Monday, November 6, 2017

The Wilderness Within: A Snippet From Chapter 4: Gone Fishing...

...because that's when we get a better feel for the mysterious forest...

Here's a taste:


“Don’t you feel it here?” Wrinkles laced as confused, cursive script across his forehead, his eyelids scrunched, the light within his eyes quivering, almost pleading for me to understand.

“Sense what?” I said, fooling neither of us. 

I sensed something, a discomfort that was like the weight of everything I had felt at Auschwitz, or at least a similar, immeasurable mass. I sensed an undefined something here as I stopped looking to Frank for answers, burrowing into my own mind for perceptions rooted in a consciousness I understood, to try and make sense of the ambience that even in this empty space seemed to crowd into me. The claustrophobic embrace of nothingness, but nothingness with presence.

The forest before this spot was perfunctory. Since I hadn’t been paying attention the images I could pull up of the last twenty minutes’ walk to this point were vague at best. They were images that fit into the catalogue my brain has of forests. There was nothing distinctive because my brain was looking inward, not all around me.

Until now. 

Taking in the forest here, I scanned the whole of where I was and everything that surrounded me. The trees were maybe ten yards in a loose circumference from where we were standing. The glade was threaded with a carpet of branches, twigs, weeds, and mushrooms, thicker than outside of the circle, from what I could see. A handful of tree stumps jutted forth, having been witness—been participants—to some kind of violence. Probably something natural in nature, yet the trees that had been connected to the torn stumps were nowhere to be found. The stumps were covered in a bruised yellow into black moss that looked more like disease than anything of florid health. Gray lichen covered the larger rocks that dotted the glade. 

Spider webs stretched across the expanse, a lattice whose prominence made my skin itch. I could not imagine how many spiders it had taken to create this death net hotel, yet further investigation showed no trespassing insects were cocooned within. The hotel seemed dead itself, the vacancy, permanent.

The smell of the place didn’t deter my rising discomfort. The omnipresent earthy odors were cut with a stench that seemed of animal origin. Not musky, though something similar, rich and tangy. Injury bandaged with moss, never healing, always moist, the moss thriving on that which seeped from within. 

The trees at the rim of our circle were tinted with the odd moss as well, as if the disease that had stricken the stumps had spread beyond, to feed on the more vital trees.

Beyond what I saw and smelled, I had a sense that something was quite simply wrong here, that something about what I saw suggested a deeper meaning to why it was like this here.

I sensed in my mind something picking through my thoughts, as if my skull had been opened up and something was looking for whatever special thoughts, memories, and imagination that it fed on, and was diligently feeding: beetles picking the carcass clean.

Not unlike exactly what Frank had suggested. 

“You do sense it, don’t you?” Frank switched the tackle box to his right hand. It joined the pole as he put his left hand on my shoulder. 

I lowered to my haunches, leaned my weight on my hand as I pressed the palm to the ground, an upper-limb kick-stand. I could swear I felt something pulsing warmly just below the surface. An image of the diseased moss covering bright red abrasions, or possibly just thick veins, came to me; I was tempted to plunge my eager fingers into the ground and find the source. 

I shook the intrusion from my head, dismantling the skewed perceptions from my thoughts. Ridiculous! Standing up, I smiled, something I’m sure barely succeeded in accomplishing its intent.

“It’s weird out here, sure. But you know me. I’ve never been one for forests. Nature’s a ravenous bitch.”


I hope that piques your interest and, if you've not yet bought the novel, will purchase a copy now.  There are some excellent reviews up on Goodreads, of which some have migrated over to Amazon, where you can buy a well as from the publisher, Trepidiatio/JournalStone.

Also: While I am here, if you are a reviewer, we're looking for more reviews, so contact me at and I can hit you with a pdf, mobi, or epub version.'s a painting of a strange tree by one of the true masters of weird art, Zdzislaw Beksinski.

Friday, October 13, 2017

An Interview & Review Links & More Stuff

I meant to post something a week or so ago, but at that time I was entering the last few days of my stay in Rome, so I was...busy, to say the least.


Now that I'm back to the blog, I'll post a few links to pertinent stuff dealing with The Wilderness Within, as well as a surprise, too.

First: I did an interview over at Hellnotes.  Check it out.  Some good info and intriguing details. I had fun with it.

Second: There are already 10 5-star ratings and five reviews up on Goodreads, as well as four of those reviews have made it over to Amazon as well.  Check them out, some wonderful perceptions, and nobody gives anything away, which I dig, as there are a few big surprises in the novel, yet you'll just have to read it to find out what I'm talking about.

