Friday, December 30, 2011

Heavy Metal Horror & Happy 2012!

Nothing is as it seems.  This is a theme that runs through much of my fiction.  If you think you've got a tab on exactly what is going on, well, let me shake that up for you, shaken, stirred, and poured out into a mold you may never have imagined.

I like to keep things...interesting.  I like to look at things from different angles.  One of my specialties.  Not that it's always some mind-boggling revelation, oh no.  But I am aware at all times of a) allowing the stories to develop organically, taking their own paths and b) again, looking at them, approaching them, from a different perspective.  Seems after years of writing, this is a natural part of my process. 

But it's always been like that, even before I had the skills, or at least solid inclination, to attack each story with this mindset in mind.

Honing one's writing, reading broadly, incorporating out-of-left-field nuances, yeah, well...that's just the way it works for me now.  At least I hope so. 

Sometimes, really, a good story stands up no matter the leanings toward it being something 'original' or not, but I am always aware of this while writing as well.


"Headbangin'."  I wrote this story long ago, but it's a really good indicator or my willingness even back then to allow the layers full reign, the absurdities, the weird perspectives and all that jive. 

If it seems simply as though the main character has reached his wit's end and insanity is his only option, think again.

If you think that voice in his head is simply a product of his imagination, oh, yes, do think again.

I mean...what if it's actually an alien race, something ancient and earth-bound, and all it really wants is a way out of his head, out of its limbo existence.

What if this is actually a prelude to invasion?

Oh, man!  Well, all that and more play out in this bit o' Heavy Metal Horror that actually was in an anthology called--oh my!--Heavy Metal Horror.  I updated the story a couple years back when I heard of this anthology, tweaked it and modernized it a bit, and let it (rock 'n') roll. 

Here's a taste of our protagonist Kenny's realization that he's not alone.  And, yes, yes, since I have brought it up before, I would tweak the semi-colons a bit here, but not messing with it right now.  For a future collection, oh, yeah!  Looking forward to that...  ;-)


     It slithered into prominence, almost a presence unto itself, as Kenny drove home with Frank toasted unconscious in the passenger seat.  With his window down, he bathed in the wind-cooled sweat, helping to simmer most of the abuse of which he had subjected himself.  But his head throbbed, oh yes, it pounded its discomfort home, massaged and battered by clumsy talons, not the soothing fingers of icy, invigorating wind.  It was a dull, monotonous assault, threatening internal evacuation from the confined quarters of his skull.  Trying to abate the ache, calloused fingers rubbed hard above his eyes.  Amidst this basic function, he felt it, or heard it: he wasn’t sure.  A thought as mass, as substance--being--an inner illusion depicting solidity and formation.  Regardless of veracity, it startled him to the point of swerving, a loss of control that almost landed him against the center divider.  He had to jerk the steering wheel hard to avoid collision, jostling the still sleeping Frank first against the door, before slumping him brusquely to the dash.  Drool flowed from his slack mouth, but even the abrupt handling did not wake him.

     The instant crystallized, placed on a pedestal above rules and regulations, memories and dreams--the intangibles of human nature--that had molded him up to now: this moment in time.  He rubbed his head again, hoping to rouse the genie.  A distinct influence responded, attaching itself to his thought processes, much as a leech would a vein.  Stung, the sudden infusion of alien provocation caused his body to chill; unlike the wind’s prying fingers it was a more brutal, intimidating condition: a split-second trapped in the heart of the glacier, incapacitated, yet alive. 

     When it passed, the lines of communication were open.  

     It spoke, it whispered, a voice much like his own, only laced with a confidence, an intuition, a perversion that he had never incorporated.  It brandished fame in its prognosticating, a fame that Kenny could not have perceived without its assistance.  He listened with unwavering devotion, something his 21st Century media-flush brain had never been able to muster, as mutated by MySpace/Facebook/Twitter social network textspeak blipslang: the clipped language of the 21st Century youth, silliness without substance, multi-task info-overload that whittled one’s attention span into that of an ADD fly--short, skittish, and isn’t there something else he should be doing?  It enthralled him, the absolutely outlandish motivations that drove the voice--the ideals, the strategy; and it fascinated him because in the strange, twisted world he lived in, those motivations seemed wholly conceivable.

     With his focus primed, only time stood between Kenny and his rendezvous with destiny.  He relished knowledge, basking in the polluted waters of his new reality, the insane as fact, as progenitor to logic.  How else could he explain his willingness to relinquish control and life itself for a skewed concept of fame?

     He couldn’t.  But it wasn’t in his hands any more.  Another held the reins, one whose selfish machinations were tempered as part of a new outlook.  Its ancestors had conceived from initiation guidelines based in a singular objective: the quest for freedom.  With mounting failures, the passage of time scarred and amplified their urgency, inhibiting their quest.

     Until recently.


It all goes downhill with a pummeling 4/4 beat from there or, well, look...for the alien thingamabog in his head, it all starts to go very, very good.  And all because the term Headbangin' is taken to heart.  Literally!

BTW, when released, the underlines I used to indicate italics where still underlines instead of italics.  I can't say if this issue was straightened out as I've not seen a latter version but, no matter, the story is a fun and mind-bending read anyway. 

2012 is right around the corner as I type this.  I wish you and yours the Best Year Ever! 

