Book Review: Hunting Annabelle

Hunting AnnabelleHunting Annabelle by Wendy Heard

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I picked up this book because I wanted to expand my reading interests as well as to discover new authors. I was extremely happy I gave this author a chance.

Hunting Annabelle is about a young man named Sean who has a pretty gruesome past, as well as severe mental illness. It’s set back in the 80s in Texas, where he lives with his mother who is a respected doctor. Sean is an avid drawer and people-watcher, and so far he’s managed to stay out of trouble. He hasn’t hurt anyone and he does his best to keep in line, but everything falls apart when he meets Annabelle.

Oh, Annabelle.

But I won’t get into spoilers. The story begins with Sean meeting Annabelle at a popular amusement park, and he hangs out with her and ends up drawing her picture. He’s immediately taken away by her and he falls for her pretty quickly, and she seems to be an interesting and quirky character herself. There is a lot of mystery surrounding Annabelle and we don’t get answers until the end, which is definitely worth waiting for.

The book started to hang a bit near the middle, but the steps Sean takes to find Annabelle after she’s been supposedly kidnapped are necessary to the story. But that’s not to say it becomes uninteresting. We learn so much about Sean and how he tries so hard to fight down the urge to harm other people, and he does fail more than once. He’s an interesting and well thought out character, and I found myself loving him even with his horrible imperfections. I love characters who have quirks, darker moments, and flaws. It makes them feel real — human.

The mystery of the entire book continues to the end where you’re still guessing on what could really be going on. We do get clear answers, and maybe, just maybe the reader will suspect all the wrong people. You most certainly will be surprised, at least I was. I had a very strong emotional reaction to the scenes leading up to the end, and the ending itself made my sick little heart scream with joy.

If you enjoy dark and gritty, even disturbing, romance, then you’ll love this. Wendy has hit the mark with her debut novel, and she’s an excellent writer and storyteller. I will definitely be reading more books from her!

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Book Review: The Little Snake

The Little SnakeThe Little Snake by A.L. Kennedy

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’m not sure where to start or even how to review such an amazing story, but I can try. This is not normally a book I would have picked up, but I wanted to take a chance on something different.

In this very poetic fairytale-like story, we follow with both Mary and Lanmo the snake. Mary’s city seems to be crumbling around her as she gets older, and humans and technology are doing themselves in. Meanwhile, Lanmo, a very magical and special snake, who no human is ever to see unless it’s their time, becomes interested in Mary as a child. They become extremely close friends, and Mary teaches Lanmo, whether or not he realizes it, about what it means to love. This isn’t something Lanmo was ever meant to do.

This story pulled at my heart and the ending left me nearly in tears. With the interesting and unique way Kennedy weaves poetic words throughout the story, she chooses to not reveal a definite end with them. But it’s for the better, and I think when the reader comes to the end, they will know what truly happened.

I haven’t read something so amazing and quirky in a while, and it was refreshing. Kennedy’s love for strangely specific wording and pleasant-to-read run-ons give this book a rhythm solely its own. I’ve already started recommending it to friends, and I am going to definitely recommend it to anyone, of any age who can read it, for something more meaningful. And there is a lot of emotion, meaning, and subtle philosophy about humanity in this book, or so it felt to me.

In short, do yourself a favor and read this!

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Dog Days – original writing


The mug of catnip tea was trembling in his hands, and his black fur bristled beneath his gray sweater as the heavy-voiced pitbull delivered the news. It was as if the TV set was underwater, and everything around him was closing in fast.

A gentle hand on his shoulder ceased the impending doom if only for a moment. He leaned against a broad wolf’s shoulder, his boyfriend’s gray fur ticking his pink nose. “Sorry, Striker.”

“Hey, you’re fine, buddy. Just drink your tea.” The wolf’s soft tone was much more welcome than the sharp delivery invading the dark living room, and Striker found himself thankful for the sudden downpour outside. “I’ll keep you safe. Always. You know that, right, Sam?”

“Thank you. Just… give me a minute. I’m sorry.” The cat sipped his steaming tea and waited for the blanket of calm to wash over him. It was hard to come across catnip in that day and age, but he was thankful to know a few who grew the stuff. It was getting harder and harder to find reputable sources for it anyway, what with the police dogs’ superior sense of smell. They could sense a few plants of catnip from a mile away. Bloodhounds were like that.

“Hey, why don’t we change the channel? I think it’s time for your favorite show, anyway.” Striker fumbled with the chunky remote in his claws before switching to something more cheerful, and a beautiful white cat appeared on the screen. She smiled with a glow that most did not, and she planted herself on a stool where she crossed her legs, her white sundress with palm leaves falling gracefully just above her knees. She pulled out a book and began to read.

