Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Wilderness Edits and The Dark...Print News!

I haven't meant to be negligent and leave you hanging, waiting for whatever's next here.  Another excursion to the AlternaWorld, or simply some rambling.  But, you see, as a writer, there are times we actually have to, how do I put this?  Yeah, Write! As in, my second novel, The Wilderness Within--great title, perhaps I'll use it elsewhere [he said, eyes rolling upward in their sockets, whistling like the imp he occasionally is] [imp? What the...?]--needed some...tweaking. Because, well, there's this thing that my agent/editor mentioned to me that made her crazy.  Oh, don't get me wrong, she Loves the writing, the novels and stories, but...but...

I kinda like my semi-colons. 

So, toned down some of those, as well as dashes and some full-grown colons, too.  And in the process, I realized something seemed...funky.

There was stuff I know, I just know, I edited out a while ago.  And it was back!  How could that be?  Had the writing gremlins decided it was better with the edited material reinserted?

I was severely miffed. Brow furrowed deep and long.  I stopped my edits and contacted my editor/agent and said, "Baby, could you please send me the latest version of the novel you have," after which she replied, "Who is this? What are you talking about, you strange, strange man?"  Checking the email, I had somehow picked the AlternaWorld version of my agent/editor which, no, she's not the same over there, instead she's a B-movie Scream Queen and stellar letter turner on their version of Wheel of Fortune so, then, well, resending to my editor/agent, she sent me my copy and, damnit, it was the same!

Had I somehow done all this work before and not saved it?  Was I just imagining having done it? Can I have an H, dear? Followed by an O.L.Y. S.H. I don't even know where I'm going with this so, anyway, yes, that explains the busywork and my not being around.  That and the long Thanksgiving four-day weekend, which really doesn't get in my way, but one finds oneself distracted at the very least. 

It's Tuesday night as I type this.  I'll post it Wednesday when I finish it and get some art for the post. 

Ah, but one more thing. 

The agent/editor informed me of specs about other cool stuff.  Yes, for those of you who have been asking, the print version of my collection, The Dark is Light Enough for Me, currently available as an ebook at Amazon, B&N, and OmniLit, is in the works and getting close.  Yes, she actually asked me for an author photo.  I had no professional studio shots, just some random shots of me.  She said, "No shots of you looking like you're in the Mafia."  Actually, she really did say this.  I sent two, she wasn't sure.  So I sent four more.  She will use one of those, but I have no idea which one.  But it let me know that, yes...The Print Version is Very Close, Perhaps ThisClose, to being released.

Are you ready?

Well, I am.  I want every version! I want them all! It's imperative for Wor(l)d Domination! Mwhahahahahahha...[cough, cough]. Okay, enough of this nonesense. Next time, well, leaning toward more AlternaWorld excursions, but there's also the possibility of other publishing news that might happen any second now so...well, don't hold your breath, even if blue looks good on you, but yeah, see ya soon!

So, this here picture has nothing to do with anything.  Just some of my, um, Italian friends.  What?  Oh, no, nothing to do with the Mafia.  These fellas, goodfellas most of them, they wouldn't know anything about Mafia.  No way. Ahem.


Friday, November 25, 2011

Have you read these? The Dark...breathes...

Just thought I'd drop in amidst the Thanksgiving/Black Friday madness to touch base and pass on some of the Amazon and Goodreads reviews for my debut collection, The Dark is Light Enough for Me. 

A handful: 

"I can't say how much I loved this book but I will try.
This is a very talented author.The stories were frightening and lyrical.Prose like this takes a lot of effort and this writer has it down pat.
The stories are also very literary reminding me a little of Ligotti but with more dialogue.
This is a wonderful collection that I am sure that I am going to read again and again."

"This is certainly not the average horror short story collection. These tales are imbued with a dark flood of images and written in a beautifully terse prose. They all bear a close relation to life, but their twists and turns are like concentrated dynamite. Get yourself a copy and plunge into darkness!"

"Dark is Light enough for me is an over the top write, a selection of stories that addresses the most inner desires, misses in life, and guilt feelings associated and spiced with a vivid imagination of the author. The stories are thrilling and endorphin rising. You will never stop anticipating :-)"

"I really enjoyed this dark journey--probably one of the best short-story collection I've read in years. The way Mr. Smith twists his plot is on the same par with early Steven King. Amazing darkness here." 


And this one from Goodreads:

"A perfect read for those who like an eerily wonderful exploration of the illusion of reality and the surreal nature of life as we think we know it. A new favorite author--he consistently delivers!"


So, a good start, eh?  I appreciate all the kind words from these people, posting them here for the blog readers who've yet to make it to the page or pick up a copy.  Well, don't these reactions inspire you to give it a go?  I would think so, heck, it would inspire me, hehe...

Anyway, the book is available via Amazon worldwide, Barnes & Noble, and OmniLit.



Barnes & Noble:


Amazon Germany:

Amazon France:

Please join the others in exploring my Darkness...

Thanks for your time.  I expect to be back in the AlternaWorld with the next post. I wonder who we'll run into then...hmmm...

Perhaps the print version, hopefully out in early December, will come in a special version like this, etched designs and a lock and...no, I think not, but it is coming and I can't wait, either.  This book is a Necronomicon put together by Richard A. Poppe, and rather intense, eh?  But I'm sure it would cost you an arm and a leg and perhaps your soul.  I'm sure mine won't cost that much...

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Jimi Hendrix says "The Dark..." is Groovy, man!

I've decided this time to trek over to the AlternaWorld myself, to find out for real what is up with my book.  To find out more about the wide-spread reach of my collection. Reports from Jupiter and the Ice Worlds out near Aldebaran, as well as The Bronx (?) of its existence Out Beyond really got me hyped, but what of the worlds that run right alongside ours?  What of the Other Dimensions?  Yeah, well...this time, I thought it best to slide into the interstellar slipstream via the Videodrome transport station in my computer screen myself and--what ?  Oh, you've got it, too!  We all do. It's just...let's put it this way.  With the first step being "thoroughly oil your naked body," most interstellar slipstream travellers never make it out of their bedrooms, computer rooms and such, distracted by the process and, er...you might get my drift, but if not, well...think on it and get back to me the second Tuesday of next week. 


