Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Mary Kate Painter Miller 1923 - 1970 - 2015

This blog is about the stuff I do, and I'd like to take a little time to talk about someone without whom I never would have done anything-- my mother, Mary Kate Painter Miller.

She taught me to read, and instilled in me a love of books so deep and pervasive that I eventually felt the need to start making them myself.  She is present in my work. Vionna Valis, Mary Jane Kelly, Dana Unknown, Mirabelle Darcy-- even Mary Jane Gallows and my fictional take on Amelia Earhart-- all contain elements of her. I often say that all my protagonists, male or female, are basically myself, and this is true. But there is so much of her in me that it makes very little difference.

Would she be proud of what I have done? Yes, she would. No question.

She died when I was seven, and my father did the same thing-- albeit in a much different way-- four years later. And after she died, I started to consider myself alone in the world. My father turned into someone I didn't know and didn't want to know. When he finally killed himself, it was almost a relief, in a way. Almost. After that, I was shipped off to relatives in another state, and I lost everything and everyone I had ever known.

Now, this is not meant to be a tell-all biographical sketch, and I am not fishing for sympathy when I say that I had some pretty serious problems growing up, and plenty of new ones after I reached adulthood. My past and present contained a great deal of wreckage, and I didn't like to look at or think about it. So I did various things to keep from having to do any of that. I drank. A lot. I engaged in wild, extremely risky behavior of various kinds. I'm one of those people who should have had "the late" bolted onto the front of his name years ago.

I was often miserable and depressed, and it was during a particularly bad patch many years ago that I decided to get rid of everything I owned that reminded me of certain parts of the past. All my childhood mementos and photographs were consigned to a dumpster. The baby was indistinguishable from the bathwater at that point. The good memories-- which were really never more than bittersweet-- were trashed as ruthlessly as the bad ones. And so, for many years, I had no photographs of my mother. And at this point, I have no living relatives who might provide me with any.

All of that is just the history of my life. It wasn't all miserable, but I mention the misery to make a point. This next part is the very recent past:

For quite a while, the last few months in particular, I didn't  feel very good about myself. I won't go into a lot of detail here, but I will say that I was feeling increasingly alienated and depressed, and wondering if continuing to live was actually the best course open to me. I wasn't suicidal, I had no intention of actually doing anything, but thoughts of my own death were never far from my mind, and I was becoming convinced that death would be no worse than life, and might in fact confer some advantages.

Again, I won't belabor any of this stuff, because that isn't what this memoir is about. What it's about is the thing that happened to me early yesterday morning.

As I was in a very morose frame of mind, my thoughts turned to the people I have lost over the years. I have done internet searches on my mother before and turned up nothing. What possessed me to try again yesterday, I do not know. But I did, and for once I hit the jackpot. At the Internet Archive I found a number of old college yearbooks and school newspapers from my mother's alma mater, Alabama College in Montevallo. She graduated in 1943, and I found every yearbook photo and every mention of her in every article.

For the first time in decades, I had pictures of my Mom. It hit me hard, but not in a bad way. Looking at her face, and seeing so much of my own in it, reminded me that there was a person to whom I had a deep connection that could not be broken by death. She helped make me into the person I still am, before the suffering and stupidity and tragedy could warp him. I didn't need to feel alienated and worthless. I was not alone and never had been. I had been looking to other people to give me something they didn't have. It was something I thought I had lost, but I now realize that was never the case. I have always had it right here, hardwired into me, part of my DNA. It doesn't matter who comes and goes or what I do or fail to do. The person who loved me more than anything has always been close to me. And that will always, always be true, no matter what.

I may have been on the brink of something awful quite recently, I don't know. What I do know is that my Mom came back to me when I really needed her, in a way I could not have foreseen. And I am grateful.

I love you, Mom, and all of this is for you. That's all I need to say. Everything else, we both already know.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Bloody Mary Jane Part Two and Others!


At the end of 2013, Pro Se Productions, an innovative publisher of Genre Fiction, debuted its Pro Se Single Shots line, stand alone digital only short story singles at an affordable price. Due to the success of the single self containted tales, Pro Se launched the Pro Se Single Shot Signature line in 2014. The Signature imprint still focuses on digital singles, but invited authors either write individual stand alone stories under a ‘From the Pen of…” title or a series of their own creation, either featuring connected stories or even ‘chapters’ or ‘episodes’ as well as still features single short stories or recurrent ‘chapters’ or ‘episodes’ written as short stories. The New Pulp Publisher debuts the next chapters in four of its inaugural Signature series today.

“The Pro Se Single Shot Signature line,” says Tommy Hancock, Pro Se Productions Partner and Editor in Chief, “is a project that, although it’s gotten off to a slow start, has in many ways altered how Pro Se sees publishing. We’ll continue with our traditional publishing of novels and anthologies, but the Signature imprint allows us to play with all sorts of possibilities of promotion, distribution, and accessing new readership on several levels. With schedules being sorted in the next week or two as well as multiple series and writer’s imprints debuing within the line over the next month or so, Pro Se is preparing to redefine Genre Fiction and New Pulp in 2015. And the four latest installments to the series that kicked off the Signatures are the best way to move forward.”

