Friday, May 3, 2013
Title: Faulkner’s Apprentice
Author: Val Muller
Published: April 30th, 2013
Word Count: 84,000
Genre: Horror (Supernatural Thriller)
Content Warning: Suggestive themes, non-graphic sexuality, and mild violence
Age Recommendation: 18+
Misfit and struggling writer Lorei Franklin has always struggled in life. Juggling an ailing mother, busy-body friends, and dead-end jobs, Lorei finally catches a break: she has won the L. Cameron Faulkner fiction contest, earning a three-week stay with the reclusive and famous horror writer. But her time at Faulkner's mansion is not what she expected. She is plagued by a man in a fedora, two frightened assistants, and a series of strange visions--not to mention all the scratches on the walls. She also struggles with her feelings for Faulker--she's had a crush on him since his cameo appearance in his movie, but he's much more intimidating, and attractive, in person. The isolated mansion makes it difficult for Lorei to contact her dying mother, the only person who knows the identity of Lorei’s real father. As the novel progresses, Lorei learns that the creepy visions she’s experiencing are flash-forwards of her own future life in the mansion. As she discovers, the man in the fedora has a sinister purpose--as the devil, he has claimed Faulkner's soul but will relinquish it in exchange for Lorei's--as it turns out, she is his daughter, and he’s been out to possess her for years. Now desperate, the devil is pulling out all his cards. To beat him, Lorei will have to fight her growing lust for Faulkner, ignore her love for her mother, stifle her fear of the mansion and that which is hidden in the walls, and abandon her dreams of becoming an author. If she can only accomplish those things, perhaps she can escape the devil’s grasp and avoid becoming the tormented old woman in her visions...
But when she looked up to greet the last customer in line, Lorei's confidence shattered. The color on her cheeks drained with her adrenaline. It was a man in a worn, brown fedora and a weathered trench coat: it was the same man who had been creeping near her backyard.
This time, he was close enough for her to examine his face. The face was so gruesome that the man’s gaze terrified her, yet it was so horribly captivating that she could not look away. The face was wrinkled, leathery, and gaunt. Pouches of flesh sagged under his eyes, and when he smiled at her, the flabby flesh stretched tight against his lips. His gnarled and knobby nose reminded Lorei of a haunted old tree that grew outside her childhood bedroom window; it housed a spooky old owl that used to keep her awake with its ghostly hooting. He looked more like a scarecrow than a man. Lorei shuddered as the strange man stepped up to the table and cleared his throat. Other customers mingled around the store, each one clutching his newly-signed book like a precious treasure. They who had been so adamant to see her a moment ago seemed to have forgotten her existence. She was left horribly alone and had no choice but to confront the man with her gaze.
His countenance held all the properties of childhood nightmares—unexplainable and visceral and terribly real. His skin was weathered like the aging autumn; gnarled and twisted, it seemed to protest its own age. His bottom lip was swollen and split on one side with scarred-over stitches holding it together. Above the opposite eyebrow was a wide and leathery scar. Shadowed by a heavy brow sunk two piercing eyes, coal-black. The gaze that blazed from them pierced Lorei with shrillest of winter winds and yet burned through her core like fire.
“I—” was all she could mutter. She sat paralyzed. The man held no book for her to sign and said nothing. His hands he kept in his coat pockets, his gaze penetrating all the while. He seemed comfortable enough standing in silence.
Lorei looked again for the manager, but Diane stood absorbed in conversation on the other side of the store. Like the customers, she was oblivious to Lorei’s situation. Lorei and the stranger were enclosed in their own private sphere of existence. Even if she screamed, she knew that no one would hear. No one would look. There was something intangible that separated her from the rest of humanity just then.
She closed her eyes, hoping that it was all just her imagination. But when she opened them again, the man was still there. He had removed his hands from his pockets, and they were fondling the inside cover of Faulkner’s newest book. He ran his finger up and down the dust jacket, tracing the contours of Faulkner’s headshot. “Something sad about his face, don’t you think?” the man asked. His voice was at once wispy and gruff enough to match his appearance. It had the qualities of a lonely fall breeze rustling through the last of the dried leaves that were nature’s only stronghold against the death of winter.
About the Author:
English teacher by day, writer by night, Val grew up in cold and haunted New England, which seems to have colored her works with a tinge of the macabre. She currently lives in Northern Virginia with her husband and two corgis, a rambunctious and curious dog named Leia, and a kind and obedient (yet terrified) dog named Yoda. Val writes for children and adults and, when not performing her day job as an English teacher, attends book events and elementary schools to conduct writing workshops.
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There is a tour wide giveaway. Prizes include the following:
• Corgi Capers: Deceit on Dorset Drive
• Corgi Capers 2: The Sorceress of Stoney Brook
• For Whom My Heart Beast Eternal
• Faulkner’s Apprentice
Winner may choose between print and eBook if located in the US. Winner will receive an eBook if international.
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