Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Coming in 2015!

Season's Greetings, yo! Where has the year gone?

Lookin' around the blog these days and things are lookin' pretty sparse, but fret not. Things are hopping over here. I've got a handful of short stories due out any minute now in some fantastic trades, and I've written (and, this month, gone to the set of) my second Syfy Original Movie, slated to air next summer. It has been a crazy time with deadlines, notes, and rewrites, but in the midst of it, I'm still plugging away on next year's big novel release: Rift Jump Volume 2: Sara's Song! Not ready to say too much about it yet, but, seeing as how it's Christmas and all, I'm putting on my Santa hat and bringing you this exclusive cover art for the new book, as done by comic book artist Thomas Mason! Behold!

Cover Art for "Rift Jump Volume 2: Sara's Song"--art by Thomas Mason
I've been working on this bad boy for a couple years now and it's shaping up to be an insane ride through the multiverse. More monsters, heroes, aliens, and worlds-shattering events than you can shake a stick at! I'm nearing the finish line and even though I've had the major outline of this story in my head for fifteen years, it continues to surprise me. Lots of twists and turns. A lot of fun.

"But what's Rift Jump?" you might ask.

Rift Jump is my 2012 sci-fi/action novel, released by Splashdown Darkwater. It tells the story of lone inter-dimensional traveler Michael Morrison as he seeks to eradicate the servants of the enigmatic "Rage" that exists in the void In-Between the worlds of the multiverse. Michael's battle is two-fold as he's also been called by the Rage to lead Its army of monsters. Burdened by his dark destiny and his own sinister impulses, Michael eventually shares the weight of his quest with Sara Theresea, a fearful girl who reminds Michael of his long lost innocence--but is also a painful reminder of Michael's darkest secret. The two fall recklessly in love and set off across the multiverse, battling monsters and aliens, while also trying to overcome their own insecurities and personal demons.

Really, you should just go buy and read it, right? After all, it's available in print and Kindle!

Rift Jump Volume 2: Sara's Song is the direct follow-up, and will also conclude the series, but I'm making sure we go out with a bang. Volume 1 was, in many respects, a prologue to the Rift Jump story that I've always wanted to tell, and Volume 2 hits the ground running.

Not only does Sara's Song serve as a time-bending finale to the Rift Jump sequence, longtime readers will also start to see threads from my other stories--including The Coming Evil Trilogy and this year's big release HITMEN: Four Tales of Magick, Monsters, and Murder--coming together. In case you haven't noticed, I've got a mega-myth developing across all of my  novels (so far) and most of my shorter tales and, yes, we're all building towards something. Sara's Song is the key to unlocking a lot of those larger story elements and will lay the groundwork for the next original novel that I'm already knee-deep in as we speak.

Now that you're all excited, it's the perfect opportunity to get caught up! Books make great Christmas presents! :p

Sales pitch, aside, Merry Christmas, ever'body and, in case I don't see you before then, Happy New Year! 2015 is already shaping up to be a big year.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

"Snakehead Swamp" DVD Available Now--And An Announcement!

Happy October, ever'body! No secret that this is my favorite time of year. The air turns crisp, the leaves change beautiful shades of red, orange, and yellow--and Halloween is finally upon us: The one night a year where everyone sees the world the way I see it all year long :p

Already this is shaping up to be an eventful October for me. The wife and kids and I made our yearly sojourn to nearby Pumpkin Hollow where we perused the pumpkin patch (no Great Pumpkin sighting as of yet, but I remain hopeful), went on a hay ride, charted the corn maze, and sampled the fine pumpkin pie cuisine with an apple cider smoothie chaser. I've got a stack of monster movies to work my way through this season, watching in a darkened living room by light of an electric jack-o'lantern. And, of course, we're all preparing for The Big Night around the Mitchell home, stocking up on candy treats to hand out to our neighbors.

On top of such seasonal goodness, today marks the street release for my first Syfy Channel Original movie--Snakehead Swamp! The killer fish flick is now for sale at Amazon (and stores, you know) and also available to rent through Redbox. You've gotta see it to believe it! To read up on the movie, read my earlier blog post.

