The Vampire Washing Machine

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A silly Spooktober treat for fright lovers

By Scott Bury

The power went out with drawn-out squeaks from every electronic device in the house. Rodney noticed the full moon shining through the window.

“Glad I didn’t close the blinds earlier,” he muttered. Then he swore as the soapy plate slipped from his fingers and smashed on the floor. In the dark, he cut a finger on a shard and held back another oath as he heard a growl.

Spooky haunted talking dishwasher by Adrian Loveless

The only light in the kitchen was the moon reflecting off the front of the dishwasher. It growled again and rattling came from the cutlery inside it.

How could it do that when the power’s out, Rodney wondered. He wrapped a paper towel around his cut finger and bit back another oath when he saw a drop of blood, black in the dim light, hit the floor in front of the dishwasher.

The machine growled again and the door flung open. “Goddamn!” Rodney stepped back and tripped, flopping onto his butt on the vinyl floor.

His heart pounding, he looked closer at the dishwasher. Somehow, two steak knives had become tangled in the rack and were hanging down from either side like fangs. To his horror then, the door slowly rose, closing by itself.

“Come closer,” said a voice.

Rodney looked around. “Who said that?”

“You know who—or rather, what. Come closer.”

“The dishwasher?” I’ve been working too hard.

“Not just any dishwasher. Is your finger all right?”

“No, it hurts like hell. I have to put some peroxide on it.”

“Do not do that!” said the dishwasher. “Put your finger in my—that is, on the edge of the door.”

Rodney did not know why he complied, but he put his finger on the lip of the door. It snapped closed with his finger somehow wedged inside and he felt the dishwasher sucking on it. He pulled it out with a gasp. “What are you doing?”

“I want your blood,” said the dishwasher.

“A vampiric dishwasher?” Rodney put his finger in his own mouth. It tasted soapy, but the blood flowed freely. “I’m losing it.”

The door flung open again. “Give me your blood!” the dishwasher cried. A red glow came from deep in the back. Rodney could not tear his eyes from it.

The glow came closer and closer, brighter and brighter until Rodney realized, too late, that his head was completely inside the dishwasher. Obeying a silent command in his head, he twisted around to look up. The door slammed shut and drove his throat onto the steak knife.

Photo by Simon Moore on Unsplash

Rodney only struggled for a few seconds as his blood drained into the dishwasher cavity. When his heart stopped, the dishwasher sighed deeply.

The moonbeam moved off the dishwasher. The door fell forward under Rodney’s weight and his body rolled onto the floor.

The noise drew Kelly, Rodney’s widow, into the kitchen. “Rodney? Are you getting some candles?” In the moonlight that was now reflecting off the toaster, she saw Rodney’s body on the floor.

She didn’t even have time to scream before the toaster-wolf sprang on her from the counter and tore out her throat.

What’s sexier to suburbanite adults today than really great kitchen appliances?

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Thursday terror: Velvet Rain

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A spooky sample from the novel

By David C. Cassidy

Photo by Neel on Unsplash

Kain cursed himself. He should have bolted when he’d had the chance. How many times had he Turned? Small wonder his head was pounding. And what the hell was that damn static? It was coming in fits now, like a circling pack of wild, growling dogs.

Dizzied, he held dead still against the tip of the knife. The smoky air sickened, but didn’t he crave a cigarette, suddenly. Still, after all these years. He didn’t really want one, of course, but what he wouldn’t do to ease the agony in his head.

He looked to the barkeep in the slim hope of a hand. The man regarded the goings-on with but a cursory glance, clearly more concerned with that looker at the end of the bar, chatting her up the way he was. In fact, save this intimate little gathering near the pool table, most of this questionable clientele seemed entirely disinterested. Not good.

“Come on,” Cal said, pressing the nelson. “Bleed this cheatin’ bastard.”

Here we go, Kain thought. Over the edge. Over a couple of sawbucks.

