Ok folks, I’ve finally decided to jump into the indie fray and self pub a novel. I was fortunate to have FLYING TO THE LIGHT, my YA thriller published by Cool Well Press, but I’m itching to do something with the other five novels sitting complete in my computer. The question is, which one do I start with? Do I start with THE WORLD OF KAROV, a dark fantasy tale (book #2 in the series is already complete) or THE MANNEQUINS, a standalone horror tale? So, since I can’t decide, I’m going to give you guys the first few pages of each book. If you can give me your thoughts at the end of which one you find more compelling, I’d appreciate it. I’ll start with an overview blurb of each one.
THE WORLD OF KAROV – A Fantasy Tale, book one in the Children of Demilee series
After his bride is kidnapped by his own twin brother on his wedding day, grief stricken, Adam flees to the Canadian mountains where he lives as a recluse. As sanity slowly leaves him, a stranger appears and offers him a chance at a new life in a realm filled with magic, gems and powers unimaginable. Adam goes with the stranger, but his past comes back to haunt him, resulting in a showdown with his brother that propels Adam’s new world into turmoil.
First 3 pages:
Prologue: 400 years in the past, Canadian Mountains
My life didn’t truly begin until I arrived in the land of Karov, a realm the villagers called Innerworld. As a foreigner to this land, I was “the damaged boy from a different dimension” – from a land called Outerworld. It’s important for me to explain how I came to be here, because people such as me, much less kids, were not allowed to even visit this world. It was against the laws of the land, decreed as such for centuries, because my very presence was a danger to the inhabitants of this kingdom. This is a danger foretold in every tapestry displayed through the castle for all the inhabitants to see. It is on the paintings on the very walls of the emerald caves and in the scrolls hidden deep in the passages under the castle, placed there by the Ancients themselves. Those powerful beings who once ruled this dimension, but have since mysteriously disappeared, hiding themselves away from a great evil hunting for them across the dominions; leaving us with only the essence of their great powers.
Let me explain….
It was the smell that woke me from my troubled dreams. That distinct, metallic scent of an animal when it’s been run over by a wagon and left to die in its own filth on a dirt road riddled with the excrement of horses. Why this smell was in my room terrified me.
It was late; so late the hens were still fast asleep and the insects had ceased their incessant chattering for the night. Even the passing horse carts, bringing their furs and goods between the villages had silenced and gone to bed for the evening, only to resume again in a few hours to start their barter dance once again.
I couldn’t bring myself to open my eyes, fearful of what I would find. I listened for my twelve year old brother’s labored breathing, listening for the snores which accompanied my twin’s dreams. I heard nothing and it meant only one thing. He was up and waiting for me to discover what he’d done. I could feel his anticipation like tingles on my skin; feel his eyes boring through the patched quilt as they tried to see how I’d react. I knew him like I knew myself because we were intrinsically linked by more than just this shared bedroom. We were linked by the bond of blood. And though we were identical twins, we didn’t share the unbreakable connection most twins shared, for we were as different as they came. My twin harbored a soul so mutated he couldn’t be called human. He lived to cause misery to others and nothing made him happier than when he was bullying younger kids, hurting small animals or stealing from the local merchants. He was the vandal who stole the poor farmer’s eggs and smashed them on their houses for fun. He was the one the villagers’ thoughts turned to when their beloved pets went missing and the one people feared so deeply they tried their best not to ever look him in the eye and cause him any reason to seek them out. They stayed silent through all their fears, knowing if they ever said anything, my brother would come to visit worse atrocities on them in retribution.
Gulping down my dread, I raised my arm and laid my hand gently on my chest. The sticky fur stuck to my palm and though I tried my best not to scream, to make any sound, I just couldn’t stop it. A horrified moan escaped my lips and I opened my eyes. I could practically hear Alec giggling under the covers.
The moon chose that moment to come out from behind the clouds and illuminate the little stray lying across my chest. She had been choked with a piece of rope we used to tie up the goat in the backyard. Rivulets of congealed blood stained her delicate little nose. Wide brown eyes stared at me, wondering what she had possibly done to deserve this, wondering what in heaven’s name could have possessed the boy who had taken her in and lovingly cared for her only days before, to turn against her. Because I knew the face she saw as she died was mine. She would have had no idea it really wasn’t me, but a terrible evil which walked the land in my own likeness.
Shaking in anger, I bundled the cat together with my ruined blanket and sat up, holding it accusingly as I stared at the mound of covers shaking gleefully on the bed across the room from me.
“You didn’t have to do this.” My words fell on deaf ears. He wouldn’t answer me, the same way he didn’t answer me for any of the other hundred accusations I threw at him. How I hated him.
