Happy is he who...writes from the love of imparting certain thoughts and not from the necessity of sale-who writes always to the unknown friend.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Zombie Outbreak in Venice

“Venice sits on a group of 118 small islands separated by canals and linked by bridges. Located in the Venetian Lagoon it stretches between the Po and the Piave Rivers. Known for its beauty of setting, its architecture and artwork, it is listed as a World Heritage Site, along with the lagoon,” I intoned to the group of tourist that followed along behind me, my heels tapping smartly on the pavers as their cameras snapped away.

I was taking them through the Piazza San Marco on the way to the basilica. “If you will come with me I will show you the Basilica Cattedrale Patriarcale di San Marco,” I said, pausing to make sure no one from my group had wandered off.

I stood there for a moment allowing them to digitally record whatever they found interesting.A bead of sweat trickled down my neck inching towards my shoulders blades. Across the square I saw Giovanna and waved to her as she led her group of Japanese tourists. She waved, smiled and turned back to her group. The sound of her rapid fire speech drifting on the slight breeze coming off the canals.

I adjusted my uniform and once more lamented silently about how uncomfortable it was in this heat. I grimaced in resignation. I waved to my group. They followed after me, sighing in relief over the blessed coolness as we stepped into the basilica. “The first St Mark's was constructed in 828 A.D and then burned in a rebellion in 976. It was rebuilt in 978 and consecrated in 1094.  Within the first half of the 13th century the narthex and the new façade were constructed. That is also when most of the mosaics were completed,” I paused to direct their attention to the mosaics.

Just then the hushed stillness of the basilica was shattered as a scream rent the air stalling the clicking of cameras.  “Madre di Dio,” I whispered my hand going instantly to my throat to still my racing heart. My group was starting to move towards the door. I didn’t know what was going on outside, but I needed to keep them safe. “Please, everyone,” I said, waving my hands at the group so that they would gather around me. “Please, stay here. I will go see what is happening. Do not leave the basilica.” They nodded and gave me wide eyes. I walked quickly to the door, trying not to break into a run at the sound of more screaming.

The wail of police sirens, raised voices and shrill whistles added to the mayhem I beheld when I stepped outside. Several of the Piazza Security were gathered around a man. They were trying to force him to the ground as he thrashed and yelled. He groaned, the sound of it sending shivers down my spine. I gasped as he tried to bite one of the officers. The officer panicked and let go of the man who took that opportunity to latch his jaws onto the throat of another officer. Blood spurted into the air, landing like scarlet rain on the ancient pavers of the square.

“Holy shit,” said a man from my group. He and his wife were on their second honeymoon now that the kids were grown. His thick Texas accent made him pronounce the word ‘sheeit’. He was standing just behind me. I should have turned and made them all go back into the church, but I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the scene before me. There had been rumors all over the internet about a virus that made the dead walk and the living act like monsters. I had dismissed them all as nonsense. Now, as I watched, I struggled to remember what I had read.

The police showed up en force and cleared the tourists from the area. I took a step forward and held a hand up to my eyes to ward off the late day sun.

“Ofelia!” I turned at the sound of my name to see Giovanna walking swiftly towards me with her group in tow. They followed her like frightened children. The clicking of their cameras chorused behind her, echoing her steps.

“Giovanna,” I said, hugging her tight. She was my flat mate and I was glad that she was ok. “Did you see what happened?” I asked, making sure to speak in Italian so that our groups would not understand.

Si,” she said. I could see that she had grown pale under her summer tan before she turned to her group to speak in Japanese. I presumed she told them to go into the basilica because they filed in obediently. I turned to my group and tried to do the same. But my American group was far less cooperative than her group. They had gathered around the entrance, peering through binoculars at the carnage.

“Zombies,” I heard a whisper bleed through the crowd. The sound of it plucked at my spine like a harp cord. My blood ran cold and my breath left me in a rush. I didn’t believe the rumors but I had to put a stop to this before things got out of control and they panicked.

“Giovanna,” I said catching her arm. She turned towards me once more. I could see the fear in her eyes and knew that she had heard the word too. “We have to get this under control. Help me get everyone inside so that we can close the doors.” She nodded and took my hand.

“Come please,” I said to my group. “We need to stay out of the way until we have been told we can leave. Everyone inside.” I used my best tour guide voice and tried to imbue it with as much authority as I could muster hoping that none of them would notice the slight tremor.

A woman screamed high and shrill startling the pigeons who took to the wing by the hundreds. For a moment the sky looked gray with the flutter of feathers. Frightened whispers came from behind me. “Hurry,” I said to Giovanna as we grabbed the heavy doors. It would take us both to close just one.

People panicked, running through the square, screaming in a myriad of languages. It sounded like a bird aviary had erupted in a harsh cacophony. The guard that had been bitten lay still on the ground. I swallowed and pushed the doors as hard as I could.

Movement from the corner of my eye caught my attention. She had been laying on the stones. The red soles of her designer shoes blended with the pool of blood she lay in. I couldn’t tell where the blood had come from, or if it was all hers. Her black dress was wet and shiny. Her lovely hat lay next to her trampled and ruined, just like she was. As I watched, her hand twitched, then she sat up. Her head bobbed forward, the ruin of her neck unable to support its weight.  Giovanna whimpered, biting her lip to keep from screaming. I watched, numb with shock as a woman who should not alive stood up.

“Shut the doors,” I whispered. And then yelled more urgently. “Help me shut the doors!” The Texan and his wife ran over along with a couple of the Japanese men. Together we pushed on the massive doors shutting each one with a resounding thud. Through the crack, just before they closed, I saw the woman turn and look at me. Her lips drew back in a snarl as she grabbed the medic that came to attend her. Yanking his head back by the hair she bit into his throat. The sounds of his pain-filled scream rang in my ears long after the doors shut them out.


Three days later we were still hiding in the basilica as the world outside descended into chaos. Those that had been injured had risen from mortal wounds and infected others, who in turn took that virus home to infect their loved ones. We had been lied to. The news reports, unable to deliver the truth, had told us falsehoods in the effort to forestall panic. All it did was make sure we died just like the sheep they thought us all to be.

Evidentially, the virus had been in Italy for weeks, but no one had said anything. We were all in denial, unable to fathom such atrocity we hid our heads in the sand and pretended that life was just fine, and that this too, would pass.

There was a cafeteria in the back of the cathedral for the clergy so we had some food, but it was meager and running low. An air of desperation and fear hung in space that normally saw only the awestruck voices of the reverent.

I had my cell phone and had tried to call my boyfriend Marco the first night, but there had been no answer. By mid-morning of the following day cell service went down and the power failed.

The emergency lights flickered on, harsh and red casting a morbid glow on all that they touched. As the hours passed a family from Giovanna’s group had decided that they would brave the world outside in an effort to get back to their hotel and then home. I argued, begged and pleaded for them not to go. In the end, I cracked open a side door and whispered a prayer for their safe passage. I watched as the man, his wife and their two young daughters were run down under a horde of the infected. They fell on them like a pack of wolves and ripped them limb from limb.

