You can grab yourself a copy of Cardinals by Ian Conner for ONLY $0.99 from now until July 4th! Conner promises “a completely new twist on Stoker’s tale.” Available now where e-books are sold!
Publication Date: May 2nd, 2022
Genre: Horror/ Vampires/ Sci-Fi Horror/ Fantasy
Publisher: Black Raptor Books
Nine Hundred years before Christ, God has cast his wife, Asherah, out of heaven and condemned her to roam the earth as the first vampire. Over the centuries, she created other vampires. There are also those that she left for dead but survived her attack without being completely turned into vampires. These survivors are called Cardinals. Scottish Countess Kellena Donnachaidh and Lady Suzette Allard, our protagonists, are among these cardinals. They are searching out Asherah for a final conflict.
Asherah has discovered a way back to heaven so she can exact her vengeance. Using the Amulet of Cassiel she can call the Flaming chariot of Israel to return to heaven and exact her revenge on God.
Now, 3000 years later, the Vatican and other groups are working to destroy Asherah and the vampires., fearing their own destruction if she ascends, simply want to stop Asherah using the Amulet of Cassiel to re-enter heaven. The race and intrigue to recover the Amulet is full of intrigue, betrayal.
Ian Conner is retired and spent most of his adult life as a Marine and Army Infantry Sergeant. Now living near San Diego California with his wife Bonnie, a cellist, and their two dogs, Cookie and Isabella. Conner spends his days fostering kittens, gardening, crafting beautiful stained glass and creating worlds on the page.
Conner has authored several other novels:
Cooper’s Ridge – Science Fiction
The Long Game – Political Thriller
The Price of Partisanship – Political Thriller
Solaris – Political Thriller
Griffins Perch – Epic Fantasy
Ghost Witch – Horror
After a lifetime of destruction the thought of creating something tangible and lasting holds great appeal. He finds writing a cathartic way to redefine himself both in his eyes and the eyes of others.
A ghost collector grows deadlier than the spirits he hunts…
Shane Ryan knows all about pain and suffering. A retired Marine gunnery sergeant, Shane has seen the worst humanity has to offer. He survived his ordeal, but his soul has been tainted by the darkness, leaving him with a permanent connection to the world of the supernatural.
Shane sees the spirits of the dead, he hears their whispered cries of pain. And it’s a gift he plans to put to good use, when he travels to Detroit to investigate the death of one woman who saw through all the darkness in his heart. A woman who became his lover, many years ago.
Shane is certain she was working a case, tracking down a deadly collector of the paranormal. And he’s determined to use his abilities to force the spirits haunting the urban sprawl to reveal her killer. But when he clashes with retired police detective Enoch Liddell, Shane realizes he’s not the only one hunting ghosts.
The two men soon find themselves locked in a supernatural game of cat and mouse. But it will take more than guts and guns to defeat this opponent, and his sinister ally…
More Shane Ryan!! I can’t begin to tell you how much I love this character. He’s all kinds of awesome. So finding out he’s the main character in Death Hunter was beyond exciting.
Shane is embroiled in yet another paranormal mystery involving the dead. With people dying, haunted items being stolen, and a lot of new players to keep track of, City of Ghosts held me spellbound from page one. Action. Drama. Suspense. It has it all.
I believe I just found the next series I’m going to binge-read. And I can’t wait!
*Disclaimer: I purchased/borrowed a copy of this title from Amazon. Neither the author nor publisher requested a review.
Today is my stop on the book tour for chilling novel, Descent of a Broken Man by Ashon Ruffons! Read on for details and a chance to win a $25 Amazon gift card!
Descent of a Broken Man #1
Publication Date: February 11th, 2022
Publisher: Dreadful Times Press
James Corbin is an ambitious high school history teacher who resides in the lively, yet dangerous city of New Orleans. He suffers from severe depression and anxiety and is on a downward spiral, unwilling to seek the help he desperately needs. His troubles are compounded by a lack of progress in his professional career, his disintegrating marriage, and lack of respect from his peers. While his struggles threaten to cripple him, the city is marred by a series of brutal religious murders.
However, it’s soon clear that there is not only one, but two murderers wreaking havoc on the city. While police chase the murderers, James focuses on his quest for professional success and self-worth from his research. Unfortunately for him, the research leads to the discovery of a nefarious essence, which unlocks a darkness and brings James face to face with a monster of his own. Within some people, there is something… off. Something dormant. A terror that, if found, will leave a path of pain in its wake.
