New horror from Rhiannon Frater: in the dead spots, dreams become reality, terror knows your name, and nightmares can kill.
The stillbirth of Mackenzie's son destroyed her marriage. Grieving, Mac reluctantly heads for her childhood home to seek refuge with her mother, who constantly reminds her of life's dangers. Driving across Texas, Mac swerves to avoid hitting a deer... and winds up in a dead spot, a frightening place that lies between the worlds of the living and the dead. If they can control their imaginations, people can literally bring their dreams to life—but most are besieged by fears and nightmares which pursue them relentlessly.
Mackenzie's mother and husband haunt her, driving her to the brink of madness. Then she hears a child call for help and her maternal instincts kick into overdrive. Grant, Mac's ally in the dead spots, insists Johnny is a phantom, but the boy seems so real, so alive...
As the true horrors of the dead spots are slowly revealed, Mackenzie realizes that time is running out. But exits from the dead spots are nearly impossible to find, and defended by things almost beyond imagination.
About the Author
RHIANNON FRATER lives in Texas. She is the author of The First Days, Fighting to Survive, and Siege. Frater is well-loved in the blogosphere and is conducting a never-ending blog tour. She is active in the goth and horror fiction communities and on the convention circuit.
Read an Excerpt
By Rhiannon Frater
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 2015 Rhiannon Frater
All rights reserved.
Six Months Later
The crib was empty.
Mackenzie couldn't tear her eyes from the spot where her child should have been playing with his toes and cooing at the Winnie-the-Pooh mobile rotating above his little head. Instead, the mobile was packed in a box along with all the clothes he would never wear, the toys he would never play with, and the soft, yellow baby blanket that he would never snuggle in. The crib and house were as vacant as her hollowed-out heart.
Feeling faint, she gripped the crib rail and clung to it for stability. This was it. The end of everything she had held dear. Today was the day she closed the door on the life she had shared with Tanner. It was time to build a new one alone.
"Mac?" Angie, her sister-in-law, called out. "Are you okay?"
Turning, Mackenzie saw Angie leaning against the doorjamb. Her pink blouse was sticking to her ample chest and full arms though the matching crop pants still looked crisp from ironing. Angie's look was distinctly that of a mom. Mackenzie, meanwhile, was clad in tight jeans, her favorite high-heeled boots, and a pale blue silk T-shirt. Her lightweight navy blue leather jacket was set aside with her purse and keys for the cold weather that would soon be blowing into the area.
Knowing that a truthful answer was not what Angie wanted to hear, Mackenzie mutely nodded.
"The men from Goodwill are here, Mac."
Mackenzie didn't answer, not sure she could speak quite yet. It was so hard to remove all traces of Joshua from the house that should have been his home. Yet, the house was an empty shell now, devoid of everything that had once given it life. Her son had been born without once taking a breath or opening his eyes. Her husband and all his possessions were in another woman's home now. All that was left was the remnants of her broken dreams.
"I know it's hard, Mac," Angie said sympathetically after an uncomfortable moment of silence. "But it's time to let go."
The ludicrousness of her sister-in-law's comment hit her like a bad joke. Mackenzie had no other choice than to let go of her dead child, her empty house, and her soon-to-be ex-husband. There was nothing left to hold on to and keep her in Shreveport. Yet, she couldn't verbalize these morose thoughts. Though she knew Angie sincerely cared about her and was attempting to be supportive, the truth was that Angie could never truly understand what Mackenzie was experiencing. It was a very lonely thought.
With a sigh, she made a point of releasing the rail and stepping away from the crib she'd long ago painted pale blue when the world still seemed perfect and full of hope.
"Are you sure you're okay?" Angie tilted her head, worried.
"I'm trying to be." It wasn't a lie. After months of surrendering to her grief, she was finally moving forward. It was a daunting endeavor, but she was determined to claw her way out of the black pit of depression she'd fallen into when the doctor had been unable to locate Joshua's heartbeat.
