December 23, 1941

     This unfortunate picture was taken at 10:14 am on December 23, 1941.

     Mr. Jonathan Rivell and his 12-year-old son, Thomas, were looking for interesting subjects for Mr. Rivell’s new hobby – photography. Thomas, an avid swimmer, was in the water, attempting to see if there might not be a far more enticing picture that could be taken of the shore.

     As the father and son prowled along the edge, one near the water and the other in it, they heard a sweet, beautiful voice raised in song. While they were unable to understand the words, the melody drew them on toward the curve in the shore which marked the end of the public’s access to Duncan Blood’s land. Beyond the protrusion in the photograph, no one, not even the police, dared to cross.

     There were dark creatures in Duncan’s lands, and in the waters of Blood Lake as well.

     Instead of stopping and returning the way they had come, the two Rivells continued toward the outcropping.

     Mr. Rivell felt there was something magnificent approaching them, something wondrous. Thomas felt the same.

     As the boy was treading water, the father readied the camera, and when the singing grew louder, he raised the camera to his eye and prepared for the shot.

     He took the photograph a moment after the singer appeared, his horror forcing his reaction.

     From descriptions Mr. Rivell gave to the police, and later to Duncan, it was decided that Thomas was snatched by a naiad.

     The boy’s body was never recovered, nor was the naiad’s song heard again.

     Mrs. Rivell left Jonathan, and he spent the rest of his life wandering the shores of Blood Lake, searching for some sign of the thief who had stolen his child.

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December 22, 1925

     In 1920, Frau Issa Gewitter emigrated from Germany to the United States after her husband, a German veteran of the Great War, was slain during the Munich uprising in 1919. By 1921, Issa found her way to Cross, where she became the nanny for the Anderson family on Norwich Road.

     Mr. Paul Anderson and his wife, Ellen, traveled extensively, and on most occasions, they were unable to bring their three daughters with them. During these times, Issa had full run of the home, and she made certain that the children and the structure were well cared for.

     Mr. Anderson was a successful author, writing under several different pseudonyms. One of his passions was collecting rare weapons. His most prized firearm was a Browning Automatic Rifle, gifted to him in 1916 shortly before the United States’ entry into the Great War. Like many collectors, Mr. Anderson had an ample supply of ammunition for his firearms, including the Browning.

     On the morning of December 22, 1925, a heavy snowfall had fallen over Cross, ensuring that there would be little travel on the roads.

     It was at 7:13 am that the first of the goblins attacked the Anderson house.

     Issa Gewitter had survived four years of war, and a devastating battle in her home city of Munich. She was not flustered by the sudden assault, despite the hideous appearance of the assailants.

     Instead, Issa put the Browning to good use. With the children loading magazines and passing them to her, Issa is said to have slain at least 32 of the goblins, and wounding many more.

     When her employer returned and asked where the ammunition for the Browning had gone, his daughters pointed to the pyramid of heads in the backyard.

     To this day the skulls of the goblins are mounted on the corners of the home, and this photo of Frau Issa Gewitter hangs above the fireplace of the Anderson house.

 

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What Motivates You?

     What motivates you?

     This seems like a straightforward question, and I suppose for some people, it is.

     For myself, this is an extremely difficult question to answer. Answering it, truthfully at least, requires intense soul-searching, which I’m not exactly a fan of.

     But, using myself as an example, I’ll give some of the basics.

     First, there’s the undeniable need for me to write. And that is a brutal truth: I have to write. It doesn’t matter if it’s a poem, a short story, a longer work of fiction, or a piece of nonfiction. I have the need to write. This need has been there since I was 9 years old and listening to my mother and stepfather argue. It was there when I sat in class – drawing, and writing – and being too much the antagonist and futile rebel to pay attention to what the nuns were trying to teach me.

     In high school, I met Mr. Richard White, a patient, intelligent author, and journalist who taught my English class of hormonal and testosterone-fueled students. He taught us how to craft our sentences and how to form our paragraphs into coherent stories, whether they were fiction or to deliver the news in a succinct fashion.

     My writing has always been a way to release the tension within myself, although I didn’t always see it as such. I harbored dreams, of course, of becoming a famous writer, someone as successful as Stephen King, or at least with the cult-like adoration of Lovecraft fandom. I wanted to create worlds where people could escape reality, just like I did when I was younger (and still do when I write).

     At this point in my life, as a husband, a father of three, and approaching the half-century mark, I don’t want to be famous anymore (although a healthy royalty check would be appreciated). What I want, what I need, is to create a place where the reader can seek refuge. We all desperately need to forget about the troubles and issues that we face in reality. I want my readers to find that in my stories. I want them to pick up the book, or click on the link, and read a story that takes them away, if only for a few minutes, where they don’t have to worry about the bills, or illness, or the ten thousand other problems and irritations that creep up in daily life.

     That’s my motivation.

     What’s yours?

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December 21, 1949

     Josef Wukovits owned a small farm on the eastern side of Cross. He was a diminutive man, who grew enough food to keep himself and his animals fed. Josef was a widower, and he and his wife had not been blessed with children.

