A nice little list of Halloween stories

There is nothing more Halloween than a good scary story.  In fact it is the most Halloween thing there is.  While some of us pretty much treat the entire year like All Hallow’s Eve; October is a fine time to break out the good stuff.  If you happen to be looking for a good book, or short story, to get into the spirit, then here are a few of my suggestions.  Admittedly, a few of these are fairly standard but that’s why they have stood the test of time. (Of course, Night Shall Overtake should be on your list already.  *wink, wink*)

Novels –
Dracula – Bram Stoker : Read it when I was 11 years old and it creeped me out.  Still the standard bearer for the dark and spooky.  Victorian horror at it’s best.

Exorcist – William Peter Blatty: One of the few books I have ever read, finished, and them immediately turned back to the first page and read it again.  Everything you could possibly want in good horror.

Lost Souls & Drawing Blood – Poppy Brite: Poppy Brite (now Billy Martin) published these two novels full of sex, drugs, and music that profoundly influenced me in so many ways.  Both of these novels, while completely separate stories, usually get read together when I pick them up. Bloody and dangerous, these aren’t your daddy’s horror.

Let the Right One In – John Ajvide Lindqvist: Stark, cold, and disturbing.  Set in a cold Norwegian winter, it seems as if the sun never emerges to chase away the dark narrative.  It reminds us that vampires are not always the tortured romantics we’ve had lately. Both movies are worth a watch, but the novel has a texture that makes it nearly impossible to put it down, or forget.

It – Stephen King: Okay, just hear me out.  I know that it is expected now that the movie is out.  While I haven’t seen it yet (and I’m sure I will once it shows up on Netflix) it has to be better than the made-for-tv movie. (no disrespect to Tim Curry who gave a generation of kids a fear of clowns)  The book, however, is one of King’s best. It’s one of the few that would creep me out as a kid, and still do so as an adult.

Something Wicked This Way Comes – Ray Bradbury: Just a fantastic story. Nice and dark with all that Bradbury goodness.  Still a little surprised Disney made a movie out of it.  Both should be a seasonal tradition.

The Damnation Game – Clive Barker: I am such a huge fan of Clive Barker’s writing, it’s slightly absurd.  Most of his writing is more on the side of dark fantastique, but his earlier stuff, like Books of Blood, were great frightfests.  The Damnation Game is a little bit of both and just one hell of a good ride.

Soul Sister – G.W. Wright: Recently finished this novel and it needs to be on a list such as this.  Creepy, dark, and poignant; it’s one that will go quick simply because you will be hard pressed to put it down.

The Horror Squad – T.J. Weeks: My current read (sorry T.J., just now getting to it) and you should be thankful that I put it down long enough to write all this.  It’s fun, bloody, and action-packed. It’s also spawned it’s own series and a comic adaption.

Masterpiece of Terror series – Edited by Marvin Kaye: These anthologies, edited by Marvin Kaye, and often with covers illustrated by Edward Gorey, were my favorites to check out at the library when I was younger.  Stories ranging from Stoker and La Fanu, to more contemporary like Oates and Matheson, filled these with some of my favorite stories ever.  Some editions were just supernatural stories, other more thematic, such as the Devils and Demons edition.  If you can find them, grab them immediately.

The Haunting of Hill House – Shirley Jackson: Do I really need to say anything about this one?  THE classic haunted house story.

Honorable mentions:

The Keep – F. Paul Wilson: Yes, the one they made that very avante-horror movie of in the 80’s.  Nothing like Nazi’s trying to control the supernatural, only to have the tables turned. The story is fairly standard, but the atmosphere is totally worth it.

Servants of Twilight – Dean Koontz: To be honest, I haven’t read this one.  I have it on good authority (my better half, Melody) that it is amazing, creepy, and everything a good horror story should be. Because I trust her taste in the macabre implicitly, I felt this list incomplete without it.

Joyce Carol Oates – Despite her family epics and deep fictions, few realize the Oates can spin a spooky yarn.  She has put out more than a few scary short stories and novels.  Mysteries of Winterthurn and Bellefluer are great novels, or try The Others for shorter fare.

Short stories: (maybe some tales to tell around the bonfire?)

Dracula’s Guest – Bram Stoker: Published posthumously by Stoker’s widow, I can only assume that it was part of an alternate chapter from Dracula that didn’t make the cut. A great gloomy tale of everyone’s favorite vampire. (You might try The Judge’s Guest, by Stoker, as well.  A nice little spine-tingler.)

Carmilla – Sheridan La Fanu: A vampire tale as classic and beloved as Dracula, Carmilla is a delicate and bloody tale that is both subtle and blatant in its LGBT overtones.