And don't forget, if you want to start the year right, start it DARK, please pick up my collection, The Dark is Light Enough for Me.  Available at Amazon (inc. the UK, Germany and France), B&N, and OmniLit.  The print version is officially ready any day now, final tweaks are being made as I type this.  Thank you to those who have read it and, hopefully, enjoyed the collection.  And for those of you thinking about it, by all means, give it a shot.  It's "not your average horror," as has been said.  

Thanks again, and here's the cover art for Heavy Metal Horror, an ebook worth investigating. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Hardcore Darkness!

Firstly, hey...hope you had a fantastic...whatever you celebrate.  A friend wrote, Merry Chrimakwanzanukah! or a variation on that, works for me.  But now that you've got your kindles and nooks, well...time to fill em up with lovely darkness, eh?

Here's a couple of stellar reviews up in the last few days, thought I would lead you in that direction, post them here, pique your interest, your fingers twitch, you click on Amazon or B&N or OmniLit, the purchase is settle in with your ereader...and the freak out begins!  hehe...

So, for you entertainment, yes, they are entertaining, and deep, well thought out, and I am honored to have such responses, here's a couple reviews, the first one from Brian Fatah Steele, a writer of Much Dark Talent and Worthy of Your Time.  Trust me, I've read some of his work, have one title on my computer awaiting perusal.  He's rather wicked.  The other is from Gerry Huntman, an editor and writer who's work I expect to check out as well.  Either way, I send them much gratitude for their kind words.



A Philosophical Horror Success  

It is a rarity that a short story collection can speak to me with each of its tales, rarer still that the voice be so articulate. While I can definitely appreciate elements of "splatterpunk," too many modern horror author don't even go that bloody route, instead remaining in a safe "horror lit" style. Smith goes elsewhere, a bleak universe that one gets glimpses of in works by Harlan Ellison, H.P. Lovecraft, and occasionally Clive Barker. The intellect powering these nightmares is a staggering, transcendental monster in itself.

Many of the tales within feature certain horror archetypes - absurdist characters, extreme visceral sensations, madness manifested, etc. However, behind the window-dressings of dark, speculative fiction we find the musings of a philosopher. The concepts of guilt, ennui, ostracism, addiction and rage are examined just as keenly by Smith and his horror as they would have been by the likes of Sartre, Camus, Kafka, Nietzsche and Kant. The reader is forced to think along with feel, a dark dialogue open straight into your psyche.

These tales are not simplistic morality plays, nor are they juvenile in scope. The title story alone will leave you teetering in existential terror, while "The Perceptive One" will leave you hopeless. Our self-image (and self-worth) is attacked in "I Want To Be A Pretty Little Girl," as nature's dark secrets are revealed in "Strange Trees." Smith even gives us his own unique spin on vampires in the satirical "I Want To Take You Higher" and zombies in the nihilistic "Not Breathing."

This is a collection of brilliantly conceived short stories, the deep patina of darkness only adding to the themes explored by Smith. It is easily a 5 Star book, deserving of that rating, and deserving to be read by any fan of intelligent horror.


Masterful Anthology
I am, apart from several other roles, a speculative fiction writer. And 'horror' is an equally important element of the super-category for me. I like to call my horror pieces 'dark fantasy' - as I like the subtle, and I don't necessarily want to go heavy on gore, nor do I like to dabble in standard motifs, like zombies and vampires. And yet I will dabble in the more extreme on occasion. The term 'dark fantasy' is not a clearly defined concept, but one that I'm more comfortable with than most. John Claude Smith's Dark is Light Enough For Me is an anthology of dark fantasy, interspersed with horror, but none of the stories consist of recurring popular motifs - internally or within the genre. Each story is original, and in most cases, very dark indeed - coal black.

Smith's anthology isn't for the sensitive or the faint-hearted. Many of the stories are edgy, working on concepts and thoughts that all us adults are familiar with, but rarely talk about. Smith isn't being quirky, or finding satisfaction in the gory, sexually perverse or the profane. No, he is writing this stuff because it unbalances the reader. Disturbs. Sometimes frightens - the essence of what quality horror/dark fantasy is all about. And he does it admirably, especially for a debut title.

You will find stories of high craftsmanship, but not all of his pieces are equal. I have found a few that could have been tighter, better polished, but never lacking in originality and perceptiveness. There are places in some stories that could have been better edited and proofed as well - but these are few and far between, and do not materially affect the overall quality of the piece. (I'm also an editor, and stuff like that rarely avoids my notice).

The remainder of this review is a blow-by-blow review of Smith's stories in the anthology.

** Black Wings

A very good story of guilt - and with a most interesting set of occurrences that lie at the root of the protagonist's guilt, as well as the way it manifested at the end of the piece.

The protagonist is, right from the beginning, a ruined man, and he is visited by crows, and in particular a big one. Smith skillfully reveals their meaning, as well as the protagonist's past. The flashback is finally revealed and it was surprising, and horrific.

The ending is appropriate and quite surreal.

** The Dark Is Light Enough For Me

This is a particularly good short story. We have the protagonist, James, with a disturbing life history (a pattern in many of Smith's stories), being drawn into a writer's group, discovering not only that the entire group have written the same complex work, but that there is a strange story associated with why he uniquely joined the group. This short is extremely well written - with a highly mature, insightful narrative, and without resorting to the more blatant tropes of horror, is in fact very horrifying. A dark piece worthy of wide readership.

