S.O.C. New Edition Update

I wanted to write a short update on where things stood with the publication of Slash of Crimson and Other Stories. As of this morning, I have sent the final drafts of novella Torn from the Devil’s Chest and short story Blood Balance to publisher Charon  Coin Press. I am now set to focus on the ‘director’s cut’ of Slash of Crimson itself. It will be fun to be revisiting and bringing out previously unpublished scenes with Drew and Desiree and the rest of the Broodbloodz crew. I’m also happy to have a lot of new Crimes of Heaven and Hell material hitting the press, laying groundwork for the strange universe where the stories take place. Such will add considerable context for when the first full length novel follows.

Thanks to anyone who has read the first edition, and whether new to or familiar with the series, there will be ample undiscovered depths to explore this coming spring.

Review: AUDREY’S DOOR by Sarah Langan

Sarah Langan’s Audrey’s Door runs the border between psychological thriller and psychotically vivid ghost story. Each character rides the arc of their own personal Bosch painting of a breakdown. The reader descends a corkscrew track that presses with increasing speed to full insanity. At the novel’s opening, we see Audrey Lucas as a likeable country kid who beat the odds. She has overcome an impoverished youth with a mentally ill mother, put herself through Columbia, and become an elite Manhattan architect. Her surpluses of wit and vision trump the efforts of her silver-spooned colleagues to stifle her rise.

But her vision comes with a price. Second guessing the ‘realness’ of her relationship with her documentary film maker fiancée Saraub, she moves into The Breviary, a historic New York apartment building. The Breviary stands as one of the few remaining examples of an enigmatic school of architecture called Chaotic Naturalism. At first the move looks like an effort to find herself. She picks up on the building’s details, its ornate windows, strangely slanted walls, and the beauty of its impractical mathematics.

The building itself, however, has other plans. With tasteful nods to The Haunting of Hill House, The Shining, Poe, Lovecraft, and any who have built on the conventions of the haunted house story, Audrey’s Door unveils an excruciatingly detailed parallel between the breakdown of the mind and the breakdown of a dwelling. Audrey begins to have grotesque visions of the building’s wealthy and decaying denizens. She also suffers from an assault of memories of her former life in trailer parks and her mother’s bizarre version of an illness that appears to be a mix of formication and delusional parasitosis (being perpetually pursued by swarms of ants).

With a sense of imagery matching the most exquisite of Damien Hirst’s sculptures of glass encased guts, Audrey’s Door offers an intimidating portrait of the high price of the mind’s failure. The gruesome face of ruined potential stares at us through the window of Audrey’s step-by-step breakdown. The author delivers it all in a setting skillfully wrought with intimate details of daily life in New York City. While attempting to overcome major obstacles, Audrey finds herself simultaneously harried by the minor problems we don’t often see in more romanticized versions of the city. It’s one thing to get attacked by the bloody-faced dead. It’s another to ride on the subway, be subject to a spilling, barfing, sweating, fabric-and-flesh-rending daily commute, and then have to come home and still deal with the bloody-faced dead.

Without spoiling too much of the story arc, I will only say that the resolution of the novel’s narrative puts an original twist on the haunted house’s eternal thirst for implosion. Depth of character combined with the ability to stare eye to eye with emotional bleakness earns Audrey’s Door a place among the best of American ghost stories.

Christmas in Manhattan

Christmas in Manhattan

’Twas on Christmas morning, after working all night
I walked through New York City, and to my great fright

I found that although it’s not normally so,
the whiskey bars were all closed, oh where would I go?

The “city that never sleeps” stood silent and gray,
the garbage lay heaped while the rats munched away.

Two hours before in-laws, kids, presents galore
I had a small bit of me-time, mere dight, naught more—

No diner was open, no tapas, no dimsum,
no hookah, no dancah, no crack-blinded vixen—

At least from the bodega’s Christmas Eve sale
I’d bought two cans of Foster’s (some loosely call ale).

“Alas,” I sighed as I drank the beer in,
“I wish it was bourbon, but at least it’s not gin.”

Then who should step out of Port Authority’s glow,
A white bearded man with a shiny red nose—

His dress looked quite odd, old fashioned and furry,
with a sack on his back and laughter all slurry.

