Saturday, October 31, 2009

KZ's Halloweenies & Whorrors, 6

Those of you who've read InDescent can just skip this post. Sorry, but the horror maven in me loves this scene! (I just watched the incomparable Vincent Price in The Abominable Dr. Phibes today -- love it! -- and a sequence in that movie reminded me a little of the following scene.)

* * * * *

When a breach in the Prism of Nezrabi frees creatures from another plane, a troubled wizard learns there are things more terrifying than the bogeymen of our nightmares. Like inner demons…and love.

Being a powerful, sexually magnetic wizard has its disadvantages. Like inviting the attention of bumbling but persistent rivals. And seductive women. And otherworldly beings.

For Jackson Spey, that isn’t the worst of it. His lover-of-choice is a man with a disturbing past. And a girlfriend. And feelings Jackson is reluctant to return.

The legendary Prism of Nezrabi brings all these elements together when it falls into the hands of Spey’s number-one enemy. No ordinary crystal, the Prism is an intricate microcosm wherein all time, space, and dimensions exist in delicate balance. Humans who’ve been pulled into it have gone mad . . . or simply never returned.

Through inept or malicious magic, the structure’s integrity has been compromised. A breach has freed creatures thought only to exist in Slavic myth. Nobody but the most qualified Adept can repair the split. If Jackson descends into this mystical world, he may have to face something more dreadful than a seemingly impossible task and its potential consequences.

* * * * *

Fog Cliff Cemetery, Ivan thought, was even creepier than the portraits of Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky painted on Roland Dancy’s scrotum. And they were pretty damned creepy—especially when Rollie squeezed the top of his sac and made those faces pop in all their chicken-skinned, wire-haired glory.

The sun would soon be setting. Already, shadows cast by lines of gravestones had begun to stretch out on the grass like reclining ghosts. It didn’t help the atmosphere any to have Bothu loping along at his side like some oily mortician. It didn’t help, either, that Bothu carried an old, black doctor’s satchel, and whatever was stashed within kept making its presence known through muffled thumps and knocks.

Shielding his eyes with one hand, Ivan glanced up the narrow asphalt drive. There, toward the north, loomed the jagged rock formation that apparently gave the cemetery its name. No fog swaddled the cliff today, but thickening shade and almost palpable stillness provided more than enough atmosphere. The dead place was dead-quiet. Aside from whatever wildlife populated the surrounding woods, no other living creatures were around. This was a rural boneyard, and "visiting hours" appeared to be over.

"Where’s the grave?" Ivan asked, winded. The drive went uphill.

They’d parked their vehicles in a neighboring yard, which Bothu had assured him was safe. Maybe the property was abandoned. Maybe Bothu knew the owners. Ivan hadn’t bothered to inquire.

"We’re not going to a grave," the necromancer said.

"Then how the hell--?"

"It’s a mausoleum, and it’s behind the cliff."

Ivan stopped. He put up his hands. "Whoa, hold on there, bucko. You’re not shutting me up in some suffocating, vermin-infested—"

Bothu, too, paused. His dark gaze landed on Ivan like a wasting disease. "Then go home and figure things out on your own. I’m not the one who needs to be here, Ivan. I’m not the one intent on luring Jackson Spey into the Prism."

"Yeah, but you’re the one who likes being here." Ivan tried to give him a playful swat on the arm, but he couldn’t bring himself to make contact with the ghoulish figure. His hand fell limply to his side. "Wouldn’t you rather do this on your own? Kind of like, you know...masturbating."

Bothu’s narrow eyes narrowed further. "Actually, I would prefer being alone. But to achieve the results you’re after, you have to be present." He nodded toward Ivan’s neck. "While I’m thinking of it, you need to ditch the jewelry."

"What jewelry?" Ivan touched the spot Bothu seemed to be looking at. "You mean my amulets and talismans?"

"You’ll have to take them off and leave them outside the mansion."

"The mansion?" Ivan bugged his eyes in disbelief. Then, resigned, he sighed. He’d given up trying to understand this goof a long time ago. "Listen, I wear these pieces for a reason. Let me explain it in simple terms. The talismans attract the shit I want. The amulets repel the shit I don’t want. Considering where we are"—dramatically, he waved his arms to indicate the setting—"I’d say a little protection is warranted."

"And I’d say, get rid of them." Bothu resumed walking. "Things will be a lot uglier for you if you keep them on."


"Never mind."

"Well that’s just fucking great," Ivan muttered.

Trudging on, they soon circled the western side of the cliff. Behind it, nearly butting up against the rock’s northern face, was a gnomish stone structure patterned with lichens and engulfed in shade. The mausoleum looked like a rotten tooth. Ivan shivered as his gut clenched.

"How are we supposed to get in?" he whispered, hoping they couldn’t. He eyed the sturdy double doors deeply recessed beneath a Gothic arch. They appeared to be bronze, and decorated all over with demons writhing and cavorting within a cage of thorny branches. Flanking this dreary portal, gargoyles glowered from atop a pair of Corinthian columns.

It was hardly an inviting entrance. A plaque set beneath the roof’s low gable identified the lord of the mansion—one James Newman, who drew his last breath in 1928.

Much to Ivan’s surprise, Bothu simply walked up to one door and pulled it open. The hinges didn’t even squeal in complaint. Stiff-lover must keep them lubricated, Ivan thought. A puff of stale air wafted past his face.

With extreme reluctance, he pulled off his assortment of charms and laid them on a patch of ground rather than the cracked concrete apron that led to the doors. Getting them dirty, he figured, was far better than letting them come into any contact with Newman’s charnel house. Riding a sweaty wave of anxiety, he followed Bothu inside.

The grim, dim space smelled both dank and musty. An open crypt sat in the center, its lid so severely askew it seemed an inch from crashing to the flagstone floor. A hard chill dug into Ivan’s bones. He lingered near the door.

"I’d say it’s twilight. Wouldn’t you?" Bothu murmured, glancing at his companion.

"Sure." Ivan didn’t give a fuck. He just wanted to get this ordeal over with.

"Come here."

Ivan cast a longing look at the door, still ajar. "Do I have to?"

"Yes, you idiot. I didn’t bring you with me because I enjoy your company."

Ivan took a few tentative steps forward. The necromancer reached into his pants pocket and pulled out a key. A hex key. Leaning over the vault, he apparently fit the key into a lock—the lock that secured the lid of the casket nested within. A sharp click made Ivan flinch.

At that very moment, the mausoleum’s door swung shut. Ivan jumped and let out a yelp. The space was instantly packed with woolly blackness.