** I Wish I Was A Pretty Little Girl

A powerful piece. It's hard to be original as a writer, writing from the POV of a serial killer. Smith succeeded. Again, the protagonist had a horrendous, nightmarish life leading to the current events. An explanation as to why this particular person became a monster - and convincingly. This story set me in uneasiness from the first few sentences. A child being led somewhere by a clearly disturbed adult - one of the hardest things to read about if Smith chose to follow the path of describing murder in gory detail. And yet he didn't. This story isn't about love of violence, rape, sex, or some bizarre blood letting. This is about the man who wants to be something else. The uneasiness generated from the start was a masterful stroke, allowing the reader to be unbalanced from the beginning, and then throughout the story. The ending was apt and horrifying, and almost makes one feel sorry for the killer.

** Gladiatrix

Again, a powerful piece, delving deep into the psyche of an exploited woman, and how she was turned into, a gladiatrix of sorts. The descriptions and language are superb, but I do have a slight reservation - it almost seems that the long (and quality) descriptions of the woman and her background in the first half of the story, seem too disjointed from the narrative revelations later. They seem more disconnected than what I would have appreciated.

Nevertheless, well worth the read.

** I Want To Take You Higher

A very good pastiche of drug and sex underlife, mixed with obscene, edgy satanic-like religion. With all the hard core imagery and descriptions, Smith was able to find moments for flippancy and humor. This is a well constructed story, sending up many elements of our society. A nice twist is constructed at the end.

** Not Breathing

A very powerful story about the degredation of a man's soul, woven into a most interesting plot. The use of second person is very efective here. Don't want to reveal much, but this is one of my favorites.

** Make Pretty

This is different from the past stories thus far, because it is more like a traditional horror piece - and yet masterfully crafted. Without giving too much away, the story is about vanity, and how it can bite you back if you choose to dabble in the spurious. Smith proves he is as much a traditional horror writer, as an innovator.

** Strange Trees

Another piece that has a traditional structure, but with unique undercurrents. The concept that malevolent trees awaken by the onset of menstruation with one of the protagonists, is effective. I also found the language and the POV more tradional than any other of Smith's stories in the anthology, almost (in a modern sense) like H.P. Lovecraft - clinical language - longer sentences, with
evocative descriptions.

** The Perceptive One

I like the premise of the story - the egotistical, shallow sociopath, teams up with an almost seer-like young girl, and their lives are inextricably crossed with an old tramp who has something dark, powerful, to impart. The egotist, Travis, becomes ruined, when in fact he was already broken, and the story ends with promise of a continuation of the cycle. Destiny is a strong theme in the story.

This is good - but, I think Smith works too hard at it, and there are scenes that seem to me too filled with repetitive descriptive sentences, and probably are 3 to 4 times longer than they should be. The intention, perhaps planning, is good, but the execution is slightly flawed. I feel this is a less mature work of Smith's, and I saw evidence of lack of polish here and there (not to mention editing/proofing). This is, despite some good points, one of Smith's weaker pieces.

** Plastic

A very good story that is superficially a classic scifi trope, but excellently meshes with the hunger of a man who hasn't attained his soul's desire. While the ending is in purest form something that a reader can guess at, the details aren't. This was also one of my favorites.

** The Sunglasses Girl

Another powerful, edgy, and raw piece, juxtaposing the seedier aspects of a man's depravity, with the stuff that matters more - the ability to make decisions on a higher plane. And in failing, suffers the consequences of what emerges from the lower plane (so to speak). This is another example of Smith's prime motif throughout the anthology.

** Things That Crawl in Hollywood

The final story is a wonderful comedic horror piece, sending up Hollywood, the 'plastic celebrity' phenomenon, and the shlock of zombie flix. A funny, and yet thoughtful piece - fast paced. Amazingly clever.

All in all I give Smith's work 4 starts - I would give 4 and a half, but most systems don't cope with fractions. 5 is on or near perfection, and this anthology isn't quite there - but I bow and acclaim a wonderful work nevertheless, and stand in awe at this debut piece. As a writer, I have learned much from Smith, in terms of the power of descriptive narrative.

So, please explore the rest of the reviews on Amazon, as well as Goodreads, and join me in the Dark...

Have a Spectacular day and, yes, yes, the print version, a couple days, that's what I have been told.


Here's one of Brian Fatah Steele's releases, but be sure to check the others out, too.  I'm posting this one because I wrote a review for it, you can check it out, buy it, buy more of his work, and make him a happy guy, 'kay? 


"Merry Christmas, Bukowski" + More Darkness!


Yeah, that guy.

When I first read Charles Bukowski, I must not have been in the proper mindset to really appreciate where he was coming from. I liked it wasn't a big deal.  Yet, I knew people who raved over his work, who felt compelled to have lunches at hotel pools, slugging back cheap beer reading his poems.  I'm not kidding!  I remember a conversation with a record exec for a metal label while he was passing the time doing just this.  Now, though, I totally dig his poetry, though I've yet to read his fiction--I will rectify this at some point.  But with the poetry, and really getting it, oh yes, getting it to the core, I love his words, perspectives, observations.  Raw to the nerve and dipped in battery acid truths.  Unflinching, the way I like to approach my fiction writing...and my poetry as well. 

Yes, I write poetry, too.  I've mentioned it before, but it's been awhile. 

So, last year about this time, actually, it was 12-24 as I check my notes, I was sitting in a cafe and I wrote a poem inspired by Hank entitled, rather appropriately, "Merry Christmas, Bukowski."  Though I don't write like him, it's perhaps got that vibe, that casual, world-messed-up-but-getting by kind of vibe.  That grinding-through-to-the-other-side kinda vibe.  That pass-me-another-shot-and-wait-just-leave-the-bottle kind

Well, you be the judge.  Here's that poem. 


