Friday, May 31, 2019

PROMO: Mind Games

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YA Sci-fi Mystery
Date Published: May 2019
Publisher: Carrick Publishing

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You know A. B. Carolan as the writer of The Secret Lab and The Secret of the Urns. Those novels are sci-fi mysteries for young adults (and adults who are young at heart). In Mind Games, A. B. tells a new story that’s set a bit farther into the future than his first two books. Della Dos Toros is a young girl with psi powers living in the Dark Domes of the planet Sanctuary. Her adopted father doesn’t let her use those powers, but she must do so to find his killer. This story about ESP and androids adds another action-packed novel to the ABC Sci-Fi Mystery series. Available in both print and ebook versions.

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About the Author

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The reclusive and ageless A. B. Carolan lives in Donegal, Ireland, where he spends most of his time writing stories for young adults and adults who are young at heart. There are rumors in Donegal that A. B. was raised by leprechauns. He says they like to joke a lot there. Other rumors in the Donegal area saying that he’s a distant relative of the great Irish harpist and composer Turlough O’Carolan are more believable—he loves O’Carolan’s music. He is good friends with author Steven M. Moore and communicates with his American friend a lot, as all good collaborators must do. Readers can reach him via the contact page at Steve’s website,

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Thursday, May 30, 2019

PROMO: Half Breed Haven: Wild Fire

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Half Breed Haven #1 Wilde-Fire
Historical Western Romance
Publisher: Cedar Ledge Publishing

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A gun battle on the streets of a fiery ghost town is only the beginning as the Wildes of the West plunge headlong into danger in another exciting western adventure. It’s do or die against some of the baddest men in the west and the price for failure will mean certain death and the end to their fight for justice along with their scorching escapades with the willing men of the west.

Saddle up for the ride and be immersed in all the action, adventure, romance and family drama that comes with being the formidable foursome known to friends and foes alike as THE DAUGHTERS OF HALF BREED HAVEN. A stunning multiracial quartet whose bravery, thirst for justice and love for each other is matched only by their unbridled appetite for the most casual and sizzling encounters with the opposite (or in Catalina's case, the same) sex.

With sharp wits and guns blazing, these four strong women heroines -the fair-skinned Cassandra, Asian Lijuan, mulatto Honor Elizabeth, and Mexican Catalina, all half-sisters, will risk it all as they face off against the most fearsome array of bank robbers, kidnappers, rustlers and murderers the old west has to offer.

Bad Guys will fall to their hail of bullets and Good Guys will fall as well…under their spell and into the nearest bed whenever any of these four capable, daring sexy female heroes come calling.

Wilde-Fire is the first installment of a female lead novel series, Half Breed Haven, where action, sibling suspense and bawdy romance combine in this female adventure novel forming a tale worthy of the wicked Wild West.

PLEASE BE ADVISED - The Sister’s escapades, be it braving the sometimes-violent west or their romantic escapades are recommended for readers, who like the Wildes, are 18+ years of age and above.

Other Books in the Half Breed Haven Series

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Half Breed Haven #2-In Danger's Shadow


Half Breed Haven #3 Dark Rivals


It was supposed to be a simple cattle buying trip until marauding cougars and a deranged cowgirl combine into lethal threats in a Lijuan Wilde adventure.

Half Breed Haven #4 Silver, Gold and Deception


Half Breed Haven #5 The Forbidden Ranch


Half Breed Haven #6 Sing the Death Song


Half Breed Haven #7 Disaster at Devil's Canyon


Half Breed Haven #8 Renegades and Revenge: A Daughters of Half Breed Haven


Half Breed Haven #9 Into the Lair of Los Rey Lobo


Half Breed Haven #10-Special Edition HBH Version of The Reaper of the Rio Sangre


Half Breed Haven #11-Special Edition-The Town of No Return


Half Breed Haven #12-Special Edition HBH Version-The Boot Hill Express


About the Author

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A.M. Van Dorn enjoys flipping the script on Westerns believing "Cowboys shouldn't have all the fun" by replacing the usual lantern-jawed cowboy hero with four bold, beautiful and brave half-sisters in the Wildes of the West/Half Breed Haven Series. Combining a love of old character-driven tv westerns such as Bonanza, The Big Valley, and The High Chapparal A.M. Van Dorn pays homage to these 1960's classics with a decisively 21st-century bent.

