Posted in News on December 2, 2013
Within This Garden Weeping reads like a book of the Old Testament by way of Ray Bradbury and Twin Peaks… says fellow scribbler Lucas Magnum in the review he just posted. You can check out the full review here.
As an aside, and something very few people know about me, I like the Old Testament reference a lot. I’ve studied the Bible, and I seriously considered at one time being a pastor. I love teaching, I love the way stories are tools, and also more than tools, their examples that can vividly illustrate whatever makes us cower, and also what makes our heart sing. Even after I realized I’d probably never take the step to actually being a pastor because I would have been a hypocrite since I love to drink, all the time I spent studying the Bible has had a profound influence on me and the stories I create, especially the Division Mythos. So, thanks Lucas! Very interesting to see someone frame the start of their review in that manner!
Buy a book for yourself and for someone else at Christmas.
Posted in News on April 24, 2013
(Note: I’ve been up since yesterday so this might not come across very coherent…)
In a couple weeks it will be two years since Darkfuse released my first novel Nursery Rhymes 4 Dead Children. A lot has happened since then: I’ve learned a lot, written and sold a ton of other novels and novellas and short stories, started writing under other names, and it’s all gone by in what feels like the blink of an eye. I have a lot going on here at the moment, digging deep into this second novel I’m writing as Thomas Morgan, getting another novel ready for Darkfuse Publications, dreaming of how wonderful it’s going to be to hit The World Mystery Convention in New York again later this year and get to talk to some of my literary heroes and hang out with my best buddy Shaun Ryan.
Pausing for a second to look back, I still think that the honesty in a writer’s work, the honesty of their characters, and the pivotal moments in those characters’ lives are what resonate with us as readers.
Click here to read a post I did a while back called “Remembering.”
It’s good to consider our roots.
Posted in News on January 17, 2013
Very happy to see the latest review of WHEN WE JOIN JESUS IN HELL in the super awesome Black Static Magazine. Thanks to Peter Tennant for the read and time! Here’s a snippet of what he said:
With its central concept of a once violent man who has been domesticated, but is prompted by circumstances to get back in touch with his inner beast, this novella reminded me of nothing so much as the Cronenberg film A History of Violence, though in the touches of arch-weirdness that litter the text – Fist trundling the corpses of his loved ones around in a shopping trolley, talking to them and pet lizard Bianca, his conversation with an artist who works with bodies – there is also more than a hint of the Lynch of Blue Velvet… At the heart of the story are questions about the nature of violence and how far we go before crossing a line. Fist’s dilemma underlines the failure of both society and the justice system, leaving a man to do what a man has got to do, if I’m allowed a cliché or two. It’s a powerful and affecting story…
You can check out Black Static here…
Also had a first recently when WHEN WE JOIN JESUS IN HELL got mentioned in another book’s review on HorrorTalk. Pretty neat. Here’s a snippet.
Not too long ago I was blown away by Lee Thompson’s When We Join Jesus in Hell. What fully impressed me was not just Thompson’s amazing skill, but the fact that I truly enjoyed a style of writing that I tend to avoid. Normally, I’m a meat a potatoes type of guy and don’t have a lot of a time for…I don’t know, “pretty” words? But Thompson didn’t care about likes, he just said read it and like it, which I did. I’m thinking J.R. Hamantaschen went to the same school as Thompson, because he pulled the same shit on me with his You Shall Never Know Security, a collection of his short stories.
Also answered interview questions for Shock Totem #6, which will be out soon with a story by me and others, including that sexy mothereffer Jack Ketchum. Looking forward to when that issue hits the stands (and ereaders).
Not the Final Cover
And if you’re of a mind, swing by to participate in the discussion on Horror Aficionados where I’m guest author for January! We’re having fun and you should too!
Posted in News on December 31, 2012
Up to writing the climax of my novel “Gossamer: A Story of Love and Tragedy” for Darkfuse Publications. Getting to the end of a novel always leaves me feeling empty, sad, and beaten. With the first draft like this anyway. Once I’m working in crits to the second draft I have some distance from it since I’m already knee-deep in another story. So it’ll be good when I finish this sucker. After New Years I have prizes from the Detective Kubu giveaway to send out, an interview coming up with the badass Les Edgerton, and edits to work into my novel The Wolverine, a synopsis to write for that, the fun guest author month at Horror Aficionados on Goodreads, plus a new novel to start, and a ton of other crap that leaves me joyous and sometimes tired. But anyway, here’s the first chapter of the novel I’m about to finish. It’s going to get pretty damn bleak at times, especially as it crescendos in the end. Enjoy.