The thought of escaping New Orleans and the violence of their hometown after graduation excited their youthful minds. Ever mindful, Cynthia watched her surroundings and stayed aware of some of the dangers in the area, but the pair managed to enjoy their brisk walk among the tourists before they made it to a much thinner crowd and a much rougher neighborhood.
As the young couple’s pace quickened, two large Rottweilers snarled. Drool fell from the dogs’ mouths at the sight of them, as they walked past the housing development.
“Just keep walking, baby. Don’t make eye contact. They’ll leave us alone,” Damon insisted.
The dogs sprinted toward them, baring their teeth and leaving a trail of saliva behind them.
“Oh shit, bae! Run!” Damon yelled.
Cynthia snatched her hand away from Damon and took off toward the police station ahead. Damon beamed and raced behind Cynthia as the dogs caught up to him. The sound of the chattering teeth nipping at his heels pushed his legs faster. The vicious hounds chased and snarled after them as they sped up the block and past the First Precinct Police Station. The sound of their laughter echoed in the night’s air the entire way.
Cynthia and Damon managed to lose the dogs, after they turned and entered the side gates of Louis Armstrong Park, a shortcut to their Treme neighborhood where Damon lived.
The struggle to catch their breaths while guffawing at their experience brought some lively energy to the park’s dreary atmosphere.
“My God, you are so slow!” Cynthia yelled out, weak from laughter.
“Shut up!” Damon replied. “I was gonna catch you. Not really though. I tried. Your ass is too fast. I could’ve run behind that ass all night though.”
“Boy, you play too much!” Cynthia replied, as she playfully slapped Damon softly on his cheek. Both still hunched over with their hands on their knees as they tried to catch their breath.
“Hey, will you shut up? People are trying to sleep out here,” a voice bellowed from nearby.
“Oh, shit.” Damon snickered. “Now we are waking up the bums.”
While Cynthia and Damon flirted, they stood under the large oak trees near Congo Square. Sweat dripped from their foreheads from the muggy evening, but the still trees above offered no sign of a breeze to break up the oppressively thick air. The young couple continued their walk through Armstrong Park as they listened to the sound of soft jazz pumped from speakers from the nearby radio station.
As they passed the old Municipal Auditorium, a place of concerts and graduations, Damon gripped Cynthia’s hand once more and pulled her toward him. The two embraced and shared a long passionate kiss under the towering presence of the oak trees. Damon placed both hands on Cynthia’s arms and caressed her smooth skin with his thumbs. Their love had grown since their sophomore year. Cynthia’s hands lay upon both sides of his face, and the engagement ring on Cynthia’s hand glimmered as it managed to capture the little light in the area.
As they stared into each other’s eyes, a sudden movement from above caught Damon’s attention. He looked up into the sturdy wooden structures and noticed a shadowy figure hidden among the cluster of branches that rustled and swayed. A human-like figure moved with a purpose from tree to tree and bent the branches along the way, as if a hurricane force wind blew them about.
The sound of a stick snapping startled Cynthia. Damon held her hand firmly and proceeded to pull his fiancée through the park. Cynthia glanced behind them as they hurried through the darkness, and she dipped “her eyebrows with confusion at the sight of the branches breaking and falling to the ground.
As Damon yanked on Cynthia’s arm, something fell from the tree before them. Damon and Cynthia halted and looked on with horror in their wide eyes. “What the hell?” Damon mumbled as he stared ahead. Paralyzed by fear, he squeezed Cynthia’s hand tighter.
She grimaced in pain, as the couple glared at the enormous figure that panted in the shadows ahea
I love horror books, and the fact this one was set in New Orleans thrilled me.
The story started off with a bang! When a book starts with what appears to be a supernatural murder, I’m ready to dive in. Had the book kept that pacing, I would have enjoyed it more. The story slows quite a bit when we first meet James. Then again, history class wasn’t my favorite in school so sitting through a history lesson with him didn’t exactly win me over.
The horror aspects were great! I did feel as if I were back in New Orleans while reading the story. The descriptions were very well done. Overall, I liked the story. I just didn’t love it.
*Disclaimer: I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review. The review above is only my opinion.
About the Author
Ashon Ruffins is a native New Orleanian and a military Veteran. He earned a Master’s Degree in Business Administration, while also holding certifications for several other professions. He loves the art of storytelling in all genres and believes the best lessons in life can be told through fiction. In his spare time, he likes to read, enjoy movies and develop recipes. Descent of a Broken Man is his debut novel.