The four newest releases from the Pro Se Single Shot Signature line are available at Amazon and

FLY GIRL: THE ICE QUEEN by Russ Anderson

Russ Anderson Jr’s Fly Girl returns, soaring into her second adventure in her Pro Se Single Shot Signature series as she faces The Ice Queen!

Still reeling from the events of the first story, 16 year old Caryn Clay struggles to understand her newfound abilities, her truly awesome connection with her Navajo heritage, and the attack of another strangely powered figure, known only as The Trickster. Before she can come to grips with any of that, though, a new foe presents herself. Can Caryn survive the chilling vengeance of a wronged girl? And are she and her mystical feather to blame for the destruction wrought by this frigid new enemy? Find out in The Ice Queen, Fly Girl Book Two by Russ Anderson, Jr., featuring exciting cover and logo design by Jeff Hayes and ebook formatting by Anderson. Available on the Kindle at and for most other formats at for only 99 cents.

LUTHER CROSS: TIES THAT BIND by Percival Constantine

Author Percival Constantine returns with another tale of Luther Cross—the only man clever enough to con Hell itself. In the second installment of Constantine's Pro Se Single Shot Signature Series, Cross finds himself embroiled in a missing persons case and becomes dangerously entangled in Ties That Bind.

A stop for breakfast in a small diner becomes a case of life and death...and more for Cross. Overhearing a distraught woman's plea for help to find her missing brother, Cross senses there is more than simply an absent sibling at work here. Finding themselves on their own deep in the woods, Cross and his new companion discover that small towns not only hide skeletons in the closet. There's something much worse they keep in the barn.

Ties That Bind, the second digital single short story in Constantine's Luther Cross Pro Se Single Shot Signature Series, features evocative cover art and logo design by Jeff Hayes and ebook formatting by Russ Anderson. The latest story in Cross’ saga is available for only 99 cents for Kindle at and at Smashwords for other formats at

MAGEE: TWO SOULS by David White

The Angel Heaven and Hell hate to see coming discovers new truths in the third installment of author David White's Magee, a Pro Se Single Shot Series from Pro Se Productions.

Finding love in the arms of a witch, Magee seems to be finding his stride in the mortal world. That is, until a guitar wielding demon shows up, fully intent on playing Magee’s funeral song on his corpse. As the battle ensues, Magee finds himself face to face with unbelievable secrets now revealed as well as an evil older than God itself. An evil that offers Magee the world...or suffering beyond even his imagining.

David White’s Magee: Two Souls is the third digital single short story in this supernatural action Pro Se Single Signature Series and features striking art work and logo design by Jeff Hayes and ebook formatting by Russ Anderson. Get your copy for only 99 cents at Amazon for the Kindle at and for most other formats at Smashwords at

by Chuck Miller

Chuck Miller, the master of Psychedelic Pulp, returns with the second episode of the wildest, weirdest Pro Se Single Shot Signature Series yet. The Fabulous World of Zenith, a new and original series that will examine the world of the Black Centipede, Vionna Valis, Mary Kelly and Doctor Unknown Junior from a variety of strange and oblique angles continues on with The Journal of Bloody Mary Jane: My Florida Idyll- Part Two!

Finding herself trapped in the small Florida settlement of Cotton Mather and Ponce De Leon, Mary Jane Gallows continues on her odd mission for the now vampiric Professor Moriarty, as well as her own personal twisted journey. Strange creatures inhabit the dilapidated village surrounding the mysterious Fountain of Youth. Three men stumble their way into the crop of building and strangeness seeking a murderess, not knowing that Bloody Mary Jane is indeed among them. And Miss Gallows finds out much and yet nothing about the future, her destiny, and secrets that could mean her own demise or even better, the end of the world.

The Journal of Bloody Mary Jane: My Florida Idyll- Part Two features a fantastic cover and logo design by Jeff Hayes and ebook formatting by Russ Anderson. It is available for only 99 cents at Amazon for the Kindle at and at Smashwords for most other formats at

For more information on these titles, interviews with the authors, or digital copies for review, contact Morgan McKay, Pro Se’s Director of Corporate Operations, at

To learn more about Pro Se Productions, go to Like Pro Se on Facebook at

Friday, January 16, 2015



Jumping to a Hasty Conclusion 
"Marginally Better Than Not Finishing It At All"

From the Musty Chronicles of the Black Centipede
As told to
Chuck Miller 



In the end, it went a lot more smoothly than I had any right to expect. So much so, in fact, that coming on top of all this buildup, it amounts to a rather staggering anticlimax. You probably won't like it, but I don't make this stuff up, I just report it.

