Free Ebook: ‘Red Tree’

Cover of The Red Tree. The background is white. An image of a leaf-less tree is in black, with red tips of the branches.

The next ebook that can be scooped up for free is much shorter than the previous novellas. The Red Tree is free today through Friday (July 23). If you’d like to scoop up the book, click here.

A description of this story…

While rain falls for weeks, the Engler family invites friends over for an evening of dealing with cabin fever together. And when the spring sun arrives, the Englers celebrate by walking in a wooded park, where they encounter a red tree away from the trail. Guesses abound as to why the tree is red when none of the other trees are.

Life returns to normal for most of the Englers. The father, Calvin, decides the red tree was a sign for him to make changes in his life and property. Changes the family and neighbors don’t quite understand. But some family members can be eccentric, and others learn to roll with it. 

A short story about family, experiencing the mysterious, and letting your imagination loose.

Even shorter than the story is its excerpt, which can be found here.

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.

Free Ebook: ‘Minotaur at the Door’

Cover of The Minotaur at the Door. The background is medium blue, and before it is a silhouette of the minotaur.

Next in my staggered schedule of free ebooks during July involves myth and the fantastical, since it includes a minotaur in the modern day. You can snag an ebook of The Minotaur at the Door at Amazon.

This ebook will be free through Saturday (July 17).

Okay, so the book has a minotaur — no duh, the word’s in the title — but can you tell us more?

Sure!

Is that an actual minotaur knocking at the front door, or is it somebody pranking Pablo, Miles, and Harry?

The three men renting rooms in the house have their doubts about the reality of the creature, but only Pablo seeks to learn more. He wants to meet the minotaur. And find out why he is visiting their neighborhood.

Pablo’s journey alternates chapters with the events of Daedalus and his son Icarus, centuries before Pablo. These chapters breathe life and detail into the myth of Asterion, the first minotaur, and Daedalus and Icarus’s imprisonment in the labyrinth. How father and son deal with being stuck in the maze and how they craft a plan to escape.

To dip your toes in the story with an excerpt, click here.

Free Ebook: ‘Other Lives of the Boothbys’

Cover of Other Lives of the Boothbys. The background is light blue. The title is embedded in other lines of text that are softened by being gray, while the title is in black

Another of my ebooks is available for free: Other Lives of the Boothbys. The promotion starts today and will last through Wednesday (July 14). Download the ebook from here on Amazon.

What is this book about?

Bradley Boothby has no idea why he feels déjà vu when walking by the office building for Rayburn-Turley Publishing. 

Is he included in one of the publishing company’s books? If so, why? Did an author spy on Bradley to steal his life story, which isn’t all that dramatic? The thoughts are far-fetched, so he dismisses them.

But the strange sensation persists, and Bradley finally acts, needing to find if the déjà vu has a foundation. His search touches off consequences for an editor and writer, as they have an impact on each other’s lives. 

Still undecided whether to get a free ebook? Read an excerpt here.

Free Ebook: ‘Jumble’

Front cover of Jumble book. The background is orange, and little drawings are in the JUMBLE title. Drawings such as an elephant, pipe, sock, and bagpipes

Starting today and lasting through Sunday (July 11), you can get the ebook version FREE of Jumble: Stories and Drawings! If you’re interested, head over to Amazon to pick it up.

More of my ebooks will be given away during July, on a staggered schedule.

I hope to get more readers checking out my stories. And if you’d like to add to your summer reading, here’s a way to do it without spending a dime. (Of course, you can also borrow books from the library, but these books are indie grown.) So keep watching this space for upcoming posts of more ebooks enjoying free days.

What is Jumble about?

In this quirky collection, you’ll find 18 short stories and 68 drawings, which are independent of the stories, although a few drawings echo something in the stories, a fine example being an elephant.

Examples of the stories include a man finding joy in a pancake house, a girl interrogated because she picked up the king’s rolling crown, elderly Claude Monet visiting his long-time friend Renoir, a science fiction writer donning a cap of electrodes hooked up to a computer so his dreams could be transcribed, and a group of private detectives hired to research the possibility of reincarnation.

