Category: For Readers Page 1 of 18

The Saga of the Spice Cabinet

I grew up in a household with a lot of spices in the spice cabinet, eating some of the blandest food you could ever find it your misfortune to eat. I used to joke that our family (European-ancestry, white, Catholic people from the Great Plains) didn’t spice our food, we blessed it. As in, whoever was cooking would take a spice jar out of the cabinet, hold it over the food, and make the sign of the cross.

Without opening the jar.

There were reasons for this. For all that we lived in farm country, we also lived in a food desert, where the food selection was more or less limited to iceberg lettuce, bland sliced black olives in a can, and whatever you grew or raised yourself. Not many people could afford to invest in good, fresh spices back then, so a cabinet full of spices was a sort of status item, to be admired more than used. 

Looking back now, it seems weird.

Until…I open my spice cabinet.

Right now, I’m reading SALT FAT ACID HEAT by Samin Nosrat. It’s excellent, and I recommend it. What she says is simple, but easy to forget. For example, one of the points she keeps bringing up is that good cooks taste food as it cooks.

I find myself making dishes asking myself, “Did I taste this yet? Nope. Is it salty enough? Nope. I could add a little lemon juice here, couldn’t I?” And my cooking turns out a little better—consistently.

And all of that is great, but…

Let’s talk about my spice cabinet.

Frankly, it is full of cute jars of spices that I don’t use.

Here are the recommendations that I guiltily have not been following:

  • Ground spices: replace once a year.
  • Whole spices: two to five years.

If I had to throw out everything that didn’t meet these standards, what I would have left is:

  • A giant box of cumin
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Dill (two small jars, because I have ADD)Peppercorns
  • Cocoa powder
  • S&B curry powder (I know, not the most authentic thing ever but I got hooked on it in college)
  • Chipotle powder
  • Szechuan peppercorns
  • Chinese five-spice powder
  • Smoked paprika
  • Bavarian seasoning from Penzey’s.

Technically, I’d have to throw out my nutmegs, because I had them when I moved to this house a little over five years ago, but I use them all the time. A little goes a long way with those suckers.

Spices that should be gone:

  • Basil
  • Oregano
  • Marjoram
  • Sage
  • Thyme
  • Chives (I use the ones in my garden)
  • Cinnamon—regular and Ceylon
  • Allspice
  • lot of spice mixes that I only vaguely remember
  • White pepper
  • Tarragon
  • Ginger
  • Rosemary
  • Turmeric
  • Dried garlic and dried onion
  • Sesame seeds (I put these in the one-year-or-less category)
  • Pumpkin pie spice
  • Ground mustard
  • Garlic bread powder
  • “BBQ Seasoning”
  • Anise
  • Cardamom
  • Caraway
  • Powdered cloves

And let’s not get into the gritty and embarrassing details about condiments. At least I did a massive condiments purge this past February. Salad dressing should not be five years old.

I tossed out a few spices, decided I wasn’t strong enough to do the rest, and did a mental experiment with my spices, herbs, and condiments instead:

If the house burned down and I had to start all over again, what would I replace?

I went through several iterations and got it down to the absolute minimum:

  • Fine sea salt ($2.40 for 24 oz)
  • Black peppercorns, whole ($2 for 1 oz, with attached grinder)
  • Extra-virgin olive oil (California Olive Ranch, $11, a splurge because I like that brand)
  • Red wine vinegar ($2.30 for 16 oz)
  • Red pepper flakes ($2.60 for 1.5 oz)
  • Fresh garlic ($.80 for a head of garlic)

Total: $21.10. Prices were what I looked up at Target, because if my house burned down and I had to get all the things, I’d go to Target first. This morning, I tossed out at least that much in expired spices.

The other thing that struck me is how often I’ll turn to fresh herbs when I can get them. I planted a boatload of basil this summer, and have been happily eating salads made of nothing but basil and some balsamic dressing. I invested in some cloth grow bags and dirt that wasn’t mostly gravel (I currently live in a very rocky development in Colorado), and have been nagging myself about the cost, because I grew up cheap in the Great Plains and have trouble allowing myself to have nice things.

