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

The Scribe’s Arcanum:

Anatomy of a  Sale—Malfeasance Part 2
Two months later, I got word that awaiting publisher approval, Malfeasance had made the cut. I was cautiously ecstatic. The editor didn’t think the publisher would kick anyone out, but she couldn’t officially accept any story without the publishers go-ahead.   
Here’s what she wrote about the story:

I really liked it. It was a great premise, good writing. I love Law and Order SVU and it reminded me of that but with an evil twist. I liked too that the villain really wasn’t in the story till the end yet he was a huge presence. I have to think that’s not easy to do, but you pulled it off.
About 21 days later, she gave me permission to announce the acceptance on social media. Then in August, I signed the contract. Realizing I could take part in my first reading and signing, I committed to attending the inaugural, but now defunct, Anthology Convention (AnthoCon) in New Hampshire. 
I had a fantastic time at the convention. 

After the reading, I took part in my first signing. Epitaphs: The Journal of the New England Horror Writers did well, selling out the 100 copies we had on hand. Then it continued to sell at other conventions and at online retailers. 

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I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that this was my first opportunity to share pages with the late great Rick Hautala (sometimes billed as the other writer from Maine, as he was Stephen King’s roommate in college), one of the authors who inspired me as a teenager during the 1980’s horror boom. 

Here’s some information on the anthology:

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The anthology features 26 stories and poems from the delightfully scary to the deeply macabre. 

Epitaphs, edited by author Tracy L. Carbone, includes an introduction by award-winning author and publisher Peter Crowther, as well as a cover by Danny Evarts. The table of contents in this chilling anthology is as follows: 

Perfect Witness – Rick Hautala 

To Sleep, Perchance to Die – Jeffrey C. Pettengill 

The Christopher Chair – Paul McMahon 

A Case of the Quiets – Kurt Newton 

Build-a-Zombie – Scott T. Goudsward 

Not an Ulcer – John Goodrich 

The Possessor Worm – B. Adrian White 

Make a Choice – John McIlveen 

The Death Room – Michael Allen Todd 

Stoney’s Boneyard – Holly Newstein & Glenn Chadbourne 

Kali’s Promise – Trisha J. Wooldridge 

The Sequel – David Bernard 

Malfeasance – David North-Martino 

Private Beach – Stacey Longo 

All Aboard – Christopher Golden 

Holiday House – LL Soares 

Lines at a Wake – Steven Withrow 

A Deeper Kind of Cold – K. Allen Wood 

Alone – P. Gardner Goldsmith 

Pandora’s Box – Roxanne Dent 

Chuck the Magic Man Says I Can – Michael Arruda 

Burial Board – TT Zuma (Tony Tremblay)

Windblown Shutter – John Grover 

Cheryl Takes a Trip – Stephen Dorato 

The Legend of Wormley Farm – Philip Roberts 

Church of Thunder and Lightening – Peter N. Dudar

Wow! What a talented group! Looking back, I find it humbling to have been part of this project. 

Epitaphs is now out of print, but an ebook version is still available. Since you can still purchase the anthology for the low sum of $2.99, I won’t be publishing Malfeasance on this blog.  Although, I am planning on recreating my reading, a reading that at one point in the narrative initiated a gasp from the crowd. Once I make a video and upload it to Youtube, I’ll link to it on this blog. 

Here’s a mixed review of my story by a reader on Amazon. It’s interesting, I was actually trying to make it feel like the reader was on a train, looking out a window, and seeing that the bridge is out ahead, knows nothing can be done about it, except take the plunge.

Malfeasance by David North-Martino: This was perhaps the most maddening story in the bunch. Just as with the previous story, I knew how it would end very early on. And yet it was crafted so intricately, I kept thinking no, I’m wrong, there’s a twist here I’m not seeing. But then… it ended just how I thought it would. Disappointing in that regard, yes, but it was still very much worth the read.

 Still, it’s good feedback, and I’m always trying to improve. Many times, a mixed or bad review can teach you much more than a fawning one. Check your ego at the door. 

If you’re interested, you can read a sample and get your e-copy here. 

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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. 

The Scribe’s Arcanum: Anatomy of a  Sale—The Language of Ice: Part 2

I need to make a retraction. I didn’t wait until 2011 to market my story The Language of Ice as previously stated. Looking back at my Fiction Submission Log, I discovered that I actually began sending the story out in 2009, not long after writing it, and racked up five rejections before finally selling it and receiving my acceptance letter on February 11, 2011. 

