Herbert West Series

Science or Magic image for Herbert West Series

Another Look at The Friendship of Mortals

After reading a post on Story Empire about Amazon A+ content, I decided to create some images for that purpose. At the very least, I thought, it was a good reason to mess around with Canva. They have added a lot of elements recently, including free ones, so there’s more scope for different effects than when I first started using this graphic design tool.

This is the image I put together to represent The Friendship of Mortals, my first novel and Book 1 of the Herbert West Series.

The Friendship of Mortals A plus image

Those of you who have read the book may know why I included some of these pictorial components. Those of you who haven’t read it may be sufficiently intrigued to do so!

Amazon: US UK CA or mybook.to/FofM
Smashwords Barnes & Noble Kobo Apple Books

This and my other A+ efforts may be seen on the Amazon.com pages for the books in the HW Series. Have they generated a deluge of sales? Not really, but I had a bit of fun creating them.

Has anyone else created A+ content on Amazon? What do you think of this feature?

How (Not) to Write a Series

The Herbert West Series began with an obsession-driven novel, The Friendship of Mortals. When that was finished, I didn’t want to say goodbye to the main character so wrote another really long book set in an entirely different location with different supporting characters. I decided that book was too long (230K words, as I recall), so chopped it in two, making an instant trilogy. But the story kept going in my mind, so I whisked the title character to yet another location and reunited him with two characters from the first book. Fine, except now it was no longer a trilogy. I thought “tetralogy” sounded lumpy and angular, and “quartet” was too musical, so I settled on “series.”

Except that suggests a procession of books with no intended conclusion, and my story has a definite conclusion at the end of the fourth book. True series have more uniformity: same genre, same point of view, similar challenges for the main character. Whereas mine started as a kind of horror story and evolved (some would say devolved) into a mere adventure with supernatural and symbolic overtones. And while the pov is always first person, there are 5 (or maybe 6) different narrators. Each one delivers their own experiences with the main character. His name changes at the end of the first book, but references to the previous name are frequent enough (I hope) that the series title isn’t confusing.

Then there’s the numbering. Books 2 and 3 of the series are also Volumes 1 and 2 of what was a single book (Islands of the Gulf) until the big chop.

Are you confused yet?

If not, consider also that the series has a two-book sequel of sorts (well, it will be two books once I publish the second one). And there’s a short story collection, half of which is “spin-off” stories from the series.

The about-to-be-published book (She Who Returns) will be the finale of this saga. Although it takes place half a century after the first book (The Friendship of Mortals), it revisits some of the places, characters, and situations of that book, as a kind of farewell gesture.

In retrospect, I should probably not have called the four books a “series.” Maybe something like “A Herbert West Book” applied to each one would have been enough. And I should have rigorously reduced the middle book and preserved the trilogy.

“Shoulda, woulda, coulda.” Too late now. The books–all 6 and soon to be 7–are what they are.

Reading Aloud: “Fox and Glove”

Here is a video of me reading* the first few scenes of “Fox and Glove,” one of the stories in Tales from the Annexe.

If you want to read the rest of the story, Tales from the Annexe is free on Amazon from Saturday, December 19th until midnight Pacific Standard Time on Sunday, December 20th.

*Saying “revivification” isn’t easy. Just try it.

AMAZON: US UK CA AU DE

Wait, wait–there’s more! The rest of my books are available at discounted prices, or even free, at the Smashwords store until January 1st. Find them HERE.

Cover image for Tales from the Annexe

Just Released: Tales from the Annexe

Seven stories from Audrey Driscoll’s Herbert West Series…

The Nexus A 101-year-old professor reminisces about about his most memorable—and dangerous—student, Herbert West.

Fox and Glove To win a bet with his friend Alma, librarian Charles Milburn needs information from a dead man. But first he has to convince Herbert West to help him obtain it.

From the Annexe As if a relationship with a part-time necromancer isn’t complicated enough, what if it were more than friendship?

A Visit to Luxor On a climb up a hill near Luxor, Egypt, Francis Dexter and Andre Boudreau encounter bandits and supernatural entities.