Now, he did hear a creak. Bothu must be lifting the casket’s lid. Ivan remained frozen in place, aware of the damp cold from the flagstones leeching through the soles of his shoes. He tried mentally cobbling together some protective incantation, but his mind seemed to have shut down. He heard Bothu rummaging through the satchel.

"Come," Bothu said, his voice dusky, "greet your benefactor."

Mewling, Ivan faltered forward in shuffling baby-steps. A match flared then touched the wick of a thick candle. It smelled, jarringly, like Christmas, but with a bitter note. Another burst of small flame, and the cloying scent of jasmine crept into the air. Ivan still hadn’t peered into the relative gloom of the crypt. He watched Bothu remove other things from his black bag—a knife, a glittering chunk of stone, a vial of murky liquid—and array them along the wide edge of the vault.

Holding the candle above what lay within, the necromancer paused as his gaze angled downward. Fondly, he smiled.

Ivan thought he might faint.

As Bothu lowered the candle toward Newman’s remains, he simultaneously curled an arm around Ivan’s rib cage and drew him forward. Candlelight wavered up from the rectangular gulf.

"Isn’t he lovely?" Bothu said. "He was nearly one of the Incorruptibles until fairly recently."

Sheer morbid curiosity made Ivan rise up on the balls of his feet and sneak a glance at the inside of the casket. He wished he hadn’t. Closing his eyes, he swayed backward and swallowed hard.

Newman should have been pure skeleton by now. But he wasn’t. On his hands, neck and head, skin like poorly tanned leather peeled away from teeth and bone. Scalp and hair, gradually disconnecting from his skull, rested like a clump of thatch on a soiled, rotting pillow. His dark clothing was nothing more than dusty scraps. As sunken and shriveled as they were, his eyes appeared to be open.

Even worse, something protruded from his chest. It looked like a partially corroded blade. What the fuck? Ivan kept thinking. What the fuck? Had Newman been a vampire? Ivan tried to calm himself. Maybe not a vampire. Bothu brought a knife with him this time, too, and vampires didn’t need to be killed twice. Besides, Newman looked deader than dead already. So maybe it was just part of the ritual. But why had the damned blade been stuck in the corpse’s heart?

In slow motion, Bothu lifted the vial of liquid.

"Wh-what’s in there?" Ivan whispered, because asking questions helped deflect his attention from every other grisly detail of this situation. Not to mention his billowing panic. He didn’t think he could hold out much longer.

"Milk. Honey." Bothu pulled out the cork stopper. "Blood." Reaching down, he caressed the lipless mouth and drizzled his concoction inside it.

On the verge of retching, Ivan turned away.

"Come, sweet Azrael," Bothu crooned, "and speak through your servant James. Tell me how the man named Jackson Spey can be brought into the powerful crystal once hidden and protected here."

A soft rustling made Ivan hazard a glance at the necromancer. He’d reached inside the casket again. Very gently, he lifted something. One of Newman’s hands. He cradled it.

Azrael, Azrael... Ivan tried to recall the entity identified by that name. Was it demonic? Bothu’s blandishments went on. Ivan knew they were for his sake. It was the only thing that kept him from bolting. Azrael...

Shit. That was the Angel of Death.

A dry rattle came from the casket. Words formed. "C-call. Call him. Open the door."

"Thank you," Bothu breathed out. His tone was rapturous.

Suddenly, Ivan couldn’t breathe. He frantically stumbled away from the crypt, trying to distance himself from the eerie exchange. His shoulder connected with a slimy wall. Half-expecting Newman to rise, he scrabbled toward the doors, their outlines barely visible in candle’s feeble glow.

"We will stay here ‘til the next twilight," Bothu said—to whom, Ivan didn’t know or care. "Still as the dead yet receptive as the living, we will stay."

The fuck we will. Ivan’s quaking hand found a thick metal ring.

"Call. the door."

Damned straight. Ivan grabbed the ring and pulled. Nothing happened. Panic began to overtake him. It opens out, not in! Grateful he hadn’t totally succumbed to hysteria, he threw his considerable weight against the barrier. The bronze plane resisted for a couple of seconds before it swung open.

Ivan pitched himself into the evening, rolled once, and scrambled onto his hands and knees. Without a single glance at the mausoleum, and with greater and speed and agility than he’d possessed since childhood, he scurried toward the blessedly mundane haven of his SUV. Amulets and talismans be damned.

Friday, October 30, 2009

KZ's Halloweenies & Whorrors, 5

Gray Man. That's all he is, at first. This particular spirit might be unsettling . . . but, as it turns out, in a rather pleasant way.

* * * * *

Emma Moore’s vacation along the lower New England seaboard had everything to do with bolstering her flagging relationship and nothing to do with finding ghosts. But when eerie entries written in archaic script show up in her diary, she suspects they might be related to the shadowy figure suddenly clinging to her boyfriend’s back.

A shockingly orgasmic ride on a theme-park roller coaster and the mystifying utterances of a psychic stranger only strengthen Emma’s suspicion that something, or someone, is going bump—and hump—in the night. Getting to the bottom of this disturbing yet compelling phenomenon seems her only recourse.

Leaving Alan, her lawyer-boyfriend, behind in Boston to pursue his work and possibly an affair, Emma returns to the historic Connecticut inn where the intensely passionate Gray Man first appeared. What she discovers and experiences there bring her the most wrenching sadness and exhilarating hope she’s ever known…and the realization that there are no bounds in time and space any more than there are in the ocean that lies beyond her window.

* * * * *

"You turning in?" Alan asked with groggy indifference.

"In a bit." Emma swiveled and lowered her feet to the floor. She grabbed her robe, slipped it over her shoulders, and rose from the bed.

After licking his thumb and forefinger, Alan rolled toward the nightstand and pinched the candle’s wick, snuffing out its weak flame.

Emma slid her diary from a side-pocket of her suitcase, then padded to and through the French doors that separated the small bedroom from the small sitting room. This lovely, historic inn on the outskirts of a lovely, historic town had several two-room suites. Alan and she had been fortunate enough to get one. If it hadn’t been past Labor Day, they likely wouldn’t have been so lucky. After closing the doors behind her, Emma approached an antique desk—Queen Anne, she thought—and turned on an old oil lamp that had been converted to electric. Seating herself, she opened her diary within the pool of light.

