QSFer Matt Burlingame has a an audio version of his MM Paranormal book out:
James Dixon has it all: a gorgeous fiance, a beautiful new house with the pool of his dreams, and his beloved dog Pepper. But his perfect life begins to unravel after the sudden disappearance of his best friend, Ben. Trying to maintain a sense of normalcy while desperate to find out what happened to his friend, James helps his fiance, Michael, plan their upcoming housewarming party.
But the oddities keep adding up until James becomes convinced their new house is being haunted. Enlisting the help of his mother, a witch, their party becomes the housewarming from hell as James uncovers shocking secrets and the ultimate betrayal in this paranormal tale of terror.
Audio excerpt here: https://www.audible.com/pd/Fiction/BooFF-Audiobook/B078TLNQDZ
That evening James and Michael lay spooning on the couch, watching Survivor. Michael, who was lying behind James to avoid his fruity fish pizza breath, had already fallen asleep, his left arm draped over his fiance’s hip.
James kept compulsively glancing down at his cell in hopes Ben would text. It felt weird to be watching Survivor without Ben. The two of them had watched almost every episode together since it had first aired. He finally picked up his phone and sent a text. “Where are you? You should be here!” He set the phone back down with a sigh and looked up at the screen.
Pepper jolted up out of a sound sleep, ears perked and tail wagging as she lay staring across the room. She then ran down the hallway, found a ball shaped like a giraffe head and ran back to the living room, dropping it in front of the high-backed living room chair not far from the couch and wagging her tail excitedly.
James, his attention on the show, only partially registered what Pepper was doing, in the same way a watchful parent always has a peripheral awareness of what their child is doing, even though they are focusing on something else.
Pepper’s feet slid across the floor cartoon style as she tried to get enough traction to race down the hallway. She then trotted back triumphantly with the giraffe ball in her mouth and dropped it in front of the chair. She did it a second time and a third before James finally turned his attention from the television to Pepper, now panting as she sat in front of the empty chair, looking expectantly at the toy.
A half-smile crossed his face as he saw the yellow and brown tennis ball, a strand of cloth neck still attached hanging off its side. It had been the head of a squeaky dog toy with a long giraffe body, that Ben had bought Pepper the first day James had brought her home from the shelter. The first few hours she had remained distant from James, sitting by the door stoically, as if she were expecting to be taken back to her solitary cage at the shelter. But when Ben arrived, he sat down on the floor next to her, took out the giraffe toy and squeaked it at her. It had been love at first squeak for both of them. Since then, whenever Ben was over, she would find what was left of the giraffe and bring it to him to throw for her. Pepper may have been James’ dog, but he sometimes wondered if she liked her Uncle Ben more.
His smile faded as a sadness began to creep over him. Why hadn’t Ben called, or texted, or come by, or… something. Anything! Just to let him know he was all right. He couldn’t be that angry at him, could he?
He remembered the last text he had gotten from Ben early Monday morning. “I’m coming over. We need to talk! Extremely important!” But James flight had been bumped up and he had already been on the plane with his phone shut off.
Still, even when they had the occasional falling out, it never lasted more than a day, and they at least let each other know they were okay. But it was going on three days now. He would have at least texted. Unless something had happened to him…
James buried his face in the couch pillow and tried to push the thought away. No. He had to believe Ben was okay.
He heard a faint squeak in the distance and Pepper race down the hallway once more. He raised his head in time to see her race back to the chair with the toy in her mouth, drop it and sit, staring at it expectantly.
James watched for a moment, the pieces of the last few minutes circling around inside his head like a jigsaw puzzle that refused to come together. Not able to grasp on to the nagging feeling that was now replacing his worry, he turned his attention back to Survivor and pulled Michael’s arm tighter around him.
Matt Burlingame is an award-winning journalist and playwright, living in Northern California. After 20 years of working for various newspapers, websites, and even co-hosting a late-night radio show, he has retired from his aspirations of being the male Murphy Brown to pursue his love of fiction writing.
He has written and co-written over ten critically acclaimed plays, including Recovery Mode, Poughkeepsie Porn Co., Countess Dracula, and the controversial Paperclip Messiah. His plays have been produced nationally, most notably in New York, and St. Louis.
He has been a well-known podcaster for over ten years and produced and co-hosted shows focused on writing, comedy, theater, sex education and positive body image.
With the support and encouragement of his cat, and lifelong friend Nephi, he has now immersed himself into the wonderful world of fiction.