short fiction

Wrapping up 2017 – Here’s what you have to look forward to!

November 1st, 2017

images3‘Tis the season… for Submissions! Here’s another reminder, we’re opening our submissions season November 1st, so if you have a manuscript you think we’ll love, send it our way! We’ve written a whole blog post on this topic and what we’re looking for this year here, so go over and check that out or head over to our website to read over our submissions page. Our whole team is itching to start reading what you have to send us! Submissions will remain open until we’ve found our 2018 line up or the year ends, whichever comes first!

 

November 4th and 5th, 2017

This weekend we’ll be in London, Ontario for the Southwesto Book Expo! We’ll have our entire collection with us, so if there are any books you are looking to pick up and you’re in the region, this is a great opportunity to come out and see us! Also, we’ve been asked by the Expo and the London Writers’ Society to make ourselves available to listen to queries and pitches from authors, so if you’d like to speak to us or hand your submission in IN PERSON this is your opportunity to do so! Either way, we look forward to meeting you!

 

terriblemightycrystal-5101 (1)November 9th, 2017

If you’ve been enjoying the short serial fiction stories on this blog lately, you’ll be pleased to learn that Sharon Ledwith is the author of the next one starting November 9th! Titled The Terrible Mighty Crystal, Sharon’s short serial is a prequel to her well-loved time travel series, The Last Timekeepers.

 

wg1November 13th to 17th, 2017

As you may or may not know, we’ve recently released the finale to Joshua Pantalleresco’s epic series, The Watcher. The third and final book is called The Wandering God and is now available in our store and online wherever you buy books. And, on November 13th, we’re kicking off a blog tour for The Wandering God, so you can learn more about it, read excerpts, get sneak peeks at the art, and read guests posts and interviews from Joshua Pantalleresco about his epic journey in writing this epic series.

 

November 17th to 24th, 2017

Following the blog tour for The Wandering God, we’re pleased to be able to celebrate the launch and blog tour for the fourth installment in the Nikki Landry Swamp Legends Series! Nikki and Snooper are back and this time they’re on an adventure THROUGH TIME in The Mystery on Lost Lagoon! We’ll reveal the cover for this book next week on November 6th,  so keep your eyes open for that!

CMtitle copy

Date TBA, 2017

We haven’t yet hammered out an official release date, but we’re pleased to announce that Nate Friedman, author of The Coffee Monster, has another book coming soon! The Last Hockey Fight is a short chapter book for children who like both reading and hockey! Illustrated and written by the author and set in our hometown of Windsor, this book is sure to be hit this holiday season!

 

The Months of November and December, 2017.

It’s that time of year again! We’re hosting our very own holiday SALE!!! So if there are any titles you are waiting to pick up, December is the time to do it! Use code HOLIDAY2017 in our bookstore for 25% off ALL TITLES, paperbacks and ebooks alike!

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Death Takes the Highway by David McLain – Part 6

My apologies for this being the only post this week. I’m just recovering from a short illness. As always, you can find part 1 of this short story here. Or if you like David McLain’s style, please consider his hilarious time travel fantasy, The Time Traveller’s Resort and Museum

Then, keep reading… 

They stopped for dinner in Gary, Indiana, at a place that specialized in Fried Chicken. William felt better than he had in weeks. Checking his reflection in the bathroom mirror, he noticed that his eyes were clearer looking, and that his shoulders looked a little broader. His hands were distinctly less gnarled, and his fingernails didn’t have that yellow quality that they’d had in recent years. He looked like a man of seventy, maybe sixty five. Death looked better too. They looked less like two men at the end of their lives, and more like two guys in their golden years who were enjoying life. There was no doubt about it, the car might be going forward, but the miles were rolling back.

“Where are we staying tonight?” William asked.

“We’re near the city,” Death said. “I thought we’d find someplace nice.”

