Hi guys, we have Kirby Crow visiting us today for her newest Riptide Publishing release Hammer and Bone, this spooky, chilling number is a great way to spend a stormy evening (well as long as you don’t want to sleep that night 😉 ) and we asked Kirby how she managed to keep the atmosphere chilling in all eight stories. There’s also a great excerpt that magically appeared from the Riptide site (honest it was magic!) and a brilliant giveaway. So guys enjoy the post and then leave a comment for the giveaway ❤ ~Pixie~
Hammer and Bone
The purest evil lives in the hearts of men.
Carnival mystics. Zombie tribes. Bad magic in the Bayou. Mage-princes, alien cities, and soul-stealing priests. The grim monsters in the worlds of these dark, speculative tales are true horrors, but it’s the people you should fear the most.
People like Michel, a boy pining for his best friend, Ray. But a presence in the swamp calls Michel to avenge another lost love, and he must decide which summons to answer. Or Angelo, a prescient cop who denies his visions until they endanger the man he loves. Or Bellew, an overseer in a shantytown of criminals sheltering a revenant and feeding it from their ranks.
From ruined lands of steam and iron, to haunted Southern forests, to brutal city streets where hope and damnation flow from the same spring, only a few stubborn souls possess the heart to challenge evil on its own terms. Some wield magic, some turn to rage or even love, but the ones left standing will survive only if they find the courage to carve their own paths to freedom.
Even if it means carving through flesh.
Kirby answers our question!
MM Good Book Reviews asked: How did you keep the chilling atmosphere of Hammer and Bone going from beginning to end through the various worlds of the collection, while still keeping each story fresh and different?
Kirby Crow: The motto I have taped over my computer is “Don’t do anything half-assed”. I value my creative freedom and I work best when I’m focused on writing a character-driven story rather than worrying about how that story will fit in with the genre, if I’ve made the romance sufficiently interesting, if there’s enough intimacy, etc. Love is ultimately the driving force of every hero in Hammer and Bone, and I figured as long as I stayed true to that, I could chuck my inner critic out the window, put the reins between my teeth, and run with it. I did what I know how to do, which is make things really creepy and macabre on the page. The Southern gothic stories were probably the easiest atmospheres for me to evoke, because when I open my back door there it is; there’s the forest, the sky, the snarled underbrush grabbing my legs like brittle hands. Nature can be very creepy if there are no city sounds or traffic, and you can imagine all kinds of things while sitting alone under a mountain tree.
So in short, nature has some hella creative mojo going on, and I listened.
On his way to the hardware store, Michel Comeau stumbled over Hell.
An old car was sunk to the doors in coffee-brown marsh waters at the foot of a grass-covered embankment. Chipped chrome declared it to be a Chevy Impala. The paint had long since peeled off to expose the metal beneath, and the hood was a humped, beetle-shell of florid rust veined with crawling lines of mildew and moss. A nest of paper wasps made their queendom in the back dash. The rotting upholstery bulged with putrid water, and the steering wheel had blistered with heat.
The folks of Lapin called it the deer path. It was an unnamed county access road, unused by traffic because it dead-ended into a raised earthen levee, but residents had been walking it since the town’s founding. A seedy town center squatted on the other side, a single avenue of shops and dingy offices accessible from the deer path only by foot. Michel had made the trip into town a hundred times, maybe two hundred, but had never veered off the path to explore. There wasn’t any need: one piece of lowland Mississippi marsh looked pretty much like the rest, and most often the new sight you were hoping for turned out to be a patch of fermenting dog turds or a dead possum. Michel had learned early in life that anything unseen was probably best left hidden and alone.
At first, he saw only a faint glow amid the green outlines of the car, a smear of noon-day light that he might have mistook for something in his eye. He turned his head as he passed the area, his sneakers slowing on the muddy grass and stopping next to a dead anthill.
Forgotten was the frequent daydream about running away to Gulfport or Biloxi, to find work on a rig or a shrimp boat. Forgotten were the paperback sci-fi novels in the back room of Tep’s Hardware that Tep himself lent out for free. Forgotten was the five-dollar bill in his pocket, three fifty of which was for the wooden handle he’d been told to buy. He even forgot the ice-cold soda in the big metal cooler on the sidewalk by Tep’s store.
Sweat trickled down the slope of his nose, dangled from the end in a fat drop, and fell onto the rubber dome of his sneakers, all unnoticed.
“Huh.” He tilted his head like a confused collie pup. The ground around the swampy wreck was disturbed, big patches of mud and earth displaced, as if something had emerged from below and pushed them aside.