Merry Christmas, Bukowski

By John Claude Smith

I don’t find Christmas music cheerful

                    as I sit in the empty cafe

                    “less talk, more music”

I wish the DJ and the music would be

                    stricken with silence

my chai black tea grown cold

shake the snow globe,

pour the snow in the glass mug

The twelve days of Christmas up to nine 

my desire to shoot Santa

                    the reindeer

                    and the composer of this faux masterpiece

The manager speaks in her native tongue

(she said once her name was unpronounceable

though she goes by Tracy)

“Tracy,” I say, raising my eyes from

                    the aching sprawl of words

                    “Could we lose the music?”

“Are you a scrooge, Mr. John?” she asks

                    pasting a too quick smile

                    on her otherwise pleasant face

I pause to consider my limited options as response

and put on my “well, you’ve nailed me

with your spiffy observation, dear,” smile

and turn back to these crowded pages

I pull out my flask and add a little Christmas cheer

                    my own lubricated Carol

                    to warm things up

the chai black tea grown cold


if she cut out the horrendously cheerful music

perhaps she’d get some customers

Ho ho fuckin’ ho


HA!  Well, hope that amuses you.  Bukowski-esque, slightly; perhaps.  I think I've figured out what I like about his writing that I can relate to: we don't back away from harsh truths, from those deep, dark places most people want to avoid.  No, we like to dig into those places, peel off the scab.  Mess with the wound or...egad, what the heck am I writing?

We like to have our words without inhibitions.  That's the same was we should all approach our lives too: living without inhibitions.

Okay, enough of my philosiphizing. 

And, as a reminder that there's a book I'm trying to sell, here's a teaser, a couple snippets from the two most recent reviews for my collection, The Dark is Light Enough for Me.


Transported Beyond the Genre

“These stories, horrific and disturbing as they are, transport the reader far beyond the horror genre. Every story here has such depth and feeling, each could easily serve as the subject of an entire novel. The prose is fraught with emotion, the intensity of the writing is enough in itself to leave you breathless. Whether you are into the horror genre or not, you will be mesmerized by these little masterpieces.”


"Smith's anthology isn't for the sensitive or the faint-hearted. Many of the stories are edgy, working on concepts and thoughts that all us adults are familiar with, but rarely talk about. Smith isn't being quirky, or finding satisfaction in the gory, sexually perverse or the profane. No, he is writing this stuff because it unbalances the reader. Disturbs. Sometimes frightens - the essence of what quality horror/dark fantasy is all about. And he does it admirably, especially for a debut title."

Oh, my!  I am humbled and honored to have touched both of those readers in such a way.  And quite appreciative of their kind words and observations.  The second snippet is from a  long, intense and thought-provoking review that will probably get the full blog treatment, though you can check them both out and more on the amazon link below.  Actually, here's the whole rollcall of avenues one can purchase the book.
Barnes & Noble:
Amazon Germany:
Amazon France:
...and here's the grizzled old geezer in his environment, well, guzzling the liquid ambience to assist him in attaining his proper environment.



Sunday, December 18, 2011

Steinbeck, via Rush, Gone Sideways: "My True Name."

Story ideas come up in the strangest ways. Here's an amusing example. In an email correspondence with a good friend, I had made a reference to Alex Lifeson, guitarist for the excellent prog-metal-something-more-than-that-band, Rush. In his response, he made a joke I missed, mentioning somebody named, "Bill DeathDaughter." When questioning him, he mentioned Lifeson and yeah, yeah, it all made sense in our own quirky conversation and...

The name stuck with me.

Within a day or two, I had written the core of an insidious piece of work entitled, "My True Name," starring a lethal force named, TriggerBoy, and his hapless cohort, the one with the real power, Bill DeathDaughter. 

I think of this one as my nod to Steinbeck's "Of Mice And Men," though it honestly has nothing to do with that tale besides, perhaps, a wishful ambience.  Sure, there are two intrinsically entwined characters, as well, but my guys are wandering amidst the stark fields of the midwest, and their bond is of a different, perhaps supernatural nature.  And here it all goes really, really sideways and deep into the pit of horror.  Because it is a pure horror piece, lifted into the realm of the strange by a finale of apocalyptic aspirations. 

And it's icky.  A freaky kind of icky. 

Yet there's something about it, whenever I read it, perhaps their world, that makes me think Steinbeck.  Odd. 

Here's the opening sequence, where we meet TriggerBoy and Bill DeathDaughter and experience the grim curse that is Bill's existence...


TriggerBoy sniffed the air and circled around me, bouncing to and fro like a happy puppy. “It’s time. It’s gettin’ close.”

I cringed, but with the statement, I felt it rise in me.

In my head.

The sun hung as a ripe peach, dead center of the sky. I rubbed the back of my burnt neck and continued toward the dilapidated diner, which seemed as beat down by the heat as I felt. The two cars parked in front of the diner had license plates from other states.

This was not a destination, just a break from driving, the heat, or to fill one’s belly with grease and whatever came with said grease.

I was sure there was a victim to be had.

We approached a green Honda as a couple opened their doors to exit. The mother went to open the back door, but hesitated as we neared.

“Can I help you?”said the father.

“What is…?”

A battle raged within me, between my conscience--wanting it to stop--and the uncontrollable need. My conscience always lost the battle…as if it really had a chance.

Something squirmed in my skull, something of hideous intent, a loathsome prescience: the piranhas who lived there were chewing through my brain.

