Free Chapters: Nuts, Chapter 1

Dear Readers,

Apologies for disappearing — it was not because I forgot how to write. I took a job this past year that left little time for my projects (or as an unfortunate side effect, sleep). I have since found a new job.

After some thought, I’ve decided to post chapters of my projects here, in case anyone is interested in a preview or leaving feedback. The first chapter of Nuts will be posted below. Please let me know if you have any questions (or if you just want to chat). Final compilations will be on Amazon.

Thank you for your continued support.



Chapter 1

My reverend once said only God serves as a control for the truth, the referee between dreams and delusions. The rest we must discover for ourselves: the sights we cannot see, the voices we cannot hear–

“Ms. Dane.”

The sound of my name jolted me back to the doctor’s office. I shook my head. The woman sat behind her desk, my report in hand, rubbing the bridge of her nose. Her muttering seeped into my head, slow like a mist, rolling, as if passing through my forehead instead of ears.

“Do you believe you can see spirits?”

Her clipboard knocked against the mahogany desk, a divider that sat between us, the sane and insane, its edges flawlessly varnished on her side and chipped on mine. I counted the scratches along my edge of the wood: ten, twenty… a deep set paralleled my chest, just inches apart. One of the patients had been a child. Maybe five. Six, at most.

“Ms. Dane.”

I looked up.

“Ghosts,” I said. “Imprints of the dearly departed. No one can see spirits. They’re souls. They don’t have shape.”

Mother’s nails dug into my shoulder. Father interested himself in the curtains.

“And these ghosts,” said the doctor. “Are they here with you?”

I glanced at Titus.

“Are there ghosts here with you, Ms. Dane?”

He shook his head.

“Lucy, answer the question,” said my mother.

Titus adjusted his collar in the mirror.

“Ms. Dane.”

Titus drifted to where my father stood, sat down on the couch, and folded his arms. He was a relic from the golden age of sailing, a permanently wet boy, physically, as if recently dredged from the sea. More than once, I tried to towel him off, only to have him remain sopping, much to my consternation.

“Don’t follow me with your eyes,” said Titus.  “The doctor can tell.”

I shifted my gaze to the doctor’s face. Its wrinkled prune-like texture wrapped tightly around her heavy jawbone. She looked as if someone drained the juice in her face with a syringe, or at least, had tried and found only dust. Her head bent downward, just enough to show the degrees hanging on the wall behind her: Harvard college, Harvard medical school.

“Ms. Dane!”

The doctor snapped her fingers. “Is there a ghost in here with you?”

I stared past them at her nose. It tilted upward, advertising the imprints on either side of her bridge and noting that, at least that part of her anatomy had been constantly rubbed.

“Lucy, answer the doctor,” said my father.

I fixated on her nose.


I blinked. “Would you believe me if I said ‘no?’”

A wail escaped my mother. Titus stood.

“Your daughter shows symptoms of schizophrenia,” the doctor said to my father. “The hallucinations, the hostility, even the conviction that she alone is correct in her perception of the world.”

My father’s hands clenched at his sides. “Is there no cure?”

“I’m afraid not,” said the doctor. “There was the possibility of therapy during the early stages, or of electroshock therapy years ago, but with government regulations and Lucy’s condition being what they are, your only solution is to have the patient committed and hope for a miracle. I will provide you with a list of available hospitals.”

Mother’s sobs grew louder. Father patted her back.

“What about here?” he said. “Dover Hill has a unique reputation, a new hospital with revolutionary methods. I saw it in the news. Many of your patients have recovered despite their hopeless cases. Can’t you take Lucy?”

“We have limited space,” said the doctor. “Due to high demand, we only offer in-patient care for a substantial fee. It’s not the money. It’s to ensure our quality of care stays high. We are a new hospital after all, you understand.”

“Of course,” said my father. He chewed on his lower lip. “How much will it be?”

While the doctor and my father negotiated, Titus crossed the room in two strides and grabbed my arm.

“We’re leaving,” he said. “They’ll lock you up if we don’t leave.”

“I don’t mind,” I said.

