Sunday, December 16, 2012

KILL CITY: Chapter Three

It took me two days to drive back to L.A. from the Seattle area. It would have been quicker if I’d flown, of course.  But traveling by air is not ideal for someone like me. I don’t like being around large numbers of people in the first place, and ever since the World Trade Center it’s been increasingly difficult for me to smuggle my switchblade past security. Plus the airlines keep cutting back on the leg room—I honestly don’t know how the average human can stand to fly coach anymore.
I’d rather take a bullet to the chest or a knife to the lung than spend hours sandwiched, cheek-to-cheek, between a computer analyst and an insurance adjuster.  Besides, it’s not like I punch a time clock for Vampires-B-Gone. If I want to take a nice, leisurely drive down the Pacific Coast Highway, that’s nobody’s business but my own.
I pulled the metal garage door shut against the coming dawn, pausing only long enough to glance at the graffiti mural covering the wall across the alleyway. I inherited Indigo Imports from my friend and mentor, Erich Ghilardi, over thirty years ago. I relocated the home office to West Hollywood in 2004, just around the corner from Pink’s. Save for the blacked-out front windows and a sign that reads: “By Appointment Only”, it doesn't look that different from similar boutiques along Melrose. 
I wound my way through the maze of antiques, shrouded under their drop cloths.The ground floor was taken up by the bulkier pieces, while the second floor served double duty as my living space and storage for the more valuable items that have found their way into my possession.    As I stooped to pick up the bills and circulars piled below the mail-slot set into the triple-locked front door, I spotted an envelope with a red wax seal that bore the initial ‘H’ embossed into its center. You can always tell those accustomed to wealth and power simply by the quality of their stationery.
I cracked open the seal and removed a single piece of tri-folded paper. Attached to one corner by a paperclip was a color photograph of an ornamental dagger. I frowned and looked at the letter, which was written in a masculine, yet tremulous hand, suggesting that the correspondent was either elderly or infirm, if not both. 
   Dear Ms. Blue: Please forgive me contacting you in such a manner, but I have it on good authority from a close mutual acquaintance that you are a dealer in certain macabre items. I have in my possession one such piece—the so-called Bluebeard Knife, used by the notorious Gilles de Rais. Should you be interested in this item, you can reach me via the phone number written on the reverse of the enclosed photograph. I await your call. Sincerely, Senator Miles Holden
I studied the photo as I climbed the stairs to the second floor. If the dagger belonging to Holden was a fake, someone had gone to a lot of trouble to replicate an item only a handful of antiquaries had heard of, and even fewer would be interested in. 
You see, Indigo Imports does not merely serve as a front to cover for my vampire hunting around the globe, but also provides me with the raw materials  I need in order to  conduct business deals with certain… consultants.
The Bard did not lie when he wrote ‘the evil that men do lives after them’. All of the things that find their way to me possess a malign physic residue--evil, if you will. It’s like catnip to demons—they can’t get enough of it. For example, there’s this one demon down in New Orleans, who is an information broker. I use the pieces I find to barter with the bastard for his services. Normally he requires a human soul in exchange for his help, but, like most infernals manifested on the material plane, he has a serious jones for evil—the more depraved the better. 
That’s why I’m always in the market for personal items associated with notorious serial killers, mass-murderers, and other such wastes of skin. I’m not talking bad clown paintings by John Wayne Gacy, cranked out from behind prison bars for morbid hipsters, but the real deal—things like Jack the Ripper’s valise, Countess Bathory’s bathtub, and Mengele’s scalpel. Hell, I’ve even got the guillotine that stood in the Place de la Revolution during the Reign of Terror sitting on the shop floor. 
The Bluebeard Knife would, indeed, be a major score, but only if it proved to be the real thing. And the only way to know for sure if something is genuinely evil or not is if I handle it. Authenticating items is never a pleasant task, but there is no getting around it in my line of work.
I flipped the photo over and punched the number into one of the burner phones I keep for such occasions. Despite the earliness of the hour, it only rang a couple times before someone picked up.
 “Hello, Ms. Blue.” The gravelly voice on the other end was that of an elderly man. “I’ve been awaiting your call.”
“I assume I am speaking to Senator Holden then?”
“Indeed you are.”
“Please forgive my calling so early in the morning, but I’ve been away on business,” I explained. “I’ve only just returned to the city, and I called as soon as I read your letter. Do you still have the knife?”
