Friday, November 30, 2018

GUEST POST -- Mike Duke – Pulling No Punches to Go Big or Go Home

Today I am excited to welcome Author MIKE DUKE to One-Legged Reviews. Mike has written one hell of a article and included a first time Sneak Peek at his upcoming novel WHERE THE GODS SLEEP, coming early 2019 from Stitched Smile Publications.

(I have added hotlinks on all book titles in the article so you click and purchase from Amazon)

Without further ado, let's have Mike Duke take over. Enjoy!

Mike Duke – Pulling No Punches to Go Big or Go Home

I have one main goal today. I want to take you all hostage. 

Once captured, I hope to inflict an irresistible desire upon you to read every single thing I’ve written or will ever write.  In short, I want you to feel like a crack addict jonesin’ for his next hit each time you hear I have something new coming out and not be able to feel content with life unless you have filled this void in your soul that only my work can satisfy.  

Not too lofty of an enterprise, eh? 

Well, somebody once told me several years ago: “I like your style Duke! Go big or go home!” 

I hadn’t really thought of it before then, but it was a true statement. I often go all in and strive to attain greatness of some sort in whatever I invest significant effort and time in. So, when I decided to finally try to fulfill a high school dream and become a published writer, I didn’t want to do it halfway.

 I wanted to write something that was brutally honest about human nature, unflinching in its depiction of man at his weakest and most base moments. Something that would make a person question the grounds on which they cast judgment upon their fellow man and cause them to doubt their feelings of self-righteousness.  I also wanted it to take the supernatural serious, and make people think deep thoughts about morality, temptation, sin and how low people will go to get what they desire most. That book was LOW, published by Stitched Smiles Publications.

With LOW I was shooting for the stars and hoping to land there. I wanted to create something glorious and raw. Visceral and uncomfortable. Horrific with glints of hope. Supernatural entities side by side with the dregs of humanity. A brave, intelligent story infused with as much truth about redemption as a piece of fiction could communicate. A living, breathing work of art that would speak as long as the words remain in print. 

Extremely lofty goals in general. Crazy unrealistic for a first novel. But I genuinely feel I accomplished what I set out to do. (And SCREAM magazine gave it a glowing 5 Star Review!). Is it for everyone? No. But it doesn’t have to be. I have other stories. 

Ashley’s Tale was the first thing I actually put out there, even though I wrote it after LOW. I was shopping LOW around, submitting to different publishers and doing rewrites when I decided to write a novella and self-publish it just to get my name out there and start to find some fans. 

Boy, did it work! 

I hit a home run. People loved the main character as well as the bad guy, Jake. So much so, they asked me to write a back story on Jake. Which I did, in Making Jake. Then I developed an idea for a follow up to  Ashley’s Tale which turned into a novel, The Initiation. Stitched Smile Publications then picked all three of them up. The Ashley’s Tale stories really deal with our moral beliefs (both theoretical and practical) about violence, self-defense, overcoming victimhood, eradicating weakness, becoming strong, and revenge. Each installment challenges our notions of civility by showing how violence is often the final answer, even today, but then begs the question, ‘But is it the right answer?’ Is it possible to be a righteous predator? 

These stories take you on a rollercoaster thrill ride in directions you won’t predict and may leave you feeling beat up emotionally. 

Which is another goal I often try to achieve in my writing. Emotional impact.  

My latest novella, Hate Inexorable, is a hard-hitting non-stop piece of action / horror that will shock you, fill you with dread and likely rip out your heart by the end. The emotional impact is like a boulder and the level of violence is not for the faint of heart. Not to mention, the circumstances are totally plausible which makes it even more disturbing.

And as far as disturbing goes, I’ll challenge your horror sea legs with my novella Warm, Dark Places are Best. It’s managed to seriously creep out many a hardcore horror fan. Bugs. Specifically, giant centipedes (the real kind). Nasty, heebie jeebie material. I wrote it to creep out the people who say nothing bothers them anymore. And man, has it succeeded in spades with the vast majority of people who have read it. 

I’ve also got stories in several anthologies now, with a couple more due out next year. 