The Night Wire – H.F. Arnold: While I’m not sure this is the original, it’s a story that’s been readapted many times.  The classic haunted technology story where the dire warnings come from beyond the grave. (I think Dickens may have started this traditional tale with his ghost story No.1 Branch Line – The Signal-Man. Someone should look into it.)

The Sixth Sentinel – Poppy Brite: From her Wormwood collection, a fun little story of cohabitation from the ghost’s perspective.

Shuggoth’s Old Peculiar – Neil Gaiman: A properly slimy and dank nod to H.P. Lovecraft.

The Yattering and Jack – Clive Barker: Squaring off with a demon isn’t all fun and games.  You’ll find yourself gritting your teeth along with Jack in this man vs. damnation tale.

Dying in Bangkok – Dan Simmons: From the NSFW anthology Little Deaths, this rather adult tale is another take on the vampire that will stick with you.

Those of you who have been paying attention noticed that I haven’t mentioned any stories from Edgar Allen Poe, H.P. Lovecraft, or even Mary Shelly.  That’s because these are givens.  Poe and Shelly should be mandatory for any Halloween reading, in my humble opinion. Lovecraft, though a favorite, isn’t for everyone.

So there we are, a few suggestions for some October reading.  While not even close to complete, it’s a good place to start. Check out my book review page as well.  There are even more suggestions there.  Happy (spooky) reading!

Remember kids: stay in school, don’t drink and drive, and read something that scares you.

 

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Lessons learned from a positive review

I’d like to post a review I received a while back and then discuss it for a moment.

(Reprinted with permission)


  •  Pale Winter Sun

    Intriguing, unique, distinctive

    4.4 stars

    Mick Collins’ book Pale Winter Sun synopsis from Good reads:

    Isolation in the cold of winter. That’s all Mark Jensen has as he fights to survive.

    Living in the small Mormon community of Grason, Idaho, Mark and his best

    friend Trevor have no one but themselves. Both are shunned from their families

    for simply trying to live open and honestly as homosexual. Cold and queer, the

    boys make do with what little they can, counting on no one but themselves in

    the stark Idaho countryside.

    Mark’s struggles increase when he becomes afraid of confiding in his last

    friend. The growing realization that he is bisexual confuses and conflicts him.

    It leaves him feeling more alone than ever. Friendships are redefined and

    stretched to the limit as the two young men scratch by and they ask

    themselves; can they survive each other?

     

    It is very rare to read a book that strays from the normal plotline. Collins’ book

    was definitely different from what I normally read, but it was a breath of fresh

    air. The daily struggles the characters face places ideas in a new perspective.

  • People in similar situations as the characters share the same feelings and

    conflicts. To be able to experience that through the characters was intriguing.

    For the most part, people do not realize the struggle that comes for being a

    homosexual. Collins’ was able to show the internal conflict not only between

    the character relationships, but also the individual themselves. The atmosphere

    of the book (winter, cold, isolation) compares with the feelings of the two main

    characters. They are considered queer, people are cold toward them, and they

    feel isolated from their community. The storyline was unique and it made it

    stand out. Mark was a strong character in the book. He stayed true to himself

    and it stood out throughout the book.

    The reason it did not get 5 stars was due to the writing itself. The writing style

    was not as refined as some other books, but there is emotion and the message

    is clear. If the writing style was more fine-tuned, then the book would have

    been even more captivating.

    Emma Hall (The Kindle Book Review)

    The Kindle Book Review received a free copy of this book for an

    independent, fair, and honest review. We are not associated with the

    author or Amazon.


Ms. Hall wasn’t able to post this to Amazon because it someone from the Kindle Book Review already posted one, apparently.  Amazon (wisely) won’t let me post it under my own name, so I am posting it here. Which does kinda suck, because I lost a few reviews when I uploaded a new edition a couple months ago.

(Updated – the review has been posted to Amazon.  Thanks to G.W. Wright for showing me what to do)

Sales haven’t been great, especially since the new edition came out, and that is partially my fault.  I haven’t been pushing it much, mainly due to work and trying to get over this damned cold. But then again, sales for books, especially self pubs, are down anyway. I have already put in some time to find new and exciting ways to get the word out, but that takes time and money.  I am stock piling both so I can do it right. That includes a push to get the book into libraries and local stores in Allentown.  I’ll keep you fine folks posted on that as developments happen.

Back to the review:
This review is indicative of a common thread I have come across with Pale Winter Sun.  The message, the story, and the characters are engaging and on point. The narrative isn’t typical to the genre and the overall feel of the story is of isolation. Mark and Trevor’s struggle are not trivialized, and Mark’s journey especially, is clear.

This is what I wanted.  I wanted the points to be clear, non-cliched, and the story to be interesting.  I feel that is mission accomplished.  Go me!