Titus pulled, but I remained in my seat. I didn’t want to go home. Dover Hill had a garden full of tulips and petunias. I hadn’t seen a garden in months. I hadn’t seen anything in months, and I heard Dover Hill allowed its residents to watch TV on the weekends.

“We’re leaving, now,” said Titus.

The doctor’s head turned sharply in our direction.

“Do not try to escape. You will not make it out of this room.”

We both stared at my floating arm. Titus released me.

“This is not your fight, doctor. Why must Lucy be confined for your lack of foresight?”

The doctor ignored him. So did everyone else.

“Old woman!”

The doctor continued to ignore him.

“This is the necessary paperwork,” she said to my father. “If you complete them now, I shall have the orderlies arrange a room for Lucy in the next hour.”

With an apologetic look at my mother, Father took the papers and began to write.

“How-how long does Lucy have to be here?” said Mother.

The doctor took off her glasses. “We can’t be sure. Short of a miracle, late stage schizophrenia cannot be cured, only quarantined. We will do our best for her.”

“There’s nothing wrong with her!”

Titus’ voice rose above the scratch of my father’s pen.

“You can’t just lock up a fifteen year-old because she can see things you cannot. What kind of monsters are you?”

“Initial here,” said the doctor, pointing to a spot on the page in front of my father.

Titus’ eyes glowed, and I suddenly became aware of the sound of waves and sea shanties. An antique wooden clock shook on the doctor’s shelf. Titus pointed two fingers at the doctor. A revolver appeared in his hand: old, rusty, loaded–

“Stop,” I said. “It’s not worth it.”

“Who are you talking to?” said the doctor.

I grabbed Titus’ sleeve. “You know what happens to ghosts who harm the living.”

“For God’s sake, Lucy, sit still,” said Mother.

Titus shot me a pained look. “This is my fault.”

“Nonsense,” I said. “I asked you to stay. If you hadn’t, I might have actually gone insane.”

“Andrew, it’s happening again,” said Mother.

My father stopped writing and pushed my arm down by my side.


His eyes bore into mine with a hatred I had only seen once before, when he found me introducing Titus to the neighbors.

“Lucy…” The revolver wavered in Titus’ hand.

“Please,” I said.

He pointed his own chest.

“That won’t work either,” I said. “They’ll put me away, with or without you here. ”

“Then on my honor I swear I will get you out,” said Titus.

I giggled. “So dramatic,” I said. “Come with me to Dover Hill. The house might be boring after I leave.”

The doctor pressed a button under her desk.

“We need escorts for Ms. Dane. Prepare a room for immediate transport.”

A voice on the other end answered in the affirmative.

Within the hour, orderlies arrived to escort me to my ride home. I tried to smile at my parents before the door closed, but they wouldn’t look in my direction. My mother cried. Father patted her back as he stared at his signature on the dotted line.

My parents took me home to collect my things. Mother sobbed quietly into a napkin on the way. Father drove. When we got out of the car, he ushered me into the house and up the stairs. Titus followed me into my room. Father disappeared for a moment, then brought a suitcase into my room, along with the books and toys I had left around the house. He threw them on my bed, then turned on his heels, careful to avoid eye contact. I guessed he made peace with the fact that he has no child.

As I packed, I heard the door click behind me.

“They locked you in,” said Titus.

“They’re afraid I’ll run away.”

I rummaged through the piles of my belonging. The ruffled dresses, the paperback novels, the dolls whose hairs I had meticulously braided. Everything I owned had to fit in the five-by-five suitcase. Whatever I didn’t take with me would end up in the trash.

“You don’t…” Titus held up a bear my father had given me for my fifth birthday. Its fluff had worn out from years of hugs and snuggles, and one of its eyes was loose. I held it for a second. It had been my favorite toy for years before I realized I could see dead people.

A thud against my window drew my attention outside. Pebbles bounced against the glass.

“Hey Crazy! Is it true you’re really crazy?”

The voice belonged to a boy from next door.

“My mother says you’re a nutter!”

Another voice giggled, little Suzie’s, from across the street.

“Go away Crazy! No one likes you.”

“God hates you,” said the boy. “God’s going to punish you.”