More and more of our group decided to leave. I let them. Who was I to stop them? They could see as well as I what was happening. If  they thought they could get home safely I wished them the best and added their names to the growing litany of my prayers. Not one of them lived, but most of them walked.

I lay on a pew looking up at the beautiful ceiling of the basilica wondering if today I would die. It was my birthday. I was 23.

“Ofelia,” Giovanna said kneeling beside me. “Mr. Watkins said he can get us out of the city. He has a boat docked not far away.” Watkins was the Texan I thought as I lay there blinking at her. He had not flown in, but chose to sail to Italy and then tour the Mediterranean. It seemed like a pretty idea. Pity they had been met with death.

We had been unable to leave due to the police presence, but now as most of them were dead or gone there was nothing to keep us here. They wanted to leave, I wished them well and continued my perusal of the ceiling.

“Ofelia,” she said again shaking me, trying to rouse me from my stupor.

“If’n you are just gonna lay down an die, I ‘spect I can’t stop you, but it seems a terrible shame. And a bit yellow if you ask me,” Mr. Watkins said, his head suddenly appearing over the edge of the pew. His big cream colored cowboy hat was hallowed in red from the lights. I swallowed and tried to rouse the urge to care. I couldn’t seem to find any.

Giovanna reached over and twisted the sensitive skin of my underarm painfully. I screamed and sat up with a stream of Italian curses. Mr. Watkins chuckled and stepped back. “I knew you had it in you girl. Now come on, I don’t plan on dying today,” I glared at Giovanna as I rubbed away the crescent marks her nails had made. She grinned at me like a loon and then leaned in to hug me tight.

“We have to survive this, I don’t think I’d look good as a zombie,” she said solemnly. For some reason that made me laugh. I swallowed a sob at the end as that laughter turned a bit hysterical, but it got me up and moving.

There were seven of us. The Watkins, me and Giovanna and three young Japanese students that had been part of Giovanna’s group. Two boys and one girl with long dark gossamer hair. She blinked at me with solemn eyes. I blinked back. We understood each other perfectly, we were terrified.

Together we packed everything that looked like it might be useful. All the food, medical supplies, anything that might be used as a weapon. I was trying to decide if I wanted to take the sacramental wine when I heard Mr. Watkins yell. I jumped and dropped the bottle. The glass shattered on the stone floor, a sea of burgundy spread as the aroma of fermented grapes filled the air.

The girl gasped and took off in a run. I stepped over the puddle of wine and ran after her. As we drew closer I realized that it didn’t sound like anyone had been hurt, instead they sounded happy. In the back of the church was a small garage. And sitting there was shuttle bus that was used to ferry supplies or tourists. I said a quick prayer and then smiled when the engine rumbled to life. We had been wondering how to get down to the pier and then to the boat without being killed or bitten. The van increased our chances significantly.

There was room for the seven of us and supplies. Now that we had transportation we could take some things we had planned to leave behind. Things like pillows and blankets. Nice things to have, but not worth weighing you down when you needed to be fast.

We decided to leave in the middle of the night. Their dead eyes couldn’t see very well. I imagined that they could detect movement, but not much else.

As night fell the groans of the dead softened. The living screamed in pain and frustration. Helicopters that flew by day, shooting those that walked were quiet now. The city was eerily dark, even the canal lights were out.

The two Japanese boys pulled the garage doors opened and then quickly climbed in the van. Mr. Watkins drove, I would tell him where to go. I was born and raised in Venice. I knew every street, every bridge and every canal and I knew I could get us to the pier even in the dark. We kept the lights off hoping to be as inconspicuous as possible.

It was late August in Venice and hot. I could barely smell the sea over the stench of the dead that filled my nostrils and turned my stomach. I saw a man run towards us. His joint gave out and his leg came off. He fell to the ground with a meaty slap and proceeded to use his hands to claw his way towards us.

Other’s groped for the van leaving behind slimy trails of putrescent skin and hair and other unnamable bits. “Fuck this shit,” Mr. Watkins said. He flicked on the lights and pressed on the gas. The van was new and happy to move. We sped through the city as fast as we dared go, plowing through crowds of infected and over bodies of the dead.

It only took us fifteen minutes to reach the docks, but they were the longest minutes of my life. Our drive through town had stirred up the zombies. They knew we were there and they wanted us. Driven by whatever made them possible they pursued us relentlessly and with a hunger that could not be described.

Skidding to a halt beside a beautiful yacht. Mr. Watkins didn’t even bother to turn the van off. “If y’all all want to live, you’d better hurry before that horde gets here.” We didn’t need to be told twice. There was no one to let the rope ladder down, so we stood on the top of the van and jumped aboard. Unsure if we would be greeted by an undead crew we paused, the sound of our breathing harsh in the night.

I heard a scream and saw a group of living running towards us. They must have heard our engines as well and ran towards the sound of escape. A women ran ahead of her group. The stragglers fell under the herd that soon feasted on their flesh. I watched her hoping she would get to us. In her arms she held a blanket. I could see a tiny fist sticking out.

“Hurry,” I screamed, though I don’t recall if I said it in English or Italian. She ran towards the van and then stopped. There was a ladder on the back of the van, she climbed up, and shoved her child at me chattering away. I glanced at Giovanna who stood next to me. She shrugged, unable to understand the woman either.

"I don’t understand,” I said as she forced the child in to my arms. She stepped back then and yanked the shirt from her shoulder. A hunk of meat and muscle was missing. The blood had tried to clot but was still oozing. With no light, save the stars, it looked like a stream of black ink trailing down her arm.

I groaned in despair and clutched the child too me. Once she was content that I had her child, she jumped down off the van and dove into the water. Breaking into a swimmer’s rhythm she headed out towards the sea. I doubted she intended to find safety. She was infected and knew she was dying. I suspected that she intended to wear herself out and then drown. Morbidly I wondered what would happen when she resurrected. Could zombies swim or would the denizens of the Mediterranean Sea find her first?

I heard a woman crying and then I realized it was me. “C’mon now, girl,” Mr. Watkins said taking my hand and leading me aboard. I followed his wife below decks and laid down in a bunk like she told me to, holding the baby close to me. The rumble of the engines soothed me and I slept.


Dawn trailed liquid gold fingers through the small window above my bed, but that is not what woke me, though I could not say what had. Just a sense of unease. The notion that something was wrong and sleep was no longer a good idea.

I sat up. Giovanna slept across from me, her arm flung out. The gentle rise and fall of her chest assured me she was among the living. I glanced down at the baby. Her skin had a bluish cast, and unlike Giovanna she was very much dead.

I shoved my fist in my mouth to stifle an animal groan of pain and injustice. Her mother had done all she could to keep her safe, and still her baby had died. I sat there for I don’t know how long crying silently into the blanket. A ray of sunshine found me and warmed me, reminding me of what needed to be done.

Quietly, I grabbed a blanket and wrapped the little girl up. Her mouth was closed, full lips and long eyelashes hinted at the beauty she would have become. Life is so cruel I thought as I covered her face.