Anyway, after doing that and not being distracted to exhaustion, ahem...press in sequence, Delete - Home - Esc - 2 - Alt - then pick the code of the AlternaWorld, or whichever dimension you want to explore...and step through the screen.


Now that I am here, a bit disorientated from the trip and being spat out like a hairball on the hard metallic road, I am immediately inundated with loud music adorned in raspy curls of feedback, and vocals that sound familiar.  I shake my still wobbly head until focus is gained and I see to my left a tall man with an even taller afro and dressed in wild, tie-dyed colors bashing away on a flaming guitar that doesn't seem to be burning his fingers at all.

Then the words hit me, the end of a familiar song, but not so familiar any more.  Different lyrics.

"The traffic lights they turn black tomorrow
And shine their emptiness into my dreams
Strange words float in my tattered subconsciousness
‘Cause the dark imagination tears at the seams
And the dark is light enough for me

Will the wind ever remember
The tales it has read in the past
With his nightmare stallions snorting gaily
It whispers yes, gleefully, they'll last
Because the dark is light enough for me

Bring on the darkness..."

I am stunned.  "The Wind Cries Mary" lyrics twisted to fit my book, an homage forged in a haunting, feedback-swathed melody.  I applaud loudly as I approach none other than Jimi Hendrix, creator of this mad mash-up, playing for spare change on this metallic street. 

He turns to meet my applause and says, "John Claude Smith?"

At which point, with no author photo on my book--heck, it's not out in print on Earth for a few more weeks--and not even sure of internet access out here, I wonder how he knows who I am.

"Why, yes, Jimi.  That was fantastic!"  I am still in awe, but need some answers, such as:  "How do you know who I am?"

He laughs, guffows tumbling as the guitar still whispers and wheezes, feedback lurking between the shuffling people and strange buildings and even Biblioteca de Borges y Café en el Borde de Eternidad (Borges Library & Café at the Edge of Eternity), where my sources had the conversation with Salvador Dali about my book. 

"It's your aura, man.  No other resonates with quite the same dark aura."

I don't know how to take this, but continue my, er...research.  

"You've obviously read my book.  How did you get a copy...out here?"

"Out here? Way out here, you mean." More laughter as he lightly strums, "Purple Haze." "It was handed to me by the flowers.  The words poured upon me as rain.  I opened my inner eye and it crawled in and shook up my soul.  It was beautiful."

"Beautiful?  My book is beautiful?"

"Perhaps beautiful ain't the right word.  It was groovy, man." Then he paused, that hiccuping strum before singing, "Excuse me, while I kiss the sky," and turned toward the heavens above, puckered his lips, and like mist be floated upward, becoming one with the rainbow colored clouds, saying again, "Groovy, man," and...gone.

Completely discombobulated and uncertain of what I had just witnessed, I wander on to see whatever or whomever is next.  I need to know more, and all Jimi did was confound everything, no real answers, all riddles.  

Of course, I can't complain since the book is out here in the AlternaWorld, but still...How has this happened?


Curiouser and curiouser. 

If you are interested in the book Salvador Dali says is like, "Dark Chocolate for the Mind," and Jimi Hendrix has called, "Groovy, man," well...you can find The Dark is Light Enough for Me at Amazon.com, as well as Amazon in the UK, France and Germany, Barnes & Noble, and OmniLit.
Here's the Amazon.com link for easy access.


 This surreal painting by Mark Ryden captures EXACTLY the Jimi Hendrix I met on the AlternaWorld.  Really!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A Conversation with Salvador Dali...?!

My Other Realm sources--those who travel between worlds and dimensions--have informed me that Salvador Dali, The Master of the Surreal, now existing in the AlternaWorld, has gotten a hold of my collection, The Dark is Light Enough for Me.  How he got a copy is beyond me.  I didn't even know it was distributed Out There.  Over There?  Well, wherever the AlternaWorld is...  Nonetheless, I was given this transcript of a conversation from one of my sources as he spotted Dali thumbing through the pages of my book as he sat in the Biblioteca de Borges y Café en el Borde de Eternidad (Borges Library & Café at the Edge of Eternity), sipping Cthulhu Crushes with his pet anteater, Morrison, at his side. 

My Other Realm Source: Mr. Dali. I see you've got a copy of John Claude Smith's debut collection, The Dark is Light Enough for Me. 

Salvador Dali: What are you speaking of, young man?

MORS: The book in your hands.  [pointing to Dali's white-gloved hands]

Dali: Ah, yes. Dali's hands. Participants in the greatest artistic achievements man has ever witnessed.

MORS: Well, yeah...sure. So, have you read the stories yet?

Dali: Dali has not simply read them.  Dali has absorbed them. Dali is filled with the wonderful words.

MORS: So...did you enjoy the stories?

Dali: Delightful and nutritious. Like dark chocolate for the mind. Could have used more dashes and semi-colons as they are particularly tasty. But Dali's tongue dances freely at the words it has dined on.

MORS: [confused] So, does this mean you...would give the book a thumbs up review?

Dali: [adamant] Dali raises all thumbs and fingers in favor of more words from this Mr. John Claude Smith.

MORS: [talking directly to me in his hand held recorder] So, there you have it, our first Ten Star review, one for every finger and thumb.

Dali: Dali asks, who are you speaking to of this ten star review, young man?

MORS: I am taping this conversation for John Claude Smith. I thought he might be--

Dali: [snags the recorder from MORS hand] Dali knows strange, John Claude. Dali knows and lives strange. Your words are strange. But they taste good and Dali demands more! Do you understand?  Dali demands more! [hands recorder back to MORS]

MORS: [backing away, the company of this madman too much for him] Um...yeah.  I'm sure John Claude will appreciate the kind words. [shakes head; pauses; wonders how Dali got a print version of the book before it's officially out in print] By the way, one last question.  How did you get a print version?  It's not released in print for a few more weeks. 

Dali:  My girlfriend, who will remain Nameless, got me a copy.

