ON SALE for $0.99
by Erik Therme
Erik Therme's suspense thriller Mortom is ON SALE for only $0.99 to 3 August, so grab it at this bargain price while you can. You can read an excerpt from the book as well as a guest post from the author below.
Mortom: population 986.
On the outskirts of town, 33-year-old Craig Moore is found drowned in the lake. A loner and town eccentric, few attend the funeral.
One week later Andy Crowl arrives in Mortom, still stunned by his cousin’s death and equally confused why everything was left to him. The two hadn’t spoken in years and shared little outside of fierce childhood competition.
But Craig hardly did him a favor. The estate amounts to little more than a drained bank account and a property overridden with junk. When Andy finds a dead rat under the refrigerator with a key in its mouth, he thinks it’s some sort of sick joke. Then he finds the letter left by Craig, written two days before his death ... detailing the rules of "the game".
Andy stood at the foot of the grave, unmoving and unblinking. The cigarette between his fingers burned forgotten as he stared at the dirt, trying to feel something for the man buried below. Not just any man: his own flesh and blood. A week ago Craig had been walking around the town of Mortom, breathing air and living life. And in the blink of an eye, he was gone. When his mother had called and told him the news, he felt nothing. When Thatcher left a message about the estate, he returned the call immediately. He had skipped the funeral and come for the stuff ... but there was no stuff, only a rat under a fridge. A dead rat with a key shoved inside its dead mouth. And with that: the game. And there he stood, about to do the unthinkable for something he wasn’t sure even existed. Nothing had ever felt so wrong to him in his life.
A car drove past and he watched the taillights disappear into the horizon. The gravesite sat far enough back that the highway wasn’t a concern, but if a car drove right up into the cemetery ... well, then things would get interesting. The temptation to wait until later into the night was strong, but moving dirt was going to be a timely chore, and he maybe - maybe - had six hours until sunup. He wasn’t sure it was even possible to move six feet in six hours with one man and one shovel. The hole he had dug at the shed had knocked the wind out of him, and that was nothing compared to what he was about to do.
He pitched his cigarette and ran a sweaty hand across his forehead. If he was going to do this, it was time to get moving. No more stalling.
He picked up the shovel. It felt impossibly heavy in his hands, and he told himself again how simple it would be to walk away. He could go back to the house, have a few beers, and blissfully pass out on the couch. In the morning he would catch a bus back to Luther and put all this behind him.
“Let sleeping dogs lie,” he whispered.
How many times had their mother uttered those words? Hundreds? Thousands? Never had the phrase felt more apt. And he truly believed what he told Kate earlier: some things were meant to stay buried. He believed that. He did.
But some things had to be discovered.
Craig hadn’t been insane. Not in the traditional sense, anyway. There was entirely too much method in this madness, and that meant Craig had been driven by another force; one as equally powerful, destructive and unpredictable. Mary could talk until she was blue in the face about how awful he had treated Craig while growing up, but no amount of childhood teasing could drive a man to this level of hate. There was more to the story; more buried below the surface.
And that was why he couldn’t walk away.
There was tomorrow to think about. And the next day. And the day after. He would spend every day of the rest of his life, wondering what it all meant, never knowing the full truth. Never understanding why it had come to this.
And that was unacceptable.
So there he stood. The alternative was simple. Dig six feet into the ground and break open the coffin. If that was what needed to be done, then that was what he was going to do. Right or wrong. End of story.
“No choice,” he said.
He raised the shovel.
Praise for the Book
"I happened upon Iowa City author Erik Therme’s Mortom when a Facebook friend recommended it and noted that the e-edition was on sale. I grabbed a copy and soon found myself drawn in. Therme’s debut novel is a fast-paced mystery/thriller built around family secrets and long-held grudges." ~ Rob Cline Cedar Rapids Gazette
"One of the characteristics of a good story is its ability to fully engage its audience. Erik Therme’s Mortom does this effortlessly, completely immersing the reader in a world of small town mystery. Therme writes with an economy that moves the story along at a break neck pace, even during the 'non-action' parts of the book. Mortom is the epitome of a 'page turner', with each turn of the page pushing the reader toward yet another revelation" ~ Langley J. West Nocturnal Combustion
Guest Post by the Author (originally published on the author's website)
How Scooby Doo Saved Mortom
I’m often asked if Mortom was inspired by other works. The short answer is yes: Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot and the brilliant A Simple Plan (Scott Smith) both factor into the finished project. But what most people don’t know is the biggest influence didn’t come from another author, but rather a cartoon dog.
When I completed the first draft of Mortom (many, many, many years ago) it was fairly obvious I had "borrowed" heavily from Salem’s Lot. Both stories had creepy buildings, bad guys with supernatural powers, and protagonists revisiting small towns they had known as children. My story was mediocre at best, and after some indifferent tinkering, I shelved it away.
Years passed, but the story never fully left my mind. When I discovered the novel A Simple Plan, I realized why Mortom didn’t work: my characters were absolutely and utterly uninteresting. The protagonist in A Simple Plan was so flawed he was borderline evil, and his wife - in many ways - was almost worse ... but they felt real, and because of that I rooted for them. I dove back into my story, fleshed out my characters, and dropped the supernatural element. It was a much stronger read, but there was still something missing that I couldn’t put my finger on. The manuscript returned to hard drive hibernation, and I moved onto other projects.
It was a Friday night, and my daughter and I had rented Scooby-Doo Meets the Boo Brothers. For those not familiar with this video treasure: Shaggy and Scooby travel to a plantation to claim an inheritance from a recently deceased uncle. When they arrive they find a letter promising hidden treasure ... if they can decipher a series of clues.
When I tucked my daughter into bed that night, I was still thinking about the movie. The idea of a real-life game of "follow the clues" was so intriguing that I began mentally cataloging distant relatives, wondering if any were rich and/or eccentric, and all at once it hit me: the chances of anything like that happening to me were one in a billion.
But it could happen in Mortom.
I already had a great backdrop (dilapidated small town), a cast of colorful characters (fresh off the assembly line), and a storyline just waiting to be tweaked. But most importantly, I now had the twist I had been searching for.
An hour later I had a handful of notes. The next day I had an outline, and two months later I had a revised draft. Mortom had been reborn into the world ... all thanks to a cartoon dog.
About the Author
Erik Therme has thrashed in garage bands, (inadvertently) harbored runaways, and met Darth Vader. None of these have come close to the thrill of releasing his debut novel, Mortom.
When he's not at his computer, he can be found cheering on his oldest daughter's volleyball team, or chilling on the PS3 with his 10-year-old. He currently resides in Iowa City, Iowa - one of only 7 places in the world the UNESCO has certified as a "City of Literature".