super-short tales of terror

I’ve knitted a shroud.

Or perhaps sewn is the right word.

Dollar store linen and bone-white thread beginning at my purple feet, past my arthritic knees and swollen stomach, onto my weeping breasts and blackened throat.

My knuckles knitting my sins into seclusion and shadow

where,

once the smell becomes toxic,

I will be found.

***

See? You don’t need a ton of words to tell a good, creepy, screwed up story. Fifty-five words – maybe even less – is sometimes all it takes.

Perhaps I should publish a collection. 🤔

 

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killing the stories

Hard to believe everything I have now started with this mad dash of a book I decided to write on a whim five or six years ago. Imperfect? Yep. Great story with great characters? Yep. Am I proud of it? Yep! Who wouldn’t be? It’s a damn good read! 😊

That being said, here’s an excerpt from Martuk…the Holy:

 

Screenshot 2017-05-19 11.55.44

 

Martuk-Ebook-Cover-Tim-Amazon

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.

Gaughran on Amazon v. Hachette

Still confused about the continuing kerfuffle ‘tween Amazon and Hachette? Even after I put in my own two cents? REALLY?

Okay, then this briefest of excerpts from an interview by author JJ Marsh with the always interesting David Gaughran might help:

Hachette can’t come right out and say they want higher book prices (which is the result if they prevail in negotiations and take back control of pricing and/or Amazon’s ability to to discount) so instead we get a narrative of a rapacious corporation versus a plucky guardian of our literary heritage. Authors should adopt a little more skepticism towards what is a concerted PR campaign from a series of vested interest.

 

It really is worth it to click on over to read the rest of his intelligent, well-informed take on what’s really happening and what’s truly at stake for writers like you and me.

 

Hangin’ with Hugh

In case you missed it, here’s an excerpt from a Guest Post I had the pleasure of publishing over on Hugh Howey’s site recently while celebrating Proseuche’s release.

 

Amazon opened the doors. Instead of hoops, Amazon offered opportunity. Seeing an industry denying undiscovered talent their chance to be heard, Amazon stepped to the plate.

Single mothers in the Midwest found their romance novels becoming bestsellers. Goth kids dressed in black discovered they’re not alone, their zombie books collecting earnest raves from their peers. Retirees who’d put their dreams of Writing on hold so they could pay the bills and raise a family reinvented themselves as novelists with a lifetime of stories to tell.

Head on over. It’s worth the read. 🙂

Dumb it down?

A friend of mine, someone with the best of intentions, said something the other day that nearly stopped me in my tracks.

“Maybe you’d sell a lot more books if you dumbed your writing down.”

Now, I had to think about that for a second because he wasn’t referring to my subject matter — the immortal Martuk slaying his way through a lifetime of endless centuries — but more to the way it’s written. It’s intelligent. It has a unique voice that still follows the basic rules of sentence structure and grammar. It’s ambitious but still accessible. The sentences are more lyrical than not. There’s character development and several story lines all spinning around a central narrative held together in a clever framing device. And this narrative is designed to not only stand alone, but stretch over a three-book series as well as an ongoing collection of short fiction.

Ah, you see? There’s the problem.

Publishing these days — and I’m talking about indie, single author, and the Big Five — isn’t as focused on quality as it could be. The mediocre is applauded. The abysmal is celebrated. Anyone writing anything that would be considered “normal” ten years ago — story, appropriate dialogue tags, realistic conversations from people who could actually exist — is thought of as an anomaly. Something new. Different.

And that worries me.

That the bar would be so low that the telling of a story would be thought of as something newsworthy is not a good thing. In fact, as I said in a recent interview, we, as Writers, should be expected to tell a story. Telling one should not be seen as something cool. It’s our feckin’ job, for Christ’s sake!

But so many have found success doing so little. Or doing so little so poorly that their attitude is, Well, people seem to like it, so why change?

Why change?

Because you can do better. Because your readers, whether they know it or not, want you to do better.

Because if you keep half-assing it, that will become the New Normal, you won’t grow as a writer, and there will be generations of readers who won’t know Good Writing from a hole in the ground. Though you know damn well at least the hole will have a backstory as to how it got there whereas your book will be a long series of events that end up leading to a big fat Nothing.

So, here’s the deal:

I’ll continue writing the way I write. That’s the little I can do to change the tide. And when readers tire of piss-poor writing revolving around non-existent stories peopled by cardboard cutouts murmuring, sighing, giggling, growling, breathing, whispering, moaning, laughing inane ridiculous dialogue no one would actually say, my work — and the work of hundreds if not thousands like me — will be there waiting for them.

‘Cause I’ll be damned if I’m going to dumb it down.

 

 

Amaranthine ghosts

Excerpt from Martuk … the Holy: Proseuche (release date July 22, 2014), the sequel to my award-winning debut novel Martuk … the Holy

 

“Do you believe in ghosts?”

were the first words his assassin said.

Weeks ago he had spied the man, a stranger, lingering in the silver light of morning.

Weeks ago, the sun waking behind a canopy of grey, he had wrestled the keys that turned the locks that opened the door to this, his church.

