Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Festive Spirit Blog Hop: Excerpt from The Birthrite Series and Giveaway

Hey all!

Welcome to Day 2 of the Festive Spirit Blog Hop!

Since I'm giving away a copy of Descent, the first book in The Birthrite Series, I figured it would be nice to put up an excerpt of the book.

And don't forget to check out the blogsites of the other authors involved with the blog hop. Also, enter for a chance to win a signed copy of Descent and a mystery surprise!


DESCENT EXCERPT:







CHAPTER 26
Saturday
October 31, 1931

Halloween was the holiday residents of Plains lived for. As they saw it, the recession was hardly cause for a dent in the All Hallows festivities that surpassed even Christmas. This was a time for parties, costumes, and revelry. A time when houses, businesses, and yards were decorated with carved pumpkins, paper skeletons, and lanterns lighting the town with an eerie glow. A time when the trees resembled gnarled, skeletal hands reaching out from beneath the earth as branches shed their leaves.
Since seventh grade, George Kolinski had thrown many parties for his peers. The gatherings were typically saturated with jazz records, necking sessions, and - as they got older - any reefer, moonshine, gin, or cocaine he could get his hands on, courtesy of older friends. Halloween of 1931 was no different. By six 'o' clock, the party was in full swing as the annual masquerade at the Miller residence started up for their parents. This year, Halloween fell on a Saturday, therefore offering plenty of freedom and opportunity for wild times.
Of course, Jimmy, Linda, Gail, Reginald, Carl, and Dorothy were among the many in attendance at George's. They stayed until a little after eight 'o' clock, long enough for Jimmy and Carl to partake in reefer cigarettes, a line of cocaine, and a little gin with George, Evan, Bernice, and some other classmates while the music of Cab Calloway filled the room. The six then decided to head over to Chuck's Diner for a late dinner.
The three boys went up to George's bedroom and retrieved the jackets belonging to their respected girlfriends before everyone said their goodbyes for the evening and piled into Jimmy's car. Linda sat in the front passenger’s seat beside her boyfriend, and Dorothy sat in the back seat between Reginald and Carl. As the group settled into the vehicle, the latter two made jokes about feeling extremely close to one another in that moment.
Because they are both apparently twelve, Dorothy thought. Gail also shook her head while taking her place on Reginald’s lap.
Upon arriving at the diner, they grabbed their usual table and ordered dinners of steak sandwiches and potato chips, a rather popular dish at Chuck's. The conversation remained jovial with discussion of George’s party and jabs at Jimmy and Linda over what happened at the End of Summer Party.
“Hey, look at the bright side. You two did get applause,” Carl chided.
Jimmy and Linda rolled their eyes as Reginald and Gail laughed. Dorothy couldn't help chuckling either. While she hadn't been at George's End of Summer party, the story had been told numerous times of Jimmy and Linda emerging from the guest room they retreated to, only to be met with their friends giving them a thunderous applause for their rather loud liason. Both had moved on from the initial embarrassment, but of course the incident would likely be one their classmates would still laugh over at their 50th high school reunion.
Gradually, the subject of the group's talk took another turn. Given the season, local folklore, urban myths, and ghost tales held much fascination and of course, stories behind the Fleming Orphanage figured into that equation. Their table was beside the picture window looking out to the hill on which the orphanage's remains stood. Dark silhouettes of the trees surrounding the old buildings towered above the town in the distance. Discussion consisted of reported sitings of the Fleming family’s ghosts on the property and in the Plains Cemetery. Stranger lore involved demons and werewolves coming out from the hellmouth or vortex deep inside the forest to hunt and feast on human flesh during a solstice or on All Hallow’s Eve. The tales ranged from chilling to absurd, including one that involved Jared Fleming being a werewolf, which Jimmy and Carl now debated over.
“Oh come on,” Jimmy said as he worked on his second sandwich. “If Jared Fleming turned into a werewolf on the night of his death, why was his body so mutilated? Did he do it himself?”
“It's simple,” Carl answered. “He got into a fight with another werewolf from the woods that came up and busted into his apartment.”
“But he was found hanging by his neck in the front hall on the fifth floor,” Jimmy countered. “I’ve never heard of a werewolf hanging its victim after mauling it to death. And wasn’t Maxine also ranting about how her brother Nathaniel killed him before they took her to the nuthouse?”
“No,” Carl said, “she was saying that he was telling her to let him in. There’s a difference. Hey,  maybe Nathaniel didn’t really die from scarlet fever. Maybe he became a werewolf, too and just disappeared!”
“What is it with you and everyone being a werewolf?” Jimmy asked.
“Too many Lon Chaney pictures would be my guess,” Gail interjected. “Dorothy, you really need to find Carl a hobby."
Dorothy gave her friend a wry smile as she finished the last potato chips on her plate. “I’ll see what I can do.”
“I’m doing just fine with what I got,” Carl said, placing an arm around his girlfriend.
