Thursday, November 28, 2013

The First Thanksgiving in America and its Establishment as a National Holiday

by Stephanie Osborn

Thanksgiving the First

"They began now to gather in the small harvest they had, and to fit up their houses and dwellings against winter, being all well recovered in health and strength and had all things in good plenty. For as some were thus employed in affairs abroad, others were exercised in fishing, about cod and bass and other fish, of which they took good store, of which every family had their portion. All the summer there was no want; and now began to come in store of fowl, as winter approached, of which this place did abound when they came first (but afterward decreased by degrees). And besides waterfowl there was great store of wild turkeys, of which they took many, besides venison, etc. Besides, they had about a peck a meal a week to a person, or now since harvest, Indian corn to the proportion. Which made many afterwards write so largely of their plenty here to their friends in England, which were not feigned but true reports."
~~William Bradford, Of Plymouth Plantation, describing events of year 1621

"Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together after we had gathered the fruits of our labor. They four in one day killed as much fowl as, with a little help beside, served the company almost a week. At which time, amongst other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five deer, which we brought to the plantation and bestowed on our governor, and upon the captain and others. And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty."
~~Edward Winslow, Mourt's Relation, describing events of year 1621

This was the first Thanksgiving held in the United States, by the Pilgrims in Massachusetts. 

Thanksgiving the Second

Two years later, however, they held another, and it was possibly more important and more poignant. You see, they had had a nearly disastrous drought which came close to destroying their crops. Bradford, the governor of the colony, ordered this Thanksgiving, about which he had this to say:

"And afterwards the Lord sent them such seasonable showers, with interchange of fair warm weather as, through His blessing, caused a fruitful and liberal harvest, to their no small comfort and rejoicing. For which mercy, in time convenient, they also set apart a day of thanksgiving…
"By this time harvest was come, and instead of famine now God gave them plenty … for which they blessed God. And the effect of their particular planting was well seen, for all had … pretty well … so as any general want or famine had not been amongst them since to this day."
~~William Bradford, Of Plymouth Plantation, describing events of year 1623

Making It Permanent

Thanksgiving was observed by one group or another throughout the Colonies from that time on. In some, such as Pennsylvania, it had become an annual affair long before the Revolution. Under the Articles of Confederation, in 1782 U.S. President John Hanson set the date as the fourth Thursday of the month of November. But it was a few days after the ratification of the Constitution, in 1789, that President George Washington made it official. He said,

"Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor, and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me 'to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.'
"Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be. That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks, for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation, for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his providence, which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war, for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed, for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted, for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.
"And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions, to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually, to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed, to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shown kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord. To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among them and Us, and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.
"Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789."

However, Thanksgiving still remained an intermittent national holiday, issued by Presidential proclamation when desired; not at all during, for example, the presidency of Thomas Jefferson, but several times during the tenure of James Madison. Finally, in 1863, President Lincoln established an annual national holiday on the last Thursday of November:

"The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle, or the ship; the axe had enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years, with large increase of freedom.
"No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.
"It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and voice by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.
"In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand, and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.
"Done at the city of Washington, this third day of October, in the year of Our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the independence of the United States the eighty-eighth."
"Proclamation of President Abraham Lincoln, October 3, 1863."

Today may I offer my sincerest blessings of the season, and my heartfelt thanks for each of you reading my words. God bless you all. Happy Thanksgiving!

-Stephanie Osborn

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Excerpt: The Bunker

The Bunker is a short story that was originally published in the very first volume of the immensely popular Dreams of Steam anthology series of steampunk fiction, published by Kerlak/Dark Oak Press. When the rights reverted back to me, I decided to pursue getting it published as a standalone ebook short, through Chromosphere Press. I also have it available on CD as an audiobook, and plan to get it up on Audible as an audio download. Here's the promo blurb:

We all know that, in the Victorian era, Earth was invaded by aliens from another world. We have details on what happened in Europe, especially Great Britain.

But what happened in the Western Hemisphere? What happened in the United States?

An elderly inventor tells his young apprentice this tale, the tale of what happened in The Bunker.

-Stephanie Osborn


“What’s that you have there, Henry?” the man asked, turning as his apprentice trundled in a large wooden crate on a hand truck.

“Delivery for you, sir,” Henry, a tall, lank youth, noted, easing the hand truck to the floor of the room. “This came with it.” He proffered a letter.

His master took the letter and opened it, scanning down through it. “Oh. My, my, my. Sooner than I would have thought. I’d forgotten all about this thing. Get a prybar, lad.”

