A Campfire Nightmare
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Stagg Literature, LLC
Date of Publication: March 1, 2016
Number of pages: 344
Word Count: 117,824
IN AGES PAST, the Flathead Native Americans fought a war against a monstrous force that stalks the woods surrounding Flathead Lake. So says William Rox, legendary musician and director of the prestigious Colman’s Amateur Music Program, known as CAMP.
Jimmy Downs is thrilled to be attending CAMP—or he would be, if he weren’t being bullied by campers who seem to think wealth can buy talent. Jimmy doesn’t have money, but he can drum like no one else. As for the bullies, at least his best friend, Michael Munday, is with him. The two have had each other’s backs all of their lives.
But bullies are about to become the least of Jimmy’s worries. Dark, hulking figures begin surrounding the woods around camp…figures that bear more than a passing resemblance to Rox’s campfire stories.
Jimmy and Michael are about to become players in a very old war—assuming they survive.
The black-cloaked figure knelt by the lake, examining the muddy soil. A great northern storm had rolled through hours ago, but the air was still frigid. Waves crashed against the stony shore, waterdrops splashing up against his waterproof black covering.
His fingers traced along the print clearly pressed into the mud. It was a large paw print, something like the shape of a wolf’s but the size of a bear’s. He examined the mark on the ground and then moved to where he should have found the creature’s front paws, but not surprisingly, he instead found what appeared to be humanlike handprints, with long, triangular fingernails jutting out from the tip of each finger. The cloaked man placed his own right hand within the print, knowing that the muddy outline was easily twice the size of his own pale hand.
His left hand tightened around the shaft of his bow as he stood up.
Even though it was nearing one in the morning, his eyes clearly made out the many prints that had been made throughout this particular clearing.
He had warned the other guardian that something was going on.
“Why so many?” the man asked aloud as he pulled down the hood of his cloak. “There shouldn’t be this many here anymore.”
“What’s that?” a British man’s voice called from the darkness.
A flashlight’s beam bobbed through the trees, weaving back and forth until it fell upon the pale man’s form. The man lifted one of his hands to block his sensitive eyes from the somewhat dim beam. He indicated the soil in front of him that marked the passing of their quarries.
“A pack,” the pale man told his companion, moving the tip of his weapon to indicate how many individual creatures had passed through there. “You should keep the camp closed this year.”
“No,” the huge British man answered, snapping his response a little more testily than he had wanted. “It needs to be open. You know just as well as I do that we need to stay open.”
“Even at the risk of the lives of hundreds of people?”
His companion stepped forward and jammed a double-edged longsword into the ground as he examined the pathway. The flashlight was a head lamp, mounted with a pair of bands that wrapped around his head. As his head shifted from one set of prints to another, a feeling of anger began flooding into his soul.
“I need you to thin out this pack. You can shoot the sods from afar, and with that horse of yours, you’ll be able to stay ahead of them.”
“I can do that,” the pale man agreed, pulling his hood back up, still watching the back of the big man.
“There’s something going on this year that we don’t understand quite yet,” the British man told his friend, standing up and pulling the sword from the moistened ground. “Something feels different. It feels wrong…and right at the same time.”
“Maybe the legends are true, and the natives’ stories are coming to pass,” the archer suggested, beginning to stroll into a particularly dark portion of the forest, his fingers tightening on the dark wood of his bow as he disappeared into the night.
Finding himself alone, the swordsman stood and peered up into the sky at the bright round moon hanging in the air, twinkling stars engulfing the night. This was Big Sky Country, and it was true to its name. His eyes searched the heavens, hoping that an answer would reveal itself.
He let out a huff of hot breath, and the air clouded before his flashlight dimming the light slightly.
Shaking his head and turning to stare at the spot where his companion had disappeared, he whispered to himself, “I hope not. We’re not ready for them yet.”
As his words disappeared into the night like his breath, a clear rumbling sound thundered through the night on his left. Reaching down slowly, he drew his sword once more, its silver blade sparkling with the light of the moon.
“God above, keep me safe that I might be able to open the camp.”
The rocky growl turned into a mix of a scream and a roar as the furry eight-foot monstrosity leaped at the man, humanlike hands reaching out with razor claws. Swinging the sword out wide, the man pivoted to meet the demon in the darkness.
My review of A Campfire Nightmare
Normally I don’t write long, extensive reviews. But there was a lot I felt I had to say about his books so please bear with me.