A potted plant broke through the window, shattering against the wooden floor. Soil spilled over my clothes. Titus got to his feet.

“It’s fine,” I said. “Someone else will get rid of them.”

Moments later, my father’s voice sounded, yelling at the children to get off his property. I heard their screams of mirth and mocking fear, then the pitter-patter of footsteps told me they had run away.

I dusted myself off. A pair of hands joined mine, brushing dirt from my midriff.

“Why are you doing this?” said Titus.

I took his hands in mine and pushed them into the soil. A tiny, shriveled crisp crumbled under the pressure.

“Can you feel it between your fingers?” I said. “It’s dry. Too dry to keep the flowers alive.”

His fingers shook as I curved them into a scoop. We watched dirt trickle across the floor.

“No one’s watered them in months,” I said. “Not since you came. Not since we’ve been locked in here.”

“I don’t–”

“They need water, Titus, just like us. When hydrated, soil is solid, but without, it cracks little by little until it turns to sand. I don’t want to crack, Titus. I don’t want to be swiss cheese. Father’s kept me here for over six months. Six months without fresh air or company, except you, of course. If I stay any longer, I shall actually go mad.”

He stared at the soil, then uncupped his hands and let the soil plop.

“I’ll help you pack.”

We loaded my suitcase with clothes and toys. I put my father’s bear in the discard pile and took instead an extra sweater. Titus suggested we bring some tape, in case we need something immediately fixed.

An hour later, the door clicked and my father appeared. He picked up my suitcase and towed me towards the car. I asked where Mother was. He did not answer.

In the hallway I caught a glimpse of a shadow peeking out of my parent’s room. I waved at Mother. I guess it was her way of saying goodbye. I tried to smile, but my father pushed me out the door before I could open my mouth. As the car pulled away, I saw a face by the window. It was the last time I saw my mother’s face. I don’t remember what she was wearing or what her expression was, but I felt warm, knowing she had come to see me off.

Outside, the car waited on the seemingly abandoned road. The neighbors’ windows were open, many with their curtains drawn and the silhouettes of people visible through them. Father ushered me into the back seat. We drove in silence, Father obscured from my view by his headrest. Titus rode in silence beside me.

Three men in white stood at the gates of Dover Hill. One spoke with Father while the others collected me and my things. I looked back at my father. He looked older than I remembered. I tried to smile at him. He did not smile back.


Reflections & Book Update on Nuts

One of my friends reminded me yesterday that The Almshouse is approaching its one-year anniversary.


I must say, I’m proud of the little book. Though it dipped in rankings, the book held out its own since early February 2016. I feel a little like a parent whose kid is self-sufficient, and claim no credit to its ventures or its friendship with its readers.

Thinking back, the story used to be just questions floating in my head, keeping me occupied in class while my teachers went on and on about some form of math. I found an old copy of the manuscript from my teenage years, back when I still scribbled in notebooks. For some reason, I thought clam chowder served as a better soup than chicken, and Lyle had spent a great deal of time teaching Julia to dance rather than playing his violin. It’s a good thing I wrote the story in drafts.

Along the same lines of nostalgia, I thought of the little girl who inspired the story, and wondered what she’s been up to. She had been a pretty little girl: blond, with curly hair, around my age at the time I saw her. We had both been preteens, though she a much better dressed one than I. I should also revisit the cemetery that inspired Mansion Park, maybe finally read the epithet on the headstone the girl had been staring at. (When I was younger, I tried to make out the words below the date, but had to leave because my friends wanted to go for ice cream.)

Anyway, I’m working on a prettier cover for the paperback version. The sequel is ~ 33% done, and the third book is ~20% done. Sincerely, From the Other Side is a spin-off, written long ago during homeroom and English, and tags on after the third book. I should probably learn to write in order.

nutsBook update on Nuts: It’s 95% done. I had originally planned to finish the book by September and launch it this month. Instead, it’s November, and Nuts sits one chapter away from completion. It’s been this way for months. (I will ramble about it below.) The copy editor has already started reading the beginning, and I’ll finish it by the end of next week in time for him to get through it.