I gathered my composure. It had to be played out.

“What is your name, sir?” I asked, my face twisting from him.

“Excuse me?”

The inherent goodness of human nature is a weakness. The father looked toward his wife then approached me. He stuck out his hand to shake mine. “My name is Sam. Sam Wenders. How can I help you?”

“Tell him. You gots to tell him what your name is. Tell him!” TriggerBoy was jittery with anticipation.

I stared past the father, to the car, and the little red-haired girl playing with a headless doll, seeming none the worse for the absence. Her mother stood pensively next to the open door.

I whispered to myself, “No,” but the piranhas only grew more agitated at my vacillation. As I reached for his hand--synapses sparking, setting fire to the nerves at the tips of my fingers--I said, “My name is Bill. Bill DeathDaughter.” I gripped his hand tighter and asked, “What is your true name, sir?”

His eyes went blank, and then the soiled epiphany of what was about to happen hit him hard, and he said, through clenched teeth, “My name is Sam. S-Sam DeadGirlsFather…” and then, struggling past his lips, the plea: “Please…no…”

Tears made his eyes glossy but did not wash away his dread; his desperation.

But I only saw this peripherally, as I stared at his daughter, this beautiful little girl…and her skin started to bubble, she started to melt as an ice cream cone would on hot pavement. The clipped scream from her lips was matched by her mother’s scream, her mother’s scream continuing long after the few seconds it took to turn their daughter into a puddle of steaming viscera; a stain on the backseat, never to be removed; a stain on their minds, never to be forgotten.


Funny thing, well, two funny things.  1) I can see tweaking this one, cleaning it up a bit--yes, toning down the semi-colons, Sharene--because 2) I can see this being the opening salvo to a second collection.

It originally appeared in the final anthology released by the online horror writers' group, The Parasitorium. The book was called, Parasitic Thoughts, hence, what's going on in Bill DeathDaughter's head. 

Speaking of collections, have you bought, The Dark is Light Enough for Me, yet?  Come now, you know you want to.  Not convinced, there's another fantastic 5-star review on the Amazon page, just check it out.  There's 24 'likes' too.

Before I get outta here, thought I'd let you know there will be more teasers again from the collection, we'll get deeper into some of the stories, I think.  I'll also be heading out to the AlternaWorld for more adventures dealing with the collection.  That and there's some poetry coming up, including my Christmas poem with a Bukowski vibe or, ah, you'll see.

Here's the cover art for the The Parasitorium: Parasitic Thoughts anthology.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Holiday Horror...With A Side Of Humor.

Yeah, 'tis the season and all that ta-do.  Oh, I just thought, I wonder if I can find a piece of art with a bloody Christmas tree, er...okay, getting ahead of myself.

Anywya, or anyway, if you prefer, here for your amusement or simply to make you wonder even more about the speculative/horror/weird/absurd fiction writer's mind, is a delightfully devious lil' flash fiction tale for the season, "The Christmas Tree."  It appeared online in an ezine called, Camp Horror, in 2004.  Now, I usually don't get into holiday horror and goofy stuff of this nature.  Sure, a more serious nature of goofy, but this tale, well...

I actually wrote the foundation for this one, I'm thinking, many years before it got published.  One of those one-joke short and sharp tales, for a giggle.  A spurt of nuttiness.  I say I think it was written a few years before publication because I know exactly the person the female character was based on, a friend I knew at least 12 years before, so...yeah.  Old words. 

You see, writer's go through transitions, growth.  When I was first writing seriously, I thought, "horror."  I liked to get icky.  But over time, we discover many different ways to draw out the icky, or the dread, or whatever is necessary.  We grow.  We learn.  Even now, my focus tilts between two rather diametrically opposed genres: magic realism...and weird fiction. I've always been interested in weird fiction but only dabbled; I see digging in much deeper now, at least with the shorter fiction.  And magic realism, man, that's quite close to my heart. I cannot explain it.  Actually, I could see it relating to Surrealistic art, which is my favorite art, so there's a partial explanation.  But these two elements have risen to the top and are more indicative of the writer I am now.  Oh, and laced with deep psychological elements

Excuse me, where was I? Sorry about that...

Yeah, so now, here, this blog, it's just me saying this story, it's a goof, enjoy it for a giggle, but if you want to see where I am as a writer now, be sure to check out my collection, The Dark Is Light Enough For Me. 



The Christmas Tree

     Want want want

     She sat, silently engrossed in the filing of the hook attached to an ornament, a silver ball.  Filing it to a fine, piercing point.

     He stood, arms extended from his side at just enough of a trajectory as to give the impression of a triangle, a pyramid or, perhaps, a Christmas tree.

     She said she wanted a Christmas tree.  He was broke.  She said she really wanted a Christmas tree.  So, what’s a poor boy to do, but improvise?!         

     She handed him the silver ball.

     “I suppose you expect me to decorate the whole darned thing, too?” 

     He’d already hung nineteen of the silver balls on the “tree.”  It was really beginning to hurt.  His pained, crumpled paper bag expression let her know this. 

     “So, what’s your point?”  As if she was saying: What’s a little pain between lovers?

     Ah, but pain was the point.  When she got like this--calloused, insensitive--he wondered why he put up with her.  The things he did for love… 

     “It friggin’ hurts!”

     “You told me you’d get me a Christmas tree, no matter what—”


     “I don’t need excuses.  I just want my Christmas tree.”

