Excerpt: The Shadow Men Trilogy (One)

In advance of the publication of  The Shadow Men Trilogy box set on February 28, I will be publishing a few excerpts online. What follows is from the first chapter of the novel:

Clouds blanketed the sky, rippling bruises in the twilight. The city Darrhyn below, sprawling along the bend of a wide river, was draped in the resultant shadows, pierced only intermittently by the remnants of the day’s sun. Hurried figures passed from street to street in certain of its quarters to light the lamps, while others were left to what the night would bring. Along the city’s great wall the beacons in the towers were struck, signaling the changing of the Watch. The new quadras marched up tower stairs, the soldiers heading out to pace the ramparts, looking into the final glare of the sun as it cast the scrub of the desert in oranges and reds.

Within one of the watchtowers five men squinted in the lamplight at a just-overturned cup, none of them speaking. Above them the sentinel on duty was singing an academy song about a woman so light in her manners that she would invite any man to sup with her.

Call,” the dealer said as he removed his hand from the cup, its contents still a mystery.

The youth to his left exhaled slowly as he eyed the cup. “Even. Five kenir,” he said, the flames of the beacon above them snapping as more oil was added.

Odd. I’ll see you, Husem,” the man beside him said, and the youth grimaced. “You’re too young to be a gamester, I think.”

He had a face gone thick with age and a long scar that ran from his chin up to his ear, just above the line of his jaw on one side. When he grinned, as he was doing now, it had the effect of creating what seemed a double smile on that half of his face.

He lacks ability,” the dealer said.

Short on talent as well,” the man said, to the laughter of everyone but the youth. The others at the table followed through with their bets, all odd.

Masiph id Ezern bit his lip. “I hope this is all above board,” he said, staring at the dealer whose hand had strayed back to the cup.

I hope so too,” the man, Achelluth, said. “Someone short on talent and without ability certainly can’t handle the underboard of life.”

Masiph bit his lip again, not replying, and the dealer pulled the cup away, revealing two dice—a four and a three. There were whoops from around the table, but he did not look up, his eyes fixed on the dull bones whose pips had betrayed him again.

That’s it. I’m out,” he said, pushing the last of his coins across the table. “I’m getting some air.” Continue reading

Excerpt: Stand By Your Man

In advance of the publication of Stand By Your Man on February 24, here is a short excerpt:

HER PARENTS NAMED her Tammy after the singer of Stand By Your Man, a song which she never had much taste for. Country had never been her thing. In high school she acquired another nickname, “trucker fucker”, after a rumor started that she waited outside the hotel bar in Loverna for the truckers to come out so she could give them blowjobs. That was not true, or at least not entirely. There had been one guy she gave head to, but she was fairly certain he worked on a seismic rig.

It hadn’t mattered though, the name and the story that went with it had stuck and for the rest of high school she was one of those girls. The girl that every guy thought he should try his luck with at a party, whether or not he had a girlfriend. She played the part a few times, mostly out of spite with the boyfriends of girls who taunted her for her sluttiness. It all backfired predictably, with the blame all coming her way.

After high school, lacking the grades and the money to go off to college, she moved into town off her father’s farm and took a job at the UFA gas station out on Highway 41. She decided she was done with school and boys and all the drama and nonsense that went with. Now that she was out of school, not interacting with the same one hundred or so horny, judgmental idiots, the nickname and her tawdry reputation began to seem things of the past. She was treated as an adult, accorded that respect, and she began to get it into her head that she deserved a man not a boy, though she did not quite know what that meant. Continue reading

Excerpt: The Devious Kind (Chapter Three)

In advance of the publication of The Devious Kind at the end of the month, I will be publishing a few excerpts online. What follows is the third chapter of the novel:

As he turned the car around and headed back to the Johnstone house, he reported the murder to the detachment in Hanna, requesting backup if they had it. The woman in the detachment office told him that all the officers from Youngstown and Hanna were dealing with an accident on Highway 9, but once they were done there they could send someone along. One of them was supposed to be coming anyway, with Lara leaving for the week yesterday, but obviously circumstances had delayed that. She would also put in a request for a forensics team from Calgary to be sent as soon as possible. The way the storm was going, none of them might make it, he thought.