Angie's tawny hair stuck to her neck and cheeks as she shuffled into the room. Behind her were the men who had come to cart away all the objects from Joshua's unlived life. The electricity was disconnected and though it was morning, the air was thick and humid inside the house. Sweat pooled between Mackenzie's breasts and trickled down her back. Angie's skin was beaded with moisture and she fanned herself with one pudgy hand. An early-autumn cold front was about to sweep into Shreveport and Mackenzie couldn't wait for the break in the heat though she dreaded the thought of the storms. She'd never been able to shake her childhood fear of thunder.
"So everything, right?" The big black man with the silvery hair leaned over to pick up several boxes stacked against the wall.
Mackenzie found it hard to speak, so she nodded instead.
The younger of the duo, a tanned boy with lots of shaggy blond hair and freckles, snagged the high chair and a bag of baby clothes. He sauntered out of the room, his head bopping to the music pouring out of his earbuds.
Mackenzie fought the urge to follow and rip the items from his grip. Her eyes were throbbing, but thankfully tears didn't fall. Angie rubbed her back, a consoling gesture that Mackenzie found annoying. It was the same thing Tanner always used to do to calm her. She used to love how tactile the Babin family was with each other, but now she just found it irritating.
The older man stared at the baby items, then studied Mackenzie's expression. She could see him fitting all the pieces together and searching for words to say. At last he opted not to speak at all and picked up several boxes in his burly arms. With a slight nod, he carried his burden out the door. Mackenzie's gaze followed, her heart breaking all over again.
"Maybe you should wait in another room," Angie suggested.
With a sigh and a nod, Mackenzie acknowledged the wisdom of these words. She walked toward the door, hesitated, then snagged the unfinished yellow baby blanket from the top of a box before escaping to the empty kitchen. It had been foolish to believe she could give up the small thirty by forty inches of fabric that she had poured so much love and time into. That terrible day when she'd realized Joshua hadn't moved in hours and the doctor instructed her to go into the clinic for an ultrasound, she'd left the blanket behind on the bed stand. Tanner had kept reassuring her that Joshua was just a deep sleeper like he was and not to worry. All the way to the clinic, she'd gently poked at the baby bump, willing him to wake up. The ultrasound had confirmed her worst fears and all that followed was a nightmare. She hadn't seen the yellow blanket again until she had returned home with empty arms from the hospital a week later. A fresh rush of tears had spilled when she'd realized that Joshua had traveled to the funeral home wrapped in one of the generic baby blankets from the hospital.
Her notebook sat on the kitchen counter with the lid open. She'd been chatting on a forum for mothers of baby loss when Angie had arrived earlier. To speak with other women who'd experienced stillbirth had been a lifeline in the midst of the disintegration of her marriage, her mother's endless lectures, the painful platitudes people spouted in the face of her grief, and the seemingly endless well of sorrow in her heart and soul. It was the encouragement and sympathy of women that Mackenzie had never met that had helped her finally crawl out of bed and put together the pieces of her shattered world. With a sigh, Mackenzie typed in a quick update, then turned off the computer. Private messages were delivered to her email, so she would be able to check them and respond from her phone. Already this morning there was a slew of messages wishing her a safe trip to Texas.
Shoving the small laptop into its sleeve, she listened to Angie's voice drift through the house. Mackenzie wondered what Angie was saying to the men, but then shrugged it off. It didn't matter. Soon she would be leaving behind the house, the city of Shreveport, and all her memories, both good and bad.
On the counter resting next to Angie's purse was the divorce decree. Angie had been kind enough to bring it over for her final signature. Mackenzie couldn't bear to see Tanner and Darla, his new girlfriend. It was a small world when it came to gossip. It hadn't taken long for Mackenzie to hear about Darla's pregnancy. She would never begrudge a woman the joy of motherhood, but the news had hurt. Tanner had definitely moved on with his life and it was time for her to do the same.
It was just so hard.
Picking up the pen Angie had left on top of the document, Mackenzie lightly touched the little flags marking the spots where she was supposed to sign. If only she could turn back the clock and somehow fix everything that had gone wrong. Failure weighed heavily on her shoulders as she began to scrawl her signature and initials. With each jot of the pen, she hoped that the tight knot inside her gut would vanish, but it didn't. The enormity of the situation crushed her. All her hopes and dreams of a beautiful life with Tanner were abolished bit by bit with each swipe of the pen. When she signed the very last line and dated it, her handwriting was barely legible. Feeling overwhelmed, she took a deep breath and slowly exhaled. It was a trick her grief counselor had taught her. Gradually, her trembling hands stilled.
