This is one of the first short stories I sold way back in 2010. I was very proud of it at the time because I love Tasmaniac Publications and I had words alongside some awesome writers like Tom Piccirilli, Paul Kane, Tim Curran, and Kealan Patrick Burke. Good company to be in. Merry Christmas!
A Bell Ringing in the Empty Sky
Ben hid behind his bedroom door, peering through the crack, studying the hallway. Any minute now his mother would step from her room, her shoulders slumped beneath the weight of the bags she would carry. He loved the Christmas presents his parents bought him. Most of the kids in Junior High didn’t hide their jealousy—because his dad flew for American Airlines and raked in the dough and spent it on Ben in effort to make up for his absence, while their fathers were home but bought them little because they worked as auto mechanics, and construction workers, and some of them not at all.
They thought it meant his dad loved him more, buying him everything from new games for his Playstation 3, to the go-cart he’d gotten last year, hidden beneath all of the other presents. But he’d trade them, all of the gifts, for one Christmas morning with his father.
His mother opened her bedroom door and walked out in her pajamas, struggling with the fabric bags full of presents as they banged the walls and tripped her up. She cursed softly. In the dim light spilling from her bedroom, her eyes looked shiny, as if she’d been crying. Ben didn’t think anyone should have to cry on Christmas Eve. He wanted to open the door and run to her and take one of the bags so that she didn’t have to carry them both, but he couldn’t because she’d put him in bed three hours ago and he was supposed to be sleeping.
Wind battered the windows, and snow swirled, brushing and falling away from the panes. Restless, wanting it all to be over, be the 26th when his father would come home, he walked across the room to the glass and tried to peer through the white haze, praying, wishing, Please God. Bring my dad back. Cancel the flight. Bring him down from the sky so Mom won’t have to cry anymore and he can see me open all the things he bought me.
The storm built. It was a bad night for anyone to be out, and he thought his dad had to be pretty brave to fly in stuff like that. A little pride swelled in his chest, even though he missed him, and told himself that he hated his dad for putting other people’s needs before their own.His mom always joked that he did it for the young girls who helped the passengers, but Ben thought she was probably just jealous that she didn’t have an exciting job too.
He shifted his feet. Slowly, a noise filled his ears. He concentrated, focusing with all his might until he realized what it was—a bell ringing dully in the empty sky—and it was getting louder. He swallowed and his forehead stitched up so tight it hurt. The wind threw snow against the glass in an angry rush, as if God were sick of people always asking things of Him. A bell rang again and the wind stilled but the snow fell faster, heavier, coating everything. The ringing faded. Ben’s heart hammered and his ribcage hurt. Across the house, his mother dropped the bags and cried out.
He thought, Dad? And ran to the door and down the hall, unable to wipe the smile from his face, thinking, It worked! God listened! Though he wasn’t sure God did it, or if he’d just wanted it so much—mind over matter or something—and he made it happen all on his own. Either way, he didn’t care. It was the result that mattered. He rushed into the dining room and stared in toward the tree. Its dancing lights painted his mother in pulsing colors. She stood there, gaze locked on the Lazy Boy, the presents spilled around her feet, one bag’s handle still looped around her fingers.
From where he stood next to the kitchen table, he saw the top of a knee, a hand gripping the chair’s arm, the gold buttons on the cuff of his dad’s jacket reflecting the blinking lights on the tree. He walked in by his mom and stared at his dad, taking in a quick breath at the sight of his dad’s hair swirled like a corkscrew pointing at the ceiling, his cheeks hollow and too white. His mother raised her hand toward him but stopped herself, unable to touch him. Ben cleared his throat and his mother looked up and opened her mouth, her hands clinging to the bottom edge of her pajama top. She made several weird clicking sounds before she found her voice. Her face went from confused, to angry, back to confused again. She looked younger when she was trying to mull things over, like the little sister that Ben had always wished he’d had; someone to play with and protect.
She blinked twice, and met his gaze. “I thought he was working. He told me he wouldn’t be here.” She looked back to her husband. “I never even heard him come in.”
Ben stammered, “Maybe the flight was cancelled because of the snow, or maybe he let someone else take his place so he could be home with us.”
“No.” She shook her head. “He would have told me he’d be home.”
