Cover Reveal: The Finale



Good day! Hallo! Welcome! You’ve put up with all my nonsense and now you’re ready for the big reveal, right? Well, have I got a surprise for you! No, wait, it’s not a surprise if you know what it is. Well, then, have I got a cover reveal for you! First, of course, I have to include the obligatory links where you can buy and/or or review the book. I know, I know. It’s nothing personal. Just business. So here goes:





I hope you’ve enjoyed my teasing you for a few days. And I hope you enjoy the book even more so.


Cover Reveal: Part III



For whatever reason, I keep wanting to start this post with, “What up, bitches?” But I will not.

So, you’re here! And I’m here! And Dave is … Well, I don’t know where Dave is, but since you made it here today for the extras, I won’t let you down! Today I have for you a chapter that, although I thoroughly enjoy, was omitted from Rise and Run for pacing reasons. It was originally the second chapter in the book, so you might have questions to which I’ll simply say, “Hey, just go buy the book tomorrow, and all your questions will be answered.”

Oh, and, this wouldn’t be a proper part III to the cover reveal without the whole … missing piece of the cover. So, you’ll find that below. For now, read and enjoy!

Chapter 2

November 4, 2012, Bar Harbor, Maine

Rian Connell had called in every favor owed to him to get Effie released after she was apprehended on the suspicion of murdering a government agent. And when Mýrún couldn’t be found, Anthony Kenna’s murder was pinned on Effie as well. Not a stretch, considering that both men had died the same way.

The DoD’s reluctance to admit that the stolen boy existed—not even a word was breathed as to his purpose—worked in Rian’s favor. Effie’s case never went to trial, so thoroughly did all parties work to bury the classified project. The only reason Effie wasn’t buried herself was Rian’s high profile and the extensive media coverage it entailed him. Effie was released after three months with full-throated apologies, and no small amount of whispered threats.

But no one went against Rian. No one dared. If there was a problem that his imports and exports business couldn’t pay for, it was dealt with by the less legal aspects of his empire—and the extent of classified information he shouldn’t have was extra leverage.

Rian stood outside the Women’s Center of the Maine Correctional Center, his sandy hair slicked back. His gray and white pinstripe suit jacket was open to show off a matching waistcoat and a deep red tie. He held his arms open just in time to catch Effie as she sailed into him, knocking his glasses askew as she settled into as fierce a hug as she could manage with her pregnant belly between them.

“We have to find him,” Effie said. She looked up at him, searching his eyes for a sign of acquiescence.

Rian’s eyes went heavenward as he searched for the proper response. “I’ve looked for him, Effie. The boy is nowhere to be found,” Rian said, his Irish accent softened by his years in the States. “And Mýrún … she’s vanished just as soundly.”

“She couldn’t stay,” Effie said for what must have been the hundredth time over the past three months.

Rian waved off the chauffeur and opened the limo door for Effie himself. She scooted across the bench seat and Rian took his place beside her before instructing the driver to take them home. He closed the partition.

“I’ve widened the surveillance range. My sources have all confirmed that the DoD hasn’t located the boy yet. At least that’s something.”

“You don’t think …” she whispered, unable to finish the thought.

“No,” he lied. “I don’t think he’s dead.”

“Take me there,” Effie said. “Take me to the pickup location. I need to see.”

“And I need you to be home,” he said “Besides, taking the limo would draw unwanted attention.”

“Then why’d you take it?” she asked. Rian kissed her forehead in answer, then pulled her into him.

“If your mind is set on this we’ll go, but not now.”

She nodded. He was right, of course. He generally was. But knowing that didn’t stop the impatient tapping of her foot or the way she nervously picked at her fingernails. She had to find the boy; she had to.


December 11, 2012, Lewiston, Maine

It was nearing midnight when Rian arrived at the project building where James Moran’s witness reported seeing the boy. Moran, Bar Harbor’s police chief and Rian’s closest friend, drove up with a few of his men following behind. Unofficially. As Moran got out of his car and Rian walked over to meet him, three undercover Chargers pulled up around them.

Moran handed Rian an earpiece and neck loop mic. “Just in case you want to turn me off,” he said as he handed Rian a wireless remote control. The earpiece was small and comfortable, a nanotech prototype that Rian had paid a fortune to get into Moran’s possession. He pulled the mic over his head, then tucked it under his shirt before attaching the remote to his belt.

Rian looked around at the growing unofficial police presence that had spilled from the Chargers. They looked ready.

“Two on you, two on me,” Moran said. “One at the front entrance and one at the back.”

Rian nodded and returned his attention to the building. Its windows were boarded up and the front door hung loosely from its broken hinges. This was Russian territory. Encroaching on it could cause Rian problems down the road, but he’d promised Effie that he’d get the boy.

Rian always kept his promises.

“I’ll take the ground floor,” Moran said. Rian nodded, freeing his pistol from its holster, and followed Moran to the building’s entrance, all but two officers in tow.

Rian and Moran stopped, one on either side of the listing front door. The smell of urine escaped through the opening. Rian peered down the empty hallway, a cancerous throat with torn and molding carpet and wounded walls. He nodded to the two men lined up behind him, trusting them to cover him as he made his way to the stairwell.

He stayed low against the wall, palms cupping his pistol grip, the barrel facing the floor for now. His right index finger rested against the trigger guard. He took shallow breaths through his nose, not particularly wanting to smell the building, but wanting to taste it even less. One foot crossed over in front of the other and his back lightly scraped the wall. The stairwell was just around the corner to the right. Behind him, Moran shifted, ready to go in. Rian turned the corner, pistol up.


Rian took the stairs slowly, half out of choice and half necessity. The wooden stairs were in disrepair, not creaking as much as weeping when Rian or one of the officers put weight on certain slats. As he reached the landing, he took a moment to adjust his eyesight. It was darker up here, the smell louder.

“Move,” Rian whispered.

“Moving,” Moran answered, his voice coming crisply through the earpiece.

All the doors on either side of the hall had been removed, showing only dark sores along the blue-gray stretch of hallway. Rian and his party cleared the rooms one at a time. Inside the apartments, Rian saw signs of abandoned lives. Barbies and Hot Wheels, Legos, Play-Doh, gaming systems with game cases sprawling like an overturned Jenga tower. Mold spreading from desiccated food on dirty dishes in one kitchen. Overturned chairs, broken tables, empty spaces where television sets might have been, shattered lamps.

The whole second floor had been turned over.

The last apartment was fairly intact. Rian swept through, room to room. He swept his gun through the doorway to a bedroom. Lined up against the far wall were three bare mattresses with barely enough space to walk in between. Chains hung on the wall, about halfway between floor and ceiling, over all three mattresses. The next bedroom had the same setup.

“Ground floor is clear. Going to three,” Moran said.

Rian and his two officers reconvened in the hallway.

“All clear, sir,” the taller one said. The other shook his head. He’d found nothing.

“Two is clear,” Rian said into his mic as he walked back to the stairwell. “Going to four.”

The carpet on the fourth floor had been peeled back. Long, wide strips had been cut out in places. There were holes in the walls where the sheetrock had been broken, exposing the framework. It looked like someone had been pilfering copper wire.

The three men entered the first apartment, sweeping the rooms. “Sir,” the taller officer’s voice came simultaneously over the earpiece and through the wall. Rian walked over to the officer, now standing in a doorway. He stepped aside to let Rian look in.