Let me be up front because that will build trust between us. Love and Tragedy are the only soul mates I’ve ever seen, and I will show you two situations that intersect, meld, and become one. Love’s allure on one side of a dark carousel, arms outstretched, trusting, hoping, believing; Tragedy’s hunger on the other side, many-limbed, voracious, and insatiable.
There is never a more deadly or more honest embrace than Love aching over Tragedy’s grief, and Tragedy admiring Love’s hope.
The webbing that traps them is of a unique substance that is anchored upon several lives running through the course of time, and the creator of the web, the unseen forces of order and chaos, grow fat on the husks of withering love and forlorn sorrow.
None of us have to share our stories with anyone else, but we must, because we want to see the reflection of our existence in the recognition of other people’s joy and other people’s pain. We want to be remembered, for something, whether grand or miniscule, by someone. And so starts the first strand of my story…
My mother, Sarah Good, died before my eyes on July 19th, 1692. My father made me testify against her, that she was a witch and that I had seen her consorting with the devil. I watched them hang her with four others, a solemn event for some, a joyous one for others. But truly, no one benefited in the mass hysteria but Lucifer, the great and wicked goat god, himself. My father killed himself a week later, drank himself to emotional death before falling from the window of our apartment, his body bloody and crooked a moment later on the cobblestone below. My aunt kept me from his funeral. She found a birthmark beneath my armpit that my mother had done her best to hide. A devil’s mark, surely. By the time I had turned five years old, after several witnesses testified I had sent a demon to torment them, Salem officials had sent a warrant for my arrest. I sat in jail and told them of the snake my mother had given me. I told them how it spoke to me and suckled blood from my finger. I sat, decayed, starving and for want of thirst, in a black, wet cell. It was apart from the main prison population. After months passed and I longed for them to end my life to release me of the nightmare they’d forced upon me, they set me free. The evidence against a child was too slim, though the evidence they had on my mother was little more. My aunt came for me, wrapped my dirty, stick-thin bones in her arms and in the sleeve of her dress, warm, so warm, and carried me away as more executions continued. Though there was nothing she could have done to save my mother, I do think she contributed to my father’s fall, his cracked skull leaking on the street, me in the window above crying because the cabinets were bare and I missed my mother’s cooking and the smell of my father’s pipe smoke. Past, present and future became a basket of flames all burning at the same time, each of varying intensity.
We fled west through Indian territory. It was my aunt who was the witch, not my mother, but she brought my mother’s corpse with us, tied to a vertical beam in the back of the wagon, her skin drying and her insides stinking, the stench seeping from her every pore. We traveled through many lands, and the natives watched us pass with worried faces, superstitious in their own customs, fearing we were an apparition born of the spirit world that foretold of coming trouble. And generations later—after the white man had taken their lives and freedoms and pride from them—the Ute, Cherokee, Choctaw tribes all told of the woman and child dressed all in black who towed a corpse with its face boldly cast in defiance toward the sun.
There once was a beautiful girl who held sway over the people of a nowhere desert town. They admired her beauty, the incantations she whispered in the light of the full moon, and the treasures she gave them in exchange for their loyalty. She kept them eternally young, this goddess, this seer of exquisite nighttime mystery. They loved her so deeply they would do awful things to protect her, and to protect the gift she gave them.
It went on for centuries, until a cool October night when a strange young man walked in from the cold desert. His face shown white beneath the stars, these same stars reflected in his black orb eyes, moonlight and building mating, spewing shadows about his shoulders like a cape.
I wish I could tell you that this story didn’t have any blood in it, that it is simply a love story, but I would mislead you. To speak the truth about the events after the interlopers came… my son and I bathed in the life only blood can sustain. There were the others too, the dark ones we had to destroy, but they and their crimes are best forgotten.
They came from a world of non-stop interaction—computers offering an outlet to express their every simple thought; mobile phones to blah, blah, blah day and night; videogames to charge them with adrenaline in heroic roles; movies to capture fantasies of the perfect world where good always wins and the guy always gets the girl; books filled with hope about how the smallest gestures can prove to move mountains—but their roots were founded in a frenzied workaholic nature that proved you didn’t exactly have to get anything done to prove that you were always doing something, or that you were important, loved, cherished, and amusing.
