Since it is a holiday for many people, I will keep today’s post very short, sweet, and to the point.
I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas, whether you celebrate it or not. I hope today and tomorrow–and every day after–is filled with light, love, family, friends, good health, plenty of food, adequate shelter, clothes on your back, and a smile on your face.
From Chase Connor Books and The Lion Fish Press, we wish you the very best going forward.
Thank you for being with me, and allowing me to be with you, on our journey through this writing journey.
Joyeux Noël, Feliz Navidad, Buon Natale, Merry Christmas. And, as a special treat to my readers and friends, here is a sneak peek at JACOB MICHAELS IS DEAD (A POINT WORTH LGBTQ PARANORMAL ROMANCE BOOK 6).
This excerpt has a spoiler, so if you haven’t read the first 5 books and CARNAVAL, you don’t want to start here.
Point Worth, OH
Sitting atop the tree stump just inside the halo of light cast by the campfire, the man slowly opened the book, letting it come to rest upon his lap. The children gathered around the perimeter of the campfire sat in the lotus position, leaning forward expectantly. All of their parents had brought them to the old lands out by the lake to hear this story, just as parents had been doing for many generations past. Flames from the fire licked high into the night air, sending sparks and embers floating into the velvety blackness above. Skeletal arms and fingers of the trees in their deep autumn slumber flickered in and out of sight with each spout of flame from the fire. The man looked slowly around the circle of children sternly, solemnly, before suddenly clearing his throat, making the children twitch anxiously. Looking down at the book, his mouth opened and his gravelly voice poured forth:
“Once upon a time…”
evil came to this land.
Its name was Bloody Bones. Though, what it was, no one knows.
Where it came from, no one knows.
What it looks like, no one knows.
What is known is that it has almost always been here. Lurking. Waiting. Watching. From beneath us.
Rising from the depths of the water, it would drag wicked children into the depths, never to be seen again.
“Sass your parents…Bloody Bones will getcha!”
“If you don’t clean up your mess…Bloody Bones will getcha!”
“Fight with your brothers and sisters…Bloody Bones will getcha!”
Parents would often say these things to their children, warning them that bad behavior would summon it. Bloody Bones would come for the wicked children. No one knew why everyone thought Bloody Bones only came for wicked children because, truth be told, he comes for all. Eventually, Bloody Bones comes for all of the wicked people, children and adults alike. No one is safe from it. It is everywhere at all times, waiting for its next wicked soul to claim. Though, no one really knows much else.
The one thing that is known is why it is here.
Many years ago…centuries…eons…who knows really? Bloody Bones simply rose from the ground, given life by the very magic that permeates every inch of this Earth. But it wasn’t just the magic of the land that gave life to it…it was also the evil that seems to fill the nooks and crannies where magic doesn’t reach. Where there is good, there is always evil.
Bloody Bones began its wrath of terror, claiming souls for its own. Ripping children from their beds and dragging them away, leaving tearful mummies and daddies wondering where their babes had gone. It killed livestock and family pets. Flying through the countryside, distorting the very magic which had begat it, attempting to create a new world in its vision.
Hell on Earth.
And if Bloody Bones had its way, that’s exactly where we would be now. Instead of sitting around this campfire, safe and sound.
For many years…generations really…the people of this land lived in fear of and in servitude to Bloody Bones. Afraid to anger the master of the magic of this land. Parents clutched their children tightly to their bosoms as they put them to bed each night, wondering if Bloody Bones would come. Food and drink, sometimes pets and livestock, were left as offerings on the doorsteps of the homes as the sun went to meet the horizon each night.
Bloody Bones was satisfied…for a time.
It had magic.
Rule of this land.
Blood. Meat. Drink.
It was king.
But even kings grow weary and dissatisfied with their kingdom.
Bloody Bones wanted more.
More children were taken. More livestock destroyed. Houses were burned with families inside. His wolves terrorized the villages. Years of famine and illness cast a dark shadow over these lands. Bloody Bones cast these lands into darkness for many years.