The drawings lean toward the cartoonish and simply illustrated, which could be criticized if you’re of the mindset that drawings need to be highly detailed for them to even begin to be considered of decent quality. Actually, one “drawing” is a kind of flowchart and another is a kind of list, so their categorization as drawings is debatable. Yet the nonexistent marketing team for this book argued that saying it contains 66 drawings, 1 flowchart, and 1 list is too clunky to include in the book’s description.

Want a sample before you make the leap to grab the book? An excerpt from the story “Pancake House” is here.

The 18 short stories are:

  • Pancake House
  • Elephant Curve Road
  • Sock and Glove
  • Bagpipes on the Wind
  • Claude
  • Hidden Spaceship
  • What Dreams May Be Written
  • Uneasy Lies the Head
  • Arrivals, Departures
  • You to the Nth Power
  • Up and Down Stairs
  • Away from the Orchard
  • Auto-reply
  • Farthingstone Manor
  • Streets of the New City
  • That Time You Were a Princess
  • Time Stood Still
  • The Loving Type

Free Creepy Reads — Stevie Turner

Another book giveaway that I wanted to share, in case you’re looking for some summer reading…

I’m still away on the IOW at the moment, and so this is a scheduled post featuring a BookFunnel promotion ‘Creepy Reads’, which at the time of writing has 36 FREE books and samples to choose from in the Mystery & Suspense / Thriller genres. https://books.bookfunnel.com/creepyreads/2on971tdgp I have added a free sample of my suspense […]

Free Creepy Reads — Stevie Turner

Books, Coffee, Crabs: Lives of a Building

Photo of old Victorian house, with a front porch. The house is light gray with white trim. Two boys are on the porch.

In summer, I often think back to the summers of my childhood. I grew up (ages 2-13) in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware — and I returned there every summer until I finished college. Back then, summers centered around my grandparents’ store: Gingerbread Square Books.

In the above photo, I’m the one sitting and my older brother Ramsey is standing. The photo is from the mid-1970s. It’s before the store’s sign was added to the pediment (if that’s the correct word) above us. I like that you can see, in the darkened interior behind me and above my head, a stack of books resting on a stair.

This building is on Rehoboth Avenue, next to the Post Office (at the corner of Rehoboth Avenue and 2nd Street).

Unfortunately, I don’t have a photo of the building with the bookstore’s sign. But here’s a painting from 1984 with more vivid color than the older photo. The brick walkway next to the building led to a small courtyard, then a mall with spaces for several stores.

Painting of the side of the building, with a brick walkway next to it. The walkway ends in a courtyard, where there is a shed on one side, and a large building is at the end.

Working at the bookstore shaped me a great deal. I already enjoyed reading the books we borrowed from the library, then the store broadened the array of books I saw.

When I sat at the cashier’s counter, I read when I didn’t have a work task to do, such as restocking shelves. Typically, the store was quiet in the middle part of the day — as tourists were enjoying the beach and ocean.

I inhaled whatever caught my eye: comic books (X-Men, Batman, Richie Rich, Spider-Man, Daredevil, etc.), The Three Investigators, colorful children’s books, Choose Your Own Adventures, photography books, Calvin and Hobbes, Garfield, novels by Stephen King, Ernest Hemingway, Tom Clancy, etc.

In all that reading, I fell in love with books. I saw them as delivering a kind of magic to transport me to other places and times, seen through the eyes of various characters.

I wanted to someday be able to create that kind of magic, to become a writer when I grew up. That stayed only a desire until my late teenage years, when I started writing stories.

Wasn’t until my 40s that I finished longer projects of novellas and a story collection — after a stretch of too many years when I didn’t write. Now I’m a hobby writer. I still hope to become a full-time writer, but that may have to wait until I retire.