MORS: [pushing for specifics] C'mon, give me a name, Dali. It'll be our little secret.

Dali: [suspiciously] I told you. Her name is Nameless. She is and will remain Nameless.

MORS: Okaaaaay...

Dali: And here she comes now. Nameless, darling...

A woman walks up.  She has no eyes, is wrapped in a gauzy material, and is wearing long black gloves.  She extends her right hand to Dali.  He bows and kisses the back of her black-gloved hand, turns it over and winks at the eye in her palm.  It winks back.  She raises both hands to her face, palms out, and winks at MORS.  MORS, rather stunned at seeing the cover model for John Claude's book in the flesh, makes a hasty exit, transmits this information to me via the shadow internet, and disappears into a multi-mirrored aisle in  Biblioteca de Borges y Café en el Borde de Eternidad, never to be seen again.  Well, okay, his image is repeated over and over and over, but he, himself, y'know...is never seen again...

So there you have it, my first AlternaWorld Ten Star review!  Er...yeah!  Okaaaaaaaaaaaaay, as MORS would say.  Ahem.

Don't you think you would enjoy The Dark is Light Enough for Me, too?  I mean...Dali would insist you check it out [available at Amazon worldwide, Barnes & Noble andOmniLit, with more sellers on the way] as it's a nutritious treat for your tongue...as well as dark chocolate for your mind. 

What? Oh, yes, this IS the way my brain works. 

Here's Dali and his pet anteater, Morrison, going for a stroll. 




Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Updates, Hadrian's Villa, The Dark...

Completely winging it this time, no firm grasp of where I am going, but let's see.  Yeah, okay, take my hand, it won't hurt...

Now that The Dark is Light Enough for Me is out--have you bought your copy yet? Have you at least checked the Amazon, B&N and OmniLit pages and "like"d it there? What? Sure, a bigger sample: go to Amazon.com and there's the Look Inside feature.  There you have the Whole First Story, "Black Wings," a tempting teaser, with the beginning section of the second story, the title story, which is a really tempting teaser.  Check em out, buy the book, and realize I never knew I had to be such a promotion whore but...it's kind of fun and, anyway, where were we?--it's time for me to remember it's not the only writing I have...as well as I need to lock in with the writing at hand.

There's so much more in progress.

What? Oh, yeah, that was probably the most ridiculously long dash-to-dash aside I've ever written.  Like I said, winging it...

How about a recap, which kind of serves as a reminder to myself of what I need to work on for, well, let's say the rest of the year.

First of all, while in Rome for three months, I spent about 6-7 weeks of that time writing the first draft of a novel.  Now, when I got there, I had another novel I was beginning to work on, but that one needs more research, which was how I expected to spend the time.  So, walking through Hadrian's Villa amidst the amazing architecture--then again, what architecture isn't amazing in Rome?--something struck me that had nothing to do with the visual beauty.  Something was making itself known to me aurally: the cicadas. What a symphony, dissonant and all-enveloping,  chittering unmercifully.  Many would have been annoyed.  Me, no no no.  I love sound, have said it numerous times here.  What they did, this insect din, was inspire me. 

I started taking notes, something was in motion.  I met the characters, then had them altered by offhand conversations, one of the writer's best modes of creativity: listening to the world with our mind's wide open.  Anyway, a first draft was written, some of it almost fully formed, some of it in need of much work, some hole to fill in as well.  About 51,000 words.  I expect another few thousand on the way, heck, it will probably end up being about the same length as my first two novels, right in the 60,000 word range. 

It's tentatively called, "The Mantra of Metamorphosis." 

All because of a stroll through Roman history and our sonic accompaniment.  All so unexpected, yet now, knowing the first draft and knowing where it should end up, it was a gift.  A welcomed gift, the muse was generous.
Besides that, I have at least one shorter piece, a long short story or a novelette, that I need to finish, with a specific market in mind.  A weird fiction piece called, "The Alternative Translation."  A truly devious and, again, weird piece of work.  This one makes me smile like a mad scientist every time I get back to it.   

There's also poetry.  That's what I have messed with today.  Wrote this one Bukowski-esque one while on vacation in Torre Alfina, north of Rome--yes, being anywhere in Italy with the woman I love is quite inspiring--so today typed it up, tweaked and shaped it and sent it off asap to meet a deadline, which different time zones may have nullified, but it was good to just do it and get it done.  Now.  Worked a couple more into shape, too. 

Yeah, it's what I do, this writing gig.

And most of all, please check out the new collection, this time not mentioned as an aside, but headlining its own paragraph. The Dark is Light Enough for Me. There's even two five-star reviews on Amazon.com so far--thanks to those readers!  Twelve stories, 67,000 words, $3.99, that's about 33 cents per story, man, what a deal!


So, there's the brief recap and I didn't even note the next story to be published, in Grave Demand magazine. I'll save that for next time.  For now, here's a shot Alessandra took of Antinous' head floating in the pool (Canopus), at Hadrian's Villa.  Rather surreal, most intriguing.


Sunday, November 13, 2011

Intermission: A Flash Fiction Piece, Then Back to Our Regularly Schedule New Release Promotion-type Stuff!

I was reminded of this story earlier while on FB, in a thread about werewolves and such.  This story relates, and has my all-time favorite joke incorporated into it!  And, yes, it is a tasteless joke, but an amusing one as well.  Very black humor

So, here, take a gander at "Laughter."



By John Claude Smith

     Laughter is the best medicine, thought Carl.  And he desperately needed a dosage of giggles and guffaws about now.  It’s the only thing that deterred the desire to kill. 

     Well, most of the time.

     He entered the ironically titled Laughing Hyena Comedy Club seeking to suppress what his body ached to become, shuffling to a stool shrouded in darkness at the back of said club.  Looking to the stage, he listened to the fidgety comedian. 

     “So my wife, um…she got pregnant—”

     “No fault of yours, eh?” 

     Carl glared at the heckler.  He hated hecklers.  They were never funny.  And Carl needed funny right now.  He needed to laugh.  He couldn’t help himself, the acid roiling in his belly like a tsunami trapped in a water balloon: “Shut up!”