An abandoned house. A forgotten evil. Home sweet home…
Shane Ryan returns to Nashua and the childhood memories that drove him to join the Marines. After a prolonged legal battle with his aunt and uncle, Shane has possession of the family home where his parents disappeared over 20 years ago. The house, a monstrous castle filled with ghosts and secrets, is more alive than its inhabitants.
When his aunt and uncle come to town, then vanish, Shane’s life takes a turn for the worse. Detective Marie Lafontaine immediately labels Shane as the prime suspect. And in a race against time, Shane desperately searches for clues about his parents.
But there’s something lurking beyond the walls and beneath the surface. Something sinister that has haunted him ever since he saw its face in the pond behind the house. And it isn’t happy that Shane is back.
If you’re a fan of Stephen King’s Rose Red, you’re going to love Berkeley Street! Supernatural horror at its finest.
Mystery. Good ghosts. Deadly spirits. And friends in unlikely places. Be prepared for a spooktacular adventure. However, once you start reading, you won’t want to stop. You’ll end up reading the entire series. — I did!
*Disclaimer: I purchased/borrowed this boook from Amazon. Neither the author nor publisher requested a review.
In the guts of a nameless city, career criminal Owen fights for his sanity and his life. After stealing a morbid piece of artwork at the behest of his boss, Owen discovers the original owners of the grotesque painting are part of a twisted cult known as The Family—and they’ll stop at nothing to get it back.
The longer Owen possesses the painting, the more it warps his mind and alters the very world around him. Between those that want him dead, his own dark past, and his crumbling grip on reality, the walls are closing in. Unstable but determined, Owen is the only thing standing between our world and the coming Harvest.
Why would you ask the impossible? If you wanted a top 100, I would still have to narrow it down. Sigh. Okay. I’ll just name authors because, in most cases, they would have multiple books in my favourites list anyway.
What book do you think everyone should read?
If we’re talking the spooky stuff, then it has to be Stephen King’s It. I know it’s thick enough to choke a donkey, but it’s worth it. Truly an epic horror novel.
How long have you been writing?
I’ve been writing for about ten years. Although, to be fair, only about five of those were with any sort of serious intentions. It felt more like a glorified hobby at first.
Do the characters all come to you at the same time or do some of them come to you as you write?
I usually have a handle on all the major characters in a story before I start writing, but a bunch of secondary characters will inevitably pop up along the way. I will say, it is rare for these surprise additions to ascend higher than secondary character status though.
What kind of research do you do before you begin writing a book?
Confession time. I do almost no research. This is completely because I’m lazy. My process is to write the book with little to no regard to research, then, afterward, when cleaning it up, I’ll fact check the stuff I wrote. Even then, I try to dance around as much research as possible. Again, I’m lazy.
Do you see writing as a career?
Not to sound naïve, but yeah, I do. As much as I would love to be raking in Stephen King money, that’s not the only path to success as a writer. Hopefully, in a couple years, with a few more books under my belt, I’ll be making enough to transition into writing as my full-time gig.
Do you read yourself and if so, what is your favorite genre?
I read about 50 books a year. I thought this was impressive until I started making friends in the industry and found others read hundreds! Like, how is that even possible?! Anyway, I read across multiple genres but my fav, obviously, is horror. I would say I read three horror books for every one of a different genre.
Do you prefer to write in silence or with noise? Why?
I always write with my headphones on. I find silence off-putting. I can hear my own heavy breathing and it reminds me of how unhealthy I am. At least with music in my ears, only those around me have to hear me gasping for air.
Do you write one book at a time or do you have several going at a time?
Traditionally, I would write one at a time, but there have been occasions when I’m editing one project while writing another. I try to avoid this, as my mind works better when I can keep things separate.
If you could have been the author of any book ever written, which book would you choose?
Tough question. Okay, I would probably narrow it down to Stephen King’s It, or Dan Simmons’ The Terror. I love both books dearly, and think both are monuments of horror. Obviously, It is more well known, but The Terror is nearly flawlessly written and full of so much detail and research that it was mindboggling to me while reading (it’s the exact kind of book I could never actually write).
Pen or type writer or computer?
Computer. I like the idea of writing with a pen, and have done so before, but ultimately it was just adding in an extra step to the process since I had to transcribe it onto the computer anyway.
Tell us about a favorite character from a book.
