Sunday, December 2, 2012

Six Sentence Sunday: "The Occasional Beast That Is Her Soul."

Yes, time for me to catch up a bit.  There's been a couple stories published the last two months, an interview, and I even wrote some ad copy for a music release.  Amongst other stuff.  That other stuff being, lots of writing.  September saw the three week blur to completion of my novelette and probable title story for a collection, "Autumn In The Abyss." 14,000 words of true madness, all in search of whatever happened to poet, Henry Coronado.  It's a psychological funhouse, and unquestionably one of my best, at least by my estimation.  Last month, a shorter piece called, "Louder, Faster..." written after going to a metal concert and taking it all in and letting my brain run with it.  I enjoy writing fiction with a music slant.  Music plays a big part in my life, so why shouldn't it in my creativity, eh?  And just recently, I completed a short story called, "This Darkness..." (yes, the dreaded ellipses make appearances in both the last two titles, haha, though an  editor may rein in the second one, but for now...), another story I would qualify as one of my best.  A real excursion into darkness, but this darkness is sentient, sadistic...and hungry.  This was for the upcoming, For the Night is Dark anthology from a fairly new publisher, Crystal Lake.  On FB they had posted a great cover and asked interested writers to get in touch with them.  I did and joined an excellent TOC already taking shape.  I am really looking forward to this one.  Along with all of this, there's some other pieces in progress, the main one looking to be a short story called, "The Beautiful," which steps away from the tonal quality of the last two pieces that almost seem related, though they're not, they're quite different; I just noticed a similar feel, tonal quality, something...what-have-you.  "The Beautiful" is shaping up to be quite possibly my strangest piece ever, because of some elements I can't even let on about yet, primarily dealing with a main character who is quite...different.

As I say, Busy is Good!

So, now, catching up with a six sentence Sunday snippet from my story, "The Occasional Beast That Is Her Soul."  It's one of two unrelated shapeshifter tales I wrote back to back, the other being "Blood Echo Symphonies," up at the Freezine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. The initial idea for "Occasional..." was to put it in a steampunk world.  I wanted to experiment with that, but as I look at it now, those trimmings were barely acknowledged.  It is slightly futuristic, though any steampunk aspirations are slim at best.  At least that's my take.  Perhaps you would have a different take.  Nonetheless, both stories, the other one being in a slightly futuristic world amidst rock 'n' roll and love and sex gone sideways, allowed me to experiment with shapeshifters, something I'd never really done.  I was inspired by something fellow writer Zoe Whitten had written a couple years ago, kind of her guidelines to shapeshifters, something of that nature, and thought, sure, let's see what happens.  I can see experimenting more with the idea, because shapeshifters have so many possibilities, depending on how you come at them in a story.  And you know me, always into the possibilities...

So, here's the brief opening sequence, a bit more than six sentences, but enough to perhaps set the table and pique your interest to buy a copy of White Cat Magazine.

Enjoy!  Oh, and I did not see the edits to the story yet, should be receiving my copy soon, so it might be different than this, but shouldn't be too much.  Perhaps they got rid of my friends the ellipses. 


     Tonight she wished for wings.

     Thea at the window, wishing for something more than the wayward enticements of this earth, or the fickle fantasies that roosted glumly in the minds of her potential partners.

     Tonight there will be wings…

     It was not the first time Thea had nurtured this thought.  With the malleable condition of her body as shaped by the emotional resonance within her psyche, wings would be a much better transmutation than what has transpired so far; than what she always has become: a beast of ill intent...

     Talons to tear into the meat of her lover.

     Pincers to pluck out the cooling gray matter from the bowl of the cranium she had cracked as one would an egg, red runny yolk staining the carpet.

     Wings would be her only means of escape this evening, the dizzying height demanding something different.  Always running from something, maybe flight would bring her freedom.  But wings had failed her before, bony stubs along the parchment expanse of flesh so thin the wind tore from them the ability to glide along the invisible ether byways above everything.

     They would have to be strong wings, she thought, then frowned, a shifting of flesh with which she had actual control.

     Because her control was as much driven by shock and panic as by wish-fulfillment.  Shock and panic and the wayward imagination of her lovers, as muddled by that which resided within her.

     She had rarely become something more than the occasional beast that is her soul.  


Hmmmm, curious?  I quite like this story.  Where it ends up might just take your breath away; or at least make you go, ohhhhhhhh!  Or something, anything, but you won't know unless you pick up the magazine, so please do.

As for more catching up, next blog, and it won't be as long between them, I'll probably deal with another recently published story, "The Misfits Of Mayhem Meet Their Match."

See ya sooner than later.


