an easy lie

In the silence of the Temple, they spoke.

A murmur, a sigh, an awakening, a cry.

Mother …

Father …

King …

I moved my cheek from the stone, the pain of the whispers too great to bear.

Although night, the workers — slaves, prisoners of war, many of them mere boys — still pulled and pushed the immense blocks into place, the already overwhelming Temple forever expanding, a veritable mountain of stone at the edge of the city.

For many of them, this was all they knew, their lives after capture, after defeat, one of constant work, nonexistent sleep, and death, quick and inevitable.

Above them all, the Priests watched.

And here, under the light of an almost full moon, the pain, the rage, the powerless despair of all those trapped and troubled bones in the stone surrounded me like a fog.

In the quiet, safe in the dark, far from those who watched and those who worked, I pressed myself to the cool rock.

I would listen.

Cry …

Whimper …

Sob …

Yes, I feel you.

Wound …

Suffer …

Die …

I pulled away.

Die …

King …

Die …

“They know you.”

I turned.

A small woman stood behind me, her long hair as silver as the light bathing her, the years in her face softened by the glow of the moon.

I glanced around for my guards. But, no, I had left them hours ago, ordering them away before I climbed the hill to the Temple.

“Your guilt needed solitude,” she said. “Your shame too great to share, yes?”

She waited.

I nodded.

Yes.

“And this is why you, the Almost King, stand here now, at this hour, under the moon, listening.”

She stepped closer.

Though draped in woolen, the rough fabric scarred by clumsily mended rips and tears, her feet bare, her wiry frame alarmingly thin, she carried herself with an unapologetic sense of majesty and dignity and strength as she moved near.

“Is your power worth all that death?”

“No.” The answer came from me, quick and unthinking. “No.”

“And yet it is not something you can deny, this power. This crown. It will be yours regardless of what you want or what you do. Or what I do. Born into this, you are as trapped as those in the stone.”

The tears threatened to come. I blinked. And blinked again.

“The most powerful of men,” she said, her voice gentle and kind, “utterly powerless to change what must be changed.”

Watching me, she grew silent as if she, too, were listening.

She turned her head, her gaze on the workers in the distance, the sweat on their skin shining under the glow of torchlight.

“Your mother is one with the Dark Gods, yes?”

I hesitated.

“There’s no need to answer.” She continued to watch the nameless who toiled under the gaze of the constant moon. “It’s commonly known, understood. We barbarians, as she calls us, here in the city talk of her and the Priests and their ancient religion. Those beliefs from the Time of the Moon. Of their worshipping those who must be paid in blood, in flesh, in fear. In the tears and cries of those they slaughter.”

“This is known?”

Looking at me, she continued.

“It is also known, and spoken of, that once these souls are bled and lifeless and useless, they burn –”

“Stop. Please.”

She stopped.

It was my turn to watch the strangers pull and push, the thick, braided rope threatening to split and shred under the weight of the stone.

“The gift you must give,” she said, my mother’s words echoed in hers.

“Is something I regret.” I refused to look this stranger in the eye. “Something I wish I didn’t have to do. Something I wish I had never done.”

“But it’s done.”

I looked at her.

“She’s a very powerful woman, your mother. Not many can deny her. Not many dare. Those who do …. ”

She grew quiet, the thought unfinished.

“And the Priests?” I asked. “What of them? Do the people talk about the Priests?”

“Yes, they do. And they understand what you and your mother do not: these men, these Priests, are more powerful than you know.”

“She believes she’s a God.”

“An easy lie for them to feed her. And her mind …”

Hesitating, she looked for the words.

“Her mind is wounded and hungry. Desperate for comfort, the grief, the guilt, the horror of what she’s done still at war with the tender delusion of her immortality.”

“She struggles.”

“And eats.”

Confused, I watched her, her eyes almost silver under the light of the moon.

“The bones are in the stones, yes?” she asked.

I waited.

“And what of the flesh? The flesh you burn before they grind these bones?”

She stopped, watching me before asking again.

“What of the flesh?”

— an excerpt from The Martuk Series, A Collection of Short Fiction, Vol. 1

COMING SOON

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nightmare come true

The Martuk Series: A Collection of Short Fiction, Vol. 1

“Equal parts deceptive beauty, haunting darkness, and shocking brutality. Jonathan Winn’s prose drags you, the reader, through a gauntlet of experiences. It’s a horror reader’s nightmare come true.” — Zakk, The Eyes of Madness

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COMING SOON

the flesh lit from within

Two books dropping in the next four months? Yep. The Magi (May) and then a collection of all five Martuk Series shorts (July/August). Cover reveals soon.

Can’t say I haven’t been busy. 😁

Here’s a taste from The Wounded King, Book One in the series.

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And now back to work on Eidolon Two. 👍

it is dark, it is brutal

In all honesty, I’m not big on reviews. I mean, obviously it’s nice when you get great ones – and I’ve been extremely lucky to get more than my fair share – but I’ve also gotten some not-so-nice ones. So, eh, it’s all a crapshoot, right? Best to not take it too seriously or let it define you or what you can do.

I just keep on writing.

But sometimes, only sometimes, does a review come in that makes me sit up and pay attention. That makes me break my standard “don’t read reviews” policy and actually sit down and – gulp – read the review. And sometimes, only sometimes, do I get an opinion of my work from someone who is becoming one of the preeminent voices when it comes to reviewing horror.

And that’s what happened recently. That it happened for Martuk…the Holy, the first book that started this whole writer journey for me way back in 2012 makes it just that much more special.

Intrigued? Here’s a snippet:

I love this world, I love this writer. It is dark, it is brutal … I found it all too easy to be whisked away by the sands of this world. Martuk is a must-read.

You can read the rest right over here.

And the book? Why, here you go! 

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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.

 

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.

waves of whispered prayers

And, on the heels of yesterday’s excerpt from Martuk…the Holy, here’s a tiny taste from the sequel, Martuk…the Holy: Proseuche

‘Cause why not, right? 😉

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Next up – Martuk…the Holy: Shayateen

Coming Soon