Thursday, July 17, 2014

Sundowners PARTAY!

Permuted Press just released my novel SUNDOWNERS! WOOP!

You can find the book here.  

"Sundowners is a backwoods southern horror about the importance of family, the power of gossip and the nature of the artistic muse."

Just look at that cover. Man oh man, what a beauty!

"Tonia Brown's characters crawl slowly out of the story, sit beside you and nestle their heads on your shoulder, smiling slyly as you cringe away, unable to put the book down because you're already hooked and they know it. Brown is one of the most talented writers to emerged from the horror scene in recent times and I, for one, will be there for every new release." ~Gina Ranalli, author of MOTHMAN EMERGED

"Sundowners Is one of those stories that gets under your skin. Page after page you are sucked into the characters, but you know something bad is right around that corner, and you don't want anything to happen to these dysfunctional siblings." ~Armand Rosamilia, author of the DYING DAYS zombie series

"If you haven’t read Tonia Brown, you’re missing out on one of the finest voices in dark fiction. Sundowners is Brown at her best, and you’d do well to give it a whirl." ~Pete Giglio, author of SUNFALL MANOR and co-author of THE DARK

"Tonia Brown's Sundowners is one of the most engaging books I've read this year! This southern-flavored horror is so well-written that I found myself re-reading sentences constantly. Ms. Brown drew me right in and made me late coming back from lunch more than once." ~Stephen A. North, author of DEAD TIDE and DRIFTER

I am also holding a virtual party on Facebook for the release of the novel. You can join it here. The event is August 9th, so you have plenty of time to get ready for it. Pull out your fancy frock and best dancing shoes, this one's gonna be a humdinger! 
I have a lot of authors joining me for giveaways, including but not limited to:
Timothy Long
Eric Brown
Patrick Rutigliano
Chantal Noodles
Graeme Reynolds
Paul Mannering
Shana Festa
Angela Carina Barry   
Jake Bible
Joe Mynhardt
Dawn Peers
James Ray Tuck JR

This is gonna be a fun one! So join us, won't you?

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Wages of Sin

Want a free short story? Of course you do! Here is one I wrote a while back for a collection that never quite got it together. Enjoy! 

The Wages of Sin
By Tonia Brown

Over his cup of tepid tea, Nathanial Martin smiled and nodded and pretended to listen to whatever it was the old biddy was going on about. It was a very hard thing to do, pretending to pay attention to a pointless conversation when fifty thousand dollars of cold, hard cash called out in a siren’s song from his briefcase. It was even harder to keep from grinning like a maniac.

Or to keep from laughing out loud.

“I can’t thank you enough, Reverend Howard,” she said. “I don’t know what I would have done if you hadn’t come along.”

“It’s my pleasure, really,” Nathanial said. He adjusted his collar, fighting the urge to rip it away from his throat. The damned thing had been choking the life from him for the last half-hour. “In fact, I consider it an honor to have your husband as a client. He was much beloved by the town. Or so I hear.”

“Yes. He was. And that is why our transaction here must remain our little secret. I don’t want anyone to get the wrong idea.”

“No worries. Confidentiality is our charity’s greatest concern.”

“You know it’s odd. Why, I’d never even heard of Pennies for Penance before today.”

“That’s because we like to keep a low profile. Not everyone requires our services, and those who do seem to find us.”

“Or rather you find them.” She hesitated, as if she needed to get something off of her chest. Something Nathanial was fairly sure he didn’t want to hear. But she was going to say it anyway. “About Robert’s … well … the reason I agreed to pay so much-”

“Mrs. Walker,” Nathanial said, stopping her right there. “As I explained, posthumous contrition does not require confession. Just a willing loved one to make the appropriate arrangements.”

They sat in the silence of his explanation for a moment, and Nathanial thought he had settled it. He didn’t want to know what terrible deed the dead bastard had done to warrant her paying so much. That was that.

Mrs. Walker blurted out, “He never hurt anyone.”

Nathanial gave her a moment to collect herself, then dipped his head in understanding. “It isn’t my job to assume anything. I’m just here to help.”

“I know you don’t have to know his … but I want you all to know that much. He never hurt anyone. Bob was a good man, but he just had his naughty little habits. You know, the kind of things men like to get up to.” Her mouth pursed in a firm line while her eyes drew to narrow slits. “Dirty things.”

