Monday, November 12, 2012

Blog Tour Soon and Free Short Story with Thanks! :D

Happy Monday, Everyone! For anyone who missed it, something exciting happened on Friday evening. I was bundling my niece up to go over to my dad's house for dinner (we had a storm over the weekend:


) when a thud sounded outside followed by a knock. Curious, I opened my apartment door and found:


boxes from my publisher, Tate Publishing, Inc.! Yea! My books had arrived!


So I opened one, took a picture to bombard all the contacts in my phone with, then had to run out the door. (I was late and the main dish was already getting cold in the back seat.)

So, my first batch of books is here. Persistence of Vision is officially on it's way! I already have a launch party at work planned, and I'll be selling them at the South Towne Expo Center (Utah) in December. 

So, I wanted to share my excitement and let everyone know that I'll be planning a blog tour soon. If you'd like to participate or do a review, feel free to contact me at lkhillbooks@gmail.com. I'll be sending out formal invites/requests by email in a couple of weeks but if anyone wants to get a jump on things...Just sayin.' :D

creativefrighting.jollyfishpress.com
The second thing I wanted to do today is courtesy of my other publisher, Jolly Fish Press. My publicist suggested that, now that Creative Frighting is over, we put our stories on our blogs. I realized I never mentioned the results or thanked the voters. So, this is me giving a belated thanks to all those that participated.

For those who don't know, Creative Frighting was a short Halloween story competition put on by Jolly Fish Press. They had each of their authors write a short story and then promote the contest. Readers read them and voted for their favorite, in exchange for a chance to win an Amazon giftcard.

I didn't win, but that's okay. Teri Harman's awesome story, The Wheel of Wasted Souls took first place, and deservedly so. Though they wouldn't tell us who got the next most votes and so on, they told us that everyone got a lot, so thanks to all who voted, especially for me. :D

If you didn't get around to reading my story, here it is. Enjoy! And Happy Monday! :D

Wormwood Manor


I enter the kitchen on silent feet. Everyone else is already there. Betsy sits at the table, sniffling, while Mrs. Bramson rubs her shoulder in a comforting fashion.
Across from Betsy sits the groundskeeper, Mr. Tate, and his son Peter. On Betsy's other side is Jane, who is about Betsy's same age. The housekeeper, the two grounds men, the two young maids, and I are the only ones who've stayed on for the winter this year.
"Dear girl," Mrs. Bramson addresses Betsy, "you mustn't believe such things."
"What is happening here?" I intone quietly.
Betsy doesn't raise her eyes. "I took a fright is all, Mr. Ellison."