She smiled. The diary, which seemed like such a girlish indulgence, was an impulse purchase she’d made shortly after moving to Boston. It had gilt-stamped covers of soft burgundy suede, gilt page-edges, and a dainty lock that opened with an equally dainty key she never used. Alan couldn’t care less about her private thoughts.

Turning to a new page, Emma smoothed it and began to write.

September 28

Old Saybrook

What is it I want?

I want passion to be part of my life again. Body, mind, heart and soul. I want the man I adore to adore me and share this passion. I want a sweet ache and sweeter haze to settle over me, settle into me, after we make love.

I want to be transported by joy, by wonder, by gratitude for my blessings. There was once magic in my dreams. I want my dreams back. I want to reclaim the magic. I want to look out this window in Connecticut and believe I can see moonlight reflected off the sand on a beach in Aruba.

Emma pressed her loosely fisted hand against her lips to stanch a tearful giggle. This abrupt reaction baffled her as much as what she’d written. "Get a grip," she whispered to herself, almost angrily swiping her fingers beneath her eyes.

She never effused like that. She rarely, since childhood, had an urge to titter and weep at the same time. She felt like a lunatic.

But despite her embarrassment, Emma didn’t cross out what she’d written or tear out the page. She further surprised herself by adding another line.

Am I being fair, and realistic, in wanting these things?

Confused, Emma tossed aside the pen and dropped her head to her hands. What the hell was wrong with her? She had a boyfriend most women would kill for. Thirty-six years old, goodlooking, courteous, financially secure.

But I want…

"Enough already." Emma briskly rubbed her face. Pushing back from the desk, she switched off the light and went to join her trophy man in bed.


As soon as her eyes opened to the sharp sunlight of a late-September morning, Emma realized she’d neglected to do something very, very important last night. Not only had she forgotten to stash her diary, she’d—

Oh shit.

Shooting a quick glance at Alan, who seemed to be sleeping soundly, Emma slipped out of bed and into her bathrobe and pattered as quietly as possible to the sitting room. Easing open the door, hoping its thin squeak wouldn’t wake her companion, she rose up on the balls of her feet and took three long strides to the desk. Sure enough, the diary still lay there, wide open.

Emma reached out to snatch it and stuff it into her pocket. Her arm froze in midair.

Beneath the final line of her entry, a single word had been written in a jagged, archaic script.


Thursday, October 29, 2009

KZ's Halloweenies & Whorrors, 4

Ah, poor Adin Swift. Still a tormented vampire, he so struggled in this novel. But just a handful of months after he finally found his HEA, or thought he did, Jackson Spey turned up at that birthday party and blew Adin's assumptions out of the water. Considering the blood-drinking interlude they shared in Plagued (hell, considering how happy Adin was, simply to see Jackson again), it should've been obvious to all concerned that Celia was not, in fact, the partner of Adin's dreams.

Following the blurb is just one of many creepy excerpts from the novel that sees Adin and Jackson together for the first time (in a book, that is).

Yup, Plagued is a chillfest.

* * * * *

The one thing Adin Swift wants more than warm blood and hot sex is to find the man who viciously murdered his parents over 650 years ago.

The one thing Celia Quill wants more than a final, exciting one-night stand before moving to the edge of a northern forest is to settle happily into her new home there.

After hooking up at a club, they more than satisfy each other’s immediate needs. But "immediate" stretches into long-term when Celia is captivated by her vampire lover and Adin senses this not-so-ordinary woman somehow holds the key to his peace.

In the unassuming little outpost of Woodbine, Adin and Celia confront a threat neither had anticipated. Their efforts to comprehend and overcome it take them from a modest farmhouse to a lumber baron’s mansion to a blue-collar tavern complete with town drunk. As their bond solidifies, answers come…but the threat only grows.

Desperate, Adin calls his old friend Jackson Spey for help. The wizard extends their search to a place where the vampire was both born and birthed and has only revisited in his nightmares: fourteenth-century, plague-torn England. Horrific as it it, this journey into the the past may be Adin's and Celia's only route to the future.

In the following excerpt, Adin examines yet another disturbing feature of Celia's new property.

* * * * *

The deeper woods at the rear of the yard beckoned Adin. There was something else he had to check out. He moved toward the shadowed tangle of undergrowth beneath the taller trees.

As he scanned the ragged edge of this untended area, Adin noticed several clearer spaces that might indicate the presence of a path. He studied each one more carefully then struck out through the most promising break in the vegetation. At least this season’s growth wasn’t yet too high or too thick.

A fairly straight trail of depressed earth, with a soggy floor of decaying leaves and brown pine needles, arrowed through the close-pressing trees and vertical, in-tucked spirals of emerging ferns. Adin’s footsteps flushed out two toads and sent them hopping for new cover. Occasionally, from above, a twig or pinecone fell, probably dislodged by a scurrying squirrel. Patches of sunlight were fewer and farther between the deeper Adin plunged into this wild acreage, and its organic redolence grew stronger—reminding him, unnervingly, of the smell released by the freshly turned dirt of graves.

The branches blocking his way multiplied. Adin kept his arms raised to push them aside and shield his face from their recoil. A single caw from a near-by crow startled him, sending a flashing chill through his belly.

Within seconds he spied it—a cylindrical wall of fieldstone, somewhat more than waist-high, hugged all around by the delicate, thorny arms of wild roses. A hazy shaft of sunlight sluiced through the small clearing where the old well sat. Carefully, Adin circled the structure. Its north-facing stones were covered in a patchwork of dead brown and fresh green moss.

Adin didn’t know whether or not he was still on Celia’s property. The well could have served a different homestead or even a hermit’s small cabin, long since torn down or fallen to ruin. Or it could’ve been a source of water for outbuildings—a cow barn, a sheepcote, a horse stable, a pig or chicken pen.

Not that it mattered. The well’s original owner and intended use were irrelevant. Recently, Adin feared, this simple, utilitarian structure had a much more nefarious purpose.

Leaning over the gnarled branches, he flattened his hands on the well’s rough rim. The muscles in his arms immediately went rigid with shock. Gulping air, Adin pulled himself closer to the pit and peered over its wall. Even his sight had difficulty mining the dense blackness. But he both smelled and sensed the presence of things that did not bode well…for him or for Celia.

There was a tunnel entrance somewhere in the well shaft. Adin stared more intently. Yes, he was sure, it was in the western arc of the interior wall. He raised his head to get his bearings. As he suspected, the entrance faced the Browning mansion. Adin pulled back and took a few cleansing breaths. Lifting his hands, he studied them, stroking his palms with his fingers. Slowly, his face twisted.