Henry ran for the prybar on the tool rack, and came back. His teacher held out his hand, and Henry placed the bar into it, then watched as his senior eased the lid off the crate. The apprentice helped remove the kapok packing, then stared down at a wonder of brass, metal, and wood. “What is it?” he whispered, awed.

His mentor laughed. “No, you wouldn’t know about it,” he said. “Sit down by the fire, Henry, and let me tell you a little tale…”

They moved to the fireplace in the far corner of the room. There, a rocking chair sat on one side of the fire, a short three-legged stool on the other side. Henry took the stool as the teacher settled into the rocker. A light tap of the master’s toes set the chair in motion, and as he began his story, his voice was in counterpoint to the soft creak of wooden joints.

“Some years back,” the man said, “when I was a few years older than you are now, I was a telegrapher. A damn fine one, if I do say so. I was working in the Midwest that summer when an urgent message came in – for me. I was called immediately to… well, it wasn’t Washington, D.C. precisely. It was a town nearby in Virginia called White Sulphur Springs, and I was told to approach the front desk of The Grand Central Hotel and speak with the man who would be waiting there. Not only that, but my rail fare would be taken care of by the mere mention of my name.”

Henry gaped.

“Exactly,” his teacher chuckled. “I daresay my expression was much the same at the time. At any rate, I ran home, gathered my things, and set off, for the message came from a VERY high and reliable source, and brooked no delay.

“It was a long journey, and I can tell you, I was damned tired of the train by the time I reached my destination. I got directions and found my way from the station to the hotel, where I approached the desk clark and gave him my name. His eyes widened. ‘Yes sir,’ he said, ‘we’ve been waiting for you. Follow me, please sir.’ Sir. To me. A young whippersnapper of… mm, I think I might have been all of nineteen, if memory serves. And you’ll never guess what happened next.”

“I’m sure I shan’t,” Henry avowed.

“He led me into a back room and opened… a secret door, Henry! I followed him in, and we went down a set of spiral stairs. Down, and down, and down. At the bottom was a cave, for the hotel was built on the site of a sulphur spring, where people would take the waters. And in that cave was a fair beehive of people. I couldn’t begin to tell you everything that was going on there, even if I were permitted, which I am not… as yet. But this much I CAN say: I was brought there to coordinate, collate, send and receive the most urgent of telegraphy messages – for we were being invaded.”
“INVADED?! Sir!” Henry exclaimed, eyes wide.

“Yes, Henry, invaded. And not from Europe or Mexico or the like. No, these invaders… were from another planet.”  


So, it seems that the carnage might not have been limited to Great Britain. Interested in what happens next? Find out by reading The Bunker!

Amazon Kindle
Audio CD (bottom of page)

-Stephanie Osborn

Friday, November 22, 2013

Fantastic Blog Hop!

I'm joining the Fantastic Blog Hop! The Cereal Authors group is doing a blog hop, with events and giveaways on Facebook at the Fantastic Blog Party! The party runs today and tomorrow, and we're supposed to answer some trivia questions about ourselves, so hang on!

-Stephanie Osborn

Name a famous author you've met, nearly met or wish you'd met.
   I met Ray Bradbury briefly at the World Science Fiction Convention in Atlanta in 1986. I had just bought a large plush stegosaurus in the dealer’s room and was carrying it under one arm through the room, when Mr. Bradbury, with his handler, came down the aisle from the other direction. He halted his handler in mid-sentence, left his side and made a beeline for me, when he started petting my stuffed dinosaur and discussing the creatures with me! Turns out he loved dinos. It was very cool.
   At that time, I wasn’t a writer. Since becoming a writer, I’ve met numerous authors, including New York Times bestsellers, like Jerry Pournelle, Larry Niven, Larry Correia, Eric Flint, John Ringo, Travis S. Taylor, Sarah Hoyt, and more.

What are the weirdest things a character ever did in a book?
   Oh me. I suppose it depends on your definition of weird. I write science fiction; in the regular world, most of it would be weird!
   Falling in love with and marrying an alien, maybe? That happened several times in the Cresperian Saga
   Then there’s always deciding you’re going to infiltrate Area 51 while being a fugitive yourself, which happened in Burnout.

Who really wrote the book, you or your characters?
   Initially it was, more or less, the characters. It’s been said that I write very cinematically; well, that’s because I watch the events play out on this little screen inside my eyelids, and I just write down what I see, hear, and otherwise observe. But as I’ve gained more writing experience, I have gotten rather more control over the plot, at least. Now I tell the characters what I want them to do, and they tell me how they’d do it!