Nathanial had seen that look before, and judging by the intense hatred emanating from her, the late Mr. Walker must have been quite the randy little bugger. How many mistresses did the old fart keep tucked on the sidelines? Or maybe the guy had some weird kinks. Whips and chains. Leather and lace. Diapers and dog leashes. People got into some strange things. Some weird things. Some things that left their spouses willing to pay through the nose for just the slightest chance that God would forget about them.

“Of course he did, Mrs. Walker,” Nathanial said. “We all have nasty little habits. Men are, after all, only human. Sin is our burden to bear.” He reached out to grasp her trembling hand before he added, “But thankfully, we don’t have to bear it alone.”

“Thank the Lord for that.”

“Yes, thank the Lord.”

It never ceased to surprise him how easy the motions of comforting a soul in need came back to him. Years ago, when he took his collar and his work seriously, he always found consoling folks the easiest branch of the calling. Of course, it had been a long time since he had taken anything remotely related to religion seriously. Hell, it had been a long time since he had taken anything seriously. But she didn’t need to know that.

She dipped her head as if in prayer. Tears gathered in the corners of her wrinkled eyes as she looked back up to him again. “And thank the Lord for you, Reverend Howard. I really can’t thank you enough for giving my Robert a second chance.”

“Again, ma’am, it’s what the Lord has led me to do. He commands me and I obey. He leadeth me and I follow. He guideth me and I-”

“But you are sure this is … okay?”

And there it was: that niggling little doubt that could blow the whole deal. He had been waiting for it. Expecting it. Hoping he wouldn’t hear it this time, but knowing it was coming anyway. It always did. Nathanial thought he had settled this hours ago with his well prepared speech and professional attitude and understanding look. But no, the cow still wasn’t convinced this was ‘okay.’ Because deep down, underneath the concern for her husband’s immortal soul, the old bitch knew very well that this wasn’t ‘okay.’

She knew you couldn’t just buy your way into Heaven.

Which was a real shame, because Nathanial had promised her she could.

“Mrs. Walker,” Nathanial said. “I’ve already explained that this is more than okay. This is a wonderful gesture, not only from you to your deceased spouse, but from your loved one to the rest of the world.”

“But just buying forgiveness? I didn’t think it was possible. It sounds, I don’t know, it all sounds so wrong.”

Nathanial clucked his tongue as he patted her hand. “My dear, this isn’t just buying forgiveness. I’m not selling you a slip of paper that says your husband is guaranteed a spot in Heaven. That would be crass, not to mention immoral.”

What he didn’t add was that that little game could also get you ten months in the State Pen for leaving a trail of paperwork behind. One expensive lawyer and two months of community service later, his lesson was well beyond learned. No paperwork. Just promises.

“No,” he continued. “This isn’t just buying forgiveness. By donating this money in Mr. Walker’s name to our charity, you will not only feed the hungry and house the poor and heal the sick, you will also atone for the lingering sins of your loved one. All of his little transgressions will be wiped out in an instant, and his soul shall be delivered unto the arms of our Lord.”

“But-” she started.

Nathanial interrupted before she could set into a fair argument. “Penitence by your hand in his name is no less valuable than if he did it on his own. Look at it like this, if you drop your neighbor’s tithing envelope into the collection tray at church, does that mean he doesn’t get the credit for his donation? No. Your neighbor made the money and he passed it along, just as the Lord says to do. Surely your Robert would have wanted part of his life insurance to be donated to the less fortunate? Even if he forgot to mention it in his will?”

“Yes,” she said, nodding in agreement. “He would have wanted it this way. I’m sure of it.”

But Nathanial could see the truth in her eyes. The old fart was probably rolling over in his grave at the thought of his wife donating so much to charity. Mr. Walker probably never gave to charity a day in his life. The dead geezer probably didn’t even know what the word meant. Nathanial knew what it meant.

Charity began at home. As in his home. As in his pockets.

Mrs. Walker touched her brooch and asked, “And are you sure you can’t tell me where the money is going?”

“Trust me,” Nathanial said with a wide, knowing smile. “Anonymity is best here. When you think about it, do you really want to know where it is going? In the end, would checking on the process of your proceeds change anything? No. It won’t. A continued worldly attachment to the money will only bring you misery. I believe it was Peter who said God gives grace to the humble.”