     “Okay, fer crissakes.”  He sighed, exasperated.  He took the silver ball by the finely-honed hook, silver balls hanging from his arm, swaying to his movement; he, the Christmas tree.  She motioned to him.  He acquiesced, piercing his left nipple with the hook, the silver ball dangling gently against his flesh.  He mouthed, “Ouch.”  He assumed the position, balls dangling from the straining skin of his arms, legs and torso.  One even pierced the tip of his unhappy penis.   

     She admired him, her flesh made Christmas tree, blood trickling like crimson tinfoil streamers.

     Thank God that was the last ball, he thought, looking to her for confirmation.  She only grinned mischievously.  “Not quite.”  She pulled out a huge silver star, the topper for her Christmas tree.  A four-inch nail protruded from between two of the star’s points. 

     He harrumphed.  “Well, you’re going to have to put that one on yourself. 
     “I know,” she said, jamming it into the top of his skull.

     That really shot fire into his brain, soft gray matter raging in protest to the nail’s intrusion, screaming for only him to hear.  He hoped that was all, prayed that was all.  This was getting ridiculous. 

     “Is that…it?”  The words stumbled from his lips.  Blood warmed his ears.

     “No.  There’s one more thing.”

     The thought flashed: What else could she possibly…?  A stream of drool flowed from the right corner of his mouth, all normal function deemed impotent by the hidden tumult in his skull.  She understood his awkward silence, answering his unasked question.

     “What did you get me?”

     Want want want


Next time, we get more current. What will it be? Not sure, so strap in and relax.  We've only just begun.  Have a lovely day/eve/morning/afternoon/midnight snack, er...yeah...

No bloody Christmas tree, but a bloody silver ball, perhaps even more appropriate. 


Sunday, December 11, 2011

Cthulhu, Hunter S. Thompson, "The Shadow Over Las Vegas."

How about another fiction teaser, then perhaps more teasers for the collection, too?! Sounds good to me. As in, it's Sunday night as I type this, kind of worn out, but want to write up a new blog post, so this is what I'm rolling with today. Inviting a couple of good friends, Cthulhu and Hunter S. Thompson, along for the ride.

What?  What the heck are you talking about, John Claude?

A few years ago I received Terry Gilliam's movie of Thompson's "Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas" as a Christmas gift. It was a strange time in my life, somehow in between everything, it seemed.  So for a solid month, winding through to the end of January, I watched that movie every day. 


Something triggered in my wee brain, a thought of a Cthulhu story based in Thompson's world, a mash-up of truly bizarre possibilities.  I went into my books, looking for the Thompson book, of course, and could not find it.  I wanted to go to the source material, get to Thompson's Gonzoid Heart.  I was quite surprised to find how well the movie actually uncorporated much of his twisted, drug-fueled tale.  Some reviewers have noted how the story initially feels a lot more like the movie than the book (before it completely becomes its own strange beast), but the book is all there, on screen, so I simply followed that starting point...and went off the rails.

Our event had nothing to do with motorcylces, oh no.  We--my attorney and yours truly; my attorney being a little green around the gills...--were there to report on, as I wrote, the "21st Century Fox/NASA sponsored Marilyn Monroe Weekend of Memories commemoration of the fiftieth year of her death, a perverse celebration littered with every conceivable Marilyn Monroe imitator this side of Jupiter, culminating in a contest to pick the very best Marilyn Monroe to carry on with a movie contract and manufactured career, and to promote whatever NASA needed them to promote.  Whores for the universe, prostitutes in league with Republicans, Satanists, and whatever other demented legions would flock to this horrid place this weekend."

Yes, and that's only the beginning.  Well, the middle actually, 

The writer's brain is a strange place, indeed.  My brain is a wicked playground, as I like to say.  Frolicking with the bizarre ideas is a regular pastime... 

Anyway, you can check out the story in the first volume of the Cthulhu Unbound anthology series from Permuted Press.  A great selection of mixed genre takes on Cthulhu and his cohorts.

Here's a rambling sample as my attorney and I get situated at the main event.  We've both ingested the appropriate drugs for our showdown, and to enlighten our experience.  My attorney, in cahoots with Cthulhu, getting the worst of it as...well, you'll see... 


     We were linked as one, my mind and his, mine in the driver’s seat.  His, trembling in the backseat, wishing it were in the trunk.    

     In our eyes the ceiling opened up, and a universe of stars seemed to align themselves in ways I could never imagine. 

     “The stars are right, the stars are right,” screamed my attorney.

     “Not quite,” I said, smiling as satellites within the star systems neared us.

     “What?  What is that?” My attorney scooted under the table.  Around us, people grumbled at our antics, not understanding the magnitude of what was unfolding within our vision.

     The True Great Old Ones ambled into view.  My attorney let out a sound drenched in such fear as to demote all previous definitions of the word to obsolescence. 

     It stumbled from the right side of the sky, the drunken master of dulcet blandness: Dean Martin.  From the left, the hideous cyclopean essence of the ebony one: Sammy Davis Jr. 

     My attorney whimpered with such abandon as to lose all hold on his masquerade, dissolving into a diseased, writhing mound of chum, a squiggly conglomeration of fish heads and tentacles and fins, flaking scales, aged green sea-algae, and serpentine madness.     

     From dead center, the ultimate in crooning egotism, the Lord of Las Vegas, the Grand Meatball…the dread that is--

      “Sinatra!” cried my attorney, falling under His spell.  “Sinatra!”

