a big tent under a huge umbrella

An excerpt from a recent interview I did with the fantastic Shane Douglas Keene who said of my work in Eidolon Avenue

“I’m just going to tell you what I think really makes these novellas work and what makes me think Jonathan Winn is a brilliant young author. There are two things that really stand out for me. One is that Winn’s characters are fantastic, so incredibly well developed for such short works, and, love em or hate em, they make you feel something, and they make you interested in their fates. The other thing, and this one is huge for me, is that his endings are fucking perfect. Some of the hardest hitting, wickedly horrific finales I’ve ever read. Because of that, the stories stay with you long after you’ve read the last word.”

Now, on to the excerpt!

My stories do trend darker but I absolutely chose to focus on horror. Why? Because it’s limitless. I can be brutal and strange or sly and surprising. Horror is a big tent under a huge umbrella. What other genre can you turn a field of golden grass into something it’s not? Something sinister? Or a simple piece of string into the most horrific of inescapable nightmares? Or have an unexpected tattoo – one the character doesn’t remember getting – come to life, multiply, burrow under the skin and bring bloody retribution fed by guilt and regret? My imagination is allowed to run free when it comes to horror. I’m not sure it’d be that way with other genres.

You can read the rest over here.

 

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endless and forever and constant

Ah, stumbled upon this the other day.  A chat with the titular Martuk . One of my favorite interviews. It ran a few years ago when I was releasing Martuk the Holy: Proseuche, the sequel to Martuk the Holy.

Always loved this one.

***

He glanced around the cafe. Noticed the group of German tourists scanning their maps, a jumble of shopping bags at their feet. The mother chatting on her cell phone, her eyes fixed on the baby sleeping in the stroller. He watched the waitress, an older woman with thick hips and thin arms, as she leaned on the counter. And the young couple tucked away in the corner, their fingers clutching stout porcelain. “I’ve watched the world change,” he said. “Civilations rise and fall. Whole worlds end. Yet it still remains the same. Always the same.”

For a moment, I’d forgotten who he was, this Martuk. Had forgotten about his birth in the sun-blasted Zagros mountains one thousand years before Christ. Had forgotten the centuries he’d seen. The bloody chaos he’d caused and the agony he’d endured. Reminded myself that this was a man who’d had a long life, a long immortality, even before something as unremarkable as a cup of coffee even existed.

I gave him a moment. “If I may, why the second book?” I said. “Why Proseuche? Was it something as simple as the story continuing?”

“Nothing’s that simple.” He finished his espresso in one final swallow, his finger raised to order a second. A small nod from me, and a second finger lifted to indicate two. “Writing doesn’t excorcise the ghosts. It emboldens them.”

“So why write?”

A moment of silence followed by a brief shrug. “Who am I without my ghosts? In this world that changes yet remains the same, they are one of my few constants. Their anger, their rage. Their fear and regret and sorrow. These things, I know them. They are familiar. Even here, even now, they walk with me.

“They are amaranthine. A word I now love, by the way,” he said with a grin. “Endless and forever and constant.”

***

Not only will this push the envelope, it will guild that envelope in gold, hone it to a razors edge and use it in a beautiful & brutal ceremony. It so heavy and beautiful and I loved every moment of it, Martuk is going to strike nerves.”

– Zakk @ The Eyes of Madness

 

Proseuche_Cover-FINAL

Interviews with Eidolon – Colton

To say he was handsome was an understatement.

Of course, I’d seen him on campus. The infamous son of a disgraced Senator. The golden boy banned from the Ivy League and thrown to the almost-but-not-quite community college wolves. A walking myth surrounded in stories.

Torture. Rape. Walk-in freezers that became prisons for unsuspecting girls dazzled by the name. Suicides and heartbreak. Immense cash payouts that silenced tongues, stole words and suffocated any threat of prison time. And at the center of it all stood this gorgeous, notorious, dangerous enigma.

Now this enigma stood in front of me.

My iced coffee sat in front of me, my book to the side, oversized purse on the floor tucked between my feet. The cafe wasn’t full. There was no crowd jostling. Nor was there a need to partner up with a stranger just to find a place to sit. There were tables free. Pockets of privacy to claim, a canopy of ominous clouds and the threat of sudden heavy rain keeping most safely at home.

Yet this “Colton the Cruel” – as one paper had blared in a garish headline during the height of his scandal – stood, coffee in hand, seeking sanctuary and, it appeared, my company.

“May I?” he said before flashing an impossibly white smile, the blue of his eyes damn near mesmerizing.