But, again, if I run the math, what I spent on grow bags, dirt, and seeds is less than the value of the spices that I threw out this morning. 

So here’s the plan:

  • Gradually toss the herbs and spices that are out of date, as I can stand to do so.
  • Toss expired condiments and the rest of the old spices in February (I spring clean in February).
  • Splurge on good, but not frou-frou, olive oil.
  • Plant a window garden for this fall and winter (mostly basil and chives).
  • Replace whatever I tossed but want to use again with a very small amount. No buying the big jar of spices because “it’s cheaper per ounce.”
  • When I run out of something, replace it with the good stuff.
  • Stop buying every spice mix I pass like it’s gonna cure my cooking blues. It won’t.

I should end up saving money, having better spices that I use more often, and not having to go through Operation Heartbreak again, a.k.a., cleaning out the spice cabinet.

This brings me to one final point of spice cabinet shame: the chai box.

Maybe you don’t have one. A chai box is a cookie tin that has all the whole, unground spices that you need to make chai: cinnamon sticks, cardamom pods, star anise, allspice, whole cloves. Peppercorns and  nutmegs get used too often to stay inside the box for long, but those count, too. At the bottom of a chai box, you can often find one or more vanilla beans that have been sitting there for at least a decade, waiting for a special occasion that never comes.

Everything in that box is at least five years old. But, dear reader, I cannot make myself throw it out. I have sworn to make chai concentrate all fall and winter long, so I can use everything up and buy new spices.

My recipe for chai concentrate:

  • Half a long cinnamon stick
  • Six cups of water—begin bringing to a boil

In a mortar and pestle, smash up:

  • 10-12 cardamom pods
  • 10-12 peppercorns
  • 4-5 whole cloves
  • 2 star anise
  • A piece of ginger (peel and all) about the size of your thumb.
  • Maybe some orange peel.

Add to water with 1/4c sugar. This is an excellent excuse to use up your dried out brown sugar that’s hard to measure. Just eyeball a chunk and drop it in.

Bring to a boil and simmer for fifteen minutes with a lid on. Then turn off the heat, add 1/4c loose leaf tea leaves, and steep for five minutes, no longer. Strain the concentrate through a fine-mesh strainer. You don’t want to use ground spices for this, by the way, because they slip through the filter and can upset your stomach.

Mix half and half concentrate with warm milk, smug in the knowledge that you knew there was a reason you bought all this stuff.


Just stop buying tea bags, by the way. They’re expensive and wasteful, and cover up the fact that you’re overpaying for cheap-ass tea.

I used Stash English Breakfast to make chai last time, and that turned out really well. Cost per cup: $14.51 per pound of tea, or $.08/cup—the equivalent of a small 20-bag box of tea at $1.60, with higher-quality tea.

(Need to figure out how much bulk tea costs per cup? Try the tea calculator here: https://ineedcoffee.com/calculating-the-cost-per-cup-of-tea/)

I’m not going to calculate my chai spice cost, because they’re FIVE YEARS OLD I just need to focus on using them up!


Originally, I wrote the above post in September 2020 for my newsletter. You may be pleased to note that I have disposed of most of my out-of-date spices. I kept the Cardamom and Ceylon cinnamon, and ended up replacing the box of cocoa.

I have been faithfully making brewed chai mix every week, but have doubled the amount of water. Now I can pour it straight out of a pitcher and drink it cold with half and half, or nuke it in the microwave. I finally just decided that I liked half and half better than milk (or cream, for that matter) in my tea, and no outdated fear of fat was going to harsh my teatime!

Book Review: Wonderland by Jennifer Hillier

Book review: Wonderland by Jennifer Hillier

Wonderland by Jennifer Hillier

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


A decaying theme park…a cop looking for a second chance…a right-hand man whose loyalties have already been tested…and the wrong murder.

Okay, this wasn’t the most shocking thriller, but it was perfectly put together. I saw it coming, but had no regrets. Your every expectation is expertly calculated and used against you, from the opening scene to the chapter points of view.

