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ARC SIGNUP CLOSED ON JUNE 10, 2023
The novel is now available for pre-order on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Slated for release on July 14, pre-order a copy now, and it will be delivered to your e-reader on the official publication date.
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Excerpt from Lee Allen Howard’s Dark Sci-fi Thriller,
Available for Kindle
THE SIXTH SEED, my dark paranormal novel that’s a mash-up of sci-fi, family drama, alien abduction, and suburban horror, is available for immediate purchase. Brace yourself for protagonist Tom Furst’s fateful vasectomy and then download for more.
Scroll to the end for purchase options…
Tom Furst lay on his back on an examination table in Sterling Health Center, dreading the procedure he was about to undergo.
His mother-in-law had been delighted when he and Melanie were expecting their first child, happy with their second, concerned at their third, disappointed about their fourth, and disgusted when she deduced they were having a fifth. She cornered him alone in the kitchen of her suburban Pittsburgh home last Christmas before the family dinner.
“My Melanie is not a baby factory. Get fixed,” she said, snipping the poultry scissors at his crotch, “or I’ll fix you myself.”
Tom had always used condoms, unaware they weren’t entirely effective. The latest surprise compounded their financial pressures—they simply couldn’t afford any more children. So here he was, lying on an exam table, barely covered by a paper gown.
The door to the exam room clicked open, and a thin red-haired nurse stepped in.
“Mr. Furst? I’m sorry, there’s been a change in plans.”
Tom propped himself on his elbows and adjusted the blue paper over his groin.
“Dr. Lindquist was called away for an emergency. Another doctor is taking his place for the procedure. He’ll be with you in a moment.”
Before Tom could object, the nurse slipped out and shut the door. He swung his legs off the table and sat up.
It was bad enough that his healthcare plan forced him to use their medical facility, but when they switched doctors on him, they were going too far.
He considered dressing and rescheduling the procedure. But he had already arranged for time off work, announced the vasectomy to his mother-in-law, and shaved his crotch as Dr. Lindquist requested. No need to face all that again. Besides, if he left now he might never come back—the instruments on the rollaway cart were making him nervous.
He supposed one urologist was as good as another. Reluctantly, he lay back down.
The door opened, and a tall dark-complected man in a paper smock entered. He approached the table where Tom’s bare legs hung over. Tom leaned up on his elbows again.
“I apologize for the last-minute change.” The doctor’s swift speech flowed smoothly from behind the surgical mask. Over top of it, his eyes were two black marbles embedded in fading bruises.
“I am Dr. Prindar Krakhil. I will perform the procedure this morning.” Krakhil lifted the paper gown.
The doctor’s gaze darted about, and Tom grew uneasy. Had this guy never seen male organs before?
“Good,” Krakhil said and let the paper drop.
The nurse returned as Krakhil stepped to the sink. After washing and drying his hands, he plucked floppy examination gloves from a dispenser on a cabinet. He wriggled into them, snapping the milky material over his long, slender hands, which he finally flexed at arms’ length.
Krakhil rested his wrists on Tom’s knees. “We will start with a local anesthetic on the right side, make an incision, cauterize the right vas deferens, and then repeat the procedure on the left side. After that, I will suture the incisions.”
Krakhil folded back the gown. Tom flushed with embarrassment. Perhaps this was just another procedure for the doctor, but it was the utmost humiliation for Tom, especially with the nurse looking on. Yet, she was also a professional and had probably attended hundreds of vasectomies. If you’ve seen one guy’s bald junk, he supposed, you’ve seen them all.
Krakhil tore open an alcohol swatch. Tom spread his legs, resting his knees against the cold chrome stirrups. Krakhil scrubbed the cool patch in the crease of Tom’s thigh. The fierce antiseptic stung his shaved skin.
Krakhil reached for a hypodermic, poked the needle into a small glass bottle, and withdrew a measure of liquid. Holding the syringe before his dark eyes, he thumbed the plunger.
A few tiny drops arced from the needle, splattering Tom’s abdomen. A chill rushed through him.
“Just relax.” Krakhil’s voice was silken, but something about his manner disturbed Tom.
Krakhil sunk the needle into his groin.