“Who cares?” Ben said, inching his way into the living room. “He’s here, that’s all that matters.”
“Who cares?” His mother looked at the mess around her slippers. “If I’d known I would have waited to bring everything down. He could have done it with me.” She bit her lip, tears reflecting the light from the tree as they gathered on her eyelashes. Her features hardened. She stood straighter and kicked a blue-foiled box aside. “He probably never even went to work. He was probably at some filthy motel with some trashy stewardess.” Trembling, she wiped at her nose, doing her best to regain her composure. Ben waited, directing his gaze to the floor but having a hard time because he wanted to look at his dad and make sure he hadn’t vanished, make sure he was still breathing.
His mother said in a thick voice, “Help me pick these up and set them under the tree.”
“I thought you wanted Dad to help you.”
“He’s too tired to care and I’m too upset to wake him.”
Ben wanted to say: Don’t you think you’re overreacting? Dad wouldn’t cheat on you. He hasn’t been at a motel with someone. I brought him home. Be happy. We’re all together for Christmas now. But he said nothing because he knew her attitude would change for the better when his dad woke and everyone could have some laughs and cocoa. He helped her place the gifts under the tree, thinking, They really outdid themselves this year. No wonder all the kids at school either want to be my best friend and play with all my stuff, or hate my guts.
His mother kept glancing over her shoulder as they knelt next to the tree, the smell of pine strong this close to the branches; Ben a little worried now too, but for a different reason. When he’d wished his father home, he thought he’d show up awake and happy, come running to his room and pick him up in those strong arms and spin him around, crying, “Merry X-mas” because he knew that Ben hated people calling it that, but doing it anyway, just to tease him so they could laugh about it later. He wondered how long it would be before the sleeping ended and the fun began. Hopefully before winter passed and the trees budded and the birds built new nests and another year passed them by, everyone living but none of them living together.
They finished piling the presents and stood, his mother trembling again, running her hands down the front of her pajamas. “He never sleeps this soundly. The slightest noises always wake him up. Maybe he’s sick, maybe that’s why he’s home. Do you think I should call a doctor? Should we take him to the hospital? I don’t know if we can carry him to the car.” She looked out the picture window at the falling snow. “We’ll never be able to drive in that.”
“He can’t be sick,” Ben said. “He just can’t.” Saying it because he knew if something had happened to his dad, it was his fault. “He’s fine.”
“No, he’s not fine.” She moved over to the chair and leaned forward, her fingers brushing his cheek. “Kev? Honey?”
Ben waited, wishing his dad would open his eyes, a thought occurring to him for the first time—that he loved his father more than he ever could his mother, despite how much more time he had with her than he did with his father. He shook his head, ashamed of himself, wishing he could love them equally.
“Can you hear me? Wake up.” She shook his shoulders. “Wake up!”
Ben moved over to her side and pried his father’s hand free of the Lazy Boy’s arm. “Dad, wake up!” He pinched the skin near his father’s wrist, surprised by the weight and size of his closed fist. He pinched harder, as hard as he could. His father sucked in a quick breath, and his eyelids sprang open, his mouth wide and howling along with the wind pressing against the eaves. His head turned left and right, back and forth between them. The wind threw snow across the window. Ben let go and stepped back as his dad jumped from the chair, his eyes white as winter, as if being brought here through the sky and storm had presented a chance for the elements to work their way beneath his flesh.
Blood colored his face, and he almost looked alive. He clenched his hands, opened them, trying to breathe and move and only able to stand there. “How did I get here? What happened?” He hit his knee on the coffee table as he stumbled forward like someone had shoved him from behind. “What the hell is this? Huh? A bad dream? Tell me!” The thick vein on his neck looked like a cable beneath his skin. Ben took another step back, thinking, It wasn’t supposed to be like this. You’re supposed to be happy that you’re home.
Ben’s mom said, “What the hell is the matter with you? You come home without telling me? You fall asleep in your chair and wake up screaming? At us?”
“I’m dreaming,” he said, pacing, his fingers digging into his forehead like he was trying to get them into his brain and operate until he fixed whatever was wrong as he paled again.
Ben said, “You’re not dreaming. None of us are. We’re really together. On Christmas.”
His dad’s head snapped up. “I can’t be here. I was flying the plane and…” His face went stupid, confused. “And…”
The mad look in his eyes frightened Ben.
