I wanted to tell you all about something you might not be aware of… well, two things, actually. You might not have been aware of this Historical Fantasy Storybundle and all the wonderful authors and books associated with it, and you might even be unaware of my novel, The Orffyreus Wheel, which is a dual-timeline novel covering an inventor named Johann Bessler, who may, or may not, have invented a perpetual motion machine a very long time ago – and the implications of such (basically) free energy source in modern times – the energy barons who would kill to shut it down – the visionaries who would fight to set it free. Those are not the point, though. The point is… Historical Fantasy.
I have always loved history. When I was a kid I took every course I could on the subject. I’ve read extensively. Early on, I discovered another way to learn – and I learned it from a novel titled Northwest Passage, by Kenneth Roberts (whose books I ended up devouring). Historical fantasy, while bringing you magic, made up heroics and legends, ALSO (see the genre title) brings you history. A well-written, well-researched historical novel that draws you in leaves you with the satisfaction of a story that sticks with you, but also with knowledge gained through the reading of it… Margaret Atwood and (from this bundle) Jo Graham, can give you ancient Egypt with details you might never have known. Kenneth Roberts gave me the truth about Benedict Arnold, and so much more. I can’t begin to list the number of times a book, or a story, has gifted me with insights into history that I would have missed in a dry, classroom environment. The series “The Order of the Air,” by this bundle’s head honcho Melissa Scott, and Jo Graham, covers a period just prior to Hitler’s Reich, bringing you insights into air travel, technology, Nikola Tesla, and so much more.
I urge you to hop on over to STORYBUNDLE.COM and drop a small amount (It’s a pay what you want bundle that also supports charity) and take this (only today is left) last chance to pick up a number of wonderful Historical Fantasy novels, stories of all sorts with that one common thread of research, revelation, and intrigue. You won’t be disappointed. And if you should find my book, or any of the others to your liking, (or hating, even), the authors would appreciate greatly if you left reviews on the various sites like Amazon, B&N, Apple, and Goodreads.
Go on… you KNOW you need some books.
My novel THE ORFFYREUS WHEEL is included in this amazing STORYBUNDLE curated by Melissa Scott. Historical fantasy has long been a favorite genre of mine because it’s allowed me to learn, and come at the past in different ways, and from unique perspectives. In my novel, you’ll meet a man who called himself ORFFYREUS and claimed to have invented the Perpetuum Mobile. He was never proven a fraud. On a parallel storyline, I try to show what I think would happen if such a free source of energy loomed on the horizon in full view of big oil companies and the world.
In this collection I’ve been able to bring together an extraordinary group of writers who draw their inspiration from Western history, in periods from Ancient Egypt through the Second World War. There are classics like the World Fantasy Award-nominated Lord of the Two Lands and the Nebula-nominated Death of the Necromancer, and newer novels like Daughter of Mystery and The Emperor’s Agent — and Stag and Hound, just released in April. What these novels have in common, across these very different periods, is a depth to and delight in their worlds, in the precise detail and pitch-perfect moment that not only propels the story, but makes it utterly, dazzlingly real.
The initial titles in The Historical Fantasy Bundle (minimum $5 to purchase) are:
• The Death of the Necromancer by Martha Wells
• The Emperor’s Agent by Jo Graham
• Daughter of Mystery by Heather Rose Jones
• The Virtuous Feats of the Indomitable Miss Trafalgar and the Erudite Lady Boon e by Geonn Cannon
• The Orffyreus Wheel by David Niall Wilson
If you pay more than the bonus price of just $15, you get all five of the regular titles, plus six more:
• The Armor of Light by Melissa Scott and Lisa A. Barnett
• Steel Blues by Melissa Scott and Jo Graham
• Between Worlds by Martha Wells
• PIllar of Fire by Judith Tarr
• Lord of the Two Lands by Judith Tarr
• Stag and Hound by Geonn Cannon
The bundle is available only for a limited time via https://storybundle.com/fantasy. It allows easy reading on computers, smartphones, and tablets as well as Kindle and other ereaders via file transfer, email, and other methods. You get multiple DRM-free formats (.epub and .mobi) for all books!
It’s also super easy to give the gift of reading with StoryBundle, thanks to our gift cards – which allow you to send someone a code that they can redeem for any future StoryBundle bundle – and timed delivery, which allows you to control exactly when your recipient will get the gift of StoryBundle.
Why StoryBundle? Here are just a few benefits StoryBundle provides.
• Get quality reads: We’ve chosen works from excellent authors to bundle together in one convenient package.
• Pay what you want (minimum $5): You decide how much these fantastic books are worth to you. If you can only spare a little, that’s fine! You’ll still get access to a batch of exceptional titles.
• Support authors who support DRM-free books: StoryBundle is a platform for authors to get exposure for their works, both for the titles featured in the bundle and for the rest of their catalog. Supporting authors who let you read their books on any device you want—restriction free—will show everyone there’s nothing wrong with ditching DRM.
• Give to worthy causes: Bundle buyers have a chance to donate a portion of their proceeds to Mighty Writers and Girls Write now.
• Receive extra books: If you beat the bonus price, you’ll get the bonus books!
AUTHOR’S NOTE: Once, long ago, I was keynote speaker at a writer’s conference in the Lehigh Valley up north. I didn’t really know what I was going to talk about. I felt a little overwhelmed, because, at that point in my career, though I’d sold several novels and a handful or two of stories, I wasn’t sure I had the experience to speak on a subject that would prove useful. Then…I started talking (it’s a recurring theme…). What I talked about was the fact that my ideas don’t just come to me. Often – I live them. I told them this story – it didn’t happen exactly as I wrote it, but it was closer than reality should have allowed. The house – the church – the guy who looked like Charles Manson… so much of this I did not make up. Then I wrote in my buddy Wayne Allen Sallee – who was present that weekend, a weekend where I’d come to author Elizabeth Massie’s house for something we called Pseudocon – a writer’s retreat of sorts – a gathering of friends that I have to this day, though at least one has passed from us. Many of these people are authors I now publish. All of them have influenced my life, and my work. If you go to Waynesboro, VA and turn between the two silos and see a house with a car in the front yard – radio playing – beside an old church. Think twice before you ask for directions.
You Lookin’ For Herb?
It was getting dark, and the road ahead was fading quickly to shadows. Dave looked about himself nervously, hoping against hope that he’d see something familiar, something that would let him know he was on the right track. For about the thousandth time that hour, he cursed himself for forgetting to bring Beth’s phone number.
The Virginia mountains were no place to be lost at that time of night, especially when the only landmarks you could remember that might make everything all right were three giant grain silos off to one side of the road, and you could barely see the side of the road. It was not starting out to be the best night of his life.
In the seat beside him, Jo was squirming uncomfortably, trying to look unconcerned, but not doing a very good job. She was taking it like a real trooper. It was their first time away together, and they hadn’t been dating that long. His first fear had been that she’d be furious, and that their weekend would be ruined, all by his own ridiculous mistake.