Chains on the wall, naked mattresses, and five bodies.

“Human trafficking,” Rian muttered. “Looks like the Russians are tying up loose ends.”

The bodies were starting to turn, the smell sticking to the back of Rian’s throat. He patted the officer on the shoulder and turned to leave. As he stepped through the apartment’s front door, he picked up movement coming from the opposite end of the building and ducked back inside.

“Third floor is clear,” Moran said over the comm.

“We’ve got movement on four,” Rian said.

He chanced a peek from around the frame. He watched as three men and four women—some crying, their distress barely audible—were herded into the hallway. A fourth man followed behind them with a gun in hand.

The man looked out of place, plucked from a department store catalog in his cheap suit. The group was about twenty feet away, heading toward the opposite stairwell, when Rian heard a cry from the apartment they had vacated. It was a small sound. A loud thump followed on the heels of the cry.

Then silence.

Rian waited until the hall was deserted.

“Eight coming your way. One armed, the rest …” Rian searched for the right word. He hated using the word victim. He settled for, “Captives.”

Over the comm, Rian heard Moran directing his men to new locations.

“Keep clearing the floor,” Rian said over his shoulder. He crept down the hallway to the last apartment on the left, from where the cry had come.

A quick look inside revealed a man in dark clothes standing over a boy who couldn’t have been more than four or five. Rian couldn’t tell if this was the right boy; the age seemed off. He took a breath, then moved to fill the apartment’s doorframe.

He didn’t say anything, simply lined up his target and fired.

The bullet hit near the man’s kidney, the lack of spray out suggesting there would be no exit wound. The boy made no sound as the body fell forward, collapsing on top of him. Rian hurried into the room to pull the man aside. Unconscious, but not dead yet. He squatted down in front of the boy, who there was no mistaking now.

The boy’s left arm was set at an odd angle and his face and neck were bruised. A bleeding cut trailed from the corner of a bloodshot eye. Rian turned at the sound of the officers clearing the rooms next door. When he looked back to the boy, the cut was nearly closed.

Rian blinked a few times, then shook his head.

“It’s all right now, boyo,” he finally said, trying to sound neutral.

Rian heard a shout, gunshots, and more shouting, this time with additional voices thrown into the mix. A woman wailed.

“Building is secure,” Moran said.

“Perimeter is secure,” a second voice responded.

“The boy is secure,” Rian announced. To the boy, he said, “Just sit tight, huh? You’re safe now.”

Rian stood up as he heard the first set of boots on the stairs. He checked the man he’d shot. Still not quite dead. He met Moran at the door, still keeping an eye on the kid and the soon-to-be corpse.

“We caught ourselves a bad guy,” Moran said.

“One of Kuznetsov’s men,” Rian said.

Moran whistled. “Shit. Well, I’m sure he’ll have an accident in prison.”

“A better alternative would be for him to have an accident before he leaves this building. I’d prefer that Kuznetsov doesn’t find out about this. Or at least not anytime soon.”

Moran nodded. “And the boy?”

“A bit beat up, but alive. His arm looks broken.”

“Who’s that with him?” Moran asked, eying the man on the floor.

“Another of Kuznetsov’s men. Post-accident. Give it a few minutes and all you’ll have to do is hide the body.”

Moran shook his head. “Funny. I’ve got EMTs on the way for the civilians. I’ll send a team up to check out the boy.”

Moran headed back down to his men. Rian returned to the boy, who hadn’t moved. He hugged his knees with his right arm. Rian sat beside him, leaning against the wall.

“Let me see,” Rian said, indicating the boy’s left arm. The boy held out his arm, made no noise as Rian inspected it. Bright bruising mottled the skin. Not broken after all. Fractured, maybe.

“Can you tell me your name, boyo?” Rian asked.

For a long while, the boy didn’t answer. Finally, he whispered, “LS061514.”

“And how old are you?”

“Three, soon.”

“I’m Effie’s husband. Do you remember Effie?”

The boy nodded.

Rian couldn’t think of anything else to say. Kids weren’t his area of expertise—just one of the reasons why Effie’s pregnancy terrified him.

“How’d you manage to get all the way over here?” Rian finally asked.

The boy squirmed a bit. “I got hungry,” he said as though that explained everything.

Rian gazed ahead at nothing. He’d ask again, when the boy was out of this squalor. A week from now, a month from now, he’d ask again.

The paramedics arrived about ten minutes later. Rian moved aside to let them work. When the lead EMT asked which hospital to take the boy to, Rian slipped her a roll of bills and gave the address of a private clinic that one of his shell companies owned.

“We need to evacuate so the cleanup crew can get to work. You almost ready?” Moran asked as he walked back into the apartment.

“Just about. I need to arrange to have papers worked up for the boy,” Rian said.

“Why don’t I start on that while you get him settled? I know a guy who knows a guy.”

Rian smiled a little at that. “Conor Quinn seems like a good name, don’t you think?”

“Sure,” Moran said. “Listen, Rian, the ambulances are going to draw attention to this place. Not to mention our cars and the cleaners. Kuznetsov will know something happened.”

“I’ve got a guy at the Sun Journal. He’ll make sure the right story gets out,”

“Better work fast,” Moran said. “I’ll catch up with you tomorrow.”

Rian followed the paramedics out of the building and climbed into the ambulance. “No lights, no sirens,” he said to the driver as the rear doors shut.


March 13, 2012, Kennebunk, Maine

The doctor and a flock of nurses bustled about while machines beeped anxiously. The screaming alarms were endless. Rian heard it all at a distance, his ears as resistant to decode the sound as his eyes were to the sight.

Conor gripped two of Rian’s fingers. The hands of both the man and the boy were clammy. A nurse cleared his throat, but when he saw Rian’s face, he thought better of speaking to him at all, much less trying to persuade him to leave.

She looks so small, Rian thought as he looked at Effie. So small. Somehow everything had gone wrong. The baby was stillborn and complications during the labor led to the subsequent surgical removal of the thing. The thing that would have been Michael.

His son.

Rian looked down at the boy holding his fingers in a painfully tight grip, but the boy only had eyes for Effie. One of the machines sang out a long flat line, kicking the noise and rushed movement into a higher gear.

Then everything stilled.

The doctor covered Effie with a sheet as the rest of the team shuffled out in varying states of emotion.

“I’m sorry,” was all the doctor said before leaving Rian and Conor alone with the body.

Conor let go of Rian’s fingers and walked over to the side of the bed where Effie’s arm hung out from under the sheet. He placed her hand on top of his head, like she might wake up and ruffle his hair. He held her wrist in both of his small hands and closed his eyes.

Rian looked around the room, trying to find something that wasn’t there. As he turned toward one of the observation windows, he caught sight of an older woman. Her thin white hair hung in a plait over one shoulder. She was handsome, even in old age, and her bright blue eyes shined with unshed tears.

Mýrún Ylva.

Rian looked back, saw Conor staring at Mýrún, still holding Effie’s hand on his head. Rian turned and ran out of the room, but she was already gone.

He walked back in and rested his hand on Conor’s shoulder. The boy laid his head on the hospital bed, oblivious to the bloodstain creeping outward. Rian squatted and gently took Conor by both shoulders, turning the boy to face him.