Intrigued by the Why of this What – him choosing me – I nodded. Besides, if I could get him to sit for an interview, actually get him on-record, not only would a second-year journalism student do what dozens of “real” reporters couldn’t, I’d also prove my dismissive, arrogant, idiot professors wrong.

Hell yes, he can sit with me!

Small talk ensued. An interesting dance that flirted with flirtation, edged back to the predictable safety of the weather, classes, school, life before creeping again toward the hopeful light of imagined kisses and secret fantasies, white teeth flashing, his blue-eyed gaze intense and hungry.

Yeah, this guy was good.

“So, you transferred from-”

He waved my question away. “Eh, no biggie.” A shrug, a sip of coffee, his gaze steady and sure. “Wanted something a bit more intimate. More real.” He returned the coffee cup to its place in front of him, his hands resting on the table, his long fingers pausing within reach of mine.

“You’ve heard about me,” he said. His deep voice was low, the words almost a whisper. “None of it’s true.”

I sipped my own coffee, the ice having long ago melted into a watery, sugary disappointing memory of what coulda-shoulda-woulda been. I avoided his eyes knowing there would be the hint of tears. Convenient vulnerability designed to elicit sympathy.

“What isn’t true?” I said. “I’ve heard a lot, some of it good, some of it a bit more unbelievable.” I slurped from my straw. “So, be more specific. What exactly isn’t true?”

He grinned. “The bad stuff?” Propping his elbows on the table, he leaned forward, rounded shoulders and firm biceps bulging through the short sleeves of his designer shirt. “I like you.” The fingers, once more claiming the middle of the small table and edging closer. “I’d like to see you again.” He ducked his chin to his chest, the eyes lifting to catch and hold mine, a small grin on his lips, the glimmer of an Arctic white smile barely, just barely, peeking through. “If that’s okay.”

I almost laughed. And I was tempted, truly tempted, to allow myself the dangerous dream of being with him. Of tasting those lips, feeling those strong arms around me. The weight of him on top of me, his breath on my cheek. Despite the stories and my friends’ inevitable warnings, part of me found itself thinking ‘Why the hell not?’

“You know, I live nearby,” I heard him saying. “Right around the corner.” His fingers finally touched mine.

That’s when I saw it. The cruelty in the blue. The psychotic savagery in the Arctic white. The threat of harm, perhaps death, in the grip of those long fingers and strong arms. The dark malevolence of the casual charm and carnal need.

All those stories, the myth, the uncatchable enigma, it all suddenly carried the weight of truth.

I quietly pulled my fingers from his. He reached, reconnected. Insisted I receive his unwanted gesture. Here in a public cafe, fellow students scattered among neighboring tables, books out, phones in hand. Baristas lingering at the register. Here in public, he forced me to accept his advances knowing he was immune from consequence. Knowing he, even as an infamous son of a disgraced Senator, was still inoculated from the rules that governed everyone else.

Despite all he’d endured, all the consequences, the very real price he and his family had paid, the ruin and disrepute, he couldn’t stop himself.

He was sick.

I stood. Gathered my bag from the floor and slung it over my shoulder. Spotted the nearby garbage can for the watery latte. Fished the small umbrella from the outer pocket of my purse, my eyes avoiding him.

He’d stood, misinterpreting my actions. Was slugging back the last of his coffee.

“I gotta go,” I said, my hand out for his to shake. “Class.”

Ignoring the gesture, he put his hand on the small of my back as he tried to guide me from the table toward the door.

I resisted. Gave a small smile. “No, no, no, I gotta go.”

“I’ll walk you.” The hand pressed, insisting we leave.

I moved away from it. “No, thank you.” My eyes caught his. Stopped. Held his gaze. Showed me to be defiant and strong. Not to be led or cajoled or controlled. “I’m fine.” A pause. “Some other time, perhaps,” I said, both of us knowing it was a lie.

Outside, a sudden storm pelted the sidewalk.

He laughed, the sound feeling small and unsure despite his small smile. “But I don’t have an umbrella.” Moving close, he tried to press against me.

My hand rose to his chest, stopping him mid-step. “Then you’ll get wet,” I said, my lips not smiling, my tone unapologetic and clear. “You’ll survive.”

And I turned and left, the door closing behind me as, umbrella up, I walked, quickly, truly afraid for the next girl he met, and charmed, and destroyed with his steely blue gaze and perfect smile.

But I was afraid. Haunted by the thought that, between here and his place around the corner, there’d be some innocent, unsuspecting girl with an umbrella eager to save this Prince Charming from the rain.

And, alone in the rain, each calm step moving me further from the nightmare that could’ve been, I wept for her.

