Tag Archives: Fiction

NaNoWriMo – Chap 8 & 9 Black Magic Bullets

Day four of #NaNoWriMo and I’ve made wordcount. Anyway, this is a rough draft. I continue to course-correct without going back to fix the previous day’s work. Feel free to tell me what you think. Don’t worry, I have a very thick 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 BULLETS.

Chapter 8

I have to admit, the Storeroom was a lot different than I expected. Instead of a closet filled with supplies, it turned out to be the whole lower level of the Dreadstone building. 

Before we grabbed the equipment, Kenzi brought me to the Human Resources office. 

The HR Generalist quickly listed my title as administrative and made my employment legal for the federal government and the state of Massachusetts. In this way, everything appeared above board and I wouldn’t have to find a way to launder the money I’d receive for services rendered.  

“I passed?” I finally asked Kenzi, genuinely surprised. I hadn’t thought of asking Stone. The whole day had been one big whirlwind with little hope of returning to sanity.

“You survived,” Kenzi said. “That’s more than can be said of the previous candidates.”

That’s when I realized just how dangerous the situation in the ritual room had been. I also noticed the effects of the gas had dissipated. That was good, I didn’t need any distractions outside the ritual room. 

Peal arrived for what they simply called the employment ceremony. 

“I want to make this absolutely clear,” Peal said, looming over all in the tight confines of the generalist’s office. 

I had a hard time concentrating. My mind kept intruding with thoughts that only a few minutes earlier I had been standing naked with this man in a pentacle, and a vengeful spirit——who almost killed me by the way——stalking around outside trying to find a way in. 

I rubbed at my throat absentmindedly, it felt tight but would be sore tomorrow.

“Once you’re bound by the contract, you’re required to keep everything we do here confidential into perpetuity. If you break the deal, your life is forfeit.” 

I studied Peal for a moment, his smooth almond skin, Alister Crowley haircut, which is to say he had none and powerful build which made him look more than formidable and belied his executive status and realized that I never wanted to cross this man. 

I needed the job so I nodded affirmation. 

Peal placed what looked like some sort of handheld device on the desk. Flicking a slider on the side of the unit, it took only a second for the device to flip open revealing two square halves. On one side, a sharp barb stood wickedly erect. On the other, a screen flickered and then came to life with a jaundiced glow. I didn’t have to wait for Peal to feed me instructions, what needed doing was painfully obvious. And I mean painful in a literal sense. 

Placing my finger over the barb, I pushed down. The needle bit into my skin. My finger throbbed but I kept my countenance stoic. From this moment forth, weakness wouldn’t be abided. 

Peal grabbed my thumb with one powerful hand and then rolled the digit over the display on the other side. The procedure reminded me of when I had applied for a firearms license. It’s not hyperbole to say I felt like a common criminal. I felt the same now. 

Blood——my——blood, pooled on the screen, then became the shape of my thumbprint, with all its ridges and indentations, before total absorption into the device. 

“Remember,” Peal warned as he scooped up and placed the device into his suit coat pocket, patting it for effect, “you are now subject to the constraints of the bargain.” 

My thumb still smarting, Kenzi took me, by elevator, to the labyrinthine lower level of the Dreadstone building. 

I still had no idea how we would find Dedra’s body, and what we would do with it once we had. 

Hopefully, we could provide her a proper burial, affording her some closure. From what Kenzi had told me, I wasn’t too confident in achieving my desired outcome. 

“Everything has to be done with an eye toward the bargain,” Kenzi said in answer to my inquiry. “This is a quid pro quo business. Dreadstone gets something and Dedra gets something. Nobody gets everything they want, or there would be no need to make the deal.”

“You’re saying we have to keep her wanting so she completes her end of the bargain?”

“That’s exactly what I’m saying,” Kenzi said. “If not, she’d have no need to stay on this plane of existence. Then where would we be?” 

I didn’t like it. The whole thing seemed exploitive and cruel. I needed to wait, though. Bide my time and see how things washed. I didn’t want to be too rash too quickly. Not completing my end of the bargain could mean my death. 

