Hellbound in a Hurry Excerpt

HELLBOUND IN A HURRY comes out in 2 weeks!

When Antonia gets a disturbing message from her brother, she drops everything to search for him. What she finds is Jack—an interstellar being claiming to have been dragged into mortal existence against its will by the same cult her brother was with.

Jack just wants to get home, out of the human vessel it’s currently trapped in, and back to immortality. In exchange for her help, Jack offers to lead Antonia to her brother.

The two go on a violent ride—one desperate to survive and the other bent on revenge.

Will either of them be long for this world?

This horror novella is my first self-publishing project and I’ve learned so much.

This was a completely new experience for me and it’s been a lot of googling. I found a wonderful editor to work with, Rachel Oestreich of The Wallflower Editing, LLC and the process was so smooth. If you’re looking for an editor, I would happily recommend her.

I’ve also learned the hard way why people pay to have their books formatted–that was tricky. I have never known Word more intimately and thank goodness for googling.

And cover art by Linn Arvidsson! It was a pleasure to work with her again!

HELLBOUND IN A HURRY is up on goodreads, so please take a minute to add it to your TBR!

Chapter One of HELLBOUND IN A HURRY

Dominic ran over the uneven ground, away from the voices and the flicker of flashlights, and definitely away from the glow of the old greenhouse. He ran toward the arms of darkness in panic and desperation—the only way anyone ever did.

His right ankle throbbed, sending jolts of pain up his leg with every step, dragging him lower and lower. No matter how much he blinked or how wide he opened his eyes, he couldn’t see, the branches overhead so thick that not even starlight could reach him now. There was no way he could escape—nowhere he could go—but he couldn’t stop trying. His arms stretched out ahead of him, scraping against trees in an effort to navigate. He had no direction—needed no direction but away. He was a bird in flight.

The white beams of flashlights strobed through the night to his right and left. Dominic hadn’t realized he was crying until those lights gave him a taste of his own vision, blurred.

A light flashed right over his shoulder. He was sure of it, as though he could feel the heat of the lamp through his sweatshirt.

His right ankle finally gave out and he fell hard, rolling in low bushes and newly fallen leaves. He clawed at the cold ground, dragging himself into the dark. Footfalls came closer, stomping the autumn ground.

Dominic’s short life flashed before his eyes, and he found it lacking. Too much panic and pain and not enough joy, not enough contentment or laughter. Too much running for his life and looking for a place to sleep. Too much hunger.

The beam of light struck him in the back, pouring over him. His dark hair hung in his face, sticking to sweaty skin, and his dirt-coated fingers groped at the mulch of the forest floor. The ink on the backs of his hands stood out in the light, the word ‘hands’ tattooed on the back of his left and ‘up’ on the back of his right in scrawling script. A part of his frantic mind registered the words and imagined a voice with the flashlight calling them—shouting at him in the night under the flashing glow of red and blue lights. But that had been in another place and another time. Not here. Not tonight. These people had no demands of him because they wanted to take everything.

A hand grabbed his shoulder, turning him over and groping at his side, trying to lift him up. Dominic swallowed for air, vision still blurred in tears when the man pulled him to his feet. Dominic kept his weight on his left this time, one hand grabbing the man by the shoulder for stability while his other arm lifted and swung the rock he had picked up from the ground—leaving a crater in the cold earth. He slammed the rock against the man’s temple, hard enough to hear the clap of flesh and crack of bone. The flashlight fell, half-buried against the crisp leaves.

Dominic swung again and again, in brutal succession, until the stranger landed on his knees and then slumped over. He was still breathing, the sound of it raspy and wet. Dominic patted him down in a hurry, found his phone, and took it.

He turned off the flashlight and hopped away, using the trees to keep himself upright in the dark and moving away from the sounds of the search party. He didn’t stand a chance. He couldn’t get far like this, in the dark and with only one leg to stand on. He slid down a slope and crawled into the base of a tree, hoping it would hide him from the search lights.

Dominic turned the phone on, holding it close to his chest and curling his body around it. He dialed the only number he knew by heart and choked back a sob when it rang and rang. “Please,” he whispered to the night.

No answer.

He didn’t know her work number. He dialed again.

Ringing.

Ringing.

The beam of a flashlight stroked the night far to his left and he pressed the phone to his chest to hide the glow. When the light passed, he held the phone to his ear again. The automated answering machine recited the number to him and suggested he leave a message. Not even her voice. He almost forgot how to speak when the beep sounded, coughing and dragging a breath in. “Annie… Please…” He cried and cringed, hating himself for doing this. “I should never have gone with them. You were right… Please. Please help me.”