          Everybody gazed into the darkness at the back of the club; the darkness disallowed their perusal.  The heckler waved his hand, a mocking hello.  Carl ignored him. 

     Undeterred, the comedian continued: “Yeah, it w-was my fault.  Anyway, when she had the baby there were…complications.”

     Carl felt it in his bones, felt it scratching under his skin…

     “So, um…m-my wife asks, ‘Can I see my baby?’ and the doctor says, ‘Yes,’ and leads her into a room where there’s a baby on a bed with no arms and no legs…and she asks, ‘Is that my baby?’ and the doctor says, ‘No,’ and she says, ‘Oh, what could be worse?’”

     The heckler peered pensively into the darkness, itchy to respond.

     “So they go into the n-next room and there’s a head on a pillow, and she asks, ‘Is that my baby?’ and the doctor says, ‘No,’ and she says, ‘Oh, w-what could be worse?’”

     Carl felt it rising in him.  He liked sick and twisted humor.  But he needed the comedian to get to the punch line quicker.  He felt himself changing, his snout elongating, and the pin-pricking rash of bristly hairs pushing through his skin, shredding his clothes.

     “So, um…yeah…they go into the next room and there’s an eye on a p-pillow, and my wife asks, ‘Is that my baby?’ and the doctor says, ‘Yes,’ and she says, ‘Oh what could be worse?’ and he says--"

      The heckler blurted through his invisible muzzle: “He says, ‘I suggest you name him Cyclops because—’” 

     Carl pounced on the heckler, tearing out his belly, pressing powerful forelegs into the man’s chest while his short hind legs sat clumsily on the man’s lap.  The abrupt attack nailed everybody to their seats.  The comedian’s face went white. 

     Carl turned, snout moist and dripping red, and said, “Punch line.”

     The comedian stammered illegibly. 

     “Now!” barked Carl.

     “And the doctor s-says, ‘It’s blind.’”

     Carl emitted a growling hiccup of joy, of laughter; everybody joined in.  The comedian smiled. 

     Naked and satiated, Carl sprinted out the exit as his transformation from laughing hyena back into man had commenced, derailing the desire to kill…for now.       

     After all, laughter is the best medicine.   


There, that's just a tiny snippet of my writing.  Want more? The bigger chunks get deeper, darker...more perverse and weird.  You can find some in my collection, The Dark is...er...yeah, you probably know.  Check around the blog, it's obvious. 

You still laughing at the flash fiction or just shaking your head?


"Charging Werehyena" by Cara Mitten.  Cool stuff, I'm sure Carl can relate...


Saturday, November 12, 2011

We've Only Just Begun Playing In The Dark...

This one's off the cuff, just me riffing.  Hang on...

So, the book is out!  As of 11-11-11, as I have been saying all along, my book, The Dark is Light Enough for Me, is out. 

Did you buy your copy yet?  Well, let's hop to it (please; yes, I understand proper manners, please and thank you, actually).

And for those of you who have bought it, I sincerely thank you!  I hope you enjoy the frolic through my weird and warped mind.  

Good stuff to do: review it, "like" it on the sellers pages--you know, Amazon and B&N and OmniLit, with more to come--love it, question my sanity, yeah, the whole deal.

But if you think in 2011 that's it, well...No.
Absolutely not!

Spreading the word and promoting sales is part of a writer's life.  What?  You thought we only wrote our books and let The Universe deal with sales?  The times they are a changin'...er, wait! The Times Have Already Changed.  Expecially for a writer getting his first book out there.

So, yes, I will be running around online, looking to talk to anybody about it--bloggers and horror sites and whoever, wherever; I am ready for interviews, guest blogs, whatever it takes to promote a book I am proud of.  I'm sure we'll work out giveaways and more.  I mentioned reviews up there, well, if you are a magazine reviewer, show me what you got, and please contact me via my email; actually interview folks and mags can do the same.

See, I told you I was riffing.  I hope this makes sense.  Primarily, it's just me saying, there's a lot more to do! HELP! 

But, the main thing amidst all of this--being consistent in promoting it without being annoying--is that I actually feel like I can get back to some real writing again.

Real writing--what's that?

Well, I have the second draft of my third novel to dig into--my agent is shopping around the first two--a short story I am shaping for a specific magazine, plus a few more besides that.  Poetry, lovely poetry.  And even research and what-not for the novel that follows the one in progress.

So, if you were wondering, yes, being a writer is not simply about writing.  But that's ultimately what it comes down to in the long run.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled internet surfing; or, for those into the Dark Stuff, go ahead, get back to reading the collection.


This is what happens when you tell your brother your book is out and he says, oh, and I found your blog, too, but what's with the weird picture.  Yeah, thanks a lot, bro...

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Occupy The Dark! (Purchasing info!)

Ladies and Gentlemen; Maniacs, Misfits and Malcontents; Animal Lovers, Pizza Twirlers and Headbangers; Friends, Romans, Countrymen, and just those passing through...lend me your ears.

More so, lend me your eyes and your minds.

The first stage of ordering info is ready.

A recap:

Twelve teaser blogs up: you can scroll through the last twelve blogs to catch up on samples and such from the stories in my collection, The Dark is Light Enough for Me.  After doing that, perhaps you'd like to read more, get into the sordid details, the dark designs, the deviant excursions.

Well, as I type this, my publisher has sent the info to a handful of sellers and, surprisingly, Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk already have it ready to roll!  According to my publisher, Ampichellis Ebooks, they expected the other sellers to have it posted first. Oh, and as I type this, OmniLit has it posted as well.  Good!

We got The Dark flowing now...

So, yeah, it's time!  Here's the info for purchasing the collection from:


and for my friends across the pond in the UK, here's your link: 


Of note, my girlfriend said she could not order the book through Amazon.co.uk, and she lives in Italy, which seems odd.  (Um, yes, she ordered it before going to bed a few hours ago...) She ordered it from Amazon.com.  So, either way, it's available via Amazon worldwide, check em out and I'm sure one will work for you.

And here's the OmniLit link as well:

So, please join me, take my hand and we'll...

Occupy The Dark!