Sunday, November 11, 2012

Happy Horror Anniversary: The Dark Is Light Enough For Me... one-year-old!   Time to Celebrate!  Join me as I fill this post with ordering info and review samples and what-nots and who knows what else and... Are you ready?  I am quite proud of this book and hope those of you who have read it have enjoyed it as well.  Working with Ampichellis Books has been a blast and we'll see about more books from them and/or others as they are completed.  I mean, I'm presently putting together another collection, as well as am having my novel, The Wilderness Within, shopped around to publishers.  All part of the deal.  Add to that much writing and more stories you can check out, which I will deal with in a couple of upcoming posts and, well, as I often say and mean it when it comes to writing: Busy is Good. 

But right now, some thoughts from others on The Dark Is Light Enough For Me.


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.


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 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.

In a market that is pretty much saturated with the tiredest of horror tropes (vampires, zombies, werewolves), along comes this refreshing debut collection by John Claude Smith. And when I say refreshing, I certainly don't mean "lightweight". The darkness itself, in fact, is very much a constant character in these stories of guilt, hubris, paranoia, abuse, vanity, addiction, desire and depravity.

Many of these stories, though modern, have Lovecraftian antecedents in mood and theme, and if I had to name a more contemporary writer with which to make comparisons, I'd have to say Thomas Ligotti--although, again, with a slightly more modern twist. I don't want to say "gothic" exactly, since that would unfairly typecast these unsettling tales, and they deserve a wider audience than that.

Smith's language is often baroque and inventive, occasionally straying into the ambitious realms in which a scrupulous editor is necessary (and perhaps lacking at times), but any risk of overreaching is admirably offset when compared to the largely anodyne nature of so many contemporary horror clichés. Smith manages to unearth and expose more layers of that deceptively simple term "horror" than most: here, existential dread arrives in unexpected places; disgust and dismay, too. Some of these stories are downright distressing, in fact.

Which is all a convoluted way of saying: buy this book, read it, and be prepared for some serious insomniac unease.

These are intensely personal pieces . . . that made me feel John more suffered through the stories that wrote them. Letting them wash over me, their was definitely a sweaty nightmarish feel about most of them (especially the title piece) that gave a feeling of inescapable desperation. I was reminded of Ligotti in much of this, but not in a derivative way -- more like Ligotti pointed the way (as all seminal authors do) and then John Claude Smith realized he could explore his own vision of the previously undiscovered country (if that makes any sense at all).

This anthology is definitely worth your time if you are an aficionado of the modern, darker style of horror.

A fascinating exploration of the horror that slithers through the shadowy catacombs of the mind, the prose carries a poetic air, the brilliant descriptions almost sing. Indeed, one can hear Ligotti whisper through much of the work. Gladiatrix in particular was disturbing. Strange Trees; indeed, strange, strange. I loved it. I was thankful not to be overrun with vampires and zombies, two clichés that are steadily losing their power due to saturation. Nope, not here; in this diverse collection you'll find that true darkness dwells within. Big things coming from John Claude Smith.


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!


Enough!  Have I piqued your interest if you've yet to purchase my book?  I hope so.  You can find the whole reviews and more on Amazon--if and/or while they are still there, what with Amazon's possible pulling of reviews written by fellow writers which is, as we know, rather ridiculous--as well as a few other reviews on Goodreads.

Here's most of the links for purchasing the book.  Please check them out and choose the site that best works for you, buy the book, get back to me about what you think of it, write a review, and tell your friends.  Yeah, yeah...well, here they are.

Amazon USA   Amazon UK   Amazon Germany    Amazon France

Barnes & Noble   OmniLit   Kobo   Goodreads


Okay, was off for a month, adjusting to being back in the states and dealing with all I have to deal with when back here, so now, even as I still deal with other stuff, there will again be more consistent blogs.  I will get into current magazines with my stories in them, two upcoming anthologies, a posting of "Photograph," which was up as a Weekly Offering at Phantasmagorium, so if you missed it, you'll get your chance to read it soon and much much more.

After all, I've only just begun with this writing gig.  Even if I have been doing it for years.  ;-)

Here's the Bizarre and Beautiful cover art for my collection.



Saturday, October 13, 2012

Trick Or Treat Or...Oh, No, Not THAT Halloween Horror Story!

Yes, THAT one.  The story is called, "The Perfect Pumpkin."  My one and only Halloween Horror piece.  Been published a couple times.  The most common response is, "EEEEEWWWWWWWWWWW!"  So, you ready?  No more messing around.  Here's your pre-Halloween Treat...or Trick.  Matter of perception.



The Perfect Pumpkin

by John Claude Smith



     “If it wasn’t a week before Halloween, I’d be scared crazy.  But I know you well enough, Danny, to know that you like to tell stories, and I’ve already heard this one a dozen times over the last two weeks—”

     “But it’s true, Melinda.  Cutter’s farm is where old Dr. Ranier does abortions, or at least did them.  Look, it’s perfect:  it’s just far enough out of town as to be kind of anon…anonymous.  He used to be a doctor, a…a baby doctor—”


     “Yeah, yeah, an obstetrician.  And he was disbarred—”

     “That’s for a lawyer.”

