of the Future Volume 35

There was nothing else to do but wait and keep working on my current project. After facing rejection a few times with this story, I had no expectations. In fact, I sent it off only to keep the manuscript circulating. I didn’t feel the story in its shortest form, grabbed a top spot, and I didn’t have time to re-edit the longer version to make the submission window. Truly, I would need to add back between 1,000 and 1,500 words to sand down what I felt was an awkward transition. 

Imagine my surprise when I received this email: 

Dear Entrant,

Your story has been judged and is an Honorable Mention for the 3rd quarter of the L Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future contest. (You entered between 1 April and 30 June <2019>).

Congratulations!!! You were in the top 2% of all entries. 

Getting an Honorable Mention from the Writers of the Future contest is a big deal. There are no figures on how many enter the contest each quarter. It’s a very large number. From the information I had, we could estimate something like 14,000 entries! I’m not sure if that number’s accurate, but if it is, it’s understandable why they wouldn’t want to make it public. They want you to send in your story, and if that number intimidates you, you’ll be less likely to submit. Probably the largest and most prestigious contest in the Science Fiction and Fantasy genre. If you want to get any recognition—bring your A-game.  

Receiving the Honorable Mention was a nice pick-me-up during a long dry period in sales. It showed I was on the right track, encouraging me to redouble my efforts. 

It also made me reevaluate my writing career direction. Previously, I’d been submitting mostly short horror stories and writing a combination of novel-length thrillers and horror thrillers. After the Honorable Mention, I began not only working on an Urban Fantasy novel but reevaluated some of my unpublished short fiction to market it as dark fantasy or rewrite it as Urban fantasy. No matter which, I’ll probably work on more fantasy and Science fiction as I go forward. 

A list of all the Honorable Mentions and Winners for that quarter can be found here.

A great post with tips on writing for the contest can be found here. 

So, that’s it. That’s the full story of how I got an Honorable Mention in the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future contest. If you enter, and I hope you do, I wish you the best of luck. Keep plugging away.  I know I am!

 

*As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. 

BOTVWotFHM

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. 

 

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&amp;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&amp;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!!! 

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…