EXCERPT: The Children of Never by Christian Warren Freed—The Grey Wanderer

The Grey Wanderer

Mist hovered over the near empty fields. Stands of cedar and black pine broke the monotony of what many considered the endless boredom of the grass plains. Pastures and farmlands stretched as far as a man might walk in a day and beyond. Folks here kept to themselves and preferred others to do the same.

Spring was just beginning, and the early bloom of wild flowers peppered the ground beneath the roiling mists. Tombstones and other crude burial markers filled the small field outside of the village of Fent. Generations were buried within the field’s confines, though modernity demanded fresh bodies be burned atop a pyre so that their ashes might get to the next realm quicker than the slow rot the earth offered.

Still, the old ways, however antiquated, remained strong in many of the older generations still toiling. Their reward, that final rest, had yet to come, leaving them in the unenviable position of becoming the stewards of what once was. A gloomy task on the best of days. Not all the dead were given the flame. Many continued to be thrown into the long, cold sleep of the ground.

Dawn was breaking, the first thin tendrils of pale light stretched across the darkened skies. Roosters crowed. Farmers rose and readied for the long day. Had any been in the fields, they might have caught a glimpse of an old man, crooked and dressed in faded grey robes, stalking down the dirt road leading to the cemetery. He carried a small lantern that swung with every step. The Grey Wanderer some named him. Others simply chose a more apt name: The Soul Stealer.

Whistling as he went, the Grey Wanderer sniffed the air for the scent of those freshly dead. Some whispered he was once a king of men. Others suggested he had been a sorcerer of great power who’d made a deal with fell powers. Most didn’t care; they avoided all mention of him. Wherever the Grey Wanderer went, bad things followed.

He paused at the cemetery gates and raised his lantern high. A wash of light fell over the tombstones, showing him what he’d come to find. Fresh earth cast over the recently deceased. His smile was thin and insidious. The Grey Wanderer began to whistle. It was a ghastly sound, unfit for mortal ears. A cry to the ones in the deep beyond whose very existence threatened the sanity of the masses.

Once he finished his task, the Grey Wanderer lowered his lantern and continued walking. He avoided passing through the sleepy village, choosing instead to disappear back into the mists of time and space. His work here was finished.

Read the rest in The Children of Never by Christian Warren Freed.

My thanks to damppebbles blog tours for the invitation to participate in this tour and the materials they provided.

Why Book Bloggers Blog… #Hug/FistBumpABookBloggerToday #SupportYourLocalBookNerd

“There’s a bookstore here somewhere,” Lula said. “I’ve never been in it, but I saw it advertised. Maybe she would like a book.”

“She has four kids,” I said. “She hasn’t got time to read.”

“That’s a shame,” Lula said. “Everyone should read.”

“Do you read?”

“No. But I think about it sometimes. Problem is, I go to a bookstore and there’s so many books I get confused. So, I get coffee. I know what I’m doing when I order a coffee.”

—Janet Evanovich
from Look Alive Twenty-Five

EXCERPT: Dead is Better by Jo Perry

So in lieu of posting a review-ish post of Dead is Beautiful, I’m doing something better, namely, I’m shutting up. Instead, I’ve been given the first few pages of the first Charlie and Rose book — Dead is Better. Everything you really need to know about the series is here — the epigraphs, the humor, the tragedy, the mix of humor and tragedy, Charlie’s brutal honesty about himself, and Rose. I just re-read this post and had to fight the impulse to re-read the book. I just love this book.

Naturally, when corresponding with Perry this week about this post, I made sure to get the title wrong, because I’m a professional.

“Sometimes dead is better.”

––Stephen King, Pet Sematary

 

“Death is no more than passing from one room into another.

But there’s a difference for me, you know. Because in that other room I shall be able to see.”

––Helen Keller

 

1.

“When the first living thing existed, I was there waiting. When the last living thing dies, my job will be finished. I’ll put the chairs on the tables, turn out the lights and lock the universe behind me when I leave.”

Neil Gaiman, The Sandman, Vol. 3: Dream Country

All I know is that I know. And I can’t stop knowing. There was no cinematic replay of my life, no white light, no luminous passage to a perpetual meadow populated by old friends and relatives––I didn’t float over my failing body as the life seeped out.

I couldn’t see a goddamn thing––my eyes were shut.

