This week, I vacate the coveted blogger’s chair to this week’s guest author…only because he owns a Corvette. Oh, right, he’s also written a scary novel, from which an excerpt follows. You can also check out my take on the book at http://www.braytonsbookbuzz.wordpress.com.
Hmm, if he’d allow me a spin around the block in his care, or maybe he’d let me cruise downtown…
Devil’s Nightmare: Behind the Scenes
Thank you for allowing me to take over your corner of cyberspace for a day, Stephen. My name is Robert “Sharky” Pruneda, author of the Devil’s Nightmare series, and one of many hooligans represented by Booktrope’s Forsaken horror imprint. On this stop of my blog tour, I’d like to give readers a special behind-the-scenes look of my supernatural occult horror novel. Afterwards, I’ll give you an opportunity to win some prizes. We’ll start with an incident that gave me the idea for the first book in the series.
I can’t remember my exact age, but when I was somewhere between ten and twelve years old, my sister introduced me to a parlor game that supposedly would allow us to speak with the dead. The game had a planchette and a board with alphabet and numbers painted on it, along with four complete words: Yes, No, Hello and Goodbye. I knew what a Ouija board was (and I had seen a movie about it), but I had never played with one before. It seemed like innocent fun . . . until I started using it by myself. Apparently, you’re not supposed to do that. Meh, I didn’t care. It was just a game, right?
I don’t have a story about ghosts throwing me across the room or demons possessing me. None of that happened, but aside from experiencing horrific nightmares and anxiety attacks, what really terrified me was an incident that happened at approximately 3 a.m. in my bedroom. I woke up feeling an intense amount of pressure against my chest, and I could not breathe. It was then that I noticed something hovering above me, just inches from my face. Fear paralyzed my body when a pair of demonic eyes appeared within the silhouette. I wanted to scream, but the pressure on my chest somehow left me completely mute. To this day, I have never been so terrified about anything in my life. Finally, my lungs filled with air and I let out a hysterical cry for my parents. The apparition disappeared as soon as Mom and Dad rushed into my bedroom and turned on the lights. I burned the Ouija board in the fireplace the next day and haven’t played with one since.
Scientific explanation or demonic encounter?
That incident in my bedroom in Austin, Texas was probably nothing more than a common phenomenon known as sleep paralysis. I’ve also had it happen to me as an adult. Basically, you wake up and are unable to move, speak, or react. It’s almost like you’re somewhere between sleep and waking up. Your brain and body haven’t quite synched up together. The demon I saw was likely a hallucination from a waking dream.
While science can explain what happened to me that night, it didn’t make it any less frightening for me as a kid. But what if it was real? What if had broken some sacred spiritual rule and inadvertently summoned a demon? What if there was an ancient curse involved? While I only loosely based Devil’s Nightmare on my childhood experience with the Ouija board, it still gave me the heebie-jeebies when I thought about it while writing the 360-page novel.
The “Bat Mobile” in Devil’s Nightmare.
If you already follow me on Twitter and Facebook, you probably know that I love American muscle cars and own a 1981 Corvette, which my friends and I like to call “The Bat Mobile.” One little Easter egg in the novel refers to a near-death experience that happened to me while driving my Corvette. As I accelerated onto the highway during rush hour, my transmission broke. I had to quickly maneuver off the highway and onto the grass (it doesn’t have an emergency lane) in order to avoid an 18-wheeler slamming into the back of me. That experience gave me ideas for a couple of scenes in Devil’s Nightmare . . . but this is a horror novel, so of course I had to change things up a bit.
Cameo Appearance in Devil’s Nightmare
At the beginning of Devil’s Nightmare, someone or something chases eleven-year-old Cody Sumner out of a cemetery. When he gets home, his mother and stepfather rush into the bedroom to find their son crying underneath his window. Tony Scoletti, Cody’s stepfather, is also a character in my debut novel Pursuit of a Dream¸ which I self-published in 2004. In that novel, he’s an unemployed alcoholic jerk who verbally and physically abuses his wife and stepson. I think you can probably figure out the fate of Tony Scoletti in a horror novel. Had he known that nearly ten years later he’d end up in a horror novel, he might have behaved. Too late.
If you’ve read Devil’s Nightmare and Pursuit of a Dream, I you might have caught the other subtle tie-in reference when Detective Sanders first questions Cody Sumner at the hospital. This is something I like to sneak in with my novels. Stephen King inspired me to include “Easter eggs” in my novels by his cameo appearances in movies based on his novels.
Devil’s Nightmare Giveaway
I hope you enjoyed my behind-the-scenes look at Devil’s Nightmare. I love chatting with readers, so please leave me a comment on this page or on social media. If you’d like a chance to win one of the prizes I’m giving away, including a signed copy of Devil’s Nightmare and other goodies, be sure to enter the Rafflecopter contest below. Good luck and thanks for visiting!