Anyway, I don’t have notes on how I found the publication. Maybe I stumbled upon it on Duotrope or Ralan.com. Either way, I noticed an open call from a new anthologist who had been a member of the Science Fiction Writer’s of America (SFWA). She’d had stories accepted professionally by Marion Zimmer Bradley (this was long before some allegations came out about Bradley and her husband. I’ll leave you to research it if you’re interested), before transitioning into a copywriting job. At the time she had just retired from her corporate career and was looking into what opportunities were available to continue her creative writing career from where she had left off. 

Extinct Cover2

Now going by the pseudonym Phoenix Sullivan, she decided to enlist a cadre of international authors to create a Science Fiction e-anthology titled Extinct Doesn’t Mean Forever to support her SF novel SECTOR C that she was looking at publishing through her own imprint, Dare to Dream Press. 

Sector C

Extinct Doesn’t Mean Forever, with its theme of returning from extinction, seemed like a good fit for The Language of Ice, but I figured it would just end up being another rejection on the long road to publication. 

I sent it out, like I always do, by first reading through the manuscript, fixing anything I may have missed, sometimes giving it back to Patty for a second read through, and then formatting the story per the guidelines (GLs). 

Once that was complete, I wrote out a cover letter. At the time, I was sending all stories through email. I’d included a targeted cover letter in the body of the email, and attach the manuscript as a Word document.

With everything in order, I sent it out and hoped for the best. There was nothing to do but continue to keep writing and submitting, and of course, wait. 

I received an acceptance letter in approximately 24 days! A few days later I electronically signed the contract for publication and was asked to write what amounts to a back cover blurb describing the story without giving anything away. 

Here’s the blurb:

When a Neanderthal skeleton arrives at her museum, Cassie learns a woman dead for thousands of years still has something to teach the living – THE LANGUAGE OF ICE by David North-Martino

Then I was asked to send a bio. A few days later I received something that would change the way I wrote forever—a line edit. A line edit by a pro author turned editor no less.  

In the interest of time, Phoenix had already made the revisions. That required me to take a copy of my original and read through with highlighter in hand. Before I worked on that task, I read the corrected proof she had sent me. I thought it read even better than I had remembered. 

Of course, it did! Phoenix had given me some masterful revisions. Now with that said, I think my voice may have been bled out a little, but I have to say I learned a lot from that line edit. It helped me to understand what I was doing right, and where I was falling short. How I could create more clarity for the reader, and how I could sand off the rough edges of my writing style. 

This is what writers need. They need mentorship. As the old saying goes, you don’t know what you don’t know. You need to have eyes before you can see. I am forever grateful for that line edit. It helped make me the writer I am today. 

The Language of Ice ended up being published in the Dare to Dream Press first edition of Extinct Doesn’t Mean Forever, the second edition from Steel Magnolia Press, and was also released as a short story in ebook format. 

Language of Ice

The anthology supported the Save a charity which gave me the impetus to send out press releases. I met some wonderful writers from around the world and learned a lot about the publishing business. 

For the first time ever, I began to receive royalty checks. They were small, but it was very cool to get money when the anthology sold. 

The anthology is now out of print and the rights to the story have reverted back to me. Should I post it here for all to read? Let me know in the comments. 

I’ll see you next time. 

***

For posterity I’ll include the Table of Contents with all the blurbs below: 

1. Jase was her ghost in the machine, a shaded memory captured in synthesized pixels. Near enough to see, too distant to touch. Could they still connect? – LAST SEEN by Amanda le Bas de Plumetot

2. She didn’t realize how deep her loss ran, until a saber-tooth cat helped heal the past and point her toward a future she didn’t know she needed – PAST SURVIVORS by Sarah Adams

3. Vesna discovers from an unexpected source just how old the dance of love truly is – FOOTPRINTS ON THE BEACH by Aleksandar Ziljak

4. John doted on the French touring car he’d lovingly restored. Can his dead wife teach him other things are worthy of his love too? – THE RESTORATION MAN by Simon John Cox

5. When a single mum returns home to Tasmania with her young son, her efforts to settle back in take a strange twist – A DARK FOREST by Jen White

6. Keeping a baby dinosaur secret from prying TV people and scientists is no easy task, except when your family have been keeping sacred traditions secret for generations – MY OWN SECRET DINOSAUR by Jo Antareau

7. When a Neanderthal skeleton arrives at her museum, Cassie learns a woman dead for thousands of years still has something to teach the living – THE LANGUAGE OF ICE by David North-Martino

8. With human hunters closing in, Kerg concocts a desperate plan for survival. Just one problem: he isn’t the only one looking out for family – TWILIGHT OF THE CLAW by Adam Dunsby

9. Lucia doesn’t believe in angels — but she might believe in a little boy cloned from a forgotten race – THE ANGEL GENOME by Chrystalla Thoma

10. Geri’s father finds the remains of an alien culture, proof we’re not alone. But he leaves Geri feeling more alone than ever – IN RING by Scott Thomas Smith

