Wednesday, January 5, 2022

The Legend of the Dogman Excerpt and Guest Post


The Legend of the Dogman

by David C. Posthumus

Genre: Horror, Thriller, Suspense 

Something dark and malevolent stalks the majestic Northwoods of Michigan, and each corpse sends a new wave of terror through the small town of LeRoy. Anthropology professor Jack Allen uncovers a pattern of strange encounters, disappearances, and unsolved murders that shake him to his core. The deeper Jack delves into the horror in the woods, the more his life falls apart around him. With his family and all of Northern Michigan hanging in the balance, Jack must find a way to stop the cycle or risk losing everything to the ultimate predator. Meet a new kind of monster in David C. Posthumus’s bone-chilling suspenseful thriller, The Legend of the Dogman!

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Spring: 2017
Sunday, April 29, 2017
Near Marion, Michigan

The McGregor family went mushrooming every spring. It was a family tradition that stretched back to when Joe McGregor was a boy growing up in scenic Northern Michigan. Every year in late April and May, Joe and his father would spend a few hours together out in the woods each evening hunting for the elusive and delicious morel, one of the most prized and expensive wild mushrooms you can find. Morels are conical in shape with long hollow caps with a ridged and spongy look, almost like a honeycomb. 

Sometimes on the weekends, Joe and his dad would spend an entire day outside, walking the trails and combing the woods, their eyes glued to the ground in search of the camouflaged fungi that blended in so well with the leaves, pine needles, and dead grass of the previous autumn. The rush of excitement when you spotted one and the thrill of victory as you reached down to pick it just never got old. Those times Joe spent in the Northwoods in the springtime with his father were some of his fondest childhood memories.

Morels are common in Michigan, growing in every county in the state, and mushroom hunting is a popular spring hobby. Plus, it’s a great way to get some exercise and enjoy the great outdoors. Most morel hunters are tight-lipped about their favorite spots, but the majestic mixed pine and hardwood forests of Michigan’s northern Lower Peninsula are prime locations for wild mushrooms.

One of the McGregor family’s favorite spots was a densely wooded area of state land north of the small village of Marion in Osceola County. It sits between the Clam River to the north and the Middle Branch River to the south, both classic trout streams and tributaries of the mighty Muskegon River, the second largest river in the state.   

Joe McGregor, along with his wife Lindsay and their five-year-old daughter Lily, had left their home in Cadillac around nine that morning after a hearty breakfast. Joe had packed their mesh bags, a wicker basket for Lily, and a picnic lunch packed securely away in the trunk. After a half-hour drive, they parked their car on the shoulder of an isolated dusty backroad, retrieved their gear, and headed off into the woods. It was a chilly sunny day, but they were happy to be spending some quality time together in the forest. 

Just after one, the McGregors finished their lunch of sandwiches, baby carrots, apple slices, and potato chips. Joe and Lindsay shared a bottle of cold and refreshing iced tea while Lily happily slurped her chocolate milk. Lily was thrilled to the gills when Daddy surprised her by pulling out three big pieces of the cheesecake Mommy had made that week. They emerged from the little red and white cooler as if by magic, neatly arranged on a plastic plate and covered with Saran Wrap.

As the McGregors hiked back into the woods to continue their hunt, Joe took stock of their haul so far for the day. It had been a productive one: Joe’s white mesh bag contained at least fifty morels, while Lindsay, who had a great eye for mushrooms, bagged at least eighty. Even Lily had stopped daydreaming and playing to find eleven morels, which now bounced around merrily in her basket as they walked. 

They reached the spot where they had left off before lunch and got back down to business. Joe and Lindsey walked slowly in opposite directions, their eyes scanning the ground in front of them, while Lily quietly hummed a tune and walked over to examine a particularly neat-looking tree stump. 

What the McGregors didn’t realize that crisp spring afternoon was that while they were out hunting for morels, there was something else out there lurking among the tangled trees and ferns; something dark, something menacing, something evil.

And that something was hunting them.