The Dark is Light Enough for Me.

How about you?


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Teaser #12: “Things That Crawl…In Hollywood.”

(I originally wrote, Teaser #9.  Perhaps I don't want these teaser blogs to end, they've been fun.)

I write a wide variety of dark, speculative fiction.  Most often it is horror, though for the novels I see a strong magic realism quality; this was not planned out, it just happened that way, even if the magic realism is branded with horror or, at least, major mindfuck (excuse me) psychological tendencies…with a nod to the supernatural as well.  (Oh, wait until the novels get published, especially, The Wilderness Within.  You want to be taken for a real ride? That one builds and builds and then—Crack!  All bets are off and…where was I? Better jump out of this parenthetical aside and get back to the point…) Every now and then, it’s simply a story that decides to go off the rails and, as Mick Jagger might put it, PAINT ITself with BLACK humor.  Still horror, but the tone is laced with absurdity. 

Man, perhaps I shouldn’t be doing this blog.  I think my brain is leaning toward those tendencies as I type it right now! 

[Straightens self in chair, shakes head, squiggly lil’ imps fall out of his ear and onto his shoulder; brushes them off, much to their dismay, and continues…]

“Things That Crawl…In Hollywood,” is one such story.  I have no idea where they come from, but they sure do come…I think they’re coming for me.  Damn, am I almost quoting Ted Nugent now?  What the…  Yeah, anything goes, with all of my fiction; but when it gets loopy, well…

I have a great distaste for celebrity, false idols and such, and those who follow blindly, as if their words are law.  I also have a fascination with anatomical horror, body horror, because I know when using the body within fiction, people can relate on a deeper level.  If one gets one’s eyelids duct-taped open and a beetle crawls slowly across the naked eye, well…yeah, that reaction, the one you just had.  See, you can sense it; you can relate.      

Mixing these two subjects promises a perverse union, what with the narcissistic, plastic surgery, ego inflating vanity of said celebrities.  And with the celebrities all falling apart, piece by piece…

And the pieces aren’t exactly…dead.

Okay, I’ve said too much but once in a while you get that, so there!  Here, now, I’ll drop this sample on you as we join devious TV producer, Merrill Thatcher, and second-hand celebrity in need of a career boost, Josh Brance, as they discuss the show they are to film:


     “So…we’re looking for…Things That Crawl…?”

     “In Hollywood!  Don’t forget the tagline.”

     “Body parts?”

     “Well, yes, body parts.  Kind of…”

     Before Brande could delineate further info—more to give his confusion density, not really furnishing a finer understanding—Thatcher put the handle of the wheel bound cage in Brande’s sweaty free palm.  He had his own odds ’n’ ends accoutrements to deal with, what with a net, taser, Bowie knife, and his own .44 Magnum.

     Then, Brande’s bewilderment nudged through the haze:  “Body parts? Kind of?”

     “Yes and no.  Has something to do with environmental and geological oddities—EGO, as the rags like to humorously call them.  Something about how, after The Big One hit L.A. six months ago, having split deep into the earth and released heretofore unknown airborne elements—gases and toxins—a breakdown had ensued.  Seems those who had undergone plastic surgery of any sort, be it face-lifts, breast implants, Botox, collagen, you name it, anything unnaturally altered, because of the chemicals or process itself—nobody really knows—well, the tainted parts began to mutate, take on a life of their own and—”

     “Fall off?!”

     Thatcher hesitated, a wry grin addressing his lips—all absurdities confirmed—the North and South poles of his thick, bulldog-like head bobbing in concurrence. 

     “So the object is to—what?”

     “Our initiative is to capture and catalogue.”

     Brande’s eyes narrowed.  “Catalogue what”

     You are as dumb as a sock puppet, thought Thatcher.  “The body parts we capture.”  Thatcher smiled, bit off the end of a cigar and knelt down to strike a match against the pavement.  “The celebrity body parts we capture.”


And away we go! 

There’s a sequence later in this story, when we find out the true reason why Brande has been asked along for this venture that contains one of my favorite lines in any or my stories.  Add to that some love--yes, this is a love story, of sorts, and as I like to say, all bets are off.  Did I mention the multiple layers within the fiction I write at some point in these teasers?  Yeah, I’m sure I did.  

So, that’s the last of the teasers.  Twelve stories, quite varied, overlapping themes, sequenced with intent…I'll now take a deep breath, let out a heavy sigh, and realize as I type these words, there’s less than two days until the release of my first collection.  I hope you enjoy the collection when it's released 11-11-11--yes, I'll post a blog with the purchasing info in a day or so, as well as post purchasing info on all of the pertinent social networking sites and what-not.   

The Dark is Light Enough for Me.   

Are you ready?

Take my hand, I'll lead the way...

This fantastic art by Chris Mars seems appropriate, reveling in a similar essence.  Well, look, it works for me and you can tell me yes or no once you get to read the story in a couple days.  ;-)

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Teaser #11: “The Sunglasses Girl.”

I was ticked off, irritated, there was some reason for me to be driving away, to be alone for a bit.  To calm down.  I don’t remember.  (Which means I could be completely wrong, but…)  I drove to the small airport and sat in front of a fence, pulled out a pad of paper and started writing.  I wasn’t sure what it was, but it dealt with one of the local prostitutes I’d seen around town. This town, Hayward, California, was and remains a grimy, grey bruise of a place.  And prostitute is too classy a name for what I would see wandering those dark streets. 

The story dealt with a hooker.    

Anyway,  I had something, the beginning of a story: this guy messes up and cheats on his wife, is kicked out, is falling deeper, spiraling down like corkscrew destiny, acclimating to the fancies and foibles of the streets, out here, where dusk promises long nights of deviant deeds and worse.

Out here, where something else lives, breathes, and feeds.  On us.

A few years later, going through snippets of written stuff, looking for something to work on, I found the notepad, and this story.  “The Sunglasses Girl.”  A lot of it was there, it just needed a fresh run-through, let it flow and see where it goes.

And where it goes…oh my!

This one’s a gnarly mess.  Our main character, Trane, would tell you as much.  Because as The Sunglasses Girl gives him what he wants, he decides he wants more…and more is not always a good thing. 