The noise of the truck pulling away from the house reached her ears. The finality of the sound brought tears to her eyes. Gruffly, she rubbed her eyelids with the heels of her hands. She was so damn sick of crying.
"Did you sign it?" Angie's voice asked.
Wiping her damp hands on her jeans, Mackenzie nodded. "Yeah. All done. It's over."
"Mac, I want you to know that you'll always be my sister in my heart."
The comment was said sweetly, but it didn't hold the weight of sincerity. Mackenzie could hear in Angie's voice that she was tired and ready for Mackenzie to move on. In the last six months Mackenzie had learned a painful truth. Everyone had a limit on how long they'd allow a mother to grieve. The furniture store where she'd been a bookkeeper had the shortest limit. She'd only worked there for less than a year and hadn't been particularly close to her coworkers, for she primarily worked alone in a back office. Physical complications from the birth had eaten her sick and vacation days since her maternity leave had been canceled due to Joshua's death. Losing her job had only added to her feelings of worthlessness.
Tanner had been next. When she'd been unable to shake off her depression, he'd grown weary and distant. And then he was gone. With him followed the support of most of his family, friends, and coworkers, except for Angie. Mackenzie soon realized she hadn't truly built a life with Tanner, but had merely become a part of his. Once he was gone, her world had become a very dark place indeed.
Mackenzie gestured toward the divorce decree. "I wish it hadn't come to this."
"Once Tanner makes up his mind, you can't change it. I tried to talk him into giving it another shot with you, but ..." Angie sighed.
"He met Darla."
Tanner's carefree and almost reckless way of careening through life enabled him to easily move on. As quickly as he fell in love, he also fell out of love.
"I just wish we could go back to the good times. Tanner and I were so happy together." Mackenzie crossed her arms over her breasts, hugging herself. "Then Joshua died and Tanner just ..."
"My brother doesn't deal well with difficult emotional situations. He never has. Tanner likes to be happy and to have fun."
"I should have tried harder to not be so depressed." Mackenzie folded the divorce decree and laid it next to Angie's purse. "I let Tanner down."
Tanner had wept at her side when she'd delivered their dead child and over the tiny little coffin, but after the funeral he had shut off his emotions. Tanner had immediately tried to box up everything in the nursery and sell it. Mackenzie hadn't been able to cope with that change and had fought him. Tanner had wanted her to get pregnant immediately, but she had been too sick physically and frozen with fear to even want to try. When she lay in bed sobbing, he had gotten up and slept on the sofa. If she was honest with herself, Tanner had emotionally abandoned her almost immediately. Yet, she couldn't help but feel it was her fault. Her grief had driven him away.
"I love you, Mackenzie, but my brother can't be the man you need him to be. You need to wise up and see that truth, honey. I know he's hurting in his own way, but he can't deal with what you're going through. That's why he left you. I know it sounds like I'm making excuses for him, and maybe I am, but in my heart I know the divorce is better for both of you."
It was difficult for Mackenzie to accept that Angie was right. "I just don't know how this all happened." Mackenzie knew she sounded like a broken record, but couldn't stop herself. "We were so happy and everything was perfect and then Joshua just died. How can the doctors not be able to tell me why he died? All those tests and no answers."
"Sometimes babies just die, Mac. Joshua's little heart just stopped and we don't know why. Like Pastor Lufkin said, maybe Jesus just wanted another angel in heaven."
"Then I wish Jesus would have made another damn angel instead of killing my baby," Mackenzie snapped.
Immediately Mackenzie feared she had insulted her only remaining supporter in Shreveport. Maybe she should have tried harder to hide her pain, but it was so hard to maneuver through a life that should have contained her child. Even her body had been a constant reminder of her pregnancy. She had leaked milk for quite some time and her stomach was a road map of stretch marks from her baby bump. Yet, there was no baby to feed, or to hold.
