Friday, February 28, 2014

Autumn in the Abyss: Teaser #3: Sculpture, Cosmic Horror, "La mia immortalità."

"Why don't you speak to me?" 

The first words from story three from my forthcoming collection, Autumn in the Abyss.  Mere days away.

Those words have a foundation in history, spoken by Michelangelo...when?  Let me jog my memory.  Yes, this is another story influenced by something said or experienced with Alessandra.  I believe it was when we saw Michelangelo's sculpture of Moses in one of the many churches in Rome--700?  something like that (Alessandra will correct me on all of this later, but you get the gist).  Such awe-inspiring detail.  She told me a story of his frustration in not finding his way into the work.  Or...well, something like that.  The gist, yeah, the gist.   

I was not much into sculpture until I got to see so much of it in Rome.  It's Everywhere!  Viewing the work of Michelangelo, the Moses above, or more so for me, Gian Lorenzo Bernini--oh, such wonder!  Such Beauty!  Especially at the Borghese Gallery/Galleria Borghese.  Apollo and Daphne, The Rape of Proserpina...then elsewhere, The Ecstasy of Saint Teresa.  Many more, absolutely stunning work.  I learned to love sculpture the more I got to know about it.  An appreciation bloomed and now I seek it out. 

Which means, yes, of course a story would eventually incorporate a sculptor.  That's when I got to learn about Samuel Nisi...and Mr. Liu made his second appearance, fleshing out more of his purpose.  I don't remember him being a part of the original idea, yet his presence was mandatory in taking the story where it needed to go.  A curious addition, his presence always one to inspire some wild imagery and more as the forces of the universe, whatever they may be--gods, aliens, alien gods; more so, those whose intent is in keeping balance in the universe--dictate his path.  Why?  A curious question to be answered at some point. I've had an inkling of an origin story for Mr. Liu that would completely blow perceptions to smithereens--hey, I like that  Anyway, it's as if his appearance unleashes something in my head that can only be called wild--that word again--and surreal...and in this case, cosmic. 

This is not your familiar horror, for sure.  I don't do that.  (Yet if it seems as though I am doing that--dealing with something more traditional--wait for the reveal.  You'll see that in the next story.) 

Anyway, here's a bit from inside the story, a touch of Mr. Liu before Mr. Liu makes an appearance.  A touch of Samuel Nisi, the driven sculptor. 


A new client by the name of Mr. Liu had requested a decidedly atypical commission, one whose ambiguity intrigued Samuel. It was simple, direct, the essence relayed in measured lines, as if Mr. Liu was a man of few words, yet knew exactly what he wanted… yet what he wanted, because of the vagueness of the details, inspired. Mr. Liu would send Samuel a large block of marble, “the rarest Carrara marble,” he’d said, and it would be up to Samuel to “find whatever strange, lost soul was buried within the marble. Find what lives and breathes there and to bring it to the surface.” That was all, no specifics, yet the money Mr. Liu was willing to spend, as well as how it touched a nerve within Samuel— more so, because of the latter— moved this to the top of his “to-do” list.

He had his latest girlfriend, Claire, one in a long line of art lovers who, once spending any amount of time with him, would realize that art was his lover and she was there as a vessel of his occasional physical passion or verbal abuse, research Mr. Liu, with minimal results. The phrase, “wealthy Chinese gentleman,” seemed prevalent in search results, yet no source for his wealth was to be gleaned. Only one badly lit black and white photo, his features indistinct, though a trace of something Samuel thought of as world weariness and deep knowledge reflected in his eyes. He was an enigma, making an enigmatic proposition: to find the enigma within the marble.

Fine by Samuel: open to interpretation. Yet the act of putting the hammer to the chisel and the chisel to the marble inspired nothing but frustration. His muse was on vacation, something he’d never experienced before. Which surprised him even more, since the huge block of marble that had been delivered a week ago filled him with anticipation.

Most of the time, he worked with marble that featured, ever so slightly, the promise of smooth finality. This one had only the promise on display. Besides a perfectly flat foundation, the whole of what amazed him was the smooth, curved body, as if another sculptor had sheared off the edges, delineating an oval shape, and stopped, backed away, probably because he could not find the soul of this wondrous rock, either. When Samuel stroked it, placed his cheek to it in getting to know it— a ritual he’d undertaken with all blocks of marble— the sensations he felt were all wrong. Colder. Alien, he thought.

