Wednesday, October 26, 2016

From “Eleven Miles Night”: Anne Teagarden’s story

The scene below is from my Ohio horror novel, Eleven Miles of Night.

The scene actually takes place before the main action of the book, before Jason Kelley begins his walk down the Shaman’s Highway. 

This is also a flashback scene, in the sense that the characters are referring to past events.

Nevertheless, this is a fairly creepy scene; and it will give you a taste of the subtle scares to be found elsewhere in the book. 

But note, dear reader: At this stage, Eleven Miles of Night is just getting warmed up!

Laughing at Jason’s corny joke, Anne took her place in the passenger seat. Jason started up the Taurus and began to follow Gary in the pickup truck. The truck headed for the main exit of the strip mall, its taillights flaring in the gathering gloom of dusk. The truck proceeded to make a right turn onto Route 68, Main Street in Wagosh. 
“Tell me, Jason,” Anne said. “Do you believe in ghosts? In the supernatural?”
The question should not have been completely unexpected; but Jason was somewhat taken aback. He had anticipated a smattering of small talk during the short ride, the level of conversation that was common at parties and on first dates. But Anne seemed interested in probing his innermost beliefs. Perhaps that’s common among these ghost-hunting types, Jason thought. Maybe that’s just their way.
“I’m not sure,” Jason said honestly. Then, turning the question around: “Do you?”
Anne smiled and looked out the window at the small-town view. About fifteen or twenty minutes of discernable daylight remained; and the outlines of Wagosh were still visible. They were coming up on the town proper. This would be the older part of Wagosh, the section that had existed prior to the more recently built fast food restaurants and the strip mall. 
“For many years I didn’t,” Anne said. “But then when I was in high school, shortly after my sixteenth birthday, my family moved into a house in Pittsburg that changed my mind about all that.”
“Let me guess,” Jason said. “That house was haunted.” Jason hoped that his remark did not sound too flippant; but this storyline did seem somewhat predictable. 
“Not exactly,” Anne said. “But there was a ghost in the area.” 
“A ghost ‘in the area’?”
“Yes. And that ghost seemed to take a special interest in me—at least for a while.”
“I’m listening,” Jason said. “Please go on.” He was driving through the middle of Wagosh now. On the right side of the road was a historic-looking building called “The Malloy Theater.” The front of the theater was lit up by an old-fashioned marquee sign.
“Well,” Anne continued. “Sometimes during the night, I would have this feeling that there was a presence under my bed. Have you ever had that feeling at night?”
“Sure,” Jason allowed. “I guess everybody does, from time to time. It isn’t something I’ve really thought about much since I was a kid, though.”
“Yeah, I dismissed the feeling, too. At first, anyway. After all, I was a junior in high school, and this was the middle of the nineteen-nineties. I was no heroine in some gothic ghost story. I told myself that it was only my imagination.
“But then,” Anne seemed to hesitate just a bit. Jason inadvertently glanced down in the near darkness of the car, and he noticed that gooseflesh had broken out on Anne’s arms. “Then I started to hear someone whispering my name at night. And then there was the voice coming from directly beneath my bed.”
“Okay,” Jason said. “You’ve got my attention.” Jason had experienced the occasional feeling of being watched by an unseen presence. That was part of living alone, he had learned. Sometimes when you were by yourself, the heebie-jeebies were bound to get the best of you. But he had never heard voices. That would be something new for him—and most unwelcome. 
“It got my attention, too,” Anne continued. “But believe it or not, it also got to be a little annoying. I mean, every night I would fall asleep, and then I would be awakened in the middle of the night by the sound of somebody whispering my name—someone who seemed to be just beneath my bed.” 
“Did you ever take a look? That would have cleared things up.”
“I’m getting to that. For a long time I was afraid to look, and a part of me was hoping that it would simply go away—that the voice was only my imagination. But then one night I’d come home from some party and I’d had a bit too much to drink. The room was spinning, and I felt like I was going to throw up at any moment. You know what I mean?”
“Oh, yeah,” Jason said, recalling some of his high school drinking binges. The aftermath—the vomiting and the headaches—was always the worst part.  
“I decided that enough was enough, that I wasn't going to let this thing torment me anymore. And it would probably be true to say that the alcohol had given me a bit of what some people refer to as Irish courage.”
“Hey, the Kelleys originally came from Ireland, I think.”
“No offense intended, Jason.”
“None taken. So anyway—excuse me for interrupting. What happened?” 
“So that night I looked down, and I could see the outlines of a man lying there on the floor of my bedroom.”
You saw a man lying on your bedroom floor?” Jason repeated.
“It wasn't really a man,” Anne said. “More like a pool of shadow in the shape of a man. That’s the best way I can describe it. But where the head of the man would be, I could see a mouth, and I could see two eyes. And when I looked down there, the eyes opened, and the mouth opened, too. That thing was smiling at me, and not in a friendly way.”