How many books have you started and how many have you finished?
   There isn’t a book that I’ve started that I haven’t finished, sooner or later. Some are currently in work; there’s 4 of those. There’s a couple of things that I wrote some years ago that are derivative works, and I’m dinking around with “filing off the serial numbers,” as Sarah Hoyt puts it, and making it fully my own original work. But I do that around working on other stuff, because I don’t know if it’ll work or not, so I don’t want to waste a bunch of time and energy on it, when I have other stuff I know I need to do.

What's the hardest part with writing: the writing of the story or the editing?
   Oh, the writing, by far. In general editing is fairly easy for me. I’ve done so much editing over the years – theses, government papers, reports, etc. – I actually free-lance as an editor and like it. I love writing too, but the creative energy that I have to pour into it renders it much harder than editing.

If one of your books could be made into a movie, which would you choose and who would you cast?
   Do I have to choose?
   Well, my first book, Burnout: The mystery of Space Shuttle STS-281, was a film in my head, no lie. And there have been numerous attempts to translate it to film, but so far it hasn’t gone through. We do keep trying.
   But when I first wrote it, I could see actors playing the roles. Tommy Lee Jones was Crash Murphy; Hugo Weaving was Dr. Michael Anders. Hugh Jackman was Steve Blake, Harrison Ford was Jet Jackson, James Cromwell a NASA manager…on and on. I had every major character cast in my head. It’d never get made like that; too many stars, too many schedules to coordinate, too much money. But in my head, that’s what they look like.

How many books have you written in total?
   Well, back when I was first trying to get published, I wrote an entire series that was intended to become a movie-to-novel franchise. Unfortunately I was never able to sell it due to the issue of rights being tied up. I currently have 22 books (some contributions to anthologies and the like) in print, with a 23rd coming soon. If I add in that unpublished series and a few other novella-to-novel-length stories I wrote but never published, I’ve probably written close to 40 books.

Where did the last one take place?
   The one that’s just gone under contract is Displaced Detective book 5, A Case of Spontaneous Combustion, and it takes place in London. The one I’m working on now, Displaced Detective number 6, is called Fear in the French Quarter and takes place in New Orleans.
   Then there’s the sequel to Burnout, called Escape Velocity. It, like its predecessor, roams over half the planet.
   And the fourth Cresperian Saga book, Heritage, takes place partly on Earth, partly in space, and partly in the Cresperian system.

Besides writing, what’s your favorite hobby?
   Oh um, that’s a hard one. I read – a LOT – and I like to shop. I like researching stuff – yeah, I really do. I can lose hours to the search for information, learning new stuff the whole time. But then, what does one expect of a scientist, I suppose. I used to do a good bit of live theatre, but that requires a bigger block of time than I have to give these days. Still, it’s how I met my husband: we both auditioned for and were cast in a play in college.

What is your genre?
   Well, I tend to cross genres a lot.  Science fiction mystery, for the most part, I’d say. I usually throw in some romance (because romance occurs in real life – people do fall in love, and I want my characters to be as realistic as possible), and a judicious dash of suspense/thriller.

What’s your Country of Origin?
   Born and reared in the good ol’ USA.

What are the names of your two leads?
   For which books?

   For Burnout, it’s “Crash” Murphy and Mike Anders. For the Point series, it’s Ray and Samantha Brady. For the Cresperian Saga, it changes from book to book. For the Displaced Detective series, it’s Sherlock Holmes and Skye Chadwick.

Don't forget to stop by The Fantastic Blog Party and enter to win a free book!

-Stephanie Osborn

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Guest Post: Love is a Verb by Christine Amsden

This week, we're book-bombing Christine Amsden's Cassie Scot series, starting on November 19! That series includes: The Immortality Virus, Cassie Scot: ParaNormal Detective, and Secrets and Lies (Cassie Scot #2)! (A book bomb is where we ask all fans and readers to buy the book on that date or the next. It creates a lot of movement in the books' rankings, which in turn draws attention from other potential readers!)

From Publisher’s Weekly:

“In this entertaining series opener, Amsden (The Immortality Virus) introduces readers to the eponymous Cassie, a decidedly mundane member of a magical family. …Readers will enjoy Cassie’s fish-out-of-water struggles as she fights magical threats with little more than experience and bravado.”
Here are some of Christine's thoughts about her books, and why she did what she did!