My grandfather was very fond of cliches like "Let the buyer beware," and, "You get what you pay for." I used to roll my eyes at such platitudes, but now I would ask my readers to keep them in mind. This internet web serial costs you nothing to read. If you are dissatisfied with the outcome, I will gladly return your money in full. Hell, I'll double it. Can't say more fair than that.

I showed up at a certain street corner at an appointed hour to meet with Percy and carry out whatever harebrained scheme he had concocted. Whatever it proved to be, I had my end covered. I had a plan so bold and brilliant that it was absolutely foolproof, no matter what happened. I had planned for absolutely any imaginable contingency.

Except for the one that actually happened.

Of course.

Percy and I waited until half an hour beyond the point at which Mag DeMilby Junior was supposed to show up, in full Doctor Reverso regalia, pretend to attempt to rob a bank, then pretend to get his ass stomped into the pavement by the astonishing Black Centipede. Except I wasn't planning on pretending. I was going to deliver a comeuppance to the villain that was so brilliant, so shocking, so ironic, that....

I'm sorry, I can't even bear to think of it now, much less relate it to you. Such a shameful waste! Because, you see, Cruel and capricious fate had stepped in and taken the matter out of my hands.

Mag DeMilby Junior, unremarkable character actor, arch-fiend, would-be killer of the Black Centipede, was dead.

He had been taken in the night by a heart attack. It seemed he had been nursing a bum ticker for years, and the poor, overworked organ had finally called it quits, no doubt egged on by the prodigious amount of booze and cocaine that constituted 90 percent of DeMilby's regular diet. Rumor has it that, the night before the morning he was found dead in his bed at one of Zenith's finer rat-trap hotels, his suite had been visited by no fewer that eight ladies of the evening. Rumor further has it that the corpse's mouth was frozen in a wide grin that the undertaker had been unable to remove.

And that wasn't all. A journal was discovered among his effects. There aren't many criminals above a certain level who can resist the urge to brag about how clever and ruthless they are. They often do this verbally while they have the hero trussed up and helpless, instead of just killing him and enjoying the fruits of their labors. And if they don't get a chance to do that, you can bet there's a journal lying around somewhere. DeMilby's was most enlightening.

Doctor Herbert West, whose bizarre career had been reported on by my friend Howard Lovecraft, had been working with Jack the Ripper and the White Centipede while I was in Hollywood. Since I was proving difficult to kill, they had intended to throw the resurrected Doctor Almanac at me after they pumped the cadaver full of the hellish combination of the Invisible Man's serum, Crusher Cranium's vile brew, and West's own reanimation reagent. They had approached Mag DeMilby, whose lifestyle made him a prime target for blackmail, and were using him as a source of information on the production schedule of "Blood of the Centipede." DeMilby was so enthusiastic about the project that he swiftly moved up from blackmail victim to paid accomplice.

However, I had been able, with the help of Amelia Earhart and Mary Jane Gallows, to eliminate the Ripper and his henchman before this scheme could come to fruition. (Blood of the Centipede, Pro Se Press, 2012) With their patrons removed from the game, DeMilby kept his mouth shut and West went even further underground than he already was. But they both hated me for derailing their gravy train, and decided to go ahead with the Almanac resurrection after I returned to Zenith. There was still some money and muscle left over from the White Centipede's Hollywood reign, and they used it to set their revenge in motion.

DeMilby hinted in his journal that he and West might have received further sponsorship from a shadowy mastermind whose identity he did not know. Keep that in mind, it will come up again later.

And that, as they say, was that. I should have been happy, but I felt a keen sense of disappointment and annoyance, as though I had been shortchanged somehow. It was as though Claudius had kicked the bucket from natural causes shortly after Hamlet's return to Elsinore, Gertrude had spilled the beans, the Ghost had gone on to his eternal reward, and the melancholy prince had ascended smoothly to the throne. It would have been a good outcome if you were Hamlet, Ophelia, Polonius, Rosencranz, Guildenstern, or any of the other casualties-- but the average Globe Theatre patron would have demanded his money back, and rightly so.

In the event, I had virtually no opportunities for clever quips or daring stunts. I had anticipated a battle royal with the forces of evil, a convoluted contest with plenty of harrowing twists and turns. I figured that I would be helpless at some point, facing sure death, and young Stymie would come up with a bold and clever solution, as he so often did in the "Our Gang" comedies. That would have been good storytelling. But no. Not even close. I thought perhaps one of my little band would be killed, making the whole business that much more poignant. And if you think that's callous of me, you obviously haven't noticed that virtually nobody in these memoirs ever stays dead for long.

West was out there somewhere. I figured he'd turn up again sooner or later. I was right, and it was the former. My next encounter with him was, in fact, just around the corner.

Anonymoushka disappeared, but I'd also be seeing her again very soon.

