This volume presents nine new stories which seem, to the author, to fit under the rubric of “creepy”. The unfortunate beggar man in Canto do Virapuru is, or was, a real person who occasionally still haunts my dreams and defines “creepy” for me. All of the stories are fiction, of course, but most are based on events and places from my past, both distant (Good Morning Lisbon and The Corcoran Dream) and recent (Bird of Constant Sorrow, I, Agave, Three Suns on the Horizon). Grotto of the Golden Snake is modified from a chapter in a novel that I hope to publish at some point. I have no explanation at all for Ha’boon except to say that the title came to me 20 or 30 years ago, long before I began writing fiction, and rested in hibernation until the present. The title story Burnt Corn derives from my 4H days on the farm where I fell in love with raising rabbits. Later, as a married grad student at New Mexico Tech in Socorro I had to resurrect this skill to supplement my pitiful income and I continued my affair with rabbits well into my first professorship. The title, Burnt Corn, derives from the birthplace of a friend in Commerce, Missouri who died many years ago. I don’t know why that name stuck with me over all these years since but I would like to think my friend would have approved of my story celebrating his home town. My favorite of the nine stories is The Corcoran Dream. I don’t know how many times I have read it, but it brings tears each time. I hope it reminds you of Willa Cather’s prairie novels.
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A BORDER CROSSING INTO UNMAPPED TERRITORY
Mexican agave farm worker Porro Camorra never meant to do anything wrong. He is in love with his girlfriend but when she becomes pregnant, his life is in danger. Fleeing the vindictive wrath of her enraged brothers who have sworn to kill him, Porro runs for the border. But when he reaches the barrier between Mexico and the United States, he finds more than the safety he seeks. As he is thrust into a mystical realm, he must agree to a fascinating and dangerous bargain in order to reclaim his place in the world. Vivid, inventive and suspenseful, Exchange at the Border is a thrilling and colorful exploration of the timeless battle between good and evil with a story and characters that will keep you spellbound.
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Triena is alone, her rabbit stolen from her, and the Energy is behaving in unexpected ways making it difficult for her to predict the future. Her love for Braklen is strong and she sets out to find him, while trying to keep away from the Queens. With no other option she takes passage with Captain Ri who forces her to use the Energy for his own benefits.
Will she be able to find her beloved rabbit, and Braklen, before the Queens find and destroy her?
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Braklen looked down into the bowl full of gray something that was meant to be food.
“I wouldn’t eat that, man,” said a fellow evening-shift worker sitting opposite Braklen.
Despite the warning, Braklen dunked a spoon into the thick broth. “Can’t be too bad.” He spooned the greasy liquid with gray floating bits into his mouth. He choked.
The other man laughed, slapping his hand down on the metal table. “You’ll get used to it.”
Braklen coughed as the last of the liquid went down. “Tastes like jet fuel.”
“Wouldn’t put it past the cook to put some in. He probably thinks that it’d give us a boost to work harder.”
“How can you eat it?” Braklen’s spoon was poised above the liquid, but he couldn’t bring himself to take another mouthful. This was a long-haul flight and the bowl of slop was the only thing to eat. He’d just finished a twelve-hour shift in the engine room trying to repair the electronics in the backup system that were so worn out and old, it should’ve been thrown out instead. It was the first ship that accepted his qualifications as a mechanical engineer. He’d boarded, wanting to get as far away as possible from Triena.
His heart lurched, skipping beats, then contracting, causing pain to spread out across his chest. He knew he shouldn’t have boarded, or left her unconscious on the ground. But, since the chip had been deactivated, there was no point hanging around. She didn’t really want me there, not really.
The guy shrugged his shoulders, scrapping the last of the broth onto the spoon and delivered it into his mouth. “I’m already pretty thin. I’ll fade away if I don’t eat.”
Braklen laughed. “Hasn’t anyone complained?”
His men put up with a lot when he was in charge but he would’ve had an uprising if they’d ever had this food from the galley. Emptiness clawed at his gut at the reminder he didn’t command a unit of Peacekeepers anymore. Worse, he was now a wanted man.