I really shouldn’t make excuses. The trouble started after I returned from a business trip in early August. I’m an attorney by trade, working in a large law firm with rules, regulations, and people that remind you of the TV shows Suits and The Good Wife. If those shows teach anythings, it’s that law firms are no strangers to bad news. So when I got back to the firm, I found that the partners funding our practice area left with the business. Skedaddled, vamoosed, ran away and left behind a handful of associates. As the most junior person (I graduated law school last December), I found myself with half a team left at a firm targeted by major legal news outlets and headhunters. It was open season on our business, our associates, our clients. Every week, someone left. Every week, headhunters poached us. The legal news outlets went crazy: our firm is sinking, they said. Our firm might collapse, they said.

Well, they’re wrong. We did not collapse, thanks to management rescuing as many folks as they could. The remaining younger associates got sent to different departments, and older partners called in favors to help rescue the team. We’re now a different firm, but at least we’re stable… only we won’t be “we” anymore. I’m off to a new venture, to clerk for a judge. It was something I had planned for next year, but given recent developments, I thought I’d head off now and come back later. Hopefully, this will allow me to do what I really want to do: be a prosecutor.

Author Stories: C. Gockel

Good morning everyone!

Apologies for the lack of updates. I am still writing, though I wish I had more time. One of my cases is gearing up for trial, so as the most junior grunt at my law firm, I’ve been doing a lot of this:


I’m still hoping to release either Nuts or the sequel to my first book by the end of the year. I don’t want The Almshouse to be my only book. (One is the loneliest number you’ll ever know…) One of them is half done, but it needs thorough scrubbing. One of my copy editors is on it.

Anyway, to the purpose of this post. Some time ago, I decided to give urban fantasy a try and was surprised by how much I liked it. Specifically, I really liked C. Gockel’s

I Bring the Fire (A Loki Series)

Take a sweet young lady and mischievous Norse god, add a pinch of sarcasm, a hint of romance, and a whole lot of “why is this happening?” and you get the story of a young woman introducing a technically old-man to a new world.  (Seriously, go take a look. I strongly recommend this series, and I don’t have much time to read anymore.) I admit I’m a sucker for elegant prose, and C.Gockel has a beautiful style, so much so that I thought I should ask her if she has tips for us new authors. Lucky for me, she was happy to help!

1. When did you start writing and when did you publish your first book? What inspired you to tell that story?

I started writing Star Trek AOS fanfiction in 2009. There simply wasn’t enough Spock/Uhura in the world, so I wrote my own “how they got together” story. And then I wrote a Sarek/Amanda story, a boy!Uhura/girl!Spock story, a Kirk/T’Pring story (they’re perfect for each other, can’t you tell?), and many more. At some point I started writing Darcy Lewis/Loki. As I wrote it, I started exploring Norse Mythology more and more and discovered that I found Marvel’s and Snorri’s interpretation of Loki unsatisfying. Snorri was a monk in Iceland in the 1100s. He was trying to convert Icelandic pagans to Christianity, and he shoehorned the Norse Gods into a Christian framework. Odin got to be God, Baldur got to be Jesus, and Loki got to be the devil. Marvel made Loki a bit more hapless than the devil, but they definitely made him evil. The more I researched, the more I realized the interpretations of Loki varied wildly across the pagan worshipping world. Even his ultimate evil deed, the slaying of Baldur, was not always attributed to him. Moreover, Baldur wasn’t interpreted as “good” throughout the pagan world. Loki in some of the tales was one of the creators of humans, was the guy you called when no one else could help you, and was worshipped right alongside Odin. He wasn’t evil, he was change and an agent of rejuvenation. I liked the idea of Loki not good or evil, but as chaos incarnate. We tend to think of chaos as “evil” sometimes, but chaos at its most fundamental is change. “Order” is stasis. These things aren’t good or bad unto themselves, the negatives tend to come about when they are out of balance.

2. Why mythological fantasy?

Well, myths are fantasy. Why urban fantasy is probably the better question. I think we live in an age of Chaos. Change is happening at lightening speed. We’re in the age of Loki, so I thought I modern times would be an appropriate setting for the series.