He wanted to say something, but had no words. Instead he hugged Conor fiercely, then picked the boy up and carried him out.

Well, that was fucking depressing! But I hope you enjoyed it all the same. As promised, here’s the final piece of the puzzle! Keep and eye out tomorrow for the Cover Reveal finale (that’s when you get to see the whole damn thing in order). Also keep and eye on this here page for the Amazon purchase links!


Cover Reveal: Part II



I promised you extras, and now I’m delivering!

First up, the the original short story that brought to life some of the characters you’ll find in Rise and Run. This is the very first imagining of Felix Quinn and his alter ego, Jack. Jack would later become Conor, and the story would take a sci-fi bent. This short story? It’s purely thriller.

Of course, it wouldn’t be Part II of the cover reveal if I didn’t, I dunno, give you a peek. At the bottom of the post you’ll find another snippet of the cover for Rise and Run. So, without further ado, I present …

Pressure: A Short Story

Amber street lights, pale in the pre-dawn cold, marked our progression, never a straight stretch of road in sight. Shaina saw it first, the mattress stretched across the center of the two lanes. She braked, steered around it. A box-spring had landed about fifteen feet from the mattress, clothes scattered alongside the road, boxes. I told Shaina to pull over. Only after did she protest.

“This isn’t your concern, Jack.” She grabbed my elbow as I opened the car door. The name sounded wrong, emphasized. I looked at her. “Just hurry up.” She released my elbow, almost with a push, attention going to the dirty windshield.

I followed the trail of debris. Glass from a picture frame crunched under foot. I didn’t look at the picture. I pulled the collar of my coat up. Five steps, a slash of fluid. Four steps, another wet spot pooling. Smelled like transmission fluid. The road made a sharp turn. I kept going straight, to the nest of trees that cradled the broken truck. Not a bad wreck, not by a long shot. There were no cords, tie downs, no straps of any kind in or around the long bed of the truck. Explained the mess for such a delicate landing.

The first two digits on the license plate suggested the truck’s driver came from Marionette. Or the owner did. I’d like to say that I walked to the passenger’s side door cautiously, but I’d be lying. The driver had long since gone, window down. The cab reeked of tobacco. I could go for a Winston about now, myself. A wallet lay deserted in the passenger seat. I grabbed it, flipped it open, looked at the name. Fantastic. I stuck the wallet in my coat pocket and headed back to Shaina and the warm car.

“We’re going to have to call Rian,” I said. Rian Connell ran Five Points. The man behind the politicians, behind the law. He’d raised me from age three, finding in me something adequate enough to be his enforcer. He made the rules, I made sure the rules were followed. The downfall to being raised for a job like that? Gave me a tendency to go overboard. The first time I went too far Rian decided it necessary to induce a solution. The result created a kind of second personality. He even gave us separate names.

“You mean, you’re going to have to call Rian.”

True. After all, Rian hadn’t cut Shaina off from the family. He’d cut me off. So why the elaborate theatrics? Not for his own benefit, surely. Rian must have heard rumors about my recreational activities outside of the Five Points district. Not that I’d done anything wrong, yet. Just been getting harder to play by the rules lately.

Shaina glanced at me, looked back at the windshield, dropped her voice. “You don’t owe him anything. You’re out, remember?” Her voice hitched.

“Yeah, well, he owes me an explanation.” I took the wallet from my coat pocket and handed it to her. “Besides, I didn’t choose to leave.”

She opened the wallet, let out a low whistle.

“Felix.” Hearing her say that name felt like a blow. More comfortable, familiar, the name rang truer than Jack ever had. Reminded me of what I’d lost when Rian had told me to take some time off. She tossed the wallet back to me, turned over the engine. As she shifted into first gear I watched her denim-clad legs, the twitch of thigh muscle as she lifted her left foot, easing off the clutch, right pressing the gas. Smooth transition.

“What do you think, kid?”

“I think it’s a joke,” I said.

“You haven’t been Felix for two years.”

“I’m aware of that.” Sounded bitter, even to my own ears. I hadn’t volunteered to leave the family, hadn’t volunteered to live as Jack.

“Think he wants you to come back in?”

“I don‘t know.”

“Could you even pick up where you left off?”

“I’m not sure.”

“Well, what are you going to do?”

“Go to Marionette. I’m going to see Rian. Figure out what this is about. What else can I do?” Slight pressure built between my eyes. Shaina pushed me for answers I didn‘t have. Trying to get me to think on broader terms, maybe. Why? Because she worked for Rian. Making me answer for my own sake, not hers.

“What else can you do?” She pitched her voice, mimicking Rian’s lilt. A son of Ireland, he ran the Five Points district like a piece of the homeland.


Sitting in a leather chair in the office Rian Connell owned in Marionette—the city that made up the western border of the Five Points district—I tried to figure out what to say, the right questions to ask to get the answers I needed. Not something I considered a good time. Open blinds covering the wall of windows from floor to ceiling showed the sun falling behind towering buildings. Made for a pretty picture. Still … My palms were a little damp, stomach didn’t sit right.

Rian, always the professional in a three piece suit, sat behind his desk, jacket draped over his chair, hands placed in front of him. His sandy hair never seemed to gray, green eyes never dimmed. The pressure of the job never seemed to bothered him, though the fine lines spreading from his eyes spoke of tension.

For all intents and purposes Rian ran a chain of pubs throughout the Five Points district. Best way to keep up with what went on in his cities. A jack-of-all-trades, Rian dabbled in everything from racketeering and gambling to illegal dock trades that allowed distribution of hard to come by medications for the less fortunate. A crook and a saint. More than anything else, Rian and the family kept the cities safe. He ran the district efficiently and came across, for the most part, as a decent guy. Didn’t make me want to strangle him any less.

I took out the wallet weighing my coat down and threw it on Rian’s desk, took another wallet from the back pocket of my jeans and it landed with a thud next to the first. I leaned back in my chair and watched as Rian pulled the wallets to him, opened each, looked at me. I spread my hands, palms out and facing him.

“You can’t push me around, expect me to play along. Not without telling me what’s going on. Pick an identity. Who am I?” I had to hear him say it.

The clock mounted on the wall above a poster that read LOYALTY counted out the seconds, oozing lazily along. Tick. Tick. Tick. I wanted to slam closed fists on the desk, demand answers. When it came to Rian, forceful persuasion wouldn’t get me anywhere. Not my style, anyway. Most of the time.

“Rian,” I said. I wanted a name. He‘d given me two. He had to choose one. “What are you doing?”

“It won’t work, boyo.” He always knew.

“Why am I here, then, huh? What is it you’re wanting me to do? He’s dead.” I poked the smaller wallet harder than I meant to. “No more.” My hand was still close enough to the wallet that picking it up and chucking it against the wall behind Rian took no thought, no time, no effort. “Bye-bye, see ya, no more Felix. You made sure of that after the last assignment. And him?” I grabbed the thicker wallet between two fingers, waved it around, dropped it back onto the desk. I sat back in the chair and tapped a finger against my chin. Decided to start again. Start over. Small questions Rian would answer.

“Do you have a new assignment for me?”


“Permanent?” No answer. “You said I was done.” I resisted telling him that he’d alienated me from the family. Resisted showing any type of abandonment.