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Wednesday, May 29, 2019

PROMO: Andre's Reboot

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Science Fiction, Humorous Science Fiction
Date Published: February 2019

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A robot possessing unique artificial intelligence and human awareness, André 1 tells the story of his creation and “growing up” in his inventor’s family. Often humorously fumbling in his interactions with people, André analyzes his experiences, attempting to understand the faults and foibles of human personality. Accompanied by his girlfriend, Dr.  Margaret 13, a droid physician of his own creation, André achieves a position as translator and self-appointed mendacity-monitor to the American President and strives to save humans from themselves.

The novel is a work of science fiction and social commentary. André is wired to take advantage of artificial intelligence and machine learning so as to be able to analyze human societies without the usual biases and to propose clear-eyed strategies for saving humanity from the many calamities toward which it presently appears to be headed.




“WHAT IS IT, ANDRÉ? YOU’RE vibrating all over.” Dr. Margaret 13 exclaimed. “What’s happened?”

“They threw me out, Margaret. They’re about to make
a horrendous mistake.” I glanced around the White House Infirmary, noting no humans present. “He had me ejected from the Situation Room. Secret Service agents forced
me out.”

“First, let’s reduce your electromagnetic activity,” she said. She took me by the hand and led me over to a chair. I sat but was too excited to be still.

“Now tell me what happened,” she insisted. “Tell me everything, so your circuits will release the energy.”

“They are considering a nuclear attack. Nuclear, Margaret! It’s Armageddon if they do it.” I paused to release a breath of static discharge. “I must act,” I said, standing up, “but do what?”

Margaret gently pushed me back down in the chair. “Just sit here for a moment, dear, while I go get my meter. I want to be sure your servomotor controller is functioning correctly.”

“But I have to . . .”

“Hush, André. I am the doctor. You must be still for a
few minutes.”

Reluctantly, I sat back and shook my head. I had no authority. I merely was the President’s translator, which allowed me no more than a position against the wall in
the Situation Room. I had determined, however, that I had
a more valuable duty to perform, which was to offer observations void of emotion—something I had learned humans could not do. And with this President in power, my sober views were vital. Never before had I faced a crisis
like this. What occurred to me—and it was a dangerous circumstance—because of my dispassionate awareness, I was as responsible, as liable to blame, as anyone there. I
had watched the crisis unfold in the Situation Room, and
my neural network began to heat up as I realized the circumstances were intolerable.

“You must listen to me,” I had shouted at them, with my volume up several decibels. “You cannot win. There is no way to win. We have tried to tell you that for . . .”

But it was uncanny how the assembly silenced me at that point with their jeers and threats. I was ordered out of the room forthwith, and my departure was between two burly Secret Service men.

“How am I to combat such foolishness?” I said when Dr. Margaret 13, a creation of my own hands, my only real companion, returned with her scanner.

“Combat is a strong word, André 1, I’ve never heard you use it before.” She opened my chest and carefully touched probes to my voltage regulator. I processed the idea of combat 378 times.

“I do not have any active algorithm for violence in my
entire circuitry,” I said, “except for what may be required
for self-defense. And yet to prevent the imprudent actions
of an unquestioning military, a spineless staff, and a reckless

President, I cannot calculate any alternative.” I paused 4.96 seconds to reconsider.

“You were programmed for loyalty, duty and respon-sibility,” Margaret said as she removed the probes and closed my chest. “You have no algorithm to deal with the present situation. You have no menu of violent responses to activate any physical aggression. That is why your circuitry is vibrating with heat.”

“I must modify my behavior programming,” I said. “I cannot sit idly by and let these humans destroy everything.” I took her hands in mine. “Years ago, when Dr. Strauss helped me develop self-defense, I installed secret integrated circuitry in my legs. These IC’s only need to be connected to my CPU. You can make the connections and then reprogram me, Margaret, so I can I generate aggressive behavior. I must be made capable of violent force.”

“What will we be doing, André?” Dr. Margaret 13 asked. “If I reprogram your CPU to allow for violent action, the process will corrupt your basic behavior algorithms. And what right does a droid have to act aggressively? Will we
not be violating the very principles of ethical behavior?”

“Listen, Margaret,” I said. “We are facing a tremendously serious crisis, not only for humans but for the Earth itself. We must act immediately.” I sensed my circuits abuzz as
she pulled up the schematic diagram of my system and studied it.