Yet when he circled it, looking for an opening, a way in— for inspiration— every step forward led to two steps back, and more contemplation. Where to begin? Though he’d worked marble hundreds of times without issue, something of the difference here gave him reason to pause. But these sensations only urged him onward: he would not give in. He would listen with his hands, his anxious soul; he would listen or force it to talk to him, damn it!


When it goes off the rails, it's pure descriptive madness. 

Here's a pic of The Rape of Proserpina.  Phenomenal is a starting point.  Breathless!  You would not know that was not two people embraced in some sort of battle or passion if I did not tell you, would you?  Look at the fingers digging into the thigh.  Just wow!



Monday, February 24, 2014

Autumn in the Abyss: Teaser #2: Sex, Murder, Noise, Surreal Horror, "Broken Teacup."

1.) You know I kind of just riff when I do these blogs, right?  As in, after this is posted, there will be three or six or a dozen other things I wish I would have said.
2.) I wonder if there should be a warning for this one.  Well, perhaps not this post, but the story it deals with. 
3.) Before you read the rest of this, check out this fantastic Review for the new collection--the first review--by the talented Horror Writer, Brian Fatah Steele.
4.) I'd buy that book.  Autumn in the Abyss pre-order info HERE.  The Kindle version will be available the day of release. That should be 3-3-14. 

After the poetry-driven and quite dense foray into darkness of the opening, title story of my collection--a story that works the mind--the second story works the body.  The genitals, in particular.  Yeah, I just wrote that. You'll know when you read it.  Let me put the opening sequence here, just so you get the shift in tone and dig down into the bad places.  Here's a shard from "Broken Teacup."


“The path to knowledge is paved with the carcasses of experience.”

With the statement, he could tell that it understood; shadows rippled as a smile from the void. It spoke:

“You will get me what I need, yes?”

“I will get you what you need.”


“She’s just lumpy, misshapen. You can’t really want to—”

“She’ll do, yeah. She’ll do.”

Lemmy and me, we’d been doing this gig for a few years, exploring the depths of perversion and presenting it in one form or another to those willing to pay the price for said perversity. We brought joy to the sickos of the world. 

Why? Good question. It was primarily dark curiosity on my part. And the money, now that it’d started to kick in big time.

But for Lemmy it was different. He was just a walking hard-on at all hours.

I once told him, “You’ve got no soul,” shaking my head at his impudence.

He responded with the expected crude rejoinder: “Who needs a soul when I’ve got a hole?” and proceeded to unload into any willing, unwilling, or just empty hole he could find.

A few years back, just out of high school, I’d been headed for college— I got smarts but what I really wanted was experience— I was sidetracked by a bunch of noise bands that specialized in a kind of aural rape, bands like Whitehouse and their offshoot Sutcliffe Jugend, Smell & Quim, and the True Crime Electronics of Slogun. Lemmy and I decided to join the fray and make our own noisy excursions into the like-minded, sexually depraved world of our heroes.

Our kink was that we went for a kind of “real world” take on things, not exactly original but you had to start somewhere. We scraped the bowels of the small towns in Texas that we frequented for the lowest of the low hookers and suggested the most disgusting encounters imaginable.  We taped the responses and even the encounters for use on our recordings. These tapes were manipulated and we added the appropriate noise accompaniment, guitar and bass cranked full throttle, creating a dense wall of sadistic sonics. The repetitious mayhem sounded like an orgy of hump happy monster trucks. We played up our roots calling ourselves Texas Chainsaw Erection. Our live reputation, replete with the most obscene video accompaniment, got us our first release, the underground classic, Elbow Deep in Love.

Heads turned but our pocketbooks still seemed in cahoots with the poverty line, and we needed money to pursue our interests.

One of the advantages of doing this kind of thing, specializing in such decadent ventures, was that it draws a unique fan base and from that fan base come unique requests.


It only goes downhill from there as we get to know more about their sleazy career, what their fans want, and the enigmatic Mr. Liu.

Ah, yes, Mr. Liu.  A recurring character in three of the stories here, as well as there’s a slight nod to him in the title story.  A liaison for the forces of the universe, dropping in to keep things in balance.  You’ll see, oh, you will see.  That's when everything falls off the edge of the table into the surreal.  The disturbing and perverse surreal in this case.

I used to write a lot of music journalism that included reviews of many fringe genre material.  Power electronics, death industrial, and the sick, twisted, sex-oriented Noise that inspired this story.   I remember hearing a clip by a band called Taint that might have been the true inspiration.   I think THIS is the clip.  Spin it for thirty seconds, you get the drift.  

After finishing this story, I needed a shower and a brainwash.

Life takes some strange detours.

I told you I was riffing.  This has a fragmented feel to it all.  Ah, well...

