First, many thanks to Anita Stewart for organizing this hop,
creating all the graphics, gathering the authors
and hosting six days of creepy fun!
At the end of the hop, I'll put everyone's name who
commented on my posts in a drawing for a
$10.00 Amazon Gift Card.
Today and tomorrow I'm sharing an excerpt from
Favors For the Dead.
The story itself is dark fiction with some dark romantic elements.
The excerpt is just plain dark...
I hope you enjoy it.
The house is nothing but a weary shell of what it once was. It grumbled at Elliot’s intrusion in the form of creeks and moans as he puts one cautious foot in front of the other. A solitary dwelling for decades, it no longer wanted company, but to be left alone in its decaying misery.
A yellowish glow streamed from the camp lanterns scattered around the room. Pushed up against the brick fireplace, missing half its hearth, lay a tattered, sex tinged mattress half covered by a moth-eaten blanket. Broken Jack Daniels bottles and used condoms littered the floor around it. The walls were spray painted with angry and profane graffiti including a list of sexual favors offered by a woman named Wanda.
He couldn’t escape the stench of piss, vomit and sex and didn’t want to. He inhaled deeply. All this helped him tap into the negative energy left behind. While this wasn’t a setting he’d bring a woman to or sit around and drink with friends, it was however, the ideal place for his Samhain plans.
Elliott moved into the dining room. Food in varying degrees of decomposition lay scattered around. Nibbling at what may have been French fries, a family of rats stared up at him. Elliott stomped his feet and they scurried off.
His beloved stood atop the lone chair that survived the vandalism. The last two days hadn’t been kind to her. Dressed in a white ritual robe, she wavered between semi-conscious and awareness. Her hair, tangled with dirt and sweat, lay matted around her face. He’d bound her hands behind her back, and her feet together. The noose around her neck was tethered to the rafters above.
“My dear! I see you’re awake.”
“Ah, the cold shoulder. That’s not very becoming of you. But I’ve discovered there is much about you that is unflattering.”
She spat in his face.
Elliot wiped the spittle off his cheek on the back of his sleeve. “Give me what I want.”
“All I have to do is push the chair away and you’re dead.”
“Then do it. I’m dead either way.”
Elliot paced in front of her. “In eighteen sixty-six, the Reverend Samuel Haughton of Great Britain calculated a formula using the weight of the criminal, that would be you, and the length of the rope, or drop, to quicken death by the neck snapping faster. Unfortunately, you’re looking thinner than what I used in my original calculation and I have no urgent interest in letting you die fast. But, if you rethink your position, I’ll redo the math and make your death relatively swift.”
“You think you have power because my life is in your hands, but there’s nothing you can offer me to do your bidding. I want to die. I despise you and I always have.”
Her words scorched his heart.“I gave you everything you wanted; a beautiful home, designer clothes, money and my love. You took it all with a smile on your face.”
“You’re incapable of love. I smiled on the outside, I had to, it’s the nature of the relationship between the necromancer and the risen one. But I am no longer bound to that. It was a charade. I was an empty shell on the inside. Your mere touch made my stomach turn.”
Rage bubbled inside him like a volcano ready to erupt.
“When you’d leave my bed and go to your room, I’d stand under the hot shower for an hour trying to get your filth off of me.”
Shut her up! The voice inside his head screamed.
“Do it,” she taunted. “Push the chair. I don’t care if takes a half hour to die, just knowing I’ll be free of you will be worth it. Do it.”
Shut the bitch up!
“Do it you fucking coward.”
Don’t let her talk to you that way!
Elliott’s last hope vanished. Deep in her eyes he saw no trace of love or affection. No hint of fear or panic, only pure revulsion for him.
In a series of awkward movements, she hopped her bound feet toward the edge of the chair. “If you don’t have the courage to do it, I’ll do it myself.”
“You vile whore. You’ll rot in hell.”
“An eternity in hell is far better than another five minutes with you.”
If she jumps she wins. And you lose.
His fury rose to the point of no return ending in a brutal release. As she was about to step off, he seized her body and shoved it violently against the wall. He grabbed the chair. As she swung back toward him the chair became a bat and she a human piñata. He struck her. Again. And again. And again.
But she wouldn’t break.
Her eyes bulged. Her face turned a dark red. But her eyes haunted him. They glared with pure defiance. And her lips. Her lips curled into a cruel smirk he’d never forget. Chair still in hand, he smashed it against the floor, screaming, “Die bitch, die,” each blow causing it to shatter until nothing was left and exhilaration filled him.
