Crossroad Press has announced that it will be releasing my most recent completed novel, The Monarchs, late this year or early next, in hardcover, paperback, e-book, and audio book formats. The story is something of a hybrid — a southern gothic murder mystery with a touch of Lovecraftian horror. The cover art, featured here, is provided by Austin Bentley. The novel is set in the Dismal Swamp of North Carolina, a place that I became a bit more familiar with than I would have liked when I got lost there several years ago, following a visit with friend, writer, and Crossroad Press founder David Niall Wilson in Hertford, NC. It happened like this. Rather than leave Hertford and head home to Greensboro, I had intended to go to Martinsville, VA, to visit my mom. At the time, having no GPS, I studied Google Maps prior to leaving and wrote out some directions to get to U.S. Highway 58, just over the state line. Unfortunately, I had not zoomed in close enough on the maps to realize that not all the little back roads on my route were continuous — a couple of them had jogs in one direction or another before they continued northward. Needless to say I missed a turn or two. This put me in some of the most desolate country I've ever encountered — mostly marshland, with only the occasional farmhouse or mobile home to suggest any human presence. I finally happened upon a little gas station and asked the attendants if they could tell me how to reach Highway 58, to which they answered, "Huh, what, where?" I purchased an honest-to-god map, finally figured out where I was, and proceeded to make only one more wrong turn before I finally reached my destination.
At the end of it all, I had just about all of The Monarchs plotted in my head. It was a maddening and frustrating experience, yet I'd certainly never take it back, for in many ways, I enjoyed visiting the desolate yet picturesque countryside, and, hey, I got a novel out of it.
Here's a brief plot summary:
After her husband murders their daughter and then commits suicide, Courtney Edmiston, devastated and homeless, accepts an invitation to move in with her old college friend, Jan Blackburn. Jan lives with her brother, David, and eccentric Aunt Martha in the town of Fearing, North Carolina, at the edge of the Dismal Swamp. The Blackburn family has suffered its own recent tragedies — and Courtney learns that Jan and David have more than their share of enemies in the town. Because of her association with them, Courtney soon finds Fearing a very dangerous place to live. Certain members of the Surber family, who once worked for the Blackburns, hold a deep grudge against Jan and David and, on several occasions, attempt brutal acts of violence against them. Courtney, determined to help her friend in her own time of crisis, sets out to broker a peace but instead becomes more and more mired in the bitter feud.
For reasons Courtney cannot comprehend, many of the townspeople fear old Martha Blackburn. However, she begins to understand why when Martha threatens the Surbers with swift retribution — by way of a ghostly entity known as the Monarch — and gruesome death does indeed visit the Surbers. And to her horror, Courtney, caught between the two feuding families, at last becomes the focus of Aunt Martha’s fury.
In desperation, two of the Surber brothers abduct Courtney and Jan and threaten to kill them unless the Blackburns meet their demands. However, Martha unleashes the horrific Monarch against her family's rivals. And Courtney, whom Martha now considers an enemy, becomes as much a target for its inhuman wrath as the remaining members of the treacherous Surber family....
I will post updates and ordering information when available, here and at my website: www.stephenmarkrainey.com.