“I did.”

“Which makes this a choice.”

Another smile. I hadn’t noticed leaning forward.

“You need Felix again.” His pleasant smile continued. I didn’t need to ask whether he’d made the necessary arrangements. “Just … give me the assignment.”

Rian handed me a folder about two inches thick. At the door, I had my hand on the knob, when he spoke. “It was never my choice.”

My fingers seized around the handle. I left.


I spread the contents of the file before me on the coffee table in my apartment. I expected an assignment. Instead, a detailed file on Felix is what spread across the table. I didn’t need the background information. I’d lived it. Felix isn’t some cover to adopt and throw away. Neither is Jack. So why give me the file?

Because details of Roy Henderson’s murder headlined Felix’s file, and Roy’s death had caused Rian to create Jack. Because I’d killed Roy. An accident. I’d gotten caught up. Couldn’t remember the details, yet here they lay spread in front of me. I’d almost forgotten, almost blocked it from my mind.

Rian’s way of reminding me. Reminding me what could happen without Jack’s presence to stay my hand. Jack, calm, ordinary. Don’t get me wrong, Jack’s a cool guy, the person I’ve been for the past two years and the closest I’ve come to an actual, single identity in the past twenty. It’s just … Rian saddled me with an ordinary life when he took Felix from me.

Felix got things done when people couldn’t. While Jack may have been the one who lived in society—had the job, the car, the home, the capability of having the family, the career—Felix had the contacts, the information, the developed skill set, the ability to persuade and enforce. Felix who had ability to take care of the problems that arose in the Five Points district, Felix who Rian would call when an issue needed handling. Felix who had all the fun.

At first the two identities were gloves to be slipped on and off, something I controlled, had awareness of. Eventually they became something more. Any given situation brought forward the necessary persona with no conscious effort. Always a flow of changes that had me never really knowing who’d surface until someone would say a name. Always me, never me.

Two years ago, when Rian freed me to leave his employ and said I, in fact, should really “take an extended vacation,” he’d said a name. Jack. So that’s who I’ve been. Jack, the law abiding citizen who drank Starbucks coffee and always paid his parking tickets. Now he throws Felix in my face. I can’t look to Rian for answers, he’s already shown me that. There were only two other people I could turn to, one being Shaina. And since she played a hand in the setup of re-enrolling me in family affairs, maybe she could be useful and spare a few answers.


I pulled up the collar on my coat, walked to the door, tapped once. She’d hear the soft thud. The door opened and Shaina leaned against it giving me a once over. She looked different at home than in the car. She fit here. Tall and lean, her skin the color of heavily creamed coffee. She moved back to let me inside. I followed her to the kitchen. Her hair seemed longer now that it fell loose, the track lighting emphasizing the red tint peeking through the dominant near-black shade. I sat at the island and she handed me a glass of water, looked at me. Her blue eyes gave her face an exotic look. Eyes that could always unnerve me, though today they seemed less searching, less demanding.

“Wondered when you’d make your way here,” she said.

“You’re getting lenient with your entrance fee.”

“You’re right. You didn’t bring me food or anything.” She smiled. “Of course, I can always lead you out and we can try this again. Only this time, if you don’t have a bag full of Chinese take-out I’ll happily deny you entrance.”

“Where’s the wolf?” The first time I had met Seth—who I’d been calling the wolf for the duration of the seven years I’d known him—he’d made a peculiar monosyllabic noise that sounded like a distorted growl. I’d realized it was his laugh. The kind of sound that had startled me at first, but grew to be something expected and almost comforting. Seth and Shaina were the closest thing I’d come to having a family, like a brother and a sister. Seth, the person I’d turn to if Shaina had no information for me, also worked for Rian.

“Grocery shopping.”

I nodded. Best not to ask about the details. She leaned over the counter to stick her face in mine, elbows propped on the counter, chin resting on long-fingered hands. She sniffed.

“Spit it out, kid. You saw Rian and …”

“Nothing.” I spun the glass of water round and round. “Just gave me this.” I handed her the file.

“An assignment?” She looked at it, looked at me. She pursed her lips. “So you’re no longer on hiatus.” Not a statement, not a question. The words came out like molasses. She set teeth against her bottom lip, opened the file, shook her head. “There’s no assignment.” She didn’t sound surprised.


“Who are you then?”

“Why do you think I’m here?”

She set the file down in front of me, folded her arms across her chest.

“He’s playing with me.” I said.

A slight lift and drop of her shoulder. “He has a motive—”

“Doesn’t he always?”

“Whether it’s clear or not. Have you talked to him since you got this?” She tapped a fingernail against the file. I shook my head. “I haven’t heard anything.”

My stomach dropped. Time to find the wolf. I thanked Shaina, asked if Seth would be working later. She confirmed.

“Let me know what you find?” she said. I nodded.


            I walked the streets of downtown Marionette, an ensemble of towering modern structures and decades old houses-turned-businesses. The wind had kicked up and the temperature fell with the sun. The shop windows were plastered with Halloween decorations. A green witch in black robes with a purple stripe adorning her pointed hat rode a broom across the front of Finnegan’s Apothecary. Orange pumpkins with yellow eyes and mouths and a scarecrow in a flannel shirt kept guard over a vintage clothing store.

I neared Faolan’s Pub and a man in a latex mask caught somewhere between human and monster jogged past, howling something unintelligible. I slowed my pace, letting a particularly strong gust of wind pass. Stopped. Turned. The man in the mask stood facing me in front of the pub door. Faolan’s Pub means … Wolf’s Pub.

I called out to the man. He turned and ran. The slam of my feet against the sidewalk informed me of my pursuit before my mind had time to register a conscious decision. He turned right. I followed. He headed for the docks of the little river the populace of Marionette seemed so fond of. My pulse quickened, stomach tickled. The man started to slow. He looked over his shoulder at me, let out a growl. A laugh. Confirmation that my masked man and Seth were the same. I pumped my legs harder to pick up speed. Called out to him again using his name. Docks were getting close. Could see the water, feel the weight of downtown falling behind. Realized just how cold this October had gotten.

The cadence of Seth’s steps changed when he hit one of the piers, a hollow thunk with every footfall. He stopped at the end of the pier. I still ran, closing in. He knew something, didn’t he? Had to.

The pier was icy, slush crunching under foot. Seth, still in the mask, held his hand out. To slow me? By his stance, I doubted it. I tried to slow. Couldn’t. I got too close. He grabbed my coat, using my own momentum to throw me into the water. I landed hard, breath knocked away on the impact before I sank.

I had two choices, sink or swim. Seems obvious. I thought about the way Jack would react. He’d waste needed time wondering what happened, why Seth threw him in a freezing river. After all, the wolf’s a friend. Isn’t he? Jack would be angry and confused. Yet even as the thoughts surfaced I treaded water to get to air.

I knew if I opened my mouth the freezing water slamming against my lips as I swam would rush into lungs already burning for air. I could feel the water seeping past my lips, through the spaces between clenched teeth, freezing in my throat and threatening to choke me. Needles poked my legs, my sides. A few more feet, the surface couldn’t have been beyond a few more feet.

The too-cold water prevented me from opening my eyes. It didn’t matter. My body instinctively knew when I broke the surface. The dropping temperature of the air had my eyelashes freezing together. I knew not to take a deep breath even though my lungs were crying for it. Took ten shallow breaths. My pulse started to slow to a reasonable rate. Now I could worry about opening my eyes.