Whether real or imagined, traces of Birkett’s essence seemed to taint his skin. The vampire, Adin was certain, had slithered over this wall many times, in a number of different forms. But why, why were there conduits between this property and the mansion’s? Adin already thought he knew—this was the theory he’d earlier refused to divulge—but he wanted to verify his assumption before sharing it with Celia. For the moment, she had more than enough issues to deal with.

"Shit," Adin whispered, wiping his forehead with the back of his hand. He leaned against a tree as he gazed at the well. He knew he had to approach it one more time.

A cloud passed over the sun, steeping the small clearing in gloom. Adin again stepped up to the well, again leaned over its edge. He closed his eyes and inhaled.

The odors were unmistakable. First, stagnant water, the depth of which was unclear. Second—and certainly not obvious to anybody with normal human senses—death.

There was at least one corpse or skeleton at the bottom of that pit and perhaps more. Adin was sure of it.

Resting his elbows on the wall, he dropped his head to his hands. How many victims had that filthy bastard disposed of in this area? And where, in addition to here, were they?

Aside from these discoveries, which were sickening enough, it nearly drove Adin to the brink of despair when he realized he was only a small step away from becoming like this creature he so thoroughly despised. Without the sexual release that accompanied his feeds, many ugly aspects of his Plague Breed heritage would claw their way out of his blood…


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

KZ's Halloweenies & Whorrors, 3

A "Joyfully Recommended" read from Joyfully Reviewed, recipient of 5 Angels from Fallen Angel Reviews, and a 2008 EPPIE finalist, the paranormal erotic romance Cemetery Dancer has done fairly well.

My beloved Jackson Spey, still in possession of the long braid that hung nearly to his butt, plays a significant role in this novel. Heroine and hero, Sophia and Sonny, later make appearances in InDescent, as does Fog Cliff Cemetery, the setting for the excerpt following the blurb.

* * * * *

Find a man’s headstone and dance on his grave.

Be he prince, commoner, monk, or knave;

Be he soldier or hero or coward forlorn,

Shed all your clothing and dance until dawn.

Medium and former nun Sophia Alanca has a big problem that’s soon to get much bigger. Since leaving the cloister, she’s been desperate to find an outlet for years’ worth of unsatisfied sexual passion. Sophie is not only lacking in savvy about the dating scene, she’s far too cautious to hook up with strangers. Unfortunately, her frustrated desire attracts a brutish "hybrid" entity—one who can move between the astral and earthly planes. And he wishes to possess her.

Sophie’s spirit guide offers a solution in the form of a cryptic verse. Until Sophie can find a man who fully meets her needs, she can achieve sexual gratification and thus ward off her attacker by doing the pagan Cemetery Dance. As added protection, the spirit guide instructs Sophie to seek out the help of a quirky but powerful wizard…who also happens to be drop-dead hot.

But biker-wizard Jackson Spey is not the only one who comes to Sophie’s aid. Harrison Brock—a graduate student in anthropology and amateur ghost hunter—is watching her when she does the sensual Cemetery Dance. And little does she realize he can either damn her through his jealousy and skepticism . . . or save her through his love.

* * * * *

Sophie had to concentrate on her movements as the tunnel abruptly narrowed and its height diminished. Sinking to a sit, she scooted along using her heels, which she dug into the ground, and her hands, which she eased along the walls, to propel herself forward. Its surfaces disturbed, the tunnel gave up a rich, damp, organic smell that was almost overpowering. Ahead of her, Sophie could hear the slithering and scraping sounds that marked Angelina’s progress.

They were swaddled in utter blackness.

“This is enough to make anybody claustrophobic,” Sophie said, glad that Sonny didn’t have to suffer through the experience.

Angelina didn’t answer.

“Don’t you think so?”

No answer.

“Angelina, can you hear me?”

The scraping stopped, briefly, but still no answer came.

Sophie tensed. “Angelina?” She raised her voice. “Jackson?”

And then somebody was grabbing her ankles, pulling her forward and down, down and to the left, the slope becoming even more slippery and mucky beneath her, the smell even more fetid. Just as Sophie was about to scream, a cold, hard hand clamped over her nose and mouth. An icy gust of breath pushed against her face. She tried desperately to bite at the suffocating hand but her teeth didn’t connect with anything substantial.

Just as Sophie began to lose consciousness, the tunnel blazed with blinding light. Its walls and floors shook. A deep rumbling, like a distant avalanche, sounded all around her. Words, she thought dimly, those are words, as the pressure on her ankles and face suddenly eased.

Sophie’s eyes fluttered open. Spey was standing over her, his arms raised, his loose hair floating in slow motion around his head. When Sophie saw this—and saw Angelina, who stood behind him—she realized they were in a space with higher ceilings and a source of light and something very, very weird was happening.

Angelina knelt beside her and stroked her forehead.

Jackson?” Sophie whispered.

He was the source of light. Jackson Spey was glowing.

The glow faded as Sophie’s realization dawned. Then he, too, knelt beside her, his long hair grazing the side of her face.

Sophie heard a raspy click. A spot of flame appeared, then flared and got brighter. Jackson’s and Angelina’s faces reemerged from the darkness.

“I had enough foresight to bring a lighter and a candle,” Angelina said, her voice so kind it instantly warmed Sophie.

She sat up. Jackson had pulled back his hair and was securing it into a ponytail with some kind of binding—a rubber band, maybe.

“What happened?” Sophie asked, still dazed.

“It seems that as soon as you entered the cliff,” Angelina said, “your course was intentionally diverted. Jackson came to your rescue.”

“But I could hear you, just ahead of me!”

Angelina shook her head. “No. That wasn’t me. I don’t think it took me but ten seconds to find Jackson in this chamber. Something or someone was leading you away from us.”

“I’m sorry, Sophie,” Jackson said. “I should have either kept you with me or not let you come in at all.”

“But you cast a circle around me. How could it be broken?”

“It was improvised and temporary, meant to protect you when you laid hands on the mausoleum. A circle is like a battery, Sophie. It can be drained of its energy. And the ones that are less well-made are drained that much faster.” Jackson glanced at Angelina. “Now I know what Newman’s job is. Now I know exactly what being a Watcher means.”

Sophie looked back and forth between them. “And?”

Jackson tucked a stray lock of hair behind his ear. “In part, it means watching for intruders. When they enter the cliff, if they do it at the wrong time, they’re scared away. Kids, usually. Kids who come here on Halloween or on a dare, kids who come here to drink or smoke pot or make out. It’s pretty easy for a weak dick like Newman to send them running.”