The roads that turned off to either side were all numbered with identical signs. He knew that the road he needed was eight hundred and something, and since he couldn’t make out a thing along the roadside, he opted for the one that seemed to ring a bell. 813. It might not be the right one, but it was a place to start.
“I’m sorry about this,” he said, turning to Jo with a lopsided grin. “I can’t believe her phone is unlisted!”
“It’s okay,” she said, returning the smile, if a bit nervously. “Is this the road?”
“I’m not sure, but it looks familiar. If this isn’t it, we’ll come back out here, make our way into town, and I’ll figure something else out.”
She nodded, and he drove on down the dark, deserted road, paying close attention to the many potholes and the steep ditches. She had offered up her car for the trip, even letting him do the driving, and he had no intention of taking advantage of that trust.
On either side they passed farm houses, some showing lights, others seemingly deserted. Nowhere was there a sign of life or a familiar landmark, and after a couple of short miles, he had to admit that he was lost.
Just as he’d begun to look for a place to turn around and head back the other way, he spotted one last house on the right side of the road. There was a car parked in the front yard, its door open and the dome-light on.
“I’m going to pull in and ask whoever that is for directions,” he said with relief. “It looks like they just got home!”
Jo didn’t say anything, but he noticed that she was gripping the armrest on the door tightly and her lips were compressed in a very, very poor imitation of a smile. It didn’t help that there was an old abandoned church in the lot across the way from the house.
He stared at it, realizing almost immediately what seemed out of place. There was a “FOR RENT” sign on the door! A church for rent, and it came with its own small cemetery out back. Swell. How many gods could be in the market?
He pulled into the driveway behind where the other car was still parked, and he turned off the ignition.
“Wait here?” he asked.
Jo didn’t look enthusiastic about being left alone, but it was obvious that she’d rather be near the ignition and the gas pedal than walking into some strange country homestead and chatting up the locals. That was fine. Alone, he could hurry it along, find out where that damned road with the three silos was, and they’d be on their way. Once they’d finally reached Beth’s and gotten settled in, he was certain things would be fine. At least he hoped they would.
Crossing the unkempt yard quickly, lips twisted in a friendly smile, Dave approached the car. It was obvious now that, though the door was open, the dome light and stereo on, the occupant of the vehicle had no intention of getting out and going inside. Judging from the two flat tires on the closest side of the vehicle and the flowers growing up through the fender in front, it was more of a home addition than a vehicle these days.
Just as Dave was beginning to think that maybe Jo was right, maybe they would be better off just finding the place on their own, an arm slipped out from the car’s shadowy interior to dangle loosely over the door, which was slightly ajar, and a face appeared in the window.
If he hadn’t known the man was in prison, and that the idea was ludicrous, he would’ve sworn that the face belonged to Charlie Manson. Long, greasy hair dangled past thin, emaciated shoulders, and the eyes that stared out from the shadows of that car were feral – like those of a rodent, or some wild predator, gleaming at him through the darkness.
“Yeah?” the man said, and the dry, rasping sound of his voice, followed by a rattling cough, brought things back to reality. It wasn’t Charlie Manson, that was for sure.
“Excuse me,” Dave began brightly, holding out a hand that the other man ignored pointedly, “but we’re looking for the Lindbergh place – it’s a farm near here. I think we must have taken a wrong turn off the main road back there.”
He pointed vaguely back the way they’d come, trying without success to remember just which number turnoff they’d actually taken.
“You lookin’ for Herb?” the man asked, his eyes slightly unfocused. He acted as though he hadn’t heard a word Dave had said, and it was obvious that he was drunk, or stoned, or both. At least Dave hoped he was.
“No,” he answered slowly. “I don’t know any Herb – is he a relative of the Lindberghs?”
The man looked at him as if he were crazy. “Nope, don’t think so. He’ll be here in a little bit, though, you could wait.”
“But I don’t want to see Herb,” Dave burst out, exasperated. “I’m just looking for directions to my friend’s farm.”
“I don’t know these parts too well,” the man told him slowly. “You might go inside and ask – someone ought to be able to help you.”
Dave turned, giving Jo a “what can I do?” kind of shrug, and looked about himself quickly. He saw the church next door, its graveyard pointed directly at him and the “FOR RENT” sign hanging at an ominous angle on the door.
“Shit,” he said under his breath. He thanked the man quickly and headed for the front door of the place, hoping against hope that someone with half a brain would be inside, and that they could get out of this madhouse and back on the road quickly.
Just as he reached up to knock on the door, a breath of fetid air washed across his shoulder, and he realized that the man had slipped up behind him. An odd sound was filling the air – at first he thought it was just his head buzzing with the sudden burst of adrenalin brought on by the man’s sudden appearance – but it was more than that.
A piano. It was a tinny, off-key rendition of some sort of jazz tune, and it was coming from inside the house. Without a word, the man reached around him and pushed the door open, letting the music escape into the night.
Dave coughed quickly, backing up as the scent of the inner rooms hit him. There was a moldy, yellowed sheet hanging from the door frame like a curtain. The place smelled musky, like a huge litter box, or an abandoned barn that rodents had taken over.
Moving ahead of him, and thankfully pushing the nasty, rotting sheet out of the way, the man preceded him inside. With a deep breath, which he held as long as possible, Dave followed. There was a light just to the right – another doorway, similarly curtained to the first. It was from beyond this that the music was rolling forth, much louder now, still filled with so many discordant notes that he knew the instrument must be horribly out of tune.
Parting the “curtain” of the second room, he stepped inside and stopped cold. Seated across the room at a run-down, lop-sided old piano, sat what appeared to be a very greasy Little Richard impersonator. Dreadlocks hung down to shoulder length in back – greased or extremely dirty – and the man’s bony black fingers danced quickly over the chipped ivory of the keyboard. He swayed from side to side slowly, lost in the music – such as it was.
Then, with a sudden lurch, he stopped playing and spun his head over his left shoulder in a single, fluid motion, catching Dave staring and meeting his gaze flatly. There was no emotion in those eyes – no life of any sort, for that matter. No color. They were white, empty, blind eyes. Dave shivered involuntarily and glanced away, but when he gathered the courage to turn back, the pianist was gazing at his own fingers again. Dave couldn’t be certain what he’d seen, but the image of those milky-white orbs strobed in his mind.
“You looking for Herb?” the man asked quickly, not looking back again, or seeming to really care what Dave might be looking for.
Shaking his head, Dave answered. “No. I’m up here to visit some friends, the Lindberghs. They live down one of these roads, eight hundred something. I think the address is 870-B.”
The man continued to stare at him as if he hadn’t spoken at all. “You aren’t lookin’ for Herb?”
Holding his anger in check, Dave started to tell him again what he was looking for, but the first man cut in again.
“I know a guy named Wayne Lindbergh.”
“Great!” Dave cut in quickly. “Where does he live? Maybe he lives nearby, or he’s related?”
“Lived in Richmond,” the man said flatly. “Never been around here.”