Is he real, I wondered, or perhaps a he’s a ghost—
“Allen Ginsberg!” I cried, and gave him a toast.

“No dice,” he answered. “Just down on my luck.
Just an old homeless vet. You got a buck?”

Whether truth or a lie there was no way to tell,
then I shrugged, cracked a beer and said, “What the hell.”

I handed it over, he gave me a smoke,
“So much for sleepless,” I said. “What a joke.”

“Maybe,” he said. He puffed, then he whispered,
“Around here sleepless means something a little bit different.”

He pointed then upward, through the gloom and the blur,
spoke he again with a deepening slur:

“The high rises loom like dark marionettes,
carving lies into hungers upon streets that are DEAD.”

Ho! Ho! Ho! MERRY CHRISTMAS!!

New Edition: SLASH OF CRIMSON AND OTHER STORIES with Charon Coin Press

Returning from the woods always inspires an increased thirst for writing. I am quenching it daily by working on the manuscript for a new novelette. I am announcing here, however, that my novella Slash of Crimson, originally published in 2012 by Rymfire Books, will be released in a new edition, along with a substantial number of shorter works, as Slash of Crimson and Other Stories, by Charon Coin press.

I’m excited to be working with a new publisher, and have this definitive edition produced by Charon Coin founder Jerry Benns and editor Margie Colton. This expanded release will be twice the length of the original, with the new material comprising the novelette and a substantial list of fresh short stories. I invite any reader who loves headily high-octane horror, full of gruesome action coupled with erotic allure, to give Slash of Crimson and Other Stories a try.

For the release date we are currently looking at spring 2015, however, I will keep the blog updated as the editing process nears completion. I hope the new stories will be as enjoyable to read as they were to write, and also serve well as a prelude to several full length novels in the The Crimes of Heaven and Hell series that will follow.

Review: Tales of Jack the Ripper

What better day to reanimate The Crimes of Heaven and Hell than Halloween 2014? I’m excited to have an announcement regarding the series to post soon, and of course, many new reviews. So, without further ado, let’s rock the darkness with a review of Ross Lockhart’s Tales of Jack the Ripper:

Jack the Ripper—the name claims one of our culture’s eternal enigmas, at first calling to mind images almost innocent, a magician-like figure in a top hat, almost campy enough for a neighborhood Halloween costume. Almost—because in a time when the Internet (a term itself becoming as problematic and borderline anachronistic as “TV”) makes every image that ever existed accessible in an instant, the photos of his victims still hold their own on the shock scale. If you’re over 18 and feeling cocky, Google an image search of “Mary Jane Kelly” and you’ll get shredded faces interspersed amongst nineteenth century photos of a woman in a dress along with a few color stills from the movie From Hell. You’ll also get the infamous crime scene image of a torn apart body lying on a bed. An appetizer of organs sits next to it on a side table. You can find all this with the SafeSearch on.

I find it odd that an enigma so deeply stitched into the dark side of popular history hasn’t had even more attention in movies, television, and books. Recently, however, editor Ross Lockhart of Word Horde has revisited the Ripper and his world in his anthology Tales of Jack the Ripper. The anthology brandishes nineteen razor sharp stories (including a few poems) from the horror genre’s most striking authors. With a knack for picking up on good pacing, Lockhart’s editing brings a heart-pounding rhythm to the sequence in which the stories are offered. From the opening poem “Whitechapel Autumn”, to “Silver Kisses”, the poem that is the anthology’s coda, the reader rides the blades of a host of shadowed imaginings about who the Ripper was, is, and may yet be.

All of the anthology’s stories put an original and intriguing spin on the figure of Red Jack. Some even more noteworthy include Ed Kurtz’s Hell Broke Loose, wherein the author explores the possibility of a connection between Jack the Ripper and the early American serial killer, the Servant Girl Annihilator. A major part of its force comes from the author’s skill in painting a historically detailed nineteenth century Austin, contrasting the affluence of the wealthy estate owners with the squalor of the booming red-light district that accompanied the city’s rise. Told from the point of view of a pharmacist’s son with an over fondness for whiskey and uncontrollable obsessions, the story treats the reader to exquisite character development and finely distilled horrific prose.

