Behind the Wheel (Free story – found in Swallowing the Worm)

“I’m sorry,” he says, the harshness suddenly gone from his voice.

She doesn’t respond.

“Look, when we get home, we’ll sit down and talk about this. Okay?”

Nothing.

“Okay?!”

“Fine,” she says.

“For now, let’s just get through this last hour of the drive.”

The Jeep sits idling, its engine purring. Outside, the constant hum of the busy freeway is interrupted only by the wind beating against the Jeep’s body. The vinyl windows snap back and forth violently. Windshield wipers scrape clear the last of the raindrops. The clouds above are nearly empty. For now, the storm has passed.

“You know I love you. Right?”

“I know,” she says from the passenger seat.

“And you know I don’t like hurting you.”

“I know.”

“It’s just, when I’m behind the wheel, I’ve got things covered, ya know? I don’t need you telling me how to drive.”

She stares blindly through the windshield, her leg still stinging from where he had grabbed her. It’ll leave a nice purple bruise, no doubt. A little five-fingered temporary tattoo, but a permanent reminder.

“I mean, I know the rain was coming down pretty hard, and things got a little hairy, but trust me, I’m never not in control.”

She can hear him talking, but her attention is on the people milling around the rest area: the elderly man studying the large map mounted on the front of the stone building; the truck driver beside his rig stretching the stiffness from his back; the child waiting impatiently as her mother roots through her purse for vending machine change. All of them were on a journey to somewhere else; somewhere better than the direction she was heading. To them, to her, this was just a place to stop. A place to rest before moving on.

“Ya know, Evan and Stacy want us to come over and watch the game Saturday. I told them we would. That’s okay, right?”

“Sure.”

“It’ll be a good time. Matt and his fiancée will be there, so you’ll have someone to talk to while the guys watch the game.”

“Okay.”

“Maybe you could make some of your famous black bean dip. Or those mini sausages I like so much. Just don’t cook them so long this time.”

“Whatever you want.”

“Great! See?” he says, unfastening his seat belt. “Everything’s gonna be good.”

He leans over and places a kiss on her cheek. She flinches, and as she turns away, her watery eyes come to rest on the scene playing out beside the Jeep: a mother waits patiently next to a van as her daughter puts on her shoes. She can almost hear the conversation taking place between them, as if she is a part of it. The ground is wet, baby. You can’t just jump. You gotta think about these things before you take that first step.

He opens the driver’s side door and starts to get out. The wind howls through the opening, and if there had ever been any warmth to begin with, it was now gone.

“Do you think the storm is over?” she asks, eyes forward.

He leans back into the idling Jeep.

“Huh?”

“Nevermind.”

He shrugs, then shuts the door. She watches him walk up the damp, grey sidewalk toward the building that houses the restrooms. She watches him turn his collar up against the steel breeze. She watches him check out the backside of a young redhead while holding the door open for her, pretending to be chivalrous.

It’s only when a semi thunders by that her eyes turn away. The truck rolls slowly down the entrance ramp, picking up speed as it goes. It merges onto the long, outstretched freeway and soon disappears over a hill.

As she sits alone in the Jeep, she wonders what’s on the other side of the hill; what lies ahead. She looks on, imagining the possibilities long after the truck is out of sight. Subconsciously, she rubs her wrist. Another old reminder. Her eyes drift down to the keys dangling from the ignition.

Pulling out of the parking lot, the Jeep’s engine screams just before shifting gears and settling into a nice, steady roar. Its tires pick up speed as it rolls down the entrance ramp and merges onto the long, outstretched freeway ahead. Approaching the oncoming hill, she doesn’t question how effortlessly she will climb it. After all, the Jeep’s load leaving the rest area is lighter than when it arrived.

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Cool Interview!

Did an interview with fellow horror writer, C. Bryan Brown. The guy asks some good and tough questions. Included is the explanation of the real life events that led to the inspiration of my first novel, BONE WHITE.  Check it out…

A Confab with author Tim McWhorter

NEWSFLASH!!!

