Month: October 2021

Fantasy Friday: 10 Ways This Character is Perfect for Halloween Fun

I hope everyone enjoyed the Scary Moments posts. I’m shifting gears to one of my characters today. 

Mandelfred “Manny” Mandeheim is the lead character of The Order of the Dark Rose. Here’s why he makes a great character for Halloween:

  • He’s a spy master and is skilled with quick costume changes.

    “In a silent corner, Manny dropped his threadbare bag of belongings, those on the top consistent with his disguise as a homeless man. In moments, he’d peeled the false knotted beard from his face, then wiped his skin clear of the painted distortions and dirt. He removed his long duster, turned inside out, and festooned with false tears for just such a disguise. Next, he pulled off the dirty shirt, which revealed one beneath it, bright and clean in contrast. Last, he pulled false pant legs from his real ones, then wiped his shoes clean. After stuffing the disguise into his old bag, he brushed his dark hair straight with his fingers.” ~ The Changeling Incident

  • He’s cursed so his age changes often – he can look different from minute to minute. 

“My glimpse of Manny left me agape anew. His face had changed to that of an old man. His wrinkled skin hung loose on his skull, and his gray hair was lank upon his head. But the eyes remained Manny’s undoubtedly. Had the fleer gun done this to him? Or some other magic?” ~ The Disgraced Sniffer

“Manny clicked on the maged torch, revealing the visage of a child of about eight or so. “I seemed to have changed age again. Could you do me the favor of…” A boy’s hand extended the Sizer toward me, the overlong sleeves of his coat pushed up in wrinkles. He stood with trousers grasped in his other hand, so they didn’t fall, the legs a crumpled puddle of cloth about his undoubtedly oversized shoes.” ~ The Night Fiend

“Blindly, I rummage in his coat pocket for the Sizer wand or an Alchemist Needle, the latter on the off chance he did bring one. The latter wasn’t present. I pointed the size caster at what I thought was the correct lump writhing in the mass of clothing at my feet. A cough erupted from my throat as I wiped tears from my eyes. A puff of green smoke billowed from my lips. What had happened to me? I flicked the caster switch with my thumb. silver light flared at my feet, and the clothing shrank around a child’s body—a toddler, if I guessed correctly. “By the black gates of Thuva!”

Manny’s cherubic child’s face turned toward me, and I glimpsed through my half-blinded eyes his all-too-intelligent pupils. His high voice coupled with his vocabulary set my skin crawling at the juxtaposition.” ~ The Rose of the Adversary

  • He doesn’t mind dressing in costumes or disguising himself. Just read the first two cases in the book. 

“He grinned as he hunched in his bum disguise…” ~ The Changeling Incident

“He had donned his big overcoat, several pockets of which bulged from various magical devices stowed in them. On his head, he wore a close-fitting head-cap to which he had affixed the antlers, a strap firmly fastened under his chin.” ~ The Night Fiend

  • Did I mention he’s a master spy? It means he’s very opportunistic and plays along with sudden changes of events. 

But another guardsman stopped us short of the street. His wide-set eyes shifted over our shoulders, then took us in, each in turn. His eyes narrowed. “Got him, did you? Nice trick, that.”

I opened my mouth to respond to the insinuation that we’d murdered our attacker, but Manny spoke ahead of me. “We’ll not speak of it now unless we must.”

The guardsman was stout, his cheeks puffy beneath his brow. He shifted his stubby feet on thick legs. “Just need to confirm it. They said something was to happen. Important to verify it. You know, remove the marked one.”

“You have the password?” Manny leaned on his cane, seeming stronger than earlier.

The guardsman glanced my way, suspicion dancing in his eyes under the steady light of the lamp. “Didn’t know there would be two of you on this one. You tell me the password first.”

Manny’s eyes narrowed in response, and his nostrils flared. He reached into his pocket, drew out the card he’d retrieved from the ground, and held it out to the guardsman. “I think this is enough for the moment, don’t you?”