In related news--I'm writing my second Syfy feature as we speak! It's still too early in the process to go into specifics, but I've just turned in my first draft and I'm having great fun working on it so far. The road to making a movie is a long and winding one, though, and everything is subject to change, so I can't say much with confidence right now except to say that, no, it's not a sequel to Snakehead Swamp, but a whole new concoction of B-movie terror. I hope you'll all check it out once it finally airs (sometime next year, is the current plan). More on that as soon as the red tape is lifted. But for now--top secret!

In the meantime, go and check out Snakehead Swamp, or pick up a copy of my latest monster novel release HITMEN: Four Tales of Magick, Monsters, and Murder! Both are fun treats, especially for this time of year.

But, most importantly, enjoy the Halloween season. As the wind blows cold and the days grow short, this is a perfect time to hold your loved ones close by a warm fire, share fanciful stories of mystery and suspense, and drink a nice mug of warm cider together.

Don't waste it :)

Monday, September 8, 2014

New Story Included in "Grimoire of Eldritch Inquests"!

Howdy, folks. Some great news this weekend, courtesy of Emby Press. My short story "Divide and Conquer" has just been accepted for their Occult Detective anthology A Grimoire of Eldritch Inquests! The two-volume anthology is edited by Emby mastermind Miles Boothe and Joshua M. Reynolds--author of the super-awesome Royal Occultist pulp occult detective stories. Not only that, but my buddy Bob Freeman (read my most recent interview with him right here) has been tapped to contribute and write the foreword. I'm thrilled to be a part of the collection and am, as always, thankful for the chance to work with Emby Press and their impressive Monster Hunter line of anthologies.

My story "Divide and Conquer" is an original tale featuring an early case of my own occult detective, Vinnie Caponi: Urban Mythologist. As you should know by now (because I've posted a lot about it), Vinnie is one of the main heroes in my new book HITMEN: Four Tales of Magick, Monsters, and Murder. It was great delving into his old case files for another adventure with his faithful sidekick and brother-in-law, Josh. I love writing these two characters and I hope you enjoy my wild and woolly tale of...well, I'm hesitant to say what particular nasty they go up against. But, suffice it to say, it'll be wild and woolly. Fans of my The Coming Evil Trilogy should also take note of this short story as it includes one of my Arbigast Group characters from Lengthening Shadows. You won't want to miss it!

I was sort of a late(r) bloomer to the occult detective genre. I seemed to always be around it without ever really recognizing it. Growing up, my best friend Johnny was into Lovecraft and paranormal investigators and movies/shows like Angel Heart, X-Files, Lord of Illusions, and To Cast A Deadly Spell. I knew all these things through him and learned to enjoy and appreciate them. I even fashioned Johnny into an occult detective for my series of "Hitmen" home movies: you guessed it--he was the inspiration for Vinnie Caponi. Over the years, my love for pulp horror like Lovecraft and occult detectives have grown and developed, but the genre will always remind me of my early teen years at Johnny's, playing the Call of Cthulhu role-playing game, and talking about ancient tomes and eldritch horrors. Good times.

Fred Ward (that's the guy on the right) in "To Cast A Deadly Spell"

Look for the first volume of A Grimoire of Eldritch Inquests later this year. As of this writing, I'm not quite sure yet which volume I'll be included in, but they'll both be worth the look. In the meantime, get caught up on Vinnie Caponi by checking out HITMEN (available in print and ebook) or by reading this vignette of Vinnie's origins--for free, yo!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Blog Tour--Tag, I'm It!

So there's a blog tour going 'round these days, whereby authors answer four questions about their unique take on the craft. Last week, my buddy T.W. Johnson wrapped up his leg of the tour, as part of his promotion for his superhero/monster short story in the upcoming Metahumans vs Robots anthology by Lion's Share Press (I, too, might have news to report about that soon... :p).

As is the way with this particular blog tour, the responsibility fell on T.W. to pass the torch and keep this thing going, and he's tagged me! So here's my take on the four questions we've been posed. And away we go!

Q: What am I working on now?

This has been a busy year for me so far. Over the summer, I saw the release of my fifth novel HITMEN: Four Tales of Magick, Monsters, and Murder as well as the television debut of my first ever creature feature for the Syfy Channel--Snakehead Swamp. While I would love to spend the rest of the year kicked back, sipping sweet tea, and watching COPS all day, the allure of writing calls to me once again.

