Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Tales of the Shadowmen 14: Coup de Grace Available NOW!

            My contribution to this years Tales of the Shadowmen is a little bit different, as it's not a pulp hero of old or obscure horror film character taking the lead, but rather a real-life figure from history. My story "Hero of Two Worlds" finds the Marquis de Lafayette in his twilight years, crossing the Atlantic to celebrate America's fiftieth anniversary for a grand tour of the country he helped liberate. Being a Shadowmen story, it isn't long before something extraordinary happens, as Lafayette finds himself transported to Mars in a younger body, and eventually runs afoul of certain four-armed, green-skinned creatures that are fond of swords and other sharp-edged weapons. Lafayette was one of those real-life characters whose story would have never been believed had it first appeared in a novel, and getting a chance to play around with his "hero of two worlds" nickname was a hoot and a half.

           In addition to all of that, you get well over a dozen other stories, with authors both new and familiar excavating the most popular (and most obscure) areas of world fiction to bring heroes and villains alike to blows, in the spectacular fashion one has come to expect within the TOTS pages and from the fine folks at Black Coat Press.

           Click on over here and here to order your copy today!

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Best of the MCU: Revised and Expanded

            “Mr. Stark, you’ve just become a part of a larger universe…”

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

A Hap and Leonard Reread: Devil Red (2011)

            Hap and Leonard get spooked in another encounter with a deadly assassin with a quirky name.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

A Hap and Leonard Reread: Vanilla Ride (2009)

            Hap and Leonard take on their deadliest foe yet, a high-rolling assassin for the Dixie mafia.

Monday, July 17, 2017

A Hap and Leonard Reread: Captains Outrageous (2001)

            Hap and Leonard take a vacation, and everything goes smoothly. For maybe the first five seconds…

Sunday, July 16, 2017

A Hap and Leonard Reread: Rumble Tumble (1998)

           Hap and Leonard embark on their most intense adventure yet, as they journey across the border for a deadly rescue operation.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

A Hap and Leonard Reread: Bad Chili (1997)

            Hap and Leonard return for a fourth adventure, this time with murder, grease-stealing operations and a heaping helping of chili… 

Friday, July 14, 2017

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Friday, April 28, 2017

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Alternative Iron Fist

            Still smarting from Netflix/Marvel’s latest debacle? Let us cure what ails you with seven great Iron Fist stories from the comics…

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Wachowski Reloaded, Part 9: Cloud Atlas

            Part 9, in which the Wachowskis tackle their most ambitious project yet. Which is really saying something…

Monday, March 6, 2017

Wachowski Reloaded, Part 8: Speed Racer

            Part 8, in which the Wachowskis tell everyone else to get that weak shit off their track…

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Friday, March 3, 2017

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Wachowski Reloaded, Part 3: The Matrix

            Part 3, in which the Wachowskis drag us kicking and screaming into the 21st century with this landmark film...

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Wachowski Reloaded, Part 2: Bound

           Part 2, in which the siblings burst onto the scene like an atom bomb with their directorial debut...

Monday, February 27, 2017

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Mares in the Night Author's Notes: "Massive Blood Loss"

Massive Blood Loss

            It's a strange and morbid thing to say, but suicide has followed me around for much of my life. Which is not to say that I've ever had suicidal thoughts--as low as I've felt at times, the thought has never once entered my own head, thankfully. But several of my friends and family suffer from mental illness, and have been plagued by such thoughts at one time or another. A few have even made the attempt. In 2011, one succeeded.

             This isn't the only to story to deal with the theme, but it is the only one to deal with it head on, which is why it comes at the very end. My handling of the topic here could be read as disrespectful in some way, but that wasn't the intention. Suicide prevention is a very important topic to me, but I didn't want this to be a simple morality play. I wanted to deal with it through the lens of genre, which so often allows me to be more honest about things that happen in the real world, by mere virtue of its unreal nature. Somehow, it frees me up to write more truthfully than if I were to do straight-up autobiography. The fantasy world/hallucination that the main character encounters upon slashing his wrists draws on many elements: classic Moorcock, medieval psychology, the Four Humors, etc., and the more experimental nature of the story allowed me to play around a little bit with style (side note: while it's fun writing in first-person present-tense, it can get tricky if you're not careful. I thought it fit with the immediacy I was trying to achieve in this story, but who knows).

            Of course, all of that is secondary to the entire reason I sat down to write this one in the first place. I suppose it's only human nature to wonder, "What if?", but I could never shake the idea of getting the chance to talk to my friend the moment before he took his own life. I don't know what I would say. It's not like my life is perfect and I have all the answers. But what I eventually arrived at was the best I could come up with, the very last line of this story and the entire collection, and if I could, I'd go back and tell my friend the same:

            "This is not the end."