Slowly, I made my way on deck. One of the Japanese boys was in the control room. I could see Mr. Watkins asleep on the floor behind him. I nodded to the boy. He glanced at the child in my arms and nodded back.

I walked to the railing and sat down, letting my feet hang over the edge. We had come so far that Italy was nothing but a haze on the horizon. We sailed towards America with no idea what we would find there.

I held the baby in my arms and wondered if the virus that was inside her was even now working its magic. She held death inside her tiny body, and for the sake of the rest of us, I could not hesitate.

It seemed wrong to just throw her in like a stone. So, I tied a rope around her and gently lowered her into the water. She bobbed like a cork in the wake of the yacht. As I watched a tiny fist moved, fingers so small they were translucent, unclenched just before they sank beneath the waves.


 This story is set in the universe of The Season of the Dead. A Zombie Apocalypse novel due out in Spring 2013 from Spore Press

Season of the Dead Blog

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Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Author Interview: Rob Holliday

As some of you may know I hosted a Flash Fiction contest in October. Rob Holliday won round 1 and went on to be the contest winner. I had the chance to interview Rob about his win and what he's working on.


Born in Lubbock, Texas, Rob grew up the youngest son of a successful salesman and a part time teacher, full time homemaker. His love of reading grew from an early age as the result of moving frequently and making friends slowly as well as taking long car trips in the backseat of a ’78 Ford LTD with his older brother and an inexhaustible supply of paperbacks. He wrote his first story in 3rd grade, much to the embarrassing acclaim of peers and teachers alike; he’s been a storyteller since, including a 70 page short story in 5th grade. When he’s not writing or reading, he enjoys soccer, running, buying books with reckless abandon and loving his family. He graduated from the University of Texas at Austin as an English major, bleeds orange and answers “Hook ‘Em” or “Tom Landry wouldn’t have done it that way” to most questions. He lives with his wife and five children (four in the home, one in heaven) in Central Texas.

Rob’s love of writing is influenced by the work of JRR Tolkien, CS Lewis, William Gibson and Neal Stephenson, as well as many others too numerous to list. His stories center on the indomitable human spirit. His dream mentor is Cormac McCarthy.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? 

I always wanted to either be a storyteller or an artist of sorts. I’ve loved creating stories and characters ever since I can remember. I loved playing Dungeons and Dragons growing up. Creating characters, visualizing them, drawing family crests for them, sketching out family trees and histories were a favorite part of the game. Then, finding the perfect miniature to represent them, often multiple miniatures if I could find similar enough ones (I was partial to dwarves), and painting them in excruciating detail. I loved it and admire artists who can bring a miniature or other sculpture to life with paint. I think my love of characters is why I often cried if a favorite character was killed during the game or in a story I was reading. It was like losing a dear friend.

What are you currently working on?

I’m currently working on a dystopian series of stories, centered around two brothers. They live in a future world governed by corporate plutocracies. It’s a story of human will and devotion, love and hate, and selfishness and selflessness. My biggest challenge, which I’m enjoying immensely, is the world building.
Do you have anything published? If so, where can we get our hands on it?

I recently had a short story published in my graduate school’s literary magazine, The Aviator. It’s a bit tricky to find, but I have all my stories over on my writing page on Facebook, www.facebook.com/rhollidaywrites. The story that was published was called “Machination”. It’s a story about the cost of running from the past.
Your dystopian novel, why did you write it?

Foremost, I’m a huge fan of dystopian work- Orwell, Huxley, Stephenson, Gibson. They all had different visions of the future and not many of them were bright, which I think is appropriate. I’m not a doomsayer, but I think we often view the world through rose-colored glasses and don’t see the dystopian world in which we live. For me, I wrote it for the sheer sake of exploring how the human spirit can still thrive and refuse to be overcome by oppression and scarcity. I wanted to explore how dark the world may become and how the indomitable human spirit will still shine like a light in the pitch.

Dystopia is a popular genre at the moment.  What sets your work apart from the others?

In my work, I think it’s just a couple things really. I’m a devotee to comprehensive world building, which I think is essential in dystopian fiction, from the major social structures to the cultural nuances and norms. I enjoy taking the things we know and are familiar with and turning them upside down, creating a world that’s familiar but perhaps alluring and uncomfortable at the same time. Taking expectations, leading them along a known path and then twisting the fundamentals in a radical but realistic way. At the same time, I like to balance my world description with an open vision for the reader to finish and satisfy in his or her mind. I want to guide, not dictate.

How did you choose your genre?

It’s primarily what I read and want to read, as well as watch on film or television. I’m a visual writer and reader; my mind remembers stories by impression, rather than specific lines. I’m a film and screenplay buff and enjoy a well made film almost as much as a well written book. Dystopian worlds allow me to explore and create realistic and also visionary worlds.

What inspired you to be a writer?

Looking back on it, even though I was mortified at the time since I was a bit of a shy kid, I loved seeing people’s reactions to my stories. They were fun to tell but the greatest pleasure was in seeing others enjoyment. I’ve lived in books my whole life; my biggest guilty pleasure is to read a great book late into the night and sleep late the next day. I think my writing is a way of paying that enjoyment forward for others.

Who is your favorite character in your books? Why?

Right now, it’s a couple of my anti-heroes. I have some reluctant, recalcitrant folks in my stories but they’re not without merit. They’re redeemable. They’re flawed in overt ways, but even more so under the skin. I think I like them the best because they’re most like me. I don’t believe in flawless characters; everyone has baggage, heavy baggage. We all have a story consisting of our circumstances and choices, some good, many bad. If I don’t see that or create that in a character, I find them less than human and not engaging.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging about writing?

For me, it’s the willingness just to let go and let the story run. When I don’t do that, the words feel contrived. I’m a bit of a control freak- I loathe unsolicited editorial advice and feeling like someone else wants to direct my story. I suppose we all dislike that. For me though, I can become my own worst enemy when I try to direct my own story, rather than just letting it run out. I find that my mind, when I don’t try to guide each step, creates a narrative far more interesting than I ever could have plotted in detail. I enjoy structure, but loose structure.

What advice would you give to writers just starting out?

Write what you love to read. Be inspired by the greats because they worked hard at the art like we all do, but don’t ever compare your work to anyone else. Learn the craft. Know how to employ story elements so you can meld them creatively to your own vision. Write lots, read lots. Write for your own enjoyment first. And don’t quit your day job.

Who is your favorite author and why? 

That’s a tough one. If I were to pick just one, I’d say Cormac McCarthy. I love his starkness and the beautiful cruelty he can inject into a story followed by gentle and heart wrenching hope. Following him, I’d have to say JRR Tolkien, CS Lewis, William Gibson, Neal Stephenson, Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Frank Peretti, and Tosca Lee. Mr. Tolkien and Mr. Lewis are tied at #2, the rest are tied for #3. They’re all stunningly good writers for unique reasons. I’d also have to include William Shakespeare. Random, I know and most may not care for him, but his talent remains without peer.

What books have most influenced your life?

