‘Sometimes you need a second chance, because you weren’t quite ready for the first.’
We all have such moments where we soulfully wish for a second chance, because we weren’t quite alert when the first one knocked at our door. They are awful times when a person truly regrets his/her mistakes for neglecting the first opportunity and is so desperate to prove oneself again, if only they get the second chance.
The Afterlife of Holly Chase by Cynthia Hand is one such book where we appreciate the positive outcomes of second chances. Published on October 24, 2017, this beautiful retelling of Christmas Carol took me by surprise and blew me away with quite an intriguing plot and a fresh, realistic protagonist.
This book starts with the story of a seventeen-year-old girl, Holly Chase who is selfish, rude, and obsessed with wealth and fame. She is least bothered about others and is terribly mean to everyone around her, resembling the character of Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. On Christmas Eve, Holly is visited by the ghosts of her present, past, and future who try to show her how she has grown up to be a spoilt and selfish person. They try to convince her on mending her mean ways, but our dear Holly brushes off the first opportunity and ends up dead. The book continues with the life of Holly Chase after her death, where she works for a top-secret company Project Scrooge as the latest ghost of Christmas Past. This company aims at reforming people who are ill-mannered for the betterment of the world. The story takes us on a beautiful, hilarious journey with the selfish Holly Chase on her road to redemption. Does she actually have a second chance is what the book is about. It is a light read and makes us root for Holly’s happiness even though she is a very selfish, mean person. It was like reading a modern version of A Christmas Carol and I am so very glad that I picked this book up.
I loved the way the book dealt with a serious theme in a subtle, and humorous way. It gives us an insight into how desperate at times we can get for the second chances that is no way round the corner. It amazingly showcases the changes that second chances can bring about, while temporarily hovering around the consequences of a failed first chance. The last page of this book brings a satisfying smile on the reader’s face and definitely changes our perspectives on many minor things that go easily unnoticed in our everyday life.
Please do pick this book up. I assure, you would not regret it. If you have read it already, I would love to hear your thoughts. Also, please do let me know if you think any other book that you have read portrays reinvention and second chances. I would love to hear them all.
Good day to you all!
– Oviya Raj
Humans are chaotic, always pushing the boundaries and trying to be average at the same time. We want to fit in and be exceptional. We can’t leave any unexplored territory while hoping for a stable life. These paradoxes are fundamental to our nature. The same is true in love.
We love and hate the same people sometimes.
Two strategies for attraction, which are fundamentally opposed to each other, get cited all the time in tired clichés. If opposites attract, how can birds of a feather flock together? If psychology studies predict higher levels of happiness in couples that are more similar to each other (culture, socio-economic background, interests, etc.), why has evolution left us drawn to people we are very different from? What makes a book-worm become infatuated with the bad boy?
Naturally romance stories deal with this kind of thing all the time, but increasingly they are showing up in paranormal and other fiction tropes. Perhaps the motivating factors are as unique as the individuals. One thing we can agree on, while many humans are happy in a stable, traditional life, others are driven to explore new paths. This is true in love as it is in every other aspect of our lives. Technology is to the point where people are now publicly declaring their love for robots. It’s human nature, for a small part of us.
It’s not much of a stretch to apply that human nature to various genres of fiction. Just as Tauriel the Elf and Kili the Dwarf found love despite being from different races (The Hobbit movies), we have to assume that while the majority of people in any story will gravitate toward the familiar and safe, there are always those who will be willing to experiment with an uncommon love. If we accept vampires are real or humanoid aliens contact earthlings in the future, we must admit there will be somebody attracted to them.
Thus, the best love stories might not be romances. If the greatness of a success is measured by the barriers overcome to get there, uncommon love is the best story. For that, one must leave the formula driven world of mass market romance and delve into other genres.
This idea really hit home to me as I wrote Exacting Essence. I am a patent discovery writer. Once my characters take off, I can seldom guess where they will end up. It happened after Carrie’s murder. She found herself as a ghost, living in the dream world. As her killer continued to chase the remnant of her to finish the job, she ran into a native of the realm, George. A living nightmare, George looks like a huge gorilla. Over time, Carrie adapts to the reality of the dream world and realizes the form of people and things in the dreamscape don’t matter as much as their mind and emotions.
Even as the characters began to come together, I knew I’d lost control of them and they were going to do something completely unexpected. They fell in love.
When I stopped writing, it took a long time to wrap my head around what happened. A ghost and a nightmare falling in love? Who would believe it? Who would want to read it? But I couldn’t go back. The characters had made their choice, and we all had to live with the consequences. Was it so much different than Beauty and the Beast or the Phantom of the Opera? Since then Twilight proved, that an uncommon love can be just as compelling, if not more.
And why not? The biggest risks bring the greatest rewards.
An excerpt from Chapter 9 of Exacting Essence:
Carrie felt groggy. Her head felt stuffed with cotton and every movement of her body felt like she was swimming in grease. It was a dark day with tiny spots of snow threatening to break loose a quiet storm. The world seemed to be taking a long time to come into focus. Then slowly she noticed a nip of cold and the smell of dry leaves. Only then did she feel her feet were standing on uneven lines. It took a moment for her eyes to focus and for her to realize a fencing board lay under her heels.
Beyond the breached fence, some kind of animal was rooting around in the garden. Carrie didn’t feel fear or curiosity. She felt like she had just broken a fever and by staying still, she hoped to heal more. It came much faster than she expected. Her strength returned, not just her own strength, a new, greater power. She knew she could climb Everest or wrestle alligators.
