Welcome to Hell

A Chiller from Jearl Rugh’s Thriller: 

Just in time for Halloween, here’s a passage from Born to Make the Kill.


Like a dreamless sleep, over the last day Hank had no connection with the life ebbing from him one heart beat at a time. No day nor night, no sunrise nor sunset, no past nor present and the future, a concept yet unborn. Comatose, the lost day started like the last breath before anesthesia rips all thought away and ended at the same moment—no sense of time’s ceaseless movement. No reality—no dark nor light, no sound nor sight, no scent nor touch—just nothing. Until there was something most terrifying.

Hank felt his body pummel through a density like that of the earth’s crust. Whether pushed or pulled, a power greater than he drove him like a relentless missile deeper in his descent and bored a path through the solid mass. The solidity compressed behind him as he pierced through and left no evidence of his passing. His flesh ripped away from his muscles and then the muscles split open with excruciating gashes as he descended further through the compaction. He couldn’t move a limb by his own will and he dared not open his eyes as he knew that against the onslaught of the mass they would be shred to ribbons.

Then, in the terror, there were hands, disembodied hands, millions of hands grabbed and pulled at him as he passed though. They slashed at his lacerated flesh and exposed muscles, and worked their razor-edged fingers into the wounds to tear them deeper and deeper until the bone was bare. How they came out from this density he couldn’t imagine. No one could. And then he heard them; the voices that once belonged to the hands. They screamed and shrieked, not from the horror of their eternal damnation but for the pain, the searing torment of the endless millennia of their punishment.

He broke through the dense crust and began to free-fall. At first relief to be released from the agony of his flesh being ripped away brought calm to his mind, but then he felt them. They floated all around him. Some were solid and slashed into him like a whip of vengeance. Some writhed over his body like a swarm of vipers. Others piercing through him and left a freezing chill and something like shattered icicles in their tunneled path. He opened his eyes only to be confronted with the shifting faces of the screaming horde. Their mouths were wide black holes that morphed in grotesque shapes, and their eye sockets were orange flashing balls of flame. They never took a breath so the shattering timbre of their anguish never ceased.

As he tried without success to avoid the inevitable and continuous collisions, he sensed a dread fill his soul with a darkness blacker than the densest ink in a writer’s well, and knowledge beyond imagination witnessed that these were the fortunate ones. Terror engulfed him as he realized his doom would yet be revealed.

As he continued to plummet and the voice’s crescendo penetrated every fiber of his being, the most acrid, sulfuric scent he could imagine filled his nostrils. Something from his past described it as brimstone. It came from the smoke that rose to meet him. It filled his lungs until he could no longer cough it out or breathe it in and as it passed over his tongue, it filled his mouth with a polluted bitterness. The pace of his plunge escalated and the smoke, so dense he could feel it against his body, thrashed, whipped and snarled. But he couldn’t see its source.

Then he felt a new sensation—warmth—but not a comfort like a blanket on a chilly Boston night—heat. The heat of a thousand suns intensified by millions of magnifying glasses focused their pin points of light on every cell of his ravaged skin. The further he fell the more intense it became until it was intolerable, but even then it increased. The smell of his burning flesh began to fill the already noxious air and he saw what remained of his skin had begun to blister, blacken, smolder and melt. Next his bones began to burn and boil from the inside out. His marrow turned into something like smelting steel. The source of the heat now revealed itself. Orange, green, blue and black flames leapt from some vast unknown body through the smoke and seared his flesh even more. He opened his mouth to scream, but when no air filled his lungs, no sound escaped.

And then there was silence.

A silence so deafening he thought he would lose his mind. A silence so dark, so sinister, he feared whatever may lie before him, would be so much worse than what he had passed through. He recognized his mind functioned fully, but his body was paralyzed as if it had turned to stone. His face began to contort beyond his will into the shape of a demonic scream. The fall stopped and he was suspended over the raging caldron below. The flames lapped up and engulfed him, burned him, charred him, but did not consume him.

Then a distinct voice came out of the din and mayhem.

“Welcome, Henry Plancrest-Rogers,” the deep haunted voice resonated from a place within his own skull.

Laughter from the host of the tormented erupted uncontrolled and then it twisted into contempt, sneers, and derision as they gave sardonic jeers at his arrival.

“Where am I? Who are you? What is this place?” Hank screamed and was surprised that he had found breath and that his voice had begun to work again.

