Terror teaser: The Dark

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Spooktober continues on BestSelling Reads with this taste of the chilling novel

By David C. Cassidy

Harmon devoured a handful of hard candy before heading out. The wood-chopping went well, but when his bum hand grew strained he took a break to change his dressing. Sitting at his kitchen table he found his leg healing, but as he unraveled the next-to-last strand of gauze around his hand, he lowered his head slowly, like a man ready for the gallows door to fall.

“God … let it be better. Let it be better.” He removed the last strip.

Moss had consumed his flesh, spreading like the wild growth that it was. The wound was a grassy mound. The shoot sprouted lime-colored spores, like pus-filled pimples that begged to be popped. Thick veins, like those of a healthy leaf, ran across his palm and his fingers.

He stood up and brought his hand close to the light. His new flesh was cloudy but translucent. His thinning bones looked like tapering branches.

He fell back in his chair. How far did it go?

He rolled up the sleeve of his snowsuit and hiked up his shirtsleeve. All the way to the elbow. His forearm pulsed with bulbous veins.

He laid his hand on the table. He fingered the spores with his good hand. Squishy. Ripe.

Ripe for what? he wondered. He considered bursting them before they grew into something worse than he could imagine.

So he burst one.

The oily sac splayed open, spewing pus into the air. His head jerked right, his neck pierced by searing heat.

“Shit! Ohhhhhh, shit!”

He scrambled from his chair and nearly upset the table. His skin sizzled, and he rushed to the sink to douse himself with water. Bubbles of flesh rose and fell on his throat as his skin boiled. Some burst.He snatched a cloth from a drawer, ran it under the tap and slapped it against the burns. The cold eased the torture, and only then could he bear the pain. It was all he could do not to scream.

Upstairs, he stood at the bathroom mirror. He removed the cloth and found blood. When he looked up, he saw the true horror cast by the spore.

Something had invaded his flesh. His skin was raw, burned away. Shredded strips dangled limply along his neck. He picked them off, and what he saw next horrified more than the wounds themselves.

Scores of small punctures marked his throat. They ran red, but for how long they’d bleed that color he couldn’t know. If he was pissing green, he might start bleeding the same.

He leaned close to the mirror.

Things—things—were moving under his skin. Crawling.

He slipped against the wall. He stood silently, hopelessly, watching his reflection falter as the creatures worked their way through his body. It felt like a hundred insects, hundreds of legs creeping beneath his skin. His body jerked and started. His heart pounded. Cold tore through him. He pulled up his shirt over his rounded belly and watched the things ripple across him in waves. On occasion the creatures would pause and expand—breathe—and a sharp stab would accompany each breath.

They were eating him.

Harmon Wyatt closed his eye.

No one saw his tears.

About The Dark

2015 National IPBA Award Winner in Horror Fiction

2015 Readers’ Favorite Award Winner in Horror Fiction

4-time Readers’ Favorite 5-Star Selection

Pure Heart meets Pure Evil.

Award-winning author David C. Cassidy draws you into a realm of terror, a world unlike any other. With the inspired flair of Clive Barker and the pulse-pounding beat of Stephen King, The Dark will leave you breathless, reminding us all that for all we desire there is always a price, the currency in suffering and sacrifice. Brimming with insidious evil and a nerve-wracking pace that never lets up, this story will grab hold of your most primitive fears and crank them up to Warp 10—and won’t let go. 

It knows what you want.

It knows what you need.

In denial over his father’s death in a horrific accident, Kelan Lisk has grown fearful and withdrawn. For this meek and bullied child, a burning desire to tame a deadly sledding hill consumes him, drawing him inside a wondrous place where anything is possible … including his father. But as this strange new realm spills into this one, twisting an innocent little boy into an agent of evil, the world is forever changed, devoured by an even greater evil—the Dark. 