One of the Fourteen A chance meeting in a pub brings Dr. Francis Dexter into a perilous realm between life and death.

The Night Journey of Francis Dexter Determined to confess one of Herbert West’s worst crimes to the victim’s son, Francis Dexter is subjected to a terrible revenge.

The Final Deadline of A.G. Halsey Nearing the end of her life, newspaperwoman Alma Halsey struggles to figure out what really happened to her granddaughter in Luxor, Egypt, and to warn her of threats to her heart and soul.

…and seven tales of illusions, delusions, and mysteries on the edges of logic

Welcome to the Witch House As if moving into a dump of a haunted house isn’t bad enough, Frank Elwood discovers conceited math student Walter Gilman is already living there, for his own peculiar reasons.

The Deliverer of Delusions Miranda Castaigne gives up her romantic life with artistic ex-pats in Paris to discover the truth about her eccentric brother’s death in a New York City insane asylum.

The Ice Cream Truck from Hell Friends Will and Doof investigate a mysterious ice cream truck that cruises their town at night.

The Colour of Magic Things get weird when the tenant in Marc’s basement suite insists on painting her bedroom with a very special paint.

A Howling in the Woods When Doug’s son Todd keeps playing a recording he’d made in the woods, of a strange howling sound, Doug orders him out of the truck—and into those woods.

The Glamour Fifteen-year-old Ann, convinced she was switched at birth with the daughter of a wealthy family, sneaks into their home on the evening of a celebration.

The Blue Rose Deon the Fabricator’s obsession with creating a blue rose leads him to make a perilous journey to the Blasted Lands. His childhood friend Luna of the City Guard undertakes a search for him and learns hard truths about love and duty.

Cover image for Tales from the Annexe

The pre-order price of $0.99 has been extended, but only for a short time!

AMAZON: US UK CA AU DE

Images for Tales from the Annexe

Pictures for Several Thousand Words, Part 1

Somewhere in the process of becoming an indie author, I discovered I enjoy messing around with images. I’m not talking about the photos of my garden I post on the blog. I hardly ever do any post-processing on those.

But ever since I found out about Canva, an easy-to-use graphic design tool, I’ve been creating images to represent my writings. Often, I complete one or more long before I finish writing the novel or story to which they belong. The image-designing process must use different parts of the brain than whatever it is that transforms ideas into words.

When I published four of the stories in Tales from the Annexe as separate ebooks in 2016, I made cover images for them, and I designed the cover image for the collection years before I needed it. More recently, while writing the the new stories that completed the set, I created an image for each of them as well. I didn’t need cover images for these stories, but I did need regular breaks from writing them.

My first idea was to include all these images in the book, but I didn’t want to swell the ebook’s file size to the point it incurred a hefty delivery fee. Moreover, not all e-readers display images in colour. I decided to feature them here on my blog instead.

Below are the images for the first seven stories, which are by-products, off-cuts, spinoffs, or supplements (I haven’t found a congenial word for this concept) to the four novels of my Herbert West Series.

They appear in “chronological” order, i.e., the first three happen during the time period covered by the first novel. The fourth, fifth, and sixth happen between Books 3 and 4 of the series. The last story of this group takes place decades later, following She Who Comes Forth, the novel that’s a kind of sequel to the series.

ebook cover image for The Nexus
A 101-year-old professor reminisces about his most memorable–and dangerous–student.
Image for Fox and Glove story
To win a bet with his friend Alma, librarian Charles Milburn seeks the help of a dead man.
As if a relationship with a part-time necromancer isn’t complicated enough, what if it were more than friendship?
A climb up a hill near Luxor, Egypt leads to an encounter with bandits and supernatural entities.
One of the Fourteen ebook cover image
A chance meeting in a pub brings reformed necromancer Francis Dexter to a perilous realm between life and death.
Image for The Night Journey of F.D. story
Determined to confess one of his worst crimes, Dr. Francis Dexter is subjected to a terrible revenge.
Image for The Final Deadline of A.G. Halsey story
A dying newspaperwoman struggles to figure out what happened to her granddaughter in Luxor, Egypt, and to warn her of threats to her heart and soul.