“It could cause a deep disturbance in your processors,” she shook her head. “I cannot condone such a traumatic operation. No, André, you are programmed to obey humans and not harm them.”

I produced the sound of human laughter. “I have been disobeying the President for months already. Look how often I have contradicted and argued with him. Not that it’s done any good.”

“And now you can do no better than violent attack?” She held up her hands to signal dismay. …

About the Author

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A resident of Birmingham, Stephen B. Coleman, Jr. (Steve), a graduate of Indian Springs School, earned a Bachelor of Arts in history from Duke University and a Master of Arts in English from the University of Alabama. He is married to the former Dr. Sumter M. Carmichael, a psychiatrist.  Steve has been a naval officer, a high school teacher, a businessman, and a commercial real estate broker. After retiring in 2009, he now enjoys sailing, writing, and landscape painting. He has authored biographies and histories of local interest, magazine articles, novels, and poetry. His story, “The Meanest Man in Pickens County,” was the first place (state) winner in the 2013 Hackney Literary Awards for short stories. He has published two novels: The Navigator: A Perilous Passage, Evasion at Sea and The Navigator II: Irish Revenge. For more information, please visit his websites: and

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Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Teaser: Tales From the Beach House

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Commercial Adult Fiction
Date Published: June 14th 2019
Publisher: Beautiful Arch

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Tales from The Beach House is a satiric work of fiction that sharply captures the “Man-Bites-Dog” world of contemporary South Florida. The Beach House, a crumbling old motel, is home to a collection of eccentric residents. Amongst their ranks; a tennis pro at the end of his game, a mortuary scientist whose love life has flat-lined, a paparazzo photographer searching for scoops, a bawdy duo fronting an improbable Ponzi enterprise, a beauty from “The Islands” with a dark secret, a fried-out TV weather man who claims to channel God, a middle school principal with a soft spot for Crack, a Rod Stewart cover artist searching for redemption, and a waitress serving a side order of erotic fiction. Each member of this cohort is in search of something – fast money, an easy hustle, fleeting romance, enduring love, fame, power, dignity, happiness… a place they can call home. As well as facing their own tender, tragic, and often hilarious personal circumstances, this eclectic gang is compelled by necessity to band together when a sinister developer threatens the very existence of The Beach House.



Greetings from FloriDuh!                                                       7

Apartment #1 Greyhound Departure                                     15

Apartment #2 Angel of Death                                                35

Apartment #3 Atlantic Crossing                                             53

Apartment #4 Dirty Laundry                                                   67

Apartment #5 The Wolf’s Lair                                                90

Apartment #6 Mayor of The Beach House                            111

Apartment #7 The Barbados Triangle                                   126

Apartment #8 The Intersections of Florida Life                     142

Apartment #9 Mental as Anything                                         169

Apartment #10 Midwestern Sensibilities                               195

Apartment #11 Fifty Shades of Delray                                   219

Apartment #12 Walking on Lake Okeechobee                      237

Bad Men from the North                                                        260

An Articulation of Particulars                                                 287

The Beach House                                                                  312

Apartment #12 Walking on Lake Okeechobee

Randy Showers stood outside the front door of Apartment #12, drinking his morning coffee. He drank only one hundred percent Hawaiian from the Ka’u region of the Big Island. He never added milk or sugar. Any “junk” put into what he said was the finest coffee in the world was, in his opinion, sacrilege.

Randy was well versed in sacrilege; after all, he was a collared Man of God who often told his flock that he personally channeled Jesus. From his elevated second-floor corner position, Randy had a good view of the hive of activity around The Beach House. Palm trees were bending in the force of strong, warm winds that were blowing from the direction of the Everglades. A team of surveyors was measuring up the property parcel with an array of fancy gadgets. A slow-moving and confused-looking man from FPL was tagging and flagging the route of the gas lines between the building and the street. A crew from Surf Way Developments could be seen busily cleaning vulgar graffiti that had appeared on the billboard advertising its new planned development – a large penis and balls in flamingo-pink spray paint wasn’t exactly exuding the dream of luxury that would soon be on offer in this locale. The swimming pool had already been drained and cordoned off to save the Homeowners’ Association spending money on cleaning services for the remainder of the building’s existence. All these events and commotions only added to the general glumness and end-of-days feel circulating around The Beach House.