The fat man seemed to panic, then slit him with a quick flick of the blade. It stung. Blood dribbled down his throat to his chest. The nelson tightened, that throb in his neck crushing like a boatload of bricks coming down on him. If the Turn had given Cal a case of the body aches, he sure wasn’t showing it. The man was a bull.

Kain shook it off. He looked up past the knife, past the looker, to the glowing GUYS AND DOLLS sign that led to the restrooms. There was a jukebox on the way, a big rounded Wurlitzer, “Big Bad John” blaring out of its speakers for what must have been the tenth time tonight. Jimmy Dean had been all over the radio these days, would likely hit the top of the charts, and while the man had undoubtedly penned a great song, by this—the twenty-seventh of October, 1961, the biting wind howling hell’s breath beyond the gloom of this place—Kain had pretty much had his fill. And more than enough of this night.

“Twenty and we’re square, sir,” the trucker said, politely as sin. His voice held a touch of that approachable Missouri, but that honest smile had long since fled. His searching eyes narrowed. “I figure it’s likely more. But we can’t know for sure now, can we. Can we?”

At this the man glanced about to garner agreement. Not a word was spoken, but some of the patrons, the rats, mostly, seemed to concur. The eyes—sickly or not—never lie.

Kain capitulated with a nod. His long chestnut hair, cradling the shoulders of his weathered denim jacket, slipped down in front of his face. He held a menacing bad-boy look, and the looker, long since bored with the barkeep, stirred on her high bar stool. She bit down teasingly on her lower lip, handing him a breathless gaze with those perfect green gems. She had no idea how lucky she was; the redhead’s eyes were creepy little pissholes now.

“You win,” Kain said, feigning exasperation.

“No more tricks,” the fat man snapped. He drew the knife back with a step. Nodded to Cal.

Cal let Kain go, giving him a mild shove. “You’re lucky, drifter.”

Kain gathered himself. He had one chance to get out of this. He just hoped he had the juice.

With a small smile to the looker, he reached for his breast pocket in an innocent gesture of settling up, figuring to give Cal an elbow to the gut before he snatched up his knapsack and bolted for the exit. He was just about to when thunder rumbled and the place went black. Mild chaos turned to utter chaos when the lights didn’t come, and amid the ruckus of shouting, shuffling, and confusion, like a finely tuned magician, the audience astir, he summoned the magic … and popped the rabbit out of the hat.

Velvet Rain

A mysterious drifter, Kain Richards is the last of his kind—and a man on the run. Once a tortured prisoner and pawn in a clandestine government experiment, his freedom hangs in the balance against the relentless pursuit from Brikker, an obsessed and ruthless madman who will stop at nothing to possess him.

Born with the Turn—the godlike power to reverse time—Kain’s ability is constrained inside a “bubble” that alters time within it. The further back he turns, the larger the bubble, the larger the effect—and the greater, stranger, and more dire and unpredictable the consequences, for those within, and beyond, the Turn’s reach.

Kain also possesses the Sense, giving him knowledge of the previous timeline and fuzzy, incomplete glimpses of the future. While the vast majority of the population don’t have the Sense, some do—and Brikker is one of them. And yet, while those who have it aren’t even aware of it, experiencing little more than déjà vu when time has turned, Brikker’s Sense far exceeds Kain’s, and is utterly dangerous. Not only can he remember every detail of a previous timeline, his glimpses into the future are far deeper, far more telling, giving him a deadly advantage. As these glimpses can only occur when time has turned, Kain is the key to Brikker’s twisted plans that tread an unalterable path to a terrifying future of death and destruction.

Knowing full well he must keep to the road, yet worn from the chase and his curse of the Turn, Kain settles into a job as a farmhand, only to fall for a beautiful and sensible Iowa farmwoman. Unable to stay but unwilling to leave, his dark secret sets their lives in peril. His health and his powers failing, only an iron will in an epic final battle will give him the chance to stand against the evil menace that threatens to consume him and the woman he loves—and to save the world from a hellish apocalypse.

David C. Cassidy, horror

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.