The green became a shimmering wall. He could still see the Impala behind it, but it was steamy, like the car windows had been during all those muggy nights when he’d sat outside Miss Pritt’s house, his dad’s shiny keys dangling in the ignition. On those nights, he would reach up and swipe the wet window with his palm and try to see inside the house, but the curtains were always drawn. In the back room, the lights were always out.
Michel’s mother found the pictures of Miss Pritt wearing her black lace bra and slip in his dad’s bureau drawer, right under the .38 pistol. The bullets were mildewed and gummy in the chamber, but dad had always said the .38 was a good gun. It would fire even with ancient bullets and even in the cold shower his mom had taken it to. There were six in the chamber when she’d gone in, four when she came out feetfirst, naked and bloody. The first shot might have been a trial run.
The police found the pictures, and the wives of Lapin found Miss Pritt. She lost her teaching license and wound up serving drinks past the county line. Michel was sure Miss Pritt had never envisioned how the dangerous flirtation with Albert Comeau would turn out, just as he was sure his mom had never, on her wedding day, seen that bullet in the shower coming.
Sometimes you just ended up where you ended up.
Sweat pooled under his armpits and rolled down his sides over his skinny ribs. He could feel his toes stewing in his dirty sneakers and the damp, mucky heat between his legs.
It took him a moment to realize that the thought wasn’t his. He would have thought go, not come.
His throat suddenly ached with soreness, like he’d swallowed an apple core, or like something had tried to crawl inside him and had only gotten halfway in before it stuck. His hands flew up and cupped the sides of his neck, and the pain left.
Come closer. I’ve been waiting so long. I have so much to show you, Mike. You can’t run from it.
It was over a mile from the deer path to the big clapboard house he lived in on Lilac Road. He ran all the way.
Albert was in the weedy yard working on his boat. The flat-bottomed skiff was forty years old, with more patch than paint, and Michel doubted it would ever know water on its hull again. Albert bent over the housing of the outboard motor, a screwdriver in his hand and the sun baking his bald spot to a flaming red. He cursed at the motor and wiped sweat from his face. The paunch he’d grown when all hope of strange pussy had gone stretched the buttons of his shirt, bulbs of pale flesh poking through.
Michel picked his way through a patch of stinging nettles to the side of the boat. When Albert saw he was empty-handed, he hauled back and slapped him across the face.
Michel had expected that. He was just glad Albert hadn’t used the hand holding the screwdriver. He locked eyes with Albert and refused to look away.
Albert hit him again. “Gimme my money back, you little shithead! Chickenshit faggot bitch, can’t walk through the woods alone!” He snatched the five-dollar bill from Michel’s hand. “Get inside and clean your face, or are you just gonna stand there and cry?”
Michel wasn’t crying. Albert stared at him like he had something to say but it had gone wandering in his brain, confused from the scorching heat and the Hello Sunday six-pack he’d already sucked down.
“Look at you,” Albert sneered, colder now.
Albert looked right at him and saw someone who wasn’t there. His mother’s genes were stamped on him like the burn-shadow of a nuclear ghost, or the branching scars marring the skin of a boy struck by lightning. He had his mother’s slenderness, her black hair and her long silences, and the worst sin of all: her wide dark eyes that took in everything and gave nothing back, least of all to Albert.
Michel had heard the whispers of Albert having “married down” when he’d wed Celeste Lebal. She had Creole blood and wasn’t native to Lapin—two marks already against her. In the early days of her marriage, she roamed the woods for wild ginseng and bloodroot, the black braid of her hair reaching to her knees. No amount of slurs could stop her from placing charms made of her finds around Michel’s neck, but Albert had found a way to make her stop.
Michel wiped a finger under his nose, painting it with blood, and stared back into Albert’s watery blue eyes. He knew that Albert would have cheerfully killed him right then, if he could have gotten away with it.
Albert snorted and stomped off to the battered white truck in the driveway, muttering about cowards and .38s.
Michel clomped up the steps to the wooden porch and past the knee-high statue of the Virgin Mary in blue-painted robes, who posed next to a stack of rusty paint cans and the iron pipe Albert used to prop up the hood of his truck. She’d belonged to his mother. On the day of her suicide, Albert had dumped it down the back slope into the canal. But no matter how many times he threw Blue Mary into the water, come morning there she’d be, robes and wimple covered in mud, a slug crawling in her brown hair.
