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Monday, May 3, 2021

Excerpt: Bottle Demon (Eric Carter Book 6) by Stephen Blackmoore

Paranormal noir perfect for fans of Jim Butcher, Warren Ellis, and Chuck Wendig, the acclaimed Eric Carter series by Stephen Blackmoore follows necromancer Eric Carter through a world of vengeful gods and goddesses, mysterious murders, and restless ghosts. 

by Stephen Blackmoore 
May 4, 2021
301 pages
The Necromancer is dead. Long live the Necromancer.

After being attacked by a demon in the one place he thought he was safe, Eric Carter has been killed, his soul sent to take its place as a stand-in for the Aztec god of death Mictlantecuhtli. But somebody on Earth isn't done with him, yet. Somebody with the power to bring him back from the dead. He doesn't know who, and worse he doesn't know why.

Between an angry death goddess, family secrets steeped in blood, a Djinn who's biding his time, and a killer mage who can create copy after copy of himself, Eric's new life looks to be just as violent as his last one. But if he doesn't get to the bottom of why he's back, it's going to be a hell of a lot shorter
Praise for the Eric Carter novels
“Demons and dark magic and gods of death: what's not to like? Blackmoore's hard-charging prose hits like a bullet fired from a cursed gun.”—Chuck Wendig, author of Blackbirds

“Eric Carter's adventures are bleak, witty, and as twisty as a fire-blasted madrone, told in prose as sharp as a razor. Blackmoore is the rising star of pitch-black paranormal noir. A must-read series.”—Kat Richardson, author of the Greywalker series

“Blackmoore's third urban fantasy featuring Los Angeles-based necromancer Eric Carter is freewheeling and laced with smart-alecky banter....Blackmoore keeps the action brisk and the mood light, sprinkling his text with breezy witticisms.”—Publishers Weekly