Get to know more about David at his:

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

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Cover reveal: The Children of the Seventh Son

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BestSelling Reads author member announces new book

By Scott Bury

BestSelling Reads member Scott Bury has revealed the cover of his upcoming release, The Children of the Seventh Son.

It’s an original image by painter Marc Laisne of Montpelier, France and Ottawa, Canada. The cover design is by another BestSelling Reads member, David C. Cassidy.

“I’m very proud of the cover. Not many independently published books have completely original cover images,” says the author. “Marc Laisne captured perfectly a key scene in the book: where the central character, Javor the Sklavene, faces a choice of three paths to follow.”

The Children of the Seventh Son

The year 600 of the Christian Era is the darkest time of the Dark Age. Young Javor the Sklavene has settled in Constantinople, the last bastion of civilization against dark forces that have shattered the Western Roman Empire.

Wielding two special weapons made from the Bones of the Earth, Javor has become the favourite monster-killer of the secret Gnostic Order. As his young family grows, he is sent to distant, exotic lands to eliminate threats and learn more about why the earth is intent on destroying humanity.

Every mission seems to bring more questions than answers—until he finds the greatest danger comes not from forces from beneath the surface of the world, but from the very civilization he has been defending.

The second book in the Dark Age series, it’s the sequel to The Bones of the Earth. You can enjoy a sample of that book on the author’s website.

The Children of the Seventh Son will publish on Friday, November 13 and is available for pre-order on Amazon now.

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Nicoli

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A Thursday teaser from the latest crime romance

By Sydney Landon

Warning: explicit language

I shrug nonchalantly.  “Fucking the female version of Rambo has its moments.”  I nod to the weapons on the nearby table before adding, “Isn’t that a bit much even for you?”  And there it is again—the tiniest shifting of her expression.  Shit, most would never notice, but it practically rings alarm bells for me.  What the fuck is she hiding?  Even as I ask myself that question, I dismiss it.  Just because we’re fucking doesn’t mean there’s any major exchanging of the information.  She may live with me and be best friends with Nina, but she’s still a Gavino.  Regardless of her disdain for most of her family, they’re still blood.  And she’s no docile and sweet heir to the proverbial throne.  The exact opposite.  She’s a warrior who will kill to protect those she loves.  She’s dangerous, and she doesn’t pretend to be anything other than what she is.  Hence the stripping of weapons in front of me.  A calculating woman would hide the fact that she rarely goes anywhere without being armed to the teeth.  Possibly because she knows I understand and get off on it.  But likely because she doesn’t give a good fuck what my opinion of her is.  Thinking like a pussy again.  Fuck me. 

“I don’t recall you ever walking out the door without protection.  Why should I be any different?  I’m likely a bigger target than you are, thanks to dear old Dad.”

“Your father is head of the second-biggest mafia family on the East Coast.  We’re not talking PTA president here, Minxy.”   Her mouth twitches slightly at the nickname I’ve taken to calling her.

“Exactly.  So, why are you harassing me about it?  You’d rather some punk looking to make a name for himself take me out?” My cock stirs to life as my eyes drop to linger on the tight leather pants she’s wearing.  So fucking hot.  Those things are a bitch to get off, but her ass looks amazing in them.  It’s even better out of them, but—you get the picture.  I motion toward her spike-heeled black boots before saying, “I don’t think you’d need anything other than those to take care of business.  But yeah, I feel you.  Always better to be prepared for anything.  We damn sure know by now to expect the unexpected.”  Even though months have passed since the utter mindfuck of Angelica Moretti’s betrayal, a glance at Minka’s haunted expressions tells me that we’re both sifting through the pain brought on by my careless choice of words.  We stare at each other for a long moment, as if each waiting for the other to break the silence that has fallen between us.

Nicoli: Pierced, Lucian & Lia, Book 9

What do you do when those closest to you are not who they appear to be? For a man as loyal as Nicoli Moretti it’s the ultimate betrayal. As the top lieutenant and best friend to the head of the Moretti family, he thought he knew everything about the man he considered a brother—but he was so very wrong. Still reeling from that blow, he discovers that not only did the woman he loves know before him, but she also has secrets of her own—ones that could well get her killed.

