Thursday, June 26, 2014

New Video Friday: The Underworld TV Interview with Gary Jones

Another interview conducted at Horror Hotel in Hudson, OH. For this, I interviewed Gary Jones of the film, "Axe Giant: The Wrath of Paul Bunyan." He talks of the making of the film as well as a couple behind the scenes stories. The film's score was also done by the amazing Midnight Syndicate.
Enjoy! And if you like this video, Like it, Subscribe, and Share with friends!

Also, check out more on the move at http://www.axegiantmovie.com/

And check out Midnight Syndicate at http://midnightsyndicate.com





If you would like to join our community and receive content exclusive to email, join our little tribe and Subscribe to my Messages from the Labyrinth Mailing List.. We promise to never share your info or spam you. Ever.

You can also subscribe to my YouTube Channel for new vlogging updates.


******

My stories, "The Cemetery by the Lake" and "Dusk to Dawn" are available at Smashwords and Barnes & Noble NOOK. More retailers will follow, but Smashwords is pretty compatible with most e-reader and PC formats.
and Amazon
"The Cemetery by the Lake" at Smashwords and Barnes & Noble NOOK
"Dusk to Dawn" at Smashwords
Tiffany on Goodreads
My music is also available at CDBaby
Support great authors and independent bookstores at Smashwords and Indiebound

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

"Shameless Self-Promotion: When is it too Much?" or "Remember the Good Old Days of MySpace?"

Hey all,

Getting down to the end of the final edit of Descent and I'll also be posting the new blogging schedule soon.

Also, if you haven't yet, check out my interview with Gothic Divine Magazine. 

I'll be getting back to my Night Terrors and Bygone Eras series, but I did want to address something that I have noticed a great deal of over the years of doing what it is that I do. I may even cover more in a future vlog.

I wanted to write about something that has been burning at my brain ever since I got set up on MySpace a few years ago (back when it was the thing to be on...yes, remember MySpace, everyone?). I'm sure everyone who has been on the social networking scene has been introduced at some point to the notorious 'friend collector.' The friend collector comes in many shapes and sizes. Some are your everyday average joes who like to play the popularity game for reasons only they know. They don't really do anything extraordinary that needs to be promoted, they just like to rack up their friend count as much as they possibly can. It's as though they attain some sort of self validation if they can get their friend count of complete strangers over a certain amount (in this, I can kind of understand Facebook's annoying friend limit policy). They get a certain "OMG! They added me! They really like me! Look at how many friends I have!" type of high.  They can then go about their day reassured of their cyber/virtual popularity. They don't even necessarily plan to interact much (if at all) with those newfound "friends," but their self esteem has been raised a few notches and thus they can get through their day (who needs coffee, right?).

Then there is the aspiring musician/band, filmmaker, etc trying to promote their work. Now before people start to get all worked up (I can hear you all say, "but aren't you supposed to promote yourself and your work"), I will say that yes self promotion is an essential tool of being in the entertainment field. In fact, SHAMELESS self promotion is an absolute necessity. If you don't promote yourself, no one else will. But, there is a certain finesse required to going about it. There are certain rules and boundaries that MUST be respected, otherwise your entire campaign will likely fall apart and you'll end up doing yourself more harm than good. 

I know when I had my MySpace page (pre-Facebook era), I would CONSTANTLY get bombarded with friends requests from other bands. Some would even include messages saying, "You like Depeche Mode!  You HAVE to add us!" (uh, no...I don't have to do anything). I would get messages and comments that included links to listen to and sometimes buy their music if they had a release (which most of them did not) and telling me how I MUST come out to a show, etc and so on. Meanwhile, I was also putting out my own music and filmwork.
Now, don't get me wrong. Anyone who visits my blog should be able to tell that I have zero problem with supporting other bands, aspiring filmmakers, authors, etc. In fact, I'll gladly allow others to promote their projects on my pages (within reason). It's a big part of why I blog and have my YouTube channel in the first place. But what annoys the hell out of me (and many others both in and out of the industry I've talked to about the subject) is the self-entitlement and lack of boundaries often displayed. Like the hapless non-artist friend collector, they get a certain sense of fulfillment in the fact that they have a new "fan."  They have been validated once more that their "fanbase" has grown.  They don't plan to network or interact with you at all except to flood your inbox and comments section with the same promotion spam over and over again.  It was due to this that I quit accepting friend requests from bands for a while during my time on MySpace.  While I felt bad about doing that as a musician myself, it was getting to be too much sorting through the spam to get to the messages from radio stations, reviewers, filmmakers, and other legitimate messages that I actually NEEDED to read and reply to. In fact, there were a couple times when an important message that was sent to me ended up getting lost in the shuffle of spam and I would have the sender messaging me again wondering why they hadn't heard from me. Not good. All because said band/s just had to send out the same message about their gig at a  bar about 10 times or more in one hour (no, I am not exaggerating). 

Ok, I get it; you want people to come to your show. I can totally understand and empathize with that. But really, 10+ times in one hour? All you did was turn me off to even wanting to check out your work while also leaving me irritated over wasting precious time shuffling through your spam to get to the messages I actually NEED to read. What is more, I am certain that if you did it me you've done this to others. Thus, many probably ended up doing exactly what I ended up doing (even though I felt a little bad about it): blocking bands and musicians from sending friends requests for a long while. So there, you may have not only cost yourself some new fans, but also gave myself and other bands/musicians/filmmakers/writers/etc who do our best to NOT spam a bad name, therefore costing us those who may have otherwise been into our music.

Another thing I found irritating was that when I would get these messages practically demanding that I 'check them out' and 'become a fan' was the fact that there was no mention or questioning of my own work. No mutual discussion of cross-promotion or anything. Demanding that I pay attention to them while they demonstrate no interest in interacting with me or developing some from of relationship can really make a person feel used. Like we're simply there as a pawn in a sophomoric popularity game. This may not be your intention, but that is how it comes across.

So how does one do the whole shameless self promotion thing without annoying the hell out of others and turning them off as a result?  Well, like I said there is a certain 'finesse' to it and while no one is perfect, abiding by these principles will save you from being an nuisance to others (and I'm sure you don't want to be viewed as a nuisance).

Here are some key principles I've found worked for me and other friends of mine in the entertainment field:

1.)  TAKE THE TIME TO LEARN OF THOSE WHO ARE LIKELY TO ENJOY WHAT IT IS YOU DO.
I know, I can hear it now, "but my music/film/writing style appeals to everyone!"
No it doesn't.
No one's style appeals to "everyone." There is always going to be someone who doesn't like or get what you do. The nice thing about many media promotion sites is that many offer statistics so that you may see who is into what you do from general age range to the area in which they live.
Also, I'm sure you have influences. Take a look at those artists who have influenced you and the habits of those who enjoy their work. When you then get a general idea, instead of blindly sending out friends requests, how about taking the time and effort to start getting to know them more personally. A metal band would get alot further interacting with, say, King Diamond or Dream Theater fans as opposed to sending blind requests to someone who would typically listen to Lady Gaga or Taylor Swift, and vice versa. And if you tried going into a Clive Barker forum trying to push your Regency Romance novel, you might get more than a few raised eyebrows (I know these examples sound far fetched, but you'd be surprised at some of the faux pas committed simply out of someone not paying attention).
I would suggest joining a fan forum for that respected artist, and instead of just instantly barging in with announcements about your project, make an effort to make friends in there. Get to know everyone, start conversations, join conversations, etc while mentioning very little (if anything) about what you do. Once the other members have accepted you as a legitimate member of the forum, THEN maybe find ways to subtly begin to work your band into the conversations (and the key word is SUBTLE).  Eventually, people would have already accepted you as a member of the forum and will actually WANT to check out what it is you do. See how that works?
Yes, it will take more time, but in the long run will pay (and is a much better approach than just blindly barging in and screaming out advertisements about yourself). Now, will you be surprised at times? Absolutely. On Jango Airplay, I've had my music popular with Lady Gaga and Rihanna fans even though my genre is different from theirs. I also one time had a young girl who was a huge Justin Bieber fan join my Artist Page on Facebook. So yes, sometimes you will be surprised at who finds you and enjoys what you do, but that also doesn't mean blindly send out mass requests to anyone with a social networking profile. One very important thing to remember: Building listener/viewer/readership takes time. Time and alot of patience.