….but…

The other common thread is that the writing lacks.  I had hoped that getting it edited again would relieve that particular problem.  And while it was much needed and certainly helped immensely, it didn’t solve it completely.  And if you know writers, a ship full of compliments can sink with one tiny raft of critisism.  We writers are an emotionally unstable and touchy lot.  So yeah, the last bit kinda bummed me out.  I try not to stay down long, or dwell on the negative, despite my proclivity to so exactly that.  Hell, if a lifetime of battling depression has taught me one thing it is DON’T FEED THE BEAST.

I stood back and looked at this review, and other feedback I’ve received, and put it into perspective. When I wrote PWS, it was message driven.  I had a point to make, dammit, and I was going to make it.  Well that’s great, but in doing so, I let my writing of said message suffer. Another thing I realized; I have only published two books and a few short stories.  Night Shall Overtake was picked up by the first publisher I sent it to. To be honest, I didn’t really expect it to get published in the first place.  Really, I decided to test the field with it while trying to hammer out another project.  While amazing and awesome, it also spoiled me.  Thankful as I am, I’m sure there would have been lessons to learn had I needed to work at getting it published more than I did.  PWS being self published, I think those lack of lessons hurt in terms of the strength of how it is written.

Being the pragmatist that I am, I had to think about what I was going to do about all this. PWS will probably not go though a third edition any time soon.  I’ve too many other projects on the burner right now.  And honestly, I haven’t the heart to rip it apart one more time. (and maybe I’m just a little bit lazy, too) If my writing lacks a little, but the story still holds up, I’ll take it and go with that for now.  I still think it’s a book that can help kids, and parents, dealing with gender, identity, sexuality, and all the components that make up a family.

If PWS is staying put, then where am I employing these learned lessons? The future of course, or really, the present.  Current projects are under severe scrutiny and retooling.  I am still trying to find my voice and become a better writer.  A task that will never end, most likely.  If I focused too much on story, and not enough on style, then I will work hard to get my style down.  Hopping genres probably didn’t help the issue either.  My next novel, A Geography of Purgatory(working title), is back to the dark and gritty and I think it’s the perfect chance to really find myself as the writer I can be. As someone who takes such things seriously, I owe it to myself.  I also feel that I owe it to anyone who decides to take a chance on one of my books.  There is a godawful amount to stuff to read out there, if they do pick up something of mine, I want to make damned sure it’s worth their time.

In case you are wondering: I have no time lines on Geography as it’s still out to the beta readers, but I’ll keep you posted. Going to try the standard publisher route again, then if that doesn’t pan out, I’ll self pub. At least that’s the current plan.

tl;dr – Writer gets a good review, then whines about it.  In the end he learns a very important lesson.

Remember kids: Stay in school, don’t drink and drive, and mistakes are good as long as you learn something from it.

 

 

 

News of the World (or at least my world)

As I start my collection of rejection letters for Pale Winter Sun, I am happy to say that at least my short stories are tantalizing the eyes of discerning readers.  This week my story Washing Blood With Blood has been published on the recently relaunched website The Carnage Conservatory.  It’s a dark and dreary story that was posted along with other really great stories so I strongly urge you to check it out.  (I’ll know if you don’t and give you that same sort of disappointed look you hate to see on your parents face)

Another piece of good news is that my story Start Again will be published in the upcoming Shadows and Light Anthology.  That one will be available in September.  It is a little ghost story inspired by creepy apartment buildings I have loved before.  While you are waiting for that you can always check out my work in an edition from last year here.

I’m tinkering away at a sequel for Night Shall Overtake, and it’s coming together well but stubbornly.  And I’m still working on the same dark ghost story that I’ve been hacking away at for the last decade.  (You may think it will wind up being a massive tome after all this time but don’t forget that the delete button is the genocide of writing.)

Next bit of news:

I am now a part of the Bicast!  I’ve been a supporter of the Bicast almost since the beginning and very pleased to work with these amazing people.  Last year I did a Tit for Tat Session with Lynnette and she has the distinction of being the first guest on my own show The Headphone Bleed. I’m looking forward to working and helping the Bi community, something that I have done little to nothing about in the past. Time for my anti-social ass to actual do some good in the world instead of shaking my angry fist in the air and think that will somehow make things change.

And speaking of The Headphone Bleed, I’m finally getting around to having more guests and whatnot.  I’m working on getting a few folks on at the moment.  I will say right now that if you or someone you know would be interested in being a guest on the show, drop me a line at funkyhorror42@yahoo.com and I would love to include you on the show.  Whether you are a musician, artist, writer, just some random person, or whatever; I would like to bring you on.  We’ll laugh we’ll cry, we’ll listen to music.

Remember kids: stay in school, don’t drink and drive, and groove is in the heart.

 

 

 

I always was partial to June.

It’s out!