     “Well, shit, Brainic!  He lost his license and moved out here, about ten, maybe twelve-years-ago, and since he’s not really a farmer, he has to have some income, so he—”

     “So he sets up office as a country abortionist—”

     “And the babies are supposed to come back to haunt anybody who trespasses—”

     “Stop!  I’ve heard enough.  He must be doing some farming now, otherwise, where’d all these pumpkins come from?” 

     “I dunno, they must grow wild.  Creepy stuff, eh?”

     “Just nightmares or rumors, made-up stories meant to scare kids from having sex, and in this case, ‘cause of the abortionist slant, getting pregnant and all that.  Kind of a gruesome safe sex message, don’t you think?  And isn’t that what all horror stories made primarily for kids are up to, anyway?  Just like in the movies, if you’re a teenager and you have sex, the boogyman’s gonna get you—ooooOOOOOoooo, I’m soooo frightened.”

     With whiplash precision, she shifted her attitude from mockingly scared to salaciously seductive, easily distracting him.  “Danny, oh, Danny, bab-eeeee...” She purred the last syllable, long and languid.  She grabbed his crotch, squeezing hard, whispering something nasty and oh-so-enticing in his ear.  As his penis turned to steel, his brain turned to mush.  

     Having gotten his attention, she let go and backed away.  “You gonna help me get a perfect pumpkin from this patch or not?”

     “What about my—”

     “Later, big boy, when we’re out of range of any sexually oppressed boogymen disguised as abortionist farmers.”

      Danny Cruise peered out at the fog-mottled field, wispy tendrils like plumes of thickening smoke eerily weaving through the pumpkins, looking like a congregation of ghosts…or a herd of monstrous beasts lashing the pumpkins with writhing tentacles; his imagination sprang back to life with a potency that unnerved him while coinciding with the deflation of his penis.  Melinda Harner, his girlfriend, folded her arms across her burgeoning bosom, trying to fend off the October chill.  She peered at him, obstinate in her quest to obtain the perfect pumpkin.  Now that she had spotted what she claimed was the most perfect pumpkin for miles around, in which she would carve the winner in the school contest, something that brought a wee bit of fame in a small town like Bloomfield, she was dead set on obtaining this pumpkin, and only this pumpkin.  No other pumpkin would suffice.     

     Danny hopped over the barbed-wire fence, ragged metal tips ripping two fingers; he winced, put the stinging fingers in his mouth, and sprinted toward the fog-embraced pumpkin patch.

     “Which one did you want?”  His voice seemed not to carry, trapped in the puffy white shroud of fog.   But it did carry, and she responded

     “There,” Melinda harrumphed, pointing to his right at the perfect pumpkin, she thought, for her to carve a masterpiece.  Her voice hit Danny with the force of a thunderclap; goosebumps tickled his flesh. 

     After having heard about the fat, perfect pumpkins in this patch, as well as the sordid recent history of the farm via whispers in the hallways at Lincoln High, anxiously retold by Danny mere minutes ago, Melinda knew she had to check it out.  Her nature was competitive and she was always looking for that special edge.  If this patch actually had the perfect pumpkin she coveted, she knew the edge would be hers.  No horror stories were going to stand in her way.  

     “Here,” he said, pointing at one of the dozen or so seemingly perfect, unblemished pumpkins in the direction she had pointed.  How could she even tell the difference?   

     “No, there,” she bellowed, the volume almost knocking him over again.  It was cold and he was tired and if he didn’t really love her, he’d already be anywhere but here with a space heater melting his icy flesh and thawing out his freezing blood. 

     Without speaking, he pointed, and she shook her head, yes--thank God!  He pulled out his switchblade and cut the coarse vine, trying to disengage the pumpkin.  After a brief struggle, he was victorious, but noticed that he’d smeared blood all over the ragged stem.  He assumed it was from his still bleeding fingers, not inclined to inspect it any further. 

     He plucked it from its roost, amazed by its weight.  It was about as big as a slightly super-sized basketball, not huge, but its heft made his arms ache.  She better be really appreciative for this, he thought, and ran back to the fence.  He handed the pumpkin to her so he could hop over the fence again.  

     “Careful, it’s heavy,” he said, as he put it in her eager hands.  She grunted and agreed.

     “Damn!  For its size, that’s gotta be the heaviest pumpkin I’ve ever felt.”

     Danny braced himself and leaped, this time with even less grace, catching his foot and plopping down hard on his butt.  Melinda laughed at his awkward predicament.  He frowned at her.

     “What?  I do this favor for you and you laugh at me now, ‘cause I’m cold and tired and...”