“At my age, sleep is more accident than activity,” Holden replied with a dry chuckle. “And, yes, I still have it. I take it you are interested?”
“Yes, I am. But I must personally verify its authenticity before I can make an offer.”
“Of course,” he agreed. “However, I do not keep the knife at my home. I will have my assistant retrieve it from my safety deposit box once my bank opens. I can have it available for inspection early this evening—How does seven o’clock sound?”
“Very good. I live in Calabasas. The address is 24520 Rancho Peligro Drive. Just give your name at the gate.” 
“May I ask exactly who it was that told you about me, Senator?”
“That will have to wait until we meet face-to-face, Ms. Blue,” the Senator replied. “Goodbye until then.”
            Come sundown, I was back in my car, headed toward the 101 and the Santa Monica Mountains. Located in the hills of the southwestern San Fernando Valley, Calabasas is one of several enclaves of super-wealth that ring the outskirts of the city. It is a place of lush, rolling hills overlooking scenic canyons, perfect for multi-million dollar faux-Tuscan villas and sprawling horse-ranches. I heaved a sigh of relief as I spotted my exit. Even with superhuman reflexes, driving on the Ventura Freeway within two hours of either side of rush hour is nerve-wracking. 
Holden’s estate was located high in the foothills, on a tight road with hairpin curves, far removed from the television producers and Hollywood celebrities who call the suburb their home.  As I piloted my way up the twisting road, I suddenly found an all-too-familiar voice murmuring in my ear:   How do you know it’s not a trap?
“I checked out Holden,” I replied to the empty air. “He’s legit. He was a California state senator for over twenty years until he fell off a horse. Since then he’s been paralyzed from the waist down. He’s known for collecting fine antiques, so it makes sense he might come into possession of something like the Bluebeard Knife.”      
Who put him onto you in the first place?
            “I’m rather curious about that, myself,” I admitted.
             What does he want?
            “He wants to sell me an antique dagger.”
            No, what does he really want? There has to be another reason for him luring you out here.
            “You’re paranoid, you know that?” I sighed. “You always suspect everyone of hidden agendas. You have a really low opinion of humanity, you know that?”
            Because I’m not one of them, The Other replied.  And neither are you. You would do well to remember that.
            “Shut up and leave me alone,” I growled, digging my fingernails into the flesh of my upper thigh. My invisible passenger fell silent, but I could still feel it in the back of my head, watching me like a cat standing guard outside a mouse hole.
            A couple minutes later the car came to halt in front of a high stone wall and a pair of imposing metal gates.  A man dressed like a farm hand with an Uzi slung over his shoulder, emerged from a small hut on the other side.  I stuck my head out of the driver’s side window and saw the guard frown as he realized I was wearing mirrored sunglasses after dark.
            “My name is Sonja Blue,” I said. “The Senator is expecting me.”
            The guard nodded and stepped back inside the building. There was a buzzing noise as the gates swung open, allowing me to continue my journey. A mile later, after passing several paddocks and a sizable stable, I finally reached the main house. It was a Spanish Colonial Revival-style mansion that gleamed white as a tomb in the glow from the security lights.
 A tall, muscular man in his early thirties stood waiting for me in the front court yard. He was dressed in a nicely tailored suit that did its best to try and hide the bulge from his shoulder-holster. As I got out of the car, I caught a tiny flicker of concern as he took in my leather biker’s jacket, steel-toed boots and sunglasses. 
            “Good evening, Ms. Blue,” the bodyguard said with a practiced smile. “My name is Vickers. I am the Senator’s personal assistant. He sent me to formally welcome you to Rancho Peligro, as he is unable to do so himself.”
            “How considerate,” I grunted.
            “The Senator does not get many visitors nowadays,” Vickers explained, gesturing for me to follow him into the mansion. “He is most eager to meet with you.”
            The foyer of the house was vast, with decorated tile flooring and a huge wrought-iron chandelier hanging suspended from the exposed ceiling timbers like a medieval piñata.  Just beyond the entry were twin stairways, each with elaborately scrolled metal balustrades, which branched off to separate wings of the mansion.
Looking down from the left-hand landing was a blonde woman in a designer cocktail dress, holding a martini glass in one finely manicured hand. It was hard to tell her exact age, as her face possessed the waxy, wrinkle-free sheen of the perpetually Botoxed, but she appeared to be in her early forties.
 “Is that the Blue woman?” she asked in an over-loud, slightly slurred voice.
            “Yes it is, Mrs. Holden,” Vickers replied, speaking in a tone usually reserved for small children and pets. “I’m taking her to see the Senator.”     