He’d contemplated taking Triena with him, turning her in to the authorities and begging to be reinstated. But, much as he wanted his life back, that wasn’t an option. It was clear he’d been set up, a pawn for them to use to get to her. She’ll be better off without me. Safer without me.
Life just keeps slapping Mary in the face.
She had it rough growing up, and when it finally looks like she’s getting her life firmly back on track, breaking up with her boyfriend starts a string of events that threatens to bring Mary to her knees.
Fortunately, there are good people in her life who will do everything in their powers to help her when she needs it. Mary’s girlfriends, Jinx and Wilder are there for her, and after she’s rescued from being kidnapped, Carson and Bo take her into their home, becoming the family she always wanted but never seemed to get to keep.
As the group around Hawker Johns hunt the men who wanted to trade Mary for the valuable crystal from the mountains, she slowly recovers. Then life throws her another few curveballs, and it looks like she’ll lose everything yet again.
Mary is resilient and used to restarting her life from nothing, but when it looks like she’ll also lose the man she loves, maybe the happy girl has just had enough?
Picture this is the third book in the Birds of a Feather series, a young adult/coming of age series with paranormal elements, full of laughter, mystery, and romance.
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Mabel Winthersal was an ordinary Underling from the snowy lands of Crystal Kingdom, until chance brings her into the forbidden Shadowlands. Mabel discovers that what she knew to be true as a child, is not. The storybooks she grew up reading are no longer maps to a perfect life, but blatant lies hiding the reality of what people are capable of. Mabel is forced to make hard choices that question her knowledge of what is right and wrong, what is moral and good, and what true evil looks like. Come on an adventure of discovery where lust, love, and revenge run rampant. Come into the darkness.
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ENTER TOMORROW with a 3 book YA Robot Cyberpunk Dystopia series
EXOTIQA - Book 1
THIRTY - Book 1.5
SPHERE - Book 2
When the nation is controlled by a popular online program, those that deviate risk their lives. But that never stopped Fione.
Read the second release by author M. Black, which fans of Divergent and The Glitch will enjoy. Filled with haunting questions of consciousness and artificial intelligence, identity and self-awareness, politics and love, life and death, the reader will be engaged in an entertaining story filled with futuristic technology.
Set in the cyberpunk year 2055 in British Columbia, Canada, where humans are part robotic and robots are becoming more humanlike, the line dividing the two is becoming less clear.
When sixteen-year-old Fione meets Maci, a twenty-one-year-old Flexbot who escapes from ImaTech located along the crust of the Coast Mountains, Fione’s life is taken on a roller-coaster ride of events that begins with trying to save Maci from ImaTech Corporation and ends with trying to save the country.
With Fione's best friend and love interest, a Flexbot named Pix, Fione and Maci must come face-to-face with the greatest dangers their country has ever seen and learn the disturbing secrets of the popular online program Exotiqa—which her friends, family, and most of the country has downloaded onto their Cerebral Slabs. This won’t be easy, since Maci’s only love and greatest enemy, nicknamed Thirty, is tracking her every move.
Fans of Divergent, iRobot, The Glitch, Blade Runner (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?), artificial intelligence, robotics, and futuristic technology will enjoy this YA Robot Cyberpunk Dystopian about two young, but strong female heroines who must save the fragile system crumbling around them.
Jiminella “Jinx” Sweetwater is a genius. She’s a scholar, an inventor, hardworking and loyal, and well known in the scientific circles around the University in Prosper City.
Being smarter than everyone else might seem like a good thing, but it isn’t. At least, it isn’t to Jinx who has two friends, a small condo, and no life.
After a fight with her best friend Wilder, it just gets worse. Someone breaks into her home and when her parents show up in all their hippie-like glory, Jinx has had enough and escapes to a small village by the sea.
Suddenly, Jinx finds herself involved in village life, living with the unpleasant Mrs. Fratinelli and trying her best to juggle all the things that seem to end up on her plate. And then there’s calm, cool and gorgeous Dante – Snow’s boyfriend, who seems to see right through the shields Jinx has put up around herself, straight into her mind.
Half the village of Breccan lies dead – slaughtered. All that stands between Antony Cardover and his freedom is his wife, Isabella, or so he believes.