All the tenants had been served a thirty-days notice to vacate. Pete and Angel, with their inside knowledge as owners, said it was almost certain that nothing could be done to halt the sale, as it had been a binding majority of title holders who had pushed through the deal. Paperwork had been processed, permits pulled, and the City and State had all signed off on the condominium termination and the replacement project. The city of Delray had been overzealous in accommodating this development – no doubt seeing all the extra dollars that increased assessment on the new building would bring to their coffers. The State was also unexpectedly helpful. They hadn’t relished the impending takeover of this dysfunctional Homeowners’ Association, as it would have been real work for some happily underworked Tallahassee civil servants. The owners were simply ecstatic to be rid of their real-estate headaches and were united in satisfaction that the beasts that were Bessie and Gabriel, if not slain, would soon become someone else’s problem.

The people who lived at The Beach House and called that place home were, of course, the real victims of this tragedy of events. Pete and Angel, not that they wanted to leave The Beach House, would be paid out for their property and could easily start afresh someplace else with the proceeds. Bessie and Gabriel would be made homeless, but the consensus was that “you reap what you sow,” and this entire mess was down to their crazy out-of-control antics. The remaining tenants were in another situation altogether. With their bad credit, cheap rent deals, police rap sheets, lack of references and short-term horizons, they would struggle to find local digs where certain questions by landlords weren’t asked. Tonight there was a residents’ meeting with the aim of attempting to halt the redevelopment; but at best this was seen as a feel-good Hail Mary with little chance of success and more likely just an excuse to have a party.

“Fuck me Jesus,” were the strong and unchristian words that came from Reverend Randy Showers’ mouth as he witnessed a fleet of police cars pulling up all around The Beach House. They’ve finally nailed me, he thought. Randy, from his high-ground vantage point, counted at least six vehicles, half marked, and the rest black SUVs with blue lights bolted onto the roof. He slugged back the remainder of his coffee knowing that, if he were lucky, he would be getting truck stop Joe once they had hauled him to jail. Randy knew there was always a chance that this day would come. Not only was there a likelihood that his past would catch up with him, but there was also a looming menace that his present would bite him firmly in the ass. At the very least, he was reassured that he was wearing a pair of clean underpants and his hair looked good. A man with a C-list celebrity resume and a local standing in the church community needed to look cool and classy in the obligatory police mug shot.

As a young, fresh-faced graduate with a liberal arts degree from a South Carolina university, Randy, like many in his position, had no idea what job he was equipped to do. After deep conversations with the careers department he could only come up with a slush pile of jobs he had no interest in. Needing to pay his way through life, he used his fallback good looks and his given name, and signed himself up with a stripper agency.

It was while working a bachelorette party, undressing as a character cop, that a fortunate encounter would take place. On occasion, upon demand, he would give a little “extra service” for a tip. It just so happened that the guest at this party who had paid to play with his baton and cuffs was a high-flying female television executive with local Charleston network WCIV. Upon getting up-close and personal with his good looks and learning that Randy Showers was his real name, the woman told him, “Do I have a job for you!” Randy was hired as an on-camera weatherman for the local evening news. It didn’t matter that he had no meteorological education or television experience. This job was all about looking good in front of a camera and reading a teleprompter. However, the name Randy Showers was the real clincher for this job, as it was the perfect catchy byline for a primetime local television weatherman.

For twenty-five years Randy was Mr. Weather in the Greater Charleston area. He loved getting out of the studio for big events, such as standing on a beach and being blown around in a hurricane, filing his report from a kayak floating on a submerged street during a flood, or going on air shirtless during a heat wave. For a man with zero formal training in this profession he was the consummate local weatherman’s weatherman and won numerous regional awards. However, a local weatherman is also expected to be a trusted pillar of the community, and this part of the gig Randy only half-embraced. He was good at turning on Christmas tree lights, opening new school libraries and being a member of that bright-teethed WCIV team that delivered “dependable news”, but he had one major off-screen flaw – he was a crazed womanizer with a chronic sex addiction. Randy was amazed at just how much of a pull being a local television weatherman was to the ladies. Interns, fellow anchors, women he encountered on promotional appearances and generally anything in a skirt he chased. For twenty-five years his employers somehow managed to pay no attention to the ethics clause in his contract, and like a modern-day Don Juan, Randy thought nothing could ever put a stop to his bed-hopping ways.

