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The Horror Writers Association Presents
...a collection of entertaining tales that puts the fun back into dark fiction, with ironic twists and tongue-in-cheek wit to temper the jagged edge.
Charlaine Harris reveals the dark side of going green, when a quartet of die-hard environmentalists hosts a fundraiser with a gory twist in "An Evening with Al Gore"...In an all-new Dresden Files story from Jim Butcher, when it comes to tracking deadly paranormal doings, there's no such thing as a "Day Off" for the Chicago P.D.'s wizard detective, Harry Dresden...Sherrilyn Kenyon turns a cubicle-dwelling MBA with no life into a demon-fighting seraph with one hell of an afterlife in "Where Angels Fear to Tread"...Celebrity necromancer Jaime Vegas is headlining a sold-out séance tour, but behind the scenes, a disgruntled ghost has a bone to pick, in Kelley Armstrong's "The Ungrateful Dead." Plus tales guaranteed to get under your skin -- in a good way -- from
Janet Berliner Don D'Ammassa Nancy Holder Nancy KilpatrickJ. A. Konrath and F. Paul Wilson Joe R. Lansdale Will LudwigsenSharyn McCrumb Mark Onspaugh Mike Resnick Steven SavileD. L. Snell Eric James Stone Jeff Strand Lucien Soulban Matt Venne Christopher Welch
So let the blood flow and laughter reign -- because when it comes to facing our deepest, darkest fears, a little humor goes a long way!
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#1 New York Times bestseller Charlaine Harris was born in Mississippi and lives in southern Arkansas with her husband, daughter and three dogs. Their sons are out of the nest. She’s written four series and two stand-alone novels in addition to numerous short stories and a novella or two. Her Sookie Stackhouse books have appeared in twenty-five different languages and on many best-seller lists. They’re also the basis of the HBO series True Blood.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
The Ungrateful Dead
I see dead people. Unfortunately, they also see me.
One of the first lessons a necromancer learns is the art of playing dumb. When strolling down Fifth Avenue, searching for that perfect pair of shoes, pay no attention to the guy in the Civil War uniform. If he notices the glow that marks you as a necro, he will attempt to make conversation. Pretend you don't see him. With practice, you'll learn to finesse the act -- pursing your lips, tilting your head, murmuring "Hmm, I thought I heard -- Oh my God, would you look at those darling Jimmy Choos!"
Eventually, the ghost will decide you're untrained -- or just plain stupid -- and wander off before getting to the part that begins with "Say, could you do me a favor...?" Of course, one problem with playing dumb is that it seeps into your everyday life. But that has its advantages too. No one ever asks me to help with their taxes.
Now, as I stood behind the stage curtain, I searched for signs of any otherworldly presences. Nothing screws up a séance like the appearance of a real ghost.
In the theater, my intro began: "This is their world. A world of peace and beauty and joy. A world we all wish to enter."
I tensed, flexing my calf muscles.
"Jaime..." Brett warned as he fixed my hair. "Stand still or this piece is going to wave like a bug antenna."
Achieving an artlessly windswept updo is, truly, an art form, but it was part of the "sexy librarian" look I used for my shows. The pinned-up red hair, the modestly cut but curve-hugging dress and, of course, the wire-rimmed glasses. Admittedly, at forty-six, I was ramming the limit of how much longer there would be any "sexy" in my librarian. Keep the house lights low, though, and I looked damned hot.
My cue came. I walked to the curtain, cheeks twitching as I struggled to keep my smile in, reminding myself I'd need it for the next two hours.
As I stepped onto the dimly lit catwalk, I could hear the breathing of the sold-out crowd. Their excitement ignited mine and my grin broke through. I bit my cheek and set out.
"Come with me now," my recorded whisper snaked through the hushed theater. "Let me take you into their world. The world of the spirits."
I stopped. The speakers hissed as the recording switched to a man's voice.
"The Globe Theater proudly presents... internationally renowned spiritualist..." Another hiss as the volume swelled, the house lights rising with it. "Jaime Vegas!"
"I'm getting a male relative," I said to Patty, a round-faced woman with big tortoiseshell glasses straight out of the eighties. "His name starts with N...no, wait...M. Yes, M."
Statistically speaking, M is one of the most common first letters for male given names. Somewhere in Patty's mental file, she'd find a deceased Mike, a Matthew or...
"Mort!" she shrieked, like she'd correctly answered the Double Jeopardy question. "My uncle Mort."
"Yes, that's right. Your moth..." I drew out the word, watching for her reaction. At her frantic nod, I said decisively, "Your mother's brother."
Interpreting cues was the key to cold reading. Sometimes it was only a slight widening of the eyes or a faint involuntary nod. Then I'd get people like Patty, so eager to praise and encourage me that I felt like a puppy who'd finally piddled outside.
I spent the next few minutes postponing the inevitable message, with "Wait, he's fading...no, here he comes...I think he's trying to say something..." It's a two-hour show.
I was in the midst of "reeling" Mort back when a voice said, "You called?"
I glanced behind me. There stood a sixtyish bald man with a round face, bearing a striking resemblance to Patty. Uncle Mort. It doesn't matter that I rarely summon ghosts onstage. Sometimes they just show up.
"Mortimer!" I beamed a smile as his gaze nestled in my cleavage. "How wonderful. I thought I'd lost you."
"Uncle Mort?" Patty bounced, clearing her seat by a good three inches. "It's me, Patty."
Mort squinted. "Patty? Shit. I thought you said Pammy, her sister." His eyes rolled back as he smiled. "Mmm. Pammy. She was always the cute one, but after she turned sixteen? Boom." He gestured to show what part of Pammy's anatomy had exploded.
"Uncle Mort would like to tell your sister, Pammy, that he's thinking of her."
