Ready For Some Reading? It’s Sneak Preview Sunday!

Hi all. It’s been a wonderful, lazy Sunday. I slept in until about 1 in the afternoon then watched BACK TO THE FUTURE PART II, ROCK AND ROLL FANTASY CAMP, and THAT METAL SHOW on VH1 Classic, then played ARMY OF DARKNESS DEFENSE for a bit (I’m on WAVE 50, so I’m about done), then enjoyed an awesome dinner courtesy of my awesome cook of an awesome wife. Awesome.


(Yes, this guy is a total douche, but he makes for some good TV.)

Next up, we’re cleaning out our DVR (I’ve got a few episodes of JERSEY SHORE piling up on us).

But what about your blog? Thanks for asking, Loyal Reader! And thank you for taking the time to visit my site and for sifting through my posts!

I figure Sunday is as good a day as any to start running some writing excerpts. I know you read blogs because A.) it’s interesting to hear what’s going on, and B.) everyone loves a little social commentary. Non-fiction outsells fiction by some stupendous margin (which irks this fiction writer to no end) so it makes sense that folks dig blogs like they dig magazines, and the nightly news, and bite-sized bits of sensationalism.

Cool. Whatever. (He says as he hangs his head and mopes for the great novels of the world).

Anyway, why not use my blog to flip the script and offer up some solid fiction? Cool, huh?

Okay then, if you got the time here’s the first chapter from my upcoming novel BIRDBOX. Read it now, later, whenever (you can always search old posts and bring it back around should you desire). Love it. Hate it. Share it. Use it as a tool for the soon-to-be heavily promoted book.

My publisher commissioned a killer cover by the incredible Frank Walls, but I’m keeping it under wraps until we get closer to the launch. It’s a real winner and I can’t wait to share it (it’s definitely one of my favorites), but hopefully the suspense does what it’s supposed to do and gets you all tense and excited. The moment I get a definitive release date, I’ll show the sucker off. Pinky-swear promise.


(I may not be able to show you the BIRDBOX cover yet, but you can sneak a peek in my shiny, new promo magnet. Hint: check the last slice of artwork.)

Here’s a quick set up…

BIRDBOX is about the Garcia children, four feisty siblings aged from seven to sixteen, and their perilous, often messy battle with an ancient blood witch. There’s much, much more going on, but we’ll save the juicy details for the book launch.

Without further adieu, I am proud to present BIRDBOX – Chapter One: The Gift of Flight. Hope you enjoy it. Be sure to let me know what you think. Night, Loyal Reader. Happy reading.

***

1

The Gift of Flight

Little Isabella Marisol Garcia didn’t want to play hide-and-seek with her loud-mouthed brothers, but then she didn’t want to be left alone in the creepy old house either. She was only seven years and three months old and to her chagrin didn’t know how to properly express herself.

If she started crying, her brothers, especially Manny, would make fun of her (and call her a crybaby). If she said she wanted to go home, they would make fun of her (and call her a crybaby). If she said she didn’t want to play, they’d make fun of her (and call her a crybaby). But, if she agreed to play, and had to actually go off and hide somewhere, on her own, she’d be left all alone same as if she refused to play. So, she kept quiet and tried to follow Esteban’s overly complicated rules while her brain nagged and secretly wished she never tagged along in the first place.

“Stupid!” Oscar moaned. “It’s not that hard! We just run and hide and your dumbass tries to find us!”

Oscar was the eldest. At fifteen, he knew EVERYTHING (or at least he thought he knew everything). He wasn’t the least bit happy about hanging out with his siblings, but his friends weren’t around and he had nothing better to do. He browbeat Esteban (thirteen years old going on fifty), ridiculing his complex instructions until the nerdy over-thinker threw his hands up and shouted, “Fine! Just hide!” and then grumbled, “Fucking boring,” under his breath.

Isabella gasped and pinched Esteban’s arm.

“Sorry, Izzy.” He pushed his glasses against the bridge of his nose and looked down at his feet.

Manny, the twelve-year-old terror, an expert at cursing himself, capitalized upon Esteban’s slip and began jumping around. He teased, “I’m a tell Mama! You said the F word! You said it!”

Esteban flipped him off and then Manny got him in a headlock and then Oscar jumped in, and just like that, the three boys began wrestling around like wild animals (as Mama often called them).

Isabella crossed her arms and tapped her little feet and waited for the idiocy to cease. Stupid boys, was all she could think, but then she chastised herself for thinking such an ugly word like Stupid. It wasn’t really a curse, not like the F word or the S word, but her Mama and Papa still disapproved. They were adamant – young ladies were too sweet to talk like thugs.

While the boys scuffled, she glanced around the dilapidated house. It was a huge place, two stories with a basement below them and a little attic that sat up top almost like a third story. Isabella daydreamed that if the house were new and pretty like it surely once was, the attic would be her room. She’d paint it bright pink and decorate it just how she liked – Hello Kitty everywhere and dolphins, lots of dolphins – which would be worlds better than the small, white room she currently inhabited. It was too plain. Her Mama kept promising her that she’d help her fix it up, but she was always too busy. Worse, it was situated right next to Oscar’s room and he liked to listen to his ugly, rap music way too loud.