Ben’s mother said, “You’re out of your mind. I need a drink.”
His father laughed sickly and looked at the tree and presents. “This just can’t be.” He marched into the dining room and grabbed the cordless, holding it out like a foreign object, or something that might bite him. He stared at the keypad like he’d forgotten who he wanted to call. Ben thought, It’ll get better once the shock wears off.
His dad took a deep breath. “If I call them they’re going to ask how the hell I was on the 737 one minute and how I’m here the next. I should be over Los Angeles by now.” He shook his head again and dropped the phone by his thigh. When he looked up he met his wife’s eyes and Ben shifted his feet wishing he could read minds, wishing his dad’s color would return because he thought he might be dead and not even know it. “How am I supposed to explain this? I don’t even know what this is. Christ. I might be losing my mind.”
Ben laughed, not meaning to, hoping it was just the awkwardness of the situation as he pictured an insane pilot with a plane full of unsuspecting passengers. He wished, even if his dad was dead, or they were all crazy, that his old man could be happy, so they could all share it, be a family.
His dad glanced at his watch. “I have to land the jet in three minutes.”
Ben said, “Your co-pilot can land it.” His dad shook his head so violently that his face disintegrated—the flesh cracked and broke like an hourglass, skin and bone and brain all powder as it poured over his chest. Ben wiped his eyes and wished it away until his father was normal again, all of them so tired, the Christmas tree lights blinking, the world all white and windy.
His dad said, “He’s never landed in the snow, much less a blizzard. He’s going to be a nervous wreck.”
Ben’s mother crossed her arms over her chest and grunted. “Are you saying that you were flying five minutes ago? This is the dumbest excuse you ever gave for fucking those little skanks.” She had tears in her eyes again, like she’d had when she’d carried the presents out of their bedroom. His dad nodded dumbly, the look on his face saying—You’d believe that.
“You’re a sonofabitch.”
“Believe what you want. I was flying and then I was here. There is no one else, this isn’t some stupid story to cover up infidelity.” But Ben saw the guilt on his face, that it wasn’t all in his mom’s mind, some low self-esteem bullshit, but he’d done it to her, to them, taken his time and love and given his gifts, the real ones that you couldn’t buy, and handed them over to someone else. Some stranger. Ben curled his fingers into his palms, the back of his neck hot, waiting to hear a bell ringing in the sky.
His mom said, “You had to get here somehow.”
“No shit? You think I need you to tell me that?”
Ben said, “Can we go with you?”
His dad turned his head, brow all crinkled up like old paper. “Where?” He looked at Ben’s mom. “What is this, a joke? Mass suggestion? Where am I really?”
Ben wished he could read his father’s thoughts, because the look on his face, those eyes darting about, unable to settle on anything for more than a second, made Ben believe that his dad wanted nothing more than to be on the job, or with one of his lovers at some sleazy motel room, sharing their filth in some bed with dirty sheets. And he thought that was the way life probably went, because adults didn’t believe anymore—not in themselves, and not in each other. Everyone was selfish. Ben could see it, even inside himself. And he thought it was pretty horrible, what he’d done, bringing his father home when other people needed him, his dad not wanting to be at home anyway.
Ben said, “I’ll fix it. We’ll all go.”
He bowed his head and clenched his eyelids shut.
He prayed, Please God. Put us on the plane. Let me watch him land it and all of us can ride home together then, and everything will be okay.
His father grabbed his shoulder, and Ben’s eyelids sprang open as he tried to jerk away, but his dad’s fingers felt like meat hooks breaking his flesh. They both screamed as Ben’s mother shimmered, paled, and faded, her hands running over her pajamas. A gust of hot air slammed their house. The snow melted beneath the heat and drizzled down the glass like rain, or blood, and Ben thought, The sky is bleeding. My wishes made it bleed. But his heart hammered so hard and his dad was hurting him as his mother’s form evaporated.