My only question is,

Where’s the movie? It’s perfect Hitchcock material. On

Recommended if you liked Knives Out.



View all my reviews on Goodreads, on my blog, or sign up for my newsletter.

Five Excellent Weird Fiction Novels in Translation

Now You're One of Us, from Five Weird Fiction Novels in Translation
Now You’re One of Us, by Asa Nonami, translated by Mitsuko Volek

Tired of reading the same plots by the same types of authors? Need a palate cleanser? Want to interject new life into a reading group that thinks The Help is a controversial title?

Looking for an author that can really describe the unsettling, creepy feeling of not knowing whether the people around you mean well or not? Of not knowing whether the things your soul craves most are good for you or not? Of not knowing whether your craving to belong will help you—or hurt you?

If so, I have some lovely, dark, and wonderful weird fiction novels in translation for you!

I tried to organize this list in order of shorter, easier reads that might lead to book club discussion, to more complex reads that require time to unfold.

1. Now You’re One of Us, by Asa Nonami (Japan), translated by Michael Volek.

Now You’re One of Us is the tale of an upper-class Japanese family gone wrong. So wrong. This book is like a combination of Liane Moriarty (Big Little Lies, The Husband’s Secret) and an instruction novel on how to run a profitable family cult. While other books on this list are weird and surreal, this book is weird and juicy, scratching the itch for scandal in a way that’s so over the top that it becomes almost a satire.

2. The Vegetarian, by Han Kang (South Korea), translated by Deborah Smith.

The Vegetarian is the tale of a woman who, against her family’s wishes, decides to stop eating meat, after a series of sensual nightmares leads her to worry about the darker side of her nature. The strongly feminist story feels like a combination of Franz Kafka and Virginia Woolf. It’s short, and written in a clear, direct style that lends itself to book club mischief.

3. Amatka, by Karin Tidbeck (Sweden), translated by the author.

A marketing researcher in personal hygiene products travels to a farming community, Amatka, to see whether any of the products they make can be used in her home town. However, Amatka mainly farms fungus products that turn into goop if they aren’t properly cared for. Another short book that is clearly and directly written—deliberately so, in a way that becomes horrifying as the story progresses. The story reads like a combination of 1984 and Stanislaw Lem’s alien novel Solaris.

4. The Memory Police, by Y?ko Ogawa (Japan), translated by Stephen Snyder.

Unlike a lot of weird fiction, which can be skimpy on descriptions, this book is invested in incredible details. It feels like the difference between a concrete bunker and a Miyazaki movie like Spirited Away. However, because this is a book about how remembering the wrong things can cost you, the details serve to increase the tension of the book. I recommend this one if you liked Japanese classics by filmmaker Akira Kurosawa. It feels like his kind of story, zooming in on the small details and exploring conflicting points of view.

5. Kalpa Imperial: The Greatest Empire that Never Was, by Angélica Gorodisher (Argentina), translated by Ursula K. LeGuin

This book is more challenging than the previous two, more complex, and less direct and clear in its writing (and translation). It’s also more of a mouthful, something to savor and consider, and enjoy reading just for the pleasure of seeing the author and translator turn a phrase. The book is the history of an unnamed empire over its various ages, seen from after its fall, and from another country. (“Kalpa” means “aeon” in Sanskrit; the title loosely translates to “The time between the creation and recreation of an empire.”) I don’t recommend this one for your book club; it’s book more meant for leisure reading. There’s a twist to the book that slowly becomes apparent toward the end. Read this if you like Ursula K. LeGuin’s books or Gene Wolfe’s Solar Cycle.

Bonus Book:  The Complete Stories of Leonora Carrington (Mexico), translated by Katherine Talbot, Anthony Kerrigan, and Marina Warner.

Leonora Carrington was a surrealist writer and painter who wrote short fable-like stories for adults and children as strange as anything Salvador Dalí ever painted (or wrote). Each story seems, at first glance, to have been sloppily tossed together, but in a way that makes perfect sense and never wastes a word. I found myself reading these tales not so much for their meaning (there is meaning!), but as a sort of brain-refresher, clearing out the daily dust that had gathered in my brain. Read these if you like Dalí or Frieda Kahlo.