Not when you’re dealing with…well, a thing like her, it…her…well…

Here’s a sample, our main character, Trane, thinking about her:


She had a gaitslow, deliberate, no hurry in her stride; no overzealous thrust of hipsthat tantalized his imagination and burgeoning erection.  She seemed almost languid, but with purpose.  As far as he could tell, she was of indeterminate age.  But, as with most of the prostitutes that prowled the desolate, torn and trashed landscape out here, they were always of indeterminate age.  The life wore on them, like sun to a grape.  Late twenties, maybe early thirties, maybe. Her hair was of a mahogany tint he had never seen; at least not like hers.  It hung, straight and long, like some polished, unrecognizable woodwork.  Her mouth was always closed, a thin straight line, no curve up or down to decipher joy, happiness, pain, sorrow or apathy.  Her figure was lean but shapely.  

      There was nothing that really made her stand out in any way that would distinguish her as anything more than a somewhat attractive woman.  But there was a mystery, some kind of secret buried within her he wanted to know, because day or night, sunny or overcast or lamp-lit darkness, whenever he had seen her she was always wearing sunglasses.  There was something about this one additional element, this one simple accessory that perked his interest.  She seemed to be hiding something, or so he thought; the eyes, of course, but something more: the doorway to the soul, perhaps.  Trane noticed her long before his life went skidding into a ditch and had often thought about her; now, free to explore the dark places within himself, he was drawn to her like an alcoholic to a brown-bagged bottle.   


Is she just another hooker, but with a gimmick?  Something to set her apart from the others who make back-alleys and back-seats their sweat stained offices?  (And, yes, funny that I call her a prostitute in the story, man, what's with that after I go on about the sub-level class of streetwalker prowling about in Hayward?  Ah, well...)

No, not at all. [insert Evil mad scientist laughter here]    

This one was inserted at this stage in the collection to bring us back to a more defined horror vibe.  Where “Plastic” is fantastical in an urban, nuts ‘n’ bolts kind of way, this one remains in that weary landscape, but with a completely different perspective.  This one enjoys amping up the dread…blood…death…

One more teaser left.  Kind of a kid brother to the theme that runs through “Make Pretty”—overlapping themes and such criss-cross throughout the collection, always with a purpose--though with a more humorous, yet twisted, really twisted mindset. 

Black, soulless eyes that might be much like those of "The Sunglasses Girl."

Monday, November 7, 2011

Teaser #10: “Plastic.”

Our humble narrator asks of himself, amidst a situation where revelations loom ever nearer: “What did I truly hold closest to my soul?”

Revelations.  There’s a lot of those in my stories.  That just came to me.

Another question, the answers sifting through the mental fog: “What one aspiration defined me above all other aspirations?”

And another: “What motivated me in ways I had forgotten, yet now knew were on a horizon, somehow on a horizon?” 

And then he sees the light at the end of the philosophical tunnel, not an exit bringing simple answers.  Not a train to bulldoze over him.  Not anything expected, yet so clear once it hits him.  A revelation wrapped in the guise of an epiphany.

The truth, no matter the price to be paid.

“Plastic” is one of those organic writing rides, no real idea where it was going to go when I started it, an oblique starting point that mutates into something special.  We follow our loser narrator as he attempts to get a hold of his so far mislead life.  But what’s wrought in the bones often comes back to sway even the best intentions.  He gets a job at a Genesis Plastics, with promises of big money to help him hasten his excursion out of the drab town he's lived in his whole life, but the work is strange, just as the place; and his superior, Nilfren.  Other elements add to his mounting breakdown, coming together to nudge the old ways out of hiding, where drink and women derailed everything.

But his derailment, in one of my favorite sections I've ever written (chapter 5), does not prove to be permanent, because what happens in the final chapter (6), takes him to such unexpected places even the reader may find wonder in the final…revelations. 

Here’s a sample from chapter 5, where our unnamed narrator has stumbled hard and he heads back home to a woman who might make sense, a woman he met at work—Kris—yet within the breakdown, he’s cognizant of things within himself changing.  Something is definitely in motion.


     Head clearing, I realize I might be destined to slink through life on the edge of living it right, maybe never getting out of this place. I
ll tell myself the lie and set up the goals and maybe, just maybe, I will get out, but thats now something I realize might never happen, and until about a week ago, I was dead set and seeing it as viable, the way, the only way, something to live for and...

     Kris at the apartment door, sad doe-eyed look and I hug her hard and wonder what am I doing and hug her more and I cry, breaking down differently now, crying and wondering if all that matters in this life are little moments like this, where somebody cares and you get to care back and then we are in bed and shes taking me inside her and it feels like something I could deal with for awhile. Maybe. Maybe not. And I am coming and she is screaming and its a mess of sounds that slash like daggers back at us, digging into my flesh and I ache, a strange ache, and I wonder what the hell is going on and I see myself in the mirror afterwards and something is wrong...

     Something that has nothing to do with drinking or falling down and getting up, brushing off the failure; something real, something within. I look different in ways I cannot describe. I see this in my stance, feel it in the way my bones ache, know it as one knows their very body that something is happening.

     The word escalation seeps into my thoughts.

     The word, as I have associated with workthe mindless drudgery of that placeand I realize something had been escalating, but now it seemed to pause.

     Shifting to me?


Though this one is not horror, per se, it most definitely deals in fantastical dimensions being crossed—Stop!  Don't give any more away, man!  See, there is always so much more to the stories than what they seem to be about, though in every one there is something we can all hold on to, that gist of humanity, our link from the world we know, and the strange worlds jitterbugging just to the left of ours.  Trust me (again), when you get to the revelations here, I hope you smile gleefully as the right choices are made.  Really, they are, no matter where these right choices lead our narrator…

Next up, we meet Trane, a man who’s chosen to hit bottom.  Something meeting up with a fantasy woman helps him achieve…

Bart Simpson melting a green plastic army man.  The narrator of "Plastic" can relate... (Yes, there IS a reference to melting green army men.  Twice.)

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Teaser #9: “The Perceptive One.”