Entering the house he’d been born in was like walking into a cave: deep and dim and soothing after the blistering heat of summer. A benevolent twist of a wooden frame pitched over a shallow dugout that had once served as a root cellar and moonshine stash. Pecan trees shaded the roof and provided shelter for a large dray of squirrels that raced over the tar paper night and day, occasionally prompting Albert to dig his revolver out of the faded bureau and thin them out. Albert would push the bullets into the chamber one by one, his thick lips mouthing silent curses. He would sight carefully and squeeze the trigger, reducing squirrel skulls to sprays of red mist. Once, Michel had heard Albert mutter his mother’s name while he was at the task.
He made himself scarce on those days.
The red-checkered curtains in the kitchen had been on the rods since Albert’s wedding day, though the checks were an insipid pink now and the linen was so frail it would have come all to pieces with a good wash. The white sink was porcelain over steel, pitted with age but big and useful, and he still remembered his mother washing dishes there after dinner, dazzling sunlight streaming in through the wide windows and painting copper lights in her long braid.
He remembered her voice too, begging Albert not to hit him, promising him she wouldn’t make the charms anymore, dressing his hurts and rocking him to sleep. Tout va bien, mon bébé. Maman est là. Tout va bien.
I’m here. All is well.
A plastic yellow clock ticked time away in the windowsill. He picked it up and wound the back six times to keep it running. It had been a wedding present from his mother’s people. “The only damn one,” Albert was fond of saying. Michel could pinpoint the day when Albert had stopped talking about his mother—except to say it was Michel’s fault she was gone. He had cried too much, demanded too much of her, made her crazy with his bad dreams and screaming fits in the middle of the night. Michel knew about the dirty pictures in the drawer, but somehow the guilt clung to him, sticking like a tree frog to a leaf. Maybe he needed the blame. How else to explain why his mother had left him?
He picked up the loaf of bread on the wooden counter, opened it, and sniffed. Sweet and yeasty, just shy of sprouting mold. Good enough for sandwiches. A canister of peanut butter and a small Mason jar of strawberry preserves from Mrs. Lambert were in the cupboard. Ray’s mother was always sending things. Ray said it was because she wanted Michel and Ray to stay friends now that they were out of school, but Michel didn’t need gifts for that.
One rainy day when he was in ninth grade, Ray had dropped by Lilac Road while Albert was beating the shit out of him.
Michel had been huddled against the living room wall, arms up to shield his head from Albert’s fists, when suddenly it all stopped and Ray Lambert was standing over Albert with a shovel. No one had ever looked so much like an angel. Ray had helped him into the bathroom and cleaned the blood off his face with feathery hands that felt like kisses. By the time Albert came to, Ray had moved Blue Mary into the living room and the shovel into the shed. Albert had woken up to see Blue Mary’s eyes staring down on him. He never beat Michel that badly again.
Michel would have followed Ray into Hell.
The sandwich was gritty and thick, sticking to the roof of his mouth. He poured a glass of water from the tap, wishing for milk and knowing there’d never be any unless he bought it himself. More preserves would have thinned the peanut butter some, but he went spare on those, wanting them to last. He’d have given his right arm to belong to a family like Ray’s.
The Lamberts were a big, loud clan of millworkers, housewives, and enough kids to fill a barn. He liked Ray’s house too, though it was no nicer than his, just larger. If you wandered in at dinnertime, Coy Lambert—Ray’s daddy—would grab a clean plate, wedge it between a brace of kids, and wave his hand like a kingly giant: “Have a seat and fill your plate, son. One more mouth ain’t nothing.”
The kids were always coughing and barefoot, and the seats of their pants were thin, but they were fed, kissed, and cuffed in equal turns. None of them were allowed to grow up mean, and none of them were thieves. It was the best any parent could hope for.
For more: http://riptidepublishing.com/titles/hammer-and-bone Just click the excerpt tab
Kirby Crow is an American writer born and raised in the Deep South. She is a winner of the EPIC Award and the Rainbow Award, and is the author of the bestselling “Scarlet and the White Wolf” series of fantasy novels. Kirby and her husband and their son share an old, lopsided house in the Blue Ridge with a cat. Always a cat.
Her published novels are:
Prisoner of the Raven (historical romance)
Scarlet and the White Wolf: The Pedlar and the Bandit King (New Adult fantasy, m/m, Torquere Press)
Scarlet and the White Wolf: Mariner’s Luck (New Adult fantasy, m/m, Torquere Press)
Scarlet and the White Wolf: The Land of Night (New Adult fantasy, m/m, Torquere Press)
Angels of the Deep (paranormal/horror)
Circuit Theory (novella, scifi, Riptide)
Malachite (speculative m/m, New Adult, 2015)
Poison Apples (collection, dark fantasy, m/m, 2015)
Scarlet and the White Wolf 4 (New Adult fantasy, m/m, 2015)
For upcoming news of her future novels, visit her website at http://KirbyCrow.com