”Welcome to Hell!” came the voice again and it echoed unrestrained in his mind. “This is the place of the damned, the place of the unrepentant.”

by Featured Author, Jerry Rugh  Published with permission




The Exile Returns

Casimund is the exiled elf high-prince of the Golden City, sent away for treason and love. To return he must do away with the one who exiled him.


“The only way out is the way you came in.”

Casimund, elf high-prince of the Golden City and exile these three years from family and throne, sharpened his knifeblade. The edge sparked in the flame of the marsin-bowl lamp, light glinting on the glassy cave-walls. The faint crash of distant waves were an echo of his trial.

“Lord Casimund, you are guilty of treason for your union with humankind. Your doom is exile in the Far Islands.” The judge snapped the black stick of doom into Casimund’s hand. The sentence was final, his own anger fixed. Casimund had snapped that doomstick himself, sending foes to death or exile. No doomstick would mete the judge; Casimund was cold with fury.

The two pieces were behind him now, in the store-spot. Mercy on Gladre was slow starvation; judgment was death by unquenched hope.

He drew a heliogram with the broken doomstick, lit the tallow candle, and chanted.burning-candle-clip-art

Abromax appeared as green lines in the darkness. “My lord Casimund. What has summoned me?”

“As ever, the maiden Allesand, who beckons me in dreams to home and child. Tell me, in your night wanderings, have you seen the Council’s eyes? Will they allow my return?”

“My vision is not to the future. That is hidden from all save the Great One. We content ourselves with power over sky and water only.”

“Was I right to woo and wed?”

“Acts completed judge and cannot be broken. But the heart rules with power will itself cannot break.” The mage faded.

Casimund erased the heliogram, snuffed the candle, and took up his rough bow. He would hunt today again for the cold season ahead.

Fish and fowl were in abundance, and island freshwater streams eased thirst. But none would see or praise his deeds or gain his wrath. Another notch the morrow in exile, thinking of Allesand and their half-breed manchild and elven-son, and of the judge who sundered them.

Unbidden Abromax appeared. “My lord Casimund, news. A sea-boat from the Golden City drifts in the swampy marge. There is naught but sand and shells within; mayhap it means your returning. We must leave at once. Carry knife and candle and doomstick. Follow, my lord, to the marges.”

The day’s journey through thicket, waste, and forest brought him to gray marge-land. The light of Twen, moon of Gladre, opened the path before him.

“We are close now. Let patience guide you.”

In the distance lay a white boat on the sand.

Abromax spoke. “Ahead is danger far beyond the trap of mud and slash of thorns. Hold your knife close and your nerves closer. One final gift and way from exile: a termagant stone. Near your heart it will guide your unerring way home. Lose it and in the Far Islands dwell until doom is done.”

The stone was warm. A bird on wing in a dark sky; flecks of gold were stars and a white stone was the moon Twen.

The boat held shells and sand, but unsaid by Abromax was a bundle of linen and rope.

He took loosened the bonds, then opened the linen to reveal a body curled in slumber.

He looked in. His father’s sleeping face caught the blue light of Twen.

The last sight of his father came upon him: the last words, exile; the last act, the doomstick’s thunder.

His own knife warmed his hand, the moonlight glimmering the edge.

“Where am I?”

Casimund drew back. “In loneliness. What brought you here, stranger?”

“I know not. I fell asleep by wife and hearth. Now I find myself in the night. What are you, fellow?”

“I am no one.”

“Your voice–it is familiar. Do I–did I–know you?”

“No. I am an exile.”

“Your voice is of someone lost to me. He was no one, a betrayer. None mourn his passing.”

The waves washed the silence of the rocky beach.

“His end?”

The familiar roar of his father’s voice rose. “The doomstick for his betrayal!”

“You are with me, stranger, now in exile until you die of despair. Your doom without doomstick.”

There was silence, then a sob. “Kill me now. I cannot bear to be apart from all who love me. I have lost everything, even one I cannot name.”

The termagant stone burned against his heart. His father lay helpless before him.

The knife came down in a quick slash.

“You are free of all bonds. Free of despair and danger. Return in peace to your family.”

He took his father’s hand, opened it, and placed the termagant stone in the palm. “Go now, stranger. The stone will guide you.”

His father’s head rose up. The light of Twen lit his doomed son.