I followed her down a dimly lit echoey hallway past other suit-wearing denizens of the lower dark. 

“How do we even find where her body is located?” I asked, my voice sounding hollow. The whole thing seemed like an exercise in futility. What did we have to go on? Her first name? How far would that get us? 

“With this,” Kenzi held up an evidence bag with a torn piece of cloth protected inside. 

“Where did you get that?” 

“Mr. Peal pried it out of your hands after your skirmish with the entity.”

I looked at her dumbfounded. Searching every quadrant of my mind, I couldn’t remember ripping a piece off of Dedra’s rags. 

“You went into fight or flight,” Kenzi said. “It’s normal not to remember the whole incident. Believe me, I know.”

I was sure she did. Yet, I didn’t really know who this woman was or the extent of her position within the company. I figured I’d learn soon enough. 

Kenzi led me through a beaded entryway on the right. Inside, An Indian woman sat on a cushion in a lotus position. She wore silken robes dyed purple and trimmed in gold. Her raven hair done up with Japanese kanzashi hair sticks. The room smelled sweet of frankincense and sandalwood. The light scent spoke of quality, the kind Phantasmagoria, a shop in Amherst, produced. Asian tapestries and rugs adorned the walls and floor, giving me the image of a magic carpet dealer. Part of me wondered if Dreadstone had a fleet of flying carpets. After the day’s events, I wouldn’t have been surprised if they had. 

“This is Chavvi, one of our resident physic mediums,” Kenzi said as we approached. I felt uncomfortable for not knocking before entering. As far as I could tell, Kenzi held no such reservations or feelings. 

“I’m——,” I began as I held out my hand. 

“No don’t tell me,” Chavvi said as she rose to greet us. She clasped my hand in hers, closing her eyes. Her hand felt both cool and soft against my skin. 

“I see a rosebush. Now a single rose, the stem. Thorns.”

Her eyes fluttered open. 

“Am I close?”

“I’d say.” Chavvi had truly impressive abilities. Compelled against reason, I lifted her hand to my lips and gave it a kiss. “My last name is Thorne. Harrison Thorne, but my friends call me Harris.”

“This one’s a charmer, isn’t he,” Chavvi said giving a wink to Kenzi and taking back her hand. 

Kenzi’s expression didn’t change. If some women were thought of as cool drinks, Kenzi was ice-water in a frosty glass. I didn’t mind that, though. Something about her frozen exterior was appealing. Perhaps she was hiding some torment under that arctic exterior, a hot pain cordoned off by a wall of ice. I’ve always been a sucker for a mystery. 

“I need you to enter the Collective and find out everything you can. Names, places, dates.I’d like to take action today if possible.”

“You never ask for much, do you?” Chavvi said stifling a giggle. “Okay, come back in an hour or two. I should have something then. Do me a favor: bring your friend. I like him.”

Chapter 9

With time to kill, Kenzi buzzed us into an oblong room painted battleship gray. Weapons both modern and archaic lined the walls and waited in cases. Tucked into each corner of the room stood heavy iron vaults I could only imagine held much of the same. 

“Welcome to the armory,” Kenzi said, the upturn of her lips was the closest she had come to a smile.

“You need all this to protect yourselves from ghosts?” I asked. There was enough firepower here alone to equip a small army. 

“Dreadstone is involved with a lot more than just inhuman resource recruiting,” Kenzi said, and I guess I had imagined as much. “Besides, when we go out into the field we’re not just dealing with what’s in the Collective.” 

“The author Richard Connell knew that humans were the most dangerous animals on earth,. Maybe they’re the most dangerous entity in any dimension as well,” I added. Kenzi didn’t seem impressed by my factoid. 

“They’re dangerous,” Kenzi said. “That’s why we prepare for the worst. You never know who you’re going to run into out in the field. And until you’re up to speed performing wizardry in the Collective, our weaponry is going to have to do double duty.” 

Then she looked at me straight in the eye. 

“Have you ever fired a gun before.”

“I used to go hunting with my dad,” I said. 