     She leaned over and kissed him on the forehead as he brushed the weeds out of his hair and clothes.

     “Carry this, would’ya?”  More insistent than requesting, already handing him the pumpkin.

     “I’m just your slave—”

     “Slave to my beguiling charms.”  She put on the act, puppy dog eyes and pouting lips on full display. 

     They started the two-mile trek back into town, their pace brisk, trying to keep warm.

     “It’s probably cursed, probably why I tripped up going over the fence.”

     “You’re just clumsy.  There’s no curse for takin’ a pumpkin.  No dead babies gonna haunt you.  I’m just gonna carve a winner out of this one.”

     “That stuff is true.  I mean, all that about Dr. Ranier doing abortions and stuff.”  He put his fingers in his mouth again, balancing the pumpkin against his chest.  Apparently the cuts were deeper than he’d thought, and continued to bleed profusely. 

     They both fell silent for a handful of minutes, purposeful strides taking over as the night grew even colder.  The overcast skies portended rain and they just wanted to make it home before it started. 

     And then Danny stumbled, dropping the pumpkin.  Not hard, catching it before it really hit the ground, but enough to have it land with a leaden thump on the dirt.

     “Damn it, klutz!  Do you need walking lessons or what?”  Melinda was beside herself with anger, squatting to inspect the pumpkin.  All this for naught, she thought; all this for naught.

     “Shit, Melinda.  It’s not like I meant to—”

     “You bleedin’ on it?”

     “Yeah, cut my finger on the fence, bled on the stem…”

     Melinda scooted away from the pumpkin, inexplicably alarmed.  “How can that be?  The pumpkin’s got blood comin’ from inside.”

     They both watched as a thin line of blood trickled from a miniscule crack towards the bottom, where it had hit the ground.  The red liquid pooled in the dirt.

     “T-That’s impossible,” she said.  “Can’t be any blood comin’ from inside a pumpkin, only pumpkin, seeds and all.  You must have bled a lot more than you thought,” she said, forcing a smile, obviously in denial of what she was witnessing.  More blood seeped from the crack. 

     Danny pulled out his switchblade and approached the pumpkin.  He knelt before it, not really sure what he was going to do, but feeling safer with the knife in his hand. 


     With suddenness, curiosity took over, and he plunged the knife into the thick hide of the pumpkin.  Blood gushed out, mixed with another unknown fluid that diluted the crimson tide, along with stringy pumpkin guts and pumpkin seeds, spattering the dirt and his shoes.  He pried with the knife and his fingers, pulling the pumpkin apart. 

     “Oh, Christ!”  He moaned in revulsion at what he saw. 

     Melinda squealed, “What is it, Danny? What is it?

     The pumpkin had split wide open like a cracked egg.  Danny jumped to his feet, hands dripping wet.  An intolerable stench was belched from within the split pumpkin, forcing him to cover his face with his sleeve, while Melinda openly retched, dry and empty.  She was on her feet as well, fingers digging crescents into Danny’s arms.  He didn’t feel a thing.  They both just stared in horror and disgust.

     Within the womb of the pumpkin, entwined within a network of ripped veins, a ruptured clear sac, and pumpkin guts and seeds, two large yellow eyes, like jaundiced moons and devoid of pupils, attempted to blindly seek out the source of intrusion.  It probably did not see them, thought Danny, as his stomach roiled like a fist-sized hurricane, battering his insides. 

     It was a fetus, a mutation of inconceivable ugliness borne of nightmares and rumors and curses made real. 

     “Oh my God, Danny…Danny!  Melinda cringed, teetering on hysterical.

     The obscenity, skin stained with blood but otherwise as orange as a healthy pumpkin, turned itself in the direction of Melinda’s voice, the tiny holes where ears should be steering it in her direction, their direction.  Gurgling noises emanated from its throat, wet sounds and orange spittle passing by its lipless slit of a mouth. 

     “We need to go--now!”  Melinda, beside herself, doing a nervous dance of desperation: she wanted away from here posthaste…or sooner!       

     “Wait,” Danny said.  “I think it’s trying to…say something.”

     Melinda pulled harder on Danny’s arm, afraid to leave without him, the night and clouds and vast darkened landscape uninviting despite her urgency to run as far away from here as possible.   

     C’mon! Let’s go!

     The sound that rose from the baby’s mouth unhinged the muscles in Danny’s legs.  He slumped to the ground, transfixed by the fetal abomination squirming and convulsing and hideously alive within the pumpkin.  Melinda tumbled with him, but not for long.  He scrambled to his feet and dragged her to hers, his feet pounding the dirt like a chorus of hammers, matching the freight train rhythm of his heart; his swiftness almost lifted Melinda into the air as one would a kite.   The utterance, repeated again and again, insistent, scarred the night with its cawing message, resonant and haunting, cursing both of their ears forever. 