He pulled up in front of the house, stopping behind Leonard’s truck, and sat for a moment, unwilling to start this just yet. Why the hell had Lara picked this week for her vacation? The one time when he actually needed the backup, she was visiting her in-laws in BC. He put his hand to his temple as if to stave off a headache, and thought briefly about having a smoke. Lara had told him he should quit, though, and he was trying for her. That thought got him moving again up to the house. Continue reading

Now Available: The Devious Kind

THE DEVIOUS KIND

A MYSTERY

CLINT WESTGARD

The body of a local woman is found in a coulee on a ranch north of Loverna, her head blown off with a shotgun. New to town and the job, Constable Martin Thomas arrives on the scene as a spring snowstorm begins to wipe out all evidence before his investigation has even begun.

There is no shortage of suspects to consider. A spurned husband. A jealous lover. A betrayed business partner. And family members battling over an inheritance. All have motive and opportunity. And no one seems to be telling him everything.

As he tries to sift the truth from the lies, the snowstorm continues to build, leaving Loverna cut off from the outside world. And Martin alone to face a killer who will do anything not to get caught.

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Now Available: In A Flash

IN A FLASH

COLLECTION

CLINT WESTGARD

An inquisitor sets out on a journey to find a monster. An inventor creates a time machine and is horrified to discover it works all too well.

A living ship comes to give birth at edges of space. Wizards do battle for eternal supremacy.

Sleeper agents under deep cover are activated and must leave everything behind. Love affairs blossom and fade in springtime.

Hunters become the hunted and dwellings turn upon their inhabitants. And a warlock provides unique and particular advice on romance.

These and many other stories make up In A Flash, a collection of very short fiction that explores the vagaries of time and space, journeys to exotic realms, and the curious ways of the heart. From horror to westerns to romance to far-flung space opera and all points in between, In A Flash collects more than fifty stories.

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Excerpt: The Devious Kind (Chapter Two)

In advance of the publication of The Devious Kind at the end of the month, I will be publishing a few excerpts online. What follows is the second chapter of the novel:

Half an hour later, a police car drove slowly up the driveway into the main yard, pulling to a stop in front of the ranch house, where Diane stood on the porch, a dog at her feet and a hood thrown over her head to keep off the snow.

Hello, Diane,” Constable Martin Tomas said as he stepped out of the car.

She just nodded. “It’s down there by the coulee,” she said, pointing. “You can take your car if you think it can make it through the mud.”

I’ll be all right.”

She paused, and then said, “We called him. Wayne said I probably shouldn’t, but I had to.”

He nodded. “He’s down there now?”

Yeah.”

Martin got back into his car and drove slowly down the laneway that led to the far pens that edged onto the coulee. He went past pens filled with cattle still heavy with their winter coats, but he paid them no mind. Even six months ago he might have, but now, a year and a half into his term here, a cow was just a cow. Continue reading

Excerpt: The Devious Kind (Chapter One)

In advance of the publication of The Devious Kind at the end of the month, I will be publishing a few excerpts online. What follows is the first chapter of the novel:

The body lay, sprawled awkwardly, partway down the coulee, right before the slope turned sheer and plunged to the creek far below. The night had hidden it, but the arrival of dawn made its presence obvious. There were several sets of footprints from where the body lay to the road, clearly marked in the muddy spring ground. Even as the new day’s light revealed these details, the first flakes of snow began to fall, wet and heavy. For a time the earth resisted their intrusion, but eventually the storm proved too much and the ground turned white, covering over the tracks. Continue reading

In A Flash: The End

Writing a short story a week for a year, that was the challenge I set myself in 2016. The stories had to be no more than 1500 words and they could not be connected in any way to other worlds or characters I had created. Once written, I would publish them here for the world to see.

Why did I decide to do this?

It’s not simply that I enjoy torturing myself with arbitrary challenges that inevitably end in tears and disappointment, at one’s basic inability to follow through on anything and the sure knowledge that failure (and ultimately death) awaits us all. That gets me through the night, as I’m sure it does everyone else, but that couldn’t be all this was about.

I wanted to push myself as writer. I felt I had become too complacent in some ways and I wanted to see if I could challenge myself. To force myself to write things that I might not otherwise. Whether this was a genre or a style I didn’t normally write in, or a tense, tone or perspective I didn’t normally adopt, I wanted to see what would happen if I didn’t do what came naturally.