After taking plenty of time to think it over, including a fair share of back and forth, a decision has finally been made. I’m happy to announce that as of 4:00 pm today, I will be casting off the ‘self-published’ moniker and signing on with an honest to goodness publisher. I wasn’t necessarily looking for a publishing home, but when the right opportunity is presented by the right people, I would be foolish not to accept. PlotForge, Ltd. is a small, but growing company, and I like where they are heading. This relationship will open up many avenues for me that I do not currently have access to, including worldwide distribution and the tools needed to put out a better product. Likewise, I hope to continue their tradition of publishing quality, highly-regarded books.

So what does all this mean?

First up, a newly edited and repackaged 2nd edition of BONE WHITE, including a beautiful new cover will hit the shelves sometime this summer. If you want a copy of the 1st edition with the original cover, your time is limited. Once the 2nd edition is released, the 1st edition will be pulled from store shelves and websites, thereby becoming unavailable. Having said that, I also invite you to give the new product a look when it releases.

Following the re-release of BONE WHITE, a newly edited BLACKENED will hit the shelves soon after. A decision hasn’t yet been made regarding the cover, but either way, the 2nd edition will still be replacing the 1st.

I’m very much looking forward to working with my new friends at PlotForge, Ltd. I encourage everyone to check out their website, like their Facebook page and give their other books a glance.

Thanks to all of you for the immense support over the last couple of years. I couldn’t ask to be surrounded by a better group of friends, family and readers. Much love to you all!

http://www.plotforge.com/

https://www.facebook.com/PlotForge

Meet author C. Bryan Brown

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Thankfully, for those of us who prefer our vampires without sparkle, there are authors like C. Bryan Brown who have come to our rescue recently. With the release of his latest novel, They Are Among Us, Brown puts the ‘blood’ back in ‘blood sucker.’ Let’s meet him, shall we?

Tim McWhorter: Hello, C. Bryan Brown, and thank you for taking the time to answer some questions. First off, in order to acquaint us with the man behind the name, tell us a little about yourself.

C. Bryan Brown: Ooooh, the dreaded bio question!

I suppose I could just info dump about who I am, and tell everyone where I was born (St. Louis), whether or not this hunka body of mine is married to a great woman (it is), and whether or not I have kids (I do), but that’s boring. Instead, I want to lean on my corporate life for just a minute and use an icebreaker!

Let’s play two truths and a lie.

I’m going to rattle off three statements. Two will be true and the other will be a lie. Pretty simple, but here’s the rub… if you comment on the interview with the two truths, you’ll be entered to win a signed copy of They Are Among Us!

  • Bryan isn’t the correct spelling of my middle name, but rather I chose it for its uniqueness over the correct spelling of Brian.
  • I once ran myself over with my own car. After seeing the road I was on, my father observed it was the Missouri version of the Ho Chi Minh trail.
  • My short story, Sewer Rats, which was published by Post Mortem Press in the Dark Doorways best-of anthology, is about kids that “spelunk” through the sewer system. That story is, in part, based on the adventures my friends and I had doing the same thing.

So, two of those are true and one is bullshit. Can you spot the pile of manure? Leave a comment with the two truths and you’ll be entered to win. We’ll keep the comments open for 24 hours for entries. Now, I’m a poor artist, so I can only ship to people in the continental United States.

Game on, people.

Game. On.

Good luck!

TM: There you have it, folks. To recap, one lucky person will win a signed copy of They Are Among Us, just by commenting below with the two statements that are true. I’m not even sure if I know which two are true, so good luck! You have until noon tomorrow (6/2)…

Now, C. Bryan Brown, what got you interested in writing in the first place?

CBB: Books, really, and an always/forever feud with my younger sister. Let me explain…

I’ve always been a reader. I remember breaking my teeth on “The Boxcar Children,” the “Choose Your Own Adventures,” the “Zork” series, Ann M. Martin’s “The Babysitter’s Club,” plus “The Hardy Boys,” and even “Sweet Valley High.” I graduated to the likes of F. Paul Wilson, Robert McCammon, and Stephen King around the 8th grade. From there, through high school, the more classic authors emerged: Vonnegut, Steinbeck, and Matheson. There’s so many more, too. I could go on for hours.