Jason felt a little shiver go up his spine. It was a creepy enough story. If it was true…
“So what did you do?” 
“As you might expect, I couldn't sleep. Who could, after that? But I must have passed out eventually, given all that I had to drink that night. When I woke up it was morning, and daylight. I went out to the family breakfast table and announced to my parents that there was a spiritual presence in my bedroom.”
Whoa. You just blurted that out? ‘There’s a spiritual presence in my bedroom’?” Jason paused for a brief moment, hoping that Anne was not offended. When she smiled at his remark, he continued. “And what did they say? Excuse me for saying this, Anne; but most parents would think their kid was a little crazy if he or she said something like that.” 
“I know, I know. But my parents were quite supportive. You see, I wasn't the only one who sensed that something was amiss in my bedroom. It turned out that my mother had experienced some uncomfortable feelings herself when she’d entered my room to put away laundry. She’d never seen or heard anything concrete, mind you; but she’d had this odd sensation that something was watching her—just like you acknowledged feeling sometimes when you’re alone. When I told my parents what I’d seen and heard, my mom spoke up right away. She took my side and I didn't feel foolish at all. Then my parents agreed to let me sleep on the living room couch until my bedroom could be cleansed.”
“We were Baptists, and Baptists usually adhere to a strict prohibition against anything that seems like New Age spiritualism or necromancy. All of that stuff is too closely related to witchcraft, you know; and fundamentalist Christians don’t make any distinctions between so-called “white magic” like Wicca, and outright devil worship.”
“Do you?”
“I believe that anything of that variety is potentially dangerous, because it opens doors that are better left closed. But that's another discussion best left for another time. My parents did agree to contact a woman who advertised herself as a ‘Christian spiritualist.’ She conducted a cleansing ceremony in my bedroom.”
“And then what happened?”
“Then the presence under my bed went away. I never heard from it or saw it again.” 
“So that was it? The end?”
“Not entirely. Shortly thereafter, another young woman who lived a few houses down—a girl of fifteen or sixteen—started experiencing similar problems. She awoke to the sound of her name being called out, and she turned over to see a manlike shape on the floor beside her bed. I didn't find out about this until years later, and no, I don’t know if her family ever managed to rid themselves of the entity.”
“Whoa,” Jason said. “You call it ‘the entity.’ That sounds pretty generic. Do you have any idea what it actually was? If it existed, that is.”
Anne smiled good-naturedly at Jason’s little jab of skepticism. “At the time, I had no idea. But a few years later, the Internet came along, and I was able to research the history of the neighborhood: In the nineteen fifties, it turns out, a man on our street had been accused in the abductions and disappearances of several young women in the area. Apparently he knew that it was only a matter of time until he was arrested, and he had no intention of spending the rest of his life in jail or going to the electric chair. So this man killed himself in his basement one night with a shotgun blast to the head. And after that the disappearances stopped, so everyone assumed that he was the one who had abducted the women.”
“Was that the house your family bought?” Jason asked, thinking that this would make the story a bit too tidy and convenient. “The man killed himself in the basement of the house where you lived?”
“No. The man who killed himself—the supposed child abductor and probable murderer—his house was demolished shortly after his suicide. No one would have wanted to live in it after that. From what I could determine, the house went back to the bank for a few years, and then the bank sold the property to a land speculator who bulldozed the residence. And by the end of the fifties, the other houses in the old neighborhood had mostly been abandoned or torn down, too. These were really old structures, I think, houses built all the way back in the nineteenth century. For a few years, the whole neighborhood became one large vacant lot, no doubt overgrown with weeds and the subject of many adolescent ghost stories. 
“However, old ghost stories are eventually forgotten, and a large patch of residential land won’t stay vacant forever. That’s an economic vacuum. So during the early nineteen seventies, a new housing development was built atop the old neighborhood. And one of the houses in that development was the one my parents purchased in nineteen ninety-four, some forty years after the original events that made the place cursed.”
“So you believe that the place definitely was cursed—or haunted?” Jason asked. Perhaps opportunely, it was time for this conversation to draw to a close. Gary pulled the ghost hunters’ truck into the parking lot of a small establishment that could only be the Country Creamery, though Jason could not yet see the sign.
“I know what I heard all those nights long ago, when I was a sixteen year-old girl,” Anne said. “And I know what I saw that one particular night, and the evidence I later found about the history of that neighborhood. So yes, Jason, I do believe that some places are both cursed and haunted. Some people can accept that idea on faith, and others can’t. But once you’ve seen and heard for yourself, there’s no turning back.”