How it had happened so suddenly, she didn’t know. She wasn’t tired at all. In fact, she felt like running for the thrill of it. She knew she should visit her mother, but that could wait. She started a deep breath and then cut it short when she heard a low grunt.
The pointed and wrinkled head of a huge, black gorilla peeked around the side of the large gap in the fence. Fear brought back exhaustion. She suddenly remembered being in the road and now, an instant later, she was dreaming. This wasn’t fair. It wasn’t right. She was so close to finishing this deal. If not for this stupid ape, she would be done already.
The monster stepped out, revealing his massive shoulders and arms. Carrie closed her eyes. The moment of power was gone. She just waited for the Nightmare to wake her…as it always did.
The gargantuan roar made her shudder. Flecks of spittle hit her arms as the blast of air from its lungs rushed past her. The monster reared back and then brought down two fists to crush her. They pushed down on her shoulders, locking her knees and hips. The ground rumbled, but she didn’t wake.
The monster let out a surprised whelp. Then it furrowed the lines of its face and began winding up for a powerful punch. This time Carrie looked. Each fist was almost the size of her torso. When one hit, she fell over. It hurt in a dull kind of way, but it didn’t throw her twenty feet as she expected. It was as if the very fabric of space bent to protect her from the unimaginable force of this assault.
The enraged gorilla smashed again and again. It jumped up and down on her head with feet the size of skateboards. It picked up a board and swung it like a bat, all the while roaring. The pain throbbed. But it was like a sore thumb or a headache.
The fear began to leave her as Carrie became more curious about the situation. The monster flexed its muscles, pacing and howling. It leapt at her and pummeled her again. Now that she was lying down, it didn’t really affect her. She felt the wind. Her feet tickled from the vibrations on the ground. The fence was torn to splinters and the garden smashed by the dark creature’s ranting. It persisted for quite a while until the creature exhausted its fury.
Carrie could swear it shrugged as it turned its attention elsewhere and walked away on its knuckles, heading up the street. She sat up. What just happened?
Want the whole story?
- Shiver – Grace and Sam
Shiver is pretty famous and has fans all over the world. I too fell for the hype and picked up the book. As the plot begins, we understand that Grace is in love with a wolf, yellow-eyed wolf – not the pet kind of love, but the romantic type of love that we have for our partners. Seriously? How is that even possible?
Grace eventually finds out that this wolf has a human form too and is called Sam, which paves way for a strong romantic relationship.
If we ignore all the drama involved and just go back to where it all started, it would be really bizarre to think of their relationship. Human and Wolf. Absolutely Weird.
- Wuthering heights – Heathcliff and Catherine
Wuthering Heights, a famous classic by Emily Bronte though deals with multiple serious themes, portrays the weird romantic relationship between Heathcliff and Catherine who belong to different social classes. Catherine though is in love with Heathcliff gets married to Edgar because of his wealth and status. On the other hand, Heathcliff tries to avenge the injustice done to him by having a relationship with Edgar’s sister. Bravo! thats maturity.
Evenafter getting married to Edgar, even while bearing his child, Catherine has feelings for Heathcliff.
What does this woman really want? Why would you marry Edgar, if you are serious about Heathcliff? If thats your plan for improving Heathcliff, you gotta be kidding me girl!
- Fountain head – Howard Roark and Dominique
The Fountain head revolves around the story of Howard Roark, an individualistic young architect who designs modernist buildings and refuses to compromise with an architectural establishment unwilling to accept innovation. While Howard works in Francon’s granite quarry after being fired from Francon’s architectural firm, he encounters Dominique, Francon’s daughter and has a rough sexual encounter with her. Though Roark and Dominique are attracted to each other, Dominique marries Keating, because in the world she lives Roark is shunned. In the process of persuading clients for Keating, Dominique sleeps with Wynand. Eventually Roark and Wynand start working together. When problem sprouts between them, Wynand publishes a denunciation of Roark. At his trial, Roark is not found guilty. Guess what happened then?
Dominique leaves Wynand for Roark.
I wonder how Roark accepted Dominique after her multiple relationships, which she decides based on wealth quotient. While Roark is an individualist himself filled with ego and integrity, I am quite unsure how these two started a relationship at all with no match in their character. Weird as it is.
- Gone Girl – Amy and Nick
Well, I do not have to elaborate much on this. These guys are super famous for their love-hate relationship, or should I say hate-hate relationship. Instead of doing anything silly like getting a divorce and moving on with their own lives, these two force each other to be together inspite of their hatred filled relationship. Amy continues to torture Nick till the end. This is psycho weird and let me not torture you with explanations.
- Norwegian Wood – Toru Watanabe and Noako/Midori
In this book, Toru Watanabe reminisces his college life where he develops relationship with two different women, Naoko and Midori.
Watnabe is confused always, as to who he is in love with, since he finds himself drawn to Midori in Naoko’s absence, and then alienates Midori once Naoko is back. In between he meets this middle-aged woman, Reiko whom he seeks for advice on his decision between Naoko and Midori. Once Naoko is dead, Watnabe has sex with Reiko only to conclude that he wants to be with Midori. Is there anything that is less weird here?