Now anger was passing off into nervous fear. This was going from bizarre straight into late-night horror movie reality way too quickly.
“You don’t know where 870-B might be?” he asked, starting to turn for the door.
“This here’s 111,” the man at the piano told him slowly, as if dredging the numbers up from far, far back in the abyss he’d once called a mind.
About 555 short, I’d say, Dave thought. Aloud, he said, “Well, I guess we’ll just go and see if we can’t find it ourselves, then. The road has three grain silos off to the side.” He threw this in as a final hope, but no sparks flew.
“You can try the trailer park,” Manson said, pointing down the road one further than the turn off Dave had already taken. “Someone there can probably help you.”
“Great,” Dave said, backpedaling quickly and pushing aside the curtain over the door. It was time to get out of there and hit the road – quick. Next would come the chainsaws, or the axes.
“You sure you don’t wanna see Herb?” Little Richard asked as he turned away. “He’ll be comin’ by here later …”
That was it. Dave turned and lurched toward the front door, pushing the tattered sheet aside and slamming the outer door open with his palm. Somehow the Charles Manson-looking grease-ball had made his way back to the door at the same time. He leaned in close as Dave barreled out into the night and said, “We are a commune of musicians.”
Right, Dave thought as he hurried to the driver’s side of the car and slammed the door behind himself. Little Richard in there plays the piano, and you play the stereo out front, right?
“Did you find out anything?” Jo asked, taking in the expression on his face and the hurried, nervous movements he kept making as he started the car and backed out into the street.
“We aren’t staying for drinks, let’s just leave it at that,” he said, trying for a grin that never quite made it and turning to concentrate on the road ahead.
He drove to the next road, turned down it and headed toward the lights of the trailer park. Swell. More of the same, he was sure, but he had nothing else to try. In the distance he saw two figures walking down the road, both with hair down halfway to their asses. Shrugging, he pulled to the side of the road and asked about the silos.
“Oh, you mean 870?” the first of the two boys asked. They were both dressed normally enough – rock-group t-shirts and jeans, boots and leather belts. “That’s two roads back, you can’t miss those silos, once you turn off.”
Thanking them, Dave turned around once more and headed back the way he’d come. He found the Lindbergh farm easily enough, pulled in behind the other cars – everyone else, it seemed, had found the place in the daylight – and he and Jo went inside to join the party.
Everyone that was gathered there was a writer or an artist. They were the “Guests of Honor” at Out-in-the-BooniesCON, or some-such thing, a local SF gathering that would begin the next day.
After everyone was settled, Dave told the story of their harrowing experience on the next road down, and Beth’s eyes widened in horror.
“You don’t mean the ‘”Green'” house, do you? God, everyone wonders whether those guys are axe murders, or what.”
“One and the same,” Dave countered. “Not axe murderers, though, I don’t believe. They claim to be a commune of musicians.”
Everyone laughed, and after a few more drinks and a few more stories they all turned in for the night, the old house and its eerie inhabitants all but forgotten.
The convention had ended early, and after everyone had gathered back at the farm, Wayne and Mark convinced Dave to go back to the old Green house.
“Let’s go see those guys, man,” Wayne said. “What’s the harm? A beat-up piano, a few old sheets – maybe we could take a guitar with us and jam?”
“You’ve got to be kidding,” Dave had grinned at him in exasperation. He was not kidding. Insane, probably, but not kidding.
So there they were, the three of them, the women having opted for something a bit less adventurous, like horseback riding, walking down the road toward the old house and its neighboring churchyard. Dave wasn’t sure whether he wanted to go there at all, but he wasn’t going to back down if the other two were going.
They made the expected wisecracks about the “FOR RENT” sign on the church, wondering which ancient god would take the owners up on it. Mark did a pretty good rendition of the slinking, clubfooted pace of a Romeroesque zombie, pointing at the graveyard and saying, “New God moved in, made us leave, He did. Said, no Christian God here, no Christian dead here, left us just like that, homeless.”
Dave’s laughter cut off midway through the first chuckle when they rounded the corner. The car wasn’t there. The weeds weren’t even pressed down where it might have been there before. He turned, eyes wide, and just stared at his companions, who were looking back at him like he was the lunatic.
“Maybe it wasn’t this place,” he said dubiously. He knew that it was. The angle on the old graveyard was just as it had been the night before. Moving as if he were in a trance, he made his way to the front door and made as if to knock on it. There was no need. The door stood a few inches ajar, hanging from one broken hinge that was half-rusted through.
Inside the sheets hung, just as he’d said, and he brushed his way past them both in a rush, heedless of the many spider’s’ webs and scuttling things that shot out in all directions as he passed.
The piano was gone, too. There was nothing in the house at all, in fact. Nothing but the smell, which he remembered only too well, dust, and a family of sparrows that shot out the window in a burst of sound and feathers, nearly stopping his heart.
“Telling the tall tales again, eh?” Mark observed, looking around the place and brushing a cobweb off his arm. “Commune of musicians?”
Dave staggered to the window, his face ashen, and stared across the lot outside at the church. Something else was wrong. The sign – the ludicrous, cockeyed “FOR RENT” sign was gone.
Then he heard it. It was faint, at first, winding its way through his senses so deceptively that he thought at first he was imagining it. It was the music, the awful, discordant piano music. The piano was gone, but the music lived on, it seemed.
“There!” he cried, turning wildly to where his friends were examining some dusty relics in the back corner of the room. “Do you hear it?”
Not waiting for an answer, he rushed back out into the yard. The music was louder there, coming from the direction of the old church. There were lights on, too, he saw, coming from the windows between the cracks of the old boards that held them shut. He stopped, his eye caught by a small pamphlet lying on the ground at his feet.
Picking it up, he peeled it apart carefully where the morning dew had glued the pages together.
The First Church of Light and Vision, learn the wisdom of the stars.
There was more, but he couldn’t quite make it out. It said something about the coming of a God, or a savior, or perhaps just a traveling evangelist. He couldn’t quite make out the name. It looked like HE..B. He turned to show his find to Wayne and Mark, but they were nowhere to be seen. Frowning, he returned to the old house, looking carefully through each room. Gone
“All right, man,” he said aloud. “This isn’t funny.” He figured they were outside, hiding and waiting for him, and he was in no mood to play their game. “Let’s just get back to the house, okay?”
No answer. He made his way into the yard again and something drew him toward the church. Maybe they’d just gone over there to check out the music. It could be that the graveyard extended to the other side of the church, that there was another house, which would explain the music. He started forward, watching every shadowy nook where his two friends might be lying in wait, and approached the old church.
As he drew nearer, it became obvious that they had somehow managed to get that piano into the church itself during the night. The music was coming from inside, and, against his better judgment, he moved to the door at the end of the building. There were plenty of cracks in the old wood, he could just look inside and see what was going on for himself.
Before he could bend down to have a look, however, the door burst open. Light flowed out and around him, surrounding him on all sides. Charles Manson stood framed in the doorway, his greasy hair actually combed back and braided and his arms spread wide. Where there had been dull, mindless oblivion in his eyes the night before, now they burned with a strange, wild light.