"Now that you say that, I can see how that sounds wrong," Angie said finally. "It really, really does sound just wrong."
"Sometimes I feel like people don't want me to mourn. That they want me to act like everything is just peachy keen."
"People just don't like the idea of dead babies," Angie replied. "They don't like talking about it all the time."
Mackenzie pressed her lips together to prevent saying something she'd regret. What Angie didn't understand is that people didn't want her to talk about her dead son at all. It was as if they just wanted to pretend he had never existed.
"Your mama will be real happy to see you, I'm sure," Angie said, attempting to change the subject.
Everyone always wanted to change the subject.
"Mom is determined to get me back on the road to health and happiness. I'm sure by the time I get home she'll have a schedule ready for me. A list of do's and don'ts. And plenty of barbed comments."
"Your mama loves you. I'm sure she just wants to help you start a new life."
"I suppose. I don't know. I just have nowhere else to go." Mackenzie was out of a job, nearly out of money, and had lost the circle of friends that had really been Tanner's and had only been hers by default.
"Who knows," Angie said with a sly smile, "maybe you'll meet some handsome cowboy back in Kerrville."
Forcing a smile, Mackenzie said, "I'm sure my mother is hoping for the same."
"Oh, before I forget." Angie reached into her big purse and pulled out an envelope.
"I'm sorry, hon, but he doesn't want them."
Holding out her hand, Mackenzie reclaimed the photos she'd sent Tanner. After Joshua died, labor had been induced. It took nearly twenty hours to finally deliver him. Later, a nurse brought Joshua into her hospital room so she and Tanner could spend a few precious hours saying goodbye to their son. A volunteer photographer had arrived and taken photos of them holding Joshua. Joshua was so perfect Mackenzie irrationally hoped he'd awaken. Though she had been warned decomposition would become evident because Joshua was so tiny, it had been difficult to watch his tiny lips gradually darken. It was only after his lips turned black that she fully accepted he would not miraculously awaken.
Weeks later, she received beautiful black-and-white photos in the mail. The images had been touched up to remove the unseemly aspects of stillbirth such as the tears in Joshua's delicate skin and his blackened lips. After Tanner had filed for divorce, per her request, the photographer had been kind enough to send her a second set. Now Tanner had returned the only photos of their son, another clear indication of him moving on.
"Did you want a photo of Joshua?" Mackenzie dared to ask though she knew the answer.
"I have him in my heart," Angie said diplomatically.
Mackenzie hesitated, then nodded. "I had better be going. I have a long drive."
"It'll all work out. You'll see," Angie said, her smile a little forced.
Mackenzie collected the yellow blanket and her laptop before striding through the archway connecting the kitchen to the dining room and over to the built-in bookcase where she always kept her purse, keys, and sunglasses. She'd bought the huge Betsey Johnson tote with the intention of using it as a diaper bag, but now she used it as a purse. It was black and white striped with a big heart with ruffles and studs. After tucking the rolled-up blanket and laptop inside, she pulled out a small leather journal. It contained the lists that now ruled her life. When she'd been in her darkest, deepest despair, it was making a short list that had helped her start to claw her way out.
It had contained five lines:
1. Get out of bed.
2. Take a shower.
3. Get dressed.
5. Don't go back to bed.
Excerpted from Dead Spots by Rhiannon Frater. Copyright © 2015 Rhiannon Frater. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
As someone who has had horrible nightmares for twenty years, the idea of being trapped in a world of these night terrors is deeply unsettling and frightening. Dead Spots, by Rhiannon Frater, truly knows how create a terrifying world that lies between life and death. In this world, nightmares dominate, and it’s almost impossible to get out – just as it’s impossible to put this book down. Mackenzie is broken and full of anxiety, trying to hold the fragments of her life together as everything falls to pieces around her. She gave birth to a stillborn son, resulting in her marriage becoming destroyed. Her now-ex husband has moved on, and Mackenzie is not finding any emotional support from her friends or family. When she ends up in the dead spot, she doesn’t believe it’s real. She is convinced she is dreaming, and is unable to fathom the terror that lurks around every corner. The horrific things she witnesses are impossible, and she rationalizes it all by deciding she is going insane. She finds a companion to help her through the dead spots, but even that is not exactly the relationship it appears to be. The world around her feeds off of her fears, and throws them back at her. She NEEDS to find a way out, and needs to find it NOW. I was genuinely terrified for Mackenzie, and was surprised by the twists that were thrown in this story’s plotline. The imagery and the descriptions of everything were incredibly realistic, and I got goosebumps during some of the scenes. This is definitely one that I probably should not have read just before bed, as it gave me some really weird dreams! The character development is fantastic, and all of the characters are complicated and well-rounded. Mackenzie truly grows as a person throughout the story, and I could not help but root for her. I deeply wanted her to succeed, and wanted her to get out safely. I was sad when the book ended, though was completely satisfied with the ending. It was an open ending that makes the reader think, but it is not an obnoxious cliffhanger. I really do not want to give anything away, as I feel like going into this blind (for the most part) would be far more fun for you as readers. I cannot recommend this highly enough, and am very glad that I spent the money on Dead Spots. Rhiannon Frater is definitely blessed with the gift of horror writing, and this novel is one you do NOT want to miss!
About two years ago I was introduced to Rhiannon's work when I received the first season of In Darkness We Must Abide followed by winning the Pretty When She Dies series on ebook. Immediately after reading Death Comes Home, I knew Rhiannon was an amazing talented horror writer. When offered the opportunity to be a part of the Dead Spots blog tour, I knew I couldn't pass up the opportunity. Dead Spots is a book that is going to be tricky to review. Not because I don't have anything to say, but I have too much to say and it would all give way too much about the plot away. There are huge plot points, twists and turns, that I find simply amazing and I can tell you about none of it! Mackenzie is going through a rough time. Her son died in the womb and when she was "unable to move on" her husband left her. Nice guy, huh? Anyway, while driving back home to her mother's Mackenzie finds herself trapped in a dead spot, a place so much worse than any nightmare. There is no way out of a dead spot unless the door is opened from the living side, which almost never happens as dead spots come about from abandoned buildings. The creatures that inhabit the dead spot are beyond the stuff of nightmares and know you're deepest darkest fears, which they subsequently use against you. Rhiannon creates a terrifying world and uses such detail that I, unfortunately, could imagine myself in this place. Mackenzie evolves over time and it's easy to see this development. She starts Dead Spots as a young bride and mother-to-be with all these hopes and dreams that are shattered with the death of her son and loss of her marriage; however, after spending sometime in the death spots she becomes an individual who isn't waiting around for the man to save her, but someone who saves herself. While there were times I wanted to yell at her for her stupidity (then again I can't imagine how I would act in her situation), she becomes an amazingly strong woman. Dead Spots is not just a horror novel. It is a story of a woman overcoming life's (and some of death's) obstacles to find freedom from her difficult past and horrifying present. Fantastically disturbing, a unique tale of horrors, and a bit of psychological messing with the mind Dead Spots is the perfect read for any horror fan
I was hooked all the way through.
I loved this book hard to put down.
