The Gorgon’s Love

Love fantasy? Steampunk? Then you should check out the latest collection of short stories from Nevermet Press in Stories in the Ether Vol. 4. It’s an ePub, and should be compatible with all readers. It is my honor to have my story featured on the cover, and kudos to Paul Hagwood for the outstanding Medusa art he created to compliment the tale. Follow the link below to check it out, and while you’re at it give a look at A Feast of Frights if you haven’t already, which holds within it my short story Midnight Passage.

With two works available on Amazon now, it seemed appropriate to start an author profile there, although that is still a work in progress when it comes to the finer deatails.

I continue to hone away at my novel. I’ve discovered as a writer that perhaps my greatest weakness is a penchant for long-ass paragraphs. So a lot has been going back and breaking those babies up with the word hammer. Plus I’ve had several ideas that add some layers of complexity and depth to the story. In the mean time, I’ve also had a short story tickling the back of my brain that I’m probably going to have to spill onto paper here soon.

http://www.amazon.com/Feast-Frights-The-Horror-Zine/dp/0615594476/ref=sr_1_cc_1?s=aps&ie=UTF8&qid=1337181761&sr=1-1-catcorr

http://www.amazon.com/Stories-Ether-Storytelling-Quarterly-ebook/dp/B0082CIA0U/ref=sr_1_8?ie=UTF8&qid=1354592444&sr=8-8&keywords=stories+in+the+ether

 

 

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Feast in Hand

Today I was finally able to put my hands on my own copy of A Feast of Frights from The Horror Zine.  It’s a good-sized book, has a great cover and feel to it. Weighing in at 473 pages, it’s a big chunk of dark horror and fantasy. If you love the genre at all, there is bound to be something in it for you. And there is my story, right on page 223. But since there is so much more to the book, I don’t feel a bit narcissistic. But there’s a nice warm fuzzy from seeing my work in such a well-presented attractive volume. My thanks to Jeani Rector at The Horror Zine for all her hard work and dedication to bringing this book to print, and including me within its pages. You can find A Feast of Frights on Amazon here:

http://www.amazon.com/Feast-Frights-The-Horror-Zine/dp/0615594476/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1335205677&sr=8-1

It should be available in both print and kindle format. If it isn’t available on kindle yet, it will be very soon. The only thing better than seeing your name in print is hearing that other people enjoyed your work, so give it a read and come back and tell us what you thought!

Waiter, there’s a cross in my horror.

I’m a person of skeptical bent, which means I remain dubious of most any and all faith claims as fact. But my mind postulates that without religion and myth, two of the things I enjoy most in life, namely supernatural horror and fantasy, would not exist. What creature of the night or flighty god of fancy does not owe something to a mythological predecessor?

Perhaps that explains my continuing fascination with theology and mythology, which to me are much one and the same. Asked to concisely define mythology, Joseph Campbell answered, “Mythology is what we call someone else’s religion.” Mythology today has come to be equated to “a fiction,” whereas I prefer to think of it as Campbell put it, “symbolic images and narratives, metaphorical of the possibilities of human experience and the fulfillment of a given culture at a given time.” Myth is storytelling with meaning. It can carry truth, and it carries on today.

In the past,  as often as not, supernatural horror did not come without the inverse supernatural good. There was kind of a karmic balance. That’s changing somewhat in this modern era, and can particularly be seen with vampires. Anne Rice writes about vampires that can be fond of crosses, taking away the Church as antagonist and leaving the vamps to a carnal, dark underworld of their own making. In fact, being a vampire these days seems more of a sleek, sexy lifestyle with a couple of social glitches and hang-ups than being a curse. An American Werewolf in London (best werewolf movie EH-ver) dispensed with the notion of silver bullets. What seems to be happening is that the mythology surrounding the core ideal is stripped away, leaving just the creature. Sometimes that mythology is reimagined and replaced with a more modern interpretation, which can be a lot of fun. Or it can result in plain, unadulterated Evil, like sparkly vampires. Regardless, that is the nature of myth for each new age. It is never static. The novel I am currently working on carries many theological and religious overtones, drawn from a variety of  sources. These are our metaphors for relating to the universe.

I doubt supernatural horror will ever be completely free of religion, any more than man will. Like horror and fantasy, religious myths adapt and move with us too, and give birth to new ones. There is a natural progression. Scientology comes to mind as a recent example.  In many respects, belief in alien life is only the transference of belief in gods to belief in gods with space suits. Religion, in one form or another, will continue adding flavor to our cups of horror for many moons to come. We are hard-wired for it.

