Sunday, October 30, 2011

Teaser #5: “I Want to Take You Higher.”

I dig me some Sly and the Family Stone.  When I was a kid, one of my best friends was a huge Sly fan.  So, by osmosis, I heard a lot and much of it worked for me.  Old school funk is so much better than most of the dreck that qualifies as R&B nowadays. 

I also enjoy drug fiction.  I’m talking the work of William S. Burroughs for wild, stream–of-consciousness imagery and gritty street truths; and Hubert Selby Jr., for taking it down to the gutter and placing the needle to the literary vein.  Tack on a bit of Jerry Stahl—Permanent Midnight is completely insane—and Charles Bukowski for the liquid side of addiction.  All of these writers, in one way or another, transcribe truths that most of us would not admit to or even acknowledge.  Well, perhaps--we writers like digging into those places, too; at least the writers of worth...  Either way, they have a knack for crawling under my skin, into my brain, and becoming my addiction when I read their work.  Fascinating, since I’ve only dabbled in drugs and don’t drink much at all—wine; Jack Daniels; love Bloody Marys, though. 

The creative aspect of drug fiction is what really hooks me, as I enjoy dabbling as well, allowing my brain to go to those places where the junky might go, and allowing the speculative elements room to roam.  Or, as with this story, slipping into their world and acclimating myself to the irresistible urges via words. 

This one is the ultimate drug run gone wrong, so wrong.

Here’s a sample of the madness as it takes off, another opening sequence.  We get a feel for our amped up narrator, as well as the other side of the dual meaning for the title of this story—some people got religion as their addiction, y’know?


     The knock at the door could only mean one thing: Desi was here, with the drugs no less, not that I could really deal with any more right now, but why stop anything of such mind-numbing, reality altering magnitude when it’s got the pedal jammed to the floor?

     I can stop tomorrow.  There’s always tomorrow.

     I unlatch the lock, swinging open the door with much flourish, eyes skittish, wanting to grab him and drag him in and--

     “Hello!  I won’t mean to take up much of your time.”  A Jehovah’s Witness or some like-minded Messenger of God, fercrissakes, and his silent, strap-on buddy.

     Options align as bowling pins awaiting the kiss of the rapidly spinning ball.  Do I torture him for my own amusement with snippets of my thespian talents and portray a Satanic serial killer, complete with a drooling, halitosis smitten smile and a black marker upside-down cross on my forehead ala Manson’s swastika etchings?  Do I resort to politeness, after all, I was voted Mr. Politeness in kindergarten, given a red ribbon, like one does for a prize pig at the county fair--“My, he sure is plump!”--in a quest to expedite his removal posthaste, without eliciting anything more than a furrowed brow or a plea caught in his throat, God’s Messenger gagging on the message? 

     He interrupts the squirming, beached marlin madness in my head.

     “But we're visiting folks in your neighborhood”—no way, I think, if they’d made it to Harold’s they’d be in the sausage grinder by now, live cams filming it all for internet prosperity—“and were wondering if you read the bible.”

     I pause, options hazy, and choose the prize pig route: I snort at him.


Yeah, this one’s nuts!  But as nuts as it is, it does what I call the Joe R. Lansdale thang.  What are you talking about, John Claude?  Well, when I first started reading Lansdale in the 80s, I loved the way a story might just mosey along and he's just rambling on in mega-funny guy mode, or simply getting disgusting, and it would meander and dawdle and the reader would get settled in, kickin’ back to the lunacy and WHAM—all of a sudden there’s a nail through the hand, or there’s some other shocking sense of mis-logic as rule of thumb, and the whole thing now has you by the lapels and there is no letting go until the grim and usually quite messed up finale. 

This one kinda does that.  Totally nuts!

I tell ya, it’s all about balance and pacing when laying out the TOC to make optimum sense of themes and overlapping elements, so the next story is the other addiction story, but of a completely different tone.  Serious as a sledgehammer lobotomy. 

Another story with a song as the title?  Yeah, well...

Friday, October 28, 2011

Teaser #4: “Gladiatrix.”

Time to get messy.

“Gladiatrix” drags us kicking and screaming back into pure horror, a more reality based horror.  Though my favorite horror is steeped in dread, eerie ambience, weird fiction and the splintered litarary limbs branching out from that tree, I am not limited in what I write.  And even though this one is reality based horror, it’s got enough obtuse elements to tinge it with something odd, which makes it more intriguing for me and hopefully for the reader, too.  Watching a character grow from fragile child to, well, what she becomes—which may be what she has always been—is a fun trek, and in this case, a mental trek as we trip through her psyche, one fused with abuse and damage and so much wrong, that the strength and lethal empowerment of where she ends up is fascinating. 