It was a rainy night in June when Tabitha fell into her dream. She rarely tripped or stumbled, or waltzed gracefully into it, but released herself into it fully, granting it ownership of her perceived reality. Sometimes she would fall flat or drift gently onto a chaise lounge, and at other times she would be welcomed by semblances of creatures she knew with blank faces, all smiling with whiskers upturned.

Adventurous opossums and bats and platypi greeted her with kinship, and the Dodo once had her over for supper. She’d danced with butterflies and spoken to young foxes, and stargazed with raccoons. She’d seen the future and traipsed through the past, Bastet greeting her with motherly grace. Through all of this, Tabitha knew peace and love, home and comfort, and it was her kind of unreality. It was her homesick and her tears, and her fond memories yet to come.’

Samhain sighed as the catnip calmed his aching muscles and tickled his brain. He’d spent the better part of the day tense and with worry, the sight of Catty on screen bringing him a semblance of home at last. The news had been filled with nothing but bad things, and politics had become more and more unbearable to behold. It was bad enough that he was in hiding with Striker, and Striker knew as well the risks they had to take.

Love did not come easy in those times, and especially not for the others.

Samhain was othered, and Striker was not. It was pure fate that they’d managed to find comfort in each other, and as the bulldog-majority government created more and more restrictions for felines in society, Striker stood by Samhain through all of it. He was as loyal a companion as canines were thought to be. As they were to their own kind and only their kind.

Tears threatened to spill over Samhain’s golden eyes as a poodle stood from the crowd on television. She barked loudly toward the stage and threw a rotten fish that landed directly on the book in Catty’s hands after slapping her in the face. The short-haired cat paid it no mind and brushed it off, and continued reading as if it hadn’t happened at all. The poodle was ushered out of the room, and the cats in the audience began to murmur and growl in displeasure.

Striker grabbed for the remote again. “Hey, we don’t have to keep watching this.”

“No, it’s fine.” Samhain’s claws drifted up to turn the wolf’s face to meet his, and he kissed him softly. “It’s far better than anything else on TV right now, and Catty is so wonderful. Her peace of mind is contagious.”

Striker’s face twisted in sadness as he watched his partner stare glassy-eyed at the TV, the catnip claiming his conscious thoughts. For a moment a great emotion welled up within him, and his heart beat faster behind his red flannel. He turned Samhain to look him in the eyes, his equally as golden. “Sam, are you okay?”

“Of course.” The cat chuckled humorlessly. “I have to be, don’t I?”

The rain outside became a torrent and thunder resounded. Shortly after, the electricity in their small suburban home flickered. Striker paid it no mind as his ears drooped. “No, you don’t have to be. It’s okay to not be okay sometimes.”

Samhain paused and inhaled deeply. His catnip tea was nearly gone. He turned his head to stare at the TV again, Catty having once more continued with the poetic journey of Tabitha the Persian cat. He then drifted back to Striker, who hadn’t stopped observing him. His heart sunk. “I’m scared. There isn’t a way in this world for me, nor for anyone of feline descent. My heart flutters and my fur prickles, and my tail curls between my legs. My breaths come short and my purr is a deception to my truth, and every day I look into your eyes, as beautiful as they are, and I question you.”

“You question me?”

“But then I realize you are not like them. I realize you are one of the lucky ones.” Samhain smiled and pecked Striker’s black nose before returning to Catty.

As the rain poured outside and the thunder boomed, the two became one with the sofa and basked in the sole light of the TV set flickering in the room, and they knew they were with each other and that they were where they needed to be, and that they would be safe.

They had to be.

© 2019 Shane Blackheart

Excerpt from something new

I woke up after hearing a new song by one of my favorite artists (after the excerpt), and I was instantly inspired in a way I hadn’t been in a while. The song felt so close to home for me, and its vibe was something I just melded with — it was like something that carried the same kind of energy with it that I put into my own art. So, here is a rough draft of the beginnings to a new story. It was also a reason to write Byleth into his favorite era, and it was a chance to step outside of my comfort zone.


Byleth’s adrenalin lit up like fire when he saw the angel.

He watched on as the colorful lights drifted around the room, the patrons all dressed in bell bottoms, hot pants, and large colored glasses. Byleth’s own white platforms drifted across the swirled brown carpet as he did his best to remain inconspicuous. The blue-eyed blond in his sight smiled widely as he conversed with the humans, and he seemed to be favorable to the seductive tones of Jimi Hendrix playing in the background. Something was offered to him that was barely visible, and as Byleth zeroed in on the angel’s pale hand that took it, foolishly, as a gift, he bit his lip to keep from laughing.