- The Reader – Michael Berg and Hanna Schmitz
The Reader starts with the illicit relationship between a 15-year-old boy, Michael Berg and 36-year-old woman, Hanna Schmitz. Few years later when Hanna is accused of war crimes in World War II, Michael does not save Hanah from her prison sentence, since he does not want to be caught for his relationship with Hanna when he was a minor. But then, he starts sending her tapes training her to read while she is in prison. Finally, after her death, he visits her grave for the one and final time. Its weird how a small boy falls for a woman of his mother’s age. Then he is being selfish when she needs his help and eventually entertains her during her prison time with his tapes. Like, what’s the point?
But then, human beings are unpredictable with their strange thoughts and emotions.
- Twilight – Bella and Jacob
Ah, yes! Perfect pair for the title. This relationship is weird because Bella makes sure to have herself ‘occupied’ with Jacob in the absence of Edward. Throughout the series, there is a brilliant transformation in their relationship. Starting with Book #1, Bella and Jacob are good friends. In Book #2, Jacob fills the gaps Edward has left in Bella’s life. Moving on to Book #3, we have the concept of love triangle, where Bella is with Edward and it is all true divine love between them, and out of nowhere Bella kisses Jacob. Finally in Book #4, Jacob is imprinted by Bella’s daughter and Jacob says, ‘… Look, nothing ever made sense before. You, me, any of it. And now I understand why. ‘
Pretty weird concept of being in love with the mother-in-law till the daughter is born. A new trend coming up there!
I hope you enjoyed reading the list and had glimpses of weird and dark romances in the fictional world. Let me know if you think anyone else fits in the top 7. I would definitely like to add more weirdo stories to my TBR.
Loads of Bookish love,
Here is the full list of all novels and short stories published by Curiosity Quills in 2017 that are eligible for Nebula Awards. Any SFWA members can make nominations during the nomination period. Thank you for considering our authors for nomination!
The Tchaikovsky Finale (Fugue & Fable #3) by Darin Kennedy
The Redeemed (The Roadhouse Chronicles #2) by Matthew S. Cox
Shadow Collector (Temporal Armistice #2) by Matthew S. Cox
Mayhem’s Children (Mayhem Wave #3) by Edward Aubry
The White Pavilion (The Cosmic Winds #1) by Ruth Fox
Realm FM by Tyrolin Puxty
Archaeopteryx (The Albuquerque Trilogy #1) by Dan Darling
The Eighth King (The White Umbrella Testament #1) by Matt Weber
Prom, Magic, And Other Man-Made Disasters (The Settfyrian Chronicles #1) by Rena Rocford
The Last Key (The Actuator #4) by James Wymore
Containment (Winter Solstice #2) by JR Rain & Matt Cox
Disposal (Pop Travel #3) by Tara Tyler
The Last Netherworld of the Apocalypse (Kelly Driscoll #4) by Nina Post
Silver Light (Alexis Silver #1) by JR Rain & Matt Cox
The Wrath of Con (Death by Cliche # 2) by Robert J Defendi
Heir Ascendant (Faded Skies #1) by Matthew S. Cox
Abounding Might (The Extraordinaries #3) by Melissa McShane
Season of Wind (The Clockwork God Chronicles #2) by Aimee Hyndman
Araphel (Daughter of Mars #2) by Matthew S. Cox
The Vessel of Ra (The Klaereon Scroll #1) by Catherine Schaff-Stump
Countess of Čachtice (The Krampus Chronicles #2) by Sonia Halbach
Nascent Shadow (Temporal Armistice #1) by Matthew S. Cox
The Dark Interest (The Dark Choir #4) by JP Sloan
Convergence (Winter Solstice #1) by JR Rain & Matt Cox
Static Mayhem (Mayhem Wave #2) by Edward Aubry
The Fork of Destiny’s Road (The Age of the Infinite #3) by Jason King
Face the Change (Menopausal Superheroes #3) by Samantha Bryant
Colt Harper: Esteemed Vampire Cat (Colt Harper #1) by Tyrolin Puxty
Gears of Fate (Forgotten Gods #1) by Wilbert Stanton
Organic (The Kepler Chronicles #2) by Jadah McCoy
Real Vampires Take No Prisoners (Real Vampires Don’t Sparkle #3) by Amy Fecteau
Guardian (Division Zero #4) by Matthew S. Cox
Blood Rush (Immortal Aliens #2) by Laura Diamond
The Last Death Worm of the Apocalypse (Kelly Driscoll #3) by Nina Post
Mirona’s Law (The Chronicles of Rostogov #2) by Benjamin Sperduto
Wicked Treasure (Treasure Chronicles #3) by Jordan Elizabeth
Muddy Waters (Otherwhere #1) by Sara O. Thompson
Kasper Mutzenmacher’s Cursed Hat (Life Indigo #1) by Keith Fentonmiller
Bleed Through by Adriana Arrington
Daughter of Ash (Awakened #4) by Matthew S. Cox
The Stravinsky Intrigue (Fugue & Fable #2) by Darin Kennedy
Flame (The Ragnarök Prophesies #3) by AK Morgan
Mercury in Retrograde (A Shot In The Dark #1), by Merethe Walther
Wondering Sight (The Extraordinaries #2) by Melissa McShane
Rasputin’s Supernatural Dating Service by David Hammons
Young Adult novels eligible for both the Nebula and The Andre Norton Award for Outstanding Young Adult Science Fiction or Fantasy Book
Myths of Mish (Fairytale Galaxy Chronicles #2) by Katie Hamstead
The Outs, E.S. Wesley
Emma and the Silk Thieves (Tales of Widowswood #2) by Matthew S. Cox
Sixteen (The Dreamwalker Diaries #2) by Jen Estes
Dragon Redeemer (World of Aluvia #3) by Amy Bearce
Oracle of the Song (Oracle of Delphi #2) by Gail Strickland
The Eldritch Heart by Matthew S. Cox
Please Don’t Tell My Parents I Have a Nemesis (Please Don’t Tell My Parents #4) by Richard Roberts
How I Magically Messed Up My Life in Four Freakin’ Days (The Tale of Bryant Adams #1) by Megan O’Russell
The Switch by A.W. Hill, Nathanael Hill
Child of Nod (The Balance #1) by CW Snyder
In 1920s upstate New York, a tormented girl learns that her family’s new stone castle was built on a former cemetery, and in 2014, a former police detective uncovers horrible secrets