The Devil’s Nightmare
I arrived at the crime scene at seven-thirty on Monday morning and parked my black ’81 Corvette Stingray behind a police car that had the left rear door hanging open. A young boy with sandy blond hair sat in the back, staring at the seat in front of him. Emergency vehicles packed the street in front of the house. Police officers, crime scene investigators, and paramedics performed their jobs while reporters yelled out questions to anyone within earshot. A mob of reporters barked a barrage of questions at me, but I ignored them and ducked under the police tape, making my way to the front porch. A bloodstained curtain hung out of a broken window to the right of the front entrance. The shattered bay window to left of the entrance had pieces of the frame bent towards the interior of the house. The highest-ranking officer of the Austin Police Department, and an old friend of mine of many years, exited the home just as I stepped onto the front porch. I shook his hand. “So, what’ve we got here, Chief?” “It’s bad, Aaron. Tenemos dos víctimas.” Chief David Hernandez spoke perfect English, and without much of an accent, but that didn’t stop him from throwing in a little bit of Spanish for my benefit. It was David’s not-so-subtle way of trying to mold me into a bilingual detective, which of course is useful in Texas. I still couldn’t speak the language, but, thanks to David, I could at least understand it. “So, who are our two vics?” “Carol and Tony Scoletti. Whoever killed them must have been really pissed.” “Yeah, that’s usually the case” I bobbed my head in agreement. Murderers do tend to have slight anger issues. “So, we have a double-homicide. Doesn’t happen here much, but what’s so unusual?” “You haven’t seen the bodies… or what’s left of them, that is.” “Okay.” I lowered my brow. “Now you have my attention. Just what exactly are we dealing with?” “Follow me,” he said, and led me to the living room. The body of a decapitated Caucasian woman lay mangled on top of a shattered glass coffee table. Her left arm hung from her shoulder, attached only by tendons. Intestines spilled onto the floor from her torn stomach. She also had three large gashes across her breasts and several more on her bare legs. “Jesus! You weren’t kidding. What the hell did this guy come at her with, a chainsaw?” “You haven’t seen anything yet,” Chief Hernandez answered, and then headed down the hallway towards the bedrooms. I followed him inside the first bedroom. Blood and gore painted the walls and ceiling. Only the torso of what used to be a body lay in the middle of the room in a pool of blood, guts and ripped flesh. Pieces of bloody flesh hung from the ceiling fan. There was a severed arm on a blood-soaked pillow on the bed and a detached leg protruding out from underneath it. Where was the rest of the body? “This is the kid’s bedroom,” he said. “He’s lucky to be alive. I don’t mean to sound morbid, but why spare him?” I noticed muddy footprints mixed in blood underneath the shattered window. “Come on, Aaron. You don’t really think anyone would do this to a kid, do you?” No, I didn’t, but you could never know for sure. Some people have absolutely no conscience whatsoever. The kid was lucky. After examining the remains of a man’s body, I asked, “That kid in the squad car. Has he said anything?” “Nada. Not a word since we arrived.” “I’ll go to talk to him. See if I can get him to open up.” I tapped the shoulder of the crime scene investigator taking photos of the body. “You have a swab kit I can borrow?” “Yeah, sure.” The young CSI set her camera down and retrieved the items from her crime scene kit. “Need me to come with?” “Nah, that’s okay. I got it.” My heart sank from the boy’s blank expression. Dry blood splatter peppered his cheeks and forehead. The blood covering his clothes told me he’d had a front seat view of what had happened. A seat that would have also given him a clear view of the perpetrator. “What’s his name?” I asked the police officer in charge of babysitting the boy, while a bunch of strangers with badges, guns, and funny-looking suits, filtered in and out of his home. “Cody Sumner,” the officer answered. “I can’t imagine what he’s going through.” She shook her head and added, “Poor baby.” I knelt down next to Cody and introduced myself. “Hi, Cody. My name is Detective Aaron Sanders, with the Austin Police Department. Do you mind if I ask you a few questions?” Cody didn’t acknowledge my presence. “Are you hurt anywhere?” Nothing. He just stared ahead. “Can I see your hands?” That time he gave me a subtle shrug. I put on a pair of latex gloves and tenderly turned his hands over. Dried blood covered his palms. I sighed and placed the boy’s hands back on his lap. I pulled a buccal swab from the kit that I borrowed from the crime scene investigator. “I need to get some samples off your clothing and hands. It’s not going to hurt though. Can you give me a little nod if that’s okay?” Cody faced me, his blue eyes watering, and said, “They’re dead.” “I’m sorry.” I placed my hand on the back seat. “I promise we’ll find and punish the person who did this, Cody, but we need your help. Can you tell me what happened?” Cody focused on the back seat again. His crying came in constricted whimpers and sniffling. “That’s okay.” I squeezed the boy’s shoulder. “We’ll talk later.” “Aaron!” Chief Hernandez yelled from the porch, gesturing me toward him. I met him halfway on the front lawn. “What is it?” “We have another crime scene.” “Another one?” “Memorial Heights Cemetery. Busy day for the APD, and it’s about to get even busier for you, amigo.” “Can we get Anderson or—” “No, I want you on this. You should head over there right away.” “Why? What’s so special about this one?” “The grounds crew found three bodies. Two of them with their heads missing.” He rubbed his hand over his face and took a breath. “What?” Finding dead bodies at a cemetery was normal enough, but they tend to arrive in caskets. And they typically have their heads attached. I asked again, “What?” “They’re kids, Aaron. Niños!” I couldn’t believe what I had just heard. “What the hell is going on here?” “I don’t know, pero we have one sick cabrón targeting children now. I need you to head over to the cemetery. I’ll call the FBI. This is way over our heads.” “Whoa, wait a minute.” I hated dealing with feds. “The last thing we need is a bunch of bureaucratic suits flashing badges around here and putting up a bunch of red tape. We can handle it ourselves.” “Aaron, this isn’t a typical murder case. I think we’re dealing with a serial.” “Yeah… maybe.” “Maybe?” Chief Hernandez said. “Decapitations and bodies ripped apart don’t exactly fit the description of a normal homicide. And speaking of decapitations, where’re the victims’ heads?” Good question. “All right, I see your point. I’ll check out the cemetery. What about that kid over there?” Cody had stopped crying. A police officer handed him a bottled water. “He’s our only witness.” “I’ll let you know where he ends up. Probably Brackenridge. Now go.” “All right, all right. I’m going.”