2.)  BE THEIR FRIEND.
A couple years ago, I read an interview with filmmakers JimmyO and April Burril, creators of the popular "Chainsaw Sally" film and webseries (check them out if you enjoy B movies and gore). While the entire interview was a good one, what still stands out for me to this day was JimmyO mentioning how he and April make it a point for their fans to be their friends. Ever since, that is a principle I do make it a point to practice.
For some reason, fans within the indie field crave a real connection with their favorite band, actor, filmmaker, author, etc. Perhaps it is because indie artists seem more attainable than the Hollywood superstar. Whatever the reason may be, indie fans almost expect their favorite indie celeb to make themselves available and interact with them. Despite that though, there are those in the field who still keep their fans at an arm's length.  I suppose such an action is fine if you're George Clooney, but I think one reason indie fans are drawn to the independent world is because it IS a chance for them to feel as though they matter to the artist. They're not just a number like they would be amongst a Hollywood celebrity. But some independent artists (usually those brand new to the scene) still try and maintain a 'rockstar mystique.' Well...that won't get you very far. No one is going to believe that you're Ron Howard or Brad Pitt, so stop acting as though you are. Take the time to talk to your followers online and answer their emails, comments, etc. As the numbers of your followers increase, will you be able to answer everyone right away? Of course not. That would be unrealistic. But setting aside a block of time each week to interact will go a long way in the end.
As long as you make that effort, people will notice and appreciate it, even if you cannot answer them within 24 hours. People will generally be more willing to support someone who treats them like a human being.
"But that's alot of work," I hear you say. My reply is ummm...yeah... Be prepared to do ALOT of work. Be prepared for the longhaul.  If you don't want to do the work, you're probably in this for the wrong reasons.

3.)  CHOOSE YOUR ADVERTISEMENTS WISELY.
Remember the band that sent out 10+ spammails of the same message in one hour?  Well, in case you can't tell yet, that is an example of what NOT to do. Building an entertainment career is alot of trial and error and eventually, you do start getting into a groove for what works and what doesn't. A great way to do this is looking from the perspective of a consumer. How do you like spams cramming your inbox and social media homepage? Do you really want to hear about a gig 20 times or more a day (especially when you live nowhere near the area of said gig)? Do you like being ordered to "add someone" because "you just HAVE to"?  Do you like screaming spam flooding your favorite fan forum? Me neither.
Instead, learn about press releases whenever you have a new release, etc. Post links to those press releases on your site and/or blog and send out no more than THREE bulletins in an entire day on social media (although ONE usually suffices beautifully). Send out a monthly mailing list (made up of people who actually ADDED THEMSELVES) and post links on your site and social networks as opposed to sending out 10 of the same spammail in one hour. Sometimes less is more. Remember the "do unto others" saying? That should also apply in artist to fan relationships.

Bottom line is, no one likes a spammer. No one likes to be ordered around. No one likes to be told that they "HAVE to add someone." Even the most shameless self-promotion requires a certain amount of finesse and building listener/viewer/readership takes time and patience. No one is going to flock to someone who appears desperate and a nuisance. They will, however, be more likely to someone who is willing to treat them like a human being and with appreciation instead of just another number on their social network. Besides, which would you prefer? 5,000 people who could care less about what you do and probably only added you out of pity or because they got sick of you hounding them and wanted to shut you up, or a few hundred honest to goodness followers who care about what you, enjoy it, and are willing to share what you do with those they know?
Personally, I go for the latter and an honest assessment of how my work is received. And as for those pay for views/reviews/hits/followers/etc? Well, that is a whole 'nother rant...



If you would like to join our community and receive content exclusive to email, join our little tribe and Subscribe to my Messages from the Labyrinth Mailing List.. We promise to never share your info or spam you. Ever.

You can also subscribe to my YouTube Channel for new vlogging updates.


******

My stories, "The Cemetery by the Lake" and "Dusk to Dawn" are available at Smashwords and Barnes & Noble NOOK. More retailers will follow, but Smashwords is pretty compatible with most e-reader and PC formats.
and Amazon
"The Cemetery by the Lake" at Smashwords and Barnes & Noble NOOK
"Dusk to Dawn" at Smashwords
Tiffany on Goodreads
My music is also available at CDBaby
Support great authors and independent bookstores at Smashwords and Indiebound

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

New Interview!

The lovely folks at Gothic Divine Magazine conducted an interview with me. Go check it out and show their page love. :)

http://gothicdivinemagazine.blogspot.it/2014/06/an-interview-totiffany-apan.html




If you would like to join our community and receive content exclusive to email, join our little tribe and Subscribe to my Messages from the Labyrinth Mailing List.. We promise to never share your info or spam you. Ever.

You can also subscribe to my YouTube Channel for new vlogging updates.


******

My stories, "The Cemetery by the Lake" and "Dusk to Dawn" are available at Smashwords and Barnes & Noble NOOK. More retailers will follow, but Smashwords is pretty compatible with most e-reader and PC formats.
and Amazon
"The Cemetery by the Lake" at Smashwords and Barnes & Noble NOOK
"Dusk to Dawn" at Smashwords
Tiffany on Goodreads
My music is also available at CDBaby
Support great authors and independent bookstores at Smashwords and Indiebound

Monday, June 23, 2014

Blog Tour: Peter Welmerink's TRANSPORT



                                                                Peter Welmerink 
                                                         Featured Book Release:
                                                                  Transport
                                                      June 23 to June 29 , 2014



About the author:

Peter Welmerink was born and raised on the west side of pre-apocalyptic Grand Rapids, Michigan. He writes Fantasy, Military SciFi, and other wanderings into action-adventure. His work has been published in ye olde wood pulp print and electronic-online publications. He is the co-author of the Viking berserker novel, BEDLAM UNLEASHED, written with Steven Shrewsbury. TRANSPORT is his first solo novel venture. He is married with a small barbarian tribe of three boys. Find out more about his works and upcoming projects at: www.peterwelmerink.com



The HURON, a 72-ton heavy transport vehicle and an army of four; tracked, racked and ready to roll, to serve and protect the walled metropolis of Grand Rapids—both her living and her undead. Captain Jacob Billet and his crew patrol the byways, ready for trouble.
William Lettner, the North Shore Coalition High Commissioner, has enemies from the mainland to the lakeshore and needs to be covertly transported home after his helicopter is shot down en route to Grand Rapids. He has no love for a city that give unliving civilians the right to survive. Lettner’s venomous outbursts assaults Billet and his crew along every mile traveled as they are assigned to safely bring him through the treacherous landscape outside the city back to his hometown.

The HURON and her crew will have to face domesticated zombies and the feral undead; marauders holding strategic chokepoints hostage; barricaded villages fighting for survival, and a group of geneticists who've lost control of one of their monstrous experiments if they want to complete their mission.
The crew will need to stay strong and trust one another in order to finish the mission and bring their “precious” cargo home, even knowing, all the while, the terrible deeds Lettner has done.
Traveling through West Michigan was never so dangerous.

Author Links:

Website: http://www.peterwelmerink.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/author.peterwelmerink

Twitter: @pwelmerink


Tour Schedule and Activities

6/23 The Rage Circus Vs. The Soulless Void- Review

6/23 The Tiffany Apan Blog- Interview

6/23 Beauty in Ruins-Guest Post

6/24 Come Selahway With Me- Character Post

6/25 Deal Sharing Aunt- Excerpt

6/25 Sheila Deeth Post- on Art of Transport

6/27 Bookishly Me- Review

6/27 fuonlyknew ~ Laura's ramblins and reviews -Top Ten’s List

6/28 Bee's Knees Reviews- Review

6/28 Alexx Momcat's Gateway Book Blog- Top Ten’s Llist

6/29  L. Andrew Cooper's Horrific Scribblings- Review

Tour Page URL: http://www.tomorrowcomesmedia.com/peter-welmerink-transport-tour/

Tour Badge URL: http://www.tomorrowcomesmedia.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/Transport_Welmerink_TourBadge.jpg

Amazon Links for Transport

Print Version
http://www.amazon.com/Transport-Peter-Welmerink/dp/1941706037

Kindle Version
http://www.amazon.com/Transport-Peter-Welmerink-ebook/dp/B00K6KCDK4


INTERVIEW



TA: First, introduce yourself to our lovely readers.

PW: Hello all. My name is Peter Welmerink. I write for fun, and, on occasion, am lucky enough to find some of my material accepted and printed for the masses. I grew up in Grand Rapids, Michigan, pre-apocalypse, with mainly the Cold War and worry that the U.S. and Russia were going to nuke the hell out of each other, and I’d be living in a fallout shelter or a pile of ashes.
My childhood was filled perhaps 2% with that dread, glum thought; the rest, typical middle class child happiness, living in the “big city” with the wooded and river-cut boondocks a few miles away. That latter area equated to wanderings and adventure, both real and imagined. From a reading and/or interest standpoint, I grew up with Science Fiction and Fantasy both on television, big screen and book form, with occasional Horror/Thriller type stuff sprinkled in.
Military-wise, with the Vietnam War, Korean War and World War II still fresh in everyone’s memory (heck, it had been only 20 years between the end of WWII and when I was hatched), all that good heavy metal and bullet brutality, heroes and Zeroes, swirled in my mind. I enjoyed building military models, and then putting them outside, taking pictures of them rolling through a dense jungle (tall grass and weeds) and what adventures the accompanying little plastic army men would have.

When I am not writing, I am hanging with my family, or playing Minecraft, Skyrim, Call of Duty, WarThunder, and listening to rock-n-roll, until the crazies grab me again and I need to sit back down at the keyboard.

TA: Do you have a specific writing "ritual" or process?