There was then––the team of EMTs working on me, one applying compressions to the disco beat of the Bee Gees’s “Stayin’ Alive,” and a small young woman with long, curly hair squeezing the breathing bag attached to a plastic tube they’d shoved down my throat. Then a tall young man with short black hair loads me onto a gurney.

That was that.

Bullet holes still interrupt my flesh. My sternum is cracked, my chest bruised yellow and purple from their efforts.

One thing about this place—it’s come as you were.

 

2.

“We do not need to grieve for the dead. Why should we grieve for them? They are now in a place where there is no more shadow, darkness, loneliness, isolation, or pain. They are home.”

John O’Donohue, Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom

No Virgin Mary Blue sky. No combustible darkness.  Just a flash, a bang, and a fade-out that delivered me to this quiet place without midnight or noon, twilight or dawn.  This place, if it is a place—a beach without a sea, a desert without sand, an airless sky.

Did I mention the goddamn dog?

For the record, she wasn’t mine on the other side––which proves that error is built into the fabric of the universe—if that’s where we still are.

No ragged holes singe her gut, and she walks without a limp, but there’s a dirty rope around her neck that trails behind her too-thin body covered with long, reddish fur.  The first moment I saw her, I could tell––She’d been tethered long enough without water or food to die.

Well, she’s not hungry or thirsty now.

Is that peace?

 

3.

“Whatever can die is beautiful — more beautiful than a unicorn, who lives forever, and who is the most beautiful creature in the world. Do you understand me?”

Peter S. Beagle, The Last Unicorn

In life I’d heard of dogs like her, cheap burglar alarms.  Solitary, lonely, they bark at passersby and garbage trucks from behind high fences in exchange for water and kibble when the people remember to feed and water them.

They bark out of fear.

And to remind themselves that they in fact exist.

Now that I think about it, I wasn’t much different. A nobody.  A man of no importance.

On the other side, being a nothing had advantages. People barely saw me and that made me free.  I moved among them like a shade, a cipher. And when they did acknowledge whoever they thought I was, they were often revealing, entertaining––overconfident, saying too much about spouses and ex-spouses and email passwords, and what the neighbor’s son really did in the garage, and about not really being married, or the time they shoplifted—confessing, boasting.

Being nothing– that’s my gift

 

4.

When you’re dead, they really fix you up. I hope to hell when I do die somebody has sense enough to just dump me in the river or something. Anything except sticking me in a goddam cemetery. People coming and putting a bunch of flowers on your stomach on Sunday, and all that crap. Who wants flowers when you’re dead? Nobody.

J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye

 

In case you wondered, yes. When you’re dead, you can attend your own funeral. It’s not required, but I decided to go––time is unknowable here––to try to find out what happened.  And I thought the dog might like a change of scenery–or any scenery.

I want to look at certain people’s faces, especially my own.

Late morning at Mount Sinai, Hollywood Hills––which should be named Travel Town 2.0. The final resting place of thousands of corpses sits next door to Travel Town, a collection of non-traveling train cars frequented by babysitters, little boys and blinking coyotes who venture out at noon, when the picnickers and homeless eat their food.

The ferocious September heat and smog smudges LA’s edges and boundaries––until it doesn’t seem that different from this place, except that the dog and I are temperature-controlled––perpetually lukewarm, courtesy of Who or What we do not know.

The living––palpable, whole, shiny and fragrant with sweat and irritation––nothing’s worse than LA traffic on a Friday afternoon––remind me of those silvery-mirage-pools that form on the surfaces of overheated streets and then evaporate when you get close. Although it was I who lacks presence, they seem insubstantial, like flames, the men in suffocating dark suits and ties, and the women–especially my four exes––lotioned and gleaming, tucked and tanned, manicured and lap-banded, and holding wads of Kleenex in their diamond-ringed left hands to signify their former closeness to and recent repudiation of the deceased, who lay by himself in a plain wooden box up front.

The dog, whose rope I hold in my right hand, urges me forward, and then waits patiently while I look.

Jesus. Why is the casket open? I look like shit. I must have Mark’s wife “the decorator” to thank for this grotesque violation. Why didn’t they shut the box as is customary, especially here in a Jewish place. What were they trying to prove? That despite being shot to death I was still in some sense, intact?

Was I ever really the poor fuck who lived behind that face?  The neck and chin have been painted with peach make-up, and the too-pink lip-glossed mouth forced into a grimace that was, I guess, supposed to indicate post-mortal composure.  It must have taken three guys at least to wedge my fat ass into the narrow box.  I’m large.

Or I was.