Tom jerked, banging his knees against the stirrups. He gritted his teeth and gripped the table sides, silently praying for the searing pain to stop. His heart thrashed. Cold sweat formed on his forehead.
After a moment the doctor pulled the needle out and pressed gauze on the spot. “Sorry about that.”
Tom looked at the nurse. She was staring wide-eyed at Krakhil, her mouth ajar.
While Tom waited for the mercy of the anesthetic to manifest, the nurse pressed a rectangular gray patch onto his left side. An insulated wire connected it to the table.
“This grounds you for the cauterization,” she said. Her eyes were a creamy blue, the color of the star sapphire on her neck chain.
Krakhil busily swabbed Tom’s privates with Betadine. The feeling faded away. When the doctor finished, he reached a gloved hand between Tom’s legs. “Can you feel this?”
“No,” Tom said, wondering what the doctor was doing. Wringing his scrotum like a dishrag? On second thought, he didn’t want to know.
“I will make the first incision.”
Tom concentrated on breathing slower.
“Do not move.”
Tom laid his head on the padded rest and willed his legs to stop trembling.
Leaning forward, the doctor stared intently below the rumple of paper gown over Tom’s stomach.
“Lee Howard stitches together a story where the suspense never lets up.” –Ron Edison
“THE SIXTH SEED abducted my imagination and unsettled me with its pitch-perfect blend of science fiction, body horror and domestic terror. What a weird read!” –Michael A. Arnzen, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of Proverbs for Monsters
“Lee Allen Howard is an imaginative writer with slick, vivid prose and high octane pacing. He writes like no one else, and I mean this in a very good way.” –Trent Zelazny, author of Fractal Despondency
“Howard brings alien invasion up close and personal… buckle up for a thrill ride.” –Scott Nicholson, author of Liquid Fear
Today marks the release of Tales of Blood and Squalor, an anthology of that I edited for Dark Cloud Press.
We all know what blood is. It’s spilled accidentally. Or worse, on purpose—often ending in death. But squalor… a quality or state marked by filthiness and degradation from neglect or poverty. Sordid, wretched, seamy, seedy.
A short fiction anthology of horror and psychological thrillers, Tales of Blood and Squalor depicts wretched, low-class characters living in filth and poverty. With misery and blood.
A novelist a tad too committed to realism in her craft, a tourist thirsting for blood, the king of a trailer park dungeon…
These fourteen stories from Dark Cloud Press will scare you, shock you, and make you reel!
As a creative exercise in second grade, Teacher had her pupils write a story. “Be as creative as you can be, children.” I penned—penciled, rather—my debut horror fiction on a ruled school tablet. Teacher, ostensibly pleased with her prodigy’s genius (more likely concerned with a tow-headed eight-year-old’s mental health), passed my work to the elementary school principal. (“Children, ‘principal’ ends with P-A-L—the principal is your PAL.” Keep reading, and then decide…)
Unknown to me, Principal Sprunger, also the president of the local Lions Club chapter in Berne, Indiana, read my story to the men of our little Swiss community and then in good humor fined my father a dime because the preacher’s son had written such an “awful tale full of skeletons, witches, and blood.”
That is the story of money first changing hands in relation to my fiction. (That dime never found its way into my pocket. If it had, I would have biked down to the White Cottage and bought myself a small soft serve cone, for sure.)
I continued to write through elementary and high school. The Brookville, Pennsylvania, Jeffersonian Democrat newspaper printed our school newsletter, for which I’d written a grisly Halloween story. They decided to reprint my story in the town newspaper. This should have overjoyed me, but they printed it anonymously and didn’t pay me for it, either. Bastards.
I placed a short story and some poetry in Indiana University of Pennsylvania’s New Growth Arts Revue. I stopped writing for a few years, but started again when I envisioned a scene about a young man who had been shot in the stomach and stumbled into an alley to die. I developed this into my first suspense novel for the Christian market, WHEN THE MUSIC STOPS, long out of print.
After completing my master of arts in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University, I entered the publishing arena and compiled a trade paperback anthology of shorts based on the Ten Commandments. THOU SHALT NOT came out in 2006. It’s a great collection of horror and dark crime. Check it out.