As far as the writing goes, I had an aptitude for it in school. One day when I was fifteen, my sister pissed me off and, for some strange reason, I thought it’d be cool to get even with her by killing off The New Kids on the Block. I filled a dozen notebooks with an evil, nefarious plot where werewolves, vampires, ghosts, and other creatures killed them. Believe it or not, too, there was a reason for this. Their music was bringing everyone together (think Wyld Stallyns) and the forces of evil couldn’t have that.

TM: We mentioned earlier that you’ve recently released a new novel. Readers like myself can easily pick it up and read the description on the back cover, but what doesn’t that tell us about They Are Among Us? When we open to page one, what are we in for?

The back of the book doesn’t tell you the novel is split into two separate timelines to tell the entire narrative, which creates a unique perspective on the events that transpire. It also omits the fact that this is first book in a trilogy. I usually save those two pieces of information for direct communication with readers.

The first page of They Are Among Us is you sitting at the start of the Top Thrill Dragster at Cedar Point. It’s a Ready-Set-Go moment and you’re off, up to 120 mph, but I don’t let up until the last page. The book will definitely run you longer than 17 seconds and when it ends, you’ll want more.

TM: They Are Among Us represents your third full-length book after Men of Five and Necromancer. How have you seen your writing progress from the first to the second, and now to this one?

CBB: Hopefully it’s improved! But to give a more serious answer, it’s progressed steadily towards telling a much tighter and more compelling story.

Men of Five deals with a very broad theme, faith, and Necromancer speaks to personal responsibility and the loss of personal control in the face of unbeatable odds. In each of those works, I left a lot of story pieces on the table. Some readers called me on it, because it didn’t match with their expectations. And while I know you can’t please every reader, I still try to walk that tightrope without falling.

In They Are Among Us, if it seems like a dangler, it’s dangling for a purpose. I’m playing a long game, and hopefully in the end, it pays off with a compact, thrilling, and relevant story for what’s going on today.

TM: Now that They Are Among Us is out, what’s next for C. Bryan Brown?

CBB: The second book in the trilogy, At Dawn They Sleep. That’s the immediate future. For the near future, I’ve set a timeline where, if I can keep my big ass focused, I’ll have three books completed by year’s end. Not published, by written, edited, and ready for submission. The far future, meaning 2016 and beyond, is to hopefully publish the above three books and just keep on writing, improving, and meeting more cool people.

TM: For you personally, what is the most rewarding aspect of being a writer?

CBB: The most rewarding aspect is sharing my stories.

I read some article that stated when kids read a lot, they become more empathetic towards others. I believe that. I grew up in the middle class suburbs of St. Louis and I didn’t have regular interactions with anything but other middle class white kids. When I hit high school, and the “bussing” started, it was a whole new world… but not really, because of books. In the fantasy I read, racial tension was always a thing… fucking elves and dwarves couldn’t get along to save their own lives, until they did. In horror, it was rarely the unknown you had to fear and worry about, it was the nice guy next door with the pompadour hair and ankle-biting little poodle. It was always the stranger, the outsider, who had the knowledge, or the courage, to save the day.

When I write, I hope my stories are able to touch readers in some way, like books did me when I was younger (and, to a lesser extent, now). I hope readers identify with my characters (both the good and the bad), and recognize the ambiguity and uncertainty there is in everyone’s actions and, to a greater extent, just being alive. And ultimately, I hope my stories give readers a better understanding of the world around them and brings them some measure of peace, even if only for a little bit.

TM: Changing gears, what is the most difficult aspect of writing for you?

CBB: Selling the book after publication!

With the market dynamic what it is, you need more than just a good, or even a great, book. A writer has to be present and accounted for now. I have numerous non-writing commitments and responsibilities, and figuring out how to split my time between marketing, writing, editing, reading, and any other opportunities that come up is the worst. Ever.

TM: What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given by another writer?

CBB: The best piece of advice I think, overall, was given to be my Jonathan Maberry. I’m sure he probably doesn’t remember it, considering the man is always on the road and he sees and talks to a lot of little writers like me. But, let me tell you a story…

Confluence, Pittsburgh, July 2012.