11. Had it been left to protocols rather than human ingenuity, Commander West’s expedition might have overlooked one of Mars’ greatest treasures – BONES OF MARS by D Jason Cooper

12. Endless Power, Inc prepared Angel for the physical dangers of harnessing a new energy source. But no one prepared him for how to cope afterward – HUNTING THE MANTIS by Adam Knight

13. Bridges of meaning built through symbols alienate as much as connect. But the Virtual Bridge Sri plans could reconnect the lost hopes of a dying civilization – CONNECT by Kenneth Burstall

14. Fleeing with the last remnants of the Oshen race, Indigo has only one chance to ensure his people are never forgotten – INDIGO’S GAMBIT by Adam Israel

15. When his pampered world loses the technology it depends on, extinction looms faster than lonely survivor Levo could ever expect – BLOOD FRUIT by Shona Snowden

16. When a new bio-weapon in the wars on drugs and terror gets out of control, can the supplier really be held responsible? – A THORNY DILEMMA by Rory Steves

17. Capturing mammoths was all in a day’s work for Deke. The saber-tooth cat, though, was going to require something bigger than an elephant gun – INVOICE H10901: 3 WOOLY MAMMOTHS by Robert J. Sullivan

18. After George makes a momentous discovery, the distractions start piling up. His wife cooks up a surprise to remind him love is always worth sacrificing for – DISTRACTIONS by Peter Dudley

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

The year 2011 was a great one for me. I finished my coursework and graduated magna cum laude from UMASS Lowell with a Liberal Arts Degree with concentrations in English and psychology. I also decided to ramp up my writing and submitting efforts and ended up landing another fiction sale with a story I had written but had never planned to publish.   

The story that would become The Language of Ice was originally inspired by an article in the April 1998 issue of Discover Magazine; Entitled: New Women of the Ice Age. The article purported to recast prehistoric women as more active than passive in roles that were believed to be traditionally held by males. 

Discover 1998

Originally, I imagined the story idea as a screenplay. In my mind’s eye, I saw a group of archeologists and anthropologists standing around a table, addressing a group of reporters, and making assumptions about a female skeleton. Then the camera slowly zooms into and through the bones.  When the camera emerges on the other side, we see this ancient woman when she was alive and how she may have actually lived her life. 

I imagined the story like it was a movie. I had the opening, but nothing else. 

The idea stayed with me, but I didn’t do anything with it. 

Then sometime in the mid-2000s, I watched a documentary that dramatized the theory of early humans interbreeding with Neanderthals. They showed a neanderthal female tenderly touching the face of an early human, and that’s when The language of Ice was truly born. 

With all my college coursework mounting, I didn’t have the time to explore the idea. Then I ended up taking an advanced creative writing class to satisfy part of the requirement for my English concentration. The class was geared toward publication, but interestingly enough, the professor didn’t have any publishing credits. My puny two published stories at the time dwarfed my teacher’s experience, along with everyone else in the class. 

One student balked when I said I only had two writing credits. It didn’t seem like much to me, I had been to writing conventions where I got to hang out with best-selling authors who had published on upwards of fifty professional books. 

The professor wanted us to write a literary story with an eye toward publication. I’m a genre writer and didn’t have any ideas that boarded on straight literary fiction. Then I thought about the woman of the ice age idea that I had been carrying around since the late 90s, and it collided with the neanderthal idea exploding into a full-fledged story. 

Since it had to be literary, I wanted to make the story somewhat ambiguous. I decided to create a narrative where the main character, a museum curator, begins to think she might have been a Neanderthal woman in another life. Is she imaging the whole thing or is she having a spiritual experience? The whole point was to let the readers decide. 

When I passed in my story homework, my teacher liked it, but she wanted me to make the story ending more concrete. If she had been a paying editor, I would have been happy to oblige, but I was doing so well in the class and disagreed so fervently with the direction she wanted to take my tale, I decided to pass in my homework sans those revisions. She wasn’t exactly happy about it, but I think I still got an A. 

With school still taking up so much of my time, I put the story away and didn’t even think about looking at it until 2011. 

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After graduation, I’d have the opportunity to submit my manuscript, created for an English class, to an anthology filled with the stories written by a cadre of international authors. 

And I was vindicated! I sold that story with the original ambiguous ending!

I’ll tell you more about how that happened next time. 

GRAVEN IMAGE by David North-Martino

Graven Image by David North-Martino ©2004, 2007, 2019 

Graven Image originally appeared in The Swamp, and Afterburn SF 

“Our clients all have a peculiar fear. They’re not convinced their loved ones will stay dead,” the Director of Sanguine Mortuary said.  

Hatch fought for control, he thought he might go from smirk, to grin, to all-out laughter.  