“Of course,” she whispered. “Humble. Of course. We must remain humble.”

Nathanial found that quoting a little Bible verse at a doubting Thomas always cinched the deal.

Sensing an open window in the conversation big enough to leap through, Nathanial clutched the briefcase handle and stood. “I think we’re done here.” He patted his breast pocket and the wad of useless papers inside. “I have all of your forms with me, and after we sort through the red tape, I’ll send you the tax deduction information.”

“No rush,” she said. “April is still a long way off.” The widow Walker stood, slowly, extending her shaking hand. “Thank you again.”

Nathanial grabbed her hand and gave it a curt shake. “Again, no thanks needed. It’s always my pleasure to bring closure to families. Now if you will excuse me, I have other lost souls to help.”

She waved him on his way, and with that, Nathanial fled the scene, fifty grand richer for a few measly hours’ work. A few weeks back, when he first read the obituary, he had hoped to get a couple hundred from the widow, maybe a thousand if he was lucky. And boy was he lucky. The old bat was so worried for her husband’s poor soul that she handed over fifty thousand as easily as Nathanial would pay for a cup of coffee. It made him almost want to know what the dead husband had done so wrong that she felt like she had to pay so much for his forgiveness.


But he knew better than to find out. That way lay madness. Nathanial didn’t want to know what trouble these suckers got up to. He just wanted their money. And their spouses or lovers or mothers or friends just wanted to feel better about their dead loved one. It was a win-win situation; the living felt less guilty, the dead were glorified, and Nathanial grew stinking rich doing nothing. Well, almost nothing. It was rather like taking candy from a baby.

No, easier than that.

It was like taking candy from a dead baby.

But still, fifty thousand was the most he had ever taken in one job. Handling so much money would require some finesse. Of course, this meant shredding all of his IDs and starting the next con from scratch. But with this much jack in his pockets, the next job could wait a few weeks. Perhaps even a few months.

Maybe even years.

But for now, he had to escape with his ill-gotten gains. It took every ounce of willpower in Nathanial’s control not to hit the sidewalk running, leap into his car, crank it up and flee in a skidding screech from the scene. Instead, he sauntered out of the door. He strolled to his car. He calmly cranked the engine and pulled onto the street. It wasn’t until he was almost a full fifty miles from the town that housed old Widow Walker, when he finally put the pedal to the metal and let the rubber burn.

Six hours and three hundred miles later, Nathanial checked into a motel for some well earned rest. But sleep never came easy to him. Here, as of late, sleep was as elusive as Bigfoot to a cryptozoologist. Add that fifty-thousand-dollar haul on top of his usual insomnia, and Nathanial wondered if he would ever sleep again. There was no way the old biddy could track him down, but somewhere in the back of his skull, he felt that burning pressure that she could find him. Would find him. And what would she do then?

Yes, that’s what kept him awake.

That and something akin to guilt.

Nathanial spread his tired body across the cool, stale mattress and stared at the ceiling fan. The bathroom light flickered off and on, off and on, in that Morse code of cheap motel rooms all across the country. Of course, considering how much he just made, Nathanial could have stayed in a penthouse suit. With this much money, he could have bought out a whole hotel for the night. If he wanted to, he could open a hotel of his own and finally start to make a decent living for once in his life. One that didn’t rely on the whim of folks’ spiritual needs. One that didn’t rely on the con and the lie and the underhanded theft.

Nah, who was he kidding? Fifty grand was meant to be savored. Meant to be spent with care and caution. And it was all his. All because he pawned off a little penance on some willing sucker. A little contrition. A little blessing. A little bit of the old magic, that classic rabbit-from-the-hat trick.

“Back in the day, we used to call them indulgences.”

The voice was melodic, echoing across the room in much the same manner in which sunlight falls across a sparkling pond. Between the words lay various sounds—the laughter of small children, the distant sigh of lovers, the joy of thankfulness, and the resonance of peace. In a word, the voice was beautiful.

But not having spoken the words himself—and not expecting to hear anyone else say anything at all—Nathanial shot up from the mattress, jumping to his feet with a catlike grace that surprised even himself. He scampered to the opposite side of the room and stared hard in the direction of the voice, unsure of what to expect. And it was just as well, for he could not have anticipated what he saw.