My first published work is finally been released to let the world do with it what it will.  Night Shall Overtake, published by Black Bed Sheet Books, is now available where ever the hell you get your reading material.  And, coincedentally, my second published work is also out.  My story ‘Possession’ is included in the current issue of Shadows & Light anthology, so you can read that one as well.  And you should because it has a lot of fine authors in it.

It’s a pretty damn good feeling, right now.  A life long dream come true.  Twice, even.

Getting it published is the first step.  Now to try and sell the damn thing.  I’ll be the first to admit, it’s a strange little story and not terribly conventional.  It’s not quite horror, not quite detective story, and deinfinitely not for the kids.   As Nick put it,  ‘a thrilling whodunnit creaturefest.’ I think he pinned it.  Has a nice ring to it, right?

A big thanks to all the folks who helped hammer it into shape.  And even more so to my long-suffering family and roommates who have had to deal with my crazy ass throughout.    If I wasn’t holed up writing, I was sitting around grumpy because I should have been writing.  Not that it’s any different now.

You have no idea how many times I’ve heard this as I emerged from the computer. My roommates think they are just Hil-ar-ious.

 

Below are all the fine internet establishments that you can find both stories at.  I’ll be pushing to get physical copies in physical stores and will keep you updated on that.  Of course, you could help a writer out by having your local book store put one or two on the shelf.  (I’m giving you puppy dogs eyes right now)

Anyone with a blog, website, radio show, or major television network; I’m totally willing to whore myself out and trade reviews, interviews, and shameless plugs if you are.  Whatever it takes to get the word out that this strange tale of crime, creatures, and creepiness is something the people need to read.

Of course now that NSO is out, I can’t let myself get lazy on my next projects. (Too late!)  My very much not-a-horror-story story about two youth’s struggle with ostracization and survival on their own is coming along swimmingly and probably my next book.  The ghost story is on hiatus right now, but certainly not forgotten.  The pile of notes I keep making for it is getting bigger and quite possibly a fire hazard.

Life is good.

Night Shall Overtake Links:

Black Bed Sheet Store(print) , BBS(digital)Amazon

Shadows & Light Links:

Createspace, Amazon(digital)

Remeber kids: stay in school, don’t drink and drive, and do a little dance-make a little love-get down tonight.

It’s only Rock and Roll, but I like it.

I woke up this morning with a burning desire to write another post.  It was a consuming need and felt like the fate of the world depended on it.  The world waited until after coffee. Then I sat down and wrote a long and deeply personal post.  I revealed a lot about who I am and I mused on deeply personal feelings and demons that I wrestle daily.  I delved into worries and fears that even those closest to me are unaware.  In some way it was cathartic writing it all down, ready to share it with whomever decided to read it.  But then I highlighted it all and hit the delete button.

Catharsis gone.

I still feel kind of like a dick for erasing it.  Even more so for giving into my weaknesses by cramming it all back into its box and locking it up.  As I write this, I’ve got my headphones on and set to shuffle. It brought up Queens of the Stone Age’s Fairweather Friends and it washes away a little of this feeling. (Not because of any fairweather friends, but because its just a great song) With it is a reminder that music is one of the things that I feel so passionately about.  One of the most important pieces of myself.  It’s also my drug.  It’s the heroin I take to hide from having to deal with the really hard stuff.  It washes over me like a wave of euphoria, my speakers are a needle in the arm.  The guitar/bass/drums/vocals are my boyfriend or girlfriend for those amazing minutes.  A riff is an orgasm, a drum fill is foreplay, a tasty bass line is beautiful afterglow.  I can feel this immaculate gorgeousness instead.

But then there is the brutal reminder.  Shuffle just popped up Johnny Cash’s version of Hurt.  Don’t get me wrong, the Nine Inch Nails original is still an emotional powerhouse.  But then Johnny’s bare guitar and shaking vocals start and just rip all that shit out I ignore out.  The song is physically painful in its beauty.  I literally can’t listen to it in public because it leaves me in tatters.  It makes me have to deal with my bullshit.

Okay, I’ll admit it, I’ve cried on the shoulder of a guitar solo more than once.

That’s the essence of music though.  It gives us a more physical texture to our emotions.  Because of this I try hard not to be a musical snob.  Who am I to say what a person feels or doesn’t feel to even the most trite of pop tunes. Though the popularity of certain songs makes me wonder if some people are really as shallow as they appear.  I suppose it can be argued that all music is honest and it’s how you listen to it, but I’m enough of a musician to know that’s bullshit.  Some of it is just repolished and repackaged turds.

In this spirit, I present the below.  I submitted this story to a contest (it didn’t win).  I think it could still use a little work, but I’m posting it anyway.  Back when I was playing bass and taking names, I used to say that if you were to cut me I would bleed rock and roll. I said it because it was witty, but there is truth in it.  In those flying guitars and thunderous rhythms are pieces of me.  Balls out, raw and gritty, unflinching rawk was my inspiration for this story.  As well as the freedom, honesty, and essences of life it contains.  Enjoy.

