Teachers, hookers, and drug dealers!

A little bit about my crime novel, VENETIAN SPRINGS

See below for sample chapters!

A young couple in debt. A fortune in blood money. A showdown with a ruthless narcotics kingpin. For fans of Harlan Coben and David Baldacci!

Read the sample chapters here:

VENETIAN SPRINGS Chapters 1 to 8

Amazon links below:

**View on Amazon!**

Also: VENETIAN SPRINGS is enrolled in Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited program.

Horror on Kindle Unlimited

Kindle Unlimited is Amazon’s main subscription ebook reading program. Kindle Unlimited gives you virtually unlimited (hence the name) reading privileges to a wide variety of titles, for a low monthly fee.

Not every title listed on Amazon is enrolled in Kindle Unlimited. Literary fiction from the big New York publishing houses generally is not included. You likely won’t find the latest Jonathan Franzen novel in Kindle Unlimited anytime in the near future.

Kindle Unlimited is heavy on genre fiction. This means: romance, space opera, LitRPG, fantasy, and horror.

I have a fair number of horror titles in Kindle Unlimited. I write supernatural horror, in the tradition of Peter Straub, H.P. Lovecraft, Bentley Little and E.F. Benson.

And yes (I know this sounds a bit pretentious) Stephen King. I have achieved barely a gazillionth fraction of King’s commercial success. But his formula of character-based, fast-moving horror is always on my mind when I sit down to write a horror tale.

What kind of horror don’t I write? If you want splatterpunk, or “extreme” horror (aka “torture porn”), then you should skip my books and stories. I have no interest in writing horror fiction that is endlessly grim and/or sadistic. My horror fiction is more akin to the campfire ghost story.

Below are the horror titles that I presently have enrolled in Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited program. This means that you can read them for free if you’re a Kindle Unlimited subscriber.

To view one of these titles on Amazon, simply click on the image of any book, or any hyperlink below.

(Don’t have a Kindle Unlimited membership? Click here.)

Eleven Miles of Night

A college student takes a walk down the most haunted road in rural Ohio for a cash prize. This is a “haunted road” story, basically a tale of being stuck on a cursed country road at night. Ghosts, evil spirits, and hellhounds abound. Also, an evil witch that inhabits a covered bridge.

12 Hours of Halloween

A coming-of-age story set on Halloween night, 1980. This is a tale of supernatural events in the American suburb. A classic horror tale for Generation X.

Revolutionary Ghosts

The year is 1976, and the Headless Horseman rides again. This coming-of-age horror thriller is sure to please readers who appreciate character-based supernatural fiction with lots of twists and turns.

The basic idea is: the ghosts of American history coming back to haunt Middle America in 1976, the year of the American Bicentennial. (And yes, I’m old enough to remember the Bicentennial, although I was rather young at the time.)

Luk Thep

In early 2016, I read an article in The Economist about the luk thep “spirit dolls” of Thailand.

Manufactured and sold in Thailand, these are factory-made dolls with a unique sales point: each doll is supposedly infused with the spirit of a young child that passed prematurely.

The luk thep are intended to bring comfort to their owners. (They are marketed to childless women.) To me, though, the whole idea sounded rather macabre.

And I couldn’t help thinking: what if one of the dolls was infused with a child spirit that wasn’t very nice? What if that same doll ended up in the possession of an American woman who happened to visit Thailand on a business trip? Luk Thep is a fast-paced ghost tale that spans two continents.

The Rockland Horror saga

Spanning a nearly 140-year period from 1882 to 2020, The Rockland Horror is a series about dark events at a cursed house in rural Indiana.

Hay Moon & Other Stories: Sixteen modern tales of horror and suspense

This was my first short story collection. Although all of these stories contain speculative elements, there is quite a range in plot and subject matter. In this collection you’ll find vampire and ghost stories, but also a few crime stories with a “twist”. Oh, and there are also several “creature feature” stories that are kind of fun.

I Know George Washington and Other Stories: Five Dark Tales

Five dark tales of murder, hauntings, and the undead, set in locations from Tennessee to Mexico.

Kindle Vella: first impressions

Kindle Vella is Amazon’s newest subscription e-reading program. Several of you have asked me via email if I plan to write new stories for it.

I might start with the basic question: What the heck is Vella? Vella is a serial fiction platform. The best analogy I can think of for US readers is Wattpad, which seems to be mostly oriented toward teenage girls (given the prevalence of YA romance stories there). Online serial fiction is not especially popular among adult readers in the United States (yet), though it is popular with adult readers in Asia, especially those in China.