Across the room, in a chair beside the bathroom, sat the man who had just spoken. His eyes were an errie shade of electric blue and his smile all but glowed in the low light of the room, almost as white as his short, well kempt hair.

“Of course,” the man continued, “back then, we used to take them a lot more seriously. Don’t get me wrong. They were worth then about as much as they are now, but we used to respect ‘em. Well, I used to. A little.”

 Somewhere in the insanity of the moment, Nathanial found his voice. “Who-who-who are you?”

The stranger rested an open palm against his chest as if apologizing for his sudden appearance. “My name is both unpronounceable and unimportant.” He turned his hand on Nathanial, pointing a long, well manicured finger at him. “But you, Nathanial Martin, you are very important.”

It took everything Nathanial had not to scream aloud. “How do you know my name?” The moment the question was out of his mouth, he could have bitten his own tongue in twain. Always deny! Never admit anything!

“No need to admit or deny, Nathanial. I already know everything.”

And with that declaration, Nathanial had the sneaking suspicion that the man meant everything. As in everything. “Who are you?”

“Try again.” The man continued to smile his otherworldly smile.

Try again? What did he and his otherworldly smile mean by … oh …

Nathanial cleared his throat and asked, “What are you?”

The creature smiled wide and held out his hands. “What do you think I am?”

The white suit. The beautiful voice. The blinding purity of his smile. The fact that he knew so much about Nathanial, that he all but read his mind. This being could only be one thing. And the understanding of it brought Nathanial to his knees in supplication.

“You’re an angel,” Nathanial whispered as he dropped before the creature and hung his head in shame. “Dear God in Heaven, you’re an angel sent to judge me for my sins.”

“Angel? Yes,” the angel said. “Judgment? No. I’m not here to judge. That’s not my place. No, sir.”

Of course not. Judgment was reserved for God Himself. And there was oh so much to judge when it came to this little lost lamb. Wasn’t there? A former priest gone rogue. A liar. A scoundrel. A crook. A fake. Taking money under the sign of the cross. Promising penance but delivering nothing. Using the collar to trick and sham and steal.

But how was Nathanial supposed to know God was real? There was a time when he thought as much, but then things changed and God seemed so absent, so missing, so just not there. Where was God when his sister died at the hands of a petty mugger? Where was God when his beloved church turned him out for turning to the drink? Where was God when he was at his lowest and had no place to go? Where was God when Nathanial needed Him most?

Nathanial supposed it didn’t really matter, ‘cause the Old Man was here now, and He was sure to be pissed off something fierce.

Nathanial raised his face to the angel, tears tracing his plump cheeks. Genuine tears. The first he had cried since his sister’s funeral. “Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned. I have lost my way. I am but a sheep that has strayed from the flock. I know my transgressions are many, and there is no way I can make up for my-”

“What are you doing?” the angel asked over Nathanial’s prayer.

Nathanial was surprised, not only at the interruption but at the rudeness this messenger of God displayed. “I’m … I’m confessing?”

The angel stood, towering over the cowering form of Nathanial, and took a long look at himself in the wall-length mirror beside the bed. After a bit of turning about in place, preening and primping, the angel finally returned his attention to Nathanial and asked, “Do I look like a lawyer? Go on. Be honest. Do I look like a lawyer?”

Nathanial didn’t know what to say. Better still, he didn’t know what the angel wanted him to say. “No? Yes? Maybe a little.”

The angel slumped as he stared at his reflection again. “You should know I put a lot of effort into this look. I mean, I try really, really, really hard not to look like a lawyer, but somehow I always come off looking just like one.” The angel snickered a bit. “Of course, I don’t know what that says about lawyers. Do you?”


“No, didn’t think you would. That was a rhetorical question there, bucko.” The angel licked a fingertip and smoothed down his thin eyebrows. “You should also know it’s a waste of time for you to plead your case to me. I already told you, I’m not here to judge you.”

“Then what do you want from me?”

“Me? I don’t want anything from you.” The angel sat again and leaned back, crossing his long legs at the ankles. “I’m here on behalf of a few of your clients.”


“Yes, those poor saps to whom you’ve supposedly been selling contrition? Remember them? The poor souls you stole money from for so many years?”