Rock and Roll

“Why are you so sad all the time, Will?” Sherry asked him. Her bright blue eyes held a caring and concern that normally would soothe him. But this time they couldn’t, her wholesome and safe care was not enough. She couldn’t give him what he wanted; only what she thought he needed. There was a purity to her that tasted like homegrown Jesus and lip gloss. He cared for her and they had been making teenage plans for themselves pending adulthood. Instead of hopeful anticipation it grew a despondency in him; a listless and fidgety energy that left him sullen and short with those around him. The dry and unusually oppressive summer, was slowly turning to fall, only sense of relief that could be found. But as Sherry followed him down the faded grey asphalt road he looked around and realized that even the fall wouldn’t be an adequate balm. Brown dirt, brown weeds, brown buildings, even the blue sky had brown eyes. Fall would come on drab, leading to a bleaker winter.

He made an involuntary sound at the back of his throat. If I’m still here in the winter, I might just go crazy, he thought, and I would embrace the insanity. Sherry gave him a concerned look, as if able to read his mind, but he didn’t acknowledge it. Whatever troubled him wouldn’t allow him to face her. As if he had a devil inside that winced away from her innocent light. A mile or so ahead was town, such that it was. It was no more than a few criss-crossing streets where everybody knows your family, your name, and your business. Old trucks and out of date sedans that never went anywhere drooped in front of red brick buildings. They just moved the same abbreviated routes and would for time immemorial, like in a time loop. The same people doing the same things until the universe itself finally just gives up on them.

“Do you ever want to just leave?” he asked so abruptly and suddenly, Sherry looked a little scared.

“Sure, someday,” she started tentatively. “I want to see things; visit the city.”

“I mean right now. What if we take this road and just keep going. Just keep walking until this is all too far behind us to come back. Never stop.” he said pointed forward past the road that eventually dipped out of sight.

“You mean never come back?”

“Yeah, just go. Don’t look back and see what the rest of the world looks like. We can go visit a hundred cities.”

“Our family and friends are here. I just want to visit places, but this is home. It’s safe here.” She said earnestly.

“To hell with safe,” he blurted out. Anger was rising in him, but it wasn’t directed at her, it was nameless and detached.

“You should see Reverend Parker.” Her voice betrayed her fear. She had never seen him like this. They lived in the cusp of transition, not quite adults but too far beyond children. All friends and lovers held the faceless fear of their companions growing in a different direction than themselves. This is what made her so uneasy; if he outgrew their home he outgrew her as well.

“I don’t think one of his trite monotone homilies is what I need.” he tried not to sound bitter as they continued down the lonely road. It didn’t matter how far he walked, it was always just a circle. All roads led back here. Sherry lagged behind, unable to match his pace.

“You aren’t thinking of running away, are you Will?” she asked quietly, catching up with him in front of a feed store.

“No,” he answered hiding the sound of defeat. He felt his youth wasting away at that simple word. It was a lie. He had thought about it but didn’t have a direction to run to. Or the balls. This little hick town had instilled a failsafe in its population. It whispered how scary the real world was and to venture too far into it would swallow you up. Some left and they were never seen again, validating that fear. Others left and came back; praising just how much better it was to be back home. They had made it as far as the corner drug store as the evening sun was settling in to release its lasts bursts of incredible light before giving up until another day. A breeze lazily drifted by them, playing with a bright yellow paper. He grabbed it and studied it.

“What’s that?” she asked peering over his shoulder. The over Xeroxed picture was almost a black blob. They strained to make out four yellow and black figures standing in determined poses. They held their guitars as weapons, their sneers were shields. His heart took an extra beat, they looked menacing, dangerous, but more importantly, they looked like freedom. A sloppy hand-drawn logo held a name of dark promise; King Blowtorch.   Will looked up the sleepy road and saw a strange vehicle parked out at Millar’s barn.

Millar’s barn was where every dance, ho-down, and revival happened. Saturday night could be a night of swinging dance and old Millar’s expert banjo, and then Sunday morning it was the Evangelist from the next county selling Jesus’ love like snake oil. Without a second thought, he walked towards it. His only care now was to find the origin of this flier and the devil’s promise that it held.

“I’m going home,” Sherry said, a little scared. “Are you going to walk with me?”

“Yeah sure,” he mumbled not really hearing her and not changing direction. Silently she disappeared. The setting sun was blinding as he approached the dusty barn where a road-weary van rested surrounded by dead grass and powdery dirt. A squat hairy man emerged, his arms full of coiled cables. He wore a sleeveless shirt and torn jeans. The curious teenager saw the tattoos on his bare arms, a riot of writhing ink and color. The painted figures were such a stark contrast to the drab surroundings and he wondered if the man was there at all. The man gave him a cursory glance as he passed. All Will could do was hold out the flyer to him.