For my part, not all religions are built equally, though, and some make for more entertaining storytelling than others. The aforementioned Scientology is prebuilt for sci-fi. Given its creator wrote science fiction, perhaps that is not really surprising. It gives me pause that its faithful don’t quirk an eyebrow at this. But then again it makes sense–our myths come from our storytellers. Modern storytellers tend to be entertainers; L. Ron Hubbard went the extra mile to establish a new religion. The Mormons took us to space with Battlestar Galactica. Star Wars carried a quasi-Eastern religious feeling with the Force, until Lucas went and screwed that all up with “midi-chlorians.”   And the Roman Catholic Church gave us rich tradition and the cross which was the bane of evil for hundreds of storytelling years and remains so today. Catholicism is the standard foil for many a horror flick. It’s filled with awesome pageantry and ritual, making for great storytelling and visuals. It’s played such a huge role in history, both positive and negative, its influence on myth and faith is found across the globe. Modern day Protestantism, in comparison, is just damn boring. They don’t do flashy.

It’s also trendy to cast the man of god into the dark role, which may be somewhat a product of our age, but something the Church has lent itself to both historically and in current affairs. After all, when your local preacher gets busted for porn or theft, they’re guaranteed to make headlines. You can’t preach a higher standard and not expect to be excoriated for it when you yourself fail. Stephen King’s werewolf in Silver Bullet was the town preacher and the Da Vinci Code stirred the Catholic conspiracy pudding to such a degree some people thought it was real. But it’s good, even refreshing, to have an unspoilt (even if troubled) man of the cloth now and again. Father Karras and Father Merrin from the Exorcist come to mind. I liked those characters. I may not be a person of by-the-book faith, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t positive metaphors there to be used, one that most often involves sacrifice or atonement.

I’ve really enjoyed seeing fantasy and horror reestablish themselves in today’s culture. When it comes to fantasy, I credit a lot of that to Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings films. Being a fantasy and horror lover is no longer equivalent to being a social pariah, as a rash of new book series and movies will attest. It has begun to enter television media now, with HBO launching Game of Thrones last year (a personal fan favorite for me), and networks airing Once Upon a Time and Grimm. And forget Disney, these are shows with something of a darker bent–as is right and proper.

No matter how they are used, these are powerful themes and archetypes used to build the fantastic metaphoric tapestries that spring from our imagination and express the depths of the human mind, and I welcome them.

 

A Feast of Frights

A Feast of Frights became available on Amazon this weekend. PB, $16.99. A kindle edition should be out before long. You can find the book here:

http://www.amazon.com/Feast-Frights-The-Horror-Zine/dp/0615594476/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1334463604&sr=8-1

From the publisher: From the pages of The Horror Zine-the critically acclaimed online horror magazine-comes A FEAST OF FRIGHTS FROM THE HORROR ZINE edited by Jeani Rector. Featuring dark fantasy, mystery, pure suspense and classic horror, this book from The Horror Zine is relentless in its approach to basic fears and has twisted, unexpected endings. Come and find out what terrifying things can creep out of The Horror Zine to make your skin crawl. A FEAST OF FRIGHTS FROM THE HORROR ZINE contains fiction from such renowned masters of the macabre as Simon Clark, Graham Masterton, Joe R. Lansdale, Scott Nicholson, Cheryl Kaye Tardif, Joe McKinney, Susie Moloney, Tom Piccirilli, Ed Gorman, Trevor Denyer, and Jeff Strand. This book has amazing articles from John Gilmore, Deborah LeBlanc, Earl Hamner, Kasey Lansdale and Tim Lebbon, and a Foreword from horror great Ramsey Campbell. Here you will also find other deliciously dark delights from morbidly creative people who have not yet made the big time…but will soon. Each tale and poem, every article and artful rendering is a dark delicacy of its own, making this a true Feast of Frights!

My story Midnight Passage appears in this anthology. Very happy to be in there with so many other talented writers.

Off to Press

Happy to announce that A Feast of Frights, a diabolic collection of stories, poetry, and articles from The Horror Zine featuring works from esteemed writers such Graham Masterton, Ramsey Campbell, Ed Gorman and many others is off to the presses. It should be available soon for purchase on Amazon. At 400+ pages, there is plenty to sink your teeth into here. O, and hey, there’s a story by li’l ol’ me in it too

Be sure to drop by the Facebook page and give it a “like.”

www.facebook.com/afeastoffrights

In the meantime I continue work on my own novel, a story set in the not too distant future, bringing together elements of science, a lof of dark fantasy, and a touch of horror. I’ll be posting excerpts and clips as it draws closer to completion.

Missy ~ Winter Guardian

Burial Day Books originally published this short vignette.