Nathanial winced. When you put it like that, it sounded so crass. He knew it was crass, but still, there was no need to make it sound that way. He already felt like garbage about the whole thing. It was like rubbing salt into a papercut. Just cruel. “Yeah, well, about that …”

The angel held up his hand. “Don’t. Just don’t. I’m not here to listen to you prattle on with excuses. I’m here to introduce you to some folks.”


“Yes. You know. Your clients?”

Nathanial narrowed his eyes. Now this was confusing. “But, my clients are all-”

“Dead? Yeah. I know. And they still are. But trust me, death don’t temper the old thirst for justice. So, here I am, representin’.”

“I thought you said you weren’t a lawyer.”

“I’m not. Well, not officially. I do, on occasion, act as a negotiator. Granted, I normally have my own needs in mind. Thus, I usually end up as the defendant. But this time, ah! This time I’m on the side of the prosecution. Which is a bit unusual, now isn’t it?”

The smile returned, and Nathanial winced at the shine.

“Shall we get on with the introductions?” the angel asked. “I mean, technically you already know these folks. Or rather you know of them. And they know you. Boy oh boy, buddy, do they know you!” The angel laughed. It was dark and harsh and rumbled across the room like distant thunder before a terrible storm. An ominous warning of things to come. “First things first. Let’s start with Jack Brown.” The angel waggled his fingers at the bathroom door. “Come on out, Jackie. Don’t be shy.”

From the shadows of the bathroom there came a limping form. The fluorescents flickered, backing the thing with lightning-strike bursts of light, and at these glimpses, Nathanial’s gorge rose into his throat, threatening to spill onto the carpet beneath.

Every inch of skin was missing from the man, leaving his muscles and bones and great wads of fat exposed to the cool motel air. His face was frozen in a horrid smile, a lockjaw grin of hideous proportions. He oozed and dripped with gore, tracking it in wet slops along the carpet as he moved toward Nathanial. The man winced and groaned with every step, as though it pained him to move, but not enough to stop him from reaching his intended goal.

“What in God’s name …” Nathanial whimpered.

“Nathanial Martin,” the angel said, pointing to the figure bearing down on Nathanial. “Meet Jack. You met his granddaughter about ten years ago, but you probably don’t remember either of them. Just their money. He was your first con. Remember? Back when you used to sell stock in Heaven? Before you learned not to leave a paper trail behind?”

Nathanial did remember. How could he forget? Sometimes, when Nathanial’s conscience was giving him a bad night of it, he saw the lingering images of the man’s granddaughter cradling Jack Brown’s photograph as she wept tears of joy for her grandfather’s assured salvation. The Jack Brown supposedly saved from the fires of Hell was a kindly old grandfatherly type. Or at least he was in his photograph. Yet this thing edging its way closer and closer to Nathanial looked nothing like the man in the photograph.

“I … I …” Nathanial stammered. “Dear God, what is wrong with him?”

“Sorry about his appearance,” the angel said. “But our Jack here has spent the last couple of years having his skin peeled away, very slowly, over a very long period of time. This is the first break he’s had in the last decade. A special gift, from me to him, just so he could pay you a little visit.”

“Me!” Nathanial shouted. “He can’t be here to see me!”

“Of course he is. How else can he get his refund?”

Despite the grisly sight inching its way toward him, Nathanial grimaced at that terrible word. “Refund? What are you talking about?”

“How much is forgiveness worth?” the angel asked.

Nathanial backed away from the sluggish horror still making its way toward him.

“How much?” the angel asked again.

“I don’t understand the question,” Nathanial said.

“How much did you bilk Jack’s granddaughter out of? Was it five hundred? Six? How much did it take to put her mind at ease that Jack wouldn’t go to Hell for his lifetime of sin?”

“Seven hundred,” Jack said with a wet gurgle.

“Ah,” the angel said. “Seven it is. So, Nat, since you don’t seem to think that seven hundred dollars is worth much in forgiveness, how much do you suppose it’s worth in flesh?”

“F-f-flesh,” Nathanial echoed as he cowered against the opposite wall.

“That’s right,” the angel said. “You owe my dead friend here something for his money. And considering you don’t have an ounce of forgiveness in your cold, hateful body, I’d say all you have to give him is your flesh. Now, how much is it going to be?”