In the near future, two frustrated musicians and creative partners get in on the ground floor of neural firestreaming — but an old guitar creates an unexpected effect
A veteran back from Afghanistan develops a strange hobby to stay sane — but it doesn’t work as well as he had hoped
A skeleton detective who leads a double life as an Internet sensation takes a beautiful woman on as a client — and gets more than he bargained for
In this modern, alternative imagining of Romeo and Juliet, a veteran from an old-money family returns to London for his mother’s funeral and is confronted with a toxic history of two warring families — and a lost love
Housemates experience something deeply unsettling during an earthquake
An American’s car is rear-ended by a lost Muslim traveler with diplomatic immunity; the traveler sings in the American’s place at his daughter’s school recital — with surprising results
A man who lives alone with his family on a terraformed wind turbine farm receives a disturbing visitor
An existentially anxious former star of a London goth rock band, missing fame and creativity, regains something he thought was lost
A severely dehydrated man is trapped in an endless loop on an external tram-shuttle around his base — and his patience with the on-board AI is fraying
An exhausted Moses herds sheep for his father-in-law until a burning bush gives him a holy quest he’s rather reluctant to do
On the night the Chinese land the first mission to Mars, unemployed roommates in a crumbling American city navigate through riots to their government-subsidized housing — but is it the safe place they thought it would be?
A workaholic lawyer wakes up in an intensive care unit with painful regrets
An aged German soldier returns to the Missouri Bootheel where he picked cotton as a POW, digs up an old mirror — and dares to look at his reflection
In this New Weird goat fantasy, two caprifauns explore a lost city — and their possible past lives
When an Imperial assassin’s Keeper betrays the Empire, the assassin goes off-planet — to transition out of government work as fast as possible
A woman is trapped inside a body
Unwanted kids wake up in an escape pod after years in stasis, and an AI bracelet is their only chance to make sense of a wild uncharted planet
A processing plant worker on a cattle farming planet boards an interstellar ship to bring back a wife — and learns a hard lesson
A wolf hunter offers his services to a professional steer roper, hoping the cowboy will be his champion at the right time
A boy’s father sends him to a dangerous city populated with machines in order to bring back the heart of a harvester — but will the boy pass his test and become a man?
Hello Peeps! Good day to y’all!
We all like romance, well most of us do. Every book we read has tints of romance, at least in its backdrop. While just roses and butterflies come across our minds at the thought of romance, there are characters who take it to the next level and make their stories much of a controversial subject.
Such pairs who have had dark, twisted and weird romantic relationships are listed below. Just the top 7, don’t you worry!
Note: SPOILER ALERT
1. Game of Thrones – Cersei and Jamie Lannister
While Game of Thrones portrays incest among many clans, Cersei and Jamie are definite special editions.
We all know that Cersei and Jamie Lannister have an illicit romantic relationship since childhood. Infact, all three children of Cersei are products of their incestuous relationship. Their love is so ‘pure’ that Jamie makes sure to clean up Cersei everytime she is carrying a Baratheon kid inside her.
When Cersie says,’Jamie and I are more than brother and sister, we shared a womb, came into this world together, we belong together,’ it is quite evident that these two do not just have some dark twisted relationship, but they equally have good amount of twisted minds as well.
These two have no limits when it comes to keeping their relationship safe. They plan murders of anyone who gets on their way, even if it is a kid. Pretty dark minds.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – Voldemort and Bellatrix Lestrange
Though we do not have much details to the relationship of these two in the book, when Delphi reveals about herself being a product of their affair, I couldn’t imagine any relationship that could be more dark and twisted. Lord Voldemort and Bellatrix are two true forms of evil and these two together would have the darkest ambitions and desires on earth. I am grateful I did not have to read much on these guys romancing with their malicious thoughts, ‘coz its enough of a shocker already.
Fifty Shades of Grey – Christian and Anastasia Steele
While there are plenty of Fifty Shades fans out there, I think we all should accept an universal truth, that Christian and Ana do have a dark and very twisted relationship.
First of all, why would any girl in her senses allow herself to be tortured by some psychopath who is obsessed about having Dominant/Submissive relationship, unless and until she has the very same obsession (which is highly unlikely). I do understand that its tempting when some hot guy showers you with supercool Macbook and Audi surprises, not to forget his private jet, but when considering the possibilities of being chained/handcuffed/hanged/hit with belts, I would prefer to keep myself safe with my own second-hand goodies. This guy not just has an elegant playroom to torture you, he also has his own sick rules and makes you sign contracts and NDA on it.