I was drawn into the story right from the Prologue. It didn’t take long for me to be intrigued about the direction of the plot, given the mysterious nature of the cloaked character introduced from the get-go. This set the mood for me and I was hoping this book would turn out as good as the premise promised. By the first three pages alone, I could already tell there was a lot going on and I loved this. It motivated me to keep going.
The story quickly progressed to a pair of teenage boys, which just so happen to remind me an awful lot of my brothers at that age. In spite of their youth, and level of immaturity, I found myself liking Jimmy and Michael, especially because of their brotherly relationship. They had the type of friendship forged through years of bonding and trusting each other with even the smallest and simplest of problems. And I had a feeling this would somehow come into play later on.
The story went back and forth between characters, with some chapters dedicated to the enigma that was the cloaked figure—or Moose, as he was later referred to—and Jimmy. Through Moose we have a clear insight on the paranormal aspect of this novel. Based on the first few chapters, I assumed he was some sort of hunter…maybe? But it was hard to say for sure given the limited information.
Moose himself was a bit odd, but at the same time captivating. There was obviously an aura of mystery surrounding him, which made the story all the more fascinating—for me at least. I was anxiously awaiting the big reveal. I wanted to know what the connection between the main characters was and find out why the camp counselors felt the need to keep the place open in spite of the dangers lurking in the shadows.
Oops! Did I give the plot away? Hopefully not since I normally refrain from doing so. But I felt this was an important point to mention. Anyway, this deepening secret kept me turning the pages. I mean, with everything going on how could I stop.
A campground filled with people.
A pack of killer werewolves on the loose.
Did that pique your interest?
It did mine.
Between Moose, and yet another important piece of this ever-growing puzzle, William Rox, I was deeply invested in the story by chapter 5. There was something about the hulking, British man that definitely called out for attention. Being that he was good friends with Moose and seemed knee-deep into whatever was going on around the famous C.A.M.P, I was compelled to think things were going to go south at any point, and I wanted to stick around to see it all unravel.
The progress to what I would consider the big showdown was a bit slow. The action was kind of sporadic, and not much was said regarding what was transpiring whenever Moose disappeared—however, based on the prologue you can begin to guess what keeps the pale man so occupied. But while things were left in the dark most often than not on that end, we get a nice view into Jimmy’s camp experience, and his struggles as an unpopular kid coming from a low-income family, surrounded by snotty rich kids. Not an easy feat and I had to commend the author for painting such a clear picture, and also how he decided to allow Jimmy to deal with every hurdle he had to jump over.
The storyline finally takes us through a series of events filled with action and quite a few surprises along the way. Some secrets are addressed, but only briefly though. Unfortunately, as good as those last chapters were, they left more questions unanswered. It never goes into detail as to what a Night Stalker or a Dawn Treader really are, what—aside from the obvious—are their abilities, and if they are immortal. The author leaves us hanging when it comes to Jimmy and Michael’s connection with the attacks.
It does differentiate between a werewolf and a warwolf, which I found very helpful given that I had assumed from the start that they were the same thing. Right toward the end, we are introduced to a new character. One which I really wanted to know more about, but will have to wait until the following installment. If there is one. Keeping fingers crossed!
I guess the book ends in a cliffhanger because the problems are only temporarily resolved. I’m hoping that there will be a sequel, one that addresses everything that wasn’t in the first. Honestly, I’d like to have the next book like right now please!
All the action during the last handful of chapters made up for the other parts of the story that moved a bit slower, but in no way were less interesting. I also enjoyed the Native American influence throughout the storyline. It added another element of surprise/suspense, which complimented the plot rather than take away from it.
5 – $10 Amazon gift certificates
About the Author:
Jeffrey was born in Ogden, Utah in 1989.
Born to a podiatrist from Utah and a rancher’s daughter from Montana. Stagg was able travel throughout his childhood finding solace and inspiration in the wild.
His interest in nature has made Stagg realize that the melding of natural world with magic was where he could excel. To keep ideas alive, Stagg is an avid nature photographer, imagining book scenes wherever he travels.
While attending Weber State University, Stagg was able to work as an artisan cheese maker for the award winning Beehive Cheese Co. in Ogden, Utah. It was there that the details of A Campfire Nightmare came together. During the 5 years he was employed at Beehive, Stagg has created story lines for many series he is in the process of writing.
Now, Stagg works as an educator and works with students in reading and writing. Encouraging those around him to spend more time in books.