The wind stilled like a soft kiss against the place they called home despite the good times, in the face of the bad, and a bell rang in the empty sky. Ben looked up, until he felt something jerk him from inside, as if pulling his soul from his body, rending it, tearing it through the ceiling and into the clouds, a cold overpowering him and chilling his core, eyes watering, but his parents right there beside him, both upside down like they were dead and floating soundlessly in a vast body of black water. The wind roared in his ears and something popped inside his head. He saw his father with his head bowed to his left and his mother on the floor of the plane to his right, her eyes open but blank, and he heard people screaming inside their cramped seats, and saw them ripping at each other through the open cockpit door as if they could hold onto the lives they once had if they only tightened their grip enough. The co-pilot slumped behind the steering gear, metal digging into his forehead.
Ben shivered, feeling weaker than he’d ever imagined possible. He took his parents’ hands and squeezed, wanting them to wake up, wishing they could all forgive each other and love like they should. He prayed, “Please God, please,” faster and faster, waiting for the bell to ring, as the sky rushed against the windshield, and they plummeted through an endless white expanse.
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.
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.
Narrator Matthew Stevens recorded my first audio bookNURSERY 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!
People have their own hidden worlds inside them as young Red Piccirilli has learned through the tragic events of his past.
His parents try to protect him by moving the family to a dead-end road out of town, but their plan is short-lived when a mysterious old man who seems to have a history with Red’s mother comes knocking at their door.
Red is quickly thrust into a crossroads between worlds, where he will soon learn from a broken god how to harness his true power…
Very happy to announce the Kindle release of my novellaWITHIN THIS GARDEN WEEPING. This story can be read as a trippy surreal standalone, or if you read it afterBefore Leonora Wakes, you’ll see more of Red Piccirilli’s character arc that lead him to his actions in The Collected Songs of Sonnelion (which will be released in 2013, I believe.)
Many thanks to those who already snagged it and shared it with the other dark fiction lovers in their lives! I can’t stress how important word of mouth is, and how much I appreciate it since my success is largely due to die-hard readers like yourself.
Please leave a review on Amazon or Goodreads! Thanks!
Also happy that my novella,WHEN WE JOIN JESUS IN HELL, thatJack Ketchumcalled “Hard as nails,” andTom Piccirilliread pre-pub and said, “Fuses both genres together in the turmoil of terror, tragedy, blood, guilt, and lost chances at redemption…” is kicking some ass. Having two of my biggest influences read my work and give me blurbs has definitely been a highpoint in my 2012. Have you read it yet?
It’s been a crazy and exciting year so far, and it’s hard to believe that it’s almost over.
Right now I’m working on an interview for @HarperCollins author Michael Stanley (Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip)who I met at Bouchercon a month ago where they won the Barry Award for Best Paperback Original for the third novel in their series. They’re such lovely guys and the Detective Kubu series is so unique. I think the interview will be a lot of fun for everybody.
In the past couple days I’ve knocked out some serious story wordage in a new Thriller novel–The Wolverine. I expect I’ll finish the first draft by the end of the month if life doesn’t throw me too many curve balls. It’s about a dysfunctional family and a complex killer, a book that will explore the bonds of family, forgiveness, death, and maturity. This is another novel that I intend to sell under a pen name to keep separate from my Horror/Dark Fantasy work. It’s a lot of fun writing this book like it was to recently write The Lesser People. I see my career branching off, and like the idea of it, since most of my favorite work is more Literary Crime/Thrillers (think Dennis Lehane, John Connolly, Michael Koryta, Michael Connelly, Lee Child.) I’ll still write under my own name too, because I love Dark Fantasy in the vein of Clive Barker, Joe Hill, Brian Hodge, John Gardner, Jack Cady, Neil Gaiman, Robert Dunbar, Greg Gifune, and Peter Straub. So it’ll be a doubly fun adventure to do both genres under different names.
My latest novella (When We Join Jesus in Hell) from Darkfuse is doing well. If you’ve read it, share it with a friend and leave a review somewhere please. I also picked up two new pre-readers yesterday and look forward to their feedback from a reader’s standpoint to balance my writing buddies that pre-read from a writerly/reader angle.
The lovely and gifted A.C. Wise tagged me for this whatchamajigger. Thanks Alison! I normally avoid things like this because I’d rather be working on a project than talking about it but a ten minute break won’t hurt.