I’d be remiss if I didn’t say the Holy Bible first. It influences every part of my being as well as illuminates the power of words in a way I don’t think any other written work has or will. But that aside, there are a couple that have deeply changed me as a person after reading them. Foremost, The Road by Cormac McCarthy resonated deeply with me, as a father and husband. It’s one of two books that have ever brought me to tears. The other was Five Years to Freedom by Nick Rowe. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia are defining works in my entire writing imaginative process. The Stand and The Dark Tower series by Stephen King are wonderful epic frameworks to follow. All of Dean Koontz’s stuff for his sheer ability to tell good story after good story while always providing a new twisting, turning compelling ride with a subtle underlying theme. The guy is simply a machine and makes it look easy, definitely a modern master. The Oath and This Present Darkness by Frank Peretti for the power of modern allegory and insight into human condition. Lastly, but equally important is Demon: A Memoir by Tosca Lee for her way with prose, her investment in research and her masterful storytelling with subjects that are immensely hard to make relatable and accessible. William Shakespeare’s works showed me that an author can deal with human ugliness in a beautiful way while not diminishing the truth at hand.

Most writer’s have a very interesting browsing history.  What are some of the strangest searches that you done in the name of research?

HA! Yep, I have some strange stuff in my browser history. Let’s see: nicknames for heroin, Irish faerie legends, omens about black dogs, spatter patterns for close-range chest shot from a 357 magnum, hot house grown pharmaceutical plants and supplies, retrovirus engineering for covert assassination use… I’m pretty sure I’m on a number of watch lists at this point.

And finally, congratulations on winning the contest! We had loads of great stories and some fierce competition. You walked away with some great prizes. Have you worked your way through any of them yet?

I'm slowly working my way into them. I already had Martin Reaves "Dark Thoughts" in my queue, but since you were the genesis for the Halloween fun, I want to read yours next- love the Greek theming.  I'm in the midst of a critical literary analysis course for my master's that's consuming most of my free time, so I'm not getting to read as much as I'd like (probably not prioritizing well AT ALL). I've peeked at a couple others, but gotta focus.

How can readers connect with you?

I’d love to hear from them- I can be contacted most easily via my Facebook page www.facebook.com/rhollidaywrites

or by email, rhollidaywrites@gmail.com.

I have a blog in the works (it’s a framework only at this point- http://rhollidaywrites.wordpress.com that I plan to do more with next year.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Author Interview: Paul Freeman


For those of you that may not know him, I’d like to introduce Paul Freeman, author of the epic fantasy novel Tribesman. Paul is from Dublin, Ireland, where he works, plays and writes. In the past he has lived in Germany and America but is now content to keep his roaming to the worlds he creates and writes about.
Q: As your bio says, you've lived a lot of places. Have you incorporated your travels into your writing?

 There haven’t been that many places, but they have been pretty far apart, and very different. So yeah, I think everything you experience in life is reflected in your writing. Living in different places and experiencing other cultures is something I’m really glad I did, I wish I’d done more. It has not only helped me in writing, but in life in general. It’s a real eye-opener to see how differently things are done everywhere, and how attitudes can be so different. 

Q: I love the blend of myth and lore in Tribesman. Can you tell us a bit about the world that you have created and the characters that inhabit that world?

 A lot of my characters are based on Celtic Myth, and history. Culainn is a warrior from the Northern Clans, a land of lush forests and snow-peaked mountains. I think he would feel quite at home in ancient Ireland or Gaul, or any northern European country. I wanted a Celtic feel to the story, I grew up on the myths of Tír na nÓg, and Fionn MacChumahill and Na Fianna, Cú Chulainn and Queen Maedbh. My world is full of druids and dark gods. But the story is set to the south, in a land very different to his own. He has been banished from his homeland, from his clan, and finds himself in a dry, dusty country. I remember reading about a band of Viking mercenaries who were employed as elite bodyguards in Constantinople, and thought, they must have felt like they were on a different planet. I tried to capture a little of that in Tribesman, with Culainn feeling like a fish out of water.
Q: Is Tribesman part of a series? And if so, what are you plans for it?

 I am currently writing a second book. I think it is something that could go on further if it is well received. Culainn has some unfinished business from the first book. After that I haven’t planned anything, but like I said if there is a call for it, and I’m enjoying it I’ll keep going. 

Q: I've talked to a lot of writers about when they knew they wanted to write. Most of them will say there was never a time when they didn't want to be a writer. What is the very first thing that you wrote? What is it about?

 The very first thing I remember writing of any worth, although I’ve lost it now, was about a soldier, a warrior. He was paraded through the streets of his city as a hero, rewarded by his king with titles and riches, all the while the cheering crowd were oblivious to his insecurities and unhappiness. In the end he fell on his sword under a cloud of loneliness.  

Q: As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?  

 I could never make up my mind. My problem was that no one told me you could work at something you loved, so I spent my time searching for the wrong things. 

Q: What inspires you to write?


Q: Who is your favorite character that you have written.  Why?

 Oh that’s so difficult to answer. I wrote a short story about an Irish pirate reminiscing on his life, and the very poor and abusive background he came from. As a boy he was press-ganged into the Royal Navy. He felt the sting of the lash on his first day on-board ship, cowered in the corner during his first battle, but eventually led a mutiny and became captain of the ship. He was certainly an interesting character. I’ll pick him, if there can be only one.  
Q: Thinking of all the books you have read, who is your favorite character and why?

 The questions don’t get any easier, I should have studied for this. The character that has stuck with me even twenty years after reading the book is Thomas Covenant, from The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, The Unbeliever. I like my heroes flawed, even tainted. Thomas Covenant is deeply flawed, both physically and mentally, he is a reluctant hero. A sufferer of leprosy, he is transported to a fantasy world he does not believe exists. Which is sort of unfortunate as he is the only one who can save it, it’s a great story examining the darker side of a hero. 

Q: Is there a particular topic or genre that you want to tackle but haven’t yet?

I’ve tried my hand at a lot of genres while writing short stories, in books I’ve written fantasy, horror, and general fiction. It’s enough to be getting on with, for the moment anyway. 

Q: I’ve read several of your short stories. You seem to have a gift for encapsulating all the elements that pull a reader in. What are some of your favorite short stories? Have you considered making any of them full length novels?

 The aging pirate I discussed earlier I think would be well worth examining in more depth. I have already expanded a couple of short flash pieces into longer short stories, though none have made it to novel or even novella length yet. It is definitely something I would like to do. I enjoy writing short stories, there is something rewarding in sitting down and finishing an entire story in one sitting. 

Q: What are you currently working on?

 I’m over halfway through the sequel to Tribesman, and am in the planning stages of the second Season of the Dead book.

Q: Tribesman is your first published work. Do you have any other works that have been published or are about to be?

Yes I have a short story in the recently published steampunk anthology from Kristell Ink. And a zombie apocalypse book I wrote with three other really talented writers will be published by Spore Press in spring 2013, it’s called Season of the Dead… you may have heard of it…
Q: Woody Allen once said that “80% of life is just showing up”. Writing is a bit like that, the more you do it, the better you become. What one piece of advice would you give a writer who has yet to put pen to paper?