Crusher Cranium, wherever he was, drew no more attention to himself for a few months. I did not know at the time whether his mysterious liberators had been remnants of the White Centipede's organization or something else entirely. I would, in due course, find out.

The State Police found the small airfield where Almanac had been keeping his dirigibles. The Army took charge of them and moved them to a military airfield near Zenith. The government also took charge of a well-fortified laboratory where Almanac had been busy making more giant, invisible, unkillable monsters out of people. I wasn't happy about that, and resolved to covertly destroy the place at some point in the near future-- just to be on the safe side. Not that I don't trust our government, but I don't trust our government.

Stymie Beard was finally returned to his family and career. He went back to California on a train, with Patience and Prudence as volunteer bodyguards. I saw him off at the station and promised him a part in the sequel to "Blood of the Centipede," if William Randolph Hearst should choose to perpetrate such an abomination. Film historians, of course, know exactly what happened with that, so I need not go into it here.

And that, dear friends, is my story. If you have noticed any contradictions, omissions, or perilous leaps of logic, keep in mind that I am 105 years old.



A few days later, I was back at my headquarters, bent on a little relaxation.

"Miss Earhart phoned here and left you a message," J. Alfred Prufrock informed me, as I was making myself comfortable in an armchair with the latest edition of the Zenith Orator. "She told me to tell you to expect her at any time. She is looking into one or two matters that might interest you, she said."

"Excellent," I said. "After what I've been through, it will be a pleasure to see her. Actually, it would be a pleasure even if I hadn't been through anything at all."

"You're quite fond of her, aren't you, sir?"

"You would not be wrong in saying so. Be sure and lay in plenty of anything she might need or want, whatever those things might be."

Proofy went on his way and I opened up the newspaper and started reading. An item on an inside page caught my attention. It was a reprint from Monday's London Times, and it went like this:


News was received in London this morning of the death of Mr. Sherlock Holmes, the celebrated consulting detective, at the age of 79. According to his friend and physician, Dr. John H. Watson, Mr. Holmes passed away on Sunday after a protracted illness, at his home on the Sussex Downs.

Mr. Holmes was born in London in 1854 and was educated at Oxford and Cambridge. In 1881 he established a practice in London as "the world's first consulting detective," and soon became known for his brilliant and unorthodox solutions to the most perplexing of crimes. In this capacity, he frequently worked alongside the police. He became famous in the last century through the efforts of the late Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who collaborated with Mr. Holmes' friend and partner, the aforementioned Dr. Watson, on a series of biographical books and magazine articles based upon the detective's more notable cases. Mr. Holmes himself, in addition to numerous monographs on a wide variety of subjects, published his magnum opus, The Whole Art Of Detection, in 1926.

Mr. Holmes retired from active practice in 1903, at the relatively young age of 49, and took up residence on the Sussex Downs. After his retirement, he became an avid beekeeper, authoring a specialized apiculturist handbook under the title Practical Handbook of Bee Culture, with Some Observations upon the Segregation of the Queen.

Mr. Holmes was preceded in death by his parents, Siger and Violet Holmes, and his brother, Mr. Mycroft Holmes. Another brother, Sherrinford Holmes, failed to return home from a mountain-climbing expedition to Switzerland in 1865, and is believed to have perished, along with the other members of his party, in an avalanche.


I felt a pang. I had always wanted to meet the Great Detective, but had never gotten around to making it happen. And now it would never be.

That's what I thought at the time, anyhow. But I've been wrong before.

I was about to clip the obituary out for one of my scrapbooks when Proofy came bustling back into the room.

"Sir!" he said, his voice betraying some excitement, "there was a bulletin over the wireless just now. It seems that a bank robbery is in progress at Zenith First National Bank and Trust."

"And?" I said languidly. "Zenith does have a police force, you know, and it does them good to earn their pay every now and then. Builds character. I cannot be expected to do everything for them pro bono. You'll notice I don't hand out traffic citations, nor do I raid gambling parlors. Of course, neither do the cops in this town, but that's hardly the point. I..."

"Sir," he interrupted, "they're saying that one of the robbers is John Dillinger!"

"Well!" I exclaimed, fairly leaping from my seat. "Why didn't you say so? I'm on the case, Proofy! Oh, please go ahead and start getting supper ready. This shouldn't take long at all, and I may work up an appetite."

At the time, I believed that. Dillinger may have been able to run roughshod over hick sheriffs out in the boondocks, but he would soon learn that the Black Centipede was something else again. I embarked on this new errand with a sense of self-confidence that only the weak and timid would call hubris. I'd have Dillinger in the city jail in less than an hour.

I'm glad I didn't bet any money on that...


What happens next? Find out in Black Centipede Confidential, on sale NOW!!!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Black Centipede Confidential

The Black Centipede and his friend and partner, Amelia Earhart, will return in Black Centipede Confidential, facing off against Professor Moriarty, Lord of the Vampires, and his diabolical Order of the Sunless Circle. The stakes are higher than ever this time around, and our heroes will be sorely pressed. But they will not fight alone. Joining them will be the members of the Black Centipede's Invisible Round Table.