Logic told him there was nothing she could do now, even if she had answered. He was torturing himself and he was torturing her. “Annie, they’re insane. They’re going to kill me, or I’m going to die in this fucking forest, and I just want to leave.” He choked back a mad laugh. “Save me. Please. Please. Just one more time. Save me and I promise I won’t do dumb shit like this anymore. I promise, I’ll get my shit together. Please, Annie. Please.”

Four beams of light fell on him, hands grabbing from all directions. Dominic screamed when he was lifted from the ground, not even ashamed of that high-pitched sound echoing from his chest. There was no room for shame now—only fear and anger. Annie had told him, back when they were teens, that all other emotions were useless and frivolous. The only ones that would ever help them were fear and anger. She had leaned into it and made those feelings her home. Dominic had never been able to do the same, always aching for something better, something softer. He hated the wild, soul-gripping strength of fear, and the way it infected every part of his heart. And now, he was going to die with it as his last thought, his last friend, his last anything.

They dragged him screaming from the woods and into the clearing, the glow of that old glass building pulsing in the night. He flailed, but they were more than enough to keep hold of him. The phone was gone, he realized. Had they taken it and hung up or left it there in the woods?

The door opened, dozens of figures standing around in their robes and hoods. Cliché motherfuckers, he thought but bit back the fury and begged instead—still hoping against hope. “Please! Just let me go!”

The figures swayed and moaned their strange, melodious chants, side-by-side like faceless lemmings in the dark.

The old greenhouse was warm, the space inside cleared but for an alter at one end and a long dining table in front of it. Their voices echoed inside, rising up against the dirt-coated glass walls. They had no faces—these people, he knew most of them. He had spent months at their compound thinking he had found a home, but it had all been a lie. He had been a fool, and Annie had been right. There was no easy out. There were no homes. Just monsters with hungry needs of their own.

Dominic let out another ragged scream, body bowing when they put him down on that table and cuffed his arms overhead. “Fuck you! I hate you! I hope you all die for this!” he shouted, feeling that rage pour into his heart like the infectious, molten substance it was. He laughed through his tears, his voice echoing over their chanting and moaning. They would die for this, he realized. They would all pay. But it was only a small comfort to him now—not nearly enough.

One man, without a hood drawn, stood up at the alter overhead, and Dominic recognized him. Benjamin stared back at him for a long minute. They had been in the same foster home for a year when they were twelve and reconnected a couple times since. The last time had been when Benny heard about this commune where they could get away from it all, “it all” being the gloom of the city, the shitty jobs Dominic could never quite hold on to, and the drugs that always left him feeling hollowed out and lost. It was supposed to be a place full of sunshine, fresh air, and freedom. But what had really convinced Dominic was the way Benny had said “family.” He promised that was what it was like, up here in the woods. That it would be like finally coming home—finally finding his family.

“Benny… I want to leave.” Dominic managed to choke out the words.

Benny winced subtly, the perfect mix of remorse and excitement all pressed under the numbing weight of his high. Dominic knew what Benny looked like high—his eyes glassy and red-rimmed and his mouth slack in the corners. He was shirtless, jeans riding low on his hips, and the candlelight made the sheen of sweat on his brown skin glimmer like stars.

The chanting grew louder, the robed figures pressing closer. Two of the hooded figures rounded the table, holding a stag mask between them. Dominic struggled, but they placed it over his face, the weight pinning his head back. It stunk inside, warm and animal. He screamed and the sound echoed back on him. He could barely see through the slits of the eyes, catching Benny’s face just before he donned a wolf mask and picked up a slender knife.

Dominic struggled anew, even knowing it was pointless. He struggled and screamed and kicked, sounds growing only louder when the knife sunk into his chest.

He realized, in the last moments of his life, that family had always been bloodshed and struggle. It had always been a fight to survive. But family had also been the people fighting to keep him alive. Family had been the one person that ever fought for Dominic. And he knew, without a doubt, that his last phone call would bring her down on these people like lightning on dry grass. They thought they knew some secret of the universe—that they could summon a demon.

But they had no idea that he had already called one.

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How To Avoid Being In A Horror

I’ve watched/read a lot of horror and here’s my advice if you want to stay out of one. No guarantees though… just helping to increase your odds.