UNLEASHED: Monsters vs Zombies – The Fall of St. Louis (An archdevil and his legion of demons vs the zombie horde) 

Collected Christmas Horror Shorts Vol. 2 – The Yuletide Butcher (Story about the horror of family and inlaws at Christmas as well as a serial killer who only strikes one day a year, for more than 20 years now) 

The Horror Collection Gold Edition – Ghost Train (supernatural coming of age tale about comradery and dealing with bullies) 

Dark Places, Evil Faces Vol. 2 – Confessions of a Righteous Killer (Philosophical, disturbing tale of a man strapped to a table and his would-be killer who is trying to make the man understand the true nature of the universe before he dies) 

Killer’s Inside – (I have two stories in this one) The Awakening and Murder on Clown Alley 

Modern Day Madness 2: The Screaming Virgins – contains the original version of Warm, Dark Places are Best before I did a rewrite and republished it.

 100 Word Horrors: An Anthology of Horror Drabbles – I have three drabbles in this one (a drabble is exactly 100 words long) 

Also, next year one of my favorite short stories that I’ve written, Fear the Gods (a cosmic horror story), will be coming out in Shadows and Teeth Vol. 4. 

And speaking of cosmic horror. That brings me to my next novel. Where the Gods Sleep. 

* Cover art by Francois Vallaincourt
I am extremely proud of this one and excited for it to get into the hands of readers, especially my fans! H. P. Lovecraft is my favorite author and anything by him or other authors that picked up the mantle of cosmic horror will almost always make it onto my TBR pile (which is massive, just the cosmic horror books I want to read, new and old). 

With Where the Gods Sleep, I wanted to write something that was solidly within the cosmic horror subgenre but not derivative of Lovecraft’s mythos. I worked to create something that blends the cosmic and divine, the light and the dark, in a story where failure would mean the entrance of blasphemous, dark gods into our world on a truly apocalyptic scale. 

 This novel was a big step for me in a few ways. First, by diving head first into the cosmic horror subgenre with a story that was quite challenging to pull together. Two, it’s the first story I’ve written in First Person. Three, its not a single narrator. 

This book is basically the equivalent of a found footage film. By that I mean, it is constructed from multiple first-hand account sources into a chronological order that tells how things transpired, after the fact. Revealing the hidden information to the masses, so to say. There are journal entries from multiple persons, emails, letters, news broadcasts, police reports, and police analysis of CCTV footage. All of it comes together to tell an amazingly bold story with one helluva ending (so I’ve been told). 

You’ll find different characters to love and hate while you follow the protagonist, Kenneth Marz. The god Korrobbathith has chosen Kenneth as the vessel of destruction he will indwell with both his power and mind in an effort to open the gate to the place Where the Gods Sleep, allowing Korrobbathith to enter our world, as well as all the other gods, initiating a terrifying reign of darkness where death is the best escape one can hope for. 

With this book, I’m definitely going big or going home, in many ways. 

I’ve also commissioned my good friend and incredible artist John K. Peevahouse to create some interior artwork. So far, he has completed two paintings and is working on a third. My hope is to have at least five pieces of original art gracing the inside of this novel. More if time permits. 

Below is the back cover synopsis, two pieces of interior art completed so far as well as an excerpt which is the FIRST SNEAK PEAK at Where the Gods Sleep seen anywhere! I hope you like what you see and follow me. I’m on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Patreon. (Mike Duke – Author is my social media identity.) 

Please share this post and many thanks to Jim Coniglio for graciously inviting me to talk about my work and dreams with you. 



 *  The god, Korrobbathith!!! 


Part Two 

Night of the Comet

November 14, 2020 
(Letter submitted in official Grievance of Suspension received by Deputy Sarah Graham, Mason County Sheriff’s Department, West Virginia)

On November 1, 2020 at approximately 12:30 a.m., I received a call about a large gathering of individuals on Letart Island. The complainant also advised there was unlawful burning and loud noise involved. I tried to contact State Police and the Game Warden for possible assistance since it is part of the Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuge. No one from Game and Fish was available, but one State Trooper was dispatched, ETA thirty minutes. 

I hooked a boat and trailer up to my department issued Chevy Tahoe and proceeded to the boat ramp along the Ohio River nearest to Letart Island. By the time the trooper arrived, I had the boat in the water, engine running and ready to go, in order to expedite our response. 

There was a blazing fire visible within the wooded bar island, an orange glow squeezing between the trees. Smoke rolled up above the tree tops where it was framed against a night sky well lit by a near full moon. This provided a good degree of visibility. I could also hear what sounded like a form of tribal music, but not Native American. There were conga drums, flutes, some type of horned instrument, bells, and other noises I couldn’t place. 