I feel strangely light on my feet now. Want to lose sixty pounds in a hurry?

Die.

Read the rest in Dead is Better by Jo Perry — and the rest of the series: Dead is Best; Dead is Good; and the focus of this tour, the wonderful Dead is Beautiful. .

My thanks to damppebbles blog tours for the invitation to participate in this tour and the materials they provided.

Nero Wolfe on Taxes

seems like a good day to post this…

Nero Wolfe Back CoversA man condemning the income tax because of the annoyance it gives him or the expense it puts him to is merely a dog baring its teeth, and he forfeits the privileges of civilized discourse. But it is permissible to criticize it on other and impersonal grounds. A government, like an individual, spends money for any or all of three reasons: because it needs to, because it wants to, or simply because it has it to spend. The last is much the shabbiest. It is arguable, if not manifest, that a substantial proportion of this great spring flood of billions pouring into the Treasury will in effect get spent for that last shabby reason.

–Nero Wolfe
from And Be a Villain

EXCERPT from Circle of the Moon by Faith Hunter

I’m happy to give you a little tease of an excerpt from Circle of the Moon‘s first chapter. When I read it, it grabbed my attention right away, I can tell you. Thankfully, I had the rest of the eARC to satisfy me — you’ll have to wait until Feb. 26 to see where Nell and Occam go from here. I almost feel bad about leaving you where this does. Almost.

For those who are interested, I can absolutely “hear” Khristine Hvam’s voice as I read the last line, incidentally. Should be a fun audiobook.



The night sky was a wash of cerulean blue over the trees and the roofline, with a trace of scarlet and plum on the western horizon. A silver wedge of moon would rise soon, no longer full, an important consideration when eating a picnic with a were-creature. Other than the stars, our only light came from an oil lantern propped on a flat-topped rock, casting shadows over the blanket and used paper plates and the half-empty bottle of Sister Erasmus’ muscadine wine, and even that would get snuffed as soon as the meteor shower began.

I was safe on Soulwood land, even in the full dark, and had no need to worry about my surroundings. I was primarily concentrating on the danged wereleopard lounging in human form on the picnic blanket beside me, looking amused, and maybe just a bit smug. Dang cat. “Take. Off. Your. Shirt,” I demanded again.

“Why, Nell, sugar, if you were so desirin’ of seeing me in my naked glory, all you had to do was ask.”

I blushed, which didn’t show, not with my new coloration, but I knew Occam could smell my reaction and hear my suddenly galloping heart. But we had been over this conversational ground on two separate evenings. Two official dates. This was our third and I wasn’t taking no for an answer. I inhaled a steadying breath and leaned in until my face was an inch from his, wiping out the horizon. He had no choice but to focus on me. Quietly, almost a whisper, I said, “This ain’t my first rodeo, cat-man. I been fighting recalcitrant males for mosta my life. You died. You’re still scarred and mostly hairless and moving slow. Now. Take off the shirt. Lemme see the scars so I’ll know what to do to help heal them.”


Lousy place to leave, but that’s all I was given to share. Be sure to place your orders now so you can read what comes next.

My thanks to Let’s Talk Promotions for the invitation to participate in this tour and the materials (including the book via NetGalley) they provided.

Happy (Belated) Shakespeare Day!

There was some sort of mis-communication between me and the good people at Invaluable so this is going up a day late (totally my fault). I didn’t even know that Shakespeare Day was a thing (but of course it is). Still . . . no matter what day it is, this is fun:

Happy Shakespeare Day! What better way is there to celebrate the life and legacy of William Shakespeare than looking back at some of his most famous insults? You are in luck, because Invaluable created a Shakespearean insult generator just in time for Shakespeare Day. The generator includes 70+ of Shakespeare’s snarkiest insults from his most famous works. Whether you wish to insult a friend, enemy, or your significant other, one of these insults is guaranteed to be perfect!

Here’s a couple of samples:

Quotation of the Day

“A man condemning the income tax because of the annoyance it gives him or the expense it puts him to is merely a dog baring its teeth, and he forfeits the privileges of civilized discourse. But it is permissible to criticize it on other and impersonal grounds. A government, like an individual, spends money for any or all of three reasons: because it needs to, because it wants to, or simply because it has it to spend. The last is much the shabbiest. It is arguable, if not manifest, that a substantial proportion of this great spring flood of billions pouring into the Treasury will in effect get spent for that last shabby reason.”

–Nero Wolfe