New Release: Midnight Thirsts II

It’s out! Midnight Thirsts II, with my short story “A Living Specimen”, is available now through Lulu, Amazon, and the publisher, Melange Books.

Praise from author John Steiner for “A Living Specimen”:

First let me say I love stories with peculiar titles that have one wondering why they were chosen. As an author I strive for that in my chapter titles and, at times, the title for the whole story. The story starts with our confused and traumatized main character giving her best recollection of events. The workings of a necessarily short and brilliantly enrapturing prologue.
As the story goes on and we learn more of Trisha and her work in something called S.H.I.P. or otherwise referred to as the Society. Along the way my mind kept going back to that opening scene, and what the hell did just happen. Tori’s characters each have their uniqueness that is coupled with a surface impression from Trisha’s view and inner complexity that works itself out through the story.
Just when you think you’ve got things figured out suddenly you’re reevaluating everything you’ve seen so far. Then you’re hit again with surprises. “A Living Specimen” simultaneously drew me back to the vampire stories filmed by Britain’s Hammer Films in the 1960’s and 1970’s as well as to Josh Wheaton’s “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” television series, both of which I have fond memories for. There’s a homy feel to the collection of characters the relationships between them and a little Wheatonesque humor. Also enjoyable is the climactic scene with detailed description meant for revelation and heightened adrenalin.
For clever plot, well flushed out characters, pithy quips and good old fashioned nightcrawlers you would NOT bring home to meet your parents I give this a solid five stars.

Thy Will Be Done — excerpt

The early summer night seemed unseasonably cold to John Hathorne, as he leaned out the back door to check that the path was clear. He grimaced at the chill in the air and clutched his wife’s woolen shawl more closely about him. His dismay when he’d found that the chamber pot was missing was doubled now, as his breath puffed out in white clouds and the bare flesh on his legs rose in goose pimples.
But the demands of his earthly flesh could and would not be denied.
The moon was high and full, lighting the garden path sufficiently that he barely needed the lantern. Still, he carried it high as a standard of godly light against the Devil and his kin. No wind shook the new leaves above, and the crickets were silent. He was keenly aware of the loudness of his breath and the drumming of his heart in his ears. No matter that the trials had ended, he knew that many more witches still remained free, still presented a danger to God-fearing men in their heathen alliance to the Devil — he could feel it. Hathorne pressed his lips together as he surveyed his property once more for signs of Satan before setting the lantern carefully on the ground.
His hand trembled slightly as he reached for the handle of the privy door. Shameful. Hathorne shook his head at himself, wiped his sweaty palm on his nightshirt, and reached back for the lantern once more. Then, whispering a psalm for courage and protection, he took a firm grip on the door and flung it open, thrusting the lantern before him into the darkened space.
No demon leaped from the inside to attack him; no spectral figure crouched on the sanded wooden seat, ready to pinch and claw his flesh. There was only a little empty room, emitting the usual offensive odours. Hathorne found that he’d been holding his breath and released it with a whoosh as he set the lantern back down, entered the small wooden closet, and shut the door.
He immediately regretted the loss of light. His internal organs seized up in utter and irrational terror. A bead of perspiration slid down his forehead, and his heart hammered against his chest. One toe snuck forward to open the the door a little and admit a shaft of warm yellow light. Pale moonlight poured in as well, and hating himself for allowing fear to battle propriety, he pushed the door open half-way.
There. Now, he could see the friendly glow from the kitchen fireplace through the glass window, and the candle he’d left on the table to light his way through the house.
After a few moments, his pulse slowed and the first trickles of urine promised the coming relief of his aching bladder.
A sudden gust of wind pushed the door the rest of the way open, startling him so he cried out; at almost the same moment, the lantern fell and rolled away in a half-circle, extinguishing the candle within. A great black shape stepped before him on four legs and growled. Hathorne’s scalp tingled as his hair stood on end and his bladder emptied in an unexpected gush.
The thing looked at him with eyes that glowed red, living coals of fury over a pointed snout and bared, glistening teeth.
And then it reached for him.
Hathorne’s throat closed even as he tried to call for help; gibbering madly, he pressed himself as far back against the wall behind as he could, trying vainly to avoid the thick, hairy limb. Rough claws found purchase on his calf. Hathorne felt splinters dig under his fingernails as he held onto the doorframe, resisting the pull of the demon with all of his strength.

Look for “Thy Will Be Done” in Dark Moon Books this fall!