If you’re interested in weird fiction written by yours truly, check out The House Without a Summer, describing what happens when an asshole gets his hands on the spacetime continuum. It’s set in England in the year 1816, the real-life year without a summer (and the year that Frankenstein was written). It has not yet been translated out of English, but I promise you it’s off the beaten path! I recommend it if you liked Black Tom by Victor Lavalle or The Intuitionist by Colson Whitehead. You can find out more about it here.

And now you must excuse me; it’s time for me to read the next book on my weird fiction novels in translation list, Flowers of Mold by Ha Seong-nan. I’ll let you know if it’s good.

New Short Horror Story Release: Trick or Treat (Tenebrosities #4)

Short horror story: Trick or Treat

Universal Sales Link | Goodreads

Release #4 in the short horror story, Twilight-Zone-esque Tenebrosities series, “Trick or Treat,” is available now. I originally wrote this in 2012, but rewrote it this month to rescue it–I just liked the story and characters too much to completely blow it off 🙂

You can find it here:

books2read.com/tenebrosities-trick-or-treat

What’s the matter, Jake? Chicken?

It’s Halloween. Just over a month ago, Jake’s brother Dave died in Afghanistan, killed by an IED bomb. Now Jake is going trick or treating, dressed like a solder. Dressed like his brother.

He decides to take the same route that he and his brother took, cutting through a junkyard, walking down a big hill, and scoring candy at the kind of neighborhood where the neighbors actually leave the lights on and don’t pretend not to be home.

But something is waiting for him in the graveyard.

Is it the ghost of Jake’s dead brother?

A creepy horror tale about what finds us when we’re vulnerable, on Halloween.

Trick or Treat

Jake stood at the edge of the junkyard, dressed as a soldier and holding a fake rifle on a strap over his shoulder. The rifle had an orange tip in case anyone was stupid enough to think it was real. The sun had set and the dark sky was covered in low clouds, turned orange from the streetlights. Lone flakes of snow descended here and there. Did that really count as “snowing” or not? The air smelled like rust. A ton of sirens were going off on the far side of the junkyard, more of them every second, like they were headed toward a fire or a big accident.

This morning—Halloween—he’d decided to cut through the junkyard on his way to go trick-or-treating at the bottom of Cliff Avenue. Now he wasn’t sure.

Stuff had changed at the junkyard since the last time he had been there.

The fence had a new line of barbed wire at the top, one that hadn’t been there before, and there was a new sign up on the fence.

Beware of dog.

Jake had cut through the junkyard once before with his older brother Dave, when he was ten. But that was two years ago.

Last year Dave had graduated early, joined the Army and gone to Afghanistan. And then in September he had died from some stupid homemade bomb buried under the road. Mom had told the Government to cremate Dave’s ashes. They were in a memorial building that looked like a post office, with Dave’s name on a brass plate.

Nobody was okay at Jake’s house. Not Jake, who was always in trouble at school, and not his mom, who was an EMT and had a pretty good excuse, and not his older sister Amy, who was fourteen and just plain mean anyway.

Tonight she had yelled at him that he was too old to go trick-or-treating, and he had to stay home and pass out candy so she could hang out with her friends.

He had screamed back at her that she didn’t have friends and run out the front door, slamming it behind him.

Then realized he had forgotten his trick or treat bag.

He wasn’t going back. And he wasn’t going trick-or-treating in his own neighborhood, either. Too many people who locked their doors and turned off all their lights, except for the TV flickering in the living room.

A mocking voice seemed to whisper in his ear:

What’s the matter, Jake?

Chicken?

Before Jake could think too much about it, he threw his fake rifle over the fence.

It turned around and around through the air, the orange tip flashing under the streetlight, and crashed on top of a car before skidding out of sight.

No alarms went off, no dogs barked.

He was going in.