-Stephanie Osborn

Love is a Verb
by Christine Amsden

From our earliest pre-teen days, chatting about boys and wondering over the mystery that is romance, we've tried to define love. We've asked our girlfriends (who didn't know any better than we did), and our parents (who may also not have known). We watched TV and we read books. But it seems to mean something a little different to everyone, so what exactly is it?

I won't pretend like I know the answer better than the rest of you, but I've spent the past few years of my life writing a romantic series with one idea in mind: Love is a verb. I know – it's not a definition, it's a part of speech – but that's the best I've got.

Love is something you do. It's the act of loving, and it's a little different for everyone because we're all a little different. We want and need different things.

Love is a choice you make, every day. It's thinking of someone else's needs before your own, and considering their feelings as at least as important as yours. It's making a big sacrifice because what he needs is more important than what you want. It's about making little sacrifices just because, well, you may not like kale but he does so every once in a while you make it for dinner.

Chemistry is great. Aside from feeling good, it makes the choice to love someone a little bit easier. Good thing, too, because loving can be a difficult thing to do.

A lot of people say the words, but actions speak louder. That's why I get frustrated with romance novels that hinge on the utterance of those three magic words – you know which ones I mean. :)

Cassie Scot: ParaNormal Detective is the first book in a four-part fantasy series. Cassie is the only ungifted member of a magical family, trying to earn a living as a “normal” detective in a town where everyone knows her family's reputation. So of course, she's going to get pulled into a paranormal investigation.

Cassie is extremely attracted to powerful, sexy, and dangerous Evan Blackwood. Who wouldn't be? But will she choose to love him? After all, love is a verb.


Interested? I am! Want to buy?

Buy Links for Cassie Scot: ParaNormal Detective:

Buy Links for Secrets and Lies (Cassie Scot #2)


Go out there and enjoy!
-Stephanie Osborn

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Book Bomb for Christine Amsden's Cassie Scot Series!

by Stephanie Osborn

This week's post is a day early! That's because today, November 19, I am asking you to please purchase any of Christine Amsden's Cassie Scot books! They include The Immortality Virus (not really a part of the series, but Cassie is introduced there), Cassie Scot: ParaNormal Detective, and Secrets and Lies!

What's a book bomb? A book bomb is where we ask all fans and readers to buy the book on that date. It creates a lot of movement in the books' rankings, which in turn draws attention from other potential readers!

Tell you about 'em, you ask? Okay!


Cassie Scot: ParaNormal Detective

Cassie Scot is the ungifted daughter of powerful sorcerers, born between worlds but belonging to neither. At 21, all she wants is to find a place for herself, but earning a living as a private investigator in the shadow of her family’s reputation isn’t easy. When she is pulled into a paranormal investigation, and tempted by a powerful and handsome sorcerer, she will have to decide where she truly belongs.

Secrets and Lies (Cassie Scot #2)

Cassie Scot, still stinging from her parents’ betrayal, wants out of the magical world. But it isn’t letting her go. Her family is falling apart and despite everything, it looks like she may be the only one who can save them.

To complicate matters, Cassie owes Evan her life, making it difficult for her to deny him anything he really wants. And he wants her. Sparks fly when they team up to find two girls missing from summer camp, but long-buried secrets may ruin their hopes for happiness.

From Publisher’s Weekly:

“In this entertaining series opener, Amsden (The Immortality Virus) introduces readers to the eponymous Cassie, a decidedly mundane member of a magical family. …Readers will enjoy Cassie’s fish-out-of-water struggles as she fights magical threats with little more than experience and bravado.”

Kim Falconer, bestselling author of The Spell of Rosette, Quantum Enchantment Series, had this to say:

“When sorcerers call the shots, what’s a girl without powers to do? Get ready for a ripper of a murder mystery full of romance and intrigue, where magic potions bubble, passions spark and vampires are definitely not your friend. Cassie Scot: ParaNormal Detective grabs you by the heart and won’t let go until the very last page. Well written, immersive and unputdownable. This is urban fantasy at its best. More please!”
"Christine Amsden unleashes her brilliant storytelling magic as the adventures of Cassie Scot escalate to the extreme. Rife with betrayal and a debt too deep for money to clear, Secrets and Lies plunges the reader into an utterly believable world where villains and heroes spring lifelike from the pages. Brace for a whirlwind ride of sorcery, romance and knife-edge peril. A truly original urban fantasy. Not to be missed!