The Director, his face as dead as any of the clients entombed in Sanguine’s walls, stared at Hatch from behind an expensive looking oak desk. The dire need for the job forced Hatch’s expression to the same state as the director’s name.

“Mr. Stone, I——”

“Jonathan, I know what I’m telling you might be hard to accept, but we provide a valuable service to our clientele.” Stone wrinkled his face into his best mortician’s smile. 

“Mr. Stone,” Hatch said. “I really need this job. Whether I believe or not, I can watch your building and everything in it.”

“You seem like a good fellow. Pity, companies will throw away employees after a decade of service.” Mr. Stone gently placed Hatch’s resume on the desk. “I’ll give you a chance, just keep your wanderlust to a minimum. The last guard couldn’t contain his curiosity. If he hadn’t up and disappeared, I would have had to fire him.”

Elation! At this point, any job was a good job. He made a mental note to pick up a bottle of wine on the way home. He and his wife would, at last, have something to celebrate. But behind the euphoria and relief, something nagged at him. Later, when he gave it some thought, after half a bottle of wine and with his wife in a satisfied sleep beside him, questions arose, questions he couldn’t answer. They chattered through his mind, lulling him into a troubled sleep.  

#

“Uh——what’s on the monitors?” Hatch asked. The surreal images were better than caffeine, no way he would drift off with those things staring at him. 

“Those? Oh go on, take a good look.” Michael Evans, the Second-Shift Sergeant, said. “What do they look like to you?” 

“Looks like dead people.”

“Those are our charges, three-hundred, and thirty-eight of ‘em.”  Evans seemed proud with the knowledge. “Oh, don’t worry, they ain’t gonna bother you much or entertain you for that matter.”

“Then why are we monitoring them?”  

“Just in case they wake up,” Evans said. Hatch felt a chill shoot into his groin. Soon he would be here alone——alone with them. 

Then Evans broke into a fit of heaving laughter. “Naw, they ain’t gonna wake up. I’ve been working here for five years, since I retired from the military, and I ain’t never seen a-one so much as wrinkle a nose.”

Hatch stared at the monitors again.   

“See, we have some very superstitious rich people around the world, and Sanguine helps alleviate their fear——and a good amount of their cash.” Evans shook his head back and forth in mock disbelief. “Got to show the client something right? Show the client that us security types are watching their loved ones twenty-four-by-seven. Kinda makes me chuckle. But it’s a good gig, especially on off shifts.  

“We don’t get no visitors, grieving family members or anything like that. We let the dead lay, play a little poker——you’ll have to play solitaire——and walk around a couple times. Make sure things are safe and secure——for the world outside I guess.” 

He laughed again as if the whole thing were ludicrous.

Evans showed Hatch around for the rest of the hour. He saved one piece of trivia for last.

“This is what I call the Bat-Phone,” Evans said, and Hatch understood why. The phone looked like an old model from the 1960s, rotary dial and all, and it was colored red like on the TV show. “In the unlikely chance that——something unusual happens——you pick up this phone and——well, after that I don’t know, but I’m sure you won’t find out. Damn thing probably don’t even have service.”

Evans had a pitying look on his face, like he was about to leave his favorite cat at the Vet to be euthanized. Hatch wondered if he could handle staying at Sanguine Mortuary alone for fifteen minutes, never mind eight hours.

“What happened to the last officer who worked the third shift?”

“Harold Drendle? Shoot——he’d worked here long as I did.  We used to talk a little at shift change, and he confessed to me he was having marital problems, problems caused by money, which by the way is how they always start, and then one day, I guess he was sick of it. He up and abandoned post sometime before shift change and he hasn’t been seen since. 

“He told me in confidence he was planning to go to Hawaii, had been socking away a little here and there. So, don’t you be letting your mind wander and go thinking nonsense. You’ll get used to this place soon enough.”  

#

Soon enough just wasn’t soon enough. Evans hadn’t been gone ten minutes, and Hatch was ready to abandon post. The ghoulish images only provided unwelcome company.  

Hatch turned his attention to the phone. He reached over, touched the receiver’s smooth plastic. Who was on the other end?

What was on the other end? 

The thought made him shudder. He withdrew his hand.  

He couldn’t just sit there with the monitors tuned to Dead-TV. He grabbed the Mag light, the weight comforting in his hand, and headed out for the first round of the evening.

Hatch’s footfalls echoed through the empty mausoleum. Every fifteen feet the wall receded to reveal a cluster of grave nooks. Accent lights reflected dimly off metal plates, revealing the names of the departed. They surrounded him. Outnumbered him. 

He rounded a bend and found the first key-point next to the chapel door. 