“Well don’t forget the documents and journals that James Livingston kept,” Reginald added. “He was a good friend of the Flemings and somehow convinced the coroner to hand over the documents detailing the cause of Cedric and Margaret's deaths. A good portion of his final years were spent making all kinds of notes. Those particular entries are the most fascinating, but any of his journals are hard to put down. I'm actually a little jealous of Dorothy's family getting mentioned in them.”
“Well, only some of his journals are at the library,” Gail said, “I believe his relatives took the rest after he died. Which I can understand. You know, wanting to keep at least a couple in the family.”
Dorothy nodded in agreement while sipping her soda.
Jimmy turned back to Carl. "So with all that said, there is absolutely no evidence backing up the werewolf claims. None.
“There’s nothing disputing them either,” Carl retorted. “It can go either way.”
Jimmy grinned. “Then I dare you to go up to the Fleming property and find one.”
Dorothy snapped to attention. Oh, Jimmy…why did you have to say that?
While she was still dealing with the aftermath of Carl's confession, there was no denying her feelings, including her concern of him one day taking a dare too far. Even if the legends were nonsense, the property wasn't a place anyone should enter alone. Especially at night...
Carl shrugged. “I’m willing. It's not as though we haven't been up there with the other guys.”
"True," Jimmy replied. "But we never really explored that area. Not to the extent we could, at least."
"Well then maybe you should come with me if you're such a hot shot," Carl said. He dropped his voice to a spookier tone. “Maybe we’ll find the vortex they come out from.”
Jimmy laughed. “Now you’re talking! Let's all do it. It is Halloween and the night Cedric, Margaret, and Jared were found dead and Maxine was out rambling like a madwoman. What about you, Reg? Are you in?”
The light-haired young man quirked up the right side of his mouth. “Sure, why not.”
“Now wait a minute,” Gail said, “that place is notorious for deaths and missing person cases.”
“Yeah, a long time ago,” Carl replied. “Jared and Maxine were the last incidents. That was…what…fifty years ago? At least?”
“Well, save for certain imbeciles at this table, people tend to avoid the Fleming property like the plague," Gail said. "I doubt you would even find a tramp up there."
Jimmy sighed. “Look, I don't think there's anything to worry about. We’ll go up, have a couple of laughs, and then blow.”
“I think it's a great idea,” Linda said, leaning against Jimmy, who placed an arm around her.
The rest of the group turned to Gail and Dorothy.
“Well, maybe,” Dorothy said slowly. 
Carl gave her knee a small squeeze. “That’s my girl.”
“Great,” Jimmy said. “Dorothy’s in. Gail, come on.”
“Yeah,” Linda chimed. “It’ll only be fun if we all do it together.”
Gail rolled her eyes and sighed. “Fine. I guess I’m outnumbered. Far be it from me to have respect for the dead.”
Reginald placed a hand on his girlfriend's wrist. “Babe, don’t worry. We’re not doing anything wrong, just a little exploring. Others have done it and lived.”
Gail smiled at him but hardly seemed convinced.
“Well, then it's settled," Jimmy said.
Carl's eyebrows rose. "Say, I just had a thought."
Gail snorted. "I'm going to let that golden opportunity pass right by."
"I'm serious! I was going to suggest that we start at the cemetery."
“Carl’s right,” Reginald said. “They’re all buried there. If you believe the stories, there's even been sitings of James Livingston's ghost.”
“Hey, if we’re going to do it, we may as well do it right,” Jimmy said. “Get the whole grand tour.”
Linda's eyes widened. “I have candles in my room. We can stop at my house and I can grab them. Maybe we can do a séance or something!”
By the time the group was ready to leave, clear plans of the intended expedition were laid out.
The girls retreated to the ladies room to freshen up as the boys paid the bill. Before leaving, the kids thanked Chuck while anticipating telling their school friends about the Halloween adventure on Monday.
Chuck watched with amusement as the high school seniors left out the door and were swallowed by night's black veil. He enjoyed having the kids in his diner; they provided him with much entertainment. Since his wife's passing five years ago, the company was always welcome.
Bernice had requested the night off, therefore leaving him to tend the tables. The older man hardly minded, as most of his regulars were at the Millers' party. In fact, he would be headed there himself after closing at ten.
When the door shut behind Jimmy, Chuck took a quick glance around the near empty diner and made his way over to the table the group of six had sat at. As the tail lights of the young man's car disappeared into the darkness, Chuck paused in the midst of clearing the plates and utensils and looked toward the dark shapes up on the hill.
“Historical monument, my ass,” he muttered. “My vote is for tearing that eyesore down.”
The jingle from the door's bell wrenched him from his thoughts, signaling the entrance of more patrons. Quickly, he finished clearing the table and went to tend to his customers.
Only one more hour until closing.

Character Inspirations (physical traits, at least):

Jean Harlow was the physical inspiration for the character Linda
(though her speaking voice and a little of her personality was inspired by Tara Reid in the film Urban Legend)
And I pictured a young Dick Powell when I wrote Reginald's character. :) 
 







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Paperback copies of Descent (The Birthrite Series, #1) and Sacred Atonement:Novelette (The Birthrite Series, # 1.5) available together for the low price of $21.00 at my Official Website


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