Right now I'm smack in the middle of work on my sequel to my 2012 multiverse sci-fi adventure novel Rift Jump. Currently sub-titled "Sara's Song", this book will (hopefully) answer all the pertinent questions from the previous book, take us to some wild and terrifying new places, and bid a fond farewell to this particular cast of characters. I've had Michael and Sara in my head since I was writing their first adventures on my Brother word processor in high school back in the mid-90s, so to finally tell their story in full and send them off into the sunset is something I look forward to, but also something I want to make sure I get just right. Even after all these years, these characters still surprise me with their choices as I learn more about them and more about myself in the process. It's an intense gig, and a crazy ride.

Q: How does my work differ from others in its genre?

That's one of those marketing questions that publishers always ask you. That's like asking for "selling points" or my "brand" or why you should buy my work instead of "the competition", but I've never been big on those kinds of questions. Perhaps I'd sell more books if I were. Really, the thing that distinguishes my work from the rest in the genre (in my case, it's horror) is that I didn't write all those other books. It's as simple--and complicated--as that. We all see the world slightly differently. Rather than comparing myself to other writers, I just want to grow from novel to novel, discovering more about myself and my own voice and saying the things that I want to say. I'll leave it up to others to judge and compare styles. I just write what I feel.

You should never write to compete with someone else. You should only ever be in competition with yourself. Look at your last work, own up to your mistakes, and do better the next time. In my life, nothing kills creativity quite like looking at my neighbor's work to see what they're up to and comparing it to my own.

Q: Why do I write what I do?

The short answer is that I write about monsters in order to stay sane.

The longer answer is that, with the advent of social media, I am constantly bombarded by the staggering amount of Evil in the world. You wake up in the morning and make a quick scroll through your newsfeed and--apart from the endless pictures of cutesy animals or people's bizarre obsession with taking snapshots of their feet (which is an evil of another kind)--you are overwhelmed by atrocities, violence, and hate from every side. And these stories are always followed by a charge--"Be outraged!"--but no one has a solution. Instead of finding a solution, we fight, curse, and kill about whose solution is the best, all while safely hiding in the anonymity that the web provides. I'm sure every generation says this, but--especially in this Internet Age--we've been exposed: we are the monsters.

So I write about monsters. That's all I know to do. Writing is the only way I know how to deal with this all-encompassing Ugliness that exists in the world and the hopelessness and helplessness that it creates in me. I am fully convinced that, apart from Christ, there's not hope for a single one of us. So, in my stories, I do my best to wrangle this massive Evil and bind It to a narrative and I fight It. I question It and my own complicity in Its existence. I struggle against It, I laugh in spite of It, and I dare to hope that we can overcome It if we stick together. This Evil takes many different forms in my writing--sometimes a demon, an alien, a vampire, or a giant man-eating fish :p--but it's always the same force. Other authors might write to explore or fantasize, but I write to fight.

Q: How does my writing process work?

I'm a very emotional and instinctive kind of guy. If I'm not "feeling" it, I don't write it. Writers better than me swear by the code that you should write x amount of words every day, but I just don't. Writing can't be mechanical like that. Editing can, but writing has got to be fluid. When I write, I've got to be able to cross over into my story and not "write" it, but just describe what I'm seeing and feeling. I've got to be living it. Many times it's music that gets me there. I almost always write to music. Sometimes when I've got a scene in my head but can't quite get there, I'll spend hours listening to music until a song clicks. Then I'll race to the computer, put that song on repeat (sometimes all day) and just write from pure emotion and discovery. I think, as a writer, I'm probably more like an actor getting into a role. I've also adopted a healthy balance of guiding a story and also letting the story go where it wants. Sometimes I feel a character pulling away from me. I might fight at first, but eventually I'll just let him/her go and follow close behind. I find that always leads somewhere fascinating and exciting that I would have never thought to go on my own. Trust your instincts--or, perhaps, your characters' instincts.