Monday, October 24, 2016

Writer, Know Thy Reader

I wouldn't exactly call myself a "fan" of Emily Giffin. (As a heterosexual middle-aged man, I am far, far outside her target market.) But I do have a healthy respect for her work. A few years ago, out of curiosity to see what all the fuss was about, I read her first published novel, Something Borrowed. (If you ask me about reading this book in front of the guys at the gym, I will resolutely deny even knowing of the book’s existence; but I’m admitting this for you folks on the Internet.)

Something Borrowed is a fairly typical chick lit/romance lit novel in terms of the basic premise. A young woman discovers that she's in love with her best friend's fiancé. Hijinks ensue.

As noted above, I’m not the target market for this sort of fare, and this is not the type of fiction I usually read for pleasure. Not only was I not supposed to have read Something Borrowed, I was also supposed to have hated it. 

Nevertheless, I have to admit that Something Borrowed is a pretty good book, in terms of compelling the reader to turn the pages. Emily Giffin is a good writer, even if she doesn't write books with me in mind. 

I have looked at the plot summaries of Emily Giffin's other published novels. Her books are, indeed, romance novels at their core. (Most romance novels ask one of two questions: a.) Which alpha male will the female protagonist choose? Or b.) which woman will the alpha male choose?)

Miss Giffin has a large fan base, and she sells truckloads of books. She is one of the big players in her field. And if she was even able to please me, she is clearly good at what she does. 

But about two years ago Emily Giffin published a novel that her fans didn't like—at least based on the Amazon reader reviews. Why not?

It turns out that the plot of The One & Only involves a young woman having a romantic relationship with a much older man. The older man had also been something of a father figure to her during her youth (though he was not her biological father, I should emphatically note). Moreover, the novel is set in the South, and seems to involve a lot about football.

This was a big departure from the Emily Giffin formula in a number of ways. Almost all of her novels feature highly educated female protagonists who work in law, public relations, or other boutique professions. They usually live in a large city on the East Coast, like New York or Boston.

But the most significant departure inThe One & Only was the central romantic relationship. 

Emily Giffin's male protagonists are idealized, romance lit hunks. They are uniformly tall, dashing, and well educated. They are either surgeons or high-profile attorneys. And they go for women who are their peers, both in terms of age and education.

Looking at the reader/reviewer comments on Amazon, it was readily apparent that Emily Giffin's readers didn't like the cross-generational relationship in The One & Only. Many of her readers didn't seem to get past the premise itself, calling it "creepy" and whatnot.

Greg Iles could have gotten away with the central relationship premise in The One & Only. (He has explored similar territory before.) Clive Cussler or Stephen Hunter fans would have had no problems with it. (The romantic relationship is always secondary to the plots of these authors' books, anyway.)

But Emily Giffin’s fans have come to expect "age-appropriate" relationships between highly educated young women of the Brahmin class, and handsome, youngish alpha males. They don't want to read about a young woman hooking up with a man old enough to be her father…regardless of whether he is her father or not!

We could, of course, have a long, spirited debate about whether or not relationships between adults of vastly different ages are inherently "creepy" or exploitive. (That is one of those debates that always draws strong partisans on both sides.) But let’s not. None of that really matters as far as Emily Giffin's readers are concerned. Her secret sauce involves a certain type of relationship. This is what her readers have come to expect—and The One & Only didn't deliver it.

Readers like variety—but within certain parameters. Clive Cussler fans don't want to read coming-of-age romance stories. Jonathan Franzen's fans would have a cow if his next novel included a car chase or a shootout. Michael Connelly's readers expect his villains to be very human criminals, not ghosts or vampires. 

At one time or another, almost every writer feels the yearning to branch out, to go "outside the box". 

Experimentation and innovation are important in fiction. The writer who never branches out becomes the writer who endlessly repeats himself—writing the same story again and again.