How long had it been since he had last attended church? He couldn’t remember. He touched the tour recorder to the plastic key, listened for the chirp, and then looked at the LCD screen. 

ChapHell, next key point inside.

Hatch shook his head, maybe when he got back to the command center he would fix the typo.  

Hatch flicked on the lights. The antiseptic nondenominational room radiated comfort, as if something from beyond could reach out and protect all those who entered.  

A feral cat’s mew? A crying child? A vocalized rush of wind raging through the hall toward him? 

Hatch crossed the threshold, pulled at the cherry-wood door and held it shut. The chapel shook and the doors threatened to pull from his grasp. Then the pounding shrill scream stopped, and Hatch stood in silence. 

“Damn trains,” Hatch said under his breath.  Then he remembered he was standing in a chapel. He looked up. “Sorry.”

Hatch continued with the tour. He came to a short stairwell that led down to the basement level. Cautiously, he descended. 

Hatch switched on the flashlight and adjusted the beam to full width. The key-point waited at the end of the hall surrounded by darkness. Hatch felt around for a light switch but found nothing. His pulse pounded in his temples.  

Making quick time, he passed closed doors on either side of the hall. He touched the tour reader to the key and waited impatiently for the chirp. 

A red door to his right caught his attention. He tried the handle. 

Locked. 

He glanced back toward the stairs, then back to the door. His curiosity got the better of him, and he tried his keys until one fit the lock. 

Match stepped inside a room filled with black metal file cabinets. The beam of light illuminated a unique cabinet——a red cabinet. 

He found a jagged hole where the lock should have been, as if someone had cut the mechanism out of the frame. Hatch opened the top drawer and then rifled through musty folders and yellowed papers. Most seemed to be nothing more than death records. Every soul buried at Sanguine must have been stored in that room. But then he found something else. 

A letter, age stained and watermarked, written on parchment with what appeared to be a quill pen, ignited Hatch’s curiosity. His eyes widened as he scanned strange sections:

Thank you again for taking this burden from me.  I am getting much too old to act as custodian any longer… 

The families absolutely insist on having guards. I know it sounds ridiculous, as if flesh and blood could really protect anyone from what is now in your possession… 

Feeding time is distasteful, but it lasts a relatively short time. I was lucky to only witness it for two full cycles in the twenty years since I acquired the collection. The dead must feed before they sleep… 

The dead must feed? 

What the hell did that mean?

A booming metallic reverberation made him jump. The sound had come from the hall. His mouth went dry and his throat tightened, but he had to check it out. That’s what he was being paid to do. 

Hatch cautiously stepped out into the hall. 

The reflection of his flashlight beam caught movement through a window in one of the doors. 

Anybody Home?

Hatch inched closer, shined the light inside——recoiled.   

A man stood, if that’s what you could call the thing that stood before him, dressed in a moth-eaten suit, bending over what looked like a metal cadaver table. 

The terrible thing that looked like a man chomped and smacked his lips as he devoured what remained of a body on the table. The head and chest were all that remained of the corpse ——everything else had been consumed. 

Hatch hacked and heaved, but nothing came up, as if his insides had turned to dust. He looked back at the window. 

The ghoul turned its head and looked at him, still stuffing flesh in-between the stitches that held his lips together. 

The ghoul grinned at him. 

Then came the screams.

Hatch raced through the halls double-time, the shrieks of the dead nipping at his ears. 

Which way out? 

He couldn’t remember. 

He passed the chapel. Sanctuary wouldn’t do, he needed the command center. 

He needed the phone!

Hatch slammed shut the command center door. 

No lock. 

The irony sent him into hysterics. 

Hatch turned around. The monitors were still trained on the coffins——some were empty. 

The cadavers that remained opened their eyes. 

Shit! 

Hatch reached for the phone——hesitated——picked it up. 

The phone automatically dialed. 

The ringing scratched in his left ear, the dead wailed in his right. 

“Pick up——damn it! pick up!”

The ringing stopped. 

A moment of hesitation on the other end of the line.

“I told you to curb your curiosity, Jonathan.”

The door buckled. Glass shattered. All went black.

***

Even with his eyes closed, Hatch could sense that Sergeant Evans stared at him, stared at the monitors. Curiosity could be a terrible thing, recognition worse.  

 The high-pitched chatter from the others Hatch only heard in a sanguine whisper, but he could understand what they wanted, what he also wanted. One last time before the sleep.  

The hunger rose in him—-in them——and in unison——and to the terror of Michael Evans——they all opened their eyes. 

-FIN-

Year in Review 2017

Each year I create a list of goals for every area in my life. Throughout the year I work on those goals, track my progress, and then commit to posting my top accomplishments and some smaller ones as well.