I also wanted to see if I could get myself to write with more brevity, and what better way to do that than to force concision upon myself with a word limit. Practice is not something people often talk about with regards to writing, but that was a fundamental part of this challenge. If I made myself write a short story a week, with a strict (kind of) word limit, by the end of the year, I should have a better idea of how to write with concision and focus. That was the theory anyway.

Along those same lines, I also wanted to get better at writing when I had no inspiration and no ideas of what to write. Muses are fickle, tedious creatures in my experience, not to be relied upon. As a result, the majority of these stories began with a blank page and no sense at all of what I was going to write about that week. I began with a sentence and then another and let my mind take me where it wanted to go.

Finally, and most importantly, I wanted to have fun. Writing, is a pleasurable exercise. At least I think it should be. But, like anything else, it can grow stale if you keep doing the same thing over and over. By starting fresh each week, I ensured that I was always doing going down new and different paths.

As expected, there were a few failures. There were trips to Machu Picchu. Sickness. Health. Miscreant geese. Recalcitrant alpacas. 1500 word stories morphed into a multi-volume book series. The usual run of life, in other words. But I also managed a few weeks where I got more than one story written, with the end result that I ended with more than the 52 stories I had planned.

All the stories that resulted from that challenge I set for myself can be found under the In A Flash category. They will also be collected and published in a volume. Details will be posted on Lost Quarter Books.

As I write this, having successfully completed 52 plus weeks of writing short stories, I can say that I succeeded in meeting all the goals I had when I set out. The merits of the stories themselves, I will leave to the readers to judge. I know that I enjoyed writing them all, and I hope that you enjoyed reading them.

In A Flash: The Dame

There’s a woman here to see you. Real looker.” Daisy said, sticking her head in through Murphy’s door.

Murphy nodded to send her in. He got a good look at her as she came in through the door. Eyes downcast to look demur, but there was a light to them that said otherwise. Her lips were the kind that always seemed to be smiling, or on the verge of it. A beautiful girl, no doubt about it.

What can I do for you Miss…?”

Adeline Sandos. Thank you for seeing me, Mr. Murphy. I have a problem. I’m not quite sure how to explain it.”

Just start at the beginning,” Murphy said, with a generous smile, his eyes intent upon her.

Adeline hesitated, looking away and then back at Murphy. “Well, it’s my husband, you see.” Murphy nodded, as though he had expected her to say that. “He’s gotten mixed up with some bad people I think. And I’m worried…”

Here she hesitated again. Murphy leaned forward slightly. “What worries you, Miss Sandos?”

Well, I’m worried there may be another woman.”

Murphy nodded, as though he had expected that too. He made her tell him everything, even those things she seemed reluctant to talk about, asking questions about particular details. When he was done he sent her on her way with some reassurance, telling her to put a retainer down with Daisy. He watched her leave the room, his eyes lingering on her as she left, his lips pursed in thought.

***

Adeline left the detective agency and took a cab across town to the Hotel Bellmire, an old and majestic place downtown that seemed a little faded, as though it were a picture on a postcard that had sat in the sun too long. She did not stop at the front desk, heading straight up to the fifth floor where she let herself into one of the rooms. The Brides were waiting for her there.

They were a set of twins, handsome and youthful, though less youthful upon closer inspection, with glittering eyes and smiles with edges.

How did it go?” one said.

Just like you said,” Adeline said. “I told him everything, just like you told me to to tell it.”

And he didn’t suspect you of anything?”

Adeline shook her head. “It didn’t matter what I said. A whiff of innocence and desperation was all he needed. He was in all the way.”

Good girl. Fix her a drink,” the one brother said.

The first brother glared at him, as if to tell him to do it himself, but he got up and poured Adeline a whiskey. She drank it off in one gulp.

There’s the matter of my payment,” she said, fixing them both with a steady eye.

“All in due time, all in due time.”

Adeline shook her head. “How about now instead?”

The first Bride brother gave her a thin smile. “Very well.” He fished an envelope from within the breastpocket of his suit and handed it to her.

Ignoring the two men, Adeline counted out the bills. She glanced up at them. “This is half what I’m owed.”

“Yes, you see our little scheme is only workable if you make yourself scarce. You will do so tonight and, at the conclusion of the affair, you will receive the remainder of what was agreed.”