But…as things usually go…where there is magic, there is hope.
Just as Bloody Bones appeared, so did The Guardian and The Oracle.
And, finally…the witch.
The witch knew that no one but she could release her people from bondage—to free them from Bloody Bones’ reign of terror. Barely more than a child, the witch and Bloody Bones met on the field of battle. It was brutal and it was not quick. The Guardian and The Oracle watched—as Guardians and Oracles often do—as Bloody Bones was sealed in the ground. Right here. Beneath us. Right where we sit at this moment.
It was obvious, as the witch collapsed to the ground, that the child might recover. However, instead of living to fight another day, the witch gave her life, the last of her power, to seal Bloody Bones away for good. As her blood spilled upon the Earth, she cast a wide net of magic with her final breath. As long as the magic of her family was in this land, Bloody Bones would never return. It would stay sealed beneath us…forever.
The Oracle and The Guardian watched as the witch’s body was swallowed by the land. A peculiar artifact sprouting from where she had laid.
They knew that with her spell, the witch had balanced the fate of these lands upon a razor’s edge.
The magic would hold Bloody Bones.
But there are those who would seek magic.
To claim it as their own.
To use it.
Even the witch’s own family.
History becomes stories, and stories become legends, and legends become myths…and myths become nothing more than lies. Future generations of the witch’s family would not believe that the magic truly held Bloody Bones within the Earth. They would attempt to use the magic as it suited them, to bring them their hearts’ desires. Eventually, the magic that held Bloody Bones would be gone, squandered and perverted by the very people the witch had given her life to protect.
With a blood oath, The Oracle and The Guardian swore to watch over these lands, to ensure that if Bloody Bones were ever to return, they would be ready. They would find the most powerful witch in the family’s bloodline, and—regardless of the cost—get that witch to imprison Bloody Bones again.
With each witch’s death over the years—oh, yes, humans are weak and seek out the use of magic, and evil never rests—Bloody Bones grew stronger and stronger. The Oracle and The Guardian knew that…eventually…Bloody Bones would soon be too powerful for the same magics to keep it at bay. One day, it would rise from these lands, no matter who stood against it, and Hell would come to Earth.
But then…another witch was born.
And The Guardian and The Oracle recognized an opportunity to be rid of Bloody Bones forever…
“That’s not true!” The boy doubled over with laughter; his arms slung across his tummy.
“True as we’re sitting here!” The man’s brow furrowed as he turned to glare at the boy who had distracted him from his storytelling.
“What a bunch of crap.” Another kid, freshly in her teens, rolled her eyes as she jumped up from the ground. “You’re crazy.”
The man shrugged his shoulders as the children rose from the ground around the campfire. Chilly autumn air blew through their circle, making the firelight dance. Winter would be in Point Worth soon.
“You’ll think crazy when Bloody Bones visits you tonight.” The man cautioned her, pointing his finger brusquely at each of the kids in turn.
Mumbling about the “crazy man” and laughing amongst themselves, the children began to disperse, heading back up to the Old House where their parents were waiting to drive them home. Every year, on the same day, the children of Point Worth came to these lands to hear the tale of Bloody Bones. At first, this was a sacred event, regarded with great solemnity by the children who were dropped off by their parents. Over the years, it became nothing more than one of the “crazy men” in town trying to scare the children with an ancient myth about their hometown, and, before that, the lands that belonged to the indigenous peoples.
The man sighed to himself as he closed the book and placed his hands on his knees, preparing to rise from the tree stump, when a child caught his eye. One of the young boys had stayed seated by the campfire, watching the man. This boy lived on these lands with his family. It was curious that he would be the only child not to heckle the man for his story. The man settled back on the tree stump, his gaze turning to the young boy, sitting there by the fire, captivated and terrified, his wide eyes affixed to the man.
“It’s just a story.” The man said.
It had been for the sake of the boy’s comfort. No truth laced those words.
“Where did you hear that story?” The boy asked.
“Same as you.” The man winked. “From an old man around a campfire. The last man to own this book.”