“But what do you mean, ‘if they do it at the wrong time’?”

“The cliff is a vortex, a portal,” Angelina said. “Mortals are persona non grata when a strong spirit wants to enter our world through it.”

“I see,” Sophie said. She was quite familiar with such things. “So, this is one of those ‘wrong times’, and I was an easy mark because I wasn’t close enough to you, Jackson, to be protected. Newman singled me out to scare me away.”

“Um, that’s not it,” Spey said. Like a doctor who doesn’t want to give his patient bad news and somehow feels responsible for that news, he seemed edgy and hesitant. “The entity that misled you and then handled you wasn’t Newman. It was Bruno Desjardins. Newman only alerted him.”

Sophie felt short of breath and slightly nauseous. “So the other part of being a Watcher—”

“—is likely the most important part,” Jackson said somberly.

“And it entails watching for what?” Sophie’s eyes skittered nervously between him and Angelina. “Or whom?” she added on a thin breath. But she already knew the answer.

“For you,” Spey said.

Monday, October 26, 2009

KZ's Halloweenies & Whorrors, 2

Another excerpt from Boolicious, my Changeling Halloween tale introduced in the previous post. Tomorrow, the fun and games end. On to some genuine creepiness!

* * * * *

They’d covered maybe three blocks, zigzagging from one side of the street to another, when they approached a small, red-brick bungalow. Emily charged up the porch steps with her usual enthusiasm, crying "Trick or treat!" all the way.

Hannah and the boys joined her…just as Hannah began to wonder why this place looked familiar. The door abruptly opened. But no smiling matron holding a candy basket appeared there. Instead, a large, dark mass flew out of the house like an attacking phantom. A clumsy attacking phantom. Emily squealed. Startled, they all scrambled backward down the steps and withdrew to the railings.

The dark form was a man. A man in an opera cape—black on the outside, red on the inside—with a deeply scalloped, upturned collar and a bat attached by a spring to one shoulder. The cape was skewed off to one side, the bat bobbing and weaving like Muhammad Ali.

Hannah’s breath seemed to snag on her ribcage. That was why the house looked familiar! Teetering before her was the man she’d seen earlier, the one getting out of the truck. As she’d tagged along with the kids, she’d unwittingly come down the same street. But what was going on?

When the man regained his footing, he straightened his garment, swiped both palms over his hair, and faced the four people on the porch steps. "Uh…boo."

Dumbfounded, the four trick-or-treaters gaped at him.

Emily looked up at her brother. "Can I keep ‘im?"

"He’s too big for your bag, dork." Jeremy pointed at Hannah, who stood at the opposite railing. "Better let her keep him."

What the hell?

Mouth open, she continued to stare. Beneath his cape the man wore only the skimpiest red briefs. A green glow came from his mouth.

What the hell?

"Were you s’posed to scare us?" Emily asked. "Do you live here?"

The man looked embarrassed. "No."

"What didja do?" Emily asked him. "Are you a robber? Didja get caught? Zat why they threw you out?"

The man cleared his throat. "That’s one way of putting it."

"So what are you hiding in your mouth? You better give it back."

"I’m not hiding anything. Those are my teeth." He bared his glow-in-the-dark, fanged plastic uppers. "I’m a vampire."

Jeremy chuffed. "Dracula didn’t walk around in his shorts."

"Yeah, well, I’m his poor brother, Zacula. Can’t afford formal wear, just underwear."

Hannah snorted a poorly suppressed laugh. She curled a hand over her mouth and looked down.

"Hey," Grif said, pointing at him, "your bat’s starting to droop."

"That’s not all." The man slid a glance at Hannah, who just at that moment happened to be sliding a glance at his—droop or no droop—well filled-out scarlet briefs. Self-consciously, he pulled the cape closed around his midsection.

Now that Hannah was gathering her wits, she couldn’t help but notice other things, as well. The man was extremely attractive, even more so than her first glimpse of him had suggested. She couldn’t see his face very clearly, but his tall frame sported a trim, hard-muscled physique. Although his thick, dark hair was trained to sweep neatly away from his face at the front and sides, the back was a riot of rebellious, clipped curls, some of which disappeared within his collar.

"Shoes or no shoes, I better get out of here," he murmured, and began descending the steps. When he was alongside Hannah, he paused. "I’m really sorry."

He wasn’t just attractive, he was breathtaking. "No harm done." The sight of him, and the fragrant nearness of him, rekindled the arousal that had tormented her at the party. She could feel the heat wavering from his body like a sexual lure.

The man suddenly broke their eye contact—a minor blessing, since it was making Hannah’s knees weak. Frowning, he looked down and patted his cape. He pulled it to one side and groped at the lining. "My keys," he whispered.

Turning abruptly, Zacula charged back toward the front door. Before he reached it, two shoes somersaulted through the air, nearly bonking him in the head. He managed to duck just in time. The shoes clattered against the porch railing and landed with twin thuds on the wood floor.

Glaring at the house, Zacula muttered, "Fuck. Fuck. Fuck," as he retrieved his shoes and hopped around to get them on. He stomped down the steps to the sidewalk, where the four trick-or-treaters now stood because they didn’t know what would next fly out of the house. Hand to forehead, Zacula looked indecisively at nothing.

Without thinking, Hannah walked up to him and touched his arm. Electricity seemed to shiver through her stomach. "Are you all right?"

Distractedly, the man nodded. "I don’t think anyone ever died of a bruised ego. So, yeah, I’m all right."

"What’s your name?"

It was a few seconds before he looked at her. He was obviously preoccupied. "Zack." He gave her a wan smile. "Yes, that really is my name." He extended his hand. "Zachary Evan Whitmore."

Once Hannah grasped it she was loath to let go. "I’m Hannah Blue. Can I help you in any way?" It was obvious he had some kind of mess on his hands.

"I don’t want to get anybody else involved in this."

"I don’t mind. Really." He was beautiful, absolutely beautiful. The more she studied his face, the more captivated she became. And his mouth…damn, it looked so inviting. Not a vampire’s mouth at all. At least, not based on the movies she’d seen. She still, however, couldn’t discern the color of his bright eyes.

Zack rubbed the back of his neck. "My biggest problem at the moment is that my truck keys are in there." He nodded toward the house. "And I’m out here."

"I assume it wouldn’t be wise for you to go to the door and ask for them."

Lifting his eyebrows, Zack gave her a look that said, What do you think? Nevertheless, he risked mounting three of the porch steps and shouting, "Give me my god— Give me my goldang keys!"