Third, as in, More Stuff: I was pleased to see editor Ellen Datlow included two tales from my Dunham's Manor chapbook, The Wrath of Concrete and Steel, in her Honorable Mentions 2016 - Horror of the Year Volume Nine.  "The Land Lord" and the title tale get notice, which brought a smile to my Friday the 13th morning.

So there ya go, a few goodies and more reason to check out the new novel...and the previous chapbook, too!


Monday, September 18, 2017

How About Some Book Blurbs on my Birthday...?! ;-)

My birthday is September 19.  Okay, I'm a day early.  How old are you, JC?  I am, as I like to say, borrowing this quote from Neil Peart of Rush, "Old enough to know what's right, but young enough not to choose it."  (From the song, "New World Man.")  Either that or I am ancient, which is my other most used response.


Below I have some blurbs from three writers who deserve your attention with their own amazing work.  I'm hoping these blurbs either:

1) inspire you to pre-order a copy of my second novel, The Wilderness Within (coming from Trepidatio/JournalStone)...for my birthday (a gift for me--sales, y'know?!!! [yeah, well, I had to work the reason for the birthday reference in here somewhere]--but more of a gift for you, ahem, once you read the novel, because you Will Not Believe where it all ends up) (really, you won't believe some of what happens in the novel; I don't, and I wrote it!), just because you're intrigued or

B) REVIEWERS & BLOGGERS interested in receiving a pdf, mobi, or epub copy, perhaps these will inspire you to get in touch with me ( and I'll hit you up with a digital copy.  I've sent out copies for potential reviews and blurbs already, of course--part of the pre-publication deal--but more is always a good thing.

What?  Why, yes, that might be the most parenthesis I've ever used in a sentence.

Here's my Amazon author page, just in case you want to purchase anything else by your humble, rambling host...

I'm honored to have these blurbs! 


“Enthralling, surreal, mystical, and evocative, John Claude Smith’s The Wilderness Within is a mind-warping tale for devotees of weird fiction, written by a master of the form. I loved it!” – Tim Waggoner, author of Dark and Distant Voices <--out in December

"With each new work John Claude Smith combines the psychological, physical and supernatural in ever more subtle configurations. You will lose your bearings in this fictional world of Lovecraftian noir where everything is alive with sounds, sensations and an eerie suspicion that our hero would be much better off if he had never answered the call of a lifelong friend. Marvelously evocative writing." - S.P. Miskowski, author of I WishI Was Like You & Strange is the Night

"John Claude Smith's fiction is consistently out of this world, and with The Wilderness Within, his second novel, he continues reaching new literary heights. Written in gorgeous, gripping prose, this twisted tale blends music, the surreal, and hints of nostalgia to pull readers deeper into the darkness of the woods until, like protagonist Derek Gray, the forest closes in around them, and there's no chance of escape."—Gwendolyn Kiste, author of And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe

Check the hyperlinks for stuff by moi, and stuff by these talented writers, too! 

Here's a birthday cake that seems appropriate for the festive occasion. 
Art courtesy of Flavio Greco.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Anthology Update, Part 1: Where to Find Some Short Fiction By Yours Truly

Over the last month and upcoming in September and October, I have four tales in new anthologies, so let's quit messing around and get to it!  I'll touch on the already released tales in this blog post, then the forthcoming titles in a follow-up blog. Post. Whatever. 

Out early in August was the fabulous Phantasm/Chimera: An Anthology of Strange and Troubling Dreams, edited by Scott Dwyer.  The TOC is a knockout and features Adam Golaski, Matthew M. Bartlett, Christopher Slatsky, Thana Niveau, Brian Evenson, Livia Llewellyn, Mike Allen, Jon Padgett, Clint Smith, and Jason A. Wyckoff, and me. 

My tale is called, "Chrysalis."  What do a bird, a beetle, a television set, and a mirror, have to do with one woman finding her way out of a hellish marriage?  Well, you need to purchase the anthology to find out. 

Here's the opening sequence, to set the mood and pique your interest.


     “What in the…?”

     The black bird plunked down on the kitchen tiles and skidded along the floor to Regina’s feet.  She turned and immediately took to standing on her tip-toes before her balance wavered and she set her heels back down on each side of the trembling creature.  She shuffled to one side, the shock of the intrusion one to shake her out of the doldrums of her dreary existence.

     While listlessly washing the dishes, she’d once again been daydreaming about suicide as a legitimate goal in life.  A goal she knew she was too weak to attain.  She used to write bleak, depressive poetry, which might seem a cliché many maudlin young girls on the cusp of womanhood undertake, but her aspirations and talent were obvious.  A few years later, as Regina had begun to make a name for herself, the weight of her dead whale marriage crushed her Muse.  She allowed real misery to derail her burgeoning writing career before it truly got off the ground.  It sank without a struggle, an anchor tied to the ankle of promise. 