His beloved’s swaying diminished to a slow moving pendulum. Death may have been her wish, but natural instincts took over. She thrashed against the noose, gagging and fighting for breath. He waited in silence, enjoying her agony. Twelve minutes had passed. How much longer would she last? A god-awful guttural groan escaped her as her body gave in to its last twitches.
“I was hoping you’d go longer my dear, but I think you’re almost at hell’s door. It’s a shame really.” He gave her a gentle push and began to sing.
Rock a bye baby, from the rafter top
When the wind blows, you’ll pray it stop
When the noose snaps, your body will fall
Down you’ll come, dark secrets and all
Forward and back, you sway and swing
Life hanging by a heavy braid of string
Rock a bye baby, do not you fear
Never mind, my beloved, I’m right here
Rock a bye baby, a struggle so violent
Then your body goes, limp, still and silent
Eyes shut tight, last breath will cease
Into slumber but never to rest in peace.
Carina hung motionless. Her bladder released. A puddle formed on the floor. Elliott circled around her and sighed. “Forgive me, my dear, I should have mentioned that if Ms. Millane chooses not to give me what’s rightly mine, you’ve sealed her fate to that of yours.
If you enjoyed that, I hope you'll stop by tomorrow for part two!
From here don't forget to check out all the other awesome authors in the hop.
I've known Liv Rancourt since 2011 when we were first starting out as authors and had the same publisher. We hit it off immediately and became fast online friends - until I headed out west one summer and we had the opportunity to meet, take a haunted tour and have dinner. What a blast!
I'm so happy Liv stopped by here today to talk about her new book, LOST AND FOUND. She's added a cool feature, Soundcloud, so you can hear her sultry voice read an excerpt. (I'll print the same excerpt at the end, but give it a listen, it's really good).
And...there's more. Enter the rafflecopter at the end to win a $25 gift card!!
Thanks so much, Debbie, for the chance to visit your blog again. I really appreciate it!!
Today’s musings have to do with music.
Getting your head in the right place helps a bunch when you’re trying to get words on the page, and music is great for setting a mood. Some authors will even go so far as to
create playlists, selecting songs that fit whatever it is they’re working on.
Hey, every little helps, right?
I play things a little differently. For example, this morning I’m in a huge twirl because
Lost & Found came out October 4 and I’m not sure I’m READY. Jeebus. I’m streaming my medieval music station on Pandora, hoping chant and polyphony will sooth me. Not quite sure it’s working, but I’m doing my best.
(For an example of what I’m listening to, check out this beautiful version of Ravenello’s Veni Creator Spiritus, sung by the Benedictines of Mary ensemble.)
I may not create song lists, but my last two solo projects were linked with specific musicians. I wrote much of Aqua Follies, my gay romance set in 1955 Seattle, while listening to Chet Baker. Here’s a link to his version of My Funny Valentine. There’s a sad/sweet quality to his work that really fit with what I was trying to put on the page.
For my newest book, Lost & Found, I listened to a whole lot of Eric Satie. He was a
French composer, and while most of his work was published before the story takes place in 1920, he was part of the avant-garde and so I felt like he connected with the vibe I wanted. Here’s a link the Gymnopédies, his most famous work. He has a way of using silence, making almost as important as the notes he plays, and I’m glad I discovered him.
I listened to A LOT of Eric Satie while writing Lost & Found!
Since this post is so focused on sound, I was inspired to do something a little different.
In addition to a written excerpt from Lost & Found, I recorded myself reading it, bad French accent and all! Check out this link from Soundcloud to hear my efforts.
Lost & Foundis a 1920 gay romance about a US army doc who served in France during the war and who returns to Paris to find his best friend. He meets a French dance master and over the course of their acquaintance, they find…well, I can’t tell you because that would give the story away. ?
(Although it is a romance, so...
I’ve got a release day sale going on, so Lost & Found will be $2.99 from now until after the GayRomLit conference 10/20/19…and I put Aqua Follies on sale for only $0.99 to celebrate! I’m also running a rafflecopter giveaway for a $25 gift card which you should totally enter.
Thanks so much, and happy reading!!
Excerpt from Lost & Found by Liv Rancourt:
"From the time I was a child, I wanted to dance. My older brothers were fighters and sportsmen, but I had no interest in those things."
He paused for long enough I began to debate prompting him with a question. So guarded. What had happened to make him that way?
"Ma mèredidn’t understand dancing, but she understood passion. Papa thought I should take up boxing." He caught my eye. "Boxing," he laughed.
I only smiled, because honestly, I wouldn’t want to face him in a ring, cane or not.
"But then the Ballets Russes came, and everyone on the street was talking about Nijinsky." Another pause, this one heavier. "They were brave, and wild, and when he danced, it was as if the spirit of the earth itself took form." He stopped and cleared his throat. "Pardonnez-moi. I only saw him once, but" His voice faded away.