Casimund pushed the boat into the sea and stood in the waves to watch him go into the night and darkness.

He awoke from his slumber on the beach. The broken doomstick was in his hand.

“My lord Casimund, fair morning to you.”

“Fair travels to you, Abromax. He who pronounced my doom has called my name. What madness is this? Is my exile over?”

“No. Your exile lies within you, high elf and wanderer. Your doom and end are your own choosing.”


“Doomsticks broken can be restored. A judge may pardon. A son can forgive. You must return as son and high prince and father. Thrust the doomstick into the candle.”

Abromax began to chant:

Say the words of doom’s unraveling,

Fortune’s lost and home’s returning,

King and elf and child restoring

Father, son, and kingdom gathering.


Fog and sand swirled around. Choked by dust, he cried out and fell as darkness overcame him.

The fair Allesand greeted him. “Welcome, husband and high prince!”

He shook his head to clear the fog. “Allesand!”

Laughter of a young boy stopped him. In the doorway Nurse held the hand of their half-breed heir.

Over the doorway were the words in elvish script: “The only way out is the way you came in.”

by Stephen J. Matlock, Featured Author  Published with permission

This is a flash fiction short story written for the NYCMidnight contest. We get a prompt and must write 1000 words in 48 hours, and we must fit the story to the genre, location, and necessary prop. For this story, the genre was fantasy, the location was a deserted island, and the prop was a candle. -SJM

Call to Writers – Submit Your Stories Here!

Me? I’m guilty too. I don’t always look at the back pages on blogs. So I’m posting our content from ‘Contact Us’ asking for your stories here on the FVP Home Page.  I look forward to hearing from you soon! …Yes, YOU! Don’t be shy….

We would love to hear from you, and will always consider your story submissions to feature as posts on our home page with links to your sites. They can be excerpts from longer works, short or flash fiction, or poetry–preferably with a sense of story. Our site rating is PG. Pieces with no more than 500 words are preferred, though up to 1000 words are acceptable. You can also include an image to go with your writing if you own it or have permission for its use. Please indicate image credit.  Submit to: FreeValleyPublishing@gmail.com

We also offer support to writers who are working toward publishing or who are marketing newly published works. We have a pool of authors with a font of experience to share. Please let us know what you’re working on and how we can help.

We hope you’ll comment on what you read here and/or comment to tell us what you’re up to in your reading or writing. We welcome you to become part of the FreeValley community.

Drop us a line at FreeValleyPublishing@gmail.com

Thanks for stopping in!

Sheri J. Kennedy, Editor, FreeValley Publishing



Sometimes stories can be accounts of everyday things that become extraordinary in the telling. Ella has a fabulous style that pulled me in and wove her many stories into one lively tale.
Reblogged with Permission…Thanks Ella!

Sick and Sick of It

Sometimes I feel like a bowling pin. Life is the big, scary, heavy bowling ball that comes hurling at me and knocks me down. Then something comes along and sets me upright again, and I just have to brave things out.

What a week I have had, let me tell you. In a nutshell, I had an awesome literature class, I had a pain attack in my elbow, my mom was in a car accident, I had a family adventure, I lost all hope I had of having a good year and I had the most awesome backgammon experience ever. I’m much too tired to tell you about everything, but I will write about some.

I was sitting in math class on Monday, and suddenly my elbow started to hurt. Damn Fibromyalgia. Very quickly I couldn’t move my arm at all, and I left the classroom to try and find…

View original post 1,207 more words

NaNoWriMo’s Just Around the Corner!

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is a worldwide phenomenon, but I probably don’t need to tell you…you’ve already heard about it, right? Join the already 65,274 writers who’ve signed up this year and the 341,375 from 2012 and take the crazy plunge with us. No Plot? No Problem This is a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants venture. And we’ll be there to scoop you up along the way!

Snoqualmie Valley, home of FreeValley Publishing, has a very active NaNoWriMo community. Feel free to home with this region and we’ll offer lots of support on our forum. If you’re in the area, travel with us Around the Valley in 30 Days! with action packed Write-Ins and Events starting with our Regional Kick-off Party!!

NaNo Kick-off Flyer 2013

Road Home

Caroline walked through the heat in the last embers of sunset, down the freeway off-ramp hoping against Hope that a cop wouldn’t catch her now that she was almost out of the illegal hitch-hiking zone.  The hot wind stirred dust onto her back as she headed into Truck Town, stuck for another night.