Read more at books2read.com/tenebrosities-trick-or-treat.

Timelines are Like a Box of Chocolates: Interview with Stefon Mears

People like us, who believe in physics, know that the distinction between past, present and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.–Albert Einstein

Welcome to the Big Time StoryBundle, where you can find ten books on time travel and all things weird and timey wimey. Pay $5 for four ebooks, or a minimum of $15 to unlock all 10 ebooks. Once you purchase, you will be sent download links for your ebooks. More info about this StoryBundle is here.

This StoryBundle helps send money toward the Oregon Food Bank, which has been hit particularly hard due to the Oregon wildfires in the area, as well as the increased need from COVID-19.

But unless you’re a time traveler, don’t wait! Because you’ll have…the time of your life!

Time is Like a Box of Chocolates: Interview with Stefon Mears

Stefon Mears writes magical tales that operate at 45 degrees off reality–and never quite the same way twice. He may or may not be a time-traveling, musically-inclined pool shark.

1. Tell us about your book. What’s it about, and how does time travel or other timey wimey weirdness fit into your book?

Twisted Timelines is a short story collection. Every story tweaks or messes with time in some way, and no two of them are quite the same in their approach, or their use of time.

2. What is one of your favorite time-related works? (Fiction, non-fiction, games, etc. all count!)

I have so many that it’s hard to call one out. For example, one of my current favorite roleplaying games, Blades in the Dark, has a flashback mechanic that allows characters to solve a current problem retroactively, if the players can narrate it well. I have to say, though, that time travel plays a small but crucial role in one of my favorite television shows of all time, Babylon 5.

3. What is one of your favorite songs featuring time? Or, if you used a theme song/playlist for your work, what was it?

I don’t really use theme songs or playlists for most of my writing, but my favorite time-related song is “Caught Somewhere in Time” by Iron Maiden.

ABOUT STEFON:

Stefon Mears earned his M.F.A. in Creative Writing from N.I.L.A., and his B.A. in Religious Studies (double emphasis in Ritual and Mythology) from U.C. Berkeley. Stefon’s short pieces have sold to magazines such as Fireside and Strange Horizons and anthologies edited by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Kevin J. Anderson, Denise Little, Kerrie L. Hughes, and John Helfers. He has published more than thirty books to date, including the Rise of Magic series. Look for him online at http://www.stefonmears.com, on Facebook, or @stefonmears on Twitter. Sign up for his newsletter at  stefonmears.com/join

YOU CAN FIND HIM AT:

stefonmears.com

Nibble your way through Stefon’s short story collection Twisted Timelines and other tales at StoryBundle!

The Woman with the Time Travel Tattoo: Interview with Kim Antieau

Time is the longest distance between two places.–Tennesee Williams

Welcome to the Big Time StoryBundle, where you can find ten books on time travel and all things weird and timey wimey. Pay $5 for four ebooks, or a minimum of $15 to unlock all 10 ebooks. Once you purchase, you will be sent download links for your ebooks. More info about this StoryBundle is here.

This StoryBundle helps send money toward the Oregon Food Bank, which has been hit particularly hard due to the Oregon wildfires in the area, as well as the increased need from COVID-19.

But unless you’re a time traveler, don’t wait! Because time…waits for no reader!

The Woman with the Time Travel Tattoo: Kim Antieau's Her Frozen Wild

Kim Antieau always wanted to be a writer when she grew up, and here she is. She’s the author of The Jigsaw Woman, Coyote Cowgirl, and more.

1. Tell us about your book. What’s it about, and how does time travel or other timey wimey weirdness fit into your book?

When an American archaeologist discovers she shares DNA with an ancient tattooed mummy recently found in a grave in Siberia, she goes on a quest to Russia and through time to figure out what it all means. 

2. What is one of your favorite time-related works? (Fiction, non-fiction, games, etc. all count!)

Terminator 2: Judgment Day.

3. What is one of your favorite songs featuring time? Or, if you used a theme song/playlist for your work, what was it?

Bob Seger’s “Old Time Rock & Roll.” 🙂

ABOUT KIM:

Kim Antieau currently lives in the Southwest of the United States with her husband, writer Mario Milosevic.