Author Bio

Christine Amsden has been writing fantasy and science fiction for as long as she can remember. She loves to write and it is her dream that others will be inspired by this love and by her stories. Speculative fiction is fun, magical, and imaginative but great speculative fiction is about real people defining themselves through extraordinary situations. Christine writes primarily about people and relationships, and it is in this way that she strives to make science fiction and fantasy meaningful for everyone.

At the age of 16, Christine was diagnosed with Stargardt’s Disease, a condition that effects the retina and causes a loss of central vision. She is now legally blind, but has not let this slow her down or get in the way of her dreams.

In addition to writing, Christine teaches workshops on writing at Savvy Authors. She also does some freelance editing work.

Christine currently lives in the Kansas City area with her husband, Austin, who has been her biggest fan and the key to her success. They have two beautiful children.

Buy Links for Cassie Scot: ParaNormal Detective:

Buy Links for Secrets and Lies (Cassie Scot #2)

Go out there and enjoy!
-Stephanie Osborn

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Guest Post Book Bomb: The Coal Elf by Maria DeVivo!

by Stephanie Osborn

Today, November 13, we are book-bombing The Coal Elf, by Maria DeVivo!

What's a book bomb? A book bomb is where we ask all fans and readers to buy the book on that date. It creates a lot of movement in the books' rankings, which in turn draws attention from other potential readers!

So please go out and buy The Coal Elf today! Purchase links are at the bottom of the blog! Meanwhile, let's hear some of Maria's thoughts on her book...


“There’s No Place Like Home”
by Maria DeVivo

            What’s the old saying?  “Home is where the heart is.”  It must be true because one of the prevalent themes in story-telling is the concept of Home - Having one, being a part of one, rejecting one, leaving one, desperately trying to find your way back to one.  Humans have an innate honing device that draws us to a nostalgic place of comfort and love. Some of the most influential stories of our time use HOME as a central theme.  After having experienced the wonder and glory of Oz, Dorothy said there was no place like it.  Her journey brought her to the realization that her black and white world of farm animals and twisters was really where she belonged.  Thrust onto an island while the war-torn world around them has no idea of their whereabouts, the children in The Lord of the Flies are in constant pursuit of returning home while in the process, create a home. And more recently, Katniss Everdeen initially strives to win The Hunger Games to go where?  Back Home.

In The Coal Elf, Ember Skye deals with this notion of Home from the moment she is called to her Life Job.  When she is sent to the Mines, her memories of her life Aboveground grip her so tightly that she is almost blinded by nostalgia.  The entire novel follows her path of dealing with those memories, confronting certain realities, and altering her own perceptions as to where she belongs, where she fits in, where she’s meant to be. 

So what is HOME?  What defines it? For me, it’s an unseen structure made up of memories. Spring birds singing in the morning as I waited for the school bus.  Running outside on a cool summer night to flag down the ice cream truck.  Standing on tree stumps in my backyard as dead leaves fell from the autumn trees.  The smell of my father’s work boots in the hallway.  Cuddling with my sister on Christmas Eve.  Coming home from school and being so angry with my mother for cleaning up my room.  My uncle’s voice booming as he and my mother sang Kenny Rogers’s songs.  My concept of Home expands far beyond the actual dwelling itself, and now I’m making a Home for my daughter, hopefully helping to build those memories of love and comfort she will seek refuge in her future.        

I promised a purchase link, and here you go! By the by, The Coal Elf is currently at a special holiday price of $2.99!

Amazon: The Coal Elf

So hurry out and buy this holiday tale! It's not your childhood Christmas story, that's for sure!

-Stephanie Osborn

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Excerpt: El Vengador

Hard on the heels of Halloween comes this story! El Vengador is my first venture into paranormal horror.

Deputy Sheriff Michael Kirtchner gets an "unknown disturbance" dispatch call to a remote house trailer in the swamp. There, he discovers an old woman and a dog, terrorized by a mysterious beast, which he takes to be a bear. But when he contacts Game Warden Jeff Stuart to come trap the animal, Stuart tells him to get out if he values his life - this is no ordinary animal. Is Kirtchner up against a Swamp Ape - a Florida version of Bigfoot - or something more...sinister?

Based on a true story.

My recommendation? Don't read this at night.

-Stephanie Osborn


Elsie Moore ungracefully mopped her perspiring brow on the hem of her dress, then continued cooking her dinner on the tiny gas stovetop. A small pot on the back burner bubbled merrily, releasing a spicy smell as white grains of rice, gradually turning a greenish-tan, churned up. As a waft of strong skunk smell drifted through the tiny trailer kitchen from the open window, she wrinkled her nose and stared down in distaste at the skillet containing crawfish and boudin noir while poking at it with a spatula.