In his wrath at his wife’s adultery, Antony trades his soul for the chance of vengeance. His price? An eternity as a monster – a man bearing a vampire curse. To stop him, the curse must be broken. To break the curse, Isabella and all her descendants must be destroyed. The catch? Only Antony can break the curse.
With Breccan in mourning and Antony on the rampage, only one person can help. Anna Martindale, a witch shunned by the villagers, entombs Antony within a stone sarcophagus, bound by spells and buried in hallowed ground for the rest of time.
Breccan breathes again. Time heals.
That was four hundred years ago.
Seventeenth century spells, however, are no match for twenty first century living. As Ramply Homes moves in, the secret of St Martin’s churchyard prepares to move out.
As the church is desecrated, the spells that hold Antony break. Soon, Becca Martin, a descendant of Isabella, is plagued by dreams of a time and of a man she cannot possibly have known.
As her nightmares become real, Becca has no choice but to contact the one person who will be able to help; someone she hasn’t spoken to in a decade – her mother.
Here, Becca discovers the truth about her ancestry and is forced to face up to whom and what she is. Only a wooden box and her gift hold the key to her survival.
Four hundred years ago Antony failed. He will not fail again.
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Extract From the Prologue of Bonds
Isabella’s whimpering carried on the still night air. Anna stared at her daughter; the ice that had surrounded her heart for so long was starting to melt. As despicable a person as Isabella was, she didn’t deserve this. No one deserved this.
Anna’s gaze shifted to the man who held her daughter. How on earth could she save Isabella from this monster? The reality was that she couldn’t.
‘Why, Antony? Why did you do this to yourself ?’ she asked.
‘You know why, Anna. No one makes a fool of me and gets away with it.’ He grappled with the young woman in his arms, his hand clenched over her mouth.
‘But this?’ she said, gesturing towards him with her gnarled hands. ‘Why did you have to go this far?’ Anna stared up at him. Gone were the soft brown eyes and gentle smile; the kindness and generosity. In their place lay only evil. His eyes were like coal against his chalky white skin and his mouth was a grim line. A rare smile seemed odd on his cold face and revealed the sharpness of his teeth.
‘You didn’t think I’d do it, did you, old woman?’ Antony’s sharp fingernails caressed his captive’s exposed neck as he spoke.
‘Let Isabella go, Antony. I think you’ve made your point.’
‘Made my point!’ he said, shaking Isabella as if she was a rag doll. ‘If it wasn’t for this harlot, none of this would have to have happened.’
‘Only you chose to do what you…’
‘Because of her! She betrayed me. She humiliated me and, worst of all, she made me a laughing stock. In…my…own…village! Do you have any idea what that is like?’
‘Let her go.’
‘Or else you’ll do what, old woman?’ he clenched his jaw, his teeth bared. ‘Do you honestly think you can stop me?’
‘I didn’t want it to come to this, Antony. I wanted to help you.’
‘Don’t patronise me, old woman. You’ll never defeat me. You don’t have the power.’ With a flick of his wrist he snapped Isabella’s neck and let her body slump to the ground.
‘No!’ Anna staggered over to the slain girl. Huddled over her daughter, tears running down her face, she stared up at him.
‘How could you? She was your wife.’
‘Pity she didn’t act like it then.’ He turned and started to walk away.
Anna remained hunched over Isabella, rocking the young woman back and forth, and cried. The moonlight illuminated the scene and amongst the jagged headstones she watched her son-in-law walking away. A carnal rage surged through her body and she stood up. She turned her face to the heavens and closed her eyes.
‘I call upon the power of the four elements. Of earth,’ she said, thrusting her hands towards the ground. The earth rumbled. Antony stopped.
‘Of air’ Anna whipped her hands around in a circular motion. Thunder crashed, the wind started to howl and bruised clouds scudded across the sky.
‘Of fire’ she said, pointing her power fingers towards the sky. A bolt of lightning shot down, connecting with her power. Anna shuddered as electricity coursed through her frail body, infusing her with the strength she was going to need.
‘And of water.’ She finished and clapped her hands three times. The thunder crashed overhead and the dark swirling clouds released their load.
Antony turned and stared at her, a mocking smile on his face.