PW: I do have a “ritual” of sorts when it comes to the writing process. I get up early in the morning during the work week, and about the same time on weekends, which is 530ish. I sit down at the keyboard with a steaming cup of coffee, and try to keep my butt down in that seat. Also if there is a little time at night, after the kids go to bed and the wife is watching one of her police shows, then I try to bang out some words. (No pun intended.)

I will admit, I am my own worst enemy when it comes to sitting down, and staying down, and keeping my fingers tapping the keyboard. It’s like my muse wants out but the rest of me is looking for an excuse to stifle the word-bleed. It is usually the worst after I haven’t written in a few days, and have a whole bunch of exciting ideas to get down on paper, in the story. The best thing to do, I find, is to JUST DO IT. The more you stay put and GET THOSE WORDS DOWN, on a consistent basis, the more apt (at least I am) to stay and maintain the course...which is a great feeling.

TA: What are your influences for your stories?

PW: When I am writing Fantasy, my biggest influences come from those days of yore when I was deep into reading authors like Robert E. Howard, Fritz Leiber, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Michael Moorcock. Current Fantasy author inspirons are folks like Steven Shrewsbury, C.L. Werner, Nathan Long, and RA Salvatore.

The Military action-adventure yarns: lots of influences. Growing up post-WWII, Korean and Vietnam Wars, fearing US-Russian nuclear annihilation during the Cold War years, too many military actions movies and books, a fascination with big ass military vehicles and weaponry, and friends and family who have shared military experiences with me. I am currently reading a lot David Drake and Warhammer 40K stories. They are more Military Sci-Fi, but still, things usually go big and go boom. Why Zombie or Post-Apoc tales? I honestly haven’t read a ton of tales like these. I do like the whole WHAT IF element they present, probably more than anything. And I suppose with REVOLUTION and THE WALKING DEAD series permeating the television cable waves, those might leak into the cracks in my skull and influence things a bit.

TA: Tell us a little about your newest work, TRANSPORT.

PW: TRANSPORT is a Military action-adventure series...with a dash of the dead to add some additional bite. (Sorry. I can’t help myself sometimes.)

It’s been called a “militarized” form of THE WALKING DEAD, however, characters and location are different, the unliving are different, the living populace are different. It is a post-post-zombie, post-world collapse apocalypse. The Human Race is now used to playing with the hand it’s been dealt. Don’t have to like it, still have to deal with it.TRANSPORT is mainly centered round a fictional character, Captain Jake Billet, his crew and their massive armored HTV (Heavy Transport Vehicle), the HURON, in the year 2025. It's a 3-part series, or story, about a combat soldier and the chaotic world he must work, endure and survive.
It’s been roughly 10 years since a viral pandemic afflicted the world of the living, and caused a rise in the shambling undead. The larger cities are huge fortified bastions of living humanity, while the outskirts, boonies, small towns and villages, woodlands...not so much.

The Military gets the shit job of having to not only protect the big cities, but, as an example, in Grand Rapids, they also get the responsibility of making runs in, around and outside the walled metropolis, doing the odd (shit) jobs and missions no one else can do. Well, no one else can do because they don’t have the vehicles or the fire power. Captain Billet is a fairly cheery guy because of this. NOT. Luckily he has a slightly quirky crew and other “interesting” events and individuals to grind his emotional buttons.

I have seen and read related (and not necessarily Military-centered) zombie apocalypse stories which take place down South, the East Coast, the West Coast, but nothing much in the Midwest.

The TRANSPORT storyline takes place in the Midwest, in Michigan to be exact, in and around the large city of Grand Rapids to be pinpoint precise. If you want to feel trapped during the big ZA what better place to be (sarcasm) than a landmass surrounded west, east and north by the Great Lakes and other waterways, with a big 170-mile "open door" at the southern end. Come to Michigan in 2025: Meat in the Mitten State.

According to ESTATELY, an online real estate search site, Michigan ranks the 27th worst state to be in when the undead come to town.

http://blog.estately.com/2014/03/u-s-states-ranked-from-most-to-least-prepared-for-the-zombie-apocalypse/

But I digress.

I can say that I have poured (purposely) everything, but the kitchen sink, into the TRANSPORT storyline with the hope it will stand out from the rest of the Z-Craze. Though military men, women and their vehicles take center stage in 2025 Grand Rapids, there is a plethora of other people, creatures and situations the main cast must roll through. Radio-controlled planes. A giant genetically-altered farm animal. Floods. 6-foot-4 battle-hardened nuns. Crates of drugged meat. A neighborhood of drugged zombies. Train wrecks. Exploding propane tanks. Exploding porta-johns. An Undead assassin. An undead 1950’s zombie gas station attendant... who “talks.” Living people FOR the big city. Living people AGAINST the big city. A beach house with rotgut bourbon. An Abrams tank vs. a pistol-toting woman... and the woman wins. A good city mayor. A bad city treasurer. Mercenaries from Chicago. Zombie soldiers fresh from a test facility.To name but a few things in the series.

And Captain Billet and the HURON are plunked down in the midst of it.

TA: What challenges do you face as a writer?

PW: Time. Between family, work and breathing, which I need all three to survive (and bourbon), finding enough time to get ALL my stories ideas down on paper... Just not enough time.

Well, okay, there is time, but one has to make it. As I said earlier, I can be a great procrastinator when it comes to sitting down and getting the job done. Still, there seems like new stories crop up all the time. Some are worth pursuing, especially if they are in line with published or publishable projects I am working on. Others, take some notes and file them away for perhaps some other time.

If I am not writing for publication pursuits, I am writing for fun, for myself, just to hear the story and get the words out. There is often not time to do both, or perhaps I need to employ some strict time management. Work on publishable projects: Monday, Wednesday, Friday. For shits and giggles projects: Tuesday and Thursday. Weekends can be free time, to write or not to write. Dabble at my leisure.
Biggest challenge. Yes. Time.

TA: What's coming up and where can we find you?

PW: TRANSPORT Book One is already available. You can get it through any online book seller, and can also walk into your nearest bookstore and order it right through them.

TRANSPORT Book Two is in my editor's hands, being red-penned, hacked and slashed, looked at to see how that chunk of coal can be squeezed into a diamond. I did go through it several times to make it POP more, so, we’ll see. Book Two entitled TRANSPORT: HUNT FOR THE FALLEN (with more cool artwork by Jason Conley and Tim Holtrop) should be available Fall 2014.

TRANSPORT Book Three, or TRANSPORT: UNCIVIL WAR, is still being worked on. Halfway there, and it is going to be the whopper of all three books as I tie up Captain Billet’s main storyline and all the little strands around him. I am expecting it will be out sometime early 2015.

I am working with Seventh Star Press and author Steven L Shrewsbury in resurrecting Steven and my BEDLAM UNLEASHED novel. A rip-roaring Dark Fantasy epic featuring the brain-
addled behemoth Erik Bedlam, a Viking berserker, and his traveling companion, Alanis Johansson. The book starts at the real deal Battle of Clontarf, and weaves then through Scotland and England, where our two stalwart companions run into everything from dwarven vampires to the truth on how the Lochness monster came to be, and thensome.

I also have a Fantasy series I will be pitching to Seventh Star Press regarding an executioner-
turned-tormented-unwilling-adventurer, Braccus Straun, and his sentient whip, Clawgibber. After running afoul of a dark sorcerer, Brac is poisoned and has 48 hours to acquire a number of ensorcelled items. If he succeeds gathering all the items, his wife and child will live. If he fails, falls short, or is killed in the process, he dooms his family also. Each hour or two of Braccus’s time spent is a new adventure in a different strange and dangerous place.

I do have some 99 cent e-short stories at Amazon.com: a dark future, Military thriller featuring a young sniper and a gigantic bear; a 1950’s Military Cthulhu tale; a Sword & Sorcery tale featuring a blind Viking mercenary, and another Fantasy piece telling the tale of a warrior who is being nudged towards his final sunset.

For updates on any and all of this, one can visit my website at: www.peterwelmerink.com.

TRANSPORT and other military-related ramblings can be found at: www.grandrapidsaltered.blogspot.com

All items Fantasy related, including other author interviews (me interviewing them) can be found at: www.darkheroicfantasy.blogspot.com
Is that enough? Okay, I’ll shut up now.

Thanks for having me at your blog, Tiffany.

TA: Not a problem. :)



If you would like to join our community and receive content exclusive to email, join our little tribe and Subscribe to my Messages from the Labyrinth Mailing List.. We promise to never share your info or spam you. Ever.

You can also subscribe to my YouTube Channel for new vlogging updates.


******

My stories, "The Cemetery by the Lake" and "Dusk to Dawn" are available at Smashwords and Barnes & Noble NOOK. More retailers will follow, but Smashwords is pretty compatible with most e-reader and PC formats.
and Amazon
"The Cemetery by the Lake" at Smashwords and Barnes & Noble NOOK
"Dusk to Dawn" at Smashwords
Tiffany on Goodreads
My music is also available at CDBaby
Support great authors and independent bookstores at Smashwords and Indiebound


Saturday, June 21, 2014

For the Summer Solstice/First Day of Summer: Part 1 of Descent

Hey all,

ALMOST finished with the final edit of Descent (The Birthrite Series, #1) and decided to share Part 1 as a preview for those who have not previewed it yet. And for those who read an earlier draft, its been edited heavily since then.
Oh yeah, and this part in the book also takes place on the Summer Solstice of 1844. :)
Enjoy and feel free to share!