Oh, the title.  Here's our narrator's take on a hot young thing he's just spotted.


“She’s perfect. Look at her eyes. Check out that desperate look. She really needs something, boys. And that smile, kind of like a broken teacup, some kind of beautiful design scarred, chipped. She’s barely hanging on. Can’t you see it? Can’t you see her future, peering into the broken teacup and reading the tea leaves and there’s nothing left but this dismal existence…?”

Anyway, there's a bit about story number two with the odd name and the surreal final third that might inspire you to join me in the shower as well.  Not, know what I mean.

It's a real mess...and one of my fave short stories I have written.  What does that say about me?

D-Don't answer that...

Egad!  Well, okay, so I Google teacups and broken teacup after Googling Texas Hooker, looking for the appropriate pic to add to this and...well...appropriate or not and not really having anything to do with the story, but...impressive?  Oh, it must be tea time! 


Saturday, February 22, 2014

Autumn in the Abyss: Teaser #1: Dealing With the Poetry Beast of the Title Story.

My girlfriend, Alessandra, coined him The Poetry Beast after she saw the gorgeous cover of my forthcoming collection from Omnium Gatherum, Autumn in the Abyss.  Over the next week or two I will tell you a little bit about each story.  Details, samples, snippets--anything to pique your interest into either
a) pre-ordering a copy
b) buying a copy upon release date--3/3/14
c) buying a copy soon.

Let's get to the title story that opens the collection.

"Autumn in the Abyss."  Where did this bit of poetry-driven, poetic madness come from?  I was in Rome, summer of 2012. I was in and out of a longer piece dealing with cicadas and rock 'n' roll that still needs some dirtying up, even though it ends up a complete fantasy.  Yet because my brain was not locked in, I needed something else to focus on for a while.  All along, Alessandra was updating me about her research into a biography she was and still is writing about a famous American Poet, giving me stories that, in some cases, made my brow furrow.  Some things left up in the air made me think how deep does one really want to dig when researching for a bio?  What if you found out something that changed everything about the person you were writing about?  My brain ran with this line of questioning.

The seed was planted.

But there was no fertilizer yet.  Nothing to make it grow.  Until she started in about Lew Welch, a Beat Poet who ended up parking his truck and walking away, never to be seen again.

"After the breakup of another relationship in 1971 Welch returned to the mountains. On May 23, 1971, Gary Snyder went up to Welch's campsite and found a suicide note in Welch's truck. Despite an extensive search, Welch's body was never recovered."

That was perhaps the key to unlock the storytelling machine in my head.  I took these ideas, read up on some Beat Generation specs, and "Autumn..." not only started in heavy and hard, but took over my writing for two weeks.  The first draft, at 14,000 words, was whipped together in a white-hot fury.  Dense, relentless, experimental in a way--sections are split up by a mix of faux and real quotes--actually, only one real--as well as appearances were made by many in the Beat and Poetry world back then, including Jack Kerouac, who plays a pivotal a way.  Saying too much may lead to confusion.  I know, though, that this was when Poet Henry Coronado, The Poetry Beast, was born.

The bookjacket blurb:

"When enigmatic poet Henry Coronado disappears six months after the New Year's Eve, 1959, Welcoming Chaos event, he takes with him a profound secret wrapped within the words of his poem, Autumn In The Abyss. Fifty years later, an ill man's research into Coronado's work and life reveals that poetry can indeed change the world, or leave it in ruins.

The Word is a living thing...and often with lethal intentions.

Reality is the strangest mirror..."

The Word is a Living Thing.  Remember that when you read the story.

Here's a snippet from the beginning.  You can see how I've taken the ideas noted here and built it up. 


“The Word is a living thing.”
—Marco Cinque, poet.


From Rene Zimmerman, author of Listening to the Voices:A Compendium of Explorative Literature’s ForgottenMasters (Unsafe Harbor Press, 2009):


     Visionary poet Henry Coronado’s 1956 beige
     Ford Fairlane was found abandoned, aslant
     off the always scorching strip of asphalt
     designated as California State Route 127,
     shadowing the southeastern edge of Death
     Valley, early July, 1960. Nobody knows how
     long it had been there. Nobody knows what
     happened to him. His final statement to the
     world was more concrete than poetic: the
     driver side door was left open.

     He was gone, never to be heard from again.