"From…gossip I heard in town.""From what?"
I try not to sneer. "Gossip gave you a fright?"
"It were the nature of the gossip, sir."
"And of what nature was it?"
Mrs. Bramson answers. "People in town say the servants of Pembroke Manor have disappeared."
I frown. "Disappeared? Where could they have gone?"
"No one knows," Betsy murmurs. "The postman tried to deliver a letter, but the house was dark. He knew something was wrong, so he went for help. The house is empty and the cellar is locked."
"Locked?" I cough.
Betsy nods. "No one can find the key to get in."
"Perhaps the servants are in there," I suggest.
Betsy shakes her head. "The postman knocked on the cellar door and called out. No one answered. There weren't nothing in the house that would saw through the door. It's thick wood like ours, see. They plan to wait until tomorrow to break through it." Betsy studies her hands again. "Everyone in town thinks the servants are dead."
"Rubbish!" They all jump and I moderate my voice. "Foolish girl," I say quietly. "Such stories are the product of idle hands. There must be some explanation."
"Mr. Ellison is right," Mrs. Bramson sets bowls of steaming stew on the table.
"Dark stories always circulate during the winter months, Betsy. You mustn't take them to heart."
As we eat, I tell everyone about an open window I found on the second floor, and instruct Peter and Jane to make a sweep of the house before dark.
"Yes, Mr. Ellison," they say in unison.
"Speaking of the cellar," Mr. Tate says, "have you the key to the wine cellar, Mr. Ellison?"
"I have not," I reply. "Why would I?"
Mr. Tate shrugs. "Just thought I would ask. It's gone missing, sir."
"Missing?" I look around at everyone. Mrs. Bramson stares back at me thoughtfully, but the three younger servants keep their eyes down. I look back at Mr. Tate. "Who was last in possession of it?"
"I was, I believe," he answers. "I remember leaving it on the peg by the door, but it's not there, and no one else has used it. I must have misplaced it. My apologies, sir. I'll find it again."
After dinner I go to the east wing to finish some dusting. After a while, I hear a noise in the outer room. Someone's walking around out there, but they don't announce themselves.
I head for the door, but before I reach it, a dark silhouette glides by, and I stop. I can't tell who it was. Going to the door, I hold up my candle, but see nothing.
"Hello?"
Mrs. Bramson's soft voice comes to me from the opposite direction. A moment later, she appears. "Mr. Ellison? Were you calling me?"
"Who else is with you, Mrs. Bramson? Where is everyone?"
"No one is with me, Mr. Ellison. I've come to fetch you."
"Someone else was just here."
"That's impossible, sir. We're the only two in this wing."
I swivel my head toward her. "How can you be sure?"
"Because everyone else is with Betsy."
Fighting off a sense of foreboding, I follow Mrs. Bramson through the corridors. When we arrive at Betsy's room, everyone is indeed there. Jane sits on the bed, holding Betsy's hand, while Mr. Tate and Peter peer in with creased brows from the doorway.
Betsy lies in bed. Rivulets of sweat slide down her face, but she shivers violently under the covers. I feel her forehead and find it hotter than the flame of my candle.
"Shall I fetch the doctor, Mr. Ellison?" Peter asks, voice tinged with anxiety.
"I hate to send you out on such a dark night, Peter."
"Mr. Ellison."
I turn at Mrs. Bramson's stern tone.
"The doctor must be got."
I look down at Betsy and know she's right.
"Very well. Can you make it on your own, Peter?"
"I'm sure I can, Mr. Ellison. I'll be gone and back in an hour. Two at most." He puts on his winter coat and thick books, and his father and I see him to the door.
We move Betsy into one of the family's guest rooms so she can be near a fire. Jane and Mrs. Bramson bring hot water from the kitchen, massage Betsy's feet to warm her, wipe the sweat from her brow, and pile blankets on top of her. Mr. Tate stokes the fire and asks the women if they need him to fetch anything.
I take up a vigil by the window, pulling the sheet off a high-backed chair so I can perch there. After a time, I realize it's been a long while since I've seen my groundskeeper.
"Where is Mr. Tate?"
Mrs. Bramson glances around. "He was here a moment ago."
When he still hasn't returned ten minutes later, I go to look for him. I explore each wing of the house, walking down the corridors with my candle and calling out his name, but get no response.
I finally end up at the top of the main staircase. As I begin my descent, I stick my hand into my pocket and feel something metallic. But I am not in the habit of keeping objects in my pockets. I wonder what it is, but before I can pull it out, I look up and freeze.
The heavy, mahogany front door stands wide open.
I hurry the rest of the way down, my foreboding deepening. Even if Mr. Tate went out to meet someone, he would use the servant's entrance. When Peter returned with the doctor, he too would use that entrance, not only because it was the servant's entrance but because it is closer to Betsy's room.
I shut and lock the door. I've searched the entire house, so I head back to Betsy's room. Both women are disturbed that I haven't located Mr. Tate.
Minutes pass in silence, except for Betsy's ragged breathing. Then Jane speaks.
"Mr. Ellison, perhaps Mr. Tate went down to the wine cellar."
I arch an eyebrow. "Why would he go there?"
Jane looks uncomfortable. "He never did find the key, but just before Betsy got sick, he said something about knowing where to look for it."
It made sense, I supposed. But why wouldn't Mr. Tate come tell me? He had no reason to go down there and the key to the door is missing anyway.
"I'll go see if he's down there."
"Oh, please, Mr. Ellison," Jane hops to her feet, "let me go. I have to get more water from the kitchen anyway. I'll do a loop and see if he's there."
"Very well."
Minutes pass and Jane doesn't return. Mrs. Bramson glances repeatedly toward the door, but I don't allow myself to worry. Jane will return soon. And probably with Mr. Tate.
When Jane has been gone for more than twenty minutes, Mrs. Bramson gets to her feet. "Perhaps she needs help," she says.
A feminine shriek rings out from some part of the house I can't identify. I leap to my feet as all the color drains from Mrs. Bramson's face. Picking up my candle, I hurry out of the room. She follows me. At the end of the hall, I stop and turn to her. "Stay here, Mrs. Bramson."
Her lips press into a thin line, but she turns back to Betsy's room and I move toward the wine cellar.
I shine my candle down every intersecting hallway I come to, and even open a few doors, but the house is ghostly silent.