The crowded street, the traffic, all the people passing on the sidewalk became indistinct, distant. Instead, I saw a man on stage, his limbs strong and supple, dancing with inhuman strength and beauty. Though in my mind, the man’s shoulders were broad, his hair dark and sleek, and his face
that of Louis Donadieu.
We reached Le Bon Bock, and I pushed open the door. Louis smiled on his way by, eyes still caught
p in his memories. Gaslights warmed the wood paneling, art covered the wall, and each table was draped in white linen. When we were seated, Louis continued his story.
"Then the war began." His murmur drew me closer, the scent of his pomade a heady undercurrent to the more robust smell of garlic and roasted beef. "Both of my older brothers signed up. I said I would go, but ma mère insisted I continue my studies. By then, my teacher was Mlle. Nijinska. She was very stern, and nearly as gifted as her brother.
"So I danced, and made my debut with the Ballets Russes. That was…astonishing" He smiled at me, his face transformed by an inner light. “But then”—he looked away, the light extinguished—“I fell ill. There was an outbreak of influenza in the city, but when I recovered, my leg was very weak. The doctors said I had polio.”
Of course. "I thought maybe you’d damaged the knee joint."
His smile was back, sad and sweet. “Non, mon ami. I’m fortunate it didn’t affect my breathing.”
“True.” Polio extracted a heavy toll, and Louis was lucky to be alive. I didn’t know of any good treatments for the effects of that horrible disease, but surely there must be something.
“One of my friends found a brace at the Saint-Ouen market. With it, I can walk.” He gave a careless shrug. “I cannot dance, but I can walk.”
By now, I recognized the loss he tried to cover with an indifferent attitude. I’d seen it, raw and naked, at the Théâtre de l’Opéra. This was not the time to coddle him with trite statements about his good fortune. Instead, I sat with him, offering comfort with my presence rather than words. A waiter brought beer and cheese, and in time, our gazes met, clashed.
Neither of us looked away.
My lungs grew tight and my pulse pounded in my ears. He shifted closer, or maybe I did, so close his breath brushed against my cheek.
“Tell me more about your friend.”
I inhaled deeply, breaking the spell. “Elias?”
“You said you helped him court the woman he wanted.”
“Margaret Anne?” Could that rough sound be my voice? I hardly knew.
“Oui.” He smiled. “But has there ever been anyone for you?”
Yes? No? “I’m not like that.”
“Like what, Benji?”
I gulped at my beer, desperate to change the course of the conversation. We needed the waiter to bring us another round, or Elias himself to wander in off the street, or the ceiling to cave in on our heads. “I don’t seem to be as interested in affairs of the heart as other men are, certainly not as interested as Elias is. It’s a failing of mine.”
“Failing? I wouldn’t call it that. You could be extremely selective.” The precision of his speech felt like fingertips on my skin. “Besides, men like us seldom take things seriously.” He shifted in his seat, and I jumped, startled by the sensation of his knee bumping mine. I should have moved, scooted my chair away, but instead, I pressed harder.
“What are you doing?” he asked, and I found I could not answer. The waiter chose this moment to arrive, and soon we had large platters of sausage with crispy fried potatoes to distract us. Still, my knee rested against his under the table, sending electric shocks through my veins with every move.
Louis’s question echoed. What was I doing? This flirtation was dangerous, potentially catastrophic. I had no time for such a distraction. Hell, I’d spent the last two days drowning in fear, and I was only a few weeks from my departure.
But like Eve who craved the taste of apple, I could not stop. Every bite of sausage had more flavor because of Louis’s gaze. The beer was made livelier by his smile. The perilous nature of this conversation woke my soul to a painful degree.
“I have an idea.” Louis tossed his napkin on his empty plate. “Tonight, we should go to the Cabaret de Printemps.”
By now, I had insinuated my foot so it rested against his ankle. When I didn’t answer, he raised his brows.
“Unless you’d rather go home.”
Home? What would that mean? My imagination was not up to the task. “Perhaps the cabaret.” I raised my glass, nearly empty of beer. “You’ve piqued my curiosity.”
His smile grew sly, as if he’d guessed the direction of my thoughts. “Of course, Benji. One thing at a time.”
Momentarily overwhelmed by his unspoken promise, I cleared my throat and rose from the table. “Come on.” I held out my hand. “Show me Paris.”
2 from Lost & Found by Liv Rancourt:
Lost & Found Blurb
A dancer who cannot dance and a doctor who cannot heal must find in each other the strength to love.