Easy. The protagonist, Owen. I felt connected to him very early on. He’s like a caged tiger, just waiting for somebody to carelessly leave the door unlocked. He’s my opposite in so many ways, that I kinda sorta want to be him. At least, have his confidence, not the whole violence thing. That I don’t want.
What made you want to become an author and do you feel it was the right decision?
It’s hard for me to pinpoint the exact moment I decided to try my hand at writing. I’ve always been a creative person, and even went to school for animation, so that desire to tell a story was sort of always there. But the catalyst which heralded my writing career in earnest was the birth of my first child. Lelaina Blue. She signaled a turning point for me, a loud, flashing sign that said, “DO SOMETHING WITH YOUR LIFE!”
A day in the life of the author?
Get up and drive my kids to school. I am not a morning person, so this process is painful and messy to watch. Afterward, I hit the local library and write from 9am till about 11am. I like to get in 1500 words a session, and usually come in just above or below that. Once done, I spend another hour beta reading other works, sending emails, and finishing odds and ends (like answering interview questions). The it’s lunchtime. After lunch, I’ll spend some time on social media. Side note, I am not a fan of social media (okay, being real, I kinda hate it), but it’s a valuable tool for authors, so I make time for it. And then the kids are home from school and the author stuff is essentially over for the day.
Do you have any advice to offer for new authors?
Write. Every. Day! This sounds like an obvious bit of advice, but it must be said. I used to be very guilty of this. I would take a few days off, or even a week or two, while writing. Inevitably, when I returned to it, I would waste a whole day just trying to get the feel for it again. You can’t beat the momentum everyday writing creates.
Describe your writing style.
I would say visceral and descriptive. I want you to really see the space, to smell the stink, to taste the decay. Gross, I know, but it’s what I shoot for.
What is your writing process? For instance do you do an outline first? Do you do the chapters first?
I always start with a few paragraphs describing the idea. From there, I begin outlining. I’m definitely team plotter (in the great plotter vs pantser debate), and as such, like to break down almost the entire book before I actually start drafting. My reliance on plotting has burned me in the past though, as a small change early in one particular project snow-balled into a complete rewrite by the end. Because of that, I try and leave some wiggle room in the story during the plotting phase.
What is your writing Kryptonite?
Video games! I am a sucker for video games. The worst thing I can do is sit down and “just play for twenty minutes or so”, because that will be the next three hours of my life, and there goes my writing time.
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
Great question! I would say I try and straddle the line. On the one hand, I want the creative freedom to write whatever the old grey matter conjures up. But, on the other hand, I am trying to be successful and as such, I have to be, at the very least, aware of the marketability of what I’m are writing.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
I spent a lot of years trying to tone down my writing voice, only to realize after a lot of heartache, that it was a mistake. At the end of the day, every story has been told, nothing is truly new or unique, so all that matters is how you tell it. Younger me would have benefited well from such advice.
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
I haven’t written all that many yet, but I would say, on average, about a year.
Do you believe in writer’s block?
I absolutely do! Thankfully, I’ve not felt it much myself, but I have friends that suffer from this to a debilitating degree. It is real and it is awful.
C.M. Forest, also known as Christian Laforet, is the author of the novel Infested, as well as the novella We All Fall Before the Harvest. A self-proclaimed horror movie expert, he spent an embarrassing amount of his youth watching scary movies. When not writing, he lives in Ontario, Canada with his wife, kids, three cats and a pandemic dog named Sully who has an ongoing love affair with a blanket.
Daemon Blood Mary Maddox
(Daemon World, #3)
Publication date: March 8th 2022
Genres: Adult, Fantasy, Horror
Our war will not unfold in your imaginary heaven. We will fight on Earth with human beings as pawns and weapons.
Lu Darlington is a seer, bound to the daemon Talion through ritual and blood. It’s not a role she enjoys, but she has little choice: daemons take what they want and destroy whoever stands in their way.
So Lu’s surprised when Talion doesn’t punish her for her newfound ability to keep him from possessing her whenever he likes. In fact he’s pleased. The stronger she is, he explains, the more powerful he becomes.
And he needs that power, because a war is brewing in the daemon world, a war that will be fought by—and through—humans.
Lu’s friend Lisa Duncan can’t see daemons but she’s seen what they can do and so has stayed far away from Lu for years. After a bizarre attack on Lisa leaves half a dozen people dead and she learns it’s just the first skirmish in the daemon war, Lisa realizes the safest place to be is with Lu.