“I knew you would return,” he said, grabbing Dave’s arm and propelling him inside.
Across the room, Little Richard sat with his back to the two of them, dancing his hands over the keys of the ancient piano. This wasn’t what had captured his eyes, though. There was an altar at the front of the room, and on it a feast – or what appeared to be a feast – was laid out. Mark and Wayne stood there at the table, turning to meet his confused gaze with wide, feral grins. He saw that their eyes were alight with the same odd spark as Manson’s.
Wayne waved to him, and he saw what was in his friends hand. It was a leg-bone – a human leg bone – and the skin was rotted and flayed from it, black with dirt and maggots. As he tried to pull back, retching violently, Mark called out to him, slipping back into the odd, Monty-Pythonesque accent from earlier.
“I was wrong, Davey, so wrong. Herb don’t want the Christian dead to go, we have to get rid of them ourselves!”
As his head hammered to the wild, incomprehensible banging of the piano, Dave heard the doors crash shut behind him. There was another figure behind the altar, taller, darker, blending into the shadows themselves. As the light began to course through him, eating its way to his eyes, he felt the first pangs of hunger, and he moved forward, moved to the combined beat of piano and stereo – the car had somehow been parked to the left, behind the pews, and Manson had resumed his seat.
As he reached for a rotting hand, he began to wonder. He wondered what instrument he would play.
This story and many others are available in my collection: The Call of Distant Shores – many of the stories in that book, including the title story, are born of vivid memories.
This is a short story I wrote many, many years ago. A friend recently saw a horror movie about the suicide forest beneath Mount Fuji in Japan… that is the setting of this story. This is not a horror story. I have no idea what kind of story this is, but it is one of my favorite things of all I’ve ever written. I’m sharing it here now…
For Kay Reynolds, whose book of haiku written by Kamikaze pilots helped me to do this… and for Brian A. Hopkins, who was the editor I wrote it for.
YOU ARE JUST LIKE GODS…
Myoshi felt his foot slip on the slick, moss-covered rock, and he gripped the rocks above him more tightly. The sharp lava stone cut into his fingers, but he regained his balance and remained very still, letting his breath and heartbeat calm. The sun rose slowly, warming his back as he climbed. Birds cried from the rocks above, and from the depths of the trees. Myoshi brushed his fingers across his brow, wiping away the sweat.
Fuji rose above him, grim and imposing, but no more so than the formidable drop behind. Myoshi had begun his climb at first light, and he had made good time. On his back, his school book bag bulged with supplies. There was a souvenir shop at the edge of the forest, but he’d wanted to avoid prying eyes.
He carried some well-packed fish and rice, and two small packets. One was his school work, graded and banded carefully to be saved and shown to his parents. The other was a packet of letters. Letters from Myoshi’s grandfather. Letters Myoshi’s father had kept, wrapped carefully in rice paper and bound with a silken ribbon. Letters that one day would be missed.
The mountain leveled off for a time, and Myoshi was able to walk normally, sweeping his gaze along the trail that wound up and up until it was lost among trees and clouds. It was a wonderful day for a climb.
Far below, beyond the ocean of trees that was the ancient forest of Aokigahara, school was in session. Myoshi’s father had been at work for two hours, and his mother would be home, cleaning and organizing. Nothing in their small, neat apartment was ever out of place. Myoshi’s father would not have permitted it, and his mother would do nothing that shamed her in her husband’s eyes. Perfection. Myoshi yearned for that. In everything he did, he fell short.
In school, his mind wandered. His grades were not bad, but neither were they good. In Myoshi’s household, mediocrity was not an option. Other children excelled. Some were athletes, others could calculate in their heads faster than Myoshi could press the buttons on his calculator. Myoshi could write, some, but even in this he fell short in his father’s eyes. His marks in penmanship were less than satisfactory, and his grammar was erratic. His teachers said he lacked focus and discipline.
Myoshi’s grandfather had known about discipline. He had understood about being different, as well. It was all in the letters. Letters written by a man who died before his own young son could bring home grades, or books of letters. Letters that were Myoshi’s father’s one link to the past. A fragile link, built of memories half-forgotten and fantasies long rehearsed. Myoshi had heard those fantasies. He had met his grandfather through his father’s words. He had seen the glint in dark eyes, and the shining leather of the uniform. Myoshi had heard the roar of engines as great birds of war took flight.
“You are just like the Gods,” Myoshi breathed, “Free of earthly desires…”
He slipped under the umbrella of tree-limbs and continued up the mountain. His father’s voice echoed through his mind. The mountain slipped away, just for a moment, replaced by white, billowing clouds. The soft cries of birds and the chirping of insects gave way to crackling static. He sensed the others, tightly formed squadron of death, moving as a single unit with the sun blazing above. Myoshi could feel the sweat beneath the flight helmet. He could sense the symmetry of the squadron’s practiced motion. One great bird. One bolt of lightning aimed at those who opposed the Emperor.
“To fly as one bolt
From the crossbow of a
A tree root protruding from the mountain’s rough hide sent Myoshi tumbling, and his mind returned to the moment. He caught himself on both hands, scraping one palm, and fighting the urge to cry out. The weight of the pack pressed him more tightly to the earth. Turning, he seated himself on a rock and caught his breath. The sun was bright, and as he looked back the way he’d come, he saw that the trail had disappeared, the winding course cutting off his entrance to the tree-line completely. Nothing below but the green tops of the trees, obscuring the forest floor, and the rocky peak above rising on a gentle slope above a second line of trees. Myoshi could just make it out, and he smiled.
From his pack, he pulled free a rice cake, and the packet of his graded school papers. Carefully, he unwrapped the bundle, plucking out the sheets one by one. He laid them on the stone beside him, tracing the even lines of his script with a critical eye. He had been doing well on this one. Line after line of formulas strung together in the proper patterns. Then the error. One figure out of place, another line used to scratch the mistake from the paper and the continuation – flawed. Beside each figure, a corresponding red character in the elegant script of his teacher. Corrected. Berated. Imperfect.
Myoshi had done well enough to pass from this class to the next, but with no honors. No fine words from teacher to parent. No pride. It had taken him hours to complete that assignment, painstakingly forming each character. He had wanted so badly to please his father that the old man’s image had formed in Myoshi’s mind. The words, and the stories, and lectures slipped in to distract.
Myoshi traced the scratched out character’s with the nail of one finger. He whispered to himself.
“You are just like gods.”
The figures mocked him. The red letters, so bright in the sunlight, glittered like the eyes of serpents. His father had not seen them. Myoshi had kept the papers, folded and tied. Bound and under his control. He could not control the characters, or the formulas, but he could control their outcome, for a time. The birds did not threaten to expose his secret, and Fuji beckoned.
Myoshi glanced at the second packet of papers. He slid his hand into his pack, stroked the silk bindings, but he did not open the letters. Not yet. He quickly packed the wrapper from the rice cake, and the school work, and rose, turning to face the mountain once again.