     As my attorney thrashed about, whiplash tentacles decapitating enough Marilyns to make this more a Jane Mansfield memorial the audience scattered, miffed. 

     All that was left was to let it play out.  As the concert went on--the celestial serenade--my attorney began to melt, captivated, and yet the spell they cast was the one thing that could deter his quest for world domination.   

     The stench attained a pungent magnitude that assaulted my nostrils.  The percolating eddies of his essence reverted back to their primal form, the first boiling seeds of life that swam in the seas.  I doffed my hat in remembrance.

And, yes, there's still much more weird nonsense to be revealed! A fun ride, a fun write, pure madness!

Next, well, probably the print version of the collection news, but there's also iong to be some new teasers, perhaps, for the collection, the one you should have already bought, but if you haven't well, what's keepin' ya?  Yeah, The Dark is Light Enough for Me, twelve stories of twisted desire, madness, horror, icky stuff, and dark dark dark.  Or there's the Christmas, um...story.  And even the Bukowski Christmas poem. So, yes, a lot to look forward to.  Are you ready?  Really?  You think so, eh?

Here's the Lovely cover art from Cthulhu Unbound, Volume 1.  Check it out, it's a great and wild ride.  What?  Oh, yes, see, this was the largest, cleanest picture of the cover that I could find, believe it or not. With the Look Inside deal on it.  Yes, I thought that strange, too.  

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Fiction Teaser: "The Anatomy of Addiction."

When putting together my collection, The Dark is Light Enough for Me (which is thisclose, I swear, it really is, to being out in print), the selection of stories was an odd process.  See, I've had a fair amount of stories published, yet in the collection, only four of the published stories are represented.  Why? Well, I believe it's me always looking forward, believing the more current work is more indicative of where I am now as a writer.

But that doesn't mean there hasn't been some good work before, oh no.  It's more what we--the publisher and yours truly--decided worked well together for a variety of tones, characters, well something like that.  Hey, my original TOC was quite different from what we ended up with, but I really love the way the stories work together and flow, man, flow...

I look forward to a second collection at some point which will address more of the published work that didn't make it into my debut collection.  I've already mapped it out.  It's a gnarly, lethal bastard but, no, not for now.  I'm working the new one, Baby!

Anyway, one of the stories that didn't make it into The a grim drug ride entitled, "The Last Supper (The Anatomy of Addiction)" which I am about positive I would publish as simply, "The Anatomy of Addiction."  It addresses one of my favorite subjects: addiction, drugs, the whole shebang.  As you should know if you've picked up the collection, two of the stories deal directly with drugs.  But this one also deals with a familiar Horror trope: Zombies. 

Yeah, really.

I'm not big on zombies or any of the other well-trod avenues along the Horror landscape, but for some reason they do crop up on occasion.  Now, that said, it's not as if they are the prime focus in any of the zombie-related fiction I've written; well, not in most.  "Anatomy..." deals with, as noted, addiction.  Being a fan of William S. Burroughs, Hubert Selby Jr., and Jerry Stahl, amongst others, as well as a fan of hallucinogenic fiction in general, I dabble via strange experiences and, um...talking to the pros.


Yeah, like with this story.  My best friend, Fred, has dealt with drugs over the years, though is mostly clean nowadays, besides the occasional relapse.  At the time I was writing this story, I remember calling him and saying, "I need info on shooting up."  He said it would be better if he just showed me.

No, I'm not Kidding.

So, he showed up at the house I was renting with my ex-wife, or was she my girlfriend then? Ah, no matter, she was out.  We sat in the dimly lit dining room as he set up.  And he did it, a lot like what's written in this story, talking through it, what this or that is called. And I soaked it up, watched the transformation.  It was a freaky, discomfitting experience, yet it made the story work.  I remember Brian Keene's reaction when I sent it to Horrorfind online, he called it a "seriously messed up" tale. 

It's now out in Best New Zombie Tales Volume 3, available via  You should check it out but, ahhhh, first, how about a taste here?  Yes, I am going to go for it.  Here's the scene in question, memories as dreams for Razor, our lead character, trapped within this zombie world.

This is what came out after I watched Fred shoot up.



"There are no dreams, only memories: 

     Razor bends the spoon, slightly, setting it on the table.  It does not wobble.  He then rips the end off of a Q-tip, setting the tiny cotton ball next to the spoon.  He nervously twists the remains into a question mark.  His hands are moist, his heart beginning to race.  Anticipation is such a sweet addition to the rush.  He taps the dope from its plastic baggy onto the spoon, the specifics of said dope unnecessary, the gist here deals as much with the process as it does with the high; nonetheless, the dope is crank, cocaine’s dirty white trash cousin.  His anxious fingers are now concrete in precision.  He squeezes water from the syringe onto the dope.  Flipping it over, Razor uses the plunger end to stir the mixture; it dissolves almost instantly, leaving an oily film over the top.  Good.  He closes his eyes; his nostrils flare: a hint of ether.  Definitely some good shit.  Blood sings in his ears.  His brain is a beehive--oh, yes, very good shit.  His thoughts are focused, streamlined; he is the conductor.  He drops the cotton ball into the mixture.  It soaks up the liquid like the sponge it is meant to emulate, like the putty of a child’s mind.  Always wanting more, whether it is knowledge, attention, or satisfaction.

    For Razor, it has always been satisfaction.  Circumstances have only magnified this desire, altered the means by which his satisfaction was achieved.  Now, satisfaction meant escape, running away, hopping on the metaphysically mutated freight train raging through his body.  He vaguely remembered some ancient classic rock performer’s nasal bleat and cackle: All Aboard!