Well, that wasn't so hard, now was it :) Next Monday, follow along as graphic designer and author of the mind-bending supernatural suspense YA novel Uncanny Day (and a really cool dude) Cory Clubb takes the reigns of the tour over at his blog. Thanks for tuning in!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

"Snakehead Swamp"--Coming to DVD!

Get ready for some killer fish action!

My first Syfy creature feature Snakehead Swamp is swimming your way to DVD and Digital HD (and probably Redbox, etc) on October 7th!

From the press release here:

Killer Fish Return to Terrorize The Big Easy
Starring Ayla Kell and Dave Davis 
with Terri Garber and Antonio Fargas
Terror Comes Up for Air Again on DVD & Digital HD Oct. 7

CULVER CITY, Calif. (Aug. 4, 2014) – They’re back! Terror returns when genetically modified snakehead fish ferociously wreak havoc after being unleashed in the desolate swamps of Louisiana in the action-packed suspense thriller SNAKEHEAD SWAMP. The film will be available on DVD and Digital HD Oct. 7 from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The follow-up to Syfy’s camp classic Snakehead Terror stars Ayla Kell (TV’s “Make It or Break It”) and Dave Davis (TV’s “True Detective”), with Terri Garber (TV’s “As the World Turns,” “Dynasty”) and Antonio Fargas (TV’s “Everybody Hates Chris,” “Starsky & Hutch”).
A horrifying hybrid of genetic science and nature has taken over the Louisiana bayou, leaving terror in its wake! In the heat of the summer, what began as a day of boating and bikinis changes drastically when a school of genetically enhanced snakehead fish finds its way into Black Briar Swamp. As their thirst for blood grows, the creatures evolve by the minute, even learning to walk on land! No one is safe in this hair-raising thriller.

SNAKEHEAD SWAMP is directed by Don E. Fauntleroy from a screenplay by Greg Mitchell. Ken Badish and Daniel Lewis served as both producers and executive producers with Eric M. Davies as line producer. SNAKEHEAD SWAMP originally aired June 28, 2014 on SyFy Network. The film has a run time of approximately 86 minutes and is not rated.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Win a copy of "HITMEN"!

Beginning today through August 15, I'm offering readers a chance to win one of three free copies of my latest monster novel HITMEN: Four Tales of Magick, Monsters, and Murder. How do you enter? It's easy! Head over to the Goodreads Giveaway page! Yeah, I'll even sign it for you. Why not?

So what's HITMEN all about anyway? Visit my behind-the-scenes blog post to read why this particular novel is so special to me.

Also, if you like what you see, check out this free excerpt from the book as well.

Now go enter the giveaway! Time's a'wastin'!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Free Short Fiction--"Metamorphosis"

Hey, all. Hopefully you're all buying and enjoying my latest release, HITMEN: Four Tales of Magick, Monsters, and Murder. Today, I bring to you short fiction featuring one of the heroes in Hitmen--Vinnie Caponi: Urban Mythologist.

The following originally appeared in the occult detective anthology A Cat of Nine Tales by Rookhaven, and is designed to be a simple vignette--a peek, if you will--into the origins of Vinnie Caponi. Of course, all of Vinnie's secrets are brought to light during the events of Hitmen, but I consider this a nice primer. Or, if you've already read Hitmen, then this story works on an even deeper level, elaborating on things only hinted at in the novel. I hope you enjoy the story and, once you're done, go pick up Hitmen and see how Vinnie's battle against the supernatural unfolds!

Josh Banks turned his key and entered the country shack. The place seemed colder these days without her there. On the wall, where portraits of her pretty face once smiled back at him, there was only bare wood-paneling. Vinnie had already removed all the painful reminders of her beauty, her warmth. Dirty clothes lay draped over furniture and empty bottles of Bourbon were scattered on the carpet, but what bothered Josh most were the stacks of strange books. Vinnie’s new obsession.

“Vin?” Josh called out into the evening gloom, barely broken by the glow of a lamp in the corner. Silence answered him. Maybe Vinnie was off doing more research on the case. Vinnie had always been thorough—that was what made him such a great private investigator. But this new Vinnie—one without Allison—was driven in a new and terrible way.