“Is…is it tuh-true?”
“Don’t let it bother ya’ none.” The man winked at the boy. “Bloody Bones ain’t comin’ for you, Robert. And, if he does, I’ll fight him off for ya’.”
Robert thought about this for a moment, then a brilliant smile split his face. Leaping up, he gave the man a wave, and then he was running back towards his family home in the clearing in the woods, away from the shore of Lake Erie. The man watched as Robert ran gleefully towards home, allowing a passing smile to adorn his face. When the boy was swallowed up by the darkness and shadows of the woods, the man’s smile disappeared and his eyes went to the fire. Shadows danced all around him as the flames licked towards the canopy of trees overhead. A shiver, like Death’s finger ran up his spine.
“Ya’ know,” The man started at the sound of a woman’s voice, “no one really believes that story anymore. Which is a problem.”
“Who’s there?” The man’s head whipped around, looking for the sound of the voice.
“The ground can be shakin’ and the wolves can be prowlin’. The moon can turn to blood and the lake can boil…but that story is no more than a myth anymore.”
“Who’s there?” The man repeated, clutching the book to his chest.
His eyes landed on the spot where little Robert Wagner, Jr. had been swallowed up by the shadows. A woman, old in visage but spry in body, stepped out into the light of the campfire. The man’s eyes grew as the woman, a stranger to him, sauntered out of the shadows and towards the campfire, coming to stand on the other side of the flickering flames.
“Where’d you come from?” The man asked, unnerved by the sudden appearance of the woman he had never seen before.
“Here and there.” The matronly woman shrugged as she peered into the man’s sparkling eyes, not yet dulled by age. “Mostly here.”
“Who are you?”
The corner of the woman’s mouth turned upward slightly as her eyes lingered on the man’s a moment longer. Then her eyes were on the book.
“That book doesn’t belong to you.” She said.
With a flick of the woman’s hand, the book flew from the man’s grasp into the waiting, outstretched hand of the woman. She gave the man a smile and promptly tucked the book under her arm. Without another word, she turned and began to step away from the campfire.
“Huh-who are you?” The man demanded, rising from the tree stump.
“Well,” The woman turned back to the man, “I’m Esther Jean Wagner. Or, I will be. After a spell.”
Horrified, the man jabbed a shaky finger in her direction.
“You aren’t Esther Jean Wagner.” He demanded. “Esther Jean Wagner died in childbirth years ago.”
Esther Jean Wagner smiled.
“What people don’t know won’t hurt ‘em none.” She winked again. “It’s amazin’ what people will believe with a little magic, ain’t it?”
For a few moments longer, the woman stared at the man. Suddenly, the man lowered himself to the tree stump again, his eyes slowly moving to the flickering flames of the fire.
“That’s right.” The woman nodded. “That’s who I am. You’re good about tellin’ stories. Tell anyone you want about me if it suits you fine.”
The man’s head nodded up and down like a balloon on a stick.
“But you ain’t never heard this story before.” She shook the book at the mesmerized man. “That’s one story you can stop tellin’. We don’t need you goin’ around, spoilin’ the ending.”
“Why?” The man asked robotically, his eyes still on the fire.
“These kids ain’t the only folks listenin’.” Esther Jean Wagner’s brow furrowed as the ground rumbled underfoot for the briefest of moments. “Tellin’ stories is dangerous, Jackson Barkley. Some things are best left to be forgotten. For as long as they can.”
Esther Jean Wagner’s eyes moved from the ground to the canopy of skeletal tree limbs overhead. The chilly autumn breeze blew through the woods once more, ruffling her hair and threatening to extinguish the fire.
“It might already be too late.” She said, mostly to herself, before turning her eyes to Jackson Barkley. “He’s comin’. I don’t doubt that you’ll meet him.”
And, with that, Esther Jean Wagner disappeared back into the shadows, the book of stories tucked under her arm. Jackson Barkley sat before the fire, staring into its slowly dying flames.
Tremendous Love & Thanks,