            “About time she showed up,” the blonde said as she drained what remained of her drink.
            “Is that the Senator’s wife?” I asked as Vickers led me through an archway off the main foyer that opened onto a loggia decorated with Renaissance bronze and marble statues.
            “The Senator is a widower,” the assistant explained matter-of-factly. “The woman you saw is his daughter-in-law, Estelle.”
            Upon reaching the end of the gallery, Vickers opened an oaken door with hand-forged fittings with a key that looked like it belonged to a pirate’s treasure chest. I stepped into a large rotunda-like room, the walls of which were hung with original El Greco and Velázquez canvasses.  At its center was a mahogany desk big enough to play ping pong on, behind which was Miles Holden, seated in what could best he described as a motorized executive’s chair.  
“Good evening, Ms. Blue,” the Senator smiled. From the shoulders up he looked no different than he had in his campaign posters, save that his salt-and-pepper hair had finally turned silver.  From the waist down, however, his body was as gnarled as a cypress stump. He reminded me of a living, breathing Pez dispenser. “I trust Vickers has officially welcomed you to my humble abode?”
“That he has,” I replied. “Nice place for horses you’ve got here.”
“Yes, it was,” he agreed, a hint of sadness in his voice.  “I had them all put down after the accident. I didn’t see any point in having them if I couldn’t ride them.” He motioned to one of the club chairs opposite him. “Please have a seat, Ms. Blue.”
“Senator Holden—you mentioned that we shared a mutual acquaintance in your letter. Who exactly was it who recommended me to you?”
“All in good time, Ms. Blue,” he assured me. “But first allow me to show you the knife.” He nodded to Vickers, who opened one of the desk drawers and removed a black leather clam shell case. The bodyguard walked over to where I was seated and flipped open the box, holding it so I could examine its contents.
The dagger lay on a bed of black velvet like a piece of fine jewelry. From its blue lapis lazuli pommel to its sterling silver knife point, it measured eight inches in length, and had an eighteen-carat white gold hilt studded with diamonds and sapphires.
“Beautiful, isn’t it?” Holden said. “Hard to believe something so lovely was used to slit the throats of over a hundred young boys while observing black Sabbath rituals.”
“It is stunning,” I agreed. “Of course, I need to handle it in order to verify whether or not it is the genuine article.”
“Be my guest.”   
I took a deep breath, steeling myself against what might come next, and carefully lifted the jeweled dagger from its velvet-lined resting place. As my fingers wrapped about the handle, I experienced a slight electric shock, as if I had brushed against an ungrounded wire, followed by the sound of a small child wailing in fear and pain. Within the space of a heartbeat the single voice doubled, tripled, quadrupled—until it was a children’s choir of terrified screams. I quickly let the knife drop back into the case. 
            “It is authentic,” I said, wiping my hands against my leather jacket. “I have no doubt that this was used by Giles de Rais. How much do you want?”
            “I’m not looking to sell it,” the Senator replied.
            “If that’s the case, why did you bother contacting me in the first place?” I snapped. “Did you simply drag me out here just to authenticate it?”
            “Hold on—there’s no need to become angry. Let me explains. While I’m not interested in selling the Bluebeard Knife, I am willing to make a trade…”
            “Trade? For what?” I frowned.
            “Your services as a vampire hunter.”
            The pit of my stomach dropped away, and for a single, paralyzing second I felt as vulnerable and exposed as I had that night in London, decades ago, when I found myself trapped in the backseat of a car with a lord of the undead. 
        “I’m sorry, Senator,” I said, quickly regaining my composure. “Everyone knows there are no such things as vampires!”
“Just like everyone used to know the world was flat and the moon made of green cheese, eh?” the statesman said with a humorless laugh. “I didn’t believe in them, either, until a week ago—when one of the bastards stole my granddaughter. But now I know they’re real—just like I know you’re the only one who can get her back.”
“If this is a joke, it is in very poor taste,” I said, getting to my feet. “I may not be as rich and famous as other people you’re accustomed to dealing with, Senator, but my time is valuable to me, and I don’t appreciate having it wasted in such a manner!” With that, I turned my back on Holden and headed for the door.
            “You wanted to know who it was that told me about you?” he called out after me. “Very well, I’ll tell you his name: Jacob Thorne.”
            I froze in my tracks and then slowly turned back to stare at Holden, who sat there watching me with a confident smile on his face. 
            “How do you know my father?” I asked.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Kick Off Cyber Monday With A Free Ebook From Hopedale Press!