Caroline washed her hands and dabbed the sweat from her face.  The image in the mirror looked morose.  She was worn from nursing and grieving her aunt’s cancer.  Things were never going to get better there.  It wasn’t her problem.  She had to go.  Despair hung in the shadows surrounded by her long dark hair—full of dirt and tired dreams.  She thought going to Vegas would be exciting.  Maybe if she had some money things would be different.  She considered what she might have to sell.

Maybe she could get a ride if she offered one of the truckers some companionship.  It didn’t have to lead to anything extreme.  She could just smile and laugh and flatter him.   She tried a fetching smile and gave a flirtatious giggle to the mirror.  Okay, just a regular smirk would do.

Ben watched for the girl as she came out of the restroom, and he was pleased with the transformation.  Seems she was looking for more than a quick pit stop.

“Mind if I sit?” she tried the guy on the end stool.

“I’m Ben.  And you’re very welcome.  I always welcome the company of a gal as pretty as you.”

She giggled her ridiculous chortle and didn’t even notice.  He warmed to it like the sound of a pouring cup of coffee. He gave out an obvious leer.

She was flustered by his reaction and tried to diffuse the situation without losing a potential ride.“I might be willing to keep you company for awhile if you’re going my way. I’m gonna get a job in Vegas, and I’m a good friend to talk to.”

Desperation, he surmised.  He would take her—real slow.  “I like some good conversation.”  Ben gave her a crooked grin and signaled the waitress to bring another coffee and slice of pie.

Though the words suggested she might get to her destination, she felt Despair’s chill finger run down her spine. She went silent and let him ramble on until a pause made her scramble for a topic to hold up her end of the bargain.  “Uh, what’s the craziest thing that ever happened on a load?”

His mind flashed images of Greta, the wildest woman west of the continental divide, but he tamed the story to female-friendly crazy.  “One night when I was running out near Duluth, in the dead of winter, a huge white wolf was sitting in the middle of the highway.  I couldn’t hit the brakes on a downhill in the snow, so I moved across the lanes and prayed to Jeezuz not to jack-knife.  I maintained the rig and continued down the highway, and within another mile, there was another white wolf in the same lane—just standing there.  They didn’t even flinch when my rig rumbled by.  They just shimmered in the moonlight like ghostly apparitions.   But I know they were there.  Made me shiver to the bone.”

She shivered too.  “I saw a wolf once at my aunt’s place—my home.”

He noted the perky shape of her nose and her pursed lips as she focused on her memory. Her eyes looked far away. When her guard dropped, a flicker of pain showed and was gone.

“He came out from the rocks as I was walking at night under the stars.  There was a full moon, and the shadows were stark on the landscape. I used to wander when the moon was full.  My uncle—well, my aunt’s significant other, if you could call him significant—used to get drunk every night.  If I was too handy he’d come to my room, so I took to being as far away from him as I could.”  She paused, and cleared her throat lightly.

“So the wolf’s shape rose out of the shadows.  He seemed to be larger than the world when my heart beat with fear.  He was all alone, and it seemed like his spirit spoke to mine.  I was so tired of helping my aunt with her cancer treatment, and my uncle was no help at all.”  She went distant again, then continued.  “The wolf all alone out there inspired me to think of myself for a change…”

“I think we’d better hit the highway, little lady,” Ben interrupted when she paused again.

She shoveled in the last three bits of cinnamon-apple goodness and smiled at the change still safe within her pack.  She wondered if she would keep herself equally secure.  She looked at Ben’s face as he paid the bill.  He resembled their neighbor in town by Aunt Eva’s.  Jacob McLaren was a good man.  Why shouldn’t Ben be the same?  Her experience with loony humans and normal looking men took the comfort out of reason.

As she approached Ben’s truck, she felt the drag of Despair hitching a ride with them.  She pushed down the sensation.  She couldn’t stop now.  Not just because of some weird feeling.  She had to fight that to start this trip in the first place.  It was probably just guilt about leaving her aunt and fear of the unknown.  But she couldn’t cure her aunt, and she wasn’t going to let fear get in her way.

Ben broke into her dazed view of the road stripes flashing by,“What if you can’t get a job?”

A stab of fear passed through her gut as he voiced what haunted her most.  “I’ll be fine.”