Trooper Mark Stephens arrived at 1:00 a.m. He carried a Bushmaster M-4 patrol rifle with him in addition to his duty sidearm. I had a pump shotgun along with my Glock 17. We proceeded across the river. Landing on the shore of Letart Island around 1:10 a.m., I killed the engine and we pulled the boat up on shore as best we could then put down an anchor. 

We followed the light, along with the cacophony of noises, toward the center of the island. Once we entered the woods, we could make out voices. They were chanting something along with the music. It wasn’t English or any language I’ve ever heard. Trooper Stephens didn’t have a clue either. 

The closer we got, the more intense the music became, almost as if they anticipated our arrival. There was a careening quality to the rhythm now, an escalating frenzy moving toward some insane crescendo. Voices squalled and screamed and shrieked. Then, above the din of chaos, these voices were answered by a roar of some kind, loud and possessing incredible bass. It didn’t even sound human to me. Trooper Stephens and I both looked at each other then shouldered our weapons in a low ready position. I clicked the safety on my shotgun off and observed Trooper Stephens place his thumb on his rifle’s safety, ready to flip it off and go hot at a moment’s notice. 

Another roar pierced the night, but this time there seemed to be a tone of pain and possibly fear. We proceeded toward the activity, treading with caution. Seconds later, a gap in the trees appeared and we could see a clearing up ahead, maybe a hundred feet off. A sizable bon fire burned, illuminating the area. A large number of people gathered there, making a din of disparate sounds. As the music climaxed, a series of roars, grunts, and growls ensued.

We could make out what appeared to be numerous men and women engaged in some strange ritual. They were acting like animals. Some of them danced around the fire, galloping on all fours, scampering behind one another. All of them were covered in some dark mud from head to toe, as if they grabbed handfuls and smeared it on each other’s bodies. They wore some type of masks of an unknown animal nature with numerous yellow eyes and small red horns. Some of the men had women pinned down to the ground by their heads, buttocks high in the air as they took them from behind, the sex violent and brutal in its intensity.

It was then that another cry of pain was emitted. I maneuvered into a better position to spy between the trees. There was a large black bear trapped in a cage too small for it. It’s back and sides pressed against the fencing. The naked revelers stabbed the wild beast, a frenzy of thrusts jabbing in and out of the cage as they cavorted about its circumference. 
Howls, hoots, and ululations filled the night air along with the shrill roars of the bear as it twisted and turned, flailing its head as far as the cramped quarters would allow, trying to stand up and mount an attack or flee but unable. It took a couple of minutes for the poor animal to expire. By the end it merely leaned against the cage, groaning – both in objection to its treatment and in sorrowful lamentation at the suffering and humiliation it was forced to endure.  
Trooper Stephens and I both felt an uneasy angst at not coming to the defense of the bear against the abuse of that batshit-crazy rabble. I think both our brains were operating on pure survival instinct. There was only two of us in comparison to well over twenty members of this cult. 
But what we saw next … forced our hand. 

Two of the worshippers removed the bear’s head and handed it to another man who wore only a bear pelt for a cloak in addition to his mask. This man was quite bigger than anyone else present and his mask was slightly different than the others. Attached to the back of his head were numerous long pieces of black leather with beads tied at the end. They were bound together at the base but hung down his back and shoulders. In addition to the many eyes and horns, his also possessed one large eye in the center of the forehead. I was aware that this often can mean someone is gifted with sight or wisdom beyond what normal people can perceive or obtain. Because of this, I reckoned him as their leader or a shaman-type figure. 

The shaman carried it around overhead, pumping his arms up and down as he made high-pitched sounds like some alpha male ape displaying his might. It seemed to me that he was declaring he had stolen the strength of the bear or that they were stronger than the bear. I’m not totally sure. They moved out of sight and Stephens and I had to maneuver around to their left flank to get eyes on them again. 
Another cage came into view. This one held a young woman captive inside. 

Next to this cage was an altar of sorts. It was a wide stone platform, about four feet in height, ten feet long and five feet wide. Large eyes and horns covered all sides of it, as if they had been chiseled into the rock by a sculptor. 

The man who, may have been the cult leader, paraded the bear head before the woman, who sat with her back against the far side of the cage, screaming into the night. The worshippers ignored her pleas. Two men opened the cage door and dragged her out by her feet. 