I am just wondering why would Ana even go near this mysterious, selfish, obsessive stalker when she is absolutely sure of being the receptor of pain and suffering.
Oh God, these guys end up marrying each other.
Twilight- Bella and Edward
When I read Fifty shades first, I found it pretty similar to Twilight. An innocent girl who volunteers herself to be tortured by a controlling monster.
Again, which girl in her senses would fall in love with a vampire who badly wants to drink her blood. Not just that, Bella is unhappy with Edward’s controls in place, presents herself to Edward’s family, who are a bunch of vegetarian vampires and is constantly in search of trouble. Why!? I mean, even if he is like super-gorgeous and irresistible, can’t we just look at this hot vampire’s Facebook picture whenever we want and just get over with it. Why risk your life?
Okay, thats why these guys are in the books and me on the other side reading it. I totally get it.
Sweeney Todd, the demon barber of Fleet Street – Sweeney Todd and Mrs. Lovett
Sweeney Todd, the demon barber of Fleet Street includes a romantic sub-plot between Sweeney Todd himself and Mrs. Lovett amidst multiple themes against the backdrop of dark London streets. Sweeney Todd while keeps killing people through his barber shop in upstairs, Mrs. Lovett uses the victim’s flesh to make meat pies and sells them downstairs.
I believe it is pretty extreme to fall for a person who is nothing but a monster (whatever his reasons maybe). Considering the fact that Mrs. Lovett and Sweeney Todd are equally insane, her death in Sweeney’s hands is quite inevitable.
Lolita- Humbert and Dolores
Lolita, a famous novel notable for its controversial subject, deals with the obsession of a middle-aged man, Humbert on a 12-year-old girl, Dolores Haze. The plot revolves around his erotic motives and the steps he takes to have sex with Dolores. Humbert agrees to marry Charlotte, Dolores’ mother for the sake of staying close to Dolores and records his molestation thoughts on a journal. After Charlotte’s timely death, Humbert tricks Dolores to have sex with him and continues to get sexual favours from her, until she escapes from him one day. Till the end, Humbert seems to be totally obsessed and in love with Dolores (aren’t both the same?).
Humbert indeed is ready to commit murders just to stay close to Dolores. Dolores comes across as an ignorant girl who falls for this old man’s tricks. Anyhow, its pretty gross to imagine them together.
This book is filled with a deep, dark subject and Humbert really has a twisted mind, for no one else in the right mind would be so determined so much to molest a 12-year-old girl.
My Absolute Darling – Martin and Turtle
This book portrays a glimmer of hope in the life of a girl who is surviving an abusive father. But why should she even cope up with so much suffering, when she can step out in the first place (she is pretty good with guns). Martin is portrayed as a tough, depraved man who trains his daughter with guns and also abuses her. While one would prefer to escape from such abuse, Turtle withstands everything. Isn’t that what we call love? Though she has these eventual moments of self discovery, that was definitely some dark and twisted relationship between a father and daughter. Ahem!
The Dead Dick Rides Again!
Dead Jack and the Pandemonium Device returns to bookstores on January 23, 2018, with a brand-new cover and revised and updated text via Curiosity Quills Press.
Dead Jack and the Pandemonium Device kicks off a wild and irreverent fantasy / horror series following the exploits of a zombie detective and his homunculus frenemy. In the fast-paced novel, the drug-addicted zombie detective and his shapeshifting sidekick battle and outsmart supernatural creatures, from tough-guy leprechauns to sex-obsessed shark women and insane bat gods, in a hellish, alternate New York City of the 1940s.
Jonathan Maberry, New York Times bestselling author of Patient Zero and Rot & Ruin, calls, Dead Jack “wicked fun! Undead noir with a devious sense of humor. Highly recommended!”
The series is being developed for film and TV by Lonetree Entertainment and Dreamstreet Entertainment.
For more info, go to DeadJack.com
Cover art: Colton Worley of Dynamite Entertainment (The Shadow, The Spider, Masks 2).
Cover design: STK Kreations
Interior art: Ed Watson
Read the first chapter:
Waiting for My Wee-Man
I reached into my jacket pocket for a Lucky Dragon once the shakes began. The undead aren’t known for their dexterity so I had a bit of fun getting that hellfire stick. I was like a drunken mummy trying to do jazz hands. I burned off half the skin on my left index finger lighting the damn thing. That made three fingers now that were practically nothing but bone. If this continued, I’d end up a skeleton inside a cheap suit and fedora. I doubted anyone would notice.
I took a long drag on the Lucky Dragon, savoring the brimstone flavor. It warmed my throat but did little to curb my hunger. I coughed out black puffs of smoke and took another drag.
Being a member of the great unwashed dead isn’t all bad, though. I was happy for my dulled sense of smell. The alleyway stunk like rotten cabbage and sour apples.
I had tried everyone in downtown ShadowShade, but no one was holding. Out of desperation, I came here to Irish Town in search of Fine Flanagan, my old leprechaun dealer.
Hunger ate through my guts and brain like an vampiric piranha on spring break. My mouth watered as I watched dwarves enter the Fairy House, Irish Town’s premier gentlemen’s club. (It promised the “best hoochie-coochie dancers in this dimension or any other.”) Fairy dust is the only thing that can control my zombie appetite. Without dust, I’d eat half of ShadowShade (though Oswald thinks it’s all in my head).
