Chicago detective Joe Erickson returns to the force following medical leave, and right away a high-profile murder falls in his lap. The body of a graduate student, the son of a prominent Jewish attorney, washes up on the shore of Lake Michigan with a swastika cut into his back. The hate-crime investigation leads Joe and his partner to suspect neo-Nazis, and as he digs deeper into the young man’s death, he uncovers a conspiracy that nearly gets him killed.
Lynn-Steven Johanson holds an MFA degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and is retired from Western Illinois University. His plays have won numerous awards, and they have been produced in New York, Los Angeles, and numerous cities throughout the United States as well as in the United Kingdom, Denmark, New Zealand, Australia, India, and the Kingdom of Bahrain. He is a member of the Authors Guild, the Dramatists Guild of America, the Playwright Center of Minneapolis, Sisters in Crime, and is a past president of the Mid-America Theatre Conference.
His mystery novel, Rose’s Thorn, was published in 2019 by Level Best Books, and a prequel, Havana Brown, was published in 2021. His newest Joe Erickson Mystery, Corrupted Souls, was published March 15, 2022.
He lives in Illinois with his wife, and they have three adult children.
Ultimate edition. Includes map of Seventh-Realm Earth, character and creature list.
“Not darkness, not light, perhaps something in between, and is claimed by the darkness…as theirs. Though being saved by the light, that which is saved must in turn save the world…”
Darshun Luthais has never experienced the Nasharin Frenzy—the unbending will to challenge a stronger opponent, no matter the cost. He doesn’t know what he will transform into, has never bonded with an elemental crystal and has never seen any of the unearthly creatures his father talks about. Even though he’s an infant in Nasharin years, his life consists of nothing but constant training, striving to unlock the sleeping power his so-called accursed race is born with.
But all that changes when he is pursued by a Dream Assassin in the dead of night. What he witnesses will forever change his outlook on life and lead him on a quest only the strongest can complete.
The Wizard Crystals of the Elements have fallen into the hands of the Demon Lord Abaddon, reshaped to evil and forever corrupted they no longer can serve the Light. Abaddon now patiently waits in his northern kingdom for the coming of Saruinkai—the evening when the greatest spirits of Darkness rule the skies, and when he will unleash the power of the crystals against their own elements, sweeping destruction across the earth.
The Light’s hope now lies in the young Nasharin warrior Darshun Luthais—the chosen Guardian, for he is the key to stopping Abaddon’s black magic and end the war once and for all. But to do so he must cross over into Abaddon’s kingdom, and that means destroying the one who guards the border, a fallen angelic Throne—the secret to Asgoth’s three-hundred-year Rule and invincibility.
Led by the elvish lord Caelestias, Darshun and his companions must seek out and destroy the Throne, encounter a witch, and a horde of other vile creatures, only to stir up the entirety of Asgoth, coming face to face with them, a battle that will determine the fate of the world.
“…a sign to tell this overruling darkness that the Light is coming. Let them be the ones to try and pass through us for once. Their ungodly Rule and ways of cruelty has gone on far too long. Let them feel the terror they love to inflict in others…just this once…” ~Darshun Luthias~
While the Demon Lord Abaddon prepares to cast the Spell of Destruction and wipe out the glories of the earth for his own void of evil, Darshun Luthais, after a long oppressive journey, attempts to eradicate the source of his dark magic, the sacrificial Unholy Altar. But when the Dragon Gods unleash their barricade of fire the Delibious—a mystic realm of darkness, flames and witchery—Darshun must find a way through without tearing his soul from existence and save the earth from the coming annihilation.
J.W. Baccaro is the author of Prophecy of the Guardian and Blood Dreams. Always a lover of creativity, from works of literature to writing music with his electric guitar; even baking and cooking. When not working on his next story or lost in a good book, J.W. enjoys kicking back with a couple of tasty craft beers and binging on Kaiju movies, 80’s action flicks, Japanese animation and slasher films (particularly the one involving a hockey mask). Heck, he even enjoys a good romantic comedy. He lives in upstate NY with his wife Melissa, his son Alexander, his German Shepherd and his three cats.
For Bernard Donaldson, the Breaker of Men, anything is possible in wrestling. Long time friends can suddenly turn heel, and even pariahs can make triumphant comebacks. But when Luke Jackson, ex-friend and lover, makes his return, Breaker knows something is wrong. Stronger, faster and better than he has any right to be, Luke is everything the aging Breaker wishes he could be. But the closer he gets to Luke’s secrets, the more he can feel something malevolent closing in. Because when it comes to dreams and desires, nothing is more hellish than the human heart.
About the Author
Henry Corrigan is a bisexual author, poet and playwright who wants to write every kind of story. He knows this sounds pretentious but screw it, he’s going for it. Always an avid reader, Henry started writing poetry in middle school but it wasn’t until he started writing erotica in high school that he really learned the mechanics of writing. What started out as private stories and love letters, soon became publications in anthologies.
To date, he has self-published a novella, Carnal Theory, and written one full length dark fiction novel that he is currently shopping around. He also has the rough drafts of two science fiction books, one horror novella, one play, four children’s books, numerous poems and several song lyrics. Above all, he wants to be known for not staying where he’s been put. To always surprise people, especially himself. Because that’s what makes it fun. The feeling that even he doesn’t know what he’s going to do next.
We start every night with fireworks. Even through the heavy curtain I can smell it, the industrially acrid scent mixing with the salty hops of beer and fried foods. My stomach rumbles and Scottie nudges me gently.