Just do it for fun, and choose wisely who you listen to.

To purchase your copy of Tribesman" 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Excerpt from Erato: Book 2 of the Sophia Katsaros Series


Wolves know nothing of revenge. They know love, they know fear and anger, and they know sorrow. The great black wolf that had been born as one of three was now alone. And yes, he knew sorrow well.

For three days he traveled, losing himself to the rhythms of the wolf. This was the way his life had begun and it was easy to revert.  In wolf form the beast ruled. The man was repressed, relegated to the role of observer. The longer he stayed in wolf form the more dispassionate that man became, slowly dissolving into the recesses of the wolf’s mind until humanity was nothing but an elusive dream.

In 5,000 years this was the first time he had ever been alone. Oh, he and his brothers had separated for short periods of time, to hunt, to fight, to mate. But those times were always short-lived and tempered with the assurance that one or the other would return soon. There was no assurance this time, and for that, the wolf grieved.

He traveled north as it seemed the thing to do. Skirting the Great Lakes to the forests beyond where the stench of mankind lessened. He hunted, and slept, and ran. His world narrowed to the now, for a wolf did not ponder the future. The ache of loss began to diminish as the wild called. He heeded its siren song and joined a pack that had lost its alpha. The female needed a mate, but did not find the beta favorable and so resisted him.

When the great black wolf appeared she supplicated herself and whimpered low in her throat in submission. The grey beta challenged the black though the cinder beast was twice his size. The battle was soon over. The grey left bleeding in the snow.

For the next several days he ran with the pack and mated with the female. On the seventh day, his third with the pack, he took them out hunting. They were hungry and winter would soon be upon them. They needed to eat and store up fat to make it through the lean months when food would be scarce.

During his travels he had passed many fields full of fat cows. And that was where he led them. Three young males, his female, and her two daughters. This pack was lean, hunting had been hard for them and they were hungry. Raised in captivity they had been ‘re-wilded’. But there is a difference between not being caged and being wild. They were struggling.  He knew what it mean to be wild and he would teach them.

As the sun set and the moon’s cool fire reflected upon the blanket of snow he began their first lesson. The females fanned to his left, he would take the males. They circled the herd looking for the youngest or the weakest. The bovines huddled together for warmth, their breath misting in the chill. Content in the illusion of safety afford by fences, they slept.

Complacency. It was a man’s word, but the wolf knew it well. In the wild prey slept with one ear twitching, listening for the sound of predators on the hunt. Even the hunters never truly let their guard down. Complacency would feed the pack this night.

At twice the size of the other wolves, his ebony coat made him stand out against the blazing whiteness of the snow. If this had been a herd of deer he would never have been able to get so close. As it was, his jaws were closing around the young cow’s neck before the rest even noticed he was there.

She was white with black spots, and young. Her meat would be tender, and her blood potent. She tried to cry out, a lowing of agony. In the still of the night the herd erupted. Stampeding.

The youngest of the male wolves howled when his foot was trampled. His yelp of pain caused the females to come running. His mother was the alpha, she cared for him. But if the young male could not walk, even she would leave him behind. The young wolf knew this and struggled to stand. The black wolf saw his struggle, the inner man nodded and approved and thought that the pup would make a good alpha someday if he survived his foolishness.

With combined effort the small pack dragged the cow into the forest and fed. Crows gathered in the trees as dawn appeared. Turkey vultures circled overhead waiting for the pack to disperse. As the sky changed from pink to blue and the moon hid her face once more, the pack ran together seeking a safe place to sleep off their feast.

They awoke covered with a dusting of snow that added an ethereal incandescence to everything it touched. The black wolf’s fur was tipped with diamond while his small grey female had been painted with frost.

The youngest of the pack woke first, bounding through the snow. He watched them, letting his tongue loll out of his mouth in a wolfish grin. His female stirred and rubbed her flank against him in greeting. As the winter sun shared its meager warmth they played and romped, yipping in happiness and the success of the previous hunt. 

A wolf does not keep time. He notices the days, but does not count their passing. With each dawn he took them hunting. They found deer, fleet footed-rabbits along with an unfortunate fox who dared to encroach upon their territory.

He taught them to hunt geese, and search for warm places to sleep. He wrestled with the males and taught them to fight. The youngest with the injured paw was the most skilled. And, as the black had surmised, he would make a strong alpha. The black focused on this wolf, teaching him, training him. Showing him what it meant to be wild. What it meant to be wolf.

And then one evening when the landscape became a nighttime spectrum of greys they made their way back to the farm. The cows had been penned closer to the homestead. The great black wolf did not like this, but years of experience made him bold.

The females circled round, and the males advanced on the herd. The wind shifted, a cow snorted and bellowed, waking the rest. In their panic they trampled the new fallen snow into the mud, narrowly missing the wolves that ran among them. 

Suddenly, night was flooded with light and the boom of a gunshot rent the air. The youngest wolf cried out and fell to the ground. A grey blot on the pristine snow. The females panicked and ran towards their Alpha. He barked at them, but they didn't understand the warning through their fear. Another shot rang out and his mate joined her son in death.

He snarled low then, and snapped at the remaining females urging them to run for the trees. The two males ran with them. The black looked back towards the house and snarled.

Once more a shot echoed in the night. Pain ripped through his thigh, splattering the snow with crimson drops. He howled, stumbled and fell. Rolling to his feet he followed his pack. He glanced back once towards his mate. She had been a good mate and he would mourn her.

As he ran his leg burned. That fire awoke the man that slumbered within. “Shift,” he urged. “The pain will lessen.” He heeded the advice and ran towards a copse of trees. Where a massive black wolf had been, now stood a man. The chill of the night met the heat of his body cloaking him in mist.

A slug of metal fell from his thigh. The bleeding slowed. He shifted again, once more Wolf. But this time the beast did not rule. The man was thinking. Coupled with the strength of the wolf, it was a dangerous combination.

Taking his pack far from the farm he found them a secluded place to sleep and left them there. They would wait for him, but in time they would forget and move on. He had taught them well, and the young wolf would become their alpha. They had also learned to be leery of man. Hopefully, they would be the better for it.

He shifted once more, standing naked and shivering in the snow. A pink scar was all that remained of a wound that was barely more than a day old. He stretched and ran, the snow burning his bare feet. With a powerful stride he leapt as Man, landing as Wolf. Lifting his muzzle he scented the air, changed his course and headed back towards the farm.

His mate had been skinned, her pelt hung on the fence, a warning. He walked up to it, inhaled her scent, still evident over the reek of death, and growled. After a moment he sat back on his haunches, threw back his head, and howled. It was a howl filled with pain, but also a warning. I am here, be afraid.

He found the farmer in the barn. The old man lifted his gun and prepared to shoot. The wolf shifted, rising as man on two legs. The farmer paused. Unable to believe what he was seeing.