Drawn by morbid interest, Josh plucked a thin book off the top of the nearest stack. The spine read White Magic, Black Magic. “Aw, Vin…I hope you know what you’re getting yourself into.”

The cell phone stashed in his baggy jacket blitzed and Josh nearly dropped the book. He fumbled to bring the phone to his ear. “Yeah?”


Vinnie sounded hollow and distant, a shadow of the jovial giant he had been only a month ago. “Vinnie? Where you at? You told me to meet’cha.”

“There’s been a change of plans. Meet me at the lake.”

Not that again. “What for?”

“I’m gonna summon Tanner’s spirit and I need your help.”

Josh’s blood froze in his veins. He felt like the Devil himself was standing behind him. At last, he swallowed hard. “I’m on my way.”

* * *

Vinnie Caponi pressed the chalk to the dock boards, finishing the runic configuration, mumbling the incantation as he did so. With each syllable, he felt himself slipping into darkness, crossing a line he’d never even knew existed a few weeks back. Allison had been a faith-driven woman and he respected her beliefs, though he never entirely shared them. Since he was a boy, Vinnie had been a practical thinker, observing physical facts to draw conclusions about the unknown. That, coupled with his desire to mimic the two-fisted detective stories he enjoyed in his youth, had led him to join the Willowbrook P.D. However, reality was not as rewarding as fiction, and corruption on the force drove him away. He went into business for himself, with Allison’s brother Josh at his side. It was an unlikely partnership, as his brother-in-law was lazy and undisciplined, but Vinnie had done it for Allison. He would have done anything to make her happy. To repay her for noticing him when so many others hadn’t. Vinnie better resembled John Candy than John Wayne, yet Allison made him feel accepted and loved.

But Allison was gone... Was she in heaven now? Had her faith rewarded her? Or was she someplace dark and cold and alone, waiting for him to save her? Or, at the very least, avenge her?

He’d watched the camera footage a thousand times. The thing that was there when Allison died…it wasn’t human. It took six slugs like someone was throwing pebbles at it. It bled dust. Its face was a ghostly skull, nearly luminescent in the dark. Vinnie had never believed in ghosts, but the way that thing—that Skullface—flickered out of sight and vanished…

The world had opened to him and proven itself a terrible, unknowable place, shattering every perception he held, ruining his life—and triggering his rebirth. He was shuffling around in the cocoon and wasn’t quite sure how he would re-emerge when the transformation was complete.

He straightened as he finished his task, readjusting the black trenchcoat and fedora that warded off the encroaching cold. Josh materialized from the shadows onto the small pier, stepping into the white-blue beam of the overhead lights. The string bean looked worn, reminding Vinnie that Josh had lost Allison, as well. But I’m going to make this right. I can fix this. For both of us.

“What do ya think you’re doin’?” Josh sighed, looking more annoyed than angry.

Vinnie regarded his intricate scribbling on the ground, mindful of the instruction book he held in his hand. It hadn’t been easy—or cheap—procuring the text. “It’s a summoning spell.”

“Dude,” Josh groaned, “what is your problem? Will you just listen to yourself? Spells, ghosts…this is dark stuff, man.”

Vinnie knew Josh was right. He’d buried himself in research the last few weeks, taking a crash course in the occult. Even from what little he read, he understood he was dabbling in powers he couldn’t control. He was aware of the thin line he walked between salvation and damnation. “If it gets me closer to the thing that killed Allison, then it doesn’t matter.”

“It does, too, Vin! What does it matter if you get your revenge, or whatever, but you lose your own soul in the process? Allison wouldn’t want that.”

No. She wouldn’t. There were a lot of things Allison wouldn’t have wanted. “Allison’s dead.”

Vinnie saw Josh flinch and marveled at how well he was holding it together. Josh was calm, clear-headed, though he had to be hurting. Sad as it was, losing Allison had been good for Josh, maturing him overnight into a good man. Am I a good man anymore?

“She is,” Josh reflected. “But that doesn’t mean you have to die, too.”

Vinnie set his teeth on edge, his heart pierced. “Are you going to help me or not?”

“I ain’t touching that magick stuff, man,” Josh snarled like Vinnie held a plate of spoiled sour kraut. Eyeing the tome in Vinnie’s hand, he asked tentatively, “What is that, anyway?”