As with the previous two stories, the foundation culled from her past has really shaped her, harnessed this unexpected strength, but when that strength comes complete with no conscience, well…   

Here’s a snippet, just a tad of the opening sequence, which hints at more going on than it seems—but you have to pay attention.  As always, there’s more going on than it seems.


     When Shannon Olivier opened her eyes it felt as though the lids were scabbed over and tearing.  The light that bled through the sticky seam was dim, the darkness, nefarious.  The lone bulb radiated just enough light to allow her to peek into the corners without really unveiling whatever cavorted or hid within the shadows.  If she tried hard enough--an internal battle between curiosity and self-preservation via denial--she could make out a shape slumped across from her.

     “Oh, God!”

     The words were crisp as breaking glass; no echo.  Opening her mouth embellished the horrors that filled her eyes and bombarded her nostrils: she could taste death--still warm, still moist--tangy blood and acrid piss and older smells like the residue of hope and something that might have been desire.


Yes, that's all--I want to give you more, but surprises are a part of the deal--but did you catch it?  The hint I spoke of?  Well, you will when you read the whole thing.  A bloody slice of meat and viscera pie for the discerning horror reader.  Whipped cream optional...

Mmmmm, tasty!

Another tidbit?  Well, okay.  Her favorite weapon is a machete.  Huh?  Oh, yes, wait until you see.


Next, a break.  Well, not exactly.  After the varied psychological battery of stories 2-3-4, pacing needs to be…altered.  How about the ultimate drug run gone wrong story, with a soundtrack by Sly and the Family Stone?

                       The weapon of choice for the professional Gladiatrix...

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Teaser #3: “I Wish I Was A Pretty Little Girl.”

Yes, that is the title, I know, I know.  Let me explain:

There’s a band called Brighter Death Now that does death industrial music and they have a song called, “I Wish I Was a Little Girl.”  For reasons beyond my control—look, when it comes to writing, I’ve said it before and will say it again, it’s often simply that I am a conduit for whatever weirdness has decided to frolic through my brain and decided it needs expression--I decided, no, let's follow the thread here, ahem... My brain decided it wanted me to write a story that played on that idea; but how?  (Or, perhaps why? is the pertinent question, you sick puppy, Mr. Smith.)   Combine that with an image that formulated in my wee noggin while heading to the beach at Half Moon Bay one day of an arm sprouting out of a conical shell, and we’re on our way!  Yes, that’s all it takes; yes, that’s the way the brain works, bizarre imagery and explorations of unfamiliar terrain are the norm.  How do they relate?  Well, you can find out in the collection, of course.  This one’s disturbing, the back to back of the previous story (the title story; see previous blog post) and this one I find quite powerful, provocative.  Gender issues are at the core; or perhaps it’s the illusion of myth that drives the story. 

Hmmm…  I’ll let you figure it out. 

Actually, stories 2-3-4 touch on a similar theme—how the past shapes the main characters’ present.  Where, “The Dark is Light Enough for Me,” taps into a modern Weird Fiction vein, “I Wish…” gets downright surreal, and “Gladiatrix”?  Well, that one’s messy, real messy.

Back to “I Wish…” here’s a brief sample, the opening:

   She is so pretty, thought Leslie.  Lean, with just a hint of the woman she would become—if he let her—starting to show in the slight curvature of her tiny hips, and the bud of her nipples gaining uneasy prominence on breasts eager to bloom, jutting forth under the thin fabric of her pink t-shirt. 
     Leslie remembered his first feeble attempts at transformation and the sweet pain clothespins like deliciously pinching clamps had brought to his nipples.

Oh, boy.   Yeah, there’s something definitely wrong here--the mindset--but when you find out why this mindset is as it is, you may have a different take on what you are thinking right now.  Because, yes, I know: it’s not meant to be a comfortable ride…

Thinking out loud right now, it's interesting, trying to choose samples from the stories.  Because there's  A LOT going on in most of the stories, as in, transformation--one of my fave themes, actually.  What you read here in no way can prepare you for where it ends up.  As noted up there somewhere, the last third is wrapped in a warm blanket of surrealism.  