“So, in Mass, most likely shotgun,” She said. I nodded. She was right. With the state so heavily populated, most hunting with firearms was relegated to shotgun season. Rifle rounds traveled too far to be safely fired in most areas. 

“What about handguns?” She asked. 

“I’ve handled them,” I said. 

Kenzi retrieved a Colt 1911 from the case.

“Show me.” 

To be continued… 

 

 

NaNoWriMo – Chap 5, 6 & 7 Black Magic Bullets

Day three of NaNoWriMo and I’ve made word-count. Anyway, this is a very rough draft. Although I was trying to create a character arc, I came to the realization that my protagonist might not be a strong enough character for the genre. I attempted a slight course correction. Also, I write by the seat of my pants without an outline. I have no idea what’s going to happen from writing session to writing session. And as always, this is only a first draft with very light corrections. Feel free to let me know what you think. Don’t worry. 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 BULLETS.

Chapter 5

“You’ll know what to do,” Stone assured me before we began. “I can tell you’re suffering a crisis of confidence. That’s not who you really are. I want you to think back to all the training you’ve had, not just in wizardry but also as a fighter”

Stone was right. I wasn’t feeling myself. I had let my life circumstances rob me of my mojo, let them make me feel less than. I knew who I was. I had fought full contact not just in the dojang martial arts school but on the streets, against bullies. Had I won all my fights? No, who could? But I had never backed down from a fight. Thinking back, I had logged plenty of ritual sessions, even if most of them took place in my parent’s unfinished basement. 

Feeling better, I nodded my head. 

Peal began the process, walking around the circle, lighting each colored candle with a matte-black Zippo, calling upon the creatures of each direction, invoking a pentagram by cutting each line in the air with an athame. 

Voice booming, Peal uttered words of power, infusing his thoughts, and his words, with his actions. 

When he had finished, We entered the center of the pentagram. 

“Computer,” Stone uttered the wake word. “Protection.” 

Tiny tubes in the circle of the pentacle released the creature of salt until the grove had completely filled. 

She spoke the wake word again followed by the word undine, and I watched a tile on the floor slide open to reveal a hole in the floor filled with water. I knew why but thought it odd. Never in all the rites, I had observed, had anything like this been utilized. 

“Ritual,” Stone said right after the wake word and the lights shut off leaving them with only the illumination and moving shadows cast by candlelight. 

“It’s time to enter the Collective,” Stone said. “Are you ready?”

I took a deep breath to slow my heart. 

“I’m ready.”

Placing the mask over my nose and mouth, my other hand worked the valve releasing the gas. The seal was tight, the gas did not leak, and I closed my eyes, breathed in deeply. 

When I opened my eyes, everything had changed. 

The mundane world had been replaced by what Stone called the Collective. 

I realized I was in the collective now. One foot in waking reality, the other in an interdimensional dream. 

“Can you see it?” Stone asked when she opened her eyes. She hadn’t relied on the gas to enter and neither had Peal. A meditative state allowed them passage. I longed for the ability to transgress from one waking world to another naturally. 

I nodded. 

By the green candle stood a diminutive being, a gnome. His eyes black, staring, perhaps dreaming, lending power to our rite. 

A sylph fluttered her wings as she circled the yellow candle in ecstatic flight. 

A floating orb of light, an elemental of fire, referred to in medieval times as a salamander buzzed the red candle. 

Finally, I looked to the small water pool which had been revealed by the blue candle. Up came the head and shoulders of a beautiful undine water elemental. I averted my eyes to keep from being transfixed by her radiance. 

Never in all the rites, I had witnessed had I observed the manifestation of even one elemental. They had been called upon and believed to be there to protect and empower. Yet, they remained invisible. Only their presence could sometimes be felt. Seeing them in their natural or unnatural form, I couldn’t decide which, was somewhat disconcerting. 

At each quarter a pentagram hung in the air. Peal had created each one expertly, the cuts as precise as any human could accomplish. 

Peal used the athame to activate the sodium in the grooves of the circle, augmenting the natural protective qualities of the ordinary substance. 

A blinding white energy beam shot down through Peals head and out the athame, alighting the salt as it burned like a white-hot fire. 