“Show starts in an hour. It’s going to get loud around her.” His scraggly beard opened to reveal a toothy grin. “Rock and roll, man.” he said as way of explanation and went back to his work. Dazed, Will turned around and plopped down against a nearby telephone pole.

Rock and roll! The raggedy man confirmed what the flyer promised; Rock and Roll! “Will watched the procession of instruments parade from the cramped van. His excitement built as the large kick drum appeared. The same name in the same lettering as the cheap handbill was emblazoned across it.

“So what is it?” Sherry said, making him jump. He hadn’t heard her approach. She wore a look of determination that told him she was going to go along with his foolishness, if only to make sure he didn’t get into too much trouble.

“Rock and Roll,” he told her and held up the yellow flyer that he had yet to let go of. “They should be starting soon.”

As if others had heard him, people started to show up. They parked their rusty cars and hand-me-down pick-ups in the dead field next to the barn. They tentatively disappeared inside. Random hits of the drums and an occasional jangling cord slipped out. Finally they followed, Sherry a step behind. The curious locals, mainly kids he went to school with, were milling about and laughing amongst themselves. He couldn’t shake the feeling that they had no idea what no one here knew what they were in for. The small wooden stage held the vision of anticipation, stacks of speakers, some battered and scarred guitars, and a wounded looking drum kit.   After a few minutes the same squat man stepped up to the stage and tapped the microphone.

“Testing! 1…2…3!” His voice echoed and raised dust.

“Too loud.” said a future homecoming king. The man looked him dead in the eye and gave him that same toothy grin; only this time it was something more menacing about it.

“If you want to go home, it’s okay.” he said to the wholesome girl clinging to the boy. “It’s your last chance to get out while you can.” She shook her head and squeezed her boyfriend’s hand..

Then they appeared. Black boots and torn Converses led them to their instruments. The band was a mess of black and badly dyed hair, their t-shirts stretched and worn with names and faces no one recognized. They slung on and wore their instruments as if they were a part of their bodies. Nothing so pedestrian as an arm, maybe their heart, or their soul. For a brief moment they all looked at each other and something unspoken and powerful was communicated between them. Nothing was said, but Will could feel it. Before him was a troupe of devils about to fulfill a promise of sweet hell. The muddy blonde singer and the guitarist were skinny, covered in road and ink. The bassist loomed on the stage like a scary sentinel. The squat hairy man took up sticks and sat behind the drums.

Sherry clung to him, but she had already been forgotten.

The singer brandished her pick and looked him straight in the eye, daring him. She raked the pick across the strings and his entire being filled with The Sound. The world went deaf at that moment and he died. He was in limbo, he was an amoeba and formless. Then she did it again, changing chords allowed him to be reborn. Reborn into the world naked and screaming, but this time he was born a god instead of as the smitten.

The band screamed and howled; jumped and gyrated. Carelessly instruments swung around, broken drumsticks came at the audience like shrapnel while the sound assaulted. Song after song; notes and chords and beats wrapped him up and spit him out only to chew him up again. These dark wizards threw their entire bodies and souls into the music; deft finger flew across the neck of their guitars producing progressions of sound he didn’t know were possible. His heartbeat was replaced with the bass drum and feared if it ever stopped then he might die. The excitement of that idea spurred him on as he clung on to the driving beat.   He yelled until his voice was raw to lyrics he didn’t even know. It was a demon’s lullaby being blasted out and he was gladly standing at the gates of hell.

He wanted to weep from rage and joy from the noise that smelled like sex and felt like redemption. It lit the soul on fire as he began to outgrow his skin. The already miniscule crowd had shrunk to just a brave few, trying to withstand the onslaught a little longer. For their reward they received evil sneers. The music was a dare, the crunching guitars and the punishing bass lines were a warning to those who valued their purity. But the opposite was happening to him, he felt pure for the first time. In the blanket of fuzz and volume he felt like he was home. This was what sex felt like without ever touching another human being. Time didn’t belong here so there was no need to keep track of it. He had no idea when Sherry had left his side. Her virtue and innocence would have never lasted long here.

While the band threw themselves around the stage, sweet sweat and raw emotion clung to every surface. Will clung to the front of it soaking in every decibel until the last note rang out and a muted silence brought back the rest of the world. He was disappointed, like a junkie he desperately wanted more. He feared he would be nothing but a walking husk without it. Ears rang and head ached but his mind never seemed so clear. The drummer stood up and winked at him. “Looks like you’re the only one we couldn’t scare off.” Turning he saw no one else. The others had run and hidden from a power they never would be able to understand.