The door swung open, a bulky form appeared, and a set of keys went sailing into a dense tangle of surrounding shrubbery.

"Fuck!" Zack charged up the porch once more. He strode to the railing and peered over it. Groaning, he despondently came back down to the sidewalk.

Casting Hannah a glance, he mumbled, "Your wig’s slipping." He idly lifted a few fallen strands of hair, letting them drape over his fingers.

"It isn’t a wig." Hannah poked at her tumbling coiffure, dimly wondering how a touch to her hair could send frissons slithering through her limbs. "Your teeth are slipping, too."

Zack pulled them out and chucked them aside.

She didn’t know what was going on, but she had to help him. She wanted to help him. He didn’t seem like a creep, and it wasn’t often she had the opportunity to rescue an enticing man in distress. In fact, she’d never had the opportunity.

"Listen," she said, "let me try something. You stay here."

Before Zack could object, Hannah remounted the steps and rang the doorbell. It opened with such ferocity she took a couple of startled steps back. A very large, very pumped-up man with a pale flat-top glowered down at her.

"Sir," Hannah began, trying to be both polite and firm, "I need to borrow a flashlight. You threw the truck keys into the—"

He snarled out an answer and slammed the door.

Sighing, Hannah rejoined Zack on the sidewalk. She lowered her voice when she conveyed the message. "He isn’t being very cooperative. He said, ‘Let the prick bounce home on his pogo stick.’"

Zack’s handsome face twisted in anger. "Son of a bitch."

Emily piped up, "You really need to clean up your language." The kids, still clustered together a short distance away, had been observing these goings-on with interest.

Zack glanced at them. "I’ll work on that when I get home. After I drive there in my truck. Which I must start with my frickin’ key!"

"Uh, Emily, you and Jeremy and Grif should head home now, too," Hannah said. "It’s getting late and you have plenty of candy. Thanks so much for inviting me along." She waved to underscore the send-off. "Maybe I’ll see you around."

Taking his sister’s hand, Jeremy told her, "Come on. Grownup stuff is goin’ on. You know what that means."

Sunday, October 25, 2009

KZ's Halloweenies & Whorrors!

Hey, it's a pagan holiday, so of course there's sex involved!

In celebration of All Hallow's Eve, I'll be posting Halloween-appropriate excerpts from my books this week -- one a day, if I don't get too distracted by more productive activities.

So what is that you see on the right? A poser figure in skimpy
red briefs? Why, yes indeed! Meet Zacula.

Changeling Press issued this little novella (can you tell?) It's the only Halloween-themed story I've ever written and also the most chock-full-of-sex story I've ever written. The original title was You Can Leave Your Bat On, which perfectly suits the somewhat comedic plot, but I was told it was too long for the cover.

Without further ado, or excuses, following are the blurb for and an excerpt from BOOLICIOUS.

* * * * *

Often, breaking up with a boyfriend is a blessing in disguise. Sometimes, being stuck with crazy relatives is the same thing.

Hannah Blue didn’t think so after she made an ill-advised bet with her Aunt Kate, a bawdy old hippie and self-styled witch. A little too much wine had made Hannah cocky enough to think she could get laid by November 1 and, in so doing, become a hundred dollars richer. But it isn’t happening that way. Hannah’s picky about men.

As the bet’s deadline draws near, Aunt Kate decides to give her niece a little behind-the-scenes help. She wants Hannah to have a restorative roll in the hay and win that C-note.

But even a weird and wild Halloween swingers’ party doesn’t bring a man Hannah’s way. Horny and glum, she decides to boost her spirits by strolling down the streets of her neighborhood and enjoying Trick-or-Treat night. She eventually tags along with a trio of unescorted kids. It’s a pleasant, innocent diversion that helps Hannah resign herself to being a loser.

Until, at one house, a man in a vampire cape comes flying out the door . . . and proves the most delectable piece of candy, and the best way to win a bet, Hannah could ever have imagined.

* * * * *

Kate remained ensconced in her overstuffed easy chair and gave this dilemma some thought. So, even a hundred dollars wasn’t enough inducement to get her niece back on the man track. Or even on a woman track. Any joy in sex was preferable to no joy in sex. Damn.

First the poor girl had to endure the deceitfulness of that shit-spitter Mark. Now she couldn’t seem to pull herself out of the cesspool he’d created. Kate had a sudden image of Hannah standing at the bottom of an outhouse pit, staring helplessly at the light coming through the hole but unable to climb toward it.

Pathetic. Just pathetic.

Hannah hadn’t even hit thirty yet. She was smart and pretty and talented. And she had a perfectly healthy libido. Or at least she did have one, until Mr. Lie-my-ass-off started cheating on her at every turn.

Kate glanced at her makeshift altar, then at the skewed piles of erotic romance novels teetering on her end table, then at the altar again. She’d steadfastly refused, up to now, to work any sympathetic magic on Hannah’s behalf. She wanted her niece to take off and soar under her own power. But maybe a little boost wouldn’t hurt…

Getting up from the chair, her jewelry tinkling like wind chimes, Kate nudged her cat Blackthorn off the stacks of books. One volume tumbled to her feet. Hm. Maybe she wouldn’t have to rifle through the whole mess of them. Maybe this was the one she was meant to use.

Kate bent down to lift it off the floor. A paranormal. She glimpsed a bat in the background of the cover art. Some other strange stuff, too.

Uh-oh. This could be dicey. Sometimes her magic went slightly awry. Kate didn’t want her beloved niece to end up with some wacko. Or, worse yet, a genuine creature of the night. But holy hot damn, that cover model was one nice piece!

Still weighing the risks, Kate carried the paperback to her altar. If she really concentrated, and she used the proper combination of candles and incense, words and mental energy, everything should be all right.

Now, what music to put on? Dr. John? No, that might not be a good idea. Kate thought if she could extract the gris-gris from his music and leave all that other voodoo spook mojo behind, she wouldn’t have to worry about the song lyrics combining too powerfully with that paranormal romance. But she wasn’t adept enough at witchcraft to do such a thing. A lot could go wrong. Hannah didn’t need to get balled by a zombie. Shit, she wasn’t Anita Blake.

Kate squinted at her cat. After she’d rousted Blackthorn from the books, he’d leapt to the back of the sofa and stretched out there. He met her stare with a lazy blink. Jefferson Airplane, the cat suggested. Grace Slick singing "Don’t You Want Somebody to Love?" and "White Rabbit."

"What does ‘White Rabbit’ have to do with Hannah’s situation?" Kate asked, confused.