“Move over Stephen King and Dean Koontz … The Dark is everything that horror fiction fans want—scary, unsettling, relentless and so creepy that you will not want to read it at night.” — Charity Tober for Readers’ Favorite

“I haven’t enjoyed a horror novel this much since the early days of Stephen King’s work.” — Miss Lyn, Amazon Reviewer

“You can’t read this in the dark because the author has made it too real … this is horror at some of its finest.” — Samantha Colville for Readers’ Favorite

“The Dark compares with works of King and Koontz and is tremendously difficult to put down.” — Melinda Hills for Readers’ Favorite

Get it on

David C. Cassidy

Award-winning author David C. Cassidy is the twisted mind behind several chilling books of horror and suspense. An author, photographer, and graphic designer—and a half-decent juggler—he spends his writing life creating tales of terror where Bad Things Happen To Good People. Raised by wolves, he grew up with a love of nature, music, science, and history, with thrillers and horror novels feeding the dark side of his seriously disturbed imagination. He talks to his characters, talks often, and most times they listen. But the real fun starts when they tell him to take a hike, and they Open That Door anyway. Idiots.

David lives and plays in Ontario, Canada. From Mozart to Vivaldi, classic jazz to classic rock, he feels naked without his iPod. Suffering from MAD—Multiple Activity Disorder—he divides his time between writing and workouts, photography and Photoshop, reading and rollerblading. An avid amateur astronomer, he loves the night sky, chasing the stars with his telescope. Sometimes he eats.

Website   |     Facebook     |     Google+     |     LinkedIn     |     Twitter     |     Instagram

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I am a traveller

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By Samreen Ahsan

The author at the Castle of the Moors, Sintra, Portugal.

“Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” – Ibn Battuta

This quote indeed fits on me as a writer. I’ve travelled to quite a few places and have incorporated them in my stories. Or, if I had wanted to add a particular place in my story setting, I try to visit it, later on, to experience it like my character. 

The CN Tower, Toronto

My first story: A Silent Prayer, a multiple award-winning romance novel is set in the city of Toronto, where I currently live. I have taken this city as an inspiration: the charming Christmas time, which I’ve always admired walking through the downtown streets, the sound of Christmas carols, the aroma of hot chocolate and lattes. I have tried to introduce the flavours and aromas of my multicultural city. 

Great Pyramids and Sphinx, Giza, Egypt

Since childhood, I had always wanted to visit the Pyramid of Giza but never had a chance. I introduced my characters to the majestic city of Cairo first, entering through the narrow passage of the pyramid, and a provocative conversation with a four-thousand-year-old jinni. I visited the pyramids later on, after publishing the series. As intrigued as my characters, I stayed in the same hotel across the River Nile as them, and I climbed the same claustrophobic passage of the pyramid, and had the same experience as them, except for meeting the real Jinni 🙂 

I’m also an admirer of castles and palaces, regardless of their geographical locations, and stroll through them. These grand castles and palaces, where people once lived, breathed and died, have always inspired me. 

“To Travel is to Live”

Hans Christian Andersen

In my second story, Once Upon A [Stolen] Time,  which is set in both contemporary and medieval England, I have introduced a fictional Hue Castle, which is a character on its own, inspired by many different castles and palaces and the darker elements from the Beauty and the Beast. There are certain parts in the castle that I took from real European castles: some chambers, the dining hall, the Great Hall, the library and the chapel. I feel very close to my character Myra, who, like me, has wanderlust, loves visiting historical places, admires art and poetry from the past centuries and who has always wanted to live in those palaces. This same interest as my character helps me write about the things I have seen and make her experience in the same way as I did. 

Windsor Castle, England

“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” —

Henry Miller

In my upcoming novel Unveiled, I have introduced the city of York, U.K. in England, which I visited during the Holiday season of 2016. I fell in love with the city and decided to add it to my next story. I didn’t have a story in my mind at the time, but I knew that whenever I’d write, I’d make my character live in York. When I travelled to Istanbul last year, in April 2018, I had a trip to Princess Island with my friends via ferry. When we headed back to Istanbul, I saw the golden hour through the ferry and wrote the ending of the novel in my mind by gazing at the sun setting down. I never knew a moment of sunset in such a crowded city of Istanbul would give me inspiration. 

Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey

Though I write fiction, the travel experience in my books belongs to my real travel diaries. I know I can’t write science fiction in a place that doesn’t exist at all, or that is impossible to exist, such as landing on Jupiter, or some unknown planet, meeting aliens, because they can never be a part of my travel expedition. I love visiting new places, encountering different cultures, tasting different foods and walking through the passage of time.

I love to give my readers a sense of longing for a certain place, the same way I have felt after leaving those beautiful destinations.

Some travel photos

About Samreen Ahsan

History, art and literature are my passions. I love digging out information about prophecies, divine miracles and paranormal events that are mentioned in history and holy books, that don’t sound possible in today’s modern world.

Since childhood, I have been into reading and writing—and yes, it can’t happen without imagination, which luckily has no boundaries. Dance and music are also pastimes I enjoy, as well as reading romance fiction. I love to travel and explore historical cities.

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Writing inspired by travel

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This week, we begin a series of posts by bestselling authors answering about being inspired by travel.

By Scott Bury

The Falls of Makahiku, sometimes called the Necktie Falls, above the Pools of ‘O’he’o, west of Hana, Maui

Wherever I go, I find inspiration for stories, or at least settings. But inspiration is not enough to create a book. From time to time, I travel to the places where I set my stories to make sure I get the details right.

Camping is a good example. Camping with my younger son inspired a mystery/thriller where his skills and personality would drive the story from the ignition point to the resolution. I wrestled with a plot, but somehow it just never made sense with the setting in the boreal forest.

Author Toby Neal (left) met with me in Maui and discussed the first draft of Torn Roots.

Then, bestselling author Toby Neal invited to join an Amazon initiative, where authors would write novellas based on the universe of her Paradise Crime novels. Suddenly, when I set the story in Hawai‘i, it just flowed easily.

Story roadblock solved

Because my main character was based on a real person, he was a geologist. Which meant he was doing geological work on Maui. And that was the first roadblock:

I knew nothing about Maui’s geology.

Research at the library and online didn’t give me the firsthand details I needed for a good novel set in such an evocative location as Maui. I had to go there.

I got lucky again. My wife and I were planning a vacation, but hadn’t settled on a destination. We were thinking about Prague. I did some quick checking, and found that flights from Montreal (closest airport that would serve both Europe and Hawai’i) to Kahalui, Maui were about the same price as flights to Prague!

So we decided on two weeks in Maui, and put off Prague for a couple of years.

Of course, accommodations in Hawai’i are much more expensive than in the Czech Republic, as are food, drink and just about everything else.

But I found wonderful details that added so much richness to the story.

A huge flower on beside a shop in Makawao, Maui.

Things like bamboo forests rising over our heads, to the majesty of the pools at O’he’o, to just how dense and lush is the rainforest on the southeast side of the island. High waterfalls and warm water. The delicacy of the plants.

The terror of the driving on the twisting, narrow Highway to Hana. The way it rains almost every day.

The unbelievable beauty of the Pacific Ocean.

The mouth of the Pools at ‘Ohe’o, which I incorporated into a scene in Torn Roots.

These are little details that I worked into the story that eventually became Torn Roots: A Hawaiian Storm.

The trip, the expense and the time were well worth the effort. They allowed me write a story that is much more real to readers.

A blaze of inspiration

Another trip that literally inspired a book again involved Toby Neal. She invite me, among others, to attend her first writers’ retreat in Russian River, California. My wife, Roxanne and I made it into another vacation.

We started with a few days in San Francisco, and then headed north. We planned to take a tour or two in Sonoma County, wine country.

It happened in September 2017. The car rental I chose had a TV in their office showing wildfires that were sweeping across Sonoma and Napa Counties, and describing how state police had closed a number of highways.

We drove toward Russian River, on the west side of Sonoma and in no immediate danger of fire. As we listened to the news on the car radio, we realized that we would not be touring any vineyards or wineries on this trip.

But as we drove, Roxanne said, “You should write a book about this. About someone here in Sonoma during the wildfires. And it should be about a woman, for a change.”