While Randy kept his looks as youthful as possible with tax-deductable investments in hair plugs, dental veneers and Botox, these weren’t enough to defy a changing environment. It was a slightly sleazy and embarrassing affair that had been brought to the attention of a new generation of station executives that would lead to his downfall.

During a Friday-night live weather report broadcast from a local High School football game, Randy managed to lure and subsequently corrupt two teenage cheerleaders. In his defense, they may have been sixteen but he swore they had the bodies of eighteen year olds and were experienced in the ways of pleasing a man like a woman of thirty. It was not the first time that Randy had descended on the slippery slope of jailbait, but it wasn’t so easy in the modern era to get away with it when the girls posted incriminating evidence on Facebook. Possibly it was all used as an excuse by management to bring in a cheaper, younger guy. Perhaps it really was a different era where feminist ethics were not only preached but also practiced. The parents came to a deal with the station. Randy was released from his contract, the cheerleaders were given hush money and the hope was that the authorities and the women’s rights attorney Gloria Allred would stay well away. However, there was a statue of limitations that had not expired, and in the eyes of the law it was rape, and a payoff would not save him if the girls ever chose to press charges.

Like many shamed criminals who had escaped hard time, Randy headed to Florida for a fresh start. He knew he would never be hired as a weatherman again, as he was too old and too many questions about his past would be asked. The only other career that he had not tried that fitted in with his catchy name was that of a porn star. Randy was realistic though, and his stamina and girth were just not up to par. Not wanting to put to waste the investments he had made in that artificial television smile and lush carpet of unnatural hair, he did the only thing he thought he was suited for… he started a church ministry.

Reverend Showers, a name he could legally use after the religious crash-course certification he found on the back pages of the National Enquirer, had a good ring to it. He chose a poor African-American area of inland Palm Beach County to start his church, as the black community was religious and would be enthralled by a minor white celebrity priest. However, more importantly, ebony-skinned women were not his thing, so he wouldn’t have to worry about letting his dick interfere with God’s work.

For premises he sublet an underused synagogue. Most of the Jews in that area had moved to better parts of the county and this temple currently sat empty. He had been running his Rainbow Church for just over two years and he would modestly say in public that it had been a great success. In private, though, he would admit that it was all a bit of a racket. Reverend Showers was little more than a smarmy middle-aged snake-oil salesman who, if he weren’t selling God to the gullible, would be selling those same people timeshares on the beach.

Randy had one unfulfilled ambition – he wanted to make it big on a national level. Back in his heyday he had applied for network weather jobs but was never successful. He blamed these fruitless attempts on not having a diverse look, never thinking it could have anything to do with a lack of scientific training. So Randy viewed his new ministry as a way of finally becoming a household celebrity. All he needed to take himself into the top division of men-of-the-cloth was to perform a miracle. The one he had in mind was walking on water, and not just any body of water but Florida’s own Lake Okeechobee. Randy was certain that if he could make it appear that he was gliding over Florida’s largest lake, the national attention would elevate him to the type of riches that even network weatherman could only dream of. Randy was now devoting all his time and money into making this illusion happen. He had reached out to David Copperfield for help and was studying expensive manuals by magicians, as he knew there had to be a way to make this miraculous feat occur.

It was Randy’s consuming devotion to performing this miracle that could have been another reason for his impending arrest, as he was guilty of theft and embezzlement from his church. The donations that his devoted parishioners put in his tray were diverted straight into his pocket. Admittedly, some of it was used to keep the lights on at the church, but the majority was for his living expenses and funding the continued exploration of performing his illusion.

As the police descended on The Beach House, Randy’s main thought was what lawyer he would use. The charge of statutory rape would be easy to defend, as he could find one of those mud-slinging vultures who would paint a picture of those two fresh-faced cheerleaders as the dirtiest harlots in the whole of Charleston. The church embezzlement charges would be a little trickier to evade. Randy hadn’t hidden the money trail very well, often paying for hair-restoration treatment directly from the ministry’s checking account. Then there were the escort girls who were on the church books. That would also be a problem. At the start of his “Finding the Lord” phase, Randy had worked out that the best way of staying out of trouble was to relieve any extra holy spirit via paid ladies.