I had been waiting in the alley between the Fairy House and Finn McCool’s Pub for at least an hour before the leprechaun appeared. I remembered that the pub was also called Finn McCool’s back in the Other World. No leprechaun patrons, though, just rowdy Irishmen who worked the docks. After all these decades, I still marveled at how remnants of the Other World lingered in the Five Cities of Pandemonium, best described as New York City as imagined by Hieronymus Bosch.
Flanagan entered the alley, singing:
“There once was a fellow McSweeney who spilled some gin on his weenie…”
He isn’t your stereotypical lep. First off, he’s not that short. Maybe five-foot-two in his pointy shoes. He’s broad-shouldered, barrel-chested, and someone you probably don’t want to mess with. He also has the saltiest mouth in all the Five Cities.
With a large sack slung over his shoulder, he swaggered past the reeking dumpsters full of what must have been hundred-year-old cabbage.
“Just to be couth, he added vermouth. Then slipped his girlfriend a martini…”
“Sorry to interrupt that charming little ditty,” I said, slipping out of the shadows as I blew smoke out of all the holes in my face. All nine. Real bad-ass.
The lep stopped deader than my libido, like I’d caught him bathing naked in his pot of gold. (Leprechauns don’t really have pots of gold, by the way, but they are known to carry sweet, sweet fairy dust, the closest thing to heaven in this godforsaken world. And Fine Flanagan had the finest.)
The sack jerked and the lep gripped it tighter.
“What’s in the bag, Flanny? Someone didn’t pay their vig?” I noticed the lep’s fashion sense had changed since I last saw him. He wore a green duster that hung to the ground, but there was no pointy hat on his head. His curly red hair blew in the wind. Leps love hats almost as much as their shoes. And his shoes, I noticed, weren’t even pointy. They were square-toed boots. What the holy hell?
“None of ya fookin business,” the lep said. “Now, if you wouldn’t be minding, I have better tings to do than conversate with a stinking zombie. I be needing to get to me apartment.” When the lep stepped forward, I blocked his way.
“Look, meat bag, I don’t be wanting any trouble tonight,” he said.
“No trouble. I’m just looking for dust.”
The lep burst into laughter. He actually placed his hand over his belly. A genuine guffaw.
“You fookin dust head. Oh, Jackie boy, I thought maybe you was on a case. I should have known what you was after. All you zombies are the same. You people are the dumbest pieces of filth in Pandemonium. Just soulless, corpse-faced, brain-licking ghouls.”
I told you he had a mouth on him. “Nope. Never licked a brain. Total myth.”
“Mouth-breathing, empty-husk, meat-headed, motherless bags of bones, the whole lot of you.”
“Keep going. I can take it.”
“Yer wasting me precious time.”
“Just a gram, Flanny. The hunger is eating through my innards.”
“You have innards? Figured it’s all just sludge inside you by now. Like ya fookin brain.”
“The last time I went cold turkey, it ended real bad for some fairies. I went wilder on them than a pack of weres. I’m probably still not welcome in the Red Garden.”
“You ain’t threatening now, are you, you dead dick?” He smiled, exposing the four or five teeth left in his mouth. I heard he was quite the pugilist back in his day.
My hands shook and my bones rattled as I put up my dukes. Flanny probably thought I was trying to conjure a demon. I dropped the hellfire stick and ground it out with my shoe. “I’m desperate.”
“Then yer out of luck. I don’t deal anymore. I have new opportunities.”
There was a clink, like a glass bell, from inside the sack, and then it shot up in the air. Flanagan nearly lost his grip but managed to pull the canvas bag back down. The lep shot me a look so dirty I thought of taking my first bath in seventy years.
“What’s in the sack, Flanny? A sentient beer keg?”
“None of ya fookin business, you filthy corpse.”
“Does Queen Dana know what you’re up to?”
“Don’t you be talking about that blessed woman. This is none of ya business.”
“What if I told your lep queen you were up to some unsavory stuff? She might just kick you out of the club. Unaffiliated leprechauns aren’t treated very well in Pandemonium, are they?”
The lep spit out a laugh like it was venom. “I don’t have to be worrying about that, zombie. Yer the one who needs to worry. This is going to be yer last night in Pandemonium.” The fairy swung the sack into my crotch. I flew into the wall, and Flanagan took off down the alley. Fortunately, I have a dulled sense of pain so I easily shook off the between-the-legs shot. (As for my zombie genital situation, the less said about that the better.) Still, something in me snapped. Maybe my hunger had reached its apex, or maybe I didn’t like the way he called me a filthy corpse. Either way, I pounced on him like a lycan on a moonpie. I don’t even remember feasting on the little guy, I was in such a blood frenzy. I do remember him tasting damn delicious, though, like smoked sausage and sweet beer. Then Oswald, Pandemonium’s most obnoxious creature and my associate, appeared out of nowhere.
I sat on the ground, gnawing on a leg bone, when the alley filled with a blinding light. I continued eating. Like I said, it was damn good, and I hadn’t eaten in so long. The light died out and I saw the Studebaker―my Studebaker. The driver’s-side door opened and out slid the homunculus.
The little bugger stared at me, not saying a word, his X-shaped eyes unblinking. This was supposed to shame me. But I’m a revenant (which is a fancy way of saying zombie). I’m beyond shame.
I took a bite out of Flanagan’s calf. It was stringy, but I wasn’t complaining.