That one’s for you. The other song is for Hannah.

He gave her another blink. Or maybe a wink.

Feed your head.

"Good idea."

Kate swished over to a group of hand-crafted Ojibwa baskets tucked beneath the bottom shelf of a bookcase. They held her stashes of candles, incense, oils, and potentially useful trinkets. Her record collection—and oh, how she loved that vinyl—was on the shelf just above. Carrying what she needed back to the altar, she detoured to her turntable and carefully placed the correct album over the spindle. The tone arm and stylus seemed to find the LP’s first groove like…well, like magic. So far, so good.

Gleefully rubbing her hands, Kate scurried back to the altar. She didn’t have to cast a Circle. She already had one laid down on the worn oriental carpet. Made up of various thrift-shop necklaces and bracelets, it frequently got jagged out of line. Sometimes the vacuum cleaner sucked up a segment or two. Sometimes Blackthorn took a fancy to one of the pieces. But what the hell. The original shape, Kate figured, still lay invisibly beneath the broken and squiggly physical outline.

One more thing. She needed a picture of Hannah. After a final trip to the bookcase, where her photo albums also lay, Kate was ready to begin some serious witchery.

She lit the candles she’d chosen, one red and one white. She set three cones of incense—jasmine, vanilla and cherry—in a shallow brass dish engraved with a Greek key design, and lit the cones. On a piece of fine stationery, she scribbled down an appropriate summary of the spell’s most desirable outcome. She clipped this handwritten statement over Hannah’s photograph, then clipped those two pieces over the image of that drop-dead gorgeous model.

On a whim, Kate dripped some melting wax from the red candle onto her altar top—actually, an old library table she’d gotten at an auction. She rolled the soft wax into a cylinder about one inch long and an eighth of an inch thick. Grinning at her ingenuity, she stuck one end of the little tube on the book cover, right at the model’s crotch. Whoa. Dude was hung now. Some of the wax had smeared across his pelvis, but that shouldn’t make any difference.

Kate carefully set the book with its clipped-on additions into a small, cast iron cauldron. She snuck a glance at her wall clock. Gotta pick up the pace. Riley was coming over in an hour and she had to prepare for his arrival. The man was fourteen years her junior—threw a mean fuck, too—so she wanted to look her best.

Feeling rushed, Kate murmured an improvised incantation and touched a match to the paperback. Grace Slick warbled in the background. Blackthorn dozed.


Flames began to curl over the whole book just as Kate realized she should have removed its cover. God only knew what weird-ass characters and situations were contained in that novel ... not to mention others by the same author. She focused with all her might on the model alone and tried to will away any unwanted influences. But, hey, Riley was coming over. Who could blame her for being a little distracted?

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Two Lips, Five Kisses

More warm thanks, this time to Tina at TwoLips Reviews for planting five kisses on Bastards and Pretty Boys.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Another Dumbass "Tradition" In the Making

Happy Blog Anniversary,
although I don't know which one
or even why we celebrate blog anniversaries,
Kris 'n' Good Books!

(I dropped a big, fat piece of firewood on my bare foot today -- have a bruise the size of Rhode Island, shallow puncture wounds, and a weird knot at the base of one toe -- so Cat Wig Queen is damned lucky I'm a fundamentally good-natured individual who can smile through her pain, keep a stiff upper lip, and do all that other horseshit
I don't feel like doing
because I'm going to end up with a foot like Wilma Flintstone's
and there isn't even a single damned beer in the house!
Anybody got a spare pair of steel-toed boots?)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Bloggin' at Wave's Place

I'll be guest blogging at Reviews by Jessewave on October 28 (or 28 October, for those of you, like Brits, with date dyslexia). Why? Because she asked me to . . . even though she probably still thinks I dance like a white girl. Not going to divulge my topic just yet, because I may change my mind. I can tell you this, though: at the end of the post, I'll reveal the title of and a little teaser for a book I've co-authored with Castanet Feldman.

You certainly won't want to miss it.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

InDescent sequel has a release date!

Yikes! I was kind of blindsided by this one (but in a good way). Liquid Silver will be releasing To Be Where You Are, the sequel to InDescent, on November 9. I hadn't expected a date before December, so this was a very pleasant surprise. Blurb and first excerpt are up at the LSB forums; I'll be posting a second excerpt in another week or so.

Now, back to edits for Utopia-X 4.

(Gawd, I love Jackson's face! Can you tell?)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Thank you, Mrs. Giggles.

Bastards and Pretty Boys received Mrs. Giggles' unique, chuckle-worthy brand of scrutiny . . . and came out of it pretty freaking well: 83. That ain't nothin' to sneeze at in G-land. I'm profoundly grateful she didn't consign me to author hell for having sinned against the craft of fiction.


Monday, October 12, 2009

Ravenous Romance on Home Shopping Network?

Holy shit. I mean, is that an example of divine inspiration or what?

I followed some links and found this most astonishing bit of news. (Click on post title.) It appears the much-maligned RR is peddling genre book-packs on HSN, that offspring of cable TV where you can buy the cosmetics and jewelry lines of has-been celebrities (among many other useless things).

Wow. Why haven't other publishers thought to hawk their books this way? From what I've been able to gather, participating RR authors had to "tone down" the sexual content of their books, but so what? This decision could likely pay off in spades! (I'm just curious about how they got all their offered books to end up at 192 pages.)

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Utopia-X, Book 4 and Other Updates

The fourth and final volume of my Utopia-X series for Loose Id, Finding Where Love Lives, is due to be released on (gulp) January 5.

To Be Where You Are, the sequel to InDescent (which makes it the next step in the Jackson Spey/Adin Swift romance), should have a release date . . . shortly. Maybe early next week. Maybe.

I still haven't gotten a yea or nay on Jude in Chains (the novella centering on "reparative therapy" for homosexuals), which has been sitting for quite a while in an editor's computer.

The softcover collection of my three otherworld fantasies for Ellora's Cave still hasn't been issued. I have no freaking idea what's going on, except that my editor said she was working on the galleys -- about a month ago. Or more. I haven't even seen a cover yet and doubt that I will. The book may just appear . . . or not.

If you're starting to get the impression that e-publishing has turned into a waiting game just as long and frustrating as print publishing's waiting game, you're right. I'll tell ya, this is going to be a very, very lean Christmas.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Another Gem from Craig's List

This gave me many chuckles, even though I've never been to Cincinnati, because I just love droll, witty people. (A lesbian did write this, by the way. See #18.)