Tis The Season To Be Jolly! 

So why would anyone want to celebrate it by reading tales of super/natural terror? Tradition, that's why! 

While most of you are no doubt familiar with the mythic figure known as St. Nicholas/ Santa Claus/Father Christmas/Papa Noel/Sinterklaas, who flies about the world to bring presents to good little girls and boys, many in the United States are unaware of the Jolly Old Elf's darker half, a demonic creature called the Krampus, who travels alongside St. Nicholas, searching for naughty children to stuff in its sack and carry away to its lair, to be fattened up and devoured for Christmas dinner. How's that for good ol' fashioned nightmare fuel, as well as a sure-fire means of making sure the kids stay in their beds while you're putting together the damned bicycle?

Yep,  yuletide and ghostly stories of the weird, strange and downright horrifying go together like How The Grinch Stole Christmas and A Christmas CarolAnd the good people at Hopedale Press (meaning me) have decided to continue the time-honored tradition of creeping people out for the holidays by giving readers one ebook for free and discounting three others by 50%. The Krampus couldn't beat that deal with a bundle of switches!

Wait, Did I Hear You Type 'Free Ebook'?

Yes, you did. For a limited time during November and December, THE ICE WEDDING is offered free on Kindle. (Sorry, epub readers, but until iTunes and Nook start making it easier to do similar promotions, you'll have to be on the outside looking in.) 

The Happy Holidays From Hopedale Press Special starts 3am EST on November 26th  and runs to 3am EST November 29th, 2012

If you miss that freebie window, you get a second crack at it during The Hopedale Press Krampus Special, which runs from 3am December 23rd to 3am December 25th, 2012  

And what, exactly, is The Ice Wedding about, you ask? Well, its a gothic fairy tale based on a real-life event. In this case, how the Empress Anna punished an unfortunate Russian nobleman, first by commanding that he become a royal jester, and then by forcing him to marry her chambermaid. The newlyweds were then told they could earn their freedom by spending their wedding night in a cottage made entirely out of ice, during the coldest winter Moscow had ever seen. Chilling, isn't it?

You Also Said Something About 50% Off Ebooks, Didn't You?

Indeed, I did. 

To celebrate the Season of Giving, I have decided to slash prices on three of my $4.99 ebooks by 50%: Hell Come Sundown, Lynch: A Gothik Western, and Walking Wolf.  The sale will run from November 26th until December 31st, 2012 and will be available via Kindle, iTunes, Kobo, Nook, Sony and Smashwords.  

Hell Come Sundown: Sam Hell, a former Texas Ranger turned ghostbreaker, and his traveling companion, the Comanche shamaness Pretty Woman, search the Mexican border for Sangre, the vampire conquistador who turned him into one of the undead. Was $4.99--now $2.99 until Dec. 31st.


Lynch: A Gothik Western: A Frankenstein gunslinger and his flesh-eating zombie horse ride out in search of the rogue cavalry officer responsible for lynching him and murdering his pregnant wife. Cover by Stephen R. Bissette. Was $4.99--now $2.99 until Dec. 31st.