Joe was on fire; it seemed like he was finding a morel everywhere he looked. His father had always told him that where you found one, there was sure to be another; like they grew in pairs or something, a bit of folk-wisdom, the veracity of which Joe doubted but pondered briefly. 

And there was another one! 

He knelt down and cut the stem at ground level with his pocketknife and set it in his bag. This one had been peeking out from the blanket of dead leaves covering the ground around the trunk of a gigantic maple tree. Scanning the ground around it, another mushroom came into focus not ten feet from where Joe had cut the first one. It suddenly popped out of the background of leaves like one of those weird visual puzzles you stare into until you see a three-dimensional image in them. Or so they said. Joe was never very good at those damn things. While Joe was off to the east of the trail in a little gully, Lindsay was west of the main trail, up on a rise dotted with elm trees. She too was having great luck that day—the morel god of the Northwoods was surely smiling down upon her. As she bent down to pick another mushroom, she spotted two more. Lindsay smiled and nodded happily as she dropped them into her mesh bag, which was bursting, nearly overflowing with over a hundred morels. 

Worth their weight in gold, she thought, patting her bag. But what would go good with them for dinner tonight? Fish? Chicken? Definitely some wild leeks on the side.  

Lindsay continued contemplating the evening’s meal as she walked, scanning the ground, a contented grin on her face. She enjoyed her status as the best mushroom hunter in the family; it was a spot of pride and also fueled some friendly competition between her and Joe. She chuckled, wondering how he was faring, knowing that he would never match her haul that day. Lindsay was about a hundred yards away from Joe, and Lily was between them, still walking and humming along the trail. The McGregors had hunted morels at that spot many times before, and they all knew the routine, so splitting up was no big deal… at least not until that fateful afternoon late in April.   

It got Lindsay first. 

It happened so fast that she never even knew what hit her. The thread of her life was cut so quickly and so cleanly that she was dead before she even hit the ground. She had just found a morel in the leaves at the base of a particularly bushy old elm tree with a thick trunk and had knelt down on one knee to pick it. 

That’s when it struck from behind the old elm with a blow so savage and powerful that it took Lindsay’s head clean off. It bounced off the bed of dead leaves like an underinflated basketball, making a muffled thuck sound before rolling several feet to the south and coming to rest right beside a large morel. 

Joe was next. 

He was really concentrating, focused, homed in on the task at hand, his eyes glued to the ground in front of him, scanning back and forth like a speed reader on crack. He met his end roughly ten minutes after his wife’s sudden death. But unfortunately for Joe, he saw his killer.

A dark figure suddenly appeared from behind a maple tree directly in front of him. Joe looked up, an expression of dumb surprise on his face, not knowing or believing what he was seeing. They were eye-to-eye for a split second before the thing dug into Joe’s stomach, opening it up like a surgeon with a scalpel while simultaneously tearing out his throat with its teeth. Hot blood jetted from the gaping wound in Joe’s neck, splashing against the trunk of the maple and pooling on the leaves beneath him. He didn’t even have time to scream.

All the while, Lily skipped along the trail through the woods, clutching her wicker basket tightly in her little hands. She was singing “Let’s Go Fly a Kite” from Mary Poppins, swaying along cheerfully with the movement and momentum of the song. No one knows exactly what happened to Lily McGregor that day. All I know is that she and her mother and father were never seen or heard from again.

Can you tell us a little bit about the characters in The Legend of the Dogman?

Jack Allen is the protagonist. He’s an anthropology professor at Ferris State University. He’s dedicated to his family and very driven, some might even say obsessive. His wife is Claire, and they have a daughter named Melanie. They live on a farm in LeRoy, Michigan and share a beautiful, peaceful life together. Until the killings begin. Jack’s brother and cousins also play a role. The Dogman is the antagonist, a mysterious six- or seven-foot-tall werewolf-like creature. In a nutshell, Jack uncovers a pattern that really shocks him, and he also discovers a connection with his family. He learns that his father and ancestors knew about the Dogman, and many of the older folks in the town and in the region know about it too. He becomes obsessed with learning the truth about the creature, which puts him on a collision course with an ancient evil, something out of his worst childhood nightmares.   
How did you come up with the concept and characters for the book?

