apologies…perhaps

I don’t know about other writers, but when I find I’ve written something a bit rough or cruel or viciously brutal— this doesn’t happen often, but it does happen — I feel more than a smidgen of guilt.

Not necessarily because of the experience the Reader will go through — they did sign up for it, though, so… — but more because of what I put the characters through.

Interesting, isn’t it?

For better or worse, I feel deeply for people who exist solely on the page. But that’s what I suspect gives my work emotional resonance: these people are real to me. Very real.

They are telling their stories. And, for better or worse, those stories follow me. Poke into my thoughts months, years, after being told. The consequences of what I create keep me awake at night.

No, seriously. That happens. A lot.

Almost a year after its initial release, Click, the third story in Eidolon Avenue: The First Feast, is one of those stories I can’t get away from. And it’s not just because of how brutal it was, but because of the innocence of the victims and the dangerous psychosis of the killer.

I’ve said this before, but I simply could not get my head around the absence of empathy and the glee he took in the act of hurting another.

You see, with my immortal Martuk, he does bad things, but there’s always a reason. So, at the end of the day, readers may disagree with what Martuk does, but they understand on a visceral, very basic level why he did it.

With Martuk, you hate him, you love him, you fear him and, most importantly, you understand the Why of his What.

But with Colton in Click?

He was pure evil. Evil and insanity. And, yes, there were reasons. A litany of Whys to his What. Wounds that drove him. Ancient scars that still bled.

But none of that excused what he, the Character, insisted I, the Writer, create for him.

I remember writing the story while sobbing — like, really SOBBING — because I HATED what was happening. Hated it. Made me sick to my stomach. Forced me up and out to take long walks just to escape it for a much needed breath of fresh air.

But it was the story that needed to be told.

You know, I still get emails and private messages via social media raking me over the coals for Click. Questioning my sanity, my kindness, my heart. Questioning what kind of monster I am to put on the page someone as horrible as Colton.

And I get it. I do.

Which is probably why I’m feeling the need to write what’s turned into an open letter.

But, listen, those of us who invest ourselves totally in our work sometimes don’t have the control over the final product people think we might. Sometimes our characters want to tell stories that we vehemently disagree with. Sometimes they grab us by the arm and drag us, kicking and screaming and, yes, crying, much deeper into the dark than we ever wanted to go. And when we stumble free, back into the light, after the story’s told, we find ourselves changed, wounded, even scarred.

But that’s the deal we made to do what we do. Life isn’t always pretty and perfect. Sometimes vicious people do atrocious things with no rhyme or reason. As someone who writes horror, it’s my job to capture the barest hints of that so that my readers can exorcise, vicariously, their own demons. I guess. I don’t know.

All I know is that I relish returning to the relative normalcy and sanity of my dearest immortal Martuk as I dive into Shayateen, his third and perhaps final book.

Still, though, I do wonder if there should be apologies…perhaps.

Looks like I still have some psychological knots to untangle.

mother mary had fallen

From Martuk…the Holy: Proseuche

proseuche-mother-mary

“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

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.

 

Fisting Immortality

I’ve decided Martuk needs to do more fisting.

It’s something I’ve been thinking about for weeks, nay months, actually, but after watching the sudden and quite unexpected success of the obscure author E.L. James (Google her) newest book in her very difficult to find Fifty Shades of Baby Got Back series (is that what it’s called? I think that’s what it’s called), I think it’s time to take a deep breath, find my quiet space, remember my Safe Word, relax everything and just let it happen. Just allow the Writer in me to open up to Martuk and the rest of his merry Martuk … the Holy crew fisting things.

For instance, E.L. James writes:

“He grabs me suddenly and yanks me up against him, one hand at my back holding me to him and the other fisting in my hair.

So, with that in mind, in the pivotal scene between Martuk and The Elder (before the sacrifice and the demons and the bloodshed) in the first book, what had read:

“He took a sip, allowing the liquid to linger in his mouth, on his tongue, obviously savoring the sensation.”

would now be

“He took a sip, allowing the liquid to fist his mouth, fist his tongue, obviously enjoying the sensation.”

See? Instant bestseller, right?