The man with the all-seeing eye on his mask set the bear head on one end of the altar then stepped behind the woman, grabbing her head with both hands while covering her mouth. Four other worshippers assisted him in moving her to the altar. Two females seized the woman’s arms while the men continued to hold onto her feet. Together, they lifted her up, fully horizontal, in the air. She twisted, bucked, and tried to kick, much like an animal which, once grabbed, knows it’s about to be slaughtered. But her resistance was useless. They laid her on the altar without incident and pinned her there. 
The top was a large stone slab with four iron rings embedded into the rock. Metal shackles were attached to the rings. Once the men secured the woman’s ankles, the women fastened the cuffs around her wrists, one at a time. The poor woman thrashed and pleaded for her life but the cult members didn’t care.

Trooper Stephens and I looked at each other, recognizing a mutual agreement in each other’s eyes concerning what we needed to do. I saw him flip the safety off on his M-4. I nodded at him and took off. The worshippers’ loud noises and music kept them from hearing us crash through the woods like charging bulls. Stephens and I burst into the clearing at the same time. The possible leader held a huge curved blade in his right hand over the woman’s heart, while the rest clutched smaller knives and danced about the altar, ready to join in. 
I screamed “Sheriff’s Office, drop the knife!” and, somehow, they all heard me. The music stopped. The dancing stopped. The ritual chanting stopped. The leader glared at me as did every other person present. And then he pointed at me, and shaking his finger with extreme prejudice, shouted something in a foreign language I’ve never heard before, but it’s meaning was clear. 

He wanted the others to kill us. 
I shot him first, dead in the chest. A fraction of a second later Stephen’s M-4 started barking in my ear but it didn’t sound loud. All the other worshippers were moving our way. But no one was going down. I swear to God above, they weren’t going down, barely broke stride. The leader just stood there, looking calmly down at his wound then back at me. Rage erupted across his countenance, as if my attacking him were an affront to his dignity or position. I’m not sure. But he took off, sprinting towards me, knife overhead as he passed and pushed his fellow cult members out of the way. I put four more loads of double 00 buckshot in his chest and he never slowed. When I pumped the shotgun again and pulled the trigger, I felt a click instead of a kick against my shoulder. I’m not sure I heard anything else in that moment. That audible “click” was deafening, confusing and frightening all at the same time. 

I heard Stephens call out “Reloading!” but no one had gone down yet. They were almost on top of us. It was Fight or Flight, and my brain knew what good sense would do. I dropped the shotgun and turned around, drawing my Glock.  I screamed as loud as I could at Trooper Stephens to “RUN!!!!!” 
I don’t think my feet have ever moved so fast or my arms pumped so vigorously in my entire life. Every step I heard that wasn’t mine multiplied my terror of being caught by those cultists. I didn’t dare look back. If Stephens was with me he’d be running for his life too, and if he wasn’t… there was nothing I could do to help him. Bullets weren’t stopping these people. 

I can’t say why. I don’t know. It reminded me, however, of what happened to the British when they fought the Zulu at Isandlwana in 1879. The British were wiped out, almost to the last man, by Zulu warriors with only spears and clubs. But there were accounts of Zulu warriors being incredibly ferocious and not succumbing to gun shot wounds that should have killed them. Instead, they continued fighting and killing more British soldiers. Later those who had suffered mortal injuries did die, but only after fighting on long enough to kill more soldiers. Research into this several years ago revealed the source of their amazing fortitude and fierceness in battle was something their medicine men called the red mushroom. Warriors took it when they didn’t expect to return from battle but wanted to kill as many of their enemy as possible. 

I can think of no better analogy to describe what I experienced. 
I remember reaching a point where I only heard one other set of footsteps besides mine. They were closing on me, fast. Too fast to be Stephens. If he was that fast, he would have passed me well before then. As I exited the wood line and saw the boat a mere twenty meters away, I felt a hand grab my left shoulder and pull roughly. I never broke stride, twisting my upper body with the force, I pointed my Glock over my left shoulder and fired three times. A second later I heard a thump as something hit the ground.

I switched the gun into my left hand as I continued running and pulled my knife out from the sheath at my waistline. With one slash I severed the rope attached to the anchor, tossed the knife in the boat, pushed it out into the river, and jumped in, my boots never touching water. I glanced at the shoreline. There was a native body lying there, twitching, a bloody eye socket staring at me under the moonlight. I guess headshots still worked. 
I started the motor and twisted the handle to full throttle, taking off as fast as I could. I didn’t slow down until I reached the boat ramp where my truck waited. I didn’t call for help before then because my radio fell off while I was running.