So I did. Yes, world, a man listened to his wife at least once in history. The result is my first Wine Country Mystery, Wildfire. It’s about a young single mom who moves to California, and finds a temporary job just before the wildfires force mass evacuations. When she gets back to her home, she’s pulled into a mystery.

As we drove through Sonoma County, the smoke in the air kept getting thicker. This was taken at around 5:00 p.m.

Again, it was the personal experience on the ground that helped me describe the setting, the feeling of being there, the continuous smell of smoke in the air, the ash that fell like snow, the reactions of the people around me.

Sunset from the summit of Haleakala, the south/eastern volcano of Maui. This is not in Hana, nor mentioned in Torn Roots, but I love this picture.

Inspiration looking for a story

Eventually, Roxanne and I did go to Prague. It’s a beautiful and inspiring place (and remarkably affordable, too!). I would love to write a story that deserves this wonderful, friendly, historic and mystical space. I just haven’t figured it out, yet.

Porto, Portugal is another inspiring place we visited. Its Livraria Lello, or Lello Bookstore, inspired J.K. Rowling to imagine the staircases at Hogwarts. Today, it’s far too crowded with people who just want to see it to be inspiring on the spot, but there are many other places in Portugal that spark the imagination.

The narrow pedestrian-only streets of Prague seem to ooze stories.
The Church of Mother of God before Týn in Old Town Prague.

Porto, Portugal is another inspiring place we visited. Its Livraria Lello, or Lello Bookstore, inspired J.K. Rowling to imagine the staircases at Hogwarts. Today, it’s far too crowded with people who just want to see it to be inspiring on the spot, but there are many other places in Portugal that spark the imagination.

The staircase at Livraria Lello, Porto, Portugal.
Me on the staircase (which didn’t move). The book is in Portuguese, on the history of Portuguese discoveries.

Everywhere I go inspires story ideas for me. I just wish I had time to write them all.

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Thursday teaser: Lonely Night to Die

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Sample the three thrillers in one volume

By Caleb Pirtle III

Lonely Night to Die cover

ROLAND SAND AWOKE on a park bench as the first rays of an early sunrise crept through a patch of dark clouds wet with rain.

A hot wind caressed his bald head, and he felt slender threads of perspiration rolling down the serrated scars on his face.

The air was thick.

And moist.

Sand found it hard to breathe.

The humidity had wrapped its long and unforgiving fingers around his neck and felt as if was choking him.

Sand took a deep breath and winced.

A burning sensation bore through the left side of his rib cage.

The little bastard had thrown his ball peen hammer away and was doing his damndest to rip a bone out of his sternum with a crowbar.

The park bench, once green, now rusted by time and rain, sat back among a stand of weeping cedar trees that encircled a goldfish pond rimmed with brick and rocks and amber splinters from broken bottles.

The water was green and thick with algae.

A black inner tube floated against the far edge.

The goldfish were gone.

Maybe the stagnant water had devoured them all.

An old saying wandered through Sand’s mind as he narrowed his focus from a telescope to a microscope, as a gray day turned bright, then dark, and he tried to remember where he was and why he had arrived in the middle of the night with a bullet tearing up his insides.

We travelers never seek the easy way but always find the lonelier way, and we never begin a new day in the same bed where we ended the day that could have been our last.

Sundown leaves us behind.

Sunrise catches us somewhere else in unfamiliar places in the midst of unfamiliar faces.

But not everyone who wanders is lost.

The miles are never predictable.

Or easy.

Just because I have a map doesn’t mean I know where I am.

Just because I have a name doesn’t mean I know who I am.

And the only companion who travels with me travels in a hearse.

Who wrote that?

The Prophet Kahlil Gibran?

Tolkien?

No.

They would have written it better.

Maybe the words had merely spilled from a hurting and demented mind.

His.

Sand’s turtleneck sweater had become saturated with sweat beneath his woolen long coat.

His shoulders ached, his stomach growled, and he wondered when the little bastard standing next to his left ear would quit pounding the back of his head with a ball peen hammer.

His skin itched.

His face felt as raw as a brisket grilled rare.

Sand rubbed the palm of his hand against the ridge of his jawline.