***

Learn more about Colton Carryage from “Click” in Eidolon Avenue: The First Feast

***

“Jonathan Winn’s writing is solid and assured, and EIDOLON AVENUE: THE FIRST FEAST is a big, sweeping, fantastical and exotic work that is as engrossing and thrilling as it is disturbing and horrifying. Winn is definitely an author to watch.” – Greg F. Gifune, author THE BLEEDING SEASON

“The strength of Winn’s writing is the excellent characterization – the unusual inhabitants of those five apartments are the stories. Put a magnet on a note with Jonathan Winn’s name underlined on the fridge, then watch for his byline. Recommended.” — Gene O’Neill, THE CAL WILD CHRONICLES, THE HITCHHIKING EFFECT, AT THE LAZY K

 

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Interviews with Eidolon – Lucky

Although the day was sunny, she’d led me to one of the cafe’s darker corners, the small rectangle of scuffed wood between us holding our tea, a carousel of sugar packets and my elbows.

Hers stayed by her side, her hands, I imagine, folded neatly in her lap.

“Call my Lucky,” she said when I first approached her days ago.

Even though we lived on different streets, I’d seen her in the neighborhood, back straight, head held high, chin up. Her stride perfectly even and smooth. Regal.

Older, Asian and simply dressed, she carried with her a feeling of calm and, I suspected, a lifetime of stories. Not too surprising considering most who found themselves living in this part of town only did so after a lifetime of stumbles, reversals and outright disasters.

This short strip of cracked and crumbling concrete known as Eidolon Avenue was a place where you died or came to hide. There were no futures to be found here.

So I’d approached. Suggested an interview. Nothing big. Really just something to stretch those wannabe-journalist muscles in me, my brain eager to distance itself from homework and move closer to real life people with real life tales to tell.

It’d be one question, I’d explained. A simple one that, on the surface, seemed easy to answer but, once looked at, considered, turned over, pulled apart, became more complicated than it first seemed:

What’s your biggest regret?

Lucky grinned, her thin lips lifting at the corners, the wrinkles around her eyes deepening. Her gaze left mine to scan the narrow room. Drifted toward the two waiters lounging by the register. The ding-ding of the door as a man in a business suit strode in. The other couple who’d claimed their own dark corner, their voices whispers, their heads low as they lingered over coffees, thick porcelain plates picked clean and shoved to the side.

“My biggest regret,” she then said. Her eyes returned to me. I sat up straighter. Wanted to sip my tea but feared seeming impolite. She stared, pondering the question, I suspected. Sifted through the decades of her life to land on that one thing she wished she could change more than anything.

“Yes,” I watched her, hoping I hadn’t started off too bold. That the question wasn’t too nosey or offensive. “The first thing that comes to mind, if that’s okay.”

A nod from her. And then a pause, her hands lifting, fingers laced, to rest on the table. Her knuckles looked arthritic and swollen. Painful. The fingers thin and tapered, the nails clumsily manicured, the skin as pale as delicate paper criss-crossed with a faint map of light blue veins.

As if sensing my stare, the fists darted beneath the table and out of sight to rest again on her lap.

“When I was young-” she said before stopping. Her eyes watched the cup of tea steaming in front of her. The one she’d yet to sip. She shook her head. Her narrow shoulders lifted in a sigh.

“I’m sorry.” I leaned forward, my elbows still propped on the table. “You don’t have to answer if you don’t-”

Her raised hand, palm forward, silenced me.

“When I was young,” she said again, the hand slipping below to reunite with its twin, “I had a choice.” She looked at me. “I chose wrong.”

“What was the choice?” I said, the words spoken before Reason and Manners could stop them.

“I drank the tea.” Another grin. “Everything that followed – the devastation, the heartbreak, the callous cruelty, the evil, the theft of my beloved Samuel – all of that came because of seven sips of tea.”

“Evil,” I said. “You mean, like, ‘evil’ evil, right?”

“This was in Shanghai,” she said, the question ignored. “There was a woman, a very powerful woman. One with shocking, dangerous secrets. A woman of great wealth. I worked for her. Scrubbing floors that didn’t need to be scrubbed.” A long pause, the tea waiting in front of her. “I worked for her and she ended my life.”

“What do you mean?”

“You’re young,” she said, giving the room another quick glance. “You’ve yet to see how dark life can get. Of how surprising it can be.” She watched the couple bickering. She pretty and meek, he handsome and brutish, both young, the shadow of their far corner stealing their words. “You’ve yet to see how a ‘yes’ or a nod or simply doing nothing can give birth to events you could never expect and never imagine. You’ve yet to see how horrible people can be.