YOU CAN FIND HER AT:

www.kimantieau.com

Time travel to the past with Kim Antieau’s Her Frozen Wild and other tales at StoryBundle!

Time Travel to the Past: Interview with Dean Wesley Smith

Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so.–Douglas Adams

Welcome to the Big Time StoryBundle, where you can find ten books on time travel and all things weird and timey wimey. Pay $5 for four ebooks, or a minimum of $15 to unlock all 10 ebooks. Once you purchase, you will be sent download links for your ebooks. More info about this StoryBundle is here.

This StoryBundle helps send money toward the Oregon Food Bank, which has been hit particularly hard due to the Oregon wildfires in the area, as well as the increased need from COVID-19.

But unless you’re a time traveler, don’t wait! Because time…is running out!

Time travel to the past with Warm Springs: A Thunder Mountain Novel

Dean Wesley Smith is the author of seventy bajillion novels, even more short stories, teaches excellent classes at WMG Workshops, edits a magazine (Pulphouse), co-edits an anthology series (Fiction River), and a lot more.

I asked him a few questions about time. I would have asked him more, but I think he’s busy 🙂

1. Tell us about your book. What’s it about, and how does time travel or other timey wimey weirdness fit into your book?

My book is in my Thunder Mountain series, where time travel back to around 1900 is the core of every book. In this book they use the idea of alternate universes in time travel to change an event. It is by far my most ambitious time travel novel to date.

2. What is one of your favorite time-related works? (Fiction, non-fiction, games, etc. all count!)

The Somewhere in Time movie is one of my favorites. Christopher Reeve was wonderful and I like the time period as well. 

ABOUT DEAN:

Considered one of the most prolific writers working in modern fiction, New York Times and USA Today bestselling writer Dean Wesley Smith published far over two hundred novels in forty years, and hundreds and hundreds of short stories and non-fiction books. He has over twenty-three million copies of his books in print.

YOU CAN FIND HIM AT:

www.deanwesleysmith.com

Time travel to the past with Dean Wesley Smith’s Warm Springs and other tales at StoryBundle!

Time Travel Stories, No Spaceship Required

Covers from the Big Time Bundle

Welcome to the Big Time Storybundle, home of time travel stories and other wibbly wobbly timey wimey weirdness.

Throw down a minimum of $5 US (or your local equivalent) and take home four books, including mine (The House Without a Summer). Increase your pledge to $15 in order to abscond with all ten books.

These future sci fi and fantasy classics were written by as fine a collection of huge nerds as I have had the pleasure to encounter (in this timeline at least).

We may not be able to make it possible to travel through time (forward, backward, or sideways). We maaaay not be able to shift you into an alternate dimension where current events are a little easier on your blood pressure. And we certainly never promised you a time machine.

But any of these books can definitely help you escape from the present moment!

Click here to take off 🙂

P.S. My story is The Year Without a Summer, a gothic horror novel that isn’t quite part of the Cthulhu mythos, but was written in part to play with Lovecraftian tropes taken to some logical conclusions. Goodbye, ordinary space-time.

New Release: Good Neighbors

New short story release, a horror/suspense tale in the vein of Twilight Zone

Universal Buy Link | Goodreads

What makes the fae so terrifying is how subtle they are…

One foggy night, Lee Warnick waits for her dad to come home from the factory. Lately, more and more people have been disappearing from her small town, and she feels that her family might be next.

No one else will talk about it, but Lee knows the truth: the fae have been abducting people, on the nights when the fog rises up.

Haunted by nightmares and terrified for her family, Lee must find a way to keep the faeries from striking again…

A night full of primal dread…and horrifying illusions.

Good Neighbors

Lee Warnick leaned her head on her arms and watched out the window. Her mom said, “Come away from the window, Lee, why don’t you call your friend Jenny? Or watch some TV?” but Lee ignored her. Her dad was working late at Smithfield Parts Fabrication—the factory—that night, and she wanted to see him come home.