Also out in August was the Joe S. Pulver, Sr. edited A Walk on the Weird Side, an anthology put together in conjunction with NecronomiCon 2017.  The stellar TOC features: Nadia Bulkin, S. P. Miskowski, Kristi DeMeester,  Matthew M. Bartlett, Ann K. Schwader, Michael Griffin, Craig L. Gidney, Farah Rose Smith, Peter Rawlik, Ashley Dioses, Daniel Braum, Nathan Carson, Jon Padgett, Rebecca J. Allred, Alistair Rennie, Starry Wizdom, Rhys Hughes, Michael Bukowski, Michael Wehunt, Anna Tambour, Christopher Slatsky, Scott Thomas, Lynda Rucker, Tom Lynch, Cody Goodfellow, Robert Levy, Jayprakash Satyamurthy, Philip Fracassi, Maura McHugh.  And me.  Did you just say, "Wow"?!!! ;-)

I corrupt the proceedings with a warped piece called, "Eouem Chumkpaa," which deals with, well, um...language, in a way...and an invasion, of sorts. 

Here's the opening paragraph:


     They’d driven out to the desert, Cal and the thing that wore the body of the woman he knew as Kayla.  It sat in the passenger seat, knocked out old-school style with a rag doused in ether acquired from a friend of a friend who knew people who dealt in illicit drug concoctions and sales.  The thing that was not Kayla was bound in rope, with duct tape wrapped tight around the wrists and ankles.  A gray strip covered its mouth.  Not her mouth.  Its mouth.


Also of note, and completely unrelated, as you might know, my second novel, The Wilderness Within, will be published by Trepidatio/JournalStone on October 6.  The digital and print versions are now up on Amazon, so do that pre-order thang, because you know you want it. 
Thank you!


Here's the cover art for these amazing anthologies.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Pre-Orders are Up for My Second Novel, The Wilderness Within.

I know it's been too long since I last blogged...but it's time to fire this thing up and get to it again.  What with a new novel and other story info, it only makes sense.

Let's get to it.

First up: my second novel, The Wilderness Within, is available for pre-order!  It will be published October 6th...and you're not going to want to miss it.  Just click on the >>> Trepidatio/JournalStone <<< link to order your copy; the Amazon link will be up soon.  You get a free digital version of the novel if you order straight from the publisher, always a good thing.

ETA: Now available on >>> Amazon, <<< too!

Here's the back cover copy, then I'll give you a wee bit more info.

"The forest is alive.

While visiting fellow writer, Frank Harlan Marshall, Derek Gray senses a palpable dread within Frank’s house and the forest that surrounds it; a subtle, malignant sentience. What should be a joyous event, as they await the surprise arrival of a long-lost friend, comedian “Dizzy Izzy” Haberstein, is fraught with unease Derek does not understand.

Derek’s confusion is upended by the chance meeting with musician Alethea, formerly of Dark Angel Asylum, a band that dropped out of sight once the leader, Aleister Blut, ended up in an insane asylum. As their relationship blossoms, Derek’s disorientation at the hands of the forest manifests as his world turns sideways…and one of Frank’s fictional creations—a murderous monster named Average Joe—gains foothold in the surreal, psychological terrain.

As the worlds of reality and fantasy meld, what transpires bounds from deeply profound to pure madness."

Sounds intriguing, eh?  Well, this is only the foundation upon which layers of story unfold.  There are questions of reality, fantasy, and what exactly the sentient forest's intentions are.  There's elements of philosophical nuance mixed with the passion of love and the power of friendship, and whether we truly know anybody besides ourselves.  There's nods to the arts of writing and music, and even comedy, what with a comedian as one of the five, well, six main characters.  (Why is JC being uncertain about how many characters are in this tale?  You'll see...) 

In essence, there's a lot going on, unfolding as a slow burn with escalating dread and disorientation, before all bets are off...and where it ends up is like nothing you've ever read.   

A friend who read an early incarnation of the tale said, "It's like Nightmare on Elm Street as crossed with Solaris." 
Yeah, well, there is some odd sense in that, I suppose, haha...

If you enjoy my writing, or writing that's willing to stretch into places not often explored, I think you'll dig this ride.  A ride that is as far away thematically from my previous novel, the Bram Stoker Award finalist, Riding the Centipede, as can be, yet still caters to the willingness to go to unexpected places, as that one did, in its own way.  I mean, c'mon, I want to continue to grow as a writer and would get bored settling into formula fiction.  Admit it, you'd get bored, too!   

I'll be posting again soon!

Here's the Amazing cover art.