It was a wonderful disguise to shield a starving and neurotic core.
On the surface the interlopers appeared an ordinary couple—the bland man, Angel Roberts, and the somewhat attractive woman, Brooke Pistil—fresh and lovely with a promise that their futures together would be better than all of those that had preceded their meeting, or a higher plane than one either could reach merely on their own. For him, she offered stability, a certain, expected future. For her, he offered a sexual awakening that had laid dormant, mere ashes, in the decade following her ex-husband’s incarceration. Angel made her feel alive, trusting, and sexy. He was a man of simple and uncreative pleasures at first, but together they had moved into something more experimental. In public they teased each other until the point of bursting, when they’d find a bush to disappear behind, a closet to occupy, or a backseat to stain with hot juices. The process of trusting, of opening up enough to do so, took the better part of eight months. But the last four months in the first year of their relationship were sweaty, hot, and more unclothed than clothed. It was something Brooke had never expected she’d be able to open herself to again, and for good reason, because she knew how easily those you opened yourself to could easily slide the unseen blade of betrayal between meat and bone.
After Angel got his promotion they took Brooke’s daughter Natalie with them and spent two weeks with Brooke’s mother. Albuquerque had been a lot of fun, what with the fresh air, the sunshine, the festival of balloons dotting the sky in rich and vibrant colors. Everything is brighter when in love they say. But even her daughter noticed it, and that was saying something.
None of them were brave enough to ride in one of the balloons but you didn’t have to be up there to enjoy them or to know that they were exquisite. Angel had proposed during their stay, as people around them grinned, old couples remembering their own proposals, wistful women still waiting for the day, young women giving their suitors the eye full of longing, half-filled with promise, that they’d make good wives, that the men would never regret lowering themselves to one knee. They stood there, surrounded and sharing their joy, the four of them near the edge of a cliff with the valley rushing out ahead of them for what seemed a hundred miles and those colorful balloons floating like whispers of dreams vaguely remembered but somehow still treasured, Brooke’s heart soaring with them as Angel popped the question and she said, “Yes. God, yes!”
Angel had slipped the ring on her finger, then her and her mother cried and hugged, and even Natalie, the stick-thin thirteen year old with the stringy blonde hair who didn’t look anything like Brooke but for her eyes, shuffled forward and hugged them as well. More than riches, or anything so tangible, Brooke had longed for someone who would love her and Natalie, and she thought she’d found it.
They left on Devil’s Night and drove north, hoping to be home for Halloween in Colorado Springs. The three of them would remember different images from their trip home and the unexpected stop that would waylay them.
They thought they found Gossamer by accident, Angel wanting to take a shortcut through the New Mexico high country. This small city lay dying in a low valley, only one way in and one way out, and it with a few other things, struck them as odd. It lay in a bowl surrounded by red-rocked rims, lit by a relentless sun, the road off to the right of their car bordered by a windswept arroyo. The buildings—filled with glass that reflected that over-generous sunlight, and built by imported lumber soft in comparison to the rugged landscape—seemed to breathe one last vile and lonely breath. It sent a sickly wind up from the valley and swept dust over their Ford Explorer with a soft, scraping kiss.
The town in the bowl below appeared as empty as a stage, and Brooke made a joke that they’d driven onto some abandoned set Hollywood had left behind after filming a Western movie. She was at ease at first.
Her daughter Natalie sat quietly in the back seat. The place frightened her, the harshness and solitary landscape as much as the town below where no cars lined the streets and no children played in the scrabbled lawns. It was all the exact opposite of what she’d learned life was all about. And she suspected that though it appeared vacant, possibly even harmless, like forests, old crypts, decrepit blocks of large cities, life teemed beneath the surface, surviving on the life of other things.
Angel, who would soon be her step-dad, gripped the wheel tighter. He seemed scared too as he parked the Explorer on the shoulder and all three of them stared into the valley surrounded by rugged red cliff face, the glinting tower of a church far in the distance. The stillness didn’t bother him as much as the church did. Even from where he sat behind the steering wheel, he could see that there was something off about the place, as if it was constructed of something other than natural materials. Perhaps flesh and bone, perhaps something far worse. He rationalized it, told himself that it was just that time of year, trying to turn the unsettled feelings into the giddiness he’d had for Halloween as a child.