(Some names appear on both lists. They aren't typos-- they're just fickle.)


Amelia Earhart
Gregor Samsa
Patience and Prudence
J. Alfred Prufrock
F. Scott Fitzgerald
Percival Doiley
Resurrection Mary
Lester Dent
Walter B. Gibson
Bela Lugosi
John Dillinger
Mary Jane Gallows
Dr. Wilhelm Reich
Frank Nitti
and a


Bonnie Parker
Clyde Barrow
Charles Arthur "Pretty Boy" Floyd
John Dillinger
Kate "Ma" Barker
Max Schreck
Dr. Herbert West, Re-Animator
Zelda Fitzgerald
Dr. Hawley Crippen
Mary Jane Gallows
Judith DeCortez
Stagger Lee
The Loch Ness Monster
The Bell Witch
and a

BLACK CENTIPEDE CONFIDENTIAL-- MAY be published within the lifetime of the author and the readers, we hope. So, to renew your acquaintance and/or whet your appetite, here is an excerpt from BLOOD OF THE CENTIPEDE:


Frank Nitti had been as good as his word-- a relatively new experience for him, I imagined-- and Amelia and I went out on another fact-finding mission, armed with the list of speakeasies. I went unmasked, dressed in something other than one of my customary suits of solemn black. Amelia, very wisely, had donned a suit of men's clothes and had her hair stuffed up under a newsboy cap.

I had taken possession of my car that afternoon-- I had made arrangements for it to be shipped out on a freight train when it started looking like I might need it.  Amelia and I visited one dive after another, and we played it very low-key.  We sat and drank and listened to conversations around us. We identified the drunkest and most questionable-looking patrons and struck up acquaintances, paying for drinks, listening to stories, asking very discreet questions. We learned the same rumors over and over again, about an unknown new crime boss who was trying to set up shop, and about the mad Judith DeCortez, who was thought to be working for him.

Nothing we didn't already know.

"The important thing about an iron fist in a velvet glove," I observed at one point, "is that it has an iron fist in it. We're getting nowhere fast using the glove by itself."

"I'm just not comfortable with all that violence."

"Nobody is. That's how come it works."

She heaved a heavy sigh. "Maybe you're right."

"Of course I am. I don't see how you ever could have doubted it. I am, after all, an expert. Whoever this guy is-- whether he's this so-called White Centipede or not-- he is ruthless. Judith DeCortez is ruthless. That means whoever goes up against them has got to be ruthless, too. He has to be more ruthless than they are, or he will not win. And if he doesn't win, he is dead. Very straightforward."

Amelia stood up. "Well, in any event, I think I've had enough of this. Let's go."


"I don't know. Anywhere. I could really use some fresh air."

So we hit the street and walked around aimlessly for the better part of an hour. We were dressed rather roughly, and I had plastered an expression on my face that was an unmistakable warning to anyone who thought he might like to try any rough stuff on us. I wasn't worried about ordinary muggers and sex perverts. I almost wished somebody would get big ideas-- the exercise would have done me some good.

As we crossed a street at the corner, something caught Amelia's eye. She peered up the cross street and said, "Isn't that Roscoe Arbuckle?"


"Ducking into that alley, there." I looked in the direction she was pointing her finger, and saw a figure that certainly matched Fatty in terms of height and girth.

"Could be," I said. "Wonder what he's doing down here."

"So do I. Let's find out."

I shrugged and followed her toward the mouth of the alley. I didn't have anything better to do. And if Fatty was a habitué of this kind of neighborhood, he might be of some help.

We reached the alley and peeped around the corner. I saw someone slip around the corner at the other end of the alley, but whoever it was was too tall and slender to be Arbuckle. From where I was, I could not see any doorways into which Fatty might have ducked. Motioning for Amelia to remain where she was, I crept around the corner and made my way toward the opposite end of the alley. There were no convenient doorways, and I figured Fatty-- or whoever it was-- had simply cut through to the next street. I was on my way back to Amelia when something caught my eye.

Someone had chalked a few words onto the brick wall roughly at the halfway point of the alley. They were as high up as the shoulders of an average man, and they looked fresh:

The Juwes are the men That Will not be Blamed for nothing

If not for the fact that I have nerves of steel and ice water in my veins, I would no doubt have felt an icy talon clutching my heart just then. I recognized that sentence. And what was chalked onto the wall just below it, in smaller letters, gave me considerable pause:

It Begins Again

"What's that?" Amelia asked, peering over my shoulder, apparently having trotted up while I was in deep contemplation.

"This?" I replied. "It's nothing. Just some silly graffiti."

She gave it a look. "Huh. Crazy. Is that some kind of anti-Semitic screed?"