Finally I make my way down the stairs to the cellar. They are narrow so I have to take them slowly. I see only what the light field of my candle reveals. Everything else is blackness.
The cellar door comes into view. There's no sign of Mr. Tate or Jane. Not sure what else to do, I try the cellar door. As anticipated, it's locked.
"Mr. Tate? Jane?" I expect my voice to echo in the dank passage, but it doesn't. It sounds hollow, muted somehow.
Then I see it.
The barest movement from under the cellar door. I freeze, and stoop down to peer at the bottom of it. When my nose is inches from the threshold, I see it again: light and movement.
I gasp, but I don't understand. If Mr. Tate and Jane are in there, how did they get in? Why don't they call out? Did Mr. Tate find the key?
I bang on the door. "Mr. Tate? Jane? Are you in there?"
At first there is only silence. Then I fancy I can hear a soft hissing sound. I straighten and back away from the door, watching the light at the bottom. Suddenly I know without a doubt that it's not Jane or Mr. Tate in there. It's something else.
The shadow moves again—something walking back and forth behind the door. Panic spreads through my being. I turn on my heel and flee, feeling every instant as though something is coming up the stairs after me. I run faster than I have in years, across the kitchen, through the dark corridors, past windows encrusted with snow.
I skid into Betsy's room. She still lies on the bed. Her breathing has become so ragged it sounds painful. There is no one else in the room.
"Mrs. Bramson?"
No answer.
I look around frantically, but where could she have gone? She had all the blankets and medicine in this room. The fire is burning brightly. She's set up a swing-arm and a suspended kettle of water is boiling merrily.
I retrace my steps with the candle all the way to the kitchen, but find nothing.
Something catches my eye: a small dark puddle on the table. I cross the room and dip my finger in the substance. In the light of my candle, it has a deep red hue. I raise it to my nostrils. It has a metallic scent.
A soft creak brings my head around. The door to the cellar is ajar and creaking on its hinges. Had I left that open? I might have in my haste to get back to Betsy's room.
Thud.
The noise comes from the stairway.
Thud, thud, thud, thud. The sounds descend the stairs, as though something is being dragged. I should throw the door open. But I can't. I stand gazing at the cellar door while my arms hang limp with fear.
A feminine voice shrieks from the cellar, and I would swear on my late wife's grave that it came from behind that cellar door. Dropping my candle, I run.
I slam the door to Betsy's room and lock it.
Hunkering down beside Betsy's bed, I tremble. I sit for what must be two hours. Where was Peter with the doctor?
I turn to find Betsy's eyes fastened on the wall above my head. They're fixed and glazed. I reach up, press the girl's eyelids shut, and pull the sheet over her face. I feel the metallic object in my pocket again, resting coldly against my hip. I wonder what it is, but I don't care enough to look.
I'm not tired, but suddenly I awaken and realize I've been dozing. Something is not right. My heart pounds. I feel as though someone is in the room with me. I turn my head slowly to the right…and cry out, vaulting from my chair and stumbling away until my back comes up against the icy window pane.
Betsy is staring at me.
Her chest does not move. She makes no noise, no motion. Her vacant eyes gaze at me in a silent growl of rage. Blood seems to have congealed behind the whites, and she looks like a demon.
I cannot stay in this room. I turn my back to Demon Betsy and survey the yard below. The largest wolf I've ever seen drags something—prey of some kind—leaving blood-filled grooves in its wake.
It lays its prey down below the window, as if for me to inspect. When it moves away, I gaze down upon something. I suppose I've known for some time now that Peter never got out; that he never made it to the doctor; that no one is coming.
I turn my back on Peter's corpse, and head for the cellar.
I walk calmly through the house, and descend the cellar stairs with relative swiftness this time. I pause outside the door, wondering how I'll get in. I haven't thought about Betsy's story about Pembroke Manor, the missing servants and the locked door since dinner, but I think of them now, wondering what it all means.
A light glows brightly from under the cellar door. It looks like flames, and I remember there's an old coal stove in the wine cellar. It hasn't been used in years.
Then I remember the metallic object in my pocket. I reach in and pull out the key. I marvel at it, wondering how it got there. It never leaves the peg beside the door, and I haven't been down here for a year. Shaking my head, I put the key in the lock, turn it, and push the door inward.
I gasp and recoil. The room looks like rot. It smells like betrayal. It sounds like loneliness. My eyes fall on the bodies. They're everywhere, in pieces. Blood spatters the walls and lifeless eyes stare at me from everywhere.
Something stands in front of the furnace. It looks like a man, though something tells me this creature is not human. It shovels something into the stove: coal shaped like human limbs. He turns his head to look at me.
Two miniature coal stoves blaze where his eyes should be. His mouth cracks open in a toothy smile. Between the two rows of blazing white, pointed teeth, there is an oblivion of darkness waiting to swallow all that passes into it.
I cower against the wall as the creature stands over me. Its breathing is ragged, just like Betsy's was before she died. He reaches out. The instant his fingers touch my throat, I scream. The last thing I'm aware of is a ripping sound, like fabric being torn. As I slip into oblivion, I'm uncertain whether the creature is shredding my body or my soul.


What did you think of it?
And if you haven't yet, be sure to check out my dystopian giveaway!

4 comments :

  1. Congratulations! Nothing like receiving that first copy and holding it in your hands.
    I am booked solid until May, but be happy to do a shout-out for you. What's the release date?

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  2. Congrats on your book :) I would like to review it though it may take me a little while to get to it..I have two other books ahead I agreed to review :)

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  3. Congratulations on your book!! That's exciting!

    I read your Halloween story and really enjoyed it! It definitely scared me.

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