Unceremoniously, they began gathering their equipment and rolling cords. All he could do was stand there stupidly. Fear rooted him to the spot because he couldn’t let them go, not now. Not after all that they have done to him, the newfound awareness they gave him, they owed him that much.

“Do you need a hand?” he finally asked the scary looking bassist.

“Sure,” he said and pointed at the tall cabinet that had been the transmitter of jarring low end. Eagerly he went to lift it to find it heavy from the weight of its dark quintessence. The bassists laughed and came over to help carry it into the tired looking van. Piece by piece he helped put their equipment inside and each one was both exhilarating and depressing. Once the last instrument was tucked away his saviors would leave and all he would have is the same loss as before.

Once the barn was empty of everything but the memory of sound, he heard the van door slam with aching finality. “Thanks for sticking around until the end.” The guitarist said from behind the wheel.

“Yeah, thanks for….everything.” There wasn’t anything else he could say, they had given him the last part of himself to finally feel complete and they were going to drive off and take it away. “I have never heard anything like that in my life and I want to spend the rest of his life hearing nothing but that. If I were to fall down dead right now, I wouldn’t mind. Rock and Roll would bring me back.” The sudden raw honesty burst from his lips and left him shaking. The singer gave him an appraising look that revealed nothing. “Take me with you,” he pleaded. When she didn’t say anything, he turned on his heel and walked away feeling ashamed. Red faced, he pointed myself in the last direction he wanted to go; back.

Will made it as far as the corner before the rumbling van pulled up beside him. The side door slid open and drummer called out, “Well, come on.” Without a second thought he fell into the cramped interior. “You need to stop at home for anything?”

“No. I am home.”

 

Remember kids: stay in school, don’t drink and drive, it can’t rock unless it rolls.

A little dose of ‘Night Shall Overtake’

I’ve just a few updates and then a small treat.

First off, I am happy to announce that my story ‘Possession’ will be published in the upcoming issue of Shadows & Light magazine. You can look for it this July in both digital and print at Amazon.  Everything I ever read in this collaborative anthology has been excellent, so it feels pretty good that  my story was accepted. This is the first short story that I’ve had published and I’m pretty excited about that as well.  It’s taken me a few (okay maybe more than a few) years to get to a point where I think my writing is worth a damn, and then a few more to get off my ass and put it out there.  A testament to things happening when you actually try.  Sitting around and hoping isn’t nearly as productive as actually putting forth the effort.

Secondly I have posted last Saturday’s radio show on the sidebar of the blog.  (Look to your right and scroll down)  I love doing live radio but it would be nice to have the show available anytime.  Every week will be a new show so stay tuned.  Now you have soundtrack while reading this humble little blog, or whatever internet perusing you are doing.  And, as always, catch the real thing every Saturday night at The Headphone Bleed. (For those of you who have yet to experience my weekly live show, it’s two hours of celebrating great music while I attempt you tell lame jokes and talk about whatever.)

Next month my novel, Night Shall Overtake, will be coming out.  And as such, I thought it might be nice to give you a little taste of what is to come.  There is great pride in writing those words ‘my novel…will be coming out’ and even greater pride in being able to share it with everybody.  Enjoy.

Insert fanfare and rejoicing here.

Insert fanfare and rejoicing here.

 

excerpt from Night Shall Overtake

**This part of town began the outskirts of hopelessness. Just beyond it lie the warrens of nightmares and fiends that terrified even those things that go bump in the night. In this dirty and dangerous urban outpost sat a bar. To call it a dive would imply that it could still get worse. It was a home for the outcast and despondent, as well as the desperate, especially the desperate. Invisible tensions brewed in the air, the occupants brewed with it, just waiting for the resulting explosion. Outside the dingy little bar the night was warm and humid and faint sounds of a ruckus could be heard. A stumbling drunk emerged from the dark street and clumsily staggered by as he concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other. He passed unaware of the sounds of strife until the dented and paint chipped door flew open and forcefully knocked him down. The dim light from inside spilled out onto the street as a man spilled out with it and landed hard on the worn and crumbling sidewalk.

“What is your problem?” the man yelled while trying to stand up as a short blonde woman tried to kick at him.

“You’re an asshole, that’s the problem,” she yelled right back. She grabbed at his red flannel shirt but he scrambled just out of her reach.

“Oh, I’m the asshole? You’re the one who is messing around behind my back,” he accused her. Inside the bar patrons were calling out encouragements for the woman to kick him in various parts of his anatomy.

“You know full well what you did, you and your little bitch friend.” The woman hissed quietly. “I know what you two are planning, or should I say what she is planning for you.”

“What the hell is that supposed to mean?” he nervously twisted at his unfortunate mustache knowing full well what she meant.

“That’s the problem with you Richard; you are great at coming up with ideas but too gutless to act them out.” She turned to enter the bar again but he found his feet and grabbed her arm.