“Welcome to the collective, Mr. Thorne,” Peal said as he placed the dagger on the floor. “The test is about to begin.”

 

Chapter 6

“I don’t think I need to tell you,” Stone began. “Whatever you do, don’t break the circle.”

What did she think he was… new? That was the first rule of ritual magic. Breaking the circle could be dangerous, seeing into the collective sent the message home in a big way. All of this had been invisible to him for so long. 

“Are you sure you’re ready?” Peal asked, concern wrinkling his brow and the skin under his eyes. 

“You don’t need to worry about me,”  I said. I had once again found my place of strength Let it rip. Get this thing over with. 

Peal said the invocation. Nothing happened. 

For some reason, I turned. I can’t remember if I had some objective or reason, but I immediately regretted it. 

Just beyond the circle stood a being not quite dead, not quite alive. A state of being sometimes described as undead. 

The thing stared at me with dead malevolent eyes. I gasped, stumbled back. I heard Peal’s sharp call too late. I had stumbled outside the circle taking the ethereal fire and the elementals with it. 

The thing was upon me then constricting my throat with powerful hands, lifting me into the air as it screamed banshee-like, a primal fit of rage. 

Tunnel vision set in. The constriction deprived me of both blood and oxygen. Below, Stone and Peal screamed for me to do something, anything. The life was draining out of me along with my strength as the creature screamed, tossing me around. 

With only seconds left before I blacked out, I hissed words of power between clenched teeth allowing the white light glow into the crown of my head and into my hands filling them with what the Chinese sages call chi. 

I hit the blasted thing with a double hand palm strike, releasing stored energy, blasting the creature into the opposite wall.

Free from constriction, I plummeted back to the floor. Peal dragged me back inside the circle. 

Picking up the athame, Stone summoned energy, and then closed the circle–walling us off from the evil being. 

“What the hell was that?” I managed to ask. My whole body hurt and I rubbed at my throat. 

“Lemur,” Stone said. “And she hasn’t left yet. Can’t leave until we release her.”

I looked across the circle and saw the lemur crouched, ready to pounce if given the chance.

“I’ve never heard that name,” I said, and I hoped never to have to deal with one again. 

“The lemur is an angry spirit,” Peal said. “One who wanders without reason.”

“We give them purpose,” Stone said, crawling to the edge of the circle to confront the lemur. 

Tentatively, I followed, careful to stay well away from the edge of the circle. If there was a next time with this thing, I might wind up dead.

“Observe me while I negotiate,” Stone said. 

The lemur looked like some form a wraith to me, like she had clawed her way out of an early grave. Her clothing, what was left of it, hung off her body, reduced to rags, and her long hair appeared matted and as dirty as her clothing. 

A once handsome face had succumbed to sharp angels and distorted features. Bulging eyes accented milky white sclera as if the iris and pupils had sunk below the surface.  

“What was your name in life,” Stone asked, uncharacteristic compassion warming her voice. 

“Dedra,” the lemur said her voice raspy, her eyes vacant as if she could see back to another time before the endless cold and perpetual darkness. 

“Dedra,” Stone said. “A very pretty name. Would you like to be called that name again? 

“Yes…”

“We would like you to do something for us, Dedra,” Stone said, licking her lips before speaking.

“What…?”

“A client of the Dreadstone Corporation needs someone like you to guard their property. They would address you as Dedra. You must leave the client and their guests alone, but you can kill anyone not authorized to be on the property. Would you like that?” 

“Yes…” A cock of Dedra’s head let me know she wanted something in return. Stone picked up on this as well.

“Name your price?” Stone asked.

“My body…’ Dedra hissed. 

“If you’re willing to start now,” Stone said looking up at me. “You have a corpse to find.”

Chapter 7

Full death-cycle recruiting, from the grave to all eternity. That was the responsibility of an Inhuman Resources Recruiter. I wondered if I was up to all this. My whole perspective changed when the brunette who had given me a once-over walked into the conference room. 