BOOK ONE, DESCENT

PART 1: 
HECTOR’S CAVE
June 20, 1844
Tuxpan, Mexico

1

The serenity of early evening surrounded Hector as he walked along the shore. He reveled in the ocean’s tide swallowing his bare feet as he headed toward the secluded area pocketed at the other end of the beach. It was a place only he knew of. A place never visited by anyone. Except him and Samuel.
Even at sixteen, Hector thrilled at the idea of a secret retreat that was all his own. Most young men his age were long passed such things, but Hector was not like his peers and finding common ground with someone was rare for him.
He still questioned whether he had found the place or if it had found him. The discovery was made four years ago, just after sunrise on the morning after his twelfth birthday while he walked the coastline. Amidst the exquisite surroundings of sand, water, and endless sky, a large rock cluster Hector never recalled seeing before peeked out from a far corner. 
Strange, he had thought, watching the morning tides slap at the formation’s boulders. And here I walk these shores everyday.
Unable to move his gaze, he felt a pull toward the area.
As he observed the mysterious cluster, a sudden low vibration from somewhere deep within the earth trembled beneath his feet. Panic had risen on the initial assumption of an earthquake but as he listened, the rumbling seemed to be a call reaching out to him from beyond the rocks.
Perhaps it was Hector’s fascination with the unknown that piqued his curiosity, or maybe it was the impression that whatever lay beyond the rock formation was indeed calling out to him. Either way, it was enough cause to give in to whatever power beckoned.
He was cautious in his approach, especially when climbing up and over the boulders. Upon reaching the other side, he found himself staring into the mouth of an underground cavern.
His heart palpitated with excitement as he made his way down to the bottom toward the cave's opening. He delighted in the view of the sun’s rays trickling in through the crevices, and ended up spending that entire morning exploring while losing track of time in the process. Five house later, Hector ran home, only to find out his parents had gone searching for him after he failed to show up for breakfast.
Miguel and Inez de Fuentes reprimanded their son for missing not only breakfast with the family, but also the school lessons with his four siblings and their governess. They confined the boy to the house for the remainder of that week.
During that time, Hector dreamt about the cave. In the dreams, he traveled deep into the tunnels and entered worlds that were not his own. He saw people who were unfamiliar to him, but with whom he also felt a kinship; one of those individuals was an American boy his age. At the time, the reasons behind the dreams were lost on him, yet his need to return to the cave had strengthen and he hoped it would still be there after his punishment was over.
At that end of the week, he hurried back, hoping his experience wasn’t something imagined, or an instance in which the cave would appear to him only once. Part of him felt silly for thinking such things, and the coastlines of Mexico had more than their share of glorious caverns, but nothing like this.
Now, four years later, the cave remained a place for Hector to come and be alone to think, read, and watch the ships in the distance sailing toward ports in Mexico and America. It belonged to him; a place only he (and Samuel) knew of. He had come to know and appreciate what it truly was, and through that understanding, a deep bond between Hector and his cave had formed, one he never experienced before with anyone.
Another trait of Hector's was his ability to see and hear things no one else could. This was a talent he kept to himself, despite Mexico's rich spiritual culture. He wasn’t ashamed of being a loner, and treasured his time alone inside the cave (despite having friends his age and getting on well with his siblings). He often joked to himself of wanting to be interred within the formation following his death (whenever that would be). But as he thought on it, he came to realize that was exactly what he wanted.
On this eve in 1844 before Summer’s Solstice, Hector arrived at the rock formation that housed his cavern. Evening tides crashed against the the boulders as he made his way up and over. As usual, the cave’s mouth was open and awaiting him.
Hector smiled, as if greeting an old friend. He then turned to sit on one of the boulders and focused his gaze to the ocean. All of eternity was at his feet and in the distance, a ship sailed out from a port before disappearing into the infinite horizon.
Hector shut his eyes, taking in the sounds of churning waves as he welcomed the salty sea air on his face. He could hear them. The voices. Those from his dreams (including Samuel).
As he allowed their essences to penetrate his being, two boys materialized in front of him. One was about ten or eleven years of age, while the other appeared between eighteen and twenty. They were brothers from a slave village in Romania, and that was all Hector knew. He could see them, running toward a thick, dark forest…

2

…as a waxing crescent moon provided just enough light in a black, starless sky. It was just after midnight in Transylvania near the Romanian-Hungarian border, and Nicolae Ganoush and his younger brother, Sebastian, were on borrowed time.
The older boy knew a manhunt would ensue, and officials in neighboring countries would be alerted to be on the lookout for “two gypsy slaves” on the run. Anton Alexanderscu would not cease his pursuit until he had the young man’s neck stretched in a hangman’s noose. At nineteen, Nicolae was wanted. For murder and treason.
The boys felt their way through the brush, keeping their steps at an even pace despite Sebastian’s protests, all of which were met with Nicolae ordering him to shut his mouth. As they ventured into the dark forest, the little boy held back tears and did his best at keeping up with his older brother. He hadn’t seen much of Nicolae that evening, and the boy had been long asleep when his brother had barged into the hut and yanked him from his cot. Sebastian immediately noticed the blood on Nicolae and asked his brother for an explanation. Having to leave immediately was the only reply the older one offered.
The younger boy shuddered as ghostly clouds floated passed the moon, their only source of light. To him, they were playing an antagonistic game of taunting them with small amounts of light before enveloping the brothers in darkness.
Nicolae grabbed Sebastian’s hand as they continued deeper into the thick, black brush. 
“Keep close,” the older brother whispered.
The woods surrounded them, dark and endless as they trudged on, hearing only the soft grass and earth beneath their boots.
Anything or anyone could hide here. Hide before they would jump out and eat us!
Sebastian forced away the frightening thought as the sound of running water brought him small, instant relief. They had arrived at a creek in a clearing. The flowing water over rocks and branches was a soothing contrast to the heated tension radiating from Nicolae.
The moon emerged from behind the clouds, casting its pale beam onto the patch of land on which the boys stood. Sebastian watched his brother remove the bag slung across his torso and set it on the bank. The younger boy was grateful for the stop, however brief it would be. He also hoped Nicolae had food in his bag; the haze of sleep had left, but the pains of hunger grew.
Nicolae knelt by the stream and roughly scrubbed at the drying blood on his hands and forearms.
Blood that is still wet… Sebastian felt the skin on his arms prickle as he watched dark red liquid leave his brother’s skin and fade into the clear water.
What happened? Why is he all bloody...? But before the boy’s thoughts could wander any further, the empty pit in his stomach made itself known.
He stepped cautiously toward his brother. “Nicolae…”
“What,” Nicolae replied without looking up. He removed his bloodstained shirt and dipped it into the water.
Sebastian caught hints of anxiety on his brother's face as he worked to remove as much of the blood as possible from his clothes and skin. “I’m really hungry.”
“Well you’re going to have to wait!” Nicolae growled.
Sebastian flinched at his brother’s angry tone. The hot tears that had been in limbo since he was wrenched from sleep moments earlier formed at the rims of his eyes. He turned to face the other direction, not wanting his older brother to see them. All he wanted was a scrap of something to eat and for Nicolae to tell him what was going on.
I am not a silly child, Sebastian thought as two tears rolled down his cheeks.
“I am sorry,” Nicolae said.
Sebastian wiped his eyes and cheeks with the back of his hand before looking back. In the moonlight, he could see the genuine remorse in Nicolae’s eyes. 
“Look, I will allow you to eat soon. We just need to go a little further while the moon is out and there is still light.”
Sebastian slowly nodded and said, “Thank you.” 
Nicolae gave his brother a sad smile and pulled his damp shirt back on, covering the scars that crossed his upper body.
He got most of the blood out, Sebastian noted, but where did all of it come from?
Nicolae picked up his bag and said, “Come. Just another mile and we will stop to eat. I promise.” 
Sebastian gave his brother a grateful smile, one that Nicolae met with an expression that was dark and far away. It sent chills across the little boy’s arms.
Nicolae turned away, carefully slung the bag back over his torso and proceeded walking along side the creek. Sebastian followed, trying keep up with his brother’s quick, long strides.
There was a strange, new tension present. As Sebastian snuck the occasional glimpse at his brother, he saw pain, among a mélange of other unreadable emotions and it troubled him greatly.
What is it, Nicolae? the boy wanted to say.  Please tell me! I swear I’ll understand!
He was about to give up attempting to reach his brother when another thought suddenly occurred to him.  Eloisa! More confusion filled the boy. Why isn’t she with us?
He turned his eyes up toward his brother, hoping for an answer to at least one burning question.
“Where are we going?” Sebastian asked.
Nicolae hesitated, as if considering the best way of answering the question. Finally, he uttered out, “America.”
Sebastian’s eyes widened. America? He stared at Nicolae, who avoided and eye contact.
The boy frowned. “But…what about Eloisa? Is she not coming with us?”
At the mention of her name, Nicolae came to an abrupt halt, and Sebastian thought he could see a glimmer of tears at the rims of his brother’s eyes.
Nicolae shut them tightly while gripping the strap of his bag. “I would rather not speak of her now.”
A pronounced strain filled the voice of the older brother, but before anymore questions could be asked, Nicolae hurried down the bank, leaving Sebastian to once again jog to keep up with him.
Nicolae looks very sad and Eloisa isn’t coming with us…we left so quickly and we are going to America… Nicolae was all bloody…the blood on Nicolae…there was blood on Nicolae, and Eloisa is not coming with us…
Chills rose once again on Sebastian’s skin as possibilities of what might have happened swarmed his mind. His imagination had always been an active one, and there were times his mind conjured images and scenarios that were quite frightening and almost too real.
A branch snapped nearby, jarring Sebastian from his thoughts. Nicolae also heard it, and whispered for his brother to get behind him as he withdrew his dagger from the sheath hanging from his belt.
The silvery blade glistened in the moonlight. Silver…with red…and what looks like pieces of meat…?
Sebastian’s heart raced as he focused on the rusty red chunks caking the blade. His attention was thwarted as a shadow emerged from the brush.
The brothers watched with nervous anticipation, but those feelings disintegrated when the shadow - and apparent source of the snapping - was revealed as a deer.
The animal regarded the two boys with large, curious eyes. As Nicolae lowered his dagger, the creature turned and scampered down the bank, in the same direction the Ganoush brothers were headed.
Nicolae’s eyes fell to the stains on the dagger’s blade before they darted to the younger brother. Sebastian’s breath caught in his throat as Nicolae’s dark eyes blazed in the moonlight, communicating a silent though blatant warning to not question him any further. The young man then quickly removed a cloth from his bag and wiped the blade clean before returning it to the sheath. He dipped the stained cloth into the creek, and wrung out the excess liquid before returning it to his bag.
After a nod to Sebastian, the boys resumed their quick pace in the direction the deer had gone. They would go barely another mile before the ghost clouds returned, shrouding the moon and leaving the boys in darkness.
Sebastian sighed. Well, at least I can eat now...
And Nicolae did let him eat.