Cover image for Tales from the Annexe

Available at a special pre-order price of $0.99 USD (or equivalent) from these Amazon outlets
US UK CA AU DE

Last Chance for Free

The four stories I’ve called Supplements to the Herbert West Series are free on Smashwords for one more week, until July 31st.

After that date, they will vanish. I will be unpublishing them as separate titles. Re-edited and reformatted, they will reappear later this year as part of a collection called Tales from the Annexe.

In addition to the four Supplements, the collection will include three newly-written spin-off stories from the HW Series and seven other tales. More about that later.

But wait — there’s more! All four ebooks of the Herbert West Series and its sequel, She Who Comes Forth, are at half price for the duration of Smashwords’ Summer/Winter Sale.

pocket watch and book

The True Price of a Book

Self-published authors often see advice about pricing their books — not too cheap, not too expensive, as though there’s a Goldilocks price for an ebook. I’ve seen 2.99 to 4.99 recommended as ebook pricing “sweet spots.”

Authors sometimes wonder how potential buyers can be so reluctant to part with the few bucks they charge for their ebooks. It’s only $2.99! You can’t buy a cup of coffee for that. What’s the problem?

I suspect the amount of currency isn’t the real problem. The problem is that paying for a book commits one to reading it. Reading takes time. And time is priceless.

The real price of a book is the reader’s time.

We all know the process a potential book buyer goes through — Hmm, nice cover. Cool title. What’s it about? Sounds kinda interesting, but… Do I really want to read this? I already have 20 books waiting… Only 2.99. Well, maybe… someday.

“Someday,” meaning never. Another sale gets away.

Free books, on the other hand, are snapped up eagerly. Because they don’t involve a financial transaction, maybe they don’t register as time commitments? Some say free books are rarely read. But what about when the “price” is your email address? Are totally free books read more or less than those exchanged for contact info? Has anyone compared the two?

Recently, I read that a potential customer needs to be alerted to a product many times before they feel a need for it, as though an inherent resistance needs to be worn down. I don’t know about that — if a book’s cover, title, and description don’t appeal to me, repeated sights of it are irritating rather than inviting.

Maybe when a potential buyer is teetering on the brink, the sight of one more promo of the book creates the “Oh all right, I’ll buy it!” moment.

Advertising is a huge business, involving clever people with backgrounds in psychology and brain science. Some indie authors may decide to pay attention to these fields, but it’s unlikely that many have the resources to make practical use of such research.

So what’s an author to do?

If the reader’s time is the real price, one answer may be to write books that go down easy — quick reads with lots of action and stripped-down prose. Fifty thousand words priced at 0.99 may be more appealing than 100K words at any price. Especially if a glance at the first few pages shows multi-syllabic words woven into long, elaborate sentences.

I should have written this post before I wrote my books.

SWCF 2019

Nevertheless, all those long books are available for FREE. Only until 11:59 p.m. Pacific Standard Time on January 1st, 2020. And only at the Smashwords store. Click HERE.

Image by Tentes from Pixabay

Happy Holidays!

Wishing all Pressers of the Word a splendid holiday, however celebrated!

Followed by an inspired 2020!


And another reason to celebrate…

The Smashwords End of Year Sale

December 25th 2019 through January 1st 2020

All my books are on sale, along with hundreds of others. At the Smashwords ebook store only.

collage of Herbert West Series cover images
SWCF 2019 revision reduced
The Herbert West Series blog header, blue, purple, and pink with Mercurius symbol

November Novel #4

In November 2000, I started writing the first novel of what would become the Herbert West Series. This November, I have set myself a goal to finish writing a collection of stories I intend to publish in 2020. Call it my own version of NaNoWriMo. So, I’ve scheduled posts for the next four weeks featuring each of the four books of the series. Oh, and November 7th was Herbert West’s 133rd birthday!

The final book in the series is Hunting the Phoenix.