Chapter 1
Let me tell you about Belize.
Few years back I get hired by this burnt-out software millionaire who's convinced that the ghosts of his dead enemies are trying to murder him. All the normals he talks to think he's crazy, which he is. Totally batshit. Doesn't mean he's wrong. My line of work, things like this are an actual occupational hazard. I was in New York at the time and had just gone through a bad breakup where the girl I was seeing tried to eat my soul, and I figured getting out of town might not be a bad idea.
So I take his money, fly down to Belize, meet him at his compound. It's this weird Winchester House sort of thing with stairs that lead nowhere, doors that open onto windows, shit like that. Got a fifteen-foot-tall, razor-wire-topped wall surrounding the whole place. I'd have written him off as completely nuts except somebody's carved runes and sigils into the walls to ward against everything from demons to cockroaches. He might have been a normal, but he knew enough to hire real mages.
I do my thing. The only possibility is a Haunt of a murdered neighbor about five miles away who hated him, but more in a "Get off my lawn or I'll shoot you," paranoid sort of way, rather than a "I shall seek my vengeance from beyond the grave" sort of way. Guy's not a Wanderer, so he's not going anywhere. I reassure Mister Software Millionaire that if anybody is trying to kill him, they're not already dead.
Cue epic party. To be fair the epic party had started about a week before, and it was just finding its pace. He had like a hundred-and-fifty people in the place with him snorting, smoking, fucking. Real extroverted for a guy with an almost Howard Hughes level of paranoia. So, being a good guest, of course I joined in.
One morning as I'm staggering out of somebody's bedroom, he comes up to me and says, "Eric, do you want to see God?"
I can say from recent experience that when confronted with a question like that the best course of action is to say no, but at that point I'd never met a god. A few powerful spirits like the Voodoo Loa Baron Samedi and Maman Brigitte, but nothing you could really get behind on the whole divinity thing. But I figure he's talking metaphorically and grunt something that sounds like assent.
Guy hands me half a dozen pills of some shit he got from Singapore that's so new it doesn't even have a name yet. And before he tells me I should take half of one, I've already swallowed all six.
When I come back to myself it's two months later and I'm standing in the Belizean jungle, half-naked, covered in mud, waving a flaming machete around at some poor bastard who turns out to be my guide. He doesn't mind the machete so much, crazy fucking gringos are kind of a thing out here, but the fact that I'd cast a spell to wreath it in fire has him a little freaked out. I have no idea why I'm there, how I got there, or why the Belizean police are currently looking for me.
So when I wake up lying on my side, naked and sweating, vomiting black bile onto a cold concrete floor, lights swimming around me, with no idea how I got here, where here is, or why I've got a hole in my memory so big I can barely see the edges, all I can think of is Belize.
Somebody hammers on my back, dislodging more of the black crap from my stomach, lungs, sinuses. I don't even want to know what's happening on the other end. The hacking and dry heaves subside, and I'm rolled onto my back, and someone wipes my face with a rough towel.
A face dips into my vision. Goggles, respirator, surgical cap. A hand gloved in purple nitrile comes up and waves. "Hello!" A woman's voice, British accent, muffled behind the mask.
She pulls the mask and goggles off. They catch a bit in the surgical cap, but eventually she gets it all off with a motion like she's slapping mosquitos off her face. Eventually I can see a woman with Indian features, black hair, a vibrant smile that says, "I'm batshit crazy, how are you?"
I have absolutely no idea who this person is.
"Sorry," she says. "I do hate those things. But, you know, fumes. Can you hear me? Oh. I probably should have started with that." I try to say something. Anything. But all I can do is twitch my fingers. She sees the twitch and amazingly her smile gets a little bit wider, like the Cheshire Cat on meth. I manage to make a vague sound that at a stretch could be considered speech.
"I haven't the foggiest idea what you just said," she says. "But you've gotten most of that crap out of your system and you have air in your lungs, and your larynx seems to work, so yay!"
My mind feels like it's been run across a belt-sander, my thoughts too smooth to get a grip on. Like I'm looking at a shattered funhouse mirror, each piece reflecting back a distorted view of who I am. None of them quite sync up.
"Did it work?" A man's voice, deep, rough, like a rockslide. I can't move my head to see him, but the scorn in his voice and the disapproval on her face tell me these are not the best of friends.
"If it didn't, I wouldn't bloody well be talking to him, would I?"
"That's what you said last time."
"The fuck just happened?" I force the words out, straining not only to get the sounds, but simply to remember them.
"Oh, nothing much," she says. The nonchalant tone disappears into bubbly excitement. "Just the most amazing piece of magic no one's done for a few thousand years. And it worked. Go me!"
"Yeah, this time," says the unseen man.
"Piss off, Joseph," she says over her shoulder. "Don't mind him, darling. He's just jealous that you're not dead and he is."
I hear the muffled pop of gunshots in the distance. "That was fast," says the man. I can hear metal on metal as he racks the slide on a gun.
"Of course it was fast," the woman says. "Everyone in a bloody thirty-mile radius knows something happened here, and at least a dozen know what it was. Now give me a hand getting him out of this circle."
"Not my job," he says. "I'm here to kill shit, not do manual labor. Exit plan's your department." I hear the metallic shred of a rusting door open and close.
"I swear that man is such a cunt," the woman says. "Now, where were we? Ah, yes. Escape. This is so exciting."
She grabs my wrists and begins to heave me across the room, grunting with the effort. I try to move my head to get a better idea of the space, but I can barely twitch my eyelids.
"If I had a pound for every dead-weight naked man I've had to drag across a room, I'd be richer than the Queen, let me tell you." She finally gets me where she wants me and lets my arms fall to the floor. I try to move but nothing's quite working. She stands over me, feet on either side of my chest, and crouches down to get a good look at me. Long black hair spilling over her shoulders, strands glued to her forehead with sweat. She's wearing one of those lab bunny suits with the hood down.
She listens to my heart with a stethoscope, pulls out a penlight, shines it into my eyes. Feels like my brain's being stabbed with an ice pick. I try to wince, but I just don't have the strength.
"Everything appears to be in order. All the things in all their right places. No extra limbs. None missing. Heart's beating. Now I must say the tattoos are a bit unexpected. You'll have to tell me about that, but right now darling, we're a bit pressed for time. If we both survive the next few hours, perhaps we can get together over tea and you can tell me all about it. If not, it was simply lovely to have met you. Ta!"
She touches my forehead with two fingers, the coolness a sharp contrast against my fevered skin, and everything goes black.

About the Author:
Stephen Blackmoore is a Los Angeles-based writer of crime and horror. His short stories have appeared in the magazines Needle, Plots with Guns, Spinetingler, Thrilling Detective, Shots, and Demolition. He has also written essays on LA politics and crime for the website and the LA Noir true crime blog. His work also appears in noir anthologies.

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