They turned their heads as one toward the passenger side, the dry gulch, the stymied weeds somehow growing in the blazing sun barely casting shadows across the hard red dirt. A welcome sign that hadn’t been there a moment ago, Brooke swore, materialized. It was made of old driftwood, plastered with banners in faded yellows, plum purples, blood reds. The sign had a slogan that read: Welcome to the Palace of Dreams, Where We All Live Forever.
Natalie shivered in the back seat. She waited for her mom or Angel to say something about it because she knew she wasn’t the only one who had watched it take shape right in front of them. It was the taking shape that had turned all of their heads. But her mother said nothing.
Angel pulled his pack of Camels from the dash and lit up. The smoke stung Brooke and Natalie’s eyes, and though he was supposed to be quitting the habit, neither blamed him at the moment. All Angel had wanted was to fill up the truck, fill their stomachs, maybe take a few pictures, and then continue celebrating all the good news that had landed in their laps this past year. He knew as well as they did that it would take hard work to smooth the wrinkles that would crop up in their new family eventually. It was a new chapter in all of their lives, a healthier one they believed.
They thought they were ready for that.
They felt that they really knew each other.
Posted in News on December 20, 2012
I’ll be the guest author for the month of January at the Horror Aficionado’s group on Goodreads! They’ll be reading and discussing my heartbreaking novella WHEN WE JOIN JESUS IN HELL. I’m very excited to participate and look forward to answering a bunch of questions. Thanks to Jason and Tressa for the invite! Come join us!
This novella has been turning heads. And it should. It’s wickedly subtle (not).
Grab a copy for Christmas and join the party!
If we’re not friends on Goodreads, send me an invite, punk.
And to keep up with all the whirlwind that is my writing career sign up for my newsletter off to the right there.
Oh, I’ll also have a deliciously decadent interview in Shock Totem #6 as well! I love that crew! Make sure you check it out.
Not the Final Cover
Thanks for everybody’s support! Merry Christmas or whatever it is your celebrating!
Posted in News on December 9, 2012
Well, it’s almost the end of 2012 and I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around what an incredible year it’s been. I may post this early. I will just post it today. Frees up the rest of my year to just read, write and spend time with family. I’ll add any big developments before New Years. There are probably a bunch of things I’m forgetting.
Last summer/fall, when my first novel (Nursery Rhymes 4 Dead Children) and first novella (Iron Butterflies Rust) came out, was a very surreal time. I had been striving to learn how to write well enough to sell my work for almost a decade. It was a relief to sign the contracts, to get my author copies in the mail and see them, to mail copies to my readers, to dedicate the books, to get some feedback and strive to learn more.
This year has been even better. I had a ton of work come out.
The novella DOWN HERE IN THE DARK in Hardcover and digital January.
The novel THE DAMPNESS OF MOURNING in Hardcover, Paperback and digital in February.
The online serial novel THE COLLECTED SONGS OF SONNELION (being published print/ebook in 2013).
The novella IMMERSION in Hardcover, Paperback and digital in May.
The novella WHEN WE JOIN JESUS IN HELL in Hardcover and digital in September.
The novella WITHIN THIS GARDEN WEEPING in digital in November.
But it’s funny how we can roar but still feel like we aren’t doing enough. When I was talking to my buddy Shaun Ryan, which I do so much you’d think we were married, I remembered that I always feared dying young. Like I’d never make it to forty. I think it’s been in my subconscious, spurring me on to write every story taking up space in my heart as quickly as I can before the worms claim me, before the cold, damp earth is my pillow. I do want to leave something behind whether I die prematurely or whether I live as long as Ray Bradbury did. Something of substance, that has meaning for somebody other than myself. I don’t think it’s a lofty goal. I think all true artists, whether they’re successful or not, want to connect with other people and share the beautiful things they’ve seen, and the tragic times that have scarred them, and how the world has shaped them. As writers, or painters, or musicians we hold a mirror up to ourselves and the time we live in, and it’s not easy. We’re a very quiet voice that can easily be lost in a lot of white noise. But I see how important it is to try and keep trying. I’ve gained some wonderful fans. They might not know it but they know me through my work.
My buddy Peter Schwotzer, of Literary Mayhem and Famous Monsters of Filmland, designed a fantastic website for the Division Mythos. Thanks so much, Peter!