The trick to opening your eyes when your lids and lashes are a mess of ice is simple. Don’t care about the pain. Don’t care about aesthetics. The sloppy wet gurgle? That might have been a slew of unsavory words. I waited for my sight to return, the dark turning into a mass and blur of watercolor images trying to take form. Blinked. Twice more.

Rian stood silhouetted against downtown, Seth behind him, mask in hand. Had a feeling Rian would be around when I surfaced. I swam to the pier, arms shaking as I pulled myself up and landed face down to catch my breath. Rian crouched in front of me. Feeling half frozen, spitting ice, lungs still on fire, I spoke to his knees.

“A little dramatic, even for you.” Numb lips tried to eat the words as I spoke them. Rian shifted his feet to better balance his weight. He snorted. A hand appeared in front of my face, work worn, well manicured, strong. I raised my face enough to look at Rian.

“Felix …” The name took root in the silence. “This was never a choice that could be made for you. I chose Jack thinking he was a person that could contain you, make your life simple. I was wrong. You’re not that simple, boyo, you never have been. Sometimes you never truly know who you are—”

“Until the pressure is on?” I grabbed his hand. He helped me up, smiled, nodded.

“Something like that.”

Seth joined us. Hugged me. Good to have you back, he’d said.

“It’s good to finally be someone,” I said.

Without Jack, controlling myself would be harder. And yet, in his absence, I felt there would be one less hand holding me back.

Welcome back! I hope you enjoyed the short story that would eventually spawn Rise and Run. If you cheated and just skipped to the end of the post for another piece of the cover, shame on you. But also, I understand. Well, here it is. Another snippet of the cover. Tune in tomorrow for the final piece.

And, of course, you can see the full cover on Wednesday, the 14th.


Cover Reveal



Hallo, dears!

I’ve got some exciting news. Leading up to the release of Rise and Run on Feb 14, I’ll be putting out blogs with extras and/or little tidbits of information about the book. Each of these posts will have a piece of the cover. The final post will reveal the cover in full.

Are you excited? I know I am!

Cover Reveal: Part II

Cover Reveal: Part III

Cover Reveal: The Finale

Villain Series: Part IV



Forward: Welcome welcome welcome! This is the final part in the villain series. I really hope everyone has enjoyed it so far. Now, part four is a little different from the rest. It’s written in 1st person POV instead of 3rd to allow a better in-depth look at Chernobog. It’s also shorter than the others, because this section has only one purpose: to define Chernabog as a villain, whereas up until this point he toed the line of anti-hero. Well, I’m ready, so if you’re ready too, then let’s get to our villainous conclusion! Muah-ha. Muah-haha! MUAHAHAHAHAHA!

I have wondered at times why some men choose to pick off their prey from a distance. But here Beatrice is, lined up slightly low and right of the center crosshairs, and I now know one reason why long-range killing appeals to some.

I don’t want her to know.

It’s never been a problem before. Killing, I mean, never a problem, but this isn’t the same and there is this … sick twisting in the pit of my stomach. This isn’t something I want to do—it just needs doing.

I slide the bolt back to chamber a round. As the wind picks up, I adjust my aim to compensate—a half centimeter to the left should put the bullet right between brainstem and spinal cord. Quick and painless.

“What are you doing, brother?” Belobog. His light is muted, dim. I look over my shoulder and see him standing there like some goddamn lost puppy. He doesn’t look at me. I don’t blame him.

“I asked her to marry me earlier tonight,” I tell him, turning back to look through the scope. “She said yes. Practically spilled over with delight.”

“Then why…”

“Why blow her brains out?” The words come out low, grunted speech. “You made a mistake, brother. You made a mistake, bringing her to me, and now I’m correcting it.”

And this woman is a mistake. She is affecting some kind of change in me and that can’t happen. That I want her to die happy is unnatural. That I don’t want her to see it coming or know by whose hand she dies is pathetic. That I want her to love me in death is weak. And I know even this favor to her is selfish and self serving, but it matters. That’s more than I can say about much of anything these days. Beatrice matters, her happiness matters.

That’s not who I am.

I won’t let her change me, but neither can she continue. And while I might be pulling the trigger, it is Belobog that put her in my crosshairs.

“You say you want to set me free, brother, but I know better. You want to change me.” I look over my shoulder at him again, and this time he meets my eyes. “I will not change. I will not lose myself to you or her or anyone. What you did, brother, was give me another reason to be angry, another reason to hate this goddamn ball of dirt and everyone on it.”

Even as I tell him these things, I’m experiencing what must be regret. I have been in this borrowed body too long. The skin I’m in itches and burns and I can hear it tearing even though I can’t feel it like I can my own.

Through the scope I see Beatrice shift in her chair, showing her ring off to her friends as they sit in front of the café. She leans back again, torso toward the road. Only 200 yards. It’ll be a clean shot. I make one more wind-based adjustment and slow my breathing. My heart rate slows.

Pump, exhale, pump, exhale.

One more heartbeat and on the tail end of my exhalation I pull easily on the trigger. I immediately pull the bolt back, discarding the shell and pulling another into the chamber. Just in case. But I hear the screams, so I know it’s a hit. Looking through the scope, I can see the impact wound.

A clean shot.

I stand and turn to face Belobog. My back and face are sweating. Regret and anger fester as my borrowed human form melts away. My brother watches the scene below play out in silence.

The mistake having been taken care of, I leave.

Villain Series: Part III



Chernabog looks in the mirror he’s been standing in front of for the past quarter hour. He looks human, but beyond that he has difficulty differentiating this body from that of every other human on the planet. He doesn’t poke or prod at the human jumpsuit. There is just too much of him in it. Chernabog feels the whole of him might burst from the fleshy restraints. Gods and demons weren’t meant for such insignificant casings.

“Well?” Belobog asks.

Chernabog busies himself tightening his tie and straightening his suit jacket. He focuses on as much nothing as he can. “This body is…” he indicates himself with a sweep of his hand, finally settling on, “weak.”

“How so?”

“Small, overfull, boiling. It’s too limited.”

Belobog nods. He grabs Chernabog’s face between his hands and pushes some of his light into the body. Chernabog grunts and pushes Belobog away with a muttered, “Better.” Chernabog isn’t sure what his brother has done, but the body now seems more able and less suffocating.

Belobog slaps a hand on Chernabog’s back. “Try to be… Or, try not to be… Well, try to have fun in any case,” he says. Chernabog shutters, settling in his skin, and heads for the door.


Chernabog taps his fingers on the table as he watches Beatrice walk through the restaurant door. She appears absolutely delightful. Chernabog actually notices her hair—long, dark waves. As she walks toward him she smiles, her unpainted lips only a shade or two darker than her pale skin. She leans slightly to the right and waves uncertainly. He beckons her over and she comes, weaving through the tables.

Chernabog pulls Beatrice’s seat out for her, then takes his seat across from her and bares his teeth in an approximation of a smile.

“This place is wonderful,” Beatrice says, taking in their surroundings as she settles in her chair. “I wonder if there’s anything on the menu I can eat.”