It would be nice to be on top for a change, to be above the noise and stink of three older brothers. But then, while she mulled it over, even if the house were new and pretty and her parents had enough money to buy it and they offered her the attic to beautify as she saw fit, she didn’t think she would take it. She didn’t think she would be able to live there no matter how new and pretty it could be or ever was. And while it didn’t seem particularly scary now, just dusty, and old, and gross – there were stories, horrible, evil stories that drove her brain frantic with fear.

Currently, her defenses were up, trying to drive her thoughts in every other direction but down into the dark recesses of her over active imagination.

They passed the old house everyday on their way to school and everyday her brothers would point out the windows of their mini-van and ask their Mama to tell them the ghost stories. Most mornings, unless Mama was tired or grumpy or mad at Oscar for being a teenager, or Manny for being a spaz, or at Papa for getting to take the Lexus to work while she had to drive the van, she lowered her voice and told them about the
Mendoza murders and how a mom went psycho and killed her husband and three children with a razor sharp axe.

Psycho?!

Murders?!

Dead kids?!

Isabella didn’t want to listen, and by the second and third and fourth time her Mama told it, she plugged her ears and quietly hummed the Sponge Bob Square Pants theme song. But then she had already heard it once and it was too late. The gargantuan house, sitting all alone in a weedy field, abandoned, half a mile from the housing development where they lived in beautiful Chino Hills, California, gave little Isabella Marisol Garcia a fearsome case of the heebie jeebies.

If she’d known that her brothers were going to make the trek to snoop it out, she would have never bugged her Mama to make them take her along. She would have been fine staying in and playing Candy Land (by herself even). But here she was, too late to back out or do anything about it (except rat on them when they got back home).

Inside, the house was every bit as dusty and as broken down as it was on the outside. Everything creaked and gave off dirt clouds that glittered (prettily, not creepy) like gold flakes in the shafts of light pouring in from broken windows and random breaks in the decaying structure.

Insects scuttled and birds chirped in the rafters. Isabella tried to keep her thoughts random – no focus – no fear – her ugly bedroom, her stupid brothers, her teacher, her favorite show – but the bird noises grounded her and she mistook their din for murderous ghosts. Cold chills tingled in her temples and tears threatened.

Esteban disentangled himself from the fray and noticed her distress. He straightened his glasses and asked, “Are you okay?”

Isabella shook her head no and fought against mounting sobs. She couldn’t let them see her breakdown. She’d never hear the end of it.

Manny jumped up from the floor. “She’s gonna cry!” he taunted.

Oscar socked him in the leg and he went back down clutching his thigh. “She’s not gonna cry. She’s fine. Right, Izzy?” Her oldest brother gave her a reassuring look.

Isabella shook her head and blinked fast. A solitary teardrop escaped and ran the length of her left cheek in a glistening trail.

“See!” Manny grunted from the ground. “She’s chicken!” He began making clucking sounds and rolling around on the dirty, cracked, marbled floor.

“No, I’m not!” Isabella screamed and ran for the decrepit stairway. She’d show them. She’d hide and they’d never find her and when they started to freak out (Mama would kill them if they lost her) she’d jump out and call them a bunch of dumb crybabies.

The distressed wood creaked beneath her feet. Oscar pushed his brothers off and got serious. He yelled, “Izzy!” just like Papa did when he was mad.

Isabella stopped halfway. She clutched the wobbly, wooden, metal banister and glared at her brothers. Though Oscar sounded like Papa and he had the same eyes, he wasn’t Papa and even though he was in charge he couldn’t tell her what to do, so she stuck out her tongue and ran up the remaining steps. All of her brothers yelled now, but she ignored them and ran into the first room to her right.

There was no door, just a splintered casing. The rest of the room was as unmade. There was a window frame, but no window, a master bathroom with a broken tub, a walk-in closet with no door, and running the length of the entire room, spanning the bedroom and bathroom, there were great swaths of torn carpet, battlefields of broken tile and great, gaping sections of missing floorboards. Isabella leapt a few of the voids, ran through the bathroom, and then hunkered down in the back of the large walk-in closet.

She screamed, “COME FIND ME, CHICKENS!” at the top of her lungs.

Satisfied with her impulsive bravery and her even braver challenge, she sat on her bottom in a corner of the dusty closet. Plenty of light poured in through the door jamb and the little window set high against the far wall, but the corners of the closet, the one she hid in and the ones opposite her were lost to deep shadow.

Isabella wiped at the thin layer of sweat slicking her forehead and worked at slowing her breath. The surrounding dark didn’t help. Her thoughts jumped to her Mama’s story about the crazy Mendoza woman and her blood spattered axe.