Journalist Alma Halsey chases the story of a lifetime to Providence, Rhode Island and finds more than she expected – an old lover, Charles Milburn, and an old adversary, renegade physician Herbert West, living under the name Francis Dexter. Fire throws her into proximity with them both, rekindling romance and completing a great transformation.

In writing The Friendship of Mortals, I wasn’t sure what to do with Charles Milburn’s girlfriend, Alma. I sent her off to be an ambulance driver in the Great War, after which she became a journalist in Boston and New York City. To compensate, I decided she would be the narrator of Hunting the Phoenix, in which Herbert West/Francis Dexter’s story ends. Before that, Alma rediscovers her poetic talents as well as shocking things about Charles, Herbert, and herself.
In this final book, the theme of alchemy as a symbol of transformation is evident, both in the titles of the five parts and in the narrative itself.

This scene is from the section titled “Calcination.” It’s followed by one of Alma’s poems.


I woke up so suddenly that the dream I was dreaming came with me. I had to save my brother Danforth from taking off in his homemade flying machine and falling to his death. To do that, I had to figure out the plans for it that he’d left in his room. I had to read them aloud to the wind, so the wind would know how to help him. There were so many papers! They kept re-shuffling themselves as I scrabbled through them. I would catch a glimpse of the drawing I needed – the machine drawn in blue ink and Dan’s neat block capitals labelling the parts. My fingers grasped it as it flipped past, and I began to slide it out from the other papers. But to my horror, the ink was crumbling, shifting into other shapes that meant nothing. If I couldn’t preserve it, I couldn’t read it, and Dan would die. I strained my eyes. “Aileron,” I stammered. “Flange. Wing control lever. Strut.”

“Strut,” I muttered, coming awake. The word hung in the air as the urgency of the dream faded, to be replaced with the beginnings of relief. But instead of sliding back into sleep, I came fully awake, slowly becoming aware that something was different. Something was wrong.

There was a smell of smoke. Sometimes Jim Priddy would light a wood fire in one of the fireplaces, as a treat on a cold evening. But he hadn’t done that tonight. “No damn wood left,” he’d said. Donna Maria burned garbage in a metal drum in the back yard every few weeks. But never at night.

There was a flicker of orange light under my door. I thought I heard people shouting, far away.

I scrambled out of bed and ran to the door. The doorknob was warm and the floor was warm too, pleasantly warm to my feet. And smoke was thick around me.

Panicked, I pulled open the door. As though they had been waiting for my summons, flames leaped and rushed into my room from the inferno of the stairwell. Closing the door was impossible. I jumped back, but not quickly enough, heard an intense crackling and smelled my own hair burning. Heat enveloped me. I beat at the flames with my hands and arms. Fire seared my skin, pain shrieked through my body. The window! The window!

Rushing over to it, I fumbled with the catch. It was stuck. No use. Break the glass! Grabbing a shoe from the floor, I pounded the glass with the heel. A star of cracks appeared, but it held. Frantically, I pounded harder. The glass shattered and my hand came down on a jagged shard. Hot blood steamed in the icy air that blasted in, whirling snowflakes over my desk. The shoe fell from my hand, teetered for a second on the outside ledge, was gone. I grabbed a towel from the back of a chair, wrapped my bleeding hand in it and thumped out the remaining shards from the frame.

Behind me flames capered, feeding joyously on the fresh air. Time to go, Alma! Thought fragments whipped through my brain like bullets. Bathrobe? No time. Coat? No time. Slippers? No time. Shoe gone. My notes? My notes! They’re in several piles, all over my desk. I start to gather them up.

Stupid Alma! Stupid!

But I’ve got to –

Go, you fool! Go!

The room is full of fire. There’s no more room for me. Too late – the hem of my nightgown is on fire. Monstrous pain screams up my legs. Clawing frantically at the garment, I tear it off and scramble naked over the desk, scattering papers to the flames. My hand catches on something solid and I clutch it as I push myself through the window, feeling a long tear on my left thigh from an up-pointing glass fragment. The house has teeth, it’s fighting back. But it should bite the fire, not me!

