Free Ebook: ‘Don’t Lose Your Head’

Cover of Don't Lose Your Head. The background is dark gray, with black drips. In the foreground is a photo showing a business suit and tie -- but there is no head above the suit.

A ghost story is my next ebook to be free — starting today and lasting through Tuesday (July 20). This novella, Don’t Lose Your Head, can be found on Amazon.

A little more about this spooky book…

When you leave for a trip, who knows you’re gone from your house? Family and friends, sure. Neighbors, perhaps.

So does the chauffeur who drove you to the airport. Alan Burris takes advantage of working for a car service to know when clients will be away from their houses for several nights. Some houses are easier, since they don’t have a security system — and these houses are on his list for a night visit to steal valuables.

The Resnick house has been on Alan’s list for a while, and now it will be empty for a few nights, since Mr. and Mrs. Resnick are spending a long weekend in Chicago.

But is the house really empty? Alan’s about to find out what it’s like to not be alone in the house, his  car, his apartment, and his head. And with another person hanging around, to what length will Alan go to get rid of them?

You can discover how this story starts by reading an excerpt of the first chapter here.

Night Breathing

When Raymond Lambdin awoke, he felt warm air on the back of his head and he assumed Cassidy had slid farther to his side of the bed and she was breathing deeply

(isn’t that what people did in R.E.M. sleep? was the band named after that stage of sleep? if so, did they wish for their songs to be seen as dreams?),

so Raymond remained still out of concern for waking his wife; after all, Cassidy worked hard at the office and home, and she deserved a good rest; however, Raymond also worked hard at the office and in the yard, and he also deserved a good rest, but he had woken up and he couldn’t blame his wife for that, it wasn’t as if she was breathing powerfully with the aim to wake him —

then Raymond realized Cassidy had left for a long weekend to see her parents in Albuquerque

(which befuddled Raymond when visiting on holidays, since nothing about the place said “holidays” in the traditional sense, but Cassidy’s parents had said, “Albuquerque’s warm like Florida, but mystical,” except what did that mean? were Ruben and Tonya popping peyote

[or did you smoke that?]

and walking the desert in some kind of vision quests? if so, they never mentioned it),

so Cassidy wouldn’t be sleeping next to Raymond in bed tonight, shouldn’t be there, hadn’t been there when Raymond had gone to bed after 11:00, after watching four episodes of Rolfe

(which Cassidy didn’t enjoy, she said the show was “too gritty,” which was why Raymond liked it: Detective Mitchell Rolfe was tough and grizzled with gray five o’clock shadow and he was A-OK to bend the rules if it meant justice would be brought to the morons who dared commit murder in Rolfe’s jurisdiction),

but maybe something had gone wrong in Albuquerque, and Cassidy had flown back

(if so, why hadn’t she texted or called Raymond to pick her up from the airport? she would’ve more likely done that than taken a taxi or Uber or Lyft

[wasn’t there a new ride service with another strange name, like YakkaWhllz? how did they come up with those goofy names?],

which would’ve been costly to pay for a ride service but more convenient for Raymond, since he would’ve had to stop watching Rolfe to drive to the airport),

thus Raymond doubted something had gone wrong in Albuquerque, and Cassidy and her parents were surely snoozing, and it couldn’t be a kid or kids in bed next to Raymond, since Raymond and Cassidy didn’t have kids, not yet, they were planning on it and Cassidy had surely gotten an earful from her mother, saying, “Hurry up already, what’s the hold-up?” and Cassidy would’ve replied that she and Raymond were nearly there, as they had filled their “starter house” with the stuff they needed, so a grandchild would come soon, don’t worry —

then Raymond realized he had left a bedroom window open, the window with a view of the back yard, and their “starter garden”

(nobody’s born with a green thumb, c’mon, a lot of it is trial and error),

so if Cassidy was gone and the window was open, who

(or what)

was creating the warm breath that ruffled the back of Raymond’s head —

he was terrified to find out.

End


copyright © 2021 Dave Williams

Book Review: We Are Wolves

We Are Wolves cover

We Are Wolves: A Horror Anthology. Editors: Gemma Amor, Laurel Hightower, Cynthia Pelayo. Authors of the short stories: Erin Al-Mehairi, Gemma Amor, V. Castro, S.H. Cooper, Cassie Daley, J. Danielle Dorn, Michelle Garza, Lilyn George, Jessica Guess, Eve Harms, Sadie Hartmann, Laurel Hightower, Red Lagoe, Melissa Lason, Beverley Lee, Amanda McHugh, Cynthia Pelayo, Hailey Piper, Sarah Read, Sara Tantlinger, and Sonora Taylor.

Earlier this year, I read the anthology Nevertheless She Persisted, which includes sci-fi/fantasy stories by women — and “We Are Wolves” is the horror equivalent: Stories of women rising up against forces that try to keep them down.

The characters in these stories (and a couple poems) are tired of enduring the passive suggestions and physical abuse and downright murder. “Though Your Heart Is Breaking” involves a man telling Sarah to smile, despite the turmoil inside her. “A Key for Any Lock” involves a popular guy on a college campus sexually assaulting the unnamed narrator. Several stories include murder.

Then the characters move past endurance to fight back, using their power and cleverness. As far as I can remember, in one story — “A Key for Any Lock” — the character tries to use the justice system to gain societally approved justice. But the system fails her. So she goes beyond it. In the other stories, characters don’t try the official system — they seek their own justice. These aren’t episodes of “Law and Order,” these are horror stories.