Ten Interview Questions for The Next Big Thing:
1. What is the working title of your book?
She Collects Grave Nectar
2. Where did the idea come from for the book?
It’s part of my massive Division Mythos, and is a pivotal moment in Michael Johnston’s life. The initial spark came from an image, or snapshot of a scene, too, the way most of my work does. It came from my own fears of going blind and stumbling into that gray area between life and death, that single nanosecond where both are one before life ceases and death begins and a new life is rebirthed.
3. What genre does your book fall under?
Supernatural Thriller. But it’s not for lazy readers. My work doesn’t go over well with those types. That said, if you’re well-read and have a lot of imagination you’ll dig it.
4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
For the main character, Michael Johnston, I’d pick Christian Bale if he was ten years younger because Mike Johnston is kinda like Batman. For the girl who collects grave nectar I’d pick the girl from The Lovely Bones movie because she’s kinda creepy in a good way, mostly due to her eyes.
5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
A Special Forces soldier with a hidden past meets an odd girl in a cemetery bordering our world and another and what she wants from him is soul-shattering.
6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I don’t know. What do I look like, a mind reader?
7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
A rough guess: three months of heavy drinking. I’m still working out all the pivotal moments.
8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Tom Piccirilli’s Shadow Season since my Special Forces protagonist is blinded and faces incredible entities as well as a profound mystery. Peter Straub’s novel Koko since there’s this complicated and creeping dread. And Stephen King’s Dark Tower series because it’s a mixture of many things both concrete and surreal.
9. Who or What inspired you to write this book?
Michael Johnston’s character arc runs through most of the thirteen Division Mythos books and this one was inspired by how little of his past he’ll reveal to other characters, even to his best friend in the series, John McDonnell (The narrator of the second Division trilogy).
10. What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
It has one zombie, one ghoul, and one vampire who walk into a bar full of politicians?
Include the link of who tagged you and this explanation for the people you have tagged.
The mighty A.C. Wise tagged me. Authors I’m tagging because I think they are amazing like A.C. Wise:
Tons of famous writers have used pen names for various reasons. Some writers’ who have used pen names, or these are their pen names: Dr. Suess, Ayn Rand, Lewis Carroll, George Orwell, Stan Lee, Stephen King, Ed McBain, Donald Westlake, Dean Koontz, Douglas Clegg, Joseph Conrad, Mark Twain, O. Henry, Robert Jordan, Lee Thomas, Max Brand, Benjamin Black, Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, John Le Carre, Anne Rice, James Joyce, Joyce Carol Oates, Nora Roberts, Lawrence Block, Harlan Ellison, Michael Chrichton…
You may be for or against pen names for whatever reason. I didn’t like the idea of them until recently. I felt that we should have our name on all of our work, but the more I learn the more I see why pen names are useful. I’ll list several of the reasons I’ll be using a few pen names…
#1. I’m very prolific…
I only have to write about a half hour a day to knock out two novels and two novellas a year. Easily. Some days I don’t write at all because I’m tired or lazy or life gets busy or I just want to read. But when I get back to the keyboard I’m flying. Could be because of all the dexterity I developed through years of guitar playing but I am an extremely fast typer. Plus I have about the next eight book ideas lined up, with some of the pivotal moments for each, so I can just bridge the gaps between those pivotal moments and have a new novel done in no time. In the last two years I’ve written and sold the following novels (Nursery Rhymes 4 Dead Children, The Dampness of Mourning, The Collected Songs of Sonnelion) and novellas (Iron Butterflies Rust, Immersion, Down Here in the Dark, When We Join Jesus in Hell, As I Embrace My Jagged Edges, and Within This Garden Weeping). See, I need more names. That’s too much for one person to do. And the more I write and the more my name gets out there the more time I’ll have to write. I can’t fathom writing three hours a day every day. I know I’d knock out a library of books in a decade. But hell, that’s what will probably happen since writing is therapy, and it’s a compulsion, and it’s a challenge, and it’s fun.