Writing Career

Novels

-Year of the Demon (working title) 94,000 word crime thriller

  • Wrote a competitive analysis for YOTD.
  • Researched similar authors and novels for marketing purposes.
  • Reordered the beginning chapters of YOTD to make it more engaging and marketable.
  • Changed the name of YOTD to a name I won’t disclose yet.
  • Wrote query letters for YOTD.
  • Began sending out YOTD query letters to agents and editors. This was one of my major goals for the year.

-The Tower (working title) supernatural thriller

  • Retitled The Tower (novel), but will keep new name under wraps for now.
  • Currently at 81,000 words of a projected 90k words.

-Untitled Thriller Novel

I heard the opening lines of the book in my mind, and 8,000 words later I had the beginning of a new manuscript. I’ve put it away for now while I finish The Tower.

  • Began 1st draft of thriller novel (8k so far).

-Untitled Creature Horror Novel

I put The Tower on hold while I blasted through 20k words of this novel idea. I began writing with the idea of submitting to an open call, but the publisher went out of business, and I returned to my WIP (work in progress). I will probably return to this manuscript in the near future depending upon what opportunities materialize.

  • Wrote 20,000 words of 1st draft.

Wolves of Vengeance

  • Re-enrolled Wolves of Vengeance in KDP and changed categories to see if it would affect sales.

WOV-Cover-Refresh-web

Novellas

-Fantasy novella

  • Finished 1st draft of fantasy novella (20,000 words)
  • I wrote this novella for an open submission period for a major publisher. I knew I didn’t have enough time to finish, as I found out about the opportunity too late. I was so captivated by the idea, I had to complete the story. I’m letting it cool now until the market reopens or I identify another market that might be interested in the narrative.

-Untitled Dystopian SF Novella

  • Another novella submission deadline I had no hope of meeting, but the opening pages flowed out of me and so I captured them anyway.
  • Wrote 4,250 words of the first draft of a dystopian SF novel.

Short Fiction/Flash Fiction

  • Completed fantasy flash fiction short story.
  • Waiting on reply from a pro horror short fiction anthology market for over a year. I take that as a good sign.
  • Wrote a horror short story (5K).
  • Sent horror short story to anthology market.
  • Rewrote the ending of another horror short story.
  • Fixed formatting on horror short story.
  • Wrote an alternative ending for The Witch (2015) and posted it on my blog for fun.
  • Magic Moment. An actress from LA contacted me on Twitter to tell me that she liked my alternate ending to The Witch (2016) better than the orginal. Read it here.

Martial Arts

Nate TMI

Demonstrating Chi Sao (Wing Chun/JKD) with Sifu Nate.

 

  •  5-hour intermediate and advanced FMA seminar, Drowning in Kali II, held at the Derderian Academy of Martial Arts.

Kali IV

  • Attended the Jeet Kune Do/Panantukan/Silat Trapping Seminar with Sifu Nathan Marione at Britt’s TKD.

Nate - Britt's TKD

  • Jung ki Hapkido Master and acupuncturist Chris LaCava first stop on his Massachusetts Beat ’em & Treat ’em Tour 2017 was the Anatomy of the Takedown Seminar at Britt’s TKD. I love the shirt! I also grabbed some of his authentic Dit Da Jow to heal injuries, and some amazing apple butter made by his wife and children.

Beat & Treat

  • My home training included working on various kata/hyung, working on improving my stretch, kicking and boxing on bag, shadowboxing/kicking, JKD chain punching, kali sinawali, single knife and stick, espada y dagger/stick & knife, bokken/mok gum/wooden sword and, nak bop/ukemi/ rolls and break-falls.

Health

  • Utilized P90X, dumbbells, and resistance bands to build muscle.
  • Utilized incumbent bike for cardiovascular health.
  • Utilized HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) for general endurance – Bas Rutten MMA CD program.
  • Dental Cleaning 2x – gold star!
  • Switched primary care physician  as our doctor left for a practice in the Veteran’s Administration.
  • Began using hair booster. I shall not age gracefully! Haha!
  • Annual Physical – gold star! I am the picture of health.
  • My weight, by my physician’s scale, is trending downward and I am down at least another 3 pounds.
  • Had  flu shot. Okay, I got the flu anyway, but the shot ended up only rated at 10%.