They stayed in a beautiful hotel in Downtown Chicago, where their room had a giant flat screened television and a little kitchen. They had a few drinks and some dessert in the hotel restaurant before heading upstairs. A young waitress with crooked teeth took their order, and was very nice to them. William found himself in a good mood.

“You’re a good guy,” he said to Death after his second drink.

“Thanks,” Death said.

“Most people don’t like you,” he added. He probably shouldn’t have said this, but it seemed like a fairly obvious point.

“It’s never a good day when I come around,” Death said. “But that isn’t my fault.”

“Is this just what we do now?” William asked. “Drive around from place to place, having a good time?”

“No,” Death said, and he had a serious look on his face. “This is merely the journey.”

This sobered William up a little. “Then what comes next?” he asked.

“You’ll see,” Death said.

In the morning William was pleased to see that some of the hair had filled in on the top of his head. It wasn’t so much that you’d notice, or really care, but it was nice to see. Some of it, he noticed, was brown instead of gray. The veins which had seemed so close to the surface in his hands and his feet seemed more subdued.  Death was still getting younger too. They got up early, had breakfast in the hotel, and headed for downtown Chicago.

Death was clear that they didn’t have a lot of time to waste, but Chicago is a beautiful city, so they stopped and went to the art museum. William had never been there before, and he enjoyed wandering around, looking at priceless works of art. Somewhere in between an Edward Hopper painting and a Suerat, William thought of something.

“All these painters,” he whispered so that only Death could hear. “They’re all dead?”

“Yes,” Death said, “I suppose that they are.”

“So you met them all?”

“At one point or another,” Death reflected.

“How’d they take it?” William asked.

Death considered this. “Most came quietly. A few fought tooth and nail. One or two grinned at me like I was a long lost relative. I tell you one thing though- none of them seemed surprised.”

“Is that so?”

“Not even the ones I had to drag out of bars,” Death said. “Although I suppose if you spent that much time in bars, you shouldn’t be surprised.”

They spent the morning looking at paintings, then had lunch at a tapas restaurant downtown. William had never had tapas before. It was nice. After that, they headed south, toward Saint Louis.

Death Takes the Highway by David McLain – Part One

You may recall us featuring some short stories. Here’s a quick list to where you can find them:

The Hunting Dog by Rita Monette
The Queen’s Intent by Justine Alley Dowsett
The Arranged Marriage by Justine Alley Dowsett
The Eye of the Storm by Justine Dowsett

And now, we bring you Death takes the Highway by David McLain, author of The Time Traveller’s Resort and Museum

Because I could not stop for Death,
He kindly stopped for me;
The carriage held but just ourselves
And Immortality.

-Emily Dickinson

Although no one knew it, William Hershel was going to die at three fifty-eight on January the thirteenth, at Wilson Hospital in Johnson City, New York, just after his daughter stepped out of the room for a minute to go to the bathroom and freshen up a little. The hospice nurse would tell her that this was very common. In as much as people had a choice, and it wasn’t really clear that they did, they seemed to choose to die when their relatives were out of the room, even if there had been someone with them all day, and they had only been left alone for a few seconds. It wasn’t clear why they did that, but the nurse said she had seen it time and time again.

If anyone had asked William Hershel, at say, three fifty four on that same day, why people choose to die during that one moment when they were alone, he would have been glad to tell them. It was for the same reason that you closed the door when you were going to the bathroom, or taking a shower, or making love. When we are forced to show our biological side, we prefer to be alone. Since the age of fourteen, William Hershel’s daughter had closed the door while brushing her teeth, she could hardly expect William to shuffle off his mortal coil while she watched, for goodness sake. If his wife had been there, that might have been different, but William Hershel had no wife. He’d been married once, but that had been over for almost a decade, and his ex-wife had declined to visit him, which was just as well. That left him dying, at three fifty-fifty eight on January the Thirteenth, exactly two weeks shy of his eighty-first birthday.