Justice here is gained by knives, contraptions, claws. The characters are wolves who hunt alone and in a pack with allies. Cliche has us believe that women are “the weaker sex.” Yet that is a box (cage) in which to place women. Of course they are far more complicated and strong than a simplistic stereotype. Stories can entertain us, and some can challenge us. These stories accomplish both.

I felt a couple stories were too rushed, and could’ve used a bit more to build the scenarios. But that’s a blip in the variety of characters and situations crafted by the variety of these talented writers. There’s horror aplenty along the different paths.

The proceeds from the book’s sales are given to organizations that help survivors of assault and abuse. So by purchasing the book, you’re not just getting stories, you’re donating to the packs who are helping those who need help.

Please note the book includes strong content: “abuse, sexual abuse, harm to children, childbirth, bodily harm, self-harm, and child death, as well as more not explicitly listed here. We do therefore advise you to read with caution, even as we encourage you to engage with some of the themes and stories within, many of which are highly personal to the authors who wrote them.” (Quoted from the book’s Foreword, by Gemma Amor.)

Book Review: Seeing Things

Seeing Things, by Sonora Taylor

Middle school is difficult anyway, and it must be much worse when you see blood coming out of a locker, and when you get closer, you see a bloody-faced girl stuck inside the locker. And nobody else in the school can see those things.

Abby has started to see ghosts. It’s a lot for this thirteen-year-old girl. So is the fact that the other students, teachers, the principal, her parents — all of them don’t believe Abby when she claims she sees the poor girl in locker 751.

The locker girl isn’t the only ghost who pops up. There are a handful of others in the school, around town, and seen when Abby visits Uncle Keith at the Massachusetts shore during summer.

That visit brings more drama, since Uncle Keith recently lost his job as a high school English teacher, his long-term girlfriend left him, and there’s a missing student — whom Keith had tutored after school.

Sonora Taylor raises these mysteries and offers information in bits. Abby discovers more as she seeks information on Uncle Keith’s role in the missing student, as well as details of murders on Blueberry Island. And all along, Abby has to deal with seeing blood flowing in different places, and those ghosts.

I liked Abby’s character for her persistence to keep pushing to find out more. She’s understandably scared of her new ability to see ghosts, and understandably frustrated with adults not being more open to sharing info with her. She’s at the age where adults can treat her as if she’s still a child, and they have to stretch to treat her as the young adult she’s becoming.

This is a good story of growing up and trying to navigate more for yourself.

Also, I liked how Sonora Taylor didn’t come up with an antagonist who’s easily definable as just evil. There’s nuance to make for interesting characters.

Book Review: Possession of Natalie Glasgow

Today’s review is of The Possession of Natalie Glasgow, by Hailey Piper.

Eleven-year-old Natalie Glasgow has been acting very strangely at night, and her single mom is understandably concerned. Natalie has gotten out of bed and walked around the house, causing the floorboards to creak from a weight that’s heavier than her actual size. And Natalie has been eating raw meat from the fridge.

The mother, Heather Glasgow, asked a midwife/witch, Margaret Willow, to observe Natalie’s odd behavior to see if she could help. From there, the two women try to figure out what being is possessing the girl and try to get rid of the spirit.

I like that Hailey Piper didn’t snatch low-hanging fruit for the source of the possession of young Natalie Glasgow. I don’t want to give away spoilers, but let’s say rather than offering an easy explanation for the possession, the story has an interesting take on it.

As the story progresses, you keep wondering about the mystery behind the possession, so you’re in the same situation as Natalie’s mom (Heather) and her helper (Margaret), a midwife/witch. These two characters act as detectives in pursuing the mystery so they can help poor Natalie.

The momentum of the book kept my interest going, and the story broadens a bit to include some of Heather’s history before the possession occurs. There’s not a lot of her and Natalie’s back story, but parts are highlighted as to how they affect the family’s current situation.

The story wraps up with a satisfying conclusion — I didn’t feel cheated by the twist. It fits nicely into the story’s weaving. A solid horror story when you want a pretty quick read.

Book Review: Scratches

As we’re in October and Halloween is nearing, I’m going to shift my reviews to those in the horror genre. I’m starting with Scratches, by Joshua Marsella.

Connor and his single mom, Janet, move from an apartment to the family house, after Janet’s father died. Janet has kept secrets from her twelve-year-old son, who never met his grandfather before his death. Janet has not even told Connor about his father.

Of course, Connor is curious about the rest of the family beyond his mother. But she’s tight-lipped about it. Connor makes do with not knowing, and he has to deal with his mother drinking a lot and not acting in a loving way.

Joshua Marsella does a good job setting the scene and building the suspense in this book. When watching horror movies, you can yell at the characters, “Don’t go into the basement! The evil creature’s down there! What are you thinking?!” In this book, not only does Connor go into the basement, he relocates his bedroom down there (saying it’s cooler than the hot bedroom on the ground floor).

Connor is a fan of horror movies and comics, and he experiences horrors down in that basement. (As a fan of comics, I enjoyed Connor reading them and even visiting a comic book store.) The creepiness starts small and builds, the way you want in a scary story. Joshua brings the basement visitations to life with smells and sights and sounds. With these rich descriptions, you can easily imagine what poor Connor goes through.

Connor is persistent in wanting to find out answers behind the creepiness, as well as the family secrets that his mom keeps hidden. Those answers come out, leading to a rush of action in the last chapters. And I give kudos to Joshua for not crafting an ending that neatly wraps up everything. He lets your imagination wonder about what could happen next to the characters.