“Even the tiny old ones who walk quietly and give you small smiles,” she said, smiling as, with a ding-ding, the door opened and the guy in the suit left, to-go coffee in hand.

Although I smiled in response, I felt my skin crawl. Felt my bones grow cold. My flesh grow heavy. In her eyes, just below the surface, I saw a different woman than I’d first assumed. One perhaps chained to her past in ways I couldn’t imagine. I saw the flicker of a dangerous flame. The sense of something deeper. Unimaginable. Of things seen that can’t be unseen. Of consequences and painful regrets. Of anguish and silent screams and pain without end.

“Have you been evil?” I heard myself saying.

“I chose,” she said. “I drank the tea. More sips than needed, I remember. The job done in three, I took seven. Seven quick sips. But in the moment – only a girl, really, hungry, orphaned, alone, my family having thrown me to the streets like a useless dog – in that moment I believed there was no other choice. That my options were few. Even nonexistent.

“In that moment I wanted what Madame had, what she promised. Her power, her wealth, her freedom.”

“If you sipped the tea?”

She nodded.

“And did you succeed?”

“I was powerful, for a time. A long time.” Her voice was quiet. Almost a whisper. “And I was feared. Legendary for my cruelty, not that there should be pride in that.” A small laugh. “And I was wealthy. Even loved, briefly.” She breathed deep. Exhaled slow. “But freedom? Never. My choice was a cage, you see. A lock with no key. A hunger,” she said, her words becoming a rush. “A need, an unstoppable obsession with no end, a thing I needed to do, I had to do, I was forced to do-” She stopped. “Forgive me.”

She nodded, her head ducking chin to chest in the smallest of bows, as she slid from the booth.

“No, please. I’m sorry,” I said, angling from the booth to rise as well. “I didn’t mean to upset you.”

“In the blink of an eye, they piled up, the bodies, one after another.” She took my hand in hers. “It happens so fast.” Her hand let go of mine. “And for that, there is no redemption, no matter how many times I confess.”

And she turned, leaving the cafe with a ding-ding as the door closed behind her, her cup of tea forgotten on the table, untouched.

***

Learn more about Lucky in Eidolon Avenue: The First Feast

“a great read…powerful and jarring” – Cemetery Dance

Ten Horror Novels That Will Stick with You – Horror Novel Reviews

Eidolon Avenue front cover-WARNING

fearless and noisy, quiet and desperate

A quick excerpt from an interview I recently gave to Joe over at Crystal Lake Publishing. One of those times when I surprise myself by sounding smart, accomplished, wise…sane. 😱

Enjoy! 😃

Joe: Instead of just focusing on your most successful work, which story are you the proudest of, a story that managed to capture a piece of who you are?

JW: Although Eidolon Avenue stands head and shoulders above anything I’ve ever done, without doubt or hesitation Martuk… the Holy, my first book, is what I’m proud of and captures perfectly the surprising journey I found myself on at that time: someone discovering, page by page, that he could really write!

For someone who’d never written a short story or an article or any piece of prose fiction to sit down (without an editor or even an experienced beta reader—I was new, remember, and knew no one in the writing community) and slam out an 80,000 word novel is beyond audacious.

Is Martuk perfect? No. But it’s ambitious. A sprawling epic covering two thousand years. It’s fearless and noisy, quiet and desperate. It’s wounded and yearning, violent and hungry. Martuk may lack the polish of its sequel Proseuche or Eidolon Avenue, which is on a different level entirely when it comes to the writing and storytelling, but what Martuk has in spades is the passionate, carefree excitement of a writer finding his voice.

And that, right there, is worthy of applause. In fact, sometimes I find myself wondering ‘Where the heck did that guy go?’

You can read more over at Crystal Lake Publishing.

the hungry shadows of deepest dark

Occasionally, just occasionally, someone will pepper me with questions for which occasionally, just occasionally, I’ll offer somewhat cogent, intelligent, dare I say “witty” answers.

This was one of those times.

What attracted you to writing horror?

In my opinion, horror lets you write your own rules. I can create a haunting something out of a forgettable nothing in horror. A speck of dust, a loose thread, a glance in the mirror. In other genres, those everyday things are just that: everyday things. In horror, at least for me, they’re jumping off points for the total unraveling of a life, of one’s sanity, of one’s grip on reality.  For me, they’re the necessary first step into the hungry shadows of deepest dark.

For the rest of this fascinating — occasionally, just occasionally — read, head on over here.

You’ll also see why I believe my friends Paul Tremblay, Lucy Snyder, Josh Malerman, Mercedes Murdock Yardley, Brian Kirk, Lisa Mannetti and Chesya Burke are writers to watch and read and get to know.