‘You think that will stop me, you fool?’
‘By my Goddess and by my God, I call upon the power of the four elements. Of earth, of air, of fire, of water. I call upon you to aid me and to protect me.’ Anna spun round on the spot, her arms heavenwards, her eyes closed; the mantra repeating on her lips.
The wind roared; the thunder boomed. A bolt of lightning struck the earth in front of Antony, throwing him to the ground. The electricity sparked and fizzed in the rapidly forming puddles. He tried to get up, but his hands and feet couldn’t get traction in the mud.
Anna turned to face him and staring straight into the eyes of the man she had once loved, she pointed her arms towards him, lowered her head and started to chant the Spell O’ Binding.
She struggled to hold her position, her body convulsing as the power surged through her. Her eyes never leaving his, Anna thrust her palms to the earth and the ground began to shudder. She stumbled, but held firm. A crack appeared at her feet and zigzagged its way towards Antony, growing wider as it did so.
Anna heard his laughter through the storm, but she blocked it out, the image of her slain Isabella foremost in her mind. The crack stopped at Antony’s feet. She closed her eyes again and slowly raised her hands skywards.
Vines shot out of the gap and lashed themselves around his ankles. He used the traction to his advantage and hauled himself up, grabbing the sinewy stems with both hands, snapping them as though they were dried twigs. He strode towards Anna, her head still bowed as she chanted. She didn’t respond as he stood in front of her and hooked his finger under her chin, tilting her head upwards. She didn’t flinch as he spat in her face. She didn’t shudder as he lowered his head, his cheek brushing her hair, until his mouth was next to her ear.
‘You’ll never stop me, Anna, remember that.’ He turned to walk away and picked up the broken vines as he went. He paused for a moment and then turned back.
‘Never!’ he said and hurled the vines at Anna’s face. She staggered backwards at the force of the impact, but she didn’t break her concentration. Antony snorted in derision and turned away from her once again.
Anna regained her foothold in the mud and, drawing on all the power she had left, she thrust her palms towards him, sending a ball of light hurtling in his direction. It struck him in the lower back. Antony staggered, Anna didn’t falter. She raised her hands skywards and the crevasse soon crawled with vines, which snaked across the earth and wrapped around Antony’s ankles once again.
Anna yanked her hands down to her sides and the vines snapped backwards, dragging Antony off his feet. He crashed to the ground. More vines slithered from the earth. Antony rolled over, kicking his legs to try to free himself, but this time they held firm. He dug his fingers deep into the earth and tried to drag himself away, but it was futile, the mud was too thin.
He rolled over onto his back and sat up, yanking against his bindings with his hands, but they didn’t budge. The vines snaked up his legs, holding him firm as more and more emerged from the ground, binding his wrists to the earth and winding around his torso. He bucked and kicked, expanding his muscles as much as he could to try to burst through, but it was impossible.
Anna opened her eyes and saw the rage on his face; the veins pulsing in his neck as he strained against his fate. He looked up and caught her gaze; the vines creeping around his neck.
‘These won’t hold me forever,’ he shouted, the sound muted by the vines which now engulfed his head. Finally, he was still.
Anna nodded towards eight men who’d been hiding in the shadows. She had asked them to stay out of the way, for their own safety, and they hadn’t objected. They moved tentatively forward now and she watched as they hauled Antony’s inert form into a stone sarcophagus. The men struggled, but managed to slide the lid into place and Anna staggered forward, placing her palms flat on the lid.
‘Please make sure Isabella is put with the others,’ she said. The men nodded and retreated to the shadows. She turned her face to the heavens once again, closed her eyes and began to chant the Spell O’ Internment.
She shuddered as a lightning bolt shot through her body. Her hands glowed and the light spread around the gaps in the sarcophagus and sealed it tight. Anna raised her arms to the heavens once more and in barely a whisper she said, ‘By my Goddess and by my God, my humble thanks for supporting me. I bid you take the intention behind my actions and see it executed for all time. As I do will, so mote it be.’
She pushed her weary body away from the casket and the men crept out of hiding once again to lower it into the ground.
No one spoke to her as she left. Her walking stick was clasped in one hand, her shawl clutched around her shoulders with the other.