3

The anxiety, tension, and fear of the two Roma boys reverberated inside Hector. Anguish from the older boy pulsed, as did his struggle to maintain a brave front for his younger brother. There was also a protectiveness toward the younger, and a sense of responsibility for the little boy's safety.
An overpowering sense of loss was also present, as was a cold emptiness that threatened to consume the elder of the two.
It was almost too much for Hector to handle, and he was relieved when a bright warmth faded in to replace the oppressing essence of Nicolae Ganoush.
A young Irishman far north of Hector near the border of Illinois and Iowa Territory also excreted anxiety, but it differed from what came out of Nicolae...

...It was a beautiful early evening on the prairie, much like the one Hector was enjoying in Mexico…

4

…as eighteen-year-old Jonathan Blake rode his black stallion, Samson, across the American Midwest's frontier. After finishing his day of work for the town Blacksmith (who employed him and his father, Charles), he quickly ate his supper before excusing himself to retrieve his six-year-old horse from the family’s barn.
His mother, Emma, was slightly taken aback by her son’s sudden departure; the rest of the family had barely finished their own supper, and she still had yet to bring out the strawberry pie she made for dessert. But Charles and Emma granted their eldest son’s request. It had been a longer work day than normal, and Emma knew how much her son loved taking his horse out for long rides before nightfall. 
The Blakes were working class immigrants from Ireland’s Galway area. Charles had brought his wife and (then) two children to America with the intention of obtaining land near the Iowa territory. As Catholics, the family was unable to openly proclaim and practice their faith, and with evidence of a forthcoming plague starting to slowly spread through the country, Charles and Emma foresaw nothing but more poverty and persecution in not only their future, but in those of a barely five-year-old Jonathan and two-year-old Brendan.
Of course, they knew America held no guarantees, but both were willing to take a chance for the future of their sons and any other children to be had. Thus with heavy hearts, Charles and Emma made the decision to leave the land of their births and eventually landed at a New Jersey seaport in the autumn of 1832.
If one were to ask Jonathan and Brendan of the boat ride from Ireland, neither would recall much. But one memory Jonathan did have was of getting off the ship while clutching his father’s hand, and seeing his mother holding Brendan as she walked beside them.
Taking in the new surroundings as the other passengers filed passed was overwhelming and exciting for little Jonathan. He was a curious child, and could hardly get enough of everything happening around him. The new country seemed so different from his native Ireland, and he wanted to see it all. Therefore, he was terribly bored and restless while waiting for his father to handle affairs in the Immigration building.
Upon their arrival, Charles had only enough money to provide his family with the most basic necessities inside a New York City hostel. After struggling to find work, he was finally met with good fortune when James Livingston agreed to hire him at Livingston Publishing.
Within a year, Frances Deirdre (or “Frankie" as family and friends would call her) came into the world as the family's newest member. The Blakes considered the baby girl a wonderful blessing, but with one more mouth to feed, obtaining land out west seemed a far greater challenge than before.
Consideration of a permanent stay in New York had crossed the minds and discussions between Charles and Emma. Despite the possible setback, the devoutly religious family opted for being thankful for the blessings they did have rather than covet more.
The Blakes also found an unlikely friend in the very wealthy James Livingston, who had offered Charles a better paying position shortly following his month-long trial period. In addition, James helped the family in obtaining a house more suitable than the hostel, therefore giving Emma a more comfortable setting when she gave birth to a son named Isaiah three years following.
After five years in New York, the Blakes were able to purchase their land out west, and  little Rachel was born inside the farmhouse Charles built with his own hands.
Eight years had now passed since the move to Illinois, and Jonathan had much to be thankful for, including the privilege of riding the open terrain in the warmth of a late afternoon sun. Despite the risks of the frontier, it was indeed a much loved pastime. He had come to know the area well, but there was always new uncharted territory to discover, which was what he enjoyed the most.
On this particular evening, he was returning to a place where two days ago, he found what he considered a new treasure. The greatest he would ever find.
Be still, my beating heart, he thought, anticipating the possibility of seeing her again. If there was such a thing as love at first sight, Jonathan was feeling it.
He gently nudged Samson, quickening the horse’s pace.
“Please, Lord,” Jonathan prayed aloud. “Have her return to me…”
He nudged Samson again, hurrying the horse along. Time was not something he could afford to lose.
His heart skipped a beat as the familiar canopy of trees came into view. The heavily wooded trail seemed almost out of place from its surroundings, which had piqued his curiosity in the first place, two days prior. After turning Samson into the mysterious patch, Jonathan had seen the most beautiful girl he ever laid eyes on. She was walking up the trail facing him while singing softly to herself, a sound he would never tire of playing over again in his mind.
As a light wind from the east tousled his dark brown collar-length hair, a fantasy of pulling her close to him and kissing her full, lovely mouth filled him. His groin tightened as he imagined her warm, honey brown skin, delicate features, and the petite figure underneath her deer-skin garments.
He was slightly surprised at the affect this young woman had on him. As a young man of eighteen, he recently started seeking out a potential wife to court, and there were plenty of girls in the town and neighboring areas whom Jonathan found quite beautiful and very charming. He also was never without several girls vying for his attention, but none ever made him feel the way this young woman had two days ago…

Jonathan pulled on the reigns, slowing Samson to a halt just in front of her. She ceased her singing, and regarded him with dark, inquiring eyes. His heart pounded as his gaze traveled from her moccassained feet to her long, silky mane of black hair. She appeared a couple of years younger than he, possibly sixteen years of age, and Jonathan immediately figured her to be from the nearby Sioux village.
I have never seen such beauty before, he thought.
He observed his surroundings, as the frontier held many potential dangers. But somehow, he felt he was safe inside this patch of trees.
In an attempt to put her at ease, he masked his own nerves, offering her a friendly smile that was met with a look of apprehension.
“Please, lass,” he said. “My intention is not to hurt you.”
The girl relaxed her stance, but remained silent.
He slowly dismounted and hooked Samson’s reigns to a strong branch on the closest tree. As he turned back to face her, their eyes locked—her near black to his grayish-blue.
The evening’s light wind carried strands of her hair, and Jonathan could feel the world around him fading until he only existed with her on that covered path. As his feet took him toward her, visions of them together in a paradise with no physical or emotional barriers between them burned his mind’s eye.
Can I take you away to find the Garden of Eden? To find our Heaven together? he desparately wanted to ask her.
She stood frozen in her place as he closed the distance between them.
The two were close to touching as he struggled with the urge to lift her into his arms and claim her lips.
He drew in a breath and opened his mouth to speak again, but before he was able to, she jumped back and ran toward the other end of the trail.
“Please! Don’t run away,” he called after her, but she had already disappeared into the outside field, leaving Jonathan alone on the trail with Samson.
A strong wanting to run after her pulsed in his every fiber, but he resisted. Instead, he moved with heavy steps down the path, staring out to the field she had run to…