At least one major Chinese web novel publisher is now actively targeting the US market. Wattpad, moreover, has become a major online publisher within the YA romance niche.

I suspect that Vella is Amazon’s way of trying to eat the lunch of Wattpad and the Chinese web novel publishers. The creation of a paid platform for web fiction has some complicated aspects, of course; but it would be easy enough for Amazon.

You can’t read stories on Kindle Vella just yet. Kindle Vella has yet to be unveiled to readers, though Amazon is encouraging publishers to create content for it in advance of the launch.

Michael Kozlowski of Good E-Reader has done a detailed write-up of the fine print. There are some positive points: Vella will allow readers to get the first few chapters free, and the “pay as you go” system should discourage many of the scams that have plagued Kindle Unlimited.

On the downside, Vella content must be exclusive not just to Amazon, but to the Vella program itself. If a writer wants to republish a serialized story as a complete book, she will have to take it out of Vella.

Then there is the question (which Kozlowski raises) of whether or not Vella is likely to be a hit with readers. As Kozlowski notes, Amazon’s 2012 Kindle Serials program languished in obscurity and was eventually discontinued. But that was almost a decade ago. That’s a long, long time in  publishing.

I have mixed feelings about all this. My writing dream was born in the 1980s, when “writing” meant writing a book that would (hopefully) find its way to a shelf at Waldenbooks. Nowadays, most of my readers get my books on Amazon Kindle (though I do sell quite a few paperbacks some months).

I’m not opposed to the idea of digital serials, but I’m going to take a wait-and-see approach to Kindle Vella. I want to see how Amazon rolls it out and promotes it first.

I have also flirted with the idea of serializing a few long-form stories here on my site. Don’t get me wrong: I love Amazon, as a reader, writer, and general consumer. (I just ordered some vitamins for my dad from Amazon.) But I don’t want all of my content to be exclusive to one company and one website. That would be a bad business strategy. And exclusivity tends to be the first rule of play with all of these Amazon programs.

Experience ‘The Rockland Horror 2’

The Rockland Horror 2 is available on Amazon!

(But you’ll want to read the first book in the series, The Rockland Horror, first.)

Both books are filled with murder, betrayal, evil spirits, zombies, supernatural monsters, and characters you’ll never forget! 

Here’s a sample chapter from The Rockland Horror 2:

Chapter 1

August 1882

Ellen Briggs, née Ellen Sanders, was in her own house, and she was absolutely terrified.

Of course, this was not really her house, was it? It was her marital residence, where she now effectively lived in a state of captivity.

Not to mention…absolute terror.

She had married Theodore Briggs—railroad tycoon, necromancer, and murderer—only a few months ago.

In the early days of the marriage, Briggs had warned her: Stay out of unfamiliar rooms. Although the house was not old, it was home to many old secrets, Briggs had explained.

But she had forgotten his warning, in light of all that had happened since then…

Today Ellen had been wandering through the first floor of the massive house. Since her escape attempt earlier in the summer, Briggs seldom allowed her leave. But she could not sit still within these walls. If she remained in one place, she would go completely mad.

So today she had gone wandering, even though she had known better.

That was how she came across the undead child…

The door to the room containing the undead child was located adjacent to the first-floor ballroom. Ellen had opened the door, not realizing that the room connected to the basement via one of the home’s labyrinthine internal tunnels.

She reckoned that only later—after it was too late.

It was in the basement that her husband kept his worst secrets. Bodies were buried in the basement—and they didn’t always stay buried. Sometimes, they found their way to other parts of the house…

Nevertheless, this miscellaneous room had seemed harmless enough when she had first entered it. Heavy draperies were drawn on both of the room’s high windows, but some late afternoon sunlight filtered through.

The room seemed made for casual exploration. Various works of art had been stored within it. Paintings bound in frames, but not yet hung, stood stacked against all four walls.

Throughout the floor, in a random arrangement, were various statues: of nymphs, cherubs, and Greek deities. There was one life-size replica of the Venus de Milo. There were waist-high vases, and teak dividers carved in what looked like Turkish patterns.

The fortunes of Ellen’s husband were vast. He had no doubt purchased most of these items in bulk from a broker, with the intention of placing them around the house at a later date.