“If you try hard enough, you’ll find there’s almost nothing you can’t eat,” Chernabog says. To his surprise, Beatrice chuckles.

“A sense of humor. I like that,” she says. “I’m vegan.”

“Never heard of it.”

Beatrice waits to see if he’s joking. “No meat,” she says finally. “No dairy… No anything that comes from animals.”

“I think the word you mean is ‘masochist’,” Chernabog says. Why else would someone do that? He doesn’t ask the question aloud, afraid she might go on a tirade about the reason behind it all. She shrugs one shoulder, tilting her head to meet it, the smile still on her face.

“It’s just a choice. That’s one of the things we can rely on in this world, after all. Not saying that’s entirely good,” she says. “Hell, I chose to huff gasoline when I was younger and that wasn’t my best decision.”

Chernabog raises his eyebrows, wanting to hear more about her poor choices.

“Well,” Beatrice says, “I chose to marry a CEO. That turned right around to bite me in the ass. So now I choose to sing karaoke to offset the boredom of being an accountant. One of my better ideas, I think.”

Chernabog laughs, startling himself with the sound.

“And cartography. Can’t forget that,” Beatrice adds.

“I’m starting to be very glad you were able to get a babysitter tonight,” Chernabog says, surprised that he is, in fact, in a positive state of feeling.

“I’m sorry?” Beatrice says, confusion blossoming over her features.

“Your profile said you had a son. He must be very young since you can’t possibly be older than twenty-something. I only assumed…” he says, letting the statement hang in the air. For the briefest moment, he is concerned that he’s done something wrong. A moment is all it takes for Chernabog’s anger to find kindling in his fear.

Beatrice’s eyes lose focus. She looks down, then back at Chernabog. “I’m thirty-seven, actually,” she says and smiles, but it’s missing the previous joviality. She looks a little dizzy, makes a grab for the edges of the table. “He would have been eight this year.”

Chernabog hesitantly places his hand on Beatrice’s wrist. Through the touch, he can feel her pain. It’s so big, he wonders how she can hold it. His anger settles back down, dormant for now. He pulls his hand back and shifts uncomfortably. “I’m sorry,” he says, the words sounding to his own ears more cautious than sincere. “I shouldn’t have said… But why not take it out of your profile?”

“Because I do still have a son. That he isn’t here any longer doesn’t mean he never was.”

Villain Series: Part II



For the first time in centuries, Chernabog is too surprised to be angry. He digs one long claw around in his right ear before angling toward Belobog

“I thought you said go out. On a date,” Chernabog says. He wrinkles his nose and draws his lips away from his teeth, brow furrowed.

“Yes, yes. I did,” Belobog says, waving away Chernabog’s incredulity. “You spend all year in solitude brooding over the myriad injustices you think have been done you—”

“Injustices you brought about!” Chernabog roars, wings striking out around him. Ignoring the interruption, Belobog continues.

“—and then when you finally do come out of solitary, you spend your time with these… creatures. You need to spend some time away from your precious mountain. And with someone who isn’t a whipped minion.”

“They are whipped minions, brother, because they are weak,” Chernabog explains. The brothers look at one another. Belobog gives a long, slow blink. “I’m going to bring chaos with me if I go out there.” Another long, slow blink from Belobog. “I don’t need a human to be happy.” Blink.

Chernabog’s jaw tightens, teeth grinding as he feels the anger rise back to full force. “Fine!”

Belobog’s face breaks into a smile, the light emanating from it blinding Chernabog before he can react. Chernabog snaps his eyes shut against any further potential damage and waits for the white dots to stop dancing. His forefinger begins the little circles on his thumb pad. His clawed feet no longer press against stone.

“Belobog,” he growls. “We have you brought us?”

“Sorry about that. Wasn’t thinking. All ready for you to open your eyes again.”

Chernabog tentatively complies. He looks around, unimpressed by his surroundings. The room he’s in is large, open, and decorated in soft, light colors. Large windows overlook a city Chernabog doesn’t recognize. A glass and chrome table is set under a mutedly artistic chandelier, marking the room’s focal point. On the table is a single item.

Belobog crosses to the table and pulls a chair out, motioning Chernabog to take a seat. Grumbling, Chernabog complies.

“This,” Belobog says, motioning at the item on the table, “is a—”

“It’s a laptop. I’m not that out of touch.”

Belobog purses his lips and nods. He takes a seat across from Chernabog and opens the laptop, pulling up the website he saw in an ad several days ago. The page loads a little more slowly than he’d like. Once it’s finished, he spins the laptop toward Chernabog.

Chernabog voices frustration in strangled noises as he looks at the screen. Second Chances, it says. “Finding love for the disadvantaged?” Chernabog is unable to keep the outrage from his voice. “I am not disadvantaged, brother, I am unjustly abused!”

Belobog leans across the table, catching Chernabog’s fist mere centimeters from connecting with the glass. Even so, the force behind the blow causes spiderweb cracks in the table’s surface. “Calm down,” Belobog demands, shaking his brother by the wrist. “Calm down. It’s just marketing. They aren’t the most sensitive lot. This isn’t a dig at you.”

Chernabog pulls his hand back—Belobog lets him. Chernabog sits and studies the website. He tries to scroll but the touch pad doesn’t recognize his finger as touching it. He tries to use the keyboard, but his claws glance off uselessly. He looks over the laptop at his brother as a soft keening begins in the back of his throat. Belobog snatches the laptop away and smiles at his brother.

“Hadn’t thought about that. So sorry,” he says, letting out just enough of his light to distract his brother before the keening becomes another mountain crumbling roar. “I’ll just do the typing, shall I?”

Chernabog listens to the soft clicking as Belobog begins to register an account.

“You need a name,” Belobog says. “Something less… you.”

Chernabog looks around as though he might find inspiration from inside Belobog’s apartment. “Scott,” he says finally, spotting the word on some packaging in a partially hidden room to his left. Belobog follows his brother’s gaze.

“Yes. Scott. Very fitting. Very abrasive, Scott. Perfect,” Belobog says, the words tumbling out to hide his mirth. Belobog types the name in and moves on. “Age and ethnicity are next.” Chernabog opens his mouth to answer, but Belobog interrupts. “You know what? 35-year-old native sounds perfect.”

Chernabog folds his arms across his chest and scowls, but nods for Belobog to continue.

“Looking for…” Belobog looks up and studies his brother for a moment. “Long-term relationship.”

Chernabog growls.

“Children?” Belobog mentally kicks himself for even reading the question aloud.

“I was wondering if you had anything to eat here,” Chernabog says. Belobog gives him another slow blink. He clicks “undecided.”

“Body type…” murmurs Belobog as he reads off the next question. Chernabog knocks a hand against his chest, the sound like two boulders rubbing. Rock solid. “I’ll just mark bodybuilder. Let’s see… Religious preference, political preference… I’ll just leave those blank. Sexual preference?”

“Alive,” Chernabog says eagerly.

Villain Series: Part I



Mount Triglav gives an earth-rumbling heave before the world falls silent. There is no light here. There is no life. It is Walpurgisnacht—a night the pagans once celebrated with bonfires and dancing.

Thunder breaks the silence and in the following stillness there begins a gentle shutter through the earth, the air, a shimmering of heat waves. The heat waves bend and fold in spatial displacement as one by one the demons come. The shapes and sizes are infinite, this one with a cleft pallet, that one with a leather hide, another with a featureless face, clawed, beaked, razor-toothed, scarred, smooth, beautiful, wretched, they come in all forms. And they are all weak.