Though there seemed a surfeit of suicides and mysterious deaths and disappearances within the literary community during the ’60s and ’70s, in particular the concentrated realm of poetry and experimental fiction, I cannot attest as to why Henry Coronado’s story so fascinates me. Of all those who passed, his fame seemed flimsy at best, with nothing to substantiate it beyond recollections by those who knew him and his sparse poetry. No complete works remain, only piecemeal stanzas and sentences which vary in construction and confirmation among those who claim to have known his work. He’s as much rumor as fact, a phantom shuffling between question mark and ellipses.

Poets didn’t get famous unless they were blunt forces of nature like Charles Bukowski, or so truly gifted their work endured the test of time like Pablo Neruda, Dylan Thomas, and Walt Whitman. Coronado was Bukowski without the alcohol and rage, without the unflinching glare on the reality of squalor and grit. His words portended a reality just to the left of ours, more fantastical but conveyed in a way no less blunt, no less honest, than Bukowski’s. Or so those in the know alleged. Coronado saw the world with different eyes, as Beat writer, Jack Kerouac, had noted in one of his last interviews, a drunken ramble that never made it to publication. In my research, I was able to obtain a copy of the disjointed transcript, almost an abstract prose poem in and of itself. Kerouac seemed more disillusioned than usual, more drunk as well, yet a sober knot tightened as he expressed his admiration for Coronado’s work, saying, “it had …more truth, more guts in his taut lines than anything any of us would even admit to having seen, witnessed, experienced. What Coronado wrote dug deep into the psychological landscape of America. He saw the ’50s split in half, a battle forged between nuclear threat and the eroding American dream. A piss-stained white picket fence. He saw the ideals inspired by these ideas as the monsters they truly were. Monsters of the mind, the id, ego and neurosis made real. This was compounded and magnified by his general distaste for the human race, something that rubbed many in the Beat community wrong. Though, of
course, he had nothing to do with Beat poetry. It was just bad timing on his part to have lived and made his smudged mark during the genesis of the Beats.”
What I didn’t understand until listening to a CD burned from the original reel-to-reel recording of the Kerouac interview, and hearing it in his voice, was the monsters of the mind were in no way metaphorical. There was stress in his voice, tension, the pace of his conversation shifting down, conspiratorial. I would say that leant more credence to his interpretation of Coronado’s standing in the poetry world. He believed Coronado was a keen observer of the real world, of reality and didn’t have inhibitions about stating exactly what he saw. My take on what Kerouac seemed afraid to divulge— perhaps having as keen an eye as Coronado, but being less inclined to embrace what he truly saw, despite his own works that embraced a freedom, a lifestyle, outside of the norm— seemed eerily prescient when he muttered toward the end of the tape, something not included on the transcript of the interview, “But he was right, you know? Coronado not only confronted these monsters, his demons, he brought them into play with his words. I thought they weren’t real. Coronado proved I was wrong. I don’t know how much more I can take, how much knowledge any human can take.”

Kerouac was dead three months after the interview, perhaps as much from his alcoholism as the years of knowing whatever it was he really knew. Perhaps his alcoholism was a direct result of knowing too much.


Knowing too much, eh?  I want to know more, don't you?  Just a taste, it goes through many levels of perception, revelation, mental breakdown, and more.  Here's the Amazon link to pre-order the book

Since this one works the mind (though it does get visceral), the follow-up story works the body.  Stay tuned. 


Monday, February 17, 2014

Autumn in the Abyss: An Introduction & Pre-Orders.

The time has come!  In a whirlwind that included intense editing--even a day on skype reading the stories back and forth and tweaking them to as close to perfection as humanly possible--as well working on the cover art and adjusting those damn beautiful horns to perfection--a move away from the little horns and the follow-up Mickey Mouse looking ones; me chatting with my girlfriend, Alessandra Bava, and she noting what editor/publisher Kate Jonez and I had noted: they might be construed as Mickey Mouse ears! No, we can't have that.  Alessandra suggesting they should be bigger, he's a big man.  How about ram's horns? I passed this on to Kate and awakened the next morning to "Eureka!" from her and those horns, symbolic and so damn perfect for the Sexy Beast who adorns the cover and narrates the title story--we are ready!

That's a lot of "perfection/perfect" for one rambling sentence, but you get the gist.

We Are Ready!

Autumn in the Abyss, my second collection of horror/dark fiction tales is available for pre-order adesso!  [That's Italian for Now!] The paperback, at least.  The ebook will come soon, I'm sure. 

What's that?  Well, sure, the TOC:

Autumn in the Abyss
Broken Teacup
La mia immortalità
Becoming Human
Where the Light Won’t Find You

Yes, a sweet, bloody handful of horror.  Two novelettes and three inter-connected via a recurring character short stories.  I'll blog details and samples, teasers, what-nots and whatever over the next couple weeks until the book is officially released on the 3rd of March. 