3. How did you get your first book off the ground? What was your first week like as an author?

Before I released I Bring the Fire, I released a short story called Murphy’s Star. I released it only because my husband was nagging me about writing so much fanfiction. I think I made $30 my first month? After that it sold only sporadically.

I started writing I Bring the Fire also to keep my husband from nagging me … but also, by that point, fanfiction was becoming like a shoe that was too small. I couldn’t say what I needed to say within the scope of fanfic. When I released Wolves: I Bring the Fire Part I, I had a brief rush of sales, and then I sold about 1 or 2 a day. That remained the case until I went permafree with Part I.

I kept writing fanfiction until after In the Balance (the novella in between Chaos and Fates.) At that point, the allure of “living” in my own universes was too great.

4. What’s your favorite book so far that you’ve written?

What a horrible question! Why not ask me which of my children I like more? If I’m honest though, I like Monsters a lot, and I like Warriors. Warriors is probably my least well-liked book, but I love the story arc, it’s all internal. Chaos’s incarnation goes from being resentful of his fate to embracing it, and realizing that he can use his power to save the human race from Odin’s repression.

5. Did you always know you were going to write a series? How did you plan it out and how long did the process take?

Yes, I knew I would always write a series. I expected it to be only 6 books though and it became 6, a novella, and three short stories. But I knew how it began, and I knew how it ended. The scenes at the end of Ragnarok with Amy, Bohdi, and Steve were in my head from the day one. It was energizing. When I felt like I couldn’t get through a part I could think, “Oh, that amazing climax is coming! I can’t wait to write it!” And I would write more.

6. How do you deal with criticism/low reviews/trolls?

It depends. I try to be open minded to criticism if it is logical. You should really read your reviews, even the bad ones. I’ve had some technical issues that came out in reviews. Also, I’ve seen what my fans want more of. Obviously, you can’t please everyone. I can only be responsive to criticism if changing the story doesn’t contradict my central theme. Also, you occasionally get reviews that complain about things that simply did not happen in the book. You can only scratch your head at those and move on. I did have a troll when I began. It was very upsetting; it’s hard to understand how a person can put so much energy into trying to bring you down. But something you realize quickly; trolls have much more free time than you do. It’s best not to respond. Eventually, you’ll get more reviews that will cover up their hate, and, not surprisingly, hateful reviews get downgraded and marked as “not helpful” a lot.

I have to say, writing fanfic really helped me learn to deal with criticism. I got betas for my original fiction by being responsive to logical criticism. I also got some serious hate writing fanfiction. One of my stories in particular just made a group of people so angry. Someone wrote an online essay almost as long as the story saying how very wrong it was. I did try to respond … but then I realized, trying to respond was taking me away from writing, and despite the hate I also had a lot of people who were really enjoying the story. They were way more important than my “reputation” among a group of people who were never going to be happy unless I took the story down.

7. What other genres have you considered writing for besides Sci-Fi and Fantasy?

I might write a paranormal romance at some point, and possibly a YA coming of age story.

8. Any words of advice for new or aspiring authors out there?

Just start writing. Write things you enjoy, publish them, and solicit criticism. You can publish in a group like Critique Circle or start with friends. You need criticism. Criticism that makes you cry (or throw your computer against the wall.) It’s the only way to grow as a writer.

So there you have it! Thank you CG for sharing!

You can find C. Gockel’s fanfictions here:

And her books on Amazon, and other platforms:

Also, here is Murphy’s Star, her very first original short story:

Story Update: Day Dream – Book 2 of The Spirit World Series

First, I want to thank all the readers for being patient with my lack of progress. It’s been an interesting couple of months; I got assigned a big case and it’s been nothing but work, work, coffee, work, sleep, and more work. Some days have turned into a 7:30am-9pm workday, but I realize that’s still pretty lenient compared to New York attorneys. On the bright side, I managed to get an interview with a great SciFi/ Fantasy author, which I will post in my next feature.