“Seven hundred!” Jack screamed. His teeth gnawed the empty air, as if in anticipation of what was to come.

“Yes, yes, Jack. Seven hundred. Well go on.  Have at him then. Take your pound of flesh, you old Shylock you.” The angel chuckled, and the room rumbled with the thunder of his humor.

All at once, Nathanial found he couldn’t move. He was glued to the spot, on his knees, trembling before the monstrosity that shuffled across the motel carpet. Step by bloody step, Jack Brown grew closer to Nathanial, gnashing his teeth and clawing at the air. With aching slowness, the dead man closed in on Nathanial, bearing down on him with wet and slippery force. The thing grabbed Nathanial by the shoulders and lowered its gnashing teeth until its breath was hot on his skin. There, the dead man bit down, sinking his jagged choppers square into Nathanial’s tender neck.

White-hot bands of pain shot across Nathanial’s throat, but still he couldn’t resist, couldn’t fight back. The dead man pulled away, taking with him a mouthful of chunky flesh and leaving a gaping hole in Nathanial’s neck. With no way to staunch the wound, crimson arced across the motel room, spraying everything around Nathanial with his very own life fluid. He struggled to breathe as blood filled his lungs and cut off all hope of getting precious oxygen to his brain.

The dead man stood over Nathanial, chewing and chewing and chewing. The naked muscles flexed and relaxed, flexed and relaxed, working over that little bit of Nathanial as if it were the tastiest morsel on earth. Red seeped from the dead man’s mouth—some of it Jack’s blood, some of it Nathanial’s blood—welling through the gaps in his boxy teeth. More horror followed when Jack swallowed, and Nathanial watched with wide eyes as the lump of his own too, too solid flesh slithered down the beast’s exposed esophagus.

“More!” Jack shrieked and reached for Nathanial again.

“That’s enough,” the angel said.

“He owes me more!” Jack shouted.

“Get outta here!” And with that, the angel snapped his fingers and the beast disappeared in a flash of black-and-red smoke. “Sorry about that. I knew he would get greedy. After all, that’s how he ended up with me in the first place.”

Nathanial tried to moan in response. He could do little else, with his windpipe gone down the gullet of that man. Not to mention the fact that Nathanial had nearly bled to death on the motel floor. The world flickered and bulged with black and white as the last of his consciousness threatened to slip away.

“Oh, no you don’t,” the angel said.

At the angel’s words, Nathanial felt the full weight of his body return to him. He snapped his hand over his wounded neck, to stop the bleeding, as if it weren’t already too late. Yet, to his surprise, the bleeding had already stopped. It was, in fact, not bloody at all. There was no blood to be found. No wound. No blood on the carpet. He was whole and well and not dead or dying. It was as though it never happened.

Except it did happen.

The horror of the beast upon him. The pain of his flesh rending. The warmth of his blood flowing free. A great stone pressing upon his chest as he fought for a life-giving breath. All of this was etched upon his memory, infused there, burned alongside the image of Jack’s granddaughter hugging the dead man’s photograph. It was a pain that would stay with him as long as he lived.

Speaking of which, he was alive! He didn’t know how, or why, but he was alive. He was grateful. He was thankful. And he was duly contrite. He turned his damp eyes to the angel and asked, “What … how … why?”

“What do you mean what?” the angel asked. “I told you. You owed Jack, and he took his reimbursement.”

“But … I’m alive.” He rubbed his throat, marveling at the miracle of it all. “I’m healed.”

“Well, duh. You have to stay alive. If you go and die, how will everyone else get their refunds?”

At his words, the bathroom fluorescents behind the angel flickered again. But what lay under those blinking lights was not a normal motel bathroom. Instead, Nathanial caught glimpses of a seemingly endless cavern, rocky and desolate, filled with … things. People? Perhaps. Once upon a time they might have been human beings, but now they were twisted with torture and steeped in hate. Some were like Jack, all muscle and gore, while the rest were in even worse states. Nathanial closed his eyes to shield his breaking mind from the terrible image.

It was like looking into the mouth of Hell itself.

And that was when Nathanial knew.

The what. The how. The why.

He looked back up to the angel and, just to be sure, asked, “What kind of angel are you?”

“The fallen kind,” the angel said, and spread his beatific smile wide once more.