Pre-order now so you can get a copy ASAP--As Soon As Published.  Please and Thank You! 

I can't wait for you to read these tales and get to know all about poet Henry Coronado's bleak, self-annihilating history; the mysterious Mr. Liu; Detective Bobby Vera and his dealings with the copycat follower of the monster, Corbin Andrew Krell, and so much more.

Here's the purchasing info:

Here's a little blog Alessandra wrote and I will expand on when I blog about the title story:

Here's the poetry beast in all his glory:

Are you ready?  Let's rock!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Be My Valentine, Love is Hell Version: Flash Fiction: "Numb."

I've posted this flash fiction piece before, but since it's that time of year and I have missed the last two Monday posts because of intense editing sessions on my upcoming book, Autumn in the Abyss (more on that in a post soon; as well as story samples, etc.), just gotta get the rhythm back, soooooo...


After a relationship break-up 9 1/2 or so years ago, I sank deep.  Lost track of everything, I was a mess.  Even lost track of writing.  But there came a point when what's important periscoped up out of my personal hell; a personal hell most of us have experienced in our own, special, self-annihilating way.  I slowly started writing short stories again.  Sure, they were all constructed around my shattered mindset at that time, but not in always expected ways.  This one, though, the second story--a flash piece, as noted in the title--was along the lines one would expect after going through the mental and physical grinder.  This one bites hard.  I wrote a lot more about it in another blog post. So, without further adieu...



by John Claude Smith

He feels nothing: numb, empty…    

He resorts to cutting himself as an exercise in sensation, in trying to feel something at a time when he feels nothing. 

But even that does not break through.

He still feels nothing.

Acquiring a scalpel was easy, Tammy works at the clinic.  She brought one to him without questions.  He took it from her two days ago and closed the door before she had the opportunity to invite herself in or intrude in any other way. 

He did not care about how rude it came off.

He does not care about much of anything.

But her.  Alicia.  The woman he loves.

The woman who left him.  

(How could she leave me?  How could she give up on us?  The thoughts roll by in his head like a never ending freight train, its self-destructive cargo branded in torturous repetition.)

He places the scalpel against his naked chest, pressing hard.  The blade digs deep, blood streaming over his abdomen.


He grunts from the effort as he pulls the blade down.  The incision is deep, opening his insides to the world. 

Not quite.

It opens him, but will require the effort of his bare hands to continue the process.

Still, he is numb.

He sets the scalpel down and thrusts his fingers into the fresh wound.  Pulling with supreme effort, he pries his chest wide open.  Muscles and bones are wrenched from their usual homes, tearing and breaking.

He stops, sucks in a weary breath, and gazes into the moist, red cavity.

He jostles things, moves them about, rearranging the internal in ways that give him access to his goal.

The thick muscle’s rhythm is consistent, even though this more extreme exercise would normally render one dead.

He feels dead inside already.

He reaches in with both hands, scalpel severing arteries, clean cuts that lack precision yet serve their purpose.  Within minutes, he holds the beating heart in his hands.

Still, he feels nothing.

Well, what is the point of it all, then?

(He remembers how she used to put her hand on his chest, palm down, feeling the love, their bond, sensing the rightness of it all, staring intensely into each other’s eyes—enraptured--we are one…and her cherishing it, him as well, so close, so close…“Let me drown in you,” she would say, and he would plead, “Let’s drown in us, please”…and both of them meaning it, unconditionally, without fear because this is what people live for in the first place!)

(Drowning now: drowning, flailing, sinking…)

He walks calmly to the car and starts it up, pulling out of the parking lot.  The night is deep and uncaring.  Nobody notices because at least other people can sleep. 

He hasn’t slept in weeks.

He drives to where she lives.  Sitting in the car, he stares at the apartment where she rents a room. 

He scribbles a note on a piece of paper and exits the car.

He places the still beating heart at the foot of the door with the note. 

No reason to knock or ring the doorbell; let her sleep.  Let them all sleep. 

Maybe someday he will sleep again as well…
He rereads the note: Since you own my heart, you might as well have it.

Unhappy and exhausted, he leaves, his head still reeling as the freight train rolls by. 

Perhaps this gesture will help her to understand. 

Perhaps she will just scream.

Numb, he drives alone into the deep and uncaring night…


Cheerful, eh? 

Well, writing got me through that, as it does through so much more.  Love does, too, after all is said and done and perhaps makes the pain make sense.  Well, not sure about that. but...