“You have hundreds of cattle. What would it have cost you to lose the weakest of those?” The Man asked before he wrapped his hands around the farmer’s neck. The snap of bone echoed in the barn as loud as any gunshot.

The farmer’s wife was next, and then the boy that was tending the herd. When all was quiet save the lowing of cows the Man reminded the Wolf of his brother and the woman that killed him. With a growl he shifted once more and ran back towards the city he had fled.

It took him four days to get back to the city and most of another to find the stash of clothes he had left so that he could walk into his hotel room. A naked man would draw attention. This has been true centuries ago. It was no less true in a day and age when the women often went nearly nude in their day to day lives.

He had never been to America before. The only reason being is that his Alpha never sent him there. The beta claimed America as his territory, and the Pack was content to leave it so. But the brown beta was the Alpha now. He had called them, they went.

It was always strange walking upright after so many days on four paws. He was exhausted, and hungry. The refrigerator in the expensive hotel room their Alpha gave them was stocked with food. He diminished those provisions significantly before falling asleep on the bed, face down.

37 hours later he woke, rested and once more hungry, but he would hunt this night and so left the human food alone. A cell phone lay on the table. Touching the screen he played the message.

“Physius,” said their alpha. “The hunt is off. There has been too much attention. Leave the woman to me. We have lost 5 of our brothers. Do not jeopardize us all for the sake of one.” He ended the message then, deliberately disobeying his alpha. The 4 other brothers did not concern him. If asked he would deny he received the message. The woman was his.

It had begun to snow, a subtle sifting of delicate crystals that blanketed the landscape in powder. The hospital where she worked was only one block over. He made his way there, on foot, as man.  He would hunt as Wolf.  Hiding in the park across the street he watched as the snow tipped his fur in white. He waited for hours, she never came, but the pup that she spent time with did. The wolf watched the young man. He stood in the cold hugging a young woman. She laughed and pushed her blond hair behind her ear. The wind shifted carrying their conversation to him.

“Thanks for bringing me dinner, Simone.  I really appreciate it.”

“Sure, Arthur,” she said smiling again. “ I've got to get back to work. Call me later?”

“See you later,” the pup said. The woman giggled, kissed the man on the cheek and left. The wolf that watched would have liked to hunt the man, but he chose to go after his mate. Just as his mate had been targeted.

Slinking along the shadows he followed her as she walked. The city had lots of alleys to conceal himself. A 200 pound wolf is hard to hide, and easy to see if anyone looked hard enough. No one did. The brain does not want to see such things, and so it doesn't.

She turned a corner, going around to the back of the building where a door said employees only. The light overhead had gone out, casting the alley in gloom. She knocked on the door. “C’mon guys, let me in. I’m freezing out here.”  Rummaging in her purse she searched for her keys in the dark, accidentally dropping her purse in the snow that was accumulating. Cursing softly under her breath she knelt to gather her things. The snow had softened his footsteps, but some ancient instinct made her look up. A scream died in her throat as her breath was cut off. He dragged her behind a dumpster just as the door opened.

“Hello, Simone?” A man said. “Anyone here?” he called again. The wolf watched keeping his jaws clamped securely to the woman’s throat. She was already dead, and couldn't cry out. But the beast had control of him, the blood called to him, he couldn't release his kill, and growled low around his prize.

The guard closed the door with a shrug. The wolf opened his jaws, letting the woman’s head fall to the ground with a thud. His stomach rumbled, demanding he eat, so he did.

No, a Wolf knows nothing of revenge, but a Man does. 

**This is an excerpt from the upcoming novel Erato. Book 2 of the Sophia Katsaros Series. **
***Lykaia: Book 1 of the Sophia Katsaros Series is available in e-book and paperback at all the major online retailers***

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Embers At Galdrilene" By A.D. Trosper

Get The Re-release Of "Embers At Galdrilene" By A.D. Trosper For Only $1.99 From 11/17/12 Through 11/24/12 - Don't Miss The Dragon's Call!

Embers at Galdrilene has undergone a huge transformation! It now sports a beautifully  redesigned front cover, spine and back cover. It also has an awesome custom designed interior and has been professionally edited. All thanks to the incredible team at Blue Harvest Creative. And as an added bonus, when you read the final page of Embers at Galdrilene, you'll get an exciting sneak peek for the prologue Tears of War, the second book in the Dragon’s Call series.

In celebration of its re-release, Embers at Galdrilene will be available for only $1.99! But this price only lasts from November 17th to November 24th. Embers won’t turn into a pumpkin at the end of its re-release promotion, but it will return to its regular price of $3.95. Don't miss out on this bestselling fantasy book. Wrap up the holidays with the gift of reading!

Click HERE to buy at Amazon
Click HERE to buy at Barnes & Noble

“A ray of light, a stain of shadow, shall endure to breathe life and death into the future” 

The war between the Guardians and the Shadow Riders ended in total devastation. The final battle killed all the dragons and left nothing but fields of ash. A small clutch of dragon eggs was all that remained to provide hope for the future.
Five hundred years later, the ability to use magic is a death sentence and dragons are remembered as a curse. But the unhatched dragons sing for their riders...and soon six lives will be changed forever.
The elements of magic are drawn together as the dragons’ call leads them on an epic and dangerous journey of discovery.  They soon learn everything they’ve been taught to believe about magic and dragons is wrong.
With the last of the dragons and the world at stake, they will risk everything to heed the call.
But an evil from the past soon threatens their discovery and newfound joy. Shadow Dragons ride the dawn once more...


“Evil lurks at every corner and eventually bursts, bringing forth a vivid confrontation that kept me at the edge of my seat, turning page after page.” ~ Annamaria Bazzi

“The characters are well thought out, and the plot is great. I loved Galdrilene itself, and the idea of the dragon eggs singing to those who are meant to hatch them.” ~ The Crooked Word

“I was so impressed by this excellent story! The characters and setting were vividly detailed, and the storyline was unique and enticing. I loved that the characters had strong bonds and connections to other beings, and Trosper did a magnificent job with pacing and stringing together the plot.” ~ Katie Jennings (author of the Dryad Quartet and When Empires Fall)

“There is something about dragon stories that is truly captivating and Trosper has certainly encapsulated this in her novel. This story follows the lives of young men and women as they escape a life of control and fear to find their true talents and true selves… Expect to be entertained with dragon fights, romance and witty comebacks in Trosper's creation of an idyllic world. You are even given a rare insight into the workings of a dragon's mind.” ~ Elizabeth Wright of Bestchicklit.com

“Anne McCaffrey's Legacy… I was extremely wary when this book was immediately evocative of every story Anne ever told about dragons, their 'Impression' on their destined riders, and the immutable bond between the two. Like Asimov's laws of robotics, Pern's dragon lore is indelibly etched as 'fact' in my psyche and anything markedly different does not sit very well with me at all.

I am immensely pleased to say that A.D. Trosper did not let me down. There was enough of Pernish dragon-lore to satisfy my need for continuity, whilst at the same time enough differences to make this clutch of dragons her very own. Well done Ms. Trosper!” ~ Richard King

Here is where I'm supposed to talk about myself in third person for whatever reason. But, even though there are a lot of people in my head, referring to myself in third person still sounds too strange.