Next up, ah, yes, perhaps the messiest story in the collection…


No, I don't exactly expect y'all to listen to this 'song,' though I used to quite enjoy this type of sonic chaos (and still do, to some extent), though usually without the ultra-distorted vocals.  Yeah, must have been a stage, eh?  No, actually, I really like the noisy pulse of this one, hehe...  Most of you will click on the link and after perhaps fifteen seconds click it off and think, "That John.  He IS a sick puppy."

Friday, October 21, 2011

Teaser #2: The Dark is Light Enough for Me

Yes, the title story, the one that, as noted in the previous blog post, kicks the door in, splinters it into pieces, and whittles what’s left into one ultra-dark and deeply perverse tale.

(I'm chatty today, bear with me.)

Our narrator, James, is an anti-social, anti-human character, originally sculpted with a nod to Thomas Ligotti in mind, his work some of the deepest darkness out there, with philosophical foundations and that pervasive anti-everything mindset; this character was created out of a perception of Ligotti himself, and not exactly his writing.  Of course, as a piece of fiction, it uses this thinking as a launching pad, so perhaps I am the only person would even think of Ligotti as things unravel in the story, but we all need that initial spark to even put words on the paper.  Just roll with the anti-social, anti-human aspects and all will be fine. 

James is convinced, as he tries to fit in with our feeble race, to join a horror writer’s group, since he’s taken up the craft as a means of getting by in our pathetic world.  See, his goals are of a different nature, searching for a means to connect with Dark Matter; yes, Dark Matter.  He thinks of it, because of an incident from his childhood, as much more than simply that which dominates most of our galaxy.  But what is revealed to him at the initial meeting knocks him for a loop, and sets the course for a truly depraved piece of work, one that shatters taboos (see the fourth section—it’s split up into five sections, 1-3-5 deal with the here and now, while 2-4 deal with his most demented history; yeah, read the fourth section, take your shower, come back for the finale), as well as leads to an ending steeped in…let’s say, it’s obvious what is happening, but an ambiguous quality is threaded into it all.  Lots of questions of reality and perception are asked.  The story even asks that proverbial chicken and egg question within the scope of horror fiction: what came first, the psychological or the supernatural?  I’m a firm believer that anything is possible and there’s no reason not to explore all possibilities.  And utilize them, if necessary or, more so, if the story demands it.    

There’s a LOT of layers in this one.  I can’t stand fiction that doesn’t have more going on than it seems.  Surface level fiction might be a fun read, but if there’s nothing there to think on afterwards, I tend not to care.  Most of the fiction I enjoy is full of layer upon layer, both in substance and in writing technique, I suppose.  [Thinks on it; more thinking on things?  Guess I’m into this thinking deal…]  Yes, the writing as well; as in, use of metaphors and descriptive nuances and such.  I enjoy writing that engages the senses in every way, firing the synaptic hardware in my head with much to contemplate.  I read a lot of fiction over the summer that really filled me with more possible avenues to add to my fiction; it was part of a kind of research I was conducting, quite helpful and eye-opening.  I love to constantly learn and grow; I’m always looking for ways to improve my skills as a writer.  Growth is paramount.  Never standing still, not me…

So, a sample?  Hard choice, here’s something to just make your brain go, “What the…?”  The first meeting, where the revelation is made, but more so, pay attention: these words are from James’ work, and his work is close to his heart in more ways than imagined.  Layers, I tell ya… 

Here’s James, not impressed by these people and ready to leave:  


     “Good day or, rather, good night,” I said, not needing explanations or anything more to do with them.  I turned to leave. 
     As I made the door, Stan piped up, “‘The knocking on my apartment door grows more desperate by the second, as if the import of each ‘thump’ holds within its resonance the secrets of the known and unknown world…and they are about to be revealed to me.  I close my eyelids, the parchment flesh motivated by instinct and not necessity, as the orbs that used to reside within the empty sockets work feverishly in what used to be the corner of the front room.  They have scalloped out the edges and angles and created a curvature--the appropriate warping of space required to consider the possibilities within the universe and, hence, within myself; the appropriate invitation to dark matter in all its churning, pitch-black glory.  The solid black orbs view everything around them, the scope of their--of my-- vision completely unlimited.  Because they are my eyes, even if they move beyond the usual assumptions of what one would expect from one’s eyes, they are still part of my faculties, though now of a more tactile, more kinetic function; unlimited in more ways than the visual.’”
     “‘My metamorphosis is in full bloom ’” Teri said, her voice cracking.
      I’m sure I was shaking now; this may have been the most purely human I had ever felt in my life, despite my experiences or perhaps because of them.
     “Please,” Stan said, no laughing now, me realizing his laughter had nothing to do with anything humorous.  No, there was obviously something more insidious in motion here.
     My eyes felt hot with dread; my heart had sunk to my belly and felt like it was boiling in the acid there.  I walked back to the group and sat down.
     “Sorry for that, but there really is no reason to pussyfoot around it.”
     I had only one thought at that moment: How could they quote verbatim the opening paragraph to my novel?  