“This wasn’t the agreement,” Adeline said, shaking her head. “I get it all now, or I leave here and go straight to the police and sing my song.”

“That would be unwise,” the first brother said, with a disapproving shake of his head. The second brother pulled a pistol out from the waistband of his suit. “Most unwise.”

Adeline looked at the gun and shook her head. “You think you can scare me? You don’t need a body on your hands. You need me gone.”

“That can be arranged.”

“Not the way you want it, or we wouldn’t be having this conversation. No, you’re not going to kill me. Too messy. Too easy to tie to you. I made sure to talk to the front desk and let them know whose room I was headed to. So, I’ll just take the rest of what we agreed and be on my way to disappearing. Otherwise, you can expect visits from Murphy and the police.”

The second brother cocked the pistol and raised it up so that it was pointed directly at Adeline’s head. She stared at him without blinking, her face expressionless.

The first brother made a disgusted sound and waved at the other. “Put that away. We can’t be taking chances at this juncture of the affair. Very well, Miss Sandos.” He pulled out a thick roll of bills from his suit pocket and counted off ten. “This should square us, I think.”

Adeline tucked them into the envelope with the rest. “Pleasure doing business, gents,” she said with a curt nod. “You won’t be seeing me.”

She turned, not bothering to wait for a reply, and headed for the door.

***

Murphy was waiting for her when she came home.

“See, I knew it didn’t check out,” Murphy said to her, an amused, but superior expression on his face. The cat that had the mouse in its paws and was going to play awhile. “It smelled a little funny. All of it. And then I get to looking into you and it seems there is an Adeline Sandos, but you ain’t her. And that’s when I knew the Bride boys were up to something.”

Adeline’s face betrayed no emotion. “Am I supposed to congratulate you now, or something?”

“What are they about? What’s their game?”

“Shouldn’t you be over there asking them that?”

“In due time,” Murphy said. “In due time. First, there’s some things I need you to clear up.”

Adeline sighed. “They sent me. I’m supposed to disappear and cause you some problems. That’s my end of it. Anything else you want to know?”

Murphy seemed taken aback. He swallowed, his triumph not seeming so complete now. “Why are you telling me this?”

“It’s not my problem their little scheme is blowing up in their face. I got my money. Now run along and confront them. They’re probably hoping you will anyway. That’s what you all want isn’t it?”

Murphy frowned, but he stood and put his hat on his head. “Just tell me your end of it,” he said, shaking his head.

Adeline laughed. “I already told you. I got paid. Now, you don’t want to keep those boys waiting. I’m sure there’ll be a lot of yelling and threats and such.”

Murphy looked as though he wanted to disagree with her, but instead he walked out the door, leaving her alone. Adeline pulled out the wad of bills from the envelope and tucked them underneath the coffee cup at the back of one of the cupboards. Then she pulled out a bottle of whiskey and poured herself a shot.

***

In A Flash: read a new story every Thursday…

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In A Flash: Dime Novel Denouement

This moment does not seem to be a moment. It seems endless, interminable. An internment camp. The holding pen before the gulag. Devoid creatures wander through the night along empty streets, straying from the light. I am one of them now.

Rain begins to fall, softly at first, and then in staccato bursts. I scuttle across openings, clinging to the security of the damp mildewed walls. There are eyes everywhere, but none look for me. I am worth nothing to anyone. No price will be paid. Yet, I refuse to expose myself. I am no martyr, whatever else I may be.

You speak and I shiver and clutch my hands in my pocket. This parched feeling that holds and won’t let go. I fight for words; silence is like a wound, like a lie I always tell. You do not care whether I speak or stay quiet, all you care is what I do.

The thousand betrayals of a life leave the birth of the malformed. I’ve clawed at my own skin, it does not fit right. Nature seems dead and wicked dreams abuse.

***

I’m looking for a taste of ecstasy, I’ve had delight and it lost its potency. With you at my side on this long, damp and dark road.

I long to taste the sunrise in your mouth, as my tongue slides past your teeth and the morning dew is fresh on my lips. I want to smell your sweat on me, the heat of my flesh on the heat of yours, shivering, shimmering to a glow.

Oh, to look upon you now, through the blur of the rain. If I could take you in this doorway I would. Continue reading