"I guess." I didn't tell her where, and under what circumstances, the odd message with the curious spelling had famously appeared many years earlier.  It had been found scrawled on a wall in London, England, some 44 years before, in close proximity to two very extraordinary murders. Many believed that the message had been written by the faceless jackal known as Jack the Ripper.

You know, the guy they never caught...
But it probably didn't mean anything here. I filed it away in my brain. I had bigger things to worry about.

"Gosh," Amelia said, "there are a lot of Jews in the movie business. I hope nobody's trying to start some of that Nazi crap over here."

"So do I," I said.

"No Fatty?" she asked.

"No Fatty," I affirmed.

We decided to call it a night.

Back in my room, I went through the motions of another fruitless attempt to analyze the material I had obtained from the rubber-suited woman. None of it made sense. I crawled into bed and glanced through the newspaper.

The first of FDR's Civilian Conservation Corps facilities had just opened in Michigan. In Scotland, someone claimed to have spotted a huge aquatic monster in Loch Ness. Adolf Hitler had eliminated all of the labor unions in Germany. Someone calling himself the Blue Candiru had foiled a bank robbery in Los Angeles. Another new masked avenger, evidently. Hooray.

I tossed the paper onto the floor, turned off the light, and went to sleep.

Now BUY it already!

Friday, January 9, 2015

Doctor Unknown Junior (and friends) for 99 cents on Amazon Kindle

EXCERPT FROM "The Abominable Myra Linsky Rises Again," a Doctor Unknown Junior adventure.

99 cents on Amazon: 

Also includes "Kelly's Beast" by David Blalock and "The Unwrapping Party" by Joshua Reynolds.

(Note: The Piecework Horror is a supernatural entity summoned by Dana Unknown's old school chum, the eponymous Myra Linsky. It is constructing a body for itself out of odds and ends from dead serial killers.)


The following afternoon, just for the hell of it, I was doing some actual work. I had catalogued all of the magical objects and fetishes Dana had on hand at the brownstone, and was now busy updating files pertaining to new occult spells and procedures. Dana needed to keep up with all this stuff for when and if she ever got herself back up to full strength. I wanted to have the administrative stuff in good shape before I left.

Dana, looking as glum as I had ever seen her, entered the office and went straight to her desk. She flopped down into her chair and busied herself with the vital work of staring at the wall. I continued with what I was doing, not wanting to embarrass her with inquires about her well-being.

Suddenly, the boards I had nailed over the broken window burst apart and flew across the room in a shower of splinters.

"Dammit!" I shouted, "that took me two hours!"

It was, of course, that goddamn stupid Piecework Horror again.

"I'm back," it said. This time it had two distinct voices, both of them speaking German-accented English. "Once I get some arms and legs, I'm going on a spree!"

Dana said a bad word, and so did I. The situation called for it. Who the hell wants to look at a thing like that? It hung there in the air, a few feet off the ground, Peter Kurten's nasty head, now welded onto the neck of a limbless torso. It was enough to give a person bad dreams.

I was startled, I'll admit, and my first move didn't amount to much. I stood and picked up the closest object at hand, a magic marker, and threw it. It bounced off the Horror's head, landed on the carpet, and rolled under the sofa.

"Bravo," Dana said sourly.

"Well, if you can do any better, go ahead!"

The Horror had not reacted at all to my withering barrage. It just drifted there, bobbing gently up and down. I wasn't sure what it was trying to accomplish. Keeping my eyes on the creature, I slowly and carefully opened one of my desk drawers and removed from it two objects. Meanwhile, Dana had gone into action of a sort. She had started up some kind of weird chant, and was moving her hands in intricate, sinuous patterns.

Though she had never explained it, I gathered that Dana's magical abilities were part genetic, part learned. She came from a family of powerful sorcerers of various stripes. Her father, Doctor Raul Deveraux Unknown, had been a crimefighter for years and years; her mysterious, never-mentioned mother had been some kind of a Voodoo bigwig down in New Orleans. Dana's slightly dusky complexion and dark hair hinted at some Creole in the woodpile. She never spoke of that side of her family, and I figured there was a story there that would one day manifest itself in some catastrophic way.

I did not know exactly what had been damaged in her or how she was going about fixing it. She kept that information a closely-guarded secret. It looked as though she was now trying to cast a spell, and I hoped she'd made progress since the last time she'd had a go at something magical.

It seemed that my hope was not in vain, because a small ball of light took shape in the air in front of her. Her hand movements speeded up and the chant rose in pitch. She seemed to be straining herself; she was sweating profusely and chanting through gritted teeth. The ball of light grew larger. The Piecework Horror just floated in place, as though it hadn't a care in the world. I was fiddling with the objects I had taken from my drawer, making sure one was charged and activated, and the other fully loaded.