My grandfather sold the property in the late 1990s. The building became Java Beach Coffee House and Cafe. I visited there with my wife and two daughters in 2005. Seeing the building with a different sign and colors and purpose was surreal…

The same Victorian house, now painted yellow-brown with a medium-brown trim. The sign reads Java Beach Coffee House and Cafe.

My family visited earlier this year, and we saw that the building became Claws Seafood House. Not only a new sign and colors, but a side room was added. Also, the brick walkway leading to the mall is blocked. The mall became The Pines restaurant, with an entrance on Baltimore Avenue.

The same Victorian house, now painted white with red trim. The sign reads Claws Seafood House and has a crab on it.

Now the only bookstore in town is Browseabout Books, an independent store. It used to be a competitor to our family business. Times and minds change. I enjoy visiting Browseabout, and I’m very glad it’s still around to serve as a source for books. What is a town without a bookstore? I hesitate to say one without a soul, but then I’m biased due to my love of books. If you ever visit Rehoboth, please check out the store — located at 133 Rehoboth Avenue…

A one-story building with a long green awning that reads Browseabout Books. The windows include displays of many books.

Coping

In this blurry busy world
she has candles
to help her cope
books to enter other worlds
characters become friends
she prays for them
to overcome struggles
when they do,
hope flickers
that she can do the same

Minotaur at the Door

Minotaur at the Door cover

Today’s excerpt comes from The Minotaur at the Door, a novella about what could be a minotaur knocking on the door of the house where Pablo, Miles, and Harry are renting.

Pablo’s journey alternates chapters with the events of Daedalus and his son Icarus, centuries before Pablo. These chapters breathe life and detail into the myth of Asterion, the first minotaur, and Daedalus and Icarus’s imprisonment in the labyrinth. How father and son deal with being stuck in the maze and how they craft a plan to escape.

So here’s part of the first chapter. The book is available at Amazon as an ebook and paperback.

*****

The house’s three occupants were busy watching television shows in separate bedrooms, and none of the men was excited to answer the knocking at the front door.

Harry pressed the pause button on the remote control, since his show was in the slow scene of a tea ceremony. Sometimes the friends of one occupant came over to hang out, but Harry wasn’t expecting anyone tonight. He opened his bedroom door, called out down the hallway, “You guys expecting friends?”

“No,” Miles said from behind his closed door, amid the dramatic music from his TV.

“No,” Pablo said from behind his closed door, amid the sounds of dialogue from his TV. “Can you see who it is?”

“Fine,” Harry groaned. “But it’s someone else’s turn next time.”

Going downstairs, Harry thought about how the yakuza thumped on the doors of people who owed them money or favors. Harry was quite taken with the action-packed television show, now in its third season. Most of the people visited by the yakuza paid the owed money, or they stutteringly promised to return a favor required by the Japanese crime syndicate guys.

When a debtor tried to escape, the plan didn’t end well for them. A chase ensued through night-time Tokyo (it was always night-time in the chase scenes), then the yakuza used harsh methods to persuade the debtors to pay up. Only one character had been able to elude the yakuza: Kaito Takagi, who could disappear, ghost-like, into the crowded city. Harry would’ve liked to have that ability.

Perhaps because of the show’s suspense, Harry peeped through the peephole instead of opening the door. What he saw standing on the front step shocked him and made him glad for checking. The thing standing on the front step couldn’t be there. A second look into the peephole confirmed the truth.

Harry bounded back up the stairs and shouted, “There’s a minotaur at the door!”

Dramatic music and dialogue stopped as pause buttons were pushed. Two bedroom doors swung open, and the roommates stepped into the hall that lacked decoration on the walls—merely a corridor to more important places.

“Is this some kind of joke?” Pablo said.

“If it’s a joke, it’s a weird one,” Miles said.

“It’s not a joke. It’s serious.” Harry’s eyes and voice communicated sincerity.

“But the minotaur wasn’t real,” Pablo said. “It’s just a myth.”

“Myth or not, there’s a minotaur out there,” Harry said.

As a fresh round of knocking came from the front door, the three men remained in the hallway.

“Is it Halloween?” Miles asked.