Hmmm…so, that bit is close to his heart, eh?  Strange heart, this guy.  And what the heck is he talking about--his eyes, separate from him, doing what?  Oh, dear, weird, weird stuff, and just the tip of the diseased never-melting iceberg lodged in his warped head.  Trust me, you won’t believe where this one ends...

Actually, the story within the story was from another story I was attempting to write that I could not get my head wrapped around.  When I needed James' novel here, what the group somehow also knows, I immediately knew I had a home for the other piece.  See, writing, even when sometimes things don't end up how you think they will, some of that work can be utilized eventually, as seen here. 

So, just a taste, but lots to comprehend.  This is no simple tale of zombies or vampires, oh no; this tale explores deeper, more disturbing facets of the psyche.  This one… [shakes head] phew!

Next up: gender aspirations gone awry.  (Huh?  Stick with me, you’ll see.)


Where did I get the title for the tale?  From this Brilliant CD by now defunct gothic, dark ambient masters, Endvra!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Teaser #1: "Black Wings"

11-11-11 is the date of the release my first collection of short stories, The Dark is Light Enough for Me.  Let’s get some samples out there, teasers, stuff to pique your interest.  Well, I certainly hope they pique your interest.  And, if nothing else, if I am just doing this for the fun of it, well, it gives me an excuse to use the word “pique,” something that doesn’t come around every day.


A taste of “Black Wings,” a story about guilt and crows; about getting your just rewards, or simply just going mad.  Running from his conscience, Dave, our weary narrator, finds out he really has nowhere to run.  Hence, this lovely sequence:
     I saw it first as a black cloud that paced me as I sped; a black cloud somehow darker, yet more distinct than the darkness that surrounded it, imbued with a sentience I could not imagine.  It was disturbing, but in my haste I ignored it as best as possible, until something disengaged from its ululating abyssal girth, something of substantial mass itself, something falling, like a hammer on a nail.
     It landed with a loud cracking sound in front of me, a meaty and moist splat just beyond the Rabbit’s straining beams.  I had to stomp on the brakes and swerve to the shoulder, skidding past, trying to avoid whatever it was.  I screamed--a cawing trill wrenched from my throat, worthy of anything emitted by the crows; it more than equaled the bizarre circumstances that preceded as well as the harsh, groaning complaint of the wheels as they struggled to halt my impetus.  The car belched and coughed in protest as it came to an abrupt stop.  My heart was pounding; I could hear it in my head, a bouncing rubber ball throb that pummeled until it ached.    
     I unlocked the door and stepped out, a little woozy from the skidding stop, shaken and nervous.  Slipping...
     I didn’t want to confirm what I thought I had seen drop from the black sky.  I didn’t want to know what had landed on the freeway not fifty feet behind me, as I regained some sort of grasp on reality.  Well, not reality, more like holding on out of desperation, options limited, tapping into the adrenaline rush and forcing my body to simmer, though my mind was well beyond my control. 
     Reality was severely in question. 

     Fun, eh?!  Poor Dave, he’s only just begun his tumble.  Where he ends up, ohhhh, you can only imagine. 

     I think of this story as a good icebreaker.  It sets the reader up properly with a couple of good kicks—surprises, y’know--and a satisfying finale.  Bleak, sure, but this is horror (or any range of dark fiction) we’re dealing with in the collection.  I’ve opened the door to let you in; join me.

     Of course, it's a door that gets slammed open and torn off the hinges with the next story…

Crows. They're watching you...

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Dark Is Light Enough For Me.