In the light of day, Randy’s activities looked uglier than a bag of hairless cats and he might just have to plead guilty and strike a deal. Whatever happened, it would be hard to escape from this monster of a self-created mess. What then for him? A man who had fallen from grace for two heinous successive “lapses of judgment” would be somewhat challenged to find a new place in the world. It would certainly be hard to live off his connection with Jesus again, although he would have name recognition and good looks for a man of his age so he could always try his hand at politics. That seemed to be an eternally forgiving line of work. Randy was amazed just how much clarity he was having in what was likely to be his final thirty seconds of freedom.

About the Author

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James Aylott was previously a Hollywood paparazzo photographer and staffer at an American supermarket tabloid. This is the author’s first work of fiction, although he was often creative in his career of entertainment newsgathering and hated letting the truth interfere with a good story. A prior resident of Delray Beach, Florida he is currently embedded in St. Louis, Missouri researching his follow up novel: Tales of Whiskey Tango from Misery Towers.

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Available on the Apple Bookstore
In print at any good independent book retailer via Ingram Spark.
Paperback $15.99 (ISBN: 978-0-578-47956-9) pp. 320
eBook $3.99 (ISBN: 978-0-578-47957-6)

Blog Tour: The Gordon Place

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Date Published: 04/15/2019
Publisher: Lost Hollow Books

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Lost Hollow constable Graham Gordon just walked into his abandoned childhood home for the first time in twenty years. Local teenagers have been spreading rumors about disembodied screams coming from inside. Now, thanks to a rickety set of cellar stairs and the hateful spirit of his dead father, he might never escape.

Meanwhile, Channel 6 News feature reporter Afia Afton—whose father is the victim of a local decades-old hate crime—is meeting with town administrator Patsy Blankenship. Her mission is to develop a ghost story feature for a special to air on the station’s Halloween broadcast. When Patsy tells her about the screams at the Gordon place, the past and the present are set on a collision course with potentially catastrophic results.

Can Graham come to terms with his father’s past and redeem his own future? Can the murder mystery that has haunted Afia for most of her life finally be solved?

It’s a fight for the future and the past when spirit and flesh wage war at the Gordon place.