The guardsman stared at the card as a slow gape formed on his face. “Sorry to bother you, sir. I was just checking, like I was asked.”

“Good enough. It’s done. Now let us pass.” Manny lifted his cane to the guardsman’s arm as if to brush him aside with it. The other man stepped out of the way with a duck of his head. We passed him without another word and gained the street, at which time we both exhaled.

“What was that—”

“Not now. No names. Just keep moving.” Manny set the pace, his aged appearance belying his obvious verve. ~ The Disgraced Sniffer

  • He’s also an arch-mage so changing things into frogs and whatnot are a specialty. 

As we approached the next street corner, a fellow in a rough, gray tweed suit and dark hat with a rounded top crossed the traffic and intersected us. His broad face bore several scars, mostly on his cheeks and forehead.

Manny halted and thrust a hand toward the man as he reached for his pocket. “Stop! Come no closer.” To me, he said without turning his head, “Behind us, Wish.”

With a whirl, I thrust my hand in my pocket for the fleer gun as another burly man in a dark suit strode toward us. His was a narrow-faced, clean-shaven fellow, with his jaw set and a gleam of malice in his dark gaze. He most noticeable feature being a flattened nose. “I pushed my coat pocket forward. “Stay back!”

He kept coming, his bushy eyebrows furrowed beneath his mop of dark hair. He smirked as I backed into Manny. A glance past Manny showed the first man walking slower. Other people on the sidewalk halted or crossed the street with sudden concern in their facial expressions.

Manny pulled a wand. “That’s close enough.”

The first thug paused. “Just delivering a message.”

“I’m familiar with the Kantar’s knuckle-messages. We know we’re late. No reason to harass us.”

“You won’t do nuthin’.” He pushed a step forward with hard stare. The other fellow came within ten strides.

Manny withdrew another wand and murmured a few words so that both glowed. “I’d hate for you to waste your hard-earned money getting rid of a hex. How do you think he’d look as a toad, Wish?”

I pulled the fleer gun discreetly from my pocket and glared at the second man. Qualms about fleering someone bothered me little. “Maybe a rabbit or a turtle?”

Now my foe halted.

Manny chuckled at my terse quip. “Wish does like pets!” He advanced toward the one in the tweed suit. “How about you just walk away before I decide on rat?” ~ The Disgraced Sniffer

  • If you get into trouble, he’s always got a way out – mostly. 

“Yes. Now pick me up and use the wand I gave you. Hurry!”

Groans sounded behind me. Grimsley snarled, “Get off me, you buffoon! Get these fires out before I lose everything!”

“Thief!” A woman’s shout echoed in the basement. Magic sliced around Grimsley and his men outside the doorway. Vyara leapt at them. She whirled her wand, and fire spewed from it like a pink burning rope.

I yanked the caster Manny had given me from my pocket, fumbled the fleer gun and scroll into another pocket, and snatched Manny from the floor. With my eyes still squinting from the magical flash, I whirled toward the door as Grimsley rose like an apparition through the flames. Through my blurry vision, I discerned that he lifted a wand.

“Use it on us,” Manny squealed.

I turned the caster on us and clenched my jaw at the threat of Grimsley and the sudden fear that I knew nothing of what this wand did.

The button flicked under my thumb.

A blur of many-colored lights and smoke swirled around us while a rumble, louder than a tram, shook everything in me.

Darkness welcomed me, and I staggered forward, then slammed into something hard. I groaned and dropped to my knees. Then I slumped to the ground as water dripped all around me. A putrid stench filled my nostrils, my vision still blurred from the trap in the drawer.

“Wish, wake up.” Manny’s childish voice shook me from my stupor as he nudged me.

“Where are we?” I rolled over on the ground.

“You did it!” Small hands tugged at my shirt. “You’ll have to get up on your own. I’m too small to get you off the ground. We’re in an alley.” ~Rose of the Adversary

  • He’s not afraid of dark and creepy places.