I’d been scheduled to be on a panel with Jonathan, Gary Braunbeck, Tim Waggoner, and Lawrence Connolly.

Did I mention this was my first panel ever as a published writer? No? Well, it was, and I’m supposed to throw out answers with these dudes, some of the heavy hitters of the small-to-medium presses. My first reaction was, naturally, “This is the coolest thing ever!” and that was quickly followed by “Fuck my life.” What could I possibly add to this group of talented writers?

The answer, of course, was very little.

I arrived a little early to the room, completely sober, and sweating bullets. I paced outside the room and Jonathan showed up. We’d met a little earlier in the day (he’s done some work with my publisher, Post Mortem Press, and that’s how we were introduced) and he inquired if I was on the panel, too. I said I was and he smiled at me, watched me pace for a minute or so, and told me to relax.

“Listen,” he said, “You’ll be fine. Trust me.”

And all throughout the panel, I was more than content to shrink my large body into the chair and disappear. But Jonathan made sure I answered questions, pointedly asking, “What do you think, Chris?” And I answered, and I did okay. Was I great? No. Did anyone come back and buy Necromancer? No. Did I survive? Yes. As a matter of fact, I was fine.

And that’s the best advice any writer has given me. Whatever happens, whether it’s a bad review or a stalled story or a lack of sales, I’ll be fine. And as long as I’m fine, I can keep moving forward.

TM: When you first sit down at a keyboard or notebook, what is your main goal?

CBB: The main goal is to write. I don’t care if it’s good or bad. I’ll edit it later. But the words have to be out on the screen/paper for them to be edited. Stuck in my head, they’re about as useful as one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest.

TM: Are you a high-maintenance writer who has to have the perfect atmosphere, or are you one of those lucky ones who can focus and produce just about anywhere?

CBB: I’m middle-maintenance all the way.

I don’t need perfection, but I can’t focus in certain situations. Mainly, those situations are when my friends and/or family are around. My time with them is precious and I don’t get nearly enough of it, so I like to pay attention.

I also can’t write if there’s a television on. I know some people use the TV as background noise, but it’s a visual distraction for me. I’ll need to pay attention to it and not my writing. That’s why on Sundays, all I do is laundry and catch up on my recorded shows and Netflix list. Every so often I’ll rent a movie through the AppleTV or something. But only on Sundays.

But, you take away the TV and my friends/family, I can write and be productive almost anywhere. Bars, restaurants, the car, the shitter. Of course, like most writers, I try to stick to places that are more conducive to working such as coffee shops, delis, or my home office.

TM: Give me the names of two books, one in your chosen genre and one outside of it, that you wish you had written.

CBB: In my genre is a hard call. Speculative fiction is such a large umbrella, and so many books have imprinted on me for one reason or another. However, there are two books I read once a year. Those two books are They Thirst by Robert McCammon and The Beasts of Valhalla by George C. Chesbro.

Between the two of them, I think The Beasts of Valhalla by George C. Chesbro is the book I wish I’d written. The novel really says “fuck genre” like few others I’ve read. It blends science fiction with fantasy, horror, mystery, and thriller in such a beautiful way it’s staggering. It’s a fantastic read from start to finish.

Outside my genre is pretty easy… The Grapes of Wrath by Steinbeck. Such a great book, so human and also not. It’s very much a mirror to what we’re going through now as a society.

TM: Finally, I’d like to thank you again for taking the time to answer some questions and acquaint yourself with some of my readers. Before you leave, though, could you tell us where can we learn more about you and your books?

CBB: Anyone can stalk me at my website, http://cbryanbrown.net, or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/cbryanbrown. You can also get me on Twitter and if you’d like to buy anything I’ve written, you can hit my Amazon author page, which is http://www.amazon.com/C-Bryan-Brown/e/B004DJKPM2

I’d like to give a big thanks to Tim for pounding me with questions today! Hopefully everyone enjoyed my answers and I hope to see you all around on this here interwebz thing.

PARTY PRICELIST (Chris)