Okay now that I have some time I can finally put my thoughts on Dead Spots down. Rhiannon has crafted a brilliant look into the mind. How it can trick you, cause you fear, weaken your body, weaken your senses, play on your hopes, your fears. The mind. Being stuck in a world of your nightmares - tell me that doesn't sound horrible. But for some people (myself included) that's where we are. Always. Stuck in our fears (which are never-ending, mind you), trying in vain to still them, to be at peace with what those around you cannot understand. And there are those you hold close that are causing the anxiety but you are unable to realize it, trapped as you are in this never-ending cycle of dread, of overwhelming negativity. She's placed those with Generalized Anxiety Disorder or Depression or OCD or any mental and/or physical illness bearer into a world where their everyday plights are common, and it helps one recognize their symptoms, locate the cause, and perhaps even fight their way through, if only by seeing it on a page. The thought, "I am not alone," came to mind while I read it. If anything else, Dead Spots merely shows that people, that women, are not any 'less' for dealing with what they do, that the horrors of the world are not our fault, that the true way to gain power is through the self, and that no one can truly help you, but you. No one can take the step for a better life, but yourself. But it's one hell of a ride getting to that point, just like real life. This was a wonderfully done novel, chilling me to the bone, causing me to maybe not sleep right away once I'd put it down for the night, and wonder just what prowled outside my window while I slept. She caught my interest with Pretty When She Dies, now she has me as a reader for life with Dead Spots. Rhiannon Frater is on my list as my absolute favorite author, her ability to weave a rather 'real' story placed in a nightmarish 'almost fictional' world is quite frightening in its execution. She's a master of character, of depth, and story, and I feel I'm beginning to notice her trademark flair for the grotesque. (It startles me when I do read a particularly gruesome scene, only for me to go 'She's a sick one.') Yet it only endears me to her work further. I will be looking at Mrs. Frater's backlog of work to pick up what I haven't read, and I will be eagerly devouring all her new work. She's sunk her claws into me and I'm afraid they won't come out
I could not put this book down! This author has come up with a very interesting twist on the idea of another world existing along side the one we live in. The characters are developed well. I cared what happened to these people. Part science fiction/ fantasy and part wild adventure, I kept turning the pages long after I should have been asleep. Give this book a try and you won't be disappointed.
Have you ever read a book where you were constantly hoping that the whole thing was a nightmare that didn’t really happen? That the main character would wake up, and things in her life were totally the opposite of what was happening? Dead Spots by Rhiannon Frater did just that for me. Her books have never disappointed me. She is such a skilled horror writer that everything that happens in the book, was freakishly scary, and that your heart can’t help but beat faster and harder when the big bad scarys showed up. In Dead Spots by Rhiannon Frater, main character Mackenzie (aka Mac) goes through a horrible life changing ordeal. In the blink of an eye, Mac’s perfect life – complete with perfect husband and a child on the way – disappears. The baby that she and her husband had so eagerly waited for is stillborn, which tears her and husband apart. Throw in the mix a mother who messes with her mind every chance she gets (like say…saying it’s all Mac’s fault that she lost the baby), getting back on her feet is not an easy one. To get away from the memories and her pain, Mac decides to move back to Texas with her mom and start over. Little did she know that a near miss driving accident involving a deer, will change everything. Like in horror movie style, our heroine decide to venture into an abandoned café/bistro in the woods (here we go…) and finds herself getting stuck in a Dead Spot. A dead spot is basically a doorway to an inbetween world. Where things of nightmares are very real, and all seem to be thirsting for Mac and her life glow. But Mac is also lucky to have run into Grant, as soon as she steps into the dead spot. Mac does everything he can to keep Mac safe, including telling who is and is not safe to talk to. But when things that Mac says are starting to contradict the things she’s experiencing, who can she turn to and trust so that she can figure out a way to get out? With killer clowns and crazy ass wraiths hot on her trail, Mac must decide who to trust and who to avoid…but learning who is trustworthy is a scary path…one that might keep Mac trapped in the dead spot forever. Let me as you this…Have you read any of Rhiannon Frater’s books? She is seriously one talented chick, and her eye for horror and terror is definitely spot on. Dead Spots is another book that you should add to your must read lists. Although not as grotesque and as gory as her other works (i.e. her As The World Dies series – which was amazeballs), the visions that her words conjured up in my head freaked me out. That frickin’ clown? OMG… And that’s the thing! The world in Dead Spots is one where anything from nightmares can appear out of nowhere in the blink of an eye! That’s what I loved about it. Everything was guessing what could possibly happen next, if the character that we just met is someone who can be trusted or wants Mac killed, if Mac is actually going to make it out of the dead spot world and back to reality, if she’s actually going through the scary crap or if she’s dreaming this all up while unconscious from a car accident. The fear mixed with the sadness and pain of what Mac went through had my emotions going all over the place while reading this book. Fans of reads that will keep you up at night and afraid to close your eyes will really enjoy Dead Spots by Rhiannon Frater. I cannot WAIT to see what she has coming out next!