His thirst for revenge is almost overwhelming—yet so is his love for Minka Gavino. A relationship with someone from another mafia family would be complicated on a good day, but is it even worth fighting for now? Once the trust is gone, can it ever be rebuilt? Or, will he walk away from the only life he’s ever known and the only woman he’s ever loved?

Get it on

Sydney Landon

is the New York Times & USA Today best selling author of:  Weekends Required, Not Planning on You, Fall For Me, Fighting For You, Betting on You, No Denying You, Always Loving You, Pierced and Fractured.  Sydney is currently working on the next book in the Danvers’ Series as well as the Pierced Series.

When she isn’t writing romantic erotica or romance, Sydney enjoys reading, swimming and the beach.

She lives with her family in Greenville, South Carolina.

Get to know more about Sydney:

Her BestSelling Reads author page   |    Website    |    Amazon Author page    |    Barnes & Noble    |    Kobo    |    Google Play    |    iBooks

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If I could turn back time

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Monday musings on writing

by Raine Thomas

Photo by Fabrizio Verrecchia on Unsplash

You may have noticed that we’ve had a few posts by other Bestselling Reads authors in recent weeks discussing what they’d do differently in their first book if they could do it all over again. The funny thing is, I contributed this blog topic to the group. Yet when it came time to think about my own response, I struggled.

I’m one of those people who believes that everything happens for a reason and it happens at the pace it’s meant to. I also believe in the value of mistakes. They help us learn, grow, and, in many cases, thrive.

That said, there are certainly things I would do differently if I could turn back time. I have learned a lot in the nearly ten years since publishing my Daughters of Saraqael trilogy. Indeed, since I published those books when indie publishing was just hitting its stride, one could argue that the industry as a whole has changed since then.

The first thing I would do if I could go back in “publishing time” is get more prepared for engaging with fans before publishing. I had less than twenty Twitter followers when I decided to self-publish. I think I had less on Facebook. I made some unknowingly smart decisions by publishing all three books in the trilogy at once and using Becoming’s cover as my avatar. It resulted in almost immediate interest and a rapid boost in my social media following. If I had done the work to build my social media platforms before publishing, it stands to reason the books would have been exponentially more successful.

Hindsight and all that.

Another thing I would do differently is broaden my beta reader pool. My first beta readers were all people I knew well. That’s never the best idea! It’s rare for someone who cares about you to give you honest, unfiltered feedback. Don’t get me wrong, I got plenty of constructive input, but there are things I could’ve tightened up with more objective insights.

Photo by Dave Photoz on Unsplash

Marketing is something else I’d do differently if I could go back to that fateful day when I first clicked the publish button. Options for indies were more limited back then, but I didn’t so much as think about researching avenues to promote my books. I should have worked on developing relationships with book bloggers ahead of time. I should have looked into paid and free advertising. In short, I should have done more than create a website and a couple of social media accounts and pray for readers to find my books.

Would I change anything in those first three books if I could go back in time? Maybe. But I’ve developed a strong fan base of readers who love the books just as they are. So that’s a tough call. As I work on my next project, a novella in my baseball romance series called Ready for the Curve, I am drawing on all the experience I’ve gained since publishing the Daughters of Saraqael trilogy. I’m also participating in courses and trainings to enhance what I’ve learned. The crafts of writing and publishing are ever-evolving, and I’m determined to evolve with them!

Raine Thomas

is the award-winning author of bestselling Young Adult and New Adult fiction.

Known for character-driven stories that inspire the imagination, Raine has signed with multiple award-winning producer Chase Chenowith of Back Fence Productions to bring her popular Daughters of Saraqael trilogy to the big screen.

She’s a proud indie author who is living the dream. When she isn’t writing or glued to e-mail or social networking sites, Raine can usually be found vacationing with her husband and daughter on one of Florida’s beautiful beaches, and will soon be crossing the border again to visit with her Canadian friends and relatives.