Now I’m on the edge, on the ledge, the very edge, a tiny balcony, just wide enough for me to crouch on. I’m still burning; soon I’ll be a torch. There’s no fire escape. (“Oh, there was a ladder once,” Donna Maria had said, “but it got rotten. I’ll get Jim to make another one in the spring.” Yes, Maria, but I need it now). It’s a long way down, to black and white studded with faces looking up. Their mouths move, yelling things I can’t hear. A siren wails and wails. I know, I know it’s burning! You don’t have to make all that noise!

The fire is done with my room. Now it’s coming for me. No more time, Alma.

I stand up. What a Juliet I am! There’s no Romeo here and this isn’t a nightingale night. Snowflakes swirl around me, turning orange from the flames. Or maybe they’re sparks. Orange flowers in the air. The wind howls. The mouths below me howl. The fire talks to itself, smacking its lips as it eats the house. I’m alone. This is no place to be. I clutch my hands around the only thing I’m taking with me – square, smooth, hard. Is that Charles down there? His face is like a flesh-coloured flower. I can’t hear what he’s saying, but I see his lips moving.

Closer to you soon, Charles.

The fire gives me one last shove and I’m in the air, snowflakes all around me, swirling themselves into a net, holding me up. So this is what it’s like inside the star globe! But where’s my unicorn?

A long rush, a hard thud. Then nothing.


Once I built with wood,
Stone, steel, bricks, cement–
Heavy, straight, squared off and carefully measured.
A life for a lifetime, solid and strong
And all my own.
My house of life.

I did not think it could be so easily destroyed,
Corroded by resentment,
Weakened by desires deferred, ambitions unrealized,
Split by ambivalence
And burned, burned, burned.

Rebuild now?
I have no materials,
My tools are gone to rust,
Mud, air, the water of my tears,
The sulfur of solitude,
And the salt of sorrow.

These are my matter,
But I have no formula,
No vessel except myself.
I need a catalyst.
I need magic, a secret fire.

Is there a magician in this house of night?


What readers have said:

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  • “… the culmination of the final book is exactly what it should be: tragic, but beautiful. I wish there was more, the story was brilliant.”
  • “I absolutely loved this series. Beautifully written and unpredictable. At times both heart pounding and heart breaking.”
  • “I really wish I could give ‘Hunting the Phoenix’ a 10 out of 5 but even my limited math knows that’s impossible. Suffice to say that this book, in fact the whole series, is as close to perfect as a story can get. It joins a relatively short list of books, including Dostoevsky’s ‘Crime and Punishment’, that I consider to be exceptional, and I would recommend it to anyone who wants /more/.”
  • “A noteworthy aspect of this book is the author’s skill in evocative description. She really knows how to set a scene and create a mood; furthermore characters appear, take shape, and are molded in front of your very eyes.”

Hunting the Phoenix is available from:

Amazon: US UK CA AU DE

Apple Books

Barnes & Noble

Kobo

Smashwords

This is the last of four posts about the Herbert West novels. Here are links to the first three: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

Header image by Audrey Driscoll using Canva. Book cover image by Damonza.

The Herbert West Series blog header, blue, purple, and pink with Mercurius symbol

November Novel #3

In November 2000, I started writing the first novel of what would become the Herbert West Series. This November, I have set myself a goal to finish writing a collection of stories I intend to publish in 2020. Call it my own version of NaNoWriMo. So, I’ve scheduled posts for the next four weeks featuring each of the four books of the series. Oh, and November 7th was Herbert West’s 133rd birthday!

The third book in the series is Islands of the Gulf Volume 2, The Treasure

Abandoned and abused, young Herbert West resorts to drastic measures to survive. At Miskatonic University, he becomes a scientist who commits crimes and creates monstrosities. Decades later, haunted by his past, he finds safety as Dr. Francis Dexter of Bellefleur Island, but his divided nature threatens those he loves and forces him to face the truth about his healing powers.