  • Don’t move. And if you HAVE TO move, don’t move out into the forest, or into your dark mysterious childhood home, or into an estate with a stranger’s furniture left behind. And most importantly, don’t move into one of those three houses they use in all the horror flicks! Safest bet–no stairs. Don’t know why, but ghosts and murderers love stairs.
  • Don’t buy boxes or wardrobes you can’t open and then bring them home to investigate later.
  • Don’t have kids. Sorry. I know most adults do, but it really amps up your chances of being in a horror flick…
  • Stop playing with Ouija boards!
  • Don’t break into closed stores, graveyards, warehouses, abandoned hospitals, or theme parks. It’s a crime, but more importantly, it could lead you into a starring role in a horror flick.
  • Don’t be a douchebag. Whether it’s a curse or Hannibal Lecter, a lot of people would have survived if they hadn’t been assholes to start with.
  • DO NOT PICK UP THE BALL. Sometimes a ball, usually red, will come bouncing out of seemingly nowhere–down the stairs, down the hall, across the yard, whatever. Don’t pick it up! Don’t touch it! Don’t kick it! Just turn around and pretend you never saw it.
  • Make no deals with devils. This should be obvious, but I guess it’s not. If someone wants to make a deal that sounds too good, it is. If they’re vague and sketchy–just assume they’re a soul eater, politely decline and run.
  • Don’t swim in the ocean. Preferably ever but definitely not at sunset/sunrise. And that’s really just life advice. Try not to flop around in the ocean when sharks are looking for breakfast.
  • Don’t hitchhike, hire sketchy tour guides, or throw sass at questionable people in the middle of nowhere.
  • DO NOT DRAG YOUR SIGNIFICANT OTHER INTO THE WOODS TO PROPOSE TO THEM WHEN YOU YOURSELF ARE NOT AN EXPERIENCED OUTDOORS PERSON.  You see how I don’t even know what an experienced outdoors person is called? And I would not take someone into the woods with me, away from all civilization and safety, because I think it’ll be quaint. It won’t be quaint. You’re gonna get eaten.
  • I’d add don’t desecrate graves, steal from alters, or take pictures of things you’re not supposed to take pictures of…but I did already say not to be a douchebag.
  • Don’t go off the trail.
  • Don’t invoke spirits/witches/demons.
  • Don’t vacation in a cabin in the middle of the woods.
  • Oh, and don’t be a brunette. Sorry.

Okay, I think that’s it… If you have more to add, let’s hear it!

Also, how many of these have you already done?

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Writing The Whicker Witch

I have a couple projects in the works this year and among them are a few horror novellas/novels I’m writing and editing. I usually set aside a few weeks to write my first drafts. They’re sloppy but I get them done and then work on edits later on.

Last month I wrote my first draft of a work I’m currently calling The Whicker Witch. The first week went super smooth, the second got a little bumpy.

I dedicated a couple weeks to it and wrote five thousand words a day. My goal for the project was 50k but that was really just a guess. I wasn’t sure if it would come out longer or shorter.

I swear, I sent my dad a text first. He replied and that led to me calling him up at his 1:15am to talk about bridges for my book.

So the second week didn’t go quite as smooth as the first but I managed to stay on target for my word count. It went over the estimated 50k and into a third week. But it’s done!

And this is pretty much what it looks like! I write all my first drafts on Scrivener because you can have the outline in the same screen as well as a sidebar with character cards and this pretty little project target thingy!

Now, I should be on to editing this or one of the other finished first drafts on my desk BUT I jumped on another novella outline I had ready while I was still on a writing kick.

So, wish me luck! Because now I’m writing a novella about a demon and a mobster on a joyride!

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Stuart R. West – Author Interview

I recently read Twisted Tales from Tornado Alley by Stuart R. West and reached out to get an interview.

You can find my review of the collection of stories on Goodreads as well as Amazon

Now on to some intrusive author questions!


I know it’s nosy, but I just love seeing where people do their art. Can you describe your writing space for us, Stuart?

Hey, Cheryl, thanks for letting me stink up the joint. Well…I used to write in a very comfy recliner in front of a bay window. Very pleasant, relaxing and inspiring. Now, my daughter’s moved back into the house. That’s not a problem. But she brought two dogs with her. That’s a problem. She describes them as “shredders,” a very apt description. They’ve never met anything they don’t like to rend. So, I have to now sit on them 24-7. What little writing I’m getting done these days is in the fenced off room with the ferocious furry terrorists. Here…look…

 

 

What does your writing process look like? Do you listen to music? Have a special mug? Do you do three chair swivels before starting?

Nothing special. As a matter of fact, plotting’s always the biggest chore (that and revisions. Ugh). Suffering from insomnia as I do, I work out my plot points in a sorta pseudo-half-conscious state at three in the morning, hence some of the craziness in my work. I like to back my characters into a corner and see how they work their way out of it.

Coffee, tea or something else?

Caffeine’s my friend! I tried beer, but the writing ended up like this: “Sally walked up the stairs, hatchet in hand. Hand on the knob, she twisted it and ppppppppppppppppppppppp,kkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkknnnnnnnnnn…” It goes on a while like that. And I woke up with a keyboard imprint on my cheek.