Or in 1st century Jerusalem, after he’s cursed with Life Everlasting, when Martuk sits with the Messiah:

He shoved the bread in His mouth, the glass of wine now in hand. Silently chewing, His eyes watched me as He washed it down with a healthy drink. Swallowing, He then sighed, focusing, inhaling deeply, exhaling, growing quiet as His eyes narrowed.”

would then become

“He fisted the bread in His mouth, the glass of wine now in hand. Silently chewing, His eyes fisted me as He fisted it down with a healthy drink. Swallowing, He then sighed, focusing, fisting deeply, exhaling, growing quiet as His eyes narrowed.”

Now THAT’S a memorable passage, right? RIGHT?

Wow. I think this might actually work!!!!!

You think the second book, Martuk … the Holy: Proseuche, could do with some good ol’ fashioned fisting?

Let’s see.

Okay, let’s start with Martuk talking with The Sister, his friend, in her apartment in modern day Paris:

I sat back as well, my arms stretching up and along the back of the sofa. “And I will continue my tale, if this is what you’d like.”

With a gentle smile on her lips, she nodded, urging me to begin.

Wrapped in the comfort of her apartment, the dark of a Paris night outside, the cool air from the open windows kissing my flesh, my heart feeling safe, my soul feeling secure, I took a deep breath.

And cradled in her kindness, I dove back into the blood-soaked memories of this, my life.

might be

I sat back as well, my arms fisting the back of the sofa. “And I will continue my tale, if this is what you’d like.”

With a gentle smile on her lips, she nodded, fisting me to begin.

Wrapped in the comfort of her apartment, the dark of a Paris night outside, the cool air from the open windows fisting my flesh, my heart feeling fisted, my soul feeling fisted, I took a deep fist.

And fisted in her kindess, I dove back into the blood-soaked memories of this, my life.

Hmmm, I might need to think about this one.

Okay, okay, I’m not throwing in the towel just yet. How about later, when Martuk discovers his friend Tiber in the hills surrounding 3rd century Antioch?

His skin rippled with the swarming of those that feast on the dead. Their small white bodies crawled out of his ears and wiggled from his nose and spilled from his lips to litter the smattering of hair on his slender chest.”

could easily be

His skin fisted with the swarming of those that fisted the dead. Their small bodies fisting his ears and fisting his nose and fisting his lips to litter the smattering of hair on his slender chest.”

Um … that’s probably another one I need to carefully consider.

You know what? Perhaps this E.L. James-style of, oh, what’s it called, writing? — yeah, I think so — might not be the right fit for Martuk.

Because no matter what I do or how hard I try, this fisting just isn’t working. I’ve done it this way and that. In modern Paris and ancient Uruk one thousand years before Christ. Even 1st century Jerusalem with the frickin’ Messiah! I even had Martuk’s friend fisting up in the hills of 3rd century Antioch and, still, nothing. It just feels somehow wrong. Off. Not right.

Yet it worked so well for E.L. James. Her fisting seemed so natural! A bit clumsy at times, yes. And painful to experience on the page, most definitely. Still, though, she really made that fisting work. Just jammed her fist into any sentence she could find, regardless how well it fit or even if it should fit. Forget being gentle. Forget being kind. Miss James took no prisoners! She shoved it into everything everywhere.

But when it comes to my fisting, I think it might be time to pack it up. Call it a day. Obviously, despite silly things like hopes and dreams, it’s not for everyone. Not even my immortal Martuk.

In fact, now that I think about it, maybe the last thing he needs to be doing is Fisting Immortality.

Having the courage to miss

I have a lot of irons in the fire.

Finishing up what promises to be an amazing book for an incredible publisher (Eidolon Avenue for Crystal Lake Publishing in 2016). Digging into the script adaptation of Eidolon for a production company that’s shown interest in discussing the possibility of adapting it into a TV series. Still working to find a home for one screenplay (indie) while polishing a solid first draft of another script, this one the film adaptation of my first novel Martuk … the Holy (probably Studio).

Add to that the various TV specs I have floating around, the introductions I still reach out to make, and the relationships I’m happily building, and, yeah, there’s a lot going on.