Over the next two evenings, Jonathan had returned to the trail. Each time, he waited for her until dark and when she did not show, he returned home feeling overwhelming emptiness. Questions of whether the incident had been imagined or if the lovely young girl had been nothing more than an angel sent from Heaven for only a torturous minute taunted him. Even Samson seemed to sense his master's disappointment. The stallion's steps had slowed, dragging as Jonathan rode him back to the barn.
Jonathan had spent those last two nights lying in bed, staring out at the stars as he imagined her asleep in her village.
“I hope your dreams tonight are sweet ones, my wee lass,” he whispered, wondering if somehow his message would reach her. And I hope I am with you there, he wanted to add but stopped himself, not wanting to try his luck.
Then his own mind would wander to the wooded path, where he saw himself lying with her, holding her to his heart while drifting into sleep. He could feel her soft, sweet breath on his chest as their bodies were intertwined, bare skin upon bare skin after knowing one another in the most intimate way possible. In his mind, she gave him the most precious gift a woman could give to a man. He hoped that somehow, he could be that man for her.
He had considered the many risks that accompanied his desire to court and marry a Native girl, should it come to that. But all were risks he was willing to take.
On this eve of the summer solstice, he had returned for a third attempt.
He rode Samson toward the trail, unaware of two young Rom on the other side of the world. Unaware of Nicolae Ganoush—a young man only a year older than he—and his brother Sebastian—the same age as Jonathan’s own brother, Isaiah—running through a dark forest with hardly any possessions to their names. As they stopped at the creek so Nicolae could wash away the blood covering him, Jonathan halted Samson at the trail and surveyed the area for the girl of his desire. The Irishman nudged Samson down the path as the Ganoush boys followed the creek toward the Romanian-Hungarian border.
The three each with a purpose for their movement. As Nicolae and Sebastian increased their pace along the creek, Jonathan slowed Samson and kept watch for the one who held his heart. When the former Rom slaves took that brief, sweet moment to eat some stale bread and drink a little water from Nicolae’s flask, the Irishman from the American Midwest felt his heart leap when he saw her.
His heart thudded rapidly as the girl walked up the path toward him, singing softly to herself as she had two days prior. About midway, she noticed him and ceased her steps.
“Come to me, my sweet lass,” he whispered. “You have no need to be afraid of me.”
As if having heard him, she continued up to where Jonathan and Samson waited for her. As she arrived in front of him, he offered her a warm - though nervous - smile.
“Hello,” he said.
The girl winced slightly, and he almost expected her to run away again. After a pause, her lips turned up into a shy smile, a site Jonathan melted at. He watched as she lifted a small hand to pet Samson and wondered what it would be like to have that hand touching him.
He drew in a breath and as he had done two evenings ago, dismounted the stallion.
The girl froze, her eyes darting back up to him, and words poured out from Jonathan like a gushing waterfall.
“Please do not run away, my love. I am a man of honor and I mean you no harm.”
The girl’s eyebrows shot up, and Jonathan cringed upon recognizing that he had called her ‘his love’ when he had no right to do so. He feared having offended her and anticipated her leaving him for good this time.
The two regarded one another for another moment before the girl's face relaxed. Then she brought the hand used to pet Samson to the center of her chest.
“Kimimela,” she said. Her voice seemed to echo the light breeze flowing around them.
Jonathan swallowed and took a tentative step forward. “Is that who you are, lass?”
She studied him as one trying to comprehend words. He was aware of the Native tribes having their own languages and wondered if she was able to understand him at all.
Finally (to his relief), the girl nodded.
“Kimimela…” he repeated. “That is your name?”
She nodded again, this time with more confidence.
He exhaled the breath he was holding. “My name is Jonathan.”
“Jonathan?”
“Yes,” he said, a wide smile spreading over his lips.
Kimimela lowered her eyes. “I like your voice,” she said, and peered back up at him.
Jonathan cheeks flushed at her compliment of his Irish brogue. He cleared his throat and asked, “Would you give me the honor of walking beside you, Kimimela?”
She nodded, her eyes brightening, and Jonathan fought to contain himself as he took hold of his stallion's reigns.
“What is your horse’s name?” she asked.
“Samson.”
“Han, khola Samson,” she said soothingly while patting the horse’s nose.
Jonathan watched Samson respond favorably. The young man had no understanding for what she said, but to him it was among the most beautiful sounds he ever heard.
His heart raced as he watched Kimimela and Samson interact with one another. Samson was already fond of her, he could tell.
When she pulled her hand away, Jonathan said, “Forgive me, but may I ask what you said to him?”
“I told him hello,” she replied. “And I called him a friend.”
Jonathan and Kimimela held their gaze for another moment before starting to walk side by side, with Samson trailing behind them. Of all the blessings Jonathan was thankful for, meeting her was among those he treasured most.
While Jonathan Blake became a young man wanted by a girl with whom he would share a great love, Nicolae was a man wanted by Romanian Law Enforcement. The love that would develop between Jonathan and Kimimela was one that Nicolae once shared with a young woman called Eloisa.
A woman and a love who was a distant memory.

5

The attraction between the Irishman and the American Native girl was evident in their nervous conversation and glances at one another as they walked the secluded path.
Secluded…like my cave…Hector thought.
He could faintly hear their pleasant conversation as Jonathan resisted his longing to take her hand. All initial unease between the two was evaporating, so much that a casual onlooker might guess the couple had been courting for far longer than a day.

In an instant, the image of Jonathan and Kimimela left Hector and in their place appeared a quaint American town in New York. A place Hector knew.
Where Samuel’s family stays on holidays...                   