Joe “Staff” Stafford turned up his nose as the HOLLOW COUNTY sign grew large in the windshield. He rode in the passenger’s side of the ugly white Chevy S-10 pickup Channel 6 had assigned them for the week. A similar white topper with a common locking mechanism had been installed over the bed of the pickup to ensure that all of the station’s heavy, outdated video journalism equipment remained unmolested by any nefarious members of the general public during their stay in this small redneck town. Staff had always found these types of security efforts especially hilarious since there were glass windows on every side of the topper and the Channel 6 logo was emblazoned on the pickup’s hood, both its doors, and its tailgate. He could imagine a would-be thief approaching: “Oh, look! It’s Channel 6’s truck with some expensive, outdated camera equipment! Oh, wait. No. Nevermind. There’s a lock on it.”
Staff’s partner in crime for the weekend (his supervisor for this particular outing, really), reporter Afia Afton sat behind the wheel. Her eyes were on the road, and her long fingers with glossy black polished nails were curled around ten and two. She didn’t see him sneer as they blew by the rusty old sign full of buckshot holes and half-buried in Virginia-creeper, but he hoped she could hear the vexation in his voice.
“This? This is what we drove fifty miles on a Friday afternoon to see? I’m going to fucking kill Joanie.”
Afia scoffed. “It’s just the county line. We have a few minutes before we hit Lost Hollow proper. I used to live around here, you know. Back then, the town was pretty much all woods and farmland except for the church, the school, and the cemetery. Those who weren’t farmers worked at the carbon plant way over in Hollow River. There was a tiny public square in the middle, but it was mostly used for town offices and a couple of small mom and pop places. If you wanted to get gas or mail a package or buy groceries or see a movie you had to drive to Hollow River.”
“Where the carbon plant was.” He might have sounded bored. He didn’t intend it, but he felt it.
“Right. It might still be that way, but I can’t imagine that the kids who grew up here wouldn’t have made some progress by now. Well, if there were any kids who grew up here.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean that the Lost Hollow I remember was aptly named because it was kind of a lost place. It’s where people lived or died or disappeared without anyone noticing much one way or the other. Fuck, I was only eight years old when my mom vanished. Twelve when my dad went. If his murder hadn’t been all over the news in Hollow River and the other bigger cities back then, I don’t know what would’ve happened to me. I got lucky, I guess. Got into the system just when it became fashionable for rich white folks to foster orphaned black kids.”
She sighed. Staff shifted uncomfortably in his seat. He hadn’t known that about her parents, and he wasn’t sure how, or if, he should respond. But at least he wasn’t bored anymore.
“Don’t get me wrong,” Afia continued, “my foster parents were good people, not like the horror stories you hear from a lot of kids who got handed to abusers or straight-up predators in those days. They never adopted me, but they did see me through high school and four years of college. I doubt I’d be here if it weren’t for them.”
Staff laughed. “You mean back in Lost Hollow?”
“I mean in the news business, asshole.” She smirked at him. “But there has to have been some progress here since then. I know it. We’re booked at a bed and breakfast right in the middle of it, aren’t we? That certainly wasn’t here when I was a kid.”
“Yeah,” Staff said, his voice distant. “A bed and breakfast that just happened to be completely vacant in a supposedly haunted small town in the middle of October. I’m sure. I hope you brought something with some DEET in it. I sure as hell don’t want to go home with Lyme Disease.”
Afia rolled her eyes.
“It’s October, Staff, like you said. The risk of you getting a tick bite out here is about as good as us getting real ghost footage this weekend. I’m not happy about having to come back here, either, but this woman we’re meeting has Joanie convinced that there’s a story to tell. People love to hear about ghost shit this time of year. I just hope we can come back with something because I never heard so much as a single disembodied ‘boo’ the whole time I lived here.”
Staff grunted. “All I’m saying is that you wouldn’t see ‘Channel 6’s Own Dan Matthews’ running around a dusty old house and leaping at shadows on the nightly news. He reports on real stuff like government shutdowns and disasters and robberies and murders and Republican corruption.”
“Dan sits behind the anchor desk. He doesn’t actually do the field work anymore. I’m not even sure he’d remember how. Like I said, I’m not happy about it either, but I try to remember that there will come a day when we won’t be the ones they send to cover the puff entertainment shit. Channel 6 has viewers out here. Probably someone complained that we never cover them, so this piece is supposed to be their fluffy little make-good for the small town on the big city news. There’s not going to be any leaping at shadows if I have anything to say about it, and I do have something to say about it. This is my story now. We’re going to talk to some townsfolk and explore a house or a cemetery so we can tell their tales and give the viewers something to talk about. If the town is lucky, they’ll get a few tourist dollars out of it for Halloween, but we’re not fucking Ghost Adventures.”
That settled him a little. Afia was on the same page, then. “Yeah. We’re not fucking Ghost Adventures. I just feel like we should’ve graduated from stuff like this by now. I paid my dues with groundbreakings and artsy-fartsy feature stories and make-good puff pieces when I was a newspaper photographer, for Christ’s sake. You wouldn’t know it to look at the credits, though. The Review never gave credit for in-house photography to anything but STAFF. Everything always said STAFF PHOTO at the lower left, even though I was the only photographer on the payroll. That’s why I adopted the nickname. If they’re going to credit STAFF for every photo, I might as well be Staff.”
Afia laughed. “You’ve only told me that story a hundred times.”
“Yeah. A hundred times. I guess I’m still bent about it. I honestly thought video journalism would be a better gig. What does a guy with a good eye have to do to earn a little respect, anyway? If I didn’t know Joanie better, I’d think she had something against gay guys. She’s sending us into what I know is going to be a redneck pocket hell of backward racist conservatives.”
Afia took her eyes off the road for the first time and looked at him wide-eyed. “You’re gay?”
“Yes,” Staff replied with a deliberate lisp. “Can’t you tell? And you’re an African American woman. This is not news to anyone who has been half awake since we were both hired.”
Afia examined her own hands, still responsibly wrapped around ten and two on the steering wheel. “I’m black?” she said in mock astonishment. “Oh my. Maybe we’d better forget the DEET and go buy ourselves some camouflage and a gun rack instead.”
“No, seriously, don’t judge the place like that before you’ve seen it. Yeah, a bunch of racists lived here when I was a kid, but it wasn’t the loud-mouthed redneck Trump resurgent racist types. At least, I never saw them around town back then. I never met racists in that balls-out throwing shit at you while you’re just trying to go to school way. It was more subtle than that here, more patronizing, I guess. They wouldn’t call you names, but they’d assume you couldn’t speak as eloquently as the white folks, so you’d get the part with the fewest lines in the school plays. Most of the other kids assumed we were poor, too, even though my dad worked at the same carbon plant in Hollow River that theirs did. I guess they figured a single black father household wouldn’t hold onto money the way a lily-white nuclear family would. I don’t know. I never asked.”
He looked away from her, focusing on the toes of his own sneaker-clad feet. They were crossed at the ankles and propped on the dashboard in front of him. “I’m sorry, Afia. I was just trying to be funny. You mean to tell me that in the whole time you lived in this white-bread small town in the deep South that no one ever once threatened you or called you the n-word? Not once?”
“Tennessee is not the ‘deep’ South,” Afia reprimanded. She thought for a second. “Well, there was this one guy.” Her upper lip twisted into an angry sneer. “His last name was Gordon, I think. I don’t remember his first name. He had a kid my age that used to come to school beat up all the time. We had a lot of problems with him for a while, but I guess I was too young to remember too much about all that. I know he hated my dad’s guts, and I know my dad had to call the sheriff about him trespassing at our place more than once. It wasn’t long after my mother disappeared that all the trouble started, I think. Dad never told me what it was all about, though. Just said some crazy alcoholic white man thought dad had wronged him somehow.”
She shuddered.
“I do remember one night when he woke us up, standing on our front porch with a beer in one hand and a shotgun in the other. Let me tell you, you’ve never heard anything scary until you’re awakened from a dead sleep in a quiet country house by the sound of someone trying to bash in the front door. I don’t think I’ve ever been more scared in my life, not before then and not since. He kept pounding on the front door with the butt of that shotgun, screaming for my dad to come out and face him. My dad called the sheriff on him then, too.
“I was afraid he was either going to break down the door or start shooting up the place before they got there, but he never did. He took off running when the deputy arrived with his strobes flashing. Nobody ran after him, though. I don’t know why. He just ran off into the woods behind our house and disappeared. My dad went down to the station the next day to press charges, thinking they’d go arrest Gordon at his house. The sheriff told him that more than likely it wouldn’t amount to anything in a court of law. His word against my father’s and the judge was as likely to believe Gordon over my father as the other way around. My dad figured it was because we were black. Some part of the white folks believed we probably deserved whatever it was this dude was holding against us.”
Staff grimaced. “Must have been awful.”
“It was. I always wondered whether that man had something to do with my dad’s murder. They found him, my dad, at the base of that bullshit obelisk the Daughters of the Confederacy placed in the middle of the town square back in the early Sixties. The town administrator showed up to open the office for the day, and there was my dad, propped up against it like a wino passed out in an alley. Only the red stuff running down his shirt wasn’t wine. It was blood. Whoever attacked him had sliced him from ear to ear. Some kind of hunting knife, probably. That’s what the sheriff’s department said, anyway.”
There was a hitch in her voice. Staff opened his mouth to tell her that she didn’t need to relive this horrible chapter of her life for his sake, but she started up again before the words formed on his lips.
“Not that they were much of a sheriff’s department. There were never any suspects, at least not that they publicly named. No apparent motive other than hate. My dad’s wallet was still in his pockets. His car was parked in one of the slots in front of the administrator’s office, keys in the ignition, and had apparently been wiped clean of fingerprints. The only blood in it was his own.
“The sheriff said he thought the murder had been committed somewhere else, and that the killer had driven my dad’s car with him in it to the town administrator’s office and placed his body against the obelisk as some kind of racist insult or something.”
“They never even questioned this Gordon dude?”
Afia shook her head. “Not that I know of.”
“So what happened to him?”
She shrugged. “Dead, probably. He was kind of old even back then. Quite a bit older than my dad, for sure, even though he had a kid my age. He was a heavy drinker, too, from what I heard. I can’t imagine he’s still kicking around.”
“You’ve never looked him up?”
She did not reply. After a beat, Staff let it be.

About the Author

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ISAAC THORNE is a nice man who has, over the course of his life, developed a modest ability to spin a good yarn. Really. He promises. Just don’t push him down a flight of stairs.

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Isaac reviews films for and He is the host of Thorne’s Theater of Terror and Classic

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