But established reader expectations are important, too. The writer who fails to keep in mind the expectations of his or her reader base will likely suffer reader revolt, whether or not the book is objectively “good”. 

Don’t give them werewolves, in other words, if they’re expecting Islamic terrorists. Don’t go overboard on the romance if your previous books have been packed with gun battles. 

And if your readers have come to expect a youngish romantic male lead, don’t suddenly give them a father figure instead. 

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Readings for 'Hay Moon & Other Stories'

These are now in-process at my YouTube channel. This is the first reading:

“What’s the scariest thing you ever saw, Gramps?”
It is odd how an innocent question like that can bring back such horrible memories; and even odder in this case, since the question came from none other than Lisa, my little great granddaughter. 
Today is Halloween, and Lisa’s mother, Emily, brought her over to visit her sole surviving great grandparent before an evening of trick-or-treating. Lisa was wearing one of those plastic Halloween costumes that parents nowadays buy for their kids at Wal-Mart or Target. This particular one looked like a cartoon ghost character that I have seen on television over the years.
“What’s the scariest thing you ever saw, Gramps?” Lisa was standing in my living room, unable to contain her self-delight over her Halloween disguise. She was holding a trick-or-treat bag that bore the image of a typical Halloween clichĂ©: a witch flying on a broomstick, silhouetted against an oversized full moon. I had just dropped two Snickers bars into her bag—her first of many before the end of the evening, no doubt. Lisa was filled with energy even without all that sugar. 
“Tell me what’s the scariest thing you ever saw.” She repeated. “Tell me, pleeeease! You always tell good stories, Gramps.” She stamped her foot once on my living room carpet.
I didn’t answer her right away, because the images that stirred as I considered the question made me lose my breath for a few seconds. Then I struggled to think of a suitable response. My answer would be a lie, of course. Not for a million dollars would I tell my great granddaughter the truth......

Update: ‘Eleven Miles of Night’ Video Readings on YouTube

The video readings of my Ohio horror novel, Eleven Miles of Night are almost complete on my YouTube channel. 

Anyone is welcome to listen to them in part, or in their entirety. 

Other options are, of course, to purchase the dirt-cheap Kindle edition of the book, or read it through the Amazon Kindle Unlimited program. 

But anyway, back to the videos:

There are more than 150 video readings, at last count. I’ve broken up the novel so that you can listen to it a little bit at a time, as you would when reading book in little blocks of time. The readings are organized into playlists. They should be fairly easy to listen to on your smart phone or iPad. 

It is the season of Halloween, after all.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Why I shamelessly blog about my stories—and not about cats and politics

If you’re a nonfiction writer, then social media is a relatively straightforward set of tools. 

If you write nonfiction books about history, you write blog posts about history.

If you write nonfiction books about car repair, you blog about car repair. 

You tweet news stories about cars.

And so on….

For fiction writers, the path is considerably less clear. 

Too many fiction writers have been told: “Don’t be too pushy! Don’t turn your social media presence into a sales pitch!” 

(I both agree and disagree with this advice, as I’ll explain shortly.) 

So what do (most) fiction writers do instead?

Well, let’s take a look….

The fiction writer as political pundit

As these are political times, many fiction writers blog about politics. “Hey, did you know how bad the Democrats/Republicans are? Let me tell you…”

I’ve recently visited the social media accounts of household-name writers like Stephen King and Joyce Carol Oates, as well as countless fiction writers you’ve never heard of. Lots of them are tweeting and blogging about politics. 

Did you know that Stephen King and Joyce Carol Oates both really, really dislike Donald Trump? (Joyce Carol Oates hates Trump so much, in fact, that she won’t even type his name. She types it T***p. Cute.) 

But more importantly, do you care?

Probably not. I’m pretty sure that no one ever determined their stance on a controversial issue by saying, “Hey, let’s see what Stephen King has to say about this!” 

Likewise, you may love Donald Trump or hate him, but the endless anti-Trump tweets of Joyce Carol Oates have likely had a negligible influence on your opinion.

And if you don’t care what Stephen King or Joyce Carol Oates think about politics, why should you care what I think? 

Don’t get me wrong: Political punditry is both a valid and a viable field of writing. 

But fiction writers are in the escapism business. 

Yes, I have lots of political opinions; but I’m not here to argue with you about the news—or to tell you who to vote for. 