Then Talion sends Lu away to teach her skills to another seer and Lisa must stay behind to look after Lu’s son Solly, conceived through a daemon ceremony with Talion. At four years old Solly’s seer abilities are already so strong Lisa is sometimes more afraid of Solly than for him.
As Talion’s enemies grow bolder, Lisa and Lu face attacks from every direction. There seems little hope any of them will survive—until Talion and his allies devise a plan.
The only problem is how much it will cost.
“With Daemon Blood, Mary Maddox has crafted a timeless tale of good against evil. With compelling characters and a keen sense of the darkness that lurks within us all, Daemon Blood will stay with you long after you turn the final thrilling page.”
The talented Ms. Maddox answered a question for us… Is there a particular book or movie that sparked your interest in fantasy and horror? How did it shape who you are as an author?
I was fascinated by horror movies as a kid, especially movies about vampires. As a grownup I transferred my fascination to books. Among my favorite authors are Shirley Jackson, Charlaine Harris, and Stephen King. But two books especially inspired me to write in the horror genre: Thomas Harris’s Silence of the Lambs and Karen Marie Moning’s Darkfever.
You could argue that Silence of the Lambs isn’t horror since it lacks supernatural elements. It does have a bona fide monster, though, in the character of Hannibal Lector. The novel sparked my interest in serial killers. I read around twenty nonfiction books on notorious killers and on the topic of serial murder in general. The result was Talion, which began as a thriller with Conrad “Rad” Sanders—a.k.a. The Professor of Death—as the villain.
I ran into a problem with the fifteen-year-old protagonist, Lu Jakes. The unwanted child of an alcoholic father and an abusive stepmother, she was defined mainly by her victimhood. And then she becomes Rad’s victim. She needed a source of inner strength, and I needed a way of making her more complex. So I gave her the gift (or delusion) of seeing spirits. One of them, Talion, tells her she is loved. Another one, Black Claw, offers her a means of killing her stepmother.
I let readers decide whether the spirits are real or the delusions of a troubled girl. The uncertainty bothers some readers—a lot. Ambiguity is common in all kinds of stories. It allows for different interpretations of a book or movie. But the ambiguity in Talion is just too much for these readers.
The nature of the spirits in Talion might have remained uncertain if I hadn’t found Darkfever. It wasn’t the kind of book I usually read, and I downloaded the ebook mainly because it was free at the time. I was hooked from the start and read the series through book five. MacKayla Lane appears to live in the ordinary world until she goes to Dublin to investigate her sister’s murder and discovers she can see the Fae. She is one of only a few human beings with this gift, which places her in immediate peril.
I thought at once of Lu and her spirits and decided to write Daemon Seer, a sequel to Talion. Moning draws upon Celtic mythology for her novels. I went a different route. Talion and the other daemons are spirits who need the bodies of living beings to tether them to the physical world. Lu can tether any number of daemons without them having to possess her body. Seers give daemons freedom to move about the world, increasing their power. The seers in Lu’s family have belonged to Talion for many generations, and he intends to keep things that way.
In Daemon Blood, Lu’s powers have grown stronger. Although she still can’t escape Talion, he now treats her with respect.
Mary Maddox is a suspense, horror, and dark fantasy novelist with what The Charleston Times-Courier calls a “Ray Bradbury-like gift for deft, deep-shadowed description.” Born in Soldiers Summit, high in the mountains of Utah, Maddox graduated with honors in creative writing from Knox College, and went on to earn an MFA from the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop. She taught writing at Eastern Illinois University and has published stories in various journals, including Yellow Silk, Farmer’s Market, The Scream Online, and Huffington Post. The Illinois Arts Council has honored her fiction with a Literary Award and an Artist’s Grant.
Prepare yourself for an escape into a world of the harrowing and peculiar. McCool Mythos: Tales of the Dark and Mysterious is a collection of bite-sized tales brought to you by the brother/sister duo, John R. McCool III and M.I.H. McCool in their debut collaboration.
From stories following average people facing supernatural horrors to legends of strange circumstances involving even stranger creatures, each tale is sure to make you think twice before shutting off the light.
What inspired you to write this book?
Answer: We grew up on horror. Anything dark and creepy has been sowed into the McCool DNA. For as long as we can remember, there was always something creepy going on in our lives. Whether it was something unexplainable happening, or the occasional ghost hunt, we were always involved in something dark and mysterious.