I intended Islands of the Gulf to be a single novel, but it was so long, I split it into two. This part is narrated by Herbert West/Francis Dexter himself, the only time in the entire series he gets to tell his own story. The first half covers his childhood and early years, the second his time on Bellefleur Island. He’s not an entirely reliable narrator, though, so the reader has to consider where the truth may have been shaped by his experiences.

In this scene from Chapter 3, Herbert is questioned by his father, Hiram West.


In his office, Hiram took his place behind the desk and waved me to the usual chair in front of it. “So, Herbert,” he said, “from what I hear, you’re spending a lot of time in the North End these days.”

As recently as a year before, and certainly in my mother’s time, I would have responded to such a remark with floods of self-justification, or a sullen, guilt-admitting silence. Now I let his words reverberate in the air around us for a second or two before I responded.

“What is it that you hear?” I asked.

“I hear that a kid who looks a lot like you has been running with a bunch of little punks that call themselves the Raiders. The North End Raiders. Small-time thieves – specialize in stealing from little old ladies, it seems.”

If this was a strategy intended to provoke me into a self-incriminating defence of the Raiders, it failed.

“Is that all?” I asked.

“Isn’t it enough? Come on, Herbert, ‘fess up. What have you been up to? Believe me, I’m not interested in paying Collins a fat salary just to have you wind up arrested for stealing apples with a bunch of third-rate twerps. So start talking.”

“Excuse me, Father, but I must question your initial premise. You’ve heard that someone that looks like me has been seen in the North End. Well, that’s quite possible. But I must ask you – who said this? And when, and under what circumstances did he see this person? Without knowing these things I don’t believe I can give you an answer.”

Hiram looked at me hard, as though I had sprouted wings or developed a third eye.

“Well, well, well, what do we have here? Twelve years old and talking like a professor to his old man! So this is what Collins has been teaching you. ‘Initial premise,’ indeed. Geez, boy, you’re going to be a lawyer, if you don’t watch out.” He grinned broadly, a grin I didn’t often see aimed at me.

“Okay, here’s the goods – a while ago, I asked someone (no one important, believe me) to keep an eye on you. I know what boys are like, and I got an idea you weren’t always in the house on Collins’s nights off. So this fellow told me he’d seen you (yeah, he was sure it was you) running around the streets by the Haymarket. Two Fridays ago, this was, and he said he spotted you again last week. He asked around about the kids you were with, and people told him they call themselves the North End Raiders. Just a gang of boys, they said. Minor mischief, that’s all. But no one seemed to know who you were, just ‘some other kid that hangs around with those guys.’ Okay, Professor, is that good enough? Now it’s your turn to do some talking, so get busy.”

I had been busy thinking already, so when he finished I promptly produced a fabrication. I had heard a lot about the North End of Boston from Mrs. Petrucci and her grandchildren, who, I reminded Hiram, had been guests at my ninth birthday party, more than three years ago…

“Yeah, I remember,” he said, making a face. “Regular fuss you kicked up about that birthday of yours. Go on.”

I figured I was old enough to go places on my own, I said, and was tired of the museums, art galleries, concerts and church services that Mr. Collins took me to, so I decided one Saturday to take a walk around this other part of the city, which was not so distant in miles, but socially might as well have been another planet.

“It was like a field trip,” I said. “I was walking along, just looking at things, when I saw this little kid crying on the sidewalk. He told me that some other kids had knocked him down. I asked him where he lived and took him home. His mother and sisters were glad to see him back and thanked me. They asked me to come and visit again, so I did. I guess that’s when that fellow saw me.”

He’d been watching me narrowly while I talked. Now he said, “I dunno, Herbert. The way I heard it you were with a bunch of other boys. Running around, not calling on young ladies. So what about these sisters? You been seeing a lot of them? Don’t tell me you’re getting ideas like that at age twelve, for God’s sake!”

“Ideas like what?” I was genuinely puzzled. “When I went back to visit, I met some other kids and we got friendly. A couple of times they… showed me around the neighbourhood. It was interesting. That’s all.”

“That’s all, eh?” Hiram stood, went over to the window and looked out long enough that I almost went over to have a look myself, thinking something interesting was happening. He turned quickly and came back to the desk, resuming his seat and leaning forward, close enough that I could see the pores on his nose.