Because, as I also said,

in my opinion, the more I dig, the more I realize we’re in a bit of a Golden Age when it comes to fantastic writers.

Yeah, I know, right? Good stuff!

So, take a look, have a read and enjoy. 🙂

Jonathan-Interview(Sept16)

Jonathan Winn is a screenwriter as well as the author of Eidolon Avenue: The First Feast (Crystal Lake Publishing), the full-length novels Martuk … the Holy (A Highlight of the Year, 2012 Papyrus Independent Fiction Awards), Martuk … the Holy: Proseuche (Top Twenty Horror Novels of 2014, Preditors & Editors Readers Poll), the upcoming Martuk … the Holy: Shayateen and The Martuk Series, an ongoing collection of short fiction inspired by Martuk …

In addition to Forever Dark, his award-winning short story in Tales from the Lake, Vol. 2, his work can also be found in Horror 201: The Silver Scream and Writers on Writing, Vol. 2, all from Crystal Lake Publishing.

 

First of Five

And so it begins.

In a rare confluence of events — think a massive meteor shower pummeling the earth while a rare comet circles the heavens around a total Solar Eclipse as we discover a Kardashian with actual talent — I’m going to have five book releases over the next three months.

I know, right?

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First up, Horror 201: The Silver Scream

The definitive guide to filmmaking and filmmakers by the best in the field.

Horror 201: The Silver Scream, the follow-up to the Bram Stoker Award nominated Horror 101: The Way Forward, delves into the minds of filmmakers to see what it takes to produce great horror films, from the writing and funding process, to directing, producing, and writing tie-ins.

It’s a tome of interviews and essays by some of our favorite artists.

That’s right, film legends and authors such as Wes Craven, George A. Romero, Ray Bradbury, Ed Naha, Patrick Lussier, Stephen Volk, Nancy Holder, Tom Holland, John Shirley, William Stout, and John Russo want to share their expertise with you through informative, practical, career-building advice.

These are the folks behind movies and novelizations such as A Nightmare on Elm Street, Scream, Dark Shadows, Sleepy Hollow, Supernatural, Buffy, Resident Evil, The Stand, Sleepwalkers, Masters of Horror, The Fly, Critters, Tales from the Crypt, Child’s Play, Fright Night, Thinner, The Langoliers, Ted Bundy, Re-animator Unbound, Halloween, Apollo 18, The Eye, Night of the Living Dead, The Crow, The Mist, Pan’s Labyrinth, and Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Horror 201 also entertains. You’ll see a side of your favorite authors, producers, and directors never seen before – combining fun and entertainment with informative career-building advice.

Horror 201 is aimed at arming generations of authors, screenwriters, producers, directors, and anyone else interested in the film industry, from big budget movies to the independent film circuit, as well as the stage.

The definitive guide to filmmaking and filmmakers by the best in the field.

Whether you’re an accomplished author or screenwriter, writing as a hobby, or have dreams of writing screenplays or making movies, Horror 201 will take you on a behind the scenes tour of the Horror movie industry from Hollywood to the UK and Australia.

Horror 201 covers:

  • Horror as culture
  • Scare tactics
  • The evolution of the horror film
  • Viewer desensitization
  • Watching your story come to life
  • Screenwriting advice
  • Dissecting screenplays
  • A production company case study
  • Tricks of the trade
  • Writing tips
  • Advice on Producing
  • Advice on Directing
  • Information about funding and distributing a film
  • Entertaining tidbits and anecdotes

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But wait, there’s more!!!!!!!

Horror 201: The Silver Scream is perfect for people who:

  • are looking to delve into screenplay writing
  • want to write their first screenplay
  • are fans of the horror movie industry
  • like to follow the careers of their favorite directors
  • are planning on infiltrating a different field in horror writing
  • are looking to pay more bills with their art
  • are trying to establish a name brand
  • are looking to get published
  • are looking for motivation and/or inspiration
  • are seeking contacts in the film industry

Amazing, right?

How about a cover?

Horror 201

Honestly, I love how the red of the car echoes the red in the title and the red in that other car. And the silver of the screen? With the woman screaming? To me, it’s ever so slightly reminiscent of —

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So, one release down, four to go. And what are those other four books?

An essay in the second volume of Horror 201: The Silver Scream; Forever Dark, an award-winning short story in Tales from the Lake, Vol. 2; an essay in Writers on Writing, Vol. 2; and Eidolon Avenue: The First Feast.

All between now and January.

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It just makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

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Okay, but, still, how cool is this!

Will update with links as the rest of these roll out.