“That’s not till next month,” Pablo said.

“Oh, right,” Miles said. “The days tend to run together for me. Maybe this is somebody’s idea of a prank. I need to see for myself.”

He led the trio down the steps, to the foyer, and he leaned forward to peer through the peephole. The other two stood a few steps to the side, in the living room, and watched.

Astonishment was on Miles’s face as he went to join his comrades. “Holy crap, you weren’t kidding about that thing!”

“But is it really real?” Pablo said. “Or is it just a costume, and you were right about somebody pranking us?”

“Looked kinda real to me,” Miles replied.

“I’ll see about this.”

Pablo became the third to check through the door’s tiny, circular window—and he was the third to be baffled by the sight. Even while the creature wore a hoodie, it had a bull’s face. The image defied the reality of this suburb of Columbus. A creature couldn’t have the head of a bull and the body of a person. Pablo retreated to the group.

“What’re we gonna do?” asked Harry.

“How should I know?” Miles asked back. “I’ve never met a minotaur before.”

“Let’s pretend we’re not here,” said Harry. “It’ll think nobody’s home and it’ll go away.”

“But the lights are on.” Pablo pointed to the lamp next to the couch.

“And the TVs are on.” Miles looked at the ceiling, as if his eyes had X-ray power to see into the bedrooms and the television sets, each with a stilled image. He said, “The beast could’ve seen the flickering lights of our TVs through the upstairs windows when it was walking toward our house.”

“Yeah, it could’ve,” Harry said. “You guys think it can hear us talking?” He didn’t bother to lower his voice.

Presumably in answer, a grunt came from the other side of the door. Followed by louder, insistent knocking. The house seemed to shake, although that might’ve been in the three occupants’ imagination. They gaped at each other, a triangle of worry.

“Let’s go to the kitchen!” Miles stage-whispered.

Their rushed voices turned into rushed legs; they skittered through the living room and dining room, into the kitchen. It was the farthest the occupants could’ve stood from the front door without opening the back door and transforming into non-occupants.

“What if the beast is hungry?” Harry said. “What if it’s banging on our door because its belly is rumbling, and once we open the door—if we open the door, that is—it will eat us up? That’ll be all she wrote. No more us. Gone in a frantic crunch of flesh and bone, because we won’t be able to get away.”

Pablo had listened thoughtfully to his roommate and tried to keep as level a head as possible. “I don’t know what minotaurs eat. It would be easier if a centaur was outside. That way, there’d be a man on the top half, so it’d be obvious what they eat. They like to eat what all other men eat.”

“But don’t you think centaurs might have horse-eating tendencies?” Miles asked. “At least some of the time?”

Lifting an instructive forefinger, Pablo said, “Maybe for Sunday brunch, they add a bit of hay.”

“Brunch is such a great idea,” Miles said. “Wonderful how it combines breakfast and lunch. And you could be right about centaurs. Maybe they have some hay, and an apple for dessert.”

Pablo’s finger remained raised. “Or a tasty carrot.”

“Would you two stop?” Harry demanded. “That kind of talk isn’t helping our predicament. Not one bit! A centaur isn’t out there. What do we know about minotaurs?”

“I only know they live in Spain,” Pablo said.

“Those are regular bulls,” Miles said. “In Spain, they fight bulls, and they do that running-with-the-bulls thing. Which is pretty nutty, if you ask me.”

None of the men had a desire to run with the bulls in Pamplona, although the subject had come up when, at various times, they had discussed life bucket lists with other friends, and a handful of those other friends had expressed interest in bull running. Seeing the Grand Canyon and the Great Wall of China were on the three men’s lists, which had a much lower risk of horns piercing their back sides.

“Isn’t the minotaur the god of war?” Harry asked.

“That’s Mars,” Miles said.

“That’s a planet,” Pablo said. “The red, angry one.”

“It was named after the Greek god of war,” Miles said.

“Mars is the Roman equivalent,” Pablo said. “Ares is the Greek god of war. They’re different, but somehow they’re the same.”