Deep inside Mount Triglav, an energy comes alive—noises pour forth, screams of rage and frustrated keening. The demons take a collective breath. The mountain peak wavers and broadens. It bends forward. The keening crescendos, then stops. A bloated silence consumes the world. The demons stretch necks against the air, scratch feet against the ground, curl themselves small, and hold themselves tight. Not a sound breaks that heavy silent barrier. The world is deaf.

Panic creeps up spines, grips hearts, and whispers deep, deep in the mind.

A wing splits from the mountain peak. Another. A body rises up, undulating snake-like to free itself. Chernabog is free. His body shutters, then stills.

One heartbeat.


A tide is rising in him, the force so swollen it must be released. His mouth is barely open before the sound begins spilling out—a sound that ruptures eardrums for miles. Blood begins to seep from the demons’ ears. The demons nearest the mountain are crushed under the weight of that enraged sound. Chernabog raises his arms, beckons with long, claw-tipped fingers, and the demons come. Up the mountain they stumble, crawl, maimed by deafness and bone-shattering pressure, yet moved by Chernabog’s unbending will.

It is Walpurgisnacht now. None danced willingly.

Chernabog calls the fire imps. They slither and crackle in his palm. They dance naked before his dispassionate gaze. He forces them into new shapes—pig and wolf and goat—and a hint of something like satisfaction crosses his face. He moves his free hand above and over the misshapen imps and they bend and writhe unnaturally, unable to do anything else. The great demon turns his hand this way and that, watching the imps scramble, clawing for purchase at his fingers. The humiliation doesn’t last long. With a hard flick of the wrist, Chernabog dislodges the imps into the core of Mount Triglav.

Chernabog looks down on his minions, watches them cower. His lip curls back, sneering, disgusted. He sweeps a hand forward, beckoning. His harpies descend. He looks on as the harpies grab at the little demons and then soar back into the air, higher and higher. They let go. Little demons producing little, distorted screams.

Chernabog sits back, wings hitching close to his body as his shoulders sag. He waves a hand and the demons fight amongst themselves. He stares blindly at the little fighting demons. He senses his brother. Chernabog clenches his fists as the muscles in his neck and shoulders tighten. One fist relaxes enough for the claw of his forefinger to scratch at the pad of his thumb. Little circles full of angry, nervous energy. Chernabog closes his eyes and waits.

Even through the relative safety of his closed lids, Chernabog can see the brightness as his brother approaches. Belobog. As bright and shiny as a goddamn beacon. The little demons cower from the light. Chernabog grunts.

“Brother,” Belobog says, his voice surrounding Chernabog as completely as the light.

“You came early,” Chernabog says, his voice rubbing like stones, an almost petulant quality to the words.

“You’re angry.”

“I’m always angry,” Chernabog tries to snap, but his tone is anguished, the words drawn out in a painful moan.

“Perhaps change is in order,” Belobog says gently.

Chernabog’s surprise almost has his eyes snapping open, but he squeezes the lids harder, white spots dancing behind his eyes with the effort.

“What does that mean, brother?”

When Belobog is hesitant to answer, Chernabog stiffens, face contorting between a scowl and frown. Chernabog can feel the light fading, drawing in around its source.

“Open your eyes,” Belobog says. His voice is coaxing. Chernabog obeys, warily parting his lids until he is squinting at his brother. That he has obeyed Belobog angers him, as everything in this world angers him. A strangled sob passes Chernabog’s throat. Belobog pulls his light in tighter, mistaking the source of his brother’s pain.

“What do you want?” Chernabog growls.

“To offer you peace.”

Chernabog laughs, the sound a rolling thunder causing rocks to slide down the mountain. But there is fear in that laugh. The only peace is in death.

“You’ve come to kill me,” Chernabog says.

“No, brother. I’ve come to free you.”

On Creating a Villain



Hey. Hi. Yeah … it’s me. Look, I know it’s been a while, but that’s why my bio doesn’t include “responsible adult” in it anywhere. But I’m back now. Oh, and Dave is here, too. Say hi, Dave. Dave? Hmm, must be his nap time. Well, that’s all right. I’m here. And today, I’d like to talk to you about villains.

Villains can be some of the most fun characters to read and write about. A proper villain is as compelling—and occasionally more so—as the protagonist. When writing, often so much focus is put on the protagonist that the villain falls by the wayside. A good way to fully render a villain to completion it to loosely base the character on someone real. Want an example? I’ve got the perfect one.



The Personification of Hate and Rage

On September 5, 1930, Carl Panzram was hanged by the neck until dead at US Penitentiary, Leavenworth, Kansas. To say the very least, Panzram was not a good man.

In my life I have murdered 21 human beings, I have committed thousands of burglaries, robberies, larcenies, arsons and last but not least I have committed sodomy on more than 1,000 male human beings. For all of these things I am not the least bit sorry […] I hate the whole damned human race including myself.

That excerpt is penned by none other than the man himself and published in Panzram: A Journal of Murder. All quotes included in this entry are credited to that book. I highly recommend you read it. However, if you want an alternative, look no further than Last Podcast on the Left’s three-part series on Panzram.

So, what makes Panzram so appealing in terms of creating a villain? Everything. But I’m going to try to keep this short…ish. Panzram is simultaneously like and unlike the average serial killer. Well, maybe average isn’t the right word, but you catch my meaning. Of the unholy serial killer trifecta—bed wetting, animal cruelty, and arson—Panzram is known to have at least dabbled in two: arson and animal cruelty. However, Panzram regretted his cruelty toward animals. A bit unusual for a serial killer. Furthermore, he specifically used arson as a form of punishment. Arson wasn’t about pleasure or destruction, rather it was about revenge against someone who’d done him harm.



The Blissful Formative Years

Looking at Panzram’s childhood and encounters with authority—he was in and out of lock-up since age 11—it’s not hard to understand how his mentality could be so dark. So angry. At 11, Panzram was sent to a reform school for stealing apples, a piece of cake, and a pistol from a neighbor. At this school, they would use punishment in the form torture:

They used to have a large wooden block which we were bent over and tied face downward after first being stripped naked. Then a large towel was soaked in salt water and spread on our backs from the shoulders to the knees. Then the man who was doing the whipping took a large strap about ¼ of an inch thick by 4 inches and about two feet long. This strap had a lot of little round holes punched through it. Every time that whip came down on the body the skin would come up through these little holes in the strap and after 25 or 30 times of this, little blisters would form and then burst, and right there and then, hell began. The salt water would do the rest.

That was happening to 11-year-olds by reformers trying to beat religion into them. But it gets worse. After his release, around age 13-14, Panzram was gangraped by hobos on a train. He says:

I told them no. But my wishes didn’t make any difference to them. What they couldn’t get by moral persuasion they proceeded to get by force. I cried, begged and pleaded for mercy, pity and sympathy, but nothing I could say or do could sway them from their purpose. I left that box car a sadder, sicker but wiser boy than I was when I entered it.