“I’m thinking you need an extra lesson or two,” he said. “Things Collins can’t teach you because his head’s full of Greeks and Romans and fancy notions. So let’s start right now. Number one – don’t get mixed up in things before you understand what’s really going on. Now, who are these pals of yours in the North End? What are their names?”

“They’re just kids!” I protested. “What do their names matter?”

He slammed his open palm down on the desk, startling me. “Answer my question! Names?”

“Angelo, Lou, Mike, Joe, Pete – ”

“No last names? Come on, Herbert – stop playing games and spit it out!” No smile now, not even a smirk. His face was a block of stone.

“I don’t know their last names,” I said, almost truthfully. “They didn’t tell me and I didn’t ask.”

Hiram blew out his cheeks. “Sheesh, you kids. So one of them’s called Angelo? Are they all Eyeties?”

“Italians? I suppose so.”

“You suppose so. All right, Professor – what’s your name?”

“You know my name, Father – Herbert West.”

Hiram laughed, a harsh laugh with a note of derision in it. “Right, but I mean what’s your name when you’re with your gang? What do they call you?”

I was afraid to hesitate too long and provoke him, but my inventive skills had left me. “Frank,” I said, reluctantly.

“Just Frank? Come on, Herbert, I don’t have all day.”

“Franco Petrucci,” I muttered.

He laughed again. “Oh boy, does Mrs. P. know she’s got another kid? Why an Eyetie name?”

“Well, I thought… I wanted to fit in.” What I really wanted was to get away from him. Trying to avoid the gaze of his narrowed eyes, I looked at the floor, hating myself for letting him put me in this supplicant position.

“Okay, Herbert,” he said. “Lesson two. There’s Back Bay and Beacon Hill and then there’s everywhere else. You can’t take short cuts in between, and you can’t sit on the fence. Not unless you know what you’re doing, and I don’t think you do. So let’s make a deal. Go ahead and play with your Eyetie friends, but keep your eyes and ears open while you’re at it. Find out your friends’ dads’ names – their last names – and who they work for. And remember – I’ll hear all about it if you make any wrong moves. So will your pals. Okay, kid, that’s enough for now.”

Relieved, I made for the door, but he called me back. “One last question, Herbert. Everything you told me just now, was it true?”

I pretended to think for a moment. “Most of it,” I said.

He laughed again. “Oh boy, you’re coming along! Just remember your old man’s advice and you’ll be fine.”

As my hand touched the doorknob, he spoke again. “Okay, I lied. One more question. What were you really doing in the North End?”

I knew he was playing a game with me and began to feel angry. “I was looking for my mother,” I said, realizing too late that I was telling a painful truth.

“Now that’s a complete waste of time,” he answered, his voice going flat and hard again, all traces of hilarity and false camaraderie gone. “Don’t bother yourself about her, Herbert. She’s gone.”

“Where has she gone?” I asked. “Do you know where she is?” It took a lot of resolve to ask these questions, and my voice came out gaspy and breathless.

“No,” he said. “I don’t. She made her choices and no doubt she’s taking the consequences, somewhere. I don’t think about her and I don’t talk about her. Now get out!” He picked up some papers from his desk and began looking at them. He didn’t look at me. After a moment, I left.


What readers have said:

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  • “… it is beautifully written, with descriptive passages that are a joy to read. Some of the paranormal passages are particularly memorable. ”
  • “I love character driven stories and I found book 3 incredibly satisfying. It’s not often that all the parts of an over-arching story are equally good. These are. Very good.”
  • “The adult Herbert explores love and experiences loss and learns to see beauty. I came to care for him so much that he will stay with me many years I’m sure.”

Islands of the Gulf Volume 2, The Treasure is available from:

Amazon US UK CA AU DE

Apple Books

Barnes & Noble

Kobo

Smashwords

This is the third of four posts about the Herbert West novels. Here are links to Part 1 and Part 2.

Header image by Audrey Driscoll using Canva. Book cover image by Damonza.