And it’s terrifying. Sometimes. Because I aim high. I aim high and I miss. And then I restring the bow and aim high again. Maybe I’ll miss, but maybe not, you know? Either way, I’m still standing. But I always aim high because, hell, if you’re going to aim, it might as well be high, right?

But you have to have the courage to miss. Because aiming high leads to a mountain of No. An endless ocean of No. A flat-out, can’t get around it, frustrating road strewn with No, Nope, I don’t think so, and — the worst one — Silence. But is that enough of a reason to not try? Of course not. So I aim high, miss, aim again, make contact, get a No, restring the bow, and lather, rinse, repeat until I get that Yes. Or Maybe. Or, my favorite, Let’s Talk. Because if I do nothing then nothing happens.

Why am I talking about this? Because I’m following my gut and reaching out to someone, someone I greatly admire, for Martuk. Someone I think would

  • A) get the story and the complexities of the character
  • B) would recognize the opportunity inherent in being a huge part of a film franchise and, IMO, is perfectly suited to this project
  • C) has the courage to take this project on, wrestle it to the ground, and work with me to bring it to the screen in a way that accurately reflects, as much as possible, the book(s).

More importantly, I believe they would understand how much of a game-changer Martuk could be for their career.

Am I scared doing this? Yep. Will that stop me? Nope. Will I actually get a response or be lucky enough to have a conversation? Hell if I know. But I’m not going to let fear run me, I’m not going to let a potential No stop me, and I’m certainly not going to stop myself from even trying just because I’m afraid.

Because, at the end of the day, you gain nothing, absolutely nothing, by living afraid. So why do it?

Take aim, fire, and have the courage to miss.

Who knows? You just might land a bulls eye and get a Yes.

One Happy Hybrid

You know what a hybrid is, right? In publishing, it’s someone who both self-publishes (as I did with Martuk … the Holy and Martuk … the Holy: Proseuche as well as The Martuk Series) and is published traditionally.

Well, as of today, I am now officially a hybrid.

From Crystal Lake Publishing:

After five months of reading 144 pitches and various sample chapter submissions (with the help of various sub readers – especially Ben Eads), Crystal Lake Publishing is proud to announce six projects chosen by us (and one surprise addition). We actually accepted seven, but we’re still negotiating with the author his novel. That announcement will be made at a later date.

In alphabetical order:

Theresa Derwin – GOD’S VENGEANCE novella
Mark Allan Gunnells – short story collection presently named FLOWERS IN A DUMPSTER
Alessandro Manzetti – EDEN UNDERGROUND poetry collection
Patrick Rutigliano – WIND CHILL novella
Mark Sheldon – SARAH KILLIAN: SERIAL KILLER (FOR HIRE!) novella
Jonathan Winn – EIDOLON AVENUE, a collection of shorts stories and novellas

A sincere congrats to all these authors. The competition was extremely tough, and you truly deserve to be here. I hope everyone takes the time to congratulate these folks, as well as take the time to get to know the ones you’re not familiar with.
I’m also extremely happy to announce that we’ll be publishing the print edition of Taylor Grant’s DARK AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL later this year. The eBook edition has been picked up by another excellent publisher, so more on that at a later date.

Here is a rough draft of our publishing schedule till end of this year (subject to change, of course):

May: THE OUTSIDERS
June: Kevin Lucia’s THROUGH A MIRROR, DARKLY
July: Alessandro Manzetti’s EDEN UNDERGROUND
August: TALES FROM THE LAKE VOL.2
September: CHILDREN OF THE GRAVE
October: HORROR 201: THE SILVER SCREAM
November: Taylor Grant’s DARK AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL
December: Patrick Rutigliano’s WIND CHILL

Thank you to everyone who took part in our very first open submission window, and all the best with your books. I’m sure we’ll have another open submission in the next year or so.

All the best,
Joe Mynhardt
Crystal Lake Publishing

So, there you have it! Huge congratulations to everyone.

I couldn’t be more excited to be working with the award-winning CLP and the fantastic Joe Mynhardt, a man who’s deeply respected and has an eye for talent. To have someone like him believe in what I was doing enough to say Yes is very exciting.

And that’s how you become One Happy Hybrid, my friends.