Everything around us stood out in the light in a dusty gray. At my feet lay eight irregular objects that bore no significance to my initial gaze. After a few moments, I jumped in revulsion at the realization that I stood among decayed bones. More remains. My glance along the walls revealed additional bones shoved away in narrow, lateral cavities.

“What is this place?” Panic returned in quick breaths as I waved the maged torch around and aimed the fleer gun, wary more dead might rise intact. Anything might happen with magic as a factor nearby.

Manny leaned close to one of the cavities and squinted as he peered within, then straightened and gazed at me. “We appear to be in the catacombs beneath part of the city. An interesting destination, to say the least…” ~ The Feral Name

  • He’s not afraid of the undead. 

At that moment, something grasped my questing hand. I screamed.

A click in the darkness and the command of a spell sent light around us and blinded me for a moment. There lay the glowing maged torch, activated by Manny’s command from the wand.

A skull grinned at me, its jaw loose. But its bony appendages wrapped around my hand with cracking tightness.

I picked up the maged torch and held it aloft. Skeletons lined the walls of a tunnel. Darkness extended in either direction beyond our meager light. Decayed heads swiveled slowly in our direction.

I jumped to my feet and yanked my hand from death’s grasp. A ghostly moan echoed around us. I snapped my mouth shut. That had been me.

The skeletons stirred in glowing animation and stood with ponderous effort.

“Wish, the fleer gun!” From behind me, Manny loomed out of near darkness, his wand pointed. Flame erupted from the point. “It’s a trap!” ~ The Feral Name

  • Monsters are more of a curiosity to him. (confronting the first feral)

We stepped farther away and halted our attack, then watched as the creature died before us in a smoldering mass. We waited, careful it didn’t regain its feet and attack us again. As the beast lay still before us, I realized that my hand trembled uncontrollably.

“What in the Nine Hells of Clo Clana is that?”

Manny tilted his head in curiosity and strode forward as the last of the magical flames died away. “Something created by magic.” He edged closer and poked the creature’s charred face with his wand. “Seems to be real enough, not some spirit.” ~The Feral Name

  • He’s got skills if the unexpected happens – mostly. (“Run!” at the end of FN)

“Wish, I think we really should vacate the premises.” With those words, Manny drew out the single-use caster loaded with a transport spell tied to a specific location. Where that was mattered little to me in that moment. He clicked little switch with a command in his mage-talk.

Nothing happened.

Manny grunted. “Not surprising. Run faster, Wish! We have to get farther from her.” ~ The Feral Name

So there are some good reasons to have Manny around for Halloween. Share this post if you liked it and leave your thoughts in the comments where I’ll reply.

Looking for more about The Cursed Mage Case Files?

An arch-mage can handle almost anything. Unless he’s cursed, lost his job and facing an unknown enemy.

The Dark Rose 700 x 1440 Lightened SMThe Gallantean Empire relies increasingly upon magical technology which cleans sewers, runs trams and much more. Within the capital city of Cal Rindon, magic is pervasive, but not necessarily used without crime involved. The bustling metropolis boasts constant innovations mixed with growing pains. Amid the good lurks the bad with unrest and growing crime.

Arch-mage Manny Mandeheim fell under a curse, watched his fiancé die, and then lost his job as a spy. So what’s an arch-mage to do? Start his own magical investigation service while he works to clear his good name and maybe avenge his lost love. With his very un-magical partner, Wish Ackford, Manny discovers the menace of a much larger conspiracy than he expected looming behind his curse. Suddenly, the limitations from the hex leave him at a distinct disadvantage as he and Wish investigate.

Assassins lurk at every corner or in every tram car. The threat of an unknown mastermind with murky intentions lingers just out of sight. A questionable source offers the hint of a secret order hounding Manny’s footsteps. A murder leads to wrenching discoveries.