Born in Kansas, I spent a lot of my childhood moving around. I lived in Kansas, Oklahoma, Washington State (around Seattle), and southern California. I had many great adventures growing up. I'm now settled down in Kansas with my wonderful husband, three children, my wonderful dog Katie, assorted cats, and small flock of chickens.

I've been an avid lover of fantasy since I was young child. Dragons, elves, fairies, dwarves, and other denizens of the fantasy world as well as magic have always fascinated me. As I grew up, I developed an interest in vampires, zombies and my interests branched out to take in paranormal and urban fantasy.

I don't have any special writing credits to my name other than a wildly active imagination and the ability to form that imagination into written stories.

Want to know more or connect with me? Follow the links, I promise there is no wicked witch of the west at the end…most of the time.


Thursday, November 8, 2012


It is no secret that I love mythology. Over the years I have read and re-read many myths, and yet I still recall the very first one. It’s about the crow. Let me share it with you….

She was princess Coronis, daughter of Phlegys, King of Lapiths. And yet she stood on the dias, speechless. He told her father that he loved her and wanted to be with her. On some level she recognized that he never mentioned marriage, but she was too shocked to give voice to it.

Had any other come to the palace and made such an offer, to have the daughter of the king as a concubine, his head would be gracing a spike along the palace walls. But this was no mere man. This was Apollo, the god of medicine and healing, music and poetry. And he desired her.

So she did as her father commanded. She submitted to Apollo. He was handsome enough and the novelty of it all glimmered like gold for many months. Eventually she became pregnant. She shared this news with Apollo who seemed genuinely happy about it.

But he was gone so often. Apollo had eternity, an so did not realize what the separation did to his new consort, a human, confined to a finite span of years.  Any peers that she had were no more. She was the consort of a god. And those she counted among friends now visited her with tongues filled with poison. They cast their darts, wicked words that stung and left her in tears. She was so lonely It was this loneliness that led her to the arms of Ischys, son of Elatus. He was kind and gentle. And she loved him. She had never loved Apollo. She had been fascinated by him, but she had never loved him.

They kept the affair quiet. But such things are hard to keep secret. Apollo had given her a pair of crows as a gift. Her name, Coronis, meant crow. She could tell no one of her love for Ischys, but she could tell her crows. She loved the birds and would often stroke their soft downy white feathers while she extolled the virtues and virility of her lover. Those confidences would be her undoing

The crows, being the pets of Apollo, took the news back to him, but he did not believe them. So, he cursed the crows for telling lies, instantly their feathers turned from downy white to deepest black.

The seed of doubt had been planted, and so the son of Zeus watched. He watched as his beloved Coronis met Ischys in a glen. He watched them lay down together. Then he could watch no more. Devastated, he poured out his anguish to his twin sister, Artemis.

Artemis, enraged on behalf of her brother, killed Coronis and threw her body on the funeral pyre. Apollo killed Ischys in the glen where he and Coronis had been meeting. Coming to stand beside Artemis at the funeral pyre Apollo took sympathy on the unborn child and saved it from the fire. He was sure it was his, but did not have the heart to raise a child by her.

He gave the child that he named Asclepius to the centaur Chiron. He instructed Chiron to teach him about medicine and healing. To the crows that he had cursed he made the bird sacred. Giving it the task of announcing important deaths in an effort to make amends for his disbelief.

In all of my reading I have yet to find a happy ending in Greek Mythology. And still the stories call to me, and hold me in thrall. The next story to capture me was the myth of King Lykaonas of Arcadia.

Lykaonas was the father of 50 sons. They were bold and proud and thought themselves better than most, and denied themselves nothing. They invited Zeus to a dinner party. Zeus came, but he had neglected his people. They were angry and they wanted a sign of his blessing. Proof of his divinity.

A human child was sacrificed and baked into the pie that was served to the god. Upon tasting it the god immediately knew what it was. He became enraged. ‘Because you have behaved like an animal, so shall you become!’  Then Zeus spoke the curse that had those gathered at the party shaking in fear. Where once the mighty king stood, now sat a great shaggy beast. Wolf. 

Because the king had been a faithful follower, Zeus granted him a small reprieve. If the king abstained from eating human meat for nine years he would be returned to his human form.

Then Zeus collected all the pies, but there was not enough left of the sacrificed boy to revive him. And so, the father of all the gods made a memorial to the boy in the heavens. A constellation that the king would see whenever he hunted at night. Forever reminding him of his foolishness for attempting to trick a god.

It is from this myth that the term Lycanthropy takes its name. And it is this myth that inspired my novel Lykaia, book one of the SophiaKatsaros series. In Lykaia, Dr. Sophia Katsaros receives a cryptic phone call from Greece. Her brothers that had been vacationing there are missing. In an effort to find them she becomes entangled in a 5000 year old mystery surrounding the ancient king of Arcadia. Along the way she is forced to accept that there are more things in the world than can be explained. Including the possibility that one or both of her brothers have become Wolf during an ancient ritual call the Lykaia.

I had a great time writing Lykaia and am now working on book 2: Erato. In this book Sophia is back, as is the Lykaonas pack. In book 2 the wolves are being hunted and based on the events of the last book, Sophia is the main suspect. The pack’s enforcers are sent to eliminate her. In an effort to protect those she loves she makes a deal with the alpha to help find the killer. 

What remains to be seen is if she can find the killer before the enforcers find her....

Monday, November 5, 2012

Bonus # 3


117 Tweets
Following: 0
Followers: 12
“Bear with me. I’m new at this!”
“I am standing outside her house. She’s inside. About an hour now. Can’t see her! Going to the back.”
“ In the back yard now. No shades! Yay! She’s watching TV. Looks like she’s wearing a t-shirt and sweats.
She still looks hot. Lol!”
Guess what I’m carrying?

Tweets: 120
Following: 0
Followers: 27
went upstairs.
I’m putting on the mask. Feels weird.
Tonight’s disguise.... Comedy!
{picture attached}
I have rope and a hammer. It’s going to get messy/
She left the back door open! Didn’t even need the key!
{picture/kitchen attached
Drinking OJ! LOL!!

Tweets: 124
Following 0
Followers: 72
She’s in the shower Can’t see her right now.
I’m already hard! Feel free to Re-Tweet!!
In her closet now. Nice shoes biatch! LOL!
{picture attached}
Next time I’ll shut down the electricity. That will be different!
{Direct Tweet} Seeker@EmmaT Hi! Guess who??
{Direct Tweet} EmmaT@Seeker Idk. Who are you?? J

Tweets: 127
Following: 0
Followers: 222
Looks like I might be going viral! LOL! My fans!
You people are funny.
Still in the closet. She’s in bed. Hot!
{picture attached}
Don’t worry guys. This is only a game Feel better? LOL
I think she’s sleeping.
Time to play.