     One word, only one, but Danny and Melinda would remember it until the day they died. 

     “Daddy,” it screeched, it begged.



Yeah, perhaps I do have problems, hahahaha...

Saw this photo posted recently on FB, a pretty good fit for the story, eh?












Monday, October 8, 2012

Look. If You're Going To Do Zombie Fiction... it right, do something original or at least with a bit of inspiration behind it besides eating brains. Use your brain, shake it up!

You all know I could give a flying squirrel about zombies in general, but...but...occasionally, I go slumming and something like this happens.


This is the beginning of a long piece on the backburner while I deal with the Weird stuff in progress--probably about four stories down the line, though new stuff can shuffle that around, as well as needs some editing, proofreading, tweaking, so bear with me--but I can see completing this one sooner than later, because where it's headed is shocking and unexpected. That's actually why I decided to start writing it, because the ending--oh dear!  The tentative title is Aftermath, though The Reawakening is in the running, too.



     I woke to screams… 
     Harsh light made my eyelids repeatedly blink; the mere recognition of light as harsh stumbling through my brain.  Along with the waking and screaming, two things I had not registered in I don’t remember how long.
     My breath hitched, as if caught in my throat, as if imprisoned and now paroled, finally allowed to leave, to escape into the stale air, and die.
     I coughed, the abhorrent smells and steamroller crush of all-around input knocking me for a loop. 
     Everything around me felt as if it was being experienced for the first time in too long. 
     The dawn seemed too new, too fresh, too unreal, its brightness ravenous, as if I had not witnessed a sunrise or the morning itself in, again, too long.
     Everything around me pummeled me with input that I understood but felt as though it was more something understood from my past, and not from any time recent; like reacquainting oneself with an old friend.  It made no sense--these perceptions--and the fact that it made no sense and I recognized this thought as it took shape in my head, clearly, and with conviction, made it even more confusing.
     What is going on?  That is the next thought, not linear, no, the thoughts and sensations were ricocheting about in my head, and it was too much, too much--
     Another breath, this one controlled, take it in, feel the lungs expand, feel it, hold it in, hold it--release.  Sigh, crinkle the nose, focus the eyes--the light had startled me, the way it seemed to sizzle on the orbs, acid burning a hole to the pit of a truth I did not understand.  This thought was not understood, but it stepped aside quickly as another thought swaggered into formation, and another, more, congealing without design--
     Deep breath this time.  Hold it longer, gain control, sense if the adrenaline will simmer, see if it’s possible to think one thought, then the next, work it, control the influx; control was the key. 
     The rush had whittled away my reserves, as if I had reserves, it whittled away the calloused armor that my existence for some undisclosed amount of time had demanded as protection, as necessity, in a world gone…simply gone
     Not knowing the circumstances of my present situation, not understanding anything as it unraveled before me, and the fresh-peeled quality to my senses, I was at a loss as to what to make of any of it.  
     From somewhere back in the recesses of a reality I used to know, the reality that was my life, the memories slammed into me, memories that signaled direction, from whence I came:
     Jenna on the sofa, smiling; Brianna in her pink Winnie the Pooh one piece, crawling across the floor, nonsensical noises coming from her throat, happy noises as well.
     I’m strumming my pitch black with red trim Ibanez guitar, fingers loosened for the show a couple hours later.
     I am happy as well, smiling as I slide my fingers up the fretboard; I’m ready.  All we are doing is waiting for the sitter, Jenna’s cousin, Elise, who is also Jenna’s best friend, but she’s not into concerts, the crowd, the noise, and is always glad to watch Brianna and veg out with a couple rental movies while hanging out with Brianna.
     I glance up to take in this good life, to see my wife and daughter, and the look on Jenna’s face signals something is shifting, something in this reality, this good life, as she watches the news, yelling in my direction (more a stepped-on puppy yelp), “Michael,” and that was all, pointing, for the first time since I had known her she was mute in observance, no words to convey her shock as she watched the local news.
     On the TV, a newscaster flailed at a disheveled person grabbing at him, his jacket tearing in the grasp of this person---intruder--the female sportscaster to his left shrieking, “Somebody.  What’s happening?  What’s--” and is cut off as another person, this one not so disheveled, this one also in a sports coat and tie, pinstripes thin and thick, and he grabbed a hank of her hair and pulled her toward his mouth, as if--
     He bit into her face, the camera shook, bodies flowed toward the front of the lens, and we watched as blood spattered and screams clipped and something was very wrong, this was not the movie channel, this was real, more real than any reality TV could ever imagine being, and Jenna put her hand to her mouth, covering it, wanting to scream
     I set the guitar down, sensing the vibe of something tangible flow through me, like an airborne rash, like many mosquitoes landing stinger first on my flesh, turned to the window as I heard metal on metal crunching, more than once, a destructive rhythm like what one might hear in an industrial song.
     Accordion crunched cars line the streets.
     “Michael,” Jenna says, her voice now a shattered mirror (reflecting what?), picking up Brianna, something clunky about her physicality, but I assume it’s because something has slipped out of sync, this moment, and the moments that follow.  I take in the atrocity as it unfolds, first on the TV, and now on the streets below us, two floors down, people are climbing out of the wreckage and attacking each other, not out of anger, but something more vile and incomprehensible: they are attempting to eat each other--and succeeding.
     But already the screaming has stopped, there’s something different in motion.  As if a wave of desensitizing mist has washed over them all, and the screams that would normally be emitted  are now somehow caught in the throat and rendered unnecessary