Patches of whiskers had cropped up around the scars.

They were thick and as course as the metal bristles on a harlot’s scrub brush.

He looked around him for a familiar landmark.

There was none.

He was simply a curiosity in a curious place.

Who had taken him from the train?

Who had left him?

Who had left him to die?

The list was long.

The numbers were legion.

The girl sitting beside him wore her long frosted blonde hair in braids, and a silver pendant with an eagle stamped in gold hung around her neck.

Her dress was long, black, and satin.

She looked like a refugee from some fairy tale who had escaped the holiday ball before a witch or wicked stepmother could turn her carriage into a pumpkin.

She might be thirty years old, but he doubted it, and she would have been the most striking woman he had ever seen if her thin, oval face had not been blemished with blood and a bullet hole embedded just below her hairline.

Her head lay on his shoulder.

His coat was thick with clotted blood.

His?

Hers?

He had no idea.

Her dead eyes were open and staring up at him.

He didn’t know why.

It was as if she had died with a question on her lips and thought he might provide the answer.

Lonely Night to Die

is a collection of three noir thriller novellas in a single volume. The stories follow the exploits of Roland Sand, the Quiet Assassin, who has broken away from a rogue agency within the CIA. His missions are those no one else wants to tackle. The reason is simple. Sand is expendable. If he doesn’t return, he won’t be missed. His name is erased. It’s as though he never existed.

Lovely Night to Die: Why should she fall in love with a man she defended in court? Does she know he’s a CIA assassin? Does she know he has orders to kill the President? Does she know she will die if he fails? What else doesn’t she know?

Sand can’t afford to fail. He doesn’t want to lose the girl he loves.But can he save the President and her both? He has a second to make up his mind.

“Great characters, superb pacing, intriguing storytelling. Recommended for fans of solid action thrillers everywhere.” — Review by Enrico Graffiti

Rainy Night to Die: Sand is sent to Ukraine to smuggle out a beautiful lounge jazz singer who, for years, has been smuggling Russian secrets back to MI-6’s home office in Great Britain. Her contact in London has been compromised. He is found floating in the Thames River. Sand must extricate Pauline Bellerose before the Russians trace the stolen secrets back to her and place a noose around her neck.

He has twenty-four hours to find the singer and remove her to safety. If she is caught, she dies.

It’s a frantic race to a waiting ship off the coast of Ukraine. Death waits around every bend in the road.

“With numerous clever twists and turns to the story, it will keep you reading until the unexpected surprise at the end.” —Review by Jackie Taylor Zortman

Lonely Night to Die: Sand awakens on a park bench in town he’s never seen before.

How did he get there? He doesn’t know. Who is the beautiful girl on the bench beside him? He doesn’t know. But she’s quite dead, and he has no idea who killed her. Or why.

But he’ll find out if it’s the last thing he ever does.

It might well be.

Caleb Pirtle III

began his career writing about history and travel. He learned quickly, however, that what happens is never as important as those who make it happen. Many of those people have made their way into his novels.

He is the author of more than 65 published books, including the new noir suspense thrillers, Golgotha ConnectionSecrets of the Dead, Conspiracy of Lies and Night Side of Dark. His other novels include Back Side of a Blue Moon and Friday Nights Don’t Last Forever

He has written such award winners as “XIT: The American Cowboy,” “Callaway Gardens: the Unending Season,” “The Grandest Day,” “Echoes from Forgotten Streets,” and “Spirit of a Winner.” His nonfiction works include Gamble in the Devil’s Chalk and No Experience Required.

Caleb earned a journalism degree from The University of Texas and became the first student at the university to win the national William Randolph Hearst Award for feature writing. As a reporter for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, he received both the Texas Headliner’s and Associated Press Awards.

He served as travel editor for Southern Living Magazine, and his travel writing was given the National Discover America Award three times. For more than two decades, Pirtle was editorial director for a custom publishing company in Dallas.

He has also written teleplays for network television.

Find more about Caleb at his:

Website   |   Blog    |  Facebook    |   Twitter

You can find Lonely Night to Die on his website or on Amazon.

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