The angel placed the tab on his tongue, and it would only be a matter of time.

Byleth took a deep breath and adjusted his large, round tinted glasses before circling around the dancers. A few women in flowery micro-dresses sidled up to him, and he groaned internally for having to pass them by. Something much more important was about to happen — something that would quite possibly change just about everything. The Hellish king politely declined and took his time weaving through the sex and drug-fueled environment.

Just a bit longer.

He finally gave in to a couple coaxing him into a sway, and he joined them with his eyes never leaving the strange man in white at the table in a far corner. The blond’s posture was seeming to relax as it sunk into the chair, and he was running his hand through his hair. It was beginning.

Byleth excused himself and approached the group at the table. “Mind if I steal your friend for a minute?”

“Hey, man! You wanna ball with us?”

Byleth smirked. “Not really, I’m more interested in that one.” He pointed a clawed finger toward the blond who had finally taken in his presence.

“Byleth?” The man in white stood and stumbled as he fell into Byleth, who nearly tripped backward in his attempt to catch the man. “I thought you hated this scene!”

Byleth chuckled and held the man at arm’s length. “A lot changes in a few millennia, Gabriel.” He eyed the angel carefully. “You seriously came down here in that? No wonder these cats are looking at you weird.”

“Cats?” Gabriel’s eyes drifted, and he smiled. “Cats! Yes, there’s an orange one there, and a white one there! Strange…” The angel seemed perplexed. “I was under the impression animals of that variety went without clothing and weren’t capable of playing cards.”

Byleth had to contain his amusement and steered the angel out onto the dance floor. “Come on, you weirdo. We’re going to have some fun with your trippin’ ass.”

“This is fantastic!” Gabriel fell into the sway Byleth had started, the others around them preoccupied in their own haze. His blue eyes were glazed over. “I hadn’t realized this realm was so beautiful. Everything moves like poetry, and humans are so… beautiful.”

“Oh yeah?” Byleth quirked his brow as he dared to take the angel’s hands in his, pulling him close. “What else?” It was as if he were talking to a child.

Gabriel’s attention returned to the fallen angel dancing with him, and something curious came over him. The silence was enough to make Byleth stare at him cautiously, wondering whether Gabriel was about to go into a bad trip. In a matter of seconds, his heart was in his throat and he tensed as he was pulled against the angel’s body.

His red eyes widened as he was being devoured, the angel kissing him like he’d never tasted anything so delicious in his existence. Byleth’s supernatural senses took in the taste of the acid that was consuming Gabriel, and for a moment he allowed himself to connect with the chaotic yet blissful energy invading him. He closed his eyes and fell into the heady atmosphere, and he noticed the angel’s face had become damp with perspiration. So the drug had allowed Gabriel to feel as humans did, which was an interesting side effect for an angel.

Byleth.” The name fell from the angel’s lips in pure ecstasy. “It’s so… warm? Is this what it feels like to be in heat?”

Byleth chuckled as desire dripped from the form in his arms. “If you want to call it that. But I’m not sure if I—” Byleth’s flirtatious tone was interrupted by hands wandering around his white turtle neck. The orange jacket around his shoulders was on the ground in seconds, and Gabriel was leaning into him, taking in his scent. A thin hand snaked up to his collar and tugged it aside, and Byleth felt a rush of air against his neck as the angel breathed deeply.

“You smell so good, Byleth. So good.”

It took every ounce of the fallen king’s willpower to not crumble. Gabriel, God’s messenger and devout son of Heaven, was grinding on him and practically devouring him like an animal, and it was the worst turn-on he never knew he had. It brought to mind memories that were well into the future, of the time Azazel had stolen Gabriel’s form to drag him into a cruel game that left him with the being he was at that moment — the Byleth who reveled in debauched things and had found the ability to love once more. His vacation into the past hadn’t changed any of that, and the 60s seemed to be even more potent for his newest desires.

He gave in to his body’s whims at last, and kissed Gabriel hungrily. There was nothing more that he desired than to corrupt something so innocent, especially when that something was an angel who deserved his revenge.

He’d be a fool not to take this opportunity with fate.

©2019 Shane Blackheart

A Dream Journal Excerpt – My First Sleep Paralysis

I don’t remember any particular sound except for silence.