     I turn, slight angle toward the TV, not sure what to say.  The camera on the TV is laying on the studio floor, sideways glimpse of the frenzy drenched in blood and more, viscera thick and steaming, piled on the floor, disemboweled and re-inserted into mouths slobbering as festering wounds.
     And I sense it again, the rash flushing over and within me, a momentary flux of something, my throat constricting and then a desire--
     --and then back to myself, me, Michael Varanolle, watching as I turn all the way to see my wife, Jenna, mouth caked in blood and flesh and Brianna laid open and--
     --I sense, momentarily again, the flux of something primal and it scrubs any thought from my head, not cleanly, I still have seconds within the transformation, this sinister metamorphosis, but it scrubs the humanity from me and the last thing I remember until this moment, right now, is tearing my daughter, Brianna, from the frothing, masticating frenzy that is my wife’s mouth, and sinking my teeth into the ruptured body.
     And joy.
     And blank. Nothing.
     Until now.
     I roll over, not even standing yet, and heave.  It pours out of me, the memories and pain and knowledge that something deep and abysmal had taken over my soul, all of our souls, and somehow, cruelly and with no mercy and with blunt force certainty, that something had finished with its stay in this body, my body, and maybe more like me, and had not deleted the memories that mattered, the memories that sting and drive me to heave again, the floor spattered with more of whatever I had digested last, chunks of meat and blood and I heave one more time, teeter and fall to the side, my body hitching, the act of vomiting burning my esophagus, my throat, my brain for the inspiration.
     Tears follow, the knowledge too much to comprehend, none of this makes sense: this day, this moment; my life.
     I cry because I know how to and it is unstoppable. 
     Because I am human--again--and not whatever creeps through my thoughts as the grim messenger of what has transpired.  A grim messenger whose message is encrypted, a code beyond breaking.  Perhaps, perhaps not, but right now--right now--I heave again and it’s dry as dust, but my stomach still begs catharsis. 
     I don’t know what has happened, but I do sense that something is again in transition and--
     My tears for the loss and the madness, eclipsed by the pain, the physical veracity of being human--again?--of feeling again, it seems, and I hurt, Christ (Christ?  Where for art thou, Christ?), the pain ratchets up to a never imagined level, and I open my moist eyes to see me, actually see me and my surroundings, and take in the sounds and smells and sensations for the first time in I don’t know how fucking long.
     The screams surround me, everywhere, pain dominates, it is the God that remains.  And it is not just screams, it is death that is being expressed, realized, and experienced. 
     I hurt, I see on my flesh the tattoos of a battle not remembered.  I have scabs and gashes, wounds long ago healed still leaving their impression; wounds more recently acquired, it seems, still caked in filth and blood. 
     Breathing hurts as well.  It’s been so long (I think; I think).
     Seeing is a torment that fills me with such dread as to make me wish for blindness again but I expect it--whatever it was--was not blindness.  It was the empty pages between the last memory and now, written in invisible ink, thankfully, but the question demands asking.
     What has happened?
     What has happened to our lives, our world?
     I want to crawl into myself and cry, let out all the emotions within, the unconfirmed but obvious knowledge that everything I have known up to…that point, those undefined few days, weeks, months, years back, everything…is gone.
     Brianna (What did I do?).
     My life.  Our life.  All gone.
     I remember a quote from an old Science Fiction movie, something about memories being lost like tears in rain, but it’s obvious, as I take in the world around me, the sounds and sights and smells, that any memories I had have not been lost like tears in rain, more like tears in blood.  Gallons and oceans of blood.
     I stand, legs wobbly, feeling like a baby again--how do I do this?--but the function is by rote, and I stand and it takes control again, and I shuffle toward the window of the thrift store it seems I am in--everything broken, everything--and I stare out on to the street, and it is an abattoir.
     There are bodies everywhere, death and dying and--
     A hand yanks at my pant leg.
     “Help me,” says the mouth attached to the body attached to the hand that is below me, the body only a torso, the lower half a red slug trail only a few feet in length.
     He has just awakened as well.
     “Hel--”  But the word dies, as he spasms and vomits on my bare feet, and the warmth is as much a shock as the mere watching him die right there at my feet.
     And the smell.  The vomit seems something inhuman, and yet there is every evidence that the acidic pool at my feet, on my feet, is most probably the digested remains of something that was once human.
     Was once human, I think.
     The shock of my expulsion, of the similar smells then, emphasized by the smell, now.  The smell is gamey; I choke and gasp; I wobble but keep my balance.
     I shuffle again, this time away from him, tearing his fingers from my pant leg--his grip had grown vice-like in death--and step on some of the broken glass from the shattered window.
     I scream a little, “Ouch, fuck,” and hearing my voice, this thing that reminds me of what a desert would sound like if it was given voice.  It causes me to pause, stop everything, stop, please stop.
     I am alive, and that which signifies living has taken control of my senses again, and the control overwhelms as the senses come back into focus, and my body is filled with pain and understanding that no man should ever feel or know, and I drop to the floor and dry heave, knowing what I have done for some time now, what I have subsisted on, and I buckle and dance as a flame-lit ant as nothing pours out of me.  I already am empty.  I want it all to pour out, but nothing comes but more tears.
     Nothing is the same. 
     Nothing can ever be the same.
     Why can I sense this, all of this, again? 
     Why allow me to understand again when there will be no making sense of any of this, no matter the understanding?
     Jenna.  Brianna.