What can we expect from you in the future?
Answer: So much! Two new McCool Mythos books are currently in development, as well as stand alone novels from both of us. We are very dedicated to our writing careers going forward.
What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
Answer: Honestly, everything. Horror comes second nature to us, so writing in a genre we absolutely love is such a joy.
How did you come up with the title of the book?
Answer: We came up with the name as a good way to show this is a family project. Everything we do create fits into the McCool Mythos in some kind of way. It’s loosely based on H.P. Lovecraft who’s work is commonly known as the “Cthulhu Mythos”.
Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
Answer: First we would like to thank all of our readers for the immense support that we have already received. We strive to bring you stories that will take you on an adventure away from reality, even if momentarily. We understand that with life’s complexity that sometimes even the most passionate readers will struggle to read novels due to lack of time or even energy. That is why we feel that well-written short stories are so important, especially in today’s world. We hope that the McCool Mythos series will allow a spooky escape for any that desire it.
Convince us why your book is a must read.
Answer: McCool Mythos: Tales of the Dark and Mysterious will interest anyone curious of the oddities shadowed just within the light of the everyday life. These are short, bite sized stories that can be enjoyed individually or binged at once – so there is no wrong way to read this book. Whether you are the avid reader ready to consume altogether or the busy type with only five minutes to spare, this collection is here to take you on a dark journey.
Have you written any other books that haven’t been published?
Answer: We are currently working on the next installments in this series – McCool Mythos: Dead of Winter with publication expected for Winter 2022, as well as McCool Mythos: The Wicked Ones in Spring 2023. Individual projects include M.I.H. McCool’s next novel in the Annals of the Common Beyond series, The Immortal Perception, with an expected release of Fall 2022.
M.I.H. McCool grew up in southern Mississippi and currently resides in the little town of Danville, Illinois with her chunky pug, Otis, and her turtle, Roosevelt. When not writing, McCool can be found participating in her community’s rich theatre scene, making decorative color-changing potions, writing nerdy articles for 101 Militia Gaming, and enjoying being the ‘cool aunt’ to her nieces.
John R. McCool III hails from a small town in the great state of Mississippi. He fell in love with writing at a very young age, oftentimes writing stories during class rather than paying attention. He now resides in Danville, Illinois where most of his time is spent attending to the day-to-day operations of a local coffee shop, which is like a second home to him. When not writing or sipping coffee, John loves spending time with his wife and kids who give him the inspiration to pursue all of his dreams.
Moon Song’s brother has gone missing in the town of Blackrock, Pennsylvania. Worried that her brother has slipped back into addiction and desperate for answers, Moon hires private investigator Ben Sawyer to help her uncover the truth. Together they discover what the people of Blackrock refuse to acknowledge: something terrible has happened inside the coal mine that defies all logical explanation, and it threatens the lives of every single person in town. Bodies are piling up at the funeral home, and many others have seemingly vanished.
Moon’s only hope of finding answers rests in the hands of a local professor who knows the mine’s horrible secrets. But the professor has problems of his own, and unless he can confront the creature that’s hunting him, Moon’s chances of making it out of town alive are darker than a seam of coal.
Dive into Ken Brosky’s horror-fueled nightmare and find out what’s in The Beyond!
Ken Brosky lives and teaches in the great state of Wisconsin. In addition to having short stories published in magazines like Grotesque and Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, he also writes regularly for Suspense Magazine. His favorite horror movie is John Carpenter’s The Thing, his favorite band is Nine Inch Nails, and his favorite book is Cloud Atlas.
Religious eroticism and queer emancipation meet in a claustrophobic monster-romance about divinity, sexuality, and freedom.
When Diego López is guilted by his mother into taking a low-key construction job in New Mexico, he doesn’t expect to be the only helping hand at Catedral de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe. But the church is abandoned, decrepit, and off the beaten path, and the only other person for miles is its handsome caretaker, Ariel Azevedo.
Together, Diego and Ariel refurbish the old church, sharing stories of their heritage, experiences, and desires. But as the long days turn into longer nights, Diego begins to see past Ariel’s human mirage and finds himself falling into lust—and maybe something else—with one of God’s first creations.
Diego López gnawed his lip as he leaned against the rusted tailgate on his father’s busted Chevy.