“Free of earthly desires,” he said softly.
Free of his family. Free of school, though it tugged at his heart. He would be a disappointment to his father this final time. Myoshi had not missed a day of school in five years. The only desire he could recall in all those years was to please his father. The most wonderful moments of his life had been spent at that great man’s feet, listening to stories of emperors, and wars. Stories of his ancestors. Stories that filled his heart and mind with dreams of other places, and other times. Times and places where he was not a clumsy young boy, but a hero. There were ways for those unworthy of honor to regain it. There were answers to the loss of pride.
The good times with his father had grown fewer and further between as Myoshi had grown older. As the piles and piles of papers, just like those in his pack, had stacked themselves against his future, and his honor, his father’s eyes had grown distant. They still saw Myoshi, but not the same Myoshi they had seen before.
Myoshi rose once more, his gaze sweeping up the winding trail to where the peak of the mountain slipped through the clouds. Eagles soared through the highest branches of the trees, circling slowly. Myoshi screened the sunlight by cupping his palm over his eyes and watched them. The brilliant light glittered on a bit of mica imbedded in the mountain, diamond glimmer nearly blinding him. Myoshi squinted, cocking his head to one side to listen.
He could hear his father’s voice as the mountain faded. Could sense the shift, and welcomed it.
“We watched from the decks as the pilots swarmed to the sky, a black horde, synchronized and dangerous. It was not our time. We were too far from the enemy, and these would return, but they were majestic in flight.
“I remember standing very still on the flight deck, watching them shrink to fly-specks on the horizon, and knowing, when it was my time, that speck would be me. Shrinking to nothing. Here, and then, no more, a bright spark in the Emperor’s eyes – a memory in my family’s heart. Just like the Gods.”
With his eyes squinted so tightly, Myoshi saw the aircraft shimmering against a darkened sky, saw them bank and circle against the clouds. Saw them focus. Eagles. Eagles were like the Gods, as well, but a different sort of God.
Myoshi picked up his things and started up the mountain once more, suddenly eager for completion. He could feel the wind on the wings of the eagles, and that same wind shivering through his hair.
There were not many letters. Myoshi’s grandfather had not served for years in the military, or even for a year. Months, only, and he had never returned. He had not been a precision pilot, nor had he been blessed with the blood of the Samurai. Still, he had soared.
Myoshi had read those letters again and again. He had begged his father’s indulgence to allow him to watch over them. To guard them. He had seen in his father’s eyes the struggle this had been, but those words, those images, were ingrained in his father’s mind. That great man no longer required the letters, and so they had passed to Myoshi, who had cherished them as no other possession.
His grandfather’s penmanship had never faltered. There were no red characters or strike-outs. There were clear thoughts, worded in poetry stretched to prose without loss of continuity. It was his grandfather’s words that inspired Myoshi’s own writing, unworthy as it was. It was the images of his grandfather’s death that stole those words, and distracted him from his own honor. His teacher said his mind wandered. Myoshi knew it soared.
The trees had begun to thin. All that stood between Myoshi and his goal was a ragged backbone of rock. Far above him, farther than he could have climbed in such a short time, patches of snow were visible. The air was noticeably cooler, and Myoshi was glad, very suddenly, that his mother had insisted on the sweater he wore, though it had been too hot less than an hour before.
“The higher you go,” Myoshi’s father’s voice, “the colder it gets. The harder it is to breathe. It is always dark. We don’t fly by day, and those few of us who get to practice at all are very sparing with our fuel. We are not trained to fire at the enemy. We are barely trained to land. It is not expected of us.
“We study the great maps daily. We listen to the inspirational words of our leaders. I have meditated more this span of two weeks, my son, than I have in the last two years of my life. Things I have never thought of become clear. Your mother. Your face, watching over me in my dreams.
“My face reflected
Bright smile, shining eyes, dark
Like the twilit sky.”
Myoshi’s eyes were dark, as were his father’s. He knew that he resembled both men, third generation to bear that visage, first to fail. There would be no medals hanging on the walls of Myoshi’s home. Not unless he inherited them. He would not write wondrous letters to a son yet unborn, telling tales of glory, and darkness, blood and fire.
He stopped again, shielding his eyes and glancing up toward the mountain’s peak. The eagles had roosted, leaving the sun to beat down on a desolate slope. Myoshi planned to be across the ridge and safely on the plateau on the far side before the afternoon sunlight waned. He considered stopping for another snack, but there wasn’t much shade until he crossed, and he wanted to reach the ledge with enough light for reading.
Not that he needed light. Not that every word in every letter wasn’t ingrained in his imagination, every image fully formed and captivating. He stepped out onto the bare stone. The wind whipped up and nearly toppled him from his precarious perch, no longer blocked by the trees. Myoshi fought for his balance, regained it, and took a quick step forward, then another. It was easier once he was moving, and he concentrated on the stone at his feet.
Myoshi did not want to think about the side of the mountain, or the lava fields, obscured by the forest below. He dislodged a tiny avalanche of dust and stone and stopped, waiting for his heart to grow still.
Myoshi thought of Cherry blossoms. His grandfather had often mentioned them, as had his father. One of the other pilots, younger even than Myoshi’s grandfather, had written a poem that Myoshi loved. The haiku, so simple, so profound and complete in that simplicity.
“If only we might fall
Like Cherry blossoms in the spring
So pure and radiant.”
Myoshi contemplated the mountain. The distance to the base. The remaining climb. There were no cherry trees on the mountain, and somehow, he was glad. He didn’t want to think about the ground littered with their petals. He didn’t want to walk over so many great souls.
As the sun warmed his back, and the wind chilled his face, Myoshi climbed.
* * *
The sun dropped fast beyond the horizon, and Myoshi leaned in close, trying to catch enough of the dying light to finish the letter. It was the last of them. Eight, carefully penned slices of life; all that remained of Myoshi’s grandfather. When he had read the last familiar word, he carefully folded the paper, painstakingly matching the folds and tying the ribbon as it had been reverently. Myoshi tucked the bundle under his shirt, close to his heart.
Next he pulled free a single sheet of blank paper, and his pen. It was getting more difficult to see, but it would not matter. There would be no red glaring characters to mar this piece. Nothing to correct. No figures, only a promise. A single promise.
Myoshi wrote slowly as his mind wandered, for once allowing the words to be absolutely his own. He didn’t watch the paper. It was getting too dark for that. He had to depend on his instincts and luck. He knew his teachers would not approve, but for once, he was beyond that as well. He was not writing a lesson. He was writing a history. He was encapsulating his life.
“Since I was very young,” he began, “sitting at your knee, my father, and listening to your stories of grandfather, I have loved the cherry blossom. I read the haiku, and in my dreams, the blossoms grew to men. In the words of those who died gloriously, taking the paths of falling stars to the hearts of their enemies, I found dreams. As I failed in my life, they gave me hope.”
The mountain faded around him as shadows lengthened. The moon had yet to rise, but only the last rose-tinted hints of the sun licked the skyline. Stars glittered like diamonds. Like petals. So many petals.