(I am here to tell you (for example) a story about an eleven-mile stretch of haunted road in Ohio, and about a young filmmaker who was hired to walk that stretch of road one night, and the horrifying, life-changing experiences that he had along the way. (That would be my Ohio horror novel, Eleven Miles of Night.)

I am also here to tell you a story about an office complex—called Lakeview Towers—that is really a portal into another reality. (That would be my fantasy novel, The Maze.) One day three corporate employees visited Lakeview Towers with the expectation that they were going to an ordinary business meeting; but they ended up getting lost in another dimension, filled with killer robots, human-wolf hybrids, giant birds, and various other perils….)

The fiction writer should not be that annoying Facebook friend who constantly posts rants about the news, and political memes. You already get enough of that from your Facebook friends, right? 

The fiction writer as writing instructor/coach

Most people who write fiction have innumerable ideas about how fiction should be written/edited/marketed, etc. 

There are a few fiction writers who actually do this quite well. I particularly like Joanna Penn and the Sterling & Stone guys. 

But I have to admit: This isn't my calling. If I’d wanted to be a creative writing instructor, I would have gotten an MFA. 

(Many of my stories, like Termination Man, are set in the corporate realm, where I spent more than 20 years in various roles. This is about as far removed from a university English department as you can possibly get!)

The fiction writer as book reviewer

Like most writers, I was a reader first, and I still read for pleasure. And yes, I write the occasional book review or shout-out for other people’s work.

What I’ve discovered, though, is that my heart really isn't in the book reviewing business. I’m far more interested in writing and telling my own stories, than in writing or talking about stories that other people have written. 

But more importantly, book reviewing is an art in itself, and there are plenty of sites and blogs throughout the Internet dedicated to reviewing books. These are maintained by people for whom book reviewing is a singular passion. 

It is better for me to leave that work to them. They’re going to do a more thorough job of it. That will leave me more time to tell stories.

The fiction writer as blogger of random miscellanea

Although storytelling is my passion, I have a lot of interests

These interests include—in no particular order—weightlifting, running, foreign languages, history, current events, economics, coin collecting, and computers. 

I have a lot to say, for example, about learning the Japanese language. I have a degree in economics. I could say a lot about that, too.

But as before: There are people who can do all that much better than I can—people for whom these topics are passions, versus mere interests.

I will therefore leave those topics to them.

The fiction writer as socialite-at-large

Yet another school of thought says that fiction writers should go on the Internet with the aim of being widely chatty and gregarious. This will enable them to “connect” with as many people as possible. Build relationships.

I get that—to a point. I’m reasonably responsive on social media. And I appreciate hearing from readers. Do you like something I’ve written? Drop me an email or leave a post on my Facebook page. You’ll make my day. 

But let’s be honest here: If you’re an “average” person, then you already have about 338 Facebook friends, according to the latest research. 

You already have existing relationships with them offline. You don’t need a fiction writer who wants to be your pen/Twitter/Facebook/YouTube pal, because, golly gee, social media is all about being social

Why I’m here, why you’re here

As an author, I’m really only on the Internet for one purpose: To tell the best stories I can. (And I think I tell some fairly good ones, if I do say so myself—but that’s ultimately for you to judge.)

I don’t want to bring you here under false pretenses—that we’re going to talk about Spanish verb tenses, or politics, or the law of diminishing marginal utility. 

I’m here to tell you stories. That’s it, as far as my social media presence is concerned. 

“So now you’re going to ask me to buy your book(s), right?”

No. I use my social media presence (especially my YouTube channel) for telling you storiesnot for telling you to buy my books. 

This is a key distinction. 

At the time of this writing, I’ve made YouTube videos of a handful of my short stories. I’m presently finishing up video readings of the aforementioned supernatural thriller, Eleven Miles of Night. 

Next up is 12 Hours of Halloween, my coming-of-age horror novel set in the early 1980s.

Then, perhaps, Blood Flats, my Kentucky crime thriller. Blood Flats is a story about Lee McCabe, an Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran who is accused of a drug-related double homicide that he didn't commit. 

Almost all of the stories I present online are available in book form from Amazon. I obviously wouldn't be heartbroken if you sampled some of my fiction online and decided to buy one of my books—or two, or three. 

But even if you don’t (or never do) that’s okay. Really.

Because maybe you’ll tell your friend: “Hey, there’s this horror novel, ‘Eleven Miles of Night’. I’m listening to the YouTube videos right now, and it’s pretty scary. You should check it out.”