The foul odor from outside was not helping her opinion of her ingredients. She wasn’t fond of blood sausage in the first place, but it had been cheap, and she didn’t get into town much for groceries, so she made do. Being unemployed, she wasn’t overmuch blessed with cash and didn’t have a vehicle, so she was forced to depend upon distant friends for a ride to town, or more often, she just walked ― which ended up taking the better part of a day. So inexpensive and quick to get hold of were the rules of the house. The crawfish had come from a Cajun friend who lived up the bay. She wasn’t Cajun, nor was she from one of the local Native tribes, but she knew people in both communities, and they looked after her when they could; she was a fairly skilled herbal healer, and had been known to treat strangers more than once. Abruptly the skunk stench increased to nearly intolerable volumes, and she turned away from the stove, covered her nose with her free hand, and fought back a nearly unbearable urge to retch.

"Damn," she cursed. "Ah’m gonna have ta git somethin’ done ‘bout that skunk den, an’ soon, don’t Ah’m gonna end th’ summer unable t’ eat nothin’ f’r the stink. It ‘uz bad enough in th’ spring when they moved in, but now it’s hot, Ah gotta keep th’ winners open, ‘r suffocate…" Her German shepherd let out a long whine from somewhere in the back yard, and she yelled out the window. "BILLY! HUSH! Ah ain’t got time f’r that racket!"

She returned her attention to her makeshift excuse for jambalaya ― not, she thought, that it would amount to much without any celery or bell pepper, but at least she’d found some wild onions that morning ― and tried to ignore the smell coming in from outside, and which was threatening to spoil her appetite for good. A buzzer sounded, and she reached up to turn off the timer, then put a lid on the pot of seasoned rice, switching off the burner to let the dish soak up the extra liquid and finish cooking on its own.

By the time the crawfish were cooked, the rice was ready. It was early for dinner, but Elsie’s day started early, out the door before full dawn, wild-crafting edibles to eke out her meager supplies of food and gather herbs for medicinals.
The sixty-three year old widow of ten years and three grown-and-departed children dumped the tiny pot of rice into a plate, then upended the skillet’s contents on top. Fishing a bent-tined fork from a drawer, she moved into the den, sat in her favorite chair, and began to eat. After a few minutes, she grabbed the battered remote control and turned on the television. Static and snow greeted her from that appliance, and she reached for another control, fiddling with it until the dish outside had picked up another satellite. The picture was still fuzzy and staticky, but at least she could see and hear the broadcast. Then she settled back with her meal to watch a series of game shows.

Halfway through her meal, Billy, her German shepherd, came to the front door, pawing and scratching as he whined.

"NO, Billy!" she told the dog. "Ah’ll let ya in at sundown, no sooner, an’ yew kin curl up onna foot o’ th’ bed like usual. Y’re s’posed ta be a guard dawg, not mah pet, even iffen ya are mah onlies’ real friend. Jus’ settle down! What’s got inta yew today, no how?"

The dog whined and scratched harder.

"GIT!" she called. There was a scrambling sound on the wooden stoop, then Billy ran around to the back yard, where he began to bark like a fool. "Damn dog."

All of a sudden Billy began to yelp, loud, high-pitched sounds like a dog in pain, or maybe in terror. This mingled with a low growling sound, and unexpectedly the trailer filled with a horrible, intolerable stench. Elsie shoved her half-empty plate onto the end table, grabbed the nearby plastic waste can, and threw up her dinner. Before she could even wipe her mouth, a deafening clamor sounded right outside, and the trailer shook. Billy let out a kind of canine scream, and this was followed and drowned out by an animal roar of rage. The trailer shook again. Elsie shot to her feet.

"BILLY!" she cried, alarmed. "Billy! What’s wrong, puppy-dog? Whatcha got treed?" She ran to the nearest window and looked out. She saw nothing. The trailer shook again. She looked down.

Practically beneath her, pressed up against the back wall of the trailer, was the hind end of some very large, powerful, furry creature. The color was an odd, ticked shade of browns and blacks, mottled with blotches of livid green. A roaring howl, which seemed to come from beneath her, fairly made her guts vibrate. She watched the animal’s hindquarters tense, and the trailer shook yet again. Just then, Billy let out a pitiful yip… and was silent.


El Vengador is based on a true story. Yes, there really was a deputy sheriff in the Pensacola, FL area who really did answer a call just like this.

Care to see what happens next? Have a look.
-Stephanie Osborn