I came up with concept for the book in high school. I knew I wanted it to be a multi-generational story about this guy who starts unraveling the mystery of the Dogman. So, it has a sort of detective or murder mystery element to it. It’s also something of a coming-of-age story that I hope captures some of the magic of childhood and the breathtaking beauty of Northern Michigan. It takes place in a seventh year, but then we learn about the pattern, the cycle, that seems to occur every calendar year that ends in a seven. Later, I found a way to incorporate all or most of the lines from Steve Cook’s song in the novel, too. Basically, I took the different stories from each year in the song and expanded them into chapters or incorporated them into the Jack Allen storyline. The characters came mostly from my life and experiences. In some ways, they’re a lot like me and people I know, but I always took the luxury of veering away from the models whenever it suited the story. So, in a way, all the characters are me and my friends and family, but at the same time, they’re totally different. I’m sure lots of writers have characters like that. They’re simultaneously me, someone, everyone, and no one.   

Where did you come up with the names in the story?

I knew I wanted the protagonists to be Allens. That’s my mother’s maiden name, and it just seemed right. For the others, I modified names of the models for my characters, Googled common names in the region, and even searched the Yellow Pages, digitally, of course, for some of the random names. Fans of certain classic films of the nineties might also find some names in there that will hopefully make them smile.   

What did you enjoy most about writing this book?

It was a labor of love that’s been bubbling away in my subconscious since I was a little boy. It felt great to finally get that out and on the page. It was like a tribute to that song, to the genre, to my grandpa, to childhood, and to Michigan. I loved the whole process, really, but I especially loved the little bits and twists that seemed to come out of nowhere when you’re sitting in front of your computer. Those miraculous ideas really tied things together and seemed to come to me whenever I wasn’t sure where the story would go next. They were like little gifts from the unconscious that were just so perfect and so unexpected. That was really exhilarating, and it kept the process exciting and interesting.  

Tell us about your main characters- what makes them tick?

Jack loves his family. He’s a devoted husband and father. He’s a really driven, motivated guy who wants to be good and do the right thing. But he also gets a little too deep into the things he’s passionate about. When these killings start happening, and he gets some idea about what’s going on, he wants to solve the mystery. When he discovers the connection with his family, he gets even more obsessed with finding the answer and stopping the perpetrator, stopping the cycle. His quest takes over his life, and he vows to get to the bottom of it before the mysterious creature haunting the Northwoods gets to him and his family.  

How did you come up with the title of your first novel?

It’s basically the title of the song that inspired the novel. The song is called “The Legend” or “The Legend of Michigan’s Dogman.” I called the novel “The Legend of the Dogman” as a tribute to Steve Cook and his wonderful, creative, spooky song.

Who designed your book covers?

Greg Chapman designed the cover, and he does a lot of the cover art for Cody Langille over at Timber Ghost Press. I just love the design and the artwork. Greg really nailed it, and I’m super happy with how it turned out. It captures the essence of the story, the creature, the mystery, and the Northwoods at night, which can be pretty creepy!

If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?

I don’t think so. I can’t think of anything off the top of my head. So much of it really came from inside me, from my cumulative experiences in life, from my unconscious or subconscious, from Steve Cook’s song, from the horror writers I love. When I was finished with the second draft, I really felt like it was done, like all the loose ends were tied up, and I didn’t have anything else to add. I don’t have any regrets about it really.  

Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?

Definitely. I learned that writing a novel takes a lot of time, patience, and sacrifice. I learned lots of other things too that you learn as a writer, and I think each project makes me a little better, hones my style, clarifies my voice, etc. Since this is my first novel, I feel like I learned a lot about the process. 

If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?