To look at him was less like looking at a man, and more like staring at an empty husk. His body was broken, his bones were gnarled, his hair was gone. His teeth were rotten, and his organs were failing quickly. There were tubes coming out of every conceivable part of him, and he smelled terrible. Dignity had been the last thing to go, but when it had gone, it had left completely. All you had to do was take one look at him, and you knew it was time. He had heard his daughter making the sorts of plans that you didn’t want to here being made about yourself. He knew that she had been in touch with a funeral home, that she’d talked to the hospice nurse about what would happen next. He’d heard her say something about how he’d worked hard, so very hard, all his life.  He knew that she had her own life and she wanted to get back to it. He felt bad that he had taken up so much of her time these past few years.

In real life, last words are rarely significant in any way whatsoever. In fact, in modern medical terms, just being able to say last words often meant that you were not really ready to die just yet. The closest thing William Hershel had to last words was an unheard gurgle at roughly three fifty-five. It was indicative of a small amount of air leaving his lungs as his organs shut down.     

     ‘I’m still here,’ William thought. ‘I’m still here.’

It is, or at any rate, it should be, a great privilege to be coherent during the last few minutes of your life, and, technically, William Hershel was. He hadn’t opened his eyes for three days, but nonetheless, his thoughts were still there. When his daughter had held his hand and cried earlier that day, he’d felt it and he’d heard it and he knew what was happening. Three fifty-six came and went without as much as a flicker. That left three fifty-seven. What do you do with your penultimate minute on earth? It turned out William Hershel celebrated by feeling his heart stop beating. It was the strangest feeling, a little bit like holding your breath, only much, much worse. His daughter would be on her way back to the room in just another minute or so, but it didn’t matter. He wasn’t going to wait that long.

William Hershel, born in San Clemente, California, died at three fifty-eight, almost exactly, but this was just the beginning.

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Join us next week, or subscribe for the rest of this short serial fiction!!

David McLain is the author of the novel Dragonbait and The Time Traveller’s Resort and Museum. He grew up New York, California,  Transylvania, and France. He studied writing at The University of Massachusetts and at Purchase College, where he also directed a production of William Shakespeare’s The Tempest. He lives in New York with a female painter and a small dog.

The Arranged Marriage – Part 7 (Finale!)

Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. Also, check out the novels set in the same world: Unintended and Uncharted.

***

Cielle was out of her hiding spot in a flash and in no time at all, she rolled to her feet.

“You get off of her, you… you pig!” She screamed at the top of her lungs, brandishing the dagger she didn’t even remember pulling out of her bosom.

Branton slowly, blearily raised his face from Larissa’s chest, his lazy drunken gaze widening at the sight of her. “Who the hell are you?” He demanded.

“Your arch nemesis!” Cielle proclaimed, hardly thinking now as she dived forward, dagger out before her.

She was aiming for his exposed genitalia, but at the last second, Branton found the presence of mind to at least roll partially out of the way. The dagger dove fully into the flesh of his leg right through the thick leather of his pants, which he hadn’t bothered to fully remove prior to attempting to mount his victim.

Branton screamed, the pain shocking him very efficiently out of his inebriated state as Larissa, now free from her new husband’s weight, scrambled to get herself out of the bed. Shocked by what she’d done, even if it was sort her intention in coming here, Cielle backed up slowly, her eyes trained on the screaming Lord and the way his blood pooled darkly around the hilt of her brother’s silver dagger protruding from his leg.

“I’m sorry…” Cielle whispered into the Lord’s screams, feeling at a loss.

“Don’t be!” Larissa told her forcefully, propelling herself from the bed and slamming bodily into Cielle.

Cielle was slow to register that Larissa was now in her arms, just like she’d intended. “Larissa, I…” She began.

“I love you,” Larissa exclaimed, against all of Cielle’s expectations, before her soft lips fell upon Cielle’s searchingly, demandingly.

Cielle gave into the moment, let her lips melt into Larissa’s, let her tongue explore this taste of freedom. It was over too quickly as Larissa pulled away. “What about him?”