Favorite font?

I refuse to answer this question because I don’t want to be called anti-fontist.

Now that the standard questions are out of the way, you have a lot of published works under your belt—how did you get started?

I got burned out in the corporate world. This horrible company I worked for for the last 27 years or so folded due to mis-management. I couldn’t stand to face another 20 years or whatever in a similar situation. My loving wife said, “what do you want to do?” I thought about it, remembered my life-long dream of writing, and ta-dahhhhhhhh! (Unfortunately, there’s a bittersweet ending. Due to economics, I have to go back to a “real” job. Dunno what I’ll do. But I’d rather drive an ice cream truck than enter another soul-stealing office job.)

I recently had the pleasure of reading Twisted Tales from Tornado Alley and am so excited to toss a few questions your way. This collection of scary stories covered so many genres of horror! Do you have a personal favorite yourself? Creature features, monster stories, psychological thrillers…

I don’t think I have a favorite. Just love horror. Love all facets of it and have since I was a child. I consider the golden years of horror films the schlock from the 60’s to mid-80’s. I’ve seen ‘em all. My wife just doesn’t get it.

Along those same lines, were any of your own fears reflected in these stories? The dentist story, for example, really gave me the heebie jeebies despite there being SO MANY scary monsters in the other stories, because it was something that makes me, personally, so uncomfortable.

Oh, yeah, a lot of my fears are in this book. First of all, this book was written after the last recent American presidential election. I was pissed off and scared at how divided and angry the country had become. I think this book represents a microcosm of what the attitude of America is right now with characters displaying ugly traits and stuck in awful situations. So, yes, overall the state of the world terrifies me right now. More specifically, things underground terrify me (“The Underdwellers.”). Just being in a dark, terrifying, grotesque, underground environment where you don’t know what’s around the corner is absolutely nightmarish to me. Nature (more specifically weird bugs) creep me out. I mean, everyone knows sticks shouldn’t walk, right? Anyway, this is reflected in “Bagworms.” Racism is a concern (“Husk”). Lots of other phobias to be uncovered, but, hey, go read the book folks!

A lot of your stories have a twist of humor to them. Is that something you would consider a signature of your writing style or was it particular to this collection?

No. Sigh. Good or bad, most of my 21 novels have humor in them. Frankly, I wasn’t even aware of it until my wife pointed it out to me. She said, “All of your books have comical elements.” Oddly enough, my wife finds me painfully unfunny most of the time. SO, yeah, I guess it’s my style.

With Twisted Tales from Tornado Alley being a collection, I have to ask, did you have a favorite piece and why?

Probably the closing novella, “The Underdwellers.” It’s not particularly a signature piece of my style or content, but it’s one of the most intense, frightening things I’ve written in my (un)humble opinion. So says my wife again, my harshest critic. It scares me and I like how it turned out (not always the case).

And last, what are you working on now? Tell us about what you have coming out next or anything else you want to put a little extra focus on. And thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me.

I’ve nearly completed my next novel, “Corporate Wolf.” It’s a horror novel with a lot of dark humor and satire based on my ghastly years in the corporate sector. Oh, and it’s about a werewolf. I’m having a lotta fun writing it (until I got into the revisions, a writer’s enemy!).

Hey, thanks for having me here, Cheryl.

Readers, check me out at:

*Stuart R. West’s brand-spanking new website!

*Amazon author page.

*Stuart R. West’s (totally inconsequential) blog: Twisted Tales from Tornado Alley

*And the rest (like on Gilligan’s Island): Facebook, Twitter

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INFERNAL

Infernal, my very first ever published horror book, came out last week! It’s available in paperback and eBook on Amazon and a bunch of other sites all conveniently linked below.

Please take a second to add it to your Goodreads if you use the site!

And if you do check it out and enjoy it, please leave a review! It means the world!

 

Goodreads

Amazon

Amazon UK

Barnes & Noble

Kobo

 

INFERNAL

Shrouded in Mystery

According to the legends, those who venture onto the shores of this cursed island never return.

Abandoned

Valerie DeNola and her sister Julie have chosen to ignore the legends and the warnings. They have been selected to lead a team of explorers to the island to discover the mystery surrounding it. But once ashore, they become cut off from the outside world, and what they discover is something they could never have prepared for.

Inhabited by Death

Now they must fight against an unknown presence that is picking them off one by one. No one can be trusted, and when even nature rises up against them, all seems lost. Their one hope is the extraction team they know is coming. But will any of them survive to see it arrive?

 

Published by Grinning Skull Press

Cover by Jeffrey Kosh

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