Harry threw up his hands. “It’s all so confusing!”

Nothing was confusing about the new bout of hammering on the door. The glasses in the cupboard jittered and clinked together. The occupants also jittered as they gazed, wide-eyed, toward the front of the house.

“We have to learn more about this creature,” Miles said. “Do we appeal to his bullish side or his mannish side? Quick! Get Bulfinch’s Mythology from the bookshelf!”

“What?” Pablo snapped. “You don’t know the Roman god of war, but you remember that Bulfinch wrote a book about myths?”

“If you think about it, it makes sense,” Miles said. “Gray had anatomy, Jane had fighting ships and assorted weaponry, and Bulfinch had mythology.”

“Keenly said,” replied Harry. “Was Bulfinch a minotaur?”

“Of course not,” snorted Miles. “Bulfinch is spelled with only one ‘l.’”

Harry looked a little wounded and sounded a little defensive. “It sounds like an odd combination of a bull and bird. Specifically, a finch. They’re yellow, right?”

“I think they can be,” Miles said. “But I don’t think all finches are yellow. It’s not a prerequisite.”

“That’s got nothing to do with our situation,” said Pablo. “I agree that we need to learn more about the creature. Go get the book, since you know so much about it.”

Miles scratched his stubbled chin. “I only know it’s under ‘b’ on the shelf. Since fiction and non-fiction are mixed together, and they’re alphabetical by title.”

“But if the categories were separated, the book would be in the fiction section,” Harry said. “Myths are just made-up stories.”

“That beast isn’t a made-up story!” Miles exclaimed.

Pablo groaned in exasperation. “Are we sure it’s a minotaur? It’s awfully dark out there.” True, it was night-time. He turned to Harry and said, “Maybe it’s your Uncle Frank, thinking it’s Thanksgiving. Frank’s a big guy.”

Harry frowned at his roommate. “We already proved that it’s not Halloween, so it can’t be Thanksgiving. Even if it was, our family always goes to Grandma’s house for Thanksgiving. Uncle Frank knows that fully well.”

“But he makes mistakes,” Miles said.

“Everyone does,” Harry said.

“We’re getting nowhere!” Pablo cried. “I’ll get the book.”

As he hurried back to the living room, more house-trembling knocks came, like from the epicenter of an earthquake. The two occupants in the kitchen were silent until their friend returned with Bulfinch’s Mythology.

Pablo searched the book’s index, thumbed through the pages until finding the appropriate page. He said, “Says here the minotaur was in a maze in Crete. Everybody knows that. But here’s something I forgot. And it’s bad news. Very bad news. He ate people. Seven men and seven women were sacrificed to him every nine years.”

The other two men made grossed-out faces.

Miles said, “So he has a taste for human flesh. Great, just fucking great.”

“But there’s also good news,” Pablo said. “Theseus killed the minotaur.”

“Did he write the thesaurus?” Harry asked.

This time, Pablo snorted. “Who cares? He killed the monster!”

“But the monster on our front step is very much alive!” Miles said.

“Maybe he’s a relative of the one in the maze,” Harry said. “Like Uncle Frank is my relative.”

Pablo thumped the book shut, like jaws clamping down, but the book’s jaws snatched only air. “Enough with this bullshit. I’m going to see what he wants.”

“Don’t you dare open the door,” Miles said. “It’s our only protection against the beast!”

“I’ll talk to him through the door,” Pablo said. “And don’t forget, the walls are also protection.”

“Thank goodness we have brick walls,” Miles said. “They’re not made of straw, like in the story about the big, bad wolf.”

Pablo hefted a sigh and looked tired from the weight. “But it’s not a wolf, so you don’t have to worry about it blowing the house down.”

Harry perked up, excited to make an insightful remark. “If a centaur was out there, maybe it would eat our house. If our house was made of straw.”

Pablo stomped off, followed on his heels by his two roommates, and Pablo stopped just behind the front door. The stranger’s loud huffing could be heard, reminiscent of a wolf.

###