“I’ll buy you a hotdog after this is over,” he says, which makes me smile.
“Just don’t let Marlina put any hot peppers on it this time.”
Marlina, Scottie’s valet, slaps my shoulder. “Wimp,” she says, leaning against me like I’m a tree, which for someone like Marlina who’s five-foot-four, I might as well be.
Out in the arena the fireworks die down but not the roar of the crowd. Twenty thousand people stand ready as Scottie’s music hits.
“Ladies and gentlemen!” peals the announcer. “Please welcome the XZW General Manager…Scottiiiiieeeeeee Class!”
Scottie’s music is a chorus of regal horns, like the king descending from on high. I kiss him as he steps through the curtain, Marlina at his side.
They hit the ramp with their noses in the air like they’re snorting cocaine straight outta the clouds. I smile as Scottie twirls his cane with each strut.
By the time they reach the ring, I’ve got my game face on. My sneer stretching ’til it could whip the skin off somebody else’s face. I glance behind me at the crew guys running back and forth and the script helpers making final tweaks, but it’s what I don’t see that worries me.
Luke should be here, and my gut can’t help but worry. If he’s drunk it’ll screw up more than our angle, but before I can think about it too much, my music hits, all shrieking guitars and pounding drums.
Time to be the Breaker of Men.
I walk out to a sea of boos and hisses, which I swallow down like candy. I make a point of snapping at those who reach out for a high-five.
Down in the ring, Marlina puts a hand on Scottie’s shoulder and starts looking for an exit. But Scottie doesn’t run. That’s not who he is and more importantly, that’s not who he plays.
He waits until I’m through the ropes before he steps to me.
“What the hell do you want, Breaker?” he shouts and I have to fight not to smile. Nobody else can put a quaver in their voice and make it crack on the mic.
I hit everybody with my best growl. “Sorry to interrupt the grandstanding of a crippled old man…”
The boos double up now Scottie’s beloved and everybody loves to hate me. Never mind the fact that I’m actually six months older than Scottie. The feeling in the arena is like static sparking between my fingers.
“But I’d like to talk about a sniveling, ungrateful, backstabbing little bitch who got very, very lucky last week.”
A cheer goes up. Some start to shout Luke’s name while others chant ‘Live-and-Primed! Live-and-Primed!’ I give it a three-count before continuing.
“Now, this bitch, used to be something special. I thought I saw…” I hold up my thumb and forefinger. “A sliver of talent there. So, I did what any good owner would do. I took it home, I fed it, I trained it. I brought it to the top of the food chain. And what do I get for my trouble?”
People are starting to clap now. Signs with Luke’s picture get held up high. Another two-count and then I scream right in Scottie’s face.
“I get a super kick to the back of the head!”
The crowd goes nuts and now even Scottie and Marlina are smiling.
“I want him. Do you hear me? I want Luke Jackson! Now what is the general manager, gonna do about it?”
Scottie looks me up and down and sniffs, like I don’t have a good six inches on him.
“Listen Breaker, I shouldn’t have to explain this to you, but you’ve always been a little slow, so I’ll make this real easy.”
I snarl at Scottie but he just keeps on rolling.
“I don’t owe you any favors. You don’t have any friends. And you definitely,” he taps me in the chest with his cane. “Don’t get to make demands of me. So why don’t you take all that dead weight and go find somebody who gives a-”
My hips clicks as I kick Scottie in the midsection, but my boy sells it just like we planned. I start hammering on his back with my forearms while Marlina tries to pull me off. Hauling him up onto my shoulders makes my back creak, but I do it anyway because the Death-Valley Driver is what I’m known for.
Quick as a rocket, Marlina hits me with the same padded, sequined fist that brought her five championships and I roll with it, being sure to drop Scottie in a way that doesn’t hurt him.
Marlina makes to run but I’m too big to be done yet. I grab her by the throat and start bellowing in her face. Scottie comes off the mat swinging his cane, but I grab him by the throat too and that’s exactly when Luke’s music hits.
Luke’s music is all frenetic beats, like the musicians were ripped on speed and playing ’til their hearts gave out.
Luke comes charging down the ramp, his manager Mr. Best right on his heels and I only have to look to know Luke’s straight as an arrow which kicks all the worries right out of my head.
I let go of Scottie and Marlina and turn as Luke baseball slides beneath the ropes.
Before he’s even on his feet, I level a haymaker at him, but Luke sidesteps it easily, almost too easily. Bouncing off the ropes, he comes flying back and hits me with a dropkick that I sell even though I have to grit my teeth as I hit the mat. Even rolling to the outside, little sparklers of pain shoot up my spine.
Luke follows me and we begin to brawl right in front of the fans. Clotheslines, chops, a chair-shot for each of us but it’s how fast Luke is moving that almost scares me.
We’ve been brawling for at least a minute and he’s not even slightly out of breath. His abs fucking ripple as he grabs the ring bell and charges me.
I barely have time to duck. The edge scrapes my cheek as it passes. If he’d hit me, my head would be up in the rafters by now.
After that though, there’s not a thing out of place. The refs and security people show up right on time. Luke and I end up on opposite sides of the ring, shouting at each other and the crowd eats it up.
I let security drag me away, but even as I make the ramp, I can’t decide whether I’m happy, surprised, or jealous at how well Luke is moving. The urge to talk to him is strong but by the time I make the curtain, Luke’s long gone and Mr. Best along with him.
Scottie and Marlina wave me over to the locker rooms and I follow, stopping just long enough to wish the tag teams up next luck in officially starting the show.