The story went she murdered her entire family while they slept, hacking them to chunky bits in their own beds and then mixing all of their parts into a gory pile in the middle of the kitchen. The deranged woman ate from the pile, making sandwiches out of her dismembered
loved ones, until her husband’s work and her children’s school notified the police. Rumor had it she chopped them up so thoroughly that it took the police a full week to identify who was who.

Or so her Mama said. The glint in her eyes and the smile threatening to derail her scary tone made Isabella think
she was fibbing for fun, trying to scare them into nightmares so when the story resurfaced and struck in the middle of the night (as such stories tended to), they’d rush from their beds and curl up alongside her and Papa (it worked).

Breathing deeply, she prepared to get up and find another hiding spot, one with less shadows, when something in the opposite corner moved. Her labored breathing caught in her throat and her heart leapt into her chest. Intense fear widened
her eyes.

The unseen Thing made a shuffling sound like nails scratching wood, like an axe scraping across floorboards.

Isabella made a high pitched, whining sound and pulled her knees close to her chest. The Shuffling Thing shuffled some more and then hopped from the darkened corner on a pair of thin, leathery, three toed feet. Her whining scream hiccupped and then broke into a squeal of delight. “Birdie!” She giggled and clapped her hands.

The bird was big, a raven or a crow, whichever of the two was larger, with a broad, silky black chest and a massive, crushing beak. Had Isabella not been seven, maybe a teenager, or better acquainted with true fear, the bird’s beady, soulless, black eyes (and that sharp, sharp, sharp beak) might have terrified her. As it stood, she continued to wave her hands and repeat, “Birdie,” three more times, soft clapping and whispering as not to frighten the majestic creature. It was standing right next to a large hole in the floor and Isabella feared if she startled it, it might fall in.

The bird dropped its head and cawed. Isabella put her hands over her mouth and muffled a laugh. It hopped closer. She crawled toward it and put her hand out to pet its head. The raven cawed again and with sudden speed lunged forward. It drove its piercing beak into her outstretched hand and broke the skin of her left palm. Isabella pulled her hand back in shock.

Good will drained and true fear took dominion. The big bird became every bit as frightening as the monsters or the sharks or the horrors that sometimes whispered her name and gnashed their teeth under her bed. She screamed and scooted in reverse until her back hit the wall. She got a look at the blood welling from her hand and her surprised scream catapulted into a howl.

The bird hopped in place and danced its beak up and down. Isabella flailed and whimpered. Rivers of blood ran her palm, splashing the grimy floorboards and running streams down her forearm. She screamed and kicked out, trying to shoo the bird away, but it held its ground and regarded her with jerky movement, its beak shining darkly with her blood.

Nightmare stuff gathered in her brain. Isabella clutched her bleeding palm and jumped to her feet. She ran from the closet, dodging the broken tiles in the master bathroom and vaulting the missing floorboards in the bedroom. She reached the stairs in two seconds flat. Leaning on the railing, holding her throbbing hand close to her body, she descended a step. Her brothers were still arguing in the house’s dilapidated foyer. They looked up at the same time, three pairs of eyes going wide, three voices rising to implore their little sister to, “STOP!”

Isabella took another step. The railing crumbled. Dry rot puffed to dust and the worn wood creaked and shifted on its swaying, wrought iron supports. She leaned with the collapsing banister and tried to pivot back at the last second, but the forward momentum was too great. Her sixty pound frame teetered for a breathless second and then fell.

She dropped through the musty air head first. There was no time for thought. The word, “Mama,” breached her lips as her skull rushed toward the ruined marble of the entryway.

Gritting her teeth and closing her eyes, Isabella expected pain, or instant death, or a swirling crown of stars like in the ancient cartoons her mom tried to get her to watch. Instead, her head slammed against something soft.

The soft thing dipped like a shock absorber and the rest of Isabella’s body fell against it, feet first, perpendicular
to horizontal, so that she was lying on her stomach.

Whatever caught her, bounced a few times and then rose into the air. She opened her eyes to a sea of brown and tan and flecks of frenetic black and white. Wild smells, like her dog Coco, filthy from living outside, scrunched her nose. Feathers pushed between her lips and forced a few involuntary Phhffts!

Feathers?

She rolled over. The splintered, hole-riddled ceiling of the Mendoza Murder House rushed toward her. She put her hands palms down and ran them over the soft thing launching her toward the roof.

Feathers?

Her ears honed in on a barrage of incessant chirping. The rapid ascent arrested inches from the ceiling and the soft thing beneath her dropped a little. Isabella’s stomach went with it, but then evened out and hovered unsteadily. She turned her head to the left and then
to the right.

Birds?

She was floating on a blanket of fast flapping birds.

Hundreds upon hundreds of them.

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2 Responses to “Ready For Some Reading? It’s Sneak Preview Sunday!”

  1. Few authors can paint pictures with words like MLC. This first chapter of his new book “Bird Box” is engrossing from the first sentence.

    • Too kind, too kind. Thanks, sir.
      Oh, and the rest of you, be sure to check out Mr. Filion’s work (google his name and vimeo and you’ll find your way). Speaking of painting pictures, his work with a camera is damn impressive.

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