Nothing an arch-mage can’t handle…

Unless the curse limits how much magic he can use or kills him outright.

A mixture of Sherlock Holmes and Harry Potter, The Order of the Dark Rose is set in an alternate fantasy world where magic is both commonplace and dangerous. Mysteries abound in this original, new fantasy from P. H. Solomon, author of the award-winning, best-selling epic fantasy series, The Bow of Hart Saga.

Can Manny survive long enough to break his curse? Or will the arch-mage’s hidden foe escape him? Click the Your Favorite Retailer button to enter this high concept world of magic and fantasy to discover more about Manny and Wish.


Also leave your ratings and reviews at:

Reviews for The Order of the Dark Rose:

“Magical world-building, brilliant characters, amazing, leaves you craving more, sleight of hand story” – Reviews from Readers Favorite





Scary Moments: 15 Zombie Apocalypse Situations To Avoid

Today, I’m continuing the Halloween Scary Moments theme with a bit more fictional list. Being an author, my creative mind shrieks warnings at times about avoiding a zombie apocalypse. See if you agree with these situations to stay away from.

Just in case you think it can’t happen, check out this older post about why a zombie apocalypse could happen. Toxoplasmosis is my favorite on the list (and I love my cat!). Now for the list:

  • Any fast food drive thru – I think this one all the time. Bad place to be, no place to go with that protection. Solution: windows up, unless you’re Merle from Walking Dead, then you need loud music and a fifth of whiskey to share around. You don’t need the food in that situation. Just jump curb, do what you gotta do to get away.
  • A traffic jam – see my post from yesterday and Snowpocalypse. Snow-walking dead. Or just a wonderful late afternoon in summer where things turn rough. The road shoulder suddenly becomes a premium. Run for it? Solution, keep a folding bike in your trunk… That might be a bit much, I just avoid traffic jams like it’s a zombie apocalypse.
  • In the middle of an MRI or CAT scan – the last few of these I had, my last thought going into the claustrophobic tube (they really don’t bother me except the clanking that keeps me awake) is: I hope the zombie apocalypse doesn’t happen while I’m in here. 
  • In a basement or crawlspace – Remember Darryl in the basement room of the mortuary? Only a gurney between him and a mob of zombies? You get the picture. Incidentally, Darryl is the man when it comes to fighting zombies. Merle would be, but he had a death wish and couldn’t play well with others enough to survive.
  • In an underground tunnel – See the traffic jam above, but worse. You can’t run from the road. Tunnels from buildings? Even worse. Really nowhere to go. Subways? Don’t get me started.
  • In a church or theatre balcony – One title: 28 Days Later. Main character, Jim, finds himself in a church balcony with one incoming and a building full below him. The bag of drinks was illustrative and makes it onto my list of survival weapons. Running is a premium as this scene shows (it’s at this point you know things are on in this movie).
  • A dark room with lots of entry points and noises nearby – 28 Days Later works. You go to bed staring at doors and windows. Seriously, you want to find a secure position that defensible and has food. A bunker is also premium. Anybody got a good one you’re willing to share? BTW, if your dog runs into one like I Am Legend, it’s foreshadowing. The dog will soon be a zombie coming after you, just bug out rather than go into the lair.
  • Revolving door – Walking Dead episode. Hilariously creepy. I’ll never look at a revolving door the same. Zombies to the left, zombies to the right. Stuck in the middle. That’s when you want body armor and the ability to run like a fullback (a la Glenn escaping form the prison on his own in Walking Dead).
  • A cruise ship – Just no. I’ve been on one, but ugh, what a place to be. The only worse place is a basement mortuary behind a gurney or a revolving door. If you find yourself in a zombie apocalypse in one of those 3 spots, you might re-think your life – or resign yourself to a stumbling, shuffling afterlife.
  • Huge dance party on the roof of a building – It can be defensible, but not if the SHTF in a crowd of people. This is worse than a train station in a panic. Somebody’s going off the side… Just not a good place at all.
  • Surgery – Yikes. Don’t go there. You have no chance. Think cheerful thoughts before going under. The same goes for a colonoscopy.
  • Dentist chair – Better, but sometimes it feels like I’ve been through a zombie event when it’s over.
  • A restroom – See the revolving door, basement, dark room. Really, a crowded restroom at a sports bar is bad enough with handsy drunks trying to pick your pocket. When they become zombies trying to take a bite, that’s the end of enjoying the football game and life becomes a weird form of it. It’s then you go offensive lineman and throw some pancake blocks – nothing fancy, just be the pulling guard and truck everything in your way.
  • An airplane – I’m sorry I thought of this one. Protect the pilot at all costs.
  • A high bridge – See the one about the restroom and the building dance party. You don’t want to be in that traffic jam. At least with Gallopin’ Gertie there was a chance to escape. 