I’ve placed a few short stories for pay in the past decade, but after hundreds of rejections, two years ago I decided to take a different route.
One of the reasons I’ve had trouble in placing my work, especially novels, is because they don’t cleanly fit into a genre slot. Why is this important? Because brick-and-mortar bookstores need to know where to shelve a book. So part of the writing-for-print-publication process is writing for a shelf spot. (And length requirements in genre fiction in part are based on how many books will conveniently fit in a cardboard carton for shipping.) I think that’s just ridiculous.
I had been working on a novel proposal for Dorchester Publishing/Leisure Books. But after the debacle with their selling ebooks without remunerating authors, I stuffed that idea down the disposal.
In a nutshell, since second grade, I’ve learned that publishing by the traditional route is inorganically restricted and highly improbable. The royalties paid (if they pay)… well, suck.
So I recently published my second novel, THE SIXTH SEED for e-readers and trade paperback. It cost me nothing to post it, and I’ve been selling downloads at a 70% royalty. And I can add meta tags with no concern for a shelf spot or how I will otherwise categorize “a dark paranormal fantasy fraught with suburban Pittsburgh horror—family drama with aliens.”
I followed the same path for DEATH PERCEPTION, my latest supernatural thriller tinged with horror and peppered with dark humor:
Nineteen-year-old Kennet Singleton lives with his invalid mother in a personal care facility, but he wants out. He operates the crematory at the local funeral home, where he discovers he can discern the cause of death of those he cremates—by toasting marshmallows over their ashes.
He thinks his ability is no big deal since his customers are already dead. But when his perception differs from what’s on the death certificate, he finds himself in the midst of murderers. To save the residents and avenge the dead, he must bring the killers to justice.
Backstory is everything that happened to the protagonist before the story begins. In The Anatomy of Story, John Truby calls this the “ghost.” The ghost is usually some negative event from the past that still haunts the protagonist in the present. This past trauma is the source of the hero’s current psychological and moral weakness. It’s his internal opponent, what Truby describes as the “great fear that is holding him back from action.”
In DEATH PERCEPTION, my just-released supernatural thriller, young protagonist Kennet Singleton’s backstory ghost is his father’s drunken violence, resulting in his father’s death and the loss of his mother’s eye. Lack of a good role model has crippled Kennet from striking out on his own; at 19, he still lives with his invalid mother in a personal care home and holds only a part-time job at a local funeral home.
However, Kennet’s natural hypersensitivity toward his father’s moods and abusive behavior birthed a psychic gift that blooms when an old prophetess lays her hands on him. Later he discovers that he can discern the cause of death of those he cremates—by toasting marshmallows over their ashes.
When he begins believing in himself and using his gift to avenge the spirits of those who have been murdered (ghosts of a different sort), Kennet finds the courage to stand up for himself and forge his way toward independence.
Good stories dramatize the process of a flawed character overcoming past wounds on the path to wholeness. Even in a tale of horror and supernatural crime, Kennet’s “ghosts” find justice—and peace.
Lee Allen Howard is quickly becoming a huge favourite of mine. He crafts his characters so well and gives them depth, flaws and realism that you expect from a much more seasoned writer.
DEATH PERCEPTION is a well-thought-out story about Kennet, a troubled yet gentle young man who lives in a nursing home with his elderly mother. He has a job in a crematorium working for a profit-driven, moral-less boss, but Kennet does his job with dignity and provides a graceful ending for all the people he deals with, regardless of cost.
Then people start dying in the home where Kennet lives… and the death certificate doesn’t quite match up with what Kennet sees as the cause of death. Kennet’s gift is to see how people die, and therein lies the problem.
I loved this. What a great read. Kennet is a character that I really want to read more about [because] he was brilliant. I loved his outlook, the way he related to everyone, his spirit, everything about him.
DEATH PERCEPTION is smart, funny, engaging, and endearing. A true work of art. I love this book and I hope there will be many more Kennet stories.
This was originally posted at http://buildingthebridge.wordpress.com, the site for my metaphysical and spiritualistic musings. From the acknowledgments page in the book: “We affirm that communication with the so-called dead is a fact, scientifically proven by the phenomena of Spiritualism.” –Principle #5 of Spiritualism