Her mom wasn’t fooling anybody. They were both nervous.

That day had been one of those fall days that are too beautiful, too perfect. The sky was a clear and artificial blue-green, and the leaves rattled as they tumbled along the streets and through the parks, picking up strays. Everything had come easy at school. For example, almost everyone had gotten an A on the math test from last week, and nobody had gotten lower than a C. The worst thing that had happened was that a couple of senior boys were smoking behind the building and had made rude comments to her, but their hearts weren’t in it. It was the kind of day where no elementary school kids were beaten up for their lunch money, no stray dogs were kicked, and no soufflés went flat.

Those days, those days. Those terrifying days.

About four o’clock the air turned damp and cool and wet. “It’ll be foggy tonight.” About a dozen people called her mom to tell her that, as if she didn’t know. With her husband working late at the factory tonight. Driving home in that fog.

“You never knew when something might happen.”

But that was it, wasn’t it? Nobody knew. Nobody knew why some people, on foggy nights in the town of East Smithville, just flat-out disappeared.

Or rather, everyone knew why. The fairies took people.

They would take one or two or three or six people a year. The records went back to 1875, and there were no years where no people were taken; the most was six, although one of them had looked more like a crib death than a taking, at least to Lee.

But it could have started before 1875. That’s just when the records started.

The question was: how did the fairies decide who to take?

Read more here!

(https://books2read.com/tenebrosities-good-neighbors)

New Release: Evil Twin

New short story release, a horror/suspense tale in the vein of Twilight Zone

Universal Buy Link | Goodreads

A haunting tale of a monster who lived inside mirrors, and the ghost he left behind when he died…

What would you do to get rid of an abusive ghost?

When Michael’s father died, he left behind a grown-up family shattered by years of his broken, abusive, alcoholic behavior—and a legion of adoring fans who hung on every word of his stories.

They called him creative. But the truth was that Michael’s father had the ability to violate the boundary between one side of the mirror and the other, traveling between reflections and watching, and interfering, with other people’s private lives until there was little of the man left—only a monster.

Now the man is dead. But part of the monster has been left behind…

Evil Twin

One last time of cleaning up after you, Dad.

I’d slept downstairs on the couch, expecting him to get up and stumble downstairs, looking for beer or bourbon or something to piss in, but his body was still in the shower stall. His hip, covered with old blue jeans, lay against the glass door, pressed flat against the soap scum. His head lay against the fiberglass wall, curly white-gold hair surrounding his head like a halo. His pants bulged, filled but fortunately not overrunning with shit. I was tempted to turn the shower on and hose him down, one last time. You’re a drunk, you’ve always been a drunk, you died a drunk, you even haunted me drunk. He still wore his professorial corduroy jacket with leather patches at the elbows, real as the number on the scale after Thanksgiving. At least he hadn’t haunted me in the leisure suit Mom had him buried in.

I shoved the double-paned shower doors open so I could get at his legs. His right boot caught against the glass, then suddenly unstuck itself and lumped onto the rug. I grabbed him by the ankle and pulled until his head thumped onto the shower floor, then lifted his other leg and turned his hips around until he was an L-shape with his legs out on the tiles.

If he’d been alive, I would have worried about tearing the skin under his shirt, or on his face. A fact learned from my long history of cleaning up after my father: cheekbones get caught on the damnedest things. Ridges between rooms, uneven tiles, rubber floor mats. I used to always put a pillow under his head when I had to drag him out of places by myself, one of those u-shaped corduroy travel pillows. Kept it in a Ziploc bag under the passenger seat in the car, so the car wouldn’t smell like puke.

I pulled him out of the shower stall onto the rug, being careful not to look toward the medicine cabinet, and checked that he wasn’t leaving a trail. He was; the cup had runneth over. I rolled both Dad and the rug onto a fitted sheet from the closet that I couldn’t remember seeing lately on our bed. I closed my eyes as I passed the hall mirror, then covered it with a sheet on the way back.

Then I called Joanna and got serious about dragging him out of the house…

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