Dana's ball of light swelled until it was a bit larger than a basketball. This seemed to satisfy her; her face and body relaxed and she took a deep breath. Shouting something that sounded "Alakazam," (though she later denied that) she made a shoving motion with her hands, and the ball sped toward the Horror.

Almost. A valiant try, but Dana had rolled a gutter ball. The globe of whatever it was missed the floating monster by a good two feet and slammed into the wall, shattering the glass over a framed portrait of Harry Houdini. Dana cursed and ducked as the ball bounced back in her direction, whizzing over her head and hitting a bookcase, scattering volumes of sorcerous lore all over the place. Dana lost her footing and fell to the floor. The ball shuddered for a couple of seconds, then winked out.

"Nice," I said, aiming an ordinary automatic pistol at the Horror. "At least my magic marker didn't wreck the whole house, practically."

I fired five quick shots at the Horror's head. I didn't expect that to do anything but distract it, which was all I wanted. It rocked back a little and seemed to be in some mild distress. I sprang forward and tackled it around the waist, a very unpleasant experience. The thing was clammy and smelled of mold. It shook me off easily, which I had also expected.

I stepped back and fired my remaining two shots at the limbless ghoul. It bobbed and weaved and evidently decided it had had enough of me. It zoomed toward a window, crashed through it, and was gone.

I walked over to Dana, who was sprawled out on the floor among the scattered books. "Here, Annie Oakley," I said, holding my hand out. "On your feet."

She glared at me and took my hand. I hauled her upright.

"I don't want to hear anything else from you about this," she said. "Not ever."

"I'm sure you don't, but something tells me you're doomed to be disappointed."

She stomped over to her desk and sat down, scowling blackly at the scattered books.

I sat down at my own desk in a calm, self-possessed way, turned on my computer, and plugged a little gadget into one of the USB ports.

Dana got up and started picking up books and slamming them back onto the shelves. The occasional muttered curse word reached my ears.

I went online and typed in a URL that was known to very few people. I logged in, using a 75-character, case-sensitive password that I had committed to memory. I found the page I wanted, typed in an activation code, and sat back while a map of the United States loaded and the server on the other end of the connection opened a channel to a satellite in geosynchronous orbit.

"If you're looking at that Wet Hooters site again, Jack, I swear I'm going to put a parental control on that thing. Why don't you help me clean this stuff up?"

"Because, one, I didn't make the mess, and, two, I'm busy."

I zoomed in on the map, enlarging the area in which a small red light was blinking. I took note of the direction and speed and made a few quick calculations in my head. Then I used my cursor to draw a straight line on the map. I smiled as I saw that the line passed right through a very interesting spot.

"Well, if you're too lazy to help pick up, you could at least do something vaguely productive," Dana groused.

"Such as?"

"I don't know, but we need to try to find out where the Horror is going next."

"Oh, I know where it's going," I said.

"What? How could you possibly know that?"

"I know because while you were shooting off fireworks, I stuck a GPS tracker on the Horror."

That took the wind out of her sails.

"You did?" she asked, apparently astonished by my competence.

"Yes, I did," I said, studying the display on my monitor. "I'm on the Outrenet right now, tracking it. This is very interesting. If the Horror is traveling in a straight line, which it appears to be, and if it continues on its present course, it will be in Plainfield, Wisconsin, in a few hours."

If you don't know about the Outrenet, don't worry. You aren't supposed to. It exists alongside the Internet, and is used by people you've never heard of, to do things you know nothing about, for reasons you wouldn't understand.

"Is that significant?" Dana asked.

I laughed. "Yeah, kind of. Do you know who is buried in the Plainfield Cemetery?"

"Quite a few people, I would imagine."

"There's one in particular. I'll bet you anything that's where the Horror is headed. And if we hurry, we can get there before it does." Dana wanted to ask about fifty different questions, but I just gave her a nasty smirk and said, "Zip it, sister, and get your hat. We have miles to go before we put this baby to sleep."

I was enjoying knowing more than she did.

Before we left, Dana said, "I may be running on fumes, but I can at least keep that crazy bastard from getting into the house again." She performed some sort of a ritual that would seal the premises tight against further incursions by the Horror. This, evidently, did not constitute doing something to the creature, so it wasn't prohibited by the crazy rules.

"How do we know it worked?" I asked, reasonably enough.

"Well," she said, "we don't. But if the Horror does come back in, we'll know it didn't work."

I didn't find that reassuring at all. Maybe that was her revenge.



Phantom, excerpted…/B00O8WNNJ6/ref=la_B005WX2CKQ_1_2_ti…

These excerpts seem to work as far as selling stuff goes. So I'll give you a small chunk of this one. (Oh, and if you've ever wanted to see Sigmund Freud himself psychoanalyze a masked pulp hero-- and who the hell hasn't?-- this book is for you!)