So there you have it. That’s tongue-in-cheek. Laugh a little at the dark humor and stop taking life so seriously. We’ve got enough to worry about. Just enjoy the Halloween fun and move on. Personally, the news is scary enough. I stopped watching it at all and I’m much happier for it.

Tell me your worst zombie apocalypse nightmare in the comments. Please share this if you liked it. That’s about it for Scary Moments this week. Also, what are your favorite zombies? Slow, fast, smart? 

Scary Moments: 5 Times Life Felt Like The Apocalypse

We’ve all seen the post-apocalyptic movies and shows. Walking dead neatly created sets which were empty of people. I Am Legend and other movies depicted life devoid of other people. Of course, those are zombie apocalypse genre and we’ll get into those later this week. I guess this subject is good for Halloween.

There’s a fixation with drastic events in the American psyche. There are entire genres of books and films. The word is from ancient Greek and means “Revealing”, and is most associated with The Book of Revelations written by John the Apostle. It famously contains events which add to the entire social outlook of the world based on the events. Oddly, Revelations isn’t really about the dire events, but I suppose how we deal with uncontrollable events reveals much about us.

People prep for extreme events whether for hobby or serious intent. Personally, I’ve been through several weather events in my life that led me to create a certain amount of prep to deal with these situations as necessary.

These past experiences left an impression on my memories. Here are five times life felt like the Apocalypse:

  • 1974 Tornadoes: I wrote about this event earlier this week as one during which I was close to death. The aftermath of the storm left many people without power for days as well as many trees down everywhere. Our street was blocked at both ends. School was dismissed. Dire reports came over the radio. People wandered around looking at what happened. It felt like our slice of the world had been reduced to living life like a hundred years earlier. Eventually life got back to normal, but we cooked from camping gear or the fireplace and it was easy to imagine at time when it’s the end of the world as we know it (TEOTWAWKI for short). This was the biggest tornado outbreak recorded and the stuff of epic movie thrillers. I don’t watch movies about tornadoes, I’ve lived them until…
  • 4/27/2011: This is a date remembered in Alabama, and across the south, for the devastating tornadoes that swept through the region. That morning, death passed by my back door as also noted in my former post this week. This was another event where we were without power for about six days, while cleaning up around the house. It took months to recover. I can remember video of people wandering around Tuscaloosa in shock at the enormity of the damage. There were many other communities with widespread damage and deaths. This was certainly an event that felt Apocalyptic. You could not find items at the store, but I was lucky to get my hands on a bigger, newer, working chainsaw. Generators were nowhere to be found in stores. It was hard to drive anywhere in the area due to all the downed trees. Here are a few links regarding the Tuscaloosa Tornado:
  • 1993 Blizzard: Alabama doesn’t get too many snow events and most of them involve wet snow that turns to ice. These are usually about a day or two of inconvenience and kids out of school as roads are cleared and schools are confirmed not to have burst pipes and heat. We just don’t have these enough to warrant handling these events with a short shut-down in the region. But in late winter of 1993, we got a blizzard which is extremely rare for this region. Cold air swept south under an incoming major storm from across the Gulf of Mexico. Nobody took weather reports seriously the few days earlier, after all, the day of it was in the 60’s and partly sunny. They said it was getting cold and when I saw the radar on the weather, that was and uh-oh moment. We were inundated with a lot of precipitation while the temperatures dropped at least 30 degrees. It was thundersnow with iridescent green-blue lightning. We ended up with about 3 feet of powdery snow (very rare for this region) and the state locked down. I was able to drive around in a 4-wheel drive I owned at the time and it was eerie to drive around without anyone on the road. It was serene, but strangely empty.
  • Snowpocalypse/snowmegddon – this storm in 2014 even got its own apocalyptic nicknames. It started as a snow storm – wet snow – on cold ground and streets and turned into a mass traffic quagmire. The snow surprised local meteorologists in that it stuck. I thought the ground was plenty cold since we’d had several days of dry, cold weather. It started snowing mid-morning after everyone in Birmingham arrived at work. They all started bailing out of work at the same time causing traffic jams. The roads quickly iced over and entire sections of highways were jammed with cars and big trucks. People were taken in at hotels by the droves. My wife and daughter got stuck coming home and walked to a friend’s house for shelter. Somehow, I got in my trusty Honda Pilot with all-wheel drive, got on the interstate and found my direction free of almost all traffic. I cruised at a top speed of 20 mph, climbed a few inclines safely, and made it home. I got off easier than several years earlier when I tried to go to work for an early shift during an ice storm. My rear-wheel drive Ford Explorer slipped one way rear-end first. I got it under control. It went the other way, and I got it under control. the third time it never gave me a chance as it swung the SUV entirely around and I took a giant sled ride down a hill and dropped a rear tire in the ditch. This time, I got home safely, but it felt like an Apocalypse, hence the local name. The pictures look like something from the Walking Dead with snow, wait, that right out of Game of Thrones and the snow-walkers. It makes you think how much art imitates life, or vice versa…
  • Pandemic commute – after the lockdown in March of 2020, I was deemed an essential worker and kept going to my job. The first week was a matter for discussion among us in the cube-farm. We all commented about how creepy the commute was. Driving on empty roads was a welcome change, but we all expected to see zombies wandering the roadways. I suppose all the genre movies and shows have that effect. I’ve been there with snow events, but this was way creepier since it wasn’t a weather event. Seriously, creep factor kept playing tricks with me to the point where a cyclist was mildly alarming. I shouldn’t watch Walking Dead re-runs again.

Bonus Story

I have a lot of adventures as I dredge through my memories. Life’s been far more eventful that it seemed over the years.

Once, before I was married, I was driving late-night to Nashville to visit my soon-to-be wife. The night was frigid in the low twenties and expected to drop to single digits. I was making good time in my old 1980 Plymouth Champ, but the gas level was heading toward empty. But I knew I had enough to make it to my exit to fill-up.

About three miles from the exit, the car sputtered a couple of times even though I had plenty of gas left. Then, it died and I costed to a stop on the shoulder.

The gas line had frozen.

Almost made it.

What was I to do?

I thought of walking, but it was cold so I started running. Not too far along, a sheriff deputy stopped and picked me up. I got a short ride in the back to my exit where I placed a phone call on a pay-phone (I’m really dating myself – hey, I saw one in the middle of nowhere a month or so back). My fiancé drove out and picked me up.

For a few minutes, it was a lonely run on the side of a dark, cold highway.

Guess what? It snowed and it was several days before I could get out to gas up my car. Thankfully, it was in one piece.

That’s all I’ve got for today. I could go on about roadside breakdowns (that’s not the only time I took a run for for a gas station, but maybe another time). Feel free to share your apocalyptic stories in the comments and I’ll get back to you. I’ll be back with a creepier topic later this week.

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