Get to know Raine at her

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Maps and fantasy

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Monday musings on fantasy writing

By Scott Bury

A map is a necessary feature of any fantasy novel.

Tolkien’s map from The Hobbit

Ever since Tolkien and Lewis, and maybe before, every fantasy novel has a map at the beginning or the end of the book.

It’s not necessary, but I find a map often helps. I also think a good map would help with any historical fiction as well as some others, to show the reader the relationships between settings in any story, to give an idea of how close or far apart key locations are. 

The trouble is, with a lot of fantasy novels, the map is childish looking. Totally unsatisfying for anyone who knows the first thing about maps.

It seems that every fantasy writer thinks that Pauline Baynes, the illustrator of the maps in The Hobbit, set the rules of cartography. 

But they’re not as good at drawing maps as Baynes. As a result, their maps are not detailed, nor realistic nor, more importantly, believable.

One good example is the map of the fantasy world in the bestselling Eragon by David Paolini. Obviously inspired by the maps drawn by Tolkien and Baynes, it’s particularly unsatisfying and child-like. It displays a lack of understanding how geography and geology work. 

This is not the only example. All the writers of fantasy seem to think mountains look like individual little cones, sometimes topped with a charming snowy peak. Rivers conveniently go through cities, which always have a hill for a castle with four towers in it. 

Coastlines are remarkably smooth, and borders between kingdoms are regular, rather than the tortuous, twisting and contentious messes you can see in virtually every part of the word, shaped by centuries of warfare and politics. 

Likewise, the societies were always limited and simplistic. There is a good kingdom and an evil kingdom. Their allies are also either good or bad, but less extreme. Tolkien, Lewis, Pratchett, Turtledove and most others follow this trope. George Martin is the one author who comes close to reflecting the complexity of international relations and dynastic politics in his Song of Ice and Fire series. But even that is not as complex, nor as far-reaching as the real ancient world was.

The sophistication of ancient societies

The ancient Greeks and Romans, for example, knew about China (which they variously called “Qin” or “Seres.”) Rome traded with India, and with far-off places like Abyssinia and Axum. Roman writers listed far-flung tribes in Scandinavia and what is now Russia, as well as in Africa. Their geography extended far beyond the maps of most fantasy writers. 

Maps and direction

Dissatisfaction with maps was part of the inspiration behind my first-published novel, The Bones of the Earth. When I began writing it, many years ago, my children were quite young and seemed to like stories about dragons. So we got a few movies and books, but somehow, they all seemed to follow a few well-worn tropes. The dragons were all friendly, or at least amenable to human direction. 

But that’s not what dragons meant to me. A little reading about the mythology involving dragons reveals them to be immensely powerful creatures, as well as very intelligent. While European stories generally depict dragons as antagonistic. Leave them alone on their giant piles of gold and jewels, or they’ll burn down your town and eat you alive, is the moral.

Asian dragons, on the other hand, are often said to have taught humans agriculture and other wisdom. They’re still not friendly, though. Certainly they are not suitable as pets.

Inspiration

All of this inspired me to do something different.

I guess it started with the map. “How can I make a map look more realistic?” I wondered. Eventually, I found the obvious solution: use a real map.

Which then led me to the next decision: set the fantasy story in a real place. And what is more fantastic than the Dark Age?

Current thinking dismisses the concept of the Dark Age of history. There are plenty of records from the time following the fall of the Western Roman Empire. In fact, the idea is highly western-European-centric and ignores the splendid civilizations that persisted through the years 476 to 800 CE: the Sassanid Persian Empire, China, Japan, powerful and sophisticated civilizations in India and Africa and the Americas. 

But it’s still a powerful, romantic idea, a great place for stories.

So that’s what led me to set a fantasy series in the Eastern Roman Empire around the turn of the seventh century CE. 

And it has an awesome map, and I’ll use it in my upcoming sequel, The Children of the Seventh Son.

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