     He lived a solitary existence, and he was pleasant with his neighbors. Josef’s childhood was one filled with sadness and hunger, and anyone who needed a meal could sit at his table, often eating the meager food he had prepared for himself.

     On the evening of December 21, 1949, during a snowstorm, there was a knock on his door. When he answered it, he found a young woman, clad in worn clothes and a thin jacket and nearly frozen to death. Without hesitation, Josef took her into his house, sat her by the fire, and wrapped her in warm blankets. He plied her with chicken soup, rubbed the warmth back into her hands and feet, and allowed her to sit in silence.

     Slowly, color returned to the woman’s cheeks, and when she seemed capable of walking, he helped her to his bedroom, where he laid her down and heaped quilts upon her.

     For the remainder of the night, Josef kept the fire burning brightly, and he checked on the young woman repeatedly. Towards dawn, exhaustion overcame him, and he fell asleep.

     Before midday, he awoke and hurried back into his room. The young woman was gone, and the bed was made as though it had never been slept in. On his pillow was a note, which read: Thank you, Josef. Never again shall you be hungry.

     Beneath the note was a single golden coin, and each morning another would be in its place until he died a decade later.

 

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December 20, 1916

     It is known as Die Feldhausen von Totenbaum, the tree of dead hares.

     The tree can rarely be found for it is hidden somewhere on the vast estate of Duncan Blood, and the only warning that the tree has blossomed is the sound of rifle fire emanating from his land.

     Most years, the tree bears no fruit. It grows and, according to legend, it follows the seasons as any tree will.

     Some years, however, the tree serves as the harbinger of disaster, and the only way this is known is to see if the tree bears its strange and hideous fruit.

     When the field rabbits of Cross can be found hanging from the branches, and the triple guns and the dog of the unknown Hunter are present, Death will visit the town.

     The last known observance of the tree in bloom was December 19, 1916, when Bram Hall was wandering – drunk – and somehow managed to end up in the middle of Duncan Blood’s property. A day later, when he found his way out and back to the center of town, Bram stopped first for a drink, then made his way around Cross, telling everyone he met about what he had witnessed.

     While many people ignored his ramblings, a few of the older residents knew what it meant, and they barricaded themselves in their homes.

     On the night of December 20, 1916, a storm tore through Cross, destroying houses and sweeping livestock and horses into the river.

     While only five people were killed in the storm, the sickness caused by exposure to the elements resulted in 37 hospitalizations, and the property damage prompted two men and one woman to commit suicide.

     Recently, the crack of rifle fire has been heard from Duncan’s land.

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How do you write?

     I suppose that’s the most consistently asked question outside of, ‘Where do you get your ideas?’

     But ‘how do you write’ is an extremely important question, because other writers want to know. Some of them will be exactly like you, others will be like me, and still, more will be exactly as they should be – themselves.

     With that being said, I want to talk about writing and editing.

     Some writers find it beneficial to write a chapter, go back and edit it, read it, then edit it again. Some even do this until they can’t see straight anymore.

     I am not one of those people.

     For me, getting the entire story out onto paper is by far the best strategy I have for getting a story out and ready for editing.

     If I stop and look at the piece, I keep going back. I keep tweaking it. And there’s no need to. In fact, I would argue that going back and constantly correcting the first few pages or chapters would be detrimental to your story. By never advancing, you can’t see where your story is going.

     My advice, then, is to put the entire story down on paper. Then walk away.

     Yup, that’s right. Put it down and walk away. Give yourself a few hours. Preferably a day or two, but if you can’t bear to be away from it for that long, then at least a few hours. This will give you some breathing room, the opportunity to come back to your story with fresh eyes, eyes that will read what you’ve written and say, “Eh, not bad. Not great, but not bad.” Or you’ll look at it, swallow back a bit of vomit and wonder how the writing in front of you ever made it past your mouth.

     Whatever you do, don’t be afraid. Write and work and try. Always try.

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December 19, 1895

     Cross High School has never been large, but it has always enjoyed a large amount of support from the community as well as participation from the student body.

     In 1895, the High School boasted the Massachusetts State Champions for football, a still terribly violent sport that saw more broken bones than most parents were comfortable with.

     On December 19, 1895, the football team celebrated their victory with a formal dinner at the high school, catered by the parents. The town council was present, as were many members of the community. What happened later that evening was witnessed by 73 people.

     The dinner went well, and many toasts were given by prominent members of Cross. The champions had their fill of champagne imported from Boston for the event. Only the members of the team drank from the bottles, and it is suspected that the resulting incident was caused by the drink, although it was never proven.

     At nine minutes past eight, the football players began to fight one another.

     No words were spoken, no looks exchanged.

     They launched themselves across tables and ignored all the other guests. The young men were imbued with a hideous strength, and in some cases literally tore the limbs off their teammates.

     When the carnage was finished, all were dead.

     It was another 40 years before Cross High School had another football team.

     Champagne is strictly forbidden.

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