When the cavalry arrived, en masse, and we returned to the island after sunrise with more than twenty troopers, plus multiple German Shepherd K-9 units, we searched everywhere. 
There were no human bodies anywhere to be found. Not Trooper Stephens and not any cultists. Not even the one I saw dead on the sand as I left. We located the stone altar, covered in blood, along with the bear head sitting on one end. Samples of blood taken tested positive later for a human female.

On one side of the altar that I had not seen before, near the far-left edge, there was a bas relief showing a comet passing near a planet that appeared to represent the Earth. The figure of a man stood below the comet, arms outstretched as something like a current of wind or wispy smoke made its way down from the comet into the man’s wide-open mouth. Across the middle were various stars. As you approached the far-right edge it seemed to change into a semi-mountainous wasteland. At the top was something that appeared to depict a black hole. Below it, carved out of the stone, was a rectangular niche, about ten inches tall, five inches wide and five inches deep. Within the niche was a statuette. Of what I cannot say for sure. It almost looked like a man sitting down, knees pulled to his chest, head resting on his knees but canted slightly to the right. The skull was dotted with several eyes, while upon its face you could make out one on its right cheek in addition to a large eye in the center of its forehead. The one on its right cheek was open; the rest closed. A crown of horns framed the frontal portion of its head, and behind that, numerous small horns grew in the spaces between the extra eyes around a tubular shape emerging from the back of its head that transitioned into several tentacle-like appendages draping over its back, almost like dreadlocks. 

I didn’t want to look at it, much less pick it up. None of us did, but the state investigator had to. After removing it from the altar and securing it inside a case, he said it was so cold to the touch it burned. Gave him the chills and a good dose of the heebie-jeebies as well, he admitted. 
The dogs picked up on multiple tracks and we split up, following each one to the shoreline along the other side of the island, losing all of them at the water’s edge. 

When we returned to the clearing to look for any further evidence and assess how we might remove and transport the altar, the investigator started with a shout. Someone asked him what was wrong. He pointed at the altar and asked, “Who took the bear’s head?” All of us stood there shaking our heads while our stomachs grew heavy and sick with fear. Some of the dogs began barking and pulling toward the altar while the others whined and tried to back away. (Later I would find out it was the dogs cross trained as both Patrol and Tracking units that barked, and the Tracking only dogs that whined.) There were no footprints, but the dogs obviously smelled something they didn’t like one bit. One of them pulled its handler all the way to the altar where the statuette was found and began pawing at the rock there. 

The investigator drew close and observed the area the dog was so interested in. He noted a long crack running from the top of the niche out in each direction. One way it went about three feet and then turned down at a perfect right angle. The other way it reached the outer edge about six inches to the right of the niche. He followed the left side down to where it met the stone slab. It wasn’t a crack at all. It was cut out this way. A rectangular portion of the altar some four feet wide and two feet tall was a separate piece, carved to fit in perfectly. After he spent some time inspecting it while the rest of us faced out, scanning the forest for any attackers, he reached inside the empty niche and felt around. There was a small circular stone inset there. 

When he pushed the stone down we heard some kind of mechanism engage within. We all turned in surprise to watch as that whole section of the altar slid inside three feet or more, revealing a set of stone stairs leading down into the darkness. 
He looked up and shouted. “Put the dogs in! Now!” 

I stood back and watched as four handlers and their dogs descended out of sight. Once underground, their radios were almost pure static. But we didn’t need a radio to hear their screams, their gun shots, or the dogs’ yips of pain followed by a final squall at death. 
Nobody resurfaced. None of us went down. Not until later. Much later. (And I wasn’t one of them.) By then the cultists had completely vacated, taking the bodies of our people with them. The dog carcasses were all that they left behind. 
Minus the heads of course.

Hope you enjoyed the excerpt and are now drooling in anticipation of the novel’s release in March, 2019. Follow me for updates. My Patreon page will be going live in the next couple of days and there will be perks for my supporters. I’ve got four short stories and a novella already lined up to release – For Patron Eyes Only! 
In addition, find links to all my published works on my Amazon Author Page.  And if you read any, I’d love to hear what you think. Thank you!
Mike Duke 11/30/2018
You can visit Mike Dukes Amazon Author Page HERE.

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