For now, I am putting up the beta chapters of Day Dream, the second book in The Spirit World Series (and the sequel to The Almshouse). The picture above is a link. I’ve resorted to writing them during lunch break, so please excuse the formatting. I hope to get this out as soon as humanly possible. Maybe if I stop leaving the office…



I received an email today from a review service. It seems they liked my book, The Almshouse and decided to feature it in BTS Magazine. The reviewer, Melanie, was very nice. She said she enjoyed the book and will be posting a blog review for the book on February 10th. Thanks Melanie, and here’s to looking forward to February.







Author Stories: Darcy Coates

coveralmsh3This is the first entry of a new series: Author Stories. I got the idea to interview more experienced authors as a way of showing my affection for their books and to learn from their insights. These authors will all be picked based on merit, and no favors or payment were exchanged.  I thought new authors might be encouraged to persevere if they could see the exact steps it took for established authors to get where they are.

When I was editing The Almshouse, I decided to check out the market for ghost stories and haunted house stories.


It was originally for market analysis purposes, but I got distracted by a pretty book: The Haunting of Gillespie House. 

Isn’t this pretty?

I bought the book after reading the first two pages. It seemed different from the other books on the list, probably because the cover glowed blue. Most of the other covers (including my own) used colors with low saturation, resulting in a gloomy atmosphere rather than the feeling that something nefarious was happening in the back yard.

Darcy’s profile picture

After reading the story, I ran into the author, Darcy Coatesin an online forum. She had written so many books, many of which are in the Top 20 of Amazon Bestsellers lists.

Last week, I asked Darcy if she could share her experience with new authors:

1. When did you start writing and when did you publish your first book? What inspired you to tell that story?
I’ve been writing since I was a young teenager. I started a lot of stories, but didn’t finish many! About two years ago I wrote my first ‘proper’ book, a novella called Ghost Camera. In Ghost Camera, two friends find a strange Polaroid camera that can capture spirits on film. I really enjoyed creating the story – it asks some questions that I’d find challenging to answer. If you had the ability to see what spirits live in your home, including the malevolent or angry ones, would you?

2. Why supernatural suspense/ thrillers?
I’ve always loved horror, especially ghosts and haunted houses. While my friends went to watch chick flicks at the theatre, I’d be buying tickets to Blair Witch Project or The Conjuring. I can’t explain why – it’s just a fundamental part of me, like the need to eat.

3. How did you get your first book off the ground? What was your first week like as an author?
I didn’t, and terrible! :)

It’s very, very difficult to find success with just one book out. Some supportive friends bought Ghost Camera during launch week, and I had a handful of organic sales which gave me the motivation to keep writing.

Following Ghost Camera, I published a series of short stories. But it wasn’t until I released my second novella, The Haunting of Gillespie House, that I began to earn an income from writing. Now that I have more novels and novellas available, Ghost Camera’s sales have also picked up.

(Blanche’s note: Up until this point, I had assumed Gillespie House was her first book. Silly me.)

4. What’s your favorite book so far that you’ve written?
Oooh, that’s tough! It’s like asking me to name my favourite child!

I had great fun with my latest release, The Haunting of Blackwood House. While it’s (as the name implies) a haunted house story, it also has a strong romance subplot and some humour.

5. How do you deal with criticism/low reviews/trolls?
Like death and taxes, one-star reviews are inevitable. The world holds a lot of people who won’t like your story, and eventually some of them will read it and leave a review.

It’s tough (especially the first ones), but the single best thing you can do is see if they hold any valid criticism, absorb the parts that are helpful and discard the rest, then get on and write the next story.

6. What other genres have you considered writing for?
I really enjoy writing other genres, even though the stories all contain horror elements. I’ll be publishing a series soon called Cymic Parasite Breach. It’s a sci-fi survival story that shows an alien invasion from the perspective of five unrelated women. I’ve also written gothic romance with the House of Shadows series, and a supernatural thriller with Dead Lake. That’s one of the things I love about horror – it blends with other genres amazingly well!

7. Any words of advice for new or aspiring authors out there?
I’m going to parrot advice you’ve probably heard a thousand times: read a lot and write a lot! Just like exercise will make you physically stronger, using your writing muscles will do more for you than a hundred How To Write guides.

And there you have it, ladies and gents: stories from Darcy Coates. Feel free to let me know if you have an author to recommend.