Cielle struggled to bring Lord Branton back into focus past the haze of bliss her mind had become. In the interim the Lord’s screaming had fallen silent and he was watching them, his jaw open a little. His loosened pants showed clearly his arousal. Cielle immediately felt her anger return.

“We leave him,” she stated forcefully. “He doesn’t deserve you.”

“But where would we go? What would we do? My family…”

“Doesn’t deserve you either,” Cielle cut her off, her anger seething. “They…they sold you to him!”

Larissa’s head lowered in sadness or in pain, Cielle didn’t know. Maybe it was shame, either way, Larissa knew as well as Cielle did that there would be no returning back to the Arbor House after this.

“I…” Larissa began, “I don’t want to lose you.”

“You won’t,” Cielle told her. “It’s you and me against the world now, Larissa. I’ll keep you safe…” She turned her attention back to Branton who licked his lips, watching them, his drunken stupor having fallen back over him somewhat now that the immediate danger had passed. “Starting now.”

Cielle advanced on Branton like one might advance on a rattlesnake. She knew he was dangerous and she knew what he wanted from her… from them both. She darted inwards and her hand grasped the cool hilt of her brother’s dagger just as Branton’s hand clamped warmly down on her wrist. She had only a split second to escape him, she knew. Grimacing, she twisted the handle of the dagger and Branton let go of her, crying out in additional pain. She used that moment to jump back, well out of his reach, grab Larissa’s hand and head straight for the window.

There she grabbed hold of the makeshift ladder she’d constructed from Branton’s spare shirts and sheets she’d found in the armoire and carefully helped Larissa over the sill of the open window. “There, just like the treehouse back at the D’Arbonne House,” she coaxed Larissa through her uneasiness, “just slide down slowly and don’t let go. I’ll be right behind you.”

Her heart pounding fiercely with exhilaration, or perhaps just the sudden absence of fear, Cielle made one last visual sweep of the room. Spotting a thick looking brocade robe, she snatched it up, hoping to use it to cover the flimsy nightgown the servants had dressed Larissa in. Robe in hand, she swung herself over the window ledge and made quick and sure-footed work of  following her best friend and the love of her life out the window and down to the balcony below.

Behind them, through the open window, Lord Branton’s wails of anguish continued long after they’d found their way out of the castle’s thick walls, but it didn’t matter. They were free and they were together and right now, that was all either of them cared about.

The end.

***

Thanks for reading!

The Arranged Marriage – Part 6

Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Unintended, Uncharted.

***

Cielle saw less and less of Branton’s hairy chest as he advanced on Larissa. His heavy black-booted feet stopped just shy of her friend’s toes and a moment later his billowy white dress shirt hit the floor beside them both. Cielle’s breath caught in her throat at the sight.

Oh crap! What am I doing here?! Cielle immediately panicked at the gravity of the situation she found herself in. I’m under the bed… if I don’t stop this… She had to stop herself from following that line of thought. No! I’ll just have to stop it before it happens! I won’t let Larissa… or me for that matter… be subjected to that… that…. man!

She returned her focus to the situation at hand just as a heavy leather belt clasp jangled and then joined the white fabric on the floor. Cielle fought back her fear and dread and forced herself to keep watching, keep listening, for Larissa’s sake.

Larissa’s toes curled and she rubbed them together. Cielle could just make out the breathy almost panicked quality of her friend’s breathing. Hold on, Larissa. I’ll get you out of this, I promise.

“Why don’t you make yourself comfortable?” Branton suggested, his thick Italian accent slurring, and even from where she lay, Cielle could smell the sour wine wafting from his breath.

Larissa’s ankles got slowly and hesitantly closer to where Cielle hid, until she was near enough that Cielle could reach out and touch her if she chose. She fought the temptation to do so. Alerting Larissa to her presence now would only frighten her more. Larissa sat so gingerly on the edge of the tall mattress that Cielle neither felt nor heard any protest from the bed frame.