And that shit happened again not too long after this incident! Panzram’s only education was in the form of the physically strong brutalizing the weak. Through his run-ins with everyone from hobos to law enforcement, he learned that “might makes right.” From his early encounters with men, Panzram learned that sodomy was a display of strength. It wasn’t about pleasure; it was about power.

During one particularly lengthy prison stay—he was constantly breaking out early—Panzram had to carry a 50-lb iron ball shackled to him three miles to a rock quarry, work eight and a half hours busting rocks, then carry the ball the three miles back to prison. This lasted for six months. You better believe that motha’ fucker was jacked after that.

So began Panzram’s reign of terror.



Writing a Villain

By looking at Panzram’s own account of his life, we get to see a great deal of his thinking, his beliefs, his motivations, and so on. Combine that with others’ view of the man—many of whom stated that his very presence was larger than life—and we start to get a complete picture. This man, whose motto was “rob them all, rape them all, and kill them all” is definitely not one-dimensional. And neither should fictional villains be.

When creating a villain, start from the beginning. Look at the formative years of some of the world’s most prolific serial killers and use that psychology to help you form a background for your character. Think of how you want your villain to be seen by other characters, and by readers. I picked Panzram as an example because he’s both charismatic and terrifying, manipulative and driven by unadulterated hate, uneducated and intelligent. He’s the basis from which you could create the sociopathic villain that everyone likes and trusts until it’s too late or the seeming monster who seeks power and revenge. Either of those choices could build a striking, engaging villain that captivates readers.

Over the course of the next few days, I’ll be posting a four-part fiction series focusing on a villain. This particular series came about in a creative writing class from years ago and sees a Disney villain going on a blind date. My villain is Chernabog. I’ve revisited the original series to incorporate elements of Panzram. I look forward to sharing it with you.

Villain Series: Part I

Villain Series: Part II

Villain Series: Part III

Villain Series: Part IV

The Shill and the Purblind



It’s a little exposition-dense. A kink I’ll work out over the drafts to come. For now, since it’s been so long and I know you need something to live on—talking to you Dave—enjoy this bit of fiction from The Shill and the Purblind.


Chapter 1

My mother was a slave, Idun Verdandi recited. My mother tried to hide me. She cared. She cared. She cared. My mother tried to steal me. She cared. She cared. She tried. She died. She died because she cared. She cared. She cared. My father did not care. He died just the same. She tried. She tried. They died. No one deprives the hēahcyning of his property. The high king is all. He is all. He is death. He is soon dead.

Idun knew one truth: In the cold of Ísigstān, the only way to truly keep warm was through hate. Having been born a slave in Ísigstān kingdom, in the house of the Vetr Sun, living in the very same castle as the hēahcyning himself, Idun was always warm.

She hugged her knees to her chest and leaned her back against the ice-flecked stone wall of her chamber as the other slave girls slept. She would not sleep.

To sleep was to give in to the night fevers.

Idun recited the story of her parents again, her warmest story, until the cold left her. She raised a thin, pale hand and brushed her hair toward the front of her face, giving herself privacy from the sleepers. Don’t let them catch you if they wake. Don’t let them catch you. Don’t let them catch you crying.

She watched the silver-white strands that hung in front of her eyes, a genetic camouflage trait bred into Ísigstān natives over the course of a thousand years. Her very birthright. The hair from scalp to shoulder looked dull, stringy. The other foot and a half of her locks, from shoulder to waist was in worse shape. The black dye, a slave marker, dried her hair. Turned it brittle.

The more valuable slaves—those more usable, treated like pets, treated like whores, and pranced around in front of nobility—could keep half of the natural growth.

That mark of ownership was much less humiliating and much less permanent than the other. A brand that ran from cheek to cheek, curving over the nasal bridge in a turned down crescent.

Many of the slave children died from the brand.

Idun touched the rough, raised skin, before her hand fell heavily to her lap, cradled between her empty stomach and shaking knees. Tiredness ate at her. Sleep would soon take her. Another choice made for her.

She grabbed the piece of cloth she had ripped from her bedding and placed it in her mouth. She let a corner piece of the cloth stay pressed between her lips so that, once she awoke, she could yank out the rag before she choked. For nearly a month, she slept this way. If her night screams ever woke the hēahcyning again, she was told, she’d pay with her flesh.

Wasn’t she already paying that price? Yes, of course. She had been since the year the blood came on her.

Even as she lay there, she fought to keep her eyes open. The wind kicked up outside. Idun felt the gusts come in through the small, high-set window. The window would close over with ice, soon. For warmth, Idun reasoned, again taking stock of her warmest story. The one she used ever since she’d heard it.

My mother was a slave. My mother had tried to hide me. She cared. She cared. She cared. My mother tried to steal me. She cared. She cared. She tried. She died. She died because she cared. She cared. She cared. My father did not care. He died just the same. She tried. She tried. They died…. The high king is all. He is… He is… soon dead.

Idun curled in on herself. As she began to drift, she felt the skin of her arms start to burn, handprint shapes glowing along her biceps.

Every night, this is how it began.


Idun’s body was covered in sweat, her black eyes open, seeing nothing. Around the rag in her mouth came whimpers that might have been words. Her torso shot up from the straw-stuffed mattress. She screamed. The rag muffled it. Her eyes looked about the room, still sightless. She sensed it in the corner, felt it: a tall, dark shape. She got up from the bed, speaking nonsense around the rag, and clumsily put distance between herself and the shape.

When she got to the door, her heart was beating painfully. The door is gone. She walked along the wall, trying to feel through frozen-numb fingertips. She was cold throughout, though her skin was fever-hot. Beads of sweat ran in lines down her neck.

There is no door.

She circled the room, searching, each circle taking her closer to the shape. She sensed, during the first circle, that the shape was wide at the top and narrow at the bottom. Then, she sensed it was humanoid. Its large white eyes and the red veins running under its skin formed a picture in her mind.

I can promise you… A voice. Its voice. It whispered around her, through her.

Sleep. The word was a scream she sensed more than understood.

She collapsed.


A sharp pain spiked through Idun’s shoulder, jolting her awake. She coughed, nearly gagging until she pulled the rag from her mouth. The edge of the door slammed against her shoulder again, and this time she cried out and scrambled backward on her hands and feet.

“What are you doing down there, stupid girl?” It was Grettna, the keeper, her head poking around the door.

“I don’t… I don’t know,” Idun answered. She looked around her and saw that all the girls were starting to rise from slumber. One by one, they all looked at her.

“Come on then,” Grettna said, holding her hand out to Idun. “The rest of you, sod off.”

The air came to life with the rustling of scratchy wool blankets and the girls quickly shuffled out of bed and filed out of the room and headed next door to the wash stall. The last girl hesitated. Vera, short and thick of frame, if not of actual meat, looked down at Idun. Her eyebrows drew together, concern flashing across her black eyes before her short, black hair swept over them. Idun nodded, but Vera hesitated still.

“Get yourself gone now, girl,” Grettna said.

“I’m fine, Vera. Go on,” Idun said, and it was a good lie. Vera finally nodded and left Idun and Grettna alone.

Grettna set down the basket of clean blankets and sat down, her legs out to the side of her. Her hair was wrapped up on top of her head, bound by rope and mostly covered by a towel. A few black tendrils poked through. She took Idun’s hand.

“It’s happened again, hasn’t it?” Grettna said softly, gently, a doting mother now that none were there to see.