From "The Best of Craig's List," posted August 2: Lesbianism in Cincinnati

1. If you are under under 30, you must wear men's shorts, a polo shirt (popped collar optional), Air Jordan's, and either a backwards baseball cap or a bandana. If you are over 30, you may keep the shorts and polo, but you must trade in your Jordans for some really awful sandals. You must also tuck in your polo shirt and wear your cellphone clipped to your belt.

2. If you are under 30, you can hang out at Bronz, the Dock, or Yadda. If you are under 40, you can hang out at Blue Bar. If you're 40+, you are hereby banished to Rosie's.

3. If you are reading this, I probably know you. You are either my ex, my ex's ex, a friend's ex, an ex's friend, or someone I met off of here and eventually quit talking to (or who quit talking to me after they started dating my ex, or my friend, or my friend's ex, or my ex's ex...)

4. You must complain about how all of the hot chicks are straight. You must also brag about your conquests over the straight girls.

5. You must be vegetarian or vegan. If you aren't, you've at least tried it once.

6. You must own either a cat or a dog. Most likely, you own both.

7. If you live a half an hour or more outside of the city, you inevitably don't have a car. You will always only date women who drive because they will always have to drive your ass around.

8. At some point, you've probably dated someone from Dayton, Lexington, or Louisville because you were tired of the lack of lesbians in Cincinnati.

9. You either despise Wal-Mart or you love it. There is no in-between.

10. You complain about how no one ever approaches you, yet you've never tried approaching anyone either.

11. You claim to not like butch girls, but you only date butch girls.

12. There are only 10 hot lesbians in Cincinnati. They all know each other and they only date within their circle. Good luck breaking into it.

13. Either you love going to the bars because you're in a clique, or you hate going because everywhere is too clique-y.

14. Lesbians over 40 all look exactly the same. I'm not sure how you find your friends in Rosie's. It must get confusing when you walk in on a crowded night. Oh, and apparently mullets are still acceptable as long as you're over 50.

15. There are only two kinds of lesbians. "Ghetto" lesbians and "non-conformist"/artist/musician/activist lesbians. Choose wisely which one you will become, as once you've made your choice, you may only associate with lesbians of the same species.

16. I'm not sure if there is a rule that states that at least 90% of a city's lesbian population must be overweight or not. If there is, Cincinnati definitely meets those requirements.

17. If you were offended by #16, you are a lesbian. If you thought it was funny, you're bi (and therefore shallow)..

18. If you laughed at the ending remark in #17, you're a lesbian. Everyone knows that Cincinnati lesbians have it out for the bi girls. You've probably also assumed that the mystery author of this post is a shallow, narcissistic, bi girl. Nope. I'm just a lesbian with a sense of humor.

19. The activist in you refuses to laugh at any of this and is tempted to flag it.

20. If you are under 30, you must have a tattoo. If you are over 30, you probably have at least one, but any that you do have are probably awful. It's highly likely that there is a wolf tattooed on you somewhere.

21. If you are butch, you claim not to be butch. You probably say something to the extent of "I don't like subscribing to any labels. I'm just me." I'm sorry honey, but you're butch. Get over it. You get all of the hot girls anyway.

22. You must be best friends with your ex and then forever be jealous of anyone they date after you.

23. You've been cheated on. Fact: every lesbian in Cincinnati has been cheated on.

24. Even if you never graduated, you probably went to school for art, criminal justice, or political science.

25. At some point you either worked at Applebee's, UDF, some sort of place involving animals (ie: vet clinic, shelter, etc.), or were a security guard.

26. If you're from Ohio, you drink a lot of tea. If you're from Kentucky, you drink a lot of beer.

27. All lesbians in Cincinnati dance exactly the same way.

28. There are only two genres of music. Hip hop or Ani.

29. "Friends with benefits" always comes with some sort of emotional attachment.

30. Scarves: No longer a winter accessory. Now a year-round fashion statement!

31. There is a very real chance that your name is Amy, Amber, April, Jessica, Sara/h, or Nikki.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Amazonian Contradictions

I've been thinking of rereading a novel by Tim O'Brien that left me reeling the first time I read it. As I recall, it frustrated and intrigued me in equal measure.

In the Lake of the Woods (1994) is a bizarre, morally nebulous, flashback-laden tale of a troubled Vietnam veteran and failed politician whose marriage is on shaky ground. The POV character and his wife retreat to Minnesota's "Northwest Angle" (that tab that sticks up into Canada), a wilderness area taken up largely by the labyrinthine Lake of the Woods. The couple plan to spend two weeks in an isolated cabin there, attempting to recover from a devastating election loss and salvage their strained relationship.

Then the wife disappears, quite suddenly and mysteriously. Of course, searches and investigations ensue. But they yield nothing. And yet, a great deal. Maybe. Or maybe not.

I can't possibly condense this novel in any sensible way. It's a missing-person case wrapped in personal history wrapped in a psycho-emotional tangle, a Gordian knot that seems impossible to undo. It's reality and recalled reality, fantasy and horror. It sure as hell has no happy ending; in fact, it doesn't even have a resolution. Unsympathetic characters, meet your open end.

Still, the book has haunted me since I read it. So I've kind of been itching to read it again.

I thought I'd see what the "reviewers" on Amazon had to say, since there were no Amazon reviewers when I first read this novel and my recollection of it is more like an echo in the heart than a set of details stored in the brain. I figured they would help me decide whether or not to give the book a second go.

In the Lake of the Woods mostly got high marks. But there were thirty-five people who rated it from 1 to 3 and were intensely dissatisfied.

I was fascinated by this disparity and what it says about the nature of human perception, so I kept plowing through the negative comments (which, I figured, might save me some money). More than one person hated the characters. Another, the writing style. Someone else said it suffered from "very poor plotting."

Here are some of the most scathing comments: "Horrible. Simply and utterly horrible;" "I would have rated this no stars but wasn't given the option;" "...I will be throwing the book out;" "rubbish;" "...exhibits no emotional power;" "clumsy in its attempt to be ambiguous and different;" "...piece of garbage ... [The author] should retire;" "In the last several decades, this is the book I am most sorry to have read."

Holy WTF?

What I ultimately realized was that I wouldn't learn a damned thing by reading any of these assessments. It never ceases to amaze me how two people can view the same thing in such diametrically opposed ways. The clashing perceptions did nothing but confuse me, so I pretty much abandoned all of the reviews and decided to go with my gut instinct.

Yep, guess I'll read it again. Interesting exercise, though.