I was immediately struck by her beauty, her sophistication. Her graceful confidence made me believe there was something more to her, something hidden under the surface. 

I had known men who exuded this type of confidence but rarely a woman. The look in her eyes was both alluring as it was dangerous. 

“Meet Kenzi Harper,” Stone said as we all stood in greeting. “During your probationary period you’ll be working together.”

“You’ll follow my lead,” Kenzi said by way of greeting. “This is a dangerous business and I don’t  need a wet behind the ears newbie getting me killed.” 

I didn’t like the idea of taking orders in the field. It had nothing to do with her gender. Perhaps I had a deep-seated distrust and dislike for authority. My poor grades in high school certainly spoke to that. It wasn’t that I couldn’t do the work, I just chose not to listen to those who considered themselves above me. 

I nodded, held my tongue. There would be plenty of time later to test my boundaries. Discretion, after all, has been called the better part of valor. 

“We’ll see about that,” I said under my breath. How about that? My mojo had returned. 

“What was that?” Harper asked. 

Well, at least somewhat.

I said nothing.

“Good,” Harper said. “Let’s get you to the storeroom. You’re going to need a shovel. 

 

 

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.

award-honorable-mention-wotf

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…

 

 

 

 

 

NaNoWriMo – Black Magic Bullets

While I’m finishing the 3rd draft of a horror thriller, I figured I’d add more to my plate and join the NaNoWriMo fun. The working title for this novel is BLACK MAGIC BULLETS and is an Urban Fantasy. I only have a little over 800 words drafted, but it’s a start. If you want to buddy up, I’m listed as dnorthmartino on the website. #NaNoWriMo

Meanwhile, here’s a first draft of the opening pages. It’s very rough but will give you a good idea of how my first drafts look.

 

BLACK MAGIC BULLETS

by

David North-Martino

 

CHAPTER 1

Everything was going wrong in my life. Magic is a more subtle thing than movies have led people to believe, and so are curses.

 First small things begin to break down, then large. Your car breaks down, you crack a tooth requiring a root canal. 

All of these things add strain not only on your finances but your relationships. Believing people you once loved would do something like this to you is hard so you push it all away unbelieving, chalking it up to bad luck. I believed it was all bad luck until I saw the demon standing in my magic room (come up with a name). Then I began to put it all together. 

To explain what happened I have to go back to the beginning. My stories always have to start at the beginning. That’s a family curse all its own, one that my father passed on to me. So settle in, grab a mug of coffee or a cup of tea and we shall begin. 

My childhood was spent reading grimoires both widely circulated, available at book stores and those that had been privately published. Sometimes, understanding my interests, my parents would bring one home to me. Mostly they found them at curio shops and the occasional flea market. The occult in all its forms fascinated me and this led me to delve deeper in my teenage years. At that time it was all academic, I never dared attempt a spell and I certainly never acquire the ingredients necessary to make one successful. 

School held no interest for me and I spent my days daydreaming. Being the geeky type, I suffered bullies relegating my nights to martial arts classes. I found a school teaching a combination of original Tae Kwon Do and western boxing mixed with more than a splash of Taoist philosophy and Yin & Yan (light and dark) magic.  

My weekends were spent at the occult shops in North Hampton and Amherst. The college towns were the perfect venue for the avant-garde and anything alternative to mainstream society. 

I still accompanied my father from time to time during a hunting expedition or a trip to the range, helping me keep at least one foot in the natural world. 

Once high school ended I found myself free and eager to begin my real life. The bullies had been beaten back, the classes survived, and the ink on my diploma had dried. Now what? I didn’t know what to do with the rest of my life. 

Returning to the mundane world, I only had thoughts of how I might eke out a living and get a place of my own. 

I began reaching out to my network at the occult stores and some friends who practiced shamanism and witchcraft put me in contact with the Dreadstone Compay. Dreadstone was looking for an Inhuman Resources Recruiter and they were willing to train. I was eager to learn. 

This is as good as anyplace for the story proper to really begin.