What was supposed to be a fun weekend camping trip turns into a dangerous hike across another planet when three teenage boys are abducted from Earth. Their only hope of ever returning home is to escape from the laboratory that captured them and make their way across the alien deserts, oceans, and mountains. But while their journey is full of monsters all eager to attack the boys, it is their friendship and religious beliefs that are ultimately pushed to their limits.
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“Another planet…” Eric said quietly to himself.
Such words were hard to believe, were actually piercing, especially coming from his own lips. He smiled at the thought, and a wave of excitement shot through his body. But maybe he was jumping to conclusions, being too trusting of these strangers. They could just be pulling his leg, after all. It could still be nothing more than an elaborate prank, a laugh at his expense.
The lights in the room slowly came back on, striking every caged individual in the eyes. Eric scurried to his knees and pressed his face against the bars, looking fervently for the scientist from the day before. Footsteps could be heard to the right. After a few digital-sounding blips, every cage door simultaneously swung open on silent hinges. Eric jumped to his feet and bolted out of the cage, then stopped abruptly to look around.
One by one, strange, new creatures began to emerge from the other cages. Eric choked on his saliva, surprised by what he saw. A cage diagonally to his right housed a large, dog-like creature. It bounded affably out of its own cage and stopped in its tracks once it saw Eric. The dog was about half the size of a human, wrapped in tight, dark purple, scaly-looking skin. Its plump belly hung almost to the ground. A long, ugly tail swished back and forth. It flapped its ears at Eric, then trotted off down the aisle of cages to the right and disappeared through a door at the end wall.
Two cages down, near the doorway, another strange creature stepped out. This one was smaller than the dog. It had the body and posture of a monkey with soft fur that was blindingly white. It dragged its knuckles across the floor next to its large, flat, rabbit-like feet. Its head was horizontally oval in shape, with two large, wide, blank, yellow eyes looking at Eric curiously. The creature studied the boy for a few seconds, then turned around and skipped through the door, trailing its tail behind.
The freak show didn’t stop there. Another creature came into view from behind the block of cages diagonal to Eric’s. It was a huge monster, rising a few feet over Eric, and resembled a giant, fat, whitish worm. Its upper body rested on its plump tail as it slithered towards Eric. Two stubby, inadequate arms hung from underneath its wobbly, nasty head, a head full of jagged, spotted teeth. Triangular, black eyes connected with the short ears protruding from the top of its head.
The beast stepped up to Eric, who was trying his hardest not to faint from shock. Then the monster spoke in the same, familiar voice Eric had heard last night. It grumbled, “You must be— the new one, the one talking— last night. You— look like the scientists. I don’t think— we can trust you.” The monster turned a little to the side and addressed someone nearby, “Be careful— with this one.” And then the beast lumbered towards the same door every other monster had exited through.
From the cage to Eric’s left appeared another peculiar creature. It stood at Eric’s own height and looked like an upright gecko of some sort. It had green, porous skin and a compact head with two large, red, shiny eyes. The creature was well-built and, unlike the others, actually wore something: thick plates of blue metal covering its chest, pelvis, wrists, and ankles. When Eric looked at the armored creature, it quickly averted its gaze and headed after the giant worm.
Thankfully, there were no more surprises. Eric swayed in place. His heart and mind were spinning and pounding with confusion, fear, and excitement. It was difficult to get his legs moving again. He headed towards the opposite wall of the room. Upon reaching the other cages, he saw his good friends, Nathan and Todd, standing to the left, looking even more bewildered and roughed-up than he. These two immediately pounced on Eric, firing off questions and frantic hand waving.
Todd stammered, “Did— did you see that? There— there was a… I don’t know what to call it. A monster…”
Eric looked past Todd and Nathan and saw a line of miniature cages against the wall. He slipped around his friends and walked up to the displays. Inside the glass cases were insects and fish and other creatures, arranged in two rows, one on top of the other.
“What are these?” Eric asked incredulously. He walked down the line of cages, gazing at the smaller specimens, none of which looked at all familiar to him.
“We must be in a laboratory,” Todd said, standing behind Eric.