I wouldn’t say it is my most polished piece, but it does hold a special meaning for me. Missy was as real as life can be, and so was her death. I can’t begin to explain the bond she had with me, and I’ve never experienced anything like it since. The exception to the story is I can’t ever recall Missy growling at anything for any reason; but then, I don’t ever remember being seriously threatened, either. It’s hard to imagine life without a dog, but nothing has ever come close to Missy, so this is my homage to her. I’ve thought about developing the story more, perhaps into a novelette, but that will have to wait for a later day.

~M

MISSY

Do you believe we are sent guardians to protect us in this life? I do.

Mine was a German Shepherd named Missy. That’s why I pulled out this old photo album, to show you her. Here, see? That’s her. That’s me standing there in the snow all bundled up in blue. Hell, I must not have been more than four when this was taken. Really towers over me, doesn’t she? She was with the family before I was born, and I never thought to ask where or why they got her. She was just another part of my existence. Father. Mother. Brother. Missy. It was as natural as I could imagine. Who can say why she took to me, but there was no denying that from the moment I came into the world I was hers, and she was mine.

Missy wasn’t a cuddly dog. She wouldn’t even let other members of the family touch her with her knowing. That was only for me. She followed me to the school bus stop at the bottom of the hill every morning, and she was there when it belched me back out safely home. During the summer she followed me on all my adventures with my friends. We would sometimes play hide-and-seek with her, but of course that was a joke unless the others hid with me. They were nothing to her. I was everything. And I’m sad to say there were times I grew annoyed with her, because she was always right there. Given my youth I didn’t always fully appreciate what I had until it was lost.

The trouble started in the winter of 1977. My friend Steven and I were caught up in the space bonanza that was Star Wars. The movie hadn’t reached the theater in our small town until late that summer, but it resonated to our very cores. But it wasn’t science fiction that would rule that winter, but something darker, something of nightmare.

Missy was an outdoor dog, by and large, and my dad left the board off the entrance to the crawlspace leading under the house during the winter so she could escape the cold. But there were nights, cold nights when I felt sorry for her, that I could sometimes convince them to let her stay in my room. It was the first snowfall of that year, and we all knew it was coming, and so Missy was posted prone at the foot of my bed. Her eyes were closed but her ears were pricked, tiny radars on constant alert. The powder didn’t start to fall and blow until well after dark, and I lay in bed watching it until sleep took me over.

I woke to a low rumbling sound, rising and falling. It took me a moment to realize it was Missy growling. Her body was tense, her eyes fixed to my bedroom window with teeth bared. I had never seen her growl or threaten another person or animal that way. But at that moment she looked the breed, fierce and protecting. I wasn’t really afraid as I peered out into that invisible black and white nothingness beyond the window, because I was inside and Missy was with me, but at the same time I was afraid, because something was out there, just outside the window. Something dark against the darkness, and it moved. I screamed. Father rushes into my bedroom, but it is too late by then. Something dark is gone.

I told my Father the next day that something was outside my window. I don’t tell him it was a thing dark and wretchedly evil, because I knew adults don’t believe in monsters. We still go to look, though. You couldn’t dismiss the possibility of a prowler, even in a small town like ours. The snow didn’t stop until early that morning, but I could still see the tracks there in the snow, long slender treads topped off with severe talons. But Father can’t see them, not at all. I tell him something moved outside the window. He tells me it was only the branches of the maple tree. But Missy knew they were there, and her muzzle, which now showed the first signs of age, lingered over the prints, nostrils flaring and drawing in the essence of what had been. And when I showed the tracks to Steven, he could see them too, because children believe in monsters.

Three days passed without incident. Almost enough time to forget, almost enough time to convince yourself that maybe you had imagined it. Those three days the sun hovered ineffectually in the sky while the air remained bitterly cold. The deep snow that had freed me from school glazed over with a paper-thin coating of ice, so your feet crunched through it each time you took a step. Those three nights Missy refused to come inside and stay with me. And I knew why. During the day I could almost convince myself that I had imagined it all, yes, but at night I knew she was outside, watching and guarding. Waiting for the dark thing to return.

That third night, the night of the silver moon, the plenipotent moon, it did. I could hear its footfalls, driving through the crusty snow as it approached my window. I could see its dark form moving against the white dark outside, brushing underneath the tree and knocking snow from brittle branches. Its mouth, fanged and awesome, hissed against the glass, its breath frosting the pane. Its eyes swirl, vast reflections of silver light split through with yellow and red. It wants me to come outside, and I can feel it drawing me, rising me from my bed, because monsters have power over children we can’t explain. Its claws screech along the windowsill in anticipation.