He cradled his phone against his ear and tried to focus on his mother’s voice, exhausted and cold, rasping through the speaker. The gas station was quiet—nearly abandoned—but his attention darted to an oasis floating above the highway and a napkin tumbling across the empty lot. He pitched his shoulder upward to steady his phone and smacked a pack of Lucky Strikes against the heel of his palm.
“I can find a way to pay you back,” he said and pulled a cigarette free with his teeth. “I don’t need another handout, and I definitely don’t need to play carpenter at some bullshit church to—”
“Cállate,” his mother snapped. “You listen to me, mijo. You get in that truck, you drive to that church, and you make this right. No one put you behind the wheel of that car—my car—and no one put the… the drugs in your wallet, and no one—”
“I know.” He sucked smoke into his lungs and switched his phone from one ear to the other.
“This isn’t about the money. This is about honor—familia. You go, understand? Go, work, get paid, come home. Do your community service and fix your life. This man, this Ariel, he’s giving you a chance. Take it before he changes his mind and hires someone else.”
“Yeah, because every able-bodied worker in town is trippin’ over themselves to go rebuild a church in the middle of the desert, Mamá. Sure.”
“You made your choice. Go.”
He angled his mouth toward the sky. She wasn’t talking about his fourteen-hour stint in jail or the cash-bail she’d worked double shifts at the diner to pay for. She was talking about the sickle-shaped scars beneath his shirt, the choice he’d made three years ago—eighteen and able to say, Yes, do it. Same vague guilt trip, same acquiescence. You’re like a coyote, she’d said to him once. Halfway to a wolf but still something else. He thought about that as she breathed on the other end of the line and imagined her sitting in the recliner in his childhood home, rolling a slender joint, watching fútbol while a pork shoulder braised in the crockpot. Sometimes she tripped over his name, her tongue unused to making the sound, but when she’d met him at the door after he’d been released from El Paso Detention Center, she’d said Diego with her full voice. Cracked every syllable like a bone.
“Yeah, okay.” He sighed. “Do you want me to call?”
She huffed. “Eres mi sangre.”
He shook his head and finished his cigarette, then crushed it beneath his boot. “Sé.”
“Tomorrow, then. You’ll tell me about the church?”
“Sure, yeah. Tomorrow.”
“Drive safe,” she said.
Diego ended the call without saying goodbye. He stood with his thumbs tucked through his belt loops. Endured the heat. Watched the road. Pictured himself elsewhere, across the state, settling in Austin. He’d bartend to make ends meet. He’d never touch narcotics again. He’d rent a studio apartment, and fill it with houseplants, and learn how to cook. He’d send money to his abuela, and he’d visit her more, and he’d grow the fuck up. Becoming another disappointment on the López family tree wasn’t an option anymore.
It never had been, but stealing the car, crashing the car, getting caught… Yeah, that changed everything.
Early summer rippled through the dry air. He scanned his phone again, reading and rereading the address his mother had sent him—coordinates, actually—before he hoisted into the driver’s seat and turned the key in the ignition. According to Google, Catedral de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe was located in Luna County, New Mexico. He pulled his lip between his teeth again. Seven grand to help rebuild a decrepit church in the middle of the desert? Camming paid more. He’d found that out after getting hit with top-surgery bills. But now that his mother knew about the Vicodin, he certainly didn’t need her to know about the porn too. He manifested the future he’d imagined—bartending in Austin, visiting his grandmother, making pozole in his apartment—and drove toward a city called Sunshine.
I really enjoyed the perspective on religion. The part that resonated with me the most was Ariel’s belief the things we see as wrong or sinful aren’t necessarily God’s thoughts, but are instead man’s version. I’ve often felt that way.
The description of Ariel’s true self had so many parts I had a hard time piecing them together into an image I could “see” as I was reading. I did like that he wasn’t the typical angel we see depicted.
Diego had his flaws, but he also had a hidden strength. Despite his rocky past, he wanted a second chance to do something with his life. I admired him for dusting himself off and trying again.
For me, the ending felt a bit unfinished. I realize this is a shorter story so there’s less room for a more in-depth storyline, but I guess the romantic in me wanted a more definitive HEA for Diego.
If you’re looking for a quick steamy LGBTQ read that will also resonate on a deeper level, you can’t go wrong with Exodus 20:3 …
*Disclaimer: I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review. The review above is only my opinion.
Meet the Author
Freydís Moon (they/them) is a biracial nonbinary writer and diviner. When they aren’t writing or divining, Freydís is usually trying their hand at a recommended recipe, practicing a new language, or browsing their local bookstore.