Family

  • Called my parents on average 2x per week.
  • Celebrated Patty’s birthday.
  • Celebrated my birthday.
  • Got Patty roses for valentine’s Day.
  • Visited my Mom & Dad at Foxwoods for breakfast during Chinese New Year.
  • Kept in touch with my old Gothic & Arthurian literature professor through email.
  • Kept up with friends on social media.
  • Visited friends at various martial arts schools.
  • Met up with friends at Twin River Casino for the whiskey fest.
  • Bought Super Bowl Champions hats for our Dads. Early Father’s Day presents.
  • Met our new grand nephew.
  • Easter at Wicked Good Bar and Grill at Twin River with my parents.
  • Easter dinner w/Patty at home.
  • Passover seder dinner with Patty. We got our food pre-made from whole Foods.
  • Attended my grand nephew’s birthday Party.
  • Celebrated our 22nd wedding anniversary.
  • Visited Patty’s Sister in CT.
  • Called my Mom for her birthday and Mother’s Day.
  • Met parents for lunch in July.
  • Met In-laws for lunch.
  • Visited my parents for breakfast in August.
  • Received a generous gift from my Uncle.
  • BBQ at in-laws.
  • Visited father-in-law for lunch.
  • Visited my parents for breakfast at Foxwoods for their 47th anniversary.
  • Vacationed in Chicago Land
  • Celebrated the 25th anniversary of our first date.
  • Went to the Big E with Sister-in-Law and grand niece and nephew.
  • Went to lunch with my mother and took her shopping while my dad was camping.
  • Called my Dad for father’s day.
  • Celebrated Veteran’s Day with my parents and with my aunt and uncle. We had a nice meal at Texas Roadhouse, and my Dad and my uncle ate for free, as they are both veterans.
  • Thanksgiving at the Outlaws. This would be our last Thanksgiving with my father-in-law. Almost everyone was able to make it, and we are left with great memories.

Kalel

  • My father-in law passed away surrounded by his family. He was one month shy of his 83rd birthday.
    Gordon North Obituary 
  • Attended memorial service for my father-in-law
  • Met up with friends we haven’t seen in many years and spent time reconnecting.
  • Had to skip both Hanukkah/Christmas breakfast with my parents (I will reschedule) and my new grand nephew’s 1st birthday because of flu.
  • Had a late Christmas gathering with outlaws.

Cars

  • Bought a AAA membership after having a problem with the Subaru Club (Cross Country Motor Club) last year.
  • Had my exhaust system fixed.
  • My car passed MA state inspection.
  • Patty’s car passed MA state inspection.
  • My car had a crack in the windshield. Fixed by Safelite and paid by insurance.
  • Replaced blower motor again, and the cabin filter in Patty’s car.
  • Decided on recommendation of our mechanic not to replace head gasket in Patty’s car.
  • Rear break job for my car.
  • Had rattling heat shield removed on my car.

House

  • Had HVAC company refill freon in AC unit.
  • Cleaned patio and treated for gypsy moths.
  • Utilized association provided dumpster for Spring cleaning.
  • Had new washer and dryer installed.
  • Replaced oven hood filter

Fun & Travel

  • Saw John Wick: Chapter 2 at  the Showcase Cinema Deluxe
  • Went to Southwick’s Zoo -the largest zoo in New England.

 

  • Magic Moment: I had a nice conversation with a parrot type bird, I think a Macaw. An annoying woman tried to muscle in on our conversation, but the bird wasn’t having any of it. The bird turned his back on her as soon as we left. Good bird!
  • Magic Moment: Played with a baby monkey through the fencing of the cage. Interacted with the animal like it was a baby in a play pen. The adult female held the baby at times cautious of my shenanigans.
  • Magic Moment: I mimicked the sound of two apes communicating with each other. Patty said that I startled a zoo worker who then looked at me like I was crazy. I am crazy.
  • Magic Moment: Patty was startled when a pheasant screeched at her while she was taking a picture.
  • Magic Moment: I blinked my eyes at a dove and the bird blinked back. I was able to get rapport with the bird doing this. It’s funny, house cats do the same thing. I’m like Doctor Doolittle! Well, not really…
  • Patty was given an all expense paid trip to Chicagoland (Schaumburg Illinois) to attend a training conference. I tagged along. Then we spent a few extra days relaxing and exploring. We stayed at the Renaissance Schaumburg Convention Center Hotel. Highlights included Sam & Harry’s Steak House, Gather Bar, and the Woodfield Mall.

IMG_0024

  • Attended the Twin River Whiskey Fest for amazing food and drink.
  • We went to Mohegan Sun for the complementary Rock of the 80s concert featuring Autograph, Vixen, and Slaughter.

Patty & Dave 80s night

Audio Video 

IMG_0037

  • Canceled cable saving $80.00 after streaming subscription. Cordcutters are we!
  • Ordered a Playstation Vue subscription.
  • Canceled Verizon and switched to a year of free unlimited calling and data with Sprint.
  • Got an Amazon Music Unlimited subscription for .99 cents for 4 months with our Amazon Prime subscription.
  • Purchased Echo Dots and wireless lighting to begin converting home to a smart home.
  • Cleaned out and organized entertainment center.
  • AT&T replaced our land line phone under warranty.
  • Began loading out Fii0 X1ii with ALAC files to enjoy portable CD quality music.