Then it is hit by a fast, growling mass that lunges into its dark body, tearing and shredding. Pulling out chunks of darkness that drift and dissipate into the chill air. The spell on me breaks, and I am afraid again, but not afraid because Missy is there to protect me. The unspeakable is driven back, howling a sound drawn from the cold depths of space and time, as it is forced away by Missy’s relentless attack. Then its silvery ominous eyes part, watery pools that sift down to the snow ready to claim its own.

My parents believe Missy tangled with another dog in a fight that night. It took her a two weeks to recover. One eye was swollen shut, and she had a pronounced limp in her hip the rest of the winter. She seemed tired and old.

Four years passed. A few years older for me, a quarter of a lifetime for Missy. The gray hairs around her muzzle were prominent now, and most of the color had faded from her once black nose. But she stayed with me, always as much as she could. And I was wiser. The past was only the nightmares of childish dreams, and I sleep through the winter nights in peace, because I know there are no such things as monsters.

Winter caught us hard that year and off our guard. The snow came that night in heavy wet clumps. Father forgot to remove the board from the crawlspace, and the next morning we found Missy dead in the back yard. Too cold, Father said. Too cold and too old. I cried. I cried as if I had lost my best friend, and I had. And I cried because only I could see the tracks tipped by daggerish talons surrounding her body, and how they had retreated, one foot dragging, away through the snow.

That was seventeen years ago. A child’s nightmare and an older child’s sorrow. Time dampens memory, it eases fear and hurts. And I had forgotten. Almost. I’m a grown man now, not a child, and I don’t believe in monsters. Not until a few nights ago, when the snow fell hard and sticky. Until I saw something dark outside my window in the snowy black space, breathing and hissing.

That’s why I bought a dog, another German Shepherd. She’s over there on the floor asleep now, even though I know, right this moment, it’s outside. Don’t get me wrong. She is a smart, good dog as far as the breed goes, but she is no Missy. We don’t belong to each other, we only live together. And I’m afraid now, and more afraid because Missy is not here. And now there, do you hear? The claws dragging across the windowpane. See how its silvery eyes beckon?

It wants us to come outside.

Malachi Martin ~ Character Sketch

Originally created this as a quick background for an RPG character, but thinking I can develop it into something more.

Journal: 13 Feb. 2010

There was a time when I was solid in my beliefs, before the world changed and a new existence unfolded before my very eyes. And though I knew the mysteries of the universe were beyond human comprehension–after all, did I not help Father Vallarie exorcise that demon from the young Patrick girl? And yet the Church turned a blind eye to the miraculous in this age. They would actually rather cover it up, hide behind science and culture and their tradition to cover their political and social prestige than acknowledge it. I left the church because I felt it had become weak, complacent. When I suggested that man had been endowed with an innate power by his God that he no longer utilizes, they said I was bordering on heresy. But does not the happier person live longer? Sick people who are determined to live get better more often than the depressed. And does the mother not at times sense something is wrong, though her child may be nowhere close? What powers of the mind and body has our creator given us that remain untapped, I asked.

And there have been times in my life, times when I felt there was something more there, just out of touch. But to take anything away from God and give it to man in the Church’s eyes is to take power away from God and make him lesser. Yet if the endower is God, is not God still the ultimate source of that power? That wasn’t how the Church saw it. I made them uncomfortable, and they were even more uncomfortable when my book was published. I still have friends there, but it has always been my practice to keep those friendships quiet. I would never want to hurt the careers of those men by simple association. But what if they knew what I know now? Would they still call me friend? Or would they say I was truly lost? I fear I already know the answer. There is so much more than I ever dreamed or imagined, to paraphrase. That’s why I started this journal, for in truth there  are times I am not sure I know myself anymore. Perhaps I am lost. Or mad.

I had a dream. Not the dreaming that restores mind and body, but a true journey. I traveled a world filled with the wildness of life, a primal wilderness where both physical and spiritual life throbbed in the air so hard you could practically feel it against the skin. I traveled until I came to a temple, and once inside, there on the wall I felt compelled to write my name. I did not write it so much as think it, and it appeared. It was not the name my parents gave me, but I knew it was mine. The truth of the whole wide existence assailed me, the most fundamental truth of it–the world is a lie. The world is fallen from grace in a way never imagined. All I ever knew is but a shadow. Thought is more real than matter.

So much of what I thought Iknew lays in shambles, and I still struggle to comprehend what is. A great abyss separates man from his true becoming, and the power of that abyss reaches out for us. How do I know it was real? How else do I describe the great awakening within my own body?