The alley, running between two tall buildings, was quite dark. Perrone stuck his commandeered pistol into a side pocket. Then he removed his Bay Phantom mask from a large extra pocket he had sewn into his jacket and pulled it over his head. The specially-treated lenses of the built-in goggles would enable him to see better in the gloom.

The man in the green cap was half a block ahead of him, moving quietly and carefully in the deep gloom. He had almost made it to St. Michael Street when someone stepped out of a recessed doorway, grabbed him by the throat, and slammed him against the opposite wall. Perrone slowed almost to a halt and held his breath, creeping forward slowly and silently.

"Where are you going, loose end?" came a weird, sibilant voice, just barely audible from where the Bay Phantom stood.

The newcomer cut a very peculiar figure indeed. Of average height, he was decked out in a bizarre ensemble consisting of a long, white lab coat, black gloves, and something that looked like a gas mask. The latter covered his entire head. Strapped to his back were two vertical metal cylinders, each about a foot and a half high and six to eight inches in diameter. They were fastened to a harness on this individual's back. A hose ran from one of them to a long, wand-like apparatus he was holding in the hand that was not occupied choking the gunner. It was a slender rod about three feet in length, made of stainless steel. The last few inches of its length tapered off to a sharp point.

"Never mind," came the voice again. "It doesn't matter at all. You know you cannot be allowed to run free now. You'll talk. Don't shake your head at me! I know your type."

The Bay Phantom knew what was coming. He broke into a run, but there was no way he could reach the two men in time. The man in the lab coat drew back his strange wand and jammed it into the gunman's torso, thrusting upward and at an angle under the ribcage. It must have gone directly into the struggling man's heart. As he raised his gun to fire, the Phantom became aware of a wheezing, mechanical sound.

"You!" the Phantom shouted. "Stop right there! I'm armed, and I'll shoot you if I must!"

The man turned his masked head in the Phantom's direction.

"I know who you are," he said. "Hang on just a moment, and I'll place myself at your disposal."

As the Bay Phantom closed the gap, the lab-coated man twisted the wand deeper into the gunman's body, as though to secure it, then shrugged out of the harness, letting the cylinders drop to the floor of the alley. The Phantom saw the source of the rhythmic mechanical noise: a little electric motor attached to what appeared to be a small pump. The gunman was released and he slumped to the ground. His eyes were wide and his mouth was twitching violently, but no sound came out; his windpipe had probably been crushed.

"Now," said the weird figure, turning to face the oncoming Phantom, "let's see what you've got!"

The Phantom slowed down and leveled his gun at the man's head.

"I've got a few bullets," he said, "and I'll use them before I'll risk taking you on hand-to-hand. Please just remain still and explain to me what's going on here. What did you just do to that man? I assume that he is beyond medical help at this point."

"I like you," said the other. "You're very well-spoken, even in a tense situation like this. That says a lot about a man. You're that Bay Phantom, aren't you? I'm called the Black Embalmer. I’m not actually black; the name is meant to reinforce the air of foreboding I like to project. It's nice to meet someone else with a mask fetish!"

"It isn't a fetish," snapped the Phantom. "It's a necessary tool."

Moving closer, the Phantom saw that what he had thought was a gas mask was something else entirely. There was a close-fitting hood made of what appeared to be pale, grayish leather. Affixed to the front of it was a queer, lifeless depiction of a human face, made of some material that looked like porcelain. No… not porcelain. Some sort of glaze had been applied to it, but he was sure it was ordinary plaster. That, he realized with a start, is somebody’s death mask!

The features were so poorly-defined that he couldn’t tell if it was a man or a woman. Holes slightly larger than silver dollars had been cut out around the eyes and fitted with tinted lenses, not unlike the ones the Phantom himself wore.

"Okay, okay!” said the Embalmer, holding his hands up in the air. “No need to get tetchy, Miss Mary. I'm just making conversation."

As he continued to advance, never taking his eyes or his gun from the weird apparition, the Phantom became aware of a strong chemical odor: formaldehyde. That's what had been pumped into the gunman's body. It was plain that the man was dead and his suffering was over. It had been brief, but it must have been intense.

"Good God!" he gasped. "What kind of a monster are you?"

"I really don't know how to answer that question," replied the Black Embalmer, sounding very chipper and bouncing up and down on the balls of his feet. "I don't think of myself as a monster, but of course I wouldn't. I take it you've never embalmed anyone alive before. You probably frown upon it.”

“Was this man working for you?”

The Embalmer shrugged. “Yes and no. It’s complicated. It would take too long to explain.”

“I’ve got time,” said the Phantom, jiggling the pistol for emphasis.

“No, you don’t. Because my friend behind you is about to hit you over the head with something heavy. Oh, I know what you’re thinking, of course. But sometimes it really is true.”

“You don’t expect me to…” the Phantom said. That was as far as he got before something very solid collided with the base of his skull and everything went black.


This book is HERE:…/B00O8WNNJ6/ref=la_B005WX2CKQ_1_2_ti…