Author Brian Moreland is our Keeper of the Crypt today and he has stopped by to share some of the history behind Dead of Winter, along with an excerpt from the book. He’s also graciously agreed to give away 5 ebook copies and 1 print copy of either Dead of Winter or Shadows in the Mist to a few lucky people. If you haven’t read Dead of Winter, you can check out our review here.
Thanks for stopping by, Brian.
It’s my favorite month and Halloween season, a great time to talk about horror. I grew up watching horror movies and reading Clive Barker, Dean Koontz and Stephen King, and have always been a big fan of monsters. This led me to becoming a horror fiction writer myself. To date, I’ve published two novels, Dead of Winter and Shadows in the Mist, and I have two more books coming out next year.
To get you in the Halloween spirit, I’m going to share a little background in writing my novel Dead of Winter. Within this article I’m including an excerpt from the book, plus Fictitious Musings will be hosting a contest where you can win a copy of one of my books.
Dead of Winter is a historical story based partly on true events, dealing with an outbreak of cannibalism in the late 1800s. It’s also a detective mystery. The main character is Inspector Tom Hatcher, a troubled detective from Montreal who had recently captured an infamous serial killer, Gustav Meraux, known as the Cannery Cannibal. Gustav is Jack-the-the-Ripper meets Hannibal Lecter. Even though the cannibal is behind bars, Tom is still haunted from the case, so he decides to move himself and his rebellious teenage son out to the wilderness. At the beginning of the story, Tom has taken a job at Fort Pendleton to solve a case of strange murders that are happening to the fur traders that involve another cannibal, one more savage than Gustav Meraux. Some predator in the woods surrounding the fort is attacking colonists and spreading a gruesome plague—the victims turn into ravenous cannibals with an unending hunger for human flesh. In Tom’s search for answers, he discovers that the Jesuits know something about this plague. My second main character is Father Xavier, an exorcist from Montreal who is ordered by the Vatican to travel to Ontario to help Tom battle the killer causing the outbreak.
Throughout the story I interweave several facts I pulled from history books and an interview I did with a descendent from a Canadian Ojibwa tribe. During my research, I came across some unexplained stories that the Ojibwa and Algonquin tribes all around the Great Lakes region, including Ontario, Quebec, Michigan, and Minnesota, feared a supernatural creature that lives in the woods and stalks people every winter. They migrated every year because of this superstition.
This legend also spooked the white fur traders, like the Hudson’s Bay Company, who lived in isolated forts all across Canada and traded with the Indians. In my novel, Fort Pendleton is a fictitious fort named after one my characters, a tycoon by the name of Master Avery Pendleton. When the mysterious killings start plaguing the colonists living within his fort, Pendleton hires Tom Hatcher to solve the case. Tom teams up with an Ojibwa tracker and shaman, Anika Moonblood. She doesn’t believe the killer is a man or animal, but something much more terrifying.
Next is a chapter I pulled from the middle of the book. I hope you enjoy it.
Excerpt from Dead of Winter
At half past midnight, Farlan McDuff climbed out of bed cursing the moon. He could hear his goats outside at the barn, bleating and running back and forth, their hooves pounding the frozen ground.
“Ah hell,” McDuff pulled on his clothes and fur parka, grabbed his double-barrel shotgun, and stepped out the back door.
The two-story barn’s silhouette stood roughly fifty paces behind McDuff’s cabin. The dark shapes of the herd were running around inside their pen. “Something’s definitely got ’em spooked.”
The livestock caretaker knew his twenty goats like they were his own kin. He could tell all of them apart and had given each a name.
As McDuff made the cold hike toward the barn, he searched around for the mongrel causing the disturbance. He hoped it was just a dog. Anika Moonblood, who lived in a cabin across the cemetery from McDuff, had a wolf-dog named Makade. It was a real nuisance, always sniffing around the barn and unsettling the goats and chickens. He’d like to kill the bastard, but the last thing McDuff wanted to do was start a feud with an Indian witch.
Earlier today he had thought he was shooting at the wolf-dog, when instead he had shot the girl. What a mess that was. He had aimed at the ground behind her and didn’t mean to hit her. But the damage was done, her foot blown off at the ankle. McDuff felt sore about the whole experience, but a bit relieved, too, once he saw that she had caught some form of rabies. She had killed his youngest goat, Little Micmac, which broke McDuff’s heart.