Myoshi continued to write, but his mind closed out the reality of mountain and paper, the pen slid silently, marking the trail of his thoughts, but not carefully. Not with the painstakingly rigid strokes of the school, now empty and silent, like the mountain. Not with the measured rhythm of his grandfather’s even script. With Myoshi’s heart. He penned each character as it felt, and he paid no more attention to it than he did to the breeze. He mouthed his grandfather’s words and shivered.
“The air was cold on deck. We were allowed only minimal equipment. Nothing, really, to prepare for the weather. If we grew ill, we would find our release. If we were cold, we had but to think fo the flame, and the glory to come. Each brow was covered with a single strip of cloth, white, with the rising son emblazoned.
“I remember last night. I went, alone, to the flight deck. The Oka – cherry blossom – stood before me, silent and empty. I tried to picture the skies, the enemy, the waves. I saw a coffin. I saw an end, and a beginning, etched in flame. My heartbeat quickened, fanned like a flame by the wind as it whipped across that dark, empty deck. I stood there a very long time, and when I returned to my bed, I could not sleep. Instead, I turned to the pen, and the paper, wanting you to share the moment.
“Waves lapped gently at the sides of the ship, rocking us like babes in the arms of our mothers. It is the last night we will spend in the arms of any mother, cradled by the earth. I want to sleep and let it slip away. I want to awaken to that last day as I had so many others. I know I will not. I cannot sleep.
“Now the sun is rising, and my hand shakes as I hold the pen; my heart races. The others have tossed and turned all around me. None found the peace of deep sleep, and those who did sleep are round-eyed with visions and final dreams.
“I will close this now, so that I may seal it and put it in the Commander’s hand. He will see that you get this letter, and the others. Tonight, I die, but part of me lives on. I have a sun, and I am blessed.
“I remember the words of Admiral Ohnishi, by whose grace I have this chance to die so well.
‘In blossom today, then scattered,
Life is so like a delicate flower.
How can one expect the fragrance
To last forever?’
“May I honor you. May I honor our Emperor. May the gods embrace me.
Myoshi’s pen did not stop scratching at the paper as his grandfather’s words ended. He could feel the deck swaying beneath his feet. He wrote on until the paper was filled, and turned, and filled on the opposite side as well before he set it aside, unsigned. Only the weight of the pen held the paper in place against the stone, and the edges flapped in the breeze, like the wings of a great moth, reaching into the moonlight.
The takeoff was rougher than usual. The waves had risen higher, and the deck slanted one way, then the other, great sweeping rolls that skewed the skyline and stole one’s balance. Myoshi blinked, the strobe effect easing his nausea. A thousand butterflies had risen to flight in his breast, and his hands shook like those of an old man.
All around him the roar of engines. Each coughing to life, sputtering drowsily then roaring with barely contained life. Life. That is what pulsed through Myoshi’s veins, pounding so loudly he thought of the surf, and the ocean. The air was cool, but he felt a fiery heat building, felt the glorious binding of man to machine to air as they launched.
The air whipped against his face, and he felt the exhileration, the pure joy of release as the deck/earth/world slipped away. His breath was stolen, and though he fought against that breathlessness, he could not quite force the words past his lips.
Myoshi’s body tumbled, falling freely from the ledge of stone, arcing out from the stone and whirling, head over feet over head again and crashing through the upper branches of the ocean of trees, swallowed whole by the ancient, silent forest.
Far above, the clouds opened for one second, and the silhouette of a single plane was outlined – then gone.
* * *
A group of teenage boys, on a hike, came across bones, picked clean and whitened by the sunlight, slipping through the trees. They turned in horror, ready to bolt, but one stopped.
A packet of papers, mildewed and rotting, lay to one side. It was bound by a single ribbon of silk. Forcing his eyes from the bones, the boy reached out and grabbed the packet.
They ran. It wasn’t until much later that the papers were carefully opened. Most were very old, but a single page of newer script was tied atop the pile. On it, this verse.
“White blossom, broken
stained petal, crimson, gliding
Lost in the moonlight”
FOR A LIMITED TIME – all four books for only .99 – time to fall in love with a new series!
Donovan DeChance is a collector of ancient manuscripts and books, a practicing mage, and a private investigator. This Omnibus Collection includes books I, II, III, and IV of the series. Included are Heart of a Dragon, Vintage Soul, My Soul to Keep (The Origin story of Donovan DeChance) and Kali’s Tale – book IV of the series. Also included are the bonus novellas “The Not Quite Right Reverend Cletus J. Diggs & The Currently Accepted Habits of Nature,” and “The Preacher’s Marsh,” both of which provide background on settings and characters that appear in Kali’s Tale. If you enjoy this book, you should read Nevermore, A Novel of Love, Loss & Edgar Allan Poe, which follows on Kali’s Tale, has a cameo from Donovan DeChance, and leads into Book V – A Midnight Dreary, currently in progress.
Heart of a Dragon: When a local houngan begins meddling with powers she may not be able to control, a turf war breaks out between the Dragons motorcycle club and the Los Escorpiones street gang—a war that threatens to open portals between worlds and destroy the city in the process. With his lover, Amethyst, his familiar, Cleo – an Egyptian Mau the size of a small bobcat –the dubious aid of a Mexican sorcerer named Martinez and the budding gifts of a young artist named Salvatore, DeChance begins a race against time, magic, and almost certain death.
Vintage Soul: When, despite the finest in natural and supernatural security, a sexy and well-loved, three hundred year old lady vampire is kidnapped right out from under her lover’s nose, Donovan is called in to investigate. There will be no ransom for the kidnap victim, and if Donovan doesn’t prevent an ancient, forbidden ritual from reaching its culmination, far more than a single vampire’s undead existence will be at stake.
My Soul to Keep: Donovan DeChance is a very private man, and he is in love. When he invites his partner and lover, Amethyst, for a quiet dinner, she has no idea of his true intention. Donovan has planned a sharing – a vision that will give her the keys to his early life – the origins of his power – and a lot more than she bargained for. Join young Donovan as he fights to keep his soul, save a town, and learn the roots of his teacher and guardian – and meet his familiar, Cleo.
Kali’s Tale: When Donovan is asked to follow in secret as a hot-headed group of young vampires set out on a ‘blood quest’ to kill the ancient who created the young vampire Kali against her will, he learns that – as usual – there is a lot more to the story than meets the eye. Through the juke joints of Beale Street in Memphis, to the depths of The Great Dismal Swamp, Donovan and his lover and partner, Amethyst, find themselves drawn along on one of the strangest quests in their long, enigmatic lives as they delve into the world of the undead, the magic of The Blues, and the very heart of alchemy both to protect their young, vampiric charges – and to prevent an ancient evil from destroying the balance of power in the universe.
This novel directly crosses over to the original series O.C.L.T. – where Donovan is a sometimes consultant. It features appearances by Geoffrey Bullfinch and Rebecca York, O.C.L.T. agents, as well as Old Mill, North Carolina’s own Cletus J. Diggs.