And maybe your friend will listen to several of the videos, and he’ll decide that he’d rather read the book, versus listen to the book being read, section by section, chapter by chapter. 

Authors should sell books like rock bands sell albums

Once, a long, long time ago, I heard Def Leppard’s song, “Photograph” on the radio for the first time. (That was 1983—you had to be there.)

Then I saw the video on MTV. (Believe it or not, MTV used to be wholly dedicated to music, rather than lame reality shows. But I digress.)

I probably heard a few dozen playings of “Photograph” before I actually bought Def Leppard’s 1983 album, Pyromania

But by then I was a fan. I subsequently bought Def Leppard’s other albums: On Through the Night, High ’n’ Dry, Hysteria, etc.

As far as I can recall, no member of the band ever said to me: 

“Hey, you—bloke,” (Def Leppard is a British band.) “We’ve got some bleedin’ good music. You want to listen to it? Well, then you need to plunk down some lolly and buy our album. Unless you want to be a wanker about it! Don’t give us any of your tosh—give us your quid!”

The rock bands that I used to listen to in the golden age of MTV and radio understood how to sell albums: First, you show the world a little (a lot, in fact) of what you’ve got. 

Because that’s only fair.

Not everyone will like what you have to offer. Some will only like it passively. And an even smaller subset will become fans of what you do. 

But the key point here is: You’ve got to show the world what you’ve got first. That comes before everything else.

Comparatively few fiction writers on the Internet act like rock bands. On one hand, there is the group of fiction writers who talk about everything but their stories (politics, cats, etc.) These are fiction writers who don’t want to lead with the fact that they write fiction…because they don’t want to seem “pushy”.

At the opposite extreme is the group that wants you to buy a book on faith, before you’ve seen what the author has to offer you. These are usually the authors who have written only one or two books, and are very concerned that someone will read their work without paying them for it. 

But who ever bought an album without hearing a few songs first?

I prefer to think like a rock band: Most of you are going to want to read (or hear) at least some of my work for free before you’re going to spend money on it. I’m cool with that—I expected no less of Def Leppard, after all.

My social media manifesto

With all the above in mind, I intend to shamelessly blog my stories on social media. 

I’ll do this mostly by actually presenting my stories—in both spoken and written form. 

I’ll sometimes talk about them, too—but only to the degree that I think will interest you as a reader

If you like what you read/hear—great! Please stick around. There will be more where that came from, I promise. 

If you’d like to buy one of my books on Amazon—great! I appreciate it. Thank you!

But my objective in being on social media is to build an audience/readership, not to extract the maximum revenue possible from every visitor and every pageview. So no--this is not a sales pitch.

But it is a project with a purpose. On a crowded Internet, focus is crucial. You can't be all things to all people, and foolish is the person who tries.

I'm not here to compete with the book review sites, or to teach creative writing. (Those are worthwhile endeavors, mind you; but others do those things far better than I can.) I'm not here to generate random blog posts about every topic that remotely interests me. Nor am I here to amass 300K Twitter followers for the sake of achieving a high Klout score.

And I'm not here to talk about cats or politics.

I’m here to tell stories. I hope you like them, because I don't dish out much else on social media. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Eleven Miles of Night by Edward Trimnell: Reading #131:

Between his initial lunch with Simon Rose and his departure for Carey County, Jason had read and skimmed dozens of articles about the Shaman’s Highway. Several of them mentioned a particular section of woods along the route that was more “spiritually active” than the rest of the Shaman’s Highway’s eleven miles. This area was called “The Forest of Lost Souls.”
Supposedly the Satan worshippers of the late 1960s and early 1970s had used this area for the worst of their ceremonies. There were rumors—unsubstantiated, of course—that human sacrifice might have even taken place here. A website that specialized in the supernatural lore of Ohio mentioned the confession of a long-dead felon, one who might have been involved in the performance of grisly rites in the area:

“Between 1969 and 1973, more than ten girls, aged 15 to 19, were kidnapped from suburban neighborhoods in Dayton, Cincinnati, and Columbus. No suspects were ever named, and no bodies were ever found. 

Eleven Miles of Night: Reading #130:

For a brief second, Glenn allowed himself to consider what she was offering. He could simply remain where he was standing, and allow this horrible creature to take his life. That would mean the end of his years of loneliness and self-loathing—the ones that lay behind him, as well as the ones that inevitably lay ahead. 