CHAPTER 2

The Dreadstone tower rose impossibly tall, dominating the Boston skyline. No one could remember when the building had been erected and although many considered it an eyesore it had become the type of anomaly that ordinary people forced themselves to forget. They knew the structure was there but they never talked about it, and if you happened to ask them about they would feign a type of absentmindedness where it was easy to believe they had never seen the building before, had no knowledge of its existence. 

Inside, the floors and walls had been decorated with a dark tile, immaculately cleaned and polished, that created a mirrored reflection that was easy to believe could transport you to another world. 

Security here was different than I had ever noticed before. I looked at the guards behind the reception desk with an unconscious understanding that something wasn’t quite normal about them. They dressed the part smiled and frowned at just the right moments but it was like the flesh that stretched over their frames hid something other than blood, tendon, and bone. 

Nevertheless, I sat in the lobby, balancing a clipboard on my lap while filling out an application as best I could. When I had finished scribbling on the form, wondering why they didn’t just let you use a computer, I returned the horrid thing to the first guard who smiled as he took it. 

“You can go right up,” he said handing me an access badge. “They’re waiting for you.”

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.

NOLA1

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. 

dreams_of_decadence__15

 

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.

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

 

I wanted badly to be in the inaugural New England Horror Writers (NEHW) anthology. Unfortunately, my first attempt was a failure. Then I turned it around. 

In 2011 my senior year at University was ending, and I was immersed in finals. I had sold The Language of Ice and was spending a good amount of time promoting the anthology. Then I found out about the debut anthology from the NEHW, a group I had been a member of for a few years. They had floated the idea for an anthology around for a long time, and finally, the project had received a green light. They’d decided on an editor and were opening up for submissions. Wow! I really wanted to be in that anthology. To represent NEHW in their inaugural publication would be an honor. The problem: I didn’t have the time to write something new. At least, that’s what I thought… 

Fortunately, I had already written a ghost story, Phantom Chasers, that I was beginning to shop around. Prepping the story for submission, I sent it out and hoped for the best. There was nothing left to do but return to my studies. 

Shortly thereafter, the editor let everyone know that the first round of rejections had gone out along with notifications for those placed on the shortlist. They would accept no story until they had read all the manuscripts, giving everyone a fair shot. The only problem? I didn’t hear either way. 

 Sending a polite email, I awaited a response. 

The editor contacted me. My story was indeed shortlisted, certainly publishable, but probably not strong enough to make the final cut. Bestselling writers were slated to send in tales, and everyone had to bring their A-game. Although, the editor encouraged me to send another story.  

Clarifying what she wanted, she told me to send in something that was timeless, like Ray Bradbury’s The Dwarf, or something that had more of a gut punch at the end, like Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery. 

Thinking about all the stories I had available, I realized why some of them hadn’t sold. They were missing key ingredients.
Later, based on what I learned writing Malfeasance,  I would revamp Phantom Chasers and sell it, but that’s a story for another time. 

I felt encouraged, but it seemed like a daunting challenge to write something that would make the cut. Could I write a story that was both timeless and visceral? Despite the time crunch, I was up for the challenge. 

I had an idea to use the “ticking time bomb scenario” thought experiment as the basis for the story. Basically, an ethics debate on torture, I worried that my story might be too controversial for the current climate. Never one to back down on sensitive subjects, I went ahead with the story anyway. 

A mother and daughter would be the main characters in the story, culminating in a parent’s worst nightmare.  If I could affect the editor, I might have a chance of getting into the anthology. 
Spending the full month crafting Malfeasance, I sent in the story at the 11th hour. I opted to change the ending,  in hopes to give more twists and turns to the story, but my wife suggested I go with the first version as she felt it was more powerful.

Sending it off, I hoped for the best. 

Next time, I’ll tell you what happened. 

Review of Hank Schwaeble’s Angel of the Abyss

angel-of-the-abyss

Hank Schwaeble’s Jake Hatcher is back in his third novel, The Angel of the Abyss. As always, and just like his short fiction, Schwaeble crafts a rollicking good tale that will keep you turning the pages.

The beginning of this tale has Hatcher facing a demon, although it’s more complicated than that, giving Hatcher time to exercise his sarcastic wit. Fans of Supernatural and Ash vs. the Evil Dead will definitely appreciate the humor.