#2. I want to write in more than one genre…
I read widely and want to write widely. If somebody reads one of my more touching novels that I plan to write and then they went and read one of my Dark Fantasy novels they’d be upset. And I couldn’t blame them. We’re automatically tattooed with certain emotions by a writer and their work. For example, I’m nearly finished with a Historical/Family Saga/Thriller novel called The Lesser People. I know that it won’t sit well under the Darkfuse (or any other small press roof, though I’m going to let my publisher read it to see what he thinks), so more than likely I’ll be looking for an agent for that book, and I’ll be selling it under a pen name. I also have a sad and touching novel I’m going to write called Shine Your Light on Me that isn’t Horror or Crime, again more in a Family Saga/Price-of-Fame scope. And I have a few YA novels that I want to write that will be kinda edgy, gritty, and very realistic. Plus I want to pen some straight-up Crime fiction like some of my heroes. And I have a Western trilogy called Past Hard Seasons that I’m going to tinker with and modernize to see what I can make of it.
#3. Well, I don’t have a third reason. But those first two reasons are enough to warrant some fake names to write under.
Reasons other professionals have used pen names (besides using one for the same reasons I am):
They didn’t like the sound of their real name…
They didn’t want their family to know what they were writing…
They were paranoid and didn’t want people to know their real name…
They use a lot of real-life material in their novels and want to protect themselves from judgment…
To disguise their sex…
The list goes on.
It’s up to you to decide if you need or want a pen name. I’d follow the more ‘need’ side of it. My reasons show me I need a few. Follow your heart and trust your gut.
My standalone novella WHEN WE JOIN JESUS IN HELL was just released on Kindle(other digital formats out Sept. 25th). Go snag a copy! It’s a dark and harrowing tale of love, loss, revenge, and over-compensation. My hero Tom Piccirrilli read it and said, “Lee Thompson knows his horror-noir. He fuses both genres together in the turmoil of terror, tragedy, blood, guilt, and lost chances at redemption.”–Tom Piccirilli, author of THE LAST KIND WORDS
I can’t sleep so I made a book trailer for my upcoming (September 25th) release of When We Join Jesus in Hell. Check it out! This is the one my hero Tom Piccirilli read pre-publication and another hero is going to read as well!
You can join the party once it starts on Goodreads next month, too. Hop over here.
Sandy DeLuca’s new author/artist website, which Peter Schwotzer designed, is up and running and it looks great. Peter designed my Division Mythos website, too. I’ll be interviewing Sandy soon, which is going to be fun.
Tom Piccirilli’s wife, Michelle Scalise, has a collection that just came out called Collective Suicide.
Have a lot going on here on the writing front that I look forward to sharing in the near future!
Tom Piccirilli read it pre-pub, which was awesome of him. He said: “Lee Thompson knows his horror-noir. He fuses both genres together in the turmoil of terror, tragedy, blood, guilt, and lost chances at redemption.”–Tom Piccirilli, author of THE LAST KIND WORDS
Many thanks to everybody who has supported me and continues to do so! You can read an excerpt of the latest novella here.
Plus you should add it on Goodreads! And if you enjoy it, recommend it to others you think would enjoy it!
Home, he thinks, Where the heart bleeds freely.
A hell of a boxer, he earned the nickname ‘Fist’ back in the day. But during the past eight years, he’s transformed into somebody he no longer knows—a weak, pitiful, and passionless office drone.
Barely hanging onto the last thread of his self-respect, he returns home one night to discover Hell has truly crossed its threshold.
And Hell has lessons to teach him through what fragments remain.
Slivers of dark light.
Knowledge in blood.
Forgiveness, clarity and redemption in commitment.
"10 out of 10 Stars... GOSSAMER: A TALE OF LOVE AND TRAGEDY will blow you away my friends. It is that good." -- Peter Schwotzer/Famous Monsters of Filmland.
"WHEN WE JOIN JESUS IN HELL is as crazy as its tormented protagonist. Hard as nails." -- Jack Ketchum, author of The Woman.
"Lee Thompson knows his horror-noir. He fuses both genres together in the turmoil of terror, tragedy, blood, guilt, and lost chances at redemption."--Tom Piccirilli, author of THE LAST KIND WORDS
"The Dampness Of Mourning is taut, tough, and terrifying..." -- Brian Hodge, author of Picking The Bones
“The Dampness of Mourning is a riveting thriller." --Midwest Book Review
"Thompson’s voice is his own — strong, hypnotic, and unsettling--grabs you by the balls and rips them right off, breaking your heart and your psyche in the process.” -- Brian Keene, author of Ghoul, Dark Hollow and The Rising
"Brooding, soulful, haunted." -- Robert Dunbar, author of Willy and Martyrs & Monsters