Bio-Zombie – excerpt

Leanne approached the corpse on the table with some trepidation.
She couldn’t get used to it. Somewhere after seventy-five she had lost count.
The last one hadn’t been completely neutralized, either. She paused, one gloved hand about to unzip the body bag, and steeled herself. The other hand reached for the large red panic button.
“You won’t get the jump on me, this time,” she warned the thing. Her voice echoed against the firm plastic concave mask covering her face. “Begin recording, Nigel.”
She knew that her assistant was already scribing her every move. Suppressing an internal sigh, mourning the loss of computer technology, she revealed the remains of the zombie to the stark fluorescent light of the autopsy room.
“August 4, 2119. Subject is a male, approximately six foot four. Immediate cause of death appears to be extreme brain trauma.” Leanne probed the exposed tissue delicately, removing a sample and inserting the piece of grey, claggy flesh in a specimen tube. “The bio-suit tag indicates that this was Sergeant Ron Turner. Serial number T96987822. Nigel, where was Sergeant Turner deployed?”
“The Algonquin Ridge.” Nigel’s voice was muffled, like her own must be. Sealed against the bacteria or virus or whatever malevolent infectious thing was turning the men against each other.
“Damn,” she whispered. “That’s the last line of defence.”
“Yes, ma’am.”
“So it won’t be the machines that kill us, after all.” Leanne muttered. “That was off record, Nigel.”
“Of course, ma’am.”
Leanne continued her examination, resuming her clinical notes, but part of her mind returned to the past. To memories of sunrises and camping trips, programmable playthings, her parents’ automated house. The privileged life of her childhood, before the artificial intelligence built by humans turned on them…
Ever since the initial uprising, humanity had been pushed to the brink of existence. The pockets of resistance who had survived the first devastation of nuclear warfare had managed to gather what technology remained and apply it to the war. Their greatest achievement was the development of the bio-suit.
Engineered by the best scientists, each suit was grown organically using the soldier’s own DNA in combination with biological elements from sea stars, crocodiles, and elephants. It became, literally, a second skin — one that was incredibly tough, gave the individual fifty times their normal strength and endurance, protected him or her from the elements, and could withstand even the armour-piercing bullets used by the machines.
Where, in the first battles, a soldier’s high-tech exoskeleton was vulnerable to computer virus, the bio-suit gave humanity’s armies their first real advantage against the machines.
Until the mutations began to show themselves…or whatever it was.
Leanne was part of a team determined to find the source of infection. The families of the resistance soldiers were being kept in the dark, she knew, because as soon as a mother or a father or a sibling found out that the bio-suits were slowly turning good people into flesh-eating, single-minded monsters, they’d insist that the military leaders stop using them.
Privately, Leanne agreed. What was the point of the protection, if it created zombies?
Professionally, she searched for an answer.
And somewhere, out there, the battle for domination between human and machine continued…
Lost in her thoughts, Leanne didn’t realize at first that the corpse’s eyes had opened.

Alive or dead? What will happen to Leanne and Nigel? Keep your eyes peeled for A Quick Bite of Flesh — the zombie anthology clawing its way from the earth at Hazardous Press!

Brain Games — excerpt

The small, brown-paper package, wrapped in string, is no bigger than my hand. The Florida postmark makes my heart beat faster.
I bolt up the stairs to my room.
Here, at last, is the perfect solution to my problem. Damien will be no match for a little voodoo magic!
“Rose may have you now,” I mutter, using nail clippers to cut the strings, “but that’s about to change.”
I glance lovingly at his picture, framed and hung in place of honour above my pillow.
I open the crackling paper to find a black box and a business card.
“Mama Jetti’s Traditional Haitian Magics” I read aloud. It lists her contact info, and then there’s a bunch of small print, probably a disclaimer or something similarly boring written in complicated legalese.
I set the business card on my bedside table, and return my attention to the box.
“Time for the big reveal.” I take a deep breath, and carefully remove the lid.
Inside, nestled in a bundle of shredded newspaper, is a single black vial. I can’t see the contents, but when I pick it up and shake it, I can hear powder shifting. Spotting a folded piece of paper tucked into the lid, I pull it out and read the instructions.

* * *

“Damien! I’ve got your drink!”
I watch Rose weave her way through the crowd, holding two brimming red Solo cups above her head. She’s wearing blue short-shorts and a yellow bikini top, all the better to show off the fresh tramp stamp on her lower back. Apparently, she’d had it done just that afternoon, but she hadn’t bothered keeping the ugly plastic wrap on it.
Yeah, I think bitterly. The infection that will set in by tomorrow will be sooo attractive…
I sip my own drink carefully, fingering the vial in my pocket and trying to ignore the churning in my stomach. It’s hard to be patient, watching his arm curve around her slim waist and trace the stylized butterfly tattooed into her skin. Clearly, he’s into ink.
It won’t be for long.
All I have to do is wait for the right moment. The tricky part is making sure that only Damien’s cup has the magic stuff…
Twenty minutes later, I realize that getting to it is going to be difficult. He and Rose are so into each other, it would take a fire hose to pry them apart. I grind my teeth, watching his lips nibbling at her neck. Okay. The hard way, then.
I dump the powder into my beer. According to the instructions, I’m supposed to put the powder in an open wound, but the best I can do is get him to swallow it.

Find out what happens next in A Quick Bite of Flesh — the zombie anthology lurches your way soon from Hazardous Press!

Happy Litha — Welcome Back to Summer!

Hey, readers!

No excuse — I have neglected you. Life has kept me on my toes, between going with my students to the Sears Drama Festival in April, writing some short stories for various anthologies (excerpts for which I will post shortly), and work, work, work. But I have taken a break from today’s yard work, laundry, and exam marking to get back to you. Friends again?

Good news! Tomorrow, I will be featured as a guest blogger on — please stop by, leave a comment, I’d appreciate it. The theme is “Issues I am Passionate About”.

More goodies: My zombie flash fictions, “Brain Games” and “Bio-Zombie”, will be published soon in the anthology A Quick Bite of Flesh (Hazardous Press). Also, my alternate history short, “Thy Will Be Done” — a retelling of events during the Salem Witch Trials — will be featured in the online magazine, Dark Moon Books, hopefully by fall. Once I have the publishing dates confirmed, I will post them here.

Happy reading! (And, check out the new excerpts from “Brain Games”, “Bio Zombie”, and “Thy Will Be Done” — leave a comment, love to see what you think!)