“Wait.” He realized it was a mistake as soon as he did it; three large shapes filled the doorway.

“Let her go, man. It’s not worth it,” a guttural voice told him.

“Step back inside here,” another one coaxed, “I want to finish kicking your ass.” Richard looked up and down the dark street. He knew then that he had lost control of the entire situation. All his carefully laid plans and all the allies he had worked so hard to make were in jeopardy.

“Janae, listen. Let’s just talk about this, maybe I overreacted. I was just upset when I found out you were seeing someone else, we can talk about this.” He tried again in a quieter tone.

“Overreacted? It’s like a western saloon fight in there because of you. Did you really think I wouldn’t find out how dispensable I am to you?” From inside the sound of crashes and barroom violence wafted out. “Go to hell, I’m done with you.” The finality in which she said it convinced him of her sincerity. It was because of that sincerity he became more conflicted than before.

“But what about all we put together?   The plan?” he whined.

“Like I said, you can come up with ideas, you just can’t execute them. Maybe it’s time someone actually did something about it.” They stood there for a moment just staring at each other before Richard stepped back and turned on his heel. He knew he was out gunned and if he didn’t leave soon, he probably wasn’t going to live much longer. Finding Meredith is top priority now, she’d know what to do. As he disappeared down the dark street she watched him go and sighed. With all her talk, she felt a little lost as he walked away. It was a fleeting feeling as she sensed the darkness around the door shudder and a vaguely human shaped shadow emerged into the light of the doorway.

“It’s time,” it whispered to her. “We should go.” Another Shade appeared on her other side. Janae looked at them both and put her chin up.

“You’re right. It’s time to make this ours.” She spread her arms out, “We’ll make this all ours.” Together, the three of them walked in the opposite direction and disappeared into their own darkness. Unseen by all of them was another shape hidden, inexplicably, in the dark. It had been there the whole time watching delightedly. It hadn’t planned for tonight’s actions to happen, but cheered that he could at least be a part of it. Yellow-red eyes blinked into existence and stepped forward. The silhouette emerged around them, a hulking and over-muscled outline of hell.

“Good, they are all inside.” Sharp pointed teeth emerged in an evil smile as it stepped into the street and faced the seedy bar. The creature reveled in perverse glee at all the chaos he was about to create. He looked down at the drunk that lay unknown and forgotten from where he had fallen. Our sprawling inebriate had watched the events impassively until he saw the demon emerge. His pants grew warm and wet but it went unnoticed. The demon could smell the fear and urine and it only made him smile larger. “I suggest you go.” At the words, the man scrambled to his feet and bounded away suddenly much more sober than before. He didn’t see the demon’s dance-like movements or hear the muttered words but he did see the street briefly light up around him with an orange light, and felt a hot wind out-race him. He refused to look back; he refused to do anything but keep running.**

 

Stay tuned for more updates as the big day gets closer.

Remember kids: Stay in school, don’t drink and drive, and if you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit.

 

Not the radio you want, but the radio you deserve.

I’ve not much new to report from the wide wide world of writing.  Still pending anything new with Night Shall Overtake and the couple of writing contests that I’ve entered haven’t announced that I won yet. (At least I’m assuming that I won, I mean, why wouldn’t I?  Right?).  The two major projects that I am currently working on are coming along nicely.  One is an atypical ghost story.  It’s a little Barkeresque and taking me on a eerily interesting journey into the cult mind.  Project #2 is a departure from what I usually go on about.  It’s a more serious and poignant story about youth, religion, relationships, and being ostracized.

On top of all the above I’ve thrown myself headlong into a completely different endeavor.  Radio.  I’ve always wanted to be a radio DJ and thanks to our best friend, the internet, I’ve put together a radio show.  Music will always be the great soother of beasts and the mover of hearts and asses.  I don’t claim to have the greatest tastes in music, but I’m am a fierce supporter of sharing wonderfulness.  And I do like exposing myself and others.  (To music)

Life is too short for crappy music.  

So without further ado I shall formally announce the creation of Saint Zero’s Headphone Bleed.  The debut show will be Saturday, Feb 15, 9 pm (cst) at http://myradiostream.com/saintzero.  It’s a no frills mayhem induced show that will feature a wide variety of music and genre’s.  They will be rock.  There will be roll.  There will also be blues, and jazz, and chill, and trip-hop, and hell maybe even polka.  More information and updates can be found via the twittersphere at  @saintzero42.  So please come and listen.  As i get the bugs worked out I will take requests, suggestions, and have fun with people who join in the chat room.

Oh yeah, BTW, there will be a chat room.

Isn’t technology fun?  And if I have anything to do with it, technology will sound a helluva lot better too.

Remember kids: stay in school, don’t drink and drive, and it’s only dirty the first time.