The mood becomes more serious and dire in the second act. The middle of the book, unlike many writers who get bogged down at this point, is where Schwaeble really shines. He does a great job writing from the perspective of Amy, Jake’s true love, who is also a former cop. I actually enjoyed Amy’s scenes even more than Hatcher’s. The two of them fight like the proverbial married couple, of which, I’m sure, many readers will be able to relate.

Schweable also does a fine job of taking on the perspective of a young boy. We meet the boy while he’s in a precarious situation, and we know from the beginning that the boy will converge with Hatcher and Amy at some point in the story. I won’t spoil it for you, but I think you’ll be racing to the end to find out what happens.

Hatcher’s past is constantly catching up with him, complicating things, and fans of the series will get some closure on events that were set up in the previous volumes. New readers can start here; Hank does a great job of bringing you into Hatcher’s world. You won’t feel left out or confused.

The last third of the book builds up to a hellish crescendo leaving this reader wanting more. There are questions left unanswered, promising a fourth book in this popular series. The Angel of the Abyss has it all: likable characters, demons, black magic, possession, secret military installations, cults, and lots of action. If you want a story to get you in the mood for Halloween and beyond, pick up The Angel of the Abyss. You won’t be disappointed. Highly recommended.

Review: Caesar’s Ghost by Reb MacRath

CG
Caesar’s Ghost is a well-written mystery or mhistory (mystery + history—-do you see what MacRath did there?) with a splash of the speculative. What would happen if Julius Cesar returned—-could live again in our current time? A man with that type of ambition and cunning would surely set his sights on some amazing conquest, wouldn’t he?

Along the way, Caesar is reunited with Cleopatra (Cleo), and teams up with some colorful characters, including a college professor, a private investigator, and even a mob boss. Yes, as you will see, they all become very close as Caesar works out a grand scheme to the benefit of all… Well, maybe not all. But—-at least—-to some!

I’m being a little cryptic here. I don’t want to spoil it for you. This is such a unique book, and it has something for the mystery lover, the lover of noir, and for those who have an interest in history.

No one else would have dared to write this book. No one else could have written this book. I recommend it wholeheartedly. Go on… Grab it! I know you want to. Quickly now. Adventure awaits.

April and May in Review

April was a challenging month to say the least. Had to use much time and energy to deal with some issues. May was a much better month, but very busy on the positive side.

Challenges

  • My insurance company billed incorrectly for an ER visit last year. This led to the hospital trying to bill me for the difference, and before I could get it resolved they sent it to a collections agency. Many phone calls, letters, and much stress later, it now seems to be resolved. It only took a month and a half.
  • A family member had a work challenge that continues. I can’t divulge much, but suffice it to say that it has taken time and stress to get it resolved.
  • We had a neighborhood issue that required phone calls and letters to resolve, and we’re still monitoring the situation.
  • Patty contracted and got over a bronchial infection.
  • We had to resolve a wireless network issue in May.
  • The sun was in my eyes!

Writing

Short Fiction

  • Halloween’s Child Redux continues slowly, now clocking in at 3,500 words or 14 pages.
  • Wrote a 30 word bio for AnthoCon.
  • Here’s the official cover reveal for Wicked Tales, an anthology that includes my short SF/Horror story, “Sat Down Inside Her.”

Wicked Tales Cover

Novels

  • The Tower (Paranormal Haunting/Woman in Jeopardy Crime Thriller) Now at 106 pages or 26,250 words. I’ve had to hunker back to move forward, requiring some fun research into Wing Chun Kung Fu as well as significant research into the nursing profession.
  • Year of the Demon (Conspiracy/Crime Thriller) I polish edited approximately twenty scenes, and I like how it’s all coming together. The actual editing is a tedious slog, however. This is the part I like the least. The only thing more tedious is the final proofread where I work thorough the book fixing typos and commas.

Non-Fiction

  • I began work on a non-fiction project that I may write under a pseudonym. I wrote 2,389 words or 9 pages.