6

Plains, New York, United States
The Livingstons were among the oldest, most prominent families of the American Union. With their origins in Scotland, the family settled in America near the Hudson River during the seventeenth century and gained tremendous wealth through the fur trade. From there, many in the bloodline held prominent political positions, including chancellors, mayors, judges, and highly respected lawyers.
In the eighteenth century, Robert R. Livingston was a contributor to drafting the Declaration of Independence, and the family became one of the first in American aristocracy, owning large portions of the land surrounding the Hudson.
In 1794, James Henry Robert Livingston was brought into the world on a late summer night in July. As a boy, he and his five siblings were schooled privately by tutors. While most of the lessons left a young James fighting to stay awake, he did excel in Science and Literature, two subjects for which he quickly discovered a passion.
For a Livingston, following in the footsteps of the predecessors was not only typical but expected. James, however, would be among those paving a slightly different direction with his inheritance. 
In his teens, he attended a prestigious secondary school before being accepted to Harvard College in Cambridge, Massachusettes. He did well in his studies, and during his second semester, he was inducted into the Phi Beta Kappa Society, an honors organization with emphasis in Liberal Arts and Sciences with literature as a pillar, thus allowing James an outlet for his true passions.
In his final year at the college, fate smiled on him when he met eighteen-year-old Samantha Jo DeWitt at a party hosted by his fraternity. Samantha’s parents had given James their approval in courting their daughter, and in the year following his graduation, he remained in Cambridge to persue the relationship.
On Christmas Even in 1816 (with Lord DeWitt's blessing), a twenty-two-year-old James offered nineteen-year-old Samantha a formal marriage proposal. The wedding was set for the summer of 1818 and shortly after, the newlyweds settled in Cambridge as James worked toward a Masters Degree while also enjoying his employment at the college's printing press despite hardly needing the money. But as it was expected of him, he moved Samantha to New York where he started practicing law after recieving his secondary degree.
The first few years were filled with futile attempts for children, but in the spring of 1825, Samantha gave birth to a son they called Jesse Robert Livingston. That same year, James took a chance and gave up his law practice, opening Livingston Publishing. The company's offices were located in the city, only a block from the home he shared with his wife and newborn son.
Three years later, Samuel James was born, and a new branch of Livingston Publishing was in development in the newly founded town of Plains, just short of an hour from the city. As one of the founders, James oversaw building the town hall, a schoolhouse, and other key establishments in the area. The project he favored most was the new library, and Plains Public Library opened to the public in 1832.
Four years later, Lawrence Henry Livingston entered the world as the youngest child of James and Samantha. In the year of the youngest Livingston’s birth, James reserved land in the new Plains for building his family a holiday-weekend home. The two-story house was on a large field that stretched back toward forestland covering the mountains that expanded into Northeastern Pennsylvania.
Over the years, it became a peaceful retreat for James and his family. They traveled out there often, occasionally inviting along the Blakes and the Flemings.
As Hector concentrated, he could see Samuel’s father seated in a carriage headed toward that very house. James’s forty-nine years had been kind to him, only slightly aging his face with fine lines that creased his eyes and mouth. Furrow indentations distinguished his forehead and brow, and the faintest touch of gray peppered his reddish-brown hair. Even young women found him attractive, and a few brazen ones made suggestive advances in hopes of being taken as his mistress, a practice not uncommon among men of James’s pedigree. But he was an exception to his philandering peers and chose to keep his devotion with his wife.
Though he loved Samantha’s company, the occasional solitary carriage ride was a welcomed luxury. This particular evening followed a rather stressful work week and James savored the silence while traveling from the city alone. The portfolio case in his lap contained important paperwork that concerned new growths within Livingston Publishing, the library, and the orphanage of his good friends Cedric and Margaret Fleming. Last but definitely not least was a letter to his dear friend, Charles Blake, that needed finishing. 
The rhythm of the horse's hooves clomping on the road as it pulled the carriage lulled him. Every so often, the distant call of a crow or nighthawk was heard as the Flemings' orphanage trickled into his mind's eye…
“Sir?”
James jolted to attention. The carriage was at a stand-still in front of the house, and the coachman, Bradley, awaited his employer's exit while holding the carriage door open.
“Oh…my apologies, Bradley. Do allow me a moment.”
“Of course, Master Livingston,” the coachman replied.
A sudden wave of nausea passed through James as he attempted to stand.
Concern filled Bradley’s bluish-green eyes. “Forgive me for asking, but are you well, sir?”
James regarded the young, light-haired man. “Yes. Yes, Bradley…I am quite all right, thank you. I suppose the carriage ride caused me to drift a little.” He shook away the last of his dreamstate, regained his composure, and exited the carriage.
“My lord,” Bradley said with a small bow as James’s boots landed on the dirt road in front of the house. 
James responded with a clipped nod. “Safe travels home. I shall require a carriage to the city on the morrow’s evening. Seven ‘o’ clock, to be precise.”
“Yes, Master Livingston,” Bradley replied. “Will there be anything more before I depart?”
“No. Thank you, Bradley. You are relieved for the night. The lady of the house and the boys have our servants in the home, should they be in need of anything.”
“Very well then, my lord. I shall return at your requested time on the morrow. Have a pleasant night, Master Livingston.” Bradley gave another small bow and returned to his place at the front of the carriage.
As the sound of the horse's hooves faded toward the city, James stood gazing at the topmost window on the dark two-story house. The still quiet of this area always left him in awe—and, as of recent, unnerved.
A breeze traveling west lifted his cloak as he started up the pathway toward the front door. He made it only halfway when he felt an ominous chill creep over him. James paused, squinting while studying the woods up ahead. In his right peripheral vision, a small figure ran across the field, passing the house and heading toward the woods. He turned quickly in the direction, hoping to perhaps see one of the local children, but the field was open and empty. 
James let out a breath and massaged his temples. Perhaps I do need a holiday. A real one…
A sudden mournful howling flowed from somewhere in the mountainous brush. Wrenched from his thoughts, he hurried up the remainder of the path, making certain his key was ready to unlock the door. As he shut himself inside, he felt great relief, regaining his composure enough to light oil lamps in the foyer and sitting room. Grateful that no one was around to witness his anxiety, he made his way up the stairs toward his study.
Before placing his portfolio case on the desk, he lit an end table candle and the oil lamp on his desk. He removed the documents, organizing them into neat piles before sitting down to focus his mind on work. He took up his pen and started reading over a form concerning the Fleming Orphanage.
A few sentences in, the paper’s lettering began to blur. James attempted to ignore it, but the harder he tried pushing through, the more bothersome it became. A throbbing materialized in his head and then increased.
James slammed down his pen and brought his hands to his face, waiting for the pain to subside. When it had dulled a little, he lifted his head and shifted his eyes toward the liquor cabinet.
A drink…I could use a drink. Yes. Perhaps that will help…
Grasping the edge of the desk, he rose from his chair and slowly walked to the cabinet. He took out a bottle of brandy with an appropriate glass, poured in the dark liquid and absently swirled it before taking a first sip.
Under regular circumstances, this would have been enough to relieve any discomfort, but the image of the young lady he encountered a week ago was forever seared in his mind.
Now, James Livingston was a man whom many would consider reasonable. Logical. (Sane)
While he attended the Presbyterian church with his wife and sons every Sunday, a passion for science along with being a self-proclaimed Agnostic compelled James to seek out explanations to satisfy his logic, and hardly entertained much outside of what could be seen, heard, and felt with the five physical senses. Therefore, one could only imagine the pains he was taking to explain what he saw at the Nathaniel Fleming Orphanage. The property was not far from the Livingston vacation home, and he considered heading over.
I am not going mad…there is reasonable cause for what I saw in that room…
In the dim light of the study, he raised the glass to his lips again, taking in the sweet, warm liquid to his mouth. As the brandy trickled down his throat, his thoughts returned to the small, dark-haired young woman.
On the Friday prior to this night, James and Samantha went with Cedric, Margaret, and little Maxine Fleming to the property after dining together. James was quite fond of the Flemings, having known Cedric since their days as schoolmates and fraternity brothers at Harvard. Despite being three years apart, the two became fast friends and remained so ever since.
Cedric and Margaret's courtship had started in secondary school, and following Cedric's graduation, the two married. Afterward, they took residence in a New York house not far from the Livingstons. To James and Samantha, the Flemings were not only neighbors but friends, and extended their help in any way possible, including with the orphanage.
James had been up to the property a few times to oversee the progress, seeing Cedric and Margaret in such good spirits made the project worthwhile for him. The tragic death of their young son, Nathaniel, five years prior had devastated them, and the construction of the orphanage, along with having their daughter Maxine, seemed to breathe new life into the couple.
On that night, Cedric had wanted to show James a newly finished building meant to house the kitchen, dining hall, some classrooms, a small library (that Cedric insisted on naming after James), and dormrooms for class instructors intending to live on the property during the schoolyear. The kitchen and dining hall were on the first floor with the classrooms and library on the second. The third and fourth floors held rooms and living quarters. It was almost complete, and only needed furnishing and a few utilities.
Upon their arrival after dinner at the country club, James expressed interest in having a look around the building. After Cedric gave him a lantern, James excused himself and left his old college friend in the dining hall with Samantha and Margaret to finish their coffee. Ten-year-old Maxine ate a bowl of ice cream, appearing restless and bored as the adults engaged in seeming endless chatter of a wonderful, young twenty-five-year-old Engish instructor by the name of Christian Andrews just recently hired.
With a lantern in hand, James started up the stairs...