About time, eh?  The Dark is Light Enough for Me is my debut collection of Dark Fiction tales, most of it Horror, some of it surreal and strange…well, okay, more than some of it is strange.  All of the stories explore the shadowy edge of the human condition laid bare.  I don’t flinch.  I don’t back away.  I’m going to shine a flashlight on the madness, the emotional turmoil, the dread and love and wonder, scratching the impressions on my flesh with ragged fingernails, to be transferred to the computer once the blood dries…

Sounds like fun, eh?  Oh, really!?  You try deciphering the scars!  ;-)

Anyway, on 11-11-11=11+1 (yes, twelve) stories will be available from Ampichellis books, an ebook by moi, with a possible print version as well (fingers crossed, I want that), for your reading pleasure, or simply to make you look at me with wary disgust.  Their site is under construction, updating and such.  The cover artwork is in progress.  I’ll hit you with that once it’s finalized.  The price is going to be a measly $4.99 [something invisible thumps my head, probably the fist of the publisher; get it right, boy!].  Excuse me, only $3.99 which is, what?  About 33 cents per story!  What a deal!  (Okay, okay, I’m not a salesman, but man, that is a good deal for twelve slices of dread, with our without anchovies, depending on…er...ahem, okay, no anchovies.)


How about a Table of Contents to whet your bloodthirsty appetite?  Here goes:

  1. Black Wings
  2. The Dark Is Light Enough For Me
  3. Gladiatrix
  4. I Wish I Was A Pretty Little Girl
  5. I Want To Take You Higher
  6. Not Breathing
  7. Make Pretty
  8. Strange Trees
  9. The Perceptive One
  10. Plastic
  11. The Sunglasses Girl
  12. Things That Crawl…In Hollywood.
Looks like fun to me.  Teasers and samples on the way.  Are you ready?

I Am! 

Bring on the Horror!

                          Bloody fingernails from all that scratching and writing...

Friday, October 7, 2011

Catching Up, Big News, and 11-11-11...

Been awhile since I’ve done a blog [checks how long, shakes head], but it’s time to lock in and make them regular. Why? Well, many reasons, but primarily because of an ebook collection coming out!

But first…let’s catch up a bit, a lot in the pipeline.

Sometime next week--it’s the 6th of October as I type this--there will be an e-anthology of Halloween themed stories--not all horror--called, “Past the Patch,” put together by the talented horror writing fiend, Brian Fatah Steele. Looks like fun, and it includes my tale, “The Perfect Pumpkin.” Perfectly gruesome stuff, appropriate reading material for the spooky season.

Vincent Daemon’s new magazine, Grave Demand, "The Journal of Transgressive Thought in Literature & Culture," looks like it will specialize in no-holds-barred fiction and more that won't flinch.  Excellent! One of my personal fave short stories I’ve written, “Broken Teacup,” is included. Gnarly, messed up, you’ll be thinking, my God, John Claude, these blokes are Just Wrong…but then, ahhhh, see, it goes off the rails and things are not as they seem and you end up realizing the story is about love. Or not. I remember reading a short story by John Everson, the title eludes me at the moment, but it had some truly evil lead character, and I was impressed by how by the end of the story, we were made to care about this character. That inspired this one a bit. Now, I don’t think caring about the narrator of "Broken Teacups" is the deal here, not exactly, but I enjoyed twisting it in a way where, well, you might care about his predicament. Or not. Either way, it’s a hardcore horror ride that doesn’t flinch, perfect for this new mag. Surreal, too, when it gets there.  Grave Demand will be out in October or November.  Worth investigating!

Then there’s what you’ve all been waiting for. Or not, haha…but on 11-11-11 I will have an ebook short story collection released--possibly a print version too, that would be great--entitled…um, well, we (the editor at Ampichellis ebooks and moi) are working on it. The original title was, The Dark is Light Enough For Me, a 9,200 word novelette of insidious perversion and self discovery that is featured in the collection. That still may end up being the title, but recently I was re-reading that story, proofreading a tad, tweaking as we writers do, and within that story, there’s mention of another book entitled, My Heart Belongs To Darkness, and it struck me how much I liked that title as well. Fickle me.  No, no, So, one of those, I’ll let you know soon, post cover art, the whole deal, teasers, samples, gonna have fun, shake up some interest. But it is coming. 11-11-11 = 11 + 1 stories (yes, that’s twelve, but I think I will play up the 11’s and 1 and, er…yeah, you get me, don’t you?).


Anyway, time to strap in, we’re going for a ride into the heart of darkness. There’s no guarantee we’ll return…


                                          A broken teacup, of course.