“That’s better.” Cielle could hear Branton’s smile as he advanced and Cielle clenched her eyes shut, not wanting to watch the heavy boots place themselves between Larissa’s dainty legs.

It wasn’t long before she felt the oppressive weight of the oversized muscular Lord on the bed above her. This time the bedframe around her did protest and she heard the thick wood creak. Cielle withdrew within herself, horrified by what she was about to bear witness to, even if she couldn’t see it. Perhaps, hearing it from the isolation of beneath the bed was almost worse.

With every shift of the Lord’s weight the bed frame creaked and Cielle withdrew further wishing fervently that she’d never come to Welland at all, never attended Larissa’s wedding and never plotted this doomed rescue attempt. Heavy breathing above her filled the air with the sour stench of wine and she choked on the smell, knowing that however bad it was for her here, was nothing compared to how terrible it was for Larissa…

A soft choking sob broke through all the other sounds assaulting her senses. Larissa!

***

Thanks for reading! Check back or subscribe to this blog for next week’s finale!

The Arranged Marriage – Part 4

Find Part 1, 2, and 3 here. Or check out the novels set in the same world; Unintended and Uncharted. Otherwise, read on!

***

There was no more time to dwell on the issue of the dagger though. At that very moment, the musicians began to play the wedding march and Cielle twirled in her seat to look back at the start of the aisle. Sure enough, there was a bride there, radiantly dressed in the widest white dress Cielle had ever seen.

Cielle’s breath caught in her throat as her best friend drifted closer as if she was walking on a cloud. The white fabric billowed around her, flowing like the waves in the bay and the intricate lace of the bodice creeped upwards and gently caressed her soft curves. Cielle swallowed with some difficulty and forced herself to breathe as normally as she could.

Damn, she’s beautiful.

Her gaze followed Larissa as she made her way up the length of the aisle until she came to stand beside Lord Branton. Cielle’s expression shifted rapidly from awestruck to livid within seconds. The flush in her cheeks remained the same, though, so outwardly there was nothing to alarm Cyril or anyone else.

Halfway through the ceremony, Cielle finished solidifying her plan in her mind. It was difficult from that point onward to remain seated and to keep the determined grimace from her face.

“Whoa there,” Cyril commented sometime later, after dinner had been served. “You look like you’re going to run someone through with that fork. Are you that hungry?”

Cielle had to force herself to lower the fork slowly back to its place on the table. “Yeah, actually, I’m starved,” she lied. “They look about done now… I’m going to go see if I can find some appetizers.”

“Yeah, ok,” Cyril agreed, oblivious to her true intentions. “Grab me a few of those pastries I smelled on the way in, would you?”

She plastered the most convincing smile she could onto her face. “Sure thing, bro. Be right back!”

She made her way to the hors d’oeuvres table before she banked sharply to the right and scooted into the kitchen. Weaving between bustling servants preparing to haul the feast out to hungry guests, Cielle made quick work of crossing unfamiliar territory until she found herself in a silent hallway. Whew… She allowed herself a moment to catch her breath as she looked first down one long hallway and then another. I should have thought to ask someone where the Lord’s bedchamber was! She cursed her lack of foresight. But then I might have raised suspicion… No, better to find it on my own. Besides, I should have plenty of time before the Lord and his new Lady ‘retire’ for the evening.

The thought of Lord Branton Wilkes putting his hands on Larissa was almost enough to make her gag. He won’t touch her! Cielle avowed. Not if I have anything to do with it!

***

As usual, please leave your thoughts and comments below and subscribe or check back for parts 5 through 7!

The Arranged Marriage – Part 1

If you haven’t read my first serial fiction, you can find The Eye of the Storm, here.  Whereas The Eye of the Storm was a science-fiction/horror, The Arranged Marriage is fantasy/romance story told in seven parts and set in the world of Ismera, like my novels Unintended and Uncharted. 

Without further ado:

Larissa,

How dare they! Her letter began. I’ll never forgive your family for this! You know, I have half a mind to write to the D’Arbonne House to see if they will intercede on your behalf. It’s not right what the Arbors are doing and I won’t stand for it and neither should you! This is an outrage! It’s practically criminal!

