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.  

Monday, September 10, 2012

My Muse Strikes As Lightning: Patti Smith, Lovecraft, The World, Etc.

Busy is good.  Believe it.  Yes, back here finally.  Took a mini-vac to northern Italy, to Siena, one of my fave places in Italy.  Checked out many of the small towns with their unique personalities while there, like San Gimignano with its statues of naked men--yeah, not kidding--even some atop of buildings, tall towers, as if about to jump.  Alessandra and I even enjoyed a free live concert outdoors in a piazza in Siena by Patti Smith, a truly outstanding performance.  Love the way she connects with the audience, with how she is always aware of her surroundings, including history and more.  Her introduction to "Horses" dealt with the annual horse race in the piazza she was performing at, a free-for-all poem, just like in Rome when she did an off-the-cuff little poem about Bernini's marble elephant outside of the hotel where she was staying.  She's a powerful wordsmith, one who always seems in touch with her Muse.

Which is what this is all about.

The break and a conscious acknowledgement to shake things up a couple, perhaps three weeks ago, have been a boon to my writing.  See, sometimes we--or perhaps I, of course--get kind jammed into a  creative corner.  It's not as if words aren't happening, but it's an inner understanding that they are not where they need to be.  Dealing with a couple of stories that have been real bears--lots written, know where they are going, but baby stepping to the end--does that.  You get in there, struggle a bit, step out and feel like you're a hamster on a wheel.  Grinding forth, but not getting anywhere.  I know both stories, in particular The Alternative Translation, have what it takes to be what they need to be, but for some reason, the final steps seem miles away.  Shaking it up realizing this and knowing something has to be done to get beyond this static phase, is what I did.

So, of course, I started a new story, one fresh out of nowhere.  Actually, it was initiated by Alessandra's work on a bio of a famous poet.  She started getting interesting information and in getting this info, perhaps some to shake up our perceptions of him--yes, apparently this whole post is about shaking things up--this triggered something in me.  I started a story dealing with a person researching a famous poet all goes off the rails and into truly bizarre places almost immediately.

Would I have it any other way?  Do I even have a choice?  Haha, he laughs, maniacally...  (BTW, this was noted in my last post, where the possible titles for the piece at that time were Invocation of the Abominable, Coronado's Pandemonium, Welcoming Chaos, and perhaps a few more, but at some point during all this shaking up of things, I wrote a poem called, Autumn in the Abyss and immediately realized after writing that poem, the title would be good for the story, and perhaps my second fiction collection.  It's all in the mental mixer taking shape.  Funny thing, as Muses are wont to do, it looks like I may have to write a sonnet, too, with that title, a connective link to the story, perhaps the first piece in the collection, while Autumn ends the collection, but, again, this is all my Muse grabbing on to something and really running with it.)

But, when my Muse gets going, it gets wild.  While in Sienna I hand wrote the core of a story dealing with True Darkness for an anthology I am slated to appear in.  I also started another piece when back, triggered by an image that came to me while reading The Shadow Out Of Time by H.P. Lovecraft.

Pause, and here's a big point about how my Muse works.  I write as I do, don't really sound like anybody else, I believe.  I have my own voice and it's still growing and changing, but most any story sounds like me.   My Muse has a tendency when I am in full on writing mode to take in everything around me, whatever I read, watch, the world as I venture through it, etc.  Where do I get my ideas?  Dear God, open your eyes, folks.  The world is overflowing with them.  But what makes taking in all of this reading, what I see and what I experience work for my fiction, is how my brain always seems to veer into that odd element within a situation.  I've mentioned before how looking at a story from a different angle is essential to my mindset.  While eight out of ten writers might look at an unfolding situation in a similar way, yours truly and another explorative writing soul--Lucius Shepard, Laird Barron, Thomas Ligotti, J.G. Ballard, etc.--will (or would have in Ballard's case; he's actually the biggest believer/culprit/inspiration in this mindset, too, as it was the foundation for much of his work) go to unexpected places, shaking things up in peculiar ways, but ways that keep us interested and, hopefully, the reader as well.

Back to another explorer with his own distinct mindset, Lovecraft's story pulled an image out of some inconceivable place within my already crowded and slightly (slightly? Do I hear maniacal laughter again?) warped brain, this truly alien image.  Another thing that works for me (and another digression; c'mon, you know this is how I work!): if you're going to present something as alien, Go All The Way, meaning, make your alien so alien it does not have to follow any of the rules of how we as humans are; meaning, when reading the above mentioned story by Lovecraft, he describes such purely bizarre alien life forms as to remind me of how that is to be done and expanded on...and this image, this incredible image came to me, settled into my head, and I could not help but start writing about it thinking, sure, perhaps it's just a short piece, flash fiction, but then, damn if my Muse doesn't say, No, John Claude, there's much more to this Things story, and I'm introduced to a twelve-year old girl by the name of Arlene Sandoval, it's the mid 1960s, and I'm simply shaking my head at the wonder of creativity, of being a writer, when words and ideas and Stories start to flow freely...

And I know is, The Alternative Translation will be sliced and diced and finalized soon after completion of these pieces.  As well as the other bear.  As well as more.  Shaking things up and getting the creativity really rolling helps in all facets of writing: for the new stuff as well as the older stuff in need of, well, help.

When it starts to flow, just like my rambling in this blog post, let it flow, man.  Go for the ride, eyes wide open, and enjoy!

And write it all down so we can enjoy it, too!

Here's one of those naked fellas on top of a tower.  When I saw him, I mentioned to Alessandra when she was taking the photo, I should post it and call it Don't Jump!  So there...

Don't Jump!