I don’t even remember the sound of my feet tapping across the floor, although I do remember the floor was a very strange color — like that of dried blood. The walls were white cream and the lights yellow, and all was bathed in a sickening light. In the walls themselves there were no windows, although there were half-moon alcoves peppered throughout the room. They seemed to be a place of rest for those who happened to be wandering about the sick room, which was more of a long hallway than a proper room. I don’t recall seeing any beds, but there was a large space in the middle that wrapped around a desk. There were no nurses or doctors.

Emptiness and quiet.

It was then the realization that this was a place for the infirm — the dying — with the mixture of scents from the sweet, sterile air and the institutional lighting began to frighten me, and I needed to get out of there. I left the sick room, and I remember not much of what else happened of significance that day, except for that afternoon.

I was on the back porch of the second story of the building. There was a white fence surrounding it. I was sitting with a friend who I can’t remember the face or the name. Her hair was black and it was coiled, her skin dark brown, and she was wearing overalls. We were reminiscing about the tour we’d taken earlier that day inside the building.

Inside, there was a large room that served as a conference room. There, we had learned that the man who had founded the very place — a place filled with people who may have well been invisible — had passed away. The time he’d passed wasn’t certain, but it had been a good while ago. In his possession, at the time when he was alive, he’d had a very valuable collection of paintings. This artwork was very abstract, a few of the pictures almost frightening and Hellish.

This collection was, very possibly, haunted by something that did not want the memory of the collector to be remembered. Why this being wouldn’t want the man to be remembered I couldn’t figure out. In fact, I was actually quite skeptical when I’d first heard of it. Interestingly enough, I can’t even remember who told me. I only recall being the single presence in the room. There may have been one other — possibly a man.

I should have taken warning, but I had been a foolish skeptic, and I continued to view these paintings in all of their strangeness. I found them beautiful in their grotesquery because I also felt my mind was dark and grotesque. The images spoke to me in ways I felt only I could understand, and in ways that only this man who had created such a strange place could understand as well. It was saddening that he was gone because I’m sure I could have had many great conversations with him.

Later, as I sat on the balcony with my friend — at least, I called her a friend — we’d set up an easel and she was painting. I wasn’t quite sure what she was painting because she wasn’t looking at anything but leaves; it’s all there was in front of us. Trees with those strange oval-shaped leaves and the ferns that rose higher than the building itself.

We were talking about the strange paintings and the haunt, itself. No one had known what it looked like, but it was known to be nightmarish in appearance. It was then that I realized a noise and it was in the ferns. I listened closely, and I turned to my friend to ask if she’d noticed. She looked at me, seemingly nonplussed, but she had heard something as well. She figured it was only the wind or it was just my mind playing tricks on me as my mind tended to do.

I did discover it was something, and the something was not much of a something at all.

Imagine, if you can, something staring through the bars of that fence adorned in black, its head hooded, and its face wasn’t a face at all, but that of a cow’s skull. Although this skull did have soulless eyes, it was expressive. The bone was very organic and ancient, and it had markings from age. I wasn’t even sure it had any sort of physical body at all.

My friend had gone into hiding when I searched for her. We’d run, but I began to doubt myself. I was crazy, but not so far gone that I would hallucinate something so vividly. It hadn’t helped matters that I didn’t see it for a while after that. It just disappeared.

I was in a large kitchen much later that night, and it was dark as pitch. There were small lights coming in through the windows, and they seemed like street lamps, although there were no streets or lamps on the small island. There was only a large hill through the windows that led down to the ferns, and then where they met the water that surrounded the place.

It was a community kitchen, tiled the same as the sick room beneath it. There were large counters, some in a circular pattern with a stove in the center, some just there holding various kitchen tools and cutlery and appliances. There were no tables nor a dining room. It was all clearest in my mind because that’s where it happened again.

Something was standing there, and I don’t know why, but I had gone to it. I was certain it was male. I felt a pull toward it, and I sunk to my knees and placed my hands on its hips, and when I looked up I saw nothing but darkness.

Blankness.

I rose to my feet and ran. I ran throughout hallway after hallway — I can’t even say what it was anymore. Every door would open only to lead to another hallway that would fade off into darkness. I was trapped. I knew I couldn’t follow the darkness because it would only end up badly for me in the end. Instead, I turned around to face the thing again.


There’s much more to this dream that I’ll be revising later. This is just a small part of it, and doesn’t include the afterward when I described my fight with twilight and awake, and the dark being which I felt a strong allure to that held me down, threatening to never let me wake up again. This was the first sleep paralysis experience I ever remember having, and it happened back in January of 2015 if I dated it right. I plan to fix up a lot of my dream journal entries and compile them into a book of their own.

©2019 Shane Blackheart