“I cannot express how very disappointed I am in you.” Oswald tried to sound tough, but when you’re all of eight inches and nothing but a marshmallow with a mouth, the effect is underwhelming. No one knows what Oswald is, or was. The best description I’ve come up with is a homunculus, which is another way for me to say I have no idea. I think I’d rather not know where he came from. It would most likely lead to trouble and Oswald is plenty of trouble already.
The sack rolled down the alley.
“What’s that?” Oswald said.
I licked the lep’s shin. Salty with just a hint of sweetness. It only made me hungrier.
“Hey, dummy!” Oswald shouted. “Let me remind you that you’re eating a leprechaun in the middle of Irish Town!”
I sprang up―as best a zombie can spring up, which meant I awkwardly repositioned my bones into a standing position. I stepped over to the sack and picked it up. I opened it but wasn’t prepared to find what I did.
Mr. Obvious said, “Is that a naked baby inside a glass jar?”
“I’m sorry for ever calling you a terrible detective, Oswald. You figured it out on the very first try.”
The dope smiled.
I stood the glass jar up. The baby looked at us with curious silver eyes.
“Maybe this is like those ships you find in bottles,” I said.
“How did you get in there, little guy?” Oswald asked.
The fact that he didn’t cry should have alarmed me, but I was still high from my leprechaun buffet. I wasn’t thinking straight.
The baby pointed at the top of the jar. He was a cute little fellow. Pink and soft and full of rolls. A mass of golden curls covered the top of his head.
The observant marshmallow said, “I think he wants you to remove the glass stopper and let him out.”
The fact that the baby didn’t pop off the glass stopper himself should have made me wonder, but Oswald distracted me with his prattling.
I removed the stopper.
The hole certainly didn’t seem big enough for a baby to fit through, even a naked one, but that didn’t stop him.
He slid out of the bottle like he was a piece of taffy and, instead of falling onto the ground as a normal baby would, floated seven feet above the ground. The large, black wings that had unfurled from his back helped a lot with that, I think. The now-winged baby stopped just out of our reach, shot me a nasty look, gave me the finger, and disappeared into the blood-red sky of Pandemonium, going north. Bye-bye, evil baby.
I wasn’t able to conjure up one of my famous ripostes, though, because at that moment two irate leprechauns barreled towards us.
Stranger Things is Netflix’s buzziest new television sensation… and now that season 2 has released the fandom has gotten HUGE!! Have you caught the frenzy for this show?! Well I have and will probably be finishing the last of season 2 by the time you read this post. A magnificent homage to the 80s it takes ALL the best stories and wads them up and spits out something even BETTER!
One of the big things to remember about the 80s is its focus on the family… When I went to write this post I KNEW I had to include Stranger Things as one of my inspirations… then I started to realize that the show could inspire ALL of my ideas for family activities! So if you haven’t caught the show yet… be prepared to want to dive right in!
#5 – Doing Something Nice for a Neighbor
When the boys learn that their friend Will is missing they don’t let anything keep them from going out and doing something about it. They figure out the best time and sacrifice to go out into the woods. Even Mike’s mother won’t stay still and brings Joyce, Will’s mom, some food while she waits to hear word about her son…
There is something bonding about putting your heads together to see a need and make and execute a plan to take care of that need. Families that come together to do service for a neighbor will look back on that memory fondly because it just feels good to do something nice.
#4 – Eating Dinner Together
Mike and Nancy are expected to be at home for dinner each night to eat together as a family. They both have a lot on their mind but under better circumstances the dinner table is a great place to foster family unity as each member shares a little about their day.
Families that make an effort to sit down together and take a break from activities that take them away from each other will be more interested and concerned with their family members’ lives. There can be no communication during tough times if there is no communication during easy ones.
#3 – Getting a Family Pet
(Mild Spoiler…) Dustin finds a pollywog and makes it his new pet! Mike, Will and Lucas come together, with newcomer Max, to find the little guy when Dart goes missing. Their concern for the animal becomes united in that moment as they spread out to find him.
Tasks like walking a dog and playing ball with him and chores like feeding and giving a bath can bring family members together in united concern for an animal. Dogs aren’t the only pets that inspire this kind of devotion… pick one that suits your family dynamics. (Maybe NOT a pollywog…)
#2 – Bike Rides Around the Park
Mike, Will and Lucas all jet around to one another’s houses on their bikes! It doesn’t have to be just the kids that take to wheeled transportation like in the 80s. Parents can also join in the fun and better yet take to bicycle paths in a local park.
Exercising together with a bike ride, or simply walking a trail can be fun and bonding as endorphins are released and loosens muscles and dispels stress. Even a game of Wii tennis can do the job in a pinch!
#1 – Game Night
Okay one of my ALL TIME FAVORITE parts of this show is the dungeons and dragons references! I played this with my brothers and yes, to this day we remember the bonding times. A friendly place to let good natured rivalry have its head can be a safe way to dispel negative feelings while promoting the group.
It doesn’t have to be the time intensive D&D though… it can just as easily be touch football in the yard or a nice board game that take an hour and has been played a million times before. The point is to have fun and not take who wins too seriously.
Now you know you WANT to dive right into the newest television sensation, Stranger Things… And who better to do so with than your family!? It has something for everyone… even teenagers will find themselves connecting with Nancy and Jonathan (and secretly admiring El!) And if you’ve already become a fan then I bet you’re dying for season 3!? Am I right, or am I right?!