Narrator Matthew Stevens recorded my first audio book NURSERY RHYMES 4 DEAD CHILDREN. We’ll also be working on the audio for the sequel THE DAMPNESS OF MOURNING after New Years.
I also had a local paper interview me, which was neat. Thanks to reporter Bill Petzold! That was a lot of fun and I found I enjoy being interviewed much more than I ever thought I would.
Some other highlights this year were meeting John Connolly, Lee Child, Michael Sears, Stanley Trollip, Les Edgerton, Michael Connelly, Michael Koryta and Sabrina Callahan at Bouchercon (The World Mystery Convention.) I don’t know that I would be the writer, or even person, I am, if not for the books my heroes have written.
Me and my hero John Connolly
Me and the awesome Lee Child
Some of my heroes (Tom Piccirilli, Jack Ketchum, Brian Hodge, Robert Dunbar) read my work in 2012 and gave me blurbs. Having your heroes read something of yours is one of the greatest feelings there is. It’s fireworks in your head and a sudden jolt to your heart. It’s quite dreamy.
Reviews, which I never get very many of, have really taken off this year. Especially on Goodreads, which is one of my favorite sites. I get to talk to fans on there, too, which has been wonderful. And one of the groups (Horror Aficionados) has invited me to be the guest author for January 2013. They’ll be reading my brutal novella WHEN WE JOIN JESUS IN HELL and we’ll all discuss it. Very neat, yeah? Thanks to Jason and Tressa for the opportunity!
Sales grow as my audience grows. Thanks so much to everybody who has been buying the work and spreading the word about it! Word of mouth is vital. It helps me when I feel like I can’t write worth shit and then I find a stranger who enjoyed something I wrote, which leads to me finding my balance again. To remember that, yes, I’m writing for me, but I’m also writing to connect with other people. It’s weird, but it’s good.
New novels… I wrote three novels this year (The Collected Songs of Sonnelion, The Lesser People, and The Wolverine) and got halfway through a fourth (Gossamer). I have ideas for the next ten books that will range between 70-90,000 words. All I have to do is write them. Easy. My goal is to write four novels a year. I tell myself to take it easy, don’t work so much, but it’s part of my nature. I am an obsessive and the work gives me purpose that life would be too depressing without sometimes.
I signed a three-book deal with Darkfuse/Delirium Books in December. I’m very excited about it since Shane Staley has been awesome to work with and he publishes what he believes in. I’m writing and turning in a standalone novel every March, which works out great too because I have a ton of novel ideas and nothing for novellas or short stories lately.
Since I am quite prolific when it comes to novels, and I write more than just Dark Fantasy, I’ve decided to use several pseudonyms. I’ll keep the Dark Fantasy under my name. Have the name Thomas Morgan for Heartbreaking Coming of Age tales with a Historical Thriller slant; James Logan for suspense fiction that is very tightly plotted but has more hopeful endings than all my other work; Julian Vaughn for novels that are more big-concept with a lot of heart/more touching than horrific.
I had a writer I met at the World Mystery Convention (Les Edgerton) refer me to his agent for the pen-named work after he read WHEN WE JOIN JESUS IN HELL. That was really nice of him and whether it works out or not, him trying to help me counts for a lot. I’m really not worried about it since all of my worry is that the books are what I want them to be.
I got to interview a bunch of my favorite writers here. They are amazing.
I sold a couple of short stories. The River to my favorite mag Shock Totem. It will be in issue #6 along with Jack Ketchum and interview with me! And The Most Mysterious Silence sold to Nameless Magazine, owned by Jason V. Brock who made a great documentary about Charles Beaumont.
Not the Final Cover
Tuesday’s Training, my weekly writing advice essays for novice writers, has been a lot of fun. I know it’s helped a few people. That’s nice. I had help too: from things I’ve read, questions I asked answered by people far busier and far more experienced than I am, and help just through the encouragement that comes in something as simple as a smile.
Thanks to the publishers who have put their faith in me, the writers who encourage me, the pre-readers who help so much by offering feedback I can’t come up with on my own, the fans who help pay my bills and continue to come back for more of my work. 2013 is going to be an even more incredible year, which is really hard to fathom. But it will be. What a life. Thanks for helping me live my dream! Now go buy all my books for your friends for Christmas!