Another standout is Silvia Moreno Garcia’s Abandon All Flesh, wherein a young teenage girl finds herself enamored with the wax figure of Jack the Ripper in a museum. Her fascination with the murderer accompanies her coming of age and realization that young men are far less than they’re built up to be, with horrific results accompanying her insight.

Although many of the stories delve into the oft asked question about the Ripper’s true identity, a number of them also explore the identities of the victims and the effects of the famous episode’s legacy on future centuries. Laird Barron’s Termination Dust takes the Ripper motif to contemporary Alaska, and Something About Dr. Tumblety, by Patrick Tumblety, explores what life might be like for the infamous murderer’s progeny.

I encourage any fan of horror, history, and historical fiction, to pick up a copy of this killer anthology, well worth the read. As a bonus, check out an original piece of fiction by Lockhart, Pick’s Ghoul.

Blog Tour Interview, C’est Moi!

Here I am nearly a month returned from World Horror Convention 2014 and feeling like I just got back. I met quite a few interesting authors and new friends, and could easily spend all the time between this convention and the next reading and writing about their work. For now, I would like to take the opportunity to respond to a blog tour invitation from author Sydney Leigh. Syd’s quickly become an important professional contact for me, and a good friend. Her work has recently appeared in the anthology Enter at Your Own Risk: The End is the Beginning, edited by Alex Scully and published with Firbolg Publishing. She will also have a review appearing soon in Shroud magazine, and has many other projects and publications in the works. I encourage horror fans to check out her work.

In the meantime, I’ll take this blog invite as a chance to re-introduce what I am up to now with the Crimes of Heaven and Hell series, as well as short stories and other writing projects.

What are you working on?

For new writing projects, I am mostly working on short stories now. This is due in part to my polishing Reigns the Wicked, the first full length novel of the Crimes of Heaven and Hell. Also, I am working on a possible enhanced edition of Slash of Crimson. I’ll announce more on the progress of both projects when the info is available. In the meantime, I’m enjoying trying out new ideas in short story form, experimenting, and submitting. I’m also just on the edge of starting a new, full length novel project, a stand alone horror novel dealing with the strange relationship between ghosts and murderers. Looking forward to getting into the writing rhythm on that as well.

How does you work differ from others in its genre?

My impression from those who have read my work and are familiar with other work in the horror genre is that they find mine both extreme in its violence, yet deep in its concern for character development. This can be a great combination for those who want more breadth and staying power than some work dubbed ‘slasher’ would offer. At the same time, this can put some readers off because there are many who want their slasher simple and like their suspense to preclude the possibility of any blatant violence.

I think there may also be something else different about the way I write. It’s hard to know about the impressions given by your own work, but over time it has come to my attention there might be something different about the way the characters interact. A kind of interplay of emotional and physical cruelty, juxtaposed with the joys and disappointments offered by survival and things the characters first thought of as “victory”–that interplay might be striking a different kind of chord.

Why do you write what you do?

I would say I’m trying to generate a certain kind of feeling in the reader—a mix of excitement, dread, and wonder. As love can be close to hate in that both emotions are extreme, I feel like the thrill of fear can be close to the ecstasy of success (which isn’t always related to survival). The horror genre lends itself well to characters facing these kinds of emotions. I also believe horror is a highly symbolic genre. A zombie ripping somebody to shreds can be an all-purpose balm of catharsis for any workaday problem. Downright therapeutic. I would also add that I unequivocally do not buy into the concept that the art causes the fetish, i.e., I don’t believe that violent works of art make people do violent things. People who already have a problem with violence may latch onto them as a company latches onto a logo—a dictator can co-opt an eagle or a rising sun, or a serial killer can co-opt a zodiac sign, each in the way a car company can use a ram or a jaguar for its branding. But the work of art itself is something else—I write that which is extreme because art is the place to do such in a way that offers insight, and because art can handle extremity.

How does your writing process work?

I try to write every minute of every day. Subtract everything else I am compelled to do from that.

Well, I hope there was something useful to glean in that. I’ll be passing the interview on to author Brent Abell next. Though it is only one person I’m handing it off to, I’m sure Brent, as intense and interesting a character as he is, will more than compensate. I also hope to have a review of the anthology Tales of Jack the Ripper, edited by Ross Lockhart, up soon.