He was silent.

She looked out at the black landscape sliding by without definition.  It reminded her of the land around her aunt’s place.  A dark hole opened in her soul.

“Where will you be staying?”

That was a question for sure.  Was he offering her a place to stay—with him?  Hope cautiously approached her, and Despair licked his lips.

Caroline gave Ben a pressed lip grin, and he returned it with a hungry smile.  She felt trapped and relieved.  A dangerous roof was better than no roof.  The streets would be worse than a room with Ben.  Her stomach flip-flopped.  Apparently it didn’t believe that any more than her heart did.

Caroline’s exhaustion trumped her anxiety as she sped toward Vegas taking the gamble of her life.  She dropped into an uneasy dream where she lay embedded in the roadway as semi-trucks kept barreling on by—tires missing her imprisoned body by half a tread.  She tried to cry out but couldn’t find her voice.  She knew it was just a matter of time before she was ground into the highway, where her dust would be blown away by the desert wind to be lost among the billion grains of dirt and sand.

Her fevered form eased into more soothing dreams.  A spirit wolf, formed of light from the stars, bounded over to her with Hope riding in its wake.  She became a being of light as well and rode the wolf down from the heights across the desert to the sea.  The wolf continued into the surf.  Caroline was engulfed in cool water and moonlight.  She clung to the wolf, believing the beautiful beast would set her free.  Her mind and spirit swam in the reflection of the heavens until she knew no more.  The spirit wolf nudged her to consciousness as they came ashore to a land as familiar as her own face.  It was her aunt’s land in California.  The place she had left on the far shore—but it was transformed with light, and Hope smiled upon her.  Her aunt stood in the doorway of their home and welcomed her with a strong embrace.

Caroline blinked awake and heaved a rich sigh.  She looked at Ben from the side of her eye.  She was sure she had him sized up right.  He’d never let her stay with him unscathed.  He’d expect fringe for his offered benefits.  But maybe things would be different if she confronted him head on—one lone wolf to another.

“Ben.  I hate to do this when we’ve come such a long way.  But I’ve come a long way myself, and I’ve come to a decision.  I don’t want to stay with you in Vegas—or anywhere else for that matter.  I’m not gonna sell myself to get anywhere, and I’m not gonna run away.  I left my aunt, sick and on her own, partly because I was afraid of my uncle.  But things are no different on the road.  You’ve been good to me, and I know you want something in return.  But what I want is to be left free on the highway.  I want to find my way back home.”

Ben boiled inside for a moment as he looked out over the last of the open desert under the moonlight.  His desire for the girl was at a fever-pitch, but he could see she wasn’t the despairing waif he had started out with from Truck Town.  She reminded him of that ghost-wolf on the road.

They were both silent as they came to the edge of The Strip.  Day was breaking and the desert sky was aglow with color.  Glorious morning, outshining the neon.

by Sheri J. Kennedy  from Essence Churning short story collection. Published with Permission

Image by Sheri J. Kennedy from THE Companion BOOK sketchbook project

Author Workshop with Stephen J. Matlock

FVP Workshop Matlock jpg

Our Featured Author, Stephen J. Matlock will be teaching a Workshop in North Bend, WA. on October 21st. If you’re in the area, RSVP to FreeValleyPublishing@gmail.com right away. Space is VERY limited. Here are the points he will cover:

  • What choices are there for self-publishing
  • eBook or  printed book or both
  • Where to sell your book
  • Domestic vs. International distribution
  • Getting paid
  • Tracking sales
  • Marketing your book online
  • Marketing your book through free downloads
  • Marketing your book through contests/giveaways
  • Setting up blog tours
  • Getting your book in the library
  • Getting your book in the master catalog for all bookstores
  • Setting up book signings
  • Getting your press release published in the paper
  • Using Twitter to market your book–automatically–for the domestic and international market
  • Setting up your Facebook pages
  • Setting up other social media
  • How to lose weight and stay slim (oh wait–that’s next time)

Stephen’s been writing technical documentation since the 80’s and recently published his novel STARS IN THE TEXAS SKY, a 2012 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award quarter-finalist. He’s successfully marketed his books through all the methods listed above, and has sold in the low 100’s of printed books and somewhere north of 500 copies of his eBook.

Be sure not to miss this opportunity to learn from his experience and talk with Stephen J. Matlock about your publication!