...faintly hearing the voices of the other three as he peered into each room on the second and third floors. Satisfied with what he saw, he ascended to the fourth floor and repeated the routine until reaching the room toward the end of the hall.
Room 410.
He stepped inside the empty room, observing the window ahead of him, then the bookshelves built into the wall, the mirror just above the sink, and the closet. As James was turning to leave, the lantern's flame flickered out.
Puzzled, he looked back toward the shut and latched window before. He surveyed the area for a possible draft and ended up dismissing the incident as a case of the lantern simply running out of oil. James decided to return to the first floor, figuring he had seen all he needed to. The evening shadow cloaked the corridor, but enough light was still streaming through the windows. I just need to proceed with caution, especially in the stairwell…
Upon reaching the doorway, he felt a tiny tremor that was immediately followed by low rumbling beneath the floorboards.
“An earthquake? Here?”
The quaking grew stronger, and his immediate thought was of getting down to Samantha. He made it to the hall, but was jolted back into the room. Grasping the door frame, he struggled at maintaing focus on making his way downstairs when suddenly, all was still again.
As James breathed a relieved sigh, the room's temperature dropped and the aroma of tobacco permeated the air. Despite years of spending Wednesday evenings in the cigar filled gentlemen’s club, the odor overwhelmed him to the point of choking. As the veil of smoke lifted, deafening, unearthly, and ghoulish sounds he could not even begin to place assaulted him.
“What the devil…?" He gritted his teeth and pressed his hands to his ears.
Shapes materialized as he turned to face the room's interior. Shapes of bed and a desk.
James shut his eyes tightly, thinking that surely this was the evening shadows playing tricks with his eyes after a small earthquake. Finally, the ghastly noise faded.
James counted to ten, released his ears, and opened his eyes. He expected an empty room to be in front of him but instead, he was in the center of one completely furnished. There wasn't time to observe it all, because that was when he saw her.
Despite the minimal light, James was able to make her age out to be twenty years of age. Her long, black hair matched her clothing. His heart beat rapidly as she stood on a chair securing a hangman’s noose twisted out of red bed sheets to a hook on the ceiling.
James stepped toward her, pausing at the desk where he placed his hand on the surface and nearly fell over when it went right through.
An electrical current pulsed through him as he recollected his equilibrium. He continued toward the girl and came to a stop beside her as she finished securing the noose.
She stared at it with blank eyes, and her face was stained with drying tears. Her face was slightly gaunt, and he could see her delicate chin, the shadows under her eyes, and the hollowness in her cheeks.
When he reached out to touch her arm, his hand went through her and a sudden wave of sadness joined the electrical pulse. Sadness, anger, anxiety, and a desire to end it all took over and nearly paralyzing him. But then their eyes met, though she did not appear to see him. Her eyes told a story of who she was and all she had been through. James saw everything, from the young woman’s birth up until that moment prior to her self-inflicted death.
He slowly shake his head. “No…”
The girl returned her gaze to the noose and place her hands where her neck was to go.
He struggled to move his legs. “Please, stop!”
She placed the noose around her neck and stepped down from the chair.
As her small body suspended in mid air, James finally broke free of whatever restrained him. He lunged forward to grab her, hoping to save her before it was too late, but the girl disappeared.
James crashed into the wall before turning to find himself alone in an empty room. Hints of oppression remained, causing him to collapse into sobbing. He lowered his hands to his knees, staring at the floor and wiping away the tears streaming to his chin. His eye caught the broken lantern on the floor caught his eye. He knelt to retrieve the shattered remains and thought of the others on the first floor. Surely they would all be wondering what was keeping him.
Holding the pieces of the broken lantern, he rose to standing and used the final remnants of daylight to check his reflection in the mirror above the sink.
As he turned to exit the room, his movement was arrested upon seeing a small figure in his path.
“Maxine! Good heavens, I did not hear you come in!”
The little girl held her own lantern. “Sorry. It was boring downstairs, so Momma and Daddy said I could come find you.”
James forced a smile. “Well, I thank you, Maxine. That was quite a little earthquake we had, was it not?”
Maxine raised an eyebrow. “What earthquake?”
James's stomach drop. “Oh, nothing. Nothing at all. I am likely just exhausted. Please, just run along and tell your parents and my wife that I am headed back down.”
“Alright, Mr. Livingston."
James waited for Maxine to leave the room, but she remained staring up at him, narrowing her icy blue eyes and moving them between his face and the broken lantern he held.
“Are you well, Mr. Livingston?” she asked. 
James’s eyes widened, and for a reason he couldn’t place, chills rose on his skin. Maxine regarded him in a rather shrewd manner for someone her age, as though she were able to read his very thoughts.
James cleared his throat. “Yes. Yes, Maxine…I am. Run along and tell your parents and my wife that I am on my way.”
Without another word, the little girl headed toward the hall. But instead of exiting as expected, she paused in the doorway and turned back to face him.
“Mr. Livingston,” she said, “your lantern is broken. How will you see down the stairs? There is no light in the stairwells yet, you know.”
James looked down at the broken lantern he held. “Why, you are correct. I suppose I am right behind you.”
The child appeared pleased with herself as James followed her out of the room.
The two walked side by side toward the door leading to the stairwell, and James could once again feel her eyes on him. He looked down and offered the girl a quick smile
“Mr. Livingston,” she said.                                                                                                    
“Yes, Maxine.”
“Why were you crying?”
He stopped. “I beg your pardon?”
“I heard you crying.”
James avoided her stare. “I was not. Perhaps you were hearing things. Let us return to your parents and my wife now, shall we?”
“I was not hearing things,” she said, her tone defensive and harsh. “I heard you.”
His heart started racing. “I was choking. Perhaps that is what you heard.”
“What would you possibly be choking on?”
“Look, it does not matter!” James tried controlling his rising anxiety. "Let us just return to the dining hall.”
He turned the knob on the stairwell door, feeling absurd for arguing with a ten-year-old. As he stepped through the doorway, Maxine spoke again.
“You saw her, did you not?”
James tensed. “Who?”
“The crazy girl. The witch who lives in Room 410.”
James’s eyes widened and a sick feeling entered his stomach. He turned around to see Maxine's unwavering stare.
“Her ghost lives in the room, you know,” she whispered. “I also have dreams about her. Don’t tell momma and daddy, now. They don't know.”
James found himself unable to respond as a wide grin spread over Maxine's face. He nearly jumped backward when she giggled, a move that would have sent him falling down the stairs.
“Come on, Mr. Livingston!” Her blonde curls bounced as she pushed passed him, practically skipping as the two descended the stairs.
In the end, both returned to the dining hall, acting as though nothing out of the ordinary had occured.
James also noted the surprisingly minimal amount of damage caused by the earthquake. Actually, there was none at all…

He swirled the last drops of his beverage as little Maxine’s words echoed back to him.
"You saw her…the crazy girl…"
Almost every night that week, the image of the dark-haired young woman hanging by her neck was present in his dreams. Each time, he felt her inner torment before waking in a cold sweat, and would then feel even worse if he woke Samantha. While she expressed her concern, she never forced him to talk if he did not wish to, and for this, he was relieved.
James shook his head and finished off the brandy, welcoming the burn in the lining of his esophagus. He poured another glass and glanced his desk. 
Perhaps it is best I leave business with the orphanage until morning.
Part of him felt foolish for such thoughts, but he opted to work on the letter to Charles Blake instead. Finishing the letter did help in calming his nerves and also brought to mind another important document kept in the safe at his home in the city. It was his Last Will and Testament, and James's lawyer was scheduled over that Sunday evening to aid in some important changes being made within the document.
After finishing Charles’s letter, he folded it, placed it in the envelope and into his portfolio case. He began turning his attention toward papework regarding the library when a shadow outside his study froze his movement. The door was opened a sliver, through which he could see a shape moving passed the room.
James's heart lurched into his throat, as he knew Samantha and the boys would have made their presence knowing by knocking on the study door or calling up to him. His mind returned to seeing a small figure running toward the woods hours earlier. The one that seemed to disappear when I turned toward it...
Shoving back the thought, he reached into his pocket and fished out his keys. Finding the one he needed, he unlocked the bottom desk drawer where his loaded pistol was kept inside a locked box.
He took up the firearm and quietly proceeded toward the study door, nudging it open to peer down the corridor. The figure was nowhere to be seen, but a door to one of the rooms at the end of the hall was ajar.
James frowned, certain that the door was closed upon his arrival. Armed with his pistol, he crept toward the room.
A soft glow from inside illuminated the doorway, and he could hear movement. Drawing in a breath, he peered in. A figure draped in shadows stood at the far end of the room at the dresser near the closet.
Without another thought, he kicked in the door. “WHO GOES THERE?” he yelled, pointing his pistol.
“Master Livingston, please!” a voice cried.
James lowered his weapon. “Winifred?”
“Yes, Master Livingston.” The woman of African descent turned to face him. She was the Livingstons’ housekeeper at their holiday home and came over once a week to ensure the house was kept clean and orderly.
He let out an exasperated sigh. “Good God, woman! What the hell are you doing sneaking around in here?”
“I am sorry! I thought I left my reading spectacles in here earlier today. I let myself in with my key and saw that lamps were lit, so I called out to let you know I was here. You didn’t answer, so I figured you were occupied…again, I apologize…”
“Winifred, it’s all right,” he said quickly. “I supposed I was so engrossed in my work that I must not have heard you. I apologize as well for my outburst.”
Winifred nodded and made her way passed James.
At the top of the stairwell, she paused and turned to face her employer. “Master Livingston, if I may be so bold…please. Get some rest. You do not look well.”
James stared at the middle-aged woman, and gave her a faint smile before waving her dismissal.
“I will let myself out,” she continued. “My son Daniel is waiting for me out on the front steps. Have a good night, sir. And please, do get some rest. I shall return middle of next week, as usual.”
James braced himself against the wall as he heard the housekeeper leave out the front door. He wondered how he hadn't heard her call to him.
Then, he had a thought. One that amused him so much he burst into laughter. Winifred is the third this week to suggest my not being well. First little Maxine, then Bradley, and now Winifred… James leaned his head back and raised his eyes toward the ceiling. His thoughts returned to the dark-haired girl at the Fleming property.
“Her ghost lives in that room.”
So much about that made no sense at all. For the first time in his life, James felt alarmingly helpless.
“Perhaps I’m not well…perhaps I never will be again...”

7

...Samuel’s father was not insane. Hector had seen that same dark-haired girl on several occasions. He tried delving deeper into James’s mind, but was instead taken to the Livingston home in New York City.
Samuel was sitting upright in his bed reading a book. Hector tried focusing in on the title, but was unable to make it out.
Like Hector, Samuel was a loner. The two boys had met a year ago while Hector explored a new area inside the cave. He was startled to see the bewildered New York boy with blue eyes and reddish-brown hair step out from inside a crevice. Thankfully, the two were able to communicate, as Samuel and his brothers were well-educated in several languages, including Spanish.
Samuel very much resembled his father as did his older brother Jesse, though the latter had hair a few shades darker. Lawrence, the youngest, resembled his mother with fair hair, though all three boys shared their father’s eyes. 
As Hector sat facing the ocean, he tried strengthening his focus on Samuel, hoping that his friend would receive the message and come over to the cave. But before Hector could even begin channeling his energy, a low rumble vibrated beneath the rocks at the ocean's floor and was also felt by four other individuals in Romania and America.

In that moment, Hector de Fuentes, Nicolae Ganoush, Jonathan Blake, James Livingston and Samuel Livingston would have visions apart from the world any of them dwelled in, but would hold great significance for all. Neither would last for longer than a second, but each would lead to the heightening of each man’s five senses and the igniting of the sixth. Veils between worlds thinned as the Earth tilted toward the sun on its axis, and another step was taken toward what had long been predestined.

And Hector was the thread that bound them.



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My stories, "The Cemetery by the Lake" and "Dusk to Dawn" are available at Smashwords and Barnes & Noble NOOK. More retailers will follow, but Smashwords is pretty compatible with most e-reader and PC formats.
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