Reading

  • Completed the Indy Author’s Pack.
  • Became a backer of Editor Rick Schober’s The Whole Shot: Interviews with Beat Poet Gregory Corso.
  • Purchased the Signed & Numbered Limited Edition novella (#18) of Baby’s Breath by Sydney Leigh.

Family

  • Called my Mom & Dad approx 1x per week.
  • Brought Patty to her dentist appointment and yearly physical.
  • Got haircuts.
  • Took care of Patty while she had a bronchial infection.
  • Visited my Mom & Dad in Webster for a Mother’s Day breakfast.
  • Spent a couple days at Mohegan Sun while my wife was in a seminar.
  • Made a 20th Wedding Anniversary trip to Kittery, ME. I figured some retail therapy was in order after dealing with me all these years.

Martial Arts

  • After Patty felt better we resumed the Filipino punching and kicking drills. We also worked in some basic boxing drills on focus mitts.
  • Purchased a new set of Hayabusa Ikusa focus mitts.
  • hayabusa_ikusa_focus_mitts
  • I practiced footwork drills.
  • Practiced sinawali stick drills.

Health

  • Lost 2 pounds of fat. I continue to move in the right direction, and now I’m at the lowest weight that I have been in years.
  • Resumed physical therapy leg exercises.
  • Worked with Tufts to resolve a billing issue.
  • Weened off of Protonix.

 

Financial

  • Leveraged taxes to a tax preparer.
  • Made tax payments.

Charity & Community Service

  • Relay for life.
  • Nepal Relief Efforts .

Cars

  • Went to the dealer for C service and to replace the driver’s side headlight on Patty’s car.
  • Washed my car including undercarriage.
  • Washed Patty’s car including undercarriage.

House

  • Spent a significant amount of time Spring cleaning our townhouse.
  • Cleaned and polished kitchen cabinets.
  • Fixed scuff on kitchen table with wood markers.
  • Fixed scuff on floor with wood markers.
  • Rearranged living room and reappropriated organizing furniture from other rooms to cut down on clutter.
  • Changed HVAC filter.
  • Cleaned foyer.
  • Pulled everything out of the spare room and cleaned.
  • Prepped HVAC Vents for summer.
  • Resolved neighborhood issues.

Fun

  • Julio’s liquors.
  • New York Deli in Westboro.
  • Researched trips for May.

May

  • We ate at Juniors NY Deli at Foxwoods and then went to see The Tenderloins/Tru TV Impractical Jokers at the Foxwoods Grand Theater. We had center balcony seats. Great seats and a great show.

Jokers

 

  • Visited the new Cabelas in Berlin, MA.
  • Went to Mohegan Sun with Patty. We stayed in a Deluxe King Room, ate at Summer Shack. Then while Patty was in her seminar I had the breakfast Buffet, then a Starbucks iced Cold Brew with soy milk. Then I played some video poker and quit while I was ahead. The rest of the day I used the room as my writing retreat. After Patty got out of the seminar we had dinner at the buffet then played video poker and slots. The next day found me at the buffet. After Patty finished her seminar we played some more video poker. I won $10.00 in slot play, turned it into $36.00 and then cashed out. Haha! A win is a win! Then we poked around Brookstone, avoiding the sales girl. Another round of Starbucks and we were homeward bound.

Mohegan Writing Retreat 1

 

Mohegan Writing Retreat 2

  • Stayed overnight at the Coachman Inn in Kittery, ME. Shopped at the outlets and then had a nice dinner at Weathervane. The Inn provided breakfast the next morning. Then we shopped more and went to Kittery Trading Post. Back to Weathervane for lunch, and then some Starbucks Cold Brew to fortify us as we fought the Memorial Day traffic home.

Movies

Ender’s Game ** 1/2 I found this movie fun but it lacked an indefinable something.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes ** After all the hype surrounding this film, I was left disappointed. I found it vapid and cliche.

Personal Development

  • To get myself back on track I began listening to the Anthony Robbins audio program Get the Edge again.
  • Completed the goal setting workshop to fine tune my life’s direction.