            Order your copy of Mares in the Night today!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Mares in the Night Author's Notes: "Dark Side of the Heart"

Dark Side of the Heart

            This one didn't come easily, but the idea was yet another that took hold and downright refused to be ignored. It was a rather simple one, at that: basically, take ERB's classic John Carter of Mars and treat him as Kurtz from Heart of Darkness/Apocalypse Now, with a former comrade sent across the stars to properly... deal with him. The actual execution of bringing it to life took a bit more legwork, spanning roughly four years to pound out this single 12,000 story. But the initial idea was so compelling, I wanted to take my time and get it right. 

            Aside from the two most obvious influences, I was also greatly inspired by Norman Spinrad's excellent The Iron Dream, which tells of an alternate history in which Adolf Hitler immigrates to the US after WWI and becomes a pulp science fiction author. Spinrad wrote the novel to illustrate the underlying fascist tendencies present in so many "Boy's Adventure" stories, and that was something I was itching to explore, but reconfigure to fit through the framework of post-9/11/War on Terror anxieties. The title also lent itself to comparisons with the seminal Pink Floyd album, and considering Dark Side of the Moon dealt heavily with coping with a friend's mental illness, it wound up fitting rather nicely with the story's themes. I tried reading it while putting the album on simultaneously, hoping for a little Dark Side of the Rainbow action... I'll leave it up to the reader to decide whether or not that leads to any interesting results.

            Order your copy of Mares in the Night today!

Monday, February 13, 2017

Mares in the Night Author's Notes: "Old Time Radio"

Old-Time Radio

            As you’ve likely noticed by now, I have a deep, abiding love for the old pulp entertainments of the early twentieth century. I don’t know why that is, exactly--I suppose it has something to do with the entertainment of that time containing the roots of what would morph into our modern-day genre fiction. Regardless, once I got the idea of a haunted radio show, it allowed me to scratch a number of different itches.

             The first and foremost was creating my own pulpy, proto-superhero in The Remnant. It’s funny: I suppose all writers get bit by the bug at an early age, when escapism hits us the hardest and we’re especially taken with flights of fancy. But that’s not the reason I’m compelled to write as an adult. Nowadays, it’s because I’ve got something to say, and I need to get it out whenever and however I can. Art is the sharing of a feeling, after all, and I’ve got plenty of those to go around. But still there’s a love for all those silly genres I was so enamored with as a kid, and a desire to play around in those sandboxes, as well. And that’s really what my work boils down to (at least, at this point in my life): eliminating the line between the literary, “This means something more” world and the genre stuff that exists only for its thrills, chills and spills. Blending the pulp with the personal, if you will. Don’t know how often I’m successful in that aim, but it’s always the aim whenever I sit down to start a new project.

            Which brings us to the story itself, and why I was compelled to combine weird superheroes and eyeball-creature zombies with the story of a man so wrapped up in his own grief, he winds up losing everything as a result. I suppose the overriding theme of “Old-Time Radio” is the importance of dealing with grief properly, and making sure it doesn’t swallow your life whole. Time heals all wounds, they say, and you certainly need it to put some distance between you and whatever ailments you’ve already been through or have yet to experience. But you also have to be careful, because time isn’t going to hold its breath for you. Time doesn’t give a rat’s ass whether you’re happy or sad. That son of a bitch races ever towards the finish-line, uncaring and indifferent as to whatever your plight may be. And it’s something that we only have so much of, when you get right down to it.

            Order your copy of Mares in the Night today!

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Mares in the Night Author's Notes: "Sniper at the Gates of Hell"

Sniper at the Gates of Hell

            Sometimes all you need to make a short story is a title. Often as a "writing exercise" (read: procrastination), I'll sit down and start listing what I think would be cool titles for stories. "Sniper at the Gates of Hell" popped up during one such session, and all of a sudden I had an image of a lone sentry posted at the gates of Perdition, charged with picking off the poor souls who thought they had a chance of escaping the fiery pit. It was a striking image, one which led itself rather naturally to the story I wound up writing. Namely: What happens when the sniper posted at the gates of Hell finds the Devil himself next in his cross-hairs?

            The big D has already appeared in an earlier story in the collection, but that was a slightly more grounded portrayal. For this one, I wanted something a little more rock 'n' roll: full-on, Lord of Darkness-styled horns, massive cloven hooves, a pointy tail... the works. The whole story falls in line with such over-the-top visuals and ideas, with Hell and it's denizens consisting of some real Heavy Metal, horror-movie imagery from beginning to end. The ending leaves some tantalizing possibilities for the future, so I wouldn't be too surprised if we don't see any further adventures for Hell's Sniper... but you never know. 

            Order your copy of Mares in the Night today!

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Mares in the Night Author's Notes: "The Man from A.B.Y.S.S."

The Man from A.B.Y.S.S.

             First, the Hollywood, high-concept pitch: “It’s James Bond by way of H.P. Lovecraft!”