Walking Wolf:  An infant werewolf is found by a Comanche warrior at the site of a massacre and raises him as his own. When Walking Wolf's darker nature leads him to kill the woman he loves and his best friend, he decides to venture into the White Man's world in hopes of better understanding who, and what, he truly is. Was $4.99--now $2.99 until Dec. 31st.

A Merry Christmas/Happy Hanukkah/Happy Yule/Jumpin' Junkanoo/Happy Kwanzaa/Swinging Saturnalia/ Festive Festivus To All, And To All A Good Night!

And Watch Out For The Krampus!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Kill City: The New Sonja Blue Novel

Kickstarter campaign has been started to raise money to fund the completion and publication of KILL CITY, the first new novel in the Sonja Blue series in ten years. Should the Kickstarter campaign meet its stated goal amount, KILL CITY will be the first traditional ‘physical’ novel published by Hopedale Press.

After the initial book proposal for KILL CITY was deemed ‘uncommercial’ by traditional publishers—largely due to a biting take on a certain popular series of vampire novels aimed at the Young Adult market—I decided to forego drastically re-tooling the plot in favor of taking my case directly to the fans of the Sonja Blue series.

 While mainstream publishers might not feel there’s enough demand to warrant the outlay for KILL CITY, I believe otherwise. I know there’s an audience out there for this novel. Every day I get emails and posts on my Facebook page from different fans throughout the world, wanting to know when Sonja Blue will be making her return. In today’s radically changing publishing world, there is no longer any need for the author of a widely read series—one that won awards and has been reprinted in ten different languages—to simply accept the say-so of a publisher as to what is commercially viable and worthy of production.

Incentives offered to potential supporters range from DRM-free ebook editions and T-shirts to the distinction of being killed (in print, that is) by vampire slayer Sonja Blue. The Kickstarter page also provides fans a chance to read a never-before seenexcerpt from the unpublished KILL CITY,  as well as new music video showcasing the character of Sonja Blue that includes awide array of artwork from both professional creators and fans.

SUNGLASSES AFTER DARK, the debut novel in the Sonja Blue series, won the Horror Writers Association’s Bram Stoker Award for First Novel, the British Fantasy Society’s Icarus Award, and the Dal Coger Memorial Hall of Fame Award, and was nominated for the James Tiptree Award and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award. It was also adapted into a comic book series by Glenn Danzig’s Verotik Publications.

The Kill City Kickstarter Campaign runs from October 29th to the 28th of November.  

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Happy Hopedale Halloween Giveaway!

Hopedale Press is pleased to announce its celebrating its very first Halloween season with a special promotion: The Happy Hopedale Halloween Giveaway!

Starting  Midnight (PST) Monday, October 22nd  and running until the Witching Hour (PST)  Thursday, October 26th, every Halloween-themed ebook in the Hopedale Press catalog will be available for free on Amazon Kindle. The ebooks that comprise the giveaway promotion are The Pumpkin Child, Judgment Night and Calaverada (which is set during Dia de los Muertos, but why split hairs?).

In THE PUMPKIN CHILD, a desperate man makes a deal with a witch to exchange his luck with that of the man he envies most, only to have his chickens come home to roost on a dark Halloween night.  

In JUDGMENT NIGHT, bored, outcast kids decide to break into a house on Halloween night in order to vandalize it, only to find themselves at the mercy of a depraved serial killer.  

In CALAVERADA, a band of hired killers arrive in Old Mexico in search of outlaws on the Day Of The Dead


Friday, October 12, 2012


Lynch: A Gothik Western is now available on audiobook from 
Lucas D. Smith narrates the tale of a Frankenstein gunslinger and his zombie horse as they ride out in search of revenge. 3 hours + of  gripping story-telling for $14.95.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Hopedale Press Titles Now Available On

Starting October 12th, Hopedale Press ebooks will be available for purchase from, a new ebook platform that is attempting to meet the needs of both readers and indie publishers.

Ebooks bought through are DRM-free and come in both EPUB and Mobi formats. They accept Mastercard, Visa, Amex, debit card and PayPal. And those of you who Tweet about the Hopedale Press ebooks for sale at can get anywhere from 5% to 20% off the purchase of the book!