Tweets: 139
Following: 0
Followers: 992
I took off my pants Made a little noise but she’s still sleeping. Yay!
Guess where I’m standing now ??
{picture attached}

Tweets: 135
Following: 0
Followers: 2,021
Oops. Forgot to turn off the flash! She’s still snoozing though!
Going to move the blanket
oh Man! She’s naked! T-shirt and muff! Sweeeeeet!
{picture attached}
Sigh. Hammer time. Guess she was a light sleeper. Not anymore! lol!
Moved her head. Doesn’t look so bad now.
{picture attached}
She feels awesome. And still breathing. Yum!
That was intense!! I came like a hurricane. Still Hard!!
Hey hey hey hey. It was the DNA!
Hey hey hey hey That made me this way!
LOL! NO DNA TODAY! (Galoshes)
Guess I better get going.
She Tivo’ed “Project Runway” I LOVE that show. Lol
Doesn’t she look hot in my mask. Check it out.
Took her phone. Just in case.
{direct tweet} wildman@seeker What time?!
{direct tweet} scareys@seeker You didn't use the rope. And yes you can upload video!
{direct tweet} Linalina@seeker You're a sick fuck.
{direct tweet}
{direct tweet}
{direct tweet}
Tweets: 155
Following: 0
Followers: 127,031

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Bonus # 2:

Stephanie Pazicini Karfelt

It’s hardly a castle, just a shell of one. Most of the leaves are off the trees. Bare tree trunks twist, their branches vein against the November sky. My tires bounce over bumpy courtyard stone. I park my Jeep in front, and a rear tire juts higher than the rest. It feels like I’m sliding forward into the doorless entryway.

Blowing leaves swirl, settling thickly. My first real kiss happened inside that castle. It looks the same, except a historical plaque has been mounted near the entrance. I already know the story. Back in the 50’s, an Earl, or a Count or a Squire had it shipped stone by stone from the Carpathian Mountains. He had it reassembled right here in Norman, Ohio, for his bride. The story goes that she died and he never finished it. Teens sneak in the park after hours and build campfires inside it, and graffiti their names on the walls, and fall in love.

That’s what Jon and I did.

It is a long drive home and I should probably leave. Instead I sit and stare at the castle, fiddling aimlessly with the radio. Not aimlessly. I know exactly what I want. I want to hear Bon Jovi on the radio. I want to hear our song. I want to time travel into the past and see my husband again. Most of today has been useless attempts at forcing myself into the past, but this one I want too much to give up. My finger spins the dial. A Temper Trap marathon sounds from my favorite station. Light silhouettes the trees, and I sit back and sip on a chai latte until only cold dregs remain, planning what I will say when my Time Travel Jeep cooperates and takes me where I want to go.

Static and piano music crinkles faintly from the radio, pulling me from a fantasy involving Jon and a summer night long ago. Automatically I reach for the dial. My brain catches up and I shiver, the day vanishes and I’m plunged instantly into darkness. It worked, but I don’t think this is where I want to be. I flick on the headlights. A long black car, resembling a hearse, is parked just inches from my Jeep. There is a door in the castle, and glass glints in the windows. Thick snowy evergreens tower over the stone walls, and for the first time I’m genuinely afraid of where the Jeep has taken me. This is definitely not Norman, Ohio.

“I can get back,” talking out loud makes me feel braver. I open the Jeep door and slam it shut again quickly. “Once more, and I’ll return.” I open the door, but someone grabs it, stopping me.

“Come out,” A heavily accented, Count Chocula voice murmurs, pulling the door wide. “I command you to obey me.” Inexplicably I obey. Automatically nabbing my car keys, I slide out. Instead of landing on leaves, my heels hit paving stones and slushy snow. The dome light reveals a small dark haired man wearing a horribly outdated suit and an actual cape. Eyebrows half-way to his slicked-back hairline, he’s staring wide-eyed, not blinking. It reminds me of my cat when it wants inside.

“Vladimir vants to suck your blood,” he whispers, exaggerating each word and apparently referring to himself in third person. He’s a very tiny man. Clutching his cape in a fist, he’s peering up at me over the crook of his arm. “I vant to, I vant to, okey-dokey?” A faint snort escapes me. Disapproving eyebrows almost meet his smooth hairline. Eyes widening ridiculously, he moves his head slowly back and forth in what I suspect is his idea of a hypnotic gesture. There is not a community theatre in the country that would have him. I bite the inside of my mouth, hard, determined not to laugh at him.

“Vy you not listen to Vladimir? Give me bite.”

“Um, I have some chocolate in the car if you want that,” I offer.

The little freak actually hisses at me, head and eyes still rolling, reminding me oddly of my cousin’s pet Pug. I reach inside the Jeep and tug my purse towards me, fishing inside. Vladimir starts slowly waving his hands at me, old vampire-movie Bela Lugosi style. I expect him to hiss, “Open Sesame”. I produce the chocolate bar, Norman Ohio’s claim to fame, dark with a touch of sea salt. I’d almost rather get bitten than part with it. I hold it up.

He straightens, hands falling to his sides. “Vy you no afraid of Vladimir?”

“Where I come from vampires aren’t so scary.”

“Vot?” He puts hands on narrow hips and bares his teeth at me.

“21st Century vampires are kind of buff, and good looking, or at least sparkly. Would you please stop doing that?” Grimacing, he opens and closes his mouth a few more times. There are definitely creepy fangs in there. I hold the chocolate bar towards him. He sighs dramatically and nabs it from me.

“Vot is buff?” He unwraps the bar.

“Fit, muscular.”

Sucking in his stomach, he looks affronted. “Vladimir buff!” He takes a big bite of the chocolate and glares at me. The paunch slowly expands as he chews. He takes his time eating the chocolate, bug-eyes traveling rudely from the top of my head to the tip of my booted foot.

“Who you?” It comes out sounding like ‘voo-yoo’.

For some reason I admit my first name. “Lizzy.” A gust of icy wind blows over him. His cape swirls, but his hair remains slick against his head. The wind blows my hair back, cutting through my sweater. It rocks the Jeep and the driver door slams shut, almost taking my fingertips as I reach desperately for it, a shout of protest dies in my throat. The dome light vanishes and I know the Jeep will return to my time without me.

Then I’m back inside it. Once more it is daylight and I’m staring at the shell of the stone castle again, my icy fingers clutching my car keys. Once my heart stops thundering inside my chest, I brave opening the door and slide out. My feet slip on damp leaves littering the paving stones. I trot to the empty archway of the castle and read the plaque.

Convoy Castle was transported from the Carpathian Mountains in 1950, by Squire Vladimir Convoy. Convoy’s intended bride, the Lady Lizzy Buff never arrived, and the castle was never completed. Vladimir founded the Norman Chocolate Company, in honor of his lost love.

Racing back to the Jeep, I twist my ankle but keep running anyway. Climbing inside, it takes me three tries to shove the key into the ignition, and I’m afraid to look around. By the time I reach the state line, I’ve received two speeding tickets. No small feat driving a Jeep. I don’t believe in vampires, but I do believe in creepy stalkers. That is what I tell myself, but just to be safe, I’m never going back to my hometown.