The original version of this story was written about 20 years ago.  It was 3,100 words long and was called, “A Torrent of Ages.”  Yeah, okay, I liked that title, but it sometimes confused the editors of the magazines I sent it out to.  I got my first rejection from this story, from Kristine Kathryn Rusch at Pulphouse.  At least she was kind in her words.

A few more rejections and a chunk of years locked into Music Journalism, time-warp to early 2006. I’d just completed my first novel during a furious rush at the end of 2005 (though it must be noted, a major revision happened earlier this year, one that really brought out an undercurrent of "something wrong"), and I still felt like writing something long, something with room to breathe, and I was going through old work, pieces of this and that, when I came across a printed out version of “Torrent...”  Reading it, I knew the idea was good, but it was lacking…something.  It needed something else.  It needed another character.  Hence, my introduction to Peg Saunders.

She was a character fully developed almost immediately; she was already there, ready to take the reins.  Her voice came so easy, her pain and deep understanding of people and the world around her, simple, direct.  Her reflective tone and perceptions added real depth as she looked back on incidents that changed not just her world, but that of a passing lover who was more than that: Travis Wayne.

Travis was all ego and strut.  He had goals he had no idea how to attain, but he didn’t care.  He expected much because of that ego and the evil undercurrent that prods such a monstrous outlook. 

What he got was what only such a corrupt soul could get: his just rewards.

But it doesn’t stop with that.  Because of Peg Saunders.  A woman you will come to care for, and you’ll feel her pain.

Here’s the beginning, to give you a taste of Peg’s voice, and a hint that her tale is not one filled with joy.


     I wrote this about Travis early in our relationship, a bit rough and poetic, but I think it captured the essence of who he once was:  “Lean, mean, quite obscene; tougher than a stick of beef jerky and cruder than a stiff breeze from the slaughterhouse.  Wheat-blond hair and the bluest eyes imaginable, like the sky had been polished and placed in his care; like the color of summer on a liquid glass ocean…” 

     My Travis.

     I loved him then and love him still.  But it’s different now, this love we have.  I have.  I don’t believe Travis loves anything at this point.  But that was partly the fault of his ego and the devious designs wrought by that ego that led him to the place he is in now.

     The rest of it was destiny, something I used to not believe in, but now it is all I know. 

     But I’m moving much too fast and there’s so much more to be told about the decisions and details that derailed those devious designs.  Two days in July, 1957.  That’s all it took to change our lives forever--no, that’s not correct.  That’s all it took to steer our lives along the paths they were always destined to travel. 

     The wretched paths, our wretched paths, entwined…     

The end of this one…if it does not dig deep and touch you, perhaps emotionally tear you apart, well…then I’ve not succeeded.  But, then again, it’s not me telling the story, it’s Peg, and trust me, you will feel her anguish.  Every time I read this one it tears me apart!

Also of note, when I revised and added about 8,000 words, it also had a different name.  “A Torrent of Ages” was replaced by, “The Oblivion Express,” a title quite appropriate for the tale Peg tells, but since it is her tale, she decided—along with a suggestion from my editor, hehe—that, “The Perceptive One,” was perfect.  And she was right; she would know, oh yes, she would know...

Next up, as we round the corner for the home stretch, we find out what one thing is closest to one man’s soul… 

Hieronymus Bosch's chaotic art relates perfectly to Travis' destiny.  You'll understand once you read "The Perceptive One."

Friday, November 4, 2011

Teaser #8: “Strange Trees.”

One of the places I truly love to explore with my writing is nature.  There’s so much out there we cannot imagine, so many possibilities; it’s vast and unlimited and mysterious in ways we can never really know.  It’s a boon for the imaginative and willing writer.  I’m willing--show me!  Let me see your heart.  Let me know your secrets!  Talk to me, whisper, scream…

Let’s dance!

Okay, well, yeah, I dig nature.  I particularly dig strange trees.  One of my fondest fascinations.  They are art of a different sort, natural, nature wielding as a sculptor, shaping, breaking down and reconstructing.  Trees in general, and strange trees in particular, are a natural wonder we should not ignore.

This one was originally called, “Shadows and Tall Trees,” after the U2 song.  But it was changed recently as I love the more direct title, as well as have many story ideas that relate to this subject, even a faux anthology idea, that I may eventually work out.  (Isn’t that the way it is for all writers, though?  Juggling this idea and that one and a novel or three, plus the short fiction and, hey, I need a story for that anthology asap.)

Photographer Terrence Blank and his part-time girlfriend, Mandy (it’s explained in the story), are out in the forest when she’s stricken with her time of the month.  As she wanders off to deal with it--improvising as she must, it's also in the story, hehe--he has the time to clicks off a couple a couple more rolls with these thoughts in his head:


    I continued to take pictures, really fascinated by the luminescent quality of the bone white trees as the late afternoon sun glimmered off of them.  An ambience of otherworldliness permeated my perceptions.  It even registered in my ears, a buzzing, hypnotic drone, the hum of nature, of thousands of small sounds gathered as mass, as something of substance, yet still tiny and indistinct: the undercurrent of life; of dirt, foliage and sky; of insects and animals unseen; of slowly evolving shadows and that something more that defines silence that is not silent, its tongue is simply of a language no human can understand.       


Later that evening, he awakens from dreams that might be something more than dreams.  And voices.  Here’s a sample from that sequence.  Yes, a double shot of samples today. 


     “So, bad dream or what?”

    “Yeah, I guess.  Not sure, but I heard voices, weird voices. Like…like if trees could talk, this would have been what they sounded like.”

     “That’s freaky, especially since you were talking in your sleep.”

     I raised an eyebrow in her direction.  She continued.   

     “Yeah.  I could hear you from the sofa—you woke me up.  I thought you must have been on the phone or something because I could only hear part of what you were saying.  Nothing really clear, but you were talking.  It was odd.  That’s when I got up and came to your door.  Curiosity, you know; wondering who you were talking to at this ungodly hour.”

     I shook my head, completely lost, disorientated.  Had I been dreaming, talking in my sleep, the words landing light as mist on my eardrums?  That would explain why I actually thought I heard the voices, but I still could remember none of the dream. 