I bought a lot of old photos in a basket at the auction, and I’ve scanned most of them. They are below in this post. A few have names /etc. on them and I’ll post those as well…some have things on the back hard to read… any help, appreciated. My hope is a: to find the families who might be working on family trees… the second is to figure out some of the places and people and things… of particular interest is the boardwalk scene (where?) the man with guitar and banjo … and the tennis player… the back of the tennis shot says Forest Hills – 1921 and then the names Tilden & Shmidgne (the second I’m not sure of). I love stuff like this. I’m nearly certain this must be a photo of William Tilden – a famous US Tennis player.
NOW THAT THE BIRD HAS YOUR ATTENTION… Listen up.
First off – I wish theoretically honest, up-front bloggers and journalists who don’t use Amazon as a publishing platform or – in most cases – even write books – would quit splashing alarmist headlines all over the net ‘explaining’ how Amazon is now going to give your work away for free and it’s the end of books. I’m going to use bullet points and make this as quick and clear as I can.
1) The new payment plan Amazon just unveiled does not affect your books that are available for “sale” on Amazon at all. It only affects books that have been published exclusively on Amazon as part of their Kindle Select and Kindle Unlimited Plans, and of those books, only the Kindle Unlimited books. Any book that is just “bought” on Amazon is being paid exactly as it always was.
2) An upfront note. It is a bad idea for most books to publish them exclusively on Amazon, and the Kindle Select program is only a good idea if you have a title that has proven itself to sell very well on Amazon and not so well anywhere else. Out of the 1200 titles we currently have at Crossroad Press – we have maybe 8 in those programs. Even those that ARE part of the program still generate a lot of sales each month, and those sales are paid at the same royalty rate they have always been. Only when someone who has paid for a Kindle Unlimited Subscription “borrows” the book does the new plan come into affect.
3) The plan itself: If someone borrows your book, they have a particular amount of time to read it. Amazon will monitor whether they actually read all of it, or part of it, and pay you for the number of pages (determined by a pretty generous algorithm, I can add, because I know that a book we published that was 500 pages in print has figured to 815 pages in their formula) that are read. There is a pot of money – just like there has always been for Kindle Unlimited – but instead of paying you each time someone borrows your book, they are paying you for the number of pages read each time someone borrows your book.
4) The purpose is to stop scammers who have been gaming this system. Everyone is upset that they think their share will drop, but honestly, a huge number of the borrows up to now have been people cheating you out of your money. They upload a ten page pamphlet – or ten of them – and then have 100 friends borrow it – while they do the same for those 100 friends. Every time that ten page pamphlet is borrowed, it gets the same share as a 500 page book by a talented author. Also, there are tons of very short stories of questionable quality being uploaded just because numbers count in this game. If you – instead of an 80-100k word book – write ten 1500 word stories – you can get an equal share every time one of those stories is borrowed – or you could. Now, you can still write them, but your share will be proportionate to the words and effort invested.
5) Quality of the offerings being borrowed is going to improve. Good writers aren’t worried about people borrowing their books and quitting on page five. People paying a subscription price are going to READ the books they borrow to get their money’s worth. This system is better in every way than the previous system. It is not Amazon trying to cheat authors, it’s Amazon protecting authors from people trying to cheat the system. Don’t get me wrong, I think Amazon is out for Amazon, but they aren’t – in this case anyway – doing it at your expense.
6) Most important thing. The Kindle Select and Kindle Unlimited programs are not right for most books. As I stated above, only about 8 of our 1200 titles are in these programs. They are there because they have consistently sold above average numbers on Amazon, whlie selling next to nothing anywhere else. MOST books do not benefit from losing Barnes & Noble, Apple, Google, Kobo and all the other possible outlets. IF YOUR BOOK IS NOT REGISTERED IN THE PROGRAMS THIS CHANGE MEANS ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO YOU. NOTHING. ZILCH. That is the most important thing. I’ve seen articles all over the net in theoretically trusted outlets and found that – without really checking their sources, they’ve cut a few lines from Amazons announcement and not applied them to the bigger picture – then splashed click-bait headlines all over about how Amazon is now only going to pay you a tiny amount per page – as if that was all of Amazon and not a single, exclusive program that you have to opt into to even be involved in.
I hope this helps clear some of the clouds from this issue… and I hope that – if you read this – you will think twice before sharing or retweeting one of the misleading and misinformed articles prophesizing the end of books because of this policy. No one has even been paid under the new policy and already everyone is depressed, giving up writing, etc… I suggest you spend less time on blogs and FB and more time writing – it’s easier on your heart and mind.
My novel Sins of the Flash is included in a very cool deal over at Storybundle.com starting today. I love these bundles…you pay what you want to pay and get six books, meet a bargain price for the lot and get five more. It’s also very cool to be included along with authors I love and respect, like Clive Barker – who’s novel Cabal is in the bundle, David Morrell, who is in with The Brotherhood of the Rose as well as friends and colleagues I’ve known and worked with most of the twenty-five plus years of my career, Ed Gorman, Tom Piccirilli, Bill Pronzini, Steven Savile (who is the curator and creator of this collection that he calls MEAN STREETS).
There are some authors in the bundle I’ll be checking out myself for the first time – Maynard Sims, Tony Black, Sean Black, and Stephen Gallagher. All of these books have a theme – something that ties them together. Dark Streets. Alienated characters – black-hearted villains and questionable heroes. This is a bundle of books where crime noir meets horror – where mystery meets deeper shadow.
The Titles included are: Serpents Kiss by Ed Gorman, Falling Apart at the Edges, by Maynard Sims, Carmody’s Run, by Bill Pronzini, Laughing Boy’s Shadow¸ by Steven Savile (one of my favorite novels ever), Truth Lies Bleeding, by Tony Black, Cabal, by Clive Barker, The Innocent, by Sean Black, Down River, by Stephen Gallagher, Nightjack, by Tom Piccirilli (complex and absolutely brilliant), and The Brotherhood of the Rose by David Morrell.
My own novel, one of my favorite, has several distinctions. It has one of my most amazing covers, courtesy of Mr. Harry O. Morris. It was scheduled for publication by no less than three companies, all of which imploded, or ended up not publishing it. Eventually, it found a home at my own Crossroad Press. Sins of the Flash is the first novel-length appearances of detective Tommy Doyle, who also appeared in the short story “Burning Bridges,” in the anthology All Hell Breaking Loose. Tommy comes from a family of police officers, most of whom either died badly, or spent their time chasing very strange crimes.
This novel features Christian Greve – a photographer who believes he has the talent to be world-famous, but who also believes his models have been sabotaging him by subtle shifts in their posture, or changes of expression. It drives him – slowly – crazy. Christian’s search for perfection leads him down some strange, dark streets, and it’s up to Tommy, and his partner “Big “Mac” Markum, to follow and stop him before the body count gets too high – and too personal.