Have you ever BOUGHT a book based on the cover alone?! (Of course, you have! We ALL have…)
Book covers are the art that draw readers to the books they read… That why the design of book covers are so important. Their art translates the entirety of the book into a single visual element – your first impression of a book.
The best covers have text, color, visuals in different balances… There is NO right or wrong… just a cover coming together to strum our emotions and cause us to pick up the book! Here are the 16 Book Covers I’m Thankful For…
Whether illustrated or photographed these covers elicit an atmosphere that hearkens to a fantasy world… such a world can only be in the mind of the character, it can be hidden within our own or even be a totally separate place and time.
Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman
An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson
Under Different Stars by Amy A. Bartol
The Sin Eater’s Daughter by Melinda Salisbury
These covers present a premise that tantalizes… it raises questions that you want answers to! What about _____? Why is the title _____? How did it _____? Which of them _____? The title can be huge and red or it can be little and draw you closer…
The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis
One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus
The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
We Are the Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson
Covers that express themselves graphically draw the eye through their masterful use of artistic medium. Some are monochromatic or full color photography while others express the illustrated nature of their insides. Either way the titles become a part of the larger picture supporting the subject of the cover…
Ink by Alice Broadway
My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, Jodi Meadows
Wink Poppy Midnight by April Genevieve Tucholke
Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
When a title is rather long just the text can take up the entire cover… So the designers have to get creative… and boy do they! The illustration or graphic included with the words only has the opportunity of barely hinting at what the book may be about, but that style can say a lot with the right title…
Our Chemical Hearts by Krystal Sutherland
The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan
A Fierce and Subtle Poison by Samantha Mabry
The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett by Chelsea Sedoti
Book covers draw us in… they give us a sense of the world we are about to inhabit, they hint at the characters we are about to meet… they help us find the best books to read. What are the 16 book covers you’re thankful for?!
Halloween is over, but we know many lovers of the gothic and the macabre, our friends who live in a cobwebbed sphere of October all year long. They are the ones hesitant to put away their Jason hockey masks or dust up the candy corn crumbs.
Delight them with an extra bit of Halloween this holiday season with these ten ghoulish gifts that any horror fan would cherish.
LINDA’S EVIL DEAD NECKLACE
Etsy is a treasure trove for those seeking fandom related merchandise. One such shop featured on Etsy is Gothic Gifts, a Minnesota based company offering unique fares. My current favorite is a replica necklace from the legendary Evil Dead franchise, worn by Linda. It is a beautiful, even practical magnifying glass on a chain, perfect for perusing the Necronomicon. And at only $10 it’s a steal! https://www.etsy.com/listing/526804966/evil-dead-magnifying-glass-necklace?ref=shop_home_feat_1
STRANGE WEATHER by JOE HILL
The newest release from the #1 New York Times Bestselling author of modern horror masterpieces The Fireman, Horns, and NOS4A2, will surely please any fan of dark literature. Joe Hill’s book Strange Weather is a collection of four novellas, described as a “compelling chronicler of human nature’s continual war between good and evil”. This is a particularly good gift for someone who prefers their horror in shorter, digestible stories. Hardcover $18.29
STRANGER THINGS SEASON 1: BLU-RAY/DVD EXCLUSIVE
Want to impress even the hardest to please on your holiday list? Snatch up the Blu-Ray copy of the first season of Netflix’s hit Stranger Things. Exclusive to Target, this set of the nostalgia stuffed series is made to look like a retro ‘80s VHS. Marked by intentional scratches, and roughed up to seem like its been forgotten at the bottom of your childhood memories, this Collector’s Edition will instantly remind horror fans of the films of their youth. $24.99 https://www.target.com/p/stranger-things-season-1-collector-s-edition-target-exclusive-blu-ray-dvd/-/A-52823816?lnk=rec|plp|top_sellers|plp|52823816|2
MICHONNE’S KATANA SLING BAG
And what about that kick butt woman who needs an empowering, horror-centric gift? The Woodbury Shoppe has just what you’re looking for. From drinkware to pet costumes, The Woodbury Shoppe specializes in everything The Walking Dead. The zombie phenomenon is still wildly popular, and bets are, you know someone who watches every Sunday night. Get them this unique purse, fashioned in the style of Michonne’s katana sword. They’ll be prepared for the apocalypse with this thoughtful and tasteful purse. $59.95
HORROR ICONS CROSSSTITCH
Perhaps you’re on the hunt for something one-of-a-kind. A piece of art for the collector on your list. Another Etsy shop, Blairmonster, mixes the old school aesthetic of cross stitch with the thrill of horror icons. Talented artist Blair Stewart creates beautiful pieces ranging from the classic (Frankenstein) to the modern (Saw). Check out her adorably horrifying Nosferatu. $70 https://www.etsy.com/listing/548281700/nosferatu?ref=shop_home_active_23
Cassandra Peterson, better known as Elvira; Mistress of the Dark, has recently released a stunning fashion collection for Pinup Girl Clothing. Floral headdresses and bat adorned jewelry are fun, but the dresses, inspired by Elvira’s own iconic look, evoke both the gothic and the feminine. Splurge on the floor length Elvira Gown in Black Ponte: $248
BOX OF DREAD
While a ghostly bauble or two may be nice, this gift keeps on giving scares all year. Subscribe per month, or save money by signing up for the 3 months option. Your spooky friend will receive a plethora of licensed horror items. Give them a sinister smile with a surprise every month! $20 a month. http://www.boxofdread.com/