Without turning around, and almost dreamily, Eric said, “I talked to a scientist last night. He said we’d been taken to another world… another planet.”
Snatched into a magical dimension by a demon, art student, Laura Evans, has to grapple with the unimaginable. Lucifer wants to destroy her soul because she's all that stands between him and total domination over all creation. People here say she is their saviour and it's up to her to save the universe with her new found powers of healing.
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Morrigan peered out of the dense shrubs surrounding the clearing. She was vexed with the warriors who had refused to acknowledge her skills on the battlefield, and would only belittle her for her young age and the fact that she was a woman. Bloody fools! She was Morrigan, the war goddess, and they should have been honoured to have her in their ranks! Instead, here she was reduced to the sidelines – no, hiding in the bushes – watching for an opportunity to join in the fray.
Only one woman, ringed by the fiercest warriors, stood in the thick of the battle. She stood not to wield a sword, but to wield powers of healing and transformation. At her side fought her husband, Vaaron, the Protector, slashing at any threat that might harm Lauren as she worked her magic on their troops and others captured on the battlefield who were enslaved by evil.
Morrigan gasped. Lauren was down! That sneaky little demon, Dience, had slithered through the legs of the warriors undetected, had gutted Lauren, and then had ducked back through their legs to the safety of the gargoyle horde. It had happened in a matter of seconds!
“No!” Vaaron cried in anguish. “No! No! No!” he wailed as he fell to his knees and gathered his wife against his chest. “Heal thyself, Lauren!”
Blood dribbled from her mouth. She managed a slight shake of her head as she simultaneously opened her mouth allowing even more blood to spill out and run down her chin onto her chest. It prevented her from speaking the magical words that could heal. Resigned to her fate, Lauren gazed deeply into Vaaron’s eyes and sent her last thoughts to him telepathically. Can’t speak... too damaged, Vaaron...Love you... forever... Her eyes dimmed, and her body went limp in his arms.
“No!” he screamed frantically, as swords clashed all around them. His arms tightened about her unresponsive body and he rocked with her in stunned silence oblivious to the deadly turmoil surrounding them.
Tears streaming down her face, Morrigan burst through the bushes brandishing her sword. Lauren was dead! Her best friend was gone!
“No!” Vaaron wailed again as tears rolled down his face. Angrily he dashed a hand across his eyes and rose to his feet bringing Lauren with him. For a moment his eyes pinned the grinning demon, Dience. The diminutive man-like creature raised his sword, coated with Lauren’s blood and entrails, in a victorious salute.
Morrigan barreled through the ravages of the battlefield, barely staying on her feet as she traversed the slippery, blood soaked field. She slashed her way through the gargoyle horde in an impressive attack that left few standing in her wake. “Vaaron!” she yelled over the sound of clashing blades. “I have your back. Take Lauren home!” Numbly Vaaron turned in the direction of her voice. “She needs to go home!” Morrigan insisted as she deflected yet another blade.
She allowed her focus to hone in on the men surrounding them and Morrigan bellowed, “Lauren is dead!”
Her voice was amplified, ringing over the sounds of the battlefield! That was a new development in her powers, she thought as she parried a vicious thrust aimed at Vaaron. “Protect the Protector!” She winced as one of their young warriors, lost his head when he turned, startled by her god-like voice that muffled the sounds of war with its far reaching volume. His headless torso jerked as it collapsed on the field. More seasoned warriors remained intent on their foe despite the power augmenting Morrigan’s voice. However, they immediately began to drop back to reinforce the circle that had protected Lauren. Morrigan could tell from their tight expressions that many had not been cognisant of Lauren’s fate before she had made her announcement.
Seemingly unaware of the war that raged around him, Vaaron acknowledged, with a nod of his head, the role of command Morrigan had assumed before he carried Lauren towards the forest. He trusted Morrigan, Lauren’s best friend, to see to their safe passage.
Under her leadership, his troops rallied behind him and followed his retreat, their responsibility clear. They had to protect the Protector, Vaaron, as he carried out his final duty. Lauren’s body must not be captured, for if there was the slightest spark of life, and the Dark Lord captured her, he would cremate her, eradicating all hope for future generations. With her remains secure in his arms, hope still survived!