That work might have been left to Juba, the maidservant whom her husband had ordered killed, for her part in Ellen’s escape attempt. That same escape attempt had also resulted in her husband murdering Wilbur Craine, her former beau and would-be rescuer. 

As she made her way through the cluttered room, Ellen endeavored to push those thoughts from her mind. She couldn’t think about Juba now. And certainly not about Wilbur.

She was kneeling down on the hardwood floor, admiring one of the paintings leant against the wall, when she heard something shift from a corner of the room.

Ellen immediately looked away from the landscape painting, toward the movement. She stood up. Something had stirred behind the teak screen in the room’s far corner, near one of the windows.

The teak screen was suspended above the floor on a set of wooden legs. In the gap between the screen and the floor, Ellen could see two small feet, clad in simple leather shoes. The shoes were caked with dried mud.

The feet moved toward the edge of the screen, but not in proper steps. One foot dragged behind the other.

A small figure stepped out from behind the screen. It was short, between four and five feet tall. The very sight of it was absolutely terrifying.

Chapter 2

Ellen immediately recognized the figure as a child. And at the the same time, this was not a child at all.

There was an unholy, yellowish glow in the thing’s eyes. Ellen had seen this glow in the eyes of Ni’qua, Briggs’s undead first wife. Ni’qua lurked around the house, and appeared before Ellen when least expected.

But this child was even worse. Ni’qua had been dead for decades, after all. This victim had been taken only months ago.

“Come play with me!” the thing croaked hoarsely, through rotting lips.

Ellen didn’t speak. There was nothing to say to this thing; and that would only slow down her escape, anyway.

She needed to think.

No—she needed to get out of this room. Immediately.

Ellen turned and bolted for the door.

Behind her she could hear dragging footsteps. The child was giving chase, but Ellen moved much faster, owing to the damage Briggs and his valet had done to the child’s injured leg prior to burial.

The thing was now cursing at her—using the vocabulary of some ancient language that she did not understand.

A few more steps, and Ellen was at the threshold, then beyond it.

She had never moved faster in her life, she thought.

Then she was on the other side of the doorway.

She did not want to turn around, did not want to look back. She knew, however, that it would be necessary to close the door, lest the thing pursue her out into the hallway.

When Ellen turned around, the creature was within sprinting distance of the doorway, if not for the ruined leg.

As Ellen reached for and grasped the doorknob, an expression of bottomless rage contorted the already rotting and grimacing face. This evil before her was intelligent; it knew what she planned to do.

Ellen ignored her terror, for the time being, forced herself to focus.

She yanked on the doorknob, and slammed the door shut behind her.

Then she twisted the external catch on the doorknob. Another strange thing about this house: Her husband had designed it so that many of the rooms locked from the outside.

That done, the thing was effectively contained inside the room. A second later, there was a loud thud, as a creature that had once been a human child slammed into the closed door.

“Let me out!” it roared. The voice was ancient, booming. It echoed against the walls of the hallway.

Ellen stepped away from the closed door. She looked in one direction, and saw that the hallway terminated there in a bare wall.

In the other direction, from which she had arrived here, the hallway ended in another doorway.

With the thing still pounding on the door of the storage room, still cursing in that hideous language, Ellen made her escape through the high-ceilinged hallway. She fled toward the doorway.

There was a locking door here, too. Ellen closed it behind her and locked it.

The undead child was now locked behind two heavy doors. Was that enough to make her safe?

She shook her head at the very notion. There was no such thing as true safety in this house.

View the book on Amazon!

Coming soon: ‘The Rockland Horror 2’

Sometime later this week or early next week, The Rockland Horror 2 will hit the virtual bookshelves on Amazon.

The Rockland Horror series is for fans of:

  • Stephen King
  • Jennifer McMahon
  • Peter Straub
  • Silvia Moreno-Garcia
  • Jeremy Bates
  • H.P. Lovecraft
  • Adam Nevill
  • T.J. Payne
    among others!

This story will pick up where The Rockland Horror left off. In the summer of 1882, the town of Rockland, Indiana is reeling from the wave of murders and kidnappings that occurred in recent months.

One man, George Marston, has been tried, convicted, and executed for these crimes.

The people of Rockland believe that the terror is over.

But two young women, Ellen Sanders Briggs and Louisa Goodwin, know better.