Cielle continued in the same vein for a few paragraphs, making sure she got her point across. Eventually she ran out of ways to say she was angry about the arranged marriage and subsequently she felt her anger fade until only sadness remained in its place.

It’s just… It’s just not fair, that’s all. Marrying this stuffy Lord means you’re going to be all the way in Welland! I know what you’re going to say; ‘It’s just across the bay.” But that’s not the point! I’m sure once you’re married and tucked away in ‘Lord Branton’s’ castle that we’ll hardly ever see each other anymore. It’s not like you’ll be able to join your family when they come this way, you’ll be stuck in Wilkesport fulfilling your duty as ‘Lady Wilkes’… whatever that means!

I hate this! She admitted finally. You’re worth so much more than that fat man’s gold. (I bet he’s fat. You just know those rich lazy lords are all fat. Probably drinks too much Wellish Red too.) He doesn’t deserve you and your family should know better than to sell you off. If you were a Doucet, or even a D’Arbonne, this would never have happened.

I miss you already and I’m angry and sad enough that I’m not even able to look forward to coming to your wedding in a couple of weeks. Cielle paused, pouting. She knew how to put on a good pout when the mood struck her.

Either way, I’ll still be there. She avowed. And when I do, we’ll need to put our heads together and see if we can’t find a way for you to escape this! It’s just got to be possible!

Your Friend Forever,

Cielle Doucet.

Cielle fought back tears as she folded the thick parchment and sealed it with her family’s crest. I mean it, she added silently promising her best friend. I’m coming for you and we will find a way out of this… together.

****

Check back next week or subscribe for parts 2 through 7!  Leave a comment below to let me know what you think of the story so far!

 

Eye of the Storm – Part 2

I pushed away from them, trying not to look like I was fleeing, and soon found myself at the opposite end of the L-shaped bar. “What can I get you?” The bartender, a pudgy bearded man with an obvious beer-belly, questioned.    

“Uh, rum and coke,” I said the first drink combination my mind could supply and the man busied himself with the bottles in front of him.  

“It’s on me,” a new voice said to my left and I whipped my head around. “You look like you could use it.”

The man before me was hunched over the bar, his own drink, a straight shot of whiskey over ice by the looks of it sitting on the bar between his elbows. I narrowed my eyes at him, taking in his deliberately mussed mahogany-coloured hair and his matching dark five-o’clock shadow. His black collared shirt, slightly rumpled from wear, gave me the instant impression that he figured himself a ladies man, but was currently a little down on his luck in that regard. Great, so he’s slumming it…

“I can get my own drink, thanks,” I told him, not kindly.

My rum and coke arrived and a blue five dollar bill changed hands. My blue five dollar bill.

“Victor,” he said, before I could walk away.

“Sorry?” I asked, turning back to look at him, not sure I heard him right.

“My name is Victor,” he repeated. “You look like the kind of girl who wouldn’t accept a drink from a stranger. Now you know my name, so we’re no longer strangers.”

“Yeah,” I agreed, noncommittally, lifting my drink to him in salute. “Nice to meet you, Victor.”

Having dealt with the ‘local colour’, I was ready to return to Debbie and Paul, and face the music, but ‘Victor’ felt the need to stop me again. “You never gave me yours.”

I whirled again, more confused than ever. “Gave you my what?”

He smiled, revealing perfectly straight, white teeth. So he’s not just dressing well, he’s got money. Or at least, his parents had enough to buy him braces as a kid. I snickered at the thought. “Your name,” he said, smiling wider now, thinking because I was laughing too that we must be sharing some kind of moment or something.

“Summer,” I told him. Certainly telling him my name can’t hurt anything, can it?

********** If you would like me to keep posting more of this story, please leave a comment below. If people keep commenting, I’ll keep writing! Thank you. Also, you can find part 1 here.************