            Okay, so now that’s out of the way, we can talk about the real influences for this initial tale featuring the introduction of supernatural superspy Aleister Max. Obviously, Jim Steranko’s Nick Fury was always on my mind, but what I took the most inspiration from was Robert E. Howard’s “Worms of the Earth”--possibly the best pastiche of his friend Lovecraft’s work that Howard ever wrote, which also featured its main character gaining victory over his enemies at a price far too high. Aside from that, there’s a smorgasbord of other influences: Warren Ellis comics, classic John Carpenter, Mike Mignola’s Hellboy, etc.

            When I originally wrote this story, I had grand designs for an entire trilogy of Aleister Max novels, that would start out in the hip spy-fi mold of Steranko, and then take a turn for the trippy and enter a more cosmic, Jim Starlin-esque territory. All these years later, and I haven't written another word for Agent Max outside of this story. It's something I would still like to get around to eventually, but there's so much more I have to write in the meantime...

            Maybe some day.

            Order your copy of Mares in the Night today!

Friday, February 10, 2017

Mares in the Night Author's Notes: "A Meat Most Foul"

A Meat Most Foul

            This one came about through a call for stories that the publisher deemed “dinopunk”--basically a dinosaur story peppered with the trappings of other genre fare. Being lazy and unoriginal, I decided that “Zombie Dinosaurs” was enough to do the trick, but I wasn’t really interested in the zombie aspect so much as I was in fleshing out the dinos and their world. Working out the religious aspects of Cray-gore and his Tyrannosaur tribe was the stuff that really got my engines going, so much so that I wouldn’t be surprised if we get more of the big guy himself on down the line.

            And yes, for those keeping score at home: after all that rigmarole about being sick to death of zombies before, this is the second tale to feature the undead in the collection, and also not the last. It’s not that I hate zombies, but rather the lazy way pop culture keeps shoving them down our throats, as if their mere presence is enough to fill the cheap seats. But the truth is that zombies by themselves are rather boring--it’s what you do with them that make the stories they appear in interesting.

            Order your copy of Mares in the Night today!

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Mares in the Night Author's Notes: "So Long, the Dark"

So Long, the Dark

           Dreams can sometimes provide excellent fodder for stories, as the one that led me to writing this tale will attest. In my original dream, I found myself escaping imprisonment from an old, abandoned church, only to be met with a horrid, albino cat/vampire monstrosity right as I thought I had just gotten away. The story came pretty naturally after that, and also became an excellent vehicle to tackle bloodsuckers in an interesting way without actually using the V-word.

            Most of my life I felt like I’ve been awaiting some great and anxiety-ridden event or another, so I poured all of that into the character of Mason and his situation--so much so that I find the story oddly personal in ways that still surprise me each time I revisit it. My original dream had me unable to escape from the vampire cat-man, and so too was the story to originally to end that way. Personal reasons led me to eventually decide to change that into something that maybe wasn’t a happy ending, but certainly allowed for more possibilities than the singular and final fate of being unable to escape a not-ideal situation.

            Order your copy of Mares in the Night today!

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Mares in the Night Author's Notes: "A Haunting of Hill Creek"

A Haunting of Hill Creek

           You can trace the roots of this story all the way back to me viewing the In Search Of… episode on the Amityville incident one summer morning at the ripe age of seven, which was the subject of just about all my nightmares thereafter. I combined aspects of all those nightmares with little tidbits from other ghost stories that especially freaked me out, and put them all into this one story in the hopes of freaking the reader out just as much.

            The framing story of the old man and the interviewer was added in later drafts, in attempt to give the story more character and try to tie all that rambling ghost nonsense into a nice, thematic bow. If you also see the old man telling the tale as Vincent Price in From a Whisper to a Scream, then I want to be your best friend.

            Order your copy of Mares in the Night today!

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Mares in the NIght Author's Notes: "The Liar, the Thief and the Bastard"

The Liar, the Thief and the Bastard

            Mordecai Jefferson is a bounty hunter character of mine who has shown up a few different times now, but was originally introduced in a western story called “A Noose of Barbed Wire.” I don’t know what it is about westerns, but I never have any problems putting them down on the page. For whatever reason, the genre comes naturally to me, and the bounty killer Mordecai is alarmingly easy to write. This story itself took only a handful of days, and mostly accomplished what I set out to do with it; namely, a tense, sort of “bottle episode”-style mystery in which each character is hiding their own secrets, also in turn playing off of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly with my own little mythology of archetypes to have fun with. I’ll admit that having Mordecai give a large info-dump at the end is not exactly the height of drama, but I do like the idea of him talking the others into shooting themselves because he’s out of ammunition. The most dangerous weapons Mordecai has are his own words.

            Order your copy of Mares in the Night today!