Since marrying the reclusive railroad tycoon Theodore Briggs, Ellen (nee Sanders) Briggs has found herself living in a state of captivity and abject terror. She is trapped in a big mansion filled with evil spirits, the roaming undead, and her cruel, mercurial necromancer of a husband.

Louisa Goodwin was given psychic powers of insight following her near-death experience. Louisa is struggling to recover from the personal tragedies she suffered during the preceding spring: the deaths of her parents and younger brother.

Louisa’s visions tell her that the situation in Rockland, Indiana is about to get much, much worse.

I’ll be posting links for The Rockland Horror 2 here on the blog as soon as the book is available. If you haven’t read The Rockland Horror (published in February 2021) get it here, or via the link above. As these books are both parts of a series, you should really read them in order.

More updates to follow!

New book: ‘1120 Dunham Drive’

I’ve launched a new series: Clint and Jennifer Huber Mysteries. These novels are classified in the “amateur sleuth’ category. 

The first book in the series, 1120 Dunham Drive is out. 

Amazon description:

Introducing Clint and Jennifer Huber: amateur sleuths who must investigate a very personal mystery—the web of obsession, betrayal, and violence surrounding their “dream house” at 1120 Dunham Drive.

The problems begin with a former owner who refuses to leave quietly, and strange disturbances during the middle of the night.

Oh, and there’s something sinister about a room in the basement.

1120 Dunham Drive is a suburban mystery/thriller that will keep you guessing to the last page.

***

Preview the book below!

Chapter 1

Summer, 2014

To thirty-four-year-old Jennifer Huber, the house at 1120 Dunham Drive seemed pretty close to perfect. If only, she would later think, there had been something wrong with it—something that would have sent her and her husband Clint running, never to return.

That wasn’t the way things worked out, though. On a sun-scorched Saturday afternoon in mid-July, the house at 1120 Dunham Drive drew the Hubers in.

Or at least the house drew Jennifer in. The seduction began in earnest in the realtor’s car, as Jennifer, Clint, and Tom Jarvis (the realtor) pulled into the driveway.

“It’s a Tudor!” Jennifer exclaimed.

“And what would that be?” Clint asked.

“This style of home,” Jennifer replied. “This is what they call a Tudor-style home.”

Jennifer had a fairly extensive knowledge of residential architecture, and she had studied the house’s spec sheet on the Internet the previous night. So she already knew that this would be a Tudor-style home. Her surprise had been feigned: It had simply been a gambit to prod Clint into showing some more enthusiasm about what they were doing today.

“You’ve got to admit, hon: It looks good from the road.”

“It’s a good-looking house,” Clint allowed.

Built in 1940, the house had a look that was simultaneously homey and classic: It had steeply pitched gables (a prerequisite of the neo-Tudor style), decorative half-timbering on the exterior walls, and brick inlays around the ground-floor windows.

“Let’s have a look-see,” Tom Jarvis said, turning off the engine of his Lexus and opening the front driver’s side door. Jennifer didn’t wait for either Jarvis or Clint.  As soon as the vehicle was parked, she was out of the overly air-conditioned back seat and racing ahead of the two men.

“It looks like somebody really wants a house,” she heard Jarvis say conspiratorially to Clint.

Who wouldn’t want a new house? Jennifer thought. That’s the sort of thing we work for, after all.

That thought reminded her of the job she hated and the secret that kept her bound there. She pushed these thoughts away. Today was a happy occasion. She wasn’t going to think about her job at Ohio Excel Logistics. Not on a Saturday afternoon like this.

“Check this out,” Jennifer said, pulling her husband Clint by the hand. “Japanese maples.”

The front garden did indeed have three Japanese maples, plus several small pine trees, and a whole lot of ivy. It was the sort of landscaping that took years to develop—either that, or a whole lot of money.

“Connor would like the yard,” Jennifer observed as Tom Jarvis bent down and retrieved the key from the lockbox on the front door.

“He probably would,” Clint replied.

“And best of all, it’s in the Mydale school district.”

Their son, Connor, was going to be a first-grader in a mere two months. The public schools in Mydale were regarded as the best in the Cincinnati area.

And then there was the most important thing about the house—the factor that made this a real possibility: The asking price of the home at 1120 Dunham Drive was within the Hubers’ range. Most of the homes in Mydale were a lot pricier.

By now Jarvis had unlocked the door. He smiled and held the door open for them.

Jarvis smiled again as Jennifer walked by and looked down. He wasn’t overly obvious about it, but the realtor had clearly taken the opportunity to check her body out.