Hmmm, that’s a great question! I would say a young Harrison Ford would be my top choice. Maybe Christian Bale or Russell Crowe or Brad Pitt or Edward Norton. Johnny Depp could pull it off, too. He’d have to be somewhat of an outdoorsman who could do action scenes, but he also has to be an intellectual and be able to pull off the professor role.  

Anything specific you want to tell your readers?

If you’re in Northern Michigan and it’s a seventh year, the best advice you may ever get is don’t go out at night! 

What is your favorite part of this book and why?

It’s a bit of a slow burner, but I really love the pacing, especially as Part I comes to an end. I think it just builds and builds from there, and there’s a lot of tension and suspense. I hope it gives you all goosebumps and keeps you up at night!  

If you could spend time with a character from your book whom would it be? And what would you do during that day?

I’d spend time with Melanie, because she’s based on my daughter at that age. She’s five, almost six now, and every day is a blessing and an adventure. She’s an incredible kid, and I’d love to go back in time and spend an afternoon at Razzaque Days with her when she was three again.  

Are your characters based off real people or did they all come entirely from your imagination?

Both. They’re all based on me in some ways and my friends and family in some ways, too. But then, like a ruthless assassin, whenever it was in any way convenient for me or the story to veer off course, I would do that. So, all the characters are in some ways based on me and people I know, but then they also deviate from those models whenever it suits the story. So, they’re all hybrids. Some of my characters are also based on characters from films and novels I’ve loved over the years and even some historical figures.  

Do your characters seem to hijack the story or do you feel like you have the reigns of the story? 

Both. I’m not really a plot-driven writer, but I do have some idea of where I want things to go. I like to let the story tell itself through me, but sometimes I know I want the characters to get to a certain point, so then I’ll steer them toward it. But in lots of cases, the characters do and say things I didn’t expect them to, and it leads us in all kinds of unexpected and interesting directions. 

Convince us why you feel your book is a must read.

If you’re into spooky folktales and dark, mysterious creatures from the depths of your worst nightmares, this is a must read. Also, if you love the Great Outdoors and appreciate a good, slow-burn mystery, then I think you’ll love it and won’t be able to put it down. But be warned, you’ll be looking over your shoulder the next time you’re alone in the woods, especially at night! 

Have you written any other books that are not published?

Yeah, I have two novels that are currently in the digital desk drawer waiting for second draft revisions. 

If your book had a candle, what scent would it be?
Pine death. 

What did you edit out of this book?

Cody and I took out lots of adverbs (ha!) and similes. We also nixed a couple minor scenes that were inspired by the Dogman song but didn’t really support or enhance the main storyline. For instance, there was a flashback to 1967 when a vanload of hippies encounter the Dogman on their way back from a wild music festival. It was pretty far out, but it didn’t support the main storyline enough, so we cut it.  

Is there an writer which brain you would love to pick for advice? Who would that be and why? 

That’s a tough one. There are so many authors I’d love to sit down and chat with, but I guess I’d have to say Shakespeare, the great Bard of Avon himself. Maybe he’d slip me the answer to true literary greatness! 

Fun Facts/Behind the Scenes/Did You Know?'-type tidbits about the author, the book or the writing process of the book.

When I’m working on a novel, I try to write for at least one to two hours every day, seven days a week. But my motto is “If it’s flowing, keep on going,” so oftentimes on a really good day, I’ll write into the wee hours of the morning.

David C. Posthumus began his writing career at age six, when his grandfather read one of his first-grade publications and labeled him "Ernie (Hemingway) Jr." Posthumus is a voracious reader of many genres, fiction and nonfiction, and an avid horror fan and fiction writer. He has published extensively in the fields of anthropology and Native American studies, including one published book (All My Relatives: Exploring Lakota Ontology, Belief, and Ritual, University of Nebraska Press, 2018), one book forthcoming (Lakota: Culture, History, and Modernities, University of Oklahoma Press, 2022), as well as several journal articles, book chapters, and reviews. Aside from having the perfect surname for horror, Posthumus loves dogs, the great outdoors, and is also a musician and lifelong music lover.

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