     Razor uses the needle end to roll the cotton ball around, making sure to get everything.  He puts the flat end of the needle on the cotton ball, drawing the plunger back.  He raises the syringe to eye level, admiring the yellowish color.  At this angle, he pulls down again on the plunger, taps the syringe with his forefinger, and watches the bubbles rise.  Sweat trickles down the sides of his face.  Razor firmly presses the plunger back up.  He clenches and unclenches his fist, tightens the belt around his upper arm.  The veins protrude like mountains on a relief map.  The needle pierces flesh.  Razor gets the register; he is perfect as always: blood flows into the syringe.  He inhales and exhales, emitting an audible sigh of pleasure.  Now: Razor presses the plunger, slowly (teetering [patient])—Hold it (this is better than), hold it (any heaven they--who are they?), hold it (could promise), pulling back on the plunger (in the afterlife: 1. death 2. hunger...), jacking off (that’s what Metal Fred called it, milking the high, lingering before surrender: teetering…), so good, so good…pressing in again, fully, the freight train in overdrive (All Aboard! Hahahahaha...)--Pounding on the door--shit, the cops--yanking the needle from his arm--"


Okay, we'll stop there, it's alllllll about to fall apart.  Again, it's available in the aforementioned anthology.  Please check it out!

Next time? Ahhhhh, I see the Print Version of The Dark is thisclose, really, it is, to being published.  Or perhaps we'll deal with "Broken Teacup"?  That one is pure messed up bliss!  Hmmm...well, stick with me and find out.  ;-)

Here's the cover art for the anthology.  Check out that stellar list of contributors including Paul Kane, Tim Lebbon, Joe McKinney, Nancy Kilpatrick...I am in GREAT company!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Charles Bukowski's Review for The Dark...

Tired now.  The darkness comes on strong and fast here in the AlternaWorld. I feel like one of Edward Hopper's Nighthawks in need of a diner.  Neon shatters the sky in pulsing shades of blue and red letters, random abstractions tossed up like arrows into bloated clouds ready to burst: Live Nude Ghouls, Garden of Ether, Topless Dreamers, Bottomless Pits, Used Books and Toothbrushes, Eat at Joes.  There's always an Eat at Joes no matter where you go.

I wander toward Joes and pass by a leopard-skin painted newspaper dispenser and a blurb catches my eye: Charles Bukowski reviews John Claude Smith's The Dark is Light Enough for Me.  It's above the headline, a Look Inside feature that snags me like a barbed hook in the back of my brain.  I insert the appropriate coins, the mouth opens wide, and I start to reach in to get the last copy, pull it from view and leave the emptiness to its own designs.

And the dispenser growls.

I'm swift to yank the paper from the wire slot and let the mouth slam shut.  The dispenser is now empty, yet I can see swirling dust formulating tomorrow's headlines, awaiting the paper upon which they will be printed. 

Odd.  But should I expect anything less than oddness here?

I open to section C, page 39--yes, it's a large newspaper--and there it is.


Charles Bukowski Strolls Through Smith's Darkness.

dorothy came home with a book.  she's always bringing home books. the cover on this one intrigued me, crazy looking women with eyes in her palms with a room below her, this stark, desolate room.  the kind of room I know well.  i open it, flipping the pages until a title grabs me.  "I Want to Take You Higher." i read it and smile at the addictions worn like gauze over always sticky wounds.  dorothy brings me a beer.  she's learned well.  she may not be here next week, but she's learned well for now.  i flip the pages to another story.  "The Sunglasses Girl." i like her. i don't care if she's not what she seems.  i like her. dorothy sits on my lap. "hey, what's got you hot, baby?"  i can't hide my enjoyment.  i don't answer her. she pouts.  i move on to the title story. dear god, this one makes me want to take dorothy right there on the kitchen table. It also makes me want to take a hot shower, a brain wash. nasty piece of work.  dark, dark words.  i like this smith.  no fear. "hey," dorothy says. "aint' ya gonna pay attention to me? especially if you're waving around that loaded gun?"  she squirms on my lap, chewing gum popping in her overly lipsticked mouth. red. as I like her.  "one more," i say.  she pouts again.  a story called, "Make Pretty."  i've known people like all of these characters, hollywood folks.  back on earth, in that other dimension.  this one's insidious.  this story, not this dimension.  this dimension is all I've got now.  and dorothy.  "done?" dorothy asks.  i look up at her, want to read more, but she's got something i need.  i'll finish the book tomorrow. "yeah, done," i say.  she says, "i love you, baby," and hands me another beer.  she doesn't mind my smoking.  doesn't mind my holy socks or grizzled appearance.  she's my gutter princess, stockings bunched at her knees.  tonight we'll know paradise or get drunk and it won't matter.  tomorrow?  well...that's another day.  but this book. yeah, I like it. it's got an edge.  got some harsh truths, even in the speculative landscapes smith explores. i recommend you pick up a copy and read it with a woman squirming on your lap as well.


So, I could go on and on, quite pleased with Bukowski's, yeah...but I'll just leave you with ordering info and a smile and...I wonder who or what we'll run into next time? 

Have a Splendid Day/Eve/Night/Afternoon!

Barnes & Noble:


Amazon Germany:

Amazon France:

And, of course, I couldn't end this post without a photo of the one and only Charles Bukowski.  I believe this photo may actually have been taken just after he set down my book, with Dorothy on his lap, and mischief on their minds.