Fun, eh?  Not your average zombie fiction...?

Shameless Self Promotion:
If you haven't yet, perhaps you should check out my collection, The Dark Is Light Enough For Me.  No zombies--well, okay, that one story veers in their direction a bit--but dark, horrific fiction well worth your attention.  Here's the Amazon link, check the reviews, buy one for yourself, one for your friends, Romans and countrymen and, er...Enjoy!

As for a photo?  Yeah, Zombie Uncle Sam works just fine for me in this politically charged season.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Phantasmagorium Weekly Offering: "Photograph" by Yours Truly.

The exceptionally cool weird fiction magazine, Phantasmagorium, has been posting weekly free fiction for a few months now.  A story goes up, it's there for a week, then gone; I've enjoyed many of them.  And now, I am honored to have my story, "Photograph," up this week, an exploration of love, loss, Sadness...and just plain weirdness.  One of those stories that opens in a bar, gets confessional, blah blah, okay, you still with me?  Yeah, a somewhat familiar framework, I've read quite a few horror stories that open in this setting.  But as it goes for most everything I write, it doesn't stay familiar at all.  If you think you know where it's going, you are wrong.  Well, probably, unless you're a freak like me, in which case, well, you might like the story matter who you are, hey, give it a spin when you can.  Only 1900 words, let it dip into your heart and show you the truth.  But remember, it's only up a week and will be gone around the 28th of Sept., so don't delay.  Please and thank you.

BTW, while I'm here, how about the links to purchase my book, The Dark Is Light Enough For Me?    I mean, hey, that's partly why I have this blog, to promote the book and the stories and the upcoming novel(s), another collection, etc., on and on and...


Amazon US:

Amazon reviews page, 2 pages:

Amazon Author’s Page:

Amazon UK:

Amazon Germany:

Amazon France:

Barnes & Noble:



Here's a shot of the cover for Phantasmagorium issue 3.  Number 4 is up in October, I believe.  Well worth your attention.  I hope to get a story in the magazine itself someday sooner than later.  Check it out!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Weird Fiction WIP: "The Alternative Translation."

I love Weird fiction, but am surprised by how I've not veered that way with my writing more often.  I must say, though, with some current developments, re-acquainting myself with some of the old masters and new who explore the Weird as well as Cosmic side avenues, I sense a shifting in my focus, one I gleefully embrace.  Of course, my take might not exactly fit into the true definition of Weird fiction, or even New Weirdbut I know I will be exploring it more often now.

When I first started writing tales, I focused on Horror.  Over time and with life battering me around, it stumbled into other speculative fiction alleys out of psychological necessity or something of that nature.  Anyway, through it all, it seems to me I had only dabbled in Weird fiction, yet it was always around, circling as a vulture waiting to pounce not on something dead, but something taking form within my writing.  That something has stepped up big time in some recent fiction ventures.

Just yesterday, I completed a novelette entitled, Autumn in the Abyss; yes, there will be some tweaking and such to make sure it is what it needs to be, but it's all there and it's a beauty, one of my best.  A dense,  psychological affair in which the mind is haloed in elements I would call Weird.  Not purely Weird, that wasn't my starting point with this one, but the trimmings are stained with it.