History books will call it The Great War, but for Benjamin Holm, that is a misnomer. The war is a disaster, a calamity, and it leaves Benjamin profoundly wounded, his mind and memory shattered. A year after Armistice, still struggling to regain his mental faculties, he returns to Paris in search of his closest friend, Elias.
Benjamin meets Louis Donadieu, a striking and mysterious dance master. Though Louis is a difficult man to know, he offers to help Benjamin. Together they search the cabarets, salons, and art exhibits in the newly revitalized city on the brink of les années folles (the Crazy Years). Almost despite himself, Benjamin breaches Louis’s defenses, and the two men discover an unexpected passion.
As his memory slowly returns, Benjamin will need every ounce of courage he possesses to recover Elias’s story. He and Louis will need even more than that to lay claim to the love and the future they deserve.
Grab your copy of Lost & Found at the links below.
Amazon| B&N| iBooks| Kobo| More Stores
Add to GoodReads
About Liv Rancourt
Liv Rancourt writes romance of all kinds. Because love is love, even with fangs.
Liv is a huge fan of paranormal romance and urban fantasy and loves history just as much, so her stories often feature vampires or magic or they’re set in the past…or all of the above. When Liv isn’t writing she takes care of tiny premature babies or teenagers, depending on whether she’s at work or at home. Her husband is a soul of patience, her kids are her pride and joy, and her dogs – Trash Panda and The Boy Genius – are endlessly entertaining.
Liv can be found on-line at all hours of the day and night at her website (www.livrancourt.com), on Facebook (www.facebook.com/liv.rancourt), or on Twitter (www.twitter.com/LivRancourt). She also blogs monthly over at Spellbound Scribes (https://spellboundscribes.wordpress.com/). For sneak peeks and previews and other assorted freebies, go HEREto sign up for her mailing list or join the Facebook page she shares with her writing partner Irene Preston, After Hours with Liv & Irene. Fun stuff!
Below is the rafflecopter html for a $25 gift card. Giveaway ends 10/31/19.
Hi everyone, I hope you're all having a creepy time crawling from blog to blog.
I won't be around much, it's my birthday and we have some spooky shenanigans
But...leave a comment telling me which birthday cake you think I should celebrate with -
and be entered in a drawing for a $10 Amazon Gift Card
at the end of the hop.
CREEPY CAKE NUMBER 1
CREEPY CAKE NUMBER 2
CREEPY CAKE NUMBER 3
As always, please visit the other awesome authors participating in the hop.
After being held against their will in a house used for sex trafficking, three girls plan their escape.
Alex: A hardened goth-punk who’s convinced she’s a vampire with a penchant for blood.
Stacia: A seventeen-year-old raised by an alcoholic mother, her fellow prisoners the only family she’s ever truly had.
Kammy: The youngest of the three--a mute who finds solace in a houseplant.
But does life outside the house offer the freedom they’d envisioned? Or is it too late, the scars too deep?
A coming-of-age tale of revenge that explores a friendship and the desperate lengths they will go through to ensure they stay united, held together by the scars that bind them.
The Pale White by Chad Lutzke, in some respects, was an easy read. Short, strong author voice, deep POV, well-written, complex characters - a page turner.
But in reality, Mr. Lutzke told a disturbing tale of three girls held against their will for the sex by a man named Doc, that shook me to my core. Alex has been there the longest and has descended into the delusion that she is a vampire. Kammie, who has endured unspeakable horrors for all of her nine years on earth, has gone mute and bonded with a house plant. Stacia, seventeen and there for a year, has managed to hold on to most of her mental health. One day the tables turn on Doc and the girls are free to leave.
But then what? Decisions have to be made and a plan worked out. But it's easier said than done with three people in fragile states, one of whom hasn't been in the outside world in years, and other who has never experienced life outside of her four walls.
That's when this compelling story of survival, loyalty, and strength begins. I didn't expect the ending, and while it was a bit abrupt, I thought it worked.
Mr. Lutzke packs a powerful story into a relatively few pages. Well done.
I was given a complimentary ARC from Crystal Lake Publishing in exchange for an honest review.
Available on Amazon here.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Chad lives in Michigan with his wife and children. For over two decades, he has been a contributor to several different outlets in the independent music and film scene, offering articles, reviews, and artwork. He has written for Famous Monsters of Filmland, Rue Morgue, Cemetery Dance, and Scream magazine. He's had a few dozen stories published, and some of his books include: OF FOSTER HOMES & FLIES, WALLFLOWER, STIRRING THE SHEETS, SKULLFACE BOY, and OUT BEHIND THE BARN co-written with John Boden. Lutzke's work as been praised by authors Jack Ketchum, James Newman, Stephen Graham Jones and his own mother. He can be found lurking the internet at www.chadlutzke.com.