THE MANNEQUINS – a stand-alone horror tale
In the deep woods of California, there’s an old decaying mansion with a terrible secret. When any enter its doors, the house claims them, propelling them to a land in a different reality, run by a man who calls himself, The Preacher. If you play by his rules, you live a life of luxury, but if you displease him? With a flick of his wrist, you are transformed into a living doll, a mannequin, and there is no escape… until the madman is done playing with you.
“Okay, let’s try this again,” Officer Decker said. “Take your time and start from the beginning.”
“Okay Of-officer,” the man stuttered. “I’ll t-try.” His eyes suddenly glazed over and he shuddered uncontrollably.
Decker leaned over and shook him back to reality. “Try to stay with us, Mike.”
Mike blinked and looked around, realizing where he was. He took a deep breath. “I’ll try. I’m okay now.” He reached for the glass of water on the table and took a sip, but couldn’t stop shaking and it spilled all over his hands. He stared at them dumbly until one of the officers pried the glass gently from his fingers and placed it back on the table.
“It’s okay, Mike,” Decker said patiently. “Don’t worry about the spill. We’ll get you something to dry you off.” He handed him a towel.
Mike wiped his hands and then his face, remaining quiet, trying to get his composure back. He glanced up. “Did they find the boy yet?” He heard the desperation in his voice and cringed. One look at the officer’s reaction and he knew the answer.
The officers sent each other a silent stare, as if deciding best how to answer him. Decker said carefully, “Not as of yet, Mike. We’ve combed through the house three times, but we haven’t turned anything up. We haven’t found any of the mannequins you spoke about either. Except for some old, broken furniture, the place is empty.”
Mike spoke in a whisper, because a whisper was all he could manage. “You think I’m crazy, don’t you? You don’t believe a word of what I’ve said. I know. I can see it in your eyes.” He studied his hands again, now contemplating the array of lines which ran across his palm.
Officer Martin interrupted his thoughts. “Mike, that’s not true. Of course we believe you. We just want to piece together exactly what happened. We know you and seventeen members of a film crew mysteriously disappeared over fifteen years ago. Then, early this morning, you show up at exactly the same spot you originally disappeared, disoriented and confused – frantically asking about a boy. We just want to find out what happened to you all these years. To help you.”
Mike sighed and ran his fingers through his thinning hair. He had been thirty-two when he and the film crew first went into the house and though now he was only forty-seven, he could easily pass for sixty. His hair was streaked with white, he felt tired all the time, and he was certain he had developed the beginning stages of arthritis from the constant pressure on his joints. It was the damned house which had done it to him.
He rubbed his hand against his cheek, thick with a week’s worth of coarse gray stubble, and felt suddenly anxious. His eyes darted around the room, stopping repeatedly to focus on the long mirror on the wall. Thank God, he couldn’t see his reflection from this angle. He turned to the officers. “Can you bring a different mirror in here? Something I can hold? Please?
Decker nodded at Martin knowingly and left the room. Within two minutes, he was back and propped a square, two foot by two-foot mirror on the floor against the wall. “This okay, Mike?”
Mike knew they were humoring him. Humor the crazy man, give him what he wants, and maybe he’ll give you the information you needed. He wanted to do just that, but for now, he simply stared at the mirror, thinking. He was glad at the angle it was perched. Again, he couldn’t see his reflection. He wasn’t ready for that yet, and neither were the officers. He pulled his eyes away from the smaller mirror and examined the big mirror again. This one took up a large section of the wall.
Mike knew that it was a two-way version, that he was probably being observed right now by the top psychiatric minds in this small part of the county, all probing, trying to decide if he was certifiably crazy. Or worse, if he was somehow responsible for the disappearance of all those people.
He shuddered. He wasn’t responsible for the others. Damn it, he had been trying to help them! Of course, at the time things had gotten so crazy, it was all he could do to keep himself alive. His sole responsibility had been the boy and he had screwed that up. They never should have gone into the house. “Damn.”
Decker leaned in close. “What, Mike? You say something?”
Mike sat back in his chair, sighed and rubbed his palms over his face. “Nah, it was nothing. This mirror’s fine.” He let his eyes drift to the decanter of water on the table. If he looked closely he could see his reflection in the glass. It was fuzzy and distorted, but he would swear his hair wasn’t combed down as his reflection suggested and his eyes were alive, not that dead glaze he saw staring back at him. Mike glanced away and shook his head, clearing his vision. He had to explain to the officers what had happened to him. It was now or never. He took a deep breath and started speaking.
“We were filming a movie.”