This is a very dark novel. It was written out at sea, on board the USS Guadalcanal. Several of the characters are named for shipmates of mine – maybe they’ll see this deal and pick up a copy after all these years… This mystery is also set in my fictional town of San Valencez, Califonia, where so many of my novels have started, or ended… It’s one of my favorites, and I hope you’ll pick it up – along with all the others – and settle in to read. If you do – and you like what you read in my book or any of the others, please take the time to stop by Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble, or Goodreads.com and leave a rating or a review. In this modern world of self-marketing and social media promotion – feedback from fans and readers is the only weapon an author possesses, unless he’s rich.
Along with all the wonderful books, these bundles support some very worthy charities. A percentage of all income goes to Mighty Writers, Girls Write Now and Special Effect – what these people do:
SpecialEffect are putting fun and inclusion back into the lives of people with disabilities by helping them to play video games. By using technology ranging from modified games controllers to eye-control, they’re finding a way for people to play to the very best of their abilities. But they’re not just doing it for fun. By levelling the playing field, they’re bringing families and friends together and having a profoundly positive impact on therapy, confidence and rehabilitation.
Girls Write Now helps mentor girls so they can develop writing skills, leading to a more successful future no matter what path they decide to choose.
Distinguished as one of the top 15 after-school arts and culture programs in the nation by The President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, Girls Write Now is New York’s first and only organization with a writing and mentoring model exclusively for girls. From young women exploring writing to seasoned professionals practicing their craft every day, GWN is a community of women writers dedicated to providing guidance, support, and opportunities for high school girls to develop their creative, independent voices and write their way to a better future.
Over the past 15 years, more than 4,500 underserved teen girls have benefitted from the GWN community and 100% of seniors in our flagship mentoring program go on to college—bringing with them portfolios, awards, scholarships, new skills, and a sense of confidence. Girls Write Now has built a record of achievement and innovation recognized twice by the White House, by The New York Times, and the MacArthur Foundation, and evidenced by the hundreds of Scholastic Art & Writing awards our girls have earned.
Over on Twitter, author Chuck Wendig laid down a challenge (through his blog) to use a random cocktail generator, take the drink that was offered, and write a story (no more than 1000 words) post it in your own space and then link to it in his comments. I got… The Walk Me Down. The recipe for this drink is at the bottom of the story…seems sort of appropriate, I think, on a St. Patrick’s Day… Enjoy.
Walk Me Down
By David Niall Wilson
The bar on the corner used to be run by Sean Macklemore. He was a ruddy, red-faced Irish guy with a big silver tooth front-top-center of his smile. He and Pop had known one another longer than I’d been alive-that bar was my Pop’s second home.
Every morning I walked the two miles to school. Pop worked in the match factory halfway there. Every morning we’d get up and have our breakfast. Pop would read his paper, and I’d shuffle through homework, or scan a comic book while scooping oatmeal and eggs into my mouth. When the paper was read, and his cup was empty, it was time to go, and it didn’t matter if I’d finished eating, or forgotten to put on a shirt. “Come on boy,” he’d say. “Let me walk you down…”
We walked together every day for all the years I was in school, and the first ten that I worked with him at the factory. That’s where I ended up. That’s where we all ended up, those in the neighborhood who didn’t escape straight out of high school into the army, or, for the privileged few, to college. There wasn’t much happening in Random, Illinois in those days.
Then, one day on the line, Pop turned to the man next to him and said something incomprehensible, and keeled over flat on the floor. Turns out he had a bum ticker, sticking and clicking off beat like a confused phonograph needle.
He was never the same, and he never went back to the factory. He still loved that bar, though, and Sean – who had retired and passed the business on to his son, Seamus. He and Pop were like local royalty in that corner booth, but without any subjects.
Every day I walked to the factory, and on the way, after my coffee and the paper. I’d call to Pop, it was our joke – one of the only things that could make him smile, no matter what. I’d say, “Come on, Pop, I’ll walk you down…” Just like he said to me all those years.
The factory got a little seedy. Half the workers were let go. Pop and Sean went on about it – talked about the glory days, the safety regulations that were supposed to be in place, and weren’t. I sipped my whiskey and took it in, but I counted myself lucky I hadn’t been cut with so many others. I still had a job. It paid the bills, and one of those was the bar tab at Macklemore’s…
One night, three whiskeys in, I heard a story I hadn’t heard before. Sean started talking about the factory. I’d sort of wondered why he cared. Pop worked there, but Sean just served drinks. That’s what I thought.
The Macklemore’s had lived in Random for generations, and what I hadn’t known was that Sean’s brother, Liam, was part owner of the factory. The two had gone down different roads after high school. Now Liam had died, and Sean found himself part owner of a sinking ship.
Pop had plenty to say too. No one listened to either of them. Except me. The whole thing got me thinking. Safety regulations were being ignored. The building was declining, and the workers were being let go, one after another as business dwindled. The city – Pop – Macklemore’s – my life. All headed down the crapper like they were stuffed there with some sort of cosmic plunger.
Except, I had this idea. As ideas go, it probably wasn’t too original, but hey. You go with what life gives you. Life gave me Pop, a dead end job, and a friend named Seamus with a dad named Sean. He gave us whiskey. It all gave me that idea I mentioned.
One night I left the bar late. Pop was three sheets in – so was Sean. I left a note for Seamus telling him I’d be back for Pop. Had some things to take care of.
There wasn’t much security at the factory by night. No one broke in – everyone there was looking for a way out. I made it to the storeroom undetected. I’d thought it through. Faulty wiring. A factory full of wooden matches. Sean and Seamus would collect on the insurance, and Pop and I would hang on like leeches for the ride. Maybe I’d learn to tend bar.
Except… Pop and Seamus followed me. They’d had a lot to drink. Too much. They slipped by me in the dark, and if one of them hadn’t tripped and banged into a door, I wouldn’t have known they were there at all. Maybe they didn’t see me either.
I was already on my way out, and those two crazy old bastards were heading into the storeroom. I never found out why. I started back after them, but it was way too late. Smoke came billowing so fast and thick I could barely breath.
I got out alive, and I got back home. I washed and changed clothes, and I headed back to the bar – like I was coming after Pop. All I could think was that the whiskey they’d polished off must have gone up like gasoline – cooked them quick from the inside. Never even heard a scream.
Me and Seamus, we take turns tending the bar now. We don’t talk about the factory, or our Pops. Don’t talk much at all, truth be told. I listen to people tell me their problems, how the town is dying – how the world is going to hell…
That’s another place I think about. I’m getting older…my time will come soon enough. I expect, when it does, I’ll see Pop standin’ there in front of me… He’ll say, “Come on boy,” and I’ll follow. It will be hot, like the factory- like all the matches in creation. He’ll say… “Let me walk you down…”
WALK ME DOWN
1/2 oz Vodka
1/2 oz Triple sec
1/2 oz Rum
1/2 oz Gin
1/2 oz Tequila
1 oz Sour mix
1/2 oz Blue Curacao
Add the shots, 1/2 shots for the ladies. Over ice is best.Mix well.