     That’s when I realized I could smell the blood of her in ways that defied average perceptions or sensations.  I shook my head again. 


Hmmm, what is up?  What’s going on?  The revelations in this one, ohhhh, they are shocking once the forest reveals its heart to Terrence.

Next, we meet Peg Saunders, a young woman with a depth of perception that costs her so much…

                                   A strange tree, of course.  Lovely, too!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Teaser #7: "Make Pretty."

Another story where addiction is one of the keys, though a different kind of addiction: a narcissistic, media driven, Hollywood take on addiction.

The idea for this story originated while reading some work by Charlis Birkin, who specialized in a style of horror known as contes cruels. I can’t find a specific definition of contes cruels, but the stories tend to veer toward some depth of human cruelty at their heart; their sick and twisted heart.

The sample here is after ageing actress, Christina Conero, has followed instructions, snorting a powder that promises to be her personal fountain of youth. After a lovemaking session with actor and beleaguered husband, Philip Raines, this snippet sets us up for the first of two horrific jabs; the second one is more the knockout punch, the cruel revelation at the heart of this insidious piece.

[the lukewarm towel is covering her face]


“What is the purpose of this?” he asked, tugging at the lukewarm towel.

“You’ll see in the morning. Good night now, I need my beauty sleep.”

He finished his cigarette in silence only broken by the periodic shuffling of sheets as she reached up and touched the towel, as if making sure it was in place.

“You know I love you,” he said, before turning on his side and falling asleep.

He was dreaming about when Christina and he had first gotten together, and that time in Hawaii, on the warm sand with the moon as a shy spotlight. He said he would love her forever.

And she screamed…but that was not in the dream.

He flung his arm to Christina’s side of the bed; it was empty.

“Christina, what’s wrong?  Where are you?”

She screamed again.

He took four urgent strides to the bathroom and shoved the door open.



STOP!  No, don't want to give it all away!  Oh, I want to tell you more, but you’ll just have to wait until The Dark is Light Enough is released, 11-11-11.

If you are following this blog, you’ve probably noticed the collection has a wide variety of subject matter and styles. Though I see a more weird fiction slant to my current stories—well, except for the novels, man, I have no idea where they come from or what they are, but I like em!—over the years I’ve approached storytelling from many different angles. Probably influenced by a lot of the writers who got their careers in gear in the 80s, like Clive Barker, Joe R. Lansdale, David J. Schow and the likes, as well as Harlan Ellison, Ray Bradbury, and J.G. Ballard before them. An odd mix, toss in the Masters of the Weird, H.P. Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith and many more, the stories are the result of this melting pot of influence as channeled through my perceptions, my voice. And I've not even mentioned how music plays a Huge role in much of my writing; art as well.

I believe life itself and simply being curious and open to the possibilities and letting my imagination run with them is probably the biggest influence of all, hehe...

Next up, we head back to the forest, where nature has its own devious designs…

This Bizarre and Brilliant artwork by Eric Lacombe perfectly captures the vibe of "Make Pretty."

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Teaser #6: “Not Breathing.”

This is the other drug story.  No, actually, the drugs are quite peripheral here…if at all.  Or perhaps this is more a story of addiction…?  Dead souls lingering?  The dreaded limbo in between life and death?  One and all of the above or…something else?

Don’t ask me, my answer might change with each reading… 

Ah, sweet ambiguity.

As I have mentioned before, I don’t tend to write simple horror stories.  Layers and more are what excite me in the stories I write as well as the stories I read that leave the biggest impression.  “Not Breathing” epitomizes ambiguity, an uncertain thread weaving in and out of the main character’s perceptions, in which the original vibe—a person who has had their life shattered by drug addiction—might just be completely wrong!

Again, I’ll let the reader figure it out and build their own takes on it. 

Here’s a sample, this one from somewhere within, where the main character has had an enlightening experience and goes back to the desolate one room apartment he and his partner live in; or is there really a partner?  This is the prelude to further revelations.


         I strip off my clothes and snuggle next to you on the stained and torn mattress.  Pulling bundled, filthy sheets over my feeble body—cockroaches scuttle away at my intrusion--I whisper “I love you” and “I’m sorry I was gone, I had to see my kids, but…”        

     The words die in my throat. 

     You don’t stir, don’t respond.  I am not one to think much of it, but then I realize two powerfully blunt truths:  You are cold in ways that make my skin hurt. 

     And you are not breathing.

     My tether, my anchor to this world and the pain and fury of being human, of aching in ways that scrape out the hollow within and leave a vacancy where the soul should reside—you are not breathing!

     I shake you a little, “c’mon,” but you don’t c’mon.  You chill the emptiness with your barren presence. 

     I hold you because there is nothing else for me to do, there is nothing else for me to say--oh, a dashed off, “I’m sorry for leaving tonight”--but that is simply the punch-line to the joke that is my existence.


What follows confirms the hallucinatory path the whole story has actually taken, a kind of drug association via the main character's disoriented worldview...

A special note here.  As writers, we all sense when strides forward in our writing have been attained.  There’s an odd moment here, this line, “I shake you a little, “c’mon,” but you don’t c’mon.  You chill the emptiness with your barren presence,” that served as one of those moments for me.  That’s the raw line; I sensed an initial need to revise it, because that was simply the tendency with much of my writing a few years ago, always whittling away, perfecting, not realizing that perhaps perfection was in the original burst of words the story was built on.  Odd, but that line was there, and I remember looking at it, thinking, Why?  Why change a thing?  Why mess with it?  Sure, it may seem like nothing to others, but it always hits me when I read it how I know it was perhaps a moment where a trust of my talent—or whatever is on hand in writing these stories—was engaged.  I tend to revise as necessary, but now I also tend to trust those moments when I sense I got it right the first time, at least a little more often.  A part of the learning process; the constant learning process. 

Next up, perhaps the most insidious, downright cruel piece in the book…

This densely constructed drawing by the Excellent Horror Artist, Erin Wells, beautifully captures much of the elements within this strange tale; look closely, there's faces scattered all about.