“Oh. I see.” And he did. Boy, did he ever.

“Yes, you should. You brought this on yourself, you know. You guys always do.” The fallen angel helped Nathanial to his feet, putting his arm about the man as if they were bosom buddies. “Now, shall we continue? We have quite a backlog of folks here. Jack was such small potatoes when it comes to some of your clients. Seven hundred? Pshaw. A drop in the bucket.”

“Bucket,” Nathanial echoed.

“Yes siree. This might take some time. In fact, this might take a long, long time.” The fallen angel cupped a hand over his mouth and called out, “Come on down, Margaret Jefferies!” He nudged Nathanial in the side with a bony elbow. “She was your second mark and your first big haul. I believe you owe this lovely lady a thousand big ones. I can’t wait to see how she takes it out of your hide.”

The next horror stumbled into the motel from the endless cavern of the bathroom, and Nathanial prepared himself for another refund. Even as the beastly woman ripped the still-beating heart from his chest, all Nathanial could think about was just one thing: No matter what happened—no matter the torture, no matter the pain, no matter the mutilation—he suffered so much more because he knew the worst was yet to come.

After all, just how much flesh would it take to satisfy a debt of fifty grand?


Today we visit with our good friend Anthony Servante as he shares his book DEATH IN THE CITY OF ANGELS in our ongoing Another Writer's Work series. With a wicked cover and a groovy plot, Anthony presents us with one hell of a book. Nice!


Death has come to the City of Angels in the form of a serial killer who is decapitating gang members. Greg Macias, a private detective with a dark secret and a drinking problem, is on the case. He must confront a grotesque gallery of suspects, deviants, miscreants, and corrupted souls in an effort to discover the identity of the mass murderer. But Greg Macias must act quickly, for the horrible secret behind his lost years in the booze bottle is catching up to him and the bloodied machete of the death worshiper is ready to strike again.

“A fine little ride through the bowels of the city's darkened side of the faceless, nameless multitude of life's castoffs.” ~ Franklin E. Wales


I am a retired professor of English literature. On the Servante of Darkness Blog, I critique, review, and discuss current trends in literature, especially works of Horror, SF, Fantasy, Crime Noir, and related subjects. I also review film, music, and TV programs. In addition, I interview authors, musicians, and artists of note. And I've published a Noir Crime novel, a book of poetry, and a nonfiction book on serial killers and authors who write about them. I can be reached at servanteofdarkness (at) gmail (dot) com.

Sunday, July 13, 2014


As part of the Another Writer’s Work series, I present to you Stephen Kozeniewski’s novel THE GHOUL ARCHIPELAGO.  Ghouls, archipelagos, what else do you need to make a book awesome? Come get some! WOOP!


After ravenous corpses topple society and consume most of the world’s population, freighter captain Henk Martigan is shocked to receive a distress call. Eighty survivors beg him to whisk them away to the relative safety of the South Pacific. Martigan wants to help, but to rescue anyone he must first pass through the nightmare backwater of the Curien island chain.
A power struggle is brewing in the Curiens. On one side, the billionaire inventor of the mind-control collar seeks to squeeze all the profit he can out of the apocalypse. Opposing him is the charismatic leader of a ghoul-worshipping cargo cult. When a lunatic warlord berths an aircraft carrier off the coast and stakes his own claim on the islands, the stage is set for a bloody showdown.

To save the remnants of humanity (and himself), Captain Martigan must defeat all three of his ruthless new foes and brave the gruesome horrors of...THE GHOUL ARCHIPELAGO.


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Stephen Kozeniewski (pronounced: "causin' ooze key") lives with his wife and two cats in Pennsylvania, the birthplace of the modern zombie. He was born to the soothing strains of “Boogie With Stu” even though The Who are far superior to Zep, for reasons that he doesn’t even really want to get into right now.
During his time as a Field Artillery officer, he served for three years in Oklahoma and one in Iraq, where due to what he assumes was a clerical error, he was awarded the Bronze Star. The depiction of addiction in his fiction is strongly informed by the three years he spent working at a substance abuse clinic, an experience which also ensures that he employs strict moderation when enjoying the occasional highball of Old Crow.

He is also a classically trained linguist, which sounds much more impressive than saying his bachelor’s degree is in German.