Noteworthy Books  Read in 2017

  • Hyperion by Dan Simmons
  • Soda Pop Soldier by Nick Cole
  • Seattle Red by Reb MacRath
  • The League of Night and Fog by David Morrell
  • A Killing Art: The Untold History of Tae Kwon Do by Alex Gillis

That’s it for 2017. See you in 2018… Happy New Year!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Witch (2015): Alternate Ending

Last night we streamed The Witch (2015) on Amazon Prime. This was the first time I had watched this film. I had heard good things, and I wasn’t disappointed. I usually spend time discussing the movie with my wife, and, if the movie has subtext, we spend time analyzing it. This analysis led me to think about an alternative way to end the film.  I like the original ending, I think it works, but I wanted to present a “quieter” version that I think works with the themes and still completes the character arc. Having some author friends who write novelizations, I was inspired to novelize a reimagined ending as fan fiction. Since the film takes place during the 17th century, I had a little trouble with the piece of dialog I needed to write. I still don’t like it, but I think it’s close enough to get the idea. And just so we’re clear, if you haven’t seen the movie yet–here be Spoilers!

bf

The Witch (2015): An Ending Reimagined

Thomasin looked down at her mother, the woman who had given birth to her, the woman she had just killed. Panic receded and was replaced with a wave of numbness. A sense of calm overcame her. She would not, could not, think of her family, or the preceding moments that had left her alone in this world. Instead, Thomasin picked up the bloodied billhook and strode off to her brother’s grave. Once there, she scooped up earth with her hands until there was enough of a depression that she could deposit the agriculture implement and bury it with loose dirt.

Retracing her steps, she began her preparation. She removed two eggs from the chicken coop and placed them in a satchel. Then she removed one chicken, the beast squawking as she did. She brought the bird over to her father’s tree stump where he had spent so much time splitting wood. Something that she had derided him for, but she wouldn’t think of that now. Couldn’t think of it. She had splitting to do of her own.

Using her father’s hatchet, she cleanly removed the head from the chicken. The force of the blade connected with the wood, making a hard thunk. Once the bird had stopped it’s spasms she placed the still warm carcass in her satchel, returned to the coop to snatch a second chicken, and then repeated the process.

Returning to her home for the last time, Thomasin thought about removing her bloodied garments but despite the disgust she felt wearing them, thought better of it. Instead, she grabbed more items she would need and placed a burlap shawl over her shoulders. All she wanted to do was sleep, but she could not. She had to be on the move before nightfall.

As her last act, she leashed Black Phillip with a rough braided rope. The goat gave no resistance. With her satchel strapped across her body, and Black Phillip in tow, she made her way back to the road she and her family had used to find their place in the world over a year ago.

Thomasin walked, thinking little, still numb, a numbness she wasn’t sure would ever recede. The forest around her had lost its color, and what there was of the sun had lost its warmth.

As night fell all around her, she had no choice but to stop and make camp. She tied Black Philip securely to a tree, far enough away from her camp that the rope would not allow him to reach her. She poured out some oats that would have been used to feed the horse, careful to give only enough to sustain him over night so that the food would last until she reached her destination.

Stoking a fire, (how many times had she watched her father or her mother do it? She couldn’t remember) the warmth of the blaze elusive to her skin, she plucked and then roasted the chicken over a spit, using branches whittled with her father’s hunting knife.

Her stomach filled, but her soul empty, she propped up against a tree and waited for daylight.

The next morning she broke camp. Black Philip had not escaped his confinement. Together they made their way down what felt like an endless road. How long this went on she could not remember, and her condition never changed. She could not shake the numbness or the emptiness within, and the world around her only reflected her depression.

Finally, the high walls that protected the plantation could be seen in the distance. The sight did not give her joy. She was sure nothing ever would. Once at the gates, she made a fist and pounded. Waited. Then pounded again. Finally the wooden doors groaned opened. The men who answered, who dressed in the same way as her father had, whose children she had grown up with, looked at her with pity. She did not want to be pitied.

They sent for the Governor and his two magistrates, and in short order, the three men who had sentenced her family to exile stormed through a growing crowd to look quizzically at the young woman, her clothing covered in dried blood, and the black goat that stood behind her on a leash.

“Mine family. Suffered I did to watch them die. Killed they be, by a hostile tribe,” Thomasin said, staring at the ground. Then she looked up. “Survived, I did. Alone.”

The governor nodded his head, a look of supreme sorrow darkening his expression. He waved her in, and the crowd parted to let her and Black Phillip through.

Crossing the threshold, they entered the throng, and the gates shut behind them.

End.