It wasn’t the first such glance that she had noticed from the real estate agent. Nor was it all in her imagination. Clint had remarked the other day that Jarvis had taken so many liberties with his eyes during their real estate office meetings and home viewing excursions, that he owed them an additional ten percent off the asking price of whatever house they eventually settled on. 

She asked Clint if it made him jealous—Jarvis looking at her that way. Clint had scoffed in reply: Jarvis was an old guy, basically harmless.

Jarvis was indeed older than them, maybe in his mid- to late-forties. He was balding and could have dropped ten pounds; but he still carried himself with the swagger of an ex-jock. Jarvis had probably been a “hound” back in the day; and his manner strongly suggested that he still considered himself a claimant to that title.

As Jennifer walked into the cool house and out of the midsummer heat, Jarvis closed the door and briefly loomed over her. He finally looked away, but not before allowing himself a furtive glance down her blouse.

Okay, that one was a bit much, she thought, but did not say.

Since roughly the age of thirteen, Jennifer had noticed that a large number of men noticed her. That seemed to go along with being thin, blonde, and reasonably pretty. Most of the time it wasn’t a big deal; and for a period of her life it had been undeniably flattering.

But she had been married for most of a decade. She was a mom now; and she was devoted to Clint.

Or at least she thought she was. Would a woman who was totally devoted to her husband and son get herself into the jam she was in at work?

Is there something wrong with me? she wondered. Do I give off the wrong signals?

Her unpleasant thoughts were pushed aside by the interior of the house. The front hall was high-ceilinged and spacious. Their footsteps echoed on the hardwood floor. Unlike many older houses, this house wasn’t dark and dingy. Quite the opposite, in fact. The windows of the downstairs flooded the first floor with natural light.

“I think I love this house.” Jennifer declared, setting aside what she knew to be her habitual skepticism about being sold anything at all. Clint, who was standing beside her, gave her a curious look.

Then the realtor said what Clint must have been thinking:

“Well, Mrs. Huber, you’ve only just seen the front yard and the front hallway. But that’s a good start.”   

It’s like he doesn’t want me to get my hopes up, she thought. They had toured numerous homes with Tom Jarvis—most of them homes that Jennifer and Clint had preselected through exhaustive, late-night Internet searches. Practically none of those homes had given her instantly warm and fuzzy feelings.

But this one did. And Jarvis wasn’t exactly right about her having seen only the front yard and the front hallway. Having spotted this house online and grasped its potential, Jennifer had pored over the available photographs of its interior and landscaping. She had bookmarked the home’s portfolio in her web browser, and had returned to it numerous times, in fact.

 

On the drive over from the realty office, Tom Jarvis had said that the situation surrounding this house was “complicated”. He had started to explain; but apparently the act of giving an explanation was complicated, too.

“For now let’s just keep our options open,” he’d said. But what exactly did that mean? Was Tom Jarvis planning to ultimately steer them toward another house? Maybe a turkey of a house that could only be unloaded on a naïve young couple making their first home purchase?

Well, she thought, the unknown motives of a self-serving and mildly lecherous real estate agent were not going to dissuade her if this house turned out to be as perfect as it seemed. Real estate agents were always working their angles, she’d heard. None of them, she had been warned by friends, were to be trusted.

She didn’t want to make a negative generalization about an entire profession. Still, she and Clint would have to be careful. The Internet was filled with horror stories about dishonest and prevaricating real estate agents. Tom Jarvis knew they were first-time homebuyers. That might lead him to the conclusion that they could be easily led.

One thing was undeniable: For some reason, Tom Jarvis didn’t want them to purchase this house.

New series: “White-collar mysteries”

I spent more than 20 years in the corporate world. There are a lot of good stories there. (And they’re even better, when embellished a bit.) Some of those storeis have become novels, for me. 

For those of you who like stories about “corporate employees in trouble”, consider my series, WHITE-COLLAR MYSTERIES

The series is new. I wanted to group together some of my books that are best described as thrillers-in-the-corporate-workplace.

At present, I have two existing titles in the series:

THE EAVESDROPPER: A purchasing agent at an electronics firm discovers that three of his coworkers (including his boss) are planning a murder. Will he stop them, or become their next victim?

TERMINATION MAN: A business consultant makes his living by going undercover to “eliminate” problem employees. But will he draw the line at actual murder?

More titles will be added as they’re written!