"Ask her if Pammy's still hot," Mort said. "Last time I saw her was at my funeral. She wore this lacy little black number. And no panties." He chortled. "That's one good thing about being a ghost -- "
"Uncle Mort remembers that black silk dress Pammy wore to his funeral."
If Patty bounced any higher, she was going to take flight. "What about me? Does he remember me?"
"Yeah," Mort said. "The fat one. Even as a baby she was a little tub of lard -- "
"Uncle Mort says he remembers what a beautiful baby you were, so cute and chubby with red cheeks like apples."
Patty spent the next few minutes telling Uncle Mort about Cousin Ken's cataracts and Aunt Amy's arthritis and little Lulu's lazy eye. Uncle Mort ignored her, instead peppering me with questions about Pammy.
"Are you even listening to me?" Mort said finally.
"Uncle Mort appreciates the update," I said. "And he'd like you to pass on a message in return. Tell everyone he misses them dearly -- "
"Miss them? One more Christmas with those people, and if the cancer didn't get me -- "
" -- but he's gone to a good place, and he's happy."
"Would I be here if I was happy? I'm bored out of my frigging skull."
I crouched beside Patty, clasped her hands and wished her all the best. Then I returned to the catwalk. "Uncle Mort has left us now."
Mort jumped in front of me, waving his arms. I walked through him.
"She's ignoring you," another voice said.
"I'm waiting for a new spirit to make contact," I continued. "I can sense them just beyond the veil." I pretended to scan the room, to get a look at the new arrival without letting on I'd heard him. More secrets of the successful spiritualist.
A young man had climbed onto the catwalk. Dressed in a striped Henley shirt and cargo shorts, he was about twenty, stocky, with manicured beard stubble. A frat boy, I guessed. A ghost, I knew. The fact that no one noticed him sauntering down the catwalk gave it away.
I continued to survey the room. "A spirit is trying to break through the veil..."
"Don't bother, buddy," Mort said to the other ghost. "She may be a necromancer, but she needs some serious remedial training."
"Actually, I hear she's very good. Comes from a long line of powerful necros."
"Yeah? Well, it skipped a generation."
"I have a name," I intoned, eyes half-closed. "Is there a Belinda in the audience?" In seat L15, if my sources were correct.
"See?" Mort said. "She doesn't even know we're here."
"Oh, she knows." The frat boy's voice carried a burr of condescension. "Don't you, Red?"
"Do I have a Belinda in the audience? Hoping to contact her father?"
A bingo-hall shriek as an elderly woman -- in L15 -- leapt up. I made my way over to her. Mort stomped back to his afterlife. The frat boy stayed.
After the show, I strode down the backstage hall, an icy water bottle pressed to my cheek.
My assistant, Tara, scampered along beside me. "We have a ten a.m. tomorrow with the Post Intelligencer, then a two o'clock pretape with KCPQ. Friday's show is totally sold-out, but you can plug the October one in Portland."
"Will do. Now, can you find Kat? Let's see if we can't get that sound system fixed before Friday."
I slipped into my dressing room, closed the door and leaned against it. A slow clapping started across the room.
The frat boy slid off my dressing table. "Okay, show's over. You done good, Red. Now it's time to get to work. Be a real necromancer."
I uncapped my water and chugged.
"Cut the crap," he said. "I know you can -- "
" -- hear you. Yes, I can." I mopped my sweaty face with a towel. "But a dressing-room ambush really isn't a good way to get my attention."
His full lips twisted. "Oh, please. You think I'm going to peep at you undressing? You're, like, forty."
"I meant it's rude." I tossed the towel aside and grabbed my hairbrush. "If you'd like to talk, meet me at the rear doors in twenty minutes."
"Um, no. I'm going to talk to you now, and I'm not leaving until I do."
Rule one of "how to win favors and influence necros"? Never threaten. I'd say if you're lucky enough to get one to listen, you should fall on your knees with gratitude. But that might be pushing it. A simple "okay, thanks" will do.
I'm not heartless. In fact, in the last few years, I've made a real effort to listen to ghosts, and I'd had every intention of hearing this one out. But he was fast blowing his chance.
I turned to the mirror and brushed out my hair, pins clinking to the floor.
"Don't turn your back on me," the ghost said.
"I'm not. I said I'll be ready in twenty minutes."
He walked through the dressing table, planting himself between the mirror and me. "Fine. How about this?"
He shimmered, then shot back, clothing drenched with blood, stomach ripped open, safety glass shards studding his intestines. A brain-splattered metal rod protruded from his ear. One eye bounced on his cheek.
I fell back. "Oh my God! No, please. Not the death body. I'll do whatever you want!"
I recovered and reached through his intestines for my cold cream. "Do you really think you're the first spook who's tried that? I've seen decapitations, burnings, drownings, bear maulings, electrocution..." I leaned to see my reflection past the rod sticking from his head. "A couple of years ago, there was this one ghost who'd been cut almost in half. Industrial accident, I guess. That one did give me a start. But car accidents? Pfft."
I met his eyes -- or the one still in its socket. "Did you see that segment on E! last month? About celebrities addicted to plastic surgery? They t...
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Book Description Pocket Books, 2009. Mass Market Paperback. Condition: New. Never used!. Seller Inventory # P111439148406
Book Description Pocket Books, 2009. Condition: New. book. Seller Inventory # M1439148406
Book Description Condition: New. New. Seller Inventory # STRM-1439148406
Book Description Pocket Books, 2009. Mass Market Paperback. Condition: New. Reprint. Ships with Tracking Number! INTERNATIONAL WORLDWIDE Shipping available. Buy with confidence, excellent customer service!. Seller Inventory # 1439148406n