Weeks ago, he had sat in the confessional, the dark-haired Penitent hidden by the lattice-work screen separating them.

Then,

“Do you believe in ghosts?”

The words had come, halting and thick with exhaustion. The heavily accented English breathed by a soul in torment.

The priest hadn’t known what to say.

The Church believed one thing, he another.

For years he’d closed his eyes, all those shadows sitting in the pews rising from memory to haunt him. Echoes of faces, of arms and chests and torsos and slender shoulders. Their necks long as they bowed their heads in prayer. Even still, he was haunted by the gentle warmth of phantom breath against his cheek as he worked in his office, alone. Still, the feeling of all those eyes on him persisted, like a stain or the lingering scent of cherished memory. Eyes watching him, following him. Souls eager for him to see them, to know them and remember them. To love them. Their footsteps echoing his as he walked the nave jingling the keys that would turn the locks to bolt the doors of this, his church.

“Yes,” he had finally said in English as well, his voice a whisper lest this blatant insurrection be overheard. “Yes, I do.”

“It’s amaranthine,” had come the response, the voice low, the words mumbled. The vowels and consonants lost in the advent of quiet tears.

“It’s what?”

He had lost the word. Had caught the “it” in what was said, but wasn’t sure about the rest. Knew there was a second word. An odd word. An unfamiliar word. A beautiful word. But he didn’t know what it was. It was a word he thought he might know, but hadn’t really heard.

“I’m sorry?” the young priest had said. “I didn’t hear you.”

He had grown desperate to help this stranger. To give him comfort. To offer something, anything, to ease his pain and bring a glimmer of hope to his heart.

This, this man, this agony, this need. This is why he did what he did. Why he had sacrificed so much. Why he’d given his life to Our Heavenly Father and the Church.

“I didn’t hear you,” he’d repeated, his voice sounding weak.

The stranger’s hand had rested on the screen then. The dark shadow of a palm, a thumb, four fingers, all splayed flat against the thin strips of wood. Reaching for him, perhaps. Seeking comfort, maybe even a friend. The flesh of the palm smooth. A hint of an ancestry not solely European in the skin. A discreet, subtle darkness there. Middle Eastern, perhaps.

The priest had wanted to press his palm to the screen. Return the gentle gesture. Had felt the overwhelming urge to lift his hand to that of the one who struggled, whose heart wept. This soul who was so desperate for companionship that he’d offer his touch despite the lattice-work between them.

The thought had been ludicrous, of course. He knew that. Had known that his imagination had gotten the better of him. Could hear the criticisms from years ago, those venerable Fathers and Sisters and Mother Superiors who had warned him that his too tender heart would be anything but a blessing.

“It is not your pain,” Father Bautista had urged, the old man looming like a great mountain, his voice a deep rumbling from his chest. “They come for guidance. For Penance and Reconciliation. For peace, for hope. To cleanse themselves of their sins. Remember, it is not your pain.”

And yet …

“Listen well, my boy,” had come the voice of the Mother Superior whose name was lost though her doughy face and thick hips and those stubby fingers laced together so tight the knuckles turned white would never leave him.

“This is not good, what you create in your head,” she’d said, her voice cutting and sometimes cruel. “Listen to their words, and only their words. Do what is needed of you. Trust Our Heavenly Father to do the rest. Do not create a world of loneliness and need for these Penitents that may not exist.

“This world, it is not yours.”

But if those who’d teased his tear-stained cheeks, those Fathers and Sisters and Mother Superiors, if they could hear this stranger, hear the voice thick with loneliness, see the palm, patient and waiting against the ancient wood, wouldn’t these ghosts from his past feel what he felt now?

He smiled.

Yes, he believed in ghosts.

The priest’s hand had left his lap, the fingers flexing as they stretched and slowly, tentatively, rose.

There had been a sigh then from this soul in torment waiting on the other side. A glimpse of a head bowing. Of shoulders slumping. Of the hand still smooth against the slats of woven wood.

But a sigh, yes, deep and heavy.

A sigh of someone who had not known sleep for many moons.

Of someone who waited, alone, his patience ebbing, his fear growing.

The priest’s hand had stopped, hovering near the shadow of the stranger’s palm, and then retreated. Scurried to the safety of his cassock, the fingers instead choosing to wind ’round the slender cloth of the stole falling from his neck to rest against his chest.

Their voices had been too strong, his ghosts. Their belligerence had clouded his mind. Their admonitions too great. His shame at being too kind, too loving, of weeping too easily, too onerous to bear.

He had cleared his throat, shaking away the past as he blinked once, twice, a finger swiping away a tear and then wiping his nose as he cleared his throat again.

The sudden banging of the door had startled him.

He had left, this man, this stranger. The hand gone as his footsteps echoed through the nave and rushed down the aisle to push past the heavy wooden doors and disappear into the crowds navigating Boulevard Saint-Germaine.

The priest had sat back, the stench of failure, of regret, catching in his throat and stealing his breath.

“Père, pardonne-moi …” he’d prayed, willing away the image of that bowed head and thick dark hair. Of the hand resting, lonely and alone and friendless, against the screen.

“Forgive me.”

That night the dreams started.