Eleven Miles of Night: Reading #129:

The girl was wearing a light-colored, nondescript dress. She was leaning forward, her dark hair obscuring her face. She did not look up when Glenn’s feet crunched on the gravel.
The girl was sobbing. Glenn wondered what might be wrong with her. But even more, he wondered what she was doing here, standing on his front steps at this hour of the night. He could not see her face, but she did not resemble any of his younger cousins, nor the children of any of his friends or acquaintances. She was a stranger to him, and vice versa.
Glenn took a few more steps in her direction. The night was eerily still except for her sobbing and the sounds of his footsteps. The cicadas and the crickets were silent, which struck Glenn as odd. They had been going at it like mad only a few minutes ago, as was typical in June. But now it was as if he and this little girl were the only living things within miles. 
Provided that she is a living thing, Glenn thought. 

Eleven Miles of Night: Reading #128:

Glenn sighed and squinted into the swollen, luminescent moon overhead. For some reason, the face of the Man in the Moon seemed especially distinct tonight. It was as if the orb were mocking him, somehow taking Terrence’s side. 
The fact was that he was going to do nothing about his infatuation with Bridgette. As Terrence had so indelicately pointed out, Bridgette was already more than spoken for, and she probably wouldn't be interested in him even if that weren’t the case. 
A pair of headlights appeared in the distance and Glenn stepped off the edge of the road and into the grass in plenty of time to let the car pass. There wasn't much traffic, but Route 68 was not a pedestrian thoroughfare, and drivers who took this road at night were seldom alert for a lone walker. Given that this was a Friday night, he could also count on at least some of them being a sheet or two into the wind. The bars in Wagosh and John’s Mistake suffered no shortages of patrons on the weekends. 

Monday, October 17, 2016

Eleven Miles of Night: Reading #127:

Glenn stared ahead into the darkness of Route 68 as he began the walk back to his trailer. It would not take that long, he knew; and it was not as if Terrence had left him in the middle of downtown Detroit or Chicago. This was familiar territory, a road that both of them had known for their entire lives. 
Nevertheless, the gesture stung of betrayal. What had disturbed him was not really the argument, nor even the physical abandonment. They had had similar blow-ups as far back as junior high, and in the end they had always made up again. That was the way most male friendships worked—arguments over superficial disagreements could be quickly patched over.
But tonight Terrence had made a deliberate effort to sting him at his core, to wound him in his vulnerable spot. Since girls had first become an issue in their early teens, both men had recognized that they were different in that regard: Terrence enjoyed effortless success with women, and he had practically none...

Eleven Miles of Night: Reading #126:

“Glenn,” Terrence said as calmly as he could. “It ain’t like that. It’s complicated. If you’d ever been married—or at least had a few steady girlfriends along the way—then you’d know that a woman can get on a man’s nerves from time to time. Especially a strong-willed, full-of-herself one like Bridgette. We can talk about this tomorrow. Right now, we need to go after that guy who did this to my face. We’ve got to show him that he can’t come in here and do stuff like that—”
“Like hell I will!” Glenn shouted back. “If I’d been there, I would have done the same thing to you!”
“You’re going to sit there and honestly tell me that you’d take some woman’s side over your best friend? Tell me, Glenn, what the hell has Bridgette ever done for you?” 
“I’m not going to go rough up some guy I don’t know because he was defending Bridgette when you were hitting her!”

Eleven Miles of Night: Reading #125:

Terrence let out a long sigh when it was all done, though he wondered why he had mentioned the eyes that he had seen in the woods. He had all but forgotten them. The important thing was for Glenn to realize that Bridgette was his wife, and that he would handle her as he saw fit. It felt cathartic to have laid all this out on the table, to have dispelled Glenn’s illusions about Bridgette. Let him get over her already; Terrence knew that he had gotten over her a long time ago—despite the fact that he was now effectively chained to her for life, or for as a long as he remained in Ohio. 
“Let me get this straight, Terrence: You’re telling me that you hit Bridgette tonight?”

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Eleven Miles of Night: Reading #124:

“What about you, though?” Terrence persisted. “The only girl I can remember you going out with was Melinda O’Connor. And that was only for prom, and that was only as friends because neither one of you had a date. And you admitted to me afterward that nothing happened, that you got no more than a peck on the cheek at the end of the night.”
“Terrence,” Glenn said quietly. “Why are you doing this? I thought we were friends.”