The story that steered me directly into Weird territory was just an idea, as mentioned in the previous blog, influenced by Lovecraft's The Shadow Out of Time.  No, influence is the wrong word, let's just say while reading the descriptive, alien elements in that story, my mind latched on to a completely alien image  Something so weird I was taken aback by it, not kidding.  But now the story is taking shape and, dare I say--and should I admit this?--it seems as though it might end up being the, um...sweetest piece I've ever written, yet it also might have the single most weird scene within it, two actually, but the main one, man, that image--a gift, as I've said before.  Yet, again, the story is not pure Weird fiction, yet holds it closer to its heart.  Oh, and the story is tentatively called, The Great God Pollock.

What?  Yes, I said sweetest.  Deal with it.  Darkness comes in many shades...

Excuse me, thinking of sweetness, Happy Birthday to my fantastic sister, Valerie.  When I was almost seven, she was born.  My mother talked to me on the phone and asked me what we should name her.  I had a crush on a girl named Valerie at school--yeah, even at seven--so I suggested Valerie.  No, that's not too weird, but it's life.

Where was I?

Ah, but the story that I knew I wanted to take heavy into the Weird territory was one started quite a while ago, and just a couple days ago I saw the way into the final third that was necessary, a matter of deleting some latter scenes, shaping them differently or, as usual allowing the characters to shape them properly.  Whatever, this one, though still steeped in what I do, wears the cloak of Weird Fiction quite handsomely.  It's called The Alternative Translation and...

Oddly enough, along with the Weird elements traipsing through these tales, each one is connected by obtuse, just outright weird contortions of language, not in the writing itself, just the ideas that take language down rarely if ever trodden paths.  Hard to describe but, for example, with The Great God Pollock, the weird scene that drew me to it is an expression of language, but not as we know or understand it, something so alien it simply shook me to the core with awe.  Yes, awe.  With The Alternative Translation, who says words are the only means of language expression?  Perhaps one needs to experience another's language in order to get it; and the experience suggested here is of such a gruesome manner...  Oh, yeah, totally weird stuff there, haha...  As for Autumn in the Abyss, the power and intent of words leads to such bizarre revelations I...well, you'll just have to read it when it's published.  I'm thinking it might just be the title story for my next collection, but we will see...

Anyway enough of my rambling, here's the first little bit from the WIP The Alternative Translation, still rough but working it.



     Rumor was Lorraine Blackthorne had written an alternative translation to notorious necromancer Alessandro Vernielli’s infamous 1841 tome of the black arts, Vox Terrae--The Voice of the Earth.  The alternative language was in question, as well as evidence of its actuality.  Her initial translation had been from Latin to Italian, a refinement of previous translations, the definitive text.  Months of toil had left us bereft and mentally exhausted, until a week ago, much to our surprise, Alicia, my partner, confidante, and fellow explorer of the dark arts came upon a slim article via a website specializing in obscure occult matters.  Though the article was a mere few detailed lines, a more concrete confirmation of the existence of the alternative translation filled us with determination, fueling our spirits with the possibility that, through perseverance, we would eventually procure a copy.
     Of course, this revelation was made moot when, later that evening as I went to gather her for bed, drowsy after a few more hours of online research, I found my lovely Alicia in her comfy chair in the library--"my throne," she called it, "your queen's throne, my king"--cold to the touch, her face slack, defeated.  Her eyes were glossy, staring into the always shadowy corner next to one of the many overflowing bookcases, while her mouth was a chapped-lip wound, dried blood sealing the cracks like caulk to tiles.  Her expression, one usually of a serene quality polished by concentration, expressed in its silent repose a somber dread that forced me to my knees.  My tears were plentiful, yet steeped in confusion, for there was an uncharacteristically sloppy note resting as an abandoned trawler on the sleeping lake that was her chest as she slumped lifeless in the chair: a suicide note, which seemed an impossible path for her to endeavor.  
     I found a pharmacy of uncapped pill bottles surrounding the chair, a moat of drugged death.  Morphine, Vicodin, and sundry other pills.  She'd had many physical impairments, a product of her psychic abilities, she informed me--"those with psychic gifts suffer the consequences of physical deterioration"--apparently making sure to get the job done right.  She'd swallowed all of them, leaving none for me to join her amidst my shock.  Normally, ingesting so many pills would only make one sick, induce vomiting, but here, now…she had succeeded in attaining her ghastly goal. 
     The note was more confounding than her Death-embraced appearance: "Blackthorne is the key.  I’ve found the alternative translation.  I’ve found the path to eternal life."  Eternal life?  As the stench of her fresh death grew pungent, decay awakening within her eternally sleeping body, the validity of her claim was discredited amidst my despair as I lay my head on her silent breast.
     For the next six months, Depression took the reins and rode me hard, a blackened horse-drawn carriage pulled by the sinister steeds, Grief and Turmoil.  Hooves digging deep into the soil of my downward spiraling soul.


Just a bit, but I think it's taking shape in a lovely way.

Let's's a piece of art, Image, Number 8, by Jackson Pollock, who's art plays a key role in that one story I noted above and I'm sure you can figure out which one.