Monday, February 6, 2017

Mares in the Night Author's Notes: "The Sweetest Meat"

The Sweetest Meat

             Sometimes a story can come out of nowhere and surprise its writer just as much as the eventual reader, as this pitch-black tale will attest. I don’t know what dark pit this one sprung out of, but I was equally delighted and horrified with how disturbing it wound up being. I suppose its origins can be traced back to my reading of "The Cask of Amontillado," that famous Poe story about a man being entombed while still alive. But to me, the more interesting story comes after Montressor has walled up his victim and Fortunato must spend the rest of his very short life chained to a wall in a tiny little room. Throw another victim into the mix, and things are bound to get downright anthropophagical in no time. The truth is there is little that frightens me more than being locked up with another human being in a small room with no light, water or food. Hopefully this story will paint a thorough picture as to why.

            Order your copy of Mares in the Night today!

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Mares in the Night Author's Notes: "Scarecrows"


            If you ask me, scarecrows have been wildly under-loved as monsters. There is something inherently creepy about a straw-man who stands motionless in an empty field day-in and day-out, and yet the best the horror world has come up with amounts to a handful of cheapie, DTV movies that are hardly worthy of the scarecrow’s iconic stature. I’ve always had a fondness for those bag-headed straw-men, and have been coming up with scary stories about scarecrows come-to-life for nearly as long as I can remember, so it seemed only appropriate my first collection should have one such tale included.

             But the real inspiration behind this story originates from one night of my childhood, when I was sick with the flu. I remember lying on our living room couch, feeling miserable, when all of a sudden my mother (who I should take a moment here to point out is in fact the sweetest woman on the face of the planet) walked into the room carrying a knife, asking, “Are you ready for your medicine, Nathan?” In my fever-addled mind, I thought for sure that she was going to gut me then and there as I was lying helplessly on the couch. The moment passed just as soon as it had arrived, however, when I saw that she had the knife to cut some pills out of those little plastic trays they’re stored in. But those brief few seconds were some of the most terrifying moments of my young life, and went on to shape the direction of this particular story.

            Order your copy of Mares in the Night today!

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Mares in the Night Author's Notes: "The Deep South"

The Deep South 
             When I was in college taking film and video production classes, we were frequently assigned little short films as projects, 5-10 minute stories that had to adhere to some basic theme, but were otherwise free to do whatever with. Pressed for time and money, I was very quickly trained to come up with small stories on the fly. High-concept pieces that took place all in one setting with no more than 2-3 characters, focusing on ideas that had a big impact, with little room for anything more elaborate than that. It was kind of wonderful.

            The idea of an escaped slave coming across the Devil during his flight through the woods was one such story that I never got around to filming, and so I decided to turn it into a prose story instead. It was one of those ideas that come along every once and a while and just refuse to let you go, when it occurred to me that the Devil himself is a southerner--the ultimate Southerner, really--and the rest of it flowed out of that.

            There’s something about the American South… an unquantifiable, undeniable creepiness that seems to hover over everything like a fog, making the place a haunted region in the truest sense of the word. A land forever scarred by the sins of the past.

            In other words, it is entirely plausible to stumble upon the Devil whilst roaming the southern woods on a quiet evening.

            Order your copy of Mares in the Night today!

Friday, February 3, 2017

Mares in the Night Now in Print

            It took a little longer than expected, but my short story collection Mares in the Night is now available in print. As wonderful as it is to be able to carry around an entire library tucked underneath your arm wherever you go, I will always prefer to read an actual book whenever I can, so having the option of an actual printed book of my first collection is a special treat.

            And while we're talking of special treats, I'll take the moment to announce that for the next thirteen days, I'll be releasing little "Author's Notes" for each of the stories contained within Mares of the Night. I love it when authors do that in their collections, getting to read what their influences were and what was going through their heads at the time, and I even toyed with putting them into my own, but ultimately decided against it. But I'm proud to present them here for your enjoyment, and to hopefully pique your curiosity as to what exactly you'll find within. Look below for my notes on the first story in the collection, and check back here all week to find more!

Zombie: A Love Story

            The original draft of this story featured a husband frantically trying to get back to his wife during a zombie apocalypse, only to realize at the very end that he himself had become one of the walking dead. Coming back to it a few years later and completely and utterly sick of everything "zombie" at that point, I found it thoroughly unremarkable, and proceeded to scrap everything save the title.

            The chief inspiration for the new draft came whilst watching the latest, colorless zombie film (and yes, I know I already said I was sick of them--what do you want from me? I’m a masochist). While the hapless hero ran away from the undead horde, it occurred to me how hilarious it would be if all the zombies suddenly got together in a chorus line and broke out in a little song-and-dance routine. The rest of the story formed itself rather easily around that simple idea, not the least because the act of falling in love seems to go rather well with flesh-ripping.

            Or maybe that’s just me.

            Order your copy of Mares in the Night today!

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