The thought that the girl was still locked up inside the chicken coop didn’t make him sleep any easier. McDuff didn’t know why the fort chief wanted to keep her alive. She had clearly changed into something that was no longer a little girl. Then a thought struck McDuff. What if she broke out of her cage? Impossible. He had built that cage strong enough to hold wild hogs.
He reached the pen. The goats were gathered in the far corner, climbing on top of one another as if trying to escape over the fence. Everything was moving shadows against a white ground. It was darker than usual tonight. The moonlight shining through the clouds offered just enough illumination to see a couple mounds that McDuff knew by the knot in his gut were dead goats.
“Ah, ballocks.” He grabbed the lantern he kept hanging at the barn’s entrance and lit it. He stepped into the pen and held the light over the two mounds. Sure enough, some predator had gotten into the pen and torn two of the goats to pieces. “What a bloody mess.”
McDuff searched around to see if that damn girl might have broken out after all. The last time he saw the girl, she seemed to have grown, her spine and limbs long and bony. She had paced her cage on all fours, hobbling like a wounded jackal. Had she grown strong enough to bust loose?
“Child, are you out there?” A disturbing mewl from the darkness made McDuff’s scrotum tighten. He approached the frightened herd. “Easy there, I’m here now.” He could hear teeth crunching. He held up the lantern. The goats split off into two herds running along the fence in opposite directions. Only one remained—the billy goat named Haggis. He had a large head with thick, curled horns. Haggis’ snout was dripping with red muck. The ram’s teeth moved side to side as he chomped on raw meat. On the ground was another dead goat.
Haggis looked up at McDuff. The caretaker gasped. The horned goat’s eyes had turned solid white. The fur on its face and body hung in patches like it had some form of mange. The billy goat ambled toward him, bleating and shaking its head.
McDuff backed toward the center of the pen. “No, Haggis.” He set the lantern down and aimed the shotgun, his arms shaking. As McDuff was about to pull the trigger, something bumped his legs from behind. He fell hard on his rump. The shotgun flew out of his hands. McDuff searched around, confused. At the edge of the lantern glow stood the other goats, surrounding him in a perfect circle.
Every goat had poached-white eyes. They mewled together.
McDuff crawled for the shotgun.
The curled-horned goat roared. The herd charged toward the old man in the center of the circle. As Haggis bit into his throat, McDuff feared he was going straight to hell, because his last image was the goat-eyed face of the devil.
* * *
The next morning, the soldiers found Farlan McDuff’s bones in a red pile, his hair-covered skull sitting atop the stack. The goats were gathered in the far corner of the pen, pale white eyes watching Tom, Lt. Hysmith, and the other soldiers. The herd appeared to have the disease. Several mounds of fur and gore lay strewn about the pen, victims of the hungry herd. The lead billy goat, with its red-stained face and curvy horns, charged the fence. Tom and his gunmen fired shots into the pen, ripping the ram to pieces. They turned their rifle barrels toward the herd and dropped every last goat.
The soldiers made a bonfire and burned the infected bodies. Under Master Pendleton’s orders, they threw McDuff’s bones onto the flaming heap for safe measure. The stench of cooking meat and burning fur made Tom’s eyes water. Some of the dead goats spasmed, their legs kicking and heads jerking as the fire consumed their bodies.
The soldiers looked in shock at the loss of the animal caretaker. Tom had only known Farlan McDuff a couple weeks. Chris had taken a shine to the old Scotsman and helped him feed the animals in the evenings. McDuff had been one of the few villagers whom Tom had felt comfortable allowing them to spend time with his son. Seeing the man’s bones pop like logs in the fire filled Tom’s stomach with acid. As he and the soldiers silently watched the fire, Willow ran toward them, screaming about Doc Riley.
5 ebooks (international) and 1 signed paperback (U.S./Canada only).
Winners get to choose which one of Brian’s books they want; Dead of Winter or Shadows in the Mists. The Giveaway ends at midnight on October 31.
Leave a comment telling us which book you want and your email addy.
About the Author
Brian Moreland writes novels and short stories of horror and supernatural suspense. His first two novels, Dead of Winter and Shadows in the Mist, are now available. His third novel, The Devil’s Woods, will release in 2013. Brian lives in Dallas, Texas where he is diligently writing his next horror novel.
You can communicate with him online and join his mailing list at http://www.brianmoreland.com/