“It’s one of the Nine Books of Carvac. It contains spells for conjuring spirits and binding them to corporeal form.”

Josh stared at him for a long moment. “Great plan, Sherlock. What do you plan on doin’ after ya got this Tanner cat where you want ‘im?”

The spirit in question was Jimmy Tanner, a twenty-six year old man who drowned in the lake back in the 1960s. He was backward and probably mildly retarded—but he was far from innocent. He was known to mutilate animals and spent too long lurking around playgrounds for parents’ liking. Tanner was a hulking man, and Willowbrook feared him. Then one day, he turned up missing. Years went by until, in the mid-80s, a group of men confessed to running afoul of Tanner when they were thirteen, returning from a Little League game. The boys teased the man, called him names, and provoked him into a fight. When Tanner lashed out, the frightened kids retaliated, nearly beating the man to death, and pushing his body into the water where he met his demise. The secret had stayed with the boys into their adulthood, until guilt moved them to confess what they’d done.

But Tanner’s body was never recovered.

Instead, his vengeful ghost became the stuff of stories told at the nearby summer camp. There had been a few unexplained accidents out there, often attributed to Tanner’s lingering fury.

Allison had died near those woods. Near the lake. Vinnie found a photo of Tanner—huge and lumbering—and believed it matched the shape of the phantom he glimpsed on the video.

At least, he wanted to believe.

“Check the bag.”

It was only then that Josh noticed the duffel on the ground, a sawed-off shotgun protruding from the open top. Josh knelt and handled the weapon with respect and awe, then looked back to the detective, his eyes betraying a broken heart. “Vinnie…”

Vinnie detected the hurt in Josh’s voice, knowing he had let down his friend. Vinnie had always owned a pistol as a cop and later a P.I.—had been trained to use one—but as a pacifist by nature, he preferred to make friends of his enemies and reason his way out of difficulties. Resorting to violence was traitor to so many things he once stood for. But he was changing. “The bullets are enchanted. I used one of the spells on them, so they should be lethal to a supernatural being.”

Josh stood, shaking his head. “You’re losing it.”

Vinnie could not argue.

Relenting, Josh exhaled. “So, after you kill this guy or send him back to hell or whateva’, then what?”

Vinnie hung his head. “I don’t know.”

“Because it won’t bring back Allison, you know?”

The truth stung like a slap to the face. Then again, what was truth anymore? Vinnie was starting to understand that the rules could be rewritten. With the right symbols, the right incantations, anything was possible. Anything… “Yeah…I know…” He felt the weight of the Book of Carvac in his hand. His eye was drawn to its yellowed pages. They held so many secrets about death—and life beyond. Maybe he could find a way to breach that veil and see Allison again. Maybe…bring her back. “This book is powerful…” he muttered, his heart tripping in his chest, as he felt himself sink a little further into darkness.

Looking up, he saw Josh’s eyes widen. The kid wasn’t stupid. He fixed an accusing glare on the book, then Vinnie. “No! Don’t even think it!”

“But if it works on Tanner, it could work on—”

In a display of anger Vinnie had never seen in him, Josh charged and slapped the book from his hand. 

Stop it!

In the second it took the book to drop, Vinnie drew his Colt 1911 from his shoulder holster and pressed it to Josh’s nose. Ice surged through him—hate and pain and grief—as he leveled the gun.

Josh paled. “What are you doin’, Vin? You gonna shoot me now?”

Vinnie’s hand trembled, his pulse pounding in his ears. Josh was standing in his way. Hadn’t he promised himself he would do anything to make things right? To bring Allison back into the world and make everything whole again?

Josh stared him down, growing bolder in the silence. He had Allison’s eyes. Maybe he had her heart, too.

What are you doing? Vinnie asked himself, echoing his friend’s words. He really didn’t know anymore.

Slowly, he lowered the pistol. Slid it back into its holster.

“I’m so lost, Josh…I miss her so much…”

Josh’s familiar easygoing, lopsided grin returned. He patted Vinnie on the shoulder. “I know, big guy. I do, too.”

Vinnie had lost Allison: his wife, his friend, his reason to get up in the morning. But maybe in the end, he’d gained a brother. Josh’s goodwill warmed his soul and he found himself smiling again at last.

“Come on,” Josh said, nodding towards the end of the pier, away from the lake and its temptations. “Let’s get rid of this crap and go get a pizza. I’ll even let you buy.”

It sounded wonderful, but there was one catch. “We can’t.”

“Why not?”

Vinnie looked to his boots and the chalk drawing beneath them. Already the symbols began to glow a faint red. He frowned. Too late to turn back now. “Because…I already did the spell. I already summoned Jimmy Tanner.”

A soul-shivering howl split the night and the screaming giant exploded out of the lake’s cold depths. Josh let out a curse and tumbled back onto his seat as the behemoth landed on the pier, cracking the boards under his weight. Vinnie stepped back, his hand hovering over his pistol, but not drawing it. The thing before him stood over six feet and wore coveralls and a discolored flannel shirt. Its shriveled skin was white as marble and bloated, its hair a strange shade of green. But Vinnie recognized the overbite, the bushy eyebrows.

This was Tanner.

But…this was not Skullface.

Is it him?” Josh screamed, scrambling in a crab-walk, desperately retreating as the waterlogged giant clomped closer.

“No,” Vinnie said at length, his heart breaking. It wasn’t Skullface. He had disturbed this murdered man, stirring those decades of rage…for no reason at all.

Tanner’s grotesque body raised its arms for Vinnie, and the thing bellowed a hungry, hate-filled cry. Josh screamed like a small girl, but Vinnie steadied himself. Without fear or anger—even the grief was gone—he slid his pistol into his hand, took aim, and fired one magickally enhanced bullet. The spinning projectile flew from the barrel and struck the Goliath’s forehead. Tanner went limp, tumbling forward on the dock.

The waters bubbled, lit from below by a green light. Vinnie trembled, wondering what else he had released. Suddenly, the boards snapped, jutting skyward. Vinnie stumbled and was saved from impalement by Josh’s quick thinking and quicker feet. “Come on!” he squeaked, lugging Vinnie off the pier.

The two of them stood on shore watching as an eerie fog rose from the waters, moaning as if alive, and encircled Tanner’s limbs. Slowly, the mist dragged Tanner down into the lake, sealing what remained of his soul in its final resting place. As he sunk below the surface, the ghostly echoes faded and the waters grew dark and still once more.

Vinnie and Josh stood without speaking for a long time.

But Josh was never very good at keeping his mouth shut. “Did...we just see that?”

Feeling an odd sense of peace, Vinnie reached into his deep pockets and retrieved his favorite treat while on a stakeout—a Dum Dum sucker. He unwrapped a bubble gum-flavored one and popped it into his mouth. “Yep.”

“I vote we never do this again.”

Vinnie felt the same. He couldn’t save Allison. He couldn’t bend the laws of the universe to his own whims—the consequences were too dire.

But before he could voice his agreement, he realized he had emerged from the cocoon that her death had spun around him and knew what he had become. “I’m not so sure.”

Josh did a double-take. “Come again?”

Vinnie chuckled. “Easy. No more meddling with the Books of Carvac. I get that. But…I know, now, that there are some strange things hiding in the shadows. I can’t turn my back on all I’ve learned. There are monsters out there, and somebody’s gotta fight ‘em back. Maybe that’s me. Maybe I’m—”

“An urban mythologist?” Josh snickered.

Vinnie grinned around his Dum Dum. “That ain’t got a bad ring to it.”

The two of them contemplated the idea in the cool autumn breeze. After a moment, Josh stuck his hands in his pockets and shrugged. “So, you, uh, think you’ll need a partner?”

“It never hurt before. You interested?”

As they gathered their things and headed away from the lake and the ghosts they’d laid to rest, Josh explained, “Well, it just so happens that I used to work for this private investigator, but he quit the business. So you could say I’m in between internships. What does an urban mythologist pay anyway?”

Vinnie crunched on the sucker. “It pays in truth.”

“Aw, man, that